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1477 reviews in total 
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Leader of the Pac-Man, 10 October 2014

I'm a sucker for all Pac-Man material, so his latest jaunt on the PlayStation was a definite purchase for me. I had reservations about him entering a free-roaming 3D world since that evolution has not necessarily worked well for Sonic the Hedgehog, but to my surprise Pac manages to fit in perfectly in his new extra-dimensional incarnation. It reminded me a lot of (the utterly awful) Sonic Unleashed in terms of level design and gameplay, but thankfully retained absolutely none of that horrendous game's numerous flaws.

The story, for what it's worth, has ghosts erupt from the Netherworld and invade Pac-opolis so Pac-Man rises to the challenge and take on the evil Betrayus (who sounds a lot like Mark Hammill's Joker) while Sir Cumference uses his Frigidigitator to...erm...I'll be honest - it was baloney and it lost me quite early. That doesn't matter though as the levels are simple and fun with bright colors and enough imagination to make sure that you don't get bored. But I am getting quite annoyed at seeing the same clichés done over and over in these types of games (lava levels, ice levels, sky levels). It is set while Pac-Man is still in high school (making him Pac-Boy essentially) and he is voiced by Erica Mendez, not Erin Matthews who voiced him in the spin-off TV series. Personally I'd have preffered it if they brought back Marty Ingels from the original 1982 TV series, to add a bit of nostalgic continuity.

There are 26 trophies available here, and they are all quite easy to get for the most part, apart from a few difficult mini-games, but they are mostly Golds and Silvers, and it's a simple Platinum overall. It also has frequently brilliant music which really should get it's own CD release, or at the very least a digital one.

The 'Burbs (1989)
A lot of build-up for a big anti-climax, 12 September 2014

The 'burbs is one of those movies that is all about the idea rather than the story. We have all known that one family in a street or town who don't follow the rules of social norms and are ostracised by those who strive for normality (IE the REAL freaks). We all know of people lower down than us on the social ladder which makes us feel content with achieving something or enjoying our own slightly elevated spot in society. But who know what really goes on behind closed doors? In truth we are all weird, we are all insane, and sane and insane can easily switch places if the minority becomes the majority.

That's all about to happen in Mayfield Place – quiet suburb of the idyllic Mid-Western Hinkley Hills. Ray Peterson (a puppy-fat-faced Otm Shank) has recently lost his job and is keeping said fact from his wife. During his "week off" he has nothing to occupy his time and so takes to intruding upon his new neighbors. The "foreign" Klopeks are not following the Mayfield Place rules. Their lawn is dead and weedy, the house is ramshackle and faded, they hardly ever leave or appear outdoors, and they certainly don't bother making friends or filling the void with meaningless chit-chat.

A reason enough to be suspicious according to Ray, his screwball pal Art, and ex-military Mark Rumsfield (Rick Ducommun and Bruce Dern, forming a perfect comic trinity). Multiple attempts to "politely" get to know the Klopeks fail, so its fair game for trespassing, snooping around, and breaking and entering. It certainly seems like the Klopeks are up to no good but by the end of the movie it's largely irrelevant as the big reveal comes and goes with no explanation or real connection to the story.

What The 'burbs does have going for it is manic energy between the cast and a lively, inventive, and massively fun score by Jerry Goldsmith. The supporting cast could have been improved though. Carrie Fisher as "the wife" just doesn't do it for me with her mannish hairdo and short stature. It would have been a much better idea to cast someone like Meg Ryan instead. Fisher is loses to Wendy Schaal who is much funnier as Rumsfield's wife. Corey Feldman also loses as an unholy combination Ted "Theodore" Logan and Patrick Swayze's Bodhi. His Valley Kid dialect and surfer/80s drop-out culture styling are completely out of place.

Despite the shortcomings there is still loads to enjoy with The 'burbs and it will keep you coming back again and again.

