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paramitch

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    http://www.amazon.com/Angela-D.-Mitchell/e/B00QADTXK4/
  1. paramitch

    Dragon Age: Inquisition (and the Dragon Age Universe)

    https://kotaku.com/the-past-and-present-of-dragon-age-4-1833913351 In light of Schreier's follow-up piece on Dragon Age 4 today in Kotaku (sigh)... just posting my take here, especially following the latest conversation since it's so tied to last week's article. I have issues with an entire new feature about a game (YEARS away from release) that already stamps it a potential failure because, sadly, one "cool concept" (Joplin) was abandoned or evolved. Then add in the phrase that has many Dragon Age fans running for the Hinterlands in fear: "Live-Service component," when those elements have been present for the past two games and DLCs. By all means, let's end crunch culture, support developers for better health and unionization, etc. But for me, the bummer of the recent Schreier Kotaku features is that they present assumptions that one new game that's still evolving is a failure (despite revenues stating otherwise) and that the other big one in development (DA4) killed all its cool ideas already. As far as the live-service component discussed in the piece, the key word there is "component." It may just apply to DLCs and multiplayer elements (DAI had live-service components too, as did MEA). My guess is that they may follow a variation on ASSASSIN'S CREED ODYSSEY, which would still mean the core game and DLCs would remain consistent with past Dragon Age releases. Anyway, it's been an interesting week for Dragon Age. I'm looking forward to getting back to discussing characters and plot points!
  2. paramitch

    Glass (2019)

    I enjoyed it -- honestly, more than I expected, given the critical reactions -- and I thought the revelation about the doctor was silly but believable in a comic-book way. I liked the tongue-in-cheek way M. Night tied his cameo from UNBREAKABLE to SPLIT to here, although I wished he would have said more than that "a tenant died," but something like, "she was a really nice lady," or something (given that he was really friendly with Betty Buckley's character). What I did wish for was a more nuanced story and a longer time period. The mandatory "three days" just seemed weird to me, given all the huge effort and expense that goes into each prison for each person. I would have loved for there to be some real conversations between David and Kevin. I also felt like the Beast was a lot less sentient and articulate here than in SPLIT. I did love Glass's delight in Kevin's different personalities (and the little scenes between him and Hedwig were surprisingly sweet). Some of the flashbacks irritated me -- I didn't feel like we needed to see Glass's, since it was just a literal (extended) version of what we already saw in UNBREAKABLE. But I did really like some of the others -- David's with his son, especially. I was very unhappy with David's outcome. It just felt like such an afterthought (and really? to die by his worst fear, drowned in a mud puddle?). I figured he would have a tragic outcome here, but I hated that he didn't die taking out a bad guy here. That just seemed unnecessarily cruel, and such a downer way for David to go out. And the blocking of that scene is so odd -- I didn't buy that nobody was witnessing this (least of all, David's son), especially as it went on forever. On the plus side, the actors were all wonderful as usual, especially McAvoy, who is such a treat in that role -- he is simply an astonishing actor. I always wish for more scenes with him and more exploration of his personalities. And I give him so much credit for making Kevin so distinct, separate and recognizable that his real friendship and feelings for Casey weren't weird or creepy (as they really could/should've been). And I know it's totally cheesy but I wish we'd seen any sign of one person watching the video in the end and smiling, realizing they weren't alone in being gifted. (Honestly, I was kind of hoping David's son would show some kind of ability, because I'm a dork like that.) But I did enjoy it.
  3. paramitch

    Dragon Age: Inquisition (and the Dragon Age Universe)

