Forky Asks A Question

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We recently had the chance to watch Toy Story 4. Afterwards, I asked Wyatt what part of the movie he liked the best. He answered, none of it. Made me laugh. I couldn’t have agreed with him more. While a touching end to Woody’s story, I’m not sure why Pixar decided to make another Toy Story movie.

On the flip side, Disney+ has been releasing Forky Asks A Question shorts every week. If you haven’t had a chance to watch these, I can’t recommend them enough. Wyatt especially likes the ‘What is a Friend’ short.

“What? No!”

If you have Disney+, make an effort to check out Forky Asks A Question.

Friday Night Movie – Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Friday nights have become movie nights in the Hall household.

We’ve made a bit of progress since my initial post. We no longer have to get movies from the library (which is still an excellent/free option) now that we have Disney+. Below, I thought I’d give a quick updated list as to where we are in our Marvel journey:

  • Iron Man (2008)
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008) – Skipped.
  • Iron Man 2 (2010)
  • Thor (2011)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  • Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
  • Iron Man 3 (2013)
  • Thor: The Dark World (2013) – Skipped.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – Skipped.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
  • Ant-Man (2015)
  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  • Doctor Strange (2016)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  • Black Panther (2018)
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
  • Captain Marvel (2019)
  • Avengers: Endgame (2019)
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Captain American: The Winter Soldier was the first Marvel movie Wyatt looked bored watching.

“Are they going to fight soon?”

Within minutes, Nick Fury was thankfully being pummeled by bad guys.

Quick Thoughts:

  • I love how Winter Soldier is super hero spy movie. The movie showcases how much fun the Marvel movies can be when they are coupled with another movie genre.
  • As the Marvel movies progress, especially from The Avengers on, they feel as if they are getting longer in run time and feature more and more talking. I’ve started to miss the brisk nature of the earlier films.

Moving Along:

Avengers: Age of Ultron is one of the first Marvel films I remember disliking when I first viewed it. (Well, maybe that isn’t true, I disliked Thor 2 with a passion.) The story felt like a mess, and I hated Ultron as a character. Watching the Marvel movies the second time around, I’ve enjoyed many of the films I originally liked more and have even come to appreciate/love Iron Man 3 (which I had previously hated due to the way they handled the Mandarin). Can’t wait to see if my opinion changes on Ultron.

The Many Flavors of Disney Magic

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Woke up to a video of a family brawling at Disneyland. Reminded me of an odd incident that happened to us when we visited the park in May.

While standing in line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a man started yelling. Cursing who knows who, he unloaded a rapid volley of “adult” words. As this is happening, I heard someone behind me say, “Please move.” Disneyland Security had arrived.

The man kept cursing and stalking about the tightly packed line. His body language matched his words: 1) unstable (maybe drugs?); 2) threatening. I wasn’t sure what he was going to do. So I used my body as a shield between him and my family.

Photo by Ben Lei on Unsplash

Disneyland Security tried to calm the man down. Everything they did was in an effort to de-escalate the situation. At one point, a security member looked at the guy, who was dropping f-bombs, and said, “Really, come on man.” Eventually, security escorted him away from the attraction.

This was Wyatt’s first trip to Disneyland; his first time riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. He didn’t want to ride after listening to this man. But I encouraged Wyatt to ride and it ended up being one of his favorite rides in the park.

In all my years of visiting Disneyland (as both a former pass holder and Cast Member), I have never felt nor witnessed a situation quite like this. Of course, psychotic Disney guest happens to share his anger on my son’s first day. Talk about Disney magic. People need to chill.

Battle Princess Madelyn

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Battle Princess Madelyn, by Casual Bit Games, was born out of a request a daughter gave to her father. Creative Director Christopher Obritsch’s daughter, Madelyn, wanted to be in Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. She wanted to take the fight to “Green Head”, the boss of the game’s first stage. Christopher knew that he couldn’t put Madelyn into Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, but he could make his own game.

