Welcome back (again) to Entertainmentopia, my name is Erich Becker, and I founded this thing nearly 25 years ago. What you'll find here is  one man's opinions and sometimes coherent posts on a number of different topics on a blog that just wants to be a small island, in a big ocean and put words on the screen as a creative outlet. Welcome and enjoy!


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Over the last few years USA Network has launched some of the best shows on cable, if not TV in general, culminating with last year’s successful introduction of Burn Notice and the continued success of the Emmy-winning Monk and ever watchable Psych, and now they introduce us to a new character, Mary Shannon in In Plain Sight, a show with a touch of flair, but still needing to find a unique voice.


The series stars Mary McCormack (1408) as your standard tough, strong female lead who does things her own way, like following a guy into a men’s restroom for questioning, then making fun of his penis size and driving away in a Ford POS. The problem with the whole character is you’ve seen this before, you’ve seen this show before, and while CBS is channeling Psych in the upcoming The Mentalist, USA seems to be channeling years of procedurals for Sight.

That isn’t to say there isn’t a lot to like here, the show is presented as a dramedy with Shannon participating in a healthy dose of self-depreciating humor, and some well timed wit to keep things fresh, and while it’s a good idea to balance time between Mary’s life as a US Marshal working in the Witness Protection Program and her home life with a spaced-out mom and vengeful sister, the pilot episode doesn’t set this up as well as it could, focusing too much on the family and not enough on the case at hand.


Granted this is a pilot, and pilot’s usually rush through everything to show you what the show will be like for the next 13 or 22 episodes, but each aspect of the show comes up a bit shallow when both tried to cram into 65 minutes.

Notable aspects of the pilot include some great interrogation scenes with a suspect pointing out what ever guy was thinking, “wow cleavage,” and, as mentioned earlier, some great writing in parts, but overall the script is a bit lazy, resting on the laurels of the genre rather than trying something new (if there’s anything left new out there).


Seeds of the season have been planted with Mary’s sister, Brandi (Nichole Hiltz), stowing what looks to be a couple million dollars worth of nose candy in her suitcase, and an on-again, off-again, its-complicated love affair with Rafael (Cristián de la Fuente), but we’ll have to see how those play out over the next couple of episodes and see if the show can click into something we haven’t seen before.

While the pilot may not be a solid indication of where the show will eventually lead this season, it does set up the two contrasting worlds of Mary Shannon’s life we’ll be exploring, and while we’ve been here before, the parts of the show that come together well make a returned visit an almost certainty.

Nineteen years of waiting, waiting for all the stars to align, waiting for a script to get approved, waiting for what seems like forever, and this is what we get: a huge resounding relief that the movie has finally been released followed by unbridled disappointment in the finished product. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will no doubt go down as the biggest disappointment of the summer for many, this reviewer included, as the film loses most of, if not all, the fun of the original trilogy and what we are left with is a CGI mess with a weak story, weaker acting, no resounding villain, and the feeling that maybe we shouldn’t have hoped over the years for a fourth film, just like Star Wars fans today wish the prequel trilogy had never materialized.


The film was supposed to be foolproof, a script by David Koepp, approved by George Lucas (as much credit as that really is), directed by Steven Spielberg, and starring Indy himself, Harrison Ford. Unfortunately no matter of critical pedigree and talent was going to be able to save this film from the aspects which doomed it.

The setup is interesting, although drastically misleading as Indy and a group of communist era Soviets visit a very familiar looking warehouse with a giant “51” painted on the door. Here we think they are going for the Ark, only then do we find out what they are really after, and that’s where the wheels begin to fall off as the MacGuffin here just isn’t that interesting with so many more choices on the table. Everything from Atlantis to the Spear of Destiny was suggested by the review party who attended the screening only to be left with, well, to keep this as spoiler free as possible I won’t say, but you can put two and two together.


