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The name’s McClane…John McClane.

It’s good to know where you stand sometimes – witness this clip, via IGN.com, from February’s “A Good Die To Die Hard”.

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With each moment of glorious vehicular abuse, John McClane‘s caterpillar to butterfly like evolution from resourceful beat cop to blue-collar James Bond seems complete, doesn’t it?  The beaten-down, right-guy-in-the-wrong-place vibe of the original movie has long since become unravelled by the need to pitch McClane into new and more exaggerated jeopardy with each sequel.

Remember this bit from “Live Free or Die Hard”/”Die Hard 4.0”?  Yes, quite.

"Free Pussy Riot? Challenge accepted..."

“Free Pussy Riot? Challenge accepted…”

If I were a harsher critic of this series, I’d say that this was more or less the point at which the franchise jumped the shark (and then killed it with a concealed rocket launcher), but I just can’t bring myself to get ticked off at the “Die Hard” flicks or their increasingly irascible hero.  As Willis gets craggier and ever more likely to request that you damn kids get off his lawn with each movie, he somehow becomes more endearing – witness the bit in the first clip linked above where he punches out a Russian motorist to commandeer his vehicle.

The films now inhabit some kind of pleasant virtual realm where vacationing  Jerseyite McClane can slug a random citizen with impunity and suffer barely a politsya scolding by way of consequence – five minutes browsing on YouTube will doubtless find you numerous videos indicating that such behaviour in Moscow will earn you a one way ticket to Slabville:  Our Russian compatriots do not eff around.

“A Good Day To Die Hard” opens in cinemas in February.  And a delightfully morally unambiguous slice of retro-mayhem it promises to be.

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“Resident Evil” week – divine “Retribution”

Evil goes virtual, more like…

So it’s come to this – the fifth movie in the now absurdly contorted narrative Gordian Knot which is the “Resident Evil” series.

“Retribution”, for that is its subtitle, pitches heroine Alice (Milla Jovovich) into possibly the most meta film in the sequence to date – to those glancing at it with disdain from the outside, this is a dumb-as-a-box-of-hammers franchise frippery, a tossed-off horror action mash-up with only nominal differences to distinguish it from the other movies in the series which they are only too happy to ignore.

To those of us in the know, this is possibly the world’s first example of cinematic downloadable content – a fan-service add-on which borrows from the business model of modern console gaming to provide cinema goers with an added value bolt-on to the series which doesn’t advance the storyline in any meaningful way save to pitch Alice into new, themed combat arenas, parachute beloved characters from the games like femme fatale Ada Wong into the film continuity and act as an amuse-bouche before the planned final entry in the franchise gets properly apocalyptic on our collective derrieres – the traditional, eye-popping final shot promises nothing more than a climactic battle to end them all.

Yes, that is a bloody ridiculous outfit. You can’t tell that these games/movies are made by horny nerds, can you?

The real issue which seems to have set the decaying, T-virus infected feline amongst the clueless avians is that apparently deliberate lack of story – whereas critics have set about previous “Resident Evil” movies for lacking purpose and eschewing plot to concentrate on high-octane fight sequences and explosions, there’s a very real sense with this entry in the series that writer/producer/director Paul W.S. Anderson has deliberately and knowingly jettisoned such niceties as narrative and characterisation to offer a curious cross-media construct which is neither game nor film – a flashy piece of entertainment which looks like a movie but has more in common with the connecting cinematic vignettes which bridge levels in contemporary video games.

For my part, as a gamer and somebody who loves movies, this latest Resi is a bold and cavalier acknowledgement that audiences experience narrative in a different way than our parents did – I find as much value and enjoyment in a brisk ten minute episode of a YouTube show as I would from slogging through 22 episodes of the latest network drama.  I know tropes, I can appreciate genre convention (and decode the subversion thereof) and I don’t need to have my entertainment framed in the kind of classical structures which many critics seem to require film makers to slavishly ape.

If nothing else, this latest instalment of the franchise fully embraces its source material (if only as a jumping off point) and is the most explicitly video game-inspired film that Paul W.S. Anderson and Jeremy Bolt have yet presented – watch this movie for more than ten minutes and you’ll be able to tick off the influences – Valve’s “Portal” and it’s test chamber structure presided over by a homicidal, female-identified A.I. is front and centre, with a hilariously prolonged ‘rugged heroes vs. soldier zombies’ gun battle in one level scene being utterly synonymous with the ‘Nazi Zombies‘ sub-games from the last few “Call of Duty” games.

It must almost have come as a relief for the film school crit-crowd to have a major plot line in the film blatantly lift the ‘Ripley/Newt’ surrogate mother riffs from James Cameron‘s “Aliens” – at least there’s something to aim their hipster scorn at which doesn’t require a degree in survival horror continuity and recent video game history to appreciate.

Yep, just your everyday tale of post-apocalyptic, V.R. training simulations and massed clone armies…

A word, if we can, on the use of 3D in this film – Anderson’s third consecutive feature to be shot using the Cameron/Pace rigs and certainly the most technically accomplished utilisation of the technology that I’ve seen outside of “Avatar”.  As this is a sci-fi/horror/action flick, there’s the requisite number of “Look! An axe flying at your head!” camera shots and mutant undead beasts leering into the front row but Anderson and Director of Photography Glen MacPherson manage to do some interesting things with perspective – Alice’s Umbrella prison cell, and the use of space in the frame are as diverting as the showier stuff and the New York level/sequence has neat perspective use to justify the price premium inherent in seeing a 3D (or IMAX 3D, for my sins) presentation.  And that’s before mentioning the stunning reverse/slo-mo/3D opening sequence – it makes arguably not a lick of sense in the great scheme of things, but it’s very pretty indeed.

