Blu-Ray Review: Animal Factory

Animal Factory_AV115Way back around in oh, 2000 or 2001, I was working in a small independent game shop in NYC when in walks Edward Furlong wearing dark sunglasses with some woman I didn’t recognize in tow. I think he popped in to get away from a few fans who recognized him on the street (this sort of celebrity sighting thing happened a lot on St. Mark’s Place) and if I’m not mistaken, I think one or two other people in the shop knew who he was within a few seconds of him popping in.

Long story short, he hung out for a few minutes and didn’t say much (and I don’t recall if he bought anything), but he eventually left, leaving his sunglasses behind. I do believe my boss ended up keeping them after a few days when they weren’t reclaimed. Anyway, that’s the shortest celebrity story I know, but I have a few more that may pop up if and when the time comes. Living in this city, one tends to stumble into the occasional interaction that’s more than the usual fan on the prowl experience. Oh yeah, we’re supposed to be doing a movie review now, right?  Let me get my review hat on. A minute, please… there we go.

Steve Buscemi’s Animal Factory is a pretty darn good prison flick based on the Eddie Bunker novel and yep, the Arrow restoration is pretty solid overall. It features Furlong, along with Willem Dafoe, Danny Trejo, an unrecognizable Mickey Rourke and a few other surprises (for example, Tom Arnold in a somewhat short cameo). Furlong plays young Ron Decker who ends up getting 10 years on a drug conviction. He ends up meeting with Earl Copen (Dafoe), a long time convict who decides to keep Decker close and under his protection for a few reasons (and not the ones you might be thinking, you dirty birds). While Ron is seemingly safe from harm, he ends up getting on the bad sides of a few other cons as well as some prison officials and you get a pretty impressive mix of drama and violence with plenty of tension as the glue holding things together.

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Don Logan’s Advice For Celebrity Candidates

Okay, basta. This fetish for unbalanced narcissists wanting to be adored by the huddled masses and sent to high office to play around with the planet (and possibly push its expiration date a bit closer) means things are getting really ugly out there. Something’s really rotten in the air these days (even more so than usual) and there’s a need for a bit of a time out before it gets worse. Perhaps an intervention of some sort that involves sitting every candidate down in front of a big screen (in a Ludovico Technique manner) and run this clip on a loop for about ten hours straight (warning: hilarious ear-burning expletives inbound):

(Thanks, XomB!) 

While it probably won’t work at all, it would at least keep the airwaves cleaner for a brief moment in time.

Words to the wise: Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s actually any good.

Show & Tell: On Ray Harryhausen’s Fairy Tales

Red StareIn regards to every well-worn fairy tale, “It’s not the tale, but how it’s told” is the order of the day. Parents and other creative adults well-versed in story time voices and acting have this mantra branded on their brain cells and know how to make any yarn they spin keep kids at rapt attention. Still, for many of his longtime fans, Ray Harryhausen’s incredible stop-motion versions of Mother Goose stories and five classic fairy tales are some of the most memorable versions ever created.

Save for The Tortoise and the Hare (which was incomplete until its 2002 premiere), I can recall some of these films along with his earlier Mother Goose shorts being shown during assembly hall sessions or in the occasional class where a regular teacher was out sick and the substitute called in hadn’t time to whip up a proper lesson plan. While most of these 16mm shorts were part of my childhood, I’d imagine plenty of today’s little (and more tech savvy) whippersnappers haven’t a clue who Harryhausen was or what made (and still makes him) him great and such a huge inspiration of countless filmmakers and visual effects artists to this day.

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VGA 101: Happy Birthday, Sega Dreamcast: “It’s Thinking”… But Probably About Better Times.

Note: This isn’t at ALL a “complete history” of the console. It’s just more random off the top of the head wistful reminiscing!

(thanks, Wiidork!)
 
For one brief, shining moment (well, that moment lasted three years or so), Sega has many of us gamers on the edge of our seats and extremely happy about it. Once the US arm of the company deemed the Saturn “dead” and started peeling away support for it, there was a gap of time where we were wondering what was coming next. When whispers of a new and more powerful console code-named “Katana” started getting traction in the game press, followed up by early screenshots of works in progress, some fans were trumpeting that upcoming console as a redemption and return to form for the company and in Japan, while Saturn games were still being sold, it seemed that everywhere you went in some spots, ads popped up announcing something was coming from Sega that would be new, unusual and exciting. And oh, was it when it finally did arrive… Continue reading

Codemasters Gets Me Rally Longing For The Good Old Days…

I think someone at Codemasters is psychic. Last week, I broke out both Colin McRae Rally and Colin McRae Rally 2.0 just to dive in for a bit and see if they still held up today and yes indeed, they do. While the series went through some big changes as the series moved to new platforms, there was always a solid sense of fun and challenge that made each installment thrilling to blaze through. When the series changed its name to DiRT and its direction to a “cooler” racer in order to rope in younger fans of the X Games or other extreme sports, things definitely slid a bit sideways. The last few installments are all great looking games, but to me, there’s something missing… a certain spirit, if you will. Granted, Colin McRae is no longer with us, so that’s probably the missing element those later games haven’t been able to capture. Seeing that intro video above and playing the game for a little while made me hope Codemasters will go back to the drawing board and deliver a rally game that’s as fun and wickedly addictive as the first few in the series. Strip it down, but make it rich with detail, lose the big social focus (or make it completely optional) and maybe even bring back the goofy bonuses from the older titles just because it’s great to see a surprise ride or three after a ton of hard work.

Swamp Thing Headed to Blu-Ray/DVD August 6: Still A Coin Toss For This Fan…

hide n seek II

ST_BR-DVDI wasn’t the biggest supporter of either of the two Swamp Thing films as neither was as close to the comics as I’d have liked and even the 70+ episode TV series was hugely flawed (but the makeup and costume were superb by that time). Still, after recently watching a friend’s copy of the DVD (it’s the recalled 2000 version he lent me, by the way), I have to say I don’t dislike it as much as I did back in 1982. I definitely liked it a LOT more than the stupidly campy sequel (which has a grand total of ONE really funny line in it that was worth the ticket price) and inane kiddie cartoon series created primarily to sell toys to parents who probably would be shocked out of their skins by the darker tone of many of the first ten issues of the original comics by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson and especially Alan Moore’s later (and much darker) run on the series that featured some amazing scripts and still stunning artwork primarily from Steve Bissette, John Totleben and Rick Veitch.

Of course, those who were kids when the films, cartoon or TV show were new may feel otherwise, so there’s that to consider. Of course, I’ve always “gotten” the weirder elements of the character and for some kooky reason, he’s been one of my favorites to draw (so I guess that piece above can indeed be called “fan art”, whee). Anyway, I’m not sure just yet if I’ll buy this new Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack, but it’s nice to know it exists if I decide to take the plunge…

Applied Design @MoMA: Playing Games in Public Reveals Some Issues…

 

Well, that darned “ringer” Pac-Man machine with the funky joystick was ONE problem and bad enough for an old gaming salt like me to come up against, grrrr. But I’ll have to kick myself harder for being SO supremely lame at vib-ribbon when I have it here and used to play it quite a lot. Granted, it HAS been a few years since I picked up that PSOne import, but still… I think someone messed with the controller, as the card next to the exhibit was off a bit. Well, the good thing was everyone who played it had problems as well. I at least managed to make it to the end of the second area on one attempt… and of course, I wasn’t filming or being films when it happened… bleh.