The Wolf Among Us (PS3)

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After the success of The Walking Dead, Telltale was able to take on another property that they got the rights. They got the rights to this property at the same time as Kirkman’s zombie comic. For me, Bill Willingham’s Fables was under the radar. I was not aware at all of this comic. After playing the game created by Telltale, I’m keen on getting my hands on the graphic novels.

A long time ago, there was a mass exodus of Fables. Many of them have settled in New York City, trying to live normal lives and remain inconspicuous to the mortal humans. Fast forward centuries later, King Cole is missing and Ichabod Crane is in charge of mayoral duties with his assistant Snow White. Helping to maintain law and order, Bigby Wolf is appointed sheriff of Fabletown.

One night, a fable is murdered, a prostitute Bigby had saved from the drunken Woodsman. Now, Bigby must find her killer before Fabletown begins to panic. Bigby’s investigation leads him to encountering the likes of The Tweedles, Georgie Porgie, and the Jersey Devil. When Bloody Mary enters the picture, things only get more dire from there.

The world of Bill Willingham’s Fables provides a much richer world for the Telltale team to play around with. The art direction, recalling fairy tale illustrations in contrast to Walking Dead’s comic book cel-shading, is amazing with a lot of attention given to the detail of the characters and the environments. The writing team and directors at Telltale should be commended for leading the game industry and telling a strong narrative with fleshed out characters.

Adam Harrington as Bigby Wolf may be one of gaming’s top protagonist in 2014. The fact that he’s the one you control and have to decide for makes him all the more engaging of a character. His reputation for aggression among the other fables adds a lot of tension in different scenes. The supporting cast features Telltale regulars like Dave Fennoy, Melissa Hutchison, Roger Jackson, Charles Kourouklis, and Erin Yvette. Kourouklis steals the show as Mr. Toad.

Jared Emerson-Johnson provides a synth soundscape for The Wolf Among Us. After the quirky Tales of Monkey Island and the jazzy Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse, one would have guessed someone else did the music. The opening credits music recalls the work by Powerglove for FarCry 3 Blood Dragon. I would hope the soundtrack is on iTunes because this is some of his finest work.

The controls handle the same as The Walking Dead. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and Telltale did exactly that. The left stick moves the character while the right stick moves the cursor. The face buttons work the same as in Walking Dead with each button corresponding to a different action. One nice touch is the indiscriminate nature of the quick time events involving the shoulder buttons. If you match the cursor with the target, but press the wrong shoulder button and you’re not penalized for it. Good on you, Telltale!

Telltale has another solid entry in their catalog with The Wolf Among Us. Other than the misstep with Jurassic Park, their record for releases is near flawless. Between the characters, the writing, the graphics, the controls, and the music, this game stands as their best work yet. All five episodes are available for five dollars each or buy the season pass for $20. Either way, get this game!

The French Connection (1971)

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Gene Hackman is one of the few actors that can make an unlikeable character likeable. Whether its his famous turn as Lex Luthor or films like Mississippi Burning or Runaway Jury, he has a charm that can get audiences behind his characters. This particular quality of Hackman goes as far back to one of his first lead roles, as well as one of the first movies for director William Friedkin.

Detectives Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle and Buddy Russo (Hackman & Roy Schieder, respectively) are tasked with going deep into seedy, underground New York City. They frequently shakedown the local dealers and hustlers. One night, they tail Sal Boca, who is a rising figure in organized crime. Their investigation leads to a new player in the narcotics game, Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey). This is the beginning of a series of events where Doyle is determined to take down Charnier at any and all costs.

While police dramas were common, The French Connection was one of the first to be gritty and realistic. According to Friedkin, when the film screened in an inner-city theater, the crowd cheered when Doyle dropped the n-word because that’s how whitey talked. Outside of the film noir of the 30’s and 40’s, The French Connection didn’t hinder from police corruption in a way not many other films did at the time. Another sign of its significance was that it inspired the Italian sub-genre of Poliziotteschi, made famous by the likes of Lucio Fulci, Umberto Lenzi, and Enzo G. Castellari.