From here we are subjected to one outlandish display after another until the movie concludes with the biggest one of all. The origins of Indy are based in the radio and early TV serial dramas like Buck Rogers, so the outlandish has to be expected, but the suspension of disbelief only goes so far. One can explain away Indy hanging from a tank or being dragged behind a truck in the original trilogy, but we’ve now devolved into being propelled miles in a refrigerator (lined with lead) after a nuclear blast, or the ability for a teenager to swing like Tarzan to catch up to cars going 50 mph or faster? You almost have to laugh because it’s so bad at times.

The only thing that saves Kingdom is those involved and some okay scenes between the aging Indy (Harrison Ford) and Mutt (Shia LaBeouf). The inclusion of Karen Allen as Marion seems almost forced as she isn’t present in the first half of the movie and has little to do in the latter besides forcing some really bad dialog and giving us a groan inducing ending.


George Lucas’ CGI stained hands are all over this film, whereas traditionalists, and even just fans of the franchise would have liked to see the live action stunts, here a lot of the film is handled by computers, taking away some of the awe and fun of the original trilogy, when you knew that was a real person being dragged, or a real person fighting those battles.


In the end, everything combines into a merely mediocre package that is sure to disappoint anyone who holds a fond place in their heart for any of the original films. You can see sparks of enchantment once again throughout the two hour running time, but in the end, you really wish things had been much different, and maybe we shouldn’t have clamored as much, or as loud, for a new entry in the series.

Brendan James’ The Day is Brave, an extension of his EP, The Ballroom Break In, has all the makings of a lyrical and musical masterpiece at times, but certain elements hold the album back from turning into a pure experience and leave it merely teetering on the edge where fans of the genre and related artists will gobble this it up, whereas non-fans aren’t likely to indulge for too long, or at all.

The Day is Brave, spanning eleven tracks and nearly 45 minutes of music, has a fatal flaw: consistency to the point of almost exasperation. From the second the album starts, only the lead off track “Green“; picks up a faster, more energetic tempo, leaving the remaining cuts in the doldrums of slow, sometimes plodding, yet melodic music. The album bleeds together like water colors doused in a bucket of water, almost forming one endless stream with no breaking points in between. Consistency isn’t usually something that would hamper an artist, and we’ve called out bands before for maintaining or breaking that unfailing sound (see: Linkin Park’s Minutes to Midnight), but James’ finished work seems to be hampered. It isn’t because the music is any less well done, quite the opposite in fact, but you’re listening to a 45 minute track rather than a masterful, well built collection.

As you listen to The Day is Brave you’re relaxed as James’ voice shifts you into a tranquil mood, accompanied by masterful piano work, you drift off and take in the sound. Its almost as though you’re being smoothly hypnotized, but the album never breaks out with that sudden hit, that energy you are looking for to change your mood, change your feelings, make you feel something else besides being in a perpetual state and completely static.

Brendan James is a true songwriter, this is obvious from the high production values and tracks contained within, however the aforementioned qualms make the album sometimes hard to listen to simply because you can’t tell where one track, one thought, ends, and another one begins.  Leading us to the original point, fans of the genre are going to find a lot to love here with a smooth voice, great songwriting, and great production values; James is bound to attract Elton John-like fans. Those looking for even a single track capable of breaking the cycle are going to be disappointed as the album finishes much like it began.

Channeling the energetic, unique voiced Bobcat Goldthwait, New York comedian Dov Davidoff presents his act to the masses in his first Comedy Central Records CD, “The Point Is…“; a collection of random ramblings ranging from Starbucks coffee sizes to the reason women get breast implants.

It’s not common for comedians to really stay on one topic for an entire act, but Davidoff is all over the map, sometimes with messy transitions between topics, but never to the point where the audience is distracted, or the act becomes any less funny. Whether its part of the act or not, Davidoff comes off as very nervous, compulsive, high strung, and almost like he’s scared of the audience at first, but as the act warms up, so does the comic, and the room into much bigger punch lines and jokes. 

Some of the material is a bit of a rehash from long standing jokes, such as dogs licking your peanut butter spread genitals, “Who’s getting hurt here?!”; Davidoff asks after explaining how the dog is eating, and you’re getting cleaned. The constant jokes about Starbucks and the non-traditional sizes of their coffee has been done many times before, in many different mediums, and those bits fall a little bit flatter than others. There’s a fair amount of topical humor as well that won’t stand up especially well after a few years, but in the here and now they’re funny.

