Resident Evil 6 (2012) Review

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I’ve been a fan of the Resident Evil series since I was probably 10 or 11 years old (the games, not those damn live-action movies). My brothers and I used to go to our neighbor’s house and watch them play Resident Evil: Director’s Cut and later Resident Evil 2. Surprisingly though, I have never played the first three RE games. I’ve watched my friends, brothers, and speed runners play them so many times that I never felt compelled to pick them up myself. I also have only played a little of Resident Evil 4, again, because I watched my brother Matt tear through the entirety of the game. To date, I played and completed Resident Evil 5 with Matt and beat Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles with my brother Mike. Add to my short list Resident Evil 6.

Many critics and fans did not like this game, as it continued to stray away from the “survival horror” genre that the people loved about the first three games. Now the series is more focused as an action/puzzle game where you control your hero in 3rd person view. Furthermore, the story has become a what’s what of viruses and villains that some find confusing or just superfluous. I was able to complete the three main campaigns in my 5-day rental with a combination of easiest and normal difficulties so I have a good amount to go on. So to what extent did I enjoy this game? Hopefully I’m not too long-winded since there are quite a few things I have to say to make my opinion clear.

First off, this game has three campaigns with three different pairs of people to choose from, each starting with their own story but connecting towards the end. The pairs: Leon Kennedy and Helena Harper, search for a mysterious cathedral with a hidden secret; Chris Redfield and Piers Nivans, BSAA agents protecting the world from bio-terrorism; and Jake Muller and Sherry Birkin, a mysterious young man with antibodies that can cure the C-virus and his government appointed security escort. I played with the main characters (Leon, Chris, and Jake) and they all controlled the same for the most part. They get some different weapons at different times and Jake seems more suited for hand-to-hand combat, but otherwise no big differences.

I guess I’ll start off with what I didn’t like about this game. First, since the action is viewed over-the-shoulder of your player, you lack a great amount of peripheral vision when it comes to enemies. While I do concede it makes you keep your head on a swivel, sometimes the giant enemy in front of you takes precedence over the underlings in the room, causing you to be comboed mercilessly by multiple enemies. Second, quick-time events are plentiful in this game, leading to numerous instant-death scenarios. The amount of times I died from enemies during combat was probably around 2%, with the other 98% going to instant-death. Third, on normal difficulty, it takes a lot of bullets to bring the infected down, even if you’re shooting them in the head. Unless I got a critical hit and their head explodes, I would use at least 4 bullets on one enemy depending on the gun I used. This caused me to have a scarce amount of ammo at dire times. The last two points together led to probably the most frustrating segment of gaming I have faced in some time.

In a chapter with Jake, I had one death going into the final segment of the chapter. I had no ammo in my pistol when the final cutscene played, a quick-time event where I had to shoot an explosive tank while sliding down the back of a plane towards this hulking monster. The game was nice enough to give me a box of ammo before sliding down, but the problem was I had my magnum equipped. So in the span of about 5 seconds, I had to pick up the ammo, switch to my pistol, reload, then aim and shoot the tank. But attempts to reload were fruitless as my character would not complete the animation for whatever reason. Having only 3 seconds to give myself time to aim and shoot, I proceeded to die over and over again a total of 13 times. Sorry for the long rant but it had to be recorded as the low point of my experience (along with another chapter for Jake where I was trapped in a snowstorm, not able to see 2 feet in front of me.) Yeah, that’s what I want in my shooter, half a chapter of blindness.

For the few gripes I had, there were reasons I kept turning on my 360 and continuing the stories. While this game makes no attempt to scare its players, there are plenty of tense moments throughout and the fire-fights are hectic and action-packed, for better or worse. There’s not a whole lot better in this game than getting headshots on the infected. Once, with an enemy taking cover around a corner, there was just enough of his head showing for me to splatter it across the wall. The game is full of action sequences where enemies keep pouring in or bosses just won’t go down, making me feel like I was watching and playing an action movie at the same time. Another thing I really liked was the cutscenes. I felt like the voice acting did a great job at displaying various emotions and the language felt appropriate for the situation the characters were in.

