Random Film of the Week: The Split (1968)

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I’d very safely say that her ‘do outdoes his hair here, huh? (say that five times fast).

The Split

Is everybody happy? Well, not for long…

As crime capers go, Gordon Flemyng’s 1968 action/thriller The Split is flawed, but pretty good, even if the big money haul it showcases would be 100% impossible if attempted today. Granted, 2010’s The Town presented a similar heist that was more modern and also successful (until it wasn’t), but in this earlier film, anyone who tries what’s done here today will be in for a few problems from the get-go. You’ll see, but let’s talk about the plot for a bit.

Jim Brown plays Mac McClain, a recently released thief who takes on the task to rob the Los Angeles Colosseum of $500,000 during a football game after he’s led to the job a partner in crime, Gladys (Julie Harris, in a big bouffant hairdo!). After a bumpy but eventually successful encounter/reunion with his ex-wife Ellie (Diahann Carrol). Mac sets his plans into action. Naturally, color plays a big role here, so this first ever R-rated film plays it big on the use of language and insinuations about Mac from a few characters.

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Lets just say, in the words of one Admiral Ackbar…. (that’s your cue, dear reader)

He recruits four other man to aid him in some rather ridiculous ways, but that gives you the chance to see them react to McClain’s crazy testing. He gets into a big knock down, drag out fight with Bert Clinger (Ernest Borgnine) in Bert’s office, but splits out a sliding door before the man knows what’s what. Then, he leads shady limo driver Harry Kifka (Jack Klugman) into a car chase where he wrecks Harry’s limo and a nice Corvette in the process. McClain also gives suave shooter Dave Negli (Donald Sutherland) a tryout (the crack shot misses his target, but keeps his cool). And then there’s wily safe-cracker Marty Gough (Warren Oates), who gets a hooker, and a vault that needs escaping as his weird tests. Yes, Mac chooses all four to join in on his plans and as expected, they’re initially not happy about this.

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Random Film of the Week Quickie: Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight)

Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight) MPA few years ago, I was sitting in a diner waiting for a few friends to arrive and overheard two guys in the booth behind me debating whether or not Orson Welles was a good filmmaker. Wait, what?  My ears perked up as one of the guys noted that he thought the only film he ever saw from the director was one he felt was overrated (and nope, it wasn’t Citizen Kane). He was talking about Chimes After Midnight.

It turned out both were film students who had a teacher who wasn’t a fan of the director, had shown the film in his class, and yep, both were new to Welles’ work while also in that uncomfortable place in one’s youth where one questions too much without searching for the proper answers. Eh, I think they were entitled to their opinions, but I’d loved to have sat down with them and made a few points on some of the man’s work they were clearly missing thanks to their biased instructor’s babbling and their lack of seeing more of his output.

The discovery a few years back of a fantastic quality print plus a few other things falling into place means we now have a superb high quality home video version of Orson Welles’ 1965 masterpiece Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight) which just so happens to be one of the better (and looser) adaptations of Shakespeare put on film. Even if you’re not into The Bard’s work, seeing a cinematic genius like Welles pull this off on a low budget while also creating one of the most effective and chaotic battle sequences set to film makes this a must-see movie. Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Margaret Rutherford, John Gielgud, Kieth Baxter and the rest of the cast all give perfect performances, the editing manages to make the year plus it took to put this together even more brilliant and overall, it’s a great film that’s influenced quite a few others that ended up becoming modern (and better remembered) classics.

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Review: Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard (PC)

 

Got five bucks and about an hour to spare? Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard (also available here) will have you letting out a few much needed laughs as you solve the aforementioned case but good. It’s the first game I’ve played from Worm Club (@gracebruxner and @thomasbowker) and it won’t be the last, as I see Grace has an itch.io page and this is a good thing. Anyway, the game is short and simple, charming and droll, two tastes that taste great together, as it were. Oh, and it has LOBSTER COP in it, but don’t tell the Detective this, as he’s the real star. Don’t tell him that either (he’ll figure it out, as he’s a detective).

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Review: WRC 8: FIA World Rally Championship (PS4)

WRC 8_01a

Out for a Sunday drive, blinking is very optional.

WRC 8In the options menu of WRC 8, ($59.99) there’s a race card screen that tracks your driving in the game, noting everything you do without any judgement. So far, on my time with the game I’ve ran my cars into stuff 3,302 3,477 times (and counting) between small dings to major collisions that had me completely wrecking out of a few races, but this is a good thing (not for my poor garage, though).

The game is quite a massive effort from KT Racing and it’s their best racer to date as well as the sole officially licensed WRC game on the market. The assorted cars, courses and sounds are pretty lifelike and the rides all handle differently under a range of conditions once you get a grip on the controls. But practicing makes the game even better and finding the perfect settings for each car and course is key to getting the most out of the overall experience.

