Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – Book Review


Written by: John Berendt
Published by: Random House

Ah, Savannah. You’ve got to love a town where the first thing the residents ask is “What would you like to drink?” If you visit this port city, you will see the garden squares in the historic district with their grand houses and their pre-Civil War architecture, walk the cobblestones of River Street and view the paintings at the Telfair Museum of Art. But this is only the surface of Savannah. Jim Williams, a main character in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil says to the author John Berendt, “You mustn’t be taken in by the moonlight and magnolias. There’s more to Savannah than that. Things can get very murky.” And Mr. Williams knew this all too well.

Jim Williams was an antique dealer, a restorer of historical buildings, and owner of Mercer House, one the finest mansions in a town known for its attractive houses. He was a pillar of Savannah society even though his wealth was recently acquired. His Christmas party was considered the social event of the year. And one night in his office Williams shot Danny Hanford, a young, violent, and highly desirable “acquaintance” of his. Williams said it was self-defense, but he was still charged with first-degree murder. While this true crime account and the unbelievable story of the murder trials is captivating, you only get to it halfway into the book.

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The Road to Wellville (1994) – DVD Review

Road to Wellville DVD cover art

Film:
DVD:

Written by: Alan Parker, based on the novel by T. C. Boyle
Directed by: Alan Parker
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Matthew Broderick, John Cusack, Bridget Fonda, Dana Carvey

Released by: Sony Pictures
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: Nah; presented in a rockin’ 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Catch it on cable.

Because of new scientific knowledge and a reform-minded spirit, good health is the watchword for fin-de-seicle America. The man on the crest of this wave is Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (Hopkins), the developer of corn flakes and self-appointed health guru. While some of his ideas are sensible (increase of grains and vegetables into the diet, chewing food properly, and exercise), the majority are quite insane and possibly lethal (baths with electric shocks, total and I mean total abstinence, and colon cleaning five times a day). Two new victims… I mean guests to Kellogg’s Sanitarium are the Lightbodys, William (Broderick) and Eleanor (Fonda). Eleanor is a true believer and William is going along to please the wife. While being subjected to multiple enemas and other forms of torture, his sexual desires go into overdrive. You always want what you can’t have, I guess. Wanting to cash in on the health craze, Charles Ossining (Cusack) tries to open a new breakfast cereal company with a charming conman and the estranged adopted son of Dr. Kellogg, George (Carvey). Charles oscillates between greed and morality while trying to outrun creditors and the law.

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Dogma (1999) – DVD Review

Dogma DVD Box Art

Film:
DVD:

Written by: Kevin Smith
Directed by: Kevin Smith
Starring: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Alan Rickman, Chris Rock

Features:

  • Cast and Crew commentary by director Smith, producer Scott Mosier and View Askew historian Vincent Pereira, Affleck, Jason Lee, and Jason Mewes
  • Technical commentary by director Smith, producer Scott Mosier and View Askew historian Vincent Pereira
  • Complete Set of Storyboards from Three Major Scenes
  • Deleted Scenes with View Askew Crew Intros
  • Cast and Crew Outtakes
  • Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash Spot (shameless plug)
  • Saint and Sinner Files (bios and filmographies of Smith, Affleck, Damon, Fiorentino, Rock, Alan Rickman, Jason Lee, Salma Hayek and Jason Mewes)
  • Theatrical Trailer

Released by: Sony Pictures
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: Oh yeah.

My Advice: Buy it.

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Blue Planet: Seas of Life, Parts 1 & 2 (2001) – DVD Review

Blue Planet: Ocean World and Frozen Seas DVD cover art Blue Planet: Open Ocean and The Deep DVD cover art

Film:
DVD:

Series Produced by Alastair Fothergill
Narrated by David Attenborough
Features:

  • Four episodes of the series
  • Four behind-the-scenes featurettes, one for each episode
  • Interviews with cameraman Doug Allan and researcher Penny Allen
  • “Blue Planet music video”, a.k.a. the series’ “trailer”
  • Photo galleries
  • Fact files

Released by: BBC Home Video
Region: 1
Rating: NR; safe for all audiences
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Own It.

