Tag Archives: Science Fiction

DO YOU SEE? Back to the Event Horizon with Philip Eisner by Kent Hill

 

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It was a good day for a movie. When is it not? I was home from university and had the agenda to go to a flick that started soon and looked good. Science fiction looked good and I had heard and read little about this new offering from the director of Mortal Kombat, the future impresario of  the Resident Evil franchise, Paul W.S. Anderson.

My buddy Paul was just coming out of the theatre, and as it happened he had just watched Event Horizon. I recall him being angry, “That’s shocking, terrible, grotesque,” he said. Well it’s been a while. But I certainly remember the look on his face and he was, for lack of a better word, mortified.

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Now when someone tells you not to look at something, what’s the first thing you do? That’s right, you go check it out. I knew I was going to. I knew my friend to be no coward, so I was automatically intrigued by the prospect of seeing this movie that had gotten to him on such a visceral level. I recall him saying, before we parted company, “Don’t waste your time with it,” or something to that effect.

I bullshitted and said sure, don’t worry, I’m seeing a different movie. After that review I was definitely going inside, and the movie I encountered therein was really cool.

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Coming out I felt satisfied. The movie worked on all levels. It was terrifying, impactful, funny at the right time, suspenseful, beautifully composed, strongly acted and above all, well written.

The world was not as socially connected at the time. Nor was it part of my complete breakfast during that period to track down and try to arrange interviews with the good people who make the movies.

Behind the scenes material was scant at best, and Event Horizon, no one at the time could have known, would go on to become a cult favorite and get a really nice re-release with a handsome collector case and lots of juicy bonus features. There is a great documentary included, commentary and the likes. But there was little about the film’s author and the script is only a brief part of the BTS discussion.

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Fortunately the world has moved on and we are all now accessible via a myriad of networking tools. Thus it was my good fortune to finally get in touch with and interview the very excellent screenwriter and all-round gentleman Philip Eisner. The man who was once locked away with nothing but The Road Warrior for a week, was an absolute pleasure to interview.

I feel, like I often do, when talking to the makers of my favorite films, like I’m getting the commentary track that should be included with the feature. After all, it is the with the screenwriter that these journey’s begin.

As I like to keep things as informal as possible, our chat was not restricted to Event Horizon. We discussed Philip’s journey to writing, the genesis of the script, how sometimes you homage and other times steal, what he thought of Rogue One (’cause us Star Wars boys can’t help ourselves), how it’s easier to say “No” in Hollywood and much more.

I sincerely hope you’ll enjoy this interview as much as I did and, in case you have wanted to know more about the true gem that is Event Horizon, or were looking for an excuse to watch it, if indeed you haven’t already…

Well now folks . .  . you’ll see.

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So the movies I like are considered shitty…

The room was dark, or at least that’s  how it returns to me in my dreams. The lounge was in the center of the house, so the only light that entered was through a hallway door which often times was shrouded by a deep-green curtain. It was my father who pushed the curtain open this day, three summers and a thousand years ago. He was a giant to me then, but so were all the people in my world. A lumbering, hairy giant with sun-browned skin and hulking features; yet his smile was soothing, and as he entered the lounge carrying two boxes, that smile dominated his face. That smile was directed at me.
He placed both boxes down atop the television set and then disappeared behind it for several minutes. When he re-emerged he took the second box, the smaller of the two, and placed it into a slot, that opened at the push of a button, in the top of the larger box. Then he turned on the television set. The customary snow filled the screen momentarily and then came a flickering. My father fiddled with the big knobs on the front of the set and slowly there came an image, slowly there came sound, slowly there came magic. My life was changed forever.
VHS – come on, you remember. Think back to the films of your youth. Those glorious moments you could stop and rewind and watch over and over again. If you were one of those kids like me that watched 5 videos plus a night, when the rest of the house was in darkness and only creatures stirring were those comprised of cinematic genius and burger grease; those that had no life, except on the small screen in front of me that was a constant, was always waiting to drench my imagination with swords, laser blasters and maniac cops. I came to worship at this alter nightly and then there was the experience of wandering those video stores. Those gigantic basilicas of celluloid splendor; 15, 20,000, 30,000 titles wide. A bold new world I walked into bravely – never came out of really. There are times I feel that I am still wondering among those vast aisles. All those covers curious, strange and ultimately alluring; their siren song still sings to me, on nights when the stars are bright and the wind blows feint whispers and I am alone again . . . watching movies.
But something has changed; as King once wrote: ‘the world has moved on.’ The garden-variety flick experience today is bright and shining and biodegradable. Multi-billion-dollar behemoths or should I say, bottle rockets, that fly high, explode brilliantly and colorfully, and then vanish. Where have all the good films gone, as the Lizard King once put it: “where are the fruits we were promised, where’s the new wine – dying on the vine.” And die they do, in spectacular mutli-million dollars funerals like The Matrix Reloaded and Jupiter Ascending . . . but that’s another story.
I am here to talk about some of the movies I love, movies that they stayed with me, movies I rented so often the dude at the store eventually gave them to me cause well, and I quote:

