Monday, 24 January 2011

They're Heeeeeeeere - Poltergeist (MGM, 1982)

The cool poster. Looks so innocent, doesn't it? Wait until you see it.

Made in 1982 by MGM, Poltergeist was a landmark in film making. A ghost story like no other. Produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre's Tobe Hooper, it brought to life a story about a family unit overcoming the most difficult of odds, and situations, to save the one they love. Now, Tobe Hooper is not a name you'd associate with a big name production like Poltergeist, or with a well known Producer/Director like Spielberg either. But, his name is credited as Director, and it's one hell of a film. 
Another of the awesome special effects

First, there's Carol-Ann talking to the TV, then, a few things move from one place to another on their own. Then one night, 'they' take little Carol-Ann to 'The Otherside'. A dimension between Life and Death, and hold her against her will. How they get her back is a story that is finely crafted, with some great special effects. One being that one of the party of ghost Hunters dreams of tearing his face off. The music compliments the film perfectly, and I think, is one of Jerry Goldsmith's most polished scores (on the same level as First Blood and Star Trek TMP). It creates tension in the most important scenes, especially when the smoky hand comes out of the TV, and shoots into the wall.
One of the best scenes in the movie, and funnily parodied in Family Guy

The cast do a stellar job, especially Heather O'Rourke (who had an unfortunate short lived career), who so scared at doing the abduction scene, that when she burst into tears, Spielberg gave her a very comforting hug and said, in so many words, she would not have to do that again, as she was terrified.
The only thing is, the film seems too Spielberg-ish to be anyone else's. It's directed in the same manner, with that Spielberg look. Only the abduction scene seems Hooper-esque in it's look. Another thing surrounding the film is a supposed curse, being that 4 of the cast members across all three movies died before the release of the third movie.
Eddie, Iron Maiden's mascot makes a cameo. But, can he play with madness?

With the other films in the series, Poltergeist II was not a bad follow up, but it did not keep some of the key plot points of the first, and makes some stuff up. Overall, it wasn't bad though. The third.....well.....I've only seen a few clips of it, and it's terrible. So bad it makes Heaven's Gate look like an epic. So, my advice: Stick with the first two, as they're the only ones worth watching.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Crap Game Corner: Revenge of the Crap Game Corner - Superman 64 (N64, Titus)

Oh, Superman. How low you've sunk! Still, nice artwork.
Faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap buildings in a single bound, stronger than 1000 lions (ok I made that one up, only because I forgot the rest lol). Yes, Superman is one of the ultimate superheroes, alongside X-MEN, Batman, The Punisher amongst others. There have been numerous movies, comic books and tv shows made about the man in the blue tights with red pants on over the top. Of course, alongside these, there have been many games made. Some good (the arcade game seems to be the only one!), some bad (the MD game, and the SMS game with the dodgy collision detection), and some so awful, that like old Supes' heat vision, will melt your eyes (the home micro version from 1986). But, the one that stinks of mouldy cheese and looks like the dog brought it up, is the abomination on the N64 by Titus Software.
No guards, no binds. Smack hi one and run off, you prats!!!
First up, the storyline: Lex Luthor has kidnapped Lois, some Professor bloke and Jimmy and have imprisoned them in his virtual Metopolis, where they await their rescue by Superman. O.......k (?). Now, the cutscene shows old Blue Tights Man standing looking at ol' Fester Shinetop, who's spouting his usual cobblers, with Lois pouting and Timmy just standing there, UNBOUND I might add, behind him. Now, what I can't understand is, if they're unbound, with NO GUARDS, why not kick Lex in the plums and run off? So, the storyline sucks monkey plums. What about the gameplay?
The ultimate test for a Man of Steel: a maze. Wow! (sigh!)
It seems to have taken the day off. You start off flying over Virtual Metropolis. Sounds good, yes? No. You have to fly through rings to extend your ever so generous 2 minute time limit. You read that right: Superman. Fly through Rings. Time limit. Of course, this would be a piece of piss, if you weren't fighting the controls every step of the way. Leaps buildings in a single bound? He can't even leap over a blade of grass in a single stumble. The stick is so sensitive, that you'll end up missing every single ring and failing miserably. If by some stroke of luck (and patience) you reach the next level, you have to pick up cars and throw them. Come on, who came up with this load of old bollocks? Picking up cars and throwing them??? For no other purpose? But, wait! It gets worse. If you get to the end of the game, and lose, you can't continue, oh no no no no no! You have to start from the VERY BEGINNING, meaning you have to trudge through this pile of elephant shit all over again if you want to complete this. Not that you will, as the game sucks like Grandma sucking an egg.
Oh, look. More rings. Oh, goody.
Even the graphics are bloody awful, and don't push the N64 to it's graphical limit. If I'm honest (and I bloody well will be), they look like a really early PS1 game that was done by a primary school class. Unbelievable amounts of fog, very square characters (yes, GoldenEye 007 had this problem, but the game was 100000 times better, so we forgive it!) and very bland environments. Not looking good, is it? No. It looks like a pile of shit. And you know what? It's because it is.

