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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

E3 2012 - Update - Forza: Horizon

I love the Forza Motorsport franchise and Forza: Horizon, while being a huge departure, appears to be a positive step forward for the excellent driving series.  The biggest superficial change for this installment  is the inclusion of an open world to explore.  Inspired by the ranges and valleys of Colorado, the world of Forza Horizon is vivid and expansive.  Very little of the world has been shown from E3, but what I've seen takes place in a desert environment surrounded by rock formations that are distinctly American in their appearance.  I can only hope there's more verity than this as I fear the onset of Borderlands Fatigue may result for too much continuous play in the same freaking desert world.

Still, what I've seen of Forza: Horizon is promising.  There seems to be a major emphasis on the thrill of driving and, by developer Turn 10's own admission, a love for cars.  The game looks to be a top-shelf project from one of the most reliable developers out there.  I have included a video from IGN showing off this game's gorgeous graphics and gameplay.  This one is scheduled for release near the end of 2012, so keep your eyes open.

E3 2012 - Update - NBA Baller Beats

Another motion rhythm game, NBA Baller Beats uses Kinect to capture your dribbling skills and uses music to help you improve your handling. In NBABB you use your own real ball, dribbling to the commands as they appear, the circle on the left of the track meaning you use your left hand, the right, your right hand. Icons for crossovers a shot motion and more also add to the difficulty, the idea being to make the ball make contact with the ground to the beat of the music. It looks like a solid game, if it works. I revert back to my previous statements about Kinect technology. It's just not there yet. Still, this looks like it could be a fun experience if the gameplay is tight and responsive.

This is one of those games that has the potential to be an addictive and fun party game, but it has even more potential to be broken and unplayble, given the track record of most games that use Kinect. Now, I had a hard time finding good gameplay videos that actually show how this game works so here is one from GameXplain that I found that does show simultaneous player motion and real time game footage.  Expect this one sometime late summer/early fall 2012.

E3 2012 - Update - Demon's Score

It's undeniable that moble devices and tablets are one of the fasting growing gaming platforms out there, so it is no surprise that major developers are starting to develop more and more high-profile games for them.  Demon's Souls is a new rhythm/action title from Square Enix that uses touch screen technology to fight baddies as a comically-endowed woman and her furry pet fly through a looping corridor.

Gameplay wise it resembles Elite Beat Agents only with slightly worse graphics.  The game, as shown in the demo here looks incredibly easy, but I'm sure this is either an earlier stage or a lower difficulty level.  This genre never really caught my attention but it may bridge the gap and attract more people to popular titles on other major platforms, and I'm always for expanding the gaming market.  It's also good to see that companies are making titles that appeal to wider audiences that aren't Cooking Mama and crappy motion-controlled shovelware.

E3 2012 - Update - Avengers: Battle for Earth

I honestly do not know much about this game at this time.  From first-hand accounts it is a fighting game that allows you to choose from a large number of popular Marvel characters and offers several different modes of play.  The thing that sets this fighter apart from other, traditional, fighters however, is the implementation of Kinect or Wii U controls.  I'll kick off this little spiel with the amazing trailer shown at the Ubisoft press conference.

That trailer looks amazing, and I wasn't sure what to expect from gameplay, but I didn't expect this.  The game has a series of reactive poses you can take that appear on your side of a split screen.  You take the pose or make the action that is shown and the character performs the move associated with that action.  Now, while this sounds like a good idea on paper, the motion controls, especially those of the Kinect, are less-than-accurate.  Fighting games requite a degree of twice-reflexes that don't manifest well in the clunky motion controls 360 players are currently used to.  Unless they've refined how accurate the Kinect actually is, they will be issues with gameplay.  Also, there's the big issue of space.  Playing the Kinect takes up a great deal of space  and to have two people playing side by side, you would need a lot of floor room to pull this action off.  I have to admit, as excited as I was by the trailer, I'm a little skeptical after seeing these videos.

Now, these appear to be Kinect (obviously) and the Wii U's controls may be a little more refined, so we'll see how that version is when it launches.  I'm just not convinced that the Kinect is really ready for a fighting game that is actually meant to be fast-paced.  The gameplay videos above look slow and almost turn-based in their pacing.  I honestly don't know about this one guys, but I could be wrong.  If this works, and is successful, it could open up a brand new world for fighting games, and that is an exciting proposition.

E3 2012 - Update - DmC: Devil May Cry

Dante is back with a new look and the trailer looks great.  The teaser shows a futuristic city in a world run by the demons.  They contol our food, our media and watch our every move.  We open on Dante crashing a club where, after the demons realize who he is, the very building takes the form of a demon, warping and shifting as Dante is dragged into Limbo.  The animations in the trailer look spectacular and the fluidty of motion sparks some curiosity about how the actual in-game combat may appear.

Well, we get an answer for that in a second gameplay trailer that shows Dante taking on a mob in Limbo.  The combat shifts between weapons almost seamlessly as Dante uses a sword, his guns, a scythe and some sort of grappling attack to continuously chain enemies with rapidity, a staple of the series.  The combat appears to be more fluid than ever and the animations look superb, obviously taking a few notes from another Capcom title, Street Fighter IV.  I love, love, LOVE the way the streets and buildings warp and shift, revealing an evil that is all around you.  Everything looks superb and I am looking forward to kicking some Hellspawn ass in January of 2013.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

E3 2012 - Day 2 - Part 2: Nintendo Press Conference

A skit featuring Shigeru Miyamoto surrounded by the tiny creatures featured in the new Pikmin.  There was a breif introduction of the concept behind Wii U, the fact that the next Nintendo would have a dedicated screen independent of the TV.  The controller, at first glance appears sleek, light and seem to be just the right size.

The first game announced was Pikmin 3, a lush-looking game that features the little strange creatures in a wooded environment.  The WiiU allows there to be a second screen for use as a map so that the TV can
show the pikmin closer.  The game looks good and seems to be a solid start to the Wii U's coming cycle.

Following that we saw Reggie Fils-Aime present the Wii U and we were given a quick rundown of the Wii U GamePad.  The device has a lot of great features that operate independent of the WiiU, making it a great standalone piece of hardware.

MiiVerse is the new social feature on the WiiU.  It shows what games your friends are playing, and it also shows you players you recently met while playing other games.  It appears as a large 3D field populated by icons representing different games.  The Miis gathering around the icons represent players currently playing that game or using that software.  It adds a level of openness that feels as though you are part of their world.  I like this menu.  In addition to showing players online, you can also use the GamePad to write messages that will be displayed and can send messages to other players or broadcast them in the MiiVerse.

We got to see one game that is going to be one of the big ones for the Wii U, New Super Mario Bros. U.  The game looks great, allowing four-player simultaneous play and even offering a new game mode called Boost Mode, which allows a player using the GamePad to create special blocks to aid the other players as they attempt to complete the level.

Next up was Batman: Arkham City: Armored Edition.  The game is a re-release of the great Arkham City with Wii U GamePad implementation.  The second screen, touch, and motion controls allow for more use of Batman's various gadgets and attacks.  The video shows the GamePad touch used to set off explosive gel placed around a room and to guide a flying Baterang as it navigates tight corners.

Scribblenauts: Unlimited was announced for release on both the 3DS and Wii U and promises to be limited only by your imagination.  The demo is sort of dopey but does show the range of things that can be made.  There isn't a whole lot on gameplay though on this one, at least not during the press conference.

