July LootCrate: Heroes 2

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Well, it finally arrived, after quite a bit of delay. I even got the satisfaction survey before the box! They ship those for California, and the FedEx website said that the wild fires might affect deliveries, so I going to assume that’s what happened.

The theme this time around is “Heroes 2”, presumably a sequel to a previous crate that was popular. The promotional email was showing stuff from Legend of Zelda and DC comics so I going to guess that the content of the box are somewhat related to that. No reason to wait, let’s get straight to it!

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Now the more observant of you may quickly realize that there is no T-shirt in this box. Quite disappointing I have to say but then again I am in no dire need of new T-shirts to wear. It also feels strangely empty. A couple big items pop out but not much else. So let’s start with some of the smaller stuff.

First up, we have this Legend of Zelda arm band. While it is cool in concept, it doesn’t really have any practical use, in my opinion. Unless you’re supposed to wear it as an accessory but then again… Ehhh.

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Moving on we have a Star Trek themed air freshener… Which doesn’t really smell like vanilla… Smells as cheap as it looks.

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Anyways, Let’s move on move with this rather cool Batarang key ring multi-tool thing! I am not sure how useful the two screw drivers are but it should make a decently cool key ring. As for the bottle opener, I’m pretty sure it would be pretty hard to use, since it doesn’t provide a lot of leverage, and hard to hold with all the pointy bits on it.

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OMG a piece of rectangular cardboard tubing! We are saved!

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Not really, it’s actually a Wonder Woman poster. Apparently “She can do it”… Not you, not me, Only she can… Not sure how I feel about this one. It’s just too small of a poster. I understand they have to fit everything it a shippable box but this feels lazy. It’s kinda like the Battlestar Galactica from the previous box, cool but strange.

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Alright, this should be the “pièce de résistance”, the biggest thing in the box is this cool Batman miniature. It appears to be based on the original Batman TV show too. (According to the box, they also have Catwoman and Superman in the same style). They painted the Batarang he is hold silver/grey, which makes him look like he is carrying a knife. Kinda funny if you ask me.

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It comes with two accessories that I found surprising at first. A stick that says “Kapow!” and a white board marker pen.

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As it turns out you can remove the “Kapow!” sticker to find the world smallest white board. Seriously, there’s barely enough space to write a single word! What’s the point? Besides the figure looks much better without the speech bubble thing. The stick that hold the thing up also feel quite brittle.

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The “complete” figure

Already down to the last few Items! Here we have a Book called “the League of Regrettable Superheroes” (the LootCrate edition). Apparently, it’s about fifty of the strangest Superhero comics that were publish but faded to the unknown due lack of success. That actually is pretty cool, I wonder if I ever heard of any of them?

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And then this: a small piece of paper with a cool drawing on it.

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Just Kidding, there a redeemable code on the back for a Game called, as you may have read, “Brawlhalla” ( pronounced brawl-halla, I suppose). Maybe that’s why this box is so lackluster! They had to pay for the game licenses! If only it was that simple. The game is already Free-to-play and the code is only for some cosmetic DLC, which makes it inherently worthless. Not only that, but the game is basically a Super Smash Bros rip off that looks like it start off as a flash game on one of those flash game website full of spyware and stuff. Sad stuff…

And finally the two usual stuff: a pin and the magazineWP_20150729_19_42_07_Pro

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There is one more thing worthy of mention though. All the box can be unfolded and re folded to make this set/scene for you to show you stuff. I have been ignoring that aspect before because they weren’t all that interesting but this one is pretty cool. You can turn it inside out and into a small building of sort:

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Anyways, I have to say I am a bit disappointed with this one. While the book and the figurine are quite a substantial acquisition, the rest of the box is a mixed bag. some thing are ok, like the poster and the key ring, but then you wonder why they bothered with the air freshener and the game code. I also have my suspicions as to why there was no T-shirt. Loot crate recently announced a new subscription service called “Level up” where you can choose to received either to get 2 pair of socks (for an extra $9.49 + shipping), accessories (for an extra $14.99 + shipping, and it marked for the female demographic) or a premium wearable (for an extra $14.99 + shipping). I am guessing that they realized they could make more money out of their membership if they split things and charge extra for them. Greedy bastards.

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Not to happy but not entirely disappointed. Hopefully this is just a fluke and the next one is back with full force, or this might just be the beginning of something worse… Either way, I’ll live.

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On watching bad movie, and a review of Pixels…

During Senior year of college, every Monday night, my housemates and I would watch a terrible movie. Not because we hate ourselves but because terrible movies are fun to watch in group. There exist a spot between mediocre movie and worthless movie where the movie are so bad, there ironically good. Nobody needs to pay attention to what happening and everyone pitches in jokes about how bad the movie is. Grab yourself a drink a watch something incredibly bad like the live action DragonBall Z movie.

