Tuesday, November 30, 2010
When I reached the end of Red Dead Redemption earlier this year, three things happened.
A. I cried like a baby. Like a tiny tiny baby who was really really hungry. If you played for 48 hours, then reached the part I'm talking about, you would have cried like a tiny hungry baby too.
B. I decided that no other video game of 2010 could possibly come close in gameplay, involvement, emotional attachment, storytelling, mechanics, gorgeousness etc etc
C. I realized it's biggest competition would be a game I simply didn't have the time to play right then - Mass Effect 2. I realized I either had to play ME2 to understand why it would win or just hope everyone loves Red Dead as much as I do.
Well, G4 has begun this "Video Game Battle" and when I clicked on the link today, you guessed it, Red Dead Redemption was up against Mass Effect fucking 2. And what's winning? Yeah. Not Red Dead.
Here's the thing. Granted, I haven't played ME2 and I hear it is this great, immersive RPG and Tom Bissell argues brilliantly in Extra Lives that the first Mass Effect game is a perfect example of how video games are indeed art, and that's all great, but I think had Red Dead come out while Bissell was still writing Extra Lives, it would be cited as being of the same caliber. Seriously. Red Dead proved to me that as wonderful as movies are, as involving as television is, there are some things ONLY a video game can do. Bioshock played with this notion during its infamous twist and Red Dead really brings it home. Its ending is not only brilliant, fascinating, a wonderful use of video games to tell a story effectively, but it's heart wrenching. HEART WRENCHING. It's I need five minutes to go cry in the bathroom effective, you guys. For weeks my dad would ask me "Have you gotten there yet?" and I would respond "Shhh, no! I'm going for 100% and don't want to know that there is any 'thing' to get to!" He kept telling me "Trust me, you don't know what's coming." And I didn't. It was nothing I could guess. I was advised to look it up by people on Twitter, to be prepared, but I didn't and I wasn't and I sobbed my face off. Face. Off.
So a. If you argue that video games aren't art, you're wrong, b. If you haven't played Red Dead Redemption, play it c. If you own ME2, let me borrow it and d. BE A GOOD PERSON AND VOTE FOR RED DEAD REDEMPTION RIGHT HERE CLICK HERE NOW. Oh and E. I'm playing the shit out of Fable 3, but it doesn't come close to Red Dead. Let's not pretend it does. See full post
Monday, November 29, 2010
This scene, from the penultimate episode of Walking Dead's first season, had two in my viewing party of five in face-hurting, chest-heaving tears. Best zombie awakening ever. If you haven't seen this episode, drop everything and go catch up.
See full post
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Watch the video below and see how many you can name off the top of your head. I could sadly only name 40. And how many have I seen? List after the clip.
Movie's I've seen = Red, Bold
Movies I didn't know were Disney = Bold
40. The Emperor's New Groove
41. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
42. Lilo & Stich
45. Home on the Range
46. Chicken Little
So there ya have it! I've seen 40/50. 41 as soon as I see Tangled. Lilo & Sitch and Emperor's New Groove can be on my list, but those nebulous wait these are Disney animated movies?! ones? Not so much. Sorry, Brother Bear. Maybe when I have kids, we'll go in order and I'll check you out then.
So how did you stack up? See full post
Friday, November 19, 2010
Spoilers spoilers blah blah blah.
Watching the Lincoln Square IMAX fill up that rapidly at 3:30 in the morning was a little startling, but not as startling as how much I loved Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part one!). Anyone who will listen probably knows of my general disdain bordering on loathing for the film adaptation of Prisoner of Azkaban, and on paper, it's for many of the same tactics and decision Yates employed for Deathy Hallows. The results, however, are drastically different.
Some personal framework, here: I think Order of the Phoenix was the last good Harry Potter book. I found Half-Blood Prince to be draggy and largely uninteresting, stifling with the teenage love plots and what felt, for the first time, like a really tedious school year at Hogwarts. The Deathly Hallows I found to be an immense disappointment, from the endless camping trip of doom to the MacGuffins upon MacGuffins, a rankling line of artifacts and characters who had never so much as been foreshadowed suddenly becoming integral to the plot and progression of the story. It felt cheap and unwieldy to me, and the epilogue was just insult to injury. I walked away from the franchise feeling very let down.
However, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet and Fire, and Order of the Pheonix would always be there. The trio at their sharpest, the glimpses of a wizarding world past at their most tantalizing. So it was all right. Damned if I didn't loathe the third movie though, and this is because I felt style ran rough-shod over story. Curaon made a decision to completely excise the pieces of that book that a) made pieces of the story as a seven-book-whole make sense and b) created an emotional bridge between the past and both Harry and the audience. I was horrifically angry that at the end of the movie. If you hadn't read the books, you walked away without knowing who Moony, Padfoot and Prongs were. It was not difficult to find a place to divulge that information. There were opportunities aplenty. They were all exchanged for Lupin waxing loquacious about Lily's virtues; the boys eating candy that caused them to make animal noises; yet another 'this is where we do a sweeping virtual shot of the school grounds using a magical creature's POV' sequence. By shaving seconds off of the plethora of atmosphere/world-building shots devoid of story, they could have easily inserted one to three minutes of Lupin having ANY OF THE CONVERSATIONS FROM THE BOOK with Harry. Hell, ROLL THEM ALL INTO ONE. And then we would know who the Marauders were and why they mattered, and why Harry's patronus is a stag. Harry doesn't even know why his patronus is a stag. This willful dismissal of easily-addressed details drives me crazy because of the far-reaching effects of their exclusion.
