In this installment of Volition’s extremely popular open-world, action-adventure RPG, the player finds himself in a very surreal happenstance. The Third Street Saints are media icons. Your character is captured while trying to rob a bank, along with gang-mates Johnny Gat and Shaundi. It soon becomes evident that this entire charade was a set up by someone you didn’t expect. After being taken into custody by the Stillwater PD (from Saints Row 1 & 2), you and the others are released by members of the Syndicate, who offer an opportunity to live on and continue what you are doing, if you pay them a hefty percentage of the media profits.
Violence ensues, and the hero finds himself in the new metropolis of Steelport. Gat is dead, but Shaundi and a few others are ready to help you take over the city, just as before.
In this iteration of the adventure, you are up against three rival groups who have combined forces into a mega-group. The three gangs comprising the Syndicate are: The MorningStar (sex/weapons dealers), The Deckers (elite hackers), The Luchadores (mexican gambling thugs). Later, you also contend with STAG, an elite military organization. The game plays out the same as its predecessors, with assassinations, vehicle theft, quests, and general mayhem.
THQ’s latest production focused on over-the-top scenarios that are largely overlooked, but occasionally are so far fetched that it distracts the player from the game’s semi-realistic nature. Overall, the fun-factor is a 10, but for the discerning gamer, some of the missions are just plain silly. The graphics are top notch, the controls work well, and the gameplay is enjoyable.
One of the unique additions to Saints Row: the Third is the ability to legitimately reach “god mode” at level 50. You can purchase talent upgrades that provide unlimited ammo for all guns and immunity to most forms of damage. The best way to reach level 50 is to simply play the entire game, side quests and all. During my playthrough, there were only three side quests I didn’t complete. (those heliassaults are brutal!). By the time you reach the third chapter of the game, level 50 shouldn’t be a challenge to reach. If you are a power gamer, rushing through the main storyline, it’s highly unlikely that you will get to level 50, so you’ll miss out on the “god mode” cheats.
One of my favorite parts of the game was the Tank Assault. It’s good, old-fashioned fun (with a tank) in downtown. All you have to do is destroy everything. Good times.
The ending was challenging, which I enjoy, but it was also corny and unsatisfying. All in all, it was 50 hours well spent, and I certainly look forward to Saints Row 4.
4 out of 5 stars.
Sequels often struggle to live up to the expectations set by their predecessors. Wrath of the Titans delivers. Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, and Ralph Fiennes reprise their roles as Perseus, Zeus, and Hades in this continuation of the Clash of the Titans remake from 2010. They’re joined this time by Rosamund Pike, who portrays the strong, female love interest as the beautiful Queen Andromeda.
Perseus has settled down to become a fisherman with his son. His wife has been written out of the story — either by design or because the actress was not available. She seems to be dead for no particular reason. Perseus has chosen to live life as a mortal, despite his father, Zeus (Neeson), offering him a seat of power on Olympus. Early in the movie, Zeus comes to his son and asks for help, telling him something big is coming. Only Perseus, a demi-god, would have the strength to ensure humanity’s survival.
The rest of the story involves Perseus’s journey to save the world from the reawakening of Chronos. Mythology geeks and fantasy buffs will appreciate the severity of this situation.
While the makers of this film certainly didn’t reinvent the wheel, or even attempt to one-up their previous film, they surely succeeded in making an entertaining screenplay. In short: if you liked the first, you will like this one. It has all the action, sword-swinging, flying-horse-riding, and titan-killing you would expect from the series. The CGI is impressive, and the 3D effects were not too objectionable.
One scene in particular stuck out as ill-conceived. The kiss at the end of the film felt forced. There was very little romantic build-up throughout the movie, so it felt as if the filmmakers included the kiss because moviegoers expect to see romantic resolution. Perhaps this is one of the several endings they filmed, at which point they let focus groups make the call. Either way, it felt awkward.
As I said before, if you enjoyed the first, seeing the second is worth your time and money.
4 stars out of 5
Editor: Jeff Boehm
By Sharon R.
Let me say this at the start, “Mirror Mirror” is not your typical Snow White.
The story begins with The Evil Queen played by Julia Roberts telling how Snow Whites existence came to be, how the king remarried and then soon died at the hands of dark magic in the forest leaving the queen in charge of the kingdom. Although her accent slips on some words and was not quite “Evil” but more mean and snarky she played the part very well and the movie starts off delivering some laughs. Snow White is of course locked up and never allowed to leave the castle while the queen throws lavish parties at the expense of her kingdoms town people.
