Oculus (2013)

OculusOculus is a suspense/horror movie from writer/director Mike Flanagan.  It jumps back and forth telling the horrific story of the Russell family, both in present day, and 12 years ago.  Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) has finally been released from a mental hospital following past events.  His sister Kaylie (Amy Pond Karen Gillan) is convinced a haunted antique mirror was the source of their family’s troubles, and is determined to prove it.  Reluctantly, Tim helps her in her plan, expecting what she really needs is help letting go of the past.

I think my expectations were a tad too high for this one.  I remember being moderately intrigued by the trailers, but never getting a chance to see it in theatres.  Moderate levels of praise kept my expectations tempered in the interim.  After learning Flanagan has been given a chance to write and direct Stephen King’s completely unfilmable Gerald’s Game, and that some people thought he was a good choice–largely because of this movie–it moved to the top of my To-See list.

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Metroid: Zero Mission (Game Boy Advance)

Metroid_--_Zero_Mission_(box_art)Metroid has been around for almost 27 years.  The original game was released in Japan in 1986, and it got a North American release around the same time the next year.

The original game features a space bounty hunter in a high powered suit named Samus Aran.  Samus has come to the planet Zebes to stop a group of Space Pirates from exploiting an alien species, Metroids, in a bid to rule the galaxy.  The game was incredibly successful, influential and ground breaking.  It’s exploratory gameplay was among the first of its kind.  An incredibly eerie atmosphere, created by fantastic music, level and creature design marks it–arguably–as the invention of the Survival Horror genre of video games.  It’s practically like playing a video game of Alien.  And, of course, Samus Aran is the world’s first (recognized by Guinness Book of World Records) Playable Female Protagonist in a mainstream title, what’s more, is that the discovery of Samus’ gender comes as a surprise ending (Unless you know Justin Bailey…)

So, what happens almost 20 years later when you’ve created one of the most successful franchises of all time?  That’s right, kids… it’s time for a remake/reboot combo.  Enter:  Zero Mission.

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The Walking Dead (Xbox Live Arcade)

Days Gone Bye:

The Walking Dead is everywhere these days.  Over 100 issues of the comic have been released in the last 9+ years.  AMC is in the middle of the third season of their TV adaptation.  There’s social media games, pen and paper games, and board games.  Now indie-dev-darlings Telltale Games attempt at submerging us into the world of Robert Kirkman’s zombie apocalypse comic book series.

You play out the story of Lee Everett. When the zombie apocalypse finds him, he’s in the midst of being transferred from jail to prison to serve his time for a murder with extenuating circumstances.  However, when there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk in front of police transit vehicles.

The folks at Telltale have made a name for themselves among PC and Indie game enthusiasts in the last few years.  They’ve managed to tap into a market long forgotten:  The fan of the point-and-click adventure.  They’ve made critically acclaimed (and financially successful) games out of surprising movie, video game, comic and TV licences, including Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, Sam & Max, and Monkey Island.  These games are released episodically, over the course of a few months to a year.  This was my first venture into one of their games.  If the quality here is any indication, I’ll be trying at least 3 of those other games as soon as I take another run through The Walking Dead.

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Re-Watching Dead: Days Gone Bye



One Down…

Mel and I just finished watching the pilot episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead. You might remember it from last fall, when it was one of the most successful and talked about new shows of the season. I think it was her 3rd viewing, and my 5th. It was also her first viewing since reading the trades. I’ve read all 14 that have been released, but Mel’s dragged her feet on reading volume 14. We’re working our way through the series again in preparation and excitement for the start of Season 2, on Oct. 16.

Read what we thought of the show’s first episode, “Days Gone Bye”, after the jump…

Fair warning:  This shit is going to get spoilery.  If you haven’t watched the whole first season, or read at least the first trade of the comic books, you may not want to read any further.  And did I just use the term “after the jump”?  Ugh…  Someone slap me.  Don’t ever let me do that again.

Things We Agree On:

This show opens with a bang.  Right from the get-go, the series is telling you, “Look, folks… this shit is serious, and we’re not fucking around.  If you think you’re getting funny zombies, go watch Dead-Alive again.”  One of my major concerns when I heard they were adapting TWD for TV was whether or not they’d have the balls to do what needs to be done.  I’m pretty sure shooting a little girl in the head answers that question pretty fucking quick.

This ain’t Sesame Street.

From there we jump into the opening credits.  Mel is always particularly impressed by them.  They do a great job of setting the tone.  I agree.  It feels very eerie.  True Blood and Gane of Thrones might be the only better credit reels going these days.

Once the credits wrap we come to our first gripe of the season…  The conversation between Shane and Rick in their squad car takes too fucking long.  At least it does the first time you watch it.  After seeing the whole series play out (and reading the comics) this scene becomes much more interesting than the first time you watch it.  It lays a groundwork for the characters that is much needed.  It also shows several ways that this story is going to be different from the comic.  The only problem is it does it too slowly.  Shane’s asshole diatribe isn’t quite interesting enough, and the scene really slows the pacing of the show down to a new viewer.  The same pacing problem appears in other spots throughout the episode, but never quite as bad, and once it really picks up again after Rick and Morgan leave the police station it never really lets up.

