10 Movies I Loved When I Was Younger – And Whether They Hold Up For Me Today…

I was sitting around contemplating this post a few weeks ago and decided to watch the 10 films I’ve listed below again. I decided to do this after being a bit peeved after watching one of them and noticing I didn’t quite feel it as much as I did back when I was younger. I’ve limited it to films I saw first up to age 17, the “legal” age for rated R. This list is also in reverse order. All viewings recently were at age 34.

This is #10-#6. I will publish #5-#1 tomorrow.

#10 License to Drive (1988) – Age when first seen – 11. Where first seen? Theatre.

 Ah, the Coreys (Corey Haim & Corey Feldman)! What child of the 80s-90s did not see a film starring the Coreys? I was a big fan and its obvious as you read this list as they appear a few times. This was their first film where they were advertised and marketed as the reason to see this film. It’s also notable for being the film debut of Heather Graham, who is one woman I can say without hesitation that has gotten remarkably hotter (if not  any better at her craft) as she ages. The plotline is really simple. Boy takes drivers test. Boy fails drivers test. Boy can’t bear to reveal to his parents (or friends) that he failed. Boy goes out with friends for the evening without license. Hilarity ensues. Supposedly. I loved this film when I first saw it with my 11 year old mind. It’s also notable because it may be one of the only times I got any friction from my mom on what we were going to see. She knew it was probably going to be crap, but took me to see it anyway because I wanted to go so bad. I had the poster on my wall and counted down the days to go see it. It didn’t disappoint me at the time.

 Does it hold up? Oh, hell no. I watched this again a few nights ago and I could barely get through it. The plot is somewhat believable, but the hijinx that ensue are completely and totally implausible, especially the end, which is one of the stupidest ideas ever put to film. It also has some really painful subplots involving Haim’s sister and anarchist boyfriend, and awful performances by Carol Kane and the aforementioned, Graham. I also hated the performance of Richard Masur, who played Haim’s father. It really is a pile of shit that I don’t care if I ever watch again. The one positive that still holds up is Haim’s performance. His comedic timing was pretty spot-on, and it’s a shame that his life turned out the way it did. Feldman also plays the sidekick to a tee, but he was my favorite of the pair at the time and I remember being disappointed his role wasn’t larger when I first saw it. At age 34, I just wanted the damn thing to be over.

#9 Adventures in Babysitting (1987) – Age when first seen – 9. Where first seen? Rented the VHS.

I remember I really wanted to see this movie when it was out in the theatre, but for some reason, I didn’t get the chance to.  I finally did when it came out on videotape and I remember keeping the tape late and incurring a large late fee which pissed my parents off, but I watched it every day that I had it. I tended to gravitate towards films that put young people in journeys and this was exactly what the title stated. Girl’s boyfriend cancels on date. Girl decides to babysit. Girl’s friend calls girl to tell her she ran away from home. Girl decides to take the kids she’s babysitting with her to the big bad city of Chicago to rescue friend. Time for hilarity.  I enjoyed this film because it was fast paced and I thought Elisabeth Shue was “cool”, which was my 9 year old mind’s definition for “hot”. I also really enjoyed the two male characters in the crew of kids. One of which, Keith Coogan, I watched all of his films and always enjoyed his work when I was younger. Whatever happened to him anyway? The film is interesting for some early performances by actors that are still working and recognizable today. One noteworthy element to this film was that it really got me to want to see what Playboy magazine was all about. I watched it probably 5 days in a row after renting the tape, so I clearly loved it at the time as that didn’t happen often.

Does it hold up? Sort of. Shue’s performance is quite good and it’s a bit of a surprise she didn’t have a longer lasting career with better roles (Leaving Las Vegas is total shit). Notable actors that appear in this film are  uber-80s douchebag character actor Bradley Whitford as Shue’s boyfriend, Penelope Ann Miller as incredibly annoying runaway friend (I commented during my age 34 viewing that she should’ve just been left in Chicago), and Vincent D’Onofrio as a mechanic who reminds the Thor-crazed little girl of Thor. It’s amazing how that guy has let himself go. I didn’t dislike this film as much this time around as much as I disliked the film at #10.

