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INDIE INNOVATION

You might have camped out in the cold just to get your hands on the new PS4, but perhaps experiencing the latest in video game technology doesn’t require hypothermia and dropping hundreds of dollars. “Indie Essentials: 25 Must-Play Video Games” is an exhibition in which you get to play the best video games produced by independent designers and developers. Being independent of corporations like Sony and Microsoft means these games are truly founded on innovation, experimentation, and pushing the boundaries of technology. The exhibit features winners of the 2013 IndieCade, the International Festival of Independent Games. So, who wants to play?

Wednesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 11:30 a.m. Starts: Dec. 18. Continues through March 4, 2013

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‘Turrbotax’ w/ Rolando+Braiden+Helix

Sony tried to buy the rights to Rolando’s inspirational instant classic “Knights of the Jaguar” back in 1999, and when the militantly independent Underground Resistance collective refused to sell, the entertainment behemoth set off a major scandal by releasing a tone-for-tone cover. Rolando has since drifted away from UR, leaving Detroit for Edinburgh, but he’s still crafting gorgeous techno. Braiden is a bass pirate for RinseFM; Savannah’s Helix is stretching the U.K.’s ear on Night Slugs. With residents Rem Koolhaus, Mayster, C-Sick, Space Jam and Contakt.

Fri., March 23, 10 p.m., 2012

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MEMORIAL CONCERT 2.0

Nigel Lythgoe announced to the world last week on So You Think You Can Dance that he would not be producing an all-MJ episode of interpretive dance because Sony wouldn’t grant him the rights to the music. Lucky for us, the folks behind Our Hit Parade aren’t even bothering with the rights—they’re just doing a special Michael Jackson edition of their ever-brilliant cabaret. Provided the record execs/MJ estate don’t take a gander at little Joe’s Pub, Neal Medlyn, Kenny Mellman, Bridget Everett, and a cavalcade of guest artists will perform hilarious literal interpretations of the songs we haven’t been able to get out of our heads since June 25.

Wed., July 29, 9 p.m., 2009

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Our top DVD picks scheduled for release this week:

Our top DVD picks scheduled for release this week:

Barbie: Mariposa and Her Butterfly Friends (Universal)

Comanche Moon (Sony)

Day Zero (First Look)

Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale (HBO)

Family Affair: Season Five (MPI)

The Fugitive: Season One, Volume Two (Paramount)

Goya’s Ghosts (Sony)

Highlander: The Source (Lionsgate)

Jesse Stone: Sea Change (Sony)

The Last Emperor: The Criterion Collection (Criterion)

Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same Collector’s Edition (Warner Bros.)

Life After Tomorrow (Hart Sharp)

Newhart: The Complete First Season (Fox)

Scholastic Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics (New Video Group)

Silk (New Line)

The Smurfs: Season One, Volume One (Turner)

Super Bowl XLII Champions: New York Giants (Warner Bros.)

Takashi Miike Collection 2 (Tokyo Shock)

30 Days of Night (Sony)

To Kill a King (Anchor Bay)

The Last Emperor

The Smurfs

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Kelly Clarkson’s My December

Kelly Clarkson’s label’s rumored hatred of her new album–their disapproval of her decision to hire fewer songwriters, coupled with the abrupt cancellation of a too-optimistic tour–makes this a moment of reckoning not just for Clarkson, but for an empire that may finally have overextended itself. If Sony’s right, it’s the first real failure of a queenmaking system heretofore alarmingly lucrative; if they aren’t, it’s proof American Idol can survive even its victors’ desires to get personal.

Sadly, this round goes to Sony. If 2004’s Breakaway invaded Avril Lavigne territory–where the artist sprinkles statements of purpose amid professionals’ excellent songs–My December is her arrival at what more people might call authenticity if “Since U Been Gone” hadn’t made that word go away. The album’s longer, sloppier; there are Acoustic Laments; the first single, like most of the tracks, concerns a breakup we presume actually happened; the surprisingly deft second single, “Sober,” is about being three months clean of . . . something. (Maybe a guy!) Clarkson takes her emotional cues from Breakaway‘s “Because of You”–soul-searching without ever finding fault–and unfortunately performs as if she’s constantly approaching that song’s climax. There’s little here not sung in the flatlined keen that Clarkson’s voice becomes when she belts, and the songs’ dramatic arcs don’t give her–or us–any time to take stock. Rockers blur into each other with a few exceptions (“Don’t Waste Your Time,” “How I Feel”); ballads blur into a lot worse than that.

