With the summer blockbuster season now in full swing, our contributors look back at some of their all-time favourite Hollywood hits… At least that was the intention.
Ever since Pong graced our lives in 1972, kids and adults from around the world have delighted in hitting bouncing balls with their virtual paddles. The game spawned an entire subgenre in which the goal is not to deflect a tiny sprite past your adversary’s meagre defenses but to bust a set of rectangular blocks that drop power-ups upon ignition. It seems every generation has played a blockbuster of this kind, whether it be Breakout for the TRS-80, Megaball for the Amiga, Arkanoid for the Nintendo Entertainment System, or my favourite: DX-Ball for shamelessly cheap PC users.
What makes Michael P. Welch’s 1996 freeware stand out even today? For one, players can use a mouse to control the paddle, allowing for smoother movement across the screen and, back in the day, a scratched keyboard tray commemorating hours of fast-paced entertainment. I dare you to stop the game after just five minutes. DX-Ball’s wicked power-ups and incredibly satisfying sound effects make it impossible not to want to see what the next level has in store, and, if you have trouble getting there, a thunder blast will take care of that pesky last block… What do you mean, that’s not the sort of blockbuster we were meant to discuss?
Total Recall (1990)
I was unsure whether our recommendations should consist of hits from yesteryears or draw inspiration from this summer’s blockbusters, so I’ve decided to hedge my bets with Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall, whose remake is set for wide release this August. Loosely based on the short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick, the film tells of Doug Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who, in lieu of taking a vacation, signs up to receive false memories of a secret agent life only to discover his mundane existence may itself have been an implanted lie.
Truth be told, the movie’s aged quite a bit: its once award-worthy effects now seem cartoonish; the plot’s full of holes; and the characters come off flat and undefined. However, the premise of downloading fake memories into your brain strikes me as entertaining (i.e. awesome); the designs for the Martian mutants are mesmerizing (a three-breasted woman comes to mind); and the conclusion leaves some welcome ambiguity as to what really happened (we still get a happy ending though, so yay). In short, Totall Recall is summer escapism at its best, with big explosions, a little sex, one or two interesting ideas, and way too many dead bodies. Stellar.
Finding a good video game based on a Hollywood blockbuster is a challenging task, so much so I had to use the World Wide Web to find this recommendation. Closely following the plot of one of my favourite James Bond flicks, 1997’s Goldeneye: 007 for the Nintendo 64 puts you in the (no doubt, weaponized) shoes of British superspy James Bond as he infiltrates enemy bases and shoots up henchmen to stop an evil organisation from using the Goldeneye satellite to wreak havoc on the global economy.
I’m surprised I’d forgotten this game, seeing as it’s a blast. More importantly, Goldeneye: 007 revolutionised the first-person shooter genre, paving the way for successes like Halo and Call of Duty. Consider the multiplayer mode, which allows up to four players to compete in different death matches. The great controls, the variety of weapons and fast gameplay make every bout with your friends feel different and exciting. Give this console classic a try, and, while you’re at it, watch the movie too. It’s pretty awesome.
Dimitri’s Other Pick:
Gone with the Wind (1939)
All right, let’s give this another go. When we think of Hollywood blockbusters, our minds tend to gravitate toward mindless action fare like Independence Day (1996) or Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009). It’s worth noting, though, that the highest grossing motion picture of all time, when accounting for inflation, consists of a historical romance that doubles as a character study: no plot to rule the world, no gun-toting henchmen, no pyrotechnics save for the heroine’s explosive personality.
I’m referring, of course, to Gone with the Wind, which recounts the life and opinions of Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), a Southern belle struggling to maintain her way of life during the American Civil War and Reconstruction. Based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell, Victor Fleming’s award-winning epic works best as a metaphor for a bygone facet of American culture, but it does deliver a few commercial touches: expensive sets, great big fires, a tumultuous love story, and a kick-ass twist ending as Rhett (Clark Gable) tells our heroine what we’ve spent the last three hours dying to hear.