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If you’re going too fast, that simple turn up ahead is a bear, but there’s no bear at the end of that turn, fortunately.

Codemasters’ DiRT franchise might be better looking (the terrain deformation adds to the realism) and better known to some, but the outside a PC mod, the more authentic to the WRC season licenses, courses, drivers, and cars here will be the way to go for fans who enjoy the sport and want the deepest dive into it. Thankfully, those options also include a number of tweaks to make the experience a good deal more flexible to new players. Granted, like the two DiRT Rally games, this is the sort of simulation that’s going to be daunting to novices no matter how many assists they turn on. But that sticking to the real deal thing is for me, what makes a good rally game and WRC 8 makes for the most the best WRC experience since the five great WRC titles by the late Evolution Studios way back on the PlayStation 2. That said, one has to give the still mighty Richard Burns Rally it’s own pedestal for what it brought to the virtual rally game.

Even when set to the easiest mode and with every assist on, the game still requires near flawless or even perfect mastering of its courses and weather conditions. New players to this on Easy can indeed make it around the special stage or a few rallies with some effort. but it’s a literal learning curve taking in the pace notes and reading the track ahead while not hitting something because you’re trying to do it while driving a car at high speed with a co-driver notes near-constant directions at you. Still, the game’s Season and Practice modes will be your friend for a while as you settle in. There are the much harder Weekly challenges to do, but you’ll want some mileage under your belt, as these are pretty difficult events.

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Frog Detective 2: “All The Animals Come Out At Night”, Indeed (3)

frog detective 2

Hop to it, you have a case to solve!

The detective“Wait, there’s a Frog Detective 1?” He thought, as the press release hopped out of his inbox with a loud croak, knocking over a cup full of pencils of assorted size in the process. “Huh, so there is… interesting” he noted, looking at the Steam page, a grin spreading across his face. Those pencils were a bit annoyed, as they had been napping, but oddly enough, now that they were laid out, they dozed right off without a second thought.

“Well, that’s cool because I think I need to play it as well”, he said out loud (but quietly enough to not disturb the pencils). The frog was gone, but he was probably in the living room, as the TV was now on and there was the sound of channels being changed.

Here’s the trailer to the sequel, which just so happens to be called Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard, is now on Steam and itch.io, for $4.99, so go get it. I guess I now need to play it too at some point, right?

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Blacksad: Under the Skin: “All the Animals Come Out At Night”, Indeed (2)

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Blacksad

Already out on Steam, Microids, Pendulo Studios and YS Interactive’s Blacksad: Under the Skin will release on December 10 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. Here’s a look at the launch trailer and some screens of this action/adventure game with an all-animal cast set in the 1950’s:

I’d posted about this one previously here, so this is a reminder to me to get to reviewing it soon as a console release. More on the plot and such below the jump.

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Review: Yaga (PS4)

Yaga_01a

For all that balalaika ringing out, this beastie just wants to keep you warm inside its stomach…

So, I wrote a poem as a game review again, or a game review as a poem. Cover your ears or something:

It took a while, oh yes, it did.
But this review’s now just un-hid
It’s for a game named Yaga ($24.99), see,
in some ways, it’s a victory.

Delivered in verse, the story is.
A nice choice, but it’s not for kids
Some blood’s here (you can turn it off)
Plus dark content might make some cough.

The brilliant writing and voices match
the music here, your ears will catch.
Painterly graphics wrap up this show
where myths from Slavic lands will flow.

You play a blacksmith with such bad luck
he’s one-armed ’cause he didn’t duck
and now is cursed to walk the land.
Problems he’ll solve with one good hand.

He’s fated to spend his bad time here
with witches binding moves so clear.
You pick a fate to trouble him
and then you set off with that whim.

That random nature hurts, but helps
you beat the foes, rescue the whelps.
It surely keeps you on your toes
wherever that cursed blacksmith goes.

While fixing things, he’s also tasked
With his Grandma’s most constant ask:
“Go find a wife to share your life”
(As if the Tzar’s decrees aren’t strife).

A black-bird will tell you to craft
So listen well, now – don’t be daft
You’ll make some gear to turn the tide
or be in for a tougher ride

But, weapons break via bad luck curse
Sometimes it seems, the timing’s worse.
Until you see that fate is tied.
All magic makes that meter slide

Now, even with less magic use
That bar will fill, and cook you goose.
Your carried weapon will just break
(and swapping it won’t make it fake).

You learn to deal (well, you’d better fast)
Escape that curse? Nope, that won’t last.
Get Yaga her gifts, aid folks you meet
Or else, it’s doom, right on the street.

