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Saturday
Apr232011

Ten Best Netflix Instant Watch Science Fiction Movies

A while back I suggested some good movies to watch instantly on Netflix. Since that time the Netflix landscape has changed considerably and the choices of movies has went up dramatically so I decided to look at ten science fiction movies to watch instantly on Netflix because some of the best science fiction movies ever made are now available to stream instantly on Netflix.

 

Bladerunner

The Instant watch version of this movie is the theatrical cut, which isn’t, in my opinion, the best version of this movie, but you can’t really go wrong watching Bladerunner no matter what cut it is, so if you haven’t watched this movie or haven’t watched it in a while go and put it on your Netflix instant watch queue immediately.


 

Hercules Goes to New York

One of the best bad movies of all time this movie is a favorite among my friends. The first movie Arnold Schwarzenegger did this version is the dubbed over Arnold with a voice that only makes the entire thing funnier. If you love bad movies then this is the perfect example of a movie to get together with your friends and mock especially when Samson and Atlas show up to help him and he fights a bear in central park.  Don’t miss this classic so bad it’s good movie.

 

Star Trek

If you let the Star Trek name scare you away from this movie this is the perfect chance to watch it. This is a perfect balance of nods to the fans of Star Trek and reboot allowing anyone to sit do

wn and watch this without any of the preconceptions about what to expect in Star Trek. Filled with good action, interesting characters and great actors this one of the best science fiction movies around, regardless of whether you like Star Trek or not.

 

 

Firefly and Serenity

It really disturbs me how many people still haven’t seen this series. One of the best science fiction series of all time this may seem short because it should have been so much more, but there is still more hours of entertainment here than in most movie franchises and no one would skip Terminator or The Matrix because they are short. So start with Firefly and then watch Serenity, or if you are too skeptical just watch the movie, but either way don’t miss out on this just because the people at fox are …. Anyway, if you haven’t watched this, watch it now and if you have watched it, watch it again. You know you want to.

The X files

With 9 seasons worth of content on Netflix (and several that are actually good) this is one of the classic science fiction series and if you’ve never watched it you really are missing out. Similar in some ways to shows like Warehouse 13 and an inspiration for many other shows if you haven’t watched the x files and are a science fiction fan you need to sit down from the beginning and watch the mystery unfold, just be aware that 9 seasons of content doesn’t mean that it will be good for 9 seasons.

 

 

Cube 2 and Cube 0

I avoided Cube because I assumed it would be horrible. Eventually though I gave in and tried out the movie and found it to be far better than I expected. It’s still not great, but it’s fun for an afternoon. Both Cube 2 Hypercube and Cube 0 continue the idea of this out and while neither are as good as the original they are both worth your time if you enjoyed the first because it is largely more of the same, though hypercube does have some very odd moments.

 

D.C. Comic Movies

Including Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths and Batman: Under the Red Hood, D.C. comics have been creating some of the best superhero movies around without the hype and circumstance of the live action movies. If you’ve missed these and enjoy the live action versions of superhero movies you should try these out, because while they might be a bit geekier they are also better than a lot of them.

 

 

The Twilight Zone

With five seasons of brilliant and weird ideas Rod Sterling’s original twilight zone is a must watch for anyone who loves interesting ideas and bizarre science fiction. There are occasional episodes which just don’t hold up over fifty years, but by and large they are still brilliant stories that every science fiction fan should be forced to watch.

 

 

District 9

A fantastic movie with a great style District 9 is a must watch on Netflix instant watch. Shown as a documentary about aliens which have been stuck on earth for years and forced to live in a slum city and treated like second class citizens this is a story that can, at times be a bit heavy handed, and has a few moments that feel a bit like a video game, but it is also one of the most original and interesting science fiction stories in years.

 

The Shining

One of the creepiest movies ever made, The Shining is hard to explain beyond the simple concept of being alone in an old, creepy haunted hotel with a man slowly going insane. This is not the typical slasher horror that seems so common in modern horror, but something far more disturbing and if you have not sat down and watched this you need to. Just be aware that it may ruin modern horror for you.

