, | Movie reviews
Unfriended_review

To enjoy Unfriended, which is feasible without lumping it into the “so bad it’s good” category, you have to accept a few things. First, it’s about dumb kids. The setting is social media, so that’s expected. But this is also a slasher movie, so the dumb kids are mandatory. Second, it’s committed to its gimmick, so you can’t expect any more than you’d expect from, say, a found footage movie. And third, it’s not good so much as admirably competent for a movie built around a gimmick. Despite the dumb kids and the gimmick, it’s very solidly an R-rated horror movie.

Unfriended relies on a mundane familiarity with Skype, Gmail, Youtube, Facebook, and so forth (either Twitter wasn’t on board or these kids don’t Tweet). It relies on the sounds, the interfaces, the rhythm of copy pasting, alt tabbing, the hitch of a bad connection, how someone might swirl her cursor around before clicking on something. This is the language of Unfriended, a logical next step after the social media mystery Catfish. It plays particularly well streaming to a computer. Ideally, a laptop. I would have felt awfully foolish seeing this in a theater.

Nacho Vigolando did something similar with Open Windows, an Elijah Wood Hitchcockian thriller that goes off the rails and dares you to object as it gets increasingly silly. But Unfriended’s “is it supernatural?” angle lets it get away with a little more. The ensemble cast, convincingly led by Shelley Hennig who could very well kick off a scream queen career, is enough to pad out its 80-minute running time. Contrast this with the brevity of the memorable segment in VHS called “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger”, which is a Skype call between two people.

Sure, it’s cheap. But it’s effective, with its share of easy puzzles and expected twists. The inevitable movies that will use this gimmick from here on out are probably going to be a whole lot worse. You might as well get in while the getting’s still good.

Support Qt3 by watching Unfriended on Amazon.com.

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, | Game reviews
Guild_of_Dungeoneering_review

I love the idea of Guild of Dungeoneering. As developer Gambrinous explains on their site, it’s an exploration game where “you lay out the dungeon but can’t control the hero”. A turn-based rogue-like in the same vein as free will RTS Majesty? Someone out there has my number. Yes, please!

And from the moment I booted it up, I’ve been chronically infected with the earworm soundtrack (“This is the guild of Dungeoneering…something something never fearing!”) and won over by the precious pencil-on-graph-paper aesthetic. The clever gameplay got its hook into me quickly enough. Dungeon spelunking as deck-building, with sleek card-based battles and longer term unlockables. Imagine Card Hunter minus the grinding and drawn-out tactical battles, but cuter and with that soundtrack I can’t stop humming. Come for the presentation, stay for the slick gameplay.

So, after the jump, what could go wrong? Continue reading →

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, | Movie podcasts
71_podcast

You probably missed Yann Demange’s ingenious thriller ’71 during its limited theatrical release. Your loss. But once you’ve seen it in the comfort of your own home, here is our podcast for your listening pleasure. At the 1:20 mark, we get retro with contemporary movie scenes obsoleted by technology.

Next week: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

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, | Game reviews
Marco_Polo_review_1

From the moment I started playing Voyages of Marco Polo, I knew I would like it. And the more I play — I’ve played at least 20 games in the short period of time it’s been out — the more it climbs its way into my favorite games of all time. Today, it may very well be among the top five. It does about a dozen things I look for in a boardgame and it does them all spectacularly well. How do I love thee, Voyages of Marco Polo? Let me count the ways.

After the jump, look out, China! Here I come! Continue reading →

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, | Game diaries
Massive_Chalice_GD_7_chalice

It’s been 300 years. I started with ten territories, but I’m down to five. One of them has the Standard where my kingdom trains children. The other four have keeps for my noble houses, including the caberjacks of House Wayne, the hunters of House Gaffney, and the alchemists of House Flink. The Flinks actually have two keeps. They’re just that good. Everyone else, everyplace else, has crumbled into the sea, devoured by the Cadence.

While my land holdings might seem dire, the more accurate picture of how I’m doing is my list of available heroes. I’ve got over thirty and most of them are level eight or nine without ever having seen battle. That’s just how powerful their parents and teachers have been.

So one of the hardest things about fighting the final battle is deciding which five heroes to bring. Actually, it’s not that hard. Three of my heroes have relics as weapons. A relic is incredibly powerful once it’s leveled up, and these relics are well and truly leveled up. You can bet they’re going into battle. Etlanta Flink with a thrower called Gatekeeper, Matt Gaffney with a crossbow called Division, and Margaret Gaffney with a crossbow called Honor. That’s an alchemist and two hunter classes. I round out the team with another alchemist named Mako Flink and my best caberjack, Yuloria Wayne, for tanking.

After the jump, I’ll spoil the finale of Massive Chalice, which you should play for yourself instead. Continue reading →

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, | Game reviews
Splendor_review

I first heard about Splendor in connection to its Spiel des Jahres nomination last year. “I got this new game called Splendor,” my friend told me, displaying a box that promised adventures in jewelry. “It’s up for the Spiel des Jahres!”

