Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: Texas Chainsaw

Before I start I just wanted to say thank you! I recently broke 1000 views and am very excited to see that. I know it's not huge but I consider it pretty big for a blog that seems to be read by people mostly on my Facebook friend's list. Seeing those views stack up is the reason why I keep doing these so thanks a bunch for keeping me motivated!

Version I Watched: Non 3D Redbox rental

History: This started originally as an idea for a new trilogy of movies. The plan was to release them out of order starting with the second one, then the first, and then the last one. However since this was a bit of a risk especially with it being potentially confusing for the average movie-goer it was scrapped and the following movie was produced instead. There are four appearances by actors who were in previous Texas Chainsaw movies, including Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen, John Dugan, and Bill Moseley. Also, Sheriff Hooper is named after Tobe Hooper, who wrote the first two movies in the franchise. It initially received an NC-17 from the MPAA and had to be recut before being released (Here's hoping for an extended cut one day). It received mostly negative reviews and currently holds a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. It had an estimated budget of $10 Million, but it's wikipedia page states $40 Million, which means the box office total of just under $40 Million makes it either a failure or a success depending on which one is more accurate.

Personal History: I've always enjoyed this franchise much like the other slashers of the 70s-80s. I've seen almost every Chainsaw so I'm always open for a new one when it happens. This one I wasn't able to get around to until the DVD release. This is my first viewing.

Review: I was originally going to comment on how many sequels and remakes there have been for horror movies lately. But I feel I would be somewhat wrong. Yes there's been a ton of Saws in the recent years and the Paranormal Activity really started having an annual release around Halloween as well. But what others have there been? It seems like it's sequel-mania for one franchise at a time in recent years for horror. Then saying a lot of it has been rip offs of other movies isn't saying much either. Because that's been a staple since the beginning for the genre. Heck, that's how Friday the 13th started. Did you really think it was being original? It was just the most popular at the time. But when there is "yet another" sequel or remake it's safe to say the standards hit the floor. They don't exactly have a good reputation. That's what I thought when I heard there would not just be a new Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, but it would be in 3D. I actually really wanted to see this in theatres for the fun of it but it was hard to justify not just the ticket price but the 3D ticket price for a movie that could wind up being more painful to get through than fun. So I waited for DVD. And you know what, sometimes it pays to have low expectations. Cause this was a much better experience than I had expected.

The story for this one is right off the bat more unique that the remake and prequel to the remake from the early 2000s but that's not saying much. This installment chooses to ignore everything that happened after the original and even begins at the exact moment where the original movie ended (complete with a montage showing highlights from said original). Immediately I was impressed with the attention to detail to the house. They are picking up where things left off in a movie that was made almost 40 years ago so good work on them. Anyway, the main plot is that the police track down the family after a lone survivor reports them. The cops show up guns a blazing and eventually burn down the house. They are seen as local heroes and one of them even takes Leatherface's chainsaw so he can hang it above the local bar (frickin hicks). Among all this excitement one of the men finds a woman still alive clutching a baby. The man steals the baby and kills the woman and then plays it off like he just "found" the baby. Guess who this movie will be about. After this it flashes forward to present day where we meet our protagonist. A young girl who just finds out that her Grandma died and she needs to go to Texas to collect the inheritance. Here's the problem, her supposed grandma has been dead for at least a couple of years already. So she goes to her "parents" to find out she's adopted (aka stolen from her real mother) because her new mama couldn't conceive and her new papa did it just because the mama wanted it so badly. Otherwise he would have just as easily left her behind (which is really sad). So of course she tells them to shove off and makes her way to Texas. She inherited her grandmother's home which is essentially a mansion, but it comes with a cost of course, and that's when things get rolling.
What I expected from this is the typical cycle. Set up, introduce bad guy, people get killed, they find a way to beat the bad guy, usually 1+ survivors. Pretty typical system and it makes things painfully predictable. So when Leatherface showed up and started offing people left and right within the first act I was wondering where the heck the movie would go from there. Felt like it was blowing it's load immediately and not giving it time to develop, therefor giving a long and boring second half. Boy was I wrong. Yes for the most part the essentials happened in a modern slasher but it all happened right in the beginning. This caught me by surprise and caught my attention of where they were going to go from there. And what I got was actually a pretty good and new take on the franchise. The movies in the franchise have been less about Leatherface and more about his family as a whole. Although it was always family already joining in on the insanity. Sometimes they're in disguise and show their true colors later on but they're all part of the madness before we even get to know them. We've never had a case of someone on the outside which is what we got with the orphan child. It made it more unique because it's not just a matter of killing a bunch of stupid kids who crossed paths with this wild bunch of killers. Our protagonist had a reason to be there and will have an overall effect on how things will play out. Cause as the saying goes, blood is thicker than water.
So it turns out that Leatherface has been living in the basement of this mansion and has been there since the first movie. He's been up to his same old tricks as he's always been which shows in his "workshop." I would say some of this stuff is a call back to the original movie but again I don't feel that would be accurate. Of course he would still have meat hooks! Look at what he loves to do best! Anyway, after Leatherface is found and kills a couple of people the first act concludes with him running through a theme park chasing after our protagonist. It ends with him escaping after a cop sees and confronts him, which is also when Leatherface decides it would be a good idea to throw his chainsaw at the cop so he can run away. Leatherface may be dangerous but he is leaps and bounds far from smart. But what this opens up is the motivation for the rest of the movie. The town is pissed as hell that ANYONE in that family survived so they want Leatherface dead yesterday. They go on a total manhunt for him, losing plenty of people in the process (not really a spoiler). But one of the coolest parts of this is it's when our hero discovers that Leatherface is actually her cousin. Again no surprise there but at least it takes the story in a different direction. A direction where it shows the supposed good guy cops who want Leatherface dead to be seemingly more ruthless than the actual killer of the story. I'm not going to justify what Leatherface does for fun, but it makes you sympathize for him. It reminded me of The Devil's Rejects where a cop is chasing down three serial killers. However his methods prove to be just as horrific as the actual killers, which brings forward emotions for the actual killers, making you uncomfortable. It provides a different perspective where you actually root for the enemy in a different way than before. It's not a root because you wanna see some good old fashioned gore, it's a root because you start to feel for the bad guy cause some of the good guys are total dicks and not heroic in the least.
It all kicks off from there and leads into an ending that I was plenty satisfied with. It gave a unique alternative to the usual process.

