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Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Yeah, I've seen The Dark Knight Rises. I'm still mulling it over but increasingly it's becoming a movie that I like the more that I think about it. Will try to post a review soon (something which I never got around to doing with The Dark Knight).

But while we're on the subject of Batman, here's the just-released trailer for DC Animated's The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1, due out on Blu-ray and DVD on September 25th. And it looks to be a spot-on perfect adaptation of the revered graphic novel by Frank Miller!

This is the first time I'm hearing Peter Weller as Bruce Wayne/Batman since his casting was announced. Part of me is always going to be hearing Clint Eastwood's voice (especially during the book's later scenes when Batman is on horseback) but Weller's is just fine.

Batman shooting at young people: makes ya glad that Warner Bros. learned something from that fiasco with Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, huh?

Profile of Steve Jablonsky, composer extraordinaire

Longtime readers of this blog are all too aware that I'm a huge fan of Steve Jablonsky, the immensely talented composer responsible for motion picture scores such as Michael Bay's Transformers series, the television series Desperate Housewives and the last two Gears of War games. Heck, Jablonsky's work is easily among the most-played on my iPod! Especially the soundtrack for Gears of War 2: it's perfect for whenever I'm at the dentist.

Anyhoo, it's a few months old but new to me: Variety has an in-depth article about Steve Jablonsky and his career, including how he got started in film and television composing. I'll heartily recommend it not just for fellow Jablonsky fans but also for anyone budding composers who want to take a stab at working in the industry.

Big tip o' the hat to good friend Mike Casteel for the great find!

How to fix DIABLO III (from a new Diablo player)

Late last night I finished Diablo II. That was my first time playing it since the game came out just over a dozen years ago. I chose a Paladin and got him up to level 41 - outfitted with a nice bit o' kit - before vanquishing the demon Baal at the end of the Lord of Destruction expansion pack.

Now I understand why the Diablo series has captivated millions of players. I also sought out and played - also for the very first time - the original Diablo from 1996 before going headlong into the sequel. I had a Hell (horrible pun intended) of a great time with each!

Unfortunately, unless producer Blizzard Games effects some drastic changes, it looks like it'll be around 2024, if at all, before I even consider purchasing Diablo III.

So if you're new to the scene, Diablo III came out two months ago amid insane hype and high expectations befitting a game series' latest chapter twelve years in the making. All well and good... except Blizzard decided for whatever reason to force Diablo III to always be connected to the Internet. Which makes no sense at all because Diablo and Diablo II, although they had multiplayer components, were by and large single-player games. Obviously the multiplayer aspect is going to require an Internet hookup but nobody's been obligated to be online with the first Diablo games at all to enjoy them. Diablo III however mandates this ludicrous requirement (and sucks to be those poor saps living in areas yet to be reached by broadband).

So what's happened from the very first moments of Diablo III getting released? Multitudes of players unable to play at all because the Diablo III servers are overloaded or down completely (the now-notorious "Error 37" message). Worse, many players are reporting that they have lost money... as in actual currency from their bank accounts... because of glitches, servers gone awry and just plain bad judgment on the part of Blizzard.

It all comes down to the Real Money Auction House (RMAH) that Diablo III incorporates. One of the bigger appeals of Diablo II was the looting: killing monsters for a wide variety of weaponry, armor and clothing, etc. You began Diablo II with one of several basic characters and during the course of the game you can "trick them out" and make it a persona all your own. And pretty early on, there began to be a for-profit trade going on through eBay and other venues for in-game items.

So Blizzard decided that it wanted a piece of the action when it set out to make Diablo III. And that seems to be the only reason why this game was produced at all, based on the complaints (many have been left on the game's page at Amazon.com). Blizzard set up the Real Money Auction House allegedly to counter in-game scamming and the like. It works like this: if you find a rare item, you can sell it on the RMAH. Other players can bid on it or buy it outright with a credit card or PayPal account or somesuch tied in to your Diablo III profile. The other player gets hard-to-find items, you get real-world profit... and Blizzard makes 15% profit from the item's sale. Different items drop at various frequencies, and the drop rate can be adjusted by Blizzard. I suppose it could be said that Diablo III is the most glorified Internet sweepstakes game around, but I digress...

