Repulze (iOS)

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When I first owned an iPhone, I thought there was no way it would become a premium gaming device. I thought it would be something fun to waste some time on when waiting in line, or at the theater before my movie started, or things of that nature. As time has passed, quite the opposite has happened. My iPhone is my primary gaming device. No longer do I own any other handheld gaming equipment to get my fix.

I recently came across “Repulze” for iOS in a search for a fun racing game. I have played the variety of “Need for Speed” games available in the App Store, but wanted to try something different. This game is “different”, and that is not a bad thing. The UI environments are very futuristic looking, and the gameplay comes at a very fast pace. There really is no way to take this game slowly. You are thrown in, and off you go.

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The tracks all have a similar feel, but they are different enough to keep you going. You are given certain tasks to complete to be able to advance to the next track. There are several vehicles to choose from, which provides a nice variety as well. I find myself getting stuck on tracks for quite a while. There are certain times you have to finish your laps in, to advance, and it is a trial to hit those times. But I like a good challenge. Now, I should state that I am not a hardcore gamer, although I really do appreciate a well designed game. That being said, I can’t really gauge the intensity level for a high level gamer. But my somewhat uneducated guess would be that this could keep anyone playing for quite a while.

I really like the controls on this game. There is really one word for them: simple. All you have is a left and right directional key. There are no brakes. I am not a big fan of the controls that utilize the accelerometer that is used in a lot of the racing games. And it’s a good thing the controls aren’t tricky, because you have to keep your full focus on the game while playing, due to the very fast-paced style of gameplay.

Another aspect of the game I really like is the soundtrack. It is kind of a futuristic techno. It matches the feel of the race, and has that pump-you-up type of feeling to it, and is a welcome addition to the whole experience of the game.

Of all the racing games I have played on iOS, this is my favorite. However, there is some great competition for it. I would recommend trying the “Need for Speed” series as well. Great job to Pixelbite on creating a really fun game. My only hope is that they expand the game, so that we can keep riding new tracks. But even without that, this has great replay value.

– David B. Harrington

Silver Linings Playbook

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I love a wide range of films. You can find me watching action & adventure, horror, Scifi/Fantasy, but sometimes it is good to watch an honest, down-to-earth human drama. That is exactly what you get with David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook“. The story follows Pat (Bradley Cooper) who is making his exit from a mental institution. He moves back in with his parents and is dealing with the separation from his wife who cheated on him with a co-worker. He refuses to accept the fact that she is gone when he gets home. She has a restraining order against him, which is working against him psychologically. He is ordered to go to therapy, and to take his medications, which is also a struggle for him. He is set on the fact that things are going to work out with his wife.

Pat goes to dinner at a friends house. Him and his wife know Pat’s wife, and through this association, Pat sees a possibility of getting a hold of his wife. Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) is present at the dinner as well. She is dealing with the death of her husband, and is trying to move forward. Through the commonality of tough times, Pat and Tiffany start to bond. Slowly, but surely they begin to open up to one another. What ensues is both of them breaking down and essentially rebuilding one another to be able to deal with their past, and look forward to their future.

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I would not pick out Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence to co-star in a film together. It is not an obvious match. But watching this film, I can’t imagine any other two actors doing a better job together. This is a breakout role for each of them. They give such a raw performance, it is hard to not appreciate it when the film is finished. I loved Russell’s film “The Fighter” which was another really intense, emotional film.

I love the statement that this film makes, that we are all crazy, we all have a past, and we all have to move forward from that. To see Bradley Cooper in a role like this is great. I enjoy seeing actors get out of their comfort zone, and show us what they can do. He really portrayed that crazy mindset of someone who has essentially lost everything. He is forced to take a long look at himself, and question what he really wants. Tiffany really pushes him hard to do this. But what ends up happening is they both realize what a slave they are to their past, and the way they have been limiting themselves. They both wear wedding rings which is a visual representation of not being able to (or not allowing themselves to) move on.

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This film boasts a great supporting cast. Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver are wonderful as Pat’s parents. It is a very important aspect of the film to view the parent-child relationship, and the way they process what their son is going through. De Niro’s character is a bit of a crazy himself. He is very OCD, and overbearing, but through this process that his son is going through, I feel like he sees where some of his own faults exist as well.

I am not a big fan of the “Rom Com” genre, but this film breaks the walls down of those cliche, make you feel all warm and fuzzy type of romantic movies. I felt the same way when I saw “500 Days of Summer“. It is films like this that breathe life into a genre, although it cheapens this film to call it a Romantic Comedy. So, we’ll just call it a really great film, which it is. This film well deserves its nomination as Best Picture.

 

– David B. Harrington

 

Click here to view the “Silver Linings Playbook” trailer!

Hitchcock

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I was introduced to Hitchcock films as a kid, and have never stopped watching them since. My dad went and rented “Rear Window” and “Dial M for Murder” on VHS at the local Blockbuster, and we made a night of it. All these years later, I have come to really appreciate the work of Mr. Hitchcock. His contribution to the art of filmmaking is immeasurable.