Don’t watch it as a serious attempt at an adaptation of the Manga and anime but a parody of itself. There some great terrible movie like the Super Mario live action movie, or the DOOM live action movie, the George Clooney Batman movies. These movies, while having no merit in and out of themselves have this punching bag quality to them. Their jokes are lame, the plot with more hole than swiss cheese or early CGI effect that look like an Nintendo 64 game but that what makes them what they are, complete unintended self parodies. I also think that terrible movie help us appreciate great movie even more, by providing us a base reference on what an awful movie is.

That sweet spot of terribleness is pretty narrow however, and some movies just go beyond the point of no return, movies without ironical redeeming factor, movies like the recently released Pixels.

The teaser got me excited at first. Real life arcade game coming to destroy the planet seemed like a good, if somewhat extravagant idea. I am a big fan of video games and I have soft spot for retro arcade games and game consoles. Heck I have a Tetris arcade mother board and most of the pieces I would need to build my own arcade machine. I haven’t gotten around to it yet but soon.

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Soon… maybe… probably next year…

And then came the trailer and the first sign of what was to come: Adam Sandler. Though I had never seen any of his movies, I had heard of how his acting skill were so atrocious that mere words couldn’t adequately describe them. This worried me greatly, but I still had hope that the movie could have same redeeming values I saw in those other terrible movies I would watch with my college friends, hope it would be so bad it would be good.

It wasn’t….

Nothing could have prepared me for this ungodly abomination of a movie. The dialogue felt like they were written by a six year old, the acting was would make grade school plays look academy award worthy. It even tried to simply hide how dreadful the acting was by using catchy tunes during boring action scenes, hoping to distract us from its stench. This truly was a Lovecraftian horror movie, forever stupefying the audience by how unapologetically awful it was.

I am going to stop with the hyperboles and be serious for a moment. While the movie is horrible overall there seem to be have been some good ideas at the beginning. If you remove all the dialogue and boil down the plot to its bare essential, it had potential. The character themselves are interesting and could have made for some good character development. The main issue with this film is obviously Sandler. No matter how good of idea Sony originally had, Sandler ruined everything by writing boring dialogue, creating 1 dimensional characters that are closer to walking stereotypes than anything and just not been able to act worth a damn. Throughout the movie, he never changes facial expression and never changes his tone of voice. He never shows any kind of emotion or excitement or fear or anything. It’s always the same blank face and droning voice. Peter Dinklage’s character is almost funny and probably the closest thing from a redeemable aspect of the film.

I think they should remake this movie but get rid of Sandler and his incompetent script and instead let some like Josh Whedon or J.J. Abrams do it. This could have been a decent, if not great, movie but someone had to put their grubby hands in the production and ruin it.

Want to watch a good movie about classic arcade games, watch King of Kong. It’s a documentary about the rivalry between two of the best Donkey Kong players in the world and their attempt at stealing the record from each other. Even it feels more dramatic and has better real life characters than Pixels.

Antman, a review…

Look, I am big fan of Marvel comics. I really am. I also think that Marvel reinvented/reinvigorated the superhero movie genre. I do think, however, that they have reach a plateau in quality. I am not saying that Ant Man is a bad movie but you can tell that there were some trouble in the movie’s production. As you may know, the production started way back in 2006 and has suffered from several set backs and the script was probably rewritten several times to accommodate the rest of the Marvel movies. The result is a fairly unbalanced movie that feels like it was stitched together from multiple scripts.

I’ve been trying to write this post for a while now because I am very conflicted about what to think about this movie, more than I was after Avengers Age of Ultron. The fight scenes are well choreographed, the jokes are not completely over the top, but the plot just doesn’t quite feel right and the music was forgettable. For every good aspect of the film, there’s something else that bugs me. It’s a like quantum superposition of good and bad things, where you can’t quite tell where one ends and where the other starts.

These sections have some minor/major spoilers so read at your own risk.

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The main plot is that the bad guy is trying to weaponize and sell the technology that makes the Ant Man suit. Hank Pym, the original Ant Man, doesn’t want that to happen. The bad guys are having trouble with the while shrinking thing but have a fully functioning suit called Yellow Jacket. The suit is capable of flight and has two laser canons, making it essentially a discount Iron Man suit. Why don’t they just sell that? Sure it’s not as advanced or as cool the whole deal but it would make a whole lot more senses. Besides we know that autonomous drone are possible as seen in Iron Man 2, so why not put one in the suit and Ta-Dah! Problem solved.

