Monday, 30 December 2019

Films 2019

Considering we're a good decade into comic book movies completely dominating the box office, it's nice that someone (hands-on producer James Cameron) has finally decided to create works better aligned with the violent science fiction that appealed to me as a child. The thrills in both Alita: Battle Angel and Terminator: Dark Fate are derivative. Alita is less an adaptation of Yukito Kishiro's manga Gunnm and more a live-action reworking of Hiroshi Fukutomi's Rusty Angel and Tears Sign OVAs. The video release, snapped up for UK distribution by viscera specialists Manga Entertainment, were one of a glut of releases designed to capitalise on sales of Akira VHS tapes and the long-running success of  IPC's flagship future shock comic, 2000 AD. Robert Rodriguez's film inherits some of the splatterpunk morality dubbed onto these Japanese animations; a bloodthirsty irreverence that stands apart from the knightly conduct of the Marvel set.

Dark Fate's appeal is even more specific. Beyond the recycling of ideas and situations present in the other, post-Terminator 2: Judgment Day sequels, Tim Miller's film functions as an expensive realisation of subordinate media, particularly Dark Horse's licensed comic books. Dark Fate features the multiple, harmonious machines seen in The Terminator: Tempest; the grinding, metal on metal battles of The Terminator: Secondary Objectives (a trick T2 missed by deploying a malleable, mercury man); and the malfunctioning chimera of The Terminator: The Enemy Within. As well as these extremely niche pleasures, Dark Fate is a big budget, science fiction blockbuster willing to engage with our current, fracturing reality. The film not only depicts the human misery of the Trump administration's migrant detention centres, it also doesn't shy away from the ways in which these facilities align with the Terminator series' fictional agents of human extinction.

Original review - Alita: Battle Angel
Original review - Terminator: Dark Fate

Set in a Northern Chinese industrial town, Ash is Purest White talks about community, interpersonal responsibility, and the ways in which modernity, as well as the new money it brings, can obscure the connections that keep people together. Zhao Tao plays Qiao, the girlfriend of Liao Fan's Bin, a low level gangster who, really, just looks the part. Bin's a passenger, his only ability an aptitude for glomming on to those in ascension. That he doesn't deserve Qiao's loyalty is a story told over decades in writer-director Jia Zhangke's film. Qiao's love is fixed, a deep root that is never treated as an obligation or weakness within Ash. That Qiao continues to care for both Bin and her community despite all the hardship that comes her way is evidence of an immutable, invincible strength. This canny determination radiates throughout Zhangke's film, begging the viewer to assess Tao, the director's wife and muse, in the same adoring terms as her husband.

Hyperbolic comic book rhythms interpreted as pure, delirious motion. Dragon Ball Super: Broly continues the work begun on Fuji TV's Dragon Ball Super series. What started off as a brightly coloured schedule filler eventually developed into the go-to destination for propulsive, impossible, combat. Character designer Naohiro Shintai is key for this feature, providing new drafts of Akira Toriyama's cast that confer playfulness and flexibility in a series that has sometimes strayed into overblown, stiff, musculature. Broly - like last year's excellent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - doesn't over-correct the wonder provided by individual animators to stick, rigidly, to one consistent frequency. Yuya Takahashi's throbbing, wall scroll seconds exist happily alongside Naoki Tate's rubbery, comedic acting and the fluorescent, body-warping histrionics of Yoshihiko Umakoshi. A ferocious, ear-ringing experience.

A mother-daughter relationship examined under extreme, subsistence stresses. Gwen takes the child's perspective, building itself around their universal desire to impress a parent with obedience and maturity during trying times. William McGregor's film unfolds slowly, adopting the halting pace of newly industrial life. This freezing hesitance allows us to marinate in the systems and situations that spell disaster for the titular teenager. Gwen is folk horror without a supernatural component, the driving force here is, instead, avarice, exemplified by a plump English lord protected by wealth and success. Authority in Gwen, as in life really, is power structured around the perception of debt. The men who follow their odious boss to run women and children out of their homes aren't portrayed as rabid here, they're just not brave enough to take a stand against the person who provides them income.