Such is the full-tilt insanity of this fifth movie that it’s hard to know how Anderson could hope to top the constant barrage of action, cheap jump scares, fan-serving cameos, 3D eye-candy and zombie-punching ass-kickery that “Retribution” serves up unless he aims to abandon formal cinematic structure altogether and frames the next flick as an uninterrupted, ninety-minute long battle sequence against the undead harbingers of the apocalypse with only minimal dialogue and plot sketching to guide the uninitiated along.

That crazy disregard for convention extends to the acting – is Bingbing Li channelling her character’s voice acting from the games or is she really that wooden (I’d say not – she was perfectly fine in the Jackie Chan kids adventure, The Forbidden Kingdom)?  Returning “R.E. Apocalypse” alumnus Sienna Guillory is similarly…variable in her return to the series as Jill Valentine – she’s playing a character under mind-control, which does give her something of a pass, but her villainous turn here suggests less a ultra bad-assed warrior chick and more of homicidal sixth-form prefect who can somehow kill you with a flick of her pinky:  Dem line readings, kids – something to treasure if you see this film on DVD and Blu-Ray.

The last, apocalyptic and seemingly unending shot in the movie promises much – let’s see if Anderson can keep up his end of the bargain and deliver the movie which perhaps gives us the full-on, sense-assaulting future war epic that, say,  the “Terminator” franchise has long promised audiences but significantly failed to deliver.  Who knows?  On the evidence of this most video-game inspired entry in the series, the next “Resi” might just come with Quick-Time Event prompts on-screen and an Xbox 360 joypad free with your 3D glasses.

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Flawless Victory!

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I’ve blogged about Freddie W. and his awesome YouTube antics previously so I’m more than happy to direct to another equally talented gang of artists and all-out nerds doing splendidly nerdy, video game related shenanigans.

Meet Corridor Digital and their match-up video of combatants from various franchises doing battle to decide on supremacy.

The result may surprise…

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“Game of Thrones” theme goes Metal.

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Dinklage throws the horns and all is well in the world...

 

Via our dear friends at the UK’s most heavily metallic publication, Metal Hammer, comes a link to a none-more-metal cover version of the theme song to “A Game of Thrones” (AKA, that show that I know I’ll love and still haven’t watched).  If you can think of a TV show more deserving of such musical treatment, you’re a finer nerd than I (if you just said My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic, please feel free to depart the blog forthwith).

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Frankly, what’s not to like?  Erstwhile shredder and YouTuber ERock331 also does bad-ass covers of the themes from Doctor Who (yes, yes – thrice YES!), Back to the Future and other geek-friendly loveliness over on his YouTube channel and confirms his (newly-confirmed, by me) status as a gentleman, scholar and delightful nerd.

Respect is, quite clearly, due…

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Superhero Bits & Bobs, for Easter 2012

Hulk crave delicious Empanada yet realises cholesterol is an issue...

The Irish Avenger’s YouTube channel has two new tv spots up for Avengers Assemble – look for the extended Captain America and “Team” spots for more awesome Cap and Hulk action.  He’s also helpfully got the clip of Black Widow escaping capture in a fashion so Whedonesque it brings tears of joy to the eye.

The pic above is new, too – don’t you just love how the CG artists have managed to invest the digital Hulk model with Mark Ruffalo‘s salt-and-pepper hair colouring.  That’s bloody art that is…

Now that The Hunger Games opened and made a few bob – $269 million in the US, at last count – Fox are understandably eager to exploit her rising fame and exercise their option to cast her in the now-greenlit “X-Men: First Class” sequel, per this story on SuperHeroHype.

Matthew Vaughn is directing again, so expect the X-folk to interact with historical events and all the female characters to walk around in lingerie for a good portion of the running time.  Feminism, eh, Matthew – what is it all about?

AMC’s Film Critic blog has an interesting list of the best comic book movie trailers – whilst there are some solid and expected choices listed, I’d like to put my two pence in for the non-DC/Marvel likes of “Scott Pilgrim Vs The World” and the “Hellboy 2” trailer (the former for being amazeballs, the latter for establishing that “Hellboy 2” was a real thing and still chock full of visually arresting Del Torian surrealist gloriousness).

"Joss, are you sure this is my most heroic side?"

The “Captain America” sequel has a release date – April 4, 2014 and follows on from this summer’s “Avengers” movie  in a contemporary time-frame.

Finally, Slashfilm offers a review of Morgan Spurlock’s “Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan’s Hope” documentary, which was already on my radar due to it being produced by Joss Whedon and now looks like that rare thing – the nerd doc which gets things right.  Imagine that…

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Freddie W – YouTube’s FPS king

Pretty colours looks like ectoplasmz...

I love Freddie W’s YouTube videos.  He and his team make fantastic, frequently game-themed videos which show you just what semi-pro film-makers can do with some readily accessible software, cameras and a lot of talent.

Take a look at his newest, “Battlefield 4 trailer” video, for example.  Or his “Gamers commute” clip.  He’s a real talent and part of the reason that I watch more on-line content these days than traditional telly.

But he’s not alone – I found this “Doctor Who”themed video on Topless Robot this morning which amply illustrates why the Sonic Screwdriver’s multifarious abilities would well and truly break the quasi-realism of most action movies (a slight content warning – if mild gore is not your thing, you might want to avoid the video as it features a somewhat graphic, John Woo-style head shot).

This might help you in a gunfight, but wouldn't the Doctor want to avoid that kind of thing in the first place?

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