Monthly Archives: October 2011

One Game, One Show, One Movie: Halloween Edition

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love love LOVE Halloween. It’s one of my top two favorite holidays next to Christmas, and I think Halloween has the edge because the only real fallout is a hangover and temporary makeup-induced skin irritation, as opposed to soul crushing post-consumerism depression.

Because Halloween is such a dynamic holiday, it’s very hard to choose how to approach it. On the one hand, you’ve got kids dressed in sheets and skeleton masks plodding around with bags of candy. On the other hand, you’ve got pyschos with chainsaws. How do you cover all the bases? My answer is to chose one Halloween-themed item from the entertainment categories of Video Game, Television Show (with Halloween episodes), and Movie, each one hopefully appealing to a different group. Don’t be surprised if this kind of uber-post becomes traditional for holidays–there’s a lot of Christmas entertainment out there too.

Video Game: Costume Quest

Photo courtesy of Double Fine Entertainment Inc.


Game Type: Adventure/RPG (3D)
Synopsis: It’s Halloween and you and your twin sibling are about to go trick-or-treating when your sibling is kidnapped by evil aliens trying to steal all the Halloween candy on earth. Travel from your suburban neighborhood to the local mall to the haunted carnival collecting costumes and using their powers to fight the monsters and save Halloween.
Modes: Single Player
Play time: approximately 10 hours
Cost: about $11
Available on Playstation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, Steam

 

 

 

 

As I’ve stated before, I prefer the cutesy, kidsy side of Halloween, and this game gives me to opportunity to relive the innocence of being a kid on Halloween. The art style is adorable, and combined with the music they managed to capture the magical potential of Halloween I always felt when I put on my costume for the first time. It’s certainly not a difficult game, but it’s rewarding nonetheless, especially when you get a new costume and get to try out it’s powers in combat. I like to play this a week or two before Halloween, to get me in the mood for the holiday.

Television Show: Psych

This Episode Sucks (...maybe. I don't know that's just the name of the latest Halloween episode). Photo courtesy of USA Networks.

Format: 1-hour television show
Category: Fictional Detective Comedy
Premise: Hyper-observant slacker Shawn Spencer convinces the local police department he is psychic and can use his gift to solve crimes. He and his partner Burton Guster go on the show up the police at every turn, solving crimes while still managing to get into every wacky hijink imaginable.
Original Broadcast Channel: USA
Off the Wire Location: Netflix (Seasons 1-5), Hulu.com and Hulu Plus (Seasons 1-4, partial season 5 and new episodes).

 

Generally speaking, this show is very entertaining, standing the test of time by still being funny and captivating after 6 seasons. Because it has been on for so long, it now has five Halloween episodes, covering Halloween-esque material ranging from Scooby Doo to Friday the 13th, all the while maintaining the signature goofy humor and good nature that has made the show so successful. These episodes are a good option for the person who is looking for something more mature than It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown but not as gorey as a proper horror film. You should be aware, however, that the most recent Halloween episode (on the slightly-past-its-peak topic of vampires) won’t be available for a few weeks yet as all new episodes are only available 30 days after the original air date. It’s an unfortunate reality, but you still have the four episodes from seasons past to keep you busy.

Movie: The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate Studios.

Director: Ryhei Kitamura (Versus, Azumi)
Writer: Clive Barker (Candyman, Hellraiser)
Starring: Bradley Cooper and Vinnie Jones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There can only be one thing that comes to mind when you hear this title, but I assure you this is NOT PORN. Bradley Cooper plays a photographer in New York who stumbles on to a serial killer (Vinnie Jones) that is luring people into the subway in the middle of the night, hacking them up, hanging them in the subway car and riding the train to the end of the line, and before morning the bodies are gone. OOoooOOO, right?

What I like best about this film, besides Vinnie Jones being super creepy and the awesomely gut wrenching twist ending, is seeing how the story, written by an English horror icon, comes to life through the eyes of a Japanese director. The western film industry has been co-opting and remaking Eastern horror films for years now, but this is my first experience with a Western story being interpreted by a Japanese director with American and British actors. It’s a really interesting combination and, most importantly, it creates a really, REALLY scary story. This movie is definitely not for the kids. Then again if you seriously think  showing your 8-year-old a movie called The Midnight Meat Train is a good idea, then I worry about you. And your 8-year-old. Sadly, I couldn’t find this film on Netflix or Hulu, but it is available on a site called iwannawatch.net and potentially in a couple of other places. I haven’t obtained any of those copies though so I can’t vouch for their quality or safety, so view with caution. Think of it as an additional level of suspense–it is Halloween after all.

Happy Halloween everybody!

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Sweet Undefeated Victory!

Now that was a GAME people. We’re down, we’re up, we’re almost down, we’re way up, and suddenly it’s the final 2 minute warning, Minnesota has the ball and there is only a 6-point difference in score. If the Vikings had been able to pull out one more touchdown, I would be writing a very different post today.

Lucky for me, they didn’t, and the Packers won 27-33, remaining undefeated as they go into their bye week.

