The Path Ahead

Hello, everyone! I hope you are all enjoying being back at school!

I just wanted to be brief as I go through some future plans I have for the blog (which you can give your opinions to). These are all not too drastic for the blog, and I always want to look for ways to get it bigger and better for the purpose of expanding an audience and quality. If you have your own suggestions (both for blog post ideas and the way I operate the blog), please feel free to share!

As many of you know, I was absent for six weeks, where several individuals came to fill in my place. Each one of them provided their own flair to a topic that spoke to them, and I believe it was a great success for the blog. After some thought, I have decided to introduce a special segment to the blog for every month. On the final Wednesday (or so) of a month, a unique blogger will provide a post, spicing up variety and content as well as giving a little extra. This will not interfere with my posting schedule (on weekends), and if you are interested, please let me know as soon as possible. Spots will be on a first-come-first-served basis, and anyone is welcome to come on! Of course, I will review the content of the post to ensure it is appropriate for the blog. Categories that belong here include:

  • Analysis (of any kind)
  • Storytelling (fan-fiction is allowed, but I would encourage original stories)
  • Retrospect (rather than a straight-up review)

Of course, topics must be in relation to literature, video games, music, television, or film. Plagiarism is unacceptable, but my expectations are very free and flowing in order for your creativity to flourish. There is no limit to word count here, and neither is the category and nature of your post. I will help share the post afterwards, but I will keep my involvement to a minimum.

If you are interested, you can contact me through that button right over there on the left (or in the menu for mobile users). I should also say that in the case of my absence, I will try my hardest to provide a post on that day ahead of time or have someone cover for me.

On the other hand, I also have plans for the month of December that will differ from the typical posting schedule immensely. I hope you will all enjoy what I have in mind, but for now, I will keep it under wraps as a surprise…

Anyways, this was just a quick announcement for you all to see. If you also did not notice, there is a drop-down menu on the home button that will allow you to view blog posts by category. Enjoy your time!

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Silent vs. Verbal Video Game Protagonists – What Works?

Well, the end has come upon us. Or rather, the beginning of a new year and the next chapter of our lives. As we approach the final night of our wander-less freedom, our minds spiral. We may not reflect this, yet we crave a balance. Relaxation. What soothes your mind in a tender embrace, placing all beacons of despair into an unbroken sleep?

For me, this would definitely have to be video games. While they are definitely an enjoyable way to wonder how five hours feels like five minutes, I owe plenty to them. In conjunction with reading, video games have led me to countless worlds and stories, all leaving their own marks and impressions on me. Creativity and my love for stories greatly sprouts from this, and to hear people act as if they have nothing to offer in value (albeit most are simply ways to entertain and nothing more) definitely makes me feel as if video games are not taken seriously enough as a legitimate platform for heartfelt and legendary stories, concepts, worlds, and even art (which again, most are not).

Today, I present a topic which had sparked in my mind not even a week ago. Many video games present silent protagonists, while others do not. A vessel for the player, versus a being that we follow and root for. While I am not here to argue for one side or the other, I am very curious as to see what both sides have in store for the sole purpose of video game storytelling.

Now, off to the races.

 Verbal Protagonists

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The above image should definitely resonate with many of you right off the bat: it’s the Sole Survivor from Fallout 4. What matters about this character is the fact that it is a blank slate (down to gender and appearance, despite what appears), and is supposed to act as a vessel for the player to immerse themselves in the open and free nature of The Commonwealth. There is one significant issue with this, however.

In all previous Fallout titles (as well as open-world Bethesda games, like The Elder Scrolls), the protagonist is completely silent. This is so the player naturally fits the role of this character, impacting the world as they choose and possibly changing the course of fate itself.  You can be good, evil, and outsider, or a thief. When the game gives you a dialogue option, you can read it in your voice and extrapolate its meaning it a way that immerses you further into the doings of this world. You exist in it, and you have to power to act in it as well.

