The Maltese Falcon (1931) (6/10)

This early version of the Hammet novel hits most of the same plot points of the later version but the acting is corny and there's a lack of any visual flare to the direction. The story is still good and there is a plot hole that's filled out in this version (a witness to the crime is the key piece evidence which seems to have been added completely as an afterthought)

The House on Haunted Hill (6/10)

While it had one or two actual jump scares in it (a rarity for American films of this vintage), this is more of a mystery movie. The performances are all above average for a B-movie and it does have a certain style to it, but this movie is just silly and riddled with plot holes. The movie ends with a climax so ridiculous it's probably worth watch or at least just fast forwarding to the end.

The Legendary Italian Westerns by Ennio Morricone (10/10)

Format: 
CD

This was a very important CD in the development of my musical tastes. It was the starting point of my love of Ennio Morricone's music. The CD compiles some of the best known of his spaghetti western tunes (sans The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) ranging from the cheesy 60's pop of "Gringo Like Me" to the sweeping epic, "Jill's America" from Once Upon a Time in the West. If you are looking to sample The Maestro, The Legendary Italian Westerns is probably the best place to start.

Shadow Warrior Classic on Ms-DOS (6/10)

Shadow Warror: Looks Like Salad

This is a classic FPS from the same people who brought us Duke Nukem 3D. In this outing, the politically incorrect humor is based around the protagonist's ridiculous Asian accent and culturally insensitive one-liners. It can be quite cringe-worthy at times, but inevitably it's harmless. Especially when compared to the over-the-top gore and violence. Ah, the 90's. If you can find your safe space, what remains is an exciting game that sticks to the usual run and gun formula of this era. There are a lot of crazy weapons, tough enemies and unique level designs (for the time). Modern gamers may scoff at the lack of narrative and primitive presentation, but I thought it was fast, offensive, silly fun.

The Horror Films Collections, Volume 2 by Various Artists (9/10)

Format: 
CD

This compilation covers Italian films from the early Seventies all the way to 1991's Hobgoblin and features compositions from a wide range of artists that aren't Ennio Morricone. I got this CD for something like seven dollars from Amazon and, as of this writing, it's still available for cheap. Often times the music is the best part of Italian B-cinema and this disc provides a good overview for someone looking for a starting point.

Sing-A-Longs And Lullabies For The Film Curious George by Jack Johnson and Friends (1/10)

Format: 
CD

Horribly boring acoustic guitar music that's sure to appeal middle-aged mommy bloggers and other deranged psychopaths. For whatever reason, my wife won't let me throw this piece of crap in the garbage. I sleep with a gun under my pillow.

Batman: Arkham Asylum on PC (9/10)

Batmen goin' all kicky!

I'm still waiting for that Wonder Twins game, but in the meantime this will do. After Arkham City this does seem less grand, but it still is more-or-less the same fantastic game. The fluid fighting system is just as good as I remembered it was in the sequel. Even the mindless Riddler trinket hunting works here. There is a wandering story about The Joker and super-henchmen that doesn't really amount to much. But who really cares. When the game mechanics work this well, I'm fine with a second rate plot.

The Podcast Report

Today is supposedly International Podcast Day. Well, let's celebrate this phony-baloney holiday by taking a look at some of the podcasts that I've been listening to lately. I feel like this list will change as time goes by so I wanted to document it here for future reference. These are in no particular order so here goes.

Political Word Trends

The current presidential election cycle has made Facebook insufferable these days. As the various screeds flow across my feed from people who would normally be reasonable friends, I am noticing what I am calling, "political word trends." Out-of-the-blue people start using the exact same words to describe something with which they have a political beef. I know this is essentially the same thing as talking points (like when every Democratic operative on the planet described Hillary "powering through" her illness), but what I am seeing is just a little more subtle.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood on PC (6/10)

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

I enjoyed the original Call of Juarez and its spin-off, Gunslinger, but this one didn't really grab me. It tries to mix things up by letting you play each level as one of two characters, Ray or Thomas. But, in the end, it's still just a very standard shooter with bland environments and no real weapon variety. I guess learning Ray's backstory (this is a prequel) was interesting and there was a real attempt to craft some genuine character development. Otherwise, it was just so-so to me.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel on PC (8/10)

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Okay, here's another Borderlands sequel. Actually, this is more of a large expansion pack to Borderlands 2—using the same engine and most of the same mechanics. The only new additions are the low-gravity environments and oxygen management. Admittedly, the ability to jump hundreds of feet into the air is pretty fun and opens up many of the levels, but, in the end, it's still the same old game: run towards the map marker and shoot anything that gets in your way.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newly (8/10)

Format: 
CD

Well, Gene Wilder died a this week so it's fitting that the next CD in my queue would be the Willy Wonka soundtrack. Gen X'ers are filled with tons of nostalgia over this movie and the songs therein, but can any of us sing a single line from "Cheer Up Charlie?" Nope. That song is trash that nobody remembers. The rest of the CD is filled with gems like "Candy Man"—a personal favorite because it is my go-to karaoke track. Also, there's quite a bit of film dialogue between songs, which is always a plus for me.

Radiant Historia on Nintendo DS (8/10)

Radiant Historia Box ArtI bought Radiant Historia based on its reputation as one of, if not THE best RPG on the Nintendo DS. Well, it's a JRPG so take that praise with a grain of salt. In fact, when I first got it, I manged to clock about 20 hours but eventually got distracted by other games. It's easy to lose focus from this extremely text-heavy game. Once again, many clicks are wasted on redundant "..." dialogue boxes and the accompanying, un-skippable "..." word bubble animations. So, it took four years and a fun romp through Etrian Odyssey for me to muster the energy to attempt another play through. Rather than pick up where I left off, trying to remember the convoluted plot up to that point, I started anew. During this run I would try my darndest to differentiate between all the cutesy anime characters and not lose focus.

The main touted selling point of Radiant Historia usually is its complex time-travelling plot. At first, being able to redo past events to alter the current ones is an nice mechanism. However, once you are deep into the game and there are dozens of points to which you need to return again and again, it becomes a drag and a nuisance. For me it didn't help that there seemingly was no way to skip the endless cut-scenes (I discovered it's the "start" button about 30 hours in). Despite the grandiose concept, there isn't that much in terms of branching story lines that would, like a Telltale game, lead to a unique game for each player.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (7/10)

Amazon recommended this movie to me probably because I have watched a lot of Kung-Fu movies lately? I think we can relax about the singularity and A.I. for the time being. Turns out the computer who picked this one is a moron. Not that this is a bad movie, it's just a little weak on the Kung-Fu. What it does have is a stereotypical indie film look and feel. There are lots of overly-long shots that linger on compositions that, no doubt, the director thought were gaze-worthy. If that's what you need to do to get to feature-length, fine.

The Mist (6/10)

I knew most of the story of The Mist from an abridged book an tape that we listened to as kids on some long car trip. Like a lot of Stephen King stories, it's a dumb concept that, when made into a film, depends more on the directing than the plot. Fortunately, this movie does the clichéd apocalypse survivor thing pretty well. Take a bunch of folks from all walks of life, trap them together, and watch as they devolve into anarchy as the looming threat grows. The pacing is good but the CGI monsters are terrible and that ending...

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