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


Best of PlayStation Network, Vol. 1
(PS3, $40, Teen)

Previously download-only gems including When Vikings Attack, Sound Shapes, Tokyo Jungle and Fat Princess debut together on one disc, making for an anthology that gives gamers of any taste plenty to do over the Independence Day weekend. The real-time strategy action of Fat Princess, in particular, is full of multiplayer thrills, and the post-apocalyptic animal kingdom survival of the fittest intrigue of Tokyo Jungle makes for a fascinating palate cleanser. The only problem with the collection is if you own any of the games, there’s not much value in spending $40 to snag all the others because each so inexpensive as an individual download.

(360, PS3, $50, Mature)

Marvel’s motormouthed mercenary always has to settle for background work in games and films but seizes the spotlight in this ridiculous action game. Self-aware and eager to comment on the fact he knows he’s in a video game, the costumed assassin keeps up a running commentary about his misadventures, sexual obsessions and rivalries with other comic book characters, especially Wolverine.

The problem is such an irresistible character is trapped in a mediocre game. Bland, linear levels trot out hordes of cookie-cutter enemies you dispatch with monotonous combos. You can upgrade your skills as you go, but rarely do you receive any game-changers. Deadpool’s antics remain lively and interesting, but the aimless affair drags him down.

Hotline: Miami
(PS3, Vita, $10, Mature)

Last year’s excellent PC game, which mixes the Grand Theft Auto-style gangland theme with the punishing quick-hit puzzles of Super Meat Boy, finally makes it to the PS3 and Vita. One purchase nets the game on both systems, letting you romp into the wild world of crowbar and bullet-slinging death. A cloud saving feature lets you transfer saves back and forth from the PS3 and Vita, and you get copies of the game for both systems with one purchase.

Offed characters are sprawled out on the floor in pools of blood. It’s more comical than grotesque because of the intentionally antiquated graphics and sound design. Old-school touches permeate the game, from text prompts and dialogue geared to resemble poor translations from Japanese. Levels can be wince-inducingly frustrating, but re-starts are so quick and efficient you have no time to dwell on your failures.

Pool Nation
(360, PS3, $8.49, Everyone)

A no-frills billiards game, Pool Nation combines solid physics with fast-moving gameplay, letting you cue up games of 8-ball or 9-ball as you work your way up through the tournament circuit. Many developers tend to screw around with simplistic games such as bowling, darts, pool or poker with unnecessary animations and repetitive dialogue, but this one keeps the focus on the event. Lining up shots with aim assists may make things a bit too easy, but it’s still satisfying to run a virtual table.


Best of Warner Bros. 20-Film Collection: Comedy
($90 DVD)

While the asking price for the set is steep, the sheer amount of amazing movies you get here makes it worthwhile. A Night at the Opera, Stage Door, Bringing Up Baby, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Long, Long Trailer, The Great Race, Blazing Saddles, The In-Laws, Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Risky Business, The Goonies, Spies Like Us, Beetlejuice, Grumpy Old Men, Ace Ventura Pet Detective, Analyze This, Wedding Crashers and The Hangover are all bundled into one box, working as a history of the human funny bone and an instant movie collection. It’s disappointing there’s not a Blu-ray option for the set.

The Kentucky Fried Movie
($17 Blu-ray)

The scattershot 1977 spoof paved the way for the quick-hit sketch comedies such as the Scary Movie series. Playing like a filmed version of the Saturday Night Live sensibilities of the era, the skits poke fun at movies, TV and commercials of the time. Much of the humor has outlived its expiration date, and much of its silliness and stupidity is as funny as ever. Filmmaker commentary and interviews make up the extras.

Mel Brooks’ The Producers: Collector’s Edition
($25 Blu-ray)

The 1968 comedy, which Brooks would end up adapting to a Broadway musical and then re-adapting that musical to a film, is more confusing than funny at its advanced age. But despite the too-wacky-for-their-own-good jokes and slow pacing, there’s no denying the genius of Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel. The duo plays unscrupulous stage musical producers who decide to scam the system by making an intentionally awful play and pocketing investors’ cash. Brooks’ musical ended up refining the concept for better timing and more laughs, but the original still keeps some charm. A making-of documentary, deleted scenes and Brooks interviews fill out the extras.

Portlandia: Season 3
($19 DVD)

After a so-so second season, the offbeat comedic team Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen recapture the blissful momentum they created in the first go-round. Joined by guest stars such as Chloe Sevigny, Roseanne Barr and Juliette Lewis, Brownstein and Armisen make fun of hippies, political correctness, pretense and the Pacific Northwest’s lack of sun and sanity. Deleted scenes highlight the extras.

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