High Life represents space travel at its lowest, least romantic ebb - the interstellar craft that traps the central death row inmates betrays no aerodynamic features, looking very much like several stacked shipping containers hurtling towards oblivion. Claire Denis' film is assembled out of order. We see visions of an Earth irreparably scarred by petrochemical emissions; a zombie crew of young adults wincing their way through intrusive sex experiments to score some form of administered imbalance that might soothe their unending, clearly forsaken, mission. This guinea pig misery is contrasted with short but affecting sequences of Robert Pattinson's Monte caring for an infant named Willow. The child is his anchor, a tiny little person for him to love and care for. She consumes his time. Both parties rely on the other, their relationship conferring meaning and purpose on this otherwise misbegotten journey. 

The least romantic of Scorsese's gangster epics, The Irishman is a tale of compromise and treachery told over decades. It's the organised crime film as a dirge. Scorsese's film is told from the perspective of Frank Sheeran, a delivery truck driver who has come home from war with a newfound moral flexibility that allows the former solider to submerge himself in illegal activities. Sheeran isn't a raconteur though, his position within this subculture doesn't revolve around his ability to spin a yarn or make bold, adventurous moves, Sheeran is simply willing to break the law for personal gain. His own, self-realised attempts at criminality are laughable, easily recognised and thwarted by the people he's defrauding.

Frank doesn't care - this is his strength in this realm, an ability to push on despite all the human wreckage he leaves in his wake. This obliviousness extends to Sheeran's home life. His children, particularly Lucy Gallina and Anna Paquin's Peggy, are scared of him. He's the monstrous, masculine presence in the home, the person they cannot trust with their troubles because he only has one response - hammering, arthritic violence. Sheeran doesn't even recognise this simple fact. He's too hung up on his status and money to notice. The Irishman talks about fatherhood and misplaced priorities as rolling opportunities for long term interpersonal disaster. No matter who you pal around with, how important they are or how wealthy their company makes you, if your children cannot love you then, in the end, you're a failure.

Period films usually encourage filmmakers to explore width and space, the relationship between expanding, pre-industrial scenes and the tiny, extant lives they connect with. Shinya Tsukamoto's Killing heads off in the opposite direction, pulling close to its subjects to examine the strain and agitation that act upon their bodies. Tsukamoto and Satoshi Hayashi's photography depicts the human form as landscape, a quivering vista that must constantly channel deep, emotionally complex, feelings of anxiety and excitement to proceed. The Samurai sword, typically a weapon of supernatural precision, is portrayed here as an object built out of smaller, misaligned components. The Tsuka-Ito stringing chafes against the hand; the Tsuba guard rattles in place against a blade that hasn't cut. Tsukamoto drives at these momentary inconveniences to tell the story of an expert swordsman who cannot bear to strike another person.

Midsommar revolves around Florence Pugh's Dani. The actress providing a vulnerable, human performance, instantly recognisable as someone who has spent her life putting other people, and their problems, before her own. Dani has overcompensated to such a degree that her own wants have shrunken to nothing. Ari Aster's film is a sequence of opportunities to fret about this woman. The potential for hurt that tracks in on Dani is not simply the very real threat of being placed atop a raging bonfire, Dani must also suffer a boyfriend who completely fails to offer any hint of emotional support.

Quite apparently Jack Reynor's Christian considers Dani's exhausted, devastated response to her parents murder as a great big nag. A hassle designed to put a drain of his ability to do, or behave, however he wants. Christian is not just selfish, he's prickly too. A leech insulated from the thoughtless damage he perpetuates by a towering ego that views everyone around him in transactional terms. This arrogance is what prevents him from sensing his own doom. Even when obviously in extreme peril, Christian adopts the haughty bluster of an academic, poking and prodding at a Swedish fertility cult who have already figured out how to use him up. Dani, a person used to genuine, empathetic connection, makes herself useful, helping the women cook and asking questions designed to spark understanding rather than evaluation. She integrates, eventually finding herself in a position where we are no longer expected to worry about her.

With a title like Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, it's no surprise that Quentin Tarantino's latest is a love letter to the heartland of the American film industry. Tarantino's Hollywood concerns itself with actors and agents, the facade rather than the deeper, more obviously odious machinations that power the town. Our guides through the story, such as it is, are Leonardo DiCaprio's handsome cowboy man, Rick Dalton; Brad Pitt's loyal stuntman-cum-personal assistant Cliff Booth; and Margot Robbie's thoroughly guileless Sharon Tate.

