Category Archives: Masterpiece

HORRORATHON Film Review: Young Frankenstein (1974)

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Starring: Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman

Directed by: Mel Brooks

Reviewed by: Freekz80 (Blake Mickatavage)

Those of you who’ve seen this film may notice that it isn’t our typical horror review! That said, this is a classic film that should be in every film enthusiast’s Halloween collection.

Gene Wilder plays the hilarious Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, a professor at a medical school in America. He is absolutely disgusted with the work of his grandfather, Victor Frankenstein, and attempts to completely disassociate himself with him. However, he soon learns that he has inherited the family estate in Transylvania, and travels there to check it out. There, he meets the strange and witty servant Igor (Feldman) and the beautiful but slightly dull assistant Inga (Teri Garr), and becomes encapsulated in the work of his grandfather. After deciding to resume the experiments of Victor Frankenstein (and comically using a brain labeled “abnormal”), the Frankenstein Monster is reborn and hilarity ensues.

Continue reading HORRORATHON Film Review: Young Frankenstein (1974)

Listmania: 10 Reasons you should watch The Spectacular Spider-Man!

 

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1.The Art Style

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Instead of going for a way too busy or complex set of designs, like pretty much every animated iteration of Spidey has done, the animators on Spectacular decided to go with a simpler, yet more fluid set of designs, that while odd at a first glance, look great once you sit down and watch.
2.The Voice Cast

This show has perhaps the most awesome and diverse voice cast I’ve ever seen in a show.  From veteran voice actors like John DiMaggio, Clancy Brown, and Steve Blum (perhaps better known as Bender Bending Rodriguez, Lex Luthor and Spike Spiegel, respectively) to Hollywood actors like Robert Englund and Keith David. I mean, what other show has Freddy Kruger, Admiral Anderson, and the Kurgan all teaming against a superhero? None, that’s the answer.  On a related note, Josh Keaton is fantastic as both Peter Parker and Spider-man. If you didn’t already know.

3.The Writing

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen writing on a kids show like this since Avatar the Last Airbender. Stories are often subtly split into 3-episode sagas, but the show is still solid enough on its own to just sit down and rewatch random episodes. While being a show originally aimed at kids, the characters all have depth and personality, something missing from a lot of similar productions.

4.Stylized Reinterpretation of Classic Spidey Mythos

If you’re a fan of Spidey comics, or even some of the Raimi films, you’ll recognize a lot of the iconic scenes, especially early on, like the evolution of Venom from being a suit and Peter’s best friend to being Spiderman’s gravest enemy…

Spidey's seen enough anime to know where this is headed...
Spidey’s seen enough anime to know where this is headed…

My own personal love bias for Venom aside, other characters receive introductions, origins and developments that are simultaneously reverential to the original material while being a fresh take on the source material, something other interpretations could learn from….

5.The Theme Song

There’s an old saying: a picture’s worth a thousand words…. so what if I just showed you a video, instead?

6.The Villains

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The Sinister Six gets their kicks… by squashing friendly neighborhood arachnids.

While this topic may be cheating a bit since I already mentioned them in both the voice acting and writing columns, I still feel it’s worth mentioning.  Every villain has time and care taken to be developed and receive a proper origin, even one-note characters like Rhino. Plus, many of their designs are a clever and purposeful combination of both Amazing and Ultimate comic designs…

7.Now Completely available on Blu-Ray and Cheap!

This one isn’t exactly a reflection of the shows viewing experience, but I figure it’s worth mentioning. Before last Tuesday, you could only purchase Spectacular Spider-Man Season 1 on DVD, while if you wanted the complete second season, you’d have to hunt and buy a handful of single discs containing 3 to 4 episodes each. Now, you can buy the whole thing in HD for under $30 and you’ll get a free ticket to the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man 2!

