Archive for October, 2009

Off Topic: The Zune Nightmare Part I

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Microsoft become more and more like Skynet every day.  With one key difference.

The popular are always easy to pick on.  They have the money, they have the fame-they have everything.  Sometimes it’s actually fun to go after those in the spotlight and give them the vocal version of stoning.  However serious or light-hearted these attacks may be, there is always that possibility some of us might be overreacting even in the slightest bit.  We might not want to admit to this likelihood more times than not (how many of us are actually selfless?) but in the end, most of these so-called “criticisms” are without much point or purpose and lack necessity.

Sadly, there are points when what might seem like insults are actually well deserved and, dare I say, not adequate enough.

We all know Microsoft.  The company who essentially gave us computers and, more recently, Windows Vista, Xbox 360 and the Zune media player line.  But there is something that these three releases had (and still do have) in common: nil reliability.  From inconsistent running to Red Rings of Death to constant firmware issues aplenty, all of these Microsoft releases have left sour tastes in our mouths.  Take it from somebody who’s dealt with a since crashed Vista-equipped slimline PC and laptop along with five Xbox 360’s and five Zunes in less than four years.  Do the math and I think you begin to see what I’m trying to emphasize.

RROD

Three years to almost resolve an issue that’s plagued well over 60% of Xbox 360 owners doesn’t exactly translate to good credibility.

The issue at-hand has shifted from products that are only prone to problems upon release to why these setbacks have yet to be (completely) resolved and, in some cases, continue to pop up.  The Xbox 360’s and Vista have all been criticized for their problems (and rightfully so), but it seems the Zune line has gotten significantly less attention.  Whether this is due to a lack of care or fanbase for the devices or Microsoft’s seeming intent to release newer models to try and avoid responsibilities for older versions is still up in the air.  Allow me to take you on a little trip of my experiences with the Zune; starting back when I was still in high school.

At the time, I had only owned two portable music devices (a CD player and iPod Shuffle 1G), but their simplicity essentially meant there were no worries in the form of defects.  Although I had gotten my hands on full models of the iPod time and time again, it never felt right in my hands.  The circular click wheel was never to my liking, the menu interface was boring and the opposite of fun to navigate around and they just never struck me as a particularly reliable product.  But then I heard of a new player coming out, called the Zune, being made and sold by Microsoft.  Although I had a bad run-in with my first Xbox 360 getting the Red Ring of Death after six months I ultimately shrugged it aside and figured the Zune would be a nice alternative (it had a style and interface that I immediately loved).  When I did finally get my own Zune (the Halo 3 version I might add) it was pure bliss.  Music on the go couldn’t be any better.

However, after a year of use and finding out about more bands, my demands for something a bit…more began coming out.  And conveniently enough, Microsoft were announcing the Zune 80, an 80 gigabyte upgrade to the first generation of Zunes.  Ecstatic, I decided that I would purchase one ASAP and essentially ditched my old Zune 30.  The new look was definitely nice and although it was different using a touch pad, adapting to it became easy.

zune-vs-ipod-classic

It certainly looks like a more than worthy competitor, but we all know how much looks alone matter in the long run.

Fast forward another year and we begin to truly see some cracks in the design.  I’ll start with the software which was definitely an inconvenience to install at first but all told it functioned well enough and the issues I had were at a minimum.  However, once more prominent updates came in the situation only declined.  The software would take a while before finally starting up, brief freezing was a commonality and the sync times only worsened as time went on (especially for movies).  But this was nothing compared to what I’d face with my device and, subsequently, the its three heirs.

Quote of the Day: “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”-Tommy Lee Jones, “Men in Black”

MGM: The Saw Series

The last thought that likely comes to mind when thinking about the Saw films is subtlety.  Most have passed the series off as a mere collection of torture porn while certain fans enjoy it for the thrills and storyline.  Either way, the series has left a bit of a mark on film viewers one way or another; and it seems we’re going to keep getting new installments each year.  Subsequently, Saw 6 was just released in theaters this weekend and although we don’t have a review for it, what we will provide are our individual thoughts on the series.  Grit your teeth and read on, if you dare.

