Tuesday, 31 December 2013

VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER



A new The Raid 2: Berandal trailer, providing evidence that melee weaponry and car stunts have been added to Gareth Evans' mayhem repertoire.

Films 2013

5. You're Next


















You're Next's strength was in the ways different characters contextualise the danger they're in. The Davison family respond to having crossbow bolts fired at their heads as an ingrained collective, complete with interpersonal baggage. They're so self-obsessed that even in the face of annihilation they cannot conceive of a situation in which their own egos are not being managed and coddled. A life of privilege has prepared them for nothing other than success. They expect to win; they cannot think in any other direction. They approach the assault emotionally, responding to a filmic scenario in a filmic fashion. They discern narratives within their struggle and cater to them. They are fools. Erin, an Australian interloper masquerading as pliant arm candy, is completely different. At rest she demonstrates the kind of quiet self-assurance that needlers often mistake as passivity. Galvanised into action, she reacts quickly and logically, upending genre conventions by stamping them prone.


4. Gravity


















A 90 minute long panic attack that moves and functions on prehistoric story beats. Gravity is pure incident, Dr Ryan Stone evolving before our eyes from the kind of person who frets about losing a screw cap into a human missile. Her craft and crew shredded, Stone has to pick her way along international space debris until she finds a tin can secure enough to take her home. Disappointments and outright failures became the norm, mutating her sense of expectation. Stone changes from a single function component into a badass overseer, able to grapple with her situation and pummel it into compliance. Like You're Next, Gravity uses gender prejudices to turbocharge the will to power. Alfonso and Jonás Caurón understand that taking someone soft and reticent and turning them cold and hard is much more satisfying than seeing a military industrial man succeed.


3. Drug War
















Protagonist is a slippery designation in a film like Drug War. At a glance, law and order man Zhang Lei fits the bill as he doggedly pursues a narcotics ring. Lei creates opportunity through a series of charades, adopting the identity of the last drug kingpin he met to woo the next. Lei is following a breadcrumb trail though, he has rules and regulations to consider, his success aligning with the wants of an all-powerful collective. He's a little too remote to truly root for. This interpersonal disconnect allows focus to shift onto Timmy Choi, a cowed drug lord who initial registers as cowardly and compliant. Of course he's nothing of the sort. He's just plotting, waiting for an opportunity to shift events in his favour. Drug War seems to be about how responsible ideology rarely translates into an exciting movie experience. In real life a well-oiled machine succeeding by inches is preferable, but entertainment mediums need people like Timmy Choi taking child hostages.


2. Milius
















Milius is devastating. The documentary begins as a long overdue reappraisal of John Milius's contribution to the movie brat movement, covering everything from writing and directing AIP cheapies to being credited by Francis Ford Coppola as the main creative force behind Apocalypse Now. The documentary describes its subject as the go-to guy for boiling, bullshitting machismo. In between acting out anecdotes, we learn Sean Connery regularly had Milius employed to punch up his roles. Clint Eastwood fawns over Conan the Barbarian. George Lucas makes no attempt to hide a genuine love and affection for the man.

The doc charts a rise and fall then seems to be heading towards a wider reassessment. Suddenly everything falls apart. The effects of the debilitating illness that John Milius suffers are amplified by the situation, and I'm not just talking about my own selfish desire to see a Milius helmed Conan sequel. We see a man who has earned the respect and admiration of his peers struck down in the cruellest possible fashion. Milius then becomes a piece about how difficult, impassive older males attempt to articulate their love for each other. They can't just say it, they have to describe it using sports metaphors and denial.


1. Django Unchained

















Django Unchained talks about identity and the ways in which extreme social situations impact upon it. Despite the ubiquity of the reading, it doesn't seem to me that the film is about an extravagant German transforming a humble slave into a superman. Instead it's about Schultz and Django's partnership providing a safe, stable environment that allows the former slave to reassert a personality he's always had. The rodeo shitkicker we see at the film's conclusion is, judging by Broomhilda's reaction to him, the man Django has always been. It isn't a comic book super state, it's the defiant one who stole Broomhilda's heart. We don't know him because Django has had to bury that person deep inside himself, lest he attract trouble.

This is the pantomime at the heart of Django Unchained. The white, master characters enjoy wild, overblown personas. They are indulged. Their social status and the colour of their skin allow them to act without filter. The black characters are not allowed this luxury. They have to pore over their statements and reactions, checking them for perceived provocation. While the white characters flirt outrageously with destruction, safe in the knowledge very little can trouble them, the black characters know death can come at any time. One wrong look could be their end. They are thus adept at behaving in a way that causes minimal offence - childlike, inferior. Anything that makes the people with power feel bigger.

