Saturday, June 21, 2003

  • THE THING: This movie: Light of My Eyes.
          A chauffeur and a
                  owner; their lives entwined.
    This is one of the movies I have received as part of a membership to Film Movement. It's a nifty little movie club, of sorts, in which you get a new, independent or foreign film each month. This is the fifth I've gotten, and they have all been pretty cool.

    Light of My Eyes is an Italian love story. It starts with a chauffeur (Antonio), on his way home late at night almost running over a small girl (Lisa) in the street. She is not hurt, and he finds out that she lives with her mother (Maria) who owns a store down the street. Antonio starts to follow them (in a slightly creepy way!); he seems just entranced by this woman. He tries to begin a relationship with her, and she seems to want that, too, at first. But she is too worried about all of the baggage she is bringing -- single mom, financial problems, emotional problems -- so she lets him know that she has no feelings for him.

    Antonio is not easily daunted. He gets himself involved in her financial situation, and tries to relieve some of the problems without her knowing. In doing so, he ruins his career, and is now involved in some pretty shady deals.

    Throughout the movie, there is narrative from a sci-fi book (I'm not sure which it is! If you know, let me know!), that is being read. I couldn't quite see the tie-in, but I'm sure it was supposed to relate to the story somehow. It was just rather odd.

    And it ended way too abruptly. there were some loose ends that I am curious about...

    I guess he was just leaving room for Light Of My Eyes 2!!

Final Score on the Chris Worth Scale: $7.75... a good solid movie. There was a couple things that were odd or bothersome (besides the fact that it was subtitled... which always makes me feel like I am missing the movie as I read the dialog!), but I'm really glad I got to see this creative and interesting film.

  • THE THING: This movie: Hit Me.
          A small time bellhop
              gets a chance at the big time,
                  but gets in too deep.

    I headed out for the Easy Video looking to find a film I had never heard of before. I was in the mood to see something that I would not otherwise have seen.

    Hit Me was on the wall, and it had a picture of WIlliam H Macy on the cover. He's usually a pretty cool fellow. He does nifty movies, and does a good job in them, so I thought I'd check this one out.

    Not that it should matter, but he was in the movie for about seventeen seconds! I shouldn't care, but he was on the cover! His character didn't even have a name!! He was just "Policeman" in the credits.

    Well, now that my little annoyance has been vented, let's talk about the movie.

    The main character is a bellhop named Sonny, who is taking care of his brother, Leroy, who has some sort of mental disability. The bellhop job apparently doesn't quite make ends meet, so Sonny helps to get more money by doing some little illegal things -- an example: he steals VCRs from the hotel and sells them. He seems to be involved in some other dealings, for which he gets beat up, but those aren't really explained. It seemed obvious that it was small stuff, though.

    Turns out that there will be a high stakes poker game at the hotel. An ex-co-worker comes to Sonny and explains how they are going to rip it off, and they need his help. All the money from the game will actually be stored in the safe deposit boxes of the hotel. In total, there will be $700,000, and 10 percent of it is his if he helps out. He debates it a while, but then it gets turned into an offer he can't refuse, and now he's part of it.

    Of course, as most heist movies go, things go wrong, people get killed, and a bunch of double-crossing occurs. The movie is done well, and is much less confusing than I usually find these things. There is some slow pacing at times, but for the most part it is nicely constructed.

    I found Sonny (Elias Koteas) to be a little over-acted. There was some pretty emotionally outbursts that didn't seem to be caused by as much stress as the plot suggested. But, he was supposed to be sort of at the end of his rope, which helped to drive him into his current situation... so maybe it was acted as directed.

    Anyway, it was a decent movie. I would recommend it for a night of viewing a film that you wouldn't otherwise pick up.

    One lesson learned from the movie -- if you're going to be involved in a big-time heist, especially if you are planning on ripping off a major gangster, you really need to be able to lie...

