All these worlds can be yours (but will you want them?)

Last week we went to see the latest of the new Star Trek films, the one whose title is certain to trigger a Pavlovian response in any fan of the English ska band Madness. I’d greatly enjoyed the first of the reboot movies back in 2009, though Star Trek Into Darkness hadn’t done much for me, but I hadn’t given up on the franchise yet. Star Trek Beyond, though… It’s a competent enough film in some¬†ways, the main cast is still the best reason to watch the reboot – but I simply didn’t feel it. Most of the time it wasn’t the plot that kept me engaged; instead I found myself¬†distracted, not least by remembering the recent death of Anton Yelchin and thinking, wistfully, that he should have had his final appearance as Pavel Chekov in a better film.

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VVitching hour and a half

3056743-inline-s-2-anatomy-of-a-scene-the-witchRobert Eggers’ The VVitch: A New-England Folktale works both ways: if you think there is a witch in this movie, then there is one, and we’re in the realm of the supernatural. You can also explain the whole horror by claiming that these people are driving themselves and each other insane. Either way, it’s a pretty good horror flick. It features a Puritan family who are thrown out of their community and build a new home in the wilderness, next to some woods. In 1630, that might well be a death sentence. We are never told why exactly they get banished, but it has something to do with putting God’s law above that of men. They are almost glad about being banished, because to them, it is God’s will. Continue reading

Donuts and Depression

kitteridge4While watching Olive Kitteridge, the 2014 four-part HBO miniseries, I kept thinking back to Six Feet Under more than once. Both are HBO, both feature Richard Jenkins, and while SFU has a lot to say about death and dying, OK deals with depression and suicide. Before you quit reading: it is surprisingly upbeat and wise about it. All right, upbeat is probably the wrong word, but it is not as dark and… well, as depressing as you might think. It’s a well-told story about a Maine family, so there is also good reason to think of John Irving’s stories. The series never goes for broke with guns and gore, but skates over thin ice while hinting at the dark waters underneath. Continue reading

If only you could talk to the mobsters

At this year’s San Diego Comic Con, Marvel once again planted a big, wet kiss on the fans’ mouths, with new footage and casting information covering everything from Captain Marvel (yay for female superheroes, double yay for Alison Brie) to Doctor Strange (nice-looking trailer, even if it looks a bit too much like a mashup of The Matrix and Inception). There were also a couple of titbits for those following the Netflix series, including an action-packed teaser for Luke Cage. I liked the character in Jessica Jones and I thought it’d be interesting to have a new Marvel property with a strong, individual style, so the promise of a blaxploitation-inspired series combined with a more modern sensitivity intrigued me.

Cue the teaser, which has Luke taking on a bunch of goons with the aid of his super strength and a car door, all biff-, bam- and pow-like. I’ve seen some fan reactions, and they all seem to agree: this is shaping up to be a badass series for a badass character.

Myself? I found it boring. Continue reading

They create worlds: Disasterpeace

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

Usually when people talk about the worlds games create, they’re talking about graphics first and foremost. I’ve been playing since the early ’80s, and perhaps the most readily apparent way to see how the medium has progressed since then is to look at screenshots: it’s pretty much like first looking at cave paintings and then a Caravaggio – although admittedly a Caravaggio that’s like to have been done by a teenage Caravaggio who’s been glutting on Michael Bay movies or the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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Virtuality is the new real

The first thing that came to my mind when I put on my Oculus Rift for the first time and found myself looking around virtual reality, was a line from the original Star Wars: “You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.” Thank you, Obi-Wan, you’ve put it well. While I haven’t yet spent all that much time in VR, only the occasional hour here and there, I’ve already stared up at the jaws of a T. Rex bellowing in my face, I’ve seen the Little Prince’s planet floating in mid-air just in front of me, and I’ve navigated a one-man submarine into the wide-open mouth of a giant prehistoric fish.

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Beauty, Confusion, Assassination

assassinThe Assassin is one of the most beautiful movies ever made. It is also one with the most difficult storytelling. That sounds like the obscurity of the story somehow sabotages the beauty of the movie. It doesn’t. Since you have to really pay attention in order to guess what exactly is happening, you get the occasional breather when the movie shows you a pond at sunrise, with two birds chasing each other across the water. It’s not that the story is complex, it’s just that the way of telling it is unconventional. Characters are introduced by simply being put on screen. Flashbacks don’t come when you expect them. The female protagonist has no more than three or four lines of dialogue. There are two long monologues by two different characters providing a lot of back story; they pause between sentences, and you are never sure if their words are all they are actually saying, or if they are telling all, or telling the truth.

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