Four times, you’ll play this game at least
Four paths to choose, from man to beast.
All these are based on choices made
so pick the path you’ve not yet played.

While levels could be better here
And combat seems to have less flair
The things I liked made this stand out
So buy this game! Oh, yes, I’ll shout.

-GW

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Go For Broke! Everyone’s Having Year-End Sales (No Sleigh Needed)

(Thanks, BadfishKoo!)

Short and to the point because I’m buried in stuff and you have mass quantities to consume, or something. Here are a few big sales you might be interested in because some neighbor kid made me laugh today when she asked her Tired Mom in the elevator today why people need to shop when “Santa is supposed to bring everything!”. 

Uh, about that…

“Well, this is going to be good,” I thought with a mild chuckle bubbling up. Sales first., story and cookies later.

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Random Film of the Week: Doctor X (DVD)

Doctor X_02

For all that trouble setting their private and expensive game show up, no one could guess what was behind Curtain #1.

Dr. XLet’s just say that as a kid of, oh, seven or eight years old back in the 70’s, I had no idea (not a clue!) what I was watching when the local public TV station ran Doctor X so very many years ago. I do recall not knowing what was going on for a bit and some parts were wacky, but yes indeed, I did perk up when the “Synthetic Flesh” scene kicked in. Hell, I was a Frankenstein fan by then, even if my exposure was courtesy Universal Pictures and James Whale and not Mary Shelley until I read the book years later.

When I revisited the good Dr. Jerry Xavier (Lionel Atwill), and the film as I got older into my teens, elements started to click and it was all “Oh, that’s what that means!” on more elements I didn’t understand previouslyWhich of course means that as a grumpier and older old man these days, I’m all over this freak-fest like I’ve run into an old friend I haven’t seen in a while. This one’s pretty funny, pretty grim and completely bonkers. Oh, by the way, Doctor X sounds better and scarier than Doctor Jerry. That and if it were called Dr. J, there’s that slim chance a slimmer handful of folks might get fooled into thinking it’s a sports biopic (heh).

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Jacket jealousy here, as Fay’s got the stripes. but Tracy’s got the tweed and they both win the fashion lottery.

It’s also a great pre-code film, what with its discussion of a few hot topics those who think “well, those old movies were DULL!” might find they’re a bit incorrect about if they ever get off that dead horse they always jump on and see a few of these films. Now a little murder? Hey, that’s fine and dandy in a film about a mysterious killer. Toss in elements like that mysterious killer who happens to cannibalize corpses, a bit of prostitution and rape as story elements, plus a few old guys sitting around talking about their fetishes (hey, that may be the most creepy thing about this to some!), and more atmosphere that you can shake a few sticks at, and you get a true classic.

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Capsule Reviews Are GO! (Part 3)

Back in 1995_01

Ever have one of THOSE days?

While I won’t be totally going this way in terms of reviewing bigger and longer titles, I’m finding it a nice challenge to play some of these shorter games and write less about them while trying to convey in a few sentences (well, two paragraphs) how well most of then do at delivering sometimes unique, sometimes similar gaming experiences to those that pick them up. Some of the games in this series might seem like just easy ways to earn fast trophies in a few minutes, but often there’s quite a bit of replay value under the hood or you get games that may SEEM simple on the surface unless you take a closer look and see what’s what. Granted, in some cases, a few things work better than others as you’ll see below:

Back in 1995 ps4Back In 1995 (PS4/PS Vita Cross-Buy, $9.99): Very much an intentional visual, aural, and gameplay throwback to the 32-bit era, indie developer Throw the Warped Code Out (Takaaki Ichijo) has recreated a game with both the look and feel of those old days of “tank” controls, fixed camera angles, and oddball “what the hell is that weird blocky thing coming at me?” monsters. While the game has flaws in storytelling and seems more meta exercise than “serious” horror game, the best thing to do here is take away more of the former meta feel than the latter serious horror thing and enjoy it for the nostalgia factor if you remember those not-too far away days. Ratalaika Games handled the console ports and publishing, but this one’s not your average easy Platinum, that’s for sure.

If you don’t remember or even like that era, expect some confusion and likely, frustration here. The game doesn’t break any new ground and isn’t supposed to, and I’ve the feeling that Ichijo was going more for evoking an particular atmosphere and sense of time more than making a game that would be “perfect” at the end of day.  It’s sort of like the scent of something familiar from the past one might recall when walking into a room, but it might end up not being a favorite scent when you stop and remember everything good and bad about it. I got it right away, so I’m scoring it accordingly with the big caveat that it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Score: C+ (75%)

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