Why the Super Mario Bros movie isn't that bad

It's certainly not that great, either, but I intend to play devil's advocate here, so give me a chance. smb_movie

It HAD to be made, and the source material is ridiculous. It was utterly inevitable that the Super Mario Bros. movie was going to happen. It was released at the peak of Nintendo's popularity, right after the Super Nintendo hit the shelves. If Caruso, Eberts, Joffe and Weston hadn't made it, someone else would have. And it would have still sucked, because the source material is absolutely ludicrous. There's no way to turn "plumbers descend pipes, find mushroom land" into a movie that everyone will like, let alone one that anyone will like.

It was the first movie based on a video game. While the original is occasionally the best, more often than not the first version of something is riddled with flaws and gets perfected over time. Video game movies are very much the latter. While no movies based on video games can really be described as awesome, there are certainly later films that are better than this one (Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider, Silent Hill). I suspect part of the difficulty in developing a film based on a game is that films by their nature remove the most powerful aspect of a video game -- interaction. The story is set in stone. What makes a video game movie enjoyable is how cleverly it deviates from the expected, yet how true it remains to the source material. More to come on that.

Super Mario Bros. has the bones of a good movie -- the protagonists are likeable, the villain is appropriately detestable, the love interest is attractive, the comic relief is amusing. The story on a whole is a fairy tale and a take on the hero's journey as the two Brooklyn plumbers learn of a new, hidden world, and pursue an adventure there, becoming enlightened heroes by the end of the film. The loose end in the development of this film is that the source material -- the video game -- has a pretty stupid story that doesn't translate at all to a film without some serious modification, and even then, without setting the entire thing within a character's hallucination, it's still going to be batshit crazy. I suppose it's no less batshit crazy than the universes of, say, Labyrinth or The Neverending Story, but Super Mario Bros. doesn't really pretend to be a fantasy movie. Again, this all falls back to the two points I've made above: the source material is ludicrous, and no one had made a movie based on a game before.

A lot of elements of the game's story were changed for the film, and were probably changed for the best. Thanks to Jurassic Park, which was released a year after Super Mario Bros., but was well in development while Super Mario Bros. was being filmed, there are a lot of dinosaurs and reptiles in the Mushroom Kingdom. This is presumably an extension of the Yoshi character from the video games, who is represented as a kind of midget velociraptor in a couple of scenes in the film. There's not a lot of consistency in what's a reptile and what's a fungus, though.

The old king of the mushroom kingdom was "de-evolved" from a (presumably) humanoid form into a huge fungus, while most other creatures are de-evolved into goombas (small-headed huge-bodied reptiles). There's no explanation as to why the king evolved from mushrooms. There's no explanation as to whether the king's daughter, Daisy, is also made of fungus. Nor is there any explanation as to why Daisy keeps a pet dinosaur, given that the villains are established to be reptilian. Nor is there any explanation as to why everyone else seems to de-evolve only into reptiles. Was the king the only fungus-ancestored being in the Mushroom Kingdom?

It took me a while to figure out that the old king, who has de-evolved into a pulsating pile of fungus, was simply de-evolved further than anyone who became a reptile. Presumably if one was to de-evolve a goomba, it too would become fungus. (Although goombas were evil mushrooms in the video games, if I recall). All of this then begs the further question of why is there such discrimination between reptiles and fungus if everyone's ultimately fungus anyway...

Although if that's the case, why did King Koopa de-evolve directly into green slime without passing through a fungal stage? A little bit of consistency goes such a long, long way.

There are a lot of nice elements that reflect the video game, such as the tiny wind-up Bob-omb, the Thwomp bar, the Koopahari Desert. Some insane elements of the game that would play out very poorly in live action are handled nicely, such as the jumping boots that allow Mario and Luigi to leap huge distances.

I still enjoy watching Super Mario Bros., largely because it brings back memories of the time it was released, and because it's not the worst film ever made. I forgive it because it had to be made, and I can't see any real way it could have been made better. I forgive it because it's not drowning in plot holes. I forgive it because the production values are pretty high. I forgive it because it's based on source material no one should be burdened with as a starting point. I forgive it because Bob Hoskins.

Rest in peace, Bob.

Not very good: Thoughts on Wolf Creek 2

No. Redeeming. Qualities. This movie has no redeeming qualities.

I shall summarise in point form my various opinions, because it's all I can be bothered to do. This will be pretty much entirely spoilers, but given that the movie's already spoiled by virtue of being terrible, there's not much to lose.