It seems Nintendo is trying to get the hardcore gaming crowd with their next mash up, which included a few games for the big kids.  Darksiders II looks to have a nice graphical touch and some slick action.  Mass Effect 3 has the potential to be a killer app on the Wii U if the GamePad is used properly.  A new party-based action game called Tank! Tank! Tank! pits you and two friends in tanks against big monsters.  Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a pleasant surprise.  Trine 2: Director's Cut offers yet more cool possibilities for the GamePad.  Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge looks as bloody as ever.  Lastly, Aliens: Colonial Marines is a dark shooter that takes place in Ridley Scott's acclaimed world.

Wii Fit U seems to be more of the same, just with new GamePad features including the ability to continue training on the separate screen while watching TV independent of the Wii U.  Still, there's nothing wrong with trying to get us fat gamers off the couch.  I know I would do good to lose a few pounds.

The new social music game SiNG (as it's currently titled) is basically expensive karaoke, only without the smelly bar.  The lyrics appear on the GamePad which allows you to face your friends rather than the TV and  your friends can follow along with additional group features.  It looks kind of lame to be honest, not really the big leap forward in music games you'd expect given the buildup Fils-Aime gave the game.

The 3DS took the stage next, revealing New Super Mario Bros. 2, a brand new, separate New Super Mario Bros. for Nintendo's handheld system.  An August, 19 release date brings Mario closer than expected for 3DS owners.

Next up was Paper Mario: Sticker Star, an RPG that takes the Paper Mario formula and adds stickers that change how the game plays, acting as weapons that unlock special abilities.  This is a pretty cool idea, going so big as to creating a giant table fan that arises from the horizon and blows enemies away.

Luigi's Mansion 2 for the 3DS promises 3D adventure gameplay, new features and new challenge.  Luigi's Mansion seems like an odd choice to be honest.  The game is a sequel to a mostly-derided game that has its fans, but has many detractors.  I would have expected them to bring out a more beloved game to attract a few older gamers to the 3DS who have thus far snubbed it.

Lego City: Undercover is the next Wii U game on display that seems like a lot of fun.  It features a large open world and lots of challenges.  It uses the GamePad as a map, a communicator and for its motion controls.  The game seems to have a nice blend of different play styles and humor.  Fils-Aime also announced a "portable version" that is presently under development.

Just Dance 4 allows a person to use the GamePad to control the moves that come across the screen.  This seems like a cool idea for a party game.  ZombiU was next and I do like the look of this game, though I already covered it in the Ubisoft article.

We got a first glimpse another new social feature for WiiU.  NintendoLand is a theme park-like hub that allows you to explore different games.  It is sort of a theme park, but it really just seems like a series of mini games.  It seems... okay.  It promises twelve games (five of which are available at E3) and each one seems sort of weak to be honest.  I do think the best one of the few that I saw appears to be The Legend of Zelda: Battlequest, which is a party-based action game in which you control your Mii dressed as Link and fight off different mobs with different weapons and tactics.  Luigi's Ghost Mansion is really just a Pac Man clone with invisible ghosts, nothing very innovative there.

The the amusement park setting of NintendoLand is fitting, but neither it or the games seem all that thrilling.  It may be fun to play, that remains to be seen, but we need to see more games, Nintendo.  I say this after watching the press conference and leaving rather underwhelmed.  Given all of the excitement around the Wii U I would have expected a little more from the House that Mario Built.  Not so much.  The press conference, as a whole, was pretty boring.  Nothing as awe-inspiring as Beyond or as fan-pleasing as Halo 4.  I would like the Wii U to be a step up from the Wii, and by that I mean I would like the Wii U to actually have fun games on it, so we'll see, in the future, if the Wii U can survive the fight, because this next year, given the rough economy and the limited number of AAA titles coming out this holiday season, is going to be an uphill battle for everyone including, and especially, Nintendo.

E3 2012 - UPDATE - Previews, previews, previews

Here are my thoughts on a few games I haven't fully covered yet.

Sound Shapes - Sound Shapes is a new puzzle/music/platformer from Queasy games that creates music as you play.  The faster and better you are, the better the music you create.  It looks like a solid game.

Lego Lord of the Rings - This franchise is still going strong and a Lord of the Rings game was inevitable.  The game looks good with solid graphics and characters that all play differently.  It looks to be a fun, family-friendly title and a must-have for Tolkien fans.

Zombi U - After seeing some gameplay for the upcoming Wii U title, I can honestly say I'm excited about this game.  In a dark lot, lit only by a few sparse fires, the player embodies a named character, attempting to survive as long as possible against the zombie hordes.  Using the Wii U GamePad the player was able to take pictures of the game, as though he was holding a camera in-game.  When that hero died, the player took control of another survivor in an apartment, where looking into a box revealed its contents on the GamePad, as though the box is in your hands.  This is very, very clever stuff and you can expect to see more Wii U implementation that resembles this, rather than using it as a tacky gimmick, like motion controls often are.

E3 2012 - Day 2 - Part 1: EA Press Conference

The EA press conference opened with the statement "Less like the Oscars, more like Sundance."  This coming from EA is more than a little comical, but the event continued with a straight face.  The first game shown was the third entry in the Dead Space franchise.  The graphics looked solid and the game featured a snowy waste with vicious monsters and the game promises drop-in-drop-out co-op!  The live co-op demo presented a dark mechanical deathtrap of a structure where a massive drill spun menacingly, flinging sparks and danger everywhere.  Trapped in a small, circular room with a deadly spinning drill whirring in random directions, the two fight off an ambush from menacing beasts and but the drill itself, which almost seemed possessed.  It was truly a spectacular show, and judging by this alone, Dead Space 3 promises to be a great experience.  Things didn't stop there though, as the two faced off against a massive, amazing-looking boss which sucked our heroes into it like freaking Unicron!  We watched as he is forced down the creature's digestive tract in the show ends with him facing off against a threatening form in what appears to be the beast's stomach.

The followup of that was was the obligatory EA Sports trailer for Madden 13.  Gameplay changes include the utilization of the Infinity Graphics Engine which will create all new animation possibilities and new ways a player's size and movement effects how they play and how they get hit. No longer does getting grabbed mean the end of your play as you will now be able to struggle a little further thanks to the power of the new engine.  Michael Irvine came on stage to present the career creation which allows you to start as a new player, embody a legend and even a coach.  The career uses RPG elements to "level up" your player as their abilities and strength increase.  There's a story engine that generates a history and story around you as you play.  Integrated Twitter and other social media elements and the ability to manage your team from your smart phone or from the Web increase the immersion in this great-looking game.

Up next is a presentation from Maxis for the introduction of a brand new Sim City.  The new engine creates randomized pedestrians and traffic that lives in your city and the new graphics are spot on.  This looks great and I'm a huge fan of the Sim franchise, Sim City in particular so I'm especially excited about this one.

Next up was a presentation from DICE and EA to reveal Battlefield 3 Premium, which offers new fetures to members including new expansions, stats, units, ect.  The 5 expansions featured promises hundreds of additional hours and are slated for a release over the next 9 months.  The service will cost an additional $49.99 and is already available!  For fans of the series with the extra scratch, who know they are going to get the use out of the service, this seems okay.  However, asking an additional $50 for a game that is already $50-60 is a little excessive if you ask me.  It does offer a lot though.  and if you consider an expansion costing $10, at five expansions, you're basically getting all of the other content free.

Star Wars: The Old Republic took the stage next to promise even more updates.  Including new PvP features, raids, species, and companions.  Increased level caps, character transfers and even a new planet round off the list of additions to the game.  It was also announced that the game will soon be available free-to-play up to level 15.  the trailer for the update was quite exciting, and I will jump on that free-to-play bandwagon (:D).

