Referential Soldiers

Stop Running, Man! Expendables are back in the Octagon* and they're ready to Die Hard for what is right. They won't wait till Friday After Next to see that their Forced Vengeance is Unleashed. No, when you incur the wrath of Barney and his crew, it will be your Judgment Day and you will bear witness to their Design of Death. It won't matter if you're a Ninja or some guy playing Hunger Games, the Expendables are ready to to Transport(er) you to the next life. Rambo.

Did that opening paragraph make your brain hurt? Trust me, it made mine hurt and I wrote it! That one paragraph makes it pretty clear what my biggest gripe with Expendables 2 was, I think. While it was, over all. a huge improvement over the first film, I still don't like it as much as I liked Rambo. The reason is that Rambo had a very consistent tone, whereas the Expendables films can't decide if they want to be Rambo or GI Joe. I am fine with either, but Sly needs to pick a direction and hit the gas.

If he wants to go GI Joe, any and all sentimentality and attempts at “emotional dialogue” need to go. In the first one, I didn't care about Lee's girlfriend and that hasn't changed. In Expandables 2, I don't care about the horribly developed "sexual tension" between Barney and Maggie. I don't care about Billy's decision that the group wasn't for him and they could have made him a character worth caring about without the crap about his french girlfriend or his war stories. The funeral scene was terribly painful, as well. All these things are attempts to add gravitas to a film with lines like “I now pronounce you man and knife”. It's tantamount to Bugs Bunny giving a speech about human rights and then smacking Elmer in the face with a rubber chicken.

If he wants to make Rambo, he needs a better script, less over-the-top villains and characters that don't feel like cartoon characters. In other words, strip out all the stuff that made these 2 movies remotely fun to watch and make the boring bits less boring. If you stripped out the silly stuff and tightened up the script, Expendables would essentially be Predator and since Predator is one my favorite movies of all time, I am perfectly ok with that, on paper. The thing you have to remember, though, is Predator was simple. Team of bad asses go in to do a job, job goes south, bad asses try to fight their way out. Simple. You had one emotional moment in that film and it was Bill Duke's short monologue about Jesse Ventura being his only friend. That worked because it gave us an understanding for why he was so willing to run headlong after this thing that he obviously had no chance against. Expendables 2 wanted us to feel that way about Billy's death, but they spent so much time telegraphing his end to us that there's no way anyone was actually shocked when it came. 

Did you hear Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis are in this? Me too. Did you know that, in the 80s, those guys were in a bunch of better action movies than The Expendables? Me too. For god's sake, stop rubbing our faces in your cameos! I fucking get it! Chuck Norris was in Lone Wolf McQuade. Bruce Willis said "Yippie kay aye" and had big feet in Die Hard. Don't even get me started on every scene involving Arnold other than "you've been back enough, it's my turn". They'll call Jackie Chan a supercop and then get him drunk in Expendables 3, spurring someone to refer to him as a "drunken master". No one that knows who these guys are needs this stuff and no one that doesn't know who they are is going to get it.

Like I said in the beginning, I liked Expendables 2. The action was very well done and it seemed like we got a lot more martial arts porn in this one than we did in the first. Li's big set piece was joyous and the Adkins/Statham and Van Damme/Stallone fights were outstanding. Hell, the one action sequence they let Nan Yu play around in just made me wish she'd done more ass kicking and less pining for the Italian Granpa. Give me more of that and less posturing and bad exposition. Set your plot, place your pieces on the board and just hit the damn gas, man. All their bad dialogue robbed me of a good fight between Terry Crews and, I don't know, that huge motherfucker in the bar? That could have been something, I think.

*It's a double pun, see? Coutoure is an MMA fighter, but it's also a Chuck Norris movie!


So I Bought A PS3

Everything about the PSN sucks ass. Sorry. Downloads are slow as shit and then once you get them downloaded, installs take forever and a day. Near as I can tell, the best way to find out if the game you're interested in has a demo is to search for that game, since they don't tell you within the game's listing if it has one or not. I downloaded my free PSP game so I can eventually put that on the PSP. Once I downloaded it, I had to "install" a PSP game to my PS3 that I can't even play the game on. Because that makes sense? The install took somewhere around ten minutes. Ten minutes to install a 1.5 gb game that I can't even play on this system.

