indie

New Puzzle-Platformer “Hunger” creeps up

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New Puzzle-Platformer “Hunger” creeps up

The world is in need of more creepy platformers. After the success of a game like LIMBO it was kind of surprising more developers didn’t jump at the idea of a puzzle-platformer with a haunting atmosphere. Luckily, the good folks at Tarsier Studios is working on Hunger, a game that just may satisfy that hole. Hit the jump to watch the trailer and see some screenshots! Read On

Indie game Mushroom 11 lets you be a giant regenerating blob

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Indie game Mushroom 11 lets you be a giant regenerating blob

With the Game Developers Conference (GDC) raging on this week, it’s no surprise that we’ve started hearing about new games oozing out of the woodwork. One such game is Mushroom 11 developed by indie studio Untame.

 Mushroom 11 is a puzzle-platformer that has you taking control of a giant green blob as it navigates a post-apocalyptic landscape.

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Grab nine great indie games in the Humble Indie Bundle X

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Grab nine great indie games in the Humble Indie Bundle X

Some people collect trading cards. Some people collect stamps. Some people (like this writer) collect video games and the latest Humble Bundle just added nine more to the collection.

If your wallet has recovered from the shock of the Steam sale (mine is still crying) then it may be time to head over to the fine folks at Humble Bundle and pick up the latest Humble Indie Bundle X.

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The Villainous Lair’s Best Comics of 2013

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The Villainous Lair’s Best Comics of 2013

Happy New Years Comic Fans,

This year  has been an amazing year for comics. On behalf of the Villainous Lair we bring to you in no particular order the ten “best”  titles of 2013. These spectacular titles run the gamut from main stream Marvel and DC superhero staples to newer independent titles brought to us by many up and comers as well. Many of these titles should come as no surprise because of the writers and artists involved in them for example, who hasn’t heard of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead ? But for us, every one of these titles has been nothing short of amazing for the stories they have told. This year has brought a few surprises as well, Terry Moore who is known for his highly acclaimed Strangers in Paradise has taken an amazing and dark turn into the supernatural with his newest  offering Rachel Rising. Image comics has had hit after hit this year and Brian K Vaughn’s Saga is no exception.

The following titles will prove to be both interesting and compelling reads. I am filled with awe and reverence for this wonderful hobby called comic collecting. I also look forward to the coming year of ground breaking titles. Whether you are a casual reader or a dyed in the wool comic aficionado you will find something fun and interesting to read on this list. As of this posting Stan the Man Lee has celebrated his 91’st birthday and I wish him so many more for helping to bring all of our favorite comic characters to life and into the main stream. Excelsior Stan, Excelsior!

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Movie Issues: You’re Next

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Movie Issues: You’re Next

Trailers can be the worst thing to happen to a movie. In 1:30 minutes, a lasting impressing needs to be made that leaves the audience wanting more. You’re Next is currently suffering from this problem, as its trailers make it look more like a rip off of The Strangers than the incredible experience that it is. You’re Next is a new school slasher film that turns several horror troupes on their heads and features one of the BEST female protagonists that we’ve seen in a long, long time.

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Black Swan

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Black Swan

Black Swan

Matinee

If you are not familiar with the story of Swan Lake, never fear — Aronofsky makes sure you can follow…before he leaves you in the hallucinatory, disturbing dust. Natalie Portman is a ballet dancer in a prestigious company who has won the dream role of the Swan Queen in Swan Lake. She plays the twin roles of the heroine White Swan and the deceiving Black Swan, fighting for the hand of the prince. Black Swan does not retell this story so much as it deconstructs sheer, unfiltered mental and physical stress. We are never quite sure when we are seeing reality or fantasy and nightmare. I commented to my companion late in the third act, “I was really kind of hoping that part was in her head.” A new dancer, Mila Kunis, joins the company and appears to be a Single White Female -type rival (perhaps a Black to Portman’s White), but, honestly, Portman’s demons are foils enough.

Read On

Youth In Revolt

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I actually kind of blame this movie for crumbling my will to review movies for a record-breaking dry spell. When I saw Youth in Revolt, I was unaware of its original source material; it seems that C.D. Payne’s novel is actually much more adventurous and deviant than just a sweet boy acting like a sociopathic jerk to make a girl like him. I’m glad I was ignorant, actually, so I could enjoy the twin pleasures of Michael Cera as his trademark unrequited shyboy Nick Twisp and Michael Cera as disco-clad lothario Francois Dillinger. Every time his hilariously over-the-top alter ego is on screen, the movie comes alive. The little things he does to prove to us that he’s a bastard are smaller and therefore funnier and a little more unexpected than something say, James Spader might have done during his douchey 1980’s period. If Sweet Cera and Wicked Cera are sharing the screen, Youth in Revolt flirts with brilliance. I do have a predilection for novel ways of sharing someone’s inner monologue, and we never quite know which body is actually the body in use.

