Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Apartment: A Screenplay Analysis

Screenplay Analysis by: 
Petros L. Ioannou

The Apartment is a 1960 film with a script written by Billy Wilder to be later directed by him also. As per usual Wilder continues his magic on paper and screen in this film. The Apartment is a romantic comedy and whilst not the first it did set something of a standard for the genre, which many films have oft tried to reach but few have ever done so. The copy of the script I’m working with shows it written in a most unusual manner, though not unfamiliar to me as Sunset Boulevard was written in the same way. A two column spread across the page made it a little confusing to read at first because it sometimes felt hard to see which part I should be focusing on, but after ten or so pages I adjusted to it. This unique style seems to have been a trademark of Wilder’s and interesting as it is, it can be a little disorienting for the reader. The script itself is a fairly lengthy one coming in at roughly 104 pages of double column script making it unusually long for a romantic comedy given the standard page-per-minute estimates. The film itself runs for just over two hours showing how unusual it is, given most in this genre only last for an hour and thirty minutes generally speaking. However not a second is wasted in this screenplay and every scene counts.

The story follows C.C. Baxter, C for Calvin, C for Clifford, but everyone calls him Bud. Actually they don’t. No-one in this entire screenplay calls him Bud, and there’s a very good reason why; he’s no-one’s bud, just a means to an end for everyone to walk all over him. What we have in Mr. Baxter is a man who is a walking definition of a spineless corporate drone. A man who will let people walk all over him in order to get a promotion and climb up the corporate ladder. He wants to be the man in the power suit with all the cash he can get, and he’s willing to be pushed around by everyone and anyone in order to get that promotion. Baxter is no-one’s “bud”.

We see this from the very moment the film opens; Baxter is letting Mr. Kirkeby use his apartment to have an affair with a woman named Sylvia so his wife doesn’t find out. Baxter is forced to stand in the street whilst he waits for Kirkeby to do his business and leave.  The question right from the start when reading this screenplay is why on Earth is Baxter letting Kirkeby do this? At first it seems like he’s just being a “good friend” as that’s what Kirkeby refers to him as when he’s trying to shovel Sylvia out of the titular apartment. We learn later that Kirkeby is actually one of four managers, Baxter’s superiors, at the insurance company he works for whom he lets use his apartment for extramarital affairs. First of all, let me just stress that I find the fact he works at an insurance company very important to showing the character of Baxter. It’s not like his dreams are to become the head of a talent agency, or become first pick in a professional football team, he’s working in what is famously one of the dullest industries on the planet and yet he’s willing to compromise his integrity to get ahead and rise on that dullest of corporate ladders because THAT is his dream, to be the man in charge, perhaps so that he can be the one stepping on people and not the other way around. Baxter will let all four of these men defile their marriages in his home so he can climb that ladder.

It works for a while and the four managers all give Baxter glowing recommendations to Mr. Sheldrake the company director. An interesting side-note is that this is actually the second time I’ve seen a Mr. Sheldrake in a script written by Billy Wilder, the previous having been Sunset Boulevard, a minor role as a film studio executive. It’s an interesting note that shows even great writers like Billy Wilder have the same ticks as people like myself including in-references to their own work, having always included the word ‘Elysium’ in some form or another in each script I write. It shows that no matter how far you go back writers have always been trapped in their own worlds and realities when writing a script, even if no-one but themselves will notice it. Mr. Sheldrake however in this screenplay has a much larger role than the Mr. Sheldrake in Wilder’s film from ten years prior. This time Sheldrake is the walking definition of sleazy corporate executive. He’s a womaniser and a right bastard. Sheldrake finds out about the famous apartment and decides he won’t fight the promotion Baxter is receiving if Baxter will let Sheldrake use The Apartment too.

I capitalise The Apartment above because I believe The Apartment is a proper noun here. It’s a character all on its own with its very existence being a part of New York City and the high-rise life that exists there. Every one of Baxter’s neighbours has an Apartment to themselves for the most part, they scold him  believing him to be a sleaze ball himself; bringing home a different woman each night. Each person is stuck in their own little world set as Writer Wilder called it “Apart” from each other. That’s why this film is called The Apartment, it’s not just because of the location, The Apartment is a character in itself as much as the Taxi in Taxi Driver or the suit in Iron Man. The Apartment sets people up in their own little worlds where they can judge other people’s worlds without all the facts and from a distance still safe in their havens, set ‘apart’ from each other. The Apartment is the location for the moral corruption of C.C. Baxter, he is no-one’s bud; he’s their Pimp and his Apartment has become a glorified brothel.