Haha...that guy was the hall monitor at my high school. For real. Big hair, big beard, a Royals collared tee and a walkie talkie--that's our Ragnar!

To be honest (and to throw a bone to my Minnesota relatives), the Vikings had a much better showing in this game than the did in games past, thanks in part to rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, who was starting his first game ever (against the Super Bowl Champs remember–that’s ballsy Minnesota) and who did manage to impress with long throws and 2 touchdown passes. Big kudos also go to Adrian Peterson, that half-man half-steamroller who managed to trample the Packer defense even when they knew it was coming.

 

 

However, in traditional Vikings fashion, everything fell apart in the second half (though less so than in previous games–they actually managed to score again, which is encouraging). This week’s crumble was particularly unfortunate  since the Packers tend to come back stronger and better in the second half. It’s simple science, people–based on these teams’ MOs, there was no way the Vikings could’ve won.

It also doesn’t help that the Vikings offensive strategy is apparently this:
1) Hand off the ball to Peterson.
2) Hand off the ball to Peterson.
3) Long pass to Jenkins.
5) Hand off the ball the Peterson.
6) Long pass to Jenkings.
7) Peterson.
8 ) Peterson.
9) Jenkins.
10) Peterson.
11) Long pass to Shiancoe (when Jenkins’ foot is asleep).

Picture of Vikings offensive play 1...and 2...and 3...

You laugh? I’m not joking–that’s pretty much what it was. Even if Petersen is mowing down fools all over town, you’re still not going to win any games if you only use three people, especially against a defense like the Packers, who only start out slow because they are learning your weaknesses and preparing to slaughter you later. Seriously, if you want to beat the Packers defense, there is only one course of action: do one thing that works in the first half, and then do something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT in the second half. Throw out ALL the plays you used in the first half. If you can put in a whole new line of people, even better. Do anything and everything they are not expecting because if you just rely on whatever worked in the first half, it’s gonna be a slow, painful fall down to another Packer victory.

Then again…perhaps the one-dimensional offensive plan was due to Ponder’s rookie status: they either didn’t trust him with the ball, or he hasn’t learned to improvise yet. Maybe both–he did throw a couple interceptions in the second half, which means Woodson is up to…I think 800 picks for the season so far?

Regardless of a few hiccups, Ponder’s promise is undeniable. I’m interested to see what happens when Ponder faces the Packers again in a couple weeks. That additional experience for Ponder should instill some more faith in his coaches, and it should make for an even more exciting game, if you can imagine such a thing. After all–they ALMOST won this time.

But they didn’t. We did. Ha-HA!

NOTE: Since the Packers are on a bye next week, I plan to watch the Vikings-Panthers game instead. Two rookie quarterbacks, both of whom I’ve been really impressed with so far. Plus I don’t have to care who wins 🙂

Er, I mean–Go Vikes?!

CBS Isn’t Evil?

It’s a rare and beatiful thing to realize that you were wrong in a way that makes you life better.

For the longest time, I thought CBS was a big fat snobby hoarder of programming. None of their shows are available through any of my got-to “off the wire” outlets: Netflix, Hulu, etc. This was unfortunate because there are several shows on CBS that I really like, specifically The Big Bang Theory and Criminal Minds, with NCIS bringing up the rear (I only just started watching it when I went to visit my parents in September). When I lost cable, I thought all of this glorious programming would only be available in real time via satellite, and being that I work until 8:30 most nights, it essentially meant an embargo on most CBS viewing. This was a dark period of my life indeed.

 

 

Now, by performing a naively hopefuly Hulu search, I come to find that, though these series are not available through intermediaries, the current seasons ARE available at CBS.com, via a surprisingly coherent interface. It seems like most TV stations design their online viewing sites to confuse their audience and deter them from watching anything, but this site is pretty intuitive. Go to the CBS home page and look under the night of the week your favorite show airs, then click on the show picture and it will redirect you to the show’s page. They have only posted episodes from the seasons that are currently airing, whichI will concede is a fair compromise–they want to make money off the per season box sets, and now we all have something to ask for for Christmas. It’s also possible that they don’t post all of their shows online, but I did a quick skim to find my favorites and I didn’t see any glaring omissions, though you will have to look for yourself to know for sure.

 My only real complaint is that some of the commercials they insert into the online shows cause the playback to exit full screen mode. Yes, that means I have to actually get off my ASS and WALK over to the computer to switch it back by pressing BUTTONS! Uuughhhh.

Ok…I’m over it. Still beats paying for cable. And if you already have the remote keyboard/mouse thing going on, like I keep planning on doing, it’s really not that big of a deal.

So there you have it folks: I officially deem CBS “no longer evil.” Not only that, but they have managed to master the concept of actually making their content easy to access. Good work, CBS–you partially make up for the fact that TNT is such an a-hole.

6-0: SUCK IT LIONS!

Ha! Finally, the Lions lose a game (25-19 to the 49ers) and drop to 5-1. It’s not that I have anything against the Lions perse–I actually really like their uniforms and their history is so pathetic they are the only other team I can safely root for around my family besides the Vikings. In my family, they are truly the Switzerland of football. I just hate being in a tie. Especially for first.

