All posts by daoboe

Video Game Consoles: Food for Thought

This one is going to be a short one. I promise.

We all are used to buying the next gen consoles whenever they come out, right?

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The hype is all there and the competitive nature of choosing the next console, like which one is better and which one sucks, is always a fun thing to be apart of.

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But you know it’s coming to a sort of crossroads of innovation here. The next gen consoles don’t seem to be offering as much value as they use to between generations. This is also keeping in mind we pay more for very small changes between generations.

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Are you shitting me?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about a question. Some of you may have been asking it yourselves. Is there really much more room new video game consoles have to grow and develop? How much more innovation can realistically go into the next gen consoles? Will these changes justify the cost we have to pay for a new console?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section below cause I want to know what you bros think. And as always stay thirsty my bros.

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iHateRadio: Radio Rant

With the 2014 iHeart Music Festival going on soon, I decided it would be a good time to say that I hate radio…..

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Nah, nah. I kid….Sorta.

As a person who spends a lot of time in the car and doesn’t have the money or the patience to pay for monthly “satellite” radio services, I spend a lot of my morning commute listening to FM radio, which I’m sure a lot of you do. I mean, I can say that I hate radio but that is not the truth. I hate MODERN commercial radio and what it has turned into. Let me give you a little anecdote.

Dawn of the First Day

I get into my car in the morning and turn on my car.

The newest song comes on. “Oh yeah! I love this song.” I say and I start jamming out to the song. Everything is fine….

Dawn of the Second Day

I get into my car in the morning and turn on my car.

“Didn’t this song come on at the same time yesterday?” I say and I start jamming out to the song. Everything is normal…..

Dawn of the Third Day

I’m worried the same song will come on again, so I turn on my car and cut of the radio. I drive down the road and I’m stuck in traffic…

It’s like my arm is possessed. I reached for the on button, and guess what comes on?

“AHHHH” I scream, and cut of the radio.

Later that night, I turn on my car.

3 minutes pass, and what song comes on?

“Hmmmmm…” Frustrated, I turn off the radio and silence fills the car as I drive the lonely dark streets.

“Maybe if I change the station, I’ll have better luck?”

I turn on the radio and change the station…”Oh…My..God…the song….it keeps coming back…Why in God’s name does it keep coming back!?”

Then the moon fell.

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the-end

Nah, nah. I kid. The moon didn’t fall.

But aside from my haunting tale of the song that follows me, this perpetual cycle of top 40 songs day in and day out is the majority of the reason why iHateRadio.

Now, I do have to recognize that radio has been around for a while and has done some great things over the years. It is a huge industry that has made 17 billion dollars in revenue, current annual growth is 1.9%, and employs 103,436 people, according to IBIS World. (1)

For decades, radio has provided programming to listeners free of charge, introducing its audiences to new types of music entertainment and new recording artists. It is widely believed that radio stations, record labels, and recording artists enjoy a
symbiotic relationship; meaning, the record industry utilizes radio to promote its artists and music to hundreds of millions of radio listeners, while radio attracts listeners and advertisers by airing recorded music. Also, radio’s music promotion is understood to stimulate the purchase of recordings, merchandise and concert tickets by the listening audience. The radio also provides royalties to the recording studios and artists.

However, because of the profitability of commercials and advertising the station owners found themselves increasingly beholden to sponsors, who began taking over complete shows, then buying radio stations from which to launch media empires. This type of sponsorship lead media cause a big problem. Station owners were no longer willing to lose ratings over spinning new records or breaking new artists because of all the money that was at stake if people didn’t tune in.

At this point, market research was the main way to decide what was safe to play. And to divide up that profitability risk, bigger radio stations send promo songs and new songs and artist to college radio stations and MTV as test marketing. The music rating from college radio was a good and safe indicator for bigger radio stations of what was now deemed “popular”. Bigger stations take these ratings and makes an arbitrary roster of “hot” songs, old or new, repeated ad nauseam in a blatant effort to “hook” the listener long enough for exposure to the ad.

And thus the reason why my morning commute is feeling a little bit like Groundhog Day.

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Some radio station can even be as impatient for the next ad as to cut entire sections of the song and/or speed up the song, making the song sound in a higher pitched key. Ever wonder after 1 month of hearing a new song on the radio you all the sudden can’t match pitch with Katy Perry. Well…

With that elephant in the room taken note of, I think I will leave you with this.

I do like music on top 40 stations and commercial radio. There can be some interesting songs and artists that make their way on there.

Recently, I have heard Be Okay by a band called Oh Honey. It was good hearing them on the radio, considering I saw them live as an opener to one of my favorite bands, The Fray, as part of their Helios tour, which by the way is an awesome album and does not disappoint. But I wish there was more of a chance taken with new artists and new songs on all radio stations.

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I’m still hearing Lights by Ellie Goulding on these “new” stations, which was released back in 2010. Even radio stations that claim they play everything only play “pop” songs from the 80s, 90s, and today.

If radio is truly made to advertise the artists and grant them exposure, this should apply to other artists and not just what the sponsors deem as “popular”.

So be ready to hear All About that Bass and Shake It Off as you use Maps while swinging on a Chandelier and hunting an Anaconda, because you will be hearing those for the next 5 months.

And as always, stay thirst my bros.

Sources:

1. http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/default.aspx?indid=1258

2. http://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100

Zelda 2015 Theories

Sorry everybody, I’ve been a way for quite some time. I had a couple of difficult things come up in my life that I needed to handle, but I am back to have my take on the Zelda E3 trailer.

