Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fred Claus

Fred Claus
Blu ray and DVD. 

Vince Vaughn stars as Santa's older brother Fred, who is tired of having to live up to his example. Paul Giamoti plays Santa and because he is a saint no one in his immediate family (or their spouse) dies. So the story starts hundreds of years ago when Santa was born and after a showing how the rift between the two started, picks up in modern times.

Fred is a wheeling, dealing, friendly con man who has no one left to borrow money from to open a betting parlor. So he turns to his brother, who uses tough love and makes him work for the money at the North Pole. 

His arrival coincides with Kevin Spacey who is sent to see if Santa's whole setup is worth the trouble anymore. And in the typical Spacey way turns out to be diabolical and wants to shut down the North Pole. 

One of the funniest scenes I have seen in a movie was when Fred goes to the "living in my brothers shadow" support group. Frank Stalone talks about losing his identity when the Rocky movies came out. Then Roger Clinton talks about being brothers with Bill. Fred mouths off and upsets Stephan Baldwin who calms down by stomping the floor and reminding himself "he's not Alec."

Kathy Bates and Rachel Weisz play Fred's mom and girlfriend but they could have been played by anyone.

All in all this is your basic unethical guy learns a powerful lesson and saves Christmas movie. But it is fresh, updated and a little in your face funny. 

Every December, while going through Christmas boxes I inevitably find the list I made comparing my father to Santa Claus. 
1. Both are old. 
2. They both eat all the milk and cookies, leaving none for anyone else.
3. They both have big, food catching beards.
4. Both have bowls full of jelly. 
5. Both work about a day a year.

7 out of 10

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of The Crystal Skulls.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. 
Blu Ray and DVD. 

Indiana Jones is one of the most iconic figures in movie history. The first three movies are some of the best... uh, maybe not so much on the Temple of Doom. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark took Harrison Ford from being that guy in Star Wars to a legitimate actor. 

When word came down of a fourth Indiana Jones, I got really excited. It had been almost 20 years since the Last Crusade and I was ready. 

First reports stated Harrison Ford and Sean Connery were back. Plus, Tom Selleck was cast as his older brother. George Lucas was writing and producing and Steven Spielberg was  directing. Perfect, right? Wrong. 

Sean Connery dropped out, stating,

"I thought long and hard about it and if anything could have pulled me out of retirement it would have been an Indiana Jones film. I love working with Steven and George, and it goes without saying that it is an honor to have Harrison as my son. But in the end, retirement is just too damned much fun."
―Sean Connery in 2007

Then Tom Selleck dropped out over script disputes. So the script was heavily rewritten and the brother was removed and replaced with the character of Harold Oxley played by John Hurt. With no Connery, Jim Broadbent was introduced as the Dean of the College. 

The movie itself starts out rather typically of the series with a military unit driving down a dusty desert highway being harassed by some local 1950's stereotyped teens in a hot rod. The military unit turns onto a base remonisiant of area 51 and are revealed to be Russian spies who kill everyone and take over the base. Tossing Indiana Jones from a car with his sidekick Mac, this is where the movie starts to go wrong. 

The only bad guys more overplayed than the Nazis are the Russians. This movie is chalked full of them led by Cate Blanchett with a very bad accent and even badder wig.

During a nuclear explosion at the beginning of the movie, our has-been hero hides in a lead refrigerator only to get launched free of danger. At this point my thought was maybe the rest of the movie will redeem this scene. It didn't. 

The debriefing scene was used to fill in the gap between the movies. He was a spy in WWII... neat. But too much time has passed and to many things have changed like his secretly tratorous sidekick. 

Shia LaBeouf plays Mutt, no surprise, Indiana Jones' son and a greaser bike rider. For some reason his character quickly turns from a street smart brawler to a sword fighting scholar that the movie really could have done without.

John Hurt over acts in his role, making him hard to watch. As for Karen Allen returning as Marion... let's just say time wasn't on her side. 

Here's what it come down to: the feel of the originals was not there. The jokey, cocky way he does things didn't seem to make it into this movie. Scenes such as Indiana facing down a line of villains only to shoot all of them with 1 bullet are really missing in this movie. 

The original three movies were based on religious beliefs such as the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail and the Thugee cult. Beliefs with written records and thousands of years of culture. This time around the movie is based on theoretical, new age beliefs about current pseudo theory that aliens came to Earth and taught the ancients technology. A theory based on little to no facts. 

This movie was just too out there. The story didn't fit into the Indiana Jones mythos. Too many stupid plot twist and bad ideas. I really wanted to like this movie. I kept trying to rationalize my way through this. I kept thinking, maybe the next scene will get better, which turned into 'it can't end like this'. 

Avoid this movie. Even hard core fans will have a problem with this film. There is a theory about this movie series, Raiders was good, Temple was bad. Last Crusade was good, Crystal Skull was bad. Therefore, based on the alternating quality, the assumption is that the 5th one (which they are working on now) will be good. 

Tom Selleck was originally cast as Indiana Jones. It was after he did the pilot for Magnum P.I. but before the series got picked up. He couldn't do it while the series started shooting and felt obligated to decline.  So when Tom Selleck moved to Hawaii the writers guild went on strike and no filming was done for 6 months. In that time, production of Raiders of the Lost Ark filmed in Hawaii and only took 6 months. 

