Top 10 Natural Wonders of the World to See

The Earth is an incredible planet that holds many spectacular places to see. From snowy mountains to the heated air of the desert, this world pulsates with life and never ceases to amaze us.

8 Autombiles That are Forbidden Fruit in America

Whether safety restrictions, marketing plans, or distribution issues stand in the way, American auto consumers can’t get some of the hottest cars drivers around the world enjoy. It doesn’t mean they aren’t worth a look (or a little lusting after). Here are eight automobiles U.S. consumers would love to have but don’t even have the chance.

The Most Anticipated Geek-Friendly Movies of 2015

Looking at this year's calendar of premieres, here's what I'm most excited about over the next 12 months:

10 Best Xbox Games of 2014 That Nobody Can Forget

2014 was a bizarre year. It was a year of HD premasters and “Conclusive Editions” on Xbox One, or more heaps of cross-gen games discharged on both Xbox 360 and Xbox 1. Few games genuinely emerged – especially on 360 – so making our yearly Game of the Year list in the not so distant future was troublesome. So here is the list of 10 best Xbox games of 2014 that no buddy can forget.

Problems Only 90s Gamers Could Understand

With the PS1 turned 20 last December it’s got us thinking about gaming in the 90s. We complain a lot these days, but there were a lot of problems with gaming back then that we all seemed to ignore. If you were a gamer in the 90s you’d know all about these particular problems…

Saturday, March 26, 2016

10 Best Teen Comedies In Movie History

Sex, drugs, cliques, proms, sick days, gross bodily functions and, above all else, youthful rebellion: These are the key ingrediants for any essential teen comedy, and are the very elements that define the most awkward years of our lives.

Although the teen comedy has evolved over the years, from the mindless beach party movies of the 60s to the oddly sentimental debauchery featured in the modern era, at their core, the best of the genre have always shared a humorous, yet totally realistic view of how hard it is to transition into adulthood.

These movies are as much about growing pains as they are the sheer joy of being a young, dumb, hormonal human being whose only responsibility is getting good grades.

The teen comedy is unlikely to ever go away completely. They’ll simply evolve to reflect the changing environments of the modern teenager and, hopefully, continue the legacy of providing super entertaining movies that adults will never fully understand.

10. Mean Girls
Paramount Pictures

Just when you thought the laugh-a-minute teen movie had been all but phased out of existence, here comes Tina Fey to the rescue. Mean Girls is a painfully accurate view of high school hierarchy that masks the sting with riotously funny and occasionally nonsensical one-liners.

Mean Girls is equal parts savage and smart, and rarely feels like the scenes weren’t pulled directly from the diary of a younger version of Fey.

Rachel McAdams portrays the meanest girl with a gleefully exaggerated menace that has since been zapped out of her by the Hollywood rom-com factory, and that alone makes it a worthwhile viewing experience.

When it first hit theaters, critics were quick to dismiss it as a toothless Heathers clone, but they were mostly overlooking the point. Mean Girls isn’t meant to be all bile and grotesquery, it’s meant to remind us that underneath all the bitchiness, bravado, and self-centeredness, high school girls are still human beings. They aren’t expressly evil people. They’re just your average dickheads like the rest of us.

9. Fast Times At Ridgemont High
Universal

Brutal, unsexy honesty. That’s what separated Fast Times at Ridgemont High from the gaggle of raunchy teen comedies popping up around it during the early part of the 80s.

While a movie like Porky’s or Revenge of the Nerds would have presented the scene of Phoebe Cates walking out of the pool and unhooking her swimsuit top as a blissful moment of sexual awakening for the movie’s “heroes,” Fast Times chooses to pull the ol’ bait-and-switch, pulling the rug out from underneath the fantasy and completely betraying Judge Reinhold’s moment of gratification.

Amy Heckerling, who would go onto direct another biting classic in the genre, directed Cameron Crowe’s screenplay with a heavy hand and an unflinching voyeurism. She’s willing to expound on the virtues of sex, drugs, and rock and roll that remain the quintessential trifecta of teen life, but she’s unafraid to present them in a less than glamorous light.

It’s a smart, balanced look at what it means to come-of-age. And that requires a frank touch, a few tender moments, and yes, a whole lot of immature humor.

Oh…and SPICOLI, you guys!

8. Empire Records
Warner Bros

While Fast Times told us how it was, Empire Records told us how it wanted it to be.

Perhaps no other example on this list better exemplifies the disparity of the teen movie as its own, disconnected sub-genre. Like musicals and horror movies, teen comedies aren’t supposed to play to audiences of all ages. And all you have to do is compare its critical score on Rotten Tomatoes (a paltry 24%) to its audience score (an adoring 84%) to understand that some of the best movies of the genre end up as cult classics.

There are certainly elements of the John Hughes dynamics present in the coming-of-age mini-stories that form the true heart and soul of Empire Records – the brutally honest romantic tries to woo the naive good girl with a taste for bad boys, the sexually adventurous popular girl is at odds with the repressed outsider who shaves her head, the stoner doofus and the overly philosophical sage are just kinda…there.

