Sep 19, 2014

Bud Reviews: Guardians Of The Galaxy (Film)


How long have we been waiting for a good scifi movie that is similar to Firefly? How long have we been waiting for a good Star Wars movie? A long time. Well Guardians of the Galaxy satisfies that craving. Where those other franchises abandoned you, Marvel decided jump in and pull you out of the water.

I always heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy and seen comic book covers, but never really dug deep.Until an episode of the cartoon "Ultimate Spider-man" featured them, I became interested. So when the trailer came out for this film, I knew who they were and could name them. I didn't read any of the comics, but clearly I've been reading the wrong comics, GOTG is high on my list after this film.

Set in the Avenger's universe, the GOTG movie follows a team of unlikely heroes defending the universe. That's basically it. The setting follows the main protagonist Peter Quill aka Starlord recovering some precious orb. Some people want the orb, some people want Quill, and now the stage is set for one of the most exciting adventure of 2014. Every scene in this film is well crafted and beautiful. The vistas in deep space alone warrant seeing this film. The action sequences are well thought out and not tiring, they have proper breaks and build ups. I say "tiring" because I'm reviewing this film after reviewing the horror that was Transformers 4 . GOTG shows you how sci fi action is done without exhausting your audience. It had moments that made the audience "ooh and aaah", it had moments where it made the audience feel for the main character. Most importantly, GOTG focused on the characters and made you care for them. Even if they're colored differently or from a completely different class of species, this movie delivered that. The film was very witty and at times made the audience burst with laughter using clever comedic insertion. You will grow to love at least one of the Guardians if not all. They're not the Avengers, yet they are just as cool...maybe even cooler. You get to see the Marvel mythos away from Earth, and it is a fantastic mythos. As with any film there are flaws. For audiences that aren't familiar with the Marvel lore it was hard to keep up. Despite the flaws, the movie uses carefully selected music to bring the audience with them on this huge adventure. This is what summer blockbusters should be like. It had a hint of Mass Effect, Firefly, Star Wars and all the classics.

VERDICT:
Guardians Of The Galaxy gets a B on the B.U.D scale:
If you want an "out of this world" scifi adventure that keeps you on the edge of your seat while making sure you laugh, feel angry, cry and laugh again....then Guardians of the Galaxy is the Movie to see. It was an incredible film that executed story, character development, visual effects, and theater like a revered artist executes his masterpiece painting. A must see. 

Sep 6, 2014

Bud Reviews: Transformers 4: Age of Extinction


Murderous Prime everyone!

If you don't remember, I posted a (Thoughts on Transformers 4) article saying why this movie may be the movie we've been waiting for. I mainly based my predictions on the Dinobots, the trailer, and the new designs. I genuinely thought that things may change. That Michael Bay and Hasbro would learn from their mistakes and push this franchise to the limit. I went against myself and my friends in judging Bay. "This time will be different, you will see". "It's not a hype train, it's friggin Grimlock , how is he going to mess it up?"

Well I was wrong. Wrong wrong wrong! Bay messed up big. ( I am aware it's entire teams, but Bay is the focal point).

Age of Extinction failed on many levels except the visual awe. The special effects were great.The previous 3 films looked great too. No argument there

But I'm not reviewing a tech demo, I'm reviewing a movie.

It was long, very very long. At 2 hours and 45 minutes I was exhausted. Non stop action. Scene after scene. Car chase after car chase. Explosion after explosion. I like action movies but I felt I needed to drink a gallon of powerthirst and snort cocaine to wake up. As some have described it, Bay doesn't make movies, he makes roller coaster rides. Then why on Earth is he making movies! Why is he still making Transformers movies? TF4 has a new cast, namely Mark Wahlberg ,Kelsey Grammer, and Stanley Tucci. No Shia La Beouf, no Megan Fox, and no new Megan. New robot cast with new designs and new villains. Everything is new! Well new packaging that is, but same crap. The acting was much better than the previous three. Frasier was outstanding as usual, so was Stanley Tucci. I personally didn't think Mark Wahlberg was convincing as an inventor, but he was good...not great...just good. I forgot to mention some new blonde girl with her boyfriend who looks a lot like Harvey from the Sabrina the Teenage Witch sitcom.

"So you have this amazing cast and great special effects, what's your problem with the movie?"

