Impressions, Movies

Impressions: Lazer Team

Rooster Teeth has turned heads more than once in it’s lifetime. With their first feature length movie they did it again. Lazer Team broke many crowd funding records, in order to create the movie. The question was, what would Rooster Teeth do with the money, and would it live up to expectations?

Plot Summary:

In the 1970s the military receives notice from an alien race called the Antareans. The aliens warn that conflict is coming, and offer to help the human race in the conflict. The military begins to train a child from birth, in order to make him Earth’s champion. Fast forward to present day and a group of men (mostly played by people from Rooster Teeth) manage to screw it up by taking the suit meant to help protect Earth. What follows is a pretty standard under dog type movie. They must train (and largely fail), and decide to come together in order to save Earth. The plot isn’t anything terribly original in it’s foundation, however there is a lot thrown in that has it’s own unique Rooster Teeth feel to it.

Impressions:

Overall I was rather impressed, even more so than I expected to be. Being a fan of Rooster Teeth for over a decade I went in expecting some laughs, and something solid. However I was given something more than just “this is passable and done by a company I like”. There was a good blend of humor, a lot of it is the humor you would expect from the people involved. Sometimes it was rather crude, sometimes over the top, but also with a fair number of pretty smart jokes.

The visuals were overall very solid. There were a few moments where the special effects could have done with some work. However there are movies with major studios backing them that have a few special effects missteps. It’s very well acted, with everyone fitting their role well. It has a few goofball moments, but they feel like part of the story rather than mistakes.

It manages to have the charm of an indie movie, and brings what makes Rooster Teeth, Rooster Teeth. At the same time it doesn’t feel like anything half assed, or like some low budget films can sometimes be. It’s clear that they did everything they could with what they had, making sure to bring the most to each moment and scene. A loved company like Rooster Teeth could have bumbled through the experience and probably still pleased people, but that doesn’t feel like what happened here.

The plot is a bit predictable, however it’s entertaining, and has good pacing. It also really does have it’s own charm that is hard to describe. Frankly I would rather an entertaining movie, even if it doesn’t fill fully unique, than something that tries too hard and fails.

Bottomline:

It’s impossible to put myself in the shoes of someone that isn’t already a Rooster Teeth fan to say if it’s a requirement to like this movie. That being said I believe I can say that some of the jokes might not take, but the movie could have a pretty broad audience. It’s funny, entertaining, and fairly solid. Fans of Rooster Teeth will probably find little to complain about (if anything), and the movie exceeded my expectations. It is not the greatest movie I’ve ever seen but it did make me tear up from laughing so hard, and I greatly enjoyed the experience. I say GREAT job Rooster Teeth.

Horror

Favorite Horror Movie “Other”

I talked about villains (mostly human) and monsters (mostly non human). I feel there is another category in horror though, mostly environmental but really human vs something non sentient. What generally makes this effective is regardless of how dangerous whatever “it” is, humans are what make it even more so.

The Cube (Cube)

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Built by humans but ultimately what makes it deadly is the humans in it. The Cube is dangerous, trap after trap after trap. The humans trapped in it need to work together or fall to it. Not surprising they pretty much all fall to it. Each one of them failing in different ways, and failing mostly to notice they have everything they need to get out.

The Cave (The Descent)

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The actual cave doesn’t claim any victims, but it’s an important part of what puts the girls in a situation where they can be killed off. By the time the monsters show up the group has already fallen apart. They are tired, injured, have turned on each other, frankly they are easy to pick off by the time the “killers” show up. Some of the scariest moments in the movie are actually connected to their struggles with the cave, and not with the monsters in it.

The Event Horizon (Event Horizon)

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Something satanic is in the ship, shifting it slightly from “other” into something else. The ship itself plays a very important role in everything that is going on though. What is in the ship couldn’t work in just any ship, it is the Horizon itself that is able to be taken over and kill the people that board it. It’s a ship that no one should want to get on.

The Sphere (Sphere)

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While I am not the biggest fan of the movie, and loathe the ending, I like the idea of it. It’s not invented as a weapon, but it ends up being that and little more. The Sphere allows those that come into contact with it to imagine anything they want. The problem is the human factor. They all become paranoid and begin to imagine their worst fears picking each other off one by one. The Sphere shows that it’s the only thing humans seem capable of doing with that power.

The Box (Hellraiser)

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It might seem like a strange choice at first glance. After all the box does nothing to you, it’s the Cenobites you need to worry about. However, without the box the Cenobites aren’t an issue. You are completely safe from these creatures as long as you don’t call them to you, you call them to you by messing with the box. Once you’ve interacted with it you bring a group down on you that desires nothing more than to cause you what they consider beautiful pain. They won’t stop, they won’t let go, you’ve messed with the box so they want you. Even in the first movie the hero attempts to make a deal with them and it doesn’t work. She hands Pinhead the only prey to escape them and he turns and declares that it’s still her turn.

