Saturday, 31 October 2015

007 - Moonraker

Moonraker rises above the rest of the Roger Moore dreck by dispensing with any pretence of plot, or even reality. Moonraker is a malfunctioning gag generator; spitting out wild, expensive, situations with zero tonal care. Brutal scenes of a secretary being savaged by two slavering Doberman are swiftly followed by 007 driving around Venice streets in an air-cushioned gondola. Moore is no longer called upon to do anything quite so outmoded as acting, instead he's a geographical reference point in a never-ending succession of action. Bad-guy Hugo Drax challenges Bond with a plan that somehow manages to combine the pliant doe-eyed dumb-dumbs of Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom with vast, Gerry Anderson trumping Supermarionation. Good for him. 

Michael Lonsdale plays Drax as a fascistic, high-functioning autistic who somehow holds sway over an army of Sea Org morons who can't wait to die in space. Drax's elite soldiers pile out into the void to be vaporised by NASA's death-ray commandos. We see hundreds of lifeless goons frozen in the kind of laser-scorched tableaux that would end up stamped all over 1980s toy packaging. Richard Kiel's Jaws is back by popular demand, hurrying Bond forward in lots of violent, exciting ways. A welcome change from the leaden plotting that ruined the last two 007 films. Thanks to an outpouring of support from the world's bloodthirsty schoolchildren, Kiel's gigantic, silent brute is thrust into the role of a second-lead. His popularity is such that Moonraker bends over backwards to assure us that Jaws and his diminutive bride will be able to survive piloting space station debris through an uncontrolled atmospheric entry. Moonraker is a Saturday-morning cartoon.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Call of Duty: Black Ops III - NUK3TOWN

Perennial pre-order bonus Nuketown is back! This time with an even fresher coat of textures! Not to mention a runny around bit on each flank just so you know the developers were sort-of, kind-of thinking about the new game's mechanics. Call of Duty: Black Ops III is out in about a week.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Keith Murray - This That Shit (Blunted Remix)

007 - The Spy Who Loved Me

Director Lewis Gilbert invests The Spy Who Loved Me with the same light touch he brought to You Only Live Twice, which is handy because they're both basically the same film. As with James Bond's Japanese adventure, The Spy Who Loved Me revolves around an improbable leviathan swallowing up state-of-the-art Cold War technology, in this case nuclear submarines, from both sides of the Iron Curtain. Roger Moore's 007 is joined on his investigation by Agent Triple X, a Soviet spy played by Barbara Bach who would rather be slipping a stiletto between Bond's ribs. The couple start off competing for information in Egypt until Richard Kiel's grilled-out assassin clamps down on their leads. There's the germ of a great thriller in The Spy Who Loved Me: two antagonistic secret agents fighting like hell to stay one step ahead of Kiel's massive slasher killer. 

Unfortunately this Bond knows he's invincible, Bach is reduced to a wet t-shirt and Kiel disappears for long stretches while the film churns through agonising formula. Gilbert does get the most out of Spy's increased budget though, drafting Ken Adam back into service to create a massive, futurist, submarine hanger that was so difficult to light that the production designer had to call in a favour from his pal Stanley Kubrick. Spy excels then in terms of technique rather than narrative. Second unit director John Glen stages some excellent skiing stunts for the pre-credit action, culminating in an insane jump from Rick Sylvester. Cameraman Willy Bogner Jr, an Olympic skier himself, keeps Sylvester dead centre of the frame all the way down. We see a tiny little man disappearing completely into a white, shapeless, void. It's terrifying. There's absolutely no sense of up or down. The ground and death could arrive at any moment. Then a Union Jack parachute unfurls, Monty Norman's theme blares, and the film cuts to a bored looking Roger Moore.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

007 - Spectre

Viewed deep into a recap of the series, Spectre's strengths are obvious: Daniel Craig can really move. Director Sam Mendes zeroes in on this fact, constructing an entire opening gambit around Craig's lumbering, percussive danger. Set to a chopped and repeated drum roll from Mexican musical group Tambuco, Bond forces his way through a Day of the Dead throng, a beautiful Art Nouveau hotel then, finally, an obstacle course generated out of rusting rooftop machinery. Every step falls like a hammer, every exertion transformed into an opportunity for 007 to readjust the lines of his suit.