I was a little hesitant to go see “Hitchcock” in theaters. It didn’t receive a very wide release. But finally it was at a local dollar theater. So, my dad (appropriately) and I went to check it out. From the previews, I wasn’t sure this was supposed to be a biopic or something else entirely. It turned out to be the latter. The film is mostly a focus on the making of Hitchcock’s masterpiece, “Psycho” (my personal favorite of Hitch’s films). A lot of it takes place on the set, focusing on the interaction between Director and actors. However, there is a fair amount of the film that deals with Hitch’s (Anthony Hopkins) relationship with his wife, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren). She becomes entirely fed up with her husband’s reputation, and his absolute determination to see his movie made. He begins to question how he is handling himself, and takes on a certain level of transformation in his relationship with Alma.

There is another element where Hitch is haunted to a certain degree by Ed Gein, whom the book “Psycho” was based on. He is almost a dark spirit directing Hitch to act and direct a certain way. I didn’t feel like this element really gelled, and definitely could have been left out of the plot.

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There are elements of the film that are definitely exaggerated. Perkins took the character of Hitchcock a little far at times. I wasn’t sure if he was truly attempting to portray Hitchcock, or a caricature of Hitchcock. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the performance overall. The supporting cast of Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson), Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) and Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) add an interesting angle to the story that unfolds. Janet Leigh is a fairly new actress, Vera Miles is always at wit’s end with Hitchcock, and Whitfield attempts to seduce Alma while inviting her to write a script with him. We see very little of anybody else in the film. Everything else is essentially background noise.

Overall, I feel like this was a worthwhile trip to the movie theater, although, I don’t think this film will land for the casual movie watcher. I enjoyed the aspect of film history, and what Hitch might have faced trying to get his movie made. The character development between Hitch and Alma is interesting to watch. It is best to go into this film with little to no expectations, because it is not what you think it is going to be.

– David B. Harrington

Dedicated or Multi-Functional?

There are a lot of devices available to us in this digital age. It seems that everywhere we look there are advertisements for newer, better products than the ones we bought five minutes ago. There are a lot of brands competing for a customer’s money. The question I pose here is, what is better, a dedicated device or a multi-functional device?

Let me explain.

For a long while now, I have been a dedicated Apple user. I have owned iMacs, MacBooks, MacBook Pro’s, iPhone’s, iPods, and iPads. You name it, I’ve owned it. Aside from Apple products, I have also been a loyal Amazon Kindle customer. Now, I want to narrow these down to two devices. Let’s consider the new iPad Mini and the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. I bought the Kindle Paperwhite as soon as I could get my hands on it. The device is absolutely wonderful. The e-ink display is unbeatable, and the back lit screen is a very welcome addition to the design.

Being curious is part of my nature. So, I began to look into the iPad Mini. I wanted to know bottom line, what this device has to offer. The main draw for me was the fact that I could use the iPad Mini as a digital sketchpad. I have found the regular iPad to be too big, and awkward to hold. Then, I started thinking how the iPad Mini might be as an e-reading device. It didn’t make sense for me to have a Kindle and an iPad Mini. There is a point where an individual can have too many devices. So, upon a lot of consideration. I decided to make the jump over to the iPad Mini.

While I am out a device that is an extremely good, dedicated E-Reader, I feel I have gained a device that does a lot more for me overall. Looking back at the title of my post, what do you prefer, a dedicated device that does one thing perfectly, or a multi-functional device that offers a lot more options?

Something to think about.

 

– David B. Harrington

Zero Dark Thirty

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Kathryn Bigelow is proving that she is a force to be reckoned with. 2008’s “The Hurt Locker” took home Best Picture at the Oscars, and in my opinion it deserved it. Bigelow’s ex-husband, James Cameron was in the Best Picture category with his record-setting film “Avatar” which obviously didn’t win.

Zero Dark Thirty” features Jessica Chastain who plays Maya, a CIA operative whose only job out of High School (when she was recruited) to the present has been the manhunt for Osama Bin Laden. She puts her sweat, blood and tears into finding Bin Laden and killing him. While she is on the part of intelligence for the operation, she is witness to some brutal torture tactics used to get information from Al Quaeda contacts. There is an interview with President Obama explaining that the U.S. does not use torture tactics, while they are doing exactly that. This film does not shed a positive light on President Obama. Kathryn Bigelow really takes a strong position on the topic that she is covering.