#8 The Lost Boys (1987) – Age when first seen – 9. Where first seen? Rented the VHS.

 This was the film that started it all for the Coreys partnership. It was also a movie that made me hate Kiefer Sutherland, simply because he was so good at playing an asshole. This was also one of the first vampire films I ever saw that had a vampire as a “good guy”. Keep in mind this was well before that Angel asshole or any jackass named Cullen became popular. My mother is quite a fan of horror and science fiction and she actually went to see this in the theatre. It flew under my radar at that age, but she decided to let me watch it when it came out on videotape later that same year. Boy, was that a mistake, but I’ll explain why in a bit. The film’s plot is easy to summarize. Family moves to new town. Older brother sees hot chick who he really wants. Ends up hanging out with some really bad dudes. Younger bro suspects something and learns that the town is a bit of a haven for vampires. Uh oh. Blood-sucking ensues. I thought this movie was totally awesome when I saw it at 9 and for quite a few years after that, it was my #1 all time favorite if anyone asked. The day after I watched it, I decided to become a vampire hunter myself, and I hand-made business cards advertising my new business and passed them out by putting them in neighbor’s mailboxes. This didn’t sit too well with the two old ladies that lived down the street, who got scared and actually called the police. Back during the heyday of VHS, I eagerly anticipated this film’s arrival on the “previously viewed” shelf so I could buy it. I got my mom to buy it for me the day that happened.

Does it hold up? Absolutely it does. The acting is great all the way around and the different take on vampire lore and the introduction of “half-vampires”, is an interesting concept. There is not a bad performance in this film. It’s fast paced, not very gory bar one scene, and is really a lot of fun. It’s also got Jami Gertz back in the day and she is someone who has not aged a bit if you’ve seen her recently. She’s still a stunner. The one negative I would say is that it is a bit dated in some respects. Haim’s character wears the most dreadful 80’s outfits you can think of, and the gang of vampires look like rejects from a Whitesnake video. That’s not to mention the greaseball shirtless saxophone player rock star dude who made me laugh out loud when I watched this a few nights ago. If you can get past the fashion, which I was able to easily, this is still a rock solid horror film with (at least at that time) a different twist on vampires. It’s also got Kiefer Sutherland in one of his best early roles. Jami Gertz though…love her. The soundtrack is pretty good too, even today!

#7 Revenge of the Nerds (1984) – Age when first seen – 7. Where first seen? HBO.

This movie is notable for one specific thing that I will share in a moment, but it’s also notable for being a movie I watched sneakily and while watching, knew I wasn’t supposed to be watching. It’s a pretty simple plot about a group of, well, nerds, who arrive to college and, well, get revenge against the evil jocks who make their lives a living hell . It’s a pretty positive story when looking at it from afar and parallels can be found in all walks of life. Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards are pitch perfect as the lead nerds (I remember laughing so hard when I saw Edwards on E.R.) with Ted McGinley playing a smarmy quarterback and the always awesome John Goodman as the evil football coach perfectly. I saw a few firsts in this film. One was marijuana. I knew, even at 7, that the scene where marijuana is used, wasn’t cigarettes. And the second, was vagina. While you don’t quite get the view you get in porn, this was absolutely the first time I ever saw a woman’s private area, albeit covered in hair. “We’ve got bush”, and “Hair pie”, were two things I learned to quote early on and continued into middle school. I really enjoyed watching this when I was a kid, and it was one of those few movies that even up through college, if I ever came across it on TV, I would watch it even if it was the 500th viewing.

