Quick & Dirty #11: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Dead Space 2, Fatal Frame

It’s been a while. Time to catch up with another round of Quick & Dirty!

BOOKS
"A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson
“A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson
Due to other commitments, my reading time has been kept to a minimum. As such, it took me a lot longer than usual to work my way through this Bryson travel narrative. Normally a light and easy read, A Walk in the Woods is about Bryson and his former college buddy, Katz, tackling the ultimate U.S. hiking trip: all 2,000+ miles of the Appalachian Trail. Both guys are horribly out of shape and have little to no hiking experience, so this is quite the lofty goal for them. Their trip goes about as well as you would expect for a couple of absolute novices, though their time on the trail sure did help them get fit. A lot of people like Bryson’s style of humor, but I found it to be hit-and-miss. I laughed occasionally, but nowhere near as much as others led me to believe I would. To me, the most interesting parts of the book were when he wrote about the history of the trail, including some of the National Park Service’s disappointingly bad decisions over the years. As this book was written in 199?, some of the information is dated, but this is still a decent read overall. 7/10

MOVIES
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil [2010]
Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil [2010]
This horror comedy has been getting a lot of hype, and I am happy to say that it lives up to it. Tucker & Dale are two fun-loving rednecks who are mistakenly typecast as serial killers by a group of vacationing college students. When the students attempt to “save” one of their friends who was taken by Tucker & Dale to rest and recover from an injury, they start falling victim to their own tragic (and hilarious) accidents. In short, it’s funny as hell, and it’s a blast to see the “hicksploitation” genre turned on its head. Lots of gore, lots of laughs, and a great movie to watch with a group of friends. Just, whatever you do, DO NOT WATCH THE TRAILER FIRST. Seriously, it gives away a lot of the funny and WTF moments from the movie. Don’t do it. 8/10

VIDEO GAMES
Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360]
Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360]
I finally have a working Xbox 360 again, so my first goal was to finally play Dead Space 2, the sequel to one of my favorite games from this generation. I am probably about halfway through the campaign right now, and it has not disappointed in the slightest. It feels a little more like an action game than before, but the atmosphere is still very tense with lots of startling moments. There are so many creepy little disturbances that have kept me on edge, such as alarm clocks randomly going off, lights flickering on and off, and corpses suddenly coming to life. This is a game best played in the dark with the volume LOUD. Loving it so far.

Fatal Frame [PS2]
Fatal Frame [PS2]
In my Xbox downtime, I spent more time than usual with the PS2. My goal was to finally go through and finish Fatal Frame, a game I had started years ago but never finished. I opted to start from the beginning, and I am now playing through the final chapter. I love the atmosphere, and the fact that the only “weapon” is a camera makes everything even scarier. I am not in very good shape in this last chapter, however, as my health packs and film are way too low for the current difficulty level. My goal is to finish the game over the weekend and have a new review ready next week.

Resident Evil: Director's Cut [PS1]
Resident Evil: Director’s Cut [PS1]
I hadn’t played any of the Resident Evil games in years, so I thought it would be fun to take a look back at where the series all began. I got a huge kick out of the first game’s terrible B-movie theatrics, including some live action cutscenes with acting that would rival Matt Hannon in Samurai Cop. I ended up playing about twenty minutes or so before calling it quits. The graphics have aged horribly, almost to the point of unplayability, and the gameplay is definitely showing its age. I might pick it back up at some point, but not before tackling some of the bigger and better games in my backlog.

