Friday, November 18, 2011

Thoughts on the Brave Trailer

Pixar has released the first full trailer for their 2012 release Brave and... I'm left uncertain.

Well, that's not entirely true. I am certain visuals are stunning, and I recommend playing this as the best HD your computer can manage in full-screen.

Immediately, my thoughts return to How To Train Your Dragon in terms of style and some of the gags. Granted, I adored HTTYD, but seeing how this is Pixar's first non-adapted endeavor since 2009, the last thing I want Brave to turn out feeling is derived.

My bigger issue is with our protagonist, who so far she seems like another cliche female character as a soapbox for feminism. Oh look, it's the tomboy of a princess who doesn't like being proper, doesn't want to marry, disagrees with her mother on the matter, and runs away from home to have adventures.

Come to think of it, I still have no idea what the story of this is supposed to be.

I hope this is just a case of mediocre trailer and not a window into the actual film's mood, like a good trailer is. Of course, I'm going to go see it no matter how the trailers look, because it's Pixar. I guess we'll just have to wait and see if we get a surprisingly original film or a cliche graphics demonstration.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Review: Professor Layton and the Last Specter

Note for readers outside the USA: For this review, I am using the American titles of the Professor Layton games; some have different names in the UK and in other locations. I will keep my complaining about the nonsensical title change from Professor Layton and the Specter's Flute to a minimum. 

Also, I mention a sidegame called London Life included with the game, but the European version of the game does not include this feature. 


Professor Layton and the Last Specter was the first thing on my mind when I got my seasonal job. It is the first prequel in the awesome Professor Layton puzzle/visual novel series and tells the story of Layton's first mystery solving adventure, as well as the story of how he met his apprentice, Luke.  

The Last Specter will remind long time fans of the first installment: Professor Layton and the Curious Villiage. It takes place in the small town where Luke lives, and the plot is also on the smaller side.

To an extent, this makes sense. When writing a prequel, writers want to make sure that the challenges the characters face aren't bigger than their most recent ones, since they want the characters to have shown growth in their abilities through the series' timeline. However, this doesn't explain why it feels like the social story of The Last Specter is also dimmed down. Without giving anything away, the emotional arc of the plot does eventually get going and lead to a unique and charming conclusion, but I spent a fair amount of time feeling more distant from the characters than I was expecting. I wanted to see more of Luke and Layton bonding for the first time than I did, mainly.

Also, while I did not guess the final conclusion of the mystery, and would like to present a medal to anybody who did, some of the smaller mysteries were easier for me to figure out than they have been in the past, and some things felt a little thrown in. I didn't feel this was due to any improvement with my expirience with the series, rather, some of the smaller mysteries felt more cliche to the mystery genre in general.

None of this is to say that The Last Specter has a bad storyline. I enjoyed the plot, cared about the characters, and was up playing into the late hours of the night to see how it ended... but after  the extremely enchanting plots of other Professor Layton titles, this one felt a little underwhelming and uninspired.

Of course, if you're a fan of Professor Layton who wants everybody to stop talking and get to more puzzles, this will probably be your favorite game yet. Puzzles are everywhere and while no new major features have been added, the gameplay has been polished to a shine. Getting through the main game took me about 11 hours, while past games have taken me about 8 or 9 hours, and I didn't even manage to solve every puzzle. It felt like there was a higher ratio of the kinds of puzzles I like too, so I had a blast solving them. Maybe Level-5 is keeping an eye on the fans' favorites somehow?

Speaking of hours of gameplay, the game is paired with a separate RPG called London Life which claims to have over 100 hours of content. I haven't gotten very far into London Life yet, but from what I have seen of it so far, it's adorable and a good time sinker. Slice of life games tend to bore me quickly, though, so whether you're like me or will actually spend hundreds of hours in Little London is up to you. 

Professor Layton and the Last Specter doesn't upstage past titles, but fans of the series can sink plenty of content hours into the story and gameplay of another worthy installment. While it didn't blow me away, I still feel that I more than got my money's worth, and I still have a lot of content to go through that should keep me working my gray matter for a while. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dear Fan Fiction Writers...





I just finished reading a chapter of a story that couldn't have been more than 500 words long, and there were a good dozen misuses of words in it. Wrong word choice. Wrong tense. A totally different word than what you meant. Etc.

Spellcheck was never intended to replace proofreading, and when you try to use it for that, nine times out of ten it is glaringly obvious. And by glaringly obvious, I don't just meant that it's glaringly obvious you abused spell check. More importantly, it's glaringly obvious that you're lazy. I try not to measure one's artistic merit by their personality traits, but when you don't take a little extra time to make your work presentable, I have to wonder why I am taking the time to read it.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

It's Oscar Predictions Time!

Well, color me surprised. It didn't feel like a very big year for animated films, but it seems the Academy of Motion Pictures has managed to scrape together 18 eligible films for the Best Animated Feature category, allowing a year with five nominations!

  • Rango
  • Kung Fu Panda 2
  • Puss in Boots
  • Rio
  • Cars 2
  • Hoodwinked Two! Hood Vs. Evil
  • Gnomeo & Juliet
  • Mars Needs Moms
  •  Winnie the Pooh
  • The Adventures of Tintin
  • Arthur Christmas
  • Happy Feet Too
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
  • The Smurfs
  • Alois Nebel
  • A Cat in Paris
  • Chico & Rita
  • Wrinkles

    List via slashfilm.
I could get into a rant about CGI-heavy films like The Smurfs and motion capture films like Mars Needs Moms counting as animated films, but I'm going to be a tad selfish. While 2011 hasn't been a year with much in the way of animated masterpiece films that critics drooled over, it has been a year with quite a few decent and fun movies that I was having trouble picking three from for a nomination prediction. And now, thanks to sorta-animated films walking the eligibility line, I don't have to! Woo! 

So, without further ado, here's how I imagine the 2011 Oscars: