The Universal Soldier: Regeneration review

So Chad, are you going to review the Universal Soldier direct-to-video movie?
Why yes, yes I am.

This should be good, your negative review are a lot of fun.
Well, actually is was really good.

But is was direct-to-video. That’s the quality-movie kiss of death.
Normally yeah, but it turned out to be a lot of fun.

Have you seen the other Universal Soldier movies?
Just the first one, and it was long, long ago.

What made you watch this one?
The promise of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lungren beating the snot out of each other.

Aren’t they like 70 years old?
Yeah, I really thought there would be more wheel chairs involved. That part was disappointing. Other than that, they proved they can still tear up the screen with really great action.

So nothing bad to say about it?
Really no. At no point did it ever feel like a direct-to-video movie. I’m not sure why this didn’t spend some time on the big screen. I would recommend it for anyone who loves big dumb action movies. It was a blast.

Wish I could say the same for your review.
Happens.

Quick Notes 3-30-08

  • After last week and this weekend, I’m tired. Hopefully I’ll get some rest this week.
  • In between getting rest, I’m also hoping to get completely caught up before the next big project hits.
  • The latest issue of The Business Journal comes out next week.
  • Pastoring at a small church is exhilarating, frustrating and challenging all at the same time.
  • I’m strongly considering changing my current client roster. A few small tweaks would alleviate a lot of stress and allow me to focus on new ideas.
  • A big part of my focus in the future will be ideas I own a part of instead of straight client work.
  • Tomorrow is picture posting day. I’ve got three different shoots that will go online.
  • Worship today was amazing. Great job Josh, Shana and the whole crew.
  • Lots of good writing coming up this week.
  • I’m shocked at the number of people searching for the Burger King Steakhouse Burger. The review I wrote yesterday is one of the first things to pop up. Probably not what Burger King would like out there.
  • If you aren’t using Twitter, you’re missing out on something great. You can follow my Twitter feed here.

The Burger King Loaded Steakhouse Burger review

Do not, and I repeat do not, under any circumstances purchase a Loaded Steakhouse Burger from Burger King.

What does it taste like?

It tastes like a baked potato went out for a night on the town. He danced and drank all evening and stumbled home in the wee hours of the morning. With blood-shot eyes, he entered his apartment. His roommate, the steak burger, met him at the door. The sweaty baked potato promptly threw up all over him. Then a Burger King employee bound them together in a wrapper and put them on the menu.

I’m not kidding.

Christian music that’s not for sissies

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You can read about my thoughts on Christian music here. That being said, I love Lee McDerment’s new album, A Matchlight in the Dark.

Why?

Because it’s just great music. I didn’t have to check my masculinity at the door before listening. I bought it because I’ve been a fan of what’s going on at Newspring where Lee is the worship pastor. I wasn’t disappointed.

You can get it on iTunes or at CD Baby.

And if anyone can recommend more Christian music that’s not for sissies, please do so.

Twitter

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I’ve had this post waiting in the hopper for a while but was inspired by Tony’s post to finally throw it out there.

You can view my Twitter page here. I opened an account with Twitter a long time ago. After a few weeks of using it lightly I wondered what the big deal was. It’s really not that great. I’d post something once every few days, but really didn’t see the point.

Then I came back to it a few months later. I had a client ask me about using it as a business tool so I decided to really give it a shot. The first step was keeping it updated. Like a blog, if you don’t keep it updated regularly, it doesn’t really do much for you. So I began to tweet (as the Twitter vernacular goes). Sometimes it would be updates on what I was doing. Sometimes just questions I had. Sometimes I would simply write out short thoughts that didn’t really have a place here on the blog. More often than not, I write about food I’m preparing to stuff in my mouth.

So after a week of writing I realized I’d posted a bunch. Did anyone really notice, though? There was no discernible feedback on my end. If someone posts on Twitter and no one is watching, does it make a sound?

Followers

At this point I decided to explore a little more. I’d grasped the fun of posting what I’m doing but do people really see it? You’ll notice if you click on anyone else’s page, there’s a button that says “follow.” So I searched for a few people I knew that used Twitter. I decided to follow them. Suddenly every time they posted it showed up on my home page so I could see what they were doing. Wow, kind of cool. Now I can easily keep up with what others are doing to. I added a few more people and before I knew it had a short list of folks I followed. It was like a peak inside their lives. Their updates can be funny, useless, heartbreaking, informational. Anything really.

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Then it happened. I got an e-mail that said someone was following me. Really? Who the heck would want to follow me? So I clicked over to their page. Oh, it’s someone who does design. Cool. They like the same things I like. And it started to build from there. I would occasionally add a new person and people would find me too. As of today I follow 21 people (including Darth Vader) and have 33 people following my updates.

