Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Unspeakable Lameness of “Gamer”

Over at Topless Robot today, David Wolinsky posted a list which got me thinking – why do films get the culture of video games so completely wrong?

Hmm...noir.

Chin up Gerard, you'll be second-fiddle to that Heigl gal in second-rate rom-coms any time now...

Part of me suspects that there’s no love for the upstart medium – it competes for mind share with music and TV, further eroding Hollywood’s hold on teen and twentysomething cash and if there’s one thing that film studios don’t like to do, it’s to share cash.  Games are a potential asset to be used as source material for films, but don’t yet command the same level of respect of a hack popular novelist like Dan Brown.

When film makers do attempt to marry the always-on digital world to the heady realm of populist cinema the frequent end product ends up being something like the wretched Neveldine/Taylor directed, 2009 Gerard Butler vehicle, “Gamer”.

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This film features high on the Topless Robot list as an example of how terrible Hollywood films featuring games can be and it’s an object lesson in how to do pretty much everything wrong.

The cast are wasted.  Butler’s decent value in action flicks but he gets little to do in a role which should be multi-faceted (family man forced to kill or be killed, separated from his wife, a public enemy number one loved/hated by a global reality TV audience) but ends up being a thuggish stereotype.  Amber Valetta gets to essentially be felt up by the camera for 95 minutes as Butler’s missus – thankless isn’t the half of it.

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The tech is so ludicrous that it may as well be a film utilising magic for all the sense that it makes – the always on, beyond HD quality, omniscient camera tracking the combatants in the “Call of Duty” alike “Slayers” game in the film – how the chuff does that work, then?  There’s some guff in the script, as I recall, about neural net thingymajigs but the fact of the matter is that the game inventor in the film, Michael C Hall, is not Molyneux or Kojima but some plot-assisting analogue of Merlin and Mandrake.

This is what bugs me so much about this film – it would make more sense for the film to occupy the same space as “The Running Man” or an Ice-T vehicle that you’ve never seen, “Surviving The Game”.  But no, we’ve got to drag the new-fangled video games into this shoddy hackery because that’s the folk demon which this script has a bee in its backwards baseball cap about.

It doesn’t just stop by having a pop at the 360 console crowd – social media gets a shoeing too in the form of “Society”, a singularly bone-headed blend of “The Sims”,“Second Life” style hipster casual gaming and honest-to-goodness slavery which the Amber Valetta character finds herself sold into – because, for the most part, women in this film exist solely to be ogled, fondled, objectified and generally handled like so much meat.

I hated this movie – can you tell?

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Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m not exactly Roger Ebert (or Mark Kermode, for that matter). I like my B-movies, I don’t mind if they’re dumb as a box of hammers and I only ask that they be entertaining.  “Gamer” has a premise that Verhoeven and Bruce Willis would have knocked to the Moon and back in the early Nineties but fails to raise so much as a ‘hoo-rah’ with its eminently miss-able blend of crappy action, murky motivations, sleepwalking performances and a general sense that the Neveldine/Taylor team will do anything to try to shock the presumed target audience for this movie – mouth-breathing 12-year-old boys coming down off a 24 hour Mountain Dew and Doritos bender.

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You have to try hard to make a movie like this dull.  It takes real, strenuous effort.  Wall-to-wall bloodshed, eye candy and an amorality which makes Michael Bay look like Jonathan Demme – and “Gamer” is still as riveting as cleaning your clogged drains.

Neveldine/Taylor – reverse Midas touch, non?  It’s enough to make you think that the thick ear thrills of the first “Crank” film were a one-off.

I’m beginning to suspect that the issue is one of translation and the inherent problem in translating from one interactive medium to one which lends itself to contemplation and has been usurped in terms of presenting thrills by its younger sibling.

A final thought – Games excel at presenting on-screen action and have been doing it better since the PS1 and equivalent PC hardware allowed the first steps towards interactive cinematic mayhem on the player’s home television.  Hollywood’s on the back foot and probably won’t ever catch up.  Beginning to see why they put so little effort into adapting video games?

 

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“Avengers” Assemble Soundtrack…

Music to be Tony Stark by...

So, you were expecting Selena Gomez, perhaps?

In a move which boldly pitches their soundtrack album firmly at middle-aged rockers, the clever folk at Marvel have decided that this summer’s “Avengers” movie will benefit strongly from a soundtrack composed largely of the musical genre known as ‘Butt Rock’.

Is this really Joss Whedon’s taste in music?  Because, if it is, I’ve just extended my man-crush on him to an absurd degree.

The big news in the soundtrack listing is the first new material from the reunited Soundgarden , “Live to Rise”, which you can hear a brief sample of here.   Riff which might take your face off? Check.  Bass for your face?  Check.  Popular kind of flannel shirt? Check.

Elsewhere on the soundtrack, you’ve got your new (Black Veil Brides), your  grunge and nu-metal survivors (Bush, Papa Roach, Buckcherry), your ‘active rock’ power-players (Shinedown, Theory of a Deadman, Five Finger Death Punch) and your inexplicable (drum and bass godhead Photek remixing Evanescence.  Huh?)

