Archive for October, 2011

, | Games

Nathan Drake is back in what is, so far, the weakest Uncharted of them all. More on that later, but as of about two-thirds through the campaign, it’s not looking good.

If you’ve only got an Xbox 360 or PS3, you can finally play the Wii version of Goldeneye. This means that instead of going, “Hey, this isn’t bad for a Wii game…”, you can just go, “Hey, this is pretty bad…”. But at least someone is keeping the James Bond franchise alive, since MGM isn’t quite up to the task.

After gladly skipping games with Sonic’s name on them for the last several years, I wonder if its time to revisit that policy. Sonic Generations’ blend of classic retro 2D levels and rebooted 3D levels might be just what the tired old hedgehog needs.

Finally, there’s a Lord of the Rings action RPG with co-operative multiplayer called War in the North. It’s made by the folks who did Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and Champions of Norrath, so they’ve already gotten their feet wet with action RPGs. And now they’ve got a license.

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, | Movie podcasts

This week we’re underwhelmed by The Rum Diary, which is the prequel to Hunter S. Thompson, directed by the guy who did Withnail & I. But first, we make up for our week off with a recap session to briefly discuss why Dingus hates Paranormal Activity 3, why Kellywand hates Meek’s Cutoff, and why Tom loves Margin Call. At the 54-minute point, this week’s 3×3 is our favorite examples of Chekhov’s gun in movies. If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry. We’re on shaky ground ourselves.

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, | Movie reviews

So you might not think to look to children’s fare to find good examples of horror. And you certainly wouldn’t expect much from a cartoon, for Pete’s sake. Especially one with Spielberg and Zemeckis’ names on it. But if this means you missed Monster House, you missed out.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that the protagonists are kids. This is a grand spooky adventure with just enough of a dark twist to take off that sugary Halloween aftertaste. I’m actually pretty surprised it’s a straight-up PG. It features some really wonderful and imaginative, uh, creature design for lack of a better word. Because — spoiler — the creature is actually a house.

Furthermore, all the stuff with the kids is really well done. In fact, everything Super 8 attempted, Monster House does ten times better. It even uses the same motion capture technique that Zemeckis pressed into service for Polar Express, but it doesn’t make that movie’s mistake of trying to look photorealistic. By presenting animated characters instead of creepy lifelike dolls, Monster House skips nimbly over the uncanny valley.

If you can dig on Nightmare before Christmas, Coraline, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, and Costume Quest, then I promise the sadly overlooked Monster House will be right up your alley.

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, | Movie reviews

My esteemed colleague and fancy-pants film auteur, Tom Chick, likes to make fun of me for liking grandpa movies. I admit I like a lot of black and white movies, especially horror. Well, let me rephrase that. I like black and white horror movies that don’t involve actually seeing the monster. We all know how crappy the rubber suit monsters looked.

For me, picking a horror movie wasn’t an easy task. I wanted to talk about Devil’s Backbone and the original The Thing (as well as John Carpenter’s), but when it comes to scary movies, The Haunting always wins out. Set in a giant, haunted mansion, the movie is really great at establishing a cold and unwelcoming tone. The main characters have been invited to the house by Dr. John Markway, a college professor and paranormal investigator, to prove the existence of ghosts.

After the jump, I do believe in spooks! Continue reading →

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, | Games

I don’t want to embarrass anyone who may or may not be the online gaming service OnLive, but I noticed a recent Halloween related press release missing the point of trick-or-treating. The company promised “All Tricks No Treats With [insert name of a certain online gaming service] Halloween This Week”. That doesn’t exactly encourage me to knock on their door.

On the flip side, if you play Space Pirates and Zombies this weekend, you’ll notice the option for a Halloween mod is enabled by default. Leave that on. When the game starts, head for the nearest space station and dig the new “Trick or Treat” option. And don’t expect All Treats No Tricks. You’ll find a bunch of other adorable Halloween touches in Space Pirates and Zombies this weekend.

