Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Conan the Raider by Leonard Carpenter

I just read Conan the Raider by Leonard Carpenter again after all these years, and it reminded me of just how much I cherish that character.  I have always preferred the novels to the comics and movies, though I enjoy all of it.  It need not be stated that Robert E. Howard's work with Conan sits atop the food chain, but I'll do so anyway.  The Hyborian Age he envisioned is a ripe environment for exciting tales featuring robust characters, and as such, there are riches beyond his work.  I would argue that many fine writers have produced fiction featuring everyone's favorite barbarian.  In doing so, I may rank Robert Jordan and Leonard Carpenter among the very best of those, and Conan the Raider is a fabulous adventure yarn.

For those who aren't in the know, Conan is a barbarian who spends much of his time thieving or serving as a mercenary.  He detests sorcery and strives to avoid it, though his stories almost always demand that he face this fear.  He is a powerful warrior, adept with a host of weapons, and a gifted leader, though his nomadic spirit always finds him joining some fracas as an outsider.  This larger-than-life hero hails from the northern land of Cimmeria, though his adventures tend to take place in larger cities to the south.

Conan the Raider finds our beloved barbarian in Shem, and the book opens with Conan mired in a delicate situation in the desert.  A kind twist of fate sees him join a band of tomb-raiders boasting a one-time comrade, a thief known as Isaiab.  Conan doesn't like the idea of stealing from the dead, though theft is his profession at this point and his situation offers no reasonable alternatives.

The head of this pack is Otsgar the Vanir, a fellow northener and a terrific foil for our unruly hero.  Conan's interactions with Otsgar were at the heart of this book, and I loved the way their relationship evolved.  Otsgar was nearly Conan's equal, and as he was a bit older and led a similar lifestyle, it was almost as if the barbarian was paired with an older version of himself.  Not surprisingly, their alliance was a turbulent one.  They were allies, then there was a betrayal and they became bitter rivals before uniting once again to face a common enemy.  They drank, they brawled, they fought over the affections of a sexy dancer named Zafriti, and they faced the ranks of the undead and a vile necromancer together.

The book saw Conan labor as a thief, a tomb raider, and he even served a brief stint as a gladiator of sorts before becoming embroiled in a vicious power struggle taking place within the kingdom of Abaddrah.  He deftly balanced his duties as a rogue and as the leader of a rebel army in this city-state perched on the River Styx, sitting directly opposite the darkness and iniquity of Stygia.  The king of Abaddrah was dying a slow and unnatural death while his dastardly Queen Nitokar and the court prophet, wicked sorcerer Horaspes, vied for unimaginable power and all of the kingdom's riches.  Innocent young princess Afrit was caught in the crosshairs, and Conan became her unlikely hero.  Typical stuff for the big guy, who somehow survived one scrape after another, cheating death at every turn, all while being pulled deeper and deeper into the intrigue.

I'm a big fan of zombies, so the legions of the undead that rose to wreak havoc during the book's conclusion were a welcome treat, and Conan the Raider offered up a riveting finale that was appropriately grim.  I enjoyed the book just as much now as I had then, though the years had whittled my memory of the title down to such an extent that I might as well have been reading it for the first time.  Yet I was reminded that spending a little time with Conan is seldom a bad thing, that is unless you somehow wind up crossing swords with him.  In closing, if you're a fan of the character and you're looking to recall your inner teenager, maybe you should dust off an old Conan novel.  Conan the Raider would be a fine choice.  I had a good enough time with it that I may even dig into another of Carpenter's efforts before I move on. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 15 (This Sorrowful Life)

Warning: this is as much of a recap as it is a review, so here there be SPOILERS.

With only a pair of episodes remaining in what is shaping up to be an epic season, The Walking Dead put Merle at the center of another solid hour of nerve-wracking horror.  I think last week's episode was a little leaner and the narrow focus produced one of the best entries to date.  "This Sorrowful Life" wasn't quite as polished and it didn't shine quite as brightly as a result, but it was a very good episode that continued to build momentum heading toward this week's big finale.

First off, let's start with the bad, since that's how the show kicked off.  Rick decided to hand Michonne over, and I don't think this worked for anyone.  This felt like a plot device from the very start, and it was a lazy attempt to advance a fine show.  I'm not sure how they could have set this entry up without that development, but leading off on a false note definitely cheapened the episode.  To make matters worse, Rick then approached Merle and told him about his decision while keeping everyone else aside from Hershel and Daryl in the dark. 