So we played it exactly once and were slightly dismayed to discover a little math puzzle. We shouldn’t have been surprised, since “spiel des jahres” is German or Portuguese or something for “boardgame themes are pointless exercises in appeasing people with no imagination, but we’ll barely attempt them to disguise the fact that we’re just making math puzzles”. I am paraphrasing, since I don’t actually know German or Portuguese. The shorter translation is “Eurogame”. Settlers of Catan, Carcassone, and Ticket to Ride — all games I’ve owned, played, and no longer own — have all won top Spiel des Jahres honors.

After the jump, so why am I playing an iPad port of Splendor? Continue reading →

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, | Movie podcasts
Terminator_Genisys_podcast

If you listen to just one synopsis this year, listen to Kelly Wand’s synopsis for the critically reviled Terminator: Genisys, which we saw this week. You might be surprised at our reaction to the movie itself. At the 1:20, we plunge into a discussion of our favorite aquariums in movies.

Next week: Ant Man

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, | News
BO3_zombie_reveal

“You know what’s fuckin’ weird? I don’t consider this shit weird anymore.”

The reveal of the new zombie mode in Black Ops III doesn’t seem like much of a reveal. Yeah, yeah, new narrative is all well and good. But can we do something about the gameplay? I had hoped for a rework of the overall structure, in which you fail repeatedly to make any progress until you look up a walk-through online, at which point you have to balance the razor’s edge of better weapons to hold off increasingly difficult waves with unlocking the new areas you need to progress the level. All the while, dogs or zombies in exo-suits mess up the flow. Reset to zero when you fail.

At least this latest zombie mode has a new noir setting. Well, new for anyone who hasn’t been playing in Arkham Knight’s Gotham. Among the latest voice actors, Heather Graham and Jeff Goldblum are a pleasant surprise. Watch the trailer here.

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, | News
Chaos_Reborn_single_player

The latest update for the deceptively simple but undeniably sophisticated Chaos Reborn has added single-player campaigns. You pick a campaign, move around on the map, resolve random encounters, and track down enemy wizards, with whom you fight battles. You can even go to cities to unlock rumors and buy fancy stuff. As near as I can tell, each campaign is about finding the henchmen wizards to unlock a battle with the main king wizard. Your final score, which goes onto a leaderboard, is partly determined by how long you took.

This is a great way to earn gold and experience points to equip your wizard with new staffs, armor, and talismans. It also sets up battles with unique starting conditions, such as taboos that prevent certain kinds of cards from being used or hired companions who start already in play. There’s nothing quite like beginning a battle with a dragon already by your side. I suspect in the harder campaigns, you’ll see that sort of thing flipped around to advantage the other wizard. Uh oh.

You can read the patch notes here.

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, | Game reviews
Arkham_Knight_review_1

As a videogame power fantasy, Arkham Knight is a heady brew. It makes me feel powerful, it makes me feel smart, and it adoringly invokes a pop culture icon and multi-billion dollar franchise that even the stuffiest of non-comic book readers can groove to. We live in a post-Dark Knight world where the Nolan brothers — who, for all I know, are drawing from some Frank Miller or Neil Gaiman thing I’ve never read — have represented the Batman/Joker dynamic as a dialectic straight out of Greek tragedy. Never mind this silly “have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight” nonsense, plucked from a vat of colorful acid. This is Apollo and Dionysus. It is order and entropy, superego and id, lawful neutral and chaotic neutral. Forget mere good and evil. That stuff is easy. This is what D&D nerds in junior high school parsed when it took everyone else until they were gathered together in college dorms. Take it where you can get it. Gary Gygax, Jim Morrison, Nietzsche, Bob Kane.

After the jump, a videogame that goes beyond good and evil. Continue reading →

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, | News
Butcher

The Eternal Conflict updates for Heroes of the Storm is live, adding a new Diablo III-themed map into a newly stunted rotation. For the next week, the catalog of nine maps has been reduced to just four maps to make sure you see the new heaven vs. hell map more often. Be prepared to have your team run off after treasure goblins and waste their time killing fallen who are just going to be resurrected by their shaman. The Butcher is now available as the first of the three Diablo III-themed characters, to be followed shortly by the Skeleton King and then the monk. For some reason, you don’t see a lot of people cosplaying The Butcher.

Today’s update also changes a whole mess of things. For instance, if you thought you knew The Lost Vikings, Brightwing, Malfurion, or Rehgar, better check the patch notes. The healing column in the score screen, which was useless for anyone who didn’t use a healing support character, is now called the role column. It also shows how much damage your warrior soaked up.

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, | Movie podcasts
Face_of_an_Angel

Michael Winterbottom considers the Amanda Knox case in Face of an Angel, a meta-mess about Italy, murder, the media, and picking up random barmaids. At the 46-minute mark, we assume the identity of people discussing masks in movies for this week’s 3×3.

Next week: Closer to God

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, | Game reviews
Homeland

“Tom’s the terrorist,” Tony declares loudly, slapping the table and leaning back in his chair as if he’s just issued a legally binding decree and there’s nothing more to be said. “He’s totally the fucking terrorist,” he says anyway.

“Why would you say that? I’m suggesting something that’s perfectly reasonable because you can’t possibly know the intel cards that have been played. Maybe you’re the terrorist.”

I mean, he’s right. I am the terrorist. But there’s no way he could know that, is there?

After the jump, a royal playboy and an affluent politico can’t get me out of this mess. Continue reading →

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