3D Realms Anthology

3D Realms (Apogee Software)
Reviewed on: PC (Exclusive)
Release: 05.05

Alien Carnage/Halloween Harry, Arctic Adventure, Balls of Steel, Bio Menace, Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold, Blake Stone: Planet Strike, Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure, Crystal Caves, Dark Ages, Death Rally (Classic), Duke Nukem, Duke Nukem 2, Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project, Duke Nukem 3D, Hocus Pocus, Major Stryker, Math Rescue, Monster Bash, Monuments of Mars, Mystic Towers, Paganitzu, Pharaoh’s Tomb, Raptor: Call of the Shadows, Realms of Chaos, Rise of the Triad: Dark War, Secret Agent, Shadow Warrior (Classic), Stargunner,Terminal Velocity, Wacky Wheels, Word Rescue and Xenophage: Alien Bloodsport.  These are the 32 games released in the excellent 3D Realms Anthology pack, and for $40, you can’t find a better deal. Playing these old school classics brings me back to a better time where bills didn’t exist and I actually had hope for my future. Nostalgia aside, the games I had a blast playing were the Duke Nukem ones—little did I know that the original games were side scrollers.  I thought the first in the Duke Nukem franchise was the 3D one. Stupidity aside, all the games listed were a blast to play. So, do yourself a favor—jump on Steam and buy this pack now! –Kenny Tadrzynski

Stealth INC. 2: A Game Of Clones

Cure Digital
Reviewed for: PS4
Also on: Wii U, PS3, Xbox One, Vita, PC
Street: 04.07

Playing through Stealth INC 2: A Game Of Clones, I’m instantly reminded of a similar game, Oddworld Abe’s Odyssey.  Both are highly detailed sidescrollers featuring a weaponless main character trying his hardest to escape a foe who wishes to kill him, all while finding friends that look much like himself, and help him solve puzzles to aid in his escape.  While not as technically sound as Oddworld, Stealth 2 is a blast to play, and for $14.99, the price is well worth it. The sequel to Stealth INC.: A Clone In The Dark, Stealth 2 has you play as a clone trying desperately to escape a sinister testing facility. Rescuing other clones along the way, you must complete puzzles and activities that will ultimately aid in your escape. This is what I call a good time-waster game, not that it’s a bad thing—it’s actually one of my favorite types to play. Where some games rely heavily on story and plot, every once in a while, you need to decompress, and that’s where Stealth 2 comes in. It’s short and virtually plotless. This is the ultimate decompressing game that you come down with after too many hours of The Witcher 3. –Kenny Tadrzynski

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

CD Projekt RED
Reviewed on: PS4
Also on: Xbox One, PC
Street: 05.19

The fine folks over at CD Projekt RED claim that those who pick up The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt need not have played the previous two to enjoy the third installment, which is music to my ears, considering I’ve never even heard of the game up until four months ago. Having played a good chunk of it (prying myself away to write this review), I can honestly say that The Witcher 3 has lived up to the surrounding hype. With over 200 hours of gameplay and graphics so detailed that it makes you call your friends into the room to show them the mighty power of the PS4, I daresay that this is the game of the year. Concluding the story of Geralt Of Rivia in The Witcher 3, Geralt must stop an army known as the Wild Hunt as they leave mayhem and destruction throughout his kingdom. This massive RPG is unlike any other. The story is spectacular, the graphics are unmatched, and the learning curve for new players is surprisingly easy. One moment, you’re playing a detective looking for clues; the next, you’re fighting a giant Griffin. There you have it! Everybody should own The Witcher 3. Can I get back to the game now? –Kenny Tadrzynski

Double Crossed: 10 Classic Spy Thrillers

Mill Creek Entertainment
Street: 04.21

Mill Creek Entertainment is a DVD distribution studio that specializes in bundling movies of packs of 10, 20 and sometimes even 100. Their newest installment is in the spy genre with the Double Crossed pack. Spanning five decades from the late ’30s to the late ’70s, this bundle contains 10 classic spy thrillers: Mr. Moto’s Last Warning, British Intelligence, The Black Dragons, Submarine Alert, Sherlock Holmes and The Secret Weapon, The Adventures of Tartu, Blood on the Sun, The Green Glove, The Limping Man and Rouge Male. Many of Hollywood’s golden age-era actors and actresses star in this affordable DVD bundle, including James Cagney, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone and Peter O’Toole, just to name a few.  One of my favorites from this pack was the made-for-TV movie Rogue Male, starring O’Toole as a man who is caught and tortured by the Gestapo in war-torn Nazi Germany after a failed assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler.  It was good, campy fun, much like the rest of the movies in this pack. What’s best about the bundle is the price, coming in at around $10 and sometimes even cheaper if you look in the right places. Not bad for over 13 hours of old-school entertainment. – Kenny Tadrzynski

