Movies, Milk and Millions

I went out earlier to watch some movies. What I really wanted to see was Waltz With Bashir, an animated documentary about the conflicts in Israel. But, since it's a limited release, I couldn't find it on any theaters near my place. Instead, I just went with Milk and Slumdog Millionaire. Both of which are excellent films.

Milk is about the life and struggles of Harvey Milk, a gay rights activist and the first openly gay elected to become a public servant in California. This is a great movie. I know a lot of guys aren't comfortable watching films about gay. But I assure you, Milk won't give you any of that same awkwardness you had while watching Brokeback Mountain. No, none at all, because the story is much more focused on the political and social angle. It's about being yourself -being gay, brown, black, geek or dog poop picker- and having the rights to be yourself.

Slumdog Millionaire is the story of Jamal Malik, a humble coffee server at a call center in India, who found his long lost love and won millions by winning a game show, an Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. This is probably the best movie I've seen this year. Hands down. The story is just so full of life, romance, comedy and action. The way the film was also told, which revolves on each answers of the game show, is just pure genius. I highly recommend this movie to everybody.

Milk and Slumdog Millionaire, great movies. I also wanted to see Frost/Nixon but it was already getting late. So, I'll just save it for next time.

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First Impressions: King's Bounty

I was on my way to the theaters, to watch a couple of flicks, when my migraine acted up earlier this afternoon. So, instead of gritting my teeth and went through with the movies, I turned around and drove back home before my headache gets any worse. But not before I made a pit stop at the nearest Target to redeem the $20 gift card I got last Christmas. Migraine or not, I wasn't about to go home empty handed.

The "I move first, then you" combat.

I was planning to use the gift card to get the shooter game, Left 4 Dead. Unfortunately -or rather fortunately- I was $8 short (excluding the sales tax) and can't afford the game. So I opted for the next best game -which is probably the better game, anyways- that I can find: King's Bounty. The game is a role-playing/turn-based strategy that plays similarly to Heroes of Might and Magic. Except that you don't have bases to defend or capture in this game, and all the focus is given to your hero/avatar, which can be advanced and developed as he gains experience.

So far, I can't say if this game is much better than HoMM. But it's definitely fun, and I'm definitely going to lose some sleep over this game.

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Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh

We celebrated Christmas with our friends and family last night. It was a lot of fun, and the food was great. Although my Mom didn't cook a lot since she worked earlier yesterday. She only made Pancit Molo, Shrimp Egg Rolls, and her infamous Chicken Macaroni Salad. Then I just ordered Empanada from a Filipino bakery, and Pad Thai from a Thai restaurant. Since it was a pot luck, my Mom's friends also bought some Dinuguan, Orange Chicken, and Roasted Chicken. There weren't many of us, however, since none of my friends came. But my uncle and 2 of my aunts, from New York, also spent Christmas with us.

As for the presents, I actually got the things that I want, need, or able to like.

My Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh.
  1. Absolute Watchmen - I've been wanting this graphic novel ever since I gave my trade paperback away. But it have been out of stock since DC re-released it last November, and trying to win it on eBay is hard. But my Dad got lucky and, knowing that I wanted it, nabbed it from the shelves of Borders.
  2. Beck: The Mongolian Chop Squad (Complete Series) - This was a gift from the husband of my Mom's friend, who's an anime geek. He told me to watch this series last year. But I wasn't able to. So, finally, he got me the whole series on DVD. I'm going to watch this later today.
  3. Personal Trainer: Cooking - My sister bought this game, or an interactive cookbook, for me. She saw the TV ad and thought, since my cooking suck, it would be a perfect gift.
  4. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia - My Mom gave me this, and it is probably the most unexpected gift that I got. I wasn't even thinking about this game but my Mom told me it's the number one game for the NDS on every holiday buyer's guide that she had read.
  5. Remington Electric Shaver - A gift from my Aunt. It's weird because she knows that I don't have much facial hair. I only shave once a week. Nonetheless, I will use it.
  6. $60 worth of assorted gift cards (Eddie Bauer, Target, and Napster) - It's no surprise that I got a bunch of gift cards. It always happens every year. I guess a lot of my Mom's friends still have no clue of what I like.
All in all, despite the economic recession, it was a good Christmas. There were food in our plates and presents to open when midnight struck. Hopefully, next year will be much better.

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Book Review: Liberation

Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collpase of the United States
9.5 of 10
Writer: Brian Francis Slattery

I love reading dystopian fiction because it, somewhat, gives you insight by letting you glimpse into the future, a nightmarish one. That insight raises your awareness, it prepares you, even giving you the courage and conviction to fight and prevent the terrifying things that will rob you of a terrific tomorrow. And in these times of economic recession, no work of speculative fiction can prepare you for a future of post-economic collapse than Brian Slattery's Liberation.

