Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Check it out: Warehouse 13

I may not be happy with the name change, but I am pretty pleased with Syfy’s latest new show, Warehouse 13.

Episode four airs tonight and I for one will be planted firmly in front of my television to see how this interesting new series plays out.
If you haven’t read up on it yet, or missed the first three episodes, Warehouse 13 is about two secret service agents who get recruited by a top secret branch of the government that goes around and finds objects that are negatively affecting the world around them. A hair pin once belonging to a jealous queen, for instance, might be driving a woman to kill those who try to keep her from the people she loves.

Agents Mika and Peter join Artie, a long-time member of Warehouse 13 (a literal warehouse where billions of artifacts, pieces of art and what-have-yous are stored) in locating these objects and “neutralizing” them with some sweet gizmos.

The show offers some interesting historical tidbits and it’s neat to hear the story behind each object and why it’s causing people or things to act the way they are.

The cast is small, but great. Artie, played by Saul Rubinek, is eccentric and full of quirks. Mika, played by the sometimes overacting Joanne Kelly, operates by the books while Peter, played by Eddie McClintock, prefers to wing it. Not exactly original, but hey, it works. As Artie describes them, Mica looks while Peter leaps.

Considering all the conspiracy jibba-jabba and the paranormal aspects of the cases, it’s not unfair to compare Warehouse 13 to The X-Files. With witty dialogue and co-stars that lovingly rib each other at every turn, W13 also has a distinctive Bones feel.

I hate to keep using the word “neat,” but that’s exactly what pops into my head several times per episode. The ideas are fresh and the characters are surprisingly distinctive for being so early in the show’s run.

Give it a look on Syfy on Tuesday nights and let me know what you think. As for me, I’ll be visiting Warehouse 13 as long as the doors are open and the contents intriguing.


What the hell Sci-Fi? It’s taken a couple weeks for this to bother me enough to write about it, but seriously, a name change? And not just that, but you went with Syfy?

And then you say it’s to shed your “nerdy image?”

Imagine, if you will, a guy named Chris. Chris is the biggest nerd you know. He plays computer games, reads funny books and speaks four versions of Klingon.

So, one day, Chris informs you his name is now Bloodstar. Or, to make the analogy a bit more accurate, he informs you his name is still Chris, but now he spells it Krys.

He still lives in his mother’s basement. He still collects action figures. And he still sleeps in a Star Wars sleeping bag when he comes over to your place for a sleepover. Has his name change, in any way, altered how “nerdy” you think he is? Of course not.

Dammit Syfy, you ARE the nerdy channel. You still show all the same campy, terrible horror movies and broadcast all the programs with aliens, robots and squiggily things.

This isn’t a complaint. I love the channel. But how can you expect a name change (especially one so half-assed) to affect viewers’ perception of you?

There’s a channel for women. There’s a channel or ten for sports and music. There’s a do-it-yourself channel, for crying out loud. YOU are the nerdy channel.

I’m not going to start a petition or anything to get the name changed back. So long as you keep showing the same type of programming, it doesn’t really matter what you call yourself. But why take yourself too seriously, especially when ninety percent of your programming involves things exploding out of other things and then going on a killing rampage.

As for you, Cartoon Network, you’re suspect. There are like six shows in your lineup now that aren’t even cartoons. You’re not Nickelodeon. You’re Cartoon-freaking-Network. People tune in to watch *gasp* cartoons.

Fix this problem or I’ll send Syfy to take you down. He can do it, you know. Haven’t you heard? He’s not nerdy anymore.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday mini-movies: Cat bath edition

A friend sent me a video of a cat getting a bath. Once I remembered how hilarious these types of videos are, I went on an interwebs quest to find even more.

I understand that cat-bath-humor isn’t necessarily universal. Some people like to hear the cats yowling. Some like to see their huge, terrified eyes. And still others get a kick out of seeing a seemingly fluffy animal instantly turn into a twiggy beast-thing the moment it hits the water and all that hair is soaked down.

Me? I’m apparently a running man. (No obscure pun intended.) The linked video kept me laughing past the point of appropriateness. Hopefully it’ll do the same for you.

P.S. If it’s for the sake of cleanliness, is it really animal cruelty? I think not.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Music review round-up: Killswitch Engage and The Dead Weather

Killswitch Engage: Self titled- The boys of Killswitch Engage have had a pretty busy decade, producing four albums in the past eight years or so. For a heavy metal band, that's pretty fantastic.