It’s this homogeneity that sinks the record. My December doesn’t believe in happiness unearned by a dozen tracks of despair, and maybe it’s right, but as a method of escaping Avrilian insincerity, it’s dull beside Avril’s own. Built on the old gamble that one person’s heart makes better poetry than six people’s paychecks, it’s too one-note to win–too desirous of being real, and too convinced that anguish is more real than joy.

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The Best Games of 2006

With all the new consoles and the growing popularity of casual and mobile games, it’s been a year where there have been more games on the market for more platforms than I’ve ever seen. This year, I’ve decided to do something different with my Best Games of the Year column. That’s because each year, games that are sequels always enter the list. I’m not saying that these games aren’t popular or good. But I’d rather see creative, striking first efforts on my list. So the first list contains the best ones that aren’t sequels. The second, shorter list deals with the Zeldas and Marios of the world. Ready? Here we go.

1. Okami (Capcom) Okami has everything I’d ever like to see in a game. It features beautiful graphics based in elaborate Japanese myth, decent writing, and brand new gameplay where you get to use your PlayStation 2 controller as a virtual paintbrush. This one’s a candidate for game of the decade.

2. LocoRoco (Sony) I just can’t get enough of this cute game for the PSP which features mercury-like blobs called LocoRoco in crazy environs. It’s a simple game where you use just two buttons on the PSP controller to move through its various fantasy lands. Add Halloween and Christmas upgrades that were free to download, and you’ve got a game well worth the price of admission.

3. Bully (Rockstar) Sure, it was a mature-rated game that was controversial. But you’ll never see a better portrayal of the real emotional issues and angst of going to school and coming of age in a game, not even in a novel.

4. Dead Rising (Capcom) There’s never been this much action in a shopping mall. Arguably, there’s never been this much action in a video game, either. Yes, it’s all about killing zombies. But the Xbox 360 game spans such a large amount of virtual real estate, it rivals the grandeur of other free roaming games like Grand Theft Auto 3.

5. Wii Sports (Nintendo) Yes, everyone talks about Twilight Princess as being the game of the year. But the simplicity of Wii Sports makes it a game that’s friendly to parents and grandparents, too. You’ll mimic rolling a bowling ball like you do in the alleys, and you won’t be able to stop playing. It’s the essential game for the Wii because it’s a game for Every Man (and Woman).

6. Viva Piñata (Microsoft) It turns out that Viva Piñata, the graphically lurid, endlessly creative gardening game starring colorful piñatas, is the swan song for retiring Rare developers Chris and Tim Stamper, who’ve made 60 games. They turned what could have been a toss-away kids’ game into one that adults and kids will remember for years to come.

7. Gears Of War (Microsoft) I’ve never before been scared when playing a shooting game. But this one is creepy from moment one. Add to that online play that never ceases to be compelling and monsters that are as eerie as your most dire nightmares, and you’ve got the best shooter of the year.

8. flOw Most games put you on the edge of your seat. This underwater casual game that’s free online has a zen-like quality which soothes you as you play. Sony saw the beauty of it and will soon make an upgraded version available for download via the PlayStation 3. It’s a nearly perfect game made by a couple of college students who soon may rule the game world.

9. Elite Beat Agents (Nintendo) There were many great music-based games this year—everything from the addictive SingStar Rocks to the innovative Gitaroo Man Lives. But the concept of Elite Beat Agents for the DS keeps me coming back for more. The agents remind me of the Blues Brothers. The cell-shaded art is the kind that’s never been seen on the handheld system, and the rhythm-based gameplay features covers of everything from Bowie to Avril.

10. Orcs & Elves (Electronic Arts) Made by Doom-creator John Carmack, the depth of this role playing game for cell phones makes it feel new and old school at the same time. There are a ton of monsters to defeat, mazes, dragons and crazy, mead-drinking elves, too. What do I mean by depth? You care about the characters here because they’re not one-dimensional. Think you’ve figured out the mazes? Suddenly, you’re transported to a spot that destroys your very sense of direction.

