Jan 292013

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal SkullThe more I think about the fourth Indiana Jones film, the more convinced I am that I originally rated it far too high, and that the movie would have been better left unmade.

Even though it retains a lot of old magic and injects new elements into the saga, there’s so many things wrong with the film, that it clearly is a severe lapse in Spielberg’s judgment to let this through.

The worst offense is ridiculous jungle chase towards the end of the film. And whoever OK’d it clearly has so significant issues with old Tarzan movies that he should have been recused from the creative team.

Jan 272013

Before Midnight preview posterI seem to have completely missed the announcement of Before Midnight, the unexpected third volume of Richard Linklater’s continuing storyline.

Liked the two first installments a lot. And having been a Linklater-fanboy ever since Dazed & Confused, this film just zoomed into the top of my “most wanted in 2013″.

Jan 272013

Hill Climb Racing logoFingersoft’s Hill Climb Racing was one part of the finnish trifecta a couple of weeks ago: then a finnish game was on top of the three categories in the Appstore (most downloads for free [this game] and paid [Angry Birds Star Wars] games and most revenue generated [Clash of Clans]). The other two are pretty famous on their own, but Hill Climb Racing took pretty much everybody by surprise.

It’s a simple game with plenty of meat below a simplistic surface, there’s a lot more on offer than initially seems.

The objective of the game is simple, drive as far as you can, without succumbing to the twin hazards of a tricky track and a limited gasoline supply. And the track is indeed tricky – a two-dimensional hilly road that quickly gets challenging. The challenge needs to be tackled both with skill and with vehicular improvements (more powerful engine and such). And behind the first track and vehicle lie several more.

The controls match the game. There’s just two virtual pedals –

Despite an initial appearance that Hill Climb Racer is yet another IAP-monster, the need to purchase coins subsides fast once the track set on Moon opens – in the lighter gravity the jumps and flips quickly generate a seriously positive cash flow.

Hill Climb Racing

As individual games are short, this is a very good casual timekiller.

Jan 262013

I’ll finish the long-stretched and overdue travelogues with the last remaining one.

Had to participate in a meeting with chinese officials (regarding MeeGo privacy and security issues) in Beijing about a year ago.

Peking DuckWent into the meeting almost straight away from the flight. The local rush hours were utter killers, spent hours in a cab going both ways. The meeting itself was quite painless, would have appreciated something to drink, but that’s a minor complaint. Almost dozed off during the other presentations (mainly in chinese, and thus impossible to follow).

Ate Peking Duck on the first evening and the dish is worth all the accolades it gets. Succulent duck, exquisite sauce and crispy vegetables. Conveniently enough the restaurant was in the lobby of the hotel, so avoided venturing outside in a quite jetlagged state.

Took one day off before flying back home. And spent it all on a bus trip. Nominally the ride was about the Great Wall, but we saw plenty more (usually accompanied with a shopping opportunity). The wall was indeed impressive – despite the very cold day the section was quite packed with tourists.

Was quite disappointed on the flight out that apart from food and tea there wasn’t that much to take home in the airport (was expecting to buy a decent cookbook, but couldn’t locate a proper bookstore).

The Great Wall of China

Jan 262013

Waiting for Godot coverThe second book of the year (not counting graphic novels) was Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (the wikipedia page works very well as a Cliff’s Notes for the work).

This is not a long book. My edition clocked in around a hundred-odd pages.

And it’s not a book with a complicated plot or plentiful action. Nope. This is a two-act play in which very little happens. It’s like a slow motion two-part Seinfeld episode with an extremely low budget towards the end of the season.

The cast is tiny. Most of the time there’s just two men on stage. And even at its most crowded there’s just five people in the whole story.

The plot is almost inconsequential – Waiting for Godot is not about big deeds and bigger drama, it’s about – indeed – waiting for Godot. Who is, at best a remote acquintance of the two protagonists, but for unexplained reasons they are unable to leave without having a word with him.

What is left is dialogue. And there’s massive amounts of it, as the Vladimir and Estragon have nothing but words and shabby clothes. And almost the whole length is spent on the former (though the latter do put in occasional appearances).

But despite the overwhelming dialogue (it meanders, metamorphoses and catches the characters unawares at times) there’s no clarity or closure. The play begins and ends with us very little wiser on what is happening.

I’m sure the effect of the play would be even stronger on stage – reading just scratches the surface on what good actors can accomplish. Too bad there seems to be no local theatrest taking on Huomenna Hän Tulee this spring.

TL; DR: He doesn’t show up.

Jan 262013

Long Play logoLong Play is the first finnish “slow journalism” site. It was opened last week and the premiere story is on corruption in football (mainly finnish football, but odd characters abound nonetheless).

Their earnings model is per-story, but there’s no proper webstore or reader application yet. Right now Elisa Kirja sounds like the best payment option (fortunately there is a dedicated app in the works).

Jan 252013

Dndclassics logoWizards of the Coast was one of the first companies to publish their inventory in .pdf format.

They abandoned the practice a few years ago, and Pirate Bay was the best source for the files since then.

There’s a legal way, these days, as dndclassics.com has opened shop. The selection is quite limited for the time being, and the prices are on the steep side.

Jan 212013

Carcassonne: Traders and Builders logoThe Codingmonkeys’ fabulous iPad rendition of Carcassonne has been updated with the Traders and Builders expansion.

The second expansion adds a two new dimensions to the game: trade and repeated turns.

Some city tiles now provide trade symbols, and the player who hoards the most by the end of game gets ten points for each majority. The trick here is that the trade symbols are awarded to the player who completes a city, even if he has no meeples within.

A player may also place a builder meeple on a road or city – and whenever he grows the structure where the builder assists, he gets to pick and play a second tile.

The third addition, a pig meeple that boosts the scoring on a field, is more limited in scope to these two.

Both change the flow of the game quite a bit, and especially in games that use both expansions the scores tend to run high. In some ten games the AI has proven a bit fragile, the personalities that have been reliable high-scorers (count and countess) no longer rule the land as they have used to.

Like its somewhat simpler predecessor that went unreviewed here, this expansion is heavily recommended, even if its gamecenter achievements are very much on the boring side (and pretty much demand a few games against a local opponent that lets the wookiee win).

Jan 212013

Pink Panther posterThis week’s Movie Monday challenges us to nominate the worst of the bad remakes.

My nomination is Shawn Levy’s atrocious Pink Panther from 2006 that lost to the Blake Edwards original on pretty much every feasible scale. Its sequel is even worse, but I do not considered it a remake.

While Steve Martin is not completely terrible as Clouseau 2.0, Kevin Kline’s take on inspector Dreyfus is just a pale imitation of Herbert Lom’s original. Martin’s take on Clouseau is a lot meaner than Sellers’ – while the detective from sixties was a bumbling and slow-witted policeman with very limited skills, the new one is a vain idiot with no redeeming features whatsoever.

The age of Blake Edwards’ movie is most visible in its pacing – it’s at times slow and meandering, whereas this baby ticks along with ADHD speed. Here the jokes vary wildly in quality, but very few of them cross the threshold of laughter.

Movie Monday #76: Better left un-re-made.