School of Rock

Finally, here is a movie that is actually better than what its trailer made it out to be! When I first entered the theater I was expecting a mediocre film based on its trailer, which had a few funny jokes. I had thought that my expectations were dead on in the first 10 minutes of the film, but as it kept going and the lead character Dewey Finn (played by actor Jack Black) begin teaching the movie suddenly was extremely funny.

The best thing about this film is that the message from the film can be interpreted in just so many ways. This movie can be seen as an educational film on rock ‘n’ roll, a huge advertisement for rock ‘n’ roll, or never lose faith in what you like to do, etc. Few movies allow you to talk about this kind of thing to friends/family after you have just seen the film because most of them are very 2d/flat.

During this film you just want to get up out of your seat and jam with them…of course your in a movie theater…so that’s kind of hard to do…yea…

Another great thing about this film is that the storyline is very solid. It is just an easy story to get into. You get to see the transitions of these kids who don’t know anything about rock ‘n’ roll, to true rock ‘n’ roll stars. Each kid is just so talented (saying that they all can play these instruments so well, as I don’t know if they do or don’t).

Also the acting in this movie is just great. Each character is really believable. When I came out of this movie’s showing I could name almost every character in the movie that has a counterpart in the real world. It was kind of like smelling the fresh air and waking up to see how boring it really is here in Maryland. Everyone here is just all stuck up about grades and what not, that they lose sight of all the fun things in life, which this movie teaches you not to do.

With that said there is really not much more to be said about this film…I would not be surprised to see this movie doing equally or even better in box office sales numbers for its 2nd weekend as the word of mouth will definitely spread for this movie.

At the end of this film you truly feel like rock ‘n’ rolling on your guitar, except reality hits you and you can’t play for squat…

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Ghost Recon: Island Thunder

Written By: Will Schaeffer

Welcome to Havana, Cuba in the year 2009, Cuba no longer is under the thumb of Fidel Castro, and finds itself in big trouble. A “drug-funded warlord” is intent on sabotaging the country’s first real election in half a century. This is where you come in, part of The Ghosts – an elite division of the U.S. Army Green Berets – your mission is to stop the warlord from taking control of Cuba and becoming the next Castro.

Ghost Recon: Island Thunder (GR: IT) could possibly be the best squad-based shooter online experience ever. With the inclusion of Xbox Live onto the title, it certainly becomes one of my favorite games for the Xbox. Just like any other Xbox Live game, you can use the headset and have a friends list spanning every Live-Enable Game. The ability to work as a team against an enemy is exciting, and creates a sense of realism and comradery, which is just about unparalleled.

The 13 multiplayer maps (12 before the addition of a thirteenth level a week ago) span everything from jungles to urban to desert to an oil refinery. These maps allow you to vary the types of guns you can use from the four different types of soldiers (Rifleman, Support, Sniper and Demolitions). Each of which have about ten weapons, ranging from snipers (Sniper) to heavy machine guns (Support) to light machine guns (Rifleman) and even to anti-tank weapons or grenade launches (Demolitions). Each weapon has a “sub-weapon” you can choose with it, these vary for each type, (Like only the Demolitions Expert can carry anti-tank rockets or Demo Charges) but almost all generally include options to choose extra ammo, grenades or a pistol. The many variations let teams set up a diverse unit (Made of three guys) that’s much more powerful than one with only M-16s.

As always, you can find games with either Opti-Match or Quick Match, or you can make your own. There are a ton of options when setting up your own games, such as the cycle of levels, “kit restrictions” (ie: no guns or sub-weapons (kits) are allowed to contain explosives, which may lag the server) and other stuff. You’ll also be able to choose from three different types of games, Cooperative, Solo or Team. Solo and Team are all human players attempting to destroy each other, In Solo its every-man-for-himself, and in Team your Team must destroy the other team (Duh). In Cooperative you are on a team with other human players, and must face a very smart AI. You do this in one of four modes, Mission (Complete all of the objectives), Firefight (Destroy all of the enemies), Recon (Get to the evacuation point without losing anybody), or Defend (You have to guard a circle from the enemy, if one of them reaches the center of it, you lose). With all of the different types and modes of game play, and the many different kits, game play is extremely varied, and doesn’t get old. Also don’t forget that there is Split-Screen play and the ability to link up Xboxes for when your friends aren’t online or you have visitors.
Controls for the game work very nicely. You can use the D-pad to make your character stand, crouch or lay down. The R-Button fires, The L-Button brings up a map (Except on Split-screen play, which is for 2 players), the black button switches your rate of fire, during online play, the white button allows you to speak, X turns on night-vision, A reloads, B switches to your back-up weapon, and Y switches between characters or re-spawns you after you die. And of course, the right trigger fires your gun. The only problem I had is switching between weapons, it takes a second or two, so if you’re under fire, you might want to run for cover before switching. Also, if your being shot, then you can’t move, crouch, stand or switch weapons, but that just goes with the whole point of the game, which is not to be shot at all.