Sheldrake uses The Apartment to have his affair with Ms. Kubelik; the elevator operator that Baxter has a crush on also. The irony being that Baxter is letting people step all over him so he can get a promotion and become the kind of man that women like Ms. Kubelik would want to be with, a man of authority in a power suit, like the one he buys right after his promotion. When he finds out Baxter is devastated but continues to let Sheldrake use The Apartment. Ms. Kubelik is constantly trying to break free but finds herself always drawn back to the womanising Sheldrake as Ms. Kubelik is not the first affair he’s had. In fact sleazy Sheldrake has had one with his secretary and many others as the secretary recalls, it sort of reminds me of a soccer team’s squad rotation. This drives Ms. Kubelik to attempt suicide inside The Apartment. It’s over the next few days that Baxter helps her recover physically, emotionally and mentally. It is here that Baxter’s moral corruption takes a 180 and makes him stand up for himself. He was willing to forgive her when she stood him up to be with Sheldrake on their “first date”. He was willing to let Sheldrake take The Apartment over and use it as his love next. He was willing to take the scolding of his neighbours and a beating from Ms. Kubelik’ brother in the face. But now he’s had enough!

After Sheldrake loses his family because his secretary tells his wife the truth after she was fired, Sheldrake becomes a bachelor but continues to string along Ms. Kubelik like the rotten bastard he is. This culminates finally in him asking Baxter to use the very site of Ms. Kubelik attempted suicide; The Apartment, for a rendezvous with her. He declines, specifically stating that he won’t let him go near the apartment again, “Especially not with Ms. Kubelik”. This is the crux of the film, after being walked all over, getting his promotions and new suits and a fancy paycheck by letting his very existence become meaningless. He’s had enough, and he’s not standing up for himself as much as he’s standing up for Ms. Kubelik, that’s how much he cares about her. She inspires him to take a stand and quit his dull meaningless corporate job and stop being a drone and become and individual. To me this moment is as complex as all episodes of Star Trek and The Borg in terms of questioning individuality combined. In a few seconds he breaks free of the shackles of being just one of eight million people living in New York and becomes an individual who is willing to literally “stick it to the man”, here he is embracing the 1960s as they roll in on the New Year, a new decade has begun, one that had been forming slowly throughout the 1950s as we’d seen in films like On The Waterfront and Rebel Without A Cause, one of liberal individuality and Baxter has embraced the times with them, Ms. Kubelik. She finds out about what Baxter said to Sheldrake and runs to The Apartment. He declares his love for her and she doesn’t respond but tells him to “Shut up and deal!” the cards that she was uninterested in at first when he was taking care of her but now wants to play. She is now interested in him, not sleazy Sheldrake.

The Apartment is an exceptionally well written script and shows the quality of Billy Wilder’s writing throughout. It’s such a different script from Sunset Boulevard and demonstrates just what a talent he is. I’ve always been able to admire someone who’s able to  switch genres at the drop of hat and succeed marvellously at both and a Noir to a Romantic Comedy is about as dramatic a switch as can be. When questions of individuality, standing up for oneself and an almost prophetic message about the coming decade of free-liberal-thought as opposed to the corporate world where money means all of the closing decade where everyone is referred to as Mister, Misses, Miss, all by their last names and impersonal. The Apartment exemplifies all this and so much more in probably the best romantic comedy ever written.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Sony E3 Press Conference

Sony... Sony, Sony, Sony. My hats off to you guys, because there has not been a body slam like that since this one here. Only this one ends with Sony marching out triumphant and Microsoft walking away in tears. I literally cannot see a way back for Microsoft at this point, this launch period at the very least, they don't stand a chance in hell. Okay so onto the conference. This was possibly the best E3 in history, I know it's early to call this as Nintendo are going to have their hour-long Direct in less than nine hours and they're going to hopefully be bringing a lot to the table but not one of the conferences has been disappointing and this one was not the icing on the cake nor the cherry on top of the icing, or the cherry on top of the icing on top of the sundae of awesome. This was a whole extra cake added on and being told it tastes just as good but is completely sugar free and gives you superpowers. It really hit hard bringing out their strongest for what has turned out to be possibly the most epic E3 ever putting doubters like myself in their place.

