, | Movie reviews
Run_All_Night_review

All you need to know about Run All Night is that at a certain point in the movie Liam Neeson as a washed up former hitman and Common as a hi-tech assassin fight each other with flaming sticks and it makes perfect sense.

When Jaume Collet-Serra directed Orphan, he took the “evil kid” genre and breathed life, character, and craft into it. Here he does the same thing with the Liam Neeson action genre. Granted, it took him three tries. Who can remember the dopey Unknown and Non-Stop? But unlike those earlier Neeson pieces, Run All Night has a clever character-based script with a great cast led by Neeson, Ed Harris, and Joel Kinnaman (it’s a shame Kinnaman is doing his best work in box office under-performers like this and the Robocop reboot). Also among the cast members is New York played by New York itself instead of Toronto or Vancouver, and Run All Night isn’t afraid to run amok in the streets to prove it.

The big surprise is that once you look past the absurdly high R-rated body count, you’ll find an unlikely story about fathers that spans four generations. It’s great to see Neeson expending huge amounts of ammo, racking up property damage, slugging bad guys, choking a henchman with the gross rotary hand towel in a New York public restroom, and fighting Common with a flaming stick. But who knew you’d get all that in a movie you can take your dad to on Father’s Day?

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, | Movie reviews
Wild_review

Resist the temptation to think of Wild as a chick movie. Given the press, that might be hard to do. Writer Cheryl Strayed, whose memoir of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada was adapted for the movie, and actor/producer Reese Witherspoon have used the movie’s publicity to advocate for women’s issues in Hollywood. Good for them. But this isn’t an issue movie. Instead, it’s a survival drama, minus the kind of catastrophe you get in 127 Hours or Into the Wild. That the lead character is a woman, and that she is largely defined by her relationship with another woman, shouldn’t even be an issue. It is, of course. But it shouldn’t be. And it shouldn’t be Wild’s identifying characteristic.

What makes Wild stand out is how it recreates the state of mind of someone alone in the wilderness. The visuals are gorgeous as the geography progresses from the barren desert through the cold and into the lush greenery of the Pacific Northwest. It’s no accident this progression reflects Strayed’s state of mind. The muted soundtrack is music remembered from a radio playing in a car or heard from another room. Director Jean-Marc Vallee’s deftly edited flashbacks are sometimes a split second or sometimes drawn out sequences, all presented in the style of someone left alone with her thoughts and recollections, all telling us a bit more about this woman.

And this is a woman worth meeting. Another thing that sets Wild apart from stereotypical chick movies is that Wild isn’t about someone who was failed by her parents or betrayed by her spouse. She isn’t rising above a perceived victimization, finding her strength. She’s an already strong character taking stock of the decisions she has made. Reese Witherspoon shows no trace of Tracy Flick, a role that’s hounded her ever since Election. Grimly bearing the burden of that colossal backpack, she shows grit, weariness, self-awareness, and complexity. This is how you work your way out from under a career of romantic comedies. Once again, Laura Dern reveals herself as an actor who deserves far more recognition than she gets. Who else consistently channels raw emotional intensity like Dern? It’s exhausting, in a good way.

As a procedural about an absolutely ass-kicking hike, Wild considers simple issues like having the right shoes and stove fuel. It also deals with the maddening loneliness, offset by bursts of camaraderie among fellow hikers. Wild is a warmly humanistic movie, full of good people. But it’s scary for a woman to be alone in the wilderness in a different way than it is for a man. The isolation when you see that lone hiker in the distance has very different implications for a woman. Wild acknowledges this, but doesn’t cheaply exploit it.

Wild is currently available on Blu-ray, DVD, and video on demand. Support Qt3 and watch it on Amazon.com.

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, | News
divinity_ee

Enhanced editions are in. InXile Entertainment is doing it for Wasteland 2 and now Larian is giving Divinity: Original Sin a do-over as well. Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition is coming to consoles and PCs. This improved version of the fantasy RPG adds full voice performances for all characters, controller support, couch co-op, new quests and NPCs, and the obligatory revamped visuals. Rather than just being a set of enhancements to bring the game to consoles, the developers are also “heavily” rewriting the story to include a new ending. In fact, it’s so different that when the enhanced edition is released for free (yes, free) to current owners, it will be a separate game. According to Larian’s Swen Vincke, they were just going to patch the PC version of Original Sin, then translate that work to the consoles, but the project grew into something larger.

And so we started, first with small things intended to be included in the N-th patch, but soon with more drastic things that couldn’t be included that easily. Then, even more drastic things made it to our tasklist that conflicted with the “patch protocol”, a series of rules that ensure story changes don’t break savegame compatibility and would therefore only be present in new games.

