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The Sandbox: When Games Become Movie Sequels

The Sandbox: When Games Become Movie Sequels (photo)

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Most games based on blockbuster movies just don’t deliver. Despite that, a new strain of cinema-related titles has been gaining traction over the last few years, and reached a head three days ago, when “Ghostbusters: The Video Game” hit store shelves: games that function as movie sequels. And it makes sense, since there are plenty of franchises still immensely popular with fans but, for whatever reason (lack of studio support; disinterest from the creative team), have never managed another big-screen outing.

That’s certainly the case with “Ghostbusters,” whose 1989 sequel made considerable money but disappointed many (including star Bill Murray), thereby closing the door on star/co-creator Dan Aykroyd’s dreams of future installments. Twenty years later, convinced a new film was highly unlikely, Aykroyd instead moved the Ghostbusters to the digitized realm. In the process, he convinced almost every principal player (save for Sigourney Weaver) to lend his or her voice and likeness to a fresh adventure. As those currently proton-packing their way through the game know, it operates as a genuine follow-up to “Ghostbusters 2,” taking place two years later and thrusting gamers into the role of a rookie ‘buster who joins the team to battle a supernatural menace threatening Manhattan.

For both movie and game buffs, getting to interactively experience a new story involving a beloved property is a win-win scenario, at least in theory. It’s also one that, thanks to improved technology and the legions of console owners out there, is right on the cusp of taking off. Of course, it’s not a new idea. Harrison Ford’s swashbuckling Indiana Jones, for example, is the king of non-movie sequels, having starred in games based on his first three films, as well as countless original escapades that have him questing around the globe, searching for lost artifacts and battling evildoers. From 1984’s Commodore 64 title “Indiana Jones in the Lost Kingdom” — a game that actually taunted would-be players about its difficulty on its box (“Nobody told INDIANA JONES the rules. And no one will tell you”) — to the Wii’s just-released “Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings,” the good Dr. Jones has headlined more game sequels than he has cinematic ones. While none of these stand-alone exploits have ever been overtly mentioned by their filmic counterparts, quite a few have sought to integrate themselves into the series’ timeline, most notably 2003’s “Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb,” whose conclusion provides a nice segue into “The Temple of Doom”‘s Shanghai opening.

06192009_StarWarsForceUnlea.jpgAssimilating game narratives into film franchise mythologies is the surefire way to create serious interest in these titles. It was without a doubt one of the main selling points of last year’s “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed,” in which you assumes the role of a secret Darth Vader apprentice, replete with all kinds of Force-related powers, during the period between “Episode III” and “IV.” LucasArts specifically certified “The Force Unleashed” as part of official “Star Wars” lore. Such a gesture may seem trivial to the casual observer, but to the die-hards that these games target, the endorsement that a story is a legit component of an overarching saga and not just an addendum is key to stoking appeal.

Despite only average-to-negative reviews, “Force Unleashed” became the bestselling “Star Wars” and LucasArts game of all time after only one week of sales, and the accompanying novelization — books being a more traditional venue for such spin-offs — topped the New York Times bestseller list upon its release. Brand, of course, had much to do with this success. But so too did the game’s status as part of the series’ official canon, a seal of approval that countless other, more highly regarded “Star Wars”-related titles failed to garner.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.