Wednesday, 20 February 2013
Conceived in the epic tradition of Santa Claus: The Movie, Cannon Films' Masters of the Universe is a kid's eye view of an eternal conflict. Rather than revolve around the final battle between the forces of good and evil, the established players of the toy line are jettisoned to concentrate on the human story of Courtney Cox's mopey orphan Julie. Stranded on Earth after a coup, He-Man is an unknowable bit player in his own story. I suppose the filmmakers think they're patterning their narrative after Luke Skywalker's arc in Star Wars - the naive teenager as a means to discover, and engage with a larger story. Unfortunately, no real reason is found why this Earth kid should be involved at all. The sick synthesiser skills of Julie's boyfriend Kevin do enable the marooned Eternians to make their way home, but once back in Castle Grayskull the teenagers cower in a corner whilst He-Man battles a cosmically powered Skeletor.
Although limiting the vast majority of the action to a Californian suburb is obviously a budgetary call, it does give Masters a bit of Kirby crackle. Seeing mutoid scumbags appear out of nowhere to terrorise the hapless inhabitants of Earth lends the film a Fourth World feel. This effect is heightened by the teenager's utter distress at being caught in the crossfire. Although introduced to Mattel's monsters separately, both Julie and Kevin are rendered near catatonic by the sheer impossibility of what they are experiencing. When Skeletor's mercenaries explode into his girlfriend's home, Kevin has a complete break with reality, tossing paper plates and hysterically pleading with his attackers to "get out of here". Although the alien and the everyday never knit together to become a greater whole in Masters of the Universe, the clash between them is so awkward and traumatic for the Earth characters that I didn't actually mind that a Moebius designed Beast Man had been reduced to beating up a high school janitor.
Tuesday, 19 February 2013
Just in case people weren't excited enough for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Producer Hideo Kojima has cut together a 7 minute hysteria trailer to get us hyped.
A Good Day to Die Hard is barely worth talking about. We're twenty five years removed from the Moonlighting guy trapped in The Towering Inferno; Bruce Willis' screen persona has developed and mutated. We've gone from a fairly regular guy stuck in a dreadful situation to an insufferable bald maniac driving stolen product placement over poor people.
There's always been an underlining tension to Bruce Willis The Product. A key aspect of this is that he's essentially just an arrogant prick. The original Die Hard cemented this idea, but tempered it with a deep self-loathing as well as an inability to connect with those around him in small, consistent ways. This emotional dissonance is core to Willis' screen identity. So many of his films have played with this idea that apparently it no longer needs explaining. We're now at a point were Willis, like Stallone and Schwarzenegger, is a vulgar caricature of his greatest successes.
Whereas before negative traits were balanced by dramatic scenarios and character writing to create something resembling a well-rounded hero, here we're in Hyperspace Hoopla territory. Cultural icons trotted out in limp costumes and made to dance and cavort for our amusement. John McClane in Die Hard 5 looks like he has leukaemia. He's bald, seemingly underweight, and made to look small by the oversized weapons he's forced to handle.
Dramatically Willis plays second fiddle to Jai Courtney as John McClane Jr, a character who actually gets a storyline. McClane Sr's personality is locked. He's not here to grow or change, he's here to broker a franchise handover. This is why we're stuck with endless sequences of Willis annihilating other motorists whilst chasing his child around Russia. This McClane is a bigoted amalgamation of The Terminator and Mr Magoo, a sociopath that quips and pulls faces as he crushes screaming housewives with a Mercedes Benz 4x4. It's like an annoying neighbour sitcom idea blown up to surreal, satirical levels. We're about as far away from a guy crying and pulling glass out of his feet in a executive bathroom as it's possible to be.
Sunday, 17 February 2013
Saturday, 16 February 2013
Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Tuesday, 12 February 2013
I never took the time to check out the TV series, but as a property Ghost in the Shell has always read to me as a morose feedback loop. Even Masamune Shirow's original fingerbang manga dwelt heavily on identity destruction and black ops dick measuring. In contrast this trailer for prequel series Ghost in the Shell: Arise seems to be a poppy repackage of a nostalgia property in the vein of Dragon Ball Kai. All aboard for cybernetic augmentation as a way to facilitate hyper-kinetic martial arts!
Saturday, 9 February 2013
Caught Wreck-It Ralph last night, a fairly pleasant rummage through John Lasseter's ruthless emotional plotting. I love you! I hate you! I LOVE YOU! etc. Bizarrely, Ralph posits a 2012 in which arcades are still relevant. I wish! A week doesn't pass that I don't read about some fight game mecca closing its doors in America. I guess acceptable online combat was the last nail in that coffin. Over here in the UK if you can find something resembling an arcade it's probably stuffed full of fruit machines and maybe, MAYBE, a broken Konami light-gun cab.
