Tag Archives: Video games

Character Unlock: E3 2017 Part Four – Ubisoft

As day three of E3 starts up and the guys have managed to get a few hours kip… it’s time for the Ubisoft conference.

As tiredness and hay fever appear to be getting the better of the boys, join them in going through the developer’s advert-fest for 2017.

Continue reading Character Unlock: E3 2017 Part Four – Ubisoft

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Character Unlock: The Great Switcheroo

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It’s business as usual this week as Character Unlock forgets the specials… Forgets the films… And forgets to do any form of planning.

In the latest episode of the video game-centric podcast, hosts John Miller and Andrew Brooker thank their lucky stars that the big conference detailing Nintendo’s latest console, the Switch, happened because otherwise they would have nothing to talk about. Shambolic as ever, the lads pick apart Nintendo’s new machine, the games that are/aren’t coming with it and the extra gubbins you need to buy just to make it worth owning. The guys wax lyrical on whether or not it’s worth picking one up at launch and whether the possibility of a new Xbox this year (that totally isn’t racist) is the better option when it comes to who gets their money.

In other news, there’s an attempt to tackle the cancellation of Platinum Games/Microsoft exclusive JRPG Scalebound’s cancellation and the closing of a studio near and dear to Brooker’s heart.

Also this week: John finally gets his hands on Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate; Brooker tries desperately to finish even one game from his pile of shame; and both prefer Madden to real life football at the moment. Such are the lives of these boring-ass gamers.

Join us again in two weeks so the guys can share stories of acting like frightened children after the release of Resident Evil VII.

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Character Unlock: The Assassin’s Pod

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So begins 2017, the year that will almost certainly end with our hosts ruining the podcast completely because they refuse to stop talking about their big games once they come out. Wondering how much time the lads can actually spend talking about Mass Effect and Horizon: Zero Dawn? Stick with us this year and find out.

But back to the present; with the Failed Critics guys having a well deserved week off (have you heard their stuff from the back end of the year? We’re surprised Owen is still standing) we have decided to fill in the film flavoured hole that they’ve left this week. What better way to do that with rolling in an Assassin’s Creed special that ends with us chatting about (and spoiling) the latest video-game adaptation?

Fresh from their New Years Eve hangovers, hosts John Miller and Andrew Brooker return to dissect the decade old stealth series and have invited Failed Critics regular and Assassin’s Creed super fan Brian Plank into our dark and dingy gaming basement to help us talk about the franchise that has moulded Ubisoft’s gaming model for nearly ten years.

Come spend some time with us as the boys enlighten you about their history with the Creed. What’s John’s favourite game in the series? Who is Brooker’s top Assassin? Is Brian a secret (American) psychopath? All this and more in our epic special.

Join us in a fortnight when we will… well, we don’t know. Join us in two weeks when there will be a podcast. About something. Shambolic as ever.

In the mean time, come find us on Twitter or Facebook (both @CharacterUnlock) and join in the conversation.

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Character Unlock: The Horror… The Horror!

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As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, as the sweet cupboard fills up and the pumpkins are carved, it can only mean one thing… Halloween is just around the corner.

What better way to celebrate than giving knocking on people doors and stealing lollipops from small children a miss for a night and spending a bit of time comparing our favourite (and least favourite) scary games? John “The Madman” Miller and Andrew “Axe Murderer” Brooker are joined by their first guest, The X-Cast host and podcast veteran “Spooky” Tony Black (who managed to leave the podcast this week with an enormous list of must-play games). Together, the trio take on the first week of decent news since Character Unlock began and dig into what they’ve been playing since we last heard from them.

Our latest episode tackles the new Nintendo Switch announcement as the guys ponder the future of the console maker and try to decide whether or not their new console is worth spending money on. We talk about Red Dead Redemption 2, the game guaranteed to be the biggest release of whatever year it gets delayed to. And super fans Tony and Brooker forget they’re not on a film podcast and dissect the latest Assassin’s Creed movie trailer.

A plethora of newer releases get the What We’ve Been Playing treatment as Battlefield 1, No Man’s Sky and Gears of War 4 are all analysed within an inch of their lives as John falls in love with the World War 1 shooter, Tony gushes over futuristic management game and Brooker loves, but gets really angry, over the latest in the Gears franchise.

As the boys go through their good and bad horror game lists, it becomes apparent that they all needed to expand their scary game horizons a little bit and needed advice from listeners and followers to get a feel for what games they need to be playing – or hiding from.

Join us in a couple of weeks when our hosts ignore everything else and hope to still have listeners after they do a Call of Duty retrospective.

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Character Unlock: You Have Earned The Episode One Trophy

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Ejecting the Blu-ray from our PS4 and using it for its intended purpose for a change, the Failed Critics have booted up a computer game or two and put the movies back on the shelf for the first ever episode of our brand new sister-podcast, Character Unlock.

Andrew Brooker and John Miller host the pilot episode, kicking off with a run down from EGX 2016. It’s not just top-down racing games that John got to play, as Battlfield 1, Forza Horizon 3, FIFA 17 and plenty of indie games went under his microscope at the event.