VIDEO STORE DUDE
. . . No one can love these flicks
like you, you need them more than we do.

Thus I bring to your attention four films that have been featured on several crap film lists or in worst movies of all time articles. These are the movies I dig – and if you don’t, then you haven’t lived.
These four titles came out between 1979 and 1985. They all have bigger, more expensive A-list brothers, but that is not the point. These are prime examples of the glory days of VHS; and you never truly know it when you are living in a golden age. We did, we lived through it. (I’ll attempt to go spoiler free)

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Superhero flicks are a common staple in our lives and they are progressively getting worse. Guardians of the Galaxy excluded, liked that one. But in 1979 a hero that rose in Spain in the wake of Donner’s Superman captured my pre-adolescent attention. He was Supersonic Man;and the race the spawned him must have caught wind that this crazy fucker-of-a-scientist, played beautifully by Cameron Mitchel (star of some of my other favorites like Flight to Mars, Space Mutiny and Demon Cop) as Dr. Gulik, has plans to blow the earth to shit. So they send Supersonic down and give him a magic watch that helps him transform from his hilariously dubbed alter ego Paul. Paul meets Patricia, isn’t that beautiful. Her dad Prof. Morgan has been hoodwinked into working for Gulik and tries to get wise but then Gulik starts to use his daughter as a pawn to see that his evil plans are seen through to fruition. Of course Paul is no ordinary smart-casually dressed cat that is loitering around trying to make a nuisance of himself. He is an interstellar hero in disguise. It is full of funky-funny flying footage, unintentionally funny reactions to bad situations, and a recurring drunk character for comic relief with his little dog, Sugar. Comedy, that’s what they want. Laughter and a bit with a dog. Great beer and pizza movie.

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Now we jump into one of my favorite fantasy films. And what I ask you is better than a fantasy film? Well one with Reb Brown in it of course. Reb, in case you haven’t heard of him, was the first Captain America and went on to star in Space Mutiny (yes that is a glorious experience), Uncommon Valour and the film of the hour, Yor: The Hunter from the Future. This came out in ’83 and I am proud to report I still have my VHS copy. From its funky theme music to its cast of sexy-creepy-stupid characters, Yor (Brown) is running around in his best loin-cloth and happens upon a father and daughter being lovingly harassed by a triceratops. And it’s all downhill from there. Everywhere Yor goes he is like the angel of death, bringing with him the ravages of destruction and annihilation to just about every place he wonders into; from a seemingly prehistoric village, to the land of the sand people, to the peace-loving folk by the sea and finally to a futuristic fortress on a mythical island. Yor is searching for who he really is and all he has to go by is a gold medallion which every thinks is pretty cool. He fights and beats dinosaurs, really hairy cave dudes, big lizards, sand men, robots and finally the evil overlord (who killed his old man on the island fortress cause he started a coup d’état.) Turns out he saved his son (Yor), by sending him to Prehistoric Forest. Oh, I can here you drooling.

