Friday, September 2, 2011

Movie Time: Bubba Ho-tep

Movie Time with Breakfastman: Bubba Ho-Tep


Bubba Ho-tep is a black comedy/drama movie based on a novella by Joe R. Landsdale, and adapted for film and directed by Don Coscarelli, otherwise known as the man behind the Phantasm movies and the first Beastmaster movie, but not much else. While I have not seen anything of The Beastmaster beyond Spoony's review of the film, I have seen the first Phantasm movie, and I frakin' loved it. It was gloriously cheesy, campy, weird, and just plain fun. It was one of my favorite horror films of the 70's (beaten out only by the original Halloween), and is an incredibly underrated cult classic. If you haven't watched it, do so immediately. Go on, I'll wait. Okay, finished? Awesome movie, wasn't it? Well, what if I told you that the man responsible for that movie created a movie where an elderly Elvis, played by Bruce frellin' Campbell himself, and an elderly John F. Kennedy, played by Ossie Davis, fought a mummy that dresses up like a cowboy and eats souls in a rest home? You would want to know what that movie was called, right? Well, look up. We are talking about that movie today. This is Bubba Ho-tep.

                                         Bruce Campbell as Elvis. I am pretty sure someone's argument is invalid.

The film starts out in the Shady Rest retirement home, the camera panning through the yard outside, the hallways lined with rooms inside before we finally see Bruce as Elvis, lying in a bed, asleep. We then hear him thinking about his penis, which becomes a bit of a running gag in this movie. He then wakes up to the sound of his roommate coughing. He tries sees if he is okay, but as it turns out, he is not. He, in fact, dies in front of his eyes. After his body is taken away by two bumbling undertakers (another running gag), we see another old woman, wandering through the halls of the home, stealing anything that looks interesting. She makes off with a box of chocolates, and proceeds to eat them in her room. A scarab comes out of the box of chocolates (I think it came out of the box anyway), and proceeds to attack here. She manages to attack it back with here cane, but the little bugger is persistent. She is then attacked by a mummy in a cowboy who suddenly appears in a corner of the room. We then switch back to Elvis to see the old woman hanging onto the door for dear life, whispering "help me". She then gets dragged of. Elvis, confused, goes back to sleep. The next day, the two bumbling undertakers return to take the old ladies body away, and we see that a young female relative of Elvis's old roommate has come to take care of his things.

                              Excuse me, I seem to be lost. Can you please direct me to the set of The Mummy Returns?

Elvis strikes up a conversation with the girl about his old roommate, and tells her his sad story. You see, it turns out he is the real Elvis. In a desire to escape the pressures of fame and super-stardom, he decided to switch places with an Elvis impersonator, for who better to impersonate Elvis than someone who does it for a living, eh? Anyway, he made a contract with the impersonator that he can switch back anytime he wants. Unfortunately, his side of the contract was destroyed in a trailer park fire. He didn't care though. He loved his new life. Unfortunately, one day while performing, he fell and broke his hip, in addition to going into a coma for 20 years. She obviously doesn't believe him and writes him off as a wacko (which he just might be. The film never makes it quite clear whether he is or not). That night, he too is attacked by the same bug, but manages to kill the thing by stabbing it with a fork and shoving it into an electric heater. After that happens, he wanders into the hall to inform the workers that they have a massive bug problem. He wanders into the room of his friend, Jack, who thinks he is John F. Kennedy. He finds him on the floor, and summons the orderlies. The next night, Jack comes to his room and informs him of a strange find. Jack shows him writing in Egyptian on the bathroom wall, and insists it is a sign that they are being stalked by a soul sucking mummy. Elvis doesn't believe him until he sees the mummy himself. He and Jack then take it into their own hands to defeat this mummy and save the souls of all who live in the rest home. The plot proceeds as expected, but it was well paced enough to keep my interest through it's entire runtime.

                                                     Bruce Campbell fighting a mummy with a walker. Awesome.


What is the most surprising about this movie is how understated the whole thing is. I know that sounds odd talking about a movie where Elvis lights a cowboy mummy on fire, but it really is. It is much more of a character study than anything. The parts with the mummy feel almost incidental. Both of the main characters, Jack and Elvis, despite how crazy or crass they act, are always portrayed with a strange sort of dignity and respect. They reminisce former glories, contemplate old grudges, and talk about lost chances. Their is very little that is over-the-top about their characters, surprisingly enough, and both actors who portray them put in strong performances, Campbell especially. While one might think that he might flounder when is out of his element, he actually performs wonderfully, making his character, an aging (and possibly dying) Elvis, all that more believable. The entire film itself is, in essence, about the realities of aging and how the elderly are treated. It really is quite extraordinary how well written and deep a film like this is. It shows that you can make a great film with real depth about nearly anything.

While very odd, this is still not the strangest thing I have seen in a movie. That award still goes to the entirety of Eraserhead. David Lynch, you crazy man you.

The rest of the movie holds up pretty well. The music is what you would expect, lots of southern twang and Elvis sound-a-likes. The plot does have some holes here and there, but none of them really hampered my enjoyment of the film. The cinematography is excellent, and really helps to add to the atmosphere of both melancholy and claustrophobia that seems to be present throughout the film. The writing is generally good, except for the aforementioned plotholes, and the jokes are generally funny.

                                                              *Insert "DAT ASS" joke here*

TL;DR:

Bubba Ho-Tep is a very strange film. Yet, surprisingly enough, it works, and it works well. The characters are interesting, the principal actors do a great job, and the plot is surprisingly deep. It might have some problems with the plot here and there, but that doesn't stop it from being an enjoyable, memorable film. If you have the opportunity to see, I say go for it. I doubt you will regret it.



-Breakfastman out.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Movie Time: The Others (2001)

Movie Time with Breakfastman: The Others (2001)

The Others (no relation to the 1974 French film of the same name, at least as far as I know) is a psychological/supernatural horror film in the vein of classic psychological/supernatural horror films like The Haunting or The Innocents, the later of which it borrows heavily from. I have seen The Innocents before and I quite liked it. It was a grand gothic horror, full of twists, ambiguity, psychological trauma, insanity and more. You know, fun for the whole family! Anyway, when I found out that there was a movie that borrows heavily both from the The Innocents and novella the film was based on (The Turn of the Screw, for all you lazy types), and that it was made recently (a psychological horror film that came out withing the last ten years, not based on a much better horror movie from Japan? Blasphemy!), I decided it was worthy of my time, so I added to the ol' Netflix queue. It came recently, so I decided to review it. Is it any good, or is it rubbish? Let's find out. This is The Others.

"Dangit Eloise, I am not going back to that island! Who would be stupid enough to do so after escaping it once already?"