But those touchstones don’t overshadow the singular, misshapen, haphazard documentation of teen strife from inside the walls of an independent record store.

Empire Records didn’t have a unique premise or a particularly distinctive view on the growing pains of adolescence. It also didn’t have the most prestigious cast or a big, idiosyncratic climax. All it had was a simple story, solid chemistry between the actors, and endlessly quotable dialogue. As it turns out, that’s really all you need.

7. Clueless
Paramount Pictures

Sure, it’s easy to watch Clueless and pick on all of the oh-so 90s elements that date the film and occasionally keep it from retaining the status as a “timeless classic.” But underneath the baggy pants, Coolio songs, and frequent “whatevers,” there is a sharp wit and endearing lack of self-seriousness that never gets old.

Also, it presented Paul Rudd to the world. So it will always have that going for it.
Clueless is the brainchild of Amy Heckerling, who you might remember as the name behind the aforementioned Fast Times At Ridgemont High. You’d be hard-pressed to find many similarities between the two films, but there is a certain intangible that transforms what might be considered trite material into something really special.

Each character is a bit of a hypocritical dichotomy: Cher fancies herself a do-gooder who shows extreme flashes of selfishness, Dionne is a loyal friend right up until a new, more exciting comes along, and Tai is so naive it hurts, but still wields the ability to slice her friends up with razor-sharp dickishness.

That doesn’t make these characters two-faced, by the way, it just makes them normal, evolving teenagers. Such is the beauty and authenticity of Clueless.

6. Say Anything…
20th Century Fox

Lloyd Dobler. Don’t we all know a Lloyd Dobler in our lives? Haven’t we all been a Lloyd Dobler at some point in our own lives? That’s certainly the thesis statement Cameron Crowe presents with John Cusack’s character in Say Anything, hoping that everyone can find enough to relate to in the eccentric, angst-ridden, hopeless romantic.

Unlike the work of John Hughes, which would eventually define an entire generation of teen movies due to its daring insights and uncompromising lens, Say Anything dives into romantic entanglements with a little bit of a safety net in tow.

Say Anything certainly has its fair share of cringe-worthy moments (Lloyd getting kicked in the face during kickboxing practice) and jilted dialogue (the ensuing conversation between Lloyd and Diane, where Ione Skye repeatedly intones the words “I need you” with all the passion of an empty suitcase), but it makes up for all of that with a genuine, heartfelt perspective.

It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, for both Dobler and the audience, but just remember that after all of the uncomfortable jolts, there’s going to be a trench-coated John Cusack waiting at the platform with a boombox heaved over his head, blasting “In Your Eyes” at full volume.

5. Superbad
Columbia Pictures

The thing about Superbad is that it understands the little moments of sweetness between all the perverse desires and raunchy humor. Naturally, with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg at the helm, there’s going to be an abundance of dick jokes (there’s an extended flashback about obsessively drawing penises in various settings), but what surprised most people is just how adept this screenwriting team was at delving into the softer side of teenage friendships.

It’s the little, seemingly unimportant things that really form the majority of our high school memories. Superbad captures those quiet moments perfectly: for instance, when you realize that your best friend is going off to a different college and rooming with your other friend, and you might soon be the outsider in your own friendship.

Of course, it’s immediately blown up into a ridiculous shenanigan and capped off with an immature one-liner, but that may be the most perfect representation of actual adolescent interactions. We dwell on the sadness, but we act out with aggression and quips about genitalia.

Superbad expertly blends the sexual desperation of American Pie, the college-bound anxiety of Orange County, and the naive desire to stay friends forever that made Stand By Me such a classic, and in doing so, becomes one itself.

4. Animal House
Universal Pictures

The John Belushi-led Animal House is certainly far from the most nuanced movie on the list, but sometimes teen comedies need to forgo the attempts at intellectualism and just aim for the gut.

It’s non-stop raunch and vulgarity, tenuously held together at the seams by a thin plot – the Deltas, a reckless and hard-partying fraternity, are expelled and exact their slapstick brand of revenge on the university’s dean – and a barrage of juvenile jokes. So, basically, it’s exactly like most people’s first year of college.

Really though, the through-line of the movie is secondary to the countless number of iconic Belushi sight gags, from his “zit popping” moment, to the ensuing food fight, to his ladder-tipping erection.

There are no life-altering, morally-conscionable lessons to be learned here. Not unless you count “reefer will give you the uncontrollable giggles” as an important life lesson. It’s just a bunch of mostly harmless fun. And there’s something to be said for a teen comedy that goes all-in with that hand.

3. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Paramount Pictures

Most teen comedies find themselves balancing on the tightrope between reality and fantasy, often giving into a more pragmatic resolution out of a sense of moral duty, feeling a responsibility to warn their young audience that it’s not all parties and platitudes. But not Ferris Bueller. No sir.

From start to finish, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off soaks in the fantastical, letting Bueller galavant around town in every teenager’s idyllic version of a sick day. Does it matter that it’s logistically impossible for the high school senior to do everything we saw him do throughout the day? Not a bit. This is fantasy. There’s no place for that kind of rational thinking here.