The movie also also has some problem with forshadowing certain plot points. Several time throughout the movie, they sort of drop “small” hints about what is going to happen, but those hints are too obvious to not figure out. Ant Man’s suit has this thing called “the regulator”, it controls the shrinking of the suit and the wearer. if the regulator is turned off the suit will start shrinking indefinitely until it reached sub-atomic scales. Pym warned the protagonist to not do it, since the effect should be irreversible. Of course, the hero does it and somehow finds a way out, which is complete deus ex machina. Hank Pym’s daughter, Hope, keeps badgering about how she should be the one using the Ant Man suit and all that, then of course “something happens” in the post credit scene that could have been seen a mile away. They Mention the Avengers and surprise one of them shows up!

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Overall, It’s worth a watch but might end in disappointment. It just feels like this movie such have happened way earlier in the Marvel movie chronology, probably because it was intended to be. Not every Marvel movie will be amazing, and movie like Guardian of the Galaxy and Winter Soldier were probably among the best Marvel will ever make, so be prepared for other somewhat disappointing movie in the future. It will help satisfy our craving for movie as we wait for the next Big Thing™ like Star Wars or Batman V Superman but it will probably forgotten by then.

Return of the Random Ramblings…

I was going to go for a nice walk outside but considering it is a blistering 94 degrees, I decided to write down some of the things I wanted to ramble about but couldn’t come up with a long enough post for them. Scatter brain away!

*****

The elevator in my apartment building is a rather curious one. Among the many notable details, here are few that peak my curiosity:

  • The doors will start closing immediately after you push one of the floor buttons rather than wait a few moments.
  • The close doors button actually works in this elevator!
  • It occasionally does reach the floor properly. It will go up (or down) to the correct floor and stop but not open the doors. It will stay put for maybe 3 to 4 seconds before going back to the first floor and try again. The floor selection does not change and this can occur several time in a row. If you are in the elevator, this can be remedied by pressing the open door button when at the correct floor and the doors will actually open. The doors will close as soon as they are opened and the elevator will still go back to the first floor and try again. If you were calling the elevator and it fails, there is not much you can do. But then again, there are only three floors, so might as well take the stairs.
  • As you can see below, the technical plate seem to be lacking some crucial information. What does that mean “capacity 4000”? 4000 pounds? 4000 liters? 4000 galleons? who knows… it also lacks a serial number and a maximum number of passengers.

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*****

Let’s talk a about comic books for while. DC Comics to be precise. Or rather movies based on the DC universe.

So this past weekend was the San Diego ComiCon, probably the biggest and well known of all ComiCon. As you might expect from such an event there were so big reveal about some of the big upcoming movie like Star Wars and all that jazz. Warner Brothers, who currently owns the cinematic rights to DC character released a couple new trailer for their upcoming Movies: Superman V Batman and Suicide Squad.

The Superman V Batman trailer is quite amazing and really makes me excited for the movie. They don’t show too much but there are a lot of cool detail, especially in the Batcave. We get to see Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor in action, though they feel a bit out of place in my opinion. No sign of either Aquaman or Cyborg, which are both supposed to be in the movie. This has the potential to bring DC back on more equal footing with Marvel if the movie does well. You can watch the trailer here on Youtube.

On the other hand we have the Suicide Squad movie trailer. To be honest, it looks like rubbish. In my opinion it lacks many things in order to be compelling. First off, it doesn’t give the slightest clue what the general plot will be. Sure they show the shady government creating the group but not why. The Joker is shown at the end but doesn’t really conclusively say he alone will be the antagonist of the movie. Second, the music is terrible. I get it, it’s a cover of a song about jokes, ergo the Joker, but it clashes very badly with the tone of the images. You get this light melody while most of the shot are just people shooting at each other. It does work nicely for the first minute or so but once the vocals starts, it just complete falls apart. Finally, from the little we get to see the Joker, I find him underwhelming and unconvincing. He doesn’t feel threatening at all, he just looks like a random punk with green hair who could use a good dentist. Unlike Batman v Superman, this has the potential of completely bombing and hurting future DC movies. (oh and you can watch the trailer here)

Oh while on the topic of DC movies, how about one that never got made? Back in the 90’s there was a plan to reboot the Superman movie franchise after the third and fourth Superman movies from the eighties didn’t do well at the box office. The movie would have been on the recent Death of Superman story arc and would have features Nicolas Cage as Superman and Tim burton as the director. A documentary on the attempted movie was released just last week and I think it’s definitely worth a watch. You can really see the amount of work they put in the pre-production and I think it would have made an awesome movie. You can buy it and watch at the official website here. I’m not sure that they have the best title for the documentary but that really the point really.

