Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Movie Review: The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Few can deny the significance The Lord of the Rings trilogy has had on film as a whole. It’s a lost art in terms of the way movies are made – model sets, props, makeup, costumes, and as many real actors as possible. The trilogy is an incredible achievement, sporting a level of craftsmanship and quality that very few films can match. Regrettably, the first chapter of a new prequel trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, contains little of what made the Lord of the Rings so magnificent.

I went back and watched The Fellowship of the Ring before I saw The Hobbit, and to this day I’m still blown away by the excellent photography and art direction. The real outdoor shoots, the beautiful lighting, the gorgeous crafted models – all of this is what makes the experience so memorable. These choices earned the trilogy multiple awards and recognition from critics worldwide, something The Hobbit is unlikely to achieve.

It’s baffling to me that the same director, Peter Jackson, and cinematographer, Andrew Lesnie, are responsible for both An Unexpected Journey and The Fellowship of the Ring. All those actors who played orcs and goblins are now merely CGI creatures, and the wonderful model locations have been replaced with green screen and CGI effects. Everything looks dramatically different, and in this case, that isn't a good thing.

Monday, December 10, 2012

XBLA Review: Guardians of Middle-earth


I never realized I preferred playing battle arena games with a controller until I played Guardians of Middle-earth, the first complete MOBA title to grace consoles. Guardians doesn’t really do much to re-invent the genre mastered by League of Legends, but it’s still a fun game that’s sure to please fans and newcomers alike.

If you don't like the MOBA genre, nothing here is going to change your mind. Guardians of Middle-earth works like most other multiplayer online battle arena games: you pick a hero, upgrade and customize them to your specific tastes, enlist the help of AI allies, and then conquer the map with a team of players.
MOBA fans will find Guardians to be surprisingly easy to pick up and play. The controls are mapped out well, porting everything you’d expect from a PC game to the gamepad with relative ease. You attack with the right trigger, powers are activated with the right hand buttons, and the bumpers are used for switching between them – nothing seems to be missing.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Movie Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)



Have you ever watched a movie and thought that what you are seeing had the potential to be a masterpiece, but falls short thanks to some very strange choices? It’s a sad thing to have to say about any film, but it’s especially sad to say about Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, a movie that has moments of absolute perfection. There’s so much about this quirky comedy that I loved, but severe shifts in the tone stop it from being all that it could have been.

Seeking a Friend is about doomsday and two people who fall in love in the most unusual of circumstances. A meteor is set to wipe out all human life on Earth, and Dodge (Steve Carell) is regretting every moment of his existence. Teaming up with his new friend, Penny (Keira Knightley), the two head out on a road trip to find Dodge’s lost love – something he should have done a long time ago.

Friday, December 7, 2012

News: Dark Souls II Announced



Get ready to die! At this year’s Video Game Awards on Spike TV, actress and model Jessica Alba announced the existence of Dark Souls II, the sequel to one of the most punishing RPGs ever made. No other details are known at this time, and no actual gameplay footage was shown.

The announcement came in the form a trailer that featured a CGI warrior battling monsters, before falling to his knees, riddled with arrows -- seems perfect for a game notorious for being so difficult.

No platforms have been officially announced, which means Dark Souls II may not arrive on the current Xbox.

This news story was published on Xbox Edge.



Thursday, December 6, 2012

Nintendo Wii Review: Wreck-It Ralph

A word of warning before you play Wreck-It Ralph for the Nintendo Wii: If you haven’t seen the movie yet, stay away from this game, because the film’s ending will be blown for you in the opening segment. However, if you have seen the Disney movie, stay even further away from this videogame version of Wreck-It Ralph, because it’ll taint your pleasant opinion of the characters forever. It’s obvious that this was intended to be little more than a quick cash-in, since the entire game will take you under two hours to finish – and that may be the only good thing about it.

For the most part, Wreck-it Ralph can be defined as a platformer, with a little bit of action mixed in for seemingly no reason. Had we been given a simple clone of some classic game in the genre, that would have been a much better idea. Going in, I expected this to be the Wreck-It Ralph game featured in the movie. Instead what we get to play is strange and lacks any discernible focus whatsoever.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

MMA Pot Bans Do More Damage Than Drugs Ever Could


There has been no shortage of fighters testing positive for marijuana, and this issue is likely only to become more prevalent as pot becomes legal in more and more states. The time has come for the athletic commissions to start addressing the issue appropriately. As fighters continue to lose their livelihood over smoking weed for medicinal and recreational purposes, you have to wonder what role an athletic commission has here in the first place, and just what the reasoning behind bans on marijuana may actually be.