I am seriously at a loss for how someone could prefer the PSN to Xbox Live. I bought Heavy Rain and from the time I put in, it was 45 minutes before playing it was even an option. I concede that once I've had the system awhile, these annoyances will be fewer and farther between, but holy crap does the initial setup suck balls. Being someone who highly enjoys downloadable games, I find the experience on XBL to be far superior. No, Microsoft Points do not bother me. Get over it.

Also, RRoD is not a valid reason for why the PSN is superior. That's a hardware problem that not all 360s have and has only affected me, once. I am strictly talking about the PSN in comparison to XBL. I will openly concede that PS3 has superior hardware when I get to use it and am not staring at a progress bar for an install. Also, Netflix on PS3 is much more pleasant than it is on XBox.


Only Do Everything

The world of video games is evolving at a rapid pace. Where you once had three real platforms (consoles, handhelds and PCs), you now have at least five (adding smart phones and tablets as separate platforms due to their different experiences). You could say there are more than that if you choose to count each console as it's own platform, but honestly, is Call of Duty really that much different on Xbox than it is on Playstation? I don't believe it is. You will also note that I segregate handhelds and devices like smart phones or tablets from each other. Among all these devices, only one company currently sits in a position to have a toe in all five markets; Sony. All they need to do now is figure out a way to tie them all together in a logical way and I think they could easily position themselves as the unstoppable kings of digital gaming.

The first step needed for this to work is already in place. Playstation Network currently offers access to a wide variety of games including full PS3 releases down to small "Playstation Minis" which could be equated to most of the offerings on Apple's App Store in terms of scope, if not in quality (or more importantly, pricing structure). The Xperia Play is an Android based device which extends the Playstation Network to the smart phone space by allowing that phone access to Sony's line of PS1 Classics and the aforementioned minis, as well as access to games made for the Android platform. Moving up one step, the Playstation Portable (PSP) has access to full PSP games, the Minis and PS1 Classics, but not the Android games. This is logical, since PSP is not built on Android. Lording over all of Sony's gaming rigs, the PS3 has access to PS3 games, Minis and Classics, but not full PSP games or the Android games. With the Playstation Vita's arrival imminent and it's OS being Android-based, Sony's next move should be obvious to anyone, I think; Only Do Everything.

I believe the future of gaming is less dependent on consoles as a platform than it is on consoles as an access point for content. Imagine if the selling point for all of Sony's devices was simply the access that device allowed you to the Playstation Network. While I do not foresee a day when Sony allows you to play Android games on the PS3, I think everything else should be fair game, with each successive device allowing less access as it's relative power decreases, creating something of a pyramid of content that the PS3 dominates. It would go something like this:

PS3 - All digital PS3, PSP, Vita, Classics and Minis content
Vita - All the same content minus PS3 games
Xperia - All the same minus PS3 and Vita

At that point, you pick your device based on what content you want to have access to and how you want to access it. Want to play the Vita Uncharted game, but would rather play it on a big screen with a controller from your couch? Buy it on PS3. This also broadens the potential audience for developers as potential sales are no longer limited to the number of Vita units sold. On the same token, if I can buy a Vita game through PSN, play it on a PS3 and then move over to the Vita seamlessly when I want to game on the go, then buying that handheld becomes far more attractive to me.

Sony is already toying with some of this through their PSP classics releases that are coming, which will share saves between PS3 and PSP. All they need to do is refine the process and elevate it to the next level. Playstation Plus already gives it's users access to a cloud storage system. The next step would be to make the cloud system transparent, rather than requiring me to sync every time as I believe the current system does. Doing this means that if you save and turn off your PS3, you should be able to then pick up your Vita and keep going as long as you make sure you get the new save while you have internet access. I think it would also behoove Sony to get any PSN games that can be run on the Vita to do so. Again, this seems like a win-win for developers as it serves to open up their potential user base even further. How many people would buy a Vita if it meant they could play Shatter on the go?

