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Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

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If you haven’t seen it, stop reading and go see it…like, NOW!!!

I’m gonna start this off by saying that this post DEFINITELY CONTAINS SPOILERS!!! My TL:DR review for you is that the movie is worth seeing, no doubt about it! Seriously, if you haven’t seen the movie, and don’t want it ruined, please stop reading now!

The Lish and I ventured out last night to see the Force Awakens at a local theater. I must admit, I was extremely apprehensive and nervous throughout the film. I was waiting for something shitty to happen that would make the movie worthless or ruined. While I do have things I didn’t care for about the movie, I must say that my fears did not come true. The movie was actually awesome, and I can’t wait to see it again in the theater when I bring the boy with me. My full review is below.

SPOILERS BELOW!!!

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OK, first of all, they stuck to the formula of the original. Droid with plans/map lands on desert planet, meets teen who was left there by someone else, leaves on the Millenium Falcon, teams with Solo and Chewie, and get to the rebel base, all while being pursued by evil force wielding dude in all black with a black mask and a deep voice. Then, a final assault on a planet killing super weapon to prevent said base from being blown up. Sound familiar? Oh, and the whole father-figure mentor being killed in front of the main protagonist is there too. While this was all very predictable, it didn’t make it a bad movie. The acting was pretty good, special effects were good, and the story was decent. I LOVE that they went back to the lightsaber battles being more like medieval sword fighting. The whole Woo Ping shtick they did in the prequels was entertaining, but didn’t have that true Star Wars feel. These were WAY better. That said, there were things that put me off a bit.

First, Kylo Ren was kind of a bitch once he took the mask off. Before that, he was an ominous, terrifying badass who seemed to have his shit together for the most part. When he took of his mask, however, he looked to always be on the verge of tears, and lost all intimidation factor. I get that he was supposed to be torn still, but I think it was a bit much. Also, he got his ass beat by a completely untrained person at both his use of the force and a lightsaber battle. This is someone who Luke supposedly trained, and he got pieced up by a neophyte who didn’t know the force existed until the day or so before.

That leads me to Rey. She’s able to use the force to pull objects to her without knowing how to do it, she knows how to use force persuasion without ever being taught, and is able to fight with a lightsaber and win a duel against a far better trained opponent. Just seemed a little out there. Otherwise, her character was fucking awesome, and the actress did an amazing job with her!

Finn is a great character, and he showed great depth, emotion, and humor. He also had some good growth during the film, which was great. I can’t wait to see where they go with him.

The death scene was expected, but still fucking brutal. My heart still hurts…

For as much as they showed Captain Phasma beforehand, she had barely a bit part in the film. It seems like the character was only there to serve as a plot device to facilitate the dropping of the shield, something I can’t imagine any commander in her position giving in to so easily. Just seemed out of character for someone in her position. Seriously, why was she on the poster in the very center. She had about 3 minutes of actual screen time…

Finally, the general tone and immersion seemed off to me. I’m not 100% sure why, but I have suspicions. Part of it, I’m sure, is my apprehension. Part is the special effects, which were more realistic than fantastical, as opposed to the original. That also might be a product of the times and how filming techniques have changed. Another part is the sound editing and score. The sound and music had much more prominence in the original trilogy, and served to set the tone and add to the story a great deal. It was very memorable. This film didn’t really have that. The sound and music took a back seat, and I think that detracted from the impact and immersion the film had.

Despite my pedanticism, the movie was awesome, and is a worthy sequel to the originals! As someone who was a die-hard Star Wars fan his whole life (original trilogy), I’m very happy with what we got. I have issues with JJ’s new Star Trek films, but I think he did this one right. I can’t wait to see the rest of the story unfold. If you’re on the fence, you shouldn’t be. Go see it, even if you just spoiled the fuck out of it by reading this review. It’s worth your time if you’re a Star Wars fan.

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Matt Damon in space, a review.

The Martian. The title "Matt Damon in space" didn't do well with the test audiences....

The Martian. The title “Matt Damon in space” didn’t do well with the test audiences….

