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mereneläviä

Hayao Miyazaki’s films often feature the sea. Porco Rosso’s aerial battles took place above the sea and his hiding place was a sandy beach hidden away in a cove. But never has the sea been such an important part of Miyazaki’s films as in Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. Most of the movie is spent either underwater or then sailing.

The sea as a setting is in many ways a good fit for Miyazaki. It gives him a chance to show his drawing skills and the viewer is treated to some stunning underwater vistas and sea-creatures. It also gives the chance for a few opinions concerning pollution of the seas on our planet, a very important topic. Especially one of the side-characters, who left humanity for a life underwater precisely because of pollution and the carelesness with which many treat nature and especially the sea.

The story of Ponyo, a magical sea-creature who wants to turn into a human, can be seen as reflecting human nature, especially our selfishness. Ponyo casts a spell that allows her to turn into a little girl, but the spell has bad consequences and the balance of the world is put in danger. A selfish act results in terrible consequences. Isn’t that the biggest problem with us and nature? Reaping the bounties of mother nature with a concern only for short-term gain.

Juokse

I may of course be adding too much thought into the movie, as it is at its basis a children’s film. I can safely say that kids are going to love this movie, younger kids at least. But there is a lot to like for a more adult viewer as well. The beauty and life coming from Miyazakis pen is something amazing and proves that handiwork beats digital animation in many ways. Pixar’s Finding Nemo perhaps looks more realistic but the more artistic and occasionally painterly approach of Miyazaki does not look dated at all in comparison.

Ponyo by the Cliffs by the Sea is Miyazaki at his best. The plot is not too complicated, which is a problem with many of his films. The animation is some of the best I’ve seen from Miyazaki. With Ponyo he combines the childishness of My Neigbor Totoro with a message against pollution. Definitely a must-see for anyone who is in touch with their inner child, failing that at least take your kids to see it.

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band of weirdos

Amanita design’s Robot adventure Machinarium has a release date: the 16:th of October. If you don’t know Amanita Design you’re missing out on a world of amusement, cuteness and interesting soundscapes. Also new to the Interwebs is a trailer with a bubble in it. Check it out below. You can get a grasp of what their style looks like from a learning game called Questionaut and pick up something while you’re at it as well.

Yo, Afro Samurai

Afro+headband

Afro Samurai tries to blend American westerns with Japanese samurai mythos and a tale of revenge. The series looks good, it does after all have quite a budget (as having Samuel L. Jackson voicing the protagonist proves), but I felt it lacked depth. The series is comparatively short with only six episodes but I felt there was not enough content, even for such a small amount.

Samuel L. Jackson plays the part of Afro Samurai, a man looking to avenge his father. In the center of the story is a contest for the strongest warrior of them all, called Number 1. The one who owns the title can only be challenged by Number 2, who anyone can try to kill. Both Number 1 and 2 are required to wear headbands signifying their status. In the beginning Afro Samurai’s father, who holds the title of Number 1, is challenged and killed by a mysterious Number 2. The tale of Afro Samurai is the age old one of revenge. When it comes to plot you can expect no surprises.

Screenshot Studio capture #158

The style of Afro Samurai is very dark, almost completely black and white with occasional colors, especially in flashbacks from Afro’s youth. I found the bleakness of the animation and the purposefully ugly characters tiring. This may have something to do with Afro’s character as well. He hardly speaks at all, letting his companion do all the talking for him.

Samuel L. Jackson does a good job voicing Afro’s friend. The way he does it purposefully way over the top, which is sadly the case for the rest of the characters as well. For some reason almost everyone overacts in Afro Samurai. Especially some of the old men had me annoyed, mostly because they didn’t sound convincing. This might be something to do with how the characters have been written. Most of them are very flat and one-sided. None of them had my sympathy at any point, I just could not come to care about what happens to Afro or his friend.

As a good side, the action scenes are occasionally fun to watch. But the weakness of the characters and the clicheyed plot dropped the impact of the action as well. In the end I was happy the series only lasted for six episodes, and even they contained a lot of filler that didn’t really have anything to do with the plot. For me Afro Samurai felt like a trail of drudgery.

District 9

Alus

Were used to movies where aliens attack our planet and chaos ensues. Us humans are technologically behind and don’t stand a chance against alien weaponry. Most of the time though there’s fighting and annihilation.

