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Archive for the ‘review’ Category

This is an expanded review from Quick n’ Dirty Movie Reviews

Spider-Man is one of those movies that I didn’t particularly like when I first saw it opening night in the theatres, but eventually grew on me on future viewings.   There are just some little things in there that makes me really enjoy it every time I see it now.

I can’t even remember why I didn’t initially like the movie – but the reason I do like it is because it really captures the campy feel of the comic book movie that something like Spider-Man should have.  Batman Begins and The Dark Knight should have that dark feeling – I mean Batman is a pretty brooding guy.  But Spider-Man is full of crazy villains (I mean you’ve got mutating lizards, space aliens, and a crazy hunter) that probably wouldn’t work well in a serious setting.

The other really great thing about the first Spider-Man movie is the editing and pace of the film.  You can tell a lot of work went into shaping this movie.  It doesn’t feel like it’s running too long (and actually, at 121 minutes this is the shortest of the three), and the story is straightforward and easy to follow.  It goes from Point A to B to C without deviating.

With such a rich history and multitude of backstory re-tellings, this movie needed to be strict with its story telling.  I think it says a lot when you can feel Peter Parker’s awkwardness around Mary-Jane through high school when the movie spends all of 20 minutes in that time frame.  As Peter learns of his new powers (and the responsibilities that come with it), he’s thrust into the real world where he has to learn about different priorities and responsibilities.

But there’s other things that make me enjoy the movie when watched in retrospect, after having seen the two sequels.  Remember that part in Spider-Man 3 where he poses by the American flag?  Well, check out the final scene in Spider-Man.  Pretty similar, I think!

Overall, this movie is well-produced and works with the vast array of source material efficiently.  If you haven’t seen it, where have you been for the past 7 years?

NHL 2004 - Gamecube/Heatley cover

NHL 2004 - Gamecube/Heatley cover

I know, I know – what’s the relevance of a 6-year old video game – much less a 6-year old hockey game? To be honest, not a heck of a lot. These days you can be an actual player on your favourite team in a semi-realistic Be A Pro mode in EA’s offering. Compared to recent hockey games, NHL 2004 pales in comparison when you look at the features and gameplay that it offers.

BUT it is still fun. And that’s why I’m doing this review. My copy is for the Nintendo Gamecube, but NHL 2004 was also released for the PS2 (and the Xbox, I think), as well as the PC. Arguably the PC version is the best platform for the game, with tons of flexibility for add-ons and online play.

So why am I playing NHL 2004 all of a sudden? For a simple reason: it’s challenging. I played some playoff games at a buddy’s house on the PS2, and I was amazed at the difficulty level of the game. We got our butts kicked in both games (yeah we played on the same team) by the computer – on the MEDIUM setting. I was winning games by huge blowouts in NHL 2008 on the most difficult game setting available!

So I set out to create a new dynasty on my Gamecube copy. Same difficulty level – medium – and it’s even more difficult. You start with zero “facilities”, meaning your players have the lowest ratings possible without upgrades. Unless you start out with a stellar team in the first place, you’ll probably have a hard time. Case in point, my season record right now is 7-9-1-2. Oh yeah that’s right, you can still tie in NHL 2004.

As far as graphics goes, there honestly isn’t much of a difference between NHL 2004 and NHL 2008 (or 2009 for the PS2, frankly). The only difference you’ll notice is if you go from playing NHL 2008/2009 for the next generation consoles and play NHL 2004. The graphics in the game are quite impressive, and it’s easy to forget that EA Sports has been putting out games of this quality for quite a long time.

Now obviously the game isn’t perfect. One of the reasons it’s so challenging is because the computer is especially good at poke checking and blocking pucks. As a result, shot counts are usually inflated in favour of the other team. The computer also is able to score some really soft, flukey goals from angles that never seem to go in for you, and can be really frustrating. On the flip side, there is a really cheap move you can do that scores goals 99% of the time – score a backhand across the crease. Of course it’s easier to do that on a breakaway.

Penalty killing is insanely hard. The clock slows down to real-time when any team is on the powerplay. Essentially, if you’re playing a 5-minute clock, in previous games your powerplay/penalty kill would last about a minute or so – if that. Pretty easy to kill off the penalty when it goes by quick. Again, this is beneficial when YOU’RE on the powerplay (which leads to inflated powerplay goals), but it really sucks for two minutes when you’re killing a penalty.

There are a lot of options available to you in the dynasty mode, but I find the lack of an e-mail/message system really hurts the game. I got used to this feature a lot – it’s hard to keep track of when a player is going to come back from injury without it.

Overall, though, NHL 2004’s merits outweigh the bad parts. It’s a game I can just sit down and play, and actually have fun – because I know I’m not going to go 82-0-0-0. There’s nothing more rewarding than banging out a hard-fought win without using cheap goal tactics in NHL 2004.

Dinosaur Bones

Dinosaur Bones

When I was a kid, dinosaurs were my favourite thing.  I even got this book made up for me by some friends/relatives that was all about me playing with dinosaurs – and that was the best book I ever had, I’m pretty sure.  I remember the highlight of one year was getting to sleep over at the museum among the dinosaur bones.  THAT was cool.  Anyway the point I’m getting to is that I still love dinosaurs.  Partly because they’re still cool (even though they’re not as popular as the late 80s/early 90s), but also because it’s a bit of nostalgia.