Does it hold up? This is a bit hard to answer. While I felt watching it this time around that it was entertaining, you can’t help but notice how different things were in the 80s. There are a lot of stereotypes in this film that absolutely would not fly in film today, most notably the depiction of the Omega Mu sorority, which is literally the fat girl sorority and the depiction of the Asian character, which I don’t think would fly this day in age. The end “musical revue” that the nerds put on absolutely does not hold up to the test of time.  It’s amazing to me this film is almost 30 years old. One thing that holds up is John Goodman’s performance, which was quite remarkable watching now. He’s much younger, still huge, but he’s got a great intensity to his performance. Carradine’s charisma is also rather great and it’s easy to see why his character, Louis, is seen as a hero, despite a scene that would probably be considered rape anywhere in the world. Julia Montgomery was a total fox as well. I definitely enjoyed the viewing this time around, but being an adult I can totally see where the actions of the heroic nerds would get themselves into shitloads of trouble if actually occurred. The jocks too, but the nerds seemed to actually have more moments of “wow, they’d totally be arrested for that”. I also totally hate the “Wormser” character and Poindexter kicks ass.

Poindexter

#6 The Goonies (1985) – Age when first seen – 7. Where first seen? Theatre.

 “Goonies never say die!” “Even more amazing than the time Michael Jackson came over to your house to use the bathroom?” “It’s our time down here!“. Ahh, The Goonies. This was one of the first movies that I was able to quote endlessly and I wanted more than anything to be in their crew. I was lucky to have a mom that took me to see this when it was in the theatre. I loved it immediately and I still love it today. It’s also the only film that I completely wore out the first VHS copy I had of it. The plot is far fetched, but very easy. Kids neighborhood is getting closed down for a golf course. Kids find a map to a pirate’s treasure. Kids go to find it. Bad guys chase kids. Adventure and comedy ensue. This is one of the first movies that I really remember seeing the first time. I was actually mad when it was over and I wanted to go see it again the next day (didn’t happen). It’s directed by Richard Donner, who at the time was not known for making adventure films for kids. It’s also got performances by actors who found work well into their adult years, including Sean “Samwise Gamgee” Astin, Josh Brolin who’s blossomed into an excellent actor, as well as featuring the perennial to this list and one of my favorite film characters of all time in Mouth, Corey Feldman. It’s also got the appearance of two characters who are still referenced throughout pop culture in Chunk and Sloth. Just to note, this is the movie that inspired me to write this list in the first place.

Does it hold up? Without question it holds up. It’s a timeless story with excellent performances by almost everyone in the film, great pacing, and lots of cool things that make both kids and adults eyes go wide. I had not seen it in about 15 years before I decided to watch it a few weeks ago, and while I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, I noticed myself nitpicking it for the first time ever. This is a film that I know backwards and forwards. I can quote the characters in almost every single scene and I believe its a film that every kid should get a chance to see when they’re young. It’s very imaginative and a lot of fun. The nitpicking comes from the numerous plot holes and questions I was asking myself. “How does Mikey know where to begin the search?” “How come the map is basically forgotten about 1/4 of the way into the film until they hit the organ?” “How come we never see a good shot of the map?” “Yep, Martha Plimpton has always sucked.” “If Willy’s gold sets off the destruction of the cave, why didn’t Willy escape back in the day?” Despite these newly discovered negatives, it does not take away from my memory of the film, nor did it ruin this return viewing.

My favorites of 2010…so far.

So here we are, it’s JUNE already. I honestly can’t believe this year has moved so quickly thus far. I know that as you get older time flies even more, but this year has been ridiculous in regards to it’s speed. For me personally, I’ve experienced some incredible highs and some of the lowest lows I can ever recall. It’s truly been a mixed bag. One thing that has been consistent despite my personal life, has been the influx of truly great music that has been coming out regularly this year. It’s definitely a banner year for me so far. I’ve discovered some great bands, have realized some were shit, and have seen some wonderful gigs as well.

That being said, I’ve compiled a short list of my favorite records of the year so far. I can’t say whether any of these records will be on my list come the end of the year, but it would surprise me if the majority of them weren’t.

This is in no particular order.

The National – High Violet – This record floored me the first moment I heard it. I’ve been a fan of the band for a while and this record lived up to my expectations despite feeling that lead single, “Bloodbuzz Ohio” was a bit lackluster. The album is chock full of songs that could easily be singles. It also helps that I’ve seen them three times already this year + another show coming next month.