The movie starts with our main character, Grace Stewart (played by Nicole Kidman), waking up from a nightmare. Next scene, we see 3 people, an old man, an old woman, and a young, mute woman, walking towards the house. They are greeted by Grace, saying that she is relieved they are here and that they responded so quickly. Apparently these 3 people are servants, who responded to an advertisement in the newspaper for work. Grace gives them the tour of the house. While giving them the tour, she gives them some rather unusual instructions: always keep all the doors closed behind them, no matter what. The reason for this unusual instructions is revealed a moment later: both of her two children are extremely allergic to light. Exposure would cause them to burst into hives and sores, which would eventually cause them to suffocate. The only light they can be exposed to is from oil lamps and fireplaces. After the servants are introduced to the children, they are confronted by Grace. She claims that the usually mailman comes once a week, but has not come this week, meaning that her advertisement has not been sent to the newspaper. She confronts them on why they are here, and they give her the extremely flimsy excuse that they used to work in this house (the older women says that it was "the best years of their lives"), and they occasionally stop by every now and again to offer their services to whoever lives in the house at the time. Grace finds this answer acceptable, and allows them to continue working for her.

 Ah, a creepy child. A must have for any Gothic story. You know what they say: can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

In the next scene, we see Grace homeschooling her kids. It turns out that Grace is a very religious women, and she is having her children study the Bible. After some fighting, she splits the children up and has each study alone. She leaves the room, but then hears the weeping of a child. She checks on one of the children, Nicholas, to find that he has not been crying. She then checks on Anne, her other child, who also insists that she has not been crying, but says that another boy who was in the room until a moment ago, Victor, was. Grace, confused because she only has two children, tells her daughter to stop lying. She insists that she is not, and points to a open door she claims Victor ran out through. Grace, still not believing her story, thinks the open door is the fault of one of the servants, and chastises them for it. More strange things start happening. Anne insists that Victor is opening the curtains in her brother and her shared room at night, and she also insists that at least for other people, a mother, a father, a son, and an old lady, are in the house with them. Grace starts hearing strange noises and finds a book containing photographs of dead people in the attic. Things proceed to get more and more creepy, with strange hallucinations and disappearing objects plaguing the household, until the grand final twist (because there always is a final twist in these sorts of films) is revealed.

Well, the TARDIS is broken again, Rose. Looks like we are back in 40's England. God, I hope we won't have to deal with that "Empty Child" thing again. That was creepy.

The film builds up a great atmosphere for itself. The children's allergy to light means that most of the scenes will be in the dark, filled with shadows, regardless of the time of day, which helps builds the feeling of dread. The house is sufficiently big and creepy enough to get your imagination going, and the sets are all wonderfully designed and help sell the goings on. It feels like every creepy Victorian mansion ever, but in a movie like this, that is not a bad thing. You never see any of the ghosts (or whatever they are, for it is implied in multiple scenes that they might not be ghosts at all), and when you do, it leaves questions in your mind on whether or not it was all in the characters head. Is Grace just hallucinating and going mad? Does Anne have multiple personalities? Is this all just a simple misunderstanding, or is it something more sinister? If someone is insane, who exactly is it that needs to be drug away by the lads in white? Questions like that also help to add to the air of uncertainty about the entire proceedings and give the movie it's own unique flavor.

                                                                             Sarah Palin, circa 1945.

 Unfortunately, the film is not without it's problems. The writing, for instance, is definitely not as strong as it could have been and is probably the films biggest problem. There is an entire plot thread centering around the return of the husband that does nothing but destroy the pacing of the movie for a while. It is entirely useless to the main plot, reveals nothing about the characters or plot that we didn't already know, goes nowhere, and just generally does nothing but eat up time. The film would have been much without it. There are other useless scenes, like the servants talking in a menacing tone about what to do about the family. It destroys the tension that had been building in my mind on whether or not the entire thing was just simply insanity or a series of hallucinations, and again, harms the pacing and goes nowhere. These scenes were not needed, and don't even make much sense once the final twist comes around and we understand the characters motives much more than we did at the start. The film also has a pretty significant plot hole due to an event from the middle of the film. The scene in question was very good and quite creepy, yes, but makes absolutely no sense once the final twist comes along and we understand what is going on.

          The Doctor's Ninth regeneration did not go so well. Still better than the Sixth Regeneration though.

The film is solid in all other areas. All the actors put in good to great performances. Even the child actors, who are often a spotty proposition, no matter what movie they are in, put in believable performances, which is an achievement in and of itself. The film is well shot, with some great cinematography (even if it is sometimes blindingly obvious that these are sets and not actual places that are being filmed). The sets themselves are all well made and believable, and the sound effects all sound right. There is rarely any music, but when there is, it sounds fine. I don't remember any of it, but I don't remember want to rip my eardrums out because of it, so that is a bonus.

                                                        The request for a raise did not go as well as planned.

TL;DR:

The Others is a solid psychological horror film with a great twist. It does have some rough writing in spots, but don't let the deter you, this is a perfectly fine film. If you like psychological horror of ghost stories, give this one a look-see. Not the deepest or best written film ever, but enjoyable nonetheless, and it is certainly refreshing to see a horror movie released in the last 10 years that is not a remake of something better, a sequel, a slasher, or a torture porn.



-Breakfastman out.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Movie Time: Monkey Shines

Movie Time with Breakfastman: Monkey Shines



Monkey Shines is a psychological thriller/horror film from George A. Romero, who you might know from his work on the "of the Dead" movies, and um... Creepshow maybe? Yeah, unfortunately, George Romero seems to have not done anything of any real note since Night of the Living Dead or Dawn of the Dead. Not to say that his movies after Dawn and Night are bad (truth be told, before I watched Monkey Shines, the only Romero movie I had seen was Dawn of the Dead, which I quite liked), but when you think of George Romero, what movies do you think of? Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead. Anyway, Monkey Shines was originally a novel written by a man called Michael Stewart, and was adapted to the screen by Romero. It received a mixed response from critics and was a failure at the box office, which supposedly pushed Romero back into independent film making. It has a apparently become a bit of a cult classic over the years (of course, how could it not with a plot synopsis that basically goes: "evil monkey kills people?). I have had both good experiences with cult classic horror movies (Phantasm) and bad (The Wicker Man 1973), so I was rather wary going into this one. So, is it any good, is it as enjoyable as a monkey throwing feces at your face? This is Monkey Shines.

                                        Whoa, Dawn of the Dead is on TV! Awesome! I love that movie!

Monkey Shines starts out with our protagonist, Alan Mann, getting out of bed in the morning to exercise. He stretches naked for a bit (ew...), then loads up his backpack with bricks, puts it on, and goes for a run. Everything seems to be going all fine and dandy, until a dog runs into his path. He moves into the road out of the way of the dog, but gets hit by a semi and goes flying through the air. When he wakes up, he finds that he is now a quadriplegic (a.k.a. he cannot move his arms or legs). When he gets home, his greeted with a party over the fact that he is alive (and still as handsome as he ever was, even if his is a bit more scruffy) after being hit by a semi. Later that night, his best friend Jeff, a scientist currently trying to increase the intelligence of monkeys by injecting them with this chemical made from dead memory cells, comes to visit him. Jeff, seeing how depressed his friend is, decides to get him a helper monkey. Unfortunately, the place that trains the monkeys has all the animals out with other people. Jeff decides to donate particularly smart monkey from the lab (who gets named Ella) for training to help his friend out.

