Saturday, 29 November 2008


The Seacons are a Decepticon merge team from pretty late in Transformers' day. Disguise wise the team felt it best to not bother emulating boring things like cars or military hardware, but instead terrifying sea monsters. Not even actual sea dwelling creatures mind. Nope. Nope. They covert about Earth disguised as fictional robotic ocean horrors; occasionally merging into a giant, terrible, Sea-God thingy. Quite obviously the Seacons are completely excellent. What child doesn't want to play with grotesque brine bothering behemoths? Unfortunately, US Transformers animation was dead in the water when this 1988 squad reared their head. Not so though in Japan! Feast your eyes on this sunken treasure:

Short snatch of Seacon assembly animation.

and the Seacons taking on the second-best version of Optimus Prime lookalike: Super Ginrai.

Sketch Saturday: Mike Bison*

*or Balrog, if you prefer.

Rather than rifle through older stuff I have sitting around, I thought it'd be better to dash something off from scratch. And dash I did. You'll have to excuse the the less than painstaking approach this week. I wanted quicky grotesque, so that's what you're getting. Mike Bison, or Balrog if you don't want Mike Tyson's legal team in your ear, is a boxing mid-boss from Street Fighter II. Bison is a thundering, punch-drunk psycho who has real trouble not killing people - hence his disqualification from organised boxing, and subsequent falling in with Shadaloo's uniform despot: Vega. As the series has rambled on Bison has become slobby comic relief, usually seen undermining world-annexing plots with gross stupidity. I always preferred him as a fever-head slugger. Clearly barmy, and quite able to punch your head off your shoulders, and into a bin.

Meffy eyes courtesy of an animation error in 1994's Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie. Regret that speech bubble, but I don't trust myself to paint it out without making the whole thing look even more like infant doodles.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Chase Me

Chase Me
is a wordless animated short that easily outshone the underwhelming parent feature it was bundled with for DVD: Batman: Mystery of The Batwoman. Although both pieces were directed by Curt Geda, a veteran of the various DC animated universe series', they couldn't be more different. Whilst Batwoman concerns itself with an unexciting red herring plotter about a femme fatale Dark Knight; Chase Me is simply motion. Motion, and gonzo big-cat tussles! POW!

Have yourself a gander here.*

*Not sure about YouTube's sudden preference for having a standardised 16:9 framing for all videos. Shouldn't that be a choice for the uploader when posting? Pillarboxing always tricks my mind that everything's gone beanpole lanky. It's faintly distracting! Poor 4:3 eh?

Monday, 24 November 2008

"Shit just got REAL."

Tucked in for the night, I decided to flick around the fraction of channels available to me for something to watch. The less thinking, the better. Through happy coincidence I happened across that perennial of anti-thought: a Michael Bay film. Not just any Michael Bay film either. I'd discovered me some Bad Boys 2. Jackpot!

Bad Boys 2 is a quite astonishing film, not because of any merit usually associated with even the most generous person's idea of quality; instead this Will Smither sequel is an exemplary piece of cinema for simply being so unrelentingly grotty. Miranda is flouted, countries are invaded, shanty towns flattened by 4X4s, and a lead character cuddles up to a rotting cadaver with frankly massive bosoms. If someone European had directed Bad Boys 2, it would be hailed as a masterpiece of the tasteless. Unfortunately, Michael Bay directed it, so everyone who isn't a retarded fifteen year old boy hates it (I am of course a retarded fifteen year old boy AT HEART).

This being Sunday night TV, surely all that shameful yuck was edited out? Even a station as hip to pornography as Channel 5 would baulk at screening such screaming, bed-wetting filth on God's day? Think of the children! Who cares if it's nearly midnight! But no! All the pant itching necrophilia was present and correct. Bodies where still exploding into lumpy meat! Dead breasts still jiggled! It was harrowing. Bay's 2003 love letter to poking dog-pooh did not make it onto our screens completely intact though, senseless violence aside, someone at 5 took issue with the language content of the film. Who can blame them? A typical conversation in Bad Boys 2 runs thus:

Will Smith: "Fuck!"
Martin Lawrence: "What the mother fuck?"
Will Smith: "Mother fucker, am I really seeing this shit?"
Martin Lawrence: "That mother fucker just shoot at us?"
Will Smith: "Mother fucking right he did. Mother fucker!"
Martin Lawrence: "That mother fucker!"