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Perdido Street Station – Book Review


Written by: China Miéville
Published by: Del Rey

In the front of the book Perdido Street Station, you are given a simple map of the city of New Crobuzon: its precincts, rail lines, and rivers. But it does nothing to illustrate the complexity of this city built under the ribcage of a gigantic skeleton. The architecture is a confusion of grand houses, billowing factories, crowded markets, and grimy rookeries. The population is an unruly mix of humans, khepri (women’s bodies with insect’s heads), vodyanoi (amphibians who shape water like clay), cactus-men (self-explanatory), and other more unusual inhabitants. Even science includes the psychic Remaking of flesh into bizarre and obscene forms, computers made of gears and sprockets, and alchemy is studied alongside atomic theory. New Crobuzon is a city always on the edge of crisis and all that is required to tip it over is a little push.

This push originates from Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, a scientist whose controversial theories have gotten him shoved from the mainstream. So he takes jobs where he can find them. One job comes from Yagharek, an outcast member of the garuda (a noble race of nomadic birdmen from the desert). For the crime of ‘choice-theft in the second degree’, he had his wings cut off. Yagharek hungers for the sensation of flight and offers a lot of money to Isaac to make it possible. Isaac begins by getting all manner of birds and winged insects to study their modes of flight. One particular specimen is a multicolored grub that will only eat dreamshit, the newest drug on the street. What the grub becomes when it emerges from its cocoon will lead Isaac, his friends, and the city itself into a waking nightmare they might not awaken from.

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The Fifth Element (1997) – DVD Review

The Fifth Element dvd cover

Film:
DVD:

Written and Directed by: Luc Besson
Starring: Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker

Released by: Sony Pictures
Region: 1
Rating: PG-13
Anamorphic: Yeah buddy.

My Advice: Borrow It.

A big ball of Evil is heading straight towards Earth. Assisted by the evil businessman and gunrunner Zorg (Oldman), it will extinguish all life on the planet. Why would Zorg and the ball do something like that? Because they’re Evil. The only thing that can stop them is the Supreme Being, who is actually a young woman (Jovovich) who doesn’t speak any English. She happens to runs into (or crashes into) cab driver Corbin Dallas (Willis) who just happens to be an ex-soldier. Along the way, the flamboyant DJ Ruby Rod (Tucker) and the priest Vito Cornelius (Holm) join them on their adventure. This unlikely band of misfits has to stop the Big Ball of Evil (and its entourage) from destroying the Earth.

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Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon (PC) – Game Review

Overall:

Developer: Red Storm Entertainment
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Platform: Win 9x/Me/2000/XP
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

The No. 1 complaint I hear about first-person shooter games is that they aren’t realistic. People seem to want something that they can relate to more than the worlds portrayed in Doom or Serious Sam.

If that’s your complaint, then this is your game. Ghost Recon (referred to as GR) is a first-person shooter set in the world of Tom Clancy’s novels. As the game opens in the year 2010, we learn that the Russian government has been taken over by a group of hard-line Ultra-nationalists. The Russian war machine is being readied for an invasion, with troop movements and buildups at Russia’s western border. Only one force stands between the Russian front line and the former soviet republics: the Special Forces group known as the Ghosts. They’ve been tasked with running interference against the Russians until the bulk of the NATO force can mobilize. The game puts the Ghosts in your hands, leaving their fate (and the fate of nations) within your grasp.

The rules of the GR universe are simple. There are no hit points. There are no bosses. There are no levels. You and your team of riflemen, demolition experts, snipers and heavy weapons “support” specialists are tasked with completing several goals during each mission. How you achieve these goals depends on your playing style as well as the makeup (and experience) of your squad.