    - "Sonny, where's the cash?"
    - "I don't have it!"
    - "Sonny... where's the cash?"
    - "It's right over there."

    That happened a couple times -- it was almost funny, and I don't think it was supposed to be.

Final Score on the Chris Worth Scale: $3.85, which is more than I spent on the rental, so I got my money's worth! It turned out to be exactly what I had set out to find.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

  • THE THING: The game called Grave Robbers from Outer Space!
          A sci/fi, horror,
              sic your monsters on others,
                  B-movie card game.

    "It's more fun than blowing up the Earth for it's own good!"
          -- Gort

    Have you ever sat around with friends saying, "Hey, we should get an old video camera and make a cheap horror movie!"? Of course you have! Some of you have even done it!

    Well, a less expensive, less permanent way to go about that is to play Grave Robbers From Outer Space. The concept is a little suspect, but here's the point -- each person sets up a movie set with a Location (The Cabin in the Woods, The House by the Cemetery, for example), and some Characters in their movie (Spoiled Little Rich Girl, Skippy the Wonder Dog, Nymphomaniac Cheerleader, Bookish Girl with No Boyfriend, and my personal favorite, The Guy Everyone Knows Will Get Killed). You can give props to your characters (for the most part), like Axes and Rifles and Flamethrowers and Chainsaws ("Groovy!") -- characters like Skippy the Wonder Dog can't carry props (prominently explained on the card). You can even give a character a First Aid Kit or a Flashlight to help them out.

    "Help them out against WHAT?!" I hear you screaming! Well. I am glad you asked.

    You set monsters loose amidst the opposing players' movie sets. Each of the characters, locations, and props have a defense rating -- adding up all their defenses tells how well they will fare against the monster which will be set loose in their neighborhood... creatures like The Gym Teacher, Masked Stalker, Subterranean Cannibals, Say - Is That A Tentacle?, I Was a Teenage Werewolf, and, certainly the best, Space Mimic From Uranus. Each creature has an attack rating -- if it beats the defense rating of the movie upon which it was set loose -- well, somebody didn't make it... a charcter dies and is removed.

    There are Special Effects which can be played at any time and that really stirs things up... things like "They Found the Fuse Box!", "Hey, What's Behind This Door?", "What Do You Mean There's No Way Out?", "Good God, They're Radioactive!", "Too Stupid to Live", and "Only the Virgin Survives" all have instant effects, modifying the action. Some just take out a person quickly, some change defense or attack strength of certain characters or monsters, and at least one allows you to force someone to get you something from the kitchen.

    There is a lot of variety in the 120 card deck. All the cards are funny; all have 'flavor text' that adds to the humor. Some of the cards have MULTIPLE uses -- The character "Mom" for example can be used as a defense character that gets stronger the more kids she has around, or used as a Psycho Killer monster with an attack strength of 7, instead. It's kind of funny, either way, really.

    You play through the deck, or until someone plays a "Roll the Credits" card. At that point, you count up the number of defense points left in your ravaged movie set. The most points wins. It's pretty starightforward. There's some strategy, some creativity (the cards can be combined in some funky ways), lots of choices, lots of luck, and lots of laughs.

    It's for 2 to 6 players. A game takes 20 to 40 minutes.

    The only complaint I have is that, for the few times I played it, the deck seemed heavily weighted with Special Effect cards. I wish there were more Character cards -- I got beat down pretty bad for a bunch of turns and couldn't get a character card at all. And then, you put ONE down, and he gets beat up pretty quickly. But if you play it enough, a better balance might reveal itself. It's not a one-time-only kind of game -- you'll want to play it a lot.

    What might help, AND, if you get too sick of the cards in this deck, they released an expansion set, of sorts... Cannibal Pygmies in the Jungle of Doom is 120 MORE cards. That deck can be played independently, or you can combine the two decks for a 240 card campy-movie double-feature, of sorts.