In one of my posts, I briefly mentioned the new Zelda Wii U trailer that premiered at this years E3 Convention and of course, since it’s Zelda, new content sparks a lot of speculation. But before we delve too deeply in thoughts, theories, and the trailer itself, let me examine the information given by Eiji Aonuma in the very beginning of the trailer, and further more, establish what we can surely expect from the new Zelda title.

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Expectations
1. Exploration and Puzzle Solving
“As far as what you can do with such a vast field to explore…as soon as those boundaries are removed. It means you can enter any area from any direction.”
From this inference, we can safely assume that exploration is going to be a premium focus on Zelda Wii U. Aonuma has said that the inspiration of this new game has come from both Wind Waker and the first Legend of Zelda, where the player had the freedom to explore new areas in the world. You can also infer that it will be a non-linear story structure, giving more flexibility to the player when finding dungeons or exploring the vast over world. Part of the puzzle will be how to get around to certain places on the map.
Open World Zelda
2. Environment and Enemies
“Enemies appearing in such a peaceful world is one of the defining features of the Zelda series. That is one convention we can keep, right?”
From this quote, we can make a valid guess that the world be colorful, beautiful, and serene despite large enemy engagements as demonstrated by the beautiful presentation in the E3 2014 trailer. You can even see the finer details of the shadows changing as the clouds pass the sun if you look at the grass.
3. Character Presentation and Progression
This is a quote that backs this up this idea is from an interview back in late 2013.
“Something that is ‘traditional’ is in a sense often something that copies previous works, so if you continue doing that, it gradually takes away from its uniqueness. So we’re currently working on making those parts more and more unique. So, by no means, am I tired of it. Rather, the more we change it, the more I get fired up. Having someone think ‘Huh? Is this Zelda?!’ at first, then ‘Oh, it is Zelda,’ is what we’re going for. Something that wouldn’t make it matter whether Link or Princess Zelda appear in it or not. Something where it wouldn’t even matter if Zelda is actually a princess, or not.”
Note this interview will not mean that Link or Zelda will not appear. Rather, it’s saying that this title will present a new and unique game experience by changing some of the conventions that we have known throughout the series. In other words, we can expect an unorthodox storyline and character arcs for the next Zelda title, something that no other Zelda title has explored.
Speculations
1. It has been noted that the play can explore anywhere at any time. In the trailer, looking at the opening scene alone, there’s a lot of stuff that can easily be missed at first glance. Open World Zelda
It’s easy to be caught up in by the shear render-distance of it all alone. But when not staring in awe and wonder at the vast expanse of terrain, one can see that Link and his trusty stead are actually standing in a village of some sorts. Not only are there homesteads with long, steap, and triangular roofs, but there are some additional structures further back, including a well, stone pillars, and some elaborate outposts.
In addition, varies villagers or farmers and goats that can be seen in the background. You may also notice what appears to be Death Mountain and possibly Zora’s Waterfall off in the distance. It is also possible that Zora’s Waterfall is some new area since Zora’s Domain is generally in the west, while Gerudo Desert is in the east. Furthermore, there’s a large town in the back and , based on its apparent position on the map, this has me believing it to be Hyrule Castle.
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But based of of the surrounding environment in this trailer, we have our first identifiers in aiding and supporting an open world environment and a non-linear story. Look at any sandbox and non-linear environments and it fits the bill perfectly.
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Example of Sandbox/Open World Environment

But just because the game is non-linear it doesn’t mean that the game is non-directional. There will have to be a quest system in place for the player to interact with the environments and explore dungeons. From this, we can assume that the villager can be quest givers.

Even if you look even further back you can notice some type of town or outpost, which can serve as the main hub for requesting and accepting quests. We can assume that the inhabitance of this world have interactions with Link in some way. Furthermore, A Link Between Worlds did this in a similar way regarding the order in which you could visit dungeons.
2. It is hard to tell whether or not the horse Link is riding is Epona or not, due to lacking evidence. But the horse from the trailer seems to be a change in the structure of the body and has a darker coat than Epona in previous titles.

Epona in Twilight Princess
Epona in Twilight Princess
Mystery Horse in Trailer

In addition, the function of the horse seems to have made a change as well. We can see what appears to be a shield, which resembles the round shield in Skyward Sword, and the bow and arrow off to one side of the horse. images We can also see to the other side of the horse what appears to be a satchel, the machanized arrow, and possibly a sheath of a sword. By having the horse wear a satchel and a backpack, this could suggest that the horse could manage and store your quest items as you travel throughout the land, kind of like the banking system used in Skyward Sword. 

It is also suggested that the horse can be used to execute certain attacks on large enemies as seen when the horse give Link a boost to launch an arrow at the enemies’ eye.

EAGLE!!!

3. Aonuma did say that he wanted to keep the convention of battling tough enemies in peaceful environments. However this doesn’t mean it will stay a peaceful enivironment through the course of the game. Possible evidence for this speculation comes from this quote made after the E3 2014 announcement.

