Video Game Adaptations

Aaron Paul

Best known for his portrayal of the bitch-sayin’, science-behind-magnets-lovin’ Jesse Pinkman on TV’s Breaking Bad, Aaron Paul is an actor who will soon find himself standing at a career crossroads. When Breaking Bad began back in 2008, Paul entered the series as a relative unknown, having only random TV roles and bit parts in films playing characters with names like “stoner” or “wasted guy” under his belt. But, as the series comes to its end next year, Paul leaves it a highly-regarded, Emmy-winning, in-demand actor. So which direction is he planning on taking his career? Sometimes its hard for an actor who becomes famous in television to transition into a film career, no matter how high-profile their work on the boob tube was, and if Paul’s latest career choice is any indication, he might be having a tougher time getting good scripts in the mail than one might imagine. According to a report from Inside Movies, Paul has just signed on to star in the upcoming video game adaptation Need For Speed. That’s right, coming off a stint on what’s probably the best show on television, Aaron Paul is going to take on the risky proposition of making a video game movie.

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With his roles in X-Men: First Class and Prometheus, we’ve already seen Michael Fassbender elevate genre works that have problems at their core to something greater than they would have been without his magnetic presence. And with his starring roles in Steve McQueen’s Hunger and Shame, we’ve seen the soaring heights that a movie can reach when they focus on the actor as their main subject. But does Fassbender have what it takes to step into the murky waters of video game movies and come out the other side without any stink on him? According to a report from Variety, we’re soon going to find out. There have been some video game movies that aren’t that bad in the past. The Resident Evil series certainly has its fans, and voices have sung the praises of Silent Hill here and there, but we’ve yet to see a movie based on a video game break out of the video game movie ghetto and be widely considered a great film overall. Ubisoft is hoping they can change that. We reported last year that they had interest in turning their “Assassin’s Creed” and “Rainbow Six” video game franchises into feature films, and it’s looking like that wasn’t lip service. Their efforts are starting to bear fruit.

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Just face it. Farmville is a part of your life now and you’re never going to get away from it. As long as there are lame aunts and people who you sort of remember from high school in the world, there will always be Farmville. The last thing you hear before you die is probably going to be that your cousin Marvin’s sheep have gotten loose from their pen and he needs your help finding them. And you know what happens once something gets so culturally pervasive that everybody knows about it: Hollywood turns it into a movie. According to an interview that appeared on IGN, the Farmville film is in the works. The bombshell news dropped in a video game interview of all places. When sometimes screenwriters Alec Sokolow and Joel Cohen were talking about their work on the upcoming game “Spyro’s Adventures,” they let the news slip. When asked if they had any film projects in the works, one of the duo responded, ” … yes, we will continue writing movies. We are also working on several new and very exciting opportunities. We’re in conversations with Zynga to do something with one of their brands. Can’t really say too much on that front yet, but ‘Old MacDonald’ didn’t have a factory, if you get our drift.” Okay, that quote is vague enough that they might not be talking about working on an actual Farmville movie, but let’s be realistic here; they’re probably talking about working on a Farmville […]

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In the summer of 2010, a Michael Jai White-starring short film set in the “Mortal Kombat” video game universe hit the Internet. Nobody really knew what it was at first, but it ended up being a proof of concept short that Kevin Tancharoen directed in order to prove that there was room for a new Mortal Kombat movie that would take a different approach than New Line’s original take on the material. That short has since become known as Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, and though it didn’t immediately land Tancharoen an offer to do a full-length film, it did garner him some additional studio change from Warner Bros. to fund an entire series of web shorts, which were called Mortal Kombat: Legacy. I guess they were another toe dipped in the water to see if there was any interest in a new series of Mortal Kombat films. Stretching the original short out to a series of them had mixed results in this reviewer’s eyes, but the reaction to them must have been positive and large enough to prove something to someone, because it’s looking like Tancharoen is finally going to get to direct his feature. Heat Vision is reporting that New Line is picking up this ball and running with it, as they’ve hired Tancharoen and his writerOren Uziel to come and make a new feature-length Mortal Kombat for them. New Line’s last attempt at a full length Mortal Kombat movie was 1997’s Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, which was pretty much a giant bomb.