Game play is downright awesome for this game, the single-player is still fun even after you beat it. However, it just doesn’t compare to multi-player, which is why this game isn’t worth buying for the other systems (Sorry for those of you who don’t own an Xbox). Multiplayer game-play freaking rocks, it can be fast paced, or a tactical hunt so that no one on your team dies. As mentioned above, the amount of options (Did I mention that you could have woman soldiers as well?) never allows the game to get old. Though don’t expect a normal FPS even though it is from the first person view, running into a group of bad guys will do nothing but get you killed, especially because your aiming goes down drastically when your on the move. There really isn’t much of a health meter, which adds to the realism, you’re either healthy, wounded or dead (Green, yellow or red on the guy down in the bottom left hand corner). A threat meter shows you where enemies are, this is done buy making the top, left or right side, or bottom turn yellow, so that you don’t know exactly where the enemy is, but you have a good idea, and when you get close enough, the center turns red so you know enemies are in the area.

Graphically speaking, this game can hang with the best of them. While the textures are very detailed, the environments are big, and filled with lush trees and bushes. Draw distances is horrible though, it tends to make you angry when buildings and bushes pop up out of nowhere, or when you know you can shoot farther than the draw distances allows (Mainly only in the Oil Refinery level, which is the new one). Overall though, there really isn’t anything too wrong with the graphics, and the game is generally too dark to see them, because as any Tom Clancy fan knows, the dark is your friend. When you fire a bullet though, it tends to look like its not going where you aimed at, but its not that big of a problem. Though the ground will kick up dirt when you shoot at it, and the bullet holes look realistic, I guess (I’m not sure how a bullet hole from an M-16 should look inside a voting center). The sound of the guns is realistic, and you can hear the bullets fly past you, or hit the ground.

In summary, GR: IT is probably one of my favorite games for the Xbox. The amount of options and awesome game play make it a really nice experience, though I think finding a game on Xbox Live can be a pain, and there should be an option to turn the threat meter off in Split-Screen (Like there is during Live play). It’s also for the PC, but I like the comfortable environment of my living room and the ability to talk in the Xbox version. This game definitely deserves a rent if you don’t have Live, and deserves to be bought if you do.

Halo: Combat Evolved

Written By: Blake Elens

The year is 2552. Earth’s colonies are under attack by a ruthless group of alien races come to be known as the Covenant. The ship you’re on is the last ship to leave to massacre on Reach, Earth’s last major colony. You traveled to some unknown location in space, hopefully to lead the Covenant away from Earth. At this location, a mysterious halo ring-world is between a planet and it’s moon. Suddenly, your ship is under attack and you crash on this mysterious “Halo”. Now, you must lead a gorilla attack against the Covenant and find out Halo’s deep secrets before the enemy does.

This is possibly the most perfectly balanced FPS in history. Even Half-Life would be glad to be Halo. The A.I. is some of the smartest of all. The weapons are perfectly designed. Everything is just so well mixed in this game.

Let’s talk about multiplayer. Even without the inclusion of LIVE, Halo does very well to keep you playing this game. If you have one special friend, you can get together and play through Halo’s 10 campaign levels on co-op. One Saturday, you could invite 3 friends and you can play through Halo’s big colorful multiplayer levels. You can even hook up 4 Xboxes and have 16 controllers and have an all-night Halo marathon party.

If you have 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, you will be totally immersed in Halo’s realistic sound effects. The gunshots and explosions will make you feel that you are in a real war. The dialogue is some of the funniest of this generation. Some of the lines you may have heard from such movies like “Animal House” and “Jerry Maguire”. The music is some of the best my ears have ever listened to. If Marty O’Donnell went into movies, James Horner will have some new competition.

These controls may get some getting used to for the console FPS fan. But, if you are a PC FPS fan and hate all the FPS controls that have come out for consoles, this is a breath of very nice fresh air. The left joystick controls the movements and the right joystick controls where you see. The right trigger is your fire button and the left trigger is the grenade button. That is really good for people tired of switching weapons just to throw grenades. The only reason why I didn’t give it a 10 is because of the time it takes for console FPS fans to get used to it. Otherwise, it’s perfect. All future console FPSs should have the exact same controls as Halo.

