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Wednesday, January 19, 2021

feed the kittyComic book and movie fandom was wetting itself over the news that Anne Hathaway has been cast as Catwoman in the next Batman flick, The Dark Knight Rises.

Or was she?

Pay close attention to the wording in the official press release:

Warner Bros. Pictures announced today that Anne Hathaway has been cast as Selina Kyle in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.” She will be starring alongside Christian Bale, who returns in the title role of Bruce Wayne/Batman.

In fact, the name “Catwoman” is not mentioned at all in the entire (brief) release. Meanwhile, Christian Bale is pointedly referred to as “Bruce Wayne/Batman”.

So, you have to figure that Hathaway is slated to play only alter-ego Selina Kyle in this film. The set-up for her transformation into Catwoman will probably be part of the story, with the cat-suit being donned in the fourth, Nolan-less installment. Hathaway will be wearing that costume, unless somebody pulls a two-faced move on her:

Billy Dee Williams took the role of Harvey Dent [in 1989's Batman] with the expectation that he would be brought back to play Two-Face and reportedly had a contract clause added reserving the role for him. During casting for Batman Forever (1995) Warner Bros. decided they would prefer Tommy Lee Jones and bought out Williams’ contract.

Let’s hope cinematic history doesn’t repeat itself. It’d be a real shame to miss out on Hathaway kicking ass in feline-inspired spandex.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/19/2011 10:03pm
Category: Celebrity, Movies, Pop Culture
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Sunday, January 09, 2021

Lately, everyone has been prodding me to catch The King’s Speech.

Don’t see it happening. Despite the actual historical basis, the dramatic chops of the cast, and the critical acclaim, the movie’s premise comes off as a stereotypically hackneyed Hollywood pitch: The story of an inbred blueblood and his courageous battle against… stuttering. All against a background of high-British accents and flowery orchestral music. Pass.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/09/2021 12:12pm
Category: History, Movies
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Thursday, January 06, 2021

hammer time
When it comes to ostentatious symbols of power, it’s hard to beat John Boehner’s choice of gavel, pictured above. He’s already taken some grief over its giant-sized resemblance to a polo mallet.

Or is it more like a hammer? Is it, in fact, more reminiscent of Mjollnir, the mythic magical hammer of Thor, the Norse god of thunder? The timing couldn’t be better, as Boehner takes the Congressional reins in the same year that Marvel Studios’ Thor hits movie theaters.

Does our new House Speaker have a god complex (albeit a lower-case one)? If some Capitol Hill page lets leak that Boehner has given a name to his legislative appendage, then I think we’ll have our answer. If Boehner winds up throwing that thing at some Democrat’s head, and it boomerangs back to his hand, then we’ll definitely have our answer…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/06/2021 08:40pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, Politics, Pop Culture
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Sunday, December 26, 2020

Argentina is far from the only country to experience political and economic instability over the years. So there must be some other reason for the ingrained national obsession with psychoanalysis:

Buenos Aires is one of the world centres of psychoanalysis and has been since the earliest days of Freud’s work.

Unlike in many countries, where psychoanalysis was, and remains, a psychology for the rich, the practice took off in Argentina during the 1960s to the point where is is common for everyday folk to see an analyst. The Wall Street Journal cites a recent survey suggesting that 32% of Argentinians have seen an analyst at some point in their lives.

Indeed, there are more psychologists per capita in this South American country than anywhere else in the world. One big reason for that seems to be some doubling-up on therapy:

Meanwhile, on TV, a drama series called “Tratame Bien,” (“Treat Me Well”), focuses on the travails of José and Sofia, a husband and wife, each of whom has an analyst. Facing midlife crises, the two make a momentous decision: retaining a third analyst they can see together for couples’ therapy.

Argentine psychosis is obviously big business. They’re practically begging to be the backdrop for the next Woody Allen movie.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/26/2010 01:04pm
Category: Movies, Science, Society
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Sunday, December 19, 2021

Recent Boston-based films like The Fighter and The Town — and even The Social Network — have featured female characters cut from the same unflattering cloth:

Why must the celluloid version of Massachusetts’ blue-collar babes be so harsh?

Not every woman in Lowell gets into a punching match on their front porch. Or drops the F-bomb from her second-story window within earshot of unsuspecting neighbors. They’re not all Parliament-sucking hos with bleachy, frizzed-out hair and baby-daddies doing six months at MCI Shirley.

But it seems each time I fork over $9.50 for a ticket at AMC Loews Boston Common, I’m being sold another sleazy, stupid Boston Area Broad.

