10.28.2008

"Heroes" Episode 7

Chapter 7 “Eris Quod Sum”

Spoiler Alert

Synopsis: Hiro meets Usutu a.k.a. “The African” and is sent on his own Spirit Walk. Daphne is sent to kill Matt. Sylar is sent to rescue Peter, who’s powers are now lost. Mohinder is hired by Pinehearst to make a new formula. Tracy and Nathan are hanging out at Mohinder’s lab. Elle, once an agent of the Company, and Claire head to Pinehearst so they can have their power problems fixed.



• Hiro refuses to travel to the past, so Usutu gives him the “Precog Paste” that he gave Matt a few episodes ago so he can go back to the past without physically going to the past. From the look of the Episode 8 promo, it features this little trip. These little flashback episodes always interesting, so I’m looking forward to this one.

• Daphne is sent to kill Matt because he won’t join the villains, but Matt convinces her not to. Matt uses to use his “mind mojo thingy” to make one of the villains (Knox) think that’s he and Daphne is dead, and they plan on taking Pinehearst down. Only it turns out it was all planned by Arthur Petrelli, to make Matt think they she was on his side. I’m predicting a “She’s All That” road here, and Daphne will end up falling for Matt before the season’s over.

• Mohinder takes Maya to Pinehearst to help her. Then he’s hired by the company to make a new kind of Formula-H, with No-Power-Peter as his test subject. I’m actually growing tired of the Mohinder plot-line, to be honest. Either turn into a cockroach or don’t for goodness sake.

• At least Arthur Petrelli did the one thing Mohinder couldn’t and took away Maya’s power. It looks like she’s left the scene for awhile so she can do some good in the world in the world.

• Mama Patrelli convinces Sylar to rescue Peter from the Pinehearst fortress, which he does. Only while Peter escapes, Sylar is captured by his father, and he tells his son that Mama tried to kill him as a baby. So Sylar switches sides. As I’ve said before, I like the depth they’ve shown with Sylar, but it turns out that underneath it all, he’s a bit of a mama/papa’s boy. Even though he’s switched sides, I think he’s taken his brotherly duty seriously (see next bullet).

• Peter refuses to join his father’s team, so is locked up. After Sylar rescues Peter and is captured. Peter does the right thing and comes back for Sylar, only to be thrown out the window from seven stories. And even though he doesn’t have his powers, he survives. It seems like Sylar kept him from dying by slowing the fall.

• Elle, the electric-controlling chick from last season shows up again and apparently can’t control her powers anymore, and fries herself more often than not. So she head’s to Claire’s house to find her father, and the two of them end up heading to Pinehearst to get fixed (remember that Claire can’t feel pain). They conveniently are there to witness Peter being thrown out a window, and while Claire tries to help Peter get away, Elle goes in to have her power taken away. Elle and Daphne seem to be sort of anti-heroes here, because they are extremely powerful and do have some good in them, they are both are very self-serving and fearful. Should be interesting to see what’s cooked up for Elle. My guess she may regret her decision.

• Nathan and Tracy are trapped in Mohinder’s lap for a while, until Noah (Claire’s adopted dad) and Meredith find them. Claire gets a hold of Nathan (who’s her bio-logical father) to tell him about Peter. He finds out from his brother that their father is still alive, which makes him head for Pinehearst to confront him. He’s going to get his butt kicked, I just know it.

• Interesting fact: “Eris Quod Sum” is Latin for “I am what you will be.” Which I guess has something to do with Sylar and that according to Arthur, “revenge is in [the Petrellis] blood.”

Praise: The interaction of the characters is really neat to see, and the way the heroes started apart and are now swarming coming together are really interesting.

Complaints: Less faster-paced than in the past, with some parts (like the encounters between Mohinder and Maya) a little listless. However, it's nice to take a rest stop after a long ca rride.

Best Part: Sylar’s break in to rescue Peter was pretty cool.

