The Space Invaders: In Search of Lost Time

The-Space-Invaders

The Space Invaders: In Search of Lost Time

Director: Jeff Von Ward
Studio: Wooden Horse Productions
Released: 2013

Distributor: Amazon Instant Video – $3.99 (7-day rental) or $14.99 (buy movie)

Synopsis: The Space Invaders: In Search of Lost Time will take you inside America’s hidden game rooms and into the hearts and minds of those who have made it their mission to enthusiastically preserve these important cultural touchstones.

The-Space-Invaders

Let’s get straight to it – as an arcade junkie, this film well and truly fed my need for retro gaming nostalgia. Jeff Von Ward has created a masterful film in which he tracks down and interviews some serious arcade collectors, like Jon Jamshid, who has amassed an impressive 180 machines!

The collectors share their passion for preserving these historic machines and the connection you feel with them is instantaneous – from scoring their first machine, their real estate woes, to the lengths they go to seek their next arcade hit.

You will be amazed by the number of machines that are stored in basements and garages (as well as the stories behind them all!). You will be blown away by the dedication of these collectors and their respective arcade setup, especially Peter Hirschberg’s Luna City Arcade – an amusement heaven.

The-Space-Invaders

Interspersed throughout the film is some amazing archival footage, including Damon Claussen’s appearance (with his mom!) on the Starcade TV game show. The flow of this film, from start to finish, feels natural and just right.

From the moment I sat down to watch ‘The Space Invaders: In Search of Lost Time’, I did not move nor blink (that may be a slight exaggeration) until the last credit was shown. Whether you are familiar with the arcade machines or not, this film is for anyone that has a nostalgic bone in their body, or would just like to find out what makes serious collectors tick.

Verdict: ‘The Space Invaders: In Search Of Lost Time’ is a wonderful film that should not be missed. Mr Jeff Von Ward, you deserve an Oscar!

Jeff reports that the film has just been picked up by New York City based digital entertainment curator, FilmBuff. FilmBuff has successfully distributed niche documentaries such as ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’ (the doc or anti-doc on Banksy) and ‘Super Size Me’.

Top 5 Movies Based on Video Games

Top 5 Movies Based on Video Games

The film industry is always looking for the next big thing.  Film execs gain the rights to make movies based on novels, children’s stories, and comic books.  One source that on the surface seems to have incredible synergy with Hollywood is the video game industry.  Games have already benefited from using Hollywood-style production values, including professional actors and actresses for both voice and live parts.  You’d think that both being visual mediums would lead to incredible movies being made based upon video game properties.

But you’d be wrong.

Thus far the Hollywood video game movie selection has been mediocre at best, and laughingly dismal at worst.  Just for fun, let’s look at the best movies of the genre (all my personal opinion, of course).

Mortal Kombat movie poster

1.  Mortal Kombat. This incredibly popular fighting franchise made its way to the silver screen in 1995, bringing the Elder Gods’ martial arts tournament to life.   The film received “mixed reviews” which is a fancy way of saying some critics enjoyed the fight fest and others thought it gave a whole new definition to “suck.”  It managed to take in over $122 million worldwide, as well as spawning a sequel, so more than a few people thought it was a good movie.

Resident evil movie poster

2.  Resident Evil. A flawed but fun zombie movie based on Capcom’s horror games and starring the incredibly hot Milla Jovovich wiping out the infected workers from the top secret Hive installation controlled by the Red Queen.  Critics generally panned the film, but it grossed over $100 million worldwide and spawned two sequels (with one more to be released in September, 2010).

Silent Hill movie poster

3.  Silent Hill. This film was based on Konami’s horror game franchise, and incorporated elements from the first three games.  A few pretty decent scares and a couple of weird scenes gave this film a good vibe.  It did not receive great reviews from the critics, but scored where it counted with $97 million grossed worldwide.

Tomb Raider movie poster

4.  Tomb Raider. Angelina Jolie in tight spandex. How could this film possibly be bad?  That’s what I told myself before watching it, and afterward marveled at the film’s creators’ ability to do the impossible: make a live-action Lara Croft dud.  It still managed over $300 million worldwide, so a LOT of people must have gone into the theater with the same expectations I did.

TRON movie poster

5.  TRON.  The list is so meager that I decided to take a movie whose premise is about the video game industry and put it on this list.  And it’s a good excuse to includeTRON to the mix; it was a fun movie, and pulled in over $33 million worldwide, which wasn’t bad in 1982. End of line.

