Freaks and Geeks is notable not only for launching the careers of James Franco, Jason Segel, and Linda Cardellini, but also for accurately capturing the painful awkwardness of adolescence. Now, thanks to The Fine Brothers, you can relive those awkward years of your life over and over again through their interactive Freaks and Geeks video game. That's right: someone made a Freaks and Geeks video game. The Internet is a magical place.
The game allows players to guide Lindsay Weir through her newfound friendship with the Freaks through a series of choose-your-own-adventure style questions that each result in a different outcome. Want to see what would have happened if Lindsay changed her mind and went back to Millie? You can make that choice for her and explore the consequences. While only the "Freaks" half of the game is currently available, The Fine Brothers promise that players will be allowed to attempt to navigate life as Sam and the "Geeks" very soon. The show's co-creator and producer Paul Feig has even given the game his seal of approval, and tweeted a link out to his followerss.
In addition to Freaks and Geeks, The Fine Brothers have created interactive games for television shows like Saved By the Bell and Lost, as well as a game that allows players to determine the fates of Twilight characters Bella, Edward and Jacob. Plus, if you're a fan of 8-bit, television-inspired video games, but want more freedom than simply choosing your own adventure, there's always Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne, based on the game played by the characters in the season 3 finale of Community. Because if you can dream it, there's someone online willing to make it a reality.
Bask in your uncomfortable, high school glory and play Freaks and Geeks: The Interactive Game below.
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It's easy to hate on the Twilight movies. They're the epitome of indulgent fan-servicing filmmaking alienating anyone on the outside of their cultish fanbase. With consistent navel-gazing screenplays by series screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (adapted from the equally shallow source material from author Stephanie Meyers) there's little reason to think future installments could ever transcend their predecessors.
But whereas Twilight New Moon and Eclipse contently burrowed themselves under the forlorn faces and over-dramatic moping of stars Kristen Stewart Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls Kinsey Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh) unearths a saving grace in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1: pure insanity from which blossoms color comedy and scares. The movie is one giant wink to the camera—and it serves the melodrama of Twilight tremendously.
The first half of the not-quite-epic Twilight conclusion kicks off with the wedding of Bella (Stewart) and Edward (Pattinson) a long-awaited event Condon manages to spin into an authentically nerve-wracking and touching sequence. Finally a Twilight movie with an obvious purpose—Bella and Edward have been waiting since Movie One to consummate their relationship (waiting until marriage) but lingering at the end of every daydream every loving gaze every sweet nothing is the gut-wrenching fact that Bella will give up her humanity. Breaking Dawn - Part 1 confronts this dead on with an overtness absent from the previous movies.
While the script is still committed to visualizing Bella Edward and Jacob's uncinematic inner monologues Condon peppers every scene with the zest of ridiculousness saving Breaking Dawn from ever dragging. Edward cracking a bed in half during his first sexual experience is just the beginning—the movie features everything from demon-fearing Brazilian housekeepers to body horror straight out of a Cronenberg film to corny CSI-esque shots of vampire venom jetting through bloodstreams. In one scene Jacob (Lautner) morphs into canine form to telepathically declare (in Lautner's brooding "tough guy" voice) that he is the true Alpha Male of the pack. The moment's hammy and trite but Condon shoots it with all the over-the-top machismo exuding from the wolfpack. Subtle no. Fun yes.
Breaking Dawn - Part 1 is far and away the best of the Twilight series. Sexy silly scary and stupid the movie's tonal balancing act amounts to an Evil Dead for tween romantics. There's gravity to the events we're witnessing on screen (Pattinson and Stewart even have a tense argument that results in an explosion of their previously-presumed non-existent emotions) but a self-reflexive lens keeps the normally-idiotic confessions of love and hushed prophetic warnings of the Cullen family in check. The operatic tale crescendos with buckets of blood and "tragedy" straight out of a high school Shakespeare production—completely in tune with the outlandish plot and a satisfying cliffhanger for Part 2. The movie is weighed down by the baggage that comes with a Twilight movie but the formula is shaken up just enough to inject the undead franchise with a little life.
