Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Zootopia is great and you should go see it

Zootopia is a great movie. It is fun, cute, touching, and clever, and it has some great messages as well. The animation, the voice acting, the writing, and the world design are all top-notch. Perhaps best of all, it is a hopeful, charming film, a welcome change from a lot of the unnecessarily grim stories we see so often.
(This review does not contain spoilers.)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

DmC: Kill monsters and pose like a badass

When I first heard about DmC, the Devil May Cry reboot, my initial reaction was skepticism.  I had not played much of the original games, but I knew that Dante was a white-haired, red-jacketed, ultra-cool demon-slayer. Who was this punk kid they were calling Dante?

Well, I'm glad I got DmC, because I really enjoyed it. I ended up liking this new Dante a lot, and I found the gameplay hugely enjoyable. The game is designed to make Dante look like a badass at every chance, and as a result, the player feels like a badass, too. Every fight ends with a slow-mo shot of the final blow, inevitably ending with Dante in some awesome pose. That's why I came to think of DmC as a kill-monsters-and-pose-like-a-badass-simulator.

This review contains some spoilers, but you're probably not playing a game like DmC for the plot anyway!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Echoes in the Force: Some of the parallels between A New Hope and The Force Awakens

One of the most persistent criticisms of Star Wars Episode VII - The Force Awakens is that it borrows too heavily from the previous movies, especially A New Hope. Some of the parallels are obvious, to the point that some of the characters even comment on the Starkiller Base being similar to the Death Star. Personally I find the similarities to be interesting, and I think they add an extra layer to the film rather than detracting from it.

But just how many parallels are there? I thought it might be fun to see how many I can identify. I am sure that I am not the first to try this, but I'm not going to let that stop me!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens initial thoughts

I think enough time has passed now that I can post this without worrying about spoiling the movie! That said, this post does contain spoilers, so if you have not seen The Force Awakens yet... go see it first!

Star Wars is pretty much the best thing ever. I have loved Star Wars all my life, so I approached The Force Awakens with a little trepidation. Could the new trilogy live up to the original trilogy in a way the prequel trilogy hadn't?

I must confess that, by the time the movie came out, I had utterly failed to keep my expectations low. I got hyped about the trailers and I loved the interviews with the actors as they promoted the movie. I went and saw the movie as soon as I could in order to avoid spoilers. As I waited in line with my wife, I was genuinely worried that some troll who had seen the movie already would pass by and shout out a spoiler. That was how worried I was that something would ruin the experience for me!

Our hours of waiting in line were rewarded when we got into the theater and sat down in our favorite seats. The movie began, the music kicked in, and I felt my heart pounding in my chest. This was it. I remember thinking that, no matter what, in the next two hours I would see the new Star Wars movie. After all those months of waiting and anticipation, it was finally happening. As the first scenes played, I was struck by the realization that I would no doubt rewatch these scenes through my life.

I was still worried about whether the movie would live up to my expectations. Things seemed pretty dark as the First Order attacked the village, and I hoped the film would not get too grim. Then Poe said, "So, who talks first?" and I couldn't help but laugh out loud. That moment was like J. J. Abrams telling me: Relax. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

How voice acting made all the difference with two Mass Effect characters

A lot has been said about the different voice acting choices made by Mark Meer, who voices the male Shepard in Mass Effect, and Jennifer Hale, who voices the female Shepard. I like them both, but I wanted to share my thoughts on some other voice acting in the series. Specifically, I would like to share two occasions where a character who looks bland on paper became much more interesting thanks to the way the voice actor portrayed the character.

When I first read about a Zaeed Massani, a new DLC squad member in Mass Effect 2, I was not impressed. It sounded like his whole character was defined by being the galaxy's best bounty hunter, so I immediately wrote him off as a Boba Fett ripoff. The picture they provided didn't help much: scarred, tattooed, and wearing asymmetrical armor, his design was a mess. When I met the character in the game, he made a bad first impression. Shepard comes across Zaeed beating up his previous target, so it seemed like the game was trying too hard to make him look cool. When Zaeed immediately offered to join my party, without any sort of recruitment quest, I was even more let down. If Zaeed were worth having, I thought, he wouldn't be so easy to recruit.

Then I started talking to him.