Gene Hackman as Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle remains one of the actor’s most renown performances. In later roles, you can see hints of Doyle in Hackman’s acting, especially with Agent Rupert Anderson in Mississippi Burning. Even the character of Doyle was an influence on other actors. Stuart Whitman’s Capt Saitta, Dennis Franz’s Andy Sipowicz from NYPD Blue, and Denzel Washington’s Alonzo Harris from Training Day have their roots in Doyle.

The supporting cast provide great characters for Hackman to work off of. As his partner, Roy Scheider has great chemistry with Hackman. Fernando Rey as Charnier has the right air of mystery and serves as a solid contrast for Doyle. Marcel Bozzuffi as Pierre Nicoli, Charnier’s personal hitman, has a strong screen presence.

Visually, The French Connection has a palpableness to it. You can almost feel the grime of the city. Cinematographer Owen Roizman nicely captures NYC. Editor Gerald Breenberg maintains a consistent pace. Screenwriter Ernest Tidyman gives much for the actors to work with and provides a strong foundation for the film.

While many will hold the San Francisco car chase in Peter Yates’ Bullitt with Steve McQueen as films’ greatest car chase, I will have to disagree. The car chasing the L Train through the crowded streets stands as my favorite car chase in all film. Friedkin admits that this scene was inspired by Bullitt. As far as I’m concerned, the chase in French Connection was better executed, shot better, and very unorthodox. With two cars in the chase, you have an idea how it ends. A car chasing a city train yields greater possibilities and situations.

Over forty years later, The French Connection remains a noted for those involved in its production. William Friedkin was able to continue his directorial career with films like The Exorcist and Sorcerer. Gene Hackman became one of film’s beloved talents. After all this time, the film holds up. This is a film that deserves a spot in everyone’s collection.

Oasis of the Zombies (1981)

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Jesus Franco was a director with a reputation. Unlike Lucio Fulci, he wasn’t tempermental. Opposite of Bruno Mattei, he didn’t make movies to entertain audiences. Hie early films featuring the likes of Klaus Kinski, and Jack Palance would have you believe that there was potential talent and one who could find beauty in horror. Sadly, his later films would come off as disaffection, just a means to make money. Not even his take on the zombie Nazi trend is of any merit.

British war veteran, Blabert, knows of the location of a cache of Nazi gold. A former Nazi spy tracks him down and kills him, stealing the location of the Nazi gold. With a fortune to claim, he takes his wife with him and a group of mercenaries to get the gold. Unfortunately, they’re ambushed by the zombified protectors and are quickly killed.

After the death of his father, Robert decides to go after the gold himself. His college friends want to go along with him. Unaware of the danger that awaits them, they travel to the treasure site. There, they are also attacked by the zombies. Will they suffer the same fate as those who came before them to get the gold?

To the film’s credit, the scenes where you can see what’s happening feature some decent, but laughable zombie make-up and eerie atmosphere. Granted, its nowhere equal to Tombs of the Blind Dead or Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. On its lowest of the low budget, its just good enough. Some of the make-up is hilarious. One skeletal zombie has the biggest grin on its face while another one looks like the living dead version of Marty Feldman.

This is a dark film. I’m not referring to the tone either. The movie itself is dark, nearly unwatchable. Its as if Franco didn’t want to spend money on a lighting technician or for equipment. This only adds to the possibility that Franco did this film just for the money and not for any remote degree of art.

Another problem with the film is the lack of likable characters. Save for Blabert, there are no characters to empathize with or to get behind. The German explorer and the college kids are the blandest, most unappealing characters to be seen in the Nazi zombie genre. They are only there for the body count. The ones killed by the zombies left me as indifferent as the characters that survive the zombie assault.

Oasis of the Zombies showcases one of the worst efforts put into a horror movie. It only serves as a lesson in how NOT to make a movie. With the dull characters, poor lighting, and general low quality of the film, you can do much better in this niche genre. I would recommend Zombie Lake, Shock Waves, and Dead Snow way before I would even think to mention Oasis of the Zombies.