Game play is divided into two sections: the mission briefing/squad selection stage and the actual mission. In the briefing you are given your objectives for the mission and any relevant information about the enemy presence in the area. During squad selection you have the opportunity to select soldiers based on their specialties and their statistics in key areas of combat, like stealth and weapon use. After you have completed a mission you will also be able to use this screen to allocate more points to these stats, giving the player an incentive to play smart and keep a squad alive.

Game play during the mission will be familiar to anyone that has played a FPS game before. Aiming is done with the mouse, while moving and all other functions critical to the mission are done via the keyboard. One particular aspect of gameplay worth noting is the command map function. With this tool you can see a crude map of the mission area and where your fireteams are at the moment. By utilizing a control system on the map itself you can direct your squads to separate waypoints and targets, all while leading one team yourself. Through efficient use of the command map it is possible to attack three targets at the same time, just as a real specops unit would. This gives the game a feel of realism well beyond what GR’s competitors have to offer.

Also adding to the feel of realism are the dynamics of the game itself. Uniforms get wet when you walk through water, and snow crunches underfoot. Enemies will respond appropriately (and differently) to the sounds of snapping twigs or gunfire. Your squad members will seek cover at all times, and won’t fire unless they have a kill shot, or you ordered them to. As you run your weapon becomes harder to control, adding a degree of difficulty to the usual “point and shoot” interface.

Where GR really wins is in its replay value. The game itself has several difficulty settings, as well as playing the “quick mission” option where mission objectives and details are changed. Add to this the fact any mission can be played in the multiplayer arena, and you have a game that guarantees hours and hours of additional play. I’ve logged over 100 hours and the game still doesn’t bore me.

Ghost Recon promised an accurate and exciting view into the life of a Special Forces unit, and it delivered. You should be able to find it at your local electronics superstore for around $40.00, and it’s worth every penny!

Minimum System Requirements:

  • Pentium II 450 or faster
  • Windows 9x or better
  • 128 MB RAM
  • Video card with 16 MB RAM and DirectX 8.0 support
  • 1 GB disk space

Eye Candy:
Ear Candy:
Gameplay:
Replay:

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) – DVD Review

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory DVD cover art

Film:
DVD:

Written by: Roald Dahl & David Seltzer, based on the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Dahl
Directed by: Mel Stuart
Starring: Gene Wilder, Peter Ostrum, Jack Albertson, Julie Dawn Cole, Denise Nickerson

Features:

  • Audio commentary with the Wonka Kids: Ostrum, Cole, Nickerson, Paris Themmen & Michael Bollner
  • Pure Imagination “Making Of” featurette
  • Four sing-along songs
  • Original featurette from 1971
  • Photo gallery
  • Theatrical trailer

Released by: Warner Brothers
Region: 1
Rating: G
Anamorphic: Nope.

My Advice: Own it.

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The Sims: Hot Date – Game Review

sims hot date game cover

US Release Date: November 14, 2001
System: PC
ESRB Rating: T
Price: $29.99 at Amazon.com

On paper, The Sims doesn’t sound interesting: you guide the lives of Sims (the people in the game) to furnish their houses, obtain jobs, form relationships, and go to the bathroom. But for a lot of people, it becomes addictive. You can become attached to your Sims, concerned about their well being; financial, physical, and emotional. It also helps that many of the features of The Sims are done in a tongue-in-cheek style, from the funny descriptions of the various objects around the house to the swelling music when two Sims fall in love. The newest addition to this is the Hot Date Expansion Pack.

Hot Date focuses on the social aspect of the game. Your Sims have more flexibility in relating to other Sims, from how friendly a greeting can be (a wave, a handshake, a friendly hug, or a “very friendly” hug) to the subjects they can talk about (the 60’s, crime, technology, or travel). How you gauge the contacts your Sims have has also changed. Replacing the status bar on the health of a relationship are two status bars, one on how things are going at the moment and another on how the relationship is going as a whole. The biggest improvement that comes with this new expansion is the Sim Downtown.

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