IanTheCool's Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Jul
20

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With Antman, Marvel has decided to take the plunge into the truly ridiculous. At this point it seems like they’re trying to see how far they can push it.”Lets make a movie where the superhero shrinks and hangs out with ants!” And does their hubris payoff? Surprisingly yes.

Paul Rudd was a great casting choice for the lead of Antman as Scott Lang, the burglar chosen by legendary Marvel scientist Hank Pym to take up the Antman suit and stop his technology from going global. The story is pretty basic, lets face it. The reason this movie exists is because the hero Antman actually has a unique set of powers he haven’t really seen yet in our current swath of comic book films: he can shrink down to insect size.

The key to success for a movie like this is whether they can take that premise and utilize it well. So do they? Absolutely. They went all out with the shrinking scenes, showing us a variety of different locations for him to be small in, like a bathtub, a night club, a pipeline, and a child’s room. There’s even a cool fight scene that takes place entirely inside a suitcase. These were the scenes that make this movie cool and sets it apart from the rest.

I do have to admit however that the CGI was a little iffy. The challenge here was to create these “giant” environments and to have many ants at the same scale as Scott himself. But honestly, the animation felt rushed and while there was detail, it seemed glossy and not entirely grounded. The ants especially. There’s a scene where he gets really small that I liked and wished I was able to see things in more detail. Until the end of that scene where it became weirdly like 2001.

Antman is another notch in Marvel’s repertoire, and one which I liked. Its not amazing; the villain is again rather bland and predictable, the story is a very basic “becoming a hero, stopping a global threat’ variation. The obligatory Avengers cameo felt really tacked on too.  But the fun of this film is made up through the cool shrinking action scenes and the great humour throughout, provided mostly by Rudd and co-star Michael Pena. So somehow, Marvel pulled off this ridiculous premise and made another exciting entry in their filmography.

8/10

Jul
19

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Ticket to Ride seems to have found a solid strategy for staying viable within the gaming community through their Map Expansion collection. These new maps give long-time gamers, who may have gotten sick of the modern board game classic after so long, a fresh chance to rejuvenate such a beloved game.
The second in the series, India, actually contains two maps by including the Switzerland (from a previous, now defunct, expansion) map. Even though those two countries seem about as different as two countries could be, they were still put together for some reason. While it makes not a lot of thematic sense for the paring, gameplay-wise it does for both of these expansions work well with smaller numbers of players. Let’s look closer.

Additions

1 India Map – The India map plays with 2-4 players. It is full of tin routes all over the place, only a few of which are doubles. There are ferries around the edges. Its quite a cutthroat map.

2 Mandala – One interesting, and difficult, thing about the India map is the new end game bonuses. What you need to do to get rewarded at the end is link up as many o the destination cites on your tickets not just once, but twice (with not routes shared). The more you do that, the more bonus points you win. This makes the game quite a lot deeper, more complicated, and more stressful.

3 Switzerland Map – The Swiss map is meant for only 2 or 3 players. It has a lot of small and medium routes and is loaded with tunnels. One thing to note is that the wild rainbow cards have to be used only for tunnel routes.

4 Country Routes – The Swiss map also has some different types of destination tickets. There are certain cards where you aren’t trying to connect cities, but instead surrounding countries (France, Austria, etc.). On these cards you have a choice of which to go for, some are easier but less points and so on. Having that choice is really quite nice.

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Critique

Best Feature: I love the Switzerland map, especially the country to country connections. It’s a small addition that just excites me for some reason.

When to use: This is a great expansion for when you only have 2 players. Even with 3 it’s a great one to choose. So when you have lower player counts (of TtR veterans though, India would be tough for newbies) and want some train traveling action, this is a great option.

Does it fit?:
No you’re not going to be able to fit a whole new map in the original box. It’ll have to be stored separately.

What type:
It’s a “different scenario” expansion with two new maps that you don’t play with every time, but just to switch it up.

Overall: A really great option for 2 or 3 (but especially 2) players. If you want a challenge try out India, if you want a more relaxed but very fun game try Switzerland, which may be my favourite of all the maps.
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Jul
10

terminator-Arnold

I guess the way I would sum up Genisys is a sort of admirable mess. Its hard to explain what I mean by that though. Its sort of like someone took all the previous 4 terminator movies, threw them into a blender and poured it into an amplifier? Okay, I’m mixing similes now, but I guess that’s basically it. Terminator 5 feels like a very enthusiastically made fan film when if comes right down to it.