Literally, everything else. Story, plot progression, and the Transformers themselves. No one was able to follow this incoherent mess. The story wasn't explained at all. Events happened unrealistically. There is "regular unrealistic" and "simply outlandish pure out of Bay's head unrealistic". The Transformers were not Transformers, they were walking and talking one liners with weird accents that were barely audible. Their characterizations were far off from their previous incarnations (which we are used to by now). But in the case of Optimus, it deviated even more from the previous films. It doesn't mention anything from the previous movies except that the Transformers brought war. It's disturbing that they did that. Even the guys that made the movies acknowledge that it was crap.

To end the spoiler free part and summarize:
Transformers Age of Extinction had better aspects than the previous films, like the cast and designs, yet makes for a horrible and messy experience. It throws away all the potential of this once revered franchise. It's because of this I rank it as one of the worst movies I have ever seen. To take something like Transformers and take it down to the depths of the sewage and dunk it over and over again...is something I can't approve. Transformers 4 sucks, it was just a bad movie, worse than Revenge of the Fallen. Revenge was bad already, but it was a mistake, but TF 4 repeats that mistake. No wonder Rotten Tomatoes puts it at 18%.


VERDICT:
Transformers 4: Age of Extinction gets a D on the B.U.D scale:
To treat such a rich franchise like Transformers in such a bad way for 4 movies in a row is something I cannot accept. Stay away from this decaying film universe. There are lots of franchises that don't disregard their fanbase and sweep them under the rug. Marvel is doing an amazing job with Guardians of the Galaxy. Or just watch the cartoons, Transformers Prime is a good start. Hell, the Angry Birds Transformers looks better than TF4, and that's Angry Birds!

The B.U.D scale:
B= Buy
U= Useless (Not recommended)
D= Do not buy


SPOILER ALERT (RANT INCOMING).
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You have the nerve to put Dinobots in the movie and not have them SPEAK? Not once? Me Grimlock? Frank Welker is in the movie, ask him to make Sludge voice, any thing.
What do you think the Dinobots are? They're just pretty to look at? Legendary warriors my ass!
"We're giving you freedom" Prime says to Grimlock, then like 30 seconds after, with the sword to Grimlock's neck
" You defend my family, or die"
What the FISITRON!
Who says that?
Is that freedom you are offering?

That's not Optimus Prime. That is a knock off. Prime would never kill a human. Not so brutally anyways. After killing Attinger, Prime didn't show any kind of remorse and goes on saying "for honor" or something like that. Yes there is honor in shooting a man who was trying to do his job. I mean sure you're defending friend your whom you just met, but remind me, weren't you the one who told Sentinel Prime "there are other ways" or something like that. Optimus could have put his shield between them and allowed Lockdown to kill him. He's obsessed with Earth. If you like it that much, why don't you marry it!

The only Chinese apartment they enter in the movie happens to have an American football lying around?

Who are the creators anyway? What about the Allspark! The entire first movie was dedicated to it.

Why are you so indecisive? Choose a plot or story and go through it. How many times did the Transformers land on Earth?

You have Fallen and 13 original guys, the creators (ok not Transformers but still), Megatron, Sentinel whatshisface. Earth is like Grand Central station.

The lore is truly messed up.

The straw that broke the Dinobot's back was that there wasn't a single mention of Cybertron or its fate. Not once.

Who wrote this movie? A junkion? I tell you who's writing the script, the damn production line in some Hasbro factory, that's who. The actual line is doing all the work, it's not only making toys in horrible working conditions, but it's writing scripts for all of Transformers.


At least Galvatron was the only good thing that came out of this IMO.

This movie really pissed me off. The movies don't give you any closure whatsoever. I could go on and on about every single frame in the film. There are positives, as I said Galvatron, but the negatives squish the positives.

Don't watch this.

May 26, 2014

Bud Reviews: Retry, by Rovio Lvl 11 (iPhone 4S, iOS 7)


From the makers of Angry Birds comes a new title called "Retry" published under Rovio Lvl 11. Rovio Lvl 11 is a new publishing brand for the larger Rovio. Lvl 11 would be free from the shackles of the Angry Birds franchise, and can publish more experimental titles. The game is currently available only in Finland, Poland, and Canada, with the expectation of worldwide release soon.