 

There are many other great science fiction and fantasy movies that were not on this list, such as Lord of the Rings, Aliens, 2010 and Mega Shark vs. Crockasourus but this should give any science fiction fan plenty to watch for a while.

 



Thursday
Apr212011

Video Game Review: Portal 2

Portal 2 is an odd game to me, because it is a mixture of contradictions. It is one of my favorite games after having played it for only two days, but it also frustrated me more than any game I have played in a long time. This combines to a game that I would recommend to anyone, but perhaps not for as long at a time as I have played.

The game is at the beginning nearly identical to the first portal, though the look and feel of the game has changed. In fact you go through several of the same puzzles that you went through in Portal, sometimes following the same path while other times changing the way you solve the puzzles. Most of these changes are because it has been a long time since the last portal and everything has been destroyed and overgrown.

This allows the game to do a lot of things that were not really possible in the first game, including going in and out of the behind the scenes part of the Aperture Studios, and in this game the changes in scenery are both more common and more dramatic.

 As you advance there are a number of new puzzle elements added to the game, including paint that can let you go faster, bounce,  and let you create new areas that portals can be shot. This helps some with the feeling of having only one solution for every puzzle, but while it helps some I would have far preferred a game more open with the portals allowing you to reach areas and solve problems in the world rather than simply going through a series of puzzles.

In the end if you liked the first portal you will like this game, but it also feels a bit like an expansion for a game that was short, more or less ignoring the end of the last game. So, if you’ve played the game and are excited to play more get it right away, otherwise wait a few months until the price goes down because it’s a bit short for a fifty dollar game unless you’re playing through the puzzles more than once, or playing the coop mode as well.

Tuesday
Mar222011

Tom Clancy's EndWar review

I rented Tom Clancy’s EndWar from gamefly without knowing that it used the microphone in order to control the game. This is a bit frustrating as I do not have a microphone that works with my Xbox 360 and I’m not going to buy a microphone for a single game. Luckily, I discovered that if you set the voice control to minimum you can still play the game, though moving your troops around can be a bit frustrating because there is no easy way to sent units to a specific point.  Still, the idea is reasonably well done.

The strategy of this game is in large part a rock paper scissors style with each type of unit being strong against some units and weak against others. Beyond this you have some of the cover systems of games and finds an interesting halfway point between a first person shooter and a real time strategy game. The problem is that the units do not generally work all that well on their own and I found myself switching between units almost constantly to do things like telling them that they should use their basic attack. Beyond this though the strategy is just a bit flat with the levels either being trying to capture specific locations, protect locations or kill everything. There is very little resource management in most cases though there is a bit.

Set in the near future this does not really feel like a future at all. In fact in many ways it feels more like world war II than even modern fighting to me. There is nothing  wrong with this and I generally expected it. In fact the only places where it really felt wrong were when the special weapons came into play because they were nods at advanced technology which played exactly like everything else.

In the end this game really felt very flat. As if the developer though that the voice control aspect of this game would carry much of the game and even if you could use it I do not think that it would really add all that much to the game itself.  If you have a microphone and want to play around with it this gives you some value to rent,  but the truth is that you can skip this game without really missing anything.



Saturday
Mar122011

Dragon Age II 

In most cases I want my video games to do something very different than a book or a movie. The problem is that as much as I love a good story video game stories are generally not every good. They become overly complex far too quickly and it becomes even more frustrating because you want to be in control of a video game story, but in most cases they also have a very specific story that they want to tell and will force you down that path. Dragon Age II does have some of those problems but overall I enjoyed not only the combat of Dragon Age II but the story as well.

Your primary character can be a mage, warrior or rogue. This character will eventually gather together a group of other characters as well and like in most Bioware games they run the gambit of morality. The difference is that this game is generally not as black and white as many other games. In addition you are not in full control of every event which means that the decisions you make are important to you and those around you, but the major events of the game still happen. There is a bit of railroading, but it does feel like you are making real decisions and ones that are not always simply black and white.  The people who are doing bad things are often driven into it or have other good reasons while people who are might be doing the right thing often doing it for bad reasons. This leaves you to make decisions that are not always easy.

