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Far Cry 4 - PlayStation 3
Far Cry 4 - PlayStation 3
Offered by Just 4 Games
Price: $46.95
43 used & new from $46.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An open-world, first-person-shooter delight., December 9, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
You are Ajay Gale. Returning to the nation of Kyrat to spread your mother's ashes, you immediately encounter the new warlord: Pagan Min, waging a war against the "terrorists" who want to bring him to justice for his crimes against humanity. Pagan is ruthless, he is sarcastic, and he has a history with your mother...not to mention your father, whom he may have had killed. You get caught up with the Golden Path, in an effort to figure out your past and perhaps bring down Pagan Min once and for all.

I bought FAR CRY 3 on a whim, and immediately became hooked. A FPS sandbox game that let me hunt dangerous animals and kill baddies with an assortment of weapons? Sign me up! FARY CRY 4 is that...and more. Because admittedly, with FAR CRY 3, the story was weak; here, the story is actually pretty interesting. Also, the details: I've found myself driving around the countryside just listening to the DJ. His rant about twerking is priceless. And let's not forget the wildlife: bears, tigers, demon fish, honey badgers, eagles that swoop out of nowhere...and trust me, you haven't lived until you've crashed through an enemy encampment riding an elephant, brandishing a machine gun.

I've been playing this game since the day it came out, and I've only progressed a little ways in the main story, because I've been caught up in all the side features. Various quests (hunting, rescue, exploring, etc.) help you flesh out your understanding of the mysterious nation and people of Kyrat. (Also, for some reason, I spent a long time hunting bears for upgrades.) This game is all about fun and versatility. While there are a few glitches (for the life of me, I cannot drive; and somehow, my head manages to wind up turned 90 degrees anytime I hit a tree), the fun outweighs everything else. You've got a vast array of weapons, and a nice supply of enemies and wildlife to shoot them at. (Kudos to the bow upgrade; you only get four weapon slots, and one of mine is reserved for that bow.) The graphics are great, and the whole thing screams "replay value." I'm a baseball fanatic, and was looking for something to keep me going through the offseason; FAR CRY 4 is it. Hell, I'll still be playing come Spring Training. I may even miss a couple of regular season games. And I don't do that for just any video game.

UPDATE: I've finished the main story arc. The ending to the version I chose was just classic; what a great final line. And if you let him, Pagan Min becomes a very well-drawn character (yes; you have some say in this). He's in the background for most of the game, but he becomes more prominent near the finale, and you truly see the development. If I could trust Hollywood, I'd love to see a film adaptation of this game. The story is very rich and worth your time. I'm not sure I'll spend as much sandbox play in this as I did in Far Cry 3, because the novelty has someone worn off, but I still have a couple of outposts to concur, as well as a palace, and one last item to craft.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 22, 2014 7:09 AM PST


Guardians of the Galaxy (3D Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital Copy)
Guardians of the Galaxy (3D Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital Copy)
DVD ~ Chris Pratt
Price: $19.99
15 used & new from $19.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 stars: Pure, unadulterated entertainment., December 9, 2014
They're a band of misfits: a Terran mercenary; the emissary of a vicious warlord; a brutal prisoner bent on vengeance; and a conniving raccoon and his partner who's...mostly a tree. Thrown together in the hunt for a mysterious orb, they are forced to band together to stop a rogue madman bent on destroying worlds. In the process, they'll come to know each other, find what's really worth fighting for, and listen to some rockin' tunes.

Remember THE AVENGERS? How Joss Whedon weaved together a world that was both fun and serious, with humor and heart and something truly at stake? GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is all of that, minus the real danger. Oh, it starts out with you at the edge of your seats; but by the halfway point, when things start to take their ultimate shape, you understand that this isn't THAT kind of movie. Which, you know what, is okay. Sometimes, it's good to just have some fun. You've got a wisecracking raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper; what more could you want from life?

