(Photo by Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection)
It was in 1993 that Hollywood realized the dream of putting a video game movie up on the big screen with Super Mario Bros., and setting the stage for a long legacy of questionable choices, troubled productions, and gamers’ pixel tears left in their wake. But like the kid who just has to pump in one more quarter to reach for that high score, the studios keep on trying (while the fans just keep on hoping), and we’re celebrating that sort of sheer tenacity with this guide to the best video game movies (and plenty of the worst) ranked by Tomatometer!
Here, you will find the near-decent (Rampage, Resident Evil), the should’ve-been-goods (Assassin’s Creed, Warcraft), the ridiculous-but-we-love-thems (Mortal Kombat, Silent Hill), and the ones made by Uwe Boll, who deserves his own category (Alone in the Dark, House of the Dead). We’re using a 20-review minimum cutoff for inclusion from theatrical releases only, because it’s not just enough to make a questionable movie, critics need to witness the aftermath, too.
And in May 2019, Detective Pikachu officially broke the video game curse! Fitting that Nintendo, whose Super Mario Bros. movie started all this trouble, would be the one to end it. And in another surprise 2019 development, the second Angry Birds movie has slingshot the naysayers by racking up plenty of critical praise, toppling Pikachu mere months after its release.
Then in 2020, when it didn’t seem it had a chili dog’s chance in hell, Sonic the Hedgehog to general critics enthusiasm, marking three Fresh video game movies in two years. And then, in 2021, Werewolves Within went Certified Fresh, establishing it as by-far the best-reviewed video game movie! The latest, Uncharted, dives back to familiar territory for this genre. See all the high scores (and lots and lots of the lows) with our guide to 48 video game movies, ranked worst to best! —Alex Vo
Ratchet & Clank: Recently re-imagined for your PlayStation 4, now appearing on the big screen for the first time. The movie invites viewers back to see the origin team-up of the duo (one a robot, the other a bobcat-ish thing, probably a descendant of prolific serial killer Bubsy), which inspires this week’s 24 Frames gallery: a history of video games-based movies by Tomatometer!
It’s an interesting week for home video, and here’s why; we’ve got new films from a celebrated cinematographer adapting a video game (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, directed by Andrejz Bartkowiak), a rap-rock front man doing a sensitive coming of age tale (The Education of Charlie Banks, directed by Fred Durst), an action veteran gunning for hire (12 Rounds, directed by Renny Harlin), and, well, Uwe Boll (Tunnel Rats). The week also features a recently unearthed film from comedy director Hal Ashby (Lookin’ to Get Out, starring Jon Voight and Angelina Jolie in her first role) and an anthology film dedicated to the city of Tokyo, Japan (Tokyo!, directed by Michel Gondry, Joon-Ho Bong and Leos Carax). Last but not least, The Asylum gives us the highly anticipated sequel to their Transformers knock-off “mockbuster” (Transmorphers: The Fall of Man)!
Out of 50 reviews counted since its late February debut, only two gave Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li a pass. (Even more incredibly, those Fresh reviews came from Variety and The New York Times.) Most everyone else awarded this video game redo the lowest of low marks, calling it worse even than its 1994 predecessor, a vehicle that starred Jean-Claude Van Damme. Kristen Kreuk (Smallville) stars as Chun Li, a pianist-turned-pugilist out for vengeance against the steely Bison (Neal McDonough), who employs thugs the likes of Michael Clarke Duncan (as Balrog) and Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas (as his doppelganger, Vega). Luckily, Chun Li’s got a few allies on her side, including Gen (Robin “Liu Kang” Shou!) and Nash (Chris Klein, who, as critic Alonso Duralde put it, “fail[s] to walk into a room convincingly“). Former cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak directs, but is conspicuously absent from the DVD and Blu-ray commentary track by producers, McDonough, and Klein; deleted scenes and a ton of featurettes tell you more than you ever wanted to know about one of 2009’s worst films.
Watch an exclusive clip below!
Next: Fred Durst, director! The Education of Charlie Banks
We’ll get the obvious out of the way: The Education of Charlie Banks is directed by Fred Durst. Yes, that Fred Durst, lead singer of the rap-rock outfit Limp Bizkit. In Charlie Banks, Durst made his debut foray into feature filmmaking (although his second film, the football story The Longshots, made it into theaters first) and like many first-time filmmakers, critics say Durst suffers from a bounty of good intentions that don’t quite seem to be coherently conveyed. Jesse Eisenberg does his best “privileged geek” thing as Charlie, a Greenwich Village kid in the ’80s who finds his freshman year at an Ivy League college turned upside down with the unannounced arrival of Mitch (Jason Ritter, earning kudos), an old neighborhood bully who may or may not be still holding a grudge against Charlie. With shades of The Great Gatsby and over-earnest direction, Charlie Banks is nevertheless a notable first film that offers a glimmer of talent to come from director Durst (who contributes a commentary with star Ritter). Read our Five Favorite Films with Fred Durst here!