The Black Keys – Brothers – Stomping soulful blues from Dan Auerbach and company.This album is an early contender for my album of the year. Auerbach’s voice is absolutely spellbinding and songs like “Too Afraid to Love You” are in heavy rotation. This band has yet to miss the mark for me.

The Radio Dept. – Clinging To a Scheme – I really liked this record when I first heard it, but it is slowly losing steam for me. There are some corkers for tunes on it, but its a little sedate and samey in places. At this moment, I think it is excellent, but as typically with a lot of electro-Euro-pop, it tends to lose some of its flavor after a while.

Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can – A beautiful record by a girl who is only 20 years old. It amazes me the talent that is oozing from this girl. Her second record, and a second classic. It’s very rare this day in age for something as well done as this to hit so well. She is fantastic and so is this record.

Holy Fuck – Latin – I’m not the biggest fan of pure electronic music, but when I do like it, I tend to LOVE it. This is the case with DJ Shadow (bar The Outsider which is pretty much dogshit) and Holy Fuck. Holy Fuck absolutely bring the noise and bring the funk and this is probably their most cohesive record to date. It’s engaging and very palatable on multiple listens. Its also the first record I attempted to review on this blog, so it will always have a bit of a memory attached to it for that reason alone.

Christian Bland & The Revelators – The Lost Album – While technically from 2007 (recorded anyway) but released this year, Christian Bland (the guitarist from The Black Angels) has self-released an album of psychedelia that is really quite smashing. It’s got all the makings of a record to zone out to while completely obliterated. There’s also a really sharp Charles Manson cover! The one negative is that while bigging this record up will get others to listen, its going to be hard to come by unless you look someplace nefarious. It had a release of only 175 copies and is sold out, but its too good not to list.

Avi Buffalo – Self titled – Arguably the best debut of the year so far, Avi Buffalo is an interesting pop act on the Sub Pop label. The lead singer has a very distinct vocal and is quite engaging. I’ve not listened to it enough to properly say its going to remain in its current regular rotation, but I absolutely adore the single “What’s It In For”. This is a band to keep an eye on and bring a hipster bat to any shows of theirs you may attend as they will be there like flies to shit.

There’s a few other records so far this year that I’ve enjoyed. Namely Black Rebel Motorcycle Club‘s “Beat The Devil’s Tattoo”, as well as Brian Jonestown Massacre‘s “Who Killed Sgt. Pepper”. However, they’re not really getting a lot of spins from me.

On the negative side, or maybe this is a plus, there is only one record I have truly hated this year. I’m not even going to name it, but its probably shittily reviewed down the page a little bit. Atrocious.

As for upcoming releases, I am eagerly anticipating the new releases by The Black Angels, The Coral, and hopefully getting final word on releases from Asobi Seksu, Fleet Foxes, and Beady Eye. Who’s Beady Eye? Why that’s goofy Liam Gallagher’s new band! At any rate, I hope the 2nd half of this year is as good as the first half has been musically and I’m sure I’ve forgotten something that I’m anticipating. If my personal life can get to the quality of the music, all will be right in my world. Slowly, but surely, it’s getting there.

XOXO

Album review: Band of Horses – Infinite Arms

Shit Sandwich

Let me go on record by saying that I love Band of Horses’ first record. It’s still in regular rotation and is a beauty of the last few years. Their second record, while not as strong as the first, is pretty decent and has a few tunes.  The newest record, Infinite Arms, however…..

That’s about all I can muster and even that is derivative as its been done before.

Fuck this record. It’s an overproduced, soulless, piece of shit. This is a half-assed review because this record was so disappointing. There is one song on there that I found listenable (the title track) but even that became grating after the 2nd go around. I tried at least and it annoyed me.

Rating: *

Gig(s) Review – The National – Live in Richmond, VA – 4/22/2010 and 4/23/2010

The National

This was my 2nd and 3rd time seeing NYC’s (by way of Cincinnati), The National. I was first exposed to them via their 2007 album, “Boxer” which earned widespread critical acclaim and awoke many to their existence.  I immediately fell for that album and ended up diving headfirst into their back catalogue, which is also stellar.