The screenplay, credited to John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth, is less assured. Spectre plays like the middle portion of a trilogy that doesn't actually exist. Craig's last three entries are retroactively organised into a sweeping vendetta motivated by jealousy. Christoph Waltz's Franz Oberhauser is inelegantly slotted into Bond's history, their feud referred to in oblique, unsatisfying asides. Although Spectre is too glacial to resort to anything as gauche as a flashback, it's difficult to shake the desire to see a pre-teen Bond stirring up this animosity.

At times Spectre seems to be reaching for the same generational iniquities that powered the Harry Potter series - Bond and Léa Seydoux's love interest Dr Madeleine Swann are explicitly organised as children standing on the ruins of their parents. Skyfall pushed into Bond's difficult, personal areas finding a phantom born out of a cold, empty house. Spectre isn't so intrusive. Despite the personal threat, Bond doesn't fracture. Raoul Silva's feud has both prepared and completed him. 007 can now respond to these identity assaults with a confidence born out of routine. So what if Cain has resurfaced? Bond is too busy wriggling around enormous pro-wrestlers and trashing Aston Martin's DB10.

WoodysProduce - Fuck Western Digital Hard Drives / Talking to Astronauts

Fallout 4 - BOP

Since Fallout 4 is just under two weeks away from releases, Bethesda has seen fit to begin teasing their in-game perk system. Big Leagues is a melee damage modifier that allows you to turn the head of your enemy, or really any poor sod you meet out in the wasteland, into a chunky, red mess.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

007 - The Man with the Golden Gun

Nine films in the James Bond series is running on pure cynicism. Ian Fleming's The Man with the Golden Gun was a slight, unfinished novel that saw a compromised 007 shipped off to Jamaica on a suicide mission. Since this is only Moore's second adventure, obsolescence doesn't really fit the bill so Fleming's story about a KGB sanctioned pimp is reorganised into a dreary, unconvincing travelogue that occasionally allows Bond to peck at a dark twin played by Christopher Lee. Scaramanga resides in a pocket universe of tropical islands accented with nightmarish carnival violence, his residence a gaudy mash of low-art and new money living. The big idea being that this would be Bond if he gave into avarice and auctioned off his talents to the highest bidder.

Scaramanga is 007 tracked to the terrifying conclusion of an undead monster residing within a state-of-the-art mausoleum. This concept is good but it would work a little better if Lee's pistolero was reflecting off a particularly virtuous interpretation of Bond but, unfortunately, he isn't. Screenwriters Tom Mankiewicz and Richard Maibaum have written a Bond so indistinguishable from his enemy that when 007 starts sniping at Scaramanga for his amorality it registers as sanctimonious. Perhaps that's the point? Regardless, Golden Gun's Bond is a sadistic control freak who delights in his ability to dominate women both physically and mentally. In a film series not exactly noted for its chivalry, Golden Gun still manages to stand out with a hero that threatens to snap a helpless women's arm one minute, then is breaking out the bubbly to seduce her the next. Moore's performance manages to be both smarmy and robotic, a man so completely drained of charm that his see-sawing mood comes across as manic and psychotic rather than rakish.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III - SLIDE

Call of Duty: Black Ops III is out in a couple of weeks so here's jackfrags sliding around on the PC version, winding everybody up by using a shotgun whilst also being extremely difficult to hit. As far as I'm concerned this is the ideal way to play a Call of Duty game. Beating the competition is one thing, but really what you want to do is make your opponents so angry that they send you incoherent, rambling hate mail.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Tetsuo by Chris Faccone

Dark Souls III - TECH DEMO

Digital Foundry take a quick look at Dark Souls III's network stress test demo, nosing around the game's pre-release technical specifications as well as taking the time to show off From Software's latest fallen kingdom.