    First off, if it helps, I have it on good authority from some friends within BioWare that there are zero plans for Dragon Age 4 to be a game-as-service title like Anthem. Meanwhile, I'm very divided about the Kotaku piece. Jason's a great journalist and he knows a ton about the gaming industry. He specifically writes with a lot of passion about the issue of crunch and how toxic it is in game development. And I think that's so important. I loved that part of the piece, and he's written about it a lot before and since. He even published a piece calling for a union for game devs a few days later in The New York Times that's very much worth reading. But Schreier also has this thing about RPG games, specifically BioWare. He just seems to go for the jugular. He did it on MEA, he does it on Dragon Age in this article (repeatedly), and in a different way here, he's even doing it on Anthem. This entire feature, for instance, rests on the fact that Anthem is a financial failure. And that the game's lifespan is over and it is "failed." When Anthem is a service title that is a constantly evolving work in progress (and this more balanced Forbes piece, for instance, examines that fact that Anthem could still end up a "Destiny" (meaning, a successful release). So what he's doing -- just as he did with Mass Effect Andromeda -- is actually helping to tank a title by painting the portrait of its failure as an established fact before it has actually done so. I also take issue with the article's assumptions about Mass Effect: Andromeda and Dragon Age: Inquisition, its anti-Edmonton studio bias, the huge number of undisclosed sources (I think it's something like 19, and a large percentage of those are former employees who still won't go on the record?), and that imbalance, when Schreier calls out several past and present BioWare writers and developers by name for creative and development choices (and David Gaider is classy enough to respond on the record, even when his detractors don't), feels unnecessarily nasty to me. Look at the difference in tone between Paul Tassi's tone in the Forbes piece and with Jason Schreier's in Kotaku. Tassi writes objectively but there's no malice there. He's balanced but not scoring points off anyone. It's one thing to spotlight what a company (and industry) needs to do to change. It's another when even a company's successes are twisted into failure. As a Dragon Age blogger and analyst, the inclusion of Inquisition's huge critical and commercial success as simply a different kind of failure is especially painful to me. You're never, ever going to get me to believe BioWare people wanted DAI to fail. Like I said, what's a shame to me is that the article does illuminate some elements that are important on a tech and industry level: The continued limitations of the Frostbite engine, the lack of access for BioWare RPG team members to the Frostbite team to get technical help to address bugs, etc. And then there's the issue of crunch, of the obviously brutal man-hours and deadlines that were involved, and the fact that "stress-leave" had become a routine part of life. That's not acceptable. And it's part of a deeply troubling trend across the industry that absolutely needs addressing, and I'm glad Schreier did so. Obviously Anthem had what sounds like an incredibly difficult genesis and development, especially that final year before release. And I agree that some of what this article brings to light about that process needed to be discussed so that BioWare and the industry as a whole can change and (especially) improve working conditions for its team members. But unfortunately, there's an underlying venom in the piece, for me at least, against Dragon Age (Inquisition in particular), as well as BioWare's Edmonton team, and that's disappointing, and feels petty and unnecessary to me. Still -- the issue of crunch desperately needs to be fixed both within BioWare and across the industry, and I'm definitely a supporter of unionizing game developers so they get better working conditions, benefits, overtime, etc. I love Dragon Age (and many, many BioWare games) but I definitely wouldn't want a single person on the BioWare team to suffer physically, mentally or emotionally in order to create them. No game is worth that. Meanwhile, Casey Hudson responded further, if it helps (a much better response than the noncommittal blog reply BioWare had posted previously).
  4. paramitch

    Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

    If it helps, she did see him again (and consider tripping him), and spoke to him in the hospital before he died. Meanwhile, I just finished the book (I got sidetracked for a week or two), and I have to say I feel very divided about it. SPOILERS on the book, with my thoughts below!
  5. paramitch

    Interstellar (2014)

    I hated Murph too. There was just so much about her character that didn't hang together when I rewatched it. For instance: Murph is mad at Coop for leaving but runs after him, repenting her last words. And yet she still will not relent and even send him a message for decades? Who does that? Not to mention: WHY does Murph hate her father (who is out in the vast loneliness of space trying to save his planet) even after she goes to work for NASA and his actual mentor on his ACTUAL PROGRAM? Even after she presumably knows EXACTLY what their mission is? Her cruelty to her father simply makes no sense to me. And while I thought AH was great as Brandt (despite some truly heinous dialogue), she begins as a no-nonsense scientist and astronaut then ends by endangering the mission repeatedly because she believes tearily in the power of LOOOVE? Ugh. And you make such a great point about Coop -- he is alone in the universe now, his dying daughter (the one he has spent a lifetime trying to return to) just sent him away from her bedside without even INTRODUCING HIM to his only remaining family in the universe? Who does that? Who -- further -- assumes a romance that was never even slightly present -- and sends Coop off to the ends of the galaxy to be with starry-eyed love-believer Brandt, when he has a huge extended family he will now never get to know? Honestly, the characters that moved me most (other than Coop, who I did like, his father-in-law, and the other astronauts) were the two robots. TARS especially -- when Coop finds TARS again near the end, that was the only time I got even a little verklempt. I also thought Matt Damon was really good in a tricky role. The movie does have these gorgeous moments -- I loved all the other planets they touched down on, although I question how they weren't able to ascertain that the water planet was all water (and giant waves) from even cursory analytics. I especially loved the design and AI personalities of the robots (and when the robot spun into a circle to return to the ship I basically yelped in delight), and I also loved the tech presented of the spacecraft living spaces and sleep/hibernation beds. My favorite moment in the entire movie is the one in which Coop manages to recouple the module with the larger space station. It's just a gorgeous, cinematic moment where the cinematography and music all came together for me.
  6. paramitch

    Dragon Age: Inquisition (and the Dragon Age Universe)