On Snow Whites 18th birthday she is given her fathers dagger which a maid in the kitchen has had polished and told how the kingdom has suffered. Snow White ventures out into the forest determined to see what has become of her kingdom. Along the way she runs into the handsome prince and his traveling companion hanging upside down from a tree in their underwear. Robbed by the 7 dwarfs on stilts to look like giants, the dwarfs are later told to be out cast by the queen and left to lead a life of crime in order to survive.
When Snow White goes into the kingdom she finds that the queen is throwing another ball for the prince. The people are taxed yet again as the Queen is trying to win over the prince and his money in order to continue to live the life of luxury. Snow White returns to the castle and decides to crash the party to ask the prince if he would help her to win her kingdom back and help her people. The Prince falls in love with Snow White and when the queen sees she has her sent out into the forest to be killed by the beast that has taken over, she runs and hits her head and is knocked out.
Snow White wakes up with the dwarfs looking over her and let her stay. The dwarfs are quick witted and not what you would expect, seeing some familiar faces among the seven of them and with names like Grim, Wolf and Chuck their story line is rather cute.
They rob the queen’s assistant whom has just picked up the taxes for the queens ball. When Snow White finds out where the money has come from she takes it back to the town telling the towns people it was the dwarfs that risked their lives to help the kingdom. The dwarfs take Snow White in and teach her to be one of them. When their first heist is in play the victim is the prince. There is a very good fencing scene between Snow and the Prince.
There are some nice moments that follow but I do not wish to spoil the suprises that are to come.
In summery, A twist ending, a flirting dwarf, handsome prince, mixed with adventure and quick whips, and laughs make for an entertaining and fun time at the movies for the family.
3.5 stars out of 5
BioWare’s long-awaited and much-anticipated Star Wars MMO is finally here and rolling down the tracks like an unstoppable train.
After picking a side (Jedi/Republic or Sith/Imperials), you can choose from two Force-based classes, a warrior/tank, and one class that’s more analogous to a rogue. The Imperial classes are: Bounty Hunter, Sith Warrior, Imperial Agent, and Sith Inquisitor. The Republic has Troopers, Smugglers, Jedi Knights, and Jedi Consulars. Each class has a unique origin story, and they’re all rich and entertaining.
Most of the game is what we've come to expect from modern MMOs, containing all the usual ingredients: tanks, damage dealers, healers, quests, instances, group play, crafting, auction houses, banks, and mounts.
Aside from the futuristic, tech-centric, and lightsaber-themed look of the game, BioWare attempted to innovate in several different ways, with moderate success. SWTOR sets itself apart through a few distinct systems. First, the game has space missions, where you can fly an upgradable ship while shooting your way to successfully completing the mission objectives, as well as bonus objectives. Despite being on rails, it’s a fun and welcome addition to online gameplay The missions are repeatable daily, and they yield experience and credits. They provide a great way to augment level grinding with something different from more traditional MMO questing.
The second big difference is the crew member system. Most MMOs have one or two classes that can control a pet and use it to supplement combat. In SWTOR, everybody gets a ship, and with that ship comes a crew. Throughout the course of the game, you accumulate a team of crewmembers, each of which has a different combat specialty. You can use any one of them at a time; some heal, some tank, some fight from range, and some wade into the fray with a lightsaber. The leveling experience is balanced around using a companion, but they can also fill in for actual players in group quests and instances.
Next is the crafting system. In most games, this is a grind that involves tediously harvesting raw materials or making something by hand. In SWTOR, your crew can operate the various professions on their own, which lets you send them off to do short, timed mini-quests. Your crewmember either comes back successful, with harvested/crafted goods, experience, and a skill point, or they come back empty-handed and your pocket is lighter of credits. Yes, all crew missions cost credits. I found this type of crafting system to be a welcome change, despite enjoying more typical crafting systems.
Lastly, one notable difference to this game was that all dialog from both NPCs and players is voiced. Characters of each race, class, and gender get their own voice actors. Whatever decision you make, there is a voiced response. This makes the game more immersive, and it’s truly amazing when you realize the scope of that single endeavor. Some players may not appreciate spending that much time talking their way through quests, but the dialog is skip-able for the impatient players. For this reviewer, it was welcomed with open arms.