Layer Cake (2004)
The name is XXXX, 18 August 2014

I'd never heard of Daniel Craig pre-2004. Within a short space of time he starred in Enduring Love and this movie, and all of a sudden there was a new British leading man. But don't go thinking that he's a super-suave secret agent in Layer Cake. If anything XXXX is a bit of a helpless wimp when it comes to physicality.

The unusual marketing for Layer Cake, featuring a yellow Land Rover with an iron scalding the hood, is what drew me in initially. I was worried that it would be horribly flamboyant in the vein of Guy Ritchie. Thankfully director Matthew Vaughn wanted to develop his own style and the resulting movie is much more refined and laid-back.

XXXX is a coke dealer with low ambitions. He wants to make a neat fortune and escape into retirement. His boss Jimmy Price has fallen on hard times and manipulates XXXX into a compromising position between rival crime boss Eddie Temple, brash loudmouth wannabe gangster The Duke, and Serbian war criminal Slavo. If he is smart enough he just might be able to get out alive, get the money, and fool around with Sienna Miller.

At 106 minutes Layer Cake is sharply edited and crams in loads of plot, more so than many movies much longer in length. It passes in a breeze and features a great soundtrack and a score by Lisa Gerrard. Ben Davis' anamorphic photography (in the now-defunct JDC-Scope) makes it all look very slick while somehow never drawing attention to itself.

You can see how Craig got the Bond gig from his performance in this movie, but it is much more than a career stepping stone and seems to have been neglected by wider audiences in light of his more recent successes.

Drake's Delusion, 18 August 2014

There's no doubt that Uncharted 3 is a spectacular game in terms of design and imagination, though it falls down when it comes to story and irritating programming. At this point I feel that franchise fatigue is setting in and that evenly releasing the series two years apart means it's all very routine and formulaic and the developers are just rehashing the gameplay and transplanting the engine from one sequel to another. Nathan Drake still sticks to things when you don't want him to, will dive and roll when you want him to take cover, and will pick up the wrong thing because the buttons have been assigned too many different controls depending on the environment. It's a straight-up cut and paste.

I had no idea what or why Drake was after this time, or who the bad guys were. It was so cursory and yet confusing. English dudes in suits pop up and you kill, kill, kill. It honestly felt like I was fighting against UK Parliament as the main bad guy looks a lot like David Miliband.

The game flashes back to Nathan Drakes childhood, somewhere in the mid-nineties and how he met Sully. Then there's shooting and killing in the tunnels beneath London, a riot in a dilapidated French mansion (why this was in the game or what real purpose it served was lost on me), and a completely superfluous battle on a sinking cruise ship. Yes, these levels are fun and exciting, but they are just there to bloat out the game and make it feel wholesome despite the fact that they mean very little to the plot. It's just same old same old.

I liked the Uncharted world to begin with, but now it's getting quite stale and the games are becoming indistinguishable from each other. The characters are still great, though they need a much better destination and motivation than what we get here. Uncharted seems to be thriving on superficial drivel when it should be blowing us away, which is a real shame as a game as visually breathtaking as this should not have such a lame, perfunctory story.

Jail is more fun than camp, Who knew?, 31 July 2014

Handyman Ernest is called up for jury duty where the crook on trial realizes that he's a doppleganger for his incarcerated boss. After a convoluted switch Ernest if behind bars while his evil counterpart Nash is working night security at the bank, planning to rob it and make moves on Ernest's girl.

It's a familiar plot, and the production values are not that great (what's with all the pink lighting in jail?) but Jim Varney's mugging and the story's eccentric imagination make it a fun watch. It's a tighter movie than Camp though, which I felt was a bit of a false start to his big screen adventures.

It's hard to believe Varney was only 40 at the time of filming, and that he'd only live another 10 years. As crass as the Ernest movies might be they are a constant reminder of an actor who's abilities were wide, but never got the recognition he deserved.

Mango and Smash, 26 July 2014

Sylvester Stallone has made a career of breaking out of prison in movies. He's busted out of jail/confinement in First Blood, Rambo II, Lock-Up, Demolition Man, Judge Dredd, and this 1989 "classic".