While I am very happy to have athletic commissions around to do drug testing for performance enhancing substances, I question the logic behind testing for recreational drugs, especially marijuana. It's true that the goal of the athletic commissions is to protect the fighters, which is why no reasonable person argues against bans on steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

Drawing the line when talking about testing fighters should be simple: is the substance a fighter is using putting their opponent at risk and/or giving them an unfair advantage? If the answer is no, then the commission should take no action. The same logic that guides testing for steroids should be in place for recreational drug use. Athletic commissions shouldn't exist to judge the ethics of a fighter's lifestyle, unless it pertains directly to a fight.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Movie Review: Maximum Conviction (2012)

My friends and I were bored one night and decided to see what kind of bad movies we could rent and enjoy with a few beers. I certainly wasn't in the mindset for a good movie -- I simply wanted to relax with a guilty pleasure. I wanted something my friends and I could laugh at it in an intoxicated state, and just have a good time.

The very first mistake I made that night was renting Maximum Conviction, a film starring action legend Steven Seagal and WWE Superstar Stone Cold Steve Austin. You'd think a movie starring such an awesomely-terrible cast would offer some mindless entertainment, but you'd be wrong. Maximum Conviction is one of the most incredibly boring films I have ever seen, with acting and filmmaking that is so poor, you begin to wonder if there's some cruel god out there who just wants mankind to suffer.

I wanted some mind-numbing action from Maximum Conviction, and nothing more. There are plenty of gun shots and strange fist fights, but somehow none of it is cool to watch in the least.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Reaction to Streaming UFC 154 on Xbox Live


XboxEdge.com was treated to a free streaming of UFC 154. I took the time to briefly review my experience with the UFC app. 

Read My Reaction:
Xbox Edge (Archived)




Thursday, November 15, 2012

Xbox 360 Review: Halo 4

Looking out over the ring world of Halo for the first time is a video game moment that I will remember forever. I was instantly moved by the universe developer Bungie had created on the original Xbox, so much so that Halo remains one of my favorite video games of all time. Eleven years later the Halo series has found a new home with 343 Industries, and the end result is something better than expected. Halo 4 isn’t going to blow your mind like the original, but it does move the franchise to new heights not seen since driving a warthog for the first time.
The vehicles, the squad of marines, the rich lore – yeah, that’s all still here. To some extent the formula in Halo 4 is much the same as it’s always been: fast paced combat, with a generous mix of squad-based and solo gameplay. Even the Covenant have returned, making the action feel as familiar as ever.
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Great care has certainly been taken by 343 to make Halo 4 feel familiar to fans, but a lot has still changed. Different variety to the levels, such as one mission that has you flying fast in a ship, dodging obstacles and enemy gunfire, pleasantly change things up in an unexpected way.
Other dramatic changes can be seen in the art design. Halo 4 is sporting a much darker and more realistic look and feel to the graphics. It’s a nice change that fits really well, earning Halo 4 the title of best looking game in the series. The CGI is so very fresh that it doesn’t resemble any of the CGI seen in previous Bungie games. To some extent this is Halo reimagined – and the result is absolutely Killtacular.
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I’d even go so far as to say Halo 4 is the best looking game I’ve seen on Xbox 360, and may very well be the best-looking video game ever made. The backgrounds are so highly detailed, so beautiful, that it’s truly sublime to behold them. There’s a sense of wonder that comes from playing through the campaign, as if you’re exploring a new world for the first time.
That sense of wonder, of exploring the unknown, is what gives Halo 4 its appeal. You really feel alone, exploring something that even the great Master Chief hasn’t dealt with before. Combating your new enemies, the Prometheans, is certainly suspenseful and often terrifying. There’s a level of fear that comes from feeling like you may no longer be the baddest thing in the galaxy – it helps Master Chief look mortal for the very first time.
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This is the most human Master Chief has ever looked. He’s no longer just a faceless experiment with a gun – he’s a person. His relationship with Cortana is what drives the story forward. Master Chief loves Cortana, and he even breaks his battled-hardened façade more than once during the game, determined to protect her.

The story is very much focused on Cortana, which is a great change of pace from other titles. Cortana is dying from rampancy, a condition equatable to human dementia. She faces her own mortality, often questioning if she is really alive at all. It’s a beautiful story, with a level of complexity not seen previously in the Halo series.
Sadly, the story in Halo 4 is also one of its weak points. While the Master Chief and Cortana angle works perfectly, the rest of the story is a bit convoluted. I won’t spoil much for you, but I do recommend you at least watch Halo Legends before you play Halo 4. Doing so will help you get a better understanding of the characters in play here, especially the Didact. I found myself scouring Wikipedia for answers more than once, largely because I’ve never read any of the Halo novels or expanded literature.
In reality I shouldn’t have had to watch videos and read novels in order to understand the story of Halo 4. I’ve played all the Halo games through to the end (some of them multiple times), and the story in Halo 4 was still hard for me to follow, which really sucks.
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The Prometheans are great new enemy to fight and, having read a Wikipedia page or two, I think the lore behind them is interesting. So, why the hell are the Covenant in Halo 4 at all? Good question. I'm sure some book I didn't read contains the answer. The Covenant conflict is especially confusing since Halo 3 ended with a truce between the alien zealots and the USNC. I really wish 343 Studios was a bit more brave, and had just taken the Covenant out of the game completely – they don’t need to be there, and their presence in the game feels irrelevant to the narrative.
The Halo 4 campaign will only take you a little over six hours to complete, give or take depending on the difficulty. It’s not very long, and the incentives to play through it again are fairly generic (terminals to find, achievements, etc.). The Firefight survival mode is gone, replaced by a downloadable Spartan Ops that features mini-missions that will be made available on a weekly basis. It’s a nice way to add replay value to the game; however, I really miss Firefight , and gamers who plan to keep Halo 4 offline are really going to get screwed on this trade.
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Halo multiplayer is back with a slightly new system of perks and upgrades. Sadly, the gameplay itself doesn’t feel as fresh as the campaign. This is the same Halo multiplayer you’re used to, which isn’t to say that multiplayer is bad – not at all. I just know it won’t hold my interest for long, even if the new maps are nicely balanced and well designed.
I admit that when 343 Studios was announced as the new caretaker of the Halo franchise, I had some serious doubts about their ability to make a follow-up to such a high-profile shooter. I want to take this time to personally apologize to 343 for having ever doubted their ability to pull this off. Halo 4 isn’t a perfect game, but it’s a damn good one. The level of polish here is truly astounding. Halo 4 is a must play for Xbox 360 owners, even if you’re not a huge fan of first-person shooters.
The foundation has been set to take the series to a whole new level, and I’m anxious to see what comes next. Hopefully Halo 5 will be the first in the series to eliminate the stale Covenant threat completely.
 
