Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Box Set Blues: Misfits, Season Three

You know what bugs me about British TV? There is never enough of it. Take Misfits, for instance - after the end of this third season there is only remaining original cast member going into the next series. So after only 24 episodes - the length of a single US TV Season - they've burnt through four characters and all their attendant story potential, and they're taken three years to produce those episodes. And there isn't anything expensive, or complex about Misfits, its just that the British TV culture is these short runs and high cast turnovers, and I'm always left feeling I'm missing out on potential that is never realised. But, rant over, lets look at what stories we did get! 

Friday, August 24, 2012

TV Review: The Legend of Korra

One of my favorite kids shows is "Avatar: The Last Airbender", which was pretty big in the states but a bit more of a cult hit over here in the UK. A 3-series animated epic from Nickelodeon, it was set in an Asian culture-inspired world dominated by nations with strong elemental themes and magic built around elemental control ("bending"). Over the course of the original run A:TLA combined kid-friendly action and story lines with the sort of great characterization and deep subtext that keeps adult engaged too, along with a a fantastic visual style, great direction and and a really solid and interesting plot. If you've not seen it, it's well worth checking out. The show definitely finishes, however, and so when the team behind it were commissioned for a sequel, that was always going to be a tough task, both because of the reputation of the first series, and because, well, where do you go next?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Movie Review: The Amazing Spiderman

Six weeks ago, before I went to India for a week, and more relevantly, before I broke my elbow, I promised Ewan I'd take him to see the new Spiderman film, as he's got such a kick out Avengers, and had expressed an interest in more big-screen superheroics. Since we had some family holiday, and I could drive again, I finally made good on the promise and took him last week. Its been much reported that this film by and large only exists so that the studio can hold onto the rights from Marvel, who want to reintegrate their properties, and given the broadly excellent job being done with them part of says they should just be allowed to. But, The Amazing Spiderman is a film that should be judged on its own merits, outside of that context, although its hard not to feel that said context does have a bearing on the films problems.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Box Set Blues: Deadwood, Series 1

One of the many things that count against my self-identified label of "watcher of quality TV" is the amount of quality TV that I have not watched. I mean, I've seen five series of Bones, for goodness sake, so its not like I haven't found the time somewhere along the time to set in front of the TV and absorb more of the "good stuff". One of the more glaring omissions to my mind has always been Deadwood - HBO's three-season-then-dropped Western about the founding and growth of the eponymous town in the gold-rich hills of Dakota. It has a fearsome reputation of being a show about mud, death and swearing, or towering performances and deep, rich subtexts. So, finally, we have seen the first series.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Rambling Randomly

Sometimes I just have collected thoughts that don't coalesce enough for a coherent post. This is one of those posts!

Diablo 3 and the Agency Problem
Since writing up Diablo 3 a while back I've played it a bit more in co-operation with friends, and finally managed to nail down something that has been bugging me and I wasn't able to articulate. And thats the strange thing about it's story. Most games put the player at the centre of the action - after all, it's you shooting those bad guys, or you saving the kingdom, or you stacking those blocks. Even where the story calls for a defined central character, by and large you are playing that central character, even when the story allows you no choices and pre-written cut-scenes, usually you are in charge of that main character within the gameplay. It's called "agency" and is one of the more unique things about storytelling in computer games, and a lot of games in the RPG genre particularly are experimenting with the limits of this agency when it comes to emergent stories.

The thing is with Diablo 3's story, is that you actually have no agency. Sure, you run around the world killing monsters and looting their shiny things, but whenever the story crops up one of the NPCs is there to actually do the thing that needs to be done. You're not saving the world, you're getting lesser creatures out of the way so that other people can save the world. Other characters tell you where to go, read ancient manuscripts and perform ancient rites. In the end, your character may get to kill newly trans-sexual Diablo but the celebratory cutscene is Tyrael's triumph, not yours.

It feels like such an odd way to write a story - as if they were too attached to their characters to let your disposable killer get in the way.

Graphic Novel Round-Up
My current comic reading is limited to the two or three graphic novels I buy each month, largely on recommendation. Sure, I'm always behind, but the quality is pretty solid. This month I picked up Orbital vol 4 and Long John Silver vol 3, both from Cinebooks, who translate the european comics scene for English-speaking audiences. Orbital is a space operatic police series, and LJS is a sequel of sorts to Treasure Island, set around a search of a South American city of gold. Both are fantastic, great art, great stories, but these volume are the last currently in print and the next volumes look to be available sometime in 2013. Which isn't fair; I'm used to being so far behind there is always another volume!

I'm also finally starting to read Hellboy. Its the sort of thing I knew I will like, and of course I do. My reading is slightly plagued by lack of availability of some volumes, which I guess is the downside of being so far behind!

Dragons in Dungeons, Oh My! 
After many years of being a role-player, I am finally playing a proper, dungeon crawling Dungeons and Dragons Game. I'm a cleric, with the stupidly fantasy-tastic name of "Radia Lightsalve". She's Neutral Good, reads tacky romance novels, and is nice to everyone. Yes, my tongue is in my cheek throughout. That said, I've rather enjoyed it so far - it sort of is and isn't what you'd expect, by which I mean it's mechanistic, combat heavy, and a bit too much down the "boardgame" line for my usual taste in RPGs, but despite that it's pretty good fun....