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This Is It (2009)
Good music from MJ and the director of High School Musical
Before I start, this contains minor spoilers (at least, as much as it's possible to spoil the "plot" of a musical documentary!)
Also, I should point out that I'd avoided all mention of the movie, and almost all of the clips, so didn't know what to expect. I had low expectations, but it was slightly better than I thought. The cinema was under a third full (mind you, they had it on every half-hour in most of the screens). I'll break this review down into sections as per the track order:
Wanna Be Startin' Somethin': The first thing I noticed was that the sound quality was actually pretty good. Even though the Staples is known for having crap sound, and even though my cinema didn't have SDDS (meaning that we had to settle for the inferior Dolby version). I thought the drums were nice, and the instrument separation was good. It also struck me that, although I don't see much dancing in general, there were several moves here that I'd never seen by MJ or anybody else.
Jam: Seemed to be sung live was well. I'm not sure what sources they cobbled the sound together from, but they had a fairly complete vocal track, apart from the lines that simply weren't sung.
They Don't Care About Us: Definitely mimed, and a similar medley to what had been used in previous tours. The special effects during this segment were nothing short of jaw-dropping - they have to be seen to be believed.
Human Nature: Nice song (in fact the one all the girls were singing as they left the cinema). By this point the changes of aspect ratio and overall size were starting to annoy me.
Smooth Criminal: There was a nice bit of insight into the video sequences. Overall quite good, although I'm not sure how it all would have fitted together as a live show.
Way You Make Me Feel: slightly long and drawn out, but otherwise good. Reminded me a bit of the Madison Square Garden 30th anniversary show.
Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)/I Want You Back/I'll Be There: This whole J5 sequence was OK, but it always sounds tired. He's been doing the same medley with the same ad-libs for over 20 years now.
I Just Can't Stop Loving You: Fairly good. By this point, I had stopped trying to remember which songs were sung live and which were mimed. It looked like there was more chemistry with this singer than with Sheryl Crow or any other previous co-singer.
Thriller: I really enjoyed this bit, especially with all the 3D stuff. Too bad Threatened wasn't played for longer.
Beat It: This was OK, but was an example of the flow being interrupted just to fit in some crane footage they wanted to use. However, it was interesting to see the girl dancers.
Black Or White: Fairly good. Slightly different from the album version, and a good insight into how the performance would have worked with two lead guitarists.
Earth Song: Extremely powerful. I liked the symphonic introduction, and the jungle footage in the background had a good effect.
Billie Jean: unless I blinked and missed it, there was no moonwalk... It also seemed a bit half-hearted, but let's remember that this is all rehearsal footage.
Man In The Mirror: Not much to say about this one. Some parts of the song were missed out, but otherwise good, if a little bit straightforward.
This Is It/Heal The World: I sat through the whole credits, and read as much as possible (couldn't believe how many logos there were!). Whatever you do, don't leave at this point, or you'll miss some good moments. Bsides, it's disrespectful to leave during the credits to any movie.
There were also sections on Bad and Who Is it and In The Closet. And there are some great bits on pole dancing and acrobatics- I enjoyed the funny part where she was teaching them how to grab their crotch!
To sum up, I liked it. I'm not sure I'll see it at the cinema again, especially as nobody wants to go with me, but it's worth seeing once. I'd probably get the DVD (or Blu-ray, if it's the same price) - what I'd like is a seamless branching option where you can cut the dialogue and listen to it as an album (that's what the soundtrack CD should have been).
Overall, they showed restraint and good taste, for the most part. It had quite a good feel-good factor, maybe even for non-fans (of which there weren't any in this cinema, except maybe one or two guys who were probably dragged by their girlfriends). Maybe the environmental stuff near the end was laid on a bit thick.
For those of you who think that a review just boils down to a number - If this were anybody else, I'd give it 50%. However, because it's Jackson, I have to give it 60%. However, this assumes that it's judged as a standalone movie. IF they had been in a position to release a full live concert performance Blu-ray of the finished show, then this would have made an EXCELLENT bit of bonus material. I guess that's how I see it. It's something that should have been supplementary to a tour.
Street Fighter EX3 (2000)
Just like a cross between Super SF2 and Marvel Vs Capcom Vs SNK...
One of the big additions to this latest version of the Street Fighter EX trilogy is the Tag-team mode, as seen in Tekken Tournament and Capcom's VS games. In the standard Single-player mode, you pick one character, but then every time you beat somebody, you have the option of having them join your team. You then enter the next battle with two characters, and can swap them in and out in order to take a rest and recharge their energy. This also makes for some great depth in the form of tag combos, where both characters can cooperate and attack the opponent at the same time.
Aside from this big addition, there is also a version of the "Custom Combo" from SF Alpha, as well as all the traditional super moves and so on. The gameplay is a fairly standard 2D affair, with only a couple of moves using the extra dimension. All but one of the characters from SFEX2 return, and there is one new one, in the form of Ace, who is a design-your-own character type affair as seen in wrestling games- you are given a choice of moves to add, and this makes him a very versatile character (imagine Ryu's dragon punch and Chun-Li's lightning leg together)
Oh, and if you have a multitap, you can even play 4-players simultaneous, as either 2-on-2 or 3-on-1... All in all, a great addition to the PS2 library.