 

This review was originally published by XboxEdge.com.

 
 

Movie Review: Skyfall (2012)


If the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has any sense of objectivity left, they should look to Skyfall for an award for Best Director, or at the very least Best Cinematography. Director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins have crafted not only the best looking film of 2012, but easily the best looking 007 ever made. Skyfall is nothing short of absolutely magnificent, with a quality to the direction and photography that is truly Oscar caliber.

I hear claims that Skyfall is the best Bond film ever made, and I think that could be true – at the very worst, it comes in second just behind Casino Royale (2006). In a way the two films are similar: Both give us a look at a James Bond who feels real, suffering from the same human condition as the rest of us. It’s a take on the franchise that I’m glad Sam Mendes decided to keep, especially considering Skyfall feels as though it was made to celebrate Bond’s 50-year film history.

Somehow the creators behind Skyfall have managed to make an ode to franchise, while simultaneously maintaining the film’s distinct identity. The Aston Martin DB5 famously driven during Goldfinger (1964) makes a triumphant return in Skyfall, complete with cheesy machine guns hidden below the headlights. Moments like these exist to provide fan service, but still fit in with the mood of Skyfall, which portrays Daniel Craig’s Bond as an aging relic refusing to accept his limitations.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Disney's Lucasfilm Deal May Be Good For Star Wars Fans

When I first heard that the Walt Disney Corporation purchased Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise, I was ready to Occupy Disney in protest, and I’m sure there are millions of fans who would have joined me. I was shocked. I sat stunned in my room, cuddling my Wicket doll and wishing it was all just a bad dream.
 
Episode VII? I didn’t want an Episode VII! Hell, I didn’t even want the prequel movies, but I guess George Lucas was going to shove them down my throat no matter what. To be fair, his marketing machine did do a great job of making me believe I only knew part of the story, and he did pocket a ticket purchase from me for all three of those below-average films.
It was then that I had my epiphany: if George Lucas wasn’t in charge of Lucasfilm anymore, then George Lucas couldn’t pollute the original Star Wars trilogy ever again. And that’s a huge plus, one that a Blu-ray collection absent of Star Wars reminds me of each and every day.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Xbox 360 Review: 007 Legends

This review was published on XboxEdge.com.
I was sitting at home playing 007 Legends when a friend stopped over to watch me shoot my way through one of the missions. I was ducking behind a car, trying to knock out an RPG nest, while indicators warned me that enemies were throwing grenades in my vicinity. “Is this Call of Duty?” I was asked, which really is a fair question.
Truth is, 007 Legends is allegedly a James Bond title, though the game is little more than a poorly crafted military shooter. The cast from MI6 is thrown in here aimlessly, seemingly for no reason.
I'll concede to you that Legends isn't the worst shooter I've ever played. However, when I think of James Bond, I don't imagine him taking down machine gun emplacements, or leading an army of soldiers into battle. It's so inappropriate, so absolutely ridiculous, that it makes you wonder if this was ever intended to be a 007 title in the first place.
You play Bond throughout the game – at least that's the character's name. The suave spy is nowhere to be found, despite having the likeness of Daniel Craig. There are moments during missions where you do some spy related things, like search for evidence or hack into computers. The problem is that all of this involves a mini-game, and most of the time I felt like I was being taken hostage. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

XBLA Review: Double Dragon Neon

I was excited to finally get my hands on Double Dragon Neon, a game that I thought would bring back great memories from the old days of my youth. However, after playing Neon for only a few minutes, I realized that those memories may not have been as great as I thought. Double Dragon Neon isn’t a bad brawler game. But, I will suggest the brawler genre as a whole that needs some serious reimagining.

