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Column: Cinema Pixeldiso

COLUMN: 'Cinema Pixeldiso' – Scott Pilgrim Versus The World

August 24, 2010 12:00 PM |

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/scottpilgrim1.jpg['Cinema Pixeldiso' is a not-so-regular column by Matt 'Fort90' Hawkins that takes a look at movies that are either directly based upon or are related to video games. This latest entry takes a look at the recently released, much-heralded Scott Pilgrim Versus The World.]

To say that the Scott Pilgrim Versus The World is the biggest thing to happen to video game related cinema in a very long time is an understatement. Though what's taken center stage more so than the film itself has been the intense reaction; people either passionately adore the movie or vehemently loathe it.

Critics and viewers alike have characterized the film as either a love letter to all video gamers out there or a damning indictment of how YouTube is destroying the minds of our youth. And there appears to be no middle ground; the most vocal side has been the fans (at least the diehard contingent), who claim that you're either one of “us” (whom the movies was made for, though the criteria used to determine if one is part of the club or not is somewhat in question) or you're not, end of story.

And despite all the hyperbole (much of which has been a massive turnoff, personally speaking), I don't think it's misleading to state that this particular motion picture is indeed a watershed moment for the genre. After all, most examples, at least from tinsel town, are either big screen translations of some hit title, with all the perils and pitfalls that come with the such territory, or an original story that attempts to tap into the world of gaming itself, usually in a manner that the filmmakers believe to be clever, but often is not.

Sometimes there's an attempt to make some kind of deep insight or commentary, which again usually misses the mark completely. Whereas Scott Pilgrim Versus The World from very early on gave the impression that those helming the project truly understood the subject matter. And we all know that people who actually "get it" is far and few between in the world of major motion pictures, regardless of the topic or audience.

COLUMN: 'Cinema Pixeldiso' – 'Gamer' - The Movie

September 18, 2009 12:00 PM |

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/gamerthemovie1.jpg['Cinema Pixeldiso' is a not-so-regular column by Matt 'Fort90' Hawkins that takes a look at movies that are either directly based upon or are related to video games, with a focus on the obscure and the misunderstood. This week’s entry takes a slightly closer look at the new Neveldine/Taylor-directed movie Gamer, and includes spoilers, so beware.]

It's 2009 and video games sure have come a long way baby. Instead of racking my brains to figure some new way of stating what everyone already knows, especially to any casual reader of GameSetWatch, I'm simply going to point towards the recently released The Beatles: Rock Band. If that doesn't perfectly illustrate how the medium has finally arrived and is crossing virtually every barrier imaginable, then honestly I don't know what does.

Yet in many people's minds, the one thing that truly validates a form of communication, entertainment, or art form (in this case, all three) is how another portrays it. Again, as any GSW reader is well aware of, art shows featuring the vestiges of virtual personalities have been all the rage the past couple of years, though there's been a significant upturn this year alone.

As for sound, the chiptunes scene continues to turn heads, and while it's debatable if music composed and performed purely on a Game Boy will ever become truly mainstream, its influence on some of the hottest pop acts of today is completely undeniable. But when we speaking of moving images, things are still somewhat in the dark ages...

COLUMN: 'Cinema Pixeldiso' – Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li

March 6, 2009 4:00 PM |

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/chunli01.jpg['Cinema Pixeldiso' is a not-so-regular column by Matt 'Fort90' Hawkins that takes a look at movies that are either directly based upon or are related to video games, with a focus on the obscure and the misunderstood. This week’s entry takes a slightly closer look at the new movie Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, which includes spoilers, beware.]

First off, as mentioned above, there will be spoilers in this particular review/recap. Apologies if you haven't see the movie and still wish to. To those people, I'm certain there's plenty of good stuff around here that you might have missed, so I implore you to check the Cinema Pixeldiso column archives for starters!

Though the rest of you probably don’t give a damn; neither of you have seen the movie and perhaps never will. Maybe because of what's been said, which has been not so positive. Most of which supports what many have assumed, which again is a less than stellar motion picture.