8.Doesn’t Talk Down to Kids

This is one of the most important things for me, especially in children-aimed programming. If you want a show to have an actual impact on people, don’t just write it as if your audience is stupid. Kids may not have a lifetime of knowledge, but they’re not innately dumb. If you present them with the idea of a moral dilemma, they can figure it out on their own.  This isn’t to say you can’t skimp on comedy or do something silly from time to time, however. You absolutely can, just make sure to balance it out, and not treat your audience like they need everything explained to them through fourth wall breaking recaps every two minutes, and and a little angel and devil on Spidey’s shoulder… Like another show

9.Has something for Everyone

Like that seminal classic, Batman the Animated Series, Spectacular Spider-Man toes a very fine web between serious and fun, thrilling and frightening. Topics on the show range from dating, drug abuse, crime, and mutation. These may have been visited in a lot of the Amazing issues, but we certainly haven’t seen them touched before or since in a Spidey show. There’s even brief bits for horror and anime fans besides the inclusion of Robert Englund in the voice cast! For example, Sandman’s “birth” scene seems freakily reminiscent of Tetsuo’s final transformation in the film AKIRA. That’s simultaneously really heavy and cool for a kid’s show.

10. THAT THEME SONG!

I couldn’t just mention it once. It’s fun, it’s swingy, and extremely catchy. In fact, I’d say it’s Spectacular!

Now, sing it with me:

Game Review: Metroid Prime (2002)

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There was a lot to be worried about when Metroid Prime was first announced. Metroid in 3D? First person perspective? Outrageous! “Metroid is about discovery and exploration, not shooting aliens!” the fanboys cried. Luckily, Metroid Prime broke the standard FPS mold. Retro Studios quickly reclassified Metroid Prime as a “First Person Adventure”, and they expertly crafted one of the most immersive and atmospheric experiences in Nintendo history.

Where Samus's mission begins
Where Samus’s mission begins

Metroid Prime takes place shortly after Samus’s very first adventure in Metroid on the NES, where she defeated the Space Pirates and Mother Brain on Zebes, and annihilated the Metroids. The game begins with Samus responding to a distress signal from an abandoned ship orbiting a planet known as Tallon IV, where she discovers that Space Pirates have been using a dangerous substance known as Phazon to experiment and mutate the local creatures of the planet. After finding out that Ridley, one of Mother Brain’s cohorts, survived their encounter on Zebes, and after destroying a gruesome insect creature enhanced by Phazon, Samus pursuits Ridley to Tallon IV to find the Space Pirate base and to destroy the Phazon source.

What Works:

The Gameplay

First location on Talon IV
First location on Talon IV

Metroid Prime is the perfect transition of the Metroid franchise from 2D to 3D. The world is one large interconnected map with secrets and items to find, with many different environments. Expect backtracking, a trademark of the series. During your first visit to many of the locations, you’ll see areas you cannot access until you acquire an item much later in the game. Metroid Prime encourages you to search every nook and cranny and to get creative with the use of your weapons. The weapons you use are more like tools used to traverse the world, as you’ll be using them to solve puzzles more often than you’ll use them to fight enemies. Items include the classic Ice Beam, Super Missiles, Power Bombs and yes, even Samus’s trademark Morph Ball. A first for the series, Prime introduces different visors that allows Samus to get a new perspective on exploration, such as the x-ray visor that allows her to see through certain objects and walls, and a thermal visor that allows her to track enemy heat signatures even if an enemy isn’t visible normally. Metroid Prime features combat, but like the 2D Metroid games, killing enemies is usually more for convenience than it is necessary to beat the game, and the more intense battles are usually with boss monsters. More often than not, you’ll be able to skip fighting anything just by avoiding enemies and making your way through the room. But there are sections where your progress will be blocked by a locked door until you defeat all the enemies in the room. The difficulty of the game mostly depends on the amount of secrets and collectables you go out of your way to find. If you put in the effort to find every Energy Tank, and Missile Expansion, you’ll have more health and missile ammo and an easier time fighting enemies. Metroid Prime also features multiple difficulty modes for those looking for a challenge.