Plus, this week Brooker chats with game reviewer-turned-game developer, Kevin Van Ord, about his career, what he thinks about early access for Original Sin 2, and sneaking Scottish euphemisms into Dwarven dialogue.

They round off the podcast by answering your questions that you sent to us via our Facebook and Twitter feeds. Want to get to know Brooker and John? Listen to find out how they met, what their favourite games are, which games series’ they would combine, and how many worms they think it takes to change a lightbulb. Hey, you asked. We answered.

If you enjoy the episode, if you have any feedback or things you’d like to hear on future podcasts, please let us know either on Facebook or Twitter (both @CharacterUnlock) or email failedcritics@gmail.com.

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Hitman: Agent 47

After running through his five favourite and least-favourite video game adaptations recently, Andrew Brooker returns to let us know why Hitman: Agent 47 is not the film he expected.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)

hitman“Don’t put your faith in me.  You’ll be disappointed.”

In a weird way, I’m a little disappointed. I’m disappointed that Hitman: Agent 47 wasn’t the steaming pile of dog shit I went in expecting after reading a few reviews. I’m disappointed that I don’t get to lose my nut at how offensive the film is to the game it takes its inspiration from and the gamers it’s trying to court into cinemas to see it. But most of all, I’m disappointed that the latest attempt to bring Agent 47 to the big screen is so forgettable as a film that I simply can’t be bothered to gather up the energy to get annoyed at it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not stupid. I know that a game series primarily about sneaking yourself into a place, killing some unknown dude and sneaking out again unseen would make for a fairly boring film. Clearly the paint-by-numbers guys at 20th Century Fox feel the same because while there are flashes of the game series’ great style, Hitman: Agent 47 is absolutely more about the smash, bang and wallop of car chases and explosions than it is about stealthily poisoning some poor, unsuspecting villain without anyone ever knowing you were there.  But almost to its credit, the film doesn’t go down the “everything has gone wrong, now the super-sneaky ninja dude has to go loud” route (see 2007’s Hitman and almost every killer-for-hire gets revenge movie). Instead just settling for trying to convince us that this is just how the game is played. It’s not.

The story, for want of a better word for the thing that keeps us going from one elaborate death scene to another, focuses on Katia (Boss’ Hannah Ware), the daughter of the geneticist who is singlehandedly responsible for the creation of the mythical “Agent” program; a bit of 1960’s jiggery-pokery that changed the DNA of unborn children and making them stronger, faster, tougher and smarter than average people.  It’s absolutely nothing to do with Dark Angel, the sci-fi TV show that came out the same year as the first Hitman that also featured barcoded super-soldier protagonists.

On the run for most of her life, Katia is now being hunted by not one, but two different organisations. Mr 47’s ICA – strangely not mentioned by name in the film, just by their iconic logo – and the imaginatively named Syndicate International. The latter have sent their own contractor, John Smith, to do their dirty work.  A man who is the result of their experiments to try and recreate the Agent program and has a few secrets (or not, if you’ve seen the bloody spoiler-filled trailer) of his own to help him along the way.

John Smith; in maybe the most bizarre casting choice this year with Star Trek‘s Zachary Quinto; doesn’t rescue Katia as much as he does capture her so he can locate her father.  Ripped from Syndicate International’s grasp by Rupert Friend’s Agent 47 (replacing the late Paul Walker early into the film’s production) and having her world turned upside down as he explains who she is, what her father’s work really involved and maybe most importantly, what he did to her when she was young. Experimenting with altering her DNA to make her survival instincts second to none, turning her into the hyper-sensitive paranoid mess that’s kept her alive and free all this time, he’s made her an Agent.

And so begins a cat and mouse chase across the world as the pair of assassins try to outrun Smith and his Syndicate henchmen. All while racing to get to Katia’s father before the massive organisation can torture the secrets of the Agent’s DNA out of him and create a super-soldier army of nigh-unbeatable hitmen.

Hitman: Agent 47‘s biggest problem comes in its attempt to imitate one of the greatest stealth games ever made.  A game that I have, on more than one occasion, wasted more than the length of the film in trying to get past one kill, or get around one group of guards that I don’t want to face head on.  It’s ironic that the parts of the movie that remind me the most of the games; an exceptionally hostile area that 47 and Katia must navigate without being noticed is a great example; are the parts that while enjoyable, are the most infuriating parts to watch as a fan of the franchise. The tension, the trial and error nature of an area like this is what makes the games so great.  But on the big screen, while the feel of the games is there and those of us that have successfully steered their way through scenarios like them will be smiling in recognition by the end of it, it’s just all too… easy.  Every costume change, every time the light shines off of 47’s garrotte, the film got a brief smile from me but it was quickly wiped from my face when the action was ramped up and suddenly I’m watching a game of Audi vs. motorbikes.

