Friday, March 24, 2017

Beauty & the Beast

   By this point it is very clear that Disney intends to do live-action remakes of a lot of their classic feature film cartoons. I am of two minds about it; on one hand it shows the lack of originality, but on the other it is interesting to see how they adapt a cartoon. Unlike Maleficent, which was an alternate take on Sleeping Beauty, this film is pretty much a retelling of the original with only a few minor tweaks of fleshing out Belle and the Beast's backstories and the addition of some new songs. Emma Watson does well as Belle and Dan Steven, while mainly a CGI Beast, still managed to convey anger and charm in his performance. Luke Evans makes a decent Gaston, though he seems to be more of a terrible person this go-round, while Josh Gad plays a more sympathetic version of LeFou. The new enchanted characters featuring Ewan MacGregor (Lumiere), Ian McKellan (Cogsworth), and Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts) all did well bringing their characters to life. As for the musical numbers, they are all entertaining, but I admit that I prefer the originals best. I did like the design of the castle and all its enchanted characters, they had an authentic look about them while not looking too cartoonish. Ultimately it is a decent movie that is entertaining but was not exactly something that just had to be made. I figure there will be plenty more live action adaptations on the way, however.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Towering Inferno

It's opening night for the world's tallest skyscraper and the party is on the 135th floor but disaster looms when fire breaks out on the 81st floor and threatens to consume the entire structure.

Featuring Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, & OJ Simpson this disaster film from 1974 is still a lot of fun to watch. It has great effects, even if they are slightly dated, great stars, and a great score by John Williams. It would be fun to watch this on the big screen. I wonder if people in '74 were afraid of tall buildings after watching this?

The really great thing about these older effects heavy films is all the practical effects they have. Sure CGI has its place but there is nothing like seeing something actually there even if it is just a model.

Book Thoughts: The Martian Chronicles

I finally got around to reading this after having it on my kindle for quite a while. It is a story that is very much a dim view of the future from the 1950s Cold War perspective. Many short stories are strung together to create this small book about going to Mars. It has a lot to say on matters of the then current world much like any science fiction does but it is not cheerful or optimistic.

Something about it kept me coming back to keep reading through it even though there is rarely a sense of hope throughout the book. The Martians start off as really no better than humans, the humans no different than they've always been, and after a bit the Martian are all almost wiped to extinction by the unknown germs brought from earth making them the Native Americans to the Earth men's Europeans. However, as the book progresses we find that most people who have settled Mars have come for the same reasons settlers came to America and yet after all those history lessons they didn't do much better. When war breaks out back on Earth most people head back home leaving Mars a forgotten wasteland of unfulfilled potential and a devastated Martian people. Everything seems all for naught in this book which is why I can't decide if ultimately I liked it or not, but odds are I will read through it again which says a lot. At the very least it has the beautiful poem by Sara Teasdale about the indifference nature would have on the extinction of mankind:

There Will Come Soft Rains
by Sara Teasdale (1920)

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools, singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Star Trek Online

Original Cover Art
Back in January 2012 Star Trek Online went free-to-play and that's when I decided to give it a try. I am a life long Trekkie and of course I'd want to check out a game where I get to have my own ship and beam down with away teams, etc. Here it is 2017 and I still am playing it, in fact its probably the only game I am really good at. I guess really knowing the subject helps.

When I started playing I really knew nothing about online games, by the time I got to this one I had only played 2 others (Lord of the Rings Online & DC Universe Online). The former I wasn't crazy about so didn't get much into it, and the latter was just being a hero (or villain) so was pretty easy to play and was a lot of fun. However, STO was basically two games in one: ground and space. Ground has always been easier, but there are so many options to activate on a character it can be cumbersome at times. The real fun is space combat, but unless you study up on what makes a good build you'll limp along not doing much for years, as I did. With many different ship to choose from, and many more weapons, and lots of console to customize your ship with, adding much needed stats to science or engineering or tactical, you could almost be swallowed whole if you aren't sure what to do. I spent about 3 years not quite understanding what I should be doing or how I should set up a ship, but luckily I found a good fleet (The El-Aurian Society) who could help, and then mined YouTube for more and now I finally feel like I understand the game (except tactical, I am still bad at that career).

