Stranger Things

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Stranger Things.

It’s an eight-episode Netflix original series set in 1983 that channels classic Spielberg and other exemplar sci-fi. Think E.T. mixed with The Goonies, blended with Akira and The X-Files.

It’s reminiscent of Super 8 (co-written by Spielberg), with shades of Chronicle and occasionally even imagery from Alien. It’s heavily inspired by a specific era in movies and television, but is still very much its own work.

Basically, it’s kids on bikes investigating paranormal events while eluding the watchful eye and exasperated grasp of the federal government, all without overbearing helicopter parents and the intrusive pervasiveness of cell phones and the Internet. And it. is. awesome.

If you dig that, then you’ll dig this.

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Jurassic World is here

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Although the theater where I first saw Jurassic Park no longer exists, I still vividly recall that warm Sunday afternoon after church, when my parents and I went to the Biltmore Twin, a second-run theater in the South Forest Shopping Center.

I had just turned five and hadn’t even started kindergarten yet. And like most kids, I’d come down with a full-blown case of dino fever. I’m not sure how many of you remember, but the release of Jurassic Park was an event.

I remember going to a huge dinosaur exhibit at the Biltmore Square Mall. I don’t remember whether it was directly connected to the release of the movie, but it was certainly there because of it, complete with an animatronic tyrannosaurus rex, among other giant lizards.

However cool, the animatronics couldn’t match the excitement of the resurrected dinos that were living and breathing in Jurassic Park. Twenty two years later and that movie is still just as good as the day I first experienced it. Continue reading

Family Guy and The Simpsons collide at last.

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It’s trendy to hate on Family Guy and lambaste newer episodes of The Simpsons, but I’m truly a fan of both shows, and this week’s crossover episode really hit the spot. It wasn’t the best of either show, but it was still entertaining. And of course, it was neat to see the two clans finally interact.

Even with an hour (about 44 minutes without commercials) to fill, the episode admittedly felt a bit cramped. But when you consider just how many iconic characters are in each series, and how many different interactions and scenarios are possible, it quickly becomes apparent that a lot is going to get cut. There just isn’t enough time.

So it’s less about missed opportunities and more about time constraints. I suppose they could’ve made it into multiple hour-long episodes, but then it would’ve started to lose what made it so special in the first place – the fact this likely won’t ever happen again (something the episode is quick to point out).

But for all that didn’t make it in, the episode was full of meta jokes that broke down the fourth wall, poking fun at both shows and the audience alike. And it did that while mostly staying true to each series. Some jokes were a bit crude and more puerile than what you’d expect from The Simpsons, but of course, that’s in-line with Family Guy. There was a balance, though, and plenty of references for fans of both shows to take in.

That said, I think you really have to be a Simpsons fan to fully appreciate this episode, and I get the feeling that some people – primarily those who only watch Family Guy, or haven’t watched The Simpsons in a long time – may not really “get” all the allusions to the quirks and idiosyncrasies of The Simpsons. There were some good ones, though.

I was a tiny bit skeptical about this crossover when it was first announced, but upon reading the interview with Matt Groening and Seth MacFarlane in Entertainment Weekly a few weeks ago, my apprehension was put to rest. And rightly so, it seems.

The Wind Rises — Hayao Miyazaki’s final masterpiece

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After what seemed like an eternity, Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, The Wind Rises, finally made its way to US theaters en masse this past weekend.

Based on real-life events, The Wind Rises is Miyazaki’s version of a biopic. While not an exhaustive, beginning-to-end account, it follows the life of Jiro Horikoshi, a Japanese aeronautical engineer who was responsible for designing many of the planes used by Japan during World War II.

Unlike Miyazaki’s previous works, this particular film is void of any fantasy elements, barring the occasional dream sequence. But as is the case with many of his movies, his fascination with flight is obvious, and in this film, plays an integral role throughout.

In a world full of naysayers, cynics and bitterness, Hayao Miyazaki, in a style uniquely his own, perfectly encapsulates the best aspects of humanity. He focuses on pure, childlike innocence, fascination, hope, joy and love. When you watch his films, you understand that he wants to believe the best in people, which can be an incredibly hard thing to do. Continue reading

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds — Reviewed

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Me: “I keep looking for the Pegasus Boots, but I can’t find them anywhere.”

Friend: “Oh, man, that took me forever to figure out!”

Me: “So you’ve got them? What’d you do?!”

Friend: “You know that guy that always runs away from you in Kakariko Village?”

Me: “Yeah, I thought you had to get the Pegasus Boots to catch him!”

Friend: “That’s what I thought, too! But you actually get them from him! I can’t believe it took me so long to figure it out, but you just merge into the wall he’s standing in front of, and then pop out when you’re directly behind him. That will scare the crap out of him, and he’ll end up just giving you his boots.”

Me: “Ah! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that!”

Continue reading

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD Review

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Most of us are familiar with the uproar that came from the unveiling of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for GameCube back in the early 2000s. As is often the case with angry gamers on the Internet, it was difficult to tell if hoards of people were genuinely upset with the cel-shaded art style, or if it was simply a vocal, raging minority screaming through a megaphone. Judging by my friends’ reactions, I think a large number of people were at least initially upset by the art style, largely because they still had images of the Space World 2000 tech demo fresh in their minds.

It was a then-gorgeous display of what a fight between Link and Ganon could (and presumably would) look like on Nintendo’s powerful new console. With 13 years between then and now (oh my God!), I have to say, that once-impressive tech demo did not age well. Wind Waker’s cel-shaded aesthetic, however, still looks gorgeous today. Continue reading

Beyond: Two Souls – A Review

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As video games grow and mature as a medium, and efforts are made in an attempt to be taken seriously, the industry is still trying to fully realize its identity. We’ve moved past the debate over whether or not video games can be considered art, and are now questioning what criteria constitute a game.

Games have been adopting cinematic qualities for some time, but none go as far as those made by David Cage and his development studio, Quantic Dream. Some view this as a positive, while others bemoan the subtle interactivity in Cage’s creations, labeling them “interactive movies,” as some form of an insult. Apparently calling your movie a game is only okay when Hideo Kojima does it, but I digress. Continue reading