The era of Flappy Bird is far from over. Retry tackles the challenging game type like Flappy Bird, where you fail and fail and fail again. The goal is simple, get to the final checkpoint and collect coins on the way. The emphasis is on the Retrying. On the way, there are smaller checkpoints that can be activated if you land on them, that's where you spend your coins. A better title for the game would have been crash, because that's what you'll end up doing....a lot. You fly this tiny propeller plane in a beautiful 2D retro style environment with an energetic track playing in the background. Naturally, as with most of these flappy bird type games, they can't actually fly properly. In Retry, your plane handles like a blind chicken on ecstasy that can only take left turns. It can only fly forward and you make the plane loop backwards depending on your engine power. To elevate your plane, you have to keep looping till the plane gets higher, or you stop giving power at certain points of the loop and the plane continues in whatever direction.

It's really difficult to maneuver the plane in tight spaces...or rather in any space. That's where the game shines, it's frustrating yet exhilarating. You will spend a long time trying to understand how to get this plane to take off properly. But when you do get the hang of things, the game's flow allows you to excel in areas then hits you with a brand new challenge. A challenge that you have to solve in a new way. "Perhaps this time, I will have to spin the plane twice then let it drop so I can fit." It creates a unique connection with the game that evolves with every checkpoint. It gets harder in the right places. Just when you think you mastered the game, it adds wind and alternate routes to your path for example. You get an adrenaline rush from an iPhone game.  Which is a good thing.

The key problem is crashing. Many people will rage quit and potentially throw their iPhones out the window. The overly sensitive hit box of the plane makes way for a flood of mistakes. However, what's nice about the game is that it's blunt. The title is RETRY. You should be knowing what you're getting into. The design team made this process easy since the time from crashing to retrying is very fast and not wasted at all. Flappy bird for example throws an advertisement in your face after your fall, disrupting the retry cycle. Kudos to Rovio for having that cycle uninterrupted. Another mechanic is having ghost planes appear where you last crashed, it's not very helpful except to show you how horrible you're doing.

The game's design is great, from the user-interface to the colorful environments. You will see dinosaur bones and even Sasquatches popping up behind trees. It's a familiar gaming setting that we all love since the days of Mario, with clouds, water and pretty background vistas.The controls are responsive and work well with the drunk airplane piloting. I did have some framerate issues and this random colorful line appearing every now and then. Maybe it's something they'll look after when they release globally. The music gets repetitive quickly and I had hoped they add more tracks (Edit: Finally beat some worlds and music becomes excellent with new tracks, still repetitive but great stuff). As with Angry Birds, once you complete a level, the game gives you a 3 star rating, to further add to the already high replay value. Retry doesn't have any ads, which is a great thing, but it does have micro-transactions. The coins that you collect and use towards activating a checkpoint can be difficult to get, so you can pay real money to get bundles of coins. It's an OK balance since you can get coins everywhere in the game but you have to work for them. I guess it's standard now in mobile games. Seeing that the game is free, I don't mind this fairly non obtrusive micro-transaction ,as long as they keep it this way and not go crazy like many others games have.


VERDICT:
Retry for iOS 7 gets a B on the B.U.D scale:
Retry is a wonderful addition to the challenging game genre, it capitalizes on the addicting theme of Flappy Bird yet does it with a unique spin with no shame. Retry excels at offering challenging gameplay and pacing. Its fun retro style will keep you coming back for more. Be warned, you have to be patient, it's an extremely difficult game and not for the easily frustrated. As Flappy Bird taught us, don't get addicted and instead just play it casually and enjoy. It's free (another positive), so you can't technically buy it, but definitely download it and play this ace of a game on the go when it hits global App/Play stores. 

The B.U.D scale:
B= Buy
U= Useless (Not recommended)
D= Do not buy


 What seems like a normal plane flying.....

 They weren't kidding about that title.

Is that diamond ore?

" Ze plane!Ze plane!"

 " Do a barrel roll"


May 16, 2014

Thoughts on Half-Life 3 (May 2014)




It pains me to think this, but we may never see Half-Life 3. It would have to be a game that exceeds all expectations. Its been in the danger zone. I feel with Valve. With so much riding on this release, they are going to get significant flak even if it's a good game. Its been 7 years! 7 years since Half Life 2: Episode 2 (2007). Do you realize how long that is? And it's been 10 years since Half-Life 2 (2004). In my opinion, Episode 1 and 2 were not sequels at all. They were just reusing the same engine and technology, without really pushing the story forward as much as a full blown game.

Allow me to explain why it's extremely difficult for Valve to release HL3 now.

