Friday, 26 June 2015

Jackie Chan in the 1980s - Police Story Part II

Jackie Chan's latest adventure is a two hour back-and-forth between the intimate and the overblown. On one hand Police Story Part II deals with the immediate repercussions of burning guts justice. On the other, Chan's character, Ka-kui, slips deeper into a spy gamer that anticipates the full-on international man of mystery seen in Police Story III: Super Cop.

Chor Yuen's mallrat drug dealer is out on bail, citing a terminal illness rather than the stunningly illegal way in which he was detained in the first Police Story. This information is conveyed in person by the sneering mob boss and underlined with a harsh guitar strum. Ka-kui is livid, while he has been busted down to traffic, his cackling adversaries go free.

Yuen's character disappears out of the film, leaving all the gloating and Maggie Cheung stalking to Charlie Cho as the poorly gangster's reptilian lawyer. Part II begins as a consequences focused revenge film. Ka-kui suffers because he was at fault for pursuing his enemies outside the system. As his superiors point out, Ka-kui believes he's exceptional, he didn't think he had to obey the letter of the law and is punished accordingly.

It's a great idea for a sequel, rather than just skip over the damage of the first film Part II wallows in it, dredging up a nasty adversary that's confident enough, thanks to Ka-kui's own trespasses, to harass the policeman outside his girlfriend's apartment. Cheung's beefed-up role is another welcome addition, the actress providing an anchor for Ka-kui. May promises a future for Ka-kui away from the perpetual conflict.

Although a lot of the boyfriend-girlfriend friction is played for laughs, a sullen May absolutely skewers Ka-kui's heroic persona after an energetic playground fight. She isn't impressed that her boyfriend was able to batter all-comers. She's disappointed because he abandoned her.

Ka-kui didn't stay to protect her, instead he left to settle a score. May argues that it could have been a distraction, She could have been kidnapped or worse. Part II is strongest when director-star Jackie Chan is playing with these kinds of ideas, Ka-kui snatching a personal defeat from the jaws of victory. This feels like the central thesis of the first two Police Story films - you're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't.

As an aside, this playground confrontation features perhaps the finest piece of fight choreography Chan has ever delivered. Like his work on Police Story it's blisteringly fast, but it also finds time for physical dexterity and some fine comedic detailing. Regardless of how long it actually took to shoot, it reeks of the same obsessive drives that powered 1982's Dragon Lord.

Out for a midnight stroll with his girlfriend, Ka-kui is attacked by a small army of Triads, each carrying with a short steel pipe. After pinballing a few hopefuls off some primary coloured jungle gyms, Chan manages to get hold of his own club.

Chan starts the sequence physically low, driven to his knees by the attacking goons.

Chan is centre frame, crouched and injured. His opponent is confident, striking at a cowed Ka-kui. It's important that Chan's head isn't looking at the incoming blow. It gives the moment an extra sense of desperation, as if he didn't expect to counter the attack.

A key component of heroism is defiance, this is Chan using his body to communicate that idea physically. Chan's position also clues the viewer into his immediate plan of attack - this chump's knees.

Chan steers the impact off the knees into a strike to the guy's back, revealing his chest. It's a flourish, a superfluous link in a chain of total demolition. Chan reigniting the dancing fan muscle memory he picked up making The Young Master. Chan again travels with the blow's momentum, smashing the pipe across the goon's ribcage.

By now Chan has stopped following the directional energy created by his club interacting with a helpless body and has decided to hurl himself upwards.

Notice that Chan and the goon have swapped position in the above image. Chan is above and poised to strike, the attacker is cowering and attempting to raise his weapon.

Chan takes flight, whacking the goon across his shoulder blades. Both Chan and his adversary are on the floor. We presume he's finished but, as ever, Chan has one more trick up his sleeve.

Throughout the sequence Chan has kept a piece of a swing set in frame. We find out why - it's a visual cue for the next attack. Ka-kui hurls away his baton to halt another hoodlum. It cracks the attacker across his shins.

It's wonderful, a completely excessive cherry on top of another outstanding physical confrontation that not only underlines Chan's talent but that of his indefatigable stunt team. Chan doesn't even pause to drink in the victory, he's already moving. On to the next set-up.

It's a shame when the film's retribution threads are largely dropped to pursue a mad bomber storyline, but Chan soothes the transition with a series of great fire stunts and some genuinely extreme personal danger. Broadly, Part II's second and third acts run on James Bond beats - investigation, capture (torture), catharsis.