BioWare made their mark on the world with earlier titles: the Dragon Age series, Baldur's Gate, Mass Effect, and NeverWinter Nights. Given the estimated cost of $150-200 million to produce this game, it was clear they knew that possessing a Star Wars title would be a make-or-break opportunity. They poured their hearts, souls, and money into creating what can only be described as a truly monumental feat in gaming history. With over one million subscribers in the first three days, SWTOR enters the record books as the fastest growing game in history (beating even World of Warcraft), not to mention setting a Guinness World Record for having the most voice actors in a game (900+). Whether or not BioWare can maintain this momentum is another question entirely!
The game does have drawbacks. Aspects of the PvP system are imbalanced or poorly designed; they’ve struggled to figure out how to incentivize world PvP, and they’ve made abilities that allow other players to move your character much too common, which can be frustrating. It’s also a fairly buggy game in general. No one expects a game to be perfect when it comes out, but BioWare has their work cut out for them. Even WoW has continued to grow, evolve, and become more refined over its seven-year history. The grumbles from the playerbase are legitimate, and like anything in game development, fixes will take time. How long will the players wait? Myself and most of my friends have already quit, but my decision was motivated more by time and level of interest than gameplay.
Normally I would give this game 3 out of 5 stars, because it's not my genre (and therefore my personal fun factor is lower). However, given the scope, this is a great game for the right player.
4 out of 5 stars.
***Special note from the reviewer's editor: "Hutball was wonderful idea, with horrific implementation".
As soon as you enter the Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium, you’ll know
this isn’t your average zoo. There’s a more open, rustic and natural
feel as you stroll down unpaved paths and observe the zoo’s
inhabitants, many up close and personal.
We started our visit with a 5/8-mile long narrated train ride through
the plains of Africa where antelope, gazelles and ostriches roamed
freely. The proximity to beautiful creatures, unconstrained by cages
and enclosures made this an enchanting experience. In fact, we
witnessed the first few minutes of a new little African deer’s life as
the train passed by the mother cleaning her newborn fawn.
Next we hoped on a boat to travel through Arizona’s version of
Australia where we exclaimed over red and gray kangaroos, even an
albino wallaby, flightless emu and kookaburras. Our boat was escorted
at times by black swans and ducks.
Back on land, we continued our relaxed trek through the park taking in
exhibits that included primates, peacocks, white tigers, wolves,
llamas, camels, meerkats and big cats. Zebras came up to the fence to
be admired by us. We climbed up a 12 foot platform to feed giraffes,
and enjoyed a few restful minutes to watch them glide gracefully
across the open fields.
For an even higher view of the park, there’s a skyride that takes you
from the southwest to the northeast corners of the park and back. The
bird’s eye view is as thrilling as it is peaceful, as you fly over
more exhibits of gazelles, oryx, African wild dogs and the kangaroo
To cool off, we headed over to the Log Flume ride. This ride lulls you
into a tranquil state as you enjoy the sights and sounds of the
primates that play on three islands as the log ride circles and takes
riders past aquatic animals and through the aquarium’s South Pacific
Reef tunnel tank–the longest acrylic tunnel in Arizona. The tranquil
state was soon lost when we splashed down 3 stories as it returned us
to the boarding platform.
But we were refreshed and ready to take on the Aquarium section of the
park. In the Diversity of Life in Water, there are touch tanks,
turtles, crocodiles, jelly fish and many more species. The Wild &
Wonderful exhibit houses penguins, eels, and a seahorse reef among
other wonders of the sea. For sharks, stingrays and piranha, enter the
Added in November 2011, Dragon World puts on display giant ectotherms,
today’s “dragons” – crocodiles, alligators, caimans, monitors and
lizards. Included in this exhibit are giant Aldabra tortoises and a
giant snake, a 200-pound, 20-feet long reticulated python.
Located along the western edge of the Phoenix metropolitan area in
Litchfield Park, the Wildlife World Zoo has been a wonderful family
attraction since 1984. When the Aquarium was added, Wildlife World
became home to Arizona’s largest collection of exotic animals with
over 6000 animals representing more than 600 species. The zoo boasts
annual visits of more than 500,000 people.
While paying $2 to $4 for the individual rides in addition to an
entrance fee seems dear, as a privately owned and operated
institution, Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium relies solely on gate
attendance and retail sales to generate its operating and capital
budgets. It receives zero public tax support, grants, or financial
donations. WWZA provides educational and outreach programs and
promotes wildlife restoration and conservation by contributing money
and in-kind support and expertise to dozens of local, national and
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and with WWZA’s expansion with a
fourth aquarium building opening soon, we are look forward to
discovering more of what the zoo has to offer.
Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium is located at 16501 W. Northern Ave.,
Litchfield Park, AZ. Open seven days a week, 365 days a year,
including all holidays. Zoo exhibits are open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00
p.m. (last zoo admission is at 5:00 p.m.) Aquarium exhibits are open
from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Daytime admission includes access to the
zoo and aquarium. Special reduced evening admission to Aquarium-Only
is available after 5:00 p.m.
At long last, the clowns have come to the PS3 with the arrival of Twisted Metal. The video game mixes cars, carnage, and an array of ordinances that would make even the most battle-hardened general or defense contractor envious.
I got a chance to play against the developers at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas and sadly I did better against them than the real flesh and blood challengers I faced online. With an arsenal of chain guns, rockets, mines, and an assortment of power-ups to acquire and deploy, I had thought I was armed for anything on wheels. Imagine my shock when I was mixing it up with a helicopter, and caught between a semi and a phalanx of sports cars all dealing death.
The maps are highly diverse with everything from cities to arenas as fair game and they are very expansive. I took great amounts of glee in kicking in the nitro and really zooming along the roads while making an escape or closing on a target. One bridge map was a great challenge as it effectively narrowed the field of play and made me very aware that recoil from rockets and bullets as well as fenders can give you an up-close view of the scenic canyon floor far below.
The game also has a solo play mode where the real gold in the game can be mined. You get a real look into the twisted menagerie of characters in the game and their complete and utter lack of any sort of redeeming social graces. The solo portion of the game has players taking on challenges in various locales to defeat all those who stand in your way until you are the only one left. Players can select three vehicles, each with their own unique features which can be accessed when players enter a garage. This involves slick strategy because when you’re banged up, you have to get to the garage and get a new car before your dead. A new vehicle allows you to keep the fight going while the other cars in the garage are getting repaired, but each one will have its own pros and cons from speed, handling, armor, weapons, etc.
Naturally you can unlock new vehicles and such as the game unfolds but there will also be traps and more to contend with as each challenge is tough and tougher to master. You can also have a friend join you in co-op which is a very nice and welcome touch.
But that is the joy of Twisted Metal in a nutshell Cars, carnage, action, and metal, lots of metal. From flaming wrecks, and Sammy Hagar this game has it all. Graphically it gets you into the action and never lets go. The framerate of the cars is amazing as you move at a fast and frantic pace which requires even the most skilled players to really learn their controls to make split second decisions.
I have played many auto combat games such as Interstate 76, Interstate 82, Carmageddon, and RAGE, but for my money, Twisted Metal for the PS3 was, to quote Judas Priest, “freewheel burning.”
4 stars out of 5.
By Desi Javier
Art, comics, nerds, writers, artists, nerds, celebrities, geeks, nerds, and oh yes, sexy cosplayers. Wondercon 2012, the annual comic and pop culture convention normally held in San Francisco, was held this year at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Being a first time comic convention attendee, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by all the artwork on display, writers and artists in the comic book industry, and the enthusiastic fans.
Besides geeking out at the buffet of artwork and comics, there were also a few celebrities there. Lou Ferrigno, Kristen Stewart, Emma Stone, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, and a the hosts of G4‘s Attack of the Show just to name a few. Some were signing autographs, others were in panels discussing upcoming films like the Snow White reboot. As for the celebs of the comic book industry, some notable ones were in attendance such as Arthur Adams, Jim Lee, Mark Waid, and Ryan Sook.
Even with all the celebs around, the real stars of the convention were all the cosplayers decked out as their favorite comic/video game/movie persona. They were all around and I couldn’t help but stare in awe at how detailed and intricate (or skimpy) some of these costumes were. And unlike the the real celebrities, they were a lot easier to photograph and talk to.
Other things to do were to check out the various games and panels being held. There were trading card games, conventional role playing games and a few video games. Most notable of the video games was the new Resident Evil: Racoon City and Kid Icarus Uprising for the Nintendo 3DS. Among the trading card games were standby’s like Magic: The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh!
There were many panels, each covering different types of mediums. From comics, art, films, tv, and video games. One of the panels that I sat in was for DC Unlimited. The main discussion was about their popular New 52 reboot. Another panel was for the new Naruto video game: Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations. It was the last panel of the convention and it was fun getting some insight on what the creators did to incorporate as many characters (72 to be exact) into the game to appease the rabid fans of the games and anime.