The cast is strong. Chris Pratt solidifies his star power as the leader of our misfits, with Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Cooper and Vin Diesel (in voice roles, although Diesel is almost a non-presence) holding their own as his counterparts. Lee Pace makes a menacing villain, until he has nothing left to do but grunt and make menacing gestures. Michael Rooker was a welcome surprise (as he usually is), and Glen Close, John C. Reilly, and Djimon Hounsou do great in their small roles. (Also: look for Josh Brolin. That's all I'm gonna say.) The real scene-stealer is Benicio del Toro, who only has one scene (minus the post credits scene, which is just dandy) but pretty much steals the whole movie with his performance. Which is basically par for the course.

James Gunn has proven before that he's a director to watch; SLITHER remains a personal favorite of mine. He knows how to make movies fun. There's not much truly at stake in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, which is a bit of a downfall (hence the half-star); however, this movie is fun, fun, fun. You know how it'll end up, but at least you've got a ragtag bunch of antiheroes to root for. Also, the soundtrack, which actually plays a significant role in the film. Put in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, sit back, have some popcorn, maybe a beer if you're of age and mind, and just enjoy.


Revival: A Novel
Revival: A Novel
by Stephen King
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.04
96 used & new from $12.70

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Something happened...", December 7, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Revival: A Novel (Hardcover)
A shadow falls across a young boy playing in the dirt. The boy is Jamie Morton, an ordinary young boy growing up in small-town Maine. The shadow belongs to Reverend Charles Jacobs, new to the town and hoping to fit in with his wife and young son. What Jamie does not know is that his destiny is entwined with that of Jacobs, and the two will bounce each other throughout the rest of their lives, as Jacobs looks to turn a personal tragedy into a triumph of science...and the consequences be damned.

Stephen King's REVIVAL is, hands down, the best work he's given us in a long time. It's even better than the stellar MR. MERCEDES, or the killer first hundred pages of DOCTOR SLEEP. You don't fully appreciate how utterly relentless the story is until the last 30-40 pages, when King pulls out the ace he's been hiding and throws it in your face, then smirks as you shudder in fear. I've been a fan of King's for years now; some of his novels have unsettled me, though honestly I tend to read him more for his craft and character development. REVIVAL unnerved me; dare I say, it actually scared me? I fully expect to have nightmares in the coming days. (Fun fact: the only other King books to actually give me nightmares were PET 'SEMETARY and, for some reason, BAG OF BONES.) It's something of a slow-burner, with a sense of dread underneath every word. It's Stephen King paying homage to Lovecraft and so many others, authors whose work still resonates today. The title is fitting: a fantastic, terrifying return to he gut-wrenching horror that made King popular in the first place. Be forewarned: REVIVAL offers you truth...but no mercy.


The Expendables 3 [Blu-ray]
The Expendables 3 [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger
Price: $19.96
28 used & new from $14.29

4.0 out of 5 stars "Now they're the Deletables.", December 5, 2014
They're back. They're older and tougher and crazier than ever, and they're still led by the incomparable Barney Ross. But on their latest gig, Ross discovers that the target is an old friend of his: Conrad Stonebanks (this, from the writer who once played the Italian Stallion), who helped form the Expendables but then went rogue. Well, the mission goes disastrously wrong, and Ross is forced to hire a new crew. Because when Harrison Ford tells you you're too old, you're too damn old.

But when the new crew attempts to capture Conrad Stonebanks (gotta say the whole name), things go wrong yet again, and the old guys must show the kids a few new tricks. Like you've known all along would happen. There's nothing new in THE EXPENDABLES 3. Oh, a couple new faces: some younger ones, plus Ford, Kelsey Grammar, and Wesley Snipes (who's still got it, by the way). And the returning crew: Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Couture, Statham, Crewes, Lundgren, Lee. They're all here for your entertainment: your unadulterated, purely for the love of it entertainment.