In Fallout 4, the player character speaks. While this could have been an interesting choice, I believe it was mishandled by Bethesda here. As you now have a voice to [what is essentially] yourself, an entire layer of immersion is broken. It is also very apparent that the developer intended for this character to act in a positive light that uplifts those around him, and this is fine for players that intend to play this way. However, many options to be evil and destroy those around you are completely absent, which again takes away a layer of immersion.

This is the Sole Survivor. You are in their shoes.

The importance of freedom in a video game is to facilitate immersion in who you are playing as: Yourself. Even if the adventure is linear and not in an open world, the player character is always going to be one of the very first impressions that will last over the duration of the game and likely not be forgotten. This is an example of where a verbal protagonist does not work, as this is the story of the player. An odyssey for a hero…

This is where they belong.

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To me, Assassin’s Creed II does not have an excellent plot. While the series has been beaten by greed and lust, this is where its success stems from. While excellent gameplay and gorgeous scenery of Renaissance-era Italy stand out, the heart of the game really shines from its protagonist Ezio Auditore da Firenze.

Ezio comes from a wealthy family, which is brutally murdered (minus his mother and sister) by corrupt nobles. Once a carefree womanizer, he is thrust into the ancient order of the Assassins where he builds up the order while seeking vengeance in the name of his family. This leads to the discovery of a dangerous plot that endangers all of humanity, where Ezio unravels connections to his family’s murder, his allies, and his enemies. Without giving too much away, this is exactly the kind of story that the player should experience and witness who they are playing as, and Assassin’s Creed II excels in that.

Throughout the course of the plot, Ezio grows up (literally) as a character and a fighter, and is not without his jovial antics and likeable personality. This is a character you want to root for, and can’t help but smile at as well. Your experience corresponds to Ezio’s development, and this would be impossible if Ezio was a silent protagonist. This is a world that shifts with plot, tone, setting, and character. Such stories can only be told with a character to guide you through, just like traditional stories you will read in a book or watch on the big screen.

Silent Protagonists

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If the Lone Survivor resonated for you, I really hope the above character resonates in all his iconic, glorious, and hopeful symbolism. Even if you have never played these games (please do), Half-Life stands above all in the wait for a number three.

If this is all you know about this series, then it is important to know it involves plenty of interpretation as well as fitting into the role of its protagonist Gordon Freeman. If you go into Half-Life with a casual mindset, Gordon will literally only be a vessel for the player to fight their way through countless HECU marines, Xen aliens, or Combine soldiers and traverse the death-riddled halls of Black Mesa or the dystopian streets of City 17. This is a game where the player must be the character. You must fill in their thoughts, and be in the moment.

Half-Life opens with a ‘typical’ day at work. This is not a first-person shooter; this is a day at work for Gordon Freeman, your vessel into the world of Black Mesa. You are a scientist with little combat experience, not a soldier filled to the teeth with combat experience and fearlessness. When science has gone terribly wrong, your life is on the line with your colleagues dead, and no one to help you. You are alone, but not alone. They can see you.

This is the reason why the original Half-Life remains to this day as my favourite first-person shooter, and one of the few video games I consider to be art. Such a linear game could have very easily had a protagonist that talked, yet Valve nailed it down perfectly here with plenty of extra interpretation on the side. Is Gordon a good person, despite the fact he has caused so much death to escape? Is it right to kill off an alien species afraid of an external threat looming above them, despite the fact they have met you with hostility in order to survive? Gordon is your character to determine, set in a world that encompasses you.

To end things off, let’s go to an example that is neither better talkative nor silent.

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Another hailed classic that I nearly consider to be perfect, we have the Orwellian tale of BioShock. If you love this game, no doubt one of the reasons is its underwater city of Rapture. It beams with personality, all the way from its utopia-gone-dystopia atmosphere, with both wonder and horror to be found around every corner. Its cast of characters also leaves a deep impression, from the objectivist founder of the city who acts for men only, a respected artist who has become unstable and violent, and an accomplished surgeon who has taken the idea of beauty to an extreme and disturbing height.

