Pokemon GO Sweeps Nation

Pokemon GOAt this point, I don’t know if I even need to report on Pokemon GO. You can just go out to a park and see people on their smartphones, looking to find some Pokemon that they can capture.

I have been reporting on Pokemon GO since its announcement, and I saw its potential from the get-go. I thought that only fans of the franchise would be playing it, but it is affecting 65 million users.

The thing is that the mobile game is getting people outside, in public places, going to places that they would not normally go. So far, I have heard a lot of stories about how muggers have had better business because of it.

However, it is really interesting to see people playing the game, and talking with each other. People are meeting their neighbors in a very good atmosphere.

The thing is that this is so new, but it will really sweep the nation. I see a future where every franchise will have a location-based game. I’m sure that there will be a lot of businesses that will pay Pokemon GO to put a gym at their place.

Speculative Fiction Saturday: The Sin City Series

Sin CityThis is one of those times where I am cheating and writing about something that isn’t really speculative fiction per se, but I have some good reasons. 1) Sin City is based in a graphic novel, which are prime speculative fiction inspiration. 2) Most Speculative Fiction words should be as creative as this film. 3) Sin City is hopefully not a realistic depiction of any real world, anywhere.

The issue with Sin City is that it takes place in a a film noir world where everyone is some kind of criminal or has a serious dark side. Sadly, it is not a world where women are treated well, as much of the ladies in the film are prostitutes. The thing is that most of us believe that the world of Sin City exists in some form in the deep inner city, in neighborhoods that none of us would visit, even in the daytime.

Yes, this is the crime-ridden underworld that only comes out at night, but I would honestly hope that this doesn’t exist. The film and its graphic novel source material seem to be self-aware of the prejudices that this invokes, but it runs with them to a good end (for the most part). It seems natural to depict this world in black and white, because Sin City is a tribute to film noir, and I won’t go into detail as to what that is.

The film is directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller is given a director’s credit as well. Miller is a comic book artist and writer who is best known for his work with Daredevil and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and I have been told that his comic panels were essentially used as the storyboards for this first film. There is also a credit for a “guest director” by Quentin Tarantino. I have no idea what that means, but the film certainly follows Tarantino’s weird method of chronology as exhibited in his magnum opus, Pulp Fiction.

The original Sin City film opens with Bruce Willis playing Hartigan, a detective who is on a kidnapping case. He gets shot while saving a little girl, and it takes a while for the story goes back to them. Actually, I just remembered that it actually starts out with Josh Hartnett (who was a rising star at the time) killing some girl, just so we get what kind of world we are in: black and white and red all over. Yes, the film is in black and white, but there are occasional shots of color.

The film also has three main stories, the first deals with Marv, played awesomely by Mickey Rourke. Marv has some kind of odd condition where his mind is very prone to anger, and his body is like a brick shipyard. When a prostitute that he sleeps with ends up dead, and he is framed for the murder, Marv goes full out for blood.

Yes, the story is a straight-up revenge story, and it gets very violent as Marv deals with a cannibal, a corrupt priest, and the politician who can sit on his ivory tower over it all.

Then the story turns to Dwight, who is played by Clive Owen, who has kind of become a discount Nicholas Cage. Dwight is involved in an altercation with someone who is a cop, and that cop ends up dead. In Sin City, the law is all corrupt, so if you kill a cop, they won’t just arrest you, they will kill you.

That is a strange brand of injustice, and here is another weird thing: the prostitutes in Sin City “Old-town” are the law there. The cops don’t go there because of that. I don’t know what kind of arrangement was made to facilitate that, and maybe I don’t want to know.

The Dwight storyline is pretty good, and then it goes back to Hartigan again. This time, the girl he has saved is all grown up, and she is being hunted down again by someone in yellow skin. It’s probably the best in the series, and it is a good one to end the film on.

The issue is that Sin City has a lot of violence and nudity, but this is one of those films that seems to know that the audience knows it isn’t real and plays on their romanticizing of the underworld. Think of it like you would feel about films about real terrorism versus a film like Die Hard. In other words, we all know that this gritty world of crime is just all smoke and mirrors, not to be taken too seriously. Sin City is one of those films that I believe that actually has a good message, that in spite of all these characters having questionable morality, they still have values that they are willing to die for, or kill for.

