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Microsoft Announces This Year’s Indie-Packed ‘Summer of Arcade’ Line-Up for Xbox 360

Microsoft Announces This Year’s Indie-Packed ‘Summer of Arcade’ Line-Up for Xbox 360  (photo)

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Puzzlingly, top-tier video games tend to get really scarce in the summer. (This June, with “Infamous 2,” “Shadows of the Damned” and other games has been an anomaly.) Maybe it’s because publishers want buyers to spend their cash on the highly hyped releases that flood retail from September to December each year, or they think that players’ vacations take them away their consoles.

Whatever the reason, Microsoft’s taken advantage of video games’ dog-day doldrums for the last few years, and packaged promising downloadable games into a programming block called Summer of Arcade. It makes use of the Xbox 360’s Xbox Live service to digitally deliver a handful of games The featured titles have been a mix of big studio games and indie efforts and last year’s standouts included “Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light” and “Limbo,” a title that’s gone down as an all-time classic.

While this year’s roster was revealed at E3 2011 a few weeks ago, it was still up in the air as to when Xbox owners would be able to get their hands on them. Microsoft’s just announced availability for the five titles for this year’s SoA and it looks like the months of July and August will be a lot more bearable for fun-starved gamers. All of the games will cost 1200 Microsoft points, or $15 in real-world money. And if you get all five, a sixth game–the retro-styled hack-n-slash “Crimson Alliance” by Certain Affinity–can be downloaded free as a bonus.

The Summer of Arcade game that’s gotten the most buzz has been Supergiant Games’ “Bastion.” It’s the story of a hero called the Kid who’s trying to restore the Earth after an event called the Calamity breaks it up into a series of floating archipelagos. The pulpy narration by a mysterious, gravel-voiced dude is dynamic, meaning that it responds to what you’re doing in the game. The gameplay’s a top-down blend of action and RPG elements, done up in hand-drawn art that makes “Bastion” immediately appealing. Leading the charge on July 20th, it looks like it might be the alpha game of the bunch.

“From Dust” comes by way of UbiSoft, and revolves around a unique terraforming mechanic with lush visuals. It’s the creation of beloved designer Eric Chahi, who’s best known for his classic PC game “Out of This World.” “From Dust” belongs to the god game category, a strategy-based genre once dominant on PC, and it should reintroduce a whole new generation of players to what it’s like to shape a planet to their whims. Look for it on July 27th.

“Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet” hits on August 3rd from developer Michel Gagne and the Fuelcell Games studio. Its blend of artsy silhouettes and old-school side-scroller design has had indie game watchers hankering for months, so it’s great to see it finally rolling out in a significant way.

I’ve already previewed the fourth SoA game a little while ago and can honestly say I haven’t been able to stop thinking about “Fruit Ninja Kinect” since I tried it out. Its August 10th release date can’t come quick enough. Daddy needs to slice some citrus.

Finally, Signal Studios’ “Toy Soldiers: Cold War” blends first-person action and tactical challenge in a game that lets you run wild in a playground made up of the war-crazy pop culture of the 1980s. Imagine all the insane conflicts that you created with your action figures and their vehicles in the form of a modern-day, hi-def video game and that’s what you’ll be getting on August 17th.

Whether you get all of the Summer of Arcade titles or just grab a few, chances arre you’ll be throwing your support behind games made with singular vision and intense commitment. Fifteen dollars is a quarter of the price of a disc-based game, and the perfect price to take a chance on something different. Even “From Dust”, which has the power of major publisher UbiSoft behind it, might have a hard time if it had to entice would-be purchasers from a store shelf. So, pick out a Summer of Arcade and have a fling with it. It could be an unexpected gem.

Which Summer of Arcade title gets you all sweaty? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Fast Times Jennifer Jason Leigh

Retro Grades

The 11 Best Movie Comedies of the ’80s

Catch Fast Times at Ridgemont High during IFC's '80s Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

The ’80s gave us so many great things (Tab, anyone?), but when it comes to movie comedies, the Reagan years were a golden age of funny. In honor of IFC’s ’80s Weekend, we’ve selected the best big screen comedies from the decade that gave us Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy and other comedy greats. And like one of the movies featured below, this list goes to 11.

1. Back to the Future

“A high school slacker goes back in time, takes his mother to a dance, and gets dangerously close to becoming his own father.” The elevator pitch for Back to the Future doesn’t sound so charming, but the 1985 flick starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover is declared by many as being the perfect movie. (Though we can’t officially say if the Eric Stoltz version would’ve been better.)