“Many people from the media kept asking me if the footage from the new Zelda game for Wii U is just a promotional movie, but that really is actual gameplay on Wii U.”
 It is my personal speculation that this quote and from the looks of the trailer, that the game may feature some sort of destructive environment. tumblr_n6yk2sh3ng1qcbq9jo2_r1_500 This is indicated by the destruction of the bridge and one of the large Mayan-looking rock structures in the background as the monster smashes into it. 7664dOP This is also seen in the first reveal of the monster with the destruction of the grass surrounding, in what I can assume to be Hyrule field. tumblr_n6yk2sh3ng1qcbq9jo3_r1_500
However, Aonuma made no indication if the entire Zelda Wii U trailer was actually gameplay or if only a part of it was, so it is still to early to tell if this is a valid expectation.
4. Link appears to be wearing a unique wardrobe. All of it borrowing from different cultures within the Zelda universe.
He is wearing a blue tunic, similar to his pajamas in Wind Waker, at first glance. But besides the color scheme and the possibility of it being a starter costume, it bears no further similarities. The pattern around the collar is most similar to the waves the patterns on Groose’s pants in Skyward Sword. But overall, the pattern is too common to other swirly designs to really narrow down.
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He also appears to be wearing Gerudo styled gauntlets, in particular it resembles Ganondorf’s. Link is missing the blue squares in exchange for a blue-green line, but this may be just to distinguish him from Ganon.
Gerudos
He also is wearing a mysterious looking dark cloak that has a crest that may indicated where Link is from. The color scheme and style of the cloak is very reminiscent of some of the clothing that we’ve seen both Sheikah and Ganondorf wear. However, the iconography on the back of Link’s cloak in the trailer does not match up with any of the designs on cloaks we’ve seen in the past.
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Link also appears to be a dominate archer. Though there is a small sheath that is visible right side of the horse near his backpack, we have no further information of his sword skills and may be a lesser game mechanic than in previous Zelda games. But it does beg the question, could he be some kind of hunter or charter? It would make sense considering his eclectic attire, but it is still too early in the development to tell or confirm.
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But since we are on the topic of Link’s bow, it just looks like the Hero’s Bow from the last few console iterations, with the same bird-beak shapes around the grip. Where things get interesting are the arrows. One thing that is very interesting is that this attachment looks like it was tied on to the arrow and not the arrow itself, suggesting Link may be able to craft new and interesting arrow types.
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Link’s arrows also appear to be highly advanced and mechanized and using some type of magic or electricity, much like the robots in Lanayru Skywards Sword. Like the mechanized creature he is fighting, they also resemble connected circle motif that we’ve seen from steampunk type characters and artifacts from areas in Lanayru in Skyward Sword.

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In addition, Link’s quiver, has a red ‘U’ shape, which we’ve seen before in the Lanayru Province in Skyward Sword, which coincidentally is where the Gerudos eventually set up shop by Ocarina of Time. With all these potential links to Lanayru and Gerudos, do you think that is where Link originates from in this title?

It is also to be noted that, Link appears to be a teenager in this incarnation. However we can not confirm what this all means in regards to timeline or storyline.
5. We can also assume that the map and HUD’s will appear on the gamepad. This speculation is supported by the cinematic and beautiful gameplay in the E3 trailer, notice that there are no visible HUDs or maps on screen. Also, Aonuma was very fond of this feature and had implemented it within the Zelda Wind Waker HD remake, so it would make sense that they had their development team dedicate that much time for that feature. Again, it is still to be reveal what the use of the gamepad will be.
Overall
Based on the information we have gathered it is sure to be a well crafted game and I am so hyped for this game to come out. Nintendo has announced that they will be attending gamescom, which I highly suspect that we will have more information or trailer of the new Zelda title in August. So only time will tell what we can expect further from this new Zelda title. I will hopefully be covering this in a timely fashion when more information is released. And as always stay thirsty my bros.
Sources

How to Train Your Dragon 2: An Honest Review

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Directed By: Dean DeBlois

Written By: Dean DeBlois, Cressida Cowell (“How to Train Your Dragon” book series)

Music Composed By: John Powell

Starring: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington

Marge and I just got back from seeing How to Train Your Dragon 2 and this movie wowed us. So, even though I have some E3 stuff to catch up on (o.O), both Marge and I will be co-writing our Honest Review of How to Train Your Dragon 2. Let’s dig in shall we!

Now, for those who aren’t familiar with the first movie…why are you reading? It’s a sequel! Get out of here!

…just kidding.

The How to Train Your Dragon franchise is based on a series of (currently) 12 children’s books, the first in the series falling under the exact same name. The first book has quite a few differences from the first film (which you can see by following the link above), but the books’ author Cressida Cowell has said that she likes the films, and understands that changes must be made in adaptation.

The first movie’s plot (spoilers, by the way) is centered on dragon prejudice, as the creatures repeatedly terrorized Berk, the home of the Viking characters. All of the humans have gross or unpleasant names to make them tough, we think, and they only kept dragons to train their young to fight them. They catalogued information about them in a book as well, noting that dragons breeds and abilities are about as varied as pokemon.

Hiccup, who is the son of the chief but weaker, skinnier, and more tender-hearted compared to other kids, struggles to fight the dragons like everyone else.

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Not because he really wants to, but because he wants to please his village and his father. He finds the latter particularly difficult, because his father regards him as kind of an embarrassment, and doesn’t listen to him much. Figuratively and literally, Hiccup has some big shoes to fill.

Trying to kill a dragon his own way (that being the brain over brawn, inventive way), he manages to wound a particularly elusive terror called the Night Fury, which no one has ever really seen. But instead of killing the thing, he befriends and learns from it, even inventing a way that it can fly again, with him in the saddle.

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Together, he and his new buddy, Toothless, work to bridge the gap between humans and dragons, culminating in a grand misunderstanding with the village and his dad, and, eventually, a climactic fight with a large “queen” dragon that has been intimidating the other, smaller dragons and demanding food sacrifices. The Vikings realize they were wrong, and they wrangle and ride the dragons to victory.

Hiccup nearly loses his life in the battle, but he makes it out with a brief fakeout moment (as you do with movies aimed at kids), and the loss of one leg.

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Quite a bold move for a family movie, too. But he and his blacksmith friend put together a neat, tricked-out peg leg for him, and he is back in the saddle in no time flat, finally accepted by his father and the rest of the village.