“But girls can’t be knights, Daddy. Only boys…”

“Pshh… What color do you want your armor to be?”

Pink.

The above story is a fantastic piece of marketing. So much so, that I thought it would be fun to review Battle Princess Madelyn with my son, Wyatt (age 9).

As the game starts, Madelyn’s Grandpa reads to her a story about Princess Madelyn. Princess Madelyn’s dog, Fritzy, dies. Wyatt was sad. But ghost form Fritzy soon made everything okay.

We continued on through game, beat our first boss, and came to what felt like the second stage. This is where Battle Princess Madelyn lost me. Wyatt and I, frustrated by not being able to figure out where to go next, quit.

“Dad, we can’t say anything mean.”

All About Context

A few days later, I was reminded that Battle Princess Madelyn is inspired by Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. Thankfully, I have the SNES Classic, which has a copy of Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on it. So I did some gameplay research.

The first thing I noticed is that Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts offers the player a sense of place before the level starts. Battle Princess Madelyn should have gobbled this smart design choice up. There is something about knowing where you are and where you are going.

The second thing I noticed is that Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is a mean old game where two hits of damage equals death. Battle Princess Madelyn builds upon the Ghouls ‘n Ghosts formula and adds grace to the death mechanic. This grace comes in the form of re-spawning the player, after they have been hit twice and died, right back where they were. With the added bonus of resurrection lightning shocking everyone around the player. I love how this death mechanic makes Battle Princess Madelyn more approachable for all players.

Did I mention that the main gameplay mechanic of spear throwing feels really, really, good? It does. Weapons are another place where I wish Battle Princess Madelyn had borrowed more from it’s inspiration. Within moments of the first stage of Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, the player is throwing knives in addition to spears. Makes the overall game feel a little more like a shoot-em-up with constant new and awesome power-ups.

Battle Princess Madelyn feels incomplete. The story mode doesn’t work well as the level design is easy to get lost in and requires leaps of faith (jumping off a cliff, not being able to see below you) to make any progress– don’t tell me that is exploration–. The graphics and sound design, meanwhile, are beautiful. The arcade mode also feels great and very much like Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (with death grace!). But in the end, I’m still not sure:

  • What collectible money does.
  • How one upgrades weapons, armor, etc.
  • If it is even possible to extend the life bar.

My patience with Battle Princess Madelyn’s story mode exploration killed the game for me. Trying to merge the Ghouls ‘n Ghosts formula with a Metroidvania framework doesn’t pan off here. If Casual Bit Games had focused solely on the arcade mode, I think they’d have a real winner on their hands.

3/5 – Like Stitch from Disney’s Lilo & Stitch, Battle Princess Madelyn made me feel lost.

Title: Battle Princess Madelyn
Developer: Casual Bit Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch
Reviews on: Nintendo Switch
MSRP: $19.99

An Evening Expedition – Atlantis: The Lost Empire

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Wyatt wasn’t feeling well last night. I think Texas is trying to take him out. That’s right, the State of Texas decided to swap our weather from the high 90’s to cloudy, cool, and rainy. Overnight. The human body seems to take issue with sudden weather changes. Anywho, him not feeling great led to some great snuggle time on the couch (I love this). We watched Atlantis: The Lost Empire via Netflix.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to get over:

  • The beauty of the animation in this movie. I love the style and mix of traditional and computer animation.
  • How many people die within the film’s opening 20 minutes.
  • How much action there is for an animated Disney movie. Wyatt loved it after snubbing the movie, for months, anytime I offered to watch it with him.
  • The Disneyland attraction we lost due to the film’s performance at the box office.
  • How cool it is to hear Michael J. Fox voice protagonist Milo.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire - Milo

Atlantis: The Lost Empire is up there, for me, on my list of Disney movies that dare to be different. Movies such as:

  • Lilo & Stitch
  • Treasure Planet
  •  A Goofy Movie

While we were watching the movie, I let developer Greg Labanov’s Wandersong download in the background. Will be blogging about this game soon.