Dalton's story is like an aside in a Sir Christopher Frayling film studies book come to life - a television actor sliding towards obsolescence, offered a second-chance at stardom by Italian westerns and poliziotteschi action films. You hang out with the actor as he comes around to the decision, as he seizes on an underexplored instinct for salivating, but credible, melodrama, recapturing the magic that made him a star in the first place. Booth's strand confronts genuine, rather than imagined, desuetude. A damned man with a knack for pulverising violence, happy to eke out a living keeping his temperamental best friend buoyant.

Tate is pure sunshine, a young actress awed and appreciative of her power to entertain. In Tarantino's film, these people - actors and their support doubles - are united by a desire to create, to reach inside and deconstruct their failings and neuroses as a route to powering themselves through their next, exhausting performance. Strength and personal fortitude are expressed through twisting, self-inflicted turbulence. So when Tarantino's idea of industry people crowd up against the curdled end of the back-to-the-land movement - depicted here as stoned children with surface-level pop culture reads - it's no wonder they triumph so easily.

Song Kang-ho's Kim Ki-taek is Parasite's loose cannon. His family's slow, methodical, infiltration of the affluent Park family would likely go further, reaping longer-lasting rewards and siphoning off more money were it not for the father's misplaced sense of male camaraderie. Without realising, Ki-taek has taken on the role with the least amount of social status. He doesn't understand that his job as the Park's personal chauffeur is on the shakiest ground. His wife, Chung-sook (played by Chang Hyae-jin), has taken on the safest position - live-in housekeeper - the woman the Kims bully out of the role had been there almost as long as the house has stood. The Kim children, Choi Woo-shik's Ki-woo and Park So-dam's Ki-jeong, are just as canny as their mother, posing as academics, a social position that occupies a status that stands outside of mere financial standing.

The wealthy, superficial Parks must defer to them - in matters of education, they are the experts. Ki-taek though is just the driver. He's interchangeable, expected to be grateful. When he tries to talk man-to-man with Lee Sun-kyun's Dong-ik, the head of the Park family, he simply irritates, viewed as a bumbling little man trying to impress himself on his betters. Writer-director Bong Joon-ho manages to reduce the unspoken disparity that exists between these two men down to one devastating piece of information - Dong-ik thinks Ki-taek smells. We are told that the offending scent is that of the grasping, sweaty, public transport masses Dong-ik goes out of his way to avoid. In his crisp, freshly pressed shirt, sat in his air-conditioned car, this intrusive, animal odour represents reality encroaching on Dong-ik's lavender-scented success. This whiff, emblematic of every failure the IT CEO has worked to insulate himself from, breaks his carefully cultivated spell.

The forty-odd year saga of the Skywalker clan draws to a close with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, a sequel to the Star Wars: The Last Jedi that makes almost zero effort to honour the characters or concepts contained within Rian Johnson's film. What Rise does offer though is a strained but pleasant sense of mythological reassessment, similar to the one David Lynch (or, perhaps more accurately, the pruning team working at Dino De Laurentiis' behest) adopted when constructing 1984's Dune. Daisy Ridley's Rey and Adam Driver's Kylo Ren, characters who had previously been marked by their mutual, human longing for familial connection, are reorganised into pure, fight comics archetype - two halves of a fabled, convoluted whole.

Rey and Ren's relationship breaks reality, the duo able to reach across time and space to physically connect with each other in moments of crisis. They are completely out of step with the people and machinations that track in on them. Their powers go beyond the material realm, able to transfer life energies between themselves and communicate with the afterlife - following his own death and resurrection, Ren wills a memory of his father, Harrison Ford's Han Solo, into physical being. He replays their tragic, final moments than steers the recollection towards a happier, more constructive resolution. Lacking a pivotal mistake to reconfigure, it is the dead who come to Rey. They sing to her, raising her up with kind words and encouragement to fulfil the destiny they themselves fumbled.