Needless to say, I was extremely excited they were coming to a city I have ties to for two nights, including a show on my birthday (4/23).

I first saw The National at a festival and I can’t say that I was impressed. This was no fault of theirs, I was just a mile away from the stage and was completely disconnected. The tunes were good, but I could not feel the performance. This was rectified over two nights at Richmond’s historic “The National Theatre” (dunno if this was intentional or not), which is a restored early 1900’s performance hall and was a perfect venue for this wonderful band.

Thursday night’s gig was the band’s first gig on their headlining world tour in support of their new album, High Violet, which was reviewed earlier on this blog. Opening this evening, was Richmond band, Marionette, who I had never heard of before. Marionette was quite capable and put on a good set. I recommend you to check them out, especially their song, Orchid, which has become a staple the last few days.

The band took the stage both nights at approximately 9:45 p.m. which was perfect. The Thursday show started a bit questionably. While singer Matt Berninger’s baritone was razor sharp and pitch perfect, they were plagued by some problems in the mix and Matt forgetting some lyrics! However, these very minor snafus were quickly overcome and the band sailed through a setlist of 19 songs, expectantly heavy on “High Violet”. I was very glad that I had listened to the leak before the show as it helped me appreciate the new material even more.

Matt sings with the fans.

The highlight of the Thursday night show was the enigmatic “About Today” which is a highlight of their “Cherry Tree EP” and is one of the most moving tracks I’ve ever experienced live. Another highlight was Matt coming into the crowd during “Mr November” and getting right in some fans faces and singing with us that were situated near the back of the floor.

Another highlight was the Boxer classic, “Squalor Victoria” which was opened with an extended drum solo by Bryan Devendorf. This was one of the first tracks that made me say “wow” when I heard this band and live the song rips roofs off of venues. Berninger’s vocal was on-point and the crowd sung along fervently as the rock gods smiled down upon Richmond during this amazing moment.

The show was swift and over by 11:30 and was closed with a raucous version of the lead track off of High Violet, “Terrible Love“.

Friday's show from the balcony.

Friday’s show was a bit different. While the band was not plagued by the technical issues or lyrical forgetfulness of the first night, it was plagued by a different sort. A hipster-heavy, frat boy laden crowd that never seemed to be able to shut their mouths during the songs. While I respect everyone’s rights to enjoy a general admission show to the best of their ability, I was a bit disappointed with the lack of respect so many people showed the bands on this evening, at least around me. Opening act this evening, was French duo, ARLT, who I found interesting, but were not suited for this crowd or opening for this band. ARLT would be perfect on a rainy Sunday morning while reading the paper, but not for a rock concert. The lack of respect shown for ARLT made me embarassed to be in Richmond this evening. This experience did not turn me off to the show, as I just moved to the balcony to enjoy the music. It was a different vibe up in the balcony and I was able to soak in the music appreciatively.

One thing that really made me happy with the Friday gig was the setlist changes. Again, it was heavy on High Violet, but they also added some old classics, like “Daughters of Soho Riots” into the mix, which was exquisitely performed by Berninger and company.

The overwhelming highlight of both gigs for me was High Violet, which was played in full over both nights (minus one track each night). I feel that this is the band’s best work to date and is their most accessible work as well. The new songs fit in with the old like your favorite old shirt and a new pair of jeans.

I am very happy that I got to experience this band in this type of setting. The venue is a gorgeous building with excellent acoustics and some very cute girls working behind the various bars (I counted 4 bars in a venue with a 1500 capacity), whoever the ticket taker girl was on Friday night, you are gorgeous! I’m eagerly anticipating my next visit to Richmond to see Camera Obscura at the same venue in June. Give me a holler if you’re going!

