Towards the end of 2013 we learned about what may have been the coolest concept for a videogame ever... especially if you were a literature major. The Franz Kafka videogame sounded insanely cool and got us thinking about other literature/videogame mash-ups that should happen too. We know it sounds stange, but marrying the literary world with the fast-paced, hand-held awesomeness of a videogame could make for a lot of fun. Here are a few literary classics we'd love to play as video games.
Homer's epic has been brought to the big screen with movies like Troy, but don't you kind of want to fight the great Achilles yourself? Or better yet, be the great Achilles and take on Hector? Now that would be an awesome video game, regardless of your interest (or lack thereof) in Greek tragedy.
The Book of Genesis
Oh, yes. We are so going there. A game in which you would dodge fire and brimstone, silver-tongued snakes, and the plagues of a vengeful God who occasionally attempts to turn you into a pillar of salt. And, once you've beat the first 77 levels, you would be the vengeful God sending plagues and floods down from the heavens, and parting whole red seas. Sounds like a pretty exciting (albeit blasphemous) good time.
The Great Gatsby
Actually, this might work better as a Sims game. Nick, Daisy, Gatsby, a host of other bizarre characters, and all of those shirts you could stack up in Gatsby's house? That could take up a few hours of your life... every day.
The Woman Warrior
You think an autobiography would make for a lame video game, but not Maxine Hong Kingston's. This protagonist flies through the air and blends powerful, true-life events with Chinese folk stories. There's no greater adventure than life itself -- especially the life of a woman. Such an adventure as it's told through the women in Kingston's story would make for a pretty epic video game.
Follow @Hollywood_com Follow @shannonmhouston
In just about every one of Kevin Hart's scenes in Ride Along, there's a joke that is just aching to find its way out of the diminutive, rascally comic actor. Hart is a small-scale physical comedian — of the same ilk as Jack Black — who puts nuclear-degree energy into his facial contortions, anatomical outbursts, and the delivery of every gag in general. If only he had material that was crafted with the same energy.
Unfortunately, nothing else about Ride Along seems at all "hard at work." Not the script, which pads a lifeless story with lazy comedy, and certainly not his screen partner Ice Cube, whose only stage direction seems to be "frown, and be taller than Kevin Hart." So lifeless is Ice Cube that even his machismo-obsessed straight man bit doesn't really work. Instead of the virile and intimidating "bad cop," he comes off as a disapproving middle aged dad without much to show for his own life.
But the script pairs the wily, overzealous high school security guard and video game junkie Ben (Hart) with no-nonsense lawman James (Ice Cube) on the titular ride along, with the scrappy cop-wannabe hoping to prove to the force veteran that he's good enough to marry the latter's younger sister. In earnest, he's not. Ben never puts any respectable effort into learning the tools of the trade, insisting on employing his amateur style and controlling the radio despite his proclamations that he wants, and deserves, James' trust. And James is no saint either — he's irresponsible on crime scenes, violent with perps, and disgruntled to the point of being unable to work with anybody else on the force. These are not good police officers... of course, you'll say, this is a comedy. But where are the laughs, then?
They're not absent entirely, you just have to look for them. In a movie so focused with big, broad humor, it's the smaller comedy that actually lands best. Hart's background mutterings and fumblings, his emoticon-laden texts to girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter, whose only stage direction seems to be "smile, and never wear a full outfit of clothing"), and a bizarre repetition of the word "weird" from supporting player John Leguizamo. All good for unexpected chuckles, while jokes like Hart facing off with a pre-teen or being blown backwards into a brick wall after firing a large gun are all lazy, familiar, and flat.
Structurally, the script is a mess. Ride Along spends far too much time on set up — we get it, Hart and his soon-to-be-brother-in-law Ice Cube don't get along — and far too much time on wrap-up — there's a gigantic, dramatic warehouse shootout that, in any other movie, would be the climax, but there's plenty more to go after that — without any cohesive middle to make the movie feel like... a movie.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
Hart, who leaps at every comic opportunity like a kangaroo (wallaby would be more appropriate), is suited just right for a buddy cop comedy, but he needs something fresh with which to work — a real character, an interesting story, actually funny jokes. Even just one of these would be fine!
