Crime Wave (8/10)

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A noir crime film from 1954 that features a young Charles Bronson (credited as Charles Buchinsky) as the heavy in a group of three escaped cons. They leap through some gaping plot holes to enlist a former inmate buddy (who just wants settle down with his wife and make good) into their plot to pull off the ultimate bank robbery. Despite the logical flaws in the story, this was quite an entertaining film with a touch of realism at times and cartoonish characterization at other moments.

Halloween Movie Nights Part II

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I managed to watch a couple more Halloween themed films this weekend. This included another Fulci film,  A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, whichI rank as his best along side The Beyond. Unlike most of his other work, this one is tightly plotted and suspenseful. It features a bunch of deranged hippies, surreal dream sequences, a fantastic Morricone score and a compelling performance by David Horowitz of TV’s Fight Back:

I got the entire family to watch the “Drop of Water” segment from Black Sabbath. This is Mario Bava at his best with loads of colored lights, sets that look like renaissance paintings and a super creepy corpse. I like the rest of the film too, but the slow pacing probably wouldn’t have kept the attention of the crowd that evening.

Darksiders II on PC (8/10)

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The first Darksiders was a blatant rip-off of (some might say “homage to”) the The Legend of Zelda. While it maintains much of that formula, the sequel feels a little more like its own thing. There’s more of an emphasis on acrobatic platforming complete with pillar jumping, vaults, wall-running and… er… okay it’s a rip-off of Prince of Persia this time, but who cares, it’s a formula that works!

The game keeps pushing you along from one puzzle room to the next and along the way you earn more and more advanced tools for passing obstacles. There’s still the pop gun, portal gun and hookshot thingy, but now you can also split into two characters, control ghosts and do a little time travelling. These new skills make for a couple really brain-twisting puzzles near the end of the game.

There is still quite a bit of hacking and slashing between the brainy stuff. A few of the battles are fun, but, for the most part combat is repetitive and uninteresting and can be reduced to spastic button mashing. The first game was a tad more sophisticated in its fighting controls.

As for the story, it just as convoluted and unintelligible as the it was in Darksiders. There’s a bit less of the bible fan-fiction feeling here, but still, I never really gave a crap about anything that was going on. The dialogue sounds like it was taken word-for-word out of the Lord of the Rings screenplay. Just replace “Mordor” with “The Corruption.”

Halloween Movie Nights

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Each year around this time I always tell myself that I am going to watch a different horror movie every night in the lead-up to Halloween. I never seem to get around to it and end up cramming two or three films in at the last minute’usually Halloween evening while the rest of the family is out trick or treating. Well, this year I have managed to be a little more on top of things. Especially now since we have a DVD-ready laptop positioned in front of my treadmill. There’s nothing like a bit of Fulci close-up gore to motivate the fat burning.

Speaking of which, this evening I completed Zombi 2 which I gave a rather terse review some time ago. I forgot just how creepy the zombies are in that film. It’s very bleak and dread-filled and has some really gross and disturbing effects. Modern zombie films (even The Walking Dead) don’t seem to understand that it’s this sense of supernatural dread and hopelessness that makes the zombie apocalypse so frightening. Sure there is also a ton of cheese (um, shark vs. zombie) but this is still one of the best films in this overcrowded genre.

I also watched The Bird with the Crystal Plumage again. This is more a thriller than a horror film and it’s one of Dario Argento’s best. Stunning visuals, lots of tension and, at times, a genuine sense of humor that disappeared from Argento’s later films. Oh, and it has one of Ennio Morricone’s best scores.

Copper Blue by Sugar - CD (8/10)

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I’ve never really liked most of Bob Mould’s solo efforts (and later-era Hüsker Dü for that matter). I thought Black Sheets of Rain was utter crap and had no intention of ever buying another Mould record but then Copper Blue came along and and he redeemed himself. The songs (at least the first two-thirds of them) are energetic and filled with hooks. As an added bonus, the drums don’t sound like they were recorded in a drain pipe. 

Strongbad’s Cool Game for Attractive People on PC (6/10)

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This game has been on my back burner for quite some time now. I play a little here and a little there, but it never really got its hooks in me. This was Telltale’s first foray into episodic point-and-click adventure games and it shows. There is no over-arching story to tie the episodes together, solving the puzzles is mostly just a matter of clicking on everything in your inventory and they threw in a bunch of item collection nonsense to make up for the limited gameplay options.

If you are a fan of the web cartoon it’s worth playing if only because it is probably the last we will see of Homestar and the gang for a while. There are some pretty funny moments and there are also some clever twists on various video gaming clichés and there’s even some self-aware parody of adventure game annoyances. However, once you have played the first episode, it seems like the same thing over and over. Alright, Chapmans, you’ve made your computer game, now get back to making cartoons!