Category: Movies Music & Tv

Monsters Vs Aliens

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Monsters vs Aliens isn’t a great movie for Grown Ups. It may not even be a great movie for Grown Up Kids. It lacks the story depth found in many similar movies from Pixar or even the recent Ice Age Movies. It is what it is I guess, an Animation movie mostly geared towards kids.

We have the monsters who have mostly been kept inside a prison for many years. The super tall woman, the smart scientist cockroach, a giant insect, a fish man. We have the aliens who come to earth to look for some sort of resource that isn’t found anywhere else. The first alien attack is from an alien probe robot sent to retrieve the scarce resource. The military can’t protect the earth from the alien threat so they call in the monsters to help defeat the aliens. Most of the monsters can’t do much. Susan the super tall woman who doesn’t really want to be there ends up doing most of the work in the first battle with the alien robot. During the battle we find out that Susan is fused with the resource that the alien is looking for. As a reward for defeating the robot, the group gets to visit Susan’s home. They get out of the prison to visit/terrorize the real world.

This leads us to the more advanced plot point of Susan’s conflict with her fiancee Derek. She wants to return to her old normal life, but Derek doesn’t want to have anything to do with Susan in her new giant form. The alien kidnaps Susan, but can’t hold on to her. She starts fighting with him in his space ship. The alien wins the fight and turns Susan back into a normal Human. The alien creates a clone army and goes back to attack earth. The monsters decide to fly up to the alien ship and save Susan. The monsters are successful in freeing susan, but end up stuck in the ship leaving Susan to fight the Alien in her human form. During the fight Susan regains her monster status and once again grows to be a giant woman. She defeats the alien, saves the rest of the monsters, and ends up saving earth in the process.

If you have kids then this movie is for you. It has great 3d animated graphics, lots of action, and tons of cool characters for your kids to emulate. If you are a bit older you may be better off with a Pixar Movie.

I give Monsters vs Aliens 2 out of 5 monkeys.

Uncharted

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I recently go the chance to play Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune for the PlayStation 3. Yes I know I am behind the times, but I didn’t want to pay full price for the game in case I didn’t like it and it seems like it has been full price or near full price forever. I got the chance to play it through my subscription with Gamefly.

The game is pretty much Tomb Raider with a male lead character. The game starts off with Nathan Drake recovering the coffin of Sir Frances Drake. The coffin contains a diary which leads Nathan on a wild adventure to find El Dorado. Tagging along on the adventure are his friends Elena and Sully. Along the way Nathan is confronted by other treasure hunters and soldiers. The game play is a lot like Tomb Raider. Jumping, grabbing, and shooting are your basic moves. There are also plenty of quicktime like events where you must push certain buttons at certain times as well as turn cranks and such by rotating your thumb stick.

Controls are easy to pick up, moves are easy to perform. The character animations are smooth and the graphics are very high detail. There is also a re-playability factor in both playing at harder settings and finding all of the hidden treasures along the way. I don’t want to give away many of the plot points for those who have not yet played this game, but I can say zombie like creatures are involved.

The story is wonderful which is pretty surprising to find in a video game. At some points it is almost like watching a movie rather than playing a game. I didn’t want to put down my controller, another rare thing for recent video games. I nearly played through the whole game in one sitting. I will definitely add this to the collection as soon as possible. I can’t wait for the squeal which comes out soon.

I give Uncharted 4 Out of 5 Monkeys 

The Taking of Pelham 123

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The taking of Pelham 123 is a thinking man’s action movie. The whole story takes place between a subway Hijacker and a MTA train dispatcher with most of the dialogue taking place over subway trains radio system. The hijacker is played by John Travolta. Travolta is always amazing as a villain and his role as Ryder in Pelham 123 is another one of those great performances. He is the mastermind of the major plot device in the movie, the hijacking of a New York City subway train. Ryder has a crew made up of a former subway car driver and a group of standard backup thugs.

As the story progresses we get to see how into the hijacking Ryder really is when he executes multiple hostages. It is nice to see a villain who has no problem killing people to make his threats real adding a sense of danger to the whole ordeal in the subway.

