Category: Entertainment (Page 2 of 4)

Once Upon A Time The Card Game

This weekend I got together with some friends to celebrate one of them buying a new home. While chatting, we started playing a great card game called Once Upon A Time. As you might have guessed this is a story telling game based around fairy tales. No doubt, right up my alley.

The game itself is easy to explain, each player has 6 cards. One is an ending and the others are either characters, places, events, or something like that. The goal is to complete the group story being told using up all the cards in your hand. If can be interrupted by other players as they try to use up the cards in their hand, which makes for funny stories.

It does require a good number of people to play, but it doesn’t require much table space. The six or so of us played on a coffee table and there was more than enough room. The other thing it requires is an imagination. The session we had was particularly fun and interesting because of the mix of people we had. It was also somewhat fun because some of the people didn’t know each other and others hadn’t seen each other for years.

The rules were balanced very well to make sure all players were forced to participate and the cards are descriptive enough that it doesn’t require an immense amount of storytelling ability to play. If you can play Pickles to Pluto* you can probably play Once Upon A Time without much trouble.

 

*I realize most people probably don’t know what the game Pickles to Pluto is so I thought I would explain that. Back in the 90’s there was a TV show called, Phred on Your Head Show. One segment of the show included a game where you had to connect pickles to pluto in 6 steps or less. For example, pickles are stored in the refrigerator, the refrigerator is cold, ice is also cold, pluto is mostly ice. Not difficult at all. This is pretty much what you are trying to do with your cards when you see crown, well, and stepmother. 

Get Your Money’s Worth From Amazon Prime

I’ve had my Amazon account for 10 years. In that whole time, I’ve never subscribed for a Prime membership despite all of the tempting offers Amazon’s made. This year I caved. I finally needed something so soon that it made sense to get Prime, but not soon enough that buying next day shipping made sense. In agreeing to subscribe I decided I would make the most of my new Amazon Prime membership though and really make sure that I got my $100 worth of value from it.

Most people don’t really know all the benefits of Amazon Prime. There are five different benefits, but most just know the service as free two-day shipping. Granted, that is still the best benefit, but if I want to make sure I get my money’s worth from Amazon Prime I figured I should try all five.

Amazon’s movie streaming service is okay. Granted, I did kind of want to see The Man in the High Castle, but I didn’t particularly want to spend $100 to do so. Most of the other movies available for streaming are the same as the ones I can get from Netflix. I did see a handful of movies available on Amazon that Netflix didn’t have, but I assume Netflix will eventually move to 100% original content so this will be less of an issue.

Amazon Prime also allows for book lending! That’s something I will certainly use. They have a huge library of books that you can borrow, however you’re limited to one per month. I have two libraries hooked up to my iPad and regularly check out books through them both. On occasion there will be something I want to read that isn’t available in either library so having Amazon Prime around could be useful. It’s also nice to know that the author’s of the ebook’s I’m renting will be paid a small amount of money when I check out their book. It’s something small like $2, but that’s still something.

Amazon Prime also has a music streaming service! I had to clean up my phone so I would actually have the space for the app…it’s a bit large. They offer streaming of albums from their library, which is pretty extensive, as well as pre-made channels of music by genre similar to say Pandora or Spotify. I haven’t come across any limits with it yet, but I image there must be.

Amazon Photo. I’ll be honest. I’m not going to use this. It seems mildly embarrassing that Amazon would even think someone needs a place to store photos in this day in age. Those who don’t have their own hard drives have already found cloud storage options like dropbox, box, or even google drive. I don’t see anything in particular that stands out as unique or interesting about this benefit so I’m skipping it. Let me know if you think there is something of value there and I’ll revisit though.

Anyway, if you’re not an Amazon Prime member and you’re thinking about joining you might want to give the free trial a shot. If you order fairly regularly from Amazon the free two day shipping will be nice and you just might be able to get some added value out of the other four services offered. Okay at least three, nobody is going to use that photo service. At the end of the day, it’s about as expensive as a Netflix account for the year and it’s got a bit more upside.

New Cosplay Culture Magazine From Ottawa

One of my northern-neighbors and readers (Nikko) is working on an interesting project that I thought I would highlight in it’s own blog post. Some people might not know this about me, but I used to do cosplay! (For those who don’t know what it is, it’s a great hobby where fans of TV, movies, and video games will create costumes of their favorite characters. It’s like an elaborate halloween, but with wardrobe engineering challenges!) I don’t participate anymore, mostly because of the time it requires, but I am always fascinated by the work others put into their costumes.

