Hardboiled Teens

by on Apr.29, 2006, under moviez


In the age-old world of gumshoe stories, the battered detective lends an unwavering determination to solving the crime. If you’re not a big fan of noir, I will chance on a prediction : you will be. At least, once you see the movie “Brick”.

The backdrop of a suburban highschool provides ample substance for the heated story, and not without plenty of irony. Teens talking as if they’ve stepped out of the forties, spewing a delicious torrent of tough-guy vernacular unheard since Miller’s Crossing. Every archetype is present, but literally translated into a smaller world of highschool seniors. The “heat” is the highschool vice-principal, the snitch with heart of gold is the school nerd, the femme fatale… on and on.

It totally works. The irony of modern young actors curling their lips around these lines is totally hysterical :

Brendon : Throw one at me if you want, hash head. I’ve got all five senses and I slept last night, that puts me six up on the lot of you.

Or when he’s confronted by the school heat :

Assistant VP Gary Trueman: You’ve helped this office out before.
Brendan : No, I gave you Jerr to see him eaten, not to see you fed.

Brendan : No more of these informal chats! If you have a disciplinary issue with me, write me up or suspend me and I’ll see you at the Parent-Teacher conference.

Brendan : I don’t want you to come kicking in my homeroom door because of something I didn’t do.

I think thats enough. Hopefully enough to get all three of my readers out to see this wonderful indie film. Does this have anything to do with games? Only in the sense that the director has created an alternate little world in this movie. All of the filmic elements seem to breathe on their own despite being the product of two (or more) sources overlayed. From my point of view, doing this type of mashup smartly is creatively pure. The result stands on its own. In sum, just further proof that little people can do great things.

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James Cameron’s Hollywood Reversal

by on Feb.03, 2006, under games design, mmorpg, moviez, new media

Like the Hollywood fare that inspires them, typical tie-in games for movies usually follow the same tired formula. A reskinned Quake clone where you follow the plot along as the protaganist (with suitable cut-scenes to prop up the story, ugh), and you uh, jump…and shoot stuff. Or possibly a themed RTS set in the movie’s universe, where you… destroy stuff.

Games based on movie franchises are NEVER as successful (monetarily or aesthetically) ones based on original IP.

Enter James Cameron, finally resurfacing from being underwater for like the last 20 years. Cameron intends on taking the classic movie-game concept and turning it on its end. This ambition is currently called, Project 880, and he essentially wants to make a multiplayer game and movie simultaneously, and then release the game first. The idea is that players will explore the universe and become familiar with it (addicted?), then go watch the movie to experience one thread within the gameworld’s narrative.

Hmmmmm. Is this a transparent marketing play, or a legitimate exploration in game-movie interactivity? Remember, the story I linked is in Business Week.

Cameron is not stupid, and this has never been done before. Lucky for him, this fact alone might make game and movie sell magnificently. Clever marketing, indeed. Risky, too! What if the game turns out like The Matrix Online? Yek.

Yet, as a seasoned optimist, I couldn’t help but race the possibilities around in my mind. The project seems interesting, but only when you start to think about it.

Lets assume that Cameron doesn’t care about marketing or money. Lets pretend, for a moment, that all he cares about are games.

Lets also believe that the game is so full of awesome, that you quit your job, your family and bowling club in order to fully experience everything it has to offer.

So what would a game-vie look like? Which compliments the other? In this perfect universe of gamedom, which entity benefits more? The movie? Or the game?

  • Consider that the fictional universe is fully realised and documented within peoples’ heads before the movie starts. In this case, the movie gets the benefit here, as the setting has been established, allowing it to concentrate on other things… like plot!
  • The movie’s subtext is readily understood. Here, the movie benefits again, as it inherits from a significant base of knowledge for the viewer. This provides Cameron an opportunity for more content within the film without having to explain its presence. That is, making nods and homages toward the game’s setting and characters in an effort to make it more entertaining. (Moviegoer : “Wow, those characters got ganked in the exact same spot I did!”)
  • The visual imagery and effects are incredible. This notion boosts the game, without question. With a Cameron budget, the game can only help to inherit the rigourous production calibur of a blockbuster film. In this, the game will most likely look fantastic, as the design and attention of an excellent production studio will be devoted to it.
  • Great performances and top-notch acting talent. The hype of a Cameron film, and the budget that he’ll undoubtably command, will attract high quality talent. This will obviously benefit both, but here’s a chance to make a game that actually has good voiceover work. 🙂
  • Story. I’m having a hard time imagining how the game may help the movie’s story, or vice versa. Perhaps when the player returns to the game after having seen the movie, they may discover another dimension to the game experience.

In the end, this isn’t quite as exciting as I had thought, as this seems more of a vehicle for the movie. Its hard to see it for much more than that. Yes, the setting and the imagery will likely be incredibly compelling, but the game has to be innovative and fun in order to justify this unique and directed combination.

Now, what if the outcome of the gameworld influenced the outcome of the movie? Now that’s exciting, and would make me want to play it (if only to witness the influencing elements firsthand). Sadly, with the extreme scheduling of the film business, this would probably never be possible.

How about you? If this mythical awesome-filled game were to appear tomorrow and offer you a chance to “direct” the plot of the movie, would you play it?

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And so it begins…

by on Feb.01, 2006, under moviez, new media

It was going to happen, sooner or later. Yet with the Pixar-Disney marriage, it was the first (and loudest) shot heard ’round the world.

Here comes the competition, spurred to action (for the click-lazy : Warner Brothers is starting its own pay-per-use P2P system)

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Pixar Swims With the Sharks

by on Jan.25, 2006, under moviez, new media

After two weeks in a media spin-cycle, the latest rumours finally circled around the truth. The Disney shark has gulped down Pixar for a cool 7.5 billion dollars. Wow.

I’m quite sure this has been tried many times in the past, but while a potential acquisition unquestionably benefits Grandfather Disney, its always been a dubious deal for Pixar. Thus, the answer from Jobs has always been a flat “no”.

So whats changed? Well, there is one big reason that I can think of.

This new development would never have happened if it weren’t for the iPod and its software sister, iTunes. Yes, one can talk about better Pixar relations that Disney has cultivated with new CEO Igor, or that Pixar should sell while they’re still on top, etc. But the real deal is this : Jobs is changing his Disney song for iTunes.

This is huge. Big media is finally going to pay attention to online distribution in a big way. With Pixar, Disney, iTunes (and their subsidiaries which include ABC and ESPN) doing it, its now a competition. Thats the only thing that will move those guys into the 21st century. Competition is the ultimate wake-up call.

The specifics on how this will play is anyone’s guess. I suspect that it will be somewhat organic; they’ll see what works for them (and the video-ipod-downloading consumer) and go with it. Will iTunes become the primary mechanism for watching media? I have no idea. But this will open the sluices for online media purchases, and it won’t just be television shows and movies. This will change what television essentially is.

So this is how the merger benefits Steve Jobs. How will it benefit a culturally sensitive Pixar? Well, I’ll leave that question for the experts. 🙂

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