The brilliance in Chan's approach is he keeps everything street-level and incredibly mean. Even Chan's capricious approach to plotting and theme ends up working. As the first film demonstrated, Ka-kui's adventures are about a mounting sense of mania. What better way to simulate martyrdom than by having several completely unconnected challenges tracking in on the hero? Ka-kui is under attack from every possible direction.

The British Board of Film Classification have spoken at length about their difficulty when approaching martial arts films. No doubt they found Jackie Chan's work doubly problematic. Ostensibly, the star's films are for families looking to celebrate Chinese New Year, everybody gathering around to watch a righteous, moral individual triumphing through grit, determination and no small amount of self-sacrifice.

This apparently virtuous dimension wasn't irrelevant to the BBFC, if anything it probably accentuated their concern. The board's long-standing issue with kung fu films was often the execution, exciting combat built around an incredibly charismatic star. During James Ferman's tenure as director, the board felt the violence typical to the genre was excessive, a venal box 'em up that often strayed too far into alarming, sadistic areas that necessitated comparatively higher certificates.

Police Story Part II is this exact, brilliant film. The key props for the firework factory set finale are an endless supply of lumpy gunpowder bags that Benny Lai's Dummy, the man behind the bombings, excitedly tosses around. On contact the pouches explode, leaving raw, bloody welts. Stuck at the mercy of Dummy, Ka-kui and May are pounded with these pocket pyrotechnics until they're both snivelling, sobbing wrecks.

Interestingly, Ka-kui doesn't grit his teeth and power through, instead he cries and pleads with his captors to spare his girlfriend. Human frailty is an underrated virtue in action films, it only really weakens heroes in the eyes of sociopaths and teenagers. Everyone else is hoping that the victim will dig deeper and act a little nastier when the tables are turned.

Despite the BBFC's concerns, menace is something that Hong Kong films really, truly excel at. Since firearms are far from common on the island filmmakers have to get creative with their physical intimidation, often arriving at a situation full of visceral, easily digestible danger. Waving a gun around is mechanical and rote, it's an object that confers power and forces a situation. A movie prop for a movie situation.

The abstract danger of a gun, for most people, only accentuates the disconnect. A firework though, everyone's been around a firework. Jackie Chan using the visual language of Chinese New Year to terrify and entertain. It works all around the world too. Everyone's familiar with fireworks. For British children they're a commodity explosive that only adults can buy, wheeled out to celebrate / condemn Guy Fawkes' attempt to kill King James I. In America, July 4th serves a similar function.

You've probably seen your Mum or Dad light one then fretted when they didn't seem to be putting quite enough distance between themselves and the resulting detonation. Tradition hard-codes this sense of trepidation about these colourful explosives. You already have a horrifying idea about what they may do to naked flesh. Chan actually shows you, then overcomes it.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Jurassic World

Jurassic World takes place in an appalling alternative universe in which bratty teenagers are completely numb to the sheer magic of a Tyrannosaurus Rex grinding a goat to mulch. Pre-release press and Universal's ad campaign seemed to share this detached indifference, selling hard on the kind of corporate cynicism that dictates we need a brand new Super Dinosaur and a pack of rehabilitated Velociraptors.

JP4's mammal characters are split between fans and cynics. Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins) and raptor handler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) are the enthusiasts, allowing themselves to be wowed. They react to the animals as they are, rather than how they might want them to be. Gray's older brother Zach (Nick Robinson) and his Auntie Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the resort's Operations Manager, understand the dinosaurs as abstracts that confer different kinds of value. Claire sees them as interchangeable assets to be managed, Zach gets to throb around the teenage girls they attract.

Colin Trevorrow falls in with the enthusiasts, elevating the special effects to featured players with character detailing to rival the human lead's admittedly slim pickings. Owen and Claire are closer to premises than fully-rounded characters. Their interactions have a similar irritated frisson as Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas in Romancing the Stone, but that's about it.

Claire's big character moment is outrunning an apex predator in the heels she has stubbornly refused to relinquish. Owen is an all-purpose action man relegated to the role of babysitter for the finale. Claire and Owen's relationship never really adds up to anything more important than a way to ape an iconic shot from Raiders of the Lost Ark. The real stars are, obviously, the dinosaurs.