In its cast, do you recall its protagonist? For those of you who are not familiar, Jack is a man who has found themselves in a plane wreck and has found themselves in Rapture, ruined in a civil war when the substance ‘ADAM’ has caused its citizens to become insane and gradually lose their humanity in the process as well. You are alone for most of this adventure, lost at sea to a terrifyingly beautiful expanse of lost utopia.

Similarly to Half-Life, the plot takes a backseat here. Unlike it, though, BioShock tells its tale without interpretation and extreme nuance (but still to a certain extent), but rather through audio logs that reveal Rapture’s former glory and cast of spearheads. You are simply along to experience it all, but the plot does thicken when you encounter the founder of Rapture: Andrew Ryan. While I will be vague, there are definitely huge implications left for the idea of a protagonist in a linear story. Are they simply a tool, in the end, to be controlled by an external force to meet a certain goal?

Such a question is one that very few video games tend to look at, and at this point it does make sense that Jack is a silent protagonist. He is being controlled by the player, in a metaphysical context. Your thoughts and emotions should run free, and not his. Arguably, though, a character like Gordon Freeman was meant to be played and interpreted. On the other hand, a character like Jack could have still worked as a verbal protagonist.

What would his reaction be to a world that has gone to hell, and to listen to the horrors done to people who used to be sane? How would he feel about those who remain there, and what about his own personal reflection on himself as a being? While the game is still amazing without a strong protagonist, I feel as if nothing would be lost if Jack opened up here and then throughout the course of the game.

***

As I stated earlier, this is not a contest between the two types of protagonists. For games with expanses of freedom or a story left for interpretation, silent protagonists are the way to go. For a game with an epic plot with a character that only grows with time, a verbal protagonist is necessary to deliver on that experience. I do not prefer either, as both have their benefits (which I have of course made clear here).

For the next couple of days, I hope you enjoy your arrival at school or wherever you are heading to. I can promise that this blog will continue to flourish even when my tasks are back at hand, and I also hope that you enjoy the summer’s final nights. 🙂

A Story Without Words – Why Music Matters in Storytelling

As school draws near and our leisurely time closes, we uncomfortably await what inevitably lies in front of us. Duty, friendship, commitment, and challenge. In this perilous time, yours truly will still be providing a shimmer of light. Two blogs will form a hold on September’s dawn, brought to you in a gold wrapping of a computer notification.

Joking aside, I hope the above reminder was tainted in a more jovial heart than what you may be feelings right now. It is true (for me at least) that school begins once again next week, so I have returned to bring a topic that speaks dearly to everyone: music. Not just music (such a topic is too broad to even have an entry point), but its application and importance in storytelling. While I cannot cover every example (and what I cover will inevitably speak to myself more-so), I encourage you to look at your favourite stories and look to what role music plays in them.

Before delving too far into this immense rabbit-hole (of four coverings), we will start off very simply with an example from the gargantuan collection of Walt Disney: Mulan. To take a quick snippet of the animated feature, I present you with the song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” (written by composer Matthew Wilder). Even if you have no interest in the film or haven’t seen it for a very long time, the song should give you a general idea of the film’s plot to this point.

As a musical, songs are not supposed to delight themselves in a plethora of subtly that only relies on you to feel. Rather, this song directly fuses and correlates plot, character development, relationships, setting, and impending conflict into a catchy three minutes of melodic narration (or rather, singing). In a musical, songs represent major plot points that can be enjoyed and made memorable to a wide audience. Here, Fa Mulan’s development as a character is tied to the world around her. As per the usual hero’s journey, the uplifting tone of the song is proportional to her struggles in becoming a soldier. She may lack the skills to do so at this point, but her wants and drive to become something more are nicely showcased by the movie.

