Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Happy Birthday John Carpenter!

Turns out, one of my all-time favorite directors of all time has turned 65 today! What new can be said about this outstanding person who brought us some of the greatest movies ever made, achieving both the cult and mainstream success and launching several careers besides his own? I'm just a fan, but I love his works since childhood, and I was actually preparing a big-ass retrospective article on him. I'll try my best to get it done, but for now, let's recap on his best (in my opinion) flicks, shall we?

The man himself.

1974 - Dark Star
Mr Carpenter's debut feature is an interesting dark comedy the pretty much spoofs Kubrick's 2001. It's also notable for having Dan O'Bannon's writing and even acting credits - parts of the script were subsequently adapted for his breakthrough screenplay for Alien.

1976 - Assault on Precinct 13
A brilliant action thriller inspired by George Romero's Night Of The Living Dead. A memorable movie from the beginning to the end, with intense action scenes and Darwin Joston's great performance as the iconic antihero, Napoleon Wilson. Totally one of Carpenter's strongest.

1978 - Halloween
One of the top-grossing independent movies ever that managed to kickstart the slasher genre into mainstream. Ironically, despite the genre's gory reputation nowadays, the original does not feature any graphic scenes and brutal dismemberment - it's all about acting, cinematography, suspense and one of the most famous horror scores ever.

1980 - The Fog
A somewhat obscure, but still solid flick about the mysterious fog wrapping around a small town. Featuring great performances by Jamie Lee Curtis (fresh off Halloween) and Adrienne Barbeau, an interesting plot twist, and heavy on atmosphere, it's a perfect movie to watch at night.

1981 - Escape from New York
This and Mad Max were to post-apocalypse what Blade Runner was to cyberpunk. This seminal action-adventure vehicle is constantly being ripped off even to this day. And, of course, it introduced Kurt Russell in his unforgettable performance as the cinema's original badass motherfucker, Snake Plissken.

1982 - The Thing
Yet another cult horror movie, again starring Russell and based off John W. Campbell's short story, 'Who goes there?' and its 1956 adaptation by Howard Hawks. It gives its nods to both the book and the 50-s version, besides having some of the most amazing practical effects you will ever see.

1983 - Christine
Of all the Stephen King adaptations I've seen, this may not be the best, but it ranks somewhere in the top 5. It does take some liberties from the book, but nonetheless the story is solid, the character development is there, and this one surely gives out a decent amount of creeps.

1984 - Starman
After a successful line of action and horror movies, a sci-fi melodrama is a pretty sudden change of pace. Believe it or not, of all the melodramas I have ever seen, Starman's end credits theme alone makes me a bit teary-eyed. It has everything - special effects, a heartwarming message, but it wouldn't be complete without the fantastic acting of Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen. Actually, this is my most favorite Bridges role!

1986 - Big Trouble in Little China
One of the rare examples of Carpenter collaborating with a major studio and big budget. While the movie sadly bombed at the box office for whatever reasons, it still is a great action comedy. Weird as it is, I always happen to think of it first of all while thinking of the 80's action cinema in general - it's that memorable. Kurt Russell is awesome again, and the special effects are on par with The Thing.

1988 - They Live
Another action cult classic, this time starring the professional wrestler 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper! His lines were quoted by none other than Duke Nukem, and the overall concept is an original example of dystopian satire. Oh, and the fight over the glasses is hilariously over the top and lengthy. And I'm all out of gum!

1992 - Memoirs of an Invisible Man
To be honest, last time I saw this flick when I was 16 or so, so I can't remember it real good, but anyways it's a funny and thrilling take on 'The Invisible Man' with some Hitchcock overtones thrown in. Chase and Hannah have a good chemistry together, and Sam Neill is once again a great bad guy! The only thing I remember I didn't really like was the runtime, though...

1996 - Escape from L.A.
The sequel to 1981's post-apocalyptic masterpiece is a mixed bag. Some call it superior to the first movie, some say it's worse, it even tanked at the box office. Personally I think that it's something between a sequel and remake, updating the visuals and paying decent tribute to what made the first movie great. Of other little touches, I'd like to point out Stacey Keach's great performance.

1998 - Vampires
James Woods and Daniel Baldwin play the members of a crack team of vampire hunters in this violent explosive action fest. Of course, we all mostly know Woods for his bad motherfucker roles, and actually, he's no real exception here. Thomas Ian Griffith is also cool as the vampire lord, the Western overtones that began in Escape From L.A. are all out here with awesome cinematography, and the gore factor is pleasantly high, too!