2. Ghostbusters

The sheer number of childhoods that were professed to be ruined by the recent reboot should tell you how beloved the original film is. A perfect blend of comedy, horror and fantasy, Ghostbusters has an indelible cast at the top of its game and a heap of one-liners worthy of countless casual references. They have the tools, and they have the talent.


3. Airplane!

Speaking of one-liners, it doesn’t get much more quotable than the 1980 Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker classic Airplane!. Almost a one-to-one parody of the 1957 disaster film Zero Hour!, Airplane! works so well because of how straight faced the zaniness is played — which is something its many imitators fail to notice.


4. This Is Spinal Tap

Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer created the de facto mockumentary film with the hilarious 1984 rock diary This Is Spinal Tap. Heralded as one of the most accurate depictions of backstage life by actual real-life bands, the movie showcases an aging glam metal band struggling for the spotlight while keeping the group intact (especially the spontaneously combustible drummers).


5. National Lampoon’s Vacation

While Caddyshack and Fletch are quintessential Chevy Chase films, nothing beats the bumbling patriarch of the Griswold clan losing his mind en route to Wally World, America’s favorite family fun park. Yes, the sequels saw diminishing returns (aside from Christmas Vacation), but the one that started them all is endlessly watchable. Amen, let’s go!


6. Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Director Amy Heckerling and writer Cameron Crowe managed to capture exactly what high school life was like in the early-’80s. The awkwardness, the frustrations, the scares, the search for purpose and gratification, Fast Times presents its young characters as fully fleshed-out individuals (even the designated stoner shows nuance) and doesn’t talk down to its audience like many teen movies do. (Click here to see all airings of Fast Times at Ridgemont High on IFC.)


7. Beverly Hills Cop

A reminder of the days when Eddie Murphy was the edgiest comedian in showbiz, the one-two punch of Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs. set the template for modern action comedies. We wouldn’t have the Rush Hour franchise and every Kevin Hart film without Axel Foley.


8. Trading Places

A treatise on the Nature vs. Nurture argument at the height of Reagan-era excess, Trading Places depicts the lives that are held in the balance when the mega-rich make friendly $1 wagers and just how joyous the retribution can be. Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis are terrific as the leads, the Duke Brothers are delightfully evil, and in all seriousness, that is a nice purse.


9. Better Off Dead

This 1985 Savage Steve Holland movie is teen angst at its most surreal and affably goofy. John Cusack stars as Lane Meyer, a high schooler still reeling from the loss of his girlfriend to a cocky champion skier. (Is there any other kind in an ’80s movie?) With bloodthirsty paperboys, foreign-exchange street races and stop-motion hamburger interludes, Better Off Dead doesn’t let realism get in the way of accurately portraying pure teen heartbreak.


10. Midnight Run

Of all the critically acclaimed pairings that actor Robert De Niro has had through the years, few are as entertaining as his reluctant team-up with a persnickety Charles Grodin in 1988’s Midnight Run. Perfect foils, the bounty hunter and mob accountant race against time, the Feds and mafia hits until mutual Stockholm Syndrome kicks in and the partnership stops becoming merely professional. (The counterfeit bill scene alone is worth the watch.)


11. Heathers

Heathers is the kind of pitch-black comedy that would never get a major release in 2016. Unflinching in its satire of school shootings, teen suicide and the tragedies that come with the need to fit in, the movie remains relevant to the kids currently growing up in a cruel and judgmental world. And the fact that it’s laugh-out-loud funny while also making a sharp point about youth culture is a testament to how great the movie really is.

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Bill Hader in Conan Star Wars Audition Sketch

Acts of Wars

Watch Bill Hader, Melissa McCarthy and More Audition to Play Young Han Solo

The Documentary Now! star shows off his best Han and Chewie.

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Photo Credit: TBS/YouTube

Thanks in large part to The Force Awakens not sucking, the Star Wars universe is about to get a lot more expansive. Sequels, spin-offs, TV shows, and more are underway — which means a helluva lotta casting calls. Fortunately, Conan O’Brien got his hands on a few audition tapes of celebrities trying out for a role as a young Han Solo.

Check out Documentary Now!’s Bill Hader, Melissa McCarthy, Portlandia favorite Jeff Goldblum, Todd Margaret star Will Arnett and other funny folks offering their takes on what that younger, brasher space swashbuckler would be like.

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The Breakfast Club Everett Collection

Join the Club

10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Breakfast Club

Catch The Breakfast Club during IFC's '80s Weekend.

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Catch The Breakfast Club during IFC's '80s Weekend.

