We got a chance to check this out last night. It is bigger, better, and darker than ever before!
On top of what is listed, we have Knotts and Universal Halloween Event coverage, a Halo 4, Twilight, and X-Men actor interviewed, Geek Girl Centerfold, and so much more. Check it out it is just $1.50 an issue when you subscribe or $1.99 an issue for non-subscribers.
Check out our latest magazine at Barnes and Noble.
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Check out our latest magazine at Barnes and Noble.
Our Magazine Is now at Barnes and Noble Get your Issue Here.
October's Geek Centerfold - Lynsey thanks to Neil Jordan. Appearing in our October issue.
“SHUFFLE” is film about a man who spends every day living in a different era of his life. He has no idea if he will wake up as an old man, or his younger self. THe film has become a darling of the independant circuit and has earned much praise. We talk with Director Kurt Kuenne about his film.
What inspired you to choose a career in film/TV; do you have any advice for people who are looking to get into the television and or film industry?
The first film I ever saw in a theatre as a child was the original 1977 “Star Wars”, and from that moment on, I never wanted to do anything else. I promptly began banging out screenplays on a typewriter purchased at a neighbor’s garage sale and began using the technology of the time – Super 8mm film, then VHS – to shoot movies with my friends, then pounded out scores for them on the piano. I eventually studied both film and music at USC, and have kept writing, directing and scoring films ever since. My advice for people who want to do this is, simply, to do it; do not wait around for someone to give you permission to make a movie. If you want to write, write. If you want to shoot, shoot. Decide exactly what you want to do, then find a way to make it happen. Find people you trust to give you honest feedback. I found studying at a school like USC to be a great blessing, as it surrounds you with like-minded people who can inspire you and push you to be your best. You need to be around people who are supportive, brilliant and honest, who will help you make your work the best it can be before it goes out into the world. And once you’ve got a piece of work you’re proud of, get it in front of everyone you possibly can — and eventually, somehow, doors will open. It may take a long time, it may take several films or scripts before you’re recognized in any way, and you have to be okay with that; persistence and determination are required. If you give up or get discouraged easily, movies are not for you.
What inspired you to do “Shuffle” and how did the idea originate and develop?
The concept for “Shuffle” came out of a conversation I had with a development executive who had read my script “Mason Mule”, which won the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences several years ago; he noticed from that script that I liked playing with structure, was thinking of hiring me to write something for him, and we started chatting about ideas that were structurally playful. When the notion of “a guy who lives his life out of order” came up, I immediately sparked to it and came up with the initial outline for what became “Shuffle”. The project did not come to fruition at that particular company, so I went on to write it on my own. Unfortunately, right as I finished my first draft, a similar project about a man living his life out of sequence sold to a major studio (that film has never been made), so “Shuffle” sat around unread for years, until some friends who were huge fans of it got me to dust it off and re-write it. After I made a short film called “Validation” with my friend TJ Thyne (who lived next door to me when we were at USC) that proved popular at festivals and on line (it just passed 7 million views on YouTube), he and I started talking about doing a feature together. I quickly realized that “Shuffle” was a perfect vehicle for him, re-wrote it for him and we shot it on his summer hiatus from his TV show “Bones” that year.
Tell us about the casting and what each actor/actress brought to the film to make the perfect for their parts.
Since it was a given that TJ was starring in the film, everyone else was cast around him. When Paula Rhodes came in – whom I cast as the female lead in the film – she made everyone in the room not only fall in love with her, but actually cry during her audition; I went back and saw her audition tape again recently when I was putting together the behind-the-scenes doc for the DVD, and was affected by it all over again. And it was amazing to see how many choices she made instinctually for the audition ended up being the choices she used in the actual film. This was the first time I’d ever cast multiple actors to play the same role at different ages, and I was fortunate to have a wonderful casting director in Pam Pearl who brought in so many amazing people. There are so many things to look for when matching multiple people to play the same part, but on top of that, you have to be sure you’re pairing actors at each age level that have chemistry. I was really fortunate with the discoveries of Dylan Sprayberry and Elle Labadie, who played young TJ and young Paula respectively, they were just wonderfully natural and had a terrific rapport with each other. (Dylan has since gone on to play Young Clark Kent in “Man of Steel”, the new Superman movie due out next year.) TJ suggested Tamara Taylor and Patricia Belcher, whom he’d worked with on “Bones”, for a couple of roles in the film, and they were perfect choices. A lot of the people in the movie, though, were people I’d worked with before, and it’s always fun to see where/if the people you’ve worked with in the past end up fitting into the new piece of material you’ve written. For example, Chris Stone, who plays TJ’s father in the film, was originally just producing the film with us, and I knew he was interested in the role of Orson, but it wasn’t until his audition – when he came in and blew everyone away – that we all realized that the perfect person for the role had been sitting across the table from us in production meetings every day.
When you consider a script or a potential TV or film project, what elements do you look for in the story and character and what types of projects would you like to do in the future?
I’ve written everything I’ve done, and I hope to continue to do so; I simply try to write the movie I would most want to go see if I were flipping through the newspaper deciding what to go see on a Friday night. I like stories that surprise me, that have mystery, that have characters I find fascinating and want to sit with for long periods of time, that have high highs and low lows, that make satisfying connections and that are ultimately exhilarating in some way. I went through some personal tragedy in the previous decade (if you’ve seen my documentary “Dear Zachary”, you know the situation I’m speaking about), and that experience made me decide that life is sad enough; I don’t need to invent fictional stories that make people feel worse. I lean towards the type of storytelling philosophies that Frank Capra is remembered for, where you look for the good in any circumstance.
What were some memorable moments from filming and what can we look forward to from you going forward?
One of my favorite moments in the shooting of “Shuffle” was the second to last day of shooting, which was when we shot all of the material where TJ was playing his character at 92 years of age. He spent 5 hours in the make-up chair of Barney Burman, the Oscar-winning genius who, along with his team, created all of the old-age make-up in “Shuffle”. And I’ll never forget the moment when Barney walked TJ onto the lit set; TJ entered in character, infirm and weak, and Barney helped lay him down onto the bed gently. The whole crew fell silent when they entered. Barney had done such a brilliant job aging him, and TJ was so inside the character at that moment, that there was a genuine sense of awe in the air. It was a magical night. In terms of what I’ll be doing going forward, I recently finished adapting the novel “The Looking Glass Wars” into a musical for the stage, writing the script, music and lyrics, so I’m hopeful that will be mounted sometime soon. I’m presently writing two new scripts, but it’s too early to talk about them. I can say that they both have fantastical/mysterious story hooks like “Shuffle”, but are totally different kinds of movies. I’m also assembling two short documentaries on the side; one is going to be a DVD bonus feature for my short film series (“Validation”, etc.) about its inception and reception, and the other is about the journey my documentary “Dear Zachary” made to change bail law in Canada in 2010. (So many people keep asking me what happened, so rather than keep telling the story over and over, I’m just going to put the short doc up on the web and be done with it.
As a follow up, what was working with your cast like?