You'll notice I left a couple key names out of the above cast. Antonio Banderas is just...he's just awesome. He spouts line after line with a grin on his face, then lapses into a serious moment, then kills a room full of baddies and quips another line. Pure B-grade gold. And Mel Gibson...his resurgence as a schlock villain is brilliant. He knows we hate him, and he's a good enough actor to parlay that into cartoonish overacting that never once misses the mark. He's the perfect guy to play a man named Conrad Stonebanks in a film that isn't X-rated, and he relishes every moment he gets. Plus, he and Stallone have great chemistry; you actually believe there's a past between the two, and that they'd do anything to kill the other.

Overall, if you haven't seen an EXPENDABLES movie before, don't start here. Start with 2, because that's the best. Chuck Norris quipping Chuck Norris jokes. Can't beat it. (Although props to Schwarzenegger screaming, "Let's get to the choppa!") And 3 drags in spots, until the story really gets going; then it just doesn't stop. It's good B-grade entertainment; also, hopefully the last in the series, because anything else wouldn't be pushing the envelope, it'd be breaking it. But if you're gonna end it, this is a good way to go.


Sin City: A Dame to Kill For [Blu-ray]
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Jessica Alba
Price: $24.96
29 used & new from $15.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "This rotten town...it soils everybody.", December 4, 2014
Sin City: where you find what you want, and learn you don't want it at all. Like a reckless gambler who decides to take on the villainous Senator who runs the entire town. Or the P.I., whose ex-lover slips back into his life...with a price. Or the rough-and-tumble Marv, who never wants anything more than to take on someone as strong as himself. Or the stripper, who sought revenge until she found the bottom of the bottle.

Brought to you in the same glaring black and white, the same brilliant splashes of red, SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR is more of the same. Which is both a strength and a weakness. First, the bad: the film feels inferior, because it isn't as fresh. And the ending is surprisingly weak. Also, the time line can be a little confusing, especially because Dwight's plastic surgery doesn't come off as believable (Clive Owen apparently couldn't reprise his role, or wouldn't for a key scene). Hint: most of the film takes place prior to the last one. Fans of the graphic novels might have a better time following the story. I'll get around to reading them some day, I promise; I have a really long to-read list.

Now, the good: it's fun. It's awesome. It's all the bada**ery you'd expect from a Robert Rodriguez/Frank Miller collaboration. And the cast is just terrific. Returning from the original, we have: Mickey Rourke, Powers Boothe (with much more to do, and he does it so exquisitely well), Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis (limited, but welcome), and probably some others; it's a huge cast. The newcomers shine: Josh Brolin holds down a solid portion of the film as the before-Dwight; Eva Green (perhaps the definitive example of a classic actress unafraid to do B-grade entertainment for the fun of it) tantalizes and seduces as the titular dame. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Lloyd, Ray Liotta, Lady Gaga, and Christopher Meloni all help round things out with parts big and small. And Dennis Haysbert does a very good (and intimidating) job of filling in for the late Michael Clarke Duncan.

This isn't a film for movie snobs. It's a film for people who love to have fun...and live dangerously. Robert Rodriguez, apart from his side career as a family film auteur (and frankly I can't stomach them), has made a career out of turning schlock into art. Anyone who hasn't seen DESPERADO should do so pronto and just marvel. SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR isn't on that same level. It isn't even on par with the first SIN CITY film. But DAME is this: bloody, artsy good fun, with a healthy sense of humor and absolutely no mercy. In Sin City, turn down any dark alley and you may find what you want. If you're unlucky enough, you may also find what you need.


The Frangipani Hotel: Fiction
The Frangipani Hotel: Fiction
by Violet Kupersmith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.30
80 used & new from $1.81

5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning debut collection of stories that unsettle, amuse, and enlighten, December 1, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In this mesmerizing, funny, and sometimes terrifying collection, a teenage girl secretly grieving her father's disappearance encounters an old man with a rather strange affliction. A young man working in a run-down Vietnamese hotel strikes up a relationship with an American tourist, and the demonic presence who's taken residence in one of the rooms. Three old friends reenact a secret from the war that has come back to haunt one of them. A girl is shipped off to Vietnam to lose weight on her grandmother's cooking, but finds a mysterious sweets vendor harboring a terrible secret.