2 out of 10

Look Me In The Eyes.

Look Me in the Eye. 
John Elder Robinson 

This book is about a child who grows into adulthood without knowing he had a form of autism known as Aspergers syndrome. It is autobiographical and is written in the style of his younger brother Augusten Burroughs. 

From a very young age John Elder knew that he was different. His reactions and interactions were different then those around him and often times adults would ridicule him. For example, he writes of a time when someone was killed in a terrible car crash and his reaction was to smile and laugh. The adults were mortified and thought that he was crazy. When in fact John Elder goes on to explain his thought process. He was happy because his parents weren't involved and no one he knew was dead and then thought about them all having fun togather. 

The way he peels back the layers of Aspergers to explain the different thought processes to the reader, as well as the struggles to talk to people like what calls normal people, really made you feel for him. 

He was raised at a time when there was no diagnoses for what he had. People thought he was psychotic, stupid or just retarded. He left school and  as soon as he realized he could and found himself working on Pink Floyds' equipment before touring with KISS to design special guitars and amps. 

He delves into relationships and marriage with his disorder. He found it much easier to call people by nicknames then actual names. He referred to his Dad as Stupid and his Mom as Slave for most of his life.

If you've read any Augusten Burroughs books then you'll want to read this book to see their parents from a different, yet similar point of view. You also get to see their parents younger, happier and even in love. 

This is a good read, especially for those that have always felt like they were a little different. 

I was always told "look me in the eye" when I was younger. I always laughed at how weird it was when you had to stare into people's eyes... which inevitably make the situation worse. 

8 out of 10

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Super Mario Bros. Classic review.

Super Mario Bros.
NES, Wii. Classics Review.

This was the first real video game I ever played outside an arcade. We had an atari but those games didn't play very well besides Pacman and Donkey King. I was a little late coming to the scene, 1988, considering the game came out in 1986.

For 20 years, Super Mario Bros. was the best selling game of all time. Almost 45 million copies have been sold. It has been released in every format Nintendo that has been made since the original NES.

Super Mario Bros. is a sequel to the 1983 game Mario Bros. which itself is a sequel to 1981's Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. Mario has appeared in almost 100 games that altogether have sold 220 million units.

The game itself is a side scrolling adventure through the mushroom kingdom. Players take on the role of Mario or with 2 players, Luigi. Depending on which block you hit you can get certain power ups, fire balls, invulnerability or super size. Coins were also placed in blocks and after collecting 100 you got a free life.

It came free with Duck Hunt for most of the original NES systems. So almost everyone got a copy of it.

Along his quest to save the princess, Mario fought turtle shelled Koopa Troopas, mushroom Goombas, snapping pipe pants and a giant lizard named Bowzer. There were other badies, but only my brother took the time to memorize them.

This game introduced gamers to the warp pipe. Basically, hidden in the game are several pipes that skip you ahead in the game to a whole other level. This made it do I could beat the game repeatedly before my brother even got a chance to play Luigi. This was a whole new way of cheating, a legal way to beat the game.

All in all this game is fun and brings back a flood of memories. My only complaint is that recent Mario games have additional power and abilities that I instinctively have tried to do, such as the wall bounce, on the original game.

I used to get in trouble for two reasons with this game.

1. As mentioned earlier, I would be told to play with my little brother and so we took turns playing Super Mario Bros. But I was so good at it and I knew all the warps so well that I could play through game over and over again before giving him a chance to play.

2. My brother and me referred to Mario dying on the game as dying. For example, "oh no, I just died." My Mom got very upset that we joked about life and death at such a young age.

9 out of 10

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Super High Me!

Super High Me.

Don't worry I never heard of it either. Super High Me is a documentary about comedian and pot smoker Doug Benson. The idea: he stops smoking pot for 30 days during which he gets tested for IQ, psychic ability, SAT scores, sperm count and keeps working as a comic. Then for 30 days he repeats everything only he smokes pot all day, everyday.

It is important to note that he lives in California and has a medical marijuana card.

This documentary did bring up some double negatives in the laws. In California it is legal to buy marijuana with a medical card from a licensed dispensary. However, it is against federal law, so the FBI or DEA can close down a legal business, take their stock and arrest the employees. Which happened several times in the documentary.

Interestingly, his test scores on everything but lung  capacity and his math memory test were higher when he was higher.

Not much more to say here except you could tell by his personality when he was high or not. He acted like your drunk buddy. He was funny both high and not, so I didn't see why he thought he needed it so much.

I always wonder where the idea of drugs come from. Trial and error? Do people just think "I wonder what would happen if I do this".

5 out of 10

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Men Who Stare at Goats.

The Men Who Stare at Goats.
Blu Ray and DVD.

It has a silly name but it is well worth watching. Jeff Bridges plays a stoner army colonel who leads an army of hippy soldiers. George Clooney plays a psychically trained soldier, who was once the number one psychic in the military. As the story progresses, he tries to convince reporter Ewan McGregor that he is a real life Jedi warrior.

The casting of McGregor as a doubting reporter was a giant nod to the audience as he is famous for playing a Jedi warrior.