Original review

Alita: Battle Angel // Ash is Purest White // Dragon Ball Super: Broly // Gwen // High Life // The Irishman // Killing // Midsommar // Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood // Parasite // Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker // Terminator: Dark Fate

Also liked:

Amazing Grace // Apocalypse Now: Final Cut // Apollo 11 // Avengement // The Beach Bum // Booksmart // Bumblebee // Child's Play // Crawl // Doctor Sleep // The Favourite // The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil // Godzilla: King of the Monsters // Hagazussa // Hustlers // John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum // Joker // Knock Down the House // Little Women // Memory: The Origins of Alien // The Miami Showband Massacre // Mid90s // Monos // Rambo: Last Blood // Reign of the Supermen // See You Yesterday // 6 Underground // Wild Rose // X-Men: Dark Phoenix

Friday, 27 December 2019

Video Games 2019

Respawn Entertainment kicked off the year in style with Apex Legends, a free-to-play Titanfall spin-off that has ended up completely eclipsing its parent game. Compared to other Call of Duty adjacent Battle Royales, Apex distinguished itself with free-flowing, player-launching, traversal. Instead of attempting to build a reasonably realistic ghost town, Respawn have carefully moulded multicoloured, vertical playgrounds, tailor-made to leap in and around. The scaled up environments and churning vistas (not to mention the shrinking safe area) push the player forward, pressing them up against endless opportunities to panic.

A total cheat, since everything contained within the Contra Anniversary Collection came out decades ago. The justification I'll be using today is that, thanks to ace retro devs M2, this museum compilation finally presents the European version of 1994's Mega Drive classic Probotector without PAL slowdown. This uptick in refresh rate turbo-charges an already unforgiving game, taking it from a methodical 50Hz to a seizure-inducing 60.

An office, the classic video game location. It's recurrence across genres and platforms no doubt reflective of the fact that every person making video games is stuck in some variation of this setting for massive amounts of their lives. So it goes that, classically, video game workplaces are a venue to show off environmental destruction models. Who doesn't want to obliterate their jail? There are desk and chairs to be overturned; papers and their weights to swirl around in throbbing, telekinetic tantrums. Control goes even further, positing its place of business is a vast, churning, concrete space. A headquarters exploded in every single direction, without any care for realistic or even logical architectural traversal. Control is a video game built around exploration and input models that cater to an expanding set of movement abilities and the player's desire to push these emerging skills as far as they can.

I'm still finding my way with Death Stranding. The game's cut-scenes are obnoxiously long and exposition heavy - not ideal when you're trying to squeeze in an hour or two of gameplay when you find yourself at a loose end. What Hideo Kojima's latest does have though, and this is obvious as early as the calibrations menus displayed on first boot, is a world-class level of production. Clearly, no expense has been spared steering Kojima Productions' latest vision into your hands. So far the game has required some only light stealth, steering Norman Reedus' quivering Postman through chasmic gaps in ghostly enemy formations, but the best of these early moments strike a more leisurely chord. The experience sings when it leaves you alone to lug your deliveries over picturesque, prehistoric looking environments with the sounds of Kojima's personal Walkman tinkling away in your ears.

Devil May Cry 5 is a dream come true. Even more so than the Resident Evil 2 remake (see below), Dante's fifth adventure represents Capcom re-embracing their past successes rather than bumbling further towards the exhausting, busywork, game design synonymous with a company like, I don't know, Ubisoft? Following an entire generation of game releases that looked to shallow blockbuster trends and games of telephone with western development studios to set the pace, the Osaka company are back, concentrating their efforts on the finely calibrated combat experiences they made their name with. Devil May Cry 5 makes no attempt to reinvent the idea of one against many, instead the super sequel pointedly inherits a half-dozen games worth of design mechanics, remixing them in a best-of package topped off with a histrionic Jump comic storyline about sons punching fallen fathers, again and again, until they're good again.

Loosely based on Taito's stubborn old belt action coin-op, The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors retains the same rigid horizontal progress but mixes up the slashing and crashing with a gang of controllable ninjas that feel slightly out of whack with their coin-gobbling origins. The original arcade game (available on at least the PS4 as part of Hamster's Arcade Archives series) demanded a rigid approach to gameplay, damning customers with a surprisingly vulnerable robot ninja and enemy patterns designed to expose ignorance of the game's peculiar mechanics. Return of the Warriors is much more sympathetic. Although players are still swarmed from all sides, the characters they control have deeper, more useful move-sets that, at times, feel like the arbitrary inputs and over-powered outcomes assigned to the kind of unplayable Boss characters you might access through ancient hack cart trickery.

