The Autograph Collector Celebrity Autograph Authentication Guide Book Review

Image

This review was originally written on March 10, 2001
BOOK OF ADS ... and celebrity autograph authentication guide

The first thing you'll notice about The Autograph Collector Celebrity Autograph Authentication Guide by Kevin Martin, the minute you open it up to page 1, are the ads. That's right, this book has *advertisements* in it. But not just a few ads, 25 FULL PAGES OF ADVERTISEMENTS! The ads clutter up the front and back of the book, which makes it a pain to quickly locate the index at the back of the book (placed right before all the ads). What good is an index if it itself requires a little bit of searching to find?!? The ads are mostly for companies selling autographed photos. A list of these companies should have been put at the back of the book (before the index) for those who are interested. Putting full-page and half-page ads is ridiculous. Because of all the ads, I feel that this book should be free, or at least cost less than half of what it currently sells for.

Now that let me get to the REAL content of the book - the autograph examples. The book lists many, many stars, including a few I was surprised to see (Melanie Chartoff and Ray Parker Jr., for example), but there are also many that are missing which should have been in there (Samantha Mathis and Hayley Mills, for example). Granted, I know that it is virtually impossible to list every celebrity that ever existed, but they could have made the autograph examples a little smaller and fit more people in there. In fact, there are some pages where there is only one or two examples on the entire page. Heck, come to think of it, the text in the introductory lessons to authenticating autographs is way too large. It should have been shrunken down to standard size, so that more autograph examples could be placed in the book. Also, it would have been a great idea to put, at least, two examples of each star's autograph in the book, just to account for variations in the way a person signs (no person signs his/her name exactly the same way every time).

All griping aside, this is actually a great book and I *am* glad that I bought it. The ads are a pain to deal with (I'm tempted to rip them out, but I don't want to ruin the book), but I guess nothing in life is perfect. At least now you have a little more information about this book than I did when I purchased it.

Stripes Extended Cut Blu-Ray Review

Image

This review was originally written on January 5, 2012
The Blu-Ray Is A Vast Improvement Over The Extended Cut DVD

Although this review is about the Stripes Extended Cut Blu-ray, I'm specifically writing it for all of those unfortunate souls who purchased the Stripes "Extended Cut" DVD. Chances are, if you own that DVD, you are royally annoyed by some of the poor choices Sony made in authoring that disc. Those of you who don't own that disc, let me give you a little insight into the problems with it...

The disc claims to have the theatrical version of the film, in addition to the new extended version. That is a lie. The "Theatrical Version" presented on the disc is not that what was shown in the theaters back in 1981. It's simply the extended version with the added footage skipped over. A lot of DVD players will need to pause for a second or two at six spots while it skips ahead in the video to the spot after the added footage was placed. This is NOT "seamless branching", as evident by the fact that the pause creates a seam. There are many examples of DVDs that properly create multiple versions using seamless branching, such as the Alien Vs. Predator Unrated DVD. Stripes isn't one of them. Furthermore, portions of the movie get edited out when the player has to crudely jump over the added footage to create the supposed "Theatrical Version". That means that you're not seeing the real original theatrical version. Only the first Stripes DVD release from 1998 (cover shows the "I Want You" poster) contains the true theatrical version. It also contains the theatrical trailer (left off the Blu-ray), and the original mono audio track. That's as true to the original as you can get!

Also, the extended version on the DVD has an annoying "added footage marker" at the start and end of the newly-added footage. This "start/end of bonus scene" text is provided via a subtitle stream, which Sony does not allow to be turned off, even though subtitle streams provide that functionality. Check out the aforementioned Alien Vs. Predator Unrated DVD for an example of how it's done right (again via subtitle, but one which the user can turn on and off).

So with all that in mind, people who own Blu-ray players might be wondering if any of these problems were fixed in the new Blu-ray release of Stripes. The short answer is "YES". The "added footage marker" that is included is completely OPTIONAL! It's a star/badge that will be displayed in the corner of the screen during the entire duration of a piece of newly-added footage. The only downside is that you can't turn it on and off while watching the movie. You have to use the "Play Movie" option on the main menu in order to get the choice to turn it on or off.