Jurassic World's latest attraction is the Indominus Rex, a committee shaped chimera that gobbles up siblings and is blessed with a suite of camouflage techniques. There's an open contempt at work in how Indominus has been designed, her outline is essentially that of a Rex but with muscular talons replacing that species' vestigial arms.

Owen, speaking with the authority of God, describes the Indominus as being the prehistoric equivalent of a psychopath. She isn't just isolated, she knowingly resides outside any prescribed social order. She's never existed before so she doesn't know any limits. It's an interesting point, is it expected that these resurrected beasts are functioning with a race memory? Do they instinctively fit into roles or are they remembering them from their original, pre-extinction lives?

In this sense, it's easy to enjoy the Indominus' rampage. The park scientists cooked up a truly satanic dinosaur in an attempt to impress Verizon Wireless enough to part with some sponsorship money. Everyone expects it to play ball, being just threatening and monstrous enough that the communication company's executives are pleased with it.

Indominus should be a product that confers a sense of dynamism, instead it's a crocodile mawed hag that rends anything it comes into contact with. She's not defending herself, she's actively, aggressively seeking conflict. How's that for a company mascot?

Glimpsed as pliant missiles tracking alongside Chris Pratt's motorcycle in early trailers, JP4's raptors are, thankfully, very far from being domesticated. The crackpot plan to use them as bloodhounds to track the Indominus fails miserably, handing the Indominus a pack of stooges to take the fall while she makes her escape. This solves one of the bigger conceptual hurdles Jurassic World had to mantle - there can be no good or bad dinosaurs, they should all instead be barbed mouths that flex and snap for chaotic reasons.

Trevorrow and his special effects teams approach the feature monsters with a sense of reverence, the Tyrannosaurus Rex in particular is treated with the kind of awe and affection you'd expect for an ageing star. It's not unlike how Terminator: Salvation presented its digital Arnold, an indefatigable icon that shoulders tremendous punishment because the filmmakers know it's a great idea on loan from a better film.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015


For Honor, Ubisoft Montreal's latest, promises to mix Shadow of Rome style viscera with some lightly strategic multiplaying. Based on this trailer, players can expect to control Vikings, Samurai, and plate-armoured Knights, all of which are twelve foot tall and exceptionally brawny. It's like an episode of Deadliest Warrior as designed by Hiroshi Hirata.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

E3 2015 - PEPPY

Shigeru Miyamoto's ode to flying under torii gates returns with Star Fox Zero, a multi-level scrolling shooter co-developed by Platinum Games. Zero will be an episodic adventure with a structure based on Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's Thunderbirds as well as a transformation gimmick on loan from the cancelled SNES Star Fox 2.


Not too sure about that release date but everything else about Super Mario Maker speaks to pure, unadulterated joy. Never mind that this level editor lets you drag in power-ups that summon Link and other 8-bit Nintendo dudes, you can actually change the entire graphical style on the fly. What's better? The bleak simplicity of Super Mario Bros or Super Mario World's chubby, primary colours?

E3 2015 - HEADS UP

The scale of personal property damage in this new trailer for Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is up there with the opening of Jackie Chan's Police Story. Never mind killing every adult male in a never-ending parade of third world countries, Nathan Drake is going to trash their family's small, cart based business too, ensuring all the kids go to bed hungry. Still, this glimpse of Naughty Dog's latest looks to be the Sistine Chapel of driving-forward-in-an-action-game interludes.


Square Enix and IO Interactive bringing some of that Roger Deakins glam to their asexual murderer games. Hitman looks like a soft-reboot for a series that became increasingly obsessed with exploring the motivations of its paper thin characters. Thankfully the fragmented nature of this tease seems to imply that Agent 47 is back playing the marble in a massive, lavish reorganising of Mouse Trap.


After last year's frustrating, upscaled graphics bait-and-switch, Square Enix are finally delivering a lot of people's dream game (not mine), a current-gen Final Fantasy VII. Intense, nostalgic euphoria aside, it's encouraging to see Japanese developers wading back into the AAA space to wave their next-gen wares about. If Capcom can just remember how to how to make genre defining games again and Konami can find it in their hearts to woo back Hideo Kojima, then we'll be golden.

