Fist-fighting, funky underwear, and 8 more bizarre NYE celebrations



New Year's Traditions

We've all got our annual New Year's traditions for the change of the calendar year. Some of us watch the ball drop in Times Square, while others stay up all night drinking, hoping we wake up somewhere recognizable on New Year's Day.

There are a ton of different traditions around the world, each intent on getting a head start on a prosperous and positive new start on life. Here are ten of the oddest (to us) from around the globe.
< br />Photo: Nana B Agyei/Flickr CC

bear costumes

In Romania, some folks dress up in bear furs or costumes and walk the streets to ward off evil. That's surely one way to keep things from going wrong next year.

Photo: Carlos Carmonamedina/Flickr CC

If you're Danish, you might hurl your old plates at the doorways of friends and family, or neighbor's you want to have good luck in the coming year. Plus? You get to buy new plates!

Photo: noricum/Flickr CC

If you want to bring about specific kinds of good fortune in the coming year, you'll wear different color undies in some South American countries. Red means you're in the mood for love.

Photo: Esquire

Seriously, I think the French have it right: eat some sweet carb-loaded food and call it good. Pancakes are a traditional New Year's treat.

Photo: rob_rob2001/Flickr CC

Dr. Doolittle has nothing on farmers in Belgium who wish their livestock a happy New Year in the hopes that they'll be healthy and productive in the coming months. If they talk back (in Romania and Hungary), that's supposed to be bad luck. Or you've been drinking too much.

Photo: Rachel Kramer/Flickr CC

Can you stuff 12 grapes in your mouth? If so, you just might have a good year, according to folks in Spain. If not, well, good luck.

Photo: Mohamad Khedr/Flickr CC


The Italians might have those French pancake-eaters beat with a tradition of public kissing in places like St Mark's square in Venice.

Photo: llee_wu/Flickr CC

One tradition in the tiny village of Takanakuy, Peru lets people with conflicts settle them Fight Club style and then start the year with a fresh slate. No resentments!

Photo: Daniel Parra

If you're in Siberia, chances are there are plenty of spots along the coast where you can go ice diving to plant trees under the frozen waters. You won't catch us doing this in Alaska, I'll tell you that.

Photo: Telegraph

Celebrations in Denmark include jumping off of chairs into the New Year, kids in the Phillippines jump twelve times to grow taller, and beach partiers in Brazil jump over seven waves at midnight while making seven wishes. Jumping is a thing on New Year's Eve, apparently.
< br />Photo: Garrett/Flickr CC

10 astonishingly great video games based on movies



Ten of the best video game/movie adaptations

Not every video game that ties into a blockbuster movie has to be crap, destined to fill the bargain bins of your local electronics store. There are a surprising number of quality titles based on movies that belie the rather common conception of movie video games as fodder for kids and bargain hunters alike.

As we wait for Jurassic World to end up on the silver screen (with an appropriately awful tie-in video game likely to surface), here’s a list of the good ones: ten of the best film-based video game spin offs from the last couple of decades.

Photo: Telltale Games

Aladdin (1994 - SNES)

This delightfully colorful video game had kids throwing apples and leaping across dangerous bazaar stalls to re-enact some of the crazy scenes from the Disney animated movie of the same name. The title blended some Prince of Persia gameplay with the easy-on-the-eyes color palette of the Disney hit to create a very playable video game experience.

Spider-Man 2 (2004 - Playstation 2, Xbox, GameCube)

Here's one of the only video game adaptations of Marvel’s web-slinger that actually captures the true joy of swinging from rooftop to rooftop in New York. Sure, the side missions are a bit repetitive, and it took some grinding to get to new story chapters, but this Activision title is worth seeking out just for the city roaming alone.

Photo: Activision

Dune II (1993 - Amiga, MS DOS)

This game was less tie-in and more franchise-based, but it surely brought the braininess of the original story — full of political and social intrigue — to the forefront, rather than sticking with David Lynch’s weird adaptation for the silver screen. You get to build the army of one of the three houses from Herbert’s sci-fi epic, and then command and conquer the rest of desert planet Arrakis.

