Film Review: Mortal Kombat (1995)

Release Date: July 13th, 1995 (Argentina, Israel)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Kevin Droney
Based on: Mortal Kombat by Midway Games
Music by: George S. Clinton, various
Cast: Linden Ashby, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Robin Shou, Bridgette Wilson, Talisa Soto, Christopher Lambert, Peter, Jason, Frank Welker (voice)

Threshhold Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 101 Minutes

Review:

“Challenging Goro eh? You weren’t supposed to fight him now. Are you that eager to die?” – Shang Tsung

This is the epitome of poorly aged films.

But let’s be honest, Mortal Kombat was never a great film or even a very good one. People that still seem to love it, do so because of nostalgia. Either that or they just have incredibly poor taste. I’m someone that watches a lot of bad movies because I’ll review just about anything but I found this picture to be almost unwatchable in 2018.

I loved the Mortal Kombat game when it first came out but I’ll be honest, this movie didn’t do much for me, even if I threw quarters into the arcade game like a pervert at a Times Square peep show in the ’70s.

While this didn’t initially seem as bad as the Street Fighter movie that came out a year earlier, I feel that Street Fighter is just so cheesy in the right ways that I actually enjoy it more and would watch it again. As far as Mortal Kombat, I don’t want to see this film again, ever.

Granted, I’ll watch the sequel because I’ve never actually seen it and I heard that it’s so bad that you have to see it to believe it. The thing is, I would have liked this movie better if it was as terrible as what people say about the sequel. This is just mundane and a cornucopia of terrible ’90s cliches.

I have always liked Bridgette Wilson though. I wish she’d still make movies but since marrying Pete Sampras circa 2000, she hasn’t done much. Actually, her most recent credit is ten years-old now. She was one of my ’90s crushes though, so I’ve always got a soft spot for her, even though she’s mostly been in pretty mediocre movies.

As much as I like Christopher Lambert, but really only because of the original Highlander, he’s fucking awful in this. Raiden’s lines are atrocious but that’s not Lambert’s fault, this script is a hot mess. And frankly, he doesn’t do a fucking thing in this film except look more like Gandalf the White than the actual Raiden character.

I don’t understand why Johnny Cage is the one that kills Goro. Cage is a lame ass character and always has been. Although, using him to do the spot with the dick punch was pretty solid.

The worst thing about this film, however, is the ridiculous special effects. I guess Goro looked good for the time and for the limited budget this had but all the magic shit was beyond terrible. The scenes with Scorpion were laughably bad, even for 1995. Then you had the animated demon dragon things that looked like they were ripped out of a 3D PC game from 1991. Also, there is incredibly obvious green screen work. The scene where Shang Tsung sucks the soul out of a warrior and into his own eye literally made me laugh out loud like a drunken hyena.

I think that the main reason that this film didn’t work for me is that it tried to be a real live action adaptation of the game. Certain things work in a game that won’t work in a live action movie. For instance, Liu Kang’s special kick came off as forced and cringy.

In 1995, I wanted this to be good. I kind of figured out, from the trailer, that it wouldn’t be. So I went into the film with low expectations. It’s a good thing I did.

I should also point out that the soundtrack was fucking stupid but honestly, I could go on about that for 1000 words and I don’t want to pull that Band-aid off. I just remember walking by the Taekwondo gym in the mall around 1996 and seeing toddlers flailing around throwing sloppy kicks to the theme song at full blast. That’s the moment where I knew I didn’t want kids.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Other mediocre but mostly crappy movies based off of fighting games: Mortal Kombat: AnnihilationStreet FighterStreet Fighter: The Legend of Chun-LiTekken and Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge.

Video Game Review: Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (NES)

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse was really f’n cool when it first came out because of one reason, you could play as Alucard, the son of Dracula.

Well, you could play as a few characters but Alucard was just badass and you could turn into a bat and fly through certain areas. But each character had their own special purpose.

Most importantly though, this returned to the game style of the original Castlevania, which most people wanted after the more complex, tougher and RPG-like Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. I am of the minority that loves that second game though, even if it’s a favorite classic NES title that people love to shit on. Those people are just simple minded and can’t solve more complex problems and puzzles though.

Anyway, Castlevania III is back to basics with some added flourish in the form of the characters Alucard, Sypha Belnades and Grant Danasty. Your main character is Trevor C. Belmont, as opposed to Simon Belmont, as this game is actually a prequel set a few hundred years earlier.

