Monthly Archives: November 2009

Michael Jackson’s This Is It DVD Due on January 26th, 2010

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced 1-disc DVD ($28.96) and 1-disc Blu-ray ($39.95) releases of This Is It for the 26th January. Extras will include a Staging the Return: The Adventure Begins Making-of Documentary, a Staging the Return: Beyond the Show Making-of Documentary, featurettes (“The Gloved One – Costumes”, “Memories of Michael”, “Auditions: Searching for the World’s Best Dancers”), and the theatrical trailer. The Blu-ray release will include all that, plus a Smooth Criminal Vignette starring Michael Jackson which was to be shown before the performance of “Smooth Criminal” at the This Is It concert, a “Thriller” Vignette which was to be shown during the performance of “Thriller” at the This Is It concert, and a Making ‘Smooth Criminal’ featurette.

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New Game Releases For Nov. 30th – Dec. 4th

It’s a really bad week for games unless you like licensed movie titles… which are usually crap.  Normally the more platforms a movie game is released for, the worse it is.  It does not bode well that James Cameron’s Avatar is being released over five platforms this week.  I wont pass judgment… yet… but I think it’s pretty safe to say that if I have to play a game set on a planet named Pandora, my time would be better spent on Borderlands.

Then again there’s always Rogue Warrior, the one-time action novel-turned true life game about Navy SEALS.  It stars the most bad-ass seal of the bunch, Dick Marcinko.  Wait–.who?   Ok, I guess Hollywood isn’t the only industry to have officially run out of ideas.

The full count for releases this week is 39, but for games you’d actually want to buy, check out our Holiday Guide HERE.

Monday (Nov. 30)
bittos+ (Wii)
Copter Crisis (Wii)
Empire Deluxe (DS)
FishIsle (PC)
Frogger Returns (PS3)
GREED (PC)
Heileen 2: The Hands of Fate (PC)
Las Vegas Casino Party (Wii)
Martial Arts: Capoeira Fighters (PS2, PSP)
Playmobil 2 Pack (PC)
Puzzle Chronicles (PC)
Puzzle Chronicles (PS3, 360)
Reader Rabbit Kindergarten (DS, Wii)
Rogue Trooper: Quartz Zone Massacre (Wii)
Strike Force Red Cell (PC)
World of Zoo (DS, PC)
Yoga for Wii (Wii)

Tuesday (Dec. 1)
7 Wonders II (DS)
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (DS, Wii)
DiRT 2 (PC)
Elven Legacy: Magic (PC)
Hair Salon (DS)
James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game (DS, PC, PS3, Wii, 360)
La-Mulana (Wii)
Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes (DS)
MX vs. ATV Reflex (DS, PS3, PSP, 360)
Rec Room Games (Wii)
Rogue Warrior (PC, PS3, 360)
Storybook Workshop (Wii)
th!nk Logic Trainer (DS, Wii)
th!nk Logic Trainer: Kids (DS)
The Lord of the Rings Online: Siege of Mirkwood (PC)
The Seventh Dragon (PC)

Wednesday (Dec. 2)
Dragon Master (DS)

Thursday (Dec. 3)
Dreamer: Zoo Keeper (DS)
Learn Science (DS)
Safecracker: The Ultimate Puzzle Adventure (DS)

Friday (Dec. 4)
Can You See What I See? Dream Machine (PC)
Zombie Driver (PC)

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The Safety 1st Complete Air Convertible Car Seat

The Safety 1st Complete Air Convertible Car Seat with Air Protect Side Impact Technology is perfect for infants rear-facing from 5-40 lbs. and 19″-40″ and toddlers forward-facing from 22-50 lbs. and 34″-45″.

Safety 1st engineers designed Air Protect using next generation testing methods that simulate the most violent types of side impact crashes, those with vehicle intrusion. Using this advanced methodology, Air Protect was engineered to defend your child in two vital ways. During a crash, the system immediately shields your child’s head from the impact. In a second layer of defense, Air Protect allows air to escape from the headrest: channeling crash energy away from your child, creating more ride down time. It is this double layer of protection that makes Air Protect technology unique.

Features:

  • Air Protect Revolutionary Side Impact Technology: Breakthrough system shields head and immediately reduces side impact forces through the precise release of air.
  • QuickFit Harness System adjusts harness height from the front in one easy step without uninstalling from the car.
  • Harness accommodates children up to 50 lbs.
  • One Click LATCH installation system allows for faster and easier installation when moving between vehicles.
  • 5-position adjustable headrest easily accommodates your growing child.
  • Removable cup holder.
  • Styles: McKenna (Black/Grey), Harvest (Brown/Orange)
  • MSRP $249.99 at Babies”R”Us

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2009 Xbox 360 Holiday Buying Guide

Since games are a pretty recent edition to the Fire Wire, there are probably a few of you out there who are curious abut jumping in but don’t really know where to start.  Here’s a quick and easy guide holiday guide to the Xbox 360 that should get you up and running if you’re on the fence about buying a video game system.  The Xbox 360 really is a good place to start because it offers so much more of a variety– not just in terms of the games but also in terms of what kind of system you should buy– depending on the type of gamer you want to be.  If you’re not shopping for a system this season, but you do have gamers on your Christmas list, the games section of this guide should help.

Console

If you’re planning on buying an Xbox 360, there are a couple things you need to know. There are two standard versions of the Xbox 360 as well as some limited edition machines:

Xbox 360 Arcade: The Arcade version currently sells for a suggested price of $199.99.  It includes a white Xbox 360, standard component cables, a wireless controller, and a 512MB memory card.  It does not include a hard drive which is necessary if you want to save large file games, music, media, or access downloadable content (DLC) online.

Xbox 360 Elite: Priced at $299.99, the Elite comes with a stylish black Xbox 360, a wireless controller, component cables, a headset, and a 120 GB hard drive.

Limited Editions:  From time to time, special versions are of the system are offered to coincide with a big game release or the holidays.  This year we have the Modern Warfare 2 Xbox 360 Bundle.  It comes with the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 game, a unique paint job, and boasts a whopping 250 GB hard drive.  Unfortunately it also boasts a whopping $399.99 price tag.

Recommendation :  The Elite may cost $100 more but it’s definitely worth the price.  The hard drive is worth its weight in gold.  With the recent addition of Games On Demand to the Xbox Live (online) Marketplace, it allows you to purchase and store full Xbox 360 game titles and downloadable add-ons on your system.

Optional Items

HDMI Cable: If you’ve purchased an HDTV in the last three years it should have at least one HDMI port somewhere on it.  An HDMI cable allows for the easiest system set-up and provides the best possible visual and audio fidelity.

Wireless Network Adapter: This fits on the back of your Xbox 360 and is the only way to get online wirelessly.  It costs an additional $99.99.  Damn your eyes, Microsoft.

Xbox Live Gold: Microsoft’s Gold service is your ticket to Xbox’s virtual on-line playground.  Compete head-to-head with your friends or settle in for a friendly co-op romp.  Friend tracking, the ability to stream NetFlix instantly, and upcoming Facebook and Twitter support make this little goodie worth it’s weight in… ahem… please don’t make me say it.  One year of service costs $49.99.

