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We get you.

Mute is a frustrating film. That much can be gleaned from the reviews, the best of which call it a mixed bag while the rest are too busy with the hyperbole of extremely low review scores, hot takes, and “worst movie ever” braying that can be understood to say more about the reviewer than the movie they’re on about. That’s sort of a downside of writing film criticism, or any kind of criticism: the more passionate you are, the more of yourself is leaking in. Too much and you’re obnoxious or, the favorite watch-word of an internet that could give a fuck about criticism as a form, “biased”. Too little and you’re leaning too heavily on description or plot recaps and wasting everybody’s time.

It’s obvious that creative pursuits also have the kind of relationship to what the author puts into it that a movie like Mute has. If it’s too much of a passion project, maybe it’s a self-indulgent mess that took fifteen years to greenlight for good reason. Too little and it’s just another Blade Runner/90’s hipster crime also-ran, only dated as fuck because we’ve collectively moved on from a lot of what you’re trying to do narratively or aesthetically.

Mute frequently feels like both of these things are happening at the same time. Some background information about how this movie came to be should be required, but at the end of the day, that stuff hardly matters. What really matters is whether it’s good or bad, right? Which side of the dichotomy does it belong on. Most people are going to say bad, and they’re not exactly wrong. But I wouldn’t be writing this if there weren’t more to say, if Mute was only bad. It is, in many ways, Southland Tales all over again. For others, it’s going to feel a bit like a lesser William Gibson novel. Probably the best way to view Mute is as Gibson likely did: a work of aesthetics-over-story which is mainly trying to get us immersed in a near-future Berlin underworld of crime, larceny, and darker deeds. Unsurprisingly, he liked it. I’d say that I liked this aspect of it, but there’s far more going on here and most of it is less successful. Read the rest of this entry »



No one will accuse this movie of not looking great.

Ghost in the Shell as a 20 years removed live action adaptation of a seminal anime film is at once completely unnecessary and completely inevitable. We live in a weird period where the tropes and signifiers of the cyberpunk genre are everywhere we look. It makes a sort of sense that the most influential pieces of that history are being reclaimed and re-positioned for modern audiences. Not only is Ghost in the Shell a thing that happened, but Blade Runner is getting a sequel, shows like Incorporated also pay direct homage to and update the William Gibson and Margaret Atwood cyberpunk vision for the 2010s. But when you watch Marvel movies or the CW superhero shows, the technological gimmicks as well as many of the technological themes stories address (artificial intelligence, human enhancement, etc) are also present.

This is because we kind of live cyberpunk now, we’ve got all the big elements: sketchy corporations accruing more and more power, poorly understood technological progress unevenly distributed and always dovetailing between transcendence and frivolity, and a world where high-tech gadgets and cybernetic crime, warfare, and identity are taken for granted.

So what time could be better than now for an adaptation of Ghost in the Shell? This movie’s historical and iconographical relevance is only rivaled by its failure to address another cornerstone of our times: the latter days of white supremacy in an increasingly global context. Make no mistake, Ghost in the Shell is a very political film but it accomplishes this accidentally and becomes a “useful fool” in the discourses of identity politics, racial/cultural hegemony, and the gyre of entertainment representation. Now, maybe you’re not interested in all that shit. Read the review anyway, because I’ll be getting into the more technical stuff that works or doesn’t first. If you’re looking for a quick summary of the kind I usually put here, let’s say that Ghost in the Shell is… okay. Too much of the narrative is simplified or compromised, and while the imagery and action is beautiful and memorable it also frequently feels cheap outside of the really great practical effects and props that are sprinkled throughout the movie. It also has pretty rad music, though they should have used the ’95 theme more.

//SPOILERS// Read the rest of this entry »


The Paris of Remember Me often feels like a living place.

Remember Me will be one of those games that people kind of miss out on. Every year or so, one or two low-profile games with interesting ideas get ignored by the mainstream only to be rediscovered as “cult” hits later on. Remember Me will probably be one of those. The game design is solid, reliable, and even has a few new and interesting ideas thrown in to what is generally formulaic. This is actually in keeping with other games like it (Enslaved, The Saboteur, Singularity… to name a few overlooked gems) where AAA game design concepts get remixed into new IPs, usually original ones, where designers add their own ideas. It enriches the experience of gaming, really, to see mechanics and ideas you like being reinterpreted a few times before the next big thing comes along. This is how we got Assassin’s Creed and others off the back of Grand Theft Auto III‘s core design philosophy. This is how we got entire subgenres of books, music, and films.

Remember Me doesn’t ape any particular game that closely, but it’s definitely got a familiar feel. Most of the gameplay is straightforward platforming broken up by acrobatic fights with a variety of challenging enemies. Some are calling it a sort of beat-em-up/platformer hybrid and this is basically true. However, the mechanics service the story and world of the game and always take a back seat to that. This is a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you like your games. There are enough games out there that push the envelope of all of the above (Tomb Raider) that I’m satisfied with the type of game that emphasizes narrative and world-building over rote gameplay mechanics like combat and jumping on a roof. Not that these parts of Remember Me are unsatisfying. It’s more that they aren’t the reason to appreciate this game.

Speaking of the narrative, inarguably its core priority, Remember Me weaves a deeply personal story through a larger scale (intimately delivered) rebellion story. Some of the writing is fairly overwrought but the ideas and themes come across very well and elevate the game into a worthwhile experience. If it sounds like all the most interesting stuff is in the story, rest assured that there are a few neat gameplay mechanics that emerge as well. Read the rest of this entry »


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