While I feel I’ve explained enough, overall the game was a mixed bag for me. The amount of instant-deaths I had to suffer through ended up annoying me more than angering me (especially in Jake’s campaign) while the fun gameplay kept bringing me back for more. There is a ton of content in this game that I didn’t even get to (some of it being online); with three campaigns with five chapters each, four difficulty settings, and two characters in each campaign, you can essentially play through each campaign a total of forty times in order to medal in every difficulty. The ability to buy skills gives you incentives to replay levels and farm for skill points or just to try to get trophies/achievements. I wish I could have played co-op with one of my brothers as that probably would have made the game more fun. Overall, RE6 was another step away from its roots, but still a fun time for a 5-day rental or a cheap buy.

Final Score: 3/5

Justice League: Doom (2012) Review

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Yet another superhero entry for my blog! I used to always watch the old Super Friends cartoons with my brother Mike and that continued into the newer Justice League series (2001-2006) that introduced me to Martian Manhunter. Superhero team-ups tend to lead to a variety of possibilities; what villains will they fight, what plans must they thwart, how will they work together? Even though I’m more partial to Marvel, the DC comics heroes always tended to draw my attention when it came to cartoons.

Justice League: Doom is a recent film in the same vein as the cartoons I enjoyed, with most of the same voice actors lending their voices to their respective heroes from the 2006 Justice League cartoon. Kevin Conroy as Batman, as always, does an excellent job, Carl Lumbly as J’onn J’onzz a.k.a. Martian Manhunter, was instantly recognizable to me due to his tone of voice, and Susan Eisenberg and Michael Rosenbaum return as Wonder Woman and The Flash. Tim Daly as Superman wasn’t a change since he did Supes’ voice in the ’96-’00 cartoon series, but hearing Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan a.k.a. Green Lantern was awesome. He has that commanding tone of voice but also has a sense of humor that made me really happy. Cyborg (voice actor Bumper Robinson) also plays a role in the film, but I was sad to find that it wasn’t the same voice actor as the Teen Titans series and Injustice: Gods Among Us.

So enough about voice acting, what’s this movie about? To put it shortly, Vandal Savage, an immortal who has lived since prehistoric times due to a meteorite’s radiation, bands together one villain from each of the Leaguer’s respective stories. He then devises a plan in order to get rid of each of the heroes, allowing a far more fiendish plan to unfold. And man, what a plan he concocts. I won’t spoil it here but it’s pretty gruesome what Savage thinks up. The movie is filled with plenty of one-liners and cool super-powered action scenes, making me pine for a re-watching of the Justice League cartoon series. I was somewhat disappointed by the choice of villains (really, The Mirror Master as Flash’s enemy?), but really, each villain plays a vital role and the plot of the movie validates the creators’ choices so I can’t complain. I feel like this is a great watch for super hero fans as it captures the essence of the cartoons, while also providing some tense moments when you’re not sure how the Leaguers will save the day. At only about 70-75 minutes long, it’s an easy watch that should keep you entertained throughout.

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition (2010) Review

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I recently played through The Secret of Monkey Island with my friend Zach though it took me about a week or so to feel like writing the review. Adventure games like this one are not my favorite. You basically point and click on anything you can in order to find useful items that progress the story. You also talk to everyone you can as that’s the only way you can unlock key items. It’s a taxing process, requiring backtracking, roaming, and overall confusion at times.

So why would I put myself through all that? Besides for our usual trophy hunt on Zach’s PS3 profile, the game continues to provide laughs and fun throughout the entirety of the game. SOMI: Special Edition, was released on Xbox 360, PC, MAC, and PS3, as well as iPhone and iPad versions, in 2010. Originally released in 1990, the special edition features improved visuals that are really impressive and voice acting which just improves the jokes since you’re not just reading them. Ron Gilbert (who developed the previously reviewed The Cave), designed and co-wrote the game with Tim Schafer, and it’s clear these men’s knack for delivering comedy in their games.

You control Guybrush Threepwood in his quest to become a pirate. He goes to MêléeIsland and has to procure a sword, a lost treasure, and an idol before any of the other pirates take him seriously. One of the best parts of the game is when you have to defeat the Sword Master but before that happens, you have to fight other pirates in order to improve. But you don’t cross blades however; while they do tussle a little with swords, the true fight is with insults. The insults you hurl are some of the funniest (or at least, most clever) jokes in the game and it had me rolling more than once.