For the handful of you that follow me here, you likely saw my recent review of the book The Martian by Andy Weir. Well, they made it into a movie starring Matt Damon, and I saw that shit last night. Now keep in mind that I nitpick the fuck outta stuff, and it’s difficult for me to be objective about something I have strong feelings about. This book is definitely something I have strong feelings about, since I really loved it. Ok, enough bullshitting, let’s get down to some reviewing.

As far as the story goes, the movie doesn’t really deviate in any significant way from the book. Of course, they left shit out, because if they didn’t the movie would be insanely long. The stuff they left out wasn’t really mission critical, and I’m mostly ok with it. The characters are also mostly on point. Only a small number of them weren’t really the same. The acting in the movie was great, and the plot moved along well with some great pacing and suspense. The special effects were absolutely first rate, and there are some really great visuals and scenes.

Now, my nitpicking. SPOILERS!!!! The character interactions weren’t really fleshed out as well as I’d have liked. There was a lot of book crammed into the movie, but a lot of the relationships between characters just wasn’t really dug into in the movie, so those who didn’t read the book wouldn’t know or feel as deep of a connection. Also, the characters themselves weren’t as well developed. It felt a little like many of them were kinda shallow, due to only a lack of screen time and dialogue. All are great actors, but only Watney and Lewis were really dug into. The rest played their parts, but they seemed more like plot devices than actual relatable characters. The book did NOT suffer from these problems at all. Some of the changes they made didn’t seem to make much sense, either. For instance (SPOILER) when Mitch sends the coded message to the Hermes crew with the course settings, and Teddy confronts him about it, he doesn’t cop to it, and Teddy doesn’t demand his resignation. This seemed like a pointless change, as I don’t feel it did anything to further plot or character development. The actor they originally had for Venkat Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, could not do the movie due to scheduling conflicts, and I think he’d have been absolutely fantastic. He was in Jurassic World, and he was fucking great in that. Chiwetel Ejiofor did a good job, but my imagining of Irrfan in that role gave him tough shoes to fill. Also, they really underused Annie, played by Kristen Wiig. She was an awesome and hilarious character, and Kristen is both awesome and hilarious. Seemed like a win-win, but she just didn’t have the lines or screen time to really shine. Those scenes where she did, she did it well, but I’d have liked to have had more. Apart from that, I’d have done the movie more like the book, where Watney was recounting what happened during the day, and acted it out with a voiceover instead of long scenes of him doing stuff with no dialogue. During many of those, I kept thinking how much time was being wasted that could’ve been used for his excellent comedic delivery. They also let most of the science take a back seat, where it was fully in the foreground of the book through the entire journey.

Now, I know you’re probably taking this as a negative review, but keep in mind that I’d have wanted a movie that would’ve either not come off well for those who didn’t read the book, or would’ve been impossible to make. All in all, the movie really is fantastic, and if you’re a fan of science fiction, you do yourself a disservice by not seeing it. I’m just having issues getting past the fact that I built it up insanely high in my head, to a level that would be extremely improbable to deliver, and it didn’t deliver as I’d hoped. It’s ok, though. I still have the movie, and the book, I just wish there was more movie. Maybe a director’s cut.

TL:DR It was good, left out some stuff, and you should go watch it.

Book Report: The Martian, by Andy Weir

Go read this! Don't even bother reading my shitty blog!!!

Go read this! Don’t even bother reading my shitty blog!!!

Apart from reviewing Ready Player One awhile ago, I haven’t really delved into book reviews. This isn’t to say I rarely read books, as I have been an audible subscriber for the past 5 years and I have over 90 books in my library on it. Of those, there are maybe 5 or 6 that I haven’t listened to yet, mainly because they’re either new or insanely long (I’m looking at you, Stephen King, Mr 40+ hours per audiobook!). I only really feel the urge to review a book when it really surprises me, and The Martian did exactly that. Don’t worry, I won’t diatribe long, especially since I don’t wanna give anything away.

