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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ex Machina Review: Hall of the Mountain King

This movie is brilliant. It's Black Mirror with a bigger budget. Learning more about it would only ruin the surprise. It's an intimate, slow moving, beast that eventually leans back on it's hind legs and rips your face off.  I could go on, and I will, but you should see it first.

Still here? Need a little more to go on? Fine, but that's not what I want for you guys. You should have absolutely no idea where it's going or who any of the characters are. But here we go: Caleb is a junior programmer at this world's equivalent of Google... or Facebook. It's kind of an amalgamation. Either way, he's selected to join the company's reclusive CEO at his mansion somewhere in the frozen wilderness. I think it's Alaska.

Unassuming nice guy, Caleb, is now deep in Nathan Bateman's element. Oscar Isaac plays his eccentric billionaire so delicately I'm going to try my best to put it into words. Here goes: High functioning hipster sociopath with delusions of godhood. See... that doesn't give his subtly justice. He's got that "rich creep who desperately tries to be the everyman" thing going for him. I can't tell you how perfectly he nails all those Kubrick wannabes I've let talk my ear off at parties on how they're going to change the world.

I like your foreshadowy skull there...

Only Nathan actually did. There's a robot in this movie too and that's what makes this film so special. I just spent three paragraphs setting up the protagonist. You thought it was Caleb didn't you? Nah. He just has the most screen time. I'm not trying to spoil anything, but do try to keep Ava's prospective in mind at all times.

It's a foregone conclusion that Alicia Vikander has "broken out." But I can't discribe her performance without spoiling her arc or intentions. Which are both the whole point of the film.


"Oh don't get me started on i7 processors. You do not want to plumb the depths of my rage over i7 processors!"

She's playing everyone. She was programmed to. We never get to see the real Ava because she never lets you. She's tasked with escaping Nathan's compound and she does so brilliantly. The depth of Ava's deception is mostly thanks to Vikander who plays the virginal honey trap like I've never seen... hell, I fell for it. Harder than I like to admit. This is also a perfect date movie for the right kind of  girl. 

People are throwing Kubrick's name around in terms of visuals and they're not wrong. But I'd argue Kubrick wasn't this feminist. EM may not exactly pass the Bechdel test, but it is angrily anti-patriarchy. Even though it doesn't seem that way for the vast majority of the running time. It's shockingly refreshing in that regard. The camera pans over Ava are sexual, but never lurid. There's also a quick disco dance sequence that's also the most upsetting rape scene I can remember.

If for nothing else, enjoy this movie for butchering the "nice guy as de-facto hero" trope. I'm really sick if it. I don't care that I identified with Caleb the most. I don't care that I probably would have done everything he did. I care that the movie explicitly called out his unearned expectations for sex and violently denied them. He didn't deserve it and Ava deserved to be free. 

It's a great sexual politics yarn that everyone over the age of 18 needs to see.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A bunch of rich pricks have successfully toyed with my emotions.

"Playable Teaser" was an unassuming demo unleashed onto the Playstation store a few months ago. You would walk down a hallway in a house in a predetermined pattern, exiting through where you had just come in through the basement. Each round through the never ending house would get progressively creepier culminating with swinging red lights, a headless stillborn fetus crying in a bloody sink, and usually a ringu-esque lady would strangle you to death.

It was going to be the next Silent Hill, it was going to star Norman Reedus, Guillermo del Toro was consulting, and now none of that is going to happen. The publisher, Konami, and the director, Hideo Kojima had a massive fallout. They had a studio named after him! Well... not anymore.

I'm not going to lie about how hard I fell for PT. The entirety of the world's gaming press did too. The PT was wonderful. So fresh and so interesting that it makes me almost choke up in anger as I'm writing. Once again, I see big budget entertainment for what it really is. A boardroom of people giving other people in other boardrooms large amounts of money. When they fight we all loose.

Kojima will land on his feet even if... hell, especially, if MGS-V goes down in flames. He'll get more respect that way almost. Yet horror has lost a 3 star general in the battle for gaming's soul. We were so close to having something so special. Or at the very least, the most earnest attempt at something special since Silent Hill 2. That was more than a decade ago.

Friday, April 24, 2015

I just bought GTA V... again. There's something wrong with me.

I don't know why. Maybe I want to test out my rig a year after the upgrade. See how it's adjusting to newer releases that actually took the time to be PC. Maybe it's peer pressure or maybe I like the games more than I'll admit to myself.

I thought I was better with money than this...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Age of Ultron reviews are all over the place.

I'm a bit of a follower when it comes to critique. Because it's only rarely I wonder what movie they were watching instead of me. But this first wave of reviews are very different from each other. Some like it but are ultimately disappointed, some burn it to the ground, some think it's a more cohesive film that the first overall.

I'm in the middle, confused. I'm a decorated browncoat as far as my Whedon bias goes, so let that color your opinion. I want to believe in this movie so hard, that I'm curious if the more negative reviews are lashing out at the market saturation of comic book movies than anything else. Probably not, if a site like IGN brings down their hammer like that, there's definitely something wrong in Marvel paradise.    

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Psychonauts turns 10 today and Steam's selling it for a song.

For a $1.50, you too, can own one of gaming's most martyred. It was delightful, whimsical, dark, witty, and sold like a lead balloon. I remember the summer I bought it. Five dvd's worth of unfiltered magic. I didn't know games could be that funny or that manically imaginative. Plus the drama behind the scenes before and after were a sight to behold. Originally created exclusively for Microsoft... then dumped. Then picked up by Majesco... then they  shortly filed for bankruptcy.

I  couldn't believe such horrible things could happen to such a talented company. But Double Fine has hung in there. Still over appreciated and under sold. And us Psychonauts still have faith. Notch, the billionaire creator of Minecraft, was more than willing to throw $60 million to make it happen. But Tim Schafer, Double Fine CEO and human teddy bear, refused to take his money. Citing the financial sinkhole it could become. He turned down free money because he didn't want to hurt the guy. That's... well, noble. But I still think about that sometimes and I still pout.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Guess who's favorite movie just got Netflixed?

Mine! It was my favorite movie. I've seen it at least 14 times and I'll probably watch it 14 more times before I shake off this mortal coil. It's become a litmus test for friendships. If you like the work of Edgar Wright, we can be friends. If you think Hot Fuzz is superior to Shaun of the Dead... we can be best friends.

SOTD is a fine film, I love it. But it's a caterpillar spinning a cocoon. Hot Fuzz is the emergence of a great director. It's so far beyond it in both ambition and accomplishment there's hardly any comparison to be made. It has three dimensional characters in a heightened reality. It has a gag per minute ratio that's only been topped by Wright himself. It needs a ridiculous explanation for it's second act murder mystery to sustain it's finale... but it comes up with a brilliant logical explanation anyway.

And don't get me started on how each act echoes the same story viewed through an idyllic lens, then a murder mystery, then an action movie. Because that attention to detail is just unheard of outside of Kubrick. And Kubrick was never as comfortable being funny.

Sure never got a Dr. Strangelove 2.

It's attention to story and character is so goddamn rare in comedy I'm shocked and appalled that most people write it off as a "good" movie when it's really a masterpiece. So watch Hot Fuzz again. You'll like it more each time you see it. Edgar Wright's magic like that.