Of course, the film utilizes Bueller’s best friend, Cameron, as the movie’s logical compass, tempering all of the grandiose ambitions with his Debbie Downer routine.

But even by the film’s end, when Cameron literally kicks his father’s expensive car right out of a window and sends it crashing dozens of feet to the ground, that doesn’t break the fantasy. It heightens it. Because dammit, this is a day free of worry. A day to commandeer parades and eat at an impossibly expensive restaurant and accomplish more in a single day than most kids do over the course of four years.

Most importantly it’s a day to stop and look around for a while. Because life moves pretty fast. And if you don’t, you might miss it.

2. The Breakfast Club
Universal Pictures

Although John Hughes has basked in the angsty glow of high school politics more than any other thirty-something writer/director, it’s tough to blame him for returning to the well when the results most of those ventures yield are as seminal as this.

Every teen comedy worth its salt explored the strict dividing lines between lunch room cliques, but Breakfast Club did it best. Because Hughes gave each clique a sterling representative, and gave each representative a compelling backstory that went beyond outward appearances and provided legitimate reasons for why the jock became a jock and the dork became a dork.

But let’s not kid ourselves, The Breakfast Club isn’t endlessly re-watchable because of its attention to emotional histories. It’s the dancing montage. It’s the exaggerated chase through the halls. It’s the  satisfaction in watching the diverse cast of students form a bond and then using that bond to give their principal hell and make the most of a Saturday in detention.

Still, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess, and the criminal are more than the usual caricatures.

1. Dazed & Confused
Gramercy Pictures

One night. That’s all Richard Linklater needs to convince you that high school can be a magical, stressful, illuminating, insignificant, life-defining, dope, bummer of a time. Sometimes all at once.

As with the other movies on this list, you’ll notice Dazed shares an appreciation of and dedication to the seemingly inconsequential parts of the high school experience: getting high, drinking beer, pulling pranks, driving around aimlessly, scamming on chicks, getting into fights, and listening to sweet tunes.

The cast is untouchable, the dialogue is natural (a rare feat in this genre), and each scene plays out with a casual assurance that really makes it feel like someone just followed a bunch of bored teens around with a camera all night.

Plus, its philosophy about high school is spot on. And the entire teenage adventure boils down to that conversation between the jocks on the football field:
Pink: All I’m saying is that if I ever start referring to these as the best years of my life, remind me to kill myself.
Dawson: Well, all I’m saying is that I want to look back and say that I did the best I could while I was stuck in this place. Had as much fun as I could while I was stuck in this place. Played as hard as I could while I was stuck in this place…Dogged as many girls as I could while I was stuck in this place.
That’s the dichotomy of “surviving” high school in a nutshell.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2016

It’s impossible to deny that 2015 was an amazing year for the PC. Not only did we get three of the best games in years – The Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid V, and Fallout 4 – but the arrival of titles such as GTA V (finally), Rocket League, Pillars of Eternity, Undertale, and SOMA ushered in a new golden era of PC gaming.

2016 will have to produce some truly special games to match last year’s offerings, and so far, it’s not doing too badly. Even though we’re still in the first quarter, we’ve already had some memorable titles in The Witness, Dragons Dogma: Dark Arisen, Rise of the Tomb Raider and the brilliant XCOM 2. But there's still plenty more games to come, and here are our top 10 most anticipated titles.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

In the run up to Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s release back in 2011, few people imagined that the game could match the brilliance of the original, despite it being over a decade old. But not only did this third game in the series (there was also the less-memorable Deus Ex: Invisible War in 2003) prove the naysayers wrong, it became one of the best action/RPG/stealth titles to grace the PC in years.

Now, five years since we first met him, Adam Jensen will return in Mankind Divided. The game promises to build on the elements that made Human Revolution such a classic: a great story, the fantastic blend of action and stealth, and some truly awesome weapons. Moreover, Mankind Divided will remove the most criticized aspect of the last game – unavoidable boss battle combat. You really will be able to complete this Deus Ex without killing anyone, should you wish.

No Man's Sky

There was a time when the PC was the true home of the space sim; there was the magnificent Wing Commander franchise, Elite 2, Freelancer, the X-Wing series, and many more. But in the early 2000s, the number of games being released that revolved around exploring and fighting in outer space started to dry up. Thankfully, with the likes of Elite: Dangerous, EVE Online, and the upcoming Star Citizen, the genre has seen something of a resurgence of late, and one of the most exciting looking space sims of recent years is No Man’s Sky.

Developers claim that, thanks to the clever algorithms used in the game, No Man’s Sky will contain 18 quintillion procedurally generated planets, which theoretically gives it more content than any other title in gaming history. So big is No Man’s Sky’s universe that the team behind it, Hello Games, believes most players won’t even see 99 percent of what it contains. Exploring new worlds, survival and resource gathering elements, space combat, and battling alien lifeforms – if No Man’s Sky lives up to the hype, it could become one of the biggest hits of 2016.

