Thursday, April 22, 2010

Doctor Who Sonic Screw Driver

My desk at home and work is usually full of odds and ends and some memorabilia from some of my favorite games and shows.  I have ordered through Ebay two versions of the Doctor Who sonic screwdriver.  The sonic screwdriver was actually first introduced by the 4th Doctor played by Tom Baker.  It was employed as a plot device that enabled the Doctor to open panels and locks that barred him from escape or simply reaching his goals.

The first photo shows the earlier version I bought a couple of years ago carried by the tenth and actually a smaller version of the one carried by the ninth.  It's about 5 - 6 inches in length and slightly under an inch in diameter.   This screw driver extends 1.5 inches by pulling on the LED assembly (front) or sliding the extension tab along the slot on the side.  Two buttons on the false blue groove on the opposite side actuate the simulated buzzing and lights depending on whether the LED assembly is fully extended or not.  The LED glows blue and can be used as a black-light to expose writing traces from the UV ink marker concealed at the other end underneath the black cap.  I was a little disappointed with it.  It was made of really cheap plastic which to some purchasers broke in their bags or purses.  I would have easily paid more to get a more substantial version of this toy which I'm sure many Doctor Who fans would do as well even if they removed the UV ink pen at the bottom end.  In the above pic it doesn't seem that bad but up close it really cheapens the novelty.

The second pic is my recently received Eleventh Doctor's sonic screw driver.  It's a substantial half a foot long with a spring loaded button actuated extension (found on the side on the black section of the device).  The LED assembly on this one glows green and a four arm claw like appendage grasp the LED assembly when retracted.  Pushing the spring loaded extension button opens the claw like appendages and pops the LED assembly an extra inch or so forward.  The device is made of a harder plastic and is better put together than the previous version.  The sonic screwdriver no longer doubles as an invisible ink pen which is fine by me, but it still lights up and buzzes significantly louder when pressed from the button on the side when retracted (also on the black section just below the spring actuation) and underneath a hinged flip cap at the end (when extended or not).  The screw driver looks a little steam-punkish which fits the rest of the new look of the series 5 tardis.

Both screwdrivers cost me about $40 CAN each but I've been seeing a $20 CAN hike on the newer version since the release of series 5 here in North America (which I should have cashed in on).  Both sonic screwdrivers can be found on Ebay.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Watched Kick-Ass

Thanks to my wonderful friends who organized a great evening out at the movies, Kick-Ass is finally watched.  What did I think?  It was entertaining and I was glad that the trailers did not spoil the movie for me despite watching the many trailers on YouTube. 

The definite show stealer was, of course, Chloe Moretz, who played Hit Girl/Mindy McCreedy - the crass talking, ass kicking power house of an 11 year old.  As for her two (or three) other co-stars they also held their own.  The actor (whose name I forget) who played Kick-Ass/Daniel was very convincing as the geek with a misplaced sense of taking a stand turned hero.  And, surprisingly, I liked Nicolas Cage as Big Daddy, a falsely disgraced cop with a serious vendetta against the ruthless crime lord (whose name I also forget) - the main antagonist of the story. 

I found the "McLuvin" dude a little annoying as the spoiled mafioso brat (AKA Red Mist) lost to his role in life.  His character like most of the villains in the movie were stereotypically single minded and two dimensionally brutal which was alright for this movie of introductions and beginnings.  The Red Mist character should have had more color to him since he really was the only unconvincing character in the movie.

The whole movie itself was almost an anti-Spiderman movie with many references to the Spiderman (2000) movie in scenes, dialogue, and especially in plot.  And like Spiderman there was a lead off to a second Kick-Ass with a villain ready to avenge a dead father. 

Kick-Ass is currently the top movie this week.  Be aware that the movie is quite violent with some sexual innuendos.  Do not bring the faint of heart and leave the kids with the baby sitter.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Life on Mars

The British are very good at making good TV shows.  Their secret is simple.  They have good writers with 2 restrictions.  They first of all must write as if this is the show's one and only season.  Secondly their shows only go for 6 or so episodes.  On top of their restrictions most of their shows are paid for by the people so they are not bounded to appealing to commercial support and are free to to what ever their imagination leads them to do. 

