Tuesday, January 15, 2008


For fans of the Die Hard series, this is a no-brainer. Get this movie! For those who aren't loyalists, read on.

To this point we have had three opportunities to peek in on the crazy life of John McClane. And each time he played the character, Bruce Willis was spectacular, giving life to the renegade cop.

Of course it helped that he had good scripts to work with. I have yet to see a construction company, no matter how good, build a house out of toothpicks, napkins and super glue. Without the proper materials, even masters can't create a work of art. And make no mistake, Willis is a master.

For Willis, "Live Free or Die Hard" seems no different. He is again believable in the role of McClane and you will once again find yourself pulling for New York's toughest cop, especially when his family gets involved.

A common theme in the series has been McClane's on/off relationship with his wife, Holly Gennaro. In "LFDH," just like the third installment of the "Die Hard" franchise, there's a mention of Holly, now McClane's ex-wife, but she does not make an appearance. But that's not the end of the family angle.

The beginning of the film shows Willis' tough guy as a warm, caring parent. Ok, so he's spying on Lucy, his daughter, while she is out with a guy. The scene is fairly short, but it does add a little humor and solidifies McClane's concern for his child. It also hints that the girl will be a factor in the film. Lucy isn't necessarily important as an individual, but the character will be a bargaining chip for the bad guys, much like her mother was in the first movie.
After the encounter with his daughter, McClane gets a call to pick up a hacker that may be linked to numerous system malfunctions affecting Washington, DC. The actor, Justin Long, portraying hacker Matt Farrell is a believable fit being that he's also the Apple Mac guy from the commercials. While performing what seems to be a routine task, total chaos breaks out and McClane is caught in what seems to be a war zone. At this point he realizes it's going to be another one of those days, he just doesn't realize what he's up against.

The villains in this film have decided to engage the U.S. Government in some computer warfare. The main enemy is Thomas Gabriel, played by Timothy Olyphant (who looks a little like Ryan Seacrest). He is an unrivaled computer genius. He also is a former government employee holding a serious grudge. Of course, any criminal in a "Die Hard" movie has help and Gabriel is no different. Maggie Q plays Mai, Gabriel's main accomplice and love interest (hey, even bad guys need to be loved). She's also the one who will give John McClane one of the worst beatings of his life.

Supercop, accompanied by the brainy Farrell, spends almost the entire film trying to track down the bad guys trying to destroy the country. At times his travels seem to be a little unrealistic, but in a Die Hard flick you have to be willing to allow for creative license...lots of it. Of course that's part of the beauty of these films. They allow you to get totally away from reality and you can simply be entertained.
I'm not going to go into more details because that defeats the purpose of watching a movie. Basically, this is a Die Hard film and, while I don't think it's as good as the first or third installment of the series, it is worth watching and does justice to it's title.
Grade: 8/10
Fans of Die Hard movies will love this one. If you're not a fan, you may not be overwhelmed by it, but should still enjoy it. However, if you don't like shoot 'em ups and explosions, you're advised to look elsewhere.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Rumors and hopes of fans existed for years, but a movie starring the Simpsons never seemed to materialize...until this year. And now you can own it on dvd. But, is it worth owning?

I tried not to get my hopes up because things we wish for don't live up to our expectations. Being that I have been watching the Simpsons since their early days, it would have been easy for me anticipate the greatest animated film ever. There's a reason they have been America's favorite dysfunctional family for what seems to be a millions years. But, again, I need to be realistic about this.

The movie started and it didn't take long for me to again be thrilled by the twisted humor of creator Matt Groening as I find myself watching the Simpson family watching a movie. Overly creative? Not really, but it's one of those subtle things that Groening and crew do so well. Now they have to prove that they can continue to produce laughs for almost 90 minutes -- the equivalent of three regular TV episodes.

The story revolves around, what else, Homer screwing up in a big way and trying to make things right. Despite pleas from Lisa and the government in Springfield, Mr. Simpson adds to the pollution in the town's lake (by dumping a silo of poop from a pig he saved earlier in the film) and makes it so toxic that the EPA sees it as a threat to all. As a result, the town is sealed off from the rest of the world. When the other citizens find out that Homer is the cause, they form an angry mob and go after the newest public enemy.

I really don't want to give away too many details because part of the beauty of anything involving the Simpsons is not knowing just what might happen. I want to leave that suspense for the viewers.

