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Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (Widescreen Edition)
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ Ewan McGregor
Offered by PRIME LINE
Price: $42.09
201 used & new from $0.61

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Attack of the CGI, October 27, 2005
Not so long ago, in a galaxy very near, there lived a young man who easily met the criteria for what many would call a bona fide, unabashed Star Wars geek. Large posters covered his walls, volumes of technical guides packed his bookcases, and untold thousands of dollars were invested in armadas of toys, games and collectibles that buckled the shelves of his cabinets. But that was before the dark time, before the prequels...

Yes, it was I who could never look at Star Wars the same way again after a film called "Episode I: The Phantom Menace" forever contaminated my vision of a wonderful fantasy world. I will not deny that I am pre-partial to the original trilogy, however, that does not mean I cannot be objective. Even when I momentarily force myself to forget that what is now known as the "original trilogy" ever existed, it does nothing to make me see the prequels in a different light; for my penchant for Episodes IV through VI has little to do with sentimentality. There are those who say that one must judge the prequels on their own merits, rather than measure them against the imposing shadow of the legendary initial three. Though viable arguments have been made that the prequels have few merits, the fact remains that this is allegedly the continuation of ONE story, thus it should seamlessly meld with its antecedent, not only in flavor in texture, but in quality and substance. Unfortunately, in any one of these facets, the prequels are jaggedly connected to the original by nothing more than a thin layer of cheap glue. This second installment of the prequels only further degrades any modicum of adhesive that remained when the credits rolled at the end of "The Phantom Menace".

Now that I have finished my rant/preface, I will take a brief respite to delineate the storyline and describe the film's few virtues.

"Episode II: Attack of the Clones" picks up 10 years after the events of "The Phantom Menace" and opens with the attempted assassination of the now Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman). Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his apprentice, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), are assigned to protect the Senator and investigate who is behind the wet work. Obviously, this sets the stage for the now adult Anakin - who looks, acts and sounds like the clichéd hot-head protagonist from any piece of random sappy anime - to slide, not so gracefully, into the obligatory romance with the girl he befriended as a little boy ("Just being around her again is intoxicating"). However, before Anakin can woo the future mother of Luke and Leia with Casanova-caliber lines such as "Your skin is smooth, not rough like sand", he must first assist Obi-Wan to chase down Padme's would-be assassin in a protracted non-interactive video game sequence through the "sky streets" of Coruscant. Soon after, Obi and Ani are forced to split up - Obi plays galactic detective to get to the bottom of the assassination plot, and Ani takes the Senator to Naboo for a roll in the hay under the guise of "protector". A little further into the film, we learn that bounty hunter Jango Fett (who, as I'll explain later, is like a diamond in a coal mine) has not only been hired to ice Padme, but has been used as the template for a secret clone army. After Anakin (growing ever closer to the "Dark Side") and Padme take a quick trip down memory lane on Tatooine, the rest of the pace-less film is comprised mostly of alternately satisfying/excessive action sequences and vague and incoherent - when not predictable - plot progression.

If George Lucas betrayed his sacred credo of "story first, special effect second" in "The Phantom Menace", he has sold out to the Dark Side, wholesale, this time around. In no previous film have I witnessed such a tacky and excessive use of digital technology. No less than 90% of the exterior settings - and much of the interior settings - are comprised of CGI-looking CGI, and that's not even counting all of the cartoonish computer-animated creatures and vehicles. At least in TPM, the visual effects were used sparingly enough to maintain some vestige of believability. But AOTC reminds me more of a sequel to "What Dreams May Come". However, the nadir of this veritable cyber rape has to be Yoda, who, for some bassackward reason, is a completely computer-animated character this time around and looks and acts nothing like the venerable Jedi Master from Episodes V and VI. Then again, as I pointed at earlier, little in the prequels looks or feels like it did in the OT.