Friday, 23 October 2015

007 - Live and Let Die

Live and Let Die is a 70s remix of Dr. No, with Bond arriving in another nation shaking off the shackles of colonialism then promptly murdering his way to the top. In Roger Moore's debut Bond finds himself staring down Yaphet Kotto's softly-spoken Dr Kananga, a Caribbean super-criminal so successful that he can eat a billion dollar heroin loss and still have seemingly every black adult male in the Western Hemisphere on his books. On the surface it appears that Live and Let Die is an overlong action film that trades on an alarmist racial paranoia but, dig a little deeper, and the film starts to resemble an apocalyptic death match between two distinctly defined faiths each associated with consumption. Most obviously, Baron Samedi is a Voodoo loa synonymous with cigars, obscenity and rum. He's a bony figure that hovers between the realms of the living and dead, greeting the recently deceased and chasing after mortal women.  

James Bond, as both a literary character and film franchise, exists because of a kind of conceptual animism. He was willed into being by an ailing Empire desperate to remain vital after a financially crippling world war. 007 embodies everything Britain purports to love - ingenuity and clear-headedness - as well as everything we actually do love - violence and incessant crudity. Moore's new Bond is resurrection incarnate, an invincible sexual magnet blessed with a selection of obnoxious technological gadgets concealed in his shaving kit. He's empty, abdicating his most basic human gifts to electronics. Live and Let Die then presents Bond as a piece of overwhelming, arrogant, machinery cursed to have a dick between its legs.

Bond eventually clashes with Samedi during a choreographed ritual sacrifice. The ceremony is positioned in the film as a spot of casual brutality used by Kananga to conceal his headquarters and provide his doped out subjects with a distraction. Jane Seymour's virginal Solitaire is the prize, the locals want her bitten and devoured by snakes while Bond wants to do much the same to her himself. Samedi rises from the grave to oppose 007 and is swiftly dispatched, thrown into a coffin filled with pythons. Samedi's mistake was to try and confront Bond on the secret agent's celluloid turf. The magical spirit's impromptu gatherings are nothing compared to James Bond's million dollar annual rite. 

It's notable that the two most significant Bond actors share such a similar first adventure. Given the horridness going on in Britain in the latter decades of the 20th century it's tempting to imagine the whole process as some kind of Masonic power ritual: 007 is a spell cast by the rich and deranged to ensure Britain's economic prospects limp on a little further. George Lazenby strayed into the Bond role flanked by an army of filmmakers prepped to deliver their career-best work. Financially, and in terms of cultural penetration (On Her Majesty's Secret Service is often skipped over when ITV are broadcasting bumper blocks of Bond), they underperformed. Turns out all Lazenby really needed was a blockbuster story about a rugged white man travelling abroad to kill lots of poor black people.

Visions of the Future by Rui Onishi

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

007 - Diamonds Are Forever

James Bond finds himself in Las Vegas for Diamonds Are Forever, a boozy caricature that depicts a world ran entirely on corruption. 007 is packed off to the States on behalf of a wheezing old goat who, via some asides set in Sierra Leone, is portrayed as profiting off some pretty grim mining conditions. In short, the (first) world-threatening worry concerns a phantasmic super-criminal who's stockpiling precious stones in such quantities that he could, theoretically, flood the market and threaten this elderly British gentleman's monopoly.

Sean Connery returns as 007, thanks to George Lazenby's sudden departure from the role (not mention a lot of United Artists' money). Connery looks noticeably rougher here, a lounging, thick-set millionaire who couldn't care less about his greying temples. The secret agent's outfits no longer make him look like a well-dressed arrow either. Diamonds makes it clear that youth and vim went out with Lazenby - James Bond finally lumbered with a body better suited to the character's boundless consumption.  Somehow we've ended up with a film that resembles the terminally cynical fantasies of a middle-aged banker.

Despite the rather vicious material, Guy Hamilton seems convinced he's making a comedy. It feels as though the director is always just out of shot, hovering around behind the camera, imploring his actors to smile through the carnage. If the intense grinning is supposed to be a salve it doesn't work. Instead, it ends up lending the film a sense of real mania. Hamilton's anti-panache framing coupled with Bert Bates and John Holmes' slack fight editing invests every confrontation with a kind of ghoulish delight. It's as if Bond knows he's a character in a film, therefore no harm can ever come to him.

