Video Game Review: RoboCop (Arcade)

I used to love the hell out of this game whenever I’d see its cabinet glowing in the corner of my local arcade. I used to pump quarters into this thing like an old lady at a slot machine in Circus Circus. But I remember dropping serious coin and never being able to get very far.

Now that I can run this on MAME, I have infinite quarters, so I wanted to revisit it and play it all the way through.

I’ve got to say, this game is a beast. And I don’t mean that complimentary. Maybe there is a difficulty setting I can alter on MAME but you get overwhelmed by enemies and killed pretty damn quickly. It’s amazing how quick you get overwhelmed and really early in the game. Sure, I can keep continuing and I did but you only get one life and the continue screen freezes the gameplay action, bogging down the gameplay flow and your momentum. It’s kind of tedious, actually.

And hell, it’s been nearly three decade since I’ve played this and I could just suck really bad at it. But this era of arcade games are my cup of tea and I’m a pretty good player in most cases.

I still love the graphics and the game runs smooth as hell. The real high point is the music and the sound effects, which are top notch for this game’s generation.

It could have gotten more creative with boss battles, as you fight ED-209s a half dozen times and even fight two at the same time towards the end.

This isn’t too dissimilar from the Nintendo RoboCop game but it is harder and the levels feel more repetitious than its NES counterpart. For instance, for those familiar with the NES game, the City Hall level isn’t in this version.

All in all, this was fun to revisit but it’s insane difficulty made it a chore after the first ten minutes.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling shooters from the era.

Film Review: Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Release Date: February 5th, 2019 (Spain premiere)
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis
Based on: Gunnm by Yukito Kishiro
Music by: Tom Holkenberg
Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson, Jeff Fahey, Derek Mears, Casper Van Dien, Edward Norton (uncredited), Michelle Rodriguez (uncredited), Jai Courtney (uncredited)

20th Century Fox, Lightstorm Entertainment, Troublemaker Studios, TSG Entertainment, 122 Minutes

Review:

“I do not standby in the presence of evil!” – Alita

I didn’t get to see this in the theater but I did catch it on a Delta flight, as I was returning home from Las Vegas.

I’m glad that I finally got to see this movie, as I had been waiting a long time for its digital release.

Overall, I really enjoyed Alita. But it has become a movie that Hollywood and its shill media outlets are apparently shitting on now because some people seem to think it is tied to the Nazi-esque Alt-Right or something.

One, I don’t even really know what the Alt-Right is and I don’t care. Two, how the fuck is it Alt-Right when it was directed by Robert Rodriguez, a famous director of Mexican decent and stars an actress of Peruvian decent with another major character being a black man? Plus, it was put out by a major Hollywood (i.e. uber leftists) studio, as well as being written and produced by James fucking Cameron?!

Anyway, that criticism is stupid but I guess some people still subscribe to the mainstream media’s bullshit.

Moving on.

I thought the film had a solid story. In a day and age where we are spoon fed stories about unchallenged Mary Sues (the Star Wars sequel trilogy and Captain Marvel, for instance) it’s refreshing to see a strong, female character that has to fail and learn from that failure in order to grow and become better. In that, Alita: Battle Angel is a much more relatable story than those other films. But I guess that’s why the media wants to shit on it.

Personally, I like strong yet flawed characters that can learn and grown. All people have flaws and limitations and its the process of overcoming those limitations that build character and make people stronger. It has nothing to do with gender, race or any sort of identity politics despite the entertainment industry’s insistence that it does.

Plus, Rosa Salazar is incredible as Alita. She has more charisma in one CGI finger than Brie Larson had in her entire body for over two hours in Captain Marvel. You almost love Alita from the first moment you meet her and watching her grow, throughout the film, is really the whole point of the story. When she conquers evil, you feel it. It doesn’t matter that the film is somewhat bogged down by its CGI effects, the story is relatable and very human. But that also has a lot to do with the skill and craftsmanship of two great filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron.

The rest of the cast is solid, especially Christoph Waltz. But man, that guy is damn near perfection in everything he does.

Like the Alita character, the film does have its flaws too but the sum of its parts made it a fun, enjoyable picture. And frankly, I’d be on board for future sequels.

In the future, I’d like to see the CGI get more detailed and less artificial looking. But this is sort of the trend of the time now, as visual effects artists are rushed and have less time to produce top notch effects when Hollywood has become way too reliant on them over practical, physical effects that can be crafted in the real world.