I'm paraphrasing, but you get the gist. That's the unedited uncut Superbit DVD version (which I own). By way of comparison, here's the sickening example of Nanny State censorship I was subjected to last night:

Will Smith: "Fuck!"
Martin Lawrence: "What the fuck?"
Will Smith: "Fucker, am I really seeing this shit?"
Martin Lawrence: "That fucker just shoot at us?"
Will Smith: "Fucking right he did. Fucker!"
Martin Lawrence: "That fucker!"

Those 'saints' at Channel 5 saw fit to delete that most disgusting of words: Mother. Horrifying! Just typing it makes me right cunting sick. Minges me right off. Ugh. I feel dirty. I shall have to have a wash. With bleach.

Mock outrage and 'hilarity' aside, isn't that an interesting choice? Take a look at this swear chart, reprinted on the Guardian website:

The above chart forms a crucial part of a poll used in the media as an ongoing reference point for likely nationwide frothing should any of these dreadful words actually be heard. As you can see, out of 100 people polled 71 found the word fuck very severe indeed, whereas motherfucker inched that outrage further north up to the dizzy heights of 79. Cunt still rules the roost with 83% disgust.

There you have it: fuck is 8% less offensive than motherfucker. That's maths and charts that is. Can't argue with that. Channel 5's decision is one of severity. Rather than delete the cuss couplet outright, and perhaps spoil the mood of excess, 5 instead elected to dip the sound on the qualifying part of the swear, thus making it a fraction less offensive. Hats off to them. A much more mature practice than poorly dubbing the phrase with some mid 90s ITV standby like: 'muddy thumper' or 'metal frumper', I'm sure you'll agree. Still, you know, it was nearly midnight.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Mighty Teaser?

Teaser trailer for Astro Boy.

This CG animation adaptation of Osamu Tezuka's most beloved creation is being handled by TMNT studio Imagi Animation. David Bowers, who previously sunk Aardman Animations' Dreamworks deal with toilet centric flop Flushed Away, is directing. Let's be positive. Even though Tezuka's original character models were apparently not worth replicating. Why continue making things grotesquely idiosyncratic, when you can iron out the creases to the point were they look like everything else? That's how you make middlebrow money! Make it look like fucking Igor. Don't scare people with originality! Don't respect the work you're adapting! You're cleverer than the fools that dreamt these characters up anyway! You've certainly got much more money at your disposal, and that's all that matters eh? If you're familiar with the material and really want to piss yourself off, read the plot description on wiki. It rabbits on about 'reconciliation with the father who rejected him'. You what?

Excellent poster though.

Man of Iron

You may have missed this one: Jon Favreau revealing on Ain't It Cool News that he is collaborating with Genndy Tartakovsky, and his team, on Iron Man 2. Sounds like Tartakovsky et al will be boarding the action sequences, whilst Favreau mixes with the actors. An exciting turn of events I'm sure you'll agree. Imagine! A Tartakovsky originated live action battle sequence that stacks shell-head and War Machine on one side, with Fu Manchu wizard nemesis The Mandarin, and his snaking dragon bodyguard Fing Fang Foom on the other. Delightful.

To get you in the mood, here's Tartakovsky's entrance for General Grievous in the 2003 Cartoon Network series Star Wars: Clone Wars. This pre-Episode III animated debut for Grievous made a promise that George Lucas' live action depiction couldn't hope to deliver on, even with those extra arms. Shame! Shame! Shame!

Call of Duty: World at War

The decision to take the fifth Call of Duty game back, kicking and screaming, to the second world war wasn't the most popular of decisions with series fans. Trading in fresh techno-turf for another rake over those frighteningly well represented six years of world-wide immolation seemed cripplingly devoid of ambition. It didn't help that Treyarch were back behind the driving seat. Their previous effort Call of Duty 3 was front heavy with slog missioning, and subject to more than its fair share of frustrate-you-up rough corners. Never mind that the game was completed in under a year, I got stuck on scenery once or twice!

Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare pole-vaulted forward several decades from the clear moral certainty of allies vs axis / good vs evil World War II play acting, to post-Cold War black-ops nation propping. It was also polished within an inch of its life. The SAS missions that formed the backbone of that game were nasty snatches of wet working: an assassination here; an ethnic cleanse intervention there. Infinity Ward worked extremely hard to create a muddled theoretical conflict frame, utilising hot potato concerns like break-away ex-Soviet nations, and Islamic fundamentalism. Players finally got to have a dabble with contemporary death spewing bullet brooms, right slap-bang in the middle of the Coalition of The Willing's War on Terror™. Hooray for topicality.

Imperialism / third-rate action movie tropes aside, among COD4's most triumphant aspect was simply chatter. The SAS missions are full to the brim with insistent state sanctioned murder euphemisms, and pally back and forth as a mask for head wringing brutalism. Purely expositional dialogue and badass zingery is thankfully elsewhere. It was a treat. Odd-number interim developer Treyarch obviously agree, they've hired Hollywood voice talent to propel Call of Duty: World at War's two pronged campaign through the dying days of World War 2. Kiefer Sutherland gruffs up as Pacific island hopper Corporal Roebuck, and Gary Oldman gives us his Air Force One best Russian yak as Sergeant Reznov.

Roebuck, like his in-game campaign, doesn't really go much of anywhere. He starts out a taciturn uber-marine and stays that way right up until his theatre exits. Reznov is similarly stuck on one-note repeat, although thankfully it's a great track: there's never a single second you're in Reznov's company that he isn't preaching genocide doctrine. Hot on the heels of the retreating Nazis, as they are pushed from Stalingrad all the way back to Berlin, Reznov is front and centre screaming for blood and blood and blood. One stage memorably ends with street fighting Soviets chasing down Third Reich straddlers. The level fades out with the rout in progress. Reznov revenge rhymes ringing in your ears, as you struggle to exterminate your fleeing enemies before the area vanishes.

Reznov is indicative of Treyarch's new direction for the WWII series: from slightly wearying bugle horn sermonising to out-and-out pulp. Bodies struck by bullets explode into meaty bleeding messes; savage attack dogs are arsenal; surrendering enemies can be callously executed. Less impressively, ropey electric guitar wailing intrudes on the soundscape, threatening to lurch the mood from cruel to very crass. The Day Today info dump story sequences that mix real atrocity footage with hyper active stats and camera sweeps also leave a sour aftertaste. Least of all the post-credits occult additional stage makes a hamfist of the pro-Veteran plaudits that close out the maker listing, no matter how fun it is.

The other big idea for this installment is fire. It's everywhere. In your hand, coming out of tanks, all over your foes. Everywhere. The Russian campaign has impromptu revolution favourite the Molotov Cocktail, flash forward to the Pacific and you get the flamethrower. I struggle to think of a weapon more directly nasty than a flamethrower. Launching sub-sonic lead through a person seems civilised next to painting them and their friends with frothing liquid hell. And paint them you do.

It's not all shits and giggles though. Whereas games like the Halo series gift the player a vast area full of finely tuned AI enemies, the Call of Duty series prefers to lead players through checkpoint incident. Cross a line and dodge the spectacle. COD is built on NFL land seizure mechanics, players assault infinite respawn choke points until they can widen a pass gap, neutralising them.

As a rule, Infinity Ward are much more accomplished at concealing these rules than Treyarch. A low in COD3 seeing unending Nazi hordes materialising out of a wall of shrubbery. World at War also features dead-end passageways that spawn countless foes, and invisible pass points that evaporate entrenched legions. It's tolerable at Normal difficulty, glaringly obvious any higher. It doesn't end there either, whereas COD4's AI assist characters were so brutally efficient you felt like you could leave them to get on with finishing the game themselves, COD5 sees friend characters milling around somewhere south of the player, doing very little to win the war. Many's the time I came across invincible priority characters either standing nose-to-nose with the enemy, or shrugging off endless lethal assaults to eventually clout noggin and 'save' themselves. I'm also fairly sure Roebuck charged around a whole level with an invisible gun, bullets spewing out of nowhere.