The MTA Train dispatcher is played by Denzel Washington. Walter Garber is your common man, the audience’s link to the story. He is just a guy doing his job when something extraordinary comes his way. He is able to use his knowledge of people to gain a bond with Ryder. We learn that he has worked his way up throughout the ranks to get where he is. He is also under investigation for possibly taking a bribe in a deal to choose a new subway car for the City.The third major role is the NYPD negoiator played by John Tuturo. He makes his entrance briefly in taking over the role of negotiating with Ryder until Ryder demands to speak to Garber.

The conflict between Ryder and Garber plays out over the radio for pretty much the first hour of the movie. Part of the way through we learn about Ryder’s true plans and that the hijacking isn’t really what it seems.The pace picks up after a while when Ryder chooses Garber to deliver the ransom money to him on the subway train. After the money is delivered, Ryder uses the train as a decoy sending it barreling along the tracks uncontrolled. Garber uses his knowledge of the subway to escape from Ryder and figures out the escape plan. Ryder’s thugs escape only to find themselves in a shootout with police once they make it out into the streets. Ryder Escapes into a taxi and heads out of the city. Garber chases after him in a stolen truck. They catch up to each other on a bridge where Ryder begs Garber to shoot him as repayment of the debt that Ryder says Garber owes him. Ryder says he must shoot or be shot. In the end Garber chooses to save his own life.

Overall a pretty good action thriller. It kept my attention throughout. I felt for the characters and thought both Washington and Travolta played their roles as best they could.

I give Pelham 123 3 out of 5 monkeys

Tilt The Battle To Save Pinball

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Tilt The Battle To Save Pinball. In an era where Video Games are king, there is still hope for the classic pinball machine. This is the story of how the Pinball Machine was saved. This documentary follows the story of how Midway came up with a new style pinball machine in the year 1999, called Pinball 2000. How it was to be the latest greatest thing and yet it nearly didn’t happen.

We start out with the history of Williams Manufacturing. Machines started out as simple games with lights, plungers, kick outs and bells. After adding flippers they became more interactive. The 1970s was a great era for pinball. Computers and electronic displays allowed for new features and advanced gameplay on pinball machines. Motors with ratcheting gears allowed for the classic bell sounds to be added to more modern machines. Disaster stuck when the first video games started hitting the market. Pong, space invaders, and others were easier for arcade owners to get into. Factors like smaller footprints, sold state games, shorter plays, and less maintenance required led to arcade owners putting in arcade machines where they had previously had pinball machines.

Williams reinvented the pinball machine in the 80‘s by adding things like double play fields, better themed machines. The games were slower games introducing order based tasks and targets. Pinball machines became more than just about high scores, they began to be able to tell a story. The early 90s was another great period for the pinball machine, this time for the high tech pinball machine. Williams was the place where visionaries were king. Designers had nearly complete control over their games. By the time the mid 90s came around the designers found out that they had done too good a job. Machines were lasting longer than they had anticipated. People were still playing models from years ago. The companies dwindled down to two. Sega and Williams.

This brought us to the Pinball 2000 machine. Something that could make pinball new again. They tried many different things, 100s of ball machines, 3d machines, computer monitors with animation. It was the computer based setup that would become pinball 2000. From here the documentary goes into how the designers went about creating pinball 2000. They clashed with the bigwigs, saying how pinball 2000 wasn’t going to revive the market. We get the story of how they came up with a holographic based pinball machine or Holopin as an alternative to a simple computer monitor display. This new display projected an image on the glass tabletop allowing for animations on the top level of the table and interaction with the ball. We then get to see the process and time frame of how a game goes from concept to market. Artwork, software, and music all have to be created. Holopin allowed for color overlays, mini games, and full tasks for the players. To keep costs low they tried to make the cabinets convertible. Arcade owners could buy one basic cabinet and change out the tables and marquee systems.

