26-11-12
Posted by Ben at 18:10

For the first couple of minutes Silent Hill Revelation makes quite a good impression. The film opens in an unsettling fairground, a girl who resembles the lead from Silent Hill 3 is fleeing from something, her hiding spot is right next to a giant pink stuffed rabbit. Later on another couple of familiar faces make an appearance, itís commendable that thereís that much care taken with Silent Hill Revelation.

Similarly the Ďdarknessí, the bit where the world transforms to the dank, distorted other world, it still looks great, as does the fog. It looks like Silent Hill. The demons too look the part, Pyramid Head doesnít rip anyoneís skin off this time, but he still looks ĎrightĎ, as do the nurses. Thereís a new monster, a mannequin spider, itís certainly something youíd expect to see in Silent Hill, but it looks a bit clean, and so fake, and thatís where we start getting to whatís wrong with Silent Hill Revelation.

The first Silent Hill film is one of the better videogame movies, in fact itís a decent horror movie up until the whole witchcraft ending, which at least was pretty gruesome. Silent Hill Revelation has the same cult storyline, in fact itís a sequel to the first film, only this time it feels more otherworldly, and I doubt through design. The cult in the first film felt like backwards puritans, here they look more like demons themselves.

The plot is even more nonsensical than the first film. The cult burned Alessa as a sacrifice, she survived and cursed them and Silent Hill. Not only did she survive she also separated her good self from her dark self, birthed the good self, left it at an orphanage where the good Alessa was then adopted by Sean Bean. The cult need this good Alessa back to unite the two Alessas so that they an kill her, bring back their god, and free themselves from the curse. Thereís also a key that Sean Beanís wife (star of the first film) used to free the good Alessa (who is now called Heather/Sharron) from Silent Hill after they both got stuck there at the end of the first film. The cult are now hunting Sean Bean and Heather/Sharron as they move from town to town, and have somehow managed to plant one of their children in the same school as Heather on her first day, but then the private detective they hired also managed to track them down just as fast, so what do I know?

The dialogue is awful, I know thatís a common complaint in Loading Screen, but there are points where Silent Hill Revelation reminds me of terrible 70s horror films. The acting isnít anything particularly special, but then Adelaide Clemens (Heather) is quite likable. She isnít as good when sheís playing Dark Alessa, she isnít as creepy as the younger girl who plays her. Sean Bean still canít do an American accent consistently. The most disappointing though is Malcolm McDowell, heís only in the film for a minute, and Iím sure he could point to any number of factors, but heís just not very good in this.

Silent Hill Revelation isnít particularly scary either, it tries a few jump scares, particularly early on, but not one of them lands. The monsters, while mostly well designed, are not so horrific that theyíre enough on their own. Thereís nothing particularly gruesome in the film, certainly nothing to match people having their skin ripped off or being burned alive.

It seems odd to say but Silent Hill Revelation is hugely disappointing after the relative success of the first film. They set up for a sequel too, but given how badly the story has lost its way I canít see it happening. Itís been shown that of all the videogames that can be made into films Silent Hill seems to work, which is why itís such a shame that this one isnít worth your time.
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19-11-12
Posted by Ben at 06:01

With the release of Resident Evil Damnation we can now confirm that thereís 2 Resident Evil film franchises on the go; the live action Milla Jovovich ones, and these CG efforts. While the live action films often get criticised for not staying true to the source, Resident Evil Degeneration, and this new film Damnation, do a much better job of capturing the feel of the games.

Thatís not to say they nail it, granted Iím not the worlds foremost knowledge of Resident Evil, but I was under the impression that once someone turned in to a zombie, or a Las Plagas zombie, that was kind of it, Damnation shows that they can be back and chatting away a minute later. Iím not even sure if one of the key plot points is possible in the Resident Evil fiction, controlling Lickers by injecting yourself with the Plagas parasite.