    I love them too! (Obviously, I'm a total fan of them -- I posted that topic here years ago, then was so obsessed I started blogging and writing articles about them. I just find them incredibly rich and well-written, and I love how the lore stands up really beautifully even against other high fantasy literature. The integration of choice and RPG into the mix makes it all that much more fun for me. And I love the fact that we can make choices in DAO that will resonate through the rest of the trilogy -- much as with "Mass Effect," but in a bigger tapestry than one character (although I will always love my FemShep). You make one of my favorite points about the replay value of the games. I see a lot of gamers complaining about the prices of AAA games like this series, but -- ironically, for me -- games are the one purchases I never feel bad about. Not for a minute. If I buy a TV show, I have to ask myself if I'll watch it again. But with a great game, I end up paying pennies on the hour. I've played DAI several times over the past 5 years, so the game paid for itself many times over. Aw, Bull's one of my favorites! He's easily one of the most complicated characters in the game, and if he goes Tal-Vashoth and the Chargers are spared, I love his character arc toward the light. I've played the other side too, but (cries) NEVER AGAIN. Bull's relationships with Solas and Cole are also really lovely, and if I don't romance either of them, it's fun to get Bull and Dorian to hook up, because they're like a 1930s screwball rom-com. Yeah, Viv's Knight-Enchanter abilities are amazing -- a KE can solo a dragon! She's also a lot of fun if you bring her out with Bull in your party -- she's really soft there (for her) and very funny with him (he is one of the few people she openly adores). I also definitely suggest bringing Cole out more in a future playthrough if you haven't, since he's basically constantly mindreading everyone and giving us all sorts of hints about what they're thinking (and it's even funnier if your character's romance is present. Blackwall and Sera are also adorable in a party together (it's the most I like Blackwall in the entire game). Cole and Cassandra also evolve their friendship if you bring them out together (and are very funny, as well). For me, mixing up the companions so we hear a variety of different banters is so much fun, especially in DAI, because the relationships actually progress tangibly -- Bull and Solas become friends, Bull goes from distrustful demon-hater to Cole's adopted Dad, and Cass and Cole become real friends. So sorry to hear about your PS hard drive! If it helps -- while Dragon Age 2 imported decisions automatically from DAO, DAI *must* use the Keep in order to import all world state decisions. Which means hopefully most of those decisions you made are already saved in the Keep, and you can go into the Keep, double-check, save, then have DAI import from the Keep. So going forward -- you can manually note all your choices in the Dragon Age Keep and then import that desired world state into DAI. Just save your choices, make sure everything's the way you want, then make sure you see the confirmation of the world state that was imported in Inquisition when you import it. But that way you literally can start DAI exactly from where you left off before. All decisions are included: https://dragonagekeep.com/en_US/ I've also enjoyed it because it's enabled me to play through different world states without actually having to replay the trilogy (changing decisions I made in DAO or DA2, for instance, on whether Leliana or Anders lived or died, etc). Hope it helps!
  7. paramitch

    Dragon Age: Inquisition (and the Dragon Age Universe)

