Theater Releases for July 16th 2010

inception

The summer savoir had finally arrived! Christopher Nolan’s Inception has finally opened up in cinemas across the country. Inception has lots of buzz around it, and for good reason, it’s the first film Nolan has done after blowing away nearly everyone with The Dark Knight. Let’s not forget that Nolan has a rather flawless track record of great movies on top of that. Inception, a movie that I *think* is about people solving crimes in a dream world (I’m probably completely wrong), so far has been well received by critics with a 84% on the Tomatometer. I’m positive this will be a good if not great movie. If you’re headed out to the movies this weekend, Inception should probably be on the top of your list.

If you’re a family man, you’re probably going to end up seeing Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, starring our dear friend Nicolas Cage. Loosely based on a story from an animated segment of Fantasia that’s based on an old poem from 1797, Apprentice has Nic Cage being Nic Cage and wizards doing wizard things. Resting at about 40% on the TMeter, critics seem torn, but I think most agree that it’s a standard affair of CGI flair. I have no interest, but it’s probably not the worst thing you could see this summer.

A handful of other films are opening in limited release, including Valhalla Rising, which sounds like it could be insane. I hear it’s a trippy tale of a Viking being a straight up monster. It’s getting great press, so if you’re in the mood for something that sounds really out there and brutal, this could be your secret ticket.

Video Preview of Hulu Plus (Preview) on PS3

After work I downloaded the Hulu Plus Preview version for the PS3 and gave it a spin. I had read some less than stellar reports about it’s performance on other sites and decided to see for myself. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the video played nice and smooth in HD. So I grabbed my FlipCamHD, propped it up on an ottoman with a few books and ran through the app a bit.

The video is a little bit washed out because I’m shooting a bright screen in low light, but you’ll get the general idea of how this thing loads and how the framerate is on playback. It should be noted that my PS3 is hardwired to a gigabit network and I have Comcast Internet. I’ll post a speedtest after the jump.

All in all I’m impressed with the quality of the video and the speed in which it loaded. $10 a month for current TV series is pretty reasonable too. If more networks join the service I’m going to see if I can keep Comcast internet and dump their TV package!

DVD and Blu-Ray Releases for July 13th 2010

MST3K - The Bounty Hunter

I’d like to imagine that 10 years from now, The Bounty Hunter, starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler, would make perfect MST3K fodder. It is sad that today’s major release is this movie, which has garnered a whooping 8% on the Tomato-meter, running neck and neck with Airbender as one of the worst reviewed films of the year. I generally don’t like romantic comedies, and I’m especially tired of Jennifer Aniston making all these movies with her shitty boyfriends-at-the-moment. The only girlfriend role she was good at was in Office Space. I’ll give her a nice pass for that movie. Plus, Gerard Butler hasn’t been in a good movie since 300, and I’d even argue that 300 isn’t very good either. So instead of celebrating the release of The Bounty Hunter, why not switch gears to the fan favorite Mystery Science Theater Vol. XVIII, which also releases today.

Back in junior high when I discovered MST3K I loved it. I have fallen out of it and haven’t watched anything from those guys in probably almost 15 years. I’m sure I’d get my jollies out of it if I watched something from them these days, but thanks to the internet, YouTube and DVD commentaries, my desire to watch three people sit around trashing a movie has lowered. Plus, I think I’m old enough and somewhat clever enough that I have fun doing that on my own, hence watching “films” like Dragon Ball Evolution and The Legend of Chun Li. Still, I understand MST3K’s loyal cult following, so the release of Vol XXXVIIIVIII is welcomed.

That said, my money this week is on the BD release of Insomnia. I have never actually seen Insomnia, but it seems like Chris Nolan’s camp is hoping that one of his earlier and least well known films will receive some late attention as they have butted the release next to Inception, which opens Friday. As a result, I will totally be adding this to my NetFlix queue.

Also new on DVD/BD is Chloe, in which we get a few glimpses of seeing Amanda Seyfried in the buff. Other than a probably decent performance out of Liam Neeson, I’m sure that is the only good thing going for this film. Ben Stiller has an indie film coming out called Greenberg which sounds like a hoot, though reviews claim it to be decent. Then there is In Bruges and Alpha Dog, neither of which I know anything about and don’t care to look up.

Then there are a bunch of TV shows no one cares about like Psych, Saving Grace The Final Season (that was quick), White Collar Season One, The Lucy Show Second Season, Super Hero Squad Show (I’m sure there is some 35 year old comic book that cares about that one), Street Hawk, and two Best of SNL updates with Will Ferrel and Tracy Morgan.