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
S2E14: I’ll admit my only contact with the world of Dungeons and Dragons was a few years ago when I finally saw the episode of Freaks and Geeks where the nerds convince James Franco’s bad boy to play the fantasy game with them. I may or may not have harbored interest in the game specifically because James Franco was indirectly involved through television magic, but I never followed that through to fruition. Even with a complete lack of knowledge as to how these elves and mages navigate what looks like a bunch of books and some dice, Community’s homage to the game reached levels of epicness that cannot be denied. Dan Harmon and friends have done it again. They revved us up all week with long promos and sneak peeks of “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons,” and while many may have feared a letdown, the staunch Community fans knew that this show never under-delivers on a promise. When they’ve got a great episode on their hands they shout it from the rooftops, but when it’s a run of the mill one they simply politely ask us to watch. This was one of the great ones.
“I’m an elf, not a nerd.” – Chang
Keeping with their Lord of the Rings-inspired representation of the most epic Dungeons and Dragons game ever, the cold open introduced us to the back story of the episode like the prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring complete with a Cate Blanchett sound-alike. Besides the hilarity of the presentation itself, this list of old timey names for the study group was an easy shot that went off without a hitch: Jeff the Liar, Annie the Day Planner, Troy the Obtuse, Shirley the Cloying, Abed the Undiagnosable, Britta the Needlessly Defiant, and Pierce the Insensitive. This list also set it up for each of the characters to depart from their set character traits once the game began. Jeff obviously can’t be uncool for a second, even when playing DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, and Britta brings her political outrage to everything, but in this episode we get to see Annie depart from her prescribed role and Abed transform his into a whole new level of nerdery. Of course this is a chance for Chang to go completely off the deep-end, dressing as a dark elf but looking more like Al Jolson as Pierce, who’s the only one old enough to have seen Jolson in his hay day, so aptly pointed out. That’s another thing about this show; they’ll put outrageous gags into play but not without immediately holding themselves accountable.
“When you play, it makes you happy…like a dragon.” –Troy
Of course, the game begins as a way of helping out Fat Neil who has become suicidal over the constant teasing he receives at Greendale. Let’s pause a minute here to recognize how incredibly dark this episode got. I’m not going to say that I got scared because we all know it’s a sitcom and no one’s going to be following through on something like that, but damn. It was a risky move on the writers’ part, but I think it paid off. It created an instant investment in a stereotypical nerd character that could have otherwise been more annoying than Pierce.
On the funny side of things, I like that Abed’s made-up character names were so terrible. It made it easier for someone like me to get into a game that I know nothing about, plus aren’t funny sounding words fun? Zippidee Doo the Dwarf, Maaahhhhrrrr, Bing Bong the Archer, Lavernica, and my all-time favorite, Annie as Hector the Well-endowed (no wonder she was able to convince Abed’s elf maiden to give up a flock of Pegasus).
Handing the title of Dungeon Master to Abed let us experience another imaginary adventure similar to his Uncontrollable Christmas. While visually, we never leave the study room, the soundtrack and sound effects of clashing swords and dragon cries are present throughout, landing the episode firmly outside of the reality of Greendale. It’s how I imagine playing D&D would be – it feels a little silly because while everyone is describing themselves walking and fighting and traveling, they’re all just sitting in a room probably a lot like the one at Greendale. It’s this element that simultaneously allows the episode to be epic while still grounding it in reality – a technique Community practically invented in the realm of sitcoms.
“I can’t hear you over the sound of me rubbing his sword on my balls.” –Pierce
The obvious “That’s What She Said” quality of this statement aside, it’s this sentiment that carries a disturbingly awful version of Pierce through the episode. After last week, we witnessed his ability to be downright cruel and a bit scary, but he reaches new levels in this episode. Unaware that Neil is suicidal (and unwilling to acknowledge it later), Pierce brings his usual crassness to the table with an extra dose of evil because he’s upset that no one included him in the game.
Like last week’s private screening scene, Pierce runs off after inserting himself into the game and stealing all of Neil’s neato weapons, sequestering himself in one of the dark, cavernous rooms in what I assume is the basement at Greendale. This furthers the mythical feel of the episode and leads to a little tribute to the Dungeons and Dragons movie when Abed visits Pierce in his traffic-cone lair. As uncomfortable as it was to watch Pierce badger a severely depressed kid, there is a method to all this madness. Pierce has often played the annoyance to the group, but the show is allowing him to be the catalyst for the action more and more which really puts that previously displaced obnoxious quality to good use.
Of course, his insanity makes for the most epic, best round of D&D that Neil has ever played and in a strange twist of events, the evil Pierce inadvertently saves his life, and that was probably the best kicker they could have ended on.
