Grand Theft Auto V (PS3 – 2013)

Grand Theft Auto V (PS3 - 2013)

Los Santos: A city that never sleeps, filled with botox, gangbangers and money. Lots and lots of money. As either Michael (A former wise-guy-turned informant), Franklin (A hustler looking to make some fat stacks and a better life) or Trevor (a violent psychopath with a meandering scale of justice and morality), you find yourself thrust into the biggest heists of your careers which could make or break you, depending on the roads you take.

Having played all the previous incarnations of the GTA series (Vice City being my favorite and San Andreas being my least favorite) I was pretty excited about playing this and bought it a day or two after it came out.

The story mode is great. A lot of missions are gun-n-run, but that was obviously expected. The graphics definitely got an overhaul, most noticeably with some of the environmental stuff. (Check out videos of the water graphics if you haven’t played the game yet).

The police seem to swarm faster and angrier in V than they did in previous incarnations – sometimes I find myself in a harrowing flight from death by trigger-happy police for the most minor infractions while they burst through parked vehicles with their armored vans and fire willy-nilly into the crowds trying to murder me in cold blood.

As in previous GTA games, there are a ton of mini-games. I haven’t tried them all out yet, but they are all kind of nifty to try at least once from what I’ve seen. As Michael, I played tennis with my wife for a good half hour of real time and it was fun. One of the most controversial mini-games, of course, is when you’re at the strip club and you’re trying to touch the strippers giving you a private lap dance without getting kicked out of the club. (FYI – might not want to play this particular mini-game in front of sensitive folks or children because the strippers are topless and it’s a first-person strip-club experience. Yup….big ol’ digital boobies on your massive flat-screen television. If your grandmother didn’t think your life was fail before, she will now).

GTA V Online launched already, of course, and it has been riddled with lots and lots of problems. At first, I just couldn’t get on and then after that, I could get on but my character wouldn’t save and I couldn’t rob stores or do missions so those of us on the map just ran around killing each other with sheer boredom. After that, they finally got the game at least somewhat functioning so now I can join missions and complete robberies, but the kinks aren’t all worked out yet and there are still griefers out there so watch yourself if you go on. I had a whole squad of them following me around, trying to kill me for at least an hour.

Without even taking GTA: Online into consideration, I’d give the game the score below. They packed so much into the game that it will honestly give you hours and hours of enjoyment. The sheer amount of variety earns this game a five star from moi, despite its faults, which are minor against the entirety of the game experience. Add to that the extra depth of the online mode once they get the kinks out, and it’s just a mind-numbing amount of time one could spend playing it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

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Django Unchained (2012)

Django Unchained (2012)

Original Theatrical Release: December 25, 2012
Director: Quentin Tarantino

Django (Jamie Foxx) is a slave. When a German man named Dr. King Shultz (Christopher Waltz) shows up and sets him free, he does it on one condition: Django must become his deputy in the bounty-hunting biz. Django just wants to find his wife, the lovely Broomhilda Von Schaft (Kerry Washington) but she is being held as a house slave on a plantation owned by the ruthless cotton king, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Django must match wits and guns with Candie in order to come out alive, much less rescue his wife.

I’d been waiting for this movie for a long time. I kept seeing trailer after trailer and then it was finally in theaters. Right now, It’s my current favorite movie that Quentin Tarantino has ever done. (Replacing Death Proof)

There was a lot of controversy over this film. Spike Lee and Kat Williams and others said it was racist, but the problem is that 1.) They never watched the film and 2.) It was NOT racist, aside from the fact that the 1800’s were racist. Tarantino is not a history scholar, he is a filmmaker, and what he did was create a very badass historical revenge fantasy.

Django is far from being helpless and stereotypical. All the white characters in the film are evil and/or stupid and/or dirty, and they all eventually get what’s coming to them. The only white character who helps Django is Schultz, but he is European and not American. (A very good choice for the purposes of this film…brilliant). The use of the “N-Word” IS gratuitous, but is probably used less than in real life in the 1800’s. I don’t think Tarantino uses it casually, or for humor, but needed to give a sense of how low people thought you were if you were African American.

