Movie Review: “Top Five”

Starring
Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, JB Smoove, Kevin Hart
Director
Chris Rock

“Top Five” has a secret: the movie’s “B” story is about sobriety, and the struggles many entertainers have with capturing the magic that came so easily to them when they were high. You can see why the studio would downplay that in the ads, because there is nothing funny about sobriety. As it turns out, the movie is plenty funny even with the heavier subject matter. It paints with a broad brush, and it’s clear how things are going to end within the first five minutes, but the journey is nonetheless entertaining, and at times wildly funny.

Andre Allen (Chris Rock) is a former standup comic who wants to be taken seriously as a dramatic actor. His new film, which covers the Haiti Massacre of 1804 (!), comes out the same weekend that Andre is scheduled to marry his reality TV star fiancée Erica (Gabrielle Union) on live television. Andre does a ton of press to promote the movie (where nearly everyone berates him for not being funny anymore), but while he’s hopping from junket to junket, he has an all-day assignment with New York Times writer Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson). Andre is suspicious of her because one of Chelsea’s colleagues has made a career out of savaging Andre in the press, but he and Chelsea develop a rapport, and before long, Andre opens up about when he hit rock bottom (there are no words to describe that scene). Now sober for four years, Andre still finds himself tempted, especially when Erica is changing aspects of their wedding, per the network’s instructions, without informing him.

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2014 Holiday Gift Guide: Games

The holiday season is the video game industry’s busiest time of year, with publishers saving many of their marquee titles to release on the public like an avalanche of digital goodness. It can actually be quite overwhelming with so many different options to choose from, so we’ve done our best to put together a collection of what we feel are some of the year’s best titles, and ones that the gamer on your list will love.

Click the links to purchase each product online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Destiny

destiny

After creating one of the most successful video game franchises in history, Bungie could have done pretty much whatever they wanted for their next project and it would have undoubtedly been a massive hit. Thankfully, the team behind the “Halo” series hasn’t strayed too far from its roots with this sci-fi first-person shooter, although it’s certainly a different experience due to the incorporation of role-playing and MMO elements. But while you can do things like upgrade your character’s abilities, weapons and armor, or team up with fellow players (via Bungie’s matchmaking system) to complete missions, the game is still very much a shooter at heart – one that has the benefits of co-op multiplayer without making you feel like you can’t play and progress at your own pace. The story doesn’t dig as deep into the post-apocalyptic premise as we would’ve liked, and the gameplay can get a bit repetitive at times, but “Destiny” is a deceptively enjoyable shooter with fantastic visuals, an addictive multiplayer mode and an open-ended structure that allows Bungie to continue to provide new content for many years to come.

FIFA 15

fifa

Most video game sports franchises have gotten to the point where the truly innovative features are less about what’s on the surface than what’s underneath, and “FIFA 15” is a perfect example of how subtle changes can still make a world of difference. Though it plays very similar to last year’s edition, “FIFA 15” has gone one step further in bridging the gap between a video game and the real thing. Slide tackles and boot marks are visible on the pitch, the surface becomes more weathered as each match progresses, and crowds behave differently according to their specific club or country. Gameplay has received a few upgrades as well, including the ability to control teammates during set pieces, improved push/pull mechanics during man-to-man battles, and more accurate ball movement. There’s also a brand new intelligence system for goalkeepers that allows them to better anticipate shots and passes, while players now recognize situations (whether it’s a hard tackle or a series of bad fouls) that trigger an emotional response. And believe it or not, that’s just a taste of what “FIFA 15” has to offer, because this is arguably the most comprehensive digital soccer experience yet.

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2014 Holiday Gift Guide: Television

Television fans must love the holidays, because it’s the one time of year when studios unleash a host of massive box sets collecting their favorite dramas and comedies. This year is no different, with several critically acclaimed shows getting the complete series treatment. But while we like to devour an entire TV show just as quickly as the next person, sometimes a little self-discipline is required, which is why we’ve also included some less time-consuming (and more affordable) suggestions as well.

