BioShock Infinite Teasers

The first BioShock game was a revelation of art design and blending philosophical complexity into a game story, and a great gameplay experience as well; I managed to miss BioShock 2 somehow (I think I was super-broke when it came out), but BioShock Infinite is gearing up to be pretty interesting itself. I’m going to have to go back and rent BioShock 2 before it comes out so I can be all caught up – though I’m not sure how much they interrelate. This is clearly a new location and a new main character. Instead of being set in the dark and grim under-sea world of Rapture, we’re in a bright and sunny floating city called Columbia, a sort of moveable World’s Fair. But there’s still a politically-charged story going on, as two factions in the city battle each other, one apparently oligarchic, the other popular, but both singleminded and destructive.

Here are a bunch of the trailers and featurettes released so far. The first teaser from nearly a year ago sets up a dark underwater world like what we’re used to from the previous games, with the first-person main character getting beaten up, but then he’s thrown out a window and it’s immediately obvious we’re not at all in the same world as the first two games. There are tall buildings and zeppelins everywhere, and a strange girl who can seemingly control the elements to keep you from falling. Intrigued? I am.

The next clip was run at E3 this year and focuses on the use of the skyline transportation system for getting around, and provides a carnival-esque feel to the world. I like the design, but I’m not wholly convinced by the skyline, which seems like it just puts a bunch of the game on rails. I could be wrong, though, since it seems everyone at E3 was batshit in love with this trailer, and everyone at E3 was also upset at all the Kinect games because they put action on rails. How is this different? I guess because you can jump off and travel other ways if you want, or fall off and have to grab another rail? It certainly looks way more kinetic (no pun intended) than the Kinect games, and way more fun, but the concept still has me a little wary.

More on the skyline system from the lead developer. I like the backstory, but I’m still not wholly convinced about how they’ll play.

This, on the other hand, was the thing that pushed me over the edge from “I’m not totally convinced about the game in general” to “HELL YEAH.” I admit, I’m a sucker for pop entertainment pulling in esoteric philosophical and scientific elements, and sounds like they’ve done exactly that, and with my current favorite element, the idea of multiple worlds. The girl in the first teaser can manipulate the world because she’s actually tapping into other worlds that are slightly different than ours, effecting a crossover effect that helps you. I think that is awesome. And however the skyline system works out, I think the game will be fun and thought-provoking as well, which is what I want from games.

50DMC #2: First Movie in Theatres

The 50 Day Movie Challenge asks one question every day, to be answered by a few paragraphs and a clip, if possible. Click here for the full list of questions.

Today’s prompt: What was the first movie you saw in theatres?

We didn’t go out to theatres a lot when I was growing up; we mostly stayed home and watched old movies, for which I am now very grateful. I don’t remember missing it at the time or anything, either. I’m not sure which re-release it was, but the first thing I remember seeing in theatres was a re-release of Disney’s Pinocchio that my older cousin took me to see when he was in town. So, yeah, it was still an old movie. :) I’m pretty sure my first new release movie in theatres was Hot to Trot, which I thought was vastly inferior to Mr. Ed, as talking horses go. But back to Pinocchio.

Not sure I can remember much about it from that particular viewing, though I have, of course, seen it since then. I am pretty sure I have memories of the kids getting turned into donkeys, and that I found that much more terrifying than the giant whale. Rewatching it now, I can see why. I also remember seeing at a young age some show where people got turned into dinosaurs, and an SNL sketch where people got turned into giants. And I do remember going through a phase of being afraid that I was going to turn into something other than what I was. Huh. I never connected that before (though I really remember my fear being far more based on those other two shows than on Pinocchio).

Links I Like: June 29, 2011

I had meant to do this feature every week or so, but with film festivals and other commitments, I haven’t had very much time to read other sites or gather good links. That being the case, some of these are several weeks old and you may have already read them. But in case you haven’t, I still think they’re worth taking a look at.

