Category Archives: video games

RA-One

RA-One ~ This film has a lot in common with the recently reviewed Enthiran – The Robot. And while it follows Enthiran, and exists within the same continuity, it is not a sequel. Much the way the solo Avengers films led into the main Avengers movie, Chitti the Robot makes a cameo here. Being a comic book fan, I’m a sucker for universe building, and that’s exactly what Tamil science fiction is doing – creating a cinematic superhero universe.

The story here is nothing new really, derivative, but still original enough, and made magical by CGI and various other animation techniques. A videogame designer creates the ultimate super-villain, RA-One, for a virtual reality videogame where the player becomes the hero G-One to fight him. Like Enthiran, there are dazzling and mindboggling special effects, but at its core is a touching father and son story, that of the designer and his son.

Things go awry when RA-One gains sentience, and the designer must become G-One to stop him from destroying the real world. The battle sequences between G-One and RA-One are phenomenal. It is just amazing to me how other cultures seem to know better how to use American superhero concepts cinematically than most American filmmakers.

Like most Bollywood films, this has everything – action, comedy, romance, a couple if very scary moments, and of course terrific musical sequences. I really liked this film a lot, great videogame and comic book sensibilities, and like Enthiran, I bought the soundtrack as soon as I was done watching it the first time. Great fun.

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Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph ~ After helping friend Marni celebrate her birthday at Red Lobster, The Bride and I decided to continue the evening as a date night, despite the raging rainsnowstorm outside. We hadn’t been able to see Wreck-It Ralph since it’s been out so we trekked across Route 38 to my least favorite theater to see it.

It was a rainy/snowy Wednesday night, and that may have something to do with it, but I was pleased to see the place nearly empty and doing very little business. I couldn’t wish it on a nastier movie theater. That said, to be fair, we had no problems on this trip. As a matter of fact, the young man who took our tickets was very helpful. But you know, too little, too late. Gonna take a lot to change my mind about this place.

First things first, Wreck-It Ralph being a Disney/Pixar flick, we get a Pixar cartoon before the main feature. “Paperman” was a sweet short utilizing different animation than usual for Pixar, and it also had a bit of a Japanese anime vibe to it. I liked it a lot, a big reason to see this movie is to see “Paperman” first.

Wreck-It Ralph, the newest from Disney/Pixar, is loosely at first glance a cross between Toy Story and Tron. Like the first movie we discover that the entities in our videogames actually live, especially when we’re not looking, and like the second flick we discover that they live in their own little universe with its own physical and moral laws, all within the confines of one arcade.

Wreck-It Ralph is the bad guy in a game called Fix-It Felix, Jr., essentially close to Donkey Kong in many ways. Ralph, shunned by the other denizens of his game, determines to leave his game and make good. He goes off to Hero’s Duty, a hybrid of Halo and Starship Troopers, to win a medal, and recognition. When things go awry, he becomes stranded in Sugar Rush, a mix of Mario Kart and Candyland. There, Ralph must decide if truly is the bad guy, or a hero.

It’s a complex plot that is quite dark in places, but for the most part, it’s an enjoyable journey through 1980s videogame nostalgia. It has a sharp sense of humor, great characters, and the voice work of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, and especially Jane Lynch is first class. There are also many cameos of classic videogame characters that make the flick a real treat.

An added trivia bonus for old school videogamers is the song that plays over the closing credits, “Wreck It, Wreck-It Ralph” by Jerry Buckner, formerly of Buckner & Garcia of “Pac-Man Fever” fame.

I liked Wreck-It Ralph quite a bit, and while I wonder if this might be over or under the heads of some folks who weren’t into, or alive for, 1980s arcade games, I highly recommend it. Great flick.

When Film Incites

The recent nonsense in the Middle East with the murders, attacks, and protests against American Embassies is not the normal fodder for content here on Welcome to Hell, but it kinda is when it’s caused by a film. The film, and I use the word loosely, is called Innocence of Muslims by filmmaker, once again a term I’m using loosely, Sam Bacile, who we have since learned is an alias for Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.

Based on what I’ve seen of the man, and the film, he is a hate criminal, and responsible for the deaths so far in our embassies. And that’s not just because it’s a bad movie. It’s more and less than a bad movie. Horrible acting, sets, and writing, and created specifically to incite the Islam world to violence. This is something even Uwe Boll never did.

Notably this is not the first time film has been used as a mind weapon. The gangster films of the 1930s were said to bring about, among other things, juvenile delinquency. Violent movies have always been said to make kids more violent. The trend continues today. I think the documentaries of Michael Moore have fanned the fires, if not lit them initially, of the bipartisanism that threatens to tear our nation apart.

I think this will be a first. We’ve had music and videogames supposedly make people kill, we’ve had books do it, most notably with “The Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie, now I guess, it’s film’s turn. Still these things bother me.

