Thursday, June 23, 2016

Atari: Game Over


Last summer, my close friend Becca urged me to read what I now consider to be one of the greatest books to ever come in my possession: Ready Player One. I talked about this book at great length in my post about Wargames, but for those who'd like to get up to speed I'm more than happy to help out:

Ready Player One is an action-packed Sci-Fi thriller where Earth has morphed into a dystopian society that has forced the masses to find refuge in a virtual reality world that has been made available to all citizens. The creator of this virtual reality world has long since passed but on the day of his death, a video went viral explaining that the creator had hidden clues - also known as "Easter Eggs" - throughout this virtual world and the person who could hunt down and follow all the clues would inherit his billion dollar fortune! A pretty fantastic story right?? Well naturally, a book based solely on 80's pop culture, music, and movie references would lead to one watching a killer documentary based on the most influential gaming system of the early 80's: Atari. Which is what lead Becca to watching this documentary, and then to me watching it as well!

I am ITCHING for this book to be made into a movie! Until then, 
I need to get my own copy and read it again!

Atari is one of the most iconic gaming systems in the world and has been hailed as the piece of technology that launched the computer revolution. Most known for it's iconic first release Pong, Atari was a company that literally was only a thing in the world for about 10 years. With the release of two consoles - Pong and the Atari 2600 - the company created and sold hundreds of different video game cartridges that forever changed the face of at-home gaming systems. It was the X-Box and Playstation of the late 70's and early 80's. But then, as quickly as Atari exploded on the scene, it vanished. And nobody really knew why. And that is what Zak Penn wants to find out.

We want to know what caused the mighty to fall!

Screenwriter and director Zak Penn is the narrator and guide of our documentary. Growing up an avid video game player, Zak himself owned an Atari console and was deeply puzzled over the Atari vanishing act of the 80's. So he has taken it upon himself to track down the founders and famed game designers of Atari to find out the story behind the company. How it started, how it ended, and all the fun stuff in between. So co-founder Nolan Bushnell, famed game designer Howard Scott Warshaw, and a slew of other Atari associates all come together to tell the tale of where the legend began and ended. But the Atari story isn't the only thing being discussed in this film.

There's one piece to this puzzle that needs to be dug up, literally!

With the decline of any great company, there are always speculations and rumors about why it came to an end. And the supposed end of Atari has become an urban myth in the gaming community. After the majority of original games were released for the 2600 - games like Yar's Revenge, Adventure, and Castle Quest - Atari started on a new venture where games were being requested by major movie studios to help churn out profit. So films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, and Predator were all subject to getting their own video game cartridges for play on the Atari systems...but there was one game that was fabled to have been so horrible that it caused Atari to close it's doors. And that game was E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

The hottest new name in video games!

Overflowing with problems, when the E.T. game hit the market the public was outraged at the reception. It wasn't a simple game to play, on top of being confusingly multi-faceted, no one was happy with E.T. Because the film had been a box office smash, Atari was so sure they would make several million thanks to this game. But instead, the game was a flop. And it was rumored that so many cartridges were made of E.T. that couldn't be sold that Atari was forced to get rid of them...and so it was said that all these games were buried in a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Did E.T. really spell doom for Atari? Are those games buried in that desert landfill in New Mexico? Zak Penn is literally going to find out the answers to both questions, and we are along for the ride!

There's over 30 years of trash and dirt in this landfill...is there any hope
of finding answers to this urban legend? 

As someone who knows basically nothing about the world of video games, this was a really cool and educational documentary that I have watched twice in between my first viewing and writing this blog post. With insightful commentary from the founders and designers who used to be part of Atari, as well as other figure heads from major gaming systems like X-Box, I feel like I got a good grasp on the history of Atari as a company and as a gaming console. We learn about how the gaming system came to be, how it evolved and revolutionized how we use personal technology, and we got into the nitty gritty about why the company tanked. But probably the coolest part of this documentary was hearing from the people who are genuine fans of gaming and just wanted answers. Ready Player One author Ernest Cline was of the gaming enthusiasts who participated in this movie, and getting to hear about his passion for gaming was really cool. Plus, it was fun to see an actual problem-solving aspect to this documentary. Not only did we learn about the history of Atari, but narrator Zak Penn took an active role in wanting to debunk the E.T. video game urban legend - how cool! And there's no way I'm spoiling that ending for you! Even if you're not big into gaming, this was a fun movie to watch and I walked away feeling like I learned a lot. Such a cool watch!