This was based off of a true story about the military creating an army of hippy, psychic warriors that would change the world with peace and not lethal weapons. The previews made it seem like a comedy and while there are funny parts, it is more in the situations and the acting than in the jokes.

The story of the psychic army was told in flashback as Ewan and George travel through Iraq during the initial American occupation.

The fact that this is a actual true story that took place just a short time ago makes you really think. Some of the things, such as Barney music being played 24 hours a day to torture prisioners, I remembered hearing about in the news.

Kevin Spacey played the role he seems best at; a guy with his own agenda who doesn't care for authority.

On a side note my Safeway club card is registered under the name of Ewan McGregor.

7 out of 10

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
DVD and Blu ray.

There can never be another actor who plays Wolverine as well as Hugh Jackman. For decades people will identify him as this character. In fact, he helped redefine the whole comic to movie experience and legitimized actors playing (what some might consider) a role for children.

Hugh Jackman looks younger now and is in better shape than he was ten years ago for the original X-Men movie. His face has aged a little, but you can hardly tell he’s as old as he is.

As a reader of the comics, I already knew a lot about Wolverine's origins {read the “Wolverine: Origins,” graphic novel}. But like the X-men movie series it was its own creation. Basically the X-men movies made their own version of the mythos and that's where this movie ties in.

It is loosely based on the Wolverine Origin comic series, but altered to fit the movie series. Which is okay in the big picture, because the comics get more detailed and go into much greater depth than can be translated into a two-hour movie. Plus, it was a prequel to the trilogy already in place. The only really obvious thing changed from comic to movie was the fact that Victor and Logan are now brothers. In the comic Logan had a older brother (not Victor) that also has claws but was assumed dead. He comes back to find Logan years later.

This movie serves not only as a prequel to the X-men movie series but as a start of a new series of movies. Wolverine 2 is coming out in 2012, X-men Origins: The First Class in 2011 and Deadpool also in 2012.

We see Wolverine, or as he is called for most of the movie James, Jimmy or Logan, through the years in the early 1800's. We get to see the emergence of his powers when he was a child. We also see him with his brother Victor fighting every war in the past 150 years up until Vietnam. At this point both Logan and similarly powered Victor get arrested for treason and heal after being executed. They are the recruited into a special ops team full of other mutants. Logan has an ethical issue with their missions and leaves. Years later members of the team are being killed one by one which force Logan to become Wolverine.

A lot happened in this movie and more was explained, like why Logan has no memory past a certain point. There are even a few nods to history like the top secret base being under 3 mile island. This is a better movie then X-men 3: the Last Stand, well worth watching and owning.

It did leave me with one question: What was the deal with Deadpool? Did they just ignore the history of that character and change it for some unknown reason? There was seemingly no reason to drastically change his history. This is the only major thing I saw wrong with the story of this movie and the only hard core reason to not have given this movie a 10.

In the early 90's it was rumored that Wolverine would be played by Harvey Kietel. Scott Bakula was slated to play Cyclops. Lucy Lawless was in talks to be recruited. Rumors about Christian Slater abounded. Luckily that version never came to be. The story centered around Jubilee and Gambit joining the X-men and fighting Sentinals. The plot was based on a similar story to the X-men: Adventures animated tv show.

One Christmas I dressed in a Wolverine costume and put on a Santa hat and called myself Santa Claws. No one laughed. Maybe with the revived popularity this movie has produced. I'd try again this year, but the suit seems to have shrunk. I might need to lose some weight before trying on the spandex again though. Just a little weight.

71/2 out of 10

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Arrested Development: the movie.

Arrested Development: the movie. 
Bluth Watch. 

Will Arnett and David Cross both announced they read what there is of a script and loved it. Apparently it is 75% done. 

Release date 2012. 


Blu Ray and DVD 

Originality is something that is often missing in sequels. After so many failures on the big screen (Predator 2, Aliens vs Predator and Aliens vs Predator 2) it's nice to see movie that doesn't try to rewrite the series or revamp it but stays true to the actual feel of the original. 

I would say, more then anything, that this movie has recharged the series and could easily lead to more movies being made. 

There are several references to the first Predator movie that reminds us how good science fiction horror movies can be. I personally like the use of some of the music from the original. 

Predators starts out when a handful of soldiers and warriors (and Topher Grace) from modern Earth, awaken on another planet which is used as a hunting reserve for the Predators. 

Through the course of the movie we learn that the multinational ethnic group of humans are predators in their own right as one by one they get picked off. There is an awesome sword fight between a predator and a yakuza gang member. Another fight between a regular predator and the newer, superior, 2nd kind of predator was neat too. 

I've really got to compliment whoever did the mask effects for the predators. It was very real and if computer effects was used I couldn't tell. 

That being said... the casting wasn't so great. I never could really believe Adrien Brody as a hero. Laurence Fishburne plays a crazy multi-personality survivor from a hunt years earlier and did a fairly decent job. Danny Trejo aka Machette plays Danny Trejo. Topher Grace played the same character from That 70's show except for him being a psychopath. 

One thing I was hoping for was a little more explanation about the Predators. How does a society that worships hunting and killing build and maintain spaceships? Someone has to build stuff. How did that society evolve? How do they communicate with each other? How does a species that can only see in shades of infrared travel through space? An Alien prequel is in the works that if supposed to fill in some gaps and connect the two series even more. 