So safe to say I enjoyed the direction the story went. But there was something that drove me absolutely nuts. Sure the acting isn't going to be that great nor is the actual writing of the story going to be above average either (the story is great! But the writing that gets it there does have it's issues of course). But easily the worst of the worst in this was the visual effects and the forced actions for the 3D version.
What I was thinking about is how when there's a movie released in 3D there should be two versions released. I'm not exactly talking about having a 3D version and a non-3D version. That goes without saying. I'm talking about a version with alternate takes. The reason for this is because when you have a movie originally presented and intended for 3D there tend to be a shot here and there that "show off" the 3D, aka shoving things toward the audience. I'm sure you can piece together that there were plenty of chainsaws shoved toward the audience among other things, giving the very typical old school thrill style of 3D. But when you watch it in 2D at home it's just weird and awkward. It's placed in a way that needs to have it in 3D cause it's not well placed cinematography for 2D. It's awkward and gives you the same feeling of someone actually trying to shove something in your face. Not scary, just annoying. But to go along with this is the horrendous CG incorporated. It must be a method with 3D to do certain tricks in CG instead of organic cause this isn't the first time I've seen it done this way. I recall in Saw 3D there was something like this at the end. Here's a franchise that has been doing great organic effects over all of their movies. Then suddenly at the very end of their final installment there's a saw thrown at the audience in slow motion in horrible looking 3D. It must (maybe?) look better in 3D cause in 2D it was laugh out loud bad and executed in such an unexpected way to cash in on the 3D craze. This happens plenty of times in Texas Chainsaw whether it's when Leatherface throws his chainsaw at the carnival or when a body is torn apart and their guts are thrown at the screen. It really takes you out of the action because of how bad it looks not in 3D. Not saying it would look better in 3D but in 2D it looks so horrible it feels out of place and has already dated itself.
I know what I'm essentially asking for is to recut and polish the movie for a better 2D viewing experience. But why would the studio do that when they can just flip the 3D switch off and release as is? It's cheaper so it's understandable. The movie could have been such a nicer experience if it weren't for this presentation. A bit of a steep request but understandable. Probably will never happen.

Overall I was surprised how much I liked this. I was expecting camp or uncreativity and basically watched it for the kills. My low expectations left me open to what could come and what I was given was pretty awesome. Not as good as the new Evil Dead, but leaps and bounds better than other sequels/remakes/reboots as of late. Personally I would recommend this one cause it's the most original entry in this franchise we've seen in years. At the very least it's worth the dollar you spend on a redbox rental. Also makes sure to stick around cause there is a brief scene after the credits. And it's awesome!

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Future of Gaming, or Why I'm a Retro Gamer

Before you read what I have to say first read the following article. It's the reason why I wanted to write this. I'll wait.


Done? Great!

Honestly I've never been a fan of XBox right from the start. It just never appealed to me. When the first one came out I was high on the Dreamcast and when 360 came out I was anticipating PS3. I never have nor do I think I will ever give two shits about XBox. Not to say I have a vendetta against it. If I'm at a friends place I won't oppose playing some Halo multiplayer or something like that. I just have zero interest. So hopefully that context will give you an idea where I'm coming from in this post. This is not to shit on XBox. This is to shit on the potential future of video games as a whole.