To the plot then, a former Soviet country is suffering a power struggle, with a former military leader claiming power and exerting influence on other political leaders. The people fight back, with rebel factions and government forces becoming embroiled in a civil war, and itís not long until BOWs start being used. Which is why Leon is called in, although thanks to the political sensitivity of the region heís on his own, with neither the U.S. nor Russia wanting to get involved.

To be honest most of that you can just forget, all you need to know is that the rebels are fighting the government and thereís zombies. Leon makes a friend, which gives him a reason to care about whatís going on, but really thereís no reason for him to help the rebels, especially as all the evidence suggests that theyíre the only ones using BOWs (although that does change).

It took me a while to place what Resident Evil Damnation reminded me of, itís very Japanese in its structure. It focuses on relationships, quickly formed, but strong enough that it gives the hero a motivation for the back half of the film. Damnation is every Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, and Pokemon spin-off film you will ever see. One thing it also shares with Pokemon (Pokemon Black I think it is) is the moral ambiguity of the factions, itís commendable that the rebels arenít wholly good, in fact whatever their motivations their actions are indefensible.

Beyond that though itís hard to praise the plot too much, it doesnít feel particularly important, possibly because the main character isnít really a part of it. Even the characters feel incidental, you donít care when people die, you arenít really routing for anyone other than Leon and you know heís going to be fine. The script is particularly clunky, probably due to a too literal translation from Japanese (anyone whoís watched a significant amount of anime will know what I mean).

If Damnation is going to be worth a watch then it has to come from what youíre seeing, and the film certainly looks great. Itís not jaw-dropping or anything, but in comparison to Degeneration itís a huge improvement, and the characters are well animated. Where itís let down though is that the action isnít really showy enough. It starts well, the underground car-park scene is relatively tense and adds some mystery, but itís not until Leon is sprinting down an opulent hall in the back half of the film that I can offer that praise again. Iím not entirely sure what the problem is other than to say that thereís a lack of punch and peril.

Iím not sure where Iíd place Damnation amongst the gaming films Iíve reviewed, itís certainly not a bad film but at no point does it really do anything of note. When the biggest crime a film commits is cringe-worthy puns and shoehorned characters you canít really damn it too harshly. And with that being said Iíd recommend Resident Evil Damnation to RE fans, itís less annoying than the first animated film, and closer to the games than any of the live action films, but itís not something you need to rush to watch.
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24-07-11
Posted by Ben at 20:10

I didnít particularly like Dead Space Downfall, it started well but then turned into a predictable sweary gorefest. Aftermath has elements of that, but fortunately itís got a story to tell. Admittedly itís a familiar story, basically Aliens meets Event Horizon, with a crew being sent to Aegis 7 to recover a mysterious artefact, one that the top brass know will kill the crew, but is more valuable than their lives.

Dead Space Aftermath also uses the well worn concept of having multiple animation studios create each part of the film. It worked with the Animatrix because the art was superb and the tales split, Halo Legends also had separate tales and some interesting and unique art. However Danteís Inferno used the technique and suffered for it; some of the animation was decent enough but the constant narrative didnít suit the switching of styles. Dead Space suffers less for that and more because the art is so poor. Weíre treated to fairly low grade CG, then the levels of animation youíd see in a Saturday morning cartoon.

I do like the way the story is told though. Dead Space Aftermath begins with a rescue crew landing on the OíBannon immediately after the surviving ships crew had ended the blight of the Necromorphs. Theyíre taken back to a government ship and forced to tell their version of what happened. I say forced as the survivors are tortured regardless of their willingness, or even ability, to share their tale. This is where the shifts in animation come in. Each character reveals a bit more of what happened before we joined the story.

The characters all have their own motivations, ranging from the trauma of a dead child, a dead sibling, or refreshingly an affair. The characters are a little one dimensional and as usual nothing you havenít seen before. Only the government workers are truly evil, with even the crazy religious nut having sincere motivations. That said the acting is well above average, tarnished by Kuttnerís constant screaming getting a bit annoying, but itís arguably the strongest part of the film.