Medal of Honor: Warfighter is going to be one of EA's biggest games and the demo opens in an engagement with Somali pirates.  We aren't in Normandy anymore, people (God, I'm sure I'm not the first person to say that... sorry).  However far from France we are, however, our trailer still has us storming beaches of a crumbling city, under heavy fire from unseen forces populating a towering wreck a football field's distance away.  Flashes of gunfire flicker in a second floor window and progress to the building is treacherous indeed.  We get a preview of a slow-motion, bullet time system that allowed the player pick off enemies from in close-quarters quickly as you storm a room.  We then get a preview of the expansive ideas in the game when you take control of a rover armed with automatic weapons as you creep through cracks and low places, picking off enemies safely from a remote location.  This looks good.  So, so good.

We received a brief presentation from EA Sports covering their other popular franchises and introducing Madden NFL Social.  Following that we got a preview for the new FIFA highlighting the impact soccer has around the world.  EA Sports Football Club is a highlighted social aspect to FIFA 13 which connect soccer fans and it was also announced that Club members will be able to carry all their experience over to 13 from 12.  Additional, exclusive features and bonuses are all available through this feature.  Lastly a new iPhone app that connects to FIFA's growing network.  Legendary player Lionel Messi was the backbone of the new FIFA engine, which encourages more strategy and offers new offensive and defensive options.  The gameplay trailer showed stunning visuals and swift movement including a powerful new dynamic dribbling feature that allows precise and finessed movement of foot and body.

Next we got the trailerfor the upcoming EA/UFC collaboration that literally shut THQ down.  We got to see a teaser, but not much from the actual game.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted is back.  Most Wanted is arguably the best in the series so far and the open world driving game bringing us the best parts of Most Wanted.  Criterion already nailed the open world driving game with Burnout: Paradise and now they tkae their expertise to the next level with stunning graphics, an intense sense of speed and a high-tension time run through a brilliant urban landscape.  Touches of Burnout: Paradise are evident in the level design, and that is a positive.  This one is going to be awesome.

Crytek's presentation of Cysis 3 looks great, promising a multi-platform launch and a Feburary release date.  The event closed with this amazing presentation of a massive battle on a dam amid a fallen city.  Since it's Crytek, it looks awesome and the action seems perfectly tense and epic.

Thus closes the EA press conference, which showed some nice shooters and a few cool surprises.  Stay tuned for more throughout today and the rest of the E3 coverage.

E3 2012 - Day 2 - Here We GO!

Yesterday was a loooooong day! Right here I provided 9 hours worth of blogging coverage of my impressions of the biggest event in gaming as events transpired. Today we have even more to cover so stay tuned, follow me on Twitter @MoviesRWin and prepare for more awesome games from E3! I wanted to provide some first impressions for a few games before the main coverage begins so I'm going to make another post here in a minute about a few games I saw that left an impression.

Monday, June 4, 2012

E3 2012 - Part 4: Microsoft Press Conference

Okay.  This is going to be a long one.  The event opens with a full-motion trailer for Halo 4.  It was big, bold and exciting, but it still seemed a little dopey, but it got the message across.  The trailer was massive in scale and utterly beautiful, as we'd expect form a showing of Halo.  We transitioned into gameplay with Master Chief's helmet HUD that looks stunning.  From here we go directly into gameplay we say earlier today.  Halo 4 is definitely one of the top titles of the year.

We were then treated to exclusive footage from Splinter Cell: Blacklist that looks very, very good.  It appears to utilize a sold mix of stealth gameplay and reactive action called Killing In Motion, a new Kinect-integrated gameplay element that uses the Kinect voice and motion controls to enhance the gameplay.  It looks quite good.  It is an understatement to say that Ubisoft has thus far made an impressive showing at E3 this year, and Blacklist is no exception.

We then received a presentation from EA Sports regarding Kinect.  Madden 13 and Fifa 13 were both announced as having Kinect support.  The demo showed the player using voice commands to quickly sub out players and change tactics without using menus, even give commands to other AI players while you play.  An angry reaction can even get you flagged by the ref!  Very cool stuff.

In Madden 13, Joe Montana took the stage and we got to see how Kinect will allow you use voice commands to call plays and communicate with individual players and issue commands, even calling and audible!  It definitely brings a new layer of immersion into already deep and exciting games.

Following EA Sports we got a glimpse of the Kinect-integrated Fable action title that more closely resembles a rail shooter than an actual Fable game.  Kind of disappointing and it points to a lack of imagination on the developer's end.  Fable, being an innovative and immersion experience, is above this mess.  Still, you never know, it may turn out to be good.  I have been wrong before.

Gears of War: Judgement made a showing with a teaser followed by Forza: Horizon which promises the classic Forza experience in an open world.  This is a truly exciting proposition.  The teaser was quite exciting but with an October 23, 2012 release date, I would've liked to see some gameplay.  Maybe on the floor coverage.

We got to see Kinect used to search new movies using Bing and Kinect Voice.  When you search a movie you can chose from a list of providers that off the movie, so instead of browsing Netflix, then going to another provider, you can see all the providers that host the movie or show you want to watch.  After a brief demo of the 360's multilingual capabilities, we saw a demo of additional studios including Nickelodeon, Univision, Machinima and Paramount.  UFC on Xbox is supposed to offer additional content and we were introduced to NBA and NHL on Xbox as well, hosting more highlights and sports content on the Xbox Live network.  Xbox is also providing 24-hour streaming ESPN content live.  Popular shows and sports coverage are included in HD!  This is an example of integration of interactive television, ESPN being, thus far, the only network forward-thinking enough to capture this technology.  There will, however, be more to come.

Continuing on the path of entertainment media outside of gaming, Xbox Music was announced.  An integrated music experience that offers streaming on multiple Smart Glass devices.  It essentially appears to be similar to the interfaces we're used to, just a little more polished and part of a larger existing network.

We also saw more from Nike and Kinect for their interactive fitness training system that uses all of Microsoft's best technology to further enhance the fitness gaming experience.  This feature is called Nike+ Kinect Training.  It was designed by real trainers from the major leagues to get the most advanced, real-life training and it offers online training with others around the world.  The trailer shows some of the interface but doesn't really get into the guts of the game.  It still seems like impressive technology nonetheless.

Xbox SmartGlass was given a big introduction, offered as a means to provide additional supplementary material through your smart phone, tablet, ect.  Smart Glass offers streaming from the tablet and easy transfer to your TV through the 360.  Once the streaming switches to the TV, the tablet transforms to a page containing additional information about the film, which the movie continues on the 360.  This sort of integration allows for more expansion and immersion in the story, encouraging interactive elements for movies and TV at home.  We then saw the same footage from before regarding SmartGlass' integration with Madden NFL as an interactive playbook, which is a cool feature.  In Halo 3 it displays interactive menu content, maps and data about that game as you play it, as well as your progress through the game.  It is definitely a nice touch.  It was also added that SmartGlass can be used as a remote, so you can use your smart phone to control your 360 menus, even a web browser in the form of Internet Explorer for Xbox that is controllable with voice or your smart device.  We saw a specially-formatted version of the website for the movie Prometheus that allows easy interactivity for the website through the 360 menu.  We received a demo of the smart phone used as a touch pad to control a cursor on screen.  This leg of the demo was closed with an announcement of 360 integration with Windows 8 for gaming and entertainment.