This is a boring answer, but they were marvelous and everyone was a pro. When you cast the right people, you don’t have to do a lot of “directing”. You stay alert for when things are going off course, or find solutions for when things are not working…but I honestly don’t have many memories of moments like that. The biggest challenge was working with the animals! (We had over a half-dozen dogs, multiple rabbits and more on this film; American Humane was there almost every day.)
When you’re not filming, what do you like to do and which shows and movies are you looking forward to seeing?
When I’m not filming, I’m writing, editing, composing or thinking of something new to write, edit or score. My favorite pastime is to go see old movies on the big screen, preferably outdoors. (I made a documentary about drive-in movie theatres years ago, so I’m obsessed with outdoor movies.) Oscars Outdoors, which the Academy just started up this past summer, is the best outdoor movie venue I’ve ever seen. Living in Los Angeles is gold mine for revival cinema; for instance, I just saw a stunning restoration this week of Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder” in 3D, which has almost never been shown in 3D, remastered from the original “left eye” and “right eye” negatives. Where else are you going to find that? As far as new movies, my favorite director is Steven Spielberg, so I’m obviously looking forward to “Lincoln”. I can’t wait to see Robert Zemeckis’ return to live action filmmaking, “Flight”. And I’m extremely excited to see the touring company of “The Book of Mormon” here in Los Angeles this month.
If you had carte blanche, what type of film would you do, who would you cast, etc?
I’ve been dying to do my Nicholl-winning script “Mason Mule” for years, which is kind of a tonal blend of “Amélie”, “Ferris Bueller” and Monty Python; I originally thought I was going to be directing it during the summer we ended up shooting “Shuffle”, but then discovered the company that had it under option did not, in fact, have the money to do it at that time, so we put “Shuffle” together quickly instead. I’ve written numerous scripts across multiple genres that I’m itching to shoot — and have numerous other stories that I’m writing as time allows. And I want to do all of them. I can’t pick one.
I have to admit, I am a sucker for movies with singing and dancing. And when there’s competition involved, even better! When I saw the trailer for Pitch Perfect, my first thought was it looked like “Bring It On” but for a capella groups. My second thought was, “Where do I line up?”
Sure, such movies are usually trite and predictable. But who cares? There’s singing and dancing! I don’t care that I’m expected to buy 27 year old Anna Kendrick as a rebellious, aspiring DJ named Beca, starting her freshman year at Barden College. She and Bella just graduated from high school in the Twilight series, so, sure, why not? Bribed by her dad with a promise to help her move to L.A. if she gave college a chance for one year, Becca considers what Barden has to offer. Unfortunately for her, the college’s “D.J. Club” is more about Semitic sign language than mixing beats.
Enter The Bellas, the college’s recently disgraced female a capella group lead by Aubrey (Anna Camp) and Chloe (Brittany Snow). Because of the uptight Aubrey’s shocking performance at a recent competition, they need to rebuild a group that can sing in saccharine-sweet, vanilla harmony. The pickings are slim (mostly) and what comes together is a motley crew of questionable talent. There’s Fat Amy played hilariously by Rebel Wilson, who can mermaid dance like no other. (Mainly because who else would?) There’s sexy Stacie (Alexis Knapp) who may be more comfortable with a stripper pole than singing soprano, and butch Cynthia who can’t keep her eyes of Stacie. Also in the group is Lilly (Hanna Mae Lee) who is borderline mute. So it’s no wonder Chloe aggressively recruits Beca whom she ambushes in the shower after overhearing Beca singing David Guetta’s “Titanium”.
The Bellas arch rivals are the Treble Makers and of course, Beca’s love interest in the movie is Treble Maker, Jesse (Skylar Astin) who somehow gets cuter with every scene. But he’s got to work pretty hard to impress Beca who’s more interested in her headphones than listening to Jesse wax on about the “Breakfast Club” which he believes has the best movie ending ever. Personally, I was a little disconcerted by the fact that college-age kids spoke of “Breakfast Club” with a reverance usually reserved for classics like Casablanca. Even my guest leaned over and said, “But that’s so before their time.” Then I realized, to kids who weren’t even alive when Breakfast Club was made, it would be a classic.
But Jesse’s pursuit of her isn’t Beca’s only problem. The songs Aubrey is dead set on the Bellas perfecting are yawn-worthy at best, which was grating on the music mixologist. The Bellas simply can’t win against the Treble Makers with tired arrangements of Ace of Base, Bangles and Gloria Estefan songs. But Aubrey is resistant to Beca’s attempts to bring the Bellas into the current decade. Therein lies the movie’s requisite conflicts.
Pitch Perfect in a word is fun. Simply fun. There were plenty of laughs, mainly thanks to Rebel Wilson’s scene-stealing lines and some outrageous repartee between competition commentators played by Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins. The highlights, of course, were the singing performances. All of the actors have great pipes and the harmonies will please any choir geek who attends. But lest you think it’s only a teen flick, in an audience of mixed generations, the loudest laughter was from the older audience.
4 out of 5 stars
On today’s episode we discuss Dredd 3D, and review Looper with Gareth Von Kallenbach from Skewed & Reviewed ( www.sknr.net )! We also talk with Jace Hall ( www.jacehallshow.com ) about the Avengers
In the world of 2072, it is learned that time travel has been invented and is declared illegal by all the governments of the world. Naturally, the criminal elements of the future embrace the technology. Apparently getting rid of bodies and people in the future is tricky because of innovative tagging and tracking technology.
The criminal bosses of the future send a man named Abe (Jeff Bridges) 30 years into the past to serve the criminals of the future with a new type of hit man called a Looper. In the new film “Looper” Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Joe, a Looper who never lets morals get in the way of his job. He is happy to promptly dispatch anyone sent from the future without a second thought.
Joe is well paid for his work, and is happy to enjoy the drugs and women that come with his job. Yet Joe desires to leave it all one day and travel to France. For a Looper to be retired, he is forced to kill a future version of himself, and in doing so, gets a fantastic retirement payout and 30 years to live it up since that is how long it will take for time travel to be invented. Naturally an older version of yourself cannot be sent back to be killed by your younger self for at least 30 years. But the increase in retirements is a bit disconcerting for Joe.
Things change drastically for Joe when his older self (Bruce Willis), appears and manages to escape before he can be killed by his younger self. For a Looper to have his target escape is a serious infraction, and in no time, Joe finds himself not only hunting his older self, but also on the run from his former friends and allies who have made him both older and younger a priority.
At this point in the film, I was hooked, as my mind raced with twists, possibilities, and the promise of the film. Sadly the momentum grinds to a halt in the second half as the older Joe attempts to ally with his younger self to stop a future crime boss while he is a child. This quickly becomes a very blatant “Terminator” rip off as older Joe attempts to locate and kill children who may be the future crime lord while younger Joe is biding his time hiding from his former associates while protecting a young child and his mother from his older self.
It does not take much thought to see where this is going but sadly the remainder of the movie is underwhelming and disappointing as the film recycles scenarios that we have seen many times before in better movies. The second half lacks any real action and climactic finale to give the audience the well-deserved payoff they waited for.