When the movie started, it managed to grab me. Now the dialogue in this film is awful, right from the get go. Its cheesy, ham-fisted, and lacks subtlety. But I was intrigued with being able to see how the whole saga is kicked off with the time machine at the end of the war. But again, this ties back into the fan film idea. Nonetheless, it was interesting, though it would have been nice if we also saw how the T2 origins happened as well. Oh well.

So after that, we get Kyle Reese returning to 1984. What follows is a retread of the original film with many scenes and shots recreated. This is actually inherently interesting, sort of in the same vein as returning to 1955 in Back to the Future 2. but then everything changes as we find out that Sarah Conner has had a Terminator protector since childhood. Now all the timelines are messed up, and they’ve gotta figure out what to do to stop Skynet this time.

The more the movie continues, the more muddled the story becomes, the more generic the sets look, the more uninteresting the action sequences. The dialogue is bad throughout, but especially when they are arguing after Kyle finds out he’s John’s father. But the real kicker here is that the big mystery which sets off this whole plot, the fact that a Terminator was sent back to Sarah’s childhood, the who reason this movie is different from the others, is never resolved. Its never revealed who sent him back or why. I mean, c’mon!!

Perhaps the biggest draw of this movie is Schwarzenegger. It was really nice having Arnold back in the mix. Things felt grounded when he was on screen. Deanerys had the look down as Sarah Conner and was engaging, but was missing something. Jai Courtney was also missing something; personality. And the whole John Conner plot device was a huge misstep.

The idea of the operating system Genisys becoming Skynet and the media blitz around that was interesting. But there’s too much junk around it to completely pull you in. Some really award moments like these are the Ramones song going while they are loading clips. Wha?? Or that awkward conversation with John and Milee Dyson’s son about Time Travel.”Boom1″ Who are these people?? I also thought that the decision to actually personify Skynet was big mistake. Skynet is much more terrifying as a faceless, shapeless force that is everywhere.

There’s something bold about the balls-to-the-wall approach taken here to bring everything about the franchise thusfar together. At times we get cool homages to the films we love. But at other times the movie seems to be stepping all over it with muddy shoes, such as when John Conner recites the “he cannot be reasoned with…” speech that was one of the best moments of the first film and turns it into something cheesy and awful. But I dont know… ultimately the movie was terrible, but it almost worked there for a while.
4/10

Jul
08

 

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Cosmic Encounter is a game that has had many versions and may expansions over its 37 year history. However Fantasy Flight’s latest version really seems to be the definitive edition, which has up to five expansions thus far. The first to be released was the excellent Cosmic Incursion Expansion. Today I will be looking at the second, titled Cosmic Conflict.

Additions

1Seventh Player – New black ships and planets are added to the game in case you want to play with 7 players (if you also have the orange ships from the first expansion). The ships look sleek. A seven player game is crazy, but Cosmic is one of those games that feeds off of crazy.

2Hazard Deck – There is a new deck added to the game which is one of those “everything is affected by the same change” things. Every once in a while, the hazard deck is triggered and a card comes into play. Some of these can be crazy, like the entropy beast which removes planets from play.

3 New Aliens – And of course, new alien races are added to an already insane amount of aliens. Some notable races are the saboteur who can lay out traps, the prophet who tries to predict who will win encounters, the changeling who can swap powers, and The Claw which lets you steal someone’s entire planet!

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Critique

Best Feature: Having new alien races is probably the best feature for this one, as its always nice to have more variety and more chances for alien power wackiness! I mean, 14 of the 20 new races are either red or yellow level powers.

When to use: The new aliens can of course be thrown into the mix. The hazard deck isn’t an “always use” though. Only use it once in a while to switch things up, sort of like the tech cards from the base game.

Does it fit?: Yes, it fits with Cosmic Incursion as well, but its pretty full. I had to stick all the planets underneath the insert. I’m not sure I can fit a third expansion in there.

What type: This is a more of the same expansion, but the hazard deck could be considered a variant expansion.

Overall: Its alright, but I wouldn’t say its an essential Cosmic add-on. The hazard deck is cool every once in a while, and the aliens are great, but no real stand outs (except maybe the claw)
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Jul
06

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Let’s face it, De-ranged is just another Munchkin expansion like any other. T adds a bunch of new cards and that’s pretty much it. The previous expansion, Need for Steed, added in steed cards which were a great addition, but otherwise these expansions are pretty much just more of the same.
And that’s alright I guess. It gives some fresh puns to the players, for as long as those last, and more of a sense of “who knows what I’ll pull from the deck this time”. This won’t be a long review since this isn’t an expansion that warrants one, so let’s just get into it.

