Monday, 30 September 2013
Sunday, 29 September 2013
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods further explores the celestial chicanery at work in Akira Toriyama's martial arts universe. This astral plain is a functioning bureaucracy, full of bizarre middle-managers who spend their days tending to their own micro-planets and gawping at galaxy shredding match-ups. The latest edition to this heavenly hierarchy is Bills, a purple man-sized cat who also happens to be The God of Destruction.
Like most felines, Bills is lazy and capricious, tending to obliterate planets according to whim rather than strictly reasoned logic. Journeying to Earth on the off-chance there's someone there powerful enough to fight him, Bills instead spends the majority of his time breakdancing and sampling appetisers at Bulma's birthday party. Although Goku does eventually ascend to a new super saiyajin form buff enough to stand toe-to-toe with Bills, Battle of Gods is more of a comedic victory lap about oral-stage fixated idiots, who just happen to be insanely powerful, than a gruelling battle for survival.
Recently released on PS3 and Vita, Jasper Byrne's Lone Survivor is a 16-bit style side-scroller set deep in miseryville. Stuck in a rotting apartment complex full of featureless slabs of Splatterhouse meat, players must scrounge for supplies and tip-toe past lumbering deadites. There's also a nifty sleep cycle mechanic that can be chemically induced for bonus items. Don't become too reliant though - pill gobbling chips away at an unseen sanity meter.
Considering how it's often touted as the realist's choice, it's funny how Battlefield 3's elective spawn system allows TheSandyRavage to get the kind of shotgun feed greed all but impossible in the arcadey Call of Duty series.
Friday, 27 September 2013
The latest The Evil Within footage out of Tango GameWorks suggests an experience not unlike the abortive Hallucination BioHazard draft of Resident Evil 4. Trailed at E3 2003, this unreleased build saw a poisoned Leon S Kennedy trapped in a haunted house stuffed full of spooky ghosts and creepy dolls. Players would stumble through violent figments of Kennedy's imagination as he inched ever closer to a kidnapped companion from a previous game. As well as high definition reskins of the released Resident Evil 4's siege sequences, it's encouraging to see Mikami experimenting with stealth and finding elegant ways to weave movement prompts into the title's cinemascope mise-en-scène.
Monday, 23 September 2013
Following the completion of his Black Ops II weapon guides, XboxAhoy has diversified his YouTube channel with videos about the history and culture of computer games. His latest is a look at the myriad of time waste features available in Rockstar's newly released Grand Theft Auto V.
Sunday, 22 September 2013
Saturday, 21 September 2013
Roland Emmerich's stab at Godzilla is desperate to stress its weaknesses. Clocking in at nearly two and a half hours, the film spends an inordinate amount of time in the company of sitcom rejects hamming up an ugly New Yorker routine. Godzilla seems to think of itself as a Big Apple slice of life comedy that just happens to have a mammoth lizard in it - Friends with a radioactive guest star. Maria Pitillo is particularly lost, her performance nothing more than a series of vapid frowns. Likewise Matthew Broderick approaches the material with a complete absence of machismo. I don't think I've ever seen an action lead so devoid of bass. His boyish simpering is actually kind of revolting at times, particularly towards the end of the film when the actor insists on waving his arms around whilst running away from several million dollars worth of Spielberg steals. If Broderick can't even be bothered to act scared, why should we be thrilled when he escapes?
This Godzilla begins with stock footage of America's hydrogen bomb tests overlaid with French radio chatter. I presume this is supposed to illustrate the French weapon tests at Moruroa in the mid-1990s that led to a worldwide moratorium on their wine? If so, why use antiquated footage of Bikini Atoll? Those images are seared into the collective conciousness as gross examples of Cold War dick-waving. You can't add a bit of looping and pass them off as something else. Regardless, Godzilla is apparently a mutated iguana caused by the dastardly French. Their government feels so bad about it they've dispatched Jean Reno to keep an eye on the situation. From an anthropological perspective this makes Godzilla 1998 kind of interesting. The Japanese Godzilla was born from American hydrogen bomb testing, yet there was never any attempt in those films to demonise Japan's post-war allies. The original Godzilla is repeatedly considered as a punishment for mankind, Japan assuming responsibility for the creature and what it represents. All humankind has erred by allowing nuclear weapons to come into existence, not just individual countries.