Anyway, Nikko started a Ottawa-based magazine around the culture of cosplayers a few years back. While everyone may not see the need for it, cosplaying is actually an important part of almost every major nerd convention, including the big ones like Comic-Con, so there is a lot to cover. The name of the magazine is simply CosCulture and can be found at CosCultureMagazine.com. After looking it over online there were a few things that truly caught my attention. The photography in this magazine is amazing. There are some fabulously talented portrait photographers working hard on this project. While this magazine started out as an online publication, there is no doubt in my mind that it’s worthy of purchasing in print.

As I mentioned, cosplaying usually coincides with a geek gathering of some kind and so the magazine includes some beautiful pieces covering a number of conventions. The galleries of course are the best part covering the humorous cosplay troupes (men dressed as the wives from the latest Mad Max movie) as well as the more serious individuals.

Of course, the last thing I’d like to point out is that all of these magazines are printed completely ad free. That does mean it will cost you money, but not much! It also means that the editorial quality of this magazine is much higher than the tabloid-style clickbait-trash you come across most of the time. If you have even the slightest interest in cosplay I think you’ll enjoy this magazine. Hell, even if you’re just a nerd who likes to look at attractive people dressing up in production-quality costumes and props you’ll probably enjoy the magazine. (And who doesn’t like that?)

Netflix New Terms of Service

Some people may have noticed that Netflix released a new terms of service this week. When users logged onto their account, they were greeted with a message that essentially said, “agree or get lost.” I was going to put off reading the fantastic bit of literature, but thought I might as well sift through it to see what the changes were all about.

Of course, I found the typical garbage like agreeing to arbitration (your case has to be seen by a likely-biased mediator not a judge,) allowing your account to be terminated for any (or no) reason, agreeing that your personal information can be used for advertising, agreeing to your personal information being sold without notification, and Netflix absolving itself of liability should your personal information be stollen. The latest addition of their terms includes a segment specific to using your location to recommend you titles (and ads.) After agreeing to the terms (it wouldn’t let me watch anything without doing so) I started to browse my suggested videos. Turns out they are already using that location data to recommend me titles! I was recommended a number of ESPN videos related to the Buffalo Bills and hockey. Go figure!

I suppose this isn’t the greatest invasion of privacy, but I do think it’s interesting to see why a company decides to change their terms of service and to speculate as to what they plan to do with their new found powers or information. It seems as though they may have also beefed up their section on advertising. I probably wouldn’t be surprised if they decided to try having ads in their platform. The long-term strategy is more likely to be that of an exclusive TV channel type service. Most existing TV channels already have their own platform for a stand-alone streaming solution and are only being held back by existing contracts and business models. I suspect that in the near future you will see more stand-alone streaming services with exclusive content requiring multiple memberships to access all the TV and movie content currently available on Netflix.

“The man who pulls the lever, that breaks your neck will be a dispassionate man. And that dispassion is the very essence of justice. For justice delivered without dispassion, is always in danger of not being justice.” – Oswaldo Mobray, The Hateful Eight

7 Movie Marathon of Star Wars

Alright so you may or may not know I made the potentially foolish decision to get up at 1am this morning to head to a seven movie marathon of Star Wars in Rochester. There wasn’t reserved seating so of course I went early to get a good seat. I wasn’t looking forward to rewatching episodes 1 through 3 so I wanted a good napping spot. I have to say though, after seeing them again, they really weren’t that bad.

By episode 2 I have in and got myself my usual popcorn and ICEE and promptly stained my pants with butter flavored palm oil.

The crowd of people who showed up was delightful. They were the people unemployed enough to take a full day of work off, but yet able to afford a $50 ticket. Almost everyone was dressed up in Star Wars gear or full costumes. One guy had a Yoda figure that he was cradling like a baby. At first I thought it was an actual baby or maybe a flask disguised as Yoda. It was neither. Another guy made a point to call his office around episode 3 to simply tell his employer he would be, “indisposed” for the day.

Of course, as one of my film professors told our class, the fun of going to a theater is the crowd of people all sharing the experience with you. People clapped, laughed, and cheered together which was amazing. We all were tired and discussing our strategies for staying awake in the beginning, but as the day went on the excitement kept everyone awake.

I’m still not sure I loved the new movie but I’m glad I rewatched them all in chronological order. I have a new appreciation for the first three Star Wars movies. I felt the overall story was actually better in them than episodes 4-6. The dialog was written better in 4-6 though and had slightly less goofy editing. So far it seems like 7-9 will be somewhere between the two trilogies in terms of quality, but only time will tell.

Netflix Releases Adam Sandler’s The Ridiculous 6

Adam Sandler’s latest movie was released on Netflix this weekend. The Ridiculous 6 was a fun family movie with countless actors, including my personal favorite, Steve Buscemi! The main characters were all recognizable even for me. There was Terry Crews (Herbert Love from Arrested Development,) Jorge Garcia (Hugo from Lost,) Taylor Lautner (Jacob from Twilight,) Rob Schneider (Deuce in Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo,) Luke Wilson (Joe from Idiocracy,) Will Forte (voice acting for everything ever,) Steve Zahn (Tucker in Dallas Buyers Club,) and well, I think you get the idea. I mean, even Adam Sandler’s wife made an appearance! So if nothing else, it was fun to see so many actors in one place.