Additions

1Rangers – The new class of rangers are the biggest addition to the game. Rangers have the ability to tame monsters and make them steeds. I like this for a couple reasons. First, I really like that they are expanding upon the new steed cards introduced in the last expansion. I really love steeds. Secondly, this provides for some very fun and imaginative imagery, like riding the floating nose.

2New Door Cards – Other than the rangers, there’s a bunch of new monsters, my favourites being the poultrygeist and the oxymoron. They also add some more cards of other races and classes to equal out the balance of so many more cards, which Is good cause having no class sucks.
And again, they are piggybacking off of the last expansion and providing a couple new steeds, which I am very happy to see. This also includes a steed with a clever Monty Python reference.

3New Treasures – Again, more of the same. There appears to be a lot of Go Up A Level cards, but there are also a lot of Lose a Level curses to balance it out. Still those cards are kinda annoying. But they also include some steed enhancers, which are awesome. And of course, all these cards feature the fun and lovable artwork from John Kovalic.

Critique

Best Feature: The rangers, mostly for adding more to the steed mechanic from Munchkin 4.

When to use
: Well first off, don’t bother buying this unless you already have Munchkin 4: The need for steed, otherwise all the new steed stuff in here will be wasted. (though if you are buying Munchkin 5, you probably already have 4). But pending that prerequisite, these can just be thrown into every game.

Does it fit?: I have the Munchkin Deluxe box, and yeah, the cards will fit with the other 3 expansions. I am not sure about the regular box.

What type
: This is really a “more of the same” expansion.

Overall: Honestly, there’s not much to this expansion. Its just more Munchkin cards. But because it adds some new stuff to one of my favourite parts of the game, the steeds, I am giving it a recommendation.

thumbsup

Jul
01

whiplash

Whiplash is a great movie. If you are like me and are hesitant to watch it because you really dont give a damn about jazz music, let me put your mind at ease. You do not need to love, or even like, jazz music in order to fully appreciate and enjoy this film. The theme runs much deeper than the subject matter.

Whiplash tells the tale of a young drummer who strives to be the best and is mentored by a ridiculously over-strict instructor. What the movie is really about though is how far will you or should you go to achieve excellence at something. The movie shows that in order to be the greatest at anything (in this case its drumming, but it really could be anything), you will have to sacrifice a lot. And by a lot, that includes your friends, family, and even your own health, dignity and self-respect.

All the pieces here are meticulously constructed. The cinematography is vibrant and sleek. The sound design and mixing is incredible (it dese4rved its Oscar here). And the acting is also top notch. Miles teller has a face you just want to punch (which suits the character, whom you should want to punch after not too long), but he does a very good job. J.K. Simmons is also great, creating what may be the year’s best on-screen villain.

Whiplash does a great job exploring the cost and pay-off of trying to be the greatest. IN the quest to become the world’s best drummer, this character goes through a lot and changes a lot. For a moment there, I was worried that we would be left with a disappointing ending however. At the beginning of the third act, the movie started to lose steam and felt like it was going to whimper out at the end. But I was wrong. The conclusion of the film really picked things back up again, took this theme that its been working with and brought it to its pay-ff. And whats brilliant, is that which the theme of achieving success is brought to its fulfillment, it left to the audience to interpret whether or not the cost is worth it. Only great movies can do that.
9/10

Jun
29

Blazing With Theme

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Co-op games found new life with the release of Pandemic in 2008. Since then the genre has exploded, and one of the better entries into this category was kickstarter success Flash Point. In Flash Point, players work together as a team of firefighters racing to rescue as many people as they can from a burning building. As far as themes go, few fit the nature of co-ops as well as that. In fact, the theme of Flash Point is probably the primary factor for its success as a great game. Let’s see why.

