Dead Or Alive 5 (PS3 – 2012)

Dead Or Alive 5 - PS3 (2012)

The Dead or Alive crew is back in an all-new installment that features MMA fighting techniques blended with the same old Dead Or Alive style we’ve seen in the past. Take on the role of some of your old favorites like Lei Fang, Jann Lee or Gen Fu – or try out some of the newcomers from the Virtua Fighter series such as Brad Wong or Eliot.

Each level comes to life with interactive environments which you can use to your advantage in the right situations. Multiple unlockable outfits and some unlockable characters round out the replayablilty factor while online modes and a robust story mode should keep you entertained for a long while.

Everything I love about this game franchise was still there in this incarnation. The fighting system is still the same as the one found in Dead Or Alive 4, with the “paper, rock, scissors” style mechanics. Button mashers will have a tough time duking it out with more skilled gamers due to this, but the game doesn’t have a massive learning curve.

The graphics are amazing, as usual. Fabric flows, animals move around, sweat glistens as your characters exert themselves and hats fly off heads with strong blows.  The music and sound effects were decent enough, too.

The only thing I didn’t really like about this was that the story mode was a little bit incoherent, but it’s in the same way that a lot of Japanese animation feels. It’s chaotic, you’re not QUITE sure what exactly is going on and then WHAMMO – you finally get it. It didn’t really detract a whole lot from my experience, however.

This installment focuses less on the T&A that first drew attention to the series, although that aspect is definitely still present in the form of constantly-jiggling boobage – and make no mistake, the updated facial models and graphics have the characters looking better than ever. And for ladies who appreciate some man-skin, there are also unlockable outfits for the male characters, as well.

All in all, this is a great title and probably one of the best entries into the Dead Or Alive franchise. Learning the game’s nuances is fun and never tedious. The fights and characters are flashy and likable, and the kinetic pace will have you coming back for more. Hands down my favorite fighting game, ever.

JOE Rating:  ★★★★★

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Eagle VS Shark (2007)

Eagle VS Shark (2007)

Lily (Loren Taylor) is a socially awkward girl who has a crush on Jarrod (Jemaine Clement), who is equally socially awkward but thinks of himself as a Renaissance Man. Jarrod reveals to her that he is going to confront a bully who tormented him in grade school, and so the two of them return to Jarrod’s hometown where Lily meets his family and sees how Jarrod is trying to live up to the legacy of his amazing-but-dead brother, Gordon (Taika Waititi).

I had been wanting to see this for the longest time, because I love almost anything that Jemaine Clement is in. (Gentlemen Broncos was the only one I didn’t really like as much as some others) I was not disappointed.

The film is New Zealand’s mostly successful answer to Napoleon Dynamite. Though not set in the midwest, with all its quirks and interesting characters, New Zealand can definitely hold its own in the zaniness department.

Jemaine Clement is in top form here, playing the loser-who-thinks-he’s-awesome role that he’s so good at playing. Loren Taylor plays a really good wallflower, but she gives her character depth so she’s not just a one-note song.

The film is filled with lots of quotable lines and moments that had me laughing. There was lots of awkward humor, which was great, and Jemaine and Loren really played well off one another.

If you like Napoleon Dynamite at all, then this is going to be right up your alley. Check it out.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Escape From L.A. (1996)

Escape From L.A. (1996)

Original Theatrical Release Date: August 9, 1996
Director: John Carpenter

It’s 2013 and Los Angeles is now an island for undesirables, deported from America by the U.S. Government. Once you go there, you can never get back. The President’s daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer), steals a doomsday device and heads for the island in order to help free the prisoners there and daddy isn’t happy. He gets Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to go after her by having him injected with a disease that will end his life in hours and promising him the cure if he’s successful. However, a revolutionary named Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface) and L.A.’s many dangerous denizens stand in the way.

Sequels are rarely ever able to outshine the originals, and this film is no exception.

The entire movie is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the entire culture of Los Angeles, and that it probably the most entertaining aspect of the film. It’s an action film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that is fun for the most part but makes for a movie that’s hard to become attached to, unlike the first film Escape From New York.