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If you love video games and hate David O. Russell, then boy do I have some good news for you. You might have to help me on this one, I don’t really know video games, and I’m not sure what “Uncharted” is all about. But it was my understanding from being around a lot of movie buzz that fans weren’t too happy with Mark Wahlberg starring as Uncharted’s protagonist Nathan Drake. And I also heard some rumblings that O. Russell was taking the property in his own direction and not paying much heed to the source material. While that might have made a good movie, it wouldn’t have done much for video game fans. They need not worry though, because O. Russell is out, Limitless director Neil Burger is in, and it looks like this entire video game to movie adaptation process is starting over.

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The answer is yes. It’s funny how video games have gotten more and more cinematic, while video game adaptations have still been mostly awful. According to Cinema Blend, Ubisoft has sent out a survey to its loyal customers that asks them several questions about movies, including whether they’d like to see Rainbow Six and Assassin’s Creed. It even asks which characters they’d need to focus on. Big studio pictures are edited by focus groups, but here’s a situation where a big company is thinking about getting into the film business by getting a big focus group together at the front end. That’s not a terrible idea. Think of the movies that could have been avoided (and the money saved) if studios has just asked people whether they wanted them or not. Both of these titles would translate impeccably well to film. Rainbow Six would be an action film done in the Tom Clancy tradition, focusing on an elite counter-terrorism team. Assassin’s Creed might get a little too Prince of Persia‘d, but it has the appeal of an elite assassin team killing powerful bad guys in a rustic European setting. They are both high concept with some decently developed characters, and there’s no reason why they wouldn’t work on screen. Hopefully those survey-takers agree, and we’ll be able to see these projects move on to the next steps.

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Considering the complexities of a large corporation, the maze of impossibilities to get through on the way to getting a movie made, and the time lines at work here, this may seem unfair, but the buck has to stop at someone’s desk. What’s Playing (via /Film) is reporting that Universal might be in the earliest stages of prepping another Doom adaptation that would be in 3D and cost something around $175 million dollars. That number might as well be made up at this stage in development, but it seems reasonable to expect that doing a big action flick like Doom would require a big check book. This comes on the heels of Universal passing on Guillermo Del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness project because the $150 million budget was too big to manage alongside an R-rating and source material that’s not super hot. But wait. Is Doom really all that hot?

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Buried deep, deep, oh so deep within the rotting ruins where creativity used to lie, GK Films has wiped the cobwebs off of a franchise and is ready to bring it back to life. All obligatory complaints about reboots aside, it might actually be cool to see a female Indiana Jones kicking ass and taking treasure again. There’s nothing wrong with having fun, and those video games provide the high concept starting point to get that particular popcorn job done. According to Deadline Derby, GK wants to see the first new Lara Croft film hit theaters in 2013, with tentative plans for sequels after that. Now the speculation begins. Since Angelina Jolie is a long-shot to return to this thing, what new blood should take over the tan shorts and awkward thigh-gripping gun holsters?

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As someone who has to hit his X-Box (original) in order for its tray to open, I’m not exactly on the cutting edge of video games, but when a video game adaptation comes down the pipe that has the words “film noir” involved, I get excited. I get even more excited when David Milch – the co-creator of NYPD Blue and creator of the fantastic Deadwood is set to write the script. Heavy Rain – which could be mistaken for a Hard Rain sequel (and where is the world’s Hard Rain sequel?) – will have all the noir goodness of a serial killer who uses heavy rains to drown his victims, a father who finds out his son might be the next victim, and the coppers trying to take the bad guy down. The killer is known as The Origami Killer because leaves his victims folded up into creative displays. Just kidding. He leaves a folded piece of paper at the crime scene which is just as ominous and far less time-consuming. It sounds like something David Fincher would love directing (or has already directed). Milch’s involvement is the best part here. The world is never going to be worse off with more noir, and Milch is a talented, dark mind that doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty in the creative process. It sounds cool, but any video game adaptation always brings back the question of when the Bioshock movie is going to happen.

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Last summer, this fantastic short film featuring the characters of Mortal Kombat hit the internet with a furious vengeance as if it were trying to rectify the first two movies. It might have succeeded. The short starred Michael “Dynamite” Jai White as Jax, and it’s led to a 10-episode web series. That web series may very well lead to a movie produced at Warners.

