Alien movies: “Alien vs. Ninja”

If you thought that AVP: Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem had a certain trash movie appeal, then Alien vs. Ninja will be an overkill for you sci-fi action senses.

Alien vs. Ninja
(Japan 2010, director: Seiji Chiba)

A group of ninjas investigates a comet that crashed down near their village, but it doesn’t turn out to be a weapon from a warring clan but as an alien that leaves a path of destruction.

I’ve always been a fan of Sushi Typhoon’s trash splatter movie output, having first experienced the awesome crowd pleaser Helldriver and Karate Robo-Zaborgar at the Nippon Connection 2011 film festival in Frankfurt and then Deadball a year later at the same festival, but I missed their first production that I only imported later from the US. While it might not be in the same league as the following movies, it’s still worth checking out. The biggest issue isn’t necessarily the rubber alien suit or the cheap digital camera look and bad special effects. After all, this is a low-budget production. It’s much more annoying how the first half hour or so drags on with too much talk and not enough action. Asian humor and over-acting is to be expected, but one doesn’t watch this sort of movie for less than subtle sexual allusions (like a gay ninja clan member who doesn’t have any impact on the story) or long conversations about a character’s past, as each one is forgettable, anyway.

However, when the alien finally appears (after a few cool ninja-vs-ninja action sequences accompanied by an overused techno soundtrack) the pacing picks up and more importantly the craziness finally starts. It’s not only one alien the group of ninjas has to fight, as others get infected by small aliens controlling the unfortunate victims from inside. Without taking too much away from the surprise, it gets ridiculous and quite disgusting very soon. Even if it never reaches the amount of blood and guts thrown around in later Sushi Typhoon movies, expect quite a few dismemberments of a very original nature. There’s still some slapstick humor thrown in that doesn’t always work, but it doesn’t really matter as the movie finally delivers on the eye-catching title. It’s sad to have heard about Sushi Typhoon being put on indefinite hiatus in early 2012, because despite offering entertainment for a niche genre audience, there hasn’t been a company that mixed absurdity, awesome fight scenes and splatter together with low budget special effects and retaining a clear sense of fun often lost in this genre.

Score: 7/10

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Alien movies: “AVP: Alien vs. Predator” + “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem”

AVP: Alien vs. Predator and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem show what happens if the extraterrestrials of the Alien and Predator franchise battle it out on Earth.

AVP: Alien vs. Predator
(USA/UK/Czech Republic/Canada/Germany 2004, director: Paul W.S. Anderson)

A group of archaeologists and engineers finds a pyramid buried in the icy regions of Antarctica, only to be soon trapped between its maze-like walls and two warring extraterrestrial species.

Paul W.S. Anderson is probably best known for his Resident Evil movies that are highly entertaining but aren’t really true to their gaming source material. Having read the two Aliens vs. Predator Omnibus books on which this movie is based on shows that except for the premise of the predators hunting the aliens as sport, I can safely say that there isn’t any story or character connection, except of course the Weyland Corporation. But like the Capcom games interpretation, it doesn’t really matter, because everything that made the original Alien and Predator movies so great is left intact to a certain degree.

While the terrifying claustrophobia of the first Alien movie isn’t here, the atmosphere of being imprisoned in a temple maze is still quite tangible, while the outside desolated snow landscape makes for something a little different from both franchises, especially the Predator movies that were always about jungles and heat. The creature design is very convincing in both cases, which means that predators have their futuristic weaponry and the aliens their acid-spewing and clawing defense mechanisms, making the encounters between the two species as violent and cool as expected. The action is over-the-top as in the comic books and it doesn’t take very long to kick in. The story itself is engaging enough to set the stage for the two adversaries to fight, with the only problem being the characters. Despite some quieter moments, the dialogues don’t make them very memorable. They’re not annoying, but one doesn’t really feel anything when they’re killed one by one. The real stars are still the title-given creatures, and with high production values with a cool mix of the original soundtracks, this is a movie that is much better than many make it out to be, because to be honest, the original comic series wasn’t high sci-fi art itself, either.

Score: 8/10

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Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
(USA 2007, directors: Colin Strause/Greg Strause as The Brothers Strause)

A predator spaceship crash-lands near a small Colorado town, with aliens soon overrunning it and only a handful of people trying to survive the onslaught, a situation made even worse with another predator hunting it down and destroying/killing whatever lies in its path.