Quick & Dirty #10: Rain Man, [REC] 2, The Troll Hunter, Saints Row 2

MOVIES

Rain Man [1988]
Rain Man [1988]
Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman as long-lost brothers? Why not? Both actors are in prime form here, especially Hoffman as the autistic savant, Raymond. Their journey across the country, and the pitstop in Las Vegas, is memorable with a lot of great moments. There are several great lines (“Kmart sucks!”) and the slow-to-develop relationship between the two brothers is endearing. I really enjoyed this movie, even though Tom Cruise’s character was a major dick. 8/10

[REC] 2 [2009]
[REC] 2 [2009]
I liked the first movie, and it ended on a batshit crazy note. I was pretty psyched to finally catch this sequel on DVD, especially after hearing some really great things. [REC] 2 picks up right where the first movie left off, with a new squad entering the quarantined apartment to see what the hell is going on in there. The sequel takes things in an interesting direction, one which I won’t mention for spoiler reasons. I liked what was done with it, and the new batch of characters are likable, but it felt like it was missing the extra spark that the original had. Still a good horror film, but not up to the level of the first. 7/10

The Troll Hunter [2010]
The Troll Hunter [2010]
I had been wanting to see this ever since hearing about it this year. A “found footage” movie about hunting trolls in Norway? Hell yeah! While the concept certainly is full of possibilities, I felt the movie’s deadpan delivery hindered it a little. The fact that everything was taken (mostly) seriously was a little disappointing, but there were still some amusing moments. For such a small budget, the trolls looked believable, and they were competent hunting targets. A good movie with a great concept, but I feel like it could have been more. There really is no need for a Hollywood remake though. 7/10

VIDEO GAMES

Saints Row 2 [PS3]
Saints Row 2 [PS3]
I cranked this up the other night after having it sit on my shelf for quite some time. I had to make a new character since I had the Xbox 360 edition of the original game, and there were a few jokes about my new appearance (“Did you get a haircut?”). It felt a lot like the first game, which is expected, but it looks like they made some fun new additions. One of the first side missions I attempted involved driving around a sewage truck and spraying down buildings, pimps and hookers. Pretty crazy shit. I am looking forward to seeing what else is in store.

Quick & Dirty #9: Limitless, No Strings Attached and Plants vs. Zombies

Time for another batch of quick writeups/reviews. Next week will be plentiful with lots of full reviews, and some more movie project posts.

MOVIES
No Strings Attached [2011]
No Strings Attached [2011]
I thought since Natalie Portman was in this that it might be better than your typical romantic comedy. Sadly, no, that is not the case here. This is standard romcom garbage that follows the usual formula right down to a T. Ashton Kutcher and others involved managed to drag Portman right down to their level, and the end result is an utter debacle. Why, Natalie, why?? 4/10

Limitless [2011]
Limitless [2011]
This was a fun movie with a great concept and some really interesting camerawork. I’m not a huge Bradley Cooper fan, but he did a good job in the lead role here. The story had a lot of plot holes, some more glaring than others, which dragged it down a bit, but it was still an entertaining ride. It seems like a lot of people didn’t like the ending, but I thought it was pretty clever myself. Not a great movie, but still enjoyable. 7/10

VIDEO GAMES
Altered Beast [PS3]
Altered Beast [PS3]
Gary’s review at the Vortex Effect inspired me to check out this Genesis “classic”, although I don’t think that was his intent. This side-scrolling beat ’em up is just as poor as I remember with sluggish gameplay and cheap enemy hits. It still has that cheesy charm, though, with such classic lines as “WISE FROM YOUR GWAVE!”. Still, it’s a bizarre choice to include in Sega’s Vintage Collection, at least in terms of quality.

Astro Tripper [PS3]
Astro Tripper [PS3]
This shoot ’em up was released for free this week via Playstation Plus, and I had never heard of it before. It’s pretty simple: you control a spaceship on a small playing field, with the goal being to shoot everything in sight before time runs out. There are buttons to change direction and change weapons, but that’s about the extent of it. I liked what I played of it, but I got stuck at the third level’s boss battle. I have never been good at shmups, so that’s on me, but the good news is that I am intrigued enough to continue playing in an effort to get better.

