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XBox 360 Gamercard

RichAlot's Gamercard

Holy Sequel, Batman!

"The Dark Knight" is an anomaly; one of the rare instances where the sequel to a successful motion-picture outshines the original.

The second installment of the grittier, more serious take on the Batman franchise is nothing short of stellar. The way each character, relationship and situation is developed is not only immersive, but intertwined with emotion. The sub-plots are just as compelling and you feel empathy for Bruce Wayne's internal strife, realize the maniacal co-dependency that drives the Joker and understand how the fragility of Harvey Dent's persona puts him over the edge...literally. And did I mention the film is full of action?

The action sequences in "The Dark Knight" are plentiful; non-stop even. Yet, they never detract from the film's focus or feel forced. George Lucas, take note. Instead, the scenes help tell the story and compliment the character development. I especially found the explanation of the origin of Batman's glowing eyes—as illustrated in many comic renditions—cleverly done.

Also cleverly done is Heath Ledger's interpretation of the Joker, arguably Batman's greatest antagonist. Ledger sheds the Joker's cartoonish-image and brings out a real-life eccentric insanity. He portrays the Joker as a madman obsessed with wreaking havoc on Gotham and the darker tone of the film compliments his creative direction. Do I think it was Oscar worthy? Possibly, but has there ever been a bad portrayal of the Joker?

My only complaint with "The Dark Knight" is Maggie Gyllenhaal, who gave the weakest performance of the cast. It's not that I'm a huge fan of Katie Holmes, but I dislike the inconsistency of brining back a character in a sequel and not having the same actor reprise the role; especially a major role.

Finally, a movie that lives up to the hype! I give "The Dark Knight" a 9.5 out of 10.

CGI. Why'd It Have to Be CGI?

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is a great movie...for the first hour. Unfortunately, the second hour is so grossly out of touch with the Indy genre and fan expectations, it ruins Indy's return to the big screen.

The lights dim, the Lucasfilm logo appears and the theater erupts into a resounding ovation. For the next hour, moviegoers viewing screen 19 at the Downtown Disney AMC are greeted with the action, witty one-liners, and adventurous plotline one would expect in an Indiana Jones movie. Not to mention that Harrison Ford has still got it and Shia LaBeouf isn't that bad after all. Everything was going better than expected until the CGI kicked in and the movie turned into a jungle-vine swinging, giant-ant dodging, waterfall jumping, third encounter of a disaster.

The gratuitous special effects were unnecessary and detracted from the story so much so that the energy that greeted the film had flat lined not because the midnight showing was passing into its second hour, but because the devolution of the film sucked the excitement out of the crowd. There wasn't any room for the viewer to develop their own interpretations or use their imaginations as in the previous Indy flicks. As a result, the climax and conclusion of the film felt disjointed and far-fetched. The film just wasn't Indy anymore—it had more of a Brendan Fraser's "The Mummy" feel with a hefty dose of "X-Files" mixed in.

When the credits finally rolled, the half-hearted applause was so faint I had to look around to confirm the majority of the theater hadn't cleared out. But, everyone was still sitting in their seats, paralyzed, wearing the same glazed-over looks on their faces. You'd think we had been staring into the eyes of a crystal skull for an hour. Even so everyone managed to come out of their trance of disbelief and head for the exits. Appropriately, most circles shared the same conversation shuffling their way out the doors; how could something that started off so good turn into something so bad?

After 20 years in the making I'm sad to report that Indy 4 was a disappointment. I really wanted to like it—I mean it's Indy—but I just couldn't. If this is the script everyone agreed on, I can only imagine what was omitted in the rewrites. I give "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" a 6½ out of 10 only because the first hour was so enjoyable (and included a veiled reference to my hometown, New Britain, Connecticut).

Au Revoir HD DVD

Toshiba has finally waved the white flag officially announcing it will cease production of HD DVD players and recorders. The decision comes amidst weeks of speculation that the HD DVD format was doomed as major players including the movie studios, retailers and rental outfits chose to go strictly Blu-ray. So there you have it, go buy yourself a Blu-ray disc player, the format war is officially over. Or is it?

DVD is and will continue to be the market leader in video disc storage mainly because everyone has a DVD player. It's also less expensive than Blu-ray. Entry level Blu-ray players are still in the $250 range and even the cheapest Blue-ray movies will run you $15 a pop. For a mere $12 more you can buy an inexpensive DVD player with progressive scan and 5.1 digital audio decoding. So yeah DVD may not have the discreet 7.1 audio or 1080p resolution of Blu-ray, but how many people really know what that means much less use it?

Conceivably it could take Blu-ray a few years to turn the corner and surpass DVD's penetration levels (remember how long it took retailers to stop carrying VHS?) and by that time we'll be buying movies the same way we buy our music, through digital distributors. In the end, the true winner of the format war will be the one medium that has withstood the test of time; the hard drive.

"Damn, I Thought That Was Closer."

The trailer for the next film in the Indiana Jones franchise titled Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is up on The beginning seems a little disjointed, but the action picks up about half way through when Indy puts on his trusty fedora. My thoughts? The one liners are reminiscent of the original trilogy and the few scenes we get to see look very promising. The worst part about it is the countdown clock directly below the trailer reminding me that I still have to wait another 97 days!

A Super Mutation

I caught the final installment of the X-Men trilogy, "X-Men: The Last Stand," this Memorial Day and loved it. Now, I can empathize with the disgruntled purists concerned about a mangled interpretation of the comic series, but theatrically the X-Men films are top notch.

So what made "The Last Stand" such a great flick? Like its predecessors, "The Last Stand" had the perfect formula; the right mix of fantasy combined with reality, which yielded an unobstructed believability. I never struggled to make sense of any of the film's concepts because of how well they were tied in with modern day parallels. I'm not sure if that is a reflection of good writing or can be attributed to the mad scientists throughout the world who are really growing, cloning and mutating genes, but I just bought into the whole mutant notion. Inject a dose of genre-appropriate, sarcastic humor and you've got a perfect finale to what maybe one of the best trilogies of all time. I give "X-Men: The Last Stand" 4 stars out of 5.