Microsoft Points: Virtual money or space bucks as they are sometimes referred to.  They can be purchased online directly through the console via credit card or as gift cards at the brick and mortar shops.  Spend your space bucks on downloadable content ranging from full games, game add-ons, desktop themes, and movie rentals.

Play and Charge Kit: Rechargeable battery and cable that plugs into your system.  When your batteries die, it charges your controller while you are playing.  Another great accessory to have as it saves you money in the long run by not having to keep feeding AA’s to your controller.

BEST GAMES OF 2009

The business side of things is done, so let’s get on to the fun stuff.  Ok, you’ve got your machine all set up.  Now what?  2009 has seen some incredibly fun and impressive looking games.  Want to know which one is best for you?  Here you go:

Assassin’s Creed II

Publisher: Ubisoft

Genre: Action

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

ESRB: Mature

Ubisoft’s second entry in the Assassin’s Creed series transports the action to Italy. The The sequel has more weapons, prettier locales, and a whole lot ways to kill. You take the role of Ezio as he leaps and sneaks across Florence, Venice, and other gorgeous Italian cities to take out his targets.  Being a master assassin was pretty cool the first time around, but this game blows it out of the water as the new hero can swim, wield dual blades, and change clothing to blend in with the locals.  All this and the fact that Leonardo Da Vinci builds your weapons, Dante Alighieri was your great grandfather, and Lorenzo DeMedici is counting on you to save his ass.  Oh, and by the way, you’re really in the future.  Historical fiction/sci-fi has never been so much fun.

Buy this if you’re a fan of:  The Da Vinci Code, The Matrix, The Vitruvian Man

<REVIEW LINK>

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Publisher: Eidos Interactive

Genre: Action

Developer: Rocksteady Studios

ESRB: Teen

Behold the greatest comic book game of all time. Batman: Arkham Asylum delivers an intense, adult story featuring the Dark Knight and a handful of his greatest villains as the Batman is forced to spend a night in Arkham Asylum when the Joker locks him in.  It may have taken twenty years, but finally there’s a game about the World’s Greatest Detective where you get to do actual detective work.  And damn is it fun.  Haunting production design and eerie tone, Arkham Asylum is all about mood.  As Batman you’ll engage dozens of enemies at once in hand-to-hand combat, strike from the shadows to instill fear, and use all sorts of cool gadgets to bring down the bad guys.  With two hundred plus Riddler puzzles scattered around Arkham Island, this is an adventure with legs.  There is also set of challenge rooms that will put your sneaking and fighting skills to the test.  With an original script penned by Emmy Award-winning Batman writer Paul Dini, the game brings the universe of DC Comics’ detective to life.  Not to mention Mark Hammil is on top of his game starring as the voice of the Joker.   Fans of the animated series, if you’re anything like me in thinking that Kevin Conroy is the ONLY Batman, then this one is for you.

Buy this if you are a fan of: The Dark Knight, Sherlock Holmes, BioShock

The Beatles: Rock Band

Publisher: MTV Games

Genre: Music

Developer: Harmonix

ESRB: Teen

A videogame worthy of the greatest band of all time, The Beatles: Rock Band offers everything a fan could want.  The game comes with 45 of their biggest hits and follows the Fab Four from their early days at The Cavern Club and ends with a jam session on the roof of Apple Corps.  What makes this music game truly special — aside from starring The Beatles — is a series of magical dreamscapes, which play in the background when performing songs from the group’s studio days.  This is the ultimate interactive companion piece to your Beatles collection.  A must own for anyone who loves The Beatles.

Borderlands

Publisher: 2K Games

Genre: Shooter

Developer: Gearbox

ESRB: Mature

At the edge of the galaxy lies Pandora, a planet that was reported to be rich in untapped mineral wealth.  It drew many hoping to get rich quick, but in the end little was found beyond the scattered wasteland ruins of a past alien civilization. All soon abandoned Pandora, leaving those who remained to deal with the lawlessness of a world gone bust and the mystery of the long-dead alien civilization.  As chaotic as these times were, worse days were yet to come.  After several years, the planet’s huge orbit slowly brought it closer to its sun and horrifying creatures sprang from long hibernation to terrify those left behind.  Now, the only hope for the colonists seems to be a vault discovered in the side of a mountainside, rumored to contain alien weapon technology.  It may spell hope for the survivors of Pandora… if they can find it.  Borderlands features several playable characters each with distinct abilities and skills that can be leveled up to improve attributes like health, accuracy with weapons and capacity for items.  The game is a first person shooter with a MMORPG skeleton.  Playing with three other people will result in one of the most bullet-riddled, loot-huntin, creature-slaying fun times to be had all year.

Buy this if you’re a fan of:  The Mad Max series, Diablo, and guns

<REVIEW LINK>

Brutal Legend

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Genre: Action

Developer: Double Fine

ESRB: Mature

The vivid and wildly creative world of Brütal Legend is brought to life through a spate of chrome, leather, rocker babes, epic music, fire-breathing/stud-wearing beasts, mountains made of guitar amps, and more. Follow roadie Eddie Riggs as he embarks on a tour of epic destruction with an axe, a guitar, and the power of rock.  It’s lighter-flicking awesomeness that will melt your face clean off. Walk, drive, or fly anywhere in a fully open world whose art style is inspired by the most iconic metal album covers ever.  Every vista in Brütal Legend looks like it was pulled from a Frank Frazetta painting.

Buy this if you’re a fan of: Tenacious D, Spinal Tap, real heavy metal

<REVIEW LINK>

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Publisher: Activision

Genre: Shooter

Developer: Infinity Ward

ESRB: Mature

Easily the most anticipated game of the year, Activision’s sequel to Call of Duty 4 boasts an even more robust online experience, an all-new Special Ops mode for two player co-op, and a cinematic single player campaign that makes the latest Bruckheimer movie feel like a McDonald’s PlayPlace.  Developer Infinity Ward has once again raised the bar on  first-person shooters. If you’re a fan of high octane action, you owe it to yourself to experience this incredible package. You won’t be disappointed.

Buy this if you’re a fan of: Michael Bay, Black Hawk Down, The Rock, 24, Generation Kill, Red Dawn

<REVIEW LINK>

Dragon Age: Origins

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Genre: Role Playing Action/Adventure

Developer: Bioware

ESRB: Mature

Dragon Age: Origins is an RPG based in a dark, heroic, fantasy realm where moral choices have a lasting impression on the people you meet, the members of your own party and the world around you.  The survival of humanity rests in the hands of those chosen by fate. You are a Grey Warden, the last of an ancient order who have defended the lands on the continent of Thedas throughout the centuries. Betrayed by a trusted general in a critical battle, you must hunt down the traitor and bring him to justice.  As you fight your way towards the final confrontation with an evil nemesis, you will face monstrous foes and engage in epic quests to unite the disparate peoples of a world at war. A romance with a seductive shapeshifter may hold the key to victory, or she may be a dangerous diversion from the heart of your mission.  To be a leader, you must make ruthless decisions and be willing to sacrifice your friends and loved ones for the greater good.

DA: Origins features six unique stories available to new heroes as a new game begins. Each of these has an impact on the player’s motivations and his or her experience, and renders a unique prelude, path, and possible ending(s) to the game.