2001 - Ghosts of Mars
Sort of a similar deal to Vampires, but the events take place on Mars this time, with Ice Cube being this movie's version of Snake Plissken. Jason Statham can be seen in a supporting role, and overall this is could be another great offering, but sadly it really drags at times, so of all the pure action movies made by Carpenter, I'm sorry to say it must be the least best. The effects are great, though.

2005 - John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns (Masters Of Horror episode)
It's not theatrical, nor it's a feature film, but one of the better episodes of the Masters Of Horror show. What I especially liked about that is an idea alone, while not very original, it's still not done to death, either. Udo Kier plays a great supporting role, but the overall climax can possibly be a bit of a letdown... though the buildup (lasting for the 90% of screentime) is still worth watching.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Zero Tolerance [1994] (FPS)

Developer: Technopop
Publisher: Accolade
Designer: Thomas Gjørup
Composer: Dezso Molnar
Platform: Sega Genesis
Release year: 1994
Genre: FPS
System requirements: A live or emulated Sega Genesis :)


From the dawn of gaming, first person shooters were commonly considered to be a genre exclusive to the PC, even despite the console ports of Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM. The PC's rivals - in this case, Sega Genesis - were still more responsible for sidescrollers, puzzles, action-RPGs, racing games and such. Even funnier was that all exclusive PC games that utilized the genres listed above seemed just as alien, outside of some notable exceptions, such as Tyrian or Duke Nukem. Nobody took the technical specs of 16-bit systems seriously enough, so what it all came down to - there wasn't a more unlikely thing than a console first person shooter, especially back in 1994, when DOOM was getting all the geeks and chicks.

But then such a thing came out.

The title screen just screams 'badass'.

Nobody knows if Technopop were aware of the micro-revolution they started up, or they did it all just for giggles, but here it goes: before Halo and Killzone, Zero Tolerance was one of the first console exclusive FPS games, if not the one. It actually was a smash hit on its initial release, and I swear that it's interesting and fun to play even to this day. Personally I got familiarized with this game after watching its review in a TV show, and then witnessing it myself in a shopping mall, where they made a custom arcade cab with Genny (well, technically, Megadrive) inside. It was just like Wolfenstein 3D that I was playing a lot at my Mom's workplace, only darker and more menacing in looks. After all, in my opinion, when it comes to dark cyberpunk action games, Genesis easily outshines both SNES and PCE, and Zero Tolerance is a prime example.

Gotta love this over-the-top HUD.

The story is pretty simplistic, revolving around the team of space mercs assigned to investigation of a sudden alien attack on Europe-1 space station - this is where the first episode takes place. Then, they'll have to travel to several other locations, mostly urban cityscapes on Earth. There are little to no puzzles on their way, as the main objective of each level, or floor, is to eliminate all enemies and reach the elevator (sometimes, a staircase). You can do the latter without killing everything though, but you will not receive password (no battery backup, unfortunately) for the next stage. This is actually not a fatal penalty, as you can backtrack to the floor above and fix things up.

The second episode takes place in a cool Blade Runner-ish skyscraper.

The arsenal consists of your usual fists, handguns, shotguns, blasters and so on, and the initial armament is different for each character. There are also additional gadgets to aid on your warpath - of them all, the most vital is Bio-Scanner, as it shows the enemy location on your map screen. The combat may seem sluggish at first, but once you get into the rhythm of the game, it's not that bad. It's just a bit slower than Wolfenstein 3D and feels more like Doom without running.

The gunplay and violence are still there, thankfully.

The levels are still sort of like Wolfenstein, but some walls are placed at 45 degrees. When you shoot an enemy near one, its blood will stain and slowly slide down the surface, which makes this game even a bit more violent than its competitors. Other interesting features include the momentum you gain while moving, then there's ability to jump and duck, though the usefulness of these features is debatable. In addition, Zero Tolerance also introduced the inventory system pretty similar to Quake 2, as well as five protagonists with slightly different traits. There's even a multiplayer support - however, the connection cable was never officially distributed by Technopop. They still offer the schematics on their site (see below), so if you are good with soldering iron, you can try and make one by yourself.

Now that's epic!

Zero Tolerance is a great game, but unfortunately, not a perfect one. Some can be irritated by slow gameplay, as I've pointed above, or the constant '%ITEM% collected!' voice playing each time you pick something up. The difficulty is pretty high, too, so make sure to think twice and plan your strategy each time you enter an unexplored room - don't use medkits if your health is not really low, and grab the Bio-Scanners as frequently as you can.

The sequel.

