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Grand Theft Auto IV (2008 Video Game)
10/10
Perhaps the best video game ever.
11 May 2008
I have never given anything a 10 out of 10. In my 33 years of life, I've thought a perfect rating was unachievable. . . until I played GTA IV.

The craftsmanship in this title is simply stunning. It is clear that it was designed and implemented by people who really wanted to produce something that was revolutionary, and without skimping on the details.

I'm not much of a gamer, so I can't compare this to other titles. But what I can say is that I have been, and continue to be surprised with what the game is offering.

It seems almost limitless. From AI cars flashing their high beams when you're driving on the wrong side of the road on a collision course with them, to the seamless integration of the radio stations with the world you influence, to . . . well, a dozen pages could be written on the details alone.

And then there's the characters. Niko is great. He's likable, despite being a murderer. As the story progresses, you find yourself empathizing with him more and more, which is something I'd never expect from a video game.

Some of the other characters are annoying, but they ultimately lend themselves to a plot that is just fantastic. I would recommend to anyone playing the game to not seek out spoilers; the story is compelling and full of surprises, to the point where a plot turn will have you sitting in your easy chair, holding your controller, dropping your jaw saying "wow", with a little bit of drool rolling down your face.

Yes. It's that good.

Players of previous iterations of the GTA franchise will be happy to know that Niko is not some dopey guy who does whatever anyone tells him without reason. Whereas CJ from GTA:SA was unquestioning in his desire to just make everyone happy, Niko is far more complex. There are times when you think he's doing things out of dumb sense of "I guess I have to do this", but then you discover it's something else. Something more believable.

It's rare that a title has this much hype surrounding it. It's even more rare when it actually delivers on that hype.

And what were seeing with this game is history. Video games are a new genre of entertainment. Until recently, they've been resigned to the domains of hard-core gamers, with developers seeing how far graphics or sound can be pushed. But it's never been seen as a legitimate art form, like cinema.

GTA IV changes that. It suggests that a video game can be, in essence, a beautiful work of art. With this as a starting point, it's likely that in another 20 years interactive entertainment will be considered just as worthy of critical praise as film, or painting, or music.
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1/10
Probably the worst film adaptation of a Billy Ocean song ever
25 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Is there such thing as a "perfect TV show"? Maybe. But Pirates of the Caribbean is hardly an example. For Pete's sake, the show didn't even have any pirates in it. Sure, half the movie took place on water, and I guess you could call Dennis Hopper's little aqua army a 'group of pirates', but that's stretching it.

Now, I should tell you right off the bat that I'm not a fan of prequels. This was supposed to show you how Edward Scissor Hands grew up when he was a kid in the olden days. Maybe I was in the bathroom when they showed that part, but I never saw it. I kept looking for young Scissor Hands when the so called 'pirates' were shooting about on their jet skis, but you know (and I just realized this right now), I don't think he could even ride a jet ski. He's got scissors for hands! You can't drive a jet ski when you have scissors for hands!

In any event, in this episode the entire planet is covered with water. There's the good guy, played by Orlando Bloom (looking suspiciously like Kevin Costner) who has his own boat and also can breathe under water because he has gills for some reason. Then there's the bad guy, played by Dennis Hopper who sails around the world in his 'pirate' ship (which is really just an old oil tanker) doing evil things.

At one point, Bloom's character discovers an old bag of mail from like 100 years ago and pretends to be a postal carrier. This pisses off Hopper something fierce. That's because in the olden days, there was nothing pirates hated more than mail. Getting a letter from grandma is like fingernails on the pirate chalkboard.

When everyone finally finds land, the TV show shifts and there's a mad dash to find the treasure of a pirate from the olden days called 'One Eye Willy". It was kind of cheesy, because it was supposed to be taking place in the Caribbean, but for some reason looked a lot like America's Pacific Northwest.

Eventually they find the treasure, and everybody's homes are saved from Dennis Hopper's evil land developers.