In conclusion, this is not as great of a movie as some have said but it is still a fine way to spend two hours and it is more human than a lot of the alternatives in modern sci-fi action films.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the original manga and anime, as well as Ghost In the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Film Review: Hands of Steel (1986)

Also known as: Vendetta dal futuro (original Italian title), Atomic Cyborg (France), El destructor (Mexico), Hands of Stone (Netherlands), Arms of Steel (Norway), L’enfonceur (Canadian French title), Cyborg (Slovenia), Fists of Steel (UK), Destroyer (Spain)
Release Date: March 26th, 1986 (France)
Directed by: Sergio Martino
Written by: Sergio Martino, Sauro Scavolini, Elisa Livia Briganti, John Crowther
Music by: Claudio Simonetti
Cast: Daniel Greene, Janet Argen, John Saxon

National Cinematografica, Dania Film, Medusa Distribuzione, 94 Minutes

Review:

“When I get through with you, you’ll have to wipe your ass with your nose” – Raul Morales

This film had more international titles than it had extras!

But this film can have as many titles as it wants, as it is a pretty badass and ridiculous flick that has a plot that’s all over the map but doesn’t suffer because its supposed to be a smorgasbord of everything that made ’80s action movies so much fun.

Let me summarize the insane premise: An evil CEO sends a cyborg to assassinate a scientist. The cyborg fails so the CEO sends his other cyborgs to take him out. The cyborg hides in a desert diner with a chick that’s horny for him. All the while he draws the ire of the tri-state arm wrestling champion that wants to prove he’s the strongest man in the desert. The evil CEO is John Saxon and he has a really big laser.

This motion picture is insanely enjoyable and one of the best Italian post-apocalyptic, “knock off everything under the sun” movies.

There’s even a scene where the good cyborg has to arm wrestler a guy that looks like Bear Hugger from Punch-Out!! The insane part about this scene is that the loser gets their hand trapped in a shackle while a diamondback rattler bites them to death.

Now this is just about everything you’d expect from an Italian Mad Max wannabe but then it’s so much more. It’s part Terminator, part RoboCop, part Over the Top and 100 percent toxic masculinity. Plus, this came out before RoboCop and Over the Top, so it’s like the writer/director Sergio Martino was psychic. I mean, he ripped off something that didn’t yet exist!

Speaking of Martino, he’s a guy that directed a lot of the top Italian schlock. You know, the type of schlock that gives schlock a good name and inspires people like myself to find endearing things within movies that the general populace could never tolerate. He’s done giallo, slashers, spaghetti westerns, other post-apocalyptic movies and pretty much something in every cool sub-genre that matters to fans of grindhouse, exploitation, horror and action films.

Hands of Steel is a hell of a ride. It has pretty good, albeit hokey effects. But considering this picture’s budget, it’s all passable and it works. In fact, the scene where the cyborg repairs his arm is pretty impressive.

While I’m sure that most people would dismiss this movie as absolute shit, the opinions and money of the regular moviegoer are why we keep getting subpar blockbusters, countless sequels, spinoffs, remakes and reboots. I’ll take Hands of Steel over some Harley Quinn dressed like a peacock movie.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Italian post-apocalyptic movies of the ’80s.

Comic Review: IDW Deviations

Published: 2017
Written by: various
Art by: various
Based on: Judge Dredd by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, The X-Files by Chris Carter, Ghostbusters by Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, G.I. Joe by Hasbro, Transformers by Hasbro, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, My Little Pony by Bonnie Zacherle, Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry

IDW Publishing, 356 Pages

Review:

So IDW decided to do their own version of Marvel’s What If?… series and DC’s Elseworlds tales. Except, IDW doesn’t have really any creations of their own, at least none that anyone really seems to care about. Instead, they are most known for printing comics of intellectual properties that they pay for publishing rights to have.

This series of one-shots gave us “what if” tales for Judge Dredd, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Trek, X-Files, Ghostbusters and My Little Pony.

At their best, there were a few issues that were simply, okay. But most of these were terrible. And they weren’t terrible for one reason, they had just about everything going wrong for them.

In fact, the only two of these that I would give a passing grade to are Donny Cates’ take on Star Trek, which is still a poor effort considering Cates’ caliber, as well as the Transformers one, which gave us an alternate take on the events of the original animated motion picture.

The worse one of the lot was the one I was most excited for: G.I. Joe. It was a big, lame, unfunny joke that poked at some of the franchise’s tropes but did so without the writer having a single funny bone in their entire body. I’ve never not laughed so hard.

This was something that had potential, could have given us some really cool results and honestly, shouldn’t have been that hard to write at even a passable level. IDW has lost their fucking way, man. I guess it’s no surprise that the company is up shit’s creek, now getting bailouts from Marvel on their D-list comic books.

Frankly, I’m pissed I paid for these issues.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: the IDW 20/20, Infestation and Revolution events, as well as some of the IDW crossovers.