THURSDAY NIGHT IS THE BEST NIGHT TO TUNE IN TO REAL PUNK RADIO!! Home to the Thursday Night Wrecking Pit, Real Punk Radio is your Thursday night destination for the best in Psychobilly radio programming. Starting tonight at 6pm PT Gone Mental will be kicking off the evening, and then at 7pm PT Zorch Radio takes over the reigns and rides out the evening til 10pm with the best in Psychotronic rock n' roll. So make sure to tune in to Real Punk Radio tonight!

A HUGE thank you to everyone who came out to the Psychobilly Brawl last weekend!
Make sure to stay tuned in for more local events!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Hunter


Martin David (Willam Defoe) is a gun for hire, a Mercenary, who has been sent on a job unlike anything he's been sent on before. Contacted by a military biotech company called Red Leaf, Martin's assignment will take him all the way to Australia where he is required to track down the rarest of creatures: a Tasmanian Tiger. Some believe the Tasmanian Tigers to be extinct, but a scientist in Australia believes he has found the last one so Martin is to go to Australia and - with the help of that scientist - find that Tasmanian Tiger and send back samples of its hair, blood, and tissue back to Red Leaf in order to consider the job accomplished. So down South, Martin goes!

Welcome to the Outback Martin!

Once in Australia, Martin makes his way to the Armstrong household where he will be staying while working on his assignment. The head of the household, Jarrah Armstrong (Marc Watson-Paul) was an environmental scientist who has gone missing and has yet to return home. This was the scientist whose brain Martin was supposed to pick...but he's out of luck now so he has to create a new plan. Luckily for Martin, the mother of the household - Lucy (Frances O'Connor) - is practically catatonic from prescription drugs so she won't be underfoot. But that leaves her unattended children - Sass (Morgana Davies) and Bike (Finn Woodlock) - to worry about.

Maybe the kids won't be too much of a nuisance. 

Wanting to keep to himself and create an innocent facade, Martin tells the children and the locals that he is a professor from the university who is going to be studying Tasmanian Devils - a common creature so he should be left well enough alone. But some are none too pleased about his presence. Local loggers are furious at the prospect of scientists poking around in the woods and cutting off more work for them by placing forests under protection, and a man named Jack (Sam Neill) whom the Armstrong family depends on for help is also far from pleased when Martin explains that he doesn't need help in the wild. All Martin can do is keep his head down and do his work...but will the locals let that be? Or is he going to have another obstacle to overcome on top of tracking down a supposedly extinct animal?

Okay, I think someone needs to talk to Martin about how to make friends...

This movie was honestly not what I thought it was going to be when I added it to my Netflix queue. I was expecting something along the lines of Shooter but maybe more dramatic...and while this movie was plenty dramatic, it's still very different than what I was hoping for. Willam Defoe is an actor I really like because he doesn't show up in a lot of things, but the movies I tend to see him in are all really good - hello, Boondock Saints anyone? But The Hunter was dull. It was a cool story, and the setting was really nice but... it felt way too long and there wasn't a whole lot of intrigue until the end. And even then I just wasn't the most interested. Dang it William Defoe! You led me astray! This is a movie I'd like to see remade with a more interesting conclusion and a better overall vibe. It's got good bones, I just want to see some meat on them!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Case of You


Sam Newman (Justin Long) is not entirely proud of where he is in his life. He is an accomplished author...kind of. Commissioned by movie studios to write novel versions of hit blockbuster movies, Sam has written several very popular novels, it's just that one of them have been anything original. But every time Sam sits down to try to write from the heart, nothing comes to him, and what does is hardly worthy of being cast in the next great American novel. But Sam doesn't stop trying! Every day he tries to make a fresh start with another blank page, and every day around 3pm he speeds off to a local coffee shop to visit his muse.