Itís a shame the story is predictable as I found myself quite gripped by it. Itís nothing clever, but I was routing for the characters and became aware I was becoming quite gripped by what was on screen. There are some stupid bits, not least the Danteís Inferno game footage, but it does capture the feel of Dead Space to a point. Perhaps hypocritically after criticising the first film, Aftermath feels a little lacking in action. I guess with a longer running time Aftermath could have included more of the horror with some more action.

Itís not a classic, but itís the better of the two Dead Space films. It comes closer to capturing the essence of the game than Downfall, and it does add something to the main line story. Dead Space Aftermath is certainly worth a watch, and with better production might have been worth a purchase, all in all not bad.
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10-07-11
Posted by Ben at 20:48

If youíre familiar with Red Faction then the name Alec Mason will have some meaning to you. After his brother was murdered by the Earth forces (EDL) he led a revolution, freeing Mars from Earth rule. If youíre not, as I wasnít, then thatís what youíve missed, and Red Faction Origins takes place some time after these events, sort of negating the word íoriginsí in the title.

Alex Mason is no longer the hero he once was, now heís an alcoholic mourning the loss of his wife and daughter. His son, Jake, takes centre stage, and is introduced with the ignominy of having to arrest his father for a drunken brawl, himself having joined the Red Faction. Alec and Jakeís relationship plays a large part in the film, with the elder apparently holding some resentment for Jake allowing his younger sister Lyra to be captured and killed (only Jake believes sheís alive), I say apparently because it very much appears to be more of a chip on Jakeís shoulder than his fatherís.

Itís the Mason family saga that the rest of the film hangs off. It turns out that Alecís wife was a Marauder, with Mars being split between Marauders and the regular Martians. Thereís an uneasy truce between the two sides, with any encroachment into opposing territory being seen as an act of war. Iíll be honest as the Marauders fight exclusively with knives and staffs while the settlers have guns and aircraft, I suspect any war would be fairly one sided.

While out scavenging a crashed space ship Jake spots a new group, a band of soldiers dressed in white, the same fatigues as the people who killed his mother and took his sister. He then sets out to track down this ĎWhite Factioní in the hopes of finding his sister, and in doing so uncovers their secret plan to annihilate the settlers and the Marauders.

The filmís comic relief comes in the form of Tess, an Earth born girl working with the Red Faction as a science officer. Like Jake she has a massive chip on her shoulder, ready to snap whenever anyone says no to her just in case itís because of her place of birth. I can understand that after a war someone who originated from the other side might be treated with suspicion, but that doesnít happen here, nothing is ever said against her heritage. Tess goes from ditzy to ball of anger in an instant, itís ill-fitting for the character and makes her incredibly hard to like (perversely because of what sheĎs got to work with, I did kind of find myself routing for the actress). Tess is also the brains of the piece, hacking computer systems and shutting down security, again hard to believe when she spends 99% of the film like a deer in the headlights.

The acting for the most part is alright, suffering more from the limitations of the predictable, sluggish script than through any fault of the cast. Robert Patrick is more than solid as Alec, perhaps he doesnít quite come across as Ďbeyond hopeí enough, but heís reasonably convincing. Thereís one scene in particular, where heís talking to an old war friend about his son, itís framed, written and acted in such a way that in a better film it would be a mood scene, full of pride and strength, here it just lacks something. I think itís the lighting, itís a very bright scene, it needs to be more noir, have some rain, beyond that perhaps it was merely what had preceded it.

Brian J. Smith (Jake) similarly does a good job, certainly he leads the film well and is reasonably convincing as an elite soldier. One issue I did notice, and perhaps this is simply the contrast between him and Tess, but he doesnít really emote enough during the comedy scenes. Thereís a few recognisable British faces in there, though Iím not sure how many youíll be able to place, but I canít think of any truly poor performances.