  • The character of Mick Taylor, such as he is, isn't really strong enough to warrant an appearance in a sequel. He was cool in the original Wolf Creek, because he was new and interesting, but he hasn't changed since then, and he's still just a stereotype. He's essentially Jason Voorhees with an Australian accent.
  • There were numerous moments throughout the film where I expected something to happen, but it didn't, and the outcome was not as interesting as I was expecting. Case in point: When Ryan Corr's might-as-well-be-nameless character is trouncing about in a paddock in his orange Jeep, relatively free and unscathed after having removed the dead backpacker from his car, I expected the story was going to shift to a vendetta story as Paul (evidently that was his name) becomes the hunter, and Mick the hunted. This did not happen.
  • The whole "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" scene goes on far, far too long, and nothing useful comes of it. This was a perfect opportunity for some character development for Mick (something he desperately needs), but instead we spend twenty minutes singing drinking songs and playing trivia.
  • Actually, speaking of character development for Mick: He's basically the personification of the Alf Stewart internet meme. Except the Alf meme has had more character development.
  • How many times did the writers get to the end of a scene, realise there's not really much they could do to actually end the scene, so they just knock one of them unconscious and change locations? (Four, if you're curious.)
  • Another scene that disappointed: I had expected the old couple in the farm house to turn out to be Mick's parents, or something. Another opportunity for character development, and an awkward situation, to boot. Didn't happen.
  • There's a really nice shot early in the film, during the blue-truck vs. orange-Jeep chase, where the dust from the Jeep is illuminated by the spotlights on the truck as they speed through the empty landscape.
  • Why does Mick have catacombs beneath his dwelling? Wait, was that where he lives? Didn't he live in a junkyard in the original Wolf Creek? Still, why are there catacombs in the Northern Territory? Did Mick build them himself?
  • Was it truly necessary to have the first twenty minutes of the film in German with subtitles? Does the expected demographic for this kind of film appreciate subtitles? Did I just generalise horribly? Yes. Yes, I did.
  • On the up side: nice use of animal sounds for Mick's various vehicles.
  • Kangaroos. Why?

Buses, vans and subway trains

speedJan de Bont's Speed (1994) is a pretty stock-standard action movie. It has a pretty clever plot. It involves Keanu Reeves and a bus. You've probably seen it. What you may not have noticed, however, is the worst throwaway line in movie history.

(And that's saying something, considering Speed contains such dialogue gems as "It's cans, it's okay, it's cans".)

There's a moment toward the finale of the film where an extra spouts a line of dialogue. There's no real reason he has to say anything, but he does anyway. I can picture the editing room: the scene is cut, the audio is laid in, and the director and editor are arguing over whether a soundbite needs to be overlaid as the extra does his thing. The correct answer is "no". The answer they chose to go with is "sure, lets see if we can dig up something that seems relevant enough", followed with the addendum "but really isn't".

They've clearly rifled through all of their available chunks of pre-recorded dialogue, hoping to find a sound clip that fit. And when I say "fit", I mean "with a shoehorn and vaseline".

Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock ride the remains of half a subway carriage as it roosts through the pavement of an unfinished railway station and skids down three or four blocks of a Los Angeles street -- on its side -- before coming to rest against a blue minivan. The driver of the van climbs out, bewildered, staring at the bizarre sight of an upturned and halved railway train on the roadway. And he says:

"I can't believe he hit my van."

No one would say this. A more appropriate outburst would be "HOLY SHIT, A RAILWAY TRAIN", or "JESUS, THAT WAS LUCKY, I'M STILL ALIVE".

This may be the worst line since "You're the man now, dog", and I think Speed is all the better for it.

Oblivious: Thoughts on Oblivion (2013)

Yeah. Yeah, spoilers. And stuff.

Oblivion.

It's very pretty, but not very good. The story is poorly paced, awkwardly revealed and thoroughly confusing. It also has Tom Cruise in.

The story, such as it is, is set in a post-apocalyptic future where the Earth has been ravaged by the final blow of a war with an alien force. We "won", having scorched the planet with atomic hellfire, repelling the aliens but leaving our planet barely habitable. The surviving humans fled to a bizarre pyramid-shaped space station in orbit, leaving a few of the invaders scattered about, doing what they can to survive on the surface. Meanwhile, the future of humanity is assured by giant machines that float over the oceans, sucking up the water to use, ostensibly, as fuel for a trip to the nearest habitable rock -- Saturn's moon of Titan.

Tom Cruise is Jack Harper, a technician who lives in a peculiar house on top of a pencil-thin tower with a vacuous British redhead that operates a talking table all day long. His job is to fly his mechanical dragonfly down to the surface to repair security drones that patrol the ocean-sucking machinery, keeping it safe from the aliens.

From here, it all goes to shit. Big spoilers to follow, for more than one film. I don't care. I like to live dangerously.

Tom ultimately discovers that he's a clone, apparently designed after one of the only two surviving humans, and his purpose is to continue to maintain the technology of the "humans" aboard the pyramid in the sky, which is not manned by humans at all, but by the alien invaders. Alien invaders who aren't harvesting the oceans for fusion fuel for a trip to Saturn, but simply raping the planet of all its remaining natural resources.

So, Tom's a clone. That sounds familiar. How did he find out he's a clone? He discovered a duplicate of himself, doing the same job he should be doing. Still sounds familiar. Why does it sound familiar? Oh, yeah. Moon. Sam Rockwell did it so much better.

After this reveal, the rest of the film falls roughly into place, following two additional reveals that really didn't take me by surprise. I have to admit, I was a bit taken aback by how blatantly the key plot point from Moon was "borrowed", and I lost a bit of enthusiasm for Oblivion's remaining twists. The biggest plot hole still revolves around the clones-of-Cruise idea, though.