Focus

Warner Home Video
Street: 06.02

Glenn Ficarra and John Requa are former writers-turned-directors who have been pretty spot-on with the movies that they’ve had their hands in making. From the underrated I Love You Phillip Morris to their screenplays for Bad Santa and the remake of The Bad News Bears, the duo has consistently entertained. Focus is their newest movie, starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie (The Wolf Of Wall Street). This is a fun—if not overplayed—classic “one last score” con movie. Smith plays Nicky Spurgeon, a seasoned con man who is in the midst of his newest scheme when he spots an old flame from his past, played by Robbie. The two get romantic once again while conning targets large and small.  Now, most of the problems I had with the film were with the cons they were pulling. They ranged from believable to you-got-to-be- kidding-me ridiculous, and the ending was kind of a letdown. Most con flicks play up to a surprise ending. This film kind of had that, but it ended up being more along the line of “Eh, who cares?” In the end, Focus is a perfect rainy day movie—one you’ll throw on, be entertained by and afterward forget ever existed. –Kenny Tadrzynski

Steven Universe
Writer: Jeremy Sorese
Artist: Coleman Engle

KaBoom!
Street: 07.28

I’m going to start out by saying that I think this comic is best suited for a younger audience, having said that, I will give my best review for Steven Universe.  The comic in question originally started out, and is currently a TV series on cartoon network created by Rebecca Sugar. (Adventure Time) Both comic and show is a coming of age story about a young boy named Steven Universe, a youngster in a group known as the Crystal Gems, a team of magical Guardians and the protectors of the universe.  Growing up with three magical aliens, Garnet, Amethyst & Pearl, Steven and the Crystal Gems help protect the world from their own kind.  As for the comic, I noticed it was set up like a Zine, each issue having different content from mini-games to recipes and other odds and ends.  The comic with its art and story is so sugary sweet that it almost put me into diabetic shock. I know I’m not really the demographic, but if you are a fan of Steven Universe, then I think this comic would be right up your alley. – Kenny Tadrzynski

The Tithe Vol. 1
Writer: Matt Hawkins
Artists:
Rahsan Ekedal, Bill Farmer

Top Cow/Image Comics
Street: 08.26

Peter Popoff, Jim Baker. What do these guys have in common with The Tithe? Well, if this comic were real, they would be getting a visit from a “Robin Hood” like group called The Samaritans.  In Top Cows The Tithe, A group of computer hackers and stick up men target giant mega churches that swindle people and use the money for their own personal gain. The people who hit back at the churches are know as “The Samaritans,” a motley crew of two guys and two girls who pull of the elaborate heists dressed as Jesus, complete with mask and a ring of throne’s.  The group robs from the churches and give (most) of the money back to the people, almost without a hitch. The only problem the group has is two of them are complete drug addicts and one is in debt to the Mexican mafia.  On top of it all, the FBI is hot on their trail, though that doesn’t stop The Samaritans from playing a cat & and mouse game, even going so far as to help the FBI prosecute the churches for embezzlement by sending them evidence.  In short, I love this new series. It reminds me of the Thief Of Thieves comics in terms of cons and heists, only The Tithe is much better. –Kenny Tadrzynski

D-Frag

D-Frag: The Complete Series

Funimation
Street: 04.28

Originally a manga series created by Tomoya Haruno, D-Frag was quickly turned into an animated TV series that aired from Jan.– Mar 2014.  Why the short run? Not sure. Maybe it was the length of the manga or maybe they wanted quality over quantity. Either way, I’m sad to see it end, as this was a goofy and funny show. D-Frag is the story of Kenji Kazama, a troublemaker/high school student who is forced into joining the all-girls “Game Creation Club.” These motley crews of girls are not to be messed with, as each one has their own crazy personality.  Then there are the other eccentrics that roam the school, hell-bent on making Kazama’s life a living, but comedic hell. Much like other funny animes, D-Frag is chock-full of random absurd humor that is best matched with a joint or a beer. The Blu-ray sports a crystal-clear picture and sound to match. The special features include audio commentary on select episodes, promotional videos and trailers, as well as textless opening and closing credit songs. If you’re a fan of anime and video games, then D-Frag should be a no-brainer. –Kenny Tadrzynski