Awhile back, I discovered RPO, and felt obligated to spread it to just about everyone I know. One of those people is responsible for making me check out The Martian. From the blurb I read about it, I really wasn’t all that intrigued. In fact, I thought this would be a snooze-fest, similar to what I encountered when I dealt with Heinlein. Yeah, I know, he’s one of THE science fiction writers, but his writing style kinda sucked. Sometimes it’d be a great page turner, while other times if felt like I was being dragged through sand. So imagine my surprise when I got into The Martian and found myself hooked from chapter 1. The book, if you’ve never heard of it, is about an astronaut who became stranded during a manned mission to Mars in the future. Shit happened, his crew had to leave him, and he had to figure out how to survive until the next planned mission arrived…4 years later. The journey the reader is taken on is one of science, fear, failure, success, and a multitude of other happenings and emotions. The vast majority of the book is from the stranded astronaut’s (Mark Watney) point of view, while the remainder is mostly NASA, with some other smatterings thrown in.

The book itself is very science oriented. He talks a lot about the equipment they have, the stuff he does, and the chemistry, botany, physics, etc involved. While this sounds boring as fuck (and to some, it might be), I found this all awesome! How? Well, I’m glad you didn’t ask. Because Watney is a fucking awesome character. He’s smart, clever, and absolutely hilarious. His humor totally makes the story as great as it is, made even more spectacular by the fantastic talent of R. C. Bray, who performed the audiobook. His performance was incredible, and the Audie award they won for it was well deserved. Anyways, apart from Watney, the other characters of significance in the book were well fleshed out and excellent. I really did end up on the edge of my seat for parts of it, and never really felt like anything was overdone or underdone. As someone who took lots of science classes almost 20 years ago, the science involved was pretty accurate, as far as sci-fi goes. Some bits had some holes in it, but you’d really have to know certain things to point them out, so it didn’t really detract for me.

I could go on and on fellating this book, but for fucks sake you should just go and read that shit now! Stop reading my tripe, it’s garbage in comparison. Sure, it ends with everyone dying, but it’s still a great book…shit, I mean SPOILER ALERT!

In closing, all I really need to say is that, in my opinion, my friend and I are now even…Enjoy!

TMNT 2014 review: Thug turtles

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Heroes in the half shell!

I finally saw the new turtles flick the other night. It was a special occasion, so we saw that and Lucy, which I’ll review later. For right now, though, I’ll dig into TMNT, and the gripes I had with it. Please keep in mind that this post will contain MASSIVE SPOILERS!!!! So if you don’t want it ruined, then stop reading now.

 

MASSIVE SPOILERS STILL COMING!!! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!

 

Turtles lookin all diesel n shit....

Turtles lookin all diesel n shit….

OK, so first and foremost, I’ll go with the differences with the turtles themselves. They looked too….human. Their undershell, the part that would visually consist of their chest and abdomen, are formed to look like a jacked up human with large muscles. This is not what they were supposed to look like. They also weren’t supposed to be 8 feet tall. Apparently, source material doesn’t mean shit anymore. Their faces are also different, and it just doesn’t look right. In a vague sense, their personalities are close to the original, with one HUGE exception. Raphael. In the cartoon, he was a sarcastic ass, and I loved that about him. In this, he’s this gangsta thug with a serious attitude problem, and is thus a complete dickhead through most of the movie. He was constantly bucking Leo’s leadership and talking about going out on his own, totally different from the cartoon. It didn’t make it cool, it just made one turtle “the asshole”. Oh, and what the fuck is up with Donatello wearing a Ray Stantz outfit?! Seriously, the goggle thing, the backpack, gimme a fucking break here! We know, he’s the tech guy, you don’t have to make him look like a cyborg to get that across.

 

Ray, we'd like to fight the shredder, could you move please?

Ray, we’d like to fight the shredder, could you move please?

NO! I Ray am Donatello, and will kick your lily ass!!!

NO! I Ray am Donatello, and will kick your lily ass!!!

Another big change was, of course, the origin story. In this, April O’Neil’s father and another dude used alien DNA to genetically alter the turtles and splinter, but they didn’t grow until they got dumped in the sewer. Splinter learns martial arts from a book he finds, then teaches the turtles. Not sure why they’d go with that instead of using the ooze from dimension X, and including Krang and shit from the first one. I think it would’ve paid off better. The shredder’s outfit was a suit of power armor, and he had no personal relationship with Splinter, which again is totally outside of canon. Also, in this movie, the foot clan was a generic militant crime syndicate, and not a clan of ninjas. They were just run of the mill jack-booted thugs with no real significance whatsoever.

