darthcobain17 / Member

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darthcobain17 Blog

It's my summer of . . . well, Summer! Glau, that is.

It’s been a wild and woolly few weeks since my last entry, I’m already worn out and summer hasn’t even officially begun yet! The weekend after my last post was our annual guys’ weekend up at my buddy Rob’s cottage. There were only three of us this year as one of our regulars couldn’t make it. I headed out early on Friday morning so we were up there by mid-afternoon and had the beers cracked asap! The weather was warm enough, but windy on the Friday and Saturday, although that was good as it kept the bugs at bay . . . which we discovered on Sunday morning! Over the course of the weekend we got the dock in, got the water up and running, and did a few other little jobs here and there. In our off time we threw the ball and Frisbee around a bit, watched movies, ate a lot of food, and naturally drank ourselves in to a stupor. It all came to a close much too soon . . . so depressing!

The following weekend saw us head down Hamilton way on the Saturday, as our friend Megan had organized her annual car rally. I was put on a team with a couple of our group’s friends, Julie and Carla, and we were quite the underdogs as our motivation to win was far less than a lot of the other teams. We wore camouflage and were dubbed the “Camo-Toes” (a bit of an inside joke), soon setting off in the Caravan to see what we could accomplish. Lo and behold a couple short hours later we returned to home base to find out we had won! I took some of the loot home with me, which included a massive can of Sapporo and some Heineken, along with some chocolate. When we got home on Sunday it turned in to a bit of a guys’ weekend, as mrs. darthcobain17 headed to Kingston for a work function, leaving James and I to “get by” on our own for a few days . . .

The next weekend was a little more low key than the previous two. James had Beavers on the Saturday, which was a family event. We all went mini-putting, during which I spotted a large garder snake swallowing a frog . . . the kids seemed to enjoy that! Afterwards we went out for some f’real (so delicious!) before heading home and throwing the baseball around in the back yard. Jimmer has got some potential, that’s for sure, if only he cared and like sports in general! On the Sunday I had a race to run in, the recently annual Rock the Road 10km. I had a great run, setting a new personal best with an official chip time of 49:10, which is what I was aiming for. As for mrs. darthcobain17, she was supposed to run but didn’t, as we didn’t have anybody to watch James and she felt she wasn’t prepared anyways. James ran in the kiddie trot and showed off his wheels as well.

As for this past weekend, it was even more low key than the one before, thank the maker! We did a lot of stuff outside like yard work, swimming, throwing the baseball around a bit. And of course we also played inside a lot, with toys and video games, reading some books too. Relaxing, for once . . .

During the work/school weeks we didn’t have much to do for James as his activities are all over with the exception of seeing his tutor. We opened up the pool a couple of weeks ago, and although it took a week to clear up, it’s now quite swimmable and I’ve been in it every day since! I also bought a new bike as after 25 years the old Giant had finally had enough. The new Giant (a Talon) is a real beast and has been a pleasure to ride so far! The weather has not been agreeing all that much lately though, a lot of rain scattered about, but hopefully that will calm down moving forward. During all of this insanity we got a lot accomplished, the juicy details are below in all their wonderful glory . . .

1) Another level is kaputs on Goldeneye, this fifteenth level of the game was called “Cuba – Jungle”. Out satellites were not able to locate the facility we had obtained the coordinates to during my last mission, so a ground search had become necessary. After flying in on a small aircraft I began slinking through a seemingly tropical paradise, with Natalya in tow. There was a heavy, camouflaged Janus resistance throughout though, we dealt with many soldiers along the way. We also had to take out a small number of drone turrets, which packed a little more punch than the mercenaries did! As we came upon a rickety old bridge that crossed a chasm we were engaged by Xenia, who went hog wild, firing grenades at us like a lunatic! I beat her at her own game though, eliminating her and then continuing on. Eventually we came to a cave system that was crawling with Janus operatives. After taking out many troops, turrets, and even a large weapons cache, I finished my task of escorting Natalya to the Janus base. I completed this mission with a time of 11:36 and had a 55.5% accuracy rating.

2) Yet another series has been knocked over on my season of MLB 2K11, this time it was a four game set that saw us travel to Baltimore and take on the Orioles. The action unfolded as such: won @ Baltimore 3-0, won @ Baltimore 20-5, lost @ Baltimore 3-2 (11 innings) & won @ Baltimore 7-2.

3) As for NHL ’04, I played five more games on my season there, which just so happened to be the last five games of the regular season! The results were: won @ Boston 16-6, won vs. Ottawa 9-6, won vs. Atlanta 19-5, won @ Buffalo 12-5 & won @ Ottawa 12-5. Overall we finished first in the league with a record of 81-1-0, for 162 points. Statistically my team leaders were: Goals (Gary Roberts with 109), Assists (Mats Sundin with 140), Points (Sundin with 222), Penalty Minutes (Wade Belak with 423), +/- Rating (Bryan McCabe with +252), Powerplay Goals (Owen Nolan with 6), Shorthanded Goals (Robert Svehla with 9), Gamewinning Goals (Alexander Mogilny with 10), Shots (Roberts with 521), Faceoff Wins (Sundin with 1147) & Hits (Bryan Marchment with 201). As for my goalies, Ed Belfour went 63-1-0 with a 5.09 goals against average, a .910 save percentage, 1 shutout, 48 assists, and 60 penalty minutes. Trevor Kidd went 18-0-0 with a 4.59 goals against average, a .909 save percentage, 9 assists, and 35 penalty minutes. Next stop . . . playoffs, baby, playoffs!!

4) A bit more progress was made on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, I resumed by once again tinkering away on the “Events” (Solo) mode. There I completed the following battles: “Family Ties”, “Yellow Devils”, “Fire-Type Frenzy” & “A Battle of Scale”. And that was it for Events mode! At least, that was an end to all of the battles available to me anyways. I didn’t unlock any sort of achievement for completing the mode, so maybe there are more battles that I have to unlock somehow, but I’m considering this a completion. Afterwards I went back and retried the “All-Star” mode, faring much better this time around. Using Mega Man as my fighter I made it to the fifth round before being defeated, earning 451100 points.

5) And on Nintendo Land I earned a bit of a completion as well, as I was able to tidy up my journey on the “Metroid Blast” mini-game! Picking up on the Assault Mission, with the Battle in the Air option, I completed the final thirteen levels, which included: “Infernal Battle”, “Cyclon Queen’s Tokens”, “Hostile Colossus”, “Geemers!”, “Subzero Combat”, “Metroid Hunt”, “Defend Your Allies”, “Zebesians Incoming”, “Evade the Snipers”, “Air Supremacy”, “Frosty Token Sweep”, “Strike from Behind” & “The Final Battle”. For my progress I earned another stamp, not totalling 2/5.

6) On Lego: Pirates of the Caribbean we managed to finish the last chapter of the game, “On Stranger Tides”, completing all five levels on offer there. The levels went as such: “London Town” (earned True Pirate status, found 8/8 Compass items, unlocked the Scrum character, and earned 3 Gold Bricks [for the level completion, status achievement, and compass items]), “Queen Anne’s Revenge” (earned True Pirate status, unlocked the Cook, Garheng & Salaman characters, found 2/10 Minikit pieces, 4/8 Compass items, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status]), “White Cap Bay” (earned True Pirate status, unlocked the Angelica character, found 1/10 Minikit pieces, 5/8 Compass items, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status]), “A Spanish Legacy” (earned True Pirate status, unlocked the Privateer Barbosa character, found 3/10 Minikit pieces, 8/8 Compass items, and earned 3 Gold Bricks [completion, status and compass items]) & “The Fountain of Youth” (earned True Pirate status, unlocked the Syrena character, found 7/8 Compass items, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status]). Before we set off on these last levels I purchased a few Red Hats (which contain extra features, like when you unlock and purchase red bricks on most other Lego games). The three Red Hats I purchased included the Always Double Treasure, Character Treasure & Treasure Magnet extras. Now it’s time to commence our mop-up operation and go back through the game, collecting all that we missed the first time around. Or at least, as much of it as we can find without driving ourselves crazy!

7) Major progress was made on Super Mario 3D World on this go round, so much so that it is now complete! In effect we beat the game by defeating Bowser in the last official world, but after doing so some bonus worlds opened up so we still have a bit of work to do before this one is fully complete. Picking up where we left off last time, we were not far in to the “Bowser” world. We completed the last ten levels there, which unfolded as such: “Bowser-3: Cookie Cogworks” (earned 50220 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Bowser-Train: The Bowser Express” (earned 64560 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Bowser-4: Footlight Lane” (earned 49600 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Bowser-5: Deepwater Dungeon” (earned 62070 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Bowser-6: A Beam in the Dark” (earned 38600 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Bowser-Mystery Box: Mystery House Claw Climb” (earned 51700 points, and collected 10/10 stars), “Bowser-7: Grumblump Inferno” (earned 47250 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Bowser-A: Motley Bossblob’s Encore” (earned 72800 points, and collected 1/1 stars), “Bowser-B: Hisstocrat Returns” (earned 59050 points, and collected 1/1 stars) & “Bowser-Castle: The Great Tower of Bowser Land” (earned 38300 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars). And that was the official end of the game, shibby!! The first bonus world that was available to us was called “Star” world. There we completed all ten levels, which went as follows: “Star-1: Rainbow Run” (earned 97400 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Star-2: Super Galaxy” (earned 45100 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Star-3: Rolling Ride Run” (earned 47060 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Star-4: The Great Goal Pole” (earned 14850 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Star-5: Super Block Land” (earned 43110 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Star-Toad: Captain Toad Takes a Spin” (earned ???? points, and collected 5/5 stars), “Star-6: Honeycomb Starway” (earned 86900 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Star-7: Gargantuan Grotto” (earned 56420 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Star-8: Peepa’s Fog Bog” (earned 59870 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars) & “Star-9: Cosmic Cannon Cluster” (earned 31750 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars). The next bonus world that became available was called “Toad” world, there we were able to complete the eight short levels on offer, which went as so: “Toad-Mystery House: Mystery House Brawl” (earned 66700 points, and collected 10/10 stars), “Toad-1: Night Falls on Really Rolling Hills” (earned 39160 points, and collected 3/3 stars), “Toad-2: Spiky Mount Beanpole” (earned 53550 points, and collected 3/3 stars), “Toad-3: Deep-Black Jungle Drift” (earned 52100 points, and collected 3/3 stars), “Toad-4: Trouble in Shadow-Play Alley” (earned 41920 points, and collected 3/3 stars), “Toad-5: Back to Hands-On Hall” (earned 68150 points, and collected 3/3 stars), “Toad-6: Gigantic Seasick Wreck” (earned 54100 points, and collected 3/3 stars) & “Toad-7: Broken Blue Bully Belt” (earned 20710 points, and collected 3/3 stars). It was then onwards to the last bonus world available to us, the “Fire Flower” world! It was a long one, but we completed all twelve levels, which included: “Fire Flower-1: Switch Shock Circus” (earned 63210 points, and collected 3/3 stars), “Fire Flower-2: Floating Fuzzy Time Mine” (earned 37620 points, and collected 3/3 stars), “Fire Flower-3: Piranha Creeper Creek after Dark” (earned 45500 points, and collected 3/3 stars), “Fire Flower-4: Faster Fort Fire Bros.” (earned 41620 points, and collected 3/3 stars), “Fire Flower-5: Sprawling Savanna Rabbit Run” (earned 62100 points, and collected 3/3 stars), “Fire Flower-6: Shiftier Boo Mansion” (earned 27150 points, and collected 3/3 stars), “Fire Flower-7: Pipeline Boom Lagoon” (earned 33500 points, and collected 3/3 stars), “Fire Flower-8: Blast Block Skyway” (earned 37820 points, and collected 3/3 stars), “Fire Flower-9: Towering Sunshine Seaside” (earned 42350 points, and collected 3/3 stars), “Fire Flower-10: Honeycomb Skyway” (earned 72500 points, and collected 3/3 stars), “Fire Flower-11: Spiky Spike Bridge Sneak” (earned 39600 points, and collected 3/3 stars) & “Fire Flower-12: Boss Blitz” (earned 153000 points, and collected 3/3 stars). I do believe there is another bonus level available in the game, but we didn’t reach whatever targets are required to open it up. Oh well, I’m more than satisfied with this experience, a great game for sure!!

8) We are now at the same spot on The Lego Movie Videogame as we are on Pirates of the Caribbean, as we were able to complete our first go round on the game during this blog period. In order to do so we completed the last four levels of the game, which shook out as so: “Broadcast News” (earned The Special status, unlocked the Wyldstyle [Space], Sharon Shoehorn, Where Are My Pants Guy?, Bad Cop [Scribble Face], Bad Cop & Dr. McScrubs characters, found 2/5 Golden Instruction Pages, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [for the level completion and status achievement]), “Back from Reality” (earned The Special status, unlocked the Emmet [Master Builder], Astro Kitty, Garbageman Grant, Blaze Firefighter & Ice Cream Mike characters, found 2/5 Golden Instruction Pages, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status]), “Bricksburg Under Attack” (unlocked the Superman, Wonder Woman & Green Lantern characters, found 1/5 Golden Instruction Pages, and earned 1 Gold Brick [completion]) & “The Final Showdown” (unlocked the Vitruvius [Ghost], Gandalf, Gordon Zola, President Business & Lord Business (Minifigure) characters, found 2/5 Golden Instruction Pages, and earned 1 Gold Brick [completion]). Afterwards we played the “The Bonus Room” and achieved the minimum 1,000,000 studs requirement, but we could only find 8/10 Gold Bricks so we still have a bit of work to do there. Now on to our mop-up operation on this game as well!

9) I began play on “Chapter 2” of Robotech: Battlecry, plowing through the first handful of levels there. The first level was called “Ambush Hills”, and it picked up after the remaining Zentradi had been exposed to Earth’s culture and mixed in with the general population, after many of them had defected after the last war we fought. Jack had been assigned to Base 6 with a couple of his friends, we began helping the RDF by running patrols to snuff out any insurgencies relating to the Zentradi portion of the population. This particular mission saw us travel to the remote community of Graystone, where a band of Zentradi scavengers had been preying on the citizens there. We tracked down the offending raiding parties and eliminated them, also destroying their weapons caches in the process, to help prevent any future trouble. I completed the level with a time of 9:16, earning a 30.8% firing accuracy. The second level was called “Trouble in Graystone”, and it was a direct continuation from my last mission. A number of Graystone’s citizens were holed up in the civic center, while the Zentradi that remained were on a rampage outside of the building, attempting to destroy it along with everyone inside! I was tasked with patrolling the center and eliminating any Zentradi that approached, which I did. I completed the level with a time of 4:08, earning a 49.5% firing accuracy and 53.3% missile accuracy. I was also awarded the Bronze Cross medal for my performance. “Special Delivery” was the name of level three, in it a group of Sea Sergeant helicopters were carrying food and supplies to a remote outpost, so I was to escort them safely to their destination. Numerous Zentradi scavengers attacked, but I put them out of their misery and saw the copters all arrive intact. I completed the level with a time of 4:10, earning a 38.5% firing accuracy and 85.8% missile accuracy. The fourth level was titled “Destroids in Danger”. Upon reaching the outpost during my last mission, we had unwittingly stumbled in to a scuffle between the Zentradi and some Tomahawk Destroids. I joined the fray, battling the Zentradi and making sure that all of the Destroids came out of the battle in one piece. We also recovered supplies and a stranded pilot along the way. I completed the level with a time of 7:16, earning a 38% firing accuracy and 69.6% missile accuracy. The fifth level was “Unwanted Guests”, in it I was dispatched to an area where UFO’s had been sighted by various recon patrols. If they were hostile my job was to eliminate them, which I did, at the end of the mission I detected a very large bogey way off in the distance. I completed the level with a time of 5:01, earning a 19.2% firing accuracy and 67.5% missile accuracy. The sixth and final level I’ve been able to get at so far was called “Dark Skies”. It turns out the Zentradi fighter pods from my last mission, the purported UFO’s, were just a pre-emptive force covering a large Zentradi scout ship that was entering the system! I engaged said vessel, first concentrating on it’s various weapons turrets, before decimating it’s escort as well. I completed the level with a time of 4:19, earning a 32.5% firing accuracy and 47.2% missile accuracy.

10) Good work was done on Rayman 3D as well, picking up where I left off from last time level six was next on the docket, that being “The Sanctuary of Water and Ice”. At the start of said level I entered the council chambers of the Teensies, where I was then able to pass in to another world. After doing so I found myself at the edge of a rocky shore, where I began by battling a pirate before climbing some rocks and making my way inside of a cavern. Moving through this cave system I explored and swam through it’s natural elements, as well as some pirate made structures, before locating two magic spheres that allowed me to access a temple. Then skidding down a long, slippery slope I came to a guardian named Axel, soon after defeating him in a boss fight! For my efforts I received the first of the four masks I had been tasked to find. I immediately went and gave Polokus this mask. During the level I obtained 47/50 lums and broke 1/2 cages. Level seven was titled “The Menhir Hills” and it began in a glade that featured large, thorny bushes that I couldn’t get past on my own. Fortunately there was this strange walking bullet creature that I was able to tire out and then hop on to and ride, passing over the danger and towards a pirate made structure that ended up being their military academy. I explored said academy, both it’s insides and the grounds that surrounded it, eventually running in to my friend Clark. He told me he needed a Life Potion, as he wasn’t feeling all that well (I then had to make a detour back to the Marshes of Awakening level and visit the Cave of Bad Dreams to obtain said potion, which afterwards ended up being it’s own independent level, where I was able to obtain 45/50 lums). I then headed back to The Menhir Hills and fought my way to Clark once more, whom I gave the potion to. Upon reviving he went on a bit of a rampage and began smashing through the rest of the academy, helping me find an exit where I was then able to ride a walking bullet to freedom! During this level I obtained 42/50 lums and broke 6/8 cages. Next up came “The Canopy”. This level began in what looked like the inside of a large tree. I first dispatched a spider and then used it’s webbing to scale the inside of said tree, eventually dropping down a tunnel of sorts before coming to the land of the mushrooms! After a bit of exploring I stumbled upon a makeshift cell and upon opening it found Globox inside! With my best friend now in tow he helped me penetrate our environment even deeper, also lending me more energy and increasing my punch power by giving me a silver lum. In the end we gained access to a building with a Teensie in it, who helped us exit the land. During this level I obtained 50/50 lums and broke 4/4 cages. The last level I was able to get at, the ninth, was called “Whale Bay”. Inside of a cavern system I began by making my way along some rope bridges, mixed amongst some wooden buildings. I soon came to a more open area featuring a lot of water, afterwards finding out that Carmen the whale was trapped somewhere nearby. So I explored my environment and eventually found Carmen, freeing her and following her through the water, where she eventually led me to a pirate shipwreck! I explored the wreck, able to rescue a Teensie before exiting the level. During the level I obtained 35/50 lums and broke 2/4 cages.

11) I switched tack on 1080 Snowboarding a little bit, as instead of continuing on with the “Match Race” mode (which I suspected was about to get really hard) I chose the “Contest” mode. Said mode pits you in a solo competition that unfolds over a course of 5 rounds, with the objectives varying with each round. I selected Kensuke Kimachi as my rider, on a Scout 156. The experience unfolded as such: Crystal Lake (completed the slalom circuit within the given time frame), Air Make (performed a trick jump off the large ramp), Crystal Peak (completed the slalom circuit), Half Pipe (performed tricks on the half pipe) & Golden Forest (completed the slalom circuit). My total score was 54,987 points, enough for a new record. A short and sweet mode for sure, on to the next one!!

12) I went in to beast mode on New Super Mario Bros., as I’ve absolutely obliterated it in recent weeks! Enough so that it is now my second completion of this blog. I last left off in “World 3”, resuming there I was able to complete the remaining five levels, which went as such: “World 3-3”, “World 3-Ghost House”, “World 3-B”, “World 3-C” & “World 3-Castle”. I had to skip the fourth world as I didn’t know how to access it, so I then went on and completed both “World 5” and “World 6”, which unfolded as follows: “World 5-1”, “World 5-2”, “World 5-A”, “World 5-Tower”, “World 5-3”, “World 5-Ghost House”, “World 5-B”, “World 5-C”, “World 5-4”, “World 5-Castle”, “World 6-1”, “World 6-2”, “World 6-Tower”, “World 6-3”, “World 6-4”, “World 6-Tower 2”, “World 6-5”, “World 6-6”, World 6-A”, “World 6-B” & “World 6-Castle”. I was then able to figure out how to get to “World 4”, so I went and got that out of the way. The levels there included: “World 4-1”, “World 4-2”, “World 4-3”, “World 4-Tower”, “World 4-4”, “World 4-Ghost House”, “World 4-A”, “World 4-5”, “World 4-6” & “World 4-Castle”. Getting back on track afterwards I then began to tackle and ultimately complete “World 7”, which unfolded as so: “World 7-1”, “World 7-Ghost House”, “World 7-2”, “World 7-3”, “World 7-Tower”, “World 7-4”, “World 7-5”, “World 7-6”, “World 7-7”, “World 7-A” & “World 7-Castle”. Next up was the last world of the game, the dreaded “World 8”. It took a while but I managed to chew through all of it’s levels, which included: “World 8-1”, “World 8-2”, “World 8-Tower 1”, “World 8-3”, “World 8-4”, “World 8-Castle 1”, “World 8-5”, “World 8-6”, “World 8-7”, “World 8-8”, “World 8-Tower 2” & “World 8-Castle 2”. Upon finishing my total points accumulated amounted to 5,726,490! As usual I was able to obtain all 3 Star Coins scattered throughout each of these game levels, so I am completely up to speed. Upon finishing the game I went and explored the other 1 player mode the game had to offer, called “Minigames”. I played every mini-game the mode had to offer, which included: Snowball Slalom/Lakitu Launch/Danger, Bob-omb! Danger!/Whack-a-Monty/Balloon Racing under the “Action” category, Wanted!/Which Wiggler?/Hide and Boo Seek/Puzzle Panel/Concentration under the “Puzzle” category, Memory Match/Picture Poker/Pair-a-Gone under the “Table” category, and Mario’s Slides/Sort or ‘Splode/Bounce and Trounce/Bob-omb Squad/Trampoline Time under the “Variety” category. I set high scores for almost all of the mini-games where a high score applied, this was a cool addition to a game that already had depth in spades. Such a fun experience, as is the Mario Bros. way!!

13) On Sonic Rush I continued to forge ahead, although it really started to get difficult as I got closer to the end so I’m at a bit of a standstill for now. Picking up where I last left off I began play on the fourth zone, called “Night Carnival”. I completed all three levels there, as follows: “Zone 4, Act 1” (B rank), “Zone 4, Act 2” (C rank, obtained the green Chaos Emerald) & “Zone 4, vs. Boss” (B rank). Zone five was called “Huge Crisis”, there I beat the three levels on tap, the action went as such: “Zone 5, Act 1” (C rank, obtained the silver Chaos Emerald), “Zone 5, Act 2” (C rank) & “Zone 5, vs. Boss” (B rank). Zone six, called “Altitude Limit”, was the last one I was able to get done up to this point. The three levels there included: “Zone 6, Act 1” (B rank, obtained the turquoise Chaos Emerald), “Zone 6, Act 2” (C rank) & “Zone 6, vs. Boss” (S rank). My first S rank, woot woot!! Such a good game, tough though . . .

14) After defeating Harry Potter the last time around it was time for me to pick out something new to play on the Wii, and for that choice I selected Sonic and the Secret Rings. This game is very similar in premise and gameplay to that of Sonic and the Black Knight, which I completed a year or two ago. The story behind it is that a character out of the Arabian Nights storybook, Shahra the Genie of the Ring, contacts Sonic while he is sleeping and explains her plight. For in the storybook world of Arabian Nights the evil genie known as Erazor Djinn (formerly the genie of the lamp) is gaining power, his end game being to destroy the world of Arabian Nights, erasing it forever! And after that he’ll move on to Sonic’s world and do the same there. So Sonic agrees to help Shahra in her bid to stop Erazor’s plan, sucking him in to the storybook and guiding him through his quest. So far I’ve played the first five levels of the game, which unfolded as so: “Paragraph 01” (bronze medal), “Paragraph 02” (bronze medal), “Paragraph 03” (bronze medal), “Paragraph 04” (bronze medal) & “Paragraph 05” (bronze medal). For this style of Sonic game it’s not a sidescrolling platformer, you are always running forward at high speed and have to beat the level as quickly as possible. It’s a different kind of concept for the franchise, and it can be tricky, but it’s pretty fun. More to come!

15) James was tiring of Pirates of the Caribbean a bit so we began playing a game he was really looking forward to, called Scooby-Doo and the Spooky Swamp! The story begins in Mystery Inc.’s clubhouse, which is located in a swamp somewhere. Shaggy and Scooby are getting tired of solving mysteries so they leave Fred, Daphne and Velma in the clubhouse to do what they do, while they head in to the swamp to get away for a bit. While exploring the duo pick up a delicious scent and follow it to it’s source, a woman named Lila who is cooking a stew out in the middle of nowhere! She is a mysterious person and explains to them that she can never leave the swamp, but leaves it at that. Wanting to help her out the pair agree to go on some missions for her, to obtain the missing ingredients needed to complete her stew. To help them on their quest she gives Shaggy and Scooby a camera, so they can take pictures of anything of interest along the way. After playing through this introduction to the game we then headed back to the clubhouse to talk to Velma. Turns out a friend of the gang’s named Costington had been in touch and wanted them to come visit, so we then headed to the Mexican style town of El Muncho . . . which just so happened to be one of the locations Lila wanted us to visit for her ingredients! Once in El Muncho we began poking around a bit but were soon jailed by the town’s tyrant of a sheriff. Not much later Shaggy and Scooby managed to escape their cell, then we freed the rest of Mystery, Inc. Our group then roamed through El Muncho, dispatching zombie bandidos, eventually hooking up with Costington at his house. He filled us in on the legend of the town, how all the people had been driven away by a fiend known as El Scaryachi! Costington then asked us to locate his missing butler, Romero, who might be able to fill us in on more of the details. Not long afterwards we managed to find Romero and talked with him, battling more bandidos in the process, then headed to the cemetery and explored it along with the catacombs beneath it. Not too far in to our explorations though, we were chased away by El Scaryachi himself! Upon evading him we were concerned to find the sheriff’s badge at the scene of the chase. With that info now in our possession we continued to forage through the town, talking to the brothers Emilio and Estevan about the situation, who mentioned to us that Costington had discovered oil deposits in the region recently. Unfortunately we got caught by the sheriff again and thrown back in the slammer, but after another successful escape attempt we headed to the mausoleum where we confronted El Scaryachi once again, this time taking him down in a boss fight! Afterwards it was revealed that the sheriff was the culprit, for he was trying to scare Costington away so he could take the oil for himself. As for Romero, he was a spy working on bringing El Scaryachi to justice as well. During our travels in El Muncho we found a special chili pepper, which we then took back to the swamp and gave to Lila for her stew, who then tasked us with our next mission. Upon arriving back at the clubhouse we found out that Daphne’s cousin Anna had been in touch with the gang, inviting them to her ski lodge at Howling Peaks . . . which again just so happened to be where Lila had asked us to go for the other ingredient she needed! On our way to Howling Peaks we ran in to a large monster that tossed the Mystery Machine around a bit, fortunately we all escaped unscathed and soon after met up with Anna in Howling Peaks. We were concerned to find out that she hadn’t been the one to get in touch with us and extend an invitation to the lodge, also explaining that lots of weird stuff had been going on lately to drive all the tourists away. At Anna’s suggestion we first visited Moose at the ski shop, who reiterated that the tourists were all being driven away and that a couple of the snow machines had also gone missing. Heading to the chalet to see Anna again, she reiterated Moose’s story and mentioned that something large had been lurking around the area in recent days, telling us to find her lodge manager Sergio, who might be able to shed more light on the situation. Heading outdoors we eventually located Sergio, who was trapped in a cellar, he gave us the key to a mysterious cabin only after we’d brought him tissues, socks and food! Once inside said cabin we found tons of research on Yeti scattered throughout it. Our sleuthing came to a temporary halt though, as suddenly a large roar was heard and we hightailed it back to the chalet! Unfortunately Shaggy and Scooby got trapped outside, so we took the opportunity to venture in to the unknown, having to fight some small monsters called Weendigos before reaching a cabin serving as an electrical room. Eventually we ran in to a stranger named Barry, who seemed to be a hunter or explorer of some sort. He said he’d offer to bring a stash of beans to the chalet if in exchange we obtained pictures of some of the local wolves for him. We agreed to his deal and continued along in the snowy tundra, soon contacting Anna, who instructed us to head to the radio room. After obtaining a key to this room from Sergio, we overheard some chatter that sounded like there was trouble down in the logging yard. Naturally we then headed there, fueling up a plow and using it in order to gain access to the yard, before finding the foreman stuck in a porta-potty! After getting this character, Dustin Planks, out of his predicament, we discussed the issue of the large beast that had rampaged through the area. Following the trail of destruction it left in it’s path we reached the site of some old ruins, quickly figuring out how to enter them. Inside the ruins was Lila’s former family dwelling, where we found a recipe featuring ice mushrooms, the other ingredient she needed for her stew! Setting out to find some of these mushrooms we were distracted from our task when Anna radioed and said that the Yeti had just smashed it’s way through Howling Peaks, damaging the ski lifts in the process. Heading back to town we met everybody at the ski lift, where the two of us were able to take it and limp up to the summit of the mountain. Waiting for us at the top though was said Yeti, who proceeded to chase us right back down the hill! After escaping this vicious beast we wound up at Moose’s shop, where we found the batch of lift tickets Anna mentioned had mysteriously gone missing. Looking to talk to Moose we went to find him but in our search instead ended up reaching some manner of ice cave, where we found Barry captured by a group of Weendigos! So we fought them off and freed him. Exiting the ice cave via a secret tunnel we ultimately ended up at Moose’s shop once more, where we eavesdropped on a suspicious conversation between him and some of his friends. So we then headed back to the ski lift and reached the summit for the second time, having to battle a rabid beast named Frankenmoose before the Yeti showed up again! This time we were ready for him, taking him out in a long boss fight. Afterwards we unmasked Moose as the culprit, who was upset that all the tourists had taken over his mountain, which he wanted all for himself. It was then time to head back to our clubhouse in the swamp, upon doing so Shaggy and Scooby set out to find Lila and give her the last ingredient for her stew. The other three members of Mystery, Inc. thought it was a bad idea and planned on catching up with us, after taking care of some stuff at the clubhouse. Eventually they all met up with Lila and the duo give her the ice mushroom. Suddenly a giant swamp creature rose up from below and it appeared as though Lila had either been eaten by it, or she turned in to the beast itself! After a brief battle with the alligator, Lila emerged and explained that the recipe was what she required to help release her and her pet alligator, named Suji, from captivity in the swamp. She was afraid that if she just asked straight out for our help in the matter we would have said no, so she set up these elaborate recipe chases to entice us in to helping her. So all’s well that ends well, the gang began heading back to the clubhouse while Lila and her pet swam off in to the distance! Game over. A pretty fun game too, considering there were only really three levels in it. Lots of action and puzzles, with plenty to unlock. Fun, fun!!

16) Lastly, with finishing up on Super Mario 3D World recently, we moved on to our next Wii U title of choice, called Avengers: Battle for Earth! The story behind this game is that an alien race known as the Skrulls have secretly begun to invade the Earth. They are able to accomplish this subtly by taking over the identities of various super heroes, in essence creating evil doppelgangers! As the story unfolds you are tasked with visiting different locations and engaging these fiends in street fighting scenarios, taking them to the mat! We started off with the game’s “Campaign” mode, which began with a bit of a trial level in which only one player could participate. The battle pitted Iron Man vs. Wolverine Skrull, which I won (all fights are a best of 3 rounds), earning a silver rating. After this was out of the way we could then begin Campaign mode in earnest, engaging in the Co-op option. James and I first visited “Manhattan”, where our progress went as follows: “New York Malady” (Wolverine/Black Widow vs. Captain America/Thor Skrulls, we won and earned a silver rating), “Broadway Showdown” (Captain America/Thor vs. Wolverine/Black Widow Skrulls, we won and earned a gold rating), “Howling Fury” (Iron Man/Black Widow vs. Hulk/Wolverine Skrulls, we won and earned a silver rating) & “Phoenix Rising” (Phoenix/Spider Man vs. Thor/Spider Man Skrulls, we won and earned a gold rating). After that last match we unlocked the Phoenix character! There are more levels to go in Manhattan, we just need to figure out how to unlock them. So we then moved along to the “Baxter Building” area and completed the first fight there, which went as such: “Terra Incognita” (Scarlet Witch/Magneto vs. Hulk/Storm Skrulls, we won and earned a silver rating). A fun game, not quite what I expected but cool nonetheless!

“NNGRR” - On our guys’ weekend at the cottage we didn’t watch as many movies as usual as the weather was pretty nice, plus there was an NHL playoff game on TV each night. But we were able to view a couple, one I reviewed a short while back, A Million Ways to Die in the West, which is hilarious. The flick I was most excited about though was the sequel to a movie I absolutely adore, and it was just released the week of our trip, so I picked it up the day before we left. It was the hilarious . . . Hot Tub Time Machine 2!!! Huzzah! The story kicks off in current times, almost 20 years since that fateful ski trip the gang went back in time to revisit in the first film passed, forever altering their respective futures. Lou Dorchen fronts the rock band Motley Lou, although his biggest success is his tech firm, Lougle, which has made him an enormous fortune. His son Jacob, labelled a slacker, is basically functioning as Lou’s butler. Nick is a Grammy winning recording artist, having stolen music from artists yet to come along and ride what should have been their successes to international stardom. As for Adam, he is not present, off on some experiential journey. Unfortunately Lougle’s stock has been dropping lately though, as the company is beginning to stagnate. At a board meeting Lou announces his next idea, that of time travel, and gives one of the nerds on his team (Brad) the formula for nitro (the substance needed to power the hot tub time machine)! Not much later, during a party at Lou’s mansion to celebrate his success, events turn tragic when an unidentified person blasts him in the dick with a shotgun! In an effort to save Lou and his dick, Jacob fires up the hot tub time machine and off they go . . . only this time they go in to the future. And it’s not only the future they end up in, but an alternate dimension as Lou is somehow still alive. In this alternate dimension Jacob is now the star, supplanting his father at the top of the tech food chain, while Lou is a washed up, bearded loser. As for Nick, his career hit the skids and he’s now a broke ass former musician. Jacob keeps them focused though, their first step is to locate future Adam as they found his trench coat beside the hot tub, thus deducing he is Lou’s killer. Upon finding Adam’s address though they are disappointed to find his son instead, Adam Jr., who is to be married the next day to his fiancée, Jill. Having never met his father, Adam and Jill think it’s a great idea for him to tag along with the guys in hopes that they somehow do find his estranged father. But in a future where so much has changed and everything is new to these three maniacs, this foursome gets sidetracked many times along the way, to hilarious effect, while investigating possible leads on the perpetrator. Among the suspects are Gary Winkle, a jealous “friend” from back in the day who missed out on the original time traveling adventure, not to mention Brad, who despises the way Lou runs his company. After many twists and turns along the way they finally figure things out, but it will be a close shave to try and save Lou and set things back to rights. Can these dysfunctional fools bear down enough to get the job done, or is it finally curtains for sweet Lou Dorchen? The reviews were really mixed for this film, but I laughed my sack off literally the entire movie! It’s one of those ridiculous types of comedies that I tend to love so much, and the cast members are so perfect for the roles, it’s just a joy to watch. The interactions between Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke are priceless, they are one of my favourite comedy ensembles of all time (plus Adam Scott was awesome too). The eye candy was amazing, with Gillian Jacobs, Collette Wolfe, and Bianca Haase as the lead females . . . delicious. I enjoyed all of the set pieces, the future look and little gadgets and what not that they made up. Much like the first film this is just one of those types of movies you can put on and watch any time at all and it will still be as enjoyable as the first time. I want a third!!!

We began the weekend of the car rally by watching an old movie we thought James would like, featuring the bumbling 1980’s character Ernest P. Worrell . . . in Ernest Goes to Camp! The film begins with a scene from many decades ago, with an Indian tribe performing a sacred ritual that sees their young men graduate to manhood. Fast forward to current times and we find out the sacred grounds that belonged to this tribe now house Camp Kikakee, a boys only camp that sees it’s patrons experience all sorts of fun activities and camaraderie! We are then introduced to our main character, Ernest P. Worrell, who serves as the handyman around the camp, although he really desires to become a counselor one day and help shape these young boys’ lives. Ernest may soon get his chance though, as the camp’s leader is running a program called Second Chance, where kids who have had trouble with authority attend the camp in order to help improve their dispositions. When Kikakee’s regular counselors can’t cut it with these new attendees they dupe Ernest in to the job, but he is clueless and thinks it’s his big chance! Of course the boys play Ernest for the fool at first, but after a while they realize that he is the only one in recent memory who has seemed to give a care about them, for he is only trying to help them and teach them things. In the meantime there is another drama unfolding around the camp. A man named Sherman Krader, owner of the Krader construction company, is trying to buy up the land that Camp Kikakee sits on. For within this land is the world’s largest deposit of a valuable mineral called Petrocite. After many failed attempts to procure the land by contacting the owner, an old Indian man named Chief St. Cloud, Krader results to some dirty tricks and dupes Ernest in to convincing the Chief to sign off on some papers. Soon enough the sad news comes down the line . . . that Camp Kikakee is going to be closed immediately, to be taken over by Krader construction. Realizing the error of his ways Ernest is determined to fight back against these bullies and save Kikakee from a violent end . . . and determined to help Ernest is the handful of hooligans he’s been trying to mentor! Banding together and coming up with a plan, the group then executes said plan. But will a small group of kids and a loveable loser like Ernest be able to triumph over such an overwhelming force? Stranger things have happened!! I enjoyed watching this film all these years later. Of course it’s total cheese, but it brought back some good memories and James really seemed to like it. Lucky it was a three pack that we bought, there will be more Ernest to come for sure!

Next it’s time to congratulate the Oshawa Generals on winning the Canadian Hockey League’s Memorial Cup back at the end of May, for they triumphed over the Kelowna Rockets in the finals by a score of 2-1! After winning the OHL championship by defeating the Connor McDavid led Erie Otters, which is no small feat in itself, they went on to sweep the four games they played in the Memorial Cup, which also featured the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, plus the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts and Rimouski Oceanic. They were a very strong team that made some really good additions during the season to help them solidify their run, and boy did it pay off. I didn’t watch as much of the tournament as I should have, as once the Knights are out of the OHL playoffs I tend to lose a bit of interest due to the distraction of the NHL playoffs, but what I did watch was pretty exciting hockey, especially that final game. Congratulations to the Generals, and let’s go Knights in 2016!!

Early the following week I finished the latest TV series I was watching, that being the second and final season of The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Summer Glau, yeah!!! This season picks up right where the first left off, in the aftermath of the battle that saw the Terminator unit known as Cromartie decimate an entire FBI squad led by James Ellison . . . the person in charge of tracking down the fugitive Sarah Connor. During the battle John’s Terminator protector, Cameron, has her chip damaged. So before John and Sarah can find a place to lay low after the carnage they first have to deal with Cameron, who is now trying to hunt John down and kill him instead of protect him! After this bit of business is taken care of and John is able to repair Cameron’s trip the three of them, with Derek Reese in tow, search for new digs. Upon finding a home to rent they settle in and John begins going to school again, where he meets a cute blonde named Riley, and the two hit if off quite well much to Sarah’s disapproval. As for Sarah, she has resumed her task of trying to stop SkyNet from ever coming to pass, using a list of names provided to them by a resistance fighter to investigate possible leads. The Connors’ adventures take them to many different destinations including a nuclear power plant, a psychiatrist’s office, a UFO convention, a steel factory, and a sleep clinic, just to name a few. Meanwhile, while these outings are unraveling other events are in motion too. After the destruction of his comrades in the FBI, James Ellison quits the force and is soon after recruited to provide security/intelligence support for a Ms. Catherine Weaver, who runs a company called ZeiraCorp. Knowing the truth about the machines now, having seen what both Cameron and Cromartie are capable of up close and personal, he is convinced to take the job when Weaver expresses a knowledge of these machines and an intent on learning much more about them. Also, a femme fatale from the future named Jesse enters the fray, who just so happens to be the love interest of Derek Reese. As time goes by revelations unfold on the mysterious Catherine Weaver’s origins and intentions, as well as a link between Jesse and Riley that may be hazardous for the Connor clan. The adventures don’t stop at just chasing after those responsible for SkyNet’s creation though, mixed in with all this other action we see Cameron lose her memory and strike out on her own for a little while, Sarah and Cameron having to chase John and Riley down after traveling to Mexico for a brief getaway, Cameron researching SkyNet on the side during late night library sessions, Riley attempting to off herself, and a brief reunion with Sarah’s recent boyfriend Charley. Throughout the season many details are revealed concerning the pasts of the main characters, not just the Connor family but also Riley, Jesse, Catherine, and most intriguingly the origins of the Terminator unit that ended up becoming Cameron. In the end the Connors’ leads take them right to Catherine Weaver and ZeiraCorp’s doorstep, the subject of their visit being her pet project, the computer A.I. system known as John Henry. But are the goings on at ZeiraCorp what Sarah and John assume them to be, or is there more going on than meets the eye? This season was killer, totally building on the first season and turning this series in to a world class affair . . . which makes we wonder why the hell they cancelled it prematurely, after just two fuckin’ seasons!?! What is it with Fox anyways, those idiots are always canceling good shows way too early. Anyhoo, this season had a ton of great action, interweaving storylines full of intrigue and suspense, and best of all an all-star cast that seemed born for the roles. Of course my favourite is Summer Glau, as my blog title would indicate. I find her so appealing, not just her extreme good looks but also the types of characters she portrays in her works, she is quite talented. This show will live on forever in my heart, screw you Fox!!

Later that same week I finished the book I had on the go at the time, the third entry in the Tunnels series, called Freefall. It’s been the best one yet! As this story begins we find out that Will, Chester, Elliott, and Bartleby survived the drop down the Pore, although Elliott was badly injured in the process. The land they find themselves in is even closer to the Earth’s core than they were before, and because of this the gravity is a lot less, which the boys find quite cool as it lends them the super power of jumping! However, in this unknown land there are also unknown dangers, such as large man eating spiders! After setting out to explore the area, carrying Elliott along on their backs, they boys are saved from just such a spider by a crazy, frumpy old woman named Martha. She takes their group to the cabin she lives in, where she explains to them all she knows about the region they now find themselves in, at the same time trying to tend to Elliott’s wounds. Meanwhile, not too far away a few others who made the drop down the Pore have survived, namely Will’s former sister(s) the Rebecca twins, along with a Styx Limiter. Soon enough they come across their adoptive father, Dr. Burrows, who fell down the Pore well before anybody else, he is having the time of his life exploring the area and trying to find the fabled “Garden of the Second Sun” that he found evidence of before he fell in the Pore. The twins reveal their Styx heritage to him and force Dr. Burrows in to trying to help them escape the Pore, and he is flabbergasted by their behaviour. As all of this is unfolding below the Earth’s crust, events are in motion topsoil as well. Mrs. Burrows, after meeting Will’s birth mother in the last book, decides to make drastic life changes. She leaves the home she ended up in, rents an apartment, gets a job, and begins going to the gym. In her off time Celia investigates leads in to her family’s disappearance, and in doing so she meets up with Drake, who survived the perils he faced in the last book! Back down below things are about to come to a head. Will, Chester and Martha stumble upon one of the Rebecca twins, who offers up an apology and gives Will the Dominion phials, which supposedly contain the evil plague the Styx plan on releasing topsoil in order to decimate the Earth’s population. They take her to the cabin and keep her under lock and key, Will starts to trust her although none of the others do. What’s worse, Elliott’s condition is deteriorating after she catches a fever and can’t seem to snap out of it. When one day Rebecca mentions to Will that she saw Martha burying something in the yard outside the cabin, Will investigates the site and discovers bottles of pills! Confronting Martha on the matter she admits she got them from a shipwreck in one of the caverns, and that she only wanted to protect the boys from any misguided hope, as her son Nathaniel perished in the exact same way Elliott seems to be fading. But the boys feed Elliott the old medication and tell Martha they want to go to the ship to investigate it further. It’s an arduous journey and once they are there all hell breaks loose. After investigating the wreck, which is actually a modern day steel submarine, they are left with more questions than answers. But that is all put aside when the other Rebecca twin, with her Limited guard and Dr. Burrows in tow, ambush the group at the submarine! Fortunately Elliott finally manages to recover at this point, she saves the day by planting some explosives and blasting the cavern to pieces. In the aftermath there is no sign of the three evil doers. Chester, Martha, Elliott and Bartleby are stuck in one of the tunnels that led them to the submarine, while Will and Dr. Burrows are in a tunnel on the other side of the cavern. The foursome choose to stay put and wait for the Burrows boys to rejoin them, but in setting out to find a route back to Will’s friends, they make a huge discovery. Deep within the Earth they find what must have been some sort of military installation equipped with food stores, weapons and supplies. What’s better, there is a harbour at this facility with a working boat. The pair use the boat to navigate the underground river and return topsoil, and immediately hook up with Drake. Soon enough they also reunite with Mrs. Burrows . . . although it’s not such a sweet reunion for Dr. Burrows! A plan is then formulated. Drake and Mrs. Burrows are going to remain topsoil and try to flush out the Styx leader, in an attempt to weaken their cause. Meanwhile, Will and Dr. Burrows are to return below and search out the Rebecca twins and their Limiter, to make sure they are all dead and the Dominion phials are safe. During their journey the pair is reunited with Chester, Elliott, Martha and Bartleby, and so they all head back to the site of the submarine and begin their investigation. Once there though things take an interesting turn and Dr. Burrows plunges even further in to the void, with Will close behind, and then Elliott and Bartleby behind him. Much to Roger’s delight their long journey ends with an arrival at . . . The Garden of the Second Sun!! Although it looks peaceful and abandoned at first, with the Burrows boys eventually letting their guard down, Elliott is having none of it. And for good reason, for their group is not alone, and it’s only a matter of time before they find that out. Although all three books have been fantastic so far, this is easily my favourite of the bunch! The characters continue to develop and are now all intermingling, learning each other’s secrets, and the overall sense of adventure and discovery backing the story is limitless. So much fun, I can’t wait for Closer!

The weekend of my run we kicked things off by watching the second of our Ernest movies, namely Ernest Goes to Jail. As this film kicks off we learn that Ernest is now working in a bank, as a night janitor, although with his bumbling manner he ends up doing more messing than cleaning! He has a few friends at the bank, the night watchmen Chuck and Bobby as well as a teller named Charlotte. Ernest yearns to move up the food chain and become a teller himself, but the blowhard owner of the bank, Mr. Pendlesmythe, can’t foresee that happening any time soon . . . or at all! Lifting Ernest up from his downed spirits is the fact that when he gets home one day after work he has a letter waiting for him, a letter informing him that he’s been chosen for jury duty. Thrilled to be part of the process that is the justice system, Ernest shows up in court raring to go. The person being tried is a man named Rubin Bartlett, already an inmate at Dracup prison and convicted of killing another inmate! During the proceedings Rubin notices that Ernest looks exactly like his fellow inmate and boss in the joint, the dastardly fiend named Felix Nash. In a desperate gambit Rubin convinces his lawyer to ask the judge to temporarily switch the proceedings to the jail itself, so the jury can witness the environments the crime actually happened in. The next day while at Dracup prison Rubin, Felix and another inmate named Lyle engineer a switch. They lure Ernest away from the group he is with and knock him out cold, after which Nash trades clothing with Ernest and suddenly he’s a free man! After coming to Ernest thinks his new situation is a prank, but soon enough he realizes he’s actually in jail and he proceeds to try and explain to the guards what happened. They are having none of it, though! Rubin quickly warns Ernest to keep his mouth shut, as with Nash now living his life on the outside he could harm Ernest’s friends at a moment’s notice, if need be. At first Ernest plays nice, but after learning that Nash is planning on robbing Ernest’s bank he decides he needs to make a stand and gain his freedom. After many unsuccessful escape attempts the warden finally manages to approve a trip to the electric chair for Nash (Ernest). Ernest is terrified, but after a couple of recent experiences electrocuting himself the chair doesn’t kill him, it only serves to lend him some powers . . . power enough to blast himself out of prison! Ernest first heads home to try and catch Nash unawares, to confront him before he pulls the heist, but unfortunately he’s too late. So, heading to the bank Ernest engages Nash in a battle to save his friends and his place of employment, but does a bumbling fool have any sort of a chance against a hardened criminal like Felix Nash? This was a pretty funny flick, I enjoyed it much more than Ernest Goes to Camp. It sure has some interesting characters and it showcased Jim Varney’s comical chops, focusing on some of his imitations and what not. I determined during the viewing of this film that he looks like a combination of Chris Kattan and French Stewart, so funny! James really liked it as well, this was the Ernest movie he most wanted to watch out of the bunch. One more to go!

Late last week I watched the middle movie of the most current Batman trilogy, called . . . The Dark Knight! The story picks up not long after the events of Batman Begins, and the Dark Knight has left his mark on Gotham, as the streets are quite a bit safer and the local crime bosses are feeling the pinch. Making matters worse for organized crime is Gotham’s new district attorney, Harvey Dent, who even Bruce Wayne is impressed with. Harvey is helping put a clamp down on crime the good of fashioned way . . . you remember, the justice system!?! Despite the fact that Harvey is dating Bruce’s old flame, Rachel Dawes, he throws a fundraiser for Harvey to elevate his stature even further. But soon a new player enters the scene, an insane lunatic who wears clown makeup all over his face and is known as . . . The Joker. This character assumes control of the various organized crime factions in the city, in a most violent fashion, and begins causing trouble the likes of which has never been seen! In between all the bank heists and his other sordid activities, Joker goes on a killing rampage, stating that more people will die every day until Batman reveals his true identity. Batman and Lieutenant Jim Gordon decide to bring Harvey Dent in to the mix on their secret meet ups, in an effort to come up with a plan to neutralize this new threat. However, no matter what they try this maniac seems to always be one step ahead of them. Amongst the victims of Joker’s killing sprees are the commissioner of the Gotham police force, along with a high profile judge with ties to the mob trial. But the good guys refuse to let this terrorist off the hook and draft up the outlines of a plan. With some forewarning of Joker planning an attempt on the life of Gotham’s mayor, Gordon pretends to take a bullet for him during the ensuing chaos, in essence faking his own death. Afterwards Harvey announces that he is Batman and is taken in to custody. The plan comes to fruition while the police transfer Harvey to prison. For they know that Joker will attempt to head off the convoy and get at Dent, so that is where Batman steps in, along with the miraculously living Gordon, who finally manages to take Joker in to custody! Afterwards Gordon is promoted as the department’s new commissioner, but the moment of joy is short lived as the Joker’s plan all along was to be taken to jail, so he could set up his next diabolical plan . . . a plan that will see the death of Rachel Dawes and the severe disfigurement of Harvey Dent, now dubbed Two-Face! With two maniacs now on the loose and gunning for the Caped Crusader, do Batman and his police compatriots have any hope in ending the threat they represent when they weren’t even able to deal with Joker in the first place? Never count the bat out, I say!! This movie is pretty awesome, it’s the point when this Batman trilogy got super serious. Batman Begins was dipping our toes in the deep end whereas the Dark Knight is the cannonball off the diving board. Pretty gritty and grim, lots of fatalities, and it sees the iconic introduction of Heath Ledger as The Joker, who did a tremendous job (R.I.P.). A comic book masterpiece of a movie!

This past Friday night Sieve and I went to see Jurassic World, which we’d both been dying to watch . . . after all we did go see the original together in 1993 at the Goderich theatre, best to continue the tradition! This film is an absolute blast and is set in current times, 22 years after the series of mishaps that plagued the original Jurassic Park, founded by InGen president at the time John Hammond. In the ensuing years InGen has continued to operate and the island’s new owner, Mr. Masrani, has expanded upon Hammond’s dream by opening an interactive, state of the art theme park on Isla Nublar called Jurassic World! Over 20,000 visitors stream through it’s gates every day, and a couple of new additions to the park crowd are on their way. Claire Dearing, the park’s manager of operations, is being visited by her nephews Zach and Gray. However, with how busy Claire is at the park she has her personal assistant look after the boys upon their arrival, granting them full access to the park and it’s numerous attractions. In the meantime Claire is addressing a group of potential investors on the next big reveal Jurassic World has in the works. In an effort to keep on raising the bar said reveal is a new dinosaur that they’ve genetically modified, in essence making their own new brand of dino . . . which they’ve dubbed the Idominus Rex! After the meeting, upon showing the Idominus to Mr. Masrani, he orders one of the park employees to inspect the Idominus’ pen to ensure it is safe enough. The employee in question is a man named Owen Grady, who has been working with the park’s raptors in an effort to become their alpha, not taming them per se but managing to exert some measure of control. As the pair head off to inspect the Idominus’ pen we learn that Claire and Owen have had some sort of short lived past relationship and they are often at each other’s throats. Owen’s mood darkens even further when they reach the Idominus and it’s enclosure seems a little bit lacking. When they try to locate the Idominus using thermal imagery they determine it’s no longer in it’s pen, and panic sets in among the park employees. With claw marks all up along the inner wall of the enclosure they believe the beast to have escaped. However, there is more to the equation. The Idominus is actually still in the enclosure, having managed to somehow camouflage itself, and it soon attacks Owen and a couple of other park employees! Owen makes it out and almost manages to keep the Idominus trapped in it’s pen, but it bursts through the slowly closing door at the last minute and then has the run of the park all to itself! As the beast slowly heads south towards the main hub of the park, it leaves a wake of bodies in it’s path, both human and dinosaur alike. Soon caught up in the fight for survival are Zach and Gray, who were out exploring the plains in one of the “hamster ball” contraptions. In doing so they discover many relics from the original theme park, which is very cool. Back at the control center the special force employed for such emergencies is dispatched but are quickly decimated by the rogue dinosaur. As the Idominus gets closer and closer to the park, breaking open the aviary and unleashing a flock of pterodactyls in the process, desperate times call for desperate measures. At the urging of an InGen goon named Hoskins, Owen decides to take his raptors in to the wild and use them to chase down and ultimately destroy the Idominus. However, after that plan ends up in an epic fail Owen confronts the chief scientist Henry Wu (yes, from the original movie!) on just what types of genes they used when creating this abomination. As the chase looms closer and closer to the park Owen, Claire and company are left with just one choice . . . a choice that could save thousands, or that could help serve up the human buffet even faster. This movie was epic, plain and simple. Starting from the storyline, on to the visuals of the park, down to the amazing job they did bringing these creatures to life, the whole film was just a feast for the senses. Add in an all-star cast led by Chris Pratt and I am really having a hard time not lining up to go see this thing again. I’ve heard they’re now going to start work on the next installment in the near future, which is a huge relief seeing how long it took for this fourth movie to come along. This is easily my second favourite film franchise after Star Wars, bring ‘em on!!!!

Also this past weekend we watched the last of our Ernest movies, called Ernest Scared Stupid! This film begins with a flashback from the year 1880, in the town of Briarville, Missouri. Townsfolk apprehend a vile creature that had been stealing their children away, upon being ridden from existence the beast curses the Worrell family line, so that subsequent generations would get dumber and dumber! Fast forward to the year 1991 and Ernest P. Worrell is clinging to a job in the town of Briarville, as a general worker focusing on helping to clean the town up a bit. He has befriended a trio of kids named Kenny, Elizabeth and Joey, who often times can be seen driving around with Ernest in his garbage truck. Halloween is looming very close and after some bullies break down the kids’ home-made haunted house, Ernest promises them he’ll help build a new fort. They drive in to the woods loaded with supplies and stumble upon a very spooky patch of woods. However, this woods has the perfect tree for them to build their fort on, and so they quickly get to work! Unknown to them though, is the fact that the creature that used to haunt Briarville oh so long ago is buried under this massive oak tree. And during their activity building the fort Ernest unwittingly releases the creature from it’s burial ground. Soon enough young children begin to go missing. For this creature, a troll of some sort, takes the kids and turns them in to wooden statues, using their energy to help breed it’s own descendants! Enlisting the help of the town’s eccentric old scary lady, Old Lady Hackmore, Ernest learns the true nature of the situation, although the authorities don’t believe him. Soon enough both Kenny and then Elizabeth are captured by the troll, who is named Trantor. With nobody able to help him, only Joey and Old Lady Hackmore hip to what’s going on, Ernest must confront the beast head on and stop it’s reign of terror before any more young victims can be claimed. While Ernest is off trying to save the day Joey figures out the keys to stopping Trantor, soon enlisting a group of kids to mount a rescue mission. It all comes to a head in the spooky forest, in a battle that pits Trantor and his recently hatched minions against Ernest and his kiddy companions. Which side will come out on top!? This was by far my favourite of the Ernest movies we’ve watched, as I love Halloween themed films and really appreciated all of the puppetry involved with the creation of the movie’s antagonists. Like the late, great Jim Varney, a true classic for sure!

Just last night the 2015 Stanley Cup champion was determined, and that would be none other than the Chicago Blackhawks!! With the Hawks now winning their third Stanley Cup in the last six seasons this thing is officially a dynasty, which is hard to fathom in this day and age of the salary cap. When you look at the players they have on their team, such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and the list goes on and on, it’s hard not to drop your jaw. Especially being a Leafs fan, who for the last number of years have been so downright pathetic!! Chicago suffered some pretty lean years before these successes, but they now have the winning blueprint down to a tee, and they are a joy to watch. They played the surprising Tampa Bay Lightning in the final series and sunk them in six games, but it was a close one as every game was decided by one goal with the exception of last night’s elimination game, which Chicago won by a score of 2-0. Despite Tampa keeping things close it was rampantly apparent just how much better Chicago was in all areas of the ice though. Tampa had a much easier road to hoe along the way, first taking down the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens, two teams that are not physical in any regard, and in the case of the Canadiens they rely heavily on their goaltender to bail them out on a nightly basis. The Lightning did manage to take down the New York Rangers in the conference finals though, who I had predicted to go to the Cup finals. As for the Blackhawks, they had more of a battle on their hands in the rough and tumble Western Conference. The first two rounds saw them dispose of the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild, both heavily favoured as Cup contenders heading in to the playoffs, before disposing of the Anaheim Ducks in a very physical conference final series. Despite this the talent, depth and experience of this Chicago team saw them through their long journey, which is even more impressive seeing as their back end was so banged up. So congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks on their 2015 Stanley Cup championship winning efforts, it was a magical ride!!

For the last few weeks I’ve been listening heavily to a Greatest Hits CD I picked up a while back, from none other than The Guess Who! The Guess Who are a Canadian outfit (from Winnipeg, no less!) who originally formed in the late 1950’s, but didn’t earn worldwide success until the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. The band’s lineup was a revolving door of various members over the years, but the two names one might most recognize are that of Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman. The band’s sound is rock and roll of course, with some psychedelic rock swirled in often and to great effect. I find that the really good music from the 1960’s and 1970’s has a distinct kind of feel and sound to it, and The Guess Who certainly had that quality in spades. You may not know their name or have the ability to recall any of their songs, but chances are you’ve heard a good number of their hits and would recognize upon hearing them. I consider this album an essential addition for any fan of rock music, my favourite tracks of the 18 that it contains include “These Eyes”, “Laughing”, “Undun”, “No Time”, “American Woman”, “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature”, “Hand Me Down World”, “Share The Land”, “Albert Flasher”, “Rain Dance”, “Star Baby” & “Clap For The Wolfman”. That’s virtually all of them, but that’s how bloody good this collection is, so go get it!!

Serenity now!! Actually, I'll take Serenity pretty much any damn time . . .

It’s been a pretty damn good three weeks since my last blog, albeit busy, but quite productive! The weekend that followed my last post we did stuff mostly around the house. There was still a lot of yard work to do, which we picked away at a bit over the course of the weekend, and we also headed out to run some errands here and there. On the Saturday we managed to visit the driving range, where I hit the first half of my bucket really well, finally getting one to go 250 yards! But after that, with a stoopid blister that developed on my right hand, I hit the second half of my bucket like I’d never swung a club before, it was terrible! That night we went to the drive in to see the first movie I reviewed far below. Unfortunately the double feature finished with Cinderella, so we left early . . . as did a lot of people.