Bessie

Bessie

 

Bessie
HBO Films

Street: 09.01

 

Queen Latifah stars as the title character Bessie Smith in HBO’s Bessie, a biopic on the life of the legendary American blues singer. The film focuses on Smith’s transformation from a struggling young singer into the “Empress of the Blues,” one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s. Times were rough for ol’ Bessie growing up and even after her rise to fame. Her parents and brother died when she was young and was looked after by her older sister, this on top of the fact that she was black, bisexual and growing up in Tennessee in the mid 1900s. Let’s just say they could of gone a lot better for her. To help ends meet for her family, Bessie and her brother sung and danced in a duet on the streets of Chattanooga. By 1912, Smith was a known singer in her part of town, delighting people with her voice and dancing. Well, most people. Although she had a great voice, a lot of people were judgmental about her appearance. In one scene, she is mortified during an audition when she is given the paper bag test. Basically, they hold a regular brown paper lunch bag up to her face—if her skin tone is lighter than the bag, she passes. Only light-skinned performers were sought for the role; Smith didn’t pass and was laughed off the stage. Little did the producer know that Smith had a volatile temper and proceeded to push him down to the floor.

 

Her temper was pretty notorious back in the day, though all of her violent outbursts were for good reason. In the opening shot of the film, Smith is in the alleyway of a performance making out with a man. He wants to take it to third base, she doesn’t, so the man punches her in the face and leaves a scar on her head. She returns the favor by cutting his thigh with a piece of broken glass. Her temper would catch up with her, though. One night, after a successful performance, she and a large group of people are partying backstage when another man calls Smith a “fat bitch.” Smith corrects the man by slapping him and is just about to bash him over the head with a vase when she takes pity and tells him to leave. The man waits hours for her outside and shanks her as she leaves the party. She survives, of course, but takes a licking.

 

I loved Bessie for the most part. The performances in the film were fantastic—literally everybody brought their A-game. The performance I was most impressed with was Mo’Nique as Ma Rainey, Bessie’s protégé. Rainey was the first person to give Bessie a job as a dancer for her troupe having already earned success as a blues singer. She would later take note of Bessie’s great singing voice and move her up the ladder from dancer to singer. Mo’Nique absolutely nails it as Rainey, a fair but tough business lady. Before Bessie, Rainey was the hot ticket in town. She was so hot she was able to waltz into any white-owned dance club and make a list of demands including higher pay, and they would give into her. This performance proves that her Academy Award for Precious was well-deserved.

 

One big draw back for the film was that it felt extremely rushed. I know it’s often hard to make a two-hour film chronicling a person entire life, but scene and characters seemed to come and go within a matter of minutes. It has also been pointed out on many message boards that this film took a lot of liberties with what actually happed in Bessie’s life, mostly her relationship with Ma Rainey. In the film it makes it look like Rainey was the one that taught Bessie to sing, when in real life this wasn’t the case. The DVD for Bessie is barebones; a short documentary into the making of the film featuring interviews with the stars is all we get. Picture and audio are top notch, but I would have liked some more extra features.

 

With all that said, Bessie is still an entertaining film with excellent acting. It probably won’t be one you go back to watch that often, but if you’re a fan of the blues, this movie should tickle your fancy.

 

Gremlins ReAction Figures – Stripe

Gremlins ReAction Figures – Stripe

ReAction Figures: Gremlins
Funko / Super 7

funko.com / super7store.com

 

To open or not to open? This is the question that divides the toy collecting community. Both sides have valued arguments. The “to open side” thinks that all action figures should be opened, played with or displayed, as that’s the reason the toy was made, whereas the “don’t open” side likes the toy trapped in its clamshell prison. They like the box art, the overall look of the toy in its package as well as the fact that if it needed to be sold, the toy would be worth more considering that it was never opened or played with. See, I’m split down the middle. If I can, I’ll purchase two of the same figure, one to open and one to appreciate in value. Not to mention that I simply don’t have enough space to store them all, and if I keep it in its box, I can hang them from my wall, problem solved. In the case of ALL Reaction toys, I would have to think that even the “open and play with them side” would agree that these toys should remain in the box.