I was so confused by this movie that I actually became literally ill, and my case of violent diarrhea which has been dormant for some 15 years returned. I won't be buying this one on DVD.
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7/10
Better than it's given credit for
21 May 2007
Despite the terrible reviews this movie has garnered, it has some qualities that raise it above average and gives us something that, over all, is pretty darn good. In addition to explaining some of the more foolish acts performed by people in an entertaining way, the work attempts to give us an understanding as to why these people commit those foolish acts.

There is, in the eyes of this work, a duality of man that shifts between normal, safe and acceptable behavior and insane actions that may often lead to one's death. Throughout the movie, David Arquette's character is straining to discover what it is, exactly, that drives an otherwise normal human being to acts of profound stupidity and danger. The character's goal shifts from an attempt to discover a common profile for these people into something more personal and real.

However, the movie ultimately fails on this premise. While it does raise the question, it never bothers to give us an acceptable answer. The best it has to offer comes from Ryder's character regarding 'a maze of automatic telephone voicemails' when dealing with insurance companies. Arquette's character can't seem to come close.

Overall, the look and feel of the movie is fresh and original. While it borrows from a number of different styles that will immediately be recognized, but it brings them together in a wonderful way. In addition, the soundtrack to the movie is superb.
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7/10
Great, with a glaring flaw
9 February 2006
I bought this back in 2001 at Fry's electronics. It was one of the first DVD titles I purchased (I was a little late jumping on the DVD bandwagon). I got it because I like the band, and have always enjoyed their videos, which range from 'good' to 'really friggin' amazing'.

However, my heart sank a little as I watched the videos. They went and 'bleeped' out the profanity in many of the songs. Now, personally I'm not a fan of profanity, and don't often use it. I'd prefer it if musicians could figure out a way to write lyrics that were absent the f-bombs and s-words and the like. But they don't, and judged as a whole the work from the Beastie Boys is so good that the occasional dirty word is excusable.

What I can't excuse is the bleeping out of the words in the videos. This isn't MTV. This is something I paid for to watch and listen to in my own home. It's the artist's decision as to what words they use. They use these words as part of a work, and you can hear them just fine on the albums, so why not on the videos? After I watched it a few times, I was a bit frustrated with the censorship and put it on a shelf and there it sat for five years. I decided to revisit the collection this week to see how it would appear on my current home theatre gear. When I first got this title, I just had a DVD player connected to a 13" television. I've moved up considerably with a very nice 5.1 surround system and a widescreen HD display.

I must say that with the proper equipment, the experience is fantastic. The 5.1 remixes in the songs is pretty dang good, and the picture is close to what I'd normally expect from Criterion; it's not always crystal clear, but a lot of their videos were intentionally shot with a grainy or low quality film or video equipment. Considering the source, I'm confident this is probably the best picture they could produce.

There's a wealth of additional features on the DVD set to keep even the hardest core Beastie Boys fan occupied for quite a long time (including both director and band commentary, a massive collection of various song remixes, and even some instances of the seldom used 'alternate angle' feature in DVDs.) All in all, a pretty good compilation with only one single flaw: the censorship. With the capabilities of multiple audio channels, it's not much to ask at least *one* version with an unedited song.
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Serenity (2005)
6/10
An A movie that thinks its a B movie
13 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
When a good movie thinks it's a "b" movie.

As a whole, Serenity is a solid sci-fi picture with a good deal of entertainment value.

The film is not without its drawbacks: The overall plot has been done before (well meaning but flawed hero races against time and insurmountable odds to broadcast 'the truth' regarding some government conspiracy or secret), and the acting is more often miss then hit (Gina Torres is a particularly bad offender; half of her time on screen, she seems to be distracted by things completely unrelated to the movie). The special effects are competent but come across as average compared with what we've seen done in other modern sci-fi pictures.

However, the above mentioned drawbacks can be forgiven due to some rather exceptional things about this movie, found in acting, in style and in the lesser plot points in the script.