As I write this Predators 2 has been announced. Sure to be more Predators than Chris Hansen can catch. 

If you loved the Predator movies you'll love this one. This brings back the feel of the first movie big time. 

7 out of 10

Monday, December 6, 2010

Year One.

Year One.
Blu Ray and DVD.

I was told by my editor (wife) that this was the worst movie ever made and that I shouldn't watch it because it was so stupid. That being said, I watched it anyway.

Year One was written and directed by Harold Ramis, writer, director and actor of the Ghostbusters movies. He played Egon and is a genuinely funny guy.

This movie stars Jack Black and Michael Cera in their typecast roles of fat loud mouthed loser and shy nerdy loser. The only thing that differentiates this from a typical Black or Cera movie is that it is set in biblical times. David Cross was hilarious as Cain, from the story of Cain and Abel. But that's about it for the hilarity.

The story is about two cavemen that get banished from their village and must go out into the world at the beginning of recorded history. At first they just wander, but eventually run into others of their tribe that are now slaves. Their attempts to save them ends disastrous. During their journey they run into Cain and Abel and end up in Sodom after meeting Isaac and his son.

Both Black and Cera play roles that they are very comfortable with. Here's the real problem: on paper this movie sounds great but on film it doesn't work so well. It felt like the movie had a lot of backing, but was rushed through.

There's a lot of toilet humor and sex jokes all throughout the movie. I will be honest, I laughed a couple times.

This movie could have been great. While it is not the best comedy I have seen it is not the worst. I'd say skip this movie. Next time I might listen to my wife (hmm... probably not).

3 out of 10.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Book of Eli.

The Book of Eli. 
DVD and Blu Ray. 

This movie walks a thin line between science fiction, apocalyptic survival horror and religion. The story is set some thirty years after a war opened a hole in the atmosphere which let the sun burn everything for about a year. The hole also caused a blinding flash which took away the eyesight of many survivors.  Those that survived underground or other safe places tried to rebuild but they had no foundations to build on. Society blamed religion and burned all of the bibles, hence the Book of Eli. 

Denzel Washington hasn't seemed to age in the last decade and kicks some butt fighting gang trash. He stays true to character and on mission to his goal of heading west with the book he reads from everyday. 

Gary Oldman plays the villain, a abusive minor king of a small kingdom he pieced together from his knowledge of fresh water springs. Oldman himself seems to be weathered in this movie and practically has a roadmap of lines on his face. 

During his journey west Eli meets bikers, cannibals and Malcom McDowell with what might be the world's worst wig. He also gets stuck with a side kick played by Mila Kunis, it was a interchangeable role that anyone could have done. Mila Kunis has obviously had some acting lesson since that 70's show which was an improvement.

The ending was surprising and makes watching Eli's journey (and how Denzel Washington handles the secrets we learn about him) worth rewatching. 

Eli's quest and book are religious in nature. All he had to go off of was his faith. It was not preachy, which is nice for those that are not to religious. 

8 out of 10

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Robin Hood.

Robin Hood
DVD and Blu ray

There are more the a few Robin Hood movies and tv series. Pretty much everyone knows the story of Robin of Loxley fighting corruption, the Sherriff of Nottingham and Prince John. 

This time around we see Robin Hood now with the last name Longstride. A simple archer in the crusades, he fight in a couple engagements as King Richard's army makes it's way from the middle east back to England. Only to find that France is trying to kill the king. The whole mess makes the king's brother, Richard, into king who spends the majority of the movie demanding late tax payments.  

This Robin Hood is a whole new twist on the story with additions of actually history such as the Magna Carta Dukes and the crusades. 

Russell Crowe was okay as the title character, it just seems he played the Gladiator in a different outfit.  Maid Marion was hardly used as a character while all other versions have her as a major player. 

I would have liked to see more of the merry men. Little John, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet are there but more as a background filler. The only view of the rest of the merry men was at the end when Robin Hood lives with the outlaws in the forest. 

From the get go this movie had script problems and was being rewritten even as filming was done. This is an okay movie to rent at a Redbox or Netflix when you have nothing else more important to watch. 

6 out of 10

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Saw: the complete series.

Saw: the complete series. 
DVD and Blu ray 

Saw 1 is probably one of he most important physiological thrillers of all time. It's only problem? They made Saw 2. Saw 3 was the movie Saw 2 should have been. It started a formula that the next 4 followed which made the series stale. The formula: finish the cliffhanger from the last movie, run a new game, show a little back story, finish the game, then leave us with another cliffhanger. 

Jigsaw kidnaps people whom he sees as lost or people who don't appreciate life, drug addicts, liars, cheaters, etc., and puts a choice in front of them. For instance, someone who cuts themselves for fun being forced to go through a room of barb wire within an allotted time or being trapped forever. These games can be with just one person or whole groups and in the case of Saw 6 a whole office. 

Jigsaw himself dies in the 3rd movie but is kept alive through flashbacks. After he dies his vision is kept alive by his students who continue his "work" by instructions left before his death. They also throw in his ex-wife who appears to be just as crazy. 