Sin-City-A-Dame-to-Kill-For-teaser-posterThis would be a good time to talk about Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. As much as I liked the original Sin City and was glad to revisit it, this was not a good trip. One of the things about Sin City that made it good was that all the stories were only somewhat connected, but I got the feeling that each one took place on the same night. The exception would be Hartigan, who has a time-jump of about 8 years.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For starts with Marv in an action scene, and I think that the reason why this scene is here it to undo certain plot elements of the original Sin City film. There is an issue of Marv and how reliable of a narrator is, and I don’t want to spoil it. This brings up the issue of whether or not a sequel for Sin City is needed.

I have heard from some critics that the sequel to Sin City only contains one adaptation of one of the comic book stories, and that is…bad. This isn’t saying that something like this couldn’t work, but it just isn’t a good sign.

One of the stories stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the son of Roark, who is a villainous politician in the Sin City universe. Gordon-Levitt’s character is a gambler who is way too lucky. Seriously, he puts one coin in a slot machine and wins, like every time. I understand that characters in Sin City often bend the rules of reality such as doing superhuman feats, but this is too much.

Then Gordon-Levitt goes up against his father on the card table, and there is this one shot. This shot has a miniature Gordon-Levitt on the card table as a giant Roark throw cards at him and slices him up. This shot is stylized, but it feels opposite of the style of Sin City. It comes off as just being silly, and never should have got past the first draft.

Then there is a story with Dwight, but they changed the actor to Josh Brolin. The story seems to take place before the events of the original Sin City movie, and they also had to change the actor who plays the villainous Manute, as the actor who originally played him, Michael Clarke-Duncan, passed away recently.

In this storyline, there is a woman in it who constantly appears nude. This feels…unneeded. Even with the style of Sin City, it just feels like too much.

The last story is with Jessica Alba, who takes her revenge after what happened to Hartigan. It also feels like too much.

This probably is a good description for the film in general: Too much. I found that the shots in the film looked really CG with swooping pans of the city, but they seem unnecessary.

The biggest disappointment of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is that I have no idea which story was adapted from the comic book source material, which shows how much of a departure and not an addition to the original that it is. It feels like this is a sequel made too late, and yet felt rushed.

I will have to say that you should watch the first Sin City and skip its sequel. Granted, the first film isn’t for everyone, but it is a terrfic homage to the noir fiction in general.

Game Review of Super Mutant Alien Assault

Super_Mutant_Alien_AssaultIt’s very difficult to come up with a new game in this age, and it is pretty clear that Super Mutant Alien Assault is meant to be an homage to video games rather than something original. However, I’m trying to compare it to something, and I’m coming up short.

I have to admit that the title of Super Mutant Alien Assault sounds like it is supposed to be a parody of something, as there might be too many adjectives or nouns in that name. Basically, it is one of those games where there are platforms, but you are not going right. Instead, you are trapped in one of those rooms and you have to kill all of these enemies.

So you have to jump around and grab weapons and shoot these aliens, and sometimes you have use grenades. Also, sometimes you have to shut down these machines, and there are these things that enlarge the creatures. In short, there isn’t any shortage of enemies or surprises here, and multiple playings will reveal strategies that will take you a lot higher. Yeah, this is one of those games where you have watch your ammo, and your step.

Still, I played it with my son, and we had a lot of fun. I once thought that games like this died on the Super NES or Sega Genesis, but it looks like it was wrong. It is available on the Steam Store for $9.99.

Our Review of the Beyerdynamic iDX 200 iE Earbuds

BeyerdynamicWell, hey, I don’t think it would be even proper of me to say bad things about Beyerdynamic, as they are the champions at making some fine audio products. Needless to say, I am very pleased to try out these new earbuds with the iDX 200 iE.

These are some pretty great looking earbuds in a market that is very crowded with them, and the cans in the ears are nice and metallic with titanium. In case you are worried about it not being comfortable, well, it has 7 sizes of silicone eartips along with 3 pairs of Comply eartips.

