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C.B. (Canada)

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Mass Effect 3 - Xbox 360 Standard Edition
Mass Effect 3 - Xbox 360 Standard Edition
Offered by Orion Xpress
Price: CDN$ 15.49
17 used & new from CDN$ 3.44

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong moments in a disappointing game, March 18 2012
Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
There are some brilliant moments in Mass Effect 3. Fantastic character interaction. Impressive cinematics. Rousing and emotional moments which (especially if you've played the whole trilogy) can fool you into believing you're playing something which is, if not legendary, at least great. Really, its only afterward, mulling it over when many players will begin to feel that this isn't entirely the case.

You can't throw a virtual stone without hitting a criticism of the endings, so I won't say more than to agree that they are extremely weak and unsatisfactory for most of those who have heavily invested in the series (Casual players may possibly find them more acceptable). I have however read many accounts that the game was fantastic until the last fifteen minutes. For me, this was not the case. I was disappointed with a number of aspects of the game.

- There is little to explore. Most zones are combat zones. Only one area is your (occasional) haven. This has the effect of further removing ME from the realm of RPG to straight out shooter-with-frequent-cutscenes. Furthermore, side quests are less involving, as many of them are aquired simply by eavesdropping.

- Music is recycled from previous efforts to the point that it no longer feels like a tribute and begins to simply feel cheap and uninspired.

- Less dialogue choices give a feeling of much greater linearity. You will feel much more railroaded into complying with the game's script than ever before.

- Combat is somewhat more streamlined, but not significantly improved or much more exciting than ME 2. Unceasingly similar mission objectives eventually grow tedious, though this has been a flaw throughout the series.

- Using a stock internet photo as a reveal for a long-masked fan-favorite character - regardless of whether or not you could care less about that character - gives the impression of a studio taking the low road. To be clear, this is not a fan rant. It's not the photo itself so much as the attitude behind it: "We couldn't be bothered to take the effort." To what other areas of the game did Bioware apply this "ah, good enough" philosophy?

Don't get me wrong, Mass Effect 3 is not a terrible game, parts of it are very compelling. Beyond the occasionally eye-popping visual setpieces and heartfelt scripted moments, however, it shows some signs of being a lazy one, signs Dragon Age 2 also exhibited. It's not a failure, just very disappointing and far from the triumphant ending to a fantastic series that it could have been. 2 1/2 stars, rounded up.

Tales of Terror Collection: From Tokyo And All Over Japan (4DVD)
Tales of Terror Collection: From Tokyo And All Over Japan (4DVD)
DVD ~ Takashi Shimizu
Offered by CAMusicFiendz
Price: CDN$ 169.72
9 used & new from CDN$ 24.97

3.0 out of 5 stars Cheap, Uneven, but Diverting, Aug. 16 2011
In a collection full of seperate and unrelated horror tales, none of which (save a tiny handful of two-or-three parters) ever exceed 5 minute in length, it's almost impossible to build any kind of meaningful atmosphere or tension. I spent most of my time with this set wondering if it was ever going to justify itself in any way beyond being mildly interesting. The stories finish so quickly that the audience has no time to build any kind of connection to them. The idea, I supppose, is similar to a series of "campfire tales". Several of these shorts, though, end so abruptly that they don't even satisfy on any level.

That said, the collection is pretty addictive, with that "just one more" quality that pushes you to continue, waiting for that great moment of horror you feel certain must be just around the corner. No doubt some viewers will be chilled by some of these bite-sized tales. For myself, I had to wait until the very last story on the final disc ("The Music Box") to finally feel that jolt of dread I'd been hoping for all along. A good last impression, but a little too late.

Ultimately, this micro-budget collection of shorts will alternately entertain, bore or (if you're not not familiar with certain aspects of Japanese mythology) confuse, but very rarely does it chill. 2 1/2 stars, rounded up for Amazon's rating system.

The Suicide Forest TP
The Suicide Forest TP
by El Torres
Edition: Paperback
13 used & new from CDN$ 25.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eerie tale, for fans of Ringu, July 14 2011
This review is from: The Suicide Forest TP (Paperback)
Based on Japanese paranormal/horror cinema, most specifically on the onryo (many western readers may be unfamiliar with the term but familiar with the creatures themselves - think of Sadako from Ringu or Kayako from Ju-On/The Grudge) Suicide Forest is a creepy little tale which is faithful to its roots.

The art is minimalistic but occasionally effectively disturbing. The flow of the narrative seems abrupt at times (my only real complaint is that the story should have been allowed to sprawl out a little longer), but mainly flows smoothly. There is a growing sense of dread and the sense that this, like the movies it is so clearly inspired by, would make a fantastic film.