Kurt Russell really channels his inner Clint Eastwood for this installment, and other actors such as Steve Buscemi and Peter Fonda fall into their roles with seemingly great joy. Who doesn’t want to see Bruce Campbell as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills?

The movie plays out like an Extreme Sports story, with Kurt Russell taking on extreme forms of basketball, hang gliding and surfing, which is really strange in the context of this film, but made for some entertaining scenes.

The special effects have not held up well over time and some of them, while laughably funny, tend to take you right out of the movie. However, at this point in his career it seemed like John Carpenter was just having some fun, and the fun did shine through and it’s sort of infectious.

Still, for those who weren’t introduced to this series of films back when they originally came out, it might be hard to fully appreciate this sequel by today’s standards, though the original still holds up.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Escape From L.A.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Change Is Constant, Vol. 1 (2012)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Change Is Constant, Vol. 1 (2012)

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Creative Team: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz, Dan Duncan

This TMNT reboot is set about fifteen months after the Turtles and their master, Splinter, were exposed to some slime which mutated them into humanoids. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Change Is Constant, Vol. 1 collects issues 1-4 of the new IDW series, written by Kevin Eastman (co-creator of the TMNT) and Tom Waltz (Children of the Grave, Silent Hill: Sinner’s Reward) with art by Kevin Eastman (layouts) and Dan Duncan (Hulk And The Agents Of S.M.A.S.H.).

The Turtles, as you knew them, are no more. This new incarnation has the team split up after the ooze transformed them into humanoid creatures, but this time, along with a cat named Old Hob – who may turn out to be the TMNT’s greatest enemy. Raphael is split from the team and has amnesia and the others are searching for him before Old Hob finds him first to settle an old score.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this. I wasn’t aware that it was supposed to be a complete reboot, but with Kevin Eastman involved, how could I say “no” as a true TMNT fan?

I appreciated being able to see Eastman’s influence in the art style as well as on some of the covers and Dan Duncan did a good job trying to emulate the feeling of Eastman’s gritty art. The colors were okay, but they were sort of too muted or not muted enough to be super-effective.

The writing was decent enough, but I have to say that I wasn’t really surprised with where the story took me, even being a reboot. No big surprises, but that didn’t make it unbearable. It was just sort of predictable. (And somewhat anti-climactic.)

All the familiar faces can be found within the pages; Casey Jones, April O’Neil, Splinter, Raphael, Michaelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo.

One thing I didn’t really like, and I need to read further on to make sure I really feel this way for sure, is Old Hob. Yeah, it’s cool to see another humanoid creature running around, especially if it’s an enemy of the TMNT, but Old Hob was not especially intimidating or powerful. Also, I thought it was really weird that nobody cared about a bunch of humanoid monsters walking around.

I’m pretty sure fans of the original TMNT comics might be a bit let down, but c’mon…it’s the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’m sure it will only get better.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Here’s A Sample Page From Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Change Is Constant Vol. 1
mutate

Justice League: Doom (2012)

Justice League: Doom (2012)

Original Theatrical Release: February 28, 2012
Director: Lauren Montgomery

The Justice League is a team of powerful superheroes dedicated to protecting Earth from all manner of supervillains and other dangers. Batman (Kevin Conroy), the most human of the Justice League, has created contingency plans to defeat each individual member of the famed superhero team. Vandal Savage (Phil Morris) has plans of world domination and decides to send Mirror Master (Alexis Denisof) to sneak into the Batcave and steal all of Batman’s files, including the weaknesses of the Justice League. This results in Batman, Superman (Tim Daly), Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion), Martian Manhunter (Carl Lumbly), The Flash (Michael Rosenbaum) and Cyborg (Bumper Robinson) all having to fight for their very lives as Batman’s contingency plans prove all too effective.

Taken from the Tower of Babel story line, the events in this film mostly mirror those found in DC Comics, with some differences. However, with only 77 minutes to tell this story, I think they managed to do a good job, overall. Still, some fans of the original material might feel like this doesn’t adequately translate Mark Waid’s original writing. Movies will almost always lack the depth of their source material, so it’s best to treat them as separate entities if you can.

The animation was very slick and stylized. The voice acting was consistently very good, and it was nice to see the Legion Of Doom go up against the Justice League. You could get a sense of the classic rivalries between the characters even without knowing all of the years of back story behind them.