A couple months ago a friend and I sat down to play Streets of Rage 2 on the Sega Genesis Collection. I remembered really enjoying the game as a kid, but this time I wasn’t having any fun while playing. For me, Streets of Rage simply didn’t withstand the test of time.

Brawler videogames come out of an era when you would do much of your gaming in arcades, feeding quarters into a machine with some friends. The ability to play on the same screen with a buddy, working together to conquer mutual enemies, was much of the appeal of the brawler genre. Fast forward to present day, and none of that is really all that appealing -- we’re used to it.

So, what else does the Neon offer besides multiplayer functionality? Well, not much. You roam around a small game area, punching enemies in the face, and occasionally there will be a terrain hazard or new foe to change up the action.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Rumble 2012: A Display of Party Politics


I'll be honest and admit that I didn't watch the recent presidential debate, and I'm unlikely to watch anything that has to do with Mitt Romney or Barack Obama in the future. Neither candidate provides any real representation of my philosophy, as tends to be the case every election, thus I'm cynical about the process as a whole. I've given up on national political races, if only because they've become nothing more than a two-party sham. Real issues are swept under the rug in favor of team-based competition. 

I'm not lazy or uninformed; I just don't really care who wins. With elections locked down tight, realistically there are only these two options -- and they're both terrible. I lack a voice in Washington, and it's for that reason the debate between Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly, dubbed the Rumble in an Air-Conditioned Auditorium 2012, was so important to me. It was a time to see two powerful media figures clash on the issues, free from party talking points and political pandering ... at least that's how I had hoped everything would go. 

In hindsight, I may have been a bit naive to think these two men on stage could rise above party-line bickering – but hey, it was worth a shot. I'm a big fan of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, which serves to provide the rational perspective that it missing from the usual political discourse. With Stewart you usually get a consistent liberal message that takes on both parties almost equally, and that's exactly why I love the guy.  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Movie Review: Dredd 3D (2012)



Judge Dredd is a badass who obeys the law -- perfectly. When he’s sent out to train his new psychic rookie, Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), the two find themselves locked down in a gang infested city block, where the only justice crime knows is pain. Dredd 3D is an immensely-fun action thriller that gets right what the 1995 Judge Dredd got so very wrong.

From the opening scene, it’s obvious that Dredd isn’t the type of film that takes itself seriously. This is a bloody satire that, if it wasn’t done right, could have been a colossal failure. The costumes are silly, the setting is hilariously bleak, and the characters aren’t exactly original -- and that’s exactly why it works so well.

Dredd is based on the long running comic strip Judge Dredd which is famous for its tongue-in-cheek approach to tackling important themes, like anarchism and the growing police state. The cyberpunk strip shocked readers with its dystopian visuals and gritty storylines, many of which were very influential in shaping the future of comics.

This latest film adaptation is a successful update that is sure to please fans and newcomers alike. Much like the comic strip that came before it, Dredd is a smart movie, though on its face it may seem like nothing more than a “B” production with a big budget.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

DVD Review: Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012)

Starship Troopers: Invasion is the fourth entry in the film series, and the first to be done in full CGI. There’s all the blood and boobs here you’d expect from a Starship Troopers movie; however, the gore and poorly-animated female butts will only appeal to sad pubescent boys. Those of you who are all grown up are advised to rent something else.

The first Starship Troopers (1997) is a guilty pleasure of mine. The hyper-violent original is a fun movie, if you can get past the poor direction and terrible acting. Sadly, the two direct-to-video sequels that follow lack the appeal of the original and, in my opinion, are virtually unwatchable. Invasion is definitely an improvement over the last two films, but it still doesn’t have the same cool factor as the first outing -- in part due to the fact that this is an animated movie.

My first impression of the animation was that it looked terrible. Invasion feels more like a video game than a movie; all the characters look stiff and rigid, as if they came straight from a video game cinematic. Eventually I got used to the CGI, but nothing ever looks particularly good. The animation is in desperate need of some creativity, and it lacks any defining value worth mentioning.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

News: Was the Halo 4 Ending Leaked?





The latest Halo 4 trailer may have accidently leaked important plot details, including the game's ending...   Read More: Xbox Edge (Archived)



Thursday, August 30, 2012

Movie Review: ParaNorman (2012)

ParaNorman is not only the best animated film I’ve seen this year, it’s one of the best films of 2012, period. This stop-motion-style movie, directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell (Flushed Away), fills a void left by Pixar’s surprisingly disappointing Brave, released earlier this year. Finally Pixar’s crown passes to the animators at LAIKA, who previously worked on Henry Selick’s Academy Award-nominated Coraline.

ParaNorman is the story of Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a boy born with the ability to speak to the dead and foresee the terrible events of the future. When an ancient witch’s curse threatens the Massachusetts town of Blithe Hollow, Norman is the only hope the once-puritanical borough has for salvation.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Xbox 360 Review: Sleeping Dogs

  


There have been numerous pretenders to the Grand Theft Auto throne, clone games that produce some half-assed version of the GTA experience, leaving gamers wanting the real thing. Square Enix's Sleeping Dogs would accurately be called a GTA copycat; however, while the game certainly has its share of flaws, an engaging story and fun action sequences make Sleeping Dogs one of the most pleasant surprises of 2012.