Violet Kupermsith's THE FRANGIPANI HOTEL is a stellar, first-rate collection of stories that dip in and out of reality. Purportedly based on legends from Vietnamese folklore (updated for modern times), the stories are poignantly written, blending across genre borderlines into a surrealistic haze that permeates even the more grounded, relationship-driven pieces. Some, such as the stellar "Reception," feel almost like horror tales, while the opener, "Boat Story," is a straight-up fable. "One-Finger" even recalls some of Edgar Allan Poe's atmosphere.

Throughout it all, Kupersmith's writing remains spot-on. She's got wit and charm, and a sympathy for her characters and their (and her) ancestry. There's a lot that can be learned from THE FRANGIPANI HOTEL, but the best thing is, the collection never comes off as didactic. You can read more into these stories if you want (and you should), but you can also take them as spectacular pieces of short fiction. This is one of the few times I've read an author's collection and thought, "I can't wait to see what they've got for us next."


Flings: Stories
Flings: Stories
by Justin Taylor
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.99
77 used & new from $1.26

4.0 out of 5 stars An above-par literary collection., November 28, 2014
This review is from: Flings: Stories (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A franchise restaurant worker struggles with a girl he can never have, and a giant mushroom costume. Two old friends reconnect while working at a summer camp, having drifted apart after a childhood death. A man tries to connect with his grown children at a Phish concert. Former lovers run into each other at a book fair, bringing back painful and confusing memories. A couple decides to be a little too honest with each other.

The characters that inhabit Justin Taylor's aptly-titled FLINGS are realistic, often hilarious, pitiable, alienating. These are men and women maybe you've met, maybe you haven't, but you've certainly heard about them, and there's something about their stories that you can relate to. Taylor's writing is solid; often, literary short stories have a tendency to be written as though they "mean something." Taylor does this occasionally (especially when he starts mixing in Jewish culture, about halfway through the collection), but overall these stories are a solid read. There's not a whole lot that helps this collection stand out, ultimately, except for the humor that pervades a handful of stories; however, unlike with some literary collections, FLINGS is rarely boring and occasionally truly insightful.


Plain Spoken [+digital booklet]
Plain Spoken [+digital booklet]
Price: $9.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "No hopes to get better 'til they put me down to rest", November 9, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Since 2003's TROUBLE NO MORE, Mellencamp has reinvented himself as a veritable folk singer, writing and performing songs of troubled everymen that occasionally philosophize about the state of the nation and/or society. He has a tendency to stretch beyond his reach, but when he plays it close to the chest, he's been hitting solid music gold.

PLAIN SPOKEN is the strongest of these "new" Mellencamp albums. It starts off a somewhat mediocre note ("Sometimes there's God/And sometimes there's not," he croons on the second track, and while it seems poetic at first, after a while you're just like, "Well, yeah"). However, he kicks it into overdrive with "The Isolation of Mister," and album highlights "The Company of Cowards" and "The Brass Ring" (the latter may be one of his best tunes yet). "Freedom of Speech" is a bit obvious and light-hearted, given its company, but otherwise the remaining songs are all strong, culminating with the album's only electrically charged track "Lawless Times," another "well obviously" song that at least has a sense of humor regarding itself.

There are times I long for the Mellencamp of old. But, I suppose, we can always put SCARECROW and AMERICAN FOOL on repeat. PLAIN SPOKEN shows that Mellencamp is still going strong; and now, it's obvious he's making music that's important to him. Whether it's as important to the rest of us as he thinks remains to be seen. However, PLAIN SPOKEN is a solid album with a couple of career songs, and is proof that there may be even more great things to come from the Midwest's poet laureate.


