Spring is here! Enjoy this quick review digest as you prepare to go back outside one day.
Famous late 70s what-if hypothetical sci fi that used to be in vogue, total commitment.
Logan’s Run is the well coiffed leotard wearing uptown cousin of Soylent Green, both of which revelled in the overpopulation fears which gripped the 70’s as our rapacious species swelled past 3 billion. In Logan’s future, most of the earth is dead and what’s left of mankind is kept in a sort of stasis within a snow globe managed by automated minders. This utopia is 60’s tinged with some mild moral panic about empty free love and decadence. The heart of the film is the conformity around the central ritual, which sees the population balanced every year by the murder of everyone who hits 30 years old on the “Carousel”. The fried participants are promised occasional reincarnation but mostly this process opens spots for new births in the perfectly balanced snow globe environment. Some choose to run instead of braving the roulette. Conveniently, our man Logan is ordered by the plot computer to survey pretty much the entire length of society. In those first heady encounters, Logan’s Run shines, picturing society as a bizarre dystopian fear machine that everyone is blindly riding. A few odd gangs and robots later, it finally tires itself out, arriving at a somewhat lazy Adam and Eve motif. I have to check my facts, but I am pretty sure those two heading out into the world started this whole mess in the first place.
- The choice people are given is between never thinking at all or hippy style dropping out.
- The awkward ending probably kept it out of the celebrated pantheon of greats from the era, like Omega Man, Soylent Green, and Planet of the Apes
- Curious vicious imagery; ice butchery, corpse melting, the Carousel itself.
- Fascinating vision of how belief and fear can contort society.
One of the first Pixar competitors that got motion looking right, big Robin Williams part
You probably don’t remember Robots, as it was one of the few Pixar but not Pixar style films that did well but didn’t get 100 sequels. Taking inspiration from Peewee Herman and Salvador Dali, Robots concerns the social order of a slightly screwy capitalistic automaton metropolis. The plot meanwhile takes many queues from A Bugs Life, following the soft young bot voiced by Ewan McGregor as he heads to the big city to make his way in the world and quickly runs afoul of the injustices perpetrated by big business aspirations. Mostly though the world is composed of soft ball pitches for the jokes, which rely heavily on visual humor. Luckily Robots has a MC-Escher-like visual inventiveness, with all different kinds of machines constantly exploding into new messes with a very nice sense of kinetic motion. For the 20% of the run time when people aren’t falling or being flung somewhere, Robin Williams is allowed off leash to do what feels like improvisation but is still entertaining. Hard not to miss the guy. In the end it’s still a kids film, complete with the obligatory 2000’s dance off ending, but it also follows the time honored tradition of being bizarrely menacing and dystopian for a six year old to take in
- Plot revolves around the forces of vile outright evil versus the spunk of unalloyed goodness in the form of a wunderkind, a combo which doesn’t yield true surprises
- Written jokes are almost entirely of the pun variety with some gender/body type normative stuff that’s a little stale now
- A visual treat, easy to just stare at for the entire run time
- Some inspired set pieces show off the animating chops, like a big domino scene and a magnet fight (both bigger and better than they sound)
From the studio that changed the horror game genre with Amnesia, Soma is another entry in their trademark horror houses where you are powerless against things that would do you harm
Soma has one of the best beginnings I’ve ever seen in this genre. Most games like this start the creepiness when you accidentally knock over the wrong book in a rotted out basement, but Soma starts off by having you drink contrast fluid in your Canadian apartment so you can go get a brain scan and perhaps shed some light on a brain bleed issue from a car crash. The jump from there to the foreboding empty undersea derelict you’ll be skulking around in is jarring and rationale. Soma is nothing if not rationale. The horror actually takes a back seat to its true purpose; this game is a philosophy generator for hypothetical quandaries, and it excels at throwing you into new Decartian situations over and over. As with most of this genre it’s not exactly fun to play, the enemies are of the run up and scream in your face variety and your available responses are pretty much just saying “damn,” but the atmosphere and conversations are top notch and mark Soma as one of the better serious pieces of writing in gaming.
- Some of the dialogue is overly writerly so that they can really get their point across
- The scary parts often seem designed to annoy you and make you have a bad time, rather than having organic origins. A difficult balance to be sure.
