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July 30, 2002

Austin Powers 3: Goldmember

Austin Powers 3: Goldmember
2002
Starring: Mike Myers, Beyoncé Knowles, Michael York, Michael Caine, Seth Green, and Verne Troyer

This is a tough movie to review. To know why, but with no spoilers, go below.

Rating: Full Price with Reservations

I must admit, I enjoyed the first Austin Powers movie. It was a fun, silly spoof of the James Bond movies.

The second movie got me hooked from the trailer, telling everyone to go see Star Wars, and then come watch AP2. Mini-Me was an excellent addition.

I wasn't sure that they could really keep this franchise going. All the ads and trailers and such leading up to this film made me sort of want to see it, but I wasn't desperate. I could have waited for cable.

But The Husband wanted to go, and so we went the last day of opening weekend. And I had a blast. It was more fun than I was expecting.

Don't go for the plot. Please. You should understand that this is no Bourne Identity, this is no Minority Report. This is silliness with lots of costume changes and funny jokes. This is Austin Powers, for $diety's sake!

The jokes are often crass and very base, but if you enjoyed either of the previous two movies, I think you will enjoy this one. In fact, I think it is even better than the second movie, and Lou (that's The Husband) thinks it's better than both of them.

HOWEVER, I don't think you could see this movie without having seen any of the previous ones. While the self-referential jokes are kept to a minimum, they are there, and really would be lost on anyone who was going into this blind.

Michael Caine does a wonderful job as Austin's father. Beyoncé Knowles is good when she's on screen, but doesn't get much to do (I did notice that the female lead roles are getting smaller and smaller as these movies progress). Mike Myers is great in all his roles, and fortunately for me Fat Bastard was kept to a minimum.

If you enjoyed the previous movies, then this is worth a full price viewing (which in our area is $9). If you thought the earlier movies were okay, take in a matinee. And if you didn't care for them at all, give this a pass. There's nothing really new here, and I will not spoil things because I thought it was great that I went into it unspoiled. It made the jokes more amusing and kept me laughing longer.

Posted by Julia at 1:47 PM

July 13, 2002

Reign of Fire

Reign of Fire
2002
Starring: Matthew McConaughy, Christian Bale, Izabella Scorupco, and Gerard Butler.

What a fun movie.

Rating: Matinee

The movie starts in London, on a construction site for what appears to be an expansion to the London Underground. Young Quinn is going to visit his mother, who is a foreman type on the site. The drillers have hit a "void," and Quinn, of course, heads to check it out. Asked by a construction worker to go in the hole and see what he can see, our intrepid hero wanders right into the dragon's lair.

And all hell breaks loose. Or at least one dragon.

Fast forward about 10-20 years, wherein the dragons have destroyed civilization, breeding like rabbits, and living off the ash they create burning things with their fire breath.

A small band of survivors, led by the adult Quinn, are living in a ruined castle in Northumberland and struggling to stay alive, with what few crops they can manage to farm.

Enter Van Zandt, a rough-and-tumble American, with tanks and a helicopter and a pretty pilot/scientist named Alex. They have a method to destroy the dragons, and the madness to use it.

The dragon effects were wonderful, and the plot rather simple. But what more can you expect from a summer action flick? McConaughey does the crazy tough-guy perfectly - someone you're not necessarily supposed to like, and you don't. And he's terribly ripped - he did a good job working out to get into shape for this film. Bale does a good enough job with Quinn; the likeable hero. Scorupco does a good job with token female role, though she's not given a lot to do. But one of the best characters is played by Butler, childhood friend of Quinn's named Creedy. He has the charm and the screen presence that make you turn to look at him whenever he's on the screen.

One of my favorite scenes trades on pop culture, and I would spoil it terribly by talking about it. So let's just say that, if a Dark Age came tomorrow, today's movies might become tomorrow's great dramas.

If you love fantasy action flicks, take your time on a weekend to go to a matinee. Treat yourself and enjoy it.

Posted by Julia at 6:50 PM | Comments (1)

July 9, 2002

Black Kat Crossed Me Path

So there we are, squeezed into the small section of videogame rentals. At least I'm pretty sure that unlike rumours of their movie editing squad, the videogames are whole and uncut. Not that I've ever seen a spayed videogame that wasn't "just a demo."

Then it catches our collective eyes.

Pirates. Mmmmmmm.

It's not that I've always wanted to be a pirate. Scurvy, hardtack, and weevils just really aren't me, you know? I do like the idea of sitting down with a keg of rum in the middle of the street and forcing every passerby to down a drink with me, but that's just being friendly, the pirate way. I don't think I'd put burning sticks of dynamite in my hair as a threatening fashion accessory. But I do look good in pirate costuming.

Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat not only have pirates, which I just adore, but they have an anatomically pleasing (OK, busty, but she's not badly proportioned and some of the movement is very nice) redheaded pirate wench as the main character.

She kicks butt.