Red Faction Origins has a habit of showing itís special effects too often. Itís something a lot of low budget sci-fi does (Lexx for example). Likely itís due to it being cheaper to use CGI than build a set, but sometimes less is more, especially when whatís there is never going to be spectacular. To labour the point, the scene between Alec and Jake in the prison cell is more convincing than the scene in the Red Faction base with its CG aircraft. Computers have never been great at making stuff look beaten and weathered, not without a sizable budget (look at the more recent Star Wars movies), where as an old bit of real world scrap will look like an old bit of scrap on film.

Red Faction Origins biggest problem is that itís not very exciting. The fight scenes are very poor, the plot predictable, the script lacking punch. It doesnít utterly fail at much, bar the fights, and as such itís hard to really articulate why it goes wrong, but it just doesnít engage you. Itís not shockingly bad by any means, but itís dull enough that I canít see the proposed spin off series getting green lit. I donít think itís helped that the liberation of Mars sounds like a much more interesting story to tell, but then I guess the film ends recreating that story.

I feel a bit sorry for Origins, Iím about to say that itís too dull to be worth your time, but it does so little wrong. Naturally thereís many worse video game films, and that some of them will offer you more entertainment is one of the perversities of the medium I guess. Origins just uses too much short hand, relying on its predictability over actually developing its characters and unravelling its plot properly, but at the very least itís competent.
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05-06-11
Posted by Ben at 15:24

If thereís a theme that runs through Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva itís how well theyíve captured the look and feel of the Professor Layton series. The use of CGI in the early moments could be better, I suspect itís to show off and grab the viewers attention early on, but it tends to create a clash between the 3D and 2D. The 2D looks great though, with lots of flat colours like its source, and characters identical to the games.

One thing Eternal Diva doesnít do too well is introduce the characters and the world. Granted if youíre watching it then you probably have a pretty good idea of who Professor Layton is, but some of his comrades less so. Iíve only played the first game and donít recognise the extended cast beyond Luke, so the first few minutes were a bit of a mystery, but really thereís not much you need to know that you canít work out.

Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva features a bit of a jumbled timeline, jumping back to Lukeís first case with his mentor. The plot is a bit, ahem, convoluted so try to stay with me. A young woman thought to have died a few years earlier has reappeared and made contact with Jenis, her best friend and a former student of Laytonís, now working as an opera singer. The missing girl (Melina ) has returned as a 7 year old claiming to have been granted eternal life, and also happens to be the daughter of the composer of the opera Jenis sings in. People are being offered eternal life provided they win a completion on board a mysterious ship. Only this is no normal competition, itís a series of puzzles where the price for failure is deathÖ only this is Professor Layton so no one actually dies.

Still with me? Good. Well it turns out, and this is a spoiler so jump to the end of the paragraph if you intend on watching the film at any point, that the whole thing was a nefarious plot. Descole is manipulating the composer Oswald Whistler with the promise of placing his daughters personality and memories into the body of a suitable replacement. Descoleís real motivation is to restore Melina as she knows one of the songs that can rediscover the lost land of Ambrosia, a civilisation that discovered the secret to eternal life. Why heís gone to all that trouble when heís already riding around in a robot that can dig up Ambrosia is never answered, probably best not to dwell on it in fact.

So the story is clumsy confused nonsense, but that does not a bad film make. It takes a long time for anything to happen in Eternal Diva, and there are substantial lulls during the film (not least the final 5 minutes). However when things are happening thereís a real tension, at its high points Layton is genuinely captivating. Itís as though theyíve been given 5 minutes for some action so decided to throw as much in as possible. I suspect the music helps here too, thereís real punch and pomp that in some ways is slightly out of character for a cerebral detective.

A brief mention to the way the film uses puzzles too, something I was sceptical could be done well. Firstly thereís no matchsticks to be seen, which is good, instead weíre greeted with riddles, riddles that feel solvable by the viewer (one of which I did solve, go me!). The nicest thing about the puzzles though is the way theyíre introduced, reminiscent of the game we get a spotlight style shadow of the puzzle number. Itís a nice touch and still manages to work within the film context.

Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva is a bit of a rollercoaster. It starts dull, explodes into an exhilarating 5 minutes, then climbs for a while before throwing you around again, then you sit through the painfully boring final scenes, waiting for the 3 fingered frotteurist to stop flirting with the 14 year old girls and release your seat lock.

Layton is not only worth the purchase for fans, itís also amongst the better video game films out there. As flawed as it is it still looks good, captures the essence of the games, and at points is genuinely entertaining.
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22-05-11
Posted by at 12:59

Bloodrayne: The Third Reich, Iíll just leave that there for a second, Bloodrayne: The Third Reich. This 3rd Bloodrayne film sees the return of Uwe Boll at the helm, and features, albeit briefly, a vampire Hitler.

To be fair Boll isnít the first person to take this track, and the speculated Nazi research into the occult is both fascinating and an exciting literary well. For gamers look no further than Wolfenstein, particularly Return to Castle Wolfenstein. And for the army of Nazi vampires narrative, may I recommend the excellent manga Hellsing. Iím not sure why the concept of Bloodrayne: The Third Reich is so distasteful, perhaps itís just a lack of faith in Boll, but from the second I saw the trains filled with Jews I began to cringe.

Things arenít quite as offensive as they appear written down, but the film does follow Rayne as she joins a rebel group fighting the Nazis, a rebel group sheís either never met before or knows intimately depending on the camera angle. Whilst fighting a Nazi General Rayne gets cut, some of her blood mixes with his and he becomes a vampire. It also turns out that Doctor Mangler (no youĎre thinking of Dr. Mengele, theyĎre completely different people) has been carrying out gruesome experiments of his own in an effort to create an army of Nazi vampires, and eventually a vampire Hitler.

For some reason Rayne sets up camp in a brothel across the road from the Nazi base that houses Mangler and the vampire Commander, where she spends her days indulging in lesbianism. The freedom fighters are eventually whittled down and Rayne has to stop the Nazis from getting Rayneís blood to Hitler. Iíll be honest, a huge battle between the freedom fighters and a Nazi vampire army does actually interest me, but Bloodrayne is far more small scale than that. They never really leave the small town the filmís set in, and the final battle is even more feeble than whatís gone before.

I do have one bit of praise before I go on. One of my chief criticisms of Boll is that he sucks the pace out of his films, every scene is too long, saying nothing, but lasting long enough that your attention wanders. With Bloodrayne 3 he has learnt to shorten scenes, bouncing quickly from scene to scene.

However he hasnít mastered the flow from scene to scene, so what you get is location after location that seemingly have no relation to each other. Some of it is down to dialogue, itís hard to pick out any emphasis or importance from whatís being said. So the characters may well say theyíve got to go to a bar, but itís said mid-sentence half a conversation before the end of the scene. I suspect thatís only part of the problem though, thereís a scene where a prostitute reveals Rayneís location to the Nazis. You know she is going to go there, and you know why, you even know what the consequences will be, but thereís no tension to it, perhaps thatís down to the soundtrack, perhaps itís down to the acting.

Let me quickly say that I feel sorry for the actors here, one or two are terrible, but most do a decent job. They werenít given much to work with and I expect they knew this was going to be a bad film. However only a handful of characters attempt an accent, and a few of them I suspect are just using their own. Everyone else, be they local freedom fighter or Nazi foot soldier speaks with an American accent. Boll does have a sense of humour, so it may be that he, as a German, sees the funny side of casting the Nazis all as Americans?

Sense of humour or not nothing explains the accent Clint Howard ascribes to Dr. Mangler. I think itís Mexican, definitely South American anyway, fitting I guess, but this is before he fled (I forgot, not Mengele). As mentioned the actors arenít helped by the script, itís too interested in throwing in a cool line than making sense (ďGuttentag mother fucker!Ē). When itís not puffing out its chest or being functional itís just horrendous. Manglerís line ďMy workÖ I can make Hitler immortal!Ē is impossible to deliver well.

