Some Recent Tragic Developments

So, what I’m writing about today is a hard one. In a nutshell, after exactly a year of trying, my wife and I got pregnant and lost the child 9 weeks in after our first ultrasound appointment revealed no heartbeat.

If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t consider life to start at conception, this isn’t going to be a post for you. If you’re the kind of person who thinks being pregnant for 9 weeks isn’t long enough to grieve over a loss, then I’d rather you not read this. This is me being open, telling family and friends what has happened and what it’s felt like. I figure it’s also something I will come back to during our second attempt to have a child.

I love kids. I volunteer at my church’s preschool class, I love playing with the kids of my friends, and I look forward to having my own. In fact, my wife and I had planned on that I was going to be a stay-at-home dad, pursuing my writing from home while taking care of the kids.

It was hard trying to get pregnant, literally trying for twelve months, with nothing to show for it. I never felt like there was a lot of sympathy or understanding for two 23/24 year olds trying to have a kid. Everything seemed to say ‘you’ve got the rest of your life ahead of you’ or ‘you’re too young to have kids.’ Every month my wife and I would struggle as every month it seemed we would fail.

It felt weird to me, not just because we hadn’t conceived yet, but because I strangely felt removed from the whole issue. When I work at something, I work until I get results. Getting pregnant doesn’t work that way. There’s a lot of patience involved. The time elapsed between every cycle felt strange and disjointed. I didn’t take the pregnancy tests; it wasn’t my body that was changing. It felt incredibly impersonal and today I hate having that feeling.

Then came the morning my wife got a positive on her pregnancy test. It was the first time we had decided to give up tracking and offer up the entire situation to God. It felt like a miracle, and I don’t regret celebrating that moment. My wife and I told some friends and some family. We were happy, understandably. It felt great. After an entire year of trying, I personally felt some validation, something that made me feel as though I hadn’t failed, something that showed God approved of us having a child.

For a while things went smoothly. Some more people learned about it, everything seemed positive. I don’t mean to sell this time short. I was incredibly excited and I loved waking up to my pregnant wife. Was life suddenly perfect? Not at all, but there was a great hope in me for what was promised to come. Any dark patches in my life seemed so insignificant and fleeting. I think it was one of the happiest periods of my life.

We went to our first ultrasound appointment and we were given the news that they couldn’t find a heartbeat. We saw the embryonic sac and the child that was forming in there. Doctor said that maybe the time of conception was off and that there were a dozen of explanations why a heartbeat hadn’t started yet. It was incredibly hard to hear although I took his words with hope. Still, I had felt that in some way I had failed. I couldn’t name how or why, but I felt responsible for the lack of heartbeat. I know it doesn’t make sense and even then I recognized it, but that doubt still weighed heavily on me. Regardless, we set up an appointment for the next week.

The news that we didn’t have a heartbeat wasn’t shared with many people. I shared it with a few only because it was happening around my wife’s birthday and people were asking if they should get her baby stuff. Those conversations were definitely awkward.

We went back for our second ultrasound with more depressing results. There was no heartbeat, and the embryonic sack was receding in size. It was that final nail that devastated me more. I don’t cry often, but I cried then in the office with my wife. It was an incredibly devastating hit, one of the worst of my life. Still worse was having to schedule a D&C, as final as anything to the child’s fate, and having to wait for that as well. Learning that your child had died before you even get to know him or her is hard enough, but having three separate occasions that capitalize on that failure is overwhelming. It drags on, and on more still.

I know it wasn’t my fault that we lost the child, nor was it was my wife’s. I don’t blame God at all, because I consider it a miracle that we got pregnant in the first place. I don’t resent the time I had to celebrate being pregnant. I may miss it, but I have the highest hope that I’ll get to celebrate it again. My wife and I have already decided that we won’t let this loss stop us from trying again. The only ending I can offer here is hope, because it’s not really an ending, just the start of a new chapter. I look forward to that day I can hold my child in my arms and share in that moment with God, my wife, and family and friends. I love that child we lost, and I write this in memory of them.

