Blu-Ray Review: J.D.’s Revenge

JDR_AV110Automatically calling Arthur Marks’ J.D.’s Revenge a mere “blaxsploitation” film before viewing the end result actually puts it in the wrong category because it works a bit more outside that box you’ve put it in. Sure, it’s got a mostly black cast, some violent bits, blood and some nudity to draw in genre fans. But it’s also a supernatural revenge flick that kind of makes sense despite a few plot elements that fall on their faces. I wouldn’t call it a “pure” horror film per se, but I can see some folks who tend to freak out over mysticism in their movies falling for the film’s attempts to frighten them whenever it gets the opportunity.

That said, you do have to feel sorry for poor Isaac Hendrix (Glynn Turman), a law student in New Orleans who ends up getting hypnotized while out on a night of fun with his wife Christella (Joan Pringle) and another couple. That hypnosis somehow summons up the spirit of the late J.D. Walker (David McKnight), a not so nice street hustler type with a scar on his face and a penchant for straight razors as a means of protection. J.D. wants in on Ike’s scrawny body so he can finally take revenge on the man who killed him and his sister, Betty Jo. Naturally, vengeful spirits tend to not care much about collateral damage, so Christella is the first victim to Ike’s possessed form as she’s in the wrong place when J.D. materializes and takes over.

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Blu-Ray/DVD Review: Satan’s Cheeerleaders

SC_VCI9032If you’re of a certain age (mine or slightly younger), you’re probably not watching Satan’s Cheeleaders for the acting (which is hammy bologna on white bread) or the old movie stars slumming for their paychecks. You’re very likely watching this slice of American cheese for the titular cheer squad and maybe to see where this Satan stuff goes with a cast partly made up of well-known actors close to the ends of their careers and partly made up of new to the business nubile tart types and a few unsexy dudes who pop up that are supposed to be on a college football team.

Well, friends – you get a proper dosage of tame 70’s nudity, but nothing at all indecently overexposed, a paper-thin plot that doesn’t hold up to a soft breeze and some muddling around with mysticism before a somewhat crummy finale that leaves a few things hanging. The sole notable things here are those slumming for paychecks stars (John Ireland, Yvonne DeCarlo, John Carradine) who have not much else to do except hit their marks and react to whatever they need to react to. That said, the film seems to aim for more of a campy feel that keeps things light and airy (or air-heady), and that’s fine with me.

Well, to a point.

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Review: Far From Noise (PS4)

far from noise posterShort yet very replayble and guaranteed to make you think a bit about life on a few levels, George Batchelor’s brilliant Far From Noise is a compact indie game well worth a buy. If you love your games way on the weird side, this meaningful meditation will capture your attention and keep you on the edge of your seat. Given that in the game you’re trapped in a car perched precariously on the edge of a cliff and have nothing to do but wait as a bit of nature pops in for a visit, it’s one of those experiences where revealing too much spoils the fun.

Let’s just say this visually simple and mostly text-driven affair makes for a great bedtime tale where you encounter a talking deer that more or less helps you see things from a few perspectives. A bit of philosophy, some star gazing, a few guests and even the weather are your main companions as your character addresses his or her fears during a long night where it seems anything can happen. While seemingly simplistic, the visual style hides some nice effects and excellent use of controller vibration and the PS4’s color bar (which emulates the game’s day to night to day cycle as time passes).

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Blu-Ray Review: Whisky Galore!

Whisky Galore_AF004If the great Ealing Studios’ 1949 version of Whisky Galore! didn’t exist, director Gillies MacKinnon’s excellent 2016 version would be an even better film than it is. That’s an odd compliment, I know. But the original film’s boozy aroma lingers heavily in the corners of this newer version, smiling down on MacKinnon’s capable cast as it plops down on a bar stool with a sigh of contentment. This newer film has a fine cast and some absolutely gorgeous cinematography (it’s enough to make you want to consider a move to wherever in Scotland it was shot just for the rocks alone), as well as humor that goes down smooth with a bit of water added.

While not exactly laugh out loud funny through and through, there’s one early scene that had me doubling over with a good belly laugh. As soon as it’s announced that the small village is completely out of whisky, one old chap gets up, walks out of the pub he and his friends inhabit daily, walks over to a his home and promptly drops dead outside as it begins to rain. For some reason, I found this hilarious as well as the following scene where his friends gather around his coffin to send him off. I’m guessing it’s because I’ve heard people say they’d “literally die” if they didn’t have a particular guilty pleasure handy, but seeing it happen was actually amusing and made me think how many real-life friends would drop like that over booze, chocolate, or bacon if they were suddenly taken away.

Hey, I’m a practical man. Less friends means less gifts to buy this holiday season, folks.

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Review: Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back (PS4)

Bubsy Box“Wait. Accolade is still around?”  That’s the first thing that popped into my head as I fired up Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back on my PS4. About ten minutes in, the second thing I thought was that Accolade was not only alive and well, they’d somehow created some sort of time vortex where mid-level mascot character Bubsy came back to the gaming scene with newly polished visuals but the same old gameplay that’s guaranteed to frustrate some players while entertaining a handful of others.

In other words, veteran speedrunners or kids who like a challenge will very likely love this latest “2.5D” entry in the series. However, those who expect something along the lines of the superbly sublime retro-ness of Sonic Mania or Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap may find this a tough ball of yarn to swallow. While it’s got its share of issues, it’s not a terrible game by any means. just one that needs some fixing up. Yep. it’s another one of those gems where patience is key, practice helps out a great deal, and it’s probably another case where a post-release patch or two will help things out greatly.