  • THE THING: The game called Knights.
          A card and dice game.
              You must have some strategy,
                  and plenty of luck.
    Knights is a game by a wonderful company called Rio Grande Games. I've only played Knights a couple of times, and I'm still trying to pull together all the strategy, but it seems like a pretty decent game, with a couple fringes of frustration...

    Basically, each card has some dice on top of it, telling you what dice roll you have to beat to earn the card. I just flipped up a castle card that has dice showing: 4, 4, 4, and 3 on top. THAT MEANS: You have to beat the "poker hand" of three fours, and a high card of three. So, if you roll three 5's -- that beats three 4's; you get the card. If you roll a PAIR of fives, and nothing else really, you DON'T get the card -- a pair doesn't beat three of a kind.

    You are allowed to reroll, Yahtzee style, up to three times, to try to improve your hand. HOWEVER: Sixes are BAD in this game. A six counts as NOTHING. AND if you roll a six, you have to set that die aside, and you can't reroll it. You start the game trying to earn castles, and later tournaments happen, where you roll against other players. Also, later in the game you can try to take castles away from other players by beating their dice rolls. There are cards you can get and use to improve your rolls, or make cards easier to obtain.

    They also included 5 'blank' card to make up your own new helper cards to the game!

    IF you like dice games like Yahtzee or Farkel, or even Pass the Pigs, you'll probably enjoy this, as well. Sometimes, though, just like in those games, the dice just seems to be against you, and it can get frustrating.

    Knights is for 2-6 players, and a game takes between 20 and 40 minutes.

    BY THE WAY: Rio Grande Games makes some amazing games. One is called Carcassonne, which won all sorts of awards, and has expansion packs and new versions. It's one of my favorites.

    There's a strategy card game called The Gnumies, which is an odd bidding game with some insane strategy involved. Points go up VERY quickly for pairs and triples, etc. of cards, so cards which are worth 1 or 2 points at the beginning of a game can become 50 or 100 real quick.

    And they have a bunch of two players games. Lost Cities is quite easy to learn, has beautifully drawn oversized cards, and is possibly my favorite 2-player card game.

    Lastly, I will mention another 2 player game they have called: Hera and Zeus. I kept reading wonderful reviews of this game, suggesting it was the next step for players of Lost Cities. People LOVED this game. I got it, and the directions seemed incomprehensible. We tried to play it a bunch of times, but it was just too convoluted and odd to figure out. Then, one day I was determined. We played a few hands and started to get the knack. It's actually a VERY wild game! It takes some getting used to, but it's worth a long look.

  • THE THING: The game called Blink
          It's really quite fast.
              Sort of like Uno on crack.
                  Easy and crazy.
    I am quite surprised this is my first card/board game review! I do own a bunch of games. Trust me, it will be the first of many.

    Blink is made by Out of the Box Publishing, a compauney that also makes Apples to Apples, which is still up there as one of the most fun games you can play with a crowd.

    But we're here to discuss Blink. It has a deck of cards -- each has 3 properties, a Color, a Shape, and a Number of objects. I am currently staring at a card with Five Red Moons. Next card: Four Blue Stars. Next card: Three Green Triangles. Next Card: One Yellow Water-droplet. I think you get the idea...

    You can play a card on another card if at least one of those things matches. On the discard stack, you can play a card with Five Yellow Water-drops on top of a card which has Five Brown Stars. Because they have 5 in common. Get it? Real simple. Just like in Uno you can play a same number or a same color card. SO what's the big deal??

    Well, you don't take turns. You each get half the deck, and have to slam your half down as fast as possible. It gets pretty hectic. And it goes QUICK. 60 seconds is a LONG game.

    I've only played it a few times, but so far it seems pretty fun for a quick time killer. There are variations in the rules for 3 or more players, but it's meant for two people to be slamming the table. It takes you about 30 seconds to learn how to play and 60 seconds to play a whole game.... it's sort of a card game with Arcade Style Action!