In this American Godzilla the buck is passed. France is solely to blame for this terrible lizard, despite having conducted roughly a fifth of the nuclear weapons tests America has. This disingenuous white-washing harms the film. Why shouldn't Godzilla be about a country confronting its misdeeds? How patronising is it to think the filmmakers felt these questions couldn't be asked during a Summer distractor? If Godzilla can't be about national introspection, why does it instead have to revolve around drippy journalistic sabotage? Why is more time dedicated to taking pathetic potshots at Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel than considering American culpability in nuclear cataclysm? For that matter, why is Roger Ebert the mayor of New York? Wasn't he based in Chicago? This staunch empty-headedness is symptomatic of a film allergic to even the most basic level of seriousness. Godzilla has been designed as product, an anodyne unit shifter free of artistic expression or intellectual consideration. It's a contemptuous thing, riddled with antagonistic pitch think and directed at an audience it assumes to be brain dead.
Friday, 20 September 2013
With the threat of an American Godzilla series looming over them, Toho decided to give their creation the send off he deserved. Godzilla vs Destoroyah is an elegy, as much for tokusatsu cinema as the King of Monsters. The incredible success of Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park aroused interest in other monster properties, jump-starting TriStar's own Godzilla project. A Hollywood produced Godzilla promised bleeding edge mechanical and computer generated special effects. Toho's more modestly budgeted films were on the verge of looking hopelessly outdated. If America's new Godzilla was successful, more films would be produced. The Japanese original was in danger of becoming a footnote.
This sadness is evident at every level of Godzilla vs Destoroyah. Director Takao Okawara frames the film with the same sense of melancholy he brought to Godzilla vs Mothra. The usually eternal Godzilla is dying. His heart is pumping out dangerous amounts of heat causing the kaiju to go into nuclear meltdown. His body is criss-crossed by larva coloured veins, his spines glow red hot. Smoke hisses from his pores. Godzilla acts like a rabid animal, demolishing Hong Kong before the film's even properly started. Japanese and American scientists theorise that should the monster detonate, the blast could render the Earth uninhabitable. Desperate to defeat this walking Chernobyl, researchers reconsider the oxygen destroyer that defeated the original Godzilla. Before any breakthroughs can be made though, a rapidly evolving anti-life creature is discovered. The stage is set for a showdown between two competing cataclysms.
Koichi Kawakita's final contribution to the Godzilla series is perhaps his best. The special effects director juggles four separate creatures, each with their own distinct design philosophy. Godzilla is transformed into a mobile level 7 event, pissing steam and glowing like a supernova. Little Godzilla has matured and mutated into an adolescent, athletic version of his father, while the Super-X III looks like a B-52 bomber put together by the Tracy brothers. Finally there's the satanic majesty of Godzilla's enemy Destoroyah. The Heisei series has been obsessed with pitting Godzilla against corrupt opposites. First it was a female clone born from a rose, then a machine, followed by a cosmic pretender. Finally it's a demonic reflection given life from the ruins of the original monster. When Godzilla and Destoroyah finally clash it isn't the dull laser war that has marred the last few entries. The monsters slash and tear at each other, they hurl their bodies about and stamp Tokyo flat. It's apocalyptic and engaging in a way the series hasn't hasn't quite managed since Godzilla vs Hedorah.
Godzilla vs Destoroyah's greatest achievement though is in the way it characterises The Big G. The monster is elevated from a roaming natural disaster to a fully-fledged dramatic participant. In a moment of respite during the final conflict, Godzilla wanders over to where his son has fallen. He finds a shattered, dying creature. The towering radioactive beast tries desperately to breath his poisonous life force into his offspring. When Godzilla Junior fails to respond, Godzilla is bereft. Okawara has the confidence to hold the moment and play off Kenpachiro Satsuma's suit acting. 22 movies deep we get to see the impassive kaiju monarch considering defeat. He's had enough. There's no chance of respite, this Godzilla must die. This vital, important Japanese cultural icon is close to his end. Beyond this point his name will surely start to mean something else. His form adopted by another, with the potential to be internationally relevant. When Destoroyah is eventually vanquished it's almost an afterthought. He isn't important. All that matters is that this Godzilla can't control his temperature any longer. His spines bubble and drool, his skin tumbles off like ash. Time slows. Akira Ifukube's beautiful score rises. You'll believe a God can die.
Wednesday, 18 September 2013
Monday, 16 September 2013
Last week EA invited a chunk of the YouTube superplay community out to LA to mess around with the latest build of Battlefield 4. If you're a fan of RPG trickshots, you're in luck. TheSandyRavage has that shit on lock.