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Hello readers.  We want to play a game…

Matt’s Take

As one who could be called the “casual man,” it’s needless to say that the Saw films have never appealed to me.  I had a tough enough time watching the traps from the first film, let alone all five up until this point.  While Jigsaw was always an interesting character and the story-when actually presented-wasn’t half bad, it’s still tough for me to even tolerate these screaming gore fests.  All of that said, if I had to pick which installments I thought were the best I’d likely say the first two since the first film had more focus on the characters talking and the story as opposed to the traps.  As for Saw 2, I liked the setting that the characters were put in…until they faced their traps that is (I couldn’t bring myself to watching the needle pit).  Saw 3 was pretty forgettable by comparison, but the gore was still quite gut-wrenching.  Then there’s the last two which really made me lose what little care I had for the story (especially the fifth film).  To this day I still don’t understand why people watch the Saw films.  Maybe they like the torture scenes or dig the storyline somehow.  I’ll probably never truly know or understand but hey, if horrific traps are to your liking then good for you.

Greg’s Take

You could call me the odd man out when talking about the Saw films.  I’ve found them to be (mostly) engaging and interesting, even without the torture scenes.  The points each film try to make on the main characters with the scenarios they’re put in are either obvious or a bit more dimensional.  And since these parts are usually eye-popping you’re guaranteed to be paying full attention when the “game begins.”  But what kept me coming back were the storylines and finding out what would happen to the characters.  Unfortunately, after the third film, I’ve about lost my interest in the series.  Both the first and third entries had a good emphasis on a few characters who were developed well enough to care for and the challenges they faced felt fairly strong.  The problem, however, is that the fourth film tried to do a bunch of things and it essentially failed all of those (the biggest mistake being the introduction of so many new characters).  What’s worse is how the fifth film literally felt even more unnecessary (only one key character dies and nothing else really happens); came off as more of a precursor to something that wasn’t implied.  As of now I have a tough time anticipating the sixth film but the reception indicates it might be a step back in the right direction.  However, I think a revolution for the series will simply be too late at this point.

Michael’s Take

In complete honesty, I find the Saw films quite laughable and the fact it has a seemingly strong fanbase equally amusing.  Yes, there is a storyline and yes, there are characters we’re supposed to care for.  However, neither of these aspects are handled well in any way shape or form.  The story feels like it’s trying to confuse you intentionally and winds up being absurd and almost insulting at how redundant these attempts are.  And the characters, more times than not, are acted out in very weak ways, with only a couple doing a better than mediocre job.  Beyond that, the films are mostly just torture porn that, if you don’t mind all the blood spewing, skin stretching and bones snapping, can be sadistically enjoyable (it’s tough to say why).  I will agree with Matt and Greg in that the last two films are definitely the weakest, since they had even less of what kept the first three from being horrible.  The series as a whole, however, is just another gore-filled mess that does nothing for any of the genres it touches on (horror, thriller, mystery and suspense).

MGM: What We Want in Future Rock Band/Guitar Hero Entries

Both Guitar Hero and Rock Band have essentially become household names.  With an almost overwhelming amount of songs made playable amongst several games, iconic replications of instruments and the sheer fun factor, both franchises don’t show any sign of dwindling any time soon.  But these games haven’t been perfect and although every demand can’t and likely won’t be met, we at MGM are going to give three changes/improvements that we feel should be incorporated into future installments.

What Matt Wants

While I love both Guitar Hero and Rock Band both series have had the same issue and has yet to be resolved: good instruments (namely the guitar controllers)!  Additionally, what feels like a complete tease is how the controllers from both franchises have only nailed a proper controller feel halfway.  First, there’s Guitar Hero.  What I love about the Guitar Hero controllers are the strum bars-they’re stiff, strong and extremely durable (the only way to really bust one is by hitting it with fists for each note).  However, the fret buttons have almost always been lousy.  It’s either the buttons are stiff and clunky or soft but demand you crush the guitar neck for the game to detect notes.  With Rock Band, it’s the opposite.  The fret buttons feel precise since they take up the entire neck but the strum bars are “smushy” and, as a result, have a very inaccurate feeling.  For future entries/bundles, I want to see the controllers improved both ways (give us the Rock Band frets and the Guitar Hero strum bar, it’d be amazing).

rock-band-guitar-hero-vs

Instead of choosing between two half-decent controllers, why not give us a truly complete controller?

