Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review: Garden of the Purple Dragon

Review:  #324
Title:  Garden of the Purple Dragon
Series:  Dragonkeeper - 1st book
Author:  Carole Wilkinson
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  Ultimately, Garden of the Purple Dragon is an interesting and good book.  The beginning could be said as being a bit boring, but I like to think of it as passively telling the story.  I liked following Ping’s (the main character) day to day life, living secluded from everything, caring for a baby dragon.  It made the change to her imperial position more striking.  In the first two-thirds of the book, you feel like that there is no antagonist, and that the book is really just chronicling Ping’s life.  However, after this first section (in which, I’m afraid, many people would have given up reading it long before reaching that stage), the plot gets more intricate and sucks you in until the end.  It presents questions in which you want to know the answer to.  There was a part where you feel such deep sympathy for Ping.  If you hadn’t journeyed with Ping for that long, you wouldn’t have felt the same pain and injustice, the author had done a wonderful job there.  A criticism would be that I was somewhat against the author using the Chinese pinyin terms of length since it made it more confusing.  I also didn't like her saying numbers in forms like “ten and hundred” or “twice times ten”, just say “110” or “twenty”.  Don’t make it complicated; it broke the flow of the story.  While there were some annoying characters (Kai, I’m looking at you), it's a worthwhile book to read, purely for the emotional impact.
Rating:  6.5/10

Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Super Ex-Girlfriend

I don't know if it's deliberate or not but the film's special effects are so cheesy and dodgy.  This does add to the movie's charm in that it's way more funnier this way than have realistic superhero moves.  In the end though, the movie tries not to take itself too seriously, but it fails somewhat when jokes fall flat.  You can second guess the plot.  I did liked how you get to see the whole progress of the main character, Luke, meeting and then developing a relationship with the superhero G-Girl, otherwise known as Jenny, before breaking up and the trouble starts.  It makes you feel like you've experienced and suffered with Luke, so you feel his pain as well.  Being a comedy film, the jokes and gags are very important, and most of them works out okay.  They won't give you any huge guffaws, but is enough for a chuckle or smile here and then.  The biggest flaw would just be the predictability of the film.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Review: The Cleopatra Curse

Review:  #323
Title:  The Cleopatra Curse
Series:  The Seven Fabulous Wonders - 7th and final book
Author:  Katherine Roberts
Read Before:  yes
My Comments:   While it has an interesting plot, the execution left some to be desired. It seemed that the plot didn't move forward at a fast enough pace, leaving you to wonder when the good stuff is going to happen. Zeuxis is a likable character but none of the characters really stand out. The addition of the supernatural (a.k.a. demons, curses and magic) is the main draw. The actions of the demon that was summoned was disappointing, as it did very little, and what it did do was all off screen, with barely a mention. I liked the ending though, in which it solved something in another way which was better than you would have expected. I thought that there was no way around the fact that some of the other characters were going to die but the author did.
Rating:  6/10

Sunday, March 24, 2013

War of the Worlds

This is a great alien invasion film, in that it depicts the horror and despair of such an invasion.  These aliens are highly technologically advanced and they just completely wipe out human's best weapons.  Once the ball got rolling (which is, about after around twenty mins when the first "Tripod" arises), it never stops.  The movie sucks you in all the way to the finish, I couldn't tear my eyes away.  You wanted to see more, see how things are going to develop and especially how it's going to end considering how disadvantaged our protagonists are.  The suspense and tense moments in the main character's desperate attempt to run away was done very well.  As mentioned earlier, there are some shocking events that happen.  While these may not be too different to other attempts, the devastation and images that they leave really burns the image into your eyes.  Those scenes were quite memorable, such as the blood red devastation shown late into the movie.  There were some annoying characters, Robbie primarily being the one.  The main character, Ray, plays the divorced father who doesn't understand his kids (and vice versa, with an added bit of hate).  Even though Ray was clearly doing the logical thing, Robbie would go against him.  I was surprised when he ended up surviving as he did, and managing to arrive all the way to Boston without many injuries to boot.  That was disappointing.  The weakest part of the film has to be the ending, after the great build up throughout the film, we got such a short and abrupt ending, with a pitiful excuse for an explanation on why the aliens suddenly fail, and you feel somewhat cheated.  The aliens' motives were never explained too (other than that they wanted human blood?).  A great film and I kinda wished it was longer so the ending could be fleshed out more.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Book Review: Agent 21: Reloaded