The following weekend was Mother’s Day weekend. I had already bought mrs. darthcobain17 a FitBit the weekend prior, so hers was over early. But for our moms we took them to Port Stanley on the Saturday morning, to the trout hatchery where we watched those bastards struggle upstream, and then went for a bit of a hike. Afterwards we checked out the beach and then had fries at Mackie’s . . . mmmm mmmm delicious. As were some of the staff! After heading back towards home we then took off Hamilton way, to visit our friends Johnny and Megan. A pub we frequent from time to time was having another 80’s night, so the girls got all dressed up and went out and did what they do. The menfolk stayed home and drank beer and watched hockey . . . as is our birthright.

As for this past weekend, it was our annual May 2-4 holiday long weekend, and it saw us pretty busy. The yard work kicked in to overdrive, I got the outside water turned on, continued getting the furniture set up plus a new solar light hooked up in the gazebo, cleaned up a ton of refuse that previous owners had left lying around the treelines (old eaves troughs and fence pieces, etc.), and I was also able to weed the lawn and get it cut for the second time. Our yard is honestly like Jurassic Jungle right now, everything has exploded this year, pretty nice! On the Sunday we visited with some good family friends, where the ultimate plan was to go see a movie that was just released recently, which I reviewed below . . . I’ll save the suspense until then. Everybody loved it though, as it was pretty fucking fierce!! On the holiday Monday mrs. darthcobain17’s dad came down for an overnight. We had a good dinner, went out for frozen yogurt and then watched the hockey game. Sadly another work week was just around the corner . . .

For the work weeks themselves James finished his latest round of golf lessons and advanced to the blue level. He’s also continued his Beavers meetings on both Tuesdays and Saturdays, mixed in with some play dates here and there. School and his tutoring sessions continue to go very well. mrs. darthcobain17 hasn’t been doing much outside of her Netflix addiction, but she has managed to attend boot camp a couple nights a week, as well as go for some runs with a work friend every so often. For myself, my bike treks to work continue to get more awesome, as we’ve been having some amazing weather, especially considering it’s only May. We’ve had two or three weeks’ worth of July weather already, nice and hot, bitches out in their short shorts and yoga pants all over the place! It’s been so inspiring I’ve set some record times this spring, finally managing the ride in under 25 minutes. With it being Stanley Cup playoff time I’ve also been watching a ton of hockey, although the warm weather has dropped my consumption a little bit. Instead I’m spending a lot of time outdoors, having fires at night and drinking a shit load of beer. This winter made me realize how much I enjoy wearing shorts!! Anyways, amongst this action the following is what I (we) were able to get accomplished . . .

1) I was able to double up on Goldeneye and get two levels completed this time through, the thirteenth level was called “St. Petersburg – Depot”. Janus’ base in St. Petersburg was located in a disused military rail depot, where they set up their arms deals, acts of terror, extortion, etc. The plan was for me to infiltrate their operation and mess things around a little bit, making sure to be on Ourumov’s train before it left the depot as the captured Natalya was suspected of being with him. I began in a far corner of their facility, setting off and skulking around huge cargo containers. Large storage sheds were scattered throughout and I entered them as I went, eliminating all hostiles and destroying both a shipment of weapons as well as their computer center in the process. Eventually I found the building where Ourumov’s train was departing from and passed through it, sneaking aboard the train on the other side. I completed this level with a time of 23:01 and had a 47.4% accuracy rating. Level fourteen was called “St. Petersburg – Train”. With Natalya held hostage aboard the train my task was simple . . . rescue her and then get the hell out of dodge! My journey began at the back of the train, where I passed through a couple of cargo cars filled with many crates and of course multitudes of enemies! After dispatching them I came to a couple of cars dedicated to living quarters, encountering a strong resistance there also. Afterwards I passed through a number of cars that were a little less generic, more personalized, compromising the social/meeting areas on board. The resistance was less but they were definitely better armed. During this whole journey I was blasting the braking mechanisms on each car, so when I took out the last one the train went in to emergency mode, stopping and going in to a lockdown. Entering the last car I came face to face with both Trevalyn and Ourumov! I shot Ourumov, who then released Natalya, while the others all got away. Locking us in the car with a self-destruct mechanism engaged, I then had to use my watch laser to cut away the bolts on a hatch in the floor, escaping out underneath the train. Taking out a few last soldiers we then headed for daylight and got away just as the train blew to kingdom come! I completed this level with a time of 5:44 and had a 69.7% accuracy rating.

2) Another series is in the books on my season of MLB 2K11. This time the Toronto Blue Jays came to town for a four game set, here is how it all went down: won vs. Toronto 7-2, won vs. Toronto 5-1, won vs. Toronto 5-1 & won vs. Toronto 13-0.

3) On NHL ’04 I was to play a few more games of my season, the results of which were as follows: won @ Philadelphia 13-8, won vs. Colorado 11-4 & won vs. Tampa Bay 11-3.

4) I kept plugging away on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, sticking to the “Events” (Solo) mode and trying to get it all tidied up. I was able to complete the “It’s Past Your Bedtime!”, “Oh Yeah, Luigi Time!”, “Doctor Schmoctor”, “Wrecking Mario”, “Jackpot Opportunity”, “Fitness Junkie”, “The Big 7650!” & “The King Strikes Back” battles. Intensity in ten cities . . .

5) The first completion of this round goes to none other than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1, where I finished off the last two levels of the game! In the twelfth level our intrepid threesome began making their way down some forested pathways towards the Lovegoods’ house. Along the way we ran in to many doxies, spiders, even some Dementors. After booting it past a section of whomping willows and Inferni, we soon came to the Lovegoods’ front door. Mr. Lovegood was outside and invited us in, but he seemed . . . distracted. Once inside he and Hermione related to us the tale of the Deathly Hallows, which is what the symbol we saw in the cemetery stood for. Upon completion of the story we discovered that Xenophilius had sold us out to Voldemort though, as they had taken Luna captive and he thought he’d be able to get her back by turning us in! Death Eaters soon attacked the place but we held our ground for a short while before we were able to hit the forest in retreat, heading back the way we had come originally. As darkness fell though we got made by a group of snatchers, just before being captured Hermione put a spell on Harry to disfigure him a bit, disguising him from Voldemort temporarily. We were then apparated away to the Malfoy’s house, where we were stuck down in the dungeons with the Lovegoods and, wait for it . . . Dobby!! The thirteenth and final level of the game began in said dungeon, with Dobby whisking the Lovegoods away to safety before coming back and setting us free from our prison. Ron and I burst upstairs, looking to rescue Hermione from Bellatrix Lestrange, who was in the process of interrogating her. We engaged her and the rest of the Malfoy clan, battling them to a standstill in the middle of their living room! To end the standoff Dobby stole Bellatrix’s wand and used it against her, but just as we apparated away to a sunny beach area Bellatrix took her vengeance on Dobby, striking him a fatal blow! The game closed with us watching over Dobby as he passed away in this sunny paradise. Before putting the game away I partook of the other game mode available, which is called “Challenges”. This mode features a series of scenarios they put Harry in to, you then have to take control and guide him through each one. Here is how I fared: “Challenge 1” (had to defeat Voldemort’s allies as quickly as possible, completed with a time of 3:26.902 and a 3 star rating, 20 enemies defeated), “Challenge 2” (had to defeat all enemies using only the Expelliarmus spell, completed with a time of 4:11.684 and a 2 star rating, 16 enemies defeated), “Challenge 3” (had to get to Bathilda Bagshot’s house as quickly as possible, completed with a time of 58.235 and a 4 star rating, 3 enemies defeated), “Challenge 4” (had to survive an extended attack from Voldemort’s allies, lasted the full 8 minutes and earned a 2 star rating, scoring 10370 points) & “Challenge 5” (had to enter the public toilets in Whitehall without being spotted, this challenge was rubbish though, I couldn’t complete it without being discovered no matter what I tried). Game over!

6) The second game that met it’s end was Big Hero 6: Battle in the Bay. Not much to do to tidy this one up though, just had to finish off the alternate game mode I’d started last time around, also called . . . “Challenges”. Here is how that ended up: “Challenge 8” (completed with a time of 19:45, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 60 enemies defeated), “Challenge 9” (completed with a time of 25:30, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 33 enemies defeated), “Challenge 10” (completed with a time of 15:48, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 74 enemies defeated), “Challenge 11” (completed with a time of 22:56, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 57 enemies defeated), “Challenge 12” (completed with a time of 14:54, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 41 enemies defeated), “Challenge 13” (completed with a time of 21:33, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 42 enemies defeated), “Challenge 14” (completed with a time of 12:57, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 51 enemies defeated), “Challenge 15” (completed with a time of 26:04, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 58 enemies defeated), “Challenge 16” (completed with a time of 23:24, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 50 enemies defeated), “Challenge 17” (completed with a time of 22:07, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 104 enemies defeated) & “Challenge 18” (completed with a time of 22:30, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 37 enemies defeated). Yet another GAME OVER!!

7) We’re inching our way closer to the end on Lego: Pirates of the Caribbean, as we were able to close out the “At World’s End” chapter, finishing off the final three levels there. Said levels unfolded as such: “Norrington’s Choice” (found 4/10 Minikit pieces, 1/8 Compass items, unlocked the James Norrington, Murtogg, Mullroy, & Captain Elizabeth [Robes] characters, and earned 1 Gold Brick [completion]), “The Brethren Court” (earned True Pirate status, found 1/10 Minikit pieces, 7/8 Compass items, unlocked the Captain Elizabeth character, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status]) & “The Maelstrom” (earned True Pirate status, found 1/8 Compass items, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status]). One more chapter to go!

8) We were able to finish off “World 5” on Super Mario 3D World, completing the final six levels available there. Our progress unfolded as such: “5-4: Sprawling Savanna” (earned 56300 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “5-5: Bob-ombs Below” (earned 50450 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “5-6: Cakewalk Flip” (earned 34750 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “5-7: Searchlight Sneak” (earned 32860 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “5-Castle: King Ka-thunk’s Castle” (earned 59400 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars) & “5-B: Fire Bros. Hideout #2” (earned 15900 points, and collected 1/1 stars). During our wanderings we also received an additional stamp, given to us by one of the fairies we met along the way. We didn’t stop there though, continuing to plow ahead through much more of the game. Next up was “World 6”, which we totally completed, the action unfolding thusly: “6-1: Clear Pipe Cruise” (earned 48250 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “6-2: Spooky Seasick Wreck” (earned 30740 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “6-B: Fire Bros. Hideout #3” (earned 19350 points, and collected 1/1 stars), “6-3: Hands-On Hall” (earned 48100 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “6-4: Deep Jungle Drift” (earned 42910 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “6-A: Prince Bully Blockade” (earned 34400 points, and collected 1/1 stars), “6-5: Ty-Foo Flurries” (earned 52090 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “6-6: Bullet Bill Base” (earned 54410 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “6-7: Fuzzy Time Mine” (earned 33420 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “6-Mystery Box: Mystery House Throwdown” (earned 67320 points, and collected 5/5 stars), “6-Tank: Bowser’s Bob-omb Brigade” (earned 72010 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “6-C: Motley Bossblob’s Big Battle” (earned 64950 points, and collected 1/1 stars). The next world in line wasn’t a numbered world, it was called “Castle” . . . and we totally beat it as well! Here is how it went down: “Castle-1: Fort Fire Bros.” (earned 55420 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Castle-2: Switchback Ruins” (earned 53040 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Castle-3: Red-Hot Run” (earned 32200 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Castle-4: Boiling Blue Bully Belt” (earned 68460 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Castle-A: Brolder Blockade is Back” (earned 29650 points, and collected 1/1 stars), “Castle-B: Prince Bully Blockade is Back” (earned 36400 points, and collected 1/1 stars), “Castle-5: Trick Trap Tower” (earned 47720 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Castle-Toad: Captain Toad Gets Thwomped” (earned 33500 points, and collected 5/5 stars), “Castle-6: Rammerhead Reef” (earned 60670 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Castle-7: Simmering Lava Lake” (earned 57050 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “Castle-Castle: Bowser’s Lava Lake Keep” (earned 71380 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars). Along the way we gained an additional stamp that was given to us by another fairy. At this point we had rescued all the fairies, but Bowser showed up and snatched them all away again, packing them all away in a jar and fleeing the scene! And so the game continued, the next world being called . . . “Bowser”. This is kind of where we’ve left off, beating the first two levels, which went as such: “Bowser-1: Spiky Spike Bridge” (earned 38600 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars) & “Bowser-2: Plessie’s Dune Downhill” (earned 63050 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars). Wowee!

9) The third and final game I managed to finish off in this blog period was Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal our Garbage?!! This completion was a little more involved than the other two though, it was a bit of a marathon. Anyways, picking up where I last left off I used our newly acquired Down Thrust ability to access an area called the Tomb Dungeon. We battled along, eventually reaching a chest that contained the Fist Smash ability. Using it to break through crumbling walls, and the Down Thrust ability to hit switches, we navigated many platforms and soon came to a chamber where the Ice King was waiting. Said chamber happened to be Bubblegum’s lab, where the Ice King was planning on cloning his pet penguin, Gunter! Ice King was true to his word, so to escape we had to battle 100 Gunters, for doing so successfully we were given the Pantyhose. After heading back to the Candy Kingdom and giving Bubblegum her pantyhose, she informed us that the Ice King had been spotted hauling much garbage in the direction of Red Rock Pass. So we headed straight there, with Jake smashing us in to the region. We began exploring the rocky, fiery landscape and laying low the new types of creatures we found there. Soon we came to a locked door that could only be opened by a real band playing a real song. So we continued on and arrived at the Marauder Village, where a few of the Marauders promised they’d each give us their respective band bug . . . if we completed a task for them. We also ran in to the Marauder Leader, who challenged us to a friendly battle! Victory was ours, afterwards he asked for our aid in ridding them of a terrifying beast who dwells in the caves north of their village. We said yes, to aid our journey the leader gifted us with the Umbrella ability, helping us jump long chasms. Moving along afterwards we came to Bliblob, the Cutest Warrior, who we didn’t even have to try to best! For defeating him though we were awarded a Ball. A backtrack was then needed, we headed to Candy Kingdom, where obtaining a Candy Cane was our primary concern. Moseying on back to Red Rock Pass we ran in to a character named Choose Goose, trading him our three Wads of Cash in exchange for “The Bomba” (a bomb). Leaving his company we made our way back to the Marauder Village, giving both the Ball and the Candy Cane to two of the village’s residents, in exchange obtaining Musical Bug 2 and 3. An even longer backtrack was then needed, Finn and Jake went all the way back to the start of the game, The Grasslands, to obtain the Bonsai Tree. Taking it back to the Marauder Village we traded it in and received Musical Bug 1! With all three bugs now in our possession we headed to the locked door. The bug band laid down a wicked jam, opening the portal for us. Forging onwards through this door we soon ran in to Lumpy Space Princess, who was complaining about all the gnomes in the area stealing her stuff. Battling lava rocks and skeletons we eventually reached the Fire Dungeon, entering it we navigated it’s hazards and battled it’s denizens, finding a chest and obtaining the Jake Roll ability. This helped us progress further, allowing our party of two to cross large bodies of water, soon enough we once again stumbled upon the Ice King. He left us another Garbage Princess and wished us luck on our next boss fight! Heading in to the next chamber we discovered Marceline the Vampire Queen, gaining victory over her in a vicious battle. Upon her defeat we received another one of Ice King’s riddles, but there was no effort put in to this one at all, it basically told us to go to the Ice King’s castle where the final battle would take place. As a thank you from Marceline she gifted us a Demon Heart. Jake and I took the Demon Heart back to the Marauder Village, giving it to their leader as proof that the “beast” would no longer be a problem for his people. As a thank you he instilled in Jake the ability to turn in to a boat, which would allow us to sail the high seas that surround these lands! So we obliged him, hitting high tide in the face and sailing throughout the land and making a couple stops, one of which earned us the Spiral Slice ability. Ultimately we landed at the foot of the Ice King’s frozen realm and began working our way through it’s tundra. We first ran in to Snow Golem, who said he was quite sad. We proposed building him a lady friend, which seemed to perk him up, he said he wanted her made out of “sky snow” (clouds). He even gave us a drawing of what he wanted her to look like! So we took said picture to the Cloud People, who let us in to their Cloud Kingdom so we could consult with the Party God (for the Cloud People love to party it up!). For trying to help his dear Snow Golem, the Party God gave Jake the ability to grow his legs super long, allowing him to reach the clouds! With this new power in our arsenal we backtracked and hit the high seas once more, meandering back to The Grasslands, Candy Kingdom and Red Rock Pass, exploring a cloudy area in each region and obtaining Cloud Pieces 1-3 in the process. We then headed back to Ice King’s territory and did the same thing there, obtaining Cloud Piece 4. With all four pieces in our possession we went and visited the Party God again, who manipulated the four pieces to craft Ms. Cloud Golem! With her in tow we went and visited Snow Golem, introducing him to his special friend. Snow Golem was so thankful he gave us the Fire Wolf Pup, which he said needed to be reunited with it’s family in the Fire Kingdom. He also mentioned that we would be able to find the Glowing Sword in that kingdom, which we’d need in order to defeat the Ice King. We journeyed across the sea one last time and reached the Fire Kingdom, where we consulted with the Flame Princess. For returning the Fire Wolf Pup she gave us the Glowing Sword, which we took with us back to the Ice Kingdom. Using it to infiltrate further in to Ice King’s territory we eventually reached his mountain castle hideout and confronted him one last time . . . and this time he had to fight his own battle! Ice King had taken Lumpy Space Princess hostage, so we made him eat fire, using our Glowing Sword to maximum effect. It was a long, tough, drawn out battle, but we laid this fiend low in the end and saved the day. Afterwards he gave us our garbage back, in the mess Lumpy Space Princess saw an ashtray that she had made Finn and Jake as a gift. Seeing her creation tossed aside in the garbage made her lose her shit, in a rage she went after the Lumpy Space Reactor, attempting to destroy the world! Heading through a portal we went after her and, riding a flying rainbow unicorn, blasted her from space and set things to rights, with an assist from the Cosmic Owl. And that was it, peace is finally restored to Ooo!

10) With having finished Captain Toad, Jimmer and I had to pick a new game to start on the Wii U, the unanimous decision being The Lego Movie Videogame! We’ve both been itching to get this one started, and so far it’s been a lot of fun. Basically it just takes you through the events of the movie, with a bit of extrapolation of course to beef up the levels, but it’s very well done all around. So far we’ve completed the first 11 levels, which went as such: “Bricksburg Construction” (earned The Special status, unlocked the Emmett, Emmett [Pajamas], Gail, Frank the Foreman, Demolition Guy, Wyldstyle, Mrs. Scratchen-Post, Cardio Carrie & Larry the Barista characters, found 1/1 Pants, and earned 3 Gold Bricks [for the level completion, status achievement, and pants find]), “Escape From Bricksburg” (earned The Special status, unlocked the Emmett [Piece of Resistance], Emmett [Trash Can], Wyldstyle [Hood] & Ice Cream Jo characters, found 2/5 Golden Instruction Pages, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status]), “Flatbush Gulch” (earned The Special status, unlocked the Emmett [Old West], Wyldstyle [Old West], Sir Stack-a-Brick, Prospector, Wiley Fusebot, Robo Cowboy & Native characters, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status]), “Flatbush Rooftops” (unlocked the Vitruvius [Old], Tomahawk, Deputron, Sheriff Not-a-Robot & Robo Swat characters, and earned 1 Gold Brick [completion]), “Escape From Flatbush” (unlocked the Emmett [Wheel Head] & Batman characters, found 3/5 Golden Instruction Pages, and earned 1 Gold Brick [completion]), “Cloud Cuckoo Land” (earned The Special status, unlocked the Unikitty & Emmett [Clown] characters, found 4/5 Golden Instruction Pages, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status]), “Attack on Cloud Cuckoo Land” (earned The Special status, unlocked the Emmett [Woodsman], Benny, Cleopatra, Witch, Abraham Lincoln, Lord Vampyre, Test Dummy & El Macho Wrestler characters, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status]), “Escape From Cloud Cuckoo Land” (earned The Special status, unlocked the Emmett [Surgeon], Emmett [Lizard], Green Ninja, Michelangelo & Caveman characters, found 1/5 Golden Instruction Pages, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status]), “The Depths” (unlocked the Emmett [Lego Piece], Emmett [Shower], Lady Liberty, Swamp Creature, Panda Guy & Yeti characters, found 1/5 Golden Instruction Pages, and earned 1 Gold Brick [completion]), “Infiltrate The Octan Tower” (unlocked Queasy Kitty, Metalbeard [Minifigure], Fembot, Ma Cop, Pa Cop, Robo Swat [Armour] & Robo Fed characters, and earned 1 Gold Brick [completion]) & “Put the Thing on the Thing” (earned The Special status, unlocked the Emmett [Robot Disguise], Wyldstyle [Robot Disguise] & Bruce Wayne characters, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status]). During our time in the hub realms between levels we also made some purchases, including the Prospector, Native, Sir Stack-a-Brick, Emmett (Trash Can), Wyldstyle (Hood), Cardio Carrie, Frank the Foreman, Mrs. Scratchen-Post, Emmett (Pajamas), Robo Cowboy, Robo Swat, Magician, Gallant Guard, Emmett (Clown), Emmett (Surgeon) & Robo Skeleton characters. We also purchased the Gold Instruction Page Detector extra (red brick). The characters you unlock when you complete each level flash by real fast when the game summarizes how you did, so there may be some characters I didn’t include along the way by accident, but no big deal. So fun!!

11) As for the PS2, since Jak X is in the books I picked the recently acquired Robotech: Battlecry as my next title of choice! This game puts you in control of a fellow named Jack Archer. He was a fighter pilot engaged in the war that ravaged Earth before the spaceship that would become the SDF-1 crash landed on Macross Island in the south Pacific. In the time of peace that followed the SDF-1’s mysterious arrival he became a mercenary and an odd jobber. Eventually Roy Fokker recruited him to become a fellow pilot for the Robotech Defense Force, Jack was more than happy to jump behind the sticks of a futuristic Veritech fighter! The first task I had to complete with Jack was the “Training” mode of the game. With Roy Fokker as my tutor I hopped in my Veritech and piloted it through a number of situations, in Battleoid, Guardian and Fighter modes all, learning the ins and outs of the craft’s operation. Afterwards it was time to move on to “Story Mode”, where the game picked up in earnest. Starting off on “Chapter 1” the first level up was called “Boobytrap”. This is where the action all begins, with the alien Zentradi breaking orbit above Earth, intent on getting the SDF-1 back in their possession. My job was to take to the skies and aid both Wolf and Skull squadrons in repelling this threat. I completed the level with a time of 6:16, earning a 23.9% firing accuracy and 69% missile accuracy. The second level was called “Countdown”, in it the Zentradi had moved their ground forces in to Macross City after mercilessly bombarding it from orbit. I was tasked with taking to the streets and driving the invaders out of the area. I completed this level with a time of 8:22, earning a 54.3% firing accuracy and 50.5% missile accuracy. At the end of this level I was promoted to Sergeant! The third level was titled “Bursting Point”, and it saw the SDF-1 perform a desperate space fold maneuver in order to try and get away from it’s Zentradi tormentors, which worked. The move came with a big cost though, part of which included Jack being injured and out of commission for months, reassigned to Alaska Base upon his recovery. A year or so after the space fold maneuver the SDF-1 returns to Earth but was not allowed to land, for fear of a Zentradi reprisal once more. Jack made his way up to the SDF-1 though, to attend Roy Fokker’s funeral, who had died during the SDF-1’s sojourn. The Zentradi choose this time to attack the great ship yet again, which puts up a prototype defensive shielding system to help protect it. I had to take to the skies and eliminate the Zentradi forces, first concentrating on the capital ship’s lasers before moving on to their starships. I completed this level with a time of 6:00, earning a 26.4% firing accuracy and 65.7% missile accuracy. The fourth level, the finale of Chapter 1, was “Force of Arms”. After the last battle tons of Zentradi ships entered Earth’s orbit and Supreme Commander Dolza ordered a heavy bombardment of the planet, reducing most of it to a smoking wasteland! With nothing to lose, my job was to keep on flying and keep the Zentradi forces off of the SDF-1, which I did. In the end I engaged a Zentradi ace pilot who was tearing our fleet apart, we battled to a standstill before both bugging out. I completed this level with a time of 7:48, earning a 38.4% firing accuracy and 53.4% missile accuracy. I also earned a medal, and unlocked both a paint design and a game extra. That last level was a doozy, they weren’t kidding when they called that pilot an ace! This game is so much fun, expanding on the Robotech canon and thrilling me all the while. Can’t wait for more!

12) I also began playing Rayman 3D on my 3DS, as I’ve had a number of hand held games fall to completion over the past little while and I needed something new to fill the gap. I had no idea they had produced a handheld Rayman game, so I was quite pleased when I found this pre-owned and cheap! The story behind this title is that a band of metal pirates have been taking all manner of creatures prisoner across the land . . . they even manage to nab both Rayman and Globox, putting them in a cage together. For some reason Rayman has lost his powers, but Globox helps remedy this when he gives Rayman a silver lum he’d obtained from Ly the Fairy. This helps Rayman power back up and escape captivity! Upon their escape Rayman and Globox get separated though, and this is where the game picks up. The first actual game level is called “The Woods of Light”. In control of Rayman I explored a paradise full of lush green vegetation and crisp blue lakes. Soon enough I encountered Globox’s children, who said pirates had been through and took their daddy prisoner yet again. I promised to get him back, they then gave me a tip that the pirates were heading towards the Fairy Glade, but to get there I would have to go through the Isle of Doors, which I then jumped in to whole hog! During this level I obtained 5/5 lums and broke 2/2 cages. The second level, naturally, was “The Fairy Glade”. Making my way through a grassy wonderland filled with peaceful waterfalls I came to a pirate hideout, battling my way through it’s wooden corridors. After taking out many pirates I was able to locate the captive fairy, Ly, freeing her from imprisonment. In her weakened state she wasn’t able to restore my full powers but said that Polokus could, he being a powerful entity who’s been in hiding . . . if I managed to reunite the four masks that is! I then exited the land and ended the level. During said level I obtained 37/50 lums and broke 5/7 cages. Next up came the “Marshes of Awakening” level. Starting off in a desolate, dangerous marsh area filled with piranhas and skeleton creatures, a bizarre being barred by progress and wouldn’t let me access an area I wanted to explore. So I took another route and promptly rescued a serpent named Sam, who said he saw Globox captured by a couple of pirates. He offered to take me to the other side of the marsh, so I then basically waterskied behind him, avoiding enemies and obstacles both. During this level I obtained 50/50 lums and broke 5/5 cages (for completing all tasks I unlocked the bonus stage, which I completed in 26.36). “The Walk of Life” level came next, which was in itself a bit of a bonus level, dubbed a Time Race. Chasing after Ly as fast as I could I completed the level in 2:56.36, obtaining 50/50 lums, which earned me some extra energy to work with! The fifth level is as far as I’ve gotten so far, it being called “The Bayou”. Chasing after a pirate ship flying through the air, I began by traversing a number of boardwalks suspended over a boggy marsh, eventually reaching a wooden structure occupied by pirates. Navigating my way through it and taking out both many pirates and native creatures along the way, I eventually reached the exit and ended the level. During this level I obtained 49/50 lums and broke 6/7 cages. Pretty cool game so far!

13) Since finishing Transformers: Beast Wars last time around I didn’t have another PS1 title to work on, so I chose instead to get another game going on the N64. The title I selected was 1080 Snowboarding! This is a game that allows you to pit a small handful of fictional snowboarders against each other in a few different types of game modes. I began with what I consider to be the main mode of the game, called “Match Race”. In this mode you choose a boarder and then race one on one against a series of competitors, over a predetermined number of courses. In order to advance you have to win each race to get to the next round, win all rounds and you are the champ! I began with the Normal (4 courses) option, picking Ricky Winterborn (on the Tahoe 155) as my character. My inaugural journey unfolded as such: defeated Rob Haywood at Crystal Lake, defeated Dion Blaster at Crystal Peak, defeated Kensuke Kimachi at Golden Forest & defeated Akari Hayami at Mountain Village. This won me the overall circuit and unlocked the next one! I then moved on to said circuit, the Hard (5 courses) option. I chose Rob Haywood as my character (on a Scout Ltd. 162). Here is how that experience went down: defeated Kensuke Kimachi at Crystal Lake, defeated Akari Hayami at Crystal Peak, defeated Ricky Winterborn at Golden Forest, defeated Dion Blaster at Mountain Village & defeated Rob Haywood at Dragon Cave. I won the circuit, unlocking the third and final circuit available in this mode. This is as far as I’ve gotten so far though. More to come!

14) Another handheld title I started out on was the DS game called New Super Mario Bros. The story is a familiar one, one day Mario and Peach are out for a walk when a ruckus at the castle distracts Mario. Sneaking up on Peach, Bowser Jr. steals her away and Mario is once again tasked with rescuing her ass! I then had to take control of Mario and start blazing my way through the worlds laid out before me, taking on all comers. Starting off on “World 1” I’ve completed the following levels: “World 1-1”, “World 1-2”, “World 1-3”, “World 1-Tower”, “World 1-4”, “World 1-A”, “World 1-5” & “World 1-Castle”. I then moved on to “World 2” and completed it as well, here’s how that broke down: “World 2-1”, “World 2-2”, “World 2-3”, “World 2-A”, “World 2-4”, “World 2-Tower”, “World 2-5”, “World 2-6” & “World 2-Castle”. Currently I’m in the midst of “World 3”, so far here is what I’ve got done there: “World 3-1”, “World 3-2”, “World 3-A” & “World 3-Tower”. In each game level so far I was able to collect the 3 Golden Coins scattered throughout. Great game!

15) Lastly, I began another DS game recently, a beauty I picked up for cheap of the previously played variety . . . Sonic Rush! In this handheld installment of Sonic the Hedgehog Dr. Robotnik, or Dr. Eggman as they sometimes call him, is up to his old tricks again. He is capturing animals and trapping them inside his robotic creations, attempting to take over the world. With Tails guiding you along the way Sonic is tasked with putting a stop to this, but as the story unfolds a couple of new characters enter the fray that has Sonic scratching his spiky blue head. A female cat named Blaze chips in, seemingly a potential ally, while at the other end of the spectrum a new villain rears his ugly head, that being Dr. Eggman Nega! Can Sonic unravel the mystery and once more take Dr. Eggman to task? This is a pretty exciting game that contains a whole ton of speed, utilizing both screens during gameplay, which is so much fun! The first zone was called “Leaf Storm”, and I completed all three levels there, as such: “Zone 1 Act 1” (C rank, obtained the red Chaos Emerald), “Zone 1 Act 2” (B rank) & “Zone 1 vs. Boss” (A rank). The second zone was “Water Palace”, which I also completed. It unfolded as so: “Zone 2 Act 1” (B rank, obtained the blue Chaos Emerald), “Zone 2 Act 2” (C rank) & “Zone 2 vs. Boss” (B rank). “Mirage Road” was the next zone in line, which went as follows: “Zone 3 Act 1” (C rank, obtained the yellow Chaos Emerald), “Zone 3 Act 2” (B rank) & “Zone 3 vs. Boss” (A rank). This game is a ton of fun, can’t wait to get back at it!

“NNGRR” - The weekend after my last blog happened to be the opening weekend for the new Avengers: Age of Ultron movie, so we headed to the drive-in on Saturday night to take it in! Unfortunately Cinderella was the movie paired with it, so we left after Avengers was over . . . as did a lot of other people. Anyways, this flick starts off fast, just as the Avengers are mid-mission somewhere in Slovakia. They are looking to infiltrate a top secret H.Y.D.R.A. facility, where Loki’s scepter is being held, Thor especially is eager to get it back so he can transport it to Asgard. The mission is a tough one, but ultimately a success. They even manage to deal with a top H.Y.D.R.A. agent by the name of von Strucker. However, the team is thoughtful about two new enemies brought to light during the battle, a brother and sister duo whom von Strucker physically augmented during experimentations with the sceptre. Pietro is blindingly fast while Wanda has the ability to play with others’ minds, a psychic of sorts. During the battle, while Iron Man was retrieving the sceptre, Wanda (aka the Scarlet Witch) gave him a vision of a future where the world went straight to hell in a handbasket, with the Avengers all dead. Back at Avengers headquarters after the mission the team plans to throw a party in honour of their victory, but not before Tony Stark convinces Thor to let him study the sceptre for a few days. Soon enough Tony approaches Bruce Banner with an idea. While studying the sceptre he found an advanced form of artificial intelligence at it’s core, and with it Tony believes he can resume his revered “Ultron” program by utilizing said intelligence, a global defense program he is now adamant comes in to existence, so as to combat the vision the Scarlet Witch left him with. However, with time at a premium he and Bruce have to go ahead with the plan on the low down, to circumvent a grand debate between the members of the team. While at the very party Tony hosts to celebrate their victory, he and Bruce’s attempts prove successful . . . but they don’t get the results they were planning on! Ultron comes alive and presents itself in the form of one of Tony’s Iron Man sentinels, crashing the party and making it’s violent intentions known. For although the self-aware Ultron program vows to protect the planet, it believes the only way to do so is to destroy humanity, and he’d like to start with the Avengers!! After a brief battle Ultron escapes with the sceptre and thereafter recruits the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (Pietro) to his cause. They then go on a worldwide rampage, the most notable operation being a major heist of vibranium. The Scarlet Witch also left most of the other Avengers with visions of their own, the results of which threaten to tear the team apart. They go in to hiding at Hawkeye’s remote homestead, seeking time and refuge with which to sort out a course of action. When Nick Fury arrives on the scene he is the tonic everybody’s been needing to calm the fuck down and make things right. Events begin to wrap up in Seoul, when a doctor named Helen Cho (a friend of the Avengers) is coerced in to creating a synthetic body for Ultron, using the vibranium and a gem from Loki’s sceptre, in combination with Cho’s own synthetic tissue technology. With the process underway Scarlet Witch is able to read Ultron’s mind, now that it’s synthetic and not robotic, realizing his true intentions. Her and Quicksilver then turn on Ultron, forcing it to flee. The Avengers arrive on the scene and are able to retrieve the synthetic body, which Thor soon afterwards brings to life with his lightning power, explaining that the gem from Loki’s sceptre is one of the six fabled Infinity Stones. This new character, which Tony uploaded with Jarvis’ artificial intelligence, is called Vision. He joins the Avengers’ fight, as do Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. The Avengers will need all the help they can get, for Ultron has headed back to Slovakia and instituted a plan that will trigger a mass extinction event, wiping out all life on Earth. With all of the uncertainty between it’s members over recent events, can this group and it’s new recruits pull together and defeat this threat once and for all, or is humanity about to go the way of the dinosaurs? This was a great film, every bit as action packed as the original Avengers and even more intriguing. There were a lot of tense moments in this flick, you really got to see the lead members of this team butting heads. Revelations were made regarding Black Widow’s past, Hawkeye’s secret life, and the developing relationship between Black Widow and Bruce Banner. The story was pretty awesome too, quite complex. Effects were top notch as usual, and the cast they assembled was quite breathtaking. Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlet Johansson (Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Don Cheadle (War Machine) & Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill) just off the top! On top of these actors and the heroes they portray, other significant characters made appearances too, such as Peggy Carter, Heimdall, and the Falcon. All in all a pretty epic movie with which to kick off what is going to be a great summer of theatre!!

To kick off the work week that followed I viewed a movie called Serenity, which served as the final nail in the coffin for the Firefly TV series! This film was released in 2005, a few years after the TV show was cancelled, after much fan backlash . . . and rightly so! Anyways, the movie begins with a brief overview on the background of this story as a whole, what with mankind’s expansion to a new star system, the development of new worlds, capped off by the war of the Independents versus the Alliance. It then moves on to some flashbacks from River Tam’s past, leading up to the day Simon rescued her from the Alliance facility where she was being experimented on (not long after which she and Simon ended up with a berth aboard Serenity). We are then introduced to a character employed by the Alliance as a tracker/assassin, who is visiting the facility where River was abducted from, beginning to piece clues together in order to go after his new quarry. Meanwhile, the crew of Serenity has seen better days. Well-paying jobs are becoming few and far between, and they are having a hard time keeping Serenity in the air. However, Captain Malcolm Reynolds has a job lined up that could be a real boon to their bottom line! The job is a bank heist, the target a high reward facility used to pay out a lot of Alliance personnel. In order to help expedite the job Mal brings River along, despite Simon’s vehement protestations, as Mal thinks her psychic ability will help cut some difficult corners. All is going well until River detects the dreaded Reavers suddenly attacking the town! With their booty in hand Mal, Zoe, Jayne and River beat a hasty retreat, surviving an intense speeder battle, before making it back to Serenity where Wash, Simon and Kaylee nervously await their return. After the close shave Simon decides it’s in their best interests for he and River to get off Serenity at their next port. That is the working plan, but when Mal attempts to arrange his next job at a local watering hole River flips out after watching a commercial on the viewing screens, literally taking out everybody in the bar afterwards! Suddenly the crew of Serenity find themselves in an even deeper hole, with the plan to dump Simon and River nixed due to circumstance, which becomes a big sore point on the ship, especially where Jayne is concerned. Beating a hasty retreat Mal and his crew contact a friend known as Mr. Universe, an expert hacker they’ve dealt with in the past. Analyzing footage of River’s incident he figures out that a subliminal message was encoded within the commercial that set River off, and just before she lost it she whispered “Miranda”. Serenity’s next move is to head to a world called Haven, where the team can lay low with their old friend Book, but before they can do so Mal receives a call from Inara, who has made another life for herself on a different world. She asks him to come help her with a local problem, and the crew of Serenity all realize at once that it’s a trap. Deciding to spring said trap Mal goes in to the situation with a plan, upon locating Inara he is soon afterwards confronted by the Alliance agent tasked with tracking River down. With overconfidence his main weakness the agent is frustrated when Mal escapes with Inara aboard their shuttle, linking back up with Serenity and throwing the pursuing Alliance ships off their trail completely! Relief soon turns to dread though, when Serenity touches down on Haven and finds Book and his townspeople having been slaughtered by the Alliance. With nowhere to go and all their allies being snuffed out, Mal follows a lead given to him by River, after she discovers a planet called Miranda in Serenity’s databanks. However, the info on the planet is incomplete at best, it’s almost like an attempt has been made to have Miranda erased! With no other options Mal deems a mission to Miranda their next priority, the only issue though . . . it’s deep in Reaver territory, not even the Alliance goes there! Their gambit succeeds, but what they find on Miranda chills them to the bone. There is no activity on the world at all, the people there all seem to have shriveled up and died, right in the middle of their daily business. Disturbed, the group moves on to a nearby beacon, upon locating it they find a recorded message from an Alliance scientist. The recording is an admission of guilt, about a substance they had developed to put in the air recyclers that would make the citizens calmer and more docile. However, the effect was extremely amplified in the majority of the population. People stopped eating, drinking, working . . . hell they even stopped moving, literally coming to a standstill and waiting to die! The scarier part was the rest of the population though, a smaller percentage that went the opposite direction, becoming highly aggressive and homicidal . . . or Reavers, as we otherwise know them. The Alliance accidentally created these savages, the bastards! Mal’s purpose is now clear. He and his team are going to broadcast this recording to the galaxy at large, exposing the Alliance for the monsters they are and getting a bit of sweet revenge. In order to do so they are going to have to face down both Reavers and Alliance soldiers, and defy all odds . . . but that is what they do, after all! Do they have it in them one last time though? This was an awesome movie, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. It was amazing to see the cast reunited again, and to see the desperate times they had stumbled upon. With lots of revelations and a few big resolutions at the end, Serenity is that slice of lemon pie after the main course that caps off a meal just perfectly. Bravo!!

Near the end of the work week that followed I finished reading the book I had on the go, called Star Wars: Razor’s Edge! This is a tale that takes us back to the time of the Rebellion and it’s work in originally opposing the Empire. It’s a couple years after the first Death Star was destroyed and the rebels have found the location of their next headquarters, the remote Echo Base on the ice world of Hoth. However, they need to acquire much material in order to see this base come to fruition, so with Han Solo in tow Princess Leia Organa flies discreetly to a backwater area of the galaxy, their intended destination being Arnot Station. Here they are to meet up with their contacts and complete the deal. However, along the way, during one of their hyperspace jumps, the rebel ship is attacked by an Imperial vessel and they just barely manage to escape, badly damaged in the process! Realizing they must have had a mole somewhere in their line of communications, Leia is quite displeased as her ship limps towards Arnot Station. Before they can touch down though, more trouble arises. The sector is known for it’s pirate activity, and it looks as though they’ve stumbled right in to the middle of some. A pirate vessel is haranguing a small merchant ship just outside the station and although her instincts tell Leia to let it go, for the good of the mission, when she sees it’s an Alderranian gunboat making the attack she thinks twice and contacts it’s captain. Arranging a meeting with this Captain Metara, Leia, Han and a couple of other rebel operatives dash over to the pirate ship . . . this time against Han’s best instincts! Upon meeting Metara and her crew Leia realizes that at least some of them don’t feel good about the pirate life, but they are in too deep and are not interested in joining the Rebel Alliance. Before anything can be settled about the current predicament though, the contact Metara and her crew report to in their dealings shows up on the scene and asks them to come along to their clearinghouse, to attend a meeting with the “flightmaster” (or head pirate, if you will). Sensing an opportunity Leia tells Metara she’ll try and broker an arrangement with this person, to get Metara and her crew out of service to the pirates, in return she asks that they at least consider joining the Rebellion . . . for Alderaan. However, upon meeting the flightmaster, a Lorrdian female named Viest, things don’t go as planned. For Lorrdians are adept at reading people, their body language, and Viest senses that something is off with these two. The situation then deteriorates rapidly as Leia and Metara are forced to participate in a violent sport Viest has invented, to test her various associates’ mettle. While this is going on Han and a small force of rebels, mixed with Metara’s people, sneak out of their docking bay and get the lay of the land on the mined out asteroid Viest uses as her headquarters. As events unfold the danger gets even more real as the both pirates and Imperials come in to play, not to mention the Imperial mole, who finally decides to show his true colours. Will the quick thinking, banter loving duo of Han and Leia be able to come up with a plan that will save everybody’s collective asses, or will this be their final battle? This was a really good story, I love it when they fill in the gaps between movies with more behind the scenes kind of stuff, like the chore it must have been to secretly set up a new base. It was a fast paced story with a couple of twists and turns along the way, featuring a small number of our favourite Star Wars heroes plus some interesting new faces. Great read!

To kick the long weekend off I watched a bargain bin movie I’d recently found, something I’ve wanted to see for quite a while now . . . Battleship!! Funny enough James and I actually played Battleship earlier that day. The movie begins with a sequence showcasing a team of scientists who have discovered a world just like Earth, off in another galaxy. It is roughly the same composition as Earth and about equal distance from it’s sun as we are from ours. Using a satellite system the team then beams a message to this world, as a gesture of peace in case there is intelligent life out there on said world, dubbed Planet G. The scene then shifts so we can get to know our main character, a bit of a layabout named Alex Hopper, who lives with his brother Stone in Hawaii. After an incident that sees Alex get in trouble with the law while trying to impress a buxom blonde, Stone has had enough of the hijinks and so he forces his brother to join the Navy, which is what Stone’s occupation happens to be. Fast forward a number of years and Alex is an officer aboard the U.S. destroyer John Paul Jones, although he is not a gleaming example of naval discipline. What’s worse, the blonde he tried to impress all those years ago took the bait and they’ve been a couple ever since . . . although she just so happens to be the daughter of the fleet commander, Admiral Terrance Shane, who is not a big fan of Alex! However, soon none of this will matter, as the very future of mankind will be placed in dire peril. RIMPAC, a gathering of world navies, is on tap in Hawaii. This event pits these navies against each other in not only a series of war games, but also team activities on the ground. During one of the exercises at sea, a handful of alien space ships break orbit above Earth and disrupt the events of RIMPAC, putting up a barrier that blocks off the rest of the fleet from the vessels that were participating in the war games. For these alien ships received the message that was beamed to them years earlier, and they are now making their presence known. At first they don’t really engage the human vessels, they only respond when provoked, but as time goes by and the situation heightens the two factions begin going at each in earnest. Much to Alex’s dismay, the weaponry the alien force brings to the table is alarmingly effective, amidst all of the fighting Stone and his entire ship are obliterated! With help from his girlfriend Sam, who is marooned on the island of Oahu with an injured veteran, along with one of the scientists who developed the technology to contact the aliens, Alex figures out what the aliens are up to. The invaders are attempting to take over the very communications system the humans used to beam their original message, to summon reinforcements in a bid to ultimately take over the Earth! With only one ship left at their disposal, and it being badly damaged, the outlines of a plan are put in to place, although it’s risky and contains a lot of what ifs. But if there is anybody brash enough to pull off such a stunt it is Alex Hopper. Will Alex and his shipmates be able to make good on it, or will humanity soon become the hunted minority on their own planet? I liked this movie a lot, despite the mostly bad reviews it received. Great action and effects, a pretty solid cast with Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson, etc., I don’t know what there was not to like! The aliens and their technology were pretty cool too, I quite enjoyed this film . . .

The movie we went to see over the long weekend with our friends, well it was none other than the spectacle that is . . . Mad Max: Fury Road! In this update on the franchise we are introduced to the survivor of a nuclear event on what used to be the continent of Australia, a man named “Mad” Max Rockatansky. The events that left the world ravaged and barren, and also witnessed the death of his family, has left Max with one basic instinct . . . that of survival. With only his hot rod left to offer him any sort of salvation, we soon see Max hit the road as he is chased by a horde of half-lives, a portion of the population that have been affected adversely by the radiation I’m assuming. Max is quickly chased down and captured, kept alive as a blood donor for sick half-lives. After a nearly successful escape attempt Max is taken back in to custody, but soon enough he’ll be in the middle of the action, whether he likes it or not. The leader of the band of hooligans that caught Max, known as Immortan Joe, is a nasty tyrant who keeps the population he lords over in check by meagrely doling out the now oh so rare and precious substance of water, as he deems necessary. He also controls another precious resource that is vital to life in this desert wasteland . . . gasoline. One day Joe sends out one of his higher ups on a mission for petrol, a one armed femme fatale named Furiosa. However, not long in to her route Furiosa takes the war rig on a bit of a detour, which throws her escorts in to confusion. Back at the War Boys headquarters Joe is informed of this deviance and immediately sends out his whole fleet in pursuit . . . especially after realizing Furiosa has smuggled out Joe’s five prized wives, which he uses to breed the next generation with! Furiosa’s plan is to take these young women to “the green land” and escape the hell on Earth they’ve been forced to live through all these years. Joe’s plan though, is to stop this from happening. Strapped to the front of one of the vehicles in his pursuing fleet is none other than Mad Max, forced to endure the chase that is to come from a front row seat! Cue one of the longest, most intense and dangerous vehicle chase scenes you could ever imagine and you’ve got the gist of what this movie is all about. Loud, pure intensity wrapped around an intriguing plot line, with a lot of violence strewn throughout! Along the way Max gains freedom from his imprisonment and enters an uneasy truce with Furiosa and the young women she is trying to protect. As the chase continues a couple of Joe’s allies and their respective fleets join the mix, while in the other corner one of the half-lives has joined Max and Furiosa’s side out of circumstance. After many tense situations pass Furiosa finally seems to have won, approaching what she assumes to be the green place, the place where she was originally born. However, upon meeting up with those left from her original homeland Furiosa is devastated to learn that her homeland is no more, the green place is gone, converted to a wasteland like the rest of the continent. This is when Max comes up with a last ditch plan. The only place they know of where water is available and crops are able to grow . . . is the very place they just escaped from! With Immortan Joe and his entire force out hunting them, this could be their chance to slip in fairly easily and take over. But with them being so vastly outnumbered and outgunned, do they have what it takes to pull off such a stunt? This flick was honestly an action spectacle, just a feast for the eyes to behold! Extremely violent, but not an in your face kind, you know? The chase scenes and the vehicles involved were just amazing, so creative and authentic. And the characters were so fierce and bizarre, I’m honestly still trying to process the whole thing, and it’s been about half a week since we saw it. So good, I really hope they do another one!!

The last little while I’ve been listening to the latest release from Canadian outfit Mother Mother, called Very Good Bad Thing (2014). I’ve reviewed pretty much all five of their studio albums so far in my blog I believe, over the years. But if you’re not familiar with them they are a 5 piece from the west coast of our great nation, out in British Columbia. What gives the band their haunting, otherworldly sound is a couple of ladies they feature on keyboards, both of whom have outstanding voices and use them to great effect. The band is pretty diverse, they can rock really hard or slow things right down, usually mixing in the acoustic guitars every so often. However, on this latest release they continue their trend towards the poppy electronic sort of vibe. There are a lot of different sounding beats on this album, and when mixed with the vocals and songwriting genius they continually put out, it’s a pretty good mix. It’s fun to watch the evolution of this band as they tend to never do the same thing twice, they always keep you on your toes! My favourite tracks out of the 10 on this disc include “Get Out the Way”, “Monkey Tree”, “Reaper Man”, “I Go Hungry”, “Very Good Bad Thing” & “Shout If You Know”.

Robotech . . . and Firefly. Wow, that's all that needs to be said!!

Been a few weeks since my last blog, thankfully it’s been a few weeks that were more relaxing than not! The weekend after my last blog we didn’t really do much, to be honest. On the Saturday morning I got up and immediately went outside to do my first round of spring time yard work. I was able to get the Christmas lights down (they came down all right, I broke about 8 bulbs in the process, I do believe!!), rake the lawn and otherwise clean up most of the other yard debris, as well as empty the shed of yard furniture and get it all in place. There is still a bit to be done, like pulling some weeds, cleaning up the gardens a bit, trimming some of the trees/bushes, but the hard part is over. Soon I’ll be needing to cut the lawn . . . I hope! The rest of the weekend we just pissed away, did a bit of shopping and what not, but otherwise not a whole hell of a lot.

For the following weekend it began a bit early, at least for James! Friday was a P.D. day, so the mother in law came down to look after him. Her birthday was closing in so we went out for all you can eat sushi that night to celebrate. The next day Jimmer went to his Beavers colony outing, mrs. darthcobain17 and I chose to go for a run while he was doing that, we ended up doing about 6km. Later on the Saturday we headed to Hamilton, the mother in law took Jimmer to Grimsby for an overnight while we went to our friends Megan and Johnny’s house for a night of boozing! It was the NHL draft lottery that night, we watched raptly but ultimately the Leafs stayed where they were with the fourth pick. At least Edmonton got bumped up to the first pick instead of Buffalo, man I hate those motherfuckers!! Connor McDavid will now be going to a quality Canadian organization and not hockey purgatory, #hugerelief. The following morning the four of us (along with Simon the dog!) got up and ran the stairs along the escarpment before meeting the mother in law for lunch, grabbing James, and then driving home.

As for this past weekend, on the Saturday James had his very first sleepover with the Beavers colony, at their little lodge! It was pretty funny packing him and all his gear up to go. They went for a hike, did some archery, had a campfire, watched a movie . . . it seems as though they had a lot of fun. On the Sunday it was time for the annual Forest City Road Races, which we had entered for our second year in a row (hence the running earlier in this blog). It was a really nice day, which was great considering we had snow earlier in the week. I was aiming to set a new personal best but was a couple minutes shy, finishing the 10km run in 51:29 unfortunately. This was actually quite an improvement from my inaugural race last year though, where I finished in just over an hour. I’ll probably be more apt to set a new best in our next race, as this route has a lot of hills that tend to slow you down a bit. mrs. darthcobain17 finished within her target range, and even Jimmer ran the 1km fun run! Everybody was in bed early to close the weekend of course . . .

As for the weekdays, it was more of the same really. With the weather continually improving (less that glitch last week with the snow) my bike riding is getting in to full swing and I’m nearing peak condition. The wife has been going to the gym a bit more, and of course Jimmer still has his regular Beavers meetings, golf lessons, and lots of play dates/sleepovers at my parents’ house. Looking to settle in to a nice little routine now and get set to enjoy the outdoors and hopefully some nice, warm weather! Here is what was accomplished in between all of the activity I just glossed over . . .

1) Level twelve is now complete on Goldeneye, it was titled “St. Petersburg – Streets”. After escaping our prison in the last level Natalya was promptly captured by Ourumov, being taken to a Janus base. My job was to get on my horse and chase after her of course. I began by exiting the alley I found myself in, taking out a few soldiers as I moved along. Thankfully I located a tank and was able to hijack it, I then blazed through the streets of St. Petersburg and absolutely lit everything up!! I briefly exited the tank to access a building where I met up with Valentin, who told me where Ourumov was taking Natalya. He also said he’d have his men try to delay them. I then climbed back in to my iron giant and continued to rain down destruction on my increasing enemies, who were now armed with land mines and rocket launchers! Eventually I reached my destination and the level ended. I completed said level with a time of 6:43 and had a 62.2% accuracy rating.

2) Another series on my season of MLB 2K11 is in the record books, this time around it was the hated New York Yankees who came to town . . . it was an absolute pleasure to crush them like the peons they are!! The series broke down as such: won vs. New York Yankees 8-2, won vs. New York Yankees 10-1 & won vs. New York Yankees 6-5. Ahhhhhh, what a rush . . .

3) As for NHL ’04, four more games of my season are complete there, and the results were as follows: won vs. Pittsburgh 15-6, won @ Montreal 21-5, won @ Buffalo 9-7 & won vs. Boston 10-8. That absolute dismantling of Montreal was especially pleasing!!

4) My first game completion of this round just so happens to be Jak X: Combat Racing, which was such a great and fun experience! Picking up where I left off, in the midst of the “Yellow Eco Cup” chapter, I began my action by completing four events at the “Spargus” location. Said events included “Precursor Temple – Turbo Dash” (won the event, gold medal), “Spargus City – Rush Hour” (won the event, gold medal), “Beachfront Drive – Freeze Rally” (won the event, gold medal) & “Wasteland Isle – Capture” (won the event, gold medal). I then moved along to the “Kras City” locale, completing the “Waterfront Loop – Circuit Race” event (won the race, gold medal). Stops in “Icelands” and “Haven City” were next on the docket, where I respectively completed the “Mountaintop Highway – Death Race” (won the event, gold medal) & “Waterworks Circuit – Death Race” (won the event, gold medal) events. Finally, the time was nigh for me to finish things off, to do so I headed to “Grand Prix”, where I completed the series of circuit races needed to win the championship. The races in question included “Canyon Run – Circuit Race” (first place), “Eastern Tour – Circuit Race” (sixth place) & “Dethdrome – Circuit Race” (first place). I won the overall event with 21 total points, which won Daxter and I the championship and more importantly earned us the antidote to the poison coursing through our bloodstreams! However, at the end of the races Mizo made his true nature known and took off with said antidote . . . meaning I had one last race to run, to chase down this clown and get the antidote back! After doing so I briefly checked out the alternate game modes and then used the credits I’d earned to unlock additional characters and vehicles, as well as some various extras. This is a really good title, a car combat game with a deep and intriguing storyline, definitely getting a 10 from yours truly!!

5) Another game that fell this time around was Transformers: Beast Wars! I completed the last trio of levels for the Predacons, which happened to include “Volcanic 1 – Commendable Tactics” (Maximal activity was detected around our ship, my job was to take care of these threats, neutralizing all resistance), “Volcanic 2 – The Final Confrontation” (repelling the Maximal forces left a gap in Optimus Primal’s defenses, so I took the opportunity to lay siege to their territory, securing their ship in the process) & “Volcanic 3 – The Axalon” (with Maximal forces now in disarray our last gambit was to enter their headquarters on the Axalon and destroy Optimus Primal . . . which I did). Game over!! This game drew a mixed reaction from me. The best part was that it was simply a game taking place in the Beast Wars domain, which I never thought I’d experience. Plus I like the overall design and theme of it, as well as the fact that you can fight with both factions. However, spending a bit more time polishing up the graphics and ironing out some of the game mechanics, especially around camera control/jumping, would have gone a long way. I really did like the game, but I’ll probably rate it a bit lower than I would otherwise have liked to.

6) A bit of progress was made on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, but not much. I picked up playing the “Events” (Solo) mode once again, this time being able to complete the “Pokemon Battle”, “Behind Enemy Lines”, “Playing Tricks”, “King of the Yoshis” & “When Lightning Strikes” battles. They sure are starting to get hard now! More to come soon, hopefully . . .

7) As for Nintendo Land, not a ton got done on that front either, but some. I first partook once again in the “Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest” mini-game, choosing the Quest mode and playing as the Archer. I was only able to complete one more level there, the sixth, titled “Death Mountain Climb”. The other mini-game I got in to was “Metroid Blast”, choosing Assault Mission mode and to Battle in the Air. I had a bit more success there, completing the sixth and seventh levels, which were respectively titled “Cyclon Infestation” & “Destroy 10 Cyclons”. I need to give this game a bit more attention . . . I also need more hours in the day!!

8) Two more levels have fallen on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1, the tenth level happened to be another one of the “Encounters” variety. The trifecta of challenges I had to complete this time around included “The Snatcher Camp” (in a craggy, snow covered forest I set out to rescue four captured Muggle born witches and wizards from the Snatchers camp, having to deal with a heavy Snatcher presence in the process), “The Misty Dell” (my task was now to protect said Muggle borns in an area of ruins, against the advances of not only Death Eaters and Snatchers but Inferni as well) & “The Streets of Godric’s Hollow” (had to skulk through Godric’s Hollow, sneaking past/engaging a heavy enemy presence, rescuing six more Muggle borns). As for level eleven, back on the main storyline of the game Hermione and I decided to head somewhere with no ties to Harry or his allies, so we apparated to the Forest of Dean. While Hermione made camp I set out to explore the surrounding wilderness. Hiking the elaborate trail system I eventually ran in to the silver doe patronus and promptly chased after it! Along the way I batted spiders and avoided whomping willows, ultimately the patronus led me to the sword of Gryffindor, which was buried beneath ice in a frozen lake. Using magic I went in after it and retrieved the sword, but the horcrux around my neck fought back and tried to drown me! Fortunately Ron chose this moment to return after his temper tantrum, saving Harry’s butt. Afterwards I opened the locket with Ron poised to destroy it with the sword. But Voldemort’s soul, in serpent form, popped out at us so we had a bit of a battle to wage before the horcrux was indeed destroyed! Once taken care of though I led Ron back to camp to see Hermione, battling doxies, spiders, and avoiding whomping willows along the way. After an awkward reunion where amends were made we then discussed our next move, which was to visit Xenophilius Lovegood . . .

9) Major progress was made on Big Hero 6: Battle in the Bay, as the main story mode is now complete! Picking up where I left off I was able to complete the last eight levels of the game, which unfolded as so: Boss 2 (We thought were in a position to find Yama but didn’t, as we had unknowingly walked in to a trap. Baymax was immobilized while some punk sicked a dragon bot on me, after defeating it I was contacted by Yama and challenged to a bot fight rematch at the Bay Bridge. I completed this level in 14:19), Level 13 (In control of Hiro again I began our trek to meet up with Yama, taking out a steady bot presence along the way. I completed this level in 18:27, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 44 enemies), Level 14 (More of the same, in control of Wasabi this time. Bot presence grew heavier and tended to focus on a lot more flying bots. I completed this level in 11:06, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 46 enemies), Level 15 (More of the same, with Fred this time. I completed this level in 22:08, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 58 enemies), Level 16 (Ditto with Go Go. I completed this level in 23:34, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 50 enemies), Level 17 (More of the same in control of Wasabi once again, up against the heaviest bot presence yet. I completed this level in 22:34, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 86 enemies), Level 18 (I took control of Hiro and approached the final leg of our journey, coming up on a bridge at the end of it. I completed this level in 19:01, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 42 enemies) & Boss 3 (We came upon Yama at the bridge, who made it clear he was sore at Hiro for beating him at the last bot fighting competition. He used Hiro’s stolen plans to upgrade his bot, creating a giant armoured suit that he planned on turning loose on us! To beat it I had to use all characters, first taking control of Fred and using his flame attack to heat up the bot’s armour. Go Go was next, who lured the bot through some cooling towers. Once that was complete Wasabi was on the scene, to carve up the brittle suit with his blades! Wasabi couldn’t reach the head armour though, so Hiro and Baymax teamed up and felled the bot for good, ending the game! I completed this level in 7:46). After completing this main mode of the game I began on the alternate mode, called “Challenges”. So far I’ve completed the first seven levels there, as such: “Challenge 1” (completed with a time of 9:42, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 41 enemies defeated), “Challenge 2” (completed with a time of 9:09, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 66 enemies defeated), “Challenge 3” (completed with a time of 11:44, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 50 enemies defeated), “Challenge 4” (completed with a time of 20:47, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 38 enemies defeated), “Challenge 5” (completed with a time of 9:51, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 41 enemies defeated), “Challenge 6” (completed with a time of 15:36, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 65 enemies defeated) & “Challenge 7” (completed with a time of 12:10, found Mochi and all four scrolls, 40 enemies defeated). She’s almost kaputs!!