Next up we got to see new footage from the upcoming, long awaited Tomb Raider title.  The game looks great, obviously taking a few pointers from Uncharted.  The action is big and explosive, and looks to be quite fluid.  The environmental graphics are lush and dynamic, with interactive world elements and destructible surroundings.  The demo exudes a sense of danger, something welcome in a game of its type.  if the gameplay is good, it definitely stands to be a lot of fun.

Ascend: New Gods is a new IP demo'd on the event that integrates Xbox live with Windows Live Games.   The teaser looked good, but doesn't offer a great deal of information as to what type of game it is going to be.  Thought the battle at the end with the colossal fella was quite intense.  Following that we saw a trailer for a new title called LocoCycle from Twisted Pixel and a look at the teaser for a game called Matter, a Kinect title that, once again, offers no information on gameplay.

Resident Evil 6 was on display next, looking polished and as grim as ever, the game looks like it is attempting to renew some good will after the backlash from RE5.  The game looks good, with a stunning city scene and lots of lovely gore.  The fast-paced gunplay on display was a lot of fun to watch, and possibly could be fun to execute, if the game plays well.  The climax of the demo featured cars falling down around hour heroes as they attempt to GET TO THA CHOPPPAAAHHH!!  The obvious inclusion of quick time events is kind of a downer though, I was hoping we were past that by now.  I guess not...  I did like the trailer overall though.  Resident Evil 6 looks like a lot of fun.

Wreckateer is a new Kinect title that allows the player to demolish massive castles with balls using catapults and trebuchets.  This is kind of a bleh idea, but the way Kinect is used to manipulate the projectile as it if you were using wind to put spin on the cannonballs.  It looks okay for casual gamers.

Immediately following that was the brand new South Park title the Stick of Truth, which appears to be a fun arcade-style action game with all of South Parks signature humor.  The game was introduced by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone themselves and they gave their insight on the development and how, for the first time, we will be able to explore South Park in its entirety.

Next up was an introduction of Dance Central 3 for Kinect complete with a bad live performance by Usher!  The game doesn't look bad, and the previous games were fun, though I'm not really cut out for that level of activity, lol.  I can appreciate a game that gets you off your butt, especially one that encourages it with bouncing music.

We closed with Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.  A solid demo for a game that looks great.  This is going to be one epic game, with beautiful scenery, massive set pieces, intense action and high-tension pacing.  Black Ops 2 is going to be one of the big ones and from what I've seen, we have a lot to look forward to.

Well, that's it for E3 Day 1!!!  We made it!  Whew!  I'm beat, even thought I never left my chair!  I will pick up with day 2 coverage as soon as coverage starts tomorrow.  Stay tuned everyone!

E3 2012 - Part 3: Sony's Press Conference

All eyes are on Sony to pick up their game after a massive FAIL year with very few quality games from major developers outside of Uncharted 3 and a few downloadable games and after a devastating network breach that resulted in a massive loss of revenue.  Sony needed to bring their A-game to this event but the result was, honestly, less-than-impressive, with the exception of two games: Beyond and the Last of Us.

The event opened with a new ip from quantic dream called BEYOND: Two Souls that actually stars Ellen Page.  The trailer was spectacular with movie-quality animation was so stunning that I was lost in it.  The stunning trailer speaks for itself and showcases the amazing technology that lies in our future.

After that impressive showing we got a rather underwhelming demo of Playstation All Stars: Battle Royale, a Super Smash Bros. clone that features popular Sony characters including Kratos, Sly Cooper, Sweet Tooth, Fat Princess, Nathan Drake, and Big Daddy.  Using regular attacks, players build up power to perform a super attack that scores points when they hit othaveer players.  This is the key to victory.

We then got a series of upcoming downloadable games for the PS3 and Vita through PSN, as well as some upcoming features for Playstation Plus.  Sony also made a point to push the first and third-party entertainment services available on PSN and Vita as well, including YouTube, Hulu Plus, Crackle and more.

Following that time sink, we got previews for Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified as well as Assassin's Creed III: Liberation, a tie-in for the Vita that features a female assasin.  We then saw more form Assassin's Creed 3 and Far Cry 3 (more filler, really).

Playstation Move was also heavily pushed, with emphasis on using to enhance gaming for the player.  To achieve this, Sony announced a new feature that uses Move to interact with books.  It is an augmented reality program that uses the Playstation Eye called Wonderbook.  You place a special book on the floor before the camera, the game then overlays interactive elements onto the screen as if they are in the room with the player, coming out of the book.  The principle game on display was from a collaboration with Harry Potter-author J.K. Rowling called Book of Spells wich integrates Wonderbook with Playstation Move in which you use the Move controller as a magic wand and interact with the story.

God of War: Ascension keeps the same ultra-violent action the series is famous for on a much grander scale.  However, the gameplay shown was rather lacklustre.  It looked nice, but it didn't appear to be any different that what we've been playing for seven years.  I was rather disappointed.

Sony closed the event with some polished gameplay footage of their new AAA title from Naughty Dog, The Last of Us.  The game looks incredible.  It certainly lives up to its pedigree.  The stunning city scape, flooded and overgrown seems so desolate and so lifeless, yet so beautiful.  The action gameplay is a step up in the violence department from their previous games and the title definitely seems to be aiming for a more mature audience.  It looks impressive and was definitely the highlight of the Sony press conference for E3 2012.  I'm surprised Sony had the nerve to show up with no actualy real footage or news about the new Sly Cooper or the Last Guardian, both of which were AWoL during the press conference.  Still, we'll see what the coming days shall bring.

Okay!  I shall return tonight for the Microsoft press conference.  Stay tuned for more updates and thanks for all who have been reading!

E3 2012 - Part 2: Ubisoft Press Conference

Ubisoft had a strong showing today at E3 2012.  They opened with a title we expected (Let's Dance 3) in a rather unexpected way.  Hip-hop star Flo Rida rapping while sexy babes dance and the game fills the screen behind them.  It was definitely bombastic.  While I'm not all that excited about Let's Dance, what Ubisoft had in store for us following that display... Wow!

Farcry 3 gave an impressive showing this year.  The distinctly NSFW trailer/demo shows the game to be a strong, gorgeous entry into a solid action series.  The island motif is amazing, with stunning graphics throughout. This is going to be a good one.  I was impressed by what I saw, and it only got better from there.  We then followed that up with a teaser for the new Splinter Cell title Blacklist, which looked great.

We then saw Ubisoft's first implementation of Wii U with Rayman Legends, a fun-looking co-op platformer that uses the different Wii U controllers to manipulate the different characters.  Following that up was ZombiU, and though all we got was a teaser, it was a good one.  Showing a moment frozen in time spread all across the city of London at the height of a zombie attack.  We pan through blood splatter frozen in the air and a car frozen  in time as careens off the London Bridge.

Moving on, we all expected the new Assassin's Creed to be good, but what was showing on E3 sets the bar so much higher than before.  From the captivating opening trailer to the beautiful gameplay footage, Assassin's Creed 3 did not fail to please.  The audience erupted in excited applause as we watched our new hero Connor glide through a frozen forest and infiltrate a British camp in the heart of the Revolutionary War.

Ubisoft also gave us a glimpse of what they have to offer in the world of social and online multiplayer gaming in the form of Shootmaina and Ubisoft Worlds.  Shootmania is an online multiplayer experience that is Ubisoft's entry into the online competative shooter world dominated by Counter Strike and Team Fortress 2.  Ubisoft Worlds Online is a combination of new smaller IPs and free-to-play game experiences available as part of an online community.  The games shown included a 2D motocross game called Trails Evolution and an online version of their classic Settlers series.  The showcase game in this run was Ghost Recon Online, a free-to-play multiplayer shooter that looks like a AAA title.

