Saturday, 29 December 2018
Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII was begging to be skipped over. No campaign and a renewed focus on the wilfully obscure Nazi Zombies mode? No thanks. Even that new Battle Royale mode Raven Software were allegedly hurrying together reeked of desperation, a former champ remodelling itself to appeal to the kids (and their parent's credit cards). In-hand though it's difficult to decide which mode you want to play more. Multiplayer's refurbished, classic maps and handsome Specialist characters (Unreal clods with grumpy Street Fighter IV faces) are fun on fun. Easily able to gobble up entire evenings.
Blackout mode though is truly incredible. The series' core point-and-shoot gunplay may be exploded in terms of raw space and player count but second-to-second interaction stresses deconstruction, asking the player to instantly decode a constantly updating feed of tiny visual and audio cues. Several patches in, the sound mix is delightful, a clearly readable account of the unfolding battlefield. Played with a surround sound headset and enough trepidation to not fill your ears with your own thundering footsteps, Blackout is pure horror. An oppressive stream of the ambient and the actionable; anxiety-inducing information that demands either an instantaneous reaction or the nerve to stay still.
I missed out on Dark Souls first time around and, having played the third game and Bloodborne, I did wonder if the core joy of the game had been perfected elsewhere. This year's remaster was a revelation though, highlighting that iteration can often obscure more mercurial design choices. Dark Souls' world, the first half at least, is assembled like a vast, throbbing nexus. Levels upon levels built over each other, suggesting untold ages of rotting, dead-end progress. Withholding fast travel until quite far into the game ensures the player not only has to consider their destination but the journey that will return them to their deepest plunge. Shortcuts here, which in later games tend to allow quicker access to boss spawns, are instead organic, mysterious diversions, offering the player another level of interactive literacy.
Donut County puts players in control of a prowling hole. Hoover up enough knick-knacks and the pit expands, grower bigger and bigger until you're able to swallow up cars and even houses. The most obvious comparison to this mini-malevolence would be Katamari Damacy and, like Keita Takahashi's enduring masterpiece, Ben Esposito's game has charm to spare.
Book the damn territory with Fire Pro Wrestling World! I mean, of course, there's loads of fun to be had playing the Young Lion story mode or creating your own pastiche wrestlers. Gameplay is a fine-tuned dance that has you digitally dithering around the squared circle, sizing up your opponent, second-guessing their way out of a lock-up. The real juice though is a simulation mode that has you chasing Wrestling Observer Newsletter style star ratings, carefully modifying ring and match types to suit combatants, trying to capture the lightning in a bottle required for a full five stars. Or you could just stage Okada vs Omega V as a barbed-wire match.
Dialogue trees can make games feel like homework, forcing the player to scour verbose comebacks, searching for something that broadly aligns with what they actually want to say. Rather than try and simulate the text of conversations, Florence instead plays with rhythm and intent. The game follows a young woman through the lifetime of a relationship, capturing both the anxiety and elation of getting to know someone you like. In order to communicate to their would-be boyfriend, the player must assemble jigsaws that combine into pleasantly coloured word balloons.
Early interactions are nervy and awkward, hence the pieces are numerous and angular. As the couple settle into routine the assembly becomes less complicated, few pieces with rounded connections that easily fit together. The real brilliance of Florence comes when the couple argue. Balloons are still simple to construct but their colour has changed to red. Actual confrontations make multiple, successive demands on the player, the speed of your interaction picks up until you're pounding away at your opponent / partner. It's point scoring, recognisably the moment in a lover's quarrel where the original issue is forgotten and you're just hurting each other, trying to win.
428: Shibuya Scramble is a visual novel full of dead ends and digressions, a lively interactive story told with still images of live action actors posed like they're in a newspaper photo story. The game is very excited about pushing you off in the wrong directions, at times you feel like you're being deliberately prodded towards a never-ending succession of hilarious / horrifying Bad Endings.
An unbroken consideration of musculature and misfiring masculinity. God of War places the player a step behind ashen crank Kratos, party to both his body-shredding victories and his failure to sum up enough emotional courage to place his hand on his son's shoulder. There's a temptation to brand this kind of once-removed storytelling as 'cinematic' but that undersells the sheer proximity that God of War offers, a synthesis that arouses a sense of physical ownership in the player. Kratos as your favourite action figure. How dare anyone attempt to harm him or his child.
A love letter to Sega arcade games, particularly those made by Yu Suzuki, Horizon Chase Turbo recalls Outrun, Hang On and even Sonic the Hedgehog 2's blistering three-dimensional bonus stages. The player car blasts forward with very little sense of horizontal drift, inputs are strictly the digital taps of route correction. It's soothing, managerial.
A funny wibbly-wobbly man is trying to get places. You can help him by aiming his feet like a mortar, then firing them off towards dangerous new islands. That's it. If you mess this process up the man will cry and cry. So best if you just get your aim right every time. Kori Walk is bright, poppy and sickly sweet enough to register as acutely sinister.