WonderCon was moved to Anaheim this year while Moscone Center South in San Francisco, WonderCon’s home for the last 6 years, underwent renovation. The Anaheim Convention Center is an ideal location for such a convention. It’s easy to get to from 2 different airports and it’s surrounded by several hotels, restaurants and is within walking distance of Downtown Disney. All in all I had a great time and experience. Hopefully Wondercon will continue to have a home here in southern California.
Recently I got a chance to speak with Jim Demonakos, the Director of the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle. The convention has grown rapidly in the last few tears and has become a massive draw for fans of comics, movies, television, pop culture, gaming and more.
Jim was kind enough to take a few moments from his busy schedule to speak with us about the 2012 show.
Where and when will the show be held this year?
The show will be held at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle on March 30, 31 and April 1, 2012.
What is new for this year and how has the show evolved over the past few years?
We’re expanding our gaming area to a brand new section in The Conference Center. Otherwise, our footprint is the same, but we’ll be bringing brand new comic and media guests, along with lots of new exhibitors and programming, and some amazing exclusives.
What guests do you have lined up?
Adi Granov, character designer for the Iron Man movies, Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead, Bruce Timm, Executive Producer for WB Animation, Dan Slott, writer of The Amazing Spider-Man, Tony Moore, artist of The Walking Dead, Steve Niles, co-creator of 30 Days of Night, Georges Jeanty, illustrator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and so many more.
How have you balanced Hollywood and movies with comics as it must be tricky and how do you keep the so called Hollywood factor from being to dominant?
We run a comic book show and that’s our primary focus, we continue to bring in interesting Hollywood elements but only as it fits in with our show.
What are the biggest challenges you face after 9 successful years and how do you grow the convention yet still keep it fresh?
Entering in to our 10th year, we want to maintain a sense of fun and excitement, while at the same time expanding the show to fit a broad demographic of fans that we can continue to please.
How many people does it take to pull off the convention in terms of organizers, support, etc?
This show takes the combined effort of hundreds of people, from volunteers to staff, to make sure it all goes smoothly.
Looking forward, where would you like the convention to be in 10 years?
I would love to have the show continue to grow and be a staple of Northwest nerd culture, something that people look forward to each year, and I’d like to continue to make sure it’s a fun and enjoyable experience for all who attend.
We go all out this week as the crew and I talk about The Hunger Games, The Walking Dead Finale, Prometheus and much more.
“The Hunger Games” is based in a post-apocalyptic time when the world has been overcome by a series of devastating natural disasters and people have turned on each other to provide supplies for their families and for themselves in order to survive.
Bringing peace to the land was a nation known as Panem which is ruled by the Capitol. Panem had once consisted of thirteen districts all providing a resource essential to the survival of its people. An uprising against the Capitol caused much anger and destruction resulting in war and the annihilation of its thirteenth district.
With the intent to make sure such an uprising would never happen again, the Capitol required each of the twelve remaining districts to abide by the rules and regulations written in the Treaty of Treason to make sure that there is peace within Panem. Once a year a lottery is held where each of the twelve districts must offer up one young man and one young woman as tributes. This must be done in order to remind the people of Panem what was lost. Each of the 24 tributes must train and then battle for survival in an outdoor arena against each other leaving only one tribute to become the victor. This is known as The Hunger Games.
“The Hunger Games” is based upon the New York times best seller written by Suzanne Collins and directed by Gary Ross who also directed Seabiscuit. The storyline follows the main character Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) who volunteers as tribute in order to save her younger sister from having to fight and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcheson) has also been randomly chosen as tribute for the twelfth district.
The movie mostly follows these two characters on their journey to the battle ground as opposed to the book where we get a little more background into each of the different districts and their tributes. Who will be the victor of the 74th annual Hunger Games?
Let me start off by stating that you do not need to have read the book in order to enjoy this film. However, the movie does follow the book very well. Fans will always have their own very strong opinions as to whether the films follow their favorite books but for someone who read the book after I watched the movie I must say I was not lost nor did I feel disappointed that I did not read it prior to screening it.
This film includes a great cast such as Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland and a surprisingly effectively-cast Lenny Kravitz. Along with a fitting cast the film also offers a great soundtrack, colors that fit each district and great cinematography.
It is always interesting to hear the comments of the other reviewers after the end of a movie screening. Some commented on how they pictured certain characters as a totally different type of character than what was portrayed in the book such as Cinna played by Lenny Kravitz.
One lady pictured him as a slim Asian man while my guest pictured him as a flamboyant white man with a high fashion sense. Others commented on how shaky the cinematography was. Yes, granted it does get shaky in a lot of the scenes but it only adds action to the heart pounding edge of your seat scenes. This film is a kickstart to the season of great movies to come and I predict “The Hunger Games” will reach a bigger audience as it provides elements of action, drama and sci-fi to satisfy a larger audience.
