Hollywood Looks at Video Games, Volume 6


LARA CROFT:TOMB RAIDER (2001) *** (Angelina Jolie, Jon Voight) It looks like this videogame-to-movie adaptation was a success. Angelina Jolie is perfectly cast in the starring role of this big budget flick. She dresses differently than the usual Lara Croft, but she is definitely a babe with similar physical attributes. To enjoy this movie you have to treat this movie as pure fantasy. The film opens with Lara Croft battling a gigantic, robotic spider reminiscent of the Inspector Clouseau-Kato ‘workouts’. The plot has a very complicated premise. I am not sure that I got it all. But here goes: Lara must find the two halves of the All-Seeing Eye in order to prevent a global catastrophe resulting from a gap in the time-space continuum. Heaven forbid!

Lara’s quest starts when she finds a clock under the staircase of her English mansion. It was hidden by her father who was a member of a secret society called the Illuminati. When she does some research on this clock, she inadvertently tips off the enemy. The action shifts to a temple in Cambodia and then to an ice cave in Siberia. There is a strong influence of James Bond and the Matrix. One of my favorite scenes is when she has to dodge the rotating arms of a mechanical solar system and avoid being crushed in order to open the lock to open the next portal.

The only real problem that I had with this movie was that some of the action sequences (especially the mansion assault) were way too fast. They did slow down the motorcycle jumping stunts and that was more effective. A sequel may be in the works. I understand that the franchise is dropping the words “Tomb Raider” because a tomb raider is essentially - a grave robber.

FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN (2001)***1/2 –(computer animation w/celebrity voices). The characters are so lifelike that you sometime forget they are not real. This movie got good reviews, but it still bombed at the box office. I would give it an A for effort. I liked the technology and artwork, but hated the plot. I see no resemblance to the video game series or its characters. The story concerns an ongoing battle between our future world and an alien life form called “phantoms”. They look like giant jellyfish and pop up out of thin air. I am still not sure exactly how they were eliminated. They were so powerful that they damn near killed everybody except the female lead (shades of Alien). One scene reminded me of Ground Zero in NYC. Somebody said,” There is a war going on. No one is young anymore.” This was before Sept 11th.

WING COMMANDER (1999) 1½* Freddie Prinze Jr., Jurgen Prochnow, Saffron Burrows). Originally, a computer game series starring Mark Hammill. Sequels 3 & 4 were ported over to the PlayStation. Roger Ebert in his review observed that this movie was a sub movie exported to deep space. He hit the nail right on the head. Maybe it is the influence of Jurgen Prochnow, who was the submarine captain in "Das Boot". Then there is the running-out-of-oxygen cliché, the references to "torpedoes incoming", the analogy of both being ships and the pinging sounds of radar. The similarities are many. The hero of the move is a fighter pilot played by the son of the late comedian. The Wing Commander is actually a young girl, which should please the feminists out there. Actually everybody seems a little too young to be a hotshot pilot. There are a lot of scenes of flying maneuvers, especially jumping over quasars and avoiding getting sucked into black holes. These actions and the constant explosions make the movie seem a bit redundant and monotonous.

ENEMY OF THE STATE (1998) *** (Will Smith, Gene Hackman) - An NEC TurboExpress is a key plot element in this movie. A videotape is accidentally taken of the murder of a politician. A copy of this tape is made on a PC then smuggled out in the cartridge port of the TurboExpress and placed in Will Smith's shopping bag. His son finds it and is wondering why the game is not working. All, come under the constant electronic surveillance of the perps. There is also a scene where his son and a friend are playing a split screen racing game of some kind on a Sony PlayStation.

THE BEACH (2000) **1/2 (Leonardo DiCaprio, Virginie Ledoyen) - Leo stumbles upon a hippie commune in Thailand and joins up with them. One of the few luxuries that they have is a Game Boy. In one scene Leo is playing with the GB. I didn't recognize the game. It may have been a pseudo game with him as the central character. Later on there is an amusing daydreaming sequence in which Leo is inside a PlayStation-style game being chased by a polygon-rendered tiger.


NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION (1983)*** (Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid) - A Bally Astrocade game is somehow able to interrupt a computer program. Chevy Chase is running a vacation itinerary planning program. Every time he lays down a dotted line route on a map, his kids sneak in and gobble up his dots ala Pac-Man and shoot up his car with a spider fighter. Impossible, but cute. When they stop and visit their hick cousins in Kansas, the conversation between the two youngsters goes like this:

Q. Do you have Pac-Man? A. No.

Q. Do you have Space Invaders? A. Nope.

Q. Do you have Asteroids? A. No, but my dad does. Can't even sit on the cooler some days.

ROAD TRIP (2000)*** (Tom Greene, Todd Phillips) – Four college guys drive from Ithaca to Austin to retrieve a videotape that was sent in error. One of them can be seen wearing an orange Atari t-shirt in several scenes – too bad it happens to be the nerd. There is a quick glimpse of the game room at the frat house. This movie borrows heavily from Animal House.

THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT (1984) **1/2 (Michael Pare, Nancy Allen) Two sailors accidentally travel through time from the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1943 to the Nevada desert in 1984. They wind up in a roadside diner. In the back of the room are two arcade machines – BATTLEZONE and LUNAR LANDER. One of the sailors manages to short-circuit both machines with static electricity. This gets them practically run out of town by the irate patrons. Dir. By John Carpenter.

FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982) *** (Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates) - The opening scenes feature a mall arcade. Teenagers are busy playing PAC-MAN, LASER ATTACK, TEMPEST, PLEIADES, SPACE INVADERS, & STAR CASTLE. GORF shows up later. This movie had a lot of future stars in it. (Eric Stolz, Forest Whittaker, Nicolas Cage/Coppola besides the above).


AIRHEADS (1994) ** (Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi, Adam Sandler) - The receptionist and "surfer dude" can be seen playing something on Game Gear. A CAPTAIN AMERICA coin-op is seen as one of the hostage demands.

BOX OF MOONLIGHT (1997) *** (John Turturro, Sam Rockwell) - In one of the early scenes, Turturro's son is playing ULTRA VORTEK on the Atari Jaguar instead of doing his homework. Sounds familiar!

CHILD'S PLAY 3 (1991)(no stars) (Justin Whalin, Perrey Reeves, Voice of Brad Dourif) - One of the kids in the military school is seen playing with his an original, large size Atari Lynx in the barber shop and the mess hall.

COPS AND ROBBERSONS (1994) ** (Chevy Chase, Jack Palance, Diane Wiest) - A NES console and some games are sitting on a shelf in the kid's room. You never get to see the NES up and running though. The cops could have shared the stakeout and gotten in some game time.

GHOSTBUSTERS (1984) *** (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Sigourney Weaver) - The second floor of the firehouse contains 2 arcade coin-ops and one pinball machine, which pass by too quickly to identify.

THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN (1989) *** (Michelle Pfeiffer, Treat Williams) - The eldest son can be seen on two occasions playing something on Game Boy.

IN COUNTRY (1989)*1/2 (Bruce Willis, Emily Lloyd) - There is one scene where Bruce Willis is playing a lazy game of MS. PAC-MAN (7800) on the sofa. You can see him playing with one hand. The 7800 is sitting on a coffee table.

JAWS (1975)**** (Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw)- When the 4th of July crowd comes ashore at Amity Island, the camera pans across an arcade. A kid is playing an arcade game called KILLER SHARK. This is a target game with what looks like shark attack videos. Right next to it there is a bright, yellow COMPUTER SPACE machine.

MAN ON THE MOON (1999) ** (Jim Carrey, Courtney Love, Danny DeVito) - Jim Carrey (as the late comedian, Andy Kaufman) can be seen at one point playing the arcade coin-op, MS. PAC-MAN.

PEEWEE’S BIG ADVENTURE (1985) **1/2 (Peewee Herman) - There is an ASTEROIDS coin-op near the door of the truck stop that Peewee enters.

POLTERGEIST (1982) ***1/2 (Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Heather O'Rourke) - An Atari 2600 is sitting atop the TV in the parent's room.

READY TO RUMBLE (2000) *1/2 (David Arquette, Oliver Platt) – Two wrestling fans help their washed up hero make a comeback. When they stop in a convenience store, there is a kid playing the JIMMY KING arcade game. (Probably a clone of an existing game with altered graphics).


THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS (1998)** (Chow Yun-Fat, Mira Sorvino) - During a gun battle which destroys a video arcade, there is a quick glimpse of a SHADOW OF THE BEAST coin-op.

SON-IN-LAW (1993) ** (Pauly Shore, Carla Gugino, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) - The younger brother in the movie brings out and plays his Game Boy on occasion.

SPLASH (1984) *** (Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, John Candy) - Three handheld games sit on the front of Tom Hanks' office desk at the produce market. One might be a Tomy PAC-MAN. Another looks like a Mattel, sports game (Baseball?). The other??

WHERE THE MONEY IS (2000) ** (Paul Newman, Dermott Mulrooney, Linda Fiorentino) - There is a glimpse of Mulrooney playing a driving video game. OUTRUN perhaps?

Coming soon to a theater near you: Kasumi Ninja, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, House of the Dead, Parasite Eve, Vigilante 8. Duke Nukem with Dolph Lungren is off for now. Resident Evil will get done, but without George Romero.

Thanx to: EGM, Paul Freitag, Scott Stilphen, & Tom Holzer.


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