The story in Liberation focuses on the Slick Six, a cabal of skilled criminals, and their adventures in a financially ruined United States. Their nemesis is known as Aardvark, a mobster turned slaver, who, before the collapse, disbanded the Slick Six by sending Marco, the assassin of the group, into prison. But the U.S. is gone, the dollar died, and the laws that incarcerated Marco dissipated. Now Marco is a free man and he intends to unite the Slick Six and undo what the Aardvark has done.

This book is unique in many ways. But one aspect of it that I particularly find intriguing is its setting. The post-economic collapse America is now haunted by its past. Native Americans ride the plains, undoing the Manifest Destiny, taking back what's rightfully theirs. A war with Mexico erupting on the borders of Texas. But worse of all is the reincarnation of slavery. Another interesting aspect is the role-reversal theme. Criminals are now the lawmakers. Americans are now the refugees, starting their own barbecue joints in American Towns scattered across the globe.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Liberation, probably the best I've read this year. Brian Francis Slattery is a tremendous writer. He infused his book with a lot of music, dark humor and unique characters with even more unique names. But it was his vision of a post-economic collapse America that made me love it. It's just so real. Sometimes, I even find myself spooked, worrying about tomorrow and my dollars in the bank, instead of reading. So if you're bored, or oblivious to our current financial crisis, go grab and read this book. You'll like it.

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Out of Time

The one thing I don't like about the holidays is the hectic consumerism. All the good stuff are released around this time. The games, the books, the music and even the movies. It's maddening to pick one out with all the good choices in front of you. But even if you do get everything that you want you won't have the time to fiddle with them because of the parties and such. It sucks.

Anyways, I still have plenty of things to do but I have so little time to do them. Here's all of my activities for the remainder of this year:

Books to read: 3
  • The Stone Gods
  • The Hunger Games
  • Anathem
Games to play: 2
  • Storm of Zehir
  • Disgaea DS
Albums to listen: 4
  • Traced in Air by Cynic
  • Colors (Live) by Between The Buried And Me
  • The Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit
  • Eyes Like Brontide by Lights Out Asia
Parties to attend: 3
Days I'm not working: 3
Yup, busy busy. I shouldn't have slept too much. I shouldn't have blogged too much. I shouldn't have stared at the wall too much.

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Secret Santa, Music Spree

A couple weeks ago, we drew names for our Secret Santa at work. But before we did that, I asked my boss if we could tweak the rules a little bit. I proposed that, instead of putting only our names in the hat, we should also include the 10 things -under $15 but not less than $10- that we want for Christmas. She agreed, and everybody else who participated. I mean, kids write lists of the things they want from Santa. So it occurred to me why not do the same with our Secret Santa.

But the main reason behind my idea was to make it all easier and better for me. I mostly work with women and I don't know what they want. This ruse was to ask them what they want, indirectly, making it easier for me to pick a gift. It turned out my lady wants nice smelling stuff (soap, perfumes, etc.). So I got her a $14 body wash set from Sephora, which she specified on her list, making her happy. As for me, it worked out well too. I made a wish list, a list of music, at Amazon and e-mailed it to all of who participated in our Secret Santa. But it gets even better. The girls at work, wanted to show their appreciation, raised some money and used the same wish list I sent them to buy me gifts (they got me 3 CDs).

Now, THAT was nice. It was very unexpected, and made me feel like a kid. It was 1990 all over again, the time when I got five G.I. Joe for Christmas, or 1986, when I woke up and found Lion-O and Mumm-Ra under the tree. I never stopped thanking them for what they did because it really made my Christmas. I wish I could return the favor but I'm dead broke right now. So I guess greeting cards will do.

Holiday Music
As for the CDs that I got, well, I've been listening to all four of them, all night. But, as of now, I can only give a short review and not a detailed one. I've also included some songs that I can find on imeem so you guys can preview them too.

Lazarus Bird by Burst
Lazarus Bird is probably the best metal album I've heard this year. For the most part, they sound similar to progressive metal bands like Mastodon and High On Fire. But, unlike the bands I just mentioned, they add a little clean and calm touch, but still heavy, to their songs.

The Chemistry of Common Life by Fucked Up
This band is something else, and I love them. Their vocalist screams like a vocalist of a hardcore group, shitless angry. But, underneath all the shouting, their music is actually artsy just like any art rock band. So that makes them an artsy hardcore band. Now that's fucked up.

Third Transmission by Experimental Aircraft
I caught myself nodding my head and tapping my right foot when I listened to the first track of this album. Yes, it's that cool. It's a very lazy album, filled with droning sounds and ethereal vocals. It's perfect when you need time to stare blankly at the wall.

For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver
This is probably the most saddest and the most relaxing record I've heard this year. Listening to it made me feel like I just broke up with somebody and now I'm tending a broken heart. I especially loved the vocals here. It's just so heartfelt and melancholic.
So far, I've enjoyed all of these albums. I didn't regret putting any of them on the wish list. Well, not yet, at least. Hopefully, I'd be able to write a much more detailed review of these albums. But I doubt it.

