Friday, June 29, 2018

Woody Woodpecker

Woody Woodpecker U.S. DVD cover.jpg
Pretty formulaic, but somewhat retains the spirit of Walter Lantz's shorts, though with the addition of fecal humor, which this blogger's not really fond of.

Thursday, June 28, 2018


Sense8 Title.png
A Netflix series about individuals around the world who become mentally connected, such as a male-to-female transgendered lesbian who faces bigotry from her mother and a doctor that wants to lobotomize her due to an alleged mental condition, a Kenyan fan of Jean-Claude van Damme who ultimately goes into politics, a Chicago police officer, a German gangster, a closeted Mexican actor, and a South Korean businesswoman-turned-prisoner. Was fairly enjoyable, if a bit graphic at times and sometimes hard to distinguish who is where given the illusions of the sensates appearing alongside one another in spirit.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Jurassic World

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom.png
The trailers for the film did a good job masking the second half of the movie's plot, the first revolving around the rescue of dinosaurs from the former Jurassic World theme park's now-volcanic island, and it makes decent sociopolitical commentary, with some characters from past films.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Signs in the Rearview Mirror Spotlight

Book Details:

Book Title: Signs in the Rearview Mirror: Leaving a Toxic Relationship Behind
Author: Kelly Smith
Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 214 pages
Genre: Self-help, Relationships
Publisher: Sunny Day Publishing
Release date: April 2018
Tour dates: June 18 to July 7, 2018
Content Rating: PG-13 (This book contains real-life violence, but also meant for young people who are old enough to date)

Book Description:

What kind of person ends up in toxic relationship? And why does she stay? This searingly honest novel answers both those questions head on. Coming-out of a failing marriage, Kelly turns to Gabe out of fear offing alone. Her gradual slide into danger is at once terrifying and inevitable, and the steps she takes to get out of it will both inspire and offer help.

Buy the Book:

Meet the Author:

Boston born and raised, Kelly now makes her home in Austin with her three sons and one amazing Giant Schnauzer Bullseye. Kelly has written for the Huffington Post, blogs at Thoughts Becoming Words, and hosts a podcast Let's Get Wicked Deep.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends July 14, 2018

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The Blue Moon Narthex Spotlight

Book Details:

Book Title: The Blue Moon Narthex by N.J. Donner
Category: Middle-grade Fiction (Ages 8 to 12) 360 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Steele Page Press
Release date: February 7, 2017
Tour dates: June 4 to 29, 2018
Content Rating: PG (Some violence between forces of good and evil, but it's not bloody or gory)

Book Description:

It’s 1919 and thirteen-year-old Cole McCarthy just wants more time with his father, who is a busy railroad executive. But a horrific train accident leaves Cole’s stepmother as his only family. Alone and lost, Cole wanders his family’s estate and runs into an old family friend who gives him a special object that belonged to his father.

Cole just wants to be a kid, not the owner of the most powerful object in the world. The Blue Moon Narthex is made from tangible bits of Karma and gives Cole the power to transport himself and control Karma.

Now, Alsin Gideon, traitor of the Legion of Karma, is on rampage to take Cole’s narthex and add to his body count. For their safety, Cole and two of his prep school friends are pulled into the enormous secret headquarters of the Legion, which operates like an underground 1920s spy organization. While living at the secret location, Cole learns about the secret double life of his father.

With the pressure to find his role within the legion, maintain a strained relationship with his stepmother, and live up to a daunting legacy left by his father Cole, withdraws and makes secret plans to take on his father’s enemies.

Alsin Gideon cleverly taunts Cole, to meet him at a prearranged battle meant for his father. Cole’s anger and determination boil over and he is willing to risk his powerful tool and Karma’s stability for the hope of getting his parents back.

Will Cole, along with his friends, be able to work together to bring back his parents, keep Karma’s in balance, and stay alive?

To follow the tour, please visit N.J. Donner's page on iRead Book Tours.

