Terminator: Salvation reviewed

The problem with Terminator movies is that they keep coming back.

“Terminator: Salvation” is not a terrible movie, it’s an unnecessary one. It’s the movie that John and Sarah Connor fought to avoid in “Terminator: 2: Judgement Day,” the best action movie of the 1990s.

By contrast, “Terminator: Salvation” is just another two-star summer movie with a lot of gunfire, explosions, and skull rattling sound effects. The filmmakers could have imagined their own post-apocalyptic future, but rehashing the Terminator franchise brings in the kind of brand recognition that trumps innovation in modern Hollywood. Heaven forbid audiences get a chance to see an action movie this summer that doesn’t rely on characters introduced in the 1980s – or earlier.

(I’m looking at you, Transformers and G.I. Joe. “Star Trek” gets a pass for actually being entertaining and part of a long running series, instead of just a way to capitalize on Reagan-era toy nostalgia.)

“Terminator: Salvation” features John Connor (Christian Bale) as a guerilla commander in 2018 who is part of a Southern California resistance force fighting against an army of terminator robots controlled by Skynet, the military computer program that decided humanity was a threat to its own existence and decided to wipe homo sapiens from the face of the earth..

During his fight, John Connor encounters Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) a remorseful murderer who (guess how) comes back to life after being executed for his crimes in the present day and a teenaged Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who despite being born after John Connor, is John Connor’s father.

(John Connor is conceived in the original “Terminator”, when an adult Reese is sent to 1984 Los Angeles to protect Sarah Connor from the killer T-800 robot portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was sent back in time to kill her and prevent her son from being born.)

Previous Terminator movies made it clear that John Connor would lead the human resistance, and in “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” it seemed as if he was assumed that mantle at the end of the movie. Instead: “Terminator: Salvation:” shows Conner under the command of military brass who fulfill the action movie tradition of being the hero’s needlessly obtuse supervisors.

If viewers thought the FBI guys in “Die Hard” – otherwise a terrific film – had poor tactical judgment, wait until they get a load of a general who is willing to accept heavy noncombatant human casualties in a war being fought to save humanity itself from extinction.

This is the first of the series to deal exclusively with the future war. John Connor, previously portrayed as a child assassination target in T2 and a confused young man in T3, is now an adult with a pregnant wife, an M-16 and a lot of responsibility. He has to save his father before he is born, so if he fails, he never exists and Schwarzenegger doesn’t get to fight on the heroes’ side in T2, thus preventing him from becoming governor of California.

James Cameron, who directed T1 and T2 made it clear that the events of T2 prevented the future war against Skynet. Unfortunately for humanity, stopping the war would have made it impossible to make money off future Terminator sequels.

T1 and T2 provided glimpses of the future war. When Cameron directed the Terminator franchise, the humans carrying plasma rifles fought a guerilla campaign against a seemingly endless army of advanced terminator robots.

In the new movie, director McG shows the humans using conventional small arms, probably because firearms are louder than energy weapons. The organic side also takes to the air in A-10 Thunderbolts that not only survived a full-scale nuclear attack, but are somehow fueled, despite the fact that Skynet controls industry.

“Terminator: Salvation” doesn’t really address what it’s like to live in its world, except to show that it’s hard. There’s not much in the way of character development, and not enough time spent between fight scenes to see how characters relate to each other or reveal how they survive in a post-nuclear world.

The heroes don’t have to worry about nuclear fallout, and although we don’t see any cancers or post-war mutations, we do learn that the survivors can perform surgeries outdoors.

It’s good that humanity retains its smarts. Although the technologically superior Skynet does trick humanity in a major plot twist, Skynet does not have the insight to attack resistance airbases or to actually terminate major characters when it has a chance. Or chances.

The first two Terminator movies were thrillers first and foremost, but they also showed Sarah Connor’s growth from a frightened waitress who was suddenly targeted for assassination to a woman who could handle assault rifles and shotguns to protect her son from Skynet.

The man versus machine angle wasn’t just a way to create a scary villain, but a way to contrast nurturing, protective family relationships to the cold, calculating mentality that creates Skynet.

Humanity, may never actually end up at war with robots, which incidentally, are becoming increasingly integral to military technology, but T1 and T2 suggested that people could lose their humanity if they they allow technology – to dominate their lives.

