Home

I am an unabashed fan of animated movies.  Yes, they are made for children, but I maintain that the best animated movies are the ones that are clever and which give the adults just as much enjoyment as the children when they’re thrust upon the television screen 20 out of 24 hours of the day.

I was perusing for something to watch and came across Dreamworks’ “Home” and decided to give it a try.  Two things immediately came to mind:
I have not heard of this movie before, so it is probably not good.
and, once we got started: The animation on this isn’t precisely up to the “How to Train Your Dragon” level, so this is probably the B team.  Which means it is probably not good.

Boy was it ever not good. We were interrupted by a late night phone call for my husband and I left the movie running as he answered it, then decided to be courteous and asked “Do you want me to pause it?”  He surprised me by saying yes but I thought ‘well maybe he is enjoying this more than I am, then!’.  After his call was done I unpaused it, then said “If you hadn’t asked me to pause it this could be done by now!” and he was like “Yeah.  I don’t know what I was thinking.”

It was hollow.  Soul-less.  It teaches children that bad grammar is good, that little girls should be named ‘Gratuity’, and it was like 1 hour and 20 minutes of music commercials for Rihanna.  It was awful.

After it was done it was midnight and I was like “Fuck this movie.  I am going to watch a REAL movie about interaction between an alien and a little girl.” and I dug deep and found a copy of Lilo and Stitch and put it on right then and there.  I fully expected to fall asleep, but now I am writing this review at 2:20 AM because Lilo and Stitch is a really fucking good movie and ‘Home’ is a really terrible movie and you need to know about it, dammit.  THIS IS IMPORTANT.

Lilo and Stitch made me laugh almost non-stop until the parts where I welled up with tears and pretended to have allergies.  Yes, it did have the disgustingly improbable ‘Disney’ happy ending.  But ‘Home’ elicited none of those emotions in me.  You may have seen Lilo and Stitch before, but did you realize that in the beginning of the movie she is upset because she wants the proper offering to feed the fish that controls the weather, and then later we discover that her parents died in a car crash due to bad weather?  That is why she wants to control the weather!  This has no bearing on the plot whatsoever but it adds depth and it adds soul.  It is good writing. That scene that seemed like a typical illogical childish whim that you may or may not be familiar with has a bearing on the inner workings of this character.  In Home, they dance involuntarily because Rihanna paid a lot of money to have all of her music showcased in this movie.  It was insulting.

Do not let your children watch ‘Home’.  Make them watch Lilo and Stitch instead.

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Mary and Max

I can’t remember how I found this movie.  I think it was when I was picking up random foreign films, since it came from Australia, but somehow we didn’t get around to watching it.  Last night we watched it and I went on a real rollercoaster, from “Wow this is awesome and unique” to “Woah, unexpected” to “I’m not even sure I want to write a review about this because I’m not sure what I think…”.  It was a GOOD MOVIE, don’t get me wrong, but much like “UP” you probably shouldn’t watch it if you’re looking for something to cheer you up, jesus.

The movie is claymation animation, which, according to evidence from some reviews I saw, probably fools some people into thinking it is for children.  It is not for children.  Good god no.  It almost needs its own genre… it’s a black comedy but also a drama and a bit of a social statement at the same time.  There’s a lot of very crude (non-North-American style of crude) humour (all well executed, I might add) layered overtop of a lot of very sombre issues.  The basic premise is that Mary is a lonely little girl who picks a name at random to write to because she wants friends.  She ends up writing to a reclusive man with aspergers, who also has no real friends.  They chat back and forth about the various issues in their lives, spanning many years of time.  Almost nothing good happens to either of them. Maybe that’s a spoiler but I almost feel like you should be prepared before you go into this thing because I sure wasn’t.  The ending was one of those bittersweet “I almost feel like this is a good ending and I’m kind of happy, but at the same time, fuck everything” endings.  I think that means it was a success… I’m not sure.

Probably the only thing I am going to actually bitch about is that the movie starts off saying “This is based on a true story”.  The events near the end of the movie were starting to make me a little skeptical (but then again, truth is almost always stranger than fiction) but it was convincing enough that I scampered over to Wikipedia to discover the origins of the movie.  I had to do a ctrl-f to even find the reference, and it pointed back to an interview where the writer said he had a pen pal once, and that’s pretty much the only thing not fabricated.  Disappointing, and downright false advertising, I say.  If I were giving it stars I would subtract one just for lying to me.

If you can handle the deceit and depression, I definitely recommend trying to find this movie.  It was unique and well orchestrated, and even though it was depressing I wouldn’t say it was trying to be emotionally manipulative, just blunt and raw.

Starforge (Alpha)

This is probably a little unfair because I played, oh… about 10 minutes of this game.  Maybe there is a really good game buried under the shit I was exposed to in those 10 minutes, but it was enough that I made a pretty disgusted face and then uninstalled it.  I very deeply regret spending 10 dollars on this, and that was 50% off.  What’s worse, my husband bought it too because we played multiplayer.  That is 20 dollars wasted on this.  I feel bad for supporting it, but maybe they will turn it into not-shit game sometime soon.  I can’t get rid of the god damn thing now so maybe in a year or two it will be worth installing again.  I can hope.