However there is some stand out segments, such as Dov’s description of a woman who got rather large breast implants for herself, not for men to stare at her. Davidoff gives a rather insightful commentary to these revelations by the woman, pulling the audience along with him into the mind of someone who just doesn’t get it.

The final track, describing himself attempting to use a Magnum-sized condom, and the process of setting up the correct mood lighting with a shirt over a hot lamp is a strong finish to a strong debut.

SteelSeries always has a knack for providing the world with stunning sound for any application, and the addition of the earbud headphones to the mix is no exception.

The full headsets that SteelSeries has delivered have always been top notch. With computer gaming, the sound is crisp, clear and very well placed. You can hear the rustling of grass behind your left shoulder, you can hear the sounds of gunfire coming from great distances, you can hear it all. Unfortunately, that sound clarity does not transfer to the in ear headphones with ease. It’s one thing to be able to produce that kind of sound with large speakers that surround your ear, it’s another thing entirely to pull it off when it’s in your ear. During testing with World of Warcraft, I just didn’t get the sound clarity that I was hoping for. I won’t chalk it up to a flaw in the design of the earbuds, it’s simply a shortcoming of the earbud style itself.

However, for music enjoyment, these deliver in every way I was expecting. The packaging comes with two different in ear inserts. The typical rubber dome shaped inserts, as well as a three layered design that I’ve never come across before. I’m assuming that this design is for keeping more of the sound going into your ear and not escaping, but I didn’t notice a difference, other than the discomfort of the insert. It’s pretty big, and unless you have big ear canals, you’ll probably want to stick to the traditional inserts. Cord length is pretty standard, it’s long enough to keep your iPod in your pocket and still have some room to move around, but not so long that you are tripping over your own cord. The wire is the new softer rubber design that is resistant to kinking, and doesn’t catch on everything like the standard wire covers to. The bud fits pretty well in the ear and doesn’t fall out at the slightest tug like the stock iPod earbuds seem to.

The sound is second to none. Rock, techno, pop, even spoken word all come across clearly and balanced. The sound was never too tinny or too full of bass, it was a good mix of levels and made for a very enjoyable music listening experience. It also offers a small amount of ambient sound dampening. I tested the headphones on an airplane and I was able to hear the music at a reasonable level without getting outside sounds in. Granted, they’re certainly not design for noise canceling, but they do a pretty good job of keeping the noise out all on their own.

Overall, these headphones are best for your iPod. They put out a great sound, they’re comfortable, and the price is definitely right. Leave the computer gaming to the big headphones, and take these along with you when you need a good music fix.

The appropriately titled horror compilation, The Horror Vault, is a collection of nine short stories all relating to, in some way or another, the depravity of human nature and the psyche. This independent film, the first volume in a three volume series, really tries to enter the upper echelon of indie films with a focus on the tried and true stories that have worked in horror for nearly the last 100 years, but the film ends up tripping over itself with an overly ambitious reach, clunky dialog, and very inconsistent stories that range from mediocre to not-quite-there.

To be fair, one must realize the budget and technical availability of tools to create movies; this is considered in this review as one doesn’t expect Academy Award winning quality from a movie shot on a person’s free time and extra cash. Still after a quality year of independent cinema, The Horror Vault just isn’t able to grab your attention like it should.

When John Met Julia
A contemporary retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story, the short film almost tries too hard to tell the audience, this isn’t your normal film, and this isn’t your normal adaptation of a classic work. As the film progresses you’re left wondering what exactly is going on (a common theme throughout all nine films) until it ultimately ends with a final reveal that, in the spirit of the story makes some sense, but you’re more likely to be confused rather than awed. Wild inconsistencies and technical goofs (such as a car being turned off, then magically on again in the next scene) certainly break the audience away. While admirable camera placement and movement along with some stylized scene transitions give this piece a technical achievement missing from most of the other segments, the awkward, and sometimes just plain bad dialog really hampers any momentum this story has going for it.