The original Jack, imaginatively labeled "Jack 49", meets up with a duplicate of himself in the middle of the desert, attempting to repair a drone. They proceed to beat the crap out of each other, ending with Jack 49's revived wife being shot, and Jack 52 (the other Jack) being crudely tied up and left in the desert while 49 rushes the shot wife to a nearby cave and steals 52's helicopter-dragonfly to go get her some magical fixer-upper drugs from 52's pole house. This is all fine and dandy, except:

Jack 49 apparently borrows Jack 52's clothing (they have numbers and colour coding on them) in order to convince Jack 52's own version of the cranky British redhead that he's her colleague and not some clone of him. He then somehow swaps back to his original 49 uniform before the story continues, which is fine. Well, sort of. It'd be fine if Jack 52 himself didn't up and disappear entirely until the unsatisfying end of the film. I don't know if the changing number on the jacket is a continuity error or an intended thing, or what. If it is a continuity error, it's a fatal error because the story relies on very subtle hints about what's going on, and the number and colour of Jack's uniform is pretty significant.

Jack 49 also steals Jack 52's helicopter-dragonfly for the remainder of the film, and proceeds to fly it -- while wearing his 49 regalia, again -- into the alien mothership masquerading as a human space station (did I mention spoilers?). Do they not notice that he's a 49, and it's a 52? Actually, I suppose they don't. Their scanning systems can't even tell the difference between a frozen Russian woman and a frozen black man.

Also, the alien mothership? Independence Day. Big triangular doorway. Massive internal corridor with foggy crap in it. All it needs is an army of marching insect creatures on the floor.

Final verdict: Very pretty, a bit boring, and very confusing. Taking a simple, mysterious story and trying to make it more mysterious by going all David Lynch on it is bad decision. Just tell the story. And maintain your continuity. Please.

Thoughts on The Wolverine (2013)

Why does a man with built-in blades need a sword? This review will be brief. Regardless, it still contains at least one spoiler. So, if you don't like spoiled things, read elsewhere for a moment.

I figured after my articles on V: Graphite, the energy drink tie-in with The Wolverine, and  5 Gum Adamantium, that I should at least make an effort to see and assess the movie.

The Wolverine. It was alright.

Wolverine, as a character, does not work very well solo. He works well as part of an ensemble, with the rest of his mutant teammates to bounce his personality off. Without having established characters around, he's a bit flat. There's no one to offer a predictable response, or to provoke him in a predictable way. I'm in favour of trying new things, but sometimes a little bit of familiarity can go a long way.

Also, does every film these days need a giant robot?

Loopy: Thoughts on Looper (2012)

Loopy doopy. Much like a refrigerator that isn't set properly, this article will probably spoil things. If you don't like spoilers, don't read it. Simples.

Looper is a time travel story. I'm a sucker for time travel stories. I'm a sucker, especially, for original time travel stories. Looper, unfortunately, isn't really one of them.

Well, it is. And it isn't. It's original in that there's a high-concept, back-of-a-napkin, one-sentence elevator pitch storyline. It's not original in that the plot devices and events of the film are largely lifted from other sources. None of this is surprising when you discover the film was based on a story originally developed as a short, which was then greenlit as a feature film.

It's not, though, in the sense that most of the supporting plotline seems to have been borrowed from elsewhere. I don't have a problem with writers pilfering things from other writers. All of the best stories are built upon the stories that came before them. As a great many people have supposedly said, "Good artists borrow, great artists steal", and so be it.

Some specific parts of Looper that I felt were extremely reminiscent of other works:

  • man from future returns to kill child who will grow into future significant figure (The Terminator series, fitting as Garret Dillahunt from The Sarah Connor Chronicles appears as one of the Loopers)
  • time travel in weird, claustrophobic capsule (The Jacket)
  • Bruce Willis in peculiar time travel story (12 Monkeys)
  • character levitated by telekinesis, then exploded (one of the X-Men films, cannot recall which one)

There is one scene which is very original, quite gruesome, and ultimately completely illogical. In the scene, the future version of Seth, played by Paul Dano, who has traveled back in time to the present, attempts to reach his younger self, who is being tortured. As he approaches his junior, who is having parts of his body amputated, the elder Seth's limbs begin to disappear, leaving him a crippled, useless hulk at the door to the building. While the scene is effective and disturbing, it makes very little sense upon consideration. Each change to the younger character should affect the entire timeline of the older version. Old Seth may have lead a very similar life to this point without -- say -- a finger, but it's unlikely that he'd have survived for 30 years, travelled back in time, and made it to the door of the building without both legs, though.

All time travel movies have their paradoxes, though.

While it had a very slow and borderline b-grade start, Looper soon picked up pace and ended up a pretty cool movie. The makeup on Joseph Gordon-Levitt, applied to give him a more Bruce Willis-like appearance, was frankly disturbing, though.

Be more Pacific: Thoughts on Pacific Rim

I shall summarise: It's awesome. This probably contains spoilers. If you're not into having things spoiled, then, uh, stop reading. Or don't. Your choice.

It's like Real Steel meets Transformers meets The Abyss meets Cloverfield meets other stuff.