Best Sequels

1. The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Nintendo) It’s the same old story: save the princess. For the Wii, however, everything seems new, from the way you fish to the way you ride your horse. Your parents are not going to play it. But if you’re a gamer, you’ll be floored by the magic, the graphics, and the adventuresome story.

2. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2K/Bethesda) Oblivion for the Xbox 360 was such a rich role playing game that you felt inside of its world, partly because you played from a first person perspective. The depth of story and the 1,000 characters you meet make you feel like the guest of honor at a Knights of the Round Table reunion. Of course, the demons you encounter won’t treat you so nicely.

3. Final Fantasy XII (Square-Enix) In Japan, they have to close down the schools when a Final Fantasy epic is released. This particular version for the PlayStation 2 offers a complex story full of magic and a brand new way of playing the game in which you program the action of a group of characters you deem worthy for your melodramatic trek into fantasy. Then, there are the graphics that inspire awe from the opening movie to the fireworks-filled final moments of gameplay.

4. New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo) Everything old is new again. Sure, it’s a running and jumping platform game for the DS. But like the original from way back in 1985, it’s full of traps and monsters and pure fun. It so good, you wish there were a Disney-like Super Mario Bros. theme park you could travel to that’s based solely on this game.

5. Fight Night Round 3 (Electronic Arts) It doesn’t matter which platform you choose (although I prefer the Xbox 360 version). Fight Night Round 3 lets you feel like a real boxer. Yes, you’ll hate the Burger King ads in the arenas and the BK coach that’s sometimes ringside. But you’ll train and box your way through a lifetime of punches, awards and accolades. Play too long into your 40s and you’ll begin to develop a paunch and slow down. Should you hang up the gloves or keep going? It’s your choice.


  • Check out reviews of all the latest and greatest games (updated every week), along with past faves in NYC Guide.
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    Gameplay Holiday Guide

    It ain’t easy. With the two new gaming consoles hitting the market, the older gaming consoles still going strong, and a slew of new games from which to choose, it’s a confusing time for even the savviest of gamers. So here’s my two cents on what to buy this year.


    Hardware Reviews

    In a nutshell, here’s the skinny on the two hot new consoles from Sony and Nintendo.

  • Nintendo Wii

    Out of the box, the $249 Wii doesn’t have the PS3’s stunning graphics or a Blu-ray DVD player or even a hard drive. But almost everything about Wii is seamless and intuitive, from setting it up to getting online to playing with the wireless controller that lets you do everything from fish to drive a hot-rod truck. It’s got wireless abilities, too. Unfortunately, the online store offerings don’t offer great variety. But they will.

  • Sony PlayStation 3

    No way. You won’t be able to get a powerful, $600 PS3 in the stores. Maybe that’s just as well. Sure, some games look great, but there are only three brand new ones from Sony itself. And, yes, the Blu-ray DVDs look magnificent even on an old cathode ray TV. But when you get on online, there’s only one or two games for you to buy and download. They’ll have many more by the middle of next year. By then, Sony will have gotten the bugs out of the system with wireless updates, and you won’t have to pay those exorbitant prices on eBay.


    Games

    PS3


    Resistance: Fall of Man
    image: Courtesy of Sony
  • RESISTANCE: FALL OF MAN (Sony, Mature)

    Ho-hum? It takes a while for Resistance to get going, but after five hours of play, bam! Go with it for a while and this sci-fi shooter which takes place during World War II shows its mettle and its muscle. With stirring graphics in both foreground and background, and sly Artificial Intelligence from the monsters, it’s no wonder that Sony chose this as a launch title. It’s definitely worth the money. You can play with dozens of people online, too, unless you think two’s a crowd.

  • NBA 2K7 (2K Games, Everyone)

    Slam, dunk, from downtown. Currently, it’s the superstar of the NBA games. With stunning graphics that let you see players sweat and seamless gameplay, too, your jaw will go slack in wonder when you play this on an HDTV. With many game modes and tons of player moves, you’ll be playing this one right through May. And so will the NBA players themselves after practice. It’s that good.