The Hotel (The Shining)

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The great debate about this is if the hotel actually did anything to the man, or if the man was already insane. The reasonable outcome is regardless of if the man was already insane, the hotel (isolation) is still what makes him snap. Either way I find The Hotel a fitting thing for the list. Whether a haunted hotel of horrors, or just extreme isolation that drives the people in it insane, they all snap because of it. What was once a semi functional family falls completely apart once they decide to check in and stay at that hotel.

Video Games

How To Survive PC vs Console

If you’ve been following my writing for awhile you know that I was asked to review How to Survive on the PC back in November of 2013. You can read that review here. It’s safe to say that I wasn’t a huge fan of the game. I felt it was clunky, and that it lacked the balance needed for survival games. Years have gone by, new systems have come out, and How to Survive is on the Xbox One. So the question becomes, is the game better?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, but not really by much. The graphics are improved, controls feel more polished, and the overall experience feels like it got a fresh coat of paint. The problem is that underneath it all it’s still the same game. One of my biggest problems with the PC version of the game is that it felt less like “how to survive” and more like “how to die over and over and over”.

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I like challenging games, without challenge the hobby of gaming can get pretty boring. So it’s not being “hard” that makes me dislike a game. It’s when a game is hard because it’s designed poorly that makes me angry. How to Survive wants to be a survival horror game so badly, but it’s just really not. It purposely gives you way too little so that situations are not hard, but actually completely impossible without sidetracking and going back and starting over again and again. You might argue “well that’s what survival horror games do”. No intense survival horror games like the early Silent Hill games don’t give you too little to the beat the game, they give you just enough. Just enough that you have to be smart, patient, and prioritize. Giving too little is adding difficulty, but not in the right way. It’s ensuring that the game lasts longer only because the player will constantly die and probably have to restart the game multiple times to level characters. One is challenging and difficult, one is impossible and frustrating.

You get healing plants (in limited amounts), but don’t learn how to utilize them to the best of your ability until much much later. You stumble upon a safe house on the first island, but can’t actually use it for it’s purpose. You have to go from point a to point b with no tutorial, no weapon, and tons of enemies following you, good luck and run fast. This is all very annoying and is something that keeps coming up in the game. You basically are always about 5 levels behind what you should be. So what do you do? You obsessively and slowly level your character in order to help face the challenge. Only then the game still manages to make sure you don’t have the right information. It doesn’t matter how high level you are, you are going to have to wait and wait and wait to get the weapons, and equipment, you need to keep moving forward.

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It’s not good and it’s not fun. But that’s the problem, its the foundation of the game is fun. The console version of the game did a great job with the polish. It controls better, looks nice, and the core of what’s happening is really cool. So why did they have to ruin it with their own poor balance choices? The game provides a bit of fun, and I do find myself thinking, “Well, I can deal with an hour of frustration today” in order to play a bit, but I just wish they had made better choices in order to make the game still challenging but a bit more fun.

So I would again say the console version is better than PC, but I still won’t call it more than a mediocre game.

Video Games

7 Weird Games

previously published on 30plusgamer (a no longer active site) written by Megan E. Pearson

Video games have a wide variety of plot lines to them. We’ve seen everything from the realistic to just plain out there when it comes to gaming. I would like to take some time to talk about seven of the weirdest games that have been given to us over the years. Remember weird doesn’t mean bad.

1. Katamari Series

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It’s very true that Katamari is one of the most popular game franchises out there. It’s fun, cute, and very addictive. However when you stop and think about it, it’s more than a little weird. Every game begins with the King of All Cosmos destroying the solar system in some fashion. He got drunk, angry, a little over enthusiastic playing sports, you know the standard stuff. He then demands The Prince to roll a ball around, sucking up things in it’s path to make it grow to replace the things the King destroyed. Some how this strange system equals one of the most fun games ever, but you can’t help but shake your head at the craziness of this game. Add in the bright colors and crazy soundtrack, and everything adds up to just plain silly.

2. LSD Dream Emulator

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This really isn’t a game at all. Instead the player simply walks around any number of strange environments, each time you bump into an object or wall you are transported to a different environment. These “dreams” happen for ten minuets and are added to the flashbacks. The only real danger in the dreams are a man in a gray trench coat. If the player gets too close the screen will flash and he will disappear. The dreams this happens in aren’t able to be recalled later. What is really amazing about this game is that even though there are a limited number of environments they never really look the same. The game was based on a dream journal kept by a member of Asmik Ace Entertainment, and it’s no stretch to say his dreams were messed up. LSD Dream Emulator is fascinating but also very disturbing.

3. Chulip

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Chulip is described as an action/simulation game. To be honest it’s a kissing game. The whole point of the game is to figure out who to kiss and when. There is a bit of a challenge because you can’t just kiss any random NPC at any time. Sometimes you have to do favors for them, and certain NPCs only come out at certain times each day according to the in-game clock. Ultimately though it’s a kissing game. It’s also worth noting that this game is all about trying to impress a girl, and the ability to kiss is what helps the player rise to the top of corporations and meeting aliens. That’s right because the only thing more convoluted than the fact that this is a kissing game is the actual plot in which this game takes place. If you can embrace the strange though, it’s a decent game.

