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Michael Bay (#110 of 21)

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Multiplayer Pushes Series Forward

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Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Multiplayer Pushes Series Forward
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Multiplayer Pushes Series Forward

It’s 5:15 p.m. the day Activision flew me and about four or five dozen journalists and other game-industry folks out to San Francisco to check out Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer. We’re temporarily lined up outside the building like we’re waiting for concert tickets. It’s like clockwork: Whenever unknown lines happen in big cities, folks from all walks of life spontaneously wander by to ask what we’re waiting for. Eventually, two very well-to-do ladies in very loud clothing and louder voices come by. The following then transpires:

Woman 1: What’s this line for?
Journalist: We’re previewing the new
Call of Duty?
Woman 2: The new what?
Journalist : You know, the video game?
Woman: 1: Oh, it’s video games! How adorable!

This sticks with me when we’re finally let in to the event and we’re surrounded on all sides by gunfire and ominous, industrial bass drops. Draped in its new next-gen engine, Advanced Warfare now has all the gloss and sheen and bombast of anything Michael Bay spits out on a yearly basis, but the single-player has always been missing Bay’s sense of assholish mirth, with any latent morality stemming from the player’s actions buried beneath the sheer jingoist glee. The franchise has never let real-world implications get in the way of good headshots and bigger explosions, and arguably they shouldn’t, and yet there’s also been a constant desensitization with each installment to the mayhem, and divorced of any deeper context, the incentives to fight the good fight in multiplayer veer dangerously closer to the worst kind of flag-waving hysteria. Kids used to play Cowboys and Indians, or Cops and Robbers. Now it’s us, in all its various forms, versus terrorists, who pretty much only have “brown” in common.

Summer of ’88: Dead Heat - Public Relations Meltdowns and Zombie Cops

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Summer of ‘88: <em>Dead Heat</em> - Public Relations Meltdowns and Zombie Cops
Summer of ‘88: <em>Dead Heat</em> - Public Relations Meltdowns and Zombie Cops

Believe it or not, there’s an interesting idea lurking inside Dead Heat. It arrives too late to save the viewer, but it should have been the pitch that got this film made. Rather than focus on the one-sentence plot description (“It’s a buddy cop picture where one of the buddies is D-E-D-Dead!”), writer Terry Black should have lead with the reason the machine that reanimates corpses exists. During the climax, mad-scientist Vincent Price explains to his rich investors that his machine will reanimate them after death so they can live forever and screw their heirs out of their inheritance. The machine will also perform maintenance on them so they can look their best, while those greedy bastards they sired wither away and die. “That’s a great idea!” I thought. “This is Death Becomes Her before Death Becomes Her became Death Becomes Her!”

Unfortunately, this development comes out of left field and is quickly discarded in the ensuing climactic carnage. Until this point, the machine was being used to create an indestructible race of jewel thieves. Two of these creatures are seen in the opening of the film, appearing just as a snooty rich woman utters, “I was hoping for a little more suspense.” She’s talking about jewelry, but she’s also echoing the audience’s sentiment. Dead Heat bills itself as a horror-comedy, but it’s not gruesome enough to satisfy gorehounds, and it isn’t intentionally funny at all. It keeps the sad promises offered by the familiar red New World Pictures logo that graced similar ’80s output: sober people with little time on their hands need not apply, as this one’s for bored drunks on lonely Saturday nights.

As the zombie robbers smash and grab, detectives Roger Mortis (Treat Williams) and Doug Bigelow (Joe Piscopo) appear on the scene…along with half the police department. The criminals are shot 40,000 times but will…not…die. Mortis, Bigelow, and their cop brethren respond to this far too calmly. “Maybe they’re on PCP,” says one cop. Nobody thinks to shoot them in the head, though one is blown up by a grenade. “You have the right to remain…disgusting!” says Bigelow to the exploded corpse.

Critical Distance: The Avengers

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Critical Distance: <em>The Avengers</em>
Critical Distance: <em>The Avengers</em>

For 10 years, comic-book superheroes have permeated popular movies. After the mega-success of Spider-Man in 2002, costumed white fellas saving the world became multiplex staples. Once all the iconic heroes were accounted for, studios found continued success with second-tier characters, from the previously obscure (Iron Man) to the uncomfortably jingoistic (Captain America: The First Avenger). The circuit escalated into the late 2000s, spawning remakes, reboots, sequels, and prequels with a frequency that only the most ardent fans could keep up with. A few X-Men spinoffs, a Superman hybrid, and two Hulk films later, we now arrive at a moment of superhero saturation, wherein each new release affirms the general consensus that these films represent a creatively dry enterprise.