Most of the story is set in a single city. This is unique from most fantasy which is often about travel. This makes this a story more about characters than the events. In fact many of the quests in the game are not about the ‘main’ mission at all. Instead, you simply go to people you already know and find out what is happening. Many of those people being the characters that fight with you.  This helps explain many of the fights in the game and makes the characters far more interesting as well because you experience their stories rather than simply hearing them.

The game play itself is pretty simple. You have up to four people with your group and fight in real time. You can take control of any of them at any time easily but if you do not control them they fight based on tactics. As they level up they gain skills and spells in generally pretty generic ways. In fact there is almost nothing really special about the combat it simply works, but in large part that doesn’t really matter.

I personally would not recommend anyone buy this game.  The fact that they want you to sign in to play it is frustrating and I don’t think that the game would really be all that replayable simply because the combat gets a bit old by the end of the game and the story is interesting, but not good enough to make me want to play through it again. My suggestion is to rent this on a long weekend because it is a very interesting story, but it is not worth buying.



Sunday
Jan232011

Fallout: New Vegas

I have always enjoyed open world games and open ended games. Being able to choose what you want to do and being given the option of making wrong decisions is what makes them games to me. And few people do that better than Bethesda the makers of the Elder Scroll games and more recently the Fallout games. And Fallout New Vegas is the game that has been draining my time for the last week and I'm going to be sending it back to Gamefly soon or I'll waste another.

Beyond the freedom to be dropped off in a world and largely do whatever you want what I love about Fallout: New Vegas is the tone. This is a post apocalyptic game that does not feel depressing even while it is able to feel like you are just struggling to survive. It does this through the feeling of what the world was before it was destroyed. This is a science fiction world that would have been imagined in the 1960's with rocket ships and robots but you also have radiation, murder, slavery and a collapse of civilization and the attempt to rebuild it. This makes the game feel important and keeps it fun at the same time.

In this game you are a courier in the area of Vegas. You wake up having been shot in the head giving the game a chance to give you a tutorial. You are then sent out with the only real mission being to find who shot you. You can then make your way towards Vegas meeting the NRC, Legion and others groups as you go. You can work with any of the groups you meet becoming more popular with them and often less popular with others. What that means is that unlike so many other games that claim to give you choice this one actually does rather than having choices that control little or nothing except the way you look or the powers you can use.

Another addition in this game is a crafting system that I do not remember from fallout. This is not as robust as I would like but you can collect things and create better things throughout the game giving a bonus to some of the skills that might otherwise not be all that useful.

Which leads to the balance of the game which is excellent. At the beginning the skills you pick can be a bit more important but almost everything is useful. For example science lets you hack into computer terminals among other things. If this is high you can do things like take control of all the turrets in an area and have them kill the enemies making up for the fact that your fighting skills are not as good. There are typically also multiple ways of completing quests. For example you can often avoid battles entirely if you have a high enough speech ability. Convincing people that they should just leave rather than fighting them. You can also fight in a lot of different ways such as energy weapons, explosives, hand to hand or more traditional guns. This means that some missions are going to be difficult for you because you don't have a key skill but others will be quite easy and they won't be the same for everyone.

This is a huge world you can explore with large areas you never need to visit in order to 'win' the game. For example there is an area in one corner with supermutants that you won't see unless you're just exploring but that has some useful stuff and interesting story and this is only one small area.

There are two major negatives to this game. The first is that it can be hard to get started. The fact that you can largely do what you want means you have to find your own entertainment to some extent and you can easily find yourself in areas far too difficult for your level. The other is that it seems a bit bugged. If you play long you will begin to have it go slower and even freeze. You can also potentially fall through the ground though that is rare. Both of these can be very frustrating especially when the game freezes just as you are going somewhere important but it does save every time you enter an area so you rarely lose anything when this happens.

If you like the other Bethesda games then this is one that is well worth playing though I suspect like the others that the computer is the best choice if you can because it will almost certainly have a lot of mods made for it.