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

  • THE THING: A commercial for Honda Accord.
          Yes, a commercial!
              Just a cool chain of events...
                  Ain't physics nifty?!
    Yes, it's true, all you out there in Reading My Blog Land -- I am reviewing a commercial. I tend to enjoy commercials -- you see, I have a short attention span. If I was in grade school today, I wouldn't cerrtainly be on a triple dose of Ritalin. They would have made a new classification of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder just for me.

    But, really, this Honda commercial is cool. WAY cool.

    Go watch it, and come back and we shall discuss.

    Didya see it?? Cool.

    OK, first, I need to tell you my favorite parts: The fan, when it gets unplugged because it went too far. The wiper walker thing was WAY cool. And the speakers grooving away was cool, too.

    I was really confused because I thought they cheated with the wipers, but apparently there is a moisture sensor on them -- they come on automatically when they get wet!

    It says it took them 606 takes to make this film. For 605 times, it failed for some reason. Dang, those guys got paitience! And they must have been standing behind soundproof glass, because you know they were all screaming "C'mon, BABY! C'mon!! GO GO GO!!! C'mon!!! DON'T MESS UP!!" And them, when the car came off the ramp they had to be screaming like mad.

    Especially after over six hundred tries.

    I'd have given up at around 11.

  • THE THING: This game for the Palm OS: Void
          Space combat and trade
              A very steep learning curve
                  with a fun payoff.
    Yes, I am reviewing as game for the Palm, which I play on my Handspring Visor. The Palm is not really a gaming platform, and most of the ones I have are word games and puzzle games from AstraWare.

    But I stumbled across Void at one time -- I even forget where. I downloaded a demo, which allowed you to jump to a few different worlds, and then cut you off. Well, I needed more! I was pretty addicted, so I ended up buying the whole thing. For $10, that's really not too bad.

    It reminds me a lot of a couple old PC games in the Wing Commander universe: Privateer, and Privateer 2. They were great! You could fly your ship, make upgrades, and get missions, and trade goods. Void is quite similar...

    The game really has 3 chunks:
    First, you can trade goods. Buy 'em cheap and sell 'em high! It's pretty simple.
    Second, you can fly from space station to space station -- there are over 400 to choose from! It's a pretty big universe out there. And there are some bad guys trying to shoot you down. If you shoot them, you get a bounty AND their cargo!
    Third, you can accept missions. Sometimes it's transporting people from one station to another, sometimes it's hunting down some nefarious bad guy, sometimes it's running illegal drugs or DNA to a secret lab somewhere (you do that, trust me, the cops will be on your tail).

    It took me a little while to get any money, and to not get killed every two stops! Once you've upgraded your ship a little, it gets a LITTLE easier. MAKE SURE you buy Cargo Insurance once your ship is all stocked.

    There are slow spots in the game, and it is a little repetitive at times. The graphics are tremendously simple faux-3d outlines (slightly reminiscent of Tempest, at least for me). But it's fun! You can go off and do your own thing -- shoot bad guys, or just run goods to make some money! You kind of make up your own role in the game -- the directions suggest you can make your living as a Trader. Bounty Hunter, Pirate, Mercenary, or Black Market Trader.

    If you want a great, realtively inexpensive time killer on the Palm, and you like sci-fi action games, go for Void.

  • THE THING: This Playstation 2 game: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
          Sharp graphics, controls.
              Fast cars, bikinis, big guns.
                  Violent AND fun!
    A couple months back, some kid was selling Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for PS2 ata garage sale I attended for $15!! FIFTEEN DOLLARS!! It's still FORTY FIVE DOLLARS USED in the stores! I obviously picked it up.

    I have had a few days off work, and have spent a couple hours each day playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on my Playstation 2. Don't worry, non-console owners, they have it for PC now, too. This is THE game. I played through all of Grand Theft Auto 3 (OK, I didn't get through the last mission -- tried for MONTHS, gave up and sold it back). That was awesome. I never thought it could get better. Oh, I was so wrong. I just had to stop and blog about it.

    Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (for brevity's sake, known as GTA:VC from here on in) has a bunch going for it: graphics, sound, story, and free-play-ability.

    GTA:VC is first a beautiful game. Vice City is basically Miami. And the city is bustling with people -- sunning themselves on the beach, roller-skating down the sidewalk, sitting on a bench, mugging other people. It's amazing. The environment is so immersive. And things like lighting are insane. Don't drive towards the west at sunset, the glare is terrible. The neon lights are beautiful. The variety of buildings and clothing and cars is incredible.

    But one of the greatest things is the music. There are bunches of radio stations in Vice City, and when you are driving the car/motorcycle you stole, you can change the station. It is all real music from the 80's. It's incredible. The music is so good, they released a soundtrack. It's on SEVEN CDs!! It's got tons of stuff from the 80's -- Herbie Hancock, 2 Live Crew, Kurtis Blow, Hall & Oates, Wang Chung, Bryan Adams, The Fixx, Lionel Ritchie, Rick James, Mary Jane Girls, Kool & the Gang, Twisted Sister, The Cult, Autograph, Tesla, Tito Puente, Foreigner, Reo Speedwagon, Night Ranger, Jan Hammer, The Human League, Blondie, Tears for Fears, Corey Hart, Thomas Dolby, A Flock of Seagulls.... this is just A FEW of them!

    So what's the point of all this?! Is there a story?? Sure! You are a thug, recently released from jail, who has been asked to do a drug deal for your old gang. It goes very, very wrong. All the people you are with get killed, and the ambushers take the money AND the drugs. So now, you are stuck here -- no money, no weapons, no friends, with your old gang all pissed off. So, you start freelancing for some people around town. The jobs you do introduce you to gangs here and there, and you are generally getting people all pretty annoyed at each other. It's quite fun. So far, I've had missions where I've need to kill a bunch of people, run drugs, shoot guys from a helicopter, shoot them from a boat (there have been a bunch of boat-race kind of missions -- quite fun), scare some members of a jury... stuff like that. VERY wild, very violent, and VERY not for the little ones. Actually, they should probably make you take a psychological profile test before you buy the game.

    But you don't have to do the missions. There is so much else to do! An easy, non-violent way to make money: steal a cab! Pick people up and drop them off, and get money for it! AND, if you don't get them there on time, and they hop out, jump on out and kill them and take their money! (In real life, I am a very non-violent person. Really.) You can go steal a cop car, and get money for taking out bad guys, vigilante-style. The vigilante missions get harder and harder as you progress. Soon you are going after multiple cars at the same time, each loaded with bad guys... it gets real hard real quick. But it's always fun; the vigilante missions have been my favorite. There's even a little side mission where you can deliver pizzas! And you can always go just shooting people and taking their money and stuff. I tend to go after gang members with a shotgun. They are usually carrying money AND a weapon, so it's worth the price of the bullet. OH! One more thing: They cost money, but if you need that little extra pick-me-up, go pick up a hooker. It can actually make your health go above 100%!

    Yes, it is a gruesome, violent, perverse, twisted game. But it's easy to jump in and out of. The controls are fluid -- you can go from running, to driving seamlessly. The graphics are amazing. It actually has decent actors doing the story. It's great all around -- I would say it is THE BEST Playstation 2 game. Period.

    And even though it's so violent, it's just a game. Just keep telling yourself that....

  • THE THING: The Copter Game
          So very simple.
              Also, very addictive.
                  A great time killer.
    Go here: Right now. It's OK, I'll wait. I'll be right here when you get back. It's silly and fun. Trust me. It might take a second or two to get the hang of it... but go try.

    [45 minutes later.]

    Pretty fun, right?! Pretty addictive, right? For a game which simply consists of clicking on, or letting go of, a mouse, it's dang addictive.