Cuaron "stream lined" it into a "coming of age" story. Well, the entire series is a coming of age story, so how much streamlining did we need to do? The worst part is, the things left out of the third movie can never be revisited, because the books get bigger and more complex. There's no room for that information. What a terrible waste.
So Deathly Hallows comes along. The decision to make it into two films was clearly the correct one, not just from the point of view of We'll All Be Rich Forever, but from a storytelling one. Brava. Now even cleaving the story in twain, we are left with an absolutely ridiculous amount of information to put on screen, largely because the books are not only tying up all the loose ends of the cast of thousands Rowling has given us, but because she introduces a whole new thousand-member-strong cast. It's like 42nd Street with magic, it's insane. Then the director is saddled with giving the extent characters their due and screentime, which is difficult enough in, say, Goblet of Fire. Yet Yates manages, despite having to streamline the hell out of what was a sprawling, often tedious and not infrequently convoluted story.
So far, I much prefer Deathly Hallows the movie to Deathly Hallows the book. The feeling of a world on the edge, of a constant rippling danger, unease and melancholy is palpable. The magic is beautiful. The locations are believable. The people are idiosyncratic and interesting and the characters are so full and easy to connect to- and almost no vital details are sacrificed. I can't even think of one off-hand. What I'm saying is, this movie has atmosphere out the ass and yet still tells the damn story, considerably more expeditiously than the novel. Everything that annoyed me about the book is gone, and everything I enjoyed has been succinctly and stylishly committed to screen. And the scenes he added in serve a purpose! The Harry-Hermione dance sequence shows us how desperate their spirits are, how close they are to each other, that their love is platonic and that at the end, things aren't right without their third. Unlike all the conversations with Lupin in PoA which were filled with banal advice and no real information or foreshadowing and didn't further the story, the totally new content in Deathly Hallows 2.0 does all of these things. Brava, Yates.
The director has stated that he wants the second half of the story to have a very different feel and a return to the fantasy adventure of the earlier ones, which is of course the perfect way for the movies to end. All I can really hope for is a Gellert/Albus makeout scene, since JK dropped that bomb on us. That awesome gaytastic bomb. Don't let me down, Yates. You haven't, yet. See full post
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
If there’s one statement that perfectly sums up my love-hate relationship with Fable III it’s: Peter Molyneux needs to shut the fuck up.
Extreme? Perhaps a tad. But so are Molyneux’s claims about what Fable III achieves in comparison to what the end result was. Contrary to what he’d have you believe, Fable III is not the be-all, end-all in RPG morality-sims — as if that were a genre to begin with, but hey, we have KotOR 1 and 2, don’t we? In fact, it’s a travesty of lost opportunities, redundancies, and tedium. Part of me would like to imagine an awkward silence in a bar as the graphics team and gameplay team warily eye each other, someone very quietly reaching towards a bottle of beer to slam against a nearby stool. Point being: this game is too pretty for what it is.
Fable III is gorgeous in comparison to Fable II, and Theresa knows the load times are a lot better, but the actually gameplay is some of the most repetitive gameplay to have existed. And I say this as someone who happily played one-fourth of a Pokemon game last year and liked it. Battles are easily won — shoot, shoot, shoot, spell, spell, hit — with the same enemies to defeat over and over again. No, seriously, I’d like another wolf, balverine — are you fucking kidding me, LionHead? — and tiny little hobbe with steampunk jetpacks to shoot at, please. The last 1,200 simply weren’t enough. As for the relationships, well, the sex is certainly more entertaining but getting laid and even just becoming friends seems to take forever with everyone and their mother asking for you to deliver, fetch, or find something for them. As this point, I’m the fucking queen and some asshole maid in the castle is asking me to deliver a letter for her if I’m to get into her pants. Honestly? First edict should have been to found some sort of national postal service. Fuuuuck meeee.
If you can get past all of that, which is um, 80 percent of the game, you are treated to interesting little sidequest diversions every so often. The problem is that Fable III seems to be a game in love with its own writing. Tired of what that tertiary character, who isn’t even important, has to say? Well, fuck you, he has two more minutes of lines. Nowhere is this more apparent than the meta D&D/RPG mocking sidequest in which magicians criticize the decision to make you talk to every NPC within their game within the game — and yet you still are stuck talking to cardboard cutouts for uncomfortably long durations. It’s not that the writing is bad — it’s actually quite good, quite sharp, and very well-acted — but I didn’t buy Fable III to listen to a book on tape or watch a movie; I bought it so that I could pretend to be a badass warrior magician woman — even though I admittedly am one in real life.
