Saturday, July 24, 2021

IN THE EVENT YOU Play ” NEW WORLD “? Beta Impressions From The Frontier

Amazon Games’ upcoming MMORPG New World is in the spotlight as a lengthy closed beta session shows off the action ahead of an August 31st release. New World has changed its vision multiple times over the course of development, and now the question on everyone’s mind is – where is this going to land on release? What kind of player is it for? What kind of MMORPG is it? And perhaps the most important question, is it worth your time at all? Over the course of the beta (and a demo session that took me into an endgame slice with a fully-geared character), I’ve seen some areas with huge potential that are currently underserved in the MMORPG space – and some others that could be intense detriments for the title. Let’s talk about New World!It successfully lands a powerful frontier survival vibe If you’re familiar with survival games that have you punching wood to get a house going, New World delivers on this front initially by giving the player myriad survival pursuits. Hunting turkey on the borders of your established safe zones to raise your cooking skill and create rations is far more engaging than it has any right to be. Hunting down elusive saltpeter deposits in mines and crafting your own shells for your old-timey rifles feels fun. Being able to skill up in everything to your liking is a classic system à la Runescape, and its nice to know you can work up every single crafting and gathering skill if you wish, right down to doing some fishing. Banging together your first batch of gathering tools is actually freaking awesome. Digging up carrots and potatoes feels meaningful. Coming back to your town in the middle of the wilderness to trade feed and talk with your fellow explorers has all the allure of bustling about Disney’s Frontiertown, and I’ve rarely had so much investment into crafting and trading systems in MMOs. I can see potential problems with these aspects later down the line, i.e. do I really want to spend my time in the endgame gathering resources just so I can play the game, but for now, there’s plenty of magic in creating my own food, ammunition, and supplies before I trek out into the wild. It feels gritty, it feels raw, and it feels fresh. Faction PVP can be a lot of fun Territory control and faction-based opt-in PVP not only bring back a bit of realm-vs-realm feel from the glory days of Dark Age of Camelot, but they inject something that many online experiences have moved away from in the last decade – social interaction. That means yes, you are going to see a player named PoopyPants (Yes, this was a real player I saw) cutting down trees and screaming outside of town about the price of silver ore, and your chat feed is going to be inundated with comments that make the infamous Barrens chat look downright erudite. However, it also successfully adds shared social stakes to the experience, even if you choose not to interact at the verbal level with any other players. By funneling players into three different factions, you have an investment in your tribe regardless of how deep you want to take it. If you still just want to solo and bring back a load of furs to trade in town, you can – but the real fun is to be had by grouping up, interacting with others, and eventually taking over some territory as your chosen faction. At the solo, guild, and greater level, having game flow dictated by players instead of the “theme park” experience is a bold choice and more than a bit refreshing. The issue here is how interesting and meaningful are these faction wars going to be in the endgame? While I don’t have the answer to that yet, the prospect of really engaging with other players in a meaningful way in a MMORPG gives me a powerful nostalgia bump and some serious differentiation from many other genre offerings today. On the flip side, if you’re not really interested in territory wars or PvP, other existing MMORPGs might be a better choice. The combat is New World’s biggest weakness In almost every MMORPG, you’re going to be doing a ton of combat. It’s probably the biggest portion of the entire gameplay experience. With limited skill options, awkward animations, and very little excitement, New World’s combat is decidedly dull. Now, there’s something to be said about popping an opposing faction member from a great distance before you engage in a 3v3 skirmish that gets real greasy, but that’s more about the player-to-player interaction than the combat, which can often feel wooden and wonky. While I enjoy systems that attempt to break the genre out of the tab-targeting standard that’s been grandfathered into MMOs for ages, it misses the mark here.  I found it hard to determine if the other aspects of the game that seem enjoyable can carry this particular aspect either, as combat is the core of almost every other pursuit. Even if you’re just spelunking for saltpeter, you’re going to have to fight a ton of various zombie-like creatures, wolves, or bears, and it simply does not feel good. This problem is exacerbated in group experiences, both PvP and PvE, but more pronounced in the latter. Chewing into spongey opponents as a pack with the glaring lack of feedback from weaponry is almost comical, and your options in combat feel extremely limited and lacking. Everything can feel the same Enemies, locations, and activities can become a big bowl of mush without breaking it up with some PvP pursuits. You’ll see many of the same rickety little fishing villages, decrepit farms, and crumbling ruins as you traverse the giant world. Killing some undead buccaneers at level 5 feels the same as it does at level 15, and you’re going to be doing a ton of daily-quest/fetch style activities in order to grind out your faction reputation, like wandering around the aforementioned locations for boxes and killing X undead baddies. It feels intensely repetitive even after only twenty hours of gameplay, so I’m concerned about how that will translate to the endgame – will I still, as an elite member of the Syndicate, still be wandering farms killing undead and picking taters? I mean, I do like picking taters... Travel is rough When you’re just starting, it’s fine that you’re walking everywhere because you don’t have far to go. However, this takes a turn at around level 12, where you’ll find the autorun button and some movies on your favorite streaming platform to be your best friends. The world is large, and traveling it all on foot is a huge pain. Without mounts, and the fact that fast travel is limited by resources, moving around the map is an absolute bore and a chore. I realize there are other meaningful concerns that probably flow into this decision, like the implications of having everyone zoom around in a game that’s attempting to create stakes with territory control and PvP, but this becomes harder and harder to ignore the more you play and get quests on opposite ends of your map. Forging ahead Based on the beta, New World is going to be an interesting but potentially niche addition to the current crop of MMORPGs. However, it seems to really serve players that want to play with small groups of friends for faction skirmishes and that are interested in greater territory control wars with big guild politics and all that. If you’re not interested in that kind of greater pursuit with plenty of social interaction and PvP, the PvE elements by themselves do not seem compelling enough to keep things rolling.  While I love the feeling of crafting my own stuff, slowly increasing the areas that I’m strong enough to explore, and fastidiously upping all my gathering and crafting skills, I can see those charms fading rapidly as the activities become somewhat rote. The dynamics involved in faction wars and territory control seem to be the peppy antidote for the never-ending rock farm in various undead shacks and homesteads. As with other games that lean into this kind of emergent gameplay (RIP Shadowbane), some of New World will be what players shape it into.
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    Interview: Caitlin Carmichael Discusses Midnight in the Switchgrass’ True Story