Some of the panel choreography is really impressive, such as [SPOILER] one tragic sequence where a desperately lonely character commits suicide in despair while her erstwhile boyfriend, who had just rejected her, has casual sex with an acquaintance [END SPOILER].

While I haven't read all of El Torres' work, I can say with certainty that Suicide Forest is MANY times more satisfying and mature than the only other example I've read, the somewhat juvenile T&A saga "Nancy in Hell". Overall, I would recommend this to any fans of Japanese ghost tales, as it is true to it's source and a great, creepy story in its own right.

Tales of Terror from Tokyo the Movie
Tales of Terror from Tokyo the Movie
DVD ~ Mediablasters
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 91.10
7 used & new from CDN$ 14.23

4.0 out of 5 stars Creepy Little Compilation, July 4 2011
Like all compilations, this is uneven. There are stories present which are too abrupt or jarring (two guilty parties here), too unthreatening, or are completely uneventful and uninteresting ("Gloves" for instance).

That said there are gems here. "Night Watchman" is a strange way to open a series purporting to be about terror ... it's more amusing than anything. It is, however, quite entertaining, and you might get a chill or two along the way. The real standout, in my eyes, is "The Promise", which is both eerie and strangely touching and might have made a good full length film to allow for expanded character motivations. "Line of Sight", while perhaps too reminiscent of Ringu, also managed to give me a shiver or two.

In any case, this collection is worth checking out. You'll probably have your own idea as to which are worthwhile and which are not, but if you enjoy japanese ghost stories, you'll certainly get something out of it. If, however, you've never enjoyed films like Ringu and Ju-On, there's nothing here which will change your mind.

Sea of Ghosts. Alan Campbell (Gravedigger Chronicles 1)
Sea of Ghosts. Alan Campbell (Gravedigger Chronicles 1)
12 used & new from CDN$ 4.65

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Break out the Void Flies, April 12 2011
Alan Campbell has become one of my favorite authors. Consistantly inventive, he creates intriguing worlds populated by interestingly flawed characters and flavours them with bizarre and cinematic setpieces. You can tell he worked in a visual medium prior to becoming a novelist.

Sea of Ghosts gets this series off to a strong start, setting the scene with great visual flair and unveiling the working of the world slowly and interestingly, without any tedious blocks of exposition. It takes a while to fully learn the ins and outs of his empire, but it's consistantly fun learning. I enjoyed how, in many ways, the oceans themselves pose more of a threat than any person or faction or army could. Altered though it was by human (ah, Unmer) hands, the sea is, in many ways, the antagonist here.

As with his previous works, this is a real page turner - three sittings in two days for me. The plot feels urgent and never bogs down. You'll definitely be thinking "just one more chapter" with this one.

Sea of Ghosts is not unflawed, and I wouldn't consider it as impressive as the first two Deepgate tales, Scar Night and Lye Street. There's an odd disconnect between Campbell characters, which was also present in his Deepgate books, a distance both between themselves and also the audience which occasionally makes it difficult to relate, emotionally or otherwise. It's tough to get into their heads. There is, in my opinion, no iconic character in Sea of Ghosts, like Carnival from Deepgate. Much as I enjoy flawed anti-hero characters, I just couldn't sympathize with or root for the ones who populate this book. Others may disagree, and the characters are at least interesting.

All in all, however, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, particularily its setting and original lore. Campbell's bizarre dystopias definitely intrigue me. I would highly recommend this book, and I look forward to future Gravedigger installments.

Rubicon (Digi)
Rubicon (Digi)
Price: CDN$ 14.51
28 used & new from CDN$ 5.40

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly four stars., Sept. 13 2010
This review is from: Rubicon (Digi) (Audio CD)
There seems to be a fair bit of resistance to Mariangela, Tristania's new female vocalist (replacing Vibeke). While I can understand that, having been a fan of Tristania since I first heard "Beyond the Veil", I have to say I'm already easing into Mariangela's camp. While Vibeke's voice was more ethereal (and better suited to the early material), Mariangela's is more personable, with more force of character; in short, less clinical. I have no problem with the new vocals, and was pleased to see from the liner notes that Mariangela has already thrown herself into the songwriting itself.

