Resolution

I’m debating about even writing this entry because I finished watching the movie, thought to myself “That was pretty okay, I should mention it on my blog”, and glanced at some reviews to discover that I must have watched it all wrong.  All of these reviews are gushing about the meta commentary of the film and I’m sort of looking at them going “there was meta commentary?!”  So I guess this will be a review of the movie from the point of view of someone who doesn’t do the whole “movies as art” thing very well.  I do “movies as entertainment”, and Resolution was entertaining… although apparently it is even more entertaining if you like to read into meta commentary.

The premise of Resolution is that Michael gets a video from his junkie friend, along with a map to his current location, and decides he should give it one final try to bring his friend in to rehab before it’s too late.  Things are never as easy as “Let’s go to rehab” “okay”, so he handcuffs him to the wall and settles in for a week of dealing with withdrawal symptoms before he can try his final attempt at reasoning with the guy.

I’m going to pause right there and say that, when I originally decided to queue this one up for watching, the description mentioned a week of withdrawal and a warping of reality.  So I was expecting a “that-scene-from-Trainspotting”-esque sort of series of mindfucks that left the viewer unsure which things were truly happening and which were a result of the withdrawal.  It’s not that at all.

Instead, Michael spends the week trying to appease druggies who are trying to collect, also appease the owners of the shack his friend has been squatting in who want them out, and investigate a series of creepy media messages that are being left for him to find.  The messages get creepier and creepier, until they begin to star the two guys themselves.

The majority of the movie was interesting, but honestly it wasn’t very creepy until the last little bit when shit starts to get real.  A lot of it seemed disjointed, and things that came up never really came up again so it all melded into a big ball of “That was weird; what was that about?” but no real tension.  There was a lack of tension through the whole build-up actually, even though I was curious to see what happened next.  It could have been Michael’s reaction to the whole situation… he approached all the creepiness with a matter-of-fact curiosity that sucked all the creepiness right back out.  Almost every situation played out like “Hey Chris, look at this creepy thing.  I wonder what this is about.”  followed by Chris saying “How the fuck should I know give me some crack.”  Michael was interested to get to the bottom of it, and I was interested to watch him get to the bottom of it, but he never seemed to be unnerved by all the weirdness or have a second thought about investigating a strange noise.  Which might be why the ending has more tension for me – he finally starts reacting to the events with a “holy shit this is fucking weird” and “How can I get out of this alive…” attitude.  It takes looking at images of his own corpse to finally elicit a reaction.

Wait, was that the meta commentary?  That the horror “movies” didn’t scare him until it actually threatened him directly?  Maybe that was meta commentary.

Here’s some actual meta commentary discussion, involving ending spoilers (and I just realized the movie is named “Resolution”, which makes more sense now.  I thought it referred to video media resolution, as opposed to “ending resolution”, and then was confused about video resolution not really being a big deal…) Read more of this post

Advertisements

Oculus

It’s October, which means it is time for our annual search for scary movies that are rated higher than, oh, let’s say 4 on IMDB.  That’s usually the point where a movie stops being scary and just becomes scarily awful.  With any luck I should be able to update this blog with cheers and jeers as we wade through a queue of hopefully-good-but-probably-actually-awful “scary” movies!  One of the recent ones I queued up was “Oculus”.

I don’t ask for much from horror movies. I prefer tension-filled horror movies or mindfuck horror movies, and not so much the “there is blood everywhere gosh isn’t this scary?” sort of horror movies, and I’m pretty forgiving of a ridiculous premise when it’s trying to set up a ghost story, so really all you need to do is display some effort and I will enjoy your stupid horror movie.  I quite enjoyed Oculus.

The premise of Oculus is that a family moves into a new home and the wife invests in some antiques to furnish it.  Among those antiques is a mirror that is so obviously demonic in its design that I’m not really sure why she couldn’t immediately tell that it was going to kill her… but anyway she buys it and hangs it in her husband’s new office.  It proceeds to cause almost everyone to go insane and murder each other, finally ending with the son finishing off his dad while protecting his big sister.  And a decade or so later he gets out of the psych ward and his sister picks him up and says “Now that you’re free, let’s go kill that thing”.

