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Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA)
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PROTOTYPE - Standard Edition
PROTOTYPE - Standard Edition
4 used & new from CDN$ 12.96

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most impressive and enjoyable games I've ever played, Nov. 21 2012
Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
By the time I was drop-kicking helicopters out of the sky, all of my initial concerns about this game were completely forgotten. Having indulged in several weeks of FPS mayhem, it took a little while for me to adapt to Prototype's much different controls, but before too long I was running up and jumping between buildings with ease. Combat took a little longer, mainly because you have to complete a few missions before acquiring the abilities that make this game so much fun. Once you gain enough experience, though, you'll be amazed at all of the things you can do.

You take on the role of Alex Mercer, a man who wakes up in the morgue, discovers that he has incredible abilities, and makes it his mission to understand who he is and what has happened. Outside, New York City is now a quarantine zone with more and more people becoming infected by a virus that turns them into something resembling zombies. Also on the scene are swarms of elite military personnel calling themselves Blackwatch. Their mission is twofold: stop the infection from spreading outside the city and capture or kill Alex Mercer, the man blamed for unleashing the virus in the first place. Of course, you - as Alex - have no memory of doing any such thing. You're willing to bet that the man behind Project Blackwatch has the answers you're seeking, though - but getting to him won't be easy. Aside from all of the infected people and the firepower of Blackwatch, you also find yourself constantly hunted by Hunters and other genetically engineered mutants with strengths and abilities rivaling your own.

In order to survive, you will have to kill untold numbers of soldiers, monsters, and civilians (well, you don't have to kill civilians, but it's just too much fun to resist sometimes) - and those kills will be bloody affairs, especially once you have access to your most devastating offensive weapons. This isn't a game for the squeamish. You have the ability to alter your genetic code, which opens up a world of possibilities: home-grown armor plating, massive fists, chain whips you can throw and spin around for multiple eviscerations, the deadliest of blades, etc. Your most interesting and important power, though, is the ability to consume others. Consume a person and you gain access to his memories (your only real way of learning the truth), acquire his skills (such as piloting tanks or flying helicopters), and gain the ability to disguise yourself as that very person (the only way to access certain areas of the game). Consume a "monster" and you gain increased strength and health.

Prototype is only as linear as you want it to be. You do have to follow the storyline, but you can take all the time you want along the way to wander around New York, killing and consuming at your leisure. There are also a number of different challenges you can undertake to increase your experience points. The more XP you have, the more quickly you can gain access to your most devastating abilities. Whenever you're identified by the military, you have the option of simply evading them or standing your ground and killing them all - both of which reward you with extra XP. You're really going to want to master your skills and learn when to use each one because Prototype is - in my experience, at least - quite a challenging game. The only potentially negative aspect of the game is the fact that it can only be saved at certain checkpoints, but these are spaced evenly enough that you won't find yourself having to replay long sections of the game just to get back to the part where you failed or died.

So, in a nutshell, what you have here is a challenging, incredibly enjoyable, wonderfully violent game featuring a unique interface and a solid, intriguing storyline. That definitely earns five stars in my book.

100 Million BC [Import]
100 Million BC [Import]
DVD ~ Michael Gross
Price: CDN$ 7.77
19 used & new from CDN$ 3.64

4.0 out of 5 stars Not one of The Asylum's better monster movies, Nov. 13 2012
This review is from: 100 Million BC [Import] (DVD)
Whatever you do, don't show 100 Billion B.C. to a Navy Seal. It will make him very angry, and you don't want to make a Seal angry. You see, it's a group of Navy Seals who are chosen to go back in time to rescue an earlier team of soldiers who were unable to return from their virgin time travel mission. This "elite" team doesn't acquit themselves very well, I'm afraid. A real Navy Seal doesn't get nauseous at the sight of human remains, get all trigger happy when he thinks he sees something, and he sure as heck doesn't turn and run from anyone or anything, even a dinosaur.