E3 2015 - DEVOLVE

Devolver Digital were at Sony's E3 conference last night showing off their 2016 catalogue. Ronin looks like an 8-bit Capcom explorer such as Bionic Commando but with Tenchu: Stealth Assassins executions and flash animation polish. Eitr reminds me of EA's The Immortal with added Dark Souls contrariness. Mother Russia Bleeds is my favourite, a Streets of Rage side-scroller filtered through Eternal Champions' Overkill fatalities and a general sense of alcoholic despair. Finally, Crossing Souls has the same pastel coloured crush as umpteen licensed SNES games and cut-scenes straight out of 90s conveyor belt animation.

E3 2015 - CHAPPIE

Did you think Destiny was far too colourful? Where you disappointed that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare didn't steal every single good idea Titanfall had? Have Treyarch got a game for you! In the interest of pure honesty, Call of Duty: Black Ops III actually struck me as reasonably appealing. Gun design once again favours pipes and barrels over PDW blocks, and Treyarch are right to plunder their stablemate Bungie for multiplayer special moves - remember, it's not unbalanced if everybody can do it. If Treyarch can match these best-in-field steals with the kind of map flow and spawn progression they had back in 2010, they might even rescue a franchise stuck in the doldrums.


Even putting aside the absolutely bonkers, out-of-nowhere Shenmue III announcement, it was a kick to see a real video game innovator like Yu Suzuki enjoying a standing ovation from the gaming press at Sony's E3 conference. Suzuki was the absolute cornerstone of Sega's golden age, having at least a guiding hand in creating games like Hang-On, OutRun, Space Harrier, After Burner, Virtua Racing, Virtua Cop, and Virtua Fighter.

E3 2015 - COLLAPSE

The Last Guardian on PS4 may look a little like a remastered re-issue of a PS3 game that was never actually released, but at least you're instantly getting all the positives a next-gen update usually confers. This trail hints at a rock solid frame rate and enough raw power to keep the unwieldy physics effects (the long-rumoured reason for the game's last-gen no-show) ticking over nicely.


Looks like someone working on Street Fighter V's roster is a fan of Capcom and Psikyo's forgotten Commando update Cannon Spike. First they announce Nash, who admittedly was a strong presence in the Street Fighter Alpha series, now Capcom's second-lady Cammy turns up covered in gunslings and bandoliers, an outfit straight out of the Dreamcast multi-directional shooter.


The more popular of the Fallout 4 trailers doing the rounds gives you an extended look at the character creation overhauls and how your story hinges on a relationship with a loveable, stray dog. It wants you to make an emotional investment. This one features comical, shoulder-mounted garbage hurlers that can pulp the heads of enemies blessed with names like 'Raider Scum'. I know which one better represents my previous dealings with the wasteland.


Studio MDHR are back with another trailer for their beautiful Cuphead, a game that resides at the collision point between Gunstar Heroes and Fleischer Studios animation. Video games are good at magpie-ing visual cues, anime and manga have been thoroughly plundered for effects, but they rarely work so hard to properly contextualise the swipe. Cuphead doesn't just cherry-pick the ideas, it looks exactly like an interactive Popeye cartoon.

E3 2015 - 10,000 GAMERSCORE

Hopefully Rare Replay and Sea of Thieves signal a change in Microsoft's attitude towards the underappreciated studio. Not sure why you'd buy a second-party Nintendo studio then have them working solely on wallet bleeding t-shirts for online avatars. Anyway, Sea of Thieves has nifty cannonball firing animations and Rare Replay promises a curated moment feature that allows you to dip in and out of the assembled classics.


Perhaps Konami have finally twigged that Metal Gear Solid as a brand is indistinguishable from Hideo Kojima? As if to allay fears that the interaction auteur had been snatched off the project, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain's big E3 tease runs with a front-and-centre direction and editing credit for Kojima.

E3 2015 - HOTH

Star Wars Battlefront has got to be the easiest sell in the world. If DICE doing Battlefield with a space opera skin wasn't exciting enough, then you've got John Williams' rousing marching standards and Ben Burtt's indelible sound effects elevating the entire package into the fucking atmosphere. Good to see Luke firmly back in his black, ten-thousand-times-cooler-than-sweaty-old-robes Jedi outfit too.

E3 2015 - DOOM

Despite the Crysis cyborg suit and a brand new mantling mechanic, Id Software's latest pass at Doom looks to be maintaining the original games core appeal of wildly cycling through loads of amazing, gigantic guns while throngs of demons charge at you from every angle. The de rigueur executions barely feel like a betrayal either, they're just another excuse to fill the screen with gibs.