From the start this Hitchcockian throwback has a lot going for it visually speaking. The black & white noir style is a sharp contrast to the first film in the anthology and its costume and set pieces also work out well. The cinematography is probably the strongest of any of the nine segments, however, again, the story makes little to no sense, and while you can extrapolate the general gist of it from the characters’ dialog, the ending aims for a twist and really just leaves the audience throwing up their arms in frustration.

From the onset Alone is nearly unwatchable with the main character’s inner voice present for all to hear. Again, it isn’t the device, but the writing that hampers this aspect of the film. This extends into the generic, color by numbers story that has its ending seen from a mile away. Anyone who has seen the last generation of who-done-its like Scream and The Faculty will recognize the wolf in sheep’s clothing conclusion. Although one must wonder how a knife wound near no vital organs can instantly kill a man?

Dead to the World
A retelling of Ted Bundy’s exploits as told from an interview with a police officer inter-spliced with footage of Bundy committing his crimes. The streak of bad dialog continues here, and Bundy’s laughable monologue at the end to justify his actions is the culmination of this. The segment is filmed in what appears to be 4×3 and compressed and stretched to fit into a letterbox ratio giving the film a troubling perspective.

Mental Distortion
In the grand scheme of things Mental Distortion may not be intended to make much sense. The copious amounts of gratuitous nudity may be covering up for the lack of any cohesive story, but after a man finds his wife drowned in the bathtub he meets up with an old friend from grade school, hooks up, and, well the ending is left so ambiguous it’s up to you to decide. There is some nice camera work here, and the solemn lighting brings the audience into the story only so far, but the problems that plague most of the stories come up again here, bad dialog and an incoherent story, but the technical achievements again are negated by these

Probably the best of the bunch, Disconnected plays off its dark humor and Eli Roth’s Hostel series of needless, unrelenting violence for laughs and shock at the same time. A man is tortured because of money owed by his significant other. While I won’t reveal the ending for the sake of preserving one of the few surprises in the collection, it did garner a chuckle and high marks for its set design. Still, the writing could be a lot better, and the limited budget comes to light here where a man who has his hand disfigured merely hides it when the camera is on full body shots.

The Demon
A completely forgettable, dialog-less tale of a religious man meeting up with a relentless demon bent on destroying him. The film is all over the place, at one point making light of the man’s glasses breaking (perhaps attempting to channel a bit of The Twilight Zone?) yet it never plays into the story at all. The subtext of him picking up and later killing a hitchhiker is completely lost on the audience as he simply ends up in a mental institution with a set of crazy eyes to show for it. Again, the set pieces and some nice camera work are completely negated by lazy writing that isn’t able to intrigue or surprise the audience when they simply can’t figure out what’s going on.

I had high hopes for this one as it first appears to be a man seeing the ghostly images of a war campaign, atrocities he had committed with the dead returning to haunt him, however, as the film progresses it turns out into be nothing more than a man in a mental home seeing things. While this, in of itself, is enough for the horror billing the story here doesn’t necessarily suffer from the same dialog problems as the other parts of the encompassing film, its simply too short to further develop the character. As it plays out now, it’s a man tied to a bed who is hallucinating, with a few more minutes and some back-story this could have easily been one of the better inclusions in this anthology.

There’s just no way to describe the ending of the anthology with this bookend. After viewing it I just simply stared at the TV, hoping, pleading that something would come up explaining what had just happened. It’s almost as if the most confusing parts of a Nine Inch Nails video, Silent Hill, and nihilistic crazy person had some unholy lovechild explode on to the screen. I don’t know if that’s a compliment or not, nor do I know anything that happened in this segment.

The love of filmmaking is obvious throughout The Horror Vault; however, whether it is from budgetary concerns, technical limitations, or some other problem, the end product falls short of expectations. While some will see the open-ended stories as a way for the viewer to make their own conclusions, there’s only so much our minds can do with the limited information available. Each story seems to sputter due to a mix of bad writing and inconsistency, something no amount of acting chops and technical achievement is going to be able to negate.

Judging independent movies so harshly is never easy because you can see the love of the craft hidden within each scene, however one can only hope these criticisms are taken into account to help better the writers, producers, actors, and directors in their next endeavors.