These are some of the best graphics this generation. The environments are just jaw dropping. You can just sit for hours just looking at the environments. The scenery does something that has hardly been done before; they actually look better when you get closer to them! The character models are as amazing as the environments. You can just stare at your fellow marine comrades. Speaking of fellow comrades, many of them flow on the screen at once. As well as your marine buddies, many of the enemies are on the screen at once, also. Each never losing a single graphical detail.

Halo is the best FPS and one of the best games of all time. The story, the graphics, and the multiplayer make for one hell of an experience. If you own an Xbox, get Halo. If you don’t have an Xbox, buy one and then buy Halo. Trust me on this one; you’ll thank me later.

Spy Kids 3D: Game Over

It’s AWFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THE STORYLINE SUCKS, THE WAY THE STORY IS TOLD SUCKS, THE 3D IS GOD AWFUL, AND THESE KIDS CAN’T ACT FOR BEANS!

I actually think that this movie could have been more decent then it is if there were no 3D effects in it! I mean if you want to see good 3D go to Disney World! The effects are just so lame in this movie! You’re at least expecting a hand to be right up in your face, but nothing happens, its just one huge gimmick!

The ending was the worst! Everyone from all the Spy Kids movies came back to help out, but none of them actually do anything as they didn’t show any of them fighting! It was just here are the glasses you go fight while I stay on the ground looking all cool with these glasses! The parents of these kids don’t even show up till the end of the movie and that is only for 5 seconds!

The worst part about this movie is that you have to follow Juni Cortez, played by Daryl Sabara, and not Carmen Cortez, played by Alexa Vega, the character that everyone actually likes. Cameron is really in this movie for about 5 minutes while only having less than 10 lines to say!

While making fun of the Matrix, Spy Kids 3D falls into the Matrix 2’s curse of being a crappy movie with all this cgi effects with no story to back it all up! I mean if I wanted to see all this cgi in a movie with no story I would go out and play a video game! At least there I could control what the character does and have a mediocre time doing it….

What’s funny is that Spy Kids 3D actually makes fun of games, but of course you have to be a gamer to really enjoy these jokes. One joke is when the kids are racing and call they it Megarace (which is an actual video game), then when they ask why do all games have lava in them and they go on this whole thing talking about the video games Halo: Combat Evolved and Metriod Prime, and finally there was this one about Sega and Nintendo. But even this is not able to hold up the movie. The rest of the jokes are ok, it’s just that the Grandpa has a lot of them and they don’t have a close up of his face or anything when he says something so it’s like he is saying it in the background, which no one is paying attention to!

I just hope that in the DVD of Spy Kids 3D: Game Over they cut all of the 3D effects out and just make it plan 2d so you can actually watch this film! The 3D was just god awful ugly! Trying to wear those glasses for basically the whole movie (except some 15 minutes at the beginning) is awful! You can’t even see the world of the game nor any other bright colors at all! What I thought would happen is that they tell you every now and then to take on and off your glasses, but no you have to keep them on for the entire movie, which ruins everything! I tried moving around the theater to see if it was my seat and no, nothing helped at all!

What I am curious to see is if the 3D effects look any better in HD Theater, but even that is unlikely…

Otherwise this movie sucks and I am telling you this now, PLEASE DON’T go out and see this movie, to support this horrible movie!

Terminator 3

Written by: Dustin Stewart

Let me first say that I thought this movie was amazing. I do have a couple of complaints, but I’ll get to those later. If you’re looking for a great action movie, you’ll love T3. If you’re looking for great special effects, you’ll love T3. If you’re looking to be entertained, you’ll love T3.

The effects were jaw dropping, and though the Matrix/Reloaded did some amazing things, I liked T3’s effects better. The action was near non-stop, you never really get to ponder what’s going on, because five minutes into the movie, the Terminators arrive, and from then on it’s gogogo. Which is great if you want to be entertained, but slightly (only slightly really) disappointing if you were looking for the emotion and character development in T2.

One of the main actors has a couple of people this person really loves die pretty much right in front of them, but the movie doesn’t give the audience time to even feel sorry for this person, because it’s moving right back into the action again. T3 is about 30 minutes shorter than T2, and I really wish they would have added that extra 30 minutes into the movie, and develop the characters some more. You never really got the feeling that you knew who John and his girlfriend were, like you get to know John and Sara (and even the Terminator) in T2.