Sleeping Dogs stars Wei Shen, an undercover cop moving his way up the ranks of the infamous Triad, a powerful crime syndicate centered in Hong Kong. Wei battles personal vendettas, legal obligations, and new found loyalties in a complex story that is both deep and rewarding. Selling the narrative is an excellent list of Hollywood stars, including Emma Stone and Lucy Liu, all of whom lend their talents to what really would make a fantastic movie script.

Xbox Smart Glass - Is this the future we want?



Is Microsoft's SmartGlass really something gamers are clamoring for?



Read the Feature:
Xbox Edge (Archived)







Sunday, August 19, 2012

Movie Review: The Expendables 2

The Expendables 2 is a huge improvement over its predecessor,  full of bloody action, self-depreciative quips, and a whole lot more Arnold Schwarzenegger. While this testosterone-fueled  action flick may not be for everyone, fans of the star-studded cast will find exactly what they’ve been looking for -- explosions, gunshots, and a whole lot of fun.

It’s unreasonable to expect a movie that exists only to package together a ridiculously-cool cast to be much more than just a good time. The first Expendables (2010) was a huge disappointment, focusing too strongly on its very weak plot, while not providing enough of the action moviegoers hoped to see.

The story in Expendables 2 is definitely lacking, but still strong enough to tie all the fist fights, gun battles, and jokes about Randy Couture’s ears together into one cohesive package.

There’s a story here about a bad guy who is so evil that he enslaves women and children to dig in his mines, searching for a stash of old soviet warheads.The film’s villain, Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), seems to have an endless supply of henchmen and weapons at his disposable. His motivations remain unclear, likely because he’s just too evil to be understood by a movie audience with normal ambitions.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)


I had to see The Dark Knight Rises twice before I knew exactly how I felt about it. Leaving the theatre after the first viewing, I felt thoroughly let down. After my second screening I found myself still retaining some of the same disappointment; however, I was able to look at the film more objectively, and come to some mixed conclusions. So, as a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga, I can finally say this: The entire trilogy is an incredible achievement, but Rises is absolutely the weakest entry in the series.

Part of the problem here is the level of expectation I had going into this final chapter. The first two, Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008), were incredible films, packed with a level of depth not previously seen in any comic-book adaptation. My desire for this third movie to match its predecessors in quality is a tall order in and of itself, but part of me had been hyped to believe Rises would be the best in the series.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Nintendo Wii Review: Ice Age: Continental Drift - Arctic Games



After only one hour of playing Ice Age: Continental Drift – Arctic Games for the Nintendo Wii, I was confident that I had experienced enough of the game to write this review. Before you accuse me of being the laziest critic in history, I’d like to present an important piece of evidence in my defense: Arctic Games contains only 10 mini-games, and each of them will take you only a couple of minutes to play. The result is a completely forgettable experience with so little content that it’s not even worth a rental, let alone a purchase.

Yes, these 10 mini-games come packaged in three different flavors: Story Mode, Tournament, and Free Play. Sadly, each mode is essentially the same. All three game modes contain the exact same mini-games, with the only change being how you gain access to them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Xbox 360 Review: The Amazing Spider-Man



If you haven’t seen the Amazing Spider-Man movie yet, you should see it before you play this game. I promise to keep this review as spoiler free as possible; however, The Amazing Spider-Man videogame serves as a sequel of sorts to the film, taking place right where the movie left off.

Oscorp Labs has been busy using Dr. Connors’ research to create human and animal hybrids. When the beasts escape from the lab, Spider-Man breaks the former Lizard from his cell, and the two begin working to undo the evil deeds of Oscorp -- before all of Manhattan becomes overrun with creatures.

The story here isn’t necessarily great, but having an original story is a nice change from the typical movie tie-in game, which usually just presents some half-assed version of the film’s narrative. The Amazing Spider-Man is also different from your typical movie tie-in game because, to my surprise, it’s actually pretty good. It may not be the best game you’ll play in the action genre, but it’s certainly fun enough to be worth your valuable time. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)


It’s been a mere five years since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy came to a close, but Columbia Pictures and Marvel have teamed up to reboot the franchise, this time with Mark Webb (500 Days of Summer) at the helm. The Amazing Spider-Man is a darker take on the series that, while it’s still very good, suffers from an inconsistent tone and a plot that lacks proper focus. 

This reboot begins with the same teenage high school student, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), whom we all know and love. A visit to Oscorp Labs causes Peter to be bitten by a genetically altered spider, leaving him with super powers and a new Spider-Man alter ego.

Yes, it’s the same origin story you’ve seen before, and the changes to the formula really don’t switch things up all that much. Peter has trouble with his newfound strength, and constantly finds himself breaking doors, computers, and basketball hoops as he attempts to balance all the aspects of his new life.