The Cultural Vegetables Debate – Dan Kois, A.O. Scott, Manohla Dargis, Jim Emerson, Glenn Kenny, AND MORE

It all started with this article in the New York Times Magazine, when Dan Kois admitted that he has a tough time watching certain critically-acclaimed movies (especially slow-moving ones like Solaris or Meek’s Cutoff) and terming them “cultural vegetables.” Fellow NYT critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis responded with “In Defense of the Slow and Boring”, arguing that slow and boring isn’t necessarily bad, and what’s more, often mainstream films like The Hangover Part II are far more boring than arthouse slow cinema like Meek’s Cutoff. Soon, other critics and bloggers put in their two cents as well, including Glenn Kenny, Jim Emerson, Richard Brody, Matt Singer, Bilge Elibri, Vadim Rizov, etc. Andrew O’Hehir’s article in Salon may summarize things the best. Then Kois, Scott, and Dargis all got together for a follow-up article. And now Glenn Kenny is tired of the whole thing. In a way, it’s gotten blown out of proportion from Kois’s original personal and sincere article, but the various points brought up by various authors are all very interesting and enlightening, to one degree or another, in a culture where both critics and laypeople can feel marginalized by the other.

Comment on “No Comment” – Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at Mubi

The last frame of Jean-Luc Godard’s lastest film is the text “No Comment,” which many have interpreted as Godard’s sort-of playful, sort-of standoffish way of deflecting criticism, a way of tossing a bunch of seemingly nonsensical images up on screen for 90 minutes and then refusing to respond to questions or criticisms of them. Vishnevetsky argues that instead, Godard is declining authorial control, inviting the audience to participate in making meaning of his film. In short, it’s not a dismissal, but a deferral, and rather than being standoffish and closed, the ending slide is open and welcoming. This fits with how I see Godard’s early films, as well as his tendency to make films about the death of cinema as well as the death of language.

10 Best Michelle Williams Performances – Kevyn Knox at Anomalous Material

I see I’m not alone in my belief that Michelle Williams is possibly the best Hollywood actress of our generation, and Kevyn Knox has gathered together a slew of performances that prove it. I’m ashamed to admit that I have only seen a handful of these – looks like I’ve got a lot more Williams to discover, which is a wonderful thing.

Academics vs. Critics: Never the Twain Shall Meet? – David Bordwell in Film Comment

Bordwell outlines the somewhat tense relationship between what he terms “cinephile critics” and academics – the difference between someone like Andrew Sarris, who popularized the auteur theory in the United States and had a deep understanding of film history and art that showed through his weekly reviews and columns at the Village Voice (and later the New York Observer), and someone like Christian Metz, who used linguistic theory to probe how audiences process visual narratives. It’s a line that I’ve struggled to understand myself, as I have just enough academic in me to want to sometimes use esoteric theory or historical minutiae when thinking about film, but I also identify strongly with the Sarris-style cinephile critic. Bordwell actually argues that the twain can and should meet, noting the different purposes each type of criticism is for and how the two can be complementary.

Blu-ray Consumer Guide, June 2011 – Glenn Kenny at Some Came Running

Kenny runs through an amazingly long list of Blu-ray releases, with a paragraph on each talking a little bit about the film and whether it’s worthwhile, but mostly about this particular blu-ray release and what it does or does not bring to the table. It’s a daunting post even to read; I pale at the amount of work (both writing and viewing all the discs) that must’ve gone into it, but the recommendations or warnings are very welcome. Discs discussed include: A.I., All the President’s Men, early Antonioni, The Black Pirate, Blow Out, The Comancheros, Diabolique, Great Dictator, Kes, Lolita, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Pale Flower, Senso, Some Like It Hot, El Topo, Topsy Turvy, and a lot more. A lot of Criterions, but that’s fine with me!