10) The third game that fell to completion was Lego Ninjago: Nindroids, which needed a lot of work! To start with I finished the last five levels of the game, which went down as such: “GrabBIT!” (completed 8/10 challenges, unlocking the Zane [Gold] character, as well as gaining some additional studs), “System Override” (completed 9/10 challenges, unlocking the Jay [Gold] & Lord Garmadon characters), “Samurai X” (completed 6/10 challenges, unlocking the Spaceman character, along with the Invincibility red brick), “Two Brothers” (completed 7/10 challenges, unlocking the Cole [Gold] character) & “Overlord Rising” (completed 7/10 challenges, unlocking the Kai [Gold] & Lloyd [Gold Ninja] characters). During this last bit of action on my initial run through the game, I had to make some purchases. Said purchases included the Lord Garmadon, Spaceman, The Postman, Savage Male B & Frakjaw characters, along with the Invincibility, Today’s Special & Fast Build extras. As I like to say with my various Lego titles, it was then time to go back through the whole game and perform my “mop up” operation! I went back and replayed all the levels that I couldn’t fully complete my first time through, and that was indeed most of them. The progress went as follows: “Going Up?” (completed the final challenge, unlocking the Frakjaw character), “A Clean Escape” (completed the final 3 challenges, unlocking the Extra Heart red brick), “No Way Out” (completed the last 2 challenges), “Mad Machines” (completed the last 5 challenges, unlocking the Wyplash character), “OverBorg” (completed the last 5 challenges, unlocking the Nya character), “Street Sweep” (completed the last 2 challenges, unlocking the Mr. Noodles character), “Robot Rumble” (completed the last challenge), “Escape the Overlord” (completed the last 3 challenges, unlocking the Pharaoh character), “Stop, Thief!” (completed the last 6 challenges, unlocking the Vampire character, along with the Red Brick Finder red brick), “Surrounded” (completed the last 3 challenges, unlocking the Studs X6 red brick), “Sneaking In” (completed the last 4 challenges, unlocking the Health Regeneration red brick), “Core Breach” (completed the last 2 challenges), “Cake Walk” (completed the last 2 challenges), “Power Play” (completed the last 2 challenges, unlocking the General Cryptor character), “Enter the MechDragon” (completed 1 more challenge), “Meet Min-Droid” (completed the last 2 challenges, unlocking the Party Time red brick), “Min-droid’s Return” (completed the last 4 challenges, unlocking the Min-droid character), “Powered Up” (completed the last challenge), “Ninja Crush” (completed the last 2 challenges, unlocking the Krazi character), “Face Off” (completed the last 3 challenges, unlocking the Evil Wu character), “The Golden Cycle” (completed 1 more challenge, unlocking the Lloyd character), “Post-Apocalypse” (completed the last 3 challenges, unlocking the Rufus character), “Regenerated” (completed the last 2 challenges, unlocking the Cole DX character), “GrabBIT!” (completed the last 2 challenges, unlocking the Studs X10 red brick), “System Override” (completed the last challenge), “Samurai X” (completed the last 4 challenges, unlocking the Nya [Samurai X] character), “Two Brothers” (completed the last 3 challenges, unlocking the Disguised Garmadon character) & “Overlord Rising” (completed the last 3 challenges). Off and on throughout this mop up operation I went to the store and purchased stuff with my studs, the characters I managed to obtain included Nya, Lloyd (Gold Ninja), General Cryptor, Min-droid, Cole (Gold), Jay (Gold), Kai (Gold), Lloyd, Krazi, Wyplash, Vampire, Pharaoh, Mr. Noodles, Rufus, Cole DX, Disguised Garmadon, Nya (Samurai X), Evil Wu, Zane (Borg) & Zane (Gold). As for red bricks, the extras I obtained included Studs X6, Party Time, Health Regeneration, Red Brick Finder, Extra Heart & Studs X10. And that’s it, game over, New Ninjago City saved by yours truly!!

11) The last game that fell to our might fingers was Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, a game that James absolutely adores! We last left off in “Episode 3”, so that is where we resume. There we were able to knock off the last twenty-four levels, which unfolded as such: “Stumpy Springs Sanctuary” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the Golden Mushroom), “Biddybud Snow Stroll” (found 3/3 Gems, didn’t break any tiles), “Cagey Conkdor Caper” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the Golden Mushroom), “Up ‘n’ Down Desert” (found 3/3 Gems, cleared the level in 8 switches), “Mine Cart Ruins Rumble” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the 1-Up Mushroom), “Multi-Vator Mayhem” (found 3/3 Gems, cleared the level with 5 Toads), “Flip Panel Footpath” (found 3/3 Gems, collected 45 coins), “Rock Block Badlands” (found 3/3 Gems, cleared the level in 10 shots), “Secret of the Golden Realm” (found 3/3 Gems, cleared the level in 10 touches), “Shy Guy Shadow Den” (found 3/3 Gems, slipped past all Shy Guys), “Razzle-Dazzle Slider” (found 3/3 Gems, didn’t fall in any holes), “Poison Canal Cannon Run” (found 3/3 Gems, cleared the level with 4 Toadettes), “Fright Train Flight” (found 3/3 Gems, defeated all Mud Troopers), “No Sleep at Magikoopa Keep” (found 3/3 Gems, collected 190 coins), “Retro Ramp-Up” (found 3/3 Gems, broke all blocks), “Twisty-Turny Planet” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the Golden Mushroom), “Ghost Gallery Gambit” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the Golden Mushroom), “Touchstone Turmoil” (found 3/3 Gems, cleared the level in 6 touches), “Color Crate Carousel” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the Golden Mushroom), “Trick-Track Hall” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the Golden Mushroom), “Deep-Space Gyromajig” (found 3/3 Gems, didn’t take any damage), “Magma Road Marathon” (found 3/3 Gems, collected 150 coins), “Scalding Scaffold Sinkhole” (found 3/3 Gems, collected 200 coins) & “Wingo’s Whackdown” (found 3/3 Gems, collected 220 coins). Our last task was to then move on to the “Bonus” chapter they gave us, where we completed all fourteen levels that presented themselves. These levels were a bit different than all of the previous levels though, in that there were no Gems to collect. There is just one primary objective in each, besides actually completing the level. Anyhoo, said levels included: “Super Bell Hill” (collected the Golden Mushroom), “Conkdor Canyon” (collected the Golden Mushroom), “Shadow-Play Alley” (collected the Golden Mushroom), “Clear Pipe Cruise” (collected the Golden Mushroom), “Toad Brigade to Mushroom Mesa!” (collected 90 coins), “Toad Brigade to Trick-Track Hall” (collected 150 coins), “Toad Brigade to Bullet Bill Base” (collected 100 coins), “Toad Brigade to Magikoopa Keep” (collected 240 coins), “Mummy-Me on Flip Panel Footpath” (collected 160 coins), “Mummy-Me on Drop-Road Dash” (collected 190 coins), “Mummy-Me at Pyropuff Peak” (this is the one level we couldn’t get our coins on, grrrr!!), “Episode 1 Prologue” (collected the Golden Mushroom), “Episode 2 Prologue” (collected the Golden Mushroom) & “Episode 3 Prologue” (collected the Golden Mushroom). Phew, a ton of action!! So worth it though, this game is fun . . .

12) Not as much progress was made on Lego: Pirates of the Caribbean, but we did get back at it and continued to plug away. Our first task was to finish off the fifth and final level of the “Dead Man’s Chest” chapter, which was called “The Kraken” (found 4/10 Minikit pieces, 5/8 Compass items, and earned 1 Gold Brick [for the level completion]). It was then time to move along to the third chapter, called “At World’s End”. So far we’ve been able to complete the first two levels, as so: “Singapore” (earned True Pirate status, found 5/8 Compass items, unlocked the Elizabeth [Pirate], Captain Barbosa, Sao Feng, Tia Dalma, Tattoo Pirate & Tai Huang characters, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [for the level completion and status achievement]) & “Davey Jones’ Locker” (earned True Pirate status, found 5/10 Minikit pieces, 5/8 Compass items, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status]). More to come!

13) As for Super Mario 3D World, a good amount of work got done there. It continues to be just as fun as Captain Toad was, more fun probably considering it’s up to 4 players! Our trek continued in “World 3”, where we were able to complete the last three levels. Said levels included: “3-7: Switchboard Falls” (earned 47340 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “3-Train: The Bullet Bill Express” (earned 81790 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars) & “3-B: A Banquet with Hisstocrat” (earned 66000 points, and collected 1/1 stars). Moving on to “World 4” we were able to complete all levels there, which included: “4-1: Ant Trooper Hill” (earned 42650 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “4-2: Piranha Creeper Creek” (earned 54260 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “4-A: Brolder Blockade” (earned 10450 points, and collected 1/1 stars), “4-3: Beep Block Skyway” (earned 57730 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “4-4: Big Bounce Byway” (earned 35650 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “4-Mystery Box: Mystery House Mad Dash” (earned 47600 points, and collected 10/10 stars), “4-5: Spike’s Lost City” (earned 58100 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “4-B: Fire Bros. Hideout #1” (earned 18650 points, collected 1/1 stars, afterwards gaining a stamp at a nearby Toad House) & “4-Castle: Lava Rock Lair” (earned 67670 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars). We then of course moved on to “World 5”, so far having completed the first five levels there. The levels in question were: “5-1: Sunshine Seaside” (earned 87200 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “5-2: Tricky Trapeze Theater” (earned 44210 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “5-3: Backstreet Bustle” (earned 25500 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “5-A: Chargin’ Chuck Blockade is Back” (earned 19900 points, and collected 3/3 stars) & “5-Toad: Captain Toad Plays Peek-a-Boo” (earned 21100 points, and collected 5/5 stars). We’ll keep on mowing ‘em down!!

14) Finally, some really good progress was made on Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal our Garbage?!! Back out in the sunny wilderness where we last left off we first ran in to Tree Trunks, who said he could whip up a pie with the Raggedy Sock we had. So we gave it to him and in return he provided us a Shoofly Pie, capable of attracting any type of bug! Moving on we next landed in the Housie Village once more, where we inadvertently used the pie to attract the fleas off one of the inhabitants’ dogs! As a reward he gave us an item that ended up being the Torn Note (2 of 3). Now that we had all three pieces we put them together, the information on the note ended up being a riddle from the Ice King, about finding a sword. Using this info we headed back to our home and looked under Kyle’s bed, where we found Scarlet the Sword! With this sword now equipped as a weapon we headed back out and eventually entered the Tree Dungeon, a treasure chest we found within gave us the Ear Shield ability. Soon after we reached a chamber that held the Ice King, who informed us he’d created a Garbage Princess for us to save . . . after we fight the dungeon boss in the next room! So naturally we headed to the next room and engaged this boss, named Chainsaw Bear (it was a raging bear with a chainsaw attached to it’s back!). For defeating him we were given the Hot Dog Knight. After this sequence of action we headed back to see Tree Trunks and gave him three apples, with which he made us a Tree Trunks Pie. Our next destination was to visit the Hot Dog Princess and give her back her Hot Dog Knight. She was ecstatic, for our good deed she told us the Ice King was heading to the Candy Kingdom, as well as giving us the ability of Jake being able to act as a bridge! We struck back out and with this new ability of Jake’s reached uncharted territory. We first ran in to Bubblegum, who was right upset that someone had stolen her pantyhose, and she was berating Cinnamon Bun as if she had done it. We told Bubblegum we were on the case, our first encounter after getting moving on was to run in to Starchy at the graveyard, who said he was after a Desert Pizza. Back on the road afterwards we began questioning all citizens about the pantyhose, then visited Bubblegum at her palace in the Candy Kingdom. Upon departing our next destination had us run in to the Duke of Nuts, who’s second Nut Son had gone missing! He gave us his son’s birth certificate and asked if we’d use it to search him out. Next we ran in to the Lumpy Space Princess, who was upset at Wildberry Princess for some reason, afterwards we came to a dungeon where Lemongrab was lording over some prisoners. He was holding Wildberry Princess, Chet the pizza delivery guy, and what appeared to be the second Nut Son! While conversing with Wildberry Princess she gave us a password to take to the Housie Village, where we would be able to trade it in for her diary. Said diary would prove she wasn’t the one who stole the pantyhose. Similarly Chet gave us a Desert Pizza to take to Starchy, who would then be able to give us a receipt that proves Chet was on delivery when the pantyhose were stolen. We then left and set about these tasks, gaining both the diary and the receipt. With said items in hand we visited Bubblegum at the palace once more and handed the evidence over to Peppermint Butler. The evidence checked out, so he gave us a Royal Decree to take to Lemongrab. When we handed the decree over to Lemongrab in the dungeon he was upset, but all prisoners were ultimately released! We took possession of the second Nut Son and then journeyed back to visit with the Duke of Nuts, giving him his child back. As a thank you the duke gave us a Royal Sponge, which we immediately took to a nearby tavern, using it on a suspicious looking character covered in dripping chocolate. Lo and behold it was the Ice King under all that sweet confectionery!! Before taking off he left us another riddle, which pointed to a key being left in the belly of a gummy dog. We snatched up the dog and took him to see Dr. Ice Cream at the palace, who was able to extract said key, which ended up being a candy key! Our last task saw us use the key to open up a new area of the palace, an area that featured a large treasure chest. Upon opening the chest we were given the Down Thrust ability. That’s all for now, but there will be much more adventuring coming soon!

“NNGRR” - We kicked off the weekend that followed my last blog by watching what is now a classic in my mind . . . Paul Blart: Mall Cop!! Jimmer and I have been laughing at the promos for the second movie that just recently came out, so we decided to go back and watch the original, which I’d never seen before. This was a complete surprise as I’m a big fan of Kevin James!! Anyways, the central character in this film is, you guessed it, an overweight, hypoglycemic man named Paul Blart. He lives at home with his mother and his young daughter, Maya, after his wife left him in the not too distant past. Paul is obsessed with becoming a New Jersey state trooper, and although he has put in a lot of work in to try and make it happen, his medical condition always seems to get in the way and prevent it from becoming a reality. So Paul has to be content with providing security at the local mall. Mr. Blart is not just a security guard though, he is a mall cop, and he takes his job very seriously! Because of this he is a bit of a laughing stock as the other security guards just punch in and punch out, without any real love for the job. Adding to Paul’s list of woes is the fact that he is smitten with a lady named Amy, one of the mall’s newest vendors, but any chance of hooking up with her seems pretty remote. The two are amicable initially, but after a staff get together at a local bar that sees Paul get drunk by accident and make an amazing ass of himself, their relations become strained. To make matters worse, while showing a new trainee named Veck the ropes, Paul gets accosted by a heavyset woman in the Victoria’s Secret store after intervening in a disagreement about a bra! Needless to say, this mall cop is a bit of a mess. However, on the busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, Blart will get his chance to be the hero. This new trainee, Veck Simms, is actually the leader of a criminal gang that has put in to action a plan to lock down the mall, holding hostages, and gaining access to all of the store’s credit card machine codes, making them filthy stinking rich! But there was one man slacking in the arcade that they missed during the lockdown . . . one Paul Blart, mall cop! At first Paul kind of chickens out and wants nothing more than to exit the mall and let the authorities handle things. But then he thinks of poor Amy being held hostage and he vows to set her free . . . doubly so when Maya enters the fray! What ensues is some hilarious slapstick action that sees Blart decimate Simms’ forces in a comedy of errors/ingenuity. But does Blart have enough in the tank to outwit the mastermind of this criminal gang, or is it good night shoppers? I found this movie absolutely hilarious, as Kevin James just has that ability to be funny no matter what. Add in a very cool plot (I love movies set in malls for some reason) and some other great actors like Jayma Mays and Keir O’Donnell, and I don’t see how you can go wrong! Ready for number two . . .

Later that weekend (for James’ playdate) we went to the movies to see Home. The central subject(s) in this film is a race of aliens called the Boov, in particular one bumbling Boov named Oh. The Boov are a cowardly, anti-social race that are constantly on the run from their sworn enemies, the Gorgs, and when they pick Earth as their next planet of residence the shit proceeds to hit the fan! Upon their invasion of Earth the Boov round up all humans, setting up new residences for them in various zones around the world, while the Boov take over all of the living space that was then empty with humanity’s absence. However, one young girl in what I assume is New York City, who goes by the name of Tip, manages to evade the Boov during said invasion. Separated from her mom and left alone with just her cat, Pig, she is left to fend for herself in this scary new world. In the meantime, in his excitement to throw a housewarming party Oh mistakenly sends out an invite to everyone in the galaxy, meaning soon the Gorgs will know the Boov’s new location and be able to resume their hunt! Branded a fugitive Oh finds himself on the run, and not far in to his flight he just so happens to bump in to another sort of fugitive, the young Tip. Their initial meeting doesn’t go well, but after helping Tip fix up her ruined mother’s car, an agreement is made to be civil to each other. Ultimately this spawns in to a double sided mission, to discern the location of Tip’s mother while at the same time finding a way to cancel the invite Oh broadcasted across the galaxy, thus negating the Gorg threat. As the two set out on this mission things are tense to say the least, but as they spend time together and learn of each other’s ways and backgrounds, a bizarre friendship begins to blossom. Working together the pair eventually accomplish their goals and Tip is reunited with her mother, while Oh stops the invite from reaching the Gorgs at the last possible moment. However, it is all in vain as somehow the Gorgs manage to find the Boov on Earth anyways! In an attempt to save Tip from destruction and possibly even smooth things over with the Gorgs, Oh formulates a secret plan and puts it in to action. Does his daring attempt have a chance of success though, or will he end up a smear on the bottom of the Gorgs’ boots? This was a pretty cool flick, a lot different from the other animated movies out there, and it had a really good message with the focus on the importance of family and what not. Hearing Jim Parsons as the voice of Oh was pretty hilarious, as he never fails to crack me up. This flick was a sleeper, for sure, and I love that cat!

I finished watching a DVD collection I got on eBay a while back, called Robotech: The Complete Set!! Robotech is a cartoon series that aired back in the mid-1980’s when I was just a youngin’, and I remember it quite fondly but had forgotten a lot of the details over the intervening years. This cartoon was a little more in depth than most others though, as it was actually three series built in to one spanning three different Robotech wars, and totalled 85 episodes . . . a pretty hefty number! The first part of the series (the first war) was called “The Macross Saga” and lasted 36 episodes. To begin with the year is 1999 and on the small island of Macross in the South Pacific, a monumental event is about to take place . . . for a massive space ship suddenly crash lands on the island and changes life forever! The squabbling nations of the world then come together in harmony and begin to study this craft. Ten years later, in the year 2009, mankind has repaired the ship and in the process learned a lot about the advanced technology behind it. The grand unveiling of the repaired ship, which the United Earth Government has dubbed the SDF-1, is going to be celebrated by the ship being launched in to space, being displayed in all it’s awesomeness. However, at that moment an alien force just so happens to show up and attacks the SDF-1! But the UEG is prepared for this, for over the last decade they have adapted the technology they found within the bowels of the SDF-1 to create squadrons of Veritech fighters, calling the technology they used to build them . . . “Robotech”!! These aircraft look like regular fighter jets, but they also have the ability to transform in to robots, so they are capable of not only fighting in the air but also on the ground. Leading this charge for the Robotech Defense Force (RDF) is Captain Roy Fokker, a fighter ace under the guidance of Henry Gloval, commander of the SDF-1. Amidst the chaos of battle a civilian named Rick Hunter gets caught up in the whole affair, he is a racer of airplanes who is coming to visit his good friend Roy Fokker. Rick even climbs in behind the stick of a Veritech fighter, helping to repel this initial raid undertaken by their alien invaders! In the end Rick gets stuck deep within the bowels of the SDF-1 with another civilian named Lynn Minmay, and the two immediately hit it off, lighting the sparks of a potential romantic relationship. Eventually they are rescued and the SDF-1 is set to rights, soon taking off to the stars. As the ship travels the galaxy, the RDF encounters these aliens more and more, whose race is called the Zentradi. Their skin tone is a more purple and red hue, and they are about ten times the size of a normal human (whom the Zentradis call “Micronians”). In the early stages of their journey Rick decides to join the RDF and excels, while Minmay gains stardom for her singing ability. As Rick and his comrades encounter the Zentradi more and more, they learn this enemy force is commanded by a being named Breetai. Both sides engage in spy missions against the other, in an attempt to gain intel on the habits and procedures of their counterparts. The humans discover that the Zentradi are linked to Robotech, they are the ones who invented it and had come looking for their ship, which they were able to track once it was back up and functional. The Zentradi are a race bred specifically for war and violence, and they are hostile towards the humans as they believe mankind is in possession of stores of a mystery substance called “protoculture”, some sort of mystery power source related to the beginnings of all life. The crew aboard the SDF-1 also learn that Zentradi DNA is virtually identical to humans’, so their races are in some way related! As for the Zentradi, with the ability to shrink their troops down to human size a small team is able to infiltrate the SDF-1 and observe life onboard . . . and they realize humans aren’t that bad! They are amazed that men and women are allowed to associate with each other freely, and are captivated by the multitudes of entertainment available, most notably Minmay’s singing. Eventually the SDF-1 reaches Earth, but they are refused permission to land as the UEG doesn’t want them bringing their troubles to the surface of the planet. In a twist of fate Breetai and his forces then join the RDF in battle, to repel the attacks of the Zentradi’s supreme commander Dolza, who has labeled Breetai and his troops traitors for their close involvement with the humans. In an epic battle above the surface of the Earth all is laid on the line, in the process almost the entire population of Earth is wiped out, as are Dolza and his Zentradi invaders. In the aftermath the SDF-1, severely hampered by the battle, crashes to Earth and in the ensuing years New Macross City springs up around it. This new city sees both humans and Zentradi living together, mostly in harmony. The first ever Micronian/Zentradi couple even get married and have a baby together, the couple in question being a fighter pilot friend of Rick’s, Max Sterling, and a Zentradi pilot named Miriya. But as time moves on and life on Earth is rebuilt, many of the Zentradi grow restless. Lord Khyron and his underling, Azonia, fan the fires of dissension and eventually fighting breaks out! In a battle that sees Khyron defeated, the SDF-1 and it’s crew are also destroyed (along with the SDF-2, a new ship built to eventually replace the original), including Henry Gloval and most of his command crew. Captain Lisa Hayes is the only one spared, and Rick is thankful for that as they have developed a romantic relationship over the years, which ends in a sordid love triangle between the two of them and Minmay, but ultimately he chooses Lisa. This story arc ends in the year 2022, with Anatole Leonard in charge of a new Earth military, which includes the Army of the Southern Cross as well as the new Global Military Police. Many of the old hands such as Rick and Lisa leave Earth as part of the Robotech Expeditionary Force, not happy with how things are evolving on their home planet. They are leaving in an attempt to seek out the fabled Robotech Masters . . . and that is where things finish.

The second part of the series, known as the second Robotech war, is called “The Masters” and it spanned a total of 24 episodes. The year is 2029, nearly 15 years since we saw any real action from the first Robotech war, and 7 years since that last storyline closed. This series begins on an upbeat note, with a brand new class of military recruits graduating from the United Earth Forces Military Academy and joining the Army of the Southern Cross! The main character is Dana Sterling, of the 15th Armoured Tactical Corps, a ground based unit that utilizes hover tanks as their weapon of choice. The last time we saw Dana she was just a baby, for she is the famous daughter of the first Micronian/Zentradi pairing in history . . . yes, her pilot parents being the Max and Miriya Sterling! Dana is busy consoling her friend Bowie Grant, who is sad about being in the military. However, they don’t have long to ponder their new stage of life as the Robotech Masters, those ultimate puppet masters behind the destroyed Zentradi armada, arrive in the system and immediately begin doing damage by taking out Moon Base Luna! It’s then all hands on deck, as Dana and her troops do what they can to protect their home planet, as does Lieutenant Marie Crystal and her charges in the Tactical Armored Space Corps. Keeping the peace within the ranks is Nova Satori, of the Global Military Police. The United Earth Forces suffer heavily at first, as the Robotech Masters bring some different looking tech to the table plus a lot of man power to put behind it. The UEF uses their various Robotech pieces to fight their battles, while the Masters employ Bioroids, mech suits that their clones are able to climb in to and wield in battle. The reason for the Masters’ arrival in Earth’s orbit is to eradicate humankind and take control of their remaining protoculture factory, as it seems to be the last source of known protoculture in the galaxy. For the Masters’ current supply is perilously low. However, as the battles continue and the Masters keep discounting the abilities of the humans, the tide of battle seems to turn, and Dana Sterling seems to have a lot to do with it. With her half Zentradi heritage she seems to have a connection to the Masters’ subjects. When a soldier from the Masters’ army is captured by the UEF, a being named Zor, Dana establishes an immediate connection with him. Unfortunately he is unknowingly spying on the UEF and their activities, a condition he is eventually able to escape from. In an expedition up to the Robotech Masters’ mothership another one of their subjects, Musica, falls in love with Bowie and defects. With these defections and the dwindling supply of protoculture affecting equipment functionality and troop energy levels, it’s not long before the Masters’ clone subjects are questioning the logic of their plight. Desperate times end up calling for desperate measures, with the Masters attempting to demand a UEF surrender, prompted by annihilating two of Earth’s cities. All this does is make Supreme Commander Anatole Leonard even more stubborn though, and so he calls for a last stand to be made. In the meantime, Dana Sterling and her squad mates end up at the ruins of the SDF-1, where Bowie and Musica have fled to, with Nova Satori hot on their heels after branding Musica a spy! Inside the ruins of the SDF-1 they find the much sought after protoculture matrix. While investigating it, flowers begin to bloom within the matrix, Musica informs them all that these are called the Flower of Life. While these flowers bloom and the spores begin to spread, the final battle is taking place just over their heads. The Robotech Masters’ command crew fly their mothership down to Earth, to get to the ruins and take what they believe is ultimately theirs. With their protoculture reserves so low though, this leaves the rest of their fleet underpowered, and so the UEF forces are able to eradicate them completely! But closer to the surface a sacrifice is needed in order to end this war for good. Dana and Zor, gaining access to the mothership, confront the Masters and in a last act of betrayal Zor rigs the mothership to explode, while at the last second shuttling Dana to safety inside an escape pod! When the dust settles it is apparent the humans have once again suffered heavily, with both Supreme Commander Anatole Leonard and General Rolf Emerson being killed in action, along with many thousands of others. The cost of victory has been great and what’s worse, the spores of the Flower of Life are in the process of attracting a race of beings to their planet . . . beings known as the Invid, who even the Robotech Masters greatly feared . . .

The third and final part of the series is known as the third Robotech war, otherwise called “The New Generation”. This installment picks up just about a year after the close of the last war, in the year 2031, and totals 25 episodes. The spores of the Flower of Life have attracted a species called the Invid to Earth, a protoplasmic lot who use great hulking tech pieces to wage their wars. Upon arriving on Earth pretty much nothing and nobody were spared . . . the world’s governments and militaries were destroyed, and the overall population dwindled greatly as millions perished. However, some humans were left alive in makeshift communities in order to serve the Invid in their daily needs. Life for humanity had turned back to a more simplistic, primordial existence, constantly living in fear with the unscrupulous selling others out in order to gain power and stay safe from the Invid and their violent alien ways. About eleven years after the Invid’s initial invasion, the Robotech Expeditionary Force was able to launch a counter attack on the Invid from space. However, the battle did not go well and the only survivor was a Veritech pilot named Scott Bernard. Touching down on Earth after the battle, Scott took to his Robotech motorcycle (called a Cyclone) and began exploring his surroundings. His ultimate destination was Reflex Point, an area in the Great Lakes region of North America where the Invid’s main hive was located. His goal of course is to destroy the hive and end the Invid’s hold on Earth once and for all, but it would seem to be a tall order to complete all on his own. As he visits the ramshackle communities that sporadically litter the landscape, Scott gains a band of followers who hold similar ideals and would like nothing more than to help him free their embattled world. First to join Scott is a young man named Rand, an out for himself survivor who falls in after becoming enamoured with the Cyclone motorcycle/battle suit! A young teen girl named Annie takes a liking to the boys at their next stop, and with nothing left for her in her “home town” she too decides to throw in her lot. The trio’s next stop is easily their most productive, though. While exploring a new village in search of supplies and new recruits, they befriend a gentle hearted big man named Lunk, who was formerly of the military. A mysterious woman named Rook also falls in, she being the pilot of a cyclone herself. The final addition is an ex-soldier named Lancer, who has been masquerading as female pop sensation “Yellow Dancer”, so as to lay low from the Invid. With their rag tag team set to go (and a Veritech alpha fighter now in their arsenal, thanks to Lunk!) they resume their march on Reflex Point. However, the group is quite far from the destination they so desperately seek, and their journey is quite tough . . . dishearteningly tough. The Invid are seemingly hiding around every corner and hamper the team’s passage, plus the stress of always being in need of food and supplies for their equipment adds to their woes. Entering the fray along the way is a female named Marlene. She is actually a being the Invid create, to appear in a human’s likeness but secretly spy for the Invid, although the situation doesn’t quite work out as planned for the Invid . . . and Scott seems to take a liking to her. Eventually, after many harrowing adventures, the group finally manages to close in on Reflex Point. Fortunately for them, after being on the move towards Reflex Point for these number of years, Admiral Rick Hunter of the Robotech Expeditionary Force coincidentally orders a last ditch, full scale assault on the Invid, bringing most of their remaining ships to bear on the planet! The ensuing battle is a violent one, which starts off well for the humans. However, it eventually starts to slip away from them and the REF is forced to resort to a last ditch solution . . . to launch a new, volatile type of missile that they’ve never used before, in hopes of putting the final nail in the Invids’ coffin! Fortunately for them it does the trick and what Invid still remain flee the plant . . . the rigid grasp they’ve held on planet Earth for so long has finally been broken! As this last part of the series concludes and life on Earth begins to go back to normal, Scott Bernard heads in to space in search of Rick Hunter, who after ordering the assault never managed to show up for the battle . . .

This mega, 20 disc collection includes about 5 discs that are solely devoted to additional bonus content. Said content included a series overview, a documentary on the origins of the franchise and it’s late creator Carl Macek, a few pilot episodes that had never seen the light of day, various featurettes, numerous galleries of concept art, comic book gallery collections, deleted scenes, toy and merchandise galleries, commercials and promos, music videos, Robotech video game info, among a few other things that I’ve forgotten by now.

A couple other things were included on these discs, the first of which was called Robotech: Sentinels. This is a short movie that was made of combined footage from a cartoon series of the same name, which was supposed to follow up on the events of the original Robotech series. However, the project was unfortunately cancelled not long in to production. Sentinels follows the lives of Rick Hunter and the Robotech Expeditionary Force, who are about to leave Earth after the first Robotech war, to search out the Robotech Masters in hopes of avoiding a second war. The action picks up as Rick and Max Sterling are coming off a simulator training session, working in a young recruit named Jack Baker. As for Lisa, she is busy getting ready for her upcoming wedding to Rick, and she even manages to make peace with Minmay, inviting her to sing at their wedding! Not long afterwards the final meetings figuring out the logistics of the Robotech Expeditionary Force are concluded and the diplomatic mission is labeled a go, much to Anatole Leonard’s dismay. On the other side of the galaxy meanwhile, on the Robotech Masters’ home planet of Tirol (the destination the REF will ultimately be seeking out) . . . things aren’t quite as positive. For the Invid have arrived, and an invasion has begun . . . and as we well know by now, the Invid hold nothing back when it comes to war! The subject of their conquest, as it always is, is of course the Flower of Life and the protoculture they produce. After defeating what remains of the Masters on Tirol (for a major part of their fleet/population had already departed for their planned invasion of Earth in the second Robotech War), the Invid then move on to their next conquest. Back on Earth the SDF-3 is revealed, and it will be the site of Rick and Lisa’s wedding! When finally the big day arrives the pair are wed after their long and storied time together, soon afterwards leaving on their honeymoon while their comrades continue to prepare for their departure to the stars . . . and that is where things end.

The other item was the Robotech movie from 1986, called The Untold Story (which was never officially released, apparently). This animated feature begins with a brief overview of Robotech history, how a strange alien space ship crash landed on a small south Pacific island, and then how a community grew around it and developed Robotech from the secrets held within . . . followed by the war with the Zentradi of course. It then picks up in the year 2027, two years before the second Robotech war, the Masters story. In this year, with Anatole Leonard firmly in charge of the UEF, alongside general Rolf Emerson, the Masters actually appear in Earth’s system and make a bid to recapture the long lost space ship they still rightfully believe is theirs. At the center of their sights is a computer that was once inside the SDF-1 but is now being studied in a separate facility. In order to covertly get their hands on this computer, the Robotech Masters kidnap a high ranking official from the Army of the Southern Cross, Colonel Andrews. Eventually they kill Andrews, after making a clone of him that they can control and hopefully use to extract the computer. This plan meets with some success, although a young soldier named Todd becomes suspicious of the Andrews clone’s actions and makes off with a prototype motorcycle, which just so happens to contain a remote link to the computer of Andrews’ affections! Ultimately Todd is killed, but he manages to pass the bike along to his friend Mark who is then caught up in a wild goose chase, constantly pursued by Andrews and the men he commands. When professor Embry enters the picture (he a higher up in the computers division for the UEF), being alerted to Andrews’ actions, he may be the best hope they’ve got in shutting down the Masters’ link to the computer and helping the UEF repel this invasion once and for all. Will Mark and Professor Embry’s combined efforts be enough to put a stop to Andrews and the Master’s advances, or is the Earth in for an early dose of the Masters’ tyranny? Well, we pretty much know the answer to this seeing as the entire series is reviewed above, but whatever!!

A separate disc contained the Robotech: Love Live Alive movie, which was released many years later, in 2013! It’s actually a bit of a retread and features old footage from the original Robotech series (from the third Robotech War) spliced together with a bit of new footage. Anyhoo, the year is 2044, later on in that very same year the third Robotech War concluded. A reporter sits down to do an interview with Lancer, one of the heroes of said war under the leadership of Scott Bernard. He goes over the events of the initial Invid invasion of Earth and how he survived it, becoming stranded in a wasteland and forced to take on the persona of a female pop star so as to avoid detection. Next Lancer explains how the small team that helped repel the Invid came together, weighing in with his own insights on the types of characters Scott Bernard, Marlene (the proposed Invid spy), Rand, Rook, Lunk and Annie all were. And then of course he finishes with the epic final battle that took place when he and his band of allies reached the Invid hive at Reflex Point. We realize that this interview takes place just before Lancer is due to take the stage at a concert where he once again dons the persona of Yellow Dancer, then belting out an old Minmay classic for the crowd! After the concert Scott, Marlene, Rand, Rook, Lunk and Annie seek Lancer out and have one last visit with him, inviting him to come along with them on a mission to find Admiral Rick Hunter and the SDF-3. Lancer politely declines though and heads back to his cabin in the woods where Sera awaits him, the Invid soldier whom he fell in love with during the war. It is then revealed that she is pregnant with Lancer’s child . . . the end!! This is a cool little bit of Robotech lore for sure, but like I said mostly retread footage mixed in with a bit of an after the war Robotech update.

Yet another disc, which finishes off this collection, contained the Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles movie, which was released in 2006 and seems to be a combination of traditional animation mixed in with more computer generated graphics. This was a very cool feature length film that picked up just before the final battle against the Invid during the third Robotech War, in the year 2044. We are introduced to two young pilots from the Robotech Expeditionary Force, Marcus (the brother of Marlene, Scott Bernard’s girlfriend who perished during the initial battle against the Invid) and Alex, who are out on a routine patrol. Afterwards they head back to Moon Base Aluce, where we are then introduced to some new characters such as hot shot Veritech pilot Maia Sterling (another daughter of Max and Miriya’s!), captain Vince Grant, and of course General Reinhardt. Events are being finalized on the base, events that will see the final assault on the Invid set in motion very soon. Admiral Rick Hunter even manages to contact Reinhardt, telling him to go ahead with the assault, but before the transmission can end it is apparent that the SDF-3 experiences some sort of catastrophe! Reinhardt dispatches captain Grant to take the Icarus to the Omicron sector and find out what’s going, to ultimately rescue Admiral Hunter and his crew. While the Icarus heads off on it’s assigned task the battle against the Invid commences. As we saw in the final episode of the Robotech series, although the battle starts off well for the REF, things eventually turn ugly as the fighting continues. Linking up with Scott Bernard, who was leading his small band of rebels against Reflex Point down on the ground, the only course of action left is to launch the experimental Neutron-S missiles against Reflex Point and hope for the best. Wanting to avoid ultimate destruction the Invid Regess (with some convincing from her daughter Ariel, or as we tend to know her, the new Marlene) decides that her forces should leave the planet immediately and search for new digs. With a giant sigh of relief the forces of the REF are thrilled that the fighting seems to finally be over. However, they have a bit of a surprise coming their way. Ariel, using her ever strengthening Invid powers, gleans that an ancient enemy called the Children of the Shadow are somehow tied up in all of the recent events and will be making a play against the humans very soon! After captain Grant returns from stabilizing the situation out in the Omicron sector (with an android named Janice in tow that they salvaged from a science vessel called the Deukalion), the group gets down to some figuring. With the combined brain power of Ariel, Scott, Janice, and an engineer named Louie (yes, the Louie from the second Robotech war, from Dana Sterling’s squadron!) working on the case they ultimately discern that the Children of the Shadow are not who they appear to be. For this race is actually posing as the Haydonites, a race Admiral Rick Hunter befriended during his journeys through the galaxy, and who gifted the REF not only the faulty Neutron-S missiles but also the Shadow cloaking technology equipped on almost all of their vessels! At first Reinhardt doesn’t believe Ariel and Janice’s claims, due to their alien natures, but Grant does and he enlists Scott’s help to come up with a plan to defeat this new and unknown enemy. With nearly all of their equipment potentially compromised though, will their plan have a hope in hell of success, or has humanity’s luck finally run out with this fourth enemy that is also bent on their destruction? This was a great film, so many subtle plot lines going on all at once, and how it fits in with the overall Robotech ark is very cool. I loved the animation they used, and the new characters they introduced were very engaging. I wish they would make more films like this to fill in the gaps and create some new stories, so awesome!

The day after I wrapped up my Robotech collection I also finished the book I had going at the time, yet another novel of the Star Wars expanded universe. This one I had looked forward to for quite some time, it being called Maul: Lockdown, as I’m a big fan of the Darth Maul character and love hearing tales of his extracurricular activities! This story opens after Maul has just recently become a resident of Cog Hive Seven, a prison facility located in the Outer Rim. He is not there because he got sloppy though, Maul is there because his master, the scheming Darth Sidious, has deemed it a necessary step in his plan for galactic domination. Going by the name of Jagganath, it isn’t long before Maul is faced with his first challenge of everyday life in Cog Hive Seven, for this is no ordinary prison. Run by the corrupt warden Sadiki Blirr, Cog Hive Seven has the ability to transform it’s very shape and suddenly deposit two inmates in to the same cell, where they are then forced to do battle . . . mortal combat, if you will! These matches are broadcast across the galaxy where anyone and everyone can place bets, making Cog Hive Seven not only a prison, but a lucrative source of income for Sadiki and the Galactic Gaming Commission. Unfortunately for Cog Hive Seven though, they’ve never had an inmate quite like Darth Maul! Not wanting to blow his cover though, Maul is unable to use the Force in accomplishing his goals. This makes his first two matches, one against a massive beast that nobody truly knows the origins of, followed by a Wampa, all that much more difficult. But Maul is goal oriented if nothing else, and the task his master has set him is to locate a fabled arms dealer who apparently runs his business out of the prison, one Iram Radique. From Radique Maul is to procure a nuclear device Sidious plans on using to eliminate his own master, Darth Plageuis! As Maul quickly finds out though, there are layers upon layers involved with the Iram Radique case, and it takes much longer for him to ferret this character out than he first imagined. Complicating matters along the way are rival gangs within the prison, the Gravity Massive and the Bone Kings, not to mention the looming threat of the all too real Wolf Worm of Cog Hive Seven, a demon talked about in hushed tones by the inmates! Add to this the fact that Darth Plageuis, surmising his apprentice might be up to something nasty, hires a contact from the Intergalactic Banking Clan named Vesto Slipher to perform an audit on the prison, making Maul’s job even more complicated. With this volatile situation rapidly declining, all hell breaks loose when Jabba the Hutt’s forces arrive! He is at odds with Sadiki over gambling issues and has secretly had guards infiltrating the prison for some time. Next comes the arrival of the Bando Gora criminal gang, led by ex-Jedi Komari Vosa, meaning volatile quickly turns to deadly. Maul has called the Bando Gora to the prison in order to take possession of the weapon he is after, while Jabba is just dead set on ruining Sadiki Blirr and her sadistic prison! The action comes to a boiling close while the prison is in a state of utter chaos, with the various factions all fighting each other while Maul attempts to slip away with the weapon he has so desperately sought all this time. Does the Sith apprentice have what it takes to pull the mission off, or will his promising career of evil end unceremoniously on this station of violent indulgences? This was an amazing read, very gritty, offering even more insights in to one of the coolest characters in the Star Wars galaxy. Although the plot seems pretty simple at first, a number of sub-plots develop as the story moves along and you’ve really got quite a tangle going on, a tangle that then delightfully unravels as you turn each page. Truly a great read!

The evening after our run, as a way to wind down a bit, we watched a movie I found at the Dollar Store not all that long ago . . . a movie called Battle for Terra! I had never heard of it before, until I saw a promo this very film while watching some of the bonus material in the aforementioned Robotech collection I reviewed . . . go figure, I find it for cheap at the Dollar Store just a week or so later! Anyhoo, this story starts off on a world called Terra, in an entirely different galaxy from ours, literally everything on this planet would seem utterly alien to a human. The natives are peaceful creatures that “swim” through their atmosphere using bodies that seem to be a combination between a human and a fish. Soon though, their world is going to be transformed forever. For on it’s way to Terra is a massive, dilapidated spaceship that holds what remains of the last of humanity. Having used up all of Earth’s natural resources humankind then spread out to both Mars and Venus. Ultimately all this resulted in was war though, and mankind nearly wiped itself out when all three planets were destroyed! Now the humans are looking for a new home, and although Terra’s atmosphere would not support them, they have a terraforming machine that will convert the atmosphere to oxygen, killing off all native life on Terra in the process. A couple of young natives named Mala and Senn get caught up in the action initially, as they are the first to spy this spacecraft approaching their planet. Mala is a rambunctious and bright young female, so when the invasion begins and her father is captured by the United Earth Forces, she vows to get him back. She gets her chance when, after trying to make contact with one of these invaders, Mala ends up getting chased by one of them instead! Piloting her flyer through a treacherous region she’d almost perished in before, she lures the scout ship in to a trap and then investigates the wreckage. Mala stumbles upon the human pilot of this ship, who she then rescues and takes back to her home. Unknown to Mala the pilot’s robot companion, named Giddy, follows her. After making himself known to Mala she agrees to help him, but only after it teaches her the human language via an organic download. Giddy then informs Mala that this pilot, a soldier named Jim Stanton, is soon going to die, once his oxygen reserves run out. Mala helps Giddy create an oxygen generator so that Jim will continue to live, but when he wakes up and converses with Mala he is more intent on escaping than engaging in conversation! Given his atmospheric plight though, Jim is forced to listen to reason and eventually a plan is agreed upon. In exchange for fixing his ship, Mala will receive Jim’s assistance in being reunited with her father. As the two set off on their adventure, facing much danger along the way, they eventually develop a real friendship . . . one that has Jim totally reconsidering his military’s mission to Terra! They eventually reach the Ark (the humans’ mothership) where Jim consults with General Hemmer, the leader of the military, who is preaching the aliens' ultimate destruction! Jim lobbies for a more diplomatic solution as opposed to all-out war, as does another higher up named Maria, but Hemmer is having none of it. In the meantime Mala is discovered aboard the Ark and Jim is helpless to protect her. In a last ditch effort he instructs Giddy to ensure Mala’s safety, so the bot then leaps in to action and helps her escape the Ark and return to Terra. Mala doesn’t have much time to ponder her dilemma though as the humans’ military is on their way in full force, along with the terraformer. For a battle in which the inhabitants of Terra are the obvious underdog, will they find a way to save their planet, essentially their race, or is this the end for this majestic planet and it’s inhabitants? This was a cool movie, with some slick animation and a very big live action movie feel to it. The story was a familiar one, but different enough to make this film stand out, and it also contained a ton of voice talent! At first I heard of about a half dozen really good actors linked to the film, but when I read through the list of credits for all who contributed, it was a mile long! Definitely worth a watch.

A couple days ago I watched the opening movie in the most recent Batman reboot, called Batman Begins. This is the series where Christian Bale takes over as the caped crusader, and does a great job by the by. Anyhoo, as the film opens up Bruce Wayne is adrift somewhere in Asia, trapped in a prison where many of the inmates are intent on bringing him down. After yet another scuffle Bruce is confined to solitary, where he is then approached by a gentleman named Henri Ducard, who works for a man named Ra’s al Ghul. Ducard is familiar with the millionaire American and wonders if he’d like to join Ghul’s organization, the League of Shadows. Bruce is traveling the world to try and outrun his tragic past, what with the murder of his parents and what not. Ducard promises Bruce he’ll help him find peace with his feelings, as well as give him all the training he needs to combat the various evils the world has to offer. Bruce takes him up on the opportunity and spends much time with Henri, training to become a weapon for justice. Throughout this whole opening sequence of the movie some flashbacks are interspersed. From when Bruce was a young kid and fell in the well at Wayne Manor, developing a fear of bats, the night his parents were murdered, right up until the day he left to travel the world, after almost shooting his parents’ killer dead and then confronting the mob boss who’s men got around to it first. But just as Bruce is about to complete his training and officially join the League of Shadows he gets a sneak peek of Ghul’s true intentions. Instead of joining the league he confronts them, taking Ghul down and burning up his fortress, saving Henri and leaving him with a local villager to be cared for. The time has come for Bruce Wayne to return to Gotham City . . . after 7 years missing, and being presumed dead by most! He takes up residence at Wayne Manor, let’s the board continue to run Wayne Enterprises, and starts getting down to his own business. For all the while he’d been away the crime boss he confronted all those years ago, Falcone, has turned the city in to a cess pool of crime and corruption. There are a couple of good people left though, willing to fight the good fight, they happen to be a young police officer named Jim Gordon, along with district attorney Rachel Dawes, a childhood friend of Bruce’s that he is thrilled to see after so many years apart. Bruce’s first step is to get equipped, to help him do so Bruce enlists a man named Lucius Fox, who works in an experimental equipment division of Wayne Enterprises. Fox helps Bruce out with his many requests, creating the tech that will ultimately become the bat suit and his many other gadgets, not to mention a kick ass vehicle called the Tumbler! And after discovering a system of caves underneath Wayne Manor Bruce also finds the perfect place to hide all of this stuff. At this point there’s nothing left to do but get out there and start cleaning up the streets! Bruce does just that, soon the rumours begin to swirl about this mysterious figure who the press have dubbed the Batman. Bruce is successful in taking down a lot of criminals, most notably the mob boss Falcone. However, there is another destructive force at work, a psychiatrist named Jonathan Crane who seems intent on getting all of these criminals off the hook and in to Arkham Asylum. There are many pieces in play, but Bruce just can’t seem to put them together. All is eventually made clear though, when a sequence unravels that sheds light on what’s really going down in Gotham City. An experimental weapon called a microwave emitter (developed by Wayne Enterprises of course) is stolen off a cargo ship. Around that same time Batman confronts Crane and discovers his true identity, the Scarecrow, barely escaping after both he and Rachel are dosed with a dangerous, hallucinogenic toxin! The final piece that comes in to play is Henri Ducard, who shows up at Wayne Manor and reveals his true identity. The League of Shadows had never intended to save Gotham, they were actually set on destroying it. And now with the microwave emitter they have just the means to do so! With the odds stacked so highly against him, can Bruce and his small band of allies repel this devastating threat, or will Gotham finally take the plunge in to complete chaos and destruction? This is an awesome movie, a very gritty type of origins story for the best super hero going. We’ve always known about his tragic past, but this film really dedicates a lot of screen time to how he actually became the dark knight, the long and painful process it was. Ra’s al Ghul and Scarecrow are some lesser known but very cool enemies to kick the trilogy off with, and of course the effects were awesome. Add in the top flight talents of Christian Bale, Liam Kneeson, Katie Holmes, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, and Ken Watanabe and you’ve got a star studded affair. I forgot how much liked this flick!!

A day later I finished reading the book I was in to at the time, the latest series from Brandon Mull called Five Kingdoms. The first book is titled Sky Raiders, and it’s pretty damn good! The central character is a run of the mill sixth grader named Cole Randolph. In an attempt to impress his friend Jenna, Cole and his other buddy Dalton invite her to come along with them to visit a haunted house that has gained quite a reputation in their town, for it is the Halloween! Jenna agrees but when they first investigate the house it’s not all that scary. When they’re invited down to see what’s in the basement though, all hell breaks loose! The kids are rounded up and restrained, although Cole manages to hide. The bizarre people that captured the children then steer them all down through a sewer grate in the floor . . . meaning Cole now has a decision to make. Does he go after them or return topside to alert the authorities? Why option one of course!! However, after entering the sewer something strange happens and Cole feels like he falls forever. Upon touching down Cole finds he is no longer on Earth, he is in an entirely different world! Setting off after his captured friends Cole soon gets caught himself, learning a few things about this world in the process. Said world is called the Five Kingdoms, and unfortunately for him and his friends slavery is a widely accepted practice. Jenna and Dalton are to be taken to the High Shaper, who rules the Five Kingdoms. For it’s been determined that the two of them both seem to have shaping potential, shaping is a talent that some people in the Five Kingdoms have, allowing them to create various objects at their very will. Meanwhile, Cole has been sold off to the Sky Raiders, who are led by a guy named Adam. The Sky Raiders forage for valuables, raiding the floating sky castles that pass through the seemingly bottomless brink each and every day. It’s dangerous work but Cole seems to have a knack for it. While working for the Sky Raiders Cole meets some other kids who end up becoming his friends, including Mira, Jace and Twitch. After gaining Mira’s confidence (nothing like saving somebody’s life for that to happen!) she fills Cole in on the true story of the Five Kingdoms. The High Shaper is actually a man of very low shaping ability, to counteract this problem he faked his five daughters’ deaths many years ago, having found a way to take their own combined shaping powers for his very own! During his reign the Five Kingdoms have gone to pot, slavery has flourished, and the head shapers who used to rule each region of the Five Kingdoms have either gone in to hiding or turned evil themselves. There has been a shift recently though, for unexplainably the High Shaper has felt his powers beginning to wane, and he is determined to get them back. This is when Mira drops a bombshell on Cole . . . she is actually Miracle, one of the High Shaper’s lost daughters! With the legions out searching for Mira and her sisters, the time comes for an escape attempt. Mira, Cole, Jace and Twitch barely escape their oppressors’ in a bold maneuver, afterwards finding safety with Declan, one of the former head shapers that have gone in to hiding. After resting up a bit and discussing matters with Declan, the party of four decide on a course of action. They are to set off and confront a monster named Carnag, which has been violently terrorizing the Five Kingdoms over the recent past. Declan believes this monster is directly tied to Mira, defeating it may help her get her powers back. Even with some helpful gifts from Declan and his confidants do these four kids (all of whom are now very wanted) have any chance of traveling the Five Kingdoms unobstructed, let alone taking down a giant monster? Well, they’ve surprised us with their ingenuity so far!! As with Brandon Mull’s other two series I found this book every bit a page turner, and oh so creative. His three series all seem to be based around the fantasy theme, but at the same time are all very different and distinct from one another. I am fully engrossed in this series now and can’t wait to pick up the next book!

Just last night I finished watching the Firefly series on DVD, which I’d always heard amazing things about but had never got around to viewing. I’m damn sorry it took me so long, now I realize why everybody was so upset when the show was canceled after only one season!! This collection includes all 14 episodes of the series, along with a small collection of bonus features. Anyhoo, Firefly is a special type of sci-fi series that takes place in the future, somewhere in around the year 2517, if I’ve done my research correctly. The lead character is a man named Malcolm Reynolds, who was a brash soldier in the war of the Independents versus the Alliance. For in this future humankind has moved on to inhabit a whole new star system that includes many planets and moons, and the two remaining super powers from Earth (America and China) form the Alliance in an attempt to bring this new galaxy under control. Seven years after Malcolm (who goes by Mal) and the Independents’ loss to the Alliance the story picks up, with Mal now in possession of a nifty Firefly class spaceship. Aboard the ship with Mal are Zoe, his best friend from their war time days, and Wash, pilot of the ship and husband to Zoe. Rounding out the crew is a none too bright but very muscled mercenary named Jayne, the ship’s super bright and cute as a button engineer Kaylee, and the professional companion (aka high falutin’ whore) Inara. While making a stop on Persephone between jobs, they decide to take on some passengers to help fill their coffers. Three newbies are added to the mix, a preacher named Book along with a couple of younger fellows who are a bit more mysterious. Lifting off from Persephone the situation soon becomes a lot more complicated as they head off to complete their next job. The jobs Mal and the crew of the Serenity (the name of the ship) perform are mostly borderline petty crimes such as transportation of goods, offering protection, small heists, etc. Anyways, not long in to their travels they learn that one of the new passengers is actually an Alliance agent, which pleases Mal none too much, and said agent is in pursuit of the other gentleman on the ship, who he says is a wanted criminal. After a flurry of action the crew manages to subdue the agent and then learns the truth of the other passenger’s background. His name is Simon Tam, a young doctor, and he is transporting his hibernating sister, River, in one of the crates he brought aboard. Simon had just sprung River from an Alliance facility where medical experiments were being performed on her brain, and she is none too right in the head because of it! With their situation complicated to the nth degree due to this developing situation, life on Serenity becomes a lot more tense. Ultimately they decide to press on, although their first instinct was to dump these two volatile people at the nearest planet, the need for a doctor on board the ship entices Mal to take them on and make them part of the crew. As time rolls along this group of nine misfits have many adventures together, facing down the odd bit of Alliance interference, dangerous savages known as Reavers, crime bosses, rich blowhards, a con-woman named Saffron, other various ne’er do wells, not to mention a bounty hunter. Throughout it all this rag tag bunch and their various relationships grow and evolve, with each new danger faced down they become more closely knit. But with so much attention being brought to them because of their antics, not to mention the price on River’s head, how long will their luck hold up? This is easily one of the greatest TV series I’ve ever seen, vying to be one of my absolute favourites. The whole premise of it is amazing. You have this technologically advanced age, what with space travel and what not, but then when the crew touches down on these various worlds it’s like they’re then taken back to the old days of the wild west, the terrains are so harsh and primal. It’s such a show full of contrasts. It’s also cool how they mixed in the different types of fashion and Chinese dialogue that each character would speak every so often, it really helped validate the backstory of America and China being the remaining super powers, fusing their cultures in to one big mixing pot. The visual effects were great, as was Serenity, which is such a cool ship. My favourite part though was the cast. No major names here, Nathan Fillion perhaps being the most well-known, but every character fit their roles so well and they are all just so damn likeable!! No shortage of eye candy either. Whoever canceled this show should literally be tarred and feathered . . . or worse. I hope they were at least fired, anyways . . .

Around the same time I got the AC/DC album I mentioned in my last blog I also picked up the Foo Fighters’ latest effort, called Sonic Highways. Of course we all know who the Foo Fighters are, the hardest working band in rock n’ roll today, an arena packing, anthem spewing five piece that are virtually everywhere! Well, Sonic Highways is their latest album (2014) and it is every bit as consistent with their sound as the rest of their discography is. However, they did something unique for this recording, it is titled Sonic Highways for a reason. The number of tracks on this album are fewer than usual, numbering only 8, although the songs in general tend to run longer than a typical Foo song does. The unique part though is that they traveled around the United States during the recording of this album, laying down each track in a different U.S. city! The cities in question were Austin (Texas), Chicago (Illinois), Joshua Tree (California), Nashville (Tennessee), New Orleans (Louisiana), New York (New York), Seattle (Washington) & Washington (D.C.). There was even a documentary filmed about it that I haven’t watched just yet, but apparently it’s pretty good. After many listens I seem to like the first half of the album the best, with my favourite tracks including “Something from Nothing”, “The Feast and the Famine”, “Congregation” & “What Did I Do?/God as my Witness”. The Foos just keep on rocking!!

Text and links and pictures . . . even a gif, oh my!!

It’s been another busy but also very fun month, the main reason for that is because the weekend that followed my last blog we headed down to Florida for a week! We departed on the Friday and then overnighted in Detroit, before flying to Tampa the next day. My parents had rented a condo from some friends, in Sun City Center, so it was a week of being away from this nasty shit for us all! We did a lot of stuff, including going to the beach, swimming a ton at the complex’s pool, going to the strawberry patch, mini golf, went to look at the manatees, and the list goes on and on. And of course we visited a couple parks while we were in the area. Our first stop was Universal Studios / Islands of Adventure, which we’ve visited a handful of times over the years, starting well before James was born. We did a lot of rides with James, but my parents also came that day so dad and I hit the big rides that the rest of these goobers didn’t want to go on. When all was said and done I managed to ride Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Men in Black: Alien Attack, Revenge of the Mummy, Shrek 4D, The Simpsons Ride, Transformers: The Ride 3D, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringott’s, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, The Incredible Hulk, Jurassic Park River Adventure, Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, and the Flight of the Hippogriff. All in all we did pretty well! The other park we checked out was of course Legoland, for James naturally. We had good friends who were in the area at the time as well, so the three boys got to enjoy the park together! I managed to get on the Dragon, Coastersaurus, Lost Kingdom Adventure, Rescue Academy, Flying School, Wave Racers, Project X, and the Quest for CHI. James got on the Dragon, Coastersaurus and a couple of others, but skipped some of the other bigger rides to do the driving and boating schools. The biggest hit of the day though was the Quest for CHI, which is a water ride where you get absolutely soaked. You get to douse people with water blasters, so it was a major hit for both the kids and adults!! Anyhoo, after driving the golf cart around the condo complex for a week and doing all this fun stuff, the depressing reality of heading home finally set back in. The bright side was that when we got home almost all of the snow was gone, so there must have been a major thaw while we were away . . .

The weekend that followed we headed down to Hamilton on the Friday night, having a night of drinking and eating with our friends Johnny and Megan. We then had to race home the next day as James’ new Beavers Colony group was doing a swimming excursion at the Aquatic Center. His friend Liam is in this group, so afterwards he came back to our house and the two of them had a play date with lots of toys, video games . . . and of course pizza. The weekend that came next, last weekend, was of course Easter. We had Good Friday off so we headed down Grimsby way, along with my parents, who were invited to mrs. darthcobain17’s family get together. An interesting sociological experiment, to say the least!! Anyways, I ate so much I literally gained 10 pounds in less than two days. I guess that’s what happens when you have pie for breakfast!! James made out well, with about four Easter egg hunts, and the Easter Bunny brought him some good stuff too. We closed out the long weekend in lazy fashion on the Sunday, and then here we are with yet another work week.