4. Mr. Mosquito

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You play as a mosquito that lives in a house with a family. Each day/stage you have to collect a certain amount of blood to continue. There are only certain parts of the body that the player can suck at various times through out the game. You also have to be careful to not suck blood too fast or too slow. It’s really hard to find the words to describe this game.

5. Seaman

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Much like Dream Emulator this isn’t much of a game either. Seaman is more of a Virtual Pet. You are responsible for caring for a creature. You have to learn about it, and develop it in many different stages. Sounds pretty normal right? It is until you realize that the creature starts as a fish with a man’s face and eventually grows into a frog with a man’s face. There’s really nothing normal about the creature. Sprinkle on Leonard Nimoy guiding you through the world of caring for these animals and it’s safe to classify this game as strange.

6. Catherine

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Catherine is a horror/puzzle game. In it Vincent, the main character, is feeling pressured to get married. Their little community is also suffering from a number of strange occurrences. Vincent begins to have nightmares, which is where the actual gameplay comes in. He also meets a woman and begins to cheat on his girlfriend with her, but it only seems to make the nightmares more frequent. The strange rumors around town kind of seem to be a red herring though, as the game is really all about Vincent’s inability to commit. That’s a lot to go through for a game to have a message about commitment. So strange gameplay with strange plot just leaves this as being a weird experience. An enjoyable one none the less though.

7. Chex Quest

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This game in and of itself is not weird. Chex cereal created this non-violent game that was included with their product. It’s clear product buy-in because you are Chex man protecting the cereal from aliens that want to eat it. What makes this game strange is the fact that it’s was basically Doom for children. They used the same engine, modeled multiple levels after Doom levels. Had the same hud system and controls. They borrowed everything from Doom except the violence and fear (which is pretty important to Doom). I give them credit for wanting to give young kids something to play when computer games were really taking off, however as an adult seeing that game after Doom it’s a bit shocking. It’s hard not to put a child’s game that tried to emulate one of the least kid friendly games ever created on a list of strange games.

Video Games

Free To Play MMOs, My Thoughts

In the past I have had many discussions over the basic issues with MMOs today. Now I won’t pretend to be a MMO expert. I don’t play that many of them, and of those I do play very few keep my interest for very long. However, I have dabbled enough that I believe I can safely say that one of the biggest problems with MMOs is the lack of sub fee.

Many people take issue with this stance, in fact many gamers LOATHE sub fees. I do stand by it though and I would like the chance to defend why.

1: Sub fees are needed for servers. Sub fees are important to MMOs because servers are expensive to maintain but obviously very key to the experience. While server issues happen in all MMOs I think they have greatly increased since sub fees stopped being standard.

In the days when you had to pay sub fees it was expected that servers would be in good working order. You knew to deal with updates sometimes, and a few hiccups here and there, but over all you knew your game would work. Now though server issues are kind of part of the standard package, you pretty much expect them to happen and gamers have adjusted to this.

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I think a good for instance is Neverwinter on console during it’s 2x exp weekend was pretty much unplayable because of all the server issues. Any time players left an area, joined a group, or even wandered around too long the servers would time out and then drop.

To me this is not ok, this fundamentally denotes a bad game. Yet people seemed pretty ok with it because it’s become standard in the world of Free to Play MMOs. Without the sub fees the money going towards server maintenance just isn’t there. Also the expectation that you are paying for that has gone out the window.

2: The market is flooded with seemingly incomplete MMOs. I don’t like to be “one of those people” but I will power through and do it anyway. I remember back in the old days when, a MMO really emphasized the first M or massive. Everyquest could be played for YEARS without exploring all the content. Eve Online is STILL going strong, hell eve WoW was huge and would take months to explore every single thing. You were paying a sub fee because the game never really ended. Getting to “end game” with a character just opened up more post game content, and there were tons of other characters to play.

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Add to that but you can also add to the game by experiencing the difference in factions. For instance, the difference between Horde and Alliance in WoW is pretty massive. Not to mention games that large usually had a lot of different quests that were specific to classes and races. There was a long list of reasons to keep playing.

With Free to Play MMOs what often (not always but often) happens is that you play the same quests regardless of what character you pick, with little to no deviation. End game is not nearly as in depth, or even enjoyable. You reach a certain point where you can say “I am done with the game” which goes against what a MMO should be.

Some people might like this fact, they don’t want to keep playing the same game for years. I can certainly understand that. However MMOs are supposed to be something you play for years. They aren’t supposed to be like other games out there. They are in a word supposed to be Massive.

3: Microtransaction. I have said and will probably continue to say that I think microtransactions are one of the worst things to happen to gaming. I believe they are bad for the gaming industry. They present a pay to win formula which is bad. Not only that but there is money to be made from microstransactions which forces more and more developers and publishers to use them. Free to Play MMOs keep microtransaction alive and well, and that to me is fairly unforgivable.