To move on, I would like to add that music appeals to a much deeper level in storytelling. Mulan’s showcasing is a clear and concise example of how musicals are rather smart in pulling their plots together, yet at the same time, they are only the tip of the iceberg. Music tells its own story perfectly in ways that not even words can describe, and encapsulate emotions that only enhance the experience of a film, television show, or video game.

I am unsure if presenting this piece brings back buried and repressed memories of a time where this franchise took a sink, but forget them as you listen to this amazing piece (Anakin’s Theme from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, written by composer John Williams). In my humble opinion, Episode I’s score is brilliant and displays the potential for a film that could have been infinitely better. I would even dare to say that I can see brilliance overshadowed by fatal faults and errors that Episode II and III lack, yet this is another discussion for another time.

Anakin’s Theme is a piece that plays in scenes where the character of the same namesake appears (obviously), and at its surface, it seems to only describe the tragic nature of his freedom: he will most likely never see his mother again. However, this piece is beautiful in its clear-yet-subtle foreshadowing that Anakin is an innocent, happy and naive child, only to become a being of terrible power that has stricken fear and death into an oppressed galaxy. This is why this track is so immensely tragic, as every beam of light casts a shadow only as large as the figure. The undertone of the Imperial March is also very clever in showing the ramifications that even the film acknowledges about bringing an unknown child that will balance the forces of good and evil, yet sometimes believing with enough heart will do.

This overall foreshadowing is more related to this piece in question then to the actual plot of the film, which moves back to the key point of music in storytelling. We aren’t beaten over the head that Anakin will become evil, yet as a prequel, we know it is bound to happen. What this theme does is makes us feel invested in the part as well, and tells the clear story of innocence tainted and transformed into something monstrous.

Without context, can music still be an effect tool, however? The answer?

Absolutely.

To take another moment before we delve into the wonder-full score of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (written by Jeremy Soul), I would like to acknowledge a fair point. The score of a video game is meant to enhance the overall immersion that you are a part of a world, as well as have a lasting appeal due to the repetition of pieces that will loop and appear many times throughout a game. On the other hand, music in a film is meant to overlay and delve deeper into a linear story, setting tone and atmosphere that can make or break it.

Speaking of atmosphere, this track here (Far Horizons) sets it stone right off with its name. Horizons may be in relation to distance, or loneliness. It may also refer to a serene, yet uncertain landscape that lies beyond. Most importantly, in the horizon, the day’s end may lie. All of these are mixed together in the entirety of Skyrim’s score, yet as a video game, these relate to player experiences rather than to a character or plot point. The music here acts as a guide to something that may completely lack a plot but enriches your story. Perhaps the wilderness and the tundra of Skyrim have opened a vista to your eyes, or you are gazing into the final seconds of sunlight as the night overtakes the sky. Here, I cannot say if this piece tells a cohesive tale, but it does take its hand in shaping one (to say for a final time).

For our final example, I will share a scene rather than a piece.

From Halo 4, this scene plays towards the end of the title’s campaign (in a mission aptly named Composer). Despite the fact that the emotion of the scene may not come through without playing the rest of the game (or delving into the fiction of the franchise as a whole), what did you notice about the second part of this scene?

The lack of any music playing whatsoever is what makes the emotion of this scene stick out so much. While an ominous or saddened tone could have been present throughout it, the developer had instead opted for silence. While I have insinuated that music makes its own story, the absence of music showcases pivotal moments where the characters and atmosphere take their own stage, and sticks out to a greater degree.

In hindsight, music is music. We listen to it, like it, and become addicted to pressing the replay button until we move on. In reality, music is a barrage of emotions that are expressed to such a complicated level that only our own minds are capable of parrying it. As I stated towards the blog’s beginning, I encourage you to analyse the score of a movie (or not) that you love, and to see how it correlates with its story and characters. I apologize for not going as in-depth for some of these as I should have, yet emotions are something that you must determine yourself and take what you get. I hope you enjoyed my return to analysis, and as always, I look forward to seeing you guys next time!