Willis, Bridges, and Gordon-Levitt do solid work but seem to be going through the motions as they never really earn any sympathy from the audience. Much like last year’s “In Time”, “Looper” has a great premise that starts well and then fails to live up to its potential.
2.5 out of 5
You all remember Dead Island, right? That hugely anticipated game, thanks in large part to that insanely popular trailer, that did not quite live up to expectations due to bugs at launch.
I am probably one of the few who enjoyed it, and still actively plays it. Well, there’s good news for people like me… Deep Silver is bringing us Dead Island Riptide (as I am sure you guessed by the title of this article).
Riptide is a full standalone sequel to Dead Island that was announced earlier this year. I had the chance to see a demo at PAX Prime this year. Deep Silver was very adamant in letting us know that the game is not a remake or expansion, but it is, in fact, its own game.
Riptide will pick up right where Dead Island left off with the same four survivors. You will be able to port your old character over (so long as you are playing on the same system). Also joining our survivors will be a mysterious 5th playable character.
During their escape at the end of the first game, things go wrong and they end up on the island of Palanai. Here on this island is the same basic concept in the first game. Survive. It still has all of the RPG facets that the first game had, but adds in some additional complexities to the gameplay and story line. This includes the use of boats as a necessity in this new water-logged isle, and the addition of new weather patterns and how they will affect your ability to see your surroundings. Of course it wouldn’t be a dead island game without weapon mods, and the combinations just get even more unique.
There’s not a lot more detail than that out there right now, but oddly enough Deep Silver has given a price for the game. The price point of this game will be $49.99, which Deep Silver promises is not a mistake or oversight. It is a full-fledged game, but a game coming at the end of console cycle and they indicated that the price just makes sense given that.
Look for the game to be out for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC sometime in 2013.
Daniel Cudmore is a very busy actor and he was kind enough to speak to us about voicing Master Chief in the new Halo series. He also talked to us about his work in “Twilight” and “The X-Men” series. This is a shorter version of the interview, the full interview will appear in our October magazine. You can subscribe for just .50 cents a month and get the latest issue at Barnes and Noble, simply click the link below.
Are you a fan of the Halo franchise and if so, what is your favorite game in the series?
It’s funny because when my wife and I were first dating she bought me a Halo game as a present. I had bought an Xbox and she wanted to impress me by getting the latest hot game and that’s what they recommended at the store. Halo was the only game I played front to back, all the others didn’t last long, but I’m not such a big fan that I’ve played all of them and have a favorite. I will say though, from what I’ve played of Halo 4, it’s pretty unreal.
Which games have you enjoyed recently and what are you looking forward to playing?
I got to play Halo 4 at Comic Con and was completely beat down by the guys at 343! I can’t wait to play the whole game. I did play a bit of Assassins Creed back in the day and would definitely like to play the newer versions.
What drew you to the role of Master Chief and what can you tell us about it?
It’s a very cool character; he’s iconic even though you don’t know much about him through the game. A lot more is explained in the fictional books. I was originally drawn to the role at first because Master Chief is the ultimate badass soldier, but the more I read in the books of his origins and who he really is, the more I like him as a character.
What character components are you focusing on when creating the role of Master Chief?
It’s hard because I’m in a suit, but I still have to act as this character for the other actors to get what they need out of the scenes. So for me, a lot went into the feeling of being battle hardend and trained at an elite level. I had to try and make him seem agile, precise and fast all the while wearing an amazing suit that’s not the easiest to move in.
What are some of the big difference for you in doing a web series versus major Motion picture, versus TV series?
It’s interesting because when you think of a web series, they don’t typically have the same resources as a major motion picture or TV series. However, this project had a much better budget and an amazing cast and crew, so at no point did it feel different than filming a major motion picture or a T.V series.
With Twilight coming to a conclusion, what are your thoughts on your character, the series, and the fandom associated with it?
I’m happy that I got to play Felix. Of course, like any actor, I would like to see him grow more in the series, but it doesn’t make sense in the story. He was a lot of fun to play, and it was such a great opportunity to be part of the Twilight craze. The fans are absolutely amazing and having people enjoy your projects as much as you do, is all you can really ask for.
As a follow up, any fun or bizarre fan experience you can share?
I’ve been pretty good, but I did have a grandma try and grope my stomach once..so that was weird
Looking back, what were some of your most memorable experiences from X-Men and what did you think of “X-Men: First Class”?
I think being in such a massive movie with amazing actors early in my career, just really blew me away. I do remember flying over to Victoria, BC for some filming and being in the rear of the plane with Sir Ian Mckellan, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, and just thinking “how did I get here?”
I thought “First Class” was great. As a moviegoer, it was a blast to watch
Conveniently located in the heart of downtown Phoenix Arizona, the best and brightest in comedy gather at Stand Up Live Comedy Theater. Drew Carey, Kevin Smith, Rex Navararette, Joe McHale, Chris Hardwick, and Wayne Brady are just a few of the extremely impressive of comedy headliners that have graced the facility recently. There is more to the venue than just the biggest names in comedy, as the facility offers top-notch food and beverage service for a one-stop entertainment destination.
The spacious club offers very comfortable accommodations that can handle everything from an intimate table for couples to large groups and private booth areas. The menu was impressive and offered shareable fare like wings, nachos, fries, and jumbo fried shrimp. Hungrier guests may enjoy Southwest favorites like quesadillas and tacos, sliders or burgers. Heartier options include steak sandwiches, pasta and grilled salmon, while the health-conscious also have the option of salads. For those who can’t decide, the theater offers combos titled Emcee, Feature or Headliner. We picked the Headliner and enjoyed a chicken quesadilla, mac ‘n cheese and cheeseburger sliders.
Items on the menu range between $7-$19. The club does have a two drink minimum and so for some guests, the $14 bottomless soft drinks in a collectors cup is the best bet. There is also very good dessert menu with items ranging from $6 to $8.00 dollars.
My wife and I enjoyed the combination plate as well as a basket of French fries which was a perfect prelude to the evening. The staff is extremely friendly and courteous and I appreciated how efficient they were with bringing your food, refilling our drinks, and clearing our table without once getting in the way of enjoying the show.
The stage was very well lit and the noise amplification and acoustics of the facility was first rate. We were able to hear every word of the headliner which on our visit was the fantastic Filipino comedian Rex Navarette. We watched Rex perform twice before in Washington, and he truly seemed to be excited about his first visit to Arizona.
Even though it’s in downtown, the venue offered three hours of complimentary parking and for guests who wish to stay longer to take in some fantastic music at the Copper Blues after the show, parking is just $2 an hour.
The impressive array of guests is more than enough to have us looking forward to future visits, but when combined with first-class service and venue, and the enjoyable and diverse menu, dinner and a show at Stand Up Live is a perfect evening out for any occasion.
Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, a move to Arizona was an extremely difficult decision to make. Aside from leaving most of my family behind, I’d also be leaving the beautiful Cascade Mountains, lush greenery and most importantly, easy access to the ocean.
