Category Archives: Media

Books, movies, tv shows, music, video-games and other forms of media and entertainment will be reviewed here.

Saints and Soldiers

Complete Score: 25 / 42 = 60%

A while back when I was forced to break my addiction to Generation Kill, I stumbled onto Hulu.com and saw a World War II movie by the name of Saints and Soldiers. It looked intriguing enough so I clicked through to the movie’s page. Once there, the positive reviews and comparisons to Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan hooked me in.

The film follows a few American soldiers who are captured by the Germans but escape during a shoot-out. While hiding out in a cabin they hear some chatter about a downed airplane and go off looking for the pilot. They find a British soldier caught in a tree who tells them he has some very, very, very important information to pass along to command central. So the group of Allies sets off to cross enemy lines and inform their counterparts.

Right off the bat, the film immerses you into the time period with a radio broadcast describing the aforementioned massacre. The film keeps you immersed with soldiers who look the part with weapons that look straight out of a Medal of Honor or Call of Duty video game. In other words, the weapons look real, the soldiers look real and the film has a 1940’s feel. At the end of the film we see that the producers used WWII re-enactors to play the roles of many of the soldiers and it shows in the authentic feel of the film.

Saints and Soldiers

The actual actors do a good job too and are believable as WWII era soldiers. The camaraderie between the group feels a bit forced, though this group did come together spontaneously so it shouldn’t feel as though they’ve been together for too long. One of the reviewers on hulu.com where I watched the film (for the low cost of about 5-6 minutes of commercials) mentioned the stereotype of the characters, where the four corners of the USA are represented and the fact that the French people in the movie are woman and children while the British soldier needs constant rescuing. To a certain extent it is true, however it does not ruin the movie.

The comparisons to Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan are off. Saints and Soldiers is a nice film with some cool action sequences but it is in no way great. It’s an entertaining movie, but you’ll have to suspend your belief as this rag tag group of 4-5 soldiers fights off tons and tons of German soldiers.

Towards the end of the film it does get a bit too preachy, especially for a war movie but it’s still a solid way to spend an hour and a half, especially if you watch it streaming via Hulu.

Value

I viewed the film at Hulu for the cost of enduring a few commercials. It was a decent way to pass the time, though I personally would not purchase nor rent the film. Plus, the film was apparently shot for under $1 million so it’s a good value for everyone involved.

Score: 3.5 / 5

Quality

It’s good enough to draw you in and pass the time but it’s certainly not going to win any awards. The look of the film, however, is very well done and looks quite authentic.

Score: 3.5 / 5

Innovation

Nothing new here. If you enjoy authentic World War II films you’ll like but not love this one.

Score: 1 / 5

Social Benefit

There’s some social commentary between the Mormon sniper and the atheist medic on the perils of war, but it’ honestly nothing we haven’t heard before. War is bad. If this movie was powerful enough to convince us to stop fighting it would get a good score here, but in the end it’s just a film and is not going to change the world. +.5 points for streaming it for free via Hulu though.

Score: 3 / 5

Freestyle!

The movie gets big points for being streamed for free on Hulu and its use of WWII reenactors to fill out the supporting cast.

Score: 14 / 22

Complete Score: 25 / 42 = 60%

Watch Saints and Soldiers for free below (you can enable full-screen after the commercials):

The Education of a Coach

Complete Score: 2 / 42 = 5%

The Education of a Coach is a biography about Bill Belichick written by David Halberstam. I purchased this book from Border’s at the CambridgeSide Galleria hoping to learn more about the genius’ coaching techniques and how he managed to stay fresh with ideas winning three Super Bowl’s in a matter of four years. As a huge Pats fan and an even bigger Belichick fan I was sadly disappointed when I got about halfway through the book realizing it simply was just a biography. The book went on talking about how Belichick grew up in PA played high school ball (not so well to add) and how he went from job to job before he landed the head coaching position in Titletown. After a while I simply got bored and stopped reading it. It was absolutely boring and I learned nothing new about football. What a waste of money.

Value

For $14 from Border’s I wasted three days of breakfast from Dunkin’ Donuts on my way to work. Not so expensive for a book, but a book that had nothing that I wanted or expected from it is very upsetting, especially when your bills add up to over a grand a month.

Score: 1 / 5

Quality

When describing the quality of this book, I must say that it is a glossy shiny cover and is a strong paperback book…obviously I’m joking about that. When it comes to the quality of the reading, Halberstam writes well but it was long, drawn out and boring. Not to my liking at all.

Score: 1 / 5

Innovation

This seems very tough to judge when you ask yourself how a book can be innovative. Although Belichick is the master of second half adjustments and has made defensive changes in the game that shocked the world in 2002, Halberstam is lacking in that department. The only way this book truly altered my life was by making my wallet $14 lighter, BOO to that!

Score: 0 / 5

Social Benefit

What is the social benefit of this book? It gave me a reason to write about it. This was by far one of the worst purchases I have ever made. Don’t get me wrong, Belichick and the Patriots are great, but a boring, drawn out, life long story of the most monotonic, dry, sheltered man was not my idea of a good time.