                                             Nope, nothing shady going on here, no siree.

Jeff life seems to be improving with Ella around. He seems much happier, his annoying, controlling mother is out of the house, he has decided to continue his law studies and seems to be doing quite well, he starts forming a bond with Ella, and he is becoming fast friends with the women who trained Ella, Melanie. Everything seems fine and dandy, which means it is time for everything to go wrong again! Hurrah! Alan starts succumbing to fits of rage, yelling at his nurse. After the nurse's pet bird almost pecks his eyes out one night, he swears that he will get rid of the bird somehow. That night, Ella escapes from her cage, breaks the birds neck, and sticks the corpse in the nurses slippers. That freaks her out, and she decides to resign. Alan's mother comes back, despite his objections to the contrary, to take care of him. Alan also finds out at this time that A: his doctor might have made a mistake during the surgery and his condition could be reversible, and B: his former girlfriend that left him because he was a quadriplegic is now banging his doctor. This makes him even more angry and bitter at the world. He has a dream later on that he is Ella, who sets fire to the bed that his doctor and his former lover are having sex on, killing. He then wakes up to find that, guess what, his doctor and former lover died in a fire. He then suspects that he gets angrier when Ella around, and he is somehow sending psychic messages to Ella, who is then carrying out his wishes. His friends tell him that idea is bullcrap, though Jeff is not so sure, remembering his experiments on the monkey. As usual, I don't want to spoil the entire story, but as you can guess, more people die, the monkey acts creepy, and things proceed pretty much how you expect.

                                                      The cutest horror villain ever. Yes, even cuter than Jason. 

What is surprising about this movie is how straight everything is played. Even though having the monkey as the villain uses the old "innocent object/creature that turns evil and kills people" trope that so many other movies have take advantage of (Child's Play, the Bad Seed, The Omen, It's Alive, Rosemary's Baby, Videodrome, and Day of the Triffids, among so many others), it works and it works surprisingly well. Aside from a few unintentionally funny scenes at the end (the Carrie-esque jump scare at the end had me in stitches simply because of it's absurdity), the entire movie is really rather serious and decidedly un-campy. The monkey is sufficiently creepy and works surprisingly well as a villain, scuttling along in the shadows, killing people and generally making hellish mischief. The film also builds suspense pretty well. We get to know and even like these characters, which makes it all the more alarming and engaging when their lives are put in danger. Everything is set up well, and the movie proceeds at a nice pace. There are a few pretty good, surprising jump scares (never thought I would say those words together in the same sentence) here and there, scattered smartly throughout the movie that help build tension as well. Unlike some horror movies, I could never remember a time when I considered turning it off. I was even on the edge of my seat for a few scenes, wondering what would happen next.

                                          So, what would you say if I gave you an evil monkey with psychic powers?

That does not mean that the writing is perfect in the movie. There are a couple parts in the movie where key characters act like idiots, or made me say "Okay, WTF are you doing? Why did you just do that and why did you think that was a good idea?". These moments came often at the end of the movie when people who were smart before started doing some very nonsensical stuff ("Um, excuse me, why are you bringing two needles full of poison to kill the monkey? Are you asking to die"). It actually feels that the writer just ran out of ideas and couldn't figure out how to end it. The movie also happens to be pretty slow in the beginning. The actual "monkey killing people" parts don't really start until in an hour+ in the movie, which didn't really effect me all that much, but might anger or bore some people. In one final complaint about the writing, some characters came off as annoying and bitchy when I doubt they were supposed to be, which makes it hard for me to care if they live or die and detracts some from the suspense or horror of the events. If I don't care if this person dies or has horrible things happen to them, how is this horrifying? I won't be scared for their lives or sanity. I won't give a crap what happens to them. Injecting annoying characters in a horror movie only detracts from the experience as a whole, and it certainly does that here.

              Moving all of the monkey's stuff into the house. No, I am not kidding, that is actually what is going on here.

All the other parts of the movie hold up pretty well. The cinematography is pretty good, with some interesting shots from both the perspective of the wheelchair that the protagonist is confined too, and from the perspective of the monkey. All the actors put in a good performance, Jason Beghe (who plays the quadriplegic Alan Mann) especially.  He does a really great job of portraying a quadriplegic, and you can really see the pain and sadness in his eyes when he finds out he might never be able to move his limbs again. The sets are all well chosen and look nice, and the music holds up well, even though it is not especially memorable. The special effects can also look a bit silly at times, but they do hold up well nonetheless. Also, this is the only movie I have seen where someone has sex with a quadriplegic, so there is that.

              Yes, he even takes the monkey to class with him. The sad thing is, the monkey gets far better grades than him.

TL;DR:

Monkey Shines is a competent suspense horror film. While it doesn't do anything particularly new and the writing can be questionable at times, it actually works more often than not, which is a feat in and of itself. If you feel the craving for a good suspense horror film, this is a decent choice.



-Breakfastman out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gamegaddon: Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

Breakfastman's Gamegaddon: Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines is an action-RPG published by Activision and released in 2004. The game was developed by Troika Games, one of 2 studios (the other being Obsidian) that was formed by former Black Isle employees (more specifically, the people responsible for the first 2 Fallout games) during and after the company's tragic downfall. Troika only developed 3 games before it closed in 2005 due to lack of funding, the other two being Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, which remains both there best selling and highest rated game to date, and Temple of Elemental Evil, a game based on the famous D&D campaign, both of which are considered cult classics by the PC gaming crowd. Vampire is the last game the studio developed, and like Temple, it was based on a pen and paper RPG from White Wolf Inc. It also has a bit of a troubled history surrounding it's development. The entire writing team was replaced halfway through development, a second team was brought in to just get it content complete... From what I understand, it was a complete mess. It didn't help matters that the game had to compete with Half Life 2 when it was released, which is the most likely cause of the games abysmal sale numbers (72,000 in the first few weeks of release). So, was Vampire the companies swan song or death rattle? Let's find out. This is Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines.

These guys should have known that messing with a vampire will just get you... burned! *Puts on sunglasses* YEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!