Another one of my favorite indie games, Dungeon Defenders, features costumes for the characters and a new Halloween mission, but only for PC users. Thanks, Microsoft, for no treats this Halloween!

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, | Movie reviews

You’d think a guy looking for some stupid so-bad-it’s-good horror could rely upon a movie titled Parasomnia to deliver. But no. Parasomnia has to go and betray me and be good. Thanks a lot, William Malone. You ruined my evening.

Of course when I say ‘good’ I really mean ‘student film good’ with a ridiculous amount of blue light filling the scenes and Lawnmower Man level special effects in the dream sequences and scads of amateur acting throughout and earnest lines that made me giggle. Still, good. Unexpectedly competent and creepy with an excellent discovery as its central performance. What the hell is going on here? I went in expecting a knock-off of those three movies that start with the same four letters as this one, something cheap and stupid. What I got is wholly its own thing, with some cool ideas and a decent payoff. Cheap, yes. Corny, sure. Still…good. And just when you thought spiral-eyed clowns had run their course!

When the name Dylan Purcell appeared in the opening credits I got nervous, thinking it was that slab of meat from The Gravedancers (see it while drinking with friends). Nope. Dylan Purcell is the son of actress Lee Purcell, and he’s really good in a Zach Braff kind of way. I don’t think he’s acting anymore, which is too bad. You don’t expect to find someone like him in a movie like this, especially when the female lead is…uh…let’s just say it’s a blessing her role calls for her to spend 90% of the movie asleep.

Some reasons you should watch Parasomnia, besides the lead actor: Sean Young gets an “And” before her name; the protagonist drives an AMC Pacer; great use of nose tape; one of those cute Starbucks bears makes an appearance; gum-chewing cops are always welcome; “He was a rare book dealer and a mesmerist” is how the killer is described. Also, it totally wins the Weird Nudity Award.

Parasomnia is available on Netflix Instant Watch Watch Instantly here.

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, | Games podcasts

Apparently, working for NASA isn’t rocket science. Take it from Rob, a.k.a. Manresa, who works for NASA but doesn’t even know how to say his own username. But if you want to know what natural disaster is coolest to watch from space, and what you might have missed in the skies of George last Monday, and why hard drives are more expensive, listen to this week’s podcast with Rob and Jason T. McMaster. Also, don’t be alarmed to discover that the Terminator is angled across the surface of the earth. Kyle Reese is doomed! Tom Chick is “on assignment”, so the podcast features no music and 90% less fancy-pants talk.

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, | Features

A quick bit of advice. If you’re interested in playing a neat little Halloween-themed community level and you decide to give this week’s featured level, Halloween [Silhouette Platformer], a spin, crank down the volume on your television and put on some music of your own. Something moody, or something that has a creepy edge to it. Throw on Howard Shore’s History of Violence score, or Michael Nyman’s score for Gattaca. Heck, switch on just about anything by Clint Mansell. Just don’t listen to the music this designer has included. It is wretched, and he doesn’t care how many people tell him that. “No, I won’t change the music,” he says in his description text. “I like my level the way it is. Deal with it.”

While that statement does qualify him for the Douche of the Week Award, it’s also decent advice. The level is worth playing because it stands out as a silhouette platformer (a term I did not know before playing it). So many level designers are trying so hard to make their levels so very creepy and scary and Halloweeny, but they wind up with levels full of screaming that just feel generic. The visual style of this week’s level grabbed me immediately, evoking that feeling I get when I pull the Halloween bins out of the garage and my wife and kid start planting the decorations on the lawn. So…I found a way to “deal with it”…and you should too.

Now then, when it comes to being evocative…

After the jump, I think we’ll be okay now Continue reading →

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, | Movie reviews

(Kelly Wand and some other folks will help close out the Halloween series. And please remember that these aren’t necessarily great movies. We endorse them only as relatively obscure horror movies with something to recommend them.)

