Monthly Archives: October 2015

Vampire in Brooklyn

VampireBrooklynTitleEddie Murphy as Maximillion
Angela Bassett as Detective Rita Veder
Allen Payne as Detective Justice
Kadeem Hardison as Julius Jones

Remember when Eddie Murphy made good movies in which he didn’t voice a donkey? We don’t see an example of that in Vampire in Brooklyn, sadly. Nor is he the only one with talent who takes a wrong turn here. As a producer, Murphy evidently decided to bring in Wes Craven in between his a Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream movies to direct. Their plan was to satirize the old tale of Dracula and add an inner city twist. That’s OK. They also thought this concept could use bad acting, horrible dialogue, lame humor, and annoying characters. That’s not OK.

Our story has Murphy kind of playing Maximillion, a vampire who comes to Brooklyn like the original Dracula came to England. Since he can’t go out during the day, Max makes a ghoul of the annoying Jar Jar Binks, er, Julius Jones. I’ll explain my problem with this character later. Max is looking for a half-vampire named Detective Rita Veder to let her know of her heritage and consummate a relationship between them. Rita is reluctant to do this and upon discovering the truth, police partner Justice will try to dissuade her from being with Max.

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Evidently, the budget was getting low by the time they got to Eddie Murphy’s long hair not looking like a rug glued to his head.

My first problem is the acting. Everybody’s comedic timing is off to one degree or another. This is even true of Murphy, who has to speak in an ancient accent he can’t pull off. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such an unconvincing vampire.

Dialogue is lousy too. “You ever see a wolf, man?” “Evil is good and ass is good.” These are just two of the neverending corny jokes littered throughout this damn comedy.

In fact, unfunny jokes are the hallmark of this movie. Attempts at satirizing both vampire tales and urban life crash and burn almost every moment of the way. Are the creditors sure Murphy and Craven were in charge of this? Then again, after the later Elm Street movies and the majority of Murphy’s post-Clinton administration flicks, maybe they do have this piece of crap in them.

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Well, they could mimic the interiors of police stations in crime dramas on TV. Props for that!

Speaking of which, I should add that the most trying of bad movies to watch are the comedies. At least a serious bad movie can be morbid in its awfulness. Bad comedies are just lame, ergo, boring. Hence, I was often checking on my Xbox One controller and being amazed by how little time had passed. Ninety-two minutes have rarely seemed so long.

With his bad lines and overacting, Kadeem Hardison is extremely annoying as Max’ idiot flunky, Julius Jones. Alas, he not only never dies but is the key to what seems to have been an intended sequel. More proof of the lack of sound judgment when it comes to this movie.

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They even thought we’d find him cool.

Worst movie of the 1990s? Nah. Batman and RobinHighlander sequels, atrocious video game adaptations, and Hulk Hogan films, along with probably two or three I’m forgetting, are worse. But Vampire in Brooklyn is still plenty awful.

Overall: 3 out of 10

MLB 15: The Show

MLB® 15 The Show™_20151024143429Video games about baseball have not been consistent success stories like their soccer, football, basketball, and hockey counterparts. Why? It’s probably because baseball simply isn’t as well suited to video games. Too much is always left to chance because how the ball will be hit is somewhat random. Still, these games have been a consistent staple in console gaming. For what it’s worth, the otherwise dominant Sony has always struggled in creating its own games but has never given up on it. It owns the main baseball series, MLB: The Show. Consequently, this is the very rare sports series only available on Sony’s systems.

As for myself, I have to say that a baseball fan won’t instinctively gravitate towards this review because I’m just not a fan. Not the easiest decision here in Georgia, one of the most pro-baseball states. The proof of this is that the Braves have more twitter followers than the Falcons and Hawks combined! Even my own family is one in which I may be the only one who doesn’t love baseball. Why don’t I like it? I guess it’s the big gaps between plays and how brief such plays are. You could argue that I love football, which has delays as well. It’s not necessarily that baseball isn’t contact either, because I’m a basketball fan. I guess baseball just isn’t my thing.

#radorgate.

#radargate.

But I can forget all that for the moment. Just as great movies often make bad games and especially vice-versa, maybe MLB 15: The Show can be a great experience, even to a non-fan like myself.

Plot: N/A

Graphics: 8 out of 10

This game doesn’t have a huge budget, so there’s not much razzle-dazzle. Nonetheless, the graphics are quite good. The models are well-crafted and realistic, and the stadiums capture the feel of real baseball games. Just don’t expect anything wild like in the introductory game Steelers-Cardinals Super Bowl in Madden 16.

The outfield, where big plays burn in a bonfire.

The outfield, where big plays burn in a bonfire.

Sound: 7 out of 10

Commentary could be better. It’s insightful but kind of lacks heart. Sound effects and environmental audio are done well, though.

Gameplay: 7 out of 10

In most ways, the gameplay is good. The bat swings at about the right speed, the “active” defensive player at the time handles well, and there are a realistic variety of pitch types.

