'The Class' (2008) 100 Word Cinema Review

July 29, 2009 § Leave a comment

Score: 5 out of 5

The Class takes us through one academic year at a troubled French inner-city middle school, all from the perspective of François Marin (François Bégaudeau), its charismatic literature teacher. Based on a semi-autobiographical account from writer/actor Bégaudeau, it’s a fascinating and insightful study into the complex relationship between teacher and pupil within a culturally-divided nation.

The performances are excellent and the dialogue is frequently sharp, intelligent and funny. Compelling and engrossing right to the end, The Class is a brilliant piece of work that respects and challenges its audience; it serves as an enlightened exposé of prejudice and human fallibility.

(99 words.)


'Bicycle Thieves' (1948) 100 Word Cinema Review

July 28, 2009 § Leave a comment

Score: 4 out of 5

Widely considered a classic example of Italian neorealism, Bicycle Thieves tells the plight of the little man as a tragic and futile struggle against the injustice of society.

Starring several non-professional actors and filmed on location throughout Rome, it casts Lamberto Maggiorani as Antonio Ricci, an unemployed husband and father to a working-class family. On his first day in a new job, the key to Antonio’s livelihood, his recently purchased, expensive new bike, is stolen. The rest of the film concerns itself with Antonio and his son, Bruno (Enzo Staiola), trying to get the bike back.

(96 words.)

This Week’s Film/Games Reviews — 27/07/09

July 28, 2009 § Leave a comment

Five film reviews; five hundred words in total; seven days.

Straight from the rather obtuse prelude, I will be doing five film reviews this week, each one coming to a hundred words in length. This is really a challenge I’ve set for myself: to see how succinct I can be in both summarising a film and in critiquing it. I’ve just written a micro-review for Bicycle Thieves (1948), and, I can tell your right now, it’s pretty damn hard. I’ve actually written one before for The Long Goodbye (1973), and that’s probably my best to-date, though I also wrote one on Hurlyburly (1998), but it was more of a rant, really. Hopefully my next review coming up for The Class (2008) will turn out better.

‘Streets of Rage 2’ Retro-review

July 26, 2009 § Leave a comment

[Editors note: pictures speak louder than words and video speaks louder than pictures. For that reason, I have compiled a video preview of one of the levels from Streets of Rage 2 which cycles briefly through each character, giving you some idea of their range of moves. I have also included some annotations of things I thought were worth pointing out.]

Score: 5 out of 5

Sometimes you can only really appreciate the good stuff when put against the bad. I have been playing Streets of Rage 2 sporadically throughout the week, and it’s only now, having watched GiantBomb’s Quick Look of Unbound Saga (a newly released download-only title for the PSP platform), that I’ve come to realise exactly why Streets of Rage 2 was, and still is, the king of 2D beat ‘em ups.

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'Hunger' (2008) 400 Word DVD Review

July 21, 2009 § Leave a comment

Score: 5 out of 5

Let me just say this, Hunger is a brilliant piece of work, and it’s certainly one that leaves an impression – and yet I can’t say I enjoyed watching it. As a debut film, directed and co-written by Steve McQueen, it’s nothing short of astonishing, but it’s also hard, brutal and unpleasant, and it captures an aspect of humanity that we’d all rather turn our heads away from than watch for a full hour and thirty minutes. So, while I did not “enjoy” Hunger, strictly speaking, it is, undeniably, a powerful and affecting cinematic experience.

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This Week’s Film/Games Reviews — 20/07/09

July 20, 2009 § Leave a comment

This week I’ll be reviewing Hunger (2008) and doing a retro-review of the classic 2D beat ’em up, Streets of Rage 2 (available on the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection, XBLA and the Wii’s Virtual Console).

With the boring bit out the way, I’ve been getting back into Star Trek and one of the things I found while browsing teh “Tubes” of YouTube was this quite hilarious parody of The Next Generation – played out with stuffed toys. I know what you’re thinking, and you’d be right: there are about a bajillion Star Trek parodies out there, so who cares about yet another one? The difference is that, with this one, it’s actually very, very funny. When I watched it last night I totally cracked up at 0:38.

The sketch is originally from The Adam and Joe Show, which was a comedy show Channel 4 aired from 1996 to 2001. It’s all available on 4oD now, and a lot of the material that came out of it was really rather good. I believe they’ve got their own show now on BBC Radio 6 Music, but all I remember from that is listening to the advert for it and not finding it at all funny. Maybe it was just the ad that was shit, but who knows?

The Problem of Permanence

July 14, 2009 § 1 Comment

Do we need “permanence” for ethical dilemmas in video games to have meaning?

Manveer Heir, game designer at Raven Software, has been busy pondering over how we might somehow improve the impact of ethical dilemmas in games. Along with three other factors – “narrative”, “consequences” and “obstacles” – he talks about the idea of “permanence”. He comments that “all the other elements do not matter if there’s no permanence to the game”. He believes that the possibility of allowing players to save and reload certain parts of a game – to allow them to play out, at will, different choices or alternative endings – robs an ethical decision of its significance. He puts it like this: “a dilemma ceases to be a dilemma if you get a do-over. Save games unfortunately ruin this.” He then goes on to suggest that we should make certain sections of the game unalterable once they’ve been passed through, making the choices you’ve made at those points final.

In one way I can see where Heir is coming from. If you can go back and change a decision you’ve made as many times as you want, then there’s no real risk attached to the decision in the first place. You no longer have to think carefully of the repercussions because they can always be avoided. A more interesting question, though, is what drives players to abandon their original decisions and go with something else.

Curiosity? Maybe.

I, however, have a different theory and it’s this: if players felt an ownership over their decisions, if they felt those decisions properly defined them, then they wouldn’t feel the need to go back and change them. It is because these decisions are never fully embraced by the player in the first place that they are so easily discarded. So, the problem, as I see it, is more of poor writing – of not producing dilemmas which are challenging or interesting enough to engage with – and the idea of imposing a restriction on save/load points misses the issue.

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