Merle knew Rick wouldn't be able to go through with delivering Michonne to The Governor, and he told Rick as much.  Though the scene painted Rick as a buffoon, it was compelling stuff, and little did I know that Michael Rooker was just getting started.  In truth, if you have a guy like him in your cast, you should definitely use him, and "This Sorrowful Life" gave Rooker a wealth of material to play with.  He excelled, which is no surprise to those of us who love his work.  Whenever he was on the screen last night, The Walking Dead was absolutely riveting, and he was the centerpiece of this episode.  If not for Rick's baffling decision at the onset and the latest installment of the Glenn and Maggie soap opera, this would have been an instant classic.

Anyway, recognizing that Rick didn't have the stomach for the job at hand, Merle put his own plan in motion.  He subsequently captured a surprisingly gullible Michonne and set off for the rendezvous with The Governor without Rick or his brother.  Things really picked up from there.  A fantastic scene found Merle trying to boost a ride while Michonne was tethered to a nearby column.  Merle accidentally set the car alarm off, attracting a mob of walkers, and Michonne showed that she doesn't need her hands free to kick some serious ass.  Merle also showed his mettle, and this setpiece continued a recent streak of rousing action scenes.

There has always been a lot of violence on The Walking Dead, and the execution is typically sound, but I feel like the makers of the show are at the top of their game this season.  They've given us a wealth of bloody mayhem that rivals anything you're apt to see on the big screen, and they should be applauded.  It should come as no surprise that horror heavyweight Greg Nicotero was in the director's chair when "This Sorrowful Life" was filmed. 

Back at the prison, Rick (thanks in part to another sighting of Lori's ghost) realized he could no longer stomach the notion of giving Michonne up.  He came clean with the rest of the group and demanded that they become a democracy so he no longer bears the burden of making all of the decisions for them.  Of course, he soon realized that neither Merle or Michonne were on the scene, and it wasn't hard to put two and two together.  He was going to go after them, but Daryl took responsibility and reminded Rick that he needed to be at the prison just in case The Governor moved on them and the shit really hit the fan.  He also noted that Rick had little chance of tracking Merle and Michonne, and we all know that tracking is one of the zombie-killing badass known as Daryl Dixon's specialties. 

Meanwhile, Michonne appeared to be biding her time.  I got the feeling that she was so confident of her ability to turn the tables on Merle that she elected to devote herself to talking him down first, earmarking a struggle for freedom as Plan B.  Maybe that's just me being entirely too enamored with her character, who is one of the best heroines out there in 2013.  I thought it very unlikely that Merle would release her, but the dialogue between these two outsiders was enthralling.  As good as Michael Rooker was in this episode, and he was utterly fantastic, Danai Guriri was nearly his equal despite playing a smaller role.  In the end, Merle shocked me by stopping the car and setting Michonne free.  He made it clear that he wanted to see the group at the prison survive because that's where his brother wanted to be, but he didn't see any way that he could ever become one of them. 

I think he was wrong about Rick and our merry band of survivors; I believe there was a place for Merle at their table.  That's why I'm also willing to recognize that maybe Merle felt that they didn't stand a chance unless someone did something to try and put a dent in the numbers game working against them before all hell broke loose.  Merle did just that, leading a pack of walkers to the rendezvous and unloading on The Governor's troops while they tried to contend with a zombie horde.  I think Merle had a good idea, though getting drunk beforehand wasn't his finest moment, and he did rush things a bit.  Regardless, he took several of The Governor's fighting men out before the bloodthirsty villain Merle once hailed as leader took him down in a vicious fight. 

This was a big moment for The Governor, and it was damn impressive, but I'll admit that it also hit a sour chord with me.  I mean, I know that this character is now a far more frightening rendition of the comic book villain I know and love, and I know that Merle was drunk and winded, but I still think the one-armed man would have won the fight.  I guess that while I'm truly enamored with the direction David Morrissey has taken, particularly in recent weeks, I'm still not completely on board with AMC's version of the character.  Again, I know this was necessary to keep the plot moving, and it was a great way to make The Governor look strong, but I just can't wrap my head around seeing him take Merle out with relative ease.  I think that Merle wins that fight at least seven times out of ten.

Now, to be fair, I was dreading Merle's inevitable exit from The Walking Dead, and I've made my affection for Michael Rooker clear, so maybe that last sentence is just the homer in me talking.  Either way, I'm sad to see Merle go, though I do think the show benefited greatly from bringing him back in Season 3 and devoting so much screen-time to the rowdy rascal.  Merle Dixon, you were an asshole, but you will be missed.  The conclusion of "This Sorrowful Life" found Daryl catching up with his big brother, and we were witness to a gut-wrenching display of emotion as zombie Merle advanced on fan favorite Norman Reedus, forcing Daryl to kill him.  That was almost as powerful as anything we've seen on The Walking Dead, and it was a great way to cap off a nice entry in one of television's most compelling shows.