The game may take awhile in your first play-through (at least 10 hours) but I recommend the game even while giving it a lower score. Secret of Monkey Island is just too funny to pass up and I’m sure I’ll be playing at least one of its sequels soon.

Final Score: 3.5/5

The Wolverine (2013) Review

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Every year, I always try to see a movie around my birthday. Since I didn’t really have the time to go on my actual birthday, I went this weekend to see The Wolverine. First and foremost, whereas Spider-Man is my favorite Marvel superhero (if not of all superheroes), Wolverine has always been my favorite X-Man. I like to separate X-Men due to the large number of mutants that I like. In any case, after a disappointing film in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this latest entry into the franchise is a welcome addition in my opinion.

Where Origins failed was in its delivery of all the mutants they decided to force into the movie. Many of them were uninteresting or just plain dumb, especially the usually awesome Gambit and Deadpool. The Wolverine focuses solely on Logan and his chance to become mortal; this isn’t a spoiler in my opinion, it’s said outright in the trailer. Hugh Jackman continues to impress in the role… he’s mean, he’s surly, he cracks jokes at the expense of others, and he kicks ass. Fight scenes were pretty standard fare but the charisma of Jackman always kept me interested. There was one cool scene where Wolverine fought someone atop a bullet train in Japan. I turned to my friend Zach and said “I question the physics of this scene” to which he replied, “The guy has claws in his hands.” I laughed heartily inside myself at that joke so I wanted to share it.

One thing I didn’t like about the movie was one of the villains, Viper. The choice was odd in of itself but the acting was just so cartoony compared to everyone else in the movie it just didn’t sit right with me. On the other hand, the main villain (in my opinion) was much cooler. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll just end with the fact this movie is worth a watch… It’s a movie you should be able to sink your claws into.

Three-Game Review!!

  Valve Corporation’s Steam software has distributed lots of games in its lifetime (surprisingly since 2003!). I had only heard of it since last year sometime but I’ve collected a small amount of games to play on it. And for those of you that don’t know, Steam has an annual summer sale that takes a chunk of the cost off of many of its games, sometimes up to 90% off! I took advantage of this last year but sadly I didn’t really have the money to do it this summer. Fortunately, I have an awesome brother who got me a couple games as a birthday present (it’s this coming Sunday, the 21st). In addition to the two games, I would be amiss if I didn’t talk about one of my favorite games on Steam so it will be a little bonus at the end. They all have a commonality in that they are all violent and full of blood to varying degrees and styles. Unlike my other game reviews I won’t be giving an actual score (a predicted score, maybe) since it wouldn’t be fair to rate the two games I haven’t yet completed.

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Hotline Miami

Hotline Miami is a chaotic, fast-paced top-down shooter where the action is bloody and one hit means you’re a dead man. The game is published by Devolver Digital (the Serious Sam series) and it’s easy to see some similarities between the two games; Lots of enemies, lots of weapons, lots of death. I have played only a few levels of this game and I can say for certain it is a challenging game. Like I mentioned before, one hit means you’re dead and your foes are armed to the teeth with baseball bats, rifles, shotguns, and their bare mitts. Of course, all those weapons are at your disposal as well but you stand alone. The story starts out cryptically so it’s hard to guess what’s going on… you receive a phone call, you drive to the enemy’s base and you kill everyone. Pretty basic stuff. Your character also has the ability to don a number of rubber masks that give him different abilities. Though you WILL die a lot, you shouldn’t be discouraged from playing this game. The checkpoint system and lack of load times between deaths keeps you in the action and the music in the game is so good you’ll want to keep playing just to listen. I was only a little frustrated as sometimes I didn’t know the best way to tackle a floor of enemies. With time and practice, I’m sure Hotline Miami is a bloody good time.