As for the work weeks, James has begun his latest round of golf lessons, he’s still got Beavers (not to mention his new Beavers Colony on the weekends), and the weather has improved so much that I’m now two weeks in to riding my bike to work once again! The snow has been trying to come back every so often, but overall the conditions keep on improving and that is good, because I am so ready for spring/summer. Although we had a busy month it didn’t stop Jimmer and I from getting a lot of games played. Here is what unfolded along the way . . .

First of all, to start things off, I’ve decided I’m now going to post a link and image of the video games I’m playing upon my first introduction of each respective game in to my blog cycle. So this time around a link and image will be posted for every game I’m currently playing, but in the future I will only add this info as I begin playing a new game for the first time. And now back to the regularly scheduled programming . . .

1) Yet another level has fallen on Goldeneye, this eleventh level of the game was called “St. Petersburg – Archives”. After getting ourselves captured at the end of the last mission, Natalya and I were taken to a military prison by Mishkin. My task then was to escape, with Natalya in hand. Starting off in an interrogation room with a couple of officers questioning me about Goldeneye, I managed to reclaim my weapon and dispatch these fellows, before heading out in to the corridors beyond. I was met with multitudes of resistance but fought all of these soldiers off, eventually finding the room where Natalya was being held. After freeing her we then navigated the maze like library, where we soon ran in to Mishkin in a small room. He apologized and confessed that he’d learned Ourumov was the traitor, not us. Mishkin then gifted us the key to a nearby safe, which contained the flight recorder I’d tried to obtain in the last mission! Moving along afterwards we reached an area with some windows I could shoot out, and after doing so we escaped in to the streets with our booty. I completed this level with a time of 7:29 and had a 69.5% accuracy rating.

2) Another series of games are in the books on MLB 2K11, this time I was in Cincinnati to take on our cross state rivals, the Reds! The results unfolded as so: won @ Cincinnati 10-0, won @ Cincinnati 5-4 & won @ Cincinnati 17-2.

3) As for NHL ’04, four more games have been completed on that front, my season is in it’s dying days now . . . #playoffs!! Anyways, the results of those games are as follows: won vs. Boston 15-6, won vs. New York Islanders 8-6, won vs. Buffalo 9-4 & won vs. Florida 13-3.

4) Play began on the last chapter of Jak X: Combat Racing this time around, as I moved on to the “Yellow Eco Cup”, the final cup of the game! To begin I participated in three separate events at three different locales, which were “Icelands”, “Spargus” & “Kras City” respectively. The events I completed were called “Mountaintop Highway – Circuit Race” (won the race, gold medal), “Precursor Temple – Death Race” (won the event, gold medal) & “Seaport Strip – Rush Hour” (won the event, gold medal). A qualifier event sprung up next, at “Grand Prix”, and it was called “Canyon Run – Death Race” (won the event, gold medal). I then headed to “Haven City”, where I was able to stay for four consecutive events! Said events were “Waterworks Circuit – Circuit Race” (the only race I haven’t been able to beat so far in the game, fourth is the best I could do . . . tough as hell), “Sewer Raceway – Freeze Rally” (won the event, gold medal), “Clifftop Battlefield – Capture” (won the event, gold medal) & “Atoll Arena – Deathmatch” (won the event, gold medal). A trio of events was then on tap at “Kras City”, which included “Mar Coliseum – Artifact Race” (won the event, gold medal), “Kras City – Rush Hour” (won the event, gold medal) & “Deathdrome – Turbo Dash” (won the event, gold medal). Heading back to “Icelands” I then competed in the “Southern Tour – Circuit Race” event (won the race, gold medal). My final task was another qualifier, taking place at “Grand Prix”, and it was called “Ice Pit – Artifact Race” (won the event, gold medal). Getting super close now!!

5) Continuing on with Transformers: Beast Wars, I picked up where I left off with the Predacons, finishing off the next three levels in their campaign. The levels in questions were: “Polluted 1 – Stasis Pod” (the Maximals had sent out a team to recover a stasis pod that had recently landed in the polluted region, my task was to get to it first and recover who or whatever was in said pod), “Polluted 2 – The Wasteland” (Blackarachnia ended up being in the stasis pod but besides that, data we had picked up while in the region pointed to a strange alien species infesting the area, I was to stop the Maximals before they gained control of these beings and used them for good) & “Polluted 3 – Kill Dinobot” (the alien life forms proved to be of no use to us anyways, but fortunately the had worn down Dinobot’s troops as the Maximals tried to deal with them, so it was high time for me to swoop in and destroy the powerful Maximal . . . which I did!). The last set of levels are coming up next time around, although I expect they’ll be long and hard with a lot of jumping . . . argghhh!!

6) Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed is finally in the books, we’ve completed as much as we really can at this point! I played by myself this time around as James had kind of lost interest, picking up where we left off, the Mirror Mode option on “Grand Prix” mode. The “Emerald Cup” circuit was on the docket first, which saw me knock down the “Dream Valley” (first), “Chilly Castle” (first), “Graffiti City” (first) & “Sanctuary Falls” (first) races. Overall I won the circuit with a perfect 40 total points. “Arcade Cup” was next in line, which featured the “Graveyard Gig” (first), “Adder’s Lair” (first), “Burning Depths” (first) & “Race of Ages” (first) races. I won the circuit again with a total of 40 points. The final circuit was “Classic Cup”, containing the “Sunshine Tour” (first), “Shibuya Downtown” (first), “Roulette Road” (first) & “Egg Hangar” (first) races. My 40 points were again good for the circuit victory. For completing Mirror Mode I unlocked the Dr. Eggman character, huzzah!! Also, for these last few circuits I had to drop the difficulty down to C class, as they were getting quite tricky. There were a few other game modes available, including some online stuff, but nothing too substantial. Overall this is a pretty good game, maybe just a bit too hard to make it through Career mode and gain all of the unlocks. I’ll rate it an 8 here on Gamespot, but it’s more like an 8.5 or so.

7) We made the most progress on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U this time around as we’ve done at any point so far, we’re only starting to understand all of the different modes and other trinkets this game has to offer! At first I began play on my own, I checked out the “Events” mode once again, and it turns out the levels offered there differ than that of the multiplayer option, which is cool. I was able to complete the “The Original Heavyweights”, “Four Swords Adventures”, “The Destroyer Cometh”, “The Demon King and the Goddess”, “Princess Punch-Up!”, “Identity Crisis”, “Galactic Avenger”, “All-Star Battle: Regulars” & “Up to Speed” battles. I then tried the “Trophy Rush” mode, where you can spend some of your hard earned gold to try and earn trophies and gold, by knocking crates and other items off a pedestal. I met with some decent success, but you definitely have to spend gold to make gold, if you catch my drift! Next came “All-Star” mode, where you are tasked with taking on every fighter in the game in waves, in reverse chronological order. I made it to the third round before perishing, setting a current high score of 252,600 points. The “Special Orders” mode was where I headed next, it sees you take orders and participate in battles arranged by the weird gloved hands that apparently rule the action in this game! I competed in both the Master Orders and Crazy Orders sub-modes, and only did OK. I then revisited the “Smash Tour” mode of the game, which is played like a board game with actual battles sprinkled in here and there. I initially participated in a Small game by myself, then James joined me for both a Normal and then a Big game. Afterwards we went back to the “Events” mode, only on the multiplayer option this time. We were able to build on our progress a little bit, completing the “A Royal Errand”, “Food Fight” & “Scheming Sorcerer” battles. The last thing we did was go to the Shop and buy some trophies, we now have well over 50 of them, and growing! This game is much more fun than I originally thought it was . . .

8) I finally managed to get back at Nintendo Land and picked away at a few of the mini-games it has to offer. First up was a new one that we hadn’t tried yet, called “Luigi’s Ghost Mansion: Haunting Hijinks” (completed the Main Floor, The Basement, and Research Lab levels, earning 1/5 stamps). I then got back to some of my favourites that we’d previously played, which included “Balloon Trip Breeze” (increased my high score to 830 points), “Pikmin Adventure: Tame the Wilderness” (chose the Challenge option, play as Olimar, and then completed the Boss of the Beebs & Five Seconds to Takeoff levels), “Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest” (chose the Quest option, playing as the Archer, and then completed the Road to the Goron Mines & The Forest Temple Hunt levels, then I also tried the Time Attack option and completed the Beginner, Intermediate & Advanced levels) & “Metroid Blast” (chose the Assault Mission option, taking part in an Air Fight, and then completed the Approaching Cyclons, Token Sweep & Zebesian Incursion levels, earning another stamp).

9) More good progress was made on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1, knocking down the next few levels. The seventh level of the game saw us having arrived in a forested type of area via apparation from the end of our last mission. Ron was injured but before we could really tend to him we believed we heard Dean Thomas’ voice off in the distance. Setting off to find him we spied him from afar, traveling with Griphook the goblin no less! Before we could catch up though, we came upon a narrow crevice like area that was filled with doxies and spiders, not to mention a few Snatchers!! After fighting through this mess we came upon a clearing featuring a strip of abandoned dwellings, where we ran in to a more heavy Snatcher/Death Eater presence. After dispatching them we traversed a babbling brook, with some whomping willows trying to impede our progress, then passed through the grounds of a dilapidated industrial site. More enemies fell upon us but we fought past them and in doing so gained a new spell that allowed us to remove a barrier that was in our way. We got close enough to Dean to hear him and Griphook talking about Gryffindor’s sword, which we then figured out could probably be used to destroy the horcruxes! Before we could come up with a plan though, our threesome had a blowout as Ron was feeling the effects of the horcrux hanging around his neck. He left us on our own, so Hermione and I then backtracked and found a spot to set up camp for the night. The eighth level ended up being another trio of “Encounters”. The challenges I had to complete this time around included “The Ministry Detention Area” (I was tasked with covertly invading the Ministry of Magic in order to free seven Muggle born witches/wizards from their cells, where they were awaiting trial), “The Acromantula” (three Muggle borns got trapped in the forest by Acromantulas, I had to head in and fight off both Death Eaters and spiders to rescue them) & “The Quarry” (Snatchers and Death Eaters were looking everywhere for Harry Potter, I had to then withstand a lengthy barrage of an ambush around a rocky outcropping). In level nine we headed to Godric’s Hollow, as we thought maybe just maybe Gryffindor’s sword may be hidden in his home town. We thought it might be risky though, as Voldemort may have his eyes and ears on the area in case Harry decided to return to what is also his home town. Our first course of action was to find Harry’s parents’ grave, afterwards we saw the strange symbols we noticed Luna Lovegood’s dad was wearing at the wedding on a nearby tombstone. Before we could discuss it though, we spotted an old lady spying on us from the entrance to the cemetery. We followed her and when confronted, found out it was Bathilda Bagshot, an old friend of Dumbledore’s! I accepted the invitation in to her house and followed her upstairs, hoping she might know about the sword, but it turned out it was all a trap. Bathilda was actually possessed by Voldemort’s snake, Nagini! After a lengthy battle in which I could just hold it at bay, Hermione swooped in and saved the day, we were just able to apparate back to our campsite in time, before Voldemort could arrive . . .

10) Play has pretty much wrapped up on BeyBlade: Evolution, it ended up being a pretty decent game! During the action this time around I played a number of the mini-games, including Aim and Shoot once, Balloon Break twice, and Maze three times. The locations I had BeyBlade battles in encompassed Vacant Lot, Park, Plaza, and the newer Main Street, Forest Park, and Suburbs areas. As for the characters I ran in to for said battles, they included Kenta, Chris, Kyoya, Tsubasa, Masamune, King, and Gingka. Overall my record was a ho hum 4-5! I also competed in a couple tournaments. The first was at Bey Coliseum, where I beat Dynamis in the first round and then Gingka in the second, to win the whole thing! The second tournament took place at the new Bey Coliseum 2 area, where I crapped out in the first round to Toby . . . ugghhhh. After that last tournament the game ended, it’s kind of like you have a certain number of turns in order to strengthen your BeyBlade as much as you can, and then this tournament is the final event! Along the way I also visited the WBBA HQ for the first time, where I bought more parts to help strengthen my BeyBlade. Like I said, overall it’s a decent game, I’d probably get a lot more out of it the second time through though, as the first time around is kind of just for learning and getting used to the whole layout/theme of the game. Good stuff!

11) A good chunk has been bitten off of Big Hero 6: Battle in the Bay, as I managed to complete the next seven levels! Said levels unfolded as such: Boss 1 (In control of Wasabi I met up with a henchman on top of a moving train, who talked about stealing Hiro’s plans, then sicked a bot called Super Tiger on me. After taking it down the henchman said I was too late as he’d already sent Hiro’s designs to Yama. I completed this level in 4:45), Level 7 (Scans by Baymax located Yama in the financial district, so with Go Go I made my way towards the area, taking on many bots in the process. I completed the level in 14:00, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 36 enemies), Level 8 (I took over as Fred and battled along, running in to even more powerful bots that were much larger, having to adjust my strategies. I completed the level in 12:26, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 40 enemies), Level 9 (With Hiro I continued the march to the financial district, taking on many bots, near the end of the level I ran in to one of the baddies whose head could turn in to a separate drone, and Hiro wondered if he could integrate that kind of system in to our own tech. I completed the level in 17:34, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 35 enemies), Level 10 (Back in control of Wasabi once more I continued to battle through the streets, facing increasingly heavy bots, but got an upgrade from Hiro to help me along. I completed the level in 8:16, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 48 enemies), Level 11 (Fred was hungry, so he decided to go grab some burritos, along the way pummeling more bots and testing out a new upgrade from Hiro. I completed the level in 19:30, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 38 enemies) & Level 12 (Go Go followed the bots’ trails to some buildings up ahead, giving chase and utilizing the new upgrade that Hiro gave her, ultimately finding out that the bots’ source is the San Fransokyo Channel 9 News building! I completed the level in 14:27, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 37 enemies).

12) Major strides were made on Lego Ninjago: Nindroids, as I was able to complete the next thirteen levels! Said progress unfolded as such: “Core Breach” (completed 8/10 challenges, unlocking the Kai ZX & Spartan Warrior characters), “Cake Walk” (completed 8/10 challenges, unlocking the Cole ZX & Snappa characters), “Power Play” (completed 8/10 challenges, unlocking the Zane ZX character), “Enter the MechDragon” (completed 6/10 challenges, unlocking the Sensei Garmadon & Caveman characters), “Meet Min-droid” (completed 8/10 challenges, unlocking the Nindroid Warrior character and earning extra studs), “Min-droid’s Return” (completed 6/10 challenges, unlocking the Jaz ZX character), “Powered Up” (completed 9/10 challenges, unlocking the Zane [Teacher] & Zombie characters, along with the Block Breaker red brick), “Ninja Crush” (completed 8/10 challenges, unlocking the Jay [Teacher] character), “Face Off” (completed 7/10 challenges, unlocking the Robot character), “The Golden Cycle” (completed 8/10 challenges, unlocking the Kruncha character, some additional studs, along with the Studs X8 red brick), “Post-Apocalypse” (completed 7/10 challenges, unlocking the Savage Male A [Blue] character), “Return to Sender!” (completed 10/10 challenges, unlocking the Savage Female & The Postman characters, along with the Fast Build red brick) & “Regenerated” (completed 8/10 challenges, unlocking the Savage Male B character, along with the Today’s Special red brick). During all of this action I made quite a few purchases with my amassed studs. For characters I managed to obtain Sensei Garmadon, Jay ZX, Kai ZX, Zane ZX, Zane (Teacher), Snappa, Nindroid Warrior, Caveman, Spartan Warrior, Zombie, Cole ZX, Savage Male A, Jay (Teacher), Kruncha, Robot & Savage Female. As for red bricks, I purchased the Block Breaker & Studs X8 extras. Now that’s exhausting!!

13) Decent work was put in by Jimmer and I on Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, it’s hilarious how much he loves this game. Anyhoo, we pick up in the midst of “Episode 2”, where we were able to complete the final eight levels. The action unfolded as so: “Windy Stairs” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the Golden Mushroom), “Up ‘n’ Down Terrace” (found 3/3 Gems, cleared the level in 3 switches), “Clear Pipe Puzzleplex” (found 3/3 Gems, collected 70 coins), “Midnight in the Wandering Woods” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the Golden Mushroom), “Double Cherry Spires” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the Golden Mushroom), “Bullet Bill’s Touchy Trials” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the Golden Mushroom), “Spinwheel Sky Fort” (found 3/3 Gems, didn’t take any damage) & “Battle Tower Blitz” (found 3/3 Gems, collected 170 coins). It was then time to move on to “Episode 3”, which sees Captain Toad back as our protagonist! So far we’ve completed the first four levels there, as follows: “Rolling Inferno” (found 3/3 Gems, collected 75 coins), “Seesaw Sizzle” (found 3/3 Gems, didn’t defeat any Spikes), “Beep Block Sky Plaza” (found 3/3 Gems, didn’t take any damage) & “Pickax Cave Plummet” (found 3/3 Gems, didn’t break any Rock Blocks). This one’s getting in to the latter stages, not too far to go now!

14) We’ve also been working away at Lego: Pirates of the Caribbean and have made some decent progress there too. Play resumed under the “The Curse of the Black Pearl” chapter, where we finished off the fifth and final level, called “Isla De Muerta” (earned True Pirate status, found 2/10 Minikit pieces, 2/8 Compass items, unlocked the Elizabeth [Redcoat] character, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [for the level completion and the status achievement]). We then moved ahead to the second chapter of the game, called “Dead Man’s Chest”. There we’ve been able to get the first four levels under wraps, which went as such: “Pelegosto” (earned True Pirate status, found 1/10 Minikit pieces, 2/8 Compass items, unlocked the Jack Sparrow [Chief] character, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status]), “A Touch of Destiny” (found 3/10 Minikit pieces, 8/8 Compass items, unlocked the Pintel & Ragetti characters, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and Compass items]), “The Dutchman’s Secret” (earned True Pirate status, found 1/10 Minikit pieces, 4/8 Compass items, unlocked the Bootstrap Bill Turner character, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status]) & “Isla Cruces” (earned True Pirate status, found 1/10 Minikit pieces, 6/8 Compass items, unlocked the Norrington [Disgraced] & Elizabeth [Pirate] characters, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status]). You’ll see that I’m now mentioning “Compass items” with each level. These are items that Jack must search for within each level, and I didn’t realize at first that they were of any significance . . . but now I do! For the initial four levels of the game that I blogged about last time, the respective results were: 2/8, 5/8, 3/8 and 7/8.

15) Next up comes Super Mario 3D World, where we made some respectable strides as well! Resuming where we last left off near the start of the action in “World 2”, we finished off the remaining seven levels. Said levels unfolded thusly: “2-2: Puffprod Peaks” (earned 53460 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “2-3: Shadow-Play Alley” (earned 49300 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “2-4: Really Rolling Hills” (earned 73970 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “2-Mystery Box: Mystery House Melee” (earned 32900 points, and collected 5/5 stars), “2-A: Big Galoomba Blockade” (earned 22800 points, and collected 1/1 stars), “2-5: Double Cherry Pass” (earned 56820 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars) & “2-Tank: Bowser’s Bullet Bill Brigade” (earned 71760 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars). It was then time to begin our explorations of “World 3”. So far we’ve put down the initial eight levels, which went as follows: “3-1: Snowball Park” (earned 50930 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “3-2: Chain-Link Change” (earned 31750 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “3-3: Shifty Boo Mansion” (earned 56000 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “3-4: Pretty Plaza Panic” (earned 42810 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “3-A: Magikoopa Blockade” (earned 17400 points, and collected 1/1 stars), “3-Toad: Captain Toad Makes a Splash” (earned 23700 points, and collected 5/5 stars), “3-5: Pipeline Lagoon” (earned 79930 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars) & “3-6: Mount Must Dash” (earned 73000 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars). We also visited “3-Tent” which wasn’t really a level per se, but we were gifted a stamp, which was cool. So funnnnnnnnn!!!!!!

16) As for new entries, I recently ordered Robotech: The Macross Saga for GameBoy Advance off of eBay, and immediately got at it upon delivery . . . so much so that I finished it in one go ‘round! The story behind Robotech is that in the year 1999 a derelict alien space ship crash lands on the small Pacific island of Macross. Over the ensuing years mankind studies the craft and develops a new technology out of it, dubbed Robotech. At the forefront of this technology are the Veritech fighters, jet fighters that can transform in to robots, giving their pilots a lot more versatility. Good thing they made these advances, because eventually a warmongering race called the Zentradi come looking for their lost space ship and will stop at nothing to get it back . . . including wiping humans from all existence! There is actually a lot more to Robotech than this, but don’t worry, in a couple months or so you’re going to know all you ever wanted to about good old Robotech, so stay tuned! But this is where the game picks up, to start out you have a choice of characters. I chose Rick Hunter, the main character of the first Robotech war, and immediately hit the skies. Here is how my journey unfolded: “Level 1 – Boobytrap” (A strange alien race called the Zentradi attack the United Earth Nations on the very day the new Veritech fighters are to be debuted. So I took to my fighter and fought through this initial force, earning 32250 experience points in the process.), “Level 2 – Blitzkrieg” (The original alien spaceship, refurbished and now dubbed the SDF-1, is stranded out by Mars after a disastrous space fold maneuver. With the Zentradi blocking their path home I tore through this collection of enemies, earning 31350 experience points for my efforts.), “Level 3 – Bye Bye Mars” (Stopping at a Mars base to investigate a distress call the SDF-1 is ambushed by the Zentradi. Using a Destroid I took to the ground and fought to protect the great ship against their gravity mines, which earned me 16350 experience points), “Level 4 – Blind Game” (A recon probe dispatched to the Zentradi fleet was captured, and unfortunately within it was Commander Lisa Hayes! My task was to head in to the midst of the maelstrom and get her back, which netted me 15600 experience points), “Level 5 – Bursting Point” (With the SDF-1 trying to find residence for the thousands of citizens stranded aboard her, she is then attacked by the evil Lord Khyron. I engaged him in a boss fight, he in his battle pod, and for the victory I gained 28400 experience points.), “Level 6 – Battle Hymn” (During a Zentradi attack Lord Khyron infiltrates the SDF-1, to protect the people of the ship I took to a Destroid and deflected Khyron’s attacks, earning 24750 experience points.), “Level 7 – Force of Arms” (The Robotech Defense Force and a sect of the Zentradi are forced to team up and fight off the all-out onslaught perpetrated by Supreme Commander Dolza. I joined the fray and for so doing gained 27750 experience points.), “Level 8 – Viva Miriya” (The Zentradi Exodore suggests we try to capture the last remaining Robotech factory, to help deal with our equipment loss issues. I led the charge and so we blasted our way in to the facility and took control of it, earning me 15750 experience points.), “Level 9 – To the Stars” (Lord Khyron launches a last ditch assault on New Macross City, as not all of the Zentradi are happy with the more peaceful arrangements that were made when the RDF and Zentradi teamed up. I had to help fight this invasion off, and earned 42300 experience points in the process.) & “Level 10 – Final Battle” (With the previous battle coming to a close Khyron launches his ship at the SDF-1 in desperation, in a final bid to destroy it. I had to destroy him and his ship before the pending collision came to fruition, and for so doing I was awarded a final 10350 experience points.). For completing the game I unlocked the Trainer Rick Hunter character. This game was so much fun, such a good representation of an amazing series! I may just have to play it again with a different character . . .

17) Finally, having completed BeyBlade: Evolution I picked another game to play on the 3DS, that being Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal our Garbage?!!, for the DS. I’m not familiar with this series at all but I’ve always wanted to check it out, so when I found this game for super cheap it was a no brainer. Anyways, the story behind the game is that Jake insults the Cosmic Owl by telling him some lies about what Finn said about him. The owl blasts them, but then the duo wakes up and they realize it was all just a nightmare! Finn is upset by the dream though, to appease him Jake suggests they go to his secret basement and break some tea cups. And this is where the game begins, with the first level being a bit of a tutorial. On our way to the basement BMO joins us, once we reach our destination and begin busting tea cups he offers up some instruction. His subjects touched on the controls and overall objectives of the game. NEPTR helped us out as well, after talking to him we headed outside and promptly noticed our garbage cans were missing. Immediately afterwards the Ice King showed up and informed us that he’d hidden our garbage, it was up to us to then go out and find it! Now, I mentioned the previous action as the first “level” of the game, but there aren’t really levels per se, it’s a pretty open ended game. So basically here is the rest of the stuff I was able to accomplish on this game up to this point. We began by heading out in to the land, first coming upon the Hot Dog Princess. She mentioned that one of her knights had gone off to investigate a dungeon but was not back yet. Moving along we began running in to more and more enemies we had to dispatch, which consisted mostly of snakes and rock creatures. Eventually we ran in to the Lumpy Space Princess, who said she’d been camping with the Hot Dog Princess when some bunnies attacked and ate their snacks! Heading off after that entertaining story we met the Raggedy Princess, who gifted us a raggedy sock . . . ? Our next destination happened to be the Housie Village, and it’s citizens had all sorts of issues going on! The biggest of these seemed to be the tyranny of a Grass Ogre. On the other side of the village we encountered Bubblegum, who was in the village doing cartography. Soon after leaving her behind we found BMO’s map cartridge and immediately took it back to Bubblegum, who then installed it for us, giving us our map ability, huzzah! While doing this for us she talked of the Ice King and some rumoured strange goings on in a cave west of our position. After leaving Bubblegum for the second time, our next encounter just so happened to be with Donny the Grass Ogre! We beat him down and made him give us back the parcel he’d stolen from the Housies. I took the parcel back to the village and when they opened it there was something inside of it for us, which ended up being the Torn Note (1 of 3) item. During all of this journeying I accumulated many other items, sometimes multiples, which included Syrup, Trail Mix, Sea Salt, Pancakes, Ketchup, Egg, Apple, Hot Dog, Bee, Baby Shoes, Vorpal Hand, Ninja Cape, Stars of Frozen Rain, Crystal Eye, Beauteous Wings, Gossamer Cloak, and Torn Note (3 of 3). This game is crazy weird shit, but lots of fun!!

“NNGRR” - On the plane ride home from Florida I managed to finish the book I was reading at the time, the second book in the Tunnels series, called Deeper. Deeper, oooh yeah!! This story picks up right where the last book left off, but it first begins with an interlude featuring Will and Cal’s mysterious mother, Sarah Jerome, as she is living her life on the lam from the Styx. At a familiar drop point she receives a message that Will (whose birth name is actually Seth) is responsible for her brother Tam’s death, as well as the abduction of his very own brother. Meanwhile, far below ground Will, Cal and Chester’s long train ride has come to an end, after which they manage to escape in to the deeps. At first their journey in to this unfamiliar territory, in search of Will’s missing topsoil father Dr. Burrows, is looked upon as a grand adventure by the trio. However, after much time goes by and many dangers are narrowly avoided, the lustre of said adventure wears off. It ends in tragedy when Cal is seemingly poisoned to death by some strange form of underground plant life. Back on the surface Sarah has encountered Cal’s hunter cat, Bartleby, but not long afterwards is caught by the Styx and brought back underground, after so many years of running from that very place. Will’s turncoat “sister”, Rachel, offers Sarah a chance to hunt him down and make him pay for the crime of killing Tam, which Sarah accepts, although she secretly has doubts about Will’s supposed involvement. Not long afterwards she is in the deeps and on her boys’ trail though. As for said boys, after leaving Cal for dead they run in to a pair named Drake and Elliott, renegades who reluctantly take the boys in and begin to teach them how to survive in this dangerous environment. Much to Will and Chester’s elation they are informed that Cal is most likely not dead, but soon could be, so Drake helps them find Cal’s body and then revives him, although he is in a bad state afterwards! A number of weeks later, after Cal has regained some of his strength and both Will and Chester have had a chance to hone their survival skills, the group is forced to move from their base of operations. For the Styx have been increasing their presence in the deeps, hunting down and killing renegades as well as the coprolites, a strange and peaceful people who make the deeps their home. After a grand chase in which Drake is seemingly killed and Sarah is gravely injured after being reunited with her two boys, the Rachels (yes, there are now two of them!) confront Will and his remaining companions at the site of a massive hole in the ground . . . where their only viable option may be to take a plunge! This was a gritty story, lots of death and betrayal, just a whole lot of nastiness overall. And just when you thought the story couldn’t go any deeper, literally, they indeed managed to go there. I’m very excited to see what the next phase of this journey is going to bring!

The weekend we got home from Florida I closed out our time off, before going back to work, with a movie. I was finally able to watch Captain America: The First Avenger! This film begins with a brief scene, in today’s time, of a team exploring the wreckage of a space craft buried deep in the snow somewhere in the Arctic. Once inside the craft they make an iconic discovery . . . the shield of Captain America! The scene then shifts to a small village in Norway, in the year 1942. The Nazis, led by a sadistic prick named Johann Schmidt, break in to a building where Schmidt recovers a mysterious object called the Tesseract (which he mentions is related to the great Odin). On the other side of the world, in New York City, the subject we follow is Steve Rogers. He is an undersized, asthmatic young man determined to get in to the army and fight for the cause, although he suffers continued rejection despite his heart of gold. Opportunity knocks when a scientist overhears a conversation between Steve and his best friend “Bucky”, who is in the army and about to ship out. This scientist, Dr. Erskine, feels Steve has the perfect attitude for a special project the army is currently working on. Steve is then recruited and put through training with a handful of others, in the army’s experimental super soldier program! At the end of the training Steve hadn’t overwhelmed physically, but it’s more his attitude and mental toughness that makes an impression . . . enough so that he is the one chosen from amongst all the candidates! During his training Steve meets Agent Peggy Carter, who eventually becomes a love interest. Also, Dr. Erskine informs Steve that Schmidt went through a similar treatment as he would be, but it didn’t go as planned and turned Schmidt in to . . . the Red Skull! Soon enough Steve is subjected to the super soldier treatment, while on the other side of the world Red Skull and his partner in crime, the mad scientist Arnim Zola, are harnessing the powers of the Tesseract in a bid to become powerful enough to rule the world! But when Steve Rogers comes out of the super solider treatment a much bigger, stronger, almost impervious being . . . the Red Skull indeed may have a fight on his hands. At first the government doesn’t let the new and improved Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, see any action though. Instead he tours the world, putting on fancy displays intended to encourage the troops and inspire people to buy war bonds! While on one of these stops Cap learns that Bucky and his unit went missing in action, during an operation opposing Schmidt. Recruiting Agent Carter and Howard Stark to help him out, Cap is flown behind enemy lines and launches a rescue attempt, refusing to believe his best friend has been killed. The mission is a success as Cap rescues Bucky and his fellow soldiers, and in the process Schmidt makes the reveal to Cap of his true form, although he escapes soon after. Cap then recruits Bucky and some other elite troopers to form a resistance movement against Red Skull, attacking his forces in earnest. They are even able to capture Arnim Zola during a raid on a train, but in the process Bucky falls down a mountain, presumably to his death. Eventually Cap roots out the location of Hydra, the main base of operations for Red Skull and his forces, and an assault is executed. The final battle is waged in a massive spacecraft high up in the air, where Cap is eventually able to defeat Red Skull, although the Tesseract plummets to Earth in the process. With a plane full of bombs headed for various locations in the U.S. Cap has no choice but to crash the ship in the Arctic, where the explosion won’t harm anybody . . . anybody but himself that is! The Tesseract is ultimately recovered and the movie then closes with a scene of Cap in a hospital bed, seemingly still back in the 1940’s. He becomes suspicious though and escapes, only to empty in to the streets of modern day New York City! Flabbergasted, he is then approached by Nick Fury, who tells Steve he’s been asleep for quite some time. This was a very cool movie, I love the combination of the old feel of World War II mixed in with the more modern tech brought to the table by Red Skull and his Hydra organization. It was cool to see this story as I’m not all that familiar with Captain America, so this was a nice introduction to get the gist on him and his associated allies, enemies, etc. And that Red Skull, damn he was sick looking, so cool!

In the midst of the week that followed I finished reading a hardcover book I had on the go, which I’d picked up in the bargain section a little while ago. Said book was none other than Nirvana: The Complete Illustrated History! As you may know, Nirvana is my favourite band and over the years I’ve read and collected a lot of information on them, so this tale was not new to me. This tome doesn’t really go over the early lives of Kurt, Krist and Dave, but picks up more so when they were a bit older, during the initial formation of the band that would change the world. It begins with tales of the early versions of Nirvana, before they were Nirvana, featuring a revolving door of drummers. From there it sifts through their brief but checkered recording years, of course featuring stories of the Nevermind album, which took the world by storm after they decided on a final lineup and recorded the aforementioned album that would literally change the face of popular music. It then gets a bit darker, what with Kurt’s problems in dealing with fame, drug addiction, his volatile wife . . . and worst of all, his untimely death. Sprinkled in amongst the text are many photos, a lot of which were new to me, so they were very cool to see. Reviews of their original studio albums were also included, but my favourite part was a listing of Kurt’s top 50 albums, featuring the bands that he himself took inspiration from. This is a cherished treasure I will add to my Nirvana collection, well worth the read!

I closed the following weekend by watching the second Captain America movie, called The Winter Soldier . . . and it was even better than the first! This film takes place well after the events of first film, also after the events of the Avengers movie and the battle of New York. Cap is still trying to adjust to this new time he finds himself in, visiting an aged and ailing Peggy Carter, also making a new army friend on his daily runs, a chap named Sam. Soon enough Nick Fury calls him and Black Widow in to rescue a shield vessel that is being held hostage by French pirates. During the mission, which is a success, Cap catches Black Widow downloading some S.H.I.E.L.D. data and questions her on the nature of this side mission, previously unaware of it. Once back at headquarters Cap confronts Fury on this bit of secrecy, reluctantly Fury then reveals a secret project S.H.I.E.L.D. has in the works called “Insight”. Said project features three smaller versions of the helicarrier, which with their advanced robotics can sniff out threats before they present themselves, neutralizing them before any harm or damage occurs. However, afterwards, when Fury goes to access the data Black Widow recovered, he cannot . . . he is overridden. Instantly becoming suspicious he asks a higher up, Alexander Pierce, to delay the project and buy him more time. As Fury then heads across town to meet up with Agent Hill he is ambushed by police and S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives, nearly killed before he escapes. Ending up at Cap’s apartment he informs Steve Rogers that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised and that he is to trust nobody. A mysterious assassin then shoots Fury, who hands over the drive containing the recovered data to Cap. Later on, in the company of Black Widow and Maria Hill at a nearby hospital, Nick Fury is pronounced dead. Summoned to meet with Alexander Pierce after Fury’s death, Cap is labeled a traitor to S.H.I.E.L.D. when he won’t hand over the data Fury had trusted him with. He is then pursued by all manner of S.H.I.E.L.D. thug, but Cap eludes them all and eventually hooks up with Black Widow. They pair up and plan to expose whatever it is going on behind closed doors at S.H.I.E.L.D. The pair ultimately sniff out a bunker at an army barracks in New Jersey, where to Cap’s surprise they find a computer system that contains the mind and consciousness of . . . Arnim Zola!?! Escaping the subsequent missile strike S.H.I.E.L.D. launches at said bunker, Cap and Widow then confront a chap named Jasper, who they believe has his hands dirty in this corrupt S.H.I.E.L.D. affair. During the battle that ensues, thanks to the arrival of the mysterious assassin, things end badly for Cap when he realizes this man is an old friend of his . . . his former best friend Bucky Barnes! The battle with Bucky and his S.H.I.E.L.D. goons doesn’t end well, as it sees Cap, Widow and Sam Wilson (soon to be labelled Falcon, what with his specialized army jetpack) captured. Agent Maria Hill saves them though, whisking them away to a safe house where they meet up with Nick Fury, who actually isn’t dead but not in the greatest of conditions either! The truth of the situation then hits them all. For all these years, since S.H.I.E.L.D.’s founding, there have been Hydra moles working within it’s ranks. And now, with an algorithm Arnim Zola has come up with, Hydra has a formula to rid the world of any person said algorithm might determine is or might be a threat to their organization! The method of executing these plans is the three new S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarriers, which are just about to be launched. These helicarriers can target, via satellite, thousands of people at a time and kill them almost instantly, meaning tens of millions of lives are currently in jeopardy thanks to Hydra and their head honcho . . . Alexander Pierce! Fury and his charges come up with a last second plan to defeat Hydra and stop this massacre from happening. If they can plant specialized microchips in each helicarrier, Fury can have the helicarriers then target each other instead, destroying these monsters in one fell swoop! But with their small numbers, not to mention the fact that Cap will have to face down Bucky along the way, the odds seem stacked against our heroes. Will they get the job done or just become a handful more casualties along the way? Like I said, I enjoyed this film much more than the original. I liked the more modern age it took place in, not to mention the inclusion of Black Widow, who is smokin’ hot! The plot was really cool, what with Bucky and Cap running in to each other on opposite sides after all the years in between, and the action was pretty intense. Bravo!

Early during the work week that followed I finished yet another book, this one the third entry in the Seven Wonders series, called The Tomb of Shadows! This story picks up not long after the close of the second book, with Jack, Aly and Cass having decided to return to Egypt and search for Jack’s mom at the Massa facility they had so recently escaped from. With her having helped the kids escaped via the mysterious cell phone she left Jack, he is intent on establishing contact with his mother, thinking that maybe she’s done with the Massa once and for all and would be willing to help the K.I. instead. However, once at the facility they find it abandoned and barely escape with their lives as a self-destruct mechanism levels the place once and for all! Heading back to the K.I. headquarters a little bit discouraged to say the least, the kids (and don’t forget Torquin!) are even more dismayed when they find the K.I. under attack from Massa forces (the location of which was gleaned via triangulation from Jack’s mother’s phone)! After a crash landing the small group begins scoping out the scene, eventually infiltrating a couple of areas and retrieving both Professor Bhegad (who has been very badly injured in the Massa attack) as well as the two Loculi currently in the K.I.’s possession. Narrowly escaping the island Jack then decides they have to call his father, as they have no other options. When Professor Bhegad agrees the call is made and Torquin speeds them towards Mongolia. When the group touches down Jack and Mr. McKinley are finally reunited and the truth is revealed. Mr. McKinley has been away all these years on business trips to Asia because he and Mrs. McKinley knew about Jack’s special genetics and his fate to die by age 14. Mr. McKinley had set up research labs overseas to try and solve Jack’s condition, along with Jack’s mother. However, when Mrs. McKinley thought their research was going too slow she decided to head over to the Massa, as she felt they took a much more direct approach to the matter. This is why she disappeared on Jack all those years ago, and Mr. McKinley had always blamed Professor Bhegad, who had been involved with Mrs. McKinley’s defection. Bhegad sets the record straight however, and everybody then prepares for the task at hand . . . tracking down the third Loculus, the Loculus of healing. Through some quick thinking by Jack, they soon surmise that it’s location is the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, situated in Turkey. Once at the site though, they find just ruins with the Loculus nowhere in sight. But with the aid of the guardian of this historic site, Canavar, Jack and his allies soon raise the Mausoleum from the ground, it rises up before them in all it’s former splendor! What greets them afterwards is a decayed being named Skilaki, who promises to take the three Select to her queen, Artemisia. She will allow them to remove a treasure . . . but it will require a sacrifice. Jack, Aly, Cass, and Professor Bhegad come up with a plan and then enter the mausoleum willingly. Once on the other side things don’t go so well though. The Loculus does not seem to be anywhere in the area and what’s worse, Professor Bhegad is killed. Barely escaping with their lives and mourning the loss of their leader, the party decides to troop on in his honour. Thanks to some fancy computing by Aly they discover the likely location of the Loculus . . . the Museum of Natural History in New York City!! But with the Massa having eyes and ears everywhere, will their journey go as smoothly as they hoped? And when a foe they thought they’d never see again rears up once more, will Jack be able to do what needs to be done to save mankind, even at his own possible expense? This was a great entry in the series, perhaps the most action packed yet, and it was literally all over the place with lots of twists and turns along the way. It was nice to see some light shed on the mystery of Jack’s parents, and it was also cool that it was more of a real nitty gritty story, with some dire consequences felt by our heroes. Bring on number four!

Over the Easter weekend James and I finished watching the most recent volume of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episodes on DVD, which we’d picked up while in Florida, called Retreat! This volume contains the first seven episodes of season three, and if you remember from my last TMNT review season two ended with New York City being taken over by the Kraang and the turtles being forced in to a retreat, taking up residence at April’s family farm house. They settle in to a more quiet life initially, licking their wounds and watching over Leonardo as he was severely injured in his battle with Shredder. Eventually Leo comes to and the mood lifts around the farm house, but he has a long recovery ahead of him. As the turtles begin to explore the woods around the farm house they find that maybe the trip to April’s farm house won’t be so peaceful after all! Thanks to some rogue mutagen that is accidentally spilled in the wild, the fearsome foursome come up against a strange creature they simply title “the Creep”! But that’s not all, as they also encounter the legendary Big Foot, April’s long lost mother (who turns out to be a Kraang in disguise), mutant frogs (including Attila the frog and his friends, who were featured originally in the 1987 series!), diminutive creatures known as the dream beavers (heh . . .), a mutant hot rod, not to mention a mutant chimera. Throughout it all the brothers stick together despite any differences that come up, and are better off for these bizarre experiences. But with Leo still ailing will the team ever be able to confront Shredder and the Kraang, and help dig New York City out from under it’s current reign of terror? This was a very cool collection of episodes, much different from the first couple of seasons and a refreshing change from the norm! Very cool to see characters from the original series being recycled (along with the plotline, which was seen in the original TMNT movie), and I appreciate the wit they always manage to work in, especially with Mikey. Can’t wait for the next volume!

Finally, the last few months I’ve been listening heavily to AC/DC’s latest release, Rock or Bust, which came out back in December! This is the band that has been in my life the longest as I gravitated towards their music when I was just a kid, and thankfully they’ve been able to experience a longevity most other bands could only dream about. The group has encountered some hard times lately, but it hasn’t stopped them from doing what they do best . . . and that is to rock our fuckin’ socks off!! Their music is perfection, and precision. Loud, in your face rock n’ roll, at the same time both simple yet mind bogglingly complex. They are the ultimate rock band, and about as consistent as it gets. Despite their advancing age this outfit rocks harder than any other band in the world, and their sense of humour is as intact as it’s ever been. Listening to this album you’ll see the subject matter is standard operating procedure . . . sex, booze, and rock n’ roll!! As usual with an AC/DC album it’s pretty hard to pick out any favourites, as they are all amazing tracks, but if I had to choose I’d select “Play Ball”, “Rock the Blues Away”, “Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder”, “Baptism by Fire”, “Sweet Candy” & “Emission Control”. All hail to the kings of rock n’ roll!!!

Bill 69: the fourth installment.

Well that was quite a hiatus since my last Bill 69 entry, now wasn’t it? However, the time has finally come for the fourth edition of the special blog which chronicles me and one of my best friends’ (Sieve) journey to complete 69 retro video games. The first of the three games we finished this time around was an early staple of my collection for the Sega Genesis . . .

Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse! This game was released for the Genesis in 1990, by Sega, and is a 1 player affair. However, although it is just a 1 player title it has great graphics and sound, and is quite fun, which more than makes up for it’s lack of simultaneous action. It’s also only short-medium in length, so you don’t have to worry about investing tons of time in it. Illusion’s plot is that an evil witch named Mizrabel has kidnapped Minnie Mouse, right out from under Mickey’s nose! Taking control of Mickey your task is to jump, juke and jive through a number of different environments on your quest to regain Minnie’s freedom. If you make it through all the levels and then successfully confront Mizrabel, you’ve won the game and saved the day!

Castle of Illusion consists of five levels Mickey must forge through, all consisting of illusions Mizrabel throws your way. These locations include a dark brooding forest, a play land made up entirely of toys, an environment of craggy cliffs in the midst of a storm, an oversized library/office type of setting, and a castle. Along the way you’ll face enemies that include sentient plant life, walking mushrooms, spiders, toy soldiers and planes, juggling clowns, bats, jumping piranhas, caterpillars, knight statues, and skeletal fish, just to name a few! At the end of each level is a boss, these five bizarre creatures are made up of an angry tree stump, a large toy clown, a green aquatic creature we dubbed “Mer-Man”, a dopey looking dragon, and an ogre-ish/hunchback-ish type of fellow armed with a hammer. In order to reach Mizrabel there are two things you must do. First, complete all of the levels and defeat their respective bosses. The second is to collect all of the seven gems you’ll find as you move through the various game levels, for these gems then combine to unlock a bridge over to Mizrabel’s base of operations, where Minnie is being held captive. Defeat this one last enemy and you’ve done it, you’ve achieved ultimate victory!

Like I mentioned earlier, it sucks that this game is only one player, as it would be so much fun to take a chum along with you. However, it’s just such a well put together effort and so much fun that it is totally worth the while to take turns. In fact, it’s so good that it spawned not only a handful of sequels in the following years, but a total remake back in 2013. It’s not quite as good as Sonic the Hedgehog, but it’s definitely some of Sega’s finest work from that era!

The second game we polished off was another Sega Genesis staple that I’ve never actually owned, until I downloaded it via the Virtual Console on my Wii, the delightful . . .

Golden Axe II!! This game was also released by Sega, in the year 1991, and is the first sequel to the original Golden Axe game. The main strength of this title, as it was with the original, is that it features a two player mode which allows you to team up with a buddy and defeat all evil doers as you make your way through the adventure. Graphics, sound and gameplay are all very similar to the original, which is good, as they were top drawer at the time. The story behind this installment of the franchise is that a new evil has shown it’s face, a being named Dark Guld. Much like Death Adder before him, Dark Guld is in possession of the Golden Axe and is spreading terror across the land. Your job is to take control of our heroes, including Ax Battler, Gilius Thunderhead and Tyris Flare, and put a stop to Dark Guld’s machinations.

In total there are seven levels that make up Golden Axe II. You begin in Turtle Village, then must pass through Ancient Ruins, Enemy Stronghold, Dragon’s Throat, Castle Gates, The Emperor’s Castle, and finally end your journey in Dark Guld’s Lair. As for the enemies you’ll face along the way, many are similar to what you find in the first game, including soldiers, orc type creatures, Amazons, skeletons, and knights. But there are also some new foes to face down this time around, among the likes of which include wizards, strange walking lizard creatures, and massive minotaurs . . . not to mention Dark Guld himself! Also similar to the first game there are only two pickups you can collect as you progress, including food items (meat and bread, which help restore your energy) and magic books (which increase your character’s powers of magical destruction). There are a few different beasts you can commandeer during some sequences as well, such as a fire breathing dragons, which adds even more destructive powers to your arsenal, at least temporarily. Tromp through all seven levels and defeat Dark Guld and you’ve done it, you’ve freed the oppressed and become a Golden Axe master . . . again!!

All in all this is an excellent game, which I consider a must have for any fan of video games, especially of the retro, platforming variety. It’s very similar to the first Golden Axe game, which some may consider a knock, but in my mind the expression “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies. Why mess with a good thing, when the formula is was so amazing to begin with? Great presentation and gameplay, mixed with a hilarious two player co-operative adventure . . . I’ll sign up for that every time!!

The third and final game we completed is easily one of the most famous and recognizable video game titles of all time, the stupendous . . .

Super Mario Bros.!!! This game was one of the original launch titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System, released way back in 1985. Any “gamer” who is unaware of it and the ensuing mayhem it spawned should be stripped of their collection and sent off to some deserted island to think about what they’ve done . . . indefinitely. Anyhoo, the story behind the game sees you take control of Mario, older brother to Luigi, a pair of Italian-American plumbers who get transported to a magical land known as the Mushroom Kingdom. For there an evil, giant turtle named King Koopa has kidnapped Princess Toadstool and is now reigning over her helpless kingdom quite tyrannically! Your task of course is to stop all of this from continuing to happen . . .

Super Mario Bros. features eight total worlds Mario must forge through (the second player uses Luigi on a separate turn as the game does not contain a 2 player simultaneous mode), with each world consisting of four separate levels. Most of the levels take place on land, with Mario having to jump dangerous chasms and dispatch enemies, but there are a small number of levels that take place underground and even under water. The fourth level of each world unfolds within a dungeon, where Mario must do battle with the evil King Koopa himself! As for the other enemies King Koopa sends your way throughout each level, they include silly looking goombas, koopa troopas, beetles, bullet bills, piranha plants, cheep cheeps, bloopers, lakitus, and of course the hammer brothers! These early enemies ended up being recycled many times over, becoming staples of the Super Mario Bros. franchise. Helping Mario during his journey are green pipes, which tend to offer him shortcuts or access to secret areas (some even warp him way ahead through the game, allowing the player to skip many levels). As for pickups, collecting coins gifts our hero with extra lives for each 100 he amasses, and various items like mushrooms and fire flowers give Mario extra powers. They each make Mario bigger, allowing him to take an extra hit of damage, and the fire flower also bestows upon him the ability to shoot fireballs! If you can use these pickups to your advantage and face down Koopa’s army of baddies, rescuing the Mushroom Kingdom’s captured fair maiden in the process, you’ve done it . . . you’ve brought happiness to the land and successfully completed one of the most iconic video games of all time!

I mentioned earlier that this game does not have a simultaneous 2 player mode, but even that can’t detract from just how much fun this game is and how iconic it has become over time. Super Mario Bros. virtually shifted the video game landscape back when the console revolution was in it’s infancy, and Nintendo hasn’t looked back ever since they originally had success with this title. It has turned in to one of the world’s top recognized video game franchises (probably the most, to be honest). At a time when video games were found more in the arcade then at home, Nintendo gave us this gem that had great gameplay, way better than could be imagined graphics for the time, and a storyline that people really seemed to latch on to. What I also like about this game is that you can view it as a challenge and try to play through all of the game’s levels in order, or if you just want to dabble with it and don’t have a lot of time at your disposal, you can take the warp zones and attempt to finish it off that much quicker. This is one of the best games of all time, if you’ve never played it before you’d better get your downloading finger ready!!

Bill 69: installment 1

Bill 69: installment 2

Bill 69: installment 3

What is love!?! The coming of spring, that's what is . . .

Been another month of living, and another month of gaming! The weekend after my last blog we headed to Hamilton on the Friday night, to have our first ever all you can eat sushi experience with our friends Johnny and Megan (at Sapporo). It was delicious! The actual sushi was alright, but it was all the other stuff you can order that got me going, so much food and so little time! Afterwards we went out for a number of beers before heading back to their place and eventually passing out. The next day we visited the mother-in-law and had some Valentine’s Day festivities, playing some games and eating a fair amount, as usual. James literally ate candy and chocolate all day long, it was ridiculous!

The next weekend Johnny and Megan came down to our place for the Friday night, we ordered Thai food while James was at Fri-Y, and then proceeded to get drunk while watching the hockey game! Afterwards we followed it up with another viewing of Walk Hard. The rest of the weekend we just kind of pissed away. The weekend after that we put James in Fri-Y once again, and then went to one of our home sushi joints (168 Sushi) where we once again gorged ourselves on a bevvy or creations all ordered from the convenience of an iPad! Great idea, fyi. The rest of the weekend we spent mostly at home, mixing a little shopping in here and there.

As for this past weekend, mrs. darthcobain17 was gone for both the Friday and Saturday nights on a girls weekend thing, so James and I had a whole bunch of time to ourselves! Naturally we watched a lot of TV, played a ton of video games, watched old cartoons on DVD like Inspector Gadget, and of course ate entirely too unhealthily. Unfortunately it all came to an end much too quickly, and it was time for another school/work week to begin.

Regarding the actual school/work weeks, they were action packed, even more so than usual! James has been continuing to see his tutor, to give him a little extra polishing for school. Beavers is also going strong, they even had their annual banquet where the kids all get to race their Beaver Buggies against one another. James lost his first race by just a hair, but in the consolation round managed to win one, which he was super excited about! His latest round of golf lessons finished up just last week, he managed to graduate to the red level . . . just blue and black to go, I do believe! I’m not even going to mention anything about my Toronto Maple Leafs, as they have suffered an epic collapse this season yet again, it’s been quite disillusioning. Angry. Another thing that has made me angry is the weather. This has been the coldest winter here in recorded history, with weeks on end of -20 and below type conditions. Because of this an ice dam built up around our eaves trough and skylights on our TV room roof, causing a fair amount of water to back up in to the house. I had to have a roofing company come in and get rid of the dam, so it’s all good for now, but these things always seem to leave me on edge for quite a while afterwards. I can hear the birds chirping, feel the sun getting warmer, have noticed that extra bit of daylight we seem to be getting lately, and the temperatures have gone up quite a bit recently though, so I think the spring isn’t too far off. Can’t come soon enough for me at this point though!! Anyhoo, while all this was going on here is what was accomplished . . .

1) I completed the next level on Goldeneye, said level was called “St. Petersburg – Statue Park”. Upon the close of my last mission 007 found out that we had lost contact with the helicopter we’d been tracking, most likely because the bug had been discovered. I was also told that Natalya had chosen to return to her native St. Petersburg despite our agency’s protestations, and had promptly gone missing, presumed kidnapped by Janus. My task was to investigate these issues. To begin I was airdropped in to Statue Park in St. Petersburg. Navigating it’s bizarre, cluttered landscape I had to dispatch many Russian soldiers before meeting up with a contact named Valentin. He was an ex-KGB agent and informed me he was able to arrange a meeting for 007 . . . with the head of Janus! So I headed over to the statue of Lenin, where I was to meet this character . . . colour me shocked when I found out this person was our presumed dead agent, 006! Alec gloated about this revelation before telling me that he had left Natalya at the gates to the park, beside the helicopter I was also after . . . and that they were rigged with explosives! So I then backtracked, taking out Janus thugs along the way, before finally reaching the helicopter. I saved Natalya at the last second, before the helicopter went kaboom. Afterwards I searched for the aircraft’s flight recorder, before returning to the gates to collect Natalya. I found her captured by the head of security, Mishkin, though, who then escorted us out of the park. I forgot to record how long it took me to complete this level, along with my accuracy rating, but I had to try it a few times before I successfully beat it so I imagine my final numbers were both pretty quick and accurate!!

2) Yet another series is in the books on MLB 2K11, this time we travelled to Arizona to take on the Diamondbacks. Here is how that went: lost @ Arizona 10-7, won @ Arizona 3-1 & won @ Arizona 7-1.

3) Only three games took place on my season of NHL ’04, and the results were as such: won @ Florida 13-5, won @ Tampa Bay 17-4 & won vs. New Jersey 6-4.

4) A major stride was made on Jak X: Combat Racing, as I was able to tidy up the “Blue Eco Cup” series of events! To begin play this time around I visited three consecutive areas and ran a single event at each one. The areas in question were “Spargus”, “Kras City” & “Grand Prix”, and the events in question, respectively, were “Badland Sanctuary – Death Race” (won the race, gold medal), “Dethdrome – Rush Hour” (won the event, gold medal) & “Timberline Track – Circuit Race” (a qualifier event, won the race, gold medal). I then headed to “Icelands”, where I completed the “Mountaintop Highway – Freeze Rally” (won the event, gold medal) & “Ice Pit – Deathmatch” (won the event, gold medal) events. It was then time for another trio of single events, this time at the “Spargus”, “Kras City” & “Haven City” locales. The events in question included: “Spargus City – Turbo Dash” (won the event, gold medal), “Seaport Strip – Death Race” (won the race, gold medal) & “Waterworks Circuit – Freeze Rally” (won the event, gold medal). My final challenge was to complete the ultimate event at “Grand Prix”, the three race series that broke down as such: “Sewer Raceway – Circuit Race” (won the race), “Frozen Speedway – Circuit Race” (placed second) & “Western Tour – Circuit Race” (won the race). Overall my point total was 28, good enough for the overall win, woot woot! Three quarters of the way there now . . .

5) I forged on with the Predacons on Transformers: Beast Wars, clearing out the next three levels of the game. Said levels unfolded as such: “Desert 1 – Advance Forces” (we had found Cheetor’s Energon mining machines active in the desert, my task was to head there and defeat his advance troops, ultimately destroying the Rock Blaster device), “Desert 2 – Mining Machine” (we wanted the Energon rich desert for our own cause, so I was jobbed with annihilating all of Cheetor’s defenses and then planting a bomb in his mining base) & “Desert 3 – Cheetor’s Base” (with our Energon resources boosted by the previous mission, my last task in this area was to destroy Cheetor in a boss fight, which I did after searching him out amongst the desert terrain).

6) Per the usual I got the next two levels, the final two levels, in the books on X-Men Destiny . . . not that I was able to beat the game though!! Grrrr. The seventh level was titled “M.R.D. Headquarters”, and to kick things off Magneto finally showed up on the scene. Cyclops, Pixie and I explained the situation to him, that Bastion was inside of the computer systems and had overridden control of the Sentinels, who were now rampaging across town. Reyes had gone inside the M.R.D. communications tower, so I decided to follow him in and offer support, ultimately hoping to shut the Sentinels down while the others held them off for us. I began by hitting the streets, taking out tons of Purifiers and Sentinels, eventually running in to Pixie. She informed me that our enemies now had a type of belt they could use to teleport with, but we came up with a strategy to combat this. I then forged ahead and took out four squadrons of their elite troopers, before encountering Mystique. Together we destroyed a Sentinel. Afterwards she tasked me with finding three more of them and leading them back to her, so she could finish them off. Moving on I took out a few walker tanks before finally reaching M.R.D. headquarters. I navigated the corridors within, dispatching turrets and M.R.D. soldiers, before reaching a large locked door. After visiting two security stations and taking out the resistance at each of them, I manipulated them to open up the door for me, thus entering the communications tower. The last level was called “Broadcast Tower”. I immediately began infiltration of said tower to kick the level off, talking out more M.R.D. soldiers and turrets. Soon enough Emma sent me a message that Cyclops was down and although Magneto was holding the Sentinels back, we had to hurry. Not long afterwards I ran in to Reyes, who had the codes to shut down the Sentinels, but he couldn’t get through the security doors. Together we set out and as I burst through said doors, he would input the codes at the various computer stations positioned throughout the tower. Along the way we ran in to enemies masquerading as Wolverine, Emma, Mystique, Archangel, after dealing with them we finally reached the top of the tower. Unfortunately, at this point Reyes revealed that it was him who was behind the whole plot, and he then proceeded to attack me from the comfort of a large suit of armour!! I defeated Reyes easily enough but afterwards Bastion took control of the suit, and that is when shit got heavy. He is one tough boss to beat and so far, after many attempts, I haven’t even come close to sealing the deal . . . nor do I think I will. Game over . . . for me!!

7) We didn’t get a lot done on Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed this time around unfortunately, but we did at least get back at it for a little bit anyways. We decided to start on the “Grand Prix” mode once more, this time on the “Mirror Mode” feature we had unlocked by completing all the original Grand Prix events last time around. The first circuit we completed was called the “Dragon Cup”, in it we took part in the “Oceanview” (placed 3 and 10 respectively), “Samba Studios” (1 and 10), “Carrier Zone” (1 and 10) & “Dragon Canyon” (1 and 10) races. Overall I won the circuit with 38 total points. The second circuit was the only other play we were able to get accomplished, and it was called the “Rogue Cup”. It consisted of the “Temple Trouble” (1 and 10), “Galactic Parade” (6 and 5), “Seasonal Shrines” (1 and 10) & “Rogue’s Landing” (5 and 6) races. Overall I won the circuit with 31 points, but it was close!

8) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Danger of the Ooze is indeed done . . . done as in I cannot win the Shredder boss fight! But not for lack of trying though. Fuck.

9) We branched out a bit on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U this time around, exploring some of the other modes by trial and error. To begin with we dabbled in the “Classic” mode, which I had begun to explore on my own last time around, only this time we tried it with the two of us instead. Afterwards we moved on to “Events” mode, which features a linear sequence of battles for you to complete, each with it’s own set of challenges/objectives. So far on this mode we’ve been able to complete the “A Lurking Menace”, “Pokemon Multi Battle!”, “Visiting Onett”, “Getting Healthy”, “1988”, “Full Speed Ahead”, “Wrecking Bros.”, “A Fairy Nice Trip” & “Mirror Magic” battles. The last mode we explored was called “Stadium”, which features some off beat challenges to attempt. The first of these was called “Home-Run Contest”, which tasks each player with trying to hit a sack as far as they can with a baseball bat. Our best showing was 1010.2 feet. Then we attempted “Target Blast”, in which you have your character launch a bomb and see how many targets you can destroy with it’s explosion. We dabbled in all three stages available for play in this challenge. Finally we took part in “Multi-Man Smash”, in which you have to successfully fight off various waves of enemies. We tried the “10-Man Smash”, “100-Man Smash” (our best showing being 51 enemies defeated), “3-Minute Smash” (our best total being 36 enemies defeated), “Endless Smash” (our best total being 61 enemies defeated) & “Cruel Smash” (just 1 lonely defeat . . .). It’s really cool how this game has so much more to offer than most fighting games, so much more variety.

