Steve’s Media Blog

This is an expanded review from Quick n’ Dirty Movie Reviews

Spider-Man is one of those movies that I didn’t particularly like when I first saw it opening night in the theatres, but eventually grew on me on future viewings.   There are just some little things in there that makes me really enjoy it every time I see it now.

I can’t even remember why I didn’t initially like the movie – but the reason I do like it is because it really captures the campy feel of the comic book movie that something like Spider-Man should have.  Batman Begins and The Dark Knight should have that dark feeling – I mean Batman is a pretty brooding guy.  But Spider-Man is full of crazy villains (I mean you’ve got mutating lizards, space aliens, and a crazy hunter) that probably wouldn’t work well in a serious setting.

The other really great thing about the first Spider-Man movie is the editing and pace of the film.  You can tell a lot of work went into shaping this movie.  It doesn’t feel like it’s running too long (and actually, at 121 minutes this is the shortest of the three), and the story is straightforward and easy to follow.  It goes from Point A to B to C without deviating.

With such a rich history and multitude of backstory re-tellings, this movie needed to be strict with its story telling.  I think it says a lot when you can feel Peter Parker’s awkwardness around Mary-Jane through high school when the movie spends all of 20 minutes in that time frame.  As Peter learns of his new powers (and the responsibilities that come with it), he’s thrust into the real world where he has to learn about different priorities and responsibilities.

But there’s other things that make me enjoy the movie when watched in retrospect, after having seen the two sequels.  Remember that part in Spider-Man 3 where he poses by the American flag?  Well, check out the final scene in Spider-Man.  Pretty similar, I think!

Overall, this movie is well-produced and works with the vast array of source material efficiently.  If you haven’t seen it, where have you been for the past 7 years?

I think my initial plan for this blog was to get noticed on a regional (if not national) scale, and have a popular blog that a lot of people read.  Well, I think I have a fair share of readers if I believe WordPress’ statistics, but I’m fairly certain no one links to this blog beyond myself.

But I’ve been reading a few articles here and there about blogging in general and did some thinking based on my own experiences in the last few months.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

– It’s great if I can get people to read this, but I’m not going to worry about that as my main focus.  I’m just going to write what I write, on my own schedule.  I don’t have time to do regular updates anymore.

– I’m putting less focus on other blogs that I’ve started.  In fact I deleted a bunch of them just now.  I’m still going to keep my Stargate Universe blog because it’s so specific, but it’s on hold until that show launches in Canada.  I have a separate movie review blog that I started before this one, but I’ve never really updated that one on a regular basis in the first place.

– In summary, I’m not in the market to try and monetize blogs or make money online anymore.  I have other things I need to focus on without having to worry about blogs.

I’ll still be writing, so if you enjoy the blog, please keep reading! :)

Who says that big corporations don’t give back to their customers?  I don’t say it, at least not all the time.  Anyway, Amazon.com is giving away a total of 773 free MP3’s – and they’re also DRM-free – from their music store.  The selection varies but there seems to be some quality stuff there to download.

Lifehacker – Download 773 Free MP3s from Amazon

I always like free software, especially free software that does something really cool.  In this case, BeatScanner does something really cool for your music.  I found out about this program through Lifehacker, and it looks really awesome.

Basically BeatScanner analyzes your playlist, and scans it based on the specified range of beats per minute.  Lifehacker’s suggestion is to scan it for 130 BPM (plus or minus 10) to get the ideal workout BPM range, and that’s something I have to try out myself.

Have you tried using BeatScanner?  Let me know how you like it!

I’m still listening through podcast #200, but so far I’ve been quite pleased with it.  The podcast is always put together very well, but #200 is quite amazing (probably because they put a lot of time in it).  I haven’t gotten to this part yet but apparently they’re giving away an ipod – so go have a listen for your chance!

On a side note, I’ve been really getting into some of the online capabilities of the ipod touch.  Unfortunately, I can really only play with them while I’m at home, where I have a wifi network.  There are some things that I’d really like to be able to do on the go.  So I’m thinking of switching to the iphone – I’m in the process of finding a way to make it happen.