4: They prevent new MMOs from reaching their potential. See now you’ve probably read this and thought “but ___ is a really good Free to Play MMO”. The truth is there are some good ones out there. The problem is the market is so flooded with them that the good ones are washed out.

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The other issue is that games that are good with the Free to Play model that could be GREAT with the sub fee model aren’t given a fair chance to try the sub model. I think ESO and SWTOR are the biggest examples of this. Both are very close to reaching that great MMO potential but suffer from problems that I don’t think would exist if they could just charge subscription fees.

However neither were in a position that they could really take the risk. Because the market is flooded with bad MMOs good ones aren’t really able to say “you know what we should charge a monthly fee for this” because there aren’t enough people that would pay it anymore.

I honestly believe that taking back up the model of sub fees is the best thing that could happen to MMOs. It would put fewer on the market, make demands for those coming out to be better, and would be better for the gamers. Of course I also know that such a thing is very unlikely.

Horror, Mini Reviews

Mini Review: Would You Rather

Most people have played “would you rather” at some point in their life, or at the very least understand the concept. You are given a choice between two things (generally negative) and have to choose which you would rather do. Given the title and description of the movie it’s supposed to be based on that concept. The actual movie itself does not live up to the title, or really much of anything.

The idea is simple. A man finds people that are down on their luck. He offers them basically everything they could need to turn their lives around, in return they must play a game for him. When the people arrive they are locked in and it turns out it’s a twisted version of “would you rather”. Really though it’s more “we are holding you hostage and going to torture you and the last one standing wins”. Throughout the entire movie there is only one instance of “what would you rather do”, otherwise it’s just “ok now we are going to hurt you”. It’s rather disappointing because if you are going to make a movie that’s gore porn, the “would you rather” concept would make it stand out. Ultimately there is nothing unique here. A group of people being tormented, a few bind together but fail to escape, and you have your “winner” that must face the reality of what they survived.

It’s boring, been done, and mostly just a grind to get through it. Most of the cast is killed off in one rather quick sweep then the rest is a slow build to nothing. The ending is also rather disappointing. I am sure they thought it was a great twist, but you can see it coming from miles away. It has a moment here and there, but could have been much better if it had built on what the name said. In the end it’s just another forgettable horror movie.

News, Video Games

10 More Backwards Compatible Games

Xbox One owners can rejoice, as ten more games have been given backwards compatibility. The following games are now backwards compatible.

Aegis Wing

Age of Booty

CS: Go

Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad

Sam and Max Save the World

Skullgirls

Small Arms

SoulCalibur

Space Giraffe

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Microsoft did announce that they would not longer be doing bulk releases with backwards compatible games though. In the future each time a game is ready it will be launched right away, instead of holding off until they have more to release.

News, Video Games

Loyalty Perks for Garden Warfare 2

In the recent years a few games have implemented “Loyalty Perks” for people that have played past titles in the franchise. Notable online multiplayer games, like Call of Duty, have given special weapons, titles, and items for gamers. Plants vs Zombies 2 is taking a page out of that book, to bring their own Loyalty Perks. They are offering items to people who have reached certain ranks in Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare. The items are for rank 10, 25, 50, 100, and a super special item for rank 313. Rank 313 is highest you can go in the first Garden Warfare, and people that managed to reach that will get a special Unicorn Chomper.

The other ranks will give the player card packs. They range from character packs, to consumable packs. The games launches on February 23rd in North America and the 25th in Europe, so if you want to rank up here’s your last chance.

Horror

Favorite Horror Movie Monsters

I did an article about favorite horror movie villains, and included mostly human or human like enemies. In this I would like to talk about favorite horror movie monsters. Creatures that might be humanoid in some cases but feel like they are in a different category.

Xenomorphs (Alien)

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What gets me about the Xenomorphs is the motivation. They just want to hunt, and they are really good at it. The first Alien is terrifying. They are trapped with a killer that is far more effective in every way than they are. It takes losing the entire ship to take one of them down. That’s pretty amazing for this movie monster.

Trolls (Trollhunter)

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I think one of the biggest reasons the trolls stand out to me is that they are larger than life, and very unique. Trollhunter creates multiple trolls none exactly like the last. They are big, epic, and you won’t soon forget them. They are also scary and very effective in their areas. They are a great balance of monsters that just want to be left alone, but will protect themselves fiercely when they feel threatened.

The Shark (Jaws)

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Disclaimer: I hate what this movie did to real sharks. I love the ocean, and I specifically love sharks. They fascinate me. It bothers me that people reacted to this movie in such a way that it still negatively effects sharks and that people think that sharks are manhunters.

Aside from the disclaimer this is a really good movie monster. While the shark doesn’t have much of a kill count it’s hunt of the men after it is brilliant. It’s slow, builds well, and when that shark finally strikes it’s wonderful. If you are going to turn sharks into killing machines then you have to do it like this.

The Thing? (The Thing)

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An iffy choice since about 50% of the time in this movie it manifests as a human. However it’s still something inside of those people and not the people themselves. This movie plays on the fears of never knowing who you can trust. The creature, alien being, whatever it is, is scary in all it’s forms. It’s also effective because it makes people kill each other but also plants paranoia.