And that brings me to the acting. As in the first prequel, the performances are, for the most part, wooden and give little incentive to care for the characters. Whereas Ewan McGregor's crackerjack performance is a pleasant exception (though I still can't make the Alec Guiness connection), Natalie Portman's sleepwalk through the film is the apotheosis of the rule. Not a moment of her on-camera time goes by that she does not appear that she would rather be almost anywhere else doing almost anything else. This may not be far from the truth, as she herself has admitted that Star Wars is "not her thing." Little wonder, then, why her lines are delivered with roughly the same sincerity as a fast-food chain's perfunctory "Have a nice day." I will not say that she is not a talented young actress, but I think it is apparent that Star Wars is most definitely "not her thing."

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention John Williams' score, which, although not one of his best, is still one of the few palliative aspects of the film. Unfortunately, some of the score's best cues have been completely omitted from the film and tastelessly replaced by an incongruous cue cut and pasted from the Episode I score.

In spite of the film's many flaws, there is at least one element that is perfect. Though it is an irony of ironies, the fact remains that my favorite character in the entire Star Wars saga comes from perhaps its weakest installment. That character is none other than Jango Fett. Not only does he wear armor that I can only describe as "ultra cool", he is masterfully portrayed by New Zealander Temuera Morrison in a performance that I honestly believe is Academy Award worthy. In his all too brief on-camera time (probably less than 10 minutes total), Morrison's Jango Fett exhibits more intensity and character complexity than the sum of every other character in the film combined. The relationship between he and his cloned son (future bounty hunter Boba Fett) is completely believable and one of the few devices that actually works in the film. Though laconic with little dialogue to begin with, Jango has one of the best lines in the entire SW saga, let alone the prequels, with his "Always a pleasure to meet a Jedi." I only wish I could still share that sentiment.


All Star Baseball 2004 NGC
All Star Baseball 2004 NGC
Offered by DealTavern
Price: $34.49
40 used & new from $0.50

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bring Back the Long Sleeves, February 28, 2003
From what I have seen, "All-Star Baseball 2004" has all the elements which made its predecessors the best baseball franchise in the digital world - plus infinitely more! I am almost losing sleep, waiting to play it! I can only hope that Acclaim has rectified the major flaw in "All Star Baseball 2003": no long sleeves. "All Star Baseball 2002" had them! Why not last year's installment? The players sporting long sleeves in the inclimate weather made the game much more realistic.


The X-Files - The Complete Sixth Season
The X-Files - The Complete Sixth Season
DVD ~ David Duchovny
21 used & new from $13.05

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mulder and Scully Hit the Fan, Tons of Smoke From Cancer Man, February 18, 2003
Perhaps the best of the nine, "The X-Files" sixth season may also be the most pivotal. Peppering revelations aplenty, the series picks up where the season five finale "The End" and 1998 feature film left off. In the season opener, "The Beginning", special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) must save a young psychic boy - who may hold the key to all the X-Files - from the clutches of the insidious shadow government. Struggling to be reassigned to the now-closed X-Files, Mulder and Scully must also solve the mystery of a deadly creature lurking in the Arizona desert, all the while fighting through the flak of the FBI's new assistant director, A.D. Kersh (James Pickens Jr.).
All the elements X-Files enthusiasts have come to love return with even more vigor this time around. The anchor of the entire series, the inimitable chemistry between Mulder and Scully, is taken to amusing new heights in ths sixth season. The hard-nosed but likeable Walter Skinner (Mitch Pillegi) is back and bucking the Bureau, and Mulder's ever-enigmatic arch-nemesis, Cancer Man (William B. Davis), blows more smoke than ever. You can also expect the usual barrage of complex, poly-syllable sentences spewed by our protagonists, a flotilla of in-jokes, and plenty of sci-fi derivative - in this case, derivative is not a bad word.
By the sixth season, "The X-Files" had been firmly established as a television phenomenon, granting creator Chris Carter free reign to tinker with the series. Carter exploited this ability to the hilt, as evidenced by several lighthearted episodes, like the highly experimental ode to Hitchock's "Rope", "Triangle", the wonderfully twisted yuletide tale "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas", and the hilarious "Dreamland", a situation comedy in which Mulder swaps bodies with an Area 51 employee! The satirical statement on conformist suburban life, "Arcadia", is another standout - replete with signature Mulder and Scully moments, "Arcadia" finds our two favorite FBI agents posing as man and wife to investigate strange disappearances in a planned community. Although season six of "The X-Files" lets its hair down long enough to have fun, the focus shifts back to the primary alien/government conspiracy plot in "Biogenesis", completing the season with a resounding bang.
With all the gripping plot-twists and alien abduction action, there are still a few bad apples in the season (as with any television series). However, the sixth year of "The X-Files" serves as a stable bridge to the memorable final three seasons and compelling finale.
Remember, "The Truth is out there."