Fallout: New Vegas [Xbox 360]
Fallout: New Vegas [Xbox 360]
I just beat this game for the first time this week. I am going to reload my “master save” and finish the other endings, and I will have a full review after that. In a nutshell, I greatly enjoyed my time in the Mojave Wasteland, although I still ran into some glitches and other problems that were supposedly fixed in some of the (many) patches.

Plants vs. Zombies [PS3]
Plants vs. Zombies [PS3]
I bought the iOS version of this to keep me occupied on the airplane when I traveled to Europe last year. I enjoyed it then, though I found the gameplay to be tedious after a while. The PS3 version is identical as far as I can tell, and I am getting back into it. It’s more addictive than I remembered — perhaps my gaming tastes have evolved a little since then — and I can’t wait to unlock all of its features. Good stuff, and I’m glad it was released as a freebie on PS+.

Scribblenauts [DS, 2009]
Scribblenauts [DS]
I have been playing this on and off again, and unfortunately it is starting to lose its initial appeal. I have found that I can complete most of the puzzles with the same select words, and I still have problems with the main character’s sloppy controls. I am about halfway through the game so far, and will be writing a full review upon completion.

Quick & Dirty #8 – The Gold Rush, The Lincoln Lawyer, Tangled, Unknown

I haven’t had as much time to crank out full reviews lately, so now is a good time for a new Quick & Dirty. Here are some quick thoughts on a handful of recent movies I have seen.

The Gold Rush [1925]
The Gold Rush [1925]
After watching City Lights as part of my ongoing Movie Project, I grew even more interested in digging into Charlie Chaplin’s catalog. I found The Gold Rush on Netflix Instant, and really enjoyed this story of the Tramp searching for gold in Alaska. There were some truly memorable scenes, such as the Tramp eating his own shoe and, of course, the dancing potato scene. Not as good as City Lights, but still a lot of fun. 8/10

The Lincoln Lawyer [2011]
The Lincoln Lawyer [2011]
Man, it sure is good to see Matthew McConaughey in a respectable role again! He is on top of his game here, again delivering a brilliant performance as a sleazy lawyer. McConaughey is aided by a strong supporting cast that includes the likes of Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy and Bryan Cranston. The story isn’t groundbreaking, but it is smart and enthralling enough to maintain interest. Legal thrillers don’t seem to come around too often, but hopefully The Lincoln Lawyer’s success will lead to more quality films in the genre. 8/10

Tangled [2010]
Tangled [2010]
I got roped into seeing this thanks to my ever-loving girlfriend. I wasn’t expecting to care much for it since Disney films/musicals aren’t really my thing, but I was pleasantly surprised with Tangled. Some of the musical numbers were a bit trite, but the movie looked sharp and had mostly enjoyable characters. Plus the lead male wasn’t an insufferable douche, so that was good. Not one of the better Disney movies I have seen, but still decent enough. 6/10

Unknown [2011]
Unknown [2011]
If you can ignore some gaping plot holes and find a way to tolerate January Jones’ atrocious acting, Unknown isn’t half bad. As a thriller, it succeeded in keeping me on the edge of my seat, and it’s hard not to like Liam Neeson’s performance in the lead role. It’s not exactly a memorable film, but there are worse ways to spend two hours. 6/10

Quick & Dirty #7: Kaboom, Kill the Irishman, Scribblenauts and more

It’s time for another roundup of what I have seen/played lately.

MOVIES

Kaboom [2011, Araki]
Kaboom [2011, Araki]
One of the worst movies I have seen in a while. With a convoluted sci-fi plot as its base, Kaboom meanders all over the place by including random and unnecessary casual sex encounters. Actually, these sex scenes are all the movie has going for it in terms of entertainment. The rest of the movie is a scrambled mess with weak dialogue and wasted acting talent. Araki tries too hard to be David Lynch here and ultimately comes across as a poor imitation. 3/10

