'Press Start' for a good time at the movies

When the fate of the world is on the line, our greatest champions must go forth and save the day!

Except, ahem, what if they’ve already been captured?

Yeah ... that’s not good.

“Press Start 2 Continue” begins with spiky-coiffed warrior Zack Nimbus (Joshua Stafford) and gun-toting hottie Sam (Jennifer Zahn) in the clutches of the nefarious Mr. X, who I swear to you is not really the evil Count Nefarious Vile (Peter Davis) in disguise.

Really.

I mean it.

Count Vile was killed by the duo — as well as their partner, the ninja Lin-Ku (Al Morrison and the voice of Kevin Folliard) — in the original “Press Start,” wasn’t he? Evil sorcerers don’t just rise from the dead, do they?

OK, OK, I admit it. They do. In video games. And movies paying tribute to video games. Which just so happens to be what “Press Start 2 Continue” is all about.

C’mon. Don’t look at me like that. They put Count Vile’s picture really big on both sides of the case in this straight-to-DVD production by Dark Maze Studios. I’m not really spoiling anything.

Anyway, with the world in jeopardy from Vile’s dastardly machinations, the plucky Princess Xanna (Jenny Nelson, in a ridiculously clingy dress) and Lin-Ku must put aside their differences — she likes puppies and flowers; he likes decapitations and impalements — and save the day.

As if you couldn’t guess already, “Press Start 2 Continue” is a campy, hilariously cheesy send-up of — and love letter to — video games and the people who play them.

Produced locally on a shoe-string budget, it combines the best of B-movie conventions — monsters in cheap rubber masks, gaudily bad props and bare-bones settings, such as empty hallways and featureless warehouses — with stylish computer animation and a smart script.

As such, it’s better than pretty much every video game-based movie Hollywood has ever produced.

But don’t worry if you aren’t a gamer. It’s an entertaining movie regardless of everything else. And the actors obviously had so much fun making it that their palpable glee is positively infectious.

For instance, Stafford may seem a little dim-witted in his role as Zach, but he has great delivery with some of the movie’s funniest lines. And somehow he was pulling triple duty; he did some of the animation and was the sole fight choreographer — and there’s a lot of cheesy, chop-socky fighting to watch.

Davis chews up the scenery whenever he’s on camera, more gleefully malevolent than any “Power Rangers” villain.

And Nelson practically bounces her way through the movie, stealing every scene she’s in with a believable blend of innocence and mischievous bravado.

But if you are a gamer — or a follower of the “Press Start Adventures” web cartoon, which bridges the gap between the first movie and this one — you’ll groove on trying to keep up with the constant veiled — and not so veiled — references to titles old and new.

For instance, and I’ll spoil this right away, P.O.L.I.G.A.M.O.N. is an outright theft of the villain Andross from “Star Fox 64.” The camera angle in one scene briefly mimics the game “Punch-Out!” And references to the “Final Fantasy” series seem tucked away into every nook and cranny.

And then there’s the joys of “Jackamo,” a joyous spoof of Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh, two strategic card games that have made the transition to video games too — and annoyingly chipper cartoons.

Even the console war, between Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, is a factor here — and I wouldn’t be surprised if they hit a certain nail on the head with their stories about ancient Mesopotamian curses afflicting a certain high-tech device.

So if you’ve got any love for video games or locally made movies, be sure to at least check out the “Press Start 2 Continue” trailer at www.darkmaze.com/pressstart2 or — better yet — attend the first public screening of the movie at 7 p.m. April 8 at the New Art Film Festival, at Champaign’s Art Theater.

Images courtesy of Dark Maze Studios
First image: Zack Nimbus (Joshua Stafford), right, and Sam (Jennifer Zahn) play a game of Jackamo in ‘Press Start 2 Continue.’ The movie can be seen locally on April 8 at the Art Theater in downtown Champaign.
Second image: Princess Xanna (Jenny Nelson) and the ninja Lin-Ku (Al Morrison) in ‘Press Start 2 Continue.’

 

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