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I never get excited over finding a good website anymore. I guess that's because internet has become too common for me, unlike 12 years ago. The last time I remember myself getting flabbergasted over a website was back in 2000 when I discovered AudioGalaxy (now defunct), a web-based file sharing community. Today, however, I almost pee'd in my pants when I learned about GOG, or Good Old Games.

Good Old Games is a website that sells old PC games. Good stuff that were released during the mid 90's to the early 2000's. These were the games that focused more on gameplay and story, and not the graphics. I don't know when the site started but I guess they're new because they're still on beta and they don't have a lot of games in their catalogue yet. I know a lot of you might be wondering why I'm going gago over this website that sells old PC games. Well, here are my reasons:

  1. They sell rare and hard to find games. I missed out on some of the good games that were released yesteryear, like Freespace and MDK, and are now out of print. So I'm glad that GOG are offering them back.
  2. They offer cheap prices. Out of print games can still be acquired from eBay but will cost you a fortune. GOG, however, only sells them for $6 or $10, and some are even for free.
  3. All their games are Vista and XP compatible. Some old games like Fallout can still be be bought at Target and Wal-Mart. But the problem is that they're not Vista or XP compatible.
Those are my reasons, and they're good reasons. So if you're broke, don't have a high-end PC that can run new games, just want to play some of the games you've missed out, or you're just being nostalgic then I highly recommend GOG. Unfortunately, I still have some games to finish. But when I'm done with them I'll definitely buy and download Freespace.

Anyways, if you don't know where to start, here are the 10 games that I highly recommend:
  1. Fallout 2
  2. Fallout
  3. Jagged Alliance 2
  4. Freespace 2
  5. Gothic
  6. Disciples 2
  7. Stonekeep
  8. Arx Fatalis
  9. Descent 2
  10. Conquest of the New World
Too bad they don't have Planescape: Torment and Baldur's Gate, or some older games like Albion, yet.

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Book Review: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book
8.9 of 10
Writer: Neil Gaiman

I'm not too familiar with Neil Gaiman's writings, unfortunately. I've only read The Sandman and Neverwhere. But his work with those books were enough to convince me that he is a very talented storyteller, and enough to persuade me to pick up another book written by him. But instead of getting his previous and more popular books, such as Coraline or American Gods, I opted for his most recent work, The Graveyard Book, to start fresh. I'm glad I did read it because I immensely enjoyed its fantastic story.

The tale in The Graveyard Book revolves around an orphaned boy named Nobody Owens, Bod for short. Bod's family was killed by an assassin, named Jack, when he was still a baby. He would've died too had he not climbed out from his crib, crawled out from his house and found his way into the nearby graveyard. Although Jack, with his keen sense of smell, had followed him there too. But gone was his chance to kill the boy. Because Bod had already been adopted by the ghosts of the graveyard and protected by other denizens of the night.

The book's story, and even it's title, may seem familiar. That's because Neil Gaiman owes the idea to Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book. Gaiman merely replaced the setting and some of the elements from Kipling's story, tailoring it into something new and to something that suits him. He used a graveyard in Europe, replacing the jungles of India, as the setting; ghosts as the family of the orphaned boy, as opposed to the wolves; and a vampire and werewolf as the boy's guardians, instead of the panther and the bear.

But The Graveyard Book isn't The Jungle Book with a graveyard setting. It's a wonderful tale in its own right (or else I would not have enjoyed it as much). Neil Gaiman did terrifically well here. He created a lot of quirky characters, each distinct from the other, making them memorable. The manner of how he told the story is also superb. Despite the themes of death and all the horrors associated with it, the book isn't spooky at all. In fact, it's filled with mystery and adventure, wonders and magic.

Once again, with aid of The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman has reminded me that fantasy can be found everywhere, from the underground tunnels in London to a tiny graveyard up on the hill. He is indeed one of the best writers in this time and age, and The Graveyard Book is another proof of that. While the idea behind the book isn't wholly original, the idea is still brilliant. Not many can pick up an old tale, tell it anew using their own words, and succeed. But Gaiman did just that, and that's the reason why you should read this book.

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Comics Bundle: 12.10.08

I didn't have a lot of comics this week, which is nice because I'm dead broke. But, wow, a lot of the ones I picked up were good, or at least better than last weeks. Anyways, here's my reviews. I'm also changing my rating, from numbers to a simple "Buy It/Skip It" recommendation. While I do know how to grade games and music by numbers, it just doesn't feel right grading comics the same way.

DMZ #37
Buy It!
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Ricardo Burchielli

I was thinking of scratching DMZ off from my pull sheet, after "The Island" concluded, but I decided not to until I've read the new arc. I'm glad that I didn't because DMZ had become much more interesting since Parco Delegado won the election. Particularly, Parco, the newly elected Governor of Manhattan, is acting more like a dictator, far from the charismatic revolutionary we used to know, 4 issues back. On top of that, he's asking Matthew Roth, our protagonist, to help him expand his power by finding the fabled Chinatown gold...wealth that they assumed Wilson have. I can't wait for the next issue. There's definitely going to be a civil war in Manhattan, and within Roth himself as his loyalty is divided between two friends.

