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Can't Stop the Movies

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia (2017)

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

Historical context in video games is difficult to grasp.  Since so many companies are primarily interested in rehashing the past either in the form of copy/pasted emulation ports or remakes of varying quality, it means the core experience or appeal of different franchises may be lost as the game is tinkered with from one generation to the next.  Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia (just Echoes moving forward) is trying to preserve video game history without losing touch with the advancements of technology.  As a player who only got into the Fire Emblem series starting with Awakening, Echoes came as a shock for the features it cuts out and streamlined combat.  One similar map to another led to quick boredom, and the vanilla heroics of deuteragonist Alm didn't thrill me.

Then, as it happens sometimes, Echoes clicked.  It wasn't because of Alm and his growing army counterattacking an evil foreign power.  Instead, protagonist Celica (and I'll argue to my grave she's the protagonist), and her small crew of dedicated fighters got to my heart.  The Celica side of Echoes is less immediately gripping as she is journeying on what amounts to a religious pilgrimage which isn't helped by the number of similar boat maps she starts out on.  But the subtle shifts of the combat system in Echoes is felt more keenly on her side than the volume of soldiers available in Alms, and the intimate focus leads to better storytelling through the maps, dialogue, and tactics needed to succeed.


Changing Reels Episode 21 – Wonder Woman

Breaking records at the box office, and sparking tons of thought-provoking articles in the process, Wonder Woman has become the must-see movie of the summer.  In this special episode we are joined by freelance film critic Kristen Lopez to discuss the representation of women in the film, the role of minorities, how the acceptance of violence is often based on gender and so much more.   We also take time to highlight our short film picks: Nida Manzoor’s 7.2 and Geoff Webster’s Toy Boyz.

Show notes:

If you like what you hear, or want to offer some constructive criticism, please take a moment to rate our show on iTunes!  If you have a comment on this episode, or want to suggest a film for us to discuss, feel free to contact us via twitter (@ChangingReelsAC), follow us on Facebook and reach out to us by email (  You can also hear our show on SoundCloud or Stitcher!

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Warcraft (2016)

The wall between the world of orcs and the world of humans has been broken.  Sinister magics work in the background to ensure the blood is saturated with offerings from each race.  As war looms on the horizon, a small cadre of orcs and humans plot of a way to end the conflict before it escalates beyond their control.

"Why aren't there any good video game movies?"

I've heard some variation of the question ever since Super Mario Bros. made it to cinemas with a terribly intoxicated Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo in tow.  For my part, I'm actually entertained by the Super Mario Bros. movie and wish more artists would take creative liberty with the games they adopt to cinema.  Because the biggest problem with translating games to movies is the removal of player input, which tells as much of the story as any dialogue or graphics do.  What we're left with is the frequently terrible plots of video games, many times warmed over from cinema, and diluted once more back onto the big screen.

Warcraft is a useful case study in how the transition could be successful and is also held back by the debt video game stories have to older artistic forms.  Duncan Jones, a talented hand at direction behind the camera, treats the source material with as much respect as possible while still creating a coherent story.  Video games tend to prize complex lore more so than straightforward stories and Warcraft has legions of text boxes you can peruse to find out about the background of every character or event.  So Jones, who also cowrote the screenplay with Charles Leavitt, pares the lore down to the basic conflict.  There are orcs, there are humans, and they must go to war with one another.


For the week on 6/20/2017 on Can’t Stop the Movies

Took a hard reset last week to get podcast priorities and future projects in-line. I'm running out of notable 2016 movies I want to review, so if there's anything missing in the coming couple of weeks feel free to leave a comment or send a message and I'll be happy to take a look.  In honor of Final Fantasy XIV and the limp launch of Stormblood, I'll be starting with Warcraft, moving on to the buddy-cop comedy of The Nice Guys, taking a cautious dip into Me Before You, and finishing with the wisdom of James Baldwin in I Am Not Your Negro.

Remember, no one can stop the movies.

I'm still a neophyte when it comes to the Fire Emblem games and enjoyed to various degrees the 3DS Awakening and FatesEchoes was a different experience, cutting off much of the extra character interactions of Awakening and Fates, while adding some new game mechanics of its own.  Pixels in Praxis featuring Echoes will be posted on Sunday.


Swiss Army Man (2016)

Hank is alone on an island and on the verge of suicide.  Right when it seems Hank is about to take the final plunge a corpse washes ashore.  As the corpse comes back to life Hank teaches what it means to live and how they might both find a way home.  Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan wrote the screenplay for and directed Swiss Army Man, and stars Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe.

Sometimes I become so aware of the living trap that is my body I fall, punch the floor, and scream.  I have depression, anxiety, chronic kidney stones, migraines, and a whole list of other health issues that might serve as tools for the corpse at the center of Swiss Army Man.  There's pain, then there's confusion, then there's more pain, and it whirls together until I accept my existence as the bleak joke it is or have another fighting match with the floor.  Thanks to medication and years of therapy, my losing streak of fights with the floor have mostly come to an end, but learning to live with depression means living with the thought in the back of my mind that this mess of a body is no good to anyone so why should it mean anything to me.

I didn't expect much of anything from Swiss Army Man.  Decades of high-concept / low-payoff films have taught me finding ways of dealing with death, let alone something a difficult to live with as depression, leads to pathetic returns.  One of the most improbable movie franchises ever, Weekend at Bernie's, treated death like an easy joke to be ignored while cult classics like Heathers have lines like, "I love my dead gay son," to distance the characters from the reality of death while being a tad homophobic in the meantime.  Swiss Army Man succeeds where many fail because the joke isn't on the dead body, nor is it on the living, but finding a way to cope with the existence we all share and ends the same way.