One year later, I still miss Washington’s mountains and trees, but an easy 5 hour drive to San Diego keeps my love of the “big water” sated. And it doesn’t hurt that San Diego, whether overcast or sunny, is always a fun place to explore. On a recent trek to get our fill of the Pacific, we stayed at the Manchester Grand Hyatt where, according to their website, “the best of San Diego is right outside” their door.
From our room on the 22nd floor, the best of San Diego was right outside our window. I fell in love with the view of San Diego Bay and at night was delighted by the colorful city skyline. The room was a corner unit with a wrap-around view of the bay and the city. With a king-sized bed, a richly appointed room with a gorgeous view and a bathroom full of amenities (including toothpaste!) and a comfortable robe, I was content to stay in and just indulge in a little bit of relaxing luxury.
But breakfast called and we made our way to Lael’s, one of the hotel’s elegant restaurants. In a spacious dining room fit for royalty, a sumptuous breakfast buffet awaited that offered fruits, French toast, bacon, sausages, bagels, pastries, oatmeal with all kinds of toppings and an omelet bar with numerous ingredients to customize your meal. Our server was a delightful and entertaining gentleman who kept our glasses filled with fresh-squeezed orange juice and our coffee cups warmed with strong, bold coffee.
To walk off your breakfast, take a walk to roam Seaport Village. The Gaslamp Quarter is also a short hike from the hotel. The Manchester Grand Hyatt is also just down the street from the San Diego Convention Center, and my husband and I joked about maybe lining up now to be first to get into one of the San Diego Comicon panels. Petco Park, the San Diego Zoo, the Midway Museum and Coronado Island are nearby attractions. We took a quick drive to SeaWorld to enjoy the park’s newest ride, The Manta.
After a long day playing tourist, guests can recover nicely by booking an appointment at Kin Spa to be pampered and rejuvenated with a massage and/or facial at the spa facility in the hotel. The spa offers services for both men and women, or you and your significant other can unwind by turning on the 46” flat screen TV. If you must work, the hotel offers high-speed internet access for a fee, available in all guest rooms and in the Grand Lobby Bar or Redfield’s Sports Bar. Also for a fee are a full range of services from faxing, photocopying, to charger rentals in the hotel’s business center.
Whether you’re traveling for pleasure or business, the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego is definitely the hotel that can accommodate both easily, keeping you productive and feeling pampered at the same time. To check out their latest specials, visit www.manchestergrandhyatt.com.
During a recent visit to California, we stayed at the Radisson Suites in Buena Park. Our check in was extremely prompt, and the extremely helpful front desk staff not only provided me with a map of the hotel but also pointed out various points of interest in the local area. Upon learning our plans included driving to Los Angeles, I was given easy directions to the nearby freeway entrances as well as expected commute times.
Our room was extremely accommodating and I was impressed with the size of the front room which offered a desk large enough for both my wife and I to set up our laptops and still have ample work space on either side. The suite layout flowed well, and the comfortable couch and chairs were situated to give a great viewing angle for the flat screen TV. The front room also had kitchen counter area that had a mini fridge, microwave and coffee maker. The French doors into the suite had shutters that when opened allowed us to look out onto the courtyard and definitely was a nice change of pace from the standard hotel entrances.
The bathroom is very nice as not only did the shower have very good water temperature and pressure, but there was also a very nice selection of high quality shampoos, lotions, and conditioners that were provided for us.
The bedroom area had ample closet space as well as drawers which allowed us to unpack and truly settle in. There was a second flat screen television in the bedroom which had all the channels including complimentary HBO.
A much unexpected surprise was the bed which was a Sleep Number bed. While it did take a little bit of getting used to in order to find the number that suited us best, especially when we have become so accustomed to memory foam mattresses, it was still an extremely comfortable experience.
As we got up the next morning for breakfast, my wife noted that the layout reminded her of Melrose Place, with all the units surrounding a common courtyard. But unlike Melrose Place, the landscaping was lush with palm trees, and fountains. The hotel offers a fitness area with treadmills, as well as a very nice pool and Jacuzzi. It made one wonder if at one time the hotel had been an apartment or condo complex.
The complimentary breakfast buffet was an appreciated perk. The buffet featured not only bacon, potatoes, sausage, scrambled eggs, cereals, breads, juices, coffee, oatmeal, Danishes, and fruit, there was also a custom-made omelet bar.
After we enjoyed our breakfast we set out for a day in the town, and were really happy to experience the Anaheim Resort Transportation (ART) system. The bus takes riders to points of interest in the community such as Knott’s Berry Farm, Medieval Times, The Pirate Dinner Theater, as well as Disneyland. The ability to purchase a single ride or pass consisting of several days is ideal for those who have not driven to the area or who wish to take a break from dealing with traffic and parking fees. The air-conditioned trolleys come by on a regular basis and run until a half-hour after Disneyland closes at midnight.
Returning to the hotel, we were really impressed with the afternoon reception which allowed us to enjoy several free snacks as well as complementary drinks Monday through Thursday. The restaurant also had specials for different days the week. Everything from tacos to Buffalo wings was available and guests took advantage of this as they sat in the recreation area watching the NBA playoffs on the big screen.
Where We Dined
I decided to take my wife to Downtown Disney for dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen for an evening of good food and character interaction. As we walked up and down the numerous shops after dinner, I have to tell you what a nice experience it was not to have to worry about making our way back to the car and being able to board the bus back to the hotel as well as see the tired but happy faces of those who are returning to the hotel after a long day at the various tourist attractions.
Our second day allowed us to have a little more leisurely pace as my wife enjoyed the free wireless Internet by the pool as we both worked on some stories before we took in the sights of the local area. That evening, we walked over to Medieval Times which was located right next to our hotel. While we had attended the Medieval Times in Las Vegas I have to say this is truly a much better experience.
Entering the castle we were assigned our knight’s color before we roamed the souvenir and bar area while waiting to be seated. This gave us plenty of time to visit the horses in their glass-enclosed stables and read about the history of the various forces that would be in the show.
Once we were seated in the arena our very friendly and helpful servers informed us that while there is no cutlery in accordance with times, there would be various drink options and went over our selections. The dinner started off with very impressive focaccia bread and tomato soup, and the entrée consisted of a roast chicken half and barbecue rib combo and potato wedges. My wife noted that it is usually very tricky to prepare large quantities of food in advance because timing is important. You do not want food sitting around being warmed as patrons wait to be served, but at the same time you have to ensure that the meals are done in a timely fashion. While there were some parts the chicken there were a bit dry and chewy I can tell you that by and large the meat was extremely juicy and tender and that the rib was simply fantastic. Dessert was tasty as well as the apple turnover which topped off a great meal.
Now food is simply a small part of the experience at Medieval Times. The live-action show featuring jousting, sword fighting, and other equestrian skills were highly entertaining. The cast was extremely energetic and their performance, unlike the Vegas show, kept the cheesiness factor to a minimum. With a king and a princess presiding over the lively event, the audience was encouraged to participate with cheers while the knights vied for the loudest ovation.