Moondragon - Man and Machine

Judge Dredd by Paul Harrison-Davies

Monday, 19 October 2015

007 - On Her Majesty's Secret Service

We observe James Bond. We watch him wade into danger and delight in his triumph. Bond is separate from both the audience and the language of the films he inhabits. Sean Connery is a caged animal, trapped and colliding with the film's edges, desperate to be free. Peter Hunt's On Her Majesty's Secret Service takes a different tack. The cool distance we've been trained to expect isn't there. Hunt opens Bond up to the audience with visual compositions designed to reflect and comment upon the secret agent's psychological state. These intentions are most apparent in the film's beautifully compiled fight scenes, each one a flurry of propulsive, fragmented, information. Lulls and outright absences simulate the feeling of being under attack and knowing your life is in danger.

A climatic battle between Bond and Telly Savalas' barrel-chested Blofeld is a cascade of frenetic energy, power swinging back-and-forth between the two foes. The soundtrack is an unbroken track of wheezing and struggling, a consistent thread of sound that instinctively organises the unfolding visuals. Hunt's emphatic approach to the material is complimented by George Lazenby's unsure, at times bolshie, performance. The actor is able to communicate an underlining uncertainty that his predecessor never had. Connery was dangerous but immune. Lazenby's deadliness is born of exertion, he isn't just clobbering stuntmen. Human failing is stressed, he doesn't defeat heavies with a well-placed strike, he brawls.

Lazenby invests his Bond with an emotional vulnerability, an essential quality if we are to believe that 007 has fallen in love. After a few run-ins with Diana Rigg's suicidal Tracy di Vicenzo, Bond is contracted by her father Marc-Ange Draco to, basically, fuck her out of her stupor. In return the secret agent expects fresh information concerning Blofeld's whereabouts. During the first stage of this courtship Bond gets to rescue Tracy a number of times, to her obvious chagrin. Although intrigued, it's unclear if Bond is truly interested in the relationship or just playing the part until he can run down Draco's leads. Seconded in Blofeld's Piz Gloria estate Bond still cats about with the glamorous female patients, apparently out of equal parts arrogance and boredom. Tracy is out of sight and out of mind. It's important then that when she does return to the film it's at a dramatically crucial moment.

Having spilled down a mountainside, Bond is tired, injured and pursued. He's lost his gun; his nerves are shot. For the first time on film 007 is visibly scared. The action pile-ups he's dragged himself through has finally taken its toll. He's cold and encircled, seconds away from forcing some suicidal confrontation. Then Tracy appears. Bond falls in love on the spot. He's never needed anybody so much. His expression is a mixture of surprise and awe. Tracy rescues and reinvigorates Bond, becoming the rare (only?) person he considers an equal in the process. Lazenby's performance drips appreciation. As the couple speed away in Tracy's Mercury Cougar he can't help pecking her on the cheek, an incessant, affectionate, little prod, as if he's trying to prove to himself that she's real. It's difficult to imagine the terminally cool Connery allowing himself to be this vulnerable or this sincere. His Bond runs on contempt. Connery may given Tracy an affectionate pat on the bottom but he wouldn't be catching feelings. Comparatively, Lazenby's take registers as human, romantic even - far closer to Ian Fleming's essentially chivalrous character than Connery's magnetic bounder.

Virtua Fighter by Gerald Parel

Tove Lo - Habits (Stay High) Hippie Sabotage Remix

Saturday, 17 October 2015

007 - You Only Live Twice

Ian Fleming's You Only Live Twice concerns a heartbroken Bond drinking himself into oblivion before hiding in an extremely dangerous garden hoping, praying, for a shot at revenge. Since the book series had already been adapted wildly out of order, the relationship between Bond and Blofeld hadn't yet developed into outright hatred - the pair still hadn't even met. Given the book's despairing tone, the task fell to former MI6 intelligence officer-cum-children's author Roald Dahl to fabricate an alternative Bond adventure. You Only Live Twice is a bit of a best-of compilation then, taking the fantastical, constituent parts of the first four Eon productions and combining them into a 007 super-narrative. Every idea that has ever landed onscreen is shovelled in, the obvious manufacturing process assuaged by Dahl's sly wit. 