Score: 0 / 5

Freestyle:

As I have clearly stated, this book was a waste of $14 that I could have spent elsewhere. My loyalty still lies with Belichick and the Patriots but I was hoping that this book had what I was looking for.

Score: 0 / 22

The Education of a Coach is available in hardcover and paperback.

Complete Score: 2 / 42 = 5%

Fringe: Staring into the Abyss of Bad Science, Writing & Acting

Complete Score: 16.5 / 42 = 39%

Fringe, the latest J.J. Abrams project, is inspired by the X-Files, Twilight Zone and other similar science fiction shows. Normally an Abrams production incites a cloud of hype and blogosphere activity, but I did not hear about Fringe until a few days before the premiere. Once I read that it’s a science fiction show about odd, weird, and generally on the fringe sciences (hence, the name), including but not limited to re-animation, mind control, genetic tampering and other freaky topics I became interested. As a big fan of quality science fiction drama (ergo, Battlestar Galactica is the greatest show ever) this one seemed to be unique enough to warrant a look.

a show that is not authentic, immersive, or otherwise good.

The show features Anna Torv as FBI Agent Oliva Dunham, John Noble as mad scientist Dr. Walter Bishop, Joshua Jackson as the good doctor’s rebellious son Peter Bishop, and Lance Reddick as Olivia’s boss, Homeland Security agent Phillip Broyles. The show was co-created by J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman. Fringe airs on Fox every Tuesday night at 9 PM.

Hey...it's the gahden...Celtics start up soon!
Hey...it's the Gahden...Celtics start up soon!

Value

Fringe airs on Fox and streams via hulu so it’s relatively free. The 2 hour premiere for Fringe apparently cost $10,000,000 to produce and though there were a few nifty special effects, it’s tough to say the $10,000,000 was well spent as the show itself was lackluster. The storyline is a cool idea but its execution is average. The acting and writing are simply just not very good. For $10,000,000 Abrams and crew would have been much better off hiring someone to direct the cast well. Even Lance Reddick, who was awesome in The Wire comes across flat and stale here, a boring over generalization of every other secret government agent we’ve seen in shows like the X-Files.

On the plus side, the show is part of a movement by Fox to keep viewers focused on the channel by lowering the commercial count for Fringe and Joss Whedon’s new show, Dollhouse. It makes sense for all parties involved to have fewer commercials for shows, as we as a populace have lowered attention spans and with the internet increasingly growing as an alternative to television, TV channels must adapt. By having fewer commercials, the experience and immersion in the show is increased for the viewer, while also increasing the chances the viewer will stick to the channel and watch the commercials, thus increasing value for advertisers.

Score: 2.5 / 5

Lance longs for the days of The Wire
Lance longs for the days of The Wire

Quality

Though immersion in this show might increase due to the lower rate of commercials, we’re immediately ripped out of that immersion by the writing, which at times beats us over the head with stupidity and then kicks us while we’re down too.

Though I’ve enjoyed Lost, most of the other J.J. Abrams productions struck me as entertaining though shallow. A week ago I caught a few minutes of a Lost episode and with the recent viewings of Fringe fresh in my mind even the writing on Lost was now apparently bad. I always knew the writing was not spectacular, but it was good enough to allow the viewer to buy into the story for long enough. Not so with Fringe, where you are constantly reminded that you’re watching a TV show, where logic and real science get tossed out.

As a Bostonian born and raised, anytime I see my city on the little or big screen I immediately like that show or film at least a little bit. Too bad for Fringe that they did not bother to make the show seem authentically Bostonian, rather the city in this show could be any city in the world. There’s numerous gaffes that immediately strike any Bostonian, for instance at one point agent Olivia Dunham calls from South Boston and states that she’s going south on Fenway. There is no road in South Boston called Fenway and the Fenway area in general is on the other side of the city.

Dammit people, we will find a way for me to get off this show...we'll stay all night if we must!
Dammit people, we will find a way for me to get off this show...we'll stay all night if we must!

At another point the FBI agents must go to Back Bay, MA, which to any Bostonian would imply they’re going downtown to the South End – Newbury Street area. Nope, they’re out in the boonies at some storage facility that simply is the exact opposite of the Back Bay. The producers took the time to realize there’s a section of Boston called Back Bay and then just turned it into some little town setting. These are relatively small errors but they are numerous and as they add up over time it turns real Bostonians away from the show. If you’re going to base a show or film in Boston, take the time to realize that locals are very, very proud of their city and will rip apart your setting unless it is near perfect. So far, there’s no need for this show to be based in Boston and it seems to be an afterthought. If you’re going to do such a poor job of portraying the city realistically just base the show somewhere else.

For a $10,000,000 million dollar pilot, the show entertained me but I wasn’t hooked in to the point of wanting to see the next episode already. Also, for that cost the show should at least be authentic to its settings. It is not. Though I’m not a scientist, much of the fringe science on the show seems to be completely made up and not based on any actual knowledge. Obviously this show has to take creative liberties due to the subject matter, but at least try and make it seem reasonable.

