May 2008


It has been hit-or-miss with videogame movies. Despite the reviews, ‘Dead or Alive‘ did have a few classy action sequences and the Mortal Kombat films – while perhaps home to some of the most painfully spoken dialogue in Hollywood history – still stays true to the game series. Street Fighter: Legend of Chun-Li (why can’t I stop laughing every time I read that title), does have some respectable players behind it. Michael Clarke Duncan plays Balrog and Chris Klein plays Nash (Presume Guile’s friend, Charlie). Then there’s the issue of Kristen Kreuk; the Smallville lady is filling in for the role of thigh-master Chun-Li. There are a lot of opinions about whether she has the physique to play the role – she’s arguably small and it may look unbelievable when she stands to fight, say, Michael Clarke Duncan. Than again, I sincerely doubt anyone who pays to this will care about whether any of it resembles reality.

Capcom released an early shot of Ms. Kreuk and, well, it doesn’t really answer any of the concerns flaring through messageboards and blog communities. It seems most SF diehards want to see her below the waist, and not (necessarily) for perverted reasons, but to see whether she can legitimately sell the lightning and spinning fly kicks Chun-Li is famous for. I’m guessing she will; but then again, I don’t have any plans to watch this film.

Street Fighter fan that I am, I’m somewhat disappointed by what Capcom is doing to the franchise. SF4 has me less than excited. While it’s great to see the series back, the art direction seems to be quite off. All the characters appear to be either on steroids or grossly disproportional. I understand the original Alpha/Zero and 2-series weren’t exactly playing off realism, but SF4 seems to take the proportions to the realm of Gears of War. If that was a move to appease the Western market, then Capcom might have sold-out its fanbase for the sake of mass-appeal (and of course, there’s nothing wrong with that – SF4 is a commercial product, after all). I would have preferred to see SF4 keep the Alpha art direction and move towards a Soul Calibur, 3-D plane. Instead, I feel all SF4 accomplishes is SF2 in a mock-3-D environment. It’s like Viewtiful Joe on steroids — but only in a much more restricted scenery. It’s a 99% graphical overhaul and a 1% gameplay change. I guess as a numbered sequel, I wanted more. Arguably, 3rd Strike was far more revolutionary – the characters might not have all been as memorable, but compared to SF4’s roster (which is essentially SF2’s), it’s at least something “new”.

For SF enthusiasts, I’d recommend checking out Street Fighter Eternal Challenge, a collection of artwork and character information. Nowhere has more SF data been collected. The book is out of print so it’s been selling on eBay and Amazon for astronomical prices ($150-200), but you might be able to find it for less. There are rumors Udon will reprint it for the 20th Anniversary, but it’s looking less likely given Udon is publishing a different SF book entirely. This one looks cool, but it’s not the historic analysis/look that Eternal Challenge is.

I am not an Indiana Jones “fan” – yes, I’ve seen the others and have enjoyed them very much, but I am at-best an admirer of the adventure genre. For me, Indiana Jones was more of an archetype of the classic adventurer than an original creation. That said, what Spielberg and Lucas have produced in ‘Crystal Skull’ is nothing short of spectacular entertainment. Anyone with an iota of creativity will enjoy this film. Even at over two hours, ‘Crystal Skull’ never once felt long – which is often a problem for blockbuster films which often feel a need to pack in one explosion too many or one line too much. This is probably a testament to the masters behind the camera and script. The film is certainly enjoying an awesome opening weekend!

Truth be told, ‘Crystal Skull’ is by no means perfect – some critics suggest it feels empty or lacking when compared to the prior installments. I’m not exactly sure what they are getting at here — it’s not as if the Indiana Jones films were ever highly inspirational works of art. They were made primarily as commercial adventure films, standouts because of the high-quality direction and excellent action sequences. Both of these are in abundance in ‘Crystal Skull’ — so, either the critics are lost in some nostalgic paradise (i.e. they remember the films as being better than they are) or they’re just pining to find something wrong in everything they watch (which is sadly the case with many reviewers nowadays). I was quite pleased to see Mr. Roeper deliver an excellent critique — his rebuke of Michael Phillips in ‘Ebert & Roeper’ is on the mark. That Phillips chastises the flick for being unrealistic is nothing short of silly. Roeper’s take? ‘Indy 4’ wasn’t made to be realistic. My take? Umm, duh.

Harrison Ford does a splendid job reprising the role and if not for the wrinkles, grizzled voice, and white hair, you’d swear he hadn’t lost a step. Shia LeBeouf certainly looks like he could play the next Indiana Jones; he has an uncanny resemblance to Ford in this film and he displays a strong knack for the sometimes comedic action scenes. Spielberg and Lucas might have the perfect actor to carry on the Indie mantel moving forward. That said, I actually would prefer one more Ford film but that wish is probably a long-shot. I suppose I should be grateful that we even got this.

