Resident Evil 4 (2005 - PS2)

Warning: This is going to be quite a bit longer than a normal capsule review because I'm basically going to detail the differences between PS2 and Gamecube RE4.

I beat the Gamecube version of RE4 last year, and in retrospect, probably underscored it a bit in my capsule review. So, now I've finished the PS2 version, which is basically identical aside from some changes that (for the most part) make it a easier.

I've become extremely good at RE4 since I replayed it several times, so some of the decreased difficulty might be due to experience and knowing the game really well, but certainly not all of it. Either money was more plentiful on the PS2 version or stuff cost less because it seemed like I could always afford whatever weapons and upgrades I wanted and still had a budget surplus. I found many more spinels (gems you can sell for cash) on the PS2 version, which means either more were added or they were easier to find since the glow around them was brightened.

Some changes to the difficulty almost seem more like AI fixes than actual dumbing down (even if it had that effect). For example, El Gigante is a lot easier to beat on the PS2 than the Gamecube. (The dog actually distracts it, for one.) Enemies in some areas seemed less aggressive. The chains on mace-wielding enemies make a loud rattling noise that doesn't stop until they're dead, so you'll always know how many there are and where they are. The helicopter does more to help take out enemies during that part, not just the towers that it bombs. Not AI-related, but a couple of extra save points were added before some really tough parts and Leon has a flashlight that either didn't exist on the Gamecube version or was certainly not that bright.

Strangely enough, a few things were made harder. There are less chickens on the farm, so egg-harvesting isn't as convenient (though perhaps not necessary since money is more plentiful). But the most significant is the Salazar boss fight: On the Gamecube, you only have to ignore the serpent head and wait for Salazar himself to open up. On the PS2 version, Salazar will never open up unless you shoot the eyes of the serpent head several times first.

PS2 RE4 also contains a new mini-game called "Separate Ways" in which you play as Ada and it shows what she was doing the whole time Leon was on his mission. It's not to be confused with "Assignment Ada" which (contrary to what some other sources claim) both versions of the game have. Separate Ways is much more complex than Assignment Ada, but not quite as complex as the main game.

There are some graphical differences, but they're generally minor with the Gamecube being a bit superior in this area. The PS2's cutscenes look a little fuzzier, and some things have less detail (like the giant insects and the fiery dragon room).

So, in the end, which version do I recommend the most? Well, one thing I can say is that you don't have to worry if you only have one or the other that you have some far inferior version. Both are good in their own right. If you really care about having the most challenging version and/or the one with the most tip-top graphics, then go with the Gamecube. If you would rather have Separate Ways and the unlockable movie gallery, get the PS2 version. Either way, you'll be playing a pretty damn good game.
Rating: 4/5

Big Trouble in Little China (1986 - DVD)

Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) is an average American joe truck driver who gets caught up in an underworld battle between Chinese warriors and sorcerers that dates back for centuries. Big Trouble is a fun, humorous martial arts flick that feels like a live action cartoon, despite a human trafficking subplot (this subplot was in Enter the Dragon, too. Why does that seem to happen so often in these types of movies?)

The action scenes aren't as intense as those in Enter the Dragon, Kill Bill, or even (strangely enough) TMNT, as they look a bit obviously choreographed, and by the end of the film they become outright cartoonish with two guys flying at each other in mid-air and Kurt Russell accidentally shooting the ceiling down onto himself.

The plot is a bit oddly-paced, too, with some things being over-explained, and others not explained enough (and even when they are explained, it doesn't necessarily make any sense). But there are a lot of memorable moments that make up for it, special effects, and set pieces, especially the weirdness of Lo Pan's hideout. The villains are great, too, although I have to question the usefulness of the guy who could make lightning bolts with his hands since he seemed completely unable to control it. If you don't enjoy cheesy kung fu movies, this probably won't blow your mind, but it's passable for anyone with even a vague interest.
Rating: 3/5

The Hangover (2009 - DVD)

I found The Hangover funnier than I may have guessed that I would, and in some ways, it works as a story, too, not just as the raunchy comedy that it is. Maybe this is how you know that you've truly made the transition into adulthood - kids' movies like Kung Fu Panda 2 and The Princess and the Frog don't really entertain me much anymore, but adult comedies still do.

The Hangover's premise is that four friends go to Las Vegas for a bachelor's night out a few days before one of them is due to be married. The problem is that three of them wake up the next morning with the groom-to-be missing and with no memory of what happened to him, or themselves, the night before. The journey to piece together what happened is full of many laughs, surprise twists and turns, celebrity cameos, and even a tiger.

