, | Features

Horror is a young man’s game. Because as you get older, you have grandkids and you get all sentimental like Steven Spielberg or you lose your touch like John Carpenter or you just decide you’d rather chill out and do something else like Stephen King. Youth is the time to get all wound up about anxiety, fear, and dread. Later years are for just relaxing. Right?

After the jump, wrong. Continue reading →

, | Features

I’m honored that a site called Folks is letting me write about something other than videogames and movies. Well, about something other than videogames, at any rate. I’ve written about what it’s like having first-hand experience with cancer and then seeing it in movies.

When you do a keyword search for cancer on the Internet Movie Database, you get 1500 entries. Breaking Bad is at the top of the list. Bryan Cranston’s cancer gives him license to break bad. He starts a meth lab to support his family. The series creator, Vince Gilligan, summarizes Breaking Bad as a story about a mild-mannered teacher who becomes the equivalent of Scarface.

Because cancer. Cancer lets you become an over-the-top Al Pacino character.

You can read the article here. You can also read a more personal take on my experiences here. And about a good friend’s struggle with cystic fibrosis here.

, | Movie reviews

I met Phantasm directer Don Coscarelli once. It was an outdoor screening of the movie. While everyone was waiting for it to get dark enough to start the movie, Coscarelli got up and said a few words. Then he stood off to one side while a few people hit him up for, I dunno, autographs or whatever. I thought up what I would say and then I waited for everyone to leave. I marched up and said this:

“Mr Coscarelli, I just want to tell you how much Phantasm meant to me when I first saw it. You were an important part of my childhood.”

I don’t know if he actually gave me a funny look or if I just imagined it. Then he said, “Must have been a strange childhood.” I didn’t really have a response for that. I still don’t.

On one hand, it’s kind of depressing that the ensuing Phantasm movies have been so awful. This one is the fifth. It’s awful. But on the other hand, I kind of admire that Coscarelli and the original cast are still plugging away with what must be the same enthusiasm you’d find in any kids running around in the backyard with a camera, a bottle of ketchup for fake blood, and an affection for horror movies. To the average viewer, it will look like a bunch of bad CG and middle-aged dudes who stepped away from their desk jobs for the weekend. But there’s a simultaneous poetry and tragedy to Coscarelli and crew basically filming fan-fic cosplay of their own 1979 movie.

Phantasm: Ravager is available here on Amazon.com.

, | News

The Silver Case, a 1999 game for the Playstation 1 at a time when it was also the only Playstation, is now available on Steam. Here’s the Wikipedia description:

The setting is contemporary Japan…. Within a place called the 24 Districts, a series of bizarre murders occurs, prompting the 24 Districts Police Department to send two detectives from their High-degree Murder Division to solve the case. The killings are soon linked to Kamui Uehara, a notorious killer who supposedly died several years before. The gameplay revolves around text-based situations, point-and-click mechanics, and interactive question and answer segments.

So other than being really old and apparently really Japanese (High-degree Murder Division?), what sets it apart from the hundreds of other point-and-click adventure games on Steam? Or even visual novels? I mean, really, what else should I make of “text-based situations”?

The Silver Case is the first game by Goicha Suda, aka Suda51, after he quit working for “The Man” and formed his own studio, Grasshopper Manufacture. Their credits include marvelous oddities like Killer7, No More Heroes, and Sine Mora. Especially Killer7. I’m convinced Killer7 has got to hold up (okay, it probably doesn’t). Their credits also include non-marvelous oddities like Shadows of the Damned and Lollipop Chainsaw. I have no idea where The Silver Case fits into their range of titles, but as a brand and a developer, Suda51 has been nothing if not, uh, distinctive.

You can get The Silver Case here, with the option to pay more for a deluxe version with an art book, comic, and soundtrack.

, | News

I wish Ubisoft would quit adding cool updates to Anno 2205. I mean, seriously, who thinks up biomes for a city builder and comes up with space stations? The game already came with the moon, and now it’s on its way to the stars? Enough already! Anno 2205 was already an insidiously effective timesink and one of my favorite citybuilders.

Oh, look who’s got new DLC, along with a near overhaul of the basic gameplay?

In case you’re worried about sinking yet more hours into Anno 2205, the new Frontiers DLC is the bad news. But if you’re a season’s pass holder, the good news is that Ubisoft is officially done with you. You got Tundra, you got Orbit, now it’s time to quit being a freeloader and pay up. Frontiers will cost you $12 on top of the $20 you paid for the season’s pass, itself on top of the $40 you paid for the game. Seasons aren’t forever. Given Anno 2205’s 11/3/15 release, seasons are only 11 months and one day.

, | News

If former Israeli soldier and current Wonder Woman Gal Gadot played Wargame: Red Dragon, she’d be pretty excited that today’s nation pack adds 96 Israeli units. Here what your six dollars gives you:

In addition to the legendary Merkava tank family, one of many of Israels indigenous designs, the army also features heavily modified import units. These include British Centurion, American M60s, French Mirages III & V, as well as Soviet T-55 and PT-76 – salvaged from previous wars.

Import units? In other words, things already in the game? As much as I respect Eugen’s excellent post-release support, and as much as I realize that, yeah, that’s pretty much how it works in the real world, is it worth six dollars to spraypaint a Star of David on the side of some Centurions, M60s, Mirages, T-55s, and PT-76s?

, | Movie reviews

You know that part in a disaster movie when you meet all the characters? The movie spends an hour introducing everyone, establishing their relationships, supposedly making us care about them before the plane is imperiled, or the skyscraper catches fire, or the volcano erupts, or the tsunami comes rushing down the fjord. The problem is that these are so often soap operas of the mundane. Who cares. I’m here to see a plane crash, a towering inferno, a flood of lava, or a tidal wave. But Deepwater Horizon replaces that soap opera of the mundane with a fascinating look at what it’s like to work on an oil rig. How do you get there? Who do you work with? What do you talk about? What do you talk like (in the PG-13 version of your life)? Where do you stay? What do you wear? What do all those people actually do?

The easy jingoism felt awkward in Lone Survivor, which was director Peter Berg’s last movie. Lone Survivor couldn’t reconcile its procedural about soldiers on a recon mission with its Wahlberg action movie. But his footing is rock steady at sea with this assortment of roughnecks. The oil rig procedural and the disaster movie mesh with industrial efficiency. Compare this to Disney’s Finest Hours, which is structurally similar to Deepwater Horizon. The Finest Hours lost any blue-collar sensibilities to its cast of celebrities and its mushy heartfelt Hollywood schmaltz. It preened when it should have rolled up its sleeves. But Deepwater Horizon, which is surprisingly brutal, is willing to cover its actors with mud, blood, sweat, safety goggles, and hardhats. It doesn’t end with Mark Wahlberg defeating the oil spill in a fistfight. Spoiler, I guess. You can’t begrudge Berg a couple of gratuitous shots of an American flag. He earns it with hard work.

Mark Wahlberg, John Malkovich, and Kurt Russell wear their characters as comfortably as a pair of weathered jeans. Also notable are Dylan O’Brien, previously just a pretty face in the Maze Runner movies, and especially Gina Rodriguez, an actress from the TV show Jane the Virgin who belongs in more movies. She’s got a great combination of star power and authenticity.

Previously, Deepwater Horizon’s name evoked the millions of gallons of oil that spilled unchecked into the Gulf of Mexico for over three months. Months of news stories about the fouled Gulf Coast have a way of standing out in your memory more than an industrial accident. So I hadn’t remembered how catastrophic the event was the precipitated the spill. Suffice to say, this is a movie you should see in the theater. Preferably with a really big screen and a fancy sound system.