If there was a better gaming experience this year than organising Tetris Effect's gently pearlescent shapes to Noboru Mutoh and Kate Brady's swirling, pounding Connected (Yours Forever), well, I didn't play it.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch // Monster Boy and The Cursed Kingdom // Monster Hunter: World // Pato Box // Shadow of the Colossus // Sinner: Sacrifice for Redemption // Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition // Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection // Strikers Edge // Super Destronaut DX // Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st]
Saturday, 22 December 2018
Andy Shand - Master of the Stars // Beach House - Black Car // Christine and The Queens - Girlfriend (feat. Dam-Funk) // Ex:Re - Romance // Hotel Pools & ALISON - Drift // Janelle Monae - Make Me Feel // Kendrick Lamar, SZA - All the Stars // Khruangbin - Shades of Man // Lucy in Disguise - Lost Signal // Mooggy - Modernisem // Myrone - A New Philosophy // Paramore - Rose-Colored Boy // Sadsic - Soft Zurabian Cope // Savaged Regime - Xeno Crisis Area 1 // Superorganism - Everybody Wants to Be Famous
ADMO - On the Nightway // ALISON // BluntOne - Ganymede // Childish Gambino - This is America // Chromatics - Black Walls and Blue Girl // Crystal Cola - Evening Romance // Daniel Deluxe - Territory // Foewi - Interference // Forhill - Moon Pit // Gorillaz - Humility // Irving Force - Overlord // Kylie Minogue - Dancing // L'indecis - Soulful // MAWORLD - Before You // Moondragon - Going Home // MYDREAMYADVENTURE - StonedCutie // Myrone - Voyager // Noboru Mutoh and Kate Brady - Connected (Yours Forever) // oDDling - Ascend // Parquet Courts - Wide Awake // Power Glove - Loaded // Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Talking Straight // She's Not Real - Saber // Sparkly Night - Flavours (Intro) // Street Cleaner - Murdercycle // Thom Yorke // 24hrs Feat. Lil Pump - Lie Detector //Ty Segall - 5 Ft Tall // Yo La Tengo - For You Too
Thursday, 13 December 2018
Monday, 10 December 2018
Although there's no sign of a Venusian Princess, it does look like Michael Dougherty's Godzilla: King of the Monsters will be taking some cues from 1964's Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, at least in terms of which of Toho's creatures has turned up for the feature scrap. Ghidorah, the main threat to Godzilla's throne, looks spectacular, rendered here as an enormous, swirling leviathan, pulsing with Satanic energy and ready to burn mankind off its planet.
The sound mix isn't quite perfect yet but it's amazing how many clues you can get to someone's location in Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII's Blackout mode if you just stop moving for a second and listen. So, you know, I'm not camping, I'm playing tactically.
Sunday, 9 December 2018
Friday, 7 December 2018
Thursday, 6 December 2018
As well as evolving flesh cube William Birkin, Resident Evil 2 remake's Claire Redfield will also be receiving ongoing hassle from a newly disguised Mr X. You've gotta love that pork pie hat, probably wants to lecture Miss Redfield on the lost art of medieval gallantry too. The original Mackintosh monster from the PS1 release could be easily outwitted by leaving then returning to an area, not so this revision. X will not be put off by doors or even the odd grenade launched at his person. It's a nice touch that he pushes basic enemies like zombies out of his way to maintain the pursuit too. January 25th can't come soon enough.
Wednesday, 5 December 2018
I'm not sure if waiting for a vulnerable enemy to get to cover before opening fire on them, then immediately making myself vulnerable by hurling a concussion grenade (while charging forward and reloading), demonstrates the ice in my veins or the complete inability to correctly assess a safe path forward. Given that I cannibalised an Operator Outlaw sniper rifle to buff my herky-jerky DMR, I'm leaning towards the latter.
Tuesday, 4 December 2018
All eighty minutes of Possum revolve around Sean Harris' Phillip and the contents of his duffel bag. By day he skulks around waste ground and other dilapidated buildings, searching for a place to unload an enormous puppet whose aesthetic is equal parts sixth form art project and living nightmare. The creation has a clay head, wearing a face not unlike Phillip's, that sits atop the body and spindly, draping legs of a house spider. By night Phillip smokes and worries, trying in vain to block out thoughts of an apparently ambulatory Possum and the droning news reports regarding the disappearance of a local teenager.
Phillip is contradictory, his social and mental development are clearly arrested, stuck somewhere around the impassioned servility of secondary school. Despite this he presents himself as close-cropped and buttoned-up, a man who takes a certain amount of pride in his drab, freshly pressed appearance. There are vague allusions to time spent on a barracks, Phillip as someone who has acquired a preference for spick-and-span routine as a way to control or dampen his damage. Upon his return to his childhood home, Phillip finds a mouldering ruin complete with no-go rooms and a lecherous squatter with zero respect for personal boundaries.
Possum's rhythms are slow and cyclical, unfolding like a fracturing cantastorie performance. We are treated to glimpses of a book made by Phillip following the death of his parents, detailing his meetings with the predatory Possum. Harris whispers the accompanying sing-song story, a bleak tale of a child inadvertently inviting this pricking, prodding figure of torment into his life. These passages are intercut with images of thick, tire smoke issuing from clusters of balloons, a celebration suddenly and permanently interrupted. Phillip, not to mention Matthew Holness' film as a whole, seethes with guilt, its lead unable to process the terrible things that have happened to him. Phillip is stuck, a child's mind trying to make sense of alien affections and intrusions, terrified that he deserves what is happening to him.
Saturday, 1 December 2018
Friday, 30 November 2018
Thursday, 29 November 2018
Wednesday, 28 November 2018
Tuesday, 27 November 2018
Monday, 19 November 2018
My second solo victory in Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII's Blackout mode involved lots of crouching and staring at doors that no-one wanted to open. Turns out that's a valid strategy. Since that video is incredibly boring, here's another two clips of me killing a good chunk of people while either hiding in tall grass or running around like a headless maniac.