    It's definitely short, but there's actually a surprising amount of potential lore in that short teaser, depending on how into Dragon Age you are. If it helps, I did some in-depth analyses here (no pressure) on my "Dumped, Drunk & Dalish" blog: Part 1 of Teaser Analysis: http://www.dumpeddrunkanddalish.com/2018/12/when-he-rises-everyone-will-see.html Part 2 of Teaser Analysis: http://www.dumpeddrunkanddalish.com/2018/12/the-dread-wolf-rises-teaser-breakdown.html I thought Mass Effect: Andromeda was a decent game that was a classic victim of fandom toxicity. People went in expecting old-school Mass Effect characters and situations and were absolutely savage when it didn't meet their expectations. Even the biggest issues -- the expression and dead-eyed issues people had -- were patched within days. I did think MEA showed occasional roughness around the edges (the cookie-cutter Asaris were nearly unforgivable for me), and the team's inexperience (as basically the younger BioWare "B Team") was often on full display (I thought the characters were a bit bland and the love scenes were utterly awful and male-gaze-ey). But I really enjoyed the game's overall story, the worldbuilding and combat were fun. To me it was worth the money, and I'm still sad we'll never get the Quarian arc DLC. I wasn't a fan of Witcher 3 -- it was gorgeous, but I thought it was often misogynistic and lazily plotted, so for me Dragon Age: Inquisition (which also let me play a female protagonist) was much richer, and I thought it was a pretty fantastic attempt at an open-world RPG (although I do think Skyrim was more successful at some elements). But what put it over the top for me was the characters. It's why I'm still a Dragon Age blogger and active participant in the community. Miranda is such a chameleon! She was also in that Doctor Who two-parter (I think it's called "Daleks in Manhattan) way back when. I'm not sure on whether I think Cass will be back -- I'm guessing maybe in a small cameo, because she's one of those whose story feels more finished to me (depending on whether you make her Divine). I'm guessing if she returns, it's because she rebuilt the Seekers. I'm so sorry to be late on this -- I do have a few suggestions, if it helps: Save Barkspawn (the Mabari)! Make sure you recruited both Sten and Leliana before leaving Lothering Be aware that if you play a female and have your eye on Alistair, that your potential endings can vary enormously from triumph to tragedy. I'll keep it vague but: If you want the happiest ending, play a human noble non-mage. If you romance him with anyone else, it gets potentially dicey. Check EVERY SINGLE VENDOR you meet for a backpack and buy that sucker. You won't regret it. Use this if you need help on who should get what gifts: https://dragonage.fandom.com/wiki/Gifts_(Origins) Take a ton of potions to the Deep Roads. A ton. Then take more. Don't kill Zevran (he's awesome). Do make sure he has high approval by the midpoint of the game. Keep leveling up your persuasion, and make sure Morrigan can do advanced potions and that Leliana can do advanced lockpicking (poor Zev. He's useless!) Save before the Landsmeet Harden Alistair if you want him to stick around for some of the more unpleasant choices Don't take Leliana with you if you plan to defile the ashes Don't take Shale with you if you plan to save the Anvil If you want to better the lives of the Dwarves, Bhelen is actually the better choice for King Consider taking Riordan up on his suggestion to make ________ a Grey Warden. Definitely try it in a future playthrough. ________ is an amazing character once he's calmed down and we can talk to him directly. Do the Dark Ritual Have fun! Great advice. I love DAO and always will, but I do admit that the voiceless protagonist means I've never felt 100% invested in my Warden. But it's a wonderful game. I loved DAI -- for me it's the best, richest RPG I've ever played (although Mass Effect 2 is a close second for me). I know it had major issues on the 360 -- I hope you're able to try it on a different platform. On PC it looks absolutely amazing, and the ability to mod is a lot of fun, too. I loved "Trespasser" and thought it was basically a love letter to "Dragon Age" fans. If you enjoy DAI, I blog at length about it over on my "Dumped, Drunk & Dalish" blog -- I'm a huge fan of the characters, and really believe it's a playable novel in many respects. The amount of lore and worldbuilding is just amazing, and I love the way those tie into the characters themselves. For instance, take the chess game between The Iron Bull and Solas. It's built on the moves of the most famous chess game of all time, while also using those moves to actually tell us something about their characters: http://www.dumpeddrunkanddalish.com/2017/08/solas-bull-and-kings-gambit-little-game.html Or then there's Solas, who's this fantastic, rich and literate character (with some very big secrets), and to illustrate that, Patrick Weekes put all of his most important monologues to the iambic rhythms of the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah:" http://www.dumpeddrunkanddalish.com/2017/08/sing-song-of-solas-solas-dialogue-and.html But it's not just Weekes, although he writes my two favorite characters (Bull and Solas) -- the entire team (and especially Gaider) accomplishes these gorgeous, entertaining and charming moments, and even the character romances tell us something about who they are. In the end, for me it offers enough lore riches and mysteries that it's a genuinely superb fantasy universe that I firmly feel can sit on the same shelf with Tolkien. Sorry for the wall of text! (sheepish)
  8. paramitch

    Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

    I just saw this, and found it both profoundly moving, subversively funny, and also terribly sad. I thought this was a real actor's showcase, especially for McCarthy. There is a certain courage and freedom that I love about performers who are willing to abandon trying to make the audience love them, if that makes sense. Based on my impressions from the stage world, most actors want to be liked (even if they're playing reprehensible characters). But McCarthy absolutely goes for the jugular. She is willing to be a difficult, cruel and openly unlikable woman (who I still ended up caring enormously for). There's a great scene with her agent early on, with a terrific Jane Curtin, and Lee is just being this ginormous asshole. She says not one but several potentially really ugly, unforgivable things, and yet her agent manages to remain relatively kind (if exasperated) in the scene, and I thought that was so representative of this person that the movie shows us (in Lee Israel). Like, I thought she was a jerk but I was still rooting for her. I also loved the paradox between McCarthy's beautiful, soft dimpled face, and the truly abrasive and unkind person beneath. And there were scenes that just broke my heart, and where I thought McCarthy was just superb. And that final meeting was incredibly moving, and Grant just seems to be nothing but blue, blue, eyes in a pale, pale face. Both actors were absolutely superb there (I was a little heartbroken to discover later that this scene was fictional). The scenes with the cat were hard to watch. (Like many, I wasn't sure what actually happened there at first.) But the final scene made me very happy for Lee in a small way. The movie actually touched me enough that I bought the book. I'm very interested to see it from a first-person perspective.
  9. paramitch