    PlayStation 2

  • SINGSTAR ROCKS! (Sony, Everyone)

    It’s fun even for the tone deaf. Here’s a karaoke-style singing game with real songs performed by the actual artists, and cool music videos, too. With the 30-song, eclectic mix of old school Elton John and Aretha Franklin along with current cranky sensations like the White Stripes, you get two microphones to duel it out. You’ll wish there were more songs, but you’ll have enough entertainment with what there is, especially at a holiday party. And you’ll finally know all the lyrics to “Blue Orchid” and “Rocket Man.”

  • GUITAR HERO II (Red Octane, Teen)

    Shred and shred alike. Last year’s big music game is back with 55 songs (not by original artists) and new bells and whistles, like being able to compete while playing complicated bass riffs in addition to guitar solos. A practice mode gets your sloppy fingers into perfect fret-picking shape. You’ll love the lascivious red guitar/controller, too.

  • THRILLVILLE (LucasArts, Everyone)

    Don’t eat that weenie before you get on the coaster. With this user-friendly theme park simulation, you’ve got it all. Not only can you make your own rides like roller coasters, you can play minigames that are based on classic games from the past. Plus, you can walk through your lands of wonder and talk to guests. Yeh, you gotta talk to the rabble. Their opinions help you to improve your park.


    Nintendo Wii

  • WII SPORTS (Nintendo, Everyone)

    Oh, my aching arm. The most addicting game for the Wii is included with every system. Using the Wii’s gyroscopic controller as a bat, a bowling ball, a tennis racket and more, you’ll have a ton of enjoyment while playing against the system or when playing with friends. It’s kind of like the old Lays chip commercial. Bet you can’t play just one.


    The Legend Of Zelda Twilight Princess
    image: Courtesy of Nintendo

  • THE LEGEND OF ZELDA TWILIGHT PRINCESS (Nintendo, Teen)

    [

    Talk about feeling inside the game. The beauty, humor, and action in the new Zelda not only show the system’s versatility and graphical power. They prove that you can have a family-oriented game with a gripping story based in video game myth. Plus, riding a horse as hero Link actually feels like clip-clopping along on a real steed.

  • MADDEN 07 (Electronic Arts, Everyone)

    Madden is new all over again with the Wii. With an in-game tutorial that shows you how to pass, block, juke, spin, and more with the new Wii controller, you’ll feel more a part of the gridiron action than ever. However, with all that flicking of the wrist to throw and block, if you’re prone to carpal tunnel syndrome, you’ll aggravate it with Madden. Note: Because of this, I suggest not playing for more than a 20 minutes at a time. After an hour, I felt like a 300-pound linebacker sat on my wrist.


    Sony PSP

  • LOCOROCO (Sony, Everyone)

    You think Meerkat Manor is cute on Animal Planet? Well, hands down, LocoRoco is the simplest, cutest game ever made for the PSP, maybe the cutest pop culture thing this year. And that’s saying a lot. You only use two buttons to guide your hungry blobs called LocoRoco through environments so artistically brilliant, you’ll get that teenage sense of wonder all over again—minus the zits.

  • GITAROO-MAN LIVES (KOEI, Everyone)

    You, yes you, can play a guitar with your PSP. Not only that, you’ll be whisked into a sci-fi fantasy world in which you defend the universe by playing that axe. You can even do duets with pals wirelessly with the PSP. With anime-inspired graphics and virtual guitar-playing that’s pretty darn hard, this one gives Guitar Hero II a run for its money. Play really well and you’ll vanquish your strange-looking enemies. No, not Bush and Cheney.


    Nintendo DS

  • FINAL FANTASY III (Square-Enix, Everyone)

    This redone Japanese version of an early Final Fantasy role playing game has been eagerly awaited on these shores. It’s a true old school offering that moves slowly compared to today’s RPGs. But it does make use of the DS’ touchscreen. Complex and difficult, it’s full of the stunning beauty and blustery magic that you’d expect from a “Final Fantasy” game.


