Category Archives: review

Review: Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa)

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It is surprisingly refreshing to play a game where we just relax and immerse ourselves in a folk tale of another culture. Especially so when every single time a game features a non-white-male protagonist reactionaries and Gamergaters would cry foul over “misandry” and “white genocide”. Fortunately for us, this game seem to have escape the attention of these nutjobs, and we can just play the game without the distraction of external controversies.

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Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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As one of the new Star Wars movie released after Disney bought the rights to the franchise, the prospect of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is definitely more bold and interesting than The Force Awakens. Right from the early press releases, Rogue One is presented as a heist movie with no Jedis or any of the Skywalker characters. This might sound unthinkable as a concept of a Star Wars movie. The short version of what I think is basically this: Rogue One has a better plot, The Force Awakens has better characters. But Rogue One‘s ensemble cast has pretty good characters among them, so overall I had a better time watching Rogue One.

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Prepare to Try: Playing Dark Souls

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Dark Souls is a game that is famous for its intense difficulty. Yet, many gamers and critics alike seem to have nothing but love and admiration for its impressive game design. It is ‘tough, but fair’, as they say. Even the tagline of the game itself tells us to Prepare To Die. With the lore and opening cutscene that feels more epic than Lord of the Rings, I was intrigued enough that I picked up the game, took a deep breath, and Prepared to Die. I was surprised to find that I didn’t die as much as I expected…

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28 of #52FilmsByWomen: Ruby Sparks

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Ruby Sparks (2012, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, written by Zoe Kazan)

[No. 28 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]

This is a strange and quirky movie, probably along the lines of Adaptation or other Charlie Kaufman-type stories. It tells the story of a novelist whose character he imagines miraculously comes to life.

This movie is a great deconstruction of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) trope. Since Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) is, by design, a young white man’s concept of an ideal girlfriend. She’s beautiful, spontaneous, fun, and just weird enough to be considered quirky yet not too weird as to be considered crazy or unlikeable. She claims that ‘she’s a mess’, but we don’t really see how ‘messy’ she is.

While writer Zoe Kazan has stated that we should not call Ruby a MPDG, and the use of that term is too reductive, the story does touch upon similar ideas and contexts that prompts people to invoke that term. The movie pokes at the the concept of what a ‘perfect girlfriend’ or ‘perfect relationship’ as envisioned by a young heterosexual man. This is interesting to think about since almost all media is designed to pander to, and also influence the the ideals and desires of the straight young adult (white/privileged) men. So much media is designed so that female characters hare of the optimum desirability to the men, or have some personality archetype that serves the development of the male character.

Perhaps the true core of the movie functions even if we put aside MPDGs the media, or gender. Ruby Sparks shows us how our idea of the ‘perfect relationship’ doesn’t really work in practice. It asks the inevitable question that even if someone is lucky enough to meet such a ‘perfect person’, what would happen next?

As humans, we are flawed and constantly change. So even if we manage to find a ‘perfect relationship’, our ideas of perfection inevitably change as we grow and learn. Would the relationship remain ‘perfect’ forever?

 

29 of #52FilmsByWomen: Me Before You

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Me Before You (2016, directed by Thea Sharrock, written by Jojo Moyes)

[No. 29 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]

Emilia Clarke plays Louisa ‘Lou’ Clark, a very un-Daenerys-type character who is cheerful, bubbly, dorky and naive. Without much training or experience, she gets a job as a caretaker for Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), who became disabled after a traffic accident.

The big plot point for the movie is about how Will wants to commit suicide via euthanasia, because he doesn’t want to live the rest of his life as a quadriplegic. This aspect of the movie is probably doesn’t work as well, and it seemed to have caused a stir on the internet. I might say more about this in a separate post, but within the framework of the movie and the plot, Will’s motivation for this isn’t fleshed out all that well.

The reason for this is probably due to the fact that the story is told almost completely from Lou’s perspective. So the reason we do not understand why Will wants to die is because  Lou (whose nature is endlessly positive and cheerful) doesn’t.

Will’s motivations aside, the movie is utterly captivating and charming, mostly because of Emilia Clarke’s performance. Lou’s happiness and positivity is potent and infections, and I couldn’t help but grin along when Lou gets excited about something.

It is also noteworthy that Lou’s sister Treena played by Jenna Coleman (Hi! Clara Oswald) is loving and supportive for Lou. It is so rare to see siblings that do not antagonise or hate each other in movies or TV, except maybe for Orphan Black. So in their first scene early in the movietogether assumed their characters are not related. Maybe it’s partly because my mind couldn’t process The Mother of Dragons and Clara Oswald as sisters. But Emilia Clarke is a good actor, and very soon I completely forgotten any associations with Daenerys Targeryn and became fully invested in Lou. She also shared many scenes with another Thrones veteran Charles Dance who plays Will’s father, and is almost like a more compassionate version of Tywin Lannister.

Despite the story dealing with tough emotional issues, it is also funny. Despite the controversy on the internet, the movie does depict the life of a quadriplegic character that is not stereotypical manner, or had any jokes at Will’s expense. At least, that’s as far as I can possibly tell, from the perspective of an able-bodied person.

22 of #52FilmsByWomen: Mon Roi

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Mon Roi (My King) (2015, directed by Maïwenn, written by Etienne Comar and Maïwenn)

[No. 22 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]

It seems that almost every story about long term relationships and marriages tell us that they all inevitably end in disaster. The message I seem to get from all this is that it isn’t worth it. That might well be only the surface reading of all these films. The princess and the prince do not live happily ever after. Instead they have kids, argue about money, their parents, and grow resentful. Obviously we are supposed to go for a more positive interpretation, namely that love and relationships isn’t easy. And that we need to work hard at happiness. Whatever that is.

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19 of #52FilmsByWomen: Money Monster

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Money Monster (2016, directed by Jodie Foster)

[No. 19 of 52 in #52FilmsByWomen]

Money Monster is a movie that mostly takes place in real time, during a hostage situation in a television studio that’s being broadcast live, under the demands of the hostage taker. The hostage taker is Kyle (Jack O’Connell) a down-on-his-luck everyman who had just lost all his money over a bad investment, and he takes on his grievance against Wall Street by hijacking the TV studio and the host Lee Gates (George Clooney). The show’s director, Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) tries to keep the cameras running while trying to investigate the circumstances behind the gunman and investment at the same time.