Predicted Score: 4/5

Steam Summer Sale Price: $5, usually $10

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Mark of the Ninja

Unlike Hotline Miami’s guns-a-blazing style of action, Mark of the Ninja is a side-scrolling stealth action game developed by Klei Entertainment, who also developed the new game Don’t Starve. Apparently that game is very good too. Anyway, you take the role of a nameless ninja in this game as you sneak your way past, or through, lots of guards and traps. I have only played two levels of this and with the small amount of time playing it, I think I like it much more than Miami. While the controls take some getting used to (you use a keyboard and mouse to do everything and the button mapping seems too crammed), it is so rewarding to use the skills you have to take down guard after guard. You’re rewarded for distracting guards then finishing them off with your sword, but it also helps to stay completely invisible throughout the stage as you get a large chunk of points. So far, the stages have contained three optional objectives, three scrolls, and three point milestones to complete. Completing any of these earns a seal and you use those to upgrade your arsenal. In one stage I missed a scroll, but was happy to see after completing that level and returning to grab it, I didn’t need to do any of the optional objectives again. This helps in 100% completing the game as you don’t need to be perfect through every run of a level.

Where this game blew me away initially was its visual style. It reminds me of a cross between Okami and Samurai Jack; thick brushstrokes and beautiful colors encompass the entire game, creating what other reviewers called a “Saturday morning cartoon” style. Even in the shadows, the ninja’s designs are impressive as the blacks and whites keep the character from becoming invisible to you as well as the NPC’s. This is definitely a must play for fans of the stealth action genre and very recommended for anybody else.

Predicted Score: 4/5

Steam Summer Sale Price: $7.49, usually $15

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The Binding of Isaac (Wrath of the Lamb DLC)

Now this game I didn’t buy during the Steam Summer Sale last year. In fact, I didn’t purchase it at all. I received it as a gift from a speedrunner’s marathon by correctly answering a trivia question before others in the chat room. Boy, was I glad I decided to choose this game from everything out there. While I was writing this and checking the price, I noticed a flash sale going on for this game and its DLC, but by the time I post it, the sale will be gone. However, at $4.99 for the game and $2.99 for its DLC, The Binding of Isaac is truly a bargain.

BOI is a randomized, dungeon-crawler game where each time you play is a completely new experience. When you begin, you only have control of Isaac, who retreats into his basement to get away from his Mom whom wants to kill him (since God told her so). When you complete a level, you retreat further down into the depths of the earth where you face new monsters, find new items, and face new challenges. There are hundreds of items to collect and all have different uses, allowing you to build a different Isaac (or one of the six unlockable characters) every time. Sometimes items are detrimental, sometimes items can provide benefits with each other, making Isaac super strong. I should mention that Isaac’s form of attacking comes through his tears, which can be altered with many of the items. One of my personal favorites is a combination of Polyphemus and Chocolate Milk. Polyphemus gives Isaac one large Cyclops eye in exchange for two, producing much bigger tears, while Chocolate Milk allows you to charge the tears (like Mega Man’s Mega Buster if you will), making them even bigger and stronger. There were times where bosses fell in just a few hits to the chocolately salty goodness… you know since tears are salty…. Anyway, the game provides hours upon hours of gameplay (I have 101 hours on mine), as the game becomes increasingly challenging and several optional challenges can be tried as well. I could talk about many aspects of the game (the differences between characters, the varying enemies, the ferocious bosses) but this is truly a game where spending some time with it makes you appreciate it more and more. Definitely a must-own and of the utmost recommendation.

P.S., it was made by Edmund McMillen, same guy who created Super Meat Boy. Just another reason ;).

Final Score: 5/5

Quick update before bed

Hey everyone, I know I haven’t posted in awhile. I haven’t had time to watch movies since I work 5 days a week now (which I’m grateful for of course). But in order to redeem myself, I have planned a special review that I’ll hopefully have up soon (hopefully tomorrow if not Friday!) 

Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault (2012) Review

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One of my favorite series of games for the Playstation 2 was Ratchet and Clank, created by Insomniac Games, creators of the early Spyro the Dragon games and Resistance series. For the uninitiated, Ratchet, a fox-like creature called a Lombax and his robot assistant Clank literally team up (Ratchet wears Clank like a backpack to utilize his helicopter and jetpack abilities) to foil the plans of various villains and turncoat heroes across various galaxies across both the PS2 and PS3 consoles. The games feature a wide selection of unique weapons; Ratchet himself carries the Omniwrench (looks just like a wrench) for bashing purposes but is also outfitted with weapons like the Plasma Whip (a whip of energy that takes out multiple foes in a line), the Sheepinator (turns enemies into sheep), and one of my personal favorites, the Sonic Eruptor (a frog-like creature as the barrel belches sonic waves that works best like a shotgun). The games feature comedic scripts that always had me laughing and frenetic run-and-gun action that causes total chaos.

