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    “CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW 2″ (Game Review)

    If you plan to play CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW 2 without playing the previous two installments (LORDS OF SHADOW and MIRROR OF FATE, which was originally for the 3DS but has since been ported for XBL and PSN download), prepare yourself for some heavy confusion.  I have played those two, and even I found myself a bit lost at times during its 20 hour or so campaign, as characters tend to come back into the narrative out of nowhere and with minimal or no refresher as to who they are or what their significance was.  Luckily, you can skip over the story if you want and simply enjoy the well-constructed combat mechanic and various gameplay styles that send this series out on a relative high note.

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    “SATURN 3″ (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)

    How peculiar a film is SATURN 3?  Its plot—a horny robot trying to kill its “competition” so it can have Farrah Fawcett all to itself—is one of the least puzzling things about it. You’ll spend far more time wondering why Fawcett is rolling around with a man twice her age (that would be Kirk Douglas), or why Harvey Keitel’s very recognizable voice has been dubbed over, or why all future movies have to have weirdo chess pieces when in reality we’ve been OK with the same basic designs for hundreds of years; or just what anyone was thinking when they greenlit this movie in the first place?

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    “CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW COLLECTION” (Game Review)

    Most long-running game series (SUPER MARIO, FINAL FANTASY, etc) avoid the potential hazards of a strong “mythology” by keeping it simple (Mario is good, things that he can stomp on are bad) or starting from scratch every time out (save for Chocobos and guys named Cid).  Other series, such as CASTLEVANIA, haven’t had long-term goals in mind when they were designed, but kept expanding on the initial storyline, resulting in a complicated “canon” that can scare off new fans, while also decreasing the appeal for older fans who’ve grown tired of trying to make sense of its narrative (RESIDENT EVIL is an even bigger offender of this).  Some folks at Konami agreed, which is why LORDS OF SHADOW is not only a completely standalone affair in terms of CASTLEVANIA lore, but also planned to be a definitive open and shut trilogy that will wrap up with LORDS OF SHADOW 2 in 2014.

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    “THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM” (1961) (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)

    As a producer, Roger Corman has made some truly terrible movies. As a result, his name is more likely to recall a crappy Syfy monster picture, or even an 80s ALIEN ripoff than anything of true merit. That’s a shame, because he’s actually quite a fine director with an incredibly smart approach to making movies that I wish even one-tenth of the major filmmakers working today would follow. Corman did “crazy” things, like plan the shots, and discuss characters with his actors before shooting, bringing everyone on the same page and keeping on-set tension and issues to a bare minimum (they also had completed scripts before that point, another thing that would be too much to ask for nowadays). 

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    ALL NIGHT HORROR MARATHON: “THE OUTING” (Scream Factory DVD Review)

    In the early 80s, the slasher was king. So much so that studios were barely making any other kinds of horror movies.  But as with all trends, it died out thanks to the resurgence of monster and supernaturally-tinged movies that offered big budget, state of the art FX, and leaving producers without the money to compete with the likes of THE FLY and The LOST BOYS little choice but to stick to the (cheaper) slasher movie template.  But in many of these mid/late 80s cases, such as THE OUTING (aka THE LAMP, more on that soon), they would toss in a monster or some sort of possession angle to stick out a bit and avoid being just another “outdated” slasher movie, even while sticking rigidly to its formula: a bunch of kids being picked off one by one, leaving the smartest girl to face off and defeat the villain. 

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    “THE AMITYVILLE HORROR TRILOGY” (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)

    For a movie that spawned at least eight sequels and a remake, 1979’s THE AMITYVILLE HORROR should be better. To be fair, I’m not the biggest fan of haunted house films, but I know a good one when I see it (POLTERGEIST, THE HAUNTING, etc.), and the film has a few issues that just can’t be overcome.  And at just a hair under two hours, it can’t even be considered ideal seasonal viewing; you can get in a better haunted house movie with time leftover for an episode of TALES FROM THE CRYPT or TWILIGHT ZONE.  However, for its fans (or those with more time to kill), Scream Factory has you covered, bringing the original film and its first two sequels to Blu-ray for the first time, with some new bonus features to sweeten the deal.

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    “PSYCHO II & III” (Scream Factory Blu-ray Reviews)

    Recently, the AVClub posted a list of 1983’s “lousy” sequels, which (justifiably) pointed out that one year gave us JAWS 3-D, THE STING II, STAYIN’ ALIVE—sort of a who’s who of notoriously bad follow-ups.  However, they inexplicably included PSYCHO II (while leaving out Amityville 3-D!), which was a head scratcher. By most accounts, this was a remarkably good (some say great) sequel that deftly jumped two incredible hurdles.  One being time; it had been 23 years since the first film had broken so much ground in the genre, and thus the younger audiences that made horror such a lucrative endeavor in the early 80s might not even know about it.  The other, of course, was the lack of one Alfred Hitchcock. Who would dare attempt to follow the master?

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    “THE FLY” (1958) (Blu-ray Review)

    It’s almost impossible to believe if you’re a younger horror fan, but Vincent Price was not yet a horror icon when he appeared in a supporting role in 1958’s THE FLY. His only big horror role prior to this was in HOUSE OF WAX.  But if you’re unaware of its placement in his filmography, and someone tells you that Price was in THE FLY, you’d probably assume he’s the unfortunate sod that has to walk around with a fly head for the second half of the movie, only to be disappointed that he’s the brother that sits all of the monster action out.  It wasn’t until a bit later, when he did a couple pictures for William Castle and then began his long association with AIP, that he became one of our most iconic genre stars, the likes of which we may sadly never have again.

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    “Q: THE WINGED SERPENT” (Scream Factory Blu Review)

    Week after week, we are “treated” to monster movies on the Syfy channel, most of which seem to be based on a template script that they never bothered to personalize; random people are chomped or stomped, a hero (usually played someone from a Syfy show, or a has-been) comes on the scene, suspects things are wrong despite heavy opposition from the mayor or someone (bonus if they go full JAWS and insist that the town parade/bicentennial/dog track opening remains on schedule), gets some proof with the aid of a lovely lady, and kills the beast as a one-man army.  Usually his teenager, often visiting against their will, will go off with some new friends and find themselves trapped by the monster, adding some (very minimal) personal stakes for our hero, who will rescue them and earn their respect in one fell swoop.  These movies aren’t given the biggest budgets in the world, so I can more or less forgive the cheesy FX, but the anonymity that they all possess truly baffles me. Why are they so opposed to the idea of making them memorable?

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