What we have in their latest self titled offering is the perfect example of a three-star album. There's not a single bad track anywhere on the list, nor is there anything particularly memorable. In truth, you could take the tracks from all of Killswitch's most recent albums, shuffle them up and rearrange them into "new" albums, and you would never know the difference.

I'm sure this sounds like I'm complaining, but other than the fact I would like to see the band blow my mind with something revolutionary, they are easily one of the most consistent groups in the genre, or music as a whole for that matter.

Standout tracks include "A light in a darkened world," "Lost" and "This is goodbye."

The drums are heavy and driving, the guitar solos almost soar, and lead vocalist Howard Jones never ceases to impress me with his powerful howls and equally powerful melodies.

If you like Killswitch Engage or melodic metalcore, this is a solid par for the course.

The Dead Weather: Horehound- At some point in the near future, I completely expect Jack White to slip into an exhaustion coma. The dude who brought you The White Stripes and The Racontours is at it again, this time with the supergroup The Dead Weather; comprised of lead singer Alisson Mosshart (The Kills), guitarist Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age), bassist Jack Lawrence (The Racontours) and, of course, drummer and backup vocalist Jack White.

Surprisingly, all three of White's projects have a distinct enough sound to warrant their existence and The Dead Weather are violently battling for a top spot on my list.

If the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are dirty rock, then The Dead Weather are dirty blues. The music is great, songs often dance in an out of tempo, creating a bit of complexity, and Mosshart has just the right amount of gravel in her voice to create a dark, smokey jazz club atmosphere you might have a hard time wanting to leave.

When the group's first single "Hang you from the heavens" hit the radio, I was a little hesitant to jump on board. Single number two, "Treat me like your mother," though, convinced me to give the album a shot. This, along with "60 feet tall," "So far from your weapon" and "Will there be enough water" are my top picks on an album I can happily listen to, from start to finish, over and over again.

Review: BlazBlue- Calamity Trigger

I put BlazBlue, available for the 360 and PS3 right meow, at the top of my list for games to get in July and, after pouring mucho hours into this meaty fighting title, I've gotta say, I'm a genius.

BlazBlue (Pronounced Blaze Blue) is a Japanese-style 2D fighter. The Japanese part explains the odd spelling of the name. It also explains the anime inspired roster of characters as well as the convoluted story that makes nearly no sense at first. By the end of the game, you kind of have an idea of what is maybe going on...Sort of...Kind of.

But none of that should dissuade you from playing this title. Besides, who players a fighting game for the story anyway?

What we have here are twelve characters with as many arenas to fight in. In a day and age where it seems like every fighting roster is stretching into the twentys and thirtys, a slim 12-man selection might seem like a ripoff at first. Believe me when I say this is the most diverse cast of characters I have ever seen and, without a doubt, the most balanced. There are no carbon copies here. Everyone, from the nimble cat-girl Taokaka to the hulking Iron Tager and strategic Rachel Alucard, has something unique to offer. No two characters play alike and all require different strategies to master.

The artwork in BlazBlue is eye melting and the music is fantastic. Coming from the guys who brought us all the Guilty Gear games, I would expect nothing less. Easily the most visually and aurally pleasing fighter I've ever played and one of the best reasons to own an HD television.

When it comes to modes, you've got a full set ranging from training (with a ridiculous amount of tweaks to practice literally any situation you can imagine), a points rush mode, arcade mode, versus mode, story mode (complete with loads of text and nifty artwork), a replay theater for saved matches, and, of course, online (which allows ranked and unranked matches and the added bonus of six-man rooms wherein two players compete while the others watch and wait their turn, just like you would play in a room full of friends in front of a single TV).

But what really matters in a fighting game is the fighting, and this is where BlazBlue delivers the knockout punch. Combat is kept to a simple four button method, not including taunt, with light, medium and heavy attacks, as well as a "drive" button. The drive maneuvers, putting it very lightly, are basically noob friendly triggers that provide pretty effects to make even beginners feel like they're doing something awesome. Combo moves can even be pre-set on the right analog stick, making it possible for pick-up-and-play folks to execute combos without having to memorize complex button inputs.

At its core, the fighting seems simple. But once you spend a little time with BlazBlue, the complexity really starts to shine through. With multiple blocks, counters and breaks, character-specific gauges and drive abilities, and a "heat gauge" that has to be built up to activate the bigger combos, as well as super "distortion" and "astral" finishes, BlazBlue becomes the deepest fighter to date.

The highest praise I can give BlazBlue is that it reminds me of Super Street Fighter II and the original Mortal Kombat. Not so much in content in that it has once again made the fighting genre feel new to me. For button mashers and those who prefer to really sink their teeth into a complex fighting system, BlazBlue has a lot to offer.

