Month: December 2014

The Top Ten Genre Movies Of 2014 - Part 2 3

The Top Ten Genre Movies Of 2014 – Part 2

Part 2 of The Top Ten Genre Movies Of 2014, be sure to check out part 1 for #10-6.

5) Snowpiercer

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Snowpiercer

Joon-ho Bong (The Host, the good one) has been one of the most fascinating genre filmmakers working out of Korea for over a decade. Working from a French comic book as source material, Snowpiercer was supposed to be his breakout film in North America. He got Chris Captain America Evans to headline a cast featuring the likes of Ed Harris, John Hurt, and Tilda Swinton for a trippy sci-fi action blockbuster with a brain. The results were as thrilling, funny, clever, and wildly entertaining as anything that he ever produced. It could have been a big hit. Then the Weinstein Company got hold of it, re-edited against Bong’s wishes for over a year and finally slipped it into a handful of theaters unceremoniously. It was unfair treatment for a frankly brilliant genre movie with scale, stars, smarts, and class. Thankfully, the movie will live forever in home video formats now and should eventually become the classic that it always should have been.

4) Oculus

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Oculus

The bad wap on most mainstream horror flicks is that they are simplistic and uninspired. Sure, they are slick and pack jump scares and or gore, but rarely do they tickle the brain or dare to do anything different. Not Oculus. Mike Flanagan’s sophomore effort mixes up flashbacks and hallucinations in a clever, inspired, and above all deeply creepy little haunted mirror tale. Mercifully devoid of found footage trappings and other cheap gimmicks, it’s a skillfully crafted and undeniably effective little horror flick that already feels destined to be a cult classic. Other horror movies may have been flashier or more successful in 2014, but nothing else was as exquisitely constructed or capable of worming its way into memory. This is the type of horror movie that audiences used to be able to take for granted. Hopefully, Flanagan has quite a few more of them planned for a long career.

3) Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America was always my least favorite Marvel hero and yet somehow Kevin Feige and co. have given me two Cap films that rank amongst my favorite superhero flicks of all time. Borrowing liberally from the style and structure (if not the specific story beats) of Ed Brubaker’s influential Winter Soldier plotline, the movie cleverly contrasts Captain America’s old timey US values against the corruption of contemporary government. It’s a 70s paranoid thriller a la The Parallax View (Robert Redford even appears) with a superhero at the center. That’s a damn witty way to play with Cap in modern times and for good measure the co-directing Russo Brothers also served up the most visceral and physical action scenes of the entire Marvel cannon. It’s one hell of a blockbuster centered around a character who I never imagined I’d like. God damn it Marvel. You did it again.

2) The Lego Movie

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The Lego Movie

If this list was for “The Most Charming Movies Of 2014” then The Lego Movie would be number one with a bullet. In an age when branded product-shifting blockbusters like Transformers or Battleship are the norm, The Lego Movie should have been a project to dread, another one of those empty wastes of Hollywood resources designed purely to sell products. Thankfully, the movie fell into the hands of the distinctly irreverent filmmaking team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street, Clone High). In Lord and Miller’s hands, The Lego Movie transformed into a hysterically funny pop culture explosion that lovingly takes the piss out of the Lego universe as well as an unexpectedly moving exploration of the power of imagination that those little plastic blocks have provided for generations of children. The animation is beautifully plastic, the voice sheer joy on the big screen last year than The Lego Movie. It was an unexpected treat and one that likely won’t be topped for quite some time.

1) The Guardians Of The Galaxy

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The Guardians Of The Galaxy

Finally, there was only one possible movie that could top this list. It’s not often that the highest grossing movie of any given year is also arguably the best. But it’s also not often that a movie a singularly entertaining as Guardians Of The Galaxy comes along. It was a big risk for Marvel, not only reviving a barely popular space opera comic series from the 70s, but handing directing duties over to James Gunn (whose hard R horror and Troma roots are about as far from Disney blockbuster standards as humanly possibly). Thankfully, this is one of those cases where all of the risks paid off. Gunn delivered the closest thing to Star Wars that audiences have seen in a long time. His candy colored aesthetic, oddball casting (Chris Pratt as action hero, Michael Rooker as Disney villain), sardonic wit, and narrative invention delivered a blockbuster so purely entertaining that it should be held up as an ideal example of the form (and likely will be knocked off for quite a while for that very reason). It’s the closest thing that Marvel’s Phase 2 has given us to the unexpected excitement of the first Iron Man flick. A blockbuster that raised the bar for Marvel movies with an obscure property that seemed destined to fail. Pretty good plan, guys. Can’t wait to see what you’ve got coming next.

