Random Film of the Week: Hard to be a God

(Thanks, kinolorber!)

Imagine an episode of Game of Thrones as performed by the cast of Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade minus the fantasy elements and with an even more staggering attention to medieval detail and you’ll maybe grasp a small potion of the late Aleksei German’s outstanding, brutal (yet beautiful) Hard to be a a God. This 2013 film (the director’s last) isn’t for the easily disturbed but if you’re willing to sit through the almost three hour running time, you’ll likely find yourself glued to the screen from beginning to end.

While it may not look like a sci-fi film, right from the start you’ll see subtitles that note the story takes place on an earth-like planet going through its medieval phase about 800 years after ours. A group of scientists have been send there to observe the planet and gently nudge it forward without using technology or politics as it goes through what should be a renaissance phase. Unfortunately, things kind of get a bit out if hand when intellectuals of all types become targets for murder by a tyrant’s roaming militia intent on keeping the people uneducated and (mostly) harmless. Actually, about 28 minutes in, you get a reminder that you’re on another world thanks to a quick shot of something mechanical making itself known. But even then, the illusion of an incessantly nasty age isn’t at all broken.

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Review: Metropolis: Lux Obscura (PS4/Vita)

 

Hooooooo boy. If a mature game that successfully mashes up Sin City and Puzzle Quest seems as if it’ll be right up your dark, rainy alley, have I got something for you, pal. Sometimes You has ported Ktulhu Solutions’ previously PC-only (and very NSFW) game Metropolis: Lux Obscura over to consoles (it’s coming April 4) and if you’re in the mood for a totally lewd and somewhat amusing in terms of its wall to wall profanity game experience, go whip out that wallet and pony up that dough. Leave the kids out of this one, please, as it’s absolutely not for them. Unless, of course you want them quoting the racier lines from this at family gatherings or in places where someone might keel over in a dead faint from the ear-searing dialog.

While it’s a bit on the short side, you get four endings and the game excels at paying somewhat intentionally cheesy homage to Frank Miller’s graphic novels (although the art here is a lot less impressive) with that reliance on shock value profanity and a few topless and/or scantily clad females as well as some more salacious content that may make your eyes pop a few times before all is said and done. Amusingly enough, as raw as this game is, PC version owners can get a patch that turns that version into a er, how shall I put it… “somewhat Stormier” experience. And nope, you won’t see that patch coming at all to the PS4 or Vita (or Nintendo Switch, for that matter).

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EDF 5 + Starship Troopers = My Eyes Bouncing ‘Round The Room

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While I still have NO idea who’s publishing Earth Defense Force 5 in the west and any news seems to be being kept way too quiet (grrr!), this trailer really set my “I need this NOW!” timer off. The funny thing is, I had NO interest in any other Starship Troopers films after Paul Verhoeven’s (it’s a great and intentionally ironic parody some still don’t fully grasp, by the way) and  even dismissed last year’s Starship Troopers: Red Planet (or Traitor of Mars) as looking too much like a game for my snooty cinematic tastes. Well, look who’s a crow-chomping clown who wants to see, er, find out more about this one?

Thanks, EDF! Now, about that US release date and publisher? Those giant bug-sized beans need to be spilled, and fast.

-GW

Switchy Business, Or: Blizzard, Just Do It.

So, yeah. A few days ago this happened on Twitter:

Naturally, a LOT of people jumped on this (including yours truly) and thought right off the bat that this cryptic tweet was not at all cryptic and meant we’d be seeing a Switch version of Diablo III at some point. Well, Blizzard says nope, it was all just a misinterpreted tweet. Boo. That said, I think they’re at the very least planning something and that tweet was a means of teasing and testing the waters as far as responses to a Nintendo version. While I despise speculation, I’m about to speculate on what’s up while adding a few thoughts on this matter.

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Blu-Ray Review: BASKET CASE

Basket Case_LE_AV119“What’s in the basket? Easter eggs?”

Absolutely, lady, absolutely. Wow. Sometimes you get hit in the head by a fly ball you didn’t see coming and it’s actually a good thing. I didn’t know Frank Henenlotter’s still hilarious and unnerving 1982 feature BASKET CASE had gotten a superb MoMA restoration last year until I overheard two guys talking about it and I just had to walk up and ask if it was true. It indeed was and now thanks to Arrow Video, you can get yourself a copy of this cult horror hit and see what the fuss is all about. Or just see it again as a fully restored masterpiece of low-budget movie making madness.

If memory serves me correctly, I actually saw the film for the first time way back during its initial 1982 run at the Waverly theater, but I think it was the disappointing edited version that came off as a bit crueler and cruder. I say “think” because it was a midnight showing and I recall falling asleep at one point and missed about 10 or so minutes. Oops. A few years later, upon renting the unrated version on VHS (I think it was from one of the legendary Kim’s Video locations in NYC), I was shocked to see footage I hadn’t recalled and the film was actually much funnier than I’d remembered.

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Blu-Ray Review: Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno

Inferno_AA023Sometimes, life can be a mystery… and sometimes, you kind of know what you’re getting into but still step into that trap door straight to hell.