Jesus Franco was a director with a reputation. Unlike Lucio Fulci, he wasn’t tempermental. Opposite of Bruno Mattei, he didn’t make movies to entertain audiences. Hie early films featuring the likes of Klaus Kinski, and Jack Palance would have you believe that there was potential talent and one who could find beauty in horror. Sadly, his later films would come off as disaffection, just a means to make money. Not even his take on the zombie Nazi trend is of any merit.

British war veteran, Blabert, knows of the location of a cache of Nazi gold. A former Nazi spy tracks him down and kills him, stealing the location of the Nazi gold. With a fortune to claim, he takes his wife with him and a group of mercenaries to get the gold. Unfortunately, they’re ambushed by the zombified protectors and are quickly killed.

After the death of his father, Robert decides to go after the gold himself. His college friends want to go along with him. Unaware of the danger that awaits them, they travel to the treasure site. There, they are also attacked by the zombies. Will they suffer the same fate as those who came before them to get the gold?

To the film’s credit, the scenes where you can see what’s happening feature some decent, but laughable zombie make-up and eerie atmosphere. Granted, its nowhere equal to Tombs of the Blind Dead or Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. On its lowest of the low budget, its just good enough. Some of the make-up is hilarious. One skeletal zombie has the biggest grin on its face while another one looks like the living dead version of Marty Feldman.

This is a dark film. I’m not referring to the tone either. The movie itself is dark, nearly unwatchable. Its as if Franco didn’t want to spend money on a lighting technician or for equipment. This only adds to the possibility that Franco did this film just for the money and not for any remote degree of art.

Another problem with the film is the lack of likable characters. Save for Blabert, there are no characters to empathize with or to get behind. The German explorer and the college kids are the blandest, most unappealing characters to be seen in the Nazi zombie genre. They are only there for the body count. The ones killed by the zombies left me as indifferent as the characters that survive the zombie assault.

Oasis of the Zombies showcases one of the worst efforts put into a horror movie. It only serves as a lesson in how NOT to make a movie. With the dull characters, poor lighting, and general low quality of the film, you can do much better in this niche genre. I would recommend Zombie Lake, Shock Waves, and Dead Snow way before I would even think to mention Oasis of the Zombies.

Army of Darkness (1993)

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With recent word that a TV series sequel to Army of Darkness is in the works in addition to a sequel to the remake of Evil Dead, now couldn’t be a better time to introduce the primitive screwheads living under rocks these past few decades to this horror series. With Evil Dead 2 being a hit and considered one of the best horror films of the 80’s, a sequel was inevitable. Let’s take a look at Army of Darkness.

Immediately picking up where Evil Dead II ended, Ash finds himself in the 1300’s. The Wiseman believes him to be a hero of prophecy. Others believe him to be a spy for an opposing army. The forces under Arthur take him into custody. When brought to the castle, Ash is set to be executed by being thrown into a pit of deadites. After Ash disposes of the deadites and frees the captured members of the opposing army, Ash wants to make his way back home.

Not long after, Ash and a girl named Sheila fall in love, yet any hope of a relationship is threatened by Ash going back home. The Wiseman disclose to Ash that only the Necronomicon can bring him back to his own time. After journeying to a graveyard, he finds the Necronomicon, but ends up conjuring the army of the dead. Now, Ash must prepare the villagers of Arthur’s kingdom to fight the dead.

With all the love this film has from fans, one would not think that this film tanked at the box office. Yet, at the same time, I can see why this film took longer to develop its own cult following. This film was very different than the previous entry. This wasn’t isolated and claustrophobic. This was wide and epic in its scale. There is a heavy Harryhausen spirit to the film with dashes of The Three Stooges and Monty Python.

Raimi and co. made the right choice in getting Ash out of the cabin setting, but this may have proved to be too dramatic of a change for its fans. Still, this film has become a favorite of many Bruce Campbell fans. The delay in acceptance for this film was no different than it was for other third entries, notably George Romero’s Day of the Dead.