With that out of the way, if you haven't been following Tristania's long evolution, this album will come as a shock to you. "Rubicon" is not nearly as heavy as some previous endeavours, nor as haunting. It's much more straightforward, with a couple songs barely over three minutes long, so you could forgiven for mistaking some of the tracks on "Rubicon" for a number of female-fronted "gothic metal" bands. With that mild disappointment aside, I still feel there are some strong tracks on display here from the opener "Year of the Rat" to the punchier "Patriot Games", "Magical Fix", and "The Emerald Piper" (challenge: try not to cringe at the line "you act just like a dumdum boy") to the brooding eight minute finale, "Illumination" (a track you'd think was better suited to their album "Illumination", but hey, what do I know? I guess we can expect the song "Rubicon" on the next album).

So: not nearly the strongest Tristania album, but still very enjoyable; alternately rousing and easy to drift to. I look forward to see what this "new" Tristania can do once the lineup settles down a bit (male vocalist Osten Bergoy has also quit the band).

I'd actually give this 3 1/2 stars rather than four, just because there's definitely a fair bit of filler here. But hey, Amazon doesn't allow that, so I'll be generous.

Mirror Of Retribution
Mirror Of Retribution
Price: CDN$ 18.15
20 used & new from CDN$ 10.79

4.0 out of 5 stars Also, Doris., Aug. 22 2010
This review is from: Mirror Of Retribution (Audio CD)
What sets this Taiwanese melodic black metal band apart from others of its type?

The erhu, of course! This mournful-sounding traditional chinese violin really adds great atmosphere to many of the driving tracks on this album. I admit I'm not much of a fan of traditional black metal (so I'm not sure how Chthonic sits with fans of Immortal, etc.), but the oriental touches give the style a pathos which makes me want to track down these guys' back catalog, too.

The album is solid throughout. Prduction is crisp and clear. Highlights include the brooding, atmospheric single, '49 Theurgy Chains', and the more martial 'Sing Ling Temple'. I'd heartily recommend this band to those who prefer a bit of melody and melancholy with their extreme metal.

The Hexer
The Hexer
DVD ~ Marek Brodzki
Price: CDN$ 24.98
3 used & new from CDN$ 15.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Just no., Dec 1 2008
This review is from: The Hexer (DVD)
If you are a fan of The Witcher (either the book, "Last Wish", or the videogame), don't bother with this tripe. Sloppily edited from a TV series, with stiff acting, laugh-out-loud special effects, and shoddy camerawork, this is a disaster of ... well, I'd say "epic proportions", but there's really nothing epic about it.

If you aren't a fan, there's even less reason to see it.

Avoid this trainwreck.

Hundra
Hundra
DVD ~ Laurene Landon
Offered by DVD Monkey
Price: CDN$ 69.99
9 used & new from CDN$ 37.99

3.0 out of 5 stars So bad, as they say ..., Oct. 22 2008
This review is from: Hundra (DVD)
I'm a sucker for these trashy, old-school Sword and Sorcery epics, and if you are, Hundra won't disappoint. I didn't catch Hundra "back in the day", as with Conan, Deathstalker, etc., I just had a hankering for an '80s barbarian opus, and this is what I wound up with. Nearly everything about this movie is, on a technical level, terrible (dear god, the sound effects), but through it all, it has a certain spirit that kept me smiling throughout.

Immediately after watching it, I sat through it again, this time with the commentary, which is easily as funny as the film itself.

In a sense, there's no point writing a review for movies of this type - you already know if you like 'em not. So, if cheap battle sequences, exploitative nudity, and a cast of horrific over-and-underacting Z-list actors are your thing, then there's plenty to amuse you here ... plus maybe just a little added spunkiness.

I kind of wish they still made this stuff.

Mother of Tears (Ws Sub) [Import]
Mother of Tears (Ws Sub) [Import]
DVD ~ Asia Argento
Price: CDN$ 16.82
18 used & new from CDN$ 9.58

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hmm, Oct. 20 2008
As a longtime fan of Suspiria, and of Argento in general (at least up until Opera), I had some enthusiasm for this title. Okay, I didn't expect it to be as great as the movie which kick-started the Three Mothers trilogy, especially since this final installment comes nearly three decades later, but I still had hopes.

The best I can say is that I didn't entirely hate it.

Nearly every scene is stolen - well, self-cannibalized, to be fair - from previous works by the director, and those which aren't are either overly garish or strangely lackluster. The acting was uniformly awful, which isn't unexpected, but damned if it wasn't worse than usual. The score is decent, but a far cry from the maddening strains of Suspiria. The dreamlike qualities of particularily Suspiria and Phenomena, which covered many of those films flaws, are not present here.

Unless you're an Argento completist who absolutely NEEDS to know, it may be in your best interests to rent this title rather than buy it.

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