For those of you who have not read the book I do have to warn you some of the scenes and or elements of the story may be just a little too disturbing for some but is a great story nonetheless.
5 our of 5 stars.
If you are lucky enough to get into the Beta you have a real treat ahead of you. Invites are going out and the lid is about to be lifted on the realm of Pandaria.
We have two new videos here that you should love.Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations Wondercon Video.
Three different trailers in 24 hours. This is awesome. The film that was so shrouded in mystery and silence really had the lid opened in the last couple of days as now we get a much better understanding of the film and see that yes indeed, it is connected to “Alien” in a more than passing way.
I got the chance to speak with Damon Rubio, the Vice President Of Operations for UltraStar Cinemas. The chain is expanding and setting new standards for the moviegoing experience. Damon was kind enough to talk to us about the company, 3D, future tech, and more.
What is the history of Ultrastar and how it got started?
UltraStar Cinemas was founded in 1999 by John Ellison and Alan Grossberg with the mission of creating the kind of personal and community oriented movie-going experience that they felt was lacking in a marketplace dominated by larger corporate cookie cutter theaters. By focusing on improving the movie going experience for guests in every way UltraStar Cinemas has become a respected industry leader. In 2001 UltraStar Cinemas started experimenting with Digital Cinema and soon after became the first theater chain in the world to outfit all of its screens (102 of them at the time) with Digital Cinema capability.
What would you say are your greatest strengths as well as challenges for your chain being a regional chain as opposed to say a national chain?
Our greatest strength is that we are small enough that we can really focus on the theaters we have and make sure the quality of the movie experience is top notch. We also have a much better understanding of our market and can tailor the experience to best serve the local community.
Our biggest challenge is finding developers with new theater locations who understand what UltraStar can bring to the community and aren’t just looking for the largest theater chain with the biggest bank account to lease space.
How do you go about selecting your locations and can you tell us about your plans to expand the company? I understand you will be opening one in Maricopa in November and many people have asked me about it in terms of how many screens, how many 3D screens, Dbox, etc.
We enjoy bringing amazing theater complexes to underserved markets. I often say that the day we open a new theater it is the most advanced theater in the country and yet it’s not located in a major metropolitan area like New York or L.A instead it is in places like Lake Havasu or Maricopa. Critics will say “Why spend that kind of money to build such advanced theaters in secondary markets?” and I say, because that’s exactly the key to or success, I believe that no matter where the movie goer is located that they deserve the best movie going experience available which includes a modern and comfortable facility.
You have a new popcorn card program, can you tell us how it got started and what you plan to do in the future for this type of program?
Our Popcorn Card is new program that we are experimenting with in the Phoenix market. We felt that in this economy we wanted to provide a great deal to our most loyal movie patrons. Since everyone knows that a large part of enjoying the Movie Experience is having that bag of fresh popcorn we created the UltraStar Popcorn Card that you can purchase once (for $22) that allows you to receive Free Regular size popcorn every time you visit our theaters until December 31st of this year. When you realize that regular popcorn normally cost $ 6.25 at the concession stand you can see how this could pay for its self after just a few visits. Also a portion of the money we raise from the card goes to support a the MS Society.
3D films are all the rage now and while I love them, I have real issues
that many films are not really 3D and are converted post filming. I have
suggested that studios should have to disclose if a film was shot in 3D or
converted in post production so viewers can decide if they want to pay the surcharge to see a film in 3D. To me Avatar is a much better example of the impact of the new 3D technology than Clash of the Titans which used converted 3D which is a real night and day difference.
My question is what do you think of the notion of studios being required
to disclose the nature of the 3D especially now that Michael Bay and James
Cameron are also speaking out against the conversion process. What did you
think of the new 3D format when it started to take off a few years ago,
and what do you think of it now? Also, What do you think of the future of
the technology and how has it changed your theaters?
I don’t think we need to worry about disclosing what way a movie has become 3D, the fact is they can shoot 3D films in 3D that are just as bad as ones that have been made 3D in post. And visa versa, some 3D films that are done in post (like animated stuff) actually look really good. The bigger issue is having film makers utilize the technology when it’s appropriate and adds to the experience and not just creating 3D films for 3D sake. In the end, I think the marketplace is very good at sorting this out. Our chain will many times offer guest the same film in both 3D or 2D and let the guest decide if the 3D adds to the experience for them.