The rest of the time, Revolt presents us with that post-Napoleon Dynamite sort of plodding study of eccentricity and wackiness for wackiness’ sake, poky and mildly random and totally detached. I wonder how many 19 year old hipsters are frantically combing the thrift stores for white pants and loafers. Here and there, filmmaker and TV veteran Miguel Arteta drops in some cute and varied animated bits, reminding us maybe too much of Paper Hearts (also featuring Cera) and not enough of something relevant to the story arc Cera’s real character is meant to be traveling. Watching a sweet lad wreck his life in pursuit of an unappreciative girl is nearly as off-putting (when he’s not Duckie) as watching him succeed in this way. The escalations of Francois Dillinger server only to try and shock and then succeed in chasing the audience away, even if this one girl is worth it.

I am not one who complains of Michael Cera fatigue, but I would have preferred him to be in an all-Francois-Dillinger role rather than continue to go to the milquetoast mine so resolutely. If they really follow through on this Arrested Development movie, what made George Michael so winning is going to be something we all have seen too much of, which does a disservice to Cera’s real depth of skill and talent.

From what I read about the source novel, it sounded brutal and horrible. The 14 year-old reviewers on Amazon.com insist it nails the persona. Be that as it may, as a lady who could be the mother of these kids, I don’t disapprove, I guess I am just not all that interested. Youth in Revolt does have a fabulous soundtrack, so I can recommend that pretty highly.

MPAA Rating R-sexual content, language, drug use

Release date 1/8/10

Time in minutes 130

Director Miguel Arteta

Studio Weinstein Company

Paranormal Activity

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Not unlike its inevitable comparison film, The Blair Witch Project, one of the most exciting things about Paranormal Activity is how while you are watching it, it feels real enough that you feel unsure whether it’s a movie or a found-footage presentation.  I dissected various actions and moments in the film, searching for the cinematic mechanical justification behind an action (for example, handling sound recording throughout an entire house) in the beginning, while this movie worked up its head of steam.  It played very naturalistically and felt justified and normal, and I was able to abandon myself to the fun.  (Or is it a snuff film?)  The whole film is 98% two people, Micah and Katie, shot entirely within their San Diego home (a very fancy one for persons of their apparent income level), shot completely with a fancy-but-still-consumer-grade digital movie camera.  It feels very much like what it purports to be — Micah wanting to capture on film weird things that have started happening to them in their home.

The performances are unselfconscious when appropriate and very natural, which is the most convincing aspect of the movie all around.  From their dialogue to their at-home wardrobe to their blood-curdling screams, it feels and sounds very real.  Also, the cinematography is consistent with that which would be managed by an online trader who just got a fancy camera, so if you had queasy problems with Blair Witch or Cloverfield’s shaky-cam, you might want to skip this one.  Realism and grounding everything else besides the actual scary thing in reality is what makes this film work.  If you can manage the shakycam it’s a very nicely crafted, slow burn of a scary movie.  It’s organic style means no hackneyed tension release mechanisms that sustain the audiences of most narrative horror films.  Ahhh!  It was only the cat.

The bursts of activity (paranormal) are varied and unpredictable and hit your various reptilian brain centers in different ways.  If you normally find X scary, but chortle your way through Y, you’ll get a dose of both.  The sound design also contributes a great deal to the proceedings.  A nearly-sub-aural rumbling announces that something is coming, and your body learns to tense up when it hears it.  (This was no fun at all driving home.)   It’s all very low-tech — some sounds could literally be a group of grips lifting and dropping a couch — and this makes it feel even more convincing.  Unearthly screeches or banshee music or gooey tentacles would kill the mood.  Nothing is scarier than what we can imagine for ourselves.  A creak of a stair caused by nothing we can see — heebie jeebies!

Katie and Micah are a believable, likable couple, knocking around their gorgeous, immaculate house, and they sell the smallest moments for full price, especially Katie.  Don’t bother holding out for a stinger at the end of the credits — that menacing rumble will only end with the MPAA rating.  Paranormal Activity is edited almost clinically, like an evidence tape, and with none of the framing or vanity-screen time Blair Witch sometimes betrayed.  I’ll tell you one thing, it’s not the scariest movie I have ever seen, but it’s probably the most efficient and insidious.  The noises in my house never seemed so loud or inexplicable as they do after seeing this.  It’s a great scary treat and the filmmakers should be rewarded with your business.