    I found a link to this off Dave Barry's blog. As you all know, he's a funny fella, and his Blog basically consists of links to things on the web related to medical discoveries, public service information, and other helpful things on the web. This Copter Game was suggested to be the site that will end all of your productivity. It's done that for a little while for me.

    By the way, Dave Barry's high score, so far: 1482.

    That's right, I just told you how you can beat Dave Barry. You know you want to! Go do it!

    [45 minutes later.]

    My high score, as of the writing of this blog: 1558. Take that, Dave Barry!

    I beat Dave Baaaaarry at a stupid Coppp-ter game!
    I beat Dave Baaaaarry at a stupid Coppp-ter game!
    Nyah, nyah nyaaaah, nayh , nyaaaaah nyah!


  • THE THING: This movie: The Matrix: Reloaded
          WILD special effects
              Overly complicated
                  Nice ride, bad story.
    ACK!! What happened?!?! OK, I loved The Matrix. From the first preview I ever saw, to the 18th time I watched it, I loved it. It was basically flawless. I mean, a "what if awake is dreaming and dreaming is awake?" story updated for modern sci fi. It was awesome. It hinted at questions of existence and reality, and questioned which to choose: if the fake world is better than the real world... which would you pick? It had references to most modern western fiction, science fiction, and fantasy, and had biblical inferences, as well. It was a beautiful sci-fi film -- in scope, and story, and enjoyment.

    And it was well-known that it was the first part of a TRILOGY!! Wow. I could have wet myself. I might have, just a little bit.

    I knew I wouldn't get in the first day or week the second movie was released, so I waited a bit. No biggie -- some people had seen it, that was cool. I never need to be the first. OK, I've been to a couple shows where it was opening day (all the Star Wars re-releases, for example. Yep, I'm that kind of a geek. WAIT! I did NOT dress up!).

    So then, I finally made it. I saw it a couple weeks back; this is NOT a timely blog. But the movie has been sifting through my brain since then, and the more I think about it, the less I like it. It has the complete OPPOSITE effect of the first movie.

    During, and right after, the movie I thought, "Wow. That was wild. The crashes and the scenery and the fighting and the new sort of 'helper' programs and the new ghosty creatures and all the new characters.... Yeah, that was cool." But I think I was just hypnotized by the slow motion at the time. Now that I've snapped out of it I keep thinking. "But what was the...?" and "Who was the guy that...?" and "Why did they...?"

    And the main thing I have to say is: The Matrix: Revolutions (the 3rd movie) better have a VERY GOOD EXPLANATION of the last 10 minutes of the movie!!! Even at the time I had a big "Oh my god. They did NOT just do that." go through my head. I think they may have taken this Neo thing a little too far.... we shall see. I don't want to make any rash judgements.

    I think I need to see it again. I was really confused with the whole Architect thing. I was really confused as to why Neo has to fight the agents again (Did the writers even WATCH the first movie?! Neo is the guy who KNOWS the Matrix! He can make it whatever he wants to be!! He can fly and, at least in the first movie, could go inside of the guys and blow them up!! Why fight!? Just fly away, fool!) I guess they just wanted him to fight 800 agents at once. Cool effect -- I'm not sure of the point.

    So. I am left confused. Maybe another viewing will help. It was DEFINITELY not what I was hoping for (though I'm still not too sure what that is). It was cool, for sure. It had some great fight/chase scenes, for sure. It expanded the Matrix universe, for sure. But I'm not sure any of those had any real impact for me. The movie was just fine, really. No better, no worse. Just FINE.

    If you are not a Matrix fan, and ESPECIALLY if you did not see the first one, skip this thing. It's just not worth it, it'll be way too confusing. If you are a HUGE Matrix fan, you really can't miss it, of course. Maybe, if you check it out, you can explain the dang thing to me.

Final Score on the Chris Worth Scale: $5.85. I just can't give it more than that, mainly because I really have to go back and pay my admission price again to try to figure out what's going on.