Vampire starts out with your character waking up after having sex with a mysterious stranger (well, I assume it was a stranger. Your relationship with them is never quite explained), only to find out OMG I AM A VAMPIRE!!1! You and the other vampire then get staked through the heart by people who suddenly burst into the room, almost immediately after you wake up. The scene then changes to a theater with a scattering of people in the audience. You and the vampire who turned you are brought out. The apparent leader of the vampires, a man named LaCroix, has the other vampire executed for turning you without first coming to him (because that is how they do it among vampires, apparently). He looks like he is going to kill you before a man named Isaac cries out in protest. LaCroix then appears to change his mind, and lets you live, but with the understanding that you will do a little job for him in return. He then sends you out to Santa Monica to meet a man named Mercurio, who you are supposed to do a job for. When you meet up with Mercurio, you are informed that you are supposed blow up a factory full of Sabbat (basically, the vampire equivalent of Al-Qaeda). After jumping through some hoops than involve getting the explosives back, going to a haunted house (which is definitely one of the better levels in the game), and stopping a feud between two powerful vampires, you finally blow the heck out of warehouse and get to visit LaCroix. There he informs you that everyone aboard a ship transporting a potentially very dangerous vampire artifact called the Ankaran Sarcophagus has been killed, and you have to investigate. I would rather not give away more of the plot than that, considering the many twists and turns it takes. Let me just say that the sarcophagus could end the world and you (yes, you) have to stop that from happening, whilst engaging in a bit of political intrigue and fighting a variety of vampires.

Unfortunately, hooking is not a very profitable job for a vampire. People tend to look down on those who want to drink their blood, especially during sex.

Let me just get the elephant out of the room now: yes, Vampire is an obscenely buggy game. Technically, nearly everything is a horrible mess. Even with the fully updated version from Steam, I still had to download a patch that rewrote or changed a 6th of the games data in order to get it to even play on my computer (note to people running the game with a 64-bit OS or over 4 gigs of ram: You will need to do this in order to play the game. You can't run it otherwise) and even then, the game is still probably the buggiest gane I have ever played (and I have played vanilla KOTOR 2, vanilla Oblivion, vanilla Fallout 3, vanilla Morrowind and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Seriously, those games have nothing on this). The camera goes insane when your character uses stairs in 3rd person, the camera phases through the environment all the dang time, the environmental collision feels unfinished and poorly done, the dialogues skips sometimes for some unknown reason, there places where you can literally see through the unfinished environment, there are multiple spelling errors throughout the game (ex: an abandoned hotel is called Hallowbrook in your questlog. It is called Hollowbrook on the sign outside), quests not unlocking even if the requirements are met, the AI is terrible and routinely gets stuck on the environment and in doors... I could just go and on. It isn't even like these are hard to find bugs. These are things that should have been caught in QA almost immediately, if the company actually did any (which I highly doubt they did). I found a major one where I could see through the environment within the first hour of just playing the game (hint: behind on the side of the diner that faces the pawnbroker, there are some dumpsters. Jump on these dumpsters. Now jump again and look at the roof of the diner). That type of stuff should never, ever happen. It takes you out of the game and breaks immersion, in addition to just being dang annoying. It really harms the game, and probably remains one of the games biggest weaknesses.

                                                  OH GOD, I CAN SEE INTO FOREVER!!!

Unfortunately, the games problems do not end with the massive amounts of bugs and technical flubs. The game's combat is clunky and oftentimes annoying. Ranged weapons are nearly useless in the beginning, with all except the shotgun doing pitiful amounts of damage, all are useless at long range or when moving since the targeting reticule expands to massive sizes when you move. Things get better later in the game when you get some of the more powerful and accurate guns, like the magnum, but nearly all of the fully automatic weapons remain nearly useless at long range due to the absurd kickback each has. Things are better on the melee side of things. These weapons are generally more powerful and easier to use, especially in the beginning, they still have there share of problems. There is no way to lock on to the enemies while fighting, there is no dodge-roll/evade function (at least from what I played) beyond jumping, melee combat never gets more interesting than "mass LMB until all enemies are dead"... It just doesn't work like it should. It doesn't help that there are multiple very poorly designed levels that stretch out sections of combat way too long, have little available ammo, and the delightful addition enemies that appear to constantly respawn from nowhere. It also doesn't help that some powers are incredibly unbalanced. I could go through almost the entire endgame only using 2 powers (a stun power and an instant kill power) without breaking a sweat until the boss battle. This doesn't mean that combat can't be fun and when everything clicks it does work, effortlessly switching between melee, ranged, and powers to wipe out dozens of enemies at once. It is just that it doesn't click that often, and feels like an annoyance often than not.

                             The police's new vagrancy policy was seen by many to be a bit too harsh.

That doesn't mean that the game is all bad. The game's story is very complicated, well told. There are many twists and turns, and has some pretty creative and fun missions (how does tracking down a mysterious snuff film sound? How about sneaking into mansion disguised as one of the party goers? Fighting your way through a mansion of lunatics, before barely escaping it burning to the ground?). It also has some really great characterization. There are many great characters you can meet throughout the game, from a stripper vampire who refuses to talk about her past, to a mysterious vampire/werewolf historian. All have great voice actors who make the characters sound believable, and all are great fun to talk too. While you don't really get to know anyone very intimately (this ain't Persona 4 here) all behave realistically and are surprisingly deep. They actually feel like real people and have little things that flesh out their character. It might be a hint to something in the character's past here, a reference to a character there, or an unexpected and surprising flash of emotion while talking about a particular subject, but all seem interesting and contribute not only to the story, but to your sense of immersion. Great characterization is key to great immersion, and this game nails it on both accounts.




In an effort to cash in on the vampire craze, Rockstar's next GTA game was given the sub-title "Vampire city" and involved vampire street gangs and illegal blood underground trading. It was the best thing that happened to the series since 3.

The game is also very unique in almost every regard. It uses a unique level system that treats experience more as currency than a means to achieve a preset level. It works, and works really well. You don't get to select a class when creating a character, just a race. Each of these races (called "clans") play pretty differently, and while some just seem to be stand ins for your typical RPG classes( like the Tremere or the Brujah) some are very unique and drastically change you view events or play the game (like the Malkavians or the Nosferatu). Another item worth mentioning is that the game takes more than a few pages from Deus Ex's book, in a good way. You can approach nearly every situation differently. You can sneak your way past enemies, trick them with your powers, fight them, or persuade your way out. It really helps add to the replayability and immersion factor of the game. Of course, this system is not without it's faults (just so long as you concentrate on skills that will improve your hacking and lockpicking, you can sneak past any situation with only minimal sneaking skill), but it works, and it works well.

            Unfortunately, the sequel to Cowboys & Aliens, Cowboys & Vampires, didn't do so hot at the box office.

Of final note is the games interesting morality system. You are basically required to forget your old notions of morality when stepping into the game, because they do not really apply. Good and evil are outdated concepts, replaced by the concept of "humanity" and "the Masquerade". You see, vampires don't want to be found out by humans. If they were, it would spell bad news for everyone. So, the Masquerade was created as a way of vampire policing their own, before things get out of hand. Actions that violate the Masquerade are prohibited (a.k.a. anything that reveals vampires to the world). If you violate the Masquerade 5 times the game is over. Humanity is a personal measure of how close you are to acting like either a human or a beast. If you have little humanity, you can loose control of your character and the will go into a frenzy, possibly violating the Masquerade. You will often be asked to perform actions that make you less human (like killing a human who has witnessed a vampire attack), but help the Masquerade. If you go with your human side, you violate the Masquerade and risk vampire getting killed. You often have to decide which you value more: human life or vampire life (?). It results in a number of interesting conundrums, and is one of the few truly ambiguous morality systems in any game I have yet played.