What Greg Wants

I’m not sure about all the other fans of these franchises out there, but for me, knowing how to improve at certain songs (namely difficult ones) is something I strive for.  Harmonix were quick to realize that a practice mode was necessary after not putting it in the first Guitar Hero.  While it has since been tweak and improved (save for Guitar Hero 3), there’s still something missing: a side-by-side note chart comparison.  For some of the tougher songs or song sections I try to get the hang of I sometimes feel as if I’m hitting the notes but the game isn’t registering them correctly, despite calibration tests.  So for the sake of avoiding frustration and adding convenience, I think we should be given comparisons of what the game detects we played next to the actual note chart (do this for both playthroughs of songs in Quick Play/Career and for sections in Practice mode).  This would definitely help the less experienced players realize what they may or may not be doing wrong as well as help the more experienced gamers see what they need to change to perfect their technique.

To this day I can’t get past the second solo, I think you can tell why.

What Michael Wants

Something that I’ve always wanted in the Guitar Hero games was being able to play previous content on future entries so the changes and improvements could be seen in the songs.  Although Harmonix understood this loud and clear by transferring (most of) the songs from Rock Band to its sequel, Neversoft are still playing catch up.  Essentially what I want to see for all future entries for both franchises is what Harmonix have already put into effect: transfer/install songs for use in subsequent releases.  I’m sure that whatever full-blown Guitar Hero games come out will have some nice touches for improvement but I’d like to play previous material on them (being able to play songs from Guitar Hero: Metallica on new games without having to swap discs would be much appreciated).  And given how many Guitar Hero discs have been released, I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say that avoiding this would eliminate much inconvenience (part of why MP3 players made CD players obsolete).

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Don’t just give us a bit of the previous content; let us have it all with the tweaks made in later installments.

MGM: Forza Motorsport 3 First Impressions

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Microsoft haven’t offered up much in the way of racing simulators, let alone racing games.  However, between the success of Forza Motorsport on the original Xbox and its sequel on the Xbox 360, the series has become one that many feel holds up its own against Gran Turismo and has even already surpassed it.  Forza Motorsport 3, the latest entry in the series, will be released next week on Tuesday, October 27.  To give a taste of what the full game should offer, developer Turn 10 released a demo on Xbox Live a few weeks ago.  Now, Matt, Greg and Michael are here to weigh in what they think the demo indicates for the full game.

Matt’s Thoughts

As I mentioned in our article on Need for Speed shift, racing simulators really aren’t my forte, especially games like Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport (how convenient).  But between the touting of how the game can appeal to even casual racing fans and being encouraged by others, I gave the demo a shot with Greg and Michael.  With that in-mind, I will say I enjoyed the Forza Motorsport 3 demo more than the other games, but ultimately it isn’t saying much.  What made it more fun was that more options for the handling have been incorporated, with the two standouts being Rewind and Autobraking (both work as you’d expect).  Since the Rewind use is unlimited and, with Autobraking turned on I could focus on the driving and turning rather than precise braking, I was able to legitimately enjoy the demo.  However, this is still fundamentally the same racing simulator I’ve tried twice before, albeit with very luscious visuals.  And the aforementioned features, while nice, still didn’t make this a very interesting and exciting racing game, which is what I want whenever playing one.

Greg’s Thoughts

This is has been quite the year for racing games.  Need for Speed Shift, Motorstorm: Arctic Edge, Dirt 2, Fuel (alright, maybe that one wasn’t so great) and we’re getting Forza Motosport 3 next week.  I liked the first two Forza games, but felt that the second one should’ve had better visuals and the sense of speed, while above Gran Turismo, is still underwhelming overall.  Fortunately, if the demo is any indication, then this sequel should be a fine improvement and step forward for the series.  Perhaps the most impressive part of the demo were the visuals, which are simply jaw-dropping (other than Uncharted and possibly Metal Gear Solid 4, this is probably the best-looking console game I’ve played).  Car models are incredibly sharp and the available course in the game looks like a spellbinding painting that has come alive.  The sense of speed also appears to have been bumped up a bit too, which I definitely like.  And the driving model is still solid which, with a cockpit view (finally) added to the series, should translate to an excellent final product.