The movie itself wasn’t the funniest Adam Sandler movie, but it wasn’t his worst by far. It was reminiscent of some of his early movies like Going Overboard. There were a number of genuinely funny scenes, but there were also more than a couple forced scenes or over-used gags. The storyline flowed well even with the various segments that were for exclusively for comedic effect. While I might not go out of my way to re-watch this again and again it provided me with the exact low-level-thinking kind of humor I sometimes crave.

If you have had a rough day and just want to laugh at some stupid jokes, this is the just the thing you need. Many of the reviews have been harsh, but I think this is largely exaggerated. While the Native American community out west might take issue with the depiction of the Native Americans in the movie, I see no other reason for someone to rate this movie as low as it’s been rated on sites like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. People might just like hating on Sandler, or perhaps they thought that it was going to be an edgier movie like Mr. Deeds. Either way, I’ve enjoyed better rated movies less. If you’ve got Netflix and some time, it’s not the worst choice you can make.

‘Max’ on Playstation Version of Netflix

I have been waiting a couple years to figure out if Netflix planned to introduce Max to the other Netflix interfaces, but it seems like he’s just stayed on the Playstation Network and I really have no idea why.

If you don’t have a Playstation and Netflix, let me fill you in. ‘Max’ is a interface much like “Face” that was on Nick Jr. back in the day with his goal to help you ‘Max’imize your Netflix experience. Max talks to you and asks you a number of questions to help you decide what you might want to watch. Usually this consists of The Rating Game where you rate things you’ve already seen. It’s not always that great which is why I figured it was part of some kind of beta, but after about 2 years it seems like Max has remained a Playstation exclusive.

Of course, if you have been using Netflix on your Playstation you might just need to update. Not everyone has Max, but most accounts should if you regularly watch Netflix on your Playstation. There isn’t any way to turn Max on or off, since your account is theoretically always trying to suggest titles for you based on your ratings and viewing history. This is just a different interface for the same information.

Anyway, it’s kind of fun to play with if you’re bored and don’t know what you want to watch so if you haven’t yet, you might want to give Max a try.

 

The World’s Smallest Drone Quadcopter

Recently I went to an Entrepreneur’s Expo hosted by the Rochester Young Professionals. While there I had to pleasure of meeting a host of interesting business owners in the Rochester area. I loved so many of the businesses, but of course, I think everyone thought Morrison Innovations, LLC brought the coolest toys.

No, literally, they brought the coolest toys that I’m pretty sure any adult or kid would want. The company was started by a local Rochestarian after him and his buddies spotted a drone spying on them drinking outside. They thought the idea of flying drones was fun, and decided to go about making a high-quality yet low-cost toy drone that anyone could fly. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the founder is an electrical engineer!

Anyway, they went through a few different models, manufactures, and have perfected three designs that are on the market now. The idea behind them is that they are supposed to be small, fun, and powerful and they deliver. I’ve tried to fly RC helicopters in the past, and let’s just say I won’t be getting any awards for pulling off neat tricks.

These little quadcopter drones are very easy to fly. The Nano Drone is by far the easiest to use. It’s also got little bumpers on it which are insanely helpful when you’re crashing your drone into people or things. (Intentionally of course.) The worlds smallest quadcopter is called Areius and my favorite thing about this little guy is that the quadcopter stores right into the controller. It’s also just adorable. I mean, look at it! Lastly, they have the Wallet Drone which again has a unit that stores into the controller. This unit has a slightly strange shaped controller, but it doubles as a to-go charger and is a better shape for your pocket.

Anyway, this gadget was just way too cool not to mention. I was also told there is a new unit in development that should be launched by spring. (And oh yeah, I’ll be getting it and posting all kinds of great videos of me flying it.)

The Wolfpack Documentary

Like most things I watch on Netflix, I wasn’t really sure what I was in store for when I started watching The Wolfpack on Netflix this evening. The documentary focuses on a family of seven children who spent the majority of their lives inside an apartment in New York City. Their only outlet to the world outside was movies.

I love movies and certainly learned about society and life from watching TV, but it was hard for me to imagine knowing nothing about the outside world other than what is captured in the movies. Watching these boys as they explore the city that had always been outside their door was exciting.

I smiled most of the movie, even the parts that were probably meant to be sad. I think it’s hard for people who didn’t grow up with a lot of siblings to understand the sub-culture that forms within a large household. It’s particularly strong when the family is different in some way, even just slightly.