    Yoshi’s Island DS
    image: Courtesy of Nintendo
  • YOSHI’S ISLAND DS (Nintendo, Everyone)

    Yoshi for the DS is full of lush artwork that spans two screens and features the ever cute Baby Mario, Baby Wario, and Baby Peach. You’ll hit objects on the top screen by using the touch screen below. The coolest thing? Baby Peach gives fictional dinosaur Yoshi the ability to fly. I wonder if Baby Suri gives you the ability to have famous parents who believe in a sci-fi religion? Sorry, sometime I mix my media.


    Xbox 360

  • TOM CLANCY’S RAINBOW SIX: VEGAS

    Until we get out of Iraq, I won’t be the biggest fan of the shooting game, even though it’s fantasy. Still, Rainbow Six: Vegas is the best Tom Clancy game ever made. If you’re a fan of stealth, teamwork, and wild but thougtful multiplayer modes in your shooters, this one can’t be beat. The eye-popping graphics don’t hurt, either. And the opening scene on the helicopter must be inspired by Robert Duvall’s whirlybird romp before hitting the beach in Apocalypse Now.


    Kids

  • SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS CREATURE FROM THE KRUSTY KRAB (Nintendo Wii, THQ, Everyone)

    Scream it loud: SpongeBob SquarePants! This goofy, funny platformer game lets you use the Wii’s controller to do everything from open doors to race cars and fly spaceships. Graphically, it’s not all that, but if your kids want to laugh and hang with Bob and the gang, the Wii version of the game is the one to get.

    VIVA PINATA (Xbox 360, Everyone)

  • Viva La Revolucion—in gaming, that is. This graphically lurid game, based on the kids’ TV series featuring lovable, living piñatas, is a joy to behold. And if you want to play it at a deeper level with a lot of strategy, it’s a compelling game for adults, too. It’s part The Sims and part Animal Crossing. If the peacock-colorful graphics don’t get you, the endearing, sometimes intense, gameplay will. Lure the piñatas to your garden, breed them, or just watch them. You’re the mad scientist god-like creature having all the good fun.
  • RAYMAN RAVING RABBIDS (Wii)

    These crazy rabbits look better than Bugs Bunny ever did, even in Michael Jordan’s Space Jam. In fact, they look like they could star in their own Pixar movie. The raving ones have all they can handle right now, though. That’s because even though they’ve captured Rayman, you (as Rayman) can beat this fun collection of mini games and try to free our hero. By using Wii controller like a lasso, you can even swing a cow over your head and loft the mooing beast 50 yards.

    [

  • SUPER MONKEY BALL BANANA BLITZ (Wii, Sega, Everyone)

    It’s all about the balance. The Super Monkey Ball franchise has always been a kind of animated 3D version of the old wooden tilt toy, Labyrinth. Now, with the wireless controller, this balancing game, which starts out easy and gets increasingly harder, is more fun than ever. Add to this the affable chimpanzee characters and you’ll have more fun than a barrelful of monkeys. Well, a Playmate cooler-full, anyway.


    Movie and TV Based Games


    Happy Feet
    image: Courtesy of Midway
  • HAPPY FEET (Wii, Midway, Everyone)

    Dance, baby, dance. The ultra-adorable penguin movie with the strangely twisting plot comes to the Wii with the lovable Mumble as the star. In a game that’s not as dark as the movie, you’ll belly slide, dance, and swim your way through all sorts of slippery mayhem in Antarctica’s wondrous ice and snow.


  • ERAGON (Xbox 360 & DS, Sierra, Teen)

    Based on the 2003 book by then 15-year-old Chris Paolini, the game follows the plot of the upcoming December movie (this kid is going to be rich, if he isn’t already). In a world full of fantasy and ride-able dragons, you’re placed smack dab in the middle of a war between strange races of beings. While the game is available in all formats, I’d buy the Xbox 360 version because it has some extra levels and better graphics. The DS version, with its magical small screen artwork and touch screen abilities, is also a winner.

  • DRAGONBALL Z BUKOKAI TENKAICHI (Wii, Atari, Teen)

    Magical fight makes right. The Dragonball Z cartoon franchise has been around since 1989, and this may be the most immersive, complex game ever made for Son Goku and his troupe of universe defenders. With 120 characters and story mode that lasts 60 hours, you’ll find this is worth your time and your money. But you won’t be able to keep the characters’ names straight, even if you’ve played Nintendo’s brain games.