Sunday, 15 September 2013
Godzilla vs SpaceGodzilla represents a series in terminal decline. Unlike the lesser Showa efforts, the film doesn't even have brevity on its side, clocking in at just over 100 minutes. Apparently at least twenty minutes were shorn from an early assembly cut, considering the ineptitude on display here I shudder to think what horrors those sequences contained. After all, this is a film in which the co-pilot of a skyscraper sized mole machine launches an attack on his commanding officer in the middle of a Godzilla strafing run. We spend at least a minute watching the rest of the MOGUERA crew dragging the unconscious pilot from his flight seat, then propping him up in the back corner of the control room. Again, this prolonged coup d'état was initiated in the midst of playing chicken with The King of Monsters.
Once again we're stuck dealing with uninvolving human characters, leaden plotting, and dreary island hopping. Worst of all, SpaceGodzilla employs recycled footage to paper over unsatisfactory miniature effects. The most egregious example of this is a sea battle between Godzilla and the Japanese navy, borrowed from Godzilla vs Biollante. SpaceGodzilla simply fails to coalesce. Resident psychic Miki Saegusa is relegated to fretting and, despite a hide bristling with cosmic diamonds, the SpaceGodzilla monster winds up being the Toho equivalent of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace's Nuclear Man. Blessed with a more muscular frame and seething with spikes, the cosmic clone disappoints - he's little more than a scratchy, bitey, prima donna. Like Nukes, he's also had orange lightning scrawled all over its body in post. The film makes zero effort to characterise this SpaceGodzilla. Although apparently acting under his own volition, the monster doesn't enjoy the carnage he creates. He's simply a Godzilla shaped obstacle. One-and-gone director Kensho Yamashita even manages to fumble Koichi Kawakita's beautiful redesign of the MOGUERA mech from The Mysterians, repeatedly shooting it from the same boring television angles.
Peter Weller talking about the RoboCop shoot.
"There's moments in my film history - and I'll give them to you right now - that have just been wildly, psychotically, enjoyable. One was doing the drug-bust sequence in RoboCop, because the Walkman had come out, so you had these little earphones that you could put in the RoboCop helmet, and I was playing Peter Gabriel's Red Rain during all the gunfire. Me with the 47 shot Beretta automatic pistol, blowing bad guys off balconies and stuff while Red Rain was pumping in my ears."Interview extract via AV Club.
Saturday, 14 September 2013
Friday, 13 September 2013
Vin Diesel deserves better than this. I'm not really sure why. Most of his films are basically awful. I just quite like him. He's a faintly absurd action proposition, his main skills are that he's blessed with a rumbling voice and that he's devoid of hair. There's a refreshing lack of irony in how we are asked to consider the action star Vin Diesel. He's big. He has muscles. He kills things. His voice is incredibly deep. His voice is so fucking deep in fact that it never registers above a growl. It's always guttural and wheezing. How masculine is that? Ludicrously so.
At its best Riddick recognises this. The film actually features a scene in which Vin out barks a gigantic space mutt. To prove himself the alpha Vin lowers his voice to an intimidating subwoofer frequency. Of course the hyena thing relents. An extra long first act contains Riddick's best material. His betrayal at the hands of an expensive looking empire bleeds into a desperate desert trek in which Vin makes himself immune to alien venom by constantly poisoning himself with it. Disappointingly, Vin eventually makes it to civilisation, initialising a dire bounty hunter scenario full of sexual assault, illogical double-crosses, and the kind of tin-eared action talk last heard in Ghosts of Mars. What a waste.
The Heisei series started with such promise. The first two installments were an entertaining and credible platform to launch a brand new kind of Godzilla. The Return of Godzilla and Godzilla vs Biollante promised an ongoing narrative focused on topical science fact and speculative science fiction. Unfortunately once Biollante tanked this idea evaporated. With the franchise thrashing about in search of a consistent sense of identity, Toho decided to grasp for reductive nostalgia. Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II starts off well with the in-universe equivalent of the United Nations raising the sunken remains of Mecha King Ghidorah in order to plunder its futuristic robo-tech. When Godzilla next attacks, they will have a mechanical facsimile ready to fight back. Mankind is finally going on the offensive.
The stage is set for a military minded Godzilla sequel focused on first-response combatants and evolving anti-kaiju technology. This excitement quickly dissipates. Unfortunately, our guide into this world is a lanky moron that sleeps through Godzilla defence class, abandons his post, and is obsessed with Pteranodons. Why are we focusing on this guy over psychic mainstay Miki Saegusa? Her sympathetic relationship with the King of Monsters could have been an interesting way into an all-out Godzilla war. Instead we get a bumbling oaf blackmailing his way to the top. Having desperately leafed through a book of Showa tropes to find something, anything, that has worked before, the producers of Mechagodzilla II have arrived at the lobotomised nonsense of Jun Fukuda.