Gameplay

The goal of the game is to rescue seven victims from the fire. If three are killed or if the house collapses, everyone loses. The central mechanic of the game revolves around action movement turns where the players must spend action points to move into the house, find the victim, and get them out. However, the team also needs to be aware of extinguishing fires before things get out of control, because if fire ever lands on a space with a victim, they’re dead.
Each firefighter has a role which makes them better at certain parts of the game. The rescue specialist will, well, rescue people more specially. The CAFS guy puts out fires better. The driver gets to shoot the water gun, which is always a lot of fun. These roles both add to the theme of being a team and gives each player at the table their ow feeling of purpose.
As thematic as this game is, there are a couple things that don’t quite make sense. For example, while there will be up to 10 victims in the house, there are only three available to be found at any time. So where was that one guy when you just went through this room earlier?! Also, The water gun doesn’t make a ton of sense, unless you picture the roof having collapsed, which would cause a lot more problems. But honestly these are minor quibbles in a game which gives an overall gestalt which really makes you feel the theme while playing.

Components

This is an area where Flash Point really takes that all-important theme and solidifies it. First off, each character has their own coloured figure which is shaped like a firefighter. These guys are awesome and add to the motif a lot.
Other components include lots of tiles: smoke and fire, victims, trucks and ambulances, explosives, etc. They are all designed with nice art and all contribute to the firefighting aesthetic. And there’s even cat and dog victim tokens!
The board is also great. Its double sided, with each side offering a new house to start on fire (Not literally. Now THAT would be theme integration!). They are well-planned out to make things challenging, while offering lots of décor details to add to the immersion.

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Conclusion

Flash Point is simply a lot of fun. It’s an easy-to-learn co-op in a similar vein with Pandemic, but different enough to justify playing and owning both. Its not as mechanically solid as Pandemic mind you. There are some aspects like using the dice which don’t flow as well. But the theme is one that everyone can get behind and it really creates an atmosphere of both tension and enjoyment.
The great thing about Flash Point is that it creates experiences. It’s one of those games where everyone can get into their roles and into the “story” of it all. Neat scenarios can arise which make more memorable game moments. For example, having to choose between saving a person or the cat, and choosing the cat. Or having every player race to the top floor (sorry, different floors are from the expansion) to rescue the dog as the last victim to win the game, only to have the whole building collapse.
So if you like your games thematic and are looking for a great cooperative experience, or just like good gaming experiences in general (so, everyone then), light up some Flash Point: Fire Rescue!

Jun
20

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Twenty-two years after having my mind blown in theaters as a 12-year old, the actual park is finally open. Having the park open for public was brilliant move for this third sequel to the franchise. Seeing the attractions come to life was a lot of fun and it made me really wish that there was such a place in real-life. Like, seriously. I want this to be real. Maybe some day…

Jurassic World has a pretty stereotypical blockbuster premise. The two main kids both have some troubles in their life, while their aunt who runs the park isn’t comfortable with them at first, but changes throughout. Everything seems fine and dandy, until it isnt. Then the chaos ensues. Its all pretty basic, some of it is really cheesy but it generally works as a skeleton for the main muscle, which are the dino interactions.

I’m just going to say that I enjoyed this a lot. It really struck for that nostalgia chord, and for me it usually hit the right notes. Sometimes they went too far, like holding up the banner from the visitors center. Just having it there on the ground for us to find ourselves was good enough. But sometimes the nostalgia really elevated certain scenes, like the paddock opening scene at the end.

The main crux of the movie revolves around a genetically engineered dinosaur who escapes and goes on a rampage. I didn’t have too much of a problem with that, and found that it gave us some really thrilling moments, even if they were very reminiscent of the other films, such as the scene in the gyro-car thingy.

Let’s address the raptors, because i can see that this is an area a lot of people would have problems with. The raptors here are trained, much like lions or tigers. And while the whole concept seems ridiculous (unless you actually take a moment to realize that yes, they do do this with lions and tigers) they handle it pretty well. They walk the line between having a connection and always being in danger. And there’s a pretty great moment in the third act where this danger element intensifies. So while skeptical of the whole idea, it didn’t bother me too much while watching.

Jurassic World doesn’t have the same magic as Jurassic Park, but lets face it very few movies do. This really had no hope of that. But its a good sequel which is able to slightly transcend its blockbuster downfalls for the most part. The score wasn’t very good honestly, except when it touched upon the original music. Chris Pratt is a good lead and there’s some great imagery and set pieces. And that finale…. they just went all out. That was pretty awesome.

All in all, it was nice to revisist Isla Nublr once again.

