DID YOU READ

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

LA-Noire_screenshot_429

Posted by on

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?”

Watch More
Rocky IV Paulie Robot

Mr. Roboto

5 Reasons Rocky IV Is Too Rotten to Miss

Catch Rocky IV Friday at 8P during IFC's Rotten Fridays.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: MGM/UA/YouTube

When Rocky IV was released in 1985, the critics were not kind. (While it wasn’t around back then, the film’s 39% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes speaks for itself.) Less of a movie than a jingoistic music video starring a robot and a steroid-addled, monosyllabic Russian baddie, Rocky IV is a far cry from the Italian Stallion’s humble origins.

Still, more than any movie ever made, it exemplifies the whole “so bad its good” genre. This movie was made for us, the great-unwashed masses of the 1980s, who loved the band Survivor and hated those Commie bastards. Before you catch Rocky IV on IFC’s Rotten Fridays, let’s take a look at some moments that make this flick a “too rotten to miss” classic.

5. That Opening Shot

Rocky IV
United Artists

It takes all of 30 seconds for the audience to know they’re in for one ridiculous rollercoaster ride through a Cold War conniption fit of good vs. evil. Gone is the subtle tone and grounded reality of the first Rocky. In its place we see two gloves, one emblazoned with the American flag, the other with the Soviets’, hurtling toward each other. When they collide, sparks fly, and we witness an explosion decades in the making.

In case the symbolism is too subtle for you, director/writer/star Sylvester Stallone is trying to hint that this movie will be the clash of civilizations we’d all been waiting for, but instead of nuclear bombs, a humble palooka from the streets would be duking it out in the ring with the ultimate representation of coldhearted Communism. If it were up to us, this opening shot would’ve won Best Picture all by itself.


4. So Many Montages

Rocky IV has a running time of 91 minutes and 20 seconds. Its eight montages (yes, EIGHT) run a total of 29 minutes and 10 seconds. That is one third of the movie solely dedicated to montages. (Considering Stallone’s contempt for all things Soviet, we have to wonder if he knows it was a dirty Ruskie who invented the montage.)

During one of the many, many montages, director Stallone actually flashes back to a scene that had happened a minute and half prior, creating the impression that he might actually flashback to the montage we were just watching in the same montage. Stallone clearly loves a good montage set to an inspirational ’80s song, and so do we. Which brings us to…


3. A Soundtrack Full of Pumped Up ’80s Jams

Speaking of montages, they are set to the score of some of the cheesiest hits from the mid-’80s. For once, we’re spared tracks from Frank Stallone, with Stallone replacing his rocker brother with synth-y singles from Survivor, John Cafferty and Kenny Loggins. And of course, Robert Tepper, possessor of an ’80s mullet that could topple empires, crooning “No Easy Way Out.” The music in this movie is one step away from being a parody of the music in this movie. If you ever want to know what cocaine can do to the human mind, just listen to this soundtrack.


2. Rocky Ends the Cold War

Rocky IV speech
United Artists

In one of the most misguided, self-congratulatory, and immediately dated moments in cinema history, good ol’ galoot Rocky Balboa single-handedly ended the Cold War four years before the Berlin Wall came down.

To quote the Italian Stallion himself: “In here…there were two guys… killing each other. But I guess that’s better than millions. What I’m trying to say is… if I can change… and you can change…everybody can change!” And just like that the Soviet public, generals and even the Premier himself rose to their feet in applause, realizing what fools they’d been. This guy beat Mr. T for Heaven’s sake. He knows what he’s talking about!


1. Paulie’s Robot

Okay, let’s all take a deep breath and really consider this for a moment. Rocky IV has a robot butler in it. A movie franchise that began back in 1976 exploring the gritty reality of a bum fighter trying to prove himself somehow limped along long enough to turn into a weak Short Circuit rip-off in which an alcoholic mooch with a history of domestic abuse now gets his coffee served to him by a robot. A robot that he has programmed with a “sultry” lady voice!

