Random Films of the Week: A Little New Year’s Cleaning

Yeah, Happy New Year and all that stuff. I figure I’ll post more than I did last year even though I got sick and was out of action for a month or so which led to a bigger backlog that I’m still wading through. My plans to write up and pre-load posts went south thanks to that, but I think with my health getting better (albeit temporarily) I’ll try and tackle stuff slightly differently on occasion. Or: Eh, I’ve been watching a ton of movies in no particular order, so you get to pore over a few quickie capsule recommends.

Stormy Monday_AV093Stormy Monday – Mike Figgis’ first film was this stylized bit of 1988 brilliance that featured Sean Bean, Melanie Griffith, Tommy Lee Jones and Sting, plus a pretty darn neat jazz score by the director. The neon-soaked Newcastle setting features some of Roger Deakins’ lovely cinematography that makes this a total treat to watch. It’s more or less a noir gangster flick with some solid performances and an overall sense that something bad is going to happen what with all the tense glowering and some romantic notions that make for a bit of conflict as things progress.

I actually hadn’t heard of this film other than seeing a trailer way back before it was initially released in theaters. I didn’t think it was for me back then, but thanks to Arrow Video, I’ve been proven quite incorrect. Expect a fine director’s commentary from Figgis along with a few cool bonus features on this BD/DVD combo that make this a nice surprise to discover if you’ve never seen or heard of it until now. Amusingly enough, this pairs well with Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire thanks to both films mixing reality and fantasy elements (although Figgis gets the edge and the edgier performances overall).

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Blu-Ray Review: The Happiness of the Katakuris

The Happiness of the Katakuris MVD7367BRI’ve never seen The Quiet Family, Jee-woon Kim’s 1998 horror/comedy film that inspired Takashi Miike’s oddball 2001 “remake” The Happiness of the Katakuris. But I’m going to track the original down one of these days just to see how that film inspired Miike to make one of the more out there genre films of the previous decade.

While its not anywhere close to perfect, a bit too long and not even a tiny bit frightening, it’s certainly somewhat gleefully disturbing thanks to the cheery performances by the main cast and the black comedy revolving around the mostly accidental deaths that occur in and around the family’s small, out of the way mountain inn. The Katakuris bizarre mix of live action, wild stop motion animation, mild gore and full-on musical numbers make it a knockout flick worth repeat viewings provided you like what’s here. Miike, known for more his prolific output in multiple genres as well as some truly memorable extreme films (Audition, Ichi The Killer, Gozu) infuses The Katakuris with his trademarks and adds a decidedly Japanese sense of “no matter what!” spirit that gets the family through its assorted misadventures. Continue reading

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

Some Silly Stuff I Have Discovered This Week…

Mr. Bagel 2

1. Yeah, it’s a fuzzy picture of a cinnamon raisin mini bagel with two raisins that look like eyes and a big grin. Amusing and kind of creepy if you can imagine it suddenly talking or singing or something. This made me laugh because it wasn’t the ONLY one in that bag of bagels either. I think I saw three more, meaning someone at the factory was having a clever day and wanted to share, there’s a bagel-making robot that’s creating not so sentient life in an effort to try and start some sort of revolution, or there’s REALLY something funky going into those bagels that turns them ALIVE before they’re bagged. Well,I never did find out if the darn thing could speak, as I ate it before it could do anything funny.

Rez Plus2. Yep, that’s a copy of Rez for the Japanese PlayStation 2 and yep, that’s the infamous Trance Vibrator peripheral next to it. While I’ve played the game numerous times to completion, I’d actually never used that Trance Vibrator until earlier today when I decided to crack open the box and plug it into my Japanese PS2 to see what all the fuss was about. In a word. Oh. In another word. My. Yeah, I can see why it was marketed as and written up as just what some of you think it is. Shocking! Well, not in the least, because we could all use some good vibrations every now and then, right? Throbbing! Yeah, that’s more like it.

3. Uhhhh.I forgot what number 3 was and I blame number 2 for that. Back in a bit…

Random Film of the Week(end): Planet of the Apes (2001)

POTA_MPThanks to reports from around the internet and a few periodicals about all sorts of problems during the pre-production phase and more issues during the rather speedy shooting schedule to meet a July release imposed by 20th Century Fox, I certainly didn’t want to see the otherwise reliable Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake, but my mother sure did.

I was camping out at her place during that summer after a breakup and on the day the film opened, she pretty much rolled up on me and said we were going to the movies, so off we went. The funny thing was 33 years earlier, she took me, my older brother and sister to see the original film (my first movie experience), so I guess she was trying to jog my memory a bit out of the funk mode it was in. Well, that worked to a point as we both ended up not liking this remake much at all.