Chiwetel Ejiofor does a wonderful job in his role as a nameless government agent, taking an already fascinating and unique character and masterfully adding quite a few subtleties giving it a remarkable amount of depth. It's seems that "the operative" was written as the ultimate, flawless stoic: A man who acknowledges that he himself is a monster who sins in order to help foster a world without sin. Yet contained in Ejiofor's performance are nuances that extend the character out to points beyond what the script appeared to have called for. Despite the dialog the film has him recite, "The operative" is not perfect, and Ejiofor lets us know the operative is aware of this. As the film progresses we start to see that included with the soft-spoken, meticulous, intelligent and unrepentant package is a man coming to terms with a deeply disturbing hypocrisy.

The film leaves us thinking that the operative walks off to throw himself on his sword, though it's likely filmmakers left his fate unknown in the hopes of bringing him back in a sequel. Considering the quality of his character and Ejiofor's performance, this isn't a bad thing.

The overall style of the film is also a delight. Granted, some of the CGI looks like, well, CGI, and the movement of spacecraft at times comes off as unnatural and improbable. But otherwise the look is fantastic. We don't see the clean, uncluttered aesthetic of Star Trek nor the grimy and dark look of The Matrix. Instead, we are given something that suggests a functional, lived-in look that upon reflection comes off as very plausible. Moreover, this approach to set design manages to be inventive and enjoyable without being distracting.

Avid moviegoers will be familiar with the ending, leaving it somewhat anti-climatic. Due to the way it's presented, there is little question that the recording explaining what happened on Miranda is going to get out. What saves this movie isn't the conclusion, however; it's the path the film takes to reach that conclusion. The way the picture slowly reveals things such as the root cause of River's psychosis or the effects of the atmospheric tampering during the terraform process.

Ultimately, however, the movie ends up failing due to an unfortunate treatment of the film. In "b" movies; (low budget, bad actors, ridiculous plots), it's common for a films producers to be aware that they are, in fact, making a crummy movie. In order to give the film some entertainment value, they'll "spice-up" the work by littering the dialog with campy cornball humor. With a bad movie, this sort of tongue-in-cheek brand of humor typically works, making the film more entertaining then it would be without the screwy humor.

Serenity has a generous helping of this particular brand of camp. The problem is, Serenity isn't a 'B' movie. By all rights, with its budget and the vast talent resources behind the production of this work, Serinity is an A caliber film. Had they left out the camp, it could have easily become a sci-fi classic.
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Explorers (1985)
5/10
The biggest letdown in movie history
13 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I seriously have to wonder about this movie. It had elements of genius in it before they met the aliens. I especially liked River Phoenix's (I didn't know who he was back then, and to this day it's s surprise he played the super dork scientist) German family of scientists who had the little kid who always showed up at the breakfast table wearing Halloween masks, despite it being nowhere near Halloween. There were some odd, quirky but fantastic minds behind that movie.

So why, oh why did they wreck it? I was 10 years old when that movie was released, and even at that early age I knew something was terribly wrong. Wait, What? All this build up so we can learn that the aliens are moronic kids who are obsessed with American Earth TV? At the start, this is an intelligent, wonderful film about a group of misfit kids, drawn together by a shared dream, who pull their talents and resources together to build a spaceship because they were contacted by some advanced alien intelligence. Inherent in the film was the idea of idealistic innocence culminating in the desire to explore, to discover and to see what was out there. All addressed in a mature, even thought provoking way. A rare feat even among the excess of quality kid's movies made in '85.

And then, KABLAMO! All that is thrown away. Even at 10 years old I personally felt my intelligence insulted. You're telling me that after all this build up, the first contact with Aliens these kids have is some big goofy looking Muppet that says "Hello, I'm Mr. Ed!??!?" "It's not fair!" I thought to myself. "How do they expect me to believe that these mentally challenged alien children were able to send interstellar messages containing highly technical schematics for building an airtight force field which could be piloted in any direction, even outer space? And for what? So they could impress the kids with their stupid imitations of American television pop-culture? NO. I WILL NOT ACCEPT THIS." At least The Goonies made 1985 worthwhile.
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Night After Night (1989–1992)
Lives well in memory.
4 August 2005
I fondly remember watching this program every night while I was in high school. There was something very special and unique about it which I've yet to see recreated. Some of the bits were absolutely brilliant, including "reviews of movies I haven't seen", if memory serves.

