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XBox 360 Gamercard

RichAlot's Gamercard

CGI. Why'd It Have to Be CGI?

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is a great movie...for the first hour. Unfortunately, the second hour is so grossly out of touch with the Indy genre and fan expectations, it ruins Indy's return to the big screen.

The lights dim, the Lucasfilm logo appears and the theater erupts into a resounding ovation. For the next hour, moviegoers viewing screen 19 at the Downtown Disney AMC are greeted with the action, witty one-liners, and adventurous plotline one would expect in an Indiana Jones movie. Not to mention that Harrison Ford has still got it and Shia LaBeouf isn't that bad after all. Everything was going better than expected until the CGI kicked in and the movie turned into a jungle-vine swinging, giant-ant dodging, waterfall jumping, third encounter of a disaster.

The gratuitous special effects were unnecessary and detracted from the story so much so that the energy that greeted the film had flat lined not because the midnight showing was passing into its second hour, but because the devolution of the film sucked the excitement out of the crowd. There wasn't any room for the viewer to develop their own interpretations or use their imaginations as in the previous Indy flicks. As a result, the climax and conclusion of the film felt disjointed and far-fetched. The film just wasn't Indy anymore—it had more of a Brendan Fraser's "The Mummy" feel with a hefty dose of "X-Files" mixed in.

When the credits finally rolled, the half-hearted applause was so faint I had to look around to confirm the majority of the theater hadn't cleared out. But, everyone was still sitting in their seats, paralyzed, wearing the same glazed-over looks on their faces. You'd think we had been staring into the eyes of a crystal skull for an hour. Even so everyone managed to come out of their trance of disbelief and head for the exits. Appropriately, most circles shared the same conversation shuffling their way out the doors; how could something that started off so good turn into something so bad?

After 20 years in the making I'm sad to report that Indy 4 was a disappointment. I really wanted to like it—I mean it's Indy—but I just couldn't. If this is the script everyone agreed on, I can only imagine what was omitted in the rewrites. I give "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" a 6½ out of 10 only because the first hour was so enjoyable (and included a veiled reference to my hometown, New Britain, Connecticut).

Sideshow's Snow Bunny Padme Review

This weekend I received my 1/6-scale (12-inch for the scale impaired) Padme Amidalla - Ilum Mission (a.k.a Snow Bunny Padme) figure from Sideshow Collectibles. I strongly considered cancelling my order for this figure when I received the 15 day shipping notice, but I rationalized that it would be one of the last $50-range figures from Sideshow and thought it might be a nice piece. My hunch was right and as you'll see from the pictures I've added to my photo gallery, I'm glad I went through with the order.

The figure is simplistic in detail when compared to some of Sideshow's other offerings, yet it's well done. For those of you unfamiliar with this version of Padme, the outfit is based on an episode of Cartoon Network's The Clone Wars animated series in which Padme travels to the ice planet Ilum with Yoda on a mission to protect the Jedi caverns--the source location of the crystals used to make lightsabers. I would imagine Sideshow had their hands full translating an animated character into a realistic interpretation, but I believe they succeeded.

Using Natalie Portman's Padme Amidala character as a likeness, Sideshow has captured an accurate representation of the actress in this piece, down to the mole on the figures right cheek. The brown eyes have a life-like depth to them though they're set to look off to the side, which can be a nuisance if you're trying to pose the figure to look forward. The figure uses the standard 30-plus point articulated Art S. Buck body, which lends for a good amount of possibility though the arms appear to be a little too long.

Like the figure's resemblence, the costume treatment has also translated well from its animated reference. The fur-trimmed cape, gloves and boots give texture to the white body suit and the material used for the cape lends well to posing. A fair warning, if you decide to pull off the figure's under-hood be prepared to see a bald head. Not a pretty sight. My only gripe about the costume is that the belt is poorly made. Not only does it appear fragile (though it photographs well), but the fact that the holster didn’t come with the customary clasp or magnet to hold the flap down is disappointing. Padme also includes a blaster, grenade and electro-binoculars.

All-in-all, I'm surprisingly pleased with this figure considering I'm not a fan of the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy. I rate it a 7 out of 10.

