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Parasite Eve
Parasite Eve
Offered by MediaNett
Price: $139.98
151 used & new from $1.32

4.0 out of 5 stars watch out for that parasite, September 28, 2014
This review is from: Parasite Eve (Video Game)
You know I actually think Parasite Eve is a pretty awesome game despite being told to avoid it many years ago. This is because I've finally convinced myself that lengthy storylines DO deserve a place in the video game genre. When this game first came out I was busy enjoying either my Super NES or early action games on the PS1 such as Loaded, WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game and several others so I wasn't so willing to just open up and accept a very story-based video game since the concept was brand new to me at the time, and I resented the idea initially. My logic was "Um, shouldn't such detailed storyline be reserved for movies and books only?" and the truth is I sometimes still feel the same way whenever I have to put up with a lengthy unskippable cutscene but you know times change and specifically video games have changed since the Super NES days, and we've pretty much reached the point where such stories HAVE to be included in video games for continuity reasons and for sequels to be made. Also gameplay tends to feel stale nowadays so we look forward to stories above everything else (at least I feel this way). I understand all this now.

Anyway onto the review for Parasite Eve. This game is just magnificent all around. I think its biggest problem is being compared to the Resident Evil series which isn't really fair in my opinion, and specifically the enemies in Parasite Eve don't have the familiarity and worldwide love that zombies do. People automatically veer towards zombies for some reason. To me zombies are mostly overrated and often times come off as comical but I'm willing to make an exception when it comes to survival horror video games (at least in RE2 and 3 where zombies are actually terrifying while intensifying the mood and your surroundings). However zombie movies are usually hit or miss for me and I don't quite get the love so many others do. But the lack of everyone's precious zombie in Parasite Eve I believe (in my opinion) is a major contributor why this game never won over the majority of survival horror fans.

The first half of the game centers on a *very* detailed horror story about an evil demon woman named Eve who actually has the potential to make people burn to death suddenly and dramatically (spontaneous combustion). Let me tell you guys something- I've watched some cool cutscenes before but NONE of them come even close to the one that takes place in an opera theater in the beginning of this game. It's absolutely AWESOME to watch! To go from singing opera to the audience burning alive a moment later... talk about catching me by *complete* surprise! I love it! This cutscene is so beautiful and elegant and yet so twisted and demented at the same time- way ahead of its time for 1997 since combining beauty with oddness and horror wasn't a popular trend in either video games or movies until a few years later (unless my foggy memory is forgetting a popular movie and I might just be). It's possible that since Parasite Eve's story is so well-told it might have been heavily influenced from another source.

Anyway the first half of the game is all about the story with only brief elements of gameplay in between, while the second half places more emphasis on gameplay (shooting enemies and progressing) and less on story (until the conclusion which is 45 minutes of heavy story). Parasite Eve uses static camera angles and pre-rendered backgrounds just like classic Resident Evil with many different camera angles enhancing the mood. What makes Parasite Eve work so well is its VERY detailed, elaborate and sophisticated storyline. Every single detail related to the virus "mitochondrial" (a word you'll be hearing a LOT throughout this game- get used to it) and how this evil monster named Eve is preparing to make the "Ultimate Being" and will even kill or burn people alive who dare to stand in her way is not only engrossing by itself but when you include the main playable and attractive character of Aya who works at the police department and mysteriously is NOT affected by Eve's antics, a Japanese scientist who's here to sort out this mess and a firm-voiced detective named Daniel, you have yourself a small but ultimately VERY memorable cast of characters. There's plenty of mini characters too including Daniel's son and a sick-minded scientist helping to feed Eve's desires for creating the perfect living creature, etc.

As you can guess, the storyline is LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than anything Resident Evil ever made, especially nowadays since the RE series is completely tarnished being an action-oriented game with generic unfitting Hollywood-ish segments that don't belong for the RE series, let alone the horror genre. However compared to the classic RE games Parasite Eve destroys even those amazing games in terms of storyline. Arguably the enemies are significantly better in Parasite Eve as well. You encounter mutated oversized dogs, bears, insects, lizards, snakes, rats, dinosaurs and pterodactyl's (later on), etc. These enemies often even have their own fireball or laser ball shooting moves which is quite unique to see in a grim survival horror setting. Many of these enemies are downright frightening too. Resident Evil's enemies are bland in comparison. Aya, your main character, can carry several weapons and ammunition which smears what the classic RE games bring to the table in terms of arsenal variety.

The environments mostly consist of the police department, hospital, museum, ship and snowy city streets. It's really all the game needs. If I have any complaints well, for one thing the storyline gets really confusing in the second half when Aya's sister and mother are mentioned and how they tie into the Eve situation which never *quite* made sense to me but it's possible I was just getting burnt out by the final chapter and not focusing clearly anymore. It sort of bothers me how un-dramatic the enemy encounters are- you simply walk along minding your business when suddenly the screen flashes white and invisible enemies turn visible before your eyes and the battle gets underway while mid-tempo music lacking suspense plays. It doesn't capture the fear of being stuck in a dreadful trap NEARLY as effectively as the classic RE games. In RE the music doesn't change at all when enemies appear on screen, and the enemies are already there upon entering a room (often times in plain view or you can hear them walking around in the back of the room). I certainly prefer enemy encounters the RE way. Also your health bar is like an RPG based on numbers. When you get attacked your numbers go down. I prefer the herb/health status system in the RE games. A lot of times enemies appear during aerial view camera shots which is probably a clever way of disguising game space limitations so there's more room to include more enemies.

Overall however, this game is pretty awesome. Perhaps its extremely big story means little replay value since you don't feel like plodding through such a large story just to get to the action parts which is understandable, but this game does everything right except for the way the enemy encounters are handled. I LOVE any cutscene that either shows people burning alive or enemies such as rats or dogs transforming into beastly creatures which is quite graphic, gross and exciting. Dare I say the best cutscenes ever in a PS1 game? A really magnificent game.