Platinum Games' take on Transformers is predictably perfect - a colour-popped, cel-shaded version of Generation One that looks like a cross between the beautiful Nelson Shin animated movie and Studio Ox's TV Magazine angles. This vid demonstrates a pretty bare game that looks more like a proof-of-concept than a full fleshed out game. Still, the Decepticon generics are wonderfully obscure, they all look like Runamuck with colour schemes borrowed from Whirl and the Stunticons.

Monday, 15 June 2015

E3 2015 - MOTHER

Famicom classic Mother makes the leap to the Wii U as EarthBound Beginnings. Presumably, given Nintendo's reluctance to get under the hood and tinker with legacy releases, this is a straight port of the 8-bit game. For people who struggle with embedded videos, Mother is an obstinate, surreal jab at the Dragon Quest formula, set in the United States as seen through the eyes of Japanese software developers.

Sunday, 14 June 2015


Nintendo are getting the jump on E3 with a couple of big announces. First up is Street Fighter stalwart Ryu being added to both the Wii U and 3DS versions of Super Smash Bros. Ryu makes the crossover with the majority of his movelist intact, apparently you can even use old Street Fighter II negative edge techniques to store up inputs for special moves.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Jurassic Park III

The Jurassic Park films have real issues mounting a satisfying finale. Each is apparently operating under an undisclosed agreement to never actually have the humans and dinosaurs go claw-to-claw. Instead the tiny, pathetic fleshlings must mantle obstacles and flee. Few of these characters ever think to pack a gun when jetting off to any of the series' dinosaur islands, even if they do it's usually junked before they can unload on any advancing threat.

Either this is an attempt at an animal rights informed, conservation angle or the filmmakers just really want to keep their adventurers forever on the back foot. Mind you, it's not like you could blow the arm off a raptor and still maintain a family friendly certificate. Not in 2001 when Jurassic Park III was released anyway. Director Joe Johnston continues this passive trend with an airless finale that sees the malevolent new apex threat frightened off by the brief whoosh of petrol igniting and a pack of Velociraptors are placated with a flute.

Johnston is fine when it comes to arranging the specifics of hazard action but a little lacking when the time comes to go in for the kill. Unlike Spielberg who, let's face it, is a bloodthirsty savage, Johnston's just not interested in the gruesome details. Dismemberment is handled politely and usually obscured. Several deaths even involve some casual neck-twisting. This decorum jibes badly with a 90 minute screenplay going full speed ahead. JP3 is plotted like a state-of-the-art B picture but executed with all the excess of one of Disney's True-Life Adventures.


A trailer and an impressions video from VideoGamerTV for Street Fighter V. As the guys mention in their discussion, it looks like Yoshinori Ono and his teams are trying to give the new game some of Street Fighter III: Third Strike's reversal magic. Although only a handful of characters are either shown or discussed, it looks like the new V-Trigger gauge will allow certain characters to absorb or even repel fireballs, much like a buffed version of the III series' parry system.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The Lost World - Jurassic Park

The Lost World - Jurassic Park is a nastier, more overtly comedic sequel that cuts the dimwit awe of the original film to jampack the setpieces. Framed by an expedition straight out of King Kong, Steven Spielberg's film also takes a few basic structural cues from Aliens. As with James Cameron's follow-up our lead is a reluctant survivor, in this case Jeff Goldblum's Dr Ian Malcolm, being forced back into the fray. Like Ripley, Malcolm is (eventually) flanked by a team of experts armed with military hardware that kind of looks like lightly dressed filmmaking equipment.

Spielberg's tonal approach is largely impartial. The Dinosaurs aren't demonised, no matter who they gobble up. It is understood that the humans are trespassers wandering into the realm of the animals. That makes them fair game. Spielberg and screenwriter David Koepp construct a never-ending attack factory to whittle this army down to something more dramatically manageable. Jurassic Park had action sequences that revolved around surviving in close proximity to prehistoric monsters. Spielberg played the moment, trusting that the effects were a big enough presence to maintain interest. Lost World presumes this element of surprise has been lost, these dinosaurs are therefore demoted to a further, spikier layer of threat in a series of minutely composed catastrophes.