Doom

There are few PC titles as iconic as Doom. Gamers of a certain age may remember what a huge influence the 1993 original had on the first-person genre, and how, even today, so many FPS games are described as "Doom clones." It’s been 12 years since Doom 3 was released, but we’ll soon get to remove cybernetic demons’ heads from their bodies with sawn-off shotguns once again.

This reboot goes back to basics with the same incredibly fast, twitchy, run-and-gameplay so fondly remembered from early first-person shooters such as Quake. Those who got to try the multiplayer Alpha at QuakeCon heaped praise on Doom, and with classic weapons such as the chainsaw and BFG 9000 making a return, along with a map creator, tons of modes to play with your friends, and heaps of visceral brutality, May 13 can’t get here soon enough.

Dishonored 2

Easily one of the best games of 2012, the fantastic Dishonoured mixes stealth, RPG elements, multiple ways of approaching objectives, and FPS-style action. It's best descibed as Deus Ex crossed with Hitman set in a fictional, late nineteenth-century-style world filled with steampunk-inspired inventions and magic.

In the sequel, you’ll get the choice of controlling Corvo Attano – the first game’s protagonist – or Empress/magical assassin Emily Kaldwin, who is also returning from the original Dishonored; each one offering a different skill set to help you complete missions. With a new coastal setting and the updated id Tech 6-powered ‘Void’ engine, expect Dishonored 2 to have looks that match its gameplay.

Total War: Warhammer

There has been a fair number of PC titles set in the Games Workshop universe, the most famous being the Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War series. While a lot of people are still waiting for the third game in this franchise to make an (unlikely) appearance, we’ll soon have another GW strategy game that looks even better - Total War: Warhammer.

This will be the first time that the long-running Total War series abandons its historically accurate theme. Instead of Shoguns, Napolean, and Attila, we’ll see Orcs, Dwarfs, and Vampire Counts. Those who’ve played any of the Total War titles before will know to expect huge armies battling it out in real time, massive units, and a stunning campaign map. The game will also throw magic into the Total War mix, and we’ll see some of the famous heroes and weapons from the Warhammer universe. If you loved the original Warhammer tabletop games, then expect to cry with joy when you play this. Even in the early demos it looks breathtaking.

Mafia 3


The third game in the Mafia franchise is quite a departure from the previous two titles. Here, the player takes control of Lincoln Clay, a black Vietnam-Vet who joins the ‘black mob.’ Clay is on a mission to wipe out the Italian mafia as revenge for murdering his crew. Mafia 3’s creators say it won’t skirt around the racial problems that were prevalent during its late-60s setting.

Being an open-world, third-person game, Mafia 3 will always draw comparisons with GTA V, which isn’t a bad thing. The 12-minute gameplay video looks stunning; the developers have brought 1968 New Orleans to life in a way that’s never been seen before and, even though it’s something I rarely notice in games, the lighting effects are incredible. Add to this the visceral combat, weapons, stealth, story, and period music, and Mafia 3 has the potential to be the surprise hit of the year.

Overwatch

Multiplayer shooters are a very popular and fairly crowded genre. But seeing as Blizzard hasn’t given us a new franchise in seventeen years, and the company certainly knows a thing or two about competitive online games, Overwatch looks as if it’ll stand out in the crowd.

This first-person, squad-based shooter consists of six-on-six matches that place an emphasis on teams working together to meet objectives. The cartoony graphics make Overwatch look amazing, but it’s the roster of characters that are its biggest draw. There’ll be 21 heroes at launch - spread across four classes each with their own abilities – that players will be able to switch between during a match. Plus, Blizzard has promised that any new characters and maps that arrive after its release will be added to the game for free.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Even though there is very little information regarding Mass Effect: Andromeda, the fact it carries the name of the greatest trilogy ever to appear on the PC makes it one of the most anticipated games of 2016. Barring the controversial ending of the third game, the RPG space opera series will live on in the memory of all who played it. There’s a reason Mass Effect 2 is often voted the greatest PC game of all time.

What we do know about Andromeda is that it’s set in an unexplored part of the universe, long after Commander Shepherd’s story concluded. In addition to a new protagonist, the six-wheeled all-terrain Mako will return from the first game. Though this will probably be a new version that’s easier to steer. Rumors say you’ll play the part of an explorer trying to establish a new home for humanity, in a game world that’s four times the size of Mass Effect 3. Whatever the details, you can expect the all the elements that make the Mass Effect games so great: a brilliant story, fantastic writing, and superb combat. Don’t be surprised to find a bigger emphasis on the multiplayer section this time round, too.

Dark Souls 3

For all you masochists who just can’t get enough of seeing the words “YOU DIED” plastered across your monitor, Dark Souls 3 is almost upon us. The fourth installment (counting Demon’s Souls) of what is often regarded as the most difficult series ever made will bring more frustrating/rewarding gameplay.

After Souls 2 wasn’t as universally adored as its predecessors, director Hidetaka Miyazaki was given a more prominent role for this game. Doubtlessly looking at how successful Bloodborne has been on the PS4, Souls 4 has introduced some faster, slicker, and smoother combat. It’s also been given a visual polish, has bigger maps and more character options, and will release the same time as the console versions. While some fans are concerned that the game is now too ‘accessible,’ don’t worry - it’s still as hard as ever.