Buy this if you’re a fan of: The Lord of the Rings series and Dungeons & Dragons

Forza Motorsport 3

Publisher: Microsoft

Genre: Racing

Developer: Turn 10 Studios

ESRB: Everyone

Forza 3 is the preeminent racing game of the year.  Live the most realistic racing experience ever as you take the wheel of more than 400 of the most-beloved cars on over 100 renowned real-world tracks and exotic road courses from around the globe. Designed to be played and enjoyed by gamers of all skill levels, Forza 3 delivers a fun and engrossing racing experience for the entire family. With breathtaking high-definition graphics and the most advanced vehicle performance modeling in a video game, Forza Motorsport 3 includes a host of driving assists and adjustable skill levels to make the game a gripping pick-up-and-play experience for anyone.

Buy this if you’re a fan of: driving expense cars you will never be able to afford.

Halo 3: ODST

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Genre: Shooter

Developer: Bungie Software

ESRB: Mature

This isn’t your ordinary Halo game.   In it, you play as a team of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers who answer the call to arms in a battle for Earth’s mega-city, New Mombassa. It’s dark, brooding, and action packed.  A very fresh approach to a Halo game, ODST thrusts you square in the middle of a battle where there is no Master Chief to save your ass when the thunder comes down.  Now I know you’re all probably saying, “A Halo game?!  With no Master Chief?!  C’mon!”  But take my word for it, the first time you face a Brute or Elite with the knowledge that you’re not a superhuman, it changes the way you’ve approached Halo games over the last few years and makes the experience a hell of a lot deeper.  Couple this with the fact that the new campaign chapter predates the events that unfold in Halo 3, giving players a new perspective through the eyes of a new hero in the Halo universe, and it makes for a very fresh take on a familiar game.  Halo 3: ODST packs in a brand new six hour campaign, a four-player co-op mode called Firefight, and every single Halo 3 multiplayer map ever created.

Buy this is you’re a fan of:  Aliens, District 9, Star Trek, James Cameron’s Avatar

Left 4 Dead 2

Publisher: Electronic Arts/Valve

Genre: Shooter

Developer: Valve

ESRB: Mature

Down in the bayou of Louisiana, all hell has broken loose in this second entry of the multiplayer zombie-fest.  As the sequel to one of the most distinctive multiplayer shooters of the modern era, the concept is simple: team up with four others and stay alive.  Run through stages and slaughter the undead as you ride out the zombie apocalypse from a first-person perspective.  With new enemies, new weapons, new stages, new characters, Left 4 Dead 2 tops the original in every way.  It’s a horror fan’s dream come to life.

Buy this if you’re a fan of: World War Z, George Romero, 28 Weeks Later

<REVIEW LINK>

Red Faction: Guerilla

Publisher: THQ

Genre: Action

Developer: Volition

ESRB: Mature

In the year 2075, the Earth Defense Force received a distress signal from a small mining facility on the surface of Mars. A group of rebels calling themselves the Red Faction had overthrown the ruthless Ultor Corporation after years of oppression.  The EDF responded by launching a fleet of warships to Mars to aid the miners, bring Ultor to justice and restore order to the Martian colonies. In order to ensure safety and security for the newly liberated colonists, the EDF set up command posts and bases across the planet.  But what began as liberation quickly turned into another tyrannical oppression as the EDF grew powerful.  And now it’s up to you to lead the revolution and take Mars back from the EDF.  Use destruction to your tactical advantage by setting ambushes or chain reaction explosions to attack enemy strongholds and permanently modify the game environment.  The game’s amazing Geo-Mod technology lets you destroy anything and everything.  Leverage fully-dynamic physics-based destruction to improvise on the fly: blow holes in a wall or floor to set an ambush or escape, take out a staircase to stop your pursuers, or drive vehicles through blown out walls.  Who would’ve ever thought the best weapon to grace an action shooter in the last five years would be a sledgehammer?  The first time you take down a towering smokestack with one, you’ll be a believer too.

Buy this if you’re a fan of: Total Recall, Ray Bradbury, and building demolition

Resident Evil 5

Publisher: Capcom

Genre: Shooter/Survival Horror

Developer: Capcom

ESRB: Mature

This sci-fi survival game is staged in a remote African desert colony packed with hordes of fast-moving, quick-thinking enemies that represent a whole new breed of evil.  Back from the original Resident Evil, former S.T.A.R.S. special-forces team member Chris Redfield is a battle-tested veteran with a reputation for superior marksmanship and phenomenal hand-to-hand combat abilities.  On the ground and up against a new strain of evil, you call his shots from the same over-the-shoulder, third-person viewpoint that distinguished Resident Evil 4 apart from the rest.  Only this time you’ll have the option of playing as his teammate, the fierce and sexy local, Shiva Alomar.  A new cooperative game play element focuses on the realities of a dual-agent mission, highlighting the ways in which Redfield and Alomar must work together to survive the unexpected, while still allowing them to split up and work alone. To help you maximize the potential of this setup, two-player online and offline co-op modes are available through the entire story.

Buy this if you’re a fan of:  District 9, Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later

Shadow Complex

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Genre: Shooter

Developer: Chair Entertainment

ESRB: Teen

Old school gamers rejoice!  Shadow Complex is a modern day throw back to Nintendo classics like Super Metroid or Castlevania. But just because it plays like an old game doesn’t stop Shadow Complex from being one of the best games of the year.  What begins as a normal date in the woods soon turns into a massive adventure through an underground military complex as you scour tunnels for hidden pick-ups, new weapons,  tools, and shortcuts to your ultimate goal: saving the world from total annihilation.  Shadow Complex is set in the universe of Empire, Orson Scott Card’s best-selling novel, and provides a fresh twist on classic side-scroller action.  Gameplay centers around exploration and fast-paced combat as players gather power-ups to overcome obstacles and thwart enemies.  Buyers take note: Shadow Complex can’t be found at your local videogame store. It comes exclusively through the Xbox Live Marketplace in downloadable form.

Buy this if you’re a fan of: Orson Scott Card, Tom Clancy, The Jason Bourne series, NES classics Metroid and Castlevania.

(written by Nick Creature)

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Black Friday Video Game Deals

Attention bargain hunters, here’s a list of some of the better Black Friday game deals and where to find them.  This is not the end-all-be-all list of game deals.  There are some crazy specials currently running on Amazon and New Egg right now, but since they are time-locked deals, by the time you read this they may already be gone.  Nonetheless, we’ve culled a lot of advertisements and compiled a lot of great price cuts for your shopping convenience.

Keep in mind that everything is only available while supplies last, and for particularly cheap or rare items that’s not going to be very long.  Consoles are listed by price, and games are in alphabetical order with price and where you can find them.

Some retailers are holding special sales on days other than Black Friday, so those are listed separately by date or retailer. If you find any other deals you think people should know about, please don’t hesitate to shout out in the comments.

Happy doorbusting from The Fire Wire!