And while it does return to the formula of the first game, it branches out and is more creative, as it allows you to make choices that effect the game. You can choose different paths and the game has different endings based off of what you do along the way.

This allowed the game to have long lasting replayability. As different people beat it in different ways, kids talking on the playground came to realize that they needed to try different things in order to see the various finales. And this is back in the era when beating a game was a massive undertaking, especially since it typically had to be done in a single sitting. Castlevania III monopolized many summer vacation afternoons.

This is just a solid chapter in a solid series what was fun to play and exciting because of the options within the game. It really was a step forward in gameplay and storytelling evolution.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The other NES Castlevania games: the original Castlevania and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, also PlayStation’s epic sequel Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

Video Game Review: Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES)

The Legend of Zelda is, in my opinion, the greatest video game ever made. So when Zelda II came out, I was f’n ecstatic.

When I fired it up, however, it was similar but then all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

You wandered an overworld but the mechanics were different and more like that of a standard RPG. However, when you got hit by a creature, instead of going into a standard RPG battle mode, you entered a side scrolling action world. Part of me was confused and part of me was excited as hell!

In retrospect, Zelda II isn’t the masterpiece that Zelda I is. But it is a phenomenal game that might not have been what anyone was expecting from a Zelda sequel but in a lot of ways, was a better playing experience than just giving fans a rehash of what they already experienced.

Not everyone shares my sentiment. A lot of people hated this game because it wan’t what they wanted. Also, this game was tremendously f’n hard, the deeper you went. I couldn’t beat it way back in the day but once I got into my mid-’20s, I really chipped away at it and finally beat the thing. As a kid, I could get to the final boss but it always ended in me getting my ass kicked… hard.

Anyway, this game has a vast world, secret areas and really cool mechanics. It was extremely well thought out and meticulously designed.

love the boss battles in this game. Each is pretty unique and a lot of fun. While the bosses of the first game are more iconic and would be the ones that would go on to be in future sequels, this game was still highly creative in doesn’t come with a dull boss or really, a dull moment.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is, by far, one of the best video games of its era. It has aged really well, for those of us who still like their games 8-bit. I fire this thing up almost yearly.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: The Legend of ZeldaDragon Warrior, Final Fantasy.

Video Game Review: Godzilla (PS4)

I’m a massive kaiju fan, tokusatsu fan and Godzilla fan. I know it may sound silly to some but this game is the one that made me finally break down and buy a PlayStation 4. I also got it for Uncharted 4 but it’s this game that really made up my mind for me just because I wanted a great Godzilla fighting game with great graphics and mass environmental destruction.

Sadly, this doesn’t live up to the expectations I had for it but I did enjoy the hell out of this game, regardless. It has several flaws but even those didn’t distract me from the monster on monster combat for the first few weeks that I played this. But eventually, those flaws caught up to me and I wanted much more from this game.

If you are also a fan of the classic Godzilla universe, this will probably make you happy, for the most part. Luckily, this game is cheap as balls now because I wouldn’t recommend paying full price for this thing, as it runs its course pretty quickly.

You don’t start out with all the monsters being playable. You have to play the story mode multiple times to unlock every character and then you also have to play more to unlock points that can be used to enhance the abilities and stats of your monsters. This is fun for a little while but I doubt anyone will ever want to finish this arduous task because the game suffers heavily from repetitiveness.

It’s fun to play through this a few times but it is just the same thing over and over again.

Also, there really isn’t a good versus mode in this and the other modes kind of suck. The story mode is where it’s at but this is sadly, a one trick Minya.

There are some key monsters also missing from this game. I had hoped that there would be some DLCs that would add more monsters to the game but this was a commercial failure and nothing extra was developed.

Another negative, is that the environments are fun to destroy but you are confined to an area and can’t really roam too freely. Every stage has a border around it. It’d be much cooler if there was a massive map of Tokyo and you could actually walk from one side of the massive city to the other, confronting other kaiju along the way.

The game does do a good job of replicating the Shōwa era by using all the familiar music and giving you many levels that look like sets from those films. You can even knock down the Tokyo Tower on one stage. However, that nostalgia wears off the more you play the game.

It also doesn’t help that the monsters have a very limited move set and clunky controls that seem to work against you.