I'd rather not leave you with negatives though. I did thoroughly enjoy Call of Duty: World at War. I don't think I've played another war game that so completely enveloped the player in mind-numbing chaos. Set pieces bleed into each other - urban ruin clearance is just a wall vault away from fraught tank battling. Dispense with that and your snaking through trenches, flanking your foes with fire. It never ends. There's no respite. Aside from the horror, there's arcadey tank missions that spoil the user with massive health bars, vast amounts of overwhelming weaponry and enough raw swift to outflank squads of Panzer tanks. There's a sea plane stage that has you strafing Japanese merchant navy, scrambling from gun emplacements up and down the length of your craft. Best of all there's a sniper mission modelled after the young Captain Price stage from COD4. Stirring in a mass grave, your young Russian private is taken on a whistle stop tour of battered, occupied Stalingrad. Your mission? BLOW A HOLE IN SOMEONE!

In recent times, there's been a silent movement to eliminate anything unpalatable when depicting the second world war in games. Swastikas and Reich imagery is routinely pulled from games in Europe - there are laws against their depiction operating in at least France and Germany - flags and uniforms are instead covered in iron crosses. I've always found this more than a little alarming. Surely it is preferable to be fighting the Nazi regime than just German people? You eliminate the ideological component and you're just murdering blond uniform foreigners. They may as well be aliens, or zombies.

No matter how wrongheaded Treyarch have been with some aesthetic decisions, they are to be applauded for attempting to show war in a way that isn't bloodless or meek. The brash pulpiness may be somewhat obtuse, but at least it doesn't portray a toy soldier conflict free of any immoral dimension. Why did I enjoy setting all those Japanese men on fire? Why did I execute the Germans trying to surrender? Why did I wish the blubbering, sinking naval ships yielded floundering men to be strafed? Why did I want Berlin defended by notably shorter Hitler Youth Nazi models? I'm sick with war, and it's not Treyarch's fault.

Sketch Saturday: Bizarro

With a title like that, hopefully I've successfully blackmailed myself into rustling up at least one of these every week. I don't want to let my fans down! Fingers crossed. Let me know what you think. This week: Bizarro.

For those without the know, Bizarro is an enemy / foil to DC's Superman. Bizarro is typically depicted as an imperfect clone of the Man of Steel. The evil twin's personality usually taking the form of either comedic numbskull, or psychotic equaliser.

I went for shambolic, but punchy. Me am hate Bizarro.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Saints Row 2

I struggled to find even a second of Saints Row 2 entertaining to begin with. Tasked with designing your lead character from the ground up had me scratching my head. What did I want? I'm all for avatar customisation, but you at least want templates to work from. Where to even begin? I skipped over to the voices, of which there are three. I reasoned that once I knew the voice, I could build an image around it. A solid beginning I thought.

Three voices then. Three voices. Let's give them a listen. Confound it! Three voices, each as revolting as the last. For a male character in Saints Row 2, you have three options: black chap n' the Hood, Latino lilt, and finally a bizarre Cockney wideboy / Australian Jason Statham attempt. That's it? Can I not just have a quiet brooding Clint wheeze? Is that too much? Do you not cater for my favourite brand of cool? Whispy gentry a little too refined? Do I really have to be one of these dicks? I did. I initially sided with the faux-London accent. I convinced myself it'd be amusing to hear a Guy Richie movie alike bitching and whining at second-rate American voice over talent. It won't be that awful. It might have even been recorded by someone English. You never know!

I tried to build a Kirby comics man-mountain around the chatter. It looked alright in the in-game menu presentation bit, but running around in minimal cut in-game clothing he looked appalling. My staunch muscled minimalism had gifted me Brucey from GTA4. Thanks a fucking lot me. I hated Brucey in GTA4. His slobbering meat-headed dickery reminded me far too much of a few slathering twats that waddle around my place of work. Legs wide, shoulders back, attitude on. Each and every one of them desperate to be considered very fucking hard indeed. And now I'm playing with them, my in-game toy modelled after their deplorable persona. Good God! What if someone caught me faffing around with this lame duck attempt at masculinity? I scoured the menus to find anywhere I might partake of some drastic plastic surgery. Site secured I waddled off for another bout of self-loathing.