Honourable Mentions

Afflicted, Birdman, Citizenfour, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, The Double, The Edge Of Tomorrow (or Live, Die, Repeat), A Field In England, Foxcatcher, Godzilla, The Guest, The Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies, Interstellar, Jodorowsky’s Dune, John Wick, Lucy, Only Lovers Left Alive, The Raid 2, The Sacrament, Tusk, 22 Jump Street, Under The Skin, Willow Creek, Wolf Creek 2

A Particularly Honourable Mention: The Babadook

The Top Ten Genre Movies Of 2014 - Part 2 4
The Babadook

This masterful directorial debut from Jennifer Kent uses a haunted pop up book to explore deep rooted parental fears and fairy tale monster thrills. The Babadook is a brilliant bit of work, but I left it off the list because it hasn’t yet been released in Canada even though it’s been a massive critical success in the US. Hopefully, that’ll be sorted out in the New Year. This movie will be released in Canada in some form eventually and when it does, do whatever you can to see it.

The Worst Genre Movie Of The Year: Transcendence

Utter trash with no redeeming value. Not even goofy enough to earn camp status down the line. Just drearily, boringly bad and unfit for human consumption.

January Playstation Plus Games Announced 6

January Playstation Plus Games Announced

December is winding down and by now I’m sure you’re filled with holiday cookies, (boozy) eggnog, gifts and social obligations. And just when you thought you’ve gotten your last gift, Playstation Plus announces its list of games, free to members! According to Playstation’s official Facebook page, here’s a what to expect for January 2015:

 

inFAMOUS: First Light (PS4)

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Fetch is a super powered human with a dark past. Follow her as she reveals her dark secrets on the streets of Seattle, outwitting the clutches of Curden Cay and seeking vengeance against those who wronged her. Check out our review of this thrilling title here and our CGM Plays here.

 

The Swapper (PS4)

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This award winning puzzle game its atmospheric environment and deeply involved narrative is sure to engage even the most hesitant puzzle game fan. In this Sci-Fi platformer, you are stranded on a damaged spaceship desperately seeking escape. Your only hope is an experimental device that allows you to create closes of yourself, swapping your entire consciousness into new bodies in the hopes of overcoming the challenges that surround you and finding your way back home.

 

Prototype 2 (PS3)

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This dramatic sequel to Prototype (2009), is undoubtedly a satisfying follow-up. Follow James Heller on his quest to destroy the Blacklight Virus and  find out why he seeks to gain revenge against Alex Mercer, the protagonist of Prototype.  You’ll explore the viral wastelands of NYZ and build up your arsenal to face the dangers that await you throughout this exciting third-person adventure.

See what Wayne has to say about it on his review here.

 

DuckTales Remastered (PS3)

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Time for some sweet, sweet nostalgia! DuckTales Remastered takes the original NES platformer to a whole new level with fully improved graphics and soundtrack! Follow Scrooge McDuck,Huey, Dewey and Louie and they go on crazy adventures and to find treasure and become the richest duck in the world!

Want to hear more? Check out our review here!

 

Duke Nukem 3D: Megatron Edition (PS Vita)

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Right at the centre of controversy, Duke Nukem 3D is a gun blazin’ first-person shooter guaranteed to take you back to the old days of gaming. You follow Duke, your everyday macho-hero-type as he kicks butt and saves the day.

 

Whoa Dave! (PS Vita)

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Pixels, platforms, and what looks to be a chicken. This bizarre platformer is sure to have you hooked. Your goal – kill things and make money. Honestly, what more do you want in a game? I know how I’m spending the rest of my January!

Square Enix Issues Job Listing For Final Fantasy XV-Related Online Game - 49396

Square Enix Issues Job Listing For Final Fantasy XV-Related Online Game

Earlier this week, Square Enix put a call out for a new online game planner planner to take charge of the planning, management, and development of new games related to Final Fantasy XV. It further noted that if hired, the employee will be working with another “large-scale title of interest”.

If you’re interested in the position, requirements call for a positive, motivated person with proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. You would also need some experience in production of a game with fees, some online management experience, management experience, knowledge of  game system calculations, and an interest, curiosity, and/or experience with PC games.

Could Square Enix be hinting at a possible spin off of their popular MMO title, keeping consistent with their current trend of spin-offs from their prominent franchise? Have your say in the comment section below.