Sam's day always leads him back to her...

Birdie Hazel (Evan Rachel Wood) is a barista at the coffee shop that Sam goes to, in fact she is the only reason that Sam goes to the coffee shop! He knows practically nothing about her, minus the fact that she is beautiful and he wants to learn everything he can about her. And since Sam is far too shy to ask Birdie anything on his own, he finds her Facebook profile and can't help but check out all of her interests...and then he has an idea. What if he he also liked and could do all the things she was interested in? Then he could become her perfect man and there would be no way she could turn down a date with him! And so the online stalking begins...

Conversation? Come on, the poor guy can barely order coffee from her!

Sam pours over Birdie's profile, learning everything he can about her and trying to craft his own interests after hers. He buys and reads books he's never heard of, albums by artists he hates, Sam learns how to play guitar, and even takes Judo and French cooking classes! And now that he has done all of these things, it is officially time for them to meet. So Sam does a little more creeping and finds that Birdie is going to be at an Improv show later that evening...perfect! And so Sam "casually" bumps into Birdie at the show...and it's an instant connection.

She's giving you the look Sam, you're in!

As the days go on, Birdie and Sam start spending more and more time together, and Sam starts doing more and more things trying to impress Birdie along the way. He participates in her ballroom dancing class, starts eating Indian food, quotes obscure poetry, and even gets his first pedicure...just doing anything he can to prove to Birdie that he's the perfect man for her. But while the dating is going well, Sam nearly gets his cover blown so many times! Birdie would totally flip out if she knew that Sam was a fake. But now that they are dating, Sam has finally found his muse and he's able to write originally for the first time in his life! How can he give that up? But then...how can he keep up this fake relationship and toying with Birdie's heart?

You owe her the truth Sam. 

This was a movie that I added to my Netflix queue alongside another romance movie starring Justin Long - Comet, which I have yet to watch. I don't know if it's because he's so awkward he's cute, or if I genuinely enjoy his acting but I always feel like movies starring Justin Long will steer me right and that was totally correct when it comes to A Case For You. There are plenty of romantic comedies all based on false identity or trying to be someone else for the person you love, but this was an exceptionally well-done movie. There was plenty of comedy without being hokey like Along Came Polly, but there wasn't so much romance to make the movie sickly sweet. There was an even balance, with realistic characters, and genuine heartfelt charm. A Case For You is fantastic and I highly recommend it...now let's hope that Comet is also something special too!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Stir of Echoes


Do you ever want to watch movies solely based off of rumors that you've heard about it? Stir of Echoes has been a movie I've been curious about watching since 2002...so more than 10 years. Back when I was in 7th grade, I don't remember how the subject came up, but my social studies teacher told my class about this movie where if you looked in the background you could see the shadow of the body of a man who had hanged himself on the set...and that movie was Stir of Echoes. Why she felt the need to share this information with 13 year old kids is beyond me, but that supposed rumor has stuck with me through the years. And when I finally did get the chance to take the plunge and watch this movie, I was too enamored by it's creepiness to even take time to look for a dead body in the background...Stir of Echoes is eeeeeeerie!!

Tom Witzky (Kevin Bacon) is your average, hard-working, middle-aged man who lives in Chicago. Happily married to his beautiful wife Maggie (Kathryn Erbe), Tom works hard as lineman for a phone company and doing his best to provide for his wife who is expecting their second child, and for his young son Jake (Zachary David Cope). Tom and Maggie don't go out much or do things outside the house too often because of Jake, but every once in a while they like to get together with their friends for a few beers, which is what they've decided to do this evening. That night Tom gets into a heated debate with Maggie's sister Lisa (Illeana Douglas) over whether or not hypnotism is legit. Deciding to settle the debate for good, Lisa offers to hypnotize Tom to prove him wrong. And that's where the trouble begins.

