Megaquarium Review (Game, 2018)

Disclosure: I received a free keycode from developers Twice Circled for this review of Megaquarium.

Megaquarium is a simulation game where you run an aquarium. It’s a cross between a theme park manager and a micromanaging simulation/strategy game and I’m all for it. You get as much depth out of the game as you want to get out of the game and that’s the joy of a great simulation game.

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The Predator Review (Film, 2018)

Does a B-movie celebrating its status as a B-movie forgive it from embracing problematic elements of B-movie history long after we stopped accepting these harmful tropes? That’s a hard question to answer. There are films that wield those tropes as a weapon against a history of microaggressions and abusive content, and there are films that think they get away with it just because others have done it worse. Then there’s the element of if they’re even aware they’re doing it when the focus of a genre film is so rarely characters or cultural implications.

The Predator is a B-movie. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s a sequel and soft reboot to 1987’s Predator, itself a B-movie action/horror/sci-fi film that established a pattern now followed in four films. A group of soldiers come in contact with an alien race whose only goal on Earth is hunting strong members of humanity. They cloak to turn invisible, mimic our speech to confuse us, track us via heat signals, and rip our spines out when they win. A clever soldier will inevitably find a way to defeat them and humanity will be saved for a time. Then it happens all over again in the next film with very minor changes—new technology, different setting.

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The Eyes of My Mother Review (Film, 2016)

The visuals of noir can be an effective tool when used well in horror. Horror, as a genre, heavily relies on camera angle, perspective, and play between shadow and light to code the visual language of a film. The more controlled tableaus of noir, with even inkier shadows and bright beams of light, can seem radical and shocking in a contemporary horror landscape. Horror is so driven by frenetic editing and sweeping shots—360 spins or shaking handheld camerawork—that a gentler touch with very controlled framing can really stand out.

Nicolas Pesce, in his debut film as writer/director/editor, really plays on clever references to the history of the genre. The Eyes of My Mother is the story of Francisca. As a young girl, she witnesses the brutal murder of her mother by a total stranger. Her father forces her to take over the day to day housework on the family’s farm, but also gives her free reign to use whatever skills her mother, a former surgeon, taught her on the murderer chained in the family barn.

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Great Games Done Slow: 15-21 September

I’m always a fan of inspiration in unexpected places. There’s a wonderful organization called Games Done Quick that hosts massive speedrunning marathons to raise money for charity. Gamers register to show off their skills beating games at breakneck speeds. This gameplay is streamed live from an event center to Twitch and donations from viewers go to different charities, such as Doctors Without Borders or Prevent Cancer Foundation. They’ve even done events with a very fast turnaround time to help with disaster relief—streamers volunteer their time and Games Done Quick captures their gameplay and rebroadcasts it on the GDQ stream. It’s a fun, intense display of high quality gaming for a variety of great causes.

Kate Gray, a narrative designer, journalist for Kotaku, and streamer, joked back in January about a then non-existent event she called Awesome Games Done Slowly. “hey folks welcome to Awesome Games Done Slowly, the charity livestream where everyone just chills and plays Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing at their own pace.”

What started as a joke only took a few months to become a reality. Great Games Done Slow is an online charity fundraiser running from this Saturday, 15 September, to Friday, 21 September. The goal is mental health awareness in gaming.

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Halloween 2018 and Chronology of Slasher Films

Since I first started writing this piece inspired by the new Halloween sequel called Halloween coming out on 19 October, quite a lot has happened. The second trailer, released on 5 September, has almost cleared 4 million views on YouTube. The film itself premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to rave reviews. TIFF tends to be friendlier to genre films than most major mainstream festivals, so I'd say the jury's still out on if the film will live up to the hype. I'm hopeful. People I know and trust say it's the best sequel in the series and the best Halloween film since 1978 (the original).

Why did it take me so long to pull together a piece on the new Halloween when so many were satisfied with waxing poetic about the trailer? Chronology. In a move that will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed me for more than a day, I began to obsess over minutia in the trailer and needed to gather my receipts to feel satisfied approaching that subject. I do not like to speak out of turn and enjoy research work far too much to just accept my intuition and recollection as a valid source.

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Murder Party Review (Film, 2007)

I'm all for a low-concept horror film. Sure, a high concept horror film, one with a simple idea that is easy to market and produce, is more likely to be polished and clear in its purpose, but a nice broad-reaching, low-concept, throw everything out there and see what sticks horror film can be an experience. I applaud the ambition even if the execution winds up being far more than, say, a first time writer/director could really handle.

Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier is now best known for Green Room, his masterful horror film about a punk band fighting for their lives after witnessing a brutal crime at a night club filled with neo-Nazis. The film is full of fascinating themes and diversions into discussions of passing privilege, justice, and family. It's also absurdly violent and filled with action set pieces that are only as believable as they are because of the perfect pairing of casting and concept.

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