Having now watched the first fours episodes of Fringe, I can come to a fairly accurate conclusion. The acting and writing for this show is awful. It’s insulting how bad it is. For instance, in one scene in the third episode, the FBI agent and Pacey are sent to a home in Cambridge to extract a device hidden in one of its walls. Upon knocking on the door, no one answers. Pacey then makes the remark, “well the lights are off” to imply that no one is home. It would be a viable conclusion except its bright enough outside to be the middle of the day. Over and over errors pop up in the script that make it apparent that these scripts were written in one pass and never looked upon again until read and recorded. The acting, while obviously hampered by the terrible writing, is also awful. FBI agents are made to look dumb, completely avoiding the fact that they’d have to be reasonably aware of science to become an FBI agent.

In another scene, we’re shown an image that looks like either a duck or a rabbit depending on how you look at. The mad scientist explains that it’s all a matter of perception, which the FBI agents just don’t get. I really like the plot line but the execution fails in uber-epic fashion.

Score: 1 / 5

Hey, the lights are off in the middle of the day, ergo no one is home!
Hey, the lights are off in the middle of the day, ergo no one is home!

Innovation

Abrams lists the show’s inspirations as The X-Files, Twilight Zone, Altered States and Michael Crichton. No wonder then that the show has a heavy dose of deja vu. A scientist gets locked away for an deadly accident, his son abandons him, two FBI agents fall in love and have to hide their relationship, all while a crazy hidden group is slowly discovered behind odd world events. Derpity derpity doo Fringe, I know you. Seriously, have I seen this show before? When I watch it sparks of creativity flutter out but in the end I’m just left with a very strong gut feeling of deja vu.

The show does get one point for the opening scene, a new level of gruesome for prime time TV.

Score: 1 / 5

Social Benefit

Well, if the show leads to more children being inspired to pursue scientific endeavors it could be viewed as a positive for society but if it inspires even more terror and fear into an already tense American public, it might just be a wash. The one plus is fewer commercials, which in the marketing laden environment of the current USA can only be viewed as a good thing. Plus it’s on hulu which means you don’t need to get a television to watch the show.

Still though, it’s just a television show and not a very good one at that. It’s not educational or in any significant way beneficial to society. It’s not the worst thing for society either but it certainly does not move the human race forward by any means.

Score: 1 / 5

Freestyle!

It’s not terrible, the acting is OK but the believability of the show is just plain awful. There were multiple occasions where I was forced to laugh at the ludicrous plot points in the show. In the end, the premise of the show is cool but my brain hurts too much watching the show and blocking out the constant pattern of points that remind me it’s a show, a show that is not authentic, immersive, or otherwise good.

Score: 11 / 22

Complete Score: 16.5 / 42 = 39%

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Complete Score: 28 / 42 = 67%

Super Smash Bros. Brawl is the third entry in the beloved Nintendo fighting franchise and the first iteration for the Wii. It is a fighting game that brings together many popular and obscure Nintendo characters for a brawl fest on multi-tiered organic stages.

It has that “OK, only more game…” quality

In the newest installment, Nintendo decided to include popular characters from other companies, the main additions being Solid Snake from the Metal Gear franchise and classic Sega character Sonic the Hedgehog. With few gameplay changes, the game manages to keep the fighting as fast and intense as the previous editions. But can it stack up to the deep fighting experiences of games like Soul Caliber IV and Virtua Fighter 5?

Value

At $50, the game is priced the same as many of the Wii games on the market today. However, with the amount of unlockables in the game, the replay value is very high. The single player story mode will take most gamers about seven hours to go through. The game also features 35 characters and over 30 different stages to battle on. On top of the single player story mode, there are also numerous challenges to complete in order to unlock character art, game music, and trophies that encompass nearly every game in Nintendo’s library.

To go along with the single player, the multiplayer mode supports up to four players simultaneously. Adding four players to the levels can become overwhelming with the amount of objects on screen at once. However, this adds to the intensity when four people are huddled in a room yelling at each other every time a player gets knocked off the stage. Multiplayer is incredibly addictive and gamers with a good group of friends could challenge each other for months. For people who don’t have friends, there is the stripped down online mode where gamers can challenge anyone from the world. There is enough packed into this game to keep people busy for a long time.

The only reason this game doesn’t receive a perfect score in Value is because gamers who don’t have online or people to play with locally could easily become bored with the game. The carrot on a stick grind that the single player is based on could turn some people off.

Score: 4 / 5

Bowser smashing some fools
Bowser smashing some fools

Quality

The first thing that you notice about Super Smash Bros. Brawl is the presentation itself. It is the best looking game on the Wii, barely edging out Super Mario Galaxy. The colors are bright and vibrant with excellent character movement. The game sometimes slows down, but usually stays at 30 FPS. This is incredible when you see the amount of different characters and objects that can fill the screen. Also, the sound is amazing and will make many Nintendo fan boys tear up. The music ranges from popular games such as Zelda and Mario, to more hardcore beloved games like Excite Bike and F-Zero. The presentation is excellent and much credit goes to the game’s developers.