Kill the Irishman [2011, Hensleigh]
Kill the Irishman [2011, Hensleigh]
Crime drama about the life of Danny Greene, an Irish-American mobster who was both directly and indirectly involved with a ton of car bombings in 1970s Cleveland. Ray Stevenson delivers a solid performance as Greene, and there are some solid supporting roles from Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer as well (though it must be stated that they aren’t on screen nearly as much as the trailer and promo material would suggest). The movie doesn’t try anything new and it could have used much better development for certain characters, but it’s still a decent enough gangster movie. 6/10

Me and You and Everyone We Know [2005, July]
Me and You and Everyone We Know [2005, July]
I dug this quirky indie dramedy, but not quite as much as Roger Ebert, who named this as one of the top ten movies of the last decade. There is a lot to like about this movie, including John Hawkes and some great performances from the child actors. While some of the sequences fell flat, there were some genuinely hilarious moments such as the online interactions between two children and an anonymous stranger. I felt like the Miranda July tried too hard with some of the proceedings, but I still liked the movie’s eccentricities. 7/10

VIDEO GAMES

2010 FIFA World Cup [PSP, 2010]
2010 FIFA World Cup [PSP, 2010]
I got sucked back into World Cup fever after the USA Women’s team’s excellent run this year, and ended up picking this game back up. It brought back a lot of memories, and I have had a blast guiding the men’s Team USA through the tournament. I am looking forward to trying out the “Captain Your Country” mode in which you create your own player and lead them to greatness. The game’s got a pretty diverse soundtrack, and the vuvuzelas add to the atmosphere (for better or for worse). I am digging it, as it is pretty good as far as portable sports games go.

Scribblenauts [DS, 2009]
Scribblenauts [DS, 2009]
This little game intrigued me when I first heard about it back in 2009, but I just now got my hands on it. The concept is pretty cool, no doubt, since it allows you to type in any word you can think of to solve puzzles. I just started playing and have only completed a handful of the first level’s puzzles, but I am enjoying it so far. Some of the controls seem a little touchy, such as climbing up ladders and using items from that, but that’s not a huge issue. I look forward to digging into some of the more challenging levels.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories [PSP, 2009]
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories [PSP, 2009]
This is the first Silent Hill I have played since the original PSOne title. Apparently this is a “re-imagining” of said game, although it feels a lot different than I remember. I like the psychological aspects of this, but the lack of combat reduces the scare factor quite a bit. I am enjoying it so far, but it’s not blowing me away.

Quick & Dirty #6: Dead Alive, Nowhere Boy, Split/Second

Since I am still trying to catch up on my major backlog of media to write about, a new edition of Quick & Dirty seems to be just what I need.

MOVIES

Dead Alive [1992]
Dead Alive [1992, Jackson]
I had been wanting to see this for a while since I had heard nothing but great things about it. For the most part, I liked it quite a bit. Lots of over-the-top acting and effects, and copious amounts of blood and gore. It blows my mind that Peter Jackson went on to direct Lord of the Rings. Good, campy fun. 7/10

Nowhere Boy [2009]
Nowhere Boy [2009, Taylor-Wood]
Emotional coming-of-age story about John Lennon’s formative years. Great acting all around, including powerful performances from John (Aaron Johnson), his mother (Anne-Marie Duff) and aunt (Kristin Scott Thomas). I never realized John had such a traumatic childhood, but it helped shape him into the rock and roll legend he eventually became. If you’re a fan of him at all, this is definitely worth checking out. 8/10

Wet Hot American Summer [2001]
Wet Hot American Summer [2001, Wain]
Loved the cast, and I also enjoyed the first half of the movie quite a bit. Some of the gags had me rolling on the floor, but I didn’t care much for how the latter half went overboard with crazy antics. I can see how people either love it or hate it, but I’m somewhere in the middle. 6/10

VIDEO GAMES

Infamous [PS3, 2009]
Infamous [PS3, 2009]
I snagged this as part of Sony’s Welcome Back program and tried out the first few chapters of the game. I liked what I played, but it didn’t really “click” with me, at least not enough to make me keep pushing through at this moment. I will definitely come back to it, but I have opted to tackle other games in my backlog first (currently Fallout: New Vegas).