 

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Nope, none of this whatsoever….

This could have been so badass.....

This could have been so badass…..

So now you’re probably asking “but, was it good or not?! Stop nitpicking canon you ginger bastard!!”. I’ll say, for the most part, that it was an entertaining flick. The action was good, although the overuse of CGI was personally annoying. The acting was fair, except for Megan Fox who was ‘meh’ at best. I have to say, though, that the change in the personalities of the turtles was painful. They were pizza obsessed surfer dude types, and now they’re more like gangsta types, which was really annoying. Mostly it was Raph, but still, it changed the whole dynamic. Mikey was awesome though, total goofy like always. At least they got that right. All in all, I’d recommend seeing it if you’re a TMNT fan, even despite the issues. It’s entertaining, and I almost always love when a cartoon is made live action. If you’re not a TMNT fan already, I’d still see it, though some of the subtle references will be lost.

Godzilla and Xmen DOFP impressions/review

I’m throwing these two together because I wasn’t so amped in any one way about either of them, but figured I’d throw my thoughts out there anyways. I’ll start out with everyone’s favorite Kaiju!

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!

 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOklahomaaaa!!!

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOklahomaaaa!!!

So my recommendation of this movie will come in 2 parts, one for fans of the previous films, and one for everyone else. The movie started much like the older Godzilla movies, where you don’t really see him until well into the film. I like that. Cloverfield did the same thing, and it was awesome. Godzilla in this movie looked great, though it WOULD have been cool if they’d don’t rubber suit stuff instead of just CGI. The sounds were great, all classic stuff.

Face it, this would be fucking EPIC!!!

Face it, this would be fucking EPIC!!!

That being said, it didn’t really FEEL like a Godzilla movie, per se. It felt more like a drama that takes place in a supermarket, with monsters fucking up the breakroom. It didn’t feel like it was a monster movie. That bummed me out. He did get a fair amount of screen time, but all in all I would’ve been happier with a little more of a classic feel instead of try to overdo the dark drama like it’s another Dark Knight movie, or that atrocious new Superman flick. Don’t get me wrong, it’s far above that sacrilege that was the Matthew Broderick one, but I didn’t feel like it was done right. Just seemed to be something missing. The Lish, however, enjoyed it. So my recommendation is this: If you’re a fan of the series, it’s “meh”. If you’re not a fan of the series, it’s pretty good. I’ll probably pick it up on BluRay, but only when it’s on sale. I honestly feel that Pacific Rim was more along the lines of what this should’ve been.

Another Xmen poster with Wolvy front and center?! Nooooooo...

Another Xmen poster with Wolvy front and center?! Shocker…

Now, onto Xmen: Days of Future Past. I really liked this movie. I enjoyed First Class, and thought it was a cool new take, especially after that horrendous offering of Xmen 3. This one involves a type of time travel where a mutant can send another’s consciousness back in time to take over their younger body and do stuff. Pretty interesting stuff, and cool gimmick in my opinion. So they send wolvy back to alter history and prevent a big war, and hilarity ensues. Overall, I thought it was good. It was a fun movie that held my attention and had a good, albeit recycled, story. Could’ve used more action, but let’s face it, we ALL wanna see super-powered people beating the crap outta shit. I’m not gonna try comparing it to canon, since I don’t have enough background, and since I HIGHLY doubt it’s even close since the initial Xmen are wrong. It was just fun, and I’d watch it again, gladly.

Freaked? Never heard of it…

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Hells Yeah!!!

This is sort of a retro movie review. I’ll be doing a few of these, but I wanted to start with one of my favorites that most people haven’t seen. That movie is Freaked, starring Alex Winter and Randy Quaid. You may know Alex Winter from his portrayal  of Bill S. Preston, Esquire in the Bill and Ted movies. This movie was one of his babies, and this shit is killer.