Bruce Campbell further evolves his character. Previously, he was a no nonsense badass who could kill a deadite without blinking. Here, he’s much more of a braggart and a fool. There are moments where he comes off sounding like William Holden’s Al Carter from 1955’s Picnic, then other times where he comes off as channeling Kurt Russell’s Jack Burton.

Raimi gives some good actors for Campbell to play off of. Embeth Davidtz has great chemistry with Campbell, essentially being the medieval Rosalind Russell to his 20th Century Cary Grant. Ian Abercrombie as The Wiseman brings the right amount of naivety and sincerity to his performance. Stuntwoman Patrica Tallman brings a ferocity to her fight with Campbell that one has to wonder why she hasn’t appeared in bigger roles in other films.

Joseph Lo Duca returns to compose and conduct the music. Fans of the previous film will recognize cues and themes recurring. Lo Duca also dabbles with a range of styles. The enchanting calm of “Night Court” stands out as one of his best pieces. The music pieces of the building and unleashing of the deathcoaster recall the cornball adventure scores of Erich Wolfgang Korngold (Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk). The music for the Little Ashes scene sounds straight from a Tim Burton film.

Speaking of Tim Burton, composer Danny Elfman wrote the film’s signature piece: “The March of the Dead.” While Lo Duca’s pieces work for the small scenes, Elfman brings the much needed boom to the climatic battle sequence. Mixing this track with the army of walking skeletons gives the Jason and the Argonauts niche that makes this film stand out from the series.

Two frequent collaborators of Raimi got their early start on Army of Darkness. Before he edited the Spider-Man trilogy and The Hurt Locker, Bob Murawski pieced together Darkman and Hard Target. Murawski would go on to co-create Grindhouse Releasing with the late Sage Stallone. Thanks to Murawski, cult films like The Beyond and Cannibal Holocaust were unleashed upon a new generation of moviegoers.

After his cinematography on Darkman and Army of Darkness, Bill Pope would make a name for himself in both television and cinema. His credits include the short-lived TV series Freaks & Geeks as well as The Matrix, Team America: World Police, and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. He’s also involved with The World’s End for Edgar Wright and Transformers IV with Michael Bay.

Despite the rough start, the film has become a favorite of mine and many others. Heck, my step-brother wasn’t a fan of Evil Dead II, but he loves Army of Darkness. This film was my first venture into the Evil Dead series, and remains the most accessible film of the series. Its hard to imagine a time when this film wasn’t honored and appreciated by the fans.

The Invisible Man (1933)

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This film is one of Universal’s staple monsters from the 1930’s and 1940’s. Having just come off the success of Frankenstein, director James Whale would be given a technologically demanding project. Even today, the effects are still a marvel to behold. Let’s take a look at The Invisible Man.

We see a brief glimpse of the cheery life of the patrons at a small tavern, in the village of Iping. Suddenly, a mysterious stranger enters the establishment. He is covered in bandages and wearing goggles. He takes up a room, demanding to not be disturbed during his stay.

As the days pass, fewer patrons visit the bar. The innkeeper and his wife order him to leave. He becomes violent and the police are summoned. In a confrontation, he reveals himself to be invisible. He attacks the townspeople and makes his escape. After visiting an associate, Kemp, he takes steps towards world domination with his newly found power.

At the same time, we discover the identity of the invisible man as Dr. Griffin. Griffin’s mentor, Dr. Cranely, finds a note with a substance called monocane written on it. While it causes invisibility, it has the alarming side effect of mental instability. Griffin’s love, Flora, is concerned for his safety and is summoned by Kemp to talk with Griffin.

After killing dozens of people, through numerous acts of terror, there is a sweeping manhunt to find Griffin. Kemp calls the police on Griffin. Griffin escapes while Kemp is taken into protective custody. The audience is then given insight as to the methods that the police will use to find and arrest Griffin. Will the police find him into time to save more lives? Will Griffin be cured before his mind is in a permanent state of paranoia and megalomania?