Saw 4 was the last one that really stayed true to the original feel. The final 3 felt tacked on and rushed. Instead of people learning lesions they were just being killed without hope of escape. It seems that after the main people get killed then everyone else involved no matter how insignificant are killed in later movies. Look out if you charged Jigsaw a rewind fee from the video rental store in the late 80's. 

All in all, these are some pretty decent scary movies. Psychological thrillers are far more scary than slasher flicks. Until the last couple movies you never really see a lot of gore, you always saw the before or after effect. 

Saw 7 is supposed to be the last of the series. It too ends in a pretty big cliffhanger. The fate of the Saw series is up in the air, but it does continue in two video games which take place after the first and second movies. 

What happened after Saw 1, not to mention the fate of those involved, was stretched out over the entire series and was a nice note to end on.  

7 out of 10

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Star Trek: the movie.

Star Trek. 
DVD and Blu-Ray. 

It is no secret I like science fiction. Star Trek is based on a little known tv series from the 60's. I have never been that obsessed with Star Trek but I know many who are. I did watch the tv shows, and all the movies. I even read a couple books. But I prefer Star Wars much more. 

This movie takes place before the original tv series and movies but after the Enterprise series and the First Contact movie, which I am sure has made true fans very angry and confused. The original crew is recast with younger, fresher (and alive) actors, with the exception of old Spock. 

A major plot point brings the villains and an elderly Spock backwards in time. This causes an alternate reality which changes several major plot points from the rest of the series. People die and planets are destroyed that play major roles in the later series.

While I am not against series reboots I think they should respect the earlier material. I like the Dark Knight movie but hated that it negated the Batman movie series with Michael Keaton. I also cringe at the new reboots of Spiderman and Superman. Why can't movies continue the series? I liked the incredible Hulk movie with Edward Norton because maybe 30 seconds was about the origins and the rest on new stuff. The same can be said for Superman Returns. 

That being said I guess you can adapt the changes to fit the 1,000 some tv shows, movies, comics and books to fit the new timeline. Like maybe Spock's dad gets remarried to a human also named Amanda. 
Maybe they find a new planet and call it Vulcan. Maybe all the stuff Kirk said he did before he was captain happened while he was a cadet. 

This is a good space movie with a lot of action, fighting and humor. The best thing about it is the they made space big and scary again. Often times sci-fi movies aren't so much about the vastness and unexpectedness of space and more about just fighting. 

For being CGI the special effects were great. The scenery was familiar, but fresh. Learning the back stories of such beloved characters was very memorable. The opening battle was quick and devastating, setting a darker serious tone throughout the movie. 

The re-casting was alright, though it is hard to imagine such icons of the screen played by different people. The actor who played Spock was almost perfect. 

The movie was fun, fast paced and exciting. The deleted scenes were great and should have been left in.  It left me wanting more. 

This is key, the only way to save the entire series is if they do not remake any of the old shows or movies with the new cast, it would ruin 45 years of stories. 

On a side note I was at a store and saw a kid of about 12 get excited when he saw the original series of Star Trek on DVD.  He said "they made a tv show of that movie, awesome!"

9 of 10. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Goonies. 25th anniversary edition.

Goonies. 25th anniversary edition. 
DVD and Blu-Ray. 

It's hard to believe that 25 years have gone by since its theatrical stint.  A special edition with a board game and memorabilia was recently released. 

The Goonies is a very 80's movie. But it was done in a way that makes it not so obvious and watchable. Nothing is worse then a movie lost in time (see Wayne's World review).
The plot follows a group of kids who's families are about to lose their homes. They stumble upon a underground labyrinth with  
booby-trapped pirate treasure while being followed by the Tortelis crime family. 

This movie created the nickname Chunk and added the truffle shuffle to our vocabulary. I laugh everytime I watch Chunk declare all the things he's ever done bad in his life.It also marks the last time Cyndi Lauper had a steady paycheck. 

It is still fun to watch and continues to make me laugh all these years later. I also like how realistic the plot seems, living in Coos Bay when this movie came out I was constantly looking for pirate treasure. This movie remains a classic and is well worth buying on Blu-Ray. 

Goonies 2 is in the works and is scheduled to come out in 2 years. There was a big online outcry over the character of Sloth as the actor who played him died many years ago. There was even a petition to stop Goonies 2 with 2,000 names on it. 

8 of 10

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lost: the complete series.

Lost: the complete series. 

I remember the excitement and build up of the series premiere of Lost. I also remember being very disappointed with it. From the get go it seemed like recycled sci-fi and cliff hangers from 60's tv shows. 
As the end of the series approached, out of boredom (and lack of cable) we started watching Lost from the beginning. At this time everyone was talking about Lost. My sister even had a blog about it. Curious what the big deal was I jumped in pushing aside my past opinions. 
WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!
Here's my summary of season 1-3: people crash, survive on a island. Weird stuff happens, most can be easily explained but no one tries. 
Summary of 4-5: New people are introduced, but die. Some leave the island, a lot die. A ton of time travel, then it never happened. 
Season 6: Everyone is dead. 
I know this will not be a popular opinion, but here's the deal, there is nothing in Lost that couldn't be summed up in a two hour movie. It is cheap recycled sci-fi and mythology. It tricks people into watching by leaving everything a question and answering with more questions. 
If you are really bored and have no cable this could be used to occupy some of your time. Don't get me wrong I was excited to watch season 6 and see if anything gets explained. The writers and producers did a good job
of weaving the stories together and not mashing the whole thing up. Just don't expect a whole lot. 

