Where The Wild Things Are review

Posted on Blogcritics.org

This is going to be a hard review to write, because there are so many things to say about the new movie Where The Wild Things Are. A book could probably be written analyzing this film and the emotions it provokes. It is based on the children’s picture book written by Maurice Sendak, and for over 40 years it’s been one of the most famous and popular books for children.

Technically the book itself is only ten lines long, with the pictures offering a lot more of a story, so when Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers got their hands on it they really had their work cut out for them. How do you make a ten line book into a full length movie? In their case, with exceptional style.

Max (Max Records) is a typical little boy; he has too much energy, loves playing games, has a vivid imagination, and just wants some attention. It seems that his parents went through a divorce and he’s having some trouble coping with his emotions. In the beginning he tries to get his sister and her friends to have a snowball fight, but the fun goes sour when they destroy his igloo. Max cries and the audience cries for him, because it must be said that Records plays this role with perfect innocence and sincerity. He is not overly precocious or wise beyond his years; he is Max. While his tired single mother (Catherine Keener) tries her best to show her love for him, Max loses his temper when she brings home a date. He runs away and sets off on a journey like no other.

Off on a distant island, Max creeps into the home of the Wild Things. These giant monsters are having troubles of their own, as one of them has decided to leave the pack and the current leader Carol (James Gandolfini) is having trouble with it.

His feelings for the missing KW (Lauren Ambrose) are complicated, and he takes it out on the forest with violence and fury. The Wild Things plan to eat him at first, but Max stands up to them and tells wild stories about being the King of the Vikings. Carol is so delighted to have someone to fix everything for them that he promotes Max immediately to King. The other Wild Things include negative Judith (Catherine O’Hara), calm Ira (Forest Whitaker), loyal Douglas (Chris Cooper), silent Bull (Michael Berry Jr.), and attention-seeking Alexander (Paul Dano). At first everything is fun and exciting with the beasts, especially when KW comes back to meet Max, but it soon breaks apart and Max learns that his adventure may not be what he expected … or what he wanted.

This movie is beautifully crafted from beginning to end, and the visual scheme is very loyal to the original artwork from the book. It’s a dark and earthy place that Max finds, with the neverending forest and random sandy desert. The Wild Things are not fully CGI, which is probably the best thing about them; it’s a mix of CGI, live action, actual costumed actors, and animatronics. The actors say that they were often in a room together and forced to be very physical with one another, just like the characters they were voicing. It adds a certain authenticity to the way they talk and act with each other, and you can sense the genuine connection and emotion between the characters because of it.

In many ways I think this movie was made more for adults than for children. In fact, I can see where some parents might be nervous about bringing their kids to this film. Then again, there are plenty of movies that you might think are inappropriate, but children end up loving. Most of the scary parts go over their heads and they embrace the whimsical nature of fantasy stories.

I think each parent can decide if their child is ready or not for this, but honestly it might disturb the adult more than the child. It’s mentally engaging on a mature level; adults understand that the Wild Things are merely facets of Max’s personality, and his way of coping with the unexpressed rage and sorrow in his heart. Carol is his fury and his pain, KW is his independence, Alexander is his loneliness, Douglas is his loyalty, Judith is his negativity, Ira is his unconditional love, and the Bull is his silence. It is very unlikely that young children will pick up on the psychological complexity of this film, and they will likely just enjoy the forest romp and sand fight. In the end it will probably be more memorable to the adults in the audience, who remember being innocent children with so much conflicting emotion and no place to direct it.

Where the Wild Things Are haunts me in a way; there is a sorrow in seeing childhood from a distance, and missing it/pitying it all at once. Jonze brings us the bitter truth about the things that children do not say, and it’s tragic. And it’s beautiful. This is a wonderful movie with depth and excellent acting all around, but it might be a little tough for people to swallow. It’s not the happy-go-lucky children’s film everyone was probably expecting. It’s a step above the typical children’s film, not talking down to the young audience but rather embracing it … and still speaking directly to the parents at the same time.