    Based on a true story, the film Midnight in the Switchgrass chronicles the serial abductions and murders of young women and the FBI agents that are trying to stop them. The directorial debut of Randall Emmett, the film stars Bruce Willis, Megan Fox, Emile Hirsch, Lukas Haas, and Caitlin Carmichael. It’s out in theaters and on demand on Friday, July 23, and releases on Blu-ray and DVD on July 27.“While in Florida on another case, FBI agents Helter (Willis) and Lombardo (Fox) cross paths with state cop Crawford (Hirsch), who’s investigating a string of female murders that appear to be related,” says the official synopsis. “Lombardo and Crawford team up for an undercover sting, but it goes horribly wrong, plunging Lombardo into grave danger and pitting Crawford against a serial killer in a twisted game of cat and mouse.”ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke to star Caitlin Carmichael about her role, getting to work with Megan Fox and Bruce Willis, and her being a 10-plus year performer at the age of just 17.Tyler Treese: This is such an interesting film and it’s based on a true story. I’m always interested in the prep actors do. Did you look into the true story much or did you just go off the script? What was your approach? Caitlin Carmichael: I’m so glad that you think this because even myself, aside from acting and reading scripts, but even as a viewer, if something is based on a true story, it immediately hooks me. Then in the thriller or horror genre, it makes things 10 times more intense just watching it. So I was really interested in reading about the actual highway serial killings initiative started by the FBI and seeing the frameworks that our story was based upon. It gave me definitely a new perspective on the research and prep for this role, as opposed to just researching similar kidnappings or abductions for my character.There are so many great actors involved and a talented director, what really drew you to this role?I was really excited to play a character who got to explore such an intense storyline first off. And then there is a really unique aspect to this kidnapping abduction narrative, which is really centered on female unity and having Megan Fox playing a female FBI agent who saves herself in the end of this movie, spoiler alert, but also the women of the film come together to save each other. That was a huge means of prioritization for our director Randall, that he really wanted that to be expressed on screen. Once he told me that in my first meeting with him, I was sold. I was already signed on to the project, but that was it for me. I was so excited to get to play a character who was a part of that sense of female unity and almost sisterhood in a way.Your character is very much at the heart of the story and drives the plot forward with this being such a key role. This being a feature film, did you feel any more pressure than usual? I don’t know. I was trying not to think about it in the sense of pressure, but there definitely is a huge responsibility for myself and my performance. Going back to how you were saying it’s based on a true story, my character is really serving as this symbol for the girls who did go missing and in the real cases solved by this FBI initiative. So less so pressure, but I really felt a sense of responsibility onto me to bring this story to life accurately.You mentioned unity and getting to work with Megan Fox. Did she give you any advice? How was it like working with her?She was an amazing person to work with, and I really can’t imagine someone better to have been a part of that sense of sisterhood on our set and our scenes were really on bringing this genuine sense of fear into our characters. So we’re both talking in solitary confinement to each other, which creates this amazing back and forth mirror shot that people will get to see when the movie comes out. But being able to find this genuine fear in a form of a selfless performance and finding that truth within ourselves to express what our characters really would be feeling was something that she and I were both able to bring to life on set. So I’m really excited for people to see that when the movie comes out.Yeah, the film deals with such traumatic subject matter and has to be a difficult performance. Like you said, you’re being bound up. You’re being tortured by this man, this killer. How difficult was it to get into the emotion and bring this character to life?I would actually say I’m really thankful that my role had a lot of physicality involved with it, because it feels like for me, when I’m doing these stunts and especially filming Tracey’s escape, crawling through the sewage pipe and having my hands tied together with real zip ties, there’s something about having that form of authenticity that really helped me to snap into the scene. Sometimes it’s easier to really struggle in the way that my character was so that I can feel the same emotions that she would, um, rather than trying to fake anything at all. So it ended up being a blessing in disguise that I got to do all of my stunts myself, and really putting myself through what my character was experiencing and allowing myself to feel moments of perseverance and struggle that she was feeling.Usually, when I’m talking to someone your age, they’re a new actor, but you’re definitely not a new actor you’ve been acting for over a decade now. Can I call you a veteran actor? How is it to be one of the youngest veterans?I guess no one’s ever called me that before. So I’m going to put that in my notes app with the date, thanks, Tyler. That’s a very cool compliment. It’s definitely, I feel very lucky to have found my thing so early. I know a lot of people who grow up and they’re trying different hobbies and sports and arts and talents, but since I was three and a half acting is what I’ve been doing. So it’s the most central part of my identity at this point.Lukas Haas gives such a sensational performance as the truck stop killer here. It’s uncomfortable to watch some of these scenes. How intense was it just filming with him and how intense were those scenes to shoot?Our production was actually shut down twice because of COVID-19, which was a traumatic experience. I’m sure for our director Randall more than anyone else, but it actually allowed for us, as a cast, to have a lot of time to rehearse together and do extra table reads and develop this sense of chemistry off camera. And I think that that was immensely beneficial for myself and Lucas hos to be able to spend time together and get to know each other so that there was a sense of comfortability to really dive into the intensity of our scenes together. And he is an amazing person and someone else who grew up as a child actor in the industry, we already had that connection and had lots of different anecdotes to share with each other.Your character doesn’t really interact a ton with Bruce Willis in the film, since you’re missing, but that has to still be a very cool bucket list thing working with such a legendary actor. What was your thoughts on getting to work with him? It definitely was. Right before I auditioned for the movie, I was in my freshman year at UCLA and I was taking a film class and we had just studied Die Hard. So I think I was entering the audition in the space of filming. This movie is a little bit more of a fan than usual, just because I’ve been staring at his face for about two weeks straight in analysis of the movie.You’ve done such great charity work, helping those with cancer, raising money for girls in STEM programs and feeding the homeless. It’s great to see someone, you know, giving back so much and at such a young age. Can you discuss your philanthropy and what you do to give back?Absolutely. Growing up, my mom has always stressed the importance to me of giving back, and that’s something that’s really guided me throughout my childhood. Especially today through my work, as the west coast teen ambassador of the American Cancer Society, we have been able to launch the ResearcHERS’s campaign funding female cancer researchers, and inspiring young girls in STEM programs. That is a campaign that we launched together.Aside from that, I have a huge passion for giving back to the homeless. So I was able to launch my own initiative called stars of blessing, which was acknowledged by the Starbucks Foundation, allowing people to use their mobile points on the Starbucks app to feed the homeless at no expense to them. For my third philanthropic endeavor that I’m focused on, I’ve been sponsoring a little girl at community hope school in Namibia, Africa, since I was seven years old with my own money that I’ve made from filming. So giving back and philanthropy has always been a huge priority in my life, and I hope that as I grow in my career and have a platform I’m able to use it for good.That’s so awesome. What do you feel is like the next step for your career? Obviously, you’re going to college still, but what is your next step acting-wise?For my next step? Well, as you said, I am going to college. I just registered for my junior year of classes at UCLA. So I’m an American lit and culture major, and I just declared my film, TV and digital media minor. So I’m really excited to see how my education will help me explore the history of filmmaking and with my majors, themes of creative writing and gender studies, psychology and philosophy. I think this will really help me grow as an artist, both in front of the camera and start to explore what that means for me behind the camera as well.You mentioned going behind the camera. Long-term goals, would you want to direct? Do you want to write scripts? What else are you interested in? Absolutely. I would love to be one of those people that says I could do it all, but I’m directing and producing my own movies will probably be first up.This is such a great film, very dramatic, Four our readers, how would you pitch them in checking out Midnight in the Switchgrass? How would I pitch the film? Oh, no one’s ever asked me this before. Hold on, let me think. I got to come up with an elevator pitch.We’re testing your behind-the-scenes skills here. That’s a little test.Testing my behind-the-scenes skills. I think that the most powerful line in the movie, to me at least, is Megan presents the question, “If no one’s looking for you, are you really missing?” I think that could be the tagline of our movie, ultimately. So we’re giving a voice to the numerous amount of missing girls whose stories that we’ve never heard. So I think that’s a really interesting aspect of the trueness of our movie.