While I do wonder what Ozzy song was Genghis Khan’s favorite, and what Call of Duty game Hitler played the most, this movie was a deliberate assault on a faith, in my opinion. I hope this furor dies down soon, and people realize that this was just a bad movie…

The Indies First All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast for 1-18-2012

The All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast is shot live in a real comics and gaming store in West Berlin, NJ – All Things Fun! – co-hosts Ed (Crossed) Evans, Allison (Danger Girl) Eckel and Glenn (Lord of the Jungle) Walker discuss the new comics out this week in two fun video segments, now in high definition, and also available on YouTube. See it here!

The first segment includes discussion of the following topics: Earthquake, Indies first, Fables #113, Legend of Oz The Wicked West #2, Star Trek #5, Tarzan in Lord of the Jungle #1, Crossed Psychopath #7, Planet of the Apes #10, videogame comics, Grant Morrison’s Steed and Mrs. Peel the other Avengers, kids comics, Tiny Titans, redheads, and the secret oranges of Wonder Girl.

The discussion continues in segment two including: Scott Snyder’s Batman #5, Supergirl #5, fighting in armored bathing suits, DC Universe Presents #5 featuring Deadman, Catwoman #5 by Judd Winick, acid trip Batman, Walt Simonson on T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and Legion of Super-Heroes, the big quiet, X-Men Blue, AVX, Ed’s Marvels, Mark Waid’s Daredevil #8, Avengers #21, and the trades of the week, with bonus sparkles.

Be sure to check out the outrageous new All Things Fun! website, and the All Things Fun! Blogs, by Allison and Glenn, and ATF! on YouTube.

And be back here every Wednesday morning at 11:30 AM EST to watch the new broadcast, and thereafter throughout the week!

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The Non-Gamer’s Gamer’s Blog

Just a bit of shameless self-promotion here today. Some of you know, and some of you don’t know, but this isn’t my only blog, nor my only outlet of rage and ignorance. I also blog elsewhere on the innerwebs.

One of those other places is The Non-Gamer’s Gamer’s Blog. It was a project I came up with a while ago to keep myself from becoming a bum. You see the theory is that the only thing that keeps a freelance writer from officially becoming a bum is the ownership of a gaming system. With a gaming system in the house, I had to do something – blogging about it – to keep me from bumship.

So here is The Non-Gamer’s Gamer’s Blog, described as “A forty-something non-gamer gets a PlayStation 3 and tries to get up to speed, reviewing games and posting random thoughts about the electronic gaming world.”

If you so dare, you can enjoy it here.

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Quickies 1-8-2011

Me and Orson Welles ~ This is essentially about Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater’s production of Julius Caesar in 1937. An aggressive young high school kid and wannabe actor gets hired into the play and unfortunately involved in a romance with an older woman on set. Much like Orson Welles’ personality in real life, his character, so much larger than life, also takes over this kid’s story. Great stuff.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time ~ For a movie based on a limited graphics videogame from the early 1980s, this flick has a good premise, lots of potential, but little was aspired to. Some nice special effects, some interesting plot twists and frequent nice nods to the old Sinbad movies of the 1960s and 1970s, this is worth a watch if it’s on television. Good popcorn flick.

Whip It ~ Drew Barrymore’s direction of this film based on the book “Derby Girl” by Shauna Cross is very good. Great drama, great comedy, and all with a heart as well. It has the feel of a contemporary After School Special, and that’s a good thing. One of my favorite flicks of the year.

Formula 51 ~ This is mindless shoot-’em-up fun that is carried chiefly by the charisma of Samuel L. Jackson as chemist Elmo McElroy who has created a superdrug. Robert Carlyle from The Full Monty is also fun here as the Jackie Chan to Sam’s more talented Chris Tucker. Turn your mind off, put your feet up and enjoy an hour and a half of action thriller fun.

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A Tale of Two Trons

I was never that big of a fan of the original Tron, yeah, I know, blasphemy, and I have to turn in my nerd license. Other than the cool (at the time) effects and the arcade game “Discs of Tron,” which I enjoyed on an almost daily basis for hours on just a few quarters, it never really did much for me.

The thing about Tron, is that like the cyberpunk work of the legendary William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, contemporary to the flick, it’s an idea, a fictional concept, that has been washed away by reality. The world of ‘the grid’ is over, like the rocketships and rayguns of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, it no longer even makes sense. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, or this sequel, mind you, it just raises the suspension of disbelief a hundredfold is all. Trust me – Gibson, Sterling, Rogers and Gordon all still rock my world in a major way – it’s just harder to do these days.

What I remember and respect most about the original Tron is its simplicity of style. A true grid world accessible and relatable to the videogames of the time was realized and endeared itself to a generation. That’s a real feat. It was visually exciting and forward-thinking for its time, and even today remains a very unique vision, separating it from much of its science fiction competition.

I also remember the music, a Journey song “Only Solutions,” that I liked – at a time when I wasn’t all that fond of Journey. Of course, life with The Bride has changed that. I like Journey and she likes comics – the concessions of love. The soundtrack however was mostly composed by the wonderful Wendy Carlos (formerly Walter Carlos), one of the first musicians to seriously work with the synthesizer as the next wave in sound. The soundtrack is memorable for that sound. Daft Punk more than does the job for the new century in the sequel. I recommend both soundtracks highly.

