Thursday, 27 February 2014
March's PS4 freebie for PlayStation Plus subscribers is Housemarque and Climax Studio's Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition. Fingers crossed this is a Street Fighter II' Turbo style overhaul of the meat and potatoes PS3 game. I particularly like the look of that sustained flamethrower use, it's giving me flashbacks to MERCS, another sugar rush Capcom game.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014
Vikkstar123 talks us through some gameplay from Raven Software and Activision Shanghai's Call of Duty: Online. This Chinese market exclusive is a free to play best-of album with fan favourite maps and weapons culled from the earlier Modern Warfare and Black Ops games. Sadly these classic / ancient assets are significantly more exciting to me than whatever Infinity Ward or Sledgehammer have lined up next. The maps may be bare, bordering on prehistoric, but at least they have a natural sense of flow. These stages were designed as conveyor belts for the accomplished to gradually move along. Unfortunately, and to their detriment, the likes of Black Ops 2 and Ghosts have ditched this design philosophy in favour of race-to-the-middle massacres or head-glitch post holding.
I've always loved dinosaurs. When I was a child my Dad would take me to museums where I would precociously correct tour guides who misidentified their terrible lizards. I had books, toys, and spent an inordinate amount of time drawing them savaging each other. This coupled with a keen interest in alien robots probably prompted my Dad to tape Channel 4's late-night Godzilla screenings for me.
These marathons tended to revolve around the poppier, late 60s / early 70s entries, particularly those directed by Jun Fukuda. I was fascinated by them - men dressed as giant toys grappling with each other and stumbling over scale buildings. Armed with a Time Out film guide and a feature on the Big G in an early issue of Manga Mania, I discovered there were more than 20 of these films. I've always wanted to sit down and watch them all so, over Summer last year, I did.
Find below links to all my Godzilla reviews, ordered chronologically and listed by their official Toho title and, when applicable, the titles used when the film was originally distributed in the US / UK.
Toho Showa Series (1954 - 1975)
Godzilla (1954) dir. Ishiro Honda
Godzilla Raids Again / Gigantis, the Fire Monster (1955) dir. Motoyoshi Oda
King Kong vs Godzilla (1962) dir. Ishiro Honda
Mothra vs Godzilla / Godzilla vs the Thing (1964) dir. Ishiro Honda
Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964) dir. Ishiro Honda
Invasion of Astro-Monster / Monster Zero (1965) dir. Ishiro Honda
Godzilla vs the Sea Monster / Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966) dir. Jun Fukuda
Son of Godzilla (1967) dir. Jun Fukuda
Destroy All Monsters (1968) dir. Ishiro Honda
All Monsters Attack / Godzilla's Revenge (1969) dir. Ishiro Honda
Godzilla vs Hedorah / Godzilla vs the Smog Monster (1971) dir. Yoshimitsu Banno
Godzilla vs Gigan / Godzilla on Monster Island (1972) dir. Jun Fukuda
Godzilla vs Megalon (1973) dir. Jun Fukuda
Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla / Godzilla vs the Cosmic Monster (1974) dir. Jun Fukuda
Terror of Mechagodzilla / The Terror of Godzilla (1975) dir. Ishiro Honda
Toho Heisei Series (1984 - 1995)
The Return of Godzilla (1984) dir. Koji Hashimoto
Godzilla vs Biollante (1989) dir. Kazuki Omari
Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991) dir. Kazuki Omari
Godzilla vs Mothra (1992) dir. Takao Okawara
Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II (1993) dir. Takao Okawara
Godzilla vs SpaceGodzilla (1994) dir. Kensho Yamashita
Godzilla vs Destoroyah (1995) dir. Takao Okawara
Centropolis Entertainment / TriStar Pictures series (1998)
Godzilla (1998) dir. Roland Emmerich
Toho Millennium Series (1999 - 2004)
Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999) dir. Takao Okawara
Godzilla vs Megaguirus (2000) dir. Masaaki Tezuka
Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) dir. Shusuke Kaneko
Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002) dir. Masaaki Tezuka
Godzilla: Tokyo SOS (2003) dir. Masaaki Tezuka
Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) dir. Ryuhei Kitamura
Legendary Pictures / Warner Bros Pictures series (2014)
Godzilla (2014) dir. Gareth Edwards
Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Rewatching American Psycho after a read of Bret Easton Ellis' source novel I was initially disappointed that the film skipped over Patrick Bateman's demented spending sprees. The book features frequent digressions in which, out scavenging for the latest status artefacts, Bateman experiences pronounced breaks with reality. His obsessively cultivated snob façade collapses in on itself, leaving the narrator at the mercy of violent consumer impulses. Choice and expectation overwhelm him and he loses basic motor control. These passages, in which Bateman heavily self-medicates, are funny and alarming in equal measure. Primarily they break a carefully composed stream of conciousness in which murders and tortures are treated as asides and punctuation.
Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner may have omitted the actual event of shopping, but this state of Bateman informs how they write him and how Christian Bale plays the character. Ellis' novel is a boast, Batman's life communicated as overwhelming, suffocating bluster. He may be a dangerous sociopath, but his sartorial knowledge is second to none. Bateman's approval and advice are sought by every member of his inner circle. He also portrays himself as an incredible but indifferent lover, able to bring his partners to climax with only the slightest effort. Women are objects to him and he has mastered one of the few ways in which he can find them useful. By wrestling Bateman's narrative away from him, Harron and Turner are able to critique him. We experience his life on different terms. Most obviously this Bateman is not a stud. He's a dork in an oversized suit that stares at his own reflection when he fucks. His partners, either medicated or in his employ, go through the motions with him, but don't particular seem to enjoy the act.
Bateman is no longer an omniscient predator, he's an indulged, wealthy child permitted to act how he pleases. Harron and Turner recontextualise a problematic character by denying him his voice. The duo focus in on the idea that Bateman is able to blunder along killing with impunity because he is widely considered to be a drip. Bale colludes - his Bateman is focused in the singular, sweaty and animated in company. This is adaptation as analytical thesis. The decision to filter Ellis' novel through a female perspective adds another layer to the conversation. This American Psycho is less about the intense, violent capitalism exemplified by the 1980s and more about the petty aggressions of insecure, moneyed males.
Godzilla is like Batman or James Bond. He's a character that's been around so long he can be talked about in a million different ways. A central idea invincible enough to survive any number of reboots or recalibrations. One cycle ends, another one begins. Shoring up just in time for the 60th anniversary, Gareth Edwards' take looks to be a human-centric nuclear disaster film, very much in the vein of Ishiro Honda's 1954 original and Koji Hashimoto's pearl anniversary remake / sequel. Standing in bold defiance of Roland Emmerich's puny also-ran, this Godzilla accounts for, and has some nifty ideas about, the monster's Atoll origin and American culpability.
Monday, 24 February 2014
With Call of Duty: Ghosts firmly in his rear-view mirror, XboxAhoy looks set to fill his time with Titanfall. His first video is a basic primer on game flow in this multiplayer only title. I'm not sure if Mr Ahoy intends to focus solely on Titanfall's weapons, or if he intends to branch out and cover the game's various systems and mechanics. This video would seem to suggest the latter.
Wednesday, 19 February 2014
Akira Nishimori's The Man Who Bites His Tongue is the best sequel RoboCop never had. It builds and expands on the ideas in Verhoeven, Neumeier and Miner's film by looking at the cyborg predicament as a long-term affliction. In the 1987 film we get to ride along with Murphy on his first few missions when vengeance and his sense of duty still drive him. What happens if that dies away? How does a man act when it becomes apparent he's a walking tank with zero opportunity to experience touch sensation? There are no nerve endings built into those Kevlar fingers. They're just an approximation of human form designed to make using tools and interpersonal actions easier. Eventually your power armour loses its lustre, becoming an all-encompassing state of sensory deprivation.
Monday, 17 February 2014
Sunday, 16 February 2014
Human quarry films rarely get sequels, especially if they end with the status quo intact. Returning to the original winners seems like collaboration - why would the victors subject themselves to another safari? The Hunger Games: Catching Fire tackles this dilemma in a necessary but depressingly honest manner. The heroes don't have any other choice. The system they're up against is too massive to resist, the slightest dissent rewarded with a bullet. With trouble brewing in the outlier districts, Donald Sutherland's Evil Abe Lincoln plans a Hunger Games TV special in which he can dispose of all the dreadful winners that have inspired the proles to hope.