Sunday, 18 November 2018
Saturday, 17 November 2018
Although it's disappointing that James Cameron couldn't spare the time away from his Avatar sequels to give Yukito Kishiro's manga the full, gunmetal treatment, substitute director Robert Rodriguez looks like he's stepping up his action game to compensate. Rodriguez's previous attempt at adapting dynamic, black and white comics had all the elegance of a brick. Sin City may have had visual pops to spare but the grace and fluidity of Frank Miller's art was elsewhere. By comparison, Alita: Battle Angel's liquid mantling and servo-crunching mayhem is a revelation.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child may be subject to the amnesiac, free-association plotting that drives the other Krueger sequels but screenwriter Leslie Bohem does remember to build his phantoms around experiences that are both recognisably part of teenage life and ripe for horrified embellishment. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master survivors Alice and Dan are now high school sweethearts, surrounded by a fresh crop of pals and expecting their first child. Naturally Freddy sees this pre-college pregnancy as an opportunity to really turn the screws on Alice.
The expectant mother finds herself rapid-eyeing her way into the shit-stained asylum where Freddy was conceived. She experiences the child murderer's violent, repulsive conception in the first-person, trapped inside Sister Krueger's body as dozens of rabid criminals, including Robert Englund out of make up, fall on her. Later she floats of the periphery of Freddy's birth, witnessing a bizarre reconfiguring of history in which the unkillable Freddy dreams himself back into being as a flayed goblin. This new version of events is so startling that an attending Nun takes it upon herself to body slam this Dream Child into the nearest bin. Baby Freddy promptly escapes, demonstrating the wits and ambulatory expertise of a newly chestburst Alien.
Unlike say The Dream Master, Elm Street 5 keeps its characters defiantly one-dimensional. Alice's new friendship group are nothing more than a collection of bodies, ripe for the slaughter. Their thoughts and feelings are background radiation, filling in just enough detail to provide context for their deaths. Freddy's kills, when they arrive, frequently feel like the best possible use of these characters. This essential ambivalence allows the film's more morbid notes to sing. Funny book fan Mark is shredded in a dream sequence that mixes pouched-out superstar comics aesthetics and A-ha's Take on Me music video while Dan's demise, in which he is forcibly transformed into a biomechanical carbuncle growing on the hide of a speeding motorbike, has the deranged, diesel power energy of Japanese cyberpunk.
Tuesday, 13 November 2018
Monday, 12 November 2018
Thursday, 8 November 2018
Considering the Elm Street series is built on the idea of a disfigured nonce entering children's dreams to murder them, it's no surprise that the films have an elastic relationship with reality. Victims slip in and out of the dream realm to be prodded and abused by Robert Englund's increasingly flamboyant bogieman, while clairvoyant teens are able to build themselves super-identities out of the damned spirits haunting these planes. Formula firmly in place, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master rambles around with a new set of young adults, mechanically embedding character specific dangers before callously offing them with bravura make-up effects.
The Dream Master's attempts to play with the Elm Street recipe are a mixed bag. Showing unwilling allies forcibly hurled into REM sleep to placate a psychic's night terrors neatly combines the anxiety of sequel survivors with a refresher on the forces opposing crispy Fred. That the film rushes to mangle these A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors leftovers (Patricia Arquette's steely psychic Kristen Parker is reduced to a one-note shrieker by her replacement Tuesday Knight) with very little ceremony leaves large sections of the film circling the drain. Eventually Dream Master settles on Lisa Wilcox's Alice, a lucid dreamer well-placed to turn the tables on Krueger.
Alice daydreams through the difficulties of her waking life, be that plucking up the courage to tell the school hunk how she feels about him or putting a drunken, abusive father in his place. Her blips of directed unreality invite another sense of uncertainty into the film, promising a variety of attack that never quite comes together. Although it's expected that scenes will bubble along with the looping chaos of nighttime fantasy, Renny Harlin's film dwells on the method and delivery of Freddy's assaults to the exclusion of anything else. By extending the murders, so the audience can luxuriate in the special effects, Dream Master trades shocks for revulsion, using Kreuger not as terrifying spectre but the wisecracking MC walking us through the latest prosthetic showcase. This imbalance is compounded by the gentleness and general likeability of Fred's newest victims. These young girls aren't attacking him or each other, they're just kids getting on with their lives. Their slaughter therefore registers as mean-spirited or, in at least one case, outright repulsive.
Skulking around and ignoring enemy loot as I commando crawl my way into first place on Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII's Solo Blackout mode. Stick around to the end to see how close the game was (thank you desiccated tree) and how bad a sportsman I am.
Previously depicted as an unbeatable wall of muscle, Broly washes up here in his own in-continuity movie as the personification of the Saiyan's primitive, genocidal savagery. Given how far Son Goku and Vegeta have come - surpassing the legend of the Super Saiyan, tapping into the heavenly power of the Gods and settling down to have kids - it's a kick to see them both absolutely manhandled by an ultra powerful but unevolved example of their vagabond race.
Monday, 5 November 2018
Thursday, 1 November 2018
Wednesday, 31 October 2018
Continuing a series trend for sympathetic depictions of its teenage victims, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors takes place in a psychiatric unit for troubled children. Chuck Russell's film, working from a screenplay credited to Russell, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont and franchise creator Wes Craven, doesn't attempt to damn these adolescents for the damage they've experienced or visited upon themselves. In that sense Dream Warriors stands apart from the usually prudish morality of a genre that often attempts to massage large-scale evisceration with unlikable, bullying personalities.
Heather Langenkamp returns as A Nightmare on Elm Street survivor Nancy Thompson, sporting a traumatic shock of white in her hair and working as a therapist for the young patients. Nancy rallies the besieged kids, using Patricia Arquette's Kristen as a psychic anchor in their fight back against vile old Fred Krueger. Not only is Dream Warriors unwilling to condemn its mixed-up cast, it also allows them to fight back against the sins of their parents using weapons derived from the moral panics of suburban America. Disabled hobbyist Will uses his Dungeons & Dragons knowledge to attack Freddy with arcs of Elfen magic while former drug addict Taryn dreams herself as a punked-out street tough, able to fight and navigate the kind of alleyways were she previously felt addled and helpless.