The RMAH has caused unprecedented grief from a video game: One player lost $200 because of a snafu involving his traveling abroad. Several players using Linux systems were banned apparently because of their chosen operating system, leaving them high and dry and minus $60 they paid for the game at retail. There have been many players who have filed complaints on Blizzard's official message boards, only to find themselves banned and censored.

Blizzard had the opportunity to practically print money with Diablo III. And they wasted it all on what must be the worst case of corporate bungling of a video game in decades.

Look, I want to play Diablo III eventually. But I don't want to be online all the time nor do I see why a single-player game would require it. I don't want to have to worry about whether a remote server is up before I want to play. I don't want a video game to stop working entirely because it misconstrues some system quirk as "cheating". And I have far more important things to do with my time than to run around a nonexistent landscape trying to buy or sell objects which aren't real with my hard-earned money.

And it looks like I'm not the only one who feels that way either: Diablo III has seen a massive drop in the number of active players since its release just two months ago.

So let's sum up: Diablo III is a game that many would play except for the always-online requirement, or that many have already played and given up out of frustration and boredom. Blizzard is raking in serious coin from game sales and the Real Money Auction House right now... but having admitted that there is little to do after the game ends and without compelling new content, that will likely be considerably short-term profit. Meanwhile the word has already gotten out: Diablo III may not be worth the hassle for potential new players to invest time and money in... which will be needed by Blizzard to sustain the game over the long haul.

I think there are some very reasonable - and quite simple - measures that Blizzard should take to correct their mistakes with Diablo III and make it the game many have come to expect:

1. Remove the always-online requirement. That will draw in the more casual players who don't necessarily have time or desire to do multiplayer Diablo. But don't yank out always-online completely, because...

2. Give players the choice to "opt out" of the Real Money Auction House. I don't want to buy loot with real money. Neither do a lot of other people. Nobody should be forced to suffer technological penalties because of a feature they neither want or will ever use. If Blizzard wants to offer the Real Money Auction House, then fine. And they should keep the in-game infrastructure in place that allows for and regulates it. But don't let players who aren't interested in the RMAH be bogged-down to the point that they won't want to buy the game to begin with.

3. Charge a small monthly fee for the right to buy and trade on the RMAH instead of the 15% cut. Many players are wondering if Blizzard is "rigging" things behind the scenes to favor the dropping of sought-after items that command high prices on the RMAH. I can see how that would be something to consider. Enough so that many would be leery enough of the RMAH to avoid the game entirely. Instead, Blizzard should use microtransactions for the privilege of buying and selling through the RMAH. I can't see how Blizzard could lose out. If anything the company stands to profit far more than it can per the current Diablo III arrangement.

There are a few other things that I could suggest, such as tagging items looted in single-player Diablo III as unavailable for trade on the RMAH for those who've opted-out of it (but perfectly allowable between friends in multiplayer), using mandatory patching as opposed to always-online to fix exploits whenever they are discovered before engaging in multiplayer, etc. But those are relatively minor details.

I think that Diablo III could be a great game still. Some trusted associates have told me that when it works... emphasis on "when"... that Diablo III is a gorgeous thing to behold. I would like to experience that for myself someday. So would thousands, perhaps millions of other video game players.

It's not too late for Blizzard to do the right thing, assume some responsibility, look us straight in the eye and tell us "Hey, we screwed up. But we're listening to you and taking your complaints to heart and we're doing our best to make things right." 'Twould be a refreshing thing to see from a major company in this day and age... and it really would be to the benefit of everyone involved.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Peter Jackson's THE HOBBIT duology... is officially gonna be a trilogy!

When there were first rumors about this I dismissed them almost without a thought. I mean, The Hobbit is a pretty small novel. I first read the whole thing during an afternoon and evening (it was the day of the Super Bowl in 1991). It's easy to see its film adaptation spread across two films... but not three.