You might not want to see the movie again and again, but it’s worth seeing at least once, if only to experience the vision. Where the Wild Things Are is rated PG for disturbing images and some violence, and it is out in theaters today.

Our Favorite Cameos

Posted on Starpulse.com

Our Favorite Movie Cameos
There are a lot of modern movies that love to give little winks at the audience, and one of the easiest ways to do that is through the use of cameo appearances. A cameo is when a well known celebrity or important person shows up for a brief appearance in a movie. It can be a non-speaking random role, or perhaps a whole scene that steals the show. Whatever the case may be, oftentimes in a film the cameo ends up being the most memorable part of the whole movie. Take “Zombieland” for example, out in theaters now, but there’s no spoilers here. Just go see the film and you’ll see. Here’s a look at some of the best big star cameos! Be aware there might be some language in the clips below.

Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder

Tom Cruise is one of the super stars in Hollywood, but he’s been criticized a lot in the past few years due to his vocal love of Scientology and his verbal diarrhea over his love affair with Katie Holmes. Still, Cruise proved that he’s not only a great actor but has a wry sense of humor as well when he showed up in “Tropic Thunder.” While a bit bigger than your typical cameo role, Cruise hid his good looks and winning smile behind a fat suit and a bald cap as studio executive Les Grossman. Foul mouthed, disgusting, callous, and generally unpleasant, Cruise provided some of the funniest moments in the film and had everyone buzzing afterward.

Neil Patrick Harris in Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle

Neil Patrick Harris, affectionately known as NPH to friends and fans, grew to stardom as a child actor for the television series “Doogie Howser, M.D.” For years NPH had guest roles in movies and television series but nothing too serious, and he moved to the Broadway stage. It was a quick guest role in “Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle” that brought him back into the Hollywood spotlight, which was solidified not long after by a starring role in “How I Met Your Mother.” NPH plays a fictionalized version of himself in the stoner flick, appearing to be a drugged up womanizer with no boundaries. He reprised this role in “Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay,” and you cannot think of the two films without going picturing NPH snorting coke and riding a unicorn.

Danny Glover in Maverick

This cameo is amusing only to fans of the “Lethal Weapon” series, but those fans were probably rolling with laughter when they went to see “Maverick.” Danny Glover and Mel Gibson played partners in “Lethal Weapon 4,” so apparently when Gibson started this movie they thought it would be funny to wink wink nudge nudge at the audience. Glover comes in as a bank robber and in the scene he and Gibson look at one another, almost in recognition, and then go ‘nawww!’ It showed the actors – and the writers of the film – had quite a sense of humor.

Keith Richards in Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’ End

Ever since Johnny Depp said the inspiration of Captain Jack Sparrow came in part from The Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, fans were wondering if the musician would appear briefly in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies. Richards did delight audiences when he agreed to come on set for the third film, and not only that but he played the father of the very character Depp based on him! Richards happily got into pirate gear and even played a quick tune on a guitar as Captain Teague.

Tom Cruise, Kevin Spacey, Gwyneth Paltrow, Danny DeVito, Steven Spielberg in Austin Powers in Goldmember

The third “Austin Powers” movie was an enormous success worldwide, which wasn’t really a surprise considering how favored the entire series was once it exploded onto the scene in 1997. One of the best parts about the third film was the opening sequence in which several big names appeared. They were making a movie inside of a movie, with Spielberg directing and Cruise playing Powers, Paltrow playing Dixie Normous, Danny DeVito as Mini-Me, and Kevin Spacey as Dr. Evil. It’s still funny even after all these years to see the actors laughing at themselves, and it came as a surprise to most audiences since very little world was released about any of the cameos.
David Bowie in Zoolander

David Bowie is one of the most celebrated singers of the last thirty years, so it is no surprise that people would be clamoring to get him to cameo in their films. The singer has worked in films before, but it was a random surprise and delight when he showed up in “Zoolander.” The silly film is written, directed, and starred in by Ben Stiller, and it is numbered as one of Bravo’s 100 funniest movies. In the famous walk-off scene with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, David Bowie shows up as guest judge to everyone’s delighted satisfaction. Who else but this fashionable musician to judge a model walk-off?

Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

There are a lot of genius quotes and moments in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” but several of these lines are given by Ben Stein, and he’s only in the movie for a scant few minutes. As a droning teacher at Bueller’s high school, Stein mutters the famous lines “Anyone? Anyone?” and “Bueller?” This perfectly counteracts the excitement and joy of Ferris’ day off, and what exactly he is missing (nothing!) at school. It’s hard to think of the film without hearing Stein’s deadpan voice, but would someone just answer a question already? The poor guy keeps giving the students chances!

Everything Geeky – New Comics

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As a comic fan, I’m often asked by non-comic geeks what series they should try out to get started in the vast world of comic awesomeness. This is a pretty general question, since it all depends on your personal taste.

There are comics for just about anyone of any age, although there are some more critically acclaimed than others. It’s also difficult to encourage people to start in the major comic books because of the hundreds of thousands of issues they’ve missed already. Sure Spider-Man is pretty much the same character he was a few decades ago, especially after “One More Day,” but occasionally a villain or character will pop up and you’ll go, “Who is that?” Then you have to wikipedia them and that links you to another storyline, which links you to another character and a few hours later you’re still just confused.

Anyway, trying to get started in an old comic title is a story for another column, but this one is about independent storylines that are either complete or easy to pick up on. They don’t require you to read the entire scope of DC or Marvel comics to follow, and while none of these have been made into movies (yet), they probably will be sooner or later. It’s good to read them now so in a few years when the movie comes out you can sniff and go, “Well it was fine, but the comics are soooo much better.”

Y The Last Man – You can find the entire “Y The Last Man” on trade paperbacks now in ten volumes. This will make it very easy to read this engaging and entertaining story from start to finish. It’s about Yorick Brown, an oddball young man who favors magic and escape artists tricks. Just as he’s about to propose to his long-time girlfriend Beth, who is abroad in Australia, a calamity hits the earth. At once, every single male human and animal on the planet dies gruesomely with no warning. Every man except for Yorick and every male animal but his pet monkey Ampersand. Yorick just wants to find Beth and make sure she’s okay, but as the last man he gets drawn into an important mission to find out the truth of what happened to the earth. With Agent 355, a government agent who acts as Yorick’s bodyguard, and Doctor Alison Mann, a geneticist who could learn the answers to the plague, Yorick travels the world looking for the truth and his one true love. It’s a fairly dramatic story but with plenty of humor. The characters are all engaging and the situation is fascinating to say the least. This comic is somewhat adult with sexual situations and language, but most ages and genders should enjoy it.

Fables – “Fables” is the only series on this list that is still being published, but you’ll soon see why. It’s a reinterpretation of very famous and well-known fairy tale characters into the modern day. The Fables lived in their own mythical Homelands until a horrible creature called The Adversary conquered it and drove them out. They now live amongst us in New York City, although those Fables who cannot appear to be normal humans are hidden at “The Farm” in upstate New York. The series is a mixture of fantasy and storytelling of the highest degree, and then it blends some mystery, romance, tragedy, and drama in there for good measure. The main characters are Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf, for example, and Prince Charming is a womanizing jerk, Beauty and the Beast are in couples therapy, and Jack (from Jack and the Beanstalk) is a con artist. How could you possibly go wrong taking something nostalgic and beloved and putting a new modern twist on it?

Transmetropolitan – Okay, first things first, “Transmetropolitan” is not appropriate for children or young teenagers in any way. It’s a very adult comic, so if you’re a bit squeamish about language, violence, or sex it’s probably not for you. If you’ve got a cast iron stomach and a spine made of stone, this comic was made for your enjoyment. Fans of Hunter S. Thompson will loooove it. Based in a cyberpunk future world, the comic surrounds the life and work of Spider Jerusalem, a gonzo journalist who reluctantly comes out of retirement. Spider owes two more books to his publisher so he comes back into The City to find a proper story. He decides to take on the President, his former nemesis, and the newest rival to the Presidency in a no-holds barred journalistic piece ripping them to shreds. Spider is ruthless, disgusting, insane, and strangely admirable in his obsessive need for truth and honesty in a decadent world. The world of “Transmetropolitan” is dangerous and a little depressing, but it’s like a car crash: almost impossible to look away from once your interest is peaked.