Along with the movie, you also get a decent set of extras. I have seen better, but this isn't a set of add-ons that is there just as filler. You should enjoy the deleted scenes, bits from "American Idol," the intro from "The Tonight Show," and well as the commentary from Groening, Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith and others.

Basically, here's what you need to know: if you're a fan of the television show, you should enjoy this dvd. I didn't get my hopes too high, but it probably wouldn't have mattered if I did because this movie probably would have met them. Is it good enough to be ranked with the top episodes of the past? Definitely not. After almost 20 years there are many, many treasures to be found and any movie or TV show will be hard pressed to equal the very best of the series. However, "The Simpsons Movie" provided a fairly continuous stream of funny moments -- some just downright hysterical -- and is very much worth watching. And, if you are a fan, it's definitely worth dropping the $15 or $20 to have this in your video library.

SCORE: 8/10
"The Simpsons Movie" isn't going down as a classic but it provides laughs and plenty of them. Take it for what it is -- an extra long cartoon -- and you should enjoy it. Of course, if you can't stand the Simpsons, maybe you should check out a drama or horror flick.

Rated: PG-13
- Commentary from James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, Al Jean, Mike Scully
- Deleted scenes
- "Special stuff" (includes previously mentioned "American Idol" and "The Tonight Show" clips)
- A lot of trailers

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I am not a musician, although I do play one on TV...in a virtual kind of way. No, I haven't been fitted for any kind of motion technology like the anchors (and Xavier University's Blue Blob) in the ESPN commercials. But I can live out my rock fantasies thanks to Activision/Red Octane and the smoking hot Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.

The concept is simple, which might be why this is such a great game. Basically, you create your virtual musician, join/create a band and, well, rock the crowd. You start out slow, passing some easier tests and earning money, but the ultimate goal is to be a star. That should be obvious. You're not buying this title to pluck the strings for a butt-kicking garage band.

As you play your way to the top, you'll face occasional challenges from level bosses. These are the top dogs who can already rock the house and your goal is to knock them down a peg or two. You need to earn a rep. Battling the pros and surviving will help achieve that goal.

If you want some on-line competition, it's available. You can opt for Face-off, Pro Face-off or Battle modes. Or, if you think your skills need sharpening, feel free to jump into the Training mode. Here you can work on any song you have already accessed in the game and you have the option of playing it at regular speed or trying a slowed down version. Hey, there's no shame in admitting you need work. I'm sure Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page or The Edge weren't masters the first time they hammered the strings!

You have your choice of wired or wireless controllers, with the wireless costing a little extra. The added freedom might be worth a few extra bucks, but you shouldn't feel as if you'll be handcuffed by a wired controller. You still have a pretty good range of movement and it's not like you'll be standing that far away from the screen to begin with. So, basically, both controllers will work, it's just going to come down to a matter of preference.

Five color-coded buttons and a strum bar serve as the strings on the guitars and you also have a whammy bar at your disposal. In order to play songs, you'll have to hit the colored button and the strum bar together as the notes appear on the screen. On easier levels you'll be required to use three of the five colored buttons. It increases to four buttons, then five for the tougher songs. The suggestion here is that you start off at the lower levels if you aren't an established Hero already.

The game has over 70 songs, including tracks by The Who, Guns 'n' Roses, Beastie Boys, Pearl Jam and others. You'll even get to hear the re-united Sex Pistols kick out "Anarchy in the UK," although it's generally believed to be a lesser version of the original. More tracks are also available on-line.

So, are you ready to rock? Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is not a perfect game, but it's pretty close. This isn't a title you play for graphics, strategy or to see things blow up. It's one you throw in the console when you want to shred. Period. And GH3 helps create that opportunity and does it well. You may never be a real rock star, but you can play one on TV.

GAMEPLAY: Terrific. The button layout is great and the response is very good. Battling the bosses doesn't really add much, but it's not really a drawback either. Again, the goal of this game is to let you rock...and you can.

GRAPHICS: Not truly awful, but nothing to get excited about. Some of the characters are just plain ugly. (Of course the argument can probably be made that the same can be said about many real rockers.) With the new breed of consoles, gamers are used to sharper, more realistic graphics than what this game offers. But, if you're buying this game for its looks, you should probably reconsider playing video games at all.

SOUND: Very good. If you're playing on a TV and don't have additional speakers, you'll be forced to really jack up the volume to get totally into it. But, if you pump Guitar Hero III into surround sound, let the concert begin!

EXTRAS: The on-line features offer nothing special. You can access a scoreboard and get into some head-to-head matches, but there's not much to get excited about here.