As an action film, Agent 47 is relatively competent. It could do with its pacing being tightened up a little but it certainly delivers in all the areas that you would expect it to. Action scenes are visceral and violent, with enough gruesome deaths to fill a Saw reboot and decent enough hand and gun action. Hitman certainly delivers the fun, loud parts of the wannabe franchise starter in spades and doesn’t shy away from putting a bit of blood on the screen.  A little twisty and turny, the story does an alright job of keeping these scenes together and in check and while obvious to most, the surprise twist of the end was still a decent nod to the effort some of us have put into just getting one clean kill in the film’s inspirational video game franchise.

Hitman: Agent 47 gets a sly recommendation from me, if you want to switch your brain off and watch a poor man’s Transporter for a couple of hours you could do worse. But if you’re going in with hopes of a faithful recreation of an iconic stealth death simulator, I’m afraid we’re now hanging our hopes on Michael Fassbender and next year’s Assassin’s Creed movie. Considering the amount of effort that went into turning the story into a Hitman film, that effort would have been far better spent writing an original story to tie to kills together, keeping it away from the judgemental eyes of gamers everywhere and perhaps starting a franchise of the strength of the film, and not its inspiration’s name.  Because this, my friends, is not Hitman.

The Five Best Video-Game Movies

In addition to telling us about the five worst video-game movies last week, Andrew Brooker is back again to take a look at the other side of the coin and reveal of the best.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)

Next Week! Hitman: Agent 47 arrives next week.  As I type this I’m watching the booking pages for my local cinemas refresh hoping for a decent show so I can get a nice early screening and get my fill of video game stupidness.  As the days go on I’m getting a little more excited for this movie and I’m hoping and praying that it isn’t complete wank.  I’m not looking for award winning cinema; I’m looking to disengage my brain for a couple of hours and just enjoy my time with Agent 47.

So, as my own rebuttal to last week’s Worst Video Game Movies; my super-duper scientific research continues in making the list I’m hoping 47’s latest entry makes it to.  Here’s my five favourite video game movies.


5] Silent Hill (2006)

Budget: $50 Million

Box Office: 97.6 million

Rotten Tomatoes: 29%

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkK8udIqKPQ]

Now, I refuse to care about the Rotten Tomatoes score for this film; or any film for that matter.  The thing that gets Silent Hill onto my list is the atmosphere.  The original Silent Hill is one of the creepiest games ever made; using the restrictions of the old technology it was made on to it’s advantage and filling the entire game with a thick fog that hid just how slowly the game was being rendered in the background; but as far as creepy atmosphere is concerned the town of Silent Hill is best in show and the film does a fantastic job in replicating it.

Granted, the story takes a mental left turn away from the lore towards the end, something I have lambasted game and book adaptations for in the past, but with enough fan service and actual scares to keep your average fan happy, I can heartily recommend Silent Hill.


4] Mortal Kombat (1995)

Budget: $18 Million

Box Office: $122.1 Million

Rotten Tomatoes: 33%

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHIfHL5UgFs]

Come on! COME ON! It’s Mortal Kombat! The mother of all fighting games turned into one of the most fun video game movies ever made. How can I not put it on the list?  I am writing this on the 20th anniversary of the film’s original release for crying out loud, I can’t NOT talk about it.

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (the not-entirely-shit Uwe Boll), MK‘s legacy speaks completely for itself (spawning a bloody awful sequel that almost made my previous list) The story of Christopher Lambert’s lightning god Raiden, dragging the worlds best fighters into another realm to fight in a tournament to decide the fate of both worlds.  Silly fights and rubbish special effects fill the screen as the Alien Vs. Predator  director squeezed as many of the game’s dumbass story elements as humanly possible into a 100 minute definition of “junk food for the brain”.


3] Dead Rising: Watchtower (2015)

Budget: Unknown

Box Office: Unknown

Rotten Tomatoes: None

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWUdPYmPz5c]

Dead Rising: Watchtower is a bit of an anomaly.  No theatrical release at all; debuted on the United States’ free video service Crackle and went straight to Blu-Ray in the UK.  Released in March this year, the film adaptation of one of the silliest zombie game franchises is easily one of my favourite films this year.For those that haven’t played the games, each one follows a new protagonist as they fight through hoards of zombies in a world where the zombie infection is accepted and controlled with medication, but things have gone horribly wrong.  What makes the games something a little special is the stupidity involved in them.  The only way to survive in Dead Rising is to find two weapons and weld them together to make bigger weapons.  Until you’ve played it, you’ll never understand how I lost hours running around the map with a mate laughing my childish arse off firing masses of rubber cocks across the screen using my dildo launcher and poking my buddy with a giant foam finger gun!

The film sticks to this level of stupidity.  It’s gross, it’s violent, but it’s completely fucking stupid and it knows it.  Only really for fans, but it’s one of the best ways to waste two hours in recent memory.


2] Resident Evil (2002)

Budget: $35 Million

Box Office: $102.4 Million

Rotten Tomatoes: 33%

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5Rbk7ChmVk]

This is a strange one for me.  Considering how pissed I got at Doom for taking more than a few liberties with that iconic game’s story, to laud the first Resi film as my second favourite in this list when it’s pretty much universally hated by fans of the game for the same thing is pretty hypocritical of me.  Luckily for me, I don’t care. 