2008’s “The Uninvited,” directed and written by the aptly named Bob Badway and starring the delectably dark-eyed Marguerite Moreau, is an undistinguished title for any horror movie, since it’s generally assumed that most paranormal pains in the ass aren’t invited guests, except at seances, and even then they’re not even guests but more like unpaid magician entertainers. Good to know that if you’re murdered, you get to spend the rest of eternity waiting around for New Age douchebags to hold a dinner party and make you do a bunch of stupid pet tricks for their amusement. Actually, maybe only the ghosts of dogs show up at seances. That would explain a lot. Trust only psychics who eerily intone, “Here boy!”

After the jump, it gets worse/better Continue reading →

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, | Movie reviews

If you’re watching The Cottage without having read anything about it (this excepted, of course), you might not realize you’re watching a horror film. In fact, you might be put in mind of a certain Mark Twain story. Which is exactly how it should be. All you need to know is that you’re watching a movie from one of the most talented and little known directors working today. Meet Paul Andrew Williams, whose movies are as distinct as his name is banal. I use the acronym “PAW” to keep all his various first names in the right order, but I’m still liable to call him Peter Allen Williams or some such thing.

The Cottage is British and I promise you that it is indeed a horror movie, albeit unlike any other horror movie. And that’s about all I want to tell you. You’re lucky if you get to see it knowing only that. Frankly, I’m a little jealous.

Also, I’m tired of people saying adoring things about Andy Serkis based on having only seen Lord of the Rings, King Kong, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Do you people even know what Serkis looks like? He’s just as riveting when he comes out from behind the CG. And, in the case of The Cottage, he’s perfectly at home in less serious settings.

Get The Cottage from Netflix here. Be ready to never look at frozen peas the same way again.

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, | Games

I did not write the following article, which is a grossly inappropriate way to cover a charming Nintendo title like Kirby’s Return to Dream Land. Instead, it was written by my potty mouthed twin brother, who asked me to post it on his behalf.

After the jump, grossly inappropriate stuff Continue reading →

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, | Movie reviews

I’m not sure whether Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds is the first mockumentary, but it’s probably the first notable one for how it freaked out so many listeners. They weren’t yet accustomed to the wide range of stuff kicked off by Blair Witch Project’s success. Back then, there wasn’t even a word for mockumentaries. Another notable episode that predates jaded Blair Witch Project audiences is the 1992 BBC broadcast Ghostwatch, which is eerily prescient of reality TV and mockumentaries. There are conflicting reports about how much audiences were actually freaked out, but the reaction to the show was just as much a part of Ghostwatch as the show itself. And perhaps most surprising of all, the show itself actually holds up.

The premise is that a film crew visits a haunted house on Halloween night while a live studio broadcast checks in with them periodically. Callers call in, reporters on the scene offer updates, and experts unfold some obligatory backstory on a ghost with the unlikely name Pipes. It’s got a lot of Poltergeist going on, but with the dry British sensibility that got the Queen’s subjects through the fall of an empire, World War II, and Margaret Thatcher. BBC hosts react pretty much like you’d expect when confronted with strange goings on and unexpected developments. And I love how Ghostwatchers plays with the divide between the on-the-scene crew and the studio hosts.

You can watch the entire episode here. Save the money you would have spent on Paranormal Activity 3 and watch Ghostwatch instead. In fact, I recommend an annual Halloween viewing to share this with friends who haven’t seen it.

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, | Games

I recently moved from my house to an apartment. During this move, we had to throw away a lot of clutter, some of it dating back to my childhood. One particular box held many of my old PC game boxes. I ended up throwing away most of my collection as I just don’t have the space for them. Some of that process makes me feel ill. I still feel ill just thinking about it. I did keep a handful of the boxes that I couldn’t bear to part with, one of which was The Bard’s Tale.

After the jump, I remember Skara Brae Continue reading →

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