I guess these scenes are provided as comic relief, but none of them work very well at all. The over-the-top comical moments don’t mesh with the darker plot, which otherwise succeeds at bringing out a more human side to the character.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Xbox 360 Review: Madagascar 3: The Video Game

 Originally published on Yahoo! Voices.



If you've had a chance to see Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted you'll find the movie to be entertaining for both kids and adults alike. The same cannot be said for the video game version of Madagascar 3. This game is strictly for the kids, and even they may not really enjoy the experience.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Movie Review: Prometheus (2012)

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is a bold film that sends its characters on a journey to find truth, only to leave them with as many questions as they have answers. This is one of the best science fiction films in modern memory, and it will leave you feeling completely mesmerized from beginning to end.

Prometheus is a Ridley Scott film, so it’s no surprise that it looks absolutely incredible. The visuals are dark, haunting, and truly original. This is the best looking movie I have seen this year, and it may very well be one of the best looking science fiction films of all time.

If you’re looking for scares, you will still find a lot of great horror moments in Prometheus, many of which will bring back memories of the original Alien (1979). One scene in particular, involving an emergency extraction surgery, is the modern equivalent of the famous 'chest burst' scene that shocked audiences more than 30 years ago.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)



Snow White and the Huntsman  is a complete re-imagining of the classic German fairy tale. While this latest adaptation contains dark imagery aimed at adults, it's still the same fairy tale you've always known, right down to the Seven Dwarfs. This may make some of the purists happy, but it will unfortunately leave many moviegoers wanting a whole lot more.

Yes, in this version of the film there are battles between armies and some vicious fantastical monsters; however, these elements do very little in terms of adding something new to the same old story. Instead these scenes feel like additions made only to meet the audience's fantasy film expectations.

The epic battles (which don't seem all that epic) feel like an aside to the fairy tale and don't mesh very well into the story. We're told that Snow White is supposed to lead an army against the Evil Queen and restore her father's kingdom, but the reasons behind Snow White's charisma aren't properly articulated and are never well examined.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Movie Review: Men in Black 3 (2012)


When I arrived at the theater to see Men in Black 3, memories of the first film were at the forefront of my mind. However, I can't remember much about the second film at all. Where the first movie was a clever mix of action and comedy, the second film was just a collection of silly moments, none of which are funny enough to be very memorable.

I'm sad to say that the third film is no different. Men in Black 3 seems like one outrageous moment after another, connected by a story that is less than interesting.

A space villain, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), has broken out of prison and seeks vengeance against his arresting officer, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Boris travels back in time and kills a younger Agent K (Josh Brolin), which dooms all of mankind to a destruction by alien warships.

If you're confused, I apologize. I'm doing my very best to describe the plot as accurately as possible.

Will Smith reprises his role as Agent J, who also travels back in time to thwart Boris' plan. This whole time travel gimmick seems like a decent way to write Tommy Lee Jones out of the movie, since most of the film will feature Will Smith partnered up with Josh Brolin. It's rather strange to see Jones receive top billing; his screen time is quite limited.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Video Game Reboots That Will Crush Your Childhood Memories

This article was originally posted on Yahoo! Voices.


I get a warm feeling whenever I see games that I loved as a kid making their triumphant return. Video games were a huge part of my upbringing, and I enjoy seeing the franchises I love come back to life.

Sadly, some franchises return only to fall flat on their face. If you cherish your childhood memories, stay as far away from these video game reboots as possible.

Alone in the Dark (Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, Wii, PC, PlayStation 3)

This fifth installment of the classic survival horror franchise was an attempt to bring the game into the current console generation. While developer Eden Games had some success with the graphics and soundtrack, the rest of the game was subpar at best.

The voice acting and dialogue set a new standard for bad, making the narrative very difficult to enjoy. To make matters worse, in what seems like an attempt to make a video game aimed at adults, the characters curse more than your favorite rapper. The swearing is completely overdone and it's actually rather silly. Even if you can somehow stomach the voice acting, you'll still find the plot to be quite unoriginal. This is a straightforward, generic horror thriller that lacks any significant depth and it barely tries to do anything different than the plethora of titles that came before it.

Further, the tedious gameplay isn't much fun. The only way to kill enemies is by using fire, which significantly limits a player's actions. Add in a plethora of technical problems, like camera issues and glitches, and Alone in the Dark feels almost unplayable.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pac-Man 2: The Strange Sequel You Probably Missed

Originally published on Yahoo! Voices.



Every gamer worth their salt has played the original Pac-Man. Even if you aren't old enough to remember the days where the little yellow guy dominated the arcade market, you've likely played the original game in one form or another.

Did you know that Pac-Man had an official sequel? No, I don't mean Ms. Pac-Man. There's a lesser-known sequel for Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo entitled Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures. It's the official, numbered follow-up to the arcade classic; however, it shares zero resemblance to its predecessor whatsoever.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Movie Review: Dark Shadows (2012)

Tim Burton's Dark Shadows is a visually stunning film; however, I'm afraid it's hard to find reason to praise the movie beyond that. Where Dark Shadows starts out strong, providing an excellent beginning to a would-be gothic classic, it soon fizzles into something that walks the line between mediocre and below average.

