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


Image via Digital Trends

Jak & Daxter Collection
(Vita, $30, Teen)

The trio of PlayStation 2 games, fresh-faced with HD once-overs, hits Sony’s portable machine after coming out on the PS3 last year. The inventive platforming and combat no longer seem as fresh as they did in the olden days, but the sheer amount of engaging and fun content to mess around with here is dizzying.

The games seem to load faster and control better than they did in their PS2 days, and the witty writing hasn’t lost much over the years. The price may be a touch on the high side, but there’s not an ounce of fat here.

Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara
(360, PS3, $15, Teen)

Two ancient side-scrolling arcade brawlers – subtitled Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara – come together in a downloadable package. Surprisingly deep for games of their ilk, they throw in RPG tropes such as branching story paths, leveling, items and magic. You feel very much like a pimply faced 14-year-old again, playing tabletop games on pencil and paper except you are kicking and slashing bad guys in the face by hammering buttons.

With unlimited continues, there’s little challenge to be had. I’m not complaining, though, because I needed infinite do-overs to slog through the array of cheap, overwhelming attacks and screen-filling bosses. A welcome splash of nostalgia, Chronicles of Mystara calls back to a simpler, sillier time in gaming.


Jack the Giant Slayer
($23 Blu-ray, $15 DVD)

Director Bryan Singer, who made The Usual Suspects and earlier X-Men movies, does a bit of good-hearted slumming with this CGI-heavy fantasy. In a fresh and semi-serious take on the old fable, Nicholas Hoult plays the lead who strikes the questionable business deal that leads to the beanstalks and creates a connection to the skyward world of man-eating giants. Ian McShane, Bill Nighy and Eleanor Tomlinson turn in solid work, which is tough to do because they have to perform with questionably rendered beasts. Deleted scenes and a gag reel fill out the extras in the Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo.

The Last Exorcism: Part II
($23 Blu-ray, $18 DVD)

There’s a lot to be said for restraint in a horror film, but the filmmakers went for too far of an extreme here. Ashley Bell reprises her role as a tortured teen in the first film. Now in new digs and trying to create a fresh start, the incubus demon that tormented before ever so slowly strives to make her life hell once again. More a low-key, depressing character study than a shocker, the dull film tries and fails to reach art film status. Background featurettes and filmmaker commentary pad out the Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo.

Movie 43
($18 Blu-ray, $15 DVD)

A scattershot, Kentucky Fried Movie-type sketch fest, Movie 43 trots out an impressive lineup of stars for a ridiculous, hit-and-miss parade of nonsense. Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Halle Berry, Emma Stone, Kristen Bell, Kate Bosworth and Richard Gere are just a few of the stars on parade here, making even the skits that don’t work seem worthwhile simply from the star power. There are slightly more zings than duds here, making the movie worth your time as long as your expectations aren’t too high. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy is pretty much a bare-bones affair with a bonus scene as the lone extra.

($18 Blu-ray, $15 DVD)

Mia Wasikowska lets her freak flag flap mightily in the wind in this macabre, Carrie-esque thriller. She plays India, a teen dealing with her social outcast status and stunted sexuality following the death of her father. Moving in with her crazy, relentlessly inappropriate mom (Nicole Kidman) and spending time with her equally poor influence of an uncle (Matthew Goode), she simmers ever closer to a violent boil. The Blu-ray/digital copy combo includes deleted scenes, a song download from the movie and premiere footage.

21 And Over
($23 Blu-ray, $18 DVD)

Well-intentioned but tone-deaf, this college take on The Hangover-style debauchery tries to be funny but just ends up loud and stupid. Skylar Astin and Miles Teller play college kids home for the summer who are determined to give a mutual pal (Justin Chon) a magical 21st birthday. Instead, they humiliate him and themselves over the course of a too-long, too-ridiculous and rarely entertaining night. A gag reel and smarmy featurettes are plopped on the Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy package.

Wilfred: Season 2
($33 Blu-ray, $23 DVD)

While not quite as sensational as the first season, the FX series continues to be one of TV’s better comedies. Elijah Wood plays a meek, insecure pushover who is frenemies with a dog (Jason Gann) only he can see and speak to. Gann, an Aussie who wears a ridiculous, flea market dog costume, hilariously mimics canine-like mannerisms and makes a fantastic comedy team with Wood as the straight man. Deleted scenes and scattered featurettes fill out the Blu-ray.

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