    Green Book (2018)

    I really enjoyed this a lot. Mainly as a character portrait (and I'm a sucker for road movies). Was it groundbreaking and "never-before-seen?" Nope. But for me, sometimes that's okay. It's like a warm blanket of tropes (snuggly snuggly tropes). I also have to note -- I'm biased. I grew up on Don Shirley. The man was just a genius. Just amazing. Combining the crisp classical skills of a traditional classical musician with this brilliant freewheeling jazz quirk and humor and pathos. I mean, just... gobsmackingly amazing. My dad adored (and adores) him. To this day, the little-known piece "Water Boy" is one of my favorite musical moments across jazz, classical, whatever you choose. Please do check it out! I link it below. Meanwhile, this article offered what I felt was a balanced look at the myth and reality of it -- the fact is, Shirley was recorded saying, of Tony: “I trusted him implicitly. Tony, not only was he my driver. We never had an employer-employee relationship. We got to be friendly with one another.” http://time.com/5527806/green-book-movie-controversy/ I feel like the family of course probably has real reason to be disappointed with the film's portrait of Shirley (especially because it states he has no acknowledged family and won't speak to his brother Maurice), but I also do have to ask if part of their unhappiness is with that presentation of Shirley's relationship with his family (versus of his relationship to Tony). And if that wasn't accurate, of course they should be disappointed. But... it pays homage to him in a way I think is pretty balanced and lovely. Don is the sophisticate here, and that's a welcome change for me cinematically. After reading a few articles on the potential disparities, I basically feel okay. I take the film as a character portrait in a specific place and time. I assume by its nature that it's an affectionate reimagining. Where I object is the idea of Don Shirley as reduced to the "Magical Negro" trope. Yes, I've hated this in other films (don't get me started on "Bagger Vance" etc.). However, here... Don is an erudite, elegant and brilliant man. This is based on fact. Was he supposed to be dumbed-down so he wasn't so amazing? Even though we saw his flaws onscreen? I agree that the film's formula is simplistic -- Tony learns to be a better man from Don -- but I still think it's a formula that works. And I found it endearing and genuinely engaging. And I thought both Viggo and Mahershala (and Cardellini) were so lovely and human and real, and impeccably, warmly acted. Here's "Water Boy," one of my all-time favorite pieces by Don and his trio. I also want to specially call out Juri Taht, the cellist on this piece, because it really spotlights him and he is AMAZING (I'm a terrible amateur cellist myself):
  10. paramitch

    Watership Down

    Oh, I thought JONATHAN STRANGE was marvelous! Just fantastic. A gorgeous gorgeous adaptation. I would be interested in feedback from non-readers here too. I had an interesting situation -- I posted about this on Facebook, and a few book-reader friends responded that they had decided not to watch, and I responded actually urging them to reconsider. It made me realize that I did actually like this enough to give it a guarded recommendation. Yes, I wish they'd made some other decisions here and there, but I do think it is a beautiful, if flawed, adaptation, and that it deserves to be seen. And I do salute the fact that, even as a book-reader, the adaptation here thrilled me with some searing, beautiful unexpected moments: The character designs, especially for Hazel, Fiver, Clover, Bigwig, Woundwort, and Hyzenthlay. Strawberry as a doe (and her desperate wish for friendship) Strawberry's realization her friend was dead Bigwig and the Wire Seeing the Sandleford destruction Efrafa as this kind of rabbit-Auschwitz (just so horrifying!) Hazel's instant connection with Clover Bluebell and Blackberry's bromance (cough romance) Holly as a more featured character (loved him in Efrafa and with Hyzenthlay) Also, something I didn't catch the first time -- when I rewatched the final 5-10 minutes, after the scene with Hazel and the Black Rabbit, we can faintly hear that Bluebell (after the chorus of kittens to tell "The Story of Hazel-rah") is now reciting, as his story... the opening lines of "Watership Down." ("The primroses were over...") That's a gorgeous little detail.
  11. paramitch

    Disney Films

    I know, right? I mean -- the worst part is that Mowgli can be argued to be pretty responsible there. Not wholly responsible, but yeah, I want him to marinate in guilt for a decade or two. Maybe three. And seriously, I will never get over it. I cannot imagine watching that scene as a child. It would have fucked me up in perpetuity.
  12. paramitch

