(Not So) Random Film of the Week: Smash Palace

Smash PalaceThanks to a few oddball decisions (some made by people connected with his first film) Roger Donaldson’s second feature film, 1981’s Smash Palace almost didn’t get made. I’ll let you go check out the excellent making of feature on the Arrow Academy disc for the full story, but let’s just say everything worked out in the end and we have a strong followup to Sleeping Dogs to chat about for a spell. Donaldson’s film is a wrenching, raw look at a marriage fallen apart thanks to a lack of communication and what happens when decisions made by the adults in the room spiral past the point of reasonable discourse.

Al Shaw (Bruno Lawrence), a former race car driver looking to restart his career is married to Jacqui (Anna Marie Monticelli), a former nurse he met while recuperating in France after an accident that took him off the track. They eventually wed and moved to a remote spot in New Zealand where Al runs the titular wrecking company. Jacqui despises the run-down location and dull (to her) lifestyle, berating Al for not taking  a solid ongoing offer to sell the business. Despite the tension, love for couple’s daughter, Georgina (Greer Robson), or Georgie, keeps things mostly in check. Unfortunately, Al’s best friend, local cop Ray Foley (Keith Aberdein) catches Jacqui’s eye and ear (Al talks a lot, but tends to ignore his wife because he’s happy in his work) and the two get romantically involved. When Al discovers this, he lashes out (in a hard to watch scene) and yes, Jacqui leaves him for Ray, taking Georgie with her.

 

(Thanks, Arrow Academy!)

 

Things go sideways and downhill from that point on even though Al gets back on the race track with a car he spent a year building. Recklessly, he makes a series of somewhat terrible decisions, some of which where his hand is forced and others where he just reacts out of pure but flawed human instinct.

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs ArrowBased on the novel Smith’s Dream by C.K. Stead, director Roger Donaldson’s 1977 film Sleeping Dogs is not only a remarkable first feature film, it’s shockingly prescient on a number of fronts. Before I get to the film proper, I’ll note that I chose neither this nor Donaldson’s outstanding second feature, 1981’s Smash Palace because of their implied or direct relevance to some of today’s often depressing news. My movie backlog is just so huge that I decided to grab two films off the top of the stack and these Arrow Academy releases were right on top of that stack. Boo-yah, I guess? Additionally, I’d heard good things about both a while back from a few people who didn’t spoil the stories for me other than to note that both were important films from New Zealand that would be well worth watching. Those people were correct, as these two films are simply superb despite their less than Hollywood budgets.

The government in New Zealand is under chaos after oil talks break down, gas is severely rationed and it seems civil unrest is brewing partly as a result of a rather stubborn prime minister determined to keep the peace (or what he sees as peace) at any cost. Meanwhile, rudderless after breaking up with his wife, a man named Smith (Sam Neill) is driving down a highway when he spies a small island in the distance. At a tiny village’s tinier restaurant, he inquires about the ownership of the island and is given directions to a house owned by two Maori men and is told to bring a bottle of whiskey with him. Smith trades the bottle for the island and run-down house on it, but the motor boat he needs to get there? That costs him his car. Well, at least he gets a free cute dog out of that part of the deal, as it’s forced on him during the trade.

 

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Sleeping Dogs Launch Trailer: As Long As It’s True To Itself (And Well Done), I’m Happy…

 

I’m a story guy first and foremost, so I’m hoping the game has a well-written plot to go with all that expensive voice talent. I don’t care much for yet another open world urban game experience, so if I do review this one, it’ll be all about the story, characters and gameplay as opposed to how many billions of mini-games there are and how huge and accurate United Front’s version of Hong Kong is compared to the real city I’ve never been to. Of course, replay value also makes a difference, but for me, even if a game is relatively short and linear, I’ll play it a few times if it’s entertaining and yep, well done.

Sleeping Dogs Official Site Goes Live With A Bit Of Hidden Object Fun

I’ve been quietly following United Front’s work on this one since it was announced and yes, I’m pretty happy with how this is coming together and hope it does great when it ships out. Amusingly enough, after watching all those gameplay videos and taking in the scope of the game (it’s going to be huge), I noted to a friend that all the game needed was puzzle or hidden object game elements to appeal to the super-casual crowd. Of course, Future US and Square Enix have kicked off the official site with… you guessed it, a hidden object mini-game that, while not for the casual crowd at all, does unlock a cool new gameplay video once you find all four objects in the rather cool interactive “marketplace” complete with people and items you’ll see in the game proper. Go on, check it out (you know you want to). August 14, 2012 is the big day, by the way – so get ready….

Sleeping Dogs Voice Talent Video: It’s A Casting Cornucopia!

United Front Games isn’t skimping on the voice casting in their upcoming (and eagerly awaited) action game. Take a look at a veritable who’s who of familiar faces (and voices). Even the people you haven’t heard of are doing a fine job from my perspective. It doesn’t hurt at all that the game is looking quite good as well. That August 7 release date is rolling up fast, isn’t it?

Sleeping Dogs Update: “Made In Hong Kong” Doesn’t Mean It’s Cheap…

It’s really looking as if Square Enix and developer United Front Games are going to have one of those ridiculously FUN games to play in Sleeping Dogs. Personally, I though the True Crime games were undercooked and a bit too derivative of certain other games on the market at the time, but as a reboot and potential new franchise, SD has nothing but too many cool Hong Kong action flicks to look up to. I think as long as the combat isn’t as slippery and funky as it was in Stranglehold and the story is well done, this one’s going to be a keeper. We shall see, as always…

Sleeping Dogs’ “Undercover: Hong Kong” Trailer: Square Enix Is Pitching Woo, Big Time

Clearly, the team at United Front Games has a lot to live up to, but it looks as if gamers fond of the True Crime series (warts and all), will have a completely new game experience from a different publisher and developer that just may make them forget about that series (or at least, make them stop comparing it to this new IP). Hey, as long as I don’t have to worry about having a rapper as an unlockable character or anything overtly silly like that, I’m a happy camper. As I say again and again, We. Shall. See… (but I DO think Square Enix is on quite the publishing roll these days)…

Sleeping Dogs Trailer: Square Enix’ Hot Time In The Old Town, Hong Kong Style

When i first heard about Sleeping Dogs, I thought it was another IO Interactive project in the Kane & Lynch series (hey, I liked both games, warts and all). Then, I remembered that Square Enix had snapped up the rights to United Front’s True Crime: Hong Kong game from Activision last year and *ding!* – all we had to do was sit and wait to see what sort of introductory trailer would be popping up. Here you go, folks – a live action (and boy, does it have action) deal that has me thrilled to see what the actual game looks and plays like. If what’s here is any indication, Activision may be wishing they’d kept that IP.  Then again, I can see the skeptical message board crowd going on a rant about Square Enix maybe having a better movie than they do a game. In that case, I say just have an entire movie shot based around the game’s plot and stick it on the disc for the hell of it.  I think this one will be a hit based on the location and faxt that there are still a lot of True Crime fans out there who want to see this one on store shelves (which will be later this summer)…

As for what the game is about, a brief summary is below the jump.  Read on…

 

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