Another World: 15th Anniversary Edition (2007 - PC)
In the month of December, I finished the SNES, Sega Genesis, and PC versions of Another World. The PC version, which I bought from GOG.com, is the 15th Anniversary Edition, which has upgraded graphics (though also an option to play it with the original graphics) and apparently way many more checkpoints than the original version had (and definitely more than the two console versions I played). Sometimes, the distance between checkpoints on the older versions is so great, and the game's one-hit/one-wrong-move kills so unforgiving, that it could be maddening to make progress or finish them. However, this version has so many checkpoints, it almost becomes pointlessly easy. The game runs much faster than the console versions, which makes the control smoother, but has the adverse effect of making some parts harder to get past because of how fast the computer-controlled guards react to your presence.
Although I can see where this game's use of cinema scenes and bizarre puzzles and atmosphere made it popular back in the day, I can't help but feel it's a bit overrated. It's ridiculously short, but I'll talk more about that in the review of the SNES version.
Out of This World (1992 - Super NES)
And now I will finally delve into the meat and potatoes of this game, seeing as how this is the version I originally beat years ago and left the biggest impression on me. While I can see why the puzzles, unique controls, cinematic graphics, and claustrophobic atmosphere of this game made people go gaga over it, I was left feeling half-empty after I had first finished it, partially because it's ridiculously short and partially because of the terrible ending. The only reason it takes any time at all to finish is because of how unforgiving it is with the checkpoints - making one mistake means you'll have to redo a lot, and it's possible to do events in the wrong order, thus forcing you to kill Lester and try again.
When I recently replayed it, I realized I had forgotten the solutions to some puzzles, and I think part of the reason why is because it's easy to stumble onto the correct answer to something without realizing what you did. The SNES version, unlike the PC version, is plagued with slowdown in some parts, making the controls very cumbersome, even causing your gun to stop firing in some cases, although the Genesis version is even worse in this regard.
But the final slap to my face was the pitiful ending that does absolutely nothing to resolve the situation and leaves the story completely up in the air. I will say that the biggest advantage the SNES version has over the PC version is the addition of a soundtrack that really builds a lot of tension. If the point of your game is to be a movie-like experience, then music is kinda necessary. But you know what else is? Having a satisfying ending.
Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle (2004 - DVD)
Maybe people who are actually stoners would get more out of Harold & Kumar, but even though I don't belong to that demographic, there are still some funny and relatable moments. There's one part where Kumar has to answer "nature's call" and not being anywhere close to a restroom, he leaves the car to go in a bush. Right at that moment, another man appears out of nowhere to go on the same bush. Whenever I go in a public restroom and there's a million empty stalls and someone walks in and takes the one right next to mine, that scene perfectly exemplifies how that makes me feel. I also thought the scenes with the cheetah were hilariously surreal (maybe even moreso to anyone who owns cats and knows how they like to get high on catnip, which is closely related to the marijuana plant).
I do have to warn that there is some amount of gross-out humor, particularly an infamous "diarrhea twins" scene. And it's also a bit unrealistic how they keep running into people they know everywhere that they drive to. And - was it known yet that Neil Patrick Harris is gay when this movie was made? Because otherwise, I'm not sure I get the point of him driving around with naked women, unless they were being ironic. And if I can nerdrage for a moment - I actually grew up around the Cherry Hill, NJ area this movie takes place in. While I haven't seen every square inch of it that exists, I can say with utmost certainty that there is no cliff like the one the guys hangglide off of in the movie's climax. Nor does it suddenly go from being pitch black night to bright daytime in one instant, not even in NJ.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012 - Theater)
Man, the reviews for this movie at RottenTomatoes are all over the place, with the most frequent complaint from the negative reviews being that the movie is too long. I'm not really sure what they were expecting - it's a Peter Jackson movie set in the Tolkien universe. After the past three of those, you'd think they'd expect it by now.
With that said, the movie does take a bit to get going, and part of the reason it's so long is because a lot of stuff was added that wasn't in the original book. I guess I'm not enough of a purist to care about the changes, so long as what is on the screen is entertaining, and I did find the movie quite enjoyable. The scenes that are adapted directly from the book are done exceptionally well. The part with Gollum was very much like how I remembered it and envisioned it when I read the book years ago. There is, however, one major problem that I had, which is common to a lot of modern action films, especially those that incorporate CGI effects: The battle scenes are so fast and chaotic, that I can't tell what's going on. A good case in point is the big fight in the Goblin Town where I basically just stopped paying attention and waited for it to end to see who was still left standing. Surely, something can be done to make scenes like this more coherent? I'm glad I heard beforehand that the 3D version of this film was making some people ill, and knowing how I sometimes have bad physical reactions to scenes like this, I decided against seeing it in 3D.
One strength this movie has is that I liked Bilbo Baggins more as the main character than I did Frodo in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I'm actually quite looking forward to the next installment.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962 - DVD)
Lawrence of Arabia is based on the real-life exploits of T.E. Lawrence, a British Army officer who helped unite several Arab tribes to overthrow the Turkish occupation of Arabia during World War I. While the movie does take some liberties with the source material, it's still an amazing epic adventure as well as the study of a most unusual character. Lawrence becomes completely absorbed in the lifestyle of the nomadic Arab culture, making this movie the true forefather of the "Dances With Wolves/Avatar" genre. One way in which it's much more realistic is that it portrays the negative sides, such as when people die because of Lawrence's actions, or when he gets himself into situations over his head and things don't always turn out the way his idealistic mind hopes.