Street Fighter EX (1996)
New-style graphics with the great old-skool SF gameplay
Imagine being able to play your favorite characters such as Guile and Zangief, but with the freedom of a 3D camera. Well now you can. Don't be fooled by the modern polygon graphics- this game has all the familiar elements of SF2's classic engine. The moves and style of play are very similar, and any experts will be able to pick this up right away and get straight in with the basics.
Funded by Capcom, and using Capcom programmers and designers, this SF game takes things a step forward in a way the 2D games cannot- Because they don't have to draw every frame by hand, then are free to concentrate on the mechanics. Bison, Sakura, etc, are given a new lease of life with the new supermove system, and so it will give you something new to learn. This, and obviously the 10 new faces...
Instead of complaining about re-using sprites that are a decade old, I would advise people to jump on the bandwagon and start enjoying the latest development in SF gaming. Since Capcom are no longer making arcade games, and are about to stop production of 2D, this should be snapped up while it's available.
More of the same, if a little better
I loved Renegade and the original Double Dragion, and was really pleased with the sequel. Although it's been dismissed by some as merely a remake, Double Dragon II was a step upwards from the first game, and was a lot tougher to beat.
Firstly are the new control method and couple of new moves that have been added- the all-conquering back-elbow is now a more balanced move, and there are new flying kicks. Weapons also are different, with shovels, chains and haystacks replacing some of the older ones.
Although some of the scenery is very similar to the first game, the range of enemies is now a lot wider, especially the hulking end-of-level bosses. It's about the right length for an arcade game, with a good difficulty curve. Graphics and sound are close to the original (the same level of detail, but slightly more color). There isn't much of a story, but there is a good twist at the end.
Overall, I'd say this was the best DD game- I thought the series went downhill with the sequel (where you had to insert real money in order to buy things from the shop!), and the one-on-one versions that followed.
The Forerunner of the "Extra Bonus Supplement!"
Released back in the early 90s on the Widescreen VHS Box-set, this 20-minute documentary was one of the first "Extra features" that now seem to be taking over the DVD industry.
As an owner of this set for over a decade, I can say that I think I've watched this 4th tape a total of 2 or 3 times. As with all bonus stuff, the novelty soon wears off, and after you have seen the 3 or 4 cut scenes, you just end up cursing at the overacted introduction and pointless links by the has-been host.
I sometimes worry that so much focus and attention is paid to these features: they are unrewarding and never come close to bringing the excitement that they promise- and this one is a prime example of something that never lives up to the hype. The interviews do provide some insight into the special effects, but all of this has been available in text form on websites anyway (where you can also copy/paste/print/zoom/etc). So if you were a fan you would already know it all.
Let's Use whatever is popular...
Well, first things first: this isn't a "ride" at all- you never move more than about 3 meters from the door of the room you enter... It more a "motion simulation", where you sit in a seat watching a 2D screen and occasionally lean to the right...
Anyway, most people will have a hard time seeing any details from the movies in here: Christopher Lloyd's voice is there, but it would appear that Universal couldn't persuade Michael J Fox to take part. So what we are left with is a 15 minute chase after a second DeLorean with a commentary.
Also lacking is any reference to the events of the movies- you get a few seconds of the clock-tower at the start, but from then on, it's all unrelated, abstract material. A volcano might be good for an immersive theme park distraction, but it isn't really BTTF, is it? I suppose it must be said that at least the surround sound from the LaserDisc does a pretty good job.
And for some unfathomable reason there are dinosaurs in it!! This reeks of simply cashing in on the current craze at the time it was built: Jurassic Park had been a major hit the year before this opened. Actually, speaking of JP, that brings us nicely to a much better experience: The Riverboat Ride. This one does actually take you outside and around on a track, with some real models to look at... I know where I'd rather spend my queuing time.
The Sky at Night (1957)
The longest running TV show in the World
Not just the longest running TV show in British history, but in fact The Longest Running TV Show in World.
That this is still going out every 4th Sunday after all those years is testament to the huge popularity of Sir Patrick Moore, who has received many honors for his outstanding services to astronomy (which includes, among other things, introducing countless kids to science)
Often broadcast live, the programme has sometimes been the victim of cloudy skies and other bad weather, but it has always been a show with great importance (and a source of great enjoyment) for both amateur and professional astronomers alike.
Being an international expert in the subject, Patrick Moore provided some of NASAs maps for the 1969 moonlandings, but it is interesting that the BBC wiped all the footage of him commentating on it!
Coronation Street (1960)
The Longest running Soap in the world?
As far as I can make out, this has been on air for longer than any other soap in the world, and so I guess that makes William Roache (Ken Barlow) the longest continuously-serving actor in the world...
Interesting to note in the 2000s, is that there are many real signs and adverts on the walls, since it is filmed in real streets. One of the most common at the moment is a black poster for a popular local student nightclub...