We then get a peak behind the design process with CAD animations showing the game parts and how much thought goes into things like spacing and paths the ball can take. After 18 months of development they brought in their biggest distributor and he fell in love with the pinball 2000 platform. During this time Williams also got into slot machines. That division was making money and the pinball division was losing money. Marketing for pinball 2000 consisted of flyers, videos, classes, basically more marketing materials than had been used for any other pinball machine or platform. Problems during launch included broken cabinets and software glitches. They repaired the damage and rebooted machines. Pinball 2000 was received by fans with mixed reaction. Some thought it was too much of a video game, but once they played it most players became fans. The pinball division at Williams made a profit for the first time in two years.

The fist pinball 2000 game was Revenge from Mars. Mars was a sequel to a hit pinball machine Attack from Mars. The second was Star Wars Episode I. Star Wars was developed in nearly complete secrecy. George Lucas didn’t want any details of the movie to leak out. The pinball game designers basically designed it by themselves without feedback from other pinball designers. Lucas had to approve everything found on the machine. When the game was finally revealed the other designers thought it was more movie than game. Delays came and the Star Wars didn’t ship in time for the movie. A price increase to help cover the cost of the license didn’t help Williams sell as many units f the Star Wars machine as they thought they would, Williams decided to end the run on Star Wars pinball manufacturing. The next pinball 2000 machines were not ready to go into manufacturing, this lead to a break in production and large loss. Expense of each unit and time frame/length of development were two factors in Williams’ decision to get out of the Pinball market.

Williams decided to stop making pinball 2000 machines and closed down the pinball division to focus on video games and slot machines. This decision left the designers with the choice of going to another division and losing their benefits/seniority or going elsewhere. There really wasn’t anywhere else to go. Some ended up in the video game division others became slot machine designers, others ended up with their own companies.

Overall a decent documentary. The first part was a decent history lesson that was paced. The second part was mostly from the perspective of the designers. The third part was the design and the journey of the pinball 2000 concept. We had interviews with the designers, stock shots from various arcades. The coolest part for me were the the CAD animations of pinball machine parts.

On a related note I believe the the next big move is virtual pinball using tools such as future pinball. http://www.futurepinball.com it is software based pinball. Anyone can take these tools and make their own virtual pinball machine out of a plasma/lcd flat panel TV and a computer:

I give Tilt The Battle To Save Pinball 3 out of 5 Monkeys

The Proposal

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—-May Contain Spoilers—

The Proposal starts out in New York City, the story of Andrew and Margaret. A new york book publisher and her secretary. Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) and Margaret (Sandra Bullock) start off with the stereotypical boss and secretary relationship. The gender roles are flipped for a more modern take on it. He supports her, knows all of her quirks and she doesn’t even acknowledge his existence outside his work performance. Sandra Bullocks character Margaret, quickly learns that she is being deported back to canada due to her bossy ways and failure to fill out the proper paperwork. If she gets deported she must leave her job and her job is her life. The idea pops into Margaret’s head that she can marry her secretary Andrew and get to keep her job and the live she loves so much. They visit the immigration office and learn that they need to know everything about each other. Andrew also learns that he could face a large fine and jail time if they are faking it.

He decides to go ahead with it anyway if Margaret agreed to make him an editor. The new couple ends up going to Alaska to Andrew’s home town to meet his family and attend his Gammy’s (Grandmother’s) birthday party. They show up and find the town is full of businesses with Andrew Paxton’s family name on them. Margaret had assumed he was poor, but it turned out that his family was rich, owned most of the businesses in town as well as a huge estate that one has to visit by boat.

The family tries to make the best of the situation and welcomes Margaret as one of the family. The movie then turns into a fish out of water story with Margaret trying to fit into the Alaskan way of life. It is in Alaska that the comedy really comes out. At one point Margaret accidentally lets a new puppy out of the house. A bird flys in and tried to carry off the puppy. She saves the pup, but loses her cell phone to the bird in the process. Throwing a pet into the mix is a classic romantic comedy hook. In this case it makes the evil perfect boss lady a little more less perfect, likable and human. The puppy plays a crucial role of messing with Margaret throughout the movie. He keeps her from listening in on an argument between Andrew’s parents. He keeps her from getting a towel after a shower leading to Andrew and Margaret running into each other naked in their bedroom. Another conflict is brought into the plot by Andrew’s dad played by Coach’s Craig T Nelson doesn’t believe that Margaret and his son Andrew are really in love. He wants Andrew to stay in Alaska and take over the family business/empire. The view can now question if Andrew follows his dreams and become a New York City book editor, or does he follow his father’s dream of running the family empire.