SCORE: 85%
This game isn't one that I would be comfortable letting young ones get at. It's probably more suited for those in their teens and up due to some song lyrics and a couple of the animations. But, overall, it shouldn't really be considered offensive.

Friday, December 14, 2007


Activision has been publishing hunting and fishing titles for years and they all seem to give gamers a taste of what it's like to be outdoors. The recent release of "Cabela's Big Game Hunter" is no different.

Having played several of the past titles, I tend to agree with the game's claim that this one allows you to take on the most challenging targets yet. That doesn't just mean squaring off with a monstrous bear that wants to rip your face off (and that does happen), it also includes the small animals that run in the fields and dart behind high weeds and boulders. In fact, I would almost prefer taking on one of the giants in the game instead of dealing with the frustration of repeatedly firing shots that land well behind a shifty little animal. Seriously, I probably could have put on a blindfold and had just as much success when I first started playing. Don't get me wrong, it's not a drawback. In fact, it's something that tends to make the game more challenging than many others.
While you're chasing these animals in some of the world's top hunting spots, you'll also be able to unlock hunts and gear. You'll even need to rely on the aid of local guides to bag the biggest game of your hunting career. The box states that the game "may be a virtual adventure, but you'll still need to implement real-life hunting strategies to be successful," and that's pretty true. Obviously it's not the equal of really being in the outdoors, but it's a pretty good option when the real thing isn't possible.
You'll track 24 big-game species (such as elk, moose, mule deer, caribou, and grizzly bear) and have chances to unlock hunts for more than 20 species of small game...you know, the kind that won't threaten your life! In order to bring down whatever prey you are chasing, you'll be able to equip yourself with authentic weapons and gear that provided an impressive level of realism.
For hunters looking to pass the time until they can actually get out into the field, this is an excellent option. You'll feel the pressure of the hunt as you stalk wild animals and, in some cases, as they stalk you. Big Game Hunter won't make you forget about life in the real outdoors, but it's definitely worth playing. For those not at all interested in hunting, real or simulated, you may obviously want to look elsewhere.
GAMEPLAY: Controls are pretty simple and easy to use/understand. Even a casual gamer should have no problem picking up the controller and playing. The realism of Big Game Hunter should allow for entertaining hunts and a title that has lasting power.
GRAPHICS: The look of this game is excellent. It's definitely not at the top of the list graphically, but it still looks good and provides a quality representation of what you'll find in the real outdoors.
SOUND: Like many other titles, you have to take it for what it is. You're not going to get insane explosions, a moving soundtrack or great chatter. But the sounds of nature are well done and the guides are easy to understand.
EXTRAS: The in-game unlockables are a nice touch and provide a little something more to aim for, other than just the animals.
Here's a quick look at some the features of the game:
- Accurately simulates a real hunting experience with authentic weapons, detailed environments, changing seasons and realistic animals
- Hunt for 24 big-game species in 10 trophy legend hunts: elk, moose, mule deer, caribou, kudu, red stag, big horn sheep, cape buffalo, wild boar and grizzly bear and 20 species of small game as well as waterfowl and upland birds
- Hunting locations including British Columbia, Montana, New Zealand, Africa and Argentina
- Stalking, tracking, long-range shooting, baiting, stand, blinds and other hunting strategies used in real-life hunts
- Dangerous game that attack until you strike them down
- Use adrenaline, stalking and tracking modes and hunter sense to lock on and track animals as they move
SCORE: 79%
This is a game with animated hunting violence and parents should make their decisions accordingly. Hunting and gun control are hot topics and this is a game that, to some extent, fits into that discussion. It should be noted, though, that there was no excessive or over-the-top violence noticed while reviewing this title.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


The Judd Apatow crew is back and as "Superbad" as ever. If you have seen "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" or "Knocked Up," you are familiar with their work. This movie takes the same approach of mixing situational/sexual humor, clever dialogue, familiar-feeling characters and I can't believe they went there comedy.

The story was written by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg and they say it was based on their lives as awkward teens. It focuses on two high school kids, Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera), who are trying to get booze and sex. Oh, the originality! I'm pretty sure I've already seen this one once, twice or a dozen times. At least that's what I thought.

Luckily this one has something different about it, giving it a freshness that doesn't allow it to fall into the garbage pile with so many other bland, teen movies. Whether it's another enjoyable performance from Hill, seeing some relatively new faces on the screen or the enjoyable exploits of an oddball named Fogell, "Superbad" delivers.