Nu-Metal divas assemble! (Just don't kick me with your cyber-goth boots, Amy)

Mild snark notwithstanding, I am all over this soundtrack like a slavering fanboy who just realised that there’s less than a month to go before he gets to go and see “Avengers Assemble” with Mrs Rolling Eyeballs.  It’s quite possible that this track listing is not your kettle of salmon, but I’m almost predestined on a genetic level to like this stuff – crunchy loudness makes Fluffrick happy!

Excelsior!  Ahem…

 

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Katniss Sells Out

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Via The Mary Sue

And that’s how you make $152 million in three days, I guess.  Despite some controversial changes, an appalling subset of fans and the wholly expected overreaction from the brains trust at Fox News, Lionsgate have a bona fide, wide appeal blockbuster with “The Hunger Games” and despite my misgivings about the source material, I suppose that any self-respecting Whedonist like myself should be happy that a movie with an accomplished, flinty female protagonist is doing so well.

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Tony Iommi updates us…

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Picture via Metal Sucks

Over on his official site, Tony Iommi has updated everybody on his progress as he takes the good fight to cancer – he’s finished chemo and has a period of radiotherapy to deal with.  He still plans to play with most of the classic Black Sabbath line-up at this June’s Download festival and reports that work is still ongoing on a new Sabbath record.

So, not out of the woods by a long chalk but still looking positive – you can’t really ask for much more than that, can you?

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Titans or Princesses?

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I don’t know if this is the case for you but I find myself being oddly defensive towards fantasy flicks, sci-fi pics and things horrific when they open at the box office – on the basis that if you don’t support them, all we’re going to end up with is bland mainstream thrillers and Katherine Heigl rom-coms because that what’s Hollywood thinks they know how to make.

Note the presence of the word ‘thinks’ in that paragraph.

Take, for example, the soon-come first Snow White movie of 2012, Tarsem Singh’s revisionist fairytale “Mirror Mirror”.  The first trailer had me gagging, the second one less so and now I’m kind of in two minds about whether I want to go and see it at the cinema after Den of Geek’s surprisingly decent review (Mrs Rolling Eyeballs is also fond of revisionist fairy tales so this is quite up her alley).

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The thing that’s putting me off – or, to be more accurate, having me think that I’ll get more bang for my buck – is “Wrath of the Titans”.  I was no fan of Louis Leterrier’s charmless “Clash of the Titans” reboot as it squandered an amazing cast, resources and mythology in favour of delivering a movie which felt more like “God of War 4” than an actual film – unskippable PS3 cut-scene as cinema.

There are aspects about this sequel which perk up my interest – this trailer helped, the presence of the always excellent Rosamund Pike, this movie actually featuring some ACTUAL BLOODY TITANS, which is quite nice.  Plus, you can’t go wrong with Ralph Fiennes looking like he’s auditioning for Dimmu Borgir

The Antiquity Ass Kicking may have sealed things for me, but there is a dark horse candidate which also looks rather fabulous…

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Gotta love Aardman Animation.

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Delain’s “We Are The Others” gets a release date, finally.

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After being embroiled in that old chestnut, record company politics, Dutch Symphonic Rockmeisters Delain are set to release their third album, “We Are The Others” on June 4th in the UK, with a release in Benelux and Germany slated for 1st June.  The first single, “Get The Devil Out Of Me”, is out in April (live versions are around on YouTube if you care to take a look…).

This is clearly good news if you’re a fan – symphonic metal of all stripes is pretty much my nerdy brand of catnip – and the story behind it is supremely frustrating as it illustrates why so many people won’t be sad to see the major record companies chomp the dismal dust – record company A buys smaller record company B and fires people, restructures the business and bands get caught in the middle, with their record ready to go and no ability to release it until wholly irrelevant business stuff is resolved.

Still, it appears that Delain can get on with releasing their record – frustratingly after their UK tour (which I’m going to) has finished.  Not knowing the songs didn’t make seeing Lacuna Coil any less enjoyable, so I’ll just have to do some YouTube detective work…

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New “Who” trailer is Spaghetti Cyborg cornucopia

There's a new Sheriff in time...

It escaped online mere minutes after being shown at this weekend’s first official “Doctor Who” convention, with all of the grungy cam-vision goodness that you might expect it to have.  Now, by the grace of the Crooked Warden, you can see things all proper and hi-def like.

I refer, of course, to the first teaser trailer for season seven of “Doctor Who”, which is being made even as I type these words.  If you’re spoiler-phobic, I guess that you’ll have stopped reading this post, so for the rest of us what follows is a wee bit spoiley.

The gang's all here...

We’ve got cyborg cowboys, an Egyptian lady, a bunch more robots, snowy locations, eyes on sticks, explosions, horses, Ben Browder from “Farscape” and enough western shenanigans to suggest that this “Who” story set in old-timey USA could be the best slice of retro/alt-history SF with cowboys since “Back To The Future Part 3” (I haven’t seen “Cowboys and Aliens” yet, so can’t comment on the quality or otherwise of that flick).

Ben Browder, with James Hetfield of Metallica's moustache. I hope he asked first...

All looking quite promising, I hope you’ll agree – and word has it that we may see it sooner than the widely rumoured November transmission date…

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