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Friday, March 24, 2006

Godfather-The Video Game for X-Box



Now I don't' usually review Video Games. I actually don't even really play them that often. My buddy Mysterio is the hardcore Video Gamer, he keeps me up to date with the latest going's on in the gamer world. But I do own an X-Box. So I do pick up the top of the line sports video games, and occasional event game to play for a couple of days till it becomes too difficult for a novice like me.

But when I heard that there was a Godfather Video game coming out.....forgive me for saying this....It was an offer that I couldn't refuse.

First off, the game features the voice talents of Robert Duvall, James Caan, and Abe Vigoda. The game advertises that Marlon Brando also lends his voice to the game. But I've heard, which may not be true, that much of the material he recorded before his death was unusable, and they had to hire another actor. But when I listen to the game, damn if it doesn't sound just like Brando. Of course lots of his vocal work in the game are direct quotes from the movie. Maybe they just directly ripped the vocals from the movie.

Which brings me to one of the coolest features of the game. Believe it or not one gets to actually interact in many of the film's classic scenes. Adding even more to the cool factor is that one can design the character they play in the game to look like one's self. So when a player is standing next to mob boss Peter Clemenza, it looks like one is sharing a scene with the actor. Also when a classic scene happens, like the murder of Luca Brasi, the character that one plays in the game is right in the middle of the action, watching from a window outside the bar. At one point in the game the player gets to ride with Fredo as they guard the Ambulance after Don Corelone has been shot, and at another point help guard the Don with Michael at the Hospital, or be the guy that whacks Paulie the driver, with Clemenza telling the player to leave the gun....and take the Cannoli.

Super Cool.

Not to mention hearing the voices of Robert Duvall, Brando and James Caan playing the parts again. I don't know what other people might think, but I'm blown away by the idea that these A-List Actors are lending their voices to a VIDEO GAME. Man, games have come a long way when Academy Award winning actors are doing voices in a game.

The actual design and play in the game is very similar to the lucrative Grand Theft Auto video games. The player is given missions, they accomplish the missions by hijacking cars and driving through the city. But the game also has a fun feature where we extort small business owners, by beating them up, causing havoc in their place of business or threatening them with violence. It's a fun little feature that appeals to people's dark video game side. If that's not enough, there's plenty of weapons, bribes and violent acts the player is capable of and they are doing it in a huge 1940's period New York city that is run by the 5 mafia families.

Like I said earlier, I'm not an expert in video games. I'm sure some people might find problems with the game. But as far as fun, this game gets my highest praise. Not only do we get to relive classic scenes from the film, which also happens to be my all-time favorite movie. But the game play and missions are a blast, not to mention the impressive production and period design of the game.

EA has done an excellent job with the game. Obviously they are the kings of the Video Sports game. It's nice to see that they put the same amount of passion and work into their other games. Thankfully they've paid respect to the classic film by creating an excellent game. Although I've heard that Coppola himself was disappointed with the violent nature of the game.

Ultimately though, it doesn't diminish the legacy of the original film. So there's no harm having the game out there for people to play. In fact the game is super fun, and actually has me wanting to sit down, and watch the movies all over again.

It's so fun, that I find myself day dreaming about playing the game at work, or when I'm in line at the grocery store, pumping gas, or even when I'm online writing reviews.

So forgive me for cutting this review short. I hear Don Corleone calling me, apparently the day has come, and there's a favor he wants to ask of me.



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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Pride and Prejudice



Judging from my Domino review, one can probably guess that I'm not a big Keira Knightley fan.

It's nothing personal, I think at times she can be very affable and attractive in a non sexual way. I also don't think she's a horrible actress. I feel she's a lot like many of today's young Hollywood actors. I feel that she just doesn't have enough life experience yet to really share a truly memorable moving performance.

Which makes sense that her most impressive performance to date happens to be in a period costume drama, where emotions and reactions are measured and muted.

Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen's classic tale of 5 sisters who, with the aid of their eccentric parents, are concerned with finding their soul mates in the classic writer's charming style.

The movie is typical of her work. To be completely honest, as far as story, if one has seen Emma, or Sense and Sensibility, or Mansfield Park , the formula is pretty much the same. What this movie has going for it though is charming memorable supporting performances by the entire cast especially a subtle Donald Sutherland and Rosamund Pike, a vibrant and flighty Jena Malone and an eccentric Brenda Blethyn.

But ultimate credit has to go to Joe Wright's direction, and Deborah Moggach's fine adaptation. Wright directs the piece with a solid hand. Although we know the inevitable ending of Happily ever after, Wright does an excellent job of creating suspense, romance, and comedy without the film slipping into hardcore chick flick. Which one would probably expect from a movie like this, instead we get an enjoyable ride.