Resident Evil kicked off a franchise of some of the most fun action films to grace my blu-ray collection.  Substituting the horror of the early games for an action thriller feel with an amnesiac, combat ready, Milla Jovovich taking on an underground lab filled with zombies as her and a special forces team try to stop an outbreak and escape the subterranean complex and the mansion that’s hiding it.  Sure there’s a stinker in the six film long franchise; and the quality only really dropped with the most recent (but not quite final) instalment; but there’s no stopping this series and with Paul W. S. Anderson getting the last chapter made as you read this and promising a worthwhile end to (not an actual RE character) Alice’s saga, I have nothing but faith that we are in for a treat when it comes out next year.


1] Hitman (2007)

Budget: $24 Million

Box Office: $100 Million

Rotten Tomatoes: 13%

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJhNzHyq-IE]

Agent 47’s first trip to the big screen is, without a doubt, my top video game movie of all time; and one of my favourite junk food, sick day kind of movies.  Now, I made Owen watch this back on the 150th podcast just because I wanted him to give it a butcher’s and he really didn’t like it. I’m sorry to say, that Owen is wrong and we’re no longer on speaking terms!

One thing our esteemed leader did get right though, was describing it as a wannabe Luc Besson film and I’m absolutely alright with that description.  The always awesome Timothy Olyphant dons 47’s iconic suit and tie and brings all the ham-fisted action of Besson’s finest work.  Maybe without the finesse that the legendary filmmaker does, but no film based on a video game was ever going to get that level of director involved in it.

Hitman does an excellent job with what it has.  Another film on this list that sacrifices the game’s lore to make sure that we aren’t bored to death by the film’s pace. Agent 47’s story is far too long and complicated for a 100 minute movie, so we get the bare bones of the legend on screen and are left to either remember, guess, or simply not care about the parts that we aren’t told.  Whichever option you choose, I can absolutely recommend Hitman to any game fan, any action film fan, or anyone that just fancies seeing good old Mr. Olyphant in a suit and tie killing people in an ultra cool, ultra slick fashion.

If Hitman: Agent 47 is half as fun as this telling of the suited assassin’s story, I’ll be coming out of the cinema a happy man next week.


Honourable Mention – Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUmSVcttXnI]

While not in any way a video game movie; it is, in EVERY way, a video game movie. Even the most casual of gamers can see that the film’s tagline, and adopted subtitle, “Live. Die. Repeat” is absolutely endemic of the trial and error nature of video games and playing them. Who of us hasn’t spent hours endlessly playing the same sections of a game over and over again hoping to just get it right this time?

The film, which arguably belongs to Emily Blunt and not her stuntman co-star, took on even more of the video game world when it was released the same year as shooter powerhouse Call of Duty introduced exo-suits to its players; making us all look like the rows and rows of suited soldiers from the battlefields of Edge of Tomorrow.

A movie that is absolutely about video game checkpoint abuse, I can’t not mention Edge of Tomorrow in this little list of mine.

The Five Worst Video-Game Movies

Inspired by the imminent release of Hitman: Agent 47, Andrew Brooker takes a look at five of the most infamous movie adaptations of a variety of video games.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)

In a couple of weeks, 20th Century Fox will release Hitman: Agent 47 to a world pretty much fed up of video games being turned into awful films and force fed to us. Most that have read some of my stuff, or listened to me on one of the many times Mr. Hughes lost his mind and invited me onto the podcast, know that I love my video games. Behind movies it’s my second biggest hobby (and arguably the most expensive) and every time my two favourite ways to waste time crossover, it should be a reason to celebrate. Sadly, this isn’t usually the case. More often than not, the films we are handed as we are told “it’s brilliantly close to the games, fans will adore it” turn out to be badly written, badly directed dusty clouds of dry spunk. This is where we find ourselves today.

So in a very scientific process, namely me and a buddy bouncing ideas at each other in the office, here are my five worst films based on video games.


5] Doom (2005)

Budget: $60 million

Gross: $55.9 million

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19%

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dMA8NmdyW4]

So yeah, Doom. The mother of all games. The game that defined forever how we’d play games more than 20 years ago, was shat out as a movie a decade ago starring Dwayne Johnson back when we were just calling him “The Rock” and Karl Urban before he was Dredd.

My biggest gripe with Doom isn’t that it was bad, and it was pretty bad, it was how it took the game’s slight hint at a story and flat out ignored it. According to the game’s instruction manual, you are a lone space marine fighting to survive as Hell’s demons invade Mars and slaughter everyone. This was replaced with a group of space marines fighting to survive as a Mars base’s occupants are infected with a Martian virus and mutated. I mean, neither story is good, but is there really any need to switch out one bland story for another? Where’s the loyalty to the branding for Christ’s sake?