And those, are your DVD and BD releases.

I answered the call… of duty.

Modern Warfare 2

If you hang around the message boards you’ll know that I kind of sorta hate first person shooter games these days. Well, it isn’t so much that I hate them, I’m just tired of them. I haven’t sat down with a FPS since Half Life Episode 2 because I’m just tired of the genre as a whole. I have never in my life touched a Call of Duty game. I always intended to try one of them out, but the yearly release schedule always put me off.

Then there is the fact that I hate the whole “bro” attitude around games like Call of Duty and Halo. I feel like I hate the gamer stigma attached to those types of games so much that it actually turns me off from playing them period. Is that wrong of me? Maybe I’m some sort of gaming snob, I don’t know. Then again, this is the guy who has been playing a shit ton of old Gameboy Advance games on a GBA Micro for the last four months and have been in my glory, so, yeah.

Anyway I had a small bet made on the smorgas board with long time member Dante369. It blows his mind that I have no interest in these games (especially Modern Warfare) and it blows my mind that he has no interest in Metroid games (especially since I know he’s made it through a personal let down of mine, Shadow Complex). We made a bet that if I played a Modern Warfare game, that he would in turn play a Metroid game.

Later that night I borrowed Modern Warfare 2 off of my nephew. I’ll admit that I went into the game sort of wanting to hate it, but I came out genuinely surprised and found that I really enjoyed the game. Being that this is the first Call of Duty I ever played things like the different mechanics and spectacle of a scripted events are new to me. It took me a while to adjust to playing a FPS again, but once I got a hang of things I found myself getting around better.

I do believe Modern Warfare 2’s single player has some glaring flaws though. As much as I like how some of the scripted events play out, I find they take away much of my freedom as a player. The game is always telling the player where to go, who to follow and how to do it. Imagine playing a Mario game but you always have some computer player running in front of you telling you exactly how to jump. Rarely did I ever feel like I was the one coming up with tactics of my own to make it through the battlefield. Worse, sometimes I would find myself fighting bad guys for about 10 minutes until I realized the waves of enemies would never stop and I simply needed to press forward to move on. Other times fighting until everyone was dead would work, but I could never really tell what the game wanted from me during those moments. Fight or run? It’s always up in the air.

As linear as it is though, the ride is still a good time. Despite skipping the first game I did find myself enjoying the story for what it was. Running through burning versions of Virginia and DC was actually pretty scary, more unsettling than that silly airport scene that came before. When I made it to DC I actually died as I stood there just marveling at the atmosphere. A true reminder of how good we have it in America despite what some people think. Could you imagine if that really happened on American soil? Worse part is that it is a reality for other countries. When you see something like that in familiar places that you know, things suddenly hit close to home. For a game to give me some slight sort of perspective, well, it has to count for something, right?

So in the end I really liked Modern Warfare 2. Did I love it enough to where I’m pumped for Black Ops and the future whoring of Call of Duty? No, not really, but I do like it enough that I’m willing to visit the original game at some point in the future. And for the record, I refuse to play online. I know I’ll get smoked and I already know I’ll hate everyone playing against me.

I wish at this point Dante could say the same for Metroid, but it looks like he’s having some trouble with Zero Mission for now.

Wii Hates Lefties

While my love affair with Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker continues to flourish, I had the chance to pick up another highly anticipated title of mine, Super Mario Galaxy 2. As I continue my slide further and further into the realm of the “casual gamer”, I’m finding that my consoles are collecting and ever growing coat of dust. Believe me, it’s not for a lack of wanting on my part. So when I had a few minutes to kill the other day, I stumbled into the Best Buy in Union Square (open 24 hours no less), and picked up a copy of SMG2.

Yesterday, after pulling my hair out trying to coax my rechargeable batteries into actually charging, I popped it in my Wii and gave it a spin. Like I said, it has been some time since I picked up a Wii remote. I plugged in the nunchuck and was smiling to myself as I played through the opening little cinema. However, I instantly noticed one of the biggest flaws with the remote and nunchuck set-up that has plagued me since I first played Zelda: Twilight Princess at the Wii’s launch, and that is which it is not friendly to left-handed people such as myself. Allow me to explain.