Eventually, after much thought I settled on the Latino voice. I married this to athletic, tanned frame, topped off with a greying corporate side-parting. From this I imagined some vague contra backstory. He's done a kill up and down South America in the eighties, then decided he liked picking on plastic gangsters for money and kicks. Innate superiority secured I began to find fun in clipped, lethal encounters with the Benetton gangs that populate Stilwater. A little later on I dressed him up in a pristine grey linen suit, with a white shirt and red / grey striped tie. My nasty little merc was gifted a whiff of class. This prism of respectability actually framed a few later callous events with a trace of humour. It's Bond appeal: thug in a suit. Avatar stepping correct, I got on with the game, which unfortunately turned out to be endless rounds of simplistic gun-battles. Nevermind!

I couldn't warm to Saints Row 2. And having spent £40 on it, I dearly wanted to. It's idea of 'cool' and 'bitching' was pitched a good ten years younger and dumber than my own particular tastes. Hating women and loving death is alright when you're fifteen and just using it to mask your own deplorable social skills, but when you're a grown-up man, it's just wearying. It might even make for a funny punchline occasionally, but that's all Saints Row 2 is: punchline. It's an endless parade of detestable shitheads, shitting on each other. I cared not one jot for any one single character or event, because they were all hateful bores. All locked out a numbskull race to out nihilise the other. Saints Row 2 doesn't want you to create a convincing ageing gangster, it would rather you dreamt up a dreadlocked, streaking, transvestite. It's only ambition to repeat what has gone before, but stupider. Saints Row 2 would love to pitch itself as the manic inbred sibling to GTA4's pretentious narrative snob. It's a pitch that doesn't hold. It's just boring. And shitty. It's a bankrupt take-off with none of the wit, wheeze or whimsy of what it's imitating. It's a game only really tolerable when the difficulty is fixed so low you can amble through its infinite shoot-outs with zero chance of stall / repeat.

Monday, 10 November 2008

This Blog Remains Resolutely Pro Frank Miller's Take On The Spirit.

Only a month and change to go before Miller weirds everyone out with his grubby little think reels. Good work Frank! Update of substance (well, length) soon. Promise! With thanks to Mal for image heads up.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

The Mighty Peking Man

1976. Italian movie producer Dino De Laurentiis delivers a creaky, campy remake of stop motion megawork King Kong and promptly makes an absolute killing at the box office. Over in Hong Kong, Shaw Brothers Studios get an opportunist whiff in their noses; there's money in them rampaging apes! Runme Shaw drafts in Eiji Tsuburaya's apprentice Koichi Kawaita, from Godzilla's home studio Toho, to deliver some state-of-the-art miniature levelling, man-in-suit, ape-pocalypse. God bless their greedy hearts!

Available with a creaky dub track on Region 1 DVD through Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder cult flick imprint, 1977's The Mighty Peking Man set my heart racing. Although t'was not the hirsute dress-up that did it! Truth be told the eventual scale stomp falls some way short of typical kaiju fare, with only some The Thing From Another World alike fire-stunts dropping my jaw. Peking Man's motivation is a kicker though - sleazy touch-ups on his human best mate, and what can only be described as optimistic brutality by a jeering Hong Kong crowd. I don't know about you but when I see a giant mass of monster muscle my first reaction is always to throw shit and generally torture the life out of it. Animals never retaliate when cornered! So if suit-man smashing failed to get my blood pumping, what did it? Why it was the mondo jungle violence that precedes it dear reader!

Our hero Danny Lee (The Killer) stars as a playboy explorer, currently bummed out because his lady friend just totally cheated on him with his sleazebag brother. Oily expedition financier Lu Tien steps in to sweep him out of his funk with empty plaudits and a fee that will likely never materialise. Their quarry? The aforementioned big Himalayan mythical ape-man. To find this Mighty Peking Man, Lee must brave big cat wrestling, his financier's dreadful bedside manner, and a blonde orphan in a barely-on Tarzan bikini. Have you got the chops Danny Lee? He must assuredly has. Turns out Danny Lee is completely mental. Does he leave leopard grappling to the stunt men? Does he fuck. He gets stuck in. Lee always gets stuck in. All manner of animals are put to death in a whole reel of gauche techno-louts abroad. This safari gets stomped. Piece de resistance? Process Elephants are triumphantly shot to shit as Lee manfully battles on in pursuit of melancholy trumping cash money.