The Blu-ray also does not have the false pretense of containing a "theatrical version" of the film. You get the extended version of the film in 1080p (1.85:1 aspect ratio), along with the commentary track and the two-part hour-long "Stars & Stripes" documentary from the Extended Cut DVD. The only thing the Blu-ray leaves out is the theatrical trailer, though that can be found on numerous other DVDs, such as the Stripes DVD from 1998 (which contains the true theatrical version) and the Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II DVDs that were released in 1999 (the green slime cover DVDs released in 2005 don't contain any trailers). The Blu-ray also doesn't present the added footage in a separate "Deleted Scenes" section, but since they're now part of the film, they don't really need to be included separately, anyway.

If you're a die-hard Stripes fan and MUST have both versions of the film, I suggest you pick up this Blu-ray and the original 1998 DVD release, and you'll have all versions and extras. Just avoid the Extended Cut DVD.

No Holds Barred Blu-Ray Review

Image

This review was originally written on April 20, 2014
Blu-Ray Has Better Extras, But They Replaced Hulk's "Real American" Music In Them!!!

When WWE finally released the Hulk Hogan/Tiny Lister flick "No Holds Barred" on DVD in 2012, I was overjoyed. Not because it's a good movie - far from it - but because it has special sentimental childhood value to me, so it was a film I wanted to have as part of my current video library (I had previously owned it on VHS and laserdisc). When that disc came out, two things I wondered about were (1) Why was there no simultaneous Blu-ray release?, and (2) Why does the DVD not include the tie-in wrestling matches and other promotional materials that WWE has in their massive tape library? The only extra on the DVD is a photo gallery. I put off buying the DVD for over a year because it wasn't worth the price being charged for so little content.

A few weeks ago, when I read that the film had just been released on Blu-ray, and with TWO of the tie-in wrestling matches, I was again overjoyed. I could finally have it on Blu-ray AND have TWO of the tie-in wrestling matches. (I don't remember if there were any more tie-in wrestling matches, though Tiny Lister DID appear in WCW as Z-Gangsta, so that's somewhat related.) The two bonus tie-in wrestling matches included are:

• Summerslam Match (8/28/1989, 29:51) - Zeus & "Macho Man" Randy Savage with Sensational Sherri vs. Hulk Hogan & Brutus Beefcake with Miss Elizabeth.

• "No Holds Barred" Steel Cage Match (12/27/1989, 18:12) - Zeus & "Macho Man" Randy Savage with Sensational Sherri vs. Hulk Hogan & Brutus Beefcake.

My heart absolutely sank when I played these matches and heard the most atrocious audio abomination playing in place of Hulk Hogan's classic "Real American" theme song. Yes, the song that defines the Hulk Hogan character has been replaced with music that not only doesn't sound even remotely close to "Real American", but is pure torture to listen to. Because - SPOILER ALERT - Hulk's team wins both matches, you are forced to hear this audio abomination at the beginning AND end of each match. What I don't understand is WHY "Real American" was replaced. It's been used on many WWE DVDs, such as those devoted to Hogan. I *think* WWE might have even bought the music, or at least the perpetual rights to it (though I could be wrong about that).

Offhand, it seems that Howard Finkel might have re-recorded his ring intro for Hulk so that the music could be replaced. I'm sure about this on the second match, where there is no commentary heard at all during the replacement music. Since that seems odd, I'd bet WWE doesn't have the commentary on a separate track, so they just had to cut out all of the commentary that was originally heard under "Real American".

Image
Kurt Fuller (Hardemeyer in Ghostbusters II) and Hulk Hogan

The other bonus feature on the Blu-ray is the photo gallery that was on the DVD, except all images are shown in the full HD widescreen and are not framed into tiny boxes like on the DVD (the tradeoff is that the very top and bottom of the images is cut off on the Blu-ray). There are a total of 42 images on the Blu-ray. The DVD has one more image; the 26th image showing Rip by Randy's hospital bed. I have a feeling that this image was accidentally left off the Blu-ray as I see no reason for it to have been purposely removed.

