Results tagged “movies”

Gone Girl: Sympathy for the GamerGater

This post contains spoilers for the film “Gone Girl”.

I managed to catch Gone Girl during its last days in the first-run theaters. I feel glad that I did; it’s a stylish film, what I think of as a Fincher/Reznor collaboration (per The Social Network) where the latter’s synthesized instrumental score is nearly a character unto itself, stepping into the foreground during the tensest scenes, playing as important a role as the actors’ spoken dialogue. I liked that.

The film’s content, though, I feel less unqualified admiration for. Maybe this is informed to some degree by the coincidence of the title’s initials, but it struck me as a film quite in step with GamerGate’s anti-feminist, even gynophobic philosophies. Gone Girl’s story takes place in a world where women actually do the awful things that GamerGate accuses its own female harassment-targets of. I couldn’t help but see it as a window into the mind of men who are petrified with contemplation of the life-upending terrors they fear women as having the power to perpetrate.

XCOM's mastery of player complicity

Much as Fallout: New Vegas felt like an entire season or two of a solid TV series (as Matt Weise and I discussed in Play of the Light), XCOM: Enemy Unknown feels like an epic movie or miniseries. New Vegas begins with a single motivating frame, but delivers many episodic stories while the protagonist pursues it; XCOM has only one story, but it’s a war story told across a handful of discrete acts, driven forward by a course of high and low points. That alone might have been enough to have me play through the whole thing, but I find XCOM uniquely compelling in how it makes me feel like I’m playing a sizable role in creating the story, despite its necessarily pre-scripted underpinnings.

Solitaire video games have been using well-established filmic story techniques for some time now, of course; screenwriter Todd Alcott described how Half-Life adheres satisfyingly to a modern three-act story structure. But where games like Half-Life or Bioshock speak to you through a linear series of obstacle courses, XCOM gives you a wider structure of non-predetermined procedural events, with scripted plot points acting more as targets to aim for than paths to maneuver through. I haven’t quite seen this since Star Control 2, and I believe that XCOM’s design proves even more effective in providing a real sense of agency — and therefore complicity — to its player.

This happened to me yesterday:

No Show Conf and IF stuff (with bonus movie)

Ns logo smallThe very first No Show Conference is happening this coming weekend on the MIT campus. Organzied by local videogame producer Courtney Stanton, it’s angled at game-making professionals working in any medium. As I write this, there’s only a couple of dozen tickets left, so if you’ve access to Boston and this is your sort of thing, you may wish to get on that.

While it’s not on its official schedule, No Show shall play host to this year’s Interactive Fiction Summit, late of PAX East. The People’s Republic decided to give PAX a pass this year, in favor of a smaller and more developer-focused conference, and lo, one has appeared. As suggested by the fact that I write this post just a few days before the event, the Summit doesn’t quite have the definition it enjoyed during the PAX years; really, it’s just a call for IF authors and fans to come on by and find one another.

That said, No Show does itself take a IF-philic stance — the structure of the conference’s demo hall is inspired by the IF Demo Fair that Emily Short organized during last year’s PAX East. Furthermore, No Show speakers include IF authors Clara Fernández-Vara, Dierdra Kiai, and Jim Munroe, presenting on a variety of topics around games and culture. (I suspect that Dierdra’s alt-universe satirical examination of “Men in Games” will end up an especially popular talk.)

As a special treat, Jim Munroe will screen his new film Ghosts with Shit Jobs on Saturday evening, bracketing it with a panel discussion featuring our own Andrew Plotkin and local webcomic superstar Randal Munroe. That screening is part of MIT’s summer film series, not No Show, so it’s free and open to the public.

So, yes, that’s where I’ll be all weekend.

I like Indie Game: The Movie

If you, like me, hadn’t paid much attention to Indie Game: The Movie because it doesn’t have a very strong title, let me assure you that it’s a poor match for what turns out to be a really impressive documentary with a focused and strong narrative. It’s available digitally via various channels (I rented it on iTunes), and I highly recommend forgiving it for keeping its working title.