  • Check out reviews of all the latest and greatest games (updated every week), along with past faves in NYC Guide.
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    The Dating Game

    I don’t like it. You’ve got this obnoxious, wrong-headed media hoopla over the new video game systems, the PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii. The general broadcast media, even NPR, chooses to focus on the wild drama in lines and the exorbitant prices garnered on eBay for the third PlayStation. They’re missing the point. Then, there are the bloggers, like Ritalin-juiced teenage celebrity gossips with their first attack of hormones, gabbing with emotion and immediacy regarding every rumor about PS3 and Wii technology (and even TV ads) whether it’s true or not in the end. They’re closer to the point, but still missing it. Getting the new systems isn’t about being an early adopter of new technology. It’s like finding the person you want to meet, date, and shack up with . . . for five to seven years.

    If the two machines were your dates, they’d have two utterly distinct personalities. The Nintendo Wii is bubbly with a hippie name, easy-going, and not that deep. What you see is what you get. It’s sporty too, so much so, it’ll make you sweat and give you a workout with its little gyroscopic controller. The PlayStation 3 is like a model, beautiful and distant. It’s like your multifarious East Village friend. It’s always complex and at times dysfunctional, sometimes promising more than it delivers. It will take you about a year of wooing until it trusts you and until you get what you want out of it. But you will get what you want, you swear.

    The Wii, like its predecessor, the GameCube, looks cute right out of the box. Looking at the instructions just once, I was able hook it up and get it working in about 20 minutes. With its AMD ‘Hollywood’ processor, it doesn’t have the high quality graphics of the PS3’s newly invented cell processor. In fact, the Wii graphics are just incrementally better than those on the GameCube. Yet the Wii has unexpected extras. Not only does it have a SD card to read your photos, it surprises you when it chops up any photo into a little puzzle game with up to 48 pieces.

    When the Wii Web service went online last weekend, I had no problem linking to it wirelessly. The Wii is simple and intuitive: it wants to help you out and anticipates your problems. Online in the Nintendo store, there wasn’t much there the first few days, no promised news or weather channel, no online play, either. What you do get is the first two dozen of what eventually will be a thousand old school games that you can download for five or ten dollars each. Games like the classic Super Mario 64 are there, for instance. There should be more.

    The Wii is all about pioneering gameplay. When you play Wii Sports, included in the $249 package, you move the wireless controller as though you’re swinging a bat (in the baseball game) or miming throwing a bowling ball. Sure the graphics on this game are Nintendo 64-era. But it doesn’t matter. These are fun, little games you can play in about 10 minutes or less. For instance, the baseball game lasts just three innings. And if you happen to blow out your opponent in the run department, the game will end in a show of tender mercy on the Wii’s part. This console is your nice date, the one who’s kind to the server at the local diner. The one huge caveat here, the possible deal breaker, is the potential for carpal tunnel syndrome, especially in a game like Madden 07 where you’re constantly jerking the gyroscopic controller this way and that, throwing passes, blocking, spinning. After an hour of playing the intriguing Madden on the Wii, my wrist hurt like a 300-pound linebacker sat on it.

    The PlayStation 3 is the more complicated date, sometimes in a lift-you-off-your-feet elating way, sometimes in a completely confounding and depressing way. It looks drop-dead amazing, sleek, shiny black, a wonder of design and technology. It plays Blu-ray movies. And if you have any doubt about the wonders of Blu-ray DVDs, they even look great on an old-school cathode ray TV like mine. (Of course, movies look even better on widescreen LCD or plasma TVs.) On the surface, the PS3’s the belle of the ball with three slots to read you photos and videos. Inside, it runs a 60-gigabyte hard drive. It’s Bluetooth, it’s wireless, it’s 1080p for superior graphics, it lets you stream photos and movie trailers to your PlayStation Portable handheld gaming device. You almost expect it to drive you to the GameStop and help you pick out games.

    But when I got deep into the PS3, I found some disconcerting flaws. The first thing I did was to put my SD card full of videos and photos into the SD slot. The PS3 recognized some of the photos, but not all. And it found none of the MPEG-4 videos. The manual asked me to put all the items on my computer, then to reformat the card using the PS3, then place all the stuff back onto the card, then try to play it again. No way was I going to go through that trouble. The thing should have worked without any such hassle.

