Week in Review
I watched a bad movie about a video game this week, Stay Alive, and it made me wonder if any movies about video games were any good. I Googled various strings of words, but couldn't find a list of movies about video games. There were some, like Tomb Raider, that are based on video games, but few about them. But I came up with a handful, and there are a couple of good ones.
It's a bit like A Nightmare on Elm Street, but with video games instead of dreams. If you die in the game, the Bloody Mary villain kills you in real life. But it fails, as it breaks its own rules. Some who do not die in the game, die in real life as well. And it never explains itself. We need some kind of explanation -- that it was written on Satan's laptop or something; it doesn't matter if the explanation is stupid, just give us one. Then it steals the ending from The Stuff.
David Cronenberg wrote and directed this film starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jude Law. I really liked this "is it real or is it a game" flick in which Cronenberg borrowed effects from the super-creepy Videodrome. If you were freaked out by the breathing video tape, check this one out.
I saw this stinker in the theater in 1994 and regretted ever taking the free pass. Edward Furlong did this one, and it's worse than his straight to video work of late. I'm trying to remember what it was about exactly without having to sit through it again. I'm recalling this Dee Snider looking villain that lives within a game, and Furlong plays it and people keep dying... oh forget it. It was horrible.
"Would you like to play a game?" John Badham, of Saturday Night Fever fame, scored again with this one before moving on to utter crap like Short Circuit. Matthew Broderick plays a young computer hacker who impresses an adorable Ally Sheedy with his computer smarts. Aside from that obvious mistake of reality, the movie is a fast-paced and smart thriller. While hacking around for fun, Broderick accidentally tells a government nuclear missile computer to launch the missles, under the wrong assumption that Thermonuclear War is just a game. The technology is laughably dated, but it's a really good example of the '80s nuclear scare/Russophobia that inspired other films like The Day After and Red Dawn. This is the winner of the bunch. If you haven't seen it, pick it up. I can't belive it has been 23 years.
Other films that came close:
Brainstorm, starring Christopher Walken, and Strange Days, penned by James Cameron, were both enjoyable films about what could go wrong with Virtual Reality. While not really video games, that's all Virtual Reality ended up being. I'm sure there must be more. Feel free to send your ideas on the subject to email@example.com
Pick of the Week
This week's DVDs were a much better batch than last week's. The Klansman was in that "so bad it's good category," featuring OJ Simpson sniping shots at the KKK. The life of the singer featured in The Devil and Daniel Johnston was more interesting than his actual music. Silver Streak was a hilarious Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder comedy, that held up from beginning to end. I really enjoyed the dark sci-fi cop drama Outland, with Sean Connery. But the one that won out was another Sean Connery film, The Great Train Robbery.
Before he was mindlessly typing up his scripts for unimaginative blockbusters, Michael Crichton penned some well thought out stories, and directed a few such as Westworld and this one, a period piece unlike any of his other films. The more films I see, the more I appreciate a film that's written and directed by the same person. Crichton, a bit out of character, wrote and directed this suspenseful heist film. Sean Connery is a thief who is intrigued with a gold shipment deemed unstealable by a set of bankers. He recruits fellow thief Donald Sutherland to help out. Together, they meticulously plan the heist.
Most of the film is the preparation before the actual robbery, which of course, takes place aboard a train. By the time the train shows up, we've seen an hour and a half of careful prep work and planning, all out to the last detail. Yet the heist is not going to come off without a hitch. There are surprises that come up as obstacles to the pair of thieves. But each challenge is resolved with some really clever solutions. Check it out.
I only watched 11 this week. 358 DVDs in 267 days. 142 DVDs left in the next 98 days for a pace of 10.14 per week. I'm still over 10, and this week is going to be a social whirlwind. Details in the next update, as I will keep a log of my comings and goings for a different style column.