DVD ~ Charlize Theron
344 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars emotions running high, September 26, 2014
This review is from: Monster (DVD)
I wasn't expecting Monster to be such a devastatingly surreal and emotional journey involving the real life of a woman who became a prostitute and eventually a murderer. I certainly wasn't expecting to sympathize with a murderer either but you know, the way this story is told you sort of can't help but sympathize with the woman.

What makes this movie so remarkable is the acting of Charlize Theron. I am absolutely stunned at two things- one her acting performance being one of the very best and edge of your seat worthy I have witnessed from an actor or actress in a long long time, and two that she looks NOTHING like the woman she portrays in this movie. I mean she must have done everything in her power to make herself look homely and withered because she very accurately portrays a prostitute who once had dreams as a young girl to find the perfect man only to find herself in the grimmest of situations- having to deal with filthy sex-driven men on a constant basis. Charlize is actually a very attractive woman who looks *nothing* like the dirty, beat up and worn down character she portrays in this moive. Remarkable transformation! She also looks alarmingly similar to the real life murderer Aileen Wuorous who she's portraying which is kind of freaky if you ask me.

This movie shows what it's like to be a prostitute in the hardest most accurate way that I've possibly ever seen (and I've seen hundreds of movies showing prostitutes in many different scenarios, but none like this one). While at a bar she meets up with Christina Ricci's character, who happens to be a quiet, confused, vulnerable loner type. She and Charlize's character eventually hit off a relationship that soon becomes romantic and intimidate. The scene that plays Tommy James & the Shondells "Crimson and Clover" and all the grooviness, funkiness and dreaminess associated with the song during an intense make out scene is an extraordinary moment.

I truly can't find the words to describe how impeccable Charlize's acting skills are. When she's angry you feel angry, when she's sad you feel sad, when she's optimistic and believes she and Christina will find a way out of the dingy motel rooms where they often stay, you feel optimistic as well. This is how you know you're experiencing a phenomenal actor or actress- when *you* are able to feel what the characters on screen are feeling. Amazing job! Christina Ricci provides another touching moment of characterization. You know that she comes from a very different background than Charlize with a loving family and yet, you're surprised she's so willing to throw her comfortable lifestyle away and basically run away with a prostitute she doesn't even know despite what her parent think all because she feels a connection with Charlize. I love the way Charlize does everything in her power to protect Christina from the brutal reality of the outside world in addition to preventing Christina from finding out what she actually does for a living. This movie is just REALLY good all around in so many ways.

The only issue is your emotional state of mind. What do you want to happen? I mean, Charlize is going around killing men while being a prostitute due to one particularly horrific incident (and I mean HORRIFIC in how realistic it looks) where she was raped and roped while a man almost killed her but she managed to free herself and turn the tables by killing the man. You feel like justice is served right? Because for one thing you saw what was about to happen- she was about to get raped and killed. You want her to win as a result. And also you're seeing how her life has deteriorated and continues to spiral out of control. But... she's now a murderer and murder is wrong. That's why I ask, what do you want to happen? It makes you feel guilty for supporting Charlize Theron the first couple times she kills but then you realize she's starting to find excuses for killing to the point it appears she's enjoying it because it means free cash and a car to steal, so you back away your guilt trip in a hurry! At least I did. I guess I shouldn't speak for anyone else but I certainly know Monster made ME feel guilty for supporting her all because she's the one receiving the most attention and giving us her detailed story concerning her past.

When it gets to the point that the moment she steps inside a car with a man and he suggests a really dirty sexual move and BAM! He's shot and killed in cold blood instantly well... you can't really cheer for that! However you recognize her life is just so crazy she almost can't help it. She's done lost it and must be on the defensive for now on just to survive. Whenever she sits with Christina Ricci and tries to justify her behavior, that's when you'll experience her award-winning acting skills in all its glory. I do dislike the way the men are betrayed, even if it might be realistic. To just say really awful sexual and perverted things to a woman while demanding sex and handing over cash is... ugh, just horrible. Apparently a selection of men out there actually act this way towards women (prostitutes or not) but I find it repulsive personally and anyone with a conscience should feel the same way.

Overall highly recommended movie but be warned- the interaction between Charlize and the dirty men is REALLY inappropriate with sexualized words spoken very clearly and offensively. Otherwise if you can withstand the language, this is an amazingly well-told drama.

Secret of Mana
Secret of Mana
55 used & new from $38.61

4.0 out of 5 stars secret of success, September 24, 2014
This review is from: Secret of Mana (Video Game)
Secret of Mana is one of those games I missed out on as a kid, despite having a pretty healthy Super NES collection in the early 90's. Now that I'm experiencing the game in today's world as an adult where technology has advanced and the RPG genre has been perfected and perhaps exhausted, what's it like approaching a game like Secret of Mana now?

Well to put it honestly, it's a pretty darn cool game! Secret of Mana has been recommended to me literally 20 times by now by 20 different people over the last 15 years, so I finally had to see what all the fuss is about. I mean if people are talking about the game NOW 20 years after release is has to be good right? This game does so many things wonderfully that's it's almost indescribable how much fun it is. The fast-paced action of not only running around but battling enemies in real time action instead of the typical and tiresome turn-based way, and being able to switch between 3 characters was an extraordinary technological step at the time compared to most RPG's where you could only play as one character.

