Movie Project #27: Top Gun [1986]

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50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Top Gun [1986]

Top Gun [1986] 
Director: Tony Scott
Writers: Jim Cash & Jack Epps, Jr.
Country: USA
Genre: Action/Drama/Romance
Starring: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards
Running Time: 110 minutes

It’s near impossible to watch Top Gun without thinking of the countless references and parodies it has spawned since its release. Between the running “Danger Zone” gags in Archer and Quentin Tarantino’s infamous homosexuality theory (not to mention Hot Shots!), there’s just no way Top Gun can be taken seriously. Of course, it helps that the film itself is a loud, brash “AMERICA FUCK YEAH!” Polaroid-taking, middle finger-waving, karaoke-singing cinematic spectacle.

Top Gun is about two things: fighter jets and “Maverick” Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise), a cocky navy pilot who is both reckless and dangerous (Danger Zone!) yet can manage to win people over just by flashing his blinding smile. Maverick and his best pal Goose (Anthony Edwards) are recruited to attend the Navy’s elite Fighter Weapons School (aka “Top Gun”) where the small group of students compete to be the best in the class. The top competition at the school is the smug and confident Iceman (Val Kilmer), who immediately butts heads with the loudmouthed Maverick. Their rivalry serves as the crux of the movie, with both men attempting to win the prestigious “best in class” award.

Top Gun [1986]

Along the way, Maverick falls in love with his school instructor, Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood (Kelly McGillis), deals with the tragic death of his best friend, and continuously gets reprimanded by his superiors. Yet even with so much going on, he never changes. There is a brief respite where he appears to gain some humility, but by the end of the film, he’s still the same reckless S-O-B he was at the beginning.

But who cares about what happens on the ground when we can watch high-class dogfighting in the air, right? Top Gun follows a distinct air-land-air-land-air formula, with the jet scenes full of exhilarating high-octane action. The combative flying is intense and often disorienting, but damn if Tony Scott doesn’t make it look good. It’s no wonder the Air Force enlistment rate went way up after this film’s release — Top Gun makes being a navy pilot look like the best thing in the world.

Top Gun [1986]

What’s most amusing when watching the film today is the clear gay subtext between the pilots. When Maverick and Iceman first meet in class, they can’t stop looking at each other. There is some serious sexual tension right there, moreso than that between Maverick and Charlie. The film overall is dripping in machismo and homoeroticism. There are several lines about “hard-ons” and “johnsons”, constant moments where the men are shirtless and/or in their underwear (while making it a point to talk very closely to each other), and of course, there’s the infamous volleyball scene. When you sit down and look out for these moments, the film gains an all-new perspective. I think Tarantino was onto something here.

And who could forget the classic soundtrack? I had to keep a running tally of which song was played more — “Danger Zone” or “Take My Breath Away“? The latter won, four times to three, though it is “Danger Zone” that is still stuck in my head to this day. These songs still resonate today, as evidenced by the crowd going nuts when producer Giorgio Moroder played both hits at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival.

With the adrenaline-pumping action scenes and Tom Cruise’s otherworldly charisma, it’s not hard to see why so many people flocked to the box office back in ’86. In many ways, Top Gun feels like the definitive ’80s popcorn flick — it’s not a very good movie, but it can be pretty damn entertaining.

6/10

Eric @ The Warning SignMovie Project #27: Top Gun [1986]

Video Game Review: Velocity 2X [PS Vita/PS4]

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Velocity 2X [PS Vita/PS4]

Velocity 2X 
System: PS Vita [reviewed], PS4
Genre: Shoot ‘em up, platformer
Developer: FuturLab
Publisher: FuturLab
Price: $19.99 (cross buy, free for PS+ members)
Release Date: September 2, 2014

Velocity Ultra was a bit of a sleeper indie hit on the Playstation Network last year, and today sees the release of its much-anticipated sequel Velocity 2X.

Whereas Ultra innovated with its unique hybrid of shoot ‘em up gameplay and puzzles involving teleportation, 2X expands upon this template by bringing in a brand new dynamic: side-scrolling platforming. The transition between shmup action and platforming is seamless, and it tactfully brings together two genres that you normally wouldn’t think of combining.