Buy the Book:

Watch the trailer:

Meet the Author: 

N.J. Donner is a dad who loves to tell stories and create worlds. He has created 3D models of parts of the Legion’s secret headquarters and drawn extensive maps of the underground world where the Legion operates. He loves to explore and to figure out why and how things work, including Karma.

When he's not writing, N.J. runs a successful steel fabrication business in the Midwest. He loves to travel with his wife, Amanda, and their three children.

Six books are planned for the series taking the three main characters and the Legion of Karma to new continents and new adventures across the world.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Book Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends July 7, 2018

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6/26 Day Pic

6/26 Day Pic - Jordan Stitchman
by jmg124 on DeviantArt

Commission by Cryptic796

Monday, June 25, 2018

Yakuza 0

This reviewer only recently found out about Sega’s Yakuza series, known as Ryū ga Gotoku (“like a dragon”) in Japan, which has been by many sources classified as a roleplaying game pantheon, and has been around since the PlayStation 2 era. The first and only prequel title to the franchise, Yakuza 0, saw its Japanese release on both the PlayStations 3 and 4 early in 2015, although it would take over a year for the entry to reach North American shores, coincidentally on this player’s thirty-third birthday in 2017, only for the PS4. There are some minor hiccups, but the prequel proves one of the stronger games of the year released in the United States.

Yakuza 0 in parallel follows the stories of Kazuma Kiryu, a fledgling yakuza, and Goro Majima, a cycloptic nightclub owner, in Japan in 1988, with their paths ultimately intertwining late in the game. There’s a surprisingly-high story-to-gameplay ratio, the prequel effectively weaving a story that feels like a Japanese version of The Godfather, dealing with the ins and outs of the country’s organized criminal underworld. There are some narrative gameplay clichés such as unclear direction at one or two points and having to wander around a quarter hour or so, but the plot ends satisfactorily, telling the fates in the middle of the credits of various major characters, and is one of the driving forces to play.

Fortunately for those yearning for solid gameplay to accompany an excellent plotline, Yakuza 0 delivers, with Kiryu and Majima each having three different fighting styles the player can change on the fly during combat with hooligans, mobsters, delinquents, and whatnot that sometimes take notice of them while they’re wandering the streets, not to mention storyline antagonists. The protagonists can string together combos, with standard attacks building up their Heat gauges, both able to consume it to execute more powerful attacks at the right moments.

Subjugating foes earns the player yen, which players can use either to learn new abilities, active, and passive, in any fighting style in circular grid-based setups, or buy consumables such as medicine at shops, the game limiting the number of items the player can carry, although an item box accessible at save point phones allows for storage of excess goods. The battle system works well for the most part, with beating up enemies being a very satisfying experience, difficulty mercifully being adjustable, although one can easily miss split-second opportunities to execute Heat attacks.

Yakuza 0 interfaces well with the player, with easy menus and shopping, but retains the RPG tradition of save points, with this reviewer, for instance, missing out on the first save point and having to wait over half an hour before the next opportunity to record progress, the sole other save opportunities coming between chapters. Furthermore, while some text during cutscenes is skippable, there are many where it is not, which needlessly stretches out playing time for those who would rather read dialogue than listen to it entirely. Interaction could have definitely been better but is by no means a deal-breaker.

Perhaps the weakest part of the prequel is its limited musical presentation, with very few memorable tracks, and no music during many moments such as normal exploration. The localization team left the voicework in Japanese, with voices definitely fitting the characters. The sound effects are realistic, as well, but the developers could have definitely cared more about the music.

The prequel’s visual presentation, however, is very well above average, with a high degree of realism regarding the character models and careful attention to detail when the player sees their faces close-up during cutscenes. Granted, there is an occasional storytelling method where the characters’ lips don’t move at all to the dialogue, and some environmental textures look pixilated when viewed close, but these hardly detract from solid graphics that do the PlayStation 4’s capabilities justice.