Preacher – Here’s another rather adult comic; the best ones often are because they openly deal with the more serious issues. This one deals specifically with religion, the South, death and life, and power. The main character is a miserable preacher named Jesse Custer with a sordid and tragic past who is possessed by a supernatural being named Genesis. The possession causes his church and everyone in it to die instantly. Genesis gives him the power to force anyone to do what he wants, using “the Word of God.” Jesse decides to go on a search for God to get some answers about Genesis and where his life is going from there, but God has abandoned Heaven and is in hiding. With his ex girlfriend Tulip and his new best friend Cassidy, both with secrets of their own, Jesse wanders the United States looking for God and answers. This is a great series to pick up if you’re a fan of westerns, for its style in both art and dialogue is very reminiscent of old western films. It does have some blasphemous elements to it so some people might get offended, but in general the original story and the memorable characters are worth trying out.

The Sandman – Neil Gaiman is something of a celebrity in geek culture, since he’s a writer of one of the best graphic novel series of all time and regularly publishes wonderful fantasy novels. Several of his stories were made into movies (“Stardust,” “Coraline“), but his most noticeable and famous piece of work was the series “The Sandman” for Vertigo Comics. This series was on the New York Times Bestseller List, it won the World Fantasy Award, and it’s highly acclaimed by critics and fans alike. The series is about The Endless, a group of supernatural beings who represent several major parts of human existence: Death, Destiny, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium. The story mainly features the story of Dream who starts the series being kidnapped and held prisoner for years. After he escapes he returns to his destroyed kingdom to pick up the pieces. “The Sandman” heavily features mythological stories, fables, and tales from all different cultures, and usually embraces the fantastical as true and real. It jumps from Ancient Greece to the Crusades to modern day all in one chapter, but it’s organic and fractured, almost like a dream itself. The series is also well known for having some of the best art in the industry, with several big name comic artists trying their hand at the issues and making their own marks. This is a very long and complicated story, but it’s worth trying out. The journey is painful and beautiful and like nothing else you’ve read.

An Education Review

Posted on Starpulse.

The Sundance Film Festival always has its award-winning darlings each year, and this year it was the coming-of-age film “An Education.” It won the World Cinema Audience Award for Drama at Sundance, and it is quickly proving to be a critic darling as the reviews pour in.

The movie, based on a memoir by journalist Lynn Barber, was written by another critical darling Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity,” “About A Boy“). The end result is a smart and well paced story about a restless brilliant young girl and her education in the ways life can be cruel.

Jenny (Casey Mulligan) is the top of her class at her elegant private school in England, and her aspirations are to go to Oxford and make something of her life. She’s loved by her parents, Jack (Alfred Molina) and Marjorie (Cara Seymour), and her teacher (Olivia Wlliams) and Headmistress (Emma Thompson). Everyone has high hopes for Jenny, and as she rounds on her 17th birthday, her perfect little life is shaken up by the arrival of David (Peter Sarsgaard). More than a decade her senior, he woos the innocent Jenny with charm, panache, and with promise of excitement. He manages to win over both of her parents with his easy manner and charisma, lying to them through his teeth as he whisks her away for private weekends. Jenny goes along with it, so enamored with his street-smart way of living and the elegance of his two best friends Danny (Dominic Cooper) and Helen (Rosamund Pike).

As Jenny debates what is more useful to her – a scholarly education or a real-life one – the audience can already foresee where this romance story is headed. Indeed, we’re clued in long before she is that there’s only black clouds on the horizon, but there’s no way to warn her. There are hints about David’s unsuitability for her, such as his suspicious business aspirations, and Danny’s surprising overprotective nature of Jenny. It’s as if he’s trying to protect her from David, of all people. There’s a lesson Jenny has to learn and some choices she must make for herself, but it’s easy to see how a smart young girl could get dragged into something so potentially disastrous. David and his friends are as seductive to the audience as they are to us, and the whirlwind world of fun and class and music is appealing in a broad sense.