Stallone was inspired to include the real life robot Sico in Rocky IV because of the work it did to help autistic children like his son Seargeoh. That’s all very moving, but doesn’t explain why he decided to write a scene where Paulie dubs poor Sico “the love of my life.” It’s a testament to Rocky IV‘s “too rotten to miss” status that Paulie’s robot girlfriend/personal servant isn’t even the craziest thing that happens to Rock and the gang.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

Watch More
Swimming To Cambodia Spalding Gray

Gray's Anatomy

Everything You Need to Know About the Movie That Inspired “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”

Brand new Documentary Now! airs Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Cinecom Pictures

This week Documentary Now! spotlights a master monologist with “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything.” Before you tune in at 10P this Wednesday on IFC, check out our guide to Swimming to Cambodia, the 1987 film that captured writer/performer Spalding Gray’s acclaimed one-person show.

Spalding Gray 101

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures

Actor and renowned monologist Spalding Gray spent two years on stage perfecting his Obie Award-winning “Swimming to Cambodia” monologue. In it, Gray tells the story of his eight weeks in Southeast Asia while shooting the 1984 Academy Award-winning movie The Killing Fields. He had a small role, but the experience gave him several anecdotes about hanging out with the film crew and experiencing the local culture, all while searching for “the perfect moment.”

Directed by the Silence of the Lambs Guy

Hannibal Lecter
Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

Acclaimed filmmaker Jonathan Demme took Gray’s two-night, four hour performance and crafted it down to 85 minutes. His use of dramatic lighting, stylish camerawork and a score by performance artist Laurie Anderson was praised by critics and earned the film a cult following. No stranger to groundbreaking docs, Demme also directed the 1984 Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, which Documentary Now! pays tribute to in this season’s episode “Final Transmission.”

All about the Voices

While it may have been a one-man show, Gray created a repertoire of characters all with distinctive accents. (He portrayed conversations between himself and others just by turning his head.) Our favorite impressions are of his demanding girlfriend Renee and Ivan Strasberg, the South African director of photography on The Killing Fields who, as depicted by Gray, sounds a bit like a Jamaican surfer.

The Original Cranky New Yorker

In one memorable scene, Gray rants about how his noisy upstairs artist neighbors are driving him and Renee crazy. Even in the mid-’80s, there were New Yorkers complaining that the city wasn’t what it used to be.

Show and Tell

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures/YouTube

A big fan of visual aids, Gray used pull-down maps to illustrate his travels. This helped to bring Swimming to Cambodia to life, since he’s basically sitting at a desk the entire time.

Inspired One-Person Shows

Gray’s groundbreaking performances in Swimming and other documentaries like Monster in a Box and the Steven Soderbergh-directed Gray’s Anatomy (about Gray’s struggle with a rare eye condition) paved the way for future one-person shows. (We wouldn’t have everything from Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” to Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk With Me” without him.) Even Doc Now! star Fred Armisen got into the one-person show act for his recent SNL monologue.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Spalding Gray when “Parker Gail: Location Is Everything” premieres Wednesday, September 28th at 10P on IFC. 

Watch More
Rocky IV Stallone Lundgren

Burning Heart

10 Reasons Why Rocky IV Is the Ultimate Rocky Movie

Catch an all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: United Artists/Everett Collection

Sure, most people love the first Rocky for its heart, gripping boxing scenes and the classic training montage. Or, you might love Creed for being both a return-to-form and a new exploration of the Rocky mythology. Maybe the thrill of seeing Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in the same movie makes Rocky III your top pick. Well, sorry, you’re wrong: Rocky IV is the greatest of all the “Italian Stallion”‘s movies.

Before you watch the all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC (with Rocky IV airing at 8P as part of Rotten Fridays), check out a few reasons to appreciate the fourth installment as the king of the series.

1. The Greatest Opening Ever

How many openings are able to sum up the entire conflict of the film in less than a minute and without a single line of dialogue? And how many of those movies have exploding boxing gloves? Just try to watch the opening sequence above and not be completely psyched for the pumped-up flick to come.