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This post would have made its way to completion a lot sooner, but playing the game Missile Command seemed more fun and interesting than writing about a Missile Command movie. Fortunately, you can play Missile Command online for free, but at least skim over the next few words so that you’re in the know about Fox and their plans to take a video game about protecting a base from being hit with exploding things and turning it into a feature film with actual actors and a director and all that.

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If you thought we were meta enough with our list of best editorials, you were wrong. You were also wrong about that pub quiz question you missed last night but kept claiming, “the wording was confusing.” That’s okay. Soothe your second place loss to the “Long Beach Pub All Stars” by digging in deep to this list of lists. What criteria did we use to pick them? Simple. The key was finding those lists which acted as a catalyst for discussion, for reverie, for passion, and for self-reflection. The subjects might seem ridiculous, but there’s nothing like looking back on the year and seeing where movies took our minds. Time to get meta and do our part to bring about that ETEWAF Patton Oswalt keeps talking about.

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Pixel to Projector

The cake is a lie. Anyone who is a fan of puzzles, sentient computers that can kill you, and guns that create inter-spatial portals — well, you’ll dig Portal. In 2007 Valve gave gamers an exceedingly unique playing experience by not only tying our brains in knots with deeply involved gameplay that required significant forethought, but did so with the kind of suspense, pacing, and twisted humor that lends to a strong Pixel to Projector candidate.

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My wife recently introduced me to StarCraft by explaining that I could watch over her shoulder as long as I did it quietly and got her an iced tea every once in a while. As a non-gamer who is foolishly naive about that world, the look of the thing blew me away. It’s gorgeous. Impeccable. Cinematic in every detail. In a way, Blizzard has already made a StarCraft movie – it’s in the game. You have to play it to see it. In the truest way (writing a script, shooting it, and editing it), though, the world has yet to see the glory of this game’s potential on the big screen. In a recent interview, EVP of Game Design Rob Pardo explained the difficulty in finding the right people to work with – mentioning that they’d be game if James Cameron was. It makes sense, but Blizzard shouldn’t wait for Cameron.

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Pixel to Projector

Back in 1993, Electronic Arts was still small time compared to the entertainment siege engine that we gamers recognize today. The fun thing about old school EA, I would argue, is that they were more willing to take chances on unique IP. The Haunting Starring Polterguy (THSP from this point on) is one such game; wholly unique and so ahead of its time I’m not sure we’ll see anything like it again. While the story could have used some tooling, and the difficulty level perhaps tamed a bit — THSP is still easily one of my favorite Sega Genesis offerings.

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The typical rule for a studio is that when a film bombs, it doesn’t get a sequel. Fortunately for everyone on the planet with eyeballs, Capcom is not a film studio, and they don’t have to play by the rules. After the gut-wrenchingly bad showing that was The Legend of Chun Li, the fine folks over at Capcom have proclaimed that instead of lying back in the sweet arms of defeat, they’ll jump back up and start swinging again for everyone’s amusement. Fingers crossed that they team up with Asylum.

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Despite the crazy secrecy of Michael Bay – which is ironic considering how loud his movies are – Just Jared got a hold of some slightly interesting shots from the set of Transformers 3. Let us know whether you think Labeouf looks more afraid of that bazooka or of Rosie Huntingon-Whitely.

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Junkfood Cinema: Street Fighter

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema: the worst part of your weekend. Every Friday I assault your sense of cinematic decency by serving up some truly awful films. These are the movies you would happily leave at the bottom of the dollar bin at that truck stop in northern Iowa, but for which I harbor great fondness. I will breakdown exactly what makes these films so bad but also what makes them hurt so good. As if that weren’t enough, I will also select a custom snack food to complement the film and add to your waistline what I subtract from your IQ.

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Junkfood Cinema: Super Mario Bros

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; the burning means it’s working. This is the weekly movie column that does its small part to battle piracy by highlighting several films no one in their right mind would ever want to download.

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Hollywood hasn’t quite been able to grasp the video game adaptation, which is a shame. Because, much like the power glove, most video game films are so bad.

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