Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Almost as old as Batman himself is the character of Robin, a kid friendly bundle of colours designed to bounce alongside his mentor dispelling the madness. Frequently marginalised, or outright discarded in motion media, the Boy Wonder is a core concept, as deeply relevant to the Dark Knight as James Gordon or The Joker. The Robins are the Batman's children, subject to their father's overwhelming expectation. This idea is the root of Batman: Under the Red Hood. The world of Red Hood is concocted out of all sorts of comic craziness - death isn't permanent, easily overcome by a satanic spa dip, and an entire city stands back as Gotham becomes a high-stakes playground for clashing vigilante disciplines, but the hysteria always moves with faint devastation. This big-feet action angle masks a rawer yarn about the murder of a child, and an apparent absence of grief. Under the Red Hood wrings permanence and regret out of well worn resurrection cliches, examining the psychological state of a person hideously returned to life and mourning that his passing didn't mean more.
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
Hand over untold millions of dollars to Christopher Nolan to make an intensely personal dream project and you get an action moving rumination on collaboration and the process of movie making. Conversely, rope in Zack Snyder and he'll serve up burlesque brawlers in Burton drag twatting at Great War zombies and towering Brazil samurai in the virtual world of Mamoru Oshii's Avalon. Either approach is fine. No complaints here.
As a quick addendum to the previous post, here's Kazuya's Tekken 2 ending. In the quest to secure ultra-dick status, there's nothing quite like using your estranged father as a human shield while an enraged Satan figment blasts chakra rays at you. Smirk!
Capcom's big announce for San Diego was this franchise clasher. Headed up by Street Fighter IV bigwig Yoshinori Ono, Street Fighter X Tekken sees an undisclosed number of Namco brawlers getting the chunky IV brand ink and oils makeover - Kazuya, in particular, has never looked better. There's a bootleg gameplay clip doing the rounds that helps clue in fans how each respective fight mechanic will be honoured: Tekken characters appear to have a Fatal Fury style plane dodge that'll take them out the path of Street Fighter fireballs, and airtime looks increased to allow for Namco's trademark string juggles. In the Capcom corner, Ryu's moveset is beefed with his Street Fighter III High Side Kick, suggesting we're not just getting tweaked IV gameplay. No word yet if we'll see Fei Long and Law battling it out to determine who is the more shameless Bruce Lee rip-off. Fingers crossed!
Saturday, 24 July 2010
I'd hate to be the kind of guy who couldn't rustle up any kind of enthusiasm for a niche genre film unless it was wading knee-deep in atrocity, but y'know, I'm exactly that guy. After a couple of flat artless trails, how did Machete do it? Gore! Lots of it! The most inventive use of a goon's intestinal tract since Riki-Oh certainly helped too.
Friday, 23 July 2010
Inception is an absurdly expensive flight of fancy. Christopher Nolan's film jumps off from a big-lie idea of a whizz-tech that allows people to break into each other's dreams. We are lead slowly through sequences that establish and demonstrate the various mechanical laws that allow interlopers to dabble around in foreign subconscious - naturally, this wonder science is used as a primary tool for industrial espionage. Machine established, the film then becomes a launch-pad for weaving together a series of clashing action sequences, each one set at a distinct simulation level of the quarry's dreamscape. These action plains intersect and distend, spinning in and out of each other at a frequency close to parody. Inception invents a behaviour ruleset, then gleefully vandalises it. It's not in love with characters; instead it finds joy in establishing a new idea, then gleefully kicking the chair out from underneath it. Inception works on blockbuster beats, peopled by mission men who deal in broad, cool strokes. It's a heist film where everything goes wrong and experts have to think on their feet, the central job quickly becoming wildly irrelevant to the action of performing it. Along the way enough details are left nagging to undermine all of the reality we have witnessed; micro-details and spectral figments take on alarming meaning the deeper we tumble into our players.
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Alien Hominid seems to prefer you have no fun at all. Beneath the walk right flash pastels is a series of decisions finely tuned to infuriate. Alien Hominid is a scrolling 2D shooter, very much in the Metal Slug mold. These sort of games are usually built on an idea of precision, the player is repeatedly assaulted by an endless stream of towering unmentionables with only their quick reflexes on which to rely. Said player gets to feel masterful by correctly judging what is, and what isn't immediately lethal and adjusting their movement accordingly. It is important that these games feel 'fair'. There should be no cheap shots to simply steal your lives; players should understand it is their own shortcomings that have lost them tries. Alien Hominid largely dispenses with any such notions. Your powered-up ice cream shots look exactly like everything being fired at you, making bullets almost untrackable. Enemies enjoy infrequent super-states that go more or less unsignposted. The screen repeatedly abandons your little vulnerable yellow thing to have a look what's going on off-screen. Rest assured that while you have no way of knowing where you enemies are, you will still be attacked. Boss battles are iron-man contests, with your alien set to a one-hit death, while your metal foes enjoy satirically long lifebars. The effect is utterly punishing. Alien Hominid doesn't feel fair. It feels like a complete waste of time.