It's a technology limitation. As an engine, Source 2 would have to be so realistic that you'd puke by just seeing it. If it looks like an upgraded Unreal Engine 4, it's going to be a bust. It can't look like anything out there. It has to be ground breaking. Why? Because they're selling the engine first, then the game. Source 1 was a platform that enabled modding by simple users. Source Film Maker for example shows all of Valve's intentions. They don't want to make a "game" and call it a day. It needs to be something so significant, so connected, that it actually works. Steam OS for example is an ambitious technology. So is TF2 with its user created hats now. Valve wants to dominate the market. They want to be the market. The technology is just not there yet. The title Halflife and innovation go hand in hand. Without innovation the game plummets and there are reduced sales.Think of all the games that have come out recently. Which one truly innovated or changed our entire perception of how games are played? Mass Effect? not really, it's a shooter rpg with an amazing story. Titanfall? sort of, it introduced verticality. But when you think Portal, that strikes as innovation.Hell Half life 1 erased the concept of a cut scene. HL2 brought physics and the gravity gun, how to truly interact with the environment. And Portal made all humanity think differently about the way portals can work. That's what Valve is after in its games. Huge changes that make you say WOW. Sadly there aren't many opportunities to wow people. Especially in a highly connected world. A game , no matter how innovative it is, will not gain the praise Valve is seeking. Games like flappy bird are the "wow" now. Valve knows this. It wants to sell...it's a business...has employees to pay. Not reinvent the wheel every 5 years or so. That's why it's hard to imagine HL3. Whatever they release will be analyzed with a magnifying glass. To them it's a lost battle. As HL3 alone will be undoubtedly a lost battle. Most people forgot who the hell Gordon Freeman is. All that marketing and investment made to remind people of the story and the HL universe is useless now. They would have to start from zero. All the new kids who have never ever played any HL, would have to be reintroduced to that universe. That ominous dystopian world. Every FPS today is dystopian and ominous. Releasing HL3 now would be a huge mistake. Only the die hard fans will care, but the rest will say "meh it's the same like X and Y."
Companies like Activision and EA are ruthless because they know the name of the game. Valve needed to be ruthless to cash in. But they can't be ruthless, because it's not how they do things. I think of Valve as a musician.

Me : "So when is your new track coming out?"
Valve: "You can't rush art"

That's the mistake that Valve made. It put itself in the "art" zone with regards to HL. It made a game that is so successful that anything after has to exceed it. You can see their anxiety from Portal 1 and 2. They just mention it's in the same universe, but don't bring anything to connect them truly. They're so afraid to touch HL in any way lest they ruin it. It's like HL is radioactive, kind of ironic. Their window of success is so small at the moment. They either hit it big or go home.
Of course whatever they release will be a success, but it's not the success Valve is looking for. You hear about the theory of Portal 3, Left 4 Dead 3 and Half Life 3 being released at the same time. That's plausible, but it means they would compete with themselves. When looking at the people who play first person shooters. It's a small percentage of people that will play all 3 full blown games and dedicate their time.l. It makes more sense to release them individually or.....put them all together in one single game. Now that sounds like a project that could take 10 years to make.
Even then, say Valve releases a new triple A title. Microsoft with all its might released Halo 4 and it wasn't as popular as Call of Duty or GTA V for example. The games have changed and the people have changed.Releasing a title that big would mean competing with the rest of the gang. Succumbing to all the same rules. Next gen graphics vs. old gen. music score. Metacritic. Zeropunctuation. All that jazz.

Definitely Valve will not throw away years and millions of dollars worth of content. They'll keep it. Assessing the market every year to see if it can be released or not.

Gabe: "So guys, is it the window we're looking for?"
Marketing team: "Sorry Gaben, not this year, too many consoles, too many games, we really want to push our distribution platform first, we got Origin and Uplay bugging us. And we haven't even touched this whole mobile app market."
Gabe: "Can't some of you guys make a better game than flappy bird?"
Design team: "We're trying sir, as hard as we can, the problem is you can't get simpler than flappy bird. You can't predict what's the next giant thing is. It's not about being a better game also"
Gabe:"ok, then here is what we do. Since we have millions invested in our hardware and teams, why don't we just work on our existing games and distribution. That way when we release HL3 *lol*, our platform would be supporting it"

You see what I'm talking about? It's too risky. It's not their fault. If it were up to them , they'd be pumping out Half life every year, like how Assassin's Creed is right now. Be happy that it's not out yet. Be happy that it may never come out. Half Life 2 was the best game I ever played. Bar none. It was incredible. But as you recall, the mysterious character GMan was interesting because he was mysterious. It's about the chase. If we find out in Half life 3, he's a pan-dimensional Bestbuy manager, we'll all feel ripped off. If they tell us he's a pancake, we'll still be pissed. It's been so long that everyone has a solid image in their head, to change that would mean risking even more fan rage. Fan rage, the likes you've never seen before. You see how pissed everyone is about the game not being released. Image if it's released and it sucks. World War....wait some people can't count to 3.....Let's just say another World War.