The Graboids

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To most people Tremors exists in the realm of comedy and not horror. It’s not that I don’t see the point, the movie makes me laugh as well. However the movie is also more than a little scary, and that is based entirely on the fact that the monster is more than a little scary. It’s not just that they are massive, live underground, and pull you down when you least expect it. They are also smart. They hunt the people in the movies, and do it rather effectively.

Zombies (Take your pick)

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Humanoid so it might seem like it doesn’t belong, but one of the most terrifying parts is how inhuman people become when they turn into zombies. Whether fast moving or slow moving what makes zombies effective is that there is just such a massive horde of them. Eventually it becomes overwhelming, and as a group they are killing machines. They take all that was once human, lose it, and become just a member of a killing group.

Video Games

Do Intentions Really Matter?

The issue of sexism in video games is extremely volatile and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. I am not talking about the arguments that seem to stem around what constitutes a “real” gamer when it comes to women (though that is also just as volatile), but rather the way women are portrayed in video games.

This is not a new issue and it’s one that many people (myself included) take very seriously. However, one has to ask if the intentions of the designers actually change the circumstances surrounding calling a game sexist or not. A perfect example of this is the very controversial Lollipop Chainsaw. Many people have declared that the portrayal of Juliet is the perfect example of sexism in video games. That creating a character like her proves that when a game is designed with a female lead that no one really intends to do so in a serious fashion.

However, others argue that people are taking the issue of Juliet to heart when it is clearly a joke. Nothing about Lollipop Chainsaw is serious so why should people be so bothered by a such a sexual character.

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If one compares Juliet to a character like the older Lara Croft and other old school female leads the intentions behind creating the character are very different, even though the end result is pretty much the same. In the case of most older female characters they were created as a lead character when it was highly believed that females did not play video games, basically ever. Nothing about these characters was made to appeal to women. There was no need to put a strong female in the lead role of a game to appeal to other women. The end result was Lara Croft, Street Fighter ladies, etc that were clearly designed to give male gamers something “fun” to look at while playing. They were made to be attractive and incredibly disproportional, and because of that they were sexy characters, meaning that men didn’t mind controlling a female avatar. Male gamers could enjoy the view so they could still enjoy it. While the designers may have accidentally created a strong female role that would later be redesigned to be a slightly less sexist character for people to play that was not entirely the original intention.

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So that brings us back to the issue of Juliet. Again, a character clearly designed to appeal to people in a sexual way. She turns 18 at the start of the game (taking away guilt from lusting for her). She is constantly sucking on Lollipop’s in a very provocative way. She is in a cheerleader costume and players can unlock even more sexual outfits for her, and one of her attacks involves a stripper pole. On the surface Juliet is one of the most offensive characters ever created.

However, when you look at the world in which Juliet is designed for she is hardly the most ridiculous. Other than Lara Croft’s insane breast size and short shorts everything in her world is fairly serious and comparable to other games, nothing in Juliet’s is. She lives in a make believe world and carries her boyfriend’s head around on her waist. She uses a chainsaw that vomits out rainbows, butterflies, and hearts. Juliet is not only outrageous, but she is in an outrageous world.

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Over and over the designers talk about how nothing in Lollipop Chainsaw is meant to be taken serious. The entire game is one huge joke allowing the gamer to play in a world of gore, sex appeal, and cute simultaneously. The story is ridiculous, the bosses are groan worthy, and everything about it makes the player both laugh and sigh.

But does that matter? Does the fact that Juliet was designed as a joke character in a joke environment mean she is any less sexist? Juliet can not be reformatted for future games to be put in less offensive role while retaining anything that makes her her, so in the end is that the bottomline? Lara Croft has developed and continue to do so, and while many argue she is hardly the best of female characters she has gotten closer. Does that undo the original over the top character she once was that just offered a lot of sex appeal?

It’s a question that can’t really be answered by one person or by using just a few examples, but it is something to think about.

Movies, News

Spider-Man Pushed Up

The new Spider-Man reboot was set to release in late July 2017, but has actually be pushed up to July 7th 2017. The reboot will star Tom Holland as the young hero, with Jon Watts as director. Many fans were a bit baffled that the hero was being featured in yet another reboot, after the Amazing Spider-Man movies of 2012 and 2014. However the latest reboot comes about as a direct result of Marvel Studios actually being able to be directly involved in the project. Spider-Man is going to be part of the upcoming Civil War movie, and Marvel wants him integrated in the Marvel Movie Universe. There is still an absence of news about the reboot, though knowing Peter Parker will be a key feature in future Marvel movies has many fans excited.

In Spider-Man’s place on July 28th 2017 we will see the new Jumanji film from Sony. Jumanji is actually suffering a major delay, as it was originally intended to be a holiday film later this year.