King Schultz's fraternity helps stabilises Django, but it doesn't transform him. That comes in the hope that he can be with his wife again. Django Unchained is, at its heart, a deeply romantic film. Django exists to be with Broomhilda. It isn't just love or want, it's need. Next time you watch the film look at Jamie Foxx's performance when Schultz tells Django where his wife's name came from. The second Django realises he's going to discover something new about his love, no matter how tangential the relation, he abandons what he's doing - in this case eating - to sit in rapt attention. Passed over during award season and frequently described as the weak link in Django Unchained, Foxx is actually the calm, collected centre of the film. He knows the stakes better than anyone else and won't do anything to fuck up his last chance at happiness.

Also Liked:

The World's End / Pacific Rim / Only God Forgives / Spring Breakers / Ender's Game / Fast & Furious 6 / Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods / Elysium / Prisoners / Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 / The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Friday, 27 December 2013

Video Games 2013

5. Saints Row IV
















Like playing a sandbox game with all the cheats on. Instead of a plethora of systems that barely hung together, Saints Row IV knuckled down on a basic combat stream and piled on the power-ups. After very little time at all your player character would be gliding between skyscrapers hunting XP orbs and zooming through traffic like The Flash. Saints Row IV marked the point an ugly GTA copycat became the spiritual successor to Crackdown.


4. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
















The most enjoyable thing about Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was how few limits were placed on your basic movement. Rex Colt ran with the kind of clip that gobbled up even the most long-winded objective trek. Hill summits were briskly mounted and there was no fall in the game that would damage you. Designed to play like the end-game of a lengthy campaign, Blood Dragon was the short, e-number answer to a generation of games woozy from feature glut.


3. Papers, Please
















Ever wanted to be a miserable cog in the communist machine? Of course you have! Papers, Please lumbered you with a lottery job that barely covered rent, then offered you a slither of power. Almost unplayable in quick sessions, Papers, Please piled on the bureaucracy, demanding you check and re-check a stream of permits and pass cards. Disinterest - the natural response to escalating, self-defeating responsibility - was kept in check by a results screen that gleefully detailed your failings as a provider.


2. RESOGUN
















A Mega Drive scrolling score attack that used the power of the PlayStation 4 to construct a series of cityscapes built out of tiny, fracturing voxels. RESOGUN's strength was compulsion, you were always chasing the perfect game. Scraping though a stage wasn't enough, did you save all the humans? Did you deposit them in the safe zones when your multiplier was maxed out? What scores have your friends got? Just one more go then.


1. The Last of Us
















The seventh generation was unusually long. Systems costs exorbitant 80s hi-fi prices out the gate, and everything remotely successful was iterated. Stagnation held sway. The visible video game mainstream became a yawning chasm of sequels, each propped up by poached mechanics and flavour of the month interaction. Everything resembled everything else.

The Last of Us stuck out because it looked a little further back than rhythm action battle prompts. Most obviously, Resident Evil 4's upgrade system was smuggled in, forcing the player to deal with permanence. What's going to get me to the next checkpoint? Deeper pockets for bullets, or a holster that lets me hold another pistol? Who says I'm even going to find one? The Last of Us was also Hideo Kojima's basic sneak 'em up, bitten and infected. Melodrama dialled way back, replaced with a video game approximation of the paternal love story central to The Road. Horror pops on triumph.

Also Liked:

Grand Theft Auto V / BioShock: Infinite / DuckTales: Remastered / Rayman Legends / Gran Turismo 6 / Proteus / Battlefield 4 / Call of Duty: Ghosts / Ridiculous Fishing / Call of Juarez: Gunslinger / Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Remastered / Tomb Raider / Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Music 2013

5. TV on the Radio - Million Miles



Luxurious swooning shot through with a lonely, crippled spaceship despondency. Last survivor signing off!

4. Run the Jewels - Get It



Dust Brothers headaches attended by irritating Kanye-on-SNL sample stabs. Music to dress up in oversized mob jackets and roll cars to.

3. Carpenter Brut - Obituary



Cyborgs in leather waistcoats jog dancing under overflowing drainpipes in Kabukicho. Much Cruising! NSFW promo clip.

2. Charli XCX - SuperLove



CLAP SYNTH. CLAP SYNTH. Sofia Coppola dressed as Betty Boo scribbling in her journal about some deadbeat she deigns to fancy.

1. Anamanaguchi - Endless Fantasy



A crashing wave of euphoric Master System music. Sounds like what beating Sonic the Hedgehog for the first time feels like.

Also Liked:

Icona Pop - I Love It / Lazerhawk - King of the Streets / Sadsic - Chamber / Zantilla - Call Of The Manticore / Gesaffelstein - Pursuit / Ryan Hemsworth - BasedWorld / Kanye West - Bound 2 / CHVRCHES - Lies

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Die Hard 2: Die Harder


















A vulgar cocaine sequel about an ego-driven maniac who is always right. Die Hard 2 recontextualises the vulnerable hero of the first film, taking a guy who has the ability to weep for his failed marriage and turning him into a Schwarzenegger analogue. Although he shares a writer credit on Die Hard, screenwriter Steven E de Souza isn't interested in constructing a progressive, mutation arc for John McClane. Die Hard 2 instead moves with the same mechanical grace as a mid-80s Austrian Oak film. In short, this McClane is an arrogant, insistent prick.