The music is another high point. Probably not the very best music I've ever heard in an RPG, but pretty high up on the list of memorable video game music nonetheless. It can be majestic in the castle areas, peaceful and ambient in the towns some of the time while more upbeat and happy in others, hoedown-ish in the caves, adrenaline-rushing during the boss fights, haunting carnival music appearing in a few areas, etc. The ambient stuff happens to be my favorite aspects which is really surprising considering ambience is usually low on my list of favorite genres. The emphasis on melody and emotion is really evident when listening to the themes in this game regardless what type of music it is. I actually think the majestic castle theme is my favorite theme in the game. It's sweeping, melodic and just awesome! Hard to believe but this isn't the first time a majestic piece of music is my favorite song in a video game. Super Castlevania IV is another example. Two drastically different types of games of course (Secret of Mana and Super Castlevania IV).

The boss battles... do you like fighting a ton of bosses? I sincerely hope the answer is yes because I've NEVER seen so many boss fights in an RPG before, much less an old school RPG on the Super NES console. An amazing amount of variety. They appear unpredictably often times too which is another exciting element of the game. Sometimes you're simply walking to the next area just minding your business nonchalantly exploring the lands and BOOM! Boss fight time! I like how you can switch between 3 playable characters which really enhances the excitement and tension found in the boss fights. The magic spells are frequently used here, and it's necessary to use them particularly during boss fights because many bosses pack a mean punch.

Now this game isn't flawless by any means. It's unfortunate Secret of Mana does in fact contain a few flaws. The biggest one is the dialogue. While it's competent and certainly readable, it's pretty generic and forgettable often times. Perhaps the emotional rollercoaster and perfection that is Terranigma has spoiled me into raising my expectations a few notches higher in relation to the RPG genre as a whole, who knows. The lack of emotion by all the characters is pretty hard not to notice I'm afraid. When I play an RPG I like to feel what the characters are feeling, but unfortunately for the most part this doesn't occur in Secret of Mana. There's a big exception involving the main characters mother that I won't spoil however, and a few minor examples. The townspeople however are all completely forgettable. By the way I like the element of taking a nap and having your party's health restored. Here I thought the Legend of Zelda series came up with this idea.

Also the castles are average at best, and often times they're too short to make much of an impact. The castles are also generic but it's surprising to me personally how short and straightforward they usually are. You'll probably never get lost for a significant period of time. The overworld is the same way I'm afraid. Straight paths. On another note I like when your character picks up a treasure chest and actually shakes the item out of there! It's more unique than just opening the chest and obtaining the item like in Zelda. I wish the dungeons were similar to Zelda in size, detail and impact. The story is just okay. Everything centers on the Mana. Mana seeds need to be collected and the Mana Sword needs to be obtained. Otherwise an evil empire will bring the always threatening underworld to life. Expect lots of surprises pertaining to characters seeming relatively harmless only to drop a HUGE surprise that they're not what they once were when you see them again. I won't spoil anymore though!

At least the enemy variety (consisting of zombies, owls, colorful slimes, crabs, armored knights of many varieties, sizes and styles, pumpkins, zombie dogs, wizard eyeballs, bats, horseheads, mushrooms, bats, goofy-eyed water thugs, werewolves, specter ghosts, Kirby-like silktails, rabites, porcupine-like enemies called needlions, and more) are plentiful enough to spice up the average surroundings, and of course the bosses are REALLY varied and frequent. On a personal note it bothers me the way the zombie dogs die. They fall over so realistically that it makes me cry to see them lose their lives! Oh and the bosses consist of giant two-headed dragons, lizards, giant bulky Gigas which are reminiscent of oversized dwarves, a gypsy snake, a giant glob of slime, deceivingly tiny bosses that look more like regular enemies called Tonsole and Biting Lizard and even a robot. Talk about a HUGE variety!

Overall really amazing RPG. I strongly recommend it despite a few flaws.

Columbian #10 Security Tinted Envelopes, 4-1/8 x 9-1/2 Inch, White, 500 Per Box (CO128)
Columbian #10 Security Tinted Envelopes, 4-1/8 x 9-1/2 Inch, White, 500 Per Box (CO128)
Price: $21.21
21 used & new from $9.72

3.0 out of 5 stars average, September 17, 2014
You know how sometimes when you pick up an envelope, go to lick it, and the flappy parts on top refuse to stick so you give it a heavy coat of lickable fluids which often times doesn't work either? Well here's the reason- you're probably using one of these Columbian types of envelopes. Maybe other Columbian envelopes are more reliable but surely these ones are average at best. You can lick until the cows come home but they probably won't stick. I'd say more than 50% of the time these envelopes won't stick which means you're going to be disappointed. The best thing is to just apply a piece of tape after you give your best attempt to seal it shut enough to mail it, but I understand in a business-run world such an option isn't very practical and shouldn't be necessary, not to mention constantly applying tape can be very time-consuming. The best thing I can tell you is to search elsewhere for envelopes that are dependably sticky. Also worth noting is that the paper itself strikes me as a little thinner than other envelopes but I could be imagining things. I do know one thing very well- save your money and don't buy these particular envelopes.

Child's Play
Child's Play
DVD ~ Catherine Hicks
63 used & new from $1.59

5.0 out of 5 stars a personal fear of dolls will make this movie even better!, September 17, 2014
This review is from: Child's Play (DVD)
Watching this movie again last night I realized how many things I'd forgotten about. Such as the cop/bad guy scene in the beginning where the bad guy runs into a nearby doll store (or factory) and after he's shot and knows he's dying, he uses his dark magic on a nearby Chucky doll to turn him evil. Of course you know what this means if you've ever watched a good horror flick- this Chucky doll eventually makes it to an innocent mother who just so just happens to buy this particular Chucky model, haha. The writers do a wonderful job making the mom look nice and innocent like a typical caring/extra protective mother, and her son's character is perfect too since he just wants a friend to play with which is the reason the mother buys him the doll. Excellent choice to make the two people you'd least expect involved in such a violent situation!