If you are wondering whether or not this pair of high-quality earbuds come with a microphone, then fear not. After all, that is kind of a standard feature these days, and it has a 3-button remote that is good for all Apple and many Android devices as well.

What is interesting is how the cables are flat, and they are flexible as they are detachable. The cable length is 40 cm and it can be extended with a 90 cm cable.

The sound is good, and worthy of having the Beyerdynamic label. If you want to try these out for yourself, I have so far been only able to find them on Beyerdynamic’s Europe site for €199.00.

Our Review of the iKlip A/V

iKlip-AV_front34Well, we have talked about iKlip A/V before, upon its initial release. I mentioned in that article how easy it is for anyone to create some high-quality video now, and the iKlip A/V is made for those who want to have their own video channel and take it on the road.

As you can see from the picture here, this newscaster is being shot on video with a smartphone. It is one that allows the shooter to capture and monitor pro-quality audio with a high-quality mic preamp and it has a built-in wireless receiver.

ik_multimedia_iklip_avYou can see that the iKlip A/V has a place to mount your smartphone, thanks to the help of this clip thing that will hold it in place. You can then plug it in for an external microphone better than the smartphone’s mic. You can see that you can plug in the external microphone, and if you need power, it has 2 AA batteries ready for you. By the way, there is also a headphone jack so you can listen to what is being recorded.

By the way, just having this iKlip Xpand Mini allows for some stability while you are filming. Granted, it doesn’t have any kind of steadicam action, but it is much better than just holding your smartphone and filming. By the way, you can mount this on a tripod because it has that threaded hole at the bottom.

You should be able to purchase the iKlip A/V on the IK Multimedia site for about $179.99.

Game Review of Tumblestone

TumblestoneI believe that this game just went live today, so I can review it. I have had a chance to review it early on Steam, and it is quite interesting.

Tumblestone is a great game if you are interested in those Match 3 games. You know, like Candy Crush, Bejeweled, and such stuff like that. I was personally addicted to one called Sugar Smash, that was a deliberate rip-off of Candy Crush based on The Book of Life movie. Now I’m in to Juice Jam, which I don’t think is a rip-off of anything, but I like.

Tumblestone isn’t really a match 3 game. How it works is that you have to knock out three blocks of a certain color, but they have to be done in a certain order. You can only take out a visible row, and the challenge is to take out the bricks on the row below so you can get to the bricks up ahead.

It makes sense if you play it, and if you keep going, you will get to levels where the bricks are descending on you so you need to get rid of them as fast as possible. In fact, this is one of these games where you can play with others, and the one who finishes first wins.

What is interesting about this game is that it is free on the Xbox from July 16 to August 16 if you are part of Microsoft’s Games with Gold. Sure Tumblestone is worth it for free, but it is also worth the $24.99 on PlayStation 4, Wii U, and Steam. There is apparently a forty hour campaign, so it is possible to have a good deal of gameplay with this one.

Leap Frog Learn and Groove Musical Mat and Leap Start Learning System

Leap Frog Music MatLeap Frog is one of those companies that has a pretty good brand going on. You can associate the company with educational toys with a technical twist. I’m going to be reviewing two of their products today, one for the very young and one for a little older than that.

The first is the Leap Frog Learn and Groove Musical Mat, and it is a mat about 4 feet with ten buttons on it like a weird version of Dance Dance Revolution. It’s made for those ages 3 to 5, and it has lot of great play for someone of that age range.

Each of the ten spots has a number, animal, and an instrument. There are games so the kid can follow the lead and learn some beats, as well as the possibility of Free Play.

I don’t see this particular item on the Leap Frog site yet, but I found it on the Bed, Bath, and Beyond site for about $29.99.

Leap Frog Leap StartAs for the LeapStart, this is one of two that are sold from the company, and this particular model that you see in the image on the right is the one of Kindergarten and 1st Grade.

This educational toy is made for creative thinking as well as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). It has a set-up like a portable gaming system, but the “cartridges” are these books that can be placed within the Leap Start.

From there, there is this stylus on a wire that can read invisible dots on the pages. This allows for questions, challenges, and all kinds of things to help speed along learning. They are designed to teach school and life skills, with levels of Preschool, Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, and then First Grade.