I Kill Giants #6
Buy It!
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: J.M. Ken Niimura

Originally, I Kill Giants is not on my pull list (it is now). I just fell in love with this book after reading the first five issues last month. Mainly because of how Joe Kelly plays with his readers' perceptions. He'll lead you to believe that this is a fantasy book about Barbara Thorson, a giant killer who can see and talk to pixies. But, in the next page, he'll tell the story of Barbara, a girl with family issues, who refuses to see reality and lives in her imagination. In every issue since the first, the story flows in this flip-flopping manner that makes it hard to pinpoint if the book is really fantasy or the protagonist is just insane. But in this issue a Titan finally shows up, and Barbara beats him up with Covelski, her magical hammer. What's more is that Sophia, her friend, and Taylor, her bully, seems to have witnessed it all. The issue ends abruptly, however, so we'll never know for sure if Barbara did beat the living daylights out of a Titan or she was just throwing tantrums at the storm.

Final Crisis #5
Buy It. (If you have extra cash)
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: JG Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Mark Rudy, Jesus Merino

I've never reviewed Final Crisis before. That's because its first issues were about setting the whole book up, and I find it to be...meh. Besides, it was under the shadow of Secret Invasion. So I wasn't able to give it much attention. But Grant Morrison is finally done putting up the stage. He's now pulling the circle inwards, tighten it up, particular starting with issue #4, giving some sense to the vague details he had set up in the past issues. In this issue, we see the reason behind why Hal Jordan was accused of deicide, and how he was exonertated by Gardner and Rayner. This was much more action-oriented too, as we see the Watchtower resistance and Bludhaven assault failing against the mindless armies of Darkseid. But, that's only because the major players are nowhere to be found, or haven't arrived yet.

Echo #8
Buy It. (If you have extra cash)
Writer: Terry Moore
Artist: Terry Moore

I've been following Echo for a couple months now. But, like Final Crisis, I never wrote any review about it. Which I find odd because I like this book...a lot. I like the story, especially. The book has all the framework of a superhero's origins tale. But it refuses to be told in such a way. Terry Moore is much more focused on the woman behind the battle suit, showing how broken she was, going through divorce and loss of loved ones, instead of the battle suit. I mean, in the past seven issues, Julie haven't used her powers, at least not voluntarily. It was only in this issue that she finally used it to protect herself and Dillon against a villain, a religious fanatic that wants the part of armor that she have. But that, also, is short-lived since Julie is still running for her life, by the end of the issue, instead of finding out the full potential of her armor, don a mask and become a heroine.

Secret Invasion: Dark Reign#1
Skip It!
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev

Secret Invasion was a lackluster (as I've stated in my previous review). But the last page intrigued me to no ends with the introduction of the Dark Illuminati. Questions started sprouting in my mind, like: "What are they are plotting?", "Why is Namor a part of this?", "Is that Emma Frost?". So I just have to buy this book, hoping it will provide me some answers that will satiate me. But, alas, it did not. To some degree, maybe, it answered my questions. Especially, how was Emma Frost picked and enticed to join the team. But it wasn't enough. For the most of it, I thought the whole issue was written so that Norman Osborn can show his big ego off to his fellow crooks.

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G.E.C.K. Out!

Bethesda finally released released the Garden of Eden Creation Kit (or G.E.C.K.) which is a toolset for Fallout 3. In addition to that, they also have the G.E.C.K. wiki and a video tutorial at their blog to help some of you hopeful game developers out there.

It is this -developers releasing toolsets and editors- that I love being a PC gamer. I love it because it makes it easer for creative gamers out there to make their own custom stuff and release it to the public, increasing the replay value of games. Of course, I dabble with it too. While I did some modules for Neverwinter Nights, I never tried any toolsets (The Elder Scrolls in particular) by Bethesda because of the lack of a good dialogue system. Fallout 3 changes that of course. So I'll probably try my hand at it, after the holidays, and see what I can create.

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Spider-Man: The Musical?

I was doing my usual morning routine of news hunting when I stumbled a news headline that says: "Evan Rachel Wood tapped for broadway musical 'Spider-Man'". A super-hero musical? I just find it too far-fetch. A movie or a TV show is one thing but can you imagine Spider Man swinging around and singing in that tights? That's just lame. So, I dug around for more info about the musical and here's what I found:

One of the strangest projects brewing right now is the dream of David Maisel over at Marvel Studios to bring Spider-Man to the Broadway stage.

Not only that, he's brought in Julie Taymor, the Tony-winning director of "The Lion King" on stage and (this is not a joke) Bono and the Edge of U2 for the music. I just got an e-mail about a casting call in New York so, if you think you have the chops to climb walls on the Great White Way, maybe you should take a whirl. - L.A. Times
It's really happening, and Bono and The Edge are even on the project. I don't know much about broadway but if members of U2 are on it then it must be big. It's funny, 60 something years ago, people considered super heroes as a catalyst for delinquency and that Superman was a Nazi. Now, they're on broadway. So what's next? Caped Crusader: The Musical?