That, we believe, is Dreamwork‘s niche. They seem to love making stories about underdogs, as well as genre homages that end up becoming franchises of their own.

Another cool thing about this movie is that the loss of an important limb, for both Hiccup and Toothless, doesn’t ostracize or weaken them in any way from either dragons or the rest of Berk. The two primarily depend on each other, and become the strongest dragon/rider combo of the whole bunch.

But yeah. Happily ever afters all around! Everything is better than before!

Or is it?

*Warning*

This article contains not just some spoilers, but all the spoilers. So if you haven’t seen the movie and you want to see it for yourself, stop reading here!

Plot

Five years from the first film, the teens are now all young adults. The Vikings have reformed and the dragons are now fully integrated, contributing members of society. The other kids in the last movie, who initially thought Hiccup had some awesome dragon taming/slaying ability and only gradually figured out that he was befriending them in secret, have now become skilled dragon riders and racers.

Hiccup is being set up to be the next village chief, a responsibility he does not want. Though he, with his trusty pet dragon Toothless, has discovered many unexplored lands and territories, he has not discovered what he truly wants because he has not fully discovered himself.

While investigating a wildfire, Hiccup and Astrid discover the remains of a fort encased in a massive ice formation. They encounter a young dragon trapper named Eret, who blames them for the destruction of his fort.

Plus, Hiccup has a f***ing lightsaber!

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….Okay so it’s not a lightsaber. It’s called a Dragon’s Blade, nicknamed Inferno. But still, it’s freaking awesome and badass.

Eret then attempts to capture Hiccup and Astrid’s dragons for a conqueror called Drago Bludvist, from whom Eret has received a scar for failing to capture enough dragons.

Hiccup and Astrid are able to escape this encounter and return to Berk to warn Stoick about the dragon army that Drago is amassing. Stoick, who has decided to “protect his own”, orders the villagers to fortify the entire island and prepare for battle instead of attempting to reason with Drago, as Hiccup suggested. Hiccup then flies off with Astrid as they are closing the gates and they heroically…surrender themselves and their dragons to Eret, so as to be taken to Drago.

However, Stoick, Gobber and Berk’s other dragon riders pursue and find them before Eret takes him to Drago. Stoick explains to Hiccup that he once met Drago before. Drago wanted to convince the whole Viking console that he knew how to kill all the dragons and all they had to do for that would be to bow down to him. They laughed it off, as did most of the group listening to this story, but when Drago stormed out, an armored dragon crashed through the roof and burned the place. Only Stocik escaped with his life, and the event has clearly shaken him to this day.

Hiccup refuses to believe that war is inevitable and again, flies off with Toothless. They are captured by a dragon rider named Valka. Inferno can be used not only for the use of combat, but also to allow him to bond with wild dragons and show them that he is “one of their own.”

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Valka is revealed to be Hiccup’s long lost mother. She explains that she spent twenty years rescuing dragons from Drago’s traps and bringing them to an island haven created out of ice by a colossal Alpha dragon called a Bewilderbeast, to whom all dragons answer. The two of them then make up for lost time, bonding as mother and son over their mutual love of dragons.

As it turns out, Valka was once like Hiccup. She believed that dragons were good, and tried to persuade others to no avail. She realized she was right when, during one “dragon attack,” one of the creatures snuck into Hiccup’s room. Instead of hurting or eating him, it played with him, but Stoick muscled his way onto the scene and, mistaking the situation, engaged the dragon in combat. It burned the room and fled, taking Valka with it.

This explains most of Stoick’s dislike and distrust of dragons in the previous film, fixed only when he sees Toothless loyally defend and fight with his son, against all odds.

Stoick and Gobber track Hiccup to the island, where he discovers that his wife is still alive. Simultaneously, Astrid and the other riders kidnap Eret, thinking Hiccup has gone after Drago, but they are also captured and Drago learns of Berk’s dragons and the nest with the alpha, leading him to drop everything and hightail-it there.

His army lays siege to Valka’s sanctuary, where he reveals that he has his own Bewilderbeast to challenge the Alpha. A titanic battle erupts between the two Bewilderbeasts in a fight for control over all of the dragons. Drago’s Bewilderbeast emerges victorious (by killing the other one, albeit bloodlessly) and seizes control of all the dragons.

Hiccup tries to persuade Drago to end the violence, but Drago has a vendetta against dragons, and has grown increasingly unreasonable and power-hungry. With control of the new alpha, and by extension, the dragon army, he can wipe out dragons with other dragons, and subjugate the humans who come to him for protection.

He can’t see the potential to befriend the dragons and gain their respect.

Toothless, under the influence of the new Alpha (which Drago directly and verbally commands), approaches Hiccup and fires a plasma blast at him. At the last instant, Stoick pushes Hiccup out of the way, and is hit instead, killing him instantly. When Toothless regains his senses, a heart-broken and angry Hiccup drives him off. Drago leaves Hiccup and the others, riding the re-bewitched Toothless, and leads his now larger army to destroy/enslave Berk.

Stoick is given a neat “Epcot Viking funeral”; a cool image, complete with a ship set ablaze by flaming arrows. Hiccup, filled with regret at the loss of his father, but also new determination, decides that he will fly back to Berk to “protect his own,” as both Stoick and Valka advised him previously.

The dragon riders ride baby dragons, which are immune to the Bewilderbeast’s control (as they don’t listen to anyone. Haha, sure the parents got a good snort out of that one), and arrive at Berk after the Alpha has already attacked on the village and taken control of the dragons there. Drago destroys things and generally terrifies the village.

