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DID YOU READ

E3 2011: Talking with Aaron Staton of Rockstar Games’ “L.A. Noire”

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E3 can be as random as an open-world sandbox game sometimes. In the decade or so I’ve been going, I’ve spotted celebrities that run the gamut from Steven Spielberg at EA and Spencer and Heidi of the “The Hills” just wandering the halls with a camera crew. Sometimes, these boldface names walk the sensory overload of E3 to promote projects and other times, they just love video games.

Aaron Staton falls into the latter category. When I was sitting down to take in the spectacle of Activision’s upcoming “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,” Staton sat down right in front of me and watched rapt as Manhattan’s skyline got attacked by Russian fighter jets. After the demo, he was kind enough to answer a few questions. Read on to find out about how good Cole Phelps himself is at “L.A. Noire” and the Kinect game that he’s most excited about.

It was weird to see you in there, like a video game crossover. “What’s Cole Phelps doing in ‘Modern Warfare 3’?!” Are you involved with this “Call of Duty”?

No, but I’m a huge “Call of Duty” fan. This is the third E3 I’ve been to and the first one was where they premiered “[Call of Duty:]Modern Warfare 2.”

What’s been exciting for you this week so far?

First, I saw “Gears of War 3” and that looks great, and that Star Wars game which was one of the early titles announced for Kinect.

Right, “Kinect Star Wars.”

Yeah. When they had the original presentation a year or so ago, that was a title where I was just excited to see it. And now, it’s here and playable. So that was fun.

So you’re a Star Wars fan too?

I love the movies and those great characters. But, you know, I have to admit that I’m not that dyed-in-the-wool guy who can quote all the dialogue. But, come on, this game lets you be a Jedi! To have a lightsaber and use the Force? Every kid wants to use the Force!

So what’s your prestige level in the “Call of Duty” games?

On “Modern Warfare 2” or “Call of Duty 4”? I don’t remember my exact levels. But, “Call of Duty 4”–which was “Modern Warfare 1”–I think I logged a total of nine days, if you added up all the time I spent on it. Now I have an 11-month-old. So, with the current title “Call of Duty: Black Ops” coming out just as I’m getting used to being a dad, I’ve yet to even prestige at this point.

I just had a kid, too. They cut into the video game time. I actually thought that since I’m going to be up late, I’m going to play even more. Not happening.

Still, when you’re playing games, it’s work for you, though.

Yeah.

So you can use that as a defense, at least.

But my problem is I don’t always have time to finish anything. I’ve always got to jump onto the next thing. So, were you ultimately happy with “L.A. Noire?” I know it was like nothing you’d ever done before…

Yes, I really was happy with it. So much of it was done in pieces. All of the story was written and a lot of the world–all of the exteriors or the interiors and the city map–was done before we ever stepped in and became a part of the project. That was all completed. I worked on it for about a year and a half, I’d say, but even then there were two portions to that process. There was the motion capture for the bodies and then the facial capture.

So much of it was done over such a long period of time, so, to see it all put together, all of the elements, was a really cool thing. It just feels like a really cool thing to be a part of.

How are you at solving the cases? Did you remember everything when you sat down to play the final product?

Actually, I’m terrible. I’m a terrible interrogator. I’m really terrible at it. My wife is really good. We’ll play it. And she…

She has better instincts than you.

She does. And I’ll remember things. I’ll say, “Oh, I vaguely remember that there’s some matches that are important. I need to find matches.” So I’m combing the area for matches that I remember being an integral part of the case. But she’s actually able to pick out the lies and the evidence much better than me.

That’s really funny. So what else are you looking forward to before the week is out?

I’m really curious about the Wii U. I’ve read about it. I haven’t seen it. This is the second booth that we visited. Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing that. Have you seen it?

Yeah. It’s interesting. I think there’s a lot of possibility to it. It all depends on how people design for it.

I was kind of reading that it lets you move the game video from the TV to the other screen. There’s a lot of question marks about everything else it can do, I think.

It’s potentially going to fundamentally change how you play with games. It all depends on how you design to it. So I think it’s going to be really, really interesting. So, do you get your wife to play anything with you besides “L.A Noire”?

She’ll play “Left 4 Dead.”

Wow. That is impressive! “Left 4 Dead” isn’t for newbies or sissies. Kudos! Impressive. That is a good getting ahead. Does she ever leave you in the dust to get killed the zombies?

No, I have to kind of stay with her and protect my lady. That’s a fun one, with all the different zombie types and when they come running at you. She’ll play that one and she’ll play some of the Wii games. But, again, we haven’t played anything in a long time. But let’s see, what else? She plays a lot of “Angry Birds.” What about you?

Right before I got to E3, I was playing “Infamous 2,” which I love.

Oh, really?

Yeah, it’s just out this week. Eric Ladin does the voice for the main guy now. He’s on “The Killing,” which just started with a U.S. version.

And he’s on “Mad Men,” as Betty Draper’s brother. He’s also in “LA Noire.”

Is he?

I can’t remember which character he plays, but he’s a person of interest in one of the cases. You know,I played the first “Infamous” and got through about three-quarters of the main story and I played it as a good guy but I never made it back to play through it as an evil Cole McGrath.

Do you have more game work coming up?

Only playing. Like I said, my son is 11 months old and, like you said, it’s hard to find time. But it’s weird because, when I do, you know, I find myself playing games on the phone more than anything.

Are you an addict of “Angry Birds” like Jon Hamm?

I am. I don’t have three stars on every level but you go back and try. I’m playing another mobile game now. Have you ever heard of “Tilt to Live”?

Yes. That’s a great game.

It’s a great game.

I imagine mobile games on the iPhone and stuff must be good for you guys because you’re on set, you’re between takes, and you’re like, “OK, I’ve got five minutes and I can bang out a couple of levels.”

That’s exactly right. My wife always says, “Are you playing Tilt to Live right now?”

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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.