But then director Peter Jackson announced thusly on his Facebook page a few hours ago:

It is only at the end of a shoot that you finally get the chance to sit down and have a look at the film you have made. Recently Fran, Phil and I did just this when we watched for the first time an early cut of the first movie - and a large chunk of the second. We were really pleased with the way the story was coming together, in particular, the strength of the characters and the cast who have brought them to life. All of which gave rise to a simple question: do we take this chance to tell more of the tale? And the answer from our perspective as the filmmakers, and as fans, was an unreserved ‘yes.'

We know how much of the story of Bilbo Baggins, the Wizard Gandalf, the Dwarves of Erebor, the rise of the Necromancer, and the Battle of Dol Guldur will remain untold if we do not take this chance. The richness of the story of The Hobbit, as well as some of the related material in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, allows us to tell the full story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the part he played in the sometimes dangerous, but at all times exciting, history of Middle-earth.

So, without further ado and on behalf of New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Wingnut Films, and the entire cast and crew of “The Hobbit” films, I’d like to announce that two films will become three.

It has been an unexpected journey indeed, and in the words of Professor Tolkien himself, "a tale that grew in the telling."


Peter J

Okay, I'll trust Jackson on this. If nothing else this gives me an extra midnight premiere to take my girlfriend Kristen to! She's already agreed to go with me to the one for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in December.

And who knows. Maybe eventually Jackson will give us an adaptation of The Silmarillion. Then we'll have J.R.R. Tolkien's entire legendarium sitting on my Blu-Ray shelf!! :-)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

An observation about the Aurora movie theater shooting...

There are far more comedy movies than action movies

If movies are to blame for violence, how come we don't see comedy breaking out in the streets?

Monday, July 16, 2012

THE WALKING DEAD Season 3 Comic-Con trailer

Look! The prison! Michonne! The Governor! Woodbury! Helicopters! And the return of a certain self-mutilated racist pig!

The Walking Dead begins its third season on AMC in three more months.

Friday, July 13, 2012

So be nice y'all!

The family of God is much like any other: you don't get to choose your relatives.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Special message to The Knight Shift readers

Dear readers of this blog,

As much as I would sincerely like to help some of you in this regard, I honestly do not have any privileged information about where anyone might be able to purchase a moonshine still. Neither do I happen to have in my possession any recipes for the manufacture of moonshine.

However if anyone reading this does have that information and wishes to volunteer it for publication, I would be more than happy to do so on this site.


Sunday, July 08, 2012

And now Ernest Borgnine has left us

From fighting in World War II on through seven decades of a legendary acting career, it can't be said that Ernest Borgnine wasn't blessed with ninety-five years of a packed life on this Earth...

The first time I saw Borgnine in anything, it was Escape from New York. He played Cabbie: the guy driving the taxi through the streets of the then-future maximum security prison that was Manhattan. Not long afterward he appeared for the first time as hotshot veteran pilot Dominic Santini on Airwolf. And over the years I managed to catch his earlier work too, like Marty (for which he won an Academy Award) and his sitcom McHale's Navy.

Borgnine had more than 200 acting credits, right up to the last few years where he was known to younger audiences as Mermaid Man on SpongeBob SquarePants (I will admit to having never seen anything pertaining to Spongebob: I only know what the kiddies tell me...)

Thoughts and prayers going out to Mr. Borgnine's family tonight.

And in tribute to his memory, here is the ultra-violent shootout scene he was involved in from the 1969 western The Wild Bunch!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

"We're gonna turn it on! We're gonna bring you the power!"

It's been six days since the derecho event last Friday night crippled electrical infrastructure across the East Coast. My girlfriend Kristen had been one of those afflicted: at one point there were more than 20,000 people without juice in Roanoke County, Virginia but thankfully earlier this evening her lights came back on (along with the air conditioning :-)

Okay well, this isn't really something designed as a tribute to those brave souls who have been laboring like mad to replace snapped-apart power poles and fixing transformers, but at least the song itself fits. From 1971 it's the original intro to PBS's hit series The Electric Company!

Bill Cosby, Morgan Freeman and Rita Moreno together on a children's educational TV show. Those were heady days, dear readers...

Seriously though: many, many thanks and thoughts of appreciation to the thousands of electrical workers who have been striving through some of the most brutal heat on record to restore power back to millions of people who got slammed by this thing.