One thing that REALLY surprised me was how damn funny this movie was. I laughed harder in this movie than I did in a lot of comedies, and I wasn’t alone, the whole audience was cracking up with me. You would think that this would take away from the dark nature of the series, but in all actuality this is the darkest Terminator movie yet. For those of you who have seen the Special Edition of T2, when John teaches Arnold how to smile, it’s got funny moments like that one all through the movie. It keeps things from being too over whelming with this movie going a trillion miles a minute.

There is actually a great story in this movie, and it did fill us in on a few things that were left out of T2. I still wish that they spent a little more time on the story, but at the same time it may have been repetitive since T2 explained so much already. I’m also glad it didn’t get all philosophical like Neo and the Architect in Matrix Reloaded.

The acting was pretty great in this movie too. Arnold IS the Terminator, he fits this role better than any role he has ever played before, whether he is the good Terminator or the bad Terminator. A couple of his lines made me wince because they were a bit stale, but he played the part very well, nonetheless. Nick Stahl played John Conner very well, he’s a great actor, and a lot less whiny sounding than Ed Furlong was in T2 (although I think Eddy has gotten much better since then–check out his awesome performance in “American History X”– and it woulda been kinda cool to have him back). I really didn’t miss Furlong because Stahl stepped into the part brilliantly. Claire Danes was great as usual, and she probably had the most emotional of all the performances. She handled it pretty well, and I’m glad they picked her to play the girl friend. Kristanna Loken had some of the sleek/creepy look that Robert Patrick had in T2, but not as much of it. She was good in it, and I never felt like she shouldn’t have been cast in the part.

If you like action, you will like this movie, no doubt about it. You may be a bit disappointed that the story and emotional side is nothing next to T2, but not so disappointed that you should not go see this movie ASAP. The ending surprised the hell out of me; I really didn’t expect what happened. If they DO make a Terminator 4, it will be a LOT different than the first 3, because a lot of things changed in the last few minutes of this movie.

James Bond 007 in Agent Under Fire

Written By: Will Schaeffer

James Bond 007 in Agent Under Fire (AUF) is in this reviewer’s opinion, probably the most underrated game of this generation of consoles. It baffles me how a game like this gets so little respect, but maybe that’s another topic for another time, but its a pretty decent game overall. Sure, its not “Halo: Combat Evolved quality” (on Xbox and PC), but then again, not a lot of FPSs are.

The game is based on James Bond, however, EA decided to make its own story for the game, instead of following a movie. This allows for the player to actually be somewhat interested in the story, instead of knowing exactly what is going to be happening next. The story isn’t that different from other James Bond licensed products, but that’s what makes them a classic, Bond goes out to save the world, meets a hot chick, saves the world after a car chase ending in a big explosion, and then screws the girl. However this time we find that not all is as it seems about our Bond Girl, ZoĆ«.

The graphics aren’t top notch, but they are on par with this generation, and can still compete with most of the games out there. They weren’t a vocal point for my experience, so this part of the game never bothered me. The sound included that classic James Bond theme, which I never get tired of, and often found myself humming after playing the game. The guns all have clearly distinguishable sounds, which all fit nicely.

The game play again isn’t “Halo: Combat Evolved quality”, but it is neat trying to work through each level doing “Bond Moves” (Such as shooting a wire which holds a crate over a bad guy, or shooting a tank of gas to kill a couple guys from behind) or finding golden 007 Tokens. The levels hold up against most FPSs as well. The AI isn’t too hard or too easy, and there are three difficulty levels.

The value for me, is where the games strength lies. I’ve clocked in a lot of time on the multiplayer, which is for 1-4 players, its neat to be able to play the multiplayer modes just by yourself when you need some practice as well. A thing I found to be really neat to play with is the grappling hook, which allows you to climb up walls, and then jump down when someone walks underneath you. It also basically makes every wall a sniping spot for your SSR 4000. A couple other things I liked is the ability to make the game go faster, have low gravity, and that almost every gun has a back-up weapon (ie. One gun has a grenade launcher with it, the rocket launcher can switch over to rockets controlled by you, which is fun, and the grenade launcher has grenades that can split into six parts, the explode around your opponent) Also there is a level which is sort of a replication of the temple level in Goldeneye (for Nintendo 64), which is neat and almost a nostalgic experience for veterans of Goldeneye. I certainly got my 50 bucks out of this game.

So in summary, this game may not be “Halo: Combat Evolved quality” or live up to Goldeneye, (Which is just about impossible in my book). But it’s definitely a solid Shooter, and worth a rent at least. Enjoy.