Sydney Wells (Jessica Alba) is a Los Angeles-based concert violinist who has been blind since she was 5 years old. She gets by the best she can and sees “using my other senses ” as she explains to a passer-by whom she saves from getting run over by a bus. But Sydney still desperately misses her vision and is one day away from a once-in-a-lifetime medical miracle that will bring her the gift of restored sight: a double corneal transplant. Almost immediately following the operation Sydney through extremely blurred vision begins seeing strange silhouettes but thinks nothing of them. As her sight improves with each passing day however the figures become clearer and much more troubling. Before long Sydney identifies them as “escorts” that take people away when they’re dead and she can’t escape the horrifying visions even while sleeping. But she’s forced to investigate and solve the situation mostly on her own as both her sister (Parker Posey) and ophthalmologist (Alessandro Nivola) swear it’s all in her mind’s eye. What Sydney discovers is both hair-raising and of course eye-opening. The opening shot features Alba looking glamorously hot in the way we’re used to seeing her as though just finishing a photo shoot for the cover of another glossy magazine. Then the camera pans down to her walking stick and you admit to yourself not three minutes in that Alba as a blind woman (and later a violinist!) will necessitate complete suspension of disbelief. Same can be said for The Eye’s few dramatic scenes namely one in which an extreme close-up draws attention to the actress' complete inability to fake-cry. Alba can pull off much of the rest of the movie since it’s relatively low on dialogue and emotion but The Eye is just another example of her trying in vain--much like Good Luck Chuck--to un-pigeonhole herself. In supporting roles veterans Nivola (Junebug) and Posey (Dazed and Confused) show that they’re much too esteemed for a B-grade horror movie and much better than the actress to whom they are playing second- and third-fiddle respectively. Although that’s usually the case in movies like this. Ah the much-too-frequent adaptation of the exotic-import horror movie--always reliable for a few cheap thrills and nothing more. The Eye based on the Pang brothers’ 2002 Chinese film is no exception to that rule and is undoubtedly a dumbed-down less-scary version of the original. The director duo of David Moreau and Xavier Palud who collaborated on 2006’s creepy French film Them manage to somewhat dilute all that is bad about The Eye by using music and style but there’s ultimately no way around the anemic adapted script by Sebastian Gutierrez (Snakes on a Plane) and acting by Alba. While the concept of someone having her vision restored after 20-plus years without it is fascinating and tantalizing for all the directions in which a filmmaker could take it there’s nothing post-setup--or post-op in this case--that eclipses the mildest of scares and this meant to be a horror film. To the directors’ credit The Eye looks gorgeously foreboding and the movie’s elevation to mere watchability shows that they have some promise in this genre.