Grade: B
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10.22.2008

Fallout 3: get your dose of post-apocalyptic mayhem

Fallout 3 has been in the making for the last 10 years since its predecessor was released in 1998. This is a game that was kept so top secret, that my first hint at its existence was a vague poster (seen left) in the Bethesda booth at the 2006 E3 convention in Los Angeles. Bethesda is best known for the Elder Scrolls games, including their best selling fourth chapter, Oblivion.

At first I was angry that Interplay, who owned the licenses for Fallout 1 & 2, would sell their best franchise to a company that tends to slap the same user interface and game engine on everything they produce. Was my favorite turn-based, post-apocalyptic, violence simulator going to be ruined by a company looking to make a few million dollars by releasing a graphical, cross-console powerhouse?

Now for the good news, with the game only a week away from being released, and around 20 minutes of in-game footage available from Bethesda, Fallout is looking as good as it ever did. Not only did it receive a much needed graphical update, changing from 2d conversation screens and octagon based combat tactics to a full-blown 3d world, with rendered shadows, particle effects and the ability to change between third and first person views at anytime; but it also kept the black humor, gore and targeting combat system that made Fallout the amazing game it was.

For fans of the original games, Fallout 3 picks up in the year 2277, which is about 30 years after the second game, outside of Vault 101. For new players, Vaults are large underground shelters that were created by Vault-Tec, a company spawned by the threat of a nuclear world war 3. Vault-Tec is also responsible for the Pipboy 3000, which is a wrist-bound piece of technology that acts as your "character sheet" in-game.

In Fallout 1, you are asked to leave your vault in order to find a replacement part for your water purifier – at the end of the game, you return to your vault with the part and in return they refuse to let you back in, claiming you have been corrupted by the irradiated remains of society. In Fallout 2, you play as a descendent of the original “Vault Dweller” and are sent on a quest to find the Garden of Eden Creation Kit (G.E.C.K.). You return with the G.E.C.K. and create a utopian society in the wastelands of the New California Republic.

Fallout 3 has no ties to the stories of the first two games, it just happens to be set in the same world. That world happens to be the ruins of Washington D.C. You start the game being soothed by the voice of your father, voiced by Liam Neeson, who has suddenly disappeared from Vault 101. The overseer of the vault decides that it would be best for you to venture out into the unknown and search for your missing father.

Within the first ten minutes of the game, you are assaulted with the visual intensity of a large vault door breaking its 100-year old seal, spraying smoke and dust into the air around you. As you step out into the cave the vault door was built in, you see the skeletal remains of people who tried to get into the vault before being killed by radiation, raiders, mutants, giant scorpions, two-headed cows or any of the other creatures you’ll see in the Fallout world. As you turn the corner in the cave, you’ll be nearly blinded by the first natural light that your character has ever seen. The game simulates the blur and brightness of light in the game, especially in this scene, but anytime your characters goes from a dark to brightly lit areas. As you leave the cave and step out into the world, you're given a panoramic view of what used to be downtown Washington D.C. In the distance you can see the shattered remains of national monuments and smoke coming from small camps and cities that have been set up by those who survived the nuclear holocaust.

Besides the opening scene of the game, and a few other clips detailing character design, conversation and combat, Fallout 3 feels like a modernized version of the originals. With the new Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System (VATS), players can choose to pause live combat and select body parts they would like to attack. Based on the part chosen, a chance to hit will be given, and if successful, will change camera angles for a cinema-style close up on the attack.

Fallout has been known for its gore in the past, and Bethesda has made it even bloodier. In one of the sample combat videos, you can see a raider getting their arm blown off by a shotgun, and the blood just flows from the removed arm. There is so much gore, that as of July 4, Australia has officially banned the distribution and sale of Fallout 3 (almost 4 months before it was even released). VATS is an amazing improvement from Bethesda’s past combat systems, and is something that Fallout veterans and newbie’s can both enjoy.

