*Hey! You get an extra RFotW column because I usually do two or so a week and I’ve been a bit too busy to watch as many movies as I’d like. Lucky you!
As we’re near completely brainwashed here in America that anything related to Cuba is bad or will turn you into a flag-waving, manifesto carrying Commie if you so much breathe in its general direction (save for stuff that can really kill us if over-consumed like Cuban cigars, Cuban sandwiches, or a fatal clot in the ass or legs from that 48-hour I Love Lucy marathon because you wanted to catch that ONE episode you missed), seeing a great indie zombie flick pop up out of that country is a nicely reaffirming sign that people are indeed alike all over. Juan of the Dead, despite the knockoff title and low budget, is a really fine addition to the crowded zombie flick genre thanks to plenty of gore and decent FX work, a load of humor targeted at current and past political policies and a solid cast that’s just fantastic throughout.
Quite possibly the best end of the world movie to date (provided you aren’t expecting something along the lines of an Irwin Allen-style Hollywood blockbuster packed to the gills with overpaid celebrities), Lars von Trier’s Melancholia is also a surprisingly beautiful film despite the fact that everyone dies at the end. Er… Surprise! Actually, the film spells its not so big secret out in the stunning opening montage and its two acts play out in operatic fashion as things unwind in the lives of two sisters and how they deal with the impending disaster. Even though you know what’s going to happen, von Trier’s focus on the pair and the more intimate events in their small part of the world makes for compelling viewing that keeps you watching until the very end. Even if you don’t like some of the director’s previous films, this is one of those essentials that’s not as depressing as you’d think thanks to some excellent performances all around and some truly gorgeous cinematography.
As I always have way too much going on (being a one-man operation can be a bit of a pain every so often), sometimes I can be a tad forgetful. That. or I end up not getting to everything on my rather long list of games I’d like to dive into for a spell. To wit: I’d forgotten this amazing set of over 40 Sega Genesis games had shipped out to retail a while back (OK, something like March 2011!) until one of my eBay alerts reminded me that I was looking for this. A few clicks later and for a mere $9.90 shipped (brand new/sealed), I’m a happy camper set to re-relive some games I’ve played to death on a few platforms already. Hey, the classics NEVER get old, that’s for sure.
I’ll drop in a review once this arrives and I get in some quality time with the games in this great package. Hmmmm… now, where did I put that PC game pad I haven’t used in ages?
One of the best films I saw in 2011 wasn’t the usual big-budget Hollywood ego piece cooked up to win award after award, but a great and often laugh out loud funny comedy from Japan that’s worth tracking down even if it’s never released in English. That said, I’ll bet writer/director Koki Mitani wants a time machine for his next birthday. I know one of the first things he’d probably do is go back and meet Billy WIlder, Michael Powell and Frank Capra for dinner somewhere expensive where they’d smoke cigars, drink good whiskey and talk movies until the sun popped up like a fresh piece of perfect toast.
I say this because Mitani’s latest film, A Ghost Of A Chance (or Once Upon a Blue Moon if you happen to live in Japan) manages to get in nods to Wilder, Powell, Capra and a few other famous directors while also being as fresh and funny as Mitani’s other inspired comedy work. While a bit overlong, the film is funny (often hilariously so), touching (you’ll probably shed a tear at some point) and despite a few flaws, is overall worth watching a few times. With a plot that’s part crime story, ghost story, courtroom intrigue and romance (for starters), there’s a lot here to keep cinema buffs happy.
While last year’s prequel to John Carpenter’s classic 1982 film was well-made and an effectively creepy good time, as a big fan of the original 1951 flick and of course, JC’s fine retelling… I was a tiny bit disappointed. For me, part of great suspense is all in the build up and despite some nice scares, the prequel loses a bit of suspense because it doesn’t build much empathy for its doomed cast (and loses some chances to once the monsters start appearing). Still, I found most the film fine until the entire alien saucer sequence complete with that all-too common “formerly flexible monster who can’t quite reach the heroine!” and “run like hell to escape the big explosion” set pieces we’ve all seen in too many other films. I’ll get to the “leave ‘em hanging!” part of the pre-credit ending later, as there’s a great (and I think intentional) workaround there that could actually set up an actual sequel (should someone be crazy enough to make one)…
Sega is set to send Sonic soaring into the stratosphere after two great games in a row on consoles (the super Sonic Colors and the even superior Sonic Generations). Here’s a quick peek at the Hedgehog’s latest speed-fest, set to hit XBLA and PSN in the New Year – enjoy!
It’s pretty safe to say that if I wasn’t writing so much about video games, I’d probably be writing about film. These days, there are so many great cinema scribes out there that do that a lot better than I do in terms of covering the medium, so I reserve my talents to the interactive as I believe that a great game can have the same impact as a great film, book or other slice of entertainment that touches a few emotions. Growing up in front of the TV or at the movies for a good chunk of time exposed me to quite a lot of great actors, directors, writers and other talents in the film industry and as the years pass, some of these people fade away into history leaving only their work on screen as a legacy. Each year, Turner Classic Movies runs a nice tribute video on stars of stage and screen who have passed away and 2011 was pretty sad for film fans across the globe. I actually didn’t know some of these people had died, but I’m glad to have seen them at their best in some truly memorable films…
OK, I have NO idea what sort of banner to make for January, but I’ve a few ideas, given what’s coming next month (er, year.)Let’s see now… (*flip!*)… a quick coin toss says Silent Hill HD Collection gets a January banner, so it’s off to grab some screens and play around a bit. Despite the “collection” not having Silent Hill 4 on it (it wasn’t THAT bad a game, really!), I’m looking forward to replaying SH2 and 3 for a few reasons. I have both games within arm’s reach in my PS2 library here, so I can compare notes and see how well the HD versions turned out. Well, that’s settled. Now I can get some sleep… maybe. I have the feeling I’ll pop up and post something else, but maybe not, as I need to roll out of bed and do a pile of laundry before the laundromat gets packed to the gills with 12/31 folks doing their last-minute loads for luck or whatever…
While the holiday season is usually packed with happy jolly tidings and the usual mass consumer craziness (that’s turned some shopping malls into pepper spray scented war zones), it’s also a time for reflection and a bit of moodiness about current and future events. Winter also brings in a bit of depression, as we humans are also prone to go gloomy when the lack of sun and warmth hits hard, sending some into a depressed state. Kenji Eno and WARP’s final console game, D2 has been my go-to holiday gift for myself ever since it was released on the Sega Dreamcast in Japan back in 1999. I’m not going to do a full review of the game (there’s an older one I wrote posted here), but I will say that the game manages to capture the feeling of being inside a bad winter dream that you can’t wake up from, yet one that you don’t want to simply because you want to see how it plays out. It’s definitely not for all tastes and in fact, can be baffling even when you piece things together into a more sensible narrative than what’s presented. On the other hand, the game also soars into unsuspecting territory a few times and packs an emotional punch where it counts. Continue reading →
My full review of this downloadable PC gem (and one of the best indie games I’ve played this year) will be up in a few days, but here’s a quick video from they guy behind the game that answers a burning question some players are having that happens to be the bane of a few other RPG’s past and present.