Actor, John Simm, heads this cast as Sam Tyler, a police detective investigating a serial killer in 2006.  After a really rough day where his latest lead on the serial killer case fails to produce the killer and instead puts his partner and girlfriend in the clutches of the killer himself, he is unexpectedly hit by a car.  Sam wakes up to a totally different life.  He still is Sam Tyler and he is still a detective but he is now in 1973.  Sam must now investigate major crimes the old fashion way under a corrupt but well meaning police department that resorts to heavy handed tactics to score convictions.

Though a simple premise with sci-fi plot devices, what makes Life on Mars remarkable is the emotionally believable performance of John Simm as he plays a character unsure of what is real and what is not.  John occasionally goes through a psychotic like episodes where he hears what could be interpreted as the dialogue that goes on over his comatose body in 2006.  The audience is never totally sure either but we are lead to believe that Sam Tyler in 2006 is in a comatose state while his conscience is trapped in a made up 1973 world. 

Life on Mars was as well brought to over to North America as an American revision of the show.  Although the American version is well casted with even Harvey Keitel as Sam Tyler's boss I found the American version focused more on the ridiculousness of Sam's situation than his panic in trying to get back to the life he does know.  Not to say that the American series is bad but John Simm's manic performance to me was well worth watching the UK version of Life on Mars.

The Witcher

Yes, after successfully resurrecting my Windows 7 machine from video card failure and a few more upgrades with even a new bios battery to boot, my Steam account also got a few more additions to its repertoire.  On a side note, yes, I'll probably be doing a lot more game reviews on my next posts.

 I have mixed emotions about this game.  To be exact I am like Cartman on the recent South Park episode commenting on just reading The Cather in the Rye.  And that feeling is "WTF?".

Let me elaborate because it is going to be complicated.  To begin, this game is based on a popular Polish fantasy series of the same name which featured an enigmatic, kick-ass, womanizing monster hunter named Geralt of Rivia.  Set in a world where elves and dwarves are at best tolerated, Geralt is part of a clan of of monster hunters known as witchers.  The witchers subject themselves to mutations that endow them with supernatural powers that aid them in their conquests - both in battle and to some extent in bed.  In any case witchers are hired swords and work in the grey when it comes to the matters of good and evil.

The novels were your basic male fantasy freak's wet dream teeming with violence , blood, and sex all of which was released into the European version of the game.  When the game was released in the United States, the publishers on this side of the Atlantic had the game dumbed down.  All "nipplelage" removed or draped over but of course in true "this is America" fashion all violence remained intact.  Eventually due to the overwhelming requests for the "uncensored" version a restored director's cut with bug fixes and graphic enhancements was released and a patch for previous purchases was made available.

With that history aside why was I disappointed?  I guess I didn't think the whole fuss over the game was worth the measures taken to bring this title in North America.  In both the censored and uncensored versions of this game Geralt's sexual encounters are basically a bunch of ambiguous suggestive images cheezed over with a presentation of a collectible card image of the same woman in a compromising pose.  As bad and juvenile as this may sound I did feel that this was at least very innovative of the game.  The voice acting and scripting of the game was sort of cheesy but reminiscent of Conan the Barbarian novels.  It is what I expect of the genre and to that I credit its truthfulness to what it is trying to do.  If the publishers came out and marketed the game as a return to male oriented fantasy adventures then I would then say it has successfully done so.

Further on the merits of this game the world of The Witcher is very immersive.  There is much to do and the quests and plot events feel truly non-linear and yet you never feel lost at what to do next.  The things you do as Geralt progress the game which was the one thing I have still to feel playing the much more acclaimed Oblivion: the Elder Scrolls title.  The game is very pretty with golden skies and expansive territories to wander through.  I really felt like I was in an epic fantasy adventure.

In the end I felt that The Witcher is definitely worth the play.  I really suggest if you are of age to purchase the Enhanced Director's cut which is presently going for $19 USD on Steam.  The release of this game on Steam under this title is only recently the game the developers intended to make.  This version, furthermore, has updated its 3D models with finer details and has many of the original release's bugs resolved.