For me, Thursday night’s gig was stronger from a few perspectives. I preferred Thursdays setlist (Squalor Victoria and About Today were not played Friday) and the crowd was a bit more laid back and appreciative. Friday was far more raucous, which I completely understand, but it was far less respectful of fellow patron and band alike. That being said, I cannot wait to see this band again, which is coming up in July at another festival. I just hope I get the opportunity to see them in a venue this size again, as I fear an arena may be their next destination.

Thursday 4/22 – *****/5 – Top ten gig of all time for me. Ive been to at least 500 gigs in my life, so I rarely can say this!

Friday 4/23 –  ****/5

All in all, if you are a fan of the band or know nothing about them, go see them live. They are easily one of the best live bands on the planet.

Music review: The National – High Violet (2010)

Cover

The National are a band of friends from Cincinnati, OH that now call the great borough of Brooklyn home. I first was exposed to this band back when their album “Boxer” was released in 2007. I immediately enjoyed that record and went through their back catalogue like a bat out of hell. They have quickly become one of my favorite bands.

Needless to say, I was pretty happy when I heard that their newest, “High Violet” leaked onto these here interwebs this past Monday. I’m seeing them twice this week and being able to hear the new material before it’s performed is a nice treat.

That being said, I was pretty bowled over when I heard this record. It’s easily my choice for “album of the year” right now. It’s that damn good.

The album opens with the track, “Terrible Love” which was performed on Jimmy Fallon’s show a few weeks ago. I was immediately impressed with that performance. As for the album track, it is a bit underwhelming when taken in context with the rest of the album. While it fits and I like it, the production seems a little off to my ears. This may also be because the source of the listen is an MP3 leak, so I’m going to reserve opinion on that particular track until I get a few more listens when the album is released for real.

I’ve listened to this album 11 times in 3 days according to iTunes. The thing that is stunning to me, is aside from the opening track, which I do like performance wise, is there is not one weak track on it. Matt Berninger’s vocals shine and his baritone is clearly in the forefront. This is also one of the strongest bands lyrically going today + they are very technically sound.

Following the opening track, the album begins to unfold in some pretty special ways. Track #2, “Sorrow” is a beautiful and well, sorrowful song. It doesn’t hurt that I can personally relate to it at this moment.  The refrain sends shivers down my spine, and Berninger’s vocals are absolutely on point, which is a running theme throughout the record.

Early favorites from the record include the aforementioned, “Sorrow“, and most especially tracks 3-5. Track #4, “Little Faith” is a soaring ballad with lines like “All our lonely kids are getting harder to find, we’ll play nuns versus priests til somebody cries…” that have become a staple of this wonderful band. Another favorite, track #3, “Anyone’s Ghost” is already a top play of mine. It’s a rather simple tune that comes off to me as an examination of human loneliness.  The first half of the album is very accessible, with the 2nd half being more of a slow burn percolation. Track #5, “Afraid of Everyone“, is absolutely spectacular and has already become a favorite of mine this year by any band.

I’m still soaking in this album and loving every second of it. It’s not often I find a record with songs that I can listen to 12 times in a row to alone (I did that with Anyone’s Ghost).  I cannot recommend a record released or to-be-released in 2010 more at this time. If you are new to this band, this is a perfect introduction and a fitting addition to the band’s catalogue. This may be their penultimate record up to this point. It’s clearly a band that is consistently getting better and opening up their sound to new ideas. It may be cliche, but I look at “The National” as the American Radiohead, which I think is a fitting and worthy comparison, albeit these guys are more straight forward in their lyrical approach and musical presentation.

High Violet drops on May 11th and it can’t come soon enough. The National play The National Theatre in Richmond, VA this week on April 22nd and April 23rd, which also can’t come soon enough.

Rating: *****/5 – a first for this blog.

Game review: Splinter Cell – Conviction (Xbox 360)

Splinter Cell is a series that I have long been a fan of. The development behind the 5th entry in the series, “Splinter Cell: Conviction” has gone through multiple changes. Originally scheduled to come out in 2007, the game has been rewritten from the ground up from that initial idea to become the game that was finally released this past Tuesday here in the US.

