The Year’s Most Cinematic Games

The Year’s Most Cinematic Games (photo)

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src=”http://tweetmeme.com/i/scripts/button.js”>Throughout 2009, the intersection of video games and films has been a seething hot spot, both culturally and for business. And though this marriage is fraught with plenty of potential hazards — best seen in the unkillable and still usually awful game-to-film adaptation — there’s no denying that’s plenty of room for both mediums to share and grow.

Games tend to be more successful when they focus on their essentials, and films usually thrive when they don’t try to hard to duplicate their interactive competitors, but there are no hard-and-fast rules for this developing relationship. And there’s no reason to believe that, as films and games continue along semi-parallel tracks, they won’t become even better at synthesizing their unique elements.

And new developments are already taking place. 2009 was a banner year for games that delivered movie-like experiences by blending user-operated mayhem with filmic set-pieces, storytelling and structures. You can definitely make the argument that games would be better off refining their own mechanics instead of emulate the silver screen. But when done properly, games — buoyed by ever more sophisticated aesthetics, technology and voice and writing work — have an unparalleled ability to place players in control of adventures normally reserved for the multiplex. Here are my picks for the seven standout titles of 2009 that did just that.

12172009_uncharted2_4.jpg1. “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves”

The “Indiana Jones” sequel that “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” could only dream of being, “Uncharted 2” drops player into the midst of a treasure-hunting quest full of showstopping sequences that practically demand a movie adaptation. From an opening in which you have to make dashing hero Nathan Drake climb up a train dangling off a mountain cliff, to a Jeep-hopping gunfight with pursuing enemies, to battles with airborne helicopters and hectic clashes with armed baddies in jungles, city streets and ancient ruins, this PS3 exclusive doggedly delivers a movie-ish experience and, amazingly, actually succeeds without sacrificing its own gameplay. It helps that it has both a great script and matching voice work. “Uncharted 2” rocks not only because of its Spielbergian tale of globe-hopping derring-do, but because of its strong, varied action that’s seamlessly integrated into its thrill-ride narrative.

12172009_redfaction1.jpg2. “Red Faction: Guerrilla”

The third entry in the “Red Faction” series is built around a decidedly action-movie brand of blowing stuff up. From the intro’s trailer-ready narration to the stylized camerawork that accompanies the game’s most extravagant set pieces, “Guerrilla” is coated in a big-screen sheen. Unfortunately, these flourishes are mostly just superficial trappings meant to enhance a story — told, for the first time in the franchise, from the third- rather than first-person perspective, and amidst an open-sandbox environment — that revolves around detonating as many structures and enemies as possible. But while the game’s plot and character work may leave a bit to be desired, the implementation of its cinematically presented core gameplay — making things go boom and crash via a variety of awesome weaponry — is exhilarating.

12182009_GhostbustersGame.jpg3. “Ghostbusters: The Game”

It’s easy to use a license to make a subpar game, as proven by innumerable tie-in titles. But to take a beloved celluloid property and create an original adventure that’s faithful to its predecessors? That’s nearly unheard of, which is what makes “Ghostbusters: The Game” — a virtual sequel to 1989’s “Ghostbusters 2” — such a welcome surprise. No new design ground is broken by this third-person title, but between proton-pack gameplay that feels just right, character models and locales that actually accurately resemble their real-world counterparts, and voice work from the original iconic cast, Atari’s game (developed by Terminal Reality) lived up to its potential about as well as anyone could reasonably hope. More diverse levels might have made it a classic, but “Ghostbusters: The Game” is still a new benchmark for film-licensed games.


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.