Big Hero 6 Review

The Good, The Bad, and The Interesting

The Good
Big Hero 6 gets the treatment one would expect from Disney. The graphics offered are flawless in their own regard, animations speak volumes even when characters don’t speak, and the different ways things move are all fluid and different. As per usual, this film displays that a lot of good, quality work. Voice acting is top notch as is the lip syncing. While the story is simple, it’s solid; there are no great failings or plot inconsistencies that I caught upon watching the film. This allowed me to enjoy the film as it was intended.

The Bad
Mentioned already, this story is simple. While not inherently bad, this isn’t going to be a film that tests the way you think and the plot twists offered in the film are predictable enough to point that the reveals lack no surprise and thus no emotion. Really it isn’t so bad considering its target audience though. Still being simple, it doesn’t have a lot of re-watching worthiness.

The Interesting
There’s also a large amount of similarities between this and the film version of I, Robot. James Cromwell plays/voices a character that ‘wrote the robot laws’ in both works and Alan Tudyk voices a character in both works as well (Sonny in I, Robot and Alistair Krei in this film). A last similarity is the fact of robots built for the purpose of good being used for evil with some good robots remaining in there (bit of a stretch, but it’s amusing still with the actors).

I also didn’t know that Big Hero 6 is originally a Marvel comic series. Nifty though.

It’s very clear that there is room for a sequel although it’s unclear how the series will precede, if at all. With the bad guy captured and the conflict effectively resolved, there’s nothing of a cliffhanger to lead into a sequel.

Other than that, there’s not much else to say. It’s a fun if but simple film, not breaking any new ground but at the same time presenting itself with quality work. Should you rush to a theatre to see it? I don’t think so, but I also don’t think you’re effectively wasting your money by going to see this in theaters. Take it however you will.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Doppelganger Review

To be clear, I have to actually finish the game (I prefer to play with my wife when I can in order to finish it) but I got to download Handsome Jack’s Doppelganger and play around a bit. And, to be clear, I’m quite happy with his addition.

As many have reported that the new(ish) characters are fun due to their arguably more effective Action Skills, the Doppelganger isn’t really any different. It’s a Pet-class (meaning you summon an entity with health and a lot of your skills go to the enhancement of your ‘pet’) so it becomes comparable to Roland, Axton, Gaige, and Wilhelm. Like Wilhelm, you gain not one but two Pets (in this case, digital copies of yourself that shoot frequent energy blasts) but both become offensive and continue to draw in aggro (meaning they draw attacks away from you). Better yet, even though they’re a little fragile, they respawn immediately afterwards, and they teleport to keep up with you, reducing the chance of getting caught up on the environment. Also, you can terminate them early to be able to call them back quickly. There’s a large range of bonuses you can imbue them with but I could spend an entire article just explaining them.

Unfortunately, when I heard about one of the skills that this character gets becomes activated when picking up stacks of money, I was hoping that the rest of the skill tree would be focused on loot (similar to Mordecai’s center tree in the first Borderlands). Alas I was disappointed but the skills overall were pretty good.

However, it was never really the skills I was interested in when I heard about this character. Since The Pre-Sequel was incorporating a lot more character specific dialogue (characters reacting to other characters and NPCs differently), I was most interested in how Handsome jack was going to speak to his Doppelganger. Immediately upon starting the game up I’m greeted by Jack asking who I was, and as expected, my character responded to his role by saying, “It’s Jack….the real Jack.” Later on, as the actual real Jack makes comments about how attractive he finds his body double, complimenting himself in a fantastic roundabout. Given the situation it’s almost a given that jokes like these would be made about this in game.  But it gets better than that.

The original Body Double in Borderlands 2 was given a humorous set of dialogue delivered with apathy, generally revolving around his supposed sexual prowess. But rather than simply be given what we expect of his character, he’s made more unique, in fact, more unique than the other Vault Hunters we’ve played as.