Cheap Thrills (Movie) Review 3

The Top Ten Genre Movies Of 2014 – Part 1

Somehow another year has come and gone, so now it’s time for listing. 2014 sped by fast for me, mostly because it’s been one of the best years for movies in quite some time. If you were huddled around Netflix all year, you missed out on an impressive damn stream of genre entertainment almost every week. Oh sure, there were still plenty of crappy movies out there. To be honest, most of them were garbage. But the best ones…oh boy they were they good.

Continue reading

Tetris Ultimate (PS4) Review 6

Tetris Ultimate (PS4) Review

As a huge fan of the Tetris franchise, and someone who was addicted to EA’s Tetris for the PS3 in 2011, I was beyond stoked when Tetris Ultimate was previewed this past summer at E3. While everyone else was getting excited about the new AAA releases that were being previewed, I was excited to have a new iteration of Tetris to play on the PS4. Tetris is such a complex game, which seems so simple, but can be anything but. I was excited to see what Ubisoft would bring to the franchise, as it celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year.

Sadly, what I ended up getting was a remarkably shallow game, with gameplay that somehow was worse than its predecessor. After playing this game for more than just a few hours, I couldn’t believe that somehow Ubisoft had managed to screw up Tetris. Tetris, a game which hasn’t really changed much in thirty years. The basic mechanics of the game remain unchanged, so I was floored that this new game was such a step backwards.

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The core feature of any Tetris game in the modern era is the Marathon mode. It was the first game mode I tackled, playing from stage 1-15. The changes made to the gameplay were immediately evident, and very frustrating. With the last PlayStation release of Tetris, the gameplay felt smooth, as you moved the pieces around the matrix. If you wanted to move a block from one side of the matrix to the other, it was simple enough to hold down the direction button, and the piece would smoothly and quickly move across the matrix in response. In this new release, however, such a simple operation has been compromised. Now, if you hold down the button for the piece to move, it feels like a delayed reaction, and isn’t quick or responsive. This is a major problem as you get farther and farther in the game, and the pace picks up. Instead, you end up having to quickly tap the directional pad for each block of movement, which is simply frustrating. It makes the gameplay feel much more sluggish than you want in a game like Tetris.

A game mode that wasn’t present in the prior release but sees release here is a new Endless mode, which is just as it says, an endless mode which gets increasingly faster and faster as you move farther and farther through the stages. The highest achievement level triggers for passing the 28

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stage. The mode is a welcome addition, but also a maddening one as playing through the levels becomes an arduous chore because of the slowed down gameplay input.

There’s not a lot of variety in this new release of Tetris, which is ironic given the name of this particular release. Besides the Marathon and Endless game modes, there’s a sprint option to see how quickly you can clear a set amount of lines, and an Ultra mode to see how many points you can score within a specific timed window. Those are all well and good, but they’re not nearly as imaginative and inventive as the variations that were in EA’s release of Tetris for PS3. That release had challenge modes which were larger variations on the Tetris theme, as opposed to just being timed challenges which don’t actually alter the gameplay. Battle modes definitely focus more on the multiplayer experience, but at the expense of the solo player. The quirky variations found in EA’s prior release made for compelling modes to keep replaying, whereas the battle mode feels played out.

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Tetris Ultimate (PS4) Review 3

The online gameplay has expanded from the EA release, which is appreciated, as you can now play Marathon mode online with opponents, as opposed to only being able to do battle modes against online competitors. However, the matchmaking is beyond slow, even when other gamers are located to start a game with. In EA’s release, you would build up points and then level up, and be matched accordingly with rival players. The matchmaking thus far doesn’t seem nearly as evolved in Ubisoft’s version, pairing players who have purple belts (in my case) with those who are clearly novices. It makes the online experience much more frustrating both for those who are just getting into the game, and those who are Tetris experts. It’s the equivalent of a brand new Call of Duty player going up against a player who has reached Prestige level. There might be a bit of fun on the side of the Prestige player, as they destroy their opponent mercilessly, but it gets old real fast.

For those who have the opportunity to play multiplayer with a local friend, the changes are unfortunate. Previously, I could play Marathon mode with my wife, and once I finished the mode, it would allow her to keep playing until she finished the mode as well. Now, when the first player completes the game, the entire game ends, which is unsatisfying for the second player, who may be a skilled yet somewhat slower Tetris player. The Endless mode is a good alternative then, as it doesn’t end, but it takes away a core mode from being one that can be enjoyed with friends.