Michael Gross plays Dr. Frank Reno, an impossibly old scientist who participated in the Philadelphia Experiment and sent a team of time travelers, led by his own brother, all the way back to 70,000,000 B.C. in 1949. (The only reason the movie is called 100 Million B.C. because it's a knock-off of the film 10,000 BC, and The Asylum likes to play tricks with potential naïve viewers.) Unable to get the team home, he has spent decades perfecting the technology so he can try again. When some distinctive cave paintings are discovered, he knows both where and when to find the long-lost team. Off he goes, along with a team of Navy Seals, back to the Cretaceous Period, but their rescue mission is only half of the story. The trouble with time portals, you see, is that it makes for a two-way street, permitting anything from the other side to make the jump, as well. I think you can see where this is going.

While the CGI effects of the dinosaurs and the destruction they wreak are pretty weak, and the story itself even weaker, I was still entertained by 100 Billion B.C. The film isn't anywhere near as good as other Asylum monster films such as Mega Piranha or Mega Shark vs. Mega Octopus, but this sort of movie really is The Asylum's bread and butter. You know to expect middling acting performances by has-been actors such as Greg Evigan, cheap special effects, and an average storyline. This movie sort of shoots itself in the foot near the end, though, as we get a quick stream of scientific psychobabble to explain some unexpected events that, quite frankly, don't make a lick of sense. Well, there's also the fact that a flaming red, 60-foot dinosaur is routinely able to sneak up on people - that definitely got my goat, as well. In the end, though, this movie is all about campy fun and the love many of us share for dumb B-movies. If you don't have the B-movie gene, you'll probably want to stay away from this one.

A Night at the Roxbury
A Night at the Roxbury
DVD ~ Chris Kattan
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 38.83
7 used & new from CDN$ 1.72

4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty dumb but very funny, Nov. 10 2012
This review is from: A Night at the Roxbury (DVD)
No one can stretch a single joke as far as Lorne Michaels and the team at Saturday Night Live, and A Night at the Roxbury may be the ultimate proof of that. The disco guys with the bobbing heads certainly had the potential to wear thin after just a few skits, so I had my doubts that there would be enough material here to sustain a complete feature film. Surprisingly enough, there is - and the brothers' shtick never really grows old.

For brothers Steve and Doug Butabi (Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan), life is all about hitting the clubs every night. By day, they work - reluctantly - for their father at his silk flower shop. Pops wants Steve to settle down and marry Emily, the girl next door (Molly Shannon) and bring about a merger of the two family businesses into a lamp and flower store, but Steve just wants to hang out with his more reckless and even dumber brother, dance the nights away, and maybe even pick up a woman successfully someday. Privately, the brothers dream of opening their own night club - but they're stymied by the fact that they have never even been able to gain admittance at the Roxbury, the cream of the night club crop. Then fate steps in and Richard Grieco gets them in and even introduces them to Mr. Zahir, the club's owner. Suddenly, it looks like their ship may finally have come in - until the following day, when everything starts to crumble. Will the brothers go their separate ways? Will Steve take up permanent residence under Emily's thumb?

It goes without saying that this is a pretty dumb movie; the important thing is that it is a genuinely funny dumb movie. Ferrell and Kattan turn these two characters into the kind of hopeless dorks you can't help but pull for, and a strong supporting cast featuring the likes of Dan Hedaya, Loni Anderson, and the late Michael Clarke Duncan (not to mention Molly Shannon) keep things entertaining when the brothers aren't showing off their dance moves. Critics hated the movie, of course, so you know it must be funny; the blowhards in the media have no appreciation of comedy for its own sake.

The Battle Within
The Battle Within
by Travis L. Klingaman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 25.04
9 used & new from CDN$ 13.35

2.0 out of 5 stars A novel plagued by numerous problems, Nov. 3 2012
This review is from: The Battle Within (Paperback)
I hate to write a negative review for a young author's first novel, especially one as lengthy as The Battle Within, but I'm afraid this novel reads like a rough first draft. It lacks focus and a clear theme, contains far too much extraneous material, exhibits a significant number of words used incorrectly, and never achieves a comfortable narrative flow. Even more importantly, a lot of the things that happen in the story just don't seem realistic, especially some of the main character's accomplishments, and much of the dialogue seems forced and unnatural.