Consequently, the film's joys are more to do with technique than anything organic. Characters do have arcs but for some reason they all terminate around the 100 minute mark. The San Diego finale that follows this resolution therefore feels tacked on. Key characters are absent for no stated reason and the two leads have picked up incongruent action abilities between scenes. The film also stops dead in its tracks for several minutes while we cycle through some lame suburban skit about night terrors. Lost World's best stretch then is the breathless charge towards an extraction point that caps the second act. During this gauntlet the dwindling survivors have to dodge both a pack of Velociraptors and the twin Tyrannosaurs.

Pete Postlethwaite's Roland Tembo is an interesting presence in this section, another Great White Hunter testing himself against these ancient titans. Tembo lugs around a double-barrelled cannon and hopes to blast a hole in the Bull Rex. When he finally fells his quarry, Tembo slips into a depressive funk. He may have successfully brought down the greatest apex predator in history but he's lost too many friends. He doesn't feel the victory, he's burnt himself out. Simultaneously, Malcolm and pals are scrambling all over a dilapidated techno-shack, pursued by Raptors. Although they haven't really clashed, at this point every major character has had their objective converge and conclude. Shame there's another twenty minutes to go. Still, if nothing else, those superfluous minutes do offer the audience a chance to see a crowd of millionaires getting a collective concussion.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park puts us in the company of a succession of flawed, grasping men struggling with their place in the world. Their default coping mechanisms tend towards career. Whether through intent or just plain slightness of writing, the vast majority of males in Steven Spielberg's film are explicitly defined by their job. We have a couple of scientists, several corporate climbers, and even a Great White Hunter. Each, in turn, is proven flawed or even expendable. Men fail in Jurassic Park because they have no underlying responsibility, their skill sets are defined by ego and therefore found wanting.

The only specimen to transcend this holding pattern is Sam Neill's Dr Alan Grant, a grumpy palaeontologist. We are introduced to Grant in his professional capacity as a Dinosaur Dig Supervisor. Grant wanders around upsetting computers and frightening children with vivid descriptions of their consumption. Grant is in a relationship with Laura Dern's Dr Ellie Sattler, a much younger palaeobotanist. The difference in age suggests a kind of conspiratorial impropriety between the two, perhaps beginning in a University setting? Anyway, she wants him to settle down and have children. He'd rather poke around old bones. It's a poor start for Grant.

Grant has greatness thrust open him when the titular resort goes into meltdown leaving him stranded in the Tyrannosaurus paddock with two children in tow. Grant had been alarmed by the idea of offspring, they'd ruin his fun and probably smell. All in all, an extra responsibility he just doesn't need. Nevertheless, Grant warms to the youngsters quickly. Like himself, Joseph Mazzello's Tim is a walking dinosaur encyclopaedia, Ariana Richards' Lex is blonde and forthright like Dr Sattler. They're an instant, fully-formed representation of the kind of family the couple might expect to have.

The children are a leavening influence on Grant, not only do they force him to become stable and emotional available they even eke out his latent sense-of-humour. Grant has instantly understood that he has to take a very specific role in this situation, he must be strong and calm, towering above any danger the gang might find themselves in. In order to keep the children from becoming catatonic Grant must be their rock. Like the T-800 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Dr Grant has become a surrogate father. Maybe this is why the film struck such a chord with its young audience? Set aside the perennial prehistoric favourites and you have a piece that treats children as precious commodities that intrinsically confer purpose.

Monday, 8 June 2015


Capcom double-down on their re-release strategy with HD makeovers for Resident Evil 0 and the NES Mega Man games. With any luck we'll eventually get some sort of Onimusha collection and some of the company's so-called curate's eggs like Killer7God Hand. or maybe even Shadow of Rome.

I'd also like to see Capcom revisit their arcade releases. We've had loads of collections before but they all tend to focus on early output rather than refined iteration. A complete Street Fighter II package with all five games would be fantastic. Even better would a comprehensive package dedicated to how Capcom could take any licensed premise and turn it into a thoroughly entertaining side-scrolling beat 'em up. Neither Alien vs Predator nor Cadillacs and Dinosaurs deserve to be forgotten.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015


Bethesda get the jump on E3 with a full-blown trailer for Fallout 4. Although it's not much of a looker compared to something like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the post-apocalyptic splendour of this Boston wasteland does look enticing. Can't wait to be three levels deep in some irradiated bunker scratching around for batteries.