Congo
Congo
DVD ~ Laura Linney
178 used & new from $0.01

6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Gongo Show, February 16, 2003
This review is from: Congo (DVD)
Huh? What is this muddled piece of recycled Saturday matinee hutzpah director Frank "wanna-be-Spielberg" Marshall has tortured his unfortunate victims with? I know Hollywood is driven by an avaricious legion of money-grubbers ready to foist any plot-poor mélange on an unsuspecting audience, but this must be the pinnacle of impudence!
Anyway, this liberally adapted aberration of Michael Crichton's best selling novel follows an expedition into the Varunga region of the Congo by a disparate group of adventurers, each with their own agenda. We have the good boy primatologist (Dylan Walsh) who only wants to return Amy - a silverback gorilla with the ability to speak, via a computerized sign language device - to her jungle abode (I am feeling all warm and fuzzy). We have the high-tech gadget wielding Dr. Karen Ross (Laura Linney), searching for a lost team of diamond-hunters from her communications company. We have the Great "White" Hunter (Ernie Hudson), who, despite being black, manages to survive a Hollywood film all the way through the closing credits! Then there is Herkermer Homolka (say that five times fast), a paltering Romanian in search of King Solomon's Mines when he should be in search of a good face-lift. Played by Tim Curry, Homolka distorts his face into ungodly deformations that would make Jim Carry jealous! The clincher is when Curry says "Every word of it was absooooluuuutely true." Do not even get me started on his accent! Oh, by the way, our heroes run into some bloodthirsty, person-in-a-suit, killer gorillas along the way.
As bad as "Congo" was, I still had fun watching the mishmash of cast members like the odd-looking Grant Heslov (he is always in these kinds of films), Joe Don Baker (reprising his role of a tough redneck for the umpteenth time), and the ever amusing, comic book hero-visaged Bruce Campbell! The acting and dialogue is embarrassing; my face was blushing for the actors. Director Frank Marshall may be thought of as a poor man's Steven Spielberg, but in this case, he is a dead man's Steven Spielberg. The pace of the film is non-existent, and there are absolutely no surprises to compensate for John Patrick Shannley's inane screenplay. Only lush African scenery and Jerry Goldsmith's crackerjack score deliver this turkey from the bowels of a one-star rating. By the time you reach the "big climax" (considering you have not pressed the eject button by this point), you are left wandering just what was the point - to use up a few excess rounds of prop ammunition, maybe? The celluloid that was wasted on this film could have been used to make a good nature film about REAL gorillas. Heck, gorillas themselves could have made a better a film! The catch line for the film was "Where you are the endangered species", but it is boondoggles like "Congo" that should be on the endangered species list.