When the UI, controller and split-screen experiments looked like they were going to be successful, it almost became a no-brainer that we’d apply our re-engineering skills to the entire game. And so we did.

You can watch a video about Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition here.

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Candy-Crush-saga

Remember when Windows came with the Space Cadet pinball game? Good times. Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 will come with Candy Crush Saga. Popular standards like Solitaire, Hearts, and Minesweeper will also be included for office time-wasting, but the new generation of gamers raised on mobile fare demand something a little more meaty than guessing which grey blocks out of a thousand have hidden mines buried under them. They need candy to crush. And in-app purchases to buy more lives. And social media integration.

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, | Game reviews
Interplanetary_review

The bright spot in the disappointing RTS Planetary Annihilation was planets reaching out into the solar system and attacking each other. Actual interplanetary warfare, slinging nuclear missiles through space, firing massive Deathstar lasers, and turning moons into sledgehammers. The solar system was your battleground. But to get to this good stuff, you had to wade through a lot of middling RTSing. So imagine my delight to discover Interplanetary, a turn-based game that dispenses entirely with the middling RTSing.

After the jump, may the best planet win. Continue reading →

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sullust

When people think of Star Wars, they usually think of space samurai with laser swords, Rick Moranis in a giant helmet, and space battles. Pew pew! Keeping that in mind, it’s understandable that fans of the franchise were disappointed to hear that Star Wars Battlefront would not have any space battles. Electronic Arts and DICE said they wanted to focus on the planetary combat, which is logical since the game seems to be built on the framework of the Battlefield games. There wasn’t much need to protect the space above China from communist aggression after all.

DICE has revealed that Star Wars Battlefront will offer a Fighter Squadron mode that at least lets space jockeys trade fire with their airborne enemies. The game mode will allow players to engage in starfighter battles over “huge” canyons. Fighter Squadron will likely be similar to the Air Superiority mode already present in Battlefields 3 and 4. Hopefully, the X-Wings and Tie Fighters will be easier to control for new players than the jets in Battlefield which have a distressing tendency to act like lawn darts.

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clankus

First, there’s a Ratchet & Clank movie based on the series of PlayStation-exclusive games. Second, it’s CG animated. Finally, the cast has been announced and it sounds surprisingly decent. Sylvester Stallone, John Goodman, and Paul Giamatti will lend their voice talent to the feature. There’s good news for purists as well. Ratchet will be voiced by James Arnold Taylor and David Kaye will supply Clank’s vocals just like they did in the video games. Armin Shimerman and Jim Ward will also return to their roles as Nefarious and Captain Qwark, respectively.

The film follows the two unlikely heroes (a foolhardy “lombax” and a pint-sized robot) as they struggle to stop a vile alien named Chairman Drek from destroying every planet in the Solana Galaxy. When the duo stumble upon a dangerous weapon capable of destroying entire planets, they must join forces with a team a group called The Galactic Rangers in order to save the galaxy.

Rainmaker Entertainment will be showing the film to distributors this week in Cannes.

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Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will be the next chapter in the open-world alien artifact collection game. The leaks last year were correct about the game being set in Victorian England, but the project’s name is no longer ‘Victory’ which is probably a relief to the Ubisoft team working on the future Assassin’s Creed game set in World War II. And what comes with steam engines and upper-crust puffery? We’ve gone from gathering fancy French ribbons to building up a wardrobe of top hats and monocles. Instead of France’s sans-culottes fighting against the nobility, it’s the Industrial Revolution’s wage slaves against the manufacturing rich.

An age of invention and prosperity, built on the backs of working class slaves. As gangster assassin Jacob Frye, you will recruit your gang to fight for justice on behalf of the oppressed working class.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will be available on Xbox One, PS4 and PC on October 23, 2015. If you’re immune to spoilers, Ubisoft has posted a gameplay video as well.

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, | Movie reviews
Maggie_review

Maggie isn’t a zombie movie so much as an elegy about terminally ill children. Who will turn into zombies. It takes place in the rural malaise following an averted zombie apocalypse. Arnold Scharzeneggar has brought home his infected daughter and now he has only to wait until she turns. Will he take her to a quarantine center? Will he put her out of her misery himself? Will his accent be explained? These are the questions the viewer must ponder.

The script calls for quiet grieving. Schwarzenegger is clearly out of his depth. But so too is the haggard farmer he affects. What parent is prepared to watch his child wither and die? What could have been the weakest part of the movie — an action star trying his hand at quiet emoting — kind of works. Kind of.