Ralph is also a signal that the 90s are now being gobbled up for mainstream nostalgia grist. Street Fighter II characters featured heavily in the film, perhaps a sign that if you remember 1992 with any level of clarity you should be a parent by now. Front and centre for the Capcom crowd was Soviet grappler Zangief, talking us through what it feels like to be a bad guy with gigantic thighs. I've never really thought of Zangief as a baddie. I know he was a Bison stooge in the Van Damme movie but who gives a shit about that? I guess we're forever expected to operate on pre-Glasnost models of thought. To compensate for this terrible slur on the Red Cyclone, here's ten minutes of a player named Pony grappling his way through the kind of characters people usually pick for an easy win in Street Fighter II X: Grand Master Challenge.
Sunday, 3 February 2013
Saturday, 2 February 2013
Ten years out of the game, Arnold Schwarzenegger creaks back into the limelight with The Last Stand, an undercooked audition piece for South Korean director Kim Ji-woon. The Last Stand is your typical structurally incompetent action flick, devoting far too much time to a weak-piss federal investigation that has all the flair of a semen swab procedural. Forest Whitaker acts big in blue environments heaving with bland cubicle cops; dishing out exposition and pulling a series of incredulous faces as a cartel brat speeds towards Sheriff Schwarzenegger's hamlet in a ludicrous super-car.
The Last Stand fits into a weird Schwarzenegger sub-genre where the former Mr Universe is expected to walk and talk like he's a regular human being. Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger hasn't blossomed as an actor. Small talk with the village locals plays pained. Placing Schwarzenegger in an interchangeable people-person role feels like a fundamental misreading of what he is capable of. He's not a chatter, or a pal, he's a brooding monster with a one track mind. The Last Stand plays with this idea lightly. If you were being generous, you could take a step back and contextualise the broken readings and artificiality as a plastic personality Schwarzenegger has constructed over his deeper, meaner identity.
The Last Stand limps along until all the frayed little threads come together for the final act. A man down and preparing for invasion, Schwarzenegger tells his favourite deputy to expect total fucking mayhem. Kim Ji-woon doesn't disappoint. The Last Stand transforms into a cartoon that plays large off silly, incidental details. Kim brings his outsider eye to a small town shoot-out that touches on a few of the more alien aspects of the American persona. Ancient Southern Ladies ruthlessly protect their bric-a-brac crap, town fatsos refuse to have their eating agenda interrupted, and naturalised immigrants feel obliged to work twice as hard as everyone else. The cartel's road rocket also finds its way into a dense corn field for an anti-action finale that seems to be saying something about the potential for working class unity to upset the machinations of spoilt, drug pushing little shits.
Despite his arthritic shuffle, Schwarzenegger is still physically impressive. His shape has matured into a towering muscle breeze block, kin to Stallone's hideous appearance in Rambo. Stick Schwarzenegger in a perilous situation and ask him to say something glib and there are flashes of the 80s action icon. In future, It'd probably be best to put Arnold over like he's Hulk Hogan returning to the WWF. Keep him large, and make the young'uns sell like crazy.
Presumably, given the on-screen button prompts, Hutch is playing through the Crysis 3 beta on the Xbox 360. If so, Crytek UK (formerly Free Radical Design) have really upped their multiplayer game since Crysis 2. Although not as technically handsome as the previous game, Crysis 3 looks to be a much smoother experience overall. Although by no means an embarrassment, Crysis 2's multiplayer was marked by occasional frame rate chugs and input lag, two issues you don't really want to be dealing with in a fast-paced arcade shooter. Hutch picks up some real speed in this clip, tracking and thumping opponents in all kinds of situations without the visual fidelity taking a really noticeable hit. I'll have to give this a bash before the Crysis 3 beta ends on February 12th.
Friday, 1 February 2013
Predominantly male heterosexual audience! Does the idea of a slight woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to a gene splice of Zooey Deschanel and Guardian beauty columnist Sali Hughes make you feel all nice inside? Do you want to protect this big-eyed beauty from the brutes of the world? Of course you do!
Despite rumours of a satirically incompetent dev cycle, BioShock Infinite is shaping up to be something rather splendid. We'll put that talent exodus from developer studio Irrational Games, not to mention the months wasted on a still born multiplayer mode, out of our minds to concentrate on the evidence presented in this trailer. Seems like Ken Levine et al have woven an arresting little yarn that marries the techno-aesthetic of Oz to a living, breathing monument to American exceptionalism.
Ms Disaster and I recently spent some time in Washington DC. As outsiders we were both very taken with the idea that, at some point, there seemed to have been a conscious effort to create an American political pantheon to exist in place of traditional Judeo-Christian power structures. Greek deities were woven into murals of Washington and the Founding Fathers kicking ass and taking names; their deeds the bedrock of a new, post-God paradise. Columbia, the central environment of BioShock Infinite, seems to be a Laputa based on similar ideas. Just look at those statues of Father Washington - he is their God.