Split/Second [PS3, 2010]
Split/Second [PS3, 2010]
I tried the full game trial of this via Playstation Plus. It took me a little while to get used to the drifting controls, but once I did I got hooked into the game. This is one of the better arcade racers I have played in a while. I love that you can boost up your rewards by drifting and riding the tails of other cars, and some of the rewards are devastating (especially when you are able to have an airplane fly directly into an opponent’s driving path). I could see how this would get a little old after a while, but I greatly enjoyed the hour I spent playing it. I might pick up the full game if I see it in a bargain bin.

Prototype [PS3]
Prototype [PS3, 2009]
Another full game trial. After getting used to the PS2-era graphics, I grew to enjoy Prototype for what it was. Being able to run up skyscrapers while terrorizing New York City was pretty cool, and I liked having the ability to unlock new powers. I couldn’t help but think this was a lot like Infamous, for better or for worse. The gameplay wasn’t anything overly amazing, but it was still fun. Like Split/Second, I might pick this up if I see it cheap someday.

Quick & Dirty #5: The A-Team, Yojimbo, Uncharted 2 (and more)

It has been a couple weeks since the last one, so it’s time for another Quick & Dirty post to get caught up on what I have overlooked lately. Today’s batch has three movies and three video games.

MOVIES
The A-Team [2010]
The A-Team [2010]
Harmless, mindless action movie. I have only seen one full episode of the TV show, so I can’t accurately compare the two. However, I thought the movie was solid enough. There were lots of big explosions and it had an amusing cast of characters. Pretty much everything you would expect in a summer blockbuster like this. 6/10

TRON: Legacy [2010]
TRON: Legacy [2010]
I didn’t care much for the first TRON, but I was somewhat interested in the sequel due to its high budget and Daft Punk’s soundtrack. It was pretty decent for the first 45 minutes or so and then it just started dragging along with nothing exciting happening. Throw in some terribly cheesy dialogue and you have a disappointing film. 5/10

Yojimbo [1961]
Yojimbo [1961]
No need to do a full review for this one since everyone knows this movie is badass. Not sure what took me so long to get around to it, honestly. This was a lot of fun; how can you not like Toshirô Mifune rising above two foolish factions and taking both of them out? 9/10

GAMES
Metal Slug Anthology [PSP, 2007]
Metal Slug Anthology [PSP, 2007]
Somehow I missed out on playing any of the Metal Slug games over the years. This anthology has a ton of the old games, everything from 1-6 (and Metal Slug X). I am gradually working my way through them, and having a blast so far. They remind me of a cartoon-ish Contra.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves [PS3, 2009]
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves [PS3, 2009]
I am about 3/4 of the way through this, so hopefully I can complete it and provide a full review next week. I am enjoying it quite a bit, although I thought it started off a little slow. Still, it’s easy to get sucked into completing chapter after chapter even after I tell myself I am going to stop playing. The multiplayer seems competent enough as well, and I had fun messing around with the co-op missions. Good stuff so far, hopefully it has a satisfying ending.

Wipeout HD [PS3, 2008]
Wipeout HD [PS3, 2008]
I selected this as one of my free PS3 “Welcome Back” titles. I am shocked as to how awesome this game is. Fast-paced racing action with a kickass soundtrack and crazy visuals. Yeah, I’m sold. I am playing through the main game right now and then will tackle the Fury add-on.

Quick & Dirty #4: Meat Wave, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, L.A. Noire (and others)

It’s time for another edition of Quick & Dirty, the random grab bag of mini-reviews I do every few weeks or so. I have noticed a sharp decrease in my movie watching this month, but I did find some time to tackle the few I haven’t wrote full reviews for. Also, there are reviews for a couple of new and exciting video games, and a new release from my favorite local brewery, Half Acre!