James Whale shows that he has an eye for talent, or in this case an ear. Whale handles the special effect demands in a way that only a theatrical director could do as opposed to a film director. He gets great performances out of his actors, even if they come off as being exaggerated. Its unfortunate that this film isn’t given as much prestige as Frankenstein or The Wolf Man, when it clearly deserves such.

Claude Rains’ breakout performance was in this film as Griffin. Despite only being heard for most of the movie, his voice is menacing and powerful. Rains’ work as Griffin would be echoed by numerous voice actors, notable Malcolm McDowell in Fallout 3 and Armin Shimerman in Bioshock. There is a great supporting cast here for Rains to work off of including Titanic‘s Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Henry Travers, Una O’Connor, and E.E. Clive. Keep an eye out for brief appearances by Dwight Frye and John Carradine.

The special effects by John Fulton still stand the test of time and are just as convincing now as they were in 1933. The use of black velvet and black masks served as the forerunner to blue screen technology. There are some moments where you can tell is wires, but that method is rarely used to the point where it doesn’t distract.

Timing in at only 70 minutes, a group could watch this as part of a marathon screening and not be fatigued. You have one of Universal’s underrated vintage classics with a talented director, an authentic cast, and ahead of their time visual effects. For any horror fan, Universal films should be required viewing, and this films ranks near the top of the list.

WCW Superbrawl (SNES)

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Video games can often been seen as a reflection of what they’re presenting. Interestingly enough, you can gauge the progress of the company through the quality of the video games, especially when its regarding a wrestling organization. I missed out on the Nintendo WCW video game but we’ll take a look at the noted releases for the other major consoles. Let’s take a look at WCW Superbrawl Wrestling for the Super Nintendo.

A year after WWF Royal Rumble came out and propelled LJN’s video game reputation, WCW took a shot with this game to compete. While this competition didn’t reach the heights of the late nineties Monday Night Wars, it was a sign that LJN needed to turn the next game up to 11. And because of that, WWF Raw was all the better game for it. With WCW Superbrawl Wrestling, this game tried some new things and also mimic elements of other video games, but ultimately couldn’t deliver the satisfying game experience that the LJN WWF games delivered.

While not in the same league as the WWF games, the WCW game had some positives. With the limits of the Super Nintendo, the game had minimal commentary from Tony Schiavone, who would be remembered in infamy for spoiling the WWF Championship win of Mick Foley and thus helped turn the tide in the Monday Night Wars in favor of the WWF. The wrestlers also have soundbites that they utter during the character select screen and when they perform their signature moves. The ¾ appearance of the screen instead of the trapezoid angle of LJN WWF games recalls the Fire Pro Wrestling series, but that’s it.

In addition, it had a solid roster to boot. The funny thing is that this roster has a number of stars that would gain greater fame in the WWF. Case in point, Ron Simmons would become a part of the APA with Justin Bradshaw under the name Faarooq. Dustin Rhodes would push the envelope as Goldust. Johnny B. Badd would wrestler under his real name, Marc Mero. There were staple veterans and legends like Sting, Rick Rude, the Steiner Bros., Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, and Brian Pillman.

However, the game has it share of missteps that kept this from really competing with WWF games. The lack of in-game music and wrestler theme music held the game back. The controls were wonky. Pulling off a suplex or a dropkick was not the simple one button press that you see in WWF games. Doing a simple Irish Whip was a process. Many of the moves failed to connect and poor hit detection plagued the game. Along with the commentary, the audio soundbites of the wrestlers sound like they were recorded and played on a toy keychain.

The game lack match options. There’s singes and tag team matches. That’s it. No battle royal option. No double-ringed, steel cage match for which the game is named after. The game only has the most basic wrestling match options.

Another laughable element are the signature moves of the game. There are some cool ones like Brian Pillman’s Super Sunset Flip and Scott Steiner’s Frankensteiner. Guys like Flair, Sting, and Steamboat have their famous finishers. But then you have moves that are considered finishers while other wrestlers would use those same moves at the beginning of a match. Johnny B. Badd has a Left Hook. Dustin Rhodes has the Bulldog.

