[Film] M (1931)

M is a German film (with English subtitles) from 1931, directed by Franz Lang, and starring Peter Lorre. The film takes place in Berlin during a period of uneasiness. There is a murderer on a rampage, luring little girls with balloons and treats into the shadows to meet their maker. Elsie Beckmann is the latest little one to be found dead, and the police are in a tailspin. They have received a letter said to be from the killer that he will continue to kill unless he is stopped.

Who is this guy? Every man out on the street within the vicinity of a little girl becomes a suspect. Riots break out among the general public. Tempers flare and everyone is on edge. Police set their sights underground, theorizing this guy is from the seedy underbelly of Berlin – a beggar, a thief, a pimp? Berlin becomes a police state; every inch of it, a shakedown operation. And to the stakeholders of Berlin’s crime syndicate, this has become very bad for their business and reputation. They have no interest in little girls and they are not child murderers! So, as the police conduct their search for the perp, so do the disenfranchised. The underworld band together, recruiting beggars and thieves and anyone else to search the city to end this nightmare.

Meanwhile, we come face to face with the murderer, Hans Beckert (played by Peter Lorre) as he wanders the streets, struggling with his inner demons. He fights against the polarity towards a lone little girl out on the street who innocently watches toy trinkets spin in the display window of a store while waiting for her mother to arrive. This scene alone gave me the chills.

Soon, the jig is up, and a heart-pounding race ensues to catch Beckert and bring him to justice – legit or otherwise…

Peter Lorre, understandably, caused a stir internationally with the Hans Beckert role, but it got him into Hollywood. I love his roles in the more familiar-to-me films, Casablanca and the Maltese Falcon and was happy to add M to the watched and enjoyed list of Lorre’s filmography.

There is something about old grainy black and white films…the stories they tell, how the actors are dressed…I am not talking about a period piece wrapped into a story, I am talking about films that are a snapshot of a time in history; M really exemplifies this. I mean, 1931! My husband remarked that this was the era our grandparents grew up. Talkies were just starting to take off; M being Lang’s first talkie, and said to be his best film. In watching M, I was also reminded in how some things never change: humans will still make mistakes, they will still point an ill-informed finger at someone, but are also willing to stand up for justice.

4/5

M (1931)
Starring: Peter Lorre
Dir: Franz Lang

The Hubs Has Started A Film Review Blog!

Hi All!

Some shameless promotion here: I am excited to present a special project by my husband, Kevin (a.k.a BuriedOnMars). He has started his own blog on WordPress, focussing on Blu-ray film reviews.

In his first entry, Kevin talks about the history behind watching movies and what the focus of the blog will be. My movie-watching shenanigans might even somehow squeeze into his blog post discussions in some way considering a lot of the time, we will be watching together (now if that doesn’t make following his blog worthwhile, I don’t know what will! Tee-hee!):

https://buriedonmars.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/what-is-this-blog-is-about/

Please, friends, check it out and give him some blogging love!

Thanks!

[Review] Overcooked (PC)

As of this posting, I have been on a well-deserved week-long stay-cation. From day zero, the hubs and I have been obsessed with playing Overcooked on the recommendation of Chris, Myles and Kathryn from @FlockofNerds. We’ve been “cooking up a storm” ever since!

Overcooked is a cooking strategy game where you play as a short order cook trying to fill orders as quickly as possible. You are given a food order with a set of required ingredients. For example, pizza requires dough, tomato, cheese and maybe sausage or mushrooms depending on the order. Each ingredient needs to be chopped. All the while you are washing dirty dishes and watching the oven to ensure your prepared food doesn’t burn. If your kitchen has a mouse problem, you have to contend with your produce going missing.

As you level up in Overcooked, the venue and layouts of the kitchen can change and impact how your character moves through the arena. In one level, your kitchen is divvied up among the back of three flatbed trucks, one of which moves around, and happens to be the only one with the essential ingredients to make your food. The complexity of the food you are making also changes (beef burritos and rice anyone?). You have to watch what is going on the entire time to ensure orders are prepared right and on time. Points are given when orders go through correctly, and lost if you screw them up. At the end of the timed challenges, you are given up to three stars depending on your score. The hubs and I played Overcooked together in co-op and it really got competitive for us: It was “three stars or bust”! The end boss is a real trip – I don’t want to ruin it for you, but let’s just say that it’s one-a spicy meat-a ball!