Monday, 19 July 2010
Sunday, 18 July 2010
The upcoming Knight and Day appears to be an experiment in audience resilience. You've suffered through films with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz in the singular, but what if they teamed up (again)? Both are former safe-hand stars looking anywhere for a hit; maybe studio execs felt it best to pool their fixed, gleaming grimaces? Could you handle that corporately mandated mash-up? They certainly have teeth in common. Being cast against Diaz does appear to be a stab at growth for Cruise. Never one to risk being upstaged, women in Cruise films tend to be pedestalled artifacts, attractive but breathlessly submissive. With Cruise big screen appeal mired in cranky religious outbursts and a life imitating art relationship with Katie Holmes, perhaps it was felt that the best way to get the girls back onside, and their bums back on seats, was setting Cruise against someone they might actually want to be? Cue Diaz sass-attack!
No doubt awful, this trail for Knight and Day does hit on something entertaining that can be done with old man Cruise. Having shot Diaz's schlubby ex, Cruise legs it over to comfort the bleeder with a dazzling glimpse of chompers, and assurances that he was aiming non-lethal. This go-see gag is actually a neat encapsulation of the star's recent struggles with audience perception. Off leash and preaching Scientology screed, Cruise has a tendency to drop clangers all over the place. If he's not damning psychiatry as Nazi magic, he's pillorying depressed mothers for seeking prescription medication. An example of the latter, publicly criticising Brooke Shields for using paroxetine, was swiftly followed up with a grovelling personal apology. Disaster Year would watch a movie of that! Cruise struggling with his need to spread his personal message, whilst juggling a deep seated desire to maintain good will with the little people. Imagine it! Cruise unleashed on the world, rambling about and colliding with the public, offending them with his opinions, then flashing them a smile and cuing up a relentless, earnest series of sorrys. All you need to keep people interested is an up on the stakes each time. Start strong with Cruise inadvertently ticking off a bellhop for humping his own bag; at the mid-point Cruise could upset Japan by taking a trip to China that unfortunately coincides with the former's Tom Cruise Day (either October 6th or 1oth depending on who you listen to); for the finish just have him 'accidentally' wipe out an alien civilisation or two. Sorry!
Sunday, 11 July 2010
Umpteen psychopaths fall out the sky onto a rainforest planet. As they traipse deeper into the jungle, they encounter lethal prehistoric pack animals, the booby trapped remains of another kidnapee, and a trio of chameleonic hunters. The set-up for Predators initially plays like an agreeably schlocky repurposing of John McTiernan's 1987 breakthrough. Were Predator gradually revealed itself to be a near hopeless struggle for survival, Predators could be the funhouse re-jig, riffing off unexplored grue cues for wink-wink kicks. That's the idea. In practice, Predators plods on aimlessly, rapidly junking anything with the potential to be enjoyable to concentrate on delivering the most artless knuckle-header in recent memory. The action is flat and dreary, most encounters boiling down to two muscular clods repeatedly charging at each other, thwacking together in an unreadable mumble. Predators is a median lump, lacking Predator's sense of psychological desperation, and barely even trying to compete with Predator 2's day-glo vandalism. It doesn't even have the common decency to be exceptionally violent. Predators simply exists to be another franchise installment. There is no love, or even interest in this film. It's the cynical result of disinterested businessmen feigning passion to gain access to the contents of your wallet. It's product.
Been playing through Earth Defense Force 2017 again recently, it may not the prettiest game in the world, but what it does really well is impart a vivid sense of scale. Levels typically see the player's commando avatar stranded in a crumbling metropolis, battling waves upon waves of scuttling insect enemies. Mission 50 sees you start on the outskirts of a ruined city, with an enormous cyber-Kaiju in your sights. To buy you some time, a small squad of soldiers bait the beast with shotgun volleys. They don't last too long. Soon enough, it's just you and an angry, charging techno-monstrosity.
A comprehensive list of disappointments with the US Blu-Ray release of Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
1. No US theatrical edition. This Blu-ray release instead presents AMC's reconstruction of the 1966 Rome premiere cut; a hodgepodge speculative version that includes scenes that Leone subsequently edited out before a wider Italian release. Since this cut runs 14 or minutes longer than the print prepared for North America theatrical exhibition in 1967, the new footage was dubbed by an ageing Eli Wallach and Clint Eastwood, with Simon Prescott standing in for the deceased Lee Van Cleef. It's a shame this curio edit has become the preferred home video mint, the newer line readings can be reedy and distracting, and the reinserted footage tends to skew digressive. It's an interesting watch, but certainly not a definitive version.