While there are many different characters and stages packed into the game, the most important aspect is the actual fighting gameplay itself. There are no health bars, but instead a percentage on the lower half of the screen. The more a player gets hit, the higher the percentage bar increases. The object is to weaken a player to the point where they can be knocked off the level and lose the match.

The levels can get crazy, with many moving parts to each stage. For example, one level is on an airship where different sections are falling off, forcing the player to jump onto different platforms. For a gamer new to the fighting genre, this can be fun and unpredictable, creating a different experience each time.

Speaking of new players, gamers who are picking up a fighting game for the first time will love Super Smash Bros. Brawl They can easily mash away at buttons and slowly ease their way into the fighting game genre. However, more experienced players can use the stages and certain power moves to their advantage to knock the players off the level.

The nature of the ever changing stages creates an imbalance that leads many cheap deaths, frustrating more experienced gamers who are used to pulling off precision combos. When stacked up against a game like Virtua Fighter 5, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is child’s play. The button mashing happy gameplay can become real shallow, real quick. After a couple of hours of play, I began to tire of hitting the same one or two buttons over and over, no matter what character you use.

Score: 3.5 / 5

The Princess punishing fools
The Princess punishing fools

Innovation

Super Smash Bros. Brawl feels like a minor tune up from Super Smash Bros. Melee more than a true sequel. Nintendo decided to keep the gameplay intact, instead focusing on overloading gamers’ senses with more character, trophies, and stages. If you have played any of the other games in the Super Smash Bros. series, you will feel right at home with this game.

The only major addition to the game is the Subspace Emissary story mode in single player. The story mode feels more like a platforming game with fighting game elements mixed in. While much more creative than the story mode in Soul Caliber IV or Virtua Fighter 5, the story isn’t that great, especially since none of the characters speak. It’s your typical evil villain tries to destroy the world and only the game’s characters can stop it. It is not enough of a change to make it feel new, only slightly refined.

Score: 1.5 / 5

Social Benefit

Super Smash Bros. Brawl is one of those games that can bring people together and keep them glued to the TV for hours. This can be a problem because it can prevent people from going outside and catching the occasional rays of sun light that the world has to offer. Fresh air is a great thing, and this game can prevent people from getting it.

But then again, you can get many people together in a room to play and have hours of fun. On weekends, this could prevent people from getting drunk and driving, leading to possible fatal accidents. It is also a good stress reliever and a good way to vent frustration, especially with friends. A heated argument between friends could easily be resolved with a game of Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Score: 3 / 5

Mario vs. Zelda, the ultimate Nintendo brawl
Mario vs. Zelda, the ultimate Nintendo brawl

Freestyle!

Personally, this was a difficult game to review because I had so much fun playing it. Fun is a word that seems to pop up over and over again in this review, but the only time I really had fun was when I was playing with other people. I’ve had some sessions that lasted for more than three hours when I had a good group of friends playing. It has that “OK, only more game…” quality that many games lack.

However, the single player gets very boring very quickly. Part of the fun of this game is the competitive nature of trash talking and psyching out your opponents. If that element is missing you begin to realize how simple the gameplay is. Online play could have remedied this problem if it wasn’t limited due to the lack of voice chat and an easily accessible friends list.

While many Nintendo fan boys are already itching to respond to this review with nasty responses even before I’m finished, what I am saying is true if you really think about it. It’s a shame because you can tell that so much love and hard work was put into the game by the developers. I only wish that they focused more on creating a deeper fighting experience rather than throwing in more bells and whistles.

Score: 16 / 22

Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Nintendo Wii is available at Amazon.com. (Note, Amazon.com is our affiliate).

Note, all gameplay images are via the Nintendo web-site.

Complete Score: 28 / 42 = 67%

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis

Complete Score: 33 / 42 = 78.6%

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis is the biography of Ole Miss Left Tackle Michael Oher. The story begins by informing the reader of Oher’s troubled upbringing in a poor neighborhood in the south. After being adopted by a wealthy white family that gave Michael all the help he needed and then some when it came to meeting his needs, Michael became a very warm, heart-felt, success story which was very touching for me to read.

Value

Originally priced at $24.95 this hard cover biography is pretty pricey for it’s use, but if you’re one of those people, like myself, that has a soft spot for the underdog, it is a life story you will love to read and feel good about. Since its release the hardcover has dropped to $16.47 and the paperback to $11.16, making it an even better value.

Score: 2 / 5

Quality

After starting this story I had put it on hold for a few weeks after the first two chapters. Shortly after that I could not put it down and was reading it everyday after I got home from work. For someone who does not look at reading as an enjoyable extracurricular activity, this book kept me involved at all times. I was so interested in Oher afterward that I began to search the internet to see where he was in his journey to the NFL. Turns out he opted to stay at Ole Miss for his junior season and should be declaring eligible for the draft next season. It was an amazing story and I was hooked after I really got into it. Lewis really knows how to convey a story’s emotions and atmosphere to the reader.