If you don’t give a shit about Godzilla, you should steer clear of this. If you do like the franchise, this is worth a buy if you can get it for like $10-$15.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Sadly, there aren’t a lot of kaiju games, at least in the US. But I bet this pairs well with the Japanese Ultraman games. If you have the ability to play imports, I’d suggest those.

Talking Pulp: Red Dead Redemption: A Game Rife with Politics

*Written circa 2010 when I was running a blog about politics and economics.

*There be spoilers here!

Rockstar Game’s Red Dead Redemption may be one of the greatest games I have ever played. It has taken over the last several months of my life, well at least when I have had free time anyway, and it has, in my view, successfully painted a world reflecting the last days of the Old West.

Being a fan of the western genre, I have found Red Dead Redemption to be the greatest representation of that genre ever created for a video game. Like the Grand Theft Auto series, from the same developer, Red Dead Redemption is a game that is seemingly endless, even after beating the single player story mode. There are so may other quests to do and just roaming the countryside and having the freedom to do whatever you wish provides the player with infinite possibilities and hours upon hours of just being sucked into the Red Dead world. The plot is multilayered with several wrenches thrown into its already twisting machinations. However, underneath it all, there seems to be a political philosophy. Now, I am not saying that the Rockstar staff put this philosophy there intentionally but nonetheless it is there. I really just think that the philosophy is a reflection of the times and the life of the characters within the world of the game. The fact that a multilayered philosophy even exists in this game is a testament to the skills of the game’s developers.

To start, the main character, John Marston, was an ex-scumbag who used to run with a gang that murdered and stole. At the start of the game he has already fallen in love, got married and had a son named Jack. Marston, for the sake of his family and his soul, has renounced who he once was and is trying to stay on the right path. That is, until big government BOI (today’s FBI) agent Edgar Ross takes Marston’s family away from him. The only way Marston can get his family back is by working for Ross. Essentially, Ross wants Marston to hunt down and kill all the members of his old gang. However, Ross isn’t the most ethical of agents and there are several twists, turns and surprises that await John Marston on his journey. With that said, the game is about a man’s struggle to work within a corrupt system and to persevere, all while doing it just to achieve his dream: to live on a farm, with his family in peace and quiet with no one (including the government) to bother them. Isn’t that what we all want really? Well, maybe not the farm part.

John Marston’s desire to work hard and never quit, even within the nefarious system, in an effort to achieve his goals and save his family, is heroic. His desires and his actions and his personal philosophy throughout the game are almost libertarian. Hell, one could even make a solid argument that his spirit and personal philosophy was a precursor to Objectivism. He strongly opposed the corrupt big government policies and intrusion into people’s lives, in the U.S. and also in Mexico. In fact, on both sides of the border, he worked within the evil machine only to liberate himself from it and to fight against it. In the end, his fight for freedom and his family cost him his life. Although, he did save his wife and son and he died fighting, opposing corruption, betrayal and tyranny with his last breath.

In the spirit of libertarianism, Red Dead Redemption teaches the player about owning up to your actions and how to be personally responsible for them all while attempting to redeem yourself for the negative aspects of your character. Well, as John Marston anyway.

It also shows the horrors of a government that is too large and how that large government is infringing upon the rights of its people. Many of the more patriotic characters within Red Dead Redemption are incredibly vocal about this. In a lot of ways, unintentionally or not, some of the characters in the Red Dead world could fit well within the Tea Parties of today.

Taking place in 1910, the United States itself was at a major turning point. The industrial revolution was well underway and capitalism was at its peak. The world had also already come to recognize American Exceptionalism. Capitalism in its best forms and worst forms was very much on display in Red Dead Redemption and really left a lot to be analyzed by both sides of the coin: those who are pro-capitalist and those who are anti-capitalist.

However, I’m not going to go on a rant here about the differences between true capitalism and crony capitalism and how government’s involvement in that system is severely destructive and counterproductive to the whole thing. What I will say is that you ought to play the game and witness how capitalism, industrialization and American Exceptionalism killed the Old West and brought us into the future and out of the dark ages.

Another political aspect in the game, probably also unintentional but a part of the game nonetheless due to its awesome representation of life in 1910, is women’s rights. Yes, there are prostitutes all over the place but Marston refuses their advances, out of respect for his wife, and he treats them all with respect.