Jack Sholder's follow-up to A Nightmare on Elm Street largely dispenses with the idea that Freddy simply rules the dream realm. The disfigured child killer lingers like abuse, bubbling up in sensitive young men and using their confusion as his bridge into reality. It's five years after the first film, Jesse Walsh and his family have moved into Nancy Thompson's barred-up murder house. Freddy's memory persists like background radiation, turning the home into an oven and still powerful enough to detonate toasters and parakeets at will. Jesse cooks in his packed-up just-moved-in bedroom, unable to sleep lest he slip back onto Krueger's runaway school bus.
A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge takes a different approach to the teen slasher, swapping out the attractive girl next door for Mark Patton's Jesse Walsh, a spaced-out wanderer trying to work out who he is and what he wants. Jesse isn't your typical horror male, he isn't confident or braggadocious, he's intense but vulnerable. The personal possessions he has pointedly little interest in unpacking play like a sports focused veneer, a cover he built for himself in his old life that he no longer has the energy to maintain. Disconnected from his overbearing, boorish father and his smile-at-all-costs mother, its Jesse's friendships that provide the greatest insight into who he is.
Jesse rolls around on the ground with school bully Grady, a mouth-breather who pulls down Jesse's sweatpants when the less chiselled boy stands to score himself some athletic achievement. That the two enjoy lunch and chit-chats together afterwards speaks to something flirty and unacknowledged between them. Grady even acts as a gatekeeper for Jesse, warning him about the gym teacher's leather daddy private life as well as his unprofessional desire for teenage pretty boys. Jesse keeps his closest female friend, little rich girl Lisa, at arms length despite her obvious romantic interest in him. When they do, finally, creep towards a physical relationship, Jesse acts out his idea of carnal desire before retreating, disgusted by the obscene, lubed-up changes to his body. Freddy prays on Jesse's sexual uncertainty, testing what the teenager is willing to consume, or be consumed by, with deliberately illogical scenarios that blur the line between dream and waking life within the film.
Posted by Chris Ready at 10:32:00
Labels: A Nightmare on Elm Street, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge, Films, Jack Sholder
Tuesday, 30 October 2018
Monday, 29 October 2018
Sunday, 28 October 2018
Given the Stahlhelmed cyborg that powers the film's PR campaign, it seems reasonable to assume that Illang: The Wolf Brigade will be a (poorly timed) Axis-chic update on Fahrenheit 451. The pieces are in place - a brainwashed jackbooter slowly puzzling his way through a slippery political situation and the compromised freedom fighter he's fallen for - but appearances are deceptive. Writer-director Kim Jee-woon and co-writer Jeon Cheol-hong's adaptation of Mamoru Oshii's long-running Kerberos Panzer Cop multi-media franchise jettisons the alternative history underpinning the series. Rather than a post-Nazi occupation Japan struggling to assert an individual identity, Illang takes place in a freshly unified Korea suffering under the withering glare of international interest.
Despite the pointedly fascist iconography, not to mention civilian shredding action, Illang isn't particularly interested in exploring a Korean junta. The film's plot is instead built out of internecine crosses and double-crosses. Character's interior motivations are fiercely guarded, to the point of being dull, lest we guess whichever twist is being cued up next. Gang Dong-won's lead blackshirt Im Joong-kyung suffers the most. The actor plays the part shallow and robotic, his interactions with Han Hyo-joo's brittle love interest suggesting a spectral half-humanity trying to latch onto someone else to use as fuel for his explosive, expert violence. Kim has priors in this space, his 2005 film A Bittersweet Life brilliantly explored the willing mechanism of an emotionally inert male. Unfortunately Illang's plot isn't interested in supporting this kind of performance. Im is presented as an unknowing, easily manipulated pawn until the filmmakers believe it's exciting for him not to be.
Thursday, 25 October 2018
Timo Tjahjanto's The Night Comes for Us doesn't sit still, exposition arrives bold and up-front, decoded later through sustained evisceration. Even character relationships are built out of motion, loyal bodies hurl themselves against the in-coming Triad tide, eager to scratch out a couple of vital minutes for their fleeing compatriots. The set-up is basic, routine even - in the middle of a particularly poisonous gang punishment Joe Taslim's Ito, a mobbed-up super assassin, decides this is no longer the life for him. He snatches up Asha Kenyeri Bermudez's Reina, an innocent child caught up in middle-management flexing, and plots his escape. Iko Uwais' subordinate Arian sulks then pursues.
With the vulnerability offered by Reina firmly in place, Tjahjanto's film hurtles off into unceasing action. Although The Night Comes for Us does feature guns of every stripe, they represent brief, terrifying expulsions in a whole designed around violent utility. Everything in Night is a weapon, anything with enough weight to crack or sharp enough to puncture is put to work. Goon bodies are blubbery and pregnable, they lack the fortification conferred by intent. Ito and his friends are different, their courage armours them. They aren't soft, malleable flesh, they're hardened and defiant in the face of injury, able to soak up a truly heroic amount of punishment before they yield. They do not surrender to simple slashes or even small calibre gunfire. Their entire bodies act as deterrent, limbs break then redirect blows, telephone directories provide the level of protection you'd expect from a bomb disposal suit. Even when stabbed their wounds ooze around and seize the incoming weaponry, allowing it to be repurposed against its original owners.