TV

The X-Files: Monster of the Week

For those that might not know “Monster of the Week” episodes in X-Files refers to the episodes that don’t have to do with the overall developing conspiracies, even episodes that might not have a “monster” they would still fall into this category. While the bigger picture of the show (or season) might be mentioned in the episode in question, for the most part they focus on a file that is disconnected from that. I personally loved the “Monster of the Week” episodes. They were a nice break from the major conspiracy, often came with good development, and allow for random watching without feeling like you are missing anything. It’s a fair assumption that the short mini series starting soon won’t really have Monster of the Week episodes, and instead focus on the larger plot. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on those great individual episodes though. Over the years there were some great “Monster of the Week” episodes in the series. Some were great because of the actual “monsters”, some because of the development of Mulder and Scully, and some because they included unforgettable guests. It would be impossible for me to say that hands down certain episodes are the best, or even without a doubt my favorite. There are a few that have stuck with me, and made an impact. So without further ado here are some of my favorite “Monster of the Week” episodes.

 

Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose

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This Monster of the Week episode shines thanks to the wonderful performance of Peter Boyle as Clyde Bruckman. In it he guest stars as a man that claims his obsession with death resulted in him being able to see how people would die. While the reason for his gift is never confirmed, the actual gift itself is. Peter hates his “gift”, he has no control over it so it dominates his life. Everywhere he looks he sees death, and it completely destroys his ability to be happy. He teams up with Mulder and Scully to help them solve a series of murders, involving fortune tellers and psychics. Clyde’s story is heartbreaking and compelling, and Boyle gives an amazing performance. Clyde’s relationship with Scully is also wonderfully done, with her doubts and his bitterness seem to collide, yet pull them together.

Home

This episode is pretty messed up. Anyone that would want to make the argument that the X-Files borders on being a horror series, can certainly call on this episode as proof.. Mulder and Scully are called to investigate the death of a baby that looks like it might be alien, what they actually encounter is severely inbred and violent family. The episode is brutal in it’s violence and gore, and is a rather sad individual episode. It builds up the town and people well, only to talk about how it will be ripped apart by the actions of the family. It’s also extremely suspenseful, dark (literally and figuratively), and well done. Home is almost impossible to forget once you’ve experienced it.

Quagmire

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I chose this episode not because of the monster but because of the character development. Scully and Mulder get stranded at one point in the episode, and they have a little heart to heart. During this Scully compares Mulder to Captain Ahab, and says that his obsession will kill him and all of those that follow. This is a fair comparison, and part of the reason I like it. Why I love it though is despite that Scully still follows him. She calls out his obsession but then throws herself back into the fray. It’s interesting to see the ever challenged Scully point out Mulder’s obsession, and potential failing but then declare (in actions if not words) in the same episode that she will follow him down.

Darkness Falls

Darkness Falls focuses on well, darkness. Mulder and Scully are stranded in a cabin with ancient insects that kill in the night. As long as they have light the two are safe, but naturally they don’t really have much. On the side of that they are facing the issue of a so called eco terrorist versus the park rangers over the issues of the forest. Mulder and Scully are unsure who to trust, and the episode itself is rather intense because of the very obvious count down to what would be their deaths. It’s well acted, and keeps you on the edge of your seat for most of the second half of the episode.

Humbug

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Humbug seems like a natural occurrence in The X-Files series. Mulder and Scully investigate phenomena both real and imagined, so it makes sense they would eventually go to a circus with a very active side show. Given the nature of the episode it’s much more comedic than anything found up to that point, and inspired a few more comedic episodes in the future. It’s not really the best episode in the series, but it does rather stick out for the over the top cast of characters, and dark humor.

Horror, News

Guillermo Del Toro Prepares to Scare Children

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is the largely popular horror series that included three books. They were filled with various short horror stories for children. Many people find the “for children” qualifier for the series to be a bit misleading. They were extremely well written, rather scary, and included unforgettable artwork by Stephen Gammell. CBS Films has begun work to adapt the stories into a film, and it seems some great news has come to the project.

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Guillermo Del Toro tweeted out that he would be working on the upcoming movie, though in what capacity is still uncertain. Deadline has reported that it is pretty certain that he will be a producer for the film, but unclear if he will direct. Del Toro is already working on a number of projects, and might not be able to actually take on directing. He does however seem excited about the project, as he tweeted the announcement of his involvement. Not only that but he did confirm that Gammell’s art work would play an important role in shaping the film. Del Toro’s involvement at all is great news, but he would be an ideal director for the movie. There is limited details on the plot, or really anything with the movie, however as more news becomes available we will bring it to you.

Impressions, Movies

Impressions: The Frozen Ground

Plot Summary:

The movie is about the true life hunt for the real life serial killer in Alaska, Robert Hansen. It follows Halcombe (Nicolas Cage), as he works with Cindy (Vanessa Hudgens) to track down killer Hansen (Cusack). Cindy was taken by Hansen, but managed to escape. Though most cops did not take her story seriously since she is a prostitute and not to be believed. Halcombe works for the state troopers and they start to connect many missing persons cases that lead them to Cindy and to Hansen.