If you wish to experience the film for yourself and disagree with our review, it can be purchased right here, or find more information about the film at the official site.

With the history surrounding Speed Racer, and the craftsmanship employed by the Wachowski Brother’s one would expect the final product of a feature film version of the classic anime series to completely blow the audience away. However, at the end of the two-plus-hour-film all you are likely to remember is the remarkable race scenes and how you’re likely to skip over just about everything else when the film hits DVD later this summer.


Speed Racer is a kid’s film at its core with bright colors, ADD inspired action, a rather dull and mundane story to follow and enough sugary sweet fluff to over-bloat the film by 45 minutes. At a long in the tooth two hours and fifteen minutes most kids will find themselves bored in the second act just before the amazing racing scenes at the end of the film. There’s enough here to drag your interest along for the full runtime, but newcomers to the series might find themselves checking their watch every few minutes.

As stated before, the writing is sub par at best, catering to the children mentality the film is designed for, but whereas other “children’s” films like Pixar’s stable state and a majority of Dreamworks’ work have subtleties that only adults can pick up on, Racer is a straight shooter, never giving the older demographic anything to decode.


The casting is probably the strongest aspect of the film with the highlight being John Goodman as Pops Racer. Emile Hirsch as Speed Racer does an admirable job in the roll after his breakthrough in The Girl Next Door and dramatic turn in Alpha Dog. Matthew Fox (Racer X) also provides an admirable performance although he isn’t in the film for a good amount of time and fans of the series may be troubled as to the modifications to his origin from the original series, although the Wachowski’s wisely correct any creative freedoms they may have attempted before the film is over.


Overall there’s just too much going against the film for it to really breakout into a hit. Its story is too simplified for such a long running time, the seizure inducing visuals are pure eye candy, but lend no substance to the film, and aside from the races, there isn’t a whole lot to come back and see again, even packed with special features on the upcoming home release. Speed Racer is crafted for the fanboy and the newcomer, yet seems to disappoint both groups equally. While a sequel is not very likely, one can only hope a little more time and money is spent to keep the film interesting between the fabulous races.

Entertainmentopia continues on the Razer train with a look at the new Razer Destructor precision mouse pad boasting a higher response rate and faster speeds as compared to the $2 pads that come with your shiny new computer. The Destructor utilizes a pitted and grooved plastic material collectively referred to as Razer Fractal Technology which provides both a smooth surface and added mouse speed due to the optics of your mouse interacting with the fine pits in the plastic.

As with most high end gaming pads, the Destructor comes neatly packed in a nylon, zip-up case for easy transport. Embroidered with the Razer logo in green and housing foam specially designed to hold your new addition firmly in place the perks of the product are certainly worth the $40 MSRP purchase.

The mouse pad itself, as described above, is grey with a black Razer logo and “Destructor” name curiously using an ant as the products logo (moving away from the snake names used by previous Razer products). The underside of the pad features a rubberized grip to bind it to your desk and prevent slippage. During our tests we did notice some movement, about a half inch creep after a couple hour session, so some readjustment may be necessary at times, but this isn’t a big factor.

The performance of the pad is hard to test other than subjective means, but the Destructor provided a great surface for gaming, graphic design, and for normal home use. Gaming tests were conducted using Audiosurf, World of WarCraft, Bioshock, and Portal, with control of each game firmly in the user’s grasp. As with cheaper pads the laser can become lost due to the same color or reflective nature, but the pits and grooves in the Destructor provide a unique surface for the laser (in our case, a Logitech G5) to track, giving us excellent response time. Graphics work was done in Adobe Fireworks CS3 with some vector and freehand drawing of web graphics. At a high zoom level, even minute movements were tracked accurately and precisely.

The Razer Destructor is an excellent addition to your gaming setup, coupled with a gaming grade mouse and keyboard. While the rubber grip wasn’t as strong as you may like during longer play sessions, the hard plastic, with a unique shape and design certainly works in your favor when gunning for that game winning frag or avoiding the latest Big Daddy to be in hot pursuit.

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