One reason it works is that by having a mystery present, you can wonder and think about what may have happened during scenes when you aren't laughing. Ed Helms's character kind of goes through an arc, too, which is one reason I'm cautious about The Hangover Part 2 - I can buy this happening once, but I'm a little shaky on the idea of the exact same thing happening all over again.
Rating: 3.5/5

Jaws (1975 - Theater)

The amazing thing about seeing Jaws in a theater is that not only are you getting to see a great classic on the big screen, but that most people who attend are fans, so they really get into it. People screamed at the scary parts (even when they knew they were coming) and clapped and cheered at the movie's climax. I often don't see that kind of enthusiasm when I go to modern movies in theaters.

Though its depiction of what sharks are really like is debated and not entirely factual, what makes Jaws work so well as a horror film is that it's not entirely fantasy, either: Quint's story about sharks attacking survivors of the USS Indianapolis during WWII was based on a real event, and the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 are also referenced. The movie's realistic and brutal approach is what's made many people afraid to ever go in the ocean after seeing it.

But whether or not it's accurate, it's beautiful filmmaking at its finest. The allusions to fiction as well as fact, most notably the third act that's in clear homage to Herman Melville's Moby Dick meshes perfectly with the well-structured story, sharp dialogue, and likable characters. Even if you can't see it in a theater like I did, see it on DVD.
Rating: 5/5

Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011 - Theater)

When a movie is almost 90% action scenes, it's important for those scenes to be coherent. As it is, KFP2 is like many modern movies where action scenes happen so fast, it's almost impossible to tell what's going on. Not only that, but this movie's action is ramped up so much that it made me physically ill. Seriously. I had to look away from the screen several times because it was making me feel really strange and later on... well, I can't really explain it because I don't remember it clearly, but my boyfriend said I was sick that night for some reason.

Anyway, I had sympathy for the villain in the first KFP movie, and I couldn't help but sympathize with the villain this time around, too. The reason the peacock (Gary Oldman) was villainized and eventually banished was because he wanted to make more technologically advanced weapons. So, he's basically Honen Calzoun. One thing movies like this ("The Last Samurai") never even touch on, let alone explain, is what these countries are supposed to do when another country develops the same technology and plans to invade them.

The movie is also riddled with celebrity voice actors, most of whom only have about 2-3 lines of dialogue. Blink, and you'll miss Jean Claude Van Damme.

Let me say this: I like Jack Black, and I like his panda character. I really do. And the movie does have some funny parts, and I'm not adverse to a sequel (as the ending of KFP2 promises). All I'm asking is that next time, make it count!
Rating: 2.5/5

The Princess and the Frog (2009 - DVD)

Probably the easiest thing for me to say about this movie is that it just isn't my thing. The problem I have with movies where there's a lot of singing is that after about three songs, I start getting antsy for the movie to get back to the story. And in a jazz-themed movie with a LOT of singing, that means I'm spending almost half the movie feeling antsy.

Some of the attempts at humor fell rather flat, mainly because they relied on age-old cartoon cliches. This movie actually has the "fat guy gets stuck in a tuba" joke and the gag where a guy is drinking, then sees something unusual (in this case, talking frogs running past him) and dumps his drink.

Saying that the animation is excellent and that it's nice for Disney to have made another hand-drawn animated film after declaring they wouldn't would be a gross understatement. But I want to see great stories along with all the pretty pictures. The villain almost seemed interesting enough to have an entire story based around him, but of course, he isn't the main focus.

Also, someone needs to inform Disney of firefly biology. Only males light up. Not females. If I had liked the movie more, maybe I wouldn't complain, but here it's just one more annoying distraction.

Update: Never mind this. Apparently, it's a myth, and the only differences between males and females is either not rated G enough or too subtle to bother caring about. A better complaint for me to make is that the Firefly's love song ("Evangeline"?) stuck in my head for over a week - and not in a good way.
Rating: 2.5/5

The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season (1991 - DVD)

While it's safe to say that this show hadn't quite hit its comedic peak by Season 3, it certainly was starting to get there, showing more of its true colors than the first and second seasons did. It's certainly not a bad season to start with if you're unfamiliar with The Simpsons, or even just unfamiliar with earlier Simpsons, as opposed to the modern crap that's on now.

One thing I couldn't help but notice about Season 3 is that it has a lot of, what I wouldn't say are "morals" per se, so much as "feel-good" endings. Some examples:

  • Homer (eventually) helping Ned Flanders's left-handed store take off.
  • Bart taking the rap for Lisa stealing the teachers' books.
  • Bart and "Michael Jackson" writing the song for Lisa's birthday.
  • The town coming together to save Bart from the well (hilarious episode, too).
  • Homer's brother returning and getting back on his financial feet again after Homer ruined him back in Season 2.

    I can't help but wonder if this was a response of sorts to early criticism that The Simpsons was a negative influence on society for showing a dysfunctional family and the miscreant antics of Bart.

    One final note: The Indiana Jones parody at the beginning of the one where Milhouse has a girlfriend had me in hysterics. The 2001 parody in the one where Homer's half-brother returns was hilarious, too. Seems like movie parodies on older Simpsons episodes are a lot funnier than movie parodies are in many other things.
    Rating: 4/5



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