DC seems to really have a handle on all of their animated features – I will give them that. DC characters are sort of larger than life and tend to lend themselves more to animated adventures, where Marvel characters tend to be more gritty and aside from characters like Spider-Man, are more suited to the big screen.

With that said, in this (too) short animated feature, you will find copious amounts of action, danger and adventure…and you will feel that the League really is close to being defeated, because they are…and it’s because of one of their own members. (Thanks a lot, Batman…)

JOE Rating:  ★★★★

Trailer for Justice League: Doom

The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix (1999)

Original Theatrical Release: March 31, 1999
Director: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski (As the Wachowski Brothers)

Neo (Keanu Reeves), a computer hacker, feels a bit out of place in the world. He’s constantly on the search for something he feels is missing in his life and finds it in the form of Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss) who explains to him that not everything is what he thinks. She leads him to Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who tells Neo that he may just be the one who can save mankind from their evil machine overlords.

When I first saw this movie in theaters, I don’t remember having any special expectations of it. My uncle and I had just returned from a trip to Boston, where we tried out the Omnitheater; a massive screen that wraps around you and makes you feel like you’re actually there. Still jittery from that experience, we were uncomfortable in the normal theater as The Matrix started, re-living the discomfort we experienced just a day or two before in Boston.

When the movie started, though, and the beautiful images and great story unfolded on the screen, it was all forgotten. From the moment Trinity leaped into the air and froze before kicking the police officer in the chest, I was hooked and my jaw was dropped open in enjoyment and appreciation the entire time.

I hadn’t seen anything like it, up until that time. I don’t really like the sequels as much, but Matrix: Reloaded isn’t bad. (I really disliked Revolutions, but I will get to that in another review)

This movie changed the game in cinema-land and we are still seeing copycats and works inspired by the Matrix even in 2013.

The actors were all great (yeah, even Keanu). The soundtrack was amazing. The cinematography and special effects were astounding. The fight choreography from Yuen Woo Ping was great, and the script by the Wachowski Brothers was tight. The film was just one slick package all around, and I don’t think we’ll have another great spectacle like it for quite a while. (Watch, I bet there will be a re-boot soon).

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For The Matrix

TMNT (2007)

TMNT (2007)

Original Theatrical Release: March 23, 2007
Director: Kevin Munroe

The movie takes place after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, and is the fourth and final movie in the series, (at least for now) though this entry disembarks from the live-action method of the previous three films and goes to CGI. The plot revolves around ancient creatures coming to wipe out mankind, starting with New York City, and the TMNT must fix their differences if they don’t want to end up as turtle soup.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are pretty hard to mess up.

Initially, I was dubious about the CGI. My worries were unfounded, however, as the CGI was one of the best things about the entire movie. As much as the animatronics and rubber suits get me all nostalgic, the TMNT were brought so much more to life and we could actually get a better picture of their ninja skills.

Almost all of the best scenes in the movie were fight scenes, and I felt like there was a lot of wasted opportunity with the story. Sure, it’s nice to see the Turtles in action but the majority of the attention focused on Leonardo and Raphael. Not that those two aren’t cool, but I always hated how the wooden-weapon-wielders, Donatello and Michaelangelo, (say that five times fast) are never shown kicking shells as much as Leo or Raph.

Some of the voice talent was awesome like Sarah Michelle Gellar (April O’Neil), Chris Evans (Casey Jones), Patrick Stewart (Winters) and Laurence Fishburne (Narrator) but again, lots of it wasted on no story. I did like Leo and Raph’s standoff but it took too long to come to a head and the other characters seemed largely ignored. Kevin Munroe, the writer/director, seemed to have a clear vision of what he wanted to do but it doesn’t seem like it was enough to satisfy.

Overall, it’s fun (and is better than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III) and your kids will love it because it’s very much a cartoon in guise of a full-length feature film. It’s worth watching if you love the TMNT but in the end, you’ll be wanting to just go back and watch the older stuff.

Also, check out my review of the Nintendo Wii game tie-in (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up) that smacks of this movie’s artistic style, HERE

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For TMNT