    Disney Films

    (Just a small correction -- Serkis actually played Baloo, and Peter Mullen played Akela. But the entire voice cast was incredible, especially Bale, Harris and Mullen, and I thought Cumberbatch was a fantastic Shere Khan.) I just watched MOWGLI and while I liked it (I didn't love it -- it was a little too cruel for me on both sides) there were some moments of incredible power and impact, like Shere Khan drinking in the pool Mowgli was hiding in (bloodying the water). I also loved the moment when Bagheera shows Mowgli how to hunt but also how to respect the moment of death for the prey. But the moment I will never get over is when Mowgli goes into the hunter's office and I will never get over that shit. Never, ever, ever. I actually screamed when it happened. In a very strange way, it's one of the most horrifying things I've ever seen in a movie. Just because the character is so adorable and believable and sweet and then... whoa. I respect Serkis's willingness to go dark, but DAYAMN... (sniffle) Meanwhile, I did love last year's lighter, sweeter JUNGLE BOOK but I'm still miffed they cut Scarlett Johansson's silky, sexy "Trust In Me" and just played it over the end credits. I absolutely loved her voice performance as Kaa in that.
  13. paramitch

    Watership Down

    I missed Pipkin too! It gave Fiver another similarly small companion and emphasized that a lot of the original party were little outskirters not getting a fair shake (speaking of which, I thought the departure battle was unnecessary). I also missed Silver as a character. Agreed. I thought they pushed the Hazel/Clover thing much more than necessary (Hyzenthlay's and Holly's however I just loved). I agree. I also thought some sequences were just weirdly drawn out for very little payoff -- Efrafa, the "inside the farmer's house" scenes, and especially the bloated sequence at the road/town in the end (that ends up having very little to do with their escape at all --I'm still so angry Blackberry's boat wasn't used). I kept waiting for Bigwig and Kehaar's big connection and really missed that. Bigwig's book-admiration for Kehaar is so wonderful and I hated that the rescue was ruined the first time here simply because Kehaar was being a selfish ass. I also missed the "I've sent for the white bird, Hazel," moment before the Efrafans. I agree with this 100%. I also wished Bigwig would cool it a little. On Holly, I will say I thought that Sandleford scenes were seriously harrowing, and I teared up a little (and was relieved when they didn't show more than they did). Such a great moment! It just shows you how absolutely bonkers Woundwort is. I loved the opening about Frith and the animals (and the style of it too), but I wish they had kept El-ahrairah's hubris and then his running away and digging, and Frith blessing his bottom because he is in the hole digging. And oh, me too on the stories! I got so psyched every single time someone would start to tell a story, and then I'd slowly get bummed out, realizing we would not actually hear or see the story (and they are so wonderful!). I just wish a few more had made it into the story -- I think "The Black Rabbit of Inle" would have been ESSENTIAL (and provided much-needed pathos and context), and done in the same style as the opening, would have been an interlude of the same visual coolness as the Deathly Hallows tale, for instance, in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" (I think it's part 1). A far as the ending... I prefer the book version and previous, because in the previous film adaptation the Black Rabbit basically IS El-ahrairah and that worked okay for me from a poetic standpoint, and because he speaks to Hazel at the end as El-ahrairah, and we get the wonderful dialogue where Hazel recognizes him, and then their spirits go off together. Here, I just felt like the Black Rabbit doesn't work as well -- I loved making the Black Rabbit a female, but the payoff of the book is that EL-AHRAIRAH IS REAL. And he has been watching Hazel and his friends! To me that was such a lovely revelation -- Hazel seeing the starlight in his ears and realizing who was next to him. But I'm probably being all book-puristy and pedantic. I thought this was lovely but ... unfortunately -- for me, the definitive adaptation is still out there.
  14. paramitch