Pacific Rim is one of those films that takes an utterly ridiculous premise and puts all its chips in, producing something completely enjoyable. The premise, such as it is, is that there are a bunch of gigantic electric dinosaurs emerging from a hole at the bottom of the ocean, and man has built a bunch of enormous robots to fight them with. Because nothing else worked. Because there can't possibly be a simpler solution than gigantic super-complex machines that mimic the human form. It's a bit like The Core in this regard, in that it takes something ludicrous and plays it for all it's got.

I think the entire film can be summed up in one scene from the trailer: The giant robot walks calmly out of the ocean into the streets of Hong Kong, dragging behind it an ocean liner, whilst the enemy dinosaur grins at it from the far end of the street. After raising the ship like a baseball bat, the robot then swings the boat at the dinosaur's face -- all of this occurs to the film's theme music (all six notes of it), and they properly chose to play it, for the only time in the movie*, on guitar. Proper, old school, heavy-ass guitar. This is robot violence porn at its finest.

Everything about the film is massive, awesome and fun. It goes boom, and it goes boom a lot. There're explosions, missiles, electricity, dinosaurs, alien entrails and whacky scientists. The heroes are appropriately heroic, and the villains are massive and hideous.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film.

I feel bad, but I can't help it. It's expected of me. I have a couple of nitpicks. They're not big deals, though.

Hollywood is currently drowning in Australian actors. Everyone who's ever appeared in Home and Away or Neighbours seems to currently be starring in a superhero franchise (except Alf Stewart, who should be). Somehow, the creators of Pacific Rim couldn't find any actual Australians to play their Australian characters, so they settled for an American and an Englishman, both of which proceed with the most embarrassingly atrocious attempts at the Australian accent I've heard in a long while. There's also an "Australian" newsreader and interviewee, both of which sound terrible. Surely it wouldn't have been too hard to cast a couple of Australians as the Australians.

I also found the two whacky scientists were a bit too whacky for my liking. A good comedy duo has an idiot and a straight man, but these two were both the idiot. Sorry.

Also, the bends apparently don't occur in the future.

* until the end credits, but y'know.

Thoughts on The Lone Ranger (2013)

This may contain spoilers. Your mileage may vary. You've been warned, I guess. Don't get me wrong, I like Johnny Depp. Unfortunately for The Lone Ranger, there are times when he can ruin a movie. Mr. Depp has a well-known history of playing weird and whacky characters, from Edward Scissorhands to Willy Wonka to Jack Sparrow to the Mad Hatter. They're all much of a muchness, it's Johnny with a painted face and a twitchy personality. You could interchange them, and no one would notice. He's not a bad actor. He's a scene stealer.

Lone, lone on the range(r).

In The Lone Ranger, Depp's Tonto thoroughly overshadows Armie Hammer's titular ranger -- admittedly by intention, as the story is based more around Tonto's history than Lone's -- unfortunately leaving the rest of the cast gasping for recognition. Among those you might not have noticed: Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner and Helena Bonham Carter. A personal favourite underrated actor appears also, Leon Rippy as an ageing ranger.

I found the film enjoyable, but suffering from confusion as to what it intended to be. Parts of it are flat-out, blatant and hilarious slapstick. Some are built around fairly blunt insult humour. Certain scenes divulge into basic toilet humour. Others are thinly veiled commentary on racism and the treatment of the Native American people. Surrounding all of this is a simple story rooted in some pretty serious drama.

It's difficult to take a character like Tonto seriously when his dialogue switches from lighthearted conversations about the stupidity of a horse to lines like "Blood has been spilled, and the rivers will run red", all the while as he attempts to feed a dead bird some corn. This wouldn't be so bad, were it not for the scenes that set up his character's behaviour coming at least half way into the epic 149 minute running time.

There're also a few dischordant moments where an idea is set up to be quite sacred or respected, only to have the piss pulled out of it a few scenes later, usually by Depp's peculiar character. While it's hard to call any action "breaking character" for someone who's clearly not the full quid to begin with, it's a little awkward as a viewer to be fed what seems to be a subtle moral concept, then have it jerked away disrespectfully.

The Lone Ranger is enjoyable, chaotic, action-packed and a bit disjointed. It could certainly have been worse, and I don't feel like I wasted either my time or money by watching it.

Sharktopus: A work of genius

This is going to be a remarkably brief review, but I'm still going to do my best to convey exactly how bad this film is. It's presented by its producer, Roger Corman -- famous for some semi-bad things like Death Race and the 1960s version of Little Shop of Horrors, and a film I've mocked previously, Time Under Fire. ...yeah.

Sharktopus has a fairly loose storyline, governed largely by the instruction to show, as often as possible, a literally unbelievable creature eating as many people as possible.

Eric Roberts (older brother of Julia) "stars" as Sands, the father of Nicole, reluctant creator of the Sharktopus. The creature is a military creation, intended as a tracking device, or at least that's the best I can figure from the film's limited exposition. It's given the code name "S11", by which it's constantly referred to, probably due to the realization that "Sharktopus" is the stupidest word ever coined.