Some moves that are performed in the game don’t match the move in the real ring. Barry Windham’s “Superplex” in the game is just a vertical suplex. Vader’s powerbomb in the game is actually a running powerslam, much like that of Davey Boy Smith. Maybe it was animation limitations, or it may be that FCI made a rush job just to get the game out since they went out of commission not long after the game was released in 1994.

A great roster and attempts at innovation can’t make up for bad controls, lack of match types, little to no music, and bad audio. Its obvious why very few people ever remember this video game or the company that made this fossil. If you have a Super Nintendo in your retro collection, just ignore this title altogether.

Captain America (1990)

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With the recent release of high quality superhero films, one can forget that there was a time when most superhero films were bad. Yes, you had good ones like Tim Burton’s Batman and Richard Donner’s Superman. That continues today with Batman Begins and The Avengers. Past comic films that were terrible include The Punisher with Dolph Lundgren and Roger Corman’s nearly forgotten Fantastic Four. Recent crop of bad superhero films include Spider-Man 3, Jonah Hex, Watchmen, and X3: The Last Stand. Between Reb Brown’s campy take and the much appraised Chris Evans performance, there is one Cap that was best forgotten.

Steve Rogers is set to be part of a secret government experiment due to his polio. Under the supervision of refugee scientist, Maria Vaselli, Rogers is transformed into a super soldier. After the experiment, Vaselli is shot by a Nazi spy. Rogers is soon sent to stop the Red Skull, who has intentions to launch a missile at Washington, DC.

Cap eventually meets the Red Skull and is swiftly defeated. After diverting the rocket, Captain America lands in the arctic. He remains frozen in time until a polar excavation team finds him. He awakens in modern times. Meanwhile, the Red Skull is still alive and well, aiming to assassinate the current President.

This particular film take on Captain America remains mostly hidden in the shadow of recent superhero films. It was a direct-to-video release with little fanfare. Not until the Nostalgia Critic episode on this Captain America film did people know this film even existed. Upon viewing, its clear why this film has been ignored and forgotten.

In the general sense, the plot of the source material is intact. Matt Salinger, son of J.D., looks the part. Scott Paulin, for the brief moments he has a red cranium, looks like the Red Skull. There is a supporting cast of great actors featuring Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, and Darren McGavin. Sadly, these are the only good elements of the film.

First, the film completely messes up the Red Skull. Instead of remaining faithful to his German origins, they make him an Italian fascist who turns into a Mafia crime boss. The villains signature look is only in one scene. The rest of the movie makes him look more like Punisher villain Jigsaw. Hearing Paulin speak with an Italian accent only adds to how bad this take on the character is. I don’t blame Mr. Paulin since this was how he was directed to act and was instructed to give this performance.

Matt Salinger, for the first act, is Steve Rogers/Captain America to a fault. He exudes the bravery and physical attributes of the hero. Yet, when he’s brought into modern times, he becomes a joke. I can understand the cliché of the hero wanting to take on the bad guys alone. But, his method of doing so is the most childish thing ever. While being driven, he pretends to be sick. After the driver pulls over, he runs back to the car and drives off, leaving the driver behind.

The plot itself has a lot of potential. Stephen Tolkin does a striking dynamic of the military-industrial complex, foretold by President Eisenhower, being connected to the Red Skull. Using Red Skull as being responsible for the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr, John F. Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy was a clever idea. Escapist purists may object, but some great genre films utilize historical events. But, its the terrible characterizations and the unnecessary changes of the villain that keep this film from being a decent effort.

At a time when comic book films are becoming mature, the bad films stand out even more. The Albert Pyun 1990 take on Captain America is among films like Ang Lee’s Hulk and Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin as being superhero films that get the characters wrong. It could have been a modest effort, but the characters and how their fleshed out make this film one that’s best forgotten.