How about the legendary scene when the mother realizes her son might be correct about Chucky being able to speak and function like a real person when in the kitchen she's alone with Chucky. She's about to read the box to figure out what might be the problem when the batteries fall down to the floor. Shortly before this Chucky was speaking to her *without batteries!* HAIR RAISING MOMENT, haha!

This whole scene continues to frighten me- Chucky rolls under the couch when he momentarily speaks like a typical doll as the mother's holding him, the mother cautiously reaches under to pick him up... and after a threat to toss the doll in the fireplace what HAS to be considered a really excellent piece of trickery comes next- we actually see the doll come to life before our very eyes. I'm sure in reality this doll was created with the ability to express anger while a voice actor is speaking while Chucky moves his mouth but it sure looks excellent and about as authentic as it could be! Of course Chucky's profanity is quite comical and noteworthy as well which is another aspect that has made him quotable over the years (especially the comment he makes in an elevator after two people comment what an ugly doll he is, LOL!)

I find it somewhat unintentionally hilarious that even when the babysitter looking after the son "falls" from the upper apartment building window (which is the only scene I could remember before last night) the kid doesn't seem concerned at all about her death nor does he seem shaken up when his mom and police question what happened. Instead he insists "Chucky did it" and of course nobody believes him. I don't want to spoil more moments but you can probably guess Chucky goes around with a knife since he's such a stab-happy little guy! This movie is just terrific. Yes it's really cheesy but the whole "doll come to life" plot used here is about as scary as one can possibly be. We all love Chucky!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 23, 2014 1:21 AM PDT

Mega Man X8 - PlayStation 2
Mega Man X8 - PlayStation 2
47 used & new from $23.30

4.0 out of 5 stars improves... megaly, haha!, September 16, 2014
Well guess what? I have some really wonderful news. Remember how you hated rescuing reploids in X6? You don't have to do that anymore! Remember how X7 blended 3D with 2D elements making the levels awkward and often times forgettable? Capcom eliminated 3D for the most part! Remember how dreadful and childish the voice acting sounded in X7? That's gone too! This game seriously got rid of 3 very annoying aspects and I couldn't be happier! Those 3 eliminations automatically boost the rating up a couple stars.

This game is just such a big improvement that we haven't seen since X4, I'm simply beside myself that it actually exists. That Capcom actually decided to listen to their fans and eliminate the aspects that didn't work while focusing on the ones that DO work. Now it's not a flawless game by any means. A couple levels here and there are less than superb with questionable design choices, and a few of the boss fights are needlessly elaborate and come across as overbearing while sacrificing fun and innocence in the process which is what the X series is supposed to be about, but for the most part I'm totally satisfied with this game. I'd easily place it in the same category as X1-X4 (the classic years). Just skip over X5, X6 and X7 and go with X8!

Let's describe the characters. Axl can hover in the air this time, and when he rapidly shoots you will occasionally see a blue beam amongst the other shots which is supposedly more powerful than the normal shots. Nice addition there and very subtle because I would have missed it without someone mentioning it to me. He's not as weak as he was in X7 either and eventually develops a beam attack. X himself has several abilities too, including a tri-shot you'll acquire later on which is pretty fun to play around with along with a cool nova strike. His character is significantly larger in appearance compared to the older Mega Man of the past, and I'm noticing a trend that with each X game Capcom likes to make Mega Man a little bigger in size each time. Probably a coincidence and it's not like it's going to last forever. Otherwise we'd eventually have a screen-sized X, haha. Zero... he's pretty much the best playable character in the game. He has MANY moves that can be acquired later on, and he's the best option for dealing with the most dangerous situations.

Immediately when the game begins we see a jungle setting that eventually leads into a factory which goes to show Capcom is even putting some serious effort into the very first stage since this stage takes several minutes to complete. The action is very fast, you're hardly ever surrounded by swarms of unavoidable enemies and there's definitely a degree of skill and challenge present throughout the game instead of lucking out and hoping you'll survive all kinds of annoying hopeless situations. I like this. This brings back childhood memories of the older Mega Man where I'd have to keep trying and figuring out strategy methods until I succeeded. You'll be doing the same here.

Anyway back to the intro stage- it has a beautiful forest background and an atmospheric factory setting totally reminding me of Jurassic Park for some reason. I love the waterfall too. When switching to Zero you'll find he's more powerful than before. I can't even describe how much of an improvement the voice acting is this time around. Now X, Zero, Sigma and Alia sound more mature and realistic which better conveys the emotions they're going for. They no longer sound like kids rehearsing a play for example. The Mega Man series is based around action and explosions- adult voice acting just makes more sense.

The only times you'll witness 3D elements is when the camera occasionally does a tricky move while progressing through levels (which is done perfectly since it's done in a subtle way) and when you're facing a boss and perform a certain kind of special finishing move that presents a certain camera rotation trick. This camera angle's actually really awesome to admire and I never get tired of it. Energy capsules are REALLY rare this time. Even more rare than in X6 which is surprising. Just be careful not to take too many hits (especially near the end of the game with the series of boss fights you have to contend with- the game isn't going to hold your hand for the final boss fight I can promise you that!)

You're ranked after each stage which I have mixed feelings about. This isn't Medal of Honor! I shouldn't be ranked for how well or poorly I've played. Besides, until I familiarize myself with the levels it's not like you'll be ranked high on your first few playthroughs. I guess Capcom added a rank system to encourage gamers to try harder next time and it actually works since the game relies on skill instead of luck so you ARE motivated to try harder, but eh. It's an alright addition I guess. I ignore it to be honest.