Frankly, I didn't find any great conflict inside the pages of The Battle Within. The main character, Steven Brouschard, goes from leading a directionless life to one of great success wholly in line with his adolescent dreams, but the supposedly immense influence of his best friend from childhood seems greatly exaggerated to me. Steven's story mainly consists of perseverance, hard work, and a great deal of luck. A certain object may have a lot to do with all of that luck, but the story of this object is never really told.

Sadly, what stands out the most to me after reading The Battle Within are all of the errors. It's one thing to use the words "lied" and "lay" incorrectly, but it's really something else to use inexplicably wrong words on numerous occasions. An editor would have cleaned all of that up - and greatly shortened the novel. The author goes off on too many tangents; the back story of Steven's friend Marcus left me wondering if the main character were every going to show back up in the novel at all. Even with so much description of events, though, many of them just do not come across as believable.

In the end, I think Klingaman just tries too hard. Rather than letting the story tell itself, he resorts to flowery language that all too often results in stilted, unnatural, and awkward sentences. Frankly, whatever message or ideas he is trying to communicate in The Battle Within gets lost amidst all of the distracting writing.

F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate
F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate
9 used & new from CDN$ 3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A great standalone F.E.A.R. expansion pack, Oct. 30 2012
Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate (DVD-ROM)
F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate is a great standalone sequel to the original F.E.A.R. title, but it is not an absolute necessity because it does not introduce very much new information into the storyline. If you've already played F.E.A.R. and F.E.A.R. Extraction Point, you sort of have to pretend that you don't already know all of the details you're facing going in to the escalating conflict centered on Armacham's illegal/immoral secret project to create an armed battalion of clones under the control of a genetically engineered psychic controller. In this story, you're part of a second F.E.A.R. unit sent in to secure the mysterious Alma's DNA samples before mercenaries or black ops forces can get their hands on it. And to do that, you're going to have to find your way to the Vault.

F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate does introduce a few new features to the F.E.A.R. gaming experience. For one thing, you'll actually work alongside a comrade or two on occasion. You'll also get a pretty intimate introduction to the "Nightcrawlers," a brand new enemy which can prove troublesome to eliminate. Fortunately, there are also some new weapons available for you, including a Grenade Launcher, an Advanced Rifle with a killer scope on it, and a mega-effective Chain Lightning Gun. The last can prove quite effective against even the two different types of heavy armor units you'll run into during the game. I also have to give kudos to the developers for the atmosphere of this game. Not only has the spook factor of F.E.A.R. been maintained, I believe it hits its spike here in Perseus Mandate. One particular occurrence actually caused me to jump - and that just doesn't happen to this hardcore horror fan.

If you enjoyed F.E.A.R., you'll definitely enjoy Perseus Mandate. If you're not sure about investing in the earlier (and later) F.E.A.R. games, pick Perseus Mandate up on the cheap and see if you like it. You do not have to own the original F.E.A.R. title in order to play Perseus Mandate.

Trigger Man [Import]
Trigger Man [Import]
DVD ~ Reggie Cunningham
Price: CDN$ 22.71
14 used & new from CDN$ 14.99

2.0 out of 5 stars A boring film with the worst camera work I've ever seen, Oct. 28 2012
This review is from: Trigger Man [Import] (DVD)
Having just seen Ti West's The Innkeepers, I wanted to check out some more of his cinematic wares. Trigger Man is one of West's earlier films, and I cannot say I'm very impressed. With the exception of the special effects, this was a thoroughly amateurish film that feels unmercifully long at a mere 79 minutes. If you've ever wondered how important music is to a film, watch Trigger Man to find out how bad things get when you have to watch long, boring sequences with no musical accompaniment whatsoever. It's just brutal. The very worst thing about this movie, though, is the camera work. Apparently, the whole movie was filmed by a child who just received his very first video camera. The camera never stays still; it's always zooming in and out without any rhyme or reason, panning around pointlessly, or shaking like a bad singer facing Simon Cowell.

The plot (what little there is) is supposedly based on a true story. Basically, these three city guys go out for a day of hunting. This translates into interminable minutes of them walking through the woods, sans any music whatsoever, with two of them intermittently complaining about not having anything to shoot at. These woods, I must note, happen to lie adjacent to a park trail, so it's not exactly the best place to be shooting off guns, anyway. Eventually, the guys take a beer break near the edge of the forest, right across from what appears to be an old, abandoned mill. Suddenly, a shot rings out. Thus begins our three incredibly annoying characters' struggle to somehow stay alive and escape from an unknown sharpshooter determined to kill them. You would think this would lead to some tense, emotional moments - but it doesn't. If you're like me, you won't care who lives or dies or who the killer is - you'll just want the movie to hurry up and end already.