I wonder if the pre-bomb interludes are just included here to frame the game's madcap culture or if they represent a literal piece of the experience? Previous entries in the series have trusted the audience to cotton onto the 1950s exceptionalism-gone-wrong premise. Perhaps Bethesda are looking to ape The Last of Us' great, playable fall-of-man sequence? If you're gonna steal, you might as well steal from the best eh?

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Jackie Chan in the 1980s - Dragons Forever

Sammo Hung and Corey Yuen steer the Three Brothers cycle to a close with Dragons Forever, a sappy, scrappy entry that sees each of the principal stars acting wildly against type. Hung puts himself front-and-centre with a turn as a soft-hearted arms dealer that allows him to play a chaste romance with older lady, Deannie Yip. This relationship, and a parallel romance for Jackie Chan, forms the meat of Dragons' second-act, muscling out some mounting intrigue surrounding a gang of smack dealers and their New Romantic heavies.

Yuen Biao pops in and out of the film as Tung, a principled inventor prone to psychotic flights of fancy. It's a juvenile, supplementary part very much in the vein of Austin Wai in Fearless Hyena II or an insane version of Biao's own David from Wheels on Meals. As is usually the case, Biao's gymnastic perfection is wasted with a role best described as an recurring plot obstacle. Tung is essentially a malfunctioning robot child, programmed to ruin burgeoning relationships with ill-timed appearances.

As an idea, simple-minded violence maps nicely onto Biao's youthful, underdog persona. Hung and Yuen choose to keep the actor underdeveloped and on the margins though, the bulk of his story on the cutting room floor. Come the finale, the high-kick MVP is fed to the alpha heavy to raise the stakes for a confrontation with Chan. Unfortunately, despite some early promise, Biao's interjections are akin to Jim Varney's Earnest suddenly turning up in the middle of a Rob Reiner film. Tung is an irritant you always feel ill-prepared for.

Jackie Chan's character Lung is the biggest departure of all, a corrupt mob lawyer who's not above cracking uncooperative women across the face. Chan's flirted with sourness before, his roles in the Lucky Stars films had an arrogant, impatient clip to them, but Lung is actually sleazy. Every woman is ogled. According to Bey Logan's commentary, the chartered boat seduction Lung employs to woo Pauline Yeung's character was a proven method for rich businessmen looking to ooze around beauty pageant contestants.

Logan insinuates that Lung's womanising is a lot closer to the real life Jackie Chan than the relentless do-gooder persona Police Story had minted. He also states outright, quoting Sammo Hung, that Chan was the main stumbling block to further Three Brothers films - he just didn't want to make them. Hung had helped resurrect Chan's career after a couple of duds and the star's US misadventures, but by 1988 Jackie Chan had three proven formulas to riff off for sequels. He didn't need his Big Brother anymore.

Perhaps there was a quality issue in play too? Wheels on Meals and Heart of Dragon had delivered but the Lucky Stars films had gotten increasingly ramshackle. Chan's guest spot in Winners & Sinners had evolved into a recurring obligation to prop up an action finale. Chan's involvement also ensured that the films would be an attractive proposition for the Japanese market. With this in mind, it's easy to see a kind of courting going on in how the film's finale is arranged.

Benny Urquidez is back, recruited to play a henchman with a Yuppie haircut and Blitz Kids make-up. His eyebrows are fair against pale skin, he looks singed, like Arnold Schwarzenegger after tackling Reese's improvised car bomb in The Terminator. Urquidez soundly thrashes both Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, paving the way for a feature showdown with Jackie.

Urquidez's demolition of Biao is especially galling. A two-handed assault on a wave of anonymous henchmen saw Biao blow Chan off the screen. Biao is lithe and perfect in his movement. Chan is fine, incredible even, but Dragons Forever thoroughly demolishes the myth that Jackie performs every single one of his stunts. There are at least four obvious instances of the star being doubled in this sequence - two of which utilise slow motion. These moments jar, even more so following some immaculate near misses from Biao.

Dragons Forever is the kind of film that makes you wish that there was more Hong Kong movie gossip floating around in English. Who doesn't want to read about the conflicts and clashing egos? Was Urquidez brought in for a rematch to keep Chan happy? Did Chan sulk after his directors made zero effort to conceal Chin Kar-lok's doubling? Or is it simply a case of incessant injuries finally starting to add up? Jackie Chan had a leading role in twenty films during the 1980s, a punishing workload for any actor, never mind one who routinely broke his bones and ordered Kodak film by the ton.

Transformers vs GI Joe #9 by Tom Scioli