The title of the show was apt; you knew that you'd have the same guy who could give you the exact same feeling night after night, every night.

When the last episode of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson aired, Havey's show had no content; simply a sign telling viewers to watch Carson. I spent an hour laying in front of the TV, expecting him to do something, but to no avail. That he could get people to watch a still screen for an hour, and yet not be disappointed when nothing happened was a testament to the kind of show his was.

Havey is one of those guys who has the "whatever happened to.." title, with people who knew the show back then actually caring what the answer is.
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2/10
Wrong vehicle, bad film.
30 May 2005
I'm going to preface this review with this disclaimer: I am not a racist. I do not believe that any variation of humankind ultimately has any strong advantages or weaknesses over another, and I would neither advocate discrimination against somebody because of their race or religion, nor would I suggest hate and violence towards them would be a good idea.

Now, that having been said, I actually do think National Socialism--as a political ideology--has a lot of good points. It pains me that American film makers always seems to dwell on the one significant historical blemish on the party: the racism. Our nation has been brainwashed to associate the Nazis and the terrible things they did to the Jewish people and other minorities while they were in power in WWII era Germany and, to a lesser extent, Italy. So the question the title of "Surf Nazis Must Die" begs, which is "Why, exactly, must they die?", is instantly rhetorical. Of course they must die because they're Nazis and by extension, we can assume they're racist.

I don't disapprove of Troma trying to tackle the problem of race relations in one of their pictures. It's a tender subject, yet one that should be explored over and over again, lest the horrors of past transgressions against race be repeated. But when forming your canvas on which your work will be created, why immediately pick out Nazis to be the bad guys? Because of a historical association? During the bulk of the 19th century, the terrible practice of slavery was a key feature in the democratic party's platform in the U.S. If you're going to use political affiliation as a reason to justify the need for death of someone, it would seem "Surf Democrats Must Die" would be a far more appropriate vehicle for American audiences.

It came as very little a surprise, then, when I discovered the "Surf Nazis" resembled real Nazis in no significant way other then single dimensional racism. What became more disturbing is, the film draws the gang of surf punks so poorly, and makes all of the characters so instantly unlikeable, that the desire to see them die because they were annoying quickly overshadows wanting to see them die because they're racist. They could be the Charitable Order of Really Friendly Surf Monks, and go out of their way to help anyone in a disadvantaged situation in life, and you'd still end up wanting to see them die because, well, they're just really stupid people.

When you seem to go out of your way to make characters which have no redeeming qualities, and who become noteworthy for the single fact that they cause audiences physical and mental distress by just watching them on the screen, employing something like race as a backdrop becomes counterproductive. In other words, the producers of this film actually ended up making people who are against racists look bad. Had this been intentional, the film would be worthy of praise under some convoluted perspective simply because it's just so hard to pull something like that off. Though I'm going to stick with my guess that this was not by design.

I should note that there is a single gem in this train wreck of a film. Not a shining gem worth a lot of money; more of a semi-shiny rock found in a septic tank. And that is Gail Neely, who actually manages to give a performance worthy of a B movie. It's not a great performance, but she manages to take it with enough self awareness to consider "Ok, this is all really stupid, so why not just ham it up and have fun with it?" And it looks like she legitimately is enjoying herself. As opposed to the actors portraying the Surf Nazis, who seem more like extraordinarily bad actors that are so dumb they're taking the roles seriously.

All in all, this is a pretty crummy movie. It's not a "so bad it's good" movie, it's just a crummy movie. If they managed to change the title to something like "Stupid Surfers vs. Large Older Woman", it might fare a little better, if only because the working title they ended up with promises that a fun amount of kitsch could be contained in the film, which it doesn't. A more bland title would at the very least not build up an small expectation which never remotely was satisfied.
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7/10
Tottally Awesome!!!
27 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Warning: Contains LOTS of spoilers.