F.E.A.R. Extraction Point
F.E.A.R. Extraction Point
4 used & new from CDN$ 90.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Basically the rest of the original F.E.A.R. story, Oct. 28 2012
Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: F.E.A.R. Extraction Point (CD-ROM)
F.E.A.R. Extraction Point doesn't add a whole lot to the original F.E.A.R. gaming experience, but it is important because it directly continues the storyline from the original game, which ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. Personally, I also thought it was fairly lengthy for an expansion pack. Sure, the best gamers can probably get through it in three or four hours, but I've purchased expansion packs for other games that offered much less gameplay than you find here. One new feature you will find in Extraction Point is the ability to slam doors open. It doesn't sound like much, but I find it much more satisfying to bang my way into a room with guns ready for blaring than to just open a door like I'm some kind of butler.

The environments aren't all that different from what you've already encountered in the original (yep, more ventilation shafts). You start out having to make your way through some slums, then go through the sewer systems to make your way to the hospital - and your extraction point. Separated from your fellow F.E.A.R. operatives, you are not the only person in danger- there are some pretty significant developments in that regard to be found here. As far as gameplay, though, it's really just more of the same. There's a heat ray weapon that I don't remember seeing in the original, and there's a new heavy armor unit that gets in your way, but Extraction Point is really just more of the same. Of course, that "same" is pretty darned fun.

Hellweek
Hellweek
DVD ~ Rob Jaeger
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 29.96
7 used & new from CDN$ 4.96

2.0 out of 5 stars Just another low-budget B-movie flop, Oct. 27 2012
This review is from: Hellweek (DVD)
Hellweek is sort of like two bad movies wrapped up in one. Over half of the movie revolves around fraternity president JJ (Rob Jaeger) and his circle of idiot friends as they prepare for what turns out to be the lamest party of the year and the much-anticipated hazing of two new pledges. JJ's enormous ego is on constant display, even though the only things he seems to be any good at are one-liners, drinking, and cheating on his girlfriend Kara (Karen Fox). Kara and her two skanky friends bring a little bit of hotness to the proceedings, but it's not nearly enough to blind you to the horrible acting and dialogue playing out in front of you. Finally, just when you're about to give up hope, JJ's great plan to get the pledges drop-dead drunk and take them to an old abandoned warehouse (where a girl was tortured just one year ago) comes to fruition - and the movie actually gets even worse.

I'm sorry, but putting your bad guys in silly Halloween masks (especially a clown one) is not scary (Hellweek, I saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and you are not The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). In this case, it just makes a bunch of ridiculous crazy people look even sillier than they act. It doesn't help that we don't actually get to see any of the acts of violence they inflict on all of our college kids (although that's perfectly understandable, given the film's budget of only fourteen thousand dollars). There's no nudity in this film, either, in case you're wondering.

I appreciate the effort these guys put in to trying to make a scary low-budget B-movie, but effort only takes you so far. Given such a horrible script, Hellweek never really had a chance.

Crater Lake Monster
Crater Lake Monster
DVD ~ Richard Cardella
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 70.74
4 used & new from CDN$ 35.35

2.0 out of 5 stars One of the dumbest monster movies I've ever seen, Oct. 25 2012
This review is from: Crater Lake Monster (DVD)
This movie has some serious problems. You have to start with the monster of Crater Lake Monster, as he is just laughably bad in appearance. It's amazing how the stop action effects in the original King Kong can look so good while those same effects are just terrible here. This monster couldn't even get a job on the Land of the Lost series - they told him he was just too silly-looking. Then you have the filmmakers' complete incomprehension of time. You can't just film scenes during the middle of the day and then expect us to accept them as night scenes just because someone talks about how dark it is out that night. It gets worse than that, though. Everything in this story obviously takes place over a couple of days, yet at one point a character talks about six months having passed since all the trouble began. Throw horrible editing into the mix, as well. Two guys are soaking wet one minute and bone dry the next, one guy is seen with a toboggan, a hat, and a bare head - all in one scene; etc. Oh, it is to laugh - and believe me, laughter is the only thing you're going to get out of this movie.