I've always liked staying on the up and up with gaming. Ever since my family got the NES I would look to see what else was out there and what was coming next. It was always exciting because it always seemed like things were getting bigger and better with every generation. However with the advent of more and more gaming either incorporating or requiring online it's brought on as much great as it has horror.
I think back to the Jim Carrey classic The Cable Guy. In the movie Jim Carrey's character predicts the future in the same way that he stated what would logically happen in time. The quote is, "The future is now! Soon every American home will integrate their television, phone and computer. You'll be able to visit the Louvre on one channel, or watch female wrestling on another. You can do your shopping at home, or play Mortal Kombat with a friend from Vietnam. There's no end to the possibilities!" That movie came out in 1996. And while there were technically online features in gaming and other mediums (i.e. The Sega Channel, eBay has been around for a while, etc) it wouldn't become the standard like he was stating til about a decade later. It seemed like such an amazing feature to have! You're telling me that I could fight against/along side someone in [Insert Game Here] who is literally on the other side of the planet? That truly is an incredible technology and when I really sit down and think about it, it still blows me away. For example, I've been playing a lot of multiplayer in Assassin's Creed Brotherhood lately. You and approx. 7 other people are all essentially on a killing spree on one another. The part that blows me away is the lack of lag. We've gotten to the point where every match I've been in there has been 0 lag. It's amazing all things considering and I feel a lot of gamers take it for granted. We live in a pretty amazing age of technology and have made a ton of progress in such a short time. Keep in mind that thirty years ago games were limited to a 2D plane (mostly) and have very simplistic features. Now we've got games that expand across entire worlds with a landscape larger than some real life locations and offers enough material to keep a gamer busy for an entire year, or more depending on what you're playing. The only problem with this advanced technology is that the web portions are being used for good and not for good as well.
I'm probably gonna be repeating many details that were talked about in the article I told you to read. I apologize for those repeats but I'm trying to expand on them.
For the last few years it seems like one of the biggest scares/rumors is "always on." The definition of this is that a game and/or console would always need to be logged in online regardless if you're playing single or multiplayer. Aka if your internet is down you can't play. Two major, recent examples of this are Diablo III and Sim City. Both are games that are sequels in already very successful franchises. They both had games before that had an option of online but didn't require it. But in these new installments it was required to always be online and they both had big server issues upon release and it caused a lot of uproar because of it. Right off the bat I've got to say that I see the positive aspects of being connected while in single player mode. It can add in features that otherwise wouldn't be available. But you should never ever ever (getting back together) remove the option for offline play. Even if the only offline play is local multiplayer against each other. There is no reason why a game has to be 100% online (unless it's an MMO or something). With the article I read I got an impression that this is a direction gaming could be going in just to play, period. This of course is first and foremost an issue of cost for the consumer. Here a gamer spent hundreds of dollars over the course of five years (usual console cycle, sometimes longer, especially recently). Then that said console's time has come to an end. A new console comes out with tons of new features and exciting new games. But what if you want to revisit your old games? Well as the article showed us that is an entire console generation's worth of games lost to the ages. The only way they could be retrieved as of that point is if they're ported to the newer console. But why would you want to spend more money to play a game you've already had for years? ESPECIALLY IF IT'S A PHYSICAL COPY! And that can be a staggering number of games lost and potentially never revisited. Sure you'll always get ports of the more popular games, but what about the obscure titles that have a cult following? One of my favorite games of all time is Illbleed for the Sega Dreamcast. It's a very bizarre and very obscure survival horror game. It never gained major popularity and it came late in the Dreamcast's life. It's not known by many but it's still a great game. It has never been ported/remade on any future consoles. If I lived in a world where the idea of always online existed for the Dreamcast I wouldn't be able to play that game today. Cause again as the article stated once the servers are closed they are closed for good. No more online play for that game.
I can see from an economical standpoint it makes sense. It's a way to fight piracy, keep people from swapping games so easily, etc (what with the fee for playing a used game). And this is a market after all so they've got to make money somehow. But this cannot be the future. Video games are thriving more than ever so there's no reason why this would be a necessary route. And if anything my concern isn't just with "wah I can't play that game anymore unless I pay to buy it again!" It's more to do with the history it leaves behind. Just imagine if there was literally and entire generation worth of games you could never go back to unless they were re-released. And we all know for a fact that gamers are nostalgic crazy. Here's some context. The Super Nintendo during it's entire lifespan released nearly 800 games between the 3 major regions (Japan, US, Europe). Imagine if Nintendo had a similar method to what looks like may be happening and once they stopped making games for the system they couldn't be played as is again. Sure there would be the inevitable re-release of games like Super Mario World and Metriod. But could you guarantee much outside of that? What if you're like me and you have a very particular title that you enjoy above all others and it isn't one of those obscure games? That right there is so much history of this industry lost to time all because of this crazy new method. Even the Dreamcast with it's short life span wound up releasing over 500 games (a lot more came out in Japan than America). And then to put it in a modern perspective there are currently a little under 800 games for PS3 and nearly 1000 for XBox 360. Granted a very large chunk of those are cross platform so this list isn't as high as it seems but think of all the experiences you've had the last 5-6 years with this current generation. I don't want everything I've done on my PS3 since 2007 lost forever, being forced to wait for a re-release just to restart my experience. That would be really sucky and it shouldn't be happening for the sake of nostalgia and for the sake of history.