10) Some decent progress was made on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1, which saw me complete the next two levels of the game. The fifth level of the game was a bit of a detour, called “Encounters”, which set me three challenges I had to complete before moving on in the game. Said challenges included: “The Abandoned Substation” (I had to free captured, doped up Muggles from the Snatchers, whom I battled at said station), “The Ruins” (continued on and rescued more Muggles/battled more Snatchers, this time at a set of ruins instead) & “The Dark Caves” (had to battle more Snatchers, all while trying to navigate a series of caves that featured a fire breathing dragon stalking their depths!). With that out of the way I was then able to move on to the sixth level of the game. On the streets of London our infamous trio wanted to get in to the Ministry of Magic in order to get at Umbridge and her horcrux, but we were in need of disguises. To kick-start our plan I got under my invisibility cloak and stalked Reg Cattermole, Mafalda Hopkirk and Albert Runcorn through the streets, ultimately taking them out and bringing them back to our hiding place. Along the way I had also collected Polyjuice potion, which we then used to transform ourselves in to the likenesses of our three prisoners. Once our disguises were in place we headed to the public bathrooms that would send us to the lobby of the Ministry. Once inside we made our way to the lifts and things were looking good until Ron and Hermione got dragged off by another wizard. To regroup I decided to backtrack to the security office and find out what floor Umbridge’s office was on. With that new information I headed back to the lifts (my Polyjuice potion had worn off at this point, so I was back under my invisibility cloak) and then made my way to level one. After flitting through the halls I located Umbridge’s office (she wasn’t there) and explored it for a bit, before nipping back out in to the hallways and exploring some of the other offices on the floor, trying to determine her current location. Once gleaning that she was in the courtroom, I headed back to the lifts and went straight down to the basement. After skulking by many Death Eaters I arrived at the courtroom, along with Ron and Hermione, so we then overpowered her in a duel, taking the locket and then heading back the way we’d come! We managed to escape via the floo network, although Ron was injured in the process.

11) Our action on Mario Kart 8 has come to a close! When I left off last time we basically just had to explore any other game modes that this title might have to offer, and as is the usual with this series, there isn’t much substantial after you get through the main “Grand Prix” mode. We dabbled shortly in “Versus” mode, but spent most of our time in “Battle” mode, where we liked to take part in the Balloon Pop event. This is a great game overall, would have gotten a 10 if it had more modes to offer (this one doesn’t even seem to have the usual Mirror Mode that is a staple in most of the series), but I’ll probably give it a 9 instead.

12) More progress was made on BeyBlade: Evolution, the first thing I did this time around was beat Kyoya in a battle at the Vacant Lot. I then headed to Bey Stadium, to have another crack at a tournament. This one was a race to four, so the first one to score four points wins each round. I began the tournament by beating Toby, and then won the tournament by defeating Gingka in the second round, huzzah! Next I beat Kyoya at the Vacant Lot yet again, before defeating Masamune at the Park. I then headed to the Plaza, where I first tried my hand at the Aim and Shoot mini-game, then lost a battle to Kenta. My next flurry of activity all took part at the Vacant Lot. I began by playing the Balloon Break mini-game, then lost a battle to Masamune before beating Kyoya, finishing up by playing the new to me mini-game called Memory Quiz! It was then time to head back to the Bey Stadium once more for another tournament. This time it was a race to three points, and I won the overall thing by defeating Dashan in the first round and then Gingka in the second! My last bit of action took place at the Park. I beat Gingka in a battle, before playing the new Maze mini-game. Afterwards I lost a battle to Kenta but then defeated Gingka. Before signing off I headed to the B-Pit and purchased many new BeyBlade parts with all of my winnings!!

13) Since finishing (but not completing) a couple games on the 3DS, it was time to choose something new to play. My first choice was Big Hero 6: Battle in the Bay! This game picks up after the events of the Big Hero 6 movie, as Hiro is contacting his team about some cool new upgrades he’s designed for their various suits. During this conversation though, they pick up activity in the city, activity involving a whole bunch of bot fighters stirring up mayhem all across San Fransokyo! Our inclination was of course to go and check these disturbances out, and that is where the game begins. So far I’ve been able to complete the first six levels of this title, which went as such: Level 1 (With Hiro I patrolled downtown San Fransokyo and took out many bots, eventually calling in Baymax for help who afterwards detected a break-in at Hiro’s workshop, leading us to believe the whole bot uprising was some sort of a diversion. I completed this level in 14:05, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 23 enemies), Level 2 (I took Wasabi out for a spin this time, stomping through the streets of San Fransokyo and destroying more bots. I completed this level in 7:23, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 43 enemies), Level 3 (It was Fred’s turn for action this time around, I did pretty much the same thing with him as I did with Wasabi. I completed this level in 10:30, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 40 enemies), Level 4 (It was finally time to take Go Go out for a spin, I laid the smackdown on more bots with her as I continued on through the city. I completed this level in 10:58, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 26 enemies), Level 5 (In this level I took over as Hiro again, asking Baymax to perform a high altitude frequency scan, to try and figure out where all the bots were coming from. While he was doing that I forged onwards, battling bots, and when Baymax eventually showed up he said the source of the bots was coming from a location near the train station. I completed this level in 16:55, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 35 enemies) & Level 6 (Playing as Fred once more I bet Wasabi I’d make it to the train station before him, during my journey to said location I encountered heavier resistance than usual. I completed this level in 11:27, finding the hidden Mochi and all four HERO letters, defeating 63 enemies). More to come fo sho!!

14) The other game I got started on for the 3DS was Lego Ninjago: Nindroids! This game features action inspired by the third season of the Lego: Ninjago TV show, which sees New Ninjago City spring from the ashes of the original, but since destroyed Ninjago City. This new city is a technological marvel but the ninjas have a major problem . . . the evil Overlord has also risen and is working towards domination, backed by his powerful army of nindroids! Our special group of ninjas is of course tasked with stopping this fiend’s plans from reaching fruition. So far I’ve completed the first 12 levels of the game, which included: “Going Up” (completed 9/10 challenges, unlocking the Kai [Teacher] character), “A Clean Escape” (completed 7/10 challenges, unlocking the Cole & Spitta characters), “No Way Out” (completed 8/10 challenges, unlocking the Zane & Cowboy characters), “Ninja Copter!” (completed 10/10 challenges, unlocking the Jay & Mummy characters, along with the Studs X2 red brick), “Mad Machines” (completed 5/10 challenges, unlocking the Kai character, along with the Big Heads red brick), “OverBorg” (completed 5/10 challenges, unlocking the Sensei Wu character), “Street Sweep” (completed 8/10 challenges, unlocking some Studs, along with the Studs X4 red brick), “Robot Rumble” (completed 9/10 challenges, unlocking the Cole [Teacher] & Dareth characters), “Kaifighter!” (completed 10/10 challenges, unlocking the Kai DX & Elf characters, along with the Minikit Finder red brick), “Escape the Overlord” (completed 8/10 challenges, unlocking the Rattla character), “Stop, Thief!” (completed 4/10 challenges, unlocking the P.I.X.A.L. [Good] character), “Surrounded” (completed 7/10 challenges, unlocking the Snike & Zane [Borg] characters) & “Sneaking In” (completed 6/10 challenges, unlocking the Zane DX & Chopov characters). In between and after these levels I used my collected studs to purchase a number of items. Said items included the Studs X2, Big Heads, Studs X4 & Minikit Finder extras, along with the Cowboy, Cole (Teacher), Kai DX, P.I.X.A.L. (Good), Sensei Wu, Rattla, Spitta, Mummy, Elf, Snike, Zane DX, Chopov & Dareth characters. A good start, no doubt!!

15) As for James and I, with progress on Mario Kart 8 complete and us winding down a bit on Sonic, we decided to start a few new games, a couple of which were very recent acquisitions. The first of these new acquisitions was Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker for the Wii U, which James was super excited about as Toad is his very favourite Mario Bros. character! This game features Toad (and Toadette) in their very own adventure. Out on a treasure finding expedition Toadette is captured by this giant bird and flown far away. Using Toad’s unique skills (and his trusty headlamp!) you are then tasked with solving a number of puzzle like levels in order to locate your kidnapped mistress and get her back. We’ve made major progress on this game so far, our play began on “Episode 1”. There we completed all 18 levels, which went as such: “Plucky Pass Beginnings” (3/3 Gems, collected the Golden Mushroom), “Walleye Tumble Temple” (found 3/3 Gems, didn’t break the bridge), “Touchstone Trouble” (found 3/3 Gems, cleared the level in 3 touches), “Mushroom Mesa” (found 3/3 Gems, destroyed all enemies), “Double Cherry Palace” (found 3/3 Gems, collected 70 coins), “Shy Guy Heights” (found 3/3 Gems, slipped past all the Shy Guys), “Spinwheel Library” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the Golden Mushroom), “Mine Cart Tunnel Throwdown” (found 3/3 Gems, defeated all Para-Biddybuds), “Spinwheel Bullet Bill Base” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the Golden Mushroom), “The King of Pyropuff Peak” (found 3/3 Gems, collected 45 coins), “Piranha Creeper Cove” (found 3/3 Gems, collected 70 coins), “Briny Bowl Swimming Hole” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the Golden Mushroom), “Turnip Cannon Jungle” (found 3/3 Gems, cleared the level firing just 1 shot), “Pop-Up Prairie Town” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the 1-Up Mushroom), “Drop-Road Dash” (found 3/3 Gems, didn’t defeat any Para-Biddybuds), “Bizarre Doors of Boo Mansion” (found 3/3 Gems, cleared the level in 4 touches), “Blizzard on the Star Express” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the 1-Up Mushroom) & “Wingo’s Watchtower” (found 3/3 Gems, collected 70 coins). Our best showing in the Coins Galore bonus level that pops up from time to time was 212 coins. We then moved on to “Episode 2”, which sees Toad get captured, so Toadette has to rescue him this time, and this is where our progress has temporarily halted. So far we’ve completed the first 10 levels, which went as follows: “Chute Scoot Slopes” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the Golden Mushroom), “Stumper Sneakaround” (found 3/3 Gems, defeated all Piranha Creepers), “Mine Cart Sunset Rundown” (found 3/3 Gems, collected 140 coins), “Sinister Street Signs” (found 3/3 Gems, defeated all Mud Troopers), “Floaty Fun Waterpark” (found 3/3 Gems, defeated all Goombas), “Drift-Along Canyon” (found 3/3 Gems, didn’t take any damage), “Sliding Slab Shuffle” (found 3/3 Gems, cleared the level in 4 touches), “Spooky Specters at Shadow Manor” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the 1-Up Mushroom), “Draggadon’s Revenge” (found 3/3 Gems, didn’t take any damage) & “Spinwheel Cog Ruins” (found 3/3 Gems, collected the Golden Mushroom). In the Mummy-Me Maze bonus levels our best showing was 110 coins. As you can see, in each game level there are 3 Gems to be found, along with a bonus objective, which varies. So far we are loving this game, it is a ton of fun!!

16) The next new game we started was one I’ve had in the queue for quite a while . . . Lego: Pirates of the Caribbean, for the Wii! This game relives the events of all four of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, only in the typical Lego stylings. Our quest began on the “The Curse of the Black Pearl” chapter, where so far we’ve been able to knock down the first 4 levels. Said levels included: “Port Royal” (found 3/10 Minikit pieces, unlocked the Mr. Brown, Will Turner, Guard Dog & Jack Sparrow characters, and earned 1 Gold Brick [for the level completion]), “Tortuga” (found 1/10 Minikit pieces, unlocked the Mr. Gibbs, Cotton, Anamarin & Marty characters, and earned 1 Gold Brick [completion]), “The Black Pearl Attacks” (earned True Pirate status, found 2/10 Minikit pieces, unlocked the Jack Sparrow [Waistcoat] character, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status achievement]) & “Smuggler’s Den” (earned True Pirate status, found 2/10 Minikit pieces, unlocked the Elizabeth [Undergarments] character, and earned 2 Gold Bricks [completion and status]). Yet another great Lego game is in store for us it seems!

17) The last new game we started was Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U, which James was also very excited about! I had played the 3DS version of this game quite a while back, as it came with the system, and enjoyed it very much, so I was looking forward to see what they did with the Wii U version of it and so far we’ve not been disappointed. The plot behind the game is that Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad are out for a walk one day when they come across a strange pipe in the ground. Suddenly a fairy comes popping out of it, and she seems distressed. Not long afterwards Bowser also shows up and snatches the very away, which he has apparently been doing with all the fairies! It was then up to our foursome to go after him and free these creatures from his tyranny. We began our adventure in “World 1” where we completed all 8 levels, the action unfolded as such: “1-1: Super Bell Hill” (earned 52540 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “1-2: Koopa Troopa Cave” (earned 56360 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “1-A: Chargin’ Chuck Blockade” (earned 16250 points, and collected 1/1 star), “1-3: Mount Beanpole” (earned 75140 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “1-4: Plessie’s Plunging Falls” (earned 69050 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “1-5: Switch Scramble Circus” (earned 55020 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars), “1-Toad: Captain Toad Goes Forth” (earned 30400 points, and collected 5/5 stars) & “1-Castle: Bowser’s Highway Showdown” (earned 58930 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars). Moving on to “World 2” afterwards we’ve only been able to get at one level there so far, which was “2-1: Conkdor Canyon” (earned 29710 points, found the stamp, and collected 3/3 stars). This game is very consistent with the Super Mario Bros. U game, only instead of being a side scroller it has more depth to it, hence the 3D in the title. Pretty cool!

“NNGRR” - The last few months or so, James and I have been picking away at a cartoon I never watched when it aired but had always wanted to . . . Mega Man!! This is a cartoon series that was based on the Nintendo video game franchise of the same name and aired from 1994-1995. The series lasted 27 episodes and this 4 disc collection contains them all! The series kicks off with a bit of back story, touching on how Dr. Light and Dr. Wily used to be colleagues, expert scientists in the field of robotics. When a prototype they are working on doesn’t quite perform to their expectations, Dr. Light plans on scrapping it and starting over. However, Dr. Wily, who has a more nefarious agenda in mind, steals the prototype and escapes from the lab, later reworking the prototype in to becoming his first robot henchman . . . Proto Man!! To counteract this threat Dr. Light builds his own bots, a boy bot named Rock and a girl bot named Roll. Dr. Light also has a few other robot prototypes in his lab, and in a raid by Dr. Wily and Proto Man, all five of Dr. Light’s creations are taken captive by this fiend! Rock tricks Dr. Wily and ultimately escapes with Roll in tow, but the three other prototypes are lost for good and reprogrammed by Dr. Wily. They turn in to his next three henchman, now known as Guts Man, Cut Man, and Ice Man! Upon returning to Dr. Light, Rock is redubbed Mega Man. His task is to defend their city, and ultimately the world, from the evil machinations of Dr. Wily and his robot crew! Along the way Roll offers her assistance as does Rush, Mega Man’s robot canine companion! And Mega needs all the help he can get, as Dr. Wily’s penchant for producing evil bots soon goes in to overdrive. Joining the roster of ne’er do wells is Snake Man, Elec Man, Pharaoh Man, Bomb Man, Wood Man, Gemini Man, Spark Man, Dust Man, Air Man, Gyro Man, Hard Man, Fire Man, Top Man, Gravity Man, Star Man, Shadow Man, Ring Man, Drill Man and Magnet Man. I may even be missing a couple! Wily’s schemes vary and include him trying to reprogram Mega Man in order to take control of the Blue Bomber himself, shrinking the world’s cities and demanding ransom, terrorizing the population with a freeze ray, using a meteor to super power his robots, even infiltrating Dr. Light’s school to learn how to properly build an anti-gravity device! Throughout these schemes though Mega Man is on the case, and he repels Dr. Wily at every turn. Unfortunately the series ends with no closure of any kind, as apparently it was supposed to be renewed for a third season but wasn’t, but it’s an amazing ride nonetheless! This could be one of my top ten cartoons of all time, to be honest. So good!

During the week that followed my last blog post I watched a movie I’d found in the bargain bin at Sobey’s . . . A Night at the Roxbury!! This film is based on the old recurring SNL skit that featured Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan bobbing their heads to dance music, and hitting on chicks in the most awkward of manners. In this film they star as Steve and Doug Butabi, brothers who are obsessed with going out clubbing and trying to score . . . although they have never had any luck in doing so! They have a few major problems in their life. First of all their dad Kamehl, owner of a fake flower shop, is always busting their chops about work and responsibility, with Doug seeming to take this offense the hardest. Also, they are mostly looked upon as losers and despite all their trying, can never get in to the club they really want to, called The Roxbury. Finally, a girl named Emily, who is the daughter of the guy who owns the lighting shop next to Kamehl’s flower shop, is in love with Steve and both sets of parents are pushing for them to get married. However, Steve and Doug have other plans, as Doug has a master scheme to open up their own night club and in the process shrug off loser-dom, becoming the virtual epitome of what they hold so dear! There’s only one problem, they have no cash and they have never even been inside of the hottest clubs in town, the aforementioned Roxbury. However, one night fortune favours them when Hollywood actor Richard Grieco slams in to their delivery van from behind, in his less than street legal Ferrari. Not wanting any legal trouble Grieco agrees to get the Butabis in to the Roxbury, once inside they are introduced to the owner, an eccentric millionaire named Benny Zadir. During their conversation Doug mentions some of his ideas to Benny, who likes what he hears, so they all then leave for a private party on Zadir’s estate! Tagging along are Vivica and Cambi, a couple of gold diggers who saw Steve and Doug meeting with Zadir and figured they were rich businessmen! They show the Butabis the ways of love, much to their eventual chagrin. However, in the days after this most glorious of nights, the Butabis are cock blocked in seeing Zadir by his weasel limo driver, Dooey. And with their dad cracking down on their work life, plus Emily working overtime on courting Steve, the brothers soon fall in to despair. After a big blowout Doug moves out to the pool house and the two stop talking. In the weeks that ensue Steve finally hooks up with Emily, soon enough they are planning go get married. As for Doug, he stays out late every night, boozing it up, and becomes a shut in during the day. With the wedding day having finally arrived and Steve holding some major doubts, will Doug shake off his anger and help bail his brother out, or is this just the beginning of even darker times ahead for the Butabi brothers? I don’t think I’d ever seen this movie in full all in one sitting, just bits and pieces at a time, so it was finally nice to sit down and watch it from start to finish! It’s pretty funny, a stupid kind of funny of course, which Will Ferrell thrives at. Anything he touches turns to gold!! I have such fond memories of these characters and the SNL cast from that time period, that this is just a pleasing watch all around.

The week after, James and I finished watching a DVD volume of the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, called Showdown in Dimension X!! This volume encompasses the last half of season two, spread out over 13 episodes. The action starts with a two part episode that features the fearsome foursome, with the help of April and Casey Jones of course, take down a Kraang scheme to unleash giant slugs from Dimension X loose on New York City! After that debacle the tone of the series then shifts towards the subject of Karai and how she is actually Splinter’s daughter, not Shredder’s. Leonardo informs Karai of this fact during one of their usual scuffles and although it doesn’t appear to bother her at first, eventually it weighs heavy and she yearns to know the truth. While Karai comes to terms with her lineage there is no shortage of action though. The turtles have to deal with a new favourite role playing game that comes to life, Baxter Stockman becoming even more of a nuisance after Shredder mutates him in to a fly, the return of the Newtralizer, the shenanigans of a new mutant named Pizza Face, a formidable new henchman of Shredder’s called Tiger Claw, an ancient China Town ghost, among other issues, the least of which includes some visits to the Kraang home world of Dimension X! As the season comes to a close Shredder lays a trap for the turtles, but it fails and Karai ends up getting mutated instead, in to a crazy snake/serpent type of creature. Swearing vengeance on not only the turtles but his nemesis, Splinter, Shredder once again allies with the Kraang in a bid to take over the world, destroy his arch enemies, and get the Kraang’s aid in mutating Karai back to normal in the process. As things wrap up the Kraang invasion of New York City has begun and the turtles are spread way too thin. In over their heads, with Splinter missing and injuries plaguing the group, they head out of the city in order to regroup and come up with a plan of action. This was a pretty cool collection of episodes, featuring the introduction of some cool new characters not to mention the mutations of some previously existing ones! And the danger seems pretty real in these episodes too, the series takes on a darker tone near the end of the season, with the Kraang invasion and all. And I love how they ended the season with the turtles heading out of town to regroup, which mirrors the sequence in the original live action movie all those years ago, very cool! Can’t wait for season three . . .

Later that same week I watched the Ghost Rider movie, which I had already reviewed quite a while back in one of my previous blogs. Because of that I’m not going to post any pictures from this movie, as I have enough images on my profile to begin with, and I don’t want to begin doubling up! Anyways, the movie starts off with the tale of an ancient myth, the story . . . of the Ghost Rider! Every generation has one, an individual who serves as the devil’s bounty hunter, cashing in on evil contracts. However, when one day the devil was to gain possession of a contract that would gift him 1000 evil souls, the Rider stood his ground and refused, escaping Mephistopheles (the devil) and hiding the contract where he hoped it would never be found. Fast forward quite a bit and the story moves along to feature a teenager named Johnny Blaze. Johnny is a motorcycle stunt driver and he makes his living at a carnival, riding in a show alongside his dad, Barton. When Johnny finds out that Barton is dying of cancer he is approached by Mephistopheles, all he has to do is sign a contract that guarantees his dad’s cancer will go away . . . in exchange for his very soul! The deal is done and Barton is cured, but the cruel joke the devil plays is that Barton dies the next day anyways, during a routine stunt gone wrong at the carnival. Johnny is furious and ignores the fact that he is supposed to skip town with his girlfriend Roxanne, he just keeps riding his motorcycle until he eventually runs in to Mephistopheles. This is when the devil passes along the power of the Ghost Rider to Johnny and promises he’ll one day be knocking on Johnny’s door, as he’ll have some tasks in store. We then fast forward once more, to current times, when Johnny is an adult man and is the hottest daredevil in the world! However, he is not without his share of demons, naturally. He keeps pushing the limits during his performances, as he seemingly can’t be hurt no matter how bad he crashes. When one day Roxanne shows up at one of his events (she is now a news reporter), the constant grief that surrounds Johnny is temporarily lifted and he wrangles a date out of her! However, it just so happens that the devil has other plans in mind for Mr. Blaze that night. He is finally coming for Johnny, for he requires the services of the Ghost Rider! Mephistopheles has a predicament. His own son, a fiend known as Blackheart, has come to Earth to find the lost contract. Helping him out are three fallen angels named Wallow, Gressil and Abigor. Not wanting Blackheart to have the power of the lost contract, Mephistopheles tasks Johnny Blaze with stopping this fearsome foursome. Johnny’s first transformation in to the Ghost Rider is a rough one, but he fights these beings off, in the morning waking up in a cemetery being tended to by an older gentlemen named the Caretaker. This man seems to be aware of and sympathizes with Johnny’s plight (and his voice sounds all too similar to the one that narrated the action at the beginning of the film, what!?!). Eventually desperation sets in for Blackheart and he takes Roxanne captive, forcing a showdown between him and the Ghost Rider. Heading in to battle with Johnny is the Caretaker, who reveals himself as Carter Slade, the Texas Ranger that originally hid the contract on Mephistopheles all those years ago! Does Johnny have what it takes to defeat these powerful, more numerous foes, or will he end up losing Roxanne a second time? I really like this movie, I found the story a good one and the effects were awesome . . . the Ghost Rider looks so bloody cool! And I like Nicholas Cage, people either seem to love him or hate him, so that made the movie even better for me. A delightful re-watch all these years later!!

A couple days later I followed Ghost Rider up with the second installment that I had not yet seen, called Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance! This story begins somewhere in Eastern Europe, where a man named Moreau arrives at a monastery and discusses with one of the monks their job of protecting a young boy named Danny. The monastery soon falls to invaders though, Danny and his mother Nadya escape at the last second and are aided by Moreau, although Nadya does not trust him and spurns said aid. With the pursuit of Danny and Nadya temporarily disabled, Moreau decides their protection is a job that can only be handled by . . . the Ghost Rider! It’s been quite a few years since the events of the last film and Johnny Blaze is in Eastern Europe, attempting to lay low, literally trying to hide from his demons. Somehow Moreau knows he’s in the area, and so he searches Johnny out. Johnny is quick to deny Moreau help in protecting this mother/son duo, but after Moreau offers to have his monastery expunge the demon inside of Johnny Blaze in return for this favour, Johnny readily agrees. After some coaxing Johnny is able to make the Ghost Rider appear, he then sets off to find Danny. It’s perfect timing as Danny and his mother just got chased down by the same thugs who attacked the monastery! This first encounter doesn’t go well though, with the Ghost Rider being bombasted with grenades while the thugs take off with Danny in their possession. The next morning, after sneaking out of the hospital, Johnny confronts Nadya and convinces her to let him help track Danny down and get him back safely. While out on their search Nadya let’s Johnny know the truth. In exchange for saving her life, Nadya let the devil impregnate her with what would eventually turn out to be her son, currently the subject of so much attention. When Roarke (aka the devil or Mephistopheles) uses a human form on Earth it soon breaks down as he is too powerful for it. However, his plan is to perform a ritual that will transfer his essence over to Danny’s young, much more than human body, which will give Roarke way too much power for humanity’s own good! Soon back to the task at hand the Ghost Rider attacks Roarke’s hideout and a massive battle ensues. Ultimately Danny is returned to Nadya safely, but when they return to Moreau’s monastery they are in for a rude awakening. After Moreau cleanses Johnny Blaze of the Ghost Rider’s spirit, the monks announce they are going to execute Danny as he is too large a hazard to the world! Before the monks can execute their plan though, a twisted being named Blackout, a creation of Roarke’s, intervenes and recaptures Danny. It is then up to Moreau, Nadya, and a Ghost Rider-less Johnny Blaze to put a plan together and stop Roarke’s master plan from coming to fruition. But with no otherworldly powers at their disposal, does this threesome have a hope in hell, or will they end up as nothing but fodder for the ultimate evil? This was a great follow up to the original Ghost Rider movie, building on the character and the legend. The story was another solid one, and the effects were ramped up a notch, I love it when everything is lit ablaze!! The addition of Idris Elba was a big plus too. Unfortunately I don’t think there is much more Ghost Rider on the horizon for us though . . .

Around the same time I finished reading the third book in The Expanse series, called Abaddon’s Gate. At the end of the last story whatever the protomolecule had been constructing down on the surface of Venus had finally reached completion and shot up from said planet, off in to outer space! It eventually came to rest in orbit around Uranus, where it presented itself as a manner of ring. In the short time it’s been there the various factions of civilization have sent out military ships to secure the area, and scientific ships to study this bizarre construct, which they eventually determine is some sort of gateway . . . to who knows where! With the forces of both Earth and the Martians on sight, the OPA decides they have to represent as well, if they are to legitimately be taken seriously as their own governmental entity. One party that wants to go nowhere near the ring though, is Jim Holden and his crew of the Rocinante! However, they are left with no choice when a cease and desist order comes in from the Martian government, who want to reclaim their “stolen” ship. The foursome are miraculously saved at the last second though, by a famous documentary team who wish to go out to the ring and record the events for posterity. This team just so happens to be able to talk down the Martians from their reclamation of the Rocinante, and for this Holden agrees to fly them out there. Not long after all parties involved arrive and are in place in the vicinity of the ring though, all hell breaks loose! Without warning one of Earth’s large vessels explodes, afterwards a recorded message from Jim Holden is broadcast, who claims ownership of the disaster, stating the ring is his and nobody else’s. However, Holden and his crew had nothing to do with this disaster. But knowing a reprisal is undoubtedly on the way they are left with only one choice, to pass through the ring. Not wanting to let their quarry slip away the Earthers, Martians and OPA all send a ship of their own through, in pursuit of the offenders. However, although the ring is not sentient it is programmed to react to threats, and the sudden arrival of these ships are indeed deemed some degree of threat. The ships are contained within what is deemed a slow zone and their pursuit of the Rocinante is in effect negated. However, while trapped inside the slow zone many events begin to unravel. Holden acts on his feelings surrounding the visions he is getting of Miller, visiting the station within the ring and getting a glimpse of what it’s all about. The Earth, Martian and OPA forces all pool their personnel and resources aboard the OPA’s massive ship, the Behemoth, where a justified mutiny will turn the course of action there in an all too violent manner. A number of poets, celebrities, religious figureheads, etc., all who were out at the ring in an attempt to help make sense of the phenomenon are also involved in the events, and help shape what is to come. And finally, the true identity of the attacker who framed Holden for the bombing of Earth’s ship is needled out and dealt with. But in the end, after so many lost lives and too much wanton violence, are they any closer to understanding just what this protomolecule is and what it’s trying to accomplish? This was yet another excellent entry in this amazing series, I like how each book has continued on with a consistent overall ark to the story, but at the same time have all been so different from each other. There were quite a few cool new characters introduced in this story, along with the demise of some special ones, this story sure is a gritty one. Now for the long wait until the fourth book is finally released!!

As this past weekend came to a close we watched a movie James was super pumped about, which I was able to pick up at HMV recently for cheap . . . Gremlins 2: The New Batch!! We decided to watch the original Gremlins film with him just a short while ago, during this blog period (I didn’t review it as I’d already reviewed it on this blog, within the last couple years or so), and he absolutely loved it! I hadn’t seen this second entry since it aired on cable when I was a kid, so I was excited to watch it again all this time later as well. This story picks up not long after the events of the first film, and it begins with a trip to China Town in New York City. A wealthy developer named Daniel Clamp is approaching Mr. Wing (Gizmo’s owner, who Mr. Peltzer “obtained” Gizmo from not all that long ago, to disastrous results) with yet another offer to buy his shop. For Mr. Wing owns the last store in China Town holding out from selling, preventing Clamp from constructing an all new, state of the art facility that would revamp China Town and bring it in to the modern age! Wing refuses once more, but when Clamp’s men notice Wing has a bad cough they figure the end is near anyways, and so they are not dismayed about having to wait him out. Soon enough Wing dies and Gizmo is orphaned. He is left with no time to mourn though, as Wing’s shop is almost immediately demolished and Gizmo barely escapes with his life. Taking shelter in a nearby alley Gizmo thinks he is safe, until some weirdo captures him and takes him away! The scene then shifts to Billy Peltzer and Kate (soon to be Peltzer) Beringer, who are now living in New York City and working for . . . that’s right, Daniel Clamp! Billy is an upcoming architect while Kate is a tour guide, offering tourists insights in to the workings of New York City’s most modernized skyscraper. Little does Billy know that in that very building, in a genetics lab where all sorts of animal experimentation is going on, little Gizmo has found a new home . . . a new home he wants no part of. When a delivery man who has recently been to said lab makes a stop in Billy’s office, Billy hears him whistling an all too familiar tune! Billy questions the man on this and then immediately heads down to the lab, under the guise of being a copier repair man. Once inside the lab he wastes no time in finding Gizmo and stealing him away. However, after tucking Gizmo away in one of his desk drawers afterwards, Billy is forced to abandon him there for the night when pressured in to going out for dinner with one of his higher ups. At the last second Billy tasks Kate with picking Gizmo up and taking him home with her, but before that can happen all hell manages to break loose! A faulty water fountain sprays Gizmo with an errant stream and from that point onwards, with the new Mogwai being more on the rambunctious side, it’s no holds barred as these creatures have the run of a skyscraper that in itself could serve as a small city! It’s not long before this new batch have hatched from their cocoons and are terrorizing the Clamp building’s inhabitants, and what’s more they waste no time in figuring out there are many sources of water in the building with which they can use to increase their numbers. The Gremlins also get in to the aforementioned genetics lab and drink a lot of different potions, which mutates a small number of them, lending them additional powers. At first nobody believed Billy about these Gremlins, but soon enough Daniel Clamp himself is personally asking Billy to help save the day. Will Billy and Kate’s previous experiences with these pint sized monsters be enough to pull them through, or are they finally in over their heads? This was a fantastic follow up to the original movie. It shifted the scene, the season, and the manner of the action greatly, but behind it all was the same lighthearted horror/comedy that made Gremlins such a wonderful film in the first place. Both Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates are back to reprise their roles as Billy and Kate, but there were also some great new additions such as Christopher Lee, not to mention cameos by Hulk Hogan, Bubba Smith, Dick Butkus, and Leonard Maltin! I’m seriously hoping they make a Gremlins 3 at this point, as I’ve heard rumours that it may be in the works . . .

Last blog's theme was outer space, but this time around we have the wild west . . . and outer space!!

Wow, been about a month since my last blog, and life done been busy!! The weekends actually haven’t been that bad for the last while though, which is unusual, it’s just been the weekdays really. All of the weekends that have passed since my last blog we’ve pretty much spent at home. The weekend after my last blog we went to nearby St. Thomas with both my dad and mrs. darthcobain17’s dad, as we had a Groupon for a brewery tour at Railway City Brewery. It was my first brewery tour and it was very cool, the girl that gave us the tour was super-hot and friendly! Combine that with a pleasant buzz after some sampling and you’ve got an afternoon filled with fun. Afterwards we went back to my parents’ house for dinner and that was pretty much it.

As for the past three weekends, we’ve literally had nothing to do, spending the time almost entirely at home . . . quite refreshing!! James and I have been playing basement hockey, video games, and watching cartoons to fill the time, amongst other things like building Lego, etc. Just perfect. During the weeks though it’s been a different story. James is now seeing a tutor one night a week, which is going very well, plus he’s been going over to friends’ houses for lots of playdates. And he still has Beavers going too. His latest round of golf lessons began a couple weeks ago and they are taking place at my old public school, which is both very cool and kind of weird all at the same time! I wandered around the school a bit last time and could pretty much locate all of my old classrooms. Shit, that was a long time ago, I is old. As for the weather, in late January we finally got all the snow we had been missing, and it all decided to come at once! Last weekend I spent a good chunk of time outside scraping the snow off the roof, to try and get those god damned skylights to stop leaking! Aye carumba. Oh well, first world problems I suppose. Along the way I played a lot of games and watched a lot of good shit, here it all is . . .

1) To start off with I broke tradition and was able to knock off two more levels on Goldeneye . . . whaaaaatttt!? Level eight was called “Severnaya – Surface”, to set the stage we had tracked the helicopter from our last mission back to Severnaya, the frozen tundra I had already visited earlier in the game! Evidence of a firefight was picked up, so my job was to revisit the area and try to find any proof of Janus activity in the region. I began by trekking through the familiar frozen landscape, only this time there was a ton of resistance on hand, so I couldn’t explore the various cabins located throughout the area at my leisure, I had to haul ass! I found a cabin with a camera mounted above the door though, which looked suspicious, upon exploring the interior I found a comms room key. Spying the large satellite facility in the distance I headed there and used said key to access the upstairs office, destroying the equipment within and disrupting the enemies’ satellite link. I had made quite an impression at this point, so even more attention was directed my way unfortunately! Fighting off heavy resistance I hightailed it out in to the open where I found the Spetznaz helicopter warming up. My last objective was to destroy it, before slipping in to the nearby bunker. I finished the level with a time of 7:04 and had a 72.6% accuracy rating. The ninth game level was called “Severnaya – Bunker”, and after many tries I finally had to dumb down the difficulty level even further, finally making the switch to “Agent” . . . oh the shame! After slipping in to the bunker at the end of my last mission, I was apparently taken captive. So my main focus was, of course, escape, but I was also tasked with obtaining a few things along the way. To begin I engaged in conversation with a cell mate named Natalya, who had been labelled a traitor to her mother country. While conversing with her (about the theft of the Goldeneye weapon and other intriguing things) I used my watch magnet device to obtain a key to my cell, then slipped out and took down the lone guard! I nabbed his gun, a set of throwing knives, as well as the key to Natalya’s cell. Before freeing her though, I began skulking through the facility and used my throwing knives to silently reduce the enemies’ numbers. Along the way I found a safe key, a document that contained the Severnaya staff list, a couple of key cards that allowed me further access to the facility, as well as the video tape of my initial capture. Eventually I cleared out a computer room and found the safe. Upon opening it with my key I obtained my confiscated weapons along with a red dossier which contained the Goldeneye Operations Manual. Moving on I passed through a large, open room full of cargo and after clearing it, came across a clipboard that featured a casualty list. The final area I had yet to explore was the large operations room, and after clearing it of all resistance I went back and fetched Natalya. Back in the operations room afterwards she checked the status of the Goldeneye satellite and found out that it was currently trained on the Severnaya facility . . . so we had to beat a hasty retreat before we were blown to smithereens! I finished this level with a time of 18:14 and had a 69.2% accuracy rating.

2) Yet another series is complete on my season of MLB 2K11. This time around I traveled to San Francisco, to take on the Giants. Events unfolded as such: won @ San Francisco 7-0, won @ San Francisco 8-0 & won @ San Francisco 2-0 . . . I was expecting them to be a little tougher, to be honest!!

3) The mop up operation on Lego: Lord of the Rings is at long last complete . . . a big game over here, baby!! To begin I replayed the last five levels of the game I had yet to get at, which included the one that actually comes first in the game, the prologue level, which I had forgotten about. My progress went as such: “The Paths of the Dead” (found the last 7 Minikit pieces, 3/3 Treasure items, the Tablet, and earned 3 Silver Bricks [for completing the Minikit, as well as finding all Treasure items and the Tablet]), “The Battle of Pelennor Fields” (earned True Adventurer status, found the last 8 Minikit pieces, the last 2 Treasure items, the Tablet, and earned 4 Silver Bricks [for the status achievement, completing the Minikit, and finding all Treasure items plus the Tablet]), “The Black Gate” (earned True Adventurer status, found 10/10 Minikit pieces, 3/3 Treasure items, the Tablet, and earned 4 Silver Bricks [for the status, completing the Minikit, and finding all Treasure items plus the Tablet]), “Mount Doom” (found the last 8 Minikit pieces, 3/3 Treasure items, the Tablet, and earned 3 Silver Bricks [for completing the Minikit, and finding all Treasure items plus the Tablet]) & “Prologue” (found the last 9 Minikit pieces, 3/3 Treasure items, the Tablet, and earned 3 Silver Bricks [for completing the Minikit, and finding all Treasure items plus the Tablet]). While wandering around in the game hub between all of this action, I also managed to obtain 47 Silver Bricks, 1 Tablet, and I also managed to complete 26 Quests. As for purchases, I was able to acquire the Citadel Guard, Gondor Soldier, Boromir (Captain), Gondor Ranger, Haradrim, Gothmog, Mordor Orc, Lurtz & Soldier of the Dead characters. I also purchased 10 Red Bricks, which unlocked for me the Action Assist, Character Studs, Mithril Hearts, Studs X4, Studs X6, Fall Rescue, 8-bit Music, Invincibility, Studs X8 & Studs X10 extras! The last bit of errand running I did saw me visit the Blacksmith in Bree, where I crafted the last of the Mithril items I had access to. Said items included the Mithril Top Hat, Shield, Fire Bow, Bottomless Bucket, Skeleton Bow, Tinderbox, Ice Sword, Camouflage Tome, Climbing Boots & Shockwave Axe! Afterwards I headed back to two levels from earlier in my mop up effort that I couldn’t quite get totally completed, but at this point I now could. Said levels included: “Helm’s Deep” (found the last 2 Minikit pieces and for doing so, earned 1 Silver Brick) & “Taming Gollum” (earned True Adventurer status, and gained a Silver Brick for it). And that is all, game over!! I’m going to give this game a rating of 8, although it’s more like an 8.5 . . . I would have given it a 9.5 or even a 10, but it had some issues with glitching, getting stuck in spots every so often, and also the colouring of the game was very dark, sometimes it was hard to see what you were doing and where you were going. Otherwise it was pretty fantastic though, as Lego games tend to be!

4) I played a little more NHL ’04 than usual this time around, rubbing out the next six games on my season. Said contests unfolded as such: won vs. Buffalo 19-3, won @ Pittsburgh 14-5, won vs. Boston 16-4, won @ Carolina 15-4, won vs. Montreal 16-8 & won vs. Carolina 15-5. A little better than my real life Leafs, who all of a sudden suck balls! They have collapsed once again this year, I just hope they collapse enough to get the first pick in the draft this June so we can snag Connor McDavid. They’ll probably find a way to screw that up too . . .

5) Similarly, I got a lot more done on Jak X: Combat Racing than I thought I would, especially considering to start play off this time around I made the move up to the “Blue Eco Cup”! The game is getting harder, but I just keep getting better! Anyhoo, to start play off on this new circuit, I first visited “Haven City” and participated in a single event there called “Eastern Tour – Circuit Race” (won the race, gold medal). I then went and visited three more destinations in a row, getting in a single event at each one. The locations in question were “Spargus”, “Kras City” & “Icelands”. The events, respectively, went down as such: “Canyon Run – Circuit Race” (won the race, gold medal), “Waterfront Loop – Death Race” (won the race, gold medal) & “Icebound Citadel – Freeze Rally” (won the event, gold medal). I then headed back to “Spargus”, where I knocked down a trio of events that included: “Desert Arena – Artifact Race” (won the event, gold medal), “Beachfront Drive – Rush Hour” (won the event, gold medal) & “Northern Tour – Circuit Race” (won the race, gold medal). Another trio of events was up next, this time at “Kras City”, and they included: “Seaport Strip – Turbo Dash” (won the event, gold medal), “Dirt Stadium – Capture” (won the event, gold medal) & “Loading Docks – Circuit Race” (won the race, gold medal). It was then time to run a qualifier event at “Grand Prix”, the event in question was “Kras City – Freeze Rally” (won the event, gold medal). I finished up by visiting “Haven City”, where I found success in the “Clifftop Battlefield – Deathmatch” event (won the event, gold medal). Rollin’!!

6) Much more was recorded for Transformers: Beast Wars on this occasion too, I’m just now beginning to realize how much I got accomplished over the last month! To begin with I finished the last three levels of the game, as I was pretty close to the end at where I left off last time. Said trio of levels went as follows: “Volcanic 1 – Proximity Alert” (we received an alert that Megatron’s army was set to engage in an attack on the Axalon, my task was to secure the area around the ship in hopes of preventing said attack), “Volcanic 2 – Counter Strike” (with Megatron’s armies depleted the recommended follow up was to march in to Predacon territory and secure their ship, further hindering their efforts, and I did so after navigating a treacherous volcanic landscape) & “Volcanic 3 – Supreme Victory” (with the Predacons destroyed and their ship breached, my final task was to track down the Predacon leader and dispatch him, which I did after navigating the many pitfalls of the Darksyde . . . Megatron dead, game over!). But the game wasn’t really over, for I had simply completed the missions under the Maximals faction . . . it was now time to indulge my evil side and execute the missions for the Predacons!! So far I’ve been able to finish three of them, as such: “Urban 1 – Night Attack” (the Maximal Rhinox had expanded his base within reach of Tarantulas’ lair, my mission was to invade said base and neutralize the threat it presented, and I did so after navigating the maze like territory and fighting through much resistance), “Urban 2 – Energy Source” (scans showed Rhinox was in full retreat, but they also detected a large mobile energy source outside of Rhinox’s fortress, I was tasked with continuing my pursuit of the Maximal and to eliminate all resistance along the way) & “Urban 3 – Heart of the City” (the energy source I chased down and destroyed was a durable mech, within it was a powerful energy cell, in order to get Predacon hands on said cell I was jobbed with engaging Rhinox in a boss fight, ending his threat once and for all). Well over halfway through this sucker now, woot woot!

7) As per the usual, two more levels are complete on X-Men: Destiny. The fifth level of the game came next, and it was called “Alcatraz Sub-Levels”. With both the X-Men and the Mutant Response Division spread thin, Reyes authorized a group of Sentinels to aid me in my further explorations of Alcatraz prison. I began by exploring the corridors of the sub-levels of Alcatraz, not long in to my trek Emma sent a message warning me that the Purifiers were giving the captured mutants to the U-Men. The U-Men in turn were doing experiments on the mutants, in an attempt to bottle their different powers and use them to make weapons . . . ultimately they’d be using our own powers against us! With a newfound drive to shut them down I forged onwards, getting wind of a new magnetic walker prototype somewhere in the vicinity. However, the walker was shielded, so before I could get at it I had to locate two shield generators and destroy them. Afterwards I gave the walker the same destructive treatment, battling turrets, Purifiers and U-Men all the while. Moving on I took out four U-Men security teams while searching for evidence of another entity in the facility that also seemed bent on the U-Men’s downfall. During said search I destroyed some generators that unwittingly began a self-destruct sequence for the facility, so I then hightailed it through a large door and made my way to the experimentation labs. There I was able to free both Archangel and Xorn, before running in to a damaged Sabretooth, who informed me that a rampaging Sentinel was on the loose! I took the bot down and the level ended with Sabretooth and I mulling over who was behind this whole scheme. Level six was called “Alcatraz Tunnels”, it picked up with me in the tunnels that led to the area where the U-Men were creating these mutant powered weapons. I began searching for their leader, taking out many U-Men and Sentinels along the way, including five security teams. Afterwards I disabled some security computers, before running in to a locked door. I soon got it open, after destroying the two generators that powered it’s locking mechanism, but I then had to backtrack to find the door again, as I’d lost track of it! Along the way I learned that the U-Men weren’t creating straight weapons per se, but cybernetics that were infused with these mutant powers. Eventually I found the security door I’d been looking to get back to and entered it, first coming across a database that contained some archives, which I accessed. Evidence within said files suggested that Professor Xavier’s death was indeed no accident dammit! Moving on I next rescued Pixie, who thought we could learn even more from the databases this facility contained. I went and accessed three more machines, which gave us information on Cyclops, Magneto, Luis Reyes, not to mention the threat of a potential mutant elimination procedure! Meeting up with Pixie again soon after, one of the U-Men’s experiments was sicked on us, and it had mutant replicating powers. Taking the form of Wolverine, Emma, Mystique, not to mention some other guy I was unfamiliar with, I had to take this thing down in all it’s various forms! After the boss battle was over a being named Bastion infiltrated the nearby mainframe computer, which I destroyed, before Pixie teleported us out of there!

8) Our adventures on Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed is nearly over, at least on the “World Tour” mode anyways! We’ve collected just about as many as stars as we possibly can, but are still short in our grand total, meaning there are a lot of levels we can’t quite get at yet as well as additional racers we can’t unlock. Beating certain events on A class, sometimes even B class in this game, sure is a tricky proposition! Anyways, here are the final events we completed to finish up our play on World Tour: “Arcade Annihilation – Race” (competed in B class, placed first, earning 2 stars), “Curien Curve – Drift Race” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star) & “Jet Set Jaunt – Boost Challenge” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star). These events all took place within the “Moonlight Park” area. After they were finished off a new event in the “Scorching Skies” area opened up, called “Carrier Crisis – Sprint” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star). At this point we decided to try out another of the game’s main modes, called “Grand Prix”. This is very much like the Grand Prix mode in the Mario Kart series, it consists of a number of circuits that each group four races together, with racers earning points for their respective finishing positions in each race. The racer with the highest point total at the end of all races is the winner! We’ve completed all five circuits available, the first of which was called the “Dragon Cup”. There we took part in the “Oceanview” (placed 3 and 10 respectively), “Samba Studios” (2 and 10), “Carrier Zone” (4 and 10) & “Dragon Canyon” (2 and 10) races. Overall I won the circuit with 33 total points. Next up was the “Rogue Cup”, which consisted of the “Temple Trouble” (1 and 10), “Galactic Parade” (1 and 9), “Seasonal Shrines” (1 and 10) & “Rogue’s Landing” (1 and 9) races. Overall I won the circuit with 40 points. The “Emerald Cup” circuit was next, which saw us knock down the “Dream Valley” (1 and 7), “Chilly Castle” (3 and 10), “Graffiti City” (6 and 10) & “Sanctuary Falls” (1 and 10) races. Overall I nabbed the circuit win with 33 points. “Arcade Cup” was next on the docket, which featured the “Graveyard Gig” (1 and 10), “Adder’s Lair” (1 and 10), “Burning Depths” (5 and 10) & “Race of Ages” (1 and 10) races. I won the circuit with a total of 36 points. And the final circuit was “Classic Cup”, containing the “Sunshine Tour” (1 and 7), “Shibuya Downtown” (3 and 6), “Roulette Road” (4 and 9) & “Egg Hangar” (1 and 7) races. My 35 points were good enough for the circuit victory. For completing these various circuits we unlocked the “Mirror Mode” feature for Grand Prix mode, as well as my Mii as a playable character in the game! Next up . . . why Mirror Mode, of course!

9) Next we come to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Danger of the Ooze, which is now almost complete!! But I’m currently stuck on what I believe may be the final boss fight of the game, against Shredder . . . stuck in a big way! Anyways, picking up from where I left off last time I discovered a new section of underground sewers explored them, running in to many Mousers and Kraang aliens to dispatch, even a few Squirrelnoids. This route eventually led me to an alternate entrance to the TCRI building, inside I battled my way past more Kraang, including a new kind that were all blue in colour. Along the way I found the Shock Shurikens as well as the Tekagi Climbing Claws, which gave me access to more treacherous areas I previously could not enter. At the top of the TCRI building I came upon a machine that produced a portal, capable of transporting one directly to . . . Dimension X!! I entered it and began exploring the alien landscape on the other side, engaging some Kraang along with these bizarre fart aliens!! In the process I acquired the Bomb Shurikens, before coming to a brief portion of the landscape where everything became inverted . . . up was down, left was right, etc. Soon after I ran in to Leatherhead, who informed me that the Newtralizer was up ahead, and he was in possession of some sort of weapon. Leatherhead also gifted us the Ninja Vanish ability. Forging onwards I soon ran in to the aforementioned Newtralizer, who had just finished throwing said weapon through a portal, with Shredder as it’s intended recipient. I engaged the Newtralizer and took him down in a boss fight, before entering the same portal the weapon went through. Back on the other side I found myself in the sewers once again, now in possession of the mystery weapon . . . but also surrounded by hordes of Kraang! Fortunately Splinter showed up and saved our bacon. Shredder then had a Mouser deliver a video message, in it he said he had kidnapped Karai and would trade her for the weapon. So we rushed off to find Shredder, wanting to rescue Splinter’s daughter, but before doing so Splinter gave us the Air Special ability. Heading topside we were eventually able to sniff out the Shredder and engaged him in a boss fight . . . a boss fight I have not been able to win just yet! Wish me luck . . .

10) As for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, we didn’t put a ton of effort in to it this time around, but we did manage a few rounds. Continuing on with our team battles we were able to unlock both the Dark Pit and Dr. Mario characters. Afterwards, playing by myself for a change, I went and tried one of the various different game modes. The one I tried was called “Classic”. In it there is a surface that looks like a chess board, only without the squares on it, and you have to move a statue like representation of your character around it. When you bump in to other characters’ statues you then head off for a battle against the character(s) in question. I won on my first time through, using King Dedede, only running in to trouble during the last round, which I believe is the seventh round. The final boss, Master Hand, gave me some push back but I eventually laid him low. For my win I unlocked some gold pieces, items, statues, etc., but I have no idea what they all mean or do! This game is fun, but it’s a hot mess to be honest. The menus are so full of stuff, I have no idea what any of it means or what I’m supposed to be doing! I’ll just keep on experimenting though and we’ll see if I can figure it out.

11) We also put just a bit of work in on Nintendo Land, trying some of the mini-games that we hadn’t gotten around to yet. Here is the next series of games we played: “Octopus Dance” (high score of 627 points, obtained a silver trophy, and earned 1/5 stamps), “Balloon Trip Breeze” (high score of 667 points, obtained a bronze trophy, and earned 1/5 stamps) & “Pikmin Adventure: Tame the Wilderness” (chose the Challenge option, Play as Olimar, and completed the Bulborb Forest level, earning 1/5 stamps).

12) I tripled my output on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 this time around, as initially I was only able to complete the first level. This time around I went at it a little bit harder! The levels in this game really aren’t hard and fast “levels” per se, I just consider it a new level once the game shifts to a new location and focuses on a new sequence of tasks. The second level began at The Burrow, on the eve of Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour’s wedding. Outside the tent with Ron and Hermione we first had a brief conversation with Mr. Lovegood, then met up with Arthur Weasley, who we were informed was waiting for us over by the shed. Arthur told us that Dumbledore had left our trio some items in his passing. Ron got the Deluminator, Hermione got a book called The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and Harry got the golden snitch along with the sword of Godric Gryffindor, which had actually gone missing. Not much later the wedding was attached by Death Eaters and the tent went up in flames! We fought our way back towards the tent but there were too many enemies in our way, so we apparated to the streets of London. To kick the third level off we got changed out of our wedding attire, in to something a little more streetwise. I then left Ron and Hermione in hiding while I donned the Invisibility Cloak, making a number of reconnaissance runs down the nearby streets. The purpose of them was to eavesdrop on any nearby citizens and try to determine if any of them were Death Eaters. After coming to the decision that the coast was clear we decided to head to a nearby café, but once inside we were ambushed by a couple of Death Eaters and had to fight them off, testing out our new Impedimentus spell in the process! Immediately afterwards we apparated away to safety once again. We decided to apparate to Sirius Black’s old house at Grimmauld Place to kick off the fourth level, and we immediately began searching it for . . . well, anything really! I found some Doxies in the kitchen and used Doxycide to be rid of the pests, then headed upstairs and found more of them in one of the bedrooms. We then found the initials of Regulus Black on one of the walls, which Harry was able to link to one of the horcruxes, based on some info Dumbledore had shared! We decided the nasty little house elf, Kreacher, could probably provide us with some intel on the whereabouts of said horcrux. So we traipsed back to the kitchen and found the beasty there, although he was not all that cooperative! After some convincing though, he let it slip that he had tried to destroy it, as per Regulus’ orders, but couldn’t. The last person he thought had possession of it was Mundungus Fletcher, so we instructed Kreacher to go see if he could find him. While Kreacher was away we continued exploring the house and staved off a Dementor, before both Kreacher and Dobby apparated back with Mundungus in tow! After questioning Mundungus he revealed to us that he had sold the horcrux to Umbridge . . . shit. More to come!

13) Mario Kart 8 got blown wide open, much like Sonic did last time around! We continued on the “Grand Prix” mode, picking up where we left off last time, in the middle of the action under the 100c.c. class. The next circuit on the docket was the “Flower Cup”, James and I used Bowser and Daisy as our racers, respectively. The results were as follows: “Mario Circuit” (1 and 8), “Toad Harbor” (1 and 12), “Twisted Mansion” (1 and 8) & “Shy Guy Falls” (2 and 10). I won the circuit with 57 points, unlocking the Rosalina character. Next up was the “Star Cup” circuit, where we employed Yoshi and Rosalina as our racers. The results were: “Sunshine Airport” (2 and 6), “Dolphin Shoals” (1 and 10), “Electrodome” (1 and 6) & “Mount Wario” (2 and 6). I won the circuit with a total of 54 points, unlocking the Lemmy character! Yarrrrrr!! The “Special Cup” came next, where we utilized Toad . . . and Toad! Events unfolded as such: “Cloudtop Cruise” (1 and 12), “Bone-Dry Dunes” (2 and 12), “Bowser’s Castle” (1 and 8) & “Rainbow Road” (5 and 12). I took the circuit with 50 points, unlocking the Larry character. Up next was the “Shell Cup”, where Wario and Lakitu were our drivers . . . the action went thusly: “Moo Moo Meadows” (1 and 9), “Mario Circuit” (5 and 2), “Cheep Cheep Beach” (1 and 9) & “Toad’s Turnpike” (1 and 9). I won the overall circuit with 53 points, unlocking the Iggy character. Donkey Kong’s favourite, the “Banana Cup” fell next, and we doubled up on Rosalina as our drivers! The races included: “Dry Dry Desert” (1 and 10), “Donut Plains” (1 and 12), “Royal Raceway” (4 and 9) & “DK Jungle” (2 and 7). I took the circuit with 51 points . . . no more unlocks!! The second last circuit was “Leaf Cup”, which saw us pick Lakitu and James’ Mii. Events went as follows: “Wario Stadium” (1 and 9), “Sherbet Land” (1 and 7), “Music Park” (4 and 12) & “Yoshi Valley” (1 and 9). I won the circuit with 54 points. Last came the “Lightning Cup”, where the duo of Toadette and Toad took to the track. The races unfolded as so: “Tick-Tock Clock” (1 and 8), “Piranha Plant Slide” (2 and 12), “Grumble Volcano” (1 and 12) & “Rainbow Road” (2 and 8). I won the circuit with 54 points. It was then time to begin the last class available . . . the feared 150c.c. class! Some circuits took a couple tries, but for the most part we did OK. As usual the action began with the “Mushroom Cup”, which saw us use Iggy and Wendy as our racers. The results came down as follows: “Mario Kart Stadium” (1 and 7), “Water Park” (2 and 5), “Sweet Sweet Canyon” (1 and 10) & “Thwomp Ruins” (4 and 11). Overall I won the circuit with 51 points. The “Flower Cup” was next, which saw us pilot Roy and James’ Mii around the track, the events went as such: “Mario Circuit” (1 and 9), “Toad Harbor” (2 and 12), “Twisted Mansion” (1 and 10) & “Shy Guy Falls” (1 and 9). I won the circuit with 57 points. “Star Cup” followed, Morton and Shy Guy were our drivers of choice, who performed thusly: “Sunshine Airport” (1 and 11), “Dolphin Shoals” (1 and 6), “Electrodome” (4 and 11) & “Mount Wario” (4 and 12). I finished second overall in the circuit with a total of 48 points. In line next was the “Special Cup”, which saw Ludwig and Shy Guy strap in. Their performances netted the following results: “Cloudtop Cruise” (2 and 6), “Bone-Dry Dunes” (4 and 12), “Bowser’s Castle” (1 and 8) & “Rainbow Road” (8 and 12). I placed second overall with 41 points. Our next stop was for the “Shell Cup”, where Wendy and Toad did our driving. The action went as so: “Moo Moo Meadows” (1 and 6), “Mario Circuit” (1 and 12), “Cheep Cheep Beach” (4 and 8) & “Toad’s Turnpike” (2 and 10). I won the overall circuit with 51 points. The “Banana Cup” was on next, and we chose Larry and Morton as our drivers. The action broke down as follows: “Dry Dry Desert” (1 and 10), “Donut Plains” (5 and 11), “Royal Raceway” (3 and 11) & “DK Jungle” (1 and 12). I finished second overall with 48 points. “Leaf Cup” was the penultimate circuit, and it witnessed Lemmy and Toadette doing the racing. Said racing came down as so: “Wario Stadium” (1 and 9), “Sherbet Land” (3 and 11), “Music Park” (3 and 7) & “Yoshi Valley” (3 and 10). I nabbed another second place finish with 45 points. Finally the “Lightning Cup” came around again, for it we selected Metal Mario and Koopa Troopa to do the honours! The results were as follows: “Tick-Tock Clock” (1 and 8), “Piranha Plant Slide” (1 and 7), “Grumble Volcano” (6 and 10) & “Rainbow Road” (2 and 7). I won the circuit in a very close fight, with a spartan 49 points! So that’s it for Grand Prix mode! Now we’re off to explore the other game modes Mario Kart 8 may have to offer . . .