The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project
DVD ~ Heather Donahue
Price: $4.49

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Film Student Experiment, January 26, 2003
This review is from: The Blair Witch Project (DVD)
Student filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez have delivered a quaint, spooky little tale with a budget tantamount to the price of catering a single meal for the cast of a standard Hollywood film. "The Blair Witch Project" follows the misadventures of a trio of film students (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams), who armed with two video cameras, set out to make a documentary based on an eerie Burkittsville, Maryland folk legend. Not far into an excursion through a secluded woods, their playful enthusiasm gives way to tension and terror, as they find themselves lost, someone - or some thing - stalking them every step of the way.
Relying on a paper-thin plot barely sustained by realistic emotion and situations, "The Blair Witch Project" generates its effectiveness by exploiting what most big budget films consider taboo - raw, shaky camera work, unheard-of actors, believable premise, and zero usage of special effects. The environment selected for the shoot, virgin of set decorators and flashy lighting techniques, captures the essence of an ominous forest perfectly - I kind of like it because it bears a startling resemblance to my favorite place to hike! The acting, which demonstrates the mental breakdown of the characters, is quite convincing, especially Heather Donahue (recently seen in Steven Spielberg's Sci-Fi Channel miniseries "Taken"). While the incessant arguing of the three tends to become a trifle vexing, it actually imbues the film with a higher degree of realism. If you were lost in a cold, damp forest for days, hungry and thirsty, being followed by a psychotic killer or other entity with the intent to harm, would you be leisurely skipping, beaming a robust smile? Still does not explain why they never took a cellular telephone...
"The Blair Witch Project" is not really scary - spooky, but not scary. Over hyped and hardly a "Citizen Kane", but still worth a peek for its unique approach. A fun film for amateur filmmakers to watch.


Star Wars: Bounty Hunter
Star Wars: Bounty Hunter
Offered by CaveGamers
Price: $78.39
64 used & new from $7.83

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the Hunt, January 24, 2003
Become Jango Fett, the toughest, most efficient, ruthless, cunning - and sleekest looking - bounty hunter to ever stalk a quarry, in this exciting adventure game from the Jedi Knights at Lucas Arts. "Star Wars: Bounty Hunter" takes place between the first two Star Wars prequels and follows Jango as he is employed by Darth Tyranus to track down and eliminate a deranged renegade Jedi who has become leader of a mysterious cult called the Bando Gora. Sandwiched between action-packed blaster-fests and bounty hunting exploits, you will learn much about Jango's past, find out how he came into possession of the Slave I, and run into familiar and new characters alike, such as Jango's arch-nemesis Montross, and the eccentric Toydarian, Rozatta. The cinema scene graphics are astounding, some rivaling the grandeur of the actual Star Wars films. The story, which reveals how Jango was selected to be the template for the clone army seen in "Episode II - Attack of the Clones", is very engaging, inspiring the impetus to complete each level in order to progress the plot. Temuera Morrison, the actor who portrayed Jango in "Attack of the Clones", lends additional realism by providing the voice for the title character. The no-nonsense Jango never deviates from his hard-boiled, adamantine persona. For the soundtrack, George Lucas' little helpers at the Skywalker Ranch have culled some of the most adrenaline-pumping action cues from John Williams' orchestral arsenal.
The 18 stages (six chapters of three stages) thrust you through a variety of planets and environments within the Star Wars universe, each with its own unique quality. Coruscant and Tatooine look as if they have been fused directly from the films, and the moon of Bogden has a deliciously dark atmosphere. The gameplay and graphics bear much resemblance to earlier Lucas Arts Star Wars games, especially "Shadows of the Empire" (another great). Because the game was designed by the same people who brought you the films, you know it will have that signature Star Wars look and feel. To assist you on the hunt, several weapons and nifty devices are at your disposal - love that jetpack! Each stage offers just the right amount of corridor trekking and shoot-em-up laser battles to keep you enthralled. Although the game is challenging, all of the bosses are pushovers, and the final stage is one of the easiest. Unfortunately, much of challenge comes from undesirable play control and disorienting camera angles. The cinema scene graphics are, as Darth Vader would say, "most impressive", but the stage graphics are barely 64-bit caliber. The game also suffers from a lack of variety in game play - you are circumscribed to working Jango through run-of-the-mill, jump, climb and fight-laden, semi-maze stages. It would have been nice to play at least one stage in which you control the Slave I starship. The object of hunting for optional secondary bounties seems to be a prefabricated gimmick thrown in to compensate for gameplay shortcomings. Although the flaws seem many, it does little to scuttle the overall amusement derived from playing the game. If you like the Star Wars universe, this game will not disappoint.
"Star Wars: Bounty Hunter" also features a wealth of extras which are unlocked as you complete stages or collect secrets. These extras are: pages from the Dark Horse "Jango Fett" comic book; Wizards of the Coast Trading Cards; concept art; and several hilarious outtakes, like Jango struggling with his props, and Montross (voice of actor Clancy Brown) complaining because he was too old to play Anakin Skywalker in the films!
Perhaps I am a trifle biased because Jango Fett is my favorite character in the Star Wars universe, but I found "Star Wars: Bounty Hunter" to be even more entertaining than the first two prequels.