These victors aren't the kind of muscled heavies sequel inflation would have us expect. Instead they're frail older women and flashy celebrities scrabbling for a way out. None of them want to be there. Unlike the more nihilistic teenagers, they're happy to form collectives and work against the system that put them there. During the TV interviews the competitors are downcast, pleading clemency to a grumbling audience. The public are keenly aware of this lack of enthusiasm and riot offscreen. As far as future shock sequel premises go, incompetent PR management as a catalyst for violent social change is at least amusing. The hunt is more exciting this time too, featuring a few in-game hazards that wouldn't embarrass Kazuo Umezu's The Drifting Classroom. It's just a shame more time isn't spent with the malcontents. Too long and overwrought to be truly good, Catching Fire instead entertains by deliberately working against genre expectation.
Thursday, 13 February 2014
At first glance Titanfall's Smart Pistol MK5 looks like the biggest wind-up imaginable. A silenced sidearm that locks on for rapid headshots - Black Ops 2's target finder cheat sight taken to another, aimbot like level. Stick around for the full skinny though and you'll see that the automated shooting is only really useful for breezing through AI controlled grunts. Try and cheese human players and you'll waste time acquiring multiple lock-ons and doing marginal damage. Makes you wonder about how Titanfall is considering balance. With all these disposable bots racing around begging to be killed, are Respawn pitching for a Sandy Ravage experience for every player?
TheRussianBadger is back, this time taking us through the pros and cons of Battlefield 4's carbines. Based on Badger's teachings looks like I'll have to give the ACE 21 a bit more of a go. I've barely touched it. I have spent quite a lot of time with its stablemate, the ACE 52 CQB, after looting a silenced model and going on a tear when I ran dry with my primary on Dawnbreaker. Turns out that's the more obstinate of the two Galil short rifles?
Wednesday, 12 February 2014
With the embargo lifted, beta footage of Titanfall has begun cascading onto YouTube. Predictably enough it looks fun on wheels - infantry shooting for the Call of Duty twitch crowd, and shielded walking tanks for Halo heads. In action, this simultaneous manoeuvre warfare looks like Mirror's Edge with a jet pack by way of an arcade informed, mech suited rebrand of Shadow of the Colossus. Even at this stage, Titanfall looks rapid and responsive, recognisably the next step from the studio who gave us Marathon Lightweight Commando streak stabbers.
What's interesting about the hype surrounding the game's release is that it's not just Microsoft betting the farm on Respawn Entertainment's online shooter. The YouTube crowd that made their names posting killstreaks in the dozens are all over the game, already treating it like The Next Big Thing. With Call of Duty: Ghosts dead in the water, and Battlefield 4 buggy and bordering on sedentary who can blame them?
Tuesday, 11 February 2014
Monday, 10 February 2014
Conan the Barbarian is about a life completely dedicated to equalising a situation. Thulsa Doom, an otherworldly, apparently eternal magician, ransacks Conan's village, slaughtering his parents and his people. The child doesn't say a word. Instead he drinks in his enemy's face and flag, making them his motor. Sold into slavery and forced to suffer punishing manual labour, Conan abides, using the appalling situation to transform his body into the tool he needs for revenge.
Conan the Barbarian endures and enchants because it is about a man who is completely unbeatable. Every step in his life is designed to bring him back to the snake priest who ruined it. He doesn't run from his destiny, he embraces it. He races forwards, screaming, sword held high. Conan doesn't even chaff, you have to seek out a Director's Cut to hear him reflect and complain. The film, like the rest of John Milius' work, taps right into a basic, almost embarrassing facet of unreconstructed masculinity - the desire to be remote and unconquerable. It's male emotional autism on a vast, panoramic scale. If, as JG Ballard hailed it, Mad Max 2 is punk's Sistine Chapel then Conan is the heavy metal equivalent of Michelangelo's David.
In his break-out role, the Austrian Oak is photographed like an expensive special effect. He exists centre frame in long, loving takes. There's a vein of body shock running through Arnold Schwarzenegger's first few screen appearances, as if filmmakers struggled to properly contextualise this horrifying figure. Hercules in New York found him sexually overwhelming, the camera pushed in porno close like some marginal other trying to grasp at him. The Terminator presented him as a mechanical horror - a gleaming metal skeleton coated in puffy musculature to facilitate efficient gun reloads.