The performances are top-notch, especially those of Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif, and I wasn't even particularly bothered by American actor Anthony Quinn and British actor Alec Guinness portraying Arabs, since they're both so good at what they do.
Even though the movie can be somewhat slow-paced at times, it's exceedingly competent at building tension. The whole entire "Sun's Anvil" sequence is maddening in how suspenseful it is. Oh, and yes, the soundtrack is awesome, too. I've heard a lot of epic-sounding desert music in videogames that basically owe everything to Maurice Jarre's score.
Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind (1989 - CD)
Artist: Linda Ronstadt (featuring Aaron Neville)
Unlike many of Linda Ronstadt's earlier albums, which were often difficult to shoehorn into one genre (she had a tendency to cross between pop, country, gospel, Latin, and several other subgenres), this late 1980s outing is pure pop. Several songs are duets with R&B singer Aaron Neville, the most popular of which is "Don't Know Much", the single biggest hit from this album. Most of what else is on here is fantastic, and despite her unfortunate weight gain during this era, she still has quite a powerful set of lungs, especially if she really does hold that note in "Trouble Again" without any technical assistance.
Deep in the Heart of Nowhere (1986 - CD)
Artist: Bob Geldof
Bob Geldof's first solo effort after leaving the Boomtown Rats is a suprisingly decent album, even though "Love Like a Rocket" was the only song on it that I had ever heard before. Geldof's voice and singing style reminds me of a little bit Tom Petty and a little bit Bob Dylan, and his songs tend to be very melancholy, for which his voice is a perfect fit. Strangely enough, "Love Like a Rocket", which has a guitar solo by Eric Clapton, is one of the few songs with an upbeat nature, yet the lyrics are still quite depressing (about a couple whose love has grown cold in their old age), and I'm not even sure I ever noticed that when I heard the song on the radio years ago. There are only a couple of songs on here that I don't care for (one being the oddly bizarre "The Beat of the Night"), but the rest is enjoyable, with my other favorites being the opening number, "This is the World Calling", and the somber, "August Was a Heavy Month".
How the West Was Won (2003 - CD)
Artist: Led Zeppelin
"How the West Was Won" is a 3-CD set of live performances from Led Zeppelin, taken from two 1972 concerts in Long Beach and Los Angeles, California. Included are live versions of many of their most popular songs, such as "Stairway to Heaven", "Immigrant Song", "Whole Lotta Love", "Rock and Roll", "Over the Hills and Far Away", and several others. There is nothing particularly wrong with these performances, and many people (from what I understand) were chomping at the bit for a decent live Led Zeppelin album, so this should be satisfying for them. However, they aren't my ideal way of listening to these songs, as some of them are run together on one track over 20 minutes long, and then there's "Moby Dick", which is an almost 19-minute long drum solo. So, if you really want a live Led Zeppelin album, there's probably no better one to recommend, but if you just want to hear the songs you know and love from the radio as you know them, get the non-live albums instead.
MTV Unplugged (1993 - CD)
Artist: 10,000 Maniacs
This live album was apparently the last album put out by 10,000 Maniacs with Natalie Merchant, who would leave the band and go solo afterwards. While fans might argue that the live versions of these songs isn't the best way to be introduced to the band (as I did for Led Zeppelin), it was actually the live version of their hauntingly powerful cover of Patti Smith's "Because the Night" that I was most familiar with and led me to getting this album. Though I was unfamiliar with the rest of the songs, they certainly don't disappoint. My only caveat is that there have been times when I've had difficulty understanding Natalie Merchant's lyrics due to her unusual voice. Maybe it's because of the live setting, but I didn't have as much trouble with that here as I have with some of her later solo work.
A Proper Introduction to Woody Guthrie: This Land is Your Land (2004 - CD)
Um, gee. How to review this. I suppose this album might be a good indication of why I've never really been all that into folk music. It's quite simplistic, with most of the songs literally being Woody Guthrie playing a guitar and singing with no further accompaniment at all. More than half the songs are about his experiences in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression, which makes for quite a lowkey, depressing album that I'm not sure I'll want to return to time and time again. I won't deny the man's influence and accomplishments, but the only two songs on here I ever heard of before are "This Land is Your Land" and "Old Paint", and for the former... well, I kind of prefer listening to the Counting Crows version and for the latter, the Linda Ronstadt version. And the rest...I'm having a hard time remembering because much of it sounds alike, except that there were a couple of songs based on The Grapes of Wrath that were kind of interesting.
Street Survivors (1977 - CD)
Artist: Lynyrd Skynyrd
Lynyrd Skynyrd's 1977 album had the unfortunate timing of being released only a few days before the band's plane crash, killing three of their members. That makes the inclusion of the song "That Smell" on this album, about death creeping up on someone, and the choice of cover art with fire surrounding the band, tragically ironic. But somehow or other, the song became a big hit anyway as I still hear it often on classic rock stations, along with "What's Your Name". In fact, I'd go so far as to say there isn't a bad song on this album. If you like your rock Southern and hard, this is definitely a great recording to have in your collection. What I actually own is the Deluxe Edition that includes a second disc full of demo tracks and live versions of the songs, which gets rather redundant to listen to, but that's just bonus material anyway.