Of course, I ended up heading back to that theater a few days later to make sure I was sure I didn’t like the film… Continue reading

Shantae Virtual Console Trailer: WayForward’s Classic Finally Gets Rereleased

If you’ve never played Shantae previously, that’s because you missed out on buying a copy when it was on the GameBoy Color (or you didn’t pirate it, you scallywag!), thus not having the pleasure of playing one of the best 2D platformers on the handheld. Well, as of this Thursday she’s baaaaaack, and this time it’s on the eShop for the 3DS. I actually like that the dev team didn’t gussy their girl up in a shiny HD coating, as the game was so well animated and colored for the GBC that it still holds up today as a prime example of a platformer at its finest. The best thing is you can now snap this one up for a song and NOT have to pay something like $100 or more for a copy of the game (it got one production run, but was VERY hard to find even back when it was initially released). Or maybe you can buy up $100 worth of codes and give them out to lucky friends who happen to own a 3DS or 3DS XL, you nice person, you…

Project Eden Finally Hits GOG.com: Core’s Sci-Fi Action/Puzzle Game Still Has It…

Of course, my old post about this forgotten gem probably had nothing to do with gog.com getting it added to their games library at all, but let me at LEAST get a swelled head and think so, OK? Anyway, my boxed copy still runs perfectly, so I won’t need to grab this digitally at all (yet), but don’t let that stop YOU from giving it a try. It’s actually quite well done and the non-frustrating manner in how death is handled keeps the game constantly moving. Granted, it goes from moody to creepy to weird as your party gets deeper into that Real Meat factory and the monsters come out. But by then, you’ll have gotten with the program. Anyway, it’s only six bucks and more than worth it, so give it a shot…

VG 101: Wizardry 6, 7 & 8 Hit GOG.com – Your “Homework” for the Year Is Here!

In the words of the great philosophers… FINALLY! One of the most requested classic PC games on gog.com has been the Wizardry series and today, the company has dropped some big news by releasing digital versions of the final three chapters at a great price point. I’m gathering the first five parts (which don’t need to be played to enjoy these three games) will be coming soon, but for now, a few hundred hours of gameplay should tide you over for a while (and you automatically pass the class here if you finish these before the end of the year). Feel free to dance to that disco music in the video above – I know I was when I got this news. OK, before you keel over from those flashing lights and colors above, here’s some Wizardry 8 gameplay (sans disco effects):

Anyway, Wizardry 6 & 7 are ONLY $5.99, and Wizardry 8 is $9.99 – Grab them all and I’ll see you in a few weeks or so. Or months. I won’t mind if you don’t drop by so much because I know where you’ll be…

WayForward Brings Shantae Back (Yeah!) As A Digital Download (Argh!)…

Shantae's BackOK, before some of you think I’m totally nuts, let me explain. Way back in 2001 and 2002, WayForward Technologies made two games for the Game Boy Color that were completely amazing from a technical standpoint: Wendy the Witch: Every Witch Way and Shantae, both of which got one production run and despite some solid reviews from all over, never got the sales they so deserved.

“So, er… what’s so cool about these ancient games?” you ask? Well, it’s funny you should ask, dear reader. Here’s a very nice (and pretty lengthy) long play video of Shantae from YouTube user cubex 55 to check out and see for yourself what’s what:

Nice stuff, huh? Yeah, now YOU want one of your own too, right? Well, these days, complete copies of either game are ridiculously expensive (even cart-only versions command top dollar on eBay and game trading sites) and although the developer did indeed finally make a Nintendo DSi sequel to Shantae (Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, which also ended up on iOS devices), folks who wanted something more physical to own got shut out once again (bleh!). Well, the original Shantae is coming back after eleven years, but this time, it’s also a digital download hitting Nintendo’s eShop on June 20, 2013 for the Virtual Console. Sure, it’ll do well, but cranky old farts like me want a better way to keep the gal around a bit longer than as a download.


Heck, I’d bet a wooden nickel that some sort of crowd funding deal could get both Shantae games (and perhaps a Wendy remake) onto a disc for PC with all sorts of fun extras. The chances of these coming back to a cartridge are slim (it’s probably not very economical for a few reasons), I’ll admit, but at least there would be a bunch of people paying WayForward more for a new game and not getting the old ones of torrent sites (as I know more people have played Shantae and Wendy than own legal copies of either). Eh, we’ll see what’s what down the road, I guess. In a perfect world, both physical and digital versions would be available, but I know that’s a pipe dream these days…

Project Eden Needs More Love (& A Nice Remake/Reboot)…


project eden PS2 To me, Core Design’s 2001 sci-fi action/adventure Project Eden was a pretty killer game back in the day on PC and PlayStation 2, but I bet many of you have never played it or even heard about this gem. Anyway, it was a team-based game where you controlled four characters (one at a time or with up to three other live players) as they attempted to find some missing workers inside the Real Meat factory after a little “incident” that turns into a real mess as the team goes deeper inside the structure. It’s basically an action/adventure game with shooting portions and awesome environmental puzzles that revolve (sometimes literally) around getting the team from one end of the level to another. Core’s coolness also extends to the cast of characters, which is ethnically diverse without making a single point about it (which is how it should be).

The game also goes from a straightforward mystery about what happens to the missing workers into a sort of “survival” horror game as mutated creatures start popping up in one level. Sure, it’s not the prettiest game these days, but the levels are massive and take some thought to navigate, there’s a nice sense of dread that creeps in when the monsters start increasing in number and some of the puzzles will have you hitting yourself in the head with the game case if you’re not paying careful attention and using the proper characters. I think this needs to get up on GOG.com one of these days so MORE can discover its charms and yes, properly remade, as it’s a great example of how to get four people to play nicely together without resorting to PvP nonsense (although there IS a deathmatch of sorts in the game, it’s kind of lame, as are the Rover “racing” courses )…