Thereís surprisingly little action in Bloodrayne too, thereís sporadic moments, but when it happens itís short. Iíd guess it was a budget issue, but really thatís where a film like this should focus. Whatís there isnít great either, thereís a couple of good moments, but, and this is particularly true with the final fight, you donít get to see much hand to hand stuff, thereís just nothing showy.

Bloodrayne: Third Reich isnít as offensive as it seems like itís going to be but itís still the wrong type of stupid to be enjoyable. I was shocked to see positive remarks on imdb, itís not a good film by any measure. The way it bounces around it feels like someoneís ripped the cut scenes from a game, resulting in any and all narrative played out through gameplay being lost. Iím really struggling to find anything positive to say other than itís not Bollís worst film, so letís leave it at that. Rubbish but thereís been worse.
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19-09-10
Posted by Ben at 18:36

Off hand I cant think of any more video game films on the imminent horizon, so it looks like Loading Screen is on hiatus again. Good news for me, and good news for you because it means thereís no more video game films out.

A quick word of warning, Iíve tried avoiding spoilers where I can, but there is something from near the start of the film that Iíve had to give away. ItĎs in the first paragraph if you want to skip, but like I say, weíre talking 10 minutes into the film.



With Resident Evil: Extinction the film franchise took on a life of its own. Sure Claire Redfield turned up, and of course Umbrella played their part, but giving Alice super powers meant that it effectively abandoned all pretence of being an adaptation of Resident Evil. Which makes it all the more surprising that the first 10 minutes of the film are spent robbing Alice of her powers and killing off all her clones.

This forced reset has the unwanted side-effect of labouring how predictable and telegraphed each scare and set piece is. You know how characters are going to react to everything, that peripheral characters will bite the big one, that others wont, when zombies will appear, and who can/cant be trusted. It sucks all the drama and tension out of the film, making it the most pedestrian in what isnít the most inspiring series.

The rapid change of locations early on is also detrimental. The action, and Alice, flits from place to place, forcing a bit of pace up until Alice and Claire reach the prison. Itís not that the prison section is uneventful, rather itís the core of the film, just that by lasting more than 5 minutes it outstays its welcome. It is the prison section where things start to pick up though, the guest character from Resident Evil 5 is superbly recreated, even if his end isnít all it could be. Thereís also some character development, admittedly the characters are cookie cutter and might as well have a time of death stamped on their forehead, but itís something to pull you in.

Other issues include how head-shakingly cheesily evil Wesker is. Heís like a parody, you know everything heís going to do and say before he does, and you even know the accent thatís going to accompany it. Ok some of this is Resident Evils campy over the top nature, but in Weskerís case it further accentuates how predictable Afterlife is.

Itís also hard not to raise an eyebrow at the abilities of the human characters. Granted since at least the second film preposterous physical feats have featured, but weíre supposed to buy these people as human. The 3D is laid on a bit thick too, there are a couple of shots that make for interesting choices, something different from how a scene would ordinarily be framed. However there are only so many slow-mo spinning shots you need to see, how many layered depth shots, bullets spinning towards the camera.

There are a few cool set pieces to snatch your interest, and after all thatís what the Resident Evil films are about. And I canít say I hated the film, itís just not as tense as the first, nor as frivolously stupid as the third (it is better than the second though). Afterlife is a strange neutered but not restrained mix of a film, itís deeply average purely because so much of it passes you by. But itís not irredeemable, and I can see fans of the film series enjoying it, but things need to ramp up for the 5th film.
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05-09-10
Posted by Ben at 17:57

Like buses, we donít have a video game film for months, then we get 3 right next to each other (Resident Evil Afterlife comes out next week). The difference between this and Tekken/Resident Evil is that King of Fighters is one of my very favourite franchises. So, no pressure then.