Toss into the mix a Lara Croft knock-off news reporter and her stereotypical Mexican camera man (complete with inconsistent Sharpie tattoos that change from scene to scene), and a few scattered bit parts by terrible actors, and you have the closest thing to a story that Sharktopus has to offer.

I'm going to bullet-point some of the highlights, in no order in particular:

  • The majority of the film's intro and establishing shots appear to have been lifted from the holiday home videos of the crew. Every single one features dodgy hand-held camera shake, and several shots dim and brighten under auto exposure. Nice!
  • The bulk of the "actors" were clearly hired for their physique, and not their acting talents. With a couple of notable exceptions --
  • The bikini-clad young lady with the metal detector who gets dragged down the beach by the Sharktopus may possibly not have been born a woman.
  • Roger Corman's daughter makes an appearance as a bungee-jumper. It's worth noting that she was probably not hired for her looks, and definitely was not hired for her acting talents.
  • Some of the Shaktopus visual effects are decent, if let down by the ridiculous design of the (ridiculous) creature. Other shots, though, look like they've been rendered out on a Nintendo 64.
  • Eric Roberts (Julia's older brother) spends most of the film getting progressively drunk as a means of dealing with the ludicrous situation. I suspect that this may not be acting, and I can imagine Mr. Roberts probably had similar feelings about the ludicrous film he was making. I do hope he was paid well.
  • Kerem Bursin spends most of the film confused as to why his shirt keeps disappearing and reappearing, as continuity had clearly taken the day off while his scenes on the boat were filmed.
  • The spectators at the inexplicable dance scenario toward the end of the film are apparently totally blind to the shark/octopus hybrid that climbs atop the pavillion until it begins to eat people.
  • Almost all of the Jaws-style scenes in which a random beachgoer is killed by the monster are completely disjointed, and really serve no purpose to the storyline (although I'm willing to accept that they are the storyline).

All in all, I don't feel my time was wasted watching it, as it was entertaining for all the wrong reasons, but I'm afraid I can't, in good conscience, recommend it to anyone, as quite frankly it's a stinking pile of bilge, and shouldn't be cast onto the retinas of a human being under any circumstances. That said, I'm sat prepared to watch another Roger Corman entry tonight: Camel Spiders. I can only imagine it'll be awesome.

Hasta la vista: Fake Lego Terminator toys

I like Lego. Lego is awesome. I also like that Lego, the company, has made a moral decision not to create military-based playsets. This decision has left the market open for Lego’s opposition to fill the void, which has lead to such things as Mega Bloks’ Halo playsets, Kre-o’s Transformers and Star Trek licenses, and Brickarms, a company dedicated to making authentic Lego-sized weapons for your minifigs. A company I’ve never heard of, Best-Lock, has now produced a small series of military sets based on the Terminator franchise (possibly as a result of the franchise’s ownership being in a state of phenomenal flux as we speak). They’re not the greatest quality, but you can’t get any other Lego clone products with the Terminator name on the box, so let’s give them a chance.

Before I tear them apart, I’m going to be kind and point out that they were very cheap. I paid no more than three dollars for each set. Admittedly, this was from The Reject Shop, where all good products go to die, but I can’t imagine the retail price for them was significantly higher. Even at double the price, they’re dirt cheap for the quantity of Lego-compatible pieces they contain.

The (very) unassuming package.

The box is unassuming. I picked up two models, the Hunter Killer, and the Hunter Killer aerial. The company’s logo is quite disappointing. The choice of Arial Rounded as a font is questionable at best. The design of the package, in general, is chaotic and uncoordinated. It’s also not particularly colourful, which while appropriate for the franchise, is questionable for a toy package design.

Click "read more" to....read more!

Multiple Hunter-Killers.

The box for the Hunter Killer (the non-aerial variant) features a couple of artificial red laser beams.

Inside. (Jesus Christ, I'm doing an unboxing.)

Inside the boxes, the pieces are packaged in plastic bags with some stickers on a sheet. The instructions are loose inside the box.

Pieces. So many pieces.

All of the pieces in the set are cast in the same colour, a kind of gun-metal grey.

It's like IKEA, but with less allen keys.

The instructions are easy to follow, but are far from the quality standard of Lego instructions.

It's so close to Lego, but yet so far.

The pieces are interesting. They’re similar to Lego. Most of the pieces serve the same function as a comparable Lego piece. Many of them have slightly differing engineering, such as the round plate pieces, which have additional reinforcements on the underside. The small 90-degree fold pieces with two studs on each side seem unique to Best-Lock.

If nothing else, Lego’s competitors often stand a chance of producing a random significant piece that serves a purpose no official Lego piece was created for. The odds of this are decreasing daily, as Lego makes more and more unique pieces, particularly for its licensed sets (Lord of the Rings, The Lone Ranger, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc, and -- of course -- Star Wars).

These pieces will be handy if you ever need to build a tripod-mounted gun cylinder...thing.

Here are some of the unique pieces you won’t find in Lego -- the gun turret comes in three parts, a tripod, the gun itself, and a small ammunition belt that clips on in a similar style to a minifig’s gripping hand. The round piece with the flared bottom connects to a piece with an upright, making a large, spinning turntable piece.