The Breakfast Club is the king of all teen films, proving that a movie centered around high school angst can be funny, touching, and relatable to all ages. 31 years later, it is the high water mark of teenage drama. Before you spend detention with The Breakfast Club during IFC’s ’80s Weekend, check out a few facts about the making of this teen movie classic.

1. A racy scene was cut from the film.

Breakfast Club
Universal Pictures

Originally, there was a scene in the script where the boys snuck out and found a peephole into the women’s locker room where they spied on a naked P.E. teacher. Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy told writer/director John Hughes that the scene seemed gratuitous and he agreed, making The Breakfast Club a rare ’80s teen film with no needless boob shots. Thanks, Molly and Ally!


2. Rick Moranis almost played the janitor.

Rick Moranis Ghostbusters
Columbia Pictures

Carl the Janitor has some memorable scenes in The Breakfast Club, like when he tells the group about the perks of going through their trash and his bonding moment with Principal Vernon. Rick Moranis was originally cast as Carl, but the Ghostbusters star had a very different vision for the role. He came in with gold caps on his teeth and did a cartoon-y Russian accent, which Hughes felt clashed with the more serious tone of the film. So, Moranis was fired and John Kapelos eventually got the part.


3. John Hughes wrote the script faster than Allison eating Pixie Stix.

Anthony Michael Hall Breakfast Club
Universal Pictures

It only took Hughes two days to write the screenplay for The Breakfast Club. He later said that keeping the story in mostly one location made it easier to write and film.


4. Judd Nelson really got into character.

Judd Nelson Breakfast Club
Universal Pictures

For the role of John Bender, Judd Nelson stayed in character for the entirety of his time on set. The outfit he wore in the film was the same as what he wore to the audition, and Nelson even provided his own switchblade. Apparently, he kept the blade on him for protection on the mean streets of Hollywood. Hey, it was the ’80s.


5. Parmesan cheese was used for Allison’s dandruff.

Ally Sheedy Breakfast Club
Universal Pictures

Ally Sheedy didn’t go fully Method for the scene where she adds her own dandruff to her drawing. Instead of real flakes, the crew used Parmesan cheese as a substitute.


6. Black Eyes won Ally Sheedy the part of Allison.

Ally Sheedy Breakfast Club
Universal Pictures

Sheedy had met John Hughes when she auditioned for Samantha (the role that eventually went to Molly Ringwald) in Sixteen Candles. At her audition, she had two black eyes from a set building accident. Hughes remembered her as having a “Gothic look” and called Sheedy to audition for The Breakfast Club. So, if you get terribly beat up on the way to an audition, it might be your ticket to fame!


7. The Breakfast Club Wasn’t the Only Possible Title.

Lunch Bunch Breakfast Club
Universal Pictures/Imgur

Before Hughes settled on The Breakfast Club, other titles bandied about were “Library Revolution” and “Lunch Bunch.” “Library Revolution” seems like a hard sell for the teen crowd and “Lunch Bunch” sounds like some kind of Brady Bunch prequel. Plus, the embarrassment of saying “I love the Lunch Bunch” would have kept a lot of fans silent.


8. John Cusack Was Originally Cast as John Bender.

Better Off Dead
Warner Bros.

The Better Off Dead and Say Anything… star auditioned many times and was initially cast as Bender. But Hughes wanted the character to have a more threatening demeanor, which led to Cusack getting dropped for Judd Nelson. Just as well. It’s hard to imagine ultimate ’80s nice guy John Cusack calling anyone a “neo maxi zoom dweebie.”


9. Molly Ringwald almost played Allison.

Molly Ringwald Breakfast Club
Universal Pictures

Hughes wanted his Sixteen Candles stars to work with him again on his next film, and offered Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall parts in The Breakfast Club. Geeky Brian was a perfect fit for Hall, but Ringwald was initially offered the role of outsider Allison. Ringwald wanted to play Claire, and eventually convinced Hughes she was right for the snobby girl-with-a-heart-of-gold role.


10. Ferris Bueller Shares a high school with The Breakfast Club.

Ferris Bueller Breakfast Club
Universal Pictures/Warner Bros./Pinterest

Maine North High School in Des Plaines, Illinois was used during the filming of The Breakfast Club. (The library scenes were actually filmed in the gymnasium on a constructed set.) The school was also used for interior filming on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, though nearby Glenbrook North High doubled as the exterior of the school Ferris ditched. In fact, some posters on the Maine North High walls can be seen in both Ferris and The Breakfast Club. Do the movies exist in the same universe???

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