Photo: Virgin Interactive

GoldenEye (1997 - N64)

Perhaps the only Bond game worth noting, GoldenEye holds a special place in every gamer's heart from the era. While the graphics are dated beyond belief at this point, GoldenEye might be that one game that introduced everyone to the idea of multiplayer death matches in style.

Photo: Nintendo

Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie (2005 - PlayStation 2, Xbox 360)

Strangely compelling, this pixel-based spin-off from the celluloid film of the same name had bargain-bin written all over it. Until you played the game and realized that it was a challenging, well-conceived romp through the jungles where a giant ape can fight a big old T-Rex. Hats off to Ubisoft for making something good out of something that could have been absolutely awful and still have sold some copies.

Photo: Ubisoft

Kung Fu Panda (2008 - PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

Sure, this is mainly a kids’ game, but being able to beat up other martial arts animals while controlling a giant panda is one of the great joys in life. The animation is fantastic, as should any video game based on a Dreamworks animated feature, and the difficulty curve ramps up nicely as you progress through the game. It’s a fantastic time with younger nieces or nephews who really shouldn’t watch you own noobs in Call of Duty.

Photo: Activision


Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (2007 - PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

Also available on Mac and Windows, Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga launched an entire series of games that took the concept of toy bricks re-enacting entire genre movies to a whole new level. You'll thrill and laugh as you guide all your favorite Star Wars characters from all six films through their respective storylines, with a large does of humor thrown in for good measure.

Photo: Traveler's Tales

The Lion King (1994 - Sega Genesis, SNES)

Just because it's a kids game doesn't make Virgin Interactive's The Lion King any less compelling, especially when it came out in the early ‘90s. You’ll get to leap, run, dash, roar, and attack Simba’s enemies at each stage of this fun game on the Sega Genesis or Super NES. This one came out at the height of the 16-bit revolution and just hows off the fun to be had with a simple side-scroller themed with the hit movie’s lions.

Photo: Virgin Interactive

The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (2004 - Xbox, Windows)

I have to be honest: the movie this game is based on is one of the two films I've ever walked out on in my life. I just hated it when I saw it in the theater. Imagine my surprise, then, when the reviews of the game came out that said what a masterpiece it was. Vivendi Games somehow created a stealth-based video game (with Vin Diesel's help, we hear) that transcended its own source material. Hooray!

Photo: Vivendi Games

Tron (1982 - Arcade)

While Disney's movie Tron doesn't quite hold up these days, what with its rudimentary green screen and awkwardly tight LED unitards, the video game still holds a special charm for those of us who remember how cool it was to launch our light bikes across the master computer grid while feeding quarter after quarter into the hungry machines at the local arcade. It's like the movie was made to be a video game, or something.

Photo: Bally Midway

5 must-see films destined for the Oscars



It's Oscar season

And that means Hollywood's finest are contending for coveted nominations. There are a lot of great films in the running, and we've gathered five in particular that are almost sure to be nominees, if not winners.

Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

The Theory of Everything

Already a strong favorite among critics and the festival circuit, this film is based on legendary physicist Stephen Hawking and his relationship with his ex-wife, Jane Wilde Hawking.

With an 81% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, The Theory of Everything is being praised for its performances and screenplay. Eddie Redmayne's visceral portrayal of Hawking has been compared to roles like Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot. Expect Redmayne to be in the race for best actor.

Photo: Focus Features

The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, the brilliant mathematician and logician who helped crack a code that was crucial for defeating the Nazis in World War II.

This has all the makings of Oscar bait: a star-studded cast, warm festival reception, a period setting, and a strong leading man playing a character who was prosecuted for homosexuality. Best picture, director, actor, screenplay, and supporting actress nominations are probable.

Photo: The Weinstein Company


Directed by Bennett Miller of Capote andMoneyball fame, Foxcatcher is sure to receive a slew of nominations and probably a few wins.

It's hard to imagine anyone winning best supporting actor over Steve Carell's chilling performance as the wealthy wresting coach and paranoid schizophrenic John Eleuthère du Pont. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo also give stellar performances.

The story itself is portrayed in such a way that grips you from beginning to shockingly tragic end. Nominations for best picture, director, screenplay, actor, supporting actor, editing, makeup, and maybe even sound design are all very possible.

Photo: Sony Pictures Classics


How can a film that literally shows a boy growing up not receive Oscar attention? Boyhood was shot intermittently over an eleven-year period, which is a feat in and of itself that will place it in film studies textbooks.

