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.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.