Capcom's remake of Resident Evil 2 retains the same, basic, item gathering motor as Hideki Kamiya's original. Players still pinball around a police station, hoovering up intricately designed keys and unattended weaponry, but the opportunity for success in 2019 has been dialled way down. The game no longer stocks you up for action-adventure, bullets are rare and aiming is annoyingly analogue. This Resident Evil 2 then is firmly horror. Raccoon City's police headquarters is a mausoleum; cold, dark and uninviting. The actorly, accentuated movement of your player character registers as a rolling disturbance rather than a keyed-in digital input. You're waking this place up - responsible for all the horrors that stir. You prod at this space's secrets as you sag and bumble towards the next lead. Another tweak: nowhere is safe from recurring annoyance Mr X. An experienced player, saddled with an unshakeable tail, might jog back to the lobby save area for a bit of peace. Not only will the Tyrant follow you all the way but, to your alarm, it'll actually trespass into your former sanctuary.

Like playing every Sonic the Hedgehog special stage all at once, Sayonara Wild Hearts sweeps you up with its swirling, fizzy confidence. Simogo's game transports you to a dreamy abstract, requiring deft but not overly complicated inputs; stages run the gamut from high-speed chases to locked-in rail shooters. The star of the show is Daniel Olsen and Jonathan Eng's electropop soundtrack, the perfect compliment to a gameplay model that recalls the best of Sega's Naomi board era arcade games.

Nominally a part of the stealth action genre, Untitled Goose Game arms players with a waddling, haughty bird capable of incredible malevolence. Unlike sneaking contemporaries that balance out their assassin's power with halting fail states, Untitled Goose Game builds its loop around a title character who simply refuses to be told off. This goose enjoys a privileged position within this world, bolshing and honking its way through all manner of basic swindles and petty larceny with almost complete impunity.

Bitmap Bureau's twin-stick, Mega Drive throwback Xeno Crisis traps the player is a series of claustrophobic rooms, each seething with cutesy, super-deformed monsters and crunchy Yamaha noise. Controllable characters - your choice of colour-coded space marines - snap to your inputs, zipping around like they're on roller-skates. There's even a minimal, pleasurable drift when you stop, a pleasant sop to momentum that (thankfully) never endangers your run. Power-up drops are randomised; sonic electronic ball-breakers are present but a lot less likely to show up than refills for your sputtering, faithful old machine gun. And while the enemy expulsions never get near bullet hell levels, delicate, darting movement is required to navigate the throng of creatures closing in around you.

Also Liked:

Beats Fever VR // Blazing Chrome // Call of Duty: Modern Warfare // Code Vein // Dragon Quest Builders 2 // GRIS // Judgment // MLB The Show 19 // Mortal Kombat 11 // My Big Sister // The Outer Wilds // Paradox Soul // Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice // Shakedown: Hawaii // Solo: Islands of the Heart // Stick Fight: The Game // Stay (PS4) // Wattam // Zanki Zero: Last Beginning // Zeroptian Invasion

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Music 2019

BluntOne - Recogneyes // Carly Rae Jepsen - Now That I've Found You // Charli XCX & Christine and the Queens - Gone // The Chemical Brothers - Eve of Destruction // The Chromatics - You're No Good // Dragnar - Aqua Eroge // Georgia - About Work the Dancefloor // Hotel Pools & ALISON - Drift // Irving Force - Criminal Intent // Jasper De Ceuster - Skyline // Lana Del Rey - Fuck It I Love You & The Greatest // Lucy in Disguise - Heist Money // Perturbator - Excess // Rosentwig - Pripyat // Thom Yorke - Dawn Chorus (Live) // Wun Two - Vio

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker doesn't pay shallow homage to the Buster Crabbe serials that wowed a young George Lucas. The film takes on both the structural and aesthetic peculiarities of those drip-fed cliffhangers; mixing the breathless, full-speed-ahead pacing with a mise en scene that is deliberately recycled from earlier, related sources. Writer-director JJ Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio seem to have arrived at this wavelength in their efforts to design their sequel as not just the ultimate summation of Star Wars as an organic story, but also as a piece that talks about, and comments on, the systems and mechanisms that have always underwritten the series.