Michael’s Thoughts

As you could probably tell from what Matt and Greg have mentioned, the Forza Motosport 3 demo indicates some very welcoming improvements have been made to the final product.  For me, this translates to even larger amounts of bliss per gaming session.  Forza Motorsport 2 is a game I’ve returned to time and time again yet still never managed to complete (if only I could say the same for other games).  About all that I could really have asked for is better visuals, more tracks and smoother customization.  After playing the demo, it’s safe to say at least two of these demands have been met.  The visuals for the single course in the game are mouth-watering and quite distracting since the location is rendered in such detail, color and beauty.  Racing action is a little faster and more intense, though it seems the game is suffering from Shift syndrome since the AI are far more aggressive and inconsiderate than before.  I would’ve liked to see some form of customization incorporated into the demo to give us an idea of what it will be like (since, after Midnight Club Los Angeles, Forza 2’s customization system felt too stiff), but I had a tough time complaining with what we were given.

Top 10: Disappointing Films Part II

Before I continue this list, I’m sure that if anyone comments on this list they’ll be inclined to say how close-minded or, for lack of a better word, idiotic I am for putting certain films on this list.  With that said, let me make it clear that this list is based strictly on my own personal opinion.  If you like the films then that’s great, I’m truly glad that you were able to enjoy one more film than I was (I try to like as much as I can).  But when I’m disappointed I just can’t bring myself to saying “oh yeah, I was content.”  Anyways, here’s the rest of my top 10 most disappointing films:

5. Saw 4

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So much went through my head when watching this film.  First it went from being baffled at the abandonment of what should’ve been a (proper) continuation from Saw 3 and ended up in aggravation by the last fifteen minutes.  Saw 4 is the embodiment of a sequel that should have never been.  The plot alone feels like something a person who was bored with the previous three conjured up just to piss the fans off.  By the time this installment came out, the games had run their course.  If anything in this film warrants praise it’s that we (finally) got a backstory to Jigsaw.  That said, it felt out of place and, in the long run, just silly because of the outcomes from previous films.  As far as I’m concerned, Saw 3 peaked about as high, if not higher than the original Saw and left quite hungry for its successor.  Unfortunately, this true sequel will never even be conceived.

4. The Departed

the departed

While I’ve never been much of a gang or mob film fan, I still try to enjoy any film even if it just isn’t any good.  After hearing a seemingly endless amount of praise towards this film (seriously, people treated it like the greatest film of our generation) and how it completely deserved the Best Picture Academy Award, I only figured this would be an excellent movie.  Imagine the look on my face for two and a half hours after the intro with “Gimme Shelter” ended.  For me, this is an immediate contender for the number one spot on an overrated film list.  While the cast for the film is generally good, no one delivers so much as a good performance (and I’ve become a fan of DiCaprio, yet he was simply decent here).  Jack Nicholson, save for a few brief parts, felt very underutilized and Mark Wahlberg plays what is easily one of the worst, most annoying characters in film history (put him, Marcia Gay Harden in The Mist and Rob Corddry from Harold & Kumar 2 in a room together and we just might have something that makes Uwe Boll look like James Cameron).  What’s most laughable about The Departed, however, is that the ending is like a Shakespeare story: everyone dies!  It’s beyond me how a film with such a straightforward plot, little to no point and completely unremarkable direction has yielded such immense praise.  No matter what, however, Letters from Iwo Jima is still the Best Picture winner for 2006.