The problem here is that game companies are thinking too much in the here and now. A lot of backwards compatibility is being dropped (with the exception of Nintendo). New technologies are not just being introduced and offered but forced upon the player. And online interactions are not just becoming a feature but a requirement. I think I've talked about going back to the past enough so I'll try and focus on the other topics. And with tech being shoved down people's throat to play the game makes for a really unappealing experience. Much like I said earlier with how there should always be an option for offline play, there should also always be an option to play the game with a standard controller unless the entire game is based around a special controller (i.e. Rock Band or the first Steel Batallion). When you do this you take a big risk alienating not only your core audience but any appeal for an extended audience. Granted this has worked recently with the Wii but they're Nintendo. They're the Disney of gaming. 9 out of 10 times they win in life with everyone. However while Nintendo has been riding it's yacht in a pool on a cruise ship doing it's own thing, Microsoft and Sony have been continuing their bitch slapping bout that started back around the turn of the century. You see, with Nintendo being innovative with what they're doing Sony and Microsoft has done little by comparison in the grand scheme of things. For example, the Playstation Move? Wii controller but finer tuned. The Kinect? The PS2 had the very primitive Eye Toy that did something similar. It's been a game of copycatting for years. Not that that's any news. It's been a game of one upping for a long time, if not since the beginning of gaming. It just seems like there's less individuality among the two companies. Yes Sony has been innovative with inventing the blu-ray disc and Microsoft has kicked a ton of ass with their online gaming. But that's one of very few differences.
A part of this is the lack of individuality in the games. I'm not even talking about the creativity of the games itself or how there's been 80 quadrillion modern warfare style games in the last five years. I'm talking about exclusive games and perks. For every exclusive game that gets released there's at least four multiplatform games that get released as well. Making 80% of the overall market basically playing on "the same console" with little to no differences. It's not like back in the early 90s when the Super Nintendo version of Shaq-Fu was drastically different than the Sega Genesis version of the game. But that's because the hardware was still very primitive and they had their own unique features under the hood that would give off different results. Rarely were two games actually alike between those two consoles because of that fact. But these days from what I can tell the only difference between Final Fantasy XIII on 360 compared to PS3 is that on the 360 it's on 3 discs whereas the PS3 is on one because of it's larger space size. The lines have blurred and they honestly look the same in the end. People would ask me the last few years what the console best suited for them. Basically my response was if they had a family or wanted something casual I would say the Wii. But then for the other consoles I would say "Do you like God of War or Halo more?" "Would you rather play RPGs or Shooters?" It was all relative cause so many similar games came out for each. The biggest difference was the fact that PS3 has blu-ray and free online gaming, but the XBox was cheaper and provides a more casual hardcore experience (The PS3 is pretty hardcore with it's setup). And while the current details seems to provide a wide range of differences between the PS4 and Xbox One I imagine it'll turn out the same in the end. I took a look at some of the games that are set to be released for XBox One. Wanna know how many I recognized because they're set to be released on PS4? Well, quite a few. The consoles haven't even been released and it's already looking that way. It makes not just the average gamer hard to decide but more so the average consumer. I can imagine when they're both released seeing someone standing in Best Buy holding a PS4 in one hand and an XBox One in the other asking, "What's the difference?" Well, average consumer, even us gamers aren't able to tell much anymore.
So not only is it confusing to a consumer to decide on a console, but can you imagine how confusing the online material will be to those same people? Not necessarily with the features of online, but more the requirements. If the XBox One rumors come true and it has to not just register the game online but also check in online I can imagine it'll sprout a ton of confusion and frustration from consumers. Being someone who has roughly a decade's worth of customer service experience on the job knows that it is impossible for something to be idiot proof. No matter how "user friendly" it is or "easy to use" you claim it will be, there will always be someone who just doesn't get it and needs you to hold their hand every step of the way. Having these kinda sorta always online setups takes that idiot proof idea and makes it even less idiot proof. I frankly think this overly online focus on these consoles is not just going to scare off consumers but straight up annoy consumers. I've backed Playstation since the beginning. Have stuck to their end of things for the most part (Dreamcast had so much potential!). So far I've owned the PS1, 2, 3, and Vita. Never had a PSP because of lack of money as a college student. But looking ahead at PS4 and seeing it more as a general entertainment box/facebook(esque) machine is a big turn off for me. I already have a kick ass DVD/BD player and it's called my PS3, which also already has apps for Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and YouTube. I have no use for the photo portion or the music portion of the console, and it always plays my games beautifully. Basically to me the PS3 is the ultra-mega console that IS my entertainment center. I honestly can't think of what more I would want because I don't always have the time to utilize all the features on my PS3 on a regular basis. And as far as online goes?
I'm pretty much a single player person almost exclusively. I'll play online here and there (more recently with AC Brotherhood) but not much. My friends list is limited and chances are I'm not playing the same games they are. I don't interact much with that list via the PS3 very often. So when the PS4 was introducing a share button and was getting hyped up about the social networking aspects of the PS4 I frankly didn't care. Matter of fact if it is something that is going to be more of a focus then I'm even turned off by that. Why would I want to invest in a new console that forces me to be social when I don't always want to be with my games? They can talk about online features until they're blue in the face. I just don't care and I feel it's putting a focus on the GAME console that is slowly turning into Tivo or some such shit.

