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E3 Day 1: Ok, I guess...I mean, whatever

Last year I was glued to my Twitter feed for E3 and freaking out with a few of the other game nerds in the office everytime something big happened (Metal Gear on Xbox?! Final Fantasy 13 on Xbox!?). Reading the coverage around the net about the Microsoft keynote seems like there wasn't much to get excited about. I guess the big thing so far is Natal is actually Kinect and that it looks good, which surprises me since I was actually hoping it would bomb big time. I will be interested to see some videos of it in action. So far I downloaded the Kinectimals trailer with the ethnic kids playing with a CG Tiger and their was OK, it'll probably be something my 2 and 5 year old can actually play without me having to do the whole thing for that's good. I wonder if that's the key here that I'm missing on this whole "you ARE the controller" attitude with Xbox's answer to the Wii, it's maybe not for ME but for kids? Whatever the intention my kids have watched that stupid Tiger jump and fall on it's face about 5 times since I downloaded it an hour ago so it seems we will be getting Kinect even if I am not excited for it.
EA had their big thing and sounds like Dead Space 2 will be hot, but I didn't doubt that. I've never been a Need for Speed guy so that reimagining of Hot Pursuit doesn't faze me at all. Knights of the Old Republic doesn't interest me other than seeing an awesome trailer. Gears 2 and, so thay're going to be bad ass? Who knew? Oh yea, everyone already knew that! Fable 3 looks cool but I didn't play the first or second one so I think I'm maybe too late to the party unless game releases die down hard this Summer and I get around to Fable 2. 
New Xbox looks cool, I wish my last one didn't red ring a month ago and make me replace it with a $200 Arcade cause I would have liked to pick one of those bad boys up this week. It's black, it's got wi-fi, it's got the big hard drive....I mean, it's awesome! I dig the gentle X shape to the system too (looks a little X shaped in pictures anyway). I believe I read it's vertical only? Too tall for the space I have but that's OK cause I won't have one for a while anyway.
That Call of Duty 3 year exclusive deal.....oh man. That's gotta pretty much set the stage for bad times for Sony again. I mean, it won't kill them of course but it just sucks to keep losing these exclusivity deals. I wonder if they had a better online pressence on the PS3, something Live like, if they would avoid these things happening to them over and over.
Anyway, that's my thoughts so far but I just saw that Ubisoft is today too so maybe I'll check back in later with more thoughts or just roll it up into tomorrow's post. 
What do you guys think? Am I just not the target demographic for Microsoft this year? Why don't I feel excited? Am I just lame?