- The reward for pressing through the scary sections is unbelievably good writing
- Actually using the physicality of the game elements (like physically operating machinery, using computers, and mirrors) in a way that enhances the atmosphere and overall themes
It’s a slick inclusion in the massive Itch.io Injustice bundle
When Jonathan Blow discussed designing the Witness, he talked about how he focused on a simple mechanic and then simply explored how far he could push it without adding anything new. Golf Peaks, a charming phone-style game with a crisp clean aesthetic, similarly locks in on a fairly simple mechanic and rides it the entire game. In a grid of goofy golf type obstacles, you are given a precise set of moves to use in combination to get the ball in the designated hole. There is no randomness and no fiddling, you can calmly play the “moves” at your leisure with certainty of the outcome. As the game progresses, the obstacles become more complicated and begin to challenge your ability to look forward into the future, but it remains a relaxing experience where you can putt slowly with one hand on the mouse, eat a biscuit, and think about your next move. Golf Peaks is therefore remarkable for its restraint, creating a relaxing puzzle game out of a sport that usually asks for feats of kinetic precision
- The game is short enough that concentrated effort will wipe it out very quickly, so you have to set stops for yourself if you’re cracking it too fast.
- Felt like there was still more design room by the time I got to the end.
- I can count on one hand how many good games you can play while eating with the other hand.
- Really nice crisp UI and the golf grid also looks amazing.
The Office (US)
Probably the defining television show of a generation, also brought the Christopher Guest style documentary framing device to media at large
Steve Carrell’s face launched 1000 memes, and 1000 competitor shows. Based on the nastier, realer, and funnier UK Office, this show was nevertheless the bigger hit, a monster that combined our antipathy towards our fellow workers’ bad habits with our genuine good feelings about the reluctant companionship. Approximately 3 seasons too long, nevertheless the entire length of The Office is full of pretty amazing situational comedy and sets the gold standard for comfort television by only slightly contorting the fates of people you don’t care about that much to begin with. I guess the question answered by this show is how long can a single premise sustain a comedy ensemble? Surprisingly that seems to be about 5 seasons. I give this praise entirely to the writers, who perfected the spit takes and weird things that would come tumbling out of Dwight’s mouth to a science. Here’s a more interesting question – if you didn’t grow up on it, is The Office still worth a watch? As a time capsule of America’s slow clumsy march towards sensitivity, I think it will endure.
- Plot contortions in the later seasons get pretty vile.
- Numerous new characters were introduced to keep the show alive but none rise above middling
- The humor beats are almost instantly predictable
- Steve Carrell is the maestro of funny physicality in the role he was born to play
- The character arcs are fun
- One of the rare works that focuses on the lurking insanity of the Mundane and its charges
Jump started and codified a wave of anti-authoritarian narratives that rippled through culture, here updating Hemingways “War is Hell” to “War is stupid and selfish”
Reading Catch 22 is a historical effort. Undoubtedly, it’s recasting of World War 2 as a bureaucratic clusterfuck kicks starts one of the greatest sea changes in America, the rise of the counterculture hippy movement that rejects the narratives of authority. It shares much in common with Robert Atlman’s MASH, another collection of nearly unintelligible war stories with barely any war involved that was primarily interested in showcasing the humanity of people fighting the war and destroying the imprinture of command. Ironically though, both 22’s World War 2 and MASH’s Korean War have emerged quite cleanly in historical consideration, especially in contrast to the increasingly awful and meaningless proxy wars of the fifty years that followed. The wars are thought about differently, as are the people – it’s hard to look back at the skirt chasing “antics” of these pestering soldiers and see what I suppose was to represent the pure core life force of humanity – harassing bimbo caricatures. In a world where authority and bureaucracy have been thoroughly embarrassed but nonetheless fifty years later fascists continue to grip the reins, it is clear that dropping out didn’t work. Sorry Yossarian, we’re still just as trapped as you are.
- It’s unique view point has been so thoroughly assimilated into the mainstream, that only the slipshod details are left to defend its classic status
- Gnarly plotting leads nowhere, with detours through some pretty regressive depictions of women
- When it hits at the leaders of the whole operation, it occasionally becomes brilliant top form satire.
- Everything with Yossarian up in the planes and thinking about flying, the actual war stuff, is spectacular