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Grumpy, crazy-eyed coaches are common in this game.

The biggest flaw is that home runs are too easy to hit. I generally hit several a game. Basically, if you hit the ball dead center, it’s got a good chance of leaving the park. This leads to ridiculously high-scoring games because of all the homers on both sides. I may not be a baseball fan, but I do see it.

Yes, it looks like the ball turned into a star.

Yes, it looks like the ball turned into a star.

Challenge: 4 out of 10

The computer is fairly easy to beat once you figure out how to hit the ball right down the middle. Again, homers are easy.

Overall: 7 out of 10

Despite being a non-fan, I would probably enjoy this more game if the pitching and home run systems weren’t so bad. For fans in particular, the homer system is quite a sticking point. Me? I have to judge it as good, not great.

Guardians of the Galaxy

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I don’t give a damn what studio made this movie. Warner Bros. is responsible for both Goodfellas and Battlefield Earth. End of story.

Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord
Zoe Saldana as Gamora
Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer
Bradley Cooper as Rocket
Vin Diesel as Groot
Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser
Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta
Josh Brolin as Thanos

I may be the only person on the Internet who doesn’t think that Avengers was robbed at the Oscars. It was a decent enough action flick with awesome effects, but no more than that in my opinion. Two years later, another group movie by Marvel was released. I’d like to say that this movie gets the superhero team formula right, but the truth is that this isn’t quite that kind of movie. Guardians of the Galaxy more closely resembles Star Wars than Spider-Man. But any way you look at it, it’s pretty good.

Our story has an odd team of five meeting up. Peter Quill discovers an orb that turns out to be very important. Although three of the other four later members of the team try to steal the orb, circumstances eventually force them to work together. The fifth member, Drax, is seeking revenge on Ronan the Accuser for killing Drax’ family. Ronan, of course wants the orb because it is very powerful.

Performances are pretty good. Chris Pratt plays the role of unlikely leader pretty well. Zoe Saldana, Lee Pace, and Bradley Cooper do good jobs as well. As some of you already know, pro wrestler Dave “Batista” Bautista plays Drax. Shockingly, he actually does a decent job. Vin Diesel is a pleasant surprise as Groot as well.

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You can pretty much see how Batista got the part here.

A great help is the humor. The conflict between the Guardians of the Galaxy is well-scripted and acted, and has some very funny moments. This is especially true with Rocket. He’s the ultimate asshole and is a hoot in this capacity.

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Of course, for a little raccoon, being an asshole takes a big pair.

One issue I do have is how the aliens accede to Quill’s leadership seemingly only because he’s the human. This always happens in sci-fi. But it’s been more ridiculous elsewhere, where a human lost in another galaxy is still the leader even though he knows the least about his surroundings of anyone in the group.

A brief scene after the end credits of Avengers showed us Thanos in his film debut. He reappears here as a setting piece, not the main villain. I guess Marvel is still saving his first major appearance for later.

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Yep, they’re finally ready to flat-out say that a sequel is coming.

Although not what you’d expect from Marvel (despite still being based on a comic book), Guardians of the Galaxy is a great sci-fi film. The characters, story, and humor make it a good time for you.

Overall: 8 out of 10

Batman: Arkham Knight

BATMAN™: ARKHAM KNIGHT_20150820005332The latest in the Arkham series of games is here. How good is it? It has it’s problems, but overall, I’d say it’s worth the money.

Plot: 8 out of 10

The Scarecrow uses a fear toxin that is so effective that it forces the authorities to evacuate Gotham City. Batman seeks to stop Scarecrow, but allied with Scarecrow is The Arkham Knight, who seems to be an evil version of Batman.

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What is it with crime stories and diners?

Pretty simple, but there are twists along the way that help it out in way that is true to the darkness of this comic franchise. Subquests, particularly the one with Catwoman and The Riddler, are also appropriate.

Graphics: 9 out of 10

The look of this series has gotten a big upgrade. Landscapes and character models are both detailed extremely well. This is the next generation, for sure.

Sound: 10 out of 10

After sitting Arkham Origins out, Kevin Conroy (of Batman: The Animated Series fame) again voices The Dark Knight. The rest of the cast cast does excellent jobs of voicing their characters as well, especially Wally Wingert as The Riddler. Additionally, music is catchy and fitting.

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The Arkham Knight is terrorizing firefighters? Oh, it’s ON, bitch!

Gameplay: 6 out of 10

Once again, you explore Gotham, find the location of your current mission, do side quests, and battle street punks. As usual, everything handles reasonably well. I really hope there are more new touches next time, though, for what was a unique attempt at genre blending and open world exploration in 2009 has become so familiar six years later that other games like Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 are copying off it.

If I was a criminal mastermind, my plan would not, at any point, involve the two toughest people in town teaming up on me.