The Leap Start itself costs $39.99 on the Leap Frog site, with the books costing $12.99 each.

Speculative Fiction Saturday: Finding Dory

FINDING_DORY_-_Key_ArtThis one isn’t really speculative fiction, but I take great comfort in the fact that Pixar’s films for over two decades have involved using computer graphics to create very real stories. In 2003, Pixar made what was probably the biggest movie of the year with Finding Nemo, and brought fish to life in a way that was never seen before. And sadly, it was imitated terribly in Shark Tale.

Normally, I don’t like it when Pixar does sequels, but I have been watching some again like Cars 2 and Monsters University and they have their merits. Finding Dory is probably as good, if not better than the original, which is odd. After all, Finding Dory is a sequel to a film that came out 13 years ago, and it focuses on a side character.

The issue is that Dory is more than just the comic relief side character. She has here short-term memory loss when makes her the most tragic character, and Finding Dory is a time to focus on what she has lost.

The story is an interesting mix of flashbacks and present day as Dory suddenly has a burst of remembrance and can somehow remember where her parents are, or at least were. The journey takes her to California, and to an aquarium.

I will have to say that the story involves a lot of things that are not very possible, such as many scenes where fish leap across things where they shouldn’t leap across and so forth. If you are willing to embrace the almost superhero logic that is a part of this story, then what you have is a heart warming fairy tale.

What the story is truly about is what it is like to live with a disability, and how you can still survive in spite of it. In the case of Dory, the audience really feels what it is like, and even though we remember what she forgets, we still feel her pain.

This one of those films that makes me really feel for those who are disabled. I have seen many films such as I Am Sam attempt the same thing, but oddly enough, this film really got to me. The next disabled person that I saw I didn’t do what I normally do and shy away from them.

In other words, Pixar wrote a film that actually makes me want to do good. Not only that, it shows that life isn’t about planning everything, and sometimes the best things in life come without warning, just like the bad things.

That’s all I’m going to talk about Finding Dory. I don’t want to spoil this film, but just see it if you haven’t already.

Dallas Shooter was Killed by Bomb-Equipped Robot

bomb sniffing robotThis is not a good time, as there have been some serious terrible things going on with shootings. I mean that Orlando Massacre happened a month ago, and in the midst of all that, there has been some serious bad action going down with two African American men shot by police in Louisiana and Minnesota. Now, a peaceful protest in Dallas resulted in a shooting, with 5 officers dead.

This just feels like a tragedy wrapped up in a towel and then unraveled and snapped in our faces. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, there was something historic that happened which has created something that changes the intersection of technology and humanity.

You see, that sniper attack the killed those police officers? That sniper, Micah X. Johnson, was taken out by a robot. Dallas Police Chief David Brown stated that “we saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was. Other options would have exposed our officers to great danger. The suspect is deceased as a result of detonating the bomb.”

This is apparently the first time such a solution has been implemented. Peter Singer, an author and strategist who is an expert in technology, says that only in Iraq are robots used in such capacity. Apparently, this bomb-sniffing robot was “jury-rigged” with a weapon to take out a sniper in Dallas.

At this point, I have to say: “and so it begins”. The issue is that it already begun. People start carrying guns and kill people, then we make robots, and the robots start carrying guns. I don’t really have much faith in the goodness of the human race, but man, this has given me a lot to think about.


Yosh Waterproof Case

YoshOkay, it seems like all of our smartphones are going to be waterproof one day. This means that soon you will be able to take them swimming, and not worry about the phone getting ruined. Until then, use the Yosh.

The Yosh is this simple bag that keeps your smartphone safe. Perhaps it is better than a Ziploc bag that Officer Hopps used in Zootopia when she had to flush herself down a toilet to escape. Yeah, that happened.

Fortunately, you don’t need that type of protection. However, in case you just want to take some pictures of fish, you can do that. Which leads me to believe that whoever took that picture here had two smartphones and two Yosh things.

If you want this, you can get it for $6.99 on Amazon in black, green, magenta, orange, white, and yellow.