Toys “R” Us Pre-Black Friday Sale (11/22 – 11/26)

  • Buy one, get one half off DS and PSP games
  • Wii, Xbox 360 Arcade with $15 gift card to Wendy’s, Subway, Cold Stone Creamery (in-store only)
  • DS Lite, carrying case, accessories, two pre-selected games ($157.95)
  • Select games bundled with $25 iTunes gift card (in-store only)
  • Beatles: Rock Band software-only ($49.99)
  • Beatles: Rock Band ($134.99)

Microsoft Xbox 360

  • $199 – Arcade with Madagascar 2 game and Madagascar DVDs (Wal-Mart)
  • $299.99 – Elite Holiday Bundle (Lego Batman, Pure) with 4 games (Best Buy)
  • $299.99 – Elite Holiday Bundle (Lego Batman, Pure) with Call of Duty 4 GotY or Bakugan (GameStop)
  • $299.99 – Elite Holiday Bundle (Lego Batman, Pure) with Halo: ODST (K-Mart)
  • $299.99 – Elite Holiday Bundle (Lego Batman, Pure) with XBL 12-Month Card (Sears)

Xbox Live Gold Deals of the Week

  • Fable 2 “See the Future” (400 Points – $5)
  • Peggle (400 Points – $5)
  • Death Tank (800 Points – $10)

Nintendo Wii

  • $199.99 – Wii System with Nerf Racing Wheel (Sears)
  • $199.99 – Wii System with free game from pre-selected list (Amazon)
  • $249 – Wii Value Bundle with 2 games, Nyko controllers (Wal-Mart)

Sony PlayStation 3

  • $299 – PS3 Slim with Infamous, Batman: Arkham Asylum and Dark Knight (Wal-Mart)
  • $299.99 – PS3 Slim with Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time and Little Big Planet GotY (Best Buy)
  • $299.99 – PS3 Slim 120 GB with Little Big Planet GotY, God of War Collection (GameStop)
  • $299.99 – PS3 Slim 120 GB with Blu-Ray Remote (Sears)

PlayStation Network Sale

  • Bomberman Ultra ($4.99)
  • Comet Crash ($4.99)
  • Flower ($4.99)
  • Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao ($7.49)
  • The Last Guy ($4.99)
  • Prince of Persia Classic ($4.99)
  • Smash Cars ($7.49)

Nintendo DS

  • Price Varies – $25 Nintendo Game Coupon with any DS Purchase (K-Mart)
  • $98 – DS Lite (Wal-Mart)
  • $154.98 – Brain Age or Mario DSi (Amazon)
  • $169.99 – Brain Age or Mario DSi with $20 gift card (Best Buy)

Software (arranged alphabetically)