Impressions:

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There’s not really anything unique or new to be found in this movie. Most thrillers about hunting serial killers (real or otherwise) have a pretty similar pattern. You have your reluctant victim, your passionate cop with troubles at home, people that try to get in their way, and a killer that tries to remain one step ahead. I’ve seen it before, you’ve seen it before. However, the details in between that and how it’s put together determine if the movie is worth watching or not. Despite the known pattern The Frozen Ground puts itself together in such a way that it’s worth watching.

John Cusack does a great job as Hansen switching from appearing weak, to average, to down right scary with believability and ease. Cage does a really good job, probably to the surprise of many. He seemed to remember what a decent actor he was before he started hamming up every role, and goes back to more believable, and likable, roots that used to mark his older films. Even Hudgens manages to do a solid job as Cindy. There are a few awkward moments, with missteps with the character development, but overall the three leads keep you interested. Sadly the supporting crew is forgettable at best, some of them have their one moment, many of them do not. The movie was clearly meant to be carried by Cusack and Cage so it feels like a lack of effort was given to the rest.

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The Alaskan setting also serves the movie well. The creators of this film knew they had an opportunity with their story taking place in Alaska and jumped on it. The entire movie feels cold, dark, and isolated. The setting might have been chosen for them, but they did a lot with it and it works very well.

The story is also sad, and Hansen is more than just a little bit sickening. The truth is shown over and over in this film, that Hansen was not that good of a serial killer, but that people just cared that little about who he was killing. The cases took way too long to be connected. The man had been jailed for rape, yet when Cindy accused him they believed him over her. Even once Halcombe’s crew gets involved many outside forces dig their heels in to slow them down. The frustration that Cindy, Halcombe, and the few others trying to help them feel can easily be mirrored by the audience.

I can’t think of a single moment that really stands out to me to make this movie feel different. Yet despite that I still really enjoyed it. Not every movie needs to reinvent the wheel, as long as a movie remains entertaining it’s sometimes okay to see a movie just do the best with it. I would say this is that movie, you aren’t going to write essays on how it changed the film industry, but you can still enjoy it.

Bottomline:

The main three stars do a great job, but the rest of the cast hurts their performance a little. The setting works well for the story, and the story sticks with you. Despite that there’s nothing really new here so it feels like enjoying something you already have before. It’s good, but falls short of being great.

Video Games

Garden Warfare 2 Beta: A Quick Look

Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 is set to release late next month, however EA decided to give gamers a bit of a taste. The Garden Warfare 2 Beta was open over the weekend, though like many Betas was less of a Beta and more of a preview. It did include a lot of game crashes that were blamed on the Beta, but otherwise “demo” seems like a more accurate term.

That being said, it was a good look at the game. Each day of the Beta there were two multiplayer game types offered. One was always Turf Wars, the new 24 person experience. Turf Wars plays similar to Gardens and Graveyards from the previous Garden Warfare game. The biggest difference is the scale and size of the experience though. 24 people can seem a bit hectic, but it works well for this game type, and added just a little bit extra to it.

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The other multiplayer game type changed from day to day. Players got a chance to experience Gnome Bomb, Team Vanquish, and others. On the positive side, it was a good way to show different game types without over burdening the beta servers. On the negative side it limited what exactly people could experience, and when. If you didn’t like the game type offered then that day of the Beta might be a wash.

There was also single player offered for the Beta. Garden Ops returns, as does the Zombie Ops. A big complaint with the first Garden Warfare was the lack of balance, due in large part to plants being easier to grind and level with Garden Ops. Adding Graveyards Ops was a smart move on the part of developers. The game is more balanced as a direct result, with equal chances to level characters regardless of the base team.

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There is also a backyard warfare. The plants and zombies each have a base at either end of the “hub world”. If you go to the middle of this area there is a flag, raising it sends wave after wave of the enemy team at you. It’s a good way to get coins, and level your characters. Character leveling is now more balanced. There are still “quests” but you can pick and choose which ones you work for, and they aren’t required to level your characters (though helpful). The system allows for more skill, and learning to determine character level, and less luck.

The new classes are all solid. They are unique, all standing out from each other and the old classes (which all make a come back). Everyone will find new classes they like, and be happy to see their old favorites make a return.

All in all it seems like everything gamers wanted was listened to. More classes, better balance with leveling, more game types, freedom with challenges, and really just a great mix of improvements. Really the only thing we didn’t get to see is how many maps will be in the final game. Honestly if this offering from the Beta is what to come with the full game, then it has a real chance of being a favorite for many players.

Here’s hoping that the server issues, and limited maps is a result of the Beta and not a reflection of the full game. At this point though I am hopeful to see what Garden Warfare 2 has to offer.

Uncategorized

Goodbye Alan Rickman

It’s taken me awhile to decide exactly what to say, and in what way to say it. I don’t know that there is anything I could put into words that haven’t already been said, about the wonderful Alan Rickman. He represents a lot of different things, for a lot of different “types” of nerds.