    Held Giveaway – DVD Copy of Jill Awbrey’s Horror Film

    ComingSoon is giving away a DVD copy of the horror film Held, which is written by Jill Awbrey, who also stars in the film alongside Bart Johnson (Initiation). The film is directed by Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff (The Gallows) and is out now on Blu-Ray, DVD, and on demand from Magnolia Home Entertainment under the Magnet Label.To enter the giveaway, which lasts through July 26, you can either retweet our giveaway post below on Twitter or leave a comment on our pinned Facebook post.We're giving away a DVD of Held starring Jill Awbrey. RT this post to enter."A couple trying to rekindle their spark must instead fight to survive in the spine-tingling thriller."More info: https://t.co/8oWbiNpZa5— ComingSoon.net (@comingsoonnet) July 22, 2021In Held, Emma (Awbrey) and Henry’s (Johnson) marriage is losing its spark. In an effort to reconnect, they plan a vacation to a remote high-end rental, complete with automated smart house features and integrated security. However, after suspecting a nighttime intruder, they quickly decide to flee, only to become forcibly trapped inside by the automated security system. Emitting from the house, an unknown ‘Voice’ watches their every move through an array of hidden cameras, revealing an intimate and unsettling knowledge of their relationship. While the situation grows increasingly brutal, Emma and Henry must work together to uncover the truth and find a way out before it’s too late.Check out a clip from Held‘s special features below:Helmed with a carefully crafted hand, the bone-chilling thriller tells the story of two halves of a broken marriage with sinister secrets hiding just beneath the surface.The special features for the film include:Commentary With Directors Chris Lofing & Travis CluffAlternate EndingMaking Of HeldBehind The Scenes: Orchestral Film Score