Die Hard posited a situation in which McClane fluked an inside track on the mayhem, thanks to his smarts, but mainly his geography. He was embedded. Die Hard 2 attempts something similar, but frames it on a hunch. Couple this with a sequel think that demands every stake possible be raised and you end up with a hero who spends the majority of the film seething and screaming at people. An interlude in which McClane accidentally roughs up a meek janitor, doesn't apologies, then shakes him down for blueprints is a particularly brutal structural grind.

Fortunately this overindulgence extends to everything in Die Harder. A tidal wave of invectives is matched by some truly nasty, brain haemorrhaging violence. This is unrestrained, unreconstructed male wish fulfilment cranked all the way up. Harder also enjoys a kind of mystique thanks to some BBFC deletions made on its original release. Trimmed for a 15 rating then incessantly beamed into my mind on pan and scan VHS, the 18 edit, complete with icicle injury detail, still registers as wonderfully, gleefully, excessive.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - TOSS BACK



I don't care if the game's six years old, as long as IJQI keeps making Call of Duty 4 videos, I'll keep posting 'em.

Vid

Call of Duty: Ghosts - SHOUTCAST



With team killing all but impossible thanks to the ricochet mechanic, the majority of the Call of Duty troll clippers seem to have lost interest. Thankfully, StoneMountain64 has a fresh take on lobby wind ups.

Vid

METAL SLUG 3



Vid

Thursday, 19 December 2013

HIDDEN PALACE



Previously only accessible as a corrupted mess via cheat cart hack codes, the scrapped Sonic the Hedgehog 2 level Hidden Palace Zone has been given a new lease of life thanks to couple of committed fans and a recent mobile release. Using assets only available in Beta code, and level layouts suggested by pre-release magazine appearances, Sonic sceners Taxman and Stealth have created a wonderful, speculative stage tucked away in a dark, cavernous corner of the main game.

Vid on the fritz?

MISS



Based on the slightly wonky premise that 80s video games aren't already difficult enough, NES Remix extracts stages and situations from a variety of 8-bit Nintendo titles, then challenges the player to succeed with a handicap. Obviously this all looks incredibly fun and I deeply regret not owning a Wii U.



Our second clip is a promo segment for NES Remix from the Japanese TV series GameCenter CX. Comedian and resident retro game master Shinya Arino plays against a trio of kids and probably throws the contest so as not to look mean. There are currently no subtitles available, but I'm sure you get the jist of it.

Vid 1, Vid 2

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

FINAL FIGHT CD



Vid on the blink?

JUNGLE BEAST



Aside from the dearth of melt-faced mutants, I'm a little disappointed to see Caesar painted up like a Cambodian river savage in this tease for another Planet of the Apes sequel. While I'm sure Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will deliver an ample amount of cowering human scum, I would have liked to have seen Caesar's tribe filling the mankind gap while we were off in disease control facilities feeling sorry for ourselves. With this in mind, we could've had vacant buildings tweaked and customised for the oversized chimps and their gorilla neighbours. Fanciful new technologies crafted around the ape's needs and desires. Finally we could've caught a glimpse of Pierre Boulle's original idea of a settled, civilised ape race, with massed humans as the primitive, bestial aggressors.

Vid on the blink?

Friday, 13 December 2013

Bruticus by Rui Onishi


"Looks like an enemy recovered the car, so..."



It's hard to get a handle on what Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is going to be. All released footage has revolved around the infiltration of this particular POW camp. The emphasis on rescues and recruitment recalls Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (itself intended to be the fifth series instalment at one point), suggesting a hub based collect 'em up? Systems and gameplay feedback are also front and centre, looking delightful. The ability to create a solid, working foundation of interactive expectations is an undervalued ability. The best games allow players to generate a sense of security through basic calculations - cause and effect is everything. In that sense, Zeroes looks like it's got a rugged, but flexible machine pumping away under the hood. Out in March and budget priced, Zeroes would seem to be a slimmed down, chaser experience, with the real meat to come later in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

Vid

20XX BULLETIN

Regular readers may have noticed that things have been a little quiet here at 20XX for the last few weeks. This radio silence was a result of a house move and the subsequent lack of internet access. 3G updates were considered but rejected on the grounds they would be a total ballache. Rest assured though that Neo Disaster Towers is plugged in and raring to go.

I have a couple of hand-written notes lying around that could be re-purposed into film reviews, as well as the site's annual favs lists on standby. I'm also considering another The Fast and the Furious (such a terrible shame about Paul Walker) / Godzilla style franchise review. I'm currently narrowing down my options. Suggestions are also welcome. Finally, in real person adult news, Miss Disaster has agreed to be my wife. The proposal involved me on bended knee, a pitch black driveway and some rapidly cooling Chinese food. It was more romantic than it sounds. Either way, I'm a very lucky man indeed.