Prepare for sore thumbs. This fighting game will keep you coming back for more.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Slightly remodeled

I know what you're thinking, "There's something different about this wicked-awesome blog."

Well, you're right. In an effort to add a face to the content (no matter how confused that face may appear) I've finally let slip a little info about myself. I'm keeping with my promise to not let this turn into a day-in-the-life-of blog, so no worries there. But in the past two years of bloggin', I've received three e-mails (the most recent of which came just last week) from folks wanting to know just who the heck I was.

When the reply "Teh Awesomez" did not suffice, I decided to be a little more personable and finally added a little profile (Located on the left, at the bottom). Don't expect much. Echo is still a man of mystery, after all.

I've also added a handy little search thingy for you to quickly locate any words or phrases you may want to look for on the blog. It hasn't been tested yet, so good luck with that one!
(Update: I have tested the search feature and it works like a charm. I searched for the word "poop." Conclusion: I don't use that word nearly enough.)

Also, the banner is now freaking huge.

That will be all.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday mini-movies: Against nature edition

I don't know what to think about this video. It goes against everything I've been taught about nature in general.

Are we seeing nature's most wussy snake? Or perhaps we are witness to nature's first meat-eating rabbit with a hankering for snake.

Whatever the explanation, you gotta have respect for that rabbit. Otherwise, It. Will. Eat. You.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

UFC 100: Echo calls it

The Ultimate Fighting Championship has finally reached its 100th card. Don’t worry, Granpa Echo isn’t going to get all nostalgic on you. Well, not much.

Though it is kind of crazy thinking back to the day, I was probably in Jr. High or so, when my professional wrestling fanatic of an older brother brought home the first UFC on video cassette. (Those are like a DVD, kids, but less shiny.)
He told me, “It’s like wrestling, but the guys actually hit each other and stuff. There’s blood and everything.”

Back then, there were very few rules governing the sport and fights were basically a collection of half-hazard brawls. The idea was simple: Who would win in a fight? The age old question of whether Bruce Lee could take out Tyson could finally be answered, in a matter of speaking, and I was hooked. Boxers fighting karate experts and sumo wrestlers taking on bar brawlers. It was insane.

Since then, the sport has evolved into a legitimate athletic competition wherein contenders (usually) train their bodies for years in various styles of combat in order to best their opponents; hence “mixed martial arts.” The differences between the first UFC tournament and where the sport stands now are as vast as night and day. Now we’re ready for UFC 100 and the sport is one of the fastest growing in the world, culminating with this weekend’s super-card featuring two title fights and a whole slew of what will, hopefully, be memorable bouts.

Here’s a look at the main card. I think I need to dedicate a separate post to the fact, after paying $50 for a pay-per-view, I don’t get to watch the full damn card. Especially since those undercard boys are usually the ones fighting to keep the dream alive, often showing more heart than anyone appearing in the main fights. But, again, that’s a rant for another day. Today we celebrate UFC 100.

Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Alan Belcher: The night begins with two moderately fresh faces to the professional scene, both standout fighters. Akiyama’s mastery of judo and evolving standup should prove a formidable obstacle for the well-rounded Belcher. Partially because his name bothers me and partially because I feel Akiyama has a more experienced set of notches on his belt, I see this one going Akiyama’s way.

Dan Henderson vs. Michael Bisping: I cannot wait for this fight. Henderson and Bisping remind me a lot of each other, so this will likely be a wisdom vs. youth affair. Both have tremendous strength and lasting power, but Henderson has had some trouble finishing a fight in his last few bouts. Bisping, on the other hand, is cocky and hungry and quite good for such a young competitor. I fully expect this one to be a brawl and Michael “The Count” Bisping to have his arm raised high once all is said and done.

Jon Fitch vs. Paulo Thiago: Here we have another contest between two similar athletes. Fitch has a great ground game, can go the distance and has only gotten better with each fight. Thiago, though, is a master of submission and, as his debut in the UFC earlier this year showed, has some knockout power. If the fight stays standing, I’m giving it to Fitch. If it drops to the ground, I have a feeling Thiago will have minimal trouble turning the table in his favor, possibly removing one of Fitch’s limbs in the process.

Georges St. Pierre vs. Thiago Alves: I’ll give Alves a nod for the fact he’s shown improvement over the years. And I suppose St. Pierre had to fight somebody, so it might as well be him. Alves, though, is not ready for a mentally and physically prepared St. Pierre and that’s exactly who he’s about to step into the octagon with. I expect to see a title fight between St. Pierre and the winner of the Fitch/Thiago bout by year’s end.

Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir: I don’t really like Brock Lesnar or Frank Mir, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see these two guys tee off on each other for five rounds of viciousness. Mir made a plaything out of Lesnar’s ankle in their first outing following a series of blows from Lesnar that left me wondering how long Mir could survive. That was Lesnar’s first experience in the UFC and one of his first professional bouts in MMA. But the dude has learned a lot since then and can still hit like a jackhammer.

Once again, I’m calling this fight based on where it goes. From the ground, I think Mir will use his experience to keep the match in his favor. If it stays standing, though, I’m not sure if anyone can suffer too many blows from Lesnar’s ginormous mitts.

In short, I don’t see either of the belts changing hands at UFC 100, but I do think every fight on the card will be worthy of its lofty placement within the biggest event in the promotion’s history.

Mark Coleman vs. Stephan Bonnar
Mac Danzig vs. Jim Miller
Jon Jones vs. Jake O'Brien
Dong Hyun Kim vs. TJ Grant
CB Dollaway vs. Tom Lawlor
Matt Grice vs. Shannon Gugerty

(As an aside, the gloves are officially coming off between staticechoes and one pepperedthought. Look for more on this feud come UFC 101)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Games to get in July

You hear that enormous, collective sigh? That’s the gaming masses finding a little extra cash in their pockets and time on their hands thanks to the annual summer gaming drought.

Enjoy it while it lasts, kiddies. The October-November cram-fest is nearly upon us wherein publishers try their damndest to get their mitts on that delicious holiday monies.

For now, though, why not enjoy some of those games you still have in the ole backlog from last year’s holiday surplus? I’m still eager to finally get around to Fallout 3. A blogger can dream.

1st- BlazBlue (PS3, 360)
16th- Holy Invasion of Privacy Badman! (PSP)

I’m excited for HIOPB to be releasing this month because it got great scores in Japan and the unique dungeon building gameplay looks like it’ll make for a fun puzzler. It’s also just nice to see these odder titles make their way across the pond.

For those who enjoy a top-notch fighting game, look no further than BlazBlue. From the makers of Guilty Gears (BB. GG. What’s with these guys and repeating letters? Next up, Pragmatic Pummeling.), this gorgeous 2-D fighter features a smaller roster than most games in the genre, but also one of the best and most well-rounded.

Move quickly, if you intend to buy. A “standard” edition comes out later this month, but the “special” edition out right now features a two-disc soundtrack you’ll actually want to listen to and a bonus disc of tutorials, strategies and more. The best part is that this comes at no extra cost.

Movies to miss in July

I always thought of myself as a romantic at heart, so I’m not sure why I hate on all these generic romantic comedies so hard. Oh, wait. Maybe it’s because they’re generic romantic comedies.

If you gots to go to the theater this July, do your best to avoid the following.

I Love You Beth Cooper- If there’s one thing I hate worse than the average generic romantic comedy, it’s one that is complete and utter BS. Maybe that’s what people find so appealing about these movies wherein the characters take chances and break stereotypes; they’re a nice thought even though it would never happen that way.

Name me one stuck-up high school cheerleader who, after being publicly humiliated by the class nerd on graduation night, would treat him to an evening of adventure, mayhem and sexual tension, and I’ll actually go see this movie. I would much rather see a movie wherein the nerd makes his confession and is then treated to a night of physical abuse by all the class jocks and a lifetime of embarrassment. I hate that’s how the world works, but I’m nothing if not grimly realistic.

Orphan- Look out everyone, it’s Damianette. We get it, kids can be really, really scary. Especially when they wear a strikingly bright outfit and give you a vacant stare. Thank you, The Ring, for rekindling everyone’s fear in creepy little children. Problem is, it’s not really scary anymore.

This one looks like a mix between The Omen, The Good Son and maybe a little Silent Hill thrown in. With so much creativity going for it, it’s sure to be a winner. (/sarcasm)

The Ugly Truth- What happens when a strong, independent female television executive is paired with a male pig of a star who promises his expertise on men, women and relationships can net her the man of her dreams despite her blatantly obvious hatred of the guy? I sure hope they don’t end up together. That would be just too crazy.

Aliens in the Attic- You know how you look at a valleygirl in the mall with a purse slung over her shoulder with a shaking, yappy little dog poking its head out as if it were some newfangled sort of wallet or something? That’s how I feel about this movie: insta-hate for no real reason.