Starting from the beginning, Jack Tretton stuts out on stage and essentially says "We know you've all been waiting for the PS4... so we're going to talk about the Vita". My instant reaction being "Give it a rest, the Vita is dead dude...". He starts talking about it, stats, PR bullshit, what have you. Now he's on about the PS3, yeah, yeah, get to it. Shows a bit of The Last of Us, the new game by Naughty Dog which is getting rave reviews at the moment.  Then a new game called Pupeteer takes the stage, looking interesting. Another game called Rain is shown, seems very stylistic, don't know anything really about it though. Beyond Two Souls goes out there, looks like an interesting mesh of Movie and Game starring Ellen Page. Gran Turismo 6 is unveiled, congratulations, you've successfully made the same game for about ten years now. They go on about "tessellation of polygons". I was getting a bit bored at this point to be honest. A bit more went on, we saw another CG trailer for Batman: Arkham Origins and a little bit of Grand Theft Auto V. These are all great games but nothing Sony should be bragging about too much, we knew they were coming and they were dragging time here. Well, from what I can tell, that was intentionally so.

Here begins the PlayStation 4. Starting out with finally showing the design, a somewhat unremarkable black box, or trapehzoid, nothing special. But the Sony Entertainment Network is expanding to include more movies, more music, and an Exclusive Sony Network of TV and Film on PSN Tailored specifically to gamers, whether this is like a Sony Netflix or their old shows and movies streaming for PSN+ customers, I'm not entirely sure. They're also bringing Redbox Instant, Live Events Viewer (A god send for me as I have no cable) and Flixster to PS3, Vita and PS4.

Onto some games; Killzone: Shadow Fall, we saw this at the February conference in New York. It was a somewhat unremarkable Sci-Fi First Person Shooter, as we expected. Nothing new, but it's a launch title none-the-less. Then there is DriveClub, a game free to PSN+ users on launch date, once again nothing new, same old. Next up is inFamous: Second Son, the spin-off title that actually looks pretty damn good if you ask me and something I hope that can be made to be a lot of fun. The trailer looked pretty slick, with the lip syncing almost perfect a rarity in video games because often mouths with move a bit, but it feels like a voice over, this felt like the voices were coming from their mouths, their lips truly moved. A New Steampunk game, called The Order: 1886, set in Victorian London, kinda looks like a cross between Dishonoured and what I assume is Arthurian Lore as they had a guy called Gallahad, and a quote from L'Morte De Arthur at the start, could be an interesting take to see some kind of Arthurian Legend revival in a Steampunk based setting. Knack seemed interesting a kind of action fun quirky game. Interesting visuals, a launch title. The Dark Sorcerer looks very nice, thought it was another cheesy generic dark western fantasy game turns out to be...well I have no idea, there was a green screen and a film crew involved and a bit of comedy.

Then they went onto the independent titles, right now Steam and Nintendo lead the way with indies, but Sony seems to be set to give them all a run for their money with the ability to self-publish content. Transistor, from the creators of Bastion looks pretty slick similar gameplay different setting and style, very nice looking. Don't Starve was another indie game shown off, didn't quite catch a lot of this as my stream kept failing on me. Mercenary Kings kind of a retro shooter along the lines of classic games like Metal Slug, from the creators of the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World game. Young Horses, Rays, a Western Game, a space sim called Galaxy and a game I can't remember the name of because I was too busy laughing at Sony's ability to poke fun of their own bad meme by saying it's based on fact but does not contain any "Giant Enemy Crabs".

Then onto their blockbuster titles coming to PS4. Diablo III, without the always online requirement, and new Sony based items from games like Uncharted as special exclusives. And then what came next was like nothing we'd ever expected....

FINAL FANTASY Versus XIII... or should I say FINAL FANTASY XV. A Sony Exclusive taking the elements that were once a part of the fabled Versus game stuck in a hellish development cycle now put into Final Fantasy XV, a game that had gameplay that looked incredible, seemed to play smoothly and was visually stunning. For a Final Fantasy fan like myself, this was the killer blow to Microsoft, that was enough to make me get a PS4 over and Xbox but they didnt' stop there... Kingdom Hearts III. A game we've been waiting for since the days of the PS2. It's like Square Enix essentially have turned around and said "We're done f-ing around with mobile games, spin-offs and crap like that. We are bringing the big guns to the forefront!" Not to mention that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, which was being warmly received by this point after all the good news, was console exclusive to Sony. A Final Fantasy double and Kingdom Hearts III really has put them on the map. Let's hope they can deliver. After that they showed a little more of Watch_Dogs, which looks great as ever, some more of Assassin's Creed IV: The Black Flag. The Elder Scrolls: Online coming to PS3 with an exclusive first run beta of the game.