Hiccup confronts Drago and a brainwashed Toothless in the air, while the other riders work to distract the Bewilderbeast by catapulting sheep, among other things. Drago again orders Toothless to kill Hiccup, but Hiccup succeeds in disenchanting Toothless. He knew his friend never meant to hurt him, or his father, and his courage and unyielding trust in the dragon break through to him, and he fights the alpha’s control from there on out.

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Drago then orders the Alpha to shoot the pair, and the Bewilderbeast successfully encases them in a large blast of ice, seemingly killing them. His victory is short-lived however, as Toothless, now glowing with plasma, blasts away the ice, revealing that both he and Hiccup are unharmed. Toothless challenges the alpha, repeatedly fires plasma blasts at it. At this, the other dragons are freed from the Bewilderbeast’s control and all fire at it, severely injuring the colossal dragon until Toothless fires a final massive blast, breaking its left tusk.

Defeated, Drago and his Bewilderbeast retreat into the ocean as the villagers celebrate their victory. All the dragons acknowledge Toothless as the new alpha dragon, and Hiccup is made chief of Berk by the village elder. The film ends with Berk being rebuilt with a statue erected in Stoick’s likeness, and Hiccup living up to his duties as chief.

In the last film, the dialogue from the beginning is turned on its head in the end. Now, it reaffirms the convictions of the beginning, that dragons are their friends and worthy of their respect, with an extra quip that playfully warns away anyone who would rise against them. Hiccup proudly declares that while others may have armies and armadas, Berk has dragons. So good luck with that.

Characters

 

How To Train Your Dragon 2 Movie 2014

Hiccup is the main human character. He is a bit scrawny and wimpy, although now a bit less so, but makes up for it with his resourcefulness, intelligence, and his desire to keep the peace and negotiate. He hesitates a bit, unsure of himself and uncomfortable living in his father’s shadow, but both this and the previous film do a great job showing him coming into his own, finding his own strength as the next leader of his village. He can build traps, equipment for dragons and riders, and a glider that allows him to fly alongside Toothless, at times. He spends a lot of time exploring the land around Berk, naming and mapping it.

Toothless is Hiccup’s dragon companion. While he is silent (aside from gurgles and various sound effects), his face and body are very fluid and expressive, giving him almost as much personality as Hiccup. He is covered in black scales, has black and yellow eyes and a large mouth. The left side of his tail fin is missing, replaced by an artificial one that Hiccup put in place. He is a fast and agile flier, and rumored to be the last of his kind, the Night Fury, which is known as one of the most, if not the most, intelligent breed of dragons.

Stoick is the head of Berk, father of Hiccup, and best friend to Gobber, the blacksmith. While he is accepting of dragons now, he can still be stubborn and not listen to Hiccup, who frequently mumbles and beats around the bush anyway. He is large, strong, and extremely loyal, to the point that he does not appear at all angry with his wife, even though she essentially hid from him for 20 years.

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Drago Bludvist is a new character, and the resident “bad guy.” His unnamed village was attacked when he was a kid, and his arm was either chewed or blasted off. His only real character trait is ruthlessness. He shows no mercy to dragons, or people, if they cross him.

He could have been more interesting, given more motivation, personality, or even less vagueness in his backstory. He isn’t forgettable, necessarily, but he comes across as very standard. By the books baddie.

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Valka is a new character, wife of Stoick and mother of Hiccup. She has essentially gone Tarzan, living in harmony with the dragons and learning all of their secrets. She did not go back to Stoick and Hiccup (even after she learned to ride dragons) because she was convinced that nothing in Berk would ever change, and she couldn’t compromise what she felt was the right thing. As with Drago, it might have been interesting to learn more about her, but que sera sera…

Astrid is (now officially) Hiccup’s fiancé. In the last film, she was stubborn, proud, and violent, but now she is a bit more reserved emotionally. She still has her fun, snarky, ass-kicking moments, and moments where she mouths off at the bad guys, too. She is the best fighter of the group, and has become almost as good a dragon rider as Hiccup, despite getting pushed to the background frequently.

The rest of the group are Fishlegs, the large, clumsy, nerdy one; Snoutlout, the bro-y guy who thinks he’s cooler than he is; and Ruffnut and Tuffnut, fraternal twins that like to prank, bicker, and generally be vulgar with themselves and others. Ruffnut, the girl twin, crushes on Eret after she meets him, constantly flirting and making creepy faces.

<Marge note: 50% of the time, she is funny, and the other 50% is “Do. Not. Want!”>

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For a while, she also has Fishlegs and Snoutlout at her beck and call. I guess that is because she is the only single girl left in the group, but she uses them, then acts disgusted and annoyed by them, repeatedly.

These characters (other than Astrid) mostly make up different flavors of comic relief, usually relating to slapstick and clumsiness. Gobber is the dry-wit comic relief. He, Astrid, and Hiccup get most of the one-liners.

Trailer3_Eret

Eret is a new character, a dragon trapper that works for Drago. He seems cocky, only interested in money and saving his own skin, but he turns around when Astrid’s dragon saves him from being murdered by Drago.

Music

Since music is my speciality, this part is strictly from me.

John Powell returned from the first movie, which he won his first Academy Award from, to score the sequel. Powell recorded his music in London with a 120 piece orchestra and a 100-voice choir. The music was conducted by the composer’s usual collaborator, Gavin Greenaway. Powell called the project “a maturation story”, stating that he also hoped to achieve maturation in the structure of his music, by further developing and pushing every aspect of his compositions from the original film. Even with such a good foundation, it can be a challenge building off of the old and making outstanding new.