Review:  #322
Title:  Agent 21:  Reloaded
Series:  Agent 21 - 2nd book
Author:  Chris Ryan
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  It’s not a bad book, but it just feels very plain and doesn't stand out amongst the author’s other works (such as the Code Red Adventures). While the plot did escalate, the feeling of urgency and despair did not, probably because you know that the protagonist is going to get out of it. Furthermore, it’s because he has the skills and training to get out, so it never seems to be am immensely despairing situation. The climax doesn't bring much out of the plot (which is a bit thin) and you’re left wishing things could go quicker. Especially the ending where I believe it went for too long, I would have rather it to end quicker instead of spending all that time describing how Zak escaped. The subplot of Ellie was surprisingly short, and I thought it would have been more significant (there was a high potential in creating a complex subplot in which Ellie and the guardians to outsmart the killer). It’s an interesting book but it tries to be too smart when the ideas were not exceptionally great.
Rating:  6/10

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

One of the funnier films that I have watched.  The movie has a great opening, and it was quite humorous.  The story starts off simple with the titular Ace being hired to find out who stole the missing dolphin.  You would have just thought that the plot would be thin to make way for all the gags littered throughout the film.  This feels true for the first half of the film, but it took a surprising turn when the case started getting more serious and more complicated.  It's never going to be taken seriously though it gave the film a bigger sense of aim.  There were also a lot of stupid moments and things happening when you don't know why it is happening.  The big revelation about the kidnapper was surprising, although the ending where the identity was revealed was weird.  This is one of Jim Carrey's better films, and he portrays the character of Ace as a strange and eccentric person nicely.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Book Review: Vortex

Review:  #321
Title:  Vortex
Series:  The Code Red Adventures - 4th book
Author:  Chris Ryan
Read Before:  yes
My Comments:  Vortex puts Ben into an addictive, but improbable, situation. It makes for a great read and exciting most of the way through. It was confusing when various other side characters’ views were included. It left you wondering how they are connected to the overall plot, and one in particular, disappeared without readers ever knowing what the consequence of his treason was. This book feels different in that the Code Red situation is not a natural disaster, and while you still feel the urgency, it doesn't feel as destructive as we never saw the weapon of mass destruction in effect. I would have preferred if more background story elements were discussed, as the conspiracies were very interesting.
Rating:  6.5/10

Saturday, March 16, 2013


An interesting and thoughtful film, that actually requires the viewer to think and try to make sense of what the film is trying to say.  The concept is simple, you enter another person's dreams (or subconscious?) to try and steal their secrets.  While the film started off a bit slow and confusing, it was built up quite well.  They took the time to explain what they were doing and present the process of getting out of that state.  Sure, some of it probably went over you head (particularly since you're not given much time to ponder over it), but it ended up all making sense at the end.  I was surprised that the movie got intense from around halfway, when the team enters Fischer's mind.  The music suits what's happening onscreen perfectly, dramatizing the scene and elevating it.  I liked how pieces slowly fitted into places as the movie went along, as they revealed important information, making what they were talking about, and what was happening, more sense and easier to understand.  I had heard from people who had watched the film that the ending was ambiguous, and I can see where they come from.  Although if they hadn't mentioned it, I wouldn't have really taken notice.  One of the better films I have seen recently, as least it provides food for thought and feels more fresh.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


A unique puzzler that I had some fun with.  It's not the astounding piece of art I was expecting, but it did give me a whole different experience, and it gives me kinda the same feeling Ico did (probably the puzzle part).  For those of you who don't know, Limbo is a downloadable puzzle game.  I think the most striking aspect of the game would be how it is presented.  It's completely in black and white, which is very rare these days.  The visuals gives of a shadow puppet feel, which suits the black and white.  These simple visuals let you focus on the puzzles themselves and appreciate them all the more.  These puzzles start of very simple, and getting progressively harder.  For the bulk of the game, it never gets to the point where it gets too hard.  The earlier ones you will breeze through, while the latter ones will need multiple attempts.  You will die... a lot in this game.  Most of the deaths aren't annoying.  The ones that are usually have the puzzle involve some kind of precision or timed controls.  They don't necessarily feel cheap, but it can get annoying when you know what you have to do, yet you are failing because the margin of error is small.

The last couple of puzzles really stumped me, as they can be finicky.  I would recommend that you go through the game blind first, as it's much more fun and satisfying (that's the nature of puzzle games I guess).  There are around forty chapters in total, each chapter corresponding to a major puzzle.  Don't be fooled though, as it's a fairly short game.  If you're good, you can probably be through in around four to six hours the first time (it will dramatically decrease in your second or third run).  You will fly through the first half of the game and only slow down as it comes to an end.  The PS3 exclusive level was very annoying.  It seemed harder than the rest of the game purely because most of it was in the dark where you can't see anything.  I guess you can rely on sound but some parts I got through by sheer luck as it was slowing me down too much for me to do it properly.  It was a very long level too, taking around ten minutes on a perfect run (which means it'll take you more the first time through).  I don't think I want to go back in there again, the rest of the game is much better though.

