The Video Game Critic's
Video Game Movie ReviewsUpdated 3/6/2018
King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)
People had been begging me to watch this old documentary for years. After not being able to find it on Netflix I bought the DVD off Amazon for $6, and it's pretty great! Basically you have two guys vying for the title of best Donkey Kong score of all time, with the ragtag officiating organization Twin Galaxies caught in the middle. Steve Wiebe is the nice guy school teacher who can't seem to get any respect. Billy Mitchell is the slick businessman who seems to have Twin Galaxies in his back pocket. Stylish and conniving, Billy is a perfect villain, but he's such a caricature you can't help but like the guy. The fact that these two grown men put everything on the line to say they're best at a decades-old arcade game is both hilarious and awesome. The DVD also includes a highly-informative director's commentary which fills in a few plot holes. Incidentally the makers didn't originally plan the movie to be solely about Donkey Kong. The storyline developed organically and they were lucky enough to be there to watch it unfold (and keep the cameras rolling). King of Kong is great, and should be standard issue for all gamers.
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Man Vs. Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler (2017)
This documentary is very much in the same vein as King of Kong, even incorporating some of the same characters like Walter Day (founder of Twin Galaxies) and video game champ Billy Mitchell. The story centers around Tim McVey (no, not that one) who holds the distinction of being the first player to score 1 BILLION points in a video game. He did it on an obscure snake/maze game called Nibbler, which happens to have a 9-digit score. The thing is, it takes roughly 40 hours to reach that threshold! Tim originally set the record in 1984 but a year later it was reported that a kid in Italy topped it. This movie is about Tim returning to the game 25 years later to reclaim what was rightfully his. Another player from the old days offers some friendly competition, and along the way everything that can possibly go wrong does - and then some. I found this movie fascinating but it's also exhausting watching these men put so much blood, sweat, and tears into attaining this remarkable score. The film may be a notch below King of Kong, but Man Vs. Snake is something you need to watch at least once.
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D.O.A.: Dead or Alive (2006)
Dead or Alive is a popular one-on-one fighting franchise featuring high-kicking hotties. It would be easy to dismiss a straight-to-video flick based on the game, but don't be so hasty! This is actually a good-looking film with slick production values. Heck, there are even some recognizable actors including Jaime Pressly and Eric Roberts. The film gets off to a rip-roaring start, introducing the main three chicks via elaborate fight sequences and flashy computer graphics. The premise is familiar, as a group of fighters (of various styles) are invited to an island tournament. What's interesting is how the fighters are matched up at random, causing scuffles to break out all over the place, including a bedroom, muddy beach, and bamboo jungle. The kung fu action is way over the top but entertaining to watch. Expect elaborate choreography and a lot of fancy wirework. The film is brimming with eye candy, mainly in the form of scantily-clad babes. The villain is played by Eric Roberts who some may recall from the cult classic karate flick Best of the Best (1989). It's too bad the dialogue is consistently bad and the ending is so muddled. Oh well, at least the movie is short and doesn't overstay its welcome. If you're interested in video game-inspired movies you should give this a chance.
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Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
Apparently the writer and director team of Resident Evil Extinction believed they could generate horror and suspense in broad daylight. Can you say delusional? Extinction is Resident Evil meets The Road Warrior, and its script is as bland as its desert scenery. Milla Jovovich, star of the previous RE films, is decked out in the most unflattering outfit imaginable. Only the fact that her "clones" appear naked early and often gave me any reason enough to stick it out to the end. The story is incredibly dumb, with the holographic little girl (a computer) conveniently used to provide the pointless exposition. The highlight of the movie is the showdown with "Tyrant", but wasn't he the boss of the first RE game? Had the filmmakers employed the plots of the games instead of using their tired Hollywood platitudes, this series would have been a whole lot better.
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Alone In The Dark (2005)
The first Alone in the Dark video game introduced the genre of "survival horror", but this film is Alone in the Dark by name alone. Directed by Uwe Boll, who has a pretty sorry track record of bringing games to the big screen, this thing is absolutely wretched. Christian Slater manages to keep a straight face in the lead role, but Tara Reid's "acting performance" is borderline hilarious, and the head of the "paranormal government agency" looks more like some punk teenager. The logic-defying storyline involves evil monsters unleashed as some ancient relic is uncovered. These monsters look just like raptors, and convey zero sense of fright or mystery. I actually had to fast-forward through a good bit of this mess, as I could feel it slowly sucking the life force from my body.
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Silent Hill (2006)
For the first 30 minutes or so, Silent Hill perfectly emulates its survival horror namesake, employing haunting visuals and off-kilter audio to construct a growing sense of isolation and desperation. It doesn't last however, as the story gradually degenerates into an incoherent mess that awkwardly incorporates religious cults, witch burnings, crime scene investigations, and demonic possessions into a tale of revenge. As a substantial number of characters are introduced, the sense of mystery evaporates and the logic goes out the window. At one point, the film practically bends over backwards to explain what's going on, and the exposition is almost embarrassing. Some of the creatures introduced early are disturbing enough, but they are soon substituted with generic gasmask-donning goons wielding lead pipes. Silent Hill's over-the-top acting reminded me of something you'd see in a haunted house attraction, and hackneyed dialogue like "It's going to be ok; everything's going to be ok" doesn't help matters. But despite its flaws, the film is kept afloat by its first-rate cinematography, which somehow transcends the muddled narrative. The general look of the film is amazing, with decrepit scenery and dramatic camera angles inspired by the game. Silent Hill's soundtrack is equally outstanding, with moody music and unsettling sound effects that combine to form a haunting cacophony. The music video-style closing credit sequence is arguably the highlight of the entire DVD. As a movie, Silent Hill rates only slightly above average, but fans will appreciate how good this spooky town looks on the big screen.