“The group began to describe themselves walking.” –The Narrator
I’d just like to make a quick note on the ladies this episode. Most importantly, Annie once again puts that crazy streak to good use, miming as she tells in crazy detail how her character, Hector the Well Endowed, would sex up Abed’s Elf Maiden. (I love that Troy is taking notes.) Britta also puts her brand of crazy into play when she goes all Hermione Granger on the game, rising up for the humanization of dwarfs after Abed’s characterization paints them as subservient (like the house elves Hermione tries to free – hello, nerd attack).
“If you had a tail, people could always tell when you’re happy.” –Troy
The tag was back to time with Troy and Abed, this time debating the benefits of giant ears versus having a tail, and they find a bit of a surprise in the study room. And so it was that one of the most epic episodes of Community ever came to a close. (I couldn’t resist.)
There have been many ostentatious interpretations of The Iliad but Troy roots itself in reality instead of trying to tackle both the epic story and all the mythological hullabaloo. As it goes the ancient Greek King Agamemnon (Brian Cox) builds his vast empire by conquering one country after another with the help of the warrior Achilles (Brad Pitt). Yet Achilles holds no allegiance to Agamemnon or any king for that matter fighting only so that he will be remembered as the greatest warrior of all time while also agonizing over the death and mayhem he causes. Agamemnon rankles at Achilles' insolence but soon has other fish to fry. Seems Agamemnon's brother Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson) King of Sparta has had his pride wounded when his lovely wife Helen (Diane Kruger) is spirited away to the great city of Troy by its lovesick prince Paris (Orlando Bloom) who fell for the queen when he was visiting Sparta on a peace mission. The scandalous act creates a chain reaction--unleashing the cuckolded Menelaus' need for retribution Agamemnon's greedy desire to take Troy as his own and Achilles' pursuit of ultimate glory. But Troy's impenetrable walls have been fiercely protected by the Trojan warriors especially the powerful Prince Hector (Eric Bana) for decades--and they are not about to lay down arms now even for as fearsome a foe as Achilles. Let the games of war begin.
The men of Troy have it in spades--flowing hair rippling muscles and dripping testosterone aplenty. As for the main eye candy it's a given Pitt is going to look like a god as the formidable Achilles--but the fact the Greek warrior is tormented as well suits the actor perfectly (remember Legends of the Fall? Who can't?). Pitt handles the pitiful tortured moments better than most as poor Achilles with his six-pack abs struggles with his questionable ethics and actions as well as his place in the world. Troy's other hunk the warrior Hector complements his nemesis Achilles nicely. Played by Aussie actor Bana who audiences might recognize as The Hulk (well the smaller-sized more human version of the big green guy anyway) Hector is just as full of bravado as Achilles yet has a very grounded sense of honor and duty to his country as well as love for his wife Andromache (the billowy Saffron Burrows). Counteracting them both is the infatuated Paris portrayed effectively by heartthrob Bloom who has the unenviable task of being the coward surrounded by heroes. Luckily Paris redeems himself a bit in the end--and we get a brief reminder of Bloom's Lord of the Rings alter-elf Legolas. The veteran actors hold their own among the sweaty he-men including Cox as the megalomaniac Agamemnon and Peter O'Toole as Paris' and Hector's misguided father King Priam who should have listened more closely to his sons. Troy's women do not fare as well however especially German model Kruger as Helen. While certainly beautiful enough to play the part she is relegated to mostly standing around watching the men fight over her without getting the chance to show any of Helen's spunk. Australian ingénue Rose Byrne gets the most to work with as the virginal Troy priestess Briseis who is at first a captive but then seems to be the only one who can calm Achilles down. Lucky girl.
Dubbed possibly one of the most expensive movies ever made (the budget reportedly hit about $200 million) Troy's set was plagued with costly crises: Endless production delays tortuous heat in Malta and Mexico hurricanes wiping out sets and the star actually injuring his Achilles tendon (no joke). Yet for all the film's troubles director Wolfgang Petersen (The Perfect Storm) never lets you see it onscreen. Petersen builds the tension heightens the calm before the storm and then deftly brings one of the most legendary wars of all time up close and personal with each of Troy's battle sequences meticulously done--from the all-out beach battle as the Greeks bring their ships to shore to the massive army charge on the walls of Troy to the best of them all--a tragic and an inevitable mano á mano confrontation between Hector and Achilles. If there's any drawback it's the lag time between the battle scenes as the men walk around preparing for battle talk about how to prepare for the battle spend time with their wives/lovers before the battle pray to the gods to help them win the battle and so on. It's unavoidable in a movie like this but much like The Lord of the Rings at least Troy's story comes from a classic source.