There's no music that is playing in the background, but the silence adds to the atmosphere.  The only things you'll hear is yourself running, levers operating or seeing other living beings (the world seems desolate and destroyed, like it's abandoned).  In terms of story, apparently it's about the boy (the main character you're controlling) trying to find his sister (which, along the way, he'll have to solve puzzles to get over the obstacles).  If I didn't read that beforehand, I wouldn't have known.  You're thrust right into the game at the start, with no cutscene or anything.  You just know you have to go right and begin you're journey.  The ending was a bit weird and even then, it didn't answer any questions, just bought along more (which, I guess, was the point of the game).  What's impressive is that the main character only has two actions, jump and interact.  I like this basic scheme and some of the puzzles are quite clever and fun.  It only seems too short because you enjoy it so much (subconsciously finishing one puzzle after another) that you fly through the game.


Other game reviews can be found on this page.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Review: Deltora Quest Volume 9

Review:  #320
Title:  Deltora Quest Volume 9
Series:  Deltora Quest - 9th volume
Author:  Story by Emily Rodda; Illustrator:  Makoto Niwano
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  One of the better volumes. This volume focuses upon the Dread Gnome section of Deltora Quest, in which the protagonists defeat Gellick. The way it happened was changed slightly here, to provide more action; however, this took away the suspense. For once, I thought the design for the guardian was fitting; Gellick was nicely portrayed as that evil giant toad.
Rating:  6/10

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Liar Liar

I liked the idea of this plot, in which a lawyer is forced to tell the truth for one day.  While the movie generally is entertaining, I feel that Jim Carey overplayed his part.  He spent most of the time just pulling his faces and overreacting that it can eventually get tiring, especially when the situation does not call for it and he does it just coz he can.  Other than that, I thought the movie would be funnier, it does shine for a few moments, but in general, it felt somewhat bland.  The importance of the lawyer case wasn't pulled off as elegantly as you would want.  I thought Fletcher (the main character) would manage to use a more elegant argument in order to win since that was what I was looking forward to.  You have to feel sorry for Jerry though, since he wasn't a bad guy yet he got the short end of the stick.  The ending was disappointing and way over the top.  Fletcher wouldn't have gotten that far into the airport without being captured by security, let alone actually getting out on the runway.  I liked the part where Fletcher had to tell the truth to everyone at his workplace.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Toy Review: Transformers DOTM Air Raid

Review:  #131
Name:  Air Raid
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Dark of the Moon
Year of Release:  2011
Size Class:  Deluxe (Wave 5)
Variations:  none as of date


Air Raid transforms into a plane that bears a resemblance to a Boeing E-767.  This is a really well formed alternate mode and looks realistic.

Air Raid has the best MechTech weapon integration in vehicle, period.  There is no contest, in case you don't know, his MechTech weapon is the radar dish.

There are some minor flaws, the most notable one would be his left robot fist at the back of the plane.  The designer just left it there, in full view, slightly disappointing.

Air Raid features three-point landing gear, all are retractable.  The wheels are molded, thus he doesn't roll.  The radar dish is attached via clip joints.  There MechTech ports (well, they're just standard 5mm peg holes) underneath each wing and just behind the cockpit.

Since he's fairly realistically proportioned, the fuselage is thin, making him feel a bit small.  Never fear, since he still feels your money's worth.

While the sculpting is great (and having some nice details such as transparent cockpit windows), there's a lot of transformation panel lines (in the case of the wings, it breaks it somewhat).

An amazing plane mode.  What I like about Air Raid more than other jet Transformers is the fact that he isn't a fighter jet, and while he's not a passenger aircraft, at least he's shaped more like one.


Quite interesting, and he doesn't transform in the way you'd expect.  Detaching the radar dish takes more force than I would like, especially considering that it's only connected via clip joints (so it should have been real easy).  It can be quite complicated going back robot to plane if you don't remember where everything goes.  I thought forming the legs from the fuselage was a nice touch, but that they could have done more for the arms.  The only thing that's disappointing here is how they dealt with the wings, pretty much everything manipulates around the middle of the plane, which forms his torso.


The first thing you'll notice about Air Raid is his right arm... he has no right fist.  This reminds me back in the days of Beast Wars where the robots had no arms and had some sort of kibble instead.  In this case, it's the tailfin.

The forearms are hollow (which isn't ideal) and he has some really long shins.  I like how the thrusters aim downwards so that you can easily imagine that he'll have flight capabilities in robot mode with no problem.

The head is not pretty but it's far from the worst.  He has a huge gold crest, and clear lightpiping which doesn't work very well.  The head is only on a swivel allowing him to view side to side.

In addition to the wings as kibble, he features the whole front of the plane.  While the panels do move around for clearance in transformation (and not just having the whole front of the plane left untouched), it feels a tad bit lazy just leaving it on his back.

Sadly, the elbows are a problem.  The pictures above is as far as the elbow goes... yes, it does not bend forward very much.  Ironically, the backwards range is way better...

