That Mitchell and Webb Look – Moneypenny [Embedded Reporter]
Feb 22nd, 2010 by Dan

A clever little sketch from a funny British comedy duo about Miss Moneypenny and her obnoxious friend James.

Filmmakers Bleed: North by Northwest Review
Jul 26th, 2008 by Dan

It’s time for a blast to the past today with a Hitchcock classic, North by Northwest (hereafter abbreviated as NNW). #40 on the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies top movie list, it’s held in high regard as one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best and also is credited with being “the first James Bond film,” by some due to its spy plot, dashing leading man, and daring (at the time) action sequences. Now, I may be a bit more critical of this movie after having recently seen Casino Royale and the trailer for Quantum of Solace, but that’s mainly because I feel this movie would be much better served if it were created in the modern day instead of limited by the constraints of late 1950s film.


The plot revolves around a advertising executive, Roger Thornhill, who is accidentally mistaken for another man, George Kaplan, in one of those classic Hitchcockian moments that always set these sorts of things up. Naturally, the bad guys kidnap Thornhill, intending to interrogate him and kill him, since this Kaplan bloke appears to be a spy. Since Thornhill doesn’t have the slightest idea what they’re talking about, they decide to kill him in one of the lamest movie assassinations ever: they make him drink a bottle of bourbon, put him in a car, and intend to drive it off a California escarpment to cover their tracks. What follows instead is one of the most interetsing things I’ve ever seen: a car chase where one of the drivers was drunk. Like I said before, this would be that much cooler if this were a modern movie, since the canned scrolling backgrounds really fail to capture the urgency and difficulty of this chase where modern movie effects could have made it seem a bit more dangerous.

Thornhill clearly survives, but is taken in by the police for driving while intoxicated. He tries to clear his name, but a return to the house where he was kidnapped to just makes him look even more stupid and a trip to Kaplan’s hotel room finds it sans Kaplan and, more suspiciously, none of the staff have ever seen this George Kaplan fellow. Desperate to clear his name, Thornhill heads to the U.N. to look for the man who force-fed him bourbon, but finds out that he was using a fake name. Worse, the man who shares his name is murdered with a knife to the back by Thornhill, who is caught in a picture holding the knife before he flees. So begins the NNW travel that is echoed in the title as Thornhill chases Kaplan to Chicago, meets a beautiful woman (pretty good looking by modern standards too), beds her (he’s just like James Bond), and arrives in Chicago hoping to find Kaplan.

What Thornhill doesn’t see is the scene after the murder in some government intelligence agency where the fact that George Kaplan does not exist is revealed. He is a fake man meant to confound targets into chasing him while the real agents and operatives do their work. Thornhill is on a wild goose chase. When one of the agents asks “Should we help him?” the rest of the agency says nope, he’ll either be shot by the police or the bad guys, but that’s not our problem, it will only help us.

So continues the movie, with the famous plane attack scene and more spy-like maneuvering until Thornhill is eventually recruited by the agency and eventually has to save the girl in a daring chase down Mt. Rushmore. It ends, as these movies typically do, with the guy getting the girl and, we suppose, him returning to his life as an ad executive exonerated of all charges.


NNW is actually a pretty strong movie in terms of its themes of mistaken identity which been duplicated in modern times with movies like Enemy of the State. It does, however, suffer from kind of slow pacing (not as bad as other old movies) and awkward dialogue (a relic of the past as well) that may turn you off to the movie if you aren’t really into older flicks. I’d say its definitely worth watching if you like Hitchcock or old movies, but should probably be avoided otherwise.

Filmmakers Bleed: Casino Royale
Jul 8th, 2008 by Dan

I can still remember the buzz behind Casino Royale when it came out last year. It was supposedly a reboot of the James Bond universe, a revisit to his origins and a way to bring the movies closer to their source material, the Ian Fleming novels.

It wouldn’t have been the first franchise to do this in recent history, the biggest and most prominent example being the Batman Begins movie. The question is, could this series mimic the masterpiece that was the new Batman movie? If you put your money on a resounding yes, you’d be absolutely right.

