Can't Stop the Movies - No One Can Stop The Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
16Nov/180

Podcast Special: Night in the Woods (2017) with Tevis Thompson

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When I first reviewed Night in the Woods, I was left in a sort of awe at its ability to see us in our pain and end on resilient optimism. Night in the Woods has become one of my undeniable favorites with its distinct art style, poetic character writing, emotionally resonant mini-games, and continued relevance to our collective moment. I haven't been able to get it out of my head in the months since I finished it.

In my restless way I needed to discuss it more. So I reached out to critic and author Tevis Thompson (Second Quest, The Existential Art, 100-Word Game Reviews) for a conversation on Night in the Woods. Over the course of our conversation we talk about how traumatic identification bonds characters to our memory, the exhilaration of platforming, why protagonist Mae is seen as problematic, the difficulties in giving existential threats literal form, and playing Night in the Woods in the age of Trump.

Please join us in this conversation and I'd like to read what Night in the Woods means to you. To listen to the podcast you may click play below, the image above, or download a copy.

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11Nov/180

Return of the Obra Dinn (2018)

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

Among the many pleasures and surprises in Return of the Obra Dinn lay an embrace of one truism working insurance claims.  When someone puts in a claim they may be using their insurance on the worst day of their life.  Between the rotted corpses, potential mutiny, monster attacks, and sickness rampant on the Obra Dinn it's unlikely you'd find a worse day in the lives of its passengers or crew. But the insurance adjuster must go on and work backwards to figure out what happened so the claims may be paid.

That truism embraced - I'm head over heels enamored with Lucas Pope's Return of the Obra Dinn as it seems custom-built to appeal to each of my loves and past work as an insurance adjuster (Fire claims for four years among other insurance duties). What Pope nails is the process of working claims.  The damage has already been done and it's up to you, playing the adjuster, to piece together the events that brought the Obra Dinn to its end.

17Oct/182

First Reformed (2018)

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The cold weather does little to encourage attendance at First Reformed church. Reverend Ernst Toller's dispassionate approach to his sermons provide little reason to stay. When one of his parishioners comes to Ernst with ecological concerns, Ernst begins an uneasy journey through what remains of his faith. Paul Schrader wrote the screenplay for and directs First Reformed, which stars Ethan Hawke.

"Courage is the solution to despair. Reason provides no answers."

Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) offers the above line of cold comfort to Michael Mansana (Philip Ettinger) in the opening passages of Paul Schrader's First Reformed. Michael despairs over the condition of the planet, neatly presented with charts and factoids aplenty as the stunned Reverend listens. The difference between Michael and Ernst is Michael has reason to despair and Ernst is so mired in codependency he's latched on to Michael's despair as a way to build reliance on himself in a way religion failed to do so.

Ernst's codependency is a fascinating subject that receives little attention outside Schrader's specific aim - to show what happens when a Reverend meets an atheist and goes online for what seems to be the first time. This places First Reformed into broad cynicism, not informed despair, and shallow nature of Schrader's pessimistic screenplay gets no favors from Hawke's equal parts self-pitying and growling performance.  First Reformed is a bad film, one that continues Schrader's downward trend from The Canyons, and so thoroughly lacks in compelling attributes that I started to wonder how this man could also be responsible for Bringing Out the Dead and Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters.

10Oct/180

Isle of Dogs (2018)

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A boy falls downward
Among abandoned canines
They will soon fight back

Wes Anderson wrote the screenplay for and directs Isle of Dogs, which stars Bryan Cranston and Koyu Rankin.

Wes Anderson's niche of whimsy by way of dry dialogue and meticulous visuals already found a successful animated venture in The Fantastic Mister Fox.  After Isle of Dogs, I would be content if Anderson never made another live-action film.  Isle of Dogs is - without question - his most brutal film and a surprise considering his humor lends more to melancholy than violent reality.

Anderson's appreciation for world cinema has never been more thoroughly integrated into the substance of his film. There's an extensive list of Akira Kursoawa references throughout Isle of Dogs, but Anderson is not content to rest on the laurels of one Japanese master. In Anderson's unblinking look at violence I thought most often of Masaki Kobayashi, whose samurai films and humanist epics rivaled Kurosawa in length, style, and the depths humans must go through to adhere to their moral codes.  The moments of quiet recall Yasujirō Ozu alongside a quiet running gag of cats appearing in the corners were Ozu's red teapot might have. Anderson goes beyond Japan, calling on The Plague Dogs (the British-American animated follow-up to the childhood-wrecking Watership Down), 101 Dalmatians, and the food preparation of Korean cinema à la Oldboy.

20Sep/180

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (2018)

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (just Echoes moving forward) is almost as traditional and conservative as turn-based RPGs can be.  Any gamer familiar with the series will slide in comfortably to Echoes' skill system, patient battles, and spiritual story. There's no pretense to buzzword-heavy originality, only skilled hands who have made a consistent product for decades returning to the series for a single-player game for the first time in nine years.

Even with that familiarity, I was shocked at the number of times Echoes moved me to tears.  This is a humbling game that reminds me how unnecessarily bombastic and leaden turn-based RPGs have been the last few years (even Persona 5 could have used a touch of subtlety at times).  Echoes asks us to lay still with the faith of its characters, to sit in quiet contemplation of their decisions as time moves on without them, and explore a beautifully lived-in world.