Disparaging portrayals of the Bay State are more of a New York tradition, versus Hollywood. But the movies in question are Oscar-level material, so perhaps there’s a typical Los Angeles-style mixed-message dissing going on here: General acclaim, accompanied by a backhanded swipe to the local womanhood.

The other part of this trend I’ve noticed: These Southie characters are desirable vehicles for glam-girl actresses to change type. In the aforementioned movies, Amy Adams and Blake Lively each donned pretty-but-tough personas, letting the hairspray and curse-words fly in an attempt to “show range” in their acting abilities. It’s a convenient shorthand for expanding career options, but doesn’t particularly come off as convincing.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/19/2010 07:37pm
Category: Movies, Society, Women
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Saturday, December 18, 2021

If you think that comic book geeks are an insufferable lot when it comes to film adaptations of their beloved characters, consider the wrath of those who sorta-kinda believe said characters are real. Thor, the next big-budget production coming from Marvel Studios, is facing a boycott from British white supremacists over the casting of a black actor as one of the Asgard crew:

The Council of Conservative Citizens is upset that London-born Idris Elba, star of The Wire and BBC detective series Luther as well as a number of Hollywood films, is to play deity Heimdall in the Marvel Studios feature. The group, which opposes inter-racial marriage and gay rights, has set up a website, boycott-thor.com to set out its opposition to what it sees as an example of leftwing social engineering…

“Now [Marvel] has taken it one further, casting a black man as a Norse deity in their new movie Thor. Marvel has now inserted social engineering into European mythology.”

Note that in the Norse chronicles, Heimdall is the watchman of Bifrost, the rainbow-colored bridge between Midgard (earth) and Asgard (heaven). Given that this Council has a thing against gays and blacks, it’s not surprising that this mythological juxtaposition — black guardian, rainbow-flag road — would have them protesting in favor of a whitewash.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/18/2010 08:00pm
Category: Movies, Pop Culture, Society
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Sunday, December 12, 2021

The International Boxing Hall of Fame created a bit of a stir last week with the announcement of its 2011 class — and it wasn’t because Mike Tyson was on the list:

The day’s shocker, though, was that the name Sylvester Stallone appeared alongside the boxing legends.

That’s right, Stallone is going into the BHOF for his contributions to the sport through film. Stallone gained worldwide fame between 1976-2006, playing the fictional character “Rocky Balboa” in six movies.

You can certainly make a solid argument for inducting non-participants in the actual sport. Still, this smacks of yet another wacky action from perhaps the wackiest of organized sports, and brings to my mind this quip from boxing journalist/historian Bert Sugar, on the scandal-plague Ring magazine:

“If Ring is the Bible of boxing,” Sugar cracked, “the sport needs a New Testament.”

But, hey. Maybe the professional pugilists are on to something. Why not honor the fictional ambassadors of any sport with enshrinement? With that in mind, here’s my slate of candidates for other hallowed halls:

Baseball: Kevin Costner, for Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, and, um… Waterworld?

Basketball: The coach on “The White Shadow”. Sorry, the only one that stands out for me…

Football: Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. C’mon, he’s due! Better than the obvious choice, that overachieving twerp Rudy.

Hockey: No-brainer on The Hanson Brothers, for Slap Shot. And why not — Paul Newman, posthumously.

Horseracing: Mister Ed. And that talking spokes-horse from Yonkers Raceway commercials, while we’re at it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/12/2021 12:10pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, Pop Culture, Sports
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Thursday, November 04, 2021

Not sure this is apropos of anything, but it’s worth noting, on the eve of the release of Valerie Plame biopic Fair Game:

Plame and her quasi-counterpart Anna Chapman offer a contrasting U.S.-Russia take on beautiful-woman spies. It’s like the Cold War all over again.

Except that Plame is decidedly more of an espionage heavyweight than Chapman. At least as far as the public can discern into the murky territory of international shadow-works. In any case, we end up with foreign affairs eye candy.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/04/2021 11:26pm
Category: Celebrity, Movies, Political, Women
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Monday, November 01, 2021

I was never a fan of Nintendo’s Super NES console.

But I did like There Will Be Blood quite a lot.

Therefore, I guess I’d have grudgingly appreciated an improbable 16-bit videogame adaptation of the epic historical drama:

A bravura pixelized re-creation of the culminating bowling-pin murder scene. I’m sure Daniel Day-Lewis gladly would have compromised his artistic integrity to make this cartridge-based iteration happen! Although I’d have liked to have seen more milkshake action.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/01/2021 11:22pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, Pop Culture, Videogames
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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

In my estimation, this short scene from Young Frankenstein is the funniest bit in the whole movie.