Needless to say, it was a day one purchase for me.

I have decided to break this review into sections, as I feel that its not entirely fair to judge it on whole. There are things that I like and things that I don’t like about it. With that, let’s begin…

Single player:  Single player has long been the “go-to” mode in a Splinter Cell game. This time around, Sam Fisher is out of the spy life. He is trying to live his life alone after losing his daughter and his best friend in the previous game. Sam is reluctantly pulled back in at the beginning of the game.

I found this part of the game to be one of the best gameplay experiences this generation. It’s that damn good. Unlike previous SC games which relied heavily on stealth, this game is far more open and allows the player to choose how he/she wants to most of the time (there are a few “forced” stealth sections). Sam is best described this time around as a “Jason Bourne” clone. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is what it would be like if they ever made a good Bourne game. Sam is ruthless and has tons of toys at his disposal.

Sam Fisher is back and he's not taking any shit!

The new highly-touted gameplay mechanic, called “mark and execute” is a very simple innovation, that at first I felt was going to take away from the game, but instead added to it immensely. Simply put, take down an enemy hand-to-hand and you get to mark other enemies that you can kill with one button press based on the weapon you are carrying IE if you are using a pistol that has 4 marks, you can take out 4 guys with one button. It’s very satisfying and the animations are very cool. The developers made it a challenge by usually (Id say 90% of the time) including more enemies in an area than your marks, so its always a strategy trying to figure out who to mark and how. I say how, because there are environmental interactions where you can shoot out a chandelier to take out two guys rather than marking them and capping them between the eyes. It’s a lot of fun marking and executing.

Storywise, I found the plot (as usual) a bit convoluted and confusing in places. This is nothing new in video games, but I felt that they could’ve streamlined the story a bit to make it more cohesive. The last level is pretty satisfying though and I am not at all disappointed in it, I just would’ve handled it differently.

The major downside to SCC’s single player mode is the same downside that so many games this generation have. It’s incredibly short. While I played on normal difficulty (Im going to replay this again on realistic), it took no more than 5-6 hours to complete. When I finished my first playthrough, I was left wanting more, so I can definitely say that the developers did it right, but still could have and should have made it longer.

There are other single player modes included that I have not gone into deeply, including Hunter (which can also be played co-op), which has you inserted into a map with the single goal of taking out all of the “tangos” without being detected. If detected, more enemies join the game. There is also “Infliltration” mode which is basically the same thing as Hunter, except detection ends the game.

Multiplayer/CO-OP: I have not delved into the many different modes that the game has for multiplayer, but I have given the CO-OP story a run, but have not completed it yet. The CO-OP story is a prequel to the single player game and its a whole different game that you are required to play through with a partner. While I enjoyed the single player game immensely (right now its my GOTY), I found co-op to be a lot tougher. If you and your partner play different styles, it can be incredibly frustrating and communication is paramount to success.

The only head-to-head mode is called Face Off and its a 1 vs 1 battle, but with the added obstacle of AI enemies as well. I have tried to play this, but could not find a match.

Overall:  My first foray into this game was via the CO-OP story and I found that incredibly frustrating at times. However, once I got into the single player game, my opinion did a complete 180. This is exactly the type of action game I love to play. I like that it has a quasi-realistic storyline and Michael Ironside still does a vicious job voicing Sam, as he has done from the beginning. I recommend this to any fan of action gaming. Be warned, if you are a gamer who doesnt spend a lot of time on a title, give this one a rent. The single player campaign is excruciatingly short and unless you play on multiple playthroughs, I cannot recommend a buy. Personally, I tend to get bored with games very quickly, but this one had my attention the moment I started the single player story and I am immediately going to play through it again on the harder difficulty setting.