Film Review: Matrix Revolutions (2003)

Also known as: The Burly Man (fake working title), The Matrix 3 (working title)
Release Date: October 27th, 2003 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: The Wachowskis
Written by: The Wachowskis
Music by: Don Davis
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith, Monica Bellucci, Harold Perrineau, Collin Chou, Gina Torres, Anthony Zerbe, Cornel West, Mary Alice, Bruce Spence

NPV Entertainment, Silver Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros., 129 Minutes

Review:

“Can you feel it Mr. Anderson? Closing in on you? Oh I can, I really should thank you after all. It was, after all, it was your life that taught me the purpose of all life. The purpose of life is to end.” – Agent Smith

*Sigh*

Well, I got to the end. But I’m glad this journey of revisiting The Matrix film series is now behind me.

Reason being, I didn’t really enjoy these films because of how dated and horribly cliche and goofy they are. Plus, each installment in this trilogy got worse. I thought that this one might play better than the second but this film is such a massive misfire that it didn’t even come close to hitting the target it was aiming at.

My memories remembered this as a big two hour action sequence. But it’s not. There is a lot of action but it doesn’t really come until the last hour of the movie. Everything before that is really unnecessary. I mean, fuck, Neo was stuck in a subway station for a fucking half hour while his squad tried to save him from his limbo. Great way to use your time wisely in a final installment. The first act of this picture felt like episode 15 of a season of a TV show where they needed filler bullshit to pad out the season to 22 episodes.

Once the action does get going, the film gets better but we’re also thrown into action sequences with characters we just met or barely know and there’s no real reason for us to feel connected to many of them. So when some of them die, it doesn’t hit you in any emotional way. Maybe the first act of this film could have developed these disposable and empty characters.

Anyway, Neo is blinded in the most ridiculous way ever and he has to fight a swarm of Sentinels using his “electro-psychic vision” or whatever the hell his blind Daredevil sense is called. But that fight is mainly just Trinity flying a ship, dodging Sentinels that Neo doesn’t explode with the Force because at this point, Neo is a blind Jedi master over technology or something.

Trinity dies, which makes all the “No Trinity don’t die!” bullshit of the previous film seem like a massive waste of time and bad storytelling.

Now the big battle between Neo and Mr. Smith within the Matrix is pretty awesome and the only real highlight of the film. Tech-Jedi Neo becomes ’90s Goth Club Superman and he and Mr. Smith both swing for the fences in an over the top CGI bonanza. This sequence works for me and it accomplishes what it set out to do tremendously well. However, it doesn’t excuse the other 90 percent of the film that made me want to stick my head into a wood chipper.

But hey, I survived. I’m not sure if Neo did, as it seemed unclear when Doctor Octopus arms carried him away like a half dead messiah.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Matrix films, as well as the slew of films from the early ’00s that ripped it off.

Film Review: The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Also known as: The Burly Man (fake working title), The Matrix 2 (working title)
Release Date: May 7th, 2003 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: The Wachowskis
Written by: The Wachowskis
Music by: Don Davis
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith, Monica Bellucci, Harold Perrineau, Collin Chou, Gina Torres, Anthony Zerbe, Roy Jones Jr., Cornel West

NPV Entertainment, Silver Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros., 138 Minutes

Review:

“Choice is an illusion created between those with power and those without.” – Merovingian

From memory, the Matrix sequels weren’t as good as the first film. Having seen this one again, a decade and a half later, I’d say that this holds true.

Still, this wasn’t a bad experience. This one does stand out simply for the fact that it has the best action sequence out of the series. Granted, my mind might change after I revisit the third film next week.

The scene that I’m talking about is the Interstate chase which is actually more than a simple car chase. It is an insane bonanza of flying bullets, flying bodies and vehicular carnage. Although, I have some issues with it too.

To start, I want to point out the positives. It was a lengthy section in the film but none of it was dull and it was high octane and over the top in an entertaining and gratifying way. I loved how things shifted throughout the sequence between switching roads, driving in opposite directions and the human vehicle jumping. The dynamic of the Ghost Twins also works well to spice things up, even if I thought that the characters were kind of lame attempts at trying too hard to be cool but then again, that’s just about everything in these films.

However, the sequence is far from perfect and it actually looks cheap considering that the entire strip of highway over this long, drawn out, violent jamboree takes place within highway walls. The geography of the location is the opposite of dynamic, it’s just a simple highway, lots of cars and concrete walls as far as the eye can see. Sure, there are some building far off in the distance and some powerlines sprinkles in but it lacks detail, depth and the appearance that anyone cared about anything other than the action and CGI effects.

Also, the physics are really bad despite all of this existing within the Matrix. But that’s an issue I have with the whole film series. But it is kind of intriguing that this all goes down and the star of the film was far away from it until that final moment where he literally swoops in to save two of the heroes from exploding semi trucks.