                                                                                  Seems legit.

The rest of the game holds up well. The environments look good for the time when they aren't bugging out and are aesthetically pleasing, the music is pretty good all 'round, the character models look decent and have good lip-synching, the animations are fine, and it all controls pretty well (even though it does feel like an X-Box port at times). The sidequests are all exceptionally well designed, with unique missions and great moments in nearly each and every one. Some of the best moments in the entire game come from the sidequests. These sidequests rank right up there with the companion missions in ME2 or the fortress quests in Baldur's gate 2 as some of my favorite sidequests of all time.

                                                 The only time someone should ever say that they "sucked a bum".

TL;DR: 

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines is a very flawed, but very memorable game. It has one of the best stories in a PC RPG, loads of memorable characters, has a great morality and leveling system, and fantastic sidequests. It also has clunky combat, some truly terrible leveling design, and is filled to the rim with bugs after bugs after bugs. If you like unique games with deep stories that defy the norm, and don't mind some clunky combat or piles of bugs, pick this one up right away. Everyone else, I would recomend that you try this game at least once. It really is unlike anything else you have ever played. If you have to go out, at least go out with a bang, which is what Troika did here.



-Breakfastman out.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Breakfastman review time special: Crisis on Infinite Earths.

This probably a one time thing. I probably won't start a comic review series in the future (I already have 2 review series running, I think I can live without 3). But, I was bored today, so I decided to write a review of Crisis on Infinite Earths, which I just finished. So, bear with me.

Breakfastman review time special: Crisis on Infinite Earths.







Crisis on Infinite Earths is a crossover mini-series/special event mini-series published by DC in the mid 80's. It was written by Marv Wolfman and illustrated by George Perez, and was twelve issues long (though there were numerous series that had tie-ins to the main plot). It was also one of the most influential mini-series in the entire history of the medium. I would say that it was just as important to the industry as Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns, maybe even more so. Without Crisis on Infinite Earths, there would be no Civil War, or House of M, or Zero Hour, or any number of other world shattering cross-series events. The DCU in its current state (well, at least until the reboot later this year) would be much more complex. The series itself is positively massive, with entire universes being destroyed, legions of heroes and villains duking it out across multiple realities and across time itself. Well known heroes are killed, timelines collide, and lots of crap get blown up real good. Worlds lived, worlds died, and the universe was never the same again. This is Crisis on Infinite Earths.

                                    This guy wants to kill everything because... um... evil? Yeah, that sounds right.


The series starts out with a bang: the total and ultimate destruction of both Earth 3 and the entire rest of that universe, consumed by either nothingness or antimatter (it is never made clear which). Here we meet two of the most important characters in the series: Pariah, a man who cannot die and is forever doomed to travel from world to world, watching the destruction of each, and Alexander Luthor, Jr. the son of that universes version of Lex Luthor (who is a good guy here). Pariah doesn't do much more than whine, and Alexander Luthor, Sr. puts his son in a spaceship and sends him to safety in another universe a la Superman. Immediately later we are introduced to the Monitor, a near immortal being who is trying to stop the destruction of the multiverse, and Lyla/Harbinger, who basically functions as Robin to the Monitor's Batman, short pants and everything (except she is way cooler than any Robin ever was). Lyla/Harbinger travels across both Earths 1 and 2 to collect heroes and villains to stop approaching menace. Among those heroes collected are the Blue Beetle, Earth 1's Superman, Earth 2's Superman, the current Green Lantern, Cyborg, Firstorm, Psycho Pirate (who has the stupidest name of any character in a comic book, ever), and a random assortment of no-names that nobody remembers or cares about.

                                                   Super Smash Bros. wishes it could be this epic.

Once everyone has been they are all gathered into one large room, where they fight an assortment of shadow monster-things, who scatter in fear once the Monitor finally decides to turn up. He tells everyone their universes are about to die, and he is the only one who can do anything to stop it. He breaks up everyone into 5 groups, each tasked with activating a defending a special device that, once activated, should turn back the antimatter waves that are killing all the alternate realities. Long story short, it works, and Earth's 1 and 2 are saved. It is then a race against time, with the surviving heroes and villains of both worlds trying to rescue the last 3 remaining alternate realities from destruction and find the cause of the threat. They eventually discover that the ultimate cause of the destruction is the Anti-Monitor, the anti-matter version of the Monitor, who wants to destroy the entire multiverse in order to increases his own power. Massive battles are fought to stop this fiend, with at least 3 major heroes dieing in the process, in addition to a plethora of other minor heroes and villains. Longer story short (I really am cutting a ton of story out here), they do and everyone lives happily ever after (well, most everyone).

              Yeah, the art can get rather cluttered sometimes, with everyone and their mother vying to be seen at once.

My main problem with the book is that it seems to go on for far too long. The entire thing could have done and done well in 6 issues, not 12. It just tends to stretch things out for longer than they should have. They fight and defeat the Anti-Monitor, not once, not twice, but three times before they actually put him down for good. They even have time for a cross-dimensional super-hero/villian war in between bouts! The war doesn't really even lead anywhere interesting, it just feels like a contrived reason to get everyone in the same general area so they can make up (again) and rally to fight in the 2nd to last battle. It all just feels really unnecessary and forced, like the Wolfman was told to make a 12 issues epic series that reshaped the entire DCU, but couldn't figure out how to keep it going after the Anti-Monitor was defeated the first time, so he just decided to do the same thing over again, and throw in some random cool crap to keep us entertained. You would think that the Anti-Monitor would wise up after the 2nd time he gets his ass handed to him on a platter made of fists and energy beams.

That leads me into another criticism of mine about the writing: specifically, it really isn't that good by modern standards. There is far too much exposition by the narrator, who explains things that we either already know about or can clearly see from the images presented to us. Most of the characters have no real personality beyond a couple superfluous character traits and have that curious trait that older comics often have of talking way much about things that they either are thinking of or about things we can clearly see. It really isn't up to snuff compared with all the improvement that comics have gotten in the writing department after all these years.

                                            The DCU learned the danger of nuclear power the hard way....