Game Review: Fallout 3

Fallout 3
8.9 of 10
Platform: Windows PC (also available on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3)
Genre: Role-Playing Game
Developer: Bethesda Softworks

Fallout 2 has profoundly affected my life. Not only did it set my standards for what a good computer role-playing game should be but it also piqued my curiosity about radioactivity, prompting me to study Nuclear Medicine. So, for years, I prayed and waited for a sequel. But, four years ago, I prayed even harder when I learned that Bethesda Softworks took over the franchise. While I like most of Bethsoft's games, namely the Elder Scrolls series, I just didn't think they were apt to continue the legacy of the Fallout series. Nonetheless, even though I didn't had much faith with its current developer, I just couldn't let Fallout 3 pass by me. After all, it's a post-apocalyptic game and one that I've been waiting for almost 10 years.

Fallout 3 takes place in a post-nuclear war United States and players will, once again, don the jumpsuit of the Vault Dweller. The tale begins at your birth. From then onwards, important stages of your life inside Vault 101 -which are the tutorial and character creation stages- will be shown in snippets. Starting from the moment you learn to walk, to your 10th birthday celebration (a props to Fallout's 10th anniversary) and up until your father decides to leave the bunker utopia, resulting in panic amongst its residents as Radroaches invades the opened vault and as the overzealous Overseer kills everyone associated with your dad, leading to your exodus into the Capital Wasteland.

A pretty mushroom cloud...that carries highly radioactive dust particles.

The plot starts and builds up nicely in Fallout 3, and it differs from previous Fallout games as well. Instead of searching for a relic that will save your community, the story is much more personal since it revolves around locating your dad and finding answers as to why he had left the Vault. For once, I thought I was wrong to doubt Bethsoft's writing capabilities. But, sadly, as soon as you find your father, and get your answers from him, the plot goes bland. This was rather disappointing since the main storyline in the previous games were monumental, the reason why this game had appealed to many.

Graphics and Sound
My initial reaction when I stepped out from Vault 101, and saw the Capital Wasteland, was awe. The amalgam of chaos and retro-futurism -a prevalent theme in the franchise- that was presented in front of me was sterling, sublime. I admit, I'm not much into graphics. But it's hard not to appreciate the artistic design of this game. The Cold War era car models, derelict and upturned, on the roads, the rust-covered shanty town of Megaton, and the Raygun Gothic style of the weaponry are splendors to behold. The feel and atmosphere of the original Fallout games maybe gone, due to the new game perspective and graphics engine, but this change is more than acceptable.

The rusty shanty town of Megaton, home to many Wastelanders.

The sound and music are also the finer points of the game. The radio, especially, which you can access in your Pip-Boy, is a welcomed feature. Listening to it is such a delight since it broadcasts news, and news about your endeavors. Of course, it plays music too, and there's nothing more satisfying, and downright disturbing, than listening to a marching band or oldies tunes while you mutilate your foes. The radio hosts are masterfully voiced as well. President Eden (played by Malcolm McDowell), especially, sounds convincingly sanctimonious. Ron Perlman returns, for the third time, and did a sterling job as the narrator of the game. Sadly, not much can be said about the rest of the voice overs. Even Liam Neeson, who plays your father, sounds flat as if he is talking to a tape recorder.

I knew it in my gut that combat in Fallout 3 was going to be different. Any Fallout fan saw it coming. The turn-based combat that I enjoyed is now gone. What's left in its stead is a real-time shooter that is awkward to utilize. It's hard to aim, shoot and hit with it. Fortunately, the Vault-Tec Targeting System (or VATS), a new feature in the game, made combat a lot more interesting. The VATS, with the use of action points, is a pseudo turn-based combat mode that allows you to pause the game and target specific body parts of your opponents. When you're done choosing which body part to shoot or hit, all you need to do is accept and combat will enter into "bullet time" so you can enjoy the carnage that ensues.

The V.A.T.S. in action. Hmmm...so many body parts to choose from.

As for your arsenal, well, you have a wide array of weapons that you can choose from. Weapons from the previous Fallout games are mostly present in here, from flamers, miniguns to power fists. New weapons are also available such as the Fat Man, a devastating weapon that can wipe out a whole block of enemies and put behemoths down on their knees. In addition, you can also create your own weapons from junk, which also uses junk as ammo. The Railgun, for example, is a player crafted weapon that launches railroad spikes. It's a personal favorite of mine, and its design adds a little bit of steampunk to the game. What irks me though is that the .223 pistol, which is my favorite weapon in Fallout 1 & 2, is not available in the game.