This time around Sly is wealthy Beverly Hills Cop (er...) Ray Tango, the second best cop in LA. Kurt Russell is Gabe Cash, a grubby, shaggy haired renegade who is also the second best cop in LA (depending on your perspective). Both of them are lured into a trap by evil criminal mastermind Yves Perret (Jack Palance, who is entertaining, but has nothing to do) a man a criminal empire? From a warehouse? In a quarry? On an old Air Force base? Perret and his business partners (exactly what this means and who these guys are is never properly explained – they're bad guys because they're bad guys) are fed up with Tango and Cash/Cash and Tango spoiling their evil schemes and plot to have them framed and thrown into the worst prison imaginable. Any logical mastermind would just kill them but then we would not have a movie.

As a child I never understood this film. I was a smart kid and I was into complex movies well beyond my years. Yeah, I rented a lot of PG-rated stuff but I also consumed lots of grown-up movies. It was only when I was an adult that I realized the reason I didn't understand Tango & Cash was not that it was above me, but that it was BENEATH me. I wanted a serious adult's movie and instead I got a childish shoot-em-up.

That's not to say that it's all bad, Tango & Cash DOES have a strong set-up and a great middle act with the two of them breaking out of prison, but by the time the third act comes around it falls apart completely with a confusing monster truck demolition derby, driven by bad guys that come out of nowhere, while Jack Palance sits around watching it on a bank of CCTV monitors (operated by who, exactly?) despite the fact that he's obviously just looking at b-roll 35mm footage.

Director Andrei Konchalovskiy brings whatever coherence he can to the film under the insanity of producer/hairdresser Jon Peters. The film was in danger of never seeing the light of day after he was fired but editor Stuart Baird stepped in and stripped the film down the bare essentials, leaving a lot of plot excised. Maybe it's for the best, maybe it's for the worst.

All that remains is a promising, yet ultimately disappointing, 80s cheeseburger buddy cop movie with a snappy Harold Faltermeyer score, anamorphic photography with some frequently striking shots, brainless action, and a young Terri Hatcher as a stripper who shows neither her breasts nor her vagina.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
This game hates you worse than Hitler hated Jews, 4 July 2014

Word of advice to developers and publishers: if you sell your game on speed, the need for it, and have the word in the title, then don't punish the player for wanting it.

Should I actually bother doing a review for this junk or should I just give you a long list of complaints? I suppose they'd be one and the same.

You play as Jack, a young troublemaker who finds himself in deep with the mob. In the opening scene you escape a car compactor and flee the gangsters who are out to kill you. Right away you are enrolled in a West-to-East coast cross-country race (sort of a reverse Turbo OutRun) for a grand prize that will settle your debts with said mobsters. That's it as far as story goes, not that it matters since some of the best racing games have virtually zero story.

It's unlikely that you'll actually enjoy this trip from the Big Orange to the Big Apple as you'll spend half the time struggling to keep your car under control. The handling on all vehicles is simply terrible and anything/everything will make you fishtail. You'll cling to every guard rail, be they concrete or steel, like magnet. If you clip another car even gently, even by the wing mirror, you'll be thrown off the road. Rival drivers are capable of impossible physics and miracles. You are not. Are you enjoying that 1-second burst of speed? Well don't, because you're getting thrown right into a right-angle turn. Do you want a level where you can enjoy going fast? Well tough, because the next one, and the one after that, is mountain-based meaning lots and lots of switchbacks, and the road is wet too so if you even think about having even the slightest control over it then you will be disappointed. Winning any race is based on chance not skill.

And there lies the worst problem of this game - if you go off the road by just a single freakin' INCH the game resets to the last check point, even if you have not past any checkpoints it will send you back to the beginning of the race and you'll still lose a reset point. When going off course, be it merely TOUCHING a grass verge or going off a cliff there is no destruction animation, the game just fades out. I swear it will make you so mad you'll chuck your controller through the TV and go out looking for a fight. Where the programmers complete idiots or cruel sadists? There's no installation either, and you know what that means, kiddies - loooooooooong loading times. I remember when I had Turbo OutRun for my Commodore 64 way back in 1991. It was a multi-load tape and would load each level one a time. I thought this was a chore even back then. Nothing has changed in 20 years.