Last, but far, far, FAR from least was the official reveal of their new IP, Watch_Dogs.  Set in the not-too-distant future where everyone has a digital footprint, you take control of a man who has the ability to hack and manipulate virtually every single piece of technology around him as everything in the city is run by a central computer.  During the gameplay demo we see our character jam all cellular communications around him to create a distraction to sneak into an exclusive event.  Countless icons representing computer cameras and things that can be hacked populate the scene, giving a number of options on how you can apporach any scenario.  Scanning nearby people reveals their information, as it's all at your fingertips.  You can see their age, their jobs, and their darkest secrets, all gathered from their digital footpring.  The traffic lights are hacked causing a massive pile up, all as part of the core gameplay.  This is one amazing-looking game.  The character models are amazing and the lighting is unbleievably realistic this is way on-par with, if not better than, Naughty Dog's best work.  This is going to be one of the ones to keep your eyes on people!

E3 2012 - Update: EA - What to Expect

You can always count on EA to go big.  They've got the money and the power and they are gobbling up intellectual properties like the freaking Nothing from The Neverending Story.  This year, expect to see more of the same from EA in the form of returning EA Sports franchises and a few mainstay sequels.  However, I believe their big push is going to come in the form of product integration.  Using your smart phone, tablet, laptop or PC in tandem with your gameplay.  We've seen some of this in the form of a teaser trailer; planning plays in Madden on your iPad and executing them in game.

I believe this level of integration is the future of gaming and EA is going to be on the forefront of this.  I would like to see an end to their greedy online DRM and a little streamlining, as well as more availability on the Playstation Store and Xbox Live Arcade.  I wouldn't count too much on the latter two though.  EA is going to continue to be that big ugly, greedy blob that needs to be there (Yin and Yang and all) but really needs to lighten up.  Really.

E3 2012 - Updating: Ubisoft - What They Need To Do!

Ubisoft is still young compared to most other A-list developers and built their house on Rayman.  Over they years, however, they grew up and made some of the best games of the 2000s, including Assassin's Creed and Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time.  Their list of AAA titles is comparatively small, but the titles they do own are so huge that they may not have as many guns, but damn are they big ones!

As far as Ubisoft's press conference goes, what do they need to do?  The need to show us some games.  There is a rumor that they are going to go the direction of Skylanders and  make a tie-in line of "toys" to go with a new game.  This is bad.  Don't go there Ubisoft.  We want games that are ready to play and that are exciting. After the very poor showing with the recent Prince of Persia game, they really need to bring their A-game.  I would like to see a new Tomb Raider that lives up to the popularity.  I rather liked Tomb Raider: Legends and would love to see a new game along those lines.  Also look forward to more on the new Assassin's Creed, taking place in Revolutionary War-era America.  We shall see what surprises they have in store shortly when their press conference begins.

E3 2012 - Update: EA and UFC

It was announced at an E3 press conference that E3 is teaming up with UFC to launch a brand new EA Sports franchise.  All we got to see so far was a teaser trailer with zero gameplay footage or in game graphics, but EA Sports is a solid developer and if anyone can capture that bone-crunching, high-tension action of MMA, it's those guys.  They did it with football, soccer, baseball, basketball, golf and boxing.  They made golf exciting!!!  Seriously!  I think MMA fans (and there are a lot of them) would appreciate an amazing high-profile UFC game starring all of their favorite celebs in the sport.  This is going to be a major blow to rivals THQ, who currently own the UFC brand in gaming but EA is a powerhouse and things don't look good for the little guy.  Stay glued for any more information about this game and I will keep updating throughout the week.

E3 2012 - Update: Medal of Honor: Warfighter

Medal of Honor: Warfighter (2012; EA)
In my opinion, Medal of Honor has been pretty much downhill since Frontline, but Warfighter looks great.  Extremely good graphics and high-paced gameplay stack up to make what could be an amazing title.  Taking place in what appears to be a wrecked urban Rome, I was thoroughly impressed by what I saw.  A slated October 23, 2012 release date brings this one pretty close.  I hope it's a good game.  I am excited to see Medal of Honor go the route of Call of Duty 4 and leave the played-out World War II universe for a fresher, modern war.  If the game plays well, it could just be one of thew big new killer apps of this Holiday season!

E3 2012 - Update: Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2 (2012; 2k Games/Gearbox)
Borderlands was a pretty good RPG shooter that was only held back by limited level design and some pretty bland environments.  Note this is my opinion but I had a hard time maintaining interest.  Every time I'd play I'd like it for a while, then run out of steam.  Borderlands 2, however has, thus far, had a strong showing at E3.

The first, most noticeable difference is the game world.  We open on Pandora and find ourselves battling it out in a big urban landscape with big robots and running mercenaries firing upon us.  It looks just great.  I was awestruck by the inventiveness of the weapons employed in the demo and now Borderlands 2 is among my favorite games I've seen so far.

Gearbox is a talented developer and now that they appear to not be drawing themselves into an aesthetic corner with the new environments, I think we will see this company at their fullest potential.  With a September, 2012 release date, this is easily one of the most anticipated games of E3.  Good luck, Gearbox!

E3 2012 - Part 1: The Beginning

No, I'm not actually at E3.  I am not that important.  However, I am going to use the Internet, the live television coverage and information from social media to continuously update this blog with new information about what is coming out with my thoughts on what I've seen.  Note, I'm starting this about an hour and a half into the coverage so I will try to cover as much ground as possible.

As I write this article, I am watching live gameplay from a new MMO entitled Defiance which is directly linked to a narrative in a television show that launches on the same day in April, 2013.  The game is a run-and-gun action MMO with lots of layers and massive boss battles.  If the gameplay is good, it could be a great title.  It is, however, very hard to break into the market for a new MMO for a few reasons.  First is most people do not want to have a large number of subscriptions charging every month.  Second is most MMO players already have a game of choice with leveled and geared characters and friends they regularly play with.  It isn't easy to convince players to devote weeks of gameplay to building up a new character in a brand new world.  As far as the TV show tie-in goes, it seems a little gimmicky and I'm not too sure how much these two are actually going to affect each other.  It is possible that, if the show is good, fans of of that series may get into the game, but given the quality of most science fiction television today, my hopes are not all that high.

Earlier in the coverage master-developer Bethesda revealed gameplay for Dishonored.  A brand new IP that will introduce all new tactics into the RPG world.  The game takes place in a pseudo-steampunk London, England and you play a lone hero with powers to possess living things, stop time, teleport and much, much more.  The idea is to have as much freedom in combat as possible and Dishonored definitely seems to deliver.  The fact that Bethesda is the developer gives me high hopes for this one, as they are one of the more consistently-good software companies out there and if anyone can pull it off, it's them.

Now, for Halo 4.  The game that most, a few years ago, would never come.  This title is meant to launch an entirely new trilogy picking up right where 3 left off.  New enemies like Knights (heavily-armored super-soldiers with all the agility of Spiderman and the menace of a freaking T-Rex.  Watchers, a new enemy type, hovers over the Knight, healing, resurrecting and shielding all the while spawning small Crawlers to agitate the overwhelmed Master Chief.  light rifle animation when you pick it up  Up to this point in the demo, my attitude of what I saw was more or less "Meh."  Halo is a great, great series but they need to go big and get really creative and that fight looked great.  I would have liked to see a little more for the game because the demo they gave, especially, following Call of Duty: Black Ops II's epic-looking showing.