On the road again…
Just can’t wait to get back on the road again…

Speaking of after the police station…  I’m pretty sure there are several critics of directors like Zack Snyder that would love to show them the scene where Rick heads back to the zombie he found near the bicycle, or the hospital sequence.  They are fantastic examples of how you can use a comic as a storyboard, and let your audience see each comic frame, without using bullet time effects, or otherwise stopping time. (The Zombiephiles has a neat article showing some side by side character comparisons.)  Of course, the visual effects, zombie make up and acting are all fantastic.  You can clearly see that everyone involved in this show really cares about making it as great as they can.

Another great aspect is how this episode somehow manages to simultaneously stick to the storyline of the source material, but play with it slightly to create some surprises even for the people who have read the comics.  Every change made in this episode, particularly Rick and Lori’s rocky marriage and Shane and Lori clearly having more than just a grief-stricken one night stand,  are all great, and really add to the tensions that should be coming later on.

Things We Didn’t Agree On:

Mel thought that, for the amount of time Morgan spent saying how attracted to sound the zombies are, and how much he beats himself up for firing his gun in the street, neither He nor Rick really seem to give that much of a shit about it.  They both seem to take any and every opportunity to fire off a round into everything they can.  This really bothered her, given that she not that long ago read Abraham’s (a character that comes much later in the comics) tirade on stationary camps and gunfire.  It didn’t bother me that much… I guess I don’t mind it because early Rick is a dumbfuck when it comes to zombie common sense.  And as far as Morgan goes, I kinda thought that TVs Morgan has given up by the time he starts his sniping spree.

Mel also really enjoyed re-watching the end of the episode.  She said that even though she knew how it was going to turn out, it was still really tense.  I don’t really feel the tension of the scene anymore… but I do still think Rick putting the gun to his head and noticing the hole in the tank is awesome.  One of the best moments in the show, really.  That whole scene is one of those new additions that really work for both the fans of the comics and the newcomers, I think.

Random Rants:


I remember a lot of people who didn’t know any better shouting “Ripoff” when the show was first airing, over the fact that Rick wakes up alone in the hospital.  Supposedly the scenes were written independently around the same time, like some kind of crazy zombie Calculus.  I say, “Who gives a fuck?”.  The idea of it goes back much further than 28DL.  The Quiet Earth has an world ending scene involving a guy waking up to a deserted world too.  Not to mention all the various forms “The Last Man on Earth” has taken on screen.  Seeing a Ripoff Card played so quickly, and so poorly researched, drives me up the fucking wall.

Final Thoughts:

Even after 5 viewings, this episode of the show is still strong enough to make both Mel and I excited to watch more of it.  Great acting, great effects, great story and some of the best direction ever on the small screen.  The Walking Dead‘s first episode is definitely some of the best stuff ever shown on television.

I’d give it two thumbs up,
but the other one rotted off.

Source Code (2011)

Hello everybody.

So, since my darling daughter, Charlotte, has finally decided (a year and 4 months later) to spend a couple of hours straight sleeping in the evenings and nights, I have finally been able to return, somewhat regularly, to my nerdly pursuits. Things like movies, video games, toys that don’t squeak and that ilk have been almost unattainable for the last year.

But enough about that. I’d like to actually discuss a movie that I recently was able to watch. Source Code, starring Jake Gylynhall? Gyllynhalllahlllal? I’m going to have to open another tab, aren’t I? Jake Gyllenhaal. There. Was that so hard? Anyway, he stars in the movie.

< So, Source Code is a sci-fi, action version of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. This soldier wakes up in a strange place, as a strange person, and has to live out the last 8 minutes of this stranger’s life. So I guess you could also mention that there’s a dash of Quantum Leap thrown in the mix. Except there’s no Ziggy, and Al is a kinda hot, girl next door, soldier woman, instead of Dean Stockwell. They need to work together to find out the whys and hows of a train explosion that happened earlier that day, so that they can prevent another, worse explosion set to happen later that day. So, we can now probably add 24 to our checklist. So, as you can imagine, there’s a lot going on here. There’s also a lot of exploding. Every time this guy “goes back in” the train ends up exploding. Which is good.

Now, the plot takes several twists and turns. They are all predictable. I seriously doubt anyone will be surprised by any of the twists this plot takes. But that really didn’t ruin anything for me. I could see everything coming as clear as day, but I still enjoyed it. This can only mean one of 2 possible things. Either:

1) Fatherhood, and the trials involved therein, have made me less judgmental of my forms of entertainment.

OR

B) (Groundhog Day – Bill Murray) + (Quantum Leap X Girl Next Door)/Wrinkly Old Cigar Man + 24(Michael Bay Explosions) + Incredible Predictability = Fuck it, it’s Good Enough for Me.