6 out of 10 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wayne's World

Wayne's World. 20 years later. 

When I was in junior high this movie was big. It spawned countless t-shirts, bad impersonations and a funnier sequel. It temporarily boosted the careers of Mike Myers and Dana Carvey and gave Queen a revival, adding to their fans. It also played a small role in reviving Rob Lowe's career.  To this day my Dad still says "party on Wayne, party on Garth" at random times. For a time Wayne's World was the only reason to watch SNL and the biggest stars appeared in the basement set. Everyone from Madonna to Tom Hanks got to be on screen with Wayne and Garth. 

But much like Austin Powers, years later Wayne and Garth got too much airtime and soon lost it's core audience out of boredom. 

There are some movies that can be watched again and again, like Animal House or Superman, and remain timeless. Goonies is an example of movie that screams 1980's, but they did it right and it can be watched at any time. Stuck in the early 90's, Wayne's World: the story of a local tv show that gets picked up by a major network, mixed with Wayne and Garths' search for love, is a movie lost to time. 

It's references are out-dated and the jokes have been overplayed or have been used more successfully by others. Wayne and Garth are based on stereotypes that no longer exists.  As much as it pains me to say, I can't make it very far into either movie before getting really bored. The past 20 years have not been kind to Wayne and Garth. 

3 of 10


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2. 
Xbox 360

In the game The Force Unleashed we learn about Darth Vader's secret apprentice Starkiller and we get a glimpse into how twisted Darth Vader was. Starkiller was brain washed and tortured to become the perfect Sith only to turn on his master and start the rebellion.  We are also introduced to Lucusarts realistic reallife software.  Where glass functions like glass and metal like metal. Humans are built on a skeleton with muscles and skin built on top. 

When the second game was announced my first thought was "How, Starkiller is dead?" Force Unleashed 2 brings us to the time shortly after Starkiller's death. Vader has cloned his one time apprentice hoping to use him as a weapon to destroy the rebellion Starkiller created in the first game. As the story progresses, Starkiller remembers everything from his previous life but is unsure if he is a clone or real. He goes on a quest to reunite with the woman he loves only to find that Vader has her prisoner. 

The force powers in this game are on steroids. Starkiller has no limit to his abilities. Because he is not the same being from the first game he looks a little fresher and uses his powers differently. Mind control now makes an entire group of stormtroopers turn on their fellow troopers or makes then realize that they are on the wrong side and kill themselves. Another new addition is that Starkiller has two lightsabers and can sever the limbs from his enemies. 

The bad news, about halfway into this game it started screaming "to be continued." The game was way too short, about half the length of the first and didn't have nearly as much animation as the first. There is a separate story that can be unlocked after defeating the training challenges dealing with another Starkiller clone. It felt tacked on and not really important. 

There is a cut scene with Yoda that mirrors what happens to Luke years later on Dagaboh.  Also, the awesomeness of fighting Darth Vader in the middle of a lightning storm on Kamino was one of the greatest moments in Star Wars gaming history. You can really wail on him with unlimited force powers during that final battle. 

Unfortunately, at the release of this game all production on The Force Unleashed 3 stopped and the writers, producers and actors were let go. So the future doesn't look so bright. 

8 of 10. 


Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda.
Classic review.

Next to the Super Mario Bros. the original Zelda game ranks amongst the best and most memorable of all the original Nintendo games. Since its release 25 years ago, it has spawned 15 sequels and is the number 4 selling series in Nintendo history.
Originally, I stayed away from the Zelda series, being a loyal Mario fan. But soon after Super Mario Bros. 2 came out I tried the Legend of Zelda and instantly loved the game.
It was the first game I played were how you play and what you do actually effects the gameplay. It had a map that let you go anywhere you wanted which was unheard of at the time. Even now, I still need help finding all the castles and hidden secrets.
Fun tip: Try entering the name of Zelda at the registration it starts you out on the second quest.
Fun fact: For nearly 5 years, I have used a wallet that has the above ground map printed on it.
This game has lasting power. It is, in my opinion, one of the greatest and most playable games of all time.

9 of 10.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dead Rising 2

Dead Rising 2. 
Xbox 360

Dead Rising was one of the original games for the 360. It's premise: you're a photojournalist stuck in a fully stocked mall filled with flesh eating zombies. You have three days to survive and unlock the full story.  You have access to something like 3,000 different weapons ranging from salmon to lawnmowers. 
Dead Rising 2 takes place several years after the first. Zombies are common place. Gameshows are made where contestants race motorcycles with chainsaws attached into crowds of zombies for money. You play a character named Chuck, who is one of these racers. This game has more weapons and more moves then the first. 
The gameplay is the same, the story is similar, but there is no camera. 
What 1 and 2 both need badly, is an autosave. The save points are few and far between and you could spend an hour fighting the bosses and leveling up only to die before reaching a save point. Keeping your health up after a fight is not so easy. 
Two new additions to the game make it very playable. The first one is combining two weapons into one super weapon such as taking boxing gloves and taping Bowie knives to them to make the equivalent of Wolverine claws. The second being the able to race and kill zombies online to get money and special weapons. 
In this storyline, Chuck has a daughter who needs daily shots of zombrex, a zombie anitvenom, to keep her from turning into a zombie which is minor annoyance cause you have to find the money to buy the meds. 
This is great game series and number 2 keeps the action alive.  If you like killing hordes of zombie while gambling and fighting psychotic humans this is for you. 