I don't blame him. If I was playing this, I'd fall asleep too.
There are many, many great games for the N64, and many hidden gems. Believe me, this ISN'T one of them. So, instead of bunging this into your N64, use it to bang nails into the wall, or as a doorstop, or target practice with an air rifle. Or, you could send it to your worst enemy as some form of chinese water torture. Because that's all it's good for. Can I go home now?

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Are you a Member of the CULT? - DUNE (Universal, 1984)

Frank Herbert's DUNE was first published in the 1960's, and became somewhat of a cult classic. Chronicling the events in the young adult life of Paul Atreides, as his family take control of the planet Arrakis aka DUNE in the year 10,191, through a plot by the Emperor Shaddam IV, Ruler of the Known Universe, to rid himself of Duke Leto by the families arch nemesis, the Baron Harkkonan. Many times after the first publication, a film was to have been made, with the rights changing many hands, until they fell into the hands of Dino De Laurentis. Unfortunately, after a poor performance at the box office, and being blasted by critics, Lynch disowned the film, but it's hard to see why.

Don't sniff up.
For a start, if you take the time to watch it, it is a good film. Yes, some things are hard to understand at times, but upon repeated watchings, it does become clearer. The special effects are awesome, with the worm effects  being the best I've ever seen (a 6 foot high man standing next to a 600 foot worm is astonishing). The music is superb, with the Prophecy theme by Brian Eno and the other music by Toto, it all adds to the atmosphere of the film. Kyle MacLachlan plays Paul with a real conviction, even though it was his first role. It's a shame that Max Von Sydow had not much screen time, as he played Doctor Keynes really well. An honourable mention must go to Sting as Feyd-Rautha, Baron Harkkonan's younger nephew. For him to be able to play someone so cold blooded really goes against type for him, as you can see the emotion in him, especially in his knife fight  with Paul.
Don't stand so, don't stand so close to me!
As with all films like this, there was meddling with the studio. Universal wanted a two-hour length film, and Lynch's original ran for 4 hours without the effects, three hours after effects were added, and an additional 43 minutes cut which is what the studio wanted. When it came to do a TV version, Lynch did not want to, and did a petition to the DGA to have his name fully removed from the credits and distanced himself from it. The result was a three-hour long version, with a tacked in prologue (with hand drawn paintings and a male voice over instead of Virginia Madson), extended shots and added scenes that were, until that time, unseen and in which many special effects shots were re-used to such an extent, it made no sense at all (in some shots, they re-used the Guild Navigators ship landing scene from the opening for many other landings in the film). Although it was an ok version, it's mainly a curio for others who wish to see another version of the film.
Now, THAT'S big!!!
I think it is something of a flawed masterpiece myself. Sure, some performances are a bit naff (when Jessica senses something about her husband Leto for example. Bit on the shit side), and some say you must read the book before viewing the film. But, that's something you must decide for yourself.