  • A Boy and His Blob ($29.99) – Sears
  • Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? PS2 ($7) – Wal-Mart
  • Assassin’s Creed PC ($19.99) – Best Buy
  • Assassin’s Creed 2 Free with Bloodlines Entertainment Pack (PS3) – K-Mart
  • ATV Offroad Fury 3 ($14.99) – K-Mart
  • Avatar The Last Airbender: Into the Inferno Wii/DS ($9.99) – Toys “R” Us
  • Bakugan Battle Brawlers with Download Code Wii ($25) – Wal-Mart
  • Bash Party ($14.99) – Best Buy
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum ($39.99) – GameStop
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum ($39.99) – K-Mart
  • Beatles Rock Band 360 game only ($49.99) – GameStop
  • Ben 10 Alien Force DS/Wii ($9.99) – GameStop
  • Big Beach Sports Wii ($10) – Wal-Mart
  • Ben 10 Alien Force ($19.99) – K-Mart
  • BioShock PC ($19.99) – Best Buy
  • Bolt DS ($9.99) – Best Buy
  • Brutal Legend ($34.99) – Best Buy
  • Brutal Legend ($39.99) – K-Mart
  • Brutal Legend ($39.99) – Sears
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare GOTY PS3 ($25) – Wal-Mart
  • Call of Duty: World at War 360/PS3 ($39.99) – GameStop
  • Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood ($19.99) – Best Buy
  • Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood 360 ($19.99) – GameStop
  • Chicken Blaster with Wii Rifle ($19.99) – GameStop
  • Cars Race O Rama ($29.99) – K-Mart
  • Celebrity Sports Showdown Wii ($7) – Wal-Mart
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 360 ($7) – Wal-Mart
  • Club Penguin ($17.99) – Toys “R” Us
  • Civilization IV PC ($19.99) – Best Buy
  • Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena ($19.99) – Best Buy
  • Crysler Classic Racing ($9.99) – Toys “R” Us
  • Cooking Mama DS ($9.99) – Best Buy
  • Cooking Mama Wii ($14.99) – Best Buy
  • Cooking Mama ($14.99) – Sears
  • Crash ($9.99) – Best Buy
  • Crash Bandicoot: Mind over Mutant DS ($9.99) – Toys “R” Us
  • Crash Time / Battle Fantasia 2-pack ($24.99) – Sears, 4 a.m. – Noon
  • Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII ($9.99) – GameStop
  • Dead Space: Extraction ($19.99) – GameStop
  • Dead Space Extraction ($24.99) – Toys “R” Us doorbuster
  • Dirt 2 ($49.99) – GameStop
  • Dirt 2 ($39.99) – K-Mart
  • Dragon Age console versions ($34.99) – Best Buy
  • Dragon Age ($39.99) – K-Mart
  • Dragon Age ($39.99) – Sears
  • Drawn to Life ($19.99) – GameStop
  • Drawn to Life ($19.99) – K-Mart
  • Drawn to Life ($19.99) – Sears, 4 a.m. – Noon
  • Drawn to Life Wii ($39.99) – GameStop
  • Dynasty Warriors 6 360 ($19.99) – GameStop
  • EA Sports Active: More Workouts ($29.99) – GameStop
  • Excite Bots Trick Racing ($14.99) – Best Buy
  • Facebreaker ($14.99) – Sears
  • Fallout 3 360/PS3 ($19.99) – Best Buy
  • Fallout 3 GotY 360/PS3 ($49.99) – GameStop
  • Family Game Night 360 ($19.99) – Best Buy
  • Far Cry 2 PC ($4.99) – Best Buy
  • FIFA Soccer 10 console versions ($34.99) – Best Buy
  • Forza 3 ($39.99) – GameStop
  • Forza 3 ($39.99) – Sears
  • Forza 3 ($34.99) – Toys “R” Us Doorbuster
  • Game Party ($9.99) – K-Mart
  • Game Party 2 ($9.99) – K-Mart
  • Godfather 2 PS3 ($10) – Wal-Mart
  • Grand Theft Auto IV 360/PS3 ($19.99) – GameStop
  • Grand Theft Auto IV 360 ($10) – Wal-Mart
  • Guild Wars Trilogy ($24.99) – GameStop
  • Guinness World Records DS ($9.99) – Best Buy
  • Guitar Hero 5 360/PS3 ($39.99) – GameStop
  • Guitar Hero wired controller ($9.99) – Toys “R” Us doorbuster
  • Guitar Hero On-Tour/Decades bundle ($29.99) – Toys “R” Us doorbuster
  • Guitar Hero World Tour w/ Guitar ($49.99) – Sears, 4 a.m. – Noon
  • Golf Clubs / Ultimate Board Game Collection 2-pack ($14.99) – Sears, 4 a.m. – Noon
  • Halo 3 ODST ($39.99) – GameStop
  • Halo 3 ODST ($39.99) – K-Mart
  • Halo 3 ODST ($39.99) – Sears
  • Halo 3 ODST ($34.99) – Toys “R” Us doorbuster
  • Hawx ($19.99) – Best Buy
  • High School Musical 3 Dance Bundle ($9.99) – K-Mart
  • Hot Shots Golf Open Tee ($14.99) – K-Mart
  • iCarly ($23.99) – Toys “R” Us doorbuster
  • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs DS ($9.99) – Toys “R” Us
  • Imagine Family Doctor DS ($9.99) – Toys “R” Us
  • Imagine Party Babies Wii ($9.99) – Toys “R” Us
  • Jak and Daxter ($14.99) – K-Mart
  • Jewelry Design ($19.99) – GameStop
  • Jillian Michaels Workout ($29.99) – Sears
  • Kawasaki Jet Ski Wii ($9.99) – Toys “R” Us
  • Left 4 Dead 2 360 ($34.99) – Best Buy
  • Left 4 Dead 2 360 ($39.99) – GameStop
  • Left 4 Dead 2 PC ($29.99) – GameStop
  • Left 4 Dead ($39.99) – Sears
  • Left 4 Dead 2 ($39.99) – K-Mart
  • Lego Batman ($14.99) – K-Mart
  • Lego Games (Half Price, 360/DS) – OfficeMax
  • Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga ($14.99) – K-Mart
  • Lock’s Quest ($7) – Wal-Mart
  • Madagascar 2 Wii ($14.99) – Best Buy
  • Madden NFL 10 console versions ($34.99) – Best Buy
  • Madden NFL 10 PS2 ($25) – Wal-Mart
  • Marker Man DS ($9.99) – Best Buy
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 DS ($17.99) – Toys “R” Us
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance Wii ($14.99) – Best Buy
  • Midnight Club L.A. 360 ($10) – Wal-Mart
  • Monsters vs Aliens ($9.99) – Toys “R” Us
  • MX vs ATV DS ($10) – Wal-Mart
  • MySims Agents Wii ($19.99) – GameStop
  • MySims Kingdom DS ($9.99) – Toys “R” Us
  • MySims Kingdom Wii ($9.99) – Best Buy
  • MySims Kingdom ($14.99) – K-Mart
  • MySims Party Wii ($9.99) – Toys “R” Us
  • My Word Coach DS ($9.99) – Best Buy
  • Naruto Shippuden Ninja Destiny 2 ($19.99) – GameStop
  • NBA 2K10 360 ($25) – Wal-Mart
  • NBA Live 09 Wii ($9.99) – Best Buy
  • NBA Live 10 360/PS3 ($34.99) – Best Buy
  • NCAA Football 10 ($49.99) – GameStop
  • Need for Speed: Nitro ($19.99) – GameStop
  • Need for Speed: Nitro ($29.99) – K-Mart, 6 a.m. – 11 a.m.
  • Need for Speed: Shift ($34.99) – Best Buy
  • Need for Speed: Shift ($39.99) – GameStop
  • Need for Speed: Shift 360/PS3 ($34.99) – Toys “R” Us Doorbuster
  • Need for Speed: Shift ($39.99) – Sears
  • Need for Speed Undercover PS3 ($10) – Wal-Mart
  • Neopets Puzzle Adventure ($7) – Wal-Mart
  • Nerf N Strike Wii ($14.99) – Toys “R” Us midnight doorbuster
  • NHL 10 360/PS3 ($34.99) – Best Buy
  • Petz Rescue Ocean Patrol ($14.99) – K-Mart
  • Pikmin Classic ($14.99) – Best Buy
  • Prototype ($29.99) – GameStop
  • Rainbow Six Vegas PSP ($9.99) – GameStop
  • Rayman Raving Rabbids ($9.99) – Best Buy
  • Resident Evil 5 ($19.99) – Best Buy
  • Rock Band 2 ($99.99) – K-Mart
  • Rock Band 2 with free Rock Band Guitar – K-Mart
  • Rock Band Special Edition 360/PS3 ($50) – Wal-Mart
  • Scooby Doo Wii ($23.99) – Toys “R” Us doorbuster
  • Shrek’s Carnival Craze PS2 ($7) – Wal-Mart
  • Slots PC ($19.99) – Best Buy
  • SOCOM 3 ($14.99) – Sears
  • SOCOM Fireteam Bravo ($14.99) – Sears
  • Sonic Chronicles ($9.99) – Best Buy
  • Spider-Man Web of Shadows 360 ($19.99) – GameStop
  • SpongeBob’s Truth or Square ($29.99) – K-Mart
  • Spore Hero ($19.99) – GameStop
  • Spore Hero (29.99) – K-Mart, 6 a.m. – 11 a.m.
  • Spore Hero $24.99) – Toys “R” Us doorbuster
  • Spyro DS ($9.99) – Best Buy
  • Spyro DS ($9.99) – Toys “R” Us
  • Stalker PC ($4.99) – Best Buy
  • StormRise / Bionic Commando 2-pack ($24.99) – Sears, 4 a.m. – Noon
  • Style Lab Makeover ($19.99) – GameStop
  • Sudoku Ball DS ($9.99) – Best Buy
  • Suzuki TT Superbikes: Real Road Racing PS2 ($7) – Wal-Mart
  • Tak Big Dose of Gross Wii ($7) – Wal-Mart
  • The Biggest Loser ($29.99) – Sears
  • The Biggs 2 ($19.99) – Best Buy
  • The Price is Right ($19.99) – GameStop
  • The Price is Right Wii ($9.99) – Toys “R” Us
  • The Sims 3 ($29.99) – GameStop
  • The Sims 3 ($25) – Wal-Mart
  • Tekken 6 360 ($39.99) – GameStop
  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 Wii ($25) – Wal-Mart
  • TMNT Smash-Up ($29.99) – GameStop
  • TMNT Smash-Up ($29.99) – K-Mart
  • TMNT Smash-Up ($29.99) – Sears, 4 a.m. – Noon
  • TMNT Smash-UP ($29.99) – Toys “R” Us doorbuster
  • TNA Impact $14.99) – K-Mart
  • TNA Impact ($14.99) – Sears
  • Tony Hawk’s Motion ($9.99) – Toys “R” Us
  • Transformers DS ($17.99) – Toys “R” Us
  • UFC Undisputed 360 ($25) – Wal-Mart
  • Wii Fit accessories (50% off) – Toys “R” Us doorbuster
  • Wii Sports Snowboard ($14.99) – Best Buy
  • Wii Sports ($9.99) – Best Buy
  • Wii Sports Resort with 2nd MotionPlus Free ($49.99) – GameStop
  • World of Warcraft ($4.99) – Best Buy
  • World of Warcraft Battle Chest ($19.99) – GameStop
  • World of Zoo ($29.99) – GameStop
  • World of Zoo ($29.99) – K-Mart
  • World of Zoo ($19.99) – Sears, 4 a.m. – Noon
  • WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2010 ($39.99) – K-Mart
  • WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2010 PS3 ($25) – Wal-Mart

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First Look at Shrek Forever After

Here is a first look at DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek Forever After, the final film in the series that will hit theaters and IMAX in 3D on May 21st. The first trailer will be released with James Cameron’s Avatar, which opens on December 18th.

Director Mike Mitchell told the newspaper that Shrek is feeling over-domesticated in the fourth installment. “He has lost his roar. It used to send villagers running away in terror. Now they run to him and ask him to sign their pitchforks and torches.”