Image

The movie itself appears to be the same as on the DVD (I didn't compare them). Both have the New Line Cinema logo replaced with the WWE Studios logo at the start. The Blu-ray ends after the credits fade out, while the DVD shows a blue PG-13 rating screen after the credits. The movie runs 1:32:43 and contains 12 chapters.

The DVD has boot-up ads for WWE Home Video, ECW Unreleased Vol. 1, and Bending The Rules (movie with Edge and Jamie Kennedy). The Blu-ray doesn't have the first two, but has the last one and SEVEN MORE trailers shown at boot-up for all of the other WWE-produced movies. You have to click "next" on your remote to skip through all of the them (you can't jump straight to the menu). That's really annoying.

Overall, the Blu-ray is a vast improvement over the DVD, but falls short of what *could* have been - especially with the replacement of Hulk's "Real American" theme music.

The Three Stooges PlayStation Video Game Review

Image

This review was originally written on December 4, 2006
A 2004 PlayStation Port Of A 2002 Gameboy Advance Game, Originally A 1987 Computer Game

I rented The Three Stooges PlayStation game, having played it originally on the NES back in 1988/1989. I even tried the Gameboy Advance version that was released two years before this version (in 2002). This version for the Playstation 1 is an EXACT EMULATION (A STRAIGHT PORT) OF THE GAMEBOY ADVANCE VERSION (but with some load screens). I was in utter shock when I loaded it up and saw the high amount of pixelation that could only come from taking the small GBA image and blowing it up to TV screen size.

The 2002 date being the ONLY date on the copyright screen is another dead giveaway of this being an emulation of the GBA version (normally a previously-released game like this would have on it's copyright screen the dates of the original release and the date of this release).

Most interesting, of course, is the fact that this game was originally released way back in 1987 on various computer systems (CBM 64, IBM, Atari, and Amiga).

To better illustrate the differences, check out the screen shots of the pie throwing scenes:

Image

It should be noted that the NES version is the only one with the Ghostbusters II reference/joke at the beginning. This is because it was (as far as I know) the only version published by Activision, who had the Ghostbusters video game license at the time.

Wheel of Fortune PlayStation 2 Video Game Review

Image

This review was originally written on January 20, 2004
We Waited An Extra Year For This!?!

There are a few things you need to know before reading this review. First, I will be making many comparisons between this PlayStation 2 edition and the previous edition, "Wheel Of Fortune 2nd Edition" for the PlayStation 1 (released in 2000).

Second, this game was originally to be released near the end of 2002, and was originally called "Wheel Of Fortune 2003." Like the two previous games before it for the PS1, it is sort-of a port of a PC version, which in this case DID get titled "Wheel Of Fortune 2003" (though I think the title has gotten changed on additional printings to "Wheel Of Fortune") and DID get released for the PC near the end of 2002. When I say "sort-of a port", I mean that both games have the same box graphics and puzzles, and I'd bet they have the same video clips and audio, too. The only difference is the graphics and GUI.

Image

BASIC GAMEPLAY

For the benefit of those people who have not seen the show, I will describe exactly how the game is played.

Three contestants compete to solve word puzzles in an effort to win cash and prizes. You start by spinning a wheel, which not only has dollar amount spots, but also spots that will take away your money (Bankrupt), award you a special prize, make you lose your turn, earn you an extra spin, and so forth and so on. If you land on a dollar amount spot, the contestant guesses a letter and receives that amount of money for each instance of that letter in the puzzle. If the contestant has enough money, they can then choose to buy one of the five vowels. However, if the contestant guesses a letter that is not in the puzzle (or lands on a Bankrupt or Lose A Turn space), it's the next contestant's turn – kind of like a round robin version of Hangman.

Once the active contestant believes he/she can solve the puzzle based on the letters currently shown, he/she attempts it and if correct wins the total amount of money earned in the round. Players that earn money in a round, but do not solve the puzzle, do not take that money over to the next round. After the end of three/four/five rounds (or after 10/15/20 minutes has elapsed) the contestant with the most money is declared the winner. That contestant then gets to play the "Bonus Round."