Every other video game movie was awful.  Putrid awful.  Perhaps it’s time that the industry stopped trying to translate the video game experience to the big screen, and keep going on as many comic book properties they can lay their greedy little hands on.  After all, given the choice, I’d rather watch Batman: Dark KnightSpider-Man or Iron Man than the very best the video game movie genre has to offer.

Video Game Movies: The ones that got it right

Video Game Industry the movie
Video Game Industry the movie

We already discussed the video games that got it wrong, but what about the movies that were at least good enough to not walk out of? Now, we are not saying these movies are perfect or even that they were completely true to the game, but that they were good enough to have a positive consensus across many gamers.

First we will start with my top pick and then look at a few others. Later we will ask our panel of industry insiders which video game movie was their favorite.

Silent Hill

Some people will disagree with me, but I felt they did the Silent Hill movie pretty well and this is coming from someone who beat all the original games and then watched his sister do the same. It is true there was a lot of tweaking not only to bring in new fans, but to mold the story to be more emotional. Many were upset that the movie mirrors Silent Hill 2 more than part 1 and making the main character a woman people though was just because having a woman in a horror film adds more than a male character would.

Believe me, I understand the critic’s objections, but this was a case where I believe the changes did not kill the Silent Hill story too much. The visuals and especially the music was excellently done. At first I was afraid the transition between worlds would not have been shown and only displayed by the entire screen going dark. I was presently surprised to see the entire transition shown and it looked awesome.

As said the music was taken out of the games with a few tracks added that fit in perfectly with the game and the movie. The story itself was modified and many felt the cult aspect of the story was not there the way it should be and I could understand that. You did understand how messed up the people were, but you weren’t drawn into their world until the very end.

The studio worked closely with Konami and that is the reason the visuals from the broken city to Pyramid head to the killer nurses were spot on. On the flip side audiences not familiar with the Silent Hill game or game story telling in general thought the long explanation of what was going on at the end of the movie seemed out of place and killed the pacing.

The ending can be a tossup. Many felt it left to many questions. Some did not understand it and more felt it was a bad way to try to lead into a follow-up movie. The movie itself did well considering and there was talk of a sequel. If/when Silent Hill 2 is made we will see what direction it goes in.

Resident Evil

You’ll have to forgive me on this one I enjoyed this movie. Sure, it was not very true to the game, but honestly having a loan character walk around for 80% of the film would not work. What I liked was they did try to incorporate the original mansion from the game with the Umbrella Corporation. The action sequences were well done and adding in the evil little girl Red Queen gave you at least another reason why the team sent in became trapped.

There was a lot they could have done with this film making it a better story, but honestly after watching the follow-up movies I am surprised this one came out as well as it did. What was really sad was the ending really made me want to see part 2 which turned out to be a horrible disappointment for me.

Intermission

There are a number of well-done video game movies, but let’s hear from our panel to see what were their choices.

Danielle Davis from Zombie Studios wrote:

Wing Commander

Give your brain the night off…

Most games are made with very iconographic heroes and villains. You don’t have to worry about plot or story as much, and can focus on the core gameplay. Nearly everything is black and white. The Heroes are universally good, and the Villains are the purest of evil.  As we get older, we learn life is really just shades of grey (or from “a certain point of view”).

Wing Commander can be viewed the same way.  As a whole, Wing Commander (Movie) can be cheesy and flashy, but in reality that is pretty much how it is in the game franchise. Wing Commander (Game) followed the general curriculum of building characters plot like any other Action\Army movie (just like Aliens or Predator). You’ve got your classic “Girl trying to compete with the big boys”, or “Leader struggling under the burden of leadership”, or “Overly Aggressive Hot Shot “, and of course “Cool as Ice and plays everything by the book”. Is it cliché? Yes. But do stereotypes help identify personality and move the plot forward quicker? Sadly yes.  Since it was established in the Games, so must the continuity be maintained for the Movie. The amount of Cheese and Awesomeness in the movie, is equal to the Cheese and Awesomeness in the game.

Back to the shades of grey. A two hour movie of continuous dog-fighting, would be pretty hard to accomplish (Memphis Belle is the only one I can think of). By introducing personal flaws, strategic mishaps, personal failures, and over-ambition, you can subtly add secondary antagonist. For example: Maniac. He’s reckless and going to get his teammates killed. Does that make Maniac a bad guy? Depending on your point of view, you could say Yes. So, you have your primary Villians (the Kilrathi), and you have the secondary villains (ambition, fear, self-doubt).