 

A World of Nightmares, A World of Fears – A Night with Inside

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Playdead’s Inside opens on a bleak night in the woods. Rain pours down as you, the player, guide a young boy to safety from those looking for him. In the brief moments where I have failed to evade capture, those hunting me have not hesitated to kill or send in the dogs. Strangling the life out of the boy, tearing him to pieces, and other times shooting him as if he poses a threat. Why are these government agents so angry, efficient, and deadly? Why does the boy’s life have no value, in the world of Inside, unless he is dead?

In the midst of the tension of evasion and escape, developer Playdead showcases a subtle technical prowess. For example, the rain storm that immerses the opening of the game naturally comes to an end. If you look in the background of the pictures below, you’ll see how the boy has moved through the storm to the point where the clouds are diminishing.

 

The limited color palette provides for some striking visuals. I love how the game uses natural light to highlight scenes and immerse the player deeper into the overall tone of the game.

Inside also cleverly uses light in it’s puzzles. My favorite so far (not pictured), being an unseen light overhead moving back and forth. As the light hits a pipe, the light bends around it, forcing the player to move in order not to get caught. It is as if Playdead is having a silent conversation with the player, dance with the light and death will not become you.

I have so many questions about the brutal world of Inside. My biggest question right now is: By the way the camera is positioned, is something watching me? I’ll keep playing to find out. But first, let’s end with something cheerful, shall we.

Don’t Make Me Go To Sleep

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I didn’t want to go to sleep last night.

My eyes burned. My body was telling me that it was time to recharge, but I didn’t want to.

The night before, I hadn’t slept the greatest. Had a dream where my family was at Disneyland. We were having a good time at the park. Somehow though, Disneyland twisted into a Nazi concentration camp. My dream was filled with dread and despair. And then things got worse when the head of the camp decided that I was going to be his new best friend. He tortured me.

Woke up with my heart pounding. I had no recollection of how I was tortured but instead had a deep sense that it had been awful. I didn’t sleep well after that, my dream had felt too real.

Where did the dream come from? What terrible combination of consumed media propelled my mind into such a nightmarish void? I haven’t read any accounts of torture in at least a few years since I read Unbroken. My family and I haven’t even visited a Disney park together.

I’m also not sure how Disneyland became a concentration camp. Maybe, for some parents, that is what Disney feels like?

Am I Giving My 6-Year-Old Video Game Drugs?

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Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure was my first attempt to play a video game with Wyatt. He would climb onto my lap and I would give him charge over a few buttons. We’d press on, together, through the colorful lands of Skylands, father and son.

Elitetriggerhappy

The toys to life market has exploded since the original Skylanders debuted. Disney has followed suite with their own Disney Infinity and LEGO with LEGO Dimensions. The race for your nostalgic memories blended together with basic compulsive behaviors is on.

Skylanders: Superchargers, Disney Infinity, and LEGO Dimensions are not cheap. Each brand forces you to buy a base set, at prices ranging from $75 to $100. If you want to go beyond the initial starter pack characters, prepare to pay $15 per character. Want to play, I mean “unlock” more of the game levels you’ve already bought? The ransom price will be $30 per expansion. Good times for kids like Veruca Salt; bad times for a child who only gets a video game on their birthday.

As a parent, I wonder at what I have introduced my son to. Am I no better than a drug dealer, pushing the latest video game with expensive add-ons? What about the morality and business model of a developer who is double-dipping? Buy the initial game for x-amount and then pay more to play the rest. Is this fair?

Take LEGO Dimensions for instance. The main game, according to some reviews, is 12 hours in length. Which is not a bad amount of gameplay for $100, at $8/hour. But, any of the past LEGO games have been whole. Yes, they have lacked an accompanied physical LEGO set, but they have been fully unlocked. Interested in Portal themed levels, Mr. Nerd? That will be $30 please. Content that is already on disc, waiting to be saved.

