July 2009


Movies July 16th, 2009 by HMTKSteve

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

My daughter and I went to see the new Harry Potter movie yesterday and it was excellent!

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth movie in the Harry Potter series and focuses on the main characters growing into teenagers as well as the rising power of Lord Voldemort. The movie begins with scenes featuring Death Eaters causing trouble in both the magical and muggle worlds. The return of Voldemort is always in the background even though much of the story focuses on Harry and his friends.

Speaking of background, much that was once common in the series is simply lacking here. I do not recall seeing a single ghost in any of the Hogwarts scenes nor did many of the living paintings appear. I do realize that the daily school life of Hogwarts had been played out in the first few movies but it didn't feel like Hogwarts to me. Much of the magic of Hogwarts itself was missing due to the lack of background characters.

The character of Draco Malfoy should have received far more screen time than he was given. His father had only recently been sentenced to Azkaban and his ascension to the role of head Malfoy received scant attention in the movie. While other characters were dealing with their new hormones Malfoy was dealing with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Tasked with a heavy load by Lord Voldemort himself Malfoy spent much of the time silently brooding and slowly working up his courage to complete the task set before him.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Much of the comedy in the movie came from Ron and his new girlfriend Lavender. At first Ron is very happy to have the attentions of Lavender but they soon become too much and he feels smothered. Hermione, who we all know pines for Ron's attention leans heavily on Harry for emotional support. All the while Harry is not sure what to do about his growing affection for Ron's sister Ginny! Dumbledore says it best in one scene when he remarks, "oh to be young and feel loves sting."

The big mystery of the movie is who is referred to in the title. Who is the Half-Blood Prince and why do we want to know?

The first task Dumbledore seeks Harry's help with is in recruiting Professor Slughorn, a former teacher from Hogwarts who has a penchant for collecting famous students. Professor Slughorn takes on the position of Potions teacher while Professor Snape advances to the Defense Against the Dark Arts position he has long wanted. Ron and Harry are 'sentenced' to take up the Potions course when confronted in a hallway by Minerva McGonagall. Unhappy at the sight of them having too much fun she informs them of the new Potions teacher and sends them down to join the class. Upon arriving they admit to not having purchased books for the class. Professor Slughorn tells them to get one from the cabinet. It is upon opening the cabinet that both Ron and Harry spy a brand new book and both fight over it. Ron wins and Harry takes an old used copy. This old copy is filled with notes and marked as belonging to the Half-Blood Prince.

Harry never lets the book out of his sight and is rumored to even sleep with it! Hermione constantly pesters him to get rid of the book and several of his closest friends fear it may have belonged to Lord Voldemort. We do find out who the Half-Blood Prince is but not until the very end of the movie.

As in all of the books there is a heavy use of foreshadowing and an astute observer will figure out the clues and know what is going on, or at least think they know what is going on. For those who have already read the books then you already know what is going to happen!

The movie is simply excellent and I highly recommend seeing it on the big screen. It is long at two and a half hours so don't buy a large drink!

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I see things no one else can see

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I'm the newest member of the Death Eater Mafia

video games July 9th, 2009 by HMTKSteve
Fallout3 Eugene

I've been spending the last week or so exploring Point Lookout in the latest DLC for Fallout 3. I have to say that this bit of DLC is very impressive and added several hours of fun to the game. Considering Fallout 3 is a game with an infinite amount of hours of fun I don't know how to exactly gauge the extra hours of fun.

After Broken Steel added several tougher versions of staples creatures I have been trying to figure out the best way to take down these suped-up versions of the weaker relatives.

You could just opt to run and fire, expending a lot more ammo than you might need to kill their normal counterparts but ammo is not exactly infinite in the game. I tend to burn through Plasma Rifles a bit quicker than I would like and they tend to eat MF cells at a rather rapid pace.

The Combat Shotgun is still one of the best close in weapons due to its high damage and decent ammo numbers While the old faithful Hunting Rifle is great for distance shooting.

While wandering the swamps and getting swamped by the mega ghouls I began to take an inventory of my ammo supply. One thing I noticed right away was the large amount of 5mm ammo I had amassed. It was about this time that I realized that only one weapon in the game uses 5mm ammo; the Minigun!

Fallout3 Minigun

When I first tried this weapon out I was not impressed. I found it to be highly inaccurate and not as good as the Combat Shotgun for taking down Super Mutants. Please keep in mind that my first exposure to this weapon was before even the first bit of DLC was available.

I now understand that the problem I had was not with the weapon but with my inability to properly use the weapon. I was trying to use it the same way I used direct fire weapons; with VATS. The Minigun, and it's cousin the Gatling Laser, both fall into the category of support or suppressive fire weapons. These weapons are not meant to be used with VATS! These are FPS style weapons and should only be used in that mode.

I gave the Minigun a second chance while investigating the Dunwich Building to complete a quest that began in in Point Lookout. Not to give out any spoilers but the Dunwich Building is home to a large contingent of Feral Ghouls. The original Ghouls were bad enough but Broken Steel added a number of Feral Ghoul Reavers.

Knowing I would likely be facing large numbers of Ghouls in close quarter fighting I repaired a Minigun up to 100% and put it in rotation with a Sniper Rifle and a Combat Shotgun. I am glad I did!

While I was able to snipe many of the Ghouls with head shots the Reavers are simply too tough to go down with one hit. Instead of wasting shots sniping I would simply snipe once and then train my Minigun on them while they lean back and roar. As long as they have a straight path towards you they will run right into your line of fire and go down after a few seconds.

When I reached the Virulent Chamber in the lower levels of the Dunwich Building I was able to stand on the walkway and lay waste to all of the Ghouls in the chamber below with the Minigun! Destroying the book was a simple matter after that.

With my a new found appreciation for this weapon I headed for home and dug out Eugene, the unique Minigun you can acquire by helping out Reilly's Rangers. This version has about 50% more hit points and 25% more damage than the standard version. It can also be repaired using regular Miniguns.

I took Eugene back to the swamp and let me tell you that I burned through a lot of 5mm rounds back in Point Lookout and Eugene never let me down!


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