8 out of 10


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Some changes this week. I will now be using a 10 point rating system instead of the 5 point I have been using. This will give me a wider range of review scores. Starting this week I will have classic reviews, which are reviews of things that gave been out for awhile. 

This is a list of upcoming reviews. 
1. Dead Rising 2. Xbox 360. 
2. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2. Book. 
3. Lost: the complete series. DVD. 
4. Washington: the making of a capital. Book
5. Bloody Crimes: the search for Jefferson Davis. Book
6.  Duke Nukem 3d. iPhone game. 
7. Angry birds. iPhone game. 
8. The search for Einstein's daughter. Book. 
9. Jackass 3-d. Movie. 
10. Saw 7 and the complete saw series. Movie. 
Feel free to send me suggestions on what to review. 


The Children of Hurin. By Jrr. Tolkien.

The Children of Hurin
By J.R.R. Tolkien

There seem to be an awful lot of books being released after someone dies. Here is a short list of authors and how long after they died a new book was release. Below is a small list of authors and the years after their deaths were the books published. 
1. Michael Crichton, 1 and 3 years. 
2. Stieg Larsen, 4, 5 and 6 years. 
2. Truman Capote, 20 years. 
3. Frank Herbert, 21 years. 
4. J.R.R. Tolkien, a whopping 31 books from 2 to 36 years. 
5. Mark Twain, 91 and 100 years. 

I call this the Tupac syndrome. He died in the mid 90's and is still releasing albums at a rate that caused people to think that he faked his death. 
Several authors left outlines or unfinished novels which would have been sequel to their masterpieces.  Bram Stoker and Frank Herbert are two of note. 

The Children of Hurin was pieced together from different sources and notes of Tolkien's... and it felt like it. The story took place 6,000 years before the Hobbit and mainly featured elves, humans and ogres. 
Morgoth, the evil lord who teaches Sauron, captures Hurin, the human leader of an army sent to overthrow him. Hurin so angers Morgoth that in retaliation he curses him to forever see what will happen to his children but be powerless to react or intervene.
Turin (Hurin's son) leaves home and starts a series of adventures where he goes from nothing to a leader or royalty. But always his anger cost him everything. He did this for about 30, leaving his mother and sister in destitute. 
At it's core it is a good story but it lacked the refined feel of a finished novel. Other then the elves, it didn't really feel like it belong in the Lord of the Rings series. 


6 of 10. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Last Days of Krypton

The Last Days of Krypton.
By Kevin J. Anderson.

It is a little known secret that I know more about Superman then most other types of Sci-fi. I don't have a collection of comics or action figures. But I do have more then one superman shirts, one normal and one black, and all 6 of the live action movies in hi-def.
I do wear Clark Kent glasses, that's just a coincidence. (or is it?) I did once jump a building in a single bound, it was in Canada. You probably didn't hear about it, I wouldn't look it up either because no one who could write was there.
"The Last Days of Krypton" takes place a year before Kal-El's birth and his inevitable trip to Earth. Disaster after disaster strikes Krypton leaving the state commissioner Zod the only elected official left alive. Through Zod's trickery and egotism he tries to take over the planet tricking millions Jor-El amongst them. This book paints every character in a new light. Zod is seen at first as a savior then an over protective parent figure then extremely paranoid but never the mega villain he becomes.
Jor-El finds and prevents a series of natural disasters. Each time the threat is great and the time to prevent it less and less. The technology and inventions that he creates are used unknowingly as weapons to keep down rebellion against Zod. By the end of the story Jor-El is seen as the boy who cried wolf for his made up disasters to make Zod weapons and not as the upstanding scientist he has always been written as.
There is not much action in this book. It is very political a major of it is discussion by the government or about the government. It is interesting how Jor-El runs his city state and how the ruling council works if you like reading about the government of ancient Rome with modern technology.
I missed a ah-hah moment where some unknown fact was revealed or the story tied into more events on Earth or in Superman's life. There really wasn't much to tie into the superman mythos that I really wanted.

2 1/2 of 5


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Transformers: the War for Cybertron

Transformers: War for Cybertron. 
Xbox 360

This is the ultimate game for fans of generation 1 Transformers. In the 90's I spent many days trying to find Transformers on video, this was before DVD and before eBay became  accessible. At every garage sale or second hand store I searched for the old toys. I wont deny my love dor the original series. 

There have  been 5 or 6 Transformers games since the original on Nintendo. They were all hard to control and it was even harder and annoying to make them transform. The graphic were always terrible and the story was hard to follow and often pointless. You would waste time fighting generic overused villains. 

When you play a transformers you want to blow things up, punch Decepticons and transform. You want to fight evil, see character from the shows and most of all play as Optimus Prime. 