You Only Live Twice takes the series' British superpower wish-fulfilment and dials it up into a knowing kind of absurdity. An opening conference in a frozen Norwegian radar station has Russian and American delegates at each other's throats, each blaming the other for their disappearing spacecraft. A well-spoken British diplomat sits in the centre and chides them both for being so short-sighted. It's a stance not that far removed from the one Japan was seen to take in films like Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster - an old colonial hand patiently reprimanding the up-and-coming world powers for their needless quarrelling. After faking his death in Hong Kong, Bond goes undercover in Japan, posing as the kind of business executive who thinks it's entirely proper to conceal a pistol. 

After 007's paper-thin cover is exposed the secret agent is whisked off to a fishing village, then disguised as a local, so that Bond and his allies can quietly nose around SPECTRE's latest extortion. This deception involves putting a noticeably older, not to mention thicker, Sean Connery in a lank black wig that makes him look like Deliverance era Burt Reynolds playing Frankenstein's monster. Somehow Connery carries this grinding nonsense off with his usual louche aplomb. Alfie director Lewis Gilbert continues the greatest hits vibe by deferring to a house style that cannibalises the most desirable aspects of Terence Young and Guy Hamilton's work. Gilbert's eye may creep over Ken Adam's beautiful ultra-modernist sets and the Toho starlets, but he never lingers coldly like Young. Similarly, although the new director's work has some Hamilton pep there's less of a sense that he's reaching for some cosmic, structural, joke. Gilbert is just a safe pair of hands.

Transformers vs GI Joe #11 by Tom Scioli

Street Fighter II': Rainbow Edition - HADOKEN

At its height, Street Fighter II was so popular that demand was outstripping Capcom's ability to manufacture cabinets. Unscrupulous types looking to score a cheap board quickly turned to the grey market for one of many Taiwanese hacks.

Street Fighter II: Rainbow Edition was the most common, a super sped up of version of Street Fighter II': Champion Edition full of gameplay tweaks that put balance in the ground. I remember getting a go of it in our local video shop, the appropriately titled Pirate Video. Ryu's deadly unfair criss-crossing fireballs was one thing, but being able to switch characters on the fly by smashing the player start buttons was absolutely mind-blowing.

Downwell - GUN BOOTS

Do you enjoy plummeting down bottomless 8-bit pits, firing deadly plasma out of your feet? If you do, Ojiro Fumoto's Downwell released this week on Steam and iOS! It's great. Douglas Wilson's article over on Polygon regarding his time as a beta tester is a good primer for the app, full of the kind of detailed thoughts and feelings you'd typically expect from a retrospective.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Fallout 4 - WANDER

Live action trailer for Bethesda's upcoming life-sucking abyss Fallout 4. Hey, do you know what the most exciting bit in this trailer is (well, for me any way)? The third-person action framing as the Vault 111 Wanderer gets into it with a gang of Super Mutants - there's just enough visual real estate available so you can clearly see the German Shepard speeding like a missile towards its quarry. It's like a beautifully coordinated sports play. As far as heart-tugging desperation goes, you can also do a lot worse than one man and his dog stuck in relentless, terrifying scenarios.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

007 - Casino Royale (1967)

Casino Royale is about how beautiful Ursula Andress is and precious little else. The film is a mess. Lacking any coherent dramatic thread, scenes bungle along like a series of chain reactions. David Niven's prissy Sir James Bond functions as the catalyst, a stuttering bore dragged out of retirement to flit around anointing successors and instigating a never-ending wave of digressive asides. Niven's scenes, some of which were directed by John Huston, revolve around a well-dressed English gent breezing through highly dangerous situations. His incredulous presence is a sight gag that plays in any language. It's an idea the 'official' Eon films would return to when Roger Moore became the series' driving force.

This spoof Bond project began as a something of a follow-up to What's New Pussycat? with spendthrift producer Charles Feldman hoping that the lightning generated by pairing Sellers with Woody Allen might strike twice. Unfortunately, Sellers' idea of a farcical 007 is a smartly dressed man prone to random, ultra-violent, outbursts; a shtick Sean Connery had long since canonised. Lacking any particularly outlandish - or even humorous - character ideas, Sellers appears to be playing his Bond reasonably straight. Although he breaks out some terminally unfunny comedy accents for the film's climactic baccarat game (with Orson Welles, no less), earlier scenes spent romancing Andress reach for pulsing machismo. 