So I was immediately attracted to the group Dinosaur Bones.  When I first heard their lead single NYE on CBC 3’s podcast, I actually didn’t know they were called Dinosaur Bones.  I really liked the song, and after hearing the name of the band, it prompted me to check out the rest of their music.  The initial reaction was representative of what I feel about the rest of their music: I like it.

It’s not heavy rock at all, but it’s not too light either.  It’s a good mix between the two, and is very listenable (is that a word?).  I think my favourite track is still NYE, but their other offerings (such as Royalty) are about the same in quality level.

Imagine my pleasant surprise that they’re coming to Ottawa on April 10th!  That’s a Friday night, so I know I’m not busy that evening.  Really looking forward to it.  It’s at Cafe Deckuf, a venue I’ve been to only once.  It’s a small place, but it’s pretty cool.  Going to be living on the major bus route as of this weekend so getting there/back will be a breeze.

Definitely going to do my best to get to this concert!

You know, sometimes I really like coincidences.  Like when I hear a song in a CBC Radio 3 Podcast from the beginning of February on my drive in to work, and read a review of that very song when I get here.

Jon-Rae Fletcher is a singer I praised a while back; his latest song, Oh, Maria, is not with his band The River – no, unfortunately they broke up.  The key thing is that this song is great, and I love it.  The podcast I heard it on was #194: Julie Doiron, The Hylozoists, Jon-Rae Fletcher.  Incidentally, there’s a really good School of Rock feature by The Hylozoists on that podcast, too.

Also be sure to check out #156 – Sloan, Elliot Brood and Jon-Rae Fletcher for a really great feature on Jon-Rae Fletcher.

Here’s a link to the review and the MP3, from today’s Herohill post:

Reviews:: Jon-Rae Fletcher Oh, Maria

Almost 60 years anyway.  Probably closer to 50, I’m not sure.  Check out Attack of the Movies! where blogger Matt goes back to 1950 to review one science fiction movie from each year leading up to present day.  The blog is updated weekly, and he’s already into 1951 – so hurry over before you’re too far past the 50’s!

I like this blog because it’s well-written, and I enjoy sci-fi movies myself.  On top of that, Matt is exposing the movies that aren’t so well-known.  For instance, rather than reviewing 1951’s The Day The Earth Stood Still, he opted for Flight To Mars.  Unfortunately, however, Flight To Mars is apparently not a good movie.

I find Matt to be very well-versed in movie knowledge and he certainly shows it in his reviews.  Like I said above, he writes well too, and makes his reviews very accessible.

If you’re looking for some different movies to watch, Attack of the Movies! might point you in the direction of a hidden gem.

This Warm December

This Warm December

Christmas is next week, and I’m itching to get into the holiday spirit!  Courtesy once again of ARTISTdirect (I love this site!), I listened to a stream of This Warm December: Brushfire Holidays Vol1.  It’s not available through AD, but you can check it out at Chapters.ca or amazon.ca.

This is your standard collaboration Christmas album: plenty of different artists for everyone, from Jack Johnson all the way to Matt Costa.  The difference with this album is in the range of songs: there are a few instantly recognizeable songs on there, but for the most part, it looks like it’s more of a unique holiday offering.

Which is what I liked about this album: it’s different.  It’s contemporary and I think a lot of people will enjoy it for that reason alone.  Everybody hears the same Christmas music from year to year, so it’s refreshing to hear some new stuff – and I don’t just mean covers by contemporary bands every year.

This Warm December is short, but that is to be expected: Christmas songs are short.  Not a surprise here.  The album is less than an hour long so I wouldn’t make this your only music selection at a party (especially since the songs are very light and might put some people to sleep).  But if you’re like me and have a relative that puts on mostly unlistenable holiday music, you’ll be able to slip this CD in without too much notice.  It’ll fit in without being too jarring.

If you’re looking for a good holiday album, pick up This Warm December and you’ll be pretty pleased.

I decided to review Britney Spears’ latest album, Circus, because I was genuinely curious about what it sounded like.  Plus, it’s streamed for free over at ArtistDirect.  To spell out what it is I’m saying, I’m reviewing it because I didn’t have to spend a dime to hear a Britney Spears album.

I should have expected it to be what it is: heavily-produced pop.  That’s basically what Britney is all about, and has been all about, since day one; I’m not intimately familiar with her earlier albums, but from the songs my girlfriend has on her ipod, it is all the same sort of stuff.  I mean, the music itself is different but it’s all heavily-produced.

That said, she is able to crank out some decent-quality stuff.  This album definitely isn’t a top album of 2008 material CD, but put it in the “heavily-produced pop” category and it shoots right up there.  All of the tracks on here, or at least the majority of them, are engineered to be hits.  Not all of them will be, but I guess it would be rather silly for someone to produce an album with the hopes that none of the songs will be in the top of the top 40.

Womanizer is obviously the “flagship” single for the album, and it’s probably the best track on there.  The only other song that’s jumped out at me at being listenable and enjoyable is Radar but you don’t get to that one until the end of the album.  I’m going to go ahead and guess that Radar will be the next single off the album; I’m usually able to pick them out before I read/hear about it, but I am also occasionally wrong.  Though it could be slotted at #3 behind Circus.

I will rate this album an arbitrary 3 out of 5.  It’s decent enough if you’re looking for some light pop.

** Side Note ** I wanted to include a copy of the album art, but google images can’t find one!  Weird.