Look around, primarily at any gaming blog or news site, and you'll be hard pressed to find anyone saying anything positive about the movie. For the most part, they are correct; The Legend of Chun Li is indeed remarkably lackluster and lame. Obviously, many comparisons have been made to the first Street Fighter movie, which was exceptionally bad in its own right, but many have jumpted to its defense in light of this new piece of crap, by stating "at least that one was so bad that it's good!"

But the first Street Fighter movie also managed to get some things "right" in retrospect; when I went to see this latest film earlier this weekend with a friend... the only friend I managed to drag along with me... there was this scene in which Vega first makes his appearance, and said friend noted: "You know, at least they got his costume right in the original."

COLUMN: 'Cinema Pixeldiso' – New York Asian Film Festival Part 2

July 10, 2008 8:00 AM |

['Cinema Pixeldiso' is a semi-regular column by Matt 'Fort90' Hawkins that takes a look at movies that are either directly based upon or are related to video games, with a focus on the obscure and the misunderstood. This week’s entry takes a special look at the recently wrapped up New York Asian Film Festival - and contains 'plot spoilers' for both shows/movies referenced.]

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/avalon1.jpg

The New York Asian Film Fest 2008 just came to an end, and it was easily the best one yet. The final few days alone saw a documentary that examined the rough and tumble lives that stuntmen in the Korean film industry lead, a spaghetti western a la Takeshi Miike, a love letter to Hong Kong and pick pocketing by the master of the heroic bloodshed Johnny To, and Robocop done Japan-style, plus numerous other eclectic reminders why I'm not the least bit interested in seeing Hollywood fare like Hancock or Wanted.

There were also plenty of video game-related offerings. As mentioned previously, you had the Beauty Chanbara, based on D3's small budget game gone (somewhat) big screen zombies and swords and boobs spectacular, as well as the US debut of Game Center CX, retiled Retro Game Master for American audiences. Last time I went over the first of the two episodes that made their debut, so let's take a look at the second one!

COLUMN: 'Cinema Pixeldiso' – New York Asian Film Festival Part 1

June 22, 2008 4:00 PM |

['Cinema Pixeldiso' is a semi-regular column by Matt 'Fort90' Hawkins that takes a look at movies that are either directly based upon or are related to video games, with a focus on the obscure and the misunderstood. This week’s entry takes a special look at the just started New York Asian Film Festival]

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/avalon1.jpg

The New York Asian Film Festival, 2008 edition, kicked off this past Friday, and not surprisingly it's already running on all cylinders. Why the first weekend alone has seen a sci-fi tinged, Howard Hawks-esque noir mystery involving dismembered girls and religious nuts, an old fashioned buddy flick featuring a college kid with no luck or money and a hard boiled gangster who owns the kid's ass, and that's not all.

Also on show - a trio at a all girl Catholic school with super powers, and a look at the life of some schlep whose personal life is in utter shambles, nor is he exactly beloved by his country men, due to the fact that he's so lackluster at his job, which happens to be fighting off whatever big bad monsters threaten Japan.

Another thing the fest is chock full of this year is video game-related goodness. In fact, it was their screening of the Resurrection Of The Little Match Girl some years ago that inspired me to start this column in the first place.

Well this year there are two game-related movies to check out: one based upon D3's budget sensation The Onechanbara, and other, the Takashi Miike helmed adaptation of Sega's Ryū ga Gotoku, aka Yakuza. Plus, the NYAFF plays host to the US debut of Retro Game Master, aka Game Center CX! Let's take a look at the first flick, as well as one of the two debut episodes of RCM...

COLUMN: 'Cinema Pixeldiso' – Tilt: The Battle To Save Pinball

April 13, 2008 12:00 AM |

['Cinema Pixeldiso' is a semi-regular column by Matt 'Fort90' Hawkins that takes a look at movies that are either directly based upon or are related to video games, with a focus on the obscure and the misunderstood. This week’s selection is another documentary, but one that takes a look at pinball, and examines what once was, and what could have been.]