Rise of Skywalker then is a strange film that attempts to account for both its place within this saga, and its various, dangling plots, as well as its status as a cultural touchpoint that is now stuck combining nostalgia cues with mythic storytelling to wring the maximum amount of spend from its audience. As a sequel to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rise of Skywalker is obtuse and contradictory, junking much of that film's playfulness and rolling sense of mystery to arrive at hard, extremely specific solutions. Rey has an identity forced on her that, at first contact, feels not just illogical but pandering. The answer that Rian Johnson's film so adequately provided is voided to place this young woman at the centre of another dynastic struggle.

George Lucas' monotone rhythms may be back but the knowledge they provide does, at least, build on ideas and inference scattered throughout the wider legend. In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Ian McDiarmid's Emperor Palpatine took a moment to explain to his pupil, Anakin Skywalker, the ways in which the dark side of The Force could be used to manipulate our concepts of life and death. All Skywalker hears is a route to keeping his beloved wife alive, but the audience discovers something different. This tragic recounting of Darth Plaugueis' fate basically states that wrinkly old Sheev is a key figure in Skywalker's immaculate conception. Star Wars: The Force Awakens seemed to be contextualising Rey in similar terms - another rootless vessel of overwhelming power called into being to answer a specific, metaphysical need.

As it turns out, Rey's origins are rather blunter than that but the data (and it is data, rather than something a little more organic) Rise of Skywalker provides still ends up positioning the character in the same monstrous, emotionally tempestuous terms as her prequel ancestor. Just as Adam Driver's Kylo Ren has allowed the sequel filmmakers to salve and redesign Anakin's explosive, teenage tantrums, Daisy Ridley's Rey provides the opportunity to explore the path Anakin Skywalker chose not to take. Instead of siding with bottomless, ancient evil, Rey can call on the positive teachings and affirmations she has experienced to help guide her decision. Unlike Anakin (and, really, even Luke), Rey has matured in the company of masters who genuinely care for her. This very real, parental, affection allows her to vanquish not only a deeper, hereditary temptation, but the sickness it has transmitted out into the galaxy.

The Rise of Skywalker demands to be considered in these familial terms. Not only are we explicitly dealing with the children of the characters and movements that drove Lucas' original trilogy, the film is also built on top of the intriguing-but-discarded ideas detailed in JW Rinzler's wonderful The Making of... books. The half-formed, usually supernatural, notions that Lawrence Kasdan or Lucas only briefly considered are brushed up here and reevaluated. This necromancy doesn't always work, indeed a number of the more in-your-face, character specific callbacks flounder so badly because they ask the audience to engage, emotionally, with a film that has built itself, almost completely, out of rolling action and hyperbolic imagery. Terrio and Abrams don't accomplish the impossible then but they do deliver a conclusion that feels indebted to a series of films that has run the gamut from genre-defining classic to infuriating waste of time.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

6 Underground

As chaotic as Michael Bay's Transformers films are, there is some level of restraint. Metal titans may blithely crash through intercity coaches but the viewer isn't asked to consider the human cost. Any passengers the bus may or may not have been carrying will always become instantly absent, leaving only gutted, rolling wreckage in the robot's wake. In this way Bay's alien action films keep their transformer-on-people violence at the level of toyetic collision; flaming stunt rolls that speak to expense and skill rather than auto-vehicular terror. 6 Underground displays no such moderation. The car chase through Florence that opens the film betrays an exhilarating contempt for human life.

SUVs batter through crowds, crushing people, market bric-a-brac and even historical art before the vehicles are flipped then torn apart, arriving an inch from the camera heaving with pulverised, extinguished, meat. This may seem like a small, cosmetic correction but, when considered within Bay's wider oeuvre, it removes a contradiction that has kept the director's work registering at the crass, recruitment ad end of the commercial scale. 6 Underground, set up at Netflix to tempt browsing subscribers rather than any particular night-out crowd, doesn't need to undersell its carnage to capture a specific rating. Bay is therefore allowed to indulge his ugly fascination with deanimated bodies.