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In terms of levelling up in this game, you can go up different “belts” based on your completion of Marathon mode, as well as how far you get in Endless mode. It feels a bit lazy and lacking real finesse in the levelling up system. The leaderboards are simplified in this new game, which is frustrating as well. If you’re not in the Top 30 players, you can’t even see where you would place in the overall board, not to mention how close your score might be to the next rung up the ladder. I hate to make constant comparisons to EA’s Tetris release, but it’s unavoidable when a product released nearly four years ago is superior to the so-called “Ultimate” version of the game. Even the menu system is clunky and not as refined and straight forward as the prior game. As for the trophies in this game, once again they’re frustratingly put together and conceived, as it’s not clearly set up to determine what you have to do to earn each trophy.

After months of waiting for more information on Tetris Ultimate, and being excited about its eventual release, I have to say that I was very disappointed with the product that ended up being released. The changes and subtractions from prior iterations of the game make it feel more barebones, lacking successful features from the past. I was hoping and expecting this to truly be an Ultimate version of the game yet was sadly disappointed and let down.

Freedom Cry Shows Assassin’s Creed At Its Best 4

Freedom Cry Shows Assassin’s Creed At Its Best

This article discusses several plot points from Assassin’s Creed IV: Freedom Cry.

 

Assassin’s Creed IV: Freedom Cry is an unassuming game. Released first as downloadable content for ACIV: Black Flag, Ubisoft Quebec’s expansion was relegated to side-story status from the start. Despite this, what Freedom Cry actually offers is a glimpse of Assassin’s Creed at its best, its look at the 18

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century slave trade standing out as a far more interesting use of a historical setting than many of the series’ main games.

Freedom Cry’s protagonist, Adéwalé, is a former slave who fled the plantation where he was imprisoned by stowing away on a buccaneer’s ship. He’s first introduced in Assassin’s Creed IV, captive again and en route from Havana to Spain when that game’s player character—Edward Kenway—attacks the transport ship. Adé is one of Black Flag’s most interesting personalities: he becomes Kenway’s friend and colleague, but parts ways with him later in the game to become an Assassin and strike out on his own. Freedom Cry picks up years after Black Flag’s conclusion, with Adé alone, shipwrecked near Port-au-Prince (the capital of what is now Haiti). Adé soon begins aiding the Maroons (former slaves who would lead the revolution that created Haiti) to fight back against their French oppressors.

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As the story progresses, the player witnesses acts of unthinkable cruelty common to the game’s time period and setting. A mission where Adé attempts to free a slave ship, only to find it blown apart by enemies, highlights these atrocities. The player, as Adé, dives through the burning wreck, passing corpses and attempting to break the chains of as many survivors as possible. No matter how quickly he acts the end result is the same: the majority of the imprisoned slaves die. Elsewhere, in a recasting of the typical Assassin’s Creed side missions, Adé can rescue injured slaves, kill brutal overseers, and interfere with human auctions. All of these objectives serve to give the player a close look at the stomach-churning nature of life in a slave-based society. The horror that colours nearly every moment of the game is meant to remind audiences of the inhumanity that characterized the European colonization of the Americas.

No matter how well the player performs, though, the game ends in the same way, Adé having assisted the early stages of the Maroon uprising while recognizing that he’s powerless to actually defeat the larger, cultural evil that makes it necessary. The futility of trying to defeat an institution as immense and well-organized as slavery by killing overseers and plantation owners is illustrated in appropriately horrific fashion when the plot ends quite close to the same way it started. Despite the hours the player has invested in helping Haiti’s slaves, Freedom Cry subverts the sense of accomplishment that comes from “liberating” enemy-held areas by concluding without any significant progress having been made. It (very cleverly) uses the gameplay mechanics that make Assassin’s Creed games fun to play to illustrate its story’s larger message: economically driven, culturally acceptable evils like slavery can’t be defeated just by killing those engaged in it in a single location.

Freedom Cry Shows Assassin’s Creed At Its Best 2
Freedom Cry Shows Assassin’s Creed At Its Best

Compare the intertwining of series mechanics and narrative purpose here to the squandered potential of the most recent Assassin’s Creed release: Unity. Though set during the early years of the French Revolution—an extraordinarily rich period of history—Unity makes only occasional attempts to engage with its setting, preferring instead to focus on its Assassins vs. Templars fiction. The politics that mobilized the Parisian mobs, ousted a monarchy, and eventually lead to the Terror are pushed aside in favour of ancient conspiracies that have little or nothing to do with the actual human condition. If Unity took a similar approach to Freedom Cry, it could have been an intellectually challenging game that bridged themes of the French Revolution with the modern world. Players could have been asked to think about topics pertinent to current events in a new way—concepts like the validity of violent revolution as a means of political change; the manner by which power perverts well-meaning ideologies, and much, much more. This is what Freedom Cry accomplishes, and this is why it’s testament to how culturally important the Assassin’s Creed series can be when its developers take full advantage of the games’ historical settings. It’s because of Freedom Cry’s success—because it demonstrates how well Assassin’s Creed can handle complicated, difficult concepts through its gameplay systems and storytelling style—that players can hope for something better with the series next instalment, even if Unity was a bit of a misfire.