In our brave new world of toys to life, I wonder how long consumers will stand for buying the same product 5-6 times. On a positive note, Skylanders: Superchargers only requires four vehicles to experience the game.  None of the content gated to specific types of figures, as it has been in the past. A step in the right direction.

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But who am I kidding? I can rant and rave about pricing structures till the end of this blog. Will LEGO Dimensions make my Christmas list? OH YEAH! I can’t pass up playing with Gandalf, Batman, and Wyldstyle. No matter the cost, playing this game with Wyatt will be awesome. LEGO told me so.

I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. – Ecclesiastes 1:14 (NIV)

Snow White Lives at Panera Bread

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Note: I realize that this post is random. One of those I wrote because I could.

I think I talked to Snow White this morning on the phone. She was soft spoken, thought every request I had was “perfect”, and was overall very helpful. Oh yeah, she works at Panera Bread.

One of my many jobs, as an administrative assistant, is to coordinate lunches for the office. Today we are hosting a lunch hour webinar related to client contact. In order to feed and water the staff, the decision was made to order from the newly opened Panera Bread in Longview. That is how I happened to talk to Snow White today.

Panera Snow White reminded me of a woman my Mom and I met a long time ago. Back then, we were both taking a sign language class through the local junior college. One of the women in the class was named Misty, she worked as a bouncer at the local honky tonk. Now of course, Misty’s voice was much deeper. No where near as melodic as Panera Snow White’s voice. I don’t know why Panera Snow White reminded me of Misty, but she did. Makes me wonder if Misty is still working as a bouncer, using her sign language skills to toss the riffraff out of The Stampede.

Kickstarter: For God Took Him

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Back in 2004, I had the privilege of working for The Walt Disney Travel Company. During our 5 weeks of training, I quickly became good friends with my one of my co-workers, a guy named Steve. Fast forward to 2012, Steve and I have managed to keep up through the glorious power of the Internets.

Now, a few years back, I remember him mentioning to me that he wanted to write a book. Recently, Steve told me that he was opening a Kickstarter page to help with funding for completing said book (he has finished 11 chapters so far).

I have to admit that at first I wasn’t sold on it after looking at some of the concept art on his Kickstarter page (not saying that the art is bad by any means). Just didn’t look like something I’d be into. Today, he sent me a link to an actual excerpt from the book. I have to say I am impressed! Reminds me a bit of David Gemmell. So, if you want to help out a friend of mine, I highly suggest checking out his written work here and visiting his Kickstarter page to help him reach his goal of $3,500.

Chump Change

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On June 24th, Disney-Pixar’s Cars 2 skids into theaters. This time, Lightening and Mater have accelerated past Radiator Springs on their way to a road trip around the globe. The movie’s trailer (found here) exhibits racing, travel jokes, and a spy-theme overlay. Will Cars 2 signal the end of the Pixar-touch?

Take a look at Pixar’s current release schedule:

  • Cars 2 – June 24, 2011
  • Brave – June 22, 2012
  • Newt – 2012 – Cancelled
  • Monsters University – June 21, 2013
Notice that there is only one new storyline/ concept being offered. The other two films are sequels. For awhile now, Pixar has seemed to be interested in delving deeper into the sequel goldmine. Perhaps they have found a rich vein of creativity they think they can tap into? More power to them. However, who made the decision to make a sequel to Cars? Cars, which is an average Pixar film in my opinion, was not deserving of a sequel. Especially when the previous film released by Pixar, The Incredibles, almost screamed for one. I personally think that Pixar is not being driven by creativity and imagination anymore; No, I think that Pixar is being driven by the almighty dollar. Do you disagree? Check this out:
Estimates from the New York Daily News indicate that sales of Cars merchandise two weeks out from the release of the film amounted to US$600 million. Estimates put out in November by the Walt Disney Company peg total sales for the brand at around $1 billion.[27] 
Cars merchandising is huge! Who wouldn’t want to capitalize on such a thing? In the midst of all this branding and merchandising business, who is profiting? Disney. So, is Pixar really the driving force behind the sequel-itis it seems to suffer from or is it Disney? Either way, on life’s highway, I can only hope that Pixar doesn’t lose it’s soul.