This movie is also set in 1961 so it’s just before the Beatle mania and free love era kicked in. Jenny is struggling with a sense of longing for a life bigger than the one she leads. In some ways she feels trapped by her intelligence and her options as an educated female, seeing the only end result to be a teacher herself or something less than what she dreams of. Would a life education be more substantial in the long run for a savvy woman? Probably not, but it’s something Jenny has to decide for herself. The performance of Carey Mulligan has quickly earned her the title of an up-and-coming young actress who could make it far, and this is entirely possible. Her role as Jenny is believable, relatable, and vulnerable. Everyone sparkles in their own characters, especially Molina as the overbearing father and Sarsgaard as the seductive older man.

The only downfall of “An Education” is that it slightly loses steam toward the end, turning it into a quick fix rather than really giving Jenny – and the viewers – a chance to mull over the problems. It builds up nicely but once the crux is hit, the end is too quick, too easy, and not as rewarding as the rest of the film. In some ways it would be more interesting to have more time as Jenny mourns and truly considers her actions. This is a small problem in an otherwise excellent film, however. It is beautifully shot, acted, and manages to make an old story still relevant. We’ve seen this kind of coming-of-age story before, but it still gets straight to the heart, and that’s what matters. “An Education” is entertaining, believable, and moving. Even if you feel at times that you’ve seen this all before, it’s worth the journey. It is in theaters on October 9 in limited theaters and rated PG-13.

Grade: B+

Everything Geeky – Gamer Speak

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I’ve heard often from people outside of geekdom that when we geeks get together we seem like we’re speaking a different language. This is especially true amongst video gamers, because over the years we’ve found ways to shorten definitions of our games so communication is quick and direct. This comes in handy when you’re fighting for your life in Halo, but there are some broad terms that distinctly involve video game genres that should be in common vernacular. So if you’re reading a video game review and one of these terms come up, you’ll now have an idea of what it is without needing to pretend ‘oh sure, THAT thing.’

Beat ‘Em Up / Shoot ‘Em Up – Beam ‘Em Up and Shoot ‘Em Up are similar enough concepts that they’re grouped together for the purpose of this article. Beat ‘Em Up or brawler games refer to those that feature hand to hand combat between yourself and hordes of enemy. A great deal of the oldest and most beloved games, such as “Double Dragon” or “Street of Rage” are Beat ’em ups. These are not the same as “Mortal Kombat” games that feature only one-on-one matches. They are usually just you (and some friends if you want) beating up a bunch of enemies as you wander through the game world. Similarily, Shoot ‘Em Up are usually when you play one character or object and shoot wildly at big gangs of enemies. Something like “Space Invaders” or “Asteroids” would fall under this category, and it’s usually involving ranged weapons so you can take things out quickly as they’re thrown at you.

Platformers – Platformers are the games best known in the classic video game era, such as “Super Mario Bros,” “Donkey Kong,” “Sonic the Hedgehog,” and “Prince of Persia.” Basically a platformer is when your character is required to move through a world avoiding obstacles and jumping to and from different platforms. Jump is the most important button usually, but as time went on they developed more aggressive buttons like attack. Platformers can be many different types of genres, such as action or adventure or RPG. They’re highly addictive and entertaining, even if rather simple to play. Modern games like “Jak & Daxter,” “Braid,” and “Ratchet & Clank” are great examples of platformers.

FPS / TPS – These are easy terms. FPS stands for First Person Shooter, when in the game you appear to be acting as the character yourself and only from his/her point of view. “Half-Life” and “Halo” are great examples of these. TPS stands for Third Person Shooter, which is self-evident in that you play looking over your character’s shoulder while still seeing them. The Playstation 3 exclusive series “Uncharted” is a great example of a TPS. You constantly see the main protagonist Drake, and sometimes this makes the vantage point easier to hide behind buildings and shoot at better angles.