The fun all starts with some archaeologists discovering some remarkably well preserved ancient cave drawings in an abandoned mine. Upon seeing one image depicting two guys throwing sticks at a large animal, one scientist declares that it is absolute proof that man and dinosaur actually did cohabit the planet at some point. Strangely enough, a meteorite chooses that very moment to crash into a nearby lake, and the heat it generates under water causes a long-dormant dinosaur egg to hatch. That's bad news for the already terrible boat renting business of two local rubes (who will serve as your comic relief for the evening). As dumb as these two guys are, they were occasionally funny, and I must say their presence helped me get through the thoroughly useless subplots, bad acting, inept storytelling, and ludicrous conclusion that define this altogether poor attempt at filmmaking. I really don't know why the guys at MST3K never took this movie on (although it has been given the Rifftrax treatment), as it seems tailor-made for unlimited riffing.

F.E.A.R.
F.E.A.R.
15 used & new from CDN$ 3.24

5.0 out of 5 stars FEAReaking awesome FPS, Oct. 21 2012
Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: F.E.A.R. (CD-ROM)
F.E.A.R.is without a doubt one of the best first person shooters I've ever played. The combat is intense and bloody, the visuals are terrific and bloody, and the paranormal storyline is creepy and bloody. Yes, blood and gore are everywhere - and the worst carnage you can manufacture with your array of weapons is nothing compared to the powers of the mysterious Alma to eviscerate all of those responsible for the great wrongs done to her over the course of many years. It's science fiction meets horror meets engineered carnage at its best.

Here's all you need to know about the First Encounter Assault Recon: they're the guys you call when the military's elite Special Forces can't get the job done. You don't know exactly what is going on as you first enter the fray - except that the situation is pretty bad. As mission point man (with special reflex skills that effectively allow you to momentarily slow down time whenever you want), your job is to kill or capture one Paxton Fettel, a specially engineered psychic commander who has taken command of a battalion of supersoldier clones and unleashed a massacre that threatens to spread throughout the city. As you proceed through all the different intervals, you'll learn a lot more about Paxton Fettel, the even more mysterious and dangerous Alma, and the secret project that gave birth to all of the monstrosities that keep coming at you. Much of your growing knowledge will come in the form of psychic visions featuring Fettel or Alma communicating with you directly. Fettel in particular likes to appear, deliver creepy messages, and disappear fairly often. It makes for a terrific and absorbing atmosphere of dread and anxiety.

As you make your way through three different structures over the course of the game, you have to contend with multiple enemies. As if facing all of the cloned supersoldiers isn't challenge enough, you also face resistance from Armacham Technology Corporation security forces trying to destroy all evidence of the super-secret project and a host of supernatural minions unleashed by Alma - as well as Paxton Fettel himself.

While the game's hardware requirements were fairly steep when it was released in 2005, you can enjoy the amazing F.E.A.R. visual experience on any decent gaming computer today. The atmosphere is very much akin to that of Asian horror movies, with Alma generating a presence much like that of Sadako in Ringu. As enjoyable as the dark, spectacular psychic visions are, the best and creepiest shots feature a young Alma spectrally manifesting herself somewhere on the periphery of your vision. The music and sound effects add extra doses of darkness to the whole atmosphere. Play this game alone at night in a darkened room, and you may well find yourself fumbling to turn the lights back on at some point. This really is as creepy a game as I've ever played.

If there is any downside to this game, it's the fact that it can become somewhat repetitive at times. At each of the three main locations featured, you will have to wend your way through mazes of similar areas. In addition, the bad guys - who you are able to monitor when they are close - also tend to shout the same sorts of instructions as they search for and attempt to kill you. It would also be nice to be able to interact a little more closely with the environment (and to actually leave bloodstained footprints behind after you walk through a pool of freshly spilled blood), but none of these small quibbles really matter in the end. F.E.A.R. delivers a paranormal horror shoot-`em-up experience like no other game I've played.

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