Alternatively if anyone has one they’d like to donate I’d return the favour and donate an ipod touch! ;) (I know, not a fair trade but I have to try)

NHL 2004 - Gamecube/Heatley cover

NHL 2004 - Gamecube/Heatley cover

I know, I know – what’s the relevance of a 6-year old video game – much less a 6-year old hockey game? To be honest, not a heck of a lot. These days you can be an actual player on your favourite team in a semi-realistic Be A Pro mode in EA’s offering. Compared to recent hockey games, NHL 2004 pales in comparison when you look at the features and gameplay that it offers.

BUT it is still fun. And that’s why I’m doing this review. My copy is for the Nintendo Gamecube, but NHL 2004 was also released for the PS2 (and the Xbox, I think), as well as the PC. Arguably the PC version is the best platform for the game, with tons of flexibility for add-ons and online play.

So why am I playing NHL 2004 all of a sudden? For a simple reason: it’s challenging. I played some playoff games at a buddy’s house on the PS2, and I was amazed at the difficulty level of the game. We got our butts kicked in both games (yeah we played on the same team) by the computer – on the MEDIUM setting. I was winning games by huge blowouts in NHL 2008 on the most difficult game setting available!

So I set out to create a new dynasty on my Gamecube copy. Same difficulty level – medium – and it’s even more difficult. You start with zero “facilities”, meaning your players have the lowest ratings possible without upgrades. Unless you start out with a stellar team in the first place, you’ll probably have a hard time. Case in point, my season record right now is 7-9-1-2. Oh yeah that’s right, you can still tie in NHL 2004.

As far as graphics goes, there honestly isn’t much of a difference between NHL 2004 and NHL 2008 (or 2009 for the PS2, frankly). The only difference you’ll notice is if you go from playing NHL 2008/2009 for the next generation consoles and play NHL 2004. The graphics in the game are quite impressive, and it’s easy to forget that EA Sports has been putting out games of this quality for quite a long time.

Now obviously the game isn’t perfect. One of the reasons it’s so challenging is because the computer is especially good at poke checking and blocking pucks. As a result, shot counts are usually inflated in favour of the other team. The computer also is able to score some really soft, flukey goals from angles that never seem to go in for you, and can be really frustrating. On the flip side, there is a really cheap move you can do that scores goals 99% of the time – score a backhand across the crease. Of course it’s easier to do that on a breakaway.

Penalty killing is insanely hard. The clock slows down to real-time when any team is on the powerplay. Essentially, if you’re playing a 5-minute clock, in previous games your powerplay/penalty kill would last about a minute or so – if that. Pretty easy to kill off the penalty when it goes by quick. Again, this is beneficial when YOU’RE on the powerplay (which leads to inflated powerplay goals), but it really sucks for two minutes when you’re killing a penalty.

There are a lot of options available to you in the dynasty mode, but I find the lack of an e-mail/message system really hurts the game. I got used to this feature a lot – it’s hard to keep track of when a player is going to come back from injury without it.

Overall, though, NHL 2004’s merits outweigh the bad parts. It’s a game I can just sit down and play, and actually have fun – because I know I’m not going to go 82-0-0-0. There’s nothing more rewarding than banging out a hard-fought win without using cheap goal tactics in NHL 2004.

No, I don’t have any jokes for anybody.  But I just wanted to talk about the apparent tradition of media outlets pranking the unsuspecting public.  I’m not really a big fan of it – well, that’s partially true.

I did get a kick out of a local radio morning show trying to suggest that a new bylaw would enforce bicycle licenses and various other things related with biking.  Some callers bought it and I got a laugh out of that.  I like the stories that are ridiculous enough to sound true, but you know they’re really not.  Although, in a city as crazy as Ottawa, sometimes it’s just downright hard to tell.

But that’s radio – there’s immediacy to it, and the DJs can say “April Fool’s!  All a joke!”  But try that in a newspaper…not as easy.  Unless you’re clever and able to somehow hide the words “April Fools” in the body of the article, it can be hard to tell what’s a joke and what’s not.  Especially if it’s believable.

I don’t know – I guess I just don’t like the idea of a reliable news source pulling a prank.  There are going to be plenty of other people playing jokes.

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