Then came the actual killer blow: in what almost seemed like a mockery of Microsoft, Sony tells us it will back the player, play used games, everything that is normal for us now, will continue and given recent fears it's great to see they've listened and totally gotten it right. They even released this hilarious commercial about how the PS4 shares used games and deliver a damaging blow to Microsoft. With Jack Tretton back on stage now gleaming ear-to-ear. What came next was well, to put it in Mortal Kombat terms, a "Fatality". The price point of the PS4 is... $399. That's one hundred dollars LESS than the XBox One and it includes all the exclusives mentioned, plus all the third party titles like Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. This killer blow to Microsoft has left them in the dust. Come Holiday Season 2013, there will be one winner and it's the PlayStation 4. They've also made Microsoft look so bad now that they might be forced to drop the anti-used games policy or good news for Nintendo fans like myself, it's likely many people will go for the Wii U also.

Final Thoughts: This conference was masterfully performed and has made me realise just how much I'm going to miss the crowd at tomorrow's Nintendo Direct. It's been an epic day at E3 and Sony has taken top prize delivering the best E3 Press Conference in recent memory if for no other reason than it has proved gamers still have a say.

Rating: 10/10 - PERFECT

Ubisoft E3 Press Conference

Ubisoft, last year's "winner" by popular vote of E3 mostly due to the epic bursting onto the scene like the kool-aid man of Watch_Dogs, hit back again today with the same brand of somewhat awkwardness and simply quality titles we've seen in the past. This year there was no specific focus on the Wii U as their focus shifted more toward Next Generation consoles. And unlike most games we've seen so far, there was definitely a concerted effort to not only make things look next generation; but play that way too. While I've been critical of Xbox One's "semi-perma online" console, I don't have a problem with online games - so long as it's stated that way. Games that are specifically multiplayer online games have been around for a decade and a half, longer even. But bringing that online always aspect to a game that doesn't need it for the gameplay like say, Sim City, which had a few online elements plugged in but was a single player game. Online is practically everywhere now so Ubisoft are pushing this with their new games "The Crew" and "Tom Clancy's The Division". They also showed off some other games like Rabbid's Interactive TV Series and of course Assassin's Creed IV: The Black Flag.

The Crew in particular sparked my interest, being something that seemed to be brand new for a driving game. I've seen racing games, like Gran Turismo. I've seen open world driving games like Need for Speed: Underground. But this is something new; this is something that is open world, racing, online and wholly new -- at least from my perspective. The Crew looks to be something interesting, something new and fascinating. I'm looking forward to testing this game out and seeing how exactly it will go down for someone like me who hasn't really enjoyed a racing game outside of Mario Kart since Gran Turismo 2 just because of the bog standard that they all seem to be to me.. When I bought Need for Speed: Underground 2, I expected it to be essentially the racing game version of The Fast and The Furious, well The Crew seems to be very much that with a bit of the newer films thrown in for extra action. You can cross roads, bridges, off-road it looks pretty awesome to be honest and I'm quite excited.

Then there was the odd one, the Rabbids Interactive TV Series. I'm not quite sure what was going on there... people were screaming at the television to break a glass over a Rabbid, they were bouncing around. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of an interactive TV series, it sounds fascinating the idea of a game TV series as such. So often games right now are more like interactive movies, big epics. Then there's games like Back to the Future and The Walking Dead both by Telltale which are episodic in nature. I'm not quite sure what this Rabbids thing was, and if it were anything other than the most annoying creatures in media history, I'm sure I'd be invested in this.

Tom Clancy's "The Division" was a hefty introduction, it looks like an awesome online game that uses multiple interfaces from consoles to tablets in one world. Here's hoping the game is also cross platform online too. The game is basically a third person shooter set in a post-disaster New York by the looks of things. The trailer was very vague only really setting up the backstory for a society that is a House of Cards waiting to fall and well... does so after an epidemic breaks out. Ubisoft seem to have a pretty solid Online Third Person Shooter RPG on their hands here. I'm interested to see where they go with this in terms of actual plot and story rather than just the setting they showed here.