Three upcoming documentaries on games

We seem to be entering a nexus of documentaries about games. Far be it from me to do anything but encourage further flowering in this field! Witness:

Lorien Green has released a clip of Gone Cardboard, a film about board games -- particularly Eurogames, by the looks of it -- and the people who play them. She expects to release the final cut in early 2011. (Link via Kevin Jackson-Mead.)

The enigmatically named Spinach hopes to produce a doc about people who create digital games, called You Meet the Nicest People Making Videogames. That link leads to the project's Kickstarter fundraising page, which includes a teaser he filmed at GDC. Mr. Spinach approaches this endeavor from scratch, and needs help covering both equipment and travel costs, a position I can certainly appreciate. He's a quarter of the way to his goal, so far... (Link via Anna Anthropy.)

And of course, just 49 hours and 15 minutes after I type these words, I plan on attending the world premiere of Jason Scott's Get Lamp at PAX East. It is part of the interactive fiction track which is of course the real reason to attend the show, ho ho. Jason's been working on this film for years, and I was privileged to see a clip a few months ago at a Boston IF meetup. It's gonna be a goodie.

Harvard Beats Yale 29-29

Last night I watched Harvard Beats Yale 29-29, a documentary by Kevin Rafferty, about a single extraordinary college football game that occurred in 1968. I highly recommend this movie to anyone interested in the art of documenting the play of games, of any sort.

The film interweaves footage of the game - which exists as a single, no-frills, televised tape - with interviews of its players, who have been living with its memory for 40 years. The subtext is how profoundly a single game affected them that they could remember it so vividly; Rafferty frequently juxtaposes their memories with the filmed footage of the events they describe to prove this (as well as to display a couple of notable exceptions).

Structurally, it inevitably reminded me of our own Diplomacy episode, with the notable absence of any hovering narrator explaining the game's rules. The voice of the 1968's game's TV announcer is preserved, though, and becomes invested with an unusual poignancy when put into this film's context.

I assert that this picture is worth watching even if you don't care about - or don't know anything about - American football, but feel free to read Zarf's Guide to Watching the Football first if you wish (noting that it's optimized for professional playoff games happening four decades apart from this one).

I haven't posted much about the Myst movie project since I first blogged about it. Patrick McIntire and Adrian Vanderbosch have been posting occasionally on their blog, but while they've been colorful about the life of indie filmmakers, they haven't had much in the way of solid news.

They still don't have solid news. But they do have encouraging news:

Our trip to LA was to meet with potential producing partners.  What this means is that we were looking for producers to join forces with to further develop the script and project in preparation for pitching to the studios. [...]

We have joined forces with two production companies.  Announcement of those names will come at a later date after some business elements have been taken care of.  For now I will tell you this: One of our partners has a first-look deal at Warner Brothers.  [...]  Don't assume this is a guarantee of WB being the studio.  I will also tell you that the other producer we partnered with is an Oscar winner and has extensive experience with world-creation and bringing epic films like ours to the theaters.  We are very excited about our partners and we're enjoying the collaboration.

-- Adrian Vanderbosch, posting on Christmas

So, no deal yet. But they have friends in high places, or rather in glitzy places, who will be working with them to help make a deal possible. (Adrian estimates that they're "two and half or three years" away from having a finished film, and that's if they don't bog down anywhere.)

I find this awesome, and I look forward to more.

In other news, Chogon (Mark DeForest, CTO of Cyan) posted this on the Myst forums a few days ago:

I am working on Riven for the iPhone/iTouch (along with RAWA and Rand) as I type. And yes. There are some challenges still ahead that I am confident we can solve. And we are determine to make this the best Riven evvvv-er.

(That's with Richard Watson and Rand Miller, two of the other Cyan honchos.)