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Time now for a fantasy mash up and one I am so relieved I was able to find and replace my dead video copy – yes this is available on DVD – it’s called Star Knight (or Knight of the Dragon.) Leonard Maltin gave this a bad review, to which I say, FUCK LEONARD MALTIN! This is cinematic cannabis. You’ve got Klaus Kinski (how can you not love that guy), Fernando Rey (you might have seen him in the French Connection as Frog #1 and 1492) and Harvey Keitel, yes I’ll say it again for the hearing impaired, Harvey (I’m a pretentious acting cock) Keitel, the only knight in shining armor with a Brooklyn accent. So the story goes: A beautiful princess is captured by what folks believe to be a dragon but it turns out it is a UFO and the due flying it, played by Miguel Bose (who was a very popular Spanish pop-star in his day) as IX. Trust me when I say he is the quiet type and literally communicates via symphonic chimes. Anyway Klever, or should I say Sir Klever (Keitel) who wants to get under the princesses robes sets out to slay the dragon/UFO. Everybody is dubbed but for Keitel and Rey, even Kinski (who speaks English, though it does add a few laughs) and this again adds to the film’s charm.
I saw a shitload of great flicks in ’85 but this is the one I remember. It is wonderful, from the intentionally and the unintentionally funny segments and that’s not including the comic relief in the form of the Green Knight ( and I’m not talking about Sean Connery from Sword of the Valiant.) Like I said (no spoilers) this is available on DVD, what are you waiting for?

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Finally, and I never left the video shop without one, a purely science fiction entry. It just so happens that (God, I love her) my beautiful wife found a copy of it on DVD for me, the 1979 classic from Italy (yes STARCRASH is one of them) L’umanoide, or as you may have heard of it: The Humanoid. This has three James Bond performers in the cast, most notably two from The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker: personified by Barbara Bach (Mrs. Ringo Starr) and the late/great Richard Kiel. Big Rich was also in Moonraker as the assassin JAWS alongside another character from The Humanoid, Barbara Gibson played by Corinne Clery who was famously savaged by dogs for dropping company secrets on the pillow with Roger Moore. On a side note she was also Ka-Laa in Yor, small world aint it. The story focuses on an evil space Lady Agatha (Bach) who finds herself needing to stay young by draining the life out of other young ladies via a very painful looking needle-bed-thing (you’ll just have to watch it). She’s all buddy-buddy Lord Graal who wants to seize control of planet Metropolis from his brother. They stage a massacre from which Gibson (Clery) escapes, so they capture Kiel, turn him into a mindless automaton to bring her in so she can be subjected to the needle-bed-thing, supervised be the so-cruel-I-shouldn’t-have-a-licence-to-practice-medicine Dr. Kraspin. Gibson is aided by Nick, the telepathic Tom Tom, this little Asian kid who has laser-archer-dudes, dressed predominantly in white, watching his back.
Big Rich nearly completes the evil dude’s mission until Tom Tom helps undo their mental tempering and thus ‘The Humaniod’ is back on the side of good, helping defeat the nefarious Graal and joining his friends in a victory dance before Tom Tom has to go bush with the laser-archer-dudes back to his digs in galaxy far far away. Sniff-sniff. I’m sorry, it’s just so magnificent, I hope you get a chance to check it out. Come round to my house – we’ll watch it with Pepsi and chips.

 

So as the credits are rolling, I think back to that day in that dark lounge room and how a piece of me still lingers there, locked in silence and wonder. The air about me is eclipsed by electricity and magic, my mind leaves my body and I dance among the manufactured dreams of low-budget masters who didn’t need motion-capture and CGI to still my beating heart, ignite the flames of creativity deep within my being which sent me off on the quest, a quest that I am still on to this day, the quest to manifest my dreams. Kermit the Frog sang about it. His dream was about singing and dancing and making people happy, that kinda dream gets better the more people you share it with. My quest goes ever onward, but I have met some like-minded warriors along the way. We have come together recently to compose a trilogy that harkens back to the VHS days of yore. So if these films here mentioned and the millions of others like them are part and parcel of the spark which catches a fire and sends you off into ever-greater heights of dreaming, then you really ought to check them out. And these books to if you dig a celebration of B movies.

 

And above all, happy viewing. Be kind, rewind.