There was of course Assassin's Creed IV, which was a CG trailer this time around, not much to comment on that other than, well it's probably going to be a fun game, there's already been a lot of news on that. Much like Watch_Dogs, which as a game just looks to be phenomenal and really strong.  We'll see how that all pans out, I want to play this game now. Maybe if there's some time after all the editing I'll be doing at E3 over the next few days, perhaps I'll get a chance. But the game looks freaking awesome and a very interesting look at how technology is evolving and integrating into our society in our daily lives in ways we often forget when we're screaming "damn computers" or "stupid piece-o-shit iPhone!"

Finally, Rayman Legends,  a game that looks to be fantastic... a little frustrated as it should be out by now on Wii U and owning one just makes me angry that it's no longer an exclusive to that console and I can't even imagine how it's not going to be anymore given what I've played on the Legends demo for Wii U. The trailer looked pretty bad though, at least visually. But we cannot forget the #NagasakiFart, the South Park RPG, South Park: The Stick of Truth, a game that has been in development for a while, switched from THQ to Ubisoft, but still looks to be epic, not shying away to bring in more gamers, this is a South Park game make no mistake about it and I can't wait to see how it plays and pans out in the end because it looks seriously great.

Final Thoughts: Overall a very solid conference, new IP's, old favourites, new ideas, real next gen stuff and not just the boring "oh yeah we've got better graphics" stuff we've seen so far, this is real next generation gameplay and ideas from The Crew's online open world racing/driving game to the weirdness of the Rabbid's fascinating idea of an interactive TV series. Hopefully it pans out but this was an incredibly good conference.

Rating: 9/10 - EXCELLENT

E.A. E3 Press Conference

Now for a quick rundown on Electronic Arts's Press Conference and my opinions on it. The start made me laugh, they opened with a rundown of what's to come then said "A franchise loved by millions" will be on stage next. Suddenly we get what appears to be the static, drums and lens flares of Battlefield 4... followed by; "BRAAAAINS!" Yep, that's right, it's Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, the game that actually might convince me to buy a Used Xbox 360 (yep, that's right Microsoft, suck it, I'm getting a whole used console now). It looks to be a lot of hilarious fun and it's coming to both Xbox 360 and One, take a guess where I'll be putting my money. After this however things take a bit of a dip then rise, dip then rise for an interesting EA Press Conference.

Star Wars: Battlefront, let's put that out there. Whatever they're doing with this game, it looks to be exciting and it got the nerd community all riled up even if it was just a basic 5 second CG trailer followed by a logo. That was a rise, what followed was the announcement of Need for Speed: Rivals. A game that looks pretty solid, but it's really gotten to the point now that not much new in the way of racing games can be offered, a problem faced by Nintendo with their own comedic racing franchise, Mario Kart. The cloud-based opponent A.I. from Forza looks interesting their "Drivitar" as they called it. Yeah, that's going to be an E3 meme for years to come alongside "My Body is Ready", "Giant Enemy Crab" and of course "Non-Specific Action Figure"... man that last one was weird. I'd call Need for Speed a dip, but it was actually alright, it's just they didn't announce anything actually new for it and spent an awful lot of time on it.

This semi-mistake was followed by showing off Dragon Age III: Inquisition, a game they seem to be taking their time with now, due to be released about three and a half years after it's predecessor Dragon Age II, the game is going open world, with you having your ability to influence the world to save it or destroy it. Oh and there's actual dragons this time. So basically it sounds like a better version of Skyrim. The lore in Dragon Age always appealed to me more than in Elder Scrolls, especially the Quinari, they're pretty awesome. I also love the way Dragon Age mirrors their world to ours in the middle ages but in a more fantasy setting. This was followed up by about twenty minutes of sports games. Don't get me wrong, I like sports, hell I love football, I am an ardent Tottenham Hotspur fan, often waking up at 4am to watch games over here in L.A. that are airing at sane hours back in London. But EA Sports took to center stage for so damn long with a weird lyrical intro with a basketball, lots of talk about dribbling and while I'm sure it's all nice and I've played Fifa quite a bit, though I still suck bad, they spent so damn long on it. Especially right after they spent no more than three and a half minutes on what could be BioWare's masterpiece. Perhaps like Battlefront EA just didn't have much to show off of the game. It was a CG trailer once again afterall. Interesting that they've kept the more stylised art style.