The scope of such a project is mind blowing, and critics have been overwhelming favorable with a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. "Epic in technical scale but breathlessly intimate in narrative scope, Boyhood is a sprawling investigation of the human condition," reads the critical consensus. What more of a recommendation do you need?

Photo: IFC Films


Michael Keaton's Birdman is the rogue, weird, unrelentingly indie contender that hasn't stopped gaining momentum. Keaton's portrayal of a washed-up actor who once played a famous superhero (cough) is being called his best work in years. Then there's the incredible supporting cast: Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, and Naomi Watts.

Besides its witty dialogue and fascinating characters, Birdman soars on the talented wings of Gravity and Children of Men cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who effortlessly follows the story with what feels like one continuous, epic shot. Birdman is worth watching for the way it looks alone, and it's hard to imagine it not winning best cinematography.

Photo: Fox Searchlight

Upgrade your Halloween with Apple-themed jack-o’-lanterns



It's the week of Halloween, which means pumpkin carving galore. If you want to take your Apple fandom to the next level, then consider replicating one of these awesome designs.Photo: Jim Shuma/Flickr CC

They key to carving a nice Apple logo is the outline. Print or draw the logo on a piece of paper first and then trace it on the pumpkin.Photo: Jim Shuma/Flickr CC

Hey, it's Mr. Finder!Photo: SMN/Flickr CC

While this kind of artistic detail is beyond any of us at the Cult of Mac office, there are surely some of you out there with enough talent to recreate Steve Jobs in pumpkin form.Photo: Rick Payette/Flickr CC

This Finder carving is pretty awesome.Photo: Ben Ward/Flickr CC

Epic. Happy Halloween!Photo: Ben Ward/Flickr CC

5 horror book adaptations you should see, and 5 you should skip



It's that time of year again, when our thoughts start to turn to the macabre, we start planning costumes for all those end-of-month parties, and we re-watch all those great horror films from the past.

It's hit or miss, though, and even films that would seem to have a leg up in the quality department doe to the fact that they're based on successful novels don't always make the cut.

Here then, are five horror films based on literature that you should take time to see, and five more that you really ought to give a miss to.

Photo: New World Pictures

Bram Stoker's Dracula

The best horror films based on books

Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Say what you want about this 1992 version of the infamous proto-vampire, there’s a lot to like here. Directed by auteur-extraordinaire Francis Ford Coppola, it also starred Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, and Anthony Hopkins. In this film, Dracula comes to England an old man, growing younger by the minute, and turning into a monster in the process. It’s a lush, operatic film with some serious eroticism to it. Coppola uses old-school film tricks like reversing the film, multiple exposures and varying shutter speed to create a visually stunning movie about the seriously overplayed vampire king that tries to re-create the original novel via its multiple points of view. While it’s frequently campy, this big budget film is worth a re-watch.

Photo: Columbia Pictures

The Exorcist

The Exorcist: William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel about demonic possession and exorcism was based on an actual 1949 case that the author heard about while attending Georgetown University in Washington, DC, leading him to set his book there. The 1973 movie, directed by William Friedkin and written by Blatty himself, is a faithful re-telling of the horrifying story about a young girl’s rapid transformation into a vomit-spitting, head-rotating demon from hell, scaring the crap out of everyone who went to see it in theaters. It stars Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, and Linda Blair, The Exorcist is an exercise in tight, creepy horror storytelling with solid practical special effects that still look convincing today.

Photo: Warner Bros.


Frankenstein: The original film based on the original novel by Mary Shelly, 1931’s Frankenstein, stars Boris Karloff in the tale of the proto-mad scientist who creates life in his lab from an assembled collection of body parts gathered from corpses. What makes this film still worth the watch is both the superb make-up effects and the inherent loneliness of Karloff’s portrayal of the monster. When it happens upon the young girl at the pond and exchanges the flower, you’ll be hard pressed not to empathize with the creature, even as he tosses the child into the pond.