Aside from Claptrap, every Vault Hunter has been confident, assured of themselves, and generally a Badass. The Doppelganger is none of these. Upon using Jump Pads, the character whines and complains about being scared of heights. On Helios during the tutorial missions, this character repeatedly voices his regret on ever coming to this mission, obviously more afraid for his life than other characters. Furthermore instead of just being a blank slate and complimenting Jack back, you get the unexpected response that the real Handsome Jack’s compliments make your character very uncomfortable. When Spriggs asks why Handsome jack needs a body double, your character replies about how his boss has a lot of money, and that the Doppelganger has a lot of student debt. It’s the last bit that really targets the main audience of Borderlands and comes across as infinitely amusing.

To be honest, I’m really not that far into the overall game but I really wanted to share how fascinated and pleased I am with how they treated this DLC character. His inclusion is still largely extraneous to the tale (as far as I can tell) but he’s still welcomed and highly entertaining.

Dracula Untold Review

One of the many, many direct tellings of the Dracula character first birthed through Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula Untold’s main focus is showing Dracula’s origin story as a man who turns to the dark powers of the world to save his family and kingdom. Admittedly the title is a bit pretentious, although the main story is not really different from any other remake of earlier titles. That being said, the story is nothing new even if it hasn’t been applied to Dracula, and unfortunately it isn’t executed that well. It is a largely attractive presentation however.

The most immediate strength of the film are its action scenes. While not perfect, there’s a lot of work put into the choreography, both in the physical and supernatural aspect. Watching Luke Evans as Prince Vlad fight against (white) Turks is quite entertaining and more so when incorporating the abilities of a vampire (mainly turning into a swarm of bats whenever it suits him). The cosmetics and costumes have that fantastic quality that looks truthful to that time and nationality except better.

As for acting, it’s adequate. Luke Evans still more or less comes across as Orlando Bloom in many of his roles but was at least a convincing Vlad. Charles Dance creates a very striking Master Vampire and delivers his lines with a rapturing resonance. Sarah Gadon plays her role as the wife well but it’s no performance that begs remembering. Every one else elicits no emotion when they depart from the flick.

While commenting on the cgi, I feel a lot could have been done for the whole vampire state. In the film it’s limited to red eyes and pointed canines, despite the scenes attempting to deliver on the horror aspect. To me, it falls flat. Worse, it gets annoying for one main reason, the sound.

Now, I rarely discuss the music or use of sound in a film unless it’s very striking. In this way, (and this could be attributed to the Imax theatre) every time a sword swiped at air and produced a loud metallic clang (totally illogical) or a vampire would deliver its recycled and distorted bear growl I felt it painfully rapping on my ears. Whoever was in charge of the audio apparently thought their job needed to be more grandiose and the film’s presentation suffers for it.

Largely, the most interesting aspect of the film is its ending which, I believe, is largely attributed to the last minute changes asked for by Universal in order to incorporate Dracula Untold into the planned ‘Monsterverse’ (which is made to capitalize on the success of the Marvel-verse and every other shared franchises currently being built). The ending is set up to create a much more grand story, but it’s depressing to have such a high note as a temptation after a moderate to sub-par film. There’s a lot of discussion that Universal will likely break ties with this film since it has performed so poorly and gotten generally negative reviews on popular sites such as Rotten Tomato and Metacritic. Time will tell.

Dracula Untold is by no means a groundbreaking film or even a great one. Still, it has its merits and it’s an entertaining watch especially if you have little expectations. It’s far inferior to my favorite interation of Dracula in Coppola’s 1992 version starring Gary Oldman.

Gone Girl Film Review

This post will be spoiler free, I promise. Giving absolutely anything about this film away may entirely ruin the theatre experience because, to be honest, you should see this in theatres. The challenge is now to convince you without sharing too much information.

