Thursday, 30 May 2019
Digital Foundry is back with another thorough rummage around a newly released retro collection. This time it's M2's Castlevania Anniversary Collection, a jam-packed retrospective that breezes through the herculean task of emulating four completely different game systems.
Wednesday, 29 May 2019
Hideo Kojima's exciting courier game is a little closer to release than expected. Death Stranding launches November 8th promising massive play areas, Mads Mikkelsen's slime boys and an America that has apparently fractured not just politically but in temporal and geological terms too. Basic interaction seems to tend towards sneaking around, fending off package snatchers and topographical problem solving.
I never realised the Japanese release of Konami's Aliens arcade game was so different from the versions released in other territories. As well as dropping the travelling APC levels, Japan lost all reference to the Newt character and Ripley's pressing need to rescue her. To compensate, the Japanese coin-op was easier with weaker (but less brightly coloured and therefore more movie accurate) enemies. MAME monster KIN takes us through both loops in the above clip.
Tuesday, 28 May 2019
Friday, 24 May 2019
Thursday, 23 May 2019
Hiroyuki Seshita and Kobun Shizuno's animated monster series concludes with Godzilla: The Planet Eater, a fatalistic finale that actually manages to make the previous films' luminous-but-stationary aesthetic work for the story being told. After two instalments of abject failure, mankind is teetering on the edge of oblivion, happy to turn their back on turbo-charged technology to pray to an extraterrestrial God who, they are promised, will rid their planet of Godzilla. The aloof, alien Aratrum worship the golden dragon Ghidorah, a being of pure destruction who appears here as three ferocious, shrieking serpents. Planet Eater's Ghidorah are intangible psychic lightning, summoned by a duplicitous holy man and paid for with human sacrifice.
Seshita and Shizuno's film leans heavily into the idea of Ghidorah as a Lovecraftian horror, a thing that exists beyond time and space that cannot be measured by humans, no matter how advanced they are. The film's feature fight - such as it is - mainly involves the ungrabbable Ghidorah heads clamping down on the King of Monsters then draining his life-force. In the shadow of this titanic rest-hold, our human hero Haruo Sakaki goes on a vision quest steered by the pounding rhetoric of the genocidal Aratrum and backed by Takayuki Hattori's surging, crashing score. Seshita and Shizuno's film is, like its predecessors, allergic to dynamic movement so the decision to strand Sakaki's plastic figure in a series of tumultuous, hallucinogenic environments actually works. This strange, loophole of a sub-series finally fulfils its promise with the sight of Mothra's phantom colliding with the Enola Gay, seconds after the superfortress has dropped its payload on Hiroshima and flung mankind into the Atomic Age.
On the one hand, Linda Hamilton is back, crashing cars and unloading absurd shotguns at surprisingly spry cyborgs. On the other, Terminator: Dark Fate's robot confrontations look completely bereft of physics, substituting grinding, hammering machinery for the kind of weightless elasticity you expect from a substandard X-Men sequel. Cameron should've given John Hyams a ring instead.
Wednesday, 22 May 2019
Tuesday, 21 May 2019
Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an odd duck, a straight-to-video crossover between two children's properties that is spiked with nose-snapping violence and second-tier swear words. You'll believe a Ninja Turtle can say 'frig'. Despite being a standalone feature, Jake Castorena's film unfolds like four episodes of a toy cartoon stitched together for a video release - think 1997's The Batman Superman Movie: World's Finest but much less dynamic. The caped crusader plays Akela to his own teenage wards as well as the oozed-up, chainsticking reptiles, beating back mutated Arkham inmates and ninja masters alike.
The story unfolds in self-contained sequences, each structured with the kind of individual beats you'd expect from one of Nickelodeon's 22 minute long schedule fillers. This bagginess, as well as the feature's arthritic sense of moment-to-moment motion, ensures interest flags long before the film's conclusion but at least Castorena and his crew make a real effort to distinguish their characters not just in terms of personality but in how they fight. Batman and Shredder are equally matched, a good father and a bad father locked into contact-combat demonstrations that burn through the animation budget. Best of all, for his finale throwdown with Leonardo, Ra's al Ghul exhibits a twirling, balletic sword style that mixes swashbuckling caddishness with handicapped wuxia.
Thursday, 16 May 2019
In order to promote their new Transformers toyline, War for Cybertron: Siege, Hasbro Taiwan have been producing short, stop-motion animations of these box-fresh action figures absolutely battering each other. Episode 4 features Optimus Prime and Fortress Maximus' pal Cog ganging up on a poor, defenceless Megatron. Heroic Autobots indeed.
Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Sunday, 12 May 2019
Friday, 10 May 2019
Thanks to Italy's extremely casual approach to copyright law, anyone can present their film as a sequel to an established, successful piece (see also Ciro Ippolito's Alien 2: On Earth and Bruno Mattei's Terminator II). Although positioned in the marketplace to follow, and cash in on, Dario Argento's re-edited, pumped-up release of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, Lucio Fulci's Zombie (released in the UK as Zombie Flesh Eaters, going on to enjoy all the video nasty infamy that name suggests) disregards insinuations about satellite radiation or Cold War biological warfare to offer a definitive, localised explanation for its returning dead.
Co-written by Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti, Zombie takes a classical, superstitious approach to the genre, presenting an epidemic that stems from pounding, tribal drums and Voodoo incantations. On the remote, unlisted island of Matul the recently deceased are coming back to life. Richard Johnson's sweating, overworked Dr Menard is trying to keep a lid on things by nursing the afflicted then blowing holes through their heads when they inevitably pass. The timeline isn't especially clear - although Zombie is technically superb the film takes a floating, dreamlike approach to plot - but, if Menard's wife Paola (Olga Karlatos) is to be believed, the Doctor's interfering presence hasn't just catalysed this dreadful situation, it's created it.
In Zombie the land itself is a character, a barely settled, decaying expanse that responds to Fabio Frizzi's bubbling, rhythmic undercurrent by vomiting up the bodies buried on the island. The zombies themselves are one offs, make up artists Gianetto De Rossi and Gino De Rossi rejecting Romero's bruised, frozen consumers in favour of putrid, misshapen lumps caked in blood and shit. Fulci's film is especially excited about rot, mummified Conquistadors burp up out of their shallow internments, empty eye holes seething with bloated, blood red worms. It's as if Matul is rejecting humanity altogether or, at the very least, the snooping white settlers who've come to learn her secrets.
Fulci and cinematographer Sergio Salvati pack their frame with broken clutter and wandering animals, suggesting a similar sort of hemmed-in, malarial exhaustion as Lucrecia Martel's Zama. Like that film Zombie posits a white ruling class hopelessly attempting to impose some sort of will on what amounts to scattered indifference. They're not welcome, the land has no use for them. Menard can transpose a wealthy, European domestic situation onto the island but the simulation cannot hold. Matul's inhabitants do not want to share their magic, we are told they have left their homes, disappearing deeper into the island before returning for the finale as an undead throng, ready to break a dilapidated mission church apart with their bare hands and vanquish the invaders within.
Wednesday, 8 May 2019
Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII's supply stream has me back on the treadmill again, checking in every day to play a couple of games, earn a win and get that reserve skip. That's the appeal really, you don't have to learn any new systems or even set aside a significant amount of your time, you can just drop in, rack up the kills then go and do something else. It's relief valve gaming.
Monday, 6 May 2019
Sunday, 5 May 2019
Thursday, 2 May 2019
Reading a synopsis of Ringo Lam's final collaboration with Jean-Claude Van Damme you might come away thinking that In Hell is about your standard prison fighting tournament, the muscles from Brussels stomping progressively larger, more crazed inmates for our buzzed-up entertainment. While that isn't a million miles from the truth, this isn't a Cannon film and Ringo Lam isn't a Cannon director. In Hell is a mutant, a squalid straight-to-video thriller that leans far more on Van Damme's sombre acting abilities and fading star persona than his high-kicking gymnastics.
Van Damme plays Kyle LeBlanc, an American serving a life sentence in a Russian prison / meat grinder for executing the man who raped then murdered his wife. LeBlanc may be determined and forthright but he isn't a karate killer, the confrontations he seeks in the early passages of the film aren't about building up an idea of an unbeatable fighter, they're the desperate actions of a broken man who wants to be thrown away. These pointedly unsuccessful scuffles land him in solitary confinement, a sewage outlet that doubles as a cell, giving him the time and space he needs to retreat completely into his thoughts, fantasising a different life, one in which he and his wife are still together.
When the film's gears shift, thrusting Van Damme into the exercise yard cockfights staged for the amusement of the guards, what follows isn't treated as a triumphant plot development. The violence fundamentally alters LeBlanc. His dream life, his soft interior, is abandoned in favour of an obsessive exercise regimen, stoked by the hate radiating from his cellmate, the glowering Inmate 451, played by Lawrence Taylor. Finding his romantic humanity completely incompatible with his current, nightmarish environment, LeBlanc willingly hardens himself, transforming his body and perspective into that of machinery. In combat he's a slobbering monster, built to break. Away, he becomes a sacrificial calf, willing to suffer to unite the working, criminal classes against their tormentors.
Looted Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII's latest supply stream weapon off a big spender - the Tigershark LMG - and went on a mini-tear. Considering how terrible the last couple of unlock guns turned out to be (the Switchblade sub-machine gun in particular was a massive disappointment, hitmarkers for days), at least this pig handles like something worth chasing. It's a good job really, it's pretty obvious Treyarch and pals have re-adjusted the grind bars to fill significantly slower since the latest patch, that coupled with a shorter event window points to yet another spend prompt in a game absolutely lousy with them.