Story

Spoilers: There are Metroids in this Metroid game
Spoilers: There are Metroids in this Metroid game

To preserve the atmosphere of isolation and loneliness, Metroid Prime features no dialogue. Instead, the story is told through scanning objects and the environment with your scan visor, where data logs are stored. The further you progress, the more you learn about the original inhabitants of Tallon IV, the origins of the Phazon, and impact Phazon has had on the inhabitants. You also learn more about the purposes Ridley and the Space Pirates use it for, and the progress they make studying the dangerous substance. Scanning these data logs works because it doesn’t break the atmosphere and gameplay. For speed runners or for those who have played the game before, scanning the data logs is unessential and can be skipped entirely. But for those who wish to dig deeper into the Space Pirates plans and learn more about Tallon IV before the arrival of the Phazon, the story is there for the player to piece together.

Music

Metroid has always been known for its great music. Prime has a wonderfully creepy soundtrack and makes perfect use of its musical score through the entire game. From the title screen all the way through the credits, the music does a wonderful job setting the tone for the game. There’s a healthy mix of new tracks and remixes of older themes, and musical styles usually fall within the creepy sci-fi/electronic and synthesized orchestra categories, and each of the tracks suits their respective environments and battles perfectly.

The Little Details

Metroid Prime does everything it can to convince you that the world of Tallon IV is real. The artists at Retro Studios really know their stuff. Water ripples as your Morph Ball rolls around in a pond,. The reflection of Samus’s face in her visor appears when the lighting conditions are just right. Plants sway in the wind. Ice quickly forms over Samus’s arm cannon when her Ice Beam is fully charged. The echo of Samus’s arm cannon firing when you are in an enclosed area. All of these little details and more just create an amazing atmosphere of isolation and loneliness. Retro does everything they can to make you feel trapped on this world with Samus.

What Doesn’t:

Even objectively, it’s difficult to find something wrong with Metroid Prime, so what I’m about to list are just nitpicks and possible annoyances, and aren’t necessarily huge faults.

Graphics

The scenery isn't bad for a 12 year game
The scenery isn’t bad for a 12 year game

Metroid Prime was originally released on the Gamecube in 2002, and it shows. There are noticeably muddier textures compared to more modern games, and some polygonal edges on many objects. But even so, Metroid Prime is artistically beautiful and manages to craft an atmospheric world despite being 12 years old, and it isn’t enough of a problem to take you out of the experience.

If you can manage to find Metroid Prime Trilogy on the Wii however, the version included on that disc has a higher resolution, widescreen, and higher quality textures.

Controls

Locking on is essential during boss battles
Locking on is essential during boss battles

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with the controls, they aren’t your conventional FPS controls. Both looking around and moving are mapped to the left control stick because swapping your weapon is mapped to the right stick. This might sound like a problematic control scheme on paper, but it was actually designed around platforming and locking onto enemies, rather than aiming. So those used to aiming to fire at their targets in standard first-person-shooters may find the controls restricting or awkward at first.

It’s also worth noting that the Wii version of the game included on the Metroid Prime Trilogy disc is upgraded with the ability to aim by pointing the Wii remote at the screen, and still allows use of the lock-on system.

Load Times

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There are a few areas where progress will be halted for a few seconds (or longer depending on the size of the next room) while the next area loads. However, the load times are cleverly masked with cut-scenes (such as Samus waiting in an elevator taking her to the next area), or by doors that “malfunction” until the next area loads, as not to break the immersion. Wait times can be noticeable, but are never really long enough to become a major annoyance.

Final Score:

Masterpiece

10 out of 10. This game is why Retro Studios is my favorite game company. Whenever I hear that they’re working on a new project, I get very excited. Metroid Prime put Retro on the map and has proven that outsourcing first-party franchises to other game companies isn’t always a bad thing. Metroid Prime is without a doubt my favorite Metroid title and has earned a well deserved spot in my mind as one of the greatest games ever designed.

It’s just a shame that in an effort to outdo Retro, Nintendo thought co-developing with Team Ninja was a good idea.