Small Journeys

Hello again, everyone! After six long weeks away from my usual post, I am back again to post blogs on a regular basis (this one is late due to adjusting back). As I described in my previous update, each blogger who volunteered their time and effort in order to keep this blog rolling along would each provide a different taste with a topic they were each compassionate about. As I have now read all of them, I can say that they all blew my expectations away. Every week was truly something of a different caliber, ranging from review, analysis, and opinion. To all those who did my job for me in my place, I would like to take this short time to say thank you. Tremendously, in fact! I hope you enjoyed these posts as much as I did, and it isn’t impossible that some of them may return in the future.

Before we get to the post in itself, I will say thank you to another group of individuals. Upon my last post, my acquaintance with them was null, yet now I can say as if they are family to me in a sense. As my last serving here was of a narrative proportion towards the dawn of the summer, I find it only appropriate that we also end off the summer in a similar fashion. This upcoming story is dedicated to you Hercules, and I hope you all find some emotional traction while my words pave away this oncoming narrative.

 

Trees. Trees, densely covering a straight trail with no apparent end. Slender branches grasp upon the wispy air above; deep roots keep the earth in place. Life rests upon its shoulders in all forms, yet these trees do not quite literally share this purpose. Redwood, oak, birch, maple? In dreams reality is irrelevant, yet this factor is subconscious in turn.

You look down. You are used to a trail of gravel, dirt, or dust. Yet here, the composition of the path is of a fine, pristine marble that beams its reflections into your very eyes. The sky is blanketed by a thick layer of fog, where the tips of trees are consumed by an eternal breeze of vapour. All is flat, consistent, and forward. The marble path is completely pristine, leading to the never-ending horizon that looms far. Your first and only instinct is to proceed with both eyes.

Against your own will, your feet carry you in a perfected march, with each beat being timed consistently apart. Yet this does not distract you from what lies off the path. The trunks of the trees roar up into the mist of fog, and the tops are extended beyond any possible reach or comprehension. Sound is still, all but a faint noise from above. A shrill cry from an infant is heard, followed by a soothing voice that buries all worries and uncertainties of this new path. Your heart glows with reassurance, yet the impervious march carries you away from you can cherish this tender moment.

Further along, the trees grow shorter, yet their meaning is clearer as a result. Rather than just sound, other sensations arise as well. The taste of sweet delicacies envelops your mouth, and the scent of nature form an aurora of attraction as well. You can see a faint outline of figures dancing in the trees, and your emotions peak with an overcast of joy and exuberance as if their sensations were intertwined with yours.

Below, the marble path remains sturdy as your march continues its overbearing cadence. Above, the fog shoots into the same direction at the same height, with a blinding white that shows a glimpse of what sunlight may lie above. Although you are entombed to this impatient journey, the sense of adventure and curiosity keeps your mind ahead. You are the sole witness of a whimsical cycle of triumph, heartache, and failure, yet this abridged path shows that all things will rise once more at one point or another.

The trees have now conformed to a size upon which their happenings are observables to your eyes, and these figures are now recognizable. You gaze forward, only to see yourself and another. You are unsure of what this other is, but they feel significant, and fill your heart and mind with a sense of relief and compassion. Your body races, yet are they a lover, or a manifestation of all those you care for? You can only ponder as you witness your figure embrace this other with a full grasp, as they both stare off into a nonexistent sunset. You may not see it through the outline of forest, marble, and fog, yet you can feel its presence and warmth gleaming onto your body.

Moments such as these are only constrained by time, however, as you continue to march forward. The picturesque landscape of trees darted onto a flat meadow remains unchanged, however, the feelings in your heart twists. You feel anguish, despair, and fear. All in a sudden moment, a final tree in your gaze. Your figure is marching away on its own accord, and the alluring figure of before remains behind to watch.