Celebrating 70: Mark McGwire's Historic Season
Celebrating 70: Mark McGwire's Historic Season
by Ron Smith
Edition: Hardcover
59 used & new from $0.58

5.0 out of 5 stars Mark McGwire's 70 Comes Alive!, September 18, 2002
Relive Mark McGwire's historic 1998 assault on the single season home run record with this magnificent book overflowing with full-color photos and amusing anecdotes. "Celebrating 70" charts the slugger's season, home run for home run, and features a bevy of information - complete with pictures - including the date of each long ball, the distance, and which pitcher was christened with the dubious distinction of yielding one of Big Mac's clouts! Along the way, you can read a brief summary for each game McGwire applied his trade. The pictures have been well chosen, conveying the emotion of each moment. The text matches the shear exuberance of the images, and Jack Buck's forward is simply splendid.


Celebrating 70: Mark McGwire's Historic Season
Celebrating 70: Mark McGwire's Historic Season
by Ron Smith
Edition: Hardcover
59 used & new from $0.58

5.0 out of 5 stars Mark McGwire's 70 Comes Alive!, September 18, 2002
Relive Mark McGwire's historic 1998 assault on the single season home run record with this magnificent book overflowing with full-color photos and amusing anecdotes. "Celebrating 70" charts the slugger's season, home run for home run, and features a bevy of information - complete with pictures - including the date of each long ball, the distance, and which pitcher was christened with the dubious distinction of yielding one of Big Mac's clouts! Along the way, you can read a brief summary for each game McGwire applied his trade. The pictures have been well chosen, conveying the emotion of each moment. The text matches the shear exuberance of the images, and Jack Buck's forward is simply splendid.


Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (Widescreen Edition)
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ Ewan McGregor
Offered by PRIME LINE
Price: $58.60
108 used & new from $5.93