Maybe I'm just not the person for these new consoles. Maybe this is what REALLY hardcore Nintendo fans felt when they made the Wii more focused on the mass market instead of the hardcore market and their precious new console was flooded with shovelware and games very aimed for families instead of more "hardcore" titles. They're going the way of the world. And the way of the world now is connected to their social networking all the time whether via phone, computer, or even game console now in this case. It's a world where nothing is standalone anymore. Don't get me wrong, I love the convenience of having my PS3 wear many hats with entertainment. But that's because that's what it does best. If I want to check Facebook or my e-mail I'll go on my laptop, cause that's what it does best. Yes I do have an iPhone but that's more a temporary solution for things like internet, games, and music. In the end I'm the type of person who likes to have a dedicated product that is used for a dedicated purpose. My favorite console is Dreamcast. It's a straight up console. That's all it does. I like to have an iPod specifically for music. I don't want my phone to be my iPod as well as everything else. I want to get a new camera so I can take pictures with something other than my phone... or Vita. I'm the type of person who doesn't necessarily want it all together in one thing. Maybe a little for fun but not as a dedicated piece of equipment. My iPhone to me is a phone with some fun gimmicks attached that get me a fix on a long trip or while I'm waiting at the DMV. But can you imagine how quickly the battery would go out if I used it for EVERYTHING! It wouldn't last all day and then it would be a big inconvenience.
This might be a time for change for me with the coming console generation. I've seen and played the Wii U and I'm not interested in that console, not with that TV tray controller. The PS4 with it's intense focus on online still doesn't have me quite sold. Then the XBox One is turning me off more than the rest because of many rumors and the same reasons I didn't want an XBox in the past, lack of interest in the first place. But you know what has had me excited the past couple months since I picked one up? The PS Vita. I love the shit out of my Vita. Since buying it I've already cranked in over 20 hours into Persona 4 Golden and plan on picking up some of the other excellent looking games for it. I can play my Playstation roms on it which is great cause I mostly have RPGs and the standby feature comes in handy there. It's sleek, it's compact for all it's power, and I can play it easy in bed.
I'm back in the portable scene and I'm coming to realize how much I missed it. Now that portable is out of it's awkward 3D phase (which was more awkward than the 3D on home consoles of the mid 90s) I'm more likely to get into it because it's more appealing visually and in controls. I guess what it took for me to get back into it is to have a console that packs similar power to a home console or something. In the way that TV seems to interest people more than movies now, portable has been coming out with more and more that has interested me while the AAA titles have been the same old drag over and over again. I'm thinking of skipping this next home console generation in favor of the portable generation. I've got the Vita. What will come out next? I'm not terribly interested in the 3DS but there are some games coming for it that I would buy the console for (Shin Megami Tensei IV mostly). But I'm gonna stick with the Vita for the time and see what comes next. I am working on my Dreamcast collection which is keeping me busy so who says I really need to focus on a current gen? As long as I'm happy with the consoles I have that's what matters. Chances are I'll get something later on to keep on the up and up, but who knows. My main focus for what comes next is portable. Less complicated and less forced tech/features. Just straight up games is their focus. Come to think of it, that 3DS is starting to look even more appealing now...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I Have a Dream(cast) Review Vol #1: Silent Scope

Availability: This one is widely available on multiple consoles. It started in the arcades but when soon ported over to the Dreamcast and Playstation 2. It would later be ported to XBox, Game Boy Advanced, and even iOS.

