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All reviews - Movies (3) - TV Shows (1) - DVDs (28) - Music (12) - Games (5)

A mostly mediocre ensemble film

Posted : 4 years, 1 month ago on 30 July 2015 07:19 (A review of International House (1933))

The plot, such as it is, involves a Chinese inventor coming up with a way to project live images from around the world in real-time without the need for any sort of broadcast equipment. It's mainly just an excuse to bring an ensemble cast together to do their schtick. It makes for mildly entertaining fluff. There are a few memorable scenes with W.C. Fields and Burns & Allen, but on the whole this is nowhere near essential viewing for fans of either. 5/10

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Posted : 8 years, 1 month ago on 3 August 2011 01:32 (A review of Fantastic Mr. Fox)

Director/screenwriter Wes Anderson and co-screenwriter Noah Baumbach have adapted Roald Dahl's classic children's book for the screen and have created an utterly charming film, as entertaining for adults as it is for children-- perhaps even moreso. Those familiar with Anderson and Baumbach's previous work (most notably "Rushmore" and "The Squid and the Whale", respectively) will feel right at home with this quirky cast of characters even if they are stop-motion animated anthropomorphized animals. Definitely worth owning. The clever writing and interesting visual style make this film worth repeat viewings.

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funny concept, bland execution

Posted : 8 years, 1 month ago on 1 August 2011 05:23 (A review of The Men Who Stare at Goats)

I wanted to like "The Men Who Stare at Goats" a lot. It has a great cast and a funny premise based (loosely) on true events. But the final product is a somewhat bland screwball comedy.

I blame the screenwriter. Clooney and McGregor, in particular, make the most with what they've got to work with, but the writing is just not funny enough to make up for the fact that the plot is almost non-existent. To make matters worse, the constant flashbacks that interrupt the first 2/3rds of the film kill the tension and slow the momentum of what little plot there is to a crawl. These flashbacks are supposed to set up the conflict in the final 1/3rd of the film, but they're mostly just a series of repetitious sight gags (ie, scene after scene of soldiers acting silly).

"The Men Who Stare at Goats" isn't a BAD film, but it's certainly not as good as it could be-- and, with this level of talent involved, should be.

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Worth the price.

Posted : 8 years, 5 months ago on 19 April 2011 06:54 (A review of Logitech PS3 / PS2 Wireless Guitar Controller)

This thing originally listed for something like $200, which is ridiculous. At the price I paid-- around $75-- it's worth picking up.

It's got soft (but not mushy) buttons and a smooth neck that makes sliding your hand/fingers around effortless. The strum bar doesn't click loudly like the classic Guitar Hero controllers, but there is some slight aural and tactile feedback, unlike the completely smooth/silent Rock Band guitar strum bar.

And the thing is built like a tank. Solid wood neck, and (I think) an aluminum body. It has the weight and feel of an actual small electric guitar.

It's wireless, with a USB dongle that works for the PS2 and PS3.

I've been using it for a few months now, maybe 10-15 hours per week, and it still works like new. Still using the original set of included AA batteries, too!

If it does end up breaking, though, I'll definitely buy another.

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Easy to learn, fun to play, but a little shallow.

Posted : 8 years, 8 months ago on 11 January 2011 06:51 (A review of Midnight Club: Los Angeles - Complete Edition)

I am not a fan of driving sims like Forza and Gran Turismo. I don't have any interest in having to spend hours mastering the subtle intricacies of each model car that's available, as the slightest error on the track means complete disaster. (To be clear, I'm not passing judgment on those games or the people who play them, it's just not my cup o' tea.)

I prefer "arcade" racers, like Midnight Club: Los Angeles. I love being able to scream around corners at 100mph, shrugging off collisions with light poles and trees, smashing into oncoming traffic and buildings and still having a chance to come from behind and win. So, yeah, aside from the impressive graphics, there's very little approaching realism here. And I like it that way.

But the easy of play also means it's easy to get a just a little bored with it after a while. There's a nice variety of race types, locations, cars, and opponents, but ultimately it always comes down the same thing: keep your foot to the floor and (almost) never let up. There's some strategy involved in choosing the right car (that is, generally, the fastest available) and finding/remembering shortcuts around the city, but that's about it.

All in all, Midnight Club: Los Angeles is a fun and very accessible game, well worth the (as of 1/11/11) $20 asking price.

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Be prepared to milk the EA cash cow.

Posted : 8 years, 9 months ago on 19 December 2010 05:53 (A review of Rock Band 3)

The Rock Band game engine has been greatly improved in Rock Band 3. You've got more instruments, "Pro" modes, faster load times, more sorting options for songs, and the list goes on and on.

Where the game is somewhat disappointing is in song selection. You get about 80 songs of middling quality. Rock Band 1 and 2 had fewer songs, but they were better quality overall. Luckily there are plenty of awesome tracks to download from the Rock Band store, but of course you have to pay extra for those.