Resident Evil 6 (PS3)

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With the past installments, the Resident Evil franchise has abandoned its survival horror claustrophobia for action gameplay akin to Gears of War and Dead Space. Those still pining for the days of tank controls and very limited inventory space will have to find solace in the PSOne games of the series. While I was not even remotely impressed with Resident Evil 5, I gave #6 a chance for the hell of it. Turns out, its not actually that bad.

Resident Evil 6 covers four characters as they have their own adventure. Leon Kennedy, Chris Redfield, Ada Wong return while being joined by Jake Muller, a new character to the series. Much like Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, these four stories often cross each other, which gives the game extra replay value. These four leads are linked to stopping the spread of bio-hazardous agents in the aftermath of Umbrella being shut down.

Another element to the stories is that they feel different from one another. Ada plays as a moderate action thriller. Jake’s plays more with stealth and hand-to-hand combat. Chris’ game is heavy on the action with a lot of cover and shooting. Leon’s game feels the most traditional, complete with zombies and eerie atmosphere.

Throughout the game, you’ll collect skill points that can be used to upgrade your character. These have the appearance of chess pieces and exotic artifacts. These points can be used to upgrade your character. Increased damage with guns and melee attacks are available. You can add points to picking up more ammo or making it easier to shake off enemies. The Mercenaries mini-game is back and can help players gain skill points quicker.

One interesting option is the Agent Hunt mode. Here, you can go into another player’s game as an enemy and try to take them down. This is a nice little throwback to the Outbreak series where you could become a zombie and attack your former teammates.

Survival horror as we knew it with the original Resident Evil series, as well as Silent Hill, is dead, for a lack of a better term. Following suit with the atrocious movies, there is an emphasis on action. I found the game to be enjoyable in steady hour long sessions. I can see why many are against the current format of the series. Yet, its not going to change back anytime soon.

The graphics are really sharp, although it can be ridiculously dark at times. The character models look good and current instead of dated. The camera wasn’t an issue during combat or exploration. Between Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6, this one looks the best.

The controls are easy to pick up. Its simple switching between melee and guns in the inventory. Turning and running is responsive with little issue regarding responding to player controls. The only issue I had was aiming with the sniper rifle. If you thought aiming in Metal Gear Solid was bad, Resident Evil 6 is far worse. Using the Call of Duty method of holding your breath to steady your aim was a hassle in the heat of battle.

The sound design is a treat with the right surround sound system. Sound effects for guns and creatures punctuate the action. The music of Akihito Narita pays homage to past composer Masumi Ueda. Vocal talents feature the likes of Matthew Mercer, Roger Craig Smith, Troy Baker, Courtenay Taylor, and Eden Riegel. Recycling the sound effect from Devil May Cry for collecting skill points was a nice touch.

Resident Evil 6 won’t convert opponents of the recent survival action turn of previous games. I still found myself playing the game even though its nowhere near as scary or as fun as Resident Evil 2 or Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. The sixth game wasn’t made for that generation of fans. If you’re curious to the current state of the franchise, its worth a rental. If you’ve already made up your mind to not like current Resident Evil, you’d only be wasting your time.

Red State (2011)

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Kevin Smith has made a career as a filmmaker of slacker comedies. He made an amazing debut with the cult hit, Clerks, and followed it up with Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, and Jersey Girl. With the media rise of the Westboro Baptist Church, Kevin Smith had plans to make a film satirizing the group. Who knew Kevin Smith could make such a dark film that skewered such a group?

Three youths respond to an online adult profile. But, its a trap and they’re abducted by the Five Points Trinity Church. The group is on a crusade to wipe out sinners within the country so as to appease their god. One youth manages to get loose and engages in a firefight. This draws attention from the police, one who is killed and the sheriff is blackmailed by the leader Abin Cooper into silence. This leads to the Sheriff calling in the FBI.

The ATF is set-up outside of the Five Points compound with the Sheriff. Another of the abducted youths gets loose and steals a gun to protect himself. He is shot by the sheriff after being mistaken for a hostile, which leads to a prolonged exchange between the ATF and the Five Points Church. Due to the sheriff’s mishap, the order comes into to kill everyone in the compound to avoid media embarrassment. Can the one remaining youth make it out alive? Will the ATF be able to keep this failure quiet?