Overcooked is a very polished game, with cute characters, a neat little navigation map and catchy music. The developers, Ghost Town Games, paid serious attention to the details. Likewise, those that play Overcooked must pay attention. This game reminds us of some practical life lessons in game play, namely, keeping the communication pipeline open with your partner. As in life, it is important to let the other know what you are doing and where you are going. Screwing up is common in Overcooked, so be prepared for failure. And if you have any neuroses about that, you need to remember to take it easy on yourself and your partner, because the game is worth playing together to the end.

We played Overcooked on PC via Steam, but it’s also available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. Go on, buy it! And make sure you play with a partner!

Overcooked (PC)
Ghost Town Games
August 2016

[Review] Polarium (Nintendo DS)

One of the best suited gaming genres for the Nintendo DS is simple casual time-wasting games. Y’know:  what I like to call “Doctor’s Office Waiting Room Time-Waster Games“. And with all the crap games out there that were released for the Nintendo DS (and there are a lot of them…), it’s welcoming to come across a puzzle game that is challenging, engrossing and competitive, yet enjoyable enough to get its claws into me for the last week. Polarium for the DS is that kind of casual game.

In Polarium your are given a play area where large blocks of black and white tiles fall vertically. Your task is to eliminate tiles from the play area by changing their shade to their polar opposite, thereby creating rows of one uniform shade. Using the DS stylus, you draw a path through as many tiles as you can in one stroke of the stylus. Tiles disappear from the play area once there is at least one horizontal row in one uniform shade. It’s important to attempt to eliminate as many rows of one shade as possible, as more blocks of tiles are falling from above and piling up. It’s also important to be strategic in what tiles you select to flip over as you can easily flip over the wrong tiles, wasting precious time. Depending on what mode you are playing in, allowing the tile blocks to pile up could mean game over, so you must think and act quickly.

Polarium provides a Tutorial that instructs on the basic moves. What is particularly helpful for the newcomer is a Puzzle Mode that tasks you with changing the polarity of the black and white tiles in one single stroke of the stylus (not easy!). There is also a Custom Mode, where you can create your own blocks of tiles and share them with other friends wirelessly, as well as a Versus Mode where you can wirelessly compete against a friend on their DS. Practice Mode is the no-pressure continuous play mode where blocks of tiles pile up and there is no game over; the mode I recommend you play for pure enjoyment of this game. If you are a glutton for punishment, however, go for the Challenge Mode – it is insanely difficult and unforgiving. Those blocks fall relentlessly from the top and there really is no time to ponder the universe; you have to go quickly. I have to say though, that in an effort to gauge my learning progress, I would go between the Practice Mode and Challenge Mode. Unfortunately, after over 3 hours of play, I still couldn’t get past 81 cleared rows on Challenge Mode. But, this was fine with me, as I still gained plenty of enjoyment playing Polarium in Practice Mode. The game was becoming obsessive, as I was finding it weirdly satisfying trying to eliminate as many opposing tiles as possible and seeing the play area completely clear itself of tiles! This is a clean freak’s dream embodied in a game! Combine it with a toe-tapping electronica soundtrack, and you have yourself a great casual game that guarantees hours of distraction.

Finding a copy of Polarium out in the wild was rare…I think I bought my copy at a game swap for $10, and it was the first time I had seen it sold anywhere. If you can get your hands on a copy, it’s worth the scratch. I highly recommend it.

4/5

Polarium (Nintendo DS)
Nintendo / Mitchell
2005

 

[Review] Puzzle de Harvest Moon (Nintendo DS)

Last year, my husband returned from the Spring Waterloo Game Swap with a gift for me. A friend (@CanadianRetro?) gave him a Nintendo DS game cartridge without a manual or case…He said to me, “Here…a French Harvest Moon game for you…” Um, thanks…?  I stored the game away until this weekend. I was cleaning up my living room and discovered the cartridge in a catch-all basket under my side table yesterday along with three other DS games. Oops! I should do something with this, I thought.