Zune In

I finally got around to turning the privacy settings off in my Zune preferences. So what does this mean for you? If you look at my Zune Card (the Flash module at the bottom of the right gutter) you'll be able to see the music I'm listening to. It's a neat little widget—similar to the Xbox 360 GamerCard—with the intention of building a Zune user community.

For those of you who don't have a Microsoft Zune or know anything about it, I highly recommend you consider it if you're in the market for a portable music device. Besides being an MP3 player, the Zune can store podcasts, video, and pictures and has a built in FM tuner. The accompanying software is relatively easy to use and has a pretty intuitive user interface. Syncing music, subscribing to podcasts, wirelessly syncing and adding media to your device is a cinch.

If you keep a sharp lookout at places like Woot and you can find a 30 gig version on the cheap (especially if you don't mind brown). And if you're worried about buying an previous gen device don't be. Microsoft has put out a few firmware updates that give the 30 gigers the same features sported by the newer models.

Might As Well Jump

In the market for a USB jump drive or looking to replace your current portable hard drive with something that has a little more storage capacity? Consider a Western Digital Passport portable USB hard drive.

I've owned a 60 GB Western Digital Passport for about 2 months and can't say a bad thing about it. The Passport is compact, rugged and versatile; it works on both MAC and PC platforms out-of-the-box so there's no software to install. The Passport's best feature is that, unlike many other high capacity USB hard drives, it is fully USB powered and doesn't require a power adapter. Not having to lug around a power adapter and hunt down an open outlet makes the Passport truly portable. When traveling, don't forget your Passport.

A Super Mutation

I caught the final installment of the X-Men trilogy, "X-Men: The Last Stand," this Memorial Day and loved it. Now, I can empathize with the disgruntled purists concerned about a mangled interpretation of the comic series, but theatrically the X-Men films are top notch.

So what made "The Last Stand" such a great flick? Like its predecessors, "The Last Stand" had the perfect formula; the right mix of fantasy combined with reality, which yielded an unobstructed believability. I never struggled to make sense of any of the film's concepts because of how well they were tied in with modern day parallels. I'm not sure if that is a reflection of good writing or can be attributed to the mad scientists throughout the world who are really growing, cloning and mutating genes, but I just bought into the whole mutant notion. Inject a dose of genre-appropriate, sarcastic humor and you've got a perfect finale to what maybe one of the best trilogies of all time. I give "X-Men: The Last Stand" 4 stars out of 5.

Exploring Internet Explorer 7

I thought I would never go back to using Internet Explorer after having found Firefox, but IE7 Beta 2 is making me think otherwise.

Besides the obligatory facelift, the new IE features tabbed navigation, the big seller that put Firefox on the map (sorry Opera, you just didn't catch on). But, what really surprised me about IE was how well the RSS was organized and laid out. Microsoft had indicated RSS integration would have an important role in the next version of their browser and they weren't kidding. A typical feed is highly legible, visually appealing and features a feed-specific menu that allows you to search, filter and sort through content. There's no clumsy XML hierarchy to fumble through here.

The one major drawback of IE7 is the lack of extensions. There are far too many useful tools in the Firefox extensions library to go ignored. As a Web professional, I use Firefox's Web Developer Toolbar religiously and the IE counterpart just doesn't match up. If IE is to regain the market share it lost, it will have to find a solution to match Firefox's extensions.

Finally, I noticed a few minor differences in the way IE 7 renders CSS, but nothing too major just yet. I'll need to take a better look around to see just how much has changed, but at first glance I don't see much.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Still no laptop so the updates will be sporadic until it arrives. The new estimated date of arrival is March 10. In the meantime, I figured I'd start writing some product reviews. By writing I mean by hand, with pen and paper - no computer remember? I'm going to try to cover anything and everything I get my hands on, be it video games, DVDs, books, toys, electronics, etc. The worst part of all this is that years of typing has made me a penmanship cripple, so I'm hardly able to write legibly enough to read what I wrote. Hopefully this won't trip me up when it's time to transcribe my writing to this blog.