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Director Uwe Boll has been the whipping boy of many critics for his mishandling of game-inspired movies, but Bloodrayne isn't half bad. If nothing else, it's infinitely better than his "House of the Dead" debacle. I happen to be a fan of the Bloodrayne video game series, known for its bloody hack-n-slash gameplay set in medieval Europe. Assuming the role of the knife-wielding, half-vampire "Rayne" is Kristianna Loken, best known as the "Terminatrix" in Terminator 3. She certainly looks the part, although she's a bit too tall and not quite athletic enough to pull off the acrobatic stunt scenes. Whoever designed her costume did all of us a great disservice by not replicating the skin-tight outfit of the video game. There's plenty of cleavage up top, but those baggy leather pants look horrendous. I was surprised at the movie's star-studded cast, which includes Ben Kingsley (of Gandhi fame), Billy Zane (Titanic), Michael Madsen, Meat Loaf, and Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious). Sadly, little if any thought was put into the dialogue, and as a result the performances generally come across as "wooden". The narrative is a mess and the exposition is clumsy, but this is compensated for by the gratuitous nudity and brutal violence (at least in my "unrated" version). A few of the sword fighting "injuries" are so over-the-top that they border on comical. In the end, Bloodrayne doesn't amount to much, but it does a reasonable job of bringing the game to big screen.
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Not expecting much from this action flick, I was pleasantly surprised with its high production values and unconventional plot twists. Doom stars "The Rock" as Sarge, a hardened soldier leading a squad on a mission to exterminate monsters at a base on Mars. Yeah, it sounds awful, and the plot borrows heavily from films like Aliens and Resident Evil. There are a lot of dark corridors, creatures jumping out, machine gun fire, and the ensuing gore. But just when you think the movie's falling into the standard formula, Doom surprises you. Interestingly, the fact most of the creatures are not computer-generated gives them a stronger screen prescence and makes them appear more organic. Doom contains ample references to the video game franchise (primarily Doom 3), including an awesome first-person sequence that's sure to delight fans. I had fun watching this, and the fact that my wife also enjoyed Doom proves it has appeal beyond the gamer crowd.
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House of the Dead (2003)
This by-the-numbers zombie flick looks more like a college film project than a profession movie. What does this even have to do with the video game? The characters are totally undeveloped, the plot is non-existent, and the special effects are horrible. House of the Dead fails to build any sort of tension and provides no legitimate scares. The director latched onto the ludicrous idea that zombies can run like they're at a track meet, and it just looks silly. The only thing this movie has going for it is the island scenery and a dilapidated house that looks spectacular from the outside.
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House of the Dead 2 (2005)
This dreadful sequel was never released theatrically, but apparently appeared on the Sci-Fi channel (in an edited form I'm sure). The best thing I can say about House of the Dead 2 is that it contains gratuitous nudity. The uninspired premise sends a squad of soldiers to an "infected" college campus, and you can pretty much fill in the rest. I noticed a few references to the game, but they were very subtle. The zombies look ugly enough, and there are one or two mildly interesting scenes, but I was terribly bored during most of this. The actors and director make the most of the limited budget and lousy dialogue, but it's the scriptwriter who really drops the ball. Couldn't he come up with a more scary location than a college campus? I'm sure it made filming House of the Dead 2 very easy, but it makes watching the movie very, very hard. This one makes the first House of the Dead look respectable - now that's scary!
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Resident Evil (2002)
Hollywood has a knack for taking promising game premises and watering them down to nothing, and that's what happened to Resident Evil. Instead of using the claustrophobic old mansion from the original video game, this film adaptation is set in a boring, sterile underground lab environment. The result is a forgettable series of generic gun battles between zombies and a group of survivors. The movie would be a total loss if not for the gratuitous Milla Jovavich nude scenes, which my friends forced me to view frame-by-frame. Damn them!
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Resident Evil Apocalypse (2004)
Apocalypse looked great on paper. This time the zombie carnage encompasses an entire city, and there are not one but TWO sexy heroines. Jill Valentine looks absolutely stunning in her tube top, miniskirt, and boots (whoa). You also have the acting debut of the hideous, unstoppable Nemesis creature (from RE3). So why is Apocalypse such an ordeal to watch? I suspect it might have something to do with the absurd plot and laughable dialogue. Lacking any real substance, this feels like the fast food of movies, leaving you feeling unsatisfied.
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Tomb Raider (2001)
It's a shame Paramount decided to go so "over the top" with this, because I think a movie based on actual scenes from the Tomb Raider video games would have been far more exciting than this hackneyed "end of the world" garbage. Still, it's obvious they spared little expense on this great-looking action flick, with its exciting stunts and truly impressive set pieces. The Cambodian ruins scene looks exactly like something from the game, and the "boss" payoff is huge. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is mediocre and the script makes little sense. The beginning and end are both extremely far-fetched, and numerous lulls dominate the middle of the flick. Still, fans will enjoy watching the video game icon Lara Croft brought to life by Angelina Jolie, in the role she was born to play.
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Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life (2003)
Saddled with yet another incomprehensible storyline, Cradle of Life falters worse than the previous Tomb Raider flick. There's plenty of high-flying stunts and generic shoot-outs, but precious little actual "tomb raiding" to be found. The first scene set in an underwater Greek temple is interesting, but it's all downhill from there. Oddly, Lara has a male partner for most of this one, probably to remain consistent with the ill-conceived Tomb Raider 5 game released at the same time. There's really not a memorable scene in the whole movie, and the ending is awful.
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