MPAA Rating  R-language

Release date 9/25/09 limited

Time in minutes 99

Director Oren Peli

Studio Paramount Pictures

No Burgers For Bigfoot

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I received this movie as a screener from the studio, because I find mockumentaries somehow irresistible. When I told him about this movie, my film buddy declared that he is “so over” mockumentaries. While Christopher Guest appears to have cemented the phenomenon as an actual genre, it still can surprise when done properly. Every few years Entertainment Weekly bemoans the fact that Hollywood movies about Hollywood are just too inside for the masses. No Burgers for Bigfoot dares to flout these opinions and presents what appears to be a 95 minute homage to Waiting for Guffman and Ed Wood (the filmmaker, not the Johnny Depp biopic). There are more difficult targets to lampoon than pitiably clueless filmmakers, but to make a movie targeting such beings, the team involved had better be pretty well on the ball. For a counter-argument to this, see Guest’s For Your Consideration.

Burgers tells the tale of a young Oklahoman director, Michael Justice (played by writer/director Jonathan Grant) who wants to make the definitive Bigfoot movie, but also wants his opus to have a hard-hitting emotional message. His character’s attempts to emulate a sleazy Hollywood player only prove that he doesn’t even watch Entourage to be able to copy their slick BS. Justice assembles a rag tag team of cast members and crew, most with more experience than himself, and tries to make his movie. If the Office’s Michael Scott actually tried to make a full-length feature film, it would probably end up something like Justice’s Return of the Bigfoot. Justice is Ed Woodesque in his low expectations and lower command of film technique, but he is deep down just a pale, big-dreaming Sooner with a few dollars to burn on his dream.

The actors within the fictional movie play their awkwardness and amateurishness well, actually more sincerely than For Your Consideration’s stable of talent. It’s clear Grant does know how to make a movie, but it’s also clear that his resources are only modica better than those of his onscreen alter ego Justice. At times, Bigfoot devolves into a massive inside-joke-feeling portrayal of some particular absurdity tat someone had no doubt really experienced. These are still amusing but sometimes (just as in real expensive big Hollywood comedies) the pace gets trapped by the filmmaker’s love of the moment.

Overall, No Burgers for Bigfoot is pokey but generally charming and reminiscent of enough smoother (and rougher) portrayals that it’s clearly a love letter to them all. It’s not quite as tight as Living in Oblivion, but it’s also not nearly as insidery or contemplative. The characters are fun and the absurdity is universal, even if you just work in an office. It’s worth a look.

MPAA Rating R-language, violence, mild nudity
Release date 9/20/08
Time in minutes 94
Director Jonathan Grant
Studio unaffiliated

DisFigured

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Disfigured is a tiny little movie about female body image and acceptance. It’s an extremely difficult film to qualify I must say (hence the massive delay in doing so). To be blunt, DisFigured is a movie about the clumsy, emotionally loaded friendship that grows between a very fat woman (Lydia) and a barely recovering anorexic woman (Darcy). They meet in a support group for overweight women, one that struggles to decide whether or not it’s about accepting themselves as is. Understandably, they are unsympathetic to Darcy’s dysmorphia.

Deidra Edwards plays Lydia with a depth and realism that feels like a documentary; even if sometimes her line deliveries come off as amateurish, she is extremely committed to conveying the experiences of being an overweight woman in contemporary American society. She is castigated for accepting her appearance from one camp, and equally decried for looking to change it. She gets judged for desiring sexual contact and for denying it of herself. Then we have Darcy. While I don’t know if the actress actually had an eating disorder in life, certainly convinces us that she has. She’s so very very thin, so people-pleasing and guarded.

Lydia and Darcy dance around each other, both aliens from the same planet, finding the same seeds within each other of their very different fruit. My favorite scene is them quoting to each other the horrible things that people say to them about their appearance. It’s enlightening, funny, honest, terrible, and so intimate. This sounds terrible to say, but I don’t think their character would have played as effectively if there were not such a marked contrast in their appearances.

The movie explores the universal female experience of judging others and feeling judged on one’s appearance rather than one’s merits — the terror of confronting what makes us flawed to others’ eyes and internalizing the unfavorable comparisons. These women, fighting self-hatred and societal disapproval and balancing self-care with self-indulgence, express these experiences in somewhat exaggerated terms of what every woman goes through to some degree. DisFigured is extremely effective on this level, with lots of laughs too.

From a purely technical standpoint, the sound is muddy, the camera focus goes in and out even on a static head shot, like a consumer-grade video camera, and the pace gets bogged down between the phases of Lydia and Darcy’s friendship. That said, the film is still well worth seeing even if the execution is a little choppy, because the issues explored here really attain some excellent depth. It is valuable to share ths with women and men alike. Perhaps it will remain a mystery to men why women seem to hate ourselves so disproportionately. Who knows, maybe it will start some real conversations. Check it out.

MPAA Rating Not Rated: nudity, sexuality, language, adult themes
Release date 7/29/08
Time in minutes 95
Director Glenn Gers
Studio Cinema Libre

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