Despite motoring on pure adrenaline, The Night Comes for Us never exhausts. Tjahjanto and his stunt teams avoid numbing the audience by embracing the liquid visual language of GoPro sporting and the sticky violations of body horror. While the yucks act as punctuation and punchlines in the clattering fights, the fluid camera moves add a layer of pure technical flourish to the already impressive martial arts. Tjahjanto folds the burps that signal matched, morphed sequences into his fight design, establishing a grammar that hides edits and accentuates collision. Frames readjust and track, following the motion of attack or the pop of injury detail. Nothing is hidden. There are no zooms or shakes to simulate the fizz of impact, Tjahjanto doesn't hurl his camera about to manufacture an idea of being inside action either. The camera looms over these titans and observes, undaunted by danger or revulsion, keen to gawp at the moment when muscle and bone buckle under pressure and, finally, break.
Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Watching Gareth Evans' Apostle it's difficult to get a sense of what kind of film you're being primed for. Dan Stevens' Thomas Richardson quivers and quakes, cutting the figure of a sweaty, scarred-up pub fighter physically convulsing his way through some deep-seated indignation and the tincture shakes of self-medication. He arrives on a remote Welsh island, home to a heavily overdrawn religious cult, in search of his kidnapped sister. The lush, hungry island seems to exist just out of reach of Britain's authorities, veiled by a churning, stormy sea that defeats unsanctioned approach. Its beaches are littered with rotting wrecks and derelicts, a ready-made resource for the erection of driftwood churches.
From moment one we're waiting for Richardson to unleash himself on the men ransoming his sibling. Evans' biggest successes, The Raid films, concern a righteous, religious man willingly entering a maelstrom to thump his way towards justice. Apostle often seems to promise something similar, smuggling someone violent and capable into the midst of a 70s folk horror. Once ashore Richardson is canny, noting and defeating the subtle steps designed to reveal him. These notes of potential upset are compounded by Stevens' presence. His eyes blare throughout, lending him the slathering energy of a wounded animal. Stevens also moves with the same robotic gait he gave to his genetically engineered infantryman in The Guest, a dead certain murderer programmed to overwhelm. These performance building blocks would seem to tease a methodical, mechanical satisfaction.
A laudanum addiction aside, the snarling Richarson is focused and deliberate, the film assumes his pace, lazily circling around several disparate threads that threaten to converge. Apostle builds to a head, a rational point of conflict or resolution, then abandons these simple opportunities for might to triumph. Writer-director Evans plays against type, revealing a film more interested in situations and set-pieces built around the consumptive terror underpinning primitive, pagan religion. Power shifts dominate the final third as the bloodletting faith battle over their greedy, malfunctioning prize. Mark Lewis Jones' Quinn, a Magwitchian convict who simmers with dark, incestuous desires that eventually tip over into violent egomania, seizes hold of the film, hurtling us deeper and deeper into an all-consuming chaos.
Saturday, 20 October 2018
It's that time of the year again! Posting at 20XX slows to a crawl thanks to all the Christmas season games coming out. Even with a generation best multiplayer suite, the jewel in Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII's crown is the Blackout survival mode. Like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite before it, this battle royale game type forces players to cope with rapidly shrinking safe zones and dozens of other contestants, each armed to the teeth and out for blood. Death can arrive swiftly, starting areas are swarming with panicked users desperately trying to locate any advantage - get your hands on an assault rifle and suddenly everyone around you is in deep shit. The above gameplay clip memorialises my team's first Blackout victory, arriving at the end of a long night spent failing miserably.
Friday, 19 October 2018
Brian Provinciano's Shakedown Hawaii inches closer to release, promising an interactive land development / corruption suite detailed enough to make modern Grand Theft Auto games jealous.
Thursday, 11 October 2018
Toho and Polygon Pictures' extremely static animated monster trilogy concludes with Godzilla: The Planet Eater. King Ghidorah's depiction here as several intertwined serpents, each pulsing with the yellow galactic energy the beast usually uses to level Japan, is an exciting development for a series that has previous depicted its feature monsters as unmoving mountains.
Wednesday, 10 October 2018
Tuesday, 9 October 2018
Monday, 8 October 2018
Black '47 lifts the avenging cowboy archetype out of the Old West, relocating the idea of a ghostly nemesis to 19th century Ireland, deep in the midst of the Great Famine. Director Lance Daly's film, working from a screenplay credited to himself, PJ Dillon, Pierce Ryan, and Eugene O'Brien, is built around a coarser trespass than, say, High Plains Drifter. Eastwood's wraith returned to life with the intention to settle an outrage made against his own earthly body. James Frecheville's towering, mad-eyed Feeney rends and tears not just on behalf of his own family, starved out of their homes then murdered by either wilful negligence or a crooked legal system, but the belief that Irishness is a distinct, valid national identity.
Feeney is an Irish veteran of the First Anglo-Afghan War, a proxy exchange fought in a wider conflict between the British and Russian empires, both kingdoms competing for mind and land share in Asia. Feeney is othered by his relationship with Britain. His nephew views him as a traitor, doubting his uncle's commitment to their blood, as if Feeney's brush with imperialism would so toxic as to fundamentally alter the man's interior desires and outlook. When considering his (apparently terrifying) part in the Afghanistan war, Feeney refers to himself in terms of subordination, acknowledging that no matter how talented and deadly he may have been he was still viewed as his English superior's pet. His contribution has been framed as lesser simply because of where he was born.