The movie has a decent amount of tension throughout.  It tells the story of the past and present simultaneously, revealing bits as it goes.  It starts out pretty strong with the “Was it all in my head?” theme, but it pretty quickly dispenses of that and goes “Yup, mirror trying to kill us.” which is a bit unfortunate in some ways, but at least it isn’t entirely cliche.  The mirror has plenty of tricks up its sleeve, usually involving a warping of reality that leaves you wondering which thread is true and which is insanity.  I enjoy ‘monster’ movies that don’t shove monsters down your throat, so I liked that the enemy was a largely unseen presence, experienced but not seen. I also liked that the characters started losing grasp of reality and started making little mistakes that indicated as such (like referring to the dog by the name of their childhood pet), and the movie didn’t come running out of the wings to go “SEE.  DID YOU SEE THAT??  I JUST WANTED TO MAKE SURE YOU DIDN’T MISS THAT!  Carry on then!”  I felt like the writers actually had some confidence in their audience, which usually results in a better story overall.

I wouldn’t try to claim that it’s entirely fresh and original, but it’s definitely got enough interesting elements that it’s a decent “dim the lights” October style movie, worthy of a watch.

Remember Me

“Remember Me” was a game I mentally noted onto my wish list when it kept coming up in conversations about strong female protagonists, after the developers had trouble with publishers wanting them to change their game because their choice of protagonist was viewed as something that wouldn’t sell well.  Then it came out and got awful reviews and I was sad, and then proceeded to not buy it because fuck paying full price.  But then the occasional GOOD review kept cropping up, and then the game went on sale for 7 bucks and I bought it.  And I reallyreally liked it.

A brief premise is that the world has gained the ability to manipulate memories, primarily used to remove all those painful memories to promote happiness (much like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).  Behind the scenes, it’s becoming a bit more nefarious as well.  You’re introduced to Nilin, the protagonist, just as she’s sprung from the memory wiping facility mere moments before her brain is finished being wiped clean.  You spend the game learning who Nilin actually is (as she herself regains her memories, since the brain wipe was partially successful) and unravelling the deepest secrets of the memory manipulation business.

First up: the game has flaws.  Biiiiiigggg gaping flaws.  It makes sense why it got bad reviews, and it’s not because the main character has boobs but is not naked.  It is also not because she kisses a guy at one point (seriously I read that the kiss was one of the biggest sticking points in the whole publishing kerfluffle and I kept waiting for it to come up, only to discover I had already passed that point in the story and didn’t even notice when it happened).

No, it is because the combat is awful.  I mean, it could have been worse. But it’s not good.  I had it on the easiest setting and all the enemies still took fucking forever to beat up and it was just so fucking tedious, especially when you spend 20 minutes clearing out a wave of enemies and then oops here’s another wave have fun!!  I finally went to my usual fall-back, which is to fire up Cheat Engine and make myself immortal (the cheat engine script for this game has “undead” mode which is my favouritest invulnerability cheating – where you still take damage and can see how terribly you’re doing and completely forget that you’re cheating at all until your health bar goes to 0 but you’re not starting over.  All the fun and tension of playing without the annoyance of losing!).  Around 2/3 into the game I also turned on unlimited ammo for my biggest attack so I could just mow down the damn waves and get on with the story.  It still took forever to clear them out while using my most powerful attacks repeatedly at a rate that is in no way intended, on the easiest possible setting.  It’s not good.

The combat has some interesting ideas which might appeal to a micromanager.  It’s sort of similar to the Batman combat where you have chaining combos and dodges to keep your chain intact (and the animation is pretty fluid and sweet too), but you actually craft your own custom attack combos.  You can build your chains with things that do damage, things that heal you, things that restore your focus/mana, and things that reduce the cooldowns on your super abilities.  The further into the chain it is, the more powerful it is.  But you have to get the chain to that point without breaking it.  The special abilities are super important (in most cases you have to activate a specific one to advance the fight) so you want to be resetting your cooldowns, but you also need focus to fire it off, and you also need to be doing damage, especially since the enemies take roughly 11 billion hits to finish.  Later you end up with enemies that fucking hurt you when you hit them, so you need to mix in the healing ones too.

OR you can fire up cheat engine and just kill everything.  Like I did.  It really helped my enjoyment of the game!