There was humor mixed in and the knights openly encouraged those seated in the corresponding color sections to cheer for their success. The sword fighting was impressive and offered some real twists and turns that kept the audience at the edge of their seats. There are numerous souvenir and gift opportunities available as well and there is a dungeon of horrors that guests can view prior to the show available for an additional fee.
Where We Played
Of course no trip to Buena Park would be complete without visiting the legendary Knott’s Berry Farm. I appreciated that even though it was checkout time, the hotel suggested that we leave our car in the parking lot and simply walk to the park. This gave us an opportunity to take note of the many restaurants and shops all within a 5 minute walk from the hotel, as up until then, we have directed our travels largely in a different direction. Everything from a Claim Jumper restaurant to Subway and IHOP were available, as well as other business and dining services. It was extremely refreshing to see a tourist area that offered so many options to both the community and its visitors.
Upon entering Knott’s Berry Farm, we decided to go on the Sierra Sidewinder which is a coaster that rotates during the ride. It is a bit unnerving to go from being at the front of the car to facing backwards as the ride accelerates through a series of high-speed turns where you cannot tell the direction you are going. Needless to say it was quite an experience as were our old favorites such as the Log Ride, Pony Express, Bigfoot Rapids, Ghost Rider, Silver Bullet, and countless other enjoyable rides along the boardwalk and Old West sections. It was so nice to see the Calico Mine Train and the old railroad again because I member those for my first visit to Knott’s as a small child.
I also noticed that the annual passes are an incredible value. For less than two visits to the park guests can get unlimited access for the year. There are various degrees of annual passes which offer such additions like the Soak City Water Park and early access to the park.
Taking on the park can be extremely tiring and we were pleased to include an enjoyable lunch at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. Founded by the late Cordelia Knott, the restaurant has served amazing chicken dishes to customers who often wait in long lines for their chance to be seated. It was the success of the restaurant and the long lines that inspired Walter Knott to build a Wild West town which eventually became the Knott’s Berry Park back in the 1950s. The Park was opened before Disneyland and touts itself as America’s first theme park.
Even though there are plenty of other options on the menu I have never had anything other than the fried chicken dinner. Four pieces of chicken, served with homemade rolls and Knott’s Berry jam, salad, chicken noodle soup, homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, and a huge slice of pie for $15.99 make this an incredible value. The chicken is not only fresh and juicy, but the pieces are so large and filling that to go boxes are very common.
There is a lunch size version available for those wishing a smaller serving but when one adds in the pre-and post-dinner items it is an incredible value. I also recommend boysenberry punch instead of iced tea and soda as it is a truly unique and refreshing drink. For those in a hurry you can also get the famed chicken to go from the nearby fast service counter.
There are several restaurants and shops including Pink’s Hot Dogs in the surrounding Knott’s area which truly makes it an enjoyable day for the entire family.
We really loved our time at the Radisson Suites and wish we could have stayed longer, as the days simply flew by. From the very comfy and accommodating room, to the very enjoyable complimentary hot breakfast and afternoon snacks, the very friendly and helpful staff to the many dining and entertainment options within walking distance, this stay was one of the best hotel experiences in recent memory and one we hope to enjoy again on our next visit to this charming city.
Recently we had a chance to check out the brand-new manta exhibit at Sea World San Diego. The attraction combines the new interactive area for live manta rays with a state-of-the-art roller coaster. The interactive area allows riders and non-riders alike to enjoy the graceful beauty of bat rays and fishes. The new 100,000-gallon aquarium lets you see the rays through eight large acrylic windows, as well as touch and feed bat rays at the attraction’s shallow touch-pool. If seeing and touching isn’t’ enough, the new Manta roller coaster allows riders to get a sense of what it’s like to be one of these fascinating creatures as it twists, soars and dives.
On entering the attraction, guests are given the option to proceed to the ride or to make their way to the viewing area. Navigating a very nicely landscaped environment, we were soon waiting for our turn to board. The line moved very quickly and even though it was a recently opened attraction, our wait was less than 15 minutes. One of the first things I noticed was the ample room provided in the seat. At 6’4”, I’m often forced to cram myself into various rides but that was not the case with manta. The restraining system pulled down comfortably over me, and gave me ample room for my legs which I did not even have to cross. My wife sat next me and it made me appreciate that we were not crammed right on top of one another as we have been for many rides in the past.
The ride begins in a dark tunnel that soon comes to life on a 270-degree enveloping screen, showing mantas swimming in the sea. Just as this calm and peaceful setting sinks in riders shoot forward at an impressive rate of speed as you accelerate down the track. While you never get extremely high off the ground, there are some impressive twist and turns along the way as you twist, and turn through the tracks. One impressive segment had as briefly turning sharply to the left and then sharply to the right before doing a dip and a very tight turn and drop. While I wouldn’t call it scary it was certainly exhilarating and the feel of the wind in your hair as you were whisked along the track in the gorgeous San Diego weather was worth the thrill.
Upon returning to the station many of the riders erupted in applause to show their enjoyment for the ride. One of the things I found very interesting was the now common industry-standard of taking a photo during a dynamic moment of the ride has been given a new twist with Manta. They do not wait until you’re right in the middle of a dropper high-speed turns take the photo, rather they take it right at the start as you accelerate from a stationary position to the maximum ride speed. The look of shock and exhilaration on the riders’ faces was truly humorous as we got to see several of the photos after we’ve completed the ride.
A very short walk leads riders to the interactive exhibit with mantas and while it is not my first time being up close the remarkable creatures I found that I’ve had a newfound appreciation for their grace and agility after experiencing the exhibit.
SeaWorld continues to blaze new paths and offering thrilling rides while maintaining their primary mission as a conservation park that educates the guests. It not only produced a top-level coaster attraction but greatly complemented their existing rides such a Shipwreck Rapids and Journey to Atlantis without compromising the focus on the magnificent creatures within.
, Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on October 23rd.
The cutting-edge terror continues when a small mining town hosts the legendary Mountain Man Festival on Halloween, where crowds of costumed partygoers gather for a wild night of music and mischief. But a killer celebration soon gives way to a blood-soaked feeding frenzy when an inbred family of hillbilly cannibals trick and treat themselves to a group of visiting college students who are just dying for a good time…
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a reboot of the very popular franchise from the 1990s. While the original franchise was a little before my time and I have no experience with it, I do know that the first two games in the series are considered to be all-time classics by many.
In this installment Earth is threatened by an unknown enemy (get it?) and so its governments unite to form an elite military organization known as XCOM to defend the planet. You play as the commander of XCOM and control its global defense team in a battle against an alien invasion. You do this by creating an operational base, researching alien technologies, planning combat missions and controlling soldier movement in the heat of the action.
XCOM, at its core, is a tactical strategy game with some very neat features to it. The story line from what I saw is pretty straight forward, but it feels like 2K may have some twists up their sleeves. There are some interesting aspects of the aliens, including the fact that they can use mind control to turn your allies against you.
