Category Archives: Gaming

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The Roundup: August 20

My top flips into my Flipboard magazines this week, whether the articles are new or old. Read more of my magazines at my Flipboard profile.

Current Film

You Can Do Anything: Must Every Kids’ Movie Reinforce the Cult of Self-Esteem? by Luke Epplin at The Atlantic

I find the fact that so many kids movies have a super-obvious and condescending message irritating in the first place, but that so many have the same message with no counterpoint is really getting old. It’s one thing to encourage kids to dream, but another to set unrealistic expectations without helping them learn contentment.

In addition to disparaging routine labor, these films discount the hard work that enables individuals to reach the top of their professions. Turbo and Dusty don’t need to hone their craft for years in minor-league circuits like their racing peers presumably did. It’s enough for them simply to show up with no experience at the world’s most competitive races, dig deep within themselves, and out-believe their opponents. They are, in many ways, the perfect role models for a generation weaned on instant gratification.

Why Kick-Ass 2 Creator Mark Millar’s Rape Comments Have So Many People Angry by Kristy Puchko at Cinemablend

Response to the Mark Millar story I included in last week’s roundup.

Secondly, rape and decapitation are not the same. Both are horrible acts of violence, sure. But the latter is not one that causes people to ask, “Well, what was she wearing when she got decapitated?” There’s no victim blaming inherent in decapitation, but more to the point decapitation is not a thing that people fear in their day-to-day life the way that many women fear rape.

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The Roundup: August 12

At long last and much frantic feedreading in an attempt to get something near caught up, I’m going to attempt to bring back The Roundup of favorite posts and articles. I’m doing it a bit differently, though – this post won’t be quite as comprehensive as it used to be, because I’m now using Flipboard to curate my favorite links throughout the week. What’s Flipboard? I’m glad you asked. It’s a lovely magazine-style newsreader, originally for iPad but now multiplatform, that also allows users to create and curate their own magazines on any topic they want. So I’ve created magazines about current film, classic film, television, gaming, etc., which can all be read through the app or via a browser at my Flipboard profile. What I post here each week will be my favorite flips of the past week, but if you like my taste in reading, you can find many more good reads by flipping through the full magazines.

Since it’s been a while and I literally just caught up on about a month of posts over the past several days, not all of these will be from the past week, and there are more of them than there likely will be in the future. People kept writing more good stuff while I was working on this post.

Current Film

Stop Blaming Jaws! by Heather Havrilesky of the New York Times

Couldn’t agree more with this – Jaws has great characters and pacing that lets you breathe and build up dread, rather than simply escalating action to the point of exhaustion. See following article with Lindelof interview for comparison.

“As a business model, Jaws may well have upended the movie industry. Creatively, though, it’s increasingly strange to blame Jaws for spawning the modern blockbuster, given how little Steven Spielberg’s esoteric, character-driven story has in common with today’s action extravaganzas. Compared with movies like Pacific Rim, World War Z and White House Down, Jaws is an art-house film. And a very good one: the film built suspense by focusing on what you couldn’t see more than on what you could. The young swimmer, up to her shoulders in murky water. A boy’s dangling legs, viewed from under the water. A swaying fishing boat, creaking eerily in the darkness.”

Damon Lindelof on Blockbuster Screenwriting by Scott Brown of Vulture Magazine

It’s somewhat disingenuous coming from Lindelof, since he’s the crafter of many of Hollywood’s current blockbusters (including Star Trek: Into Darkness, which falls prey to the very escalation he mentions in the paragraph before the one I pulled), but it’s an interesting insight into the Hollywood mindset.

But Hollywood’s gigantism, Lindelof points out, is practically algorithmic—and the effect tendrils all the way down to the storytelling level. When ever-larger sums are spent to make and market ever-fewer, ever-bigger movies, and those movies are aimed at Imax screens, then world-­shattering comic-book I.P. and gigantic special effects are expected, with larger-than-life characters wielding those effects. No one necessarily asks for it; it just kind of happens. It’s what Lindelof calls Story Gravity, and dealing with it—whether that means resisting it or simply surfing it skillfully—is the great challenge of writing this new breed of tentpole blockbuster. The question used to be: How do we top ourselves? The new one seems to be: How do we stop ourselves?

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On Row Three: Skyrim, Horror, Remakes and More(Pop)

I haven’t been keeping up very well the past couple of months at mentioning what I’m posting over on Row Three (aside from the crossposting of the DVD Triage and Film on TV posts, which are always posts here and there at the same time), so there’s a good chunk of them here, some of them a wee bit out of date. Sorry about that. But just in case you missed any of these posts over there, here’s some of what I’m been yapping about.