THE DUDE IN THE AUDIENCE

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The Hidden


The Hidden is the kind of flick that makes you sit back, sink a little deeper into the couch, take a long swig of lager and nostalgically murmur “they don’t make ’em like they used to.” Maybe I was just born in the wrong era, but the 80’s and 90’s just seemed to hurl forth so many winners, unbridled genre bliss that only got better with age, worth the revisit every time. The effects were practical, the stories were told with love, care and inspiration and the action was real, hard hitting and built to last. This film one opens with what can literally only be described as a cinematic version of Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto; we see a well dressed, determined man (Twin Peak’s Chris Mulkey in batshit mode) rob a bank, obliterate several police officers with a big honkin’ shotgun, steal a Ferrari, drive said Ferrari through a busy park, smoke a dude in a wheelchair at over a hundred clicks, lead the entire police force on an apocalyptic highway chase and cheerfully get ventilated in a hailstorm of bullets upon careening through their barricade. Case closed, right? Not for a mysterious FBI Agent (Kyle MacLachlan) who arrives out of nowhere and commandeers the case from the leading detectives (Ed O Ross and a wicked sharp Michael Nouri). MacLachlan knows something the force doesn’t, let alone would ever believe: there’s an alien running around inhabiting human bodies a là Body Snatchers, and going on hedonistic tirades of the worst possible behaviour, hence the shotgun tantrum in the opener. How does he know this, you ask? Because he himself is an alien in a Kyle suit, intrepidly pursuing the other one from a distant galaxy to halt it’s destructive shenanigans forever. It’s a premise that could have opened the door to all sorts of ooey gooey creature effects, but the film minimizes on those, choosing a few key moments to show the slime, and focuses mainly on glass shattering, guns blazing action, a neat recipe of three parts action with a tablespoon of yuck, if you will. MacLachlan, still very young at the time, anchors his performance with emotional heft, amusing aloofness and the necessary grit that can be found in his iconic portrayal of Agent Dale Cooper on Twin Peaks, and I was reminded more than a few times of that character while watching him in this. As the extraterrestrial nutjob moves from host to host, blowing everything up and leaving a trail of massacred people in it’s wake, the two of them race at every turn to catch up, and it’s Nouri who finds the seething anger one must get watching an outsider roll up and stamp all over someone else’s territory. The alien isn’t interested in world domination, resources or assimilation, it just wants to fuck shit up and have a good time, man. Blasting rock n’ roll music, gorging itself on steak dinners, stealing every Ferrari it can get it’s hands on and raiding the police evidence room for all kinds of heavy artillery, this thing doesn’t slow down for a second. This is the only film I know that paints off-earth visitors quite like this, just a gleeful, anarchic adrenaline junkie asshole, and I admire the brutal honesty, because I know of quite a few morons who would probably engage in the exact same behaviour, should they ever find themselves incognito and without consequences on an unassuming, far away planet. This one is pure screaming fun the whole way through, and should be every bit as iconic as other sci fi tales that are remembered more prolifically. Watch for the tiniest Danny Trejo cameo, playing (guess what) a prison inmate.  