Also you have to BUY heart upgrades and energy tanks now. They aren't simply scattered throughout the stages like they used to be. A real shame there because it's more fun searching for hidden spots where they might be located. Throughout each stage you can find metals which is required to buy upgrades at the item shop. You can actually build up hundreds/thousands of metals after a while so you'll probably hardly ever be in short supply. Whenever you get low on important items, all you have to do is enter a completed stage, collect the metals scattered everywhere (they're abundant thankfully) and buy what you need at the shop. You can also buy weapons at the items shop. The shop offers a large selection of items and weapons to experiment with, making the replay value high since you can play the game differently the next time around.

Game overs in this game means you are taken back to the stage select screen if I remember so it's somewhat significant to not get a game over for careless reasons. I believe you can purchase 1-ups at the item shop so no problem there. You can do combos in this game which is basically entering small areas where you can shoot multiple enemies in a row. These come up every now and then. Like I mention above, Zero has all kinds of saber and special attacks which greatly enhances your chances of winning in the heat of a battle more times than not. He'll ideal for these combo rooms.

You can also buy an ability to walk on spikes for a temporary period of time (I think it's based on the number of times you land on spikes instead of actual time) which is a really fantastic feature, however it would have been significantly better to have such a crucial item in X6 and make it permanent in that game, haha. MAN X6 is one tough monster! It desperately needed a spike protection item. You can also buy an item to revive a dead character but I don't know how this one works. There's actually so many things available for purchase if you find enough metals that I don't have enough room to list them all.

You can choose between X, Axl or Zero per stage. Often times if you're on the verge of dying you can quickly switch to another character to save your bacon! In order to obtain all the items in the game -just like in previous X titles- you have to revisit each stage several times. Not a chore at all however. This time around Aria isn't your only helper. You have a couple other helpers referred to as navigators but I find their presences totally unnecessary. It's true they provide decent information on enemies and levels, but neither of them feels like they add much to the game. One of them has a crush on Zero so you're led to believe a romance is coming up eventually not only due to her choice of words but the music getting romantic in one scene, but it never happens. I think Aria could have covered all the duties of these two characters just fine. Never a good idea to throw in new characters just to toss in some variety. If they're not really necessary they shouldn't be included. It just gives Capcom an excuse to use them in the future but we if don't care about them here the odds are good we won't care about them in any game Capcom uses them in the future.

The music is mostly heavy metal much like in X3. However the difference is that in X3 it was plodding sludgy heavy metal- this is more like guitar soloing technique theme music the likes of which Jeff Beck or Joe Satriani would be impressed. Often times the notes themselves are only somewhat impressive but hey, I'm a big fan of heavy metal over ambience so I'll take it! With that said, expect a few techno or ambient themes from time to time. Some music is even quite sad which can serve as a remarkable and shocking change of emotion and direction.

Also throughout the game there's certain mini games that pop up which is a nice way to obtain metals based on your skills. One of them is in front of a waterfall where you have to keep attacking an infinite amount of enemies coming from off screen until you die, and the other one involves the ride chaser and destroying icy blocks appearing ahead on the track. These are fun but they could be interpreted as mindless fun. I neither hate or love these type of games. I'm probably missing a few.

Now let's mention the stages.

Primrose is a unique level where pressing red buttons located in certain spots literally changes the angle of the room. You could be walking to your right, press a button and suddenly the room changes to a different angle and you're falling down! Reminds me of a certain mini game in Super Mario Galaxy 2. I personally love this level to pieces but I have a feeling most people would think it's irritating and would rank it as one of the worst stages in the game. Anyway this stage is for the most part moderately challenging until you arrive to the halfway point and have to contend with blocks with spikes attached to them. It's easy to accidentally get caught underneath of them while they're falling down in a tricky to avoid pattern and take heavy damage or death. This particular part of the level is basically a puzzle room where you have to carefully and cleverly avoid the blocks and spikes by way of dashing and jumping a certain way. I like it because it requires memorization skills. I think it's clever how the blocks temporarily serve as platforms but you have to be careful you don't find yourself taking unnecessary damage by being too slow. Anyway the rest of the level is much like the first part with the button pressing/room changing angles.

Pitch Black is a pretty mediocre level I'm afraid. It's one of only two levels I dislike. You have to move forward avoiding being detected by spotlights darting across the walls otherwise swarms of enemies will immediately appear and you'll have a huge plate of problems on your hands before you know it. Vile makes a surprise appearance in this stage and to be honest I think his voice sounds inappropriate. He sounds too manly and confident. I figured while playing X1 and X3 he'd have a typical robot voice but with a nervous and chaotic edge given his uncontrollable nature. Oh well. Glad he's back at any rate! His fight here isn't really memorable and the stage overall is too dark and empty to make much of an impression so I don't really enjoy it.

Troia Base is more like a series of mini challenges and combo trials. I wouldn't say it's a failed experiment but this doesn't belong as a regular level and Capcom shouldn't have included it as one. At least it provides a lot of shooting action. You basically keep entering portals and arriving to new enemy-filled combo areas for the most part. I like the tricky spiky section near the end that involves some carefully timed wall jumps. It's pretty hard but not excessively so or anything. The best part of the entire stage is the spinning dragon boss near the end who's electrified and you battle him while on a moving train which is cool.

Inferno is the second mediocre stage I was referring to above that I place right behind Pitch Black. Both stages feel the same too- lifeless and uninspiring. I'm not too crazy about the first part where you're auto-scrolling downward while either jumping or hovering to the platforms below. This is only challenging because it's overlong and it gets monotonous after a while. But... darn. This same exact section appears not just one more time but TWO more times, and the location of the final time is really surprising (without spoiling anything). Now the portion in the middle is really awful too- several wall jumps and tricky spike avoiding areas that's overlong too. It's annoying how you lose a life by just barely touching a spike. It can happen several times in a row resulting in several losses until you get it right. Ugh! Also it nags me a bit that the stage is called Inferno but there's hardly anything flaming that you encounter.