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Mail Call 1: Hello, Homicide Division

L.A. Noire PS4

Yep. Looks as if I’ll be busy for a bit being a dick. That’s DETECTIVE, to you, pal. Watch that mouth or it’ll be missing a few teeth. Oh, wait. I’m talking to myself here. Aheh, sorry! Anyway, thanks much Carey at Rockstar Games for this treat. I’d been re-watching a ton of film noir over the last month in preparation for this updated version, so my mood is set for a grand time in this sprawling version of 1940’s Los Angeles.

L.A. Noire is out today for PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. Go get it. Edit: Yeah, the game was running in the background as I was typing, so I zipped back to it after posting this without completing it, heh. Oops. Well, I stand corrected and now I’ll go sit back down and complete another case. Back in a bit.

-GW

Review: Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut (PS4)

Slayaway Camp BC_1920x1080_Art_with logo (Custom)

When Slayaway Camp popped up on PC last year, it caught a lot of people by surprise (just like any decent masked serial killer would, mind you). The winning combination of intentionally blocky visuals, Sokaban-style sliding puzzles and optional (but necessary) comic use of gore made the game as fun to play as it was to show off to skeptical friends who initially didn’t see the appeal in such a simple looking game as a horror experience. Well, guess what? It’s baaaaaack and ready for its console close-up, (stab, stab, stab).

Even if you hate horror-themed games, Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut has a sneaky (but not subtle) way of luring you in because those sliding puzzles are really tempting to tackle and you’re hooked in (ouch!) before you know it. Don’t like violence against blocky, block-headed camp counselors and other serial victims? There’s a slider to turn off the pixel “gore” on the options screen. R to PG in a flash? Yep. Hell, there are sliders on that option screen for all sorts of oddball stuff, some of which you’ll see right away while others are intentionally vague. This is a game that aims to please and hits that eye with an arrow every single time (ow!).

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Review: 8-Bit Adventure Anthology – Volume 1 (PS4)

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Yep, this one’s a must-buy alright. I was actually a bit under the weather a few days back when code for this arrived and amusingly enough, a few hours spent dying and retrying in all three games in this set made me feel a whole lot better. That’s good old old school gaming for you, kids. Anyway, here’s the deal: three classic adventure games for a mere eight bucks is a no-brainer, especially if those three games happen to be Shadowgate, The Uninvited, and Deja Vu. Do yourselves a big, fat favor and stay away from walkthroughs, though. Trust me on this one – your brain probably needs the workout.

While fundamentally the same in terms of interface and straightforward pixel art visuals, each game has its certain charms and difficulty that make them quite enjoyable and yes, frustrating if you’re not into trial and error or frequent game saving. Shadowgate has elements of fantasy role-playing, The Uninvited is a straight-up horror/haunted house game, and Deja Vu is a thriller/crime drama. If you’re going in cold or haven’t played these since the Macintosh or NES days, expect your poor main character to die at the drop of a hat. A lot. Your characters in all three games are cursed with the weakest skulls, brittlest bones and other ailments that make them all too easy to fall victim to any hazard these games toss their way. Believe it or else, this is a good thing.

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Blu-Ray Review: Blood Feast/Scum of the Earth

Blood Feast_AV107So, officially (to me, at least) Blood Feast isn’t a “Halloween” movie at all – it’s more of a big, plump Thanksgiving Day turkey surprise. Under-cooked enough to give you a terrible gut-ache, but stuffed with tasty treats for those willing to push on and make it to that pumpkin pie and ice scream. And yeah, you’ll scream maybe a few times too many if the late H.G. Lewis’ classic 1963 gore-fest isn’t up your alley, but it’s the film’s campy pull wrapped in that grue brew that makes this one entertaining.

Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold) just so happens to be the caterer chosen by wealthy suburban mom Dorothy Fremont (Lyn Bolton) to cater a party for her pretty young daughter, Suzette (Connie Mason). Little does Mrs. Fremont know she’s hired a somewhat criminally insane man with a bit of a strong desire to chop up a bunch of nubile young ladies and use their body parts as sacrifices in order to resurrect the Egyptian goddess, Ishtar. Mua-ha-ha-haaa! I’m telling you, though – those damned eyebrows Ranses has would make me NOT want to hire him because they look like chalk-outlined squished caterpillars on his face. Now, go drink some recently cooled molten iron to coat your stomach while I spill out some more gory details on this gem.

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Review: theHunter: Call of the Wild (PS4)

For a hunting game, Avalanche Studios and Expansive World’s fantastic, deep simulation theHunter: Call of the Wild makes for a pretty meditative game experience that’s also become one of my favorite games of a busy with favorite games kind of year. While it’s not for everyone, it’s a game almost everyone can play because of the sense of freedom the two massive maps allow. Want to go for a miles-long hike in the woods snapping photos of wildlife? Go for it. Want to just take a few deer down for experience and cash for better gear? That’s the point of the game (if you couldn’t tell from the title).

That said, this isn’t a hopped up Duck Hunt or a blazing fast-paced arcade experience with bucks popping up like brainless buckshot fodder. You’ll be trying to be as quiet as possible as you work your way around to your target only to have it scamper away after you’ve made too much noise or committed some other faux pas. Amazing visuals and sound design aside, this one’s going to be a niche game for some players who simply don’t like the sport. On the flip side (and as noted for a second time), those looking for a game where easy to kill woodland creatures are a “thing” will probably tap out from the laid-back (yet paradoxically tense) art of tracking, trailing and taking down a target.

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