3. The Big Lebowski

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It’s almost unimaginable how betrayed I felt by this film.  Although I had seen and wanted to rent it from BlockBuster several times, I waited till I was in the right mood to have a fun time.  While my first experience with the Coen brothers in No Country For Old Men was initially bittersweet I was able to enjoy some of it and, over time, the film grew on me.  I wish I could say the same for The Big Lebowski.  I wanted to love this movie, laugh and be completely entertained by whatever it offered.  Two hours after popping it into my Xbox 360 and I had a few brief chuckles and one laugh-out-loud moment.  Similar to how Saw 4 is the embodiment of the sequel-that-should-have-never-been; The Big Lebowski is the most misleading so-called comedy.  More times than not, I was wondering if this was supposed to be a comedy or tasteless chunk of silliness with too many plot layers to be enjoyable.  Laughs?  They were sparse at best.  Entertainment?  What entertainment?  Sorry Coen brothers and The Dude fans, but this is a film that feels like Clerks 2 tackling a story with the depth of The Dark Knight.  Needless to say, it didn’t work.

2. The Matrix Reloaded

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It was tough to decide whether this or The Big Lebowski was more disappointing but ultimately, this one was a far greater letdown because of how great its predecessor was.  When I first saw this film, it was a pretty big disappointment but the action scenes were just enough to make it enjoyable.  However, get rid of the Agent Smith brawl and the long highway chase and we have a film that not only lacks substance but contradicts its predecessor and even itself.  I won’t spoil or give all the examples away, but Morpheus’ character and the options Neo is given towards the end are the two most immediate instances of how much the Wachowski brothers screwed up.  And just like your typical summer blockbuster action flick (aka recent Roland Emmerich work), the action here is almost completely unnecessary and irrelevant to the story (even the live-action Transformers films had more relevant action).  After the great, strong and ambitious story from The Matrix, the least I expected was a proper follow-up.  Instead, we got a Michael Bay film with better shots and only faint indications of a real plot.

1. The Godfather

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After hearing how much I hated the above films I’m sure anyone reading this will think that I despise this “classic” with every inch of my heart.  And the truth is, I don’t hate this film, I simply dislike it.  But because it has been regarded as potentially the greatest film of all time by many, my expectations were naturally that it be just that.  If anything is a hint of how much this film disappointed me, it’s that I had to sit up six times just to barely stay awake.  What’s interesting is that The Godfather isn’t the longest film I’ve seen but the length is a key reason I was so letdown.  Yet I almost always prefer longer films because they take the extra time to strengthen any possible aspects (The Lord of the Rings, The Green Mile, Das Boot, The Abyss, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End-all close to or over three hours long and I loved them all).  Here, however, the length was murder.  Save for Al Pacino, there weren’t any characters that I cared for and with a story that was equally interesting, it could’ve ended with a cluster of nuclear explosions blowing up the entire world and I wouldn’t have cared.  But again, I don’t hate this film mostly because the cinematography was quite solid in spots, the score was pretty good and the acting wasn’t too shabby either.  Of course, this is a countdown of disappointment, and at the end of the day, no film has left me saying “that’s it?” as strongly as The Godfather.

Top 10: Disappointing Films Part I

I’m letting my fellow MGM boys take a little break so that I can express my thoughts on the subject(s) of my blog better.  Recently I figured that doing a Top 10 list every now and again wouldn’t be too shabby of an idea, so here’s one on a collection of films that I feel quite strongly about: the ten most disappointing films that I’ve seen.

10. Quantum of Solace

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I’m sure most people, whether big James Bond fans or not, can agree that Casino Royale was a very solid film.  Although I’ve never been too crazy about 007, I still found Daniel Craig’s first outing to be surprisingly well done and despite not looking the part at first, he embodied a strong yet inexperienced personality nicely.  With that in-mind, it’s needless to say that I figured the sequel to Casino Royale could at least prove to be a decent offering.  Sadly, Quantum of Solace was dull, uninteresting and lacked any wit or charm its predecessor had.  The story was weak and executed just as lousily, pacing was prolonged, charm almost nonexistent and it had a distinct lack of care. While there were a couple decent action scenes and a humorous one-liners, that’s about all the credit I could really give the film in the long run.