-Nate Hill

James Cameron’s Aliens 


Each of the four Alien films has their own distinct and noticeable personalities. Ridley Scott’s original creeping horror show is a tense, streamlined, gracefully vicious film that slinks along at its own pace, not unlike the resident feline Jonesy who wondered about on the spaceship Nostromo back then. If Alien has the qualities of a cat, James Cameron’s Aliens has those of a rambunctious puppy dog, a rip snortin, go get em action backyard barbecue knockout that runs up and gives the audience a big wet slimy kiss. All animal metaphors aside (I’m running out of oh-so-clever ways to open my reviews, ok? Been at this shit for two years now), Cameron’s film is an undisputed classic, still jaw dropping to this day, even after what feels like hundreds of viewings, nostalgic yet fresh in different ways every time, and simply one of the best films ever made. It’s the gold standard for creature feature sci fi too, and while many argue whether or not it in fact outdid Scott’s original white knuckler, I can’t bring myself to be petty and pick favourites out of the quadrilogy, I love them all for a whole bunch of reasons. Aliens picks up quite a while after the catastrophic events of the first, with Ripley floating around in that cryo-pod for way too long, until she happens to cruise past earth, crossing the vision of the Weyland/Yutani corporation once again. Because they always make astute, well thought out choices, they decide to send a research team, accompanied by a very reluctant Ripley and a group of hoo-rah, bull in a China shop colonial marines to far off industrial exomoon LV-426, where they have lost communication with the settlers. After a brief, clammy build up, all hell breaks loose, and we get to see the full impressive extent of Cameron’s skill as a visual storyteller, as well as the oh-so-gooey, inspire practical effects work that brings those gorgeous Xenomorph beauties to snarling life. The cast is the epitome of badass, as we are constantly reminded of by Bill Paxton’s Hudson, the film’s resident squirrel who gets hilariously skittish when things get dicey (“game over, man!” Will never not out a big, Paxton sized grin on my face), but who heroically holds his own once he gets his sillies out. The other side of that coin is Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn, never slicker), cool as ice, shaken by nothing, including an atmosphere entry landing that would make Alfonso Cuaron pee himself, but doesn’t come close to disturbing Hick’s afternoon nap. Every Alien team must have an artificial human, some of which are trustworthy, and some not. Lance Henriksen’s Bishop is as solid as they come, never losing his head (despite being reduced to a puddle of spilt dairy product) and sticking by Ripley’s side until the bitter, hectic end. Ripley herself is a little older, a little wiser and a lot tougher, her intensity calcified into grit after losing her daughter, and given somewhat of a surrogate in the form of Newt (Carrie Henn) an orphaned child who has survived months living like a rodent in the air ducts. “They mostly come at night… mostly” she eerily warns Ripley. Oh boy, do they ever. LV-426 is positively teeming with them, and they show up to provide speaker shattering, pixel scattering action like only Cameron can do. The facehugger in the room sequence is still one of the most terrifying sequences in any film, and serves to make you hate Weyland weasel Burke (Paul Reiser) with that deep loathing reserved for the scummiest traitors in film. The final thirty minutes of the film are a showcase of action cinema, and it’s amazing to think they pulled off the Queen fight without any cgi back then, a slam-bang marvel of a climax that fires on a thousand cylinders, and to this day has never been topped. That goes for the film too. It’s *the* action sci-fi film, and as close to perfection as you can get.  
-Nate Hill

Edge Of Tomorrow


-Nate Hill
Tom Cruise, dare I say, has been making really decent stuff these days, some of which is downright brilliant. Oblivion had its moments, carried on wings of an M83 score that was better than the film itself (hello Tron Legacy syndrome), Jack Reacher was solid badassery all round, but Edge Of Tomorrow is just pure class and could almost be considered an instant classic. I waited a long time to finally see it, because in most cases a pg-13 sci fi blockbuster starring Tom would be cause for me to cruise right on by in the Netflix/on demand lineup and pick something else. The reviews were uncommonly good though, and so I inevitably went for it. I’m sorry I waited, because it’s flat out spectacular. What makes it so? Well, it is everything I described above. A sci fi, blow ’em up blockbuster starring Tom Cruise, packed to the gills with action, aliens and stuffed with more Independence Day fireworks than you can shake a stick at. The catch? It has the plot, script and character development to match. This is one seriously thought out story, with heroes who don’t start off that way, conflict among the ranks of characters and genuine, honest to god arcs. You can hurl all the cash you want at a film and blow up as much shit as you can, but if you don’t have those core elements of story in place, and well so, you’ll end up with a hollow piece of vapid space garbage (like that Independence Day sequel). No, this one earns its stripes, opening up during a chaotic intergalactic war between humans and a formidable alien race, who are winning fast and stamping out any hope for our race. Cruise plays a weaselly military PR puppet who talks shit but has never seen a moment of actual combat, until he’s thrown directly into it by chance, with neither skills nor experience to keep him afloat. Stuck in a Groundhog Day esque time loop (I won’t spoil the how and why, but it’s a wicked smart premise that logically plays out), our coward gradually gains what it takes, day by day, to become a hero and save the planet. It takes a lot of dying and starting over though, each day beginning in the same fashion, the possibilities ripe for him to finally get that perfect round and win the day. Emily Blunt, that adorable badass, plays the most adorable badass thus far in her career, a resilient and vulnerable valkyrie who’s rage at the marauding fiends burns through terrifically, providing moments of grit, warmth and humour as needed. Bill Paxton plays a gung-ho military honcho with the same gee whiz charm that made Pvt. Hudson (Aliens, for you plebs) so memorable, and Brendan Gleeson does a third act encore as another General who takes a fair bit of convincing to get onboard with their plan. It’s so much fun you never want it to end, the high concept used for all it’s worth, supported by truly inspired creature design, detailed steam punk style weaponry and old school Hollywood fanfare rationed out in deliciously measured portions, resulting in that perfect recipe, an effects driven crowd pleaser with the brains to back it up. Who knew they could still make that? It’s a thing of beauty. 