There’s nothing I can say to make you pick up Fallout 3, but if you are a role-playing fan, first person shooter fan or just a casual gamer looking for some black comedy kicks, Fallout 3 is a game that caters to all types of gamers. Since Fallout 3 will be coming out on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC, there’s no excuse to not play it when it comes out on October 28.
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10.21.2008

"Heroes" Episode 6

Chapter 6: “Dying in the Light”

Spoiler Alert

Synopsis: Hiro gets his first mission from Pinehearst: kidnap the Seer from Africa. Matt leaves Africa to rescue Daphne, who’s on a recruiting streak for Pinehearst company. Claire and her mom go to rescue Meredith (Claire’s biological mom) from the Puppet Man. Peter tries to take on the guys at Pinehearst to rescue his mom — only to make a shocking discovery. Nathan and Tracy visit Mohinder, who has a sinister use for them.


• Claire finally shows her stuff. After what seems like a lifetime of being the victim, she finally gets to catch a bad guy. True, she and her mom get caught into the clutches of the Puppet Man, Eric Doyle, but her power finally had some use. I’m a little curious as to why Claire’s mom hesitated shooting her daughter in the forced “’Round-and-‘Round-the-Gun-Goes” game, if she knew Claire couldn’t die. I’d like to hear more on the Meredith/Doyle history—Doyle’s definitely a piece of work, probably the scariest villain next to past-Sylar. Looks like we might see more of Meredith if she’s being hired to be Noah Bennet’s (Claire’s father) partner.

• Nathan and Tracy are drugged by Mohinder, who want to use them for his experiments, when they visit him for help. Applause to Tracy for using her power to escape the bonds, but it looks like next episode she and Nathan are going to have a heck of a time getting away.

• Matt somehow manages to fly home thanks to his “Spirit Guide,” the turtle (I think this his really hilarious), and meets Daphne at an airport, where he tries to rescue her from getting killed in the future. I’m not sure that Matt should have just blurted out everything he saw in the future (especially the whole “soul mate” thing) because you could tell she was uncomfortable. It looks like the road to romance will not be easy one — but it’s always better that way. Matt was so sweet you wanted to hug him. Daphne was right — he’s too good-hearted to be part of a company like the evil Pinehearst. And so it she, it seems like — I mean, she steals stuff, but she doesn’t like killing people, which is more than what you can say for the other villains. I think the only reason she working for them is because she needs them to help someone else.

• I knew there was no way in hell Hiro would stab Ando — using the fake sword and blood was a clever plan. Poor Hiro — I’m surprised he hasn’t gotten a concussion from all the times he’s been hit in the head this season — twice in this episode by the African man. Of course, it turns out it was a test. I liked the African’s statement that Hiro was relying too much on his powers and that he needed to use his head. I think it applies to all the heroes — especially Peter at this point.

• Sylar takes Peter out of his coma to help their mother, which may or may not have been a bad idea. I definitely like Sylar a whole lot more. He’s really trying hard to change, and his fondness for his mother — who he hardly knows — shows it. I’m wondering why he was given up for adoption, though. It sucks that he lost the fight against Peter, because for once I actually wanted him to win. Peter’s so nuts now that I’m not sure it’s safe having him outside the company.

• Peter … ugh. He was never my favorite, but now he's just annoying. I mean, he blames Sylar for the hunger when it was Peter who forced Future-Sylar to give him is power in the first place, and then when Present-Sylar tries to stop him from going into Pinehearst with his guns drawn, he beats the crap out of him. I hope loosing his powers will be a humbling experience because I my really sick of his “I know all” attitude.

• Arthur Petrelli’s power is definitely interesting — apparently he can suck life force and powers from others. Not only did he kill the immortal Adam Monroe (rather anti-climatically, considering the man lived for 400 years), but in a WTH moment, he steals Peter’s powers by hugging him. He kind of has another version of Peter and Sylar’s power: Peter can mimic powers, Sylar kills to steal powers, and Arthur can take powers away completely.