The other women in the game are all just as tough as the men and they do not back down and run from fear, danger or the corrupt and evil forces that they are faced with. In fact, they stand strong, run their businesses despite a tyrannical government with their hand in it and are just as helpful to John Marston as all the lawmen and combat experienced gents in the game. Essentially, the game paints women as equals to men, even though it takes place in a time when women were viewed as simple homemakers. I feel that the game more accurately portrays the women of the time, as opposed to the entertainment of that era, which was propaganda driven and helped hold women back in their “roles”.

Nowhere else is the spirit of freedom alive in the game then in the second act when our hero, John Marston, turns his back on the corrupt Mexican government, who he was briefly working for, and uses all of what he has learned about them to help the rebels build their long overdue offensive.

Storming the giant villa in Escalera is chilling. Although the rebels are pushing for social reform and their efforts may seem similar to Castro and Che in Cuba, it still gives you a rush, knowing that you are bombarding a well-armed and well-manned fortress to overcome tyranny and establish freedom for people who want nothing other than to tear down a corrupt regime. This is one of the greatest battles in the game and once tyranny in Mexico is seemingly destroyed or at least severely compromised, Marston returns to America to fight for his individual freedom against another corrupt regime.

I can’t honestly say that the game sits on one side of the political fence or the other. It is just a great representation of life in 1910 and it really leaves a lot open for interpretation. I know where I stand with it and a lot of what is going on in this game is timeless. So much of it rings true with what is current now and it is a true testament of political struggle, which represents today just as much as it does yesterday. Red Dead Redemption is definitely one of the best-written games of all time and politically, it has enough guts and enough meat to keep the politificionados talking for a long time.

Talking Pulp: Is Bioshock Anti-Objectivist?

*Written circa 2010 when I was running a blog about politics and economics.

*There be spoilers here!

After finishing Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, I decided to pick up Bioshock by 2K Games. The second one in the series was being released and I wanted to play through the first one before delving into its sequel.

The first Bioshock was a highly regarded video game and there is hardly anyone I know of who wasn’t impressed with it. The main reason why I wanted to check it out however, is because a friend of mine said that it was an argument against Objectivism and the philosophy Rand expressed in her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged. I had also read this and heard this from many other sources. So, as I am becoming receptive to Ayn Rand’s philosophy, I felt that I had to jump into Bioshock to see if this was true.

For those who have read Atlas Shrugged and played Bioshock, there is no doubt whatsoever that there is a deep connection between them. Looking at two of the main characters in the game, one can immediately conclude, by their names alone, that the game was at least heavily inspired by Rand’s epic novel.

One of the characters is named Atlas; heck, that’s the first half of the book title. Another character is named Andrew Ryan, which is a play on words of Ayn Rand’s name. Ayn can be found in Ryan while Rand can be found in Andrew: not to mention that the initials are the same.

There are many other connections as well. For instance, both stories are about a great industrialist who escapes the oppressive constraints of political, economic and religious authority because those powers were sucking the great minds and artists of the world dry like parched vampires. This industrialist left normal society and went into hiding where he created his own society for the greatest minds and artists of the world to work together. Thus, leaving the real world to its fate without its greatest problem solvers, intellectuals, inventors, industrialists, engineers and artists.

Where the stories differ is in the fact that Atlas Shrugged shows that restricting and looting the world’s greatest minds is catastrophic to the rest of the world and that the selfishness of the elite, should be left unchecked for the benefit of all. Bioshock shows what happens when the great minds go insane and become mesmerized by their obsessive lust for power. Both versions show the same philosophy, although evolved into two opposite extremes.

So is the negative extreme of this philosophy displayed in Bioshock a true counterargument to Objectivism? I don’t think so. While Bioshock is sort of the worst-case scenario of what could happen in Rand’s utopian society, it really just critiques Atlas Shrugged and not Objectivism, as a whole. Also, the people in Bioshock were pretty much experimenting on themselves carelessly, which is something that the great minds in Atlas Shrugged would’ve most likely never done.

In Bioshock, the great minds became moochers and looters of their own legacy and self-destructed. Their carelessness was really just a footnote to the story and those behind it were barely analyzed. I do not see John Galt, the real hero of Atlas Shrugged, falling so easily and so idiotically. The elite of Atlas Shrugged would not throw it all away on stupidity and the negative aspects of the human ego after sacrificing all in which they did to create their perfect world. The characters in Bioshock almost came across as people who were inspired by Atlas Shrugged but seemingly missed the point.

