Uncharted 4 is the rare example of a action adventure game with emotional heft. It’s one thing to match expectations for pretty scenery, tight gameplay, and big set pieces. It’s another to have UC4 generate the emotions and surprise that I associate with a well crafted movie. Technological breakthroughs push the game into new territory.
That’s not to say story, dialogue and acting isn’t important. But gaming has reached the point where strong narratives are no longer revelatory. In recent years we’ve had the superb Tales From the Borderlands, Firewatch, and the Walking Dead series. Until Dawn and Heavy Rain also have their moments. And The Last of Us has a heartbreaking storyline that works on many levels.
UC4’s story is strong, but isn’t a high point for gaming. Graphics are the differentiating factor this round. It’s all in the faces.
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Most critical attention on 2014’s Nightcrawler centered on Jake Gyllenhaal’s lead performance. It’s understandable; Gyllenhaal’s character actor eccentricities gel together in a way we’ve rarely seen before. He’s intense and deeply unsettling as lead character Lou Bloom.
However, it’s smart cinematography that underlines his performance and sets the film’s dark, gritty tone. DP Robert Elswit forces the audience to empathize with Lou’s own sociopathic worldview.
Nightcrawler chronicles Lou’s growing career in L.A. crime journalism. Along the way we get a handful of conventionally filmed conversations with Lou at diners, cars, and TV stations. But crime scenes are the heart of the film and push the story forward. It’s also where Elswit makes many strong and unconventional shot choices.
It’s a bummer that Hannibal only got three seasons. Great acting across the board, especially by Dancy and Mikkelsen. But it’s DP James Hawkinson’s visual language – striking, dreamlike, horrific, often all at once – that makes it especially unique.
Ken Adam is a legendary, British production design designer, most famous for his innovative work on early James Bond films (e.g. Dr. No, Goldfinger, Thunderball). Later in his career, Adam was the production designer for The Spy Who Loved Me. To quote the Youtube video:
One of the sets included the villain’s secret lair that was located inside of an enormous tanker ship. Adam struggled with lighting the massive set, and called in a favor from his old boss…Stanley Kubrick. Under an
agreement of total secrecy, Kubrick was snuck onto the empty set, where he spent 4 hours setting lighting and advising Ken Adam.
Wonderful post by Miguel Penabella over at Kill Screen Daily on The Last of Us, the critically acclaimed adventure/horror PS3 game from 2013. There’s many parallels in The Last of Us with not just zombie and post-apocalyptic films, but also John Ford’s The Searchers. Penabella’s breakdown of the similarities in theme and tone is very well done.
Slashfilm’s Angie Han on yet another aspect of Mad Max: Fury Road that’s great (seriously, if you haven’t seen this movie yet on the biggest screen possible, get on that stat):
But the film has just as much to say about men — specifically what masculinity is, and what place it has in our society. At the center of the film are two types of masculinity: the toxic, destructive kind represented by Immortan Joe, and the healthy, productive kind represented by Max. The conflict between them drives the movie, and points a way forward for our world.
Judy Berman writing for The Dissolve on von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg’s famous film movement and its underrated positive impact for female directors:
By denouncing the high-priced spectacles and “superficial action” that have since reached their hysterical apotheosis in city-smashing, vehicle-exploding superhero franchises, von Trier and Vinterberg were countering a trend toward the hyper-masculinization of film. The manifesto’s exhortation to make low-budget films built around “characters’ inner lives” was a mandate to ignore superficial differences and find what makes each character different, as well as what is universal about all human experience.
Wonderful, exhaustive look at David O. Russell’s career by Steven Hyden of Grantland. One smart observation:
Russell makes movies about families — some bound by birth (The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook), others by circumstance (Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees, and American Hustle). But they’re always loud, frayed, self-destructive, and yet somehow functional units.
David Bax, host of the consistently excellent Battleship Pretension podcast, writes on the dangers of the Netflix “all at once” TV model. For some shows, making an entire thirteen episode season available at once works. But some shows like Bloodline suffer from the format and treatment.