Have you abandoned what you love? Unlike the rest of the journey, your eyes are inseparable from the other figure. However, the ground before you crumbles into a blank void beneath all that exists, and your memory becomes an untranslatable jumble of bizarre emotions. All that encompasses your wake is an ocean, reflecting the now-grey mist of fog. You can almost make out a few trees on the distant horizon, yet the ocean is all you can really see. It becomes clear that this path is meant to be walked and remembered in both heart and mind, yet your mind is clouded with this sense of uncertainty instead of the journey.

As your march carries you beyond such emotions, you see that all that remains is the marble path. You halt, only to look up at a blank space, and down at another blank space. Behind lies blank space, ahead lies blank space. The marble path is over, yet you see its end creep ahead ever so slightly. The dream may be over, yet what lies ahead is unknown.

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A walk in the woods.

At the conclusion of this post, I hope you enjoyed this metaphorical walk through the woods. The overlying theme I was attempting to convey was life, memory, and experience, and not too subtly either. I am very much glad to be back after six weeks, and I look forward to be posting on a regular basis once again!

Analysis: The Other Two

Hi, I’m the last fake blogger before stadarooni’s fated return from his (forced?) exile away from society. Unlike the others, I have no cable and no Netflix, so I’m forced to do some actual reading with what I can find in my basement. After some heavy procrastination, I finally managed to force out an analysis on The Other Two by Edith Wharton.

Edith Wharton clearly portrays the reality of a woman living in the early 1900s. Through Alice Haskett, the wife of the protagonist Waythorne, the reader sees that she has to go to extreme lengths to live a comfortable life during a time where a woman’s social standing was determined by her husband’s. During that time, the only way for a woman to climb the social ladder was through marriage and divorce, and Alice took full advantage of the divorce law to get to the top of the social ladder. Fooling Waythorne, her present husband and the entire city of New York to believe that she had been brutalized by her first husband, she divorced and married Gus Varick, a gentleman from high society. As the story progresses the reader quickly realizes that Alice is not the obedient, innocent angel Waythorne fantasizes her to be, a fact that Waythorne soon comes to an astounding revelation of.

Circumstances lead Waythorne to meet each of Alice’s other two husbands in-depth, no matter how hard Waythorne tries to avoid it. Their meetings become inevitable as his reputation and current marriage stability come into play. Waythorne easily accepts Varick as one of Alice’s previous husband due to his social standing. But when he accidentally stumbles upon Mr.Haskett, Alice’s first husband, standing in his parlour with a made-up elastic tie, Waythorne realizes that the wife he married is a lie. Waythorne cannot accept the fact that Alice was once so far below him and that she had once been married to someone like Mr.Haskett and the thought almost disgusts him. And this one action shows the large gap between the rich and the poor and the amount of importance humans place on materialistic things.

Not only that, after meeting Mr. Haskett, Waythorne comes to another realization that it wasn’t Alice that had been brutalized in the marriage, it was Haskett. Alice had manipulated the court into giving her the divorce by her acting. After finally coming to this conclusion, Waythorne, surprisingly, accepts it. He accepts the fact that his wife views him as just another tool for her to give herself a comfortable life and he accepts her past relationships with the Haskett and Varick. His acceptance is what kept his marriage with Alice and is actually a realistic portrayal of most marriages in which both sides turn a blind eye towards the faults and mistakes of the other. The story ends with Alice, Waythorne and her previous two husbands drinking tea and sharing cigars in the dining room. (I actually thought this ending was really weird, not to mention impossible, because what can possibly be more awkward than sharing tea with your wife and her two ex-husbands? Moreover, isn’t it worse that this event occurs basically every week?)