Next: Michel Gondry, Joon-Ho Bong, and Leos Carax pay homage to Tokyo!
Fans of Michel Gondry (The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind) should give this triptych anthology a view not only for the director’s take on relationships in modern day Japan (in his short film Interior Design), but also for an introduction to his star, Japanese writer and actress Ayako Fujitani (whose father is action star Steven Seagal). French critic and filmmaker Leos Carax contributes the short Merde, about a sewer-dwelling monster who becomes a media sensation, while Joon-Ho Bong rounds out the film with his story Shaking Tokyo, about one of the city’s “hikikomori,” or shut-ins, who dares to leave his home for the first time in years, for love.
Next: Renny Harlin directs John Cena in 12 Rounds
It’s a set up that begs the question: too soon? In 12 Rounds, director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger) gleefully wreaks havoc in post-Katrina New Orleans while ripping off not only Die Hard 3 (AKA Simon Says) but Speed and, let’s face it, lots of other action flicks. But given that it’s all just a star vehicle for WWE star-turned-actor John Cena, so what, right? This WWE Studios production catches up with New Orleans cop Danny Fisher (Cena) one year after indirectly causing the death of criminal Miles Jackson’s girlfriend; now, Jackson (The Wire‘s Aiden Gillen, vamping it up) is back to put Fisher through a series of tasks — let’s call them rounds, shall we? — in order to save his kidnapped fiancée (Ashley Scott). Or is that Jackson’s real plan? Resist the urge to overthink this one and you might get a kick out of seeing buses careening out of control, entire houses exploding in flames, and the entire Big Easy without power, its infrastructure incapacitated…
Next: Bijou Phillips and Izabella Miko in the noir musical Dark Streets?
Film noir meets musical fantasy in this independent film from newbie director Rachel Samuels, about a womanizing nightclub owner (Gabriel Mann) who becomes embroiled in a mystery about the city’s dwindling power supply while wooing two of his club’s singing femme fatales (Bijou Phillips and Izabella Miko). But despite the stylistic flair of its 1930s noir set up, critics say Dark Streets is a thin, strange mess of clichés whose only highlights come from its soundtrack of original period-style tunes by the likes of Chaka Khan, Etta James, and BB King.
Next: Uwe Boll is back with Tunnel Rats!
Yes, it’s true; Uwe Boll has made a movie NOT based on a video game! (Technically, his pre-House of the Dead films weren’t video game adaptations, either.) What’s more, Tunnel Rats is based on the true experiences of soldiers who specialized in dangerous underground missions during the Vietnam War, which qualifies this as a serious Boll film — historical fiction, even. Tunnel Rats tells the fictional story of a group of American soldiers who patrol the underground tunnels of Cu Chi, avoiding booby traps and fighting the Viet Cong armed only with pistols and flashlights. In between bloody, brutal set pieces, Boll’s actors amble about camp (he claims the script was largely improvised) and critics, though mixed, admit that it’s pretty good, considering the source. Will you give this Golden Raspberry-winning film a shot this week?
Next: Joaquin Phoenix bids adieu to Hollywood by wooing Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw in Two Lovers
In what could be Joaquin Phoenix‘s last acting gig before rap music stardom (though we doubt it), a struggling depressive (Phoenix) latches onto an equally damaged blonde (Gwyneth Paltrow) while trying to make his parents happy by wooing a nice Jewish girl (Vinessa Shaw). Angst and longing ensue, in what critics call a “romantic drama for grown-ups.” That means those expecting Kate Hudson-Matthew McConaughey-type romantic comedy antics will be sorely disappointed, because in the real world, relationships are, you know, hard. A few making-of features and commentary by director James Gray (We Own the Night) accompany the film.
Next: A lost Hal Ashby comedy gets the Director’s Cut treatment
Even comedy legends like Hal Ashby (Being There) can turn out a dud. Case in point: 1982’s Lookin’ to Get Out, a film meant as a vehicle for star Jon Voight, who co-wrote the script. Voight stars as a sort of Danny Ocean wannabe, a compulsive gambler who heads to Vegas to pull one huge blackjack scam, with the help of a few old friends (and Ann-Margret); seven-year-old Angelina Jolie makes her screen debut in a small role, along with mother Marcheline Bertrand. Twenty-seven years after Ashby notoriously fought with studio suits over the film and lost final cut, his actual director’s cut is being released to home video for the first time. Might Ashby’s true vision vindicate this lost gem?