By now, you’re asking yourself “You’re INSANE! How do you enjoy such a crappy movie? I mean, seriously, are you high?”. And the answer is, well kinda “Yes”. You can’t enjoy a movie like this by comparing it to other movies that have freedom of script and design. You have to simply take your brain out, and give it a two hour break. Relive what it’s like to be 12 years old again, and just enjoy the Good Guys, Bad Guys, and big explosions. Enjoy the simplicity of “this guy’s a douche bag”, “wish this dude would chill out”, and “this chick is awesome” without thinking about the deeper context and military discipline (let alone plot). Enjoy two carriers slugging it out point blank range. Just relax and enjoy it. Why? Because that’s exactly what you did when you’re played it as a game. You gave your brain the night off…

David Warhol from Realtime Associates wrote:

Tomb Raider

The shower scene was HILARIOUS!  (And if you don’t remember or know what I’m talking about, watch or re-watch it…. it’s for real.)

J.A. As a bonus here is the funny shower scene.

J.A. As a super bonus here is Angelina Jolie in the shower.

Corey Dangel from Detonator Games wrote:

King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

It is, without a doubt, my favorite video game related movie. The story follows Steve Wiebe on his quest to achieve the “official” high score for Donkey Kong. Along the way he must defeat several different adversaries, the least of which is the actual score needed to reach the top. It’s a classic underdog tale, only the heroes and villains are real and contemporary, and a great documentary…exploring themes like obsession, vanity, dedication, and legacy all wrapped in a cloak of classic coin-op arcade games. Besides, who doesn’t love Donkey Kong!?

Juan Gril from JoJu Games wrote:

Tron and Wargames!


 

Motivation Monday: Bad video game movies

bad video game movies demotivational poster
bad video game movies demotivational poster

Motivation Monday: Bad video game movies

Let’s just be honest with something, when it comes to nerds and geeks and gamers trying to agree on something is as hard as getting a Senate bill passed. It really does not matter what the question is from which Star Wars movie was the best or who has the best gaming console, you will find an argument and a ton of varied answers.

However, Hollywood is to blame for this as well. Far too often you have a video game or even comic book story for that matter that with a little tweaking and good market research can be turned into a hit. Sure, you won’t satisfy everyone, but a least people won’t hate your film. I believe the problem occurs when the suits in tinsel town decide to make a video game movie for those who never heard of the game or even worse when they just take a name and wrap it around a star thinking name power will win the day alone. As a fan of Star Trek I knew long time ago that you start out with a film for the fans and then tweak it for the general audience not the other way around.

It is almost impossible to make a video game movie everyone will love, but if you give it your best and at least honor the source material and not toss in pulp culture crap or a flavor of the month actor you will get more cheers then rotten tomatoes.  But we are not here for the good, we are here for the bad and there are way too many to choose from.

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li

I remember reading comic book forums about how they hated Kristin Kreuk so much in Smallville and then I heard she was going to play Chun Li and almost died. There was a lot wrong with this movie even if they somehow was able to create the real Chun Li and put her in it, but with Kreuk it was doomed to die a slow painful death.

Dungeons and Dragons

How in the holy hell do you ruin a D&D movie? I mean you take some adventure looking actors, toss in magic, sword fighting a dungeon and a dragon and you win. It’s like finally getting alone time with the girl of your dreams and you ask her to make you a sandwich. Don’t blame Marlon Waynes for this one, they told him to act like that.

Wing Commander

This is another movie that could have been so good and it even had some good cast members but when you have a bad script there is not much you can do. You know you are in a bad place when the cut scenes from the game look better and tell a better story than the movie.

Double Dragon

It’s like Saved by the Bell Double Dragon style, how can you go wrong? This movie suffers from the fate many video games and even comic book movies do and that is adding in too much to the story. The writers could have tailored a simple save the girl story and with good acting and choreography it could have done well, but they go all Golden Child or Mortal Kombat the series on us and ruin it.

Super Mario Bros.