In essence, make the Playstation Network your product and define the consoles as access points to get to your content. Do that and I think you will see that people are more willing to buy the devices and developers more willing to bring content to them. Both of those scenarios have an end result of more sales for everyone and a better experience for customers. I refuse to believe otherwise.


Nerds, Roll Out!

When I was 8 years old, my cousin sat me down on a Saturday morning and said "You have to see this new show!" Being 8 years old, it didn't take much to get me to watch cartoons on Saturday morning and so down I sat. The show was, of course, Transformers, and I have pretty much been in love with the Robots in Disguise from thatday forward. I got a G1 Megatron for my birthday that same year and spent the better part of the day mastering the Rubik's cube that was that toy. When I found ebay, the first thing I bought was an opened G1 Grimlok with all his accessories for a beastly (to me, at least) 50 bones. I went on a bender for a bit and bought a few lots of the mini bots and even got a replica Devastator set, because I was never lucky enough to have all the Constructicons as a youngen. While I've never been a hardcore collector, I have always monitored my beloved Cybertronians from the sidelines, wishing I could afford to buy all the toys I had no place to store. I've picked up comics, here and there and was always down to give the various games they've put out a go, even though the majority of them were quite terrible. Last year, though, all that changed. Something happened to drag me off the fences and get me excited enough about this universe to plunk down my dough.

June 22, 2010 saw the release of High Moon Studio's War for Cybertron. I watched this game's development with bated breathe. The trailers showed a ton of promise and High Moon's Darkwatch had proven to be a fun, if not slightly generic, first person shooter with some really solid game mechanics behind it. I liked the fact that their main focus was in making a quality game set in the Transformers universe as opposed to just shoveling out some crap to get back to making some game they were actually excited about. This sounded, on paper, like it had a shot at being a truly great Transformers game, which had me absolutely giddy with anticipation. When it released to almost universally glowing reviews, I almost shit myself. I played the multiplayer demo and I couldn't believe how smoothly they integrated the Transformers world into an action game. Running around as a robot was fun. Racing around in vehicle form was fun. Racing around in vehicle form, jumping through the air and transforming into a robot so you smash someone in the face with an axe was a god damned blast. The best for me, though, was the robot designs. My biggest gripe about the various incarnations of the Transformers since G1 disappeared is that the robot designs have been horrible. When Micheal Bay's abortion came out, I thought for sure that Radio Shack vomit was forever going to be the look of Transformers toys to come. War for Cybertron changed that, too.

In the months leading up to WFC's release, Hasbro revealed that they would be doing toys based on the robot designs from the game, the first of which being
Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. Much like the game, I waited for these to hit the streets and scoured the interwebs to see what folks had to say about them when they did. Also like the game, I was ecstatic to see almost universal praise for the design, build and overall quality these figures possessed. Sadly, every time I saw them in stores, I was broke as a joke, so these two have still yet eluded me. However, about a month ago, I was in the Wal-marts and there sat Cybertronian Megatron, looking almost exactly like his in-game counterpart. I had the money and the desire, so by god, he went in my cart. With that, my thirst for bots has been reborn. I picked up a Cybertronian Cliffjumper which is, of course, a red Bumblebee, this past weekend. I think I'll do a quick write-up for both those later, but for now, I'll just say both toys are fantastic. Very well built and fun to "arrange" on my desk.

I won't lie, I feel the bug, again. I have decided to limit myself to the Generations figures based on the game, for now, but I don't know if that's going to hold. They just released a Red Alert figure that is absolutely bitchin, not to mention the Dirge and Thrust figures I've seen around. Truth be told, all of the Generations line that I've seen, thus far, has been stellar. Most are recreations of the toys I knew as a kid and all of them would look awesome on my desk. Not helping matters, at all, is the new Transformers cartoon, Transformers Prime, which seems to be really solid and fun to watch. I've been telling my wife for years that I wished I had a hobby that gave me something to collect and drool over. Careful what you wish for, I suppose.