The Order: 1886… Pretty, But Boring - 49385

The Order: 1886… Pretty, But Boring

A 15 minute B-roll of gameplay footage from The Order: 1886 has been released online, and the game looks pretty boring. Let me clarify, the game looks fabulous. The visuals are on point, and we’re finally getting a game that doesn’t look like a cross-gen or port. Character models move with weight and purpose, the faces and mouths move naturally and the lip syncing is flawless. Shots move seamlessly from cutscene to in-game without any noticeable changes or drop in quality.

It looks pretty, but man does it ever look boring. Slap a brand new frame and coat of paint on an old car and at first glance you’d be impressed. But when you hop in the driver’s seat and take it for a spin you realize that even though it looks slick, and has that new car smell, you’ve done this before.

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The same stealth elements, the same third person shooting, the same weapon selection menu, and the same quick time events a hundred games have done before. I’m seeing a lot of comparisons being made to Ryse and they’re not far off. What we have seen is an atmospheric, stylish, visually stunning game built on (apparent) boring gameplay elements. Go speak to this person, find the fuse box and use your special tool to turn the power off. How do I use this special tool? Hit the shoulder buttons at the right time. Now that the power is off, use your stealth skills to creep around and silently kill the enemies…by pressing triangle at the right time. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to storm the cockpit! Sound exciting? It’s not. Enter the room, watch a nifty pre-rendered fight scene then make sure to hit triangle at the appropriate time.

Snooze.

Perhaps the 16-year-old me would be gushing over the stunning “next-gen” graphics and reveling in the fact that this is probably the best looking game so far in this cycle AND it’s on the PlayStation. However, my older, more cynical self sees past the pretty pictures to the tired and been-there-done-that core of the game. I don’t play games to spend half my time watching cutscenes or blasting through quicktime events. I want to tinker, I want to experiment and I want to be challenged to play tactically. From what I’ve seen so far, The Order: 1886 offers none of this. It’s essentially an interactive movie, and while I fully support games telling stories with depth and structure, they should still be fun to play.

The game won’t be out for another few months, but this is a close to the final product as we’re going to get, and I am not impressed. Check out the footage and judge for yourself.

[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vadhGlQZONM”]

Nintendo Goes Pulp 3

Nintendo Goes Pulp

Have you ever wanted to see what Nintendo characters would look like if drawn in a pulp style? No? Well Astor Alexander did a series of posters that are three iconic Nintendo series done in a pulp style We have the classic Samus Aran done as “The Bounty Hunter”, The Legend of Zelda done in a P.I. style novel and finally Mario, done in the style of a noir crime story. All these can be purchased as posters, or many selections of merchandise. I must say I am little sad these are not real novels. I would be interested to hear how a 50’s version of Metroid played out. I can only imagine what comebacks a hard boiled Samus Aran would come up with. One can only dream

If interested in these prints, you can head over to Society6.com and pick them up!

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Nintendo Goes Pulp
Halo 5 Beta and Pre-Orders Details - 49488

Halo 5 Beta and Pre-Orders Details

This week, Xbox announced the launch of Halo 5: Guardians Multiplayer Beta, which promises to be the next evolution in multiplayer gaming. Following the legacy that Halo has left as the definitive arena shooter, this new multiplayer feature allows players to participate in a 4v4 multiplayer area battle royal. With the new added Spartan abilities, modes and new characters, Xbox promises to deliver a gaming experience that is sure to entice old fans and newcomers alike.

If you want to pre-order to ensure you get the version of the game you want, Microsoft has outlined three versions of the game to choose from. The standard edition of the game will cost $59.99 and will come with the game and an exclusive poster. If you want to be a bit more committed to your Halo experience the Limited Edition may be for you. Running at $99.99, this version of the game comes with everything the standard edition comes with and additional of extra digital content and a steel book case for the game. Now you may be saying “My Love for Halo has no limits”, in that case, Microsoft has you covered. The Limited Collector’s Edition, costing $249.99, consisting of everything the other versions have, along with a numbered statue designed by the team at 343 Industries.

Microsoft are really ensuring everyone who is excited for Halo 5 will have many ways to get their hands on it. The Multiplier Bata runs from now until January 18th. Turn on your Xbox One and strap in for some Halo Action. Sound off below on what you think of the beta, and if you plan to pick up one of the special editions of the game.



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