Score: 5 / 5

Michael Oher, courtesy of Ole Miss
Michael Oher, courtesy of Ole Miss

Innovation

It is hard to rate a story as innovative, but as I stated about my newfound concern for Michael Oher after reading his story I must say that his biography had some type of impact on my life. Knowing that someone can come from next to nothing and make their life a success with some help from the right people puts into perspective what I do for work everyday. I was extremely moved by Michael Oher’s courage and determination. In our day and age, it’s nice to read a story about people doing good for once.

Score: 3 / 5

Social Benefit

If you’ve been looking for a feel-good story to put a smile on your face and make you want to better your life, this is it! If you’re the type of person that gets personal enjoyment out of helping others then this book will have you smiling multiple times. The story itself acts as a good model to society, we should look to help each other out rather than bicker about our small differences.

Score: 3 / 5

Freestyle!

I can not rave about this biography enough. If I haven’t said enough about my liking of the story and the man, Michael Oher, then let me say right here and right now, I loved this book! I am at a loss for words at the amount of appreciation I have for both the author and his subject. If you like football, good stories, and / or well written books, you owe it to yourself to pick up The Blind Side soon.

Score: 20 / 22

The Blind Side by Michel Lewis is available at Amazon.com in the following formats:

(Note, Amazon.com is our affiliate).

Complete Score: 33 / 42 = 78.6%

Sons of Anarchy: The Sopranos on Motorcycles

Complete Score: 25 / 42 = 59.5%

After coming back from a nice little bicycle ride, I finally had a few hours where I could lay back and watch some motorized cycles wrecking havoc on small town California. The hype behind Sons of Anarchy has been great and I’ve been hearing over and over again how it’s The Sopranos but on motorcycles. Well, I never quite got into The Sopranos but a show revolving around motorcycles in California instantly seems more exciting to me than some mobster family living in suburban New Jersey.

Value

I watched the pilot of Sons of Anarchy via hulu, so I watched it relatively for free (minus the cost of my internet connection and the few commercials I endured). In either case, I certainly paid less than if I’d watched it on FX so keep that fact in mind. The show was just good enough to keep me entertained for an hour, but not good enough to draw me in enough to anticipate the next episode. After three episodes, I’m by no means attached to the characters nor the storyline, but it’s a decent way to kill some time. By no means would I pick up cable just to watch this show though.

Score: 3 / 5

One man fights California traffic
One man fights California traffic

Quality

The show is on FX so it’s not going to feature blockbuster special effects, but at the same time FX has produced several not upper echelon but entertaining shows so expectations were relatively high. The folks behind the show do not disappoint, as the explosions and gun play look and sound authentic and the Sons of Anarchy crew looks, talks, and feels like a motorcycle gang. For the most part the acting and action is believable. It’s not Emmy caliber but it’s entertaining.

Score: 3 / 5

Innovation

It’s not really breaking much new ground here, but there is enough new twists and turns to make this show more than just The Sopranos on wheels. For one, it seems the Sons of Anarchy gang was never really quite intended to be a gang, but rather just a group of motorcycle enthusiasts. They apparently just sort of fell into this whole major crime operation. In either case you’re not turning into this show to learn or discover but rather to see stuff blow up and people get roughed up or shot. To that end it does not disappoint.

Score: 2 / 5

Corrupt cops and criminals, together at last
Corrupt cops and criminals, together at last

Social Benefit

Well, it’s certainly not an educational show. The show gets one point for being released on Hulu pretty soon after its television premiere, thus letting those of us without the glamor of cable still watch and enjoy the show. Also, being on hulu is good for consumers and studios. Hopefully the trend of skipping TV and going straight to streaming internet feeds continues. The show is also realistic enough that it might deter people from this lifestyle. There’s people overdosing on meth, premature babies, burned bodies, and corrupt cops, in addition to the fast motorcycles and big explosions.

It’s tough to give out any more points to a TV show featuring a gang of outlaws, even though it seems the main character wants to reform them into law abiding businessmen. In the end, it’s just a TV show.

Score: 2 / 5

Freestyle!

It’s a cool show. The logo looks very slick. The name makes me think more revolutionary than motorcycle gang, but it’s still a cool name. Overall, if you’re trying to find something to fill in for The Sopranos or just see some action and motorcycles, you should enjoy Sons of Anarchy.

Score: 15 / 22

Son of Anarchy airs on FX and is also available at hulu.

Complete Score: 25 / 42 = 59.5%

Equilibrium: Better than The Matrix?

Complete Score: 32.5 / 42 = 77.4%

In 2002 a film was released to test audiences with a significant amount of positive reaction from movie going crowds, although critics mostly rated the movie as mediocre. At this point the marketing geniuses at Dimension decided to release the film with little promotion and only to a select few theaters. Of course the movie tanked, thus re-affirming the view of critics and seemingly supporting the marketers’ perspective that the film sucked and wasn’t worth distributing to the general public (who, again, actually liked the film).

Clerics look for sense offenders who choose to risk it all and feel!

