Gravity Rush is probably one of the coolest PS Vita games released yet. It’s innovative, cool, fun, but sadly it ends up being pretty dull in the end. Read the rest of this entry »
Prometheus is, in case you somehow haven’t heard, a prequel film to Alien. Not a direct prequel, granted (which oddly earned the movie some scorn from reviewers), but I guess an origin story. In fact, I think calling it an origin story is about a million times more accurate, because the movie explains the origins of the Aliens, while the cast attempts to search for the origin and the creation of mankind.
I usually don’t like sports movies. It seemed like there was a dark period in filmmaking when every other sports movie was about some underdog team overcoming adversity to win the big championship. Sometimes they were football teams, sometimes they were drum teams (? this is not a thing in Canada, at least that I know of), sometimes they were some kind of newfangled hiphop dance team. The enemy team was always this reprehensible bad team; while the good guys were (typically poor) scrappy underdogs, the bad guys were rich, had plenty of training, and were mean and snooty. It seems like every sports movie made since Remember the Titans was just… a remake of Remember the Titans with different actors and sometimes a different sport.
I first read Star Wars: The Paradise Snare a little while after it came out, back in 1997. I was just a kid and I thought it was a pretty rad book, all in all. On a whim I picked it up again and gave it another reading. I was sorely disappointed. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s a new Pletteau Feature! The Bargain Bin Review!
Here’s how it works: I dredge the depths of video game stores / Steam looking for cheap games in the $1-$20 range, like games that were once $50-70 and were either very bad or have been out for a long time (and of course, games that have always been cheap). I then review said title, taking into account the quality of game and its price. I pass this information on to you and we are both richer for it.
Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption
Star Wars: Empire at War is a real-time strategy game that came out in 2006. It is set between episodes III and IV, and lets the player relive some of the greatest moments between those two episodes and further. Later that year, an expansion pack entitled Forces of Corruption was also released (for the full title of Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption). Forces of Corruption added in a third, criminal element: you can play as Tyber Zann, a up-and-coming crime lord and leader of the Zann Consortium. It was developed by Petroglyph Games, a company formed by the last group of Westwood Studios employees (Command and Conquer, anyone?) to leave before Westwood was assimilated into Electronic Arts Los Angeles. Read the rest of this entry »
There, I said it.
Some months back, watching the previews for Brave, I thought to myself, “Christ, another Dreamworks moneygrab.” I was shocked to learn that this is Pixar’s doing.
I’m a big Pixar fan: I was a boy when Toy Story came out and was hooked. I’ve watched most of their offerings and been blown away by most (Wall-E being one of my favourites). A lot of times when (bad looking) movies come out, they’re advertised as being “fun for the whole family”, and typically that’s code for “jokes crude enough to make adults laugh but subtle enough kids won’t get them”. Pixar had managed to make genuinely good “family” films. I’m not going to lie, I teared up like a little baby watching Toy Story 3, and I swear to God, was seconds away from genuinely crying. That’s how good I felt Toy Story 3 was.
But there is something I don’t like about what I’m seeing in Brave. I mean, it’s got the crude humour you’ve come to expect from a kid’s movie (but not a Pixar film, I think), and that’s already a turn-off for me. What really bugs me is the “girl empowerment” theme coming from it.
Before moving on, I should clarify: I think women are just as capable as men in almost all areas of life, and vice versa. While I don’t play with Barbies or wear nail polish, it is odd that society deems those two activities as being “lady-like”, and that playing football or video games is a manly activity. I don’t think that there are activities that are, one way or the other, girly or manly. I would argue that men and women certainly think differently and are, due to physiology, better inclined to certain activities (and I would argue that different ways of thinking, for example, are not entirely due to societal constraints), because anyone who tells you men and women are equal are oversimplifying a very complex point. All that said, I don’t need a movie to tell me that girls can do anything boys can do.
And that seems to be the central storyline of Brave. Sure, there’s a witch’s curse (or witches’s? I don’t know how many witches are involved) involved, probably very Macbeth and everything. But the crux of the story seems to be that there’s this girl, destined to be princess, who is fighting societal constraints. She wants to be a warrior, an archer, and not a princess. And maybe marketing is to blame, but it seems like becoming a warrior means giving up her princessiness.
So it feels like we can expect the typical, “oh archery? You’re a girl, girls can’t fire arrows” banter that has come to typify movies about women “breaking out” of their societal constraints. And sure, Brave is a fairy-tale story, so we can assume that where she’s from, they’re not quite as modern in their ways of thinking about women. I get that. But it’s old, overused, and at its core, sexist.
I was discussing this with Tea Leaves and Dog Ears and she pointed out that, at it’s core, saying that there are, activites that are boyish or girly or that one is “breaking” out of these societal norms is in fact, reinforcing them. She’s absolutely right, of course. When a man does something manly, it isn’t exceptional (unless it’s super badass). Only when that act can be classified as girly or wimpy or whatever, is it worth mentioning. The same applies to women. Male actors can have “strong performances”, but never classified as being “strong male leads”. When a woman is a “strong female lead”, it typically means she is not an agent being acted upon but is an actor in the truest sense of the word. She gets shit done, in essence.