Region Played: US

Review: I was a huge fan of the arcade version of this game when it came out around the turn of the millennium  If you never saw the arcade unit for this game it essentially was a similar setup to your standard light gun game except the gun was a sniper rifle. You would actually play through the game looking through the scope. And you know what? It really put you in the experience. It was unlike any other light gun game on the market at the time and since. It must have been pretty successful because there was of course a couple of home ports.
I remember wondering how it would play once it made it to the home market, though. I doubted there would be a special light gun built specifically for this game. It would be like using the Super Scope for the SNES. Also it wouldn't work very well I feel with a standard light gun mainly because I don't know how it could be done. What Konami did was possibly the best thing they could do at the time. They put the scope right there on the screen which you move around with the joystick. It's essentially the same sort of aiming as in any other light gun game when you don't have the gun. Not anything new and it'll never have the same charm as the arcade version, but it's still a pretty cool game at home.

As I talked about in my Nights review it's really hard to look back on some of these shorter games with how long games have gotten on average these days. There really aren't many (if any) arcade style games or arcade ports of games anymore, and if they are like that they're usually shovelware. And Silent Scope isn't shovelware but rather the former. It's a port of the arcade game and it's portrayed the same way it was in the arcade. With that said a game like this is more about the high score than just finishing the game. Going through the game's six stages will only take a person around an hour or less, reminding me quite a bit of Virtua Cop for the Sega Saturn. In an era where it seems like every game need to fill around 8-10 hours minimum that feels frightfully short. There are different paths you can take but that's mostly to make the game harder or easier. So technically you could play a different game each time but it's not enough to expand the experience a whole lot. But for anyone who grew up in the 90s and experienced a lot of light gun games including Area 51 or Time Crisis you should expect this short time frame because they were originally in the arcades. How often is there an arcade game that lasts literally hours?
Come to think of it, I've had something of an "issue" with arcade ports on home consoles for some time (as I take a sidetrack for a little while). I'm not against porting them to home consoles cause it brings the experience somewhat home. I'm thankful for this cause there are some pretty amazing games in the arcade and if my only access to it was based on if a machine was near me then I would be pretty SOL in time. One of my favorite franchises of all time, Tekken, is an arcade port that has become an even more successful home console game it seems. When was the last time you played any Tekken game in the arcade? Of course depending on which game from whatever generation on whichever console the quality of the port but one this is still key. The main game/experience is there. So what's my issue with it? It's the total package. The thing is that you're getting the arcade game, a game that isn't designed for length outside of a high score, so it could end pretty quickly. This is fine and dandy for an experience IN the arcade, but at home when your playing time is restricted by how mad mom will get instead of running out of tokens it can make for a light package in a big box. I was always much more okay with this for games either back in the Atari age or in modern compilations. Especially in more recent generations of gaming it just seemed odd to have an arcade game that would only take an hour or two to complete with limited additional features (if any at all) right next to the latest massively expansive RPG that takes 80+ hours to complete but they're being sold for the same price. All I've got to say is thank goodness for digital downloads as of late cause this is at least helping fix the problem. Anyway, maybe this topic is set for another posting as it's getting longer than I anticipated. Moving on.

So the experience may be short for Silent Scope but is it at least entertaining? Definitely! While elements were compromised in the transfer it's still an overall good experience. I've never been a fan of light gun games using the cursor on screen to shoot as it is difficult to aim and shoot quickly especially in a tough spot. In this case it's even harder cause not only are you doing that but you're also doing it with the image enlarged. It's hard to tell EXACTLY when the enemy will show up in your crosshairs providing you with quite a challenge on top of the very tight clock you have to fight. But it is a smooth and fast-paced experience that always stays exciting and is rarely annoying. It's hard to say much else about the gameplay outside you point and shoot. However one thing I notices with gameplay is when you change the difficulty it changes how the gun will handle. Quick and easy on a low setting. Much slower and sluggish with a higher setting (more realistic?). Despite the difficulty change you still have the option of holding down the left trigger button which will "pull out" from the sight giving you a view of the entire area and you can navigate quicker. But again it's tough to then tell exactly where the enemy will be once you zoom back in. And if it seems like I'm talking about nothing but how hard the game is, that's because it is.
I would mostly attribute the difficulty to the handling of the controls. Unfortunately while this is a faithful port of the arcade game, being limited to moving the joystick around instead of a gun controller it does make it more difficult to aim exactly where you need to (i.e. headshots for more points and extended time). However the game itself doesn't really let up. Even on the easiest setting you have a very limited time to beat a level without having to use a continue. Oh, and on the subject of continues, you have to be really good to get far. I was surprised to see that the continues are very limited in the home version. It's either 0, 1, 2, or "Extra." So you essentially would need to play through flawlessly, with only a couple continues, or in the case of "Extra" you would need to time and time again get a 100% accuracy rating in each section to earn another one. While this is a good method to increase the play time (I was jumping in again and again from the beginning but making only a slight advance) it is a bit harsh for the people who shelled out the cash for the home version. At the time any person could have taken the money they bought the game with and gone to the arcade to play through the entire thing, no matter how bad they are at the game, for less. Whereas with the home version you have no way around it unless you're really skilled. That or I imaging there's a Game Shark code or something for more continues. At the same time I'm glad it is the way it is cause then the player would lose interest pretty quickly after those first couple runs through. I guess I could always do training mode if I want to get better...
The main comparison that keeps coming to mind for the overall experience seems to be Virtua Cop. Despite the games being just as different as they are similar one thing does come to mind, the continues. Virtua Cop allows a large number of continues which makes it easy to blaze through once you get even half way decent at it. Silent Scope on the other hand makes you it's bitch even on the easier settings and it doesn't give away continues so easily. What makes this different is that a game like Virtua Cop could more easily be put down and forgotten cause eventually you'll be going through the motions, knowing everything that's coming. But with Silent Scope it is actually a rough challenge to complete it once, ONCE! Sure in the arcade you could keep feeding it quarters no matter how bad you are. But at home it's a different. At home it's a challenge. And you know what? I'm okay with that. I spent a lot of time just playing the first level over and over again before I changed the difficulty. But I was having fun despite the difficulty.