3.0 out of 5 stars The Force is Not as Strong With This One, September 17, 2002
When George Lucas decided to make the first prequel to the original "Star Wars" trilogy, devotees of the saga waited years with much anticipation for its release. When the time finally arrived, massive crowds gathered outside theatres, some waiting in protracted lines for days in advance, ready to once again enter that "galaxy far, far away" as soon as the doors opened. However, "Episode I - The Phantom Menace" left many die-hards of Lucas' space opera unsatisfied and disappointed. Not because it is a bad film, but because it lacks most of the elements which made the original trilogy the superb classic it is.
Set decades before the unforgettable Blockade Runner star-fight scene which kicked off the series in "Episode IV - A New Hope", "The Phantom Menace" finds a young Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his mentor, Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), sent as diplomats to settle a trade dispute between the Galactic Trade Federation and the planet Naboo. Before the negotiations even begin, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon must brandish their lightsabers to battle droids, as the Galactic Trade Federation - used as puppets by Darth Sidious for a more sinister agenda - launches an invasion of Naboo. After the planet is seized by an army of Battle Droids, the two Jedi must rescue Naboo's adolescent queen - and future mother of Luke Skywalker - Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), and escort her through a conflict-ridden journey to the Galactic Republic capitol, the planet Coruscant. Along the way, they are accompanied by the boy who's fate we all know, Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), a loquacious - and annoying - Gungan, Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), and those two lovable droids, C-3PO and R2-D2 (Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker).
There is plenty to enjoy in the first installment of the "Star Wars" prequels, like the exciting and fast-paced pod race sequence, action-packed star-fights, John Williams' impeccable - as always - score (one of his best!), and a spectacular, creatively-choreographed lightsaber battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, and the Sith, Darth Maul. Unfortunately, the film seems homogenized, foisting special effects and laser battles in lieu of heart and imagination. The story is not engaging. Because you already know the fates of most of the characters, it seems somewhat pointless and redundant - ostensibly, George Lucas had dollar signs on his mind instead of devoted fans of the saga while writing the screenplay. The characters, although likeable, lack depth and dimensionality; the performances are adequate but never exhibited spirit and empathy. The dialogue is clichéd and banal. Lastly, the visual effects (courtesy of Industrial Light and Magic) are as impressive as ever, but the starships and vehicles do not meet the stunning originality of the designs seen in episodes IV through VI.
There is a lack of cohesion between "The Phantom Menace" and the original trilogy. Although part of the same body of work, they feel somehow disjointed. Perhaps the prequel is best viewed as a separate entity, not existing in the same world with the saga that began "A long time ago". George Lucas' vision is not how I wanted the "Star Wars" saga to begin.


Michael Crichton's Jurassic World
Michael Crichton's Jurassic World
by Michael Crichton
Edition: Hardcover
35 used & new from $38.87

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Have If You Like the Films, September 16, 2002
Michael Crichton's popular Jurassic Park novels that spawned two blockbuster motion pictures are together, uncut and unabridged, in this spectacular book. If you liked either one of the Steven Spielberg films, this is definitely a must-have, both as companion for the films and for its literary value.
I am part of the iconoclastic ilk who believe a film can be better than the book. Michael Crichton's "Jurassic Park" is an example. And that is not knocking Michael by any means. The novel - written three years before the film version - is packed with far more scientific facts, fascinating theories, and interesting techno-babble than the motion picture ever could. Reading "Jurassic Park" is almost like a crash course in paleontology and DNA. However, that aspect of the book giveth and taketh away. Too often it gets bogged down in a superfluity of sometimes boring scientific jargon. The last 15% of the book is slow-going, and the ending is anticlimactic. But there are plenty of adventure/suspense elements and compelling characters (most of which appear in the film) that made this so attractive for motion picture studios. Crichton has a keen ability to delineate vivid images of the dinosaurs. He also has a knack for writing amusing dialogue. The computer screen illustrations lend much-needed visual aid, and it is fun to watch the fractals of Ian Malcolm's "Chaos Theory" grow from chapter to chapter. The pros (and prose) of this book far outweigh the cons.
Now, all those literary purests should be pacified. I think "The Lost World" is far superior to the film (of course, it is almost impossible for it not to be). This is one of those rare books that I actually have trouble putting down before I finish - spent thirteen hours straight reading it. If you can get through an oppressive section early on, the rest of the book is fast-paced and compelling. The plot of the novel is far more credible than the film, and is spared that ridiculous scene in which tyrannosaurus rex wreaks havoc in San Diego. Interestingly, there are fewer characters in the book than in the film. Jack Thorne almost seems like a reverse composite character. A lot of the dialogue in "The Lost World" is comic book caliber, and Crichton occasionally digresses into the tedious scientific lectures prevalent in "Jurassic Park", but not nearly to the same extent. Overall, the "Jurassic World" book is a fine read.


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