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiick!!!

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiick!!!

Made in 1993 by Alex Winter and Tom Stern, who also had a TV show called The Idiot Box, Freaked is a absolutely ridiculous comedy about an actor who gets hired by a huge multinational corporation to promote a controversial chemical called Zygrot 24. He is sent to South America with his best friend, where he gets captured by a mad scientist running a freak show, and mutated into one of the attractions. The main character is played by Alex Winter, who is awesome in it. The mad scientist is Randy Quaid, who is a combination of Wilder’s Frankenstein (pronounced fronk-en-steen), and Cousin Eddy from the Lampoon movies. William Sadler plays the head of the corporation, E.E.S. (Everything Except Shoes), who is also brilliant. Other actors include Mr. T, Brooke Sheilds, Megan Ward, and Bobcat Goldthwait. Keanu Reeves also plays the role of the dog boy, but goes uncredited for it.

The problem with trying to review this movie is the risk of spoilers, which I won’t do. I’m not gonna ruin it for anyone who’s geniunely interested in seeing it. There’s some slapstick, some gross out humor, and enough wit to fill a box canyon in the middle of nowhere. There’s a lot of random, stream of consciousness stuff as well, which is a big part of what I love about it. The special effects are also top notch for the time. Lots of costumes, prosthetics, some claymation and stop motion, etc.

Hooray, PNG liked our movie!!!!

Hooray, PNG liked our movie!!!!

To say this movie is stupid and ridiculous is a gross understatement, and this is why it’s one of my favorite comedies of all time, right up there with Airplane!, Naked Gun, and Coming to America. Honestly, stop reading my inane ramblings and go watch this movie. I don’t care if you buy it legit on DVD or BluRay, or obtain it more nefarious ways. Just do it if you like the kind of shit I described above, and you won’t be disappointed. If you do like it, buy it, the DVD extras are totally awesome!!!

TL:DR – Great Movie!

So I’m a total hypocrite….

This Christmas, the Lish surprised me with something I wasn’t really expecting. No, not a blumpkin. It was a PS4! I know I’ve said in previous posts that I was basically done with console gaming, and I truly thought I was since I had zero impetus to indulge in console gaming for the past year or so. I had some difficulty coming to terms with accepting such an amazing gift, and I almost returned it. My inner geek ended up powerbombing its emo opponent, and I wound up keeping this monolith of awesomeness. I’ve played with it for the past 2 weeks or so, and I only really have the few free games you get with PS+ and Battlefield 4. That being said, here is my sort-of-review of the PS4 as it currently is. I’ll keep this as short as possible to counteract the usual eye rolling and bored arrowing down people usually experience when reading these posts.

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Admit it, it looks pretty awesome!

First, the look. It looks pretty cool. It kinda reminds me of the scale model of the T1000 chip on Dyson’s desk in T2. I unboxed it, and setup was simple. Usual tab A and slot B kinda shit. If you have difficulty setting it up, and you are a geek or gamer, punch yourself in the junk repeatedly until you realize your folly and resign as a member of the gaming culture. The initial setup is quick and easy, and in a few minutes I was online downloading some free shit. That right there, is a huge boon for me. Out of the box, you get a free 3 month subscription to PS+, which gets you free downloadable games from the PS store. This means that, even if you can’t afford a full price AAA title like BF4 or Killzone, you get some awesome free games to play on your new system. The games I got are Resogun and Contrast. I’ve played resogun, and it’s an awesomely fun shooter. Cool music and SFX, great visuals, and smooth gameplay. I haven’t played Contrast yet.

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The second most fun use of my hands! (Don’t worry, Lish, you’ll always be #1!)

Quick note on the controller. This thing is great. Feels beter than my 360 and PS3 controllers, and is pretty straightforward. It’s kind of odd not having a Start button anymore, now we have Options, but whatever, it functions the same. The battery life on the controller is pretty meh, but at least it’s rechargable and can use my phone’s wall charger so I don’t have to sit near the console if I let it get too low. It has a speaker in it, though lord knows why. It’s a novel idea that they stole from the Wii, but I never got the point. One thing that it does have, which is fucking awesome, is a headphone jack in the controller. This is not only for the chat headset, you can also plug in headphones and run ALL game audio through the headset, which also mutes the TV volume. This feature is awesome, and I can’t wait to get some nice chat headphones to really utilize it. Apart from that, gaming with this controller is sweet, no doubt about it.