In Lieu of Ludwig Van...

Viddy this little brother! Radiohead's Reckoner as conceived lively by Gnarls Barkley. Khorosho!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Boxing Tonight

Please find enclosed the inaugural animated short by Bricovision. With thanks to my pal Mal, ladies and gentlemen I give you: Boxing Tonight.*

This piece was animated by Camilo, a Parisian artist who has dabbled in all manner of image-pop mediums, from emulation and comics to java. The 8-bit chip-seizure music is by Sidabitball; tunes generated by tinkering on Nintendo's original handheld, the Gameboy. Find Sidabitball's webpage here, his MySpace there. Boxing Tonight's obvious pop-visual touch point would be arcade and NES box 'em up classic Punch-Out!!; a fine series that had bestowed upon it the coveted Mike Tyson seal of approval, and a superb parody in the first series of The Simpsons (Episode 6 Moaning Lisa). A little further off that beaten track, I can't help but think of Monkey Punch comics, low income boxing superstar manga: Ashita no Joe, MAD Magazine, Dragonball Z and Tetsujin 28 when I cue the short up for the umpteenth viewing.

A fantastic piece of work, and hopefully the first of a great many like it. Well done fellas!

*High quality version here.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Congratulations Mr Obama

Something for the ages happened today. Perhaps even the defining event of this infant century we call 21. Hundreds of years from now, space children in space schools will be racking their space brains trying to remember if it was 1908 or 2008 that Barack Hussein Obama II became the forty fourth President of the United States. There will also be a slightly thick kid who is sure that it's neither or those, and is in fact space year 2197. Barely comedic flippancy aside, congratulations Mr Obama. I do firmly believe this is up there with the moon landings.

Why not watch President Obama's rather excellent acceptance speech? Here, here and here.

Planet MSX! Or: How Little Big Planet Ruled Ass.

Little Big Planet is a charm factory PS3 platformer with level editing tools that make Sonic's up C, down C cheat look like dreary day somewhere rainy. Your designs are limited only by the width and breadth of your imagination gland. It's bringing democracy to video game creation!

Gradius (or Nemesis for us Europeans) is a splendid Konami horizontal shooter of '85 vintage. Gradius made the weapon selection mechanic stick, and was deemed eminently portable by all and sundry. Recent converts include Sony's handheld, the PSP. What might happen if the two got a little more than tipsy flirty and started rolling about the floor in a passionate embrace?


All hail Japanese PSN chap RRR30000! It's enough that LBP is a comprehensive jump 'em up laboratory, that the mechanic can be applied to other 2D genres boggles the mind. March forth tinkerers the world over. This versatility bending level is christened

Excitement stolen, and reworded from here.

Michael Crichton

He is survived by: twenty six books you read on holiday, a text adventure video game, ER, an excellent Michael Douglas thriller, Velociraptors, and Yul Brynner's proto terminator in Westworld.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Dan Hibiki in Street Fighter 4!

Everybody's favourite joke character Dan Hibiki makes his way into the home console port of Street Fighter 4! The long awaited fourquel is due for release in February 2009. Joy unto man. Above image is shamelessly appropriated from stellar Street Fighter news blog, er, The Street Fighter Blog. Please visit! It's a rapid update treasure trove of fighting street info.

Dan Hibiki was introduced lurking behind the scenes as a secret challenger in 1995 prequel franchise opener Street Fighter Zero. His design riffs off a pin-up portrait of Sagat issued with Street Fighter II' Champion Edition that depicted a look alike of SNK's enduring Ryu / Ken homage (knock-off) Ryo Sakazaki popped out of shape by the beanpole Muay Thai master. Running with this twos-up-to-nearest-competitor lark, Capcom took a whiffy Art of Fighting moveset impression, added a "Damn that Sagat!" dead-Dad backstory, before garnishing with a shocking pink gi and a monster ego that prides elaborate taunts over adequacy: Dan was born!