*****

While we are still on the topic of movies, I went and saw the latest Terminator film, and surprisingly, I liked it quite bit! Despite the terrible rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I thought that it was a good movie. The plot is straight forward and feels like a Terminator movie. The acting is excellent, though Emilia Clarke looks a bit young compared to Linda Hamilton in the original movie, but whatever. There are some good joke and some clever critique of how addicted we are to social networks and the internet. There isn’t a single thing that I can think of that I would call bad in this film. Sure, one could say that it is an unrealistic representation of time travel and that certain cause and effect rules were seemingly broken, but then again, we have no idea if time travel is possible and what effects it could have on the future/present/past.

I remembered that a lot of people hated Terminator salvation but that I thought it was a solid movie, and if you look at the IMDB rating that seem to be true for a lot of people. I can only assume that the film critic that gave Terminator Genisys and Salvation bad review were trying to compare it to the original, but they are really different movies. The original Terminator movie is the kind of movie you can only do once, because after that, everything will be in its shadow, for ever compared to the original. Hopefully they will continue with the new continuity they have set up, because I really like it.

*****

I got my car back from the shop last Friday. I’m a little surprised it was that quick to fix, after all I dropped the car off Monday, they call to tell what was going to be done on Tuesday and the car was ready to pick up Friday after noon. It took them only a couple days to replace two door covers but it took that other place 3 weeks to get the pieces for the front bumper. At least I had a rental car to use in the meantime, though I didn’t quite like it as much as my actual car. While it had some nice feature like a back up camera and push start button thingy, the steering wheel felt loose and pedal felt soft. It made the car feel easier to drive but not as good to drive. The steering on the focus is tighter and feels more controlled, same thing with the pedals. But the most important thing is that I didn’t have to pay for anything (other than gas).

*****

Batman Arkham Knight, an extended rambling/review…

I have recently been playing the latest Batman game that came just a couple weeks ago, and now that I have 100% it, I thought I could share some of my thought on the game. I keep this spoiler free, like I do with my movie review, in case you are planing to play it.

I was simply going to get it on Steam but as you may have heard the PC version of the game was utter rubbish. From what I could read online, even with the best hardware money could buy, the game ran worse than it did on the console versions. That gave me an excuse to buy it for Xbox One, which is good since mine was quietly gathering dust for some time now.

I was big fan of the first game, Arkham Asylum, but not quite as fond of the sequel, Arkham City. The first game had a simple but refined combat system. X punched and Y countered enemy attacks. Arkham City had the same system but it didn’t quite feel right. For some reason, I felt Batman was sluggish compare to the original game and the timing for the counter attacks did not seem to match the on screen indicators. It is possible that it is because I played on PC but I have another theory. Comes in Arkham Knight. It still uses the same system but it felt more inconsistent then ever. It seems that when you are fighting out in the city, the controls have that sluggishness from Arkham City, but when indoors or in a closed environment, it feels as responsive as it did in the original game. I think that the big environment causes latency and lag, therefor the combat isn’t as good.

Talking about environments, I was disappointed by the level design in this game, or rather lack there of. The first game had very distinct levels for you to explore. Each building at the asylum had its own feel and special touch in their design. Arkham City introduced the big open, free roam environment and scaled back on interior levels. Arkham Knight doesn’t really have levels at all. The few indoors locations are well designed but to few and far apart in my opinion. Most of the plot happens outside in the city streets and roof. While the city is well designed, it doesn’t conduce to the same level of game play the original game had. when ever faced with a group of enemy to be taken down stealthily, you have a lot more leeway. Instead of having to worry about hiding after being discovered, you can just grapple to another building a fly around for a bit. That feels like cheating to me.

One Mechanic that has changed drastically is the gadget selection. In the previous games, all of the Bat-gadget were mapped to the directional pad, which allowed for quick selection. In Arkham Knight, the directional pad is used for a new set of menus. Up turns on “detective mode”, the blue color overlay that shows enemies and object that can be interacted with. Left opens a menu about optional challenges (which are completely irrelevant to the completion of the game). Right is the story and mission tab, where can keep track of how far you are in each side mission and the main plot. Finally down is the gadget menu, but you don’t just press down to open the menu, you have to keep it pressed and select with the right analog stick the gadget you want. Some times you can just press down once and have the menu stick but I never figured out why. That might seem like a small change but since I was so used to have the gadget on the directional button, I kept finding myself opening random menus thinking I would get the grappling hook or the batarangs.