The officially licensed E.T. Finger Light

From the "What the hell were they thinking?!" file, GeekTyrant has found what must be the worst licensed merchandise ever: the E.T. Finger Light...

I'm looking at this and the only thing that I can honestly muster to mind to say is "Oh. My. God."

Fortunately more tactful minds prevailed and this light was pulled in favor of a full-hand version (I spotted it on sale at Toys R Us yesterday) but even so: where the hell was the due diligence on this thing? I mean, this was really manufactured and marketed.

But hey, at least the Atari 2600 game is no longer the worst-ever piece of E.T. merchandise...

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

If you've never seen A FACE IN THE CROWD...

...then be aware that TCM (the Turner Classic Movies channel) will be running it at 1:45 a.m. this coming Friday, July 6th. That's Eastern Standard Time anyway (dunno how that'll translate in your own locality). Be sure to set your DVRs accordingly!


Because if you only knew Andy Griffith from the down-home Sheriff Andy Taylor he played on The Andy Griffith Show, then his performance in A Face in the Crowd will without a doubt shock the hell out of you.

This was Griffith's first film role. Directed by Elia Kazan from a screenplay by Budd Schulberg and released in 1957, A Face in the Crowd has Griffith as drunken Arkansas drifter "Lonesome" Rhodes: a no-good bum who becomes a media creation with fame, fortune and irredeemably rotten with power and corruption. Over time Rhodes comes to have influence over millions of people through the sway of television. And he is the most viciously mean bastard that you're ever likely to see in any motion picture in the history of anything. Also starring Patricia Neal, with appearances by Walter Matthau and Lee Remick, A Face in the Crowd has Andy so far removed from Mayberry that you'll be genuinely left wondering how in heck did he ever wind up with The Andy Griffith Show. Even so, in light of Griffith's passing early yesterday, it's a really nice tribute to his memory that TCM is doing by playing this movie. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Mourning in Mayberry: Andy Griffith has passed away

The very sad news breaking everywhere right now is that Andy Griffith has passed away at the age of 86 at his home in Manteo, on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Awright well, what can be said that hasn't already been during the course of his long life: Griffith was an incredible performer, whether he was acting or singing or doing comedy... like what started it all for him, his 1953 monologue "What It Was, Was Football":

A few years later Griffith was in No Time for Sergeants, considered by many to be his single funniest work...

And 'course it wasn't long afterward that Griffith was keeping the sleepy little town of Mayberry safe and sound as Sheriff Andy Taylor. Griffith first put on the badge in a "backdoor pilot" episode of Danny Thomas's Make Room for Daddy (an episode which also featured future co-stars Ronnie Howard and Frances Bavier). More than fifty years later, and The Andy Griffith Show is still playing, somewhere, throughout the world in syndication.

But if you seriously want to see Griffith shine, you have to step away from his comedic repertoire and look at what he was capable of doing as a serious dramatic actor. The first time I saw Andy Griffith as anything apart from Sheriff Taylor, it was his portrayal of real-life murderer John Wallace in the 1983 television movie Murder in Coweta County...

Griffith starred opposite Johnny Cash, who played the Georgia sheriff who brought Wallace down for murder. The final scene, showing a shaven-headed Griffith strapped down in the electric chair, would be a particularly unsettling image for anyone who grew up with The Andy Griffith Show.

But that's downright mild compared to what was Andy Griffith's very first movie: from 1957, it's A Face in the Crowd.

I've no idea how else to put it: if you've never seen it before, A Face in the Crowd will scare the hell out of you...

I first saw it about a year and a half ago when TCM ran it. Directed by Elia Kazan, A Face in the Crowd has Andy a long, long way from Mayberry as drunken drifter "Lonesome" Rhodes. It's a brutal morality tale about celebrityhood and its power to corrupt. A movie that in many ways was far ahead of its time and even prophetic. And Griffith as Lonesome Rhodes is positively the meanest son of a bitch you're likely to see in any movie. If you haven't seen it already, I have to recommend it as being perhaps the finest work that Andy Griffith ever pulled off.

But today, Griffith is mostly going to be remembered as "America's Sheriff": the chief constable of a town that never really was but we all wanted to visit.

Thoughts and prayers going out to his family.