Star Wars Episode III: Return of the Sith is the latest amazing offering from George Lucas about Star Wars. In this episode, we learn so much about the series that I had to watch it 5 times in the theater just to understand half of what was going on.

The show starts out where the last episode left off. I was a little disappointed that they didn't do a "previously on Star Wars" portion to remind you what was going on, but that almost instantly went away due to the special effects. The effects were exactly that: Special!!! Not the kind of special that means you have to ride a short bus to school, but the other kind of special, the kind that means "totally friggin' awesome!" There is a huge space battle going on, where O.B. 1 and Luke Skywalker have to fight like a million robots all by themselves. Luckily, the robots can't seem to hit their space ships with lasers and can only attack with those robots that are like that gremlin that destroyed the airplane from "Twilight Zone: The Motion Picture". Just when you think the action can't get any more intense, R2-D2 gets in the mix and starts fighting the gremlin-bots.

Then the Jedis decide to crash land in a robot space-ship and they kill like a billion more robots with their laser swords. They find out that a friend of theirs who is the President of the Galaxy is being held prisoner on the ship by a robot named "General Grievance", so the Jedi Knights go run around until they find the robot. The president orders Luke to kill somebody named "The Count" and Luke chops off his head. Unfortunately they don't show it because I guess too many kids might be watching the show and they don't want to offend the kids with blood and stuff.

The evil robot gets away, but that's okay because later on in the show they kill him because the robot has emphysema and somebody decided to put a human liver inside of him that makes a big explosion when you shoot it with a ray gun.

Meanwhile back on the planet we discover that Princess Leah is preggers. We don't know if it's Luke's baby or O.B.1 (and we never do. Hopefully that will be cleared up in the next exciting episode of Star Wars). But since the Princess was Luke's girlfriend, he has lots of really bad Jedi dreams about her and decides he doesn't want to be a Jedi any more.

So he becomes pals with the President and learns that he can stop all the bad dreams if he runs for Darth Vader, which is kind of like the Vice President of outer-space. And guess what? Luke wins the election!!! There's a lot of talking parts of the movie that were kind of boring about the election so I didn't pay too much attention. I like the fight scenes.

But this episode of Star Wars doesn't disappoint when it comes to fight scenes. We get to see most of them in the movie, but some of them they cut out, like when Luke Skywalker fights all the little kids at the Jedi HQ. That would be a cool battle to watch. Hopefully when it's released on DVD they'll have that whole fight scene added in.

I didn't know this, but Yoda is Chewbacca's father, and goes to visit his son in this episode. The reunion is touching.

Also, they said in the season opener that Luke Skywalker's son, Anikin, was conceived by the Diphenhydramines. A big shocker: It turns out that it wasn't the Diphenhydramines at all, but instead it was Luke Skywalker's bosses boss (who we don't see because the President killed him in his sleep). I was like "Woah!" Also, it turns out that Jar Jar Binks was Princess Leah's father, and that after the other Binks found out that one of their own was fooling around with humans they kicked him out of the secret underwater city, which is why he was so ashamed to tell O.B. 1 why he was kicked out and said he was "clumsy".

Finally, we learn that Watto, the space bug that likes to gamble a lot is actually Yoda's father.

A few disappointments: Boba Fette isn't in this one, which is stupid since he's one of the coolest main characters in the show. This is supposed to be the last episode of season II, and it's never explained why O.B. 1 looks so much younger in this season then he did in season I. (I know it's because the actor who played O.B.1 in the first season died, and they had to find a replacement), but it would have been nice for them to explain it, considering so many other mysteries were cleared up. Also, why does Luke Skywalker decide to dress exactly like the original Darth Vader from the first season? He goes for half the movie after he gets elected to be Darth Vader looking normal, then he gets into a fight with O.B. 1 and part of him is burned up, so he decides to dress up just like the other Darth Vader. That doesn't really make any sense to me.

Also, I wish they didn't wait so long between episodes. I already own the first season on DVD (it was kind of expensive, considering it only had four episodes in it and one of the episodes was just a "Best of" I bought season 1 of Seinfield and it cost like half of that and has over 30 episodes).