Yes, there was a fumble on the first snap, and whether you dig the Glenn and Maggie stuff or not, it seemed out of place here, but this was another winner.  Season 3 has produced a lot of those, and as we head toward the finale, many questions loom large, though it is fair to wonder how many of them will be answered.  I think most everyone who follows the program is eager for the big finish, but I also think we all realize that we're approaching a massive cliff-hanger.  I have a feeling the wait for Season 4 is going to be nothing short of agonizing.  I'll be sure to share my thoughts in seven days, but until Episode 16 airs we'll just have to wait and wonder. 

Who will live?

Who will die?

Will the season finale be able to capitalize on all the momentum the show has gained in recent weeks, or will AMC drop the ball?

Will people really riot if Daryl dies?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Halloween Theme

For those who know me, my love for John Carpenter's work is no secret.  For those who are just getting to know me, well, what else can I say?  I'm a huge fan of Carpenter, and many of his films would surely rank among my favorites.  One of the most impressive aspects of Carpenter's legacy is his ability to score a picture, and most of his classics come with a classic theme attached.  That is certainly true of one of his finest films, the timeless Halloween, and that theme is a true masterpiece.

So, I'm sitting upstairs, perched behind the computer.  I'm writing, but you already knew that.  The blinds are open and I have a wonderful view of a meadow where horses roam.  It's a nice day, and to be completely honest there isn't much more that a writer could ask for.  I have my iTunes on, as always, and I have it set to shuffle.  All is well.  For whatever reason, iTunes seems to have a thing for funk today, and that's fine by me. 

Then iTunes throws a swerve my way.  That's right: Halloween hits.  Suddenly, I can't help but look out the window to see if Michael is crossing the meadow.  And I realize that I'm making a serious Dr. Loomis face that would make Donald Pleasance proud.  You could have shot that scene and printed it for the next Halloween picture.  Seriously.

I find it amusing that a piece of music is so potent that it could transform a beautiful view of a nice day into a tense portrait of unseen menace.  Yeah, a tense portrait of unseen menace.  That's positively absurd, but I'm pretty sure that John Saul would use it. 

Anyhow, sharing is caring, or so they say. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 14 (Prey)

Just when you think this season of The Walking Dead may have peaked, it somehow manages to peak again.  It seems natural given the slow burn toward a pending conflict approach AMC has embraced, yet I guess the pessimist in me is just waiting for them to muck it up.  I'll give them credit, they're still building steam, and they're righting wrongs along the way. 

Yes, I'll be the first to admit it: The Governor is actually becoming the monster he should be.  I've questioned David Morrissey's role in the show on numerous occasions, and I was perplexed by both the actor's choices and the subdued version of the comic book titan the people with all the stroke over at AMC chose to depict.  Now I'm really starting to see why they made many of those decisions, and it looks like it's going to pay off.  I think they baited us with a softer version of the character, and now they've almost managed to transform that cat into The Governor that fans of the comic know and fear.

Additionally, Andrea finally pulled her head out of her ass and made some sensible decisions, though she made them just a little too late in the game.  I thought the makers of the show backed down when faced with some of The Governor's most despicable actions earlier in Season 3, but now I'm thinking that Laurie Holden may be subjected to the horror that both the show's loathsome villain's tainted legacy and his brand-spanking-new torture chamber promise to deliver.  Now that Andrea is thinking straight, I'm hoping she manages to endure, but I don't think there's any way that she's going to get out clean.

Anyone who follows my blog probably thinks I hate Andrea given all the flack I've directed at her character this year, but there's a reason for the rants.  I do favor the comics, where Andrea's a more integral part of the story, and Laurie certainly has the potential to make the character equally remarkable.  She's already one of the more popular characters on the show, or at least she was until this season teed off, but the role has the potential to rival any other role in The Walking Dead.  I don't think I'm overselling, and I think Kirkman's legions of followers would agree.  I like Andrea on the show, but Andrea is operating on an entirely different level in the comics. 

Now, in this week's episode, aptly titled "Prey", Andrea finally sought to defect from Woodbury.  Unfortunately, The Governor was all jacked-up after building his torture chamber, and he was hot on her heels.  This chase was at the very core of the episode, and it was a tense and highly-entertaining affair.  Both Morrissey and Holden were given ample opportunities to shine and dispatch walkers, and in an episode that rested almost entirely upon their shoulders, both delivered the goods to terrific effect.