First, a derail: I want to rant about this early access bullshit Steam keeps doing.  There are SO MANY games popping up on steam and you’re like “ooh this looks unique!” and then you click and find out it’s actually an unfinished alpha game that they want you to buy into so that it funds their development.  This is all Minecraft’s fault (and I admit to buying Minecraft as an alpha, but it was actually worth it back before everyone was fucking doing it), and it’s led to things like Kickstarter… but when you buy unfinished shit on Steam you get unfinished shit with no real promises attached.  I don’t so much mind the option – I bought Minecraft, and I even bought Towns on Steam, and both were interesting ideas that ended up developing in interesting directions that I would like to encourage, so I don’t regret funding them – but I hate that there are so many of them showing up on Steam and that they’re not sequestered to their own little section.  Sometimes it’s really tough to tell just how unfinished these things are when you buy into them and you have to rely on other people’s reviews before deciding to drop the cash.  I wish that more of these would give you a demo or something.

The game markets itself as a sandbox experience where you “gather resources, build bases, craft anything you want, and survive on an alien planet”.  That is exactly the kind of game I love, and exactly the kind of game I want to encourage more developers to make.  Not enough to drop 20 dollars on it (ahahahaha 20 dollars for an ALPHA BUILD what the fuck), but 10 dollars… if it encourages more resource/crafting/survival games, sure I can invest in that!

The problem is, that is not what this game is at all.  I suppose going by the words it matches that description, but I feel misled by this marketing, and that makes me bitter.

You collect resources – by grabbing boxes that drop on the ground and dragging them back to your base.  This is not Minecraft style resource gathering, this is shit dropping from the sky and you hoping to find the right box of stuff lying around.  I can’t even describe to you how disappointed I was by this.  If it had decent resource gathering I probably would have still been enchanted by running around looking for new stuff to exploit, but exploring was marred by giant oil drums appearing out of fucking nowhere and the realization that the landscape around me was really only there to provide a surface.

You build bases – with an incredibly shitty interface that was frustrating to use. The terraforming seems promising but, eeenh.  I spent the vast majority of my opening minutes hitting google trying to find a guide to the controls (because the game sure as fuck isn’t helpful).  Once I figured out how to open the building menus, the mouse control drove me nuts.  It’s a 3D world, and the mouse behaves like you would expect it to in an incredibly amateur engine from several years ago.  It floats all over, you have to wrestle it onto the square you want, and your camera is constantly getting in your way.
Bonus bitch: Head bobbing that cannot be disabled in game.  See The Bobbing Rant.  If I wasn’t going to uninstall you BEFORE, well…

You craft anything you want! – provided it’s in the incredibly limited list of things you can build, and you’ve dragged the proper resources into a pile next to your forge.  This is not like Minecraft style crafting, this is literally just select it from a list and it either goes *boop* ok you have that now, or *boop* you need to drag more resources over to here to make that.  It’s a little unfair since it’s an alpha and they’re going to add a bunch of shit (god, they better), but once I figured out how to open the build list… boy that was disappointing.  Not only that but there were no tooltips so I was building things in an attempt to figure out what the fuck that icon represented.  It took several clicks just to see what was necessary to build a thing so I could go find out what I needed to drag back.  This is like some sort of study in how not to design a friendly UI.

You survive on an alien planet – and here is what made me uninstall the game.  This is where the game showed its true colours.  I was expecting Minecraft, right?  You run around and collect shit, build a little base, expand your empire and build cool things, and defend yourself from alien fauna that probably wants to eat you.  I first played single player “creative” mode and it can probably be hammered into some facsimile of that, but the whole “surviving” aspect was pretty thin.  Creative mode seemed to be more about building things (one description said “test base layouts” for the other modes, which is telling) , except building things wasn’t very fun in its current state so it was more about running around looking at landscape and being disappointed by the ugly resource crates lying all over it.

When my husband and I tried multiplayer we tried the more survival-ish mode.  And it turned out to be just a crappy version of Sanctum.  Sanctum, if you’re not aware, is an amazing game that is like a first person co-op tower defense game where you have a core that you must protect from the waves and you build walls and towers to aid you in the destruction of the things that want to destroy it, so you coordinate your resources and weapon types to be an efficient team.  Starforge gives you a tank full of aliens (why do I have a tank full of aliens and why should I protect it?  It doesn’t explain) and a forge, and dumps you into a world where streams of monsters continually run toward you and try to destroy it.  You have to run back and forth dragging resource boxes to your forge and build defenses while these things come at you.  It’s like playing Sanctum with no pauses between waves, mandatory tedious resource collection, and shitty-ass controls.  It was not good.

I already regrettably wasted money on this so I will check in from time to time to see if they’ve turned into a GOOD open world collect-resources-build-shit survival sandbox, but I really cannot recommend it in its current state, and I kinda feel like Steam shouldn’t even be promoting it right now.  The content and UI are NOT worth the price it is asking, even at 50% off.  It’s not that the ideas behind the game are bad (and the implementations of them have time to mature), and I admire small teams of people who try to make ambitious projects into reality, but asking 20 bucks for this just seems greedy and I don’t think it should be encouraged.