Perhaps sensing the damage he stood to do his career, Sellers duffed up his director (and personal friend) Joseph McGrath then refused to participate in any more filming. Feldman's solution to a half-finished film? Throw millions upon millions at the screen. Cameos! Extravagant sets! A sumptuous song and dance sequence featuring Joanna Pettet's Mata Bond (the offspring of the British superspy and Mata Hari) that anticipates the glitzy Orientalism seen in Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Casino Royale's mise en scene heaves with expense, rambling action sequences are padded out with models rather than simply extras - each and every one of them wearing the latest Paris fashions. This manic kitsch is the best of Casino Royale though. The film may not have even a basic idea of how to build a consistent tone or sense of character but it is, at least, amusing to look at.

Super Street Fighter II X - RED BITE

Komoda Blanka putting a charcoal coloured version of his namesake to work. In Super Street Fighter II X Blanka is considered firmly mid-tier, so it's exciting to see someone turn convention on its head and outplay God Tier characters like Balrog and Vega. Look out for a young Daigo Umehara getting rushed down towards the end of the video too.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain - NUMBERS TICK UP

Chugging ever closer to a mid-80s completion percentage on Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain I started rooting around YouTube for some details on the hidden tasks I was expecting to be lumbered with. Instead I ended up stumbling on this video by Super Bunnyhop in which he talks about falling down Konami's resource management hole and how the game's optional tasks actually direct you to approach missions from unforeseen angles.

The Skulls Unit by witnesstheabsurd

Mazinger Z by Matias Bergara

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

007 - Thunderball

Terence Young's back in charge for a third and final pass at James Bond. Thunderball might be overlong and dramatically slack but at least 007 is calling the shots. As sumptuous and entertaining as Goldfinger is, that Bond comes very close to being a passenger. In Guy Hamilton's film the secret agent is a nosy parker swept up in events and reacting rather than actively participating. Young's Bond is no such thing. He's a dark cloud, sweeping over the tropical landscape, foretelling ruin. There's an element of mechanism in Young's take on Bond, a remorseless calculation in everything he does. Other people don't quite register with him, they're just not equally important. Allies get thumped. Love interests are used up and manipulated; 007 employing sex, and a dangling promise of romance, as a kind of coercion.

In Goldfinger Hamilton's Bond was having fun, tripping his enemies up then thwarting their plots. It was all a game to him. Young's version wants, needs, to win. He's a shark. Even his kiss-off lines are spitefully delivered. Instead of the usual levity, Young's Bond is a victor heaping on hate - the act of murder simply not enough for him. Four films in, we have an emerging franchise about a bad penny that fouls up the plans of the rich and psychotic. Terence Young tries to conform to this winning formula but can't quite help making a Biblical epic length treatise on cruelty. An underwater action sequence - that could have passed in a perfunctory shuffle - ends up being a sustained, terrifying, leer at interpersonal jeopardy. Colour-coded divers prod and stab at each other in a desperate, slow-motion struggle. Death piled upon death until cinematographer Ted Moore is photographing an expansive, leaking, vista filled with nothing but pain and termination. Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman wanted blockbusters, Young better suited to thrillers that dripped with venom.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

007 - Goldfinger

Dramatically, Goldfinger hinges on the idea that James Bond is so charming that even his enemies can't bear to be without his company. The secret agent comes into Auric Goldfinger's orbit as a repeated annoyance - he ruins a sunburnt Miami card scam then embarrasses the criminal on his own golf course. 007 does eventually prickle a certain curiosity in his foe by doling out oblique information at key moments. That, coupled with a little bit of flattery, sees Goldfinger take a shine to James Bond. Surrounded by mute henchmen and a troop of women who do very little to hide their disgust, Bond is at least someone for Auric to talk too. The secret agent is well educated in matters of sabotage, able to guess the particulars of Operation Grand Slam to Goldfinger's clear delight. Bond even manages to fluster the portly bullion thief with a well-timed compliment. There's that charm again. Follow it up with a petty snipe to keep your blushing quarry guessing.