Time To Get A New Watch, Indeed

In my youth, I mined the depths of direct-to-video action, watching pretty much any movie I could find that had dudes kicking the shit out of other dudes. I saw No Retreat, No Surrender, Perfect Weapon, Dragon Fist and god knows how many Van Damme and Seagal joints. It was in that quest for action drek that I was introduced to the amazing majesty that is Bolo Yeung. The first time I saw Bloodsport and Bolo came on screen, I was awestruck. “That’s one big fucking Chinese dude” I said to myself, because no one else was probably around to talk to, back then. Yea, I guess it was kind of a lonely time. Anyway, after that, I got excited anytime I saw him in something. So it was with much regret that I discovered I missed one, completely; 1993’s TC 2000 starring Mr Yeung and the Tae-Bo master himself, Billy Blanks.

For the uninitiated, TC 2000 is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian future where everyone dresses like rejects from The Warriors and the only set they could get a hold of is an abandoned nuclear facility. Billy Blanks plays Jason Storm, a “tracker” tasked with keeping the peace with his partner, Zoe, played by Bobbie Phillips, whom you may recognize as the really hot roach expert from an episode of X-files. Oh, maybe that was just me. One night, a mission goes south and, look, who really cares? Zoe gets killed and is reborn as Robocop, I mean TC 2000 X (hey, kids, it’s the name of the movie!) and Billy Blanks teams up with Bolo Yeung to kick the shit out of those Warriors rejects I mentioned a minute ago.

All that really matters in these movies is the action set pieces and for that, TC 2000 delivers pretty well. I am always amazed at how well Yeung moves for a man as big as he is. I was a little disappointed that the first two opponents he faces are slow, fat guys, but they more than make up for it by giving him Matthias “I Come In Peace” Hues to wail on during the movie’s big climax. The fights were decently choreographed and shot well enough to let you
enjoy all the sweet foot-to-face action porn. The only real low point was Bobbie Phillips, who looked every bit of the hot chick that was not cast for martial arts prowess (or, apparently, her acting ability, but I’ll get to that). She basically had three moves; cartwheel, straight front kick and nut shot. Every now and then, they’d let her have a spinning backfist, but they really shouldn’t have. Blanks and Yeung were both as magnetic as ever, though. I just wish they could have secured some better stunt players to spar against, as the two fights with Hues (yep, both stars face him at different points) were the only ones where it felt like they were getting as good as they gave.

I mentioned Bobbie Phillips’ acting, but make no mistake; no one in this movie is going to win any Oscars. That is typically what happens when you effectively fill your cast with stunt men, but it’s part of the charm of these films for me. I’ll take bad actors delivering
bad dialogue over good actors delivering bad action in my head punching buffets, any day of the week. The biggest crime in this film has to be all the voiceovers and monologues they gave to poor Billy Blanks. Thank god for Tae Bo, I guess. Kickin ass, he can do, and he even had at least one great one liner in this, but less is absolutely more for Capt Flat Top. Seriously, Billy, what was up with your hair, dude? Yeung probably played the “I’m Chinese and don’t speak English so well” card, because most of his scenes consisted of two lines at most, before moving on to judo chopping someone in the neck for staring at his obscenely large forehead. The good thing is that, much like the plot, no one is going to care how bad the acting is in a movie like this, because that isn’t why we watch them. Just like porn, the acting and dialogue is just something to fill time while you walk to the next set where you can once again commence to pounding on someone while grunting.

For all, and I do mean all, it’s flaws, TC 2000 is a super fun bit of action cheese that any fan of 80s VHS crap should seek out. Blanks shows off both why he is considered an awesome martial artist and why he isn’t considered a brilliant actor (the scene where Zoe dies is amazing). Yeung still looks like a steroid experiment gone wonderfully wrong. Matthias Hues, well, plays a bad guy, because that’s all a guy that looks like he does CAN do. If all you want is a movie about dudes kicking the shit out of other dudes, than look no further, my friend. Just watch out for those fog light/laser combo “force fields”. They will seriously fuck your shit up.