A part of me doesn't want it to be released. Look what Michael Bay did to Transformers. That's what Valve will do. It will be all new stuff and the original fan base will not like it. It's just human nature. They'll make a new fan base. But why do it with Half life. Why not do it with their existing stuff, or even create new games.
Dota 2 for example.

Tell me why should Valve even care about us fans? Really. Because we buy their stuff? The market has become like a Chinese kiosk selling noodles in China. There are so many new people passing by that even if the seller gave you wooden sticks and called them noodles, your customer satisfaction doesn't mean anything to him since there are literally a billion more people passing by. That's where Valve is at right now.

But since Valve are nice folks, they do care, and don't want it to be a bust. So they're waiting for the right time. The one thing I know is that when Valve announces the game, it will be perfectly timed.


I want them to prove me wrong.



Maybe we still have.......
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Time, Dr. Freeman?

May 13, 2014

Thoughts on Transformers 4: Age of Extinction


Ok folks. So the rules have indeed changed. As some of you may recall, I wasn't pleased at all with Michael Bay's treatment of Transformers 1,2 , and 3. In a nutshell, he didn't focus on the Transformers, treated them like second class citizens and even drastically changed their characters. Look no further than Murderous Prime. Also he killed off all the favorite key Decepticon characters right when they started being cool in one single movie. I mean, Soundwave, Laserbeak, Shockwave, Starscream....need I continue? He had access to the coolest and most badass gestalt Devastator and he gave him balls then killed him. That's why I didn't like the previous trilogy. Like many I did care about the colors of each Transformer deviating from their original ala Iron Hide no longer red, flames and mouth on Prime. Those are minor. Iron Hide's death for example was completely ignored, hell they didn't even care. Neither did Optimus.

I saw a meme, that had a picture of the Dinobots and the caption was : "Dinobots, consider your problem solved"
That's what I feel TF4 will be. SOS Dinobots. Their inclusion will change everything. They brought the spice back in G1 and they will do so again in the next Trilogy. Somehow that mix of characters and Grimlock especially makes it work.
The success brought on by the Bayformers undoubtedly breathed life into Transformers before it was all lost. Granted it was a somewhat stinky breath (considered by many), but it breathed life nonetheless.Bay could've made it way easier for us to like it.
I'm delighted with the entire redesigns. Prime's new knight look is perfect for his character. Righteous, powerful. The designs from the previous trilogy was plain ugly, the new TF4 is more streamline, has more energy and is easier to identify. Especially the head sculpt.
TF 4 is the next stage in an ugly metamorphasis. I predict TF4 will be a butterfly. The first 3 movies by Bay made severe mistakes, but if anything TF 4 seems to have learned from them all. Just as Hasbro learned that killing off Optimus Prime back in the 80's was a big no no, they too learned that "hey, maybe the fans are correct about some things".
"Maybe we should stop pissing on their favorite characters and start to embrace them. Start to truly bring the characters to life" This is apparent in one character in the trailer, Grimlock. You can see Grimlock, he's not blurry. You can't miss him. The duality between Prime and Grimlock gave us more screen time for Transformers. It invokes a dynamic response with the audience. Before it was just portrait pictures of Optimus and Megatron gazing across the distance (in the case of posters, see pictures below for comparison). Now its Prime doing something. He's riding a dino, and that dino is perhaps one of the coolest  in Transformers. Everyone, and I mean everyone as a child loved Grimlock. He was badass. His inclusion in the Fall for Cybertron game was genius.

I'm very excited for Age of Extinction. I'm glad the previous ugly Optimus is no longer there. Grimlock, Lockdown, and Galvatron all look cool. I think the superb acting skills of Kelsey Grammar will assist in this film. If the movie turns out to be bad, I'll be extremely disappointed, so wait for the review when it comes out.

Here are the posters I was talking about