The Painted Veil is based on W. Somerset Maugham’s 1925 novel about British colonialism in China. The film's cohesion is largely helped by a user-friendly script from Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia) who tackles amorphous movie-unfriendly themes like emotional longing. We meet Walter Fane (Edward Norton) a lovesick middle-class bacteriologist who spots Kitty (Naomi Watts) an upper-class socialite approaching the upper limits of marrying age at a party. Walter not smooth with women woos Kitty with his intensity and persuades her to join him in cholera-stricken China. With a wandering eye Kitty is soon caught in a lusty affair with a local British diplomat Charlie Townsend (Liev Schreiber) but Walter eventually forgives her but imprisons her in the desolate green south China countryside. The film's crucial problem is its setting of a Western-centric love story on top of a palette of Chinese human death and disease albeit framed beautifully and exotically. Norton and Watts take producers' credits as well. The actor pushed for years to get The Painted Veil made painstakingly and authentically co-produced with the China Film Board. These facts hint at the commitment and intelligence Oscar nominees Norton and Watts bring. Norton always impresses and surprises. Each role in his resume is tasty in its own way a wholly new creation and never derivative. In Norton's previous film The Illusionist he was a similarly powerful opaque character from a far away time and place. Although sometimes seeming she’s on autopilot Watts is also brilliantly underrated as the conflicted Kitty who doesn't love the man she married even though he loves her as much as she loves herself. Her tricky darting eyes mixed with uneasy body language tells us we don't know what to expect other than that she'll probably sabotage herself. Toby Jones--who played Truman Capote to critics' acclaim in Infamous--does a provocative turn as the mysterious opium-smoking neighbor. The Painted Veil falls short of greatness when the second half crumbles into laziness right when the emotional impact should be the strongest. Director John Curran is relatively untested ( We Don't Live Here Anymore) especially with difficult material and he stumbles a bit in this ambitious drama. Veil's storytelling meanders with a few unnecessary scenes. Lame mini-montages lapse into TV movie territory. Attention to detail however (minus Norton's highlighted hair) is superb. Four exquisite wisely picked Chinese locations were used in concert with local actors and crew to produce an internationally representative work of Chinese/American art. Interior sets are post-WWI prudish and upper-class underlying the movie's "painted " hidden ideas. Old-world rickshaws and water systems are true to the time. The haunting soundtrack feels postmodern and contemporary. But overall like last year's disappointing Memoirs of a Geisha the mish-mash of American and Asian story themes doesn't quite work.
After being honorably discharged from the Navy Elvis (Gael Garcia Bernal) heads home. With only his duffel bag and rifle he seems an aimless and penniless drifter but Elvis knows exactly where he’s going: Corpus Christi Texas to find his estranged father (William Hurt). Now a locally renowned pastor David Sandow has absolved himself of any and all sins he committed before “becoming a Christian ” which includes his illegitimate son with whom he wants no contact. So Elvis goes behind the pastor’s back and forges a relationship with his pristine naïve teenage daughter--and in reality Elvis’ half-sister--Malerie (Pell James). When her brother (Paul Dano) a teenager who wears the Bible on his sleeve threatens to reveal their love affair everything changes irrevocably. If The King were to ever get more than a very limited release in American theaters as many as three of the actors could vie for Oscar noms. Leading the way is Bernal (in his first English-speaking role) who may have the most esteemed resume of any contemporary actor (Y Tu Mama Tambien Amores Perros Bad Education The Motorcycle Diaries and Cannes’ most buzzed-about film this year Babel are just a few). His Elvis is impenetrable and still there’s a sense of menace--which is a feat no actor has pulled off this side of Brokeback Mountain; Oscar-worthy. Hurt fresh off his Oscar nom for A History of Violence again shows us why he’s one of the best most versatile in the biz. He embodies a man whose crisis of faith is but the tip of the iceberg following a role that couldn’t have been more the opposite; Oscar-worthy. James (Undiscovered) can’t quite succeed in obscuring her beauty but she does everywhere else lending a naïveté and an uncanny Southern accent to Malerie who’s 13 years younger than James herself; Oscar-worthy. And Dano gives perhaps the most haunting albeit very brief performance as a misguided teenager hurt more than helped by his dad’s heavy hand.
The King will ruffle more than a few feathers in the Jerry Falwell--and perhaps George W. Bush--sect for its thinly veiled take on Christianity and religion altogether. Well praise the Lord! Finally someone has used the medium of film for something besides a CGI test drive potentially spurring--dare we say--healthy debate in the process. That someone is British director James Marsh who co-wrote the film with Milo Addica (Monster's Ball). Together the two are careful to never assign condemnation to any one character and they touch upon every single dark almost gothic theme imaginable resulting in a film as engrossing as it is galvanizing. And the cinematography is so beautiful it surpasses CGI with landscapes so lush and vivid they look surreal. All of these elements pooled together form a story reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet or something Faulkner might concoct if he were around. But again for its sinful look at Christianity good luck finding it in (American) theaters.