Thankfully, not everything in Fallout 3 is solved through wanton violence alone. Quests and problems can be approached in multiple ways. Aside from "shotgun diplomacy", you can also lie, cheat or steal your way out of a problem. For example, a bartender offered to tell me the whereabouts of my father but only if I pay or do some dirty work for him. Since I was low on cash and I was planning to become a saint, I refused to do both. My character wasn't a people person either so persuading him wasn't an option. Instead, I resorted into thievery as I sneaked into his house, hacked his computer and found what I was looking for. Unfortunately, you'll still be forced to whip out your pistol in Fallout 3 more often compared to its predecessors.

Green Ugly Mutant vs. Rusty Shotgun Blues

Exploration is probably the only thing in the game that I consider as a huge improvement. While players are also free to explore the map in Fallout 1 & 2, it was just uneventful to see a trail of dots moving on the surface of the map as your character travels from place to place. In Fallout 3 you'll be able to explore every inch of the map by foot, like a virtual tourist, allowing you to visit every nook and cranny of the Capital Wasteland. The map isn't as overwhelming like in Oblivion or Morrowind, however, but it is substantial enough to quench your wanderlust. The locations vary from hubs, such as Megaton, each with their own history and quests to offer, and some are raider hideouts for you pillage. But if you're tired of exploring the map on foot, fast travel is also available to all the locations you have discovered.

Fallout 3 never did turn out to a game that I wanted it to be. All of the elements that made Fallout my favorite game were eschewed by Bethesda. The turn-based combat, the epic storyline and the isometric view are all gone. Admittedly, I didn't expect Bethesda to deliver such a game either. I thought the franchise was going to be massacred, turning Fallout into a game like Oblivion but only with guns. For the most part, it did felt like an Elder Scrolls game. But that's because Bethesda's expertise lies in such games, and I'm glad that they stuck with what they know instead of capitulating to what the gamers wanted. If they did cave in, and gave us an isometric turn-based game, which they've never done before, it would've been a catastrophe. So, to all gamers, Fallout fan boys or not, I urge you to try this game. Just don't expect it to be much of a Fallout game though.

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Fables TV Adaptation

Vertigo's Fables series will finally be brought to life, through the tube, by ABC TV network. Six Degrees writers, Stu Zicherman and Raven Metzner, will pen the script and Heroes director, David Semel, will direct the series.

DC Comics' "Fables" is heading to ABC.

The network has handed out a put pilot commitment to the fantasy project, based on the comic book created by Bill Willingham and published by DC's Vertigo imprint.

"Six Degrees" creators/executive producers Stu Zicherman and Raven Metzner are penning the script for the hourlong drama set at Warner Bros. TV.

David Semel has come on board to direct "Fables," which revolves around characters from fairy tales and folklore living in exile in modern-day New York.
- The Hollywood Reporter.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the series, Fables is about the characters from different fairy tales and folklore that was exiled from their homelands and had made its way to the mundane world, our world. In the series you'll see Snow White working side by side with the Big Bad Wolf, or Beauty and the Beast.

I'm looking forward to see this show. Fables is my favorite comic book title, and I don't think I could ever hate the series. So I hope this project gets done. I know NBC initially had the development of the series, back in 2005, and I don't know what happened to it. I also hope that the producers will stay loyal to the comics. Because I can't bear to see all those great characters murdered by inept writing and directing.

With that said, I'm subscribing to Cable TV again. Because I don't have one currently.

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Virtually Perfect

Celebrating the holiday games rush, Playboy featured another set of naked game girls in its December 2008 issue. Entitled "Virtually Perfect" the set includes girls from this year's popular games such as Saint's Row 2, Damnation, Ride to Hell, Afro Samurai, Velvet Assassin and Rise of the Argonauts.

This is the 5th year since naked game girls graced the pages of Playboy. Honestly, except for Atalanta from Rise of the Argonauts (left), I didn't like the set this year. That's probably because I'm not familiar with the rest of the games. They should've included Lara Croft, especially with Tomb Raider: Underworld out this year, or Elika from the new Prince of Persia as well.

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Scribblenauts Unveiled

5th Cell (developers of Lock's Quest and Drawn To Life) has unveiled their newest and coolest puzzle game for the Nintendo DS, entitled Scribblenauts. This is a game where you can solve everything by writing anything that you can come up with to help you with a puzzle. But you have to see the video to understand what I'm talking about.

Pretty nifty game, huh? Worth watching out for. Write anything. Solve everything. I wonder if you can write stuff like Tenga or Bong to help you solve a puzzle in the game.


My Netflix Queue

It snowed today. Not much but snow's always a good excuse to not do anything or go anywhere. Since I just subscribe with Netflix, and received all 3 Blu-ray Discs yesterday, I mostly spent the day on the couch watching some movies that I missed. From 1 pm to up around 5, I watched There Will Be Blood, The Golden Compass and Lord of War.

I enjoyed the movies. Especially There Will Be Blood. Now I see why Daniel Day Lewis won the Oscar's this year. But it wasn't just Mr. Lewis who did great. Paul Bano was also sublime in this film. He's a promising young actor. Lord of War was a fun film too. I liked Nicholas' Cage character, Yuri Orlov, who's a very cunning gun runner. As for The Golden Compass, I know it didn't do well because of its anti-religious themes, but I liked it. Not as much as I enjoyed the book though. Things just happen too abruptly in the film.