Despite that, the comic is still great fun. It is awesome to see dozens upon dozens of costumed heroes and villains flying around, beating the crap out of each other and the Anti-Monitors minions. Everyone, and I mean everyone is there, and the fights range across both the surviving planes of the multiverse and time itself, with one key fight taking place at the beginning of time itself. There are a number of truly fantastic moments as well. The death of one key red-garbed character is haunting and effective, with reverberations throughout the entire book, and stands as one of the most memorable things I have read in a comic yet (seriously, it is worth it just for this one part). The super-hero/villain war was just pure awesome as well, despite being useless to the overall plot, with dozens of villains and heroes fighting across multiple universes, wrecking everything in sight. It really is fun to just watch it all play out. The art is holds up as well. Perez manages to keep even the most cluttered scenes organized (which many are, cluttered that is), and you can always tell exactly what is going on even when things get frantic.

The Spectre challenging the god-like Anti-Monitor to a fight. It is official: The Spectre is the coolest thing to come from DC since Batman.

TL;DR:  

While Crisis on Infinite might not be the smartest or tightly scripted comic to come out of the 80's, it is one of the most fun. Lovers of spectacle like myself should be able to just turn off their brains for a minute and enjoy all the universe-destroying, world conquering fun.



-Breakfastman out.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Movie Time: Dirty Harry.

Movie Time with Breakfastman: Dirty Harry.

So, how about that Clint Eastwood, eh? The man has starred in dozens of classic and highly influential movies. From classic westerns like A Fistfull of Dollars, classic suspense movies like Play Misty For Me,  or even modern day classics like Gran Torino, the man has had a massive effect on pop culture. While I have not seen many of his movies (the only ones I can remember watching are Play Misty for Me and The Beguiled), I still respect the man and the impact he has had both on the public consciousness and the film industry. So, while perusing the shelf's of DVD's at the local library, looking for something to review, I stumbled upon this movie. Remembering that the film is considered a classic, and remembering how good another police thriller from the same era was, I decided to pick this one up. "What the heck", I thought. "The film is considered one of the best films of all time by many people, so it can't be that bad. I needed something to review anyway". So, does the movie aged gracefully after nearly 40 years, like Eastwood himself, or is it more of a William Shatner affair? Well, as always, you can skip to the TL;DR at the bottom and spoil it for yourself, but where is the fun in that? This is Dirty Harry.

                 "He's one bad mother f-" "Shut your mouth!" "I was only talking about Harry, can you dig it?"

The movie starts out, conveniently enough, with a murder. A sniper with a hunting rifle has killed a young women in her rooftop swimming pool. Our hero, Harry Callahan, is on the case. On a nearby rooftop he discovers the shell from the snipers gun and a ransom note (of sorts). In this note the killer calls himself "Scorpio" (no relation to the 70's spy film of the same name), and demands that the city pay him $100,000, or he will kill either a catholic priest or a black person. Harry decides to take a break to eat at his favorite hot dog joint, which also just happens to be across the street from a bank. Said bank that was just across the street is also being robbed. Harry won't have that, so he just strolls out there and blows away all of the bank robbers, still eating his hot dog, in one of the most awesome scenes from any movies, ever. It is here that he utters his famous line, pointing the gun at the robber. The robber says he "just has to know" (for some strange reason that I will never figure out) and Harry shows him the answer. 

                                           Yo' dawg, I heard you like Clint Eastwood movies...

After getting patched up at the hospital, Harry is assigned a new partner (to replace his old one who is in the hospital getting treated for a bullet to the gut), named Chico, which he is none too happy about. Later that day, Scorpio is camped out on a rooftop, posed to blow away a black man, when a police helicopter spots him and he is chased away. That night, Harry and Chico spot a man who they think is our villain, but who is actually just a regular guy. While looking through his window, he is accosted by men, believing him to be a peeping tom. Chico scares them away, and they both head out to another place where it has been reported that a man was standing on a roof. It too is another false alarm. Turns out the man standing on the roof is trying to commit suicide. Harry gets him down safely in his own decidedly unorthodox way (I am fairly certain punching the person trying to commit suicide is not standard procedure, but hey, it seems to work here). The next morning it is discovered that Scorpio has shot and killed a young black boy, just like he promised. Believing that he will next attempt to kill a catholic priest, Harry and the rest of the police set up a trap for Scorpio. Long story short: It doesn't go well, and ends with Scorpio killing a patrolling police officer. The stakes are intensified the next day when it is found out Scorpio has kidnapped, raped, and buried alive a 14-year old girl, who he will let die if he does not get the money. Keep it classy Scorpy! I don't want to spoil the rest of the film, but let me just say that games are played, cannons are loosed, Harry gets chewed out by nearly everyone, people die, a famous line is uttered once again, and a good time is had by all.


                                                  Harry is tough on traffic violations.


As far as police action/thrillers go, this one is a very by the books, "loose cannon cop who doesn't play by the rules" affair. It really isn't anything that hasn't been seen in any other movie. There was only one surprising plot twist throughout the entire film. Everything is generally pretty predictable. While the film does do the whole "vigilante cop" thing well enough, there are movies who have done it better (Die Hard for one). I suppose one could argue that it was the first one if it's kind, so you can excuse some of the derivative nature of the film. I would have to agree, but I would also have to fire back that the movie should be able to stand on its own, regardless of whether or not it was the first in the genre/one that popularized the genre. The reason that films that popularized the psycho killer (qu'est-ce que c'est?) sub-genre of horror like Psycho or Halloween still hold up today is because of how well put together and memorable they were. While, yes, Dirty Harry is well made, outside of a few very good moments, it honestly wasn't very memorable. I had to use wikipedia quite often while writing this review just to remember how the plot went, which I have never had to do with other movies I have reviewed (not that I have reviewed that many, but still). It wasn't like I wasn't paying attention to the movie, I was. I remember the order of events in The Lost Boys better than I do in this movie, and I barely payed attention while watching that movie. It honestly just feels kind of generic, which is something I greatly dislike in a movie. I would honestly prefer a unique movie that makes no sense, a la Phantasm, to a movie that is well put together, but unmemorable, like this one.

                   Being called into a room to find 3 of your bosses already waiting there. Never a good sign.

The writing is good for what it is. There are no plot holes or continuity errors from what I could spot (though, I have to admit, I am usually very bad at spotting plot holes or continuity errors), and all the dialogue feels believable enough. The bad guy is sufficiently slimy and evil to warrant our contempt and desire for Harry to put a bullet through his heart. Harry himself is the very definition of "vigilante cop", going through all the motions (illegal search and seizure, beating up witnesses, disobeying orders, yelling a lot about "rights" and such, the whole nine yards. Pretty much going through the motions). The direction, cinematography, and music are all good. Clint Eastwood puts in a good performance in the leading role of Harry, and all the other actors play their parts well. There are a couple great actions scenes at the beginning and end of the movie too, for what that is worth. It is worth noting that the film seems to encourage vigilante justice, illegal search and seizure, and police brutality, but I honestly wouldn't read that much into it, since it honestly doesn't seem like that was the director or the writers intention. 


                 Coming soon to a console near you: Dirty Harry, the Game. Starring Nolan North as Dirty Harry.