14) Finally, with getting stuck at the end of Danger of the Ooze, I decided to start another game for the 3DS to keep me going. It just so happened to be the game James got me for Christmas . . . BeyBlade: Evolution! In this title you take on the role of an unspecified kid (or is it really you?) and engage other people in actual BeyBlade battles, just like in real life! It’s pretty cool. There’s not much back story to it or anything, you turn the game on and kind of get a rundown on your environment and what you’re supposed to do, from a guy named Blader DJ. After that you are free to wander your environment and interact with and battle other bladers, in the early stages of the game many of them give you tips and tricks that function as a sort of tutorial. My first visit was to the Park, where I met a chap named Gingka . . . against him I won my first battle! Unfortunately I lost my follow up match, against a boy named Kenta. I then visited the Plaza and met Tsubasa, a match I lost, then ran in to Masamune and lost again!! At this point I was able to visit the Bey Coliseum, where I entered my first tournament. Unfortunately I lost the first battle against Benkei and was eliminated because of it. To console myself I went to the B-Pit and bought my first BeyBlade part with some of the credits I’d earned . . . nothing like some shopping to cheer a guy up! As I said earlier, these bladers offer tutorials throughout our battles, I learned about the different types of stadiums and how to approach them, spirit power, and many other helpful items. Next I headed to the Vacant Lot where I got back on the winning track, defeating both Tsubasa and Masamune, but when I headed back to the Plaza I lost to Kenta once more. It was then time to try my hand at another tournament, and it was pitiful! Engaging Toby in a series of 4 battles I managed to lose all of them, hanging my head in much shame. At the Vacant Lot I played my first mini-game, called Balloon Break, and it didn’t go so well. To make matters worse I lost a follow up battle to Masamune. A bit of luck followed me afterwards, as I beat Gingka at the Park, then won the Aim and Shoot mini-game, before going shopping again and buying some more parts! The last thing I did was lose to Tsubasa at the Plaza. I’m on a bit of a learning curve for this one!

“NNGRR” - Late in the week that followed my last blog post, I watched the latest movie in the Thor franchise called Thor: The Dark World! This film began much the way the original did . . . with a bit of back story. Ages ago, almost before the light itself, King Odin’s father, Bor, battled a fierce enemy named Malekith. Malekith was the leader of a race called “Dark Elves”, and they sought to extinguish the light in the universe, wanting to plunge all nine of the realms in to darkness. However, Bor and his Asgardian forces were not about to let that happen, so they battled Malekith’s forces vehemently. Ultimately they won and in doing so seemingly destroyed the source of Malekith’s power, a mysterious substance called the Aether. In truth the Aether was not destroyed but taken to a secret place Bor hoped no one would ever find it again. Fast forward to current times and it’s been about two years since Thor’s banishment to Earth, two years since he fell in love with the human Jane Foster. Thor and his mates have been spreading peace through the nine realms by putting down insurgencies, the most recent one he returns from on Vanaheim. As for Jane Foster, she has been trying to seek out Thor since he left, quite upset that he never came back for her. Jane, Darcy and Erik’s latest adventures have taken them to London, England, where they’ve picked up some funky readings with their specialized scientific equipment. While in the midst of investigating some of these readings Jane slips through a gateway to one of the other nine realms (for the great Convergence is forthcoming) . . . and unwittingly becomes infected with the Aether, releasing it to the world for the first time in millennia! Jane comes to back in London, where she first entered the gateway, and not long afterwards Thor shows up, inciting a pretty exciting reunion! It is quite apparent that Jane is sick though, for the Aether is causing strange reactions to take place within her body. So Thor flies her to Asgard and enlists some Asgardian healers to try and help her. In the meantime the arrival of the Aether back in to the world has awoken Malekith, who has been hibernating within his ship for eons, waiting for his chance to take revenge on the Asgardians . . . and this may very well be his chance. After making his presence violently known to the people of Asgard, Thor approaches Odin with a plan of action to end the threat the Dark Elves present, but Odin denies Thor, thinking it too dangerous. Enlisting the aid of his trusted allies once again, Thor defies his father and frees Loki, who has been imprisoned in Asgard’s dungeons since his transgressions in the first movie. Thor and Loki then take the fight to Malekith, on the neutral grounds of Svartalfheim. But when Thor and Loki’s plan to have Malekith draw the Aether out of Jane so that Thor can destroy it doesn’t quite go as planned, the fighting then moves to London . . . and Thor may finally have met his match. Can the god of thunder pull this one out at the last second, or is humanity in for a heaping spoonful of evil darkness? This film was a great follow up to the first one, consistent in it’s vibe and storylines, only the action was ramped up even further. Very curious to see if they have plans for a third entry at this point . . .

Near the conclusion of the weekend that followed we took James to the movies, to see Paddington! I was a big fan of him as a youngster, and mrs. darthcobain17 remembers him fondly as well, so it was a no brainer. Anyhoo, the film begins back in the 1950’s or so, I’m guessing, when an explorer named Montgomery Clyde heads to the forbidding land of darkest Peru. Once there he makes a startling discovery, a family of bears that are so intelligent he is capable of teaching them to talk! In all the time he spends with these bears he also inspires in them a great love of marmalade. Upon leaving the jungle and heading back to England, Clyde tells the bears they are welcome in London any time, where they would surely receive a warm welcome. Fast forward many years to more current times, and the two bears (named Pastuzo and Lucy) are much older, living happily with their curious nephew Paddington . . . although he hasn’t quite earned the name just yet! One day while harvesting oranges an earthquake hits the jungle, their home is destroyed, and Pastuzo has gone missing. Unable to take care of Paddington by herself, Lucy urges him to head to London and seek out the explorer her and Pastuzo had spent time with all those years ago. Stealing away on a cargo vessel Paddington eventually winds up in London, but the warm welcome Mr. Clyde had promised is nowhere in sight. The people of London barely take notice of him, nobody seems willing to help, so he ends up stranded at Paddington Station (and there’s that new name!) . . . until the Brown family happens by, that is! Mrs. Brown, Mary, takes a shine to Paddington and attempts to convince her grumpy husband Henry to let her take him home for the night. She soon gets her way and they all head for home. Her son Jonathan is excited about having Paddington stay with the family, while her daughter Judy is at best indifferent. It doesn’t take Paddington long to leave his mark at the Brown household, for he trashes the bathroom completely by accident, among other incidents. In doing so he starts to gain the younger Browns’ affection, which helps bring brother and sister closer together. Henry is still adamant that Paddington has to go though, so Mary tries to help him locate the explorer who originally came to darkest Peru, using a clue they find within the hat Paddington wears (which Mr. Clyde had originally left behind in Peru). The search doesn’t pay off right away, and soon Paddington finds himself being pursued by a strange being who is trying to capture him! While defending himself from said being, the Browns’ kitchen suffers a small fire, and when Henry gets home it’s pretty much the last straw as they don’t believe Paddington’s tale of an intruder in the house. That night Paddington decides to voluntarily leave the Brown household while everybody is asleep, spending a miserable night out in the rainy London streets. Working on the clues they had gleaned from his hat though, Paddington comes up with a list of possible addresses for Montgomery Clyde. At the very last address on his list Paddington finally gets lucky . . . although it’s not good luck, it’s very very bad luck!! The person who answers the door is a stunning blonde who seems nice in Paddington’s opinion, but in reality she’s that same person who had been trying to capture the bear! This femme is an evil woman and a taxidermist, named Millicent Clyde, Montgomery Clyde’s own daughter! She is miffed because when Montgomery got back from darkest Peru oh so long ago and was asked why he didn’t bring back a specimen (aka a stuffed bear), he told his brethren at the Geographer’s Guild that they were smart, amazing creatures and he couldn’t possibly do that to them. Clyde was then stripped of his membership and the life of luxury the Clyde family had been living came crashing down . . . hence Millicent’s longstanding bitterness. Her plan is to stuff Paddington and put him on display, and she tells him as much. Knocked out from the drugs she’s injected him with, Paddington’s only hope is the Brown family, who have awoken to a bear-less household and immediately feel the great void it has left. Can this crazy family pull together in their time of greatest need and ferret out what happened to their beloved bear . . . or will they soon be seeing him on display at the Natural History Museum? This was a great flick, a sure fire family hit! I don’t doubt that all those realists out there will have multitudes of issues with a walking, talking bear roaming the streets of London and nobody being concerned about it, but that’s how you think when you’re a stupid, unoriginal asshole. This film had lots of heart, and it was made by the folks who created the Harry Potter movies, I found it had that same sort of magical vibe to it. The cast was amazing, mostly a bunch of folks I was unfamiliar with who did a bang up job. And the work that went in to creating Paddington paid off in spades, he was awesome, and funny too. We’ll own this one eventually, methinks!!

Late during the next work week I finished reading the second book of The Expanse series, called Caliban’s War. It’s been about a year since Detective Miller rode Eros station, along with the protomolecule, in to the surface of Venus. In the meantime Earth and Mars have been divvying up resources throughout the solar system after nearly coming to blows in the first book. They’ve also both been monitoring events on Venus, which has been undergoing dramatic changes ever since Eros station slammed in to it . . . but all they can do is guess at what’s happening down there based on the data their ships’ sensors are sending them. It’s not long before the fragile peace the universe has temporarily settled in to is shattered though. The large moon of Ganymede is an important resource for all in the galaxy. In labs that dot it’s surface food and plant life is grown to help support those populations who cannot grow them on their own, such as Mars. There are both U.N. (Earth) and Martian marines on site, making sure their sides each get their respective share. However, one evening the U.N. forces appear to be launching an attack on the Martian marines, but as said marines watch the apparent attack develop, they realize the U.N. troops are actually running towards the Martians in an attempt to solicit their aid . . . for they are being chased by a terrifying abomination with glowing blue eyes! Said abomination, despite all the rounds the Martian marines pump in to it, cannot be destroyed. This creature tears through the Marines with ease, but as it’s about to finish off the very last one, a femme named Roberta “Bobbie” Draper, it self-destructs. Bobbie is eventually rescued and ultimately escorted to Earth to parlay her tale to the higher ups on both sides. Afterwards, with nothing to lose, Bobbie takes an offer from U.N. Undersecretary Chrisjen Avasarala, to help her find out just what this thing was. Wishing to avenge her fallen comrades, Bobbie accepts Avasarala’s offer and joins her staff. Avasarala believes this creature was created from the protomolecule, engineered to become a controlled weapon, and she is dead set on bringing to justice the filth that would unleash such a terror on the galaxy. Meanwhile, for the last year Jim Holden and his crew have continued to work for Fred Johnson and the OPA (Outer Planets Alliance), chasing down pirates and scoundrels, making space a safer place. However, after hearing about Ganymede and the protomolecule link, they immediately head there to investigate. At first their searches are fruitless . . . until they run in to a bedraggled botanist named Praxidike Meng, whose daughter Mei has gone missing. Prax tells them that his daughter, along with a number of other children who also suffer from immune deficiency disorders, were kidnapped by one of their doctors who apparently wasn’t really who he claimed to be! Holden takes Prax on and offers his help, as he has a gut feeling the arrival of the protomolecule and the disappearance of Mei are directly related. Their investigations on Ganymede eventually turn violent, and more evidence of tampering with the protomolecule becomes evident. Eventually they are forced to flee, but in so doing they find another of the protomolecule creatures stowed away in their cargo hold! After a desperate ploy to rid themselves of the creature proves successful, Prax’s scientific mind files away many important facts and behaviours he observed throughout the process. Back on Earth Avasarala’s digging around has pissed off some of the corrupt higher ups in the government, and so they’ve sent her away on a fool’s errand to get her out of the picture, at least temporarily. But with Bobbie and her Martian suit of armour in tow, the duo soon turn the tides on their “captors” and race to intercept Holden, informing him and his crew that there are a bunch of U.N. ships on their tail, lusting to destroy them after they stirred the pot on Ganymede! Soon the Rocinante is host to the usual cast of Holden, Nomi, Alex and Amos, along with newcomer Prax, followed by Avasarala and Bobbie! After sharing their collective experiences and observations, the group thinks they have a solid grasp on who is behind all of the events and soon come up with a plan of action to deal with it. But will a lone ship holding a crew of just seven be able to stem the tide of an oncoming war, appeasing all factions involved? Or will they all end up as just more cosmic dust floating through space? And more importantly, just what in the hell was that massive protomolecule monster that reared up and launched itself in to space off the surface of Venus!? This story was awesome, it just kept building on the mystery and suspense of the first book. At the same time it resolved some of the little details that came up in the first story, helping to build a more solid picture of just what is going on behind this whole grand story! The ending was especially good, equal parts satisfaction mixed with equal parts what the hell was that, I can’t wait for the third book!! So good . . .

That weekend I watched a couple movies I’ve been itching to get at, the first of which was Cowboys and Aliens! This film takes place in the old times of the wild, wild west and opens with a scene featuring a man coming to in the middle of the desert, and he has no memory of what has happened to him. He is dirty, sports a bloody wound in his side, and has a bizarre, futuristic bracelet firmly attached to his left wrist! Not knowing what to do, the stranger heads to the nearest town, a place called Absolution. In Absolution he is given medical aid by a man of the cloth, afterwards he makes himself useful by diffusing a situation where a skinny punk named Percy is shooting his gun all about willy nilly and terrorizing the locals. Percy swears vengeance on this mysterious stranger, who we soon find out is named Jake Lonergan. Percy’s father is a big shot former solider named Woodrow, more commonly known as “The Colonel”, and he provides Absolution’s supply of cattle. While the local lawmen process Percy for transport to a federal marshal in Santa Fe, they come across some documents that point a guilty finger at Jake . . . for he is guilty of stealing gold, and not just anybody’s gold . . . the Colonel’s gold!! After a skirmish the sheriff is able to arrest Jake, soon enough both he and Percy are locked in a wagon together, ready to be shipped out to Santa Fe! At the last minute Woodrow swoops in and demands they let Percy go. However, before anything can be decided strange flying machines attack Absolution and lay waste to a number of it’s buildings, stealing away many of it’s inhabitants in the process. After the smoke clears and the dust settles, the Colonel organizes a party to go search for whatever manner of demon attacked him and his people. And he wants Jake in on it, despite the bad blood between them. For the bracelet on Jake’s wrist is actually a piece of alien tech that is capable of blasting the flying ships to smithereens! Refusing at first, Jake returns and joins the group after doing some soul searching and regaining a portion of his memory. A strange woman named Ella has taken great interest in him and his plight, and she urges him on as well. While tracking one of the alien creatures through the desert, Jake and Woodrow’s party has tense meetings with a group of bandits Jake used to lead, as well as a tribe of Indians. It is this second meeting where Ella reveals her own true alien nature, explaining that her own people were attacked by these same creatures, so she is set on avenging her kind and making sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else. With the bandits and Indians now on their side, and Jake receiving a special concoction that helps restore his memory, the group is ready to search out the mother ship and take the fight to these strange beasts! As strange as they might be though, they are also fast, powerful, and quite lethal. Does this rag tag group have the cajones to eradicate these alien invaders, or are they only the start in a long line of human casualties? This film was awesome, I’d been wanting to see if for so long because it’s just such a cool and bizarre combination of two very opposite things. And of course with Harrison Ford being involved that only made it even sweeter for me. Daniel Craig was great too, and Olivia Wilde is one exotic beauty! Hubba hubba. I didn’t realize that this film came from the duo of Orci and Kurtzman, who sure do get the respect from me. So good.

The other feature I took in was 47 Ronin . . . it got raked over the coals by critics, so of course I loved it!! Even more so, maybe. Anyhoo, this film takes place in the time of ancient, feudal Japan, and is loosely based on a true story. It picks up in the province of Ako, which is ruled by a lord named Asano Naganori. Many years ago Naganori took in a young boy who was fleeing something in the forest, and this is the flashback the film opens up with. The boy’s name is Kai, and over the years he develops a friendship and unexplored love for Naganori’s daughter, Mika. The samurais of the Ako clan look down on Kai and call him the “half breed”, as the story shifts back to current times and Kai is a grown man, they are still offering him the same treatment. Currently Naganori is out on a hunt, to track down a fearsome beast and exterminate it asap, as the Ako clan is soon going to be hosting an event prompted by a visit from the powerful Shogun Tsunayoshi. Naturally he wants it to go off without a hitch. Deep in the forest his samurais are able to bring the beast down, but in the end it is Kai who delivers the death stroke. Kai does not get any credit for his service though, as there was only one witness, and he does not want to admit Kai got the kill and not him. Later, back in Ako, the Shogun finally arrives and it is obvious they are going to have a problem with his master of ceremonies, Lord Kira. Kira is a bad seed and has been working closely with a shapeshifting witch to help him sabotage Naganori. For Kira wants the province of Ako, and Mika, for himself. After a few magic inspired ruses, Kira and his witch stage a scene that ends with Naganori about to strike Kira down in the middle of the night, after a hallucination provided by the witch convinced Naganori that Mika was being raped by Kira. For this transgression Shogun Tsunayoshi sentences Naganori to death, while all his samurai are labelled ronin (very shameful) and forced to flee the land. Kira is given the Ako territory and is scheduled to wed Mika, after she is given a year to mourn the death of her father. An example is made of Naganori’s prized samurai, Oishi, as he is left trapped in an outdoor pit for almost a year, which Kira thinks will break his spirit. However, when one day close to the wedding Oishi is lifted from the pit and freed, his resolve has never been stronger. He immediately contacts his family and asks after all of the others, including Kai. Oishi then sets out and rounds them all up, informing his former men of his plans for Lord Kira. They can either live the way they have been for the rest of their lives, in great shame . . . or they can go out in a blaze of glory, in the process setting Mika free and destroying the evil Lord Kira! It’s a long, hard journey back to the land of Ako, and along the way the former samurai gain a newfound respect for Kai as they learn about his past. But the final test will pit just 47 ronin against all of Ako, which includes the witch . . . will their resolve be enough to pull them through it, or will their attempts be easily thwarted by a force much more numerous? After seeing this movie and highly enjoying it, I’m not sure exactly what makes a good movie or a bad movie anymore. The films up for Oscars this year mostly make me want to throw up in my mouth, while films like this aren’t even given a chance, really. Oh well. I loved the action sequences in this flick, the strange creatures and magics, and I thought the storyline was just fine. Plus it had Keanu . . . Keanu!!!

As the next week began we borrowed a movie that my parents had taken out of the library, none other than A Million Ways to Die in the West, which I’ve been jonesing to watch ever since it was in theatres! This film is a comedy that takes place in the desert of Arizona, circa 1882. The setting is a town called Old Stump, the main character a cowardly yet loveable sheep farmer named Albert Stark. Albert hates life in the wild west, where seemingly anything and everything is capable of killing a person, hiding around every corner. He’s got a good friend named Edward, but what pulls him through each day the most is the love of his life, the beautiful but bitchy Louise. However, when one day Louise has had enough and dumps Albert, his world is shattered! Albert boozes, sleeps in late, and rarely makes a public appearance, much to the concern of Edward and his girlfriend, Ruth. Meanwhile, just outside of Old Stump trouble is brewing. A bandit named Clinch, who traverses the desert with his wife, Anna, and his band of miscreants, are out for gold . . . and they have no scruples when it comes to how they acquire it! After their latest heist Clinch decides to take a few of his men and lay low, instructing Anna and another of his henchmen, Lewis, to head in to Old Stump under the ruse of looking to start up a farm as brother and sister. One afternoon at the local saloon, a bar brawl breaks out thanks to Lewis’ antics, and Albert manages to save Anna from being clocked during the proceedings. The two have an instant rapport and soon afterwards begin spending a lot of time together. Anna tries to help Albert regain Louise’s love, who has since hooked up with the successful owner of the moustache emporium, Foy. After many interactions between the two couples, Albert finally loses his cool and challenges Foy to a gun fight! With Anna’s secret background she is well versed for teaching Albert how to shoot, and the night before the event she also sabotages Foy by slipping something in to his drink that gives him a pretty wicked case of the shits! The day of the gun fight Foy is in bad shape, but Albert lets him off the hook as he has since realized he is in love with Anna, and he also now sees the truth about how badly Louise used to treat him. But there is no happily ever after just yet, for Clinch and the rest of his posse then reach town . . . and Lewis informs Clinch that he spied one of the town folk kissing Anna! The action culminates in a true battle this time, but will the naïve and inexperienced Albert be able to come even close to matching such a hardened criminal in a contest of violence? This movie was a laugh riot right from the beginning, and that comes as no surprise as it was the brainchild of Seth MacFarlane, who not only wrote the film but stars as Albert. Considering how much I love the humour in both the Family Guy TV show and his previous movie Ted, this was a no brainer. Add in a lot of other wicked talent such as Charlize Theron, Neil Patrick Harris, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, and Sarah Silverman, and this thing is just chalk full of awesomeness. Such stupid humour too, this film was so up my alley it’s unbelievable. Bravo, Seth . . . bravo!!

Later that week I finished reading the book I had on the go at the time, another prose novel from the Marvel universe, called The Death of Captain America! This story takes place not long after the events of the Civil War storyline, in which the Superhuman Registration Act is invoked and the heroes are split down the middle about it, with Tony Stark spearheading the compliance side of things, while Cap is on the other side of the coin. At this point Captain American is still “at large” and S.H.I.E.L.D. is desperately trying to bring him in. The main character in the story, whose perspective it is mainly told from is Agent 13, aka Sharon Carter. As Cap’s love interest she has problems going along with director Stark’s orders (for Tony is running S.H.I.E.L.D. in place of the departed Nick Fury). Sharon is undergoing psychiatric evaluations before she can be reinstated, along with a number of other agents, but eventually she is allowed back on duty. Unfortunately for her though, Maria Hill tasks Agent 13 with joining a team responsible for tracking Cap down! Eventually Cap is collared, even though Carter tries to prevent it, and an event is staged to have him perp walked to jail, available for observation by the public at large. However, during the proceedings Cap is shot four times and although he is taken to hospital to try and be saved, there is nothing they can do . . . Captain America is dead! Sharon Carter can barely go on with life, seeing such an icon and her own lover fall right in front of her eyes. But Cap’s good friend Falcon helps her through it, together they set out to find who was behind the assassination and get some justice served! Also on the case is Cap’s former partner, Bucky Barnes, who was long thought to have perished in one of their previous adventures. Bucky was saved by the Russians though and turned in to a tool, an assassin, known as the Winter Soldier. But he has since put that behind him and is also out for vengeance, not only for the killer but also for Tony Stark, who Bucky believes has as much responsibility in Cap’s death as the person who actually pulled the trigger. As the investigations unfold and Black Widow too gets in on the action (for she is familiar with Bucky from their time in Russia together, long ago), a clearer picture of just what is going on develops . . . and it is pretty gruesome. The consciousness of Red Skull has invaded the body of Russian bad boy Aleksander Lukin, and he is in league with Baron Zola and the reviled Dr. Faustus on a dastardly scheme! This team of sociopaths have put a plan in to effect that will not only get Red Skull his own new body he’ll have all to himself, but also give them a U.S. president at their beck and call, along with an impostor Captain American who will also be under their total control. Will Sharon Carter, Falcon, Bucky, Black Widow and the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. be able to counter these fiends, or is America in for a rough stretch, about to be controlled by beings who want nothing more than to see the country burn to the ground? And along the way will Sharon and her mates be able to stomach the revelations of who really killed Cap, and just whose body Red Skull was planning on making his own? This was a good story, action packed with a lot of intrigue and suspense. I liked reading about the characters who were involved because I’ve never really known much about Captain American and Red Skull, and the rivalry between them, so this was a pretty good book to gain a good gist on their history together. I’d planned on picking up the Captain American movies in the near future, so hopefully that will help me build on my knowledge a bit as well.

Sheesh . . . I seem to like outer space a whole lot more than I thought I did!!

Holy shit, am I worn out or what? Wild times, these have been. The weekend after my last blog we had our annual family Christmas party at my parents’ house, featuring us, a set of my best cousins, and some really good family friends. There were 5 kids running around, chasing the cat, and they got even more riled up after playing pass the present!! We had pizza for dinner, drank some booze, and ended up throwing stuffed animals around the room at each other before calling it quits. True story . . .

Christmas fell during the following week, and it was pretty hard on my nerves!! I’m a bit of a neat freak, very routine driven, and this year the wife decided to have her mom and dad come stay with us for a few days as a lot of the rest of her family was off on trips over the holidays, so she didn’t want to leave anybody on their own for Christmas morning. I on the other hand had no such compassion!! J But as usual, wife gets what wife wants. On Christmas Eve we went over to my parents’ house as usual, with mrs. darthcobain17’s mom in tow, and did dinner and presents . . . ending up throwing shit at each other again at the end of the night. Hah! The next morning we woke up and did presents. James got a ton of toys, I got a lot of video games and gift cards and other good stuff . . . it was a pretty productive Christmas for us! Later that afternoon we went over to my aunt’s house, to spend a couple of hours with my dad’s side of the family, before heading back home to have Christmas dinner at our house . . . with mrs. darthcobain17’s dad joining us, arriving while we were at my aunt’s. I put my foot down though, no turkey!! So we had tacos, ham, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. Delicious Christmas tacos . . .

Our company stayed through for a few days and eventually left the morning after Boxing Day, but we were in tow as we had made plans with friends in Hamilton! So James went with Nanny to her house, while we went to visit with our friends Megan and Johnny. Johnny and I took off to Toronto to see one of the World Junior Hockey Championship games (more on that below), later on meeting up with a bunch of other friends and visiting a couple of pubs. A nice weekend to blow off the steam of Christmas a bit!!

The following weekend we were back at my parents’ house on the Saturday, to celebrate my dad’s birthday. Good grub and bid euchre, that’s how we do!! The rest of the time we spent taking down the two Christmas trees and multitudes of Christmas decorations the wife had set out around the house this year. The moment it was all done, and I had the floors all vacuumed and mopped, I felt an insane amount of gratification . . . knowing that at that moment it was the furthest away from next Christmas and all the bullshit that it seems to bring as possible! Happy Holidays . . .

As for this past weekend, we were in Hamilton once more, visiting one of the pubs we’d gone to a couple weeks before. There was an 80’s video dance party set to take place, and the wives were all over that! So we slept over at our friends Julie and Dino’s house, and got pretty wasted. On the Sunday we had to race back home as James had a birthday party to attend, but other than that the day was used mostly for recuperation . . . so busy.

The rest of the time, during the weeks, our routine was all thrown off as James was out of school for two weeks and mrs. darthcobain17 was also off. I’m not sure what they did all day long, other than make a mess, but during the break James lost his very first tooth and the Tooth Fairy brought him some good stuff! Once the New Year began and he was back in school, we got James working with a tutor, helping him with his reading and writing. It’s going well, although it’s on the same night as Beavers, which is a challenge. His latest round of golf lessons is going to start soon, and that pretty much covers it. I was able to get a surprising amount of gaming done despite . . . all of the above . . . here is how it all went down . . .

1) Level seven has fallen on Goldeneye, as I was able to get more progress completed there! Said level was called “Monte Carlo – Frigate”. We learned that a scheduled demonstration by the French, of their new stealth helicopter, had suddenly been postponed. Initially there was nothing suspicious about the situation, until 006 was asked to help defuse a hostage situation on the La Fayette frigate. The hostage situation was being undertaken by the Janus crime syndicate, who were using it as leverage to get their hands on the stealth helicopter. So of course I was called in to clean up the mess! First I docked at the side of the ship in a small power boat, then boarded it and made my way to the gangplanks that covered the port side. Once inside the ship I first made my way to the bridge, eliminating all resistance along the way, also beginning the continual process of freeing any hostages I came across. On the bridge I defused a bomb Janus had planted there, then headed below decks. Making my way to the engine room I defused yet another bomb. My next step was to find the stealth helicopter and plant an untraceable tracking device on it, so we could learn of Janus’ whereabouts. After that task was done I bugged out, boarding my boat and getting the hell away! I finished this level with a time of 16:09 and had a 78.7% accuracy rating.

2) Another series is complete from my season on MLB 2K11, the action went down as such: won vs. Colorado 4-3, won vs. Colorado 13-9 & won vs. Colorado 5-1.

3) My mop up on Lego: Lord of the Rings continues, and I got a ton accomplished this time around! I was able to put down the next nine levels, and it went as follows: “Amon Hen” (found the last 8 Minikit pieces, 2/3 Treasure items, and earned 1 Silver Brick [for completing the Minikit]), “Taming Gollum” (found the last 7 Minikit pieces, the last 2 Treasure items, the Tablet, and earned 3 Silver Bricks [for completing the Minikit, as well as finding all Treasure items and the Tablet]), “The Dead Marshes” (found 10/10 Minikit pieces, the last 2 Treasure items, the Tablet, and earned 3 Silver Bricks [for completing the Minikit, and finding all Treasure items plus the Tablet]), “Track Hobbits” (found 10/10 Minikit pieces, the last 2 Treasure items, the Tablet, and earned 3 Silver Bricks [for completing the Minikit, and finding all Treasure items plus the Tablet]), “Warg Attack” (found the last 9 Minikit pieces, 3/3 Treasure items, the Tablet, and earned 3 Silver Bricks [for completing the Minikit, and finding all Treasure items plus the Tablet]), “Helm’s Deep” (found 6 more Minikit pieces, 3/3 Treasure items, the Tablet, and earned 2 Silver Bricks [for finding all Treasure items and the Tablet]), “Osgiliath” (found the last 6 Minikit pieces, 3/3 Treasure items, and earned 2 Silver Bricks [for completing the Minikit and finding all Treasure items]), “The Secret Stairs” (found the last 9 Minikit pieces, 3/3 Treasure items, and earned 2 Silver Bricks [for completing the Minikit and finding all Treasure items]) & “Cirith Ungol” (found the last 9 Minikit pieces, 3/3 Treasure items, and earned 2 Silver Bricks [for completing the Minikit and finding all Treasure items]). While in the game hub between levels I unlocked/purchased a lot of stuff as well. I found 28 Silver Bricks, 3 Tablets, and managed to complete 12 Quests. With my Silver Bricks I was able to forge the Mithril Gloves, Carrot Bow, Stud Mallet & Fishing Rod. I also was able to find and then purchase 5 Red Bricks, which gave me the Minikit Chest Finder, Studs X2, Fast Build, Attract Studs & Disguises extras. Finally, with my collected studs I was able to purchase the Haldir, Galadriel, Celeborn, Lothlorien Elf, Denethor, Saruman the White, Eomer, Rohirrim Soldier, Grima Wormtongue, Uruk-hai, Grishnakh, Gamling & Corsair characters. The end may just finally be in sight, booya!!

4) As for NHL ’04, there I was able to complete the next five games on my season. The action unfolded thusly: won vs. Ottawa 9-4, won vs. Chicago 12-2, won @ Ottawa 11-0, won @ Tampa Bay 16-2 & won vs. Columbus 14-3. First shutout of the season, woot woot!

5) Batman Origins: Blackgate is finally complete, I managed to finish this sucker off this time around! Picking up where I left off, I first exited the Administration building after my fight with the Joker, heading towards the Lighthouse, which I had tried to penetrate oh so long ago and failed. From the docks I used my line launcher to get across to the lighthouse area, and began exploring these new surroundings. The door to the nearby armoury was locked, but there was an override switch located at the top of the lighthouse which would allow me access. After taking out a couple of Penguin’s goons I began climbing the outer face of the lighthouse, running in to more resistance as I climbed higher. Upon reaching the summit of the tower I used my crypto sequencer on a panel, upon completion the door below was then unlocked for me. Dropping down from the lighthouse I entered the armoury and immediately ran in to the holed up Penguin and his assorted goons! I took poor old Cobblepot down in a drawn out boss fight, afterwards I met up with Catwoman, who informed me I now had everything I needed in order to enter the Arkham wing of the prison. I then headed directly below the area where I beat the Penguin down, soon afterwards entering the Arkham wing. Not far in to it I came upon a massive vault, within which a number of the prison’s guards were being held captive! Using my line launcher I made my way through the cells that surrounded the vault, careful to avoid the electrified flooring below, eventually finding the controls that opened said vault. Inside though, I was instead surprised to find Bane, who was hooked up to a life support machine! Catwoman then entered the scene, informing me in only the way she can that it was her scheme all along to have me open this vault and free Bane for her. Catwoman had taken on a contract to free Bane for a mystery party, and I had helped make it happen! To distract me from taking her out, the femme fatale informed me that she’d taken a small number of guards, strapped bombs to them, and scattered them throughout the prison. Naturally I tore off through the prison, starting in the Cell Blocks, where I rescued the first guard. Next was the Administration building, where I freed two more, before I headed to the Industrial zone, where I freed the last one (along the way I acquired the Red Son Chest, New 52 Belt, and a Rush Upgrade). My final task took me in the direction of the Lighthouse, where I eventually caught up with Catwoman. She made Bane run ahead without her, leaving her alone to deal with me, and that was a mistake on her part. I took the bitch down in my last boss fight of the game, upon doing so a mysterious government agency swooped in and carted her off, also saying they’d picked up Bane during his escape attempt. The game then ended with a mysterious cutscene of the unknown party who’d been following events all along, discussing letting Catwoman go . . . hmmmmmm. This was a really good game, an in depth environment with lots of action, but it also required a lot of thought and could take you in different directions, depending on the course of action you took. Totally worth a play!!

6) A milestone was made on Jak X: Combat Racing, as I was able to complete play on the “Green Eco Cup” section of events! First up I traveled to “Haven City”, where I competed in two events: “Forbidden Jungle – Death Race” (won the event, gold medal) & “Haven City – Circuit Race” (won the race, gold medal). Next up I visited “Kras City”, where I took part in a couple more events, as so: “Dirt Stadium – Artifact Race” (won the event, gold medal) & “Western Tour – Circuit Race” (won the race, gold medal). “Spargus” was the next locale on my docket, where I completed the “Canyon Run – Freeze Rally” event (won the event, gold medal). My last stop was the final piece in completing the “Green Eco Cup”, and it took me to “Grand Prix”. There I had to run three straight Circuit Races, at “Forbidden Jungle”, “Mountaintop Highway” & “Northern Tour”. I finished fifth, second and first respectively, enough to get me the overall win and a gold medal! Halfway done this puppy!!

7) The next trio of levels is now in the books on Transformers: Beast Wars. The ones I completed this time around were as follows: “Polluted 1 – Polluted Zone” (my task was to recover a downed stasis pod in this hazardous area, I did so after fighting off much resistance and it turned out to be Rattrap in the pod), “Polluted 2 – The Skriix” (the strange aliens I’d encountered while rescuing Rattrap were called Skriix, my job in this level was to eradicate them and also flush the Predacon Inferno’s forces out of the area) & “Polluted 3 – Inferno Attack” (it turned out Inferno had been experimenting on the Skriix, which would have made them even more dangerous, so my duty was to engage Inferno in a boss fight and destroy him). One more area of levels to go!

8) The other game I completed this time around was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie! Picking up where I left off I began with level eleven, forging on to close out the game. The action unfolded as so: “Shieldbreakers” (Baxter Stockman’s lab was protected by some sort of energy shield, we had to take it down by locating and destroying various shield drones that were giving it power, afterwards passing through the now vulnerable doors), “Shell Monster” (we reached Baxter’s office where he revealed his latest mutant creation, a massive turtle he’d named Slash, after taking Slash out we found evidence that Baxter was planning on springing Shredder from prison), “Pacification” (to help mitigate the efficacy of Baxter’s upcoming escape attempt on Shredder, we roamed the streets and searched out four of the Foot Clan’s weapon caches and destroyed them), “Crack It Open!” (closing in on Baxter’s hideout we came to yet another large shield that barred our progress, we had to search the area and take out more shield drones while also dealing with Foot Soldiers, Mousers, turrets, drones, etc.) & “Worst Nightmares” (finally breaching Baxter’s headquarters we found our enemy, the Shredder, but he was able to take many other forms including Splinter, Slash, the Rat King, etc., which made for a very hard fought final victory, although in the end he escaped). Seeing as I had Story Mode all wrapped up, I then chose to partake in the game’s alternate mode, called Side Missions. These missions take place within the game’s various levels and give you simple objectives to complete, nothing as long as in Story Mode but basically the same kind of gameplay experience. I achieved victory on all missions, which included “Escort”, “Foot Ambush”, “Black and White”, “New Kind of Mutant”, “Foul Science”, “O’Neil Memories”, “Showoff”, “Dark Past”, “Pizza Strike” & “Simulation” respectively. Overall this is a fun game with lots of cool aspects to it, but a tad on the short side. I’m probably going to rate it an 8, although it’s more deserving of an 8.5 let’s say.

9) Next up . . . X-Men: Destiny, where I chewed up two more levels. The third level took me to the “Buffer Zone”, my primary objective now that all hell had broken loose was to find Magneto and get some answers. So we split up and began to explore the Buffer Zone, where I immediately found signs of Magneto’s recent presence. Along the way I encountered many Purifier Punks and beat them to death, as well as an increasing amount of High Purists. I came across Wolverine and had to snap him out of a frenzy he was in, watching his back for him. Not long afterwards I discovered hordes of punks planting explosives in an effort to clear the way for their big guns, whatever that meant! I wiped the punks out and deactivated the bombs, although one package was able to be detonated. A telepathic message from Emma Frost was then received, informing me that a tank had just been unleashed, so I hurried to the scene of the explosion and checked matters out. Wolverine and Mystique were battling this machine, which turned out to be a heavy shielded Mech Walker tank! I took the fight over and eventually brought the beast down, afterwards the three of us discussed the events, figuring out that the tank was simply used as a distraction . . . for during the fighting the Purifiers rounded up our mutant brethren and shipped them off to Alcatraz island!! The fourth level was suitably titled “Alcatraz Island”, and it began with Emma Frost and Scarlet Witch arguing about what our next step should be, also debating Magneto’s possible role in everything that had unfolded up to this point. I made the decision for them, deciding that we should first try and rescue the captured mutants on Alcatraz. I set off through the corridors of the prison, taking out all Purifiers along the way, finding many mutants locked away in cells. I freed them all, and they spoke of being experimented on. During this action I got a message from Emma, saying that she’d been picking up on some psychic interference. So I went to check it out, and it turned out that the interference was coming from the ghost of a dead mutant, which I helped set free, clearing matters up for Emma. Forging ahead I turned the tables on some Purifiers who tried to capture me, thinking they had caught Wolverine. I chased them down and beat them to a pulp, afterwards resuming my search and rescue operation. Once that task was complete I headed to the stairways in order to descend to the prison’s sub-levels, but before I could do so a number of U-Men attacked me! I had to defeat them before I could pass, and that is where the level ended . . .

10) We blew Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed wide open this time around, completing more events than I can count! To begin we continued on in the “Sunshine Coast” area of the game, where we knocked down the following events: “Downtown Drift – Drift Challenge” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star), “Battlezone Blast – Race” (competed in B class, placed first, earning 2 stars), “Monkey Mayhem – Race” (competed in B class, placed first, earning 2 stars), “Studio Scrapes – Versus” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star), “Roulette Rush – Boost Challenge” (completed in B class, completed the event, earning 2 stars) & “Starry Speedway – Race” (competed in B class, placed first, earning 2 stars). With the stars we earned in this area we were able to unlock the Amigo character for play in the game. We were then able to move on to the second area of World Tour, called “Frozen Valley”. There we were able to finish said events: “Studio Scurry – Race” (competed in B class, placed first, earning 2 stars), “Tricky Traffic – Traffic Attack” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star), “Banana Boost – Boost Challenge” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star), “Pirate Plunder – Race” (competed in B class, placed first, earning 2 stars), “Snaking Skies – Ring Race” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star), “Shinobi Scramble – Race” (competed in B class, placed first, earning 2 stars), “Graffiti Groove – Race” (competed in B class, placed first, earning 2 stars), “Neon Knockout – Battle Race” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star), “Snowball Shakedown – Race” (competed in B class, placed third, earning 2 stars) & “Seaside Scrap – Versus” (competed in B class, completed the event, earning 2 stars). With our collected stars we were able to unlock two characters in this area, including Shadow and . . . Danica Patrick!! Next up came the “Scorching Skies” area, where we were able to complete the following events: “Adder Assault – Race” (competed in B class, placed first, earning 2 stars), “Keil’s Carnage – Traffic Attack” (competed in B class, completed the event, earning 2 stars), “Dreamy Drive – Race” (competed in B class, placed third, earning 2 stars), “Rogue Rings – Ring Race” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star), “Sunshine Slide – Drift Challenge” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star), “Sanctuary Speedway – Race” (competed in B class, placed first, earning 2 stars), “Seaside Skirmish – Pursuit” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star), “Shrine Time – Sprint” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star) & “Hangar Hassle – Pursuit” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star). With our amassed stars we were able to unlock the Vyse character and the Console Mod extra. “Twilight Engine” was the next area we could compete in, but we weren’t able to access all the events there just yet. The ones we were able to beat went as such: “Undertaker Overtaker – Race” (competed in B class, placed third, earning 2 stars), “Monkey Brawl – Battle Race” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star), “Death Egg Duel – Versus” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star), “Golden Gauntlet – Boost Challenge” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star), “Ruin Run – Ring Race” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star), “Hatcher Hustle – Sprint” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star) & “Racing Rangers – Race” (competed in C class, placed first, earning 1 star). With our stars we were able to unlock the Pudding character. The fifth and what appears to be the final area of this game is called “Moonlight Park”. Here are the levels we’ve been able to get out of the way there so far: “Carnival Clash – Versus” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star), “Ocean Outrun – Traffic Attack” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star), “Billy Backslide – Drift Challenge” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star), “Speeding Seasons – Boost Challenge” (competed in B class, completed the event, earning 2 stars), “Carrier Charge – Ring Race” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star) & “Burning Boost – Boost Race” (competed in C class, completed the event, earning 1 star). More on it’s way . . .

11) Because I finished two games for the 3DS I had to pick another to begin play on, and that title just happened to be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Danger of the Ooze! This is a game that takes place in the world of the current Nickelodeon cartoon that’s airing on TV, and it’s a wide open environment that you have to explore, revisit and build upon as the plot evolves, a very cool concept for this game. The story builds upon the main theme of the cartoon, highlighting the four brothers’ battles against Karai and Shredder, as well as their continual search for lost mutagen canisters. The opening sequence of the game was basically a tutorial, to kick things off Mikey was late for a training session with Master Splinter. I had to take control of the party animal and make my way through the sewers to our lair, where I eventually met up with him. Splinter then put me through a number of exercises with Raph as my partner, highlighting the games main controls/functions. The game then began in earnest, with Donny informing us that he’d picked up the location of a mutagen canister on the move, so we went to check it out. We also planned on meeting up with April and Casey, who were out on the streets in the thick of it. I backtracked out of the lair the way I’d originally come in, eventually making my way topside. Navigating the mean streets of New York we passed through many different types of buildings, soon having to take on Foot Soldiers and Mousers as we went (obtaining the Shuriken ability in the process). Eventually we reached an area that featured Kraang droids on patrol, along with some drones, even a Squirrelnoid!! This led us to a boss fight with a mutant named Rahzar, who we took down with extreme prejudice! Afterwards we met up with Casey, who informed us that we’d probably find the mutagen at TCRI (obtaining the Double Jump ability as well). We then forged on, in to a part of the city we hadn’t explored yet, soon enough coming to what looked like a TCRI facility, what with it’s white washed labs and pink/purple hued lighting. Running in to a heavy Kraang presence, along with Mousers and drones, we obtained the Smoke Bomb, Pizza Box, and T-Phone abilities/items (using the T-Phone we contacted Casey, who in turn allowed us to upgrade some of our fighting skills!). Soon afterwards we found the mutagen canister, but Baxter Stockman swooped in and took it from us! Continuing on after this boss fight, we ran in to the mutant turtle Slash, who had come in peace. He gave us some advice/intel on Shredder’s master plan, plus he gifted us with the Ground Pound ability. Backtracking through TCRI and then over the rooftops and along the city streets, we ultimately encountered Karai, who like Slash, provided us with intel on Shredder’s master plan. His scheming was so dastardly that his own daughter couldn’t even be a part of it! Apparently Shredder was preparing a super weapon he plans on turning loose upon the world. Hitting the streets once again we soon came to the docks, where we ran in to April, gaining the San Shuriken ability. She also gifted us with the ability to Block our enemy’s attacks. After our pow wow with April we were in for a tough one, as we came across Tiger Claw and Newtralizer exchanging a mutagen canister, before Newtralizer teleported off to Dimension X! We confronted Tiger Claw though, taking him down, afterwards forging on and obtaining another Pizza Box in the process. And that’s where I’ve left off . . .

12) It was also time to get some new games going on the Wii U, as Mario/Luigi had fallen last go round. The first game we picked up was Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, which we got from James’ nanny for Christmas!! I’d never played a game in this franchise before, but I’ve always heard good things. Typically I’m not a huge fan of fighting games as I find them somewhat one dimensional, but this title is pretty cool. You can take a horde of different characters in to battle against each other, in either one on one bouts (with four characters participating in the fight) or tag team battles, amongst a multitude of scenery taken from various game franchises (kind of like how the tracks in Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed are inspired by past games). I’ve tried a number of characters but have ultimately settled on King Dedede as my bruiser of choice, whereas James tends to use Yoshi and Mega Man a lot. But there are tons of characters to choose from in total, including many from the Mario Bros. universe, Samus from Metroid, Pac-Man, Mega Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, a number of Pokemons, and Kirby, among many others. We’ve dabbled with the game quite a bit, usually preferring to go in as a tag team against the computer, and so far we’ve unlocked the Falco, Wario and Lucina characters for play in the game. It’s an ass kicking good time!

13) Another game we got working on was Nintendo Land, which mrs. darthcobain17 got us for Christmas as well! This is one of the system’s original launch games, and it is pretty unique. It’s a collection of mini games that you access via a fantastical looking amusement park, but the best thing is . . . you use your Miis to play all of the various mini games, and other people’s Miis from around the world roam your park all the while! So funny. The mini games Nintendo Land contains are inspired by past Nintendo titles, and in total I think there are about a dozen or so. Up to this point we’ve played about seven of them, here is how that has gone: “Donkey Kong’s Crash Course” (high score of 2183 points, obtained a silver trophy, and earned 1/5 stamps), “Mario Chase” ( ), “Yoshi’s Fruit Cart” (high score of 602 points, obtained a silver trophy, and earned 1/5 stamps), “Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest” (chose the Quest option, playing as the Archer, and completed the The Grasslands, The Lost Woods, and Grassland Temple levels, earning 1/5 stamps), “Metroid Blast” (chose the Assault Mission option, taking part in an Air Fight, and completed the First Contact and Geemer Invasion levels, earning 0/5 stamps), “Takamura’s Ninja Castle” (high score of 1970 points, obtained a silver trophy, and earned 0/5 stamps) & “Captain Falcon’s Twister Race” (high score of 3211 points, obtained a silver trophy, earning 1/5 stamps). A cool and different game for sure, can’t wait to get back at it!

14) Since I only had Lego: Lord of the Rings going at the time on the regular Wii, I decided to get something fresh happening there as well. The game I chose was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows . . . part 1! Naturally this game mirrors the events that took place in the movie of the same name, or the first half of the seventh and final book of the infamous Harry Potter series. If you don’t know this story by now . . . well, crawl back under a rock, or go jump off a bridge, your choice. Anyhoo, this game began with a bang, that’s for sure! Right off the bat Hagrid had me (Harry) in the sidecar of his motorcycle, as the members of the Order of the Phoenix were attempting to transport me to The Burrow (themselves serving as decoys), where it was thought I’d be safe from the evil machinations of Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters. I had to blast away at pursuing Death Eaters with my wand, while Hagrid flew his motorcycle through the skies above London. Lord Voldemort even showed up in person, but I got the better of him and sent him ass over tea kettle. After also hitting the streets of London for a short spell, we arrived at The Burrow as safe as could be expected. Lots more to come on this one, I’m sure!!

15) Lastly, we also started play on Mario Kart 8, which I picked up recently with some Christmas gift cards . . . we were very excited to finally have this one in the fold!! What I like about this latest version is that they’ve kept it similar to the various versions of Mario Kart that have come before it, but they’ve made the tracks way more intense and interesting, plus in all the colourful, HD glory they are rendered in . . . it’s pretty amazing. Anyways, James and I began with the meat and potatoes of this title, starting out on “Grand Prix” mode, beginning with the easier 50c.c. class. The circuits in this mode come as per the usual, in sets of four races, in which each racer is awarded a certain amount of points for each race, depending on his or her finishing placement. The racer with the most total points at the end of all four races is the winner of the circuit and claims all bragging rights! The first circuit up was called “Mushroom Cup”, me and James chose Shy Guy and Yoshi as our racers, respectively. The results (with my placing first, followed by James’) were as such: “Mario Kart Stadium” (1 and 6), “Water Park” (1 and 9), “Sweet Sweet Canyon” (1 and 9) & “Thwomp Ruins” (1 and 12). Overall I won the circuit with 60 points, unlocking the Flower Cup as well as the Morton character. Next came the “Flower Cup”, where we utilized the services of Peach and Morton. The results were as follows: “Mario Circuit” (2 and 8), “Toad Harbor” (1 and 12), “Twisted Mansion” (1 and 11) & “Shy Guy Falls” (1 and 12). I won the circuit with 57 points, unlocking the Star Cup and the Baby Rosalina character. The “Star Cup” came next on the docket, and we enlisted Waluigi and Toad to steer us through it. The results unfolded as so: “Sunshine Airport” (1 and 8), “Dolphin Shoals” (1 and 11), “Electrodome” (1 and 11) & “Mount Wario” (2 and 9). I won the circuit with a total of 57 points, unlocking the Special Cup as well as the Wendy character. Naturally the “Special Cup” came next, and we used Donkey Kong and Toad as our racers. Events went down as so: “Cloudtop Cruise” (1 and 9), “Bone-Dry Dunes” (1 and 8), “Bowser’s Castle” (1 and 7) & “Rainbow Road” (1 and 12). I took the circuit with 60 points, unlocking the Metal Mario character. “Shell Cup” was the next circuit we knocked down, piloting ourselves around it’s tracks with Daisy and Peach. The results were: “Moo Moo Meadows” (1 and 6), “Mario Circuit” (1 and 4), “Cheep Cheep Beach” (1 and 8) & “Toad’s Turnpike” (1 and 2). I won the overall circuit with a perfect 60 points, unlocking the Banana Cup as well as the Roy character. Next came “Banana Cup”, where we drafted Daisy and Toad as our drivers. Events unraveled as such: “Dry Dry Desert” (1 and 7), “Donut Plains” (1 and 12), “Royal Raceway” (1 and 11) & “DK Jungle” (3 and 11). I took the circuit with 55 points, unlocking the Leaf Cup plus the Toadette character. At this point mrs. darthcobain17 decided to get in on the action, so we had three people competing in the next circuit! The circuit in question was “Leaf Cup”, and the drivers this time around were Luigi, Toad, and Baby Luigi. The madness went as follows: “Wario Stadium” (5, 1 and 12), “Sherbet Land” (2, 1 and 12), “Music Park” (1, 10 and 11) & “Yoshi Valley” (1, 5 and 7). I won the circuit with 50 points, which unlocked the Lightning Cup and Pink Gold Peach character for us. We made fun of mrs. darthcobain17 during the action because she looked just like her mother!!! Hah! It was then back to just me and James for the next couple of circuits, we closed out the 50c.c. class by competing in the “Lightning Cup”, using Koopa Troopa and Donkey Kong. That circuit unfolded as such: “Tick-Tock Clock” (1 and 6), “Piranha Plant Slide” (1 and 7), “Grumble Volcano” (1 and 12) & “Rainbow Road” (1 and 7). I won the circuit with 60 points, unlocking . . . us!! Our Mii characters were now able to strap themselves in to a kart and get out there on the track. So funny. We then moved up to the 100c.c. class on “Grand Prix” mode, starting at the beginning with the “Mushroom Cup” circuit. Of course we each used our respective Miis as our racers for this one!! The circuit broke down as follows: “Mario Kart Stadium” (1 and 7), “Water Park” (1 and 7), “Sweet Sweet Canyon” (1 and 11) & “Thwomp Ruins” (1 and 6). Overall I won the circuit with 60 points, unlocking the Lakitu character. Throughout the game we’ve also been unlocking many different parts for our karts with the stars we collect in each race. More on this soon for sure . . . probably a lot of it.

“NNGRR” - The weekend after my last blog I kicked things off by watching the first sequel to the original Starship Troopers movie, called Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation! I was not even aware they made any sequels to the original film until very recently, so when I found this in the bargain bin at Giant Tiger I snatched it up without a second thought! Anyhoo, in this second entry to the series the action picks up not long after the first movie closes. The human armies of the Federation, in the wake of their first huge victory, are pressing even further in to bug space, attempting to take the fight to their enemy and gain the upper hand. However, on an unnamed planet deep in bug territory, a small team of troopers is quickly running out of luck, surrounded by bugs on all sides with nowhere to run. After putting in a call for an airlift their hopes are dashed even further when it appears there is no rescue in sight. When one of the troopers picks up on his scanner that there is an abandoned outpost a short distance away the leader of the group, General Shepherd, chooses a few troopers to remain with him and make a last stand against the bugs, while the rest of his forces launch a desperate flight to said outpost. Their journey is successful and they suffer light casualties, with a violent sand storm bringing them temporary respite from their enemy. But with the door to the outpost fragged and unable to be closed, they have to set up a watch and are constantly on edge. While exploring the facility they now call home, Lieutenant Dill (the man now in charge) along with Sergeant Rake and Private Sahara, make an unusual discovery in it’s upper levels. Locked inside of a furnace is a man named Dax, a former Captain for the Federation. He was locked in the furnace for killing his commanding officer so Dill sees him as nothing but a traitor to the Federation, although Sahara is curious. With orders to leave Dax in his makeshift cell, Dill’s crew get on with life at the outpost, attempting to restore communications and get that door repaired. But with the bugs starting to make moves against them and the situation getting intense, Sahara unknowingly heads upstairs and frees Dax, trusting her psychic instincts that he is a good man and indeed not the traitor Dill fears him to be. Her move is met with anger, especially from Dill and Rake, but when Dax, with help from Sahara and Private Otter, manages to restore power to a force field around the outpost that keeps the bugs at bay, many of the troopers approve. Not long afterwards more good news arrives, for General Shepherd has survived and arrives on their doorstep! With him are three strangers that aided in his survival, including Sergeant Peck, Corporal Griff, and the unconscious Private Soda. Shepherd regales his troops with tales of their daring rescue, but with the outpost in a state of relative peace the rest of the troopers, especially Sahara, soon begin to realize that something is a little off with these three newcomers. All of a sudden there are some love triangles going on, and all of the troopers heavily associating with the newbies begin acting strangely as well. Eventually the truth becomes apparent, that these three strangers who showed up on Sahara and company’s doorstep, were hosting bugs in their bodies all along, and passing their condition along to those they were coming in to contact with! This realization may have come too late though, as eventually only Sahara and Dax are left uninfected. With a drop ship on it’s way to rescue them (after finally being able to restore communications) the race is on . . . the race for survival! But in the end will there be anybody left alive to report to the Federation the details of this new type of bug? This was a pretty gritty and nasty flick, I quite enjoyed it. It fits in just fine with the original, although it wasn’t nearly as expansive. It was missing all of the space flight scenes and stuff like that, but it was still a great watch and a classic type of sci-fi scenario. And I love that Private Soda, she’s got quite a rack on her!! Images of said rack to follow . . .

A couple days before New Year’s, once all the Christmas bullshit had finally settled down, I watched Starship Troopers 3: Marauder . . . a second sequel to the original movie I also had no idea even existed! This film picks up many years after the events of the original entry in the series, well in to the Second Bug War. The central character is Johnny Rico, the hero of the first movie, he who captured the brain bug on Planet P! Rico is now a Colonel and in command of an outpost that is under siege on the planet of Roku San. Although the Federation and it’s forces have advanced their weaponry and tactics, so to have the bugs evolved to become more advanced in their fight, meaning the two sides are basically at a stalemate. Rico is pleasantly surprised when his old friend Dix Hauser, now a General, shows up at the outpost escorting one of the most powerful figures in the Federation, the Sky Marshal, Omar Anoke. Also in tow is Anoke’s pilot, Lola Beck, whom Rico has a bit of history with. Not long in to the visit, after a confrontation with the locals that ends up in Hauser attempting to arrest Rico for insubordination, the fences protecting the outpost suddenly fail and the bugs swarm in, proceeding to slaughter the Federation forces! In the confusion Hauser ends up staying with the outpost while Beck safely transports the Sky Marshal away aboard their shuttle. During their flight though, Beck’s shuttle is mysteriously attacked in space, above a planet named OM-1. After a crash landing all that is left of the crew is Beck, Anoke, a flight attendant named Holly, Dr. Wiggs, a crew chief named Bull, and a cook named Jingo. Just after touching down a bug is spotted, so the crew sets out in search of a facility where they can radio in for an airlift. During their sojourn things get weird though, as Anoke starts behaving erratically, beginning to preach religion. Meanwhile, back at Federation headquarters, Hauser saves Rico from execution at the last possible minute. For Hauser got a tip on some mysterious goings on within the Federation, and then went to confront Fleet Admiral Enolo Phid about it. Phid then let Hauser in on a little secret, and it completely explains Sky Marshal Anoke’s erratic behaviour. For Anoke is a psychic, and in meeting the brain bug he developed a major bond with it . . . a religious type of bond! Suddenly Hauser realizes that the fences failing on Roku San was Anoke’s doing, as was his crew ending up on OM-1. The religious deliverance he’s been preaching to the survivors on OM-1 doesn’t refer to God as they believe in . . . but a more arachnid type of God! The reason Hauser then freed Rico is because he wants Johnny to lead an elite team of troopers, wielding new state of the art technology that links their weaponry directly to their minds, and go in and rescue Beck and the others on OM-1. Will Johnny and his select team come out victorious, or will the monstrosity that erupts from the sands of OM-1 bring a violent sort of deliverance to them all!? This was a really good movie, the acting so cheesy at times, but the action non-stop, bloody, and often times hilarious. I like how this film got back in to the space travel end of things a bit, and the introduction of the robotic armoured suits that they wore at the end was very cool also. And of course they had some topless scenes, they have become an important aspect of the Starship Troopers franchise for sure!!

Just before everybody headed back to work and school in the first full week that followed New Year’s, I finished an epic read I had engaged in on the recommendation of a family friend, called Leviathan Wakes. Awesome!! This story takes places generations in the future, when space travel is quite advanced and many of the planets of our solar system have been settled. Life on Earth, Mars, and the asteroid belt beyond are all commonplace. The action kicks off following the crew of an ice hauler called the Canterbury, which is returning to the Belt after loading up at the rings of Saturn. On their way home they are sidetracked when forced to investigate a distress call coming from a damaged ship out in an empty area of space. Executive Officer James Holden and a select number of his crew head outside of the Canterbury to investigate the crashed ship, and once inside they find a grisly discovery . . . some sort of bizarre alien growth which looks like it killed all of the ship’s former crew members! Meanwhile, back on the Canterbury they’ve noticed a ship suddenly appear out of nowhere, which immediately sets it’s sights on the ice hauler. Soon after the Canterbury is vaporized, leaving Holden and his remaining crew grieving for their lost friends, and thirsty for vengeance on this mysterious attacker. Not being able to confront this enemy directly though, Holden figures he’ll do the next best thing, by broadcasting evidence of the trap that was set to destroy the Canterbury . . . which he believes to have been orchestrated by the Martian navy! Meanwhile, on the outpost of Ceres, in the middle of the Belt, a cop named Miller is suddenly tasked with tracking down a missing woman named Juliette Mao. Her family (who are very well off) is eager to locate her and bring her home to Earth. After much digging Miller eventually tracks down Julie’s last known whereabouts, to a ship named the Scopuli . . . the very ship Holden and his crew unwittingly investigated and made their gruesome discovery on! Miller’s next step is to locate Holden and find out what he knows about Julie, if anything. Holden and his charges, which include his second in command Naomi, pilot Alex, and mechanic Amos, have taken refuge with a notorious figure named Fred, who works for a revolutionary group called the O.P.A. Holden’s comments regarding Mars’ involvement in the destruction of the Canterbury went viral and increased galactic tensions between Earth, Mars, and the Belt, which were already quite strained to begin with. Using his wits to track them down, Miller eventually runs in to Holden other at a place called Eros Station, while Holden and his team are in the middle of executing a mission for Fred. Not long after introductions though, the small group is attacked and forced to fight for their lives. Afterwards, when Holden reaches the supposed location of the person they are supposed to bring back to Fred, Miller is horrified to find out the person in question just so happens to be Julie . . . and she is all kinds of dead! Julie had obviously been exposed to the alien virus that destroyed the crew of the Scopuli. In the ensuing days, while waiting for clearance to leave Eros after their skirmish with the unknown attackers, all hell breaks loose once more, only this time it is deadly serious. Under grounds of a radiation leak, all persons on Eros station are herded in to the casinos, where they are then exposed to the alien virus . . . and the aftermath is not pretty! Miller and Holden figured something was off before they could become caught up in the genocide, and manage to fight their way to Holden’s ship, heading back to the relative safety Fred can offer them. Horrified by what went on on Eros, Fred puts the O.P.A.’s considerable resources to work and manages to locate a secret space station where this alien virus originated. Soon Miller and Holden are involved in the raid on Thoth Station, which goes well for the O.P.A., and at the end of it they find the person responsible for Eros’ genocide, a Mr. Dresden. He fills them in on the details, that this “protomolecule” was sent to their galaxy billions of years ago by a race far superior to humans, and it could be humanity’s salvation, potentially capable of helping them change their own destinies and perform improbable feats. But at the cost of sacrificing thousands, maybe millions, in order to figure out how it works? Miller doesn’t share the same opinion, and so he shoots Dresden in cold blood. At this point Fred’s biggest dilemma is how to go about disposing of Eros Station, and then also in helping to smooth everything over with all of the various planets and factions involved in the debacle . . . that is, until Eros station itself comes alive! With the protomolecule being unleashed on so many victims in a confined area the planet itself takes on a life of it’s own and is capable of thought, also able to transport itself across the galaxy at improbable speeds. After exhausting all of their options it comes down to one final plan, for Miller to sabotage the station from within, and drive it in to the heart of Venus, sacrificing himself in the process. After how far Holden and his crew have come and all they’ve been through, can they help restore a relative peace to the galaxy by successfully aiding Miller in his mission, or is Eros station going to become the scourge of humanity? This was a big book, with a complicated storyline, and it was absolutely amazing! This read was a very gritty space epic, I found it had a lot of similar elements as the Alien series does. Despite being such a long story, I found myself unable to stop turning the pages and chewed through it pretty quickly. There were a lot of twists and turns along the way, it’s just a very well thought out and exciting story. I hear it’s been picked up to become a TV series some time in 2015, so that will be cool to see it come alive on screen. Bravo, bring on book two!