I wish I could give a better synopsis of the game, but my experience with it at PAX was minimal. I got to see a little bit of their demo where they talked about the different attacks and movements that were available in the game, and then they set us off to play. And of course I got thrown onto a system that wasn’t working and had to wait for it to be booted and loaded. So I only had a limited amount of time to play.
But once I did get to play, it was great fun! I usually dislike going through tutorials, but this one kept you moving at a good pace while you were learning the controls of the game. Once you get used to the button set up, and the abilities and limitations that you have during each “turn”, it was just plain fun. This is a game I am definitely looking forward to picking up.
Look for XCOM: Enemy Unknown to release on October 9, 2012 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.
Ravaged is an upcoming arena first-person-shooter that is being created
by 2 Dawn Games with financing through Kickstarter.
From the Kickstarter Page: “RAVAGED is a multiplayer vehicular FPS being developed by an indie studio that wants to make a fun game without publisher restrictions!”
The arenas are set in a post-apocalyptic world. Various landscapes are reminiscent of Borderlands, but without the bright colors or quite as much flair as a high-budget game can implement. The landscape is artfully done; much better than one would expect, given the budget. The
terrain is quite varied, and, surprisingly, contains a bit of destructible landscape.
I have to imagine it a focal point for the designers, but seems limited to the rocks.
Players can choose from five classes, representing the usual archetypes. Each class has predetermined weapons, and you won’t be able to change weapons or upgrade. I’m curious to see what will be improved upon within the game over time, and whether this world will be expanded upon to include more style and a greater array of options.
For an Indie game, Ravaged is very well done. Unfortunately, this type of game is all too common, and this title contains no real notes of innovation or creativity. It is very much the same as everything else produced in this genre over the last 10 years.
The graphics are impressive and the movement smooth (again, relative to its production budget). However, the classes are not well balanced, the targeting is sloppy, and you can’t even fire from half the vehicles.
The list of concerns is long, but in the end, if you are simply looking for a quick shoot-em-up session, this game should satisfy your needs.
I wish the best to the Ravaged team and hope this is just their first step.
Editor: Jeff Boehm.
Director/Writer David Ayer (Street Kings, Training day) once again takes us into the world of the Los Angeles police department in the new movie End of Watch. Only this time rather than go in the corrupt police officer direction he has gone before, Ayer instead takes audiences on a honest and somewhat realistic emotionally charged ride along with two young and confident LAPD patrolmen.
While the story in this film is as simple as two cops over reaching their pay grades causing them to get on a drug cartels hit list. The film is more like an unrated extended episode of the TV series Cops, focusing on the everyday encounters of our heroes as they patrol south central LA. These encounters range from calls for lost children, domestic disturbance, and noise violations, albeit a bit exaggerated in these and several other incidents. Still the various types of encounters cause the film to feel like a true ride along into the lives of these LAPD cops. Additionally the use of the handheld “found footage” film style works surprisingly well at giving the movie that TV episodic style that makes the overall experience feel realistic. That being said, there are a few scenes where it is not clear who is holding the camera or where the shot is coming from, however these scenes are barely noticeable because of the excellent performances by our protagonists that keeps our interest on what they are saying and doing on screen rather than who is holding the camera.
Officer Bryan Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal, Source Code) is our main protagonist of this movie. The ex-marine turned cop has to take an art elective in his pre-law studies and decides to take a documentary film class and take us on the inside of the LAPD. Gyllenhaal ‘s performance embodies Taylor as the good natured ambitious officer wanting more in his life of relationships and career. It would be easy for this character to be the traditional good cop in movies like this however given the found footage film style we instead find that Taylor, while good, can also be a complete “jerk” cop who is quick to anger and use brutish force when he deems necessary. This only helps solidify the rawness and reality of this film which pays a nod to the difficult nature of this job for real life police officers. Gyllenhaal gives yet another outstanding performance in his career causing us to grow attached to his character and respect him.
In addition Michel Pena (Crash) delivers a fantastic performance as Taylor’s partner and best friend Officer Mike Zavala. Pena embodies the other side to Gyllenhaal’s “jerk” cop by with his own good natured, simple man who is quick to become a bull when pushed. No more is this better shown in a scene where Zavala and a gang member get into a war of words and caused Zavala to drop his gun and badge and fight man to man to settle their dispute in the “street” way. Thus earning respect from that particular gang member.
Together Gyllenhaal and Pena share the screen wonderfully. Their relationship seems effortless and natural as if they were actually partners and best friends. You can tell they are having fun on set working together and it shows in their performance together as they really get a sense that they are more than partners and friends but are in fact, brothers. Their relationship and characters are only developed further as we watch Taylor pursue a deeper intellectual relationship with scientist Janet (Anna Kendrick, Up In The Air) and Zavala through the birth of his first born from wife Gabby (Natalie Martinez, Death Race). Kendrick and Martinez give believable performances as love interests to our heroes that show us a more human and softer side of these testosterone filled officers who will do whatever it takes to uphold the law. Throw in a strong supporting cast of other police officers led by Frank Grillo (Warrior) who plays the LAPD’s sergeant and you have a performance where we not only care about our heroes but we see the brotherhood of the police force in general.
One thing that I was not expecting from the film is the amount of moments where the audience literally laughed out loud. That is not to say that this is a comedy, in fact it is far from it. But the quick witted jokes and verbal jabs by our onscreen partners help alleviate some of the heavy emotional scenes of the movie. I felt that these characters used that good natured humor to keep themselves from going off of the deep end in handling all of the gruesome encounters they witness. These well placed laughs helped the audience deal with these gruesome scenes as well and helped strengthen our bond with these brothers.
All in all, this movie is a buddy cop film on steroids. While there is not much of a traditional story arch, this helps develop the realistic feel more like an unrated extended episode of Cops. That being said Gyllenhaal and Pena deliver a fantastic performance together. They have a real connection that makes you believe they have been partners for years and consider each other brothers. Add in a solid ensemble cast and the overall experience is worth the price of admission. However those who grow motion sick from found footage films may want to stay clear as there is a definite lack of steady cam.
4 out of 5 stars
The mid 90’s was a strange time for movies. Sure, there were quite a few remembered fondly (just like with any era) but there were also many movies that are forgotten due to their ridiculousness. It was a time that gave us the style of adaptions on par with Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection, or the two Joel Schumacher Batman films. Likewise, there was a Judge Dredd film right in the middle of that time period.
It was a mess. It exemplified everything wrong with many adaptions in the 90’s. Big name actors, over-the-top designs, cheesy dialogue. It tried very hard to be akin to the original Total Recall but instead succeeded at only being a movie fun to laugh at. It featured Sylvester Stallone and Rob Schneider. That is all that needs to be said about that film. So, when Hollywood comes along and decides to make a new adaption, of course the original’s ridiculousness looms over the whole affair. Not helping is the fact that most of the cast and crew are relatively obscure, and its source material (the Judge Dredd comics) is not as well-known as most of Marvel’s or DC’s pantheon. Yet, this brand new adaption, Dredd 3D, soars much higher than the original and manages to be one of those well-hidden gems of Fall 2012. I don’t imagine this film breaking box office records, but it is a wholly worthwhile piece of screen entertainment, even if it has some notable flaws and is overshadowed by past outings in the franchise.
