Can't Stop the Movies - No One Can Stop The Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

For the week of 6/27/2017 on Can’t Stop the Movies

Can't Stop the Podcast returns as a Patreon exclusive this week and will focus on an episode-to-episode breakdown of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.  The first podcast will be available for free but further installments will be available only to Patreon supporters.  I've got another series lined up about the history of fighting games, so Can't Stop the Podcast won't be limited and the best way to hear about your favorite art is to subscribe!

As the review fodder for 2016 dwindles to a shallow supply I'm mixing up genres this week.  I'm a huge fan of Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salem, and am curious what he grows into with 31.  My love of Zombie's work pales in comparison to my adoration of Dwayne Johnson, so we'll see if Central Intelligence makes good use of his limitless charisma.  Rounding out this week's assortment of reviews includes the Ang Lee drama Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and Asghar Farhadi's Oscar-winning The Salesman.

Remember, no one can stop the movies.

I'm a long-time admirer of the Final Fantasy series even though it's grown bloated with Square-Enix's initially ambitious plans for the FFXIII universe.  FFXV finally released late 2016 to warm critical reception and a relieved fanbase that stuck with FFXV through each delay.  I'll work through my complicated feelings on FFXV with a review on Sunday.


I Am Not Your Negro (2017)

Raoul Peck takes the remnants of author James Baldwin's last manuscript to create a documentary about Baldwin and his relation to modern-day struggles.

"I can't be a pessimist, because I'm alive. To be a pessimist means you have agreed that human life is an academic matter, so I'm forced to be an optimist. I am forced to believe that we can survive whatever we must survive."

There, from James Baldwin's mouth, is the driving force of Baldwin's writing which has given me so much hope in this Trump-era of United States politicking.  Whatever issues I have with the loose biographical account of Baldwin's work in director Raoul Peck's I Am Not Your Negro, and there are many, I can't deny Peck has given to the world a useful glimpse into Baldwin's life.  If I Am Not Your Negro drives any viewer to pick up Notes of a Native Son or (my favorite) The Devil Finds Work then it's doing a great good for our society.

But I wonder how many of those potential readers would be attracted to Baldwin's writing because of his handful of appearances in I Am Not Your Negro over the impact of the film itself.  Peck, a tireless documentarian and experimental director, picked a difficult subject.  It's not because of our ongoing struggles with racism or identity, though that certainly plays a role.  Instead it's because I Am Not Your Negro is a loosely assembled collection of thoughts and montages based on collections of sometimes unrelated Baldwin writing that was to form Remember This House.


Me Before You (2016)

Louisa Clark, newly unemployed, answers an ad requesting companionship for Will Traynor.  Will is bitter about life after an accident paralyzed most of his body from the chest down.  Through Lou's optimism, Will may find a new lease on life, or is set to leave on his own terms.  Thea Sharrock directs Me Before You, with the screenplay written by Jojo Moyes, and stars Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin.

Me Before You has one thing going for it over the similarly awful The Theory of Everything.  Both share wheelchair-bound protagonists dealing with their differently-abled bodies in a white land of splendor and luxury.  At least Me Before You has the storytelling sense to make the romance between Lou (Emilia Clarke) and Will (Sam Claflin) a total fantasy complete with pristine photography.  Heck, Me Before You even has many scenes within a literal castle to really hammer home the fairytale vibe.

Aesthetics aside, Me Before You is reprehensible in its ethical stance that it's better to die as you wish than live in luxury with a wheelchair.  That's "the twist" and if any of you readers are upset at that then, well, you're reading the wrong reviewer.  There is no way to write about Me Before You without taking into consideration Will's suicide at the end, which puts the fairytale that comes before in a cruel light.  All the glitz, glamour, orchestral swelling, pop-laden, and clearly shot soft romance means little to the manipulative ass that is Will.


The Nice Guys (2016)

Jackson Healy is hired by a ragged college student who wants to get some men off her trail.  Holland March, aided by his daughter Holly, doesn't know he's on the girl's trail but is about to receive a painful introduction to Healy.  When the two hash things out, they realize their respective cases have larger implications and team up to figure out what the girl has to do with a rash of murders connected to porn and catalytic converters.  Shane Black directs The Nice Guys, with the screenplay written by Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi, and stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling.

Shane Black's career is punctuated by intense violence and smartass quips.  I'm fine with well-deployed sarcasm but Black's writing roots the dialogue in character-based insecurities as much as he does being a smartass for his own sake.  Starting with Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in 2005, the visuals started being in on the joke as well.  This led to the delightful for some, eye rollingly silly for me, image of Abraham Lincoln appearing at the end to congratulate the hero on surviving the movie.

Black dips back into the world of Presidential hallucinations as one of The Nice Guy's tedious dips into sarcastic visual humor involves a specter of Richard Nixon appearing to Holland March (Ryan Gosling).  You don't need to pay too much attention to the dialogue to remember that March was told a story by Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) about Nixon appearing to a dying motorist.  Problem is, the earlier Nixon story mostly serves as a setup for the Nixon hallucination, and does little for the relationship between March and Healy.


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.