What's a little hypnosis between friends? 

After being hypnotized by Lisa, Tom starts having terrifying visions about a teenage girl in his home...about something violent happening to her. What could this mean? But while Tom is worried about these visions that keep plaguing his mind, being hypnotized has also landed him another interesting power that helps him determine the safety of his family. This comes into play a few nights later when Tom and Maggie are out again for an evening with friends when Tom suddenly gets the feeling that Jake is in danger...and sure enough when Tom focuses on his intuition he is led to a train station where he finds the babysitter holding Jake! The babysitter frantically explains that Jake was talking to someone named Samantha and the babysitter demands for answers on where Samantha is and what happened to her.

Um...how about asking questions BEFORE you kidnap someone else's kid??

The babysitter (Liza Well) is talking about her older sister Samantha Kozac (Jennifer Morrison), a teenage girl with limited intellectual capabilities - meaning that her mind never developed past that of an 8-year-old child. Samantha had disappeared several years ago before Tom and his family had even moved into their neighborhood where she lived and no one knew whatever became of the girl. But the minute that the babysitter starts babbling about Samantha, Tom instantly knows that the girl in his visions is her. He's seeing Samantha. Not wanting to tell anyone else or be declared insane, Tom confesses to his wife that he's been having visions of Samantha and he thinks she is trying to help him find her body and expose what happened to her. At first Maggie is supportive...but it doesn't take long for Tom to become completely consumed in finding the girl, to the point where he starts tearing apart his own house and digging up their yard! Tom is a man possessed with needing to know the truth. But when he finds out the truth, it could destroy someone very close to Tom and endanger everyone he holds close to him...

Follow the clues Tom...she'll show you where to go. 

I was prepared for a dramatic thriller, but I was definitely not expecting this! Stir of Echoes was intense, gory, terrifying, and crazy creepy! Kevin Bacon's character is so convincing, I was legitimately worried about how consumed his character became with solving this mystery. I love that this movie had no issue with pulling out some straight up nasty gore, and that we were met with clues to this mystery that weren't obvious like most murder-mysteries usually are today. Stir of Echoes is truly its own breed of terror. And there's a twist at the end that I never would have ever seen coming! From start to finish, this movie is an intense thrill ride that I should not have watched in the dark but I couldn't help myself...horror, thrills, murder...Stir of Echoes is amazing!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Cowboys vs Dinosaurs


Here I am, the girl who is a sucker for any movie featuring a dinosaur in it and I'm back in the saddle again! Now loving dinosaur movies is one thing, but I'm also a fan of certain types of cross over movies too, especially cowboy crossover movies. I was one of the few people I know who loved Cowboys & Aliens, and while I knew it was probably a long shot when I saw the title Cowboys vs Dinosaurs on Netflix I was hoping for something very similar. Granted, Cowboys & Aliens had a much bigger budget, no doubt...but I was excited to give this one a go regardless. And I was pleasantly surprised by what I got!

Val Walker (Rib Hillis) was once a celebrated bull rider, but after sustaining career-ending injuries Val has been forced to leave the rodeo life for good. Setting his sights for home, Val returns to his small hometown of Livingston, Montana where he hopes to start working again as a ranch hand...but no one is looking for extra help. An old buddy of Val's suggests that he try looking for work at the local Iridium mine...but it turns out that there was an accident and the mine has been shut down. With nothing else to do, Val decides to preoccupy himself with righting things between himself and the girl he left behind, Sky (Casey Fitzgerald). But the quiet in this small town is about to be interrupted.

Surprise surprise!!