Resurrecting old icons is a risky business. Stallone pulled it off with Rocky but missed the mark in Rambo. Singer fell on his face with Superman Returns – and early takes on “Get Smart” aren’t looking very good. Spielberg and Lucas have done an excellent job bringing back Dr. Jones and likely closing the chapter on Ford. There is definitely room to expand the franchise (recall the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles?) — and so long as Spielberg and Lucas are involved, it should always be worth the price of admission.

On a gaming note, LEGO Indiana Jones releases next week. This one is looking like quite a keeper!

Georgia Moffett (above right) plays the Doctor’s daughter in the sixth episode of the fourth season of ‘Doctor Who’ on BBC One. The episode paces perhaps a little too quickly, leaving us with a slightly disenchanted connection with Ms. Moffett when she steps in front of a bullet intended for the Doctor, but nevertheless, Ms. Moffett puts on a solid performance and it would appear viewers might be getting more of her later on (she seems to have regenerated at the end).

Interestingly, Ms. Moffett is the real-life daughter of Peter Davison, the fifth doctor. She also auditioned for the role of Rose Tyler, which wound up in the very capable hands of Billie Piper. While I think Ms. Moffett is a good actress, I’m very glad the role of Rose went to Ms. Piper. Moffett’s acting is a little flat compared to Piper’s — and I’m not sure she has the same range as Billie does. That said, if the BBC does carry on a new series with her as the Doctor’s daughter, it might turn out to be a great series. Many on Who fansites have clamored for a female doctor; Ms. Moffett could be a perfect substitute for post-4th season blues. And since the BBC plans to put the Who series on-ice for a while to juggle the creative team, how better to keep the Who-verse top of mind?

Check out the trailer to the episode here (Also embedded below). For more promo photos, journey here.

This movie bothered me — but not because it was bad. I’m what one might call a Superman fan, so it irks me that a second-string Marvel character like Iron Man gets a class-act flick like this and Superman, arguably the most recognized (and before ‘Returns’, most admired) superhero, gets rubbish. That said, this post isn’t about Superman, but if anyone from Warner Bros. with any level of control watches ‘Iron Man,’ they should take some notes on what makes a good superhero movie.

‘Iron Man’ succeeds on something most superhero movies don’t have: solid writing. There is considerable punch between Downey, Jr. and Paltrow throughout this film, and each deliver his/her lines with credible accuracy. Downey, Jr. may not fit the category of blockbuster actor and certainly wasn’t on anyone’s shortlist of superhero physiques, but he is almost perfect as the troubled and transformed Tony Stark. Paltrow also deserves some credit for her role as Virginia ‘Pepper’ Potts — some might say she hasn’t really done any acting since ‘Shakespeare in Love’ (and this isn’t wholly without merit) — but she nevertheless puts forth a classy effort. Paltrow is admittedly an acquired taste — there are many who think she was miscast in this role but I do not share that opinion. If you want to see a truly miscast female lead, see Kate Bosworth in ‘Superman Returns’.

The plot is serviceable and the action sequences – though few – are well-played. That said, some comic gurus will probably notice one-too many similarities with Chris Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins’ but let’s be frank, Tony Stark is in many ways a chopped up version of Bruce Wayne. There aren’t as many surprises in the story and the back-stabbing possibilities become awfully apparent early on. What perhaps kept me glued to the screen was how good ‘Iron Man’ turned out despite the character’s position in the pantheon of superhero creations. ‘Iron Man’ is no Wolverine, and his following has always been more cult-ish than mass. That will probably change with this film. Marvel and Favreau have somehow legitimized alchemy; they’ve taken brass and turned it into gold. Kudos to them.

And yet as surprising good as ‘Iron Man’s’ debut is, it isn’t an off-the-scale shocker. ‘Iron Man’ is the first of hopefully many movies Marvel is financing itself. That’s right, after some miserable outings (anyone remember ‘Ghost Rider’? No one? Good.), Marvel decided it best to manually bring its characters to the big screen versus licensing them off to studios such as Sony or Fox. If Iron Man is any indication, this was clearly the right move for the comic book giant. This makes so much sense and honestly, is something I’ve always scratched my head about. Why movie studios often put people unfamiliar with the properties to make them was frankly lost on me. Singer never read a Superman comic (or for that matter, any comic) growing up. Some believe his X-Men movies were gold – I’m of the opinion they were decent; spectacular only because no one had made or seen serious superhero movies in a long time. But I’d bet that superhero films would be miles better if we put the likes of Busiek, Morrison, Miller, and Moore on them. Art direction by creators like Lee, Ross, Campbell, and Maduriera (and maybe even Warren) would put to shame what we’ve seen in a good number of superhero movies.

So here’s to Marvel’s ‘Iron Man’; I hope to see many sequels — but please don’t become ‘Batman and Robin’. And to DC Comics, please get off your rear ends and try to wrestle more control away from Warner Bros. before it turns the rest of your beloved franchises into wretched abominations; see ‘Catwoman‘.