GET TO DAH CHOPPAH

The Terminator figure is quite detailed. It’s also quite fragile. The arms are articulated at the shoulders and forearms, the legs only at the hip. The head rotates. The hands don’t grip anything particularly well, and placing the awkwardly shaped minigun into its pincers is more of a balancing act than a satisfying job.

I don't think he'll fit inside.

Here’s a size and quality comparison of the Terminator figure alongside a genuine Lego Creator set. While the creator set was never intended to be the correct scale for a minifig, you can still get a reasonable idea of the size of the scrawny Terminator in comparison to Lego pieces.

I think the Terminator is aiming at his own plane..thing.

This is the completed model of the Hunter Killer aerial, with the terminator swinging his minigun alongside. The pieces have a mottled sheen to them, as evident on the sloped pieces that make up the HK’s front end.

Quality workmanship.

You can see here that some of the pieces connect together quite poorly. Some of them simply don’t like each other, while some of them have obvious flashing problems from the way they’ve been moulded. You can see numerous moulding problems in this photo.

There's a certain level of "number five is alive" to this model.

This is the other Hunter Killer. The non-aerial one. If nothing else, the track system is very cool. It looks good, and within reason, it works as you push the thing along the table. The dog-leg in the tracks at the bottom, where it tucks up between the main wheels, is a bit of a design flaw. The piece holding the track up is simply a small cylinder with a cap on it, and it has a tendency to fly off when the track moves, or simply fall off periodically from the tension of the rubber track. The little cones that make up the turrets on either side of the machine don’t seem to click in particularly well, and fall off often, also.

The kits come with stickers to add panel detail and markings to the vehicles, but I haven’t added them as I’ll probably be taking the units apart again when I run out of shelf space. I’m quite confident that the stickers are actually intended to be structural, and will stop a lot of the connection problems with the main components of the vehicle bodies. I’m fairly sure Lego’s official sets do not employ load-bearing stickers as part of their design.

Final verdict for the Terminator Best-Lock construction kits: They were very cheap, the quality is no better than “okay”, and they’re a piece of licensed Terminator merchandise. I don’t feel that I’ve wasted my money.

Prehistoric obsession

This is something I worked on a while ago, but it seemed appropriate with Jurassic Park: 3D being released this week. This is a mockup of a poster for a fourth Jurassic Park movie, which I created while I was entertaining the idea of writing a JP fan film (the idea hasn't completely dissipated, by the by). The byline is "Las Cinco Muertes", or "The Five Deaths", which was the eerily appropriate local name for the chain of islands that John Hammond bought up in the novels by Michael Crichton.

JP_LCM_PosterIt's one of those projects that I started, then couldn't stop until it was perfect. This happens, occasionally. Sometimes I don't get much sleep.

The logo and poster are entirely made in Photoshop. The credit text is the only thing I skipped out on: It's "borrowed" from the poster for the first Jurassic Park.

Enjoy! And if you're Steven Spielberg, Universal or Amblin Entertainment, don't be offended, it's just an image. If I've stolen your idea, then damn -- I'm better at this than I thought I was.

Just a quicky, but don't steal it --

Here's a little fact I wasn't aware of, brought to you by the always educational Doctor Karl: The music on that annoying "You wouldn't steal a car.." bumper on the beginning of almost every DVD in the early '00s is...wait for it...pirated music. Dr. Kruszelnicki has provided much more information than I ever could, so I point you to the above link and leave you in peace. Should you not remember the horrid advert, here's a youtube link to refresh your memory.

Time, Under Fire, apparently

I have a weak spot for two-dollar DVDs. The more ambitious the plotline, and the more the cover looks like it's been designed in Paint Shop Pro, the more likely I'll buy it, and the more likely I'll enjoy it for all the wrong reasons. To wit: “Time Under Fire”

Starring: Jeff Fahey, Richard Tyson, and absolutely no one else of any significance.

Nuclear submarine.

Plot: A nuclear submarine cruising around the Bermuda Triangle is inexplicably drawn into a luminescent undersea vagina --

That can't be good, surely.

-- that throws it into the future. In this bizarre alternate timeline, the captain of the submarine encounters himself as a militant rebel leader, and must fight his way through a thoroughly confusing series of events involving another, bigger, and spectacularly unexplained submarine, Richard Tyson with no neck performing the worst Jimmy Stewart impression since Jimmy Stewart, and Emperor Palpatine if he was from Alabama.

There's no possible way this character could have been inspired by Star Wars.

Worth watching for: Some of the worst split-screening actor duplication ever, and easily the most horrific sex scene since Titanic.

Just because you can split-screen, doesn't mean you should split-screen.

Also, random goo-oozing robots.

At least he can't bleed on the sofa.

Overall: It’s extremely shit, but that was to be expected. It appears to have been filmed on a budget of about sixty cents and a licorice strap, and the plot is so thoroughly confusing even the most basic elements of it fail to make any sense. The special effects are decent. However, it would have been an adequate movie if more time had been spent ironing out the spectacularly convoluted storyline, rather than spent trying to find a way to crow-bar in some exploding cloned robots with green paint on.