Overall, this game is a real treat - stylish, fun to play, with great atmosphere and high addiction value. There were some other FPS games on Genesis, such as mediocre Battle Frenzy or atrocious Cyber Cop, and an unfinished sequel, Beyond Zero Tolerance, which never came out officially; however in recent years, both Zero Tolerance games were re-released as freeware, so make sure to check Technopop website and grab the ROMs:

There is also a good site for the Russian-speaking fans:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Franchises Collection

I have decided that it'll be a fun idea to show you my collection of CDs/DVDs with complete videogame and movie franchises, in the wake of completing my Resident Evil movie collection last week. I've grouped all the entries per each photo, and following them, I'll give some real quick notes on each series. Let's not waste any time!

The 28 Time Measuring Units Later duology (DVD) - 28 Days is one of the most important horror movies of the modern era that reinvented and put the zombies back into mainstream, and I love every minute of it. 28 Weeks is a lot weaker (no pun intended), but a solid zombie flick nonetheless, with some nice gore effects.

The Alien quadrilogy (DVD) - what can you say about the series? It's one of the most iconic sci-fi franchises ever, perfectly blending the genres of action and horror, giving inspiration to the Metroid series and countless spin-offs and licensed products, some of them pretty good (ex. the Aliens VS Predator 2 video game).

The Bad Boys duology (BB1 is on Video CD and DVD, BB2 is on DVD) - the awesome action vehicle of Martin Lawrence and Will Smith, with the first movie being simply a Michael Bay classic. Yes, Michael Bay. Yes, classic.

The BioShock duology (PS3 and X360 respectively) - was referenced here and here.

The Back To The Future Trilogy box set (DVD) - again, nothing really new I can say about that. Fun fact: there are so many additional materials and bonus featurettes included in this collection, they were forced to stretch it to 4 discs!

The Crank duology (DVD) - a psychotic series of geeky action flicks by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, starring Jason Statham in one of his best roles, if not the best. Every minute of those is violent and hilarious for all us sick fucks. ^^

The God Of War series: God Of War Collection and God Of War 3 (all on PS3), God Of War: Chains Of Olympus and Ghost Of Sparta (both on PSP) - was referenced here.

The Gears Of War trilogy (Gears 1 is on PC and X360, the rest are on X360) - was referenced here and here.

The Incubation duology (PC) - a decent little series of turn-based tactical games, not unlike X-COM and Jagged Alliance, only utilizing 3D polygon graphics and ridiculously huge enemy waves. The story and the Russian localization are pretty good, too. Not much to say other that I'm a sucker for this genre!

The Kane & Lynch duology (K&L1 is on PC, K&L2 is on PS3) - totally a Gears Of War ripoff from the makers of Hitman, only with bandits in place of space marines. Beating the first one on PC in coop was a great fun (cheers, WildMav!).

The Pursuit Force duology (PSP) - hands down the best PSP game(s) I have ever played, and counting how I adore the console itself, this says a lot. Seriously, if you haven't played them yet, I give my highest recommendations. They're freakin' badass.

The Resident Evil movies collection (DVD) - saw the first one in theater (despite the vital warnings from some creepy old woman) and liked it, 2 is okay for Jill alone, 3 has a hilarious vodka ad at the cover, 4 has the most embarrassing portrayal of Chris you could imagine (which pissed me off, as he's my most favorite character), 5 is hands-down the best, or at least, the most fun in the series (the 3D was very good, too), Degeneration actually belongs to Michelle, Damnation I haven't seen yet, but Leon's SRS BZNS face on the cover already gives me giggles.

The Riddick collection (Dark Athena is on Steam, the movies are on DVD) - I have dismissed this franchise for a long time until I saw Pitch Black and fell in love with its colorful, yet gritty setting. Riddick is one badass dude with his own code of honor, and besides, the universe he lives in is nothing but boring and redundant. I even liked the Chronicles that everybody hates so much.

The Space Rangers duology (PC) - bought the first one when it came out, and the second is a gift from Michelle. Thanks, sweetie! The games themselves are like top-down continuations of Elite, mixing turn-based economy and strategy with real-time shmup action. The second game also pays tribute to Nether Earth. Two of the best games ever developed in Russia, IMHO.

The Operation: Silent Storm duology (PC) - another quality Russian games, this time in the turn-based tactics genre. They follow an alternate historical setting of WWII blended with sci-fi here and there, all with cutting edge graphics (for the time).

The Transformers live-action trilogy (DVD) - I know it's all hip and cool to hate those movies and to dismiss them as popcorn entertainment only for brainless cattle, and blah blah blah. Well, despite all those raging atheist hipsters around, I like these movies. So, to quote Jonathan Alfonso Romero... suck it down, monkey shit! The third one is another gift from Michelle. Love you! :*