Well, that's my first three Netflix film. But I still have thousands more. So I'd better return the discs tomorrow so I can get another three. Next time, it'll be Star Wars: Clone Wars, Letter From Iwo Jima and Mongol.

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Dark Reign Begins

Secret Invasion is finally done with and its aftermath left a huge shift of power in the Marvel Universe. That shift of power is called Dark Reign. Where Norman Osborn -who emerged as a war hero after the invasion- replaces Iron Man -who was left incapacitated by a Skrull virus during the invasion- as the head of the superhero community.

This Invasion has ended, and with it comes another shocking revelation on the final pages. A portent of things to come. A new age is dawning, my friends, and I fear for our heroes more now than ever before. Norman Osborn and his Cabal are here to usher in a New World Order. DARK REIGN has begun!

What exactly this means to our heroes and villains of the Marvel U will be played out in the coming months, but I can tell you, I haven't been this excited for a storyline since the first mention of Secret Invasion. Believe me when I say that the ride you are in for makes everything that came before seem like a walk in the park!

Think about it for a moment. The Hood. Namor. Emma Frost. Dr. Doom. Loki. Norman Osborn. These are your new rulers. They have been given the keys to the kingdom. With all that power, what chance do our heroes stand? What surprises and evil plots do these villains have in store? If they are really united, who can oppose them?

The new order of Dark Reign will call for new heroes, a new way of fighting the enemy from within, new alliances to be forged and old wounds healed if anyone is to stand a chance. -
Joe Quesada, Marvel News
Clearly, this Dark Reign is the makings of an early dystopia, with all the mad power hungry villains running the world. The Dark Illuminati, The Dark Avengers and H.A.M.E.R. (a new defense branch that will replace the S.H.I.E.L.D.). I can't wait to see them all. Of course, I'm also curious of what will happen the the New & Mighty Avengers, The Secret Warriors and how my boy Deadpool will fit into this new reign of terror.

As for the list of all Dark Reign books, you can find them all in this mega preview. The list looks very long. That's good for the comics industry but bad for my wallet.

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Comics Bundle: 12.03.08 - Crushed Skrulls

I never had a chance to write crappy comic reviews last month. That's because my work schedule was f***ed up and wasn't able to pick up my comics until after Thanksgiving. But I requested not to work every Thursday, from this month onwards. So now I can pick up my comics every week and torture you guys with my abysmal comic reviews. Although, this week, I got tortured by a lot of unfunny books.

Secret Invasion #8
5.8 of 10
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Leinil Yu, Mark Morales, Laura Martin

Secret Invasion
was my first comic event ever since I got back into the funny books. Admittedly, I liked the whole idea of a superhero community tearing itself apart because of a conspiracy concocted by undetectable shape-shifters. So, for months, I followed and enjoyed this title. However, the book did start to decline during its last issues, including its tie-in, and the final issue was also pushed back a month later. So, I was hoping that Marvel will blow me away with its conclusion. Sadly, it [the final issue] fell flat, and it hurts. It was a very disappointing, unsatisfying and a bit confusing conclusion. I guess secrets are no good when they're out.

New Avengers #47
7.5 of 10
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Billy Tan, Matt Banning, Justin Ponsor

Most Secret Invasion tie-ins have declined -as I've mentioned in my review above- and the New Avengers is no exception. So, after I read Secret Invasion #8, I thought this issue would slap me in the face too. I was wrong. It was actually refreshing. But only because it has little connection to the invasion event. It's a flashback to when Luke Cage and Jessica Jones' marriage wasn't destroyed by the whole "Who Do You Trust?" paranoia yet. Here we see more of a domestic battleground called fatherhood, as we see Luke Cage being spooked by diapers. Then, we witness of how the heroes met and the start of their romance. While the issue isn't much, it's a signal that everything will be back to normal.

Wolverine: Manifest Destiny #2
8.0 of 10
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Stephen Segovia, John Rauch

Honestly, I don't mind the X-Men moving to California. But the whole Manifest Destiny event is just weak. Wolverine's move to San Francisco, however, turned out to be more interesting. In the last issue, we saw Logan getting ready to be beaten into a pulp by the triad. Being Wolverine, I thought it would be a walk in the park for him to beat the living daylights out of some F list villains. Well, not if they can punch through your soul. There's just no healing factor in the world that can heal this kind of attack. So with a gang of superior martial artists looking for him, Logan agreed to be trained by this old kung-fu master (I know, it's a cliche). With this issue, I believe now that this mini-series will be packed with action, kung-fu/mutant style.

