August LootCrate “Villains 2″…

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Another month, another box full of mysterious goodies! In term of size, it is similar to last month’s but it is quite a bit heftier. Hopefully, that’s a good sign. Let’s open the thing!

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As you can see, there is no t-shirt in this box either. As I had speculate last month, the T-shirts are probably going sold separately in that new Level up subscription thing. There is also only four things in this box, not counting the badge/pin and the magazine thing. Hopefully it an indication of “Quality over Quantity”.

I guess I should start with the box that says marvel on it.

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“Venom molded mug” you says? That sounds spectacular!

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Eeeehhh… I like it? I’m a bit on the fence about it. They did a really cool job when sculpting it but the paint job is not the best. They sort of gave it lips and it give it a bit of a Joker look. The tongue is handle, which is really cool.

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I can see this becoming one of those stupid twitter dares…

Up next, inside a small plastic bag we have…

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…an apron. Apparently it’s a breaking bad reference. Since I have never seen any of the episodes of the show, I was a bit confused. At least I have an apron now.

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The second to last thing is the Joker action figure of sorts. It’s not the traditional interpretation of the Joker, being more of a ape like complexion. The figure is also made of wood, which is pretty nice. the arms, the hands and torso are posable and include a spare head. Interestingly, it has hole in its hand, suggesting that it could hold some form of accessory but none were included in the box.

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And the last mystery item is this box with a hydra logo on it. Apparently, it a replica of a Hydra lapel pin seen at the very beginning of the first Captain America film. It’s pretty cool especially if you are into cosplay, or if you just want to walk around and whisper “Hail Hydra” in random people’s ears.

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OOhhhh, shiny!

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As always, the pin thingy and the magazine for the crate.

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Like I said before, it seem that they decided to go for quality over quantity this time around and I think it worked. The mug is really nice, the lapel thing is cool (and movie accurate apparently), the joker figurine is pretty swell, and the apron is at least useful. I think that since they don’t include the T-shirt in the box, they can afford to put more expensive stuff instead. Hopefully this will be a continuing trend rather than a one off fluke.

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A new look for the blog…

Check it out! Doesn’t it look amazing? Of course it does.

I was getting tired of the old theme and there things that bugged me in the old design. The big advantage of this one is that I can have a side bar. As you can see, there is now an archive menu on the right side and if I wanted to I could add more stuff. The location for the About me page is way more accessible at the top of the page rather than a the very bottom. The color options were limited unfortunately but I think that the current scheme will do.

I received a new LootCrate the other day, so you expect that as my next post, and I have been studying that Maze cube I bought last week. I made some interesting observations that might be the key to solving the thing.

Always nice to have a good challenge…

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To anyone who knows me well, it is no secret that I like puzzles, and specifically Rubik’s cubes. Back in high school, a couple of my friend were able to solve it within a minute and that got me inspired. Surprisingly, learning how to solve the Rubik’s cube is relatively easy, it just require some patience, practice and a good sense of orientation. Since then, I have continued to collect and learn how to solve ever more complex puzzle.

I own a box choke full of Rubik like puzzle of different shape and sizes (as you can see from the first picture), but unfortunately I hadn’t had the chance to bring it from New York yet and I only have a standard 3x3x3 cube and couple other variant. Starting to get somewhat bored of solving the same puzzles over and over again, I decided to get some new ones:

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As you can easily see, these Rubik’s cube don’t have the standard color scheme but rather unique designs. These are from a Greek company called V-Cube. They were the first company to figure out and patent a mechanism that allowed for puzzle of more than 5 layers. If you are looking for a good quality puzzle, I would recommend buying from them, and hey, you’ll help Greece with their bailout (probably not actually…).

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The first puzzle has a Sudoku puzzle printed on each face of the cube. Each face has a different Sudoku, meaning that there is only one valid solution. It was the easiest to solve of the three. Due to the way the Sudoku are laid out  on the cube, you can use that to your advantage to orient the pieces more easily.

WP_20150817_16_22_43_ProThis second one is similar except that instead of Sudoku, it has a crossword puzzle on it. Just like the Sudoku puzzle, you can use the writings to help you orient the pieces. Because some of the pieces has a lot of black filler, it is a bit more confusing to solve. The best way to solve this one is simply to remember what words are used.

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Finally this is the “Maze” puzzle. This one takes things to a whole new level. This one is lot more abstract than the to two others. Each face has this maze like design on it. Technically, there are only 2 different patterns but  I haven’t found out how you are supposed to figure out which piece goes with which. I’m sure there is a trick that helps solving it, but it seems to escape me for now.

Well, I guess I have my work cut out for me. Who knows, maybe I’ll figure it out before the end of the week.

Fantastic Four, or proof that things can always get worse…

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the movie theater to watch Pixels and I thought that it would have been the worst movie I would ever see this year. I thought that no one could push the acting bar lower than the performance by Adam Sandler. I thought it would be the bottom rung of my movie ranking scale. Little did I know how far from the truth I was. Warning: spoilers ahead, though I cannot honestly recommend watching this movie before reading this post…

I was always a bit skeptical of the “Fantastic Four” remake. The original movies were not all that bad but were definitely more light hearted and goofier than the current batch of marvel things and could have used a little bit more seriousness in their plots. The reboot was meant to fix that with a grittier, edgier, more “Man of Steel” movie, with colors ranging from grey to blue-ish grey and brown. While I had no qualms about the new younger and more diverse cast, something in the trailers really bugged me. There were no hints about the actual plot of the movie. Obviously, a trailer can ruin a movie if too much is revealed and a more subtle one can improve a movie, but the trailer for this movie felt too shallow. Sure there was interesting visuals and hints of some actions scenes, but that was it. It felt like an empty promise. That should have been the first red flag.