After playing it through to the end, because I hate myself, I only unlocked 36% of the trophies. Many of them are based on online play, which is a barren after 3 years of being released. As I have said before, online-based trophies should not count towards a Platinum.

I cannot think of any reason to recommend this garbage to you. There are so many, many good driving games out there from Burnout to Motorstorm and Ridge Racer as well as all of the retro titles such as Daytona and OutRun. This is the second time I have been disappointed by the Need for Speed franchise and I will not be returning no matter what it promises.

Ludicrous Speed, 27 June 2014

Summer 1997 - a high-octane trailer for Speed 2 precedes Con Air in cinemas. Audiences are impressed. "That looks good", they say. Con Air is a number 1 hit in early June. One week later (Friday the 13th no doubt) it is knocked-off the top spot by Speed 2. Audiences are still shell-shocked by the trailer and by memories of the 1994 hit. By the following week all goodwill that anyone was willing to lend the film had evaporated and it plummeted from the top spot at the box office to fifth. Two weeks later it would be out of the top 10. A bad result for a $110-million movie.

Speed 2 was originally scheduled for release in the UK in October 1997 but was switched with Volcano (another Fox production) for an August 15th release date. Apparently Fox wanted to be done with the movie as soon as possible. This was before the internet allowed every minute detail of a movie to be scrutinized before its release. Speed 2 wasn't released worldwide as much as it was purged.

I hate Speed. Keanu Reeves is a terrible actor and I have called his performance in that film one of the worst efforts in the past two decades. He is superseded in Speed 2 by the much more likable Jason Patic as Alex Shaw, an LAPD renegade who takes Annie Porter (Sandra Bullock playing up the ditzyness) on a cruise on the Seabourn Legend (a real ship) in the Caribbean. Their holiday is interrupted by John Giger, a likable maniac in the Travis Dane mold who seizes control of the ship and plans to rob the purser's safe in revenge for being fired by the parent company.

Most of the passengers are evacuated onto lifeboats, leaving a handful in danger as the ship heads forward at a whopping 14-miles-per-hour on a collision course with an oil tanker. It is incredibly dumb and stupid, but is still very entertaining and infrequently exciting. The running time is a little bloated, and it could have excised all of the "running around in dark corridors" scenes for a superior final cut. There is also a very, very annoying Glaswegian character (who speaks correct English, which no Glaswegian has done since the dawn of time) called Merced, which is probably the most far-fetched thing in the entire movie as people from that particular place are never called Merced. They are called disgusting names like Stuart McGeechnie, or Colin McGillvary, or John Muirhead. They are not called Merced. If he were also cut from the final product it would most certainly raise the overall rating.

One of the more curious things about Speed 2 is that it was rated PG in the UK (compared to the 15/R-rated original). Usually I would cry sacriledge at this family-friendly rating but it barely caught my attention back then and in retrospect it actually helps. Speed took itself very seriously. Speed 2 does not, and the jokey, goofy tone makes it much more enjoyable.

Mark Mancina raised the bar on action scoring with his iconic effort in 1994 and he delivers probably the best score of his career with Speed 2. It really proves what one can do under pressure as Mancina was scoring Con Air when he was called away early to work on Speed 2 (leaving Trevor Rabin to finish Con Air) and had a very tight deadline. It's not the tinny, synthy sound of Speed anymore, he uses a HUGE orchestra which might be the only thing bigger and more bombastic than the actual premise of the movie. Really amazing stuff and it's most definitely worth hunting down the limited edition CD.

There's a lot to like about Speed 2, and it doesn't deserve it's reputation. If you want mindless action, implausible set pieces, sunny scenery, and lots of destruction then look no further.

