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The Charms of a Pessimistic Workaholic

The top grossing film from Woody Allen ever, Midnight in Paris, is sweet and nice like a Belgian chocolate. It is like a dessert after some of the more substantial films of Allen’s career, even though – judged on its own – it is somewhat unsatisfactory.

That’s what the present is. It’s a little unsatisfying because life is unsatisfying.

The movie is about human feelings – nostalgia, romance and disagreements – but more in the sense of the characters talking about rather than living through them. Contrasted with Allen’s lowest grossing film, September, where the characters also spend a lot of time talking about these issues, in Paris the protagonist and audience are somehow insulated from feeling the pain.

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Gray Matter

After eleven years, there is a new adventure game by Jane Jensen who is best known for her Gabriel Knight Mystery series. Once again, the story is grounded in real locations and weaves facts with supernatural occurrences. The protagonists are obviously new – Sam, a street magician, and Dr Styles, a neurobiologist – and the chapters alternate between them just as we saw in Jensen’s two last full games.

A painting from Gray Matter

Sam is after an illusive Deadulus Club for magicians while Dr Styles goes to extremes to prevent his memories from ever fading

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Home Video Rip-Off

Amadeus movie poster

Can I see the film that won all the awards, please?

I believe there exists an ideal length for a given book, song or movie. That does not mean that the same theme cannot be recreated in a more minimalist or expansive way but then it is a different work. Take Annie Hall as an example of a film which feels just right at an hour and a half.

Successful authors often produce more complex and expansive works as their skills grow. But the success can also inflate the egos, and then the length grows as any output seems suddenly worthy of preservation. The results are Metallica’s St. Anger full of endless yet uninspired songs, the Harry Potter series which even some fans admit does not need to be 40% longerWhen I saw the Order of the Phoenix in a bookstore I thought it was a ‘cumulative’ edition. When I realized the mistake, I decided to wait until Rowling edits the heptalogy to be shorter than War and Peace. than the Bible, and extended versions of movies. The popular culture, and especially Hollywood, is influenced by the dogma that bigger is better.

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Art on iPhone

Painting of a dancer

Gallery of iPhone ‘art’ apps

Smartphones opened limitless possibilities of throwing your free time out of the window. These range from push-y ‘sync’ of your business email, to games with names evocative of hours of sophisticated fun, such as iPeePeeNo, I am not making this up.. But are there more creative uses too?

As the title indicates, the answer is yes. Join me for a look at some interesting artistic tools available for the iPhone. (Of course, you can find similar applications for other platforms too.) Continues » 

Silver Screen Fascination with Robots

Some of the famous movie robots

Some of the famous robots (spanning just over 100 years)

I used to think there was some kind of evolution in sci-fi movies. For example, that robots started with awkward boxes and blobs as seen in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) or Forbidden Planet. One only needs to see Fritz Lang‘s silent-era Metropolis (1927) to learn there is nothing new under the sun not only in terms of robots but of the overall structure and themes of sci-fi films. Continues » 

Modern Text Adventures
The Rise of the Community

Commercial interactive fiction practically disappeared by 1989 with the demise of Infocom. In retrospect, it was probably good for the new medium. Let’s see why.

See also the first part describing the beginnings and the commercial era.

Amateur programmers were trying their hands at producing text adventures of their own already during the commercial era. Writing a game from scratch in a general-purpose programming language is a daunting task though, with most of the effort spent on the ‘backbones.’ Soon, specialized authoring systems started to appear, and the online services (and later Internet) allowed enthusiasts to connect with each other. Continues » 

Modern Text Adventures
Beginnings and Commercial Era

Imagine a moment from your favorite adventure movie or drama. Imagine you are the hero. And imagine what happens next is up to you. “Text adventures” (or interactive fiction) are a modern text-based medium that opens up worlds of possibilities not limited by cgi effects or a single story-line but only by your imagination. Let me briefly touch on its fascinating history that includes cave explorations, early virtual computers and the rise of graphic adventures, to finally emerge in its state-of-the-art with the spread of the Internet.

The story starts with Will Crowther, one of the three software developers of arpanet (the forerunner of Internet), who managed to overshadow this achievement by writing Colossal Cave Adventure game (or simply Adventure). Continues » 

What Makes a Schattenjäger

Portrait of Gabriel Knight, the main protagonist of the series

A portrait of Gabriel Knight, the main protagonist of the series

“A mix of good mystery, writing and music,” would be a correct answer. If you are thinking “What is a schattenjäger?”, you will find the answer in the game series written by Jane Jensen. The first game, Sins of the Fathers, could not appear at a different time. Published in 1993, it came at the end of the golden age of adventure games: targeting the broadest audience possible was not the priority and companies were spending on lavish productions (the package included a companion full-color comic book) even though the genre has a high cost of content creation (compared to laying new levels for first-person shooters). Continues » 

Death Populistic

A Napster lawsuit affair, a documentary with the feel of a reality show, and now a CD with crippled sound. It seems like Metallica have become better in stirring controversy than writing songs.

‘Death Magnetic’ might well be the loudest- and lousiest-sounding mass-marketed album. Its dynamic range is compressed into a monolithic wall of noise. Apparently, volume sells and sound mixes are more and more influenced as we change our habits to listening on the go. But despite all the slick iPods, the limitations inherent in today’s digital technology still mean there is only so many bits to describe how loud the sound is. People deciding this for ‘Death Magnetic’ failed to realize that “when everyone’s super, no one will be.” (A point made in ‘The Incredibles.’) Continues »