Seth and Evan are like all other males their age and are interested in girls. Unfortunately these two guys aren't really popular and the objects of their affection seem to be out of reach. But they still decide to make it their goal to score with these girls. The problem is that they don't know just how to do that. But the stars to align and present the perfect opportunity.

Seth is asked by Becca, the girl he has the hots for, to pick up alcohol for a party she is throwing. As fate would have it, an acquaintance of his, Fogell, got a fake ID that day and could help him pull it off. Once they had the booze, it would be easy for Seth and Evan to get drunk with the girls and then get them in bed. Of course it would be way too easy if things went according to the plan.

The problems start when Fogell returns with his fake ID and his new identity is that of a 25-year-old Hawaiian name McLovin. The outlook gets worse when you throw in a couple incompetent cops, relationship issues among friends and encounters with some very unique individuals.
As far as the performances, Hill and Rogan continue to show the ability to produce in comedic roles, Christopher Mintz-Plasse is suprisingly good as Fogell and Bill Hader ("Saturday Night Live") provides a steadying presence. Cera might be a little too bland, but it does help to counter the high energy of Hill. Martha MacIsaac and Emma Stone work well as the love interests. They aren't asked to do much, but it's nice to see someone new instead of running out the same old faces.
Yes, this has elements of the typical teen-booze-sex comedy. It's a formula that has proven to be successful when done well and, as usual, the Apatow-Rogan-Goldberg connection comes through. "Superbad" isn't a perfect film and does have some slow periods, but the overall product is definitely worth a look if you need a chuckle. Because, while Seth and Evan deal with their highs and lows, there's always one thing that the viewers can count on: laughs.

Grade: 7.5/10 (the extensive list of extras might bump it to 8/10)
"Superbad" is an enjoyable film that most people should be able to relate to. It's never going to be confused with the truly classic comedies, but it's definitely worth a couple hours of your time on a weekend night. So get a bowl of popcorn and a tasty beverage...just be careful when you drink it because it may wind up coming out of your nose!

Rated: R
- Pineapple Express: Exclusive First Look
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- Gag Reel
- Line-O-Rama
- Cop Car Confessions
- Making of "Superbad"
- Original Table Read 2002 - Seth Rogan reads for the part of "Seth"
- Dancing Title Sequence
- Vag-tastic Voyage (contains nudity)
- Cast Audition Footage
- Press Junket Meltdown
- The Music of "Superbad"
- "Everybody Hates Michael Cera" - The Unfortunate True Story
- On-set Diaries
- "Snakes on Jonah" Featurette
- Michael's Voicemails from Jonah
- TV Safe - Watch Jonah Hill try to record alternate "safe" lines appropriate for TV
- Table Reads

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I’m a fan of Jerry Seinfeld and I plan on seeing “Bee Movie.” So, being a gamer, it’s only natural that I had an interest in Activision’s appropriately titled Bee Movie Game.

First and foremost, it needs to be pointed out that Seinfeld was secured to provide the audio for the game’s main character, Barry B. Benson. This is the same character the comedian voices in the movie. Without him on board, gamers would have been left asking (as part of a bad Seinfeld impersonation), “a ‘Bee Movie’ game without Jerry, what’s the deal with that?”

The game follows a pretty simple storyline. Barry spends the early part of his existence going through the repetitive activities of life in New Hive City. After going through the monotonous daily grind, he decides to check out life on the other side, New York City. Being that I haven’t seen the movie yet, I can’t tell you how closely the events follow the film. But, based on some in-game interviews of Barry done by a bee reporter, it seems like the game may focus on post-movie life for our buzzing hero.

The gameplay is not complex and it’s pretty easy to get right in and play. While in the hive, Barry has the option of walking, flying or driving. It’s pretty easy to maneuver in each mode and switching between them is also a painless task. Triple-B wanders around the bee city completing various tasks and jobs, collecting honeycombs and interacting with other bees. He can access several areas including his house, the Honex company, an arcade where you can unlock and play in-game video games, a car dealership, etc. Barry will even have the opportunity to purchase his own beehicle, I mean, vehicle.