The future America is an irradiated waste land known as the Cursed Earth. On the east coast of North America lies Mega-City One, a vast, violent metropolis containing 800 million residents, where 17,000 crimes are reported daily and “Slo-Mo”, an addictive new drug that slows the user’s perception of time, has been introduced. The only force of order is the Judges, who act as police, judge, jury and executioner. Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is tasked by the Chief Judge (Rakie Ayola) with evaluating rookie Judge Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a psychic who has failed the tests to become a full Judge. They become involved in a raid upon a crime and Slo-Mo ridden apartment complex known as Peach-Trees, which is ruled by a vicious crime boss Ma-Ma (Lena Heady).
You can guess from the title that the movie is meant to be watched in 3D. But that is where personal opinions of 3D come into play. For me personally, I cannot ding the film’s use of 3D because it uses it well enough that it becomes unnoticeable, which is to say it does not obnoxiously remind you at all times it is meant to be watched in 3D by throwing random things at the camera. But I will say that, although somewhat gimmicky, the “Slo-Mo” segments (which are shot from the perspective of those on the mind-altering drug ‘Slo-Mo’) do use 3D very well and manage to be some of the most visually striking and beautiful shots in the entire film.
The plot is simple to understand and straight forward. There are not huge twists and turns, and manages to be tightly written. It is not extremely memorable for plot standards, but it does not need to be. The story is held up by focusing on three major characters, which some good additional characterization of two more side characters. In that sense, the plot and characters do not pop off the screen into greatness, yet they are still tightly written enough that both elements (plot and characters) are not muddled or confusing. The simple plot, and the fact it all takes place in one apartment complex, makes it easier to focus on action and visuals.
While the visuals are all extremely well-done, the action could use some work. The setting of Mega-City One is extremely well established, as opposed to the original Judge Dredd adaption. It seems like it could be a real place not far off in the future, as it is set up with a realistic visual design – just with added grittiness and subtle science fictional elements. Also, there is not a huge amount of CG and the Judge uniforms especially look like iconic yet possibly realistic futuristic police suits. But the action could use some work, as stated. I could not help but constantly compare it to the recently released film, “The Raid: Redeption”, the Indonesian martial arts police film centering on a single police raid on an apartment complex. The similarities are there.
Both movies have very similar locations and plots, but the difference is that while Dredd has more interesting setting and science fiction elements (and arguably more interesting characters), The Raid: Redemption’s action is far more entertaining and engrossing. The real problem with Dredd is that there are never any real amazing feats of heroics on part of Judge Dredd. They set up the film in a sort of “’Die Hard’ in the future vibe” but that requires the hero to barely overcome overwhelming odds. As it stands, it never really feels like Judge Dredd is in a ton of danger. There are some cool shooting moments, and some even more interesting usage of Judge Anderson’s psychic powers. But at the end of the day, there simply are not many memorable action moments.
Overall, it does not ruin the film at all. It still manages to be an entertaining and interesting movie regardless of memorable action sequences. It has a tightly plotted narrative with fairly well done characters, not muddled by overuse of complexity or plot twists. It manages to be visually excellent with interesting science fictional elements, but never does it soar with its action set-pieces. It would have benefitted with some better use of gunplay or more clever feats of heroics on Judge Dredd’s part. But at least it takes itself seriously enough to not have anything akin to Rob Schneider following Sylvester Stallone around in a cheesy script.
3.5 stars out of 5
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is based upon the best selling novel written by Stephen Chbosky and published in 1999. The film is directed by the author himself who makes the entire film follow the epistolary style novel very well. The film brings to light the struggles of an awkward adolescent boy named Charlie (Logan Lerman, Percy Jackson & the Olympians) and his struggles with trying to cope with the recent death of his best friend who has committed suicide and the not so recent death of his beloved aunt. While coping with both deaths Charlie also has to try his hardest to get through his first day of high school.
Charlie has a tough time making friends being shy and introverted. This definitely doesn’t help on his first day when the only friend he makes is his English teacher Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd, I Love You Man). Though in his shop class he notices one very outgoing yet somewhat flamboyant senior Patrick (Ezra Miller) who ends up taking Charlie under his wing and inducts him into “the island of misfit toys”. Charlie becomes enamored with a pixie haired beauty named Sam (Emma Watson, Harry Potter) who is Patrick’s step-sister. She is involved with a college boy but soon finds that the path she is on will soon lead down a different direction, possibly with Charlie. Though Charlie is a freshman and has never been able to feel close to anybody, his new group of friends become somewhat of a family and together they are able to overcome the struggles that adolescents are faced with today.
This film is full of great actors with appearances by Joan Cusack, Tom Savini and Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries) and many others. The film hit kind of close to home as I, and many others, I’m sure, can relate to some of the same issues that had to be faced. That is why this is such a great film. I suppose that is why the story was so moving to me. I almost had a small case of anxiety remembering my high school days as a “wallflower” or a “misfit”. While the story is a roller coaster of emotions it is very well paced and has an amazing soundtrack that follows the story. The film will bring a lot of different emotions to the surface and will tug at the heartstrings which all great films must do. I usually take notes during a film that I am reviewing and at certain times I noticed myself not writing anything as I was entirely enthralled with the film. The acting is great and portrays all the characters of the story very well. This was a great film for Emma Watson to grow as more of a dramatic actress as apposed to her role as Hermione Granger though at times you could hear her British accent come through. This film is a must see! PG-13,103mins long.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Updated versions of arcade classics. What is not to love?
Turtle Beach, pioneer and market-leader of the gaming headset category, today announces its officially licensed headsets, the Ear Force NLa and Ear Force N11, for Nintendo’s Wii U™ system. Created in collaboration with Nintendo, worldwide pioneer in the creation of interactive entertainment, and based on Turtle Beach’s legacy of audio supremacy, the NLa and N11 offer Wii U™ gamers a pair of solid entry level headsets at competitive price points.
“We are very excited to be working with Turtle Beach to launch the N11 and NLa for the new Wii U,” said Steve Singer, Vice President of Licensing, Nintendo of America Inc. “We look forward to fans having a high quality audio experience with our newest console.”
Available in both black and white, the Ear Force NLa is the perfect headset for Nintendo gamers seeking high-fidelity audio and superior comfort at an affordable price. The NLa combines high-fidelity stereo game audio and crystal-clear communication in a sleek, lightweight and durable design. Created explicitly for use with the Wii U™ GamePad controller, the NLa features in-line volume control and noise-isolating ear cushions allowing for personalized audio while blocking out distractions. For gamers on the go, the NLa’s 4-pole connector can easily disconnect from the Wii U™ GamePad and connect to portable devices such as the Nintendo 3DS™ and Nintendo DS™ hand-held systems. Arriving in Q4 2012, the NLa MSRP is $34.95.