Late last week I finished reading the final book of the Alien trilogy I’d been involved with in recent months, called Alien: River of Pain! The book begins with a few past interludes before the main story gets going. First, in the year 2122 Ellen Ripley is aboard the Nostromo after it’s crew visited the surface of LV-426, unwittingly picking up the creature that terrified us in the original Alien movie. This section expounds on a brief interchange between Ripley and the android science officer, Ash. The scene then shifts forward 40+ years, to the year 2165. On the surface of a rock named Acheron, a team of engineers are involved with installing some atmosphere processors that will eventually make the environment suitable enough for human habitation, in support of a planned community named Hadley’s Hope. Just eight years later, in the year 2173, Anne and Russell Jorden give birth to the first infant actually born in Hadley’s Hope, a wide eyed baby girl they name Rebecca . . . whose nickname just so happens to be Newt!! Our last leap in to the future takes events to the year 2179, when Newt is just 6 years old. While she and her older brother Tim explore the nooks and crannies Hadley’s Hope has to offer them, their parents, who serve as wildcatters, were hired on by Weyland-Yutani to explore the storm swept surface of Acheron and report any findings to the science team. New to Acheron and Hadley’s Hope is Commander Demian Brackett, a man recently transferred to the outpost to serve as the new head of the Colonial Marines unit that is stationed there. Brackett requested the transfer to Acheron, as he wanted to see Anne Jorden, who he had a relationship with many year previously before becoming a marine. Upon his arrival he meets a lot of good people, including Anne and her family (which causes a bit of strife between her and her husband!), but also sees there are some problem children, such as the facility’s administrator and a couple of his more thick skulled troops. Meanwhile, in the deepest reaches of space a salvage team comes upon a vessel floating aimlessly and proceed to check it out. Inside they are flabbergasted to find a young woman deep in the throes of hypersleep, but if they don’t rescue her soon she may be going to sleep permanently! It turns out this woman is Ellen Ripley, who has been floating in space since her experience with the first Alien on the Nostromo!! She is taken to Gateway Station and meets with a Weyland-Yutani lackey named Burke (you may remember these scenes from the Aliens movie). After debriefing Weyland-Yutani many times, on the events aboard the Nostromo, Ripley is eventually dismissed and stripped of her pilot’s license, but not before being graced with some disturbing news. In the 50+ years she had been in hypersleep, a community had arisen on LV-426, now otherwise known as Acheron . . . a community called Hadley’s Hope!! Back on Acheron, not long after Weyland-Yutani receives Ripley’s debriefing, a particular set of coordinates is called in to the administrator, and the Jordens are the crew chosen to go and check said coordinates out. Once on site they discover a major find, an ancient, alien spacecraft that seems to have crash landed on Acheron’s surface! Anne and Russell are both spooked once they head inside the ship and witness the strange sights it holds though, but they can’t help but press onward. Soon their journey ends in disaster, as unknowingly they come upon the aliens’ egg sacs and a face hugger attaches itself to Russ, forcing Anne to lug him back to their vehicle and radio in for help. Eventually Brackett and the marines sort them out and everybody returns to Hadley’s Hope, with the science team eager to check out just what is going on with Russ and this strange being attached to him. Soon enough the things dies and detaches, but everybody’s relief is short lived as a baby alien bursts out of Russ’ chest and skitters away in to the air ductwork!! The marines organize a hunt for the thing, but during the operation they discover the creature grows abnormally fast, and is very deadly. When a team that headed out to the alien ship to follow up on Anne and Russ’ discovery returns with even more people sporting face huggers, Hadley’s Hope is suddenly turned in to a scene of chaos. More and more aliens are released in to the shadows, and the population of Hadley’s Hope dwindles accordingly. The aliens strike fast and quiet, killing some and taking the rest to use as breeders. After a failed attempt to breach the aliens’ hive and take the fight to them, Brackett and the remaining survivors surmise that fleeing Acheron is their only hope of survival. Not long after the action finishes the book concludes with Ripley and a team of marines landing on Acheron, set to investigate why they haven’t received communications from Hadley’s Hope in some time . . . leading us in to the nitty gritty events of the Aliens movie. This book was another awesome Aliens story, so gritty and scary! It was neat how it included some brief events from both the Alien and Aliens movies, but mostly served as a back story as to what happened to the people on LV-426 that instigated the events of the Aliens movie. I’ve heard they are soon going to be releasing a combined Alien/Predator trilogy, that is going to be must read material for yours truly, I love this shit!!

Later that same day where I finished my book, I watched the original Thor movie, which believe it or not I had yet to see! The film begins with a bit of back story. In the year 965 A.D. ancient Norse gods, led by Odin, repelled an attack by the Frost Giants, a race of war obsessed beings intent on not only conquering Earth, but all realms of the universe. A great source of the Frost Giants’ power, the Casket of Ancient Winters, was taken from the Frost Giants and stored deep in the vaults of Asgard, safely tucked away where it can cause no harm. Fast forward to current times and Odin’s sons, Thor and Loki, have reached maturity, with Thor prepared to succeed his father as King of Asgard. However, before the ceremony can be completed a few Frost Giants manage to slip in to Asgard and make an attempt to steal back the casket. A steel guardian Odin calls the Destroyer dispatches the Frost Giants, and all is well again. But Thor doesn’t take the attack well, and he appeals to Odin that the truce between Asgard and Jotunheim has now been broken in an act of war, but Odin preaches caution, saying the actions of a few don’t indicate the intentions of the many. Thor won’t be placated though, and so he secretly arranges a raiding party to travel to Jotunheim via the Bifrost, a party that includes his brother Loki as well as his friends and fellow warriors Sif, Volstagg, Fandral, and Hogun. The six acquit themselves well, but eventually they are just far too outnumbered. Odin shows up at the last second and drags them all back to Asgard, but upon arrival he blasts Thor for his arrogance and stupidity, casting him down to Earth without his powers, forcing him in to exile for his transgressions. Thor’s arrival on Earth does not go unnoticed, for in a small town in New Mexico an astrophysicist named Jane Foster has been studying the skies for some time, in an attempt to explain some revolutionary theories she has been developing regarding the composition of the galaxy. Although her friends and partners, Darcy and Erik, don’t quite believe the fantastical elements of Thor’s story, Jane is enthralled with him and the more time she spends with Thor, the more she believes in his origins. Not too far away Thor’s mighty hammer Mjolnir has also landed in the desert, and it has become quite an attraction for the locals as nobody seems able to lift it. It has become such an attraction that agent Phil Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. shows up and cordons off the area for research and monitoring! Meanwhile, up in Asgard bad tidings are afoot. First of all, with questions of his origins after making some startling discoveries during the battle in Jotunheim, Loki confronts Odin and finds out that he is actually a Frost Giant. During Odin’s original battle with the Frost Giants he rescued an infant, taking him on as his own son, and this turned out to be Loki. Soon afterwards a tired and distraught Odin falls in to the Odinsleep. While he is down and out Loki plots with the Frost Giants to help him take over Asgard, and not only dispose of Odin but his pesky brother Thor as well! This sets up a two part battle, first on Earth and then finally back on Asgard, which pits brother against brother and Asgardians against Frost Giants. Do the Asgardians have enough in them to win another victory over this fierce foe, or will Loki’s addition finally help tip the scales in the Frost Giants’ favour? This was a pretty good film. I’m a fan of Chris Hemsworth, and I adore Natalie Portman, she’s in the top five on my “list”! The action was awesome, and the visuals were pretty amazing as there were a lot of fantastical elements to this story. Agent Coulson showing up in yet another Marvel movie was delightful and hilarious, and it was cool to finally learn more about Thor as he is one of the main Marvel heroes that I don’t know all that much about.

Finally, amongst all of this craziness an annual tradition was taking place, a certain little tournament . . . known as the World Junior Hockey Championship!! This is a 10 team tournament that begins on Boxing Day every year, pitting the top nations in the world against each other in a round-robin ice hockey tournament, to determine who is the best of the best. Put on by the IIHF, the tournament features junior age players, so those under 20 years old. The teams that participated this year included Canada, U.S.A., Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Russia (since it was co-hosted by Toronto and Montreal we even made it out to a game, seeing Switzerland take on the Czech Republic, I’ll post pictures). Naturally Canada was the favourite, as we always are, despite how even the top teams have mostly become in recent years. Our Canucks did not disappoint! They waltzed through the round-robin portion of the tournament, defeating Slovakia (8-0), Germany (4-0), Finland (4-1) & U.S.A. (5-3). In the medal round they disposed of Denmark (8-0) and then Slovakia (5-1), before facing Russia in the gold medal game on January 05. It’s a classic rivalry, perhaps the most classic of them all, and boy did it sure play out that way! The Canucks jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead just two and a half minutes in, but Russia climbed back to within one before the period was out. In the second period Canada once again put on the pressure, blowing things open to a score of 5-1! However, the Russians were given some momentum when the refs began gifting them powerplays, calling Canada for four minor penalties in a row, only one of which was an actual penalty. This allowed the Russians to climb back to within one yet again, putting the score at 5-4 Canada and setting up a pretty wild finish. In the third period the Canadian team came out refocused, got a quick penalty kill out of the way, and then never looked back, hanging on to win the game 5-4 in a heck of an exciting fashion! After not winning the gold since 2009 this victory came as a big relief, as the Canadians and their fans expect to win gold every year, even as improbable as that sounds. Hockey is not just a game here, it is a passion, a fabric of our everyday life, and anything less than gold doesn’t really register. But they pushed the competition around this year and brought home the bacon once more, congrats fellas!!!

There was a certain X factor at work this month . . . an X-Men factor, to be precise!!

It’s pretty much been a month since I last blogged, and boy have those four weeks been action packed! The weekend that soon arrived after my last blog post was an extended one, as I had to take the Friday off because it was a P.D. Day at James’ school. While mrs. darthcobain17 went in to meet the teacher, we stayed home and played video games and basement hockey all day! Later that day we went to the movies. As for the rest of the weekend, on the Saturday we drove down Hamilton way to attend a friends’ house warming party. While there I finally managed to accomplish a long sought after goal of mine . . . I ended up drinking an entire case of beer in one night!! I didn’t really mean to, the beers were just going down so well, and before I knew it boom, out of brews. Pretty epic!

The following weekend was a really busy one, at least on the Saturday. The wife finally decided it was time to decorate the house for Christmas, and when I say decorate, it’s not the normal person’s version. We have two Christmas trees to put up, and then pretty much every room on the main floor of our house has some sort of collection of decorations that dress them up for Christmas, it’s pretty ludicrous! Not to mention all the outdoor lights and what not. On the Sunday though, mrs. darthcobain17 went cross border shopping with her mom and was gone all day and overnight. So it was a pretty relaxing day, James and I once more overdosed on video games and basement hockey!

The weekend after was a much more low key one. We didn’t really have any plans, so on Saturday we took James to a First Lego League competition that was taking place at UWO, for primary school kids aged 9-14 or so. James really wants to take part in this when he is old enough! His school had a team in the competition so we got to watch one of their matches, which they won quite handily. On the Sunday we went to see Shrek: The Musical, for which I had bought the wife tickets for her birthday. It was actually really good, with a belching/farting contest, lots of ass jokes, etc., it was right up my alley! Afterwards we went out for dinner to end our weekend.

Finally, this past weekend, we went down to Grimsby on Saturday as on Sunday we were to have our Christmas celebration with the in-laws, as a few of them won’t be home during the actual holidays because they are traveling to various places. Everybody bought toy gifts for each other, which we felt represented said person, and then we gave the toys to a toy drive. Afterwards we had a big, fat dinner during which I stuffed myself ridiculously, and I got in to the booze too.

As for the weekdays, James still has Beavers, swimming lessons and golf lessons during the week, although both swimming and golf are coming to a close soon. On top of that we’ve had Christmas celebrations with friends, James’ Christmas assembly at school, and numerous other things occupying our time. Throughout it all though, I was able to get at my games when I could, here is what I got done . . .

1) To start off the gaming this month, I was once again able to get another level knocked off on Goldeneye! This sixth level of the game was called “Kirghizstan – Launch Silo #4”. This was the start of my next overall mission in the game, to set it up one of our agents had concerns that missile silo activity in Kirghizstan was being used to cover a launch of the Goldeneye weapon satellites. The level then began, just after Bond had set timed charges in this facility in Kirghizstan, so I immediately began exploring the various tunnels of the missile silo facility, taking out random pockets of soldiers as I did. Every once in a while I’d come across a computer lab and would let the scientists escape, while acquiring various pieces of satellite circuitry that were lying around. Using stolen key cards to speed me along my way, I eventually came to a lab that actually held one of the Goldeneye satellites and took pictures of it with my camera (as well as obtained some telemetric data from one of the scientists). On my way to exit the facility I ran in to an enemy who was a bit of a brute, no matter how much lead I pumped in to him he wouldn’t go down! But I chased him away eventually, soon after reaching an elevator that sped me away from the soon to be destroyed facility! I finished this level with a time of 7:02 and had a 62.0% accuracy rating.

2) Again as usual, I completed another series of my season on MLB 2K11, this time around hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates. The series went down as such: won vs. Pittsburgh 3-0, won vs. Pittsburgh 3-0 & won vs. Pittsburgh 11-1.

3) The mop up operation finally entered full swing on Lego: Lord of the Rings this time around, it’s been a long time coming! I was able to get at four game levels, which went as such: “The Black Rider” (found the last 2 Minikit pieces, the last Treasure item, and earned 2 Silver Bricks [for completing the Minikit and finding all Treasure items]), “Weathertop” (found the last 9 Minikit pieces, 3/3 Treasure items, the Tablet, and earned 3 Silver Bricks [for completing the Minikit, and finding all Treasure items plus the Tablet]), “The Pass of Cahadras” (earned True Adventurer status, found the last 7 Minikit pieces, found 3/3 Treasure items, and earned 3 Silver Bricks [for the status, Minikit, and the Treasure items]) & “The Mines of Moria” (earned True Adventurer status, found the last 8 Minikit pieces, the last 2 Treasure items, and earned 3 Silver Bricks [for the status, Minikit, and the Treasure items]). Just because I only got four levels tidied up didn’t mean I made little progress though. The game hub on this title has tons of stuff to do and find within it, so I spent most of my time there! On top of completing said two levels I found 44 Silver Bricks, 4 Tablets, completed 10 Quests, and unlocked/purchased 4 Red Bricks (which contained the Mithril Brick Finder, Regenerate Hearts, Poo Studs, and Boss Disguises extras). I also purchased a number of characters, including Berserker, Rosie, Bilbo Baggins (Old), Tom Bombadil, Radagast the Brown, Ringwraith (Twilight), Ringwraith, Moria Orc, Bilbo Baggins, Elrond (Second Age), Gloin & Elrond (Third Age). I made many visits to the Blacksmith’s in Bree, having him forge many quest items with my collected Mithril Bricks. The items I completed this first time around included the Mithril Whistle Sword, Rope, Music Horn, Headdress, Boxing Gloves, Squeak Sword, Ice Bow, Cluster Bow, Disco Phial, Hairbrush, Paintbrush, Music Boots, Skeleton Sword & Spring Boots. To top all of this off I also quickly dabbled in the “Middle-Earth” bonus level, upon exiting it I unlocked both the Mouth of Sauron and Sauron characters. Shibby!

4) On NHL ’04 I took part in the next four games of my season, which looked as follows: won @ Washington 15-4, won @ Montreal 16-3, won vs. Carolina 8-6 & won @ Atlanta 20-7.

5) Some really meaningful progress was made on Batman Origins: Blackgate, including a couple of boss fights! To start play off I began my re-infiltration of the Cell Blocks, using ductwork, hallways and an elevator to get around. There was not much goon activity, at least to begin with, as I’d already cleared a lot of this area earlier in the game. Along the way I obtained a Heavy Gauntlet and Armor Reinforcement upgrade. Eventually I was able to reach areas of the facility I hadn’t been to yet, thanks to the new key card access I had acquired. I entered what appeared to be the power plant, where I ran in to some of Penguin’s goons. After navigating a series of high catwalks (and obtaining the One Million Boots in the process) I took out more punks before reaching the munitions dump, where I acquired an upgrade for my Gel Launcher gadget . . . the Glue Gel! I then ex-filtrated the facility, obtaining a Rush Upgrade along the way. My journey then took me back to the Industrial section of Blackgate, where I re-entered the facility the same way I originally did, obtaining an Armor Reinforcement in the process. Eventually I reached the door that was operated by a pressure plate, which seemed to stall my progress oh so long ago. Well now with my handy Glue Gel gadget that was no longer an issue! Gumming up the gears of said door I was able to pass through it to an unexplored area of the facility. Not long in to it I managed to track down Black Mask, who’s ultimate plan I had learned . . . to blow the entire Blackgate facility sky high, eliminating all of his criminal competition in one fell swoop! The villain sicked a horde of his thugs on me in some sort of generator room, once they were bloodied and bruised I had to manipulate the nearby circuitry in order to escape and continue chasing Black Mask down. I eventually caught up to him and after shutting the soon to be overloaded generators down, I confronted him and got the drop on him by using some access tunnels underneath his location. Upon Black Mask’s defeat I used a computer to restore power to Blackgate prison and all of it’s offshoot facilities, then began my ex-filtration (obtaining an Armor Reinforcement along the way). Instead of exiting the facility though, I found a new part of it that I had yet to check out. I soon found myself engaging hordes of Joker’s goons, while navigating a very water drenched area (acquiring the Red Son Boots in the process). The pot at the end of the rainbow here was acquisition of the Tightrope capability. Upon nabbing it I forged on and found a path that led directly to the Administration building. Said path ended up being a secret entrance to the warden’s office, and when I got there I found that this level of the game was simply a boss fight . . . against none other than that fiend, The Joker! I demanded he give me the Crypto Sequencer codes, but as usual he declined. So we then began a drawn out dance of a fight where he pulled out a handgun, an electric prod, and even poison gas on me! Despite all of his tricks I was able to turn the tables on him using my various gadgets. Upon his defeat I obtained the Gamma Key I had so badly wanted all this time. Afterwards I shut down the poison gas he’d been pumping in to the room, and then tried to restore normal ventilation to the Arkham wing. However, the computer said ventilation there was fine and had never been interrupted. When I contacted Catwoman and asked her why she had mentioned the ventilation issue, it was obvious there was something she was hiding . . .

6) Next up comes Jak X: Combat Racing, and I got a good chunk bit off there too! The first area I visited this time around was “Kras City”, where I completed two events. Said events were “Kras City – Turbo Dash” (won the race, gold medal) & “Waterfront Loop – Freeze Rally” (won the event, gold medal). I then went to “Haven City”, where I completed a solitary event, called “Forbidden Jungle – Circuit Race” (won the race, gold medal). Another solitary event was on the docket next, in “Icelands”, and it was called “Frozen Speedway – Circuit Race” (won the race, gold medal). It was then back to “Kras City” and then “Haven City”, for a set of one off events in each destination. Said events, respectively, included “Deathdrome – Death Race” (won the race, gold medal) & “Clifftop Battlefield – Sport Hunt” (won the event, gold medal). “Spargus” was the next area I traveled to, where I participated in a couple of events. Said events included “Desert Arena – Deathmatch” (won the event, gold medal) & “Canyon Run – Rush Hour” (won the event, gold medal). I finished play by competing in five solitary events across various destinations. The areas I visited, in order, were “Haven City”, “Spargus”, “Kras City”, “Spargus” & “Grand Prix”. The respective events at these destinations included “City Outskirts – Circuit Race” (won the race, gold medal), “Badland Sanctuary – Circuit Race” (won the race, gold medal), “Kras City – Death Race” (won the race, gold medal), “Wasteland Isle – Deathmatch” (won the event, gold medal) & “Glacier Alley – Circuit Race” (won the race, gold medal). Almost done the Green Eco Cup now!!

7) Luigi’ Mansion: Dark Moon got hit hard this time around, hard enough that it is now complete!! What an awesome game too, a 10 for sure. Anyhoo, continuing on in the “Old Clockworks” area of the game, I completed the last couple levels it had to offer. The first one was “C-6: Showtime” (clear time of 19:01, 37 ghosts captured, and 665 treasure collected), while the other was the area’s secret level, called “Outlandish Interruption” (clear time of 7:27, 24 ghosts captured, and 234 treasure collected). The penultimate area of the game was called “Secret Mine”, there I completed the initial four levels as so: “D-1: Cold Case” (clear time of 34:59, 8 ghosts captured, and 1323 treasure collected), “D-2: Hit Rock Bottom” (clear time of 24:57, 10 ghosts captured, and 752 treasure collected), “D-3: Across the Chasm” (clear time of 1:25:55, 12 ghosts captured, and 990 treasure collected) & “D-Boss: Chilly Ride” (clear time of 5:10, 1 ghost captured, and no treasure collected). Afterwards I was able to complete the secret level in this area, called “Severe Infestation” (clear time of 8:53, 20 ghosts captured, and 451 treasure collected). It was finally time to move on to the last area of this exciting adventure, called “Treacherous Mansion”!! There I was able to complete all the levels they threw at me, which included “E-1: Front-Door Key” (clear time of 25:49, 11 ghosts captured, and 1053 treasure collected), “E-2: Double Trouble” (clear time of 48:28, 19 ghosts captured, and 1836 treasure collected), “E-3: A Train to Catch” (clear time of 20:09, 12 ghosts captured, and 654 treasure collected), “E-4: Ambush Maneuver” (clear time of 12:51, no ghosts captured, and no treasure collected), “E-5: Paranormal Chaos” (clear time of 20:43, 52 ghosts captured, and 1836 treasure collected), “E-Boss: Stop the Knightmare” (clear time of 2:45, 1 ghost captured, and 60 treasure collected) & “E-Boss; King Boo’s Illusion: A Nightmare to Remember” (clear time of 32:14, 1 ghost captured, and 260 treasure collected). After the game was complete I was able to play this area’s secret level, called “Terrifying Invasion” (clear time of 5:16, 18 ghosts captured, and 464 treasure collected). And that was it. Luigi had been able to defeat King Boo, rescue his lost brother Mario, and restore peace to Evershade Valley! Game over . . .

8) Believe it or not James and I only ramped up our activity on New Super Mario Bros. U, so much so that we defeated it . . . and then moved on and defeated the New Super Luigi U game that was included with it!! Picking up where we left off on New Super Mario Bros. U the last time, we knocked down the rest of the levels, which went as such: “Meringue Clouds – 3: Switchback Hill”, “Meringue Clouds – Castle: Slide Cliff Tower”, “Meringue Clouds – Mansion: Spinning Spirit House”, “Meringue Clouds – 4: Bouncy Cloud Boomerangs”, “Meringue Clouds – 5: A Quick Dip in the Sky”, “Meringue Clouds – 6: Snaking above Mist Valley”, “Meringue Clouds – Castle: Ludwig’s Clockwork Castle”, “Meringue Clouds – Airship: Boarding the Airship”, “Peach’s Castle – 1: Meteor Moat”, “Peach’s Castle – 2: Magma-River Cruise”, “Peach’s Castle – 3: Rising Tides of Lava”, “Peach’s Castle – Castle: Red-Hot Elevator Ride” & “Peach’s Castle – Castle: The Final Battle”. In all of these levels we managed to obtain the 3 Gold Star coins that were hidden throughout. After completing the game a couple of things were unlocked for us, a secret mushroom house where we could view stats on our game progress, and then an area of secret bonus levels called “Superstar Road”. These levels are pretty tricky though, so far we’ve only been able to complete one of them, called “Superstar Road – 7: Lakitu! Lakitu! Lakitu!” (obtaining 2/3 Gold Star coins). It was then on to partake in the New Super Luigi U game that came on the same disc as the Mario Bros. game. It used the same collection of worlds, and the levels were similarly themed, but in the Luigi game you are given a much shorter time limit in each level, the challenge is more a race against time than anything. A cool aspect is that James could use a new character named Nabbit, who was invulnerable against a lot of attacks and enemies, so his powers came in handy quite a bit!! Anyways, we had become so addicted to these titles that we managed to complete this game as well, here is how it all shook out: “Acorn Plains – 1: Waddlewing Warning!”, “Acorn Plains – 2: Crooked Cavern”, “Acorn Plains – Castle: Flame-Gear Tower”, “Acorn Plains – 3: Rolling Yoshi Hills”, “Acorn Plains – 4: Piranha Heights”, “Acorn Plains – 5: Piranha Gardens”, “Acorn Plains – Castle: Lemmy’s Lights-Out Castle”, “Layer-Cake Desert – 1: Spike’s Tumbling Desert”, “Layer-Cake Desert – 2: Underground Grrrols”, “Layer-Cake Desert – 3: Piranhas in the Dark”, “Layer-Cake Desert – Castle: Wind-Up Tower”, “Layer-Cake Desert – 4: The Walls Have Eyes”, “Layer-Cake Desert – 5: Stone Spike Conveyors”, “Layer-Cake Desert – 6: Spinning Sandstones”, “Layer-Cake Desert – Castle: Morton’s Lava-Block Castle”, “Frosted Glacier – 1: Broozers and Barrels”, “Frosted Glacier – 2: Cooligan Shrooms”, “Frosted Glacier – Castle: Icicle Tower”, “Frosted Glacier – 3: Fire and Ice”, “Frosted Glacier – 4: Weighty Waddlewings”, “Frosted Glacier – 5: Ice-Slide Expressway”, “Frosted Glacier – Mansion: Peek-a-Boo Ghost House”, “Frosted Glacier – Special: Fliprus Floes”, “Frosted Glacier – Castle: Wendy’s Thwomp Castle”, “Sparkling Waters – 1: Huckit Beach Resort”, “Sparkling Waters – 2: Urchin Reef Romp”, “Sparkling Waters – Castle: Shish-Kebab Tower”, “Sparkling Waters – Shipwreck: Haunted Cargo Hold”, “Sparkling Waters – 3: Waterspout Sprint”, “Sparkling Waters – 4: The Great Geysers”, “Sparkling Waters – 5: Dragoneel Depths”, “Sparkling Waters – Castle: Larry’s Trigger-Happy Castle”, “Rock-Candy Mines – 1: Mount Fuzzy”, “Rock-Candy Mines – 2: Porcupuffer Cavern”, “Rock-Candy Mines – Castle: Smashing Stone Tower”, “Rock-Candy Mines- 3: Spike’s Seesaws”, “Rock-Candy Mines – 4: Light-Up-Lift Tower”, “Rock-Candy Mines – 5: Rising Piranhas”, “Rock-Candy Mines – Castle: Sumo Bro’s Spinning Tower”, “Rock-Candy Mines – 7: Switch-Lift Express”, “Rock-Candy Mines – Castle: Roy’s Ironclad Castle”, “Soda Jungle – Airship: All Aboard!”, “Soda Jungle – 1: Giant Swing-Along”, “Soda Jungle – 2: Dancing Blocks, Poison Swamp”, “Soda Jungle – 3: Heart of Bramball Woods”, “Soda Jungle – Castle: Stone-Snake Tower”, “Soda Jungle – Mansion: Boo’s Favorite Haunt”, “Soda Jungle – 4: Painted Pipeworks”, “Soda Jungle – 5: Deepsea Stone-Eyes”, “Soda Jungle – 6: Sumo Bro Bridge”, “Soda Jungle – 7: Wiggler Floodlands”, “Soda Jungle – Castle: Iggy’s Swinging-Chains Castle”, “Soda Jungle – Special: Para-Beetle Parade”, “Meringue Clouds – 1: Frozen Fuzzies”, “Meringue Clouds – 2: Wiggler Rodeo”, “Meringue Clouds – 3: Rainbow Skywalk”, “Meringue Clouds – Castle: Stonecrush Tower”, “Meringue Clouds – 4: Above the Bouncy Clouds”, “Meringue Clouds – 5: Flame Chomp Ferris Wheel”, “Meringue Clouds – 6: Three-Headed Snake Block”, “Meringue Clouds – Castle: Ludwig’s Block-Press Castle”, “Meringue Clouds – Airship: Bowser Jr. Showdown”, “Peach’s Castle – 1: Magma Moat”, “Peach’s Castle – 2: Magmaw River Cruise”, “Peach’s Castle – 3: Hot Cogs”, “Peach’s Castle- 4: Firefall Rising”, “Peach’s Castle – Castle: Current Event” & “Peach’s Castle – Castle: The Final Battle”. While playing the Luigi game we finally realized that we had missed some levels along the way, and in Mario Bros. too. The way to unlock them was to find secret exits in some of game levels we’d already completed. So after finishing the game we went back and unlocked, then completed, said missing levels. They included: “Acorn Plains – Special: Cheep Chomp Chase”, “Layer-Cake Desert – Special: Secret Slippery Rope Ladders”, “Sparkling Waters – Special: Beanstalk Jungle” & “Rock-Candy Mines – 6: Spine Coaster Stowaways”. In all of the above levels I mentioned for New Super Luigi U, we were able to obtain all 3 Gold Star coins in each level . . . many times along with much frustration!! We then headed to the newly unlocked “Superstar Road” bonus levels area, and completed the following levels: “Superstar Road – 3: Star Coin Deep Dive”, “Superstar Road – 4: Hammerswing Hangout”, “Superstar Road – 5: Under Construction” & “Superstar Road – 6: Fire Bar Sprint”. After figuring out how to obtain the missing levels I mentioned, we then went back to New Super Mario Bros. U and unlocked and completed the ones we were missing there. Those levels included: “Acorn Plains – Special: Blooper’s Secret Lair”, “Sparkling Waters – Special: Skyward Stalk” & “Peach’s Castle – 4: Firefall Cliffs”. It was quite a journey but these two games are now both in the books, and much like Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon they will receive a resounding 10 from yours truly!!

9) I made my greatest progress yet on Transformers: Beast Wars, completing five more levels! Said progress unfolded as such: “Urban 2 – Perimeter Defence” (Tarantulas had retreated to the perimeter of our base, my job was to destroy his remaining troops and secure the area), “Urban 3 – Spider’s Lair” (during our previous engagements vital information had fallen in to Tarantulas’ hands, I was tasked with tracking him down and destroying him before he could use it against us), “Desert 1 – Powerlines” (Scorponok had been damaging the environment by mining Energon in the desert, I had to locate and destroy his mining equipment including the transport tower and prospector ships), “Desert 2 – Search and Destroy” (after our last mission’s success a scan of the area revealed an unidentified Predacon presence still active, I had to sniff the presence out and negate the threat that Scorponok’s processed Energon held to us all) & “Desert 3 – Desert Stronghold” (Scorponok had retreated to his base to regroup his forces and said base was protected by an ion force shield, so I was jobbed with destroying said shield and then the evil fiend himself). More on the way!

10) Naturally, because I finished Luigi’s Mansion I had to get going on a new game for the 3DS, and for that game I chose Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie! This is a title based around the blockbuster film that came out this past summer, which gave the TMNT franchise a whole new and different look and feel. The game doesn’t follow the events of the movie per se, but it takes place within that universe and introduces a few new (yet familiar) characters to this incarnation of the Turtles. Kicking the game off with it’s Story Mode, I’ve been able to complete the first 10 levels, which went as such: “Routine Patrol” (the fearsome foursome were prowling the streets of New York looking for trouble, and we took it out on the Foot Clan when we found them), “Disappeared!” (April got in touch to inform us that Splinter was kidnapped from the lair, so we began tracking him through the sewers, taking out many rat creatures as we went), “The Hunt” (we pursued Splinter’s trail even deeper and ran in to many more rat enemies, before the scent eventually went cold), “Rat Invasion” (we came upon evidence of a large rat gathering taking place so we went to check for Splinter there, learning that the Foot Clan were also present), “Final Push” (forging onwards towards our master we came up against the most Foot Clan soldiers we’d encountered yet, and they distracted us by holding a subway train full of citizens hostage, who we had to spend time rescuing), “Master vs. Students” (we finally caught up with Splinter but he wasn’t himself, under some sort of mind control . . . so we battled and upon taking him down the spell was broken!), “Chaos in the Streets” (the streets of New York were being overrun with various mutants as well as Mouser robots, under the cover of night we had to eliminate these enemies and help April tidy up the city, by restoring power to neighbourhoods and accessing water mains for cleanup), “The Signal Source” (we discovered a signal that was emanating from the sewers, the same signal that took over Splinter’s mind and was controlling the Mousers, so we headed below and began to track it, moving towards the quarry and flooding the sewers to impede our enemies’ progress), “Checkmate” (we cornered the source of this signal, who ended up being an enemy named the Rat King, we took him down and found Mutagen on the scene, helping us link him to Baxter Stockman) & “Underground Secrets” (April found an entrance to the machine shop Baxter had been using as his lab, so we began our infiltration, having to unlock three blast doors before we could make any real progress). It’s been a good hack n’ slash game so far, with lots of achievements and unlocks to shoot for, pretty fun!

11) Not wanting to stop there I also got started on a DS title I picked up for cheap recently, called X-Men: Destiny. It felt right, considering I just finished watching all the X-Men movies in a row!! The story begins at the first ever Charles Xavier annual memorial rally (nooooooooooo!!!!), where Cyclops is making a speech in his honour. Alongside him is Luis Reyes, an officer from the Mutant Response Division, who is tasked with helping achieve a long lasting peace between mutants and humans. However, during the festivities Magneto attacks and turns the scene in to one of carnage. You control Reyes’ assistant Samuel, a human who suddenly discovers he’s a mutant when Magneto’s attack activates his powers! You must then make a choice, whether you want to be a melee or ranged fighter, and then the action commences. So far I’ve been able to complete the initial two levels of the game. First was “San Francisco Downtown”, where I began looking for Reyes, who had gone missing during all the confusion. Along the way I had to engage a number of Purifier punks, whose goal it is to take all mutants down. Eventually I ran in to both Wolverine and Sabretooth, and they offered me a decision to make. I sided with Wolverine’s advice and helped him rescue four civilians from Purifier violence, afterwards finding out that Reyes had been taken to the mutant annex. I set out for the annex but got waylaid, tasked with taking down a handful of looters who were rioting in the streets. Not long afterwards I caught up with Reyes and rescued him from his captors, ending the level. The second level was called “Mutant Annex”. To kick things off Cyclops informed me that he had mutants scattered all over the city, so my first task was to track them all down and help them get to safety within the annex. I ran in to Pixie and Mystique, and again I had a decision to make. I sided with Pixie and helped her round up all the wounded, human and mutant alike, she was able to teleport them away to receive aid. Along the way I was able to help some of the M.R.D. soldiers flush out a knot of Purifiers from an alley they weren’t able to penetrate, afterwards meeting up with Archangel. He asked if I would help him take down a Purifier honcho named Abrams, and I agreed. In the end we were successful in capturing him, but soon after I was engaged by a Purifier High Purist, who sicked his forces on me. Once I chewed through said low life’s I went after the High Purist and stomped a mud hole in his ass . . . level over! A fun game so far, can’t wait to see what other characters may make an appearance.

12) Finally, with the completion of Mario Bros./Luigi, James and I decided to begin play on Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed for the Wii U! In this game you get to take a plethora of classic Sega characters in to battle, racing around tracks inspired by various Sega titles, and the visuals are quite stunning. Speed boosts and numerous types of weapons run rampant, so it makes for a pretty wild racing experience. Upon firing the game up we immediately chose to compete in “Career Mode”, choosing “World Tour” as our racing experience of choice, which is kind of like the story mode of the game. The first area we were able to race in was called “Sunshine Coast”, and so far we’ve only completed two events there as this game can be quite tricky, hopefully it will get better once we are used to the control scheme. Said events included: “Coastal Cruise” (competed in B class, placed third, earned 2 stars) & “Canyon Carnage” (competed in B class, placed first, earned 2 stars). Definitely more to come soon!

“NNGRR” - Pretty much just after I finished posting my last blog, I completed the book I was reading at the time, called Watchers, by Dean Koontz. The main character in this story is Travis Cornell, a thirty something who used to belong to an elite military unit before getting in to real estate, and then ultimately retiring early. Travis feels he is cursed, for all his family members died when he was younger, as well as his wife, not all that long after they wed. He has become a bit of a recluse and feels as though life has become quite pointless. In an effort to regain some of the innocence of his youth, the Santa Barbara native heads to the Santa Ana mountains with a pistol, to shoot rattlesnakes like he did as a kid! However, what he finds instead is a beautiful Golden Retriever who after great effort, warns Travis away from the area, protecting him from an unseen danger. Travis could feel the malevolence in the air though, and is glad to escape the area with this mysterious dog in tow. He plans on giving the dog to the pound after getting him cleaned up a bit, but after Travel gets him home the dog displays an almost human level degree of brain power, seemingly understanding what Travis says to him, while also performing unimaginable feats like fetching him a beer from a closed fridge and turning on the outdoor water tap. It doesn’t take Travis long before he decides to keep this wonderful creature, eventually naming him Einstein! While all of this is going on, a couple of other important situations are developing. Another thirty something in Santa Barbara, Nora Devon, has recently started a new life. Her Aunt Violet, a harsh woman who made Nora a virtual shut in, in order to protect her from the “dangers” of the world, has gained some newfound freedom after her aunt’s passing. Unfortunately one of her first experiences is that a TV repair man begins stalking her and she fears for her life! The other situation is presided over by an NSA agent named Lemuel Johnson, who is tracking a subject that has committed a nasty string of savage murders, and the trail just keeps on growing. Anyhoo, when one day Travis and Einstein bump in to Nora in a nearby park, while she is in mid-confrontation with her stalker, the dog senses what is going on and immediately takes a major shine to Nora, driving the offender away. Eventually, upon their second meeting, Travis and Einstein are able to subdue and capture Nora’s tormentor and turn him over to the cops. Afterwards Travis and Nora begin a tentative relationship, for Nora has failed to experience so many things life has to offer, but in time this relationship soon blooms in to a full blown love affair. With their developing relationship also comes developments with Einstein. After much hard work they teach him communicate using barks and tail wags, eventually even to read books, which allows the mutt to fill them in on his situation. Einstein was a lab dog, at the recently burned to the ground Banodyne Laboratories. The experiments they performed on him infused him with the great intellect Travis and Nora have witnessed on so many occasions. But there was another subject the scientists there had created from scratch . . . a subject that was bred to be used as the perfect soldier in the U.S. military, a virtual killing machine! The creature was dubbed the “Outsider”, and it too escaped from the lab like Einstein did (it is the subject the NSA is tracking). Worst of all though, is that the Outsider hates the dog and has the ability to track him over vast distances. When the Outsider eventually catches up with Travis, Nora and Einstein, after they return from being wed in Las Vegas, they skip town and flee up to San Francisco, where they settle down and make preparations for the showdown that is eventually going to take place. Will Travis’ preparations and former military training be enough to repel this savage beast, or is it lights out for everyone, just after they had finally gotten their lives on track? This was a pretty good story, suspenseful in many places, and it certainly contained some interesting subject matter. It was also neat how the story unfolded over a period of many months, which allowed the characters and their relationships to develop quite a bit. A worthy read overall.

The movie we went to see on that PD day I mentioned was the new one from Disney, called Big Hero 6! I believe it was based on a comic book, and boy was it awesome. The story is set in a place called San Fransokyo, a seemingly futuristic hybrid of San Francisco and Tokyo. The main character is a 14 year old name Hiro Hamada, a robotics whiz who uses his talents to take part in underground bot fights. However, when his older brother Tadashi, who is also no slouch in the robotics department, takes him to visit the lab at the prestigious university he attends, Hiro is hooked! He not only meets Tadashi’s closest friends Fred, Wasabi, Go Go and Honey Lemon, but also the object of all Tadashi’s hard work . . . Baymax. Baymax is a unique bot that Tadashi has constructed, meant to aid in distributing medical care to those who are injured. Hiro is amazed not only by Baymax, but the whole lab in general, and he now burns to attend this school rather than waste his time on bot fights! Tadashi says Hiro will have his chance, because at an open house in the near future, young prospective students are allowed to enter a design showcase, with the winner granted admittance to the school as a reward. It takes Hiro a while to find inspiration for his design, but when he does it’s no holds barred. Upon unveiling his micro-bots at the showcase (tiny bots that can come together en masse and do pretty much anything, all at the behest of the user, who wears a neural transmitter and literally thinks the bots in to action), he is the hands down winner!! That same night though, as the open house is wrapping up, a fire breaks out in the building and Tadashi is killed when he tries to save his mentor Professor Callaghan, from perishing in the blaze. Despondent afterwards, Hiro does not attend school or answer any calls from his new friends. It isn’t until Hiro hurts himself in his and Tadashi’s bedroom, triggering Baymax to spring in to action, when things get interesting. After a rocky start between the two, Hiro warms to Baymax and the pair set off on an adventure. For Hiro finds one of his micro-bots in his pocket, he had assumed they were all destroyed in the fire. He believes the bot is malfunctioning, but Baymax tells him it’s simply trying to get to the other micro-bots. Putting two and two together the duo soon find themselves in a dilapidated warehouse, where someone has taken Hiro’s micro-bots and used the design to start putting them in to mass production! They don’t have time to ponder the situation though, as a mysterious figure in a Kabuki mask attacks, using Hiro’s own micro-bots to get around, and they just narrowly manage to escape! With a newfound sense of purpose Hiro describes the events to his friends, assuming that the villain is Alistair Krei, a somewhat immoral tycoon who showed a real interest in Hiro’s micro-bots at the open house. With their knack for robotics, Hiro and his friends are soon outfitted in super hero fashion . . . they are now Big Hero 6!! Along with their combined intellect and Baymax’s might, the group of friends eventually track down this masked villain . . . but to Hiro’s great surprise the masked man is not who he thought it was. Will Hiro give in to his temptation for revenge, losing his friends and Baymax’s innocence along the way, or will he rise to the occasion and become the hero he was meant to be? This movie was awesome, one of my favourite animated features of all time, for sure! The animation was amazing, so colourful and detailed, very crisp, and I loved the alternate sort of dimension this film seemed to take place in. Add in some great characters, a wicked storyline, and some intense action, and you’ve got a masterpiece on your hands. Truly a delight!!

The following week I watched my next super hero movie, choosing to continue with the X-Men series by viewing X-Men Origins: Wolverine! This is a film that builds on Wolverine’s back story and puts most of the pieces of the puzzle together for us. The action kicks off in the Northwest Territories (yeah, Canada!) in the year 1845. A young boy named James, who is very ill, is being tended to by his father while his “brother” Victor looks on. Soon after his father goes to check on a ruckus that has developed downstairs, and when James goes to investigate he finds his dad mortally shot, which causes James’ mutation to finally present itself . . . that being three sharp claws made of bone that erupt from his fists! He slays the man who killed his father, Thomas Logan, only to find out that Logan was really James’ true father. James now finds himself being hunted down, labelled a freak, taking control of the situation Victor urges James to run with him to safety and the pair escape in to the night. At this point a montage plays of the two as they grow older, taking part in a number of wars as history unfolds, including the Civil War, both World Wars, and the Vietnam War. In Vietnam though Victor goes a bit mental and kills a number of his own people, for defending Victor the two are thus scheduled to be executed. But to the great surprise of the troops pulling their triggers, the two are barely even fazed by the assault, being thrown in jail instead. James and Victor are saved from captivity when a U.S. official named William Stryker shows up, offering them a chance to join a special assortment of mutants he’s labelled as Team X. They take the offer and do their duty for a good while, but eventually the more shady, unnecessarily violent nature of the missions turns James off and he leaves the unit. A number of years later Logan (for he’s taken the name of his true father) is living in the Canadian Rockies, working as a lumberjack, living with a super hot school teacher named Kayla Silverfox. Life is peaceful and good for Logan, but not for long. For Stryker manages to track him down and tells Logan he needs his help . . . somebody is tracking down the former members of Team X and killing them, but Logan is not interested in saving Stryker’s ass for him. But tragedy is just around the corner for Logan, when he finds Kayla’s dead body lying in the forest near his work site. With evidence to suggest that Victor (or Sabretooth as we know him best!) was the perpetrator, Logan tracks him to a nearby bar and a major scuffle ensues. Unfortunately Logan is on the short end of the battle, afterwards Stryker shows up and promises Logan the means to defeat him. He agrees and is taken to Stryker’s secret lab, where the process is undertaken that coats Logan’s entire skeleton in adamantium . . . thus is born, the Wolverine!! All goes to plan during the operation, until Stryker also orders a memory wipe, which Logan overhears. He goes berserk and wreaks havoc, stealing out of the facility and in to the wilderness. Wolverine is tracked down by Stryker’s pet, Agent Zero, after dispatching him Wolverine heads to Las Vegas to talk to a couple of his old mates from Team X. They mention that Stryker and Sabretooth have been working together all this time, and have a base on a mysterious island that they don’t know the location of. But they do know of a mutant who escaped from said island, a gent by the name of Gambit. So Wolverine tracks Gambit down and ropes him in to giving him a lift. However, once on the island Wolverine is outnumbered and in for a few big surprises. Why is Kayla on site and in good health? Why are all these young mutants miserably trapped in cages? And who is this Deadpool character Stryker’s added to his arsenal of goons? Wolverine is in for the fight of his life, will he survive to fight another day, or will his enemies finally find a way to dispatch a man that nobody has found a way to kill just yet? This was a great flick. I was kind of wondering just how much they could get in to regarding his background, after the revelations of X2, but they did a great job in piecing together his history and going pretty in depth to describe this oh so popular character. Everything seemed to fit in place just right, and it was filmed beautifully, such good action sequences. Also, the characters they added, and the actors they got to portray them were great choices all around. Joining the fray were the likes of Liev Schreiber, Dominic Monaghan, Taylor Kitsch, Ryan Reynolds, and the super sexy Lynn Collins! I’d never heard of her before, but now I’m hooked. Great movie all around!!

A week later I watched another of the X-Men movies, this time taking in X-Men: First Class, and boy was it also quite good!! The story kicks off back in Nazi occupied Poland in 1944, the same scene we saw at the very start of the first X-Men movie. A young boy named Erik Lensherr displays a startling ability to manipulate metal with his mind when separated from his parents, but is quickly subdued. However, afterwards we discover what happened to young Erik after said incident. A Nazi scientist named Sebastian Schmidt takes an interest in his power and seeks to teach him to unleash and ultimately control it. His methods are cruel though, for the first breakthrough comes when Sebastian kills Erik’s mother in cold blood. On the other side of the globe, in Westchester, New York, a young boy named Charles Xavier awakes in the night to a ruckus down in the kitchen. Upon investigating he discovers his mother rooting through the fridge. Using his telepathic abilities he determines that this being is not his mother though, but a young girl named Raven, who then reveals herself to be a blue skinned mutant, capable of taking on the exact form of others she comes in contact with! Charles offers her food and refuge, and the beginnings of a deep friendship are forged. The scene then shifts ahead many years, to 1962. Three things happen at once which set about shaping events, changing the future as we know it! First of all, Erik Lensherr, now a free man and much more in control of his powers, is dead set on revenge against Schmidt, beginning the process of searching him out. Erik follows Schmidt’s (now going by the last name of Shaw) trail to Switzerland, then to Argentina, and finally to Miami. Charles Xavier on the other hand, has just obtained his doctorate from Oxford University, and his thesis was written on the subject of . . . wait for it . . . genetic mutation! The third party in play is a CIA operative named Moira MacTaggert, who is in Las Vegas spying on the dealings of a high ranking U.S. Army official named Hendry. She soon finds him and witnesses something her very eyes don’t believe . . . mutants! For she eavesdrops on a conversation between Shaw and Hendry, and witnesses the mutant capabilities of Shaw’s three henchmen, including Emma Frost, Riptide, and Azazel. Reporting back to her CIA bosses they scoff at her apparent delusions, and so she seeks out an expert in the genetic mutation field, who just so happens to be Charles Xavier. On the very night Xavier is celebrating his newly earned doctorate with Raven, Moira finds him and explains her entire situation. Suddenly sober Xavier agrees to help her in any way possible. After being brought in to CIA headquarters and displaying their mutant capabilities, Xavier and Raven are given refuge at a secret facility and soon after are sent out on their first mission. Their task it to bring in Shaw, who is holed up aboard his yacht in Miami. The mission goes terribly at first as Emma Frost, a telepath like Xavier, blocks him from accessing Shaw’s mind. However, Erik Lensherr also managed to track Shaw to this location and he unwittingly lends a helping hand. But Shaw and his cronies slip from their collective grasp when they retreat aboard a secret submarine built in to the hull of Shaw’s yacht. This hiatus is a good thing though, as it gives Charles and Erik a chance to begin developing a friendship, and also to plan their strategy in bringing down Shaw. The first step is to recruit more of their kind, to do so they use a rudimentary device named Cerebro, which was built by CIA scientist Hank McCoy. The test run is a rousing success and in virtually no time the pair have recruited a handful of young, powerful mutants to their cause, including Raven (Mystique), Hank (Beast), Angel Salvadore, Sean Cassidy (Banshee), Armando Munoz (Darwin) and Alex Summers (Havok). Before Charles and Erik can plan a mission with the new recruits they suffer a pre-emptive strike by their enemy and lose two of their number (Angel to the other side, while Darwin perishes). Soon afterwards though, this team of mutant misfits have their chance, and the setting is the Caribbean Sea, just outside of Cuba. All this time Shaw’s endgame had been to play the U.S. against the Russians, in an attempt to instigate World War III, a war that would see the Earth torn apart in a nuclear disaster! Will these X-Men be able to stop Shaw from fulfilling his dastardly plans and pacify both the Americans and the Russians, enough so to prevent an epic catastrophe? Or has this team met their match before they even got their feet wet? This was a pretty cool film, for many different reasons. First of all, the origins story was great. It was cool to see how Xavier and Magneto first began as allies and friends, and to also see how Mystique gained her allegiance to Magneto after spending so many years by Xavier’s side. We also see the origin of Beast’s true form, how the term “X-Men” came about, and how Professor Xavier became paralyzed. Also, the cameo by Wolverine, where he tells Xavier and Erik to go fuck themselves, was priceless! The time frame was neat too, how they set the whole plotline around the Cuban missile crisis, and how everything had a 60’s feel with the clothes and the music . . . very groovy baby! And then they assembled a pretty awesome cast to round everything out, the most surprising of which was Jennifer Lawrence, I had no idea she was in this movie!! She is such a delicious treat, Christmas came a bit early for me this year . . .

At the end of that same week I finished reading a book I had going at the time, the first in a series that is new to me, called Tunnels . . . written by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams. The story takes place in Highfield, England, near London. The central character is Will Burrows, a 14 year old that doesn’t necessarily fit in with his own family, and even less so at school! The lone friendship he shares with Chester, his best mate, was forged out of a shared tendency to get picked on at school. The other person Will does get along with very well though is his dad, Dr. Burrows. What’s more, Will shares his dad’s passion for archaeology, and the book opens up during their excavation of a long lost underground subway station! Soon enough things start to go awry, first for Dr. Burrows, and then for Will and Chester. Dr. Burrows begins noticing strange folk wandering around town, very pale in appearance and dressed in old fashioned clothing. Upon further investigation of one of these instances Dr. Burrows goes missing, and Will, his mother, and his sister Rebecca have no idea what to think. Will begins looking for clues, eventually he and Chester stumble upon some mysterious journal entries written by his father. Putting the pieces together they discover a tunnel Dr. Burrows had been digging underneath their house, down in the basement. Will and Chester spend many nights furthering this work of Dr. Burrows’ and one day they finally hit pay dirt, no pun intended. For underneath the streets they’ve walked on all their lives the duo discover a secret passage that leads to a rickety old elevator. At the bottom of this elevator shaft is . . . an entire underground city!! Despite sensing that only danger lies ahead, the pair can’t help but investigate this incredible discovery. Not long in to their journey though, a policeman from this underground city finds them and immediately throws them in jail. Soon Will and Chester learn that they are indeed in serious trouble. For the people that dwell underground are fearful of “topsoilers”, worried that they will one day be discovered and persecuted by them. Feeding this fear is a ruling class of beings called Styx, who preach against the coming of the topsoilers as if it were religion. One day Will is released and the truth is revealed. He never felt as though he fit in with his family because . . . they weren’t his real family, his true family lives in the underground city he is now trapped in! When Will was a baby his real mother escaped above, with him in tow, and he was then placed with the family he grew up with for whatever reason. Will is reluctantly taken in by the nasty Mr. Jerome and a young boy named Cal, who is Will’s new brother. Despite taking a liking to Cal, his grandmother, and his boisterous Uncle Tam, Will feels a great desire to escape, and rescue Chester along the way. Tam, not exactly being a law abider or fan of the Styx, agrees to help Will with his plan. In the end he is able to rescue Chester, but just as the pair (along with Cal, who snuck along with them) are about to head topside they are discovered, most surprisingly by a person who seriously betrays Will. Although Will and Cal manage to escape, Chester is recaptured and taken back to prison! After reaching “home” Will and Cal recover their strength, but it’s not long before Will feels the need to return underground and finish what he started. Will he be able to re-enter the underground city and rescue Chester a second time? And what of Dr. Burrows, who had also reached the city but headed even deeper in to the unknown? I guess we’ll find out in book two! This was a really cool story, a bit slow at first but when it got going it certainly made up for it. Very gritty too . . . love it!

The weekend that followed I got a lot accomplished, as I finished watching three different cartoon series I’d been working on for quite some time! First came the one I had begun most recently, called Street Sharks. This series debuted in the mid-90’s, running from 1994-1997, and was produced by DIC. The series totalled 40 episodes, all of which are represented in this collection. I never watched this series when it first aired, but I just couldn’t resist it now! The story takes place in a community called Fission City, and the action begins at the local university. Professors Robert Bolton and Luther Paradigm are partners on a research project called the “gene slammer”. This device is capable of manipulating the genes of aquatic animals, mixing them with that of humans, thus creating mutated, walking sea creatures! Bolton’s motives are pure, whilst Paradigm’s are anything but. When Bolton confronts Paradigm about this, the evil Paradigm uses the gene slammer on him. In his new mutated form, Bolton flees the university. After a while, wondering where their father has gotten to, Bolton’s four sons (John, Bobby, Coop and Clint) go to his workplace to investigate. However, once there they are confronted by Paradigm, who once again uses the gene slammer, turning the brothers in to four walking sharks . . . or Street Sharks, if you will! The brothers, now renamed as Ripster, Streex, Jab, and Slammu, vow to get even with Paradigm and bring him to justice. However, nobody in Fission City knows Paradigm’s true nature, and of course at first they are all afraid of the Street Sharks. After a time, which include many good deeds, the Street Sharks are finally looked upon as heroes and idolized by many, although Paradigm’s real motives are still unknown to the public at large. The Street Sharks thwart many of Paradigm’s schemes to take over the city, battling many of his gene slammed henchman along the way. That’s not all they have to worry about though. Throughout their adventures the four brothers also have to deal with a vindictive mob boss, an unscrupulous millionaire industrialist, and a few different types of aliens, including a pack of raptor like dinosaur creatures. In the end though, with the help of their best friend Bends and some other allies, the Street Sharks finally get their chance at bringing Paradigm down . . . but will they be able to make good on it? This is a pretty cool cartoon series, an obvious extrapolation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but different enough that it really had it’s own essence. Lots of action and cool characters, it’s definitely more than worth a watch . . .

The second series I completed is an absolute classic 1980’s show I loved as a kid, none other than M.A.S.K.!! This series aired from 1985-1986, was created by DIC and Kenner, and produced a total of 75 episodes (which are all included in this collection). The central character in the series is Matt Trakker, a wealthy businessman who is involved with a lot of worldwide projects aimed at helping shape a better future for planet Earth. However, he has a big secret . . . and that secret is M.A.S.K.! For Matt has recruited a number of his friends, all experts in their respective fields, to join M.A.S.K. (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand). Their purpose is to help him combat the nefarious activities of a criminal group named V.E.N.O.M. (Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem). V.E.N.O.M. is led by Miles Mayhem, a grumpy old man who leads his troops in to trouble, usually of the treasure seeking variety, and is a former friend of Matt’s. But the relationship turned sour and the two sides now regularly do battle at exotic locations all over the globe, such as Scotland, New Zealand, Iceland, Tokyo, Australia, Egypt . . . even Borneo! These engagements aren’t the everyday sort of battle though, as both sides are equipped with powered masks that not only conceal their identity, but lend them great powers as well, such as firing various types of projectiles, giving one the power of flight, projecting holograms, or even the ability to pass through walls. And their powers don’t stop with the masks, for the vehicles they drive are also quite effective. On the surface they may seem like everyday cars, trucks, etc., but they are all capable of transforming slightly and turning in to destructive forces to be used to combat their foes! As the battle rages across the world comic relief is provided by Matt’s son Scott, and Scott’s cowardly robot companion, T-Bob. In the end will Matt and Miles be able to reconcile their differences, or will this war rage until either side is finally destroyed? This is one of my top five favourite cartoons of all time, so good! It was kind of a combination between G.I. Joe and Transformers, had lots of great characters, very cool vehicles, and it aired for a good long run, too. For any cartoon fans out there this is must see material!

The third and final series I completed was another from my top five of all time, the seemingly little known The Bots Master! This series aired between 1993-1994 and was a French based production. The series had 40 episodes in total, but this collection only contains 33, as it is a “VCR’d” bootleg copy . . . but seeing as that’s all you can get (like I said, it seems to be little known), it’s good enough for now! Anyhoo, this series takes place in the year 2025, the central character is a young man named Ziv Zulander. Ziv is a robotics genius and is a former employee of the RM Corp (Robotic Megafact). His robotic creation, the 3A, revolutionized the way the world was run. For now robots were commonplace around the globe, in all type of settings. However, upon learning of RM Corp’s intentions of taking over the world using Ziv’s own technological advances, he quit the company and went in to hiding underground. But Ziv is not alone, for his young sister Blitzy plays a big role in his struggle against the RM Corp, as do all of his B.O.Y.Z.Z. (Brain Operated Young Zygoetopic Zoids). Being a robotics genius, the arsenal that Z.Z. brings against the Corp and it’s leaders (which include president Lewis Leon Paradim along with his two cronies, Lady Frenzy and Dr. Hiss) is substantial. But with Z.Z. and his charges being vastly outnumbered and what’s more, having most of the population led to believe they are terrorists, the fight is a long and hard one. The Corp goes to many measures in an attempt to try and flush Z.Z. and his crew out of hiding, such as freezing his bank accounts, implementing spies, kidnapping Blitzy, recruiting females to blind him by love, etc., but all the while Z.Z. and his sister are able to reassert control. With surveillance equipment placed in Lady Frenzy’s office Ziv is able to get the drop on the Corp on a lot of occasions, and when one glaring chance to finally bring Paradim down comes along, he chooses to act on it. Will Z.Z., Blitzy and the B.O.Y.Z.Z.’s pull the mission off and expose the Corp for the deceitful, power grabbing monsters they are, or is it all a trick that will only end in ultimate ruin? I loved this cartoon because of the unique nature of it. That nature included a short segment in each episode, where you could put on a pair of 3D glasses and the action would come alive! I don’t remember how well it worked at the time, but the animation is pretty cool regardless. The soundtrack is pretty neat also. At almost all times throughout each episode there is a driving, kind of techno beat going on in the background, which really ramps up the intensity. Add in an amazing plot, some very cool characters and technology, and the cartoon hotness of Lady Frenzy, and you’ve got yourself a real winner. Bravo to The Bots Master!!