Absolutely gone is all of the camp of Pierce Brosnan and company’s respective Bonds. I haven’t seen any of the original Bond movies, but my guess is that they were thematically similar to all of the other exaggerated James Bond movies. Not that I know what the novels are like at all, but given that Ian Fleming was, himself, an actual spy and that supposedly Casino Royale is similar to the book of the same name, my guess is that there were significant changes from the atmosphere of the James Bond novels to the silver screen.

How is the Daniel Craig Bond different? Think of it as a shift from the most absurd of all Bond gadgets I’ve ever witnessed, a car with a cloaking shield, to a movie whose most advanced gadgets are portable defibrillators and cell phones. Casino Royale is still an amazing action movie, but it feels a lot more grounded in real life espionage. Instead of being an over-the-top action movie like the days of old, it’s an actual cloak and dagger-type movie. Bond is still a charming, womanizing agent employed in Her Majesty’s service, but he lacks the “super-powers,” if you will, of the Bonds of old. He can be caught, he can be tortured, he can be hit. Someone recently described Daniel Craig’s Bond as a much more physical and brutal Bond and he had it right on the money.

Rather than delve into spoilers at all, let me just give a general overview of the plot: being a reset, of sorts, this is an origin story about James Bond. Luckily, he’s not a superhero, so we don’t have to spend all this time waiting for him to get his super powers or start being a badass. He starts the movie in employ of MI6 and raring to go, but this is, more or less, his first mission. Also worth noting is that this is the first James Bond that will have a direct sequel. Planned as a trilogy (I know…it’s very trite), the upcoming Quantum of Solace and whichever movie that succeeds it will be related in story to one another. This aspect does make Casino Royale‘s ending a bit of a letdown, but also pumps you up to see the latest flick.

So now we arrive at the question I know all of you are asking: “Is this movie worth spending some of my valuable time watching?” The real question you should be asking is “When is the soonest I can get my hands on this movie to watch?” It’s that good. Casino Royale will restore your faith in the Bond universe and should be watched immediately. Lucky for you and I, the wait for some closure on the story will be a short one, since Quantum of Solace will be released this fall. Go rent it or something!

Embedded Reporter/Game Overview: Daniel Floyd on Sex in Videogames + Editorial
Jun 2nd, 2008 by Dan

Deep from the trenches, it’s time for your Monday video feature: Embedded Reporter.

Here’s a pretty interesting lecture about sex in videogames. Enjoy!

It’s sad that we have to deal with the gratuitously stupid brand of sexual immaturity that game developers just love to throw our way, but I don’t see it all disappearing, even with the supposed maturing of the medium. Think about it for a second, did you see, for example, Transformers? It’s never quite as blatant as Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, but remember that scene with Megan Fox where they’re working on Shia LaBeouf’s car? While you didn’t hear me complaining at all in the theater the night I saw that movie, I always know when I’m being pandered to and I find it mildly insulting.

The real problem with video game maturity levels is that video games have yet to be accepted as mainstream media. A good number of people I know consider them to be children’s toys and think that the day that I stop playing video games will be the day that I “grow up.” It’s no wonder then that a video game that is no more or less exploiting sex to sell copies (I’m not talking about DOA Xtreme here) than any episode of Grey’s Anatomy (how about that Super Bowl episode?) should be looked upon with greater scorn than the exact same thing, or worse, taking place on network television.

It’s just plain frustrating to me to have to deal with sexual immaturity when playing video games. Take a game like Dead or Alive 4. Dead or Alive pioneered breast physics, that’s no secret, so you can probably guess what is most highlighted about Dead or Alive 4. Hidden deep beneath the bouncing DD cups does live a fighting game that I actually enjoy playing for once. It’s not quite as technical as Tekken, doesn’t use weapons like Soulcalibur, and is faster paced than just about every other true fighter I’ve ever played. I love the fluid combos and the reversal system, and I’ll even go out and say that I do actually like the character designs too. So what’s the big deal? Well the immaturity is a bit on the embarrassing side. I think just about everyone I know who I’ve corralled into playing DoA 4 with me recalls the game the same way “The one with the big, bouncy boobs” and anyone who is just watching the game only sees the bouncing boobs and the panty shots and just doesn’t get how well the game controls and plays. It’s still fun, don’t get me wrong, it just (and maybe this is the American-raised Puritan in me) makes me feel stupid to own and play in front of people.