Torment: Tides of Numenera

For some PC fans, Planescape: Torment is not only the best RPG of all time, but it's also the best-written game ever to appear on the platform. Despite being almost 17 years old, Planescape has one of the greatest stories ever to grace a video game. After a successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2013, it looks as if we'll finally get to see the full spiritual successor to the classic cRPG in 2016 - Torment: Tides of Numenera.
Like its 1999 predecessor, Numenera will be a story-driven, isometric RPG that's heavy on the dialogue. The combat promises to be something unique, and the moral choices that deeply affect every part of the game are said to make Tides of Numenera a highly replayable experience. The game's available in an Early Access form on Steam right now, so if you can't wait for the full version, go take a look.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

10 of the Greatest Mystery Movies of All Time

A little over 40 years ago, Roman Polanski’s opus, the enigmatic neo-noir Chinatown, hit theaters. Polanski’s masterpiece came out in a year that featured The Godfather Part IIThe ConversationA Woman Under the InfluenceYoung FrankensteinThe Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Blazing Saddles, but 40 years later, Chinatown remains the highlight of 1974 and one of the finest achievements in American cinema.

Shooting in gorgeous wide-scope technicolor, Polanski channeled the turmoil of his life — his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered in particularly grisly fashion by the Manson family several years earlier — to portray the squalid, sickening underbelly of American life. At once sunny and seedy, Polanski’s version of California saps the less fortunate so the well-off can prosper.

The mystery folds in on itself, again and again, and the final revelation — or revelations, as the film doesn’t really have one definitive climax as much as it has a series of increasingly cryptic reveals — can turn the toughest tough guy’s blood cold. Chinatown is one of the most pessimistic and unnerving Hollywood films, but at the same time, Polanski crafted a work of undeniable beauty. Since we’ve got mysteries on the brain, here are 10 of the best films in the genre, in order of release.

1. The Big Sleep


Five years after John Huston engendered the American film noir movement with his timeless classic The Maltese Falcon, Howard Hawks and screenwriter William Faulkner (yes, that William Faulkner) made the essential noir, a mystery in which the mystery is secondary to the characters and the mood. Starring the inimitable Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe, The Big Sleep is a serpentine endeavor, with clues piling atop clues in such heavy and confusing piles that the characters themselves seem to give up on solving the mystery. Faulkner and Hawks couldn’t even agree on who the ultimate culprit was. A noir that deconstructed noir before the term even existed, The Big Sleep is an enthralling film.

2. The Third Man


Carroll Reed’s angular, expressionistic depiction of a seedy, secretive post-war Vienna features one of the all-time classic character introductions, with Orson Welles looming in a doorway, the shot tilted to the side, his shadow like ink spilling on the cold stone floor. Unlike some of the films on this list, The Third Man‘s mystery makes sense and doesn’t spend any time commenting on itself or its own insolubility.

Joseph Cotton, who starred in Welles’ Citizen Kane (though we never really see his face), is a hack pulp fiction writer who’s come to Vienna to visit his friend Harry Lime. The problem is that Harry Lime has been killed, and the circumstances of his death are, to put it simply, curious. Replete with crooked cameras, vast cobblestone streets, and distant footsteps echoing down cavernous alleys, The Third Man depicts Vienna as a city of shadows and deception. And that zither score is unlike anything any film has used, before or since.

3. Les Diaboliques


One of the two films on this list that qualifies as “the best film Hitchcock never made,” Henri-Georges Clouzot’s deceptive thriller is one of the first great slow burns. Clouzot’s real-life wife, Vera, plays a boarding school teacher whose abusive and generally awful husband (Paul Meurisse) acts as the tyrannical ruler of the school.

Although Vera’s character owns the school, her husband, who is cheating on her with another teacher, does what he wants, treating the women like leftovers from last night’s dinner. He’s one of French cinema’s all-time creeps, and you can’t blame the women for conspiring to kill him. The story seems to be going in one direction before it veers off into a different mystery. The black-and-white cinematography is starkly beautiful, and Vera Clouzot, who only acted in three films before dying at the age of 46, is captivating as the tragic femme.

4. Vertigo


The best film that Hitchcock did make, Vertigo has gradually overcome the dismissive initial response that sunk Hitch into a depression, and it now stands as the reigning king of the highly influential Sight and Sound poll, which happens every 10 years. Hitchcock’s film made headlines when it dethroned the usual champion, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (which plummeted all the way to No. 2). Some said the film was overrated, but that’s just bratty obstinacy.

Shot in glorious VistaVision, a now-defunct type of camera akin to 70mm or Imax (resurrected by Christopher Nolan on the truck-flipping scene in The Dark Knight), the lush, colorful photography lends a sense of hugeness to everything. Buildings impend like giants, shadows portend cryptically, the Golden Gate Bridge hangs like a burning beacon above the oddly serene waters of San Francisco Bay. Hitch never made better use of scenery, not even in North By Northwest, his popularist retort to Vertigo‘s critics (he was distraught when the Cary Grant escapist vehicle was a hit and Vertigo, his most personal and fervid film, was not). The movie feels like a mystery, rather than the depiction of one.