    Aliens: Fireteam Elite appears like a bit of a generic co-op shooter, but it isn’t without its merits. Cold Iron Studios is behind the game, which is a big license for a team’s first title. Granted, the developer is made of veteran talent that has worked on such franchises like Star Trek, Dungeon and Dragons, and Marvel, but that last one never got off the ground.Senior Gaming Editor Michael Leri spoke to Cold Iron Studios CEO Craig Zinkievich about the game, how he approached adapting multiple franchises, the choice to go for an Aliens game instead of an Alien game, and his theory regarding the four main films in the series.I know this game saw some radical changes when it was pitched to Fox as it wasn’t originally an Aliens game. Can you speak a little about what that original game was? And how closely does it resemble what you ended up with?Craig Zinkievich: There wasn’t a pitch to Fox as much as… I guess it was. The Aliens game is brand new, from scratch. I think Fox had evaluated Cold Iron Studios and our team and pedigree and the systems and our ability to do awesome shooter, action gameplay based on what we were working on before. But we didn’t all of a sudden just go, “Let’s just skin this thing with Aliens.” I think anybody would be just overjoyed to work on an Aliens game. We just cleared the table and started from scratch and were like, “What does this experience need to be? What do we want it to be in the Aliens universe?” And that was Aliens: Fireteam Elite.You build off of tech that your company builds and the expertise that you have. But in terms of design and artwork and everything, we just lit everything on fire and started from scratch.Fireteam Elite seems like a more co-op-focused affair over a story-driven one. Why did you want to go that route?We’re huge fans of action and PvE games. We’re also gigantic fans of the co-op survival shooter genre. It’s just a great genre. When we started with 21st Century Fox, [we thought] of what sort of game do we want to make in the Alien universe? Alien: Isolation did an amazing job of getting that Alien, Ridley Scott horror movie vibe where you’re being chased down by this one monster over and over again.We really wanted to make a bombastic, [James] Cameron-esque action movie Aliens fantasy that we really wanted to play and experience in the universe. Immediately, you start thinking about the moments where it’s like, “Oh my god, they’re in the room.” And then they just burst in. That is the co-op survival shooter. That’s not necessarily story. That’s just over-the-top action.Yeah, it sounds more like emergent storytelling of what happens between you and your friends over a written, authored narrative.Obviously, the game has its storyline and the four campaigns that all link together to tell this story of LV-895. But it’s awesome to, and you put it exactly right, have that emergent narrative where it’s like, “Remember when this happened?” And making sure that can get switched up time and time again is core to making it a really cool game. It’s one of the reasons the Challenge Cards are the “What if?” scenarios. Like what if everything was a burster? What if we only had handguns? You get to play out all of those narratives as you want.Each time you play through, the spawns are varied. There’s randomness in there and in some of the objectives. There are heuristics and software and logic working behind the scenes to watch what the players are doing to make sure there is constant pressure and moving people forward. Is that like when xenomorphs are always stalking in some form?Somtimes they come from behind but sometimes they jump right on top of you or ambush you or just make your life a little harder moving forward. Why go down the Aliens route instead of the Alien route?We really wanted to develop the fantasy of being a colonial marine with hordes of aliens coming at you and you having a job to do. And you get that feeling of being a total badass and you think you have everything taken care of, but then all of a sudden everything goes wrong. We identified that quickly that we, as game players, wanted to experience in the Aliens universe and thought it was core and we were like, “Yeah, let’s do that and make that a reality.”You all have worked on other licensed properties like Star Trek and even the ill-fated Marvel Marvel Universe Online. What are your approaches to adapting licenses into video games?I am incredibly lucky to have been able to work on Star Trek Online, Neverwinter Nights in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, and a little bit of Marvel and now Aliens. All of these are franchises and universes that are really near and dear to my heart and ones that I am superfan of. That is the thing I’ve been super lucky in, but also I think a core thing to translate a franchise well is to make sure that you’re making a game that you want to play in that universe. That’s what has driven all of those projects. That’s what drives the team here with Aliens: Fireteam Elite: trying to make the game that we, as hardcore gamers and superfans of the Aliens universe, want to play. You start there when you’re approaching a franchise. That wouldn’t work if it wasn’t a franchise I was super excited about, but I’ve been so lucky to be able to work on ones that I really do love.Maybe if you make a Care Bears shooter, then a lack of passion might show.Hey, hey, I might have a closet filled with Care Bears…I think it’s also on the licensor that has a big huge license. They have to make sure and find devs who are passionate and super excited about their universes.What do you think about the way in which xenomorphs are usually adapted for video games? In the films, they’re usually quite unstoppable or at least extremely oppressive but often cannon fodder in video games.I think there was a good number of xenomorphs that got gunned down by M41s in the Aliens movie. If you go in unprepared, then a single runner from Alien 3 would be able to take out a full group of people. But you do play as a colonial marine. They’ve been running into xenomorphs for a couple of decades by 2202 when Aliens: Fireteam Elite takes place. They have weaponry that is ready for xenomorphs. But they’re still not pushovers. They’re still going to throw numbers at you if they can’t get you with just singletons. It’s about who you’re playing and as colonial marines, you do get your M41 and Smartgun and a little bit of hope that gets you a little bit farther. And there are a bunch of different xenomorphs in the game, too. The runners, the small ones, as hordes are easier to dispatch on the lower difficulty levels, given the hardware the colonial marines have. But then the bigger ones — the drones, warriors, and praetorians — those are not going to be pushovers no matter what so you have to be careful.Why do you think it is so hard to make a good Aliens game? In your opinion, how would you say Fireteam Elite sort of breaks the curse, if you will, of Aliens games?All franchises, when licensed, have ups and downs. Really, it goes back to what I said about how to make a franchise game good. We’re fans of the franchise. We’re fans of this genre of video game. We’re lucky enough to be making a game that we really want to play.For us, that’s all we can do is. Cold Iron Studios is filled with the market with this game, filled with people chomping at the bit to play an Aliens co-op survival shooter with RPG elements on top of it. So if we can make something that we are happy with, that’s the best we can do there.I know they are both classics for different reasons, but, personally, where do you fall on the Alien or Aliens side of things?For years and years and years, I have had my theory. People ask me what my favorite Alien film is and I go into this tirade. I don’t actually have a favorite film because they’re all — in my view, this is me as a fan — different genres of films.Alien is an amazing horror film. It’s beautiful and fantastic and Ridley Scott did an amazing job there.And then Cameron comes into the same universe and makes this really tense, really visceral action movie where it’s an escape action movie that’s over the top.And then Alien 3 comes along and I look at that as a little bit more of a drama than a horror or action movie, even though it has those elements. It still has xenomorphs and they’re still scary. And then Resurrection is like the art film of the four. You can see it when you start looking at it. That’s where the director [Jean-Pierre Jeunet] comes from.Nobody can ever pin me down. They’re different genres of films. I love them all and they all work great in their own genres. It’s cool because the Aliens franchise is so much more complicated than that. It’s not all the same movie over and over again or the same genre. The question of what your favorite is a really good one, especially for this franchise. Alien 3 may have been disappointing to some on the first watch but it does get better once you look at it through a different lens.I think that when Alien 3 came out, a lot of people expected Aliens plus one. More xenomorphs, more over-the-top firepower. And that’s kind of the fantasy that we’re trying to provide with Aliens: Fireteam Elite: the next colonial marines movie. Alien 3 stands on its own if you think about it as something totally different. 