Having returned home, Feeney attempts to reconnect with his family, planning to take them all with him to America. He discovers his mother has died in his absence, her cottage transformed into a pen for a particularly well-fed pig by an avaricious, lip service relative. His sister and her children are homeless, squatting in the ruins of a cottage, following Feeney's brother's execution for stealing food. Everyone is starving. The authorities are not even attempting to help, in fact the British lords who own the land are pleased the Irish are dying off, as it means they are no longer obliged to pay for their citizen's financial support. Feeney's targets are these parasites and collaborators, the hoarders happy to prod weak, starving families away from their door while grain moulders in their larders. Men who'd rather tear the roof off an isolated, derelict shack than suffer a family to enjoy its scant warmth for free. Monsters, basically.
Feeney attacks these authorities and the systems that support them, dodging the misfiring pistols and infantry rifles to hack through the Red Coats with his curved kukris. This Nepalese knife not only pricks the idea of other oppressed peoples existing under the umbrella of the East India Company but also a serviceman so attuned to knife murder that he has taken a far-flung example as his sidearm. Black '47 seethes, proposing colonialism, and the British strain in particular, as a sickness that penetrates and undermines the identity of an indigenous population, setting unobtainable, invisible standards for the poor while simultaneously driving the rootless and nakedly ambitious to emulate the abject cruelty of the ruling class. Hatred is the norm. After all, the helpless have brought it on themselves.
Friday, 5 October 2018
Thursday, 4 October 2018
Our second look at forthcoming anime fight movie Dragon Ball Super: Broly swerves the last tease's extended Arctic combat to sell fans on the idea of a unified, pre-Earth history for the fractured franchise. Based on this sneak peak, screenwriter and series creator Akira Toriyama is pulling material from 1990's Bardock - The Father of Goku TV special, 1993's Broly - The Legendary Super Saiyan theatrical film, and Toriyama's own prequel manga Jaco the Galactic Patrolman to tell the definite story of how Planet Vegeta ceased to be.
Monday, 1 October 2018
Friday, 28 September 2018
For a series built entirely around one character, the RoboCop films have a bizarre approach to continuity. The first entry was about a dead man encased in an armoured, metal coffin slowly unravelling from the programming that had been imposed on him. A key scene in Paul Verhoeven's film depicts this reanimated corpse looking at its face in a shard of broken glass. RoboCop, finally free of his bolted-on helmet, pores over lines and features as a way to come to terms with the ruin that has been made of him. Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner's screenplay even concludes with RoboCop discarding his branded identity to proudly declare that he should be known by his human name, Murphy.
RoboCop 2 backpedalled with a lead character who shunned the vestiges of his former life to wrap himself up in duty and his hyper-alloy chassis. Perhaps being a post-human unable to pursue anything meaningful beyond his job was simply too painful? RoboCop 3 goes even further, beginning with a hero who behaves like a lobotomised toy - complete with action accessories - only dimly aware of the connections he made before his death. Part of the problem is the need for an arc, per the three-act mandate, RoboCop must grow and change to satisfy the audience. There's no need for this recap-cum-reset though, RoboCop 3 is even more future-shocked than the first two films.
To make way for OCP's prefab future, American citizens are being packed onto buses by South African mercenaries to be driven to God-knows-where. Their crime? Being poor. That's really the only break you need. RoboCop abandoning the hopelessly compromised police force to embrace a less collectivised idea of civic service is strong enough to build a film around. Director Fred Dekker's threequel, working from a screenplay co-written with chronic worrier Frank Miller, feels revised and re-worked to the point of having lost its basic shape. Scenes in which Robo surveys children being roughed up by the hired goons of corporate America are included to prickle a robot's latent, submerged emotions rather than express the revulsion it should prompt in a person who has fought hard to regain their humanity.
The transition that powers Murphy's story needs to come from the undead police officer's decision to stop collaborating with the corrupt ruling class and become, essentially, a folk hero. The strength of this idea is dampened and distorted by the clattering mechanics of Murphy's clumsy, needlessly synthetic portrayal. Although there's power in Robert DoQui's Desk Sergeant turning in his badge to join the revolution, the film's failures are compounded by Orion's determination to ease off the shredded flesh in pursuit of a family friendly cinema rating. RoboCop's bubbling rage can no longer be expressed with his trademark ultra-violence. Having discovered that OCP's apartheid muscle are liquidating Detroit's working class, Murphy's response should be significantly stronger, and more cathartic, than simply wandering into the Afrikaan's staging area to set fire to their stationary.
Thursday, 27 September 2018
Writer-director Fred Dekker and co-writer Shane Black serve up The Monster Squad, a kids club movie that pits the titular gang of hideous brats against off-brand, toyetic drafts of Universal's featured creatures. Duncan Regehr's Count Dracula is in town, stalking the suburbs in pursuit of an amulet that will grant him world domination (or equivalent). Naturally, this very real threat has completely escaped the attentions of the self-involved adults. Regehr's Vlad is a one-off, behaving nothing like any other big screen Dracula. Rather than your usual cruel, mysterious sexuality, Regehr instead exudes a kind of well-mannered fussiness.
When considering this icon from a child's perspective, Dekker and Black have junked the unfathomable animal magnetism to laser in on the frustrations felt by an ancient forced to rely on misshapen, incompetent henchmen. Jonathan Gries' Wolfman is especially infuriating. When not hulked out and slathering, this loser lycanthrope places anonymous calls to the local police, warning them of the calamities poised to consume their town. Come the wonderfully gooey finale, when the boys have finally deigned to include the friendly little sister character who ends up being key to their survival, Dekker and Black's Dracula goes all out. His shuffling allies either blown up or ventilated, the exasperated Count joins the fray, hurling dynamite sticks into tree houses then twisting and snapping his way through a squad of beat cops like his name was Sonny Chiba.