And, if you don't already have instruments from Rock Band 1 or 2, you'll have to buy those separately, too, and they are not cheap. Except for a keyboard, no bundles are available yet for Rock Band 3.

All-in-all, a worthwhile update to the series. Just be prepared to spend a couple hundred extra for better songs and instruments.


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cheesy, but knows its place

Posted : 8 years, 9 months ago on 2 December 2010 09:58 (A review of Darkman)

In the opening scenes, a man's wooden leg is removed and revealed to be a machine gun, and a baddie has his fingers chopped off with a cigar cutter. Sam Raimi's Darkman, made after his Evil Dead films and before his Spiderman ones, is pulp comic fun.

Liam Neeson (!) with an awful American accent (!!!) plays the title character, is a scientist who is brutally beaten and left for dead by thugs who want his valuable real estate. Or something. His ordeal leaves him with super strength. Somehow. But it also results in him losing most of the skin on his body. This annoys him, because he knows his girlfriend ain't gonna want no lovin' from a deep-friend freak. Luckily, Neeson's field of study was in skin regeneration so he can build himself a new face-- multiple faces, in fact, which will allow him to score with the ladies again AND take his revenge.

Raimi's got an eye for exciting visuals, of course, so the film is fun to watch. You can tell it was made relatively cheaply and the story is ludicrous, but everyone involved knows this and so it's somewhat forgivable.

If you like laughing along with cheesy movies it's worth a rental. I think I actually bought it for $5 new a few years ago and it's probably worth that.

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Good, not great.

Posted : 8 years, 9 months ago on 1 December 2010 05:24 (A review of Final Fantasy XIII)

Let me start by saying I enjoy playing FFXIII. Story and character-wise, it's a HUGE step up from the disaster that was FFXII, IMO. Unfortunately, it's inferior to previous Final Fantasy games in most other ways.

As you have no doubt already heard-- even from negative reviews-- the visuals are fantastic. What's not so fantastic is the extremely linear gameplay through the first 4/5ths of the game. You're basically always running is a straight line, only doubling back when you need to grind for experience (CP) or farm for drops (to sell for gil). There are no mini-games or sidequests until late in the game either.

Character building is similarly linear. You don't really have a choice in what abilities your character specializes in. Even late in the game when you're given the option to take on new roles, the CP cost is so high that unless you want to grind for another 20 hours you probably won't bother. Of course, if you want to upgrade your weapons and accessories in any sort of meaningful way, you'll be forced to grind for hours on end anyway.

The upside to all this linearity, though, is that the story is focused like a laser beam. In that respect it's really more like a playable movie than a true role-playing game.

Battles are pretty easy. The "auto-battle" feature does a decent job selecting the right abilities to use in any given situation. All you really have to do as a player is decide when juggle between attack, buff, debuff, and healing paradigms during the more difficult battles.

I do really like the fact that characters healed and revived after each battle, though, as having to manage a large inventory of potions, elixirs, various status ailment cures during a dungeon crawl in an RPG is usually just tedious since most games (including previous FF games) made these items easily and cheaply available from shops anyway.

The game is worth playing for the story and the eye-candy, but don't expect a lot of choice, customization, or exploration.

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Faust [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] review

Posted : 9 years, 2 months ago on 17 July 2010 07:19 (A review of Faust [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC])

A visually inventive film. For a studio-bound production made almost a century ago, this feels very big thanks to the expert production design and photography. The lighting, in particular, is quite impressive and plays a large part in making this a believable world. The film starts out very creepy, then gets a bit lighthearted, and ends on a bittersweet note. The actors make the principle characters endearing-- even the demon Mephisto! The plot meanders at times (I'm thinking specifically of the lingering opening shots of obvious models, and a too long magic carpet--er, cape ride, and the seemingly endless courtship scene), but not so much that you lose interest.

The version I have is the Kino 116 minute single-disc version. The picture quality is as well as can be expected for something this old. The orchestral soundtrack composed for the film is very good.

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stylish Japanese neo-noir

Posted : 9 years, 2 months ago on 28 June 2010 04:45 (A review of Maiku Hama Private Eye Trilogy (The Most Terrible Time in My Life/The Stairway to the Distant Past/T)

Masatoshi Nagase is brilliant as the the lead, Maiku Hama (his real name), a stylish private eye whose office in the projection room of a Yokohama cinema. Once a juvenile delinquent, he now hunts missing persons (and pets) in the hopes of earning enough money to send his little sister to a good college. While there's definitely quite a bit of comedy in the films, the stories are pulp to their core and, in the detective noir tradition, what begin as simple cases become ever more dangerous and complex for Maiku. With the help of his friends and fellow private eyes (and with little to no assistance from the mostly crooked police), Maiku will have to face Japanese gangs and crazed killers, and success is far from guaranteed.

The photography is well done. It's at once modern and faithful to the film noir style. Unfortunately, it's let down by the DVD transfer. The picture is grainy and washed out.

Aside from short written bios and filmographies of the writer, director, and lead actors, there are no special features to speak of.

Spoken language is Japanese with optional English subtitles.

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