Image

GAMEPLAY OPTIONS

It should be noted that for the first three options, you can choose to have 1 human player (2 AI [computer players]), 2 human players (1 AI), 2 human players (no AI), and 3 human players. The option to have 2 human players and no AI is a new addition to the game, as it was not available in the 2nd Edition.

• Quick Play - A three round game, in one of the six theme sets (randomly chosen by the computer), and no career stats are saved. This is a new addition to the game, as it was not available in the 2nd Edition.

• Normal Game - Choose between playing a game with a time limit (10, 15, or 20 minutes) or a fixed number of rounds (3, 4, or 5); one of six theme sets; and career stats are saved.

• Tournament Game - Only available to players who have won at least five games or have earned over $50,000 in career winnings. As with a Normal game, you can choose between playing a game with a time limit (10, 15, or 20 minutes) or a fixed number of rounds (3, 4, or 5), and career stats are saved.

• Solo Game - A one player game in which your goal is to win as much money as you can. In other words, to beat your high score, which is saved as part of your career stats. You are given a certain amount of free spins to use for the entire game, the exact amount depends on the game length you selected. (You get 7 free spins for 3, 4, or 5 rounds or for a 10 minute game. You get 9 free spins for a 15 minute game, and 10 for a 20 minute game.) Each time you choose a letter that is not in the puzzle (or land on the Bankrupt or Lose A Turn spaces), one of your free spin tokens will be taken away. If you choose a letter than is not in the puzzle (or land on the Bankrupt or Lose A Turn spaces) and have no free spins remaining, the game is over. I should note that the option to play 10/15/20 minute rounds in this mode is a new addition to the game, as it was not available in the 2nd Edition (where you could only choose a fixed number of rounds). However, 2nd Edition gave you more free spins for each number of rounds: 10 for 5 rounds, 9 for 4 rounds, and 7 for 3 rounds. Another change from the 2nd Edition is that when you play 3 rounds, you are playing 3 complete rounds (possibly a bonus afterwards, I didn't get to it yet). In the 2nd Edition it was two regular rounds and the bonus round.

• Contestant Exam - Allows one player to try a sample exam like those used on the show. You will be shown 16 partially completed puzzles from four different categories, and given 5 minutes to solve all of them. You need at least 12 complete to receive a passing score. This is the EXACT same exam given on the 2nd Edition! However, the 2nd Edition showed videos of Vanna White before and after the exam to introduce it to you and congratulate or console you for how you did. This version omits the videos and just shows a black screen with white text that says "Score __ of 16" after the exam. As with the 2nd Edition, there is no bonus for getting all correct answers (though you got to see the Vanna video in the 2nd Edition). Also, this version makes a few minor (but positive) changes to the controls for this mode. The 2nd Edition only has a button (square) for going back to the previous blank space. This version uses both square and circle to go back and forward. In this version you can select Done (triangle) on any puzzle when you've finished before the allotted time. In the 2nd Edition, you must go to the 16th puzzle in order to select Done.

• Career Statistics - Every time you complete a game, your score and winnings are added to a running "career" total of statistics, which are stored by player name. The statistics tracked are: Game Wins, Game Losses, Earnings, Prizes Won, Most Money On 1 Letter, Most Money On 1 Turn, Best Game, Tournaments Won, Puzzles Solved, Vowels Purchased, and Best Solo Game. You can have up to 8 careers stored.

• Options - Response Time: 30/60/90 seconds. Sound Volume: Off, 5 through 100 (in 5 increments). Vibration: On/Off. Credits. These settings affect all games played during this session. You can also change Response Time, Sound Volume, and Vibration on a per game basis by pressing pause during a game. Unfortunately, game settings are not saved to the memory card (only careers). So if you want response time to always be 30 or 90, music to always be at a level other than 80, or vibration to always be off, you have to make these changes every time you boot up the game. Also, there is a big problem with the Response Time option: it affects ALL timers (except Bonus Round and Contestant Exam). So if you change it to 30, for example, you will get 30 seconds to decide whether to spin/buy a vowel/solve, 30 seconds to choose a letter, and 30 seconds to type in letters to solve the puzzle. 30 seconds is too long to decide whether to spin, buy a vowel or solve; or to choose a letter. However, 30 seconds is not enough time to type in letters to solve a puzzle if it's one of the bigger puzzles and there are a lot of blanks left. I personally set it to 90 just so I have enough time for when I need it, but that doesn't provide for a very tight game like that of the real show.