    Watership Down

    Did anyone else watch this yet? I binged over Christmas and have definitely divided feelings. First off, it's easily one of my favorite books in all the world. I've read it so many times I can't count them since childhood. So -- my take, here goes and wish me luck. Please note that SPOILERS will apply -- this is a Netflix show and we won't have a multiple episodes thread! Overall... I liked it a lot. But it also drove me nuts. A rundown of pros and cons: The rabbits are (early on) hard to distinguish from one another. And yes, it appears the character designers worked from hares and not rabbits, which is a boneheaded and irritating realization. The ears are wrong. Ignore it. But oh, they are all so pretty. I love that Fiver has two mismatched eyecolors. Loved Hazel's green eyes, and Clover and Bluebell's blue innocent eyes. The animation was heavily criticized by many, but I loved it and had few complaints, except that every once in awhile, a specific element would be just terrible. Like, um, the dog. WTF was up with the terrible cartoonish dog that still looked like it needed another dozen layers of rendering? But. The voice acting is beyond reproach in all roles. Absolutely superb. But. So many foundations from the book are set up and then abandoned. Why? Blackberry and the raft. Dandelion and his swiftness. These are both huge sequences, too. Why go through all that and forget about them for their parts in the final big moments?? WHY? It felt like bad writing. These echoes are built into the climaxes of the story -- The movie versions are unnecessarily dumbed-down and worse, not nearly as believable, fun or exciting. Why make Fiver's skill something he refuses to call on? That's just weird to me. It's so much a part of him in the books. And it means in the second two-thirds he's pretty much a non-character. I did love the changes to include more females, especially Strawberry as a doe, and Clover as a potential mate to Hazel. Just beautifully done. But why delete so much gorgeous dialogue? SO much of the original dialogue was better -- as with the cat confrontation: "Can you run? I think not." Or the arrival to the Downs: "It's as if Frith made it just for us!" I missed so many of those moments. I understand that novel-to-film means we lost lots of stuff. But so much of Adams's dialogue was so searing and perfect and just hatcheted-away here. I was so bummed at Fiver not recapping Cowslip's warren to them "For El-ahrairah to cry" -- a lost opportunity. And I wish they'd kept Strawberry losing a loved one in her decision to leave. Why remove Fiver as the rescuer of Hazel, who KNEW WHERE HE WAS? Why make it only Clover? Who just runs around yelling for Hazel? It just felt silly and stupid to me. Fiver is prepared to lead them where they need to go. SIGH. I loved Woundwort's terribly sad and moving origin story. BUT. Why show Woundwort's origin story and leave out the factor of MEN? That it was his fear and hatred of MEN (not foxes) that built him into who he is? MEN made Woundwort determined to protect Efrafa at all costs from discovery (hence, the Mark system, etc.). Again -- why leave out the boat but leave the stream? It just felt weird and haphazard. The escape via water is so cinematic and almost magical in the book. Why abandon that so that they just "run away"--? Still. The arrival of Kehaar on the wings of the rain and thunder was absolutely gorgeous. I got chills. I loved it so much I watched it two more times. And Capaldi was wonderful in the role. But. Why have the Black Rabbit act like Hazel is auditioning for greatness? Hazel's near death and she's like, "If you're good enough, you can join my Owsla," and I was like... GAH. It grossed me out. So much more moving in the book for him to be honored by El-ahrairah simply for who he was. Things I loved however -- Clover and Hazel's instant connection, and her integration into the plot. I loved her character design too; she was always so recognizable. The segment in Cowslip's warren. Just beautifully presented. Right down to Bigwig and the wire. (But then they removed Fiver's description of the devil's bargain they had made to live there. Although I loved when Strawberry tried to introduce them to her friend... only to realize he was another one gone.) Clover's time in Efrafa. Just unexpectedly complex and moving. I loved the visual design of Efrafa because it affected me so much emotionally it was like looking at some vague echo of Auschwitz. It's just absolutely terrifying. I loved Blackberry and Bluebell but felt like they were being set up as a couple and then abandoned (like, whups, nobody's gay, we were just kidding). Bigwig chose Strawberry? That just did not work for me at all. We never even see them fricking speak to each other. Just... I almost wish Strawberry had chosen no one but I guess that would not have been an animal choice. Sigh. I loved Hazel's talk with the Black Rabbit when injured. Gorgeous voice work. Except that she sort of taunts him with a place in her Owsla (as noted above) which I found gross. I love seeing Holly's mission in full and his quiet feelings for Hyzenthlay. They were really lovely together and this gave me a real appreciation for Holly as a character. But... why have Hazel dictate to Bigwig in the final chapter? It's so much more moving that it is simply Bigwig saying, "My Chief Rabbit has told me to defend this burrow" than to know Hazel dictated it. It just robs the moment of its power. It's the WHOLE POINT. Woundwort and the Efrafans are terrified going, "OMG who could be worse than Bigwig?" not realizing that Hazel is a great leader for reasons beyond warfare. I love that he's the lame rabbit nobody looks at twice in the books. I loved Fiver as the rabbit in the hrududil. And loved his final goodbye to Hazel. We can see that he knows he is about to lose the person he loves most. But... DAMMIT. Why wimp out and show an empty grassy shore after the Black Rabbit comes? It robs the moment. We know he's gone. The show has not shirked death before. Why NOW, when we already know Hazel will live on? It would have been so much more moving to see Hazel's body there, peacefully sleeping, as in the animated version from decades back. We could see Hazel abandon his body to go follow the balance and energy of El-ahrairah (who was also the Black Rabbit there). Overall, I thought it was a lovely if slightly disappointing adaptation. In terms of fidelity, the 80s version was better. Even if almost deliberately ugly in its animation style. While I thought this version was seriously gorgeous to look at (aside from some almost astonishingly badly rendered elements), but I just did not understand so many of their story choices. Which felt so arbitrary and loosened the beautiful plot Adams had already built in the novel. But LAST BUT OH GOD NOT LEAST -- THE SONG. WHAT THE FUCK was up with that truly cringeworthy Sam Smith credits song? I mean, it's just... laughably bad. It's all about romance and seduction and lust and I'm like... WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH WATERSHIP DOWN. I swear to God they hired him and just said "we need another Bond song." It's just so comically terrible. The irony is: The "Bright Eyes" sequence from the original adaptation is easily one of my favorite things about it, ever. It's a gorgeous song, it's haunting and instantly recognizable as being about death, and the animated component of the song is seriously the most beautiful in the previous movie -- it's playful and sad, haunting and elusive. Slapping on this incredibly terrible Sam Smith song here just seems like an abomination. Anyway. Looking forward to other people's thoughts! It's such a beautiful adaptation in some ways... I just do not understand some of the writing choices at all. Which were like "We will now needlessly destroy a perfect moment from the book. Here's how!"
  15. paramitch