There was also a bit more on Battlefield 4, doesn't seem all that different to Battlefield 3 but still looks like a solid game and given how fed up I'm getting with Call of Duty, seems like the game I'm going to try out next as an FPS, along side their new I.P. Titanfall, which looks pretty mecha-badass too. The visuals of BF4 and it's sound are once again absolutely superb I should add. Though aside from "Commander Mode" returning from their previous entries, I didn't' see much new stuff about Battlefield 4, afterall the game is due out soon, so how much more can they say?

Final Thoughts: Overall EA had a fairly good conference, it wasn't much in the way for more hardcore gamers. Nerds like myself were a little disappointed we didn't see more but there's certainly a lot to look forward to and either way, there's always... GARDEN WARFARE.

Conference Rating: 7/10 - GOOD

Microsoft E3 Press Conference

Microsoft's E3 Press Conference went down pretty much as expected. They threw games out there, lots of games. Everything they didn't' show at the XBOX One reveal was shown. They showed a lot of games that were new like RYSE: Son of Rome and Titanfall as well as old favourite like Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, a game we all knew was headed to XBox after Rising became the first Metal Gear game to crossover to Microsoft and become cross-platform. Then you've got the surprise announcements, like Killer Instinct returning this time to Xbox, which for Nintendo fanboys like myself serves as a bitter reminder of the fact that Nintendo has lost so much third party support. That being said even if it's not the same Rare that was at Nintendo, it's nice to see them reviving an old favourite once again, I look forward to smashing some skulls as Glacius. Or maybe I don't because the price point rolled around. $499...

And this is for a console that essentially bans used games and puts the power with the game publishers rather than the gamers themselves. The 24 online check in requirement and other DRM issues were not addressed at all in the conference, probably to their benefit or else they'd probably cause all kinds of issues. To be honest, had they just ditched the disc drive system, they might have avoided a lot of this hassle for themselves because that's essentially what they're doing, but discs are still around and I literally can't remember the last PC game I bought that had a disc, it's all steam or formerly Direct2Drive for me.

Now speaking as a person who before the reveal, wanted so badly to be excited for the next XBox and for their E3 presentation. I am not an XBox guy, I have never owned a Microsoft games console but I'm a PC user all the way, even a somewhat defender of Windows 8. I'd hoped the Xbox One would blow me away, and honestly, between the extortionate price point and the ban on used games, I feel I can't justify the purchase of their new console. I don't think I ever can unless they sort these issues out. The Microsoft Press Conference was solid for gamers, until you look behind the scenes a little more and realise that for all these great games, there are the huge flaws and issues in the Xbox One.

Perhaps for many Xbox Gamers, they don't care too much about that, they'd like to play the new Halo game that was announced, with no number or subtitle, we'll see how that goes down. But it's looking like the console will have a solid line up but it's a line up that for the most part, Sony will be able to compete with, match or even out do, we'll find out more soon enough.

Final Thoughts: A Solid Presentation of Games and Exclusives, but the $499 Price Point and the DRM issue still lurks over the Xbox One.

Conference Rating: 8/10 - GREAT***

*** Note the conference was great itself, but not enough to override what they'd said in the past, which at least they got out of the way early.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Pre-E3 Expo Thoughts

Just a short update this weekend. This week I will be at E3 Expo 2013, I'll get to see all the awesome new stuff Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft put out there, as well as see what else is in store. Will there be a new Zelda? A New Final Fantasy? Will Call of Duty: Dog Warfare be any good, or just yet another cash-in sequel by Activision and Infinity Ward. And perhaps most importantly, does the Xbox One actually play video games?

I'll be doing a three-day analysis at the end of each day, try and give you some impressions of what I get to play. Bearing in mind I am working at E3 this year for gaming website, for whom I'll be editing many of their videos in the media room. However I'll try and give my best impressions, specifically relating to the major conferences, we have Sony and Microsoft dishing them out and Nintendo with their hour long Nintendo Direct trying to bring the conference less in a bombastic approach and a more... well direct one.

How will E3 go down this year, no idea. Everything seems pretty level this year, Sony and Microsoft have their new consoles coming up, Sony appearing to be in the lead here. They've shown off more games, though people seem to forget how bad their conference was in face of how disastrous the XBox Reveal was. Microsoft have be all about the games this year, tell us what is going to make someone like myself a person who has never owned an Xbox console before, buy one. What exclusives are you bringing to the table? The DRM thing is a real crap, so maybe they might sort something out there, but it's growing increasingly concerning that they won't be changing that any time soon and we'll all have to pay full price for used games, which frankly is BULLSHIT.