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/tiltdvd.jpg

Tilt: The Battle to Save Pinball [whose director, Greg Maletic, we interviewed earlier in the week] is a loving look at the those machines that filled smokey arcades with loud lights and bright sounds, but sans computer monitor, at least back in the day. Yet the documentary establishes early on that pinball was not directly killed off by video games as many would assume.

In fact, in the early nineties, despite the fact that the hearts and minds of video gamers across the land were being fought over by Nintendo and Sega via their 16-bit devices, the pinball industry managed to earn record sales. There was much promise for the future, but all of a sudden, very sudden actually, it all came crashing down. But a shining white knight on the horse came to the rescue, one that many felt would save them all. And... it didn't.

COLUMN: Cinema Pixeldiso: 'King of Kong - The Roundtable'

August 17, 2007 12:02 AM |

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/kingofkongrevisit1.jpg

A few weeks back, I was able to check out The King Of Kong, a brand new documentary that centers on one man (an every-man, actually!) by the name of Steve Wiebe, and his attempt to nab the highest score possible in Donkey Kong, as well as the challenges he faces. Not from the game itself, which in itself is quite difficult (perhaps one of the harshest from its era) but from the one person who laid claim to the record, that being the enigma known as Billy Mitchell - one of the competitive gaming scene's most infamous figures, as well as his devoted followers.

For those who missed it, my review of it can be found here, though the bottom line was I found it to a totally fantastic and absolutely engrossing film, and easily one of the finest documentaries to be crafted on the subject of video games yet produced.

The tale it spins is a fascinating one, especially because it's "real"; what happened really happened, and the characters are actual people, though some are still very much "characters" in every sense of the word. Yet, even the best documentaries don't tell the entire story. They often simply can't due to various reasons; there's not enough time, the camera can't be everywhere, you can't bore the audience, etc. But immediately afterwards, I thought back to something that I personally witnessed that conflicted with the narrative of the story....

Without getting into too many details, because it would both spoil the movie and take too long to explain, I actually met the film's "star", Billy Mitchell (Wiebe might be the center of the story, but Mitchell is clearly the star) a few years ago in New York City at a film festival that had a video game component. He was on-hand with footage of himself playing Donkey Kong and breaking the world record. He then presented the videotape to Walter Day, head of the Twin Galaxies, the word's recognized authority of video game score keeping. Little did I know then that it would lead to doubts about a movie years later down the road.

I later explained this to my friend, MTV News' Stephen Totilo, who was also wondering about a few things, primarily stemming from his interview with one of the featured individuals from the movie, Robert Mruczek, who was the referee that verified another tape that Mitchell produced in the movie. Was it the same one that I saw in real life? There was no mention of it, and the timeline that was laid out doesn't allow for it. Both myself and Stephen decided to investigate, and in the process came up with a different timeline. The people over at Twin Galaxies, who have since day one doubted Weibe’s abilities, which is made crystal clear in the movie almost immediately, also created their own.

And then Stephen scored the ultimate coup: the first post-documentary interview with Mitchell, who, needless to say was not happy with how he was portrayed in the film, which could be best described as "the bad guy". Though it needs to be pointed out that he hadn't seen the film... and still hasn't, despite numerous attempts by the film's director and producer to make it so. Anyhow, even more places and events were brought up, which were not mentioned in the movie. And I myself began to wonder if what I enjoyed and wanted to see do well deserved such support.

COLUMN: 'Cinema Pixeldiso' – The King Of Kong

April 20, 2007 4:28 PM |

['Cinema Pixeldiso' is a semi-regular column by Matt 'Fort90' Hawkins that takes a look at movies that are either directly based upon or are related to video games, with a focus on the obscure and the misunderstood. This week’s selection is another documentary that chronicles a world record attempt, but this time we get to take a look at the most famous video game record holder of them all.]