I am tempted to start this review by giving a plot synopsis, but I'm actually really confused by the film's narrative. There's something about a witch, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), who has placed an evil curse over the Collins family, a once prominent name in the New England business world. Angelique's most notable act of evil comes when she turns former lover Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) into an immortal vampire.

The Collins family made their wealth by dominating the Maine seafood business; this was of course until Angelique's curses helped her competing line gain a competitive edge. Yes, Ms. Bouchard's primary motivation appears to come from her desire to sell quality fish products.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Most Hardcore RPGs of This Generation.


I have wonderful memories of sitting up past my bedtime playing Dragon Warrior on my original Nintendo Entertainment System. I would spend all night battling slime creatures, inching ever closer to victory. The game was extremely hard, and only the most devoted players would survive long enough to see it through to the end.

This is a common story with classic RPGs -- they are very difficult, and often players are never able to finish them. Where modern consoles are capable of housing huge worlds and hundreds of hours of gameplay, retro consoles were more limited in their abilities. RPGs were difficult because that helped create a longer game, and with that a feeling of a larger world for the player to explore.

Without getting into a history lesson about RPGs, it's safe to say that modern games in the genre are now the easiest they have ever been. Extremely difficult RPGs are a lost art, going the way of arcade machines and wired controllers.

Luckily for you there are still a few gems out there to feed your need to fail. Here's a list of RPGs from this generation that will have you throwing the controller, while giving you the warm feeling of playing a classic.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What Can We Expect from Apple's Rumored Video Game Console?

This Article is Published at Yahoo! Voices.

Rumors are circulating that Apple may be announcing its own video game console at the 2012 E3 Expo. Since every rumor on the internet is absolutely based in fact, we should begin shamelessly speculating on what a console from the iPad creator may look like. Taking a look at the past, present, and future of Apple can give us a better understanding of just how Apple can break into the video game industry. 


We've seen this before. 

In 1995 Apple designed a video game console that was distributed by Bandai. The cleverly named Apple Bandai Pippin saw very little commercial success in a market dominated by Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation. The console went on to sell less than 50,000 units worldwide, and is considered by many to be a colossal failure. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Review: The Avengers (2012)

When Iron Man came to theatres in 2008, audiences were given a surprise. Those who were patient enough to wait until the credits finished rolling were treated to an additional scene, which served to hype a film featuring a Marvel superhero team-up. Five films and four years later, The Avengers (2012) has final arrived. While it may seem impossible to live up to such an extraordinary level of hype, Marvel's The Avengers completely exceeds all expectations and may very well be the greatest superhero film ever made.

Tying many of the Marvel film franchises together is quite an ambitious project, one that I admit I had my doubts about. I wasn't originally a fan of the hidden "Easter egg" scenes that served as promotional ploys for The Avengers film -- which at the time seemed only like a fantasy. I felt as though connecting all the film franchises together cheapened each movie's unique experience, and in the event that The Avengers was terrible, it would taint those films completely.

While each Marvel film leading up to The Avengers had its own stand-alone value, I still can't help but feel as though each was made with future installments in mind. Through end credit scenes and some crossover characters, each film is linked together -- often in ways that came off as a little silly. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Movie Review: The Raven (2012)

I’m going to assume by now that you’ve seen the trailer for The Raven, a film by V For Vendetta director, James McTeigue. You know the premise: a fictional Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) is helping hunt down a serial murderer, who seems deeply inspired by Poe’s work. This story is told through a series of chase scenes, shootouts, and other movie clichés.

To say that the plot unfolds without originality would be a complete understatement. This is a formula movie, and a very poor one at that. The Raven displays a visual style that seems to strive for mediocrity, and only succeeds at reaching that level some of the time. The film shows very little creativity in its visual style, and sometimes it looks downright ugly.

The cinematography is as formulaic as the film’s script -- every shot seems borrowed from somewhere else; every scene seems crafted around a stale idea from the past. While I expected to see a film heavily influenced by past “whodunits”, The Raven fails so completely to deliver anything original that it seems like little more than a cheap knockoff.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Movie Review: "The Cabin in the Woods" (2012)


The tagline to The Cabin in the Woods implies a level of deception: “You think you know the story.” I can honestly say that this film did not meet my expectations, though I did really enjoy it. It’s true that the story of teenagers isolated in a woodland setting, only to picked off by evil beasties, isn’t exactly a new idea for the horror genre. Luckily, the film doesn’t follow any formula very closely.

There have been several recent releases in the horror-comedy genre, most of which are satirical representations of classic horror formulas. When I arrived at the theater I expected to see a parody film along the lines of Drag Me to Hell or Wes Craven’s Scream. While it’s true that I was treated to some bloody laughs, Cabin in the Woods is not done in the same vein as the films listed above.