If ace pilot dipshit wasn't bad enough, Godzilla is also given another cute son. Although not quite as repulsive as Minilla, Baby Godzilla is so awfully conceived that his scenes suck the life out of the film. First of all he looks dreadful - a dinosaur suit with baggy ankles, topped off with a gap-toothed head. He isn't even lit sympathetically. To better illuminate the human characters he spends the majority of his screen time around, withering, caustic light is poured onto the creature, exposing the rubbery impossibility of his hide. Born from a prehistoric egg, Baby Godzilla instantly imprints on a spunky lab assistant then acts like no animal that has ever lived. He isn't excitable, or even curious. Seconds after his birth he stands silently in a line-up of straight-faced scientists, listening patiently to an exposition dump. Baby Godzilla is simply farcical. By the time the film has churned through this material, limping towards a kaleidoscopic beam conflict, it's difficult to even care.
Thursday, 12 September 2013
After the success of Godzilla vs King Ghidorah, Toho rummaged through their back catalogue for another Showa foe to stand against the King of Monsters. It's a shame Godzilla vs Biollante wasn't more successful. As fun as it is to see the older monsters given 90s makeovers, I'd much rather see Godzilla tearing brand new designs limb from limb. Godzilla vs Mothra goes some way to satisfying that desire by introducing a violent male opposite for Mothra. Like his sister, Battra is able to evolve from a larval form into a flying adult. Unlike Mothra, who is specifically designed to be beautiful and tragic, Battra is a leathery, demonic beast. He has the wingspan of a dragon, decorated with amped-up rage colours arranged like jungle camouflage.
Godzilla vs Mothra is unusual in that the monster story is essentially just the broad beats of the human drama scaled up for cataclysm. The lion's share of the film revolves around a divorced couple's attempts at reconciliation. Masako is a stoic, emotionally mature woman while her ex-husband is brash and childish. His efforts towards accordance are bafflingly ill-considered, forcing Masako to rise above his immaturity for the sake of their family. The females in Godzilla vs Mothra are the peacemakers, able to use their beauty and diplomatic skills to coerce something useful from their boneheaded male counterparts. As for Godzilla himself, he's basically a bystander in his own movie. Mostly absent and bereft of agenda, he occasionally wanders into the frame to job for the lepidoptera tag team.
Wednesday, 11 September 2013
Further proof that the PS4 is shaping up to be the destination of choice for side-scroll shoot fans arrives in the form of Galak-Z: The Dimensional. This closer look at 17-BIT's game reveals a caffeine shot shooter that looks like Asteroids controls in a Salamander setting. There's also a fair bit of Treasure's Bangai-O in the way your craft uses a drifty jet propulsion whilst toggling between lock-on missiles and curvy lasers.
Living in a PAL territory? Fork out for PlayStation Plus when the PS4 is released and you'll have instant access to Resogun, Housemarque's follow-up to the Super Stardust games. Instead of a twin-stick debris shooter, Resogun is a horizontal side-scroller set in a world composed entirely of teeny tiny little cubes that are desperate to tumble apart in exciting ways.
Tuesday, 10 September 2013
Weren't these games a lot more fun when you were fighting at least the Second World? Call of Duty: Ghosts looks to be continuing the border jump bigotry begun in last year's Black Ops II, with everyone south of the equator contextualised as a grasping invader. With that in mind, Ghosts can't help but evoke Republican paranoia fantasies like Red Dawn or, if we're talking video games, the film's interactive pseudo sequel Homefront. It's disappointing, if not wholly surprising, to see the Infinity Ward arm of the Call of Duty franchise shifting towards one-note nationalism. Even though they specifically used British and Soviet troops to make their points, the studio's previous even numbered entries revelled in murky moral greys. Still, Astronauts firing assault rifles at each other is pretty badass, so there's that.
Monday, 9 September 2013
Sunday, 8 September 2013
My favourite thing about You're Next is how 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.
Ralph Meeker plays Mike Hammer as a brutal, bullying thug. His detective process is little more than finding someone who know more than him, then beating the shit out of them. His adventure begins when he comes across a deranged blonde on a lonely road, afterwards becoming witness to her murder. This violence prompts, not so much a quest for vengeance, but a perceived opportunity for Hammer to score some big money. The private detective mindlessly and aggressively hounds anyone he can think of in pursuit of his pot of gold, leading him to a nightmarish, atomic age Pandora's Box. Sadistic and morally bleak, Kiss Me Deadly is a masterpiece of opportunist, film noir nastiness.