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Sort of an XMB/Windows 8 hybrid. Would be truly awesome if it was more compartmentalized and customizable.

The menu system is relatively straightforward, though lots of shit is missing that is present on my PS3. If it’s in there somewhere, it’s not intuitive to locate. For example, save game management. I used to be able to copy saves to a USB stick to take with me. Now, not so much. I also didn’t see anywhere to configure syncing saves to the cloud. Hell, you can’t even SEE your saves, which is kinda stupid. Another thing missing is a music section, photo section, and video section. As of right now, it doesn’t support copying music or videos from my home media server to the local disk for playback, something I used my PS3 for. I also would copy photos locally from a multicard reader to view on the TV after vacations. This is also gone. If you’re looking for youtube, look in vain cuz you won’t find support for it here. Oh, and if you have a large library of games, I hope you like searching, cuz this doesn’t allow folders either. Everything is in one area, which is very counterintuitive to me. I hope they change this up in future updates, cuz right now the layout can be irritating.

PS4_headset

Because of this, I’ve spoken to one particular friend more in the past few weeks, than all of the past 2 years.

Chat is awesome. I chat with a few buddies of mine pretty often, regardless of what we’re playing at the time, and it’s seamless. The sound quality is great, even with the earpiece they include with the PS4, and I haven’t had any echo or static issues. It’s very much like the 360 chat system, just with better sound quality. You can also send sound clips to each other as well as text and such. There is also a share button that allows you to take a screenshot or short video to upload to facebook or twitter. It also lets you stream your activity, whether it be playing a game or the feed from the PSEYE, to one of two different streaming sites. Other PS4 users can browse through current streams through a section in the dash and watch them in realtime, as well as comment on them. The user sharing can see the comments while he/she plays. Pretty cool stuff.

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Why can’t I quit you?!

Pretty much sums up my Battlefield 4 experience...

Pretty much sums up my Battlefield 4 experience…

Now, the addiction factor. Like its predecessor, the PS4 has DC Universe Online as a free to play MMO. I jumped on, created a character, and have spent HOURS playing this shit. As much as it suffers from the usual MMO problem of virtually no driving main story, it has plenty of superhero fun to keep me interested. The world isn’t too big, and the missions are pretty fun. I’ve gone in with a few buddies to share missions and shit, and it was an absolute pisser! Sure, there are fucked up moments like when Bizarro showed up and wasted me with one hit, but even that wasn’t so bad. All in all, it’s great fun with lots of replay for me, and you can’t beat the pricetag! I also picked up BF4, a game which has reminded me just how horrible I am at FPS’s. I died about 9 times during the freaking intro mission! I attribute this to my CounterStrike style of FPS play, which is running and gunning. This game is more about taking cover and being strategic, which is more like how I play paintball. It’s a shift in gears I’m having trouble with, but the game itself is pretty awesome. Graphics and sound are great, environments are destructable and fun, and the multiplayer is a meat grinder of awesome!

So, to sum up for the TL:DR crowd, the PS4 is an awesome machine right now, but needs some serious software updates to really become a replacement for my PS3. For now, both will remain in the living room until Sony sorts out their shit, but I doubt it’ll take long. They really hit the mark well with this one.

Now for the hypocrisy. I know I’ve previously denounced the overcomplication and such with modern games, in favor of classic games in their punishingly difficult simplicity (I’m looking at you, Donkey Kong!), but as it turn out, I still enjoy a good game on a console. The good news is, I’m not feeling the sick urge to go out and buy more of the latest titles yes I am. I’m really pleased that I’ve gotten past that point I haven’t, I’m just broke. I feel freed by this newfound responsible maturity I’ll debase myself for a copy of Killzone!. SHUT UP!   …don’t listen to him, he lies!

maybe….