The film is Equilibrium (though those aforementioned marketing geniuses very nearly released it as “The Cleric”) and it’s dystopian futuristic setting oozes detail while it’s storyline hints at very deep philosophical currents. Written and directed by Kurt Wimmer, the movie stars Christian Bale as a cleric who begins to question his role and his reality, Taye Diggs, the ever loyal to the fascist regime douchbag extraordinaire, Emily Watson, as the love interest of not just one but two characters (scandalous!), and Sean Pertwee as the big brother figure, known as Father in the film’s city state setting of Libria.

The world finally experienced World War Three and citizens around the world gave up their rights to liberty and reality for peace. After the war it was determined that humanity itself was to blame for the ills and dangers of humanity, thus a huge movement was started to basically sedate our emotions. To the characters in the movie, the secluded world of Libria is all they know and everything beyond the Librian walls is uncivilized and dangerous. Clerics, the elite police force of the government, patrol the wild environment outside of Libria looking for sense offenders who choose to risk it all and feel!

Value

As of the date of this review, the film is available on Amazon.com for under $10. Considering it’s worth at least two views, the value of this movie is quite good. It’s not the best of movies, but it’s certainly worth $10 and will entertain you at least once. The action scenes are worth the price of admission here, so even if you find the story a bit campy the action is tight!

Score: 4/ 5

Quality

The action scenes are great, some of the best I’ve seen! The movie revolves around a new form of martial arts that includes guns, called Gun Kata. Clerics are the grand masters of Gun Kata and work for the government tracking down sense offenders, who are people who’ve stopped taking their daily soma-esque treatment and instead experience the world naturally, with emotions! The storyline is a bit campy but it’s viewable a few times before the camp really sets in.

The artistic vision for this film is perfect and really immerses you in the dystopian, authoritarian future of the story. Even today, six years after the film was made I’m still awed by some of the special effects and imagery of the film. The filmmakers spent just enough time showing off the environment to give you a feel for the city without taking too much time away from the story. The writing in the film isn’t great but is good enough to keep the film flowing. The real stars here are Libria and Gun Kata.

Score: 4 / 5

Equilibrium's imagery is splendid.
Equilibrium's imagery is splendid.

Innovation

OK, so first time viewers of this movie will find a lot of similarities to The Matrix, but with it’s use of Gun Kata (yes, I’m a big fan of the Clerics’ fighting style) and focus on emotional control it breaks enough new ground that it’s not just another science fiction film but with gun karate. Still, it borrows heavily from 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World. Books are burned, along with any other material that might induce human emotion such as paintings and music. Characters are turned into walking robots while Big Father is promoted as knowing all and being the ideal role model. It’s not the most original story but if you’re going to borrow ideas and mash them up these are three phenomenal sources to use so Equilibrium gets a small pass here.

Score: 3.5 / 5

Social Benefit

It is a movie, which means whether or not you buy a disc the disc exists and will exist longer than any of us so it has a negative aspect there. Movie production is a big, big process that uses a lot of energy during all stages of the movie, from production to distribution to viewing. Still, if people see this movie and are inspired to go read 1984 or Fahrenheit 451 or question authority or their own reality, then it’s worth it. We need more movies like Equilibrium and The Matrix and less Dane Cook romantic comedies.

Score: 3 / 5

Gun Kata is wicked cool.
Gun Kata is wicked cool.

Freestyle!

I’m a big, big fan of this movie and have seen it enough times to have progressed from getting annoyed by the campy bits, to growing to love the cheese. Once you’ve seen this film as many times as I have, you start picking out parts that don’t quite make sense. Everyone in the film, except the sense offenders, is supposed to not feel emotion, yet the Clerics and police force do show anger and paranoia. Perhaps it’s meant to show that we cannot eliminate all emotion, and that those last emotions to go are the very ones that supposedly caused World War III and all the other violent acts of human history. To eliminate the worst of the human experience is to in essence neuter us.

Without the range of emotions, can we still be classified as humans? There are multiple points in the movie where it seems characters are only pretending to be robots, for instance the older woman we see enjoy the feel of a steel rail against her hands or the revolution that lives in the under world of Libria with all their raw emotions flowing. Ironically enough, the government in the film takes such a zealous approach to wiping out violence that they become an extremely violent force themselves. Of course, the movie hints that the leaders, particularly Father, are aware of this duality and purposely act on it.

Equilibrium hints at deep existential questions but leaves enough out there for the viewer to take and run with and question further. It’s much more of a science fiction action film than anything else and the action sequences are outstanding. They still impress me every time I view the film, which counts into double digits by now. Equilibrium is not better than The Matrix, though some fight scenes do match up well with and even surpass those found in The Matrix. The storyline in The Matrix, however, is more original and deeper. Still Equilibrium is a great film and excellent in its dreary depiction of the dystopian Libria and its unique Gun Kata martial arts.

Score: 18 / 22

Equilibrium is available on DVD at Amazon.com. (Note, Amazon.com is our affiliate).