Daniel Floyd highlights the sexual maturity of Mass Effect and its relationship-based consensual sex being an example of the right way to go to bring sex to games. I mostly agree with that and a quick look at the game tells you that he’s mostly right. The female characters, aside from being “anatomically perfect,” are all dressed in no more a revealing fashion than anyone else is. Full-body armor is the norm. There’s no cleavage and no blatant sexuality (kind of…I mean, the armor’s cut to fit a woman, but the male armor is cut to fit a man…I’d put it in the “barely qualifies as blatant sexuality” category. I guess the “lesbian” sex with the asexual, but female in appearance, alien race does kind of qualify though…). Still though, the relationship system that everyone thinks is so amazing…it’s just not that hard to figure out. All you really have to do is be nice and flirt with whomever the game allows you to sleep with whenever the game allows you to further you dialog trees. That’s literally it. Complete goal A, get reward B. Heck, you even get achievement points for completing a romantic sidequest.

If you think about it, that’s how most non-scripted video game relationships work. In Final Fantasy VII, your date at the Golden Saucer was dependent on a point system generated through your responses to Tifa, Aeris, and Yuffie up to that point. Harvest Moon games have you “earn” your wife by giving her gifts and talking to her daily. Surely it must be that easy in real life, you just talk to someone and give them stuff and over the course of a year you’ll be able to give them a blue feather and marry them, right?

Yet while I complain about this, it becomes clear that relationships in movies and TV shows aren’t really that much more complicated than in Mass Effect, you just don’t get to choose your responses in a TV show. In Mass Effect, you either choose the “nice” options or the snappy/witty “flirting” options to go down the romance path. A TV show will typically have the characters do about the same thing. Exchange witty banter, maybe give or do something for the other person (a la Harvest Moon) or maybe even just save that person’s life (SPOILER ALERT: a la Mass Effect /SPOILER ALERT). So maybe video games are on the right path, it just feels cheaper, to me, when a relationship is boiled down to a counter variable and a conditional statement (if love >= cockblock) romanticsidequest = true;

In that sense, I think I can conceivably only be satisfied by the (well-)scripted love story rather than the life simulator. The ultimate life sim, The Sims, boils love down to just talking to a person and successful social interaction, culminating in WooHoo (cue Jason Lee: “You mean fucking?”) and, if you’re me, frustration afterwards as you try to maintain a high enough score to keep the “friendship” to get a promotion, but try to keep them away from your other conquests to increase your job performance.

It’s not the best example, but think of the tortured soul of Locke and his love of Rachel and Celes. It’s clear why he cares so much for Celes and why he tries so hard to protect her and once he’s able to let go of Rachel, we understand why him and Celes are together. It doesn’t feel cheap and it doesn’t feel like a cop-out to the story. It’s not like the movies where the main character gets the main girl at the end and then, all of a sudden, the supporting characters discover they too love each other and begin to kiss as well, having found love. It’s certainly eons beyond the James Bond brand of sexual immaturity, but I’d say most video games only aspire to that degree of maturity in their relationships (see Goldeneye (just kidding, I know that’s trivial, like saying x = x)).

So will Dan ever feel that any video game sexual relationship he was directly in charge of made any real degree of sense? I’d say that the game would have to do a damn good job of concealing the fact that I was filling up a counter variable. The problem is that if they concealed it too well and I randomly ended up with said reward at the end, it would feel cheap. Also not so fun: if you came on to a character and they totally burned you. Us nerds are fragile enough creatures who experience enough rejection on a day to day basis. To have a video game burn us…well it might shatter what’s left of our egos. In all seriousness, why wouldn’t that be a bad idea? It’d be a bit more realistic. If you threw in a couple of random number generators where some of your actions could have unintentional negative results, hell, you’d have just about the same degree of fickleness as a real woman…but I digress. In the end, we’ve still got a long ways to go for interactive relationships, but at least we’re fine on the pre-scripted variety.

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