Praise: A good episode. I really feel after the “Sophomore Slump” of last season, “Dying in the Light” proves the writers are really on track to making the show as good as the first season, by having some plot development, a little bit of action and mystery, a heck of a cliffhanger, and showing how ordinary these characters really are on the inside.

Complaints: This episode Peter wasn’t that smart at all. I mean, sure he thought Arthur (his father) was dead, but why would Peter hug him? I mean, father or not Arthur’s the head of an evil company — wouldn’t Peter think something was up?

Best Part: Like I said, the Daphne/Matt exchanges were sweet, but I think the best part was the fight between Peter and Sylar. Peter’s obvious enjoyment of beating Sylar up (not to mention his, “I’m the most special" statement) shows how the two of them have literally switched roles since the beginning of the season.

Grade: A
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10.20.2008

The real Sarah Palin debuts on SNL

Sarah Palin can't seem to stay out of the spotlight, whether it be on the campaign trail or on NBC's 'Saturday Night Live.' Oh wait, that was Tiny Fey playing her all this time? It was, until Saturday when the Vice Presidential candidate of the GOP showed her face at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

Saturday's latest episode of 'Saturday Night Live,' full of humor through political and social criticism, had me double taking more than usual. Fey's Palin may have made millions of Americans laugh, but really, it made millions of Americans think as well. In case you missed the first appearance from the actual Palin, here it is:



The cast of 'SNL,' in particular, head writer Seth Myers, Poehler, and 'SNL' alumna Fey are the ultimate in current political dissenters. Fey's version of Palin has garnered quite a bit of attention, and for good reason. For many Americans, Palin may feel comfortable. For others, it's difficult to see this type of persona fling itself into politics. She seems archaic to many Americans, and it's a beautiful thing to live in a country where citizens are able to take those voices of dissent and broadcast them nationally. It's even better when bloggers are able to make these videos go viral.

Later, in the "fake news" portion of the show, Palin returned and "chickened out" of a rap she was to perform while an uber-pregnant Amy Poehler took over, doing the gangster rap inspired by the Vice Presidential candidate. At every moment during the rap, I wondered if Poehler was going to be sent into labor. Luckily, she made it through without her water breaking.

Here is that sketch:



Seeing Palin on the program said something to me about who she is a politician. She certainly isn't the first public figure to appear on SNL following negative portrayals, but she was the first I've noticed roll her eyes while a cast member portrayed her. Did you notice that in the cold open, too? Perhaps it was for effect. Perhaps it was planned. But, it looked a little too real.

Beyond that, as Poehler does her thing, thugging it up during 'Weekend Update,' Palin blindly waves her hands in the air, raising the roof. I'm sure she approved everything Poehler said, or well, sang. I assume it's always better to be a part of joke than just sitting there watching it from the campaign bus, but this made me wonder if she really gets it.

Ultimately, her appearance left me a little disappointed. And, after seeing her on the show I kept wondering, is it possible that Tina Fey is a better Palin than Palin herself?

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10.14.2008

'Heroes' Episode 5

Chapter 5: “Angels and Monsters”

Spoilers Alert

Synopsis: Claire goes to take down her first villain, with her father and Syler closing in right behind her. Mohinder continues to try to undo his transformation — by dastardly means. Hiro tries to get Adam Monroe’s help getting ‘Formula H’ back. An unexpected person is discovered to lead the Company’s rival, Pinehearst — the same company that hired Daphne to recruit people with abilities.

• It turns out Nathan was a guinea pig. While his brothers were born with abilities, he had his given to him — thanks ‘Formula H’ (the unofficial nickname for the formula that gives normal people abilities). Of course, he’s not happy, and Mama Petrelli shows real regret for the first time ever. Of course, she could just be disappointed that Nathan isn’t helping her get back Formula H. Her dream at the ending was really interesting — very creepy.