Next: Danny McBride is Kenny Powers in Eastbound & Down, Season One
That’s right, people — Kenny F***ing Powers is coming to DVD! Watch as the former major league pitcher (Danny McBride) returns to his North Carolina home town after a disgraceful exit from baseball in Season One of the HBO hit show. If you liked their indie hit film The Foot Fist Way, show creators Ben Best, Jody Hill, and McBride (and executive producers Adam McKay and Will Ferrell) will charm the pants off of you, have Kenny Powers sign them, and sell your pants back to you on eBay for a cool thousand bucks. OK, maybe not really, but we’re just saying…that’s how Kenny Powers rolls. The extras included in Eastbound & Down‘s Complete First Season are plentiful and awesome, including audio commentaries with McBride, Hill, and David Gordon Green, behind-the-scenes features, a Kenny Powers demo reel, deleted scenes, outtakes, fake commercials for Ashley Schaeffer’s (Will Ferrell) car dealership, and more. (You can also follow Kenny Powers on Twitter!)
Next: The Asylum releases their mockbuster sequel, Transmorphers 2!
In what seems like sheer coincidental timing — what with the massive, historically significant box office performance of last week’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen –the good folks at The Asylum have released a sequel to their hit DVD film, Transmorphers! Transmorphers: The Fall of Man builds upon the mythos established in its predecessor by telling the prequel story of how alien-controlled robots (controlled by aliens who ARE robots!) came to Earth and took over in the first place. Sci-fi staple Bruce Boxleitner stars; watch the trailer here!
Until next week, happy renting!
Despite the arrival of rocking teens, Tyler Perry enjoyed a back-to-back stint at number one with the hit comedy Madea Goes to Jail which led a sluggish frame despite suffering a sizable sophomore drop. Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience debuted in second place while many holdovers posted small declines remaining popular with moviegoers once again. Overall the North American box office once again beat year-ago levels by a comfortable margin keeping the momentum going for 2009.
Last weekend’s top film Madea Goes to Jail tumbled 60% in its second weekend grossing an estimated $16.5M which was still good enough for the top spot. The drop was slightly more than the 58% fall that Madea’s Family Reunion (Tyler Perry’s previous best opener) suffered in its sophomore frame during the first weekend of March in 2006. After ten days of release, Jail has amassed a stellar $64.9M and has already become the popular filmmaker’s highest grossing movie ever edging out Reunion‘s $63.3M total gross. Lionsgate could see the final tally reach the neighborhood of $85-90M.
Disney opened its music pic Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience in second place with an estimated $12.7M. Playing in 1,271 3D theaters, the G-rated concert flick averaged a healthy $9,992 and was helped by higher $15 ticket prices that exhibitors were charging. The bow was not even close to the performance of last year’s Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus 3D concert film which opened with $31.1M from 683 locations for a scorching $45,561 average. Though launching in nearly half as many theaters, that film was helped by what was then scheduled as a one-week-only run which generated more excitement plus was based on a more popular brand from the Disney Channel arsenal.
Following its sweep of the Academy Awards last Sunday, Slumdog Millionaire enjoyed a 45% surge in business thanks to a wave of press attention and an additional 699 playdates. The Fox Searchlight hit grossed an estimated $12.2M putting it into third place, the highest chart position yet across its 16 weekends in theaters. That translated to a $4,128 average from 2,943 locations. Slumdog boosted its cume to a sensational $115.1M from North America alone.
Fox’s sleeper action hit Taken joined the century club over the weekend. The Liam Neeson thriller eased only 12% to an estimated $10M lifting the cume to $107.9M. Date flick He’s Just Not That Into You took in an estimated $5.9M for Warner Bros., down just 31%, with the sum thus far reaching an impressive $78.5M.
Sony’s runaway hit Paul Blart: Mall Cop took in an estimated $5.6M in its seventh weekend slipping a mere 18% and raising the amazing total to $128.1M. The stop-motion animated hit Coraline followed in fourth with an estimated $5.3M, down 54%, for a $61.1M total to date for Focus.
The videogame-inspired actioner Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li debuted in eighth place with an estimated $4.7M. Fox’s PG-13 release averaged a mild $4,093 from 1,136 locations and played to a young male audience.
Falling 33% was the chick flick Confessions of a Shopoholic with an estimated $4.5M giving Buena Vista $33.7M to date. Rounding out the top ten was the male cheerleader flick Fired Up! which collected an estimated $3.8M, down 31%, for a $10.1M total after ten days in multiplexes.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $81M over the weekend which was up 10% from last year when Semi-Pro opened in the top spot with $15.1M; but down 21% from 2007 when Wild Hogs debuted at number one with a stunning $39.7M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, BoxOfficeGuru.com
This week at the movies, we’ve got teenybop pop (Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience) and a video game adaptation (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, starring Kristin Kreuk and Michael Clarke Duncan). What do the critics have to say?