The ex girlfriend is thrown into the mix at the welcome home party. He proposed, she didn’t want to leave home and Andrew wanted to go to new york. Another classic hook used to compare the old life to what could be a new life.

As the plot progresses Margaret and Andrew get to know more about each other as Margaret opens up about herself. She shares very emotional things like the story behind her tattoo, that she cried after a fight with a co-worker, details of her sex life, and music tastes. The next day Andrew’s parents come up with the great idea of having the wedding that weekend while everyone is there for Gammy’s birthday. They talk Margaret into it and she agrees to have the wedding there. Andrew freaks out a bit worried that his parents are going to be angry when they find out the marriage isn’t real. Margaret talks him down and he decides to stick with it. After talking Andrew into it, Margaret goes for a bike ride and freaks out about the wedding. Margaret comes across Gammy played by Betty White doing what appears to be a fertility dance which she reluctantly joins in on. Gammy instructs Margaret to get into it and chant what comes to her. Margaret starts out rapping the song Get Low by Lil Jon. Andrew finds her towards the end of the song and loves the more human fun side of Margaret. This bit is ruined when Andrew tells Margaret that a new phone has come for her at the store in town. They go to pick it up and she learns that she has thirty-something new messages. Margaret goes back to her old ways a bit and demands to use a computer. She is directed to a computer that runs on dimes with a dial up connection. This gives Andrew a chance to hang out with his ex-fiancee. The ladies of the family bond with Margaret, Gammy giving Margaret her wedding dress. She also gave her pendant that has been in the family for more than one hundred and fifty years given to her great grandmother from her great grandfather. Their story paralleling that of Andrew and Margaret, a tough woman just like Margaret. This freaks Margaret out even more as she remembers what it is like to have a family that loves you. She doesn’t want to go through with it for the sake of Andrew’s Family. Margaret hijacks the family boat and ends up almost driving into a buoy. Andrew takes the wheel and Margaret is thrown into the water. Andrew rescues Margaret and they share a moment huddled together for warmth.

————-Major Spoiler Alert———-

They return home to find the immigration inspector has been flown to Alaska by Andrew’s father. He has made a deal with the inspector that if they admit the wedding is fake. Andrew sticks with the game plan and doesn’t take the deal. Margaret and Andrew are separated by Gammy the night before the wedding. The next day the wedding in the barn starts off as planned when Margaret stops the wedding in the middle where she tells the truth about the fake wedding at the alter in front of everything saying it is hard to ruin somebody’s life once you find out how wonderful they are. She runs away and leaves Andrew and the Alter. As Andrew runs after Margaret he ends up in their room where Margaret left a note for him. His Ex-Fiancee comes in to comfort him giving him one last chance to chooser her over Margaret. Margaret accompanies the immigration officer back to the airport. Andrew decides to go after Margaret as he has true feelings for her. As he is announcing this Gammy has a heart attack and needs to be flown to a doctor. The whole family accompanies her on the plane. Gammy gets the strength to tell the parents to stop fighting and tells Andrew to work harder to be a part of the family. Turns out she faked the whole thing to get the plane and have the talk with the family. She tells the pilot to take them all to the airport. It is all a ploy to get to Margaret before she leaves. Andrew tries to get his friend in the tower to stop Margaret’s plane from leaving. He won’t do it and the plane takes off. Everyone is disappointed that they missed Margaret. Cut to Margaret back in New York cleaning out her office. Andrew walks in and needs to talk. Andrew tells Margaret of his true feelings for her. He wants to get married so they can start dating. They end up back at the immigration office answering the questions honestly.

The chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock is present throughout the movie. They seemed to have really hit it off. Even in the parts where they are supposed to hate each other their connection is really present and noticeable. I have been a fan of both Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock since their early work and it is great to see how far they have both come as actors. Some may think this movie is simply another chick flick/romantic comedy, it is at its core, but it is one of the better ones.

I give The Proposal 4 out of 5 monkeys