And the best part is you can respond to what other people write. It becomes a type of chat room.

Connecting

So, as Tony says, this is one more thing that takes time. He’s not wrong about that. It does take some time. Like blogging you have to decide if there’s value in it and know that it will take a little time. So what’s the value in it? I’ve found it’s one more way to connect with people. Take this guy for example. Before David started following me on Twitter I didn’t know him. Once we connected through Twitter I discovered we’re both in ministry and have a love of all things Apple. (Plus he used Twitter to turn me on to Mad Men for which I’m grateful.) Are we friends in the traditional meaning of the word? Not really. I’ve never met him in person and probably won’t. But we’ve occasionally talked back and forth and I’ve even found myself praying for him once in a while when he’s asked for it on Twitter.

It seems odd, but these digital connections people can make through things like Twitter can mean something.

I agree with Tony. MySpace and Facebook at least for me are a complete waste of time. Twitter, however, is something I’ve found to be very valuable.

And if you want to make it easier to use (and you use a Mac) download Twitterrific. It sits unobtrusively on your desktop and allows you to keep up with the feeds and post new updates when you have time.

Time wise, I will spend less time total on Twitter today than I have preparing this post. Not a bad trade-off if you find value in it.

Expert reviews

I’ve been enjoying James Blunt’s new album, All the Lost Souls, this weekend and thought “I’ll write a review about it.” Heck, I write reviews about just about everything else, why not?

Then it occurred to me. I know nothing about music. When I hear a piece of music, I know if I like it or not. That’s it. When I’m reviewing something, like say a game or movie, I know so much about the subject it’s easy to draw on that expertise to write. Music? I got nothing.

So here’s my review. I like it. Really good from beginning to end.

Insightful, no?

The Medal of Honor: Airborne review

The Game

Medal of Honor: Airborne is the latest in a long line of World War 2 based games. For some reason, I tend to be a sucker for these games. Call of Duty 2 was the first game I bought for the Xbox 360 and really the gold-standard for WWII shooters. The problem is the genre has been explored so often that there isn’t much left in the way of originality.

Airborne, from mega-publisher EA Games, aimed to change that by adding a parachuting element (hence the airborne part). The idea is at the beginning of the level, you parachute into the battlefield. From above you can pick the place you’d like to land and approach the mission’s objectives from any angle you’d like. This allows for a little strategy and at least gives the illusion of something new.

I say illusion because once you are on the ground, it’s pretty much business as usual. If you’ve played a decent WWII game, you will be in very familiar territory. All the weapons behave as they should and the Nazis sound like, well, Nazis. The graphics are about par for the course. There were a few moments of awe sprinkled throughout the game, but the animation left something to be desired when you killed someone. More than once, I can remember shooting a Nazi only to have them catapult up into the air over my head. Things like that will definitely take you out of the game.

One of the real genius elements (and one I think was in previous MoH games) is the idea of upgrading the weapons. The game keeps track of your kills with each weapon and as you achieve a certain number it adds new elements to that weapon. The Thompson sub-machine gun for instance will gain a pistol grip for better accuracy and a drum clip for more ammo. Each weapon can be upgraded three times. You’d be surprised how satisfying it is going back through and upgrading every weapon.

Achievements

The achievements in Airborne are fairly easy. Given about a week it would be possible to get all 1,000 points. The single-player involve mostly working through the game and upgrading weapons. There are a few interesting ones like killing an enemy by kicking there grenade back at them and most can be unlocked simply by playing through the game. A few (like fully upgrading all weapons) will require several play throughs.

The online achievements are also fairly easy to get. In my first online match I ended up with 80 achievement points. That’s very unusual. After getting almost 10 percent of the total achievement points in one round I figured the rest would be a breeze. They certainly aren’t hard, but just require playing multi-player for a while to rack up kills.

Online

However, I never found out how easy they were to get. I think most of the problem lies with EA’s servers. It was sometimes hard to connect and when I finally did the lag made it almost unplayable at times. To me, Call of Duty 2 set the bar of online WWII shooters. Comparing the two, Airborne jumps out of the plane, but it’s chute never deploys.

Overall

The ability to parachute into battle was interesting but not really the game changer EA described it as. That being said, if you enjoy a solid WWII game, Airborne will deliver a really great single-player experience. The lack of any local multi-player (which is pretty unforgivable in my book) and a dismal online experience take away from what could have been a really great package. Overall, I’d put it somewhere on the battlefield between the great Call of Duty 2 and the absolutely horrible Hour of Victory.

Airborne makes a really great rental, but wait until these Nazis storm the clearance bin to buy.