But again, this classification implies there is something exceptional about that. And that implies that by being a strong female lead, that actor/character is not being an ordinary female lead, which would be a woman who does womanly things. As long as that classification exists, as long as a woman can “break out” of societal constraints, those societal constraints will continue to exist and if we try to pretend to be enlightened by saying, “oh, there’s nothing wrong with a woman doing manly things” (ie, by continuing to have the term tomboy), we’re just reinforcing the notion that there are womanly things and that there are manly things, when, in truth, there are and should just be, things that people do. As long as Princess Meridia of Brave defies her royal upbringing by doing something that no princess should do (and, let’s face it, in typical storytelling fashion a princess is the epitome of young lady-hood), the story won’t be exceptional or liberating or anything like that. It will just be a story about a woman doing guy things, with the notion that women can do guy things and it’s ok, when the idea should be that anyone can do anything and that tagging a gender stereotype onto an action or lifestyle or whatever is doing as much harm as socially restricting individuals into roles based on their gender.
I will write myself an out, though: Pixar has been able to surprise me just about every time around. Maybe Walt-Disney, best known for reinforcing the princess stereotype (until recently, maybe? I don’t know, to be honest), marketed the movie in an attempt to appear non-sexist and modern. Maybe that’s their target demographic. Or maybe Brave truly is a kid’s movie. I don’t know. The trailers imply what I’ve written and any write-ups I’ve read (and I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen a negative write-up; Brave has made many a “most anticipated movie of 2012” list) seem to follow that too. Maybe, hopefully, Pixar will prove me wrong. Time will tell, I guess.
While the game itself isn’t playable until the
twentieth fifteenth THIRTEENTH (they added 2 days to the pre-release playtime!), it does help build anticipation for the gamer. I’ve been excited about this game forever and had a chance to do a weekend test or two and am absolutely stoked. The fact that I can start playing a day or two before my collector’s edition arrives in the mail (with my Darth Malgus statue and whathaveyou) is awesome.
There are two things I want to address directly related to the game:
Some people have been critical of the TOR beta. Some of them are trolls, EQ/D&D:O/LotRO/WoW fans who have just come in to ridicule the game and support their own team (and there is of course, speculation that some of these trolls are in fact company men [c-men, if you will]). Some don’t like the crafting system, or the linearity of the questlines for certain classes, or even just the graphics (which I think look sick, but whatever). These trolls have also complained that because of the NDA, they’ve been unable to bitch in public, and as such Bioware is scamming the public (or so they accuse). But with the NDA lifted, people are free to post what they want.
The main problem with posting criticisms however is that, well, it’s a beta. For those not in the know, a beta is essentially the preview release of something, the prototype, if you will, often wildly different from the actual product.
And here is where I think Bioware is brilliant: there are some fans who will probably like this game no matter what, and they’ve pre-ordered. These folks will get up to a week to play it: if they like it, glowing reviews will spread and Bioware can easily expect strong sals to continue. And if it is bantha poodoo*, well, the reviews will reflect that. So, well played Bioware. Well played.
Having only played a bit of the game, I can say that while the UI and controls mimic WoW pretty well (and, as much as I dislike it [as a former WoW player], Blizzard nailed their UI), the storyline seems incredible. I won’t lie, I’ve read the three Old Republic novels released for the game (Revan wasn’t as good as I expected, TBH. Maybe a review to follow?), and I continue to be blown away by what is easily the most interesting part of the Star Wars timeline. Obviously, like any good person, having played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic to death, my expectations are high. But from the minuscule amount of playtime I got, I was incredibly impressed. The main problem with MMOs, to me, is the lack of a compelling storyline. Playing WoW, for me, was literally “ok wheres my quest oh here it is what do i do ok done here now what oh this guy might have something” etc. Very little thought goes into it or is needed. The world is only ever changed by you by action or inaction, and even then, the changes are temporary. TOR, on the other hand, offers more choice. Even if the choice is extremely limited or black and white (the typical “kill/don’t kill” option), it still offers a way to change your story, and that’s what TOR is. Rather than being a multiplayer-based MMO, it’s a story-based MMO (the designers claim that TOR tries to walk a path between the two but it’s not incredibly obvious). To hardcore MMO players, that’s a bad thing. To others, well, it’s a great thing.
There’s not much else I can say that I feel is worth saying, to be honest. The beta is behind us, the real game is literally days away. And while I still need to get a supercomputer so I can play it with the settings maxed, I’m absolutely stoked. Pre-order it if you can (digital editions aplenty, I expect).
*according to 1.ii.a.iv of the Reviewing Star Wars Stuff Agreement (ratified 1989), the phrase “bantha poodoo” must be used to describe something not good. Google it.