<Marge note: At times in the score, I could swear I heard notes and chords from “Noble Maiden Fair (A Mhaighdean Bhan Uasal),” from Disney/Pixar’s Brave. Just a few, and I couldn’t be totally sure, but still. But I like that song, so no issue there 🙂 Also, all of the adults have Scottish accents (despite the kids sounding distinctly American) anyway.>

Also on the project were pipers from the Scottish group, The Red Hot Chilli Pipers (not to be confused with the “Peppers”), and Sigur Rós lead vocalist, Jónsi, who wrote the songs in collaboration with the composer.

A soundtrack album for the film will be released on June 17, 2014 by Relativity Music Group. The album will feature over an hour of score by Powell, along with two original songs by Jónsi. Powell is expected to come back for the next film as well, which is currently planned for sometime in 2016. Interestingly enough, Norwegian artist Alexander Rybak, who provides the Norwegian voice for Hiccup, also provides the song, “Into a Fantasy” in the European version of the film.

The songs and score combine some of the traditional and modern, which works nicely and fits the more modern characters dwelling in an old world” theme. “Where No One Goes” takes one of the main musical themes from the last movie, and adds lyrics and different instrumentation to it. This song is both of our favorites of the whole soundtrack.

Comedy/Drama/Things Parents Might Want to Know

We’ve already sort of brought up the comedy in the character section. It’s funny, if a little overdone sometimes (particularly Ruffnut). So let’s move on to the drama, shall we?

Oh, the drama. Be warned, for once you reach the second half of the film, the feels get pretty intense. There are aerial battles (of course), but also…

Hiccup’s dad dies instantly, seemingly painlessly, leaving no room for spluttering breaths or a death speech. Hiccup momentarily lashes out at Toothless for killing him (albeit unintentionally), but while Hiccup realizes it too late, as you would expect, it’s pretty quick by the standards of movie run time. Some emotions are short, but well played, making good use of what time they are allowed.

We heard a few kids cry in the theatre during the funeral scene, but at least it didn’t linger on the body so much, like with some other notable characters.

The original alpha dragon dies, but as we’ve mentioned, it’s bloodless and very quick. Marge almost didn’t realize it at first, so it might fly over plenty of people’s heads. At least at first.

We give Dreamworks credit: they certainly don’t pull punches. Maybe everything turns out alright in a Disney movie (except for the parents, because screw having parents!), but Dreamworks seems to like to mess with the typical idea of a “happy ending.” Just like they really like making the main characters of their movies losers, outcasts, or grotesque in some way (probably in an effort to make them more realistic, or at least relatable).

how-to-train-your-dragon-hiccup-leg-217Hiccup's_Prosthetic_Leg

 

A happy ending in the last movie meant dealing with the loss of Hiccup’s leg. This movie’s happy ending is moving on from the loss of his father and becoming head of the village. Sometimes, the happiest ending of all is just making it through the day. That can be a worthwhile lesson, even if it isn’t the cheeriest.

Effects

To quote the mighty, all-knowing, and infallible Wikipedia:

“How to Train Your Dragon 2 was the first DreamWorks Animation film that used ‘scalable multi-core processing’, developed together with Hewlett-Packard. Called by Katzenberg as ‘the next revolution in filmmaking,’ it enabled artists for the first time to work on rich complex images in real time, instead of waiting eight hours to see the results next day. The film was also the studio’s first film to use its new animation and lighting software through the entire production. Programs, named Premo  and Torch, allowed much more subtlety, improving facial animation and enabling ‘the sense of fat, jiggle, loose skin, the sensation of skin moving over muscle instead of masses moving together.‘”

Just as with How to Train Your Dragon, the highlights of the film are any given flying seen. Whether just flying to fly, or flying into battle, the characters and their dragons practically leap off of the screen.

Shiiiiiiiiiny.....
Shiiiiiiiiiny…..

If visuals alone could carry a film, this would definitely qualify as a good, strong one. Thankfully, it also has engaging characters and story.

But animation and graphics are crucial, for without them, we would not be able to buy the illusion, no matter how good the story was. That is the simultaneous goal and challenge of film as a medium, and How to Train Your Dragon 2 laughs at such a challenge, daring the audience not to be enthralled and enraptured by the world it has created. Look at the gif above again, and just stare in awe at the detail put into every wave on that CG sea.

Overall (and from both of us)

9 out of 10. Definitely a must see for kids of all ages, especially those at heart.

 

The Legend of Zelda Overview

How about that trailer for Zelda 2015?

E3 has come and it will be ending tonight, but it has left a huge amount of potential for new games….for 2015. Yeah, that’s right we have to wait for 2015 in order for the next gen to really kick-start. I will be going into more detail about this year’s E3 in a later article.

However, in light of two new Zelda based games, Zelda 2015 and Hyrule Warriors, I wanted to team up with Marge to do a Legend of Zelda series “review”. It is a favorite series of games for both of us, and the legends and the lore are as fun and fascinating as the gameplay.

This really won’t be a review as much as it will be us talking in-depth about each of the games separately and some of the theories that have spawned from each game, even adding some of our own theories and research.

We’ll be getting those out to you when we can.

Thanks again, and stay thirsty my bros.

Godzilla: An Honest Review

Directed By: Gareth Edwards

Written By: Max Borenstein.

Starring: Aaron Taylor Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, and Bryan Cranston.

Godzilla is back! It has been a decade after the Japanese release of Toho’s Godzilla: Final Wars, and it has been 16 years since the last, god awful, American release, Godzilla by director Roland Emmerich.

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Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Godzilla franchise, I’m going to run you through the basics. Godzilla, or “Gojira” in Japanese, is a giant dinosaur which rises from the ocean to fight other monsters. Within the Japanese films, Godzilla’s exact origins vary, but he is generally depicted as an enormous, violent, prehistoric sea monster, awakened and empowered by nuclear radiation.