Wednesday, 26 September 2018
First look at Philippe Lacheau's live-action City Hunter. As the most visible take on the material (for fans outside Japan and mainland Europe at least), it'll be interesting to see what kind of influence Jackie Chan's 1993 adaptation will have on Lacheau's film. Based on this trailer the director is keying into the star's injury-prone shtick with a hero who isn't quite as accomplished as he thinks he is. There are full blown quotes too (which for all I know could be straight from the Weekly Shonen Jump manga) with Lacheau lifting the dance combat sequence right out of Wong Jing's film.
Monday, 24 September 2018
Sprinkled in with Travis Knight's pleasant-looking meet cute are a few, fully-animated glimpses of the Cybertronian civil war, unexplored territory for the live-action robots in disguise franchise. Although unlikely to take up more than about three minutes of actual screentime, it's still a kick to see the likes of Optimus Prime and Shockwave (is Big Purple hanging out with The Rainmakers from the Divide and Conquer episode of the 80s TV series?) rocking designs reminiscent of their Generation 1 animation models. Before Transformers: The Last Knight under-performed there was talk of a feature-length cartoon spin-off based on the Transformer's home planet courtesy of Boulder Media, an Irish animation studio responsible for (among other things) Cartoon Network's The Amazing World of Gumball and the BBC's recent Danger Mouse reboot. Could this be a taste of films to come?
Thursday, 20 September 2018
Worried that Capcom are asleep at the wheel when it comes to zombie Dobermann tech? This latest trailer for the upcoming Resident Evil 2 remake has got you covered. These violent corpses manage to look brand spanking new while still evoking the airbrushed rubberiness of Capcom's vintage Softimage 3D design work.
Devil May Cry 5 looks absolutely amazing, marrying Capcom's current gen push for grimy semi-realism with extreme action gameplay. This brief look at Dante skews nostalgic, demoing the ageing demon hunter as he smashes about with flaming gauntlets and million-stabber swords, the arsenal that saw him through his first adventure.
Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Taking a leaf out of AtGames and Nintendo's book, Sony are releasing a tiny version of the first PlayStation just in time for Christmas. Although promising 20 games, details are sketchy, with only Tekken 3, Wild Arms, Jumping Flash!, Ridge Racer Type 4 and Final Fantasy VII announced. Presumably third-party deals are still being ironed out? Either that or none of the other titles are worth shouting about. For me, this mini-Mini PlayStation needs Konami classics like Metal Gear Solid or Silent Hill as well as either of Capcom's first two Resident Evil games to be truly exciting. Throw in an underappreciated fighter like Rival Schools: United by Fate, Soul Edge or even Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha and the PlayStation Classic would be looking a bit more essential.
Tuesday, 18 September 2018
Thanks to the lack of campaign I'd pretty much written off Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Although Call of Duty: Black Ops III's single-player was well below par for the series, the threat of an increased focus on the obtuse meta of Nazi Zombies and other, reheated survival gameplay wasn't really registering as fair compensation. Based on this clip though, Treyarch and Raven Software's new Blackout mode could be something special, combining polished, series standard shooting mechanics and frame-rate stability with en vogue battle royale gameplay.
Monday, 17 September 2018
While the rest of the 80s relics struggle with box office obsolescence, Tom Cruise goes from strength to strength. His formula? Rather than hoard the limelight in pursuit of past, pumped-up glories, producer-star Cruise is happy to share the big screen with supernaturally accomplished women, cutting them in on the deal at a conceptual rather than superficial level. Edge of Tomorrow (or Live Die Repeat if you came to the film on home video) charted the rise of Cruise's William Cage from PR ooze to someone Emily Blunt's super soldier Rita Vrataski was happy to co-operate with. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation replays the trick with Rebecca Ferguson's Ilsa Faust, a shadow struck from the Red Grant mould who demonstrates the same capricious, see-sawing interests.
Hunt's fascination with the obviously duplicitous Faust reveals the kind of growth you'd expect in a comfortable, ageing super-spy. At this stage in his life Hunt knows his way around a deception. He's is no longer the delusional worrywart who willed Claire Phelps' betrayal away, he's established and confident enough now to contextualise Faust's treacherous streak as, essentially, flirting. After all, she hasn't killed him yet. Beyond an obvious, fizzy professional respect, Hunt clearly sympathises with the precariousness of Faust's assignment. Like his 96 self, she's gifted but inexperienced, moving amongst sharks at the behest of a paternal overlord that explicitly treats her as expendable.
Cruise's insistence on keeping Hunt monastic, even asexual, post-Mission: Impossible III lends the relationship an interesting tension too. It's nothing so simple as a desire to possess, Hunt seems to see himself in Faust. She's a prospect. Perhaps he'd rather shape the rival agent into an ally than outright dismiss her as a threat? Kill off the bad fathers competing for Faust's soul then reconfigure her into a replacement for the ageing IMF agent. Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie's weaves this conceit into the bones of Rogue Nation, tracking Faust throughout as a co-star. She's always a distinct, dangerous presence with murky, even malleable, purpose. Sometimes she needs to be Hunt's ally. Sometimes she doesn't. Unlike the jealous, threatened Jim Phelps of Mission: Impossible Hunt isn't scared of obsolescence, he's excited by the possibility of a continuity beyond himself. Tested by age, Hunt defeats his mentor yet again by refusing to sink into the same, limited patterns of self-pity.
Sunday, 16 September 2018
Saturday, 15 September 2018
Thursday, 13 September 2018
The Predator lumbers along with three storylines competing for attention. The first, and most obviously similar to director-co-writer Shane Black's previous work, revolves around Jacob Tremblay's Rory, a lonely, autistic child. When not dodging some especially mean bullies, Rory tinkers with the alien technology his drug-warring Dad (Boyd Holbrook) has FedEx'd back to the suburbs. Next there's Olivia Munn as Casey Brackett, a kidnapped biologist so thrilled by the idea of extraterrestrial life that she runs straight at, rather than away from, the intergalactic big game hunter. The third is mostly set on a bus (at night) and concerns a group of committed (as in asylum) soldiers trading barb after barb while preparing to make their big escape.