It's A PSP, Too

The NGP is coming and you are not E. For that matter, neither am I. Based on my best estimate, I no longer reside in the target demographic for dedicated handheld gaming machines, these days. The 3DS is far too expensive for me, at $249, and most estimates point to the NGP (for fuck's sake, just call it a PSP2, already) coming out at around $299 or even as much as $399. Four hundred bucks for a portable video game system is NUTS. However, I think I know how Sony could make it all work.

The most important factor in my decision to buy any consoles is the games it has available. My main gripe with most PSP games is I would usually prefer to play them on a TV with a proper controller. One of the things they demonstrated at the PSP2's unveiling was a couple of full blown PS3 games that had been successfully ported to run on the PSP2. Naturally, my first thought was that we were in line for even more big console games played on a tiny screen. However, what if those games could be equally playable on both the PS3 and PSP2? Sony claimed they still intended to support digital downloads as a means for distribution alongside traditional retail releases. If Sony has the foresight to let us download and play games released for PSP2 on the PS3, not only would PS3 owners get access to more new games, but developers could push forward with them knowing that the install base for the PSP2 is incidental to the potential gamers that might buy what they're sellin.

Looking backward, I see another interesting opportunity for the blending of the two platforms; PSN downloadable games. If a PSP2 can run MGS4, it would stand to reason that it would also run Joe Danger or Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Much like running PSP2 games on a PS3 would increase the potential user base for PSP2 development, the ability to run PSN downloadables would increase the number of possible customers for all those 10 and 15 dollar titles, as well. Imagine being able to take Pac Man CE DX with you, anywhere you go, anytime you want.

The icing on the cake for me would be full trophy support and cloud saving or at least the ability to sync saves between the two platforms. That puts the power of choice in the hands of the gamer and makes it more a matter of personal preference. Even though I do not really have any interest in this thing based on the price, the idea that I might be able to play a game on a home console and move it to a handheld to keep going is pretty damn exciting to me. Time will tell if any of this is even in Sony's plans for PSP2, but thinking about it sure is interesting.


Change Is Dumb

Hi, I used to be Naked Eskimo. Thing is, I don't want to be Naked Eskimo, anymore. I am neither Naked, nor an Eskimo. The name evokes nothing about me as a person or what I wanted to write about, which is part of why I had all but abandoned this blog. In fact, it got to a point where seeing the name caused douche chills to run down my spine, so I have been rattling my brain for the last few months trying to come up with something that encapsulates me. Equal Opportunity Dork very much describes me and what I am about. To the point that when I said it out loud, my wife just kind of smirked and said "That is so you". I kind of knew I'd hit the nail on the head, right then.

For a bit of background, when I decided to try on Naked Eskimo as an internet handle/callsign/whateverthefuck, I thought I was being really clever. It sounded all ironic, the idea of an eskimo standing around in places where eskimos live, naked as the day he was born. Then about a year ago, it occurred to me that eskimos getting naked isn't ironic, at all. I mean, they're human. They bathe, they shit, they fuck. Kinda hard to do any of that with clothes on, eh? Then I was listening to Movie Meltdown and they were talking about hipster douche bags and their "ironic" T-shirts and I realized that I too hated hipster douche bags in ironic T-shirts. Then I realized I was a hipster douche bag with an ironic blogger name. Fuck.

The thing about me is that I don't have one single dorky thing that I am passionate about. I have heated, volatile arguments with my friends about everything from music to movies to Transformers. I am as content watching episodes of Thundarr the Barbarian as I am watching Inception or Pirahna 3D. Point being, I can geek out on pretty much any subject you can think of and not one of them really holds a bigger place in my heart than another. Even as much as I play World of Warcraft, it is by no means the only thing in the world I want to blog about.

So, here, I make my stand and say to the world, bring on your dorky, your geeky, your nerdy shit. Serve it to me on a Superman lunch tray while I drink from a Star Wars mug while wearing my Mooby's name tag. I do not fear your scorn and I pledge from this day forward to lay bare the true breadth of my gooberish passions. This time, with the promise that I am, in fact, fully clothed.