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/kingofkong1.jpg

Last time we examined the story of a man vs. machine - Bill Carlton vs. Missile Command. This time we have Steve Wiebe vs. King Kong, but the true heart of the story is man vs. man, Steve Wiebe vs. Billy Mitchell. And who's Billy Mitchell? Why, he's "gamer of the century" of course.

The King Of Kong

Cinema Pixeldiso's previous entry, on 'High Score', and this latest one, on 'The King of Kong', might seem identical, since both tell the same tale, of one man's mission to be immortalized as the greatest player of a particular classic video game. Both even feature a normal, everyday kind of person on such an absurd quest. But that's where the similarities end.

Whereas in the case of Bill Carlton's journey, the key difference is the person he was also going after, the man who held the high score that Bill was determined to shatter. In High Score's case it's Victor Ali, a nice, mild-mannered man who felt that his achievement, which attained during his youth, was something that he was proud of, but it hardly defined or dictated his life. It was ultimately some silly little thing, and High Score did a great job illustrating that hardcore gamers are usually normal folks that have a quirky obsession, and that's about it.

The King of Kong, on the other hand, goes the opposite route, by showing how much ego, absurdity, and insanity can come into play as a record holder for video game playing. How? By taking a close look at a man whose entire persona, even existence, is built around the fact that he plays video games very, very well.

COLUMN: 'Cinema Pixeldiso' – High Score

March 31, 2007 12:08 PM |

['Cinema Pixeldiso' is a semi-regular column by Matt 'Fort90' Hawkins that takes a look at movies that are either directly based upon or are related to video games, with a focus on the obscure and the misunderstood. This week’s selection is a documentary that chronicles a world record attempt.]

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/highscore1.jpg

This is the story of man vs machine. The machine in question is the arcade classic Missile Command, and the man is Bill Carlton, an average run-of-the-mill kind of guy.

High Score

Its perhaps safe to say that when most people hear about some expert game player, or at least someone who is obsessed with video games, they immediately make assumptions: among other traits, this person more than likely has zero friends, let alone a girlfriend, is perhaps unemployed, has poor hygiene, and maybe even "talks funny". But not Bill. He has a decent job, friends, even a girlfriend, who may not understand Bill's obsession but is nonetheless supportive.

He's not some ball of angst like many diehard gamers but instead a rather charming, laid-back, and even genuinely funny guy. So as we follow along his quest to attain the record for highest score ever, instead of wincing whenever Bill hits a stumbling block, we, the viewers are actually sympathetic and even hopeful for his success. Though its Bill's apparent normalcy that makes his obsession all the more intriguing and perplexing, since one must ask: what's a normal guy like that doing stuff like this?

COLUMN: 'Cinema Pixeldiso' – Avalon

February 23, 2007 3:23 PM |

['Cinema Pixeldiso' is (supposed to be) a bi-weekly column by Matt 'Fort90' Hawkins that takes a look at movies that are either directly based upon or are related to video games, with a focus on the obscure and the misunderstood. This week’s selection is a foreign co-production that tells a familiar tale a bit better than most.]

http://www.gamesetwatch.com/avalon1.jpg

First off, Cinema Pixediso is back after a brief hiatus! So it's time once again to take a look at video game as viewed and depicted on the silver screen, most of which you've probably never heard off. And some for good reason...

For for this particular installment, we once look elsewhere in the world... actually, two foreign lands. Avalon, produced in 2001. It’s both an Asian and European production. The movie was produced and directed by the Japanese; the director, Mamoru Oshii, is actually well known in certain circles, that being those who follow anime (among other things, Oshii was the man behind the groundbreaking Ghost In The Shell). But the rest of the film was co-produced and filmed in Poland. Plus the entire cast is Polish as well, with all the dialogue spoken in their native tongue.

Though what really sets it apart from the rest of the pack from others is how, for a video game movie, its decidedly un-video game-y for the most part. Often, the best films of its kind will make you forget that they are even about games in the first place. Not sure what that says about the medium... perhaps its because the best filmmakers can touch upon conventions without exploiting them and relying on cliches (unless its intentional, of course). But that's an point of view that might be best reserved for another time...