Having teenagers involved in an Alien or Predator movie sounds like an obvious bad choice, as there are usually scientists or military personnel that fight these things. However, the latter show up in the second half of the movie, and even if the introduction of the bullied guy, his school sweetheart, and the bullies are just an excuse to fill in the minutes before the action starts, it’s not as bad as it sounds. To be honest, there are more boring and annoying characters in most slasher movies. Sure, it’s again an attempt at making the audience relate to these people, but they’re as forgettable as in the first movie, only serving to be killed in interesting ways by both extraterrestrial sides.

Waiting for the chaos to unfold is worth it, because what starts out to be a rather uninteresting look at small town life ends in a very entertaining series of gory scenes, involving decapitations, exploding heads, and all sorts of dismemberment. It’s all gratuitous violence of course, with a very uncomfortable alien impregnation scene, but the fast pacing makes up for the lack of a good story or character development. Far from original, this is still a fun sci-fi splatter action movie that shows how over-the-top comic crossover adaptations are done. Unfortunately, the ending that hints at a continuation of the story is a sad reminder that this never happened.

Score: 8/10

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GOG free game “MDK” + Black Friday Sale

GOG brings back some good old sci-fi action-adventure fun with Shiny Entertainment’s MDK as a limited-time offer freebie and some more in their Black Friday sale.

MDK was originally released in 1997, and I still remember it fondly, as I bought it pretty close to release date due to some raving good reviews (almost 100 % in PC Games). I didn’t regret it, as it was so much fun blasting aliens as janitor Kurt Hectic clad in a leatherskin-tight armor who has to save the world from Minecrawlers that want to deprive Earth of its natural resources. With the help of Dr. Fluke Hawkins and the robotic two-legged/four-armed dog Bones, he has to infiltrate these huge installations and destroy them from within. At its heart, this is a third-person run-and-gun game, but with all kinds of gadgets and silly weapons, it requires more than just a trigger-happy finger. The most interesting tool of destruction is a sniper rifle that helps target enemy forces from a distance, while using a parachute makes traversing the levels easier and more open than in standard shooters. There are just so many cool ideas and funny scenes in this game that it would take away many of the surprises every player should experience him-or herself. Suffice it to say that each level is full of creativity and humor seldom seen in the action genre. Where else does one get the World’s Most Interesting Bomb that draws enemies in before it explodes, The Very Large Hamster Hammer that causes earthquakes and The World’s Smallest Nuclear Explosion that is necessary to open locked doors?

The game is only available for free until tomorrow, November 23, 2PM UTC, so be quick to grab it while you can.

If you want to have another free game, then head over to GOG and spend more than 15 Dollars in order to unlock StarCrawlers, a sci-fi dungeon crawler that combines real-time first-person exploration and turn-based battles. I already discussed this in the game release news, so if you want to learn more about it, feel free to read the article.

As the MDK offer expires soon, I’ll just give a few recommendations of games everyone should play, so it’s quite easy to reach the 15 Dollars to unlock the game: epic RPG The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Game of the Year Edition, emotional action-adventure ride Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, classic action-RPG Nox, sci-fi survival horror Dead Space, classic building sims Theme Park and Dungeon Keeper 2, and cyberpunk FPS/RPG/adventure hybrid Deus Ex. Of course there are many other titles to choose from, but these were the ones I’ve found on the front page and that I either already played or wrote some articles about.

The Black Friday sale ends on November 28, 11PM UTC, so there’s enough time to browse through the DRM-free catalogue and of course read my news and review articles.

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Humble Bundle free game “Brütal Legend”

Taking a short break from all the extraterrestrial movie madness, let’s have a quick look at Doublefine‘s rocking action-adventure/RTS hybrid Brütal Legend that is available for free on Humble Bundle, but only for a limited time.

It seems like ages since I’ve played the Xbox 360 version and even if it’s not a perfect game, the whole concept of roadie Eddie Riggs (voiced by comedian/actor Jack Black) driving around in an open world inspired by heavy metal cover artwork in his upgraded motor car and smashing demonic forces with his guitar is still unique to this day. Mixing together hack-and-slash elements, RPG-like quests, and an epic but silly story would already be enough for one game, but real-time strategy elements are incorporated as well, which, if I remember correctly, were the only frustrating parts, as one has to actively engage in the battle and build constructions and units to defeat the opponent. Still despite camera control issues and difficulty spikes, the game is tremendous fun with a killer soundtrack, and it even has Ozzy Osbourne in it, together with some other seasoned metal stars.