Now, a good sign of how successful a movie will is the attendance of the opening night. When I went to see Avengers 2, I got there an hour early and the room was already half full, and ended packed. When I went to see Ant Man, I got there half an hour early, one guy was already waiting for the room to be ready and about half the room was full for the movie. This is what happened last night for Fantastic Four:

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That was fifteen minutes before the start of the movie. I was the only guy there, and maybe a dozen people showed up five minutes before show time. That when I started to suspect something was up, the second red flag.

Nothing could have prepare me for what I was going to watch. There are so many thing that are mind-bogglingly wrong with this film I am not even sure where to start.

I guess they succeeded in making the movie grimmer and edgier. So edgy, fact that there were no bright color. Everything was tinted blue and grey. No reds, no greens, no yellows… Only cold colors. Even the characters where cold. Not a single one of the ever show anything remotely close to a personality or an emotion. Every single actor simply spatted their lines, as if reading from a teleprompter. Only occasionally gracing us some form of intonations. Even Adam Sandler, who I harshly criticized in my review of “Pixels”, had more character and acting skill than the entire cast of this movie! This movie made “Pixels” look like “Guardian of the Galaxy” good!

Let’s talk about the plot for moment, or rather the lack there of. Any properly written story has multiple phase to it,or acts, that guides it. The set up, the tipping point, the adventure, the final confrontation, and finally the resolution. For example, let take “Captain America, The First Avenger”. The set up: Red skull and Steve Rogers are introduced. The tipping point: Steve is injected with the super serum and Hydra kills the scientist who made it. The adventure: Steve is now Captain America, going around destroying hydra bases in Europe. The final confrontation: the assault on The red’s skulls base and on the flying airship. The resolution: Cap is frozen in the ice and presumed dead only to be defrosted by shield in the present time. Simple right?

“Fantastic Four”‘s plot doesn’t follow that structure. It has a really drown out set up, building that teleportation machine, and the heroes don’t get their power until more than an hour in. Even then, there’s a least 30 some minutes of filler where nothing important happens until the bad guy, Doctor DOOM, resurfaces. We are now an hour and a half into the movie and it’s time to put things into high gear! Who cares about adventure and character building? Let’s jump directly to the final fight! There is only one really action sequence in the whole film and it’s at the very end. Even then it’s a fairly quick in and out fight, and then boom, quick resolution and end.

It felt like this should have been a much longer film. It’s almost like there was an entire second act that was cut out and the ending was shortened so that the movie could be only two hours long. Even the trailer is almost criminally ripe full of scenes that are nowhere to be found in the movie.

This is the perfect example of what I was talking about in my post about watching bad movies. After watching “Fantastic Four” I realized that “pixels wasn’t as bad as I first thought. Sure it had flaws, but nowhere as many as “Fantastic Four” had. It gave me a proper reference point for what a truly terrible movie can be. You don’t have to take my word for it, just go on Rotten tomatoes or IMDB and see for yourself, “Pixels” has better scores.

I can only hope that Marvel get the rights back from 20th century Fox soon and do justice to these iconic characters. I think this a movie not worth watching and it seems like it is already well on its way to complete failure.

Those annoying letters….

There are very few things in the world that really makes my blood boil, and probably the second thing that annoys me the most is disingenuous advertisements. Those fake article on News website that are “sponsored” by some big company and such. While they are easy to avoid on the internet, it’s a bit harder to deal with in the real world.

Every other weeks or so I get a letter like this from my internet service provider:

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Well gee, important customer information? In all caps, no less! Must really be important! I wonder what it could be. Did they change the plan I’m currently using? Do I owe them money? hmmmmm…..

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Oh no wait! It’s some bullshit advertisement!! Almost every other week I get the same letter with the same bullshit attention grabbing lie on it. They hide that “upgrade your experience Today!” line just under the solid part of the envelope to really make you sigh when you start pulling the content out. Sometimes they even put one of those fake credit card things with a phone number on it. While it says “exclusive offers”, they’re always the same just with a different promo code. They even end with a post scriptum that says “Hey, buy our services!” (paraphrasing a bit, but that’s what they are saying anyways…).They truly are desperate for me to pay them more for services I do not want. 

Well here is an idea: if they want to make more profits, why don’t they start saving money by stopping sending me these useless letters!

The worst part is that they use a similar format for actual notices and stuff. I would be very tempted to just toss all the letters in the garbage but I might actually throw out the letter that say my subscription is up or whatever. A real life case of the kid who cried wolf… So devious! As far as I can tell they is no way to unsubscribe from promotional campaign anywhere on the website so I probably just soldier on. First world problems man….

Bat-a-key-ring, The cheap knight returns…

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Here is a little update on the Batman key ring that I have received the other day along with the rest of the LootCrate stuff. I thought it was cool and I decided to actually use it. I can confirm that the bottle opener is utterly hopeless as I predicted. Hadn’t had the occasion to try the screwdrivers yet but I doubt they could replace a proper tool. The paint has chipped a bit in some part but I think that adds to it, gives it a more rugged feel to it. However, as some of the more keen-eyed of you might have already spotted on the picture above, there is a slight problem. Namely, it can’t seem to keep my keys attached to itself, and for a very obvious reason:

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You are the weakest link! (dramatic music)

You know what they say: “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link”, and that is an extremely weak link. That thing has bent itself twice out of shape since I started using it. Thankfully, I didn’t lose my keys on either occasion but it’s been only a couple of days and that thing is already giving up! To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much but even then this is still disappointing. Another case of form over function I suppose.