Also, if anyone can explain to me how the evil submarine can at one moment be randomly hovering in a vacuous black space inside a warehouse, and the next moment be submerged at the deepest depths of the ocean, you’ve won yourself a gold star.

Oh, of course, it's in the submarine warehouse.

Cold Creek Manor: An exercise in common sense

MPW-9510

This is a brief study in logic. Occam’s Razor postulates that of all available possibilities, whichever is the least ridiculous is probably the right one. Sherlock Holmes postulates that when everything impossible is removed from the scene, whatever’s still hanging around has got to be the truth. Schroedinger postulates that a cat can be a zombie. Today’s film of choice is a “psychological thriller” under the guise of Cold Creek Manor. I’ve come to the conclusion that a “psychological thriller” is in fact a horror movie with everything good removed from it.

CCM is the story of a frustrated family of New Yorkers, who, upon their young son being ploughed by an SUV in the city, decide to move to the country. Where SUVs are less prevalent. Or something.

So, Irritating Video Journalist Daddy packs up Sleeping With Colleague Mummy, Overdeveloped Teenage Daughter and Annoying Young Son and heads off to purchase a piece of prize real estate in the form of Cold Creek Manor.

Having moved in to their new home, IVJ Daddy and AY Son start snooping about and find a bundle of curious evidence about the previous owners, including a scrapbook created by the previous owner’s child, laden with dodgy imagery and even worse poetry about demons, and a bunch of polaroid photos of what I assume to have been the previous owner’s wife with her wobbly bits awobble.

To cut a long, tedious and stultifyingly boring story short, previous owner shows up, hangs around, proves himself to be as dodgy as everyone suspects, becomes bad guy, tries to kill everyone.

Now. Leaps of logic.

1. Kid convinced Daddy hit horse with car.

Father, drunk from trying to butter up the locals at the saloon, drives home. Previous house owner gives chase, Daddy winds up colliding with a deer. Previous owner retreats. Next morning, kiddies wake up to find Daddy’s car is damaged, and their pet horse is dead in the swimming pool, which is in the back yard of the house, clearly flanked by the house on one side and trees and gardens on the other.

OCCAM, SHERLOCK AND SHROEDINGER AGREE: Daddy did not hit the horse, as there are clearly no skidmarks on the ground, nor is there enough room in the entire yard for Daddy to gain enough speed to collide with a horse and fling it into a swimming pool! Daddy probably hit the deer that Daddy says he hit.

MOVIEMAKERS AGREE: Daddy did not hit a deer. Daddy hit the horse. Somewhere else. Then dragged the horse’s dead carcass back to the pool and dumped it in. At night. Without making a sound. Oh, and Daddy killed the horse with an impact that was only strong enough to damage one headlight and bend his front quarterpanel a tiny bit.

ANYHOW. Second leap of logic ahoy!

Cold Creek Manor is essentially The Ring with The Ring removed. Brief synopsis:

Ring: Chick hires video journalist to discover the meaning of a videotape about a kid who was killed by her parents and dumped down a well.

Manor: Video journalist buys house then discovers previous owner killed his kids and dumped them down a well.

I digress. Second leap.

2. Thin nylon rope can lift anything!

Spoilers ahoy. Upon learning that the previous owner probably disposed of his children in a well on the property, IVJ Daddy sends his waterproof handycam down the well on a bit of bright yellow nylon shoelace. He reels in the camera and discovers their remains on the tape.

Daddy goes to the car, as far as I can tell for the sole purpose of seeing whether the tyres had been slashed (what astounding clairvoyance!) while Mummy inexplicably remains near the top of the unguarded well waving a lantern about. Previous house owner leaps from the bushes and pushes Mummy into the hole. Then, uh, disappears. For no reason I can fathom.

ANYHOW. Daddy comes to the rescue and flings the bit of nylon shoelace down the hole for Mummy to climb up on.

OCCAM, SHERLOCK AND SHROEDINGER AGREE: Nylon shoelace will not hold the weight of Sharon Stone at a length of, eh, thirty feet, probably.

MOVIEMAKERS AGREE: Sure it will. However, she’s going to mostly climb up the REALLY OBVIOUS TREE ROOTS (or “vines”, as Dennis Quaid calls them) which could have supported her without the aid of the amazingly yellow string.

Also of note is Christopher Plummer as a senile old man. Not a huge leap, there. Sorry.

Video game movies are DOOMed

Over the recent weekend, I had the opportunity to meet with Yahtzee from fullyramblomatic.com, and to watch the epic masterpiece of celluloid theater that masquerades as Doom. Movies based on video games are rarely decent. Lets explore.

Super Mario Brothers. The general concensus on the Super Mario Brothers movie is that it stands alone as a passable fantasy film, with unnecessary allusions to the Super Mario Brothers video games thrown in for no reason whatsoever. With the possible exception of “He’s got a Bob-omb!”, none of the video game references have even the slightest bearing on the plot. Grade: C+.

Mortal Kombat.liked Mortal Kombat. For a few reasons. Bridgette Wilson in short shorts is one of them. Of all the video-game inspired movies to date, this one’s probably the most accurate to the game, which is both a benefit and a downfall. Luckily, the backstory behind the Mortal Kombat games had a bit of beef to it, so there was actually something to build on, script-wise. Also, this movie features virtually every major character from the game, has a reasonable sense of humour, and doesn’t appear too cheesy. Also, CHRISTOPHER LAMBERT. Grade: A-.