The Field Notes review

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My set of Field Notes notebooks finally arrived on Monday.

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Opening the package, I found my three notebooks, nicely shrink wrapped together, a Field Notes pencil and pen and a white Coudal Partners sticker. The notebooks are 48 pages of graph paper with a durable cover. On seeing them, Becca’s reaction was: “And they don’t sell notebooks at Wal-Mart?”

Now let’s skip the review part and get straight to the “Why I unabashedly love Field Notes” part.

Details. I could be wrong but you will not find notebooks in Wal-Mart with this many little details. And it’s the details that make these not only great, but especially appealing to creative-types.

The back inside cover features a “Specifications” heading with all the details of the first run. They are details only a designer could love, but they are there. Plus, “FIELD NOTES only uses the Futura typeface family (Paul Renner, 1927) in its materials.” Let’s hear it for Futura. Said back inside cover also features a bit about the inspiration behind Field Notes, a few practical applications (my favorite being “Shady Transactions”) and a 5-inch ruler printed along the edge. These little things take what could be a mundane product (honestly, it’s a friggin’ note pad) and make them fun every time you thumb through them.

So far I’ve used the notebooks in a few meetings and love them. They are the perfect size to fit in my back pocket and seem durable enough to withstand the beating of daily use. They are good for meetings where I don’t want to lug a laptop or a giant yellow notepad. I’ve also used the ruler more than once because I keep a notebook on my desk and it’s easier to crack it open and measure than to dig through the drawer to find a real ruler.

They are also great for concepting. Whenever I’m working on a new design I rarely sit down in front of my computer. Usually I start with a pencil and a piece of paper. This generally means I have tons of concept papers floating around the office. Field Notes allows me to keep everything in one convenient package.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that my hand writing is really bad. I need to work on that.

The CP sticker is probably going on my truck right across from the Apple sticker to balance out the creative vibe.

You can order Field Notes Brand notebooks here and I’d recommend you do so if you have ever found yourself geeking out about little design details.

The TMNT review

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TMNT
(PG, HD-DVD version)

One of Conner’s birthday gifts today was the HD-DVD version of TMNT. I originally took the boys to see this one in the theater but had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. I grew up watching the Ninja Turtles. I was there for all the movies, the cartoons and even had all the toys (much to my mother’s chagrin, that included the sure-to-make-a-mess green ooze). To a kid, you really can’t get any cooler than mutated turtles learning karate and taking on the bad guys.

Now, most movies I’d prefer to see live-action as opposed to going the computer animated route. TMNT doesn’t fall into that category. What really makes this film is the animation. They did shots that could only be achieved inside a computer. These were on par with any of the best action movies out there. It was a pleasant surprise going into what is essentially a kids movie. The first three TMNT movies where all live action and weren’t bad action-wise, but weren’t able to achieve the things this one does.

It was also full of humor, some on the kiddy level, but some that only adults would get. That’s what I love about movies like Toy Story. They are great to watch whether you are a kid or just a big kid. One of my favorites jokes being when they show Donatello as a computer tech-support worker.

“No sir, I’m not playing hard to get,” he says into the phone, “This just isn’t that kind of phone line.”

The high-definition presentation on the disc is top-notch. It’s the perfect way to view the absolutely beautiful animation. The fight-scene in the rain is particularly amazing to watch.

I’ve read a few complaints about the plot being pretty thin, but I think it works. It moves the story along an gets us neatly from fight scene to fight scene, which is really what a Ninja Turtles movie is all about. It has a lot of heart in between, though. The story is really about brothers coming together as a family even though they are all so different.

Filled with some of the best action you’ll see lately, it contains enough holy-crap-that-was-awesome moments and laugh-out-loud jokes to keep the entire family entertained. If you’re like me and have an entire clan of Ninja-Turtle-wanna-be boys it’s the perfect movie to gather round the TV for. Just be ready to have said boys want to kick the snot out of you when they’re done watching it.

The Apple Keyboard review

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Last Tuesday Apple announced their new iMac and with it a new aluminum-clad Keyboard.  There have been rumors floating around since they introduced the aluminum Cinema Displays that a matching keyboard was on the way. That was a few years ago and most just assumed they would stick with the rather crappy keyboard they had been using for years.

I always wondered how they would do an aluminum keyboard. I always assumed it would be silver plastic like the Powerbook and MacBook Pro keyboards. I should have thought simple. A sliver of aluminum with white plastic keys on top.

This one has the slim-type keys from the MacBook. I’ve always used laptop-style keyboards on my desktop machines because I didn’t like the few minutes it took to adjust going from a laptop to a desktop. Most recently I’ve been using the Kensington Slim-Type Keyboard. It took me about an hour to get used to the placement of the keys and now I’m typing as fast as usual. The keys have a great click to them and the travel is miniscule which means you can type a bit faster.