Myst has been ported to quite a few platforms (DS, iPhone, Saturn, Jaguar... seriously, I didn't even know about most of these). Riven, due to its size -- five CD-ROMs originally -- has been much less widely ported. And in fact, while I've replayed versions of Myst several times over the years, I've never gone back to Riven. My old Mac version certainly won't run on OSX, and I've never gone through the contortions needed to set up a Windows version.

So I'm super-excited about an iPhone Riven. There are challenges, as Chogon says; see his full post for his comments about making the video-playing toolkit do what they need it to do. But it's in progress.

(Yes, someone asked about Droid/Android. Unfortunately the current Android devices still have limited space for app storage, so no luck there for the moment.)

Embittered Movie Review: "Metro Polis"

If you enjoy my game videos, perhaps you will like this. The idea for this literally woke me up in the pre-dawn hours last Saturday, and I found the time to put it together last night.

There actually is a game connection, here. I was inspired to try applying the attitude of certain contemporary reviewers of very old video games -- who often make little to no effort to place their comments in the games' historical context -- and apply it to a very old movie. It flew off the rails from there, of course, for the sake of comedy. But, there it is.

Tron sequel trailer

I justify this as a Gameshelf topic by being twelve. Once upon a time.

Behold the movie trailer for the sequel to Tron:

Tron: Legacy splash image
(Trailer page)

(Some of this trailer escaped the marketing firewall last year, in handheld shakycam. This is an updated version, official, available in hi-res. You want to watch it in hi-res.)

It is weird and lame and probably incorrect to say that Tron defined the visual aesthetic of computer games for a generation. It just defined coolness for the computer game world for me, forever, because I was twelve. Everything about it was awesome.

I even remember the ad that played before the movie, for Atari video games. It used a cheesy pixelization graphical effect (probably cost millions of dollars, and was a trivial Photoshop filter within a decade). I remember thinking "Is this awesome? No, it kind of ain't," and then I realized it wasn't the movie yet.

I don't know if this Tron: Legacy will be any good. The original certainly wasn't any good. I am going to squinch up my hands and hope for "awesome" instead. The artists who worked on this trailer have the right magic in their sights.

As a side justification for this post, the marketing machinery is using an alternate-reality fiction model:, Who knows, maybe they'll get a game into it. That would be desirably recursive.

(In other "oh lord my childhood is taking over the world" news, Henson Studios has confirmed that The Power of the Dark Crystal and the Fraggle Rock movie will be in theaters in 2011. Holy mazumba.)

I posted last year about a couple of indie filmmakers who are tackling the idea of a Myst movie. Sadly, Patrick McIntire and Adrian Vanderbosch still haven't made a film -- last we heard, they had a script of roughly three zillion pages and were trying to slash it down to feature-length.

I still think that's pretty awesome, but even more awesome -- at a slightly different angle -- is this: their project has inspired a different couple of guys to become amateur filmmakers, from a standing start. Isaac Testerman and Nate Salciccioli have produced what they call an "Audition Project", offering to help out with the Mysteriacs film.

Watch the Audition Project on their web site, or on the Mysteriacs blog.

Regardless of where it goes, it is great: a ten-minute clip, covering several scenes of the basic Book of Ti'ana story. Shot on the classic shoestring budget, on locations (seriously: real caves), and it looks terrific. Plus director commentary at the end! The story stands on its own; my only note is that the character Aitrus you're watching is the grandfather of the Atrus in the Myst games.

Myst: the movie: the trailer

People talk about a movie based on the Myst games. People have been talking about it since Myst first appeared. Cyan even starting working with the Sci-Fi Channel around 2002, but that effort was quietly canned after a few months. (For creative differences, i.e., Cyan didn't like what the SFC was planning. As the SFC's adaptations have ranged from the miserable (Earthsea, Riverworld) all the way up to adequate (Children of Dune), nobody was too stricken about this.)