X-Men: Noir #1
8.3 of 10
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Dennis Calero

When Marvel revealed their Noir line, I was intrigued. Noir isn't exactly my thing but I'm always on the look out for some good and unique setting. In the Noir Universe, the X Men are not mutants but sociopaths who are trained by a psychiatrist, Xavier, who believes they are the evolution in human behavior. No powers and codenames, just a bunch of trained crazy people. The characters, even without their powers, also retained their personalities. Magneto's a racist, a righteous and brutal cop who beats and tortures his suspects. Gambit owns a casino. Quicksilver is a coward who runs away from everything. All in all, I'm pleased with the first issue since it promises a good story. The artwork is masterfully done too.

X-Infernus #1
5.0 of 10
Writer: C.B. Cebulski
Artists: Giuseppi Camuncoli

I've never read the Inferno books since they came out before the time I initially started reading comics. I don't know much about Illyana Rasputing either. Other than she's Colussus younger sister who was turned into a demon. Suprsingly, however, I didn't had a hard time understanding X-Infernus, a sequel to Inferno and which story revolves around Illyana. But that's because the story is too simple and accesible. If you've read or watch a lot of fantasy you'll probably get an idea of how this story will move. So, I guess I'll just scratch this title from my pull list and get something else.

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What is Alpha Protocol?

I know it's not time for my "Anticipated Games For 2009" list yet. But I'll fess up now that Alpha Protocol is going to be in that list. Especially after watching "What is Alpha Protocol?" -Obsidian's developer diary video- over at Gamespot, I just couldn't contain my excitement and not share it with you guys. So, come, watch this:

Nice, very nice. I always applaud and support RPG developers when they move out from the fantasy arena. Lately, we've seen a lot of them go in that direction (Mass Effect and Fallout 3). But a modern RPG, that's just a bold move. Oh, in case some of you don't know, Obsidian Entertainment are what's left of Black Isle Studios, creators of the Fallout franchise and other great games like the Baldur's Gate series.

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Fastest. Book. Delivery. Ever!

So I ordered a couple books from Amazon last Friday and I thought, because of shipping traffic this holiday season, my items won't get here until Christmas 2012. But when I opened my mailbox earlier, boom, it was there. Just three working days, man, and I only used FREE shipping. It was never this fast when I ordered during regular days, you know. So, wow, I'm beyond impressed with Amazon right now.

As for the books I got. Well, except for Liberation, I don't know much about them -yet- besides that they're all dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction, and their reception is quite good. But, to give you guys an expansive idea of what the books are, I'll write a snippet of reviews about them.


"What would the United States look like after the collapse of everything? The answer isn't a zombie-strewn wasteland or a sudden revival of punk-rock fashions, but rather something more like a flashback to the mid-19th century. The frontier spirit, small communities banding together, roaming Indian tribes... and huge masses of the population living in slavery. Brian Francis Slattery's dystopian second novel, Liberation has many brilliant ideas, but its depiction of a 21st century revival of slavery is really what burns it into your memory." - io9
The Stone Gods
"The apocalypse is coming. You'll need something to read. "The Stone Gods," Jeanette Winterson's new novel, makes an excellent choice for desert-planet reading - scary, beautiful, witty and wistful by turns, dipping into the known past as it explores potential futures. Among the possibilities: Humans alter their genes to preserve youth and get plastic "macro-surgery" to exaggerate what's left. They create robot traffic cops and take Robo sapiens lovers or visit a perverts-only sex club. Amid ecological disaster and impending war, there's also good news: a new, livable planet just discovered. But don't get your hopes up - the newfound land is still home to dinosaurs." - International Herald Tribune
The Hunger Games
"As negative Utopias go, Suzanne Collins has created a dilly. The United States is gone. North America has become Panem, a TV-dominated dictatorship run from a city called the Capitol. The rest of Panem is divided into 12 Districts (the former 13th had the bad judgment to revolt and no longer exists). The yearly highlight in this nightmare world is the Hunger Games, a bloodthirsty reality TV show in which 24 teenagers chosen by lottery — two from each District — fight each other in a desolate environment called the ''arena.'' The winner gets a life of ease; the losers get death. The only ''unspoken rule'' is that you can't eat the dead contestants. Let's see the makers of the movie version try to get a PG-13 on this baby." - Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly
Well, there you go. That's my winter programming. Three more books to bury me with things to do. Besides these, I already have two more games and two more books to finish (Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and Neal Stephenson's Anathem). Now I know what to do with all those personal days and holidays that I have.

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First Impressions: Storm of Zehir

My party of four. An archer and a thief. A fighter and a priest.

I thought Fallout 3 had me pegged already, at least for a couple more weeks. But ever since I installed Storm of Zehir, the 2nd expansion of Neverwinter Nights 2, I had a hard time pulling myself away from this game. What I like about this D&D game is that it allows you to create a whole party, much like in Icewind Dale, instead of just one character. Secondly, gameplay here is different. Instead of fast traveling on the map, you're going to have to explore the whole world by foot. Exploring the map will bring about random encounters and hidden places. You can avoid hostile encounters by hiding, and you can only find hidden places if you have the appropriate skill. Hopefully, I'd get over this soon. I still need to finish a Fallout 3 review.

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