9. The Mist

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Normally this movie would be higher on the list but I put it low simply because I wasn’t sure from the trailers if it’d really be that great of a film (they really didn’t leave much of an impression on me).  But I primarily was interested in this movie since it’s a Stephen King-based film, who’s produced some of my favorite stories and was directed by Frank Darabont, who did wonders with two of King’s other efforts (The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption).  Unfortunately, despite the intentions and point of the film, the execution was just sloppy.  Barely any of the characters were convincing, which was a huge shocker after Darabont’s other two films.  Worst of all, Marcia Gay Harden portrays a character who’s so ludicrous that in spite of fitting into the role well enough, only makes for frustrating sequences (mostly due to how absurd her lines and support for them are).  While the idea of a film showing how people are their own worst enemies offers up strong potential, The Mist simply failed to realize this.

8. Slumdog Millionaire

slumdog millionaire

I seldom, if ever agree with the Academy on their choices for any award, especially the Best Picture selections.  Yet this movie is one that I feel very strongly about in regards to my disagreement.  So much praise surrounded this film by the time it had been released, which only indicated to me that it was at least worth seeing, and the plot for the film sounded quite interesting so my curiosity hit fairly high levels.  And though this was a good film it’s far from the masterpiece that so many have made it out to be.  One part to the film I loved was how for certain questions we got flashbacks to how the main character knew them.  However, outside of these interesting scenes and a few strong (in a Blood Diamond way) bits there was absolutely nothing remarkable about this film.  What I expected was a film that truly was better than the best of the year, what I got was a merely above average watch.

7. Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

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My stepfather and I are big fans of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (I remember him grabbing a couple boxes of the burgers to eat when we first saw it), so after some very promising previews it’s pretty obvious that we were excited.  As usual I wound up seeing the film but he waited for my verdict and both of us agree that this is a huge step down from the first.  Now, I did enjoy parts of Escape from Guantanamo Bay (emo Harold anyone?), but it fell into the rut many recent comedies have (namely Jim Carrey films): taking itself way too seriously.  I won’t spoil the details for those have yet to see this movie, but let’s just say that Rob Corddry is completely unnecessary and unwanted (much like Harden from The Mist) while both Harold and Kumar’s characters feel ruined with their sudden personality shifts.  Though certainly not bad, Escape from Guantanamo Bay proved to be a huge disappointment after the wonderful comedy and great pacing of its predecessor.

6. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

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I could rant on and on about how much potential was teased and hinted at but ultimately wasted on this film.  Just like some of the films on this countdown I did at least enjoy Dead Man’s Chest in parts but after how great Curse of the Black Pearl was, it was tough to not feel let down here.  Perhaps the biggest problem with this film is the exact opposite of the above title: this film doesn’t take itself seriously enough.  A key part of what made Curse of the Black Pearl work was that it managed to balance the comedy with the weightiness of the present scenarios.  Dead Man’s Chest, on the other hand, treats itself almost like one big joke that feels overdone, overplayed and simply falls flat because of this.  It’s a shame because there’s a great film underneath all the bad jokes; Davy Jones’ character alone had far more potential than what we got.  At least At World’s End managed to rectify these issues almost entirely (for me anyways).

Zombieland Review

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Matt’s Thoughts

I can’t say that I’ve ever been much of a zombie film lover.  More times than not they wind up being completely silly and often grotesque, which really seems unnecessary if you ask me.  And when I saw the previews for Zombieland, I thought we were going to be given the lowest of the low in terms of zombie films.  As it turns out, this is about as ridiculous and bloody as a zombie movie can get except there’s one major difference: Zombieland is a great, fun time.  This film is very much like the recently reviewed Austrian Death Machine CD; it’s shamelessly entertaining.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I had this much fun watching a film in theaters and I’m actually afraid that I might not be as entertained when seeing Toy Story in 3D.  I’ll even go out on a limb and say that as long as you don’t have a weak stomach then there’s no reason you shouldn’t find something to like here.