Full disclosure on two counts: I have never played a Harvest Moon game before now, and it’s been a LONG time since I have delved into anything French (20 years). Now, to address the former concern: in my mind, I equated Harvest Moon to Farmville; a time-management-type farming simulator game where you have to adjust your personal life to log in, farm and harvest crops by making sure you water them on time or else risk your virtual livelihood. I have never liked having my life dictated to by a video game…that is unless I am getting paid to do so. So you can guess how long I lasted with a game like Farmville (one week, tops)…Harvest Moon, I hear, is fun, but I assume similar. So, it has taken me a long time to be excited enough to go in and try any Harvest Moon. Addressing the latter concern around French, I haven’t read or spoken French in ages, and being surrounded by Anglophones doesn’t help, but I figure if there are subtitles in English, at least I should be fine. In any case, when I found the game yesterday, the hubs said I should take my DS out of cobwebs and see if there is an English option within.

Well, people, it turns out, this game is in English. The developers calling the game Puzzle de Harvest Moon was simply to make it sound exotic, I guess? Because, this game isn’t great and I suspect it needed a little sophistication to help get people to play it beyond adding Harvest Moon to the title.

Puzzle de Harvest Moon is a strategy game, the objective of which is to compete against opponents to harvest as many crops as possible to gain the most points. The first thing I did when I fired up the game was try out the in-game tutorial so I knew what I was up against. It seemed relatively easy…You are given a plot of land you share with three other “players” (the Nintendo DS’s A.I. if playing Single Player). You play over the course of “four seasons” (or 4 to 8 minutes, depending on preference). Each player is given seeds, watering cans and fertilizer to use to tend to their crops; these tools are provided at random. Each crop is colour-coded to denote which player owns which crop. As you farm using the tools provided, your crops will tell you what they need (water, fertilizer) with tiny graphic indicators. Animals are also provided to use to distract and prevent other players from tending their crops. For example, chickens can be used to eat up freshly sowed seeds, but, these animals can also be used against you in the same way. Your crops grow and eventually become ready to be harvested. One can harvest crops one of two ways: Baskets are provided to harvest your crops, but these are given at random, it seems. The other option is to use the stylus to reap crops by scribbling on the crop of choice, which then dissolves the crop from the plot. For every crop you harvest, you are awarded points. What do you do if you have run out of your own crops? Well, now there is a solution for that! Go on and steal harvest the crops of your neighbours, not for them, but for you! I don’t remember that gameplay tactic in the Farmville manual…

When it came to the actual gameplay outside the tutorial, this is where things were confusing and inconsistent. I chose a character (one of 12), that I think are original to the Harvest Moon franchise, but whose strengths or background seemed to have no benefit to the outcome of the game. The first time I played, I planted my crops, watered, and fertilized them as I was supposed to. My crops were ready to be harvested, but I got no baskets to use. I tried the other trick of using my stylus to scribble the crop away, and that didn’t work for some reason. The game then ramped up, and all the other players were able to plant and harvest to their heart’s content. I was only given two seeds to plant the whole round, so I lost miserably. Giving the game the benefit of the doubt, I studied the tutorial one more time…was I missing something?

I played as Elli…and as you can see from the points, I am killing it.
I am also not trying very hard…

I tried playing again several times to get the rhythm right. After over 20 rounds, here is what I discovered: I didn’t actually have to do much crop tending at all! I concluded all that labour watering, fertilizing and tending to my crops was for losers! Seriously, I could win the game by a large point margin simply by sitting back and letting the opponents do all the heavy lifting labouring over the plot. Then, like shooting fish in a barrel, I could swoop down with my stylus and scribble away everyone’s fully grown crops to win the game! That’s right, I became a parasitic gamer! The competition in Puzzle de Harvest Moon became less about tending crops, and more about how quickly you could scribble on crops to harvest them. There wasn’t much point to this that I could see – I could scribble the DS’s computer under the table!

I was on fire today…I also just scribbled the entire time

So, does that make this game fun? Um, not to me. People, I think there are Nintendo games that are less confusing, more consistent, and much more fun than Puzzle de Harvest Moon. Oui, oui mes amis.

2/5

Puzzle de Harvest Moon (Nintendo DS)
Natsume
2007

I’m not too late, am I?

I feel like the negligent blogging sister!

