Monday, May 22, 2017

Book Report: "Mafia Prince"

The writing is poor, and the storytelling is mediocre. Leonetti's memoir thrives on the pure grit of his honesty, humility, shamelessness and experience. He recounts his years in the mob, and what led to his betrayal of his entire crime family and willingness to risk his own life and those of everyone he loved just to stick it to his controlling uncle, never pretending that he became a government witness for altruistic, or even pragmatic, reasons. Leonetti and his gaggle of ghostwriters spin their yarn with the matter-of-fact sloppiness of a tired old man spilling his guts to no one in particular at a dive bar.

Because he was so deeply entrenched with his subject matter, he can't help but tell a more reliable history of the fall of La Cosa Nostra than any journalist could catalogue or any novelist could dream up. His scattered, choppy prose may be agonizing at times, but he manages to translate a convincing feel of what it was like to sell your soul to the seductive greed that mob life offered him.

That said, an editor who halfway paid attention could have done wonders for this mess. Characters are introduced and re-introduced over and over again in the exact same manner, nicknames and terms are given the same treatment and stories are rehashed for no apparent reason.

GoodFellas this is not, but "Mafia Prince" is still vital reason for anyone who can't get enough wiseguy tales.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

"Injustice 2" Review

s The publisher provided a copy of the game.

Like a costumed vigilante showing off a new uniform and powers, "Injustice 2" passes the "wow" test within the first few minutes. This is the superhero fighting game DC fans have long dreamed of, with heroes and villains squaring off with a full, dizzying set of background-shattering, enemy-splattering powers.

And just like every interesting comic book hero, there are flaws beneath the surface that keep the game from superhuman levels.

Just about everything has improved from the original game. Not only are the visuals sharper and more authentic, the standard moves are more fluid and the specials are easier to execute and more spectacular. It's a thrill, for instance, to use the Flash to pummel Superman through various dimensions.

Online lobbies are streamlined and efficient, pairing you with fighters of similar skill in order to make your experience more accessible and challenging than punishing.

The story mode also takes the mythos to new heights. While the previous version was little more than a flashy tutorial, the new story is a robust and worthy effort that is far more than a throwaway side mode. Ignore the campaign to dive into multiplayer without looking back and you're missing out on a thrilling, twist-filled journey.

The character selection is robust, with new additions such as Supergirl, Firestorm and Scarecrow, but those familiar with "Injustice: Gods Among Us" will miss the fighters who don't show up in the sequel, such as Doomsday, Lex Luthor, Lobo and Martian Manhunter. Even more disappointing is the way devs held back characters for premium editions of the game. If you want the likes of Reverse Flash, Power Girl or the John Stewart edition of Green Lantern, you are going to have to fork over more money upfront or wait for the inevitable rerelease.

Fighting game sequels should leave you no reason to return to the predecessor, and the lack of defining characters from the original makes the follow-up fail at that task. That said, this is a robust overall effort that will please fans of fighters and the DC mythos alike.

Geared as much for easy couch co-op while balanced enough for the e-sports circuit, "Injustice 2" is a game that has started off well and will likely only improve as players shake out its kinks and developers pump out updates, refinements and additional characters. Even if this year's slate of DC movies disappoint fans of the franchise, they'll be able to retreat to the game to take solace.

The publisher provided a digital copy of the game for review.

Three New Sets Revitalize 'Lego Dimensions'

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment continues to pump out new characters and levels to refresh the original game, which came out in 2015. Here's what's new in May:

The Goonies Level Pack

In addition to a "Goonies"-themed level and battle arena, you get the One-Eyes Willie pirate ship -- rebuildable as the Fanged Fortune and Inferno Cannon -- a Sloth minifigure and a skeleton organ/jukebox/turkey 3-in-1.

Harry Potter Fun Pack

A Hermione minifigure and buildable Buckbeak/Giant OwlFierce Falcon three-in-one structure come along with the kit.

Lego City Fun Pack

Chase McCain, the star of "Lego City Undercover," shows up in minifig form. You also get a 3-in-1 police chopper/hovercraft/plane to patrol the game's levels.

Studio provided review samples.

LG G6 Review

With the G6, LG shows that it's no longer willing to settle for playing catch-up with the likes of market leaders Apple and Samsung. Instead, it's not afraid to take some chances and innovate.