Kiss Me Deadly: The Thriller of Tomorrow – J. Hoberman at Criterion Current

Kiss Me Deadly just came out on Criterion DVD and Blu-ray, and J. Hoberman looks at the film in its historical context – especially the way it uses and modifies Mickey Spillane’s basically amoral “hero” Mike Hammer as a comment on modern society, and the relationship the film and its director Robert Aldrich had with the McCarthyism running rampant at the time of its release. The film is a great one on a straight crime noir level; I’m looking forward to rewatching with more of a historical context in mind.

“It’s Just a Bit of Fun”: Why Defensive Fans Are Bad News for Movies – Helen O’Hara at Empire Online

Whenver a Hollywood blockbuster comes out and film critics lambast it, there’s always a chorus of “but it’s just supposed to be fun, stop bashing it” from commenters and fans of Hollywood blockbusters. The latest round is in relation to Transformers: The Dark of the Moon, and Empire Online put up this piece in response to the comments they’ve been receiving on their review of the film. O’Hara makes a lot of great points, and so do several of the commenters on this post, about critics responding to blockbusters, and how it’s okay to want more from blockbusters – not necessarily that they be Citizen Kane, that would be silly, but that they aspire to the greatness of blockbusters like Back to the Future or The Terminator, which had good scripts, storytelling, and acting, and were also a whole lot of fun. As O’Hara puts it, why wouldn’t you want “a film that has giant robots but is also a good film?” (her emphasis) Amen.

Initial Reaction: The Tree of Life – Kevin J. Olsen at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies

Although Kevin put up a full review a few days after this initial post, I love this stream-of-consciousness approach to Tree of Life. The film itself follows an associative logic rather than a linear narrative logic, and as Kevin points out, it’s difficult to talk about such an unconventional film in a conventional writing style. I think this bulleted list of things the film made him think about and associations it drove him to make is possibly the best way to talk about Tree of Life.

Misreading the Tomatometer – Jim Emerson at scanners::blog

It’s something I’ve said time and time again, but Emerson explains quite well how the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer works – that 75% Fresh means 75% of critics gave it a positive review (that is, somewhere between 5 and 10 on a ten point ranking scale), not that all critics gave it a 7.5 out of 10. You could theoretically have a movie that’s 100% Fresh because every critic gave it a 6 out of 10 – that’s an extreme and unlikely example, but the system is highly imprecise. He also goes into the difficulties of assigning a positive/negative score to mixed reviews that don’t use a star or numeral ranking system. There are good ways to use Rotten Tomatoes (like as a portal to actually read a bunch of reviews), and the Tomatometer score isn’t always a bad indicator of general critical climate, but it needs to be understood properly to be very useful.

DVD Triage: Week of June 28

New Release Picks of the Week

Barney’s Version
I missed this one in theaters, but I’m always up for both Paul Giamatti and Rosamund Pike, so both together? Sure! Based on Andrew’s Cinecast review and Marina’s DVD review, sounds like it’s certainly worth a look. RENT
2011 Canada, dir Richard J. Lewis, stars Paul Giamatti, Rosamund Pike.
Amazon DVD/Blu-ray Combo | Netflix

Sucker Punch
I know, I know, this is terrible. I avoided it in theaters, even though I had been anticipating it as a guilty pleasure, but I still want to see it. So I’ll rent the blu-ray, grab some beer, and ascertain the level of suck in Sucker Punch for myself. RENT
2011 USA. Director: Zach Snyder. Starring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish.
Amazon DVD | Amazon Blu-ray | Netflix (7/26)

Christopher and His Kind (2010 UK, dir Geoffrey Sax, stars Matt Smith, Imogen Poots; Netflix)
The Warrior’s Way (2010 USA, dir Sngmoo Lee, stars Dong-Gun Jang, Kate Bosworth; Blu-ray/Netflix)
Max Manus (2008 Norway, dir Joachim Rønning, Epsen Sandberg, stars Aksel Hennie; Blu-ray/Netflix)
Rammbock: Berlin Undead (2010 Germany, dir Marvin Kren, stars Michael Fuith, Theo Trebs; Netflix)
Season of the Witch (2011 USA, dir Dominic Sena, stars Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman; Blu-ray/Netflix)
Beastly (2011 USA, dir Daniel Barnz, stars Vanessa Hudgens, Alex Pettyfer; Blu-ray/Netflix)
Beneath Hill 60 (2010 USA, dir Jeremy Sims, stars Brendan Cowell, Gyton Grantley; Netflix)
Bloodworth (2010 USA, dir Shane Dax Taylor, stars Kris Kristofferson, Dwight Yoakam; Netflix)