There. I hope the black blobs up there you can call paragraphs actually make sense. I don’t recommend anyone to read this short story because it’s quite difficult to get into for recreational reading. But if anyone reads it just because I said you shouldn’t then I’m sorry for spoiling the ending. If you are waiting for anything dramatic to happen in the story, I’m sorry this is not what you’re looking for.  The most exciting thing was probably Waythorne’s slight loss of composure over the fact that Alice is not of the same social class as him.

Horror vs. Thriller

So we find ourselves in the fifth week of sit-in writers, and I’m excited to ramble. And given that the last 2 writers have written about movies, I’m going to get original and write about a movie. Well, 2 movies, but you get the idea. I’m going to (attempt) to demonstrate what I believe to be the difference between a horror film and a thriller movie.

The first movie that I’d like to talk about is 10 Cloverfield Lane, which is my example of a horror movie. I would give a plot summary, but part of what makes this movie so good is how it reveals the plot throughout the movie (ie: no spoilers). Like any good horror movie, it builds the plot with such suspense that crescendos when the characters themselves start to understand the circumstances they’re faced with.

One of the notorious cornerstones of horror is the jump-scare, which is a cheap (albeit effective) way of eliciting a scare. This movie uses the next step of jump-scares; making the audience expect a jump-scare and then not delivering. This creates long scenes of tension where you just know that something is going to jump out and scare you, and you’re mentally preparing yourself for something to happen. But it never does, which is what makes this such an effective horror movie. It makes your mind scare you, and the anticipation of something happening do the work.

My next movie is what I would classify as a thriller; Circle. This is an indie movie available on Netflix, so I would definitely recommend taking a look when you can. The indie-ness of it shines through in that the budget is very clearly lacking, but much like the classic Saw, it uses its budget smartly and extremely effectively. The plot is fairly contrived and lacking, but it sets us up for a very interesting look into the human mind.

Thriller genre movies are a bit misnamed in my opinion. I see thrillers as having a primary focus as a peering into the human mind at its darkest places; where our minds go when there’s nowhere else to hide. Circle does this by having every character have a very unique and defined personality. Every ‘type’ of person is on display, for the most part, so finding someone to empathize with through either love or hate is pretty easy to do. That, to me, makes this movie an effective thriller. It shows what happens when people are confronted with horror.

Now, which one of these movies deserves higher praise? This is really hard to say as both have massive pros and massive cons. The acting in both movies is near-impeccable, which is so important to a ‘scary movie’. If the audience cannot be convinced that the characters are scared, why should the audience be scared? And, unfortunately, both movies have pretty poor endings. They give more questions than answers, and not in the clever way that keeps you wanting more.

Now with the negatives are out of the way, these movies earn the highest of my praise. 10 Cloverfield Lane had an Oscar worthy performance (in my opinion) and had some of the best camera work and shot composition I’ve ever seen in a horror movie. Circle manages to take a small budget and a mostly ‘no name’ cast and push out an amazing concept of a movie with some great performances.

I think personally I prefer Circle, just because I can’t sit through a horror movie with the lights off. That all being said, check out both of these movies as they are both excellent at scaring the life out of anyone. Thanks to stadarooni for having me on, and thank you for taking your time to read.

Star Wars: The Prequels and What They Spawned

Welcome to the third entry in this six-week long array of different authors. Despite the fact I am not a very good critic, my love of Star Wars has led me to choose this topic. I hope you enjoy my post!

For that one guy out there who doesn’t know, the Star Wars prequels are typically held at a much lower standard than the original trilogy, due to many things such as “an overabundant use of CGI”, slow and boring politics, and everyone’s favourite character Jar-Jar Binks. In this post, I will give you my personal opinions on the prequels and share with you a fact or two you might not have known.