Photo: Universal

Let The Right One In

Let the Right One In: If you like atmospheric genre films, you’ll love this 2008 film from Sweden, written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, the author of the book its based on. The acting is subdued and the two young leads are absolutely mesmerizing as the human and vampire protagonists. Oskar is a 12-year-old pacifist of a boy who’s constantly bullied in school. Beautiful 12-year-old Eli moves in next to him at the same time a series of gory deaths and attacks start to happen around town. It’s a beautiful meditation on friendship, loneliness, and adolescence that also happens to be an incredibly scary movie. Be sure to have someone with you when you view it, so you can hold hands and scream together in fear.

Photo: Magnet Releasing

The Legend of Hell House

The Legend of Hell House: This 1973 horror film was produced in the UK and directed by John Hough. Starring Roddy McDowell and Pamela Franklin, it’s based on the 1971 novel Hell House by Richard Matheson, the same guy who wrote I Am Legend; he also wrote the screenplay. A group of both physicists and parapsychologists spend a week in a English manor house that they’ve been told is haunted, and at which previous researchers were horribly murdered. It’s a haunted house movie done right, with plenty of over-the-top acting and sweaty ‘70s actors, and I mean that in a good way.

Photo: 20th Century Fox

The Wicker Man

The worst horror films based on books

The Wicker Man: This 2006 re-do of the 1973 classic horror film stars Nicolas Cage as a sheriff investigating the disappearance of a young girl on a small island. He finds out there’s a bigger mystery to be solved, though, among the secretive neo-pagan islnd community. It sounds like a ton of fun, right, but ends up detouring into a crazy, barely comprehensible mess of a plot with enough misogynous activity from Nic Cage in a bear suit than you can handle. When you set out to remake a classic of the genre, you need to bring more to the table than director Neil LaBute (In The Company of Men) was able to.

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures


Queen of the Damned

Queen of the Damned: While Interview with a Vampire was a low point for both Tom Cruise and Anne Rice fans, the second movie to come from her novels is an utter travesty. Starring Aaliyah, the young R&B singer who was tragically killed in a plane crash in 2001, the film plays more as a goth-club flavored TV movie with Rice’s famous vampire Lestat taking up much of the overwrought screen time. The soundtrack is awful, the special effects questionable at best, and the dialogue super melodramatic and cheesy. Stay away from this one.

Photo: Warner Bros.


Dreamcatcher: Even the acting chops of Morgan Freeman and Demian Lewis combined with the directing talent of Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) and a screenplay by William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) can’t save this awful adaptation of one of Stephen King’s worst books, Dreamcatcher. The original novel is about a young man with mental retardation who becomes a group of boys’ unofficial mascot. When the men reunite for a hunting trip decades later, they discover an…alien invasion. Yeah, it’s that disjointed. USA Today called it “A moviegoer's nightmare,” writing that “the story is incoherent, inane and interminable.” Honestly, there’s no need to watch this one.

Photo: Warner Bros.

30 Days of Night

30 Days of Night: As someone who lives in Alaska and has visited Barrow, where this horror flick about zombies in the coldest, darkest place in the US, is supposed to be set, I found it to be utterly unrealistic. Sure, I can handle supernatural killers who lurk in the dark to eat human beings during the longest night of the year during the winter, but — seriously — Barrow isn’t a frontier town anymore with Western movie-style saloons and such. I could probably even forgive that horrifying oversight if this 2007 movie based on a fantastic graphic novel (written by Steve Niles, illustrated by Ben Templesmith, and published by IDW Publishing) itself wasn’t a long slog through a lot of half-hearted attempts and jump scares and tons of “shredding and gurgling,” as Entertainment Weekly calls it, saying, “30 Days of Night is relentless, but it's also relentlessly one-note.” Pass.

Photo: Columbia Pictures

Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary: I really wanted to like this movie, since I enjoyed the heck out of the 1983 Stephen King novel of the same name. The 1989 movie was directed by Mary Lambert, whose resume includes 1992’s Pet Sematary II and 2005’s Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, so you know how she rolls. Add to that a screenplay by the master himself (have you seen Maximum Overdrive? It's awful) and a set of actors that no one knew, and you’ve got yourself a pretty horrible movie. King’s novels are so successful because they give readers a sense of the inner fear of their characters, something we can all relate to. Translating that to the screen is hard, as evidenced by the incredible hit or miss quality of the cinema adaptations of King’s work. This one? Don’t bother.

Photo: Paramount Pictures