 

ReAction themselves pretty much all but say leave these figures be. You’ll notice in the top right corner of every figure it says, “Adult collectable, not a toy.” Well if it isn’t a toy, what the hell is it and why can I buy them at Toys R Us? The simple answer to this question is well, simple: It’s art. It’s art that you hang on a wall or maybe display in a display case and admire. In the case of ReAction, I’d say it’s better to hang on the wall for a few big reasons that I’ll get into later, but one of those reasons is the box art. I would say that a lot of the money you’re spending on the ReAction figures is mostly because of the gorgeous box art, often screengrabs or the poster from the films they’re representing. You see, it’s nostalgia that ReAction is banking on that makes you want to purchase the figures, because in the early days of the line the figures looked rough, really rough. Some times not looking anything like the character it was supposed to be representing, but for some reason you were drawn to it probably because of the fact that it was a classic ’80s movie that you grew up with as a kid and of course, that damn fine box art. Having said all that, lets move onto the toys at hand… Gremlins!

 

Gremlins is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s got everything, Cuteness, scary monsters, satire, Cory Feldman, Mike from Breaking Bad and Phoebe Cates. It was a no brainer that ReAction would add this to their stellar ’80s figures. The entire first wave of the Gremlins line goes Billy with backpack, Gizmo with the arcade machine, Gizmo with Barney the dog, Gizmo with X-mas hat and keyboard, Stripe the Gremlin with Chainsaw, Mugger Gremlin and Gremlin with 3D glasses and popcorn. The figures I’ll be reviewing are, Billy, Stripe and Mugger Gremlin.

 

First up, Billy. Billy is of course the lead of the movie and the kid who is gifted Gizmo as a Christmas present. Pretty weird gift to give your kid, a possible monster/alien that has the oddest most specific list of rules in order to take care of it, but hey, who am I to judge? The figure is extremely basic (as are most ReAction figures) coming with Billy and his backpack. The backpack slings nicely over Billy’s shoulder and surprisingly enough, actually hangs on his back nicely. Billy himself stands a little over 3 inches and can stand on his own just fine. The paint job is good—not great, as I could tell some of the paint from his neck slightly bled over onto his shirt. Not that huge of a deal, but hey, I’m reviewing over here. The articulation is basic, his arms and legs move, as does his head. No bending at the elbows or knees, just his arms and legs. In terms of displaying, Billy’s the best of the three, considering he is the only one that can stand on his own.

 

Mugger Gremlin comes with a pistol, a really tiny pistol. This was the Gremlin that scared me the most as a kid. I mean, he had a creepy Gremlin-sized ski mask and brandished a Gremlin-sized pistol. Dude looked look more like a rapist than a mugger. The figure is really tiny at barely two inches, and the paint job on him is fantastic, probably the best of the three. No bleeding or nothing, and the ski mask looks great on him too. His little pistol fits perfectly in his hand and aims out nicely. Just like Billy, the articulation is limited, just his arms and legs move. One huge flaw I found with the figure is it can’t stand on it’s own, period. I’ve tried a number of ways to display him and each time, gravity pulled that little fucker down. I had to resort to using a bit of poster putty on the bottom of his feet to hold him. Another draw back is his pistol—that thing is almost microscopic. God help you if you have a deep carpet and manage to drop it. Shit’s gone forever.

 

Last but not least, Stripe, the head badass Gremlin in charge. He was the coolest and most mean out of all of them, he went and killed Billy’s science teacher by sticking a hypodermic needle in his ass. Rough way to go, I mean you’re already tangling with a Gremlin but to have him kill you in such a humiliating way… damn. Anyways, the paint is fantastic on him, just like the mugger. He also stands at just about two inches and comes with a nicely painted chainsaw. Now, the chainsaw does fit in his hand, but it just lies at his feet. There is no way to have him hold it in both hands or even raise it above his head; this is due to the lack of articulation. Like the previous two, only his hands and feet move, but can’t bend. This kind of sucks, ’cause you have this badass chainsaw that just lies there. Just like the Gremlin before him, he can’t stand on his own. Poster putty to the rescue!

 

In closing, ReActions Gremlins are some fine figures that should remain in the box. The fact that they’re tiny and can’t stand on their own all but confirms it. I also think they dropped the ball a bit with this first wave. Did we really need three Gizmos? The price on them could have been lowered a tad, too. The asking price is only 10 bucks—not bad, but shelling out that much for a figure that’s barely two inches tall seems a bit excessive. If you’re a Gremlins fan like me, though, it won’t really matter; you’ll need to collect them all. So buy this line, hang them proudly from your wall, but if you insist on opening them, invest in some poster putty.