USS Endeavour: Science ship extraordinaire.
My main career of choice is science. Although I started out playing in engineering ships (because I didn't know any better) I still did fairly well. But it is nothing compared to how well I started doing when I got science ships. The science class gets called "space magic" since they are essentially the sci-fi version of the wizard. They focus on control, exotic damage, drain. debuffing, and even healing. Currently I am exotic damage heavy and when I throw out a gravity well, then a subspace vortex, I hold plenty of enemies and do tons of damage. Conclusion: Space wizard has been, by far, the most fun to play. The few times I take my character to ground missions I try to focus more on healing with a couple of control effects to hold and/or damage npcs for my team. I'm no ground expert but I seem to be able to hold my own.

The unsinkable T6 Fleet D'deridex Battlecruiser
For anyone just starting out, and they feel overwhelmed by science and all its different aspects, I recommend playing as an Engineer. It is my second favorite class, and the ships are tough and versatile as is the captain himself. My own engineers are spec'ed for damage and they sure do out damage even my tactical characters. Your engineering bridge officers (boffs) have abilities that can be used for any career type such as aceton beam & warp plasma release, which are science themed abilities, or directed energy modulation & emergency power to weapons which could help for a tactical leaning character. Engineering's main focus is as a tank, though it can also be a decent healer as well. I know from experience if you have it set for tanking you are pretty much unkillable. However, I've noticed that a lot of the PVE I play don't really need a tank so mine were redone to boost damage. As such my Romulan engineer can put out some good damage now but still is hard to kill because of the high hull of my battle cruisers.

Rather than try to explain everything here is my Main Federation Science Build. I still consider myself to be learning, there is always something to change to get a bit more out of your character. To save on dilithium costs I buy weapons from the fleet store and I use reputation space and ground sets. You can get more out of crafting the so called "perfect mods" but I don't have the resources to worry about getting everything to epic. You can still be competitive and have lots of fun without spending a lot in-game or real world money. Also there are 3 events every year and you can get 3 free ships by doing the daily mission. The most fun I have is at the summer event.

T5U Fleet Nebula

I do enjoy playing this game, even though sometimes it can get a bit buggy (Agents of Yesterday is still bugged out in places). But my liking of all things Trek lets me look past any problems and keep coming back for more. They are just wrapping up the 7th Anniversary event and have released Season 12, and recently released the game to Xbox One & PS4 and so far it doesn't look like its slowing down. See you around the galaxy! 


Monday, February 20, 2017

The Lego Batman Movie

Starring the voice talents of Will Arnett (Batman), Michael Cera (Robin), Rosario Dawson (Batgirl), Ralph Fiennes (Alfred), and Zach Galifianak (The Joker) this recent outing by Lego was a fun spoof and kid-friendly toy commercial with plenty of references to all the Batman films and TV shows to keep you smiling.

The plot is pretty basic, Batman has to learn the value of teamwork and being a family, but the fun for me was seeing all the references and the throwaway jokes. Arnett does a pretty funny send up of Batman but I wasn't super impressed by Galifianakis' voice portrayal of the Joker. I guess it is just too many years of listening to the great Mark Hamill to fully accept anyone else. I was also glad to hear, though in just a few lines, Billy Dee Williams voicing Two-Face, I always wondered what Batman Forever had been like if they kept him in the role, and at least this was a nice call back. Everyone else did fine in their roles and seeing all the baddies in the Phantom Zone was pretty funny.

I think most people can enjoy this film, especially Batman fans who don't take things too seriously, but I imagine anyone with kids are going to be headed to the local toy store to spend lots of money on plastic blocks.