To start it off, I’ll tell you about my favourite things. Now at the top of the list is definitely Ewan McGregor, who played the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi. If anything is to redeem the prequels it would have to be his acting. He managed to turn Obi-Wan into an exciting and dare I say badass character. Something else unique to the prequels that appealed to me was the gritty nature of Episode III. Perhaps I stand with a minority but I adore a darker story every once in a while. Obviously, everyone that watched the original trilogy prior knew that the Jedi had to die, but the amazing music by John Williams and the wonderful cinematography form a beautiful combo that I thoroughly enjoy every time. My last major point for the positives is simply all of the lore that this spawned. Despite the fact that I am not talking about the original films themselves, you wouldn’t have “The Clone Wars” TV series or all of the literature that is now categorized as “legends” without the movies. This probably goes without saying but it is like the movies are a gateway to this amazing story.

Now I could go all day about how much I love “The Clone Wars” TV series so I’ll summarize it into one paragraph. In this show, there are many different story arcs jumbled around and not necessarily in order. They follow everyone from Anakin (who I like much more in the TV show by the way) and his apprentice Ahsoka Tano to squads of clone troopers. Before I watched this, I never thought I would feel for a clone trooper but I was very surprised. It brings back Darth Maul as well as introducing countless new characters. It shows the effects the Clone Wars has on everyone and touches on the darker sides of characters such as Anakin and Grand Moff Tarkin. It also sheds some more light on the Mandalorians, which as some may know, is Boba Fett’s race and therefore the whole clone army’s as well. One of the greatest things about this series is that even though it is a cartoon, it doesn’t feel like it’s meant for little kids. I think any Star Wars fan at any age could enjoy it. Now like I said, I could talk all day about this so I’ll stop right here. I do however highly recommend that if you like Star Wars to give this show a try and stick with it for a while because you can trust me when I say it gets really good!

Ok, back to the movies themselves and some of the things they didn’t get right. Top of the list is Jar-Jar Binks. Now to be fair, when I was younger, I really didn’t mind him that much. HOWEVER, watching any scene with him now is somewhat painful. I have no idea what George Lucas was thinking. Jar-Jar tries too hard to be funny and it has become somewhat cringe worthy. Moving on, coincidentally again from Episode I, is young Anakin Skywalker. He just comes off as a whiney little kid and is simply annoying. I’m also not too sure what the age gap is between him and Padme, but it seems a little awkward in the first movie when you realize they will be married later. Something that is constant throughout the movies is the politics. Treaty this, trade blockade that, “Oh my they’ve given the Chancellor more power!” It’s not as if I don’t like politics or anything; it just doesn’t belong in these movies. They slow the movie down, much like that scene where Qui-Gon Jinn explained the science of the force (which I don’t think is AS bad as the reputation it has). This list of cons would not be complete without listing the performance of Hayden Christensen. Some say it was the script he was given, some say he’s merely a bad actor. Either way, Anakin was just a very dry and dull character who didn’t change much at all. Not to bash on him too much, but I found it very challenging to like his character.

I find it hard to not quote Obi-Wan here due to the fact I’m such a nerd: “Your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them.” In this case, I am referring to the “overabundance of CGI” in the prequels. To my surprise, many of the things I had thought to be CGI were actually models or practical effects. What this says to me is that if people are calling models bad CGI, and are constantly confusing the two; how is the CGI so bad? Don’t get me wrong there are a couple of scenes, mostly in Episode I, which stand out, such as things like the planet of Coruscant in the background of some shots. However, I think it’s unfair to treat it with such negativity as they made massive improvements on it in Episode II and III when technology allowed them to. In fact, I admire the planet of Coruscant in the later movies so much that I drool (not literally) at the possibility of a video game with today’s modern graphics taking place on that planet (Star Wars 1313 come back please). Anyways, I will leave a link below relating to the CGI and practical effects that I recommend you check out if you’re interested. Credit actually goes to the owner of this blog for sending me that link about half a year ago.

I hope you liked this week’s post and listening to me ramble on about Star Wars. I really did enjoy listening to Star Wars music and writing this. If you didn’t like it, come back next week for a new author!

http://boards.theforce.net/threads/practical-effects-in-the-prequels-sets-pictures-models-etc.50017310/