Classic Picks of the Week

Zazie dans le metro: Criterion Collection
I have been waiting a long time to see this, as it hasn’t been on DVD in the US ever, much less a Criterion-quality release. It looks like just the kind of whimsical New Wave film I love. BUY
1960 France. Director: Louis Malle. Starring: Catherine Demongeot, Philippe Noiret.
Amazon DVD | Amazon Blu-ray | Netflix

Black Moon: Criterion Collection
This rare Malle film I have actually seen, and it is a weird one. A girl escapes a war torn landscape, only to wander onto a bizarre estate with strange people and creatures. It’s a bit like Alice in Wonderland, but…WAY more out there. Not one I’d want to see again, maybe, but for cult art film fans, a must. RENT
1975 France. Director: Louis Malle. Starring: Cathryn Harrison, Therese Giehse.
Amazon DVD | Amazon Blu-ray | Netflix

People on Sunday: Criterion Collection
A late Weimar silent co-directed by two German directors who would later become great film noir directors in the United States? Sign me up based on that alone. RENT
1930 Germany. Director: Robert Siodmak/Edgar G. Ulmer. Starring: Erwin Splettstober, Brigitte Borchert.
Amazon DVD | Amazon Blu-ray

New Mates of State Video!

Although I loved Mates of State’s cover album Crushes, it’s really great to hear them doing more original stuff, and so soon! Their next album will be called Mountaintops, and will drop on September 13th from Barsuk. They’ve also got a tour lining up for September/October (with a couple of earlier one-off dates), though not out my direction yet. If you’re in the east, midwest, or south, though, definitely look them up when they come through your town. They put on a great live show.

To tide us over, they’ve released a performance-based music video for “Maracas” off the new album. It’s very poppy and synthy, as they are wont to be, but sounds like they’re continuing some of the trajectory of Crushes, allowing the vocals to be a little sweeter and mellower, showcasing Kori’s lovely voice.

Tour Dates
7/9 – Rochester, Minn. @ St. John’s Block Party
8/5 – Southampton, N.Y. @ Escape to New York
9/21 – Washington, D.C. @ 930 Club ^ /
9/22 – Cincinnati, Ohio @ Mid Point Music Festival
9/23 – Pittsburgh, Pa. @ Mr. Smalls ^ /
9/24 – Philadelphia, Pa. @ Popped Festival ^ /
9/26 – Boston, Mass. @ Royale ^ /
9/27 – Montreal, Quebec @ Il Motore ^ /
9/28 – Toronto, Ontario @ Phoenix ^ /
9/29 – Detroit, Mich. @ St. Andrews ^ /
9/30 – Chicago, Ill. @ Metro ^ /
10/1 – Columbus, Ohio @ Newport Music Hall % /
10/3 – Asheville, N.C. @ The Orange Peel % /
10/4 – Nashville, Tenn. @ Exit/In % /
10/5 – Charlotte, N.C. @ Visulite Theatre % /
10/6 – Atlanta, Ga. @ Drunken Unicorn % /
10/7 – Orlando, Fla. @ The Social % /
10/8 – Sunrise, Fla. @ Langerado Festival % /
10/10 – Richmond, Va. @ Canal Club % /
10/11 – Baltimore, Md. @ Ottobar % /
10/12 – New York, N.Y. @ Webster Hall %
10/28 – New Orleans, La. @ Voodoo Experience

^ with Suckers
/ with Yawn
% with Other Lives

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