Sony on the other hand have shown off a few games, however they haven't shown off any heavy hitters really just the usual Sony stuff that we expect from them. When I saw the PS4... the presentation that is, I really hope they actually show the goddamn console this time, I was quite disappointed that all they showed off were games that had minute graphical enhancements and there was nothing new about the PS4. They've spoken about using the Vita in a similar way to the Wii U, but for someone to do that would cost them somewhere in excess nearly $1000 in all likely-hood. One thing they should emphasises is a worldwide price cut for the Vita and a massive push for cross-platform play. I love the idea that you can play one game on your PS3/PS4 then go play it on your Vita when you leave your house. The only problem is that you have to buy full copies of each. They've changed that for a couple of games but really they need to make it across all games, buy one copy get the other digitally free. Or buy the game digitally and you get the game on both handheld and home console.

Nintendo have to show off their big guns on the software side, with a very rough start to the Wii U, as an old-school fanboy I'm hoping they can pull something out of the hat. We're expecting Smash Bros, Mario, Zelda and hopefully a few surprises along the way. I'd hate to see their direct show off stuff we already knew was coming. I'd like to see some Mario Kart going on and perhaps most important for me, I want to see what Monolith Soft is working on, everyone keeps talking about Retro Studios... yeah, yeah Metroid Prime was a good game and DKC Returns was great too. But Xenoblade Chronicles was probably the best game on the Wii, and now Monolith Soft are bringing that kind of awesome RPG to the Wii U. What's coming up, I have no idea. But I'm very excited, let's just hope they don't flop like last year's conference, which started out so well and then completely lost steam by Nintendoland, which ironically has turned out to be one hell of a game.

How will things go down, it seems all companies need to focus on their games, with Nintendo probably a step behind because despite their one year jump on the others, they've not done much with it. Let's see how things go down, I'll see you guys and gals on Tuesday.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Cloud Atlas Thoughts

I finally saw Cloud Atlas today and found it both very interesting but also very confused film that I don't think ever really hit its mark. I think it's a movie that is trying to tell us about the human condition and our existence, but when you're telling a SciFi movie like that, you really must make sure your audience does actually understand your meaning, otherwise it can come off as random incoherent babbling. Sadly Cloud Atlas, though commendable for trying to be intelligent SciFi and more than just another explosive movie, feels like it is heading for this big crescendo revelation that it never quite happens.
I'm not really sure what story this movie was trying to tell. That we're all connected? I guess but that's kinda implied before you've even watched the movie.
Was it about souls, love, slavery, the afterlife?

I will admit I have not read the novel this was based on but I have heard that it was good. However, a work of art should stand on it's own, and while unlike many of my pompous contemporaries I find that some of the film adaptations are often better than the original source material. An example of this for me is the Lord of the Rings films, which I felt were far more succinct and felt stronger in overall narrative than the books. Those films did not need any "homework" to understand the movie and Cloud Atlas should be no different. In the end I was very confused by the movie and that's not a good sign. Any one of the stories in the movie would have actually worked very well as singular movies, but even with the 3 hour runtime none of them quite get the development they need and instead it all comes off as an incoherent mess. Any of these stories would have worked better than the whole in the end. Because there is no truly tying thread to it all, nothing that would make an audience member say "Ah riiiight I get it now" this is what it's all been about.

In many ways it has a similar problem that I feel Game of Thrones has too, but where that show succeeds in many ways because of the length and uniting threads of the story. Instead in the end the movie gets lost in its own mythos, unable to have a single theme and trying to tell multiple ones about our existence with nothing to tie them together except perhaps that they're all human experiences. But that's not enough in the end and the movie just doesn't work overall.

I have a theory about movies, they should get better every time you watch them, but at the same time they should get their point across and their general message on the first viewings the rest is in the details. On this part Cloud Atlas fails, and quite miserably so.

 It's a shame really because ever since films like Inception,  I'd hoped intelligent but interesting mainstream SciFi was making a comeback. When I'd heard about this fascinating jaunt through time by the creators of The Matrix, I'd hoped that something might come out of this that would be awesome, instead we got this, a movie that I'm sure made perfect sense in the minds of its creators but was a complete convoluted mess on the screen in the end. What was its meaning? I have no idea, it's clearly trying to convey a multitude of them but as such loses its focus and basically just says "Hey, um... Reincarnation!" without really stating its implications or what this story is trying to tell us.