Robert Wm. Gomez's

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (6/10)

Quite possibly the weakest of the Potter movies. Nothing seems to happen and it feels overly long (and there is still another half to go). At this point in the story there doesn't seem to be any surprises left and we are left just connnecting the dots from the shocking ending of the previous movie to what I expect will be a wild and exciting CGI-rific climax in part 2. Unfortunately, those dots consisit of mostly brooding teen angst set against a tent. Well, a magical tent.

Special When Lit (7/10)

I do love pinball and this documentary is about a bunch of people who also love their pinball too. It was entertaining but not particularly informative. Sure, anyone who sees this thing will cite the story of how pinball needed to proven as a game of skill rather than a game of chance in order to become legal. That interesting but it's only about five minutes of the running time. The rest is mostly devoted to the connection players, collectors and creators have with pinball.

Portal 2 on PC (10/10)

Portal 2 Screenshot
Portal 2 is incredible. You'll find plenty of gushing reviews just about everywhere else on the 'net so I will keep this short. The game combines a wickedly funny narrative with innovative and engaging game play mechanics. Portal 2 isn't terribly difficult (it's much easier than Portal), but there's still nothing more satisfying than completing a particularly rube-goldberg-esque puzzle. Also, multiplayer co-op adds a whole new level of complication to the puzzling. Hopefully Valve will keep releasing new maps for the co-op game in the near-future. This is one of those games with a fairly universal appeal which you try to get your non-gamer friends to play just so they can get hooked on gaming (and heroin).

Ponyo (7/10)

This is another Miyazaki film to watch strictly for the visuals. The story is pretty inane, but, as far as kids movies go, you could do worse. Many of the Miyazaki cliches are there: story takes place in rural Japan, humans are evil polluting beasts, all the elderly people look exactly the same, and the main character is a little girl facing huge, fantastical obstacles (what's Miyazaki's deal with little girls? A little creepy I must say.).

The Snorkel (9/10)

The third movie in the six film DVD set Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films is, so far, the best. The story takes the somewhat novel approach of showing you who the killer is within the first three minutes. The suspense then comes from wondering how (or even if) the other characters will be able to see the clues which are obvious to the audience. The acting is all very good and baddie is given an extra edge of creepiness with his choice of corny (although era-appropriate) high-waisted pants and skimpy speedos.

Elvis Double Features: Spinout / Double Trouble by Elvis Presley (10/10)

Format: 
CD

Spinout remains my favorite Elvis record. You could pair it with thirty minutes modem noises and this CD would still be awesome. Fortunately, it has been matched with Double Trouble, another good Elvis movie soundtrack… not Spinout good, but good nonetheless. I was first attracted to the cheese factor of some of these songs like "Beach Shack" and "Smorgosbord," but the more I listened, the more I realized there were some real gems here: "Stop, Look, And Listen," "Adam and Evil," "Never Say Yes," and "Spinout." I really could go on and just name every track.

Martyrs (8/10)

This is a French horror film that often gets lumped into the sub-genre of torture porn along with Hostel and Saw. I can surely see why, but this film feels like there's more to it than that. The majority of the movie feels like a j-horror psychodrama in which you don't know whether to believe what you are seeing. Just when you think you have it all worked out the film makes some crazy twists and it becomes something else entirely.

Cash on Demand (8/10)

Another great thriller from the Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films DVD six-pack. This one pits Grand Moff Tarkington against a clever bank robber who seems to hold all the cards. The story shows its stage production roots by taking place, more or less, in real-time and by building most of its tension through dialogue and intense acting. Cushing is absolutely great as Fordeyes, the uptight and nervous band manager. The Christmas setting and Fordeyes's character instantly reminds you of Scrooge, but it's A Christmas Carol laced with threats of violence and torture!

Elvis by Elvis Presley (10/10)

Format: 
CD

Unlike his debut album, this one feels much more complete and less like a singles collection. The production is slicker but the early Elvis rawness and attitude is still there. So many great songs like "Rip It Up" and "Paralyzed." The rock 'n' roll stands aside for "Old Shep," which is an epic tale of dog mercy killing. The CD includes six bonus tracks (singles from the same sessions) which include three of his best: "Don't Be Cruel," "Hound Dog," and "Love Me Tender." Awesome cover photo, by the way.