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Instead of answering a reader question this week, I'll answer one that I asked myself, and also ask you. Questions: they can be fun to ask, and also to answer.
After watching Pixels on Friday (and thinking it was pretty awful), I thought it'd be fun this week to share our favorite video game related movies. These aren't movies based directly on specific games, rather films inspired by video games—but if you want to share the former in the comments, go for it (and I will defend that stupid Max Payne movie if I have to).
Before making my picks, I also bugged Twitter for some of theirs. More than one person threw Scott Pilgrim at me, 2009's Gamer came up, and Jenn Frank dropped me an old list of mostly-bad horror movies I figure would make for an excellent Sunday night. But here are three (good) films I recommend, to get us started.
eXistenZ is a much easier Cronenberg entry-point than (the better) Videodrome: a more conventional movie, with Jude Law as the audience surrogate, but still weird and sometimes uncomfortable. It's that ol' 'how do you know what's real' virtual reality story, told with a surreal practical-effects nightmare, which includes one perfectly bizarre and dreamlike scene involving a Chinese restaurant and a special dish. It's one of my favorite scenes in any film (so try not to let the two stars on Netflix hold you back).
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Tom Cruise plays a reluctant soldier with an unexpected gift: if he dies, time resets, and he can redo everything up to the point he died while retaining everything he's learned. He gets stuck in this loop on the verge of a major battle (against aliens!) and the situation is clear: it's as if he's playing a real-life video game, returning to the same checkpoint after every failure. It's a livestream of someone struggling with Dark Souls.
I was surprised by how fun this movie was (I don't usually find 'Tom Cruise sci-fi war thing' to be very enticing), but I'm glad I finally watched it. The marketing didn't do it any favors, and they've taken to calling it "Live Die Repeat" these days. It's not on Netflix, but you can buy it via Amazon Instant Video.
Computers! The great menace. Are they tools for good, or for kids to hack into their schools to change their grades? Or worse, hack into a NORAD supercomputer to play global thermonuclear warfare with a rogue AI and start World War 3? It could happen!
WarGames holds up. It's entertaining and tense (Matthew Broderick is the best smartass '80s kid), and it remains a healthy, if dated, computer security warning and comment on the abstraction of nuclear warfare and its ultimate futility. The only winning move is not to play. Side note: WarGames helped inspire one of my favorite games, Introversion Software's DEFCON.