Take note of the direct minute:seconds deep anchor link on the YouTube video. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work when you embed the video onto your own webpage. Thus, I can’t really show off the seconds-long sequence here. Bummer.

But here’s the transcript, such as it is:

Inga: You haven’t even touched your food.
[Frederick bolts forward and paws at his food]
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: There. Now I’ve touched it. Happy?

Many’s the time I’ve been tempted to re-create this scene, when someone’s criticizing me for not clearing my plate. The only thing holding me back is the risk of an Animal House-style food fight breaking out.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/26/2010 09:45pm
Category: Comedy, Internet, Movies
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Saturday, October 23, 2021

step to
It’s been two weeks since New York Rangers rookie center Derek Stepan debuted his NHL career with a hat trick in the Rangers’ season opener at Buffalo.

He’s been light on the goal-scoring since then. Still, potting three goals in your very first National Hockey League game merits something. I figure a nickname is due to the youngster.

The problem is, I can’t think of one. The only thing that comes to mind is a play on the name “Stepan”. And the only thing that comes to mind from that? For me, it’s 20th Century black film star (and divisive racial figure) Stepin Fetchit.

I’m thinking that’s not gonna work. So, the hockey nickname tinkering continues…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/23/2010 01:05pm
Category: History, Hockey, Movies
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Monday, October 18, 2021

“Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner, in an interview about the just-completed season of his show, dropped the following summation of his dissatisfaction with today’s movie landscape:

The other aspects of things that are going on in entertainment right now are frustrating to me. I’ve been very disappointed with whatever has happened to the business model that has made the movies so incredibly unattractive to me. I’m so starved for things, for any kind of entertainment…

It’s a bummer to see movie after movie where so many talented people get together and so much money is spent, and they’re just bland, lifeless, familiar, fake. I’m not a superhero, it’s not one of my interests. It’s O.K. for it to be a fraction of the entertainment that’s out there, but it can’t be everything. And I have four little boys so I’m seeing everything. And they’re tired of going to the movies.

I don’t know that I’d consciously target the economics of modern motion pictures, but otherwise, this reflects my late attitude toward what’s being offered in theaters. Especially the “bland, lifeless, familiar, fake” part. I’ve gone from catching a flick at least once a week, to maybe once every couple of months now. I just don’t see how it’s worth the investment of my money and (especially) time to watch a production that’s noticeably imperfect and incomplete, and ultimately not especially unique.

For a while, I suspected this was a symptom of getting older, and basically seeing a long cycle of pop-cultural entertainment come back upon itself. But if Weiner’s kids are any representation, then this feeling of movie fatigue is widespread. If we’re all so bored with what’s out there now, where’s the truly revolutionary paradigm to shock us back to rapt interest?

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/18/2010 11:25pm
Category: Movies
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A horror ha-ha from Dustbury, via the Twitterized version:

Q: What do vegan zombies crave?
A: GRAAAAAAAAAAAAINS.

I generally despise the subgenre that is zombies, mainly because it’s been done to (living) death. (Although really, I never cared for the original Night of the Living Dead to begin with.) But a good joke is a good joke, pun and all.

And I contributed the headline, to bring it all together. Isn’t that the point of social media collaboration — to use your collective brains? Or rather, braaaaaaains…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/18/2010 10:22pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, Pop Culture, Social Media Online
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Sunday, October 17, 2021

It’s mind-boggling to consider that something still referred to as “new media” could host a property that’s a full two decades old. But that’s the case on this day, as The Internet Movie Database, or IMDb, celebrates its 20th birthday:

It was 20 years ago today that I posted a simple software package to the USENET newsgroup rec.arts.movies, which allowed readers of that group to create and search a very basic movie and TV database. This was the 17th October 1990. The database was built from the lists of credits which I and two other readers had begun to publish in the same group. At the time the database only covered actors, actresses, and directors. The World Wide Web was a long way off and anyone wanting to use the database had to install it locally on their computer. IMDb was born though and anyone reading the group on that day could have access to the Internet’s first freely-available movie and TV database.

The transience of online is apparent: Despite archiving efforts, a good deal of what’s created on the Internet is not really intended for posterity. So it’s something of a miracle that IMDb has lasted so long, and with its original core purpose intact, even after the transition from Net to Web, and eventual acquisition by present parent company Amazon.

Personally, I’d say that IMDb was probably one of the first compelling reasons for me to regularly fire up a browser (let’s conveniently ignore the default porn factor, of course :) ). My longstanding love of films found a ready outlet for the volume of trivial information on IMDb, and still does; to this day, it’s one of only a couple of sites that can suck me in for extended periods of time, with one link leading deeper and deeper into others.