Greg’s Thoughts

My thoughts on zombie films have been almost the exact opposite of Matt’s.  While I’ll agree that most of them are oftentimes silly I always find the zombie action scenes very entertaining.  And when I first saw the trailer for Zombieland, I was immediately sold.  Thankfully, it did not disappoint and given how stressful my schedule has been, the film was really a perfect counterbalance.  There’s a fairly small cast in the film, but all of them handle their roles very well, with Woody Harrelson being the obvious standout.  One part I absolutely loved is how it kept on showing examples of Jesse Eisenberg’s rules to stay alive throughout the runtime.  And of course there are the many humorous and memorable killings of the zombies which are every bit as bloody and disgusting as you’d expect; which makes this movie all the more fun.  If you’ve been having a hard time like me or just need a vigorously pleasurable movie, this fits the bill perfectly.

Michael’s Thoughts

If you love zombie movies you’ll love Zombieland.  If you hate zombie movies you’ll still love Zombieland.  Sounds like I’m being overly optimistic, doesn’t it?  But trust me, after seeing the obnoxious and irresistibly gratifying film that this is, I doubt many people will be disagreeing with me.  Although Up is still my personal favorite film of the year thus far, Zombieland may very well be the most entertaining release for a good while.  Not since first seeing Superbad two years ago have I had such a great time in theaters-and the audience was practically dead for this film.  Even those who don’t like gory zombie deaths and killings are bound to love this picture because of how it occasionally mocks all the other zombie films.  If only we could see more movies like these hitting theaters it’d be a little easier to look past the dwindling economy.  But much like the last emphasized rule in the film, we just have to appreciate the little things.

MGM-“Double Brutal” Review

Double Brutal

Matt’s Thoughts

This has been a fairly good year for the more casual heavy metal genres and bands out there, which is fine by me.  And now we have the oh so subtly named Austrian Death Machine releasing their second album, “Double Brutal” as a dual-disc release.  The songs are once again all based on movies, quotes, characters and more centered on Arnold Schwarzenegger.  With that in-mind, it should go without saying that the material here is intended as comical which happen to be the very case.  But perhaps the biggest surprise is that most of the funnier moments occur during the short tracks that split up the songs themselves.  As for the music itself, it’s genuinely fun listening material and is mostly on the brief side, which helps for this kind of music style.  Even though the songs all contain vocals that would normally turn me away, the intended absurdity of it all makes it easy to enjoy and laugh at.  Here’s hoping that anything else released by this band will retain the same charm.

Greg’s Thoughts

For a genre that has taken cues of various other metal subgenres, metalcore has drawn a surprisingly large amount of hate.  Not every band in the genre is good-that goes without saying-but I’ve found it odd that the entire genre is often scoffed upon.  Fortunately, we have a metalcore band that I think can appeal to most listeners.  Last year’s “Total Brutal” was a surprise find for me but after listening to “Get to the Choppa” I knew I was in for some amusing stuff.  Now we have “Double Brutal,” which is exactly what you’d expect it to be; complete with varying vocal styles, awesome guitar solos and silly moments aplenty.  The first disc, which is all original material, contains the best moments this release has with humorous quotes and thrash-oriented songs comprising the contents.  However, the second disc, which has a few cover songs, doesn’t fare nearly as well and feels like an unnecessary inclusion.  But if you can find this for a reasonable price like I did and enjoy albums that are great for random, silly listens, then this might be worth a purchase.

Michael’s Thoughts

Oh Tim Lambesis, you just had to make a side project that would become a guilty pleasure for me instead of just sticking with As I Lay Dying and making music that, quite frankly, isn’t so great.  But getting away from my personal gripes, “Double Brutal” is yet another absurd and juvenile collection of songs by Lambesis’ solo project (with many guests) that I just can’t bring myself to disliking.  The impersonations are weak, themes absurd, the covers are mediocre at best and the solos are ultimately the only great part of the music; but it’s just so fun to listen to.  Just give “Double Ahhnold/I Need Your Clothes, Your Boots and Your Motorcycle” a shot and you’ll know exactly what I mean.  This is music that should be completely annoying listening material but the sheer mediocrity of the entire release is so entertaining to hear.  As Greg pointed out, the second disc is completely pointless but I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t enjoy listening to it overall.