    As kids, my brother and I had a penchant for wrapping our plastic weapons together with duct tape and tip toeing through our home in search of extra-terrestrial life. “Check those corners,” I would say while clasping my Nerf gun turned pulse rifle, which was attached to a yellow and green Super Soaker turned grenade launcher. At some point, one of us would yell, “Contact!” before leaping about the floor and blasting imaginary Xenomorphs to smithereens. Inevitably, one of us would always get sprayed by acid and (oddly enough) morph into the Alien King.Yeah, it didn’t make much sense then, either, but when your 11-year old life revolves around James Cameron’s 1986 masterpiece Aliens, you do what you can with what you got. (To be fair, there weren’t a lot of Aliens-themed toys on the market aside from those 1992 Kenner figures.)I first saw Aliens on network TV sometime in 1990 or 1991 on a school night, a detail I remember because my parents turned the film off immediately after Ripley and Co. blasted off to space, which meant I was robbed of the big Ripley vs. Queen fight that occurs in the final final part of the flick. It didn’t matter. Everything I saw up until that point was magic — Ripley’s badassery, James Horner’s fierce score, the mind-blowing set pieces, the intense action, the quotable lines (“Game over man!”), Sigourney Weaver’s Academy Award-nominated performance, the strong supporting cast led by Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Paul Reiser, Lance Henricksen, Carrie Henn and Jenette Goldstein … Aliens was pure gold.The film often played on FOX Night at the Movies or during Sunday afternoons on random channels like WGN where the editing and dubbing was particularly egregious. We had several recorded copies over the years with varying degrees of quality and I actually memorized when each commercial break occurred so that I could zip through them on our high-tech VCR — for some reason, the networks decided it was a good idea to cut to commercial right before Dietrich happened upon the cocooned woman; and later, right after Newt slid down the chute following Vasquez and Gorman’s death. Talk about ruining the tension.Still, I didn’t fully appreciate Cameron’s epic until I purchased the 1997 Widescreen Series VHS — my first-ever widescreen purchase, in case you were wondering — and really got a good look at those astonishing VFX. From that point on, Aliens has steadily risen on my All-Time Favorite Movies List.Make no mistake, this is one of those films you have to include when playing The Desert Island game — and not as one of Meredith’s guilty pleasures, ala Legends of the Fall, Legally Blond, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Bridges of Madison County — because it really is that good.So, what makes Aliens work so well? And why does it actually look better than most movies produced today? The film cost $18.5M in 1986 (on par with Top Gun, The Karate Kid Part II and other films released the same year) but actually looks like a $100M+ blockbuster, which is really hard to do.The answer to the above questions regarding why Aliens works so well is easy: James Cameron. The man. The myth. The legend. Cameron has directed just eight films, but each one (aside from Piranha II: The Spawning) is a classic — The Terminator, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, True Lies, Titanic, and Avatar. Wow.Aliens came right after Terminator and helped cement Cameron amongst the power players of the 1980s. I won’t delve too much into the intense production — read J.W. Rinzler’s fantastic The Making of Aliens for all the juicy info — suffice to say, Cameron did a lot for very little utilizing a ridiculous amount of unique techniques he learned while working under Roger Corman in the early 80s. Cameron’s attention to detail and willingness to go the extra mile (and, by default, pushing others to their absolute limits) is what makes Aliens such a special cinematic creation.[embedded content]Of course, no film is complete without characters or story, and it’s here that Aliens truly excels. Interestingly, Cameron follows the basic template laid out by Ridley Scott’s equally stupendous Alien in 1979 — i.e., a distress signal lulls a group of unwitting travelers to LV-426 where they encounter nasty extraterrestrials, Ripley assumes command when the leadership fails/dies and eventually goes it alone in the third act before battling the big bad one-on-one in the climatic finale — but ups the ante by expanding the character of Ripley and her mysterious foes.RELATED: Aliens: Fireteam Elite Release Date Revealed for Late SummerIn Alien, for example, Ripley was part of a seven-member crew heading back to Earth. We learn very little about her person, except that she can handle herself and take charge when needed. In Aliens, Ripley grapples with the events of the first film and hesitantly agrees to return to LV-426 with a group of Space Marines if only to purge her personal anguish.“Just tell me one thing, Burke,” Ripley says. “You’re going out there to destroy them, right? Not to study. Not to bring back. But to wipe them out.”“That’s the plan,” responds Carter Burke. “You have my word on that.”“All right, I’m in.”Much like Rambo, in Aliens Ripley is a reluctant hero who agrees to do a job because she has no other choice and doesn’t trust others to complete the task. She simply cannot stand idly by knowing the Xenomorph exists somewhere in the vacuums of space.Plus, at this point, what does she have to lose? We learn Ripley was adrift in space for 57 years in between films; and a deleted scene further reveals she left a daughter behind, a character beat that aids in her emotional connection with young Newt later on in the film. (Why was this scene cut?!)Newt is the film’s biggest gamble. Look, most films featuring kids usually suck. In this case, Newt works because she fleshes out Ripley’s character and gives the character something meaningful to fight for. Plus, it adds more layers to the overarching Mother vs. Mother conflict.Also, as an aside, Carrie Henn is terrific as Newt.[embedded content]Cameron also ensures the action in Aliens serves the story. Here, every character choice (no matter how positive or negative) carries repercussions that sets up the next scene or Act.For example, when Drake and Vasquez defy orders and fire their M56 Smartguns during the firefight in the Alien Hive, the cooling towers are ruptured thus setting up a need to flee LV-426 as quickly as possible. Carter Burke then accelerates his plan to harvest Ripley, Newt, and the remaining Marines by haphazardly dumping two face huggers in the Med Lab … which leads to the Futile Escape sequence … which leads to Vasquez and Gorman’s death … which leads to Newt’s capture … which leads to Ripley’s Rescue … which leads to the Alien Queen smackdown.It’s awesome.Cameron never includes action scenes just for the hell of it. Like a well-oiled machine, everything happening in his films works together to serve a larger purpose to the central narrative.RELATED: CS Reviews The Making of Aliens by J.W. Rinzler[embedded content]Likewise, the climatic Ripley vs. Alien Queen showdown packs a punch because both characters have pre-established motives  based around their figurative children — Ripley must defend Newt, while the Queen must avenge the loss of her eggs. In a weird way, we understand the Queen because her rage matches the anger Ripley displayed earlier when she lost Newt.Indeed, it’s interesting how both mothers react similarly when their children are taken from them.[embedded content]Cameron also ensures all of Ripley’s actions throughout Aliens are almost always directly related to the events of Alien where Ripley, despite her better judgment, relented to her superiors, namely Dallas, Kane, Ash, and Mother; and failed to impose her will until it was too late.By contrast, in Aliens, Ripley blatantly ignores Lieutenant Gorman’s orders during the Alien Hive battle and takes control of the situation immediately following the initial alien encounter.Ripley successfully changes her life for the better. When we first see her, she lies in cryosleep alone, save for a cat, and endures horrible nightmares. By film’s end, against all odds, she has eliminated her greatest fear, saved Bishop and Hicks and gained a daughter in Newt.In other words, she takes back everything that was taken from her in Alien, which is why it’s so upsetting when Alien 3 randomly erases all of these accomplishments during the opening credits.I mean, imagine if John Conner was killed following the events of T2! That would be really stupid and basically negate all of his actions.[embedded content]Even side characters like Lt. Gorman and Vasquez enjoy powerful arcs. I love how, facing death, the duo clasp hands similarly to how Vasquez and Drake did earlier in the film. There’s also the bit where Burke labels Hicks “a grunt” before adding, “no offense,” which Hicks echoes later when they have Burke cornered. These minor character details are as important to Aliens’ success as the aforementioned technical aspects, and a reason the film holds up all these years later.Look, I’ll be frank: Aliens is a perfect film. No, really, it’s a perfect film. Everything about this movie works, and I haven’t even delved into James Horner’s pulse-pounding, anvil-clanging score that plays over my favorite sequence:[embedded content]Aliens is one of those movies I wish I could go back in time and watch with an audience on opening night. Can you imagine this moment with an exuberant crowd?Thirty-five years later, Aliens remains damn near unmatched because James Cameron took the time to deliver a pulse-pounding, action-packed, character-driven sequel that rivals the genius of its classic predecessor.Aliens isn’t just a great sequel, it’s one of the greatest films ever made.

    Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema has finally released the official Malignant trailer for James Wan’s newest horror thriller feature, starring Conjuring Universe alum Annabelle Wallis. The R-rated film is slated to hit the theaters and on HBO Max on September 10.The video, which you can check out below along with the first poster, highlights Wallis’ leading character as she experiences supernatural visions where she sees a dark evil entity murdering a number of people. Now, it’s up to her to figure out how to stop this entity from further wrecking havoc before it’s too late.From director James Wan comes a new vision of terror. Malignant arrives only in cinemas in English, Hindi, Tamil & Telugu. #MalignantMovie pic.twitter.com/ghYialRAOy— Warner Bros. India (@WarnerBrosIndia) July 20, 2021RELATED: Aquaman 2 Filming Begins as James Wan Posts Icy PhotoIn Malignant, Madison is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities. This marks director James Wan’s return to his roots with this new original horror thriller.The film stars Annabelle Wallis (Annabelle), George Young (Containment), Maddie Hasson (Mr. Mercedes), Michole Briana White (Encino Man), Jacqueline McKenzie (Pine Gap), Jake Abel (Supernatural), Ingrid Bisu (The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It) and McKenna Grace (Annabelle Comes Home).RELATED: Fear Street Director Talks Possibility of Creating an MCU-Style Horror Universe For NetflixBased on a story by Wan and Ingrid Bisu, Malignant is directed by James Wan from a screenplay written by Akela Cooper, who is also currently writing the script to The Nun 2. The film was produced by Wan and Michael Clear, with Eric McLeod, Judson Scott, Bisu, Peter Luo, Cheng Yang, Mandy Yu, and Lei Han serving as executive producers. The music is by Joseph Bishara, who has composed the score for all seven films in “The Conjuring” Universe.