5. Charade

The other “best film that Hitchcock never made,” this Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn movie is a paranoid caper with shades of mismatched rom-com silliness. Hepburn plays a rich, young widow whose late husband was in with the wrong crowd; a motley crew of killers and crooks hound Hepburn, and Grant shows up to help her — or does he? With acerbic wit, Grant and Hepburn banter and berate each other, at once flirting and affronting. The dialog is sharp and clever and never verbose, and the supporting cast of Walter Matthau, James Coburn, Jacques Marin, and George Kennedy is excellent.

6. Chinatown

Akin to Coppola and his opening shot of The Godfather, Polanski starts this film with a slow, retracting shot of a meek and meager man going to a powerful man for help. But whereas The Godfather‘s powerful man is a well-respected figure, Chinatown‘s powerful man is a thrifty, unglamorous dick (as in private eye) played by Jack Nicholson. With immaculate but un-gaudy framing, an aptly tragic score, and a wonderfully cast John Houston as the vile tycoon Noah Cross, Chinatown is the best mystery to ever unfurl on the big screen. There’s not a line of dialog that doesn’t serve a purpose, not an utterance out of place or a shot that doesn’t accomplish something. As astonishingly efficient as it is sublime, Polanski’s opus only gets better with age. And Nicholson has never been better (same goes for the last lingering traces of his hairline).

7. The Vanishing

Also known as Spooloos, which sounds like a children’s frozen dessert or maybe a Scandinavian sex position, George Sluizer’s languid thriller unveils its villain as Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) before the end of the first act. The who isn’t the mystery — it’s all those other W-words that intrigue Sluizer. Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia Wagter (Johanna ter Steege) are on vacation in France. After having a tense fight in their broken-down car in a claustrophobic tunnel, they eventually stop at a gas station, where Saskia disappears. With deft patience, the Dutch filmmaker gradually, almost serenely, explores the mind of our bad guy. The bad guy, the good guy, and the director are all driven by the same persistent passion, though the director ultimately reveals himself to be more like Raymond than Rex. Sluizer remade his own film in English a few years later, and the results were awful. It’s like sugar-free Spooloos.

8. Mulholland Drive


The newest film to land in the top 50 of Sight and Sound’s 2012 poll, David Lynch’s masterful mind-messer-upper is an unsolvable riddle, a mystery enveloped by an enigma. Lynch claims it’s the most accessible of his movies, and it does make a sort of discernible sense after a few viewings, but the dizzying effect of Lynch’s hallucinatory film, which moves along at a undulating rhythm, is far more powerful than any typical mystery. There is a logical ending, and you can definitely find a clear plot hiding in Lynch’s murky dream logic, but that’s missing the point.

In fact, trying to succinctly explain the plot is pointless: Just know that it stars Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux, and, for about five minutes, the great Robert Forster; that the movie rewards repeated viewings; that the score is perhaps the best Angelo Badalamenti has ever made (and he’s composed a lot of great stuff, including Twin Peaks); and that there’s a super steamy sex scene that you won’t see coming (heh), but which actually, legitimately matters to the story, if you can still manage to think clearly while watching it. Really, it has meaning!

9. The Silence


In the summer of 1986 a small girl is raped and murdered and stuffed into a car trunk, her bicycle left on the side of the road in a wheat field. Twenty-three years later another little girl is abducted, and her bike is found in the same place as the last. The detective in charge of the first investigation has just retired, and the new investigation is undertaken by David Jahn (Sebastian Blomberg), who has yet to recover from the death os his wife five years earlier. Baran bo Odar’s film is carefully composed and visually alluring, with exquisite use of slow zooms and precise framing. Like The Vanishing, we meet the killer early on and see things from that person’s perspective, but  the trick here is that we only know who committed the first murder, not the second. Is it the same person? The detective isn’t the only one who needs to know. Blomberg is great, at once disheveled and unkempt, but still sharp enough to lead the investigation, and the score is unnerving.

10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy


Gary Oldman is at his most somber as a recently retired British spy who has to investigate his former co-workers, one of whom is a mole for the Soviets. Tomas Alfredson creates some ingeniously layered shots with deft control of focus, and makes spectacular use of scenery. The supporting cast only gets more impressive with each passing year: John Hurt, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, and CiarĂ¡n Hinds. The score is a paranoiac jazzy enmeshment, with whirring violins and tragic trumpets. It’s a dense, circuitous mystery, and a lot of people have trouble following it, but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the great films of the decade.

Monday, March 7, 2016

10 Greenest 2016 Cars

1. 2016 Smart ForTwo Electric Drivehttp://f.tqn.com/y/alternativefuels/1/S/O/a/-/-/NO.-1-SMART-EV.jpg

Compiling a “Green Score” of 63 out of a 100, the 2016 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive has the highest rating for a passenger car ever recorded by the ACEEE. Although there is an all-new 2016 gas-powered Smart, the electric version carries on this year with the old body style. That’s OK because the egg-shaped design continues to make the car feel roomier on the inside for the two-adults-only seating than one expects and it’s still small enough to fit into even the narrowest parking space.
An EPA driving range of 68 miles may be less than the Chevrolet Spark EV, but it offers something no other electric car can: the option to drop the top. 