Adding to the terrible decision to make this film, we were treated to a spectacularly rubbish “first person shooter” scene that has us watching the film down the barrel of a gun that, as a fan, is beyond patronising and absolutely ridiculous. No other type of film insists on making us watch them like that. Fancy watching soccer film from the point of view of a stadium visit? With some fat unwashed screamy twat in front of you? No.

Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, the man that also brought us:


4] Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)

Budget: $50 Million

Gross: $12.8 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 6%

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zDsaCalcNE]

Urgh! So yeah, there was definitely going to be a Street Fighter movie on this list. And a film would have to work pretty damn hard to be worse than a film that included Kylie Minogue and a ginger Jean-Claude Van Damme, but The Legend of Chun-Li blows it out of the water.

Intended as the origin story of one of the most iconic Street Fighter characters, The Legend of Chun-Li plays less like a story of how the young fighter found her way in life and instead treats us to a powerpoint slideshow on alienating film fans and gamers alike as more than a few tired old clichés are dragged out from the dusty cupboard they should have been left in. The mention of another key character at the end, hinting that a film based around Ryu was in the works shows just how much they thought they had a franchise starter on their hands and just how out of touch everyone involved in this film actually was.


3] Need For Speed (2014)

Budget: $66 Million

Gross: $203.3 million

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 22%

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYyvKqKwRco]

The one and only film that, at least according to Wikipedia, actually made money, tricking more than its fair share of gullible fools into thinking that it might actually be a good film. Sadly, we live in a post The Fast and The Furious world and a shit movie about a bunch of guys racing nice cars isn’t anything close to engaging anymore. Fast and Furious had to evolve to survive its flagging appeal and somehow Need for Speed still made a killing at the box office doing what Vin Diesel and Paul Walker were doing a decade and a half ago. And that would be ok, if it wasn’t so bloody dull!

Every one of us gamers saw just how bad an idea it was to try adding a story to the Need for Speed franchise with 2011’s disgrace of a game, The Run. So instead of trying something new, they simply put that same story to film, added a less than mediocre revenge story, stunt casted the pretty crap Aaron Paul and made a film that included Michael Keaton as a pirate radio running race organiser channelling Beetlejuice behind a mic.

The fact that this made a killing at the box office is only encouraging more of the same! In the next few years there are plans for a second Need for Speed film, as well as a film based on Sony’s Gran Turismo. And I blame everyone that added to that $203 million for that. It’s your fault!


2] DOA: Dead or Alive (2006)

Budget: $21 Million

Gross: $7.5 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 34%

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luSqcSVGknU]

Dead or Alive, oh how I loathe you. If ever there was a video game franchise that needed to die, it’s Dead or Alive. The franchise so out of touch with modern game playing that it focuses more on jiggling boobs than it does fighting mechanics; and considering the amount of vitriol thrown at game developers at even the hint of a bit of sexism in their game nowadays, how Dead or Alive constantly gets away with it, I’ll never know. Between sex pest levels of gross purchasable school-girl costumes and its volleyball tie-in game, it’s the channel five porno of fighting games and it’s fucking awful.

You would think that this would made perfect fodder for a rubbish straight-to-tv, or nowadays, straight-to-itunes, movie and in that respect, this would be a barely passable film. But to put this awfulness up on that hallowed silver screen is beyond sacrilegious. This film that sold its audiences on appearances from Holly Vallance (remember her?), Jaime Pressley and Devon Aoki. You know, those women absolutely known for their fighting skills and their attention to perfectly choreographed combat and NOT for just being gorgeous. Yeah? Them.

I feel a little guilty for having this film on the list, because the game is just as bad. But Jesus Christ, I’ve never felt so gross playing a game or so skeevy watching a film.

Leaving us with:


1] Super Mario Bros. (1993)

Budget: $48 million

Gross: $20.9 million

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19%

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAqoB17yQqY]

No one can try and write one of these lists without mentioning Super Mario Bros; not only the worst film based on a video game ever made, but generally one of the worst things ever put to film. An absolute abortion of a film that its star, the late great Bob Hoskins, distanced himself from. Calling the film a “complete nightmare” and admitting that if he had a chance, he’d erase it from his past, Hoskins was never shy about sharing his opinion on this terrible flick. With similar stories from co-stars John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper, the film has left a legacy of terrible stories of a troubled production and should forever be used as an example of how never to make a film based on a beloved property.

Setting one of the most colourful video games in history in what looks like the underground society from Demolition Man, trying for an adult theme and attempting to make it grounded and realistic is absolutely not the way to do the Super Mario Brothers, or its legions of fans, proud.

Extra special hate gets directed at this lumpy skid mark of a film since Bob Hoskins’ death a little over a year ago. In an attempt to up their click count, video game websites started running stories that the man known for playing Mario Mario had died, shitting all over a stellar career by shining a light on the man’s worst moment in film and not educating an entire generation of players who’ve never seen The Long Good Friday on an amazing actor who deserved much, much better than that.