The PC version doesn’t only have improved graphics and a higher frame rate, but it also includes the two DLCs Hammer of the Infinite Fate and Tears of the Hextadon that unlock new multiplayer maps, weapons, a few costumes, but also a GPS system that tracks collectibles. The game is only given away as a free Steam code until tomorrow, November 22 2017, so be quick and grab a key before the offer expires.

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Alien movies: “Predator 1-3”

The Alien quadrilogy isn’t the only series of movies that delivers thrills and kills, as the three Predator flicks offer an even higher bodycount and more sci-fi action.

Predator
(USA 1987, director: John McTiernan)

A special forces team is sent on a rescue mission for a crashed helicopter crew in the South American jungle and is soon hunted by an extraterrestrial.

80ies action movies have that certain gung-ho make-things-explode and turn-people-into-cannon-fodder attitude, and while this can be seen as gratuitous violence for its own sake, it’s also immensely satisfying to just have a very good time without caring much about the story. Predator is one such film that doesn’t spend much time on character or plot development, but focuses on action set-pieces. Starting out as a war movie and then turning into a sci-fi horror survival scenario, it works perfectly.

Of course dialogues are often as bad as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting and Austrian accent, but when it comes to the “Äktschn”, one forgets about this instantly. Sure, there’s a lot of unnecessarily long shooting and pathos, but the movie really comes into its own when Arnie and the Predator come face to face. It might take a while, but like the best action movies, including Tiernan’s first blockbuster Die Hard, the one-vs.-one combat encounters are brutal and fun to watch. Even after all these years, the predator design is convincing, something that can’t be said about most people in rubber costumes portraying creatures from another planet.

Score: 8/10

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Predator 2
(USA 1990, director: Stephen Hopkins)

Amid a gang war in L.A., the alien predator starts his own killing spree, and it’s up to Lieutenant Mike Harrigan and his police mates to bring it down.

Sequels to action movies always try to deliver more thrills and often kills. While Predator 2 is nowhere near as suspenseful and impressive as Aliens with its memorable set-pieces, it does a good job of giving the predator more screen-time. The change from jungle to city works well, although there isn’t much tension here. This might have to do with the gang war plot which tries to mix a less successful cop story with sci-fi and action survival themes, or it might have to do with the music being so repetitive that it doesn’t fit certain scenes, i.e. bombastic tunes accompany the main character when he just walks through a crime scene.

Creepy atmosphere is replaced with all-out action, and while most of the characters are rather forgettable, there are enough heavy shoot-outs to entertain the hardened action fan. Gratuitous violence and some gore are everything one hopes for. Danny Glover might not be the best hero or very likable (compared to the Lethal Weapon series in which he really shone as an actor as well), but he fits the urban environment. Even if the story about rivaling gangs, government conspiracies, and a bit of background info on the predators often feels convoluted, there is always something exciting happening, even with some dry humor and situational comedy thrown in which clearly shows that everyone involved in the production of the movie knew that this wasn’t high art, but pure entertainment.

Score: 8/10

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Predators
(USA 2010, director: Nimród Antal)

A group of elite warriors with memory loss parachutes into a jungle on an alien planet and starts fighting for survival, as the fauna and alien predators start hunting them down.

With a sequel showing up 20 years later, one could argue that it was time for a new cash-in to revive the franchise. But as it turns out, this movie has everything that made the first great, with adding a familiar but also alien setting. The idea of having a team that consists of psychopaths and seasoned fighters is interesting, although one shouldn’t expect any deep characterizations. They’re simply used as either cannon fodder or to put down alien lifeforms.

Moving at a rather fast pace, there isn’t much plot or character development, but the story has a few twists and surprises, while there’s a good mix of suspense, shoot-outs, and hand-to-hand combat. Even if one finds it difficult to establish an emotional connection to any of the characters, they’re not annoying. Brody might not have the oversized muscles of Schwarzenegger, but his acting is much better and he does a pretty good job of the survival hero. All in all, this is a surprisingly well-made movie with all the gore and action one expects. If only the finale wouldn’t have hinted at a continuation of a story that would never materialize…

Score: 8/10

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