8/10

Jun
13

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What a cool movie.  Nightcrawler tells the story of a social outcast who finds his passion in late-night news photography and will do whatever it takes to become the best at it.  Its engaging, interesting, and captivating right from the start.  The reason its all of those things is because the character of Lou Bloom is so weird and eccentric that you get drawn in to watching his actions and conversations play out.  Jake Gyllenhal probably gives the best performance I’ve seen him in.

Bloom wants to be great at something and doesn’t have a lot of moral quandaries keeping him back.   He’ll tamper with crime scene evidence, withhold information from the cops, do whatever he needs to to get the best news footage.  The way he goes further down the rabbit hole kept me engaged every moment.  This is an energetic movie with a despicable yet vastly interesting character at its center.  Check it out if you get the chance.

9/10

Jun
07

Dragons Not Included

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I’m not sure if this will be so much of a review, as a comment on how Fantasy Flight has chosen to deal with the expansions for the Game of Thrones board game. Hopefully it’s a little of both, but I may rant a little. Hopefully that’s okay.
The Dance With Dragons expansion is really just a deck of cards that provide new character cards for each family and a new set up scenario. It takes the story ahead to the end situation in the Song of Ice and Fire books thus far, so I suppose there are some spoilerish stuff if you are currently reading them or if you are a TV watcher only (though I suppose at this point they’re pretty much in the same place).
But don’t let the name fool you: Daenerys does not make an appearance. The only reason it is called so is because it’s the title of one of the fifth book. So lets talk about that for two seconds, because it drives my organizational mind crazy. The first edition of the game had two expansions, named respectively after the next two books; Clash of Kings and Storm of Swords. Okay, cool idea.
Then after the second edition, the first expansion out was this one, named after the 5th book and completely skipping over the 4th (which would be next). I got an OCD twinge in my neck, since that will always be out of order now. Also, I can’t really complete the set, since the first two expansions are incompatible. It would have been nice to have gotten some updated versions, but oh well. I know that I am one of a small few who are actually bothered by this, but I’m throwing it out there anyway.
But let’s look at the expansion we do have now.

Additions

1 New Scenario – The major idea behind ADWD is the new scenario set up. It has new starting positions to reflect the progression of the storylines such as *SPOILERS* Stannis being at the Wall, the Bolton’s controlling the North, and so on. What this new set up does is gets the aggression in the game going faster rather than player’s spending a turn or two just preparing for battle.

2 New House Cards – The other major addition is the new character cards for each of the 6 houses. These also reflect the changes in the books as characters who have been killed off are no longer present, while others have been promoted. The artwork is interesting as always, and I like that their looks are not influenced by the TV show at all. They also have some neat abilities to try out.

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Critique

Best Feature:
For me personally, it’s nice to have a new set of character cards. On a fan level, it’s nice to see new characters represented. On a game level it’s nice to have a few different tricks up your sleeves

When to use: The new scenario is only to be used when there are exactly six players, but if you’re doing a 6-player game then this is the way to go. It ultimately makes the game shorter and gets the action going quicker. So it can only be used with one player count, but it’s good for that player count.

Does it fit?: Its only a deck of cards, so it fits in the game box very easily.

What type:
Dance is an alternate scenario expansion, but its pretty limited as there’s only one alternate scenario.

Overall: It’s worth getting if you are able to play with six players a lot. If not, only get it if you are a fan and what to see more of the people of Westeros in your game. I know I went on a rant about the expansion names and orders, but that’s really just a “me” thing I wanted to vent about.

thumbsup

May
20

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So, a new Mad Max eh? Seems like an odd choice for a franchise to revise, as the original films really only exist as cult classics. And while it has name recognition, Joe and Jane Public really don’t know much about it apart from that. But nevertheless, it is back and with a vengeance.

Fury Road promises an intense action ride with lots of car chasing goodness and gritty settings and characters. And it delivers. The action sequences take up the majority of the film and are both inventive and well-choreographed. They manage to stay fresh throughout the movie too, which is nice.

There is one major lull about 3/4 of the way in as the runaway rig carrying fugitive women from a work camp gets to take a break from the constant pursuit behind them. Normally a break in the action doesn’t bother me much, but maybe because there wasn’t much substantial in this lull or perhaps because I had become so accustomed to the breakneck pacing and energy thus far, it felt really laborious.

Tom Hardy definitely looks the part of Max, but other than that most of what he does is grunt his lines under his breath.  Charlize Teheron is great as Furiosa.  That guy who plays Beast in the X-Men movies plays a rather annoying character which brings the story down a bit.