The performances were all top-notch. Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Waltz and Kerry Washington went all out. I particularly enjoyed Christopher Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio’s performances, and I sometimes don’t even like Leo. I think he’s getting better with age. The music is great also (I want the soundtrack) and the story is very intriguing.

The violence is so exaggerated that during one of the gunfight scenes, I was clapping loudly and laughing as buckets worth of blood was splashed against the walls and floors, small pistols firing with the force of mini cannons and just destroying man and construct in great shows of gunplay.

It was great. Go see it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Django Unchained

Saints Row: The Third (2011 – X-Box 360)

Saints Row: The Third (2011)

Release Date: November 15, 2011
Developer: Volition, Inc.
Publisher: THQ

I couldn’t resist trying this game.

The story takes place in the fictional city of Steelport and you are in control of a gang called the Third Street Saints, eventually rising to the very top. The style of game play is open-ended (and similar to Grand Theft Auto), with a major story arc but lots of things you can do on your own as you battle for control against other gangs in the city and eventually, a militaristic gang-suppression squad called STAG.

I am not a huge fan of the entire series (due to ignorance, not any other reason), having never really played the first two games. Seeing the trailers for Saints Row: The Third, though, inspired me to buy it the same day it came out (though I didn’t make it in time to pre-order, so I didn’t get the cool Professor Genki stuff). I was not disappointed.

I am a spastic gamer, and when I first bought it, it ended up sitting on my shelf collecting dust for a year because, hey, I’m a busy man. I’d created a couple characters (really nice system for that, by the way) and it was fun but I hadn’t really gotten into the game until recently, with THQ being sold off.

It didn’t take me too long to beat the main story arc. It was probably only something like 30 hours, if that. (I take my time)

The graphics were all really nice, the animation was pretty awesome, and the story line was fun (Lots of sex and drugs and violence, though, so don’t let your kiddos play). I didn’t have any expectations of it other than it would be fun, similar to how I think when I go see an action flick.

It’s definitely one of the better titles I’ve played and I will be playing through again at least once or twice more now that I’ve beaten it to unlock everything and get the achievements.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Gameplay Trailer for Saints Row: The Third

Waitress (2007)

Waitress (2007)

Original Theatrical Release: May 25, 2007
Director: Adrienne Shelly

Jenna (Keri Russell), a server who is trapped in an abusive relationship with her husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto), has a talent for creating amazing pies -which she often uses to mentally escape from her life. A new doctor comes to town (Nathan Fillion) and she finds out from him that she’s pregnant, spurring a series of events that rock her world and force her into action.

Waitress kind of surprised me. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this movie before seeing it. I’d watched the trailer and  liked the look of the cinematography and the narrative voice of Jenna’s character. I love Jeremy Sisto as an actor, and also Nathan Fillion, so it was a natural for me to check out.

The acting was amazing in this movie. I hadn’t seen much of Keri Russel but she played her part very well. Jeremy Sisto was an amazing douche bag husband and Nathan Fillion was, of course, charming as the new doc. This was a very character-driven piece, the plot being secondary. Adrienne Shelly weaved everything together masterfully, though, and it all came together. I enjoyed seeing all the different sorts of pies she made and I rooted for her success. (Plus, we got to see Matlock in a diner)

About the only thing that kept me from giving it five stars was the pacing toward the end. By the time it was starting to wrap up, I had already figured out almost everything that was going to happen and basically had to stick around to see if I was right, at the end. Still, Adrienne Shelly definitely showcased her directing chops with this one. It’s too bad that she was murdered and now will not be able to create any more films. 😦

PS – I wonder if they created a pie recipe book as a movie tie-in. I’ll have to Google that…

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Waitress