The other legit bitch I see in a lot of reviews is that the game is linear.  That sort of thing doesn’t bother me too much because I usually play games like this to enjoy the story, but oh boy is it ever linear.  It is really a shame because the world is beautifully crafted, but there’s no opportunity to explore any of it.  There’s even an arrow showing you exactly where to go next.  I don’t mind the arrow because it reduces the chance of wandering in circles for 20 minutes because the fucking camera rotates away from the wall showing the ledge I want to jump to, but I agree it should be an option to turn the damn thing off.  What is with developers not giving options?  Is it really that hard to add some lines of code that say “if setting = No, then hide arrow”?

Speaking of options:  The cut scenes are littered with film grain and it’s awful.  I hunted around the internet for a way to remove the grain, but the only ways of fixing it were too involved to bother with.  Why.  Why would you ruin your lovely CGI movies with this shit?  NO ONE thinks this looks good.  It’s awful.  Especially in a game this dark.  The black is all littered with noise and it was grating.  On the off chance someone out there thinks this looks good, put it on the fucking options screen so I can turn it off but they can leave it on.

One last bitch:  Every single boss ends with a quick time event.  I don’t mind QTEs as a rule, but I hated these and this is a perfect example of why people have come to hate them in general.  It’s usually a combination of your kick, punch, dodge, or “use” commands, but the prompts are pretty short, the icons all kind of look the same, and if you’re in the middle of button mashing something you’ll almost certainly hit the wrong key and end the sequence.  It usually required a bit of trial and error to learn the sequence before I could end a fight.  A failure results in the boss shaking you off and usually suplexing you into the ground and booting you across the arena or something, and then you start over and have to take their last chunk of health off again before you can attempt the QTE again to end it.  The only way it could be worse is if it literally ended the fight and made you start at the beginning (i.e.: what Resident Evil 6 does.  I also hate those QTEs…).

Anyway, enough bitching.  Here’s what I liked about it:

The writing.  Okay mostly that.  The world was crafted well and even though there weren’t a LOT of details, they laid out enough of it that it felt immersive.  The whole amnesia mechanic felt like it was going to invoke every single cliche in the book, and other than being kind of a lame way of unlocking new abilities, they managed to avoid most of them.  I liked the characters and felt like Nilin had enough depth that she made an interesting protagonist (though she’s pretty much the only character with any depth, which is kind of a flaw…), and I was feeling actual emotions at some of the pivotal moments.  I really enjoyed the plot as a story.

The memory remixing is a really interesting thing.  It seems to be the thing that everyone universally likes, and I liked it because it was unique and kind of cool, but I also didn’t like it.  It’s kind of funny… I didn’t like it because it ended up being kind of tedious in that you have to play with things in trial and error to see how they affect the outcome (not to mention first you have to watch the whole thing to see the original outcome, then rewind, then fast forward looking for the nodes to modify…) so sometimes you’re watching the same lines of dialogue over and over again (especially when the stupid memory glitch WILL NOT let you fucking click on it before it scrolls past so you have to rewind AGAIN.  GRRRrrrrrr) and then you discover that was actually a bonus ending and now you have to rewind and try something different!  So ironically it seems like my complaint is that the memory remixing was too non-linear.  But really my dislike was quite minor and I mostly enjoyed it.  I liked it a hell of a lot more than the combat!  But where most people are complaining that there were only 5 or so remixing sequences, I was kind of glad it wasn’t mandatory to have one or two every chapter.  Especially since the ones they had in there were quite detailed and they probably would have let the quality slip if they were trying to cram them into every available slot.

I also liked the variety of gameplay they had in there.  They had batman-style beat-em-up, splintercell/asscreed style wall climbing and acrobatics, occasional puzzles (not very challenging ones mind you but they threw a refreshing change of pace into things), and then standard old school boss battles and ability upgrades.  None of it felt cheap to me and I enjoyed that they didn’t just have one style of game from start to finish, while also not really sacrificing any of their story to cram in something bizarre and out of place (not like, say, a fucking tower defence game in the middle of AssCreed).

The last complaint I see is that it’s too short.  I spent about 8 hours playing it, so it was fairly short… but I paid 7 bucks for it.  Remember Me was basically a good Sci-Fi movie that was turned into a game with shitty combat (which I circumvented by being a dirty cheater).  At $7 it cost less than most books, I enjoyed it as much as a book, and at 8 hours I possibly spent more time with it than I would have with some sci-fi books :P (at least at the pace I read…) so it was money and time well spent!  I enjoyed it and I recommend checking it out, as long as you are aware of the terrible combat beforehand…