Theaters have always had to come up with new things when technology gave
viewers better options at home. When color tvs arrived, we got
Blaxsploitation films and bigger screens. In time we got THX sound. When
HD arrived and Home Theater Systems we got the new 3D in theaters. With
the arrival of 3D tvs and Blu rays what do you think is the next
technology for theaters to embrace?
High frame rates are going to be the next big thing. Now that the cinema world has mostly moved to a digital platform we are no longer bound by the physical barriers and challenges that are inherent in a mechanical system such as 35mm film. Instead of 24 frames per second we can project at much higher frame rates which will allow for smoother and crisper pictures and especial when done in conjunction with 3D improve the quality of the image.
As a follow up, can you please tell us about Dbox, how it enhances the experience, and how the technology will be expanded in your theaters?
D-box is another example of how UltraStar Cinemas embraces new technology that enhances the movie going experience. Dbox technology allows the guest to live the action that is happening in front of them on screen. Motion effect artists can use the chairs to mimic the subtle and some time not so subtle movements that are associated with the screen. This draws the movie goer into the film and enhances the experience like never before. UltraStar Cinemas was actually the first theater chain in the world to deploy Dbox seats and we thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive reaction from our guests who have experienced a film in Dbox.
What do you think are the greatest challenges facing cinemas today and in the future?
Our biggest challenge is our friends in Distribution (aka the studios). They feel pressure to make their movies available faster and sooner to maximize their returns on a film. But in my opinion they are approaching a dangerous tipping point where they devalue their product and destroy the desire to see the every day film in a theater. The big screen epics will always have a place on the 40 foot screen and not the 4 inch phone but unfortunately theaters need guests to see the other 100+ films a year on the big screen in order to keep the lights on.
What do you consider to be the drawing points of the cinemas as even with
HD, Blu Ray, Movies on demand, and such, people still come out.
Most people do not want to be tied up at home all the time. Some times we want to get out and have that common / communal experience. Movie theaters provide that venue. When a company such as UltraStar Cinemas, works hard to remove the negatives of going out to the movies and focuses on making the experience great then I think people become loyal to the location and find the value in what we have to offer.
Finally, what summer movies are you most excited about and what can fans
look forward to at Ultrastar for the rest of 2012 and beyond?
For me this summer is all about The Avengers and the Dark Night. I am also starting to really get excited about the new film Prometheus which opens in June.
There is a longer trailer coming today, the first one has stopped working so I posted a second.
A fallen enemy rises! The evil Darth Maul, long thought dead since his defeat by Obi-Wan Kenobi at the Battle of Naboo, has returned to wreak havoc during the Clone Wars! As Maul returns to menace the galaxy in the season four finale of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” he also appears in Sony Online Entertainment’s (SOE) Star Wars®: Clone Wars Adventures™.
In addition to seeing the vicious Sith Lord in action tonight on the Cartoon Network, Star Wars players can see him appear in-game in three different missions including:
A new stage in the ‘Dark Side Duel’ mini-game
A holoprojector that allows players to disguise themselves and turn their character into his image
An ultimate boss fight in the Ancient Sith Academy on the surface of Umbara
In order to experience the ultimate boss fight with Darth Maul, players must complete the Sinister Holocron collection to gain access into the ruined Academy where Maul has hidden and retreated to recover his strength, alongside his long-lost brother, Savage Opress. Once there, players should approach with caution as they must first battle Ancient Sith Training Droids and mad Dark Acolytes with dangerous Force mind tricks in order to confront Darth Maul himself in his lava-strewn lair. Gamers be warned: Opress will be close at hand throughout the entire mission!
Players who complete these missions will be given in-game rewards and can earn the new player title, “The Unyielding.”
Back in 1987, the fledgling Fox Network debuted, offering entertainment on Saturday and Sunday evenings aimed at a younger audience. One of the network’s first breakout shows was a police drama with young cops and plenty of action, a show named 21 Jump Street. The show featured a cast of largely unknowns who quickly bolted to overnight notoriety, most notably its star Johnny Depp who, much to his chagrin, became a pinup boy and sex symbol for the show.
The show mixed humor, action, and romance. It followed a team of young officers who were part of a special undercover unit that infiltrated high schools and colleges where they posed as students to solve various campus crimes. Johnny Depp left the show after the fourth season, wanting to be taken seriously as a legitimate actor. The show soon ended one year later. Despite having run only five seasons and having a short-lived spinoff series for star Richard Grieco, “21 Jump Street” remained a pop-culture hit 25 years later.