They may never know a closer feeling than the bond they shared with each-other. If they know it yet or not, their curse and cage actually created a foundation for the boys to truly be who they wanted without judgement. I wish the film had focused a bit more on the individual brothers though. I think it would have been interesting to hear more from them individually instead of their sound bites used to tell the producers narrative.

One of the brothers seemed to desire nothing more than to be part of society, while another seemed to want nothing more than to retreat somewhere quiet. The daughter in particular seemed to be forgotten though. I suppose maybe she was just shy, or maybe she was further isolated by not being included in her brother’s society. It’s hard to say.

The film did make me reflect on my own childhood, not that I grew up in anything close to what these kids experienced. I know the bad, weird, and painful events existed, but my mind has stripped the fact away from the emotion. Instead, I can only remember the positive emotions from childhood. Maybe it goes back to the whole dreaming thing, but I have a feeling these kids will be able to look back at some point and remember their childhood as different, but good in the way many people do.

Shaun the Sheep Movie is Out

This movie came out in theaters this summer and I may have forced my youngest sister to accompany me to the theater to watch it. I think she actually wanted to see Straight Outta Compton, but a) I had already seen it and b) these two movies are practically the same.

Shaun the Sheep is one of the spin-off movies from the world of Wallace and Gromit. If you don’t know Wallace and Gromit, well, there is no hope for you. I kid, I kid. Let me explain. Wallace and Gromit were created by Aardman Animations, an animation company out of Bristol, ya know, across the pond.

Truth be told, I hadn’t really heard of the studio or seen much of their work growing up until about 7th or 8th grade when I started doing these fundraising events for band called The Rock-a-Thon. You might think that because this was a band fundraiser that The Rock-a-Thon involved endless music. Nope. It was actually all about rocking in rocking chairs. Honestly, I’d wager it was the most strategic kids fundraiser ever orchestrated.

See, there was only one rule to The Rock-a-Thon and that was you couldn’t leave your rocking chair and you couldn’t stop rocking. Pretty much an ideal way to ensure everyone stayed out of trouble and in sight.

Of course, there were activities like Rocker Races, but for the most part kids would bring games to play or chat. This was obviously before Netflix and millions of portable devices were available so the chaperons would play movies for everyone to watch. The top choices were Mr. Bean movies and Wallace & Gromit primarily for their limited or non-existant dialog. It meant that the volume didn’t need to be blasting for you to enjoy the movie.

Anyway, that’s where I first saw Wallace & Gromit. I’ll admit, I wasn’t that thrilled at first. It was only mildly funny to me (I didn’t have an appreciation for slapstick or British humor then!) The more I watched them though, the more I enjoyed them. It was really the animation style that caught my interest.

Wallace & Gromit, as well as other Aardman Animations pieces, is done in claymation. Not just computer generated claymation-like animation. No, real painstaking claymation. I was a bit of an art nerd in high school, as soon as I realized how much work went into each production I couldn’t help but love them.

I started going to see their movies in theaters, Chicken Run, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Flushed Away, The Pirates! and more. The Shaun the Sheep movie was just the latest movie I have seen in theaters from this fantastic production company.

The movie itself was, in one word, adorable. There was no dialog, but I found myself laughing and tearing up. It’s a movie you could defiantly enjoy watching with a small child as an adult. In fact, it’s also just the perfect kind of movie for when you’re having a rough day and you need to watch something cute and light. So, if you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. It’s not going to be as exciting as a Fast & Furious movie, but it’s well done and enjoyable.

Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds Live in Rochester

Year ago I had gone to see Video Games Live with a few of my friends. It was an enjoyable evening for many reasons, most important of course is that I shared it with friends. Of course, when it was announced that Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds was going to be in the beautiful city of Rochester, NY my friends and I began planning to attend.

The concert itself was fantastic. Guest conductor Arnie Roth made sure to highlight important segments and emphasize the talent of Susan Calloway and the rest of the performers. I was slightly disappointed at a percussionist that was off-beat for a few songs, however the other performers were exceptional. I was excited, of course, for the Chocobo song compilation as well as the inclusion of the battle with Seymour music.

I was worried that the visuals might be distracting, but they helped me remember where some of the segments of music were from. At times the editing for the video was a bit sloppy. One example was when they showed clips of artwork with a black background creating a weird cropping effect to the aspect ratio of the screen. The video was not the primary reason for going though so I was much less upset by that then the poor performance by the percussionist.

I also had fantastic company both during the performance and afterward. While enjoying the show I spoke to a man who had traveled all the way from Oklahoma to come watch! He expressed his excitement that he didn’t have to go to Chicago just to see the show and complemented the theaters construction and decor. Hopefully Rochester left a good impression on him!

After the show of course I had a chance to catch up with friends over food and drinks. Too much time had passed since I had seen some of them! Ultimately, our time was brief as things go when it’s a weekday evening. It was a fantastic show that I would love to see again if I have the chance.

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