Back in town, Milton behaved like a fool.  Seriously, dude is just smart enough to be incredibly dumb.  Why air your homeboy's dirty laundry if you're down with him?  Why tip Andrea off and then prevent her from doing what needed to be done about it?  Why tell The Governor his daughter's death didn't matter?  I mean, seriously, that was about the stupidest thing his character could have said in that situation.  Later, he all but confessed to burning the walkers.  I don't think we'll be seeing his character in Season 4, but I think he's dumb enough to be shocked by it when his number finally gets punched. 

I liked seeing Tyreese make a moral stand, but I could have done without the "Donna" soap opera he and that sucker that travels with him subjected to us to.  I think that guy's chances of making it to Season 4 are worse than Milton's, and I'm just not that interested in his back-story.  Tyreese on the other hand came off well here, and I definitely liked seeing his shooting prowess on full display.

Our only glimpse of the prison came when Andrea thought she had made it back only to be overcome by The Governor.  Rick was on watch, and he may have caught a glimpse of what was happening, but it was insignificant enough that he couldn't confirm it, and he promptly shrugged it off.  I liked that moment, though I'm definitely not looking forward to seeing what The Governor has in store for Andrea.  Yikes! 

And to think that she would have dropped him if not for Milton . . .

Yes, Season 3 is still firing on all cylinders, and now the stakes are truly high. 

Can AMC continue this epic run? 

Will the struggle to come warrant the hype? 

Who will live and who will die?

Just how far will The Walking Dead go?

The questions are many and the answers are coming.  Stay tuned, fright fans, I'm looking forward to discussing next week's episode with you in seven days.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Jungle Boogie or Jungle Jazz?

I think I'm going with the jazz.  And if you didn't know there was a Jungle Boogie and a Jungle Jazz, well, I guess you just found something to do.

Oh, and you're welcome.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Fishing Waylands

My lovely little Alaina Rachel had to go the farm for 4-H this afternoon.  She loves Infinity Acres Ranch and I think the place is one of Ridgeway's unsung treasures.  Alaina loves working with all the animals and Laura and Rick have taught her so very much.  It's a wonderful opportunity to interact with wildlife and learn about life on the farm.  Check it out if you get the chance.

Alaina with Laura and Rick (and an alpaca) from Infinity Acres Ranch
Anyway, I decided to take Taryn Grace fishing while Alaina Rachel was at Infinity Acres.  We've been living in Ridgeway for a while, and I decided to see what the fishing was like up by Eggleston Falls.  I was actually checking the falls out a few days ago when an old-timer happened along and mentioned that he had greatly enjoyed fishing behind the falls as a boy.  So, today Taryn and I decided to see what it was all about.

First off, as with all of the wonderful Smith River Trails that are available to Henry County locals, the trail was great and the scenery was beautiful.  The falls themselves are nothing short of gorgeous.

Taryn had a blast!

I love this pic!

We fished for a shade under two hours, and we definitely had a lot of fun.  We hiked up above the falls, and this is the first spot we chose to fish from:


It was a nice spot, even if yesterday's rain made for a muddy river.  Better yet, the fish were biting.  I brought in a fish on my first cast.  Then Taryn joined the party.  They were small fish, mostly between six to ten inches, but we caught five fish at this spot.  Surprisingly, all but one was a catfish, and I'm used to pulling trout out of the Smith.  I landed the first catfish, and then Taryn went up on me, bringing in three fish in rapid succession.  Taryn is getting ready to turn 5, so she was rather fired up about the whole thing.  I hooked another fat little catfish before we decided to move closer to the falls.

Here are the fish Taryn reeled in:

1st catch = little catfish (7 inches)
2nd catch = fat catfish (9 inches)
3rd catch = small trout (7 inches)
 We only had a few minutes left before it was time to go pick up Alaina Rachel, but I wanted to see if anything was biting just above the falls, so we set up shop here:

I brought in another fat little catfish and we called it a day.  Taryn had a wonderful time, and she was excited.  She thought the falls were beautiful, and she was thrilled with our 3-3 tie.  She and her sister are having a pajama party at Girl Scouts now, and I'm sure she's still bragging about her fishing trip.  I bet her sister is jealous.  We went to the reservoir as a family on Sunday, but the fish weren't biting.  Thus, our Wayland leaderboard for the 2013 season is as follows:

Taryn: 3 (Tie for 1st)
Daddy: 3 (Tie for 1st)
Alaina: 0
Kristen: 0
Asher: 0

Yes, Asher fishes.  Kind of.

I know they don't exactly look thrilled, but like I said, the fish weren't biting.
I think it was probably just too windy Sunday, but my little troopers still managed to have fun.  Here's a look at the girls on the lake.