Quest For New Releases: How I Pick Where to Shop and When

Up front this is just personal preference and none of what I have to say is really any secret or special in anyway. So if you're looking for some back alley deal to get the hottest titles and lower than the lowest price....this won't help you.
Basically I have a few places in my area to shop: Best Buy, GameStop, Fred Meyer, and maybe Wal-Mart/Target but I never really shop there for games. Online I use Goozex and just found a place called SwapTree, which both have varying levels of deals and rip-offs.
Now the benefit of Fred Meyer is that if you wait long enough they usually take a chunk off the price of something good. For instance they had Borderlands for $40 and it wasn't that old. When old stuff hits clearance you can sometimes find stuff you missed for $15-20 too although this tends to be movie tie-in type stuff.
GameStop is a place I have probably dropped the most money but not lately. I know the store experience comes down to who works there so I am guessing my experience won't reflect everybody but for me this is a great place to get games. The people here are friendly and knowledgable and I find myself getting sucked into long conversations even though I'm not buying anything. When I do buy it's usually to get the pre-order bonus a few months before release day because they have the best pre-order incentives of anyone I have seen. Problem is that lately their pre-order bonus incentives seem to be a little lack (although that Dante's Inferno figure that I did NOT get was pretty awesome). I don't know if it's the game companies, the economy, or both but there isn't much extra crap to get me to buy from them ahead of time lately.
Which brings me to Best Buy. I never used to buy games from them but the past five months or so have been exclusively with Best Buy. Their prices are the same as everyone else, they don't really do sale prices on their games until they're much older and then it's still pretty standard pricing between $25-40. Here is the thing with Best Buy that you need to know: Gamer Club. It's part of their rewards program and they give you bonus points if you buy in the first week which get you $5 off. If you pre-order the hit game a month or two ahead I find they offer 500 bonus points which is equal to $10 off a future purchase. Depending how much extra income you toss at buying new games this could be a very useful system. I saved up until my oldest coupon was going to expire in a couple weeks and I took all my coupons in at once and picked up Alan Wake LE and Red Dead Redemption for $40 cash out of pocket. This is not necasarily a rare case either as guys I know frequently get new games free by cashing in a bunch of coupons from their reward zone.  
Those online places I mentioned, the newest is SwapTree. I have no idea how long they've been around but this might be an option for you if you don't mind unloading some games or movies for an uneven trade in most cases. They offer 1 to 1 trading with other people on the site. YOu tell them what you got and what you want and they match you up or you can just ask what you need to offer to get a specific item. Since it's 1 to 1 you get offers like Split/Second in exchange for Fable The Lost Chapters or a DVD Superbad. However, I bought Bad Company 2 when it came out and didn't like it so it's been on my shelf collecting dust. I really really wanted Just Cause 2 and come to find out that someone wanted to unload Just Cause 2 but wanted Bad Company 2. It was a perfect match for me! If you get something new and don't like it you can probably find someone else who will trad with you for it but other than new releases you will probably get ripped off a little.
Goozex is good in that you can trade stuff in various levels of condition as long as it's playable (full package, disc and instructions, or disc only). Values are based on popularity it seems so as long as something keeps trading it keeps it's value.  You buy points and trade tokens but when you sign up you get 3 free tokens to trade. You list what you want, what you have, and they let you know if you match on either one. If you don't have the points to pay you get passed over though so be sure to keep your account full enough for your wants. Good stuff here is that you will get a fair price for your old Guitar Hero 3 or Fable 2 so you can get something you want without feeling cheated but if you want something popular, like the aforementioned Just Cause 2, you might find your account full of points but your name is 100 places down the line so you won't bee getting  your game for a long, long while. Overall it's a good online trading community that doesn't feel like a rip off and you can get some great older games for a fair deal.
Anyway, just my opinions of where I shop but feel free to let me know if you have a better way to get games for a good price or great experience or whatever sets your "place" apart from the rest of the pack.


Hollywood Video Dead, Mourning The Death of Rental Stores

Ok, alright I get it, digital downloads and crap are the way of the future and I have to change with it or get outta the way. 
Look, thing is that when I was a wee lad the video store was a magical wonderland! My pops would take me in on a Friday afternoon on the way home from school and we could browse and discover new things that looked cool to take home for the weekend. For me the video store wasn't a place to go so you could get "insert title here", although some days we would stop by to see if anyone returned it since it was out of stock last time. The sense of discovery and surprise was the biggest draw for me as I grew into the movie nut I am today. Not to mention video game rentals! My brother and I never had much money as children and $40-$50 was an outrageous price (according to my parents) for electronic games. Trying the games out during summer break or lazy weekends when our homework was done enabled us to make sure we got the best games when birthdays or Christmas rolled around.  