Bond's sexual magnetism is stressed into absurdity here too. In the first fifteen minutes of Guy Hamilton's film we see traces of four distinct seductions, each woman putty in 007's hands. Although it may not seem like it fifty years hence, this is actually a bit of a departure for the character. Dr. No's Bond was confident but brusque. One of his most significant conquests achieved through a specific kind of social hectoring - Miss Taro had to keep him in her apartment until her armed accomplices arrived so, in turn, she had to be seduced. Presumably, 007's irresistibility is built into the piece to justify Pussy Galore's abrupt allegiance switch towards the end of the film. Galore overcomes an obvious, stated, disinterest in men thanks to a spot of Judo. Bond hurls the daredevil aviator about a stable until she agrees that she's met her physical equal. The tryst is violent, the dynamic murky. Are Pussy's affections really won or does she simply relent when faced with a powerful, sexually aggressive, man? After all, she's back piloting a private jet for the enemy not twenty minutes later. Perhaps Pussy is simply a survivor who has, sadly, been conditioned to play pliant whenever men start waving their weapons about?

Friday, 9 October 2015

007 - From Russia with Love

From Russia with Love is a more luxurious proposition than Dr. No. The film is confident, stately even, not quite so rough around the edges. For a start Ian Fleming's alarmist world-view is softened considerably. The evil Soviet empire of his novel is deferred, with all the serial killer recruitment transplanted onto a stateless terrorist organisation that wastes its time murdering lookalikes. The SPECTRE we saw in Dr. No was rooted in a kind of post-war paternalistic panic - an organisation filled with duplicitous, indigenous, Jamaicans lead by a Chinese super-criminal intent on scuppering America's Mercury rockets. In Dr. No self-determination, a starkly British concern in the 1960s, was treated as a very real threat to world stability. The film mixing general Red Scare with Sinophobia and a peculiar appeal from the UK for a continued, geopolitical, relevance. 

If the Crown's ideals are stripped away, what could possibly replace them? Heaven forbid, Maoism? These thorny little anxieties are absent from Terence Young's follow-up. From Russia with Love's syndicate is instead firmly European. A trashy, moneyed, collective with access to helicopters, Wehrmacht surplus and deep enough pockets to buy out card-carrying Communists. Incidentally, the Soviets themselves are depicted here as irrelevant dupes. This Bond is too busy braining stuntmen in black polo necks to worry about any ideological clash. From Russia with Love then is a sequel suffused with doubling. Like 007, SPECTRE's agents takes their orders from a well-educated, Received Pronunciation, accent behind a grand wooden desk. Bond is given two doppelgängers, an ageing Turkish womaniser who heads up British operations in the East and Robert Shaw's Red Grant, a blonde phantom that trails Bond across Europe. Grant is 007's unhinged reflection, a less refined version of the dapper secret agent who hasn't quite learned how to match an appropriate wine to the food he's just ordered. When the two clash they are indistinguishable, a flurry of stamping legs and clasping hands, framed tight for maximum violence.

James Blake and Justin Vernon - The Sound of Silence


Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka talk us through the design process when creating the first stage in Super Mario Bros. Miyamoto explains how they used a sense of weight and momentum to forge a link between the player and their on-screen character, as well as detailing how World 1-1's basic layout acts as a dynamic tutorial.


Katsuhito Ishii's proof-of-concept trailer for an upcoming Gamera reboot has been screened at the New York Comic Con. Ishii directed cult fav Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl, as well as contributing to both Redline and Kill Bill Volume 1's animated sequence. Based on this footage, Ishii is turbo-charging CG monster mashers with the kind of yucky detailing and dynamic destruction you'd expect from the very best apocalypse anime.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Star Wars Battlefront - BIG ROCK

Star Wars Battlefront looks set to be one of the all-time greatest virtual playsets. Can't afford to buy hundreds of Kenner figures? Even if you can, do you lack the imagination to dream up a compelling confrontation scenario? Let EA DICE do all the work for you!