Each thread contains details that might, basically, align but never with any great thematic heft. There's something vulnerable and complimentary about a bored university lecturer and a precocious kid decoding, then turning the tables on, the invisible alien stranded in their neighbourhood. Maybe at one point that was Black and co-writer Fred Dekker's pitch? Come the finale Casey does more to protect Rory than any other character, including his father, physically placing herself between the child and the enormous fuck ugly mutant that the trailers couldn't wait to tell us about. Unfortunately for fans of The Monster Squad, expecting a similar Vestron irreverence, The Predator is too busy killing time with damned badasses dying in impenetrably darkness to work up any serious, residential chaos.
In fairness the film does have a few good scenes though, bright spots that can't help but sing given their rote surroundings. Rory zipping around the neighbourhood on Halloween night, vanquishing spoilsports with an explosive energy weapon is exactly the kind of comedic lawlessness you expect from a pre-teen in a Shane Black film. Similarly, Casey chasing down seven feet of pure bludgeon, armed with a plastic tranquilliser gun and her supermarket flats feels fresh in a series primarily concerned with bubbling testosterone and wounded masculinity. These clips are adrift though, trapped in a whole that struggles over and over again to establish even basic spacial relationships. The Predator, perhaps fittingly for a film about a transparent monster, is strangely shapeless. It rejects the idea of coverage as a way to deliver information. Scenes do not luxuriate and pertinent details are not poured over. Visually the film so utterly rejects any notion of continuity or readability that it's genuinely difficult to make sense out of routine scene-to-scene transitions.
Wednesday, 12 September 2018
Star Wars is a series choking on criss-crossed continuity and the expectations they invite. The individual Episodes, no matter how they are told, revolve around chosen ones discovering and exploring their destinies, usually at the forefront of galaxy-spanning warfare. They are a prestige brand churning through the same basic set-ups; change and re-evaluation deployed as archetypal modifiers that upset and please in apparently equal measure. Surely, the promise of the A Star Wars Story sub-brand then is to upend these assumptions and hurtle off somewhere new? The Journal of the Whills is fine but isn't there also room for Rogue One's tales of the army-builders?
Solo: A Star Wars Story, despite its big fish lead character, at least starts somewhere pleasantly messy. Alden Ehrenreich's Han is a Dickensian orphan, bullied into lifting techno bric-a-brac for an enormous, incredulous Muppet in a smoke-clogged Armaghetto. Writers Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan use their hero's introduction as an opportunity to pay tribute to both franchise creator George Lucas and original Solo actor Harrison Ford. Naturally, given his pedigree, Han is a Bob Falfa-esque speed-freak, at home gunning around shipyard slums in a stolen sports car that combines the basic design principles of Luke Skywalker's hovering Landspeeder with the ratcheting oomph of American Graffiti's V8 monsters. Armed with Kasdan, one of Lucas' favourite collaborators, Ron Howard's film covers all the testimonial bases.
Regardless of this obvious talent, Han is still a nobody. He isn't related to anyone important and no Jedi hovers on his periphery, ready to step in then whisk him away. This is fertile ground for Disney's spin-off line. In a universe that ebbs and flows on their achievements, it must be crap not being a Skywalker. Other people have to scam and grift to stay afloat. Solo's path off home planet Corellia involves him enlisting with Palpatine's plastic bovver boys to serve as cannon fodder in some pointless, deliberately ill-defined war. Howard's film, more so than any previous Star Wars entry, really leans into the idea of the Galactic Empire as a lightly dressed stand-in for Britain's slathering colonial ambitions. Reasonable aliens are othered into blood-sucking monsters, dying for the Navy is positioned as aspirational for the dirt poor, and all wars revolve around mud, misery and a misplaced sense of competence.
It's a shame Howard's film isn't a bit more interested in Solo as a lowly grunt bumping up against the machinery of intergalactic oppression. Before long Han is caught in a criminal conspiracy that tracks towards an unspeakably tidy solution, despite Donald Glover's extra-louche interpretation of Lando Calrissian and Paul Bettany's tiger-striped cad. Several parties are undermined by dramatic developments that speak to the kind of corrective numb you expect from a well-oiled production line. These victims include a gang of jet-biking wizards and Emilia Clarke's Qi'ra. Han's compromised, secretive love interest trades a moment of credible, meaty selfishness to quake in the interlaced shadow of an incompetent Sith. In a series seething with spikey, exciting ideas that pointedly go nowhere, straight-laced sequel plotting leaves a medicinal taste.
Unusually, for a set of films built on kaleidoscopic special effects technology, the stars of the Solo show are Howard and his stunt team. For all the medium talent acquisitions thrown the director's way, Howard at least creates readable movement, happy to explore the pure visual mechanics of physical objects hurtling from point A to point B. Set pieces, while not necessarily fraught with the palpable danger of a Tom Cruise vehicle, are instead built around the brief, unmistakable buzz of being a successful show-off. This bluster also finds its way into key CG sequences. Han, on a roll, uses his knowledge of drag-race minutiae to oversteer the Millennium Falcon through an impossibly dense asteroid field. This approach is nothing new for Howard, 1988's Willow described fantastical adventure using the yeehaw language of a Wild West Stunt Spectacular, but these earthy, meat-and-potatoes thrills sing in a series obsessed with luminescent baton twirling.