It's not that I don't understand why video stores are dead (unless you count Blockbuster but word I hear is that things aren't good with them either). Late fees were a way for rental places to make cash when the movie wasn't in stock and the system just grew more corrupt in the 90s/00s. Likely the big complaint people will bring up is the availability of things: "They never have the one I want cause it's all rented out". That's true and it sucks, I was disappointed when "Ghostbuster 2" was all checked out the week after it came out, but it's part of what made you feel so awesome when it finally WAS in stock and when it wasn't there you just found something else. Braving the wild shelves of Bradley Video back in Campbell, CA I discovered some of my favorite movies and some crazy stuff that I would never have believed existed: "Empire Records" was never promoted that I saw and if I had to rely on Netflix or Xbox Marketplace for my rentals I would never have found that movie, "Captain America" in Italian is so bonkers weird that there is no way that would have come up via digitial or mail services unless the new Captain America came out and they lumped them together. 
There will always be people to inform the next generation of "Star Wars" and 80s horror pre-remake "Nightmare on Elm Street" or "Friday The 13th" but who is going to watch out for making sure the next generations know about "Universal Soldier", "Spaced Invaders", "Bebe's Kids", "Leprechaun" before he became a thug-rapper in da hood, and other forgotten gems? It's literally one of the saddest things I can imagine, a sterile environment where you browse movies by clicking hyperlinks on a website or pushing onscreen buttons via the rental box at the grocery store. Only able to see what the hottest titles are or a small selection of "classic" library titles. Some of the films I am talking about will be there but not all of them and so I dramatically proclaim that the death of video stores is the death of 3rd rate entertainment. We consume what "the man" tells us to consume from here on out.
In honor of the death of a great and mighty piece of who I grew up to be I raise my glass to Hollywood Video. You may have been #2 to the world and I may not have rented from you exclusively but you contributed to the man I became, to the men and women that others became, and sadly you will have to trust that tomorrow's movie nuts will be educated enough in your back catalogue by the old school.
Rest in Peace H-Wood


2010 Pre-Summer Biggest Let Down: Kick-Ass ***Spoilers***

All the previews, all the posters, and all the buzz from Aint-It-Cool-News after it showed at December's Butt Numb A could Kick-Ass do me wrong? I just wanted to see a nerdy guy become a hero based on his comics and bust some crime. Apparently the filmmakers feel what audiences REALLY wanted to see was another movie about the geek being beat up by tougher guys.
Problem #1: Kick-Ass does not in fact kick anyone's ass really. He becomes a hero, tries his first fight and gets stabbed and run over. He tries again and gets pummeled. Most of the rest of the movie he just follows other heros around in his spandex wetsuit or whatever. Final battle, no fighting but I guess he did kill a guy....with a bazooka. This is not the "geeks save the day" story I wanted or thought I was being sold.
Problem #2: McLovin/Red Mist/ Christopher Mintz-Plasse is a super villain. No! For one thing McLovin is not a villain and I refuse to accept that. He hasn't got the toughness to be a standard villain, he lacks the smarts to be an evil genius, and he's not crazy enough to be one of those madman Joker wannabes. And even if I was willing to accept him as a villain they shouldn't show you he's the bad guy right up front when the previews make him out to be a sidekick/friend in arms to Kick-Ass. Even in the comic they saved this little twist until late in the game!
Problem #3: Ok, I've come to terms with problems 1 and 2 but really the high school shenanigans are more interesting, especially when the girl of Kick-Ass' dreams wants to hang out with him because she thinks he's gay and he goes along with it to be near her. That's comedy gold and a much more interesting story than the one the movie is actually showing me. Let's try not to be more enthralling during the side-story than the main plot.
There were some things I really did enjoy though, chief among them Nicholas Cage as Big Daddy. When he's out of costume he's a polite sort of version of Nicholas Cage but when he gets in his outfit he begins talking like Adam West Batman and it's hilarious! Also, Hit Girl is fantastic and awesome! The soundtrack is pretty good and the humor that mixes up the story is pretty funny without being ridiculous or cheesy.
 However, the few bright spots are little to save the movie. It's not a BAD movie, I didn't HATE the movie but it was just kind of flat and bland.  I am chalking this up to first quarter of 2010 for biggest let down but I haven't seen The Losers yet and I heard that may be a let down too. i'll keep you posted (because I know anyone reading this cares what I think...right!).
Skip the theater, save your $8.50, and wait for DVD or Blu-Ray on this one.


Do I Care About Halo: Reach? I Don't Think So...Maybe?