As such, I had a lot of skepticism when I first heard that Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum would be bringing an updated, raunchier version to the big screen that was heavy on laughs and would definitely aim for an R-rated. This theatrical version stars Hill as Officer Schmidt and Tatum as Officer Jenko, two young officers who met while in high school and, despite being on opposite ends of the social spectrum, bonded and became close friends during their time at the police academy years after graduation. When the duo find their lives as bike cops not as exciting as they had hoped and after they bungle their first chance at a significant arrest, the duo find themselves reassigned to the revived Jump Street project.
Schmidt, in spite of his misgivings, decides to face his fear of the horror that was high school decides to give it another chance. Jenko is soon horrified to see that the social structure that he dominated back in his day has clearly turned upside down. Jocks are no longer the big men on campus, replaced by sensitive New Age types. Nerds that he preyed upon are now the cool kids in school.
After the death of a student who took a new designer drug he bought at school, Schmidt and Jenko are assigned to find the dealers, infiltrate the gang and get to the bottom of the drug distribution ring and stop it at all costs. This proves to be easier said than done, especially for Schmidt. He begins to really relish his new found popularity in school and he starts to live the high school experience that he only dreamed about back in his day. Further complicating matters is Molly (Brie Larson), an attractive high school senior who quickly catches Schmidt’s attention and becomes a focal point of his day-to-day activities.
Jenko, on the other hand, finds himself struggling as the former high school kingpin now finds himself a social outcast, spending much of his time with the chemistry nerds trying to find a way to work the social structure to get to the bottom of the school’s drug trade.
Now what would be a simple assignment for two seasoned cops becomes completely unhinged for the to raw recruits who become more obsessed with social status than their mission and take extreme measures to ingratiate themselves with their new classmates. This all comes at a cost as their bond becomes strained due to Schmidt’s rapidly ascending social status and their continued inability to crack the case.
Now this is a premise that has been done countless times in numerous cop films. “21 Jump Street” has a bold and fresh formula that deftly mixes elements of the gross-out teen comedy with an action-adventure film. While the film drags a bit in the middle, there are some incredibly funny jokes throughout the film. The action in the film is solid and fits well with the story rather than trying to spice things up with random explosions.
I loved how the film, based on a story co-written by Jonah Hill, and produced by both Hill and Tatum, took a fresh approach to the subject matter but also respectfully made fun of the source material, banking on nostalgia while updating it for a younger audience.
I can easily say this was probably Jonah Hill’s best comedy to date as they were numerous laugh out loud moments in the film and he and Tatum make a fantastic duo, playing extremely well off one another. There are also several cameos in the film and strong supporting work from Ice Cube, who plays the extremely agitated captain of the inept cops placed under his command. The film sets up very well for a sequel and I understand that there’s already preparation underway should this one do well at the box office.
“21 Jump Street” is easily the funniest movie I’ve seen this year. I have not laughed this much, for all the right reasons, in quite a long time. Hip and fresh again, there’s plenty of bounce left in “21 Jump Street.”
3.5 stars out 5
Everyone knows a guy like Jeff (Jason Segel). Someone who never really left home, opting instead to sit around waiting for a sign. Jeff’s family is not much better. His daft, unaware brother, Pat (Ed Helms), has his life centered on a marriage that is devoid of connection or even much conversation. Jeff’s mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon), spends her days de-stressing by staring at a waterfall picture in a drab office environment. But today a change is going to come in a big way to the people in Jeff’s life.
In “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” both Segel and Helms have taken on roles that are slightly more serious than the comedic standards that these actors are known for. Still the film is not so far removed as to alienate the fans who diligently follow these two actors to the theater time and time again.
The film’s plot is full of unexpected yet mildly realistic twists and turns. There are no big explosions or giant leaps of faith. This serpentine story is much more subtle. Many of the standout moments are realistically bizarre yet prove relevant, sweeping the audience into lives that have hit the final dregs of acceptability.
Visually the film is lack-luster. More than once viewers experience uncomfortable close-up shots of the less than attractively decorated characters. Still the script is well composed and crafted with such care that every word seems to naturally flow from the actors’ mouths. The story delves into so many facets of the human experience, from marriage to the building of a brotherly bond, that the tale itself is engrossing.
The characters are nervous, inexperienced, and closed off but the tale that defines “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” is entirely relatable. The film is not exactly enchanting but it was significantly better than I had originally anticipated.
3.5 out of 5