**SPOILER ALERT**

The film progresses through the intelligence of locating Bin Laden. For a lot of the film, although the viewer might find themselves yawning, it is really fascinating to watch. After a lot of criticism, Maya receives clearance to pursue the location she believes Bin Laden is located. The Navy Seal Team 6 (DEVGRU) is sent to investigate the location. They get in and do their thing and find that Bin Laden is in fact there. They shoot their way through the three-level home, and only after asking one of the children at the location who one of the men is that they killed, do they find out that it is in fact Bin Laden. They call it back in that they have killed their target, and Maya can’t believe it. However, it becomes very well when DEVGRU returns with a body bag, and she unzips it to see the face of the most dangerous man in the world. The realization hits as to what she helped accomplish, and it is more than she can take. She sits on the helicopter that is taking her “wherever she wants” and tears start to stream down her face, the exhaustion of what she has been through the last few years, very evident.

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This is a hard-hitting winner. Kathryn Bigelow’s Directing is superb. Jessica Chastain is phenomenal in her role as Maya, and really drives the whole story forward. The supporting cast, especially Jason Clarke (Lawless), adds a lot to the story as well. Clarke brings a lot of intensity to the film as the one who really exposes Maya to what she is going to be dealing with in the operation they are involved in, by exposing her to the harsh reality of the situation, and showing her the tactics they are using to get the information they need. There is a certain level of a loss of innocence that Maya goes through. She is behind a desk for most of what she does. But to see firsthand what is happening, really breaks her down, and as she rebuilds herself, her commitment to killing Bin Laden is absolute all the way to where she looks at him inside of the body bag.

In this Oscar season, films are proving their worth. “Zero Dark Thirty” is an important film. It is important that we know what happened, and how Bin Laden was taken down. I can’s speak for the whole film, but in the end, when DEVGRU pursue and kill Bin Laden, it is dead on with the book “No Easy Day” which is a great read, and a firsthand account of the DEVGRU unit going in and taking out their target. This is a film that should not be missed.

– David B. Harrington

Gangster Squad

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There is nothing quite like a good old Gangster flick. Whether you are talking about “The Godfather“, “White Heat“, “Scarface” or “On the Waterfront“, this is a genre that can’t be ignored in the history of film. Ruben Fleischer, who brought us recent comedies such as “Zombieland” and “30 Minutes or Less” takes a sharp left turn and goes gangster on us with his film “Gangster Squad“.

Set in Los Angles 1949, we follow the story of Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), a crook from Chicago who comes out west to take over Los Angeles, what he calls his destiny. He comes into league with crooked cops and judges to take over the town. But one man, Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) and his “Gangster Squad” stand in the way of his progress and commit to taking him down one piece of his operation at a time. What ensues are battles with plenty of gunfire, and two sides who won’t give up on what they believe is rightfully theirs.

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Although at points in the film, the story struggles, and it seems that style may override the actual story, I found this to be a fun ride. The casting is superb, especially with Sean Penn and Josh Brolin going head to head. Fleischer really captures the feel of 1940’s Los Angeles and the Gangster culture. I really felt that at points in the film you could stick Marlon Brando or Humphrey Bogart in the mix, and they would feel right at home.

I wish there would have been some more meat to the story in terms of backstory on Mickey Cohen, and what brought him out west. But even with that being said, I felt like we got a good understanding of what the characters were all about, and what they were fighting for. Ryan Gosling really shines in his role Sgt. Jerry Wooters. His relationship with Grace Faraday (Emma Stone) provides one of the more emotional aspects of the film as does Sgt. Omara’s relationship with his wife, and Officer Conway Keeler’s (Giovanni Ribisi) with his family. It was also fun to see Nick Nolte as Chief Parker. He adds to the intensity of the film with his deep commanding voice.

January seems to be the month where movies go to die, as the releases don’t seem to be as high-grossing as other points in the year. However, this film provides a good breath of fresh air during these cold winter months.

– David B. Harrington

This is 40

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Judd Apatow is most known for “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up“. His latest film “This is 40” is the “sort of sequel to ‘Knocked Up'”. I’m not entirely sure why they marketed the film that way, but nonetheless, this is Mr. Apatow’s latest project.

The film follows Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), a married couple with two kids, a mortgage, jobs, and an overall hectic life. Both Paul and Debbie are turning 40, and Debbie is far from excited about it. She breaks down trying to come to grips with the fact that she is getting older. The film is mostly a look into their personal lives, and the trials of their marriage and their relationship with their kids, and discovering who they are at age 40.

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While there are funny moments throughout the movie, and even some touching moments, there is not a whole lot to be excited about here. I found myself looking at my watch from time to time. This is not a typical hour and a half comedy. This runs 2 hours and 15 minutes, which was just too much. The story jumps around a lot, and the ending comes well overdue.

Apatow is definitely a niche Director. I was looking for something new and fresh, but didn’t feel like the film delivered in that way. I was happy to see the addition Melissa McCarthy with a bit role in the film as the mother of one of the student’s at Pete and Debbie’s kids’ school. They have a confrontation with her that is really funny. I will leave it up to you to watch the film to see what I’m talking about.

Overall, this might be worth a Red Box rental, however, I can’t recommend seeing this film at the cost of admission at a theater.

– David B. Harrington