But other then the bad things I mentioned, I'd give this a 10 out of 10. Or even more.
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Astounding!
29 October 2002
I just returned from the un-expectantly entertaining Pokemon 4. It is a matter of great wonder to me that others did not find the rich storylines in the film as enlightening as I did. I suppose the unfortunate reality is if a film doesn't cater to the 'lowest common denominator', its success domestically (and more and more in foreign markets) is questionable at best.

At first I wish to address the flaws. The animation, as has been pointed out before, is at best sub-par. But where they skimped on artistry in the drawings of the characters, the storyboard simulated camera angles and image composition are superb. The film lover will note the use of techniques from film auteurs such as Orsen Wells (note the second part of the opening scene, which is quite obviously an homage to the master) or Sam Peckinpah (pay close attention to scenes leading up to the first Pokemon Battle and try to tell me you aren't reminded of Straw Dogs). I also thought the sound was pretty crummy.

That aside, the film was a pure masterpiece. As in the preceding three Pokemon movies, the story centers on the loveable 'Pikachu'. Pikachu looks like an overfed mouse that can use his powers to fight other Pokemon, sometimes to the death. All Pokemon (Japanese for 'The Monster who lives in the pocket') have special powers. It has been said that Pikachu is the most powerful of all of these, but to find out that one must become a 'Pokemon Master'. As a parent, I am still confused to what that really means, and I suspect that in 10 years, the entire lexicon of Pokemon movies and television programs will be required viewing in the more credible Psychology and Philosophy departments in Universities around the world.

Countering the hero that Pikachu presents us is yet another Pokemon, who is called 'Meowth', brilliantly voiced by the multi-talented yet under-rated Addie Blaustein. Meowth, unlike every other Pokemon can speak in English (who only know and converse in Japanese. As a side note, I hope in the DVD version the English translation of the Pokemon's conversations will be provided). Meowth travels with a hapless game of criminals called 'The Rocket Team', who battle with Pikachu and his owner Ash to become Pokemon Masters.

Within these two characters lie the classic storyline of the Epic struggle between good and evil, truth and deception, black and white. It is highly recommended that the casual fan revisit the entire running of the TV series in order (including the surreal yet awe inspiring Jhoto Journeys) and the films before returning to this work.

Nine out of 10. Near perfection in my book.
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2/10
Well done filth
29 September 2002
It has been said that true art always invokes an emotional response. With that definition, Freddy Got Fingered is a pure masterpiece. That's not to say that it's good; it isn't. It does, however, warrant at least some praise for having such perfect timing and craftsmanship for eliciting pure disgust and anguish on its viewers.

At its heart, it's a test. A test to see how much of an assault to basic taste, human dignity, or just about anything good in this world can be made before a person's stomach turns. For me that took about 15 minutes.

Challenging the boundaries of good taste is nothing new. But while an avant-garde artist may defecate on a canvas and hang it on the wall, Tom Green would be more likely to take the feces off the wall, eat it, and then vomit it up on to his own mother.

I think that explains the variety of opinions of this movie. Either you enjoyed it for it's ability to display a perfect sort of depraved insanity that stands as an affront to any sort of coherent goodness, or you hated it because there really is no way to take pleasure in watching something like that.

So I have a difficult time calling it a 'bad' movie. It did exactly what it set out to do, and then some. It exceeded any and all expectations regarding the subject of filth. And the only adjective I can think of that truly describes it is simply 'evil'. Very well done evil, but evil to the core nonetheless.
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Pepper Ann (1997–2000)
A unique and rare experience.
29 April 2002
By all accounts, I shouldn't like Pepper Ann, but I do. It has something no other cartoon out there has; a strong yet flawed female character who has legitimate problems in her pre-teen life. Unlike other programs that attempt to tackle this, the series is not patronizing, nor does it try to diminish the importance of these issues.

While not as captivating or funny as it's Disney counterpart, Doug, it does carry with it a greater sense of realism and multi-dimensional characters. This is a rare find.
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