If 1982’s Tron posits a world called The Grid where programs compete in videogames for their users, the sequel Tron: Legacy represents a current day return to that world. Shortly after the events of the first movie, Kevin Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges, makes it big in the computer and videogame industry, and then after beginning to act erratically, disappears, leaving his son, Sam, alone.

Sam gets a page from his Dad and returns to Dad’s arcade, and in a flourish of 1980s nostalgia, punctuated by vintage videogames, Eurythmics music, as well as Journey, in a nod to this film’s predecessor, he ends up in The Grid. This is a much darker Grid, and a world that exhibits every strength today’s CGI special effects can avail. In this, the hype is true. This is the movie that 3D and IMAX were made for, it’s just a shame that not all of it is in 3D. As cool as these visuals are, the half 3D, half 2D of it damages it. All or nothing, I say.

As I said, this is a very dark film. Dark in the same way Disney’s Return to Oz was to MGM’s The Wizard of Oz, so in some ways it’s not a good thing. The idea of a sequel to Tron is essentially a return to a world of wonder, a world of adventure, a world we enjoyed. This new fascist Grid, under the thumb of Flynn’s evil computer counterpart Clu is not a happy place. The problem, spoiler alert, is that even though the good guys win at the end, we never actually see anything but the bad place.

Rather than this dark vision with spectacular effects, I think I would have much rather seen a remake. It’s been almost thirty years after all, and one of the legitimate reasons to remake a film is that the special effects have gotten better – and they surely have. The Light Cycles are amazing and realistic. The Recognizers are gigantic and menacing. And Clu, wow, let me tell you about Clu. Clu is a haunting CGI effect of the younger Jeff Bridges from 1982. This ‘effect’ is both stunning and disturbing.

Cast-wise, it’s fun to see Bruce Boxleitner as Alan once again, Garret Hedlund is promising in his first major role, and Olivia Wilde is definitely someone to watch. Jeff Bridges, mostly as his older current age self, is the unfortunate weak link. He seems to channel The Dude from The Big Lebowski to the point of ridiculousness. While humorous, it pulls me completely out of the film whenever he does it. And it even ruins the strong dramatic moments like when he finally connects with his estranged son. Sorry, The Dude is one of my heroes, but he doesn’t belong in Tron.

Like Avatar, this is a film you must see for the special effects at least once. In this case, the 3D and the IMAX are worth it, even though I have railed against their cost and worth before. It seems to be doing well so I suppose a sequel is possible – maybe we’ll see more of Dillinger’s kid, which I’m sure all the Tron nerds wanted as well. Despite my reservations, Tron: Legacy is recommended, and don’t forget to check out the original too, first if possible.

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RIP Captain Lou Albano

Even if you had no knowledge of wrestling whatsoever, you knew who Lou Albano was. He was Cyndi Lauper’s father in her most famous video “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Characterized by his loud Hawaiian shirts and his beard trademarked by rubberbands, the WWE remembered him as both “one of the company’s most popular and charismatic legends” and “one of the most hated men.” His career included a myriad of work including appearances on “Miami Vice” and voicing the cartoon Mario besides his long wrestling involvement. He passed away today in New York at 76.

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Quickies 10-5-2009

The Mist ~ Combining the horror and paranoia of the trapped-in-a-bunker and what’s-in-the-dark concepts, this Stephen King short story is brilliantly brought to the screen by writer/director Frank Darabont. Thomas Jane is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors between this and “Hung.” Be warned however, whereas the story it’s based on had no ending, the movie has an amazingly crappy ending, one of the worst I’ve seen in years. Better no ending at all than this one – it literally ruins the rest of the flick.

The Ghosts of Angela Webb ~ Wow, this one was terrible. Filmed on videotape and badly paced and acted, I could not wait for it to end. Remember back in college, that friend who wanted to be a filmmaker and had all of his or her friends be in their low budget flick? Well, this makes that look like Scorsese.

Max Payne ~ There’s a prejudice that movies based on videogames are either all style over substance or just plain bad. I have to admit that there’s much to the statement. In the case of Max Payne, it’s a little of both. It’s visually exciting, but a convoluted and sometimes boring plot takes away from it, and the enticing soundtrack. Pretty but empty.

Disaster Movie ~ In the loose tradition of Airplane!, Amazon Women on the Moon and mostly the Scary Movie series, this is a lowest common denominator parody of last year’s blockbuster flicks. I laughed. I’m a little ashamed I laughed, but I did. If you didn’t see the movies referenced however, you might not get the jokes.

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Heavy Rain

The trailer for Heavy Rain debuted at E3 this weekend. The eerily realistic dark thriller from Sony for the PS3 is one of the most anticipated games this year. The release date will be later in 2009.

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