Complete Score: 32.5 / 42 = 77.4%

Slacker Uprising: No More Michael Moore

Complete Score: 4 / 42 = 9.5%

On September 23rd, Michael Moore released his latest film for free via internet streams and downloads. Further, he’s given blanket permission for people to do whatever they wish with the film, even sell it for profit. Having just watched the documentary, it’s apparent why he’s giving it away for free, Slacker Uprising is fracking awful. Moore proclaims on the film’s website that “…you can charge admission or ask for a donation if it’s to raise money for a candidate, a voter drive, or for any non-profit or educational purpose. In other words — it’s yours!”

Well, Michael Moore, I don’t want it, please keep it the hell away from me. Never before have I wished for the Men in Black memory erasing device as much as I do now. If only Michael Moore’s blanket open permission allowed me to remove this film from the universe.

Value

Well, it is free. If you are uber-bored and desperately want to see moving pictures on a screen for an hour and a half, please don’t watch this film. I recommend anything from hulu or just watching your screen-saver instead. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, give this film a shot, it knocked me out a few times.

There’s no educational value, no activism and no investigation of voter fraud or election corruption. This film holds little value outside of its free distribution methods.

Score: 1 / 5

Quality

It’s the first time I’ve awarded a product a zero in any category on OTIBR and Slacker Uprising deserves every piece of that null value. Please, do not get the wrong impression, I am by no means a Republican. Nor am I a Democrat. I’m registered as an independent and plan on voting for Ralph Nader. I am not opposed to the political views expressed in the movie, it’s zero score is purely because this documentary is just plain bad. I went in expecting a look at the voter fraud occurring during the 2004 elections and instead got a lot of Michael Moore encouraging others to do stuff while other people spread the gospel of Michael Moore and his awesomeness. We get it Michael, other celebrities think you’re cool and you desperately need to show the world their validation of you.

Michael Moore thinks Michael Moore is #1
Michael Moore thinks Michael Moore is #1

When the film isn’t celebrating Michael Moore, it’s hating on George W. Bush. Look, I hate George W. Bush as much as any other self respecting liberal leaning independent, but this film is simply too much. Over and over and over Moore and others bash Bush but offer little to no praise of Kerry or any other Democrat. There’s no real alternatives mentioned. No one discusses how to fix the country or how to convince Republicans to switch their vote or anything besides a lot of Bush bashing and a lot of promoting the great hype that the Democrats are not the Republicans.

Moore shows a lot of appreciation for the armed forces in this movie, but who does not appreciate what our soldiers do for us? I for one have a great difficulty seeing myself in uniform and immensely appreciate that we have people volunteer for what amounts to one of the toughest jobs on this planet so that we don’t have to. I would have loved to seen a movie all about the troops and their opposition to the war. This film does not do so, but rather skims the issue. Our troops rock, Slacker Uprising does not.

Score: 0 / 5

Innovation

A new level of awful. One point for inventing a documentary so bad, so self-loving that it’s not worth the price of free. In all sincerity, Moore deserves a little bit of credit for releasing his move for free streaming and via download online. He’s not the first person to release a movie for free but he’s one of the biggest. Hopefully it starts a new trend amongst artists who are already financially set and wish to give back to their fans and society.

Score: 2 / 5

Social Benefit

I’ll give Michael Moore credit where he deserves it. While filming this documentary, he did get people excited to vote and helped register voters. But, by the same token, George W. Bush’s terrible presidency also encouraged people to register and vote so we can’t give either party too much credit.

Michael Moore's Biggest Fan
Apparently Moore does not like this guy

In traveling the country Michael Moore also released a ridiculous amount of pollution into the air. It seemed he was flying a jet for a big portion of this film, and towards the actual election day seemed to criss-cross the country multiple times. At the end of the day, despite all of Michael Moore’s ranting and raving, John Kerry still lost the election. In other words, the Democrats had four failed years of the Bush doctrine, a war hero presidential candidate, a liberally loved Michael Moore supporting them and actively seeking voters for the Democrats and still, the Democrats lost.

Not only did they lose the election, but they also lost the fight for democracy. Little effort was made by the Democrats to combat the massive election fraud, voter suppression and the purge of registered voters. I was expecting a documentary discussing the voter frauds that occurred in Ohio to steal the election for George W. Bush but instead got a lot of Michael Moore’s self love fest and then some more Michael Moore.

Score: 1 / 5

Freestyle!

Aside from the bump in voter registration, I can’t find one redeeming quality about this film. Sure there were some musical performances, but none of them were very good. I’m a fan of Eddie Vedder and Tom Morello but they come across very flat in this film. What was the deal with that guy singing about Al Gore? Why do the Democrats love losing?

Hey, it's Eddie Vedder!
Hey, it's Eddie Vedder!

This film is just too bizarre and yet boring. I considered giving it a point or two in the freestyle section for the benefit of registering voters but I can’t in good faith encourage Michael Moore. As apart of the slacker generation targeted, this movie is of great insult to my intelligence and my passion for this country. Michael Moore repeatedly yells at people to get off the coach and vote, well Michael please take a look in the mirror, get off the jet, get on a bicycle and stop yelling at everyone else.