2. Montages!

We all know that the best part of any sports movie is the montage, and Rocky IV doesn’t give you one measly montage. There’s a recap of the previous films montage, a getting to Russia Montage, two training montages and an ending fight montage. That’s five montages! There’s probably a montage of montages snuck in there, too.


3. There’s a Full James Brown Musical Number

This movie is so packed with memorable moments, it’s easy to forget one of the first things that happens in the film: Apollo comes out to fight Drago dressed as a shirtless Uncle Sam, while James Brown and a full band play “Living in America.” To drive home the number’s patriotism, there are dancers in tuxedos and top hats, weird unitards and bowler caps, and bedazzled showgirls with headpieces for miles. Oh, and don’t forget the giant tentacled dragon statue on the stage. This is how every boxing match should start. Heck, this is how we always want to enter a room.


4. The Soundtrack

The Rocky IV soundtrack doesn’t just feature James Brown — it has rock anthems galore, all of which make you immediately want to hit the gym. From “Heart’s on Fire” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to “Sweetest Victory” by Touch to multiple Survivor jams, you’ll get pumped and stay pumped. Even the instrumental score rocks! Sure, sometimes it sounds like it was made on a kids Casio, but this soundtrack never quits and — to quote Robert Tepper — never takes the easy way out.


5. Abs!

Rocky IV weights

Every Rocky movie shows off Stallone’s incredible physique, but Rocky IV really ups the game. Not only do we get Dolph Lundgren mostly shirtless looking like a man machine, but we get a wide variety of scenes of Stallone doing impossible tasks. Stallone’s crazy dragon fly crunches, aka a thing no human should be able to do, automatically take this movie to the top.


6. Two words: Ivan Drago

Ivan Drago
United Artists

Not only does Rocky IV explore the global conflict between the US and the Soviet Union, but it encapsulates all of our fears of the Cold War in one perfect villain. Ivan Drago only trains with machines and science and looks like he stepped out of an Aryan Nations recruitment poster. He also only responds in short, cold phrases like “If he dies, he dies,” or “I must break you.” There’s never been a villain who we so clearly want to get the crap beat out of than Ivan Drago.


7. Rocky Makes Chores Look Badass

Rocky saw
United Artists

Rocky doesn’t need to be hooked up to machines to become the perfect fighter. All he needs are huge tires and some outdoor chores to do. No one’s ever looked cooler chopping wood and using tractor parts. Half of his training is lifting an old wagon, probably to fix a broken axle. If anything, this film inspires us to take care of that gardening work we’ve been neglecting.


8. Rocky’s Beard

Rocky IV Beard

Stallone’s beard game is truly on point in Rocky IV. And this isn’t some “I forgot to shave, here’s a little stubble” look. No, we get full out, lumberjack-style beard action. Does any other Rocky movie have our hero looking like an old Russian aristocrat? Another point for Rocky IV.


9. There’s a robot!

Again, there’s so much to Rocky IV, you probably forgot about the robot. Well, Rocky has some money now and he’s not going to spend it on frivolous things for himself. He’s going to buy Paulie a robot! The best part of this scene is how truly disturbed Paulie is by this new technology until he gives it a sexy lady voice.


10. Rocky Ends the Cold War

If you’re still not convinced that Rocky IV is the greatest, answer this question: Does any other Rocky movie bring peace between the US and Russia?

By the end of the film, Rocky rises up to beat the seemingly undefeatable Drago. He fights so well, that even the Russians begin to appreciate his skills. Then, instead of using his victory to prove America’s superiority, he gives a rousing speech of “If I can change and you can change, everybody can change!” The whole crowd goes wild, including all of the Russian government, who we assume give up Communism immediately based solely on Rocky’s words. Stallone’s call for international reconciliation through brutal fighting and a variety of montages makes this if not one of the greatest films of all time, certainly the greatest Rocky of them all.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

Watch More
Powered by ZergNet