Even with my interest in cinema flagging of late, IMDb still manages to draw me in. So I hope it sticks around for another 20 years. Or until the Web runs out of steam. Or until they stop making full-fledged Hollywood productions in favor of YouTube clips. Whichever of those scenarios comes first…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/17/2010 07:53pm
Category: History, Internet, Movies
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Monday, October 04, 2021

we're in the playoffs!
Pucking Hilarious appears to be on hiatus. I’m hoping that they’ll revive themselves this week, with the start of the 2010-11 National Hockey League season, so that I can buy this t-shirt, with the oldschool videogame hockey representation pictured above.

For those who weren’t rockin’ their Sega Genesis twenty years ago, that “Make Somebody’s Head Bleed” motto comes straight out of Swingers:

Trent: I wish they still had fights in this game so I could bitch-slap Wayne.
Mike: What? They don’t have fighting anymore?
Trent: Doesn’t that suck?
Mike: Why’d they get rid of the fighting? It was the best part of the old version.
Sue: I think kids were hittin’ each other or somethin’, man.
Trent: Yeah but you know what, Mike? You can make their heads bleed in this one.
Mike: Make somebody’s head bleed.
Sue: No man, we’re in the playoffs.

And furthermore:

Trent: I’m gonna make Gretzky’s head bleed for super fan 99 over here.

Indeed, the head-bleeder pictured above, from NHL ’93 (in fact, not NHL ’94), is Wayne Gretzky, as you can tell from those grey-and-black Los Angeles Kings 16-bit colors. And his assailant would be Jeremy Roenick, then of the Chicago Blackhawks. Ah, the memories.

And yes, I logged plenty of time on EA‘s early ’90s hockey simulations. As did my college dormmates. We had far too much fun competing against each other for hours on end with that old cartridge-borne sports game, laughably primitive by today’s standards but engrossing nonetheless. I recall that Murray “The Crave” Craven (that nickname was wholly invented in our gameroom, having no relevance in real life) was a particular favorite player in our self-contained little league…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/04/2021 10:39pm
Category: College Years, Hockey, Movies, Videogames
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Sunday, October 03, 2021

To paraphrase Woody Allen, today’s Urban Dictionary Word of the Day puts a name to the act of spending time with someone you love:

MASTURDATING - Going out alone, i.e. seeing a movie by yourself, going to a restaurant alone.

Or, perhaps, you could consider this to be play-dating with yourself. In any case, despite the prospect of being seen in public minus a plus-1, at least you’ve got a sure thing in hand…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/03/2021 02:01pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, Wordsmithing
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Saturday, September 18, 2021

staging
To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Joaquin Phoenix/Casey Affleck “documentary” I’m Still Here has been confirmed as a fabricated performance, by Affleck himself:

…Most mockumentaries, in the way of “This Is Spinal Tap,” wear their foolishness on their sleeves, leaving no doubt about their character as fiction. But Mr. Affleck, who is married to Mr. Phoenix’s sister and has been his friend for almost 20 years, said he wanted audiences to experience the film’s narrative, about the disintegration of celebrity, without the clutter of preconceived notions.

More like the disintegration of a hoax, since nobody really bought the crazy-man act to begin with. The film is also tanking on the arthouse circuit, so in every sense, no one’s buying this rather lame attempt to engineer pop-cultural buzz.

But a further tidbit: It turns out that David Letterman was in on the whole thing. In fact, “Late Show” monologue writer Bill Scheft blew the lid on the secret in August 2009:

Nuvo: Tell me what it was like backstage after the Joaquin Phoenix appearance.

Scheft: First of all, that was all an act.

Nuvo: Even Dave’s part of it?

Scheft: Yeah. Think Andy Kaufman without shaving. That’s what he was doing. And Dave knew about it and Dave loved it because he could play along. He could do whatever he wanted with it. And he did, and it was great television. But I will take credit for the line, “I think I owe Farrah Fawcett an apology.” That line was mine. I gave that to him during the break.

Dave loves that. He had a ball. He likes anything that’s good television, and he knew that’s good television.

I’ve told people that (everyone was in on the joke), and not only don’t people believe me, they tell me that I’m wrong and that (Phoenix) is a schizophrenic and he needs help and he’s going to end up like his brother. I said no. I saw the segment notes. It’s an act. I saw Ben Affleck’s brother taping the whole thing from offstage.