No more Michael Moore, no more.

Score: 0 / 22

Download or stream Slacker Uprising for free at SlackerUprising.com. If for some reason you must own this train wreck, Slacker Uprising is available on DVD at Amazon.com. (Note, Amazon.com is our affiliate).

Fahrenheit 9/11 was great, Slacker Uprising needs to be burned.

Complete Score: 4 / 42 = 9.5%

Nintendo Wii Classic Controller

Complete Score: 27.5 / 42 = 65.5%

When the Wii was released originally in September of 2006, all of the attention from media and fans was focused on the much hyped Remote/Nun chuck setup. The wireless motion sensing setup overshadowed the Wii Classic Controller released on the same day as launch.

When I first picked up the Wii Classic Controller, I felt a rush of nostalgia that made me feel like I was 10 years old again. It feels almost exactly like the classic SNES controller where I busted many a friend with my Ryu skills in Super Street Fighter II Turbo, put in marathon sessions of arguably the greatest RPG ever made in Chrono Trigger, and uncovered every square inch of Zebes in Super Metroid.

But is nostalgia enough? Does the Wii Classic Controller stand up in the face of over a decade of controller innovation from other game hardware manufacturers? Well, yes and no.

Value

At $20, the Classic Controller is far cheaper than the $40 and $50 you will be spending for a Xbox 360 and PS3 controller respectively. The controller plugs into the Wii Remote to make it wireless. Because it doesn’t run off of the power of the Wii, expect to go through many sets of AA batteries or spend a little more for rechargeable batteries.

The Classic Controller is meant to be played with the hundreds of titles on the Wii’s Virtual Console and with select Wii games like Super Smash Bros. Since it can’t be used with all Wii games and the fact that you will have to spend money for AA batteries, the value of the controller is simply average.

Score: 3 / 5

Quality

The Classic Controller is a well made controller, simply put. It has a smooth white finish that matches the look and style of the Wii system. It has eight game play buttons, d-pad, and dual analog sticks. Also, it has start, select, and home buttons that mimic the style of the Xbox 360 and PS3 controllers. The number of buttons is perfect for the Virtual Console because of the range of titles available for the service. The titles range from the early days of the NES and Turbografx-16 up to the N64, which the Classic Controller handles almost to perfection.

The front of the controller
The front of the controller

The controller is durable as well. The controller worked like a charm after playing multiple sessions of Contra and Ninja Gaiden II, two games which have caused the destruction of thousand of controllers over the years. I threw the controller against a carpeted ground five times and against a sheet rock wall twice with no ill effects to the controller. Also, I used the controller with Super Smash Bros. The Classic Controller makes it easier to pull off combos than the Wii Remote/Nun chuck setup, which forces players to move the controller in the air a certain way to perform moves. The fighting style of the game is much more conducive to inputting commands with the multiple face buttons of the Classic Controller.

The major problem that holds back the Classic Controller is the actual design itself. After about an hour, the palms of my hands began to ache and my thumbs were cramping up. The dual analog sticks are too close together on the controller, causing the user to put their thumbs in an awkward position. The evolution of ergonomic controllers for other systems has left much to be desired with the Classic Controller.

Score: 3.5 / 5

Innovation

There really isn’t much innovation with the Classic Controller. It borrows heavily from the design of the SNES controller, as previously stated. Also, the addition of dual analog sticks and wireless play borrow from the evolution of controllers instituted by all three major console hardware manufacturers. While it might not be innovative, it gives owners of the Wii a great alternative for playing classic games without the use of the limited buttons on the Wii Remote. Because of the fact that it helps players enjoy classic games with a better controller than previously available at the time, the Classic Controller receives an average score in the Innovation category.

Score: 2.5 / 5

Social Benefit

In terms of the world of video games, the Classic Controller, in conjunction with Virtual Console, gives the average gamer access to a world of games that many of them have never played before. In order to understand the current state of the video game industry, one must look at the evolution of games and game play over the years. Playing classic games such as Super Mario Bros., Super Metroid, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Super Mario 64 can help gamers and designers see what made games so fun to play in the first place. If we can learn from the game design of all these classic video games, maybe someone will be able to make a game that stands out from the slew of yearly minimally updated sports games and the multitude of sequels that plague the current industry.

When thinking about the grand scheme of things, the fact that this controller, in conjunction with the Wii Remote, goes through so many batteries is a bad thing for the environment. I know that most people, including myself, usually toss batteries into the trash without a second thought about the hazardous material that we are contributing to trash dumps all over the world.

Score: 3.5 / 5

Freestyle!

As a serious player of classic and retro games, the Classic Controller is the best option currently available for the Wii. It is much better suited for the Virtual Console than any other controller setup for the Wii. However, I can’t give it a higher score only because the use of the controller is limited. Once more Wii games become compatible with the Classic Controller, then maybe the true potential of this small controller can be fully unlocked.

Score: 15 / 22

The Nintendo Wii Classic Controller is available at Amazon.com. (Note, Amazon.com is our affiliate).

Complete Score: 27.5 / 42 = 65.5%