    Dragon Age: Inquisition (and the Dragon Age Universe)

    Did you play the "Trespasser" DLC? Just curious -- it definitely provides a more complex overview of who Solas is. But I'm so biased, since I think he's the best character in the game, along with Bull. There are things you will learn about Solas (and the core game story) that you'll only get if you romance him. Or, on the flip side, things Solas only reveals to a deeply loathed, low-approval Inquisitor there, too. (Although I was the opposite -- I played DAI through the first time as a Bull romancer, and totally loved the storyline, then when the end postscript scene happened, I basically let out a screech and immediately started a new playthrough romancing Solas. It was really funny.) I admit that I have a tougher time with Blackwall -- Solas did what he did in a genuine attempt to save the world. Blackwall did what he did for money, which will always ick me out, although I do like his redemption path. I loved some aspects of MEA but I felt like it was sometimes jarring -- some writing and character moments would be really lovely and complex, then others would be seriously clunky. Like, I romanced Jaal with a FemRyder, but by the end I hated the romance (and found Jaal adolescent and disappointing), and worst of all, I felt like my character was objectified in a creepy way during their cringeworthy love scene. But some of the game's moments I thought were gorgeous, and it was fun to play overall. Not anywhere near as good as the original ME trilogy though. I just felt like it was obviously, painfully rushed to release (all the Asari with the same faces!). The saddest thing for me is that within two weeks of release, so much had been fixed and improved, but there was a really toxic, vocal portion of the fanbase that had already written MEA off completely, and I don't think that was deserved. It ended up being a decent game -- I'd give it a 7 overall. And I do plan to play it again eventually at least once more. That's awesome. I love Trevor Morris's work for DAI -- it's just so sweeping and cinematic -- but Inon Zur's work for Origins and DA2 was wonderful too. It's darker and more haunting, I think. And I love all the bard songs (and the instrumental versions too). I'm so with you on Anthem -- I'm going to support Anthem as a BioWare fan, and I'll give it a shot, although I admit that the fact that it won't have any romanceable characters is a bummer for me -- it lessens the immersion. But all I want is for Anthem to come out so DA4 can show back up on the radar! As I mentioned above, I feel bad for BioWare about MEA -- my perception is that the team on the project was a little inexperienced, so they got bogged down during production on a few elements that (for instance) took over a year but were then completely abandoned. And then they ended up having to crunch like crazy (and bring in some of the Edmonton folks) to meet deadlines, and I really do think the release should have been delayed so that the game's little weak spots could have been tweaked. The fans were just savage over little things (like the dead-eyed character faces) that were 100% improved within just a few weeks, but that badly affected sales (because the word was out). I did enjoy it, and know a ton of people who did, but I also found it a little disappointing and ultimately not as memorable as it could have been -- the characters were just so tepid, and felt very young and naive. By the end, I felt like I was playing a teenaged character in a group of other very nice teenagers... which is part of the problem for me -- compare the nice MEA crew to the complex very grown-up people we met in Mass Effect 2 or Dragon Age: Inquisition -- characters who were lofty or lonely, cruel or kind, honest or deceptive, seeking redemption or coldly following orders...? There's just no comparison for me. Meanwhile, I definitely feel the same way about Dragon Age! In terms of the fantasy series, while I liked Skyrim, it didn't have the same dramatic impact (and I couldn't get into Witcher -- the fact that I had to play Gerault just irked me, since I like building my own characters and prefer playing females). For me it just comes down to the characters and the writing, and that's where I think a lot of games let you down. It's also why thousands of people still play Dragon Age: Origins or Mass Effect a decade later. (I also love DA2 and feel like it's underrated -- it's so much fun, and the characters are fantastic.) I do love several other titles -- The Last of Us was gorgeous (but so tough!), as was Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but Dragon Age will always have a special place for me.
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