Anyway, the Waylands have been fishing this year, and we've been enjoying it.  I was definitely glad I shattered my egg and caught a few fish today, but that was no match for the sheer joy of watching little Taryn have so much fun.  In closing, if you're looking to have some fun with the family, you could surely do worse than heading out for a lake or a river and fishing.  If you're not down with that, you could always check out the falls or enjoy any of the Smith River trails located throughout Henry County.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Saturday's Epic Fishing Trip

 Yeah, it was epic, all right.  I don't want to think about it actually, but I promised pictures, and I'm not offering up the pictures without providing some type of explanation.  Call it an excuse, or a series of excuses, if you like, but I'm just trying to answer your questions.  For instance, you may wonder: why aren't you in the pictures?  I don't see you holding up any trout, Jimmy. 

Yes, you might just say that, and you would be correct.  Let me explain.

I struck out at the crack of dawn, and Master Gibbs and I froze our asses off for a couple of hours before it warmed up.  After a while, it was beautiful.  We fished all over the Smith River in Fieldale, hole-hopping repeatedly as we weren't getting any bites.  We kept encountering other fishermen who hadn't got any bites either, but most claimed to have heard from other fishermen that they had caught several trout.  Yet we never encountered those fishermen, only fishermen who said to have encountered them.  You follow?

Anyway, I only got one bite all day.  One.  And it was really more like a nibble.  I must have fished in twenty different spots, and I used a few different baits.  I used corn, nightcrawlers, salmon eggs, powerbait, and I sacrificed my best spinner to the river.  All for nothing. 

Late in the day, Philmo showed up, and he netted three small brown trout.  Not to be outdone, Master Gibbs landed a huge brown that has to be the biggest trout I've actually seen anyone pull out of the Smith. 

Me?  I just kept at it, enjoying a beautiful day on the river.  One bite.  No, I'm not bitter.  Not at all.  It was a beautiful day, and I spent it with friends.  It's not about catching fish anyway.  It's about having fun, and I had a great time.  And I'm not bitter at all. 

Here are your damn pictures:

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 13 (Arrow on the Doorpost)

Warning: this is as much of a recap as it is a review, so here there be SPOILERS.  You have been warned.

The Walking Dead continued to build momentum with another stirring episode.  Yes, I felt the program stumbled upon its return from the midseason break with a couple of the weakest episodes to date.  Yet from that point on, we've been treated to nothing but pure winners, and AMC's big gun is gaining incredible momentum as it hurtles toward the season finale.

There are only three episodes left after "Arrow on the Doorpost", and the palaver between Rick and The Governor that served as the focus for this tense outing clearly signaled the beginning of the end.  This little stalemate is going to end soon, and it will end with either the town of Woodbury or the prison where our merry band of survivors has gathered being annihilated.

I liked the mood of this one, which was grim and yet somewhat subdued.  Subdued for The Walking Dead, at the very least.  There was some action, but for the most part we were studying a discussion between two men who know that there will be no peace between them.  Boundaries were discussed, as were terms, but Rick and The Governor know precisely where this is going.

The Governor is savoring the moment, eager for the looming confrontation, for he feels that his forces are superior enough to be all but invincible.  Rick is thinking more of his people's survival than victory, and the odds aren't in his favor.  Yet The Governor is foolish to believe the gap is so broad.  Most of his people seem like the type who would be more adept at struggling to put up a good fight in a friendly game of badminton.  Rick seems to have more in the way of killers, though the numbers are stacked against him.  Regardless, the way these two men interacted was priceless.  I kept thinking that if this was a televised debate, the polished villain might win in spite of his vicious nature and his eyepatch.  Yet we know who's right, and Rick knows just who he's dealing with.

In other news, Andrea is firmly in no man's land, seemingly electing to remain with a side that places little or no value upon her.  She is being used, she knows she's being used, and she knows she's being used by a deceptive madman.  I just can't explain her actions thus far, and I'm eager for her eventual return to her senses.  I'm assuming the show will do right by her at some point, and I'm not sure why this decision is supposed to be hard for her.  I think she knows precisely who The Governor is, and I think she has an equally sound understanding of Rick.  I have no idea why I'm supposed to see this as a hard choice for her to make.  This remains the biggest flaw of Season 3, and I hope Laurie Holden's agent raises enough hell for AMC to avoid abusing her character for no better reason than to advance the plot in Season 4.  Andrea deserves better.

I liked the man-off between Daryl and Martinez, and I thought the latter's home run strike was probably our zombie kill of the week.  In truth, I liked the macho shit going on between these two, but I liked their dialogue even more.  Imagine two soldiers like that fighting side by side.  Alas, . . .