Historically speaking, a large majority of home consoles all have similar button layouts. Since at least the NES, all major platforms have a controller where the directional D-pad is situated to the left, and a varying set of secondary buttons to perform actions are to the right. Meaning, to move a character onscreen has always been done using my left thumb, and jumping and shooting is done with my right thumb. This has almost always been the case. Then the Wii comes along.

Most people are righties, meaning they use their right hand for almost all daily tasks like writing, picking things up, playing sports, and so forth. This means they already feel comfortable holding the remote in their right hand, and keeping the nunchuck in their left. Righties are already used to this as they still using the same exact thumbs to perform actions they have done in the past as described above: you still are controlling your guy with your left thumb, and hitting the Wii’s singular A button with your right thumb.

This is where the problem comes in. Since one of the primary functions of the remote is as a pointer, I naturally feel inclined to use my left hand. I can quickly and accurately point to the TV with my left hand. When all I have to do is use the remote by itself, this is just fine, however the moment the nunchuck is involved my brain starts to stall. Since I am conditioned to control my in-game character with my left thumb, I want to hold the nunchuck with my left hand. However, that now means I have to hold the remote in my right hand which feels clumsy and awkward. The speed and accuracy just isn’t there with my right hand. So, I use my left hand to hold the remote, and the nunchuck in my right…which I’m sure is the reverse of what everyone else does.

What then starts to happen is that I have to actually THINK to make my proper hand press the button to make Mario jump. Put on top of that is I am now using the opposite hand that I am used to (that’s my right hand, folks) to make Mario actually run around. It kind of sucks, and I have to acclimate myself to it every time I play a Wii game where some time has passed. It struck me again yesterday as I sat down to SMG2 that I still haven’t figured this out yet since I played Zelda:TP a few years ago. I actually flipped back and forth for a while trying each one out for a while, and the one I settled on is holding the remote in my left, and the nunchuck in my right.

Bottom line is, I’m screwed. I’m either sacrificing speed and control over Mario, or im giving up accuracy with the pointer which there are plenty of times its used throughout the game. Not only do I have trouble holding a pair of scissors and using most computer mice, but now even playing a Wii game is a chore for my poor, addled brain. Sucks being a lefty.

“Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker” Thoughts

As big a Metal Gear fan as I am, I have to admit I was not at all interested when Konami first announced Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker for the PSP. There were a few reasons for this. After playing MGS4 I felt very satisfied and complete with what Kojima and company created. Despite the winding plot line, I felt like I had a really good handle on everything that happened through the course of the series, and I didn’t need to know anything else. I have also heard from numerous sources that previous MGS games on the PSP have been less than stellar. Then, there is the matter that I personally don’t own a PSP. It’s just another mouth to feed in my dwindling video game family, so please do not read any bias into this, ok? Ok!

That being said, I was hardly keeping up with MGS:PW as it progressed. In fact, I was outright ignoring it. However, when it was finally released a few weeks ago, I started reading reviews giving the game praise, and suddenly I started caring about my old friends again. After splitting it with Phil and borrowing his PSP (hey, he gets to keep it!), and spending around 30 plus hours into it, I can firmly agree that its one of the best in series. There’s a lot to love about it.

At first, I found myself wrestling with the stripped down controls that are a necessary evil to port it to a hand held. I actually considered myself quite good at sneaking bad guys on the home console versions, so it took me some time to acclimate myself to the new button layout. One of the biggest adjustments I had to tackle was the placement of the Equipment and Weapons selections. This has traditionally been mapped to the shoulder buttons, however in Peace Walker (PW from now on) these are now relegated to the D-pad directional buttons. Re-locating almost over ten years of muscle memory from my index fingers to my left thumb took some getting used to. The shoulder buttons in PW are used for aiming and shooting much like MGS4 and the Resident Evil series, and that works just dandy actually. My other gripe, which actually never went away really, is getting used to the PSP’s analog nub. Its a horrid little beast and I find it not to be very responsive.

Once I wrapped my head around the controls, I started to find myself getting pulled into the game more and more. PW focuses more on game play and less on story telling, however there are a few lengthy cut scenes, done in a comic book fashion, that explain just what’s going. Of course, many of my old friends have reprise their roles, most importantly David Hayter as Naked Snake, A.K.A. Big Boss. I don’t know why, but I can listen to these guys ramble on and on all day about quetzals and A.I. Weapons. The story is no where near as convoluted as previous entries of the series, and that’s mainly because we know everything already. This is just filling in some holes of the back story that has very little impact on the events that come later in the series’ time line. The focus here is on Big Boss’s character and how Outer Heaven came to be in the first place.