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Eric @ The Warning SignVideo Game Review: Velocity 2X [PS Vita/PS4]

Video Game Review: Crimsonland [PS Vita/PS4/Steam]

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Crimsonland [PS Vita/PS4]

Crimsonland 
System: PS Vita [reviewed], PS4, Steam
Genre: Top-down shooter
Developer: 10tons Ltd.
Publisher: 10tons Ltd.
Price: $8.99 (cross buy)
Release Date: August 19, 2014 (Vita)

Crimsonland is an apt title for a game that lets you paint the landscape red with the blood of your enemies. Originally released for the PC way back in 2003, this kinda-cult classic has been remastered and released on Steam, PS4 and PS Vita. For this review, I am focusing on the Vita version.

In this top-down shooter, you play as an unnamed soldier with your goal being to kill everything in sight — including aliens, spiders, zombies and mutant lizards. These enemies flood the screen in large waves, dozens at a time. Certain levels push that number closer to 100, creating some ridiculous mayhem on screen (with no slowdown either). As you wipe out more and more enemies, the game’s backdrop begins to turn red — a fitting portrait of the chaos around you.

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Eric @ The Warning SignVideo Game Review: Crimsonland [PS Vita/PS4/Steam]

Movie Project #26: Rudy [1993]

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50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Rudy [1993]

Rudy [1993] 
Director: David Anspaugh
Writer: Angelo Pizzo
Country: USA
Genre: Biography/Drama/Sport
Starring: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
Running Time: 114 minutes

When it comes to inspirational films, Rudy has a surefire winning formula. It’s based on a true story, it involves a massive underdog, and it’s about someone who refuses to stop following his dreams. Football is at the heart of the story, but it’s the type of feel good flick that can appeal to anyone.

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Eric @ The Warning SignMovie Project #26: Rudy [1993]

Movie Project #25: Sideways [2004]

Eric @ The Warning SignMovies20 Comments

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Sideways [2004]

Sideways [2004] 
Director: Alexander Payne
Writers: Alexander Payne & Jim Tyler (screenplay), Rex Pickett (novel)
Country: USA
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh
Running Time: 126 minutes

I’m not much of a wine drinker, so I never really had a burning desire to see Sideways, which I always thought of as “that wine movie.” Foolish me — I should know better than to doubt Alexander Payne. This is an intelligently-written and surprisingly funny film that works on multiple levels.

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Eric @ The Warning SignMovie Project #25: Sideways [2004]

PS Vita Game Review: Table Top Racing

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Table Top Racing [PS Vita]

Table Top Racing 
System: PS Vita [reviewed], previously on iOS and Android
Genre: Arcade racing
Developer: Playrise Digital
Publisher: Ripstone
Price: $7.99
Release Date: August 5, 2014

The idea of bringing a free-to-play mobile game to the Playstation Vita is a risky one. Mobile ports have been done in the past with disastrous results — Dungeon Hunter Alliance and Asphalt Injection, to name a couple, were marked up considerably higher than their smartphone counterparts despite not bringing anything new to the table. Thankfully, that is not the case with Table Top Racing, the latest release from Ripstone.

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Eric @ The Warning SignPS Vita Game Review: Table Top Racing

Beer Review: “Brett the Hipman Hop” by Against the Grain Brewery

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"Brett the Hipman Hop" by Against the Grain Brewery

Brett the Hipman Hop
Brewery: Against the Grain (Louisville, KY)
Style: American Sour Ale
ABV: 8.0%
IBU: 64.5

Apparently I’m a sucker for pro wrestling puns because I could not resist trying Against the Grain’s “Brett the Hipman Hop“, part of their All Funked Up Wild Series. I wasn’t aware of what I was getting myself into — all I knew was that it was a pale ale, and that it was brewed with brettanomyces. If only I knew what brettanomyces meant…

Expecting a standard pale ale of some sort, I was surprised when I saw a light yellow liquid pour out of my 22oz bomber. It did not look like a pale ale at all, at least not the type I was anticipating. It was then that I realized (thanks to Wikipedia) that brettanomyces is in fact a type of yeast used to provide sourness to a beer.

Now, I am not a huge fan of sour ales. I gained an appreciation of them while touring the legendary Cantillon Brewery in Brussels, but they are something I can only drink on rare occasions. That might have to change after trying “Brett the Hipman Hop” (is it sad that makes me crack up every time I write it?).

This is a damn good beer. One might even say it is “the excellence of execution” when discussing American-made sour ales (yeah, I couldn’t resist). The smell is off the charts; very funky, very complex. The taste is all over the place. It’s definitely tart, and I noticed some hints of lemon and grapefruit. It has a dry and bitter finish, and the aftertaste bounces around on the tongue.