The game text is generally free of error except maybe for one misuse of “it’s”, and retains Japanese honorifics, but gamers can easily look them up online to see what they mean.

A straightforward playthrough of the prequel, finally, can take players around one day’s worth of playtime total, with plenty to stretch out playing time such as trophies and a New Game+.

Overall, Yakuza 0 was definitely a good start to 2017 in terms of gaming for North Americans, with satisfying combat, general good control, an excellent narrative, and solid visuals. It does have some issues regarding things such as the unskippable text during many cutscenes and the conservative musical presentation but is very much an excellent diving board into the Yakuza franchise. Given that chronological successors in the franchise will receive upgraded ports to the PlayStation 4, players will most likely be able to enjoy the entire franchise on the system in the near future.

The Good:
+Engrossing combat.
+Easy menus.
+Excellent plotline.
+Solid visuals.
+Plenty lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Unskippable text during many cutscenes.
-Limited save opportunities.
-Unmemorable music.

The Bottom Line:
A great diving board into the franchise.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 4
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 9/10
Localization: 9/10
Music/Sound: 6/10
Graphics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: ~1 day

Overall: 8.5/10

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Grease (musical)

The leads were no John Travolta or Olivia Newton-John, but the musical seemed a little more mature than the film version I've only seen bits of, and was enjoyable.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Winter's King

Winter's King by Bryce O'Connor

The third entry of author Bryce O’Connor’s The Wings of War series, like its predecessor, occurs entirely within the year 861 v.S. (ver Syul), opening with Egard Rost instructing Kareth Grahst, the youngest general of the Kayle’s army, about his faith. The main chapters commence with the atherian, dragon-like protagonist, Raz i’Syul Arro, simultaneously hot and cold, wanting a group of men to take him to Ystréd, although they subjugate him instead. Meanwhile, the Priest Talo Brahnt converses with fellow vicar Carro al’Dor, wondering about how Raz fares on his own.

The action quickly goes to the mercenaries that captured Raz, with a female surgeon named Evalyn, Eva for short, fascinated by the atherian. The young priestess Syrah Brahnt ultimately departs on her own, soon entering the lands of the Kayle, meeting Egard Rost, who follows the Stone Gods, along with Kareth, who considers her the White Witch, with her religion not recognized in his domain. For most of the novel, Syrah finds herself in the captivity of the Kayle warlord Gûlraht Baoill, who ultimately leads a march against the Laorin temple towards the end of the novel.

Raz, Carro, and Talo depart on a rescue mission for Syrah, encountering many obstacles in their way such as a bear-like creature known as an ursalus. The High Citadel is gradually breached throughout the story, terminating with a duel between the atherian and Gûlraht, the book concluding satisfactorily, although there is confusion about whether the Goatmen are anthropomorphic goats or humans that happen to sport the animalian term. Even so, those that enjoyed the book’s predecessors will likely enjoy the tertiary installment, which is very much for adults only, given gore and profanity.

Who's rating the MPAA?

I think this pretty much demonstrates why America needs a new film rating system:

Politicians make important decisions, but their identities aren't kept a closely-guarded secret like those of the MPAA's members.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Ys Origin Original Sound Track

Ys Origin is to date the first and only prequel in the Nihon Falcom series, and true to its chronological successors features a solid soundtrack, with a remix of one track from the original game, "Tower of the Shadow of Death," serving as the first tower theme, having an opening similar to the underground theme in the Mario games, but evolving into something more epic. The rest of the soundtrack transgresses genres, and is overall a recommended listen.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Eye of the World

Original cover of The Eye of the World

The first main entry of the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga opens with a prologue occurring a long time before the chief chapters, and likely before the prequel novel New Spring, where Lews Therin Telamon, titled the Lord of the Morning, once wore the Ring of Tamyrlin, sat in the High Seat, summoned the Nine Rods of Dominion, and is negatively termed Kinslayer, wanders a palace seeking his love Ilyena. A black-cloaked figure who used to be Elan Morin Tedronai, defeated at the Gates of Paaran Disen, and is termed the Betrayer of Hope, converses with Lews, who is immolated when he attempts to channel the tainted saidin, the male half of the True Source.