As I was playing, I found that PW is closer in spirit to MGS3 than any of the others. We are presented with smaller, bite sized missions that suit a hand held, and the game’s maps offer a variety of ways one can sneak an enemy soldier. There is less of an emphasis on blending into the environment with the camo index, but instead you are given ample tree trunks and corners to hide behind. Still, I found myself laying in the grass while a soldier walked by on more than one occasion which for me is very satisfying when I CQC him to the ground.

I also couldn’t help comparing this to MGS4 as I played. MGS4 had its work cut out for it in terms of what it needed to deliver to wrap up our story. It needed to keep things on rails a bit in order to get Solid Snake to the point he needed to reach. Could MGS4 have sacrificed much of the cut scenes and gotten the same outcome? I would say yes. I enjoyed that MGS4 gave us a feature set, and then at times switched up the game play a bit to make us use those features in different ways. PW gives us a feature set, and once you master it, you basically employ it over and over again through out the game. MGS4 gave us massive set pieces and boss fights that delivered, where PW gives us a playground to run around in. They are two very different games which had very different goals for the player.

While I beat PW a few nights ago, I’m finding that the game just keeps on giving. This is where PW definitely out shines MGS4. The replay value is incredible. As you move along the game, you open up more and more side missions. Complete these and you get more GMP points to help make Outter Heaven grow, which in turn gives you more items and weapon and upgrades to your current inventory. As your army grows, you can send them out into the world in the Outer Ops section where they wage battle in semi mini-game fashion. This is all about stat building, and you use tanks and helicopters here that you can capture during the main missions. Its a fun little addition that isn’t too deep, but just satisfying enough as a side quest.

Much like Snake creeping through the Cloud Jungle, Metal Gear has once again caught me by surprise and CQC’ed the crap out of me. Just when I thought I was done with the MGS series as it was, I’m totally hooked again. I still have a ton of extra ops to play through as well as an on going, bonus chapter. Anyone with a PSP should definitely pick this one up. It is much more truer to the spirit of the MGS series than previous entries on the PSP. Sorry, Phil. Looks like you might have to wait a little longer before you get your hands on this copy of Peace Walker!

Theater Releases for July 9th

Despicable

Despicable Me – Steve Carell voices the evil mastermind Gru who is constantly thwarted by the local superhero. When a trio of orphan girls show up on his doorstep, his plans to steal the moon are thrown into chaos. Along with his Minions, he must figure out a way to get it done. Additional voices by Jason Segel, Russell Brand, and many more.

Preds

Predators – a group of elite warriors are dropped into the jungle with no recollection of how or why they are there. They soon find out they are part of a game where a predator species will hunt them and they must use their unique skillsets in order to survive. Starring Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne, Topher Grace, and more. Produced by Robert Rodriguez (Sin City). Directed by Nimrod Antal (Vacancy).

In limited release is The Kids Are All Right about the a lesbian couple’s kids looking for their sperm donor father, starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo. Also The Girl Who Played With Fire, a foreign film about a computer hacker and a journalist investigating a sex trafficking ring, based on the popular book series following The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Also [REC] 2 which picks up 15 minutes after the original and has a SWAT team heading into the quarantined apartment building from the first movie. And even more, Great Directors which is a documentary on the filmmaker’s conversations with ten of her favorite directors. And finally, Winnebago Man, a documentary on finding a Youtube sensation from a viral video.

Episode Page v5.0

Just wanted to let you know that clicking on the Episodes tab will magically transport you to our new (and currently updating) episodes page.

So this is like what, the 40th time I’ve redone the episodes page? It was a hard decision to make, but I’ve decided I want to stop hosting the shorts as a swf format here on the site, instead I’ll slowly be uploading all of our shorts to our YouTube channel.

I said it before a few weeks ago, but YouTube’s encoders have gotten much better and I feel like the HD versions of our shorts look really nice through the service. Plus, YouTube also has all sorts of cool little stats I like looking into to see what points in the videos people generally like (and dislike). Never thought I’d see the day where I rely on YouTube to be the main destination to watch Shamoozal videos, but that’s the way it’s going to be for the time being.

Anyway the new page is very simple. The latest cartoon will always be featured at the front of the section while the rest of the shorts lay below it. Not all of our shorts are up on our YouTube account yet, so you still have access to the old layout in case you want to watch something we haven’t covered yet.