After he makes his way into the Big Apple, Barry has to defend himself against humans, other insects and various elements of nature. He will also have to perform tasks such as removing pollen from healthy plants and injecting it into flowers that aren’t doing so well. This requires the use of the pollinator and is a pretty easy task. The pollinator will also be used to battle other insects that present a threat to Barry. My personal favorites when in NYC is when you are required to buzz in the face of humans will the sole purpose of agitating them and trying to get them to swat at you. I was also impressed by the Bee Reflex option which, in theory, allows you to move so quickly it appears that time has slowed down. This function lets you dodge rain drops (who knew they could be so deadly?), obstacles and strikes from humans.

Obviously there are more features in the game (a clothing store, street races, photos and wax statues to view in a museum), but the guts revolve around Barry completing tasks in New Hive City and doing the same, while also trying to stay alive, in New York City.

Bee Movie Game is a cute title that has some very enjoyable moments, but it never offers anything exceptional. Of course, it probably offers plenty when it comes to satisfying the younger gamers. So, for adults interested in playing this, do so as a rental. But, if you have little ones, the cartoon nature and non-stop movement of Bee Movie Game should make it worth a purchase.

GAMEPLAY: The game is smooth, although you will encounter an occasional frame-rate issue (but it really doesn’t detract from the game). Controls are easy to use, which is a good thing for the younger crowd. This isn’t the most challenging title you’ll play, but it does offer a relaxing alternative to the high-intensity games (shooters, sports games) that saturate the market. Plus, kids should love it.

GRAPHICS: New Hive City is cartoonish compared to many of the ultra-realistic graphics we see in many of the new games, but it probably wouldn’t be authentic if it wasn’t. It has the look of the movie and, to be fair, that’s what people getting this game will want. Who buys Bee Movie Game and expects to see real bees flying around?

SOUND: Very well done. The soundtrack fits the game and the inclusion of Seinfeld’s voice is huge.

EXTRAS: Races, minigames, and on-line leaderboards add a little to this title, but they won’t make it a “can’t take it out of my console” game.

GRADE: 72%

This game is rated "E" for Everyone (mild cartoon violence) and should be good for even the youngest gamers. I don't recall anything that would be objectionable, although I'm sure some may feel Barry B. Benson shooting other insects with his pollenator is too violent.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

DVD REVIEW: Chinatown - Special Collector's Edition

If you look at a list of the greatest movies of all time, you’re sure to find titles like “Citizen Kane,” “The Godfather,” “Schindler’s List” and “Casablanca.” Another film that tends to make appearances when listing the best of the best is “Chinatown.” But, oddly, it seems many people haven’t seen it and I’m not sure why.

Jake Gittes, played by Jack Nicholson, is a private investigator hired to investigate an extramarital affair. Of course, like most detective stories, it can’t be that simple (it would probably be pretty boring if it was). While working on the case, Gittes uncovers discrepancies involving L.A.’s water system and soon after finds himself in a world of violence and deception.

During his investigation, Gittes encounters many of the usual elements of a private eye story, including the love interest. That role is played brilliantly by Faye as Evelyn Cross Mulwray. He also must deal with the typical character that obviously has something to hide. John Huston handles that task in convincing fashion, giving life to Noah Cross, a wealthy business man with ties to the water supply.

It’s interesting to note that Cross always mispronounces Jake’s last name. This wasn’t something planned, but was born out of Huston’s normal mispronunciation of “Gittes.” The creators felt it added something to the character and didn’t attempt to correct it.

The film continues to follow many of the same twists and turns that other P.I. movies have taken, but it always seems to be a little better at it. Perhaps it’s the depth of the screenplay, for which Robert Towne won an Academy Award. Maybe it’s the non-stop display of talent in the performances by the cast. Whatever it is, it’s something special and “Chinatown” has it.

Once the movie ends, the extras included provide excellent insight to things that went on behind the scenes. For example, in one of the bonus features the story is told about how Nicholson and producer Robert Evans got into a very public argument on the set. Nothing special about that, except for the fact that Evans smashed the TV in Nicholson’s trailer so he couldn’t watch Lakers games and, adding a comic element to the incident, Jack was in his underwear.

Viewers also learn about how the musical score was changed after a preview of the film and how director Roman Polanski influenced the ending of the movie.

GRADE: 9/10
This movie is often lumped in with the best ever for good reason. All the elements – acting, writing, directing, etc. – are excellent and come together in a way that translates perfectly into to the film. Add in a set of extras that are more than just filler and it makes for a dvd that any movie fan should check out.

Rated: R
Chinatown: The Beginning and the End (19 1/2 min.)
Chinatown: Filming (25 1/2 min.)
Chinatown: The Legacy (9 min.)
Theatrical Trailer