The setting really manages to realize the anarchistic landscape of the original films in a somewhat fuller and richer sense than before, going into various different factions living in the outback. And honestly, a lot about this society is mostly an exercise in grotesquerie, something which I’ve never been a fan off and usually turns me off. A lot of the grosser realizations does knock this down a notch for me, but I do realize that that is a totally personal and subjective nitpick. But in reality, this is one wild ride and a truly visceral action movie experience.

8/10

May
03

Avengers Age of Ultron

Marvel has been very successful in creating a movie franchise universe for its comic book heroes, and ever expanding that universe across almost a dozen films. But in their second Avengers movie the whole franchise seems to have evolved to a whole new step. The Marvel movie universe has now managed to completely immerse itself into the same world as the comics from which they came.

What do I mean by that? What I mean is that Age of Ultron really feels like one of those crazy cross-over comic events with tons of characters showing up all over the place, each contributing to a central story where its taken for granted that we know who these characters are and where they come from. Some people will hate this most likely, but I thought it was impressive.

We get right into the action as we see the Avengers hunting down the last stronghold of Hydra. This isn’t a great action scene as the CGI is very apparent, but dont worry; much better action scenes are to follow, like the Iron Man vs. Hulk fight. The main story however sees Tony Stark create an evil AI called Ultron in an attempt to develop an automated security system for the world. And of course Ultron is out for destruction.

The biggest problem of the movie is that they don’t do a great job of establishing the origin of Ultron. Its rather rushed and feels awkward. But after that the story runs pretty smoothly (which the exception of some sort of dream cave Thor goes into?? Wha??) and Ultron is a pretty cool villain, and quite daunting since he can transport himself to any other robot if he’s defeated.

What I really liked was just the smorgasbord of characters thrown into this thing. (I mean, Vision?? I did not expect a character like him to show up.) I know that doesn’t seem like it should be a good thing, but personally I love huge casts of characters all interlocking, and as I said before it is necessary for that evolution of the franchise to truly feel like a Marvel comic come to life. Yeah, its a little clunky in places, but there are a lot of balls to juggle here and I liked how most of them stayed balanced in the air pretty well. I loved the craziness of this movie.
8/10

Apr
26

FOXCATCHER

Foxcatcher tells the story of two wrestling brothers who allow themselves to be taken under the wing of an eccentric millionaire as their coach.  Its based off of a true story, but whether that gives it more or less power is up to how you feel about it I suppose.  It’s is a competently made film.  The cinematography is fine, the editing is fine, and so on.  The main problem is that its entirely devoid of any type of charisma.

This lack of charisma extends into the performances of both Channing Tatum, whose almost Neanderthal like as Mark, and Steve Carrell as John Du Pont who is essentially an unfunny Michael Scott, filtered so that only the awkwardness is left.   They aren’t bad performances, but with the dialogue they lack spark.    Mark Ruffalo’s David is the only one who really gives you some personality to latch on to.

So what results is a somewhat interesting, somewhat boring story.  It was hard to see what made this particular story remarkable enough to make a movie about it, which I found out at thee end.  But even then, the ending of the film just kind of happens.  There’s not a lot of build up to it, follow up from it, or any real power behind it.

6/10

Apr
03

A Blend That’s Great, Even with Eight

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Vivajava is my hidden gem story. I ordered the game without really knowing how it worked. I just liked that it was about producing coffee. But low and behold, what I ended up with was a fantastic game that quickly became a hit among my group of friends.
Vivajava is a rare breed. It’s a eurostyle production game which works for up to eight people and involves tons of interactivity among players. In short, its awesome. It fills an interesting Niche, as most games involving that many players tend to be party games or secret role games like The Resistance or Werewolf. Having the option for an actual strategy game with that many people is great.

Gameplay

The goal of the game is to make the best-selling coffee blends and earn points based on how long they stay in the market. Coffee blends are made using a basic poker system, but with coloured beans pulled randomly from roaster bags instead of playing cards. This is a brilliant idea as it’s something most people can relate to an latch on to. The best blends get the best places on the market.
Vivajava also has a number of other great mechanics including a research track which gives you special abilities. It also has the added strategy of trying to maintain an efficient roaster filled with any number of coloured beans in order to make the best blends. There’s a lot for gamers to sink their teeth into here.
But where this game really comes out strong is the actual blending process. Why is that? Because in order to blend, you must do so as a team with one or two other players. Therefore, you are making temporary alliances every turn in order to team up and make the best blend possible between you both. This makes the game very interactive and dynamic and gives it its spark.