While the series is made up mostly of pure platforming games, Full Frontal Assault (FFA) is one part platformer, three parts tower defense style gameplay. While reviews for this game upon its release made me think there was little running and shooting you could do, it’s still the basis for movement and everything that makes it feel like Ratchet and Clank. You take down enemies and earn bolts (currency) to buy turrets, barriers, and mines to help protect your base against waves of enemies after fulfilling certain objectives. In the short time I watched my friend Zach play the campaign, there was little story to be had and he echoed my thoughts about that. However, when I joined in the fun with split-screen co-op, the game excels. After frantically defending his base alone against countless enemies, splitting up and defending both sides at once made the game much easier and a lot more fun. Rarely did we have any problem preventing the fiends from entering our domain and we just laughed as we watched our defenses tear away at the approaching enemies.

One time in particular placed us on a small platform in order to defend something from being destroyed. Outfitted with Doppelbangers (stationary Ratchet-like robots that fire laser guns), Thundersmacks (a rod that creates lightning bolts for a limited time), close to ten rocket turrets and the Groovitron (a disco ball that makes the enemies dance), we sat back and watched wave after wave disappear before they even fired a shot and we never fired a single one ourselves. We destroyed the waves so quickly that no more spawned with twenty seconds left to wait for completion of the level. We just burst out laughing at the chaos that was barely visible through the rockets and clouds of debris and lightning.

FFA was a small detour from the greatness of the main games but for only spending a couple hours playing I saw the entire game. It was a fun time; the great action-based gameplay was still apparent and satisfying. However, the lack of story and only small amount of comedy showed that the title stands far below the usual fare. This title shows that “size matters” and I’d much rather spend a longer time completing Tools of Destruction in order to get my fix of carnage.

Score: 3/5

The Cave (2013) VG Review

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Finally another video game review. It’s tougher to review new gaming experiences since it’s harder to finish or play enough of a game in order to review it. Thankfully, my friend and I played through The Cave, a puzzle platforming game for PSN, XBLA, Wii U and PC. The Cave was developed by Double Fine Productions, the comedic and talented minds behind Psychonauts and Brütal Legend. Ron Gilbert, the director of the adventure games of the Monkey Island series, created this game and clocking in at around 2-3 hours or less, The Cave was fantastic to play multiple times.

The Cave centers its story around seven spelunkers: the knight, the adventurer, the time traveler, the hillbilly, the scientist, the twins, and the monk. Each character possesses a unique ability and all have their own story of revenge, greed, or evil that develops through their playthroughs. When playing this game, you choose three characters at a time and take a tour through the cave. The landscape changes depending on the spelunkers you choose and each character must traverse a character-specific level as well as three general levels. Where this game shines is in its comedic delivery as the cave itself narrates the happenings as you progress in its deep disembodied voice.

In gaining all 20 trophies, we beat the game six times (seven including a glitch that made a trophy impossible to achieve). After playing through with each character, it was easy to beat the game in less than 2 hours as the puzzles don’t change game to game. By the end of this though, I was getting quite sick of the game trying to beat it without dying. Thankfully, saving and quitting was allowed in case you died so we didn’t need to complete the game perfectly. It should be noted that there’s no health, just death. You fall from too high, you’re dead… you jump into spikes, you’re dead… a monster breathes fire on you… yeah. Like Psychonauts too, the way the characters move was floaty which sometimes led to accidental falls, increasing the frustration. I enjoyed this game immensely but I can’t see casual players playing more than two or three times if they just want to see each character’s level. For such a short game, it’s pretty easy especially when dying doesn’t matter and you can have some fun times through the story. The experience is far from dark and murky, but a bright and fun time that should be played with friends.

Final score: 4.5/5

P.S. If you play this game, I suggest playing through with the hillbilly, time traveler, and twins as their stories bring the most laughs.