Frankly, it's a creative wavelength that works perfectly for Bay, a director who otherwise completely fails to convince his audience that he cares about anybody but those who wield the loudest, meanest voice. 6 Underground's vigilantes are Bay's trademark group of expert monkeys - the screeching, scratching, human panic attacks best able to barrel through Bay's kaleidoscopic catastrophes. Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese's screenplay builds an underlining sense of interpersonal apathy that, while overcome to provide an easily recognisable arc, lingers like background radiation. The logistics required to make viewers believe that Ryan Reynolds (snark incarnate, as always) and, by extension, Michael Bay, care about their billionaire black ops missions beyond pricky personal vendettas or an opportunity to play with some new rigs seem insurmountable. To 6 Underground's credit, it doesn't even try.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Resident Evil 3 - LAST ESCAPE

With the Resident Evil 3 remake now finally (officially) announced, the question for all us impatient (not to mention deeply ungrateful) people is: where do Capcom go from here? Do they circle around and mess about with the Dino Crisis series? Or do they forge ahead with another Biohazard? Since the fourth entry is already perfect and unimpeachable, I'd like to see the same kind of atmospheric pizzazz glimpsed here applied to the less well liked Resident Evil - Code: Veronica - that miserable death camp you start the game in would really benefit from a dash of modern, ray-tracing effects.

Tekken 7 - LAST DRAGON

As well as an enormous, science experiment Muay Thai fighter (who must be a Sagat asset flip from the presumably cancelled Tekken X Street Fighter project?), the already heaving Tekken 7 roster expands with Leroy Smith, a Wing Chun practitioner who very much feels like an aged-up take on Taimak Guarriello's character from The Last Dragon.

Scooter (Transformers Style) by Dyemooch

BluntOne - Reflections

Untitled Goose Game - HONK?


Streets of Rage 4 - LIGHTNING CHUCKS

Adam's back! Despite being absent for both Mega Drive sequels (replaced by his younger, zippier brother Skate), the older Hunter brother returns to fight alongside his daughter, the already revealed Cherry. In the original Streets of Rage Adam was the hits harder but moves slower character. Although light on a detailed mechanical breakdown, this trailer does demonstrate the idea that Adam's screen-clearing mobility comes from his lancing special moves rather than the light stroll he uses to position himself on your television.

Axiom Verge 2 - ANOTHER WORLD

Tom Happ has announced Axiom Verge 2! Coming to Nintendo Switch late next year, Happ's follow-up trades in its prequel's blaring, 8-bit neon graphics for the kind of dreamy pastels you might associate with the Euro-platformers seen on 16-bit systems like the Super Nintendo or Commodore's Amiga.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Crystal Cola - シンス精神

Justice League vs The Fatal Five

Justice League vs The Fatal Five aspires to be a movie length episode of Justice League Unlimited. The home video release ropes in voice actors from the classic TV series and Bruce Timm's clean, angular, art style to tell a not particularly interesting story about time-travelling criminals and the mental health worries of teenage superheroes. Aside from the above window dressing, the closest Sam Liu's latest comes to summoning up the vim of its antecedent is in the decision to build itself around lesser known characters. At its peak, Justice League Unlimited was a popped-out plunge into the DC back catalogue; twenty-minute gasps that dredged up a procession of heroes and villains to be pulverised by Dr Fight himself, series co-director Joaquim Dos Santos.

Unfortunately Dos Santos and ace collaborator Lauren Montgomery are both long gone from the DC animation team - the directors are currently booked for Sony's various Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse follow-ups - leaving us stuck with a creative team who churn out cynical, supermarket cartoons. At one point the DC animated universe was the go-to place for comic book histrionics and fluid action cracks. Now we're lumbered with an assembly line producing bumbling, misshapen features, each vid spiked with enough light swearing and pooling blood to avoid babysitter video classifications. Never mind that these additions often register as a creep's idea of maturity. Fatal Five's fight sequences (one moment of axe-meets-Lantern-ring excepted) are cumbersome and under-animated too. Rigid, plastic looking figures collide in a flat, centre space; world-shaking brawls executed with a clod's idea of invention.