In 1964, stoked after the huge box office success of Dr.Strangelove, Columbia Pictures was poking around the film world looking for something guaranteed to be the next big movie and had the wild idea to extend unlimited funding to a new project directed by the great Henri-Georges Clouzot (The Wages of Fear, Diabolique). Based on some striking test footage, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno was, for all intents and purposes, going to be an innovative and mature film that had the potential to make millions for the company while making an even bigger star out of Sissi trilogy star Romy Schneider. Three weeks into production and 185 cans (about 14 hours) of film later, one of the main cast members quit, three production separate teams of 150 people were out of work, and Clouzot had a heart attack that ended up shutting production down for good.

Those cans of film were sitting somewhere in France for decades thanks to the insurance company that ended up with them, but thanks to the obsessive persistence of Serge Bromberg and a meeting with Clouzot’s second wife in an elevator, we have this somewhat spectacular documentary (co-directed by Ruxandra Medrea) that sheds a bit of light on the destined to fail project. While the documentary is quite amazing, you’re in no way getting anything close to a completed version of Inferno despite all that footage that was shot. Most of it was camera tests of actors, loads of exterior tests, and visual effects shots galore in assorted states of completion. All of it was silent, although parts of a separate soundtrack were found and added into the documentary along with parts of the script read/reenacted by Bérénice Bejo and Jacques Gamblin. That said, there’s a lot to absorb here, but the overall takeaway seems to be “Here’s what happens when you throw money at a problem and it doesn’t solve itself, folks.”

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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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Warhammer 40K: Inquisitor – Martyr Campaign Intro Trailer: Meany, Miney, (Give Me) Mo’

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Well, it may be short and tease-y for a campaign intro, but this is looking really interesting. Still, I’m holding out for the PS4 version thanks to hating upgrading my PC and knowing NeoCore can do wonders with the hardware. But, don’t let me stop you from wanting to take this for a spin now on Steam. Their two ports of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing came out pretty well on the system, so I’m going to go in with at least the mild expectation that this new open world game will be as good as or even better than their monster hunter’s digital exploits.

Having tried a small chunk of the Early Access version last year, I can very safely say this will be quite a tough game for those who come in cold and think it’ll be a total breeze. I’m gathering the difficulty will be a bit more balanced but not totally casual to the point where it’s a Diablo III cakewalk that lets you overpower your character if you desire and end up with an unstoppable master of doom in that chunky metal armor. Eh, we shall see. We shall see.

-GW

EDF 5 Truly Bugs Me (But That’s A Good Thing)

 

EDF_5Okay, at this point I’m hoping the planet doesn’t blow up just so I can get my grubby little paws on the three upcoming Earth Defense Force games coming from Japan where the earth is in danger of getting blown up after yet another massive alien invasion by what looks like everything great from a wide range of Japanese sci-fi flicks.

In addition to the absolutely insane-looking Earth Defense Force 5, Original developer Sandlot is teaming up with developers Clouds Inc. and Giga-Rensya for Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wing Diver The Shooter (set for a digital release on PSN) and veteran developer Yuke’s is handling the work on Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain, which is coming sometime in 2018.

Oh, here’s the same trailer but with English subtitles just because you might get why I’m so cuckoo about this long-running series:

 

 

For the record, the series has NOTHING to do with the old Super Nintendo shooter Super E.D.F., so that non-fact needs to disappear off the internet, stat. Anyway, EDF 5 is in Japan on 12/7 and I’m kind of in a mental bind trying to decide on whether or not to take the plunge and buy it soon or wait for the localized North American version. My Japanese is pretty terrible and even though I’ve played through previous games in the series and completed them, I kind of want to experience this entirely in English just so I don’t need to stop playing and look up a weapons guide or other gameplay tips.

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And nope, my decision isn’t at all bound by this gal and her seductive stretching (oh, Japan – you’re too much, but it’s all good):

 

 

Anyway, I’m leaning towards waiting it out, but man, is it going to be rough. I know of a few folks who will get the import, but I’ll avoid discussing anything with the because I want to go in totally cold and get my 100+ hours in and learn what’s what. Actually, I haven’t a clue as to who will be publishing this in North America, but a heads-up from a kindly PR person who wants to keep me calm might help out a little lot.

*Sigh* And so, the wait begins anew…

-GW

 

Review: L.A. Noire (PS4)

L.A. Noire PS4Well, wow. Rockstar’s remastered crime noir drama/action game L.A. Noire comes to consoles in pretty fine form and yes, it’s worth a buy. Granted, if you’re a more jaded “gamer” who thinks even looking at an HD version of an older game will somehow make you lose your street cred (*snicker!*), you kind of need a new hobby and should skip the rest of this review. The game has not only gotten more polished looks, its gameplay has been tweaked to use the PS4’s touch pad as an option for object manipulation when poking around crime scenes. There are still a few pesky quirks left over from the PS3 version, but despite those, this is one of those games that’s great to have back and it’ll be a new experience for those who missed out on it the first time.

As Cole Phelps, you’ll rise through the ranks of the LAPD in the post-WWII era from beat cop to nattily-dressed detective using wits and fists with the occasional firearm in your case solving. For the Grand Theft Auto fans out there who are new to this one, although some gameplay elements are very similar, this isn’t a re-skin at all. You get real cars from the period, approximately 90% of the city’s streets mapped out from that era and plenty of references you may need to look up or hey, go ask an older person about. It’s certainly a great way to introduce a grandparent to gaming. And yes, you can indeed play the game in glorious black and white if you like.

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