It is less well known that a couple of indie filmmakers have been struggling with a Myst film for several years now. They only opened their web site this past February, but there has been a great deal of quiet work before that.

Patrick McIntire and Adrian Vanderbosch do not yet have a movie. They do not yet have funding, or actors, or indeed a complete script. They do, however, have a concept trailer. This is an animatic, a series of storyboard images linked with music and voiceover dialogue. They produced it in 2004, in support of their proposal to Cyan to make a movie. Cyan liked the looks of it, and said "Go for it."

Yesterday they put this animatic on-line. So take a look.

It may help to know that the movie is based on Myst: The Book of Ti'ana. It is set many years before the Myst games, the era of Atrus's grandparents, at the height (and end) of the D'ni civilization.

Astronauts report it feels good

There is a Star Trek movie teaser trailer coming out. I'm too lazy to link to it because it's basically nothing, just enough to confirm that the film's in production, and to signal the fanboys to commence the freakout. (Its audio is samples of Apollo mission radio chatter that you can hear in any dime-store trance mix, for pete's sake. OK, and Nimoy. All right, fine: here. Sheesh.)

If JJ Abrams can tell an entire SF story that has a satisfying ending in the length of a single feature film, all shall be forgiven. Until then, I'm skeptical.

Meanwhile I find myself really out of touch regarding movies. I saw a friend complaining in an IM status message that someone named Cloverfield made her feel sick, figuring it was a co-worker who should have stayed home.

Sweeny Todd

Eh. The sets and costumes were great, and the acting fine (esp on Mr. Depp's part) but the direction of most of the musical numbers just wasn't there. And there's a lot of singing, so that's a problem.

There are two numbers where the singing characters are explicitly fantasizing, and here Burton lets the film find itself, engaging in whirling and delightfully macabre visuals. The rest of the time, it's like watching a tennis match. You get a still shot of Character A while they sing a verse, then cut to a still shot of Character B reacting, then return to Character A so they can sing some more. Repeat until out of notes. This gets boring fast, especially when many of the singing actors are so bland.

I shall be kind and call it an entertaining if uneven show. Wait for it to hit video, and then fast-forward until the first scene with Sacha Baron Cohen, because the film doesn't really start to get interesting until Mrs. Lovett's pies do.

Wizardly coincidence

I had never heard of the Washington Wizards basketball team until I chanced across their mention in a Google News headline just now.

I can't be the first person to see their logo...

...and immediately think of another wizardly graphic...

I don't really think anyone intentionally ripped anything. It's just interesting.

What I'm watching on TV.

Pushing Daisies joins Battlestar Galactica as an SF show (though we're talking very different flavors of SF) that I avoided because the premise sounded lame, but eventually peeked at from the insistence of friends, and then discovered I loved. I love this show! Amy and I have been watching it via the intertubes and we laugh and cry, it's so good.

It's fun to think of it as another story taking place in the same universe as the film Edward Scissorhands, everything hypercolorful with a macabre sheen. (And there's the same leitmotif of romantic frustration in both stories, stemming from two lovers being unable to touch.)

I'm eagerly awaiting BSG's fourth and final season, accepting whatever delays the WGA strike must add to my wait. Thankful that Razor was able to get done before the picket lines went up, at least.

Finally, Amy's drawn me into watching Jeopardy! again. I used to watch it every day after school in the 1980s, and I can't say I've seen in much since. The dollar values have all doubled but otherwise it's the same show, and even Trebek looks and sounds the same, though he's lost the 'stache. (Which is just as well.) He's also gotten a bit goofier, in a good way. In one recent example, when nobody guessed What is a ferret?, he illustrated it by pantomiming a little animal running up his forearm, saying "meep meep meep!" I had to hit the TiVo's instant-replay button a couple of times to fully appreciate this.

I was shocked to learn that Alex had a heart attack yesterday, but apparently he is OK. And he looks so healthy on TV! There is a lesson in this.



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