It’s unlikely that Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience will make anyone forget such classic concert films as Woodstock or Gimme Shelter. Heck, critics say it’s not even in the same league as Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert. In JBT3DE, the squeaky-clean siblings perform their sticky-sweet hits for a rapturous crowd of tweens, while occasionally paying homage to A Hard Day’s Night and offering some backstage banter. The pundits say the movie should please the brothers’ adoring followers, but non-acolytes will continue find the group’s appeal elusive, and the 3-D effects aren’t particularly innovative or exciting.
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li delves into the backstory of the title character, who vows to avenge the death of her father — presumably by utilizing a lot of flying spin kicks. (Personally, I’d like to see a brooding, introspective drama about the life and times of Blanka, but that’s just me.) The film wasn’t screened for critics prior to its release, so it’s time to put down those controllers and guess that Tomatometer!
Also opening this week in limited release:
Those $15 tickets that studio accountants love are back! This time they pair up with Disney’s Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience which will easily dominate the North American box office. The only question is how big is big? This G-rated extravaganza chronicling the group’s 2008 ‘Burning Up’ tour has been a major event film for teens and tweens for weeks now as hundreds of showtimes have already sold out thanks to aggressive online ticketing.
Of course, the film this can be compared to is last February’s Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus 3D concert film which bowed to $31.1M from only 683 locations for an astounding $45,561 average. With more 3D screens now installed into multiplexes nationwide, Jonas will benefit from a wider footprint which could deliver a larger gross but a smaller average. Ticket prices remain the same. And with a lean 76-minute running-time, exhibitors can easily offer up a show every two hours with many screens packing in eight showtimes per day. Disney’s grossing potential is massive this weekend.
With intense fan anticipation, a marketing push that has turned the volume up to 11, and high ticket prices, the Jonas Brothers pic is a major event film ready to rock the box office with one of the largest openings ever for the month of February. Crashing into 1,271 theaters, a weekend tally of around $40M could result.
The forces of good and evil collide in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li which brings audiences a new story inspired by the popular videogame. Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak (Romeo Must Die, Doom), the PG-13 film will be aimed primarily at young males not interested in pretty boys rocking on stage. Smallville‘s Kristin Kreuk stars as the title character and is joined by Michael Clarke Duncan, Chris Klein, and Neal McDonough. Fox is not giving Chun-Li a huge release opting instead for a more conservative opening in about 1,000 locations and a more modest marketing push. Direct competition is not too fierce, but the scaled back release will limit potential. A debut of about $5M could result.
Tyler Perry beat his old opening weekend record by 37% with Madea Goes to Jail but is set for a big fall in the second frame. With so much upfront demand being absorbed last weekend, the Lionsgate hit will play like a sequel and tumble. Madea’s Family Reunion dropped a sizable 58% in its second outing in 2006 while facing decent competition from new films. Jail should drop in a similar way and may decline by 55% to around $18.5M pushing the ten-day tally to a still-stunning $67M.
The Focus hit Coraline has been generating solid results for three weeks now dropping by small amounts each week. But young girls will be distracted by three allegedly attractive boys named Jonas so a larger drop may kick in this time. Look for it to forfeit some 3D screens too. A 35% dip would lead to a $7.5M weekend lifting the total to a stellar $63M. Fox’s Taken is ready to join the century club. A 40% drop could result putting the Liam Neeson actioner at $6.5M lifting the cume to $105M.
With eight big Oscar statues, the most for any film since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Slumdog Millionaire now enters yet another phase in its long and lucrative release. Fox Searchlight will increase the theater count once again and will jump from 2,244 to 2,942 runs. The added screens plus the wave of free publicity this week from its Academy Awards sweep will lead to the biggest weekend yet in the film’s nearly four-month run. Having smashed the $100M mark on Tuesday, Slumdog has been the number two movie in North America each weekday and the film will now reach a new audience of those who have been sitting on the sidelines waiting for the Academy to tell them if it really is worth all the fuss. The Danny Boyle pic could climb to about $12M this weekend and raise its domestic cume to an amazing $115M with more upside still ahead.
LAST YEAR: Will Ferrell suffered one of his lowest openings for a broad comedy in years with the basketball pic Semi-Pro which bowed to just $15.1M which was still enough to top the charts over a sluggish frame. The New Line release finished its season with only $33.5M. Sony’s action hit Vantage Point dropped down a spot to number two with $12.8M in its second effort and was followed by The Spiderwick Chronicles which grabbed $8.7M in its third weekend. Sony didn’t go too wide with The Other Boleyn Girl but saw a solid $8.2M debut and $7,035 average. A $26.8M final resulted. The Fox actioner Jumper rounded out the top five with $7.6M. New distrib on the block Summit opened its drama Penelope to just $3.8M in ninth place on its way to a $10M final.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com