In the real world, military robots could reach a point where it’s possible for a technologically advanced country to wage war without taking on the risks of doing so. The upside is protecting a nation’s own troops, but can war become so easy that we become fond of it?

“Terminator: Salvation,” gives John Connor a chance to say that the resistance does not fight like machines. But as far as ideas go, the movie spends most of its time on its case that explosions and fighting look cool on the big screen.

Wal-Mart wants your used games, too

From the site, Neocrisis, comes an article whose author writes about their experience with what appears to be Wal-Mart’s newest test market venture for used games: a vending machine that buys them off of you for in-store credit.

So if you need to buy some melons, ice cream, cereal, or dog food but are short on a few bucks, Wal-Mart has your answer in a not-so-easy to use machine. It seems that when the author had initially tried it, the booth was less than cooperative as it booted them out from the log in screen when they had tried to scan in their games, repeating the error later. At another point, a game they had wasn’t listed in the kiosk’s database.

I’m sure that it has probably worked for others, though, and if this catches on, Gamestop might find itself with some competition. That would be good news because it might actually force them to offer better trade-in values for titles than in forcing used game sellers looking for a better deal to go to Ebay instead. Gamestop still has a huge selection of titles and a pipeline linked right into their shelf space for gamers. And I have no idea how competitive Wal-Mart’s credits are compared to Gamestop’s incredibly frugal weighting of used titles. Could Wal-Mart offer a better deal on games? I don’t know.

In Wal-Mart’s case, though, instead of just using the credit for games, you can pick and choose from everything else…like food or hygiene products. Now you can trade in that copy of Grand Theft Auto IV for a case of beer without having to leave the store. Or punish misbehaving kids by trading in their copy of Halo 3 for broccoli and spam. Progress is awesome! See a picture of it after clicking on the link (courtesy of the original article).
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Sims 3 leaked, EA likely very upset

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If you haven’t already heard, EA’s next update to their Sims series, Sims 3, has reportedly appeared on torrent sites two weeks before its official release date. Just as Ars Technica won’t verify whether or not the torrent is actually the real deal for obvious reasons, neither can I, only to say that cruising through the other news sites and forums that are out there, there are quite a few comments that it is actually the real thing. This isn’t the first time that this has happened to a huge release like this as Spore had also been leaked before its official release date, although not as far in advance as this one was.

This is undoubtedly not making EA happy, especially after they had conceded that their DRM methodology has only served to aggravate users moreso than in making them feel like valued customers and had extended an olive branch of sorts to make up for it. Sims 3 was going back to the old, reliable CD code check instead as a result.

EA hasn’t officially replied to these reports as of yet, but it will be interesting to see just how they will approach this. Ars had recently pointed out how the indie developer of Zeno Clash had approached the pirates by commenting on their own torrent stream in explaining their position as indie developers, urging would-be pirates to buy it and asking them to be patient as a demo is on its way, and nothing more without preaching the ills of why they shouldn’t be doing this. It seems to have worked in their case, even if only a few had decided to put in the dollars for the game.

This is not Spawn

Vigil Games’ Darksiders has been laying somewhat low for a title that has been compared to as a cross between Devil May Cry and God of War, but with E3 approaching, a teaser or two courtesy of Gametrailers have come out to remind players why they should care about the game.

If you don’t know what Darksiders is, the game pulls a page from the Book of Revelation by tweaking the coming Apocalypse into having it occur much sooner than had been expected by either Heaven or Hell. The Four Horsemen ride out to do what they do best, but War is betrayed and loses most of his powers for reasons as yet unexplained. Now it’s up to him to discover who is responsible for the early arrival of the End of Days while he works to regain his former powers. And now that the Apocalypse is here, both angels and demons will be around to make War’s day even worse without having to wait for Dan Brown to expose them.

What the … zombie ants?!?

Yes. Zombie ants. The L.A. Times has a story about the good state of Texas is unleashing a new kind of badass South American fly to combat the swarms of fire ants that cause up to a billion dollars in damage to the state every year.