It’s been four months since I have posted anything on here, and before you express concern, nothing at all is wrong. Life is good! It’s only that my time is not my own these days. Unfortunately, the blogging has taken a back seat (I surrender, I just can’t do it all!) and there has been very little gaming happening. My daily habit of reading your blogs was also put on ice to a large degree, but I pop my head in every once in awhile. What can I say, life is taking a lot of my headspace these days. Work, a rodent infestation in our garage, and a kitchen reno since my last post have been the time avengers.

As I write, my new kitchen is wrapped up in drop-cloths waiting for paint, but the worst is over, thankfully. Those of you who I’ve friended on Facebook have seen the pics – it’s looking good! All I got to say is my father-in-law and husband are great people. I chose the cabinets, countertop and flooring, and they put it together. Love them! I mean, I helped with what I could, but they did the grunt work. My kitchen is now functional, and I love it! After the kitchen is done, we’ll be back at it with a new laundry room. I’m telling you, it never ends!

Borderlandslogo

I haven’t played much game as of late… but I have been playing the DLC for Borderlands 2 with the hubs over the holidays, and it’s been fun. I just can’t keep out of the Borderlands!

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This Christmas, the hubs and I pulled out our Christmas decorations, and even trimmed a tree! I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I think it is. It had been three years since we put up a tree. A lack of interest and our travel plans home over the holidays really didn’t make pulling out the decorations from under the stairs attractive. This year though really put us in the spirit. I bought a 3-ft tree at my local grocery store and went to town. Busting open the boxes of ornaments was a fun experience. I had forgotten all of the ornaments we own, including some old-timey ones from my mom, and Star Wars ones we’ve received as gifts. We even got into the Christmas spirit outside, as my husband strung some lights around our front door.

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As we close out on another year, I would be remiss if I didn’t address all my “favourites” passing away, particularly George Michael. Gosh, that one hits me. In case you didn’t read my previous post on the subject, my mom always had it in for George Michael when I was growing up, and forbade me from owning and listening to his album, Faith; something about “I Want Your Sex” and my churchy upbringing, I suppose. To this day, my sis and I laugh at how she hated him. Last night, I was watching some YouTube vids of Michael’s…what a voice he had. Arguably one of the most natural voices in the music business. He sure had some great tunes too. RIP George Michael.

Anyway, this year, contrary to my past year-end posts, I won’t make any resolutions…I think I will just be and say, here’s to another year! I hope mine is full of happiness, gaming, music, love and friendship. And I hope the same for you.

Happy New Year, friends!

[Film] Wild (2014)

wild-reese-witherspoon
Cheryl has been dealing with some serious life-altering stuff, and not very well. First, her beloved mother, her beacon of positivity, dies of Cancer a month after she was diagnosed. Not having a strong coping mechanism, Cheryl turns down a head-long path to destruction where instead of turning to her husband (a tumultuous relationship by all standards), she turns to the company of many strange men. Somewhere down that alley, she starts taking drugs. The weight of it all could not make her husband stay, and the two divorce.

Things aren’t going so good for Cheryl, and she decides she needs to work through her problems alone. She comes across a trail guide for the Pacific Crest Trail, and feels it calling to her. The Pacific Crest Trail is a rugged and solitary hiking trail that runs from Mexico, through the United States pacific coast, up to Canada. She has no hiking experience at all, but the solitude is calling to her, and she hopes the alone time and beautiful scenery will give her strength to work through her grief and guilty thoughts. She leaves everything behind to pursue this journey. Nothing could go wrong, right?

Wild is based on a memoir by Cheryl Strayed. Reese Witherspoon stars as Cheryl, and let me tell you, it’s been a long time since she played Elle in Legally Blonde. This was probably one of the best dramatic roles I have ever seen her play. Laura Dern played the mom, and I enjoyed her character immensely. Wild is a film where, yes, the clicheed “a movie about a solitary woman who is emotionally unstable [insert plot here] …and let’s hope because she is alone that she doesn’t get raped or eaten alive,” is at play. But, I was surprised with how details of this film were handled when it concerned Cheryl. As a feminist, I didn’t feel any “oh please, come on!” at any point. In fact, the story was very engaging, and I was impressed with Cheryl’s strength and resilience when the whole time she felt like quitting. I was glad she ignored her feelings and pushed forward. I found myself rooting for Cheryl in her quest.

If you are looking for a film with a bit of adventure, scenery and catharsis, settle in with Wild. It was quite good!

3.5/5

Wild
Starring Reese Witherspoon
2014