BEER
Meat Wave [Half Acre Brewery]
Meat Wave [Half Acre Brewery]
Friday, May 20, saw the release of Half Acre’s latest brew, an English IPA. I can’t say I have ever had this style of beer, but I liked it a lot. Meat Wave is hoppy and bitter, but not overwhelmingly so in either instance. I was shocked to see that it is 6.5% ABV because this went down real easy and felt lighter than it actually is. Another strong effort from these guys. Vegetarians, don’t worry, this beer is actually meat-free.

MOVIES
Ferris Bueller's Day Off [1986, Hughes]
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off [1986, Hughes]
I just watched this for the first time over the weekend and was pleasantly surprised as to how well it holds up today. Perhaps I am biased because I fell in love with the movie’s gorgeous Chicago scenery, but I thought it was a lot of fun throughout. This is a very funny movie, and it makes me wish I had skipped more high school back in the day. 9/10

The Joneses [2009, Borte]
The Joneses [2009, Borte]
This satirical look at consumerism and suburbia slipped under the radar upon its 2010 theatrical release. It has a good cast, with David Duchovny and Demi Moore leading the way, and I enjoyed the movie’s dark humor. It got a little predictable near the end, but I thought it was decent enough overall. 6.5/10

Watchmen
Watchmen [2009, Snyder]
After reading the graphic novel (which was absolutely awesome), I had to watch the movie immediately. I rented the three hour extended Blu-ray from Netflix to get the most out of it. I watched it with two people who had never read the book or had any idea what the general story was about. They were a bit lost throughout, and I can totally see that. I thought the extended edition was very faithful to the novel, and I think it definitely helps to have read it beforehand. This is a dark and gritty movie that captures the bleak and pessimistic nature of the book, and it’s not really for everyone. While the extended edition started to become exhaustive near the end, I still enjoyed it. 8/10

VIDEO GAMES
L.A. Noire [PS3, 2011]
L.A. Noire [PS3, 2011]
This is one of the rare times I bought a game brand new, on release day no less. I am something like 35% complete so far, and I am still only halfway done with the main cases. I was a little concerned at first since the game holds your hand through the early stages, and the first few cases are quick and easy, but now the cases are considerably longer and require more skill to finish. I am eternally grateful that this is not just another GTA spinoff. Instead, this has all of the makings of a good film noir, and it has made me want to watch more movies (and read some novels) in the genre. Once I finish the game, I will have a full review available. Right now I am loving it, and it definitely seems deserving of all its hype.
You Don't Know Jack [Xbox 360, 2011]
You Don’t Know Jack [Xbox 360, 2011]
I played this with some friends over the weekend and had a great time. I used to have a few of the YDKJ computer games back in the day and they were always a blast to play. This is just like the old games, complete with Cookie as the host. I am glad to see a new YDKJ and hopefully it is a sign of more to come.

Quick & Dirty #3

MOVIES

Dog Day Afternoon [1975, Lumet]
After hearing of Lumet’s death, I wanted to visit some of his well-regarded movies that I have missed. This is about a couple of guys (Al Pacino and John Cazale) who attempt to rob a Brooklyn bank but prove to be incredibly inept at doing so. Soon they are locked into the bank with a group of hostages, and a full-blown media circus erupts. Things get even crazier when the police/media find out Pacino’s character is robbing the bank to pay for his gay lover’s sex change operation. Very, very entertaining film, although a little could have been trimmed off the running time. 8/10

It’s Kind of a Funny Story [2010, Boden, Fleck]
A suicidal teenager (Keir Gilchrist) checks himself into a mental hospital. He befriends another patient (Zach Galifianakis) and falls for a teenage girl (Emma Roberts). A bit slow paced, but the acting is strong and the movie balances both comedy and drama with good results. Plus it has one of the better Queen & David Bowie lip sync performances you will ever see. 7/10