The 2nd Edition also includes an option called "Behind The Scenes," which contains short clips/interviews (in windows/frames, not full screen) with the production staff from the actual TV show. They are divided up into the following sections.

• Green Room - Four clips of Gary O'Brien, Contestant Coordinator (the first person you would meet if you became a contestant on the show).

• Control Room - Four clips of the show's director, Mark Corwin.

• Production Offices - Four clips each of Harry Friedman (Executive Producer), Steve Schwartz (Producer), and Scott Bresler (Puzzle Writer).

• Stage - Four clips each of Charlie O'Donnell (Announcer) and John Lauderdale (Stage Manager).

• Dressing Room - Eight clips of Vanna White. The ninth clip, labelled "Bonus," is a short full-screen trivia featurette about the show (really cool!). Once you have won one game, all nine clips will be unlocked in this section (the first four are unlocked from the start).

Sadly, this entire option was omitted from this game. This is an insult because this game is in DVD-ROM format, so it can hold a lot more data then the CD-ROM format of the 2nd Edition; and since it's DVD, the video clips could be full screen (not windowed) with extremely high quality. Plus they could have filmed new footage, maybe even given a featurette on the show (instead of short clips), and dare I say it, included Pat Sajak in the footage!

THEMED SET-PIECES

There are six themed sets that you can play on. They are Disco, Las Vegas, Great Outdoors, Oriental Escape, Winter Sports, and Fast Cars. These are the same set themes from the 2nd Edition, however they have either been completed redesigned or are virtually the same but with some new movement thrown in. For example, the Winter Sports set is essentially the same as in the 2nd Edition, but now the snowman's scarf blows in the wind and the polar bear moves his head (though I haven't seen the bears drive by on the sled, like in the 2nd Edition). Of course, it almost goes without saying that the graphics are leaps and bounds above what was in the 2nd Edition on the PS1. And on that note, let me segue into the next topic ...

Image

GRAPHICS

Since this is a PS2 game and the previous version was a PS1 game, I would expect for this game to have substantially better graphics, and thankfully it does. This blows the 2nd Edition completely out of the water. However, that's not to say that the graphics are 100% perfect.

The camera movement can be a bit nausea inducing as it keeps zooming in and out from a close-up of the board to the board with the wheel in foreground. Is some ways it's an improvement over the 2nd Edition's constant movement from the board & wheel over to a video clip of Vanna playing on a wall to the right and back over to the board & wheel again. Still, I wish the camera would just stay put.

Spinning the wheel comes with an excellent blurring effect. However, I'd still advise not looking directly at the tv while the close-up of the wheel spinning is on screen as it could make you nauseous.

When it comes time to select a letter, you will be treated to the ugliest 3-D tilted letter board you will ever see. Why they could just use a two dimensional letter board, like in the 2nd edition (and every previous edition known to man) is beyond me. It can give you a headache looking at the letters tilted like this.

I also feel like they got a little cheap when the did the graphics for the bonus round. In the 2nd Edition the five prize cards have the letters W-H-E-E-L on them. In this game they are blank.

As previously stated, the sets look much better than in the previous game. The floors are shiny and reflect quite nicely, fire burns realistically, lights twinkle, and other nice little bits of eye candy abound. So, it's not all bad.

VIDEOS

Let me start off by letting you know that I absolutely hate the videos in this game and the 2nd Edition. I find them annoying and absolutely useless. There is nothing they can convey gamewise that can't be handled by an audio clip or on-screen text. I own the 1st Edition for the PC and it gives you an option to turn off the videos (or set it to "minimal"). I would assume that this option is also available for the PC versions of the 2nd Edition and WOF2003. However, there is no way to turn off the videos in any of the PlayStation 1 & 2 versions (I never played the PS1 version of the 1st Edition, so I'm just making an assumption here). This is completely unacceptable as the videos bog down the game, moreso for Wheel Of Fortune than for Family Feud (another PS1 game that I wish had a videos off option).