Like the first film, I thought the writing was pretty weak and too many things were way too convenient. This had a lot of fate and destiny mumbo jumbo surrounding its characters and their special roles with the Matrix system that I was still pretty annoyed by it all. Why is there an Oracle? Why is there the key maker guy? What the hell is a Merovingian? Why is Agent Smith going rogue? Why is there still a One? I don’t know? But most importantly, why did I waste ten minutes of my life sitting through the Architect’s villainous monologue, which just made things more confusing?

I know, I know… this is supposed to be mindless escapism but the problems I had with the film in 2003, seem worse to me in 2019.

But hey, explosions, fights, CGI fuckery and cave raves! What’s not to love?

In the end, this was worth revisiting and I certainly wasn’t bored watching it. Well, except the first hour was a little too slow, but this does a good job of evolving beyond the first film and setting up the third and final act, which if I remember correctly, is pretty much just a two hour action sequence.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Matrix films, as well as the slew of films from the early ’00s that ripped it off.

Film Review: The Matrix (1999)

Release Date: March 24th, 1999 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: The Wachowskis
Written by: The Wachowskis
Music by: Don Davis
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano

Groucho II Film Partnership, Silver Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros., 136 Minutes

Review:

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” – Morpheus

I enjoyed The Matrix films back when they were coming out but I was never an immense fan of them, despite their cultural influence and how they were heavily ripped off for other action and sci-fi films from the early ’00s.

It’s actually been a long time since I’ve seen these, so most of the details have been lost to time and even though I remembered the gist of the story, I felt like I went into this with mostly fresh eyes.

This is the best film in the series or at least, it’s considered to be when looking at the critical and public opinion on this series. From my memory, I always liked this one the best and I’m assuming that the other two will still fall somewhere beneath this one when I revisit them over the next few weeks.

Overall, this film is pretty good in most aspects. However, there are some style choices that I don’t like, which actually bothered me back in the day too.

For starters, I’ve never been keen on the “bullet time” thing. I understand why certain moments were presented like this on screen but I always thought it was hokey looking in execution. Twenty years later, it looks dated and even more hokey. It’s also cliche but that’s really not this film’s fault as it was what brought that technique into the mainstream.

Also, I don’t like the movement during gunfights. The flipping off of walls with all limbs extended out is just going to make you a bigger target and for those who understand the physics of combat, it’s baffling and it shows off this film’s biggest weakness: style over substance (or practicality).

Plus, I don’t like how hard the film is trying to convince you that it is cool. Sure, it was cool in 1999 but the way coolness is achieved doesn’t quite work the same way in 2019. I’m not saying that the filmmakers should have predicted that because no one is an actual psychic but it dates the film.

I don’t like the use of filters in the movie either. The real world is shown in bluish hues while the Matrix itself is presented in a greenish tone. I understand the use of color to differentiate between the two spaces but it feels like the Wachowskis are trying to channel David Fincher and even though Fincher is a better director, I don’t like his overuse of color filters either.

In regards to the story, I have issues with that as well.

I guess my biggest gripe about it was the plot device where the Oracle told characters specific information about prophecies and whatnot and then later you find out she lied and it’s just brushed off with the line, “She told you what you needed to hear.” And why does this film have prophecies anyway? And where is the Oracle getting her info? And why does there need to be a “One”? It’s all kind of derivative, even by 1999.

Also, why does Agent Smith so badly want out of the Matrix? Why does he have emotions? He’s just a computer program, right? He should just follow programming without philosophizing about it. And can’t the Matrix fix his programming if it’s broken? Why does he care that the world within the Matrix is gross? How did he develop feelings and a personality? Why does he have such a grudge? Is all of this explained later because I don’t remember? Either way, it’s sloppy storytelling.

But all this criticism aside, I still like this movie. It’s hard to quantify why with all this baggage I just dumped on the floor but I think a lot of it has to do with the cast, their chemistry and how their performances propel the film forward. Also, if you don’t overthink it and just watch it as mindless entertainment, it is still a fun film with a lot of action and cool moments.

Some of the CGI looks bad in 2019 but this is still full of some incredible shots. That exploding helicopter scene still looks f’n fantastic.

It’s also best to ignore the limitations of technology for the time when this came out. Considering that everything in this film had to be done over hard wires, makes me wonder why this advanced artificial intelligence that wants to enslave humans weren’t using Wi-Fi. I mean, humans were using it pretty regularly less than a decade later. So in the year 2199 (or thereabouts) the evil robots hadn’t yet found a way to work around the hard wire problem? But again, the Wachowskis aren’t psychics.

Anyway, just ignore all the crap I just said in the previous 873 words and go into this film mindless with the intent of just enjoying some solid escapism from your own personal Matrix.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequels, as well as the slew of films from the early ’00s that ripped it off.