If Battlefield YouTuber jackfrags is to be believed the third-person camera option, which best replicates the visual experience of playing with your favourite toy, grants a significant advantage. First-person aiming and zooming roots you to the spot, while third-person allows you to strafe from side-to-side, frustrating your opponents as you pour on the damage.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

007 - Dr. No

Sean Connery's portrayal of James Bond stays interesting thanks to his relationship with violence. He willingly places himself in dangerous situations as if to test, or maybe even flaunt, his ability to turn the tables then do serious harm. There's a kind of daredevil savagery to the portrayal, helped along by the physical agitation Peter Hunt invests into his helter-skelter editing. Whilst in London, director Terence Young shoots Bond in open, airy, rooms. They're beautifully dressed but obviously sets. You get a sense of the parlour games to come, with Bond as the know-it-all detective breezing through soured social situations to right a series of wrongs. This assumption dies once Bond lands in Jamaica. 

Met by a nervous chauffeur, Bond immediately gets on the phone to radio in with his superiors. No car has been sent by the British embassy. Young holds on Bond's face - dark eyes fixed on his anxious quarry, a smile creeping up the corner of his mouth. An opportunity for violence has immediately revealed itself. Bond's reason for being in the Caribbean is initially contextualised as a waste of time - a radio operator in a colonial holding is missing calls because he's, quite probably, ran off with his secretary. On site, Connery's bolt upright Bond stands out as he prowls around the island's tanned officials. 007 is bigger and louder than these slouches, he's a muscled predator determined to take up as much physical space as possible. Bond's enemies start out as local lads with pistols before graduating all the way up to a mad scientist with metal hands. None register as particularly taxing for the lethal secret agent. Dr. No then is about the joy of overwhelming force, Bond as the house brick sent to smash an insect.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


As well as adding a shotgun strap that sways around like a pair of pendulous testicles, Marcos Abenante's Brutal Doom mod also reorganises the game's levels, replaces the puny pistol with an assault rifle, and accents the action with zillions of repulsive new gore effects.

Cross-gen video game sequels tend to rethink their progenitors, taking the original idea back to square one armed with new tech. Brutal Doom instead uses current hardware to scale everything up into delirium. More enemies on-screen, moving faster, behaving with a greater intelligence. Doom Dash Turbo. In that sense Abenante's take on id Software's classic has a lot in common with Treasure's Bangai-O - why burn memory building highly detailed sprites when you can just cram two dozen Hell Knights into a tiny room?

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Jackie Chan in the 1980s

The 1980s was a period of great change for Jackie Chan. The actor-director began the decade re-working the bumpkin persona he had minted in the 70s under Yuen Woo-ping. Chan and his collaborators had been so successful in bringing comedy to the traditional kung-fu film that he was stuck replaying a formula; remixing the same basic format over and over again until it ended up the Hong Kong equivalent of a movie brat disaster.

A run-in with organised crime facilitated an ultimately disappointing attempt to break the American market. Chan was stuck with a string of disinterested, sometimes antagonistic, genre directors, bristling at his lack of control. The star bounced back by focusing on several collaborations with his Peking Opera School 'brothers' Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao. Borrowing the rough and ready approach of the Hong Kong New Wave, the trio worked together to devise an electrifying new action template that would end up making Chan the biggest box office draw in Asia.

Below are links to my thoughts on all of Jackie Chan's 80s output, ordered by their Hong Kong release date. Just click on the title to be taken to the review.

The Young Master (1980) dir. Jackie Chan
Battle Creek Brawl (1980) dir. Robert Clouse

The Cannonball Run (1981) dir. Hal Needham

Dragon Lord (1982) dir. Jackie Chan

Fantasy Mission Force (1983) dir. Chu Yen-ping
Fearless Hyena II (1983) dir. Lo Wei
Winners and Sinners (1983) dir. Sammo Hung
Project A (1983) dir. Jackie Chan

Cannonball Run II (1984) dir. Hal Needham
Wheels on Meals (1984) dir. Sammo Hung

My Lucky Stars (1985) dir. Sammo Hung
The Protector (1985) dirs. James Glickenhaus and Jackie Chan
Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars (1985) dir. Sammo Hung
Heart of Dragon (1985) dir. Sammo Hung
Police Story (1985) dir. Jackie Chan

Armour of God (1987) dir. Jackie Chan
Project A II (1987) dir. Jackie Chan

Dragons Forever (1988) dir. Sammo Hung
Police Story Part II (1988) dir. Jackie Chan

Miracles (1989) dir. Jackie Chan

Nite Sprite - Strut (Perturbator Remix)