I liked some of the stuff happening back at the prison, but the "Hey, my name's Merle and I'm 100% asshole 100% of the time" schtick is getting old.  Surely there are some other notes this character can hit.  Also, who decided to let Merle get so close to the guns and ammo?  I thought they were begging for trouble there.  I'm definitely tired of the Glenn and Maggie soap opera and I think we may be back to business as usual on that front.  Good, their little tiff was contrived and mostly meaningless.  The show is better without it.

I loved seeing Scott Wilson being given such an integral role in this episode.  It says a lot about his character's worth, with or without two working legs, and seeing Hershel jacked up and ready for a big shootout during the opening reel of "Arrow on the Doorpost" was extremely cool.  It reminded me a bit of his work for Walter Hill in Johnny Handsome, a vastly underrated noir picture.    I also liked seeing Rick open up to Hershel at the end of the show about The Governor's terms, namely that the group turn over Michonne in exchange for a truce.  Rick seems unsure of how to proceed in spite of his "We're going to war" speech and the fact that he knows The Governor will still try to kill them.  In the end, we know Rick is too good of a man to really hand over Michonne, and he's too shrewd to surrender one of his best pieces on the road to battle.  Make no mistake, fans of The Walking Dead, Rick got it right the first time.  We're going to war.

I can't wait.  The Walking Dead is firing on all cylinders as we enter the home stretch.  I'm expecting a furious finish and I look forward to discussing the next episode of television's bloodiest gem with you in seven days.  

Bonus: I positively loved the use of the music during the end, as both Rick and The Governor returned to their people.  The tone and atmosphere of this show are both remarkably unique, and yet something about the technique utilized here reminded me of Michael Mann at his best.  Much like his more striking efforts, the charged marriage of film and melody created quite a somber mood.  

Friday, March 8, 2013

It's that time again . . .

Today, I spent several hours checking out my fishing equipment.  I was trying to determine what I have, what I need, and what's working.  The verdict: well, it looks like everything is working, and I think it's entirely possible that I will never need to buy tackle again in this life.

Tomorrow, I will hit the Smith River in lovely Fieldale, Virginia with my good friends Master Gibbs and Philmo.  The weather forecast will hold true, and we will catch many, many trout.  I'll share pictures with you.

So it has been written, and so too shall it be done.

I hope you've got plans for the weekend, peeps.  You only live once.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Is the new Aliens game really that bad?

Absolutely.  I'm not even going to waste my time with a review, I'm just going to share a few moments with you.

1) Truthfully, this one is all on me, but I think it was an omen.  Early on, I was simply trying to master the controls.  I was facing bullet-proof glass when I pressed the right bumper on my 360 controller to see what would happen.  In my defense, the right trigger fires your weapon, and I didn't expect similar results from the bumper as well.  That doesn't change the fact that I shot the glass and the bullet rebounded directly into my face.  My character collapsed as a stirring bit of scripted narration began and I couldn't help but laugh.

2) At one point, I crept up behind one of the aliens.  Now, one should never be able to sneak up behind an alien, but that's precisely what I did.  As if that wasn't bad enough, I then killed said alien by shooting it. 
A great many times. 
And it never reacted. 
It actually just sat there wagging its tail (I'm not making that up) while I killed it.  Yes, the AI on this game is a bit lacking.

3) A particularly difficult stretch of the game repeatedly found me being massacred by multiple aliens while a fellow soldier stood nearby, speaking to our commander on the radio.  He confidently assured the chief "We got this" while I was being ripped to shreds.  This happened several times.  After a while, it was no longer funny.

4) The graphics in this game are so lackluster that there were a couple of big moments that I failed to comprehend because I couldn't tell what had just happened.  It was kind of like trying to decipher a small child's drawing, only with sound effects.

Okay, in all seriousness, let me say this: the people who made this game dumped enough material linked to the classic movie (Cameron's sequel, not Ridley Scott's dull original) to hold my interest.  The sounds (the weapons, the motion tracker, the aliens themselves, etc.) are on point, as are the sets.  And, though it is a lousy first-person shooter, it is just good enough to allow me to continue to play.  So, in essence, it's not the worst game ever made, as many are saying, but it is a bad game that probably should have been a great game.

Now you know.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Godzilla of Head Colds

Yeah, I'm sorry to say that there isn't much happening on the blog front today.  I'm blaming this massive head cold.  Hopefully you guys will understand.  After all, I'm pretty sure my brain is currently dripping out of my nose. 
Tomorrow will be different.  I am not certain of this, but I'm definitely hopeful.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Robot Combat League!