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Aesthetically speaking, it matches the aluminum of the Cinema Display and PowerMac beautifully. Yeah, I know all you Dell guys are confused by a keyboard that isn’t a giant hunk of black plastic. Just trust that it’s beautiful and makes the entire office look better.

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As usual with Apple, even the box for the keyboard is a work of art.

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Overall, this is the best keyboard I’ve ever owned, and I’m a keyboard nut. It will take some getting used to for anyone not accustomed to a laptop-style keyboard but after a very short period you’ll probably be typing faster than you’re used to.

The Bourne Ultimatum review

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The Bourne Identity was really a movie that came out of nowhere. No one was expecting anything particularly great from then non-action star Matt Damon. What it had, though, was a great story, very good direction and a supporting cast filled with stars like Clive Owen and Chris Cooper. All this elevated it to one of the best spy movies in years.

The thing what makes Jason Bourne so interesting is watching him work. It has little to do with gadgets and fast cars. In fact, his high-tech gear usually consists of a cell phone and an beat up car that takes more abuse than one would think possible. Bourne is a smart action hero and is always seemingly one step ahead of the bad guys. Watching him do his thing is as interesting as it gets in this genre of film.

Damon’s take on Bourne is enough to elevate the two sequels The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum to the level of good films, but just barely. Ultimatum, like Supremacy before it spends a lot of time with CIA operatives staring at computer monitors screaming, “Where is he!” and the action movie staple, “Let’s move people!” It’s in these moments that the films lose me. Weirdly enough, it’s a lot like Anchorman. When Ron Burgundy is employed by Channel Four and doing his macho newscaster thing the film is incredibly interesting. After he gets fired (sorry about the spoiler, but if you haven’t seen Anchorman yet, there’s something wrong with you) the movie takes a far less interesting turn. Likewise, when the story in Ultimatum shifts from Bourne to the always-simmering CIA agents, I lost interest.

The other major problem I have lies with director Paul Greengrass. I’ll give him credt, he’s a fine director to have wrangled this film out of what I understand was a grueling and non-scripted production. However, his shaky-cam handheld style just isn’t for me. Others may like the gritty, realistic feel is lends to the film, but it just gave me a headache. Literally, a headache. What’s odd is Supremacy did the same thing to me when I first saw it in the theater. However on subsequent viewings at home it didn’t effect me in the same way. It must be something about the big screen being so immersive. Either way, Greengrass seems to use an ever-shaking camera and quick zooms even when they aren’t really necessary.

Barring the run-of-the-mill CIA action and feeling like I was going to puke after walking out of the theater, it’s good to see Bourne back in action. He’s as smart as ever and watching how he evades the danger is always interesting. In an interview, Damon said he would like to do another Bourne, but maybe give it another ten years. I would tend to agree with him. Bourne has done his thing and completed this story line. These three movies essentially form one six-hour chase film. That’s exciting but I’m not sure you could stretch that to another film without an incredibly compelling story line. With all the “who is he and what’s his past” questions answered in Ultimatum, I’m not sure what that story would be.

Until then, if you happen to find yourself chasing a super spy, don’t get close to him no matter how well armed you are. He will break at least one of your limbs. You have been warned.

Bacon Salt Update #3

Because of my willingness to try all-things bacon, I was mentioned on The Official Bacon Salt Blog today. That really made Becca laugh. I think my mom would be proud. I’ve officially arrived in the bacon blogging world.

Anyway. Today’s episode of Bacon Salt update is brought to you by Jack-in-the-Box. What was the meal of choice? The Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburger. Bah! Why spend money on Jack-in-the-Box’s pre-cooked, frozen, unfrozen, slapped on a grill (and quite frankly, not great) slice of pig they call bacon? No, I instead opted for the Ultimate Cheeseburger sans bacon. Once I arrived at the office I added a liberal dose of Peppered Bacon Salt to the mix. Tada. Instant Bacon Salt Ultimate Cheeseburger.

So how was it?

Really good. It tasted like a fast-food burger with real bacon on it, instead of a fast-food burger with fake bacon. Now I know, it’s just a fast-food burger. The real test will be when I add it to Becca’s burgers. If it can add to what is already one of the best burgers on the planet, I’ll be impressed.

Stay tuned for more episodes of Bacon Salt Update.

Same Bacon time. Same Bacon channel.

Houston, we have Bacon Salt

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The Bacon Salt has landed. I’ve tried it on a few things and so far I’m impressed. Don’t worry though, I’ll file a full review after more thorough testing.

The things I do for you guys.