Luckily there are a few less videos in this game than in the 2nd Edition, but only a *small* few. For one, no longer does the the show opening video play before a new game. Also, there are no longer any video clips for the following actions: no more vowels, bankrupt (when computer gets it), and lose a turn (when anyone gets it). However there is a video every time you have the chance to use a free spin, which I don't think was in the 2nd Edition.

I will say one nice thing about the videos. They are very sharp and crisp with no compression artifacts (like in the 2nd Edition).

The prizes are represented with excellent video/slideshow presentations, although there aren't enough of them as they repeat often. Vanna White's acting is very bad, but on a "so bad, it's good" level. I laugh every time she looks over to the blank space on the right (her left) at the end of most videos. It's just looks so dumb that you can't help but laugh. Of course, usually I just press the start button to skip all of the videos, but I've watched enough of them to fairly judge them.

SOUND

Now here is the major letdown of the entire game. Practically the entire soundtrack is recycled from the 2nd Edition. After the company logos and copyright screens you'll be welcomed by Charlie O'Donnell using the same dialogue that you first heard upon booting up the 2nd Edition back in 2000: "Hi folks. I'm Charlie O'Donnell. We'll get to our game in a second, but first we have a little business to take care of." Heck, my PC version of the 1st Edition made in 1998 has the same opening dialogue (though Charlie adds afterwards, "First off, how do you want to do this? Normal Game, Solo Play, Tournament Mode, or see the high scores?"). I think it may be safe to assume that the PS1 version of the 1st Edition contains the same dialogue. Geez, Atari(Infogrames)/Artech, don't you think you should have recorded some new stuff for this game instead of rehashing what you did years ago?!?

In addition to the stuff from Mr. O'Donnell, you'll also find that this game has the same background music and the same AI voices as the 2nd Edition. In voice actors for both this game and the 2nd Edition are Christine Moran and Derick Fage. While it's reasonable to believe that they were brought in to record some new dialogue to go with the new puzzles (I assume that there's new puzzles), it's also reasonable to believe that much (if not all) of their generic comments were recycled from the 2nd Edition, particularly since most of it sounds the same (cheesy phrases like "Show me the big money!" and "Alright, I'm having some fun now!" spring to mind). Why else would they hire the same two voice actors? They could have, and SHOULD have, hired MANY new voice actors. Why do we need to have the same two AI opponents to play against? Why not get a variety of voices for our opponents?

GAMEPLAY PARTICULARS

Some random comments that didn't fit anywhere else.

For those who may need this information, memory card usage is 99 KB and the card must be inserted into slot 1. I would think that with the PS2 having been out for a couple years now, that game developers would make their games work with the card in either slot 1 or 2.

Three people can play this game at the same time without the need for a multitap. The second and third players alternate use of the second controller. The 2nd Edition also worked like this, even though the manual and packaging incorrectly said that a multitap was needed.

The loadings feel a bit longer than they should be, but are still relatively short (like 10 seconds each).

The alternating nature of the game results in some long wait times between turns. When playing alone the only thing to do while the computer spins is try to figure out the puzzle, but that's of limited benefit and doesn't help when the player already knows the answer. I really wish they would have found a way to get around this. Perhaps they could have added a "fast forward" button or something.

I've read online that there are over 3,200 puzzles. Since I rented this game, and didn't have a manual or packaging to tell me, I have to assume this is true.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I can't believe that this game was delayed for a year, considering how much was recycled from the last game, and the few things that are missing.

I really miss the old NES/SNES/Genesis games where the focus was more on the gameplay than on the presentation (though the games did looked good for their time).

MAJOR REASONS TO GET THIS GAME INSTEAD OF THE LAST ONE (2ND EDITION FOR PS1):

• Can have a human vs. human game with no 3rd AI player.

• Better cheat device (Code Breaker) codes: Don't lose money when getting bankrupt, always have a free spin, vowels are free. These are suggested for use when playing a one player game, but not when against friends.

These are the only two major benefits this game has over the 2nd Edition. Kinda pathetic, huh? Really makes you wonder why they made us wait an extra year for the game.