What did I just say about adding too much to a story? You know honestly, I believe if they were to somehow stay true to the Mario Bros. story that people would respect that as abstract and weird of a movie that would be, or maybe not. You know how sometimes taking something that is not real and adapting it to real life can be fun like Enchanted? Well, this is the other side of that coin where you have bad plastic enemies, animated Dinosaurs and jump boots. This is the ninth level of hell; this is the Super Mario Bros. movie.

Not even worth the download

We know Hollywood is blind, deaf and stupid, the Superman movies tells us all we need to know. The problem isn’t the game it is the people and mostly people who know nothing of the game or the gamers who love them. There are a few good video game movies out there, but it could be some time before we get our Dark Knight for video game movies. Perhaps the Halo or World of Warcraft movies, nah.

If you could have any video game made into a live action movie which one would it be and why?

Resident Evil movie
Resident Evil movie

Ah you have to love Hollywood. At one time the paper suits of Tinseltown would never even look at a video game or comic book for a movie adaptation and today they are throwing themselves against the wall trying to produce the next summer popcorn choker based on a game. Now we have seen some horrible movies based on video games and there have been some pretty decent ones as well. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good – Silent Hill

Sure this movie wasn’t perfect, but you have to give them credit for trying hard to bring all the elements of the game to a movie audience who may have never played it. I have no problem that they went with a woman for the first one instead of a man. I understand why it works better at least for a first movie. The visuals and music was stunning from the ash covered town of Silent Hill to the Hell themed environments of the Dark World. Seriously when you first see the transition from “purgatory” to “hell” you had no choice but to be impressed.

I thought the story was well done considering and though some criticized the “recap monolog” toward the end of the movie I felt that was well in line with how the game does its storytelling. I mean come on, the film had drama, suspense, horror, a little mystery, a thought provoking ending (for better or worse). The film also had car crashes, pyramid head, the razor blade nurses and nudity. Ok, the last one was that part where pyramid head tore off the clothes of that crazy lady before killing her, definitely not a Fapp moment, but it still counts as nudity.

The Bad – Street Fighter

Wow, even the trailer is bad. I just don’t understand how you ruin a movie like this. I swear they could have hired a bunch of stunt fighters and just had them fight it out in costume for ninety minutes and it would have been light years better than this. Honestly, I even feel bad for Van Damme because while he might not be a five star actor some of his action movies have been fun to watch and I believe he could have been decent if the overall movie was better.

I just don’t know where to even begin with this movie, but damn, having Ryu and Ken as backup characters was just one of the many things that killed me. Trust me it was just bad and the only debate is which was worse the 94 Street Fighter or the awful Legend of Chung Li.

The Ugly – Any Uwe Boll Video Game Movie

So if Hell is a place of your own creation then Uwe Boll should be hired to direct a movie about Hell then be forced to life within it for all of eternity. Seriously, I rather watch stick figure porn than an Uwe Boll video game movie where he uses horrible music including game sounds that don’t fit the scene. If you think that’s bad it gets worse. He has been known for sticking in actual video game footages into his live action movies. The word Hack does not even fit here.

It is said that you should not talk unless you can do better, trust me I and a ton of people out there can do better. Just search for his other video game movies and see. What’s sad is many of these movies could be decent, but there is a disconnect between what the public wants and what Hollywood thinks we wants.

What would I like to see?

How about a movie based on the game Magic Sword. It would have to be done Lord of the Rings style, just a massive toward and a ton of bad guys and keep it exactly as the game plays. I think a hack and slash video game movie can work.

So we asked our panel of insiders what movie they would like to see made:

Grace Snoke from EOGamer wrote:

I thought about an answer to this question since I saw it, and recalling all the horrid video game movies there are out there (Street Fighter, Mortal Combat, etc.) I have a hard time wanting to see any game turned into a movie.  Perhaps the Dead Rising series would work, or even Dragon Age, but in all honesty, turning a video game into a movie never goes well and I wouldn’t want that to be the downfall of any good game out there.

Juan Gril from JoJu Games wrote:

Ico!

Chris Skaggs from Soma Games wrote:

Oblivion. 1 because I really haven’t had my Fantasy itch scratched since LOTR and 2 because anything with Patrick Stewart is worth watching.

David Warhol from Realtime Associates wrote:

During the peak of Everquest’s popularity, there was a rumor going around about a movie being made out of it.  This spawned a few joke lists of potential titles.  My favorite, due to the frequency of precipitation in the game, was: “Everquest: It Begins To Rain.”

Now is your turn. What video game would you like to see turned into a live action movie?