His size (which changes from film to film for the sake of artistic license) is generally around, oh let’s say, 500 feet tall. Believable? Not really. But who cares! It’s giant monsters fighting each other!

Godzilla’s signature weapon is its “atomic breath,” which is a nuclear blast that it generates inside its body and unleashes from its jaws in the form of a blue radioactive heat ray.

After Legendary Pictures formally announced this project in March 2010, after the acquisition of the rights from Toho Studios, this legendary monster was put back in action; directed by Gareth Edward and is a co-production with Warner Bros.

This film had a lot of hype. I was very excited for Godzilla’s return to the big screen, definitely listing it as 1 of my top 10 most anticipated films this year. I wanted to see the king of monsters make an epic return and break into the mainstream for western audiences.

The trailers for the movie were awesome, they promised us action and an interesting story. So did it live up to the hype?

Yes and no.

*Spoilers ahead*

This article contains not just some spoilers, but all the spoilers. So if you haven’t seen the movie and you want to see it for yourself, stop reading here!

Opening Credits

In case you’re interested in something that’s usually so mundane and throw-away….

The film’s opening establishes the origin story of Godzilla, showing videos of the nuclear explosion that caused the radioactive exposure in the ocean and the covered-up redacted statements that wrapped around the credits.

The whole opening sequence is well made, but perhaps lost on new people who might not know or for the people, like me, who might not be paying attention THAT closely to the credits. Luckily, there is a transcription of the whole thing on Badassdigest.com.

Plot

In 1999, scientists Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) are called to a quarry in the Philippines where a colossal skeleton and two egg-shaped pods have been discovered. One of the pods was dormant and the other one, having hatched, has escaped to the sea.

The screen cuts focus to Janjira, Japan (just outside of Tokyo), the local giant nuclear plant starts experiencing seismic activity. Plant supervisor Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) sends his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) and a team into the core to look for damage.

As the team makes its inspection deep within the facility, an explosion occurs, threatening to release radiation to the outside. Joe goes down to manually ensure that the door stays open for Sandra and her team. However, the radiation was too quick for Sandra and the team, and Joe had no choice but to close the door, leaving the team unable to escape. The plant collapses into ruin, leaving Joe and Ford, his son, mother and wife-less all within the first few minutes of the film.

Untitled

The disaster, attributed to a catastrophic earthquake, results in the evacuation and quarantine of the Janjira area and the main cause for the events to follow.

Alright! The movie starts out with a good backstory. The monster that hatched was kept a mystery, adding suspense; Bryan Cranston had an absolutely brilliant performance; and the pacing of the plot was good. Oh, I am so ready for what comes next!

Fifteen years later, we jump POV focus from Joe Brody to his son Ford Brody(Aaron Taylor-Johnson)…

Oh god dammit… A POV switch?

Anyway, he is an explosive ordnance disposal officer (we all know that he’s going to have to stop a bomb later) in the United States Navy, living in San Francisco with his wife, played by Elizabeth Olsen, and son.

His wife and son have no significance other than to add additional drama to the film. Just expressive plot props.

I can’t even remember their names without looking it up first (it’s Elle and Sam, by the way). It’s a real shame too, because Elizabeth Olsen’s talents are half-starved in this film.

Anyway, after the movie establishes that Ford has live bait for the monsters to later threaten, Ford finds out that Joe is arrested for trespassing in the quarantined area. Ford then travels to Japan to bail him out of jail. Joe, hell-bent on discovering the true cause of the catastrophe, convinces his son to accompany him to Janjira for his mother’s sake.

Once in the quarantined area, they discover no signs of radiation, despite the warning that authorities had claimed. They decide to visit their old home to retrieve floppy disks that would assist in Joe’s quest to expose the cover-up. They also notice the power plant in the distance with its lights on, believing that the plant is being rebuilt. Once they recover this information, they are promptly arrested by local security and are then taken to the facility within the power plant’s ruins, built to contain a massive chrysalis, which is being studied by Serizawa and Graham.

So let me get this straight. The first time Joe was in the quarantined area, he was arrested and put into prison. Second time…meh. It will give him a pass directly to where the next plot point will be.

The aforementioned chrysalis, which contains the monster that destroyed the plant, soon hatches and unleashes a colossal winged creature, named MUTO or Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism, which devastates the facility and flies off. Joe is critically wounded in the chaos, and eventually dies from his injuries.

Yeah, I know Bryan Cranston. I'm sad too.
Yeah, I know Bryan Cranston. I’m sad too…

Serizawa, Graham and Ford join a US Navy team to track the monster, using the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CVN-88) as a base of operations. As the earth’s radiation subsided, it moved underground and put itself in a cryptobiotic state. Godzilla, a much larger animal that was awoken during a deep-sea expedition in 1954, in turn, is hunting it. Its existence has been continually covered up following numerous failures to kill it with nuclear weapons. Ford reveals that his father had tracked a form of echolocation from the Janjira area, which leads the team to believe the MUTO was communicating with something else. Something that wasn’t Godzilla.

A U.S. Army Special Forces team in Hawaii finds the wreckage of a Russian nuclear submarine in the forest northwest of Diamond Head, outside of Honolulu, and finds the MUTO feeding on its reactor. The military attacks the MUTO and a battle ensues at Honolulu International Airport. Godzilla arrives from the ocean, causing a catastrophic tsunami that devastates Waikiki. The MUTO later flees by air.