Saturday, 7 September 2013
Zack Snyder talking about the anime series that informed Man of Steel.
"I've seen a few episodes of Dragon Ball. I know it's a major work of anime, and that it has suitably huge-scale battles depicted beautifully. (However) there's another anime I've forgotten the name of, where loads of city buildings gets destroyed. I know there are loads of such scenes in anime, but this one in particular is possibly like Man of Steel. I'm sure it's a TV series. In the US it's called Birdy the Mighty. The city battles scenes in it are so good, they have a huge impact. Also, because in Man of Steel the fighting is mostly one-on-one hand-to-hand stuff, rather than in, say, The Avengers where they're fighting a huge force, the movie's much more like the fantastic style of anime than other movies."Article extract and video via NeoGaf.
A group of girls, currently too cash poor to escape their dreary university campus, turn to armed robbery to fund a holiday. Once at the beach their days become an endless Bacchanalian blow out; a bright, poppy pocket life devoid of responsibilities or even downtime. One of the girls talks about the goof off as a religious experience. Squashed in next to dozens of boozed up children is the closest she's ever felt to God. Her life is finally how she imagines it should be - an MTV beach party. The girls repeat "spring break" over and over like a monastic chant, attempting to conjure up the privileged, commodity centred dream they've been sold all their lives.
Eventually the situation sours and the group come into the orbit of Alien, a shamanistic Cribs criminal obsessed with living out a gangster rap narrative. Two of the girls recoil and flee, leaving their friends to form a polyamorous relationship with Alien based on a mutual love of automatic weapons and Britney Spears pop ballads. Equality is maintained by the girl's refusal to be submissive arm candy and their willingness to participate in the ridiculous dynastic struggle Alien has wished into being. Ultimately, Spring Breakers seems to be about the second acts middle-class white kids are allowed to have. Mistakes made, they have the financial and psychological resources to put their past behind them and slot back into mainstream society. For them, consequences are an abstraction. Everyone else gets to die poor.
Friday, 6 September 2013
The film Ken Russell said was the greatest example of science fiction since Metropolis has somehow been reconstituted as a 1990s Fox TV pilot. I wasn't particularly hopeful for José Padilha's RoboCop remake, but even I expected something more refined than Michael Keaton trumpeting like a toy executive. Why are notionally exciting action sequences set in undressed warehouses? Why does a CG augmented powerjump have such a weightless impact? That leap gag in particular looks prehistoric. The Stained Glass Knight in Young Sherlock Holmes is a better example of verisimilitude. I understand there's more than enough time to slap a few filters on this, but that last low-angle shot of Robo striding, with a puny explosion on his receding right, is like something out of fucking Dark Angel.
Thursday, 5 September 2013
Wednesday, 4 September 2013
According to a Beijing News interview with producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Transformers: Age of Extinction will feature the Dinobots. Given that this is still a Michael Bay joint, no doubt Grimlock and pals will either be given massive swinging genitalia or racially insensitive voices. Maybe both. Personally, I'd position Grimlock as a one-man demolition unit, obsessed with his destructive potential. He'd start out with a rugged vehicle mode, probably a truck like Prime, and find it wanting. Not enough gun. Next he might try out life as a tank and be disappointed with his overall lack of rapid manoeuvrability. Earth modes would be a massive disappointment to him. He'd rack his brains searching for a transformation that meets his cataclysm criteria before eventually discovering Earth's long extinct terrible lizards. Tyrannosaurus Rex. Love at first sight.
Sunday, 1 September 2013
To this day Street Fighter II is easily one of my favourite games. A 22 year old game kept relevant by finely balanced combatants and instant response controls. In the early 1990s its impact was total. Arcade cabinets rigged with official boards and seizure inducing knock-offs were everywhere a child might conceivably end up. I played Street Fighter II in a chippie, a video shop, the corner of a sports bar in Spain, and even in the lobby of a swimming pool in Garston. That particular cab had a version of 1992's Championship Edition crammed into a crumbling coin-op with about half the buttons necessary to actually play the thing. In the Summer before starting senior school I spent an afternoon relentlessly cramming 20p pieces into that punch only machine, trying to get an ending for Vega. I never made it but I did get to suplex my way through a line-up of gawkers, which to an 11 year old was pretty much like winning a Nobel Peace Prize.