The game has it all. It is the story of how Megatron rose to power, corrupted Cybertron, started the war and united the Deceptions. On the Autobots side it tells of how Optimus Prime met a currier named Bumblebee, what happened to the other Primes, how he became the Autobots leader, what the matrix of leadership is and how it came to be and why they all left Cybertron in the first place (it wasn't to chase some cube through space. Sorry Michael Bay.)

The CG cinematic are great, the one button transform is wonderfull. The game play and the endless customization is amazing. The fact that you can choose multiple character for each land and that they have voiced banter makes it seem like you are a part of the action. 

The game is gritty and you get a good feel of what it's like to be in the middle of the Cybertron    war. You feel like a soldier, a robot soldier but still a soldier. 

The action is nonstop and the voice acting is most of the original cast. Yes, even Bumblebee talks. There is always something to shoot of someone to save. Lands require both humanoid form and vehicle forms, both pack weapons and handle very well. 

The designers used the unreal engine so the gameplay is easy to use. Some genius, I use that in a good way, decided to make some of the lesser known characters playable. When playing as Bumblebee or Starscream gets boring it's nice to play as characters Warpath or Silverbolt. Each character design is unique which is a relief since most games just use the same movements and actions and slap another character's shell over it.  

This is the game hardcore fans of the original series has been waiting for. Fans of the live action movies may find the story a little confusing, but fans of the 80's tv show and 1987 cartoon movie (they use the universal greeting) should love it. 

9 of 10

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Weezer: Hurley.

Weezer: Hurley.

About 5 years ago we decided to get rid of our Cd's, they take up so much space. With MP3s what's the point. We ripped them onto the computer and sold the majority. The only ones I kept were three from Sublime and all the previous Weezer Cd's.
They consistently are good, they are the only band from the 90's that are legitimately competing with modern bands and still making hits. Their sound has evolved but has remained true to it's original feel.
Before listening to Hurley I read the info page of the booklet. Several warning signs appeared. One, the chorus for the first track was sung by the guys from Jackass, while the guitar was by Chris Pontius aka party boy.
Two, Michael Cera sings and plays the flute on another track. Hearing him sing at the end of Juno made me afraid.
But after listening to the album the songs became catchy and you really didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.
This is a really good album. Not the best but solid with at least three memorable songs. Unfairly, if you download it from itunes it comes with three new songs and a cover of a Coldplay song.

Definetly worth listening to.

4 out of 5.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Things to avoid when reading

4 things to watch out for when reading.

1. Jeffrey Deaver. He has written a ton of mystery crime novels about Lincoln Child a quadriplegic genius detective. One of the first ones "the Bonecollecter" was made into a movie with Angelina Jolie and Denzel Washington. Sounds like the perfect combos of a very active author and the start of a movie series.
Here's the problem. Each book was around 8 to 9 hundred pages long, which is not bad, but half of those pages were repetitive and written like a kindergartner. His over enunciation of events clouds the mind into not realizing they are reading the same thing over and over again.
Here's an example, "the rain came down cold. It was cold and wet and it came from the sky. The wet cold rain didn't bug him, but it came down in cold drops from the sky."
2. Any book based on a movie that was based on a book, but had very little to do with the original story. Ones to avoid, the box, Total Recall, Planet of the Apes.
3. Aaron Allston. A sci-fi writer who is so self absorbed in his own creations that he has almost single handedly destroyed the star wars series. Somehow he got appointed in charge of the books and comics about 5 years ago and has taken the whole series from something to respect because you could always say that star wars was the cool sci-fi, to something to avoid altogether for it's strange turn of events.
4. Any book that compares itself to famous books or other authors. This is especially true when the comparison is before the title or in larger print. Avoid words and phrases like "writing in the style of," or "a companion too" or "as good as."
Quotes from famous authors or celebrities on the back cover can be a warning sign, but not always. Sometimes it helps decode a confusing title.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Blood Diamond.

Blood Diamond. By Greg Campbell.

I picked this book up simply out of boredom. It is the true story of the diamond trade. Millions have been killed or mutilated to get the relatively common stone. A single diamond company has controlled the diamond market for almost two hundred years. Restricting the trade and sale for all that time, by only ever allowing 10% of the stock ever to go to market they now have the largest world supplies of diamonds and sell to the public. It was shocking to learn the truth about diamonds, and how they cause social unrest, wars and rebellions in Africa. This is one of those stories about something that seems so pure and symbolic but in truth is a hideous mess. I definitely want to reread this book.

9 out of 10.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Prey. By Michael Crichton.

Those who know my reading history know that I love Crichton books. But for some unknown reason I stopped about 5 books ago. To be honest I was a little disapointed. A computer company creates self aware microscopic nanites which evolve into a new form of life that wants to hunt and kill others forms of life. Until a scientist who comes to work on the nanites figures out a way to stop them. It's basically Jurassic Park, but without dinosaurs. It was classic but recycled Crichton.

3 of 10.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Gunseller.

The Gunseller. By Hugh Laurie.

Yes that's Hugh Laurie from "House". This book read like a movie, it was quick and witty. You could picture a younger Laurie cast as the lead with Stephan Fry as hid government contact. The story was a familar story a skilled conman tricked into doing one job while being framed for another, then the whole thing straightens out at the end with conman as hero. The writing was clever the one liners memorable and the character descriptions brilliantly worded. This is definetly in my reread pile.

7 out of 10.