If I was a criminal mastermind, my plan would not, at any point, involve the two toughest people in town teaming up on me (yes, it’s kind of like that).

And yet, the concept is so good and level design is so creative that this category might have merited an eight if only the biggest addition to the series wasn’t so poorly executed.

That addition is the Batmobile. Believe it or not, it took game four for us to finally get to drive it. Unfortunately, it turns out to be the worst handling car I have ever used in the history of video games! Basically, it’s like driving on a frozen lake. You’re slipping all the time. And, unfortunately, you’re actually required to use it sometimes.

Challenge: 6 out of 10

And that “sometimes” makes for by far the hardest parts of the game. You have to be accurate and maneuverable with a car more slippery that a mass of banana peels on the ground. Other than that, the difficulty is balanced and fairly challenging.

Since The Riddler has a super-projector and Batman couldn't even maanage a car that works, I'm assuming that this is the end of The Dark Knight.

Since The Riddler has a super-projector and Batman couldn’t even manage a car that works, I’m assuming that this is the end of The Dark Knight.

Overall: 7 out of 10

Despite the Batmobile, Arkham Knight is an enjoyable experience. There’s still plenty of fun to be had. Still, if you kept your Xbox 360 or Playstation 3, I’d recommend picking up one of the previous three games instead.

Casino

CasinoTitleRobert De Niro as Sam “Ace” Rothstein
Sharon Stone as Ginger McKenna
Joe Pesci as Nicky Santoro
Frank Vincent as Frankie Marino
Pasquale Cajano as Remo Gaggi
James Woods as Lester Diamond

Las Vegas — the city everybody wants to pick for their next vacation but most who do wish they hadn’t. Believe it or not, it used to be an even bigger con-job, though some would argue that corporate America is so ruthless that the difference is exaggerated. I am, of course, referring to the days when organized crime essentially ran Vegas. If you wanted to buy a casino, you had to satisfy mob unions that they would get their kickbacks. You also probably needed someone who could keep you from getting shaken down by gangsters further down the tower.

Martin Scorsese, following his mob masterpiece Goodfellas, decided to make a movie based on Vegas under mafia control, based on the real people who presided over both the peak and destruction of this aspect of American history.

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The eyebrows of death.

Sam “Ace” Rothstein is a gambler who doesn’t just analyze before making a bet. He gets the inside track. In other words, others dream about striking it rich by consistently picking winners, but Ace actually does it. Since bookies are known to weasel out of promised payoffs, Ace always tells the mobs who to bet on. Why? So they’ll have local thug Nicky Santoro follow Ace to make sure the bookies award as honestly as the take. So they’re given prominent roles in Vegas. Ace runs an innovative casino, while Nicky keeps it from getting hustled. All’s going well. That is until Nicky starts his own gang. Ace’s gold-digging wife, Ginger, starts fooling around with Nicky. Both turns of events start cluing the police into what’s going on.

On paper, the performances seem strong. They may be even better in practice. Especially Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci. Stone plays a gold-digger to perfection. She manages masterfully the balance between letting us know that her character doesn’t really love Ace and the need to still let us believe that Ace is fooled. Joe Pesci, meanwhile, is the perfect raging gangster (admittedly not an atypical character for him) as opposed to the restrained Godfather type. He sounds exactly like an angry psychopath would when he loses his temper; a gradual escalation of rage. It’s a well-known fact that the word “f*ck” is used a lot in the movie. An overwhelming portion of them are Pesci’s. Ironically enough, Frank Vincent, the actor who played one of the characters killed by Pesci’s character in Goodfellas is back as Pesci’s sidekick, Frankie.

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There’s also a plot twist with this guy that’s even more ironic. If you’ve seen Goodfellas, you’ll notice it.

Beyond performances, what’s great about this movie is how it shows the way Vegas operated back then. This is done through supporting characters. Two-bit real estate salesman Phil Green is the puppet owner of Ace’s casino, but he will prove smarter and less scrupulous than he looks. No honor among thieves, indeed. Remo Gaggi is your classically monotone boss. He complains about Nicky’s out-of-control nature causing him to do stupid things but to no avail. James Woods plays Lester Diamond, a failed card cheat who’s known Ginger a long time and has a hold on her. In fact, Ginger’s feelings for him seem more real than her feelings for Ace, which really makes the casino tycoon pissed. We even get a hypocritical rant from Ace about what a worthless scumbag Lester is while Ace works in league with the mob.

The one complaint I have is that character interactions could be better. This was Goodfellas’ advantage. It had many scenes that showed the relationships between its main characters outside of work very well. Casino doesn’t have that. For instance, we’re told that Ace and Nicky are best friends but see very little of them together in non-business dialogue. So I’d have to call Goodfellas the better movie.

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How to create a decent relationship: don’t pick this one.

But Casino is a great mob movie in its own right. Though not perfect, it is still one of the standard bearers of this genre.

Overall: 8 out of 10