So the accident that happened in the mines? It unearthed something horrific. A wall broke free deep underground and revealed a large cavern...and what was in that cabin? DINOSAURS! Rushing from the mine first came a fleet of velociraptors, descending on the entire town and taking down people in their wake. But then comes even more terror - a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Triceratops...one prehistoric monster after another!! The dinosaurs wreck havoc on the town, and those that are able to fight...don't really know how to take down a dinosaur...what do you do? And so, it comes down to Val and a couple other men throughout town who decide to serve some justice to these titans from the dawn of time the only way they know how, cowboy style!

Hold on little lady, some complex Cowboy stuff is about to go down!

In no way at all is this movie some kind of gem or cinematic masterpiece - it's 100% worthy of the SyFy channel with all it's butchered CGI and horrendous over acting. However, I would be a liar if I didn't also add that the violence and action in this movie is really cool, that the dinosaurs are not the worst that I've seen in the world - I'm looking at you Crocosaurus! - and that the ridiculous twist at the end that helps our cowboys defeat these dinosaurs wasn't too horrible. Yes, it's silly and dumb...but what do you expect when you have dinosaurs come bursting out of a mine in the middle of the Montana countryside!? Cowboys vs Dinosaurs is a hilarious Sci-Fi/Western romp that I highly recommend for fans of trashy, cheesy movies with some good explosive fun!

Don't believe me? Check out this trailer!
Also, I couldn't find an English speaking trailer...but I don't totally
feel like that's going to be much of a problem...

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Outsourced


Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton) works as a Fulfillment Manager for Western Novelty, a large corporation that specializes in selling Patriotic-themed knickknacks to America. Todd has been with the Seattle-based company for nearly 5 years and while it's not the most personally fulfilling job, he makes great money and likes the reliability...that is, until his boss calls Todd into his office and explains that some major changes are coming to the company. The Fulfillment Department - the call center where customers call to place orders - is going to be outsourced to a small town in India. It doesn't make sense to base a company that thrives on selling American-themed goods halfway across the world, but the big boss man likes that it will save money, which is all that matters at the end of the day.

So not only does Todd have to let the entire department know that they are out of a job because their entire department is being outsourced, but his own life is about to take a completely different direction. His boss makes it very clear that Todd is more than welcome to quit his job...but then he'd be out his stock options and medical benefits. So what is left for him now that his department is being shipped overseas? Simple. He follows! If Todd wants to keep his job, he will go to India and help to train his replacement. Not too difficult, he just needs to oversee the accent training and help improve call times with customers. It sounds simple enough, but it's not going to be easy in the slightest.

Welcome to your new home Todd!

Todd arrives in India and from the get-go he is not sure how to comprehend the country, it's both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. The people are wonderfully friendly but Todd is instantly put off by the heat, the overbearingly nice hospitality, and the food that sends his sensitive digestive system into a spin cycle. But despite these uncomfortable circumstances, Todd has a job to do...but considering the conditions of the Indian office it won't be easy to do much of anything. Used to a high tech office environment, Todd finds that the office based in a small town called Gharapuri is a small concrete building that is just not being wired for electricity and only has room for a small handful of people to place calls...Okay. But the challenges are going to keep coming.

It's not an easy adjustment, that's for sure!

The supervisor of this new Indian office is an enthusiastic man named Puro (Asif Basra) who  looks forward to learning everything he can from Todd about American business. But Todd cannot stand Puro and his eagerness to learn and please...everything about this country and this job just grates him the wrong way. Especially one of the operators - a young woman named Asha (Ayesha Dharker) who has a question and smart answer for just about anything Todd has to say. Todd cannot wait to get back home to America, but until he can get things set up in India that won't happen. But maybe the key to Todd's success is not doing things the way he was taught...maybe he needs to learn a few things about India to help this new business venture be as successful as possible.

Maybe Indian will start to feel a little more like home now!