Gone Girl is the adaption of Gillian Flynn ‘ s mystery/thriller 2012 novel and is directed by David Fincher (who’s directed successful works such as The Curious Case About Benjamin Button,  Se7en, and Fight Club). Also of note is its R rating. The film has quite a lot of language and some of the worst kind. There is about 3 seconds altogether of a topless woman in the dark and a glimpse of a man’s penis. There’s a couple other scenes of sexual action, but no skin is actually shown. However the rating is really earned through one violent scene but it carries a lot of psychological distress and viewers may understandably look away. However, aside from the physical encounter, every graphic bit is displayed as constructive to the story and isn’t glorified in its presentation as the viewer is likely still struggling with accepting new information for the scene to be considered erotic.

The premise follows Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, to return home on his fifth wedding anniversary to find his wife Amy, played by Bond girl Rosamund Pike, missing and what looks to be a struggle. Following the police taking the case and the media broadcasting the status quo of the disappearance,  things become very suspicious with Nick ‘s story with the police and his performance in front of the camera. Truly nothing is at it seems and there are plenty of twists to throw the viewer off guard and change the tone of everything that came before, begging the film to be watched again with new eyes.

Everyone played their parts exceptionally well. The often disliked Ben Affleck played Nick to a T in every regard and Rosamund Pike says so much with so little, although that can be attributed to her character as much as her acting ability.  Supporting roles such as Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry perform their roles incredibly well in addition.

The film does fairly well as an adaptation too. Some small characters are cut and a lot of the character’s thoughts are only hinted at. Some scenes change in their action as well although the end result is roughly the same. However all of the themes and over arcing plot line is the same to all of its deadly effect. Gone Girl is a very striking film of great quality and I would recommend it to a mature audience.

If interested in reading the book review I have another post. In addition I go into greater depths when discussing the method of adaption itself for this story.

Gone Girl: Book Review

More of a post regarding what I think of the book, and how to anticipate it in cinematic form.

First off, this is a riveting book. Gillian Flynn, the author, must truly have a fascinating mind in order to create such a page turning, narrated by several very fleshed out characters with their own quirks and mannerisms. The plot is fantastic, delivering twists at nearly every turn, and each twist causes everything that happened before to be called into question and begged to be re-read. Honestly, I fought the desire multiple times as new information was presented, causing me to recall past information in a new light. It’s amazing and wonderful how everything is so designed and builds upon itself. Every bit of the writing is sharp and very aware of itself, pulling everything together in a wonderful design that completes itself in a fantastic package.

The plot premise is this: It’s the 5th anniversary of Nick and Amy Dunne and Nick arrives home to find her missing and the house showing signs of a struggle. However, when the police are called and the media rallied to search for Nick’s missing wife, there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence that doesn’t seem to make sense, and Nick seems to be acting strangely. But, that’s just the premise. The plot seems to evolve as it goes on and changes everything with every bit of new pertinent information. It’s hard to compare it to other stories I’ve seen, read, or played.

I’ll admit, the book is a little graphic with sexual scenes and plenty of profanities but for the most part, it all contributes to the actual plot. It details characters and some profanity-spewing lines become more of a sort of repeating symbol as an anchor for a character. It’s not really a book I’d recommend to a young adult but I figure it’s fine above that.

Now, onto anticipating the film, directed by David Fincher (who’s had a hand in making a similarly impressive book-to-movie called Fight Club, as well as other successful films). It’ll star Ben Affleck as the main male character and Rosamund Pike as his wife. Other actors include Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, and television veteran Carrie Coon. Furthermore, the screenplay is written by the author of the book, Gillian Flynn.

What do I think of it? Well needless to say I hope it’s good and with Flynn’s heavy presence for the film and Fincher directing, it’s got a lot of good elements for it. I worry a little since it’s Flynn’s first foray into screenwriting but I think that should be largely overlooked due to her obviously being an expert in creating the book. Normally I’m not a fan of Ben Affleck in some roles, but I believe there might not be anyone more perfect to play Nick Dunne.