Admittedly, I ran through a lot of it in "easy mode" again, because as a rental we want to experience the most we can in the little time we have, but just watching her fight with her sword is exciting. Her automatic change of movement to match her in-range enemies is dramatic and deadly.

They teach you great pirate terms, like "crossing the T" in ship-to-ship battles.

It refers to how, with side-cannons, you should aim your cannons at the part of the enemy boat that does not have cannons to plug (or, in this case, unplug) you.

You have ship combat as well as hand-to-hand, as well as plenty of exploration (she has to have some dwarf or dragon blood: she can smell gold and buried treasure.) Lots of puzzles. We did end up looking one up to find out it wasn't just our inept struggling with the game controls: we were attempting what a hintmaster called, "The hardest jump in the game."

They describe her as a "rowdy but righteous" scoundrel. The backstory is fairly obvious but still amusing. (I do wonder why she wants to open a chest in the middle of a burning house, but it was for the dramatic jumping through the window scene, I think.)

Again, very easy, very intuitive controls. I actually think better attention was paid to for this than Gauntlet. The sound was nice (we don't have surround-sound set up for this, obviously, but it was very controllable and didn't overwhelm.) They have a fun feature where you could earn, in-game, additional art (portraits, landscapes, scenes) in the game's style as part of their portfolio.

It does look like a once-through style game, although that is somewhat mitigated by the ability to do player-vs-player ship battles. We didn't get an opportunity to try that one, but maybe when we rent it next. Worth renting? Yes. Worth buying? I'm going to say yes to that, too. Less breasts than Lara, and easily just as kick-butt. I wouldn't mind my little sister playing this game. Even if she ends up running a character in Seven Seas called "Captain Yo!"

Posted by Meera at 2:27 AM | Comments (1)

July 8, 2002

Running the Gauntlet

My sister Stinky K and her hubby-type Stinky S are "looking after" an XBOX for a friend. They offered us the opportunity to play it.

Needless to say, we immediately rebelled and said, "XBOX is the foul get of Microsoft. Our anti-monopoly position is the cerberus that guards us from the temptation of the many games available, especially since the Terrible Trio and my folks are gone this long weekend... We will not sink so low as to... what? You say, 'House of the Dead 3' will be made available, and they have 'Gauntlet: Dark Legacy'? Let's go rent some games!"

The AlKiMe household decided over a year ago to wait before we bought one of the insidious time-sinks known as a videogame device. We're waiting specifically for the point where we all have jobs, and where we can't just suddenly look up and realize we've been playing 'House of the Dead' for seventeen hours straight and boy, are our thumbs tired! (True story.)

We're of the generation where things like Nintendo are actual reasons marriages have dissolved. My mother can't understand it: she doesn't know how we can sit and play the same game over and over for however many hours it takes. It's insidious. It's not something you can easily explain except to say that the time it takes is not measured in your head, but in your efforts. It's like when you go off to the grocery store to buy some whipped cream because you forgot it for the banana splits you're making. To you, the trip takes hardly any time at all because you're active throughout...but to the person at home waiting for that final non-dairy spritz it's a very different length of time.

Or something like that.

We rented three games, of which I'll review two. "The Elder Scrolls III:Morrowind" we're just going to have to get for the PC, first.

Gauntlet: Dark Legacy

An improvement in many ways over the arcade version, including its lack of a time-penalty feature. It was one of the things I hated most about the original Gauntlet: there was no time to look at anything because your time would run out and you would die-please-insert-another-quarter. As the options added up, and the graphics got better, this was more of a disappointment. Now, while there are time-oriented challenges (special levels that grant you access to special characters) you have the time to go back and look around at things, if you should so please.

What is the attraction of Gauntlet? Nostalgia, and plenty of it. Even a couple of days ago, I quoted, "Wizard Needs Food...Badly." If you've never played any version of it before, the basic gist is a dungeon crawl, complete with "wizard," and "warrior" classes as well as all the variety in the middle. Each class has its plusses and minuses, all built along the same attributes. Some are faster, some are stronger, some have better distance weaponry, etc. You kill creatures and "generators" that create creatures. You eat food to heal, and as the versions have advanced, pick up special items, like keys to open chests, potions to kill great groups of creatures or the Death character, and various other fun puzzle-solvers.

What I liked? The controls were fairly easy. We never did figure out how to get into our inventory to choose our special items, but we never did RTFM, either. I was able to blast my way through four levels, easy, becoming an 11th-level witch...when apparently playing a sorceress was one of the "advanced characters" of the game. [Um, "easy mode" is exactly that.] The LintKing of course played a Jester, and we worked well together... it's set up well for playing it cooperatively versus competitively.

What I didn't like? Some of the graphics were still a bit choppy, leading to some guesswork on items and how close you could get to them without activating them (like poison food). Some of the camera angles were difficult, especially when fighting gargoyles. The Blockbuster rental didn't come with an instruction book, only some notes on the back...

Will we be buying it if XBOX wins the console wars in our household? Yes. Will we be playing it a lot? I expect so...we might even rent it again next time.

Posted by Meera at 4:07 AM | Comments (2)