Central White is a ride chaser race level rushing across snowy paths and patches of ice while shooting enemies and making bombs explode. On a couple different occasions you encounter a flying robot and you can hit him with charged blasts. Fun level overall and incredibly fast unlike that one racing level in X7 that's too slow and boring to be memorable.

Metal Valley is a VERY unique stage that centers around a mining theme. I love the rocky desert background. Immediately you will discover that the object of the level is to move QUICKLY to your right at the very start so you can remain a few steps ahead of a giant yellow persistent robot always hot on your trail from the left side of the screen. This particular part in the beginning of the level doesn't last a long time, but it's pretty action-packed and tense for what it is. It's especially awesome when the tables are turned and you find yourself chasing HIM while collecting a bunch of metals! The purple cube room soon after is really exciting due to the fast-paced nature of it. Perhaps a similar concept to the block puzzle found in Primrose but MUCH easier. You're able to easily detect a pattern in this case. After this you face the yellow robot in a different indoors setting where you're walking back and forth across a balcony up high and hitting switches in a semi 3D setting used to repeatedly smack the boss with a crane. REALLY fun level!

Booster Forest is a forest stage where you spend most of your time on the ride armor punching or stomping other ride armor enemies. The tricky 3D effect in the beginning where you ride the armor on the other side of a water fountain is really amazing to me. What can I say, I admire the small touches! Some clever trickery involved in reaching Dr. Light and speaking of Dr. Light, his voice is sort of cool and cheesy at the same time. Still more fitting than previous voice acting impersonations in other X games at least. There's another part near the end that requires a Samus morph ball-style move. Everything about this stage feels just right- just the right amount of action, the right amount of jumps and the right kind of challenge.

Dynasty is the last of the 8 levels. The entire stage is based in a futuristic city setting where you're riding a jet bike and chasing the boss around while avoiding barricades. I guess this would be considered a 3D level but it doesn't feel like it. It's recommended to shoot him as fast as possible because doing so will shorten the level considerably and thus, make the chaos go by sooner. Anyway this is a pretty fun chase level. I like how you sometimes find yourself in a traffic jam and have to avoid flying vehicles. This is a really cool stage no doubt about it.

Oh and before I forget to mention it, how amazing is it that you can return to the intro stage to obtain more items? That's never occurred in a Mega Man game before unless I missed it in X7.

Now let's discuss the bosses.

Bamboo Pandamonium features quite the arsenal! Rocket launchers, grenades and a particularly deadly claw attack... it's a crazy variety-filled offense and spectacular to watch. These attacks should be more devastating and do more damage then they do (though he does have a one-hit kill move I think). I'm really impressed with his appearance and move set. I find myself switching between characters often when on the verge of death and I'm pretty sure most people play the game the same way. Optic Sunflower is a female boss... or at least is voiced by a lady. A lady trying to sound big and bad which is always funny because women typically don't have the right voice for that. She shoots solar shots and green beams and disappears often. Her vanishing frequency is the reason this battle lasts such a long time and the reason she's pretty tough. Don't take her lightly. She also spams blocks in the middle of the room during the fight. I like the occasional disco ball attack however, haha!

Dark Mantis has a REALLY cool appearance, even surpassing Bamboo Pandamonium's. At least the lights finally turn on during the battle so you can see what's going on. Avoid his many sword swipes and wall jumps. He uses that sword like a professional swordsman sometimes! Just another subtle touch that proves X8 was worked on a little bit harder than X5, X6 and X7. Gravity Antonion uses the walls and ceiling to climb around and toss blocks, and in one extreme attack method he tosses a BUNCH of blocks that slam down from above in a speedy sequence. This is a tricky to avoid sequence similar to that one section of Primrose and clearly his most powerful move. Earthrock Trilobyte is an average boss in both the way he looks and his attacks which are both uninteresting. He has no memorable dangerous attacks but he loves to constantly make shiny golden cubes appear but they are more pesky than anything.

Gigabolt Man-O-War is very easy to defeat and even easier using Zero. Only a beautiful looking lightning attack is threatening. I LOVE the fast-moving background showing city buildings while the platform where this fight takes place floats up and down in a way that really captures the intensity of the boss battle because it gives the player the illusion he or she has to move quickly. So it's funny this is one of the easier fights in the game. Avalanche Yeti short jumps around a lot shooting ice pellets. His coolest attack is launching snowflakes in the air so an electrical snowflake floats down on top of you- it's a fascinating move that appears unthreatening at first and takes advantage of the PS2's technology but the boss fight itself is probably nothing special. Burn Rooster jumps and dives around the room moving the floor up and down. He has the ability to create a spiral fire attack on both sides of the room. Pretty good fight.

Sigma has all kinds of attacks in his "first" form (and there's a reason I'm putting that in quotation marks). Ricocheting purple laser beams, ground lava, etc. In "the next round" he uses a green sword and launches rings you have to jump/hover/air dash inside of which can quite tricky to pull off properly until you get a feel for his patterns. I'm REALLY impressed that the final stage is an actual castle the likes of which Harry Potter would be proud of! It's visually impressive and dangerous too with all the spikes. I love it. Also... without spoiling what happens, after the Sigma fight don't rest just yet! I can't spoil what happens because it's too awesome to mention in this review, especially the storyline in the cutscenes. Most intriguing cutscene moment in the game for sure. Just make sure you don't use any energy tanks during the Sigma fights. Trust me!

Overall X8 marks a return to classic form. Capcom listened to their fans and took the series back to its roots. While it's not as good in my opinion as X, X2 or X4, it might surpass X3 and *especially* surpasses X5, X6 and X7 by a country mile. I highly recommend this game.