Street Fighter. Oh, Christ no. Grade: D-.

Resident Evil / Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Again, the redeeming quality of this movie is that you get to see Milla Jovovich’s genitalia. Leaving the game connection out, it’s a pretty ordinary zombie episode. Grade: B.

House Of The Dead. Oh, Christ. It has clips from the game in it. Possibly the worst movie ever made. Also, it’s worth nothing that Uwe Boll is also in the process of cinematically destroying Alone In The Dark and Postal, too. Sigh. Grade: Q.

Doom. The plot of Doom, the video game, basically consisted of “there’re demons from hell on a space station, so marines go and kill them”. Sadly, the plot of Doom, the movie, is the same. I’m vaguely tempted to write a scene-by-scene description of it, but seeing as ABSOLUTELY NO PLOT DEVELOPS, there’s no point to doing so. However, here’re a few notes:

- The Bio-Forge Gun. The BFG. It’s introduced into the film with all the subtlety of a housebrick. That’d be okay, perhaps, if it wasn’t for The Rock’s emotionless delivery of the line, “Big…fucking…gun”. I want to stab the screenwriter.

- Dexter Fletcher. In another attempt at crow-barring a well-known reference into the flick, Dexter (from Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, among other things) is Pinky. Pinky lost his bottom half in a bizarre transportation accident, and now has his anus miraculously welded to a Segway Scooter. WIthout giving away any massive plot spoilers, he mutates and becomes the pinky demon. Whee.

- Gun Cam. The last 15 minutes of the film consist of purely random gun-cam violence. After our dopey marine hero is injected with antivenom..or venom..or whatever the hell it was, he’s overcome by a violent rage that can only be assuaged by strapping the film camera to his gun and shooting everything in sight. It’s so House Of The Dead it’s unbearable.

League of Extraordinary Guff

leagueofextraordinarygentlemenI wanted to like this movie. Seriously. However, the following things prevented me from doing so. Stupid-looking explosion.

Kenya. Connery and British Dude stand around while, quite obviously, the director yells "bang" in place of a craptacular special effect. Connery and British Dude pivot around unremarkably to see the building behind them burst ineffectually into RED FLAMES that look like they were tooled on with Paint Shop Pro. BRILLIANT START TO THE FILM.

Hyde.

Having watched the DVD special features and what-have-you, I'm willing to marvel at the technological wizardry involved in creating the Hyde suit. However, as great as it is, it still looks like Mr. Flemyng is wearing half a Silly Sumo suit.

The car.

I'll grant you, for entertainment purposes, for the sake of suspension-of-belief, that an internal combustion engine could have been invented in 1899. Also, I'll even go as far as to say it's not totally ridiculous that it could have been put into a four wheeled vehicle. Sure. Why not.

However, having spent a moment contemplating the Nemomobile, one cannot help but realise that on top of the internal combustion engine -- a supercharged V-8 engine, no less -- Nemo and his cronies also somehow managed to invent (and apparently perfect) the building of a chassis, suspension systems, steering -- four wheel, no less, more on this shortly -- a gearing system, air-filled rubber tyres, an ignition system presumably utilising a startermotor and alternator which then powers the lights (which if I recall correctly wasn't invented til near half-way through the next century, as almost all early cars had crank-starts) AND obviously, as Sawyer crashed the thing and survived, some kind of safety systems such as crumple zones and presumably some kind of laminated glass in the windows. Which, apparently, were rigged with winding mechanisms just like 20th century cars.

ALSO, as the producers pointed out in the special features, it'd be completely and utterly impossible to make a four-wheel-steer car complete a 180-degree turn, or, indeed, negotiate the narrow streets and cornering of Venice. ON COBBLED STREETS.

AND FURTHERMORE, Mr. Sawyer executes this maneuvre after approximately four seconds of experience driving the vehicle. Which doesn't sound so bad now, but hey. He wouldn't have even known the thing on the floor is what makes it go faster.

GPS tracking from a submarine!

And what's more, Nemo's ridiculous submarine can apparently track the position of the car in question! With what? GPS? Radar? Yay!

Sean Connery's Titanium Feet.

Connery leaps from the car, moving at about..oh..a hundred miles an hour, onto cobblestones, flat-footed, and walks away. Okay, then.

3D Dominos!

Venice is collapsing, so Nemo -- wisest of the wise -- suggests destroying an upcoming link, a building, in the chain of collapsing buildings to save the city. Which would work wonderfully IF THE CITY WAS ONE STRAIGHT LINE OF BUILDINGS. But it's not, obviously. In order for this to work, one would need to destroy an entire RING of buildings around the epicentre of the collapse. Yes.

Really Obvious Bombs.

Wouldn't some overzealous little crewmember aboard the Nautilus have perhaps spotted a dozen SUITCASE-SIZED bombs with AUDIBLY TICKING TIMERS on them? Particularly when they're just "hidden" along walls and behind occasional pipes?

Oh, dear.