Mad Max (the Videogame), The Frighteners, and Pablo Torre Finds Out

Michael J. Fox in The Frighteners
Screenshot/Universal Pictures

It’s May! Spring has sprung, flowers are in bloom, and everything is alright. Everything’s fine. So, let’s get to some recommendations. This week, Hawk Ripjaw has been revisiting the Mad Max videogame from 2015, Robin Moon recommends The Frighteners, and Caemeron Crain wants you to find out about Pablo Torre Finds Out.

Mad Max Videogame

Hawk: With the release of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga later in May, I thought it was a great time to revisit the Mad Max videogame from a few years back. Developed by Avalanche Studios, who were responsible for the mostly-excellent Just Cause series, that same penchant for explosive mayhem (and great-looking explosions) comes to the Mad Max universe.

The game opens not unlike Mad Max: Fury Road, which it released very close to, with Max attacked and stripped of his car. Left for dead, Max encounters Chumbucket, a hunchbacked mechanic with a slavish devotion to Max and their new car, the Magnum Opus. They work together to reduce the threat level in the various regions by destroying scarecrows and sniper nests and teaming up with the leaders of the regions.

The vehicular gameplay loop of Mad Max is great fun: Max and Chumbucket traverse the wasteland, completing missions and unlocking the capabilities to upgrade the Magnum Opus, which is incredibly satisfying. There’s a tangible difference between the early-game basic car, and the late-game armored behemoth with an upgraded engine, wheels, and exploding harpoons that cause enemies to run from you rather than the other way around. Car combat is a blast, with said harpoons and Max’s shotgun, as well as a ramming attack mixing up combat at high speed, and running up on a convoy to take them out one by one never gets old. There are also the occasional destructive storms, from which everyone needs to take shelter.

Outside of the car, you can take down strongholds and fight enemies hand-to-hand with Batman: Arkham-style parry-based combat that has a significant weight behind it. The speaker on the PlayStation controller also puts in a lot of work to make the physical combat feel incredibly visceral. There are also various melee weapons that can be utilized as well as a Fury mode and combo finishers that make Max deadly in a skirmish.

The wasteland, while mostly barren, is packed with small outposts and dilapidated buildings with scrap and historical relics of the world before, with the former being used to buy upgrades for the Magnum Opus and strongholds. Occasionally, Max will need to seek shelter from destructive storms that roll across the land.

The game, released in 2015, sadly did not see much success, but despite some repetitive mission design, I had a lot of fun with it and the graphics are beautiful despite the game taking place in a barren wasteland. It’s never not exciting to be traveling to the next destination and hear the honking horns of a group of War Boys roaring up and taking them out one by one be it with thunderpoons, the shotgun, or good old-fashioned ramming. It’s definitely worth a look.

Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners

Robin: Lately I’ve found myself with free time in the evenings, so I’ve used the opportunity to have some film nights with my partner. There have been some hits and some misses (I’m not going to talk about Shyamalan’s Old…), but one of the certain hits was Peter Jackson’s 1996 horror-comedy The Frighteners. Despite being most famous for his phenomenal film adaptations of Lord of the Rings, Jackson first began as primarily a horror director. Hard to believe, I know, but the man’s filmography is both wacky and impressive. The premise of The Frighteners is that a psychic detective (Michael J. Fox)—yeah, I was already sold at that too—winds up investigating some strange deaths in a small town, and finds himself in over his head when faced with a demonic spirit targeting people around him.

Now, this film moves fast. There are already so many shenanigans in the first 15 minutes; the cold open alone features an elderly woman fending off the evil spirit with a shotgun. What’s not to love? But despite how much is going on action-wise, the pacing is, by some miracle, pretty spot-on throughout. The CGI during these action scenes is very much of its time, shall we say, but I personally love the charm of clunky, goofy special effects from the late ’90s-early ’00s. In this kind of film too, it adds to the comedy. Frank, the detective, has two CGI ghost companions who essentially help him to con people by faking hauntings so he can swoop in and ‘save the day.’ It’s a hilarious foundation for a horror-comedy, but Frank’s backstory of his psychic powers activating after his wife died in a car crash he caused adds a bit of depth to the character and a layer of emotional resonance.

As well as Michael J. Fox’s wonderfully lovable and charismatic performance, we’ve also got Trini Alvarado as Dr. Lucy, the equally likeable medical professional who gets swept up in the wacky goings-on. Without spoiling too much, there are multiple antagonists in the film who balance out the good guys in a satisfying way. For example, Jeffrey Combs plays Milton Dammers, an FBI agent who blames Frank for the recent deaths. His performance is especially commendable—he puts so much physical acting and fun mannerisms into such a bizarre character, which made him a delight to watch. It’s worth mentioning that as well as the talented Fran Walsh having co-written The Frighteners, the soundtrack is by Danny Elfman, the renowned composer who has worked on many of Tim Burton’s projects. A funky, upbeat, and fitting soundtrack such as this serves to elevate the story.

If you’re in the mood for a supremely goofy yet well-written horror film sprinkled with entertaining humour and a solid plot, then I can’t recommend The Frighteners enough!

Pablo Torre Finds Out

Caemeron: If you’ve ever made a habit of watching shows like Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption on ESPN, you’re sure to be familiar with Pablo Torre, as he’s been on the panel for the former countless times over the past decade and sometimes served as a substitute co-host on the latter. And that was how I learned, last summer, that he was starting something new. As he filled in for Mike Wilbon on PTI, Pablo held up a handwritten sign that simply said: PABLO.SHOW

I checked that out from curiosity, and thus I can say that I have been a fan of Pablo Torre Finds Out from the very beginning (or, perhaps, before the beginning).

Pablo Torre gestures with his hand while speaking into a mic on the set of Pablo Torre Finds Out

The show is also a podcast, but I watch it on YouTube and it feels like a TV show. The basic premise involves Pablo looking deeply into something, or interviewing someone who has looked deeply into something, and while the topics are often related to sports, they aren’t always. For example, one of my favorite episodes of PTFO is an extended interview with Maury Povich. This past week, Pablo interviewed Jon Bois about his new Secret Base documentary on the Reform Party.

On an early episode of Pablo Torre Finds Out, Pablo interviews Ember Zelch, the only trans girl who was playing varsity sports in Ohio when the state enacted a ban. She was the backup catcher for her softball team.

More recently, Pablo unearthed the promo tape that the New York Knicks showed to LeBron James back in 2010, to try and recruit him. You may have heard about it because it featured Tony and Carmela Soprano for some reason.

I’m recommending all of those episodes specifically, but I do also want to be sure to note that PTFO features a “Share & Tell” episode each week, which largely amounts to Pablo and friends (often the likes of Mina Kimes, Dan Le Batard, Katie Nolan and Dan Soder) talking about whatever they feel like talking about by sharing articles and news items with one another. It’s nice!

Come to Pablo Torre Finds Out for the solid journalism, and stay for the parasocial interaction! And jokes.

Written by TV Obsessive

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