Click the links to purchase each product online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

The Wonder Years: The Complete Series

wonder-years

Can it really have been way back in 2006 when we put “The Wonder Years” at the top of our list of the 15 shows that we most wanted to see released on DVD? 2014 has been a damned good year for that list – now that “Batman” and “WKRP” are finally available, the only things left that we’re still waiting to see released are “Sifl & Olly” and “Ed” – but nothing’s made us as happy as the arrival of a miniature locker containing two faux Trapper Keeper notebooks filled with 26 discs worth of “The Wonder Years.” In addition to the 115 episodes, there’s also over 23 hours of bonus material, including footage from the recent cast reunion, tons of interviews with cast, creators and numerous guest stars, 10 newly-created featurettes, and outtakes from the filming of Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss…which, in case you didn’t know, was also Fred Savage and Danica McKellar’s first kiss as well! Lastly, when you pop open the locker – don’t worry, there’s no lock, so you don’t need to memorize a combination – you’ll also find a hardcover “yearbook” filled with behind-the-scenes pictures and notes from the cast. It’s so totally worth the wait.

Batman: The Complete Television Series

batman

Whether you grew up in the late 60s when it originally aired, or watched the reruns that played throughout the following decades, chances are that the “Batman” TV series was a big part of your childhood. One of the best things about the show is that it operates on multiple levels, so whereas you were attracted to the suspense, action and colorful production design as a kid, when revisiting the series as an adult, you’re able to enjoy the subtler, campier aspects. It certainly helped that it had such a game cast, from stars Adam West and Bruce Ward, to its cavalcade of villain guest stars – most notably Frank Gorshin, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith and Julie Newmar – all of whom understood exactly what kind of show they were making. “Batman” is one of the few classic TV series that still holds up today, which is why it’s so surprising that it took this long for it to be released on Blu-ray. The new digital restoration looks fantastic for a show that’s nearly 50 years old, with all 120 episodes presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The Blu-ray set also comes with hours of bonus material, including a retrospective on the show’s production and its legacy, a roundtable discussion with West and other Bat-fanatics, the original “Batgirl” pilot, screen tests for West and Ward, as well second-choice Lyle Waggoner (Batman) and Peter Deyell (Robin), and much more. And as if that wasn’t enough, it also comes with a Hot Wheels replica Batmobile, while the box itself plays the “Batman” theme song. Holy Fan Service, Batman!

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Product Review: “Assassin’s Creed: Unity” Edge Shave Gel

assassins-creed-edge-shave-gel

Schick, Target and “Assassin’s Creed” teamed up a year ago for the release of “Black Flag,” and this year, they’ve added Edge Shave Gel to the party.

Available now are three limited edition “Assassin’s Creed: Unity” Edge Shave Gel cans, and each one includes exclusive access to downloadable content including swords, armor and more.

Here is the breakdown:

- Edge Sensitive Skin Shave Gel gives access to an exclusive downloadable sword, contains aloe, and helps prevent nicks, cuts and irritation.

- Edge Extra Moisturizing Shave Gel gives access to exclusive downloadable armor and has vitamin E and a blend of ingredients to leave your face hydrated and smooth.

- Edge Ultra Sensitive Shave Gel gives access to an exclusive downloadable Assassin’s Hood, contains colloidal oatmeal, and helps provide protection against razor burn.

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The Light from the TV Shows: Dean Stockwell discusses leaping into ‘NCIS: New Orleans”

dean-stockwell-steven-weber-scott-bakula-ncis-new-orleans

How did Dean Stockwell come to reunite with his former Quantum Leap co-star, Scott Bakula, on tonight’s episode of NCIS: New Orleans? The answer is about as simple as they come: “They called my agent and I was available, so I said I’d do it.”

This time around, though, Bakula and Stockwell aren’t playing partners…or even close: Stockwell’s character, Tom Hamilton, is a fella who’s suspected of having been involved in a murder 40 years earlier. Plus, if you’ve been watching the series at all, then you’ve already met Tom’s son: Councilman Douglas Hamilton, played by Steven Weber.

“It’s not a big part,” acknowledged Stockwell. “But it’s a key part, and it was great to be able to work with Scott, to go in and feel that comfortable with someone.”

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