It starts with the display, an oblong, extra-wide screen that presents you with a broad, 5.7-inch display that maintains a thin form factor while pumping out visuals at 2,880x1,440 pixels. This makes it so your field of view is comparable to that of a Galaxy S8+ or iPhone 7 Plus, while keeping the device easy to keep in one hand, allowing you to operate it without straining your thumb.

Judging from the durability of the loaner unit, the G6 seems built to last. Should it slip out of your hand, it handles tumbles with resilience. The tough, pragmatic design -- with rounded corners that make for better ergonomics -- negates the need for a case and handles drops on tile or concrete surfaces, as well as plops in puddles, thanks to water resistance that stacks up well to competitors.

The 32GB of onboard memory is expandable with a micro SD card -- which is key because pre-installed apps eat up close to half of the original storage.

A weak spot is the 3,300mAh cell battery, which struggles to keep up with heavy use throughout the workday -- especially if you plan on watching video or gaming on full brightness settings. Luckily, the USB-C charger juices the device back up in short order. As long as you pick up an extra charger for the car and juice up at your desk, you should be fine.

The dual, 13MP rear cameras are another highlight, allowing you to shoot absurdly wide panoramics -- up to 125 degrees. Included software allows you to preview pics without leaving the shooting app, or trick out pictures in such ways as combining a pair of similar shots to craft a hybrid.

The 821 2.35 GHz + 1.6 GHz Quad-Core Custom 64-bit Qualcomm Kryo processor can handle heavy lifting that keeps it on par with the iPhones, Galaxies and Pixels of the world. Whether you're juggling apps via multitasking work apps, pausing videos to get in some gametime while catching up on email or snapping and editing photos and videos to share on social media, the G6 has you covered. The included Google assistant keeps it on par with the Pixel, allowing you to use voice commands to look up facts, call up apps, maps or music.

The LG G6 is a phone for an iconoclast who makes it a point of avoiding following the crowds, and the device rewards those well who make the leap from the comfortable brands. What it lacks in name recognition it more than makes up for in performance.

LG provided a device for review.

Friday, May 12, 2017

"Snatched" Review

For my written review, click here.

Book Report: "Catch Me if You Can"

Abagnale pulls off a con job when it comes to the ending. Seemingly uninterested at giving his story any sort of resolution, he just stops and vanishes as abruptly as he did when he passed a bum check or tricked a prison guard into letting him free.

The story is amazing, if probably exaggerated to an absurd degree, and the momentum is overwhelming. Abagnale trips things up a bit by obsessively inserting lame similes into every other paragraph, awkwardly making him seem like he's trying to come off as a hillbilly rather than a sophisticated conman.

The movie is way better than the book, but could have incorporated more of his crazy scams. Abagnale was a chameleon who masqueraded as an airline pilot, doctor, college professor and prison inspector. The joy with which he recounts his capers is contagious, and the inner monologue with which he rationalizes the moral fortitude of his crimes is fascinating.

This seems more like the first half of a deeper, more profound book, but at least it's probably the more entertaining half.

Friday, May 05, 2017

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" Review

For my written view, click here.

Book Report: "If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer"

This is a disgusting yet mesmerizing look into a likely insane narcissist who has somehow convinced himself of his innocence of one of the most notorious crimes of the 20th century, while at the same time feeling guilt-ridden or braggadocious enough of committing the murders and getting away with them that he decided to write a book about how he did it.

As untrustworthy as O.J.'s perspective is, his scattershot narrative manages to fill in several gaps in the mystery -- plenty of which aren't even covered in the 8-hour, Oscar-winning ESPN documentary.

It's also fascinating to listen to O.J. rationalize the way he threw away his success and stardom. Every villain is the hero of his own story, and the way he saw it, he was an innocent man always trying to do his best in the face of impossible circumstances. It's intriguing to read between the lines to get the idea of what really happened in situations he shrugs off and explains away, such as the times in which police investigated him for domestic abuse.

The introduction is equally fascinating, about the way the Goldman family got legal custody of the manuscript, and why they chose to publish it. An addition from the ghostwriter is also insightful into O.J.'s character and demeanor. Equal parts trash and valuable historical document, it's a book well worth a look for those who are interested in the case.