Compared to Smith’s previous films, this is as dark a movie as he’s ever made. He’s also dealing with some very serious content. He does a sufficient job maintaining a dark tone with very little humor to break the tension, as other directors may have done. Some may argue that this isn’t satire given its grim nature, yet not all satire needs to be humorous to make a statement.

The cast does a great job of keeping the events of the film emotionally grounded in reality. Michael Parks (Kill Bill, Twin Peaks) as Abin Cooper gives the standout performance of the entire movie. Its easy to see why Quentin Tarantino likes this guy so much, I was utterly mesmerized and terrified by his monologue within the Five Points Chapel. This is an actor who is engulfed by his determination to bring a character to life. He stands as the one of the best villains in film within the past ten years, right alongside Anton Chigurh and Dieter Vogel.

John Goodman turns in a great performance as well as ATF agent Joseph Keenan, who is assigned to overtake the compound. Goodman has to go through a long range of emotions for his character to work. One scene he’s determined to complete his orders, then the next he needs to be shocked at the aftermath of those orders. I’m glad to see he’s gotten in better shape over the past few years. He’s an actor that I don’t want film to lose too soon.

The supporting roles are filled with modest casting choices. Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner, and Nicolas Braun play the philandering youths that are captured. Melissa Leo, Ralph Garman, James Parks, and Kerry Bishe portray member’s of Abin’s flock. Kevin Pollak has a small part as an adviser to Keenan. Stephen Root turns in a tortured, brilliant performance as the sheriff still in the closet.

This film represents a maturity in Kevin Smith. This shows he can tackle serious material with depth and ambiguity. While other directors can’t competently handle such material, Smith shows he is more than capable and more than willing with the right motivation. If you’re looking for an alternative to Smith’s typical films, Red State is worth watching.

Guitar Hero (PS2)

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Not too long ago, a small company aimed to give American video gamers a taste of the music rhythm genre. Up to that point, music rhythm games were huge in Japan. In 2005, the first Guitar Hero game was released, and a blessing (or curse, depending on your view) was bestowed upon PS2 gamers.

The first Guitar Hero game gave players a chance as simulated rock godliness. With a guitar-shaped controller, people could strum in time with notes on a fret highway. The notes on the screen would determine which note buttons would be pushed in while strumming. It was simple, accessible to anyone and everyone.

The career mode was very basic. You went from venue to venue, playing songs from a set list. You start with performing in someone’s basement, eventually playing at a major arena venue. The better you played, the crazier the props and crowd got.

Publisher Red Octane worked on the guitar controllers. Despite the cramp-inducing closeness of the note buttons to one another, they would take a lot of punishment and were responsive despite being wired to the system. Harmonix worked on the software and organized the notes set-up with the music tracks. Music studio Wavegroup worked on the song covers.

The set list remains one of the most star-studded, guitar-oriented play lists of any music game. The big names in guitar rock are present: Cream, Motorhead, Megadeth, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Joan Jett. Some songs like “Take Me Out” and “Godzilla” are two songs I wouldn’t think would be fun to play, but they ended up being a blast to play. Credit to Wavegroup for matching the instrumentation of the tracks to a tee. The vocals weren’t the best, but other than that they did a good job of covering the songs.

This was an experiment that worked out really well. Yet, it is not without its freshman flaws. There is a multiplayer option, but its competitive and works in a Crossroads (the 1986 film, not that Britney Spears snoozefest) manner. Unlike, future iterations, skill is necessary to win and not cheap power-ups.

Some may view the covers as a negative. This reflects a rather ignorant perspective. This was a game under the radar where success was questionable. Covers were a means to an end. After the success of this game, the frequency of master tracks steadily increased.

Guitar Hero was a success because it did a lot with a simple approach by Harmonix. It brought people together. It allowed people to appreciate music on an interactive level. The music, itself, reflects the best in the rock genre. It was safe to say a sequel was inevitable.