The Tooth Fairy
The Tooth Fairy
DVD ~ Lochlyn Munro
Price: $5.47
55 used & new from $1.09

4.0 out of 5 stars teeth feeling wiggly huh?, September 16, 2014
This review is from: The Tooth Fairy (DVD)
Just a note- this isn't related to Dwayne Johnson's Tooth Fairy, haha. Don't make THAT mistake and accidentally pick up the wrong movie! One's a comedy, the other's a horror. The two movies are extremely different and it wouldn't be very pleasant if say, you bought this movie by mistake for your child as a Christmas present and he or she found out the hard way.

This movie is downright strange in many different ways. The writing itself is strange. Calling it "The Tooth Fairy" is too basic of a name. It should have been called something more appropriate like, to give one example, "The Witch Fairy!" Or "The Tooth Collector". Just calling it the Tooth Fairy is too bland. It's about a family out in the country who discover from their spooky-clichéd lady neighbor that they live in a dangerous house where a tooth-collecting witch once lived, and she's returned so all their lives are in danger. It just so happens the young daughter Nicole Munoz still has a few baby teeth making her a perfect candidate!

This movie is filled with questionable moments and many of them don't make much sense to me. For one thing when the mother (played by Chandra West) and her daughter Nicole Munoz stop at a gas station, the two scummy men who work there immediately give the mother a hard time and proceed to rape her while the daughter stands by the car door and watches this puzzling bit of storytelling unfold which is quite the intense and surprising moment for one thing, however when they arrive to Chandra's husband (or ex-husband's) house played by Lochlyn Munro she explains what happened when he notices her window had been knocked out by the gas station workers after she managed to escape the rape and drive away. But he... doesn't seem to care at all. He's more like "Oh yeah, those two! They do that sometimes!" What the heck? Isn't he supposed to, I dunno, CONFRONT them? Instead of brushing it off as no big deal?

Anyway to make matters more confusing, I often get Chandra West mixed up with another person living in the house played by Carrie Anne Fleming. The two resemble each other a lot. In fact there's a reason they both resemble each other besides just looking similar- they both talk in a seductive kind of way, and with the low budget flow of the storyline and film overall it really makes the beginning of the Tooth Fairy seem like it's in the process of setting up a sexual scene and that this is an adult movie. Even the sexual music that plays while the family is eating dinner makes one wonder where this movie is going. It's all very weird to me!

However ignoring all that, the film does improve quite a bit. Whereas it turns out the gas stations workers are nothing more than a couple knucklehead pests that come across more threatening than they really are, it's still surprising in one scene when they flat out smack Chandra in the face along with her husband (Lochlyn Munro) only for the husband to suddenly get up and lay the two out. They AGAIN brush it off as no big deal in the later scene. Not to mention these two actually tried raping the woman earlier in the movie. Some seriously bad writing taking place here! And since I'm on a roll here noticing all kinds of problems, why is there so many people living in the house? Of course they are only there to provide more juicy deaths by the witch but their actual reason for being there is puzzling unless it was mentioned somewhere and I missed it.

However let's mention more important aspects of this movie...

Basically the little girl Nicole Munoz is the star. She actually deserves to be the one who gets the most attention because she's the only character who actually acts normal and sensible. She portrays herself as a typical kid interested in Harry Potter films and initially thinks the story of a witch in the area provides entertainment instead of feeling threatened when she becomes friends with a "girl" around her age that lives in the neighborhood who occasionally appears and informs Nicole of a tooth-collecting witch. Now if I was a little 10-year old girl I'd probably be freaked out by such news, but Nicole's brave and doesn't seem to mind... initially.

Anyway another unusual feature is that despite the low budget quality of the movie, it's surprising that the deaths themselves are REALLY graphic and bloody (especially the bedroom scene when the one character is chained to the wall and has her guts pouring out onto the floor- shown in all its graphic glory). Hilarious that Lochlyn Munro actually thinks it's an accident when another character gets shoved in a woodchipper. He clearly sees all the blood when he opens the garage door and turns the light on, yet he somehow comes to the conclusion it's an accident. Right.

Overall this is a great horror with a LOT of flaws. It's a minor miracle I'm not giving it a lower rating. The presence of the witch appearing unpredictably in her mission to collect teeth offers enough entertainment to win me over, and the brutal and bloody murder segments are of high enough quality that I enjoy the movie overall but expect illogical moments to occur quite often.

Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos
Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos
Offered by g d r
Price: $399.99
86 used & new from $6.73

4.0 out of 5 stars ninja-ing up again, September 8, 2014
An improvement over the original Ninja Gaiden due to being slightly more manageable and not as luck-based, but still flawed in the extreme difficulty department because seriously, who wants to play a game so challenging more than once a year? The enemies seem to take a turn for the worse- they seem smaller overall and less interesting to admire with their weaker animations this time around, and of course the music is *nowhere* as legendary as in the original.

However the gameplay and specifically the level design is where the sequel shines much higher than the original. You go through train levels, waterfall areas, fire-scrolling background stages which are all phenomenal to look at with familiar city street and cave areas as well. The boss fights are excruciatingly hard just like in the original but often times you feel like there's an element of skill involved while battling them if you're willing to give them a chance. With some of the bosses in the original Ninja Gaiden you have to tightly grip your controller hoping you're able to take them out before they take YOU out. The sequel is ever so slightly more forgiving in that regard.

The storyline is this games biggest improvement. I seriously couldn't understand the story in the first game at all. Now I can plainly tell it's about a ninja having to stop demons from turning the world into eternal darkness. Nothing flashy and certainly nothing I haven't heard a million times already in plenty of other video games, but I suppose the Ninja Gaiden series was one of the first to utilize cutscenes in between completed levels which is an idea that is WAY too common nowadays (a negative influence). Still, an influence is an influence and such a concept supposedly began with the Ninja Gaiden series so I have to give the game props for that.

