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.

Whats Eating Gilbert Grape

Depp Gets Real

10 Times Johnny Depp Was Great Without Makeup

Catch IFC's Nightmare on Elm Street movie marathon Friday, November 20th starting at 6P ET/PT.

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Photo credit: Everett Digital

Ever since Johnny Depp reached teen idol status as a pretty boy cop on the late ’80s TV show 21 Jump Street, he’s made a career of seeking out film roles that he could disappear into. In most of his career-defining films — like Edward Scissorhands, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the Pirates of Caribbean series — Depp has proven to be one quirky chameleon. For his fans that may have forgotten what he actually looks and sounds like, here are 10 times Johnny Depp was great without makeup.

10. A Nightmare on Elm Street

Depp was one of the sleep-deprived teens in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, and his character isn’t remembered for rocking a half shirt or being sufficiently freaked out by Freddy. Depp, who played the boyfriend to Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy, is remembered for being killed in glorious, horror film fashion. As Freddy’s glove springs through his bed, Depp awakens to get sucked in before blood shoots out at the ceiling like a geyser. Depp played a part in one of the greatest moments from the Nightmare on Elm Street series, except for once the other guy in the scene was buried underneath makeup.

9. Platoon

In another pre-21 Jump Street role before he became a household name, a young Depp was cast as “Gator” Lerner, one of the members of the platoon in Oliver Stone’s Vietnam War classic. In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him role, which Stone cut down to be even smaller, Depp proved he could blend into an ensemble. It was one of the few times a Johnny Depp performance could be described as “subtle.”

8. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

After wowing audiences by believably portraying an outsider with scissors for hands and a knack for landscaping in Edward Scissorhands, Depp began a string of acclaimed dramatic roles in the early ’90s. Unlike quirkfests like Benny & Joon and Don Juan DeMarco, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape allowed Depp to play a relatable, not-so-out-of-the-ordinary twentysomething meandering through everyday life. In a movie where Leonardo DiCaprio received the lion’s share of the acclaim for his quirky portrayal of the always dirty, mentally challenged Arnie Grape, Depp gave a noteworthy, understated performance in the titular role that sets the tone for this highly likeable film.

7. Donnie Brasco

In this acclaimed crime thriller, Johnny Depp had his own undercover cop Serpico role that pitted him against the legendary Al Pacino in some highly charged dramatic moments. Depp’s character is based on the real life Joe Pistone, an undercover FBI agent who infiltrates the Mob. If you’re going to be playing someone who learns the ropes of the gangster life, you can’t do better than Pacino, and the duo have genuine chemistry. Depp’s Donnie Brasco battles his own conscience and allegiances as he loses himself in the Mafia world.

6. Chocolat

As Jason Segel’s character in I Love You Man said, it’s hard to argue that the cinematic bon bon Chocolat is “just delightful.” There’s a sweet (pun intended) tone to this adult fairytale of a film, and both Depp and Juliette Binoche play off each other well. Their flirty scenes fit the sweetness that Binoche’s chocolate shop begins to bring to the repressed French town she arrives in with her daughter. In Chocolat, Depp puts on the European charm as a suave traveler who falls for the effortlessly beautiful Binoche and for once he doesn’t chew scenery like so much delicious chocolate, er, “chocolat.”

5. Secret Window

In Secret Window, which is based on a Stephen King novella, all Johnny Depp plays a disturbed writer holed up in a remote cabin. Like Misery, Secret Window has the brand of psychological thrills that we’ve come to expect from King. Depp’s Mort Rainey is accosted by a stranger, played by John Turturro, who claims he stole his manuscript. It is Turturro who plays it creepy with the over-the-top accent, but by the end of this thriller the audience is taken on a ride into Depp’s own madness. Secret Window is classic King, and proof that Depp is due for a return to psychological horror.

4. Dead Man

Depp gives an understated performance in Jim Jarmusch’s moody Western where for once he’s the one reacting to the quirky characters. (It’s hard to be the “head quirk” in a film boasting cameos from Crispin Glover, Iggy Pop and Billy Bob Thornton.) An underrated film in Depp’s canon, and a good showcase for his deadpan comedic timing.

3. Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Once Upon a Time in Mexico is the final movie in the Robert Rodriguez-directed El Mariachi trilogy, and it lives up to the over-the-top action, gunfire and general baddassery of its predecessors. Johnny Depp’s CIA agent character Sheldon Sands steals every scene he’s in, creating one of his funniest and most likeably devious performances. You can’t take your eyes off of Depp, as his character becomes more entertaining after losing his.

2. Ed Wood

Even Depp’s most hardcore detractors have to admit that he gave one his funniest and richest performances as Z-movie director Ed Wood. In one of his least mannered and overtly “quirky” collaborations with director Tim Burton, Depp puts his stamp on a real person without creating an over-the-top caricature. His scenes with Martin Landau, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of horror icon Bela Lugosi, are some of the best work Depp has done in his long career.

1. Finding Neverland

After his comically on-point role in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Depp brilliantly took on as opposite a part as he could the following year, portraying famed Scottish author and playwright J.M. Barrie in this acclaimed drama. If you’re looking for the definitive great Depp performance where he’s not relying on make-up or a cartoonish wig to help bring his character to life, you’ve found it. (Even his Scottish accent is understated here.) Depp seamlessly embodies the Peter Pan creator with childlike imagination, as he forms a bond with Kate Winslet’s Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her four sons. The chemistry between Depp and Freddie Highmore, as the real life Peter, is so heartwarming, even Captain’s Hook and Sparrow would get emotional in the scene where the two sit on a bench as Barrie comforts the boy after the loss of his mother.

That 70s Show Fez

Fez Fever!

Think You Know Fez? Take This Quiz!

Catch That '70s Show Mondays and Tuesdays from 6-11P ET/PT.

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Fez played the role of the outsider on That ’70s Show, but was quickly welcomed into the Circle. How deeply have you accepted Fez into your life? Click below to start the quiz and find out!


Ghostbusters Everett

Ghostbusters In Hell?

7 Lost Ghostbusters Movies That Almost Happened

Catch a Ghostbusters marathon Saturday, Nov. 7th starting at 8P.

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With a new Ghostbusters movie set to debut next year, it’s time to start getting ready for an all out blitz of slime-flavored nostalgia. It’s been 26 years since we’ve seen a Ghostbuster on the big screen, although it hasn’t been for a lack of trying. Ray Stantz himself, Dan Aykroyd, has fought to make another movie in the franchise for decades. Bill Murray famously stood in the way of his efforts, refusing to even read a script. But behind this Ghostbusters Cold War, there were always a plethora of rumors, many coming from Aykroyd himself. Before you catch the Ghostbusters movies this month on IFC, check out a few of the Ghostbusters projects that could’ve been.

1. Ghostbusters in the Future

Columbia Pictures

In Making Ghostbusters by Don Shay, director Ivan Reitman recalled the stacks of pages Aykroyd had spent years putting together when he first joined the project. Originally conceived as a Blues Brothers-esque romp for Aykroyd and John Belushi, the early versions of the script saw a team of “Ghostsmashers” battling demons through a variety of “different planets or dimensional planes.” Reitman describes the first pages as one unending action sequence that was heavy on the ghost busting, light on anything else. He guessed those 50 pages would cost hundreds of millions of dollars (and these are ’80s dollars, remember) so the team went back to the drawing board.

2. Ghostbusters: The Next Generation

Paramount Pictures

Many considered Ghostbusters II a disappointment. Murray supposedly described it as “a whole lot of slime, and not much of us.” Apparently Aykroyd wasn’t in that camp, almost immediately starting work on ideas for a third film. The concept he quickly hit on, and has seemingly continued to champion in one form or another for the last two decades, was the idea of introducing a new, young crop of Ghostbusters. Over the years the rumors of who these new ‘busters might be, often started by Aykroyd himself, have included everyone from comedy superstars to TV witches. Chris Farley, Will Smith, Chris Rock, and Ben Stiller all seem like obvious choices. As time went on Bill Hader, Seth Rogen and Anna Faris joined the list. But Alyssa Milano, Eliza Dushku and Criminal Minds actor Matthew Gray Gubler? Aykroyd may have been drinking a bit too much of his Crystal Skull vodka at that point.