Now let's have a look at his MechTech weapon.  It's painted silver in the middle.

Pushing it in front flips out a tiny gun.  It doesn't look that great as a weapon as it's too round and circular.  It's look way better as a shield instead.

You may store the weapon on his back.

What I like to do is to set it so that it's against his forearm as a shield.  Sure, his fist looks weird, but better that than... (look below)

Better that than... this, since you can't make it stay in gun form thanks to the springs.

Now a size comparison, Air Raid doesn't do too bad.  Only that his torso is quite bulky while his limbs are thin.  I wish they could have bulk up the limbs more.

I can't help but notice how much paint this guy has, it's awesome.  There's the silver stripes on the side of the plane, and the big slab of gold for his torso (not to mention the other silver paint applications on his shield, tailfin and engine turbines).

Articulation is good, as mentioned, the elbows are limited.  The knee joints are situated fairly low.  The tailfin are jointed in a few places.

Not a bad robot mode, although there's a lot to hate and a lot to love.


For some reason, the lack of a hand in robot mode doesn't urk me, on the contrary, I thought it's a pretty cool flail weapon.  The jet mode is great, and I love the fact that it's not a fighter jet.  The robot mode is good but there are some odd design elements such as the long shins, no right hand and thin spindly limbs.  I think this is a solid toy, Hasbro didn't skimp much on this one (which is surprising), and it's a good mold.


................more Transformers reviews here!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Book Review: Master of the Books

Review:  #319
Title:  Master of the Books
Series:  The Book of Lies - 2nd book
Author:  James Moloney
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  A good follow up to The Book of Lies (to be honest, I was surprised that a sequel was written). The plot follows Fergus’s path of revenge against Damon. The best parts are the ones where secrets were revealed and twists were created. They felt so natural and fitting, some even spanning from the first book (it must have been planned from the early stages) that they feel elegant. While the first few sections were interesting enough to get you absorbed in the chase, it got much more exciting when the party arrives at Tamerlane. The resulting battle and finally, Marcel letting loose his magic (there’s a moral in here somewhere), was done very well.
Rating:   6.5/10

Friday, March 8, 2013


The animation used for this movie was top notched, but when it came to story, it left quite a bit lacking.  I hated the whole brothers fighting amongst themselves, wasting time to get it sorted.  The movie never really picked up, since it felt flat and bland during the whole time.  There was a lack of humor which I would have come to expect from these turtles, and Raphael has to play the bad guy here with his bickering, which in turn, just becomes extremely annoying.  The antagonist/s were disappointing, as they lacked the fear and evil acts that usually comes with villains.  As said, the animation was great and the characters are fluid.  I'm impressed with what they had done.  Generally, most of the movie takes it place at night time while I would have preferred more lighting.  I guess the biggest flaw here is that you don't really side with anyone, you don't feel the pain or irony or injustice, so you never invest any emotion in it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Toy Review: Transformers DOTM Flak

Review:  #130
Name:  Flak
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Dark of the Moon
Year of Release:  2011
Size Class:  Legion (Wave 3)
Variations:  none as of date


Flak transforms into an APC with camouflage.  He features a cannon on the top, and while it can swivel, the swivel is not located in the center of the cannon, thus it's useless here.

There is a lot of nice sculpting and the four wheels roll (that's it for play value here).  The back is a tiny let down due to the gap but it's nothing major.

The size is good, but he still feels very small and light.

There are some minor panel lines here and there.

This is an impressive APC.  Too bad most of the paint used here is for the camouflage.


It's simple, as you'd expect.  The legs can be a pain to detach purely because they peg in so well.  There is one surprise here, and that's the cannon.  It rotates and the barrel flips over to form a shoulder cannon, a neat touch (instead of just going the lazy route and leaving it to point up in the sky ala G1 Brawl).  It's a bit too simple for my taste.


The robot mode is fantastic and is one of the best Legion sized robots I've seen.  He looks ready to pound whoever stands in his way.

Flak carries a huge panel of plastic on his back, which is basically most of the vehicle's top.

The head sculpt is messy and looks more like a Decepticon's rather than an Autobot's.

Shorter than previous Legends sized toys but he's fairly bulky.

Due to how Flak's legs are the back of the vehicle split in half, they're chunky and restricts articulation more than you want to.  Also the elbows don't fold down fully (there's plastic intentionally blocking the way) so it can look awkward.

He has a 3mm slot in his right hand to hold other Cyberverse weapons.  A good robot mode, but lacking poseability.


Probably the best Legions in the Dark of the Moon line, he has two great modes, hampered by some small flaws.  His elbows are the most annoying feature in that they don't completely straighten.  Nevertheless, Flak is definitely a good toy and if you like Cyberverse figures, then go for it.


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