Captain America: The Winter Soldier (DVD)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (DVD)
DVD ~ Chris Evans
Price: $16.99
18 used & new from $14.49

4.0 out of 5 stars A Captain America for the modern times., October 28, 2014
What's life like when you've been frozen for a few decades, then revived to become a champion of the modern era? Complicated. Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans) moonlights as Captain America, except it's really who he is all the time: a popular figure head, bouncing back and forth at the orders of his immediate commander Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). But when he finds himself on a questionable mission, immediately followed by an attack on a key S.H.I.E.L.D. figure, Rodgers must face the ultimate question: has he actually been used as a weapon against freedom?

THE WINTER SOLDIER is a far superior film to its predecessor, which was glamorous and entertaining, but ultimately rather shallow. SOLDIER has some bite; there are genuine repercussions here that will affect Marvel films to come. There's also quite a bit of violence: the slick, stylized action sequences meant to dazzle (and they do), but also a few quick scenes that are actually rather disturbing. There's a moral ambiguity that pervades the film, as the good guys and the bad guys seem to change from scene to scene. It's not truly groundbreaking (come on: at the end of the day, the Cap will come through for us), but it's got some grit that many superhero films seem to lack.

What truly helps elevate this film is the cast: Evans is charismatic, sort of a humble Robert Downey Jr. He and Scarlett Johansson have great chemistry; it's also nice to see Johansson being more than just eye candy, which she was when Black Widow made her debut in IRON MAN 2. Jackson does his thing (it seems to get better with each Marvel film, as he has more to do), and Redford injects a nice bit of humor into his role, especially near the end. Anthonie Mackie is a welcome side-kick, and Sebastian Stan's stunt double is a great, nearly-unstoppable force as the titular villain. Packed in are a couple of recurring roles that I won't spoil, plus a post-credits scene that would be absolutely perfect if not for certain copyright issues.

The gist: THE WINTER SOLDIER is a CAPTAIN AMERICA film for the real world. He's not just Uncle Sam's bosom buddy; he's a regular Joe forced to realize that his government may not have his best interests at heart. That said, the good guys ultimately win, which is what we want in a Marvel film: enough bite to put us on edge, but an ending that is at least happy enough to make us think that tomorrow might be better. But then again, that post credits scene...maybe not so happy after all.


X-Men: Days of Future Past [Blu-ray]
X-Men: Days of Future Past [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Hugh Jackman
Price: $14.99
51 used & new from $9.84

4.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 stars: The X-Men film we've been waiting for., October 27, 2014
In the not-so distant future, war has broken out. Mutants have been hunted to the verge of extinction, along with their human sympathizers. Leading the slaughter: the heinous Sentinels, automated warriors that are nearly indestructible and utterly relentless. In a last ditch effort to save their species, a group of mutant holdouts--led by Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen)--band together to send Wolverine's (Hugh Jackman) consciousness back into his 1970s body. His time-trippy task: to unite past Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) in an effort to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from starting the entire destructive war in motion.

Well, things get a bit messed up, as they are wont to do, and that's where X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST hits its true stride. It's an X-MEN film that genuinely makes you think things aren't entirely safe. Largely this is due to the performances, especially Fassbender's, who takes his performance up a step from the last film (and that's saying something). Also, of course, Jackman, the improbable superhero. The rest of the cast is filled out by familiar faces playing the parts we love them in. And also Peter Dinklage, because GAME OF THRONES is awesome. The plot is a bit complex; and like most time-travel scenarios, it's so full of holes, you just have to shut your mind off to them. (I will say this: FUTURE PAST handles the time-travel conundrums much better than many other films.)

Personally, this is the X-MEN film I've been waiting for, as I actually felt FIRST CLASS didn't live up to all of its promise (though I enjoyed it immensely, except for Kevin Bacon's hairpiece). By going back to the original film's director (Bryan Singer), the franchise has actually breathed some fresh life and exuberance into these characters. It's nice to see the gang all back together (especially some sweet cameos), but it's even better knowing that the future (hehe) is in good hands.


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