But then there’s the rest of the movie. First time director Henry Hobson has a nice eye for prosaic detail and dying light (the movie could have been called Twilight of the Living Dead and not just for its tween lead and tween romantic subplot (it could also have been called Foxcatcher, although you have to see the movie to understand that one)). But Hobson takes too long going nowhere in particular. The slow burn fizzles out and trails off. He furthermore displays a singular ability to undercut every scene by serving it with either rolling thunder underneath or syrupy music drizzled on top.

The supporting cast has the kind eyes and severe faces you’d expect in a rural malaise. And then there’s poor sporting Abigail Breslyn, who made her mark in movies by being humiliated in Little Miss Sunshine. Since then, she has been run down by zombies in Zombieland, thrown into a trunk and rudely beaten in The Call, and trapped in a ghost jar in Haunters. At this rate, I’d lay good odds that she’ll be one of the first to go in this fall’s Scream Queens, a Fox TV series from the creators of American Horror Story in which one major cast member is killed every episode. She’s left to do the heavy lifting in Maggie, despairing as the zombie make-up on her baby round face gets thicker and the contact lenses in her wide eyes get more opaque. If Maggie had trusted her more than its stunt Teutonic casting and the artsy indulgence of its freshman director, it might have shown more signs of life.

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, | Games
downgrade_amirite

It’s a little over a week before The Witcher 3 launches, and the biggest discussion right now isn’t the fact that you can have sexual relations with a sorceress while on the back of a stuffed unicorn. No, it’s the possibility that current video and images of the game do not live up to the media released over a year ago. It’s called ‘The Witcher 3 downgrade’ and nitpicky fans of game marketing say it’s indicative of the graphics being reduced in quality during development. While stuff like missing smoke from fires and pixel-counts in foliage are important, people shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that they can have sex with a sorceress while on the back of a stuffed unicorn. To help put things in perspective, we’ve got a look back at some other games that suffered from a graphics downgrade.

After the jump, let’s tighten up those graphics on level three! Continue reading →

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, | Game reviews
Quartermaster_General_review

No matter how many ways we game World War II and watch it in movies and dissect its possible outcomes, the central fact of World War II is that it actually happened. The fall of France, appeasement, Pearl Harbor, Stalingrad, Tom Hanks landing on Normandy, Johnson stealing doilies, Brad Pitt in a crippled tank fending off an SS division, BJ Blascowicz traveling through time to fix the timestream, or whatever happened in the last Wolfenstein game. I didn’t play it. Who has time to play a Wolfenstein game when you’re replaying Grand Theft Auto V on a third platform?

World War II isn’t just the most significant endeavor in all of human history, it’s also one of our favorite playgrounds. One follows from the other. Because it’s the most significant endeavor in all of human history, it’s therefore a popular sandbox. Boys love to move chits on a board or hear the pinging pin in a depleted M1 Garand magazine or thrill to the four roaring Wright engines on a B-17 or roll for research in Axis and Allies. And one of the best World War II playgrounds is the utterly brilliant, sexily sleek, and slightly subversive boardgame Quartermaster General.

After the jump, WWII for dummies, geniuses, and everyone in between. Continue reading →

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wasteland2

Wasteland 2 is getting an upgrade. Developer inXile Entertainment is releasing Wasteland 2: Game of the Year Edition as a free update to all owners of the game on Windows, Mac, or Linux. The improved version of the RPG will be upgraded to the newest Unity 5 build and takes advantage of all the graphical bells and whistles that the engine offers. The desolate, post-apocalyptic nightmare will be spruced up with redone character models, better lighting, and updated textures. Along with the visual improvements, inXile is adding voices to companions, implementing a system that will let combatants target enemies’ specific body parts, and they are introducing a perk feature to character progression.

Finally, to improve on the gameplay experience and ensure the above features are fitted in seamlessly, we’re also overhauling game balance, item drops, and reworking the majority of combat encounters throughout the game. You’ll need all your training and smarts to master the new dangers of the Arizona wastes.

Wasteland 2: Game of the Year Edition is coming to PC later this year. It will also be available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as the initial release on those platforms.

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blast_away

Star Wars Battlefront, the multiplayer shooter from DICE and Electronic Arts, will not have aiming down sights. Although the game can be played in first or third-person views, Executive Producer Patrick Bach told OXM that the game will not feature the snappy aiming found in DICE’s own Battlefield games.

“There are no ironsights in Star Wars, on the ordinary blasters. You have scopes on some rifles, but there are no ironsights.”

Without the visual and stability assistance that ironsights, or aim down sights, brings it’s no wonder that Stormtroopers can’t hit Rebels in a straight hallway shootout. Look at them. There’s not even an attempt to aim. It’s just hip-firing all the way! No wonder they lost. Star Wars Battlefront will launch on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC on November 17th.

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