Sometimes I get pissed off at science.  I was really hoping for a flying car or one of those hoverboards that Marty McFly rocked in Back to the Future III, but it just isn't happening.  Some of the movies are cooler and video games have never been better, but flying cars and hoverboards are where it's at.  Of course, I could settle for giant robots warring with one another on television, but let's be real: science just can't seem to win the big one.

Oh, wait a minute, this isn't such a lost cause after all.

Chris Jericho has come to Syfy, ladies and gentlemen, and he has come with badass robots in tow.  Yes, these robots are flipping awesome, and yes, they throw down.  The first episode was great and I'm eager for the second outing later tonight.

I was midway through the first episode when Alaina hit the scene, and it didn't take long for her to start begging me to start it over.  We both thought the show was wicked, and the big fight at the end was a real winner.

Anyway, I could break the premise down in greater detail, or I could assure you that it's gnarly and hook you up with a link for the show's homepage.  Check the page out, and if you haven't completely forgotten about your childhood, go ahead and watch the show too.

New Iron Man 3 Trailer Hits

 There's a new Iron Man 3 trailer for you to enjoy, and it looks pretty damn slick.  There's an awful lot going on here, so you may have to watch the trailer more than once to catch everything, but Iron Man 3 looks to be another winning entry in one of Marvel's most viable franchises.  I don't know about you, but I'm stoked, even if Ben Kingsley is playing the Mandarin.  That just doesn't work for me, but maybe the movie will find some way to sell me on that too.

Only time will tell, but what are you waiting for?  Check out the latest Iron Man 3 trailer here!

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 12 (Clear)

This is as much of a recap as it is a review.  Here there be SPOILERS . . .

In a bit of a surprise move, AMC made the decision to step away from the larger storyline at work just as Season 3 was gaining serious momentum.  "Clear" is a harrowing episode that narrows the focus to Rick, Michonne, and Carl.  Initially, I was skeptical of this decision, though I was excited to see the show zero in on three of the program's strongest assets.  In the end, we finally found out what happened to Morgan, and The Walking Dead delivered another top-notch episode.

We didn't spend any time at the prison.  We didn't spend any time in Woodbury.  We didn't see The Governor, Andrea, and the only members of our merry band of survivors at the prison that we got to hang with were those mentioned in the first paragraph.  This was a major departure and while the timing was a bit suspect, it didn't take long for me to realize that this was a solid decision.

Stepping away from the looming battle between Woodbury and the prison served many purposes, but none was as meaningful as finally bringing Rick and Michonne together.  No, I don't mean that in a romantic way, but in the comics Rick and Michonne are a dangerous unit.  They both have issues, but they trust one another and their relationship is one of The Walking Dead's biggest strengths.  By the time "Clear" came to a close, I really felt that Rick had accepted Michonne as part of the team.  Maybe I should say part of the family.

Either way, Carl was the biggest reason for this, and Chandler Riggs remains one of the show's biggest finds.  I thought he did a fine job last night, and I do think he's one of the strongest performers on the program.  I like the way his character is evolving, and while there are many areas where the show and the comics vary greatly, the relationship between Rick and his son is one of the key plot points that is totally consistent with the source material. 

I did have issues with the geography, as I didn't think the group was anywhere near Rick's old stomping grounds, and I don't know precisely how far we were to assume that our trio had traveled.  Regardless, a homecoming was in order, and we finally got to catch up with Morgan and see how he was holding up.  Of course, this is The Walking Dead we're talking about, and Morgan wasn't doing so well.  His story was a tragic one, and his interactions with Rick were as emotionally-charged as anything you're apt to see on television.  Fantastic stuff c/o Lennie James.  It was fitting to see Rick pitted against the man who saved him in the pilot, setting everything that has followed into motion.  It was wise to encourage the audience to think upon just how much Rick has been through and how much all of it has changed him.

Equally rewarding was the side-mission Carl and Michonne went on, and the bonding that occurred in that brief window of time.  This was a major episode for one of fandom's finest heroines, and Danai Gurira was incredible.  She is working really hard to nail this part, and there is tremendous depth to the character.  The role requires a lot on an emotional level, but that's not all.  There's also the physicality and the ferocity that Michonne demands, and I think Danai has been game every step of the way.

The episode concluded with our little trio heading back to the prison with more guns, ammo, and a nifty new crossbow, all while Morgan continued with the life that he has chosen for himself.  I wonder if we may see him again, for Rick surely gave him a lot to consider.  Maybe it will sink in over time, and since distance apparently isn't an issue (and given the character's presence in the comics) I don't think that we've seen the last of Morgan.  Rick seemed to have a better grip on things, and in spite of everything happening around him, he was downright normal at times.  Maybe seeing how far Morgan has gone was a tonic of sorts for him.