Available in black, the Ear Force N11 headset is the ideal headset for Nintendo gamers seeking a more audio immersive experience. Its acoustically angled 50mm speakers deliver extended bass with extraordinary dynamic range for optimum audio performance. With a fully adjustable, lightweight headband and breathable mesh ear cushions, the N11 is designed for extreme comfort during long sessions with Wii U™. It also has a 4-pole connector that easily plugs-in to portable devices such as the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo DS. Arriving in Q4, the N11 MSRP is $49.95.
“The Wii U launch will prove to be one of biggest gaming console events of the year and we couldn’t be more excited to support Wii U with dedicated headsets,” said Bob Picunko, Chief Marketing Officer of Turtle Beach. “The advanced capabilities of the Wii U system offer us the chance to deliver gamers the kind of quality they fully expect from both Turtle Beach and Nintendo.”
To learn more about Turtle Beach, visit its booth at the Tokyo Game Show in Tokyo from Sept. 20-23 within the Makuhari Messe, Hall 2, booth 1-N6, or visit the Turtle Beach website at Turtle Beach
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The “Engineer” from Prometheus helps celebrate the launch of Prometheus on Digital HD, Tuesday Sept 18, 2012, at The Beats Store in New York. (Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for Twentieth Century Fox)
At PAX this year, I had the chance to experience some new offerings from WB Games. There were three titles in particular that caught my attention: Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, Injustice: Gods Among Us and Guardians of Middle-earth.
Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition
This port of the award winning game is nothing short of intriguing. This was actually the first game I got to play at PAX this year, and I kind of just stumbled onto it thinking it was a Wii U booth. I did not get to play a whole lot, so at this point I have to assume that much of the story is the same, if not all. I couldn’t imagine why they would, or even would want to change anything about the award winning story line. Graphically, it’s pretty on par with the current iterations of the game across the other three platforms. But the intent of this article is not to talk about any limitations the Wii U system might have. What makes this game refreshing is the new game mechanics introduced with the Wii U itself.
Surprisingly, the massive controller didn’t change the way the game felt to me. You would think it would, but I didn’t seem to notice any difference. What became really unique was the use of the screen on the controller.
If you’ve ever played the game before, you know that Batman has his little computer on his wrist that he looks at when he throws the radio-controlled Batarang or when he is in “detective mode” looking for clues.
Well, now you will be looking at your “bat-computer” too. The screen on the controller will often times serve as this computer. When you are looking for clues in detective mode, you will see survey the scene with the controller. You will need to hold it up with the back of the controller facing the TV screen, and move it around so that you see all areas. The view on the controller will shift as you move and allow you to focus on the clues. Meanwhile, on your TV screen, Batman is sitting and staring at his wrist.
When you throw the remote-controlled Batarang, on the platform ports, you follow the Batarang on the TV screen. In the Armored Edition, the Batarang is viewed from the screen on the controller. You can choose to control the Batarang with the analog controls, or you can use the motion sensors in the Wii U controller to guide the Batarang to its target. Again, on the TV screen, batman is seen staring intently at his wrist, just as you should be with your Wii U controller.
As I said, I didn’t get to experience too much of Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, but what I did was very fun. I am not sure how I feel about taking my eyes off of the TV screen to use the Wii U controller in situations such as this. It is an odd feeling, almost like you’re not paying attention to the game, aAt least for me any way. But, then again… I had the same sort of feelings the first time I had to swing around a Wii remote several years ago. I am sure it’s something to just get used to. Look for this game to be available upon launch of the Wii U system.
Injustice: Gods Among Us
I had no prior knowledge of this game before I got to experience it at PAX. I was blown away. While I am not a big fan of fighting games in general, I did used to play them a lot back in the early Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat days. Injustice is a game that has been inspired by Mortal Kombat in many ways. In fact, it comes from the same studios. WB Games is working with NetherRealm Studios to bring this gem to you.
Injustice is a fighting game set in the DC Comics Universe. While I didn’t get to see any of the story line campaign portion of the game, I am told that the studios worked collaboratively with some prominent writers from DC Comics in order to put together a story-line that would integrate well with the vast universe that is already there. The unique thing about this game, is that they are not only focusing on the main characters that we all know and love (such as Batman, Superman, the Flash, etc.). They will be including some of the… I don’t want to say lesser, but probably not as well know characters. Characters such as Nightwing, Solomon Grundy and Cyborg. The intricate story-line that has been devised will indicate why each character was chosen for this game, and why their respective worlds will collide. There will be lots of one-player content, and online content as well. This game will be packed.
The environments in this game are interactive on a level I have never seen before. For instance, we were fighting in the Bat Cave, and I was able to walk over and press a red button, which would then launch a barrage of missiles from the Batmobile at a fixed point on the screen, hopefully your opponent was fool enough to be there when you did it. As you battle through, you will affect the environment around you creating new opportunities to use it against your opponent. There are two areas to each environment and you transition between them by performing certain combinations in the transition areas, which largely seem to be at the edges of the environment. As you move back and forth between them, and the battle continues, you see that the damage you are causing is sustaining, and again, can be used against your opponent.
The game has very cinematic feel to it in everything from the character intros, to the transitions in the environment, to the finishing moves. The developers wanted to put a lot of focus into the game feeling more like a movie experience than a game. And they accomplished this well. During the 15 minutes I had to play it, it felt very natural with the controls, and the smoothness of the gameplay was amazing. All of this, despite the polishing that still needs to be done before its 2013 release.
I had fun with this game, the first fighting game I have really enjoyed in a while, but that may have more to do with 2 things in particular. One, the character base is one I am familiar with and it’s fun to wreak havoc with these awesome heroes and villains. Two, the developer I got to play against said I was a natural and did well in beating him. But I think he let me win. This is one game I am really looking forward to.
Guardians of Middle-earth.
Inspired by The Lord of the Rings, Guardians of Middle-earth brings up to 10 players together in a five-versus-five battle arena. The game style is often referred to as a DotA style game and can be played in online through Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. I don’t have a lot of experience with DotAs. In fact, while I have installed others on my machine, I have never actually played one. Despite that, this is the game that I spent the most time with at WB Games. I was lucky enough to take part in a match.
Having no real basis of comparison, this might be taken with a grain of salt, but the game was really, really fun to play. Given that I have never played before, it was really easy to pick up and after a few moments I felt like I had been playing for years. As with any DotA style game, the prime goal is to capture towers on the map. There is a set time limit in which to do so, at least there was in our game. This may have been to keep the games going so more people can try, I am sure that the settings are adjustable here. If your team can capture all the towers within the time-limit (if set), then you win.
The game offers more than 20 memorable and iconic characters, or Guardians, from The Lord of The Rings. They include Gandalf, Sauron, Gollum, Thrain, Arathorn, Galadriel and many more. While we do not know the entire cast of characters, they will be revealed post launch, with several being released in conjunction with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey motion picture. This will give the game a deeper connection to Peter Jackson’s film. Each Guardian has unique strengths and abilities. You will be able to purchase items and buffs between matches using in-game currency that you have earned through combat.
Look for this game to be released before the end of 2012 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. I know for sure that this one will be taking up much of my time this holiday season.