Graphics:  Sadly, this is one area of the game where it falls short a bit. I did not notice any major problems, but it just doesnt have the sheen that some more recent titles did. 7

Sound: The sound is great. Music is fantastic. There is a scene in the game where DJ Shadow‘s “Building Steam from a Grain of Salt” is played and I’ve never found that track used more fittingly. Voice work is absolutely solid and any game using Michael Ironside gets my vote of approval. 9

Replay value: This is always the most important aspect of gaming to me. How often will I come back to it once its completed? Sadly, I can’t see myself putting hours and hours into this as I would say Modern Warfare, but the additional modes do seem intriguing and were fun when I gave them a quick go. The lack of head to head multiplayer will hurt this game in the long run, but that is neither here nor there for me as there are very few games that suck me in that deep. 6

Overall: *** out 5

I really wanted to give this game *****. While I LOVED the single player story and that alone is worth its price of admission, its short length is saddening to me. This game is at least 3-4 levels/stages too short. The extra modes definitely add to the package, but this game is about Sam and not the two jabronis who are in the extra modes.

Demo review: blur (Xbox 360)

blur

Normally, I wouldn’t take the time to review a demo, but this one is different and I felt deserved the attention.

blur is a racing game seemingly set in the present day. What sets it apart from the Forza’s and Gran Turismo type of racers is that it has powerups scattered all over the track to do crazy stuff to your opponent. Such as shooting a homing missile that looks like a red orb, speed bursts, shields, and that sort of ilk.

Recently, Activision put out a multiplayer beta demo that highlights a lot of the features in this game. Yes, that is what I’m talking about here.

The game plays very much like the classic PSX and current PS3 version of Wipeout. If you never played Wipeout, it is a bonafide classic. The difference being you are in spaceship-like craft and its set in a futuristic setting. blur changes that formula by putting the cars (all real cars by real manufacturers) on standard racing game tracks, throws in the powerups, and lets up to 20 people go hog wild on each other.

The demo/beta is limited to multiplayer only, but I can’t see any reason why anyone would want to play the single player game. When theres 20 players on a track, the game is viciously fun. However, I’ve looked up a lot of information on the game and it seems that the power-ups are limited to whats on the beta. While the power-ups are very generously scattered, it does get old after a while. There is a the new standard of “leveling-up” via gaining “fans” by doing things throughout the race. Even if you are a punching bag, you will get fans and eventually level up, gaining you access to different cars and modes, just as you would expect. The leveling is limited to 15 and the retail version goes up to level 50 with 10 “legend” ranks, whatever the hell that means. The modes are also standard racing fare, with one called Motormash, which is basically a demolition derby, with specific tracks meant for the mode where the only goal is to destroy your opponents.

The demo/beta is quite generous with whats available. There are a total of 5 modes included in the demo, 2 of which are open from the onset, and 3 more which you unlock as you progress. I’ve put a total of about 2 hours into the demo and I’m currently at rank 13. I’ve won one race, came in 2nd a  few times, but most of the time I run about the middle of the pack in a game of 20 people.

While I think that the beta is quite fun, I can’t help but feel that the retail version will fall flat and I cannot see myself purchasing it when its released. I like the concept as Wipeout is a game that I still play to this day, albeit the HD version thats on PS3/PSN, but in reading about the full version, I just can’t seem to get excited about this game even if I am finding this demo quite fun. Its definitely cool playing in a full lobby and everyone going batty once the race begins.

All in all, I think this is an interesting game, but I can’t see myself shelling out $60 for the full version when there is so many games coming out this spring and a similar game to blur (Split/Second) that is coming out shortly after it that looks tons better.

If you’re a fan of Burnout (which I am), Wipeout (which I am), you owe it to yourself to give this a go, but don’t expect anything groundbreaking. It seems to me to be a good timekiller game, but not one that you’re going to devote enough time to. It just seems to be missing something.

I realize this is just a demo, but in reading reactions to the full version, it seems to be a pretty good representation of what you’re going to get when it ships. Therefore, I feel it is okay to rate it as it is now. I will probably rent the full version or pick it up on the cheap, so I’ll review that once I can.

Overall rating: ** out of 5

Fun factor: **** out of 5

Hypeworthy: * out of 5

blur ships on May 25th for both Xbox 360 and PS3. However, the multiplayer beta is a 360 exclusive.

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