Components

Like a great cup of coffee, the artwork and components of Vivajava are soothing and comforting. There is a stack of blend slates, each with interesting art. The colour schemes of the main board work very well to create a consistency. And the fact that the game actually comes with little wooden coffee beans is just awesome.
There may be slight confusion between the red and brown beans if the lighting isn’t quite right, but that’s really just a nitpickers problem and not that big a deal. Otherwise, the components are top notch. The roaster bags are good quality, the graphic design works well, everything is great.

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Conclusion

I expected this game to be a game I bought because I liked the idea of a coffee-centric game, but one that would just sit on my shelf as an oddity. I underestimated how fun it would actually be. Now I get plenty of requests for “the coffee game”, and it’s easy to see why.
Vivajava promotes interactive gameplay and can accommodate groups as large as eight, which is a rare thing. And it also does all this without sacrificing genuine eurogame economic strategy, which is even rarer. Vivajava is a great game that fills in interesting niche, and one which I highly recommend.

Apr
02

A while back I posted my top ten most wanted blu-rays here.  A lot has changed since then, and eight of the ten have come to fruition.  Time to take a new look at the blu-rays I’d love to see.

10. The Wire

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Alright, this is kind of a cheat, since HBO is releasing The Wire complete series on blu-ray June 6th.  But what I would like to see is the individual seasons, jsut cause I’m weird like that. (All my other shows are broken into season sets, so…)

But if this is a cheat, then put Roman Holiday in this spot.

9. The Marx Brothers

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Someone needs to put out a set of Marx Brothers films on bluray.  The one I am specifically interested in is Duck Soup, but honestly they all should be.  The Marx Bros were a massively important part of film history, and really should be preserved on blu-ray high def.  i’m honestly really surprised this hasn’t happened yet.  Its a shame.

8. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

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This is one of the few from AFI’s top 100 movies list that has yet to get a blu-ray release.  It should have one.  I mean, that whole list should have one, really.

7.Spartacus (Remastered)

Yes, Universal already has a blu-ray of Spartacus released.  But from everything I’ve read about it, the transfer is an atrocity.  Digital noise reduction appears to have taken all of the detain out of the images.  This post will tell you why.  The great thing is that it sounds like this may happen, according to Digital Bits.

 

6. Before Sunrise

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Rumour has it that Criterion is planning a trilogy release of Linklater’s Before series.  The only one on blu right now is the third one.  I adored the first one, and would love to add it to my menagerie of films.  The only thing I ask is that they don’t make it a box set, or if they do they make each of the three individual discs and literally put them in a box.

5. The X-Files

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This was my favourite show as a teenager, and it still sticks with me even though the show dropped off considerable in the last four seasons.  But it is certainly a show I would  love to include in my collection.  There are rumours that this has been coming for a while, and with the new announcement of the series returning for a stint on TV again, chances for a Blu-ray release are high.

4. Prince of Egypt

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I really have no idea why this isn’t out yet.  Its a pretty well-respected animated film from Dreamworks that I would think is well worthy of a release.  I sort of expected it to come out when Exodus was released in theaters, but no such luck.

3. The West Wing

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TV on Blu-ray was a tricky thing.   I had to wonder if it was even worth getting into, since I knew so many shows just wouldn’t bother with the upgrade.  But then Game of Thrones came out, and so I began my TV collection.  I know I wont get all my shows on blu, but there are some I’m really hoping for.  West Wing is one of my all-time favourites, and I really hope that it comes to HD in the near future.

2. Bringing Up Baby

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This is one of my all-time favourite comedies, yet it is one of the few AFI Top 100 list movies not on blu yet. Whats up with that? Get it out there!.

1. The Original Star Wars Trilogy

My most wanted blu-ray remains the same.  I will repost what I wrote last time:

I decided to put the least likely to happen at the top of this list.  What I am talking about here is the original, unadulterated trilogy with no CGI Ronto’s added, no extra scenes, and no ridiculous song-and-dance numbers in Jabba’s palace.  I want the three movies released with beautiful new transfers without any of Lucas’ obsessive tinkering.  The driving force behind blu-ray has become film preservation; allowing films to be released in their pure form as they were meant to be seen.  So why not Star Wars too?