For the Love of the Movies: A Conversation with Paul M. Sammon by Kent Hill

Those of us who love the movies were bitten by the bug at an early age. Paul M. Sammon is no different, though as he told me, his options regarding entertainment whilst growing up on a military base were limited. If you were athletic there was baseball, if you were a reader there was a library. Then of course there was the cinema.

When you are young there is no such thing as a bad movie. You devour all you can of the sights, the sounds, the sensations that rip through your entire being as screen comes alive and you are transported. At times to far-flung stars, only to be besieged by angry armies of giant bugs or thrust into the midst of a crime wave, surrounded by urban decay only to turn and find yourself staring down the barrel of a gun in the hand of a cyborg police officer who instructs you in no uncertain terms to, “think it over creep.”

Paul M. Sammon has spent over thirty-five years in and around the movie business. His ferocious zeal and meticulous attention to detail have garnered him a reputation. Not merely for his comprehensive and passionate coverage of the films that he admirers but also (and in this I share his passion in equal measure) for the journey that a film must undertake from its inception to its coming soon to a theatre near you.

He has brought his veracious eye for intricacies to many a fine piece that has graced the pages of publications such as The American Cinematographer, Cinefantastique and Cinefex. He has served within the industry as everything from a special effects coordinator to a still photographer. Then of course there are his books; the most memorable of these being Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner. During his time on the production he came to know better the film’s director Ridley Scott, whom he would later serve as biographer.

He has rubbed shoulders with many of Hollywood’s finest talents and been present to document the triumphs and the tragedies that have occurred on the film sets, upon which the lamentable and the legendary have been photographed at twenty-four frames a second.

To converse with Paul was everything I had hoped for and more. His candidness, his cleverness, his unbridled joy for cinema ebbs and flows from his deliciously detailed delivery. But that’s enough from me.

Sit back and enjoy this reminiscence, as a great storyteller reflects on his adventures in the sometimes fun, sometimes fickle but often fascinating land where movies are born, raised and once in a while butchered.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, Paul M. Sammon…

 

 

Doom: A Review by Nate Hill 

Despite not having a whole lot to do with the video games, Doom is still a rush of schlock and awe silliness, getting more fun and ridiculous in equal amounts near it’s nonsensical ending. Karl Urban and The Rock are the tough guys for the job when it comes to scoping out a Martian research base that’s accidentally opened up a portal to hell, unleashing all kinds of lovely things. Rock is Sarge, stoic commander of this unit, and Urban is John Grimm (he lives up to his last name) a battle scarred badass who has personal stake in fighting these monsters. His sister (Rosamund Pike) is a scientist on the base, and is now in a great deal of danger. After a neat Google Earth type zoom in on the Martian surface (ironically the only shot in the film that suggests they’re even on the red planet), it’s off to dank corridors, vast bunkers and beeping control panels, an Aliens-esgue siege on horrors of the dark that quickly goes sideways on them. It’s run of the mill stuff save for one stroke of brilliance: a pulse racing first person shooter sequence that showcases a POV of Urban shooting, slashing and chain-sawing his way through alien flesh. It’s a bold move that pays off immensely and is quite fun. The rest of their team is forgettable except for Richard Brake as Portman, the loudmouth A Hole of the bunch, a refreshingly animated performance in a roomful of muted, grim characters. The monster from the game shows up, a hulking hell pig nicknamed Pinky that tirades it’s way through everything until Urban gives it what for. This ain’t no great flick, but as far as video game movies go, you could do way worse. There’s definitely enough gore for the hounds, and it’s adequately stylish in presentation.