To regain his ogre mojo, he strikes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin, who is voiced by Walt Dohrn, the film’s head of story. The pact goes awry and Shrek must confront what life would be like in Far Far Away if he had never existed. That translates into Donkey being forced into cart-pulling duty, fat and lazy Puss in Boots trading his sword for a pink bow and the underhanded Rumpelstiltskin ruling the kingdom.

Comedians Kathy Griffin and Kristin Schaal (“Flight of the Conchords”) are joining the voice cast as witches who hunt ogres. On the side of good is an underground resistance group led by Jon Hamm of “Mad Men,” who plays “the best-looking ogre you’ve ever seen,” Mitchell says.

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Season 9 of American Idol Begins on January 12th, 2010

The ninth season of American Idol, television’s No. 1 series, begins with a two-night premiere on Tuesday, Jan. 12th (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) and Wednesday, Jan. 13th (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT).

 

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OtterBox iPhone Defender Case Review

Anyone that knows me can share that I love my iPhone more than any other gadget that I possess.  So when I heard about OtterBox’s Defender case ($49.95) for the iPhone I just had to get my hands on one.

The Defender is by far the best case available for the iPhone and I have tried many different cases through the years. The Defender’s ruggedness and durability make this case perfect for the active outdoorsman. My phone has been dropped, banged and beaten and it still looks brand new.

OtterBox provides 3 layers of superb protection. First, a thin, clear membrane covers the Touch Screen to help prevent scratches and dings. Second is a hard, strong Polycarbonate skeleton that envelops the device. Wrapped around all of this is a Silicone skin that absorbs bump and shock. Included with the case is a ClipStand holster.

The Defender is also easy to keep clean. Oil, dust and any other dirt and debris that might come in contact with your phone are no match for the Defender.

If you are looking for a sleeker case the Defender may not be your number one choice. It’s bulkier than other cases but Otterbox also has their Commuter series cases which provides protection and style in a slim form factor. (Written by George Palaziol)


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The Death Merchant of Venice – Assassin’s Creed 2 Review

Assassin’s Creed 2 takes what the first game started and builds something much bigger, much more involving and hell of lot more fun.  Set in an era of history famous for the creation of beautiful art and master invention, Assassin’s Creed 2 is a game that leaps beyond the achievements of both its predecessor and some other vaunted works.

The game looks great, plays great and it avoids all of the pitfalls of its predecessor, but Assassin’s Creed 2’s finest achievement is that it offers one of video gaming’s most mature adventures.  It’s a game that can be played and that tells a story at the same time.  It is also a game that assumes its players are educated, curious, willing to be teased, and willing to test its limits.

Two years ago, the first Assassin’s Creed sold millions of copies but evoked complaints that its mechanics– free-running, pickpocketing, killing and escaping—were a repeating formula with little variation.  In truth, Assassin’s Creed was a very short game masquerading as an epic.  Then along comes Assassin’s Creed 2, which makes its predecessor seem like it was nothing more than a tech demo.  In the process, it earns a shelf place with esteemed games such as the Metal Gear series and encompasses storytelling that rivals The Da Vinci Code.

To quickly re-cap the first game: players were in control of a bold young assassin named Altair living in the Holy Land during the Crusades- although players weren’t really in the Holy Land.  Players were actually in the future, playing as Desmond Miles, an average every-man strapped into a genetic memory machine called the Animus.  Locked in a high-security facility, Desmond was manipulated to play through the Altair scenario by a high-tech, ultramodern, diabolical order of Templars searching history for ancient supernatural artifacts of power that they could use to end a centuries-spanning war with the Assassins.

If this premise is just whizzing over your head and your starting to worry that you need to play the first game to enjoy Assassin’s Creed 2, don’t.  The game makes an effort to catch new players up to speed.  If that isn’t enough, a quick view of the wikipedia page will assuage all fears.  More importantly, it will have you ready to grab the reigns of one of the BEST interactive stories ever told.

As Desmond re-enters the Animus to experience the memories of another one of his ancestors, it quickly becomes clear that this is a game with a specific story to tell.  Instead of Altair in the crusades, Desmond is about to re-live some of the more eventful moments in the life Ezio Auditore, a privileged young man living a rambunctious, devil-may-care life in Renaissance-era Florence, Italy.  In a striking move, the game starts the Ezio experience with one of the biggest events for anyone: birth.  This is the first sign of what becomes one of the clear differences between this game and its predecessor– a protagonist the player can care about.  In Assassin’s Creed, Altair was a blank slate; a character defined by his post. Granted, he was a total bad-ass, but he often came off as callous and with never any insight into his character. With Ezio, the player watches as an incredibly justified vendetta drives him from brash bon vivant to brutal assassin, but one whose interests seem in line with the greater good.  Ezio is a man whose family and life is demolished right before the player’s eyes.  The journey of events that forces Ezio to become an assassin, scouring Italy for conspiracy clues and rightful victims of his vengeance, is an engrossing adventure told through a weave of exposition and gameplay that defies the usual conventions of game story taking turns with interactivity.  In this game you play the story.  The mechanics propel an epic adventure full of change and surprise.

In Assassin’s Creed 2 players will visit real historical places such as Florence, Venice and Tuscany, and they will meet people the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci, Lorenzo De’Medici, and Dante Alighieri.  The ability to encounter historical figures, and to predict who might appear next, adds the intrigue and excitement of being able to trace and guess where this adventure will wind up.  In this sense, Assassin’s Creed 2 is more of a thinking man’s video game and it appears to have been made by people who share The Da Vinci Code novelist Dan Brown’s fascination with secret societies and century-old conspiracies involving dozens of historical figures. Through an unexpected puzzle-gameplay twist that I don’t want to spoil, players can begin to discover some of the secrets of the series’ lore, injecting a nice amount of mystery and sleuthing to a game that already does a rock-solid job of delivering action and adventuring really well.

But for those who don’t care about story flow and are bored by history, Assassin’s Creed 2 delivers gameplay in spades. Despite the distinctions that the characters and locales provide, the biggest differentiator between Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed 2 is that there’s just so much more stuff to do.  Nearly all of the discreet systems from the first game have been evolved and elaborated on in some meaningful fashion. This starts with Ezio himself, who benefits from the resources that his social station provide, though he’s also generally just a superior specimen. Ezio’s more agile.  He’s able to scale buildings more rapidly and gracefully.  He’s better in a fight, where the timing’s been relaxed a bit and you’re given the additional ability to disarm your foes, making their weapons yours.  Plus, Ezio’s dual wrist-mounted blades give him more unflinchingly brutal assassination opportunities and make him capable of killing two men at once.  Combat on the ground typically consists of Ezio surrounded by a group of angry guards who take turns attacking while the player waits for counter-kill moments, or, better yet, opportunities to wrench a weapon away and turn it on its owner.  Neither climbing nor killing is complex.  Both are easily executed, fun and rendered beautifully.