The Tuxedo (2002) Review

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Since I chose a good movie to borrow from my friend, I decided I would also choose a bad one as well. I’m not against watching bad movies, especially with friends when everyone can crack jokes at it. The Tuxedo definitely classifies as a “bad” movie but it had some fun parts about it.

First, I must mention the first minute of the movie as it made me utterly slack-jawed like, “Why?!” The opening credits play with scenes of wildlife and natural landmarks like waterfalls, rivers and trees, all while serene, beautiful music is playing. Then a deer walks into a river… then it zooms in on the rear of the beast… then it urinates into the river. Like, a lot. It then shows the urine traveling through the river through the filtering system of a purified water plant. A minute into the movie I didn’t know that this was setting up the whole plot but I was still like, “This is going to be awful isn’t it?”

Jackie Chan is Jimmy Tong, a taxi driver turned chauffer who inherits a high-tech tuxedo that can do all sorts of crazy things. Jennifer Love Hewitt is also in this and she adds the smart girl, first-timer cliché that Dredd also utilized much better. Chan and Hewitt team up to find out the plans of Dietrich Banning, played by Ritchie Coster (The Dark Knight). His plan? With the help of his assistant Dr. Simms, played by Peter Stormare (Fargo, Bad Boys II), they inject bacteria into water that causes dehydration. Pretty cruel, but a unique plot.

The action scenes in this movie are what make this not terrible. It’s always fun to see the martial arts Jackie Chan throws into his movies and he doesn’t disappoint here. While the hand-to-hand combat is cool, it is also “waterlogged” by obvious wire work and fast-forwarded movements. Also, Chan continuously looks puzzled by his actions while wearing the tux. At some point, he has to know it is capable of a lot! Most of the movie revolves around Chan living a lie as Clark Devlin, played by Jason Issacs (Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films) from whom he received the suit. This reminded me a lot of Bad Boys when Martin Lawrence kept pretending he was Will Smith. I was so over this plot point after that movie that I didn’t care that Hewitt was confused the whole time.

Yes, it was bad. Yes, it had some fun action scenes. But the movie was mostly boring and predictable with sub-par acting and dialogue from everyone. Like the only tuxedo I’ve ever worn, this movie should only be a rental or avoided altogether.

Rushmore (1998) Review

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For a few weeks, I was borrowing movies from a friend of mine since I didn’t have Internet in my house and needed something to pass the time. But as of Thursday, I have a connection and it’s great to be able to check my blog and I’ll be able to post blogs right after I write them. After watching the Bad Boys movies and two seasons of Arrested Development, I decided to try a movie I’ve heard of before but had no idea what it was about. That movie was Rushmore, a weird but charming film directed and co-written by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson. Yes, that Owen Wilson. The two seem to work together often. I have only seen one movie by Anderson, that being Fantastic Mr. Fox, but I have heard from my brothers that he has a certain style in his films. I’m not sure what it is but I enjoyed this film a lot.

Rushmore is a story about Max Fischer, played by Jason Schwartzman (Scott Pilgrim, Moonrise Kingdom), a 10th grader at prestigious Rushmore Academy, who is anything but a boy. Fischer is more of an adult than the other kids; he knows how to get things done, he speaks like an intellectual, not to mention his taste in women. The woman in mind is 1st grade teacher, Ms. Cross, played by Olivia Williams (Sixth Sense) and they end up having a complicated relationship since she likes Max’s adult friend Herman Blume played by Bill Murray. What I enjoyed about Max is even though he acts older than he is, there are scenes where he actually looks like a child. One scene in particular is when he is scolded by the dean of the academy. The viewer can’t hear anything, but when Max is shown his eyes are red from crying and it’s funny to see this side of him.

The movie revolves around the relationship of Max, Herman, and Ms. Cross, a sordid love triangle (or lack thereof) that affects the friendship of the two men. Therein lies the oddity of this film in that Max doesn’t take “no” for an answer from Ms. Cross and he continues to pursue her throughout the film. It’s definitely an interesting story and much different than what I’m used to. After seeing this, I’d love to see Anderson’s other films and catch similarities. Rushmore is an odd, delightful film that I recommend you see even if it doesn’t seem like a movie you’d like. You may be surprised just as I was.