I think it is fair to classify Cabin as a horror-comedy offshoot, but saying that doesn’t describe the unique approach fully. It’s really hard to describe Cabin in the Woods, but I think that’s exactly what the filmmakers were going for.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why Changing the Mass Effect 3 Ending Would Be Bad for Video Games






"With its compelling cinematic setting, the Mass Effect series stands as an example of how video games can be great works of art. Changing the ending only reinforces the beliefs of video game naysayers, who insist that games are nothing more than mindless entertainment." 








I'll start by speaking frankly: video games are not respected as an art medium. There's no doubt that gaming is on the rise; sales continue to break records year after year. Yet, video games still aren't getting the same recognition from the mainstream as other forms of media entertainment.

I use the word "entertainment" because I think that's how video games are viewed by a lot of people, particularly the older generations. Still, I don't think that gamers can solely blame crotchety old folks for being closed-minded to the medium. It's up to gamers of all ages to prove to non-believers that video games have evolved since the arcade era and are no longer just mindless distractions.

For every game that is made just for fun, there is another game that focuses on creative art direction. For every game with no story, there's another with a compelling narrative, filled with rich characters and themes. Video games are just as much of an art medium as film, music, and literature -- we just have to prove it. The first way to accomplish this is for the gamers themselves to treat video games as art, and not just view them as a commercial product. Yes, I think video game consumers share a huge chunk of the blame.

Recently a petition addressed to BioWare arrived in my inbox. The petition called for a new ending to Mass Effect 3, citing outrage over the game's actual ending. While I wasn't completely satisfied with the Mass Effect 3 ending, I didn't for a second consider signing such an asinine petition.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reflecting Back on the Nintendo Wii




It was Christmas 2006 when I unwrapped my Nintendo Wii. The tag on the paper informed me that "Santa" was the one who purchased me this gift. Although I was in my 20s, this still seemed more believable to me than my mother actually finding one during the holiday rush.

I had read all the launch reviews, I had studied all the media reactions to the console, and I knew that it was near impossible to get one by Christmas. I didn't expect to be able to get my hands on a Wii until the following spring, which only hyped the system that much more for me.

My only real experience with motion controlled gaming came from light gun based games, or arcade machines that used plastic motorcycles as a controller. Honestly, I wasn't completely sure what to expect from the Wii motion controls at first. I had seen the commercials of kids diving behind their couches to duck from enemy fire...did I have enough space in my bedroom to play the Wii?

My adventure on the Wii began with Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess. It was without a doubt the launch title that received the most praise, and after a few hours of playing, I completely understood why. I was in the zone when I played Twilight Princess. I was on my feet the entire time I played, slashing at enemies in an overzealous manner. I was a master of the bow and arrow, holding my arms out as if I were firing the real thing.

While I wasn't as involved in the motion controls as the gamers in television ads, I was still letting my imagination run wild. I enjoyed the Nintendo Wii experience immensely; it certainly lived up to the hype for me in every way during our initial romance.

Little did I know that somewhere along the way that romance would sour. At some point in the future the love I had for the Nintendo Wii would fade, and my love for other game consoles would resurface.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Act of Valor : Propaganda on the Big Screen






"To drive its themes home, the film closes by flashing the names of dead soldiers on the screen. We're made to believe they all died in service; they all died believing in the patriotic rhetoric. Their individual voice is taken away from them forever, and they have all become a tool to help glorify death in the military."


There is a world where villains have scarred faces and are motivated by pure evil. With only a desire to cause chaos, they disguise themselves as ice cream truck drivers and heartlessly murder a schoolyard full of children. These are the terrorists of the world, or at least the terrorists featured in the film Act of Valor. While I am confident that these types of people don't prominently exist in reality, this is undoubtedly how war advocates would like us to see America's "enemies". In short, Act of Valor is nothing more than patriotic propaganda with a huge budget, and to treat it like anything else would be totally disingenuous. 

With a cast that features real active duty Navy SEALs, this fact should have been a dead giveaway. Yet, it seems so weird to see this kind of nonsense coming from Hollywood as opposed to the talking heads in Washington, that it completely took me by surprise. Without taking a moment to pause and analyze the complexities of war, this film simply regurgitates all the talking points used by those who benefit from the military-industrial complex: the terrorists just hate freedom, and they desire only to see Americans suffer. If not for the United States military we would likely all be dead, or at least be living in service to Allah. We owe our brave men and women thanks for all their sacrifice, etc., etc. It's almost as if the movie was written by the public relations wing at the pentagon. Check your brain at the door if you're going to watch this one -- thinking for yourself will absolutely not be tolerated.

The Huffington Post reported that the active duty Navy SEALs in the cast were required by the military to participate in the film, meaning military brass actually had a direct hand in its creation. If anything ever fit the definition of propaganda completely, it's Act of Valor. This is the kind of propaganda not seen from American cinema since World War II, where many Hollywood films existed only to help sell war bonds. 

Act of Valor's primary purpose is, undoubtedly, to raise the popularity rating for a war that Americans seem tired of and recruit new soldiers if possible. The movie's plot feels more like a political platform than a genuine narrative. Somehow the film actually has the nerve to mold not only the war on drugs and terrorism together, but it throws in the war on immigration just for good measure.