For many of us he was the perfect Professor Snape. He played all the different parts of that character very well. He had the darkness, was a bully, and yet still managed to make our hearts melt. The movie had some amazing casting choices, and like many of his co-stars, Alan Rickman WAS Professor Snape. It’s impossible to imagine someone controlling that role as beautifully as he did.

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Or maybe he was Marvin, the sarcastic, miserable, robot from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. A character that was comic relief, a depressing voice, and some how important, yet entirely unhelpful.

Maybe he was Hans Gruber, the intense bad guy, in one of the best Christmas Movies of all time. Or he was Alexander Dane for you, in a movie that seems to honor and tease geeks to it’s core, Galaxy Quest.

He could have been Colonel Brandon, or the Metatron, or the Caterpillar. No matter what the role(s), for so many of us we instantly associate a beloved movie with him without even thinking. He had a distinct look, and a voice that no one can really forget.

I wish I could say more, but it’s hard to find the words in this case. It feels as though the nerd world has lost something very core to us, something that leaves a void. I am still grateful that I got to experience the joy of being a fan. Alan Rickman was in many films that I loved, and I was always excited to see something he was in.

Thank you Professor Snape, Hans, Marvin… Mr Rickman.

Mini Reviews, Video Games

Mini Review: My Bones

My Bones falls under what I like to refer to as the “micro” horror story/game. They are horror “games” focused almost completely on story. The premise is simple, there are a set number of points you must reach, usually items, each one revealing a bit more of the story. There is no saving, the game is meant to be played in one sitting. It’s a good concept but it lives or dies based solely on the story.

My Bones dies because of the story. It suffers from atrocious grammar, and has terrible development. The story is basically a few short shock moments and nothing else. There’s some gore and surprises to get from point a to point b, yet it’s entirely underwhelming. The foundation of the story is solid enough, but it’s just so poorly executed. For such a short game it’s really a struggle to finish it.

The “micro” horror has it’s place. When done right it’s amazing (see The Moon Sliver). The issue is if it’s not done very well it’s just going to be written off as bad. My Bones can be written off as bad. Despite how short it is, I consider it a waste of time. Given how short, and poorly done it is, add on that it costs, and I was down right angry. Skip this game, there are better games like it out there.

Horror

Favorite Horror Movie Villains

A great horror movie villain can really sell the movie in general. It can be hard considering the villain might not appear on screen that much, or even have much dialogue. However if you can really develop them and bring them to life then they can make sure a movie is remembered. Over the years horror movies have created some ok villains, forgettable ones, and those that are truly great. These are some of my favorites.

Michael Meyers (Early Halloween)

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I included the words early Halloween for Michael Meyers because that’s when he is one of my favorites. To me what makes Meyers so good in the first Halloween is the complete and utter lack of motivation. He is an evil child that seems to have no reason for killing his sister. His doctor talks about him as being a soulless being that can’t be helped, and he stalks and kills a bunch of teenagers because… well we don’t really know why. It’s perfect. Giving good motivation to a killer can actually be great in the context of horror, but sometimes it’s nice to see killers that just want to kill.

Frankenstein’s Monster

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One of the greatest examples of the sympathetic monster is The Monster. In the first movie if you take away the “abnormal brain” moment (which was forced on the movie makers) you have a seemingly innocent being. He is confused, abused, and very likely in extreme amounts of pain. He is actually a lot more likeable than the man that made him. In the second movie he bonds with and becomes close to a blind man and is once again abused and mistreated by all others. Watching The Monster is brilliant and heartbreaking.

Mrs. Voorhees

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It’s really easy to forget that Friday the 13th didn’t actually start with the supernatural killer Jason Voorhees. In fact Scream plays on that very fact. At the time of the first Friday the 13th Slasher Films hadn’t taken off like they would later, but they were part of horror enough that no one suspected Mrs. Voorhees. It had to be Jason, the formula told us it was, but it wasn’t. It was a mother that was so torn up by the loss of her son that she went on a murderous rampage against seemingly innocent teens. It was well done and shocked a lot of people.

Norman Bates

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Now it’s pretty much common knowledge what the big twist of Psycho is. Most people see the movie knowing the secret of Bates and his mother. When the movie first came out it really shocked audiences though, the twist was so well handled that no one saw it coming. Even if you do know the secret before watching the movie it’s still so well done. Norman is creepy but seemingly innocent, and the mental break between him and his mother is handled perfectly.

Freddy Krueger

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One word, puns. The entire idea of Freddy is very scary. He is a sick man that uses the after life to continue to be a sick man. Being killed in your dreams, in horrific ways, is rather scary. Then you throw into that that he’s hilarious. He is constantly making bad puns that make you giggle at very inappropriate moments. It keeps it entertaining, and creepy.

Any Vincent Price Villain In Any Movie

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Pick a random horror film in which Price plays the main bad guy and I would be willing to bet he leaves an impression. The voice alone is enough to grab at audiences, but Price is just such a great actor. He can be flamboyant, creepy, and give off the feeling of just pure evil. Price owns the horror movie villain, and did it in so many great roles.