Has daddy issues apparently
Has daddy issues apparently

Movie Review: 28 Days Later (2002) HORRORATHON

A Month later has never been so frightening
A Month later has never been so frightening

Reviewed by: Phantomhour (Brendan Graham)

We live in the age of the zombie movie. Almost every year, 2 to 3 zombie type movies or games come out, and with The Walking Dead dominating the TV airwaves, you can find the undead anywhere you go. But there are different types of the zombie plague, some involved rabies, some involve demonic activity, and in the case of 28 Days Later, it’s pure unbridled rage that throttles the world and drops mankind to their knees.

28 Days Later is a end of the world scenario, where a lab that has been experimenting with monkeys and apes of all kinds and subjecting them to acts of violence by human beings to see if there’s an effect, which builds into a viral pathogen that pretty much angers the victim to the point of mindless killing impulses. When those pesky animal rights activists try to save the animals in the lab, they let loose one of the scariest on screen viruses, which literally changes someone from a rational human being to a insanely fast and incredibly violent killing machine. 28 Days after the outbreak, we are introduced to Jim (Played by Cillian Murphy), who wakes up from a coma in a hospital in London, and he quickly realizes something is wrong when he walks outside and sees London completely…empty. When he discovers what is left of humanity, it becomes a fight for survival of the human race against hordes of the fastest and meanest monsters that were once human.

There's nothing as creepy as seeing a major city completely empty.
There’s nothing as creepy as seeing a major city completely empty.

What Works: This movie is incredibly effective at hitting the audience hard with intense emotions. Emotions like Fear, watching the characters run from vast numbers of quick running infected people gets insanely crazy. Emotions of sadness, from all the letters put up in town squares of people confessing their love to the girl they always meant to ask out, or to the parents writing letters to their children letting them know how much they love them. You get incredibly involved with all the characters, especially with Hannah and her Father Frank (Brendan Gleeson), and it’s hard to see them suffer so much. That’s incredible writing to get you to feel for these characters so well. What’s also fantastic about this cast, is that even if you recognize them from other films, you don’t have that celebrity sense when you see them, they truly become their characters which makes this movie even more effective. Jim and Selena (Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris) have incredible performances throughout the film which drives everything forward.

The film is shot in a digital handheld sense, making it feel rooted in reality, and the cinematography is just beautiful in scale. The detailing on all the sets, from flyers from loved ones, to the gore splatter walls, and the bodies laying everyone all over London, is eerie and unsettling. The action sequences, whether running from the infected or from their fellow man, are well executed and exciting, pulse pounding if I say so myself.

Cillian's Performance reaches a whole new level in Act 3.
Cillian’s Performance reaches a whole new level in Act 3.

The infected are also a prime example of how well a zombie like creature can be executed on screen. They’re not cheesy, they’re not to be messed with or killed for fun, these things are fast and scary. From their crazy eyes, to their psychotic demeanor, the rage virus is one of the scariest things I’ve seen on screen.

Turn around bright eyes
Turn around bright eyes

The story itself is an allegory about who the true monsters are in this world, and it’s mankind, the rage virus is something that is always inside of us at all times, and when unleash rage, terrible things happen. We see it on the news all the time, and it’s frightening to think about if rage hit us in such a wide scale.

What Doesn’t Work: Depending on how you interpret the situations, you may have been frustrated with some parts of the story. Why didn’t they stay in Hannah and Frank’s Apartment? How did Jim survive in the hospital for that long in a coma? Or maybe the movie fell apart toward the end for you when they got to the army base? The reason I bring these up, is because these don’t apply to my opinion of the movie, in fact those questions come from the IMDB page for 28 Days Later. In my mind, there’s nothing wrong with 28 Days Later.

Final Score: 

Masterpiece

You may disagree with my score, hell, you may not even like the movie, but for me 28 Days Later is one of the most incredible pieces of horror cinema I have ever seen, and to this day it’s still one of my Top 10 favorite movies. The acting is spectacular, the action scenes are breathtaking, and the emotional impact of this movie is incredibly powerful, this movie is too good not to give such a high score to. My score is a 10 out of 10.