I do unfortunately have to stand by the high difficulty being the main reason I never feel like playing the Ninja Gaiden series, so I believe it's highly recommended if you're interested in old school NES games to seek elsewhere such as the Mega Man, Mario, Zelda, Metroid and Punch Out series which are all certainly beatable. There's no guarantees you'll beat this game. Then if you wish to progress down harder territory check out Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden. Overall not a bad game at all and the levels are quite fun. Just a ninja with a sword, fast-paced action like in the original and a pretty fun time.

12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave
DVD ~ Chiwetel Ejiofor
Price: $11.99
42 used & new from $4.73

5.0 out of 5 stars 12 years of brutal punishment, September 6, 2014
This review is from: 12 Years a Slave (DVD)
12 Years a Slave is a REALLY tough film to watch. It's an emotional rollercoaster ride as the character of Chiwetel Ejiofor gets tortured time and time again all because he was promised a shot at a circus only to wake up and find out he'd been drugged, chained and locked in a dingy dark room since the supposed circus entertainers are nothing more than slave traders. He's soon shipped to a Louisiana plantation. He has to persevere some extremely harsh predicaments such as whippings, endless farming with other slaves, constant yelling and threats, forced to entertain white folks with his violin talents, getting acquainted with fellow slaves who have their own hardships, etc.

This is a tough movie to watch simply because the acting is so phenomenal and believable you'd swear these events are actually happening right now. Some of the most shocking and gruesome slave torturing I've ever seen in a slave film. You really feel for the one black girl in particular named Lupita Nyong'o who's so small and helpless and yet when she disobeys the white family who owns her in one segment, she gets the beating of her life. You really feel anger that the man beating her shows no sympathy whatsoever and instead keeps screaming over and over about how she was wrong for what she did and needed punished as a result. Anyone with a brain should understand human beings shouldn't be treated this way and yet, slavery's been going on for hundreds of years. Unbelievable. Man the blood flying from the intensity of the whippings with each swing... this is VERY shocking.

Anyway Chiwetel Ejiofor's character begs and pleads that he has a family and he's a free man, but of course the slave owners give him their own name, make him a slave and tell him to forget about his past since it doesn't matter anymore. I knew the character played by Paul Dano would end up being a no good son of a gun based on his jealous attitude towards Chiwetel whenever he'd display his house building talents and other contributions, and sure enough Paul starts making trouble. However how great was it when Chitwetel kicked Paul Dano's rear-end hard and whipped him silly! Talk about letting out necessary aggression! For a few minutes you really feel satisfaction that Chiwetel would have this one golden moment of bliss. Of course we all knew Chiwetel would have to pay a horrible price for disobeying his white owner (that results in quite the shocking moment involving a hanging that extends for several agonizing minutes- VERY uncomfortable watching this part) but yeah, that one moment with Paul Dano getting beat sure was great!

There's rape scenes, suicidal requests, torture the likes of which I've never seen previously in other slave movies and this movie is not for the weak-minded at all. Whether this kind of torture and mistreatment happened as violently as portrayed in 12 Years a Slave remains questionable for some, but I believe it's mostly true. Hey the story's based off the real-life story of slave Solomon Northup that he experienced in the 1850's, so we really have no choice but to believe this incredibly depressing display of slavery is in fact realistic. What a shame. Hard giving such a movie 5 stars when you despise what the story's about and presented with realistic portrayals, but I was focused watching the movie the entire way through so it succeeds in strongly keeping my interest.

Ninja Gaiden
Ninja Gaiden
88 used & new from $8.85

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars big bad ninja dude, September 5, 2014
This review is from: Ninja Gaiden (Video Game)
Ninja Gaiden isn't worthy of classic status like the many online reviewers have been telling me I'm afraid. I had no idea this game was some kind of cinematic adventure with emphasis on story elements. I'd have rather the game just focused on the levels themselves and skipped over the storyline completely since it's uninteresting, confusing, needlessly character-oriented and unnecessarily elaborate for such a short game (less than an hour long).

Not only that but the story elements play similar to reading a comic book and let me tell ya something, I *hate* comic books since I can almost never find myself feeling connected with the characters. I don't care what happens to Ryu (the ninja), his father, the masked devil, the demon statues or the black moon. All this nonsense would've been better off dismissed.

Anyway the levels themselves are alright but then another problem arises- the challenge is so high that it's impossible to really enjoy the experience. If animals and birds aren't charging you from behind at lightning speed giving you no time to respond, it seems that whenever you're about to land safely on a platform below, it's at that exact point an enemy makes a surprise appearance and a cheap attack on you. It's really annoying how these two scenarios happen time and time again so I really have no choice but to deduct points on the overall rating for that.

Your ninja character gets a sword and he's very efficient with it. His ability to climb walls reminds me of the Mega Man X series and I love it since it's a nifty way to get around. The gameplay moves at a remarkably fast pace which has to be somewhat of a surprise considering the year this game was released is 1989 and most gaming characters were still slow at that point (especially NES ones). The enemies are quite animated considering the games age and you'll often find kickboxing, axe tossing or bazooka soldiers trying to take you out (and often succeeding!)

The boss fights is where the challenge gets downright crazy and impossible for someone of average gaming skills (like me). The last few bosses will bring even the best gamers to tears since the game is all about lucking out and hoping their attacks don't hit you before you hit them. That's basically the key to the entire game in fact- move fast, stay ahead and be in control. Otherwise you'll fall behind and take unnecessary hits from the swarming enemy danger. Perhaps if the game was more generous with your life meter and let you take at least 10 hits before death it wouldn't have been a problem. The music is mostly forgettable except for a couple themes, and the levels are nothing but basic areas such as caves, snow, city streets, oceans, mountains, etc.

Overall a decent game but honestly I prefer Castlevania's challenge more.

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