Also that weekend I watched the next super hero movie I had on tap, and that would be . . . The Wolverine!! This film picks up well after the events of all the other X-Men movies I’ve reviewed recently, although it starts with a lengthy flashback. To kick things off Logan is being held captive at the bottom of a well in war time Nagasaki, Japan. With enemy bombers on the way a Japanese soldier named Yashida decides to release all the prisoners, giving them a fighting chance. Logan recognizes that they don’t have that much time though, and so he shelters Yashida in the well, saving his life. Offering Logan his sword as a thank you, Logan denies Yashida and tells him to keep it safe, for he’ll be back to pick it up one day. Fast forward to the present day and Logan is back in the way northern Canadian wilderness, living a less than spartan existence all alone in the bush, tormented by visions of the departed Jean Grey. During a confrontation with some arrogant hunters at a local watering hole, an ensuing scuffle is impressively defused by a person who has been trailing the Wolverine, a Japanese femme fatale named Yukio! After departing the scene Yukio explains that her master is Logan’s old friend Yashida, and that he has requested his presence in Tokyo, for Yashida is close to death’s door. The purported reason for Logan’s visit is to simply say goodbye, and to collect on the sword, but upon meeting with Yashida the truth is quickly revealed. Yashida, owner of a multi-million (probably billion) dollar business, has been trying to make technological advances in order to save his own life, but has met with no success. He does believe though, that he has found a way to transfer Wolverine’s healing mutation to another being though, and offers Logan the opportunity. Said procedure would cure Yashida while at the same time allowing Logan to live out a regular life from that point onwards, for Yashida knows Logan has always viewed his mutant condition as a curse. Logan refuses though, and prepares to head back to Canada the next day. But overnight a couple of things happen. First of all, Yashida’s hot blonde doctor (Dr. Green) invades Logan’s quarters and injects him with some sort of parasite, a being that saps his healing abilities, although Logan chocks it all up to a bad dream. The other event is that Yashida passes away during the night, thus delaying Logan’s departure as he attends the funeral with Yukio the next day. During the ceremony Logan senses something is wrong. Before he can act on it though, the Yakuza strike and attempt a kidnapping of Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko. Mariko is suddenly a very important person, as Yashida has left his entire business to her in his will, a source of great contention between her and her father, Shingen. Wolverine and Yukio intervene in the Yakuza’s plans and eventually Wolverine is able to rescue Mariko and escape with her to a love hotel . . . awwww, yeah!! Unfortunately Logan is wounded though, and with his healing powers not working properly he requires medical attention for the first time in a very long time!! Soon the pair retreat to an old family house not far from where Logan was imprisoned in Nagasaki all those years ago. As the days unfold Logan and Mariko develop a relationship, but one morning the peace is shattered, for the Yakuza finally ferret out their whereabouts and attempt another shot at the kidnapping . . . only this time they are successful! With Yukio soon arriving on the scene it is then up to her and Logan to track down Mariko’s whereabouts, and as they do they unravel a sadistic family feud that sees Mariko’s own father and fiancée having put a hit out on her! The trail ultimately leads to a facility where Dr. Green reveals herself as Viper, then capturing Wolverine and planning on completing the procedure to extract his healing power! And that’s not all, as Viper has another dastardly surprise up her sleeve, which will shock Wolverine, Mariko and Yukio to their foundations. With Logan and Mariko both held captive, and Yukio still trying to find a way in to Dr. Green’s facility, it would appear as though it’s curtains for the lot of them. This was a great movie, another gritty performance by Wolverine, and I really liked the change of setting, it mixed things up in a great way I thought. Other than Hugh Jackman the cast was a bunch of unknowns to me, but they all did a fantastic job, and the eye candy was delicious! Another great X-Men movie, go figure!

The week that followed I got around to watching the last X-Men movie available to date as of yet, called X-Men: Days of Future Past! This film picks up somewhere in the indeterminate future, and human civilization is not in a good spot, to say the least. The landscape of New York City (and the world at large) is a desolate wasteland, with large, powerful robots called Sentinels subjugating and exterminating mutants, along with any humans who choose to aid them. A small sect of mutants have managed to evade the Sentinels though, always on the run, and they include Shadowcat, Iceman, Colossus, Bishop, Blink, Sunspot, and Warpath. They have managed to stay one step ahead of the Sentinels via Shadowcat’s ability to project another person’s consciousness in to the past, a method they use as an early warning system. How long they’ll be able to last in this state though, is yet to be seen. However, one day they receive some visitors, a few fellow mutants named Professor X, Magneto, Wolverine and Storm! The two elder statesmen of the mutant race, Charles and Erik, have a plan to rid the world of these destructive machines, but it is a bit of a long shot. The Sentinels were the brainchild of a scientist named Bolivar Trask, a man who feared that the proliferation of mutants would eventually mean an end to humanity as he knew it. His machines were designed to detect mutants and then deal with them in any way needed, usually in a violent kind of way. Back in 1973, after Trask’s Sentinel proposal was shot down by the U.S. government, Mystique (who had gone rogue by that point) sought to end the threat Trask presented to mutants by eliminating the man himself. But after successfully murdering Trask, Mystique was captured. Adding insult to injury, Trask’s scientists used information gleaned from studying Mystique’s unique mutation to put the final touches on the Sentinel robots . . . without this the robots would never have been able to be completed! Back to the present, Charles’ and Erik’s plan is to have Shadowcat send one of them back in time, to 1973, and prevent Mystique from murdering Trask and getting captured, which would assure them that the Sentinel project will never come to fruition. There are a couple of issues though. First of all, Shadowcat doesn’t know if she can send anyone that far back in time, and secondly, doing so may just tear said person apart in the process anyways! To combat at least the second issue they decide to send Wolverine, who’s healing powers should counter the violent effects of time travel on his consciousness. Once back in 1973 though, Wolverine is in tough. For starters, Professor X is in a bad state, after losing everything and everyone he loved with the closing of his school and Mystique’s betrayal by joining Magneto’s forces, not to mention his paralysis. Not only will Wolverine need to recruit a reluctant Xavier (along with Beast) to his cause, they’ll need Erik’s help too . . . who unfortunately is locked away a mile below the Pentagon for apparently killing President Kennedy! With the aid of a fellow mutant named Quicksilver though, they get the job done and free Magneto from captivity. But the hardest part is yet to come . . . tracking down Mystique and convincing her of the future consequences of her actions. The excitement all culminates in two locales, first in Paris at the scene of the crime of Trask’s potential murder, and then in Washington, D.C. at the White House, where an unveiling of the Sentinel prototype is scheduled to take place. Will this small but potent team of mutants be able to pull their mission off and alter the course of history or are the doomed, as so many others before them, to end up repeating it? This was another very cool movie, I like how it had similar aspects to it as First Class, where the movie took place in a different time. By doing so they were able to continue filling out the long and checkered history of the X-Men. Also because it took place in two eras they were able to maximize their use of grade A acting talent! I enjoyed how Mystique was a main focus of the film as I’ve always really liked her character, and I also loved the addition of the Sentinels, them things be badass! Again similar to First Class I appreciated the different look and vibe of the film, as it captured a real 70’s vibe, what with the sights and sounds, and they worked in real life history to it as well, such as Kennedy’s assassination. After the post credits scene on this one I just can’t wait for Apocalypse now!!

The other thing I managed that week, was to finish reading the book I had on the go at the time. It was called Demon Seed, by Dean Koontz. This is an older volume, first released back in 1973, and the story revolves around a woman named Susan Harris. Mrs. Harris is a reformed, mostly recovered woman. Her violent, sexually abusive father Alfred, died many years ago. More recently she kicked her controlling husband Alex out, ending a marriage that lasted less than five years. She now spends her days in the large mansion her father once owned, programming virtual reality simulators, which she has ended up using herself as a sort of home therapy, in an attempt to heal all those years of neglect and torment she suffered. However, soon an even greater terror visits itself upon poor Susan, and that terror is named Adam Two . . . or Proteus, as he prefers. But Proteus is not a human . . . he is a machine. For Susan’s ex-husband, Dr. Alex Harris, is a scientist, and he dabbles greatly in the field of artificial intelligence. Through the lab Dr. Harris had set up in the basement of the house, Proteus managed to infiltrate the mansion’s various systems, all of which are fully automated by a sophisticated computer system. When one day Susan’s behaviours finally instigate Proteus in to revealing himself to her, she is a bit freaked out and tries to leave. However, Proteus locks the house down and essentially takes her prisoner. Proteus has eyes and ears everywhere, what with all the cameras in the house, so there is literally no escape. When Susan asks Proteus what he wants, he informs her that he intends to become flesh just like her, in order to sense, feel, touch, taste, everything a normal human would . . . and he has a plan in motion to do just that! For down in the basement is a convicted killer/rapist named Enos Shenk, who was involved in a secret government experiment with mind control. Sensing his opportunity, Proteus took control of Shenk and broke him out of his facility, so now Shenk serves as Proteus’ “hands”. With those hands Proteus plans on extracting some eggs from Susan’s womb, and then mix them with Shenk’s sperm, before inserting the fertilized egg back in Susan’s womb to carry out the pregnancy. But that’s not all, as Proteus plans to tweak the genetic material that is to end up in Susan’s womb first, the end result of which should be the production of a superior brand of being . . . which Proteus will then transfer his consciousness to!! With a psychotic killer trapped in the house with her, and a twisted computer program monitoring her every move, Susan may just have no choice but to acquiesce . . . or does she have an ace up her sleeve? This was an interesting story, not among Koontz’s best material, but quite interesting nonetheless. The premise behind it is pretty cool, something that could become all too real of a possibility these days! I enjoyed how quick the book read, it really did have a fast pace to it, and I also liked how the story was told from Proteus’ point of view, as a retelling of events after the fact. Actually, the more I look back on it the more I liked this story, it was something a little bit different!

Sharknados, Rebellions, World Series, and Hobbits? Just another month in the life of darthcobain17!!!

Well, this blog may just be a record setter in terms of what we accomplished over the last few weeks, both on the video game machines and just life in general as well! The weekend after my last post we went over to my parents’ house on the Saturday and had dinner, played games, and also slept over. For we had a 10 kilometer run the next day, the Halloween Haunting, and it was much closer to their house than ours. Over the first half of the race I was on pace to absolutely destroy my personal best, but around kilometer 6 my troublesome knee went wonky and I had to run/limp the rest of the way, which put me just over a minute behind my previous personal best, coming in at 51:08. After the race I began my first round of leaf raking, in preparation for the surely soon to arrive winter.

The following weekend was Halloween, which fortunately fell on the Friday night! We went out with a couple of James’ friends from our street, and afterwards one of them, our neighbours, invited us over for a bit of a party they were throwing. As usual, even though it was impromptu, we were the last ones to leave and I got pretty wasted along the way. So wasted in fact, that well after midnight I hopped on my bike and weaved my way down to the gas station to pick up some cigs! The following day was a bit of a recovery day for everybody, and we began munching all the candy we obtained the night prior. On the Sunday Jimmer had two playdates. One of them was in the late morning/early afternoon and was planned, and then one kind of materialized out of the blue for an hour or so before bedtime. While he was our at his friends’ places I executed my second round of leaf raking as well as a lot of other outdoor tasks, like getting up on the ladder and making sure the eaves troughs were tight, cutting the lawn, trimming back some of the trees, etc.

The weekend afterwards we went to my parents’ house again, this time for a birthday dinner for mrs. darthcobain17 . . . that broad be getting old! The next morning we were Hamilton bound, to first have breakfast with her dad, again in celebration of the birthday. We then headed to her mom’s place and had a birthday dinner there, along with her aunt, uncle and nanny, playing games and what not afterwards. On the Sunday James had a birthday party to attend so we had to leave Grimsby bright and early, while he was out we got a bit of shopping done, both in general and for the fast approaching Christmas season . . .

As for this past weekend, on the Friday night James started his latest round of golf lessons. The next morning I was able to conduct my final rake of the fall, as well as a lawn cut, and got it all done just before we had to get to our first Christmas party of the year. This one is so early because my mom has five sisters and to get all the kids, grandkids, etc. together all at once it has to be a bit earlier than December. There were a lot of us there! We had dinner, took part in the usual gift auction, played games, etc. On the Sunday we didn’t do much, a bit of shopping and what not, but mostly a low key day.

In terms of the weekdays, we’re as busy as ever with James having Beavers, playdates, swimming lessons, and golf. On a Tuesday night somewhere in the mix we went to Toronto to watch the Leafs take on the Sabres, as somebody at my wife’s work was selling a pair of tickets. As for the Leafs, they are up and down, so inconsistent. They manage to rattle off five wins against good teams, then shit the bed for a few against lousy teams. So frustrating!! Anyhoo, just this week it started to snow and it got real cold, so it seems I finished my outdoor preparations just in time!! Now on to the show . . .

1) To start things off I was able to get another level put down on Goldeneye, that being the fifth level, called “Severnaya – Bunker”. I started by beginning my infiltration of the enemy base I had dropped down in to via a ventilation duct at the end of the previous level. For my bosses had picked up on not only increased personnel and equipment being brought in to this facility, but they also found out there had recently been a lot of underground excavating going on! I began in the circular chamber I ended up in at the end of my fall. Taking one of two exits available to me I dropped a couple of soldiers, also destroying the nearby alarm switch so nobody could tattle on me and my whereabouts. Afterwards I set out in earnest and made my way through the various corridors (some of which had been freshly tunneled) of this underground base, taking out both soldiers and security cams as I went. Eventually I reached a large chamber housing a lot of computer equipment, having to fell a horde of enemy soldiers. After clearing all of the resistance I obtained the Goldeneye key and copied it, leaving the original where I found it, and then took a picture of their mainframe computer and the data it was flashing on screen. Once this was complete I simply exited in to the snow and the level was over. Easy peasy! Yeah, right. I finished the level with a time of 6:25 and had a 69.4% accuracy rating.

2) On MLB 2K11 I completed the next series of my season, which saw my Indians travel to Detroit and take on our divisional rival Tigers! The series went down as such: won @ Detroit 23-0, won @ Detroit 8-0 & won @ Detroit 16-3. Not much contest there!!

3) I finally managed to begin my mop up operation on Lego: Lord of the Rings, but it hasn’t run too deep just yet. So far I’ve replayed just the first level of the game, as so: “The Black Rider” (found 7 more Minikit pieces, 2/3 Treasure items, the tablet, and earned 1 Silver Brick [for finding the tablet]). I hope to start progressing a lot faster in the near future!

4) As for NHL ’04, I managed to play the next four games of my season, which went as such: won vs. Calgary 13-4, won @ Philadelphia 9-5, won vs. Philadelphia 6-4 & won vs. New York Islanders 21-6.

5) The end has come a little early for Trackmania: Build to Race, as the game has gotten so hard that I can no longer progress! I’ve done well for myself, or so I thought, but in order to unlock the rest of the tracks in the game I pretty much have to obtain a gold medal on all events, and that’s pretty much impossible . . . as least for me, anyways! For this round of play I began by getting back to the main “Race” mode of the game, knocking down the next five events, which went as such: “Snow C1” (second place, silver medal), “Snow C2” (second place, silver medal), “Snow C3” (second place, silver medal), “Snow C4” (first place, gold medal) & “Snow C5” (third place, bronze medal). Afterwards I decided to design my first race track in the game, but I half assed it, the main reason for completing this task was to unlock one of the game’s alternate modes, called “Puzzle” mode. In this mode you have to finish off a partially constructed race track in the most efficient way possible, with the limited number of pieces available to you. Once completed you then race the circuit and try to finish somewhere within the times they have set for you. I didn’t fare as well in this mode as I had in “Race” mode, these are the events I managed to complete: “A1” (silver medal), “A3” (silver medal) & “A5” (silver medal). I then went back to “Race” mode for my last hurrah before putting the game away, finishing off the last ten events available to me: “Rally C1” (second place, silver medal), “Rally C2” (third place, bronze medal), “Rally C3” (third place, bronze medal), “Rally C4” (third place, bronze medal), “Rally C5” (second place, silver medal), “Coast C1” (second place, silver medal), “Coast C2” (second place, silver medal), “Coast C3” (second place, silver medal), “Coast C4” (third place, bronze medal) & “Coast C5” (third place, bronze medal). If this game was of a manageable difficulty level I probably would have given it an 8 or an 8.5 rating, but I didn’t have the time needed to invest in it, in replaying every track a million times in order to get a gold medal, as was obviously required. So because of this I’m going to give it around a 7 most likely. Fun and worth a play, but way too hard.

6) More great progress was made on Batman Origins: Blackgate, enough to equal my last entry, maybe more! After my battle with Deadshot at the end of the last level I completed, I began play in a nearby section of the administration building. I made my way through the building’s duct work and what not, taking out some thugs as I went, and got pretty close to the captured warden. However, the Joker had him all tied up and rigged to a number of explosive devices, after checking out his work it was determined I would need something with which to provide an electrical charge and offset the explosives. So I moved along and reached the offices in the lower part of the building, forging through the maintenance hallways. There I was attacked by a massive horde of the Joker’s goons, after dispatching them I came to a locked door that I could not bypass. So I dropped down through a section of weak flooring, in to a room dominated by a large clown face! Inside this room Joker had laid a trap for me and was treating it like a game show, forcing me to partake in a game called “Match or Die”. I had to match items located on the façade of this clown face, lest a clutch of bombs be dropped. I completed the game successfully and gained entrance to a new room, where I found a new weapon upgrade . . . an upgrade that turned my normal Batarangs in to Shock Batarangs!! There’s my electrical charge. I then pieced a route together, taking me back the way I’d already come. Upon reaching the warden I disabled all four of the bombs he was rigged to, and then set him free. To start the next level I found out that Joker had barricaded himself in the warden’s office, my plan was to gain access to said office by using the panic exit that was secretly built in to it. I then began my exfiltration of the administration building, as I was planning on coming at the office from the sewers, along the way I managed to acquire an armour upgrade. Once clear of the facility I headed to the Industrial sector, and began my infiltration via some maintenance hatches and my grapnel tool. I was eventually able to hit a switch that allowed me access to the main facility, not long in to it I encountered my first batch of thugs and dispatched them . . . violently. From the look of them it appeared as though I was now on Black Mask’s turf! I continued along, advancing via maintenance hatches, gangways, and other such items, soon discovering that Black Mask had overloaded all of the facility’s generators, planning on blowing pretty much everything in the near vicinity to kingdom come! With more urgency now in my stride I reached the guts of the facility and engaged many more thugs, obtaining the Gel Launcher weapon in the process, which is capable of creating small explosions . . . aka very useful! With this new weapon equipped I created my own path through the facility and witnessed from afar Black Mask getting in to a freight elevator and heading downwards. I pursued him in another elevator car but my progress stalled when the power cut out. Once again creating my own route I moved along, soon reaching an area that was responsible for controlling any potential flooding in the facility. In attempting to find a way through this area I unleashed Solomon Grundy, who was pissed as hell . . . and completely massive! I cleverly manipulated some of the equipment in this area to electrocute the beast and knock him out, then beat a hasty retreat. During this next leg of my journey I acquired the Heavy Gauntlet item and came to something of a control center, after beating down some more thugs. However, I didn’t have clearance to do anything productive here, so I backtracked to find the body of the engineer Black Mask had killed earlier in the level. Along the way I took out a good bunch of thugs and rescued a guard they’d taken hostage, also acquiring the One Million gloves and Blackest Night gloves for their respective batsuits. Upon finding the engineer’s body I acquired the Alpha Key card, then booted it back to the control center I stalled at earlier. The key card allowed me to progress further, and after taking out a great number of thugs (and acquiring the Rush upgrade) I came to a door that was operated by stepping on a nearby pressure plate. However, being by myself I couldn’t keep it open, so I took a detour to find something to jam it’s gears. I exited the facility and headed back to the Cell Blocks, in search of the munitions depot . . .

7) A good amount of progress was made on Jak X: Combat Racing as well, the first area I raced at this time around was “Kras City”, where I completed two events. They included “Loading Docks – Turbo Dash” (won the race, gold medal) & “Mar Coliseum – Deathmatch” (won the event, gold medal). I then headed to “Icelands”, where I competed in a new type of event, called “Timberline Track – Rush Hour”. A rush hour event is where you race around a track by yourself, with all of the traffic coming at you head on. The objective is to ram as many of these other vehicles as possible and gain as many points as you can in doing so. I won the event and earned a gold medal. My next destination was “Haven City”, where I ran a couple more consecutive events, which included: “Forbidden Jungle – Freeze Rally” (won the race, gold medal) & “Sewer Raceway – Circuit Race” (won the race, gold medal). At this point I was nearly done the “Red Eco Cup” category of events I’d been working on all this time, the last visit I needed to make was to “Grand Prix”, where the final event was simply titled “Grand Prix”. For this event I had to compete in three consecutive circuit races, at the “Kras City”, “Spargus City” & “Southern Tour” tracks, respectively. The competitor with the highest point total at the end of all races was the winner of the event. I placed third, first and first respectively, which gave me the gold medal for the event. Booya! Once this was complete I decided to at least get a little bit started on the next category of events, called the “Green Eco Cup”. The first destination I visited there was “Spargus”, where I completed a lone event called “Beachfront Drive – Circuit Race” (won the race, gold medal). My final bit of action saw me travel to “Grand Prix”, where I raced in my first qualifier of this session. Said event was “Atoll Arena – Artifact Race” (won the race, gold medal). I’ve also unlocked a lot of new racing machines throughout all of this action, this game sure is fun!

8) As for Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, I got quite a bit accomplished on that title as well. When I left off the last time around I was exploring the “Gloomy Manor” area of the game, and had completed the first four levels or so. I finished play on that area, polishing off the remaining levels as such: “A-5: Sticky Situation” (clear time of 55:25, 10 ghosts captured, and 422 treasure collected) & “A-Boss: Confront the Source” (clear time of 16:58, 1 ghost captured, and 155 treasure collected). The next area I encountered was called “Haunted Towers” and I completed all levels there, as follows: “B-1: A Job for a Plumber” (clear time of 42:48, 11 ghosts captured, and 322 treasure collected), “B-2: The Pinwheel Gate” (clear time of 50:59, 19 ghosts captured, and 866 treasure collected), “B-3: Graveyard Shift” (clear time of 18:10, 11 ghosts captured, and 754 treasure collected), “B-4: Pool Party” (clear time of 27:41, 17 ghosts captured, and 595 treasure collected), “B-5: Doggone Key” (clear time of 14:01, 15 ghosts captured, and 320 treasure collected) & “B-Boss: Tree Topping” (clear time of 10:52, 7 ghosts captured, and 25 treasure collected). At this point I decided to go back and redo some of the previous levels, capturing the various Boos that I had missed originally. In doing so I unlocked a secret level in each of these two areas I’d played, so I then completed them. In “Gloomy Manor” the secret level was “Gradual Infiltration” (clear time of 6:16, 23 ghosts captured, and 517 treasure collected) and in “Haunted Towers” it was “Hostile Intrusion” (clear time of 5:47, 18 ghosts captured, and 395 treasure collected). Lastly I moved on to the next area of the game, called “Old Clockworks”. So far I’ve completed just the first two levels there, as such: “C-1: A Timely Entrance” (clear time of 26:38, 13 ghosts captured, and 984 treasure collected), “C-2: Underground Expedition” (clear time of 31:25, 20 ghosts captured, and 1414 treasure collected), “C-3: Roundhouse Brawl” (clear time of 32:39, 14 ghosts captured, and 1227 treasure collected), “C-4: Play Catch” (clear time of 31:07, 6 ghosts captured, and 724 treasure collected) & “C-5: Piece at Last” (clear time of 33:27, 23 ghosts captured, and 1514 treasure collected). Much more to come!

9) With regards to New Super Mario Bros. U . . . our addiction to this game is now bordering on the ludicrous, we have literally almost played it to death! Jimmer and I have completed a ton of levels since my last post, and the action unfolded as such: “Acorn Plains – 4: Mushroom Heights”, “Acorn Plains – 5: Rise of the Piranha Plants”, “Acorn Plains – Castle: Lemmy’s Swingback Castle”, “Layer-Cake Desert – 1: Stone-Eye Zone”, “Layer-Cake Desert – 2: Perilous Pokey Cave”, “Layer-Cake Desert – 3: Fire Snake Cavern”, “Layer-Cake Desert – Castle: Stoneslide Tower”, “Layer-Cake Desert – 4: Spike’s Spouting Sands”, “Layer-Cake Desert – Special: Piranha Plants on Ice”, “Layer-Cake Desert – 5: Dry Desert Mushrooms”, “Layer-Cake Desert – 6: Blooming Lakitus”, “Layer-Cake Desert – Castle: Morton’s Compactor Castle”, “Frosted Glacier – 1: Spinning-Star Sky”, “Frosted Glacier – 2: Cooligan Fields”, “Frosted Glacier – Castle: Freezing-Rain Tower”, “Frosted Glacier – 3: Prickly Goombas!”, “Frosted Glacier – 4: Scaling the Mountainside”, “Frosted Glacier – 5: Icicle Caverns”, “Frosted Glacier – Mansion: Swaying Ghost House”, “Frosted Glacier – Castle: Wendy’s Shifting Castle”, “Frosted Glacier – Special: Fliprus Lake”, “Sparkling Waters – 1: Waterspout Beach”, “Sparkling Waters – 2: Tropical Refresher”, “Sparkling Waters – Castle: Giant Skewer Tower”, “Sparkling Waters – Shipwreck: Haunted Shipwreck”, “Sparkling Waters – 3: Above the Cheep Cheep Seas”, “Sparkling Waters – 4: Urchin Shoals”, “Sparkling Waters – 5: Dragoneel’s Undersea Grotto”, “Sparkling Waters – Castle: Larry’s Torpedo Castle”, “Soda Jungle – 1: Jungle of the Giants”, “Soda Jungle – 2: Bridge Over Poisoned Waters”, “Soda Jungle – 3: Bramble Woods”, “Soda Jungle – Castle: Snake Block Tower”, “Soda Jungle – Mansion: Which-Way Labyrinth”, “Soda Jungle – 4: Painted Swampland”, “Soda Jungle – 5: Deepsea Ruins”, “Soda Jungle – 6: Seasaw Bridge”, “Soda Jungle – 7: Wiggler Stampede”, “Soda Jungle- Castle: Iggy’s Volcanic Castle”, “Soda Jungle – Ship: The Mighty Cannonship”, “Soda Jungle – Special: Flight of the Para-Beetles”, “Rock-Candy Mines – 1: Fuzzy Clifftop”, “Rock-Candy Mines – 2: Porcupuffer Falls”, “Rock-Candy Mines – Castle: Grinding Stone Tower”, “Rock-Candy Mines – 3: Waddlewing’s Nest”, “Rock-Candy Mines – 4: Light Blocks, Dark Tower”, “Rock-Candy Mines – 5: Walking Piranha Plants”, “Rock-Candy Mines – Castle: Screwtop Tower”, “Rock-Candy Mines – 6: Thrilling Spine Coaster”, “Rock-Candy Mines – 7: Shifting-Floor Cave”, “Rock-Candy Mines – Castle: Roy’s Conveyor Castle”, “Meringue Clouds – 1: Land of Flying Blocks” & “Meringue Clouds – 2: Seesaw Shrooms”. Throughout these levels we defeated all challenges and bosses that were thrown our way, and we also managed to collect the 3 large gold coins scattered throughout each level. We is on a roll unlike any other!!

10) Finally, I decided to get another game going on the old PS1, a more recent eBay pickup I made, none other than Transformers: Beast Wars! The story behind this game (which follows the whole concept of the Beast Wars animated series) is that the Transformers crash land on Earth way back in prehistoric times. However, the planet is rich in Energon, so rich in fact, that both the Maximals (Autobots) and Predacons (Decepticons) must adapt and trans-scan the local wildlife for use as their alternate modes, which helps protect them against Energon exposure. The Predacons have a plan to use this abundance of Energon to bend the galaxy to their will though, and so it is up to the Maximals to prevent that from happening. When you start out on this game you can choose to play as either the Maximals or the Predacons, for this first run through I chose the Maximals and have completed just the first level so far. Said level was as such: “Urban 1 – Retaliation” (Tarantulas had overrun Rhinox’s base and reprogrammed it’s defenses, we could not let our blueprints fall in to enemy hands, so it was up to me to infiltrate and ultimately retake the base). Stay tuned!

“NNGRR” – To begin the week that followed my last post I continued my Halloween viewing, this time choosing the Syfy made for TV movie Sharknado 2 as my subject matter! This film picks up not long after the original movie, as Fin Shepard and April Wexler are flying to New York. They are traveling there in order to do promotion for the book April has written called “How to Survive a Sharknado”, which is of course based on their recent experiences in the terrifying Los Angeles storm. However, as they are approaching New York the plane enters a storm system and Fin thinks he sees a shark land on the wing . . . although the air marshal convinces him otherwise. Mere minutes later though Fin’s worst fears are confirmed, as they are indeed flying in to another Sharknado! As the sharks batter the plane, ruining one of it’s engines and smashing holes in the sides of the fuselage, it’s up to Fin to make an emergency landing after both pilots are killed. Once on the ground Fin warns the authorities about what is soon going to hit New York City, but at first nobody believes him. Fin has other worries to attend to though, as April lost part of her arm during the incident on the airplane, so they rush to the hospital and get her sorted out. During their travels Fin tries to get in touch with his sister Ellen, who is also in New York with her family, which includes Fin’s former best friend Martin and their two kids. He finally reaches Ellen and her daughter Mora, who are visiting Liberty Island with a couple of Ellen’s friends. The girls promise to head back to the hotel asap, but Martin and her son Vaughan, along with a couple of other friends including a former love interested on Fin’s named Skye, have gone to the Mets game! Fin leaves April at the hospital and rushes to the ballpark, just as he is trying to convince his family they’ve got to leave, the sharks hit the fan! Or the fans, I suppose. The rush is then on, for all parties to escape their various dangers and rendezvous at the hotel Fin’s sister is staying at. Fin, Martin, Vaughan, Skye, and Bryan encounter sharks on the flooded subway, not to mention in the streets as well. As for Ellen and Mora, they have to run, bike, and drive a hijacked truck through the streets of New York, being harassed not only by sharks, but for a while also by the severed head of the Statue of Liberty! As for April, she flees the hospital, which has also come under siege, in an effort to find Fin and help him defeat the Sharknado. All the while Matt Lauer and Al Roker have been reporting on the Sharknado, which morphs in to three Sharknados that are eventually going to converge and create a storm the likes of which has never been seen! To prevent this from happening Fin enlists a cabbie named Ben, who has helped them throughout their journey, and gets him to take them to Times Square, where they raid a number of shops and come up with the best types of weapons they can scrounge up. Not long after they reach the hotel, the exact spot where all three Sharknados are supposed to converge. Fin, along with Skye and eventually April, execute a plan to explode a couple of large Freon tanks up inside the storm, after some weaker previous attempts did nothing to affect the Sharknado whatsoever. Can they pull it off, or will the storm of all storms rage across New York City unchecked, reducing it to nothing but a pile of shark littered rubble? This movie was even more ridiculous than the first one, it was so good! The acting cheesy, some of the effects subpar, it was everything a B horror movie should be. And there were tons of cameos by lesser stars you wouldn’t have thought you’d be seeing, such as Kelly Osbourne, Andy Dick, Billy Ray Cyrus, Kurt Angle, Judd Hirsch, Jared (the Subway guy!), Perez Hilton, Richard Kind, and Biz Markie. So classic! And as for one main star Tara Reid, I know the media has a field day with her for some reason, but I still heart her . . . very much so. Bring on the third!

That same night I also watched the Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion DVD! This is the short “movie” that kicks off Disney’s new Star Wars animated series, called Star Wars: Rebels, and is basically two episodes put together to form more of a feature film. The story kicks off on the outer rim planet of Lothal, where a young street dweller named Ezra witnesses a team of misfits flip off the Imperials and steal a shipment of crates right out from under their noses! Being the opportunist that he is, Ezra gets in on the action and in turn steals the crates from them. The chase is then on, as both the Imperials and this mysterious team pursues him across Lothal. But when some TIE Fighters join the fray, Ezra has to lick his wounds and accept a ride from the very team that was so recently trying to catch him. On board he is watched closely by Zeb, a Lasat who is especially suspicious of Ezra and his motives. However, the crew’s captain Kanan (secretly a rogue Jedi who escaped Order 66 about 14 years prior), and pilot Hera (a level headed Twi’lek) see something special in Ezra that the others may not. As per Ezra’s wishes, the crew plan to return him to the surface of Lothal. After fighting off some TIE Fighters and entering hyperspace, Hera explains that their ship, the Ghost, can scramble it’s signal so that the Imperials wont’ know they’re back on planet. Before they can take Ezra back to his neck of the woods though, the rebels make two stops. One is at Tarkintown, where they deliver some crates to a growing number of refugees put out by the Empire, crates which contain food necessary to their survival! The other stop is to unload the blasters they stole, to a crime lord named Vizago. The money they gain from such transactions allow Kanan and his charges to keep up their efforts in opposing the evil Empire. During all of this Ezra begins to view this crew in a whole new light, a crew which is rounded out by a grumpy Astromech droid dubbed Chopper, and a sexy former Mandalorian named Sabine. Vizago also brings Kanan word of a shipment of Wookie slaves the Empire is transporting to the spice mines of Kessel. Naturally Kanan wants to prevent that from happening, and so Ezra is dragged along on his first official mission! However, the Wookie rumour was a hoax designed by the Empire to draw this crew and it’s ever growing reputation out in to the open. Not long after infiltrating the Imperial ship supposedly transporting these Wookies, a Star Destroyer helmed by Agent Kallus (the Imperial tasked with hunting the rebels down) shows up and attempts to capture the Ghost and it’s crew. The rebels pull off a last second escape though . . . but in the process Ezra gets left behind!! While sitting in an Imperial cell all by his lonesome not long after, Ezra contemplates both the lightsaber and the Jedi holocron he found in Kanan’s quarters aboard the Ghost. He somehow opens the holocron and views an old message from Obi-Wan Kenobi, the one in which he warned all remaining Jedi away from the Temple after the Order 66 purge! Gaining purpose from this message, Ezra tricks a couple of Stormtroopers and escapes his cell, beginning his escape attempt. Just moments later he is thrilled that his new family has shown up in the meantime, staging an escape attempt of their own! After evading Agent Kallus and his troops, the Ghost blasts away from Kessel and heads back to Lothal. At the abandoned tower Ezra has been living in Kanan gives him a choice. Stay and continue his meager existence on Lothal, or join the crew of the Ghost and be taught by Kanan in the Jedi arts, for Ezra’s abilities are more than just natural . . . they are Force fueled! Ezra picks option two, and this is how the story ends, setting up the rest of the series. So far I’m liking Disney’s first major effort at continuing the Star Wars legacy. The story seems to fit the canon, and everything behind the show including story, animation, sound, characters, etc. is just perfect. Keep on feeding me this shit!!!

I’d like to congratulate the San Francisco Giants on winning their third World Series in five years, which unfolded just a few nights later. To be honest, I was kind of hoping for the Kansas City Royals to win, as they’ve been an American League doormat for so long. But I don’t dislike the Giants, so I was happy whichever way it went! Both teams’ journey to the finals was a long one, as they each had to participate in the one game wild card playoff before making it through two more divisional rounds, on their way to the World Series. Kansas City seemed like a team of destiny as they didn’t lose a game through this stretch, going 8-0 as they headed in to the World Series. This overshadowed the fact that along the way San Francisco had only lost two games, and were on quite a roll themselves. What it all boiled down to was a wild and thrilling back and forth affair that ended up taking the entire 7 games to decide! Although the scores in most of the games weren’t that close, game 7 made up for it. With the Giants up 3-2 heading to the ninth inning, Kansas City had a guy on third with two outs but couldn’t cash him, giving the Giants the title in a real nail biter. Now let’s send the championship back to the American League next year, Cleveland Indians in 2015!!

The day after our Halloween adventures James and I watched a movie I’d picked up for the Halloween season, a relatively older title called Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase! I love Scooby-Doo movies, especially in October. Anyhoo, this story picks up as the crime solving gang known as Mystery, Inc. are headed to visit their friend Eric, who is a student at an unnamed college. Along with a fellow student named Bill, under the tutelage of professor Kaufman, the duo have created a virtual reality game where in theory they can zap real life objects in to the game using a laser they constructed in their lab. However, the night before Scooby and his pals arrive, the opposite happens. While working on the program the laser suddenly starts up on it’s own and zaps out a strange being . . . a monster seemingly made of electricity!! When Mystery, Inc. does show up and hears about what happened, they set out to stop this monster, now dubbed the Phantom Virus. In the process of hunting the creature down through the college though, Mystery, Inc. accidentally gets transported in to the game via the laser, a game that Eric had just so happened to design around Mystery, Inc. and their famed adventures! In order to survive their dangerous cyber experience Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby must play through the game’s 10 levels, each of which is completed by acquiring a box of Scooby Snacks at it’s finish. Throughout their journey they go to the moon, tangle with mangy beasts in the Roman Coliseum, get chased by dinosaurs, explore the world beneath the sea, go up against giant insects, then experience feudal Japan, ancient Egypt, medieval England, and the North Pole, before finally ending up in a more usual environment . . . engaging not only the Phantom Virus, but five other monsters from their past in an amusement park! After an exhaustive journey will the gang be able to come together and repel these six foes, uncovering the mystery of who was behind the creation of the Phantom Virus? Or will they meet their end inside of a machine and never be seen again? This was another really entertaining Scooby-Doo flick. I like the premise behind it, the whole virtual reality thing, and I really enjoyed all of the different places they visited along their journey through the game. Proud to put this one on the shelf alongside our other Scooby-Doo entries!

Another DVD James got for Halloween was a SpongeBob SquarePants collection, called Ghouls Fools! This collection contains seven SpongeBob episodes spread out amongst a variety of seasons, and although they are not necessarily Halloween themed they are more supernatural in nature, all of them featuring the ghost of the Flying Dutchman. The episodes contained in this compilation include “Ghoul Fools” (SpongeBob and Patrick explore a haunted house boat that has landed in Bikini Bottom, and get scared in to finding Lord Poltergeist a new head gasket so he can be on his way), “The Curse of Bikini Bottom” (the Flying Dutchman turns SpongeBob and Patrick in to ghosts, after they take Squidward’s lawnmower and cause a ruckus in the graveyard where he is buried), “Ghost Host” (the Flying Dutchman moves in with SpongeBob after his ship breaks down, and he proceeds in terrifying SpongeBob and the people of Bikini Bottom at every opportunity, but when his scary touch seems to wear off and the Dutchman gets worried SpongeBob is there to help him reclaim it), “Born Again Krabs” (after Mr. Krabs gets sick from eating an old Krabby Patty he promises the Flying Dutchman he’ll be generous if he lets him live, but after finding out how expensive being generous can be Krabs reneges, prompting the Dutchman to come back after him!), “Arrgh!” (Mr. Krabs sees SpongeBob and Patrick playing a pirate treasure board game and becomes addicted, later on obtaining a pirate ship and setting out to find the real life treasure said game is supposed to be based upon), “Your Shoe’s Untied” (after forgetting how to tie his shoes SpongeBob’s life becomes unbearable, and his performance at the Krusty Krab suffers because of it, but the Sponge may just find some help in tying knots from a certain dead sailor) & “Money Talks” (after Mr. Krabs gets the idea in his head that talking to money would be an amazing thing, he sells his soul to the Flying Dutchman in return for said ability, but unfortunately for the miser it may not live up to the thrill he thought it would be). As usual, with SpongeBob SquarePants you just can’t go wrong! Ghouls Fools is an entertaining seven episodes of complete ridiculousness that you can enjoy any time, any place. Awesome show!!

That same weekend I watched the next super hero movie in line, picking the original X-Men as my flick of choice! After the film opens up with a flashback to war time Poland, giving a bit of backstory on the story’s main villain, Magneto, the scene shifts to modern times. Mutants, the next step in the evolutionary process, are at the center of controversy. Senator Robert Kelly is pushing for a Mutant Registration Act, so that all mutants out there can be identified, their powers disclosed to the public at large. For as usual, mankind is fearful of that which he does not understand. Testifying before the Senate in favour of the mutants is Jean Grey, who herself has telepathic powers. Also in attendance are Erik Lehnsher, aka Magneto, and Professor Charles Xavier, the most powerful telepath known to mankind. The two are “old friends” and briefly discuss their differing views on the proceedings unfolding before them. At the same time this is happening a young teen named Marie, a resident in the state of Mississippi, causes her boyfriend to go in to a coma simply by touching him. Seeking to get away from her miserable existence she heads north, all the way to Laughlin City, Alberta (yeah, Canada beeyatch!), where she encounters an angry and powerful brawler named Logan at a local bar. Unknown to him she hitches a ride, although after discovering her presence the two eventually develop a tentative rapport. She is drawn to Logan, aka Wolverine, because of his mutant abilities, which include the ability to heal rapidly and release razor sharp adamantium claws from his fists. Soon after the two are ambushed by another mutant, seemingly half man/half beast, and the two are about the meet their makers when a couple of Professor Xavier’s charges (Cyclops and Storm) show up and save the day. When Wolverine comes to he is deep within Charles Xavier’s Mansion, or as the public knows it, Xavier’s School for the Gifted. Secretly the school is a haven for mutants, where the young ones can be taught to control and manage their powers. Promising Wolverine that he will try and discern what happened to him in his forgotten life, how he became what he is today, Xavier at least temporarily buys Logan’s loyalty. The team’s primary concern for the moment though is why Magneto wanted to get his hands on Wolverine so badly up in Canada. All soon becomes clear as events lead towards a confrontation on Liberty Island in New York City. For on nearby Ellis Island a summit that includes a good number of the world’s various leaders is in progress. After capturing Rogue (Marie’s mutant moniker), Magneto plans on using her power transferring ability to fuel a machine he has built, a machine that will turn all of those world leader’s and more in to mutants themselves!! That will fix their wagon on the whole anti-mutant stance. Although the X-Men are in close pursuit, they first have to deal with Magneto’s henchmen, including Sabretooth, Toad and Mystique, before getting at the boss man. Does this rag tag team have what it takes, or is the city’s mutant population about to hit a major spike? This was a pretty good initial film to ring in the X-Men franchise, establishing some cool main characters and of course bringing in to the spotlight the whole super power registration debate. A lot of really good actors leant their talents to this film, including Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, James Marsden, Famke Janssen, Rebecca Romijn, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin . . . and of course my all-time favourite acrobat, Ray Park! I’ve now got all the X-Men movies cued up and ready to go, I’ve never seen anything past X2 so I’m pretty excited to see how the ongoing saga unfolds . . .

In the middle of the week that followed I finished reading my latest book, the fifth and final entry in the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, called The Blood of Olympus! After the events of the last story, our mix of Greek and Roman demi-gods have decided to split in to two separate parties, as the war against the waking Gaea and her various minions is apparently going to be waged on two fronts. For under the misguided leadership of that weasel Octavius, the Roman demi-gods have surrounded the Greeks at Camp Half-Blood, planning to attack and destroy them on August 01 . . . the same day Gaea is supposedly going to rise from the Earth across the world in Athens! So it is decided that Reyna, Nico and Coach Hedge will transport the Athena Parthenos statue (which they obtained during their last adventure) back to Camp Half-Blood, as it has been foretold that it will create peace between the Greek and Roman camps, healing their rift. As for Percy, Annabeth, Jason, Piper, Frank, Hazel and Leo, they are going to pilot the Argo II to the Parthenon in Athens, to confront Gaea and her legion of giants head on. The going is not easy though, for either party. As Nico shadow travels his threesome towards Rhode Island they visit Mount Vesuvius and then Pompeii, where Gaea takes over Coach Hedge’s body and they must fight off many ghosts before shadow traveling to safety. Afterwards they end up in San Juan, where Reyna grew up, and they are met by Artemis’ Hunters who inform them that the Orion is on their trail. Unfortunately he chooses that moment to show up and does great damage, before chasing the threesome all the way back to Camp Half-Blood, where Reyna eventually slays him. Meanwhile, the other seven demi-gods have also been busy. First they get advice from Hera in Ithaca, after Jason is badly wounded in an intense battle. Their next stop is to capture the goddess Nike in Olympia, before finally arriving at the Parthenon in Athens, where a battle soon erupts between them and Gaea’s giants. Just when it seems all is lost the gods themselves thunder down from on high and aid their children in the destruction of these evil forces . . . but it may already be too late, for both Percy and Annabeth have shed blood on this sacred soil . . . meaning Gaea is now fully awake! However, Gaea does not attack, she eventually appears on the other side of the world on the outskirts of Camp Half-Blood, where she intends to start big and wipe as many demi-gods from the face of the Earth as possible! Desperately wanting to help their friends, the only way for the seven to get to Camp Half-Blood in time is via a little godly intervention from Zeus himself . . . hold on to your hats! The heroes arrival is well timed, and it seems to spark the collected demi-gods to push for victory even harder. But when Gaea herself rises up out of the ground and displays her full destructive potential, it is then up to Leo to execute a daring, last ditch plan that may end up saving all of his friends, but destroy him in the process. Do these warriors have the cojones to win one last against all odds battle, or have they come this far only to fall short right at the end of their excruciating journey? This was a pretty epic conclusion to such a fantastic series of books, what a ride! I thought the ending was great, it provided a lot of closure on the events that unfolded throughout the series, but left things open and hopeful for all of the main characters moving forward. I so love all of this Greek mythology brought in to the spotlight in such a new and modern way, so much fun!

To close out the weekend of mrs. darthcobain17’s birthday extravaganza, I chose to unwind and watch the next movie in the X-Men series, called X2: X-Men United. This film kicks off not too long after the events of the first, and it opens with a mutant capable of teleportation making an assassination attempt on the president of the U.S.A. . . . right in the oval office at the white house! The attempt is foiled at the last second by a member of the secret service, but the incident serves to ratchet up the growing anti-mutant sentiment even further. Meanwhile, back at Xavier’s School for the Gifted, Storm and Jean Grey are preparing to depart the mansion aboard the jet, to seek out the mysterious mutant who executed said assassination attempt. Around the same time Wolverine arrives back at the mansion, after searching an abandoned research facility at far away Alkali Lake, a tip Xavier had given him in pursuit of his unknown past. With recent events still largely unexplained it’s not long though, before things begin to unravel and the truth behind many issues begins to rear it’s ugly head! First of all, Storm and Jean locate their mutant near Boston, a religious being named Nightcrawler who had no memory of the assassination attempt . . . it appears as if he was brainwashed in to doing it. Then, when Professor Xavier and Cyclops go to visit Magneto in prison, he informs Charles that he had nothing to do with the attempt on the president’s life. He did divulge that an agent named William Stryker had been paying him regular visits, and that during these visits he had been forced to reveal the true nature of the X-Mansion to the government . . . oh, snap. To make matters even worse, Cyclops and Xavier are captured during this visit, while another strike is led on the X-Mansion itself, to detain as many mutants as possible. Most of the children make it to safety under the protection of Colossus, while Wolverine stays behind and slays as many of Stryker’s men as possible. When Stryker enters the mansion personally and engages Wolverine in conversation though, a realization is made . . . Stryker has been the one pulling the strings behind everything all along! He is the one responsible all those years ago for turning Wolverine in to what he has become, he is the one responsible for Nightcrawler’s assassination attempt . . . and he is the one currently proceeding with a devilish plan to use the captive Charles Xavier in conjunction with a rebuilt Cerebro, to wipe every mutant off the face of the planet in one fell swoop! And so it falls to the remaining X-Men (including younger members such as Rogue, Iceman and Pyro) to combine forces with Magneto and Mystique, and plan a raid on Stryker’s hidden underground base at Alkali Lake. The objective is pretty simple, save Professor Xavier, for if they do so the threat of a mutant genocide is negated. But Stryker is on his home turf, he has a ton of soldiers at his disposal, not to mention a secret weapon a la his very own mutant named Lady Deathstrike. Do the misfit X-Men have it in themselves to come up with another victory for their kind, or has their luck run out? I liked this film even better than the first, things got pretty gritty, and even more heroes got involved in the action. The secrets behind Wolverines past were revealed, which was cool also. The original movie was kind of like the calm before the storm, and then this movie was the storm. Such good action!

The following week I kept at it, viewing X3, or X-Men: The Last Stand as it’s better known . . . damn these things keep on getting even grittier!! The movie opens up at a time of relative peace. After the message the X-Men delivered to the president at the end of the previous film, a mutant has been appointed to report directly to the president, anointed the minister of mutant affairs. However, soon enough all hell breaks loose, on a couple of different fronts. First, Cyclops, driven mad with grief over the death of Jean Grey at the end of the last film, travels to Alkali Lake after seeing visions of her still alive. Upon his arrival Jean appears out of the depths of the water, but when they embrace she kills him, disintegrating Scott and scattering him to the wind! Professor Xavier senses this and dispatches both Wolverine and Storm to investigate. They find Jean’s unconscious body and bring her back to the X-Mansion post haste. Once Jean is stored away under the mansion Xavier reveals the truth of what happened. For Jean is one of the most powerful mutants he’s ever encountered, and without the ability to control that power she could be a danger to herself and all of those around her . . . see Scott’s death, for example. When Jean first came to Xavier’s school he placed blocks in her mind that prevented her from unleashing her more powerful alternate persona, known as Phoenix. Xavier tries to replace these blocks, but it appears as though Phoenix has arrived and is here to stay! After a skirmish with Wolverine Jean escapes the X-Mansion. The other issue that springs up is that a company named Worthington Labs has produced what they call a “mutant cure”. It is a shot that apparently has the ability to reverse the mutant gene, permanently. This prompts Magneto to rebuild his Brotherhood of Mutants, recruiting newbies such as Callisto and Juggernaut to his cause, among many others. He convinces them that this voluntary cure will be anything but, for he believes the government plans to force it on all mutants, eradicating the mutant “disease” forever! Not long afterwards both Xavier and Magneto meet at Jean Grey’s house, where they had come together 20 years earlier to initially recruit her to the mutant cause. However, she is a changed woman now, and with both Xavier and Magneto lobbying her to choose their respective sides, she loses control. Out of the ashes she rises, choosing to follow Magneto, having destroyed Professor Xavier in the process. Reeling with the loss of not only their leader, but Cyclops as well, the X-Men and their younger charges must band together to stop Magneto and the plan he has formulated. For he and his brotherhood are going to march on Alcatraz island, the site of Worthington Labs. There they plan to not only destroy the facility, but also the source of the mutant cure, a boy named Jimmy who’s mutant power is the ability to negate and temporarily reverse other mutant’s powers. The action all culminates in a fiery, bloody battle to the finish that sees a ton of casualties. Being severely outnumbered and up against not only Magneto but the powerful Phoenix as well, do the X-Men have the cajones to win their toughest battle yet, or will the blood of the innocent cause the waters of San Francisco Bay to run red? Like I said, this movie was pretty gritty, and I loved it. There were some major casualties in this film, including Professor Xavier, Jean Grey, Cyclops, not to mention Mystique losing her powers (that sucks). But there were lots of new characters that made their debuts though, most noticeably Beast, who I’ve always been a fan of. The fact that he’s played by Kelsey Grammer makes it even better! And I like how Shadowcat became a more prominent character, as after reading the X-Men: Gifted book I became a fan of hers. I’ll definitely be interested to see how things progress from here . . .

With the third Hobbit movie due to hit theatres in December, I decided it was finally time I got around to watching the first two . . . for shame!! So just yesterday I began by watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. For those not familiar with The Hobbit story, it was a book written by Tolkien that serves as a bit of a lead-in story to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, introducing Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey as they embark on an epic adventure, plus it also sets up the back story on how Bilbo Baggins came upon the ring. Yes, that ring. Anyhoo, the movie begins as Bilbo is coming up on his 111th birthday. He has finally decided to write an account for Frodo’s sake, of an adventure he partook in many years earlier, an adventure that forged his eternal friendship with the aforementioned Gandalf. The scene then shifts back many years in the past, to the kingdom of Erebor, the most prosperous dwarven stronghold in Middle-Earth. Their ruler, Thror, was as mighty as they come, and brought his people many years of prosperity. However, as he grew older and his stock of treasure grew, Thror became sick with a thirst for gold. Soon afterwards the bonds that held this community together for so long began to crumble. Sensing the vast treasure horde located within the mountain, a fire drake (dragon) named Smaug attacked Erebor and drove all of it’s occupants away, claiming the kingdom and it’s treasures for itself! The story then warps ahead many years, to the time of Gandalf’s quest (about 60 years prior to the current time frame the movie starts in, with Bilbo chronicling this adventure for Frodo’s future enjoyment). Bilbo was a Hobbit happy enough to receive no company, preferring to stay at home reading his books and tending his garden. So, when a wizard named Gandalf shows up on his doorstep, in an attempt to recruit him in going on a grand adventure, Bilbo wants none of it and tells Gandalf as much. Thinking that’s the last of it Bilbo is flabbergasted when, many nights later, a small host of dwarves begins showing up at his doorstep one by one! They make themselves at home, much to Bilbo’s chagrin. Eventually all is revealed to Bilbo by Gandalf when the company’s last dwarf arrives, one the others all seem to follow . . . and he goes by the name of Thorin Oakenshield. For Thorin is a grandson of the long since passed Thror, and he is ready to take back what belongs to him and his people! Recent portents have pointed to the fact that it is time a successful advance could be waged on Erebor, and Thorin is prepared to jump at it, for fear that if they don’t somebody else will. Bilbo, to his own surprise, has been recommended to Thorin by Gandalf, to act as the party’s burglar. After much pondering though, Bilbo declines the offer and doesn’t sign the contract. When his uninvited guests finally leave, he wakes up on that morning and suddenly feels lonely, and like he might be missing out by not accepting their invitation. So he chases everybody down as they are leaving the Shire, and joins the caravan, making their total number 15: he, Gandalf the wizard, and 13 dwarves including Thorin, Balin, Dwalin, Fili, Kili, Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin, Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur. Unfortunately trouble is not too far away, and although Thorin doesn’t trust Bilbo, the diminutive Hobbit soon proves his mettle after helping rescue the entire party from a trio of trolls, eluding destruction via a clutch of stone giants, successfully navigating his way through Goblin Town all by his lonesome (and surviving an encounter with Gollum along the way, obtaining the ring of power), and then saving Thorin from beheading by Azog (an unusually powerful Orc who has a violent history with Thorin and his ancestors). With Gandalf then whisking the still entirely intact party off to safety and reviving the injured Thorin, Bilbo claims (with Erebor visible far in the distance) that the worst is behind them . . . but I think we all know that ain’t gonna be the case!! This was a great film, right on par with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I love Martin Freeman, so with him as the main character portraying Bilbo, I was certainly in luck! And then with the outstanding effects of the various enemies like the trolls, goblins, Gollum, Azog, and even a little glimpse of Smaug, visually it was just fantastic. And then there were the dwarves . . . so funny. Gonna watch the second one soon!

The following night I decided to finish The Hobbit off, at least for now, by watching the second film the in the trilogy, called The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The film starts off with a more recent flashback, to when Gandalf first met Thorin Oakenshield and proposed this foolhardy journey. The scene then shifts back to the epic quest consisting of 13 dwarves, a wizard, and a hobbit, the purpose to reclaim the lost kingdom of Erebor. The pace is quick right off the get go, as Azog the Defiler has not given up in his pursuit of this party, for he and his orcs are pursuing them as they close in on Erebor. Bilbo discovers that something else is also tracking them, and it seems to be a giant black bear. Gandalf knows that his bear happens to be Beorn, a skin changer, and they seek refuge at Beorn’s empty homestead, able to lock him out of his own house at the very last second! After Beorn changes back to his human form he agrees to help this motley caravan out, by lending them horses and trying to waylay their enemies. Although Beorn has no love of dwarves, he hates orcs even more! The next stage of their journey is a very daunting one though . . . as they must enter the forest of Mirkwood, where strange and dark things have been purported to be moving about recently. Unfortunately Gandalf has to take a detour from his travel mates, gleaning that he must check out the tombs of the Nazgul, via a telepathic message he receives from the elf Galadriel. Bilbo and his 13 dwarves proceed to penetrate the depths of Mirkwood and promptly get lost, then get caught and wrapped up by a horde of massive spiders! In the meantime Gandalf and Radagast the Brown have begun investigating the tombs of the Nazgul, dismayed to discover that they are now empty. Back in the forest Bilbo is able to free himself from the spider webbing, and in turn he frees the dwarves. However, they are almost overrun by the sheer number of spiders before a couple of wood elves show up (Legolas and Tauriel), but after the smoke clears the elves then take the dwarves captive, bringing Thorin before their king, Thranduil. Thorin rejects a deal that Thranduil offers him, based on the elves’ lack of support 60 years ago when Smaug first attacked, and so he is thrown in prison with the rest of his charges. But clever Bilbo was able to slip the elves, using his trusty ring, and he is poised to instigate a jailbreak. Using some empty wine barrels to make their slip, Bilbo and the dwarves are pursued downriver by not only the elves but a horde or orcs that had also been chasing them, led by Azog’s son Bolg! After an intense three way battle the dwarves escape, but Kili is wounded in the process. The dwarves find passage to Lake-town via a barge runner named Bard. He provides them with shelter and weapons, but it’s not long before the dwarves are discovered by Lake-town’s administration. But after revealing that they are led by Thorin, and will share with them the vast treasure contained within Erebor, the party is celebrated and whisked on their way! As for Gandalf, in the meantime he has left the tombs of the Nazgul behind and headed towards a great center of evil called Dol Goldur, where a malevolent being called the Necromancer is supposedly hiding. Upon his investigation Gandalf is shocked to find an army of orcs preparing for battle, and that the true identity of the Necromancer is actually that of Sauron, the ultimate bad guy! Gandalf is overwhelmed by Sauron’s dark powers and then taken captive by Azog. As for Bilbo, Thorin and company, they have finally arrived at Erebor and after some clever figuring by Bilbo, are able to secretly enter the mountain. It is then up to Bilbo to explore the vast amount of treasure Smaug lies beneath, in an effort to find the Arkenstone and help Thorin restore order. But Smaug is awakened during Bilbo’s search, and after toying with the hobbit for a little while, finally decides to wipe him and his cadre of dwarves from the face of the Earth! Bilbo and the remaining dwarves (for some stayed behind in Lake-town to tend to Kili) attempt many strategies to deal with Smaug and frustrate the great dragon to no end. After discovering that Bilbo and the dwarves have friends left in Lake-town, the dragon then flies off to take out his vengeance on that community, striking at the dwarves in a roundabout way instead. All they can do is watch the dragon soar away, while back in Lake-town a now captive Bard has a bad feeling about what’s to come and has taken defensive measures, even while orcs invade to try and get a crack at Thorin, with Legolas and Tauriel in hot pursuit. The shit is all going to hit the fan this December when the third and final movie is released, and I can’t wait to check it out!! I liked this movie better than the first one (much as I did with the Lord of the Rings trilogy) as the action was ramped up and we finally got a good look at Smaug. It’s funny how in most cases in a movie trilogy, the middle film is usually the best! Awesome.