Cat Run (2011)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Dog Walk, 7 June 2014

You know how carnies have that knack of making you part with your cash by pretending that they can read your palm or tea leaves? That's what this movie reminds me of. I assume that the script for Cat Run was interpreted from scrunched-up toilet paper after a bout of diarrhea brought on by food poisoning from cheap kebab meat. If you gave mentally subnormal 8-year-olds toy guns and told them to run riot in the back yard they'd come up with a better plot behind the gunplay than whoever was responsible for the script to his breathtakingly abysmal film.

Cat (Paz Vega - who?) is at some political orgy shindig in Eastern Europe when everyone is suddenly killed and she finds herself marked for death and on the lam because "she knows". Many characters come and go over the running time, most of which seem to be occupying their own story as the movie feels very disconnected.

I've seen many poorly edited films in my time, but Cat Run wins the top prize by a million miles. Characters warp through space and time with no coherence or cohesion. Cat Run feels like three separate terrible movies chucked into a blender, fed to pigs, collected as feces, then painted on the screen in brown smears. It is truly, mind-bogglingly, jaw-droppingly, agonizingly terrible.

The worst part of this brain torture is that Cat Run actually thinks it is smart and funny. John Stockwell's "direction" makes you long for the crude, childish eye candy of Michael Bay. It will even make you forgive Guy Richie for all his previous sins. Nothing, but nothing about this drek can possibly be any worse.

Shame on all involved. Who would want this on their resume? If you dropped Cat Run in a public toilet bowl it would regurgitate it back in your face.

You honestly think that there are worse films than this? There's not. At least Tommy Wiseau's The Room had some shred of nobility, no matter house misguided.

Do let this film come within a 100-mile radius of your life.

Who knew that being dead could be so much fun?, 25 May 2014

I remember seeing TV spots for this movie in Florida in 1989 and thinking that it made for a great concept. When I eventually rented the VHS tape a few months later it really appealed to my dark sense of humor and I ended up watching it a zillion times. In the 25 years since its release it has become very dated. It's not dated BADLY, but it has aged more than other films of the period.

Corporate slackers Richard and Larry (Ted Mosby prototype Jonathan Silverman and 80s person Andrew McCarthy) discover a $4,000,000 fraud hidden away in the cooked books. Their attempt to impress their boss Bernie Lomax (a lovably smug Terry Kiser) with their find leads to an invitation to his Hampton Island home for a summer weekend of babes, booze, and boats. The duo don't realize that they've stumbled on Bernie's embezzlement scam and that he intends to have them quietly killed by the Mob (the organized crime connections are never fully detailed or understood). Mob Boss Vito instead arranges for Bernie to be killed, thus washing his hands of him.

Upon arriving at Bernie's lavish home Richard and Larry discover that he ain't quite breathing and most definitely has ceased living. For a variety of reasons they plot to create the illusion that Bernie is still alive, which proves to be easier done than said as his vacuous, drunken neighbors are more interested in drinking his champagne and mooching parties from him than actually being friends.

Despite the dark subject matter Weekend at Bernie's plays it safe for the most part, never pushing past its PG-13 boundaries. The physicality of Kiser's performance is impressive as well as funny. You really do believe he is dead and he's brilliant at keeping a straight face (or a smirking one as he dies during a brief moment of pleasure) while being tossed and thrown around. You wouldn't think that playing a dead body would be hard but Kiser's comic timing and skill really pay off.

The production design and flat photography are what date this film so much. Although Ted Kotcheff had Wake in Fright and First Blood on his resume by this point he brings very little visual flair to the film and it looks very TV-ish. The poor score by Andy Summers never seems to work with any scene (I have a feeling that his friend Stewart Copeland would have done a better job) and some of the soundtrack choices grate on the ears.

What amazes me the most is that about 90% of the dialogue is (bad) ADR. I assume that the sound guy forgot to switch on the mic or something. I can accept it when it comes to dubbing over several F-bombs to keep the movie family-friendly but you'll be surprised at how often the words simply do not match the lips.

Skip the sequel. Enjoy this movie for what it is, though it could have been better if it were a few shades darker. And lookout for a hilarious cameo from the director as Richard's dad/butler.

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