Stealth – These are games that are focused on stealth aspects, which means you try and find ways out of situations without ever being seen. This can mean taking down your enemies silently from behind like in “Metal Gear Solid,” or in finding ways through puzzles and different hallways to get around the enemies. It’s hard to base full games on Stealth since it can get frustrating after awhile if you don’t know exactly how to win, so often games throw in the stealth as well as full combat.

QTE – Gamers are usually divided on whether or not Quick Time Events are fun in games or very annoying. QTE’s happen in games when there is a cut scene or movie, and then you’re required to hit a certain combination of buttons in order to make your character act during this scene. Often doing the wrong thing will lead to you dying or being forced to start the combination over a second time. “God of War,” “Spider-Man: Web of Shadows,” and “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed” all have examples of QTE’s within them. Sometimes if you fail them you just continue on, but most of the time you have to do it right or it’ll start over. Again and again and again.

RPG / MMORPG – An RPG is a very broad category and stands for Role Playing Game. Many of the most popular series in the gaming industry are either RPG’s or have elements of RPG in it, because what it does is put you directly in the shoes of the main character. You get immersed into the gameplay and feel like you live and breath the character; their story, their companions, and their choices are usually all under your control. The power, muahahah! Anyway big names like “Final Fantasy,” “Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic,” “Kingdom Hearts,” “Fable,” and “Mass Effect” are all RPG’s. In fact most major modern games have RPG in them because it’s so appealing to game fans to really feel like part of the story. MMORPG stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. This is basically an RPG that takes place on the virtual game world online. Usually the MMORPG lets you create a special character and go on missions to ‘level’ it up. You can choose the appearance and path the character takes while interacting with people all over the world. “Everquest” and “World of Warcraft” are two very popular examples.

RTS / RTT – RTS stands for Real-Time Strategy, and they are usually computer wargames. You build up an army, not unlike the table-top game “Risk,” and position your units to keep your area safe. Eventually you plan to fight off opponents either by defending or simply aggressively wiping them off the game planet. In RTS’ everything happens in real time (note the name) so you have to actively pay attention and keep building your team, and sometimes wait around as your world builds resources and money for you. “Starcraft,” “Age of Empires,” and “Command and Conquer” are famous examples of the RTS genre. Now RTS is often mistaken for RTT, the latter stands for Real-Time Tactics. They are remarkably similar so it is easy to see the problem. The difference is in RTT’s you don’t necessarily have to pay attention to building resources, and the focus of the game is more on specific war battle tactics over general management. Your real attention in an RTT is how to beat the snot out of the other team by sheer force and by outwitting them. RTS is about sustaining a whole civilization or village and surviving. RTT is about being the next Napoleon Bonaparte. “Sid Meier’s Gettysburg” and “Full Spectrum Warrior” are great examples of RTT’s.

Everything Geeky: XBL vs PSN

posted on Starpulse.com

Things are starting to shake up in the video game industry now that the holiday season is upon us. For years now there has been a vicious rivalry between the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and it is only going to head up from here.

The 360 always had price advantage, exclusive games, and Xbox Live over its rival, whereas PS3 had the groundbreaking graphics and in-built Blu-ray player. Now PS3 has officially dropped its price to fight back against the cheaper Wii and 360, although the other two systems have dropped in price as well. PS3 is the most significant fall, however. With the prices becoming more even, this may be a tougher battle for Microsoft to win, but it still has one big ace up its sleeve: Xbox Live (XBL).

Even as the Playstation Network (PSN) tries to compete against it, they have some severe weaknesses. The PSN is functionally poor, awkward, and more difficult to utilize than the user friendly gold mine that is XBL. While the PSN does try to bring a huge interactive world (Home), much like the popular online “game” Second Life, it is slower and not as entertaining as its original design would promise. At first the PSN did seem to have its shopping systems down pat, but the renewal of the Xbox Experience turned XBL into an easy place to move around and to cross reference anything you might be looking for.