Base price: $25,000
Fuel economy rating: EPA city/highway combined 107-mpg-equivalent


2. 2016 Chevrolet Spark EV
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Slotting into the number two spot with the same 63 Green Score as the Smart ED is the Chevrolet Spark EV. It’s a zippy, fun little city car that can whisk from 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, and a sport-tuned suspension gives it a planted feel. There’s way more room for four adults inside than its diminutive exterior suggests, and features numerous storage cubbies. With a full charge, Spark EV has a rated range of 82 miles, but only Californians and Oregonians share the fun; it’s a compliance car that will be replaced by the 200-mile driving range 2017 Chevy Bolt that arrives in December in all 50 states.

Base price: $25.120
Fuel economy rating: EPA city/highway combined 119-mpg-equivalent


3. 2016 Toyota Prius Eco
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When it comes to gas mileage there are actually two versions of the all-new 2016 Toyota Prius, and the new Eco model now reigns as the fuel efficiency leader among vehicles without a plug. It’s the lightest and most aerodynamic member of the Prius lineup and is essentially a base model Two with a smaller lithium-ion battery pack that is lighter than the old-school nickel-metal-hydride pack used in the entry-level Two.
Buyers will still get the aggressive styling, vastly updated interior and new all-independent suspension that delivers a more satisfying ride.

Base price: $25,535
Fuel economy rating: EPA combined city/highway 56-mpg


4. 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf
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Volkswagen’s e-Golf is arguably the best handling of small EVs, and for 2016 the new entry-level e-Golf SE makes it affordable at under $30,000. The powertrain is unchanged, with an electric motor producing 115 horsepower and 199 pounds-feet of torque driving the front wheels. Despite its all-electric power, the e-Golf makes almost no compromises in terms of performance. A 24.2-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack provides enough storage capacity for an EPA-rated 83-miles of driving range.
The car is sold only in California and 10 other markets, so check availability.

Base price: $29,815
Fuel economy rating: EPA city/highway combined 116-mpg-equivalent


5. 2016 Kia Soul EV
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Kia’s Soul EV has an unmistakable quirky charm, which by its self will attract perspective EV buyers. Kia upped the attraction level for 2016 with a new entry-level model, the EV-e, that cuts the price $2,000, but it’s only available in California. Even with the lower price it is loaded with standard features including heated front seats, a 6.6-kilowatt on board charger and a DC fast charge port. The cabin is roomy for the class and is a comfortable place to hang out, just like the Soul’s fun lovin’, cool, hip hamster spokesmen do.
The ride is comfortable and extremely quiet and the EPA’s 93 mile driving range provided by the 27-kilowatt hour battery pack makes it a contentious competitor to all the other small top-selling electric cars.

Base price: $32,775
Fuel economy rating: EPA city/highway combined 105 mpg-equivalent


6. 2016 Toyota Prius C
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The Prius C (C for City) received a makeover last year and the changes make the little city car look more like a coupe rather than a block on wheels. However, the biggest change is something you can’t see — the C now offers Toyota’s Safety Sense (C) system, which includes a low-speed pre-collision system, lane-departure assist, and automatic high beams. Unchanged is an interior with uninviting hard plastic and a ride that can be harsh at times.
While rear seating can accommodate two, the C is best suited for two front seat travelers. Yes, there are some drawbacks but if you’re looking for the best fuel economy with a budget price, you can’t do better than the Prius C.

Base price range: $20,395
Fuel economy rating: EPA city/highway combined 50 mpg


7. 2016 Nissan Leaf S / Leaf SV
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Nissan’s Leaf is by far the most popular electric vehicle in the world, but buyers still wanted more driving range and Nissan came through with a larger battery pack for the 2016 SV and SL models. The new battery upgrade, going from a 24 kilowatt-hour unit in the base S model to one with 30 kWh of capacity in the SV and SL, increases driving range from 84 miles to 107 miles. Regardless of the model, all abound with technology and an interesting array of features.
Since day one, the Leaf has been lauded for driving “like a regular car,” and that remains for all versions.

Base price S: $29,860

Fuel economy rating S: EPA city/highway combined 114 mpg-equivalent

Base price SV: $35,050

Fuel economy rating SV: EPA city/highway combined 112 mpg-equivalent

8. 2016 Ford Focus Electric
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Ford’s Focus Electric Green Score of 57 made it the number 10 Greenest Car of 2016. This four-door hatchback has the same handsome appearance as the gasoline-powered version of the car, which received refreshed styling for 2015. Employing a 143 horsepower electric motor, Focus Electric is one of the more rewarding pure-electric cars to drive. It largely acts the same as any Focus found at a Ford dealer.
It offers many features that make it an enticing EV package, including an EPA estimated driving range of 76 miles, which is within the daily driving distance of 75 percent of American drivers.