Beyond fighting and climbing, Ezio’s also very capable of invisible escape.  He can disappear into a crowd and blend in with groups of pedestrians who wander the street.  He can toss handfuls of coins to create a commotion, which proves once again how Assassin’s Creed 2 builds upon its predecessor– by presenting an interesting choice of approaches: will you free-run across rooftops and risk the attention of archers? Will you barrel through the pedestrian-clogged streets instead? Or will you simply walk through them and blend in with the crowd (but pickpocket them as you go)? How about hiring a group of prostitutes to lure guards away? Or maybe poison the guards? Or just swim past everyone?  It’s entirely up to the player. But while Ezio has more means by which to dodge security, guards now have more memory of your action. Too much high-profile killing and thievery will leave you with a notoriety level that makes it harder to get around.  This level can be reduced by tearing down wanted signs, bribing heralds, and murdering corrupt city officials.

In addition to all of this, there is an entirely new gameplay element: an economic system in which the monetary investments made into a dilapidated town surrounding the family villa will pay dividends that players can spend on new weapons, armor, color schemes for Ezio’s outfit and more.  The full scope of this element is that Assassin’s Creed 2 offers players the option of restoring a dull and dying town back to vibrant colorful life.  And that’s merely one of the side options.  There’s a menagerie of optional diversions: assassinations, free-running races, hundreds of collectibles to gather, classic art to buy and more.  Best of all are the tombs, optional missions heavy on platforming and relevant to the series in a way that I won’t spoil here.

Crystal clear above all else is the fact that the level of craft and care in the creation of Assassin’s Creed 2 — to say nothing of the level of obsession with conspiracy — is benchmark.  Assassin’s Creed 2 is technology in the service of artistry.  Quite simply, the game can be boiled down to seven words:  climbing and killing for the critical thinker.

Fire Wire readers, Assassin’s Creed 2 is the game you want for Christmas.

(written by Nick Creature)

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New Game Releases Nov. 23 – Nov. 27

It’s all quiet on the game front save for a few minor releases.  The only thing really noteworthy comes in the form of downloadable content (DLC) this week.

The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned is the big release.  It’s a DLC add-on to Borderlands, the wasteland-scavenging, first-person shooter that came out of nowhere a few weeks ago and took a lot of people by surprise as one of the best multiplayer games of the season.

Zombie Island adds… err… umm… a zombie-infested isle of the damned to the planet of Pandora, but you probably already knew that.  I, for one, will be charting a course to the isle on Tuesday.  I loved Borderlands and am currently on my 2nd play-through.  See review here:

I don’t care what anyone says, everything is better when you add a healthy sprinkling of zombies to the mix.

All in all there is a grand total of 19 games.  Considering the past onslaught leading up to Black Friday, the very fact that I don’t have to drop a full sixty bucks or even get out of my pajamas to play the game I want to may make this the best week yet.

Monday (Nov. 23)
Bit.Trip Void (Wii)
Coldstone: Scoop It Up (Wii)
Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (DS)
Hello Kitty Party (DS)

Tuesday (Nov. 24)
Art of Murder: Cards of Destiny (PC)
Borderlands: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned (PS3, 360)
Chicken Riot (Wii)
Karaoke Revolution (PS3, Wii, 360)
King Arthur – The Role-playing Wargame (PC)
Madden NFL Arcade (PS3)
Marines: Assault on Terror (Wii)
Party Designer (DS)
Rec Room Games (Wii)
Scene It? Twilight (Wii)
Tekken 6 (PSP)
Your Shape featuring Jenny McCarthy (Wii)

Wednesday (Nov. 25)
Madden NFL Arcade (360)

Friday (Nov. 27)
Cocoto Surprise (Wii)
Puzzlegeddon (PS3, 360)


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New Seinfeld Episode

It took over a decade, but “Seinfeld” fans finally received a new episode on Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” last night.


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LoudEnough Volume Limiting Headphones

With the popularity of mp3 players and portable gaming devices among young children who can’t be relied on to set volume to a safe level, a product like LoudEnough Volume Limiting Headphones ($40) can save them a lifetime of hearing trouble. There’s nothing to set or adjust, so kids can’t switch off the safety, the volume limiting function is built in and virtually unnoticeable. The three sets of included silicone ear tips are made just for kids, and a good fit is imperative to experiencing great sound quality at a reasonable volume. These headphones look great, too, so kids will be eager to use them!

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Oprah Winfrey Ending Her Talk Show

Oprah Winfrey will announce tomorrow that her popular daytime talk show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” will end its run in 2011, Tim Bennett, the President of Harpo, announced in a letter released to ABC affiliates on Thursday.

“Tomorrow, Oprah will announce live on ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ that she has decided to end what is arguably one of the most popular, influential and enduring programs in television history,” he wrote in the letter, obtained by Access Hollywood. ” The sun will set on the ‘Oprah’ show as its 25th season draws to a close on September 9, 2011.”

 

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LOST Season 6 Premiere Date

ABC announced today that the sixth and final season of “Lost” will kick-off with a special all-night event on Tuesday, February 2. A recap special will kick off the night from 8:00-9:00 p.m., ET, followed by the much anticipated two-hour premiere from 9:00-11:00 p.m.

The series will then air in its regular time period Tuesday nights from 9:00-10:00 p.m., ET beginning the following week, on February 9.

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Stuart Tinner’s $400,000 Kick

Check out this randomly selected rugby fan’s one in a million shot off the crossbar for a £250,000 prize. After making the absurdly unlikely kick in his socks during halftime at the Saracens/South Africa game at Wembley this week, Stuart Tinner is a British national hero.

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Was R2-D2 In Star Trek?

There is a hidden R2-D2 in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek.

Check out the image below of an R2-D2 floating in space during one of the battles.

George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic did the visual effects on Star Trek, which was released on DVD/Blu-ray this week, and they like to insert the iconic Star Wars droid into their work. (They did it in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen as well — see here.)

Click on image to make it larger.

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Chumby One

If you somehow have a need for checking your favorite Internet news, gossip, and media portals away from your computer, smartphone, TV, and every other connected device in your life, perhaps you should consider stuffing a Chumby One ($100; Pre-order). This diminutive, Wi-Fi enabled Internet buddy features a unique, widget oriented interface for accessing content, along with a 3.5-inch touchscreen, FM tuner, built-in speaker, 2GB microSD card for storage, and a USB 2.0 port, all tucked inside a cute, kitchen-friendly body. (From Uncrate)


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TomTom Updates Navigation App With iPod Touch And Turn By Turn Navigation

TomTom has released version 1.2 of its TomTom U.S. & Canada turn-by-turn navigation application, adding support for the iPod touch and original iPhone. The inclusion of iPod touch and iPhone support means the application can now be used on those devices when connected to third-party GPS solutions, such as the TomTom Car Kit. Other improvements include improved search and route summary screens, updated maps and points of interest databases, an updated IQ Routes database, Advanced Lane Guidance in both portrait and landscape modes, Text-to-speech in English, French, and Spanish, a Help Me! emergency menu, and iPod player support. TomTom U.S. & Canada is available from the App Store and sells for $100.

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Left For Dead 2 Review

There’s nothing quite like a good, old fashioned zombie apocalypse to force a disparate band of strangers to work together for their common survival.  Building upon that foundation, Left 4 Dead 2 emerges as a bigger, more diverse and comprehensive package than the original.

Left 4 Dead 2 follows the bloody struggle of four random strangers as they fend off an undead horde and a few new super-zombies.  Over the course of five campaigns, a new cast of survivors treks from Savannah, Georgia, all the way to New Orleans, Louisiana. Armed with new melee weapons and a bigger selection of guns and grenades, these new personalities are as distinct and as lively as the fondly remembered original quartet.