PlayStation 3

XBL has achievements for every game that is put out, and PSN tries for trophies but it doesn’t quite get the same competitive edge. I was excited to try out the PSN after buying my new PS3 Slim because I heard it was free (yay), and there were all these wonderful new games to try out. Instead it was one of the most frustrating experiences trying to move around the system and converse with other people. Finding friends was difficult… not to mention that so few people I know actually have PS3’s so there was hardly anyone to play with. This is a complaint a lot of players have; chances are as an XBL player you’ll easily find huge multiplayer options and have hours of fun right at your fingertips. XBL is booming despite the price of its monthly subscription, and it is simple to jump into a fun party with your best friends and go off on an adventure together.

Then there’s the XBL Community Games network which is just fascinating. Arcade games, demos, add-ons, and old favorites are offered on the Experience screen so you always have something interesting to try out. Gamers are encouraged to make their own ideas and submit them to Microsoft, and who knows, your game might be picked up and sold right there on the Games network. PSN had something similar in LittleBigPlanet, but it is not nearly as consistent and eclectic as the XBL offerings. Patches are faster on the XBL, and it now has that nifty Netflix option. You can patch your Netflix account onto the XBL and choose ‘Watch Instantly’ movies to add onto your Netflix XBL list. That way anytime you want to watch them you can simply jump online the 360 and pick the show or movie. Now they’ve added the option for party watching, so you and your friends can enjoy “The Office” together.

Really what it comes down to is that Microsoft may require you to pay for their services, but you get what you pay for. It is an excellent system with many innovative ideas, games you can cycle through for hours, and a great way to connect to your video game buddies. Does it come without flaws? Of course not, there are speed and connection problems, as expected, and this is far from perfect. But XBL is a constantly moving machine, and who knows when the next patch might come along to fix that particularly annoying bug. PSN on the other hand just seems to be trying to keep up in any way they can, offering PlayStation Home and the precious ‘Xi’ game.

My advice to Sony and the PSN is simple: your fancy graphics and ideas would be great … if they worked. Listen to the users and see how your rivals have managed to surpass you, and utilize what they have learned to your own benefit. Sure, you might seem like a copycat for awhile, but it’s better than seeming 10 years behind everyone else. Find ways to let player be more constantly interactive with one another and have smoother multiplayer options. Right now “Uncharted 2” promises a pretty great online gameplay, so pump that up and prove you deserve a seat on online express. Your system might be free, but again … you get what you pay for. We’d rather pay a little for better service and an online world that’s worth visiting.

Xbox 360

TV Shows Who Overstayed Their Welcome

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Television is one of the world’s favorite entertainment pastimes, and every year dozens of networks try their best to win the viewer’s hearts and their precious time. The competition gets fierce in the fall when all the major shows come back, and everyone is always looking for the next big hit. In time, however, those shows that we once loved or thought so well of begin to show signs of age and wear. Sure we enjoyed their adventures for the first few seasons, but all good things must come to an end … some of them sooner than others.

Here’s a look at some of the shows that have outstayed their welcome and should seriously think of retiring before their memory is more annoying than nostalgic.

Heroes

“Heroes” was a hit new show in 2006, and it opened doors for new science fiction or fantasy-based television. It proved, like “Lost,” that there was a mainstream audience who could really be drawn into a fantastical story. With an ensemble cast of few big names, “Heroes” tied together several different people who learn that they have special abilities. Drawing on several comic book themes, most specifically that of Marvel’s X-men, it seemed like the show was set up to be a long lasting favorite. Instead by the second season even the most diehard fans started to waver. Muddled storylines and random unpopular characters started to take away from the show, and the circular plots were getting boring. By the third season the show had dropped substantially in viewers, and the third season finale last year placed last in its timeslot. This was a big shock considering how the show started out, but even the fans are lukewarm about the future for “Heroes.” If this season does not manage to pick up any attention, it may be breathing its very last. Honestly, by now it kind of deserves it if all the fans have to actually apologize for still watching it. “I’m sorry, I don’t even know why I watch it anymore, I just do out of habit. Don’t judge me!” We’ll probably miss Sylar, but hey, he’s Spock now.

Heroes

Image © NBC Universal, Inc.