    According to Deadline, HBO Max is currently in the process of developing a series adaptation of Grady Hendrix’s newest horror novel The Final Girl Support Group, with Oscar-winner Charlize Theron and IT films director Andy Muschietti attached to executive produce the project. Muschietti is also set to helm the pilot, while it’s unclear if Theron is also considering to star in the project or not.The Final Girl Support Group centers around a Los Angeles-based support group for six female survivors of different mass-murderer rampages, whose experiences inspired the slasher franchises that saturated horror cinema in the 1980s and ’90s, earning them minor celebrity.“Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre. For more than a decade, she’s been meeting with five other final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, working to put their lives back together,” reads the book’s official synopsis. “Then one woman misses a meeting, and their worst fears are realized—someone knows about the group and is determined to rip their lives apart again, piece by piece. But the thing about final girls is that no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.”RELATED: Fear Street Director Talks Possibility of Creating an MCU-Style Horror Universe For NetflixThe novel is described as a fast-paced, frightening, and wickedly humorous thriller which tells a fresh new take on the genre. It also pays homage to iconic slasher films such as Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare at Elm Street and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.HBO Max’s The Final Girl Support Group is executive produced by Theron, AJ Dix, Beth Kono, and Andrew Haas through their Denver & Delilah Films along with Double Dream’s Irene Yeung, Barbara Muschietti, and Andy Muschietti. Author Grady Hendrix and Aperture Entertainment’s Adam Goldworm.Even before its debut, the series adaptation was originally first set up at Annapurna Pictures last year, with Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain previously attached to pen the project. It’s unknown why the project has now been seemingly canceled.