The bookend bits with the backpacker were priceless.  Grim, utterly depressing, and a perfect way to set the proper tone for the show.  That close was classic The Walking Dead.

Yes, we're speeding along, zipping toward an imposing battle, and I'm not sure that The Walking Dead has ever been better.  I was a huge fan of Jon Bernthal's work as Shane, and I was really worried that this season would suffer from his absence.  There's still work to be done, and I have aired a few grievances, but AMC is working to provide us with something spectacular this season and I like their chances.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The World's Smallest Jerichoholic

Yes, he's playing WWE '13
 My son Asher's love for wrestling is phenomenal.  The little guy isn't even 2 yet, and he's utterly fascinated by the WWE.  He'll settle for TNA, but RAW and Smackdown are definitely his favorite shows, and he's always up for a WWE Pay-Per-View.  The bizarre thing is that even though I'm pretty much a lifelong fan myself, I really didn't force it on him at all.  I figured we might get there one day, but Kris and I thought he would be into cartoons and such at this age, and while he does have a fondness for Spider-Man, nothing tickles his fancy like wrestling. 

The little guy is glued to the screen when it's on.  He claps.  He says "uh-oh" a lot, and he raises his arm triumphantly when someone he likes wins a match.  Incidentally, he picked up the raising his arm bit from a Steve Austin feature we watched on Netflix, so he celebrates a victory in Texas Rattlesnake fashion.  He doesn't understand why we can't fast-forward through the commercials (we like our DVR a lot) and he gets very frustrated, repeatedly grabbing the remote control and crying out for Jericho during each and every commercial break.  Ah, the cries for Jericho.  That might be the strangest part.

As a child, I started off with Hogan and Macho, and then in the late 80s and early 90s, I was all about Ric Flair.  Chris Jericho hit my radar in a big way when he went heel in WCW, and when he become a WWE superstar, he quickly became my favorite.  Has been ever since.  Yet I wasn't about to force Jericho on my kids (yes, even my girls, Alaina and Taryn, ages 7 and 5, are wrestling fans) and I thought it would be a little strange for my little fella to be rooting for a heel anyway--which Jericho was working as when my main man Ash started taking interest.  So, my wife and I got him a big stuffed Cena and basically pushed Cena and Sheamus on him.  I guess he could tell who the old man was pulling for, however, and he followed suit.

Asher frequently wakes us with his "Jericho" nonsense, and he will gladly club either of us in the face with a remote control while saying it just to make sure we get the hint.  He could watch Jericho 24/7, and I've lost count of how many times he has watched the Jericho set the WWE put out a few years ago.  Trust me, we're both eager for the next one.

Now, he's also saying Cena, Ryback, and Big Show these days, so he is branching out, but he remains the world's smallest Jerichoholic.  It's a little strange perhaps, and he's much better at picking up moves than adhering to the "don't do this for your own safety" warnings the WWE frequently dishes out, but it's also pretty adorable.  And the kids has taste.  Jericho's surprise return at the Royal Rumble took us all by surprise, and I don't know if I have ever seen the little guy so transfixed.  Not only that, but Jericho is doing some of his best work ever, and while most of his finest stretches came as a heel, he's killing it as a face these days. 

Who knows?  Maybe it's time to buy the little guy a stuffed Y2J . . .

Bonus:  In a strange coincidence, Chris Jericho has a son named Ash, which is what my wife and I call Asher.  Now, we didn't name our son after his son, but I think Chris and I are both fans of the Evil Dead franchise.  My wife isn't, and she didn't realize why I was so quick to agree when she suggested Asher as a name and noted we could call him "Ash" for short. 

"It's alive! It's alive!"

Here's some intriguing news on the film front: there's a revisionist Frankenstein film in the works, and Harry Potter himself is circling the part of Igor. 

Adding to the intrigue, the man who provided the script is none other than Max Landis, son of legendary director John Landis.  The role of Igor is integral to his version of the Mary Shelley classic, and Daniel Radcliffe was quick to dismiss the notion that the picture would be anything resembling a faithful adaption. 

The property has yielded many movies over the years, none more impressive than the 1931 original.  Many of my favorites have been films that strayed from the material, so I'm curious to see what Landis has to offer, and the notion of Radcliffe taking on a central role is enticing.  I thought he did a stellar job in 2012's The Woman in Black, which was vastly underrated. 

I'm a fan of the classics, and the industry mostly consists of recycling anyway, so if and when this Frankenstein hits the screen, I'll be there.  It sounds like something new and different, and maybe it's time for a fresh take on a familiar favorite.