3. Ghostbusters Vs. Greek Gods

Columbia Pictures

In the late ’90s, rumors started to circulate that a script for a third Ghostbusters was ready to go. An early indication of how to sidestep Murray’s involvement, this outing would deal with Egon and Ray trying to keep the business afloat while battling Hades, Greek God of the Underworld. But it appears those rumors were just that. No script has ever seen the light of day.

4. Ghostbusters 3: Hellbent

Aykroyd, along with former SNL writer Tom Davis, penned the script for this iteration. The concept involved the Ghostbusters being sucked into an alternate version of Manhattan, called Manhellton, where the people and places of New York City were replaced by demonic versions. Of course, a new crew was involved. IGN reported at the time that the new team included a pierced New Jersey punk, a “pretty but uptight gymnast,” a “Latino beauty,” a “dread-locked dude” and a young genius whose giant brain made his head comically over-sized. The main villain was reportedly the Devil by way of Donald Trump, which shows Aykroyd may hate ghosts, but he might just be psychic. While the script was never produced (Murray dubbed it “too crazy to comprehend), the story was repurposed as a video game in 2009, with the original cast reprising their roles.

5. Ghostbusters: Cadets

Columbia Pictures

In 2009, Aykroyd and Ramis were at it again, talking up the idea of a new generation of Ghostbusters. Though Murray still wasn’t on board, Aykroyd laid out his vision for the threequel, which would center on the team “learning how to use the psychotron, the accelerators…all these great tools that they’re going to have.” Um…okay? What’s wrong with good ol’ fashioned proton packs?

6. Ghostbusters 3: Grumpy Old ‘Busters


In 2011, Aykroyd dropped hints that the original Ghostbusters would return, even without Murray’s involvement. This time the script would play up their age, adding “My character, Ray, is now blind in one eye and can’t drive the Cadillac…He’s got a bad knee and can’t carry the packs…Egon is too large to get into the harness.” Thank Gozer we never had to see Ray huffing and puffing while carrying a proton pack.

7. Ghostbusters 3: The Return of Oscar?

Columbia Pictures

With Aykroyd trying, and failing, over and over again to get something going, Harold Ramis decided to step in. He hired The Office scribes Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, who also wrote Ramis’ big screen comedy Year One, to put together a script from scratch. Supposedly centered on Peter Venkman and Dana Barrett’s grown son Oscar joining the team, there was some momentum. Once again, Murray still refused to play ball, reportedly shredding a copy of the script and joking he would only appear in the film as a ghost. With the studio refusing to move ahead without Murray’s involvement, the project petered out. The final nail in the coffin appears to be Year One itself. Murray said in a interview at the time, “Well, I never went to see Year One, but people who did, including other Ghostbusters, said it was one of the worst things they had ever seen in their lives.”

Portlandia Season 5

Is It January Yet???

Portlandia Returns With Danzig, Louis C.K. and More on January 21

Portlandia returns January 21st, 2016 at 10P ET/PT.

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Circle the day on your calendar and mark your sundial, because Portlandia is returning to IFC for its sixth season on Thursday, January 21st at 10P ET/PT for ten all-new episodes.

Portlandia gif

In season six, Fred and Carrie embark on all new Portland-based adventures, including inadvertently creating a ramen noodle monster that wreaks havoc on the city.

Other things to look forward to this season: Doug and Claire break up, only to wind up frustrated by a way-younger party girl and an overly caring feminist, respectively. Dave and Kath decide to run a marathon that takes place the following day. Fred turns grey overnight and, in seeking answers from the universe, gets sucked into a black hole. Kyle MacLachlan, reprising his role as the Mayor, tries to lure a tech company to Portland and also puts the moves on Carrie with a canister of frozen sperm from his office refrigerator.

Guest stars coming to Portlandia this season include Jillian Bell (Workaholics), Louis C.K. (Louie), musician Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips, rocker Glenn Danzig, Gregory Gourdet (Top Chef), Mitchell Hurwitz (Arrested Development), Moshe Kasher (Another Period), Zoe Kravitz (Dope, Mad Max), John Levenstein (Kroll Show), NPR’s Kai Ryssdal, Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Robert Smigel (Saturday Night Live), and Bitsie Tulloch (rimm).

Returning guest stars include Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Natasha Lyonne (Orange Is the New Black), and Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley). Be sure to catch Seasons 1-5 of Portlandia on iTunes and Netflix and check back here for more announcements before the season six premiere on January 21st.

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