 TL;DR:
Dirty Harry is a pretty by-the-numbers police action/thriller. It has some entertaining moments and is pretty well made, but it is also pretty unmemorable. There have been better movies in this sub-genre, but there have also been worse. If you have a hankering for a good "vigilante cop"-style movie, this a decent choice.



-Breakfastman out.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Gamegaddon: Catherine

Breakfastman's Gamegaddon: Catherine

 To start, some music to get you in the mood:



Catherine is a very strange erotic horror puzzle/adventure game developed by the team that gave us Persona 3 and Persona 4, and published by Atlus (in Japan and America, anyway). Now, to be completely honest, I freaking love this team. I consider Persona 4 to be one of the best games of all time. It is certainly the best game on the PS2, in the running for best JRPG I have ever played (currently it is tied for first with Chrono Trigger), and tied for 3rd (again, with Chrono Trigger) on my list of all time favorite games, ever. Persona 3 wasn't too shabby either (I would definetly rank it as among the best RPGs on the PS2) being as it had one of the single greatest endings I have encountered in a game. It also seemed from all the pre-release info to both have unique, daringly different gameplay (something I love in a game), and heavy themes of sexuality (which it really doesn't all that much. More on that later). Obviously, my expectations for the game were very high. Does it live up to my mile expectations? Short story: Jump down the big TL;DR for that. Long story: Keep reading and I will tell you, silly!

               A man in his underwear with sheep horns climbing a single, gigantic tower. Freud would have a field day.

The game starts out with our protagonist, Vincent, a thirty-something software engineer, being forced to climb a gigantic tower made out of blocks in his dreams. If he falls, his is told he will die by a sheep who is also climbing the tower. With no other option, Vincent climbs the tower and heads towards freedom. He wakes up with no real memory of what happened in his dream. Later that day, he meets his girlfriend of 5 years, Katherine, a thirty-something manager at a company that makes clothes. Apparently, all (or nearly all) or her friends are getting married and her parents are pressuring her to marry. She also seems to fear that she will be Christmas Cake soon, if she doesn't marry (at least from what I saw). Vincent, comfortable with the way things are, is a little nervous, what with all this talk of marriage and responsibility. He goes out drinking with his buddies at a local pub a transsexual friend of his from high-school works as a waitress (which he apparently seems to do every single night. How he manages to keep a job, or even any money in the bank, with habits like that is one of the game's greatest unsolved mysteries). Feeling stressed, both from his job and his relationship with Katherine, he stays after his friends have left and meets a lovely pair of breasts girl named Catherine, who seems strangely attracted to him, despite only meeting him that night. Vincent finds himself in the dream, where his is yet again forced to climb the tower. He meets more sheep that seem to be other people trapped in the dreams as well (though they appear as sheep to him, and he appears as a sheep to them, for some reason that is also never explained).

                                 Proof positive that having an awesome 'fro still makes you about a million times sexier.

The next morning, Vincent wakes up, relived that it was all just a dream. Something is off though. For one thing, the his bed appears to have someone else in it. That someone being Catherine. Naked. Who apparently had sex with. Multiple times in fact, even though he remembers none of it. Looks like his relationship with Katherine won't be improving anytime soon... Anyway, obviously distraught, he confesses his infidelity to his best friend, Orlando, while at lunch. Later, Katherine tells him that she is very late this month. Also, cheating men are apparently dieing horribly in their sleep after having odd dreams. Things proceed to go downhill for ol' Vincent from there. More people die, more parts of the tower is climbed, telling either of the C/Katherines about the other is put off, rumors are heard, red herrings jump around like mad, and Catherine is slept with more.

      This butt monster thing is not even the craziest boss in the game. Can you say"baby with a chainsaw"?

The story is very well written and well paced. It bears a large resemblance the classic Clint Eastwood thriller Play Misty for Me (at least the end), if Clint Eastwood had an epic fro, was a programmer, had Freud-tastic dreams every night, and all the female characters had C cups or larger. All the characters are well written and intriguing. They actually feel and act like real people and have real problems, even though most are damaged goods in one way or another. The main characters are all standouts. Vincent is a nice guy who doesn't want the status quo to change, who really does love Katherine, Orlando can act a bit like a jerk at times but is obviously hurting from a very messy break-up (which makes him avoid any real long time relationships with women), and Katherine is loving and caring to Vincent, despite her fears about losing him and never getting married. Surpsingly enough (at least to me), the story concentrates heavily not with sexuality, but with relationships. The topic is explored very deeply, both the hurt and pain they can cause them, as well as the joy and happiness they can bring a person as well. Vincent's relationships with both Katherine and Catherine, his desire to both make them happy and not hurt them, his indecisiveness regarding his relationships, and doubts about both marriage and fatherhood are the real driving force of the story and all are explored in a very mature way. The fact that such complicated themes are explored at such length and with this skill is probably the best thing about the entire game. We have never had a game (at least to my knowledge) that has really explored these themes, and with this skill. I would go so far as to call this game the first mainstream (well, as mainstream as an Atlas game is) romance video game (i.e. the romantic relationship is the real focus and driving force of the game's story). This might very well be one of the most unique stories in a game yet.

Shut up Toby. Nobody likes you. Not even your friends. They just pity you. Sit in the corner until you can figure out how to be less annoying. >:(

Gameplay wise, the game works well. There are two different modes of gameplay: wandering around the bar and interacting with the characters sprinkled about, and climbing the tower. The bar sections are rather straightforward. You can walk around and talk to characters in the usual JRPG way (i.e. listen to people talk, occasionally make a choice between two different options). You can play a miniature version of the climbing sections in an arcade cabinet called "Rapunzel", change the music on the jukebox, check your phone and answer texts using a very strange, yet well crafted system, or drink at the bar (which is actually quite useful, as the more drinks you drink, the faster you are in the dream, for another unknown reason). The climbing sections is probably where you will be spending most of your time. You see, the tower that Vincent is supposed to climb is made out of a rather large variety of blocks that can be pushed and pulled around in order to climb higher. These sections control pretty well (just avoid using the joystick. Stick to D-pad instead), and can be very mentally challenging. You will die and get stuck often (if you play on easy, you get an undo button, which can be very helpful though), but the mid-level checkpoints are well placed, there are save points and places to buy useful items between every level, you can get helpful hints fairly often, and the game is very generous with lives (I had maxed out my lives by the games midpoint), so it is unlikely you will ever get frustrated. The game itself can have a very wonky difficulty curve at times. One night I was getting my ass handed to me left and right by the puzzles, until the boss, which I breezed through without loosing a life. On the last night, it took me nearly 45 minutes and many lives to complete each of the early levels, but I beat both forms of the boss (2 levels) within about 10-15 minutes, and with only dieing once per form.

                               Having Vincent's Alcoholism intervention in a bar was probably not the smartest move...