This is a film I saw at Cinefamily back in August almost by accident – it was a Wednesday night so I was volunteering, but they were showing this as part of a Cinespia-co-sponsored series of trippy films instead of their usual Wednesday night silents (in fact, I think the Wednesday night silents may be pretty much dead at this point, except for the monthly Silent Treatment series). I was a bit put out by there not being a silent, and I was planning to leave as soon as the movie started and my volunteering duties were over, but I found out it was directed by Milos Forman, and I’ve liked his other films, so I decided to check it out. So very glad I did, because I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. I’ve been meaning to post this particular scene, of a young hippie showing a bunch of parents how to smoke marijuana.

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim since I finished playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion back in, like, 2007. In other words, several years before Skyrim was even announced, I was dying to play this game. And so far, it’s pretty much everything I’d hoped it would be – almost exactly like Oblivion but with a few refinements (many of them pulled from Bethesda’s other major current-gen game, Fallout 3). I’ve been too busy with life to get much further in the game than I when I wrote this, but I’m no less eager to get home every night and try to spend a few hours in Skyrim.

Near the end of October, Cinefamily had a live band called Nilbog (presumably after the town in Troll 2) come in and perform their covers of classic horror scores, from John Carpenter to Bernard Herrmann to John Williams to Goblin, and after hearing them perform the music from Suspiria, I couldn’t get it out of my head and had to write this post about it. Mostly just an intro to the clip, though, which contains the first several minutes of Suspiria and already indicates just how important the Goblin score is to the feel of the film, and to the sound design of it in general.

I read this novel on Kurt’s suggestion, in a chat thread on Row Three about sci-fi novels. I had mentioned really enjoying Neal Stephenson’s Anathem and explained a bit about the plot, which involves a monastic order based on science rather than religion, but still incorporating a lot of elements from church history that I recognized and found fascinating. Kurt said I had to read A Canticle for Liebowitz stat, and he was totally right – this 1959 novel postulates a post-apocalyptic world in which a monastic order is the only thing saving the scientific writings of the twentieth century, and following it through the next several hundred years as the world rebuilds. Fascinating stuff for both sci-fi and history fans.

It’s easy to rail against remakes and despair that Hollywood never has any new ideas, but remakes have been around as long as movies have, and not all of them are bad! Here’s fifteen that are, in fact, not bad at all. They may not all be better than the originals, but I think they all deserve to be seen on their own terms, and they come from throughout Hollywood (and indeed, world cinema) history.

Rewatching Jaws recently reminded me how much I enjoy the quiet moments, the character-driven parts in between the shark attacks. Spielberg is so great on timing in his movies, but also at giving us something to care about and chew on besides the thrills and scares themselves. This scene with the three disparate shark-hunters in the boat drawn together (and to some degree, separated) by their scars is a perfect example of the vibe that Spielberg, Benchley, and the actors create so perfectly, making Jaws far more memorable than most creature features.

This evocative short played at Cinefamily before a Silent Treatment feature several weeks ago, and I was transfixed by it. It’s a very unique kind of animation that uses a box of thousands of pins that you can push in and out to create shapes when a light is shone on it from the side. I can’t imagine how difficult and time consuming creating this must’ve been, but it’s bizarre and gorgeous and creepy.

I told you some of these were really old – obviously we’re back at the beginning of October now, with a list of classic horror films that are light on gore, but heavy on atmospheric creepiness. I love horror films like this, and even though October is done for this year, it’s never too early to plan for next year!

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On Row Three: Milla, Hitch, and Aperture Science

It’s been a busy week or so over at Row Three. We’re trying to get some weekly columns in place, including three I posted in over the past ten days. Rank ‘Em does just what it says, takes an actor or director and ranks them in order of the author’s preference. It often ends up in some surprises, like when I did Milla Jovovich last week and put the much-loved Dazed and Confused almost at the bottom of my list. What can I say, I don’t care for it very much. I ended up with twelve Milla films altogether that I’d seen, including all the Resident Evil films as well as tonier fare like The Claim and Stone.

The Finite Focus series highlights a particular scene, including a clip of it if at all possible and discussing it, sometimes with quite in-depth analysis, other times just to gush about how much we love it. This series has been in place sporadically since long before I joined Row Three, and it’s always one I love. Hopefully setting it every week will encourage me to write more things for it. Goodness knows I have enough scenes I love! This week I chose to do one that’s been on my mind for quite a while – the brief but powerful dinner scene in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, when Joseph Cotten reveals his true inhumanity.

And we’re finally calling the demise of our sister site MorePop, which hasn’t really been active for several months/years, even. But, phoenix-like, MorePop arises as a column on the Row Three main site, where we can talk about pop culture things NOT film-related. The first of those went live this week, as I talk about Portal 2, the game that has eaten my life for the past three weeks. Hopefully lots more awesome stuff to come from all of us in these columns, and that’s not even all we have in store!

BioShock-Infinite

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.