Dishonourable Mention – Uwe Boll

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VT1J65KHX8E]

I couldn’t decide which of his films to add to the list, so instead I’ll simply mention the man, the myth, the douchebag that is Uwe Boll. A man whose legacy to film includes ruining more than a few outstanding games as he does the filmmaker equivalent of shitting into his own hand and smearing it on our walls. The man’s filmography includes monstrosities like Far Cry, two Alone in the Dark films, three BloodRayne movies and Postal.

Recently, the gaming community breathed a sigh of relief as “Raging Boll” took to YouTube to announce he wasn’t making films anymore.

Good. Because I believe I speak for every game playing film lover when I say “Fuck that guy!”

You can hear the team talk briefly about their favourite and least favourite video game adaptations on our podcast released back in 2013. If you’d like to hear us do a new podcast on the topic, leave a comment below or get in touch with us on Twitter, Facebook or email at failedcritics@gmail.com!

Need for Speed

Need For SpeefIt’s a complete mess and totally insane, but Need For Speed is the best videogame-to-movie adaptation yet made and it’s a fair bit of fun, too.

by Callum Petch

Let’s get this out of the way immediately: yes, Need For Speed is the best non-animated videogame-to-movie adaptation that has been made and released at this moment in time.  Admittedly, when your competition for that prestigious crown includes Street Fighter: The Movie, DOA: Dead or Alive, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Bloodrayne, Postal, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, Super Mario Bros., Bloodrayne 2: Deliverance, Hitman, two movies based on The House of the Dead, The King of Fighters, both Tomb Raider flicks, both Silent Hill films (although the first one had bags of unrealised potential), Tekken and Bloodrayne: The Third Reich; that’s not exactly saying much.  Nevertheless, it is true.  Need For Speed is the best non-animated videogame-to-movie adaptation given a Western release yet (take your time Ace Attorney, we’re in no rush, really).

Here’s something else about Need For Speed: it’s a complete and total mess.  Throughout the course of its 2 hours and 10 minutes (yes, you did read that correctly, Need For Speed has a run time of 2 hours and 10 minutes), the film wildly careens from tone to tone, through different corresponding levels of self-awareness, through its many plot points, with its cycling of characters, going through every level of “Aaron Paul is/is not interested in this movie”, from explaining away everything to just throwing its arms up in the air and going “I dunno!  This is just a thing that happens, don’t question it!”  I haven’t met a film this schizophrenic about its own nature and what exactly it wants to be in a long while.  And yet, I’m honestly not too hung up on that fact because it’s also kinda a lot of fun.  Both intentionally and unintentionally.

But we shall get to that.  The formalities, first.  Aaron Paul stars as Tobey Marshall, a down-on-his-luck mechanic who street races on the side to pay the bills.  Falling behind on the payments for his recently deceased father’s garage, he and his crew (consisting of Ramón Rodriguez, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek and Harrison Gilbertson) agree to fix up a Ford Mustang for an old acquaintance of Tobey’s, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper).  They don’t get along.  A lot of stuff then happens between that and what sets up the main plot: one of Tobey’s crew gets killed in a street racing accident (and you’ll figure out exactly who within the first 65 seconds, he may as well wear a glowing neon shirt that reads “HELLO, I AM GOING TO BE THE SACRIFICIAL LAMB FOR THIS FILM”), Tobey is framed for it, spends the next two years in jail and, once released, begins his quest for vengeance by…

I don’t really know, in all honesty.  His plan seems to be to hitch it across the country in time to enter a supposedly super-secret and possibly illegal race called the Something Stupid & Pretentious Or Other (they keep mentioning it but it kept slipping my mind, I know that it completely seriously involves d’-something) and beat Dino in it but the film never outright says.  Maybe we’re just supposed to think up what Tobey’s going to do to Dino ourselves or maybe the film just couldn’t decide for itself.  I’m leaning towards the last one thanks to the ending.  In fact, here’s something you must know about Need For Speed: the ending is unfulfilling and kinda garbage.  There are more loose threads here than a linen shop run by the world’s worst sewer and it aims to be happy and uplifting without actually providing any reason to be happy or uplifted.  If the ending makes or breaks a movie for you, then Need For Speed is likely to become your new least favourite film of 2014.  Only 300: Rise of an Empire wraps up worse in regards to films released in the last six months.

Honestly, though, a messy and unsatisfying ending is rather fitting considering the two hours that precede it.  See, Need For Speed is dumb.  It is super dumb.  It has a character on Tobey’s team who seems to have access to helicopters at will.  It’s a movie in which Michael Keaton plays the one man who seems to have power over all of the illegal street-racing in the country, who live streams about illegal street-racing on a seeming 24/7 basis whilst taking calls from viewers and listeners and whose identity is a total mystery… despite the fact that he can set up prestigious races and his face is constantly on display so you’d think at least somebody would have run a facial or voice recognition software on him and shut his ass down by now.  It’s a movie that sort of romanticises the concept of illegal street-racing (which would be controversial had movies not glamorised a lot worse and had one other major action series not already built its foundation on rooting for the crazed street-racers).  It is dumber than a lobotomised Big Brother contestant.  This is constant.