This was another movie that has been sitting in my Netflix queue for quite some time and I only added it because I thought the cover art looked very sweet. Luckily for me, Outsourced ended up being just as cute as I had hoped it would be. A sweet romance story, set in a world where there's a great amount of culture clash...but it's all done in a very sweet and fun way. We are introduced to fun aspects of Indian culture, meet delightful characters, and watch a precious office romance bloom...it's not the most profound or original love story, but it's one that I wouldn't mind watching again. And I would definitely recommend this to fellow rom-com fans!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Boy Meets Girl


Ricki (Michelle Hindley) has dreams much bigger than the small country-bumpkin town she was born and raised in. Specializing in making her own clothes, Ricki dreams of going to school for fashion design in New York and anxiously checks the mail every single day in the hopes that her acceptance letter will come. But until then, she spends her days filming Youtube videos featuring her homemade creations and spends time with her lifelong best friend Robby (Michael Welch). All in all, Ricki seems like your average girl. But Ricki is far from average.

Just a small town girl? Well...not quite. 

Ricki Jones was actually born a boy, but as she grew older Ricki knew there was something different about her. Ricki didn't like to play with boys toys and was drawn toward barbies and wearing dresses. Ricki was born transgender meaning that she was a girl born in the body of a boy. Luckily for Ricki, her family was very accepting. Despite the fact that her mother died of cancer while Ricki was young, Ricki's father and little brother supported her decision to dress and act as a girl. Even Robby was supportive and stood by her side when Ricki was bullied by the kids at school!And while, Ricki has been lucky in all aspects of her life as far as transitioning into becoming a woman...she hasn't been so lucky in the love department. That is...until Francesca came along.

Another pretty face!

Francesca Duval (Alexandra Turshen) is the most pristine of Southern belles, born in the deep South and sent to fancy boarding schools her entire life this girl is the picture of refinement. She just happens to stop into the coffee shop where Ricki works one day and is instantly drawn to how blunt and funny Ricki is. The two end up spending time together later that same day on the lake where Ricki reveals that she is transgender...and instead of being shocked, Francesca is fascinated and accepting. It also doesn't hurt that she's really cute too... Ricki can't help but think that maybe she's been so unlucky in love because she was trying to see boys...but what about seeing a girl?

Don't you say her Robby, she's trying to figure love out for the first time!

Ricki can't help but blush and be drawn to Francesca's sweetness and kindness toward her situation. Francesca literally treats her like one of the girls...which is such a wonderful change. But there is a catch. Francesca is engaged to a Marine who is currently stationed in Afghanistan, who coincidentally enough went to school with both Robby and Ricki. Francesca tells her fiance about befriending Ricki, and he instantly makes it clear that he doesn't want Francesca to be friends with "that freak". But that doesn't stop Francesca from not only seeing Ricki again...but the two also end up kissing and sleeping together! Is this love or a temporary fling before Francesca gets married? Does any of that matter in the eyes of their families? Is true happiness at stake, or are Ricki and Francesca doomed from the start? Or will love blossom between the most unlikely people?

Doomed or destiny? Which one is right for them? 

This is a movie I added to my Netflix queue because...honestly...ok, don't make fun of me. I read the description and looked at the poster...and I thought Keira Knightley was starring as the transgender woman in this movie. Don't shame or boo me!! I mean, Michelle Hendley seriously looks like Keira Knightley from a distance..and if you squint your eyes really hard. Ok, maybe not. Regardless though, I am so glad I ended up watching this movie!

Other LGBTQ movies I've seen in the past haven't really hit home with me because they focused more on beating you over the head with the fact that you're watching an LGBTQ movie rather than developing a decent movie. Boy Meets Girl is the complete opposite however. While, I don't feel like it's an accurate representation of the transgender experience - a white Southern boy transitioning into becoming a woman in a small Southern town filled with accepting and kind people isn't completely realistic - this movie was still a genuinely sweet love story. Executing a cute blend of comedy and first love romance, Boy Meets Girl also explores trans issues, questions, and general sexuality and labels in a way that doesn't alienate the viewers who don't identify with any of the discussed issues. This movie was casual and precious, just too cute for words! But there is a twist at the end that I wasn't anticipating...and that twist made this story so much sweeter! Romance movie lovers will adore Boy Meets Girl!