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Reviews by Phil Villarreal. Phil is an author, blogger and Twitterer.


Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
(360, PS3, $15, Mature)
Ubisoft’s cowpoke-themed series has always shot from the hip and can usually be counted on for the bad and the ugly, but rarely the good. This new, priced-to-move download manages to buck that trend, using dime-novel narration, cheesy Spaghetti Western tropes and bland but functional mechanics.

Playing like a Forrest Gump of the Old West, the game lets you confront and battle alongside legends such as Billy the Kidd, Butch Cassidy, Jesse James and Pat Garrett. Hidden items reveal the real history buried among the tall tales. Missions can get repetitive and the dialogue is cheesier than stuffed crust pizza. But if you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll enjoy the tense showdowns, shootouts and backroom brawls.

(PS3, 360, $60, Mature)
Insomniac, the previously Sony-exclusive development studio behind the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance series, is sewing its wild oats with a multiplatform shooter. Just as in the developer’s past games, weapon and ammo variety is the true star. You play as one of four agents, each equipped with rules of a physics-bending superpower. You can slug through the sci-fi action with friends, strangers or surprisingly helpful computer-controlled allies and are rewarded for using powers in conjunction.

For instance, standing behind one guy’s force field-like shield, it’s easier to take out swarms of enemies with a vortex-summoning weapon. The story and jokey dialogue are achingly awful at times, but the frantic combat and replayability due to the varied characters makes the action worthwhile.

Mugen Souls
(PS3, $40, Teen)
Last year’s wacky anime role-playing game gets a digital re-release, giving players an easier way to try out its peppy, exploitative antics. Your role is to help the megalomaniacal Chou-Chou and her loyal sidekick, bubble bath and dance companion Altis conquer the galaxy’s seven worlds. In between complex battles and upgrades, the duo flashes underboob and panties while J-pop music blares and you try to make sense of the barely-intelligible plot. There’s a spirit to the game that’s catchy, but unless you’re dedicated, you can expect to tire of the shenanigans after a couple hours.

Resident Evil: Revelations
(360, PS3, Wii U, $50, Mature)
Revelations may have wowed 3DS players when it debuted last year, but it’s not quite as awe-inspiring now that it’s hit home consoles. The graphics received a 3D upgrade, but the bite-sized missions remain intact and seem shockingly light and silly with the couch and TV setup.

Still, the game is a welcome return to survival horror form for the downtrodden series (we’re all trying to forget Resident Evil 5 and 6) and well worth experienced by those whose pockets aren’t bulging with Nintendo’s handheld. I played the Xbox 360 and Wii U versions and found it more enjoyable on the latter system with the GamePad serving as a map that’s useful in helping you navigate dark, redundant corridords. Even on the 360, the game is the best entry the series has seen since the Resident Evil 4 HD download in 2011.


($17 Blu-ray)
The 1963 Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton epic is a savage beast of a film, clocking in at more than four hours long. It’s definitely a better movie to enjoy at home, and finally in HD, rather than the theater. I’d advise breaking it up over a couple days, which makes it easier to sit back and take in the sprawling sets and remarkable period special effects. The ultra-detailed images are stunning – especially close-ups of the scantily-clad sex bomb Taylor – but do have some drawbacks, making it easy to spot prosthetic noses and wigs. Extras abound on the two-disc set, with a featurette on the history of Cleopatra, missing footage, film historian commentary and a bunch of background on the troubled making of the movie.

Dark Skies
($20 Blu-ray, $15 DVD)
Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton play a couple visited by houseguests who just can’t seem to take the hint that they’re not wanted. The visitors are creepy aliens who mess with their kids’ minds, make poltergeist-type disasters occur around the house and generally spend all their time trying to make the characters feel insane. What could have come off as a dopey and silly shriek-fest conjures up some genuine suspense thanks to the restraint showed by the filmmakers. The movie’s scares come from reaction shots and lingering tension rather than close-ups of aliens. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo includes commentary by writer/director Scott Stewart and his producers as well as deleted and alternate scenes.

Ultimate Gangster Collection: Contemporary
($45 Blu-ray)
This is a knockout collection of amazing gangster-themed films. The Departed, Heat, Goodfellas, Mean Streets and The Untouchables – all which any aspiring movie collector should own and watch repeatedly – are all here and endowed with impressive slates of background extras from previous releases. The problem is if you’re at all interested in the better gangster movies of the last three decades, you probably own all of these already. Still, you could do worse for a Father’s Day gift, knowing full well that when pops eventually dies you’ll get to inherit the set. Also, if you know someone who is graduating whose idea of a good gangster movie is Knockaround Guys, you can make this gift the start of their cinematic education.

Screeners were provided by the publishers for review.

  • COED Writer
    Watches movies and games for work, then watches more movies and plays more games on his downtime. A movie and video game critic since 2001, Phil is the author of Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel, Stormin' Mormon and Zeta Male. Twitter: @philvillarreal