I canít think of many of the videogame films Iíve reviewed for Loading Screen that that show such disregard for characters likenesses and backstory. I know it wont matter to non-fans, but seeing Iori and Mai together, Terry working as a short haired CIA agent, and Rugal fighting wearing ice hockey kit does the film no favours. Mai using electricity rather than fire, Rugal dressing as Geese for a while, fan-favourite Terry turned into a laughing stock, and the fights all taking place in an alternative dimension, theyĎre all just wrong.

Which brings us nicely to the plot. Fights in the King of Fighters tournament take place in another dimension, which combatants are transported to whenever they are challenged. The exact details are slightly fuzzy, but this Ďotherí dimension contains the Orochi, a demon of sorts that grants great power at the cost of your soul. Rugal wants this power to become the King of Fighters, and snatches the 3 magic artefacts needed to release the Orochi and take over both dimensions.

Itís not a great plot truth be told, worse than the very similar Mortal Kombat. Itís also littered with some pretty poor acting, Kyo is the chief culprit, but Maggie Q as Mai is also guilty of some laboured lines. It may be that the script was changed late in the day as thereís a few instances of over-dubbing lines. It could also be because the script is terrible, Ray Park doesnít strike me as an actor of great self-awareness, and itís probably for the best as some of the lines heís given are humiliating.

Saying a cobbled together video game film has dodgy acting, a weak plot, and horrible dialogue is pretty much a given, and itís also not really the sort of stuff thatís going to make or break the film. A much bigger issue is the pace of King of Fighters, scenes go on for far too long, and it feels like 40 minutes before anything actually happens. In truth thereís action in the first scene (prefaced by a Mai shower scene, which may or may not be a nod to Street Fighter), the problem is that the fighting is so mundane itís only memorable because Mr Big is rendered unconscious by banging his head on a wheeled aluminium rack.

There are some films where a lack of character development and staggered story progressions can be forgiven, video game fight films generally fall into that category. Because of this trundling through scenes the film feels much longer than its 90 minutes, not helped that the first 70 of these are tired and uneventful. Things do improve though, with the epic final fight between Iori, Kyo, Mai and Rugal being genuinely enjoyable. Iím not sure the payoff is so great it excuses the rest of the film, but had King of Fighters had a few more moments of that quality this review would read very differently.

The only other positive things I can think to say is that Orochi Iori is well done and suitably brutal, and that once the characters move into the Ďotherí dimension they do start to resemble their digital counterparts moreÖ Apart from Kyo. Itís bizarre that theyíve willingly gone for an Asian female lead, an Asian in one of the more senior roles (Iori), yet hired the most American actor they could find as Kyo, itĎs not like an Asian heavy cast is going to affect the box office for this. Not to dwell too much on Tekken, but they at least cast an Asian actor as the lead. Oh, and Park arguably makes a better Geese than Rugal, but thatís not a compliment.

A final note of credit for King of Fighters is that the actors all seem believably capable when it comes to the martial arts, itís just a surprise that the combat is so insipid coming from a Hong Kong action film director. The first 70 minutes leave King of Fighters amongst the worst films Iíve reviewed for Loading Screen, the last 20 minutes in the top half, but itĎs not enough. One to avoid, especially if youíre a fan.
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15-08-10
Posted by Ben at 06:54

As mentioned last time I reviewed a Tekken film, itís a series thatís never really clicked with me. Back in the day Virtua Fighter was my 3D fighter of choice, then Soul Calibur, and now for some reason the genre hasnít really benefited from the recent upsurge in interest in fighting games. But can the Tekken film fair any better than the recent Street Fighter adaptationÖ Yes.


Tekken is set in a desolate future. Countries no longer exist, with a handful of corporations ruling, and squabbling over the world. People are oppressed and their liberties restricted, and the only way to escape poverty is to win the Iron Fist tournament.

The film focuses on Jin, who starts the film as a thief for hire, before seeing his mother killed and swearing vengeance on Tekken and itís owner Heihachi. Thereís a few side stories involving relationships, power struggles, and lineage, but really the plot is just to get the fights on their way.