The game's graphics look very good. While the game doesn't have the greatest lip synching, everything has a very unique look that fits well with the game, and the cutscenes (especially the anime ones) can look positively gorgeous at times. The character models all look great and fit the personalities of each character. The bosses look menacing and creepy, like Freudian nightmares should. The backgrounds and environments all look nice as well, even though they aren't anything to really right home about. The music is good, though not up to the standards set by Persona 4, the sound effects work, and the voice acting is top notch (which it very well should be, since they seem to have recycled around a third of the actors from P4 and P3. I clearly identified the voices of Akihiko and Adachi, and could have probably have come up with more if I wasn't so darn lazy). Overall, very solid on the technical side of things.

                                              Yo dawg, I heard you like games...

TL;DR:

Catherine has one of the most unique stories in the game, which is more than enough for me to recommend it to anyone, but is also a darn fine puzzler to boot. The game is destined to become a cult classic, so pick this one up now before the only new copies available cost $80 on Amazon, like nearly every other game Atlus puts out. Seriously guys and gals, you don't want to miss this gem.

Play me out ELO!


-Breakfastman out.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Movie Time: Videodrome

Movie Time with Breakfastman: Videodrome


Videodrome is a surreal sci-fi body horror film from the mind of director David Cronenberg, the man behind The Brood, the 80's remake of The Fly with Jeff Goldblum, Scanners, The Dead Zone, and the film adaption of Naked Lunch, among other famous movies. Truth be told, I have never been a big Cronenberg or body horror fan myself. I had only seen 3 of his movies before this (Scanners, The Dead Zone, and Naked Lunch), and while they were all pretty good and well made, with great special effects, they just didn't resonate me like many other of my favorite horror films have. I have always preferred psychological and lovecraftian horror above all others, so body just didn't really do it for me. Regardless, I do enjoy watching horror films, and when I found this on the Netflix instant play, I decided to watch it. The film is usually considered to be one of Cronenberg's best films after all. So, was it any good? Was it more scary than Scanners and does it make more sense than Naked Lunch? Hint: The answer to those questions is yes and no respectively. Let's dig into Videodrome.

                               Unfortunately, Nintendo ultimately rejected David Lynch's Virtual Boy redesign.

Videodrome starts out with, conveniently enough, with the image of a television. Suddenly a lady pops up on the screen, not to crawl out and kill you with pure scariness unfortunately, but to deliver a wake up call to our sloppy bum of a protagonist, Max Renn. Max Renn is the sleazy president of a Toronto television station called Civic TV. The channel offers every from, in the words of one character, "softcore porn to hardcore violence". Max and his fellow execs are always on the lookout for new and exciting material to spice up the channel and draw in viewers. One day, one of Max's techs (a man called Harlan) calls him over to look at a new discovery. Harlan has found what appears to be a pirate television station being broadcast from what he believes to be Malaysia. The show, conveniently called Videodrome (lol, title drop) broadcasts images of people being tortured in a red room by two masked men. They are only able to catch about a minute of the show, but Max is intrigued by what he sees. He has Harlan try to get more of the show while he has one of his contacts, an old Russian women named Masha try to dig up more on this show. Oh yeah, he also has a sadomasochistic girlfriend named Nicki whom he has sex with while the tape is playing in the background. Lovely. Anyway, Max finds out from both Harlan and Masha that A: the show is not being broadcast from Malaysia as originally though, but from Pitsburg, B: the torture on the show is not faked, but is in fact real, and C: the creators of Videodrome have some strange political agenda. Throughout all this, Max is also hallucinating of and on that he has a fleshy VCR growing in his chest that he somehow loses his handgun in. Again, lovely.

                               I wonder what it would be like if he tried to play a porn tape on that. Or something like Caligula...

Max eventually meets up with a lady named Bianca, who runs a mission that lets the homeless watch television for free, claiming that this will help heal them, somehow (if you haven't figured it out yet, about half of the characters are mentally unstable, and the other half eventually die or go insane themselves). Her father is a man called Brian O'blivion (haha, really clever Cronenberg), who believes that one day reality and television will merge together into one. At least that is what I think he believes. You see, the man does not appear or have a conversation with anyone. When he wants to contact the outside world, he sends out a cassette with an incredibly pretentious monologue of his on whatever subject he wants to talk about. His tapes also cause the whoever views them to hallucinate. Anyway, things get progressively worse and worse for Max as he finds out that he has what is either a brain tumor or an entirely new organ growing inside his skull (that allows his hallucinations to become reality or something) since he viewed the Videodrome transmission, because it can do that somehow. A company that makes inexpensive glasses also gets involved somehow as reality starts falling apart and the hallucinations start invading the real world. People die, people get entirely new organs, secrets are revealed, and crap starts hitting the fan left and right.

                                                                                            PERSONA!!!


From what I have summarized of the plot above, you might guess that Videodrome is... rather hard to follow. You would be right on that. While it isn't as "out there" as something like Eraserhead or as trippy as 2001: A Space Odyssey, the film is still surprisingly complex and hard to follow. Trying to figure out what is reality and what is a hallucination is a challenge in and of itself, and the number of conspiracy theories don't make it any easier. Make no mistake, this is a very complex film brimming with symbolism, strange and complex themes and ideas, and just all out weirdness. The film talks about how television effects culture (which in turn effects television), the role of television in daily life and the public consciousness, the nature of reality and madness, the relationship between man and technology, and the effect of television on how we perceive reality itself. What makes the film even more impressive, in my eyes, it manages to deals with all these themes extremely well and with a certain degree of subtlety (something that is always to be admired), while still managing to be very watchable and entertaining.

From Software rejected the idea that even the TV would try to kill you in Dark Souls, fearing it would be "too hardcore". Fans cried foul and demanded that the feature be put into the game. From eventually caved and put it in. Nearly 500 people died from bullet wounds the week of launch, and 1000's more were injured. The game was recalled. The investigations as to why the heck anybody thought this was a good idea is still ongoing.

The acting is also pretty darn good around the board. James Woods does a great job as Max Renn, and all of the other principle players put in uniformly great performances. The special effects are fantastic, especially for the time, and definitely add to the horror of the events being played out on the screen. The body horror itself is unsettling and gets the job done quite well, with a number of memorable and horrifying scenes. The writing is pretty good as well, and even makes the scumball of a main character sympathetic. The music, what little there is, and sound effects are all well done as well, though not exactly memorable. Basically, good to excellent around the board.

                               Breathing videotapes are generally never a sign of anything good happening to anybody.


TL;DR: Videodrome is an excellent horror film, and the best Cronenberg film I have seen yet. It is my favorite film about video and television that I have seen (sorry Ringu, you have usurped). It manages to deliver on nearly all points, providing a number of memorable scenes, some great writing, and some deep, unusual themes. Definitely one of the best horror films of the 80's. If you are a fan of horror films and have not yet seen this, I would definitely recommend checking this one out.

Long live the new flesh!

-Breakfastman out.