As far as Knightley, she does a solid job with an excellent role. Although I wouldn't say she was using the entire dynamics of the emotional scale. As my friend, Lons likes to point out, it seems like she has two expressions throughout the movie. Her friendship mode when she's interacting with female characters and her family, and her period romantic mode, when she's dealing with her love interest in the film.

Matthew Mcfadyen does an excellent job playing the honorable yet shy Mr. Darcy. I have to confess though, while watching his performance I often thought of Colin Firth playing the part to perfection in a previous adaptation.

The look of the film is also impressive. I'm still smarting from choosing this movie for best costume design in our Oscar pool at work. It lost to Memoirs of a Geisha, which I haven't seen yet. The production design and Art direction is also excellent.

Overall, I did find the movie enjoyable, and would definitely recommend the film. I think people who aren't fans of this type of material would be surprised by how much they enjoyed the film.

I think it's an upgrade over other adaptation's of Jane Austen's work. It's the kind of movie a guy can watch with their girlfriend and not feel like a total sell out to their manhood.

It's on DVD now.



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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sorry...Just a little bit busy........



As one can see I haven't been posting a lot lately.

I apologize to my readers out there. Actually my two readers....what's up guys. But I've been slightly busy....introducing my new born son to the world.

Yup....Brayden Danielson Manukay was born March 10th at 3:00 A.M. in the morning at U.C.L.A. Hospital.

Now I've been hesitant writing about the whole experience on the blog. When one considers, it's sort of weird putting out personal experiences out on the web for all to see. But as I mentioned earlier, I only have about approximately two regular readers on the site. So I shouldn't be so paranoid. I also thought it would be a good way to document the event for posterity, not to mention I could have friends, and family link to the page.

The little guy was 9 days early. I guess he had enough of the whole womb experience, and decided to check out the real world.

The day started off pretty uneventful. I was about to write my Pride and Prejudice review at 10:30 at night while watching Videodrome when I heard Erin call me from the bathroom. She informed me that she was about to go to bed when she felt a gush of pressure that startled her....and my dog for that matter, while she was in bed. Erin rushed to the bathroom, and suspected her water broke. But instead of the flood of water we expected, she described the event as more of a...... trickle.

Now we had heard about false labor, and how first time mothers often are mistaken when they feel they are in labor. So we felt this might be the case. We started looking over magazines and books trying to match symptoms. We decided we should call my mom over...since she was a nurse, not to mention a two time mother. After considering a few other options we decided the best thing to do was call the doctor. The doctor's at U.C.L.A. said that they couldn't tell completely from over the phone, that they would have to give her a full examination to determine exactly what had happened.

So we calmly got our stuff together. Erin was fairly confident she was in labor. But for some reason I didn't feel that this was it. I guess from seeing all the different movies about this event I was expecting a lot more screaming and pain....not to mention more water. In the movies it always seems like there's water everywhere on the floor, on clothes.... it almost looks like they came out of a shower....or at least pissed on themselves. Erin described a trickle. So I didn't want to get too excited.

When we got to the hospital, we spent about 10 minutes in the waiting room. Apparently if she was in labor, there was no rush. Erin was cool as a cucumber, which again made me believe this was probably a false alarm. I didn't even bother to take her overnight bag out of the car.

They led us up to the labor and delivery examination room. Erin was in a wheelchair. They asked to describe what the symptoms were. We told them and they decided to take a look at Erin. At this point Erin's pain level has raised significantly. I start to think.....maybe I should've brought in that overnight bag from the car.

They prop her up....still no definitive word. They say they want to do an ultrasound to see how much water is left inside her. They get the machine going. The doctor immediately says that there doesn't seem to be a lot of water left. At this point I'm thinking....I definitely should have brought that overnight bag in. Then I hear words I'll never forget, the doctor remarks "Oh Honey.......he's backwards....the baby is breach. He wants to come out butt first, we're going to have to take him C-Section." She looks at me and says "You'll be holding your baby in about an hour." I think to myself I wish they had a Star Trek transporter to beam me to my car so I can get that damn overnight bag. She then reassures us that it's for the best to do a C-section, just to be sure and safe for the baby.

Erin had been joking throughout the pregnancy that she had wanted a C-section. So I squeeze Erin's hand and joke..."Well, you got your wish." I tell her that I was going to the car.....to get that damn bag. I inform my mom, who is in the waiting room about the situation. On my long walk back to the car, I call Erin's father, and I call our friend Jago to tell them about the situation. They both say they are on their way down. I then send out a mass text message to my friends.

When I get back from the car with the bag the nurse hands me O.R. Scrubs to put on. It hits me that this thing is going to happen pretty damn fast. I try to put on the scrubs over the clothes, but the gear isn't big enough. So I take my jeans off. Erin has an I.V. and all sorts of tubes and monitors attached to her.