In a motif repeated at the beginning of the main chapters of all subsequent Wheel of Time books, the eponymous metaphorical clock turns, and wind flows, in the first entry’s case through the Mountains of Mist, blowing past protagonist Rand al’Thor, a sheepherder and the son of Tam al’Thor, who treks towards his hometown of Emond’s Field, with a strange rider keeping an eye on him and playing part in latter chapters. Several important characters receive their introductions, including Mayor Bran al’Vere’s daughter Egwene; Nynaeve al’Meara, the young village Wisdom; Matrim “Mat” Cauthon, who played a prank on a villager’s dogs; and blacksmith apprentice Perrin Aybara.

The Village Council of Emond’s Field is somewhat worried at the coming of the Aes Sedai sorceress Moiraine along with her Warder Lan. A gleeman named Thom Merrilin comes too for village celebrations, with the mentioned black-cloaked rider sought after, during which demons known as Trollocs attack Emond’s Field, with Rand’s father injured in the process. Rand ultimately makes it a point to leave his hometown with several of his friends, the Aes Sedai, and her Warder, with Egwene along the way proposed to be a sorceress too, the magical order’s headquarters at Tar Valon made the party’s primary destination.

Lan further trains Perrin and Rand in the art of swordsmanship, and break from their journey at the Stag and Lion inn within the city of Baerlon. Rand regularly has dreams of the demon Ba’alzamon, receiving the warning that the Amyrlin Seat, the leader of the Aes Sedai, will allegedly use him. Children of the Light, termed Whitecloaks, on regular witch-hunts for Darkfriends, supporters of the Dark One, also occasionally harass the characters, with their leader, Lord Bornhald, interrogating Rand and Mat. Despite these interruptions, the party continues to the abandoned sylvan city of Shadar Logoth, aiming to get across a river so that Trollocs will stop pursuing them.

Encounters with the Trollocs ultimately separate the companions, with a battle on a ship called the Spray occurring, and Rand and Mat becoming its newest passengers to the chagrin of Captain Bayle Domon. Nynaeve, in the meantime, is with Moiraine and Lan, with Perrin and Egwene traveling with vagrants known as the Tuatha’an, or the Tinkers, Perrin receiving bondage to the wolves that plays part in later entries in the epic fantasy franchise. Several events occur in the city of Whitebridge, with The Queen’s Blessing in the city of Caemlyn Rand and Mat’s new destination at Thom’s insistence, the gleeman separating from the party too.

The false Dragon Reborn Logain, a troublemaker of sorts, has also been apprehended and brought to Caemlyn, with Rand and Mat yearning to meet him. They also meet an Ogier named Loial, son of Arent, son of Halan, ninety years young in the city, with its citizens further divided into support or opposition towards the current monarch, Queen Morgase. Desperate to meet the false Dragon, Rand climbs the walls outside the royal palace, being discovered but still brought before the Queen, who has an advisor in the Aes Sedai Elaida. The companions soon reunite, with the book’s eponymous Eye of the World made their new destination, the Dark One allegedly wanting to “blind” it.

The first entry concludes with a journey via Waygate to the wastelands where the Eye exists, and a battle at the location that receives a tie-in to the series’ first sequel. Overall, the inaugural Wheel of Time book is an enjoyable read, with good characters and plenty of fantastical beauty in the author’s writing style. Jordan was obviously a fan of the Star Wars franchise, given the nods such as the One Power, which has light and dark sides, but despite this derivation, the initial entry of the epic fantasy series definitely warrants a read from fantasy aficionados.