 Years ago when the console wars split and The Xbox came out to contend with the PS2 I opted to stick with my PS2. Who needs a hard drive anyway?
Point being I never played Halo at all until about six months before Halo 3 came out and when I played I did them in order 1, 2, and then 3 for the single player "story" which is how I traditionally played games. The idea of the online mode being the big draw escaped me. 
All this is to say I suck at online modes. I got ODST for my son who loves Halo and isn't too terrible at the online stuff considering he's 10. I tried Halo 3 multiplayer and can't even begin to compete with the worst of players unless they have gone to the bathroom or something. Trust me, when I see a guy standing still I feel no shame in using them to boost my kills to 1 instead of 0 for the match.
So now Reach is coming later and the beta starts in early May and it's got filters according the the Giant Bomb news article, including how competitive people are. It makes me wonder if that means I could just play with bad players? Could this be my shot to even up the odds a little and try to get some enjoyment from the online mode? I have not only not enjoyed previous attempts to practice but it was literally a painful chore to "compete" with the people I was playing with. Isn't the match making supposed to already pair you with equal players? I suspect I just am not any good at the online mode. So that leaves story....
I don't understand Halo's story. I felt awesome in that last warthog sequence of 3, I felt the emotional levity of that last cut scene but I couldn't tell you who or what that giant plant thing was about or why Halo rings were made in the first place. I'm usually pretty smart about these things but the Halo universe just baffles me somehow.
Writing this all out I can't imagine playing the story mode on Reach but then again my kids want it, they'll be playing, and why buy a game I never play. So I guess this self therapy means I will play Reach, I'll suck at it and be confused, but at least feel justified in the $60 (Bungie...screw you with that Limited and Legendary edition crap. Fool me once on Halo 3 with the helmet but I won't be a patsy to you again). Worst case, I know Damien will dig the hell out of it, he's been playing the Halo games we have left (got rid of 3 in one of those "trade 2 and get your new game for $20" deals) so I don't worry he'll make plenty of use of the game.
I just wish I cared. I feel like my grandpa asking me why I liked these "super marvin brothers" back when Super Mario 3 came out! Between this and not being excited about motion controls like Wii, Natal, and most of the Playstation Move stuff I worry that I am getting old and will stop loving video games sometime in the near future...a fate worse than death in my current mind.


My Night With Kevin Smith in Portland, OR

 What is an evening with Kevin Smith like in person? For a couple hours of a semi-famous guy to just stand on stage and answer questions it may seem over priced at $60 (after fees) but the truth is that you are under paying if you pay $100.

In short, make no mistake that a live Evening With Kevin Smith is the best time you will ever have....if you like Kevin Smith.

You see, if you know Kevin Smith from his movies, Twitter, SModcast, and previous Q&A DVDs and if that's your idea of funny then you will shit your pants laughing in person. If his stuff isn't your thing then it'll be hours of tedium and frustration.

The entire thing begins some what like a business meeting: the lighting doesn't change and a guy just says "Ladies and gentlemen, Kevin Smith" and then he just steps on stage and doesn't stop for over 3 hours. Once he got the audience back in their seats and quiet he lubricated the evening by telling a story about how gay his friend Malcolm Ingrim is and how the gay community classifies fat men as bears. This story takes maybe 15 minutes and then he says he's talked long enough and it's time for questions. Our first question involved who was the hardest entity to work with on a movie, be it an actor, studio, or whatever. This prompted a 40 minute story about making Cop Out with Bruce Willis and included a great impersonation of Mr. Willis. It's hilarious and I hope it shows up on the likely to be forthcoming 4th Evening With DVD.

Other topics covered included his stand off with a Good Morning America camera man, how there's no record stores anymore (except the one right out the window and across the street from the venue), his favorite scene in his Batman mini-series comic, and a variety of random other topics which mostly excluded his recent tangle with Southwest Airlines. Half the fun was also hearing people trying their hardest to make an impression in front of such a open and famous dude. An example was a guy who walked up to the mike and proclaimed he had a monologue to read Kevin and then spewed a few minutes of rambling nonsense about the audience member, Jason Mewes, and Kevin Smith breaking into a head shop and stealing a bunch of weed.

If Kevin Smith happens near you then I would recommend you do everything in your power to go, it's probably the best time I've had in my life. And speaking of weed, wait until you hear his grand finale tale of his first two experiences with smoking pot with his wife on their rare weekends without their daughter in the house. There is NO WAY this story doesn't make it to the next DVD and once you see it you'll be laughing to yourself for weeks and repeating "It's ropey, it's ropey" much to the confusion of those around you.

Kevin Smith, thank you sir and I hope you make it back to Portland soon!