Nick, Rochelle, Coach, and Ellis are certainly as ragtag a group and every bit as memorable as the first Left 4Dead’s team of survivors.  Coach, a former football star turned high school health teacher, is never short on burly world-weary witticisms.  Nick, a gambler and con man who trusts no one, brings a serious sense of levity to the situation.  The first time you hear him vent his frustrations, you realize exactly how dire things are.  Rochelle is a TV news production assistant who was in the wrong place at the right time.  But the real star of the show, thanks to some pretty authentic and incessant down home, Southern-fried yammering, is a young mechanic from Georgia named Ellis.  By far the most endearing and full of personality, his monologues provide most of the game’s humor.  Just from the simple way he says he doesn’t liked to be called El “cuz it kinda sounds like a girl,” it’s easy to see why Ellis quickly became my favorite character of the new crew.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but his anecdotes about his “buddy Keith” are absolutely priceless.

Also joining the cast of L4D2 are three new types of “Special Infected” zombies.  In addition to the standard Hunter, Smoker, Boomer, Tank, and Witch, players will now contend with an acid-expectorating Spitter, a linebacker-like, shoulder-smashing Charger, and a pint-sized nuisance called the Jockey that will climb on your back and ride you around.  These creatures add brand-new cluster-breaking strategies, effectively eliminating any possibility of players huddling and camping in isolated corners of the maps, one problem that plagued the original game.

Beyond all the new characters, something should be said about Louisiana.  Not only does it make for a much more interesting backdrop than the generic city of the first game, it is a character in its own right.  The murky southeastern atmosphere, which ranges from dusk ’til dawn, from sun-blinding, hazy days to pitch black nights, adds to the variety of horror.  The survivors pass through swamps, carnivals, shopping malls, and even a stretch of Bourbon Street, offering a horrifying look at the result of a mass panic.  Our four survivors happen upon a wasteland of deserted cars, downed planes, and abandoned homes in the wake of the recently spread infection.  Then there are the totally over-the-top locations where big crescendo events happen.  Want to blast zombies in the Tunnel of Love?  How about fighting your way through a raging thunderstorm that you can barely see through?  Ever dreamed about making a last stand in the middle of a deserted rock ‘n roll stage show?  You’ll do all of that and a lot more.  It’s a hell of a lot of fun.  Plus each one of these sequences builds on the next because for this go-around, the individual campaigns are actually connected in a coherent story.

There’s a great sense of immediacy to the new campaigns that was not present in the original game.  L4D2 begins just as the government realizes that this infection is widespread.  Since they can’t contain it, there’s evidence of an underwhelming CEDA response which eventually leads to a “blow it to hell” ultimatum from the military.  This makes the entire trip a nightmare, not just of a zombie apocalypse, but also of how harshly the outside world is willing to deal with the situation.  Better than this is a much larger story told as it was in the first game– through graffiti on the walls, occasional banter between the characters, and developments in the world itself.  Granted, it’s pretty typical zombie movie stuff, but all woven together, it’s much more satisfying than totally isolated scenarios of the first game, which were all very good on their own.

The core multiplayer modes in L4D2 remain the same with co-op campaign and versus mode (human players vs. zombie players) firmly in place.  The big addition to the co-op campaign is that it’s been kicked up a notch with a new Realism mode.  In Realism, players have to aim for the zombies’ heads as the infected can now withstand a great deal more damage to their decaying bodies.  Also, all the normal effects that help the team (like colored outlines around characters and weapons that are easy to spot in the middle of a frantic moment) are all turned off, forcing the team to stick together no matter what.

The big addition to the Versus game type is a new Scavenge multiplayer mode and is  about as close to Capture The Flag as Left 4 Dead 2 gets.  In Scavange, survivors try to grab gas cans scattered around a map, then dump them into a vehicle or a generator.  The infected try to prevent that from happening.  It’s frantic and full of strategic opportunities, with a simple scoring system that works well in 4 versus 4 sessions.

What this all boils down to is the fact that Left 4 Dead 2 is a very fun, addicting, and satisfying game.  That said, there are a couple of things you should know about Left 4 Dead 2 before jumping in.  First of all, this is a game built upon its multiplayer component.  If you are the type of person that doesn’t like to play online or prefers a single-player experience, you will not get to enjoy all this game has to offer.  L4D2 does feature a single player mode, but that is not how this game was ever intended to be played.  Be warned, if you do not want to play with others, you would be much better off purchasing a game with a strong single player focus.  Number two, if you loved the unique cooperative action and eerie undead trappings of the original Left 4 Dead, but feel that game was a little thin on value, know that this much-improved sequel has more than enough new content to justify it as a full-priced standalone package.  Finally, this game is an incremental improvement over Left 4 Dead.  It offers more campaigns, more enemy types, more multiplayer modes, and better weapons.  Although it has more of everything, it is in essence the same game.  To put it bluntly, if the first Left 4 Dead didn’t do anything for you, then this sequel isn’t going to win you over.

But if you did care for the original Left 4 Dead’s style of multiplayer mayhem, then Left 4 Dead 2 is a must own game.  I loved the original.  I played it more than any other game this year.  Left 4 Dead 2 brings the same high quality and same intense competitive/cooperative gameplay.  It has been heavily tweaked to radically change and improve the experience for Left 4 Dead veterans.  At the same time it doesn’t isolate newcomers who are looking to enlist in the multiplayer war against the big, sickly-green menace.  If you’re want to have lots of fun with a couple of close friends, Left 4 Dead 2 is a definite no-brainer. (written by Nick Creature)

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Pixar’s Up Blu-Ray Review

I was lucky enough to see an early screening of Pixar’s Up and wrote about this moving special movie HERE.

One of the most financially and critically successful films of the year, Up is a surefire must-see movie. This review covers the four-disc Blu-ray Digital Copy combo pack and it has a lot of great features to feast your eyes upon. Disc 1, includes the feature film and a made-for-this-release short called Dug’s Special Mission. Also included is the hilarious short that played with the movie in theaters – Partly Cloudy. The other features on disc one include Cine-Explore, an informative making-of documentary that has some of the crew, including the directors, venturing into Venezuela, and The Many Endings of Muntz, which looks at other ways the filmmakers planned to end the villain’s story. The second disc includes a scout badge game, a feature on Married Life, which shows an alternate/expanded view of Carl and Elle’s relationship and eight documentaries that focus on various aspects of the film. The documentaries are all pretty interesting as we get to see the voice behind Russell and how the directors evoked a strong, believable performance out of him, as well as inspirations for different parts of the story. The documentaries are great to watch! There are also a few other standard features included on the discs, including trailers and a digital copy of the film for your computer/iPod.

The Up four-disc Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack is an excellent choice this holiday season and should be stuffed in everyones stocking whether they are young or old.  In my opinion, Pixar can do no wrong and each film improves visually and thematically.

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Upgrade Your Warner Bros. DVD Titles For New Blu-ray Discs

Select up to twenty-five (25) Warner Bros. DVD titles you wish to upgrade for around $8 to $10.  Send in your old tired DVD’s and receive a shiny new upgraded Blu-ray disc for a few dollars more. Click HERE to begin.

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