usernamenumber: (sprite)

There are two indie games I've been playing that I've been meaning to signal boost, on account of they're both pretty fantastic. Specifically The Swapper and Incredipede. Both are multi-platform and available via Steam or their respective websites, plus Incredipede is part of the current Humble Bundle. In other words, cheap! So you have no excuse! Opinions on each follow...

THE SWAPPER

Read more... )

INCREDIPEDE

Read more... )

In summary, although I feel a bit dumb writing reviews without having played all (or in the case of Incredipede even much) of the games in question, consider it a testament to their quality that I'm excited enough about going "guys guys, check this out!" to do so anyway. Both of them are original, beautiful, and obviously the results of a lot of talent and a lot of passion. If you're in the market for a new game, help out a deserving indie dev and try them yourself!

More at http://facepalmgames.com/the-swapper/ and http://www.incredipede.com/about.html

(no spoilers until you're warned about them further down...)

There seem to be a lot of strongly mixed feelings about Star Trek Into Darkness (man, I still wince a little every time I say that title...). A lot of people really liked it, even loved it, and a lot of people seem to have left the theater reeling in a "wtf was
that?" sort  of way, and not the good kind. Me, I'm embracing the power of "and": I thought Star Trek Into Darkness was a deeply, sometimes insultingly stupid movie... that I enjoyed despite all that, and kinda wouldn't mind seeing again, which frankly confuses me.

I think it's the cast. I love this cast. My main take-away from the first movie was that I would love to see that cast in a better movie, and I felt double that after this movie. A co-worker mentioned how she'd love to see the weekly TV series adventures of this crew and yes. That. Also, while it does nothing to address the issues with Benedict Cumberbatch's character (which I won't get into here because spoilers, but about which everything has already been said for those who care to look), he does do a damn fine job of it. I still haven't seen Sherlock, but I'm told that his characterization in this movie is not that different from his characterization there... which means I'm kind of afraid to watch Sherlock now. But I digress.

Basically, why did I not like this movie? Why might I go so far as to say I hated it? It's not nerd rage; they actually had a lot of nice callbacks to the original series that I thoroughly enjoyed. No, it's because I'm pretty sure J.J. Abrams thinks I'm an idiot. To talk about why I think that, along with some other reasons why overall I liked the movie despite myself, we need to take a Star Trek Into Spoilers, so from here on you've been warned.

Cut for your protection... )

A co-worker characterized Star Trek Into Darkness by saying "hey, you like all these puppets, now watch them dance!!", which I think is pretty much spot on. The characters are sufficiently well acted and well written (convenient lapses when "wouldn't it be cool if..." called for it aside) that I found myself satisfied just to watch them do stuff, even when the stuff in question was insultingly dumb.

I kinda hated this movie, but I also kinda loved hating it. If you go see it, it's probably worth seeing in the theater, but if you can do a matinee or something to avoid paying full price, that's probably for the best.
(no spoilers you wouldn't get from the TV ads, except below cuts)

I first read Volume 1 of Scott Pilgrim about six years ago, when I asked the proprietor of my local San Diego comic shop, Comickaze (not to be confused with Somerville's own Comicazi. Eerie, I know) to "give me something awesome". That he did (I picked up the first TP of Runaways at the same time!). While understandable, one of my regrets about the advertising of the movie is that it gives away the whole "seven evil exes" thing right off the bat, because I'll always remember my first time reading SP, enjoying the awkward teen dramedy (one of my not-so-secret favorite comics genres) when suddenly "What? Fighting? This is a hip, geeky, romantic, rock-and-roll kung fu comic now? Is this awesome or terrible, and either way where has it been all my life??"

When I heard they were making a movie, I had my usual reaction of dread coupled with a kernel of hopeful optimism. Then I heard that Edgar Wright was directing, and that kernel grew. Then I saw how excited and involved the author of the comics, Brian Lee O'Malley (aka [livejournal.com profile] destroyerzooey), was and it grew some more. Then I saw the trailers, and... well, you get the idea.

Finally saw the midnight opening last night, and the short version is: zomg go see this movie.