On that note, Call of Duty is a power-house franchise and the new entry looks great.  However, it has a massive albatross hanging from its flimsy neck in the form of a big sign that reads "Developed by Treyarch".  Treyarch worked on a few of the titles in the series and while they are not exactly bad, they all seem a little underwhelming compared to the big shifts and massive feel of the entries from Infinity Ward. That said, the demo looked great, with a crumbling metropolis and miles of highly-detailed debris with a lot going on in the background as well as solid-looking gameplay.  I would say my attitude about this one is very mild enthusiasm.

I also want to discuss Mortal Kombat-co-creator Ed Boon's new game Injustice: Gods Among Us, an impressive-looking DC Comics-themed fighter that looks like a blast.  Big set pieces with outmatched battles of Harley Quinn versus Superman are the highlight but I think this could work.  Boon is a talented man and his team appears to have made a big, polished fighter with a confirmed roster of "Over twenty characters."  Keep your eyes open for this one.

Lastly for this entry I will reference the new Castlevania just premiered.  It's a 3D Castlevania game.  That should be all I have to say.  That is a deal-breaker on its face.  But, the game appeared to be played on a 2D plane, so maybe it will work!  I would love, LOVE to see a new Castlevania that looks like a game of today and feels like the great games of yesterday.  That is where this franchise should go and I believe Konami is starting to catch on after the excellent downloadable game Castlevania: Harmony of Despair.

I will post again after the first press conference.  Stay tuned for more

Saturday, June 2, 2012

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 01 - Mr. Payback (1995)

Mr. Payback (1995; Interfilm)
So, of all of the films of the 90’s, how does a thirty minute film make the cut?  All you have to do is watch just minutes of this to find out.  One of two releases from Interfilm Technologies, a company that pushed the introduction of the Interactive Movie, this one failed to be a movie and a fun interactive experience.  If you ever wondered why interactive movies don’t exist yet, all you have to do is look way, way back to 1995.  

The concept of Mr. Payback was fairly simple, or rather, fairly stupid.  Consoles are rigged up for each theatre seat and, during the film, queues for three options appear at given moments and the audience presses the button for the choice they want.  Each press gives one point for that selected option, and when the timer runs out, the option with the most points wins and a scene for that option is played.  Fun right?  Well, it would be if the movie was entertaining.  The reasoning behind the 30-minute run time was to warrant multiple viewings, but the film was poorly received, ultimately grossing less than a quarter of a million dollars, that it’s pretty obvious that those that sat through this one had no desire to go again.  

Interfilm Technologies missed two very important things.  First, movies are not meant to be interactive.  The stories on screen are to be received by the audience while the visual elements are to be interpreted for whatever function they make to move the story forward or for whatever symbolism they attempt to create.  The second big miss requires a brief look at another failed medium from the early 90’s: The FMV game.

Full Motion Video was a blight on video games in the early 90’s as a vast majority of these games were boring messes that failed at both being good interactive experiences and at telling any cohesive or interesting stories.  The ultimate problem with this genre is the interaction was so limited as to not be fun at all.  Thus is the big issue that plagued Mr. Payback, a failed cinematic attempt at making a big screen video game.

Now, the interactivity is not the only big issue with this movie.  No.  This film has some of the worst acting I have ever seen in a film.  The nuanced performances in Eegah! stand triumphant over the bad, baaaad acting in this crap.  I wish I were kidding about that previous sentence.  It ranks among some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen in a film.  The lead is played by Billy Warlock, who is mostly known for his roles in just about every soap opera ever.  His performance is...  UGH!  Well... It is very, very bad.  Other stars include Christopher Lloyd, Bruce McGill and voice actor Holly Fields.  All performances range from utterly forgettable to traumatizingly painful and all of their scenes are really just a hodgepodge of disconnected set pieces and shallow setup.

Okay, a note on plot.  There really isn’t one.  See, that’s the problem when you make a movie based on a concept that requires you to account for many possible outcomes.  You cannot create a cohesive plot that leads to a climax if just about every event, however pointless they may be, varies from viewing to viewing.  Now, that said, this film did try to have a story, much in the way that meth tries to be good for you.  Essentially, you have Payton Bach (Warlock),a bionic man who is getting back at random bad people who do bad things with the help of his love interest (Fields).  It all basically amounts to a handful of loosely-interactive scenes where we see one of three unfunny things happen to a bad person then see some padding designed to fill out the time before the next interactive scene.

One huge misstep with Mr. Payback is none of the choices do (or even could for that matter) really alter the outcome of the movie.  It still ends the same way, and everything in between seems like it is designed to distract the audience from how bad the acting is.  Interactive movies failed.  It was a novel attempt to do something different, but I cannot even give this film credit for that because it did it so badly.  It is kind of like the Virtual Boy of movies.  It comes out with self-aggrandizing fanfare about being the “future” of films and goes away faster than it came, ultimately becoming one of the most forgotten films of its decade.  I have seen a lot of worst of the 90’s lists and very few even mention this film.  Does that mean I am THAT much of a movie nerd?  I doubt it.  I just remember hating this movie when I watched a DVD bootleg of it about ten years ago that just played all the outcomes one after another, then moved on to the next scene. I have not, since, been able to find another version of it.  When rewatching it I had to go back to various clips I found on the internet to piece together some sort of refresher from this disaster.

I call Mr. Payback my pick for the single worst movie of the 90’s for two reasons.  It’s bad.  Oh-ho it’s bad.  That’s one.  The second reason is it missed the point of what movies are about entirely.  I never had the desire to make the men burning Charles Foster Kane’s things to turn back and discover Rosebud in the furnace.  I never had the desire to stop Sonny from turning into that toll booth.  I accept these events as movies are supposed to affect us, not the other way around.  We absorb the events and then experience some sort of emotional response, that’s kind of how art works.

I honestly think that Mr. Payback is somewhat of a paradox, or at least a major fail.  See, in its attempts to be more interactive it managed to push audiences further away, not just from the box office (it BOMBED), but from the characters.  In 99% of video games there is a wall between you and the character on screen.  You are controlling it and manipulating it, but rarely do you ever have an emotional connection with any of those characters.  I would say this changed with Final Fantasy VII, but I still feel that wall.  There’s a disconnect.  This movie makes this disconnect its legacy.  It forces the audience stand behind a theoretical field of apathy as they mindlessly attempt to leave some sort of impression on the film, ultimately leaving the theater unimpressed and un-impacted themselves.  As games get more and more cinematic (Uncharted 3 for instance), I believe there may be a place for GAMES that are much more like movies, but that’s sort of moving in a different direction.  Interfilm Technologies gambled and lost on this one, as they hoped that people would be able to forget what going to the movies is actually all about.

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 02 - Showgirls (1995)

Showgirls (1995; United Artists)
L - O - L!  Where do I even begin with this one!  Flashdance and Basic Instinct writer Joe Ezterhas reportedly sold this screenplay for two million dollars, which is quite a good bit a coin for a screenplay (No duh!).  Ezterhas teamed up with director Paul Verhoeven (who worked with him on Basic Instinct) once again and we got a wonderful piece of trash called Showgirls.  So, what is Showgirls?  It’s a drama about a girl with a mysterious past who travels to Vegas to become a dancer only to be forced in desperation into the seedy world of exotic dancing.  With no other choice she takes it all off for strangers as she is faced with the dark side of man’s most carnal desires.  So why is this one all the way down at number two?

