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Adaptation Logic

Adaptation Logic (photo)

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Both “Alien vs. Predator” films were by and large disposable mash-up exercises, undone by plots that couldn’t convincingly meld the two series’ worlds and directors who paled in comparison to the ones behind the creatures’ original solo outings. But in theory, this marriage of H.R. Giger’s acid-blooded beasts and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s camouflage-happy intergalactic nemesis is a solid one.

For the best evidence of that fact, you’ll have to look to the game world — the 1999 PC/Mac title of the same name and its recent remake, which allows you to play as a marine, an alien or a predator. It’s a title that, like its predecessor, cannily plays to the strengths of its chosen properties, recognizing that both James Cameron’s “Aliens” and John McTiernan’s “Predator” feature scenarios and action tailor-made for the gaming realm. And this new game’s success at recreating the visceral excitement of its source materials raises an interesting question — what makes a film ideally suited, or wholly inappropriate, for video game treatment?

Games based on film licenses tend to be pretty wretched. Yet given the arrival of “Aliens vs. Predator,” a film-based game that not only works but, more importantly, makes logical sense as a project to begin with, it’s clear that some films are just a better fit for the interactive realm.

The more you look at the anomalies that have succeeded in both film and games, the more it becomes clear that they share a few common traits. These aren’t hard and fast laws, and there are still countless examples of films that, though seemingly perfect for a game adaptation, wound up with horrific PC or console iterations. Here are some obvious — and yet far too often ignored — truths about the way to go about making games based on films.

03122010_SimpsonsGame.jpgThe first thing game developers looking to adapt a film should ask is: does it have any action or drama that naturally lends itself to gameplay? The “Alien” and “Predator” films blend action, horror and suspense, making it easy for their games to blend firearm conflict, hand-to-hand combat, stealth action and survival horror scares. Making a faithful adaptation means making a game that’s also faithful to traditional gameplay mechanics — no tinkering or random changes to the properties necessary.

This may also be why something like EA’s 2007 “The Simpsons Game” — notable for its story’s meta-gaming critique — was just a ho-hum diversion. It couldn’t overcome the fact that Homer, Bart, Lisa and Marge just aren’t meant to be fighters. Forcing Matt Groening’s clan to navigate punch-kick-shoot sagas makes no sense, a situation that plagues just about any adaptation of a film or TV show that doesn’t have action somewhere near its core.

Because so many popular game genres revolve around high-octane battle, films with slam-bang set-pieces and chaotic mayhem are often the surest fit for translation. But that’s not really enough — that action translates best when it speaks directly to a particular gaming style.

03122010_aladdin.jpgThe 1993 Genesis classic “Aladdin” thrived because the film’s various centerpieces all involved running, jumping and magic carpet-riding that fit the mechanics of a “Mario”-style platformer. James Bond’s stylish intrigue, fast-paced gunplay and globetrotting fit a first-person shooter’s need for one-against-many odds and a range of environments for large-scale firefights — a prime reason “GoldenEye 007” for the N64 remains one of the all-time great console titles.

And though its track record is more than a tad spotty, the “Star Wars”‘ sundry iconic action elements — lightsaber duels, spaceship skirmishes, force-power fights — make the franchise adaptable to numerous types of different games, whether they focus on just one of those dynamic components (as in the Gamecube’s excellent starfighter title “Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader”) or meld different styles into an omnibus-type effort (like “Star Wars Trilogy Arcade,” replete with a lightsaber showdown with Darth Vader).

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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.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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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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.”

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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. 

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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.