The gameplay, while rough by comparison to the arcade version, is still a well done home experience. Not an amazing experience but worth picking up if you have a Dreamcast. It's only a few bucks cause it was a common/popular title so you really have little to nothing to lose. I have a special place in my heart and game library for this arcade title. Still one of my favorites from the turn of the century and I imagine it'll stay there for years to come. Now if I can just get my hands on a cabinet.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Review: The Jeffrey Dahmer Files

Version I Saw: Saw it at the Wisconsin Film Festival with an introduction by the filmmakers.

History: The film is as indie as it can be in a modern perspective. It was funded the old fashioned way, by begging for it from investors. Because of this the film took a few years to put together before it was able to hit the festival circuit. The film premiered at the SXSW film festival with a positive response. It would eventually be picked up by IFC Films where it would continue to circulate to different film festivals. It would eventually receive a mass release but only through VOD. Overall it has received generally positive reviews.

Personal History: I knew nothing about this going in. All I really thought it was, was a Dahmer documentary like anyone would expect. Lucky for me I got something totally different making it a better experience!

Review: I actually had the opportunity to see this at the Wisconsin Film Festival a few weeks ago so the movie-going experience for this one was unique to begin with. It was held in a screening room on the UW-Madison campus and we were crammed in there like sardines. Not only that but the director of the film was there to introduce the film. And the thing is that a lot of the people involved in it weren't from Hollywood. Many of them are Madison natives or at least Wisconsin natives. Provided a very unique experience because it was close to home. And in this case not just the subject matter but also in the people who made it.

Since this was a film festival not only was it introduced by the director but there was also an unrelated short that came before the movie. This short (I don't remember what it's called) was so horrendously bad. I know that I've made better movies than this. If I can remember it all I would like to describe it to you. It starts off with some shots around what looks like a farm area at dusk with an inaudible voice over. Cut to a stationary shot of a parade that only changes angles every couple of minutes with no additional editing to make it faster paced or more interesting. It felt like a home video of this small town parade. And it just kept going and going. After the parade portion is FINALLY finished it cuts to some kid playing with a toy airplane in a field with some stupid orange filter over it. Cut to a shot of a TV showing footage of footage of some astronauts in a space station (as in real footage not a movie) but it looks terrible because you can see the camera man reflected in the TV screen. Then it ends with an awkwardly long time spent on a recorded image from some program on a computer involving a helicopter or something. I don't know what it was and I don't care. That's it. There was some clapping I think out of pity. I did not clap. It was garbage. It felt like an "experimental" film done by a high school student who was trying way too hard to be interesting. It had no point to it and no redeeming value outside of it ending.

Thankfully the feature I paid to see was a lot better!