Boy, oh boy.  This is a special film.  When the movie came out it was instantly struck with the dreaded NC-17 rating, immediately damning it to movie oblivion as it was banned from most theatres.  That was the first of many strikes against this film.  Those who saw this movie would find that it would be one of the most surreal experiences of the 90’s.  A lot of this strangeness comes from the film’s insane screenplay.  Though it sold for a great deal of money, it has some of the most unintentionally funny dialogue of the 90’s, but that doesn’t save this one from my wrath.

The messy plot follows Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) who, as mentioned, travels to Vegas to become a dancer.  Upon arriving she befriends a girl who is a dancer in a popular show while working as a lapdancer.  She then meets, through a client, a dancer at a major show who gets her a shot in one of the biggest shows in Vegas.  She works her way up the ladder, manipulating and selling her soul in the process, practically becoming the villain of the story.  There are other plot points, including one involving a man that comes in and out of her life who apparently teaches her how to dance or.. something.  And the the film climaxes when Nomi’s mysterious past comes out of nowhere to haunt her.

This is a sloppy, sloppy mess of a movie.  I’m not sure what happened here.  I would like to think that a producer did not read the screenplay as it was here and pay Eszterhas 2 mil for it.  This film does, admittedly, have a lot of studio-stink on it.  This is not uncommon but here it is so bad that it justifies me putting this movie below Batman and Robin.  BELOW BATMAN AND ROBIN!  Still, this movie has a huge cult following.  Like the Room from 2003 (which I, personally love) and my number 3, Troll 2, this one has adoring fans.  Not because they think it’s good, but because they think it’s so terrible it’s an enjoyable mess.  I, however, find this to be the un-sexiest sex film of all time.  Elizabeth Berkley looks strung out through much of the film, the supporting cast mumbles through their lines or overacts in each scene and some of the more famous funny moments are pretty hilarious, but they don’t really make this one worth stomaching, at least not for me.  

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 03 - Troll 2 (1990)

Troll 2 (1990; Filmarage)
I have to say.  I rather liked Troll 2, but being an honest reviewer, I have to put it at number three.  It isn’t a good movie; not by any stretch of the imagination.  But it is a fun, bad movie.  The plot follows a boy named Josh who has a close connection to his deceased grandfather’s ghost.  His family, the Waits are all a bunch of morons, however.  They do a sort of trade of their home (or so they think) to vacation in a hole-in-the-wall named Nilbog.  However, the people of the town aren’t quite normal.  They have a tremendous fascination with plants, and are vegans (go figure).  A strange woman named Creedence (who looks like a Rocky Horror reject) seems to be running the creepy game in the background while this dude that looks like Bob Ross runs the town church.  There’s also a second group of people which includes the the Waits family daughter’s boyfriend that follow them there, but they are really just fodder for the kill scenes.  

Okay, there’s a lot to go through for this movie as the plot is needlessly convoluted and it never really works at any point, but I think that’s why this movie is special.  It lacks any regard for the norm both in the way it flows and feels and in the way the characters behave.  It’s utterly insane in the way that it really seems to have no understanding of normal human behavior.  It’s a lot like in The Room in that sense.  The characters, especially the father, are all strange and exceptionally dumb.

The overlying plot centers on members of the town constantly trying to feed the Waits’ family strange green food.  Unbeknownst to them, this food has the power to turn them into plants.  Fortunately, the youngest of the Waits’, Josh, has been receiving visits from his deceased grandfather who warns him about the dangerous food.  So, after the family discovers the attempts by the townsfolk of Nilbog to poison them, they uncover the town’s cult, led by that Bob Ross guy and the psychotic Creedence.  

So, where do the trolls come in?  Well, there are no trolls in Troll 2.  Not one.  Instead, there are goblins.  See, this film’s original title was Goblins, but the producers, in an attempt to help it give it a recognizable title by making it a sequel to Troll (probably an even worse movie).  As a result of this change, there was some editing done to line up closer to the original’s events and this created a number of continuity issues and plot holes.  

Now, that said, Troll 2 is hilarious.  It is one of the most famous So-Bad-It’s-Good movies primarily because of the amateurishly executed dialogue and the strange actions many of the characters make throughout the film.  Like the Room, Birdemic and Plan 9 From Outer Space, this is a special type of bad movie.  There is a lot of history to this movie that came as a result of its terrible execution, including the delayed release of the film by publisher, and those sorts of legends just make bad movies that much more fun.  In fact, this one barely qualifies for this list as it was intended to be released in the 80’s, it was just a twist of fate and some bad business that delayed it enough for me to be able to add it (joyfully, mind you) to this list.  

This film is filled with rumors and hints about its failure.  There is director Claudio Fragasso’s outrage regarding the overall negative reception of his film, his default reaction for every bad review he gets.  Then there’s the “Oh my gooooooood!” meme that has become somewhat infamous on YouTube and other video hosting sites lifted right out of the film.  There are lots of stories of misadventures and problems during filming and after too.  There was actually so much post-release drama surrounding this film that in 2009, a documentary entitled Best Worst Movie was released that chronicles the stars, where they are today, and has a large segment focused on an annual viewing of the movie by fans of the schlock fest that is Troll 2.

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 04 - Batman & Robin (1997)

Batman & Robin (1997; Warner Bros. Pictures)
Some say this is the worst film from my generation.  I don’t quite agree, but Batman and Robin is still a complete mess.  But before I get into why this film sucked, I want to provide a little essential backstory.  In 1989, the talented Tim Burton directed a new Batman movie that was a big hit.  Naturally there was a sequel, but the second film was the brunt of much criticism for being far too dark and even a little disturbing at times.  However, it made some money so Warner Bros. kept the series going under Joel Schumacher, a director with a very different vision for the franchise.  Batman was recast with Val Kilmer and the tone was shifted from dark to almost comical.  Jim Carrey was cast as the Riddler and the film was, once again a success.  Schumacher directed the next and final batman film for eight years, Batman & Robin, recast again with ER star George Clooney as the lead and Chris O’Donnell returning from the previous film as the Boy Wonder.

The plot centers on our two heroes fighting off an icy madman named Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who is stealing diamonds from Gotham City’s wealthy citizens and museums to build a machine to save his wife who is in a sort of stasis sleep due to an incurable illness.  He has the cure, he just needs a few more rocks to power the machine, if only those pesky heroes will stay out of his way!  Meanwhile, a lab assistant (Uma Thruman) is murdered by her boss and is strangely resurrected as Poison Ivy, a plant-obsessed temptress who uses pheromones to seduce and subdue her male victims and a poison kiss to finish them off.  She attempts to drive a wedge between the Dynamic Duo and almost succeeds due to Chris O'Donnell’s hot-headed Dick Grayson’s rebellious nature.  Yet another plot point involves the butler Alfred’s niece (Alicia Silverstone) arriving from England who would inexplicably become Batgirl.  All this occurs while Alfred is dying of the very same ailment that Mr. Freeze’s love is afflicted with.  WHEW!

What happened with Batman & Robin?  Why was it such a disaster?  Could it be that there is just too much crap crammed into this movie?  I don’t think we’ll ever get a full explanation for all of the decisions that led this one down the road it traveled.  It is a well-known fact that the studio decided to push production ahead of schedule and demanded an earlier release.  So a rush-job could be part of the problem.  Another thing that received a great deal of blame was the art direction that was bizarrely whimsical, even more so than Batman Forever.  Some of the cast compared the pieces of the set to little plastic toys.  It looked cheap and reportedly felt that way too.   Barbara Ling’s production design is definitely partly to blame as this movie has a strange look and feel.  The most notorious design decision of this movie are the infamous “Bat Nipples” on Batman and Robin’s breastplates.  This inexplicable design choice just may have been the final nail in the coffin for this franchise.