I’m still taking my first viewing of the film with a grain of salt, as Flynn has stated that the second half will deviate from the novel. I figure that’s fine, as she’ll likely keep to the central theme and heart of the story. After all, the best page to screen adaptations are done best when supported by their authors.

In the future, I will provide links to a review of the film as a standalone feature, and then another in regards to the work as an adaptation.

Destiny Review Part 2

As for the second part of my review, I chose to focus more on the multiplayer aspects as well as the endgame material. For more on the basic mechanics and story of the game, you can check out my Part 1 Review.

While the level cap for Destiny is at 20 (which is much shorter for a lot of RPG and MMO games), there’s a great deal more that opens up. First, gaining experience is still important. It helps you upgrade your weapons, earn new skills, and grant a Mote of Light currency unit.

One of the most immediate is the ability to equip Legendary (purple-tier) gear and the new stat of Light. Light points allow the user to ‘over-level’ which allows the player to access higher difficulty settings which yield better gear, essentially becoming a bit of a cycle. Completionists will both enjoy and loathe this, entering a neverending stretch of the game. You can obtain Legendary gear vary rarely as a random drop or by participating in faction reputation and mark side quests.

Beyond Legendary, there’s Exotic. While the only guaranteed way of gaining Exotic gear is by obtaining rare and random forms of currency and buying something from the weekend-only vendor, you may randomly pick up an Exotic bounty, a really long string of difficult objectives that ultimately grant an Exotic weapon. On a personal level, I hate some of these, specifically in the Depleted Hand Cannon bounty where I have to accrue 500 points in killing other human players with a specific element, especially since you lose points when you die, requiring you to be fairly good at competitive gameplay.

Even while you may get some pieces of this ridiculously rare gear, it is no where near its complete potential. They must still require experience and requires particular ingredients in order to be upgraded. At its final steps, it requires extraordinarily rare materials that are not easily gathered. It’s worse when you improve and fully upgrade a piece of equipment only to have something with better potential to appear later.

Besides PvP, where else would you use this extraordinary gear? There are Daily and Weekly Heroic runs that are more difficult than normal which also gives rewards that feed into the cycle. Beyond that, is the infamously difficult Raid, which at the time of this posting, is only 1 in the form of the Vault of Glass. They’re set up for 6 Friends and only that; there’s no Matchmaking so you can’t jump in with random people like most other Strikes and PvP matches. While this is obviously broken mechanic (the creators should not have limited a player’s ability to access parts of their game if they don’t have readily available Friends in their game), the Vault of Glass Raid is notorious for being nearly impossible to be beaten, requiring top-notch communication and synergy. However, it gives some of the best gear as well as materials in order to upgrade such gear.

I do have a complaint that a lot of the endgame PvE material is only the same areas you’ve had access to before, only with an increased difficulty setting. If Raids are the only new material being given out, then it makes it more imperative to have strong communication skills in-game, which means Destiny needs its communication overhauled.

There are grand gaps in the ability to communicate. A Weekly Heroic Strike features rewards that are difficult to obtain otherwise, and while every Strike offers Matchmaking, the Weekly Heroic variant does not. There should be some kind of communication hub, one where people should be able list postings to make themselves available for certain objectives such as Nightfall or Heroic Strikes. Or, if someone’s trying to complete an Exotic Bounty, one could find others who’d be willing to help or have the same objective. If not that, then perhaps a literal in-game forum would be acceptable. After all, people without headphones communicate to one another via playstation messaging.

On another, less consequential note, the actions your avatar performs are inane. Dancing is fine, as most MMO or MMO-like platforms feature dancing, but sitting when you can already crouch is redundant, and pointing and waving is essentially the same as well. Having an action such as beckoning another player or crying out for help would be more serviceable in game. It’s a light complaint though if you have headphones.

So, Destiny needs something to make its endgame material more accessible than already having pre-established friends. But, if you’re encountering the same problems while playing the ps3 version of Destiny, send a friend request to Shoft with a message with what you want to do. Have fun!