Milius seems to regard the star as a natural phenomena. Milius and Duke Callaghan shoot Schwarzenegger like a mountain. A still, emotionless thing comfortable with silence and contemplation. The Martian deserts of Spain and the visual language of Sergio Leone is re-purposed to tell a pagan rock-opera in which long-haired roadies battle it out for mystical supremacy. Conan isn't about talking or explaining. He's all doing. Everything is communicated physically, his thought process reported through tight close-ups on Schwarzenegger's face bracketed by Basil Poledouris' pounding, prehistoric score. Milius wasn't considering Arnold as the heavily accented body builder he was, he saw him as the larger-than-life megastar he would become. This complete confidence actualises Schwarzenegger in the same way that The Wheel of Pain warped the young barbarian.
A quick look at X-Ray Films' forthcoming documentary about Star Wars figure designing and collecting, Plastic Galaxy. I was born a little late for the first wave of Star Wars hype. I didn't see any of the films all the way through until I was in my teens. Star Wars was always more about the ugly alien toys to me. I remember being dragged through various open air markets with stalls heaving with cheap overstock of Jabba's heavies. I never had Luke Skywalker or Darth Vadar, but I did have a Gamorrean Guard and Weequay. They were well cooler any way.
TheRussianBadger takes us through his thoughts on Battlefield 4's assault rifles, offering pointers and loadout suggestions. I wouldn't expect the depth of an XboxAhoy (who recently skipped through his Call of Duty: Ghosts guides in record time), but find here a few solid tips on how to file down each rifle's eccentricities. I don't know about you but I find myself gravitating back to the assault rifles with alarming regularity. The carbines and shotguns are fun for close quarters, but I find the DMRs, even with the buff, are hobbled by spotty hit-detection. My current rifle of choice is the SCAR-H which has just enough muscle to make up for the bullets that decide to evaporate en route to the enemy.
Monday, 3 February 2014
After years of dismissing them as stupid, Michael Bay finally gives us the Dinobots. If anything best sums up Bay's allergic reaction to eccentricity, it's that he couldn't see worth in a skyscraper sized robot Tyrannosaur. They were every kid's favourite right? Five gigantic sociopaths that were so dangerous the animated series Optimus Prime had to keep them buried in rubble between engagements. Of course later they became capering comic relief, but those first few appearances are what lingers - glass eyed, monosyllabic lunatics with a compulsive need to trash everything in sight. Most kids must've felt like they were watching themselves onscreen. Elsewhere we see a Decepticon whose face transforms into a cannon and a paragliding Autobot who seems to have modelled his look after Mark in A Better Tomorrow. Perhaps these are signs that Transformers: Age of Extinction is hoping to be fun?
A depressed loner becomes a supervillain after feeling dismissed by the hero? Everything on screen is lathered in dayglow slime? I've already seen this movie! It's called Batman Forever! Snark aside, an unbalanced human bomb trying to emulate Spidey is a nifty idea for a 90 minute film. Shame this plot point will just be noise in a punishing 150 minute franchise instalment lousy with opponents. Considering Spider-Man 3 is (wrongly) as fondly remembered as bin stink, it's strange Sony can't wait to emulate it's wonky excesses. Still, it's a kick seeing Jamie Foxx dressed up as Red Dwarf's Duane Dibbley.
After spending my formative years obsessed with Dark Horse's Terminator comics, I'm a sucker for highly motivated cyborg assassins beating up cars. So, of course, Captain America The Winter Soldier looks brill to me. Winter Soldier trying to claw his way into Cap's ride explicitly recalls the last issue of The Terminator: Tempest in which brawny Chris Warner drawn T-800s scrambled all over a fleet of fleeing resistance trucks trying to kidnap a Cyberdyne scientist. The highlight was when an aryan terminator punched a hole through the car's roof only to get a sawn-off stabbed back at him, taking half his face off. So, anything like that please. The whizz-bang CG bullshit is still a trifle off-putting, but seeing real cars getting flipped on humid Washington highways is always welcome.
PS - this isn't actually the Super Bowl spot, it's a slightly longer version prepared for the UK and Ireland which includes a shot or two of Revenge's Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter.
Saturday, 1 February 2014
Jackfrags talks us through the latest patch for Battlefield 4. It can't be much fun to work at DICE at the moment. No matter what they fix, something else breaks. I don't think I've ever played such a batty online game, particularly one with dedicated servers. How can the hit detection be so lopsided? One minute it's a luxurious daka daka experience with every bullet ending up where you directed them, the next you're hightailing it after a receding target hitting nothing but thin air.