Batman & Robin was called the worst movie ever by Empire magazine. I don’t agree as I have certainly seen many worse films, but that’s fine.  Still, I do agree that it is one of the most ludicrous things ever put on film.  It is excessive in every way; it is bombastic, ugly, loud and very poorly written.  The characters spout out one-liners and pose after every bad piece of dialogue.  Strange shots and bad special effects highlight the film, with weird montages of the heroes suiting up including close ups of the heroes butts, crotches and chests.  The film is famous for its homo-eroticism, which is definitely prominent.  I’m not sure what people were thinking here, this movie had big stars and big names behind it and given the introduction of Batgirl, I actually think they thought there was going to be a fourth sequel to this series.  Fortunately for us, it would be eight years before the talented Christopher Nolan would take over the franchise and reboot the series with Batman Begins, a dark and serious retelling of the series.

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 05 - The Jerky Boys (1995)

The Jerky Boys
(1995; Touchstone Pictures)
Another in the long list of completely unnecessary films, The Jerky Boys stars the titular comics who grew famous for taping prank calls and selling them as tapes and CDs.  The film involves them, well prank calling everyone, including the mob.  The calls aren’t funny, this film isn’t funny.  Period.

The plot: Two slackers, John and Kamal, inadvertently get caught up in a scheme with the mob when they make a prank call (their leisure of choice).  The police begin to think they are more than just a couple of regular guys until their identities are revealed to which the police respond by having them continue to prank the mob for their investigation.  There is another plot involving saving their bar, but it is just another glossed-over element in this convoluted mess of a movie starring two people who were famous for about 13 minutes (they didn't deserve the full fifteen) and it essentially is the last-known footage of these guys because after this film came out, these dudes disappeared from the mainstream.  

What makes this movie so bad (bad enough to justify the number 5 spot) is that there is barely any acting in this movie.  It is a feature length version of a stand up routine and, like I mentioned with Chairman of the Board, this doesn’t work.  Granted, the Jerky Boys were not stand-up comics, but their routine was, in a sense, a similar concept.  The idea of a prank call, however, just doesn’t work for a movie.  Films are about interplay between characters and the great films have dynamic dialogue that works when great stars execute it with flair.  The great writers/directors of dialogue like Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock made their actors’ words flow, and there was a rhythm.  In the Jerky Boys the characters seem to shout over each other.  It is truly annoying.  Still, I think the main reason why this one fails on just about every level is, while their prank calls on tape were real, with real unwitting victims on the other end, the actors in this film are reading scripted dialogue, and the knowledge of this fact reduces the value of what was already pretty weak to begin with to nil.  

When this article reached its first draft I honestly could not think of much to say about this movie. It is so devoid of ANYTHING of any substance that it has mostly just been forgotten. Those who still remember their act may vaguely remember this film but most of the people I asked claimed they've never even HEARD of these guys so, at least where I live, they must not have left that much of an impact. That is the sign of a bad movie too. Most people my age remember how bad Batman and Robin was, because it was explosively, insanely bad. The same can be said for any epically bad movie. The Jerky Boys is worse than most because not only is it dreadful and lacking of any talent or imagination, it is also 100% forgettable. There isn't even really anything to make fun of here. The Jerky Boys is an empty used dumpster left and forgotten behind a long-closed Denny's. Nobody remembers it's there, and nobody cares.

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 06 - Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (1995)

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movies
(1995; Twentieth Century Fox)
Another fad from the 90’s, this one appealing to young males as apposed to young girls, Power Rangers was an import that was sort of Godfrey Ho’d (the process of cutting new footage into old footage to change the cast or narrative) in places to feature American actors in the dialogue portions with the original fight scenes at the end of each episode.  It was campy, but sort of fun in its own weird way.  It was a blatant Voltron ripoff, and it was some of the most low-budget crap you’ll ever lay your eyes on, but I like camp.  I enjoy riffing on b-grade nonsense.  So what happens when you take B-grade and give it a budget?  You get Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie.

This one is a truly surreal experience.  By the time this movie came out, I had already grown out of watching the show (I pretty much gave up on it after its first year) and didn’t recognize a lot of the characters, especially the bad guys.  This was a strange little movie, filled with terrible acting, silly-looking monsters and really, really bad special effects.  One of the things that made the first season of the show sort of fun to riff on was how bad it was while just not giving a crap.  It was cheap and it knew it.  This movie acts as though it forgot it had a budget behind it and decided to keep the same terrible actors from the new series on for the fans and that is a mistake because they can’t freaking act.  

The film sort of has a plot.  It has to do with the Power Rangers losing their ability to summon their robots and weapons, and in the mean time their leader was kidnapped.  So they team up with this celestial being and learn a new fighting style that’s even more powerful than ever.  So we get lots and lots of mindless action that is so badly choreographed I would have thought Godfrey Ho himself directed this.  I can tell he didn’t however, because if he did it would have been AWESOME! (I’m sorry.  Ho’s movies are bad, but god they can be a lot of fun.)

The dialogue is also terrible.  Actors swipe their arms in rhythm with their speech (they have to because we can’t see their mouths move behind their goofy masks) and they shout lines in monotone.  The action is worse as we get one cut of a character striking at thin air followed by a second cut of a reaction from the target.  This worked on the TV show but when your movie has a slightly higher budget, we expect more.  

Box office-wise, this one did good... I suppose.  For a movie it still didn’t have a mega-budget but it was a boost from the TV show’s weak fare.  It more than doubled its return, but man it sucked.  This movie was a failure.  It came out the same year as Toy Story, one of the best films ever made, and it pales in comparison.  

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 07 - Spice World (1997)

Spice World (1997; Columbia Pictures)
If Ringmaster was a big screen episode of Jerry Springer, then Spice World is essentially a big screen music video by the Spice Girls.  A stranger display I have rarely seen, and I would like someone to find it (Greetings from 1969).  This is another vanity project, glorifying its stars and presenting them in  the most fan-serving way possible.  And, let’s be honest, if there ever was a pinnacle of the manufactured (and annoying) pop group, the Spice Girls just might be it.

Spice World is a terrible retake on the 1964 film A Hard Day’s Night, one of two movies starring the Beatles.  The film is about how the Spice Girls handle fame in the eve of a big London concert.  This is what I call a Kitchen Sink movie, not in the art film sense but in the sense that they manage to squeeze everything in this movie, INCLUDING the kitchen sink.  There’s a military scene, a haunted house, fans chasing them down the street (just like the Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night), multiple fashion montages, a double-decker tour bus, an evil executive, even aliens!

The arrogance of this movie is almost impressive.  The “stars” are constantly comparing themselves to the Beatles though the Spice Girls are not creatively capable of generating a culturally relevant piece of work anywhere near the wonderful songs of the Fab Four.  Spice World depicts these girls as a close-knit team of friends who thrive on GIRL POWER who shout and cheer for no apparent reason and we wouldn’t see another teenybopper movie this hideous until Bratz in 2007.

The musical numbers in Spice World are equally terrible, as the group is attempting to market the soundtrack to this film as a standalone album.  The band would squeeze another year of success before breaking up in 1998 only to get back together about a decade later to wreak havoc on a new unsuspecting generation of little girls.  I haven’t heard any of their new music, and I really don’t care.  Even if their latest album was comparable to Dark Side of the Moon it wouldn’t change the fact that this is one of the worst films ever made with some of the most grating music I’ve ever heard.