Bioshock really doesn’t delve too far into laissez-faire capitalism apart from the very short welcoming monologue by Andrew Ryan and a few subtle hints here or there where Ryan and Atlas are giving skeletal critiques of the outside world’s looting nature. There isn’t much to base a real counterargument off of, contrary to popular belief. Also, Atlas Shrugged, as massive as it is, barely scratches the surface of the full meaning and philosophy of Objectivism.

Atlas Shrugged is a fictional tale that is so grandiose and epic that the magnitude of its essence is translated into its almost godlike characters and extreme situations. Although these over the top characters and situations have a very human and believable element to them, the context is still fictional and worked into a story. Atlas Shrugged is not a complete representation of Objectivism and Bioshock is not a complete counterargument to Atlas Shrugged. Therefore, it is not a true critique against Objectivism.

I don’t find Bioshock to be anti-Objectivist, as many people try to assume that it is. I think a lot of people who are anti-Rand just try to make Bioshock into a viable counterargument against her philosophy. I don’t see it this way at all. If anything, I feel that the game makers were heavily inspired by her work and in the vain of making a horror themed first-person shooter, they had to make a very scary translation of Rand’s material. Bioshock also pulls a lot of its world from Orwell, not just Rand. With that being said, one should expect Bioshock to be dark and horrifying in nature. Bioshock is not a viable counterargument against Atlas Shrugged or Objectivism for that matter. If anything, it is a minimalist counterpart to it and a great game that stands on its own.

People can enjoy both, as they compliment each other quite nicely and are not truly philosophical enemies. If anything, the dark nature of Bioshock adds credit to Rand’s work and is a warning to those who succumb to a mooching and looting nature.

Video Game Review: Batman: Arkham Knight (PlayStation 4)

*I played the PlayStation 4 version. The game is also available on Xbox One and Windows.

Playing this was long overdue.

This is one of my favorite video game series of the last ten years and it is the best video game series to star a comic book hero. Also, it stars the coolest hero.

Out of all the Arkham games this is probably the best one overall. I think I liked Arkham City a bit more but this one had so much content and new elements added to it that it really takes the cake from a narrative and technical standpoint.

I guess the biggest addition to this chapter in the series is that it is the first game where you can drive the Batmobile. And you don’t just get to drive it, you get to do battle with it. There are a lot of parts in the game where you have to go into vehicular combat and there are different styles, as well. There are side missions that play out like straight up car chases and then there are other missions where you go into “battle mode” and you are essentially a tank in a firefight with other tanks and aerial drones. It’s actually pretty incredible stuff and this element never got old.

The only Batmobile stuff I didn’t like was the racetrack sequences, which are worked into the Riddler side missions. I don’t play Batman games to race cars, I play them to save Gotham City from scum and villainy. They also work the Batmobile into the equation where you have to solve some of the Riddler’s puzzles. I love the Riddler, I just liked his side missions the least because of these bits.

I liked the new Arkham Knight character, even though it became fairly obvious who he was and that he wasn’t actually a new character but just a new twist on a known character. I also like that changes to his character were instrumental in Deathstroke coming into the game. But sadly, you don’t get to exchange fisticuffs with him. But that leads me to one other minor problem with the game.

There are no real boss battles. Well, there are big boss battle feeling moments like when you take on the Arkham Knight’s tank or when you reach the big crescendo in the Mr. Freeze side missions but you never actually fight any of the major villains with your fists except for Killer Croc.

Still, I do like how the big battles go down in the game. I just wish that I got to have more intimate physical encounters.

And man, there are a ton of villains. And even though the Joker is dead, he is very much a big presence in the game but I don’t want to reveal how, as that will spoil the story. But Mark Hamill, as the Joker, probably has as much dialogue in the game as Batman.

I liked that Scarecrow was the biggest villain in the game, as he’s a character that gets shafted in favor of the better known villains in Batman lore. Plus, the version of Scarecrow used in this game series is my favorite version of the character to date.

Ultimately, this is the best game in the series overall and thus, I’d say it is the best superhero video game that I have ever played. It brings the story full circle and is a nice conclusion to Rocksteady’s Batman franchise.

But really, I hope that this isn’t the actual end. I’d love to see a Nightwing, Red Hood or Batgirl game spun off from this series.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: The three previous Batman: Arkham games.