There also has been a major overhaul of the upgrade system. In the first game, you could unlock almost everything before the end of the story line. While there is still a slow experience and level up system, they dramatically increased the number of unlock-able upgrades. Heck, you can purchase the ability to use certain gadgets while gliding around. To help unlocking the upgrades, all the missions are segmented and completing each segment grants between one to three instant level up. this comes in very handy, considering that some upgrade require eight level to unlock!

One massive new feature in the game is of course the Batmobile! Inspired by the recent Nolan movies, the Batmobile is tank than car, and even has a omnidirectional tank mode. It also come with its own upgrade tree, including additional damage resistance and extra damage. While the concept is cool, the application can be inconsistent. The controls in car mode are similar enough to any racing game, right trigger accelerates, X brakes, A engages the turbo and you steer by moving the left analog stick left and right. When the car is at a complete stop, it can rotate around which is nice if you need to do a 180. The right trigger doesn’t apply the brakes as one would assume (I find that a bit annoying personally), but engages tank mode. In tank mode, you can fire and move in any direction, in a fashion close to an old school twin stick shooter. The left shoulder button, which used to activate the detective mode, now calls the Batmobile to you if you are near a road, which can be rather nifty.

There are couple thing that are a bit annoying with the Batmobile however. The main one is its turning radius. When you are at speed it’s ok because you can sort of put the car into a drift and slide around corners, and when you are stopped, you that spinning thing I mention earlier. The problem comes when you try to go relatively slow, at which point the Batmobile handles like a bus. Trying to move the camera while in the driving mode while most likely and in a disaster as well. The other main issue isn’t inherent to the Batmobile but more of a consequence of it being in the game. Namely it is heavy used as a gadget/tool in many of the story missions. there two common scenario’s: A) there is an obstruction and you need to find a way to bring the car or B) you get trapped and you need to remote control the car to rescue you. The car really shines when you just need to move around the city but feel like the worst kind of escort mission when in the story line missions.

One thing that I felt was a bit of let down was the main plot. Because the main villain is Scarecrow, It’s more of a cerebral mind game than the two previous games. While the Joker’s crazy plans always left guessing what he true intent was until the very last moment, Scarecrow’s plan feels like a succession of red-herrings and distraction meant to make batman go crazy. So there is somewhat repetitive cycle of Batman guessing what Scarecrow is doing, stop him, and Scarecrow being like: “Aha! I expected you to stop me! Have you lost hope yet?”. The titular Arkham Knight is not actually a new character in the Batman mythos but a retelling of a classic storyline, which I found disappointing a bit. They were rumors that he would be a brand new character but that is not entirely true.

There is a “secret” ending if you finish the game at 100% but it doesn’t really make much sense. It would have been the perfect cliffhanger for a sequel but this is the last game in the series. No more Batman Arkham games after this. It felt like a post credit scene for a movie that bombed and never got the sequel made. I am not sure what to make of it but that was probably what they, the game makers, intended.

Finally there are quite a huge amount of references to the DC universe in this game. Lex Corp (Lex Luthor’s shady company)  and Queens Industries (from Green Arrow) both have a building in the city, Superman can be heard being mentioned but some of the thugs around the city, and many other as well.

Overall it is an amazing game, but I feel like it doesn’t match what the original game was. Arkham Asylum managed to find the perfect balance. The level were big and interesting but not convoluted, no gadget felt superfluous, the combat was brilliant and the story was captivating. The bar was set very high and just don’t feel that any of sequels and the prequel quite managed to match that standard.

A car update: Accident #2…

Yes, it was bound to happen. I got my self into another accident… guuuuuhhhhh… But hey! It wasn’t my fault and I’ll probably not pay a single penny of it! Huzzah silver linings!

MY DOOORS!!!!
MY DOOORS!!!!

As I was leaving the office’s parking lot, someone reversed into the passenger side of my vehicle. Yup, that happened. She claimed that she didn’t see me in her rear facing parking camera when she started backing up. I find that hard to believe, because as I recall, the front of my car was already right behind her minivan thing before she started moving. As you can see there was paint transfer, a couple big dent on both doors and my paint was scrape to bare metal in a couple spots…

Damage wise, while it doesn’t look to bad, it appears to be a bit expensive to fix. I went to get an estimate and it came out just over $3000 worth of damage. They said that I need to replace the outer skin of both doors, the rear quarter panel and possibly the rear bumper and repaint/blend everything in. That seems a bit much but as long as I don’t pay, I don’t really care. Since it will the other person’s insurance paying the bill, I might also get a rental car this time. I like Uber but I would rather be able to do thing on my own.

Oh well, such is life. Hopefully it won’t take too long to get this thing wrapped up, but it is very much a case of “hoping for the best, expecting the worse” type of deal.