Surf Report – 5/3/10

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Welcome to the Monday edition of the Surf Report.

.: God :

The college ministry, at my church, has been in need of a big jump start for a long time. Currently, two students attend. At one point, the college group at church had a full time pastor dedicated to leading the group and going out onto college campuses and recruiting. The college group was huge at its height…but that was maybe 9-10 years ago.

About two weeks ago we had a speaker at our church talk about what our personal gifts are and how we should be using them in the church. This got me thinking. I really enjoy mentoring others, being an open ear to listen; I also enjoy teaching out of the Bible. So…why not come up with a plan to takeover the current college ministry and infuse it with new life. Having a vague idea about how to do this, I e-mailed a bunch of friends and asked for their opinion. I specifically asked that if they attended a church college group while attending college, what attracted them to said group? Their answers are as follows:

Structure – College students are lectured to all day. Why lecture to them more by preaching for an entire hour? Instead (working with an hour format) dedicate:

  • 10 minutes to announcements/ misc.
  • 20 minutes to a time of worship (rock out!)
  • 30 minutes to a time of teaching (make it partly an open discussion, engage people)

Activities – Schedule numerous low-key activities per month with a big activity scheduled at the end of the semester. Activities could include:

  • Formal dinner – get dressed up and go to someones house for a nice dinner.
  • A night of board games with another class at church
  • Movie night, etc.

Leadership – activity engage/ include others in leading the group through:

  • Planning activities
  • Leading worship, etc.

So I’m still in the process of compiling my thoughts on this possible project. If you have any ideas to bring to the table about your experience in a college ministry or why you attended a college group, comment away.

.: Life :

Confession time, I am a bit of a Disney geek. There is something about the ability to transport people into other worlds that just sparks my imagination. Below is a video of a new water show that Disney is working on in their California Adventure park. Enjoy!

.: Gaming :

At the suggestion of a friend, I dove into Half Life 2 over the weekend. Already I have defeated futuristic helicopters, played fetch with a robotic “dog”, and entered into the darkness that is Ravenholm.

"Dog"

Hopefully the gravity gun renders Ravenholm a walk in the park. Until next time.

That is it for this weeks Surf Report. Make sure to comment below and have a good week!

Friday Sing Along!

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Phew. What a long crazy week! As the countdown to summer approaches, I don’t know about you, but spring fever is hitting hardcore. Others around the world must be feeling this as well (even though its not spring everywhere). Below you will find a collection of odds and ends from through out the week. So sing along with JBG…

it's a world of laughter, a world or tears its a world of hopes, its a world of fear theres so much that we share that its time we're aware its a small world after all...

1. Number 1 on our countdown is a delightful story of a little boy with rage issues. You see, his parents took his keyboard away as a disciplinary measure. So, the kid bludgeons his dad with a sledgehammer while he is sleeping. Mom, scared stupid, gives the 14 year old his keyboard back. The kid takes the keyboard and plunges right back into playing games (which is why his keyboard was taken away in the first place). Scary. – For the full story click here.

its a small world after all its a small world after all its a small world after all its a small, small world!

2. Number 2 in the news of the weird this week, a Wii Fit accident leads to sexual addiction. Don’t believe me? Click on over here then for more. If you dare…

There is just one moon and one golden sun And a smile means friendship to everyone. Though the mountains divide And the oceans are wide It's a small small world (repeat chorus)

3. Finally, number 3 on our countdown is a bit of a cheat. The South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced a curfew for young gamers this week. For more on this click here or here.

It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all

And to answer the person who searched for “why am i paying $15 a month to be harassed by wow players”…I truly don’t know. 🙂

It’s a small world after all, it’s a small small world.

Song stuck in your head? Too bad.

Until next week. Good bye! Adios! Ciao!