I have some quibbles, into which I'll get later, but overall the movie is an adaptation very obviously made by someone who gets the comics, gets the culture, and cares about doing it right. For this, I am immensely grateful to Mr. Wright. On top of all that, Wright has managed to create a style that is both original and yet clearly familiar to anyone who has read the comics, and which brilliantly blends old school and contemporary hip for something that is both fresh and familiar. I think a big part of this is the extent to which both O'Malley and Wright acknowledge that things stereotypically associated with "nerd" culture, from video games to social awkwardness, are and have been a bigger part of the mainstream than they're given credit for.

I won't bother cutting it except for specific spoilers, but what follows deals with opinions on casting, the comics->movie translation, etc. If those count as spoilers to you or just don't interest you, move along.

I was pleasantly surprised by Michael Cera as Scott, albeit in a different way than I'd hoped. See, from what I can tell Cera has one character. It's a fun, endearing character, but it's still one character (admittedly I am basing this opinion on Arrested Development, Superbad, and the trailers for his other movies), and that character just isn't who I envisioned Scott Pilgrim as. Similar, yes, but with a different flavor of doofiness, if you will. My hope had been that Cera would capture something closer to my mental image of the character from the comics. Instead, his portrayal still felt like Standard Michael Cera Character to me... and yet he totally made it work. Maybe he put more nuance into it than I'm giving him credit for, or maybe Standard Michael Cera Character just works for Pilgrim better than I'd realized. Either way, throughout the movie I never had a problem buying him as the character, and I'd even go so far to say that his portrayal is the definitive one in my head now, though we'll see if that lasts through the next time I re-read the comics.

I really have to give props for the casting of the supporting characters in particular, though. In a lot of ways the supporting cast makes this movie, IMO. Kieran Culkin's Wallace is absolutely spot on (though arguably whitewashed-- the character always looked asian to me). This was a high bar to live up to, as he's one of my favorite characters from the books, but Culkin is perfect in this role, and only made me like him more. There are even characters who came off as more appealing to me in the movie than they were in the books. For example, while I never had anything against Kim in the books, Alison Pill's performance has bumped her up to being one of my favorite characters from the movie. If I'm to be perfectly honest, there's a purely aesthetic element to this, as I've been crushing on Cute, Befreckled Sullen Drummer Girl since the trailers, but it's not just that. As one of my housemates observed, Kim's deadpan actually works better on film than on the page, and Pill pulls off that deadpan perfectly, with just the right mix of orneriness and barely-subdued energy; same goes for Anna Kendrick's Stacey, and then there is Ellen Wong's Knives. Knives Chau also fell into the "good but not a favorite" category for me in the books, but Wong holds the audience in the palm of her hand for the entire movie, eliciting as many sympathetic "awww"s and she does laughs.

...which kind of brings me to one of my complaints about the movie. Ramona, who was arguably not as fleshed-out as she could/should have been even in the books, has even less to work with in the movie script. She appears, Scott falls in love with her, and... the rest of the plot just sort of follows from that premise. Mary Elizabeth Winstead does a great job with what she's given, but I felt like there wasn't enough to the character to make her particularly sympathetic. I never got a sense for why Ramona was worth all the fighting. This will only be a spoiler if you haven't read the last book )

(the following paragraph talks about the movie vs book endings, but with specific spoilers under cuts. If you don't want any discussion of the end, skip it)

That said, without getting into details, if there's anywhere the movie falls down, in my opinion it's still the ending. I think I liked the ending in the comics better, but can see how it wouldn't translate to film well, and in fact there are things in the movie version of the end that I liked better than in the comics version, like movie spoiler ). And yet... there was something that left me a bit cold about it, even though I can't quite put my finger on what. I think one element might have been movie spoiler )

Interestingly, most of the other complaints of which I can think are actually complaints I had with the comics, which are translated faithfully, and sometimes more palatably, in the movie. For example, the comics spoiler ). Similarly, the movie reproduces the quick cuts between times and locations that tended to confuse and annoy me in the comics, but as quick cuts are practically a trademark of Wright anyway, they work much better in the movie, to such an extent that it occurred to me to wonder whether O'Malley had really been trying to write a movie all along, and was actually limited by his medium in that regard.

In short, all complaints aside Scott Pilgrim is one of the best, if the not the best comic->film adaptations I've seen, and is definitely my new favorite Edgar Wright movie (though, truth be told I've always preferred Spaced to his movies anyway). I'm not much of a film person, but between SP and Inception, 2010 has added two new ones to my list of favorites, so I guess it's been a pretty good year for movies! :D

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