2. The sound effects have been changed. The English DTS-HD track includes all sorts of sound cue revisionism. Gun shots have been altered from crackling echo-buzzes to dull library thuds. The entire sound suite of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly has been altered to accommodate senseless detailing and directional demonstration work. I'm sure the intentions of Intersound, the company responsible for 5.1 remix, were pure, but the result is a sensory mismatch that brutalises the immaculately composed original.
3. Misleading special features. This Blu-Ray release also includes an English Mono track. Hopes were high in Disaster Towers that this channel would be the unaltered 1967 dub soundtrack; sadly this Mono track is simply the 5.1 mix as heard through one speaker. All the infuriating audio embellishments remain.
4. Lastly and most nitpicky, the Italian Mono mix is poorly served by some lazy subtitling. In presenting an Italian language track for this title, there finally seemed to be a shred of acknowledgement that The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is, at least partially, an Italian film. Better still, the Italian Mono track is struck from the same print that contained all the raw reconstruction elements, meaning all of the 60s foley work has been left unmolested. On this channel guns still sound like some enormous bizarre insect speeding around a canyon. You could also argue that as this version seeks to replicate the Rome premiere cut, this is the most authentic soundtrack option. Unfortunately no-one thought to create a separate set of subtitles to accompany the Italian language channel. You'll have to make do with a transcript of the English dub. Worse still, the only English subtitles available on this Blu-Ray are calibrated for the deaf and hard of hearing, so expect stage direction frame clutter.
It's not all bad though. This release contains an exhaustive commentary track by Leone biographer Sir Christopher Frayling. Frayling's hyper-detailed walkthroughs are always worth the price of admission.
Disaster Year still can't help but be disappointed that Robert Rodriguez's upcoming Machete has shed its Grindhouse imprint scratch and damage. However! The idea of a prowling, luchador hitman hot on Danny Trejo's trail goes some way to making up for it. More of that masked gentleman please!
Monday, 5 July 2010
Continuing Sega's loose trend of one-off wonders, the cartridge for 1994's Sonic & Knuckles allowed players to plug in past Sonic titles for a little bit of added value. Plug in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and you were treated to an epic length conglomeration of the two parent titles; connect Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and you were able to take new kid Knuckles through the sequel stages. Strap on Sonic the Hedgehog though, and all you got were a slew of randomly generated mini-games. Ho-hum! Anyone expecting to take the red echidna for a spin around Green Hill Zone were about to be taught a lesson in bitter bitter disappointment. Hackers to the rescue! Through some nifty colour substitution tricks that circumvented Sega's original palette swap dilemma, home brewers were eventually able to insert Knuckles into an emulated version of the 1991 original. Above be the fruit of their labours. This speed run isn't perfect; there's an over reliance on no-clip shortcuts and Knuckles does appear to be in a permanent invincibility state, but it does represent a nice bit of pointless wish fulfillment.
Barmy games department! This is Metal Wolf Chaos, a 2004 third-person action satire for the original Xbox, released exclusively in Japan. Players assume the role of President Michael Wilson, a descendant of 28th President of the United States Woodrow Wilson. Threatened with a coup d'etat spearheaded by his dickish VP, this Wilson puts aside idealistic Presbyterian politics and clambers into a suit of missile-spewing robot power armour. Win back hearts and minds by reducing your country to rubble! It's the diplomacy of the future! Add in wailing guitar riffs, a space set surfing sequence, and a White House boss encounter in which the building is outfitted with a future-shock combat coating and you've a game that begs for a wider re-release /HD remix. "Believe your justice!"
Friday, 2 July 2010
Red band shill for Predators. Apart from selling like a vulgar articulated figure remix of the 1987 original, this ad seems to suggest the film will be explicitly moving on slasher movie mechanics. Expect a variety of straight-to-video action archetypes being fed through the mangler by everyone's favourite intergalactic big-game hunter. I wonder if the film will go to any lengths to make the GI Joe chattel engaging? Each seems to have an accessory rather than a personality, with Adrien Brody's merc polling high for packing the absolutely ludicrous AA-12 super shotgun. Considering this bunch are made up of war criminals and gangsters, perhaps an air of punishment will hang over the spectacle, not unlike Fox's other extraterrestrial threequel Alien 3?
Desert Bus is a prank mini-game from the unreleased Pen & Teller's Smoke and Mirrors for Mega CD. Players were tasked with a real time drive from Tucson, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada. Due to fretting passengers, the player is unable to reach any speed higher than 45 miles per hour. These unalterable health and safety concerns mean the journey takes an unbroken playtime of eight hours to complete. You are unable to pause the game, and the bus has a natural veer that must be constantly corrected. Players advance down an uncluttered blank line, devoid of any detail or incident. Leave the road, and your bus is towed back to Tucson, again in real time. Reach Vegas and you're rewarded with a single point and given the option of a return leg. Desert Bus was the brainchild of Eddie Gorodetsky, future producer of Charlie Sheen shitcom Two and a Half men.