The Jeffrey Dahmer Files is different than your usual Dahmer documentary. It pulls away and assumes what you already know so it can take on a different perspective. It doesn't glamorize all the violence but is instead more of a character study. The documentary is essentially interviews with three different people who were closely associated with Dahmer. The police detective that worked on his case, the coroner who worked on identifying the bodies and finding their cause of death, and Dahmer's neighbor. Having only these people be the focus of the film was incredible. And it was great cause since there's hours upon hours of documentaries on Dahmer it didn't need to be the basics. This actually provided something of a human connection to the man and at times even make you feel some pity.
The documentary actually starts out, though, with a re-enactment. And these re-enactments run parallel throughout the movie. Not necessarily just to re-enact what we were just told, but almost like a mini-movie in and of itself to show maybe what wasn't said entirely. For example, one night Dahmer hid in a department store and when they closed he stole a manikin to take it home to do with it whatever you can imagine. That was one of the re-enacted scenes. When I first saw that there were going to be re-enactments I was really bummed out because they're usually not that well done. But the filmmakers knew what they were doing here because it was really well done. Also it didn't put any sort of focus on the violence. In these re-enactments they never actually show a kill. They show when he's intending to kill or just after, but never anything vulgar or violent. It's all insinuated. It was a very classy move to let you focus in on the story of this mad-man more intellectually instead of just thinking about the gory scene when he murdered and chopped up person A, B, or C.
And that's what this movie was, classy. It took itself seriously but not pretentiously seriously. It wasn't afraid to make you laugh with some of the awkward situations the interviewees talked about. One quick example of this is when Dahmer needed to show up in court but he didn't have any dress clothes, so the detective on the case asked for some clothes from his son because he was the same size. His son handed him a shirt and said "You got me this for Christmas but I'm never gonna wear it so take it." or something to that extent. It was a pretty funny story to be honest. But also it just showed a much more human perspective of the murders instead of turning Dahmer into another version of Jason Voorhees. I mean, his neighbor said that she considered him her friend before he got caught. She had no idea what was going through his mind or what he was doing. So when he was caught she felt used and betrayed. It was very powerful to hear her stories especially.

Now I don't want to make it sound like I'm justifying Dahmer's actions or saying he's not a bad dude cause what he did was horrifying. I'm saying that this specific portrayal brought him down to a level like you and I instead of turning him into a supernatural monster in a horror movie. Cause in the end he was another person. A human life that unfortunately went down a horrible path that resulted in the loss of many lives, almost 20. Honestly by the end of the documentary I didn't feel hate nor did I feel horror. The doc made me sad. It took him down from the wild level that he was presented as and showed you how human he was and how he wasn't exactly evil, just very unstable with a bizarre hobby I guess you could say. The woman who was his neighbor had done some time in jail, one time in particular when Dahmer was killed in jail. She talked about how when the news announced his death everyone was cheering, hugging, looking very excited. She on the other hand went back into her cell and cried. It was very human of her to react that way so naturally. Cause as I said before, Dahmer was a man like you and I. It's just that the choices he made in his life were very bad crimes. We all wish it never happen but unfortunately it did. But who are we to say who lives and who dies? I don't personally ever rejoice in anyone's death. Not even when Bin Laden was hunted down. I just sit and wish they made better decisions with their life. I want them punished for their crimes, but I never advocate death on anyone.
Wow, things got a bit political there. But what I'm trying to get across is that this documentary gives a different perspective that will actually tug at your heart strings for what happened in ways you didn't expect. His neighbor called him friend and told stories about what he was like before he was caught for murder. The detective had a bizarre, special connection to him while he was being prosecuted. And while the coroner didn't have the same personal connection he still had experienced one of his most unique cases and brought forth details not as well known as others about the victims. I wish there were more documentaries like this. Docs that take well known subject matter but look at things that either weren't talked about as much or at all. It was very concentrated. It knew what it wanted to be and it achieved that. Also it wasn't vulgar. It didn't feel it needed to have gore to express itself. It succeeded on so many levels, and at only 75 minutes it doesn't overstay it's welcome. If anything it left you wanting more. I know I did, and luckily I got what I wanted.
At the screening I saw this at there was a Q&A afterwords. I knew the filmmakers would be there, but what I didn't know was that 2 of the 3 people that were focused on would be present. Dahmer's neighbor and the detective appeared live to answer questions. What a special treat that was. Here are these people we just got to know so well over the last 75 minutes so when they entered the room it felt like I was seeing old friends even thought I didn't know who they were until that day. The Q&A basically expanded on a lot of the details touched on in the movie while giving us a behind the scenes look at it as well. It was all very fascinating to listen to both in the movie and live. One other thing to add onto this was a strange coincidence. I recently got an e-mail for an obituary that I'll link right here. The detective on the case passed away very suddenly from a heart attack within a week and a half of this screening. I was sad to read that cause he seemed like such a neat guy. Also it was eerie because I had just seen him live so recently. Kinda hard to believe it was so sudden.

I realize I had a bit of a biased opinion because I had such a unique experience. But seriously, if you have any sort of interest or fascination with criminals or the like I would suggest watching this title. The re-enactments are surprisingly well done and are brief each time they come up. Overall this has to be the most unique documentary I've seen probably since Death of a President. Although that was a faux-documentary. A really well done one, though. Maybe I should review that next...