    And this complexity was, in microcosm, like much of the functionality of the PS3 in general. It’s gorgeous on the outside. But inside, its heart and soul needs time to blossom. Sure, some of it’s very user-friendly. Put a game or a movie in, and, boom, the graphics are better than your Xbox 360 or your standard DVD player. If you’re excited about old school gaming with your original PlayStation games, the device may or may not work with them, depending on the game. If you try to go online to buy old school games or try to play online with a pal, the service daunts you. See, before you go online, you have to register. If you don’t have a USB keyboard to plug into the PS3 to help you add your personal information, you’re in for some pain. I didn’t and I had to use the wireless controller to ‘type’ on a virtual keyboard that works like texting does on my cell phone. It wasn’t intuitive, and it took a lot of time. Then, after I spent a half hour keying in my information, the online server knocked me off, and I lost all of the info I had so painstakingly keyed in. I wanted to play online and see what Sony had to offer in its store. Yet I was beyond daunted.

    When it wants to, the PS3 can play nice. Playing Resistance: Fall Of Man, one of the three Sony launch titles, is a terrific experience, after you play for about five hours. This graphically-alluring first person shooter eventually coaxes you into its world with wild environments and super-smart A.I., artificial intelligence that may be better than Microsoft’s hot fall offering for the Xbox 360, Gears Of War. That’s saying a lot.

    You won’t be able to get the currently sold-out PS3 before next year, and maybe that’s a good thing. If you wait to buy one, Sony will undoubtedly have worked out the online and offline kinks. And the games, a year into the PS3 generation, will be a look and play better, too. Already, Capcom’s upcoming hack-and-slasher Devil May Cry 4 looks otherworldly, with game play in the air and background graphics that look like something out of a high budget Hollywood action flick. Why will it take so long for the good games to arrive? With any new console, it takes six months to a year into launch for developers and programmers to really understand the machinations of such a complex machine. My hope is that trying to date the PS3 will be worth it in the end, and I’ll have five or six years of bliss before the next generation of hardware befalls me once again.

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    Rack Focus

    All the King’s Men

    (Sony)

    This “new” release is actually a reissue of Robert Rossen’s 1949 Best Picture winner, adapted from the novel by Robert Penn Warren. The only original material here is a preview of the remake opening this week, which stars Sean Penn and his good friend Jude Law. Penn will be hard-pressed to top Broderick Crawford’s blustery Oscar-winning turn as a Huey Long–like politician.

    Beavis & Butt-head Do America

    (Paramount)

    Beavis and Butt-head were obviously meant for the small screen, but this 1996 feature, in which a cross-country adventure is precipitated by the theft of the dynamic duo’s TV set, preserved a good deal of B&B’s sublimely stupid essence, even if the show’s spot-on music video critiques are sorely missed. The 10th anniversary edition includes commentary by creator Mike Judge, a making-of short, TV spots, and more.

    Uniform

    (First Run)

    A young tailor begins impersonating a policeman after getting his hands on the requisite garment in this highly praised directorial debut from Diao Yinan, star of Yu Lik-Wai’s underscreened All Tomorrow’s Parties.

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    Rack Focus

    Don’t Come Knocking (Sony)

    Wim Wenders revisits the setting (the American Southwest) and screenwriter (Sam Shepard) of his Paris, Texas with this story of a movie cowboy (Shepard) who walks off his Monument Valley set one day only to find himself quickly entangled in an adventure of his own.


    Manderlay (IFC)

    Lars von Trier’s disappointing follow-up to the masterful Dogville repeats most of the earlier film’s formal and political ideas, with diminished results. The second installment in a hopefully aborted trilogy, Manderlay follows Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard, badly miscast in the Nicole Kidman role from Dogville) to the post–Civil War South, where she takes up the task of “liberating” some former slaves. The obvious echoes of Iraq merely pander to von Trier’s liberal audience without challenging it—indeed, the whole enterprise feels insular and self-congratulatory, as if von Trier had read the negative reviews of Dogville and decided to make the film described therein.