I have a lot of random comments about Packers v. Rams (finishing at 24-3 and blowing past even the most generous predictions of Packer victory). It’s always fun to watch the Packers win, but I don’t think I’m alone in saying it’s got to be a tad smaller margin in order to call it an “exciting” game. They were playing in throwback navy and gold uniforms though, which made the game visually unique at least. Despite the overwhelming early lead and in addition to the standard Rodgers-Nelson pass-and-run magic, there were a few truly unique moments during the game. Two in particular are courtesy of my favorite defensemen.

All the other pics I found had it blurred out--this was more interesting

1) A.J. Hawk flips off the camera. Word is the gesture was meant for other Packer players, as part of some kind of inside joke for his previous good play. I cannot BELIEVE the lag didn’t compensate for this. But, seeing as how I don’t have kids or a super judgmental viewing cohort, I thought it was refreshing to see. It was nice to be reminded that football players are people and not just behemoth product-hawking machines that only speak in hyperbole. They should stray from the model player mold more often.

 

Matthews "sack dance," so named by FOX commentators

2) Clay Matthews gets his first sack of the season. I have to say, I’ve been getting pretty frustrated with all those people whining about Matthews not racking up the sacks like he did last year. Did you ever think that maybe his record is the problem? That the offensive lines are…oh I don’t know…maybe compensating for the threat he presents? And according to stats posted during last nights game, even though he has only had 1 sack so far this season, he also had 3 batted balls and 4 pressures in last night’s game alone. So quit your bitching–he’s doing his job, and once Dom Capers figures out how to get him around an offensive line earlier in the game, I bet we’ll see the sacks pick up.

Plus, the man played with a shin injury for, like, most of the 2010 season. Sacks or no, he is AWESOME and always will be.

Final Thought: Did you know that the Packers are the most poetically appropriate team in the NFL? You’ve got Driver as a receiver, Shields as a defender, and a man name Capers coordinates the defense. That’s right, we’ve got the nouns on our side–that is not a team you want to mess with.

My Weekend in Mineral Point: Top Films Seen at Driftless Film Fest

Aww…I’m already sad that I’m not greeted by Aaron Rodger’s brostache when I open my browser. Oh well–we must look to the future.

Last weekend I spent exactly two and a half days volunteering at the Mineral Point Opera House location of the Driftless Film Festival (for more information, click here). Because I was working the front of house, I was able to lurk in the back of the theatre and view any film I wanted–for free. THIS is how you keep up your movie-going on a budget people. There are film fests everywhere, probably even in your town–look it up and get involved.

Since I imagine most of you did not make it to the festival, and since I’m the one with the blog, here’s some thoughts about a few of the films I saw, starting with my most favorite.

1) If a Tree Falls (Feature Length Documentary).
The Plot: Profiling the members of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the actions of said group. It focuses in particular on Daniel McGowan who, at the beginning of the film, is under house arrest and facing charges of eco-terrorism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This film does a great job of telling the story from all sides. They hit you with the havoc that capitalism wreaks on the environment, get you nice and pissed off to where you think you might want to set a few fires of your own. Then they show you the owner of the burned out lumber mill talking about how much it hurt to see the heart of his life’s work in ruins. The film confuses you, sickens you, and most importantly, forces you to think about the issue AS IT IS, not as you might want it to be.

2)The Last Words of the Holy Ghost (Short Narrative).
The Plot:
Boy wants to sleep with girl, boy gets re-baptized in her church, boy takes girl to a movie…boy’s world falls apart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What really captured my interest in this movie is the visuals. The story was good, but the video quality and the set dressing of the film is absolutely flawless. It was shot in upstate New York, but you never doubt for a minute that the film takes place in rural Georgia, from the one-screen, vintage film movie theatre to the podunk odds and ends, garden-hoses-next-to-the-Wonderbread grocery store. This quirky attention to detail helps liven the story which, though heart-wrenching in a quiet way and unique in its minutae, is essentially one of the most common storylines in film.

3) The Interrupters (Feature Length Documentary).
The Plot: The film chronicles a year in the life of 3 members of the Ceasefire organization, a Chicago group that hires reformed gang members to infiltrate areas of heavy gang violence to influence current gang members to work out problems through verbal means (i.e., to “interrupt” violence before it happens).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ironically, the subject of this film is interesting enough to seem unreal, like it’s actually a David E. Kelley show. But no. This group is real, and the work they do is nothing short of heroic. It is heart-breaking and painful, but also contains a note of hope. The storytelling was not as tight as it could have been, and the film does seem to wander off at times, though slating each season of the year does let you know that they are in fact on track, despite evidence to the contrary.

There are moments were it felt like I accidentally fell into a Ceasefire promotional video, since there is no real opposing viewpoint presented. However, spending time criticizing Ceasefire’s mission would also have been counter-productive to the intent of the film. The real point of the film is redemption: redemption for the 3 Interrupters overcoming their pasts; redemption for the people still out there that they are trying to help; and redemption for a bleeding city.