What’s not so constant is the movie’s attitude towards that dumbness.  Its self-awareness level fluctuates like crazy; one moment it’s completely in on the joke, the next it’s trying to abuse super slow motion for emotionally devastating effect (key word: attempts), the next it’s somewhere in the middle.  At the film’s midpoint, Dino effectively, no wait, he actually does put out a hit on Tobey and it’s played completely straight with no police interference whatsoever (seriously, the way that illegal street racing runs in this movie’s universe is quite literally the dumbest thing I have had the good fortune to experience in… man, I can’t even remember).  Near the end, a character currently held in military prison successfully convinces the guard watching him to get him an iPad so he can watch the final race and plays that for silly comedy.  One of Tobey’s crew, after the two year time skip, is reintroduced in a scene where he takes off all of his clothes in the middle of his work environment as he quits.  It should tell you a lot about this film that that was the scene that I the most baffled about.

Let me put this another way.  Do you remember the first trailer for this film?  The one where Aaron Paul monologues about vengeance over operatic wailing and you sit and wonder whether everyone involved is actually aware of just how ridiculous the thing that’s currently playing out before your eyeballs is?  Yeah?  OK, take that feeling and apply it to 2 hours and 10 minutes because that’s Need For Speed.  It feels like seven different movies being very awkwardly smushed together into one product and, quite honestly, it defies logic, common sense or any sort of coherent opinion.  I guarantee that you will leave the cinema in bafflement at the film you will have paid money to witness.  My brain is turning to glue trying to make sense of this film.  It really is.

Oh, and the score!  What in blue blazes was going on with the score of this film?  Did the guy writing it think he was writing it for some kind of inspirational Oscar bait?  Maybe an inspirational biopic about some important person’s life?  Because that’s the score we’ve got for this film and it’s the most mismatched score for a film I’ve seen since smooth heist jazz music backed Haywire.  Turns out setting the first trailer to opera was the marketers secretly trying to prepare us for the abject weirdness of the score to this movie.  There’s even the single strangest inclusion and interpretation of All Along the Watchtower I have seen since Battlestar Galactica!  Was anybody actually communicating with one another during the creation of this movie?!

So, it’s insane and the ending is utter crap.  Why am I advising you to go and see this again?  Besides so that, when you inevitably bring it up for your next bad movie night, you can smugly go “I saw this one in cinemas” towards all your buddies (I guarantee that this will become legendary on that kind of circuit in the coming years).  Simple: I had a lot of fun with this one.  I’ve seen a lot of films recently, good and bad, and most of them have either been really serious or really boring (and sometimes both).  There’s nothing wrong with serious movies, but sometimes I want to sit and watch something fun.  I want to laugh, I want to be excited, I want to be having a good time.  300: Rise of an Empire didn’t provide that, Non-Stop didn’t really provide that (because that wasn’t its intention for a lot of it), A New York Winter’s Tale should have been the kind of bad movie to provide that and it clearly wasn’t.  Need For Speed, though, provides fun.  It provides a lot of fun and whether that fun is intentional or unintentional changes by the minute but, in all honesty, is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

It helps that it has style oozing throughout.  Director Scott Waugh (whose previous claim to fame was the excretable and similarly muddled Act of Valor, so at least this is a step up for him) often shoots chases or races with cameras that are supposed to be POV shots of the drivers, with CGd Heads Up Displays and checks around the cockpit, like it’s a cockpit view mode in a videogame.  He likes to attach his camera to various aspects of the expensive cars as they drive or crash.  He especially enjoys seeing just how close his vehicles can get to the moving camera at very high speeds before they have to overtake.  It adds a flair to proceedings, makes the chase scenes feel alive and fresh even though nothing particularly new is happening in them.

On that note: none of the stunts in this film are performed with CGI.  Everything is achieved with practical effects.  Every crash, nudge, last-second near miss or spin is done with practical effects and really good stunt drivers.  So, no, do not expect to see any new or outrageous feats of automobile havoc out of Need For Speed.  Do, however, expect to be reminded of just how amazing and amazingly tense a good practical car chase sequence looks and is.  There’s an early section involving a race through traffic with three Koenigseggs that was nail-biting because I was sat there the entire time thinking “Wait, no, this can’t actually be real.  They can’t afford to even risk scratching the paintwork on one of those-OH GOD, NOW TOBEY’S IN ONCOMING TRAFFIC!!”  It sounds slightly sociopathic and sadist but it’s true: people become tenser and more involved in risky activities when there’s a chance that it can go horribly wrong for those involved, and that works gangbusters here.

Every collision, hell, every scrape, be it from one of the main characters or just some unlucky civilians, carries real impact from collisions being mundane, infrequent and done with practical effects (ie: actually crashing or rolling them).  And this is not even mentioning the final race which I would not be surprised to discover was just an excuse to smash some of the world’s most expensive and gorgeous cars up real good.  I could practically see the money burning away in front of my eyes.  Frankly, thanks to modern action films’ total embracing of CGI to enhance any and all action scenes, I had forgotten just how great a good-old-fashioned practical setpiece can be and I’d love for this film to be the start of a return to that end of the scale, rather than it be a one-off.