• Mohinder seems to be going down the ‘Dexter’ road by experimenting on ‘bad people’ — in this episode, a drug dealer — and taping them on the wall, via ‘sticky-goo,’ to get rid of his powers. I really don’t like ‘psycho-Mohinder.’ When I read that he was getting powers, I thought, ‘That should be cool.’ Now, the first thing that comes to my mind every time I see him is ‘Ew.’ Nathan’s comment that “He’s harmless,” when he and Tracy go to see him is kind of ironic.

• After absorbing Future-Syler’s powers, Peter show’s just how out of control he is. He’s all hacked off at Mama Petrelli for keeping secrets away from him and tries to slice open her head. Syler shows more of his good side by saving her. I’m officially off the Peter-liking wagon right now.

• The first time that Claire tries to help and stop some of the villains, of course it goes … well, it wasn’t a success, but it wasn’t a complete disaster — at first. If nothing else, it makes you wonder how she went from the ‘Hesitant Claire of Today’ to the ‘Shoot First Ask Questions Later Claire of the Future.’ It was kind of sweet how she tried to help the ‘villain’ find his family, if a bite na├»ve. I don’t she’s likely to forgive her Dad for his ruthlessness any time soon.

• Stephan Canfield, a villain with a pretty cool power — he can make black holes — turns out not to be a villain. More like a pathetic guy who can’t control his power. He was probably one of the most honorable person in the episode, when he offed himself rather than have Noah — aka Claire’s dad, aka Horn-Rimmed Glasses (HRG) — force him into killing Syler. The audience knows what Syler’s done, but Stephan doesn’t, and makes him pretty honorable.

• Syler is like the ‘Mighty Mouse’ of the episode with all the victims he has to save. But his motivation is a little unclear. I mean, the last few episodes he’s tried to turn his back on his ‘bad guy’ reputation (last week’s episode proved he could), but I think just when seems like he’s turned completely ‘good’ — he’ll go right back to the Bad Boy fans all know and love. His evil smirk trademark towards the end kind of proves it.

• Anyway, last episode Hiro and Ando opened the coffin that he had locked Adam Monroe in last season, and convinces him to help them get the formula back. They walk into a bar, and almost immediately Adam escapes, only to be caught by Knox, one of the villains that escaped from Level 5. Hiro and Ando run into Knox and Daphne, and Hiro tries to convince the villains that they’re ‘badass.’ Well, Knox says to prove it, Hiro has to kill Ando. So Hiro stabs his best friend with the sword. Besides the ending, his was definitely the WTH moment of the episode. I have no doubt that Ando is not dead — because, really, it would be COMPLETELY out of character for Hiro to do something that cruel. Something’s going on, otherwise I’ve seen everything.

• We meet another level-5 escapee — Eric Doyle, a man who can control other people by having them mimic what he does. Based on the promo for next week, we should see more of him.

• Last thing, since episode two, Linderman, a character that was killed off in season one, has been following Nathan around as his ‘guide.’ Turns out he’s just an illusion cooked up by Matt Parkman’s dad, Maury, who has a more mature version of Matt’s mind-reading ability. And the orders he’s following is Arther Petrelli’s — the father of Nathan, Syler, and Peter, who seems to be on life support in a hospital somewhere. The master plan is to have Daphne to find people with abilities and recruit them for some kind of army. Whoa.

Praise: We definitely saw a lot of what this volume is all about: how the line between ‘good guys’ and ‘villains’ is very blurred, bringing the show to a whole new level.

Complaints: It was a lot like the sudden drop you get after a sugar rush. Last episode was off the charts great, and this one was … eh. Plus, it seems like everything’s out of control, with Syler becoming ‘Mighty Mouse’ and saving each distressed soul while Peter’s trying to kill everyone.

Best Part: Probably the part when Hiro was letting Adam out of the coffin. Hiro’s “Okay, in you go,” every time Adam misbehaved made me laugh.