Restrepo [2010, Hetherington, Junger]
Powerful documentary that follows a U.S. platoon in Afghanistan. The movie gets its title from an outpost named OP Restrepo, named after PFC Juan Sebastián Restrepo who was killed during the campaign. Part of the film follows the platoon on the extremely dangerous Operation Rock Avalanche mission in which a number of people, both soldiers and civilians, are injured and/or killed. A very emotional movie, although it is a little slow in the early stages. 8/10

The Lady Vanishes [1938, Hitchcock]
The first British Hitchcock film I have seen. I liked it, but not as much as others. The movie starts off a little slow as Hitchcock introduces us to a variety of characters, but it picks up once everyone is aboard the train. This was funnier than I expected, with a lot of witty dialogue and interactions between characters. 7.5/10

The Parking Lot Movie [2010, Eckman]
A documentary focused on a Virginia parking lot and its employees. Basically it is a bunch of guys bitching about people and their cars. Some entertaining banter, but this felt utterly pointless overall. It makes me wish I made a documentary about my pizza delivery days — I had far more interesting encounters doing that. 6/10

VIDEO GAMES

Fallout: New Vegas [Xbox 360, 2010]
I’m not sure what took me so long to pick this up, especially since Fallout 3 remains one of my favorite games on the 360. New Vegas is basically FO3 with a new story and new areas to explore. It’s basically more of the same, but I couldn’t be happier about it. It seems the game-breaking glitches reported upon the game’s launch have been fixed, so that is a relief. I am still working my way through it, but a full review will be coming at some point.

MLB 11: The Show [PS3, 2011]
I am very happy that it is once again baseball season, and I had to pick up the latest edition of MLB The Show. This year introduces new analog pitching/hitting controls, which is quite an interesting change. I love the analog pitching since it makes you feel like you are actually throwing a baseball (well, as close as you can get with a controller in your hand). The hitting has a steep learning curve and I am still getting used to it, but it feels fluid as well. I am loving the game so far, although I am getting frustrated with my “Road to the Show” closer who is dominating AAA but still hasn’t been called up to the majors. Full review will be coming soon.

Out of the Park Baseball 11 [PC, 2010]
On the simulator side of the baseball gaming spectrum, I started playing my old save file from last year’s Out of the Park game. I picked up right where I left off, trying to defend my championship. For whatever reason, my starting lineup got hit with a nasty injury bug near the end of this season. At one point, I only had two of my starting batters healthy! I was still able to hang onto first place thanks to some strong performances from my role players. The new version of OOTP is coming out very soon, and I can’t wait to try it!

BOOKS

The Book of Basketball [Simmons]
Holy hell, this book is huge! Bill Simmons is a basketball nut; I’m not sure many other people could write a 700 page book about the sport (and have it be entertaining, no less!). There have been some pretty fun chapters so far, including a detailed discussion on Chamberlain vs. Russell and a number of interesting “what if?” scenarios. Simmons’ Boston homerisms are a little much at spots, but this has still been a great read.

Watchmen [Moore, Gibbons]
This is my very first graphic novel, a present I received for my birthday last week. I am nearly halfway through and I am loving every page so far. I can’t wait to read what happens, and I could see myself picking up more graphic novels in the future. Does anyone have any recommendations as to what to read next?

Quick & Dirty #2

It’s time for another batch of mini-reviews, this time for both movies and video games.

MOVIES:
Animal Kingdom [2010, David Michod]
Australian crime drama about a tight knit criminal family. It limps along for the first half hour or so before finally getting interesting. I liked the second half of the movie, and it had a satisfying ending. But make no mistake, without strong performances from Guy Pearce and Jacki Weaver, this film wouldn’t have been half as good. Still, don’t let the DVD case fool you, this is not an Australian Goodfellas. 6.5/10

Black Dynamite [2009, Scott Sanders]
Hilarious homage to old-school blaxploitation movies. Michael Jai White is badass as Black Dynamite, and it’s good to see him here in the leading role. This movie has excellent attention to detail — the 70’s fashion, poor lighting, gratuitous nudity, random sound effects — everything is in top form. Just a fun movie all around. 8/10