Then we waited......and waited. Apparently they needed to get some blood tests back before they start....and for some reason it's taking awhile. Before we know it two hours pass. Erin's brother and Father have arrived, so have Jago. Which is good because the batteries in my digital camera have died, and Jago has a fully charged camera. Erin in the meantime is in intense pain. I feel horrible...and guilty for putting her through this....and yet excited to meet the little guy.

The moment arrives,and Erin is wheeled into the operating room. The team tells me to wait outside so they can get set up. I wait in a chair outside the room. Outside I hear voices, at one point I even hear Erin laugh. I figure the pain relief has kicked in. Then I see an agitated man come out of the room who angrily goes to the nurses station. Shortly after I see five different woman walk by and into the pre-op room, they do they're scrubbing. I put it together that these were the doctors getting ready. The person who is agitated is the head man in charge of Erin's pain relief and he's upset that the doctor's are taking their time. I say a quick prayer to myself that everything goes smoothly. I pace and try to look into the room whenever the door cracks open. After another 30 minutes they call me in.

As I walk in I see 4 doctors around Erin. Erin is laying down on her back, and there is a sheet propped up like a wall so Erin can't see below her chin. I peek over at Erin's belly. I see an opening as big as my fist, and blood everywhere. I sit next to Erin's face a little stunned. She smiles at me, her arms stretched out like she's laying on a cross. I grab her hand. She asks me. " Have they started?" I calmly state "Yeah". I giggle to myself and I marvel at modern medicine.

The person in charge of the pain relief is standing with us on our side of the little barrier. The three of us joke around about the event. Erin encourages me to watch. I decline. I laugh at Erin who is trying to watch the operation from the reflection on the window. I tell her not to, but she's curious. She says she loves that kind of stuff. I think to myself this is pretty easy. No stress, no drama, no pain so far.

The doctor than asks us, "if we know what the sex is?" We say it's supposed to be a boy. Erin is scared and asks "Why.....is it a girl?" The Doctor pauses then says...."We don't know yet. We were just wondering." Nice. Then I hear the doctors laugh. I stand up...I hear a doctor say...."there he is, (they all giggle) his little butt." I decide to watch. The four doctors all seem to be pushing down on her stomach. Sort of looks kind of crude and not very scientific.Then it happens I see the baby squirt out. Literally. There's no noises, no crying. But I see the baby moving. "It's a boy. " the doctor says. I notice the baby is pale. I joke to Erin, "He looks like a white baby.....Damn he has lots of hair." Erin is beginning to get misty eyed. She asks me if the baby is alright. I assure her to the best of my knowledge the baby seems fine. But obviously....I'm not a doctor. (Not even an Anthony Edwards type, never played a doctor in a play.)They cut the cord, and bring him to a separate area where three nurses surround the child trying to clear his breathing path and lungs.

I walk over to the area. The baby....at least to me looks perfect....I'm stunned,I honestly don't think I'll ever see anything in my life more beautiful. Erin asks me how the baby looks. I remark that he looks perfect. He's a handsome baby. The pain relief doctor jokes that I'm being so modest. Erin then repeatedly asks me "Is it beautiful? Is the baby beautiful?" I say he is, while kissing her forehead. Erin is crying in joy. While I beam in excitement.

The next hour is a blur I go back and forth between the baby and Erin. I remember to take pictures. I also watch as the three nurses massage the baby. Tapping on his back, and sticking suction devices into his nose, while giving him oxygen. The nurses and doctor assure me that it's normal. That during a normal birth, the fluid in his lungs are squeezed out in the birth canal. Erin in the meantime, hasn't seen the baby. I also notice that they haved pulled out Erin's uterus, and that it's laying on her stomach as they stitch her up. Pretty cool.......and remarkable because Erin is completley unaware. I take pictures of the baby then show the pictures to Erin in the camera's preview window. Erin is ecstatic.

After a short while, after leaving the room and sharing some of the pictures with the people in the waiting room. I return and actually get to hold the baby, and show Erin the child with her own eyes. Erin kisses the head. The baby is calm and quiet. Hardly a peep as he looks around the room taking everyone in.

I help the nurse measure Brayden. The baby is 6 pounds 2 ounces. 19 inches long. I also get to cut down the cord.

Finally, they finish stitching up Erin, and she gets to hold Brayden. The doctor tells Erin everything looks great. Erin later tells me one of the nurses remarked to her that they've never heard a couple laugh so much during a C-Section. Just when I think I've seen the most beautiful thing. I see the two of them together, and I realize that THIS moment is actually the most beautiful moment I will ever experience.

That's it.....that's the day my baby was born.




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