Base price: $30,045

Fuel economy rating: EPA city/highway combined 105 mpg-equivalent

9. 2016 Chevrolet Volt
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With a Green Score of 56, the Chevrolet Volt, along with the following Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, round out the 12 Greenest Cars of 2016 list. The 2016 Chevy Volt ushers in the second generation of the world’s most popular plug-in hybrid. Volt operates entirely as an electric car for its first 53 or so miles after receiving a full charge. Then a 1.4-liter gasoline-powered engine takes over most of the workload, adding an additional 367 miles of total range when the 8.9-gallon gas tank is full.
The all-new Volt not only has more all-electric range, it’s quicker, has a more pleasant design, offers an interior that receives a generous dose of refinement and cost less.

Base price: $33,995

Electric Fuel economy rating: EPA city/highway combined 105 mpg-equivalent
Gasoline Fuel economy rating (EPA city/highway combined): 42 mpg

10. Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid
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The only turbocharged hybrid in the compact-size segment, Volkswagen’s Jetta Hybrid is also the only model to feature a dual-clutch automatic transmission in the class. Add an independent rear suspension borrowed from the sporty Jetta GLI and you have a hybrid car that can be appreciated by car enthusiasts who may have trepidations that going green means driving boredom. But the other half of the Jetta Hybrid’s resume is about fuel economy.
For a hybrid this size, Jetta’s EPA fuel economy rating of 42-mpg city/48-mpg highway and 45-mpg combined is just OK. It can be a fuel-efficient car that does fairly well against other hybrids or, it can be on the threshold of a sports sedan, carving corners on your favorite backcountry roads.

Base price: $31,940

Fuel economy rating (EPA city/highway combined): 44 mpg

Thursday, March 3, 2016

6 Big Video Games That Have Been Delayed

Maybe it’s just the nostalgia talking, but it seems like video games used to come out when they were supposed to. Not anymore. In this console generation, video game delays are starting to become an expected part of the development cycle. A ton of games that were slated for release have been pushed back for a variety of reasons. What big upcoming games have been delayed? Read on to find out.

1. Tom Clancy’s The Division

Original Release Date: End of 2014
New Release Date: March 8, 2016

The Division is a third-person shooter that takes place after a pandemic has wiped out much of the U.S. population. The developers have stressed that the title is, in fact, just as much a role-playing game as it is a shooter. In an interview with IGN, the game’s art director, Rodrigo Cortes, said: “It has shooting, and is shooter-like… But it’s not a shooter with some RPG stats tacked on. It’s actually a proper RPG from the very beginning. There’s deep progression when it comes to loot, gear, and levels and you’ll be able to customize every skill, do exactly what you want, and choose roles.”

2. Ratchet and Clank

Original Release Date: 2015
New Release Date: April 12, 2016

Ratchet & Clank
, a long-running series of PlayStation action platformers, is about to be a big deal again. For one thing, it’s being turned into an animated feature film, which will spread its popularity beyond just gamers. But gamers don’t need to worry, because they’re not being left out, either.
That’s because developer Insomniac is remaking the original 2002 Ratchet & Clank game for PlayStation 4. It’s being made in conjunction with the movie, so some story points may be tweaked to line up with the Hollywood version of things, and the graphics will get a mega-boost. But the basic idea of a furry lombax and his robot pal adventuring around the universe will remain intact.

3. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Original Release Date: End of 2015
New Release Date: May 10, 2016

One of, if not the most popular PlayStation series is Uncharted, a trio of games that star Nathan Drake, explorer and treasure hunter extraordinaire. Drake lives a life that would make even Indiana Jones jealous, doing things like climbing steep cliffs, getting in epic shootouts, blowing up every vehicle he finds, and kissing the girl (or girls). The release date for the next, and possibly last, game in the series has been creeping back for a while, with the latest delay pushing it to May.

4. Dead Island 2

Original Release Date: 2015
New Release Date: 2016

The original Dead Island was a surprise hit when it launched in 2011. It has taken a few years, but the sequel is now underway. It’s just that the developer needs a little more time than the original 2015 release window to dot the I’s and cross the T’s. If the game can deliver a similar number of rotting corpses to fight with anything resembling a weapon we can get our hands on, it should be worth the wait.

5. Homefront: The Revolution

Original Release Date: 2015
New Release Date: May 17, 2016

This followup to the 2011 game Homefront is an open-world shooter about a North Korean military invasion of the U.S. While its predecessor took place mostly out west, this game puts the action in Korean-occupied Philadelphia. The year is 2029, and the people are getting tired of living in an occupied city. A revolution is brewing. Unfortunately we’ll have to wait until May to see if it’s successful.

6. Mass Effect Andromeda

Original Release Date: Fall 2016
New release date: Early 2017

After creating an entire galaxy’s worth of action, adventure, and lore, the team at BioWare isn’t done yet. This installment takes place long after the events of the original trilogy and shifts the setting from our galaxy way out to Andromeda. We don’t know much about it yet other than it marks the return of the Mako, a rugged vehicle used in exploring strange new worlds. If it lives up to the quality of the rest of the series, sci-fi fans are in for a treat, even if they have to wait longer than they would have liked.