Grade: B — only thing saving it from a B- was the cliffhanger.

Photo from www.nbc.com
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10.07.2008

'Heroes' Episode 4

Chapter 4: “I Become Death”

Spoilers Alert

Synopsis: Future-Peter (F-Peter) takes Present Peter (P-Peter) to the future where everyone has abilities. Meanwhile, in the present, Hiro and Ando try to escape ‘Level Two’ of the Company’s prison, Nathan and Tracy get closer, and Mohinder tries to find a cure for his transformation.

· I almost feel sorry for Mohinder — the one time he let’s his weakness take over (remember that he gave himself powers with his newly discovered formula), and he has to go all crusty. On the other hand, he should have listened to Maya and gotten rid of it. I think the guy he just about kidnapped at the end will be Mohinder’s guinea pig — this new Mohinder would do it.

· If you remember, one of the WTH moment from last episode was learning Tracy was ‘created.’ It wasn’t clones, thank goodness, but still a little. Apparently, Tracy was one of three triplets whose birth parents had died and were treated as ‘test subjects’ for the ‘Hero Making formula (here on out called ‘Formula H’). The other two triplets were Niki and Barbra. The fact that there’s three of them makes me wonder if they’re going to eventually kill of Tracy and replace her with Barbra.

· Speaking of Tracy, it was kind of interesting seeing Nathan go ‘Superman’ and save her from killing herself. For me, it’s always kind of nice to see Nathan’s flying ability, because out of all the heroes he probably uses his the least. Their small make-out session was a little unexpected.

· Thank God that Hiro finally got his act together and apologized to Ando. It made me forgive him for all the stupid stuff he’s done so far (loosing both halves of Formula H, for one). It was kind of interesting seeing Mama Petrelli give Hiro the run down, but why is Adam — the immortal that Hiro locked in a coffin last season — ‘the key’ to solving everything?

· Switching to the future, turns out everyone is either born with or buys their powers. I completely despise Peter now. Why in the world would Future-Mohinder (who looks like he’s turned into a cockroach of some kind) tell him that Sylar’s power (which is to figure out how things work) is dangerous if it wasn’t? Even Future-Sylar told Peter it was a bad thing to have, because it gave the person ‘the hunger.’ And Peter shows he can’t control it when he slices Future-Nathan’s head, Sylar-style. This little change in personality was probably this week’s WTH moment.

· Future-Sylar was probably the most interesting character on this episode. I mean, simply because he’s been the Big Baddie of the show since the beginning, and in this future he has a son and is making waffles. It’s like Hannibal Lecter taking up knitting. With Mohinder becoming super-aggressive, is it possible that the roles could be switched — with Mohinder as the villain and Sylar the kind of anti-hero?

· I have a whole new respect for Hayden Panettiere, the actress who plays Claire. She played out Claire sadism and anger, especially when she sliced up P-Peter towards the end, in a very believable way. It good to see her as someone other than the victim — even if she did kill F-Peter.

· Last, I’m so proud of myself and my predicting ability. Remember that the African had painted a happy future for Matt, and then changed it to him holding a dead chick’s body? Matt wanted to see how he could the future and the African gave him some kind of fruit so he could see the future. I knew the chick in the painting was Daphne, and they make an interesting couple. Matt’s a mild-mannered kind of guy and Daphne’s a cheeky little thief. I think it’ll be interesting when she and Matt meet (because you know they’re going to eventually), and Matt tries to ‘save her.’

Praise: Probably this season’s best episode so far — showing complete turnaround for some of these characters made this chapter.

Complaints: None. For once, I was completely happy.

Best Part: There was so many, but my favorite has to be the scenes with Future Sylar. I’ve never been a Sylar fan, but this episode brought out a new depth and sympathy towards his character.

Grade: A+

Photo: Lionel Hahn/Abaca Press/MCT
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