The fights are without doubt the star, thereís a few signature moves, and some fantastic athleticism. Thankfully too the scenes are cut and shot long enough for you to see whatís actually going on. The only issues I really have with the fights is that the stage they fight on is themed, a nod to the games Iím sure, but no one makes use of the scenery so it just feels cheesy. The other issue is that not enough really happens outside the ring, possibly due to budget constraints for set building.

At points the acting descends to abysmal, but the core cast at least do a decent job. Thereís no Raul Julia ĎItís worth sitting through this just for my performanceí levels of acting, but Jon Foo, Luke Goss, Kelly Overton et al donít embarrass themselves. The dialogue theyíre given to work with is truly terrible at points, both clichťd and impossible to act.

The only other thing to say about Tekken is that itís very predictable, in fact it actually does less than you expect. Youíve got a rudimentary plot to tie the fairly decent fights together, and a likable main character. Yes youíve seen it all before, and some of it is cringe worthy (the flashbacks to the perfect advice from Jinís mum, the lineage plot twist) but I found myself enjoying Tekken as it reached its end. Certainly itís one of the better fighting films, not that thereís too much competition for that title.

For fans Iíd say itís well worth the watch if you can get past the liberties it takes with the plot, for everyone else, itís not as bad as youíre expecting.
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31-05-10
Posted by Ben at 12:43

I think we've got one more film left before Loading Screen goes on indefinite hiatus again (maybe 2 if I can track down the Final Fantasy anime I'm missing), but at least we've got arguably the biggest ever game-film release to watch


If a game film is measured by how well it captures the spirit of the game, then Prince of Persia does a fairly decent job. Itís more mindless and obvious than its source, but itís far from removed from the original Sands of Time. The plot is reasonably true to SoT, the Prince steals a dagger with the ability to roll back time for short periods, and must work with a feisty princess to protect the sands of time and halt a treacherous coup.

In terms of action this means lots of swash-buckling sword fights, and more importantly lots of acrobatics. From the early scenes onwards we see the Prince using beams as stepping stones, scampering up walls , and wall running to escape the Persian hordes. It looks pleasingly convincing too, you wouldnít be surprised if Gyllenhaal performed most of the acrobatics himself.

There are of course plenty of things that Prince of Persia does get wrong, most notable is the issue of racial appearance. The senior cast of Ben Kingsley, Ronald Pickup, and Alfred Molina all put in good performances, and all make passable Persians. Admittedly the technique of just blackening the actors eyelids so they look Persian made me raise an eyebrow, but at least the effortís been made.

The complaint that Gyllenhaal doesnít look Persian is an obvious one, but the film goes some way to explaining this by making him the adopted son. Of course that neither of the born princes look anything other than English does make you question the point of that plot device, especially as the scene that introduces it is so jarring. Two white American children lost amongst the see Persians feels a bit old fashioned.

While the filmís certainly had some money spent on it, it falls down in some fairly fundamental areas. Scenes are too short, leaping from area to area, offering no sense of progression or tension. Worse, some of the scenes feel completely pointless, most telling is that one of these involves a characters death.

The sharp banter of the games is gone, thereís some back and forth but itís neither entertaining nor witty. Far too much of the dialogue is merely there to explain the plot, the Princeís first use of the dagger is a prime example, as after youíve witnessed the Prince travel back through time multiple times, he then spends 5 minutes vocalising it.

The blossoming relationship between the Prince and princess Tamina isnít convincing, she falls for him immediately then treats him with contempt before falling for him all over again. Hers isnít the sassy banter of the Sand of Time game, or last years PoP game, itís just hostility, and as such Tamina is a very hard character to like.

I can see Prince of Persia being the franchise that crosses over into the mainstream, I think itíd be more likely if it was a better film, but as a family action romp it hits the various notes. Which is part of the problem, thereís nothing here you havenít seen before, add to that the poor dialogue, editing, and lack of atmosphere, and youíve got quite a boring film. Gamingís first Hollywood blockbuster movie, but amongst the worst of the money efforts.
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