There is one other reason why Need For Speed gets a pass from me, despite it being utterly confoundingly stupid, and that reason is Imogen Poots as Julia, the woman who tags along with Tobey on his cross-country drive for… reasons (I’d like my brain to still retain some of its functions, so I’m just going to stop thinking about the plot side, now).  See, in a rare turn-up for the books of almost every action movie ever, Julia Maddon is a great female character.  Yes, she’s a badass driver, but that’s secondary to everything else about her and is revealed long after you get to know her.  And, yes, she’s introduced by having the boys make fun of the fact that she’s a woman and so obviously is ill-suited to their world of cars and fast, reckless driving, but the film quickly shuts down that line of thought as an unacceptable one too (whether or not the film briefly brings that thought back up sympathetically for a “terrify the passenger to death” sequence is down to personal interpretation, quite frankly).

Instead, she’s a character.  Not one with much of a backstory, granted, but she has personality.  A deep and consistent personality, one that doesn’t just revolve around Tobey every second of the film.  She’s manic, charming, snarky, strong-willed, capable behind the wheel, quick-witted (if not so great at following through with her plans) but also petrified of heights, not as accustomed to extremely reckless driving as Tobey and prone to doing silly things when panicked.  She feels rounded and grounded, an actual, three-dimensional character in a film that didn’t need one.  Credit should also be handed to Imogen Poots who gives it everything she’s got, seemingly also completely amazed at being given a well-written female character in an action film, in this action film of all sodding places, to play and determined to make the most of it.

In fact, I’m going to go ahead and call it, right now.  Action films made post-2000: this is now your new minimum gold standard when it comes to female characters.  She may not be Ripley, but Julia Maddon still kicks the arse of pretty much every female character you’ve come up with for the past decade and a half.  Need For Speed did this.  A movie based on NEED FOR GODDAMN SPEED DID THIS!  Are you seriously trying to tell me that a movie based on the Need For Speed franchise can outdo your female action characters?  Are you going to let that stand?

It also helps, to be fair, that Imogen Poots seems to be the only person capable of getting Aaron Paul to be consistently alright, striking up a nice easy-going chemistry with him.  Whether it’s due to nerves at this being his first big leading movie role or just not giving a single crap, Aaron Paul is not very good in this movie.  He over or under-plays damn near every single line, seems damn near checked out during several solo sequences of him driving a car and pulls the stupidest faces during the slo-mo serious dramatic scenes (although, to be fair, those are so overwrought that his hamming them up actually improves proceedings).  It’s a shame, really, and I’m hoping he finds a vehicle that he’s comfortable with or interested in or that stretches his skills soon because I’d love to see him have a leading man career.  Similarly, if you’re hoping for another wonderfully hammy turn from Mr. Dominic Cooper, then prepare to be disappointed as he’s barely in it and, possibly as payback for that crime, he doesn’t really seem to be trying; underplaying every line and acting very subdued.  Shame, really.

Need For Speed, then, is a giant and total mess that has no clue of what it wants to be, checked-out performances from its two leads, a stupendously baffling and incoherent plot despite its simplistic and barely-there nature and a ferociously unsatisfying ending.  It’s also huge amounts of fun, a great showcase of how even the simplest car chase can be livened up with a bit of style and a liberal usage of practical effects and has the new gold standard for post-2000s female characters in action movies.  In other words, what we have here, ladies and gents, is the definition of a mixed bag.  We also have a film that you’re actually likely to remember 48 hours after having seen it.  I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll still be thinking about Need For Speed long after this review goes up, even if it’s just to futilely try and make sense of the damn thing.

It’s got an identity.  That identity is essentially a Frankenstein’s Monster of other, often better movies, but it’s got an identity.  It’s also never boring and often a lot of fun which is way more than I can say for so many action films pumped out by Hollywood nowadays.  I can’t promise that you’ll enjoy Need For Speed, hell I don’t even know if I actually enjoyed Need For Speed, but you’re going to have an opinion on it, either way, and you’ll probably be glad you saw it.  You decide if that’s a good thing or not.

Callum Petch is hoping she can sock it to him one more time.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Failed Critics Podcast: Rush, Insidious 2, and killing hookers

RushStart your engines for this week’s Failed Critics Podcast, as we review the first of the serious award-bait movies this autumn in the shape of Ron Howard’s Rush, the true-life story of the F1 rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Owen also reviews Insidious 2, while James and Steve take time out of killing hookers and punching pedestrians in the face to review a new computer game. And then they might play Grand Theft Auto 5.

Boom, boom!

In honour of Rockstar’s latest opus, we also talk to Jackson and Calum from The Pupcast about the relationship between games and movies, and talk about our least favourite video game to movie adaptations.

Join us next week for a worryingly bad looking line-up of films, including Diana, RIPD, and The Call.

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