But these flies don’t eat or obliterate the ants outright. Their method of operation, according to the article:

“The fly attacks foraging fire ants, injecting eggs into the ant with a needle-like appendage. As the larvae mature, they attack and destroy the brain, causing the ant to wander aimlessly like a zombie. After two weeks or so, the ant’s head falls off and a new fly emerges, ready to attack other ants.”

So, not only does inject brain-killing larvae, but then the head falls OFF to seal the deal? This is Resident Evil-level nasty. Wow. T-flies. How’d you like to be in those meeting talking about what the fly does to other creatures? Right now, I’m feeling a mix of mother-of-god horror and the urge to call this awesome. Awesome is winning.

Let’s take games to court! That’s NEVER been done!

This AP story was passed along by a co-worker. Check it out.
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Calif. wants US Supreme Court OK of video game ban

By PAUL ELIAS
Associated Press Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to reinstate a state law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to minors.

In February, the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the law as a free speech violation that could limit minors’ access to other material under the guise of protecting children. The court said there were less restrictive ways such as parental control to prevent children from accessing violent video games.

The court also dismissed as unpersuasive the scientific studies linking violent video games to aggressive and anti-social behavior.

The state Legislature passed the law in 2005, but it never took effect because the video game industry sued soon after Schwarzenegger signed the measure that would have barred sales and rentals to anyone under the age of 18.

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Early thoughts on UFC: Undisputed

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I’m not what you’d call a hardcore fan of the UFC, but I’ve seen enough of it to know who the major players are, how it generally works and how fights can range from long, technical grindfests to flash knockouts within 20 seconds. I have a ton of respect for MMA because it requires its fighters to be in outstanding shape or to train endlessly (and opposed to some of the sloths one can sometimes see in a lower-level boxing match).

I’ve put just a couple of hours into UFC: Undisputed, and I’m hooked. Aside from the visceral rush of catching your opponent (computer-controlled or not) off guard and then raining fists on his forehead for the knockout, I also enjoy how it retains a lot of the basic tenets of good fighting games — the mixture of knowledge, practice and technique needed to become a better fighter.

I’ve found Quinton “Rampage” Jackson to be the most beginner-friendly fighter since he’s the strongest dude in the game and practically has wrecking balls for hands. He’s got one of the more impressive character models in the game, with his trademark “God’s Street Soldier” tattoo adorning his right arm. All of the character models are well done, with the slight exceptions of Brock Lesnar, who looks a little on the small side, and Andrei Arlovski, who looks like an action figure.

The personalities and mannerisms of the fighters are also close to spot-on, with B.J. Penn licking the blood off his hands after a win or Rampage’s slightly insane gaze into the camera during intros as well as his post-win werewolf howl. Forrest Griffin always seems to be bleeding and sweating, and Anderson Silva’s kicks are as lethal as they are in real life.

I’m trying to get my standup game up to par, but there are a ton of moves, holds, guards, throws and other techniques to figure out, so I’m running into a little paralysis by analysis sometimes. You even have to think about transitioning from one position to another, defending punches and submissions, and even getting the ref to initiate a seperation when the match goes to the ground. It’s good stuff all around.

I’m also getting into the career mode, where I build a fighter and have to manage his time among training, matchmaking and publicity work. It’s actually more in-depth than I expected, so I’m not sure how far I’ll get by the time I have to file the review, which should be coming out in the next week or so.

All right, that’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll be in the virtual Octagon.

Sophos boldly goes where no anti-virus has gone before

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Having a solid antivirus solution for your PC can make the difference between reporting in to work or being told to brush up on your resume because you had accidentally infected the e-mail server with a new version of the “I love you” virus. But thanks to the speed of the internet (and the death of floppies), you’ve got plenty of online options…as long as you can still get online, that is.

Sophos, whose products help protect everything from small personal PCs to Gmail, have a free tool that can be used to scan for threats to let you know if you have anything to worry about.

And now it’s offered in the original Klingon. Qapla’!

Review: X-Men Origins – Wolverine (Uncaged Edition)

Lots of superhero games can be enjoyed by kids and their families. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not one of them.

As the blood sprays and limbs get liberated in this brutal interpretation of the new Hugh Jackman movie, you find that while Wolverine may not be the best superhero game out there, it’s certainly among the angriest.

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