    Blumhouse’s Firestarter Remake Wraps Production

    Lead star Zac Efron took to Twitter to share a brand new behind-the-scenes photo from the set of Firestarter, confirming the production on Blumhouse’s newest film adaptation of Stephen King’s classic horror thriller novel has finally been completed. The production wrap comes after nearly two months since it started filming in May of this year. As of now, the project currently has no release date attached to it.The new Firestarter remake photo, which you can check out below, provides us our first look at Efron and Ryan Kiera Armstrong together, who are respectively portraying the roles of father and daughter, Andy McGee and Charlie McGee.That’s a wrap on #firestarter movie! can’t wait for you guys to see this. @ryankarmstrong  @blumhouse pic.twitter.com/keZbKFCFhK— Zac Efron (@ZacEfron) July 17, 2021RELATED: Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti Join Amazon’s Goodnight Mommy RemakeFirestarter centers on an organization called the Department of Scientific Intelligence, aka “The Shop.” Two participants in their mysterious research program end up getting married and having a child. Their offspring, Charlie McGee, inherited pyrokinetic powers from her parents, who were given a low-grade hallucinogen called “Lot Six” during their college years. Now the government is trying to apprehend the young Charlie in order to harness her powerful and unique skills as a weapon.Click here to purchase the original King novel!The remake stars Ryan Kiera Armstrong (The Tomorrow War), who has been cast for the leading role of Charlie McGee, a character that was famously portrayed by a young Drew Barrymore in Mark L. Lester’s 1984 adaptation. Joining her are Zac Efron (Extremely Wicked, Shocking Evil and Vile) as Andy McGee, Sydney Lemmon (Helstrom) as Vicky McGee, and Michael Greyeyes (True Detective) as John Rainbird.RELATED: Shout! Studios’ Slumber Party Massacre Remake Heads to SYFYThe Firestarter remake is directed by rising filmmaker Keith Thomas (The Vigil) from a screenplay written by Scott Teems. Producers are Jason Blum and Akiva Goldsman, with original film’s associate producer Martha De Laurentiis set as the executive producer. It is a production by Universal Pictures, Blumhouse, and Weed Road Production.

    COMPLETELY NEW Cherry Flavor Teaser: Rosa Salazar Stars in Netflix Miniseries

    Netflix has released a teaser trailer for its upcoming limited series titled Brand New Cherry Flavor, starring Rosa Salazar and Catherine Keener. The video, which you can check out in the player below, begins with Salazar’s lead character as she meets Keener’s mysterious character at an art showcase, who claims that she can hurt someone for her. It also teases the series’ dark and creepy vibe as it previews a number of weird and somewhat disturbing scenes including cats eating a dead dog.RELATED: Fear Street Director Talks Possibility of Creating an MCU-Style Horror Universe For NetflixIn Brand New Cherry Flavor, Lisa N. Nova comes to LA dead set on directing her first movie. But when she trusts the wrong person and gets stabbed in the back, everything goes sideways and a dream project turns into a nightmare. This particular nightmare has zombies, hitmen, supernatural kittens, and a mysterious tattoo artist who likes to put curses on people. And Lisa’s going to have to figure out some secrets from her own past in order to get out alive.The 8-episode limited series stars Rosa Salazar (Alita: Battle Angel), Oscar nominee Catherine Keener (Get Out), Manny Jacinto (The Good Place), Eric Lange (Unbelievable), and Jeff Ward (Agents of SHIELD).RELATED: Chucky Goes to School in New Photos For Child’s Play SeriesBrand New Cherry Flavor is written and executive produced by ‘Nick Antosca (Channel Zero, The Act) and Lenora Zion (Channel Zero), who are serving as showrunners. The first episode is directed by Arkasha Stevenson.The series is slated to premiere on August 13.

    Chucky Would go to School in New Photos For Child’s Play Series

    Following last week’s teaser debut, brand new Chucky photos for SYFY and the USA Network’s upcoming Child’s Play series have surfaced online (via Bloody Disgusting). The new photos, which you can check out below, provide us a closer look at the series’ young protagonist, portrayed by Zackary Arthur, who is seen taking the iconic killer doll to his school. However, in one of the photos, it looks like he’ll eventually try to get rid of it. The series is scheduled to make its debut on October 12, 2021, just in time for this year’s Halloween season.so excited for october 12th!!! #Chucky pic.twitter.com/EFPeVnr57u— cay | 182 days (@topgirlcassidy) July 17, 2021 #chuckyseries pic.twitter.com/nHifpuXv9O— Chucky Fans Official (@Fans_Chucky) July 18, 2021RELATED: Evil Dead Rise Enlists Three Young Newcomers to CastThe Chucky series will be set in an idyllic American town thrown into chaos as a series of horrifying murders sweep through and threaten to expose the town’s hypocrisies and secrets, all of which come on the heels of a vintage Chucky doll turning up at a suburban yard sale. At the same time, the titular doll must deal with the arrival of enemies and allies from his past who threaten to expose the truth behind the killings and the untold origins as a seemingly ordinary child turned demonic killer.Click here to purchase the 7-Film Blu-ray collection and the 2019 Mark Hamill-starring remake!Franchise vets Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, and Fiona Dourif are set to reprise their roles as the voice of the titular killer doll, Tiffany and Nica Pierce respectively. It will also be led by  Zackary Arthur, Teo Briones, Bjorgvin Arnarson, and Alyvia Alyn Lind, who are set to portray the young leads. Joining them are Devon Sawa, Lexa Doig, and Barbara Alyn Woods.RELATED: Lionsgate Confirms American Psycho TV Show, ‘Exploring’ Saw OptionsChucky is created and executive produced by franchise creator Don Mancini, who is also serving as the showrunner and director for the pilot episode. Executive producers are franchise producer and doll creator David Kirschner and Nick Antosca via his Eat the Cat production label.

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