Good stuff? Well, the weapons that grow and mutate to reflect how you play and live your Fable-III life are quite awesome, though I think it’s rather mean that my sword now has a “venemous glow” because of two STDs that I picked up from my wife. Also, and slightly off-topic, why did my white child from my white husband and white character suddenly become black when he became a toddler? I still love him, but my Theresa, it makes a person ask questions when she returns home from a war and her child is an entirely different race. And even more off-topic, why do my two adopted children now hate me after I put them in an awesome house with the best manny ever? Whatever. Back to the orphanage.
It seems that I’ve somehow wondered from the point in this half-assed, impromptu review, and that’s exactly how you’ll feel about the plot — ZING! While Fable II was rich with lore, Fable III is rich with the grocery lists of what it takes to be a king/queen and hero. In between repairing each and every one of your properties so that your renters won’t withhold payments, and completing your 20th fetch quests to win the love of a random NPC, you’ll begin to wonder what Fable III did to the “R” in the “RPG.”
It shot it in the face behind the Sandgoose and buried it deep in a dig spot.
Cross-posted at I Went There.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
That said, super heroics work well on the big screen, and frequently the stories fit happily into three readily filmable acts. Just as often, the third one fails dramatically, but that's not the source material's fault so much as its handling and the trappings of telling the story of a hero, especially an origin story. Super heroes do not the comic book industry make, however not entirely, and of the wealth of material out there to be mined, the best of it is long-form storytelling that belongs in a long-form medium.
Neil Gaiman's Sandman belongs on HBO or Showtime, I believe that fervently. It needs the kind of money and freedom to be not merely graphic, but just truly bizarre. A Dream of a Thousand Cats belongs on HBO. It just does. Similarly, an adpatation of Bill Willingham's Fables, I would prefer to see on HBO where the violence and fantasy get to be played out with equal splendor. Certainly no traditional network, NBC or ABS or even something 'edgier' like FX would be equipped to create, promote and broadcast these stories.
Then AMC happened. AMC used to play crappy movies that none of the major networks or special channels wanted to play. Then things got weird. Between Mad Men and Breaking Bad, in the past four years AMC has become the new name in avante garde tv. Telling stories that should be nigh impossible to tell, let alone sell, with grace, heart and unflinching boldness. When AMC announced The Walking Dead, I could scarcely contain my excitement. I haven't even read The Walking Dead, though I'll be starting very soon, and I knew in my gut it was going to be badass. This is because AMC has managed to do something that I don't think any other network has- they don't seem to give a damn. It's not like the channel could become less relevant than it initially was. They have nothing to lose by being ballsy and creative and believing in their properties, nothing. It's a beautiful thing.
So now word comes down the pike that Letterier, so fond of citing how he used to be making his 'little French films', is talking to NewLine about taking over Y: The Last Man. Let me be frank: I would be happy as a clam if this project would just die in its crib. There has not been a single name associated with Y as a filmic entity that I thought "yeah, that's awesome" since the rumors started, years ago. Not ONE. If Y: The Last Man and Cowboy Bebop NEVER make it to the big screen in live action form, I will die feeling like there are at least two pure, good things left in the world. But if it has to happen...
Let it happen on AMC. Let Y go to a channel that believes in long-form storytelling, and character. I haven't watched all of Breaking Bad, but I have seen every episode of Mad Men at least twice, and I have now seen both episodes of The Walking Dead in excess of three times. Each. Because apparently I'm the only person on the UES who knows how to use a DVR. But you know what? I'm happy to have you come over to my place and watch it, because it's so. Good. If Y: The Last Man has a home in the world of film, that home is on AMC, without question. The question of direction then becomes happily secondary- the person who counts is the show runner, and you have a stable of directors, people who don't need to be household names or have a CGI monstrosity under their belt to be considered for a 'comic book movie'. The multiple directors factor works particularly well for Y given the hugely diverse nature of the storylines and the places those stories take you.
If they could hold off on this happening for a year or two while I get my SAG card and move to Canada where they will doubtless be filming it, though, that would be great. Thanks.
So after having some pretty intense Y-on-AMC daydreams, it ocurred to me that AMC, while probably not looking to fill this specific a niche, really could be the last, best bastion of comic book adaptations. Things that I would have decried as unfilmable or too sprawling or too anythign for the big screen or network tv could fit beautifully on AMC. Like Powers. That's what AMC is missing, a good ol' fashioned cop show, right?
No two shows on AMC feel the same, except they all have a curious gravity to them. They are so intensely cinematic, and surprising- by far the best shows on television are, at this moment, on AMC.
...This is all my opinion, that's a given, right? I mean, my love for Supernatural knows no bounds, and I will argue that South Park gets better with each new season, but from a stance of storytelling and quality, I can't think of anything that's on par with Mad Men. And, God in heaven, is it Sunday yet? Momma needs her zombies. See full post
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
And here is how my costumes turned out (I did two takes for reasons I'll go into later)
The guide after the jump!
See full post