And oh, by the way — I called this fakery even before that:

…I’ve got no solid proof, but just from watching the whole interview, I could tell there was no real tension between the two, and Letterman’s reactions to similar guest antics in the past always betrayed his extreme unease at any such “unplanned” situations. This time out, I got the strong feeling he was simply going through the motions, setting up Phoenix with rather softball jabs; if he were really ill at ease with what was happening, he would have cut loose on him far more severely. My guess is that Letterman and Phoenix coordinated the whole thing beforehand and simply played it out before the cameras.

So, what have we learned from this failed subterfuge? Nothing significant. Which, in the end, is probably the whole point.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/18/2010 07:50pm
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, Movies, TV
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Friday, September 17, 2021

Is Christian Bale an actor, or some kind of Kafkaesque hunger artist?

That’s a fair question, in light of his turn as a crack addict in new release The Fighter. To lend authenticity to the role, he dropped about 30 pounds.

And this is nothing new for Bale. A few years back, his frame underwent a drastic 100-pound swing between his roles in The Machinist and Batman Begins. So really, thirty pounds must have been a walk in the park — he goes from skin-and-bones to bulked-up at the drop of a hat. He’s not the only one who undergoes this radical weight-shifting; I’m reminded of Val Kilmer‘s similar 50-pound shedding from five years ago.

What makes this body-mass purging so baffling is why Bale, Kilmer, et al feel it’s necessary. Can’t CGI special effects and makeup accomplish the same, or better, result? It’s ironic that filmmaking technology is at a stage where such visuals can be convincingly simulated, yet actors still feel compelled to shock their physiques into character form. It’s less acting, and more physiological stunt work.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/17/2010 07:55pm
Category: Celebrity, Movies
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Sunday, September 12, 2021

In the battle for video-delivered mindshare, A.O. Scott argues that the small screen is now out-performing the silver screen:

Look back over the past decade. How many films have approached the moral complexity and sociological density of “The Sopranos” or “The Wire”? Engaged recent American history with the verve and insight of “Mad Men”? Turned indeterminacy and ambiguity into high entertainment with the conviction of “Lost”? Addressed modern families with the sharp humor and sly warmth of “Modern Family”? Look at “Glee,” and then try to think of any big-screen teen comedy or musical — or, for that matter, movie set in Ohio — that manages to be so madly satirical with so little mean-spiritedness.

…But the traditional relationship between film and television has reversed, as American movies have become conservative and cautious, while scripted series, on both broadcast networks and cable, are often more daring, topical and willing to risk giving offense.

It’s a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison. Obviously, television series have the luxury of weeks and months to build an audience and develop storylines, versus a movie’s one-and-done experience. And the accessibility factor is there: “Free” broadcast and cable viewing (discounting the cable/satellite bill) instead of the ever-inflating price of a movie ticket. Naturally, TV’s going to seem more dynamic by those measures.

But hasn’t this always been the case? What’s changed lately to account for this seeming role reversal between the mediums?

One factor not mentioned is the pressure that TV is feeling from below: Namely, the Web and DVR timeshifting. Going up against an even wider-open entertainment channel that’s asynchronous, television has to pump out more compelling content just to keep up.

You’d think that movies would feel the same heat. The wrinkle seems to be the barrier to entry for cinema — again, the direct cost, in the form of a ticket, demanded from the consumer. That leads to targeting the widest audiences possible, which leads to watered-down content that earns “safe” ratings of G or PG… Which, ultimately, constrains attempts at edgier or noteworthy fare.

It’s a strange outcome. Whether or not it’s a new state of affairs, or only a temporary aberration, remains to be seen. In my opinion, it’s the former.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/12/2021 09:07pm
Category: Movies, TV
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Monday, August 30, 2021

Nobody likes a private investigation firm that rats out iffy occupants of rent-controlled/rent-stabilized apartments. But at least these hired snoops are good for the occasional false-identity anecdote:

[Investigator Shane] Williams chimed in about a building where the illegal tenant listed his apartment under the name O. B. Juan KNobi.

Could it be that George Lucas is surreptitiously subletting a pad in some pre-war building downtown? Talk about a disturbance in The Force…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/30/2010 05:55pm
Category: Comedy, Movies, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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Thursday, August 19, 2021

scream, robotron, scream!
I suppose this is an inflection point in entertainment media: Hollywood’s favorite stock-sound effect, The Wilhelm Scream, is increasingly finding its way into today’s videogames.

Next thing you know, the gaming studios will get even more cinematic and start using the same newspaper prop over and over.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/19/2010 11:01pm
Category: Movies, Pop Culture, Videogames
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