Scrubs

Oh, “Scrubs,” looking back at your beginning is so painful to a former loyal viewer, because the show is now but a shadow of itself. In 2001 “Scrubs” premiered and it surprised people by being humorous but dramatic and poignant too. This was not just a kooky comedy about doctors, because there were serious stories interwoven into the plot along with the romantic entanglements, the friendships and rivalries. And it was always just a little more than we expected. And yet, and yet. Eventually the show started recycling stories and turning the characters into caricatures. The Todd hand slapping jokes were funny the first one hundred times, as were the will-they-won’t-they of Elliot and JD, but by the 7th season it was all very tired. NBC prepared to cancel the show and while fans were sad, they were hoping the show would go out gracefully. Except then ABC took the show and made season 8. Way to make the most out of its dying gasps, ABC. Now it is preparing for season 9, hoping that even without the main characters – many of whom already are gone – it’ll still attract some viewers. They’re probably about to get a very rude awakening about how few fans are left of this once-great show. You couldn’t just rest in peace, “Scrubs.”

Scrubs

Image © American Broadcasting Companies, Inc

Entourage

Don’t look so surprised, “Entourage,” and no we’re not going to hug it out. While it was kind of cute to see a rising movie star and his three best friends screw around in LA, it got old around season three. This was around the time that the show hit a three-year low point, and it has only now started to pick up. Is it because the acting and writing has gotten better and therefore deserved a higher rating? No, it’s mostly because it was attached to the true HBO hit “True Blood.” In the beginning the show was actually quite charming, with these four normal dudes getting thrown into the wild world of Hollywood and trying to sink or swim. Vince’s struggle to get to fame was interesting, especially when he made rookie mistakes and E was learning how to be a manager. Ari was new and fresh and bold, but now it’s just like the show tries to rely on Jeremy Piven‘s outrageous charm to keep people watching. Oh, E is having girl troubles again, yawn. Drama feels old and keeps trying to make it to a better star list. Sigh. Vince is acting and sleeping around and basically hasn’t changed since day one. Either show us something new “Entourage,” or let it go. It may be fun to have random celeb guest stars every week, but there has to actually be a show to watch outside of that. Okay, fine, hug it out.

Entourage

Image © Home Box Office

Private Practice

Look, this show is the youngest on the list and is only starting its third season, but think of this as an intervention. “Grey’s Anatomy” is one of the most consistently popular shows on ABC, and in recent years it has started to lose chunks of its fanbase. So while the spin-off “Private Practice” might have seemed originally like a great idea, especially since Kate Walsh‘s Addison was so delightful and beloved, it turned out not to really win the fans over. Which is kind of the problem: if you can’t even get the viewers who are ready and willing to come over right after “Grey’s Anatomy,” there’s a problem. Maybe it’s because the show always feels like a poor sister to its predecessor, or a copy of it. Maybe Addison used to be a stronger and more interesting character when she wasn’t spending every waking moment looking for a mate. Maybe Taye Diggs and Tim Daly aren’t McDreamy enough. In any case, the show already took a drop from the first to the second season, and it remains to be seen how they’ll do in season three. The highest rated episode was the premiere, and it just went downhill from there. Can they somehow manage to pull this out of the dirt? Do they even want to? There’s not that many fans left over to care, but sure, go ahead and try!

Private Practice

Image © American Broadcasting Inc.

Law & Order

A lot of respect has to be paid to “Law & Order” because it is a rather impressive show in terms of length. This year is the 20th season of the original show, and it has had a lot of ups and downs in that time. It has also inspired several spin-offs, one of which is more popular than the original “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” The procedural popularity on television can be attributed to “Law & Order,” but as the dwindling ratings can show, people may respect the show but they’re losing interest. Unfortunately, other networks have learned to take the procedural and find new ways to make it more exciting and interesting, so the continuous style of “Law & Order” feels, well, old. Now it feels like they’re just going through the motions, and so are the viewers. All good things must come to an end, but do we really need another twenty seasons before the court drama and wooden characters get too boring to stand? The whole franchise does not need to die; the spin-offs have managed to be fresh and new in some places. It just may be time for the original to bow out gracefully.

Law & Order

Image © NBC Universal, Inc.