The second MUTO pod, which was brought from the Philippines to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, then hatches. The much larger, wingless female destroys Las Vegas before heading west, and Serizawa concludes that the two creatures will meet to breed. There enters Godzilla’s main purpose as Alpha Predator…

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Let them fight

A train is loaded with two warheads to take to San Francisco, but it is intercepted and destroyed by the female MUTO, which eats one of the warheads. The other warhead is taken by helicopter to San Francisco, where it is put on a boat and armed. The MUTOs, however, steal the warhead and the female MUTO constructs a nest around it in downtown San Francisco, threatening the lives of millions.

Warhead

At this time, citizens in San Francisco are being evacuated on school buses. Elle leaves Sam with a trusted friend while she stays behind to help around in the hospital. The buses then make their way out of the city through the Golden Gate Bridge, where it is blocked off and is surrounded by the military. Godzilla resurfaces near the bridge.

Speaking of which, why did he spare the ship with Ishiro and the Admiral but plow over the other two ships?

The NAVY opens fire in an attempt to prevent him from entering the city, despite the protests of the soldiers on the bridge due to the presence of civilians. The commotion caused by both the military and Godzilla results in the destruction of the bridge.

OF COURSE!
OF COURSE!

And somehow Sam’s bus escapes the carnage….

Alright, so Godzilla is making his way toward the MUTO! Finally we get to see some monster fighting monster action that the franchise is-

A cut to the soldiers… *Sigh*

Well, while the MUTOs are distracted by Godzilla, Ford and a team of soldiers enter the nest via halo jump to try to disarm the warhead.

But hey, the MUTO uses EMP to disable electronics, right? With the MUTO right there, how the hell were the soldiers able to have a digital GPS guide them to where the nuke was hiding?

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All logic aside, they find the warhead and discover it has suffered significant damage, being that there is now a nest of MUTO eggs attached to the nuke and are unable to disarm it. So they plan to take it out to sea and let it detonate.

Ford decides to use a fuel truck to incinerate the nest, which distracts the female MUTO from the fight, leaving just the male to fight Godzilla. Godzilla then impales the male MUTO into a skyscraper, killing it, though the collapsing structure engulfs Godzilla as well. Ford arrives at the docks and manages to get to the warhead boat, with the enraged female MUTO in pursuit.

As the MUTO bears down on Ford, Godzilla attacks the female by firing his atomic breath down her throat, decapitating her. Ford then gets the boat out to sea and is saved by a rescue team just before the warhead detonates. Meanwhile, Godzilla collapses from exhaustion on the shoreline.

In the aftermath, Ford is reunited with his wife and son. Godzilla unexpectedly awakens and returns to the ocean, hailed as the “King of the Monsters” and “The City’s Saviour” by the media.

Overall

Gareth Edward’s “Godzilla” (2014) is a good movie, but it has some glaring flaws in it that drags the film down.

1. CGI and Design of Monsters

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See the resemblance?

Okay, so sure, the monsters differ in color, head, there are two extra appendages and the MUTO has the power of flight. But where is the originality in this monster?

In the early to mid 1960’s Toho’s special effects team cranked out designs for Mothra (1961) , Godzilla in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Manda from Atragon (1963), Dagora (1964), Baragon (1965) from Frankenstein Conquers the World, Sanda and Gaira (1966) to name a few. And these weren’t even made on computers, rather they were rendered as pencil sketches by none other than Eiji Tsuburaya. His monsters were completely original and had character. You know, as much as a giant monster fighting other giant monsters can have character.

It just disappoints me that we have all this incredible technology that can produce and animate things quickly, and the best we can come up with is a rehash of the Cloverfield Monster. Oh please.

I mean sure, not every monster is going to have originality in design, and maybe not have original powers too. Some of Toho’s designs had outside influences.

But the difference is they created value by staying constistant and making it their own. Toho invented new and unique elements and ideas, and made it feel special throughout the entire film. In Godzilla 2014, the EMP blast could have been a unique idea if had it not have been comprised when the plot needed it to be.

Also, at times the CGI had to be in a dark backdrop in order to make the monsters seem more realistic, but this make the fight scenes a little bit hard to see.

2. Balance of Human Sentiment and Monster Action

The movie creates the just right amount of tension for their characters, but more often than not it focuses too much on details that are really not necessary to the plot of the movie. Human sentiments took up center stage, while news reports hardly ever focused on Godzilla’s massive save, even after he was proven innocent.

The whole segment with the Japanese child getting separated from his parents was unwanted and uninteresting. That time could have been devoted to better action sequences or Godzilla doing something other than swim next to the Navy. Was there not something more interesting he could do, rather than cruise with ships?

And for some very frustrating reason, the camera always cut away to some rather irrelevant human action after giving the audience a sneak peak of Godzilla. It’s understandable to introduce the monster in this way – it is senseless, however, to continue in this pattern throughout the movie.

Also, for fans of the series, we all know what Godzilla looks like. Hell, even some non-fans do. There is a bit less suspense on a monster that has already been seen, even from adaptation to adaptation.

It also sends the audience into fits of frustration. The only question on my mind after an hour and a half of the movie, was: when the hell are we going to see Godzilla? This is supposed to be an action movie, right?

Godzilla’s two moments of glory were when he bit the face off the male MUTO and later ripped the female one apart. I wanted more of a fight between the creatures, as opposed to the prolonged military action we got to witness. It was all pretty standard stuff really.

Final Thoughts

For all my bitching about the flaws of this film, I don’t deny that there are good moments in the movie and some good potential for the franchise itself.

It made an estimated $93 million in the US and $103 million internationally during its debut, towering over Universal Pictures “Neighbors” and taking its places in the No. 1 spot. And from this revenue and success in the first weekend of its release, Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures have announced a sequel.

So, the film accomplished its main goal and that was to introduce this legendary beast to western audience allowing for potential growth. I will definitely be watching the new Godzilla sequel when it comes out.

7 out of 10