Blazing Saddles
Politically incorrect in every way imaginable, Blazing Saddles is a riot from beginning to end. While some of the jokes occasionally fall flat, there are so many that hit their marks that it’s hard not to like this. I haven’t seen many Mel Brooks movies, unfortunately, but this is a good one. 7/10

Blue Valentine [2010, Derek Cianfrance]
Intense portrait of a young married couple (with a child) who have fallen out of love. Amazing performances from leads Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams carry the film, which is very emotionally draining. I liked it, but I don’t think I would want to see it again. 7.5/10

The Education of Charlie Banks [2007, Fred Durst]
I nearly shut this off after seeing Fred Durst’s name pop up as director (didn’t know it beforehand), but I decided to stick it out. This is a surprisingly decent movie that is aided by solid performances from the young cast of Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Ritter and Eva Amurri. It has some dull moments, and the dialogue occasionally leaves something to be desired, but for the most part this is an enjoyable enough flick. Who would have thought the lead singer of Limp Bizkit actually had something resembling talent?? 6/10

My Year Without Sex [2009, Sarah Watt]
Aussie dramedy that unsuccessfully tries to be both funny and serious at the same time. A thirtysomething mother suffers a near-fatal brain aneurysm, and per doctor’s recommendation she is to not have sex for an extended period of time. Interesting concept, but the movie is painfully slow. There are a few highlights, but they do not happen nearly enough. 5/10

VIDEO GAMES:
LittleBigPlanet [2008, PS3]
Fun platforming game that reaches levels of greatness due to its massive online community. The ability to create your own levels, upload them to the interwebz and share with others is incredible. There are so many great user-created levels available to play, and an even larger number of homages to other games. I played levels dedicated to Fatal Frame, Dead Space, God of War and Super Mario, just to name a few. I am still working my way through this, but I will definitely be writing more about LBP in the future.

Motorstorm [2006, PS3]
I am not very far into this yet, but I dig the idea of racing against all sorts of vehicles (bikes, trucks, dune buggies, etc.). The tracks I have played are fun, and the mud adds an interesting dynamic to the driving controls. A little dated, but I am enjoying this so far.

NBA 2K11 [2010, Xbox 360]
I still can’t kick my addiction to this game. Easily the best simulation basketball game ever created, and quite possibly the best sports game period. I have been having a blast trying to take my Pistons back to a level of respectability.

Stacking [2011, PS3]
The latest game from Double Fine shouldn’t be fun, but it is. Seriously, I gotta give props to whoever thought making a game with Russian stacking matryoshka dolls would be a good idea. Stacking is far better than it has any right to be. I am still working my way through each level, trying to figure out all of the different ways to solve the game’s puzzles. There is a surprising amount of depth, too, which leads to some good replay value.

The Saboteur [2009, Xbox 360]
I have been playing this non-stop since I picked it up a week ago. In simplest terms, it is a Grand Theft Auto-style game set in 1940’s Nazi-occupied Paris. I love that the game switches effortlessly between black and white (for Nazi controlled areas) and color (for areas with citizens that have fought back). There is a good mix of action, stealth and parkour, and the game has an interesting story to boot. I am liking this quite a bit, and a full review will be coming soon.

Xenogears [1998, PSOne]
I am so happy that this was released on the Playstation Network. I remember renting this a couple times back in the day, enjoying it but never able to get very far into it. One thing that I absolutely love about the current generation of consoles is that they have given us the ability to download old classics. It’s nice to be able to pay just $9.99 for Xenogears since a phsyical copy of the game typically goes for $50+. I am just a few hours into this playthrough, but I have fallen in love with this all over again. The graphics have certainly not held up well, but the gameplay is still great, and I am really digging the story so far. I hope more of these genuine classics continue to make their way to PSN.