Once you get over the initial funkiness, it’s quite the enjoyable beer. It has a ton of flavor, it’s unique, and it would make a great gateway for someone looking to dig deeper into the world of sour/wild ales. I wouldn’t quite say it’s “the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be”, but it’s high on my list.

8/10

Eric @ The Warning SignBeer Review: “Brett the Hipman Hop” by Against the Grain Brewery

Video Game Review: The Swapper [PS Vita/PSN]

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The Swapper [PS Vita/PSN]

The Swapper
System: PS Vita [reviewed], PS3, PS4, PC, Mac, Linux, Wii U
Genre: Puzzle platformer
Developer: Facepalm Games & Curve Studios
Publisher: Curve Digital
Price: $19.99 (cross-buy on PSN)
Release Date: August 5, 2014

The Swapper is a puzzle-platformer that just oozes atmosphere. Originally released for the PC last year, this Facepalm Games adventure received overwhelming praise from critics and fans alike. This week, the ever-prolific Curve Studios is set to introduce this indie hit to a whole new set of gamers via the Playstation Network.

Set deep in space on a seemingly abandoned space station, The Swapper places you in the role of a lone explorer who is trying to make sense of the situation. The feeling of isolation here is undeniable — you are just one person alone in a massive, eerie location. Shortly upon arrival, you gain access to a mysterious new weapon, dubbed the Swapper, that gives you the ability to create clones of yourself — up to four at once. At first it appears to be a neat little tool, but soon it’s clear that it may have some unexpectedly heady consequences.

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Eric @ The Warning SignVideo Game Review: The Swapper [PS Vita/PSN]

Month In Review [July 2014]

Eric @ The Warning SignMovies, Television, Video Games14 Comments

In order of viewing:
1) Boyz n the Hood [1991] - 8/10
Boyz n the Hood [1991]

2) Stand By Me [1986] - 8/10
Stand By Me [1986]

3) 30 for 30: Bad Boys [2014] - 8/10
30 for 30: Bad Boys [2014]

4) The Karate Kid [1984] - 8/10
The Karate Kid [1984]

5) Maniac [2012] - 5/10
Maniac [2012]

6) The Innkeepers [2011] - 6/10
The Innkeepers [2011]

7) Enemy [2013] - 9/10
Enemy [2013]

8) Philomena [2013] - 7/10
Philomena [2013]

9) A Skin, A Night [2008] - 5/10
A Skin, A Night [2008]

10) Mystic River [2003] - 8/10
Mystic River [2003]

11) Snowpiercer [2013] - 9/10
Snowpiercer [2013]

12) Under the Skin [2013] - 8/10
Under the Skin [2013]

13) The Incredibles [2004] - 8/10
The Incredibles [2004]

Video Games Finished:
1) The Wolf Among Us [Xbox 360] - 9/10
The Wolf Among Us

2) MouseCraft [PS Vita] - 8/10
MouseCraft

3) Injustice: Gods Among Us [PS Vita] - 9/10
Injustice: Gods Among Us [PS Vita]

TV Shows Completed:
1) Orange Is the New Black [Season 2] - 8/10
Orange Is the New Black [Season 2]

2) Archer [Season 1] - 8/10
Archer [Season 1]

Best of the Month: Not only is Enemy my favorite movie I watched in July, it’s my early front-runner for this year’s best film. Snowpiercer is a close second right now in my book, with Under the Skin just behind that. Those three films were revitalizing after what I thought had been a fairly disappointing year to that point. I’m even more excited to see what August brings, as I hope to finally catch Boyhood and Life Itself (among others). For video games, I played the last four episodes of The Wolf Among Us back-to-back, and loved every second of it. The final episode, in particular, was riveting and was the perfect way to finish the season. Injustice for the Vita was also a pleasant surprise, and it’s definitely up there as far as my favorite fighting games go.

Worst of the Month: As much as it pains me to say it, A Skin, A Night was a bit of a bore. The National, the subjects of the documentary, are probably my favorite band working today, but this little-seen documentary tried way too hard to be artsy, and it offered little in the way of insight on the band itself. On the other hand, I’m really looking forward to finally seeing Mistaken for Strangers, a more recent documentary about the band that has been getting rave reviews. I suppose Maniac could be considered for the worst of the month as well. Despite having a startlingly effective first-person view, Maniac didn’t work so well for me because I had a hard time buying Elijah Wood as an overpowering serial killer. He was definitely creepy, but there is just no way he could have held a woman of similar size down in the water with just one hand.

Onward to August!

Eric @ The Warning SignMonth In Review [July 2014]