District 9 mixes the tables. In this movie the aliens aren’t attacking earth. Instead they somehow manage to get their ship hovering over Johannesburg without means of leaving. The aliens, referred to as “Prawns” because of their appearance, are also weird in that they are docile and meek, for the most part, letting humans move them around as they please. Soon the aliens are harbored into a gigantic slum camp, called District 9, where they are being used by every greedy human around, including a bunch of criminal Nigerians and a goverment office called MNU, which was formed to take care of the the aliens but is more concerned with alien weaponry and genetics, which of course means money.

hökkelikylä

The plot of the movie centers around an MNU official, Wikus van De Merwe, who is set in charge of an operation to move the aliens out of District 9 and into a camp further away from Johannesburg. In the beginning the movie follows De Merwe in a documentary fashion, with interviews of him, his family and co-workers. Towards the middle and end parts District 9 turns into an action flick. It’s very entertaining but doesn’t get close to the strength present in the beginning, when you’re slowly told more about the Prawns and how the good intentions of us humans slowly turn into greed and very evil deeds.

Make no mistake there are some horrendous happenings going on in this movie. Most humans treat the Prawns as if they were an especially dumb breed of talking rats. This and the fact that the film is set in South-Africa instatly brings to mind racial segregation and the apartheid. There’s strong social commentary in District 9 and it’s not hidden all that well. Occasionally the movie goes for the dark joke, especially in one of the more despicable deeds De Merwe and other MNU people do. At the beginning of the movie I almost expected a Schindler’s list type of approach, only with aliens instead of jews. Then District 9 goes down the road of cliche with a typical escape and shoot a lot action sci-fi film, which Terminator made popular. I feel it weakened the strong message present in the beginning.

Paving the way to unity

Still, if you like action movies you won’t be disappointed by what District 9 has to offer. With some of the meanest characters I’ve seen in a movie for some time, gruesome violence (including some executions of the Prawns) and also some great special effects, you won’t walk out disappointed. The action was given a lot of depth due to the atmosphere and believability build-up in the beginning, but I felt that the movie had potential for a deep and thought provoking sci-fi movie. As it is District 9 is mere entertainment with an attempt at some social commentary. I liked it a lot, but from the hype it received I expected a lot more.

(I’d post a trailer but in the case of District 9 they put most of the plot into it and also humongous spoilers)

At the alchemist's

That’s right, one of the greatest adventure games of all time came to Good Old Games. If you haven’t played it yet, now is the time to remedy that. April Ryan is one of my all time favorite characters in gaming. With an epic fantasy plot, characters you’ll love, amazing voice acting and a lot of laugh out-loud moments The Longest Journey will make you sad at times. The game managed to move me like no game before it. So go buy and play already. Below a taste of the prologue. Give you a good sense of April Ryan, and pangs of nostalgia if you’ve already played the game.

LOL_SS27

I recently got a beta invitation to League of Legends via Rock, Paper, Shotgun. The game attempts to sell itself as a mix between Defense of the Ancients (DOTA) and an MMO. I’ll give some general info about the game first and then tell about the champion, your avatar in the game, that I’ve been playing with so far. Be warned that I haven’t played any DOTA games before LoL. I’ll add official LoL tips and tricks videos here, which explain the game better than I ever could.

League of Legends is divided into a menu part and the actual game. On the menu you can see the available spells, stat upgrades called runes, which basicly give small boosts to your chosen stat, be it damage, mana or health. Also you get a very WoW-like skill tree, giving you choice between a defense, attack and magic build. You get levels from games you win, which give you more skill points, spells and of course power. That’s the MMO part more or less.

When you actually get playing, after all the tweaking, the DOTA element comes in, with battles between five or more players on each side. There’s a wide selection of avatars, or champions as the game calls them, to choose from, each with its unique set of skills. The champions are divided as classes might in an MMO. You can choose from ranged and melee dps, spellcasters, tanks and more support focused champions. There’s quite a selection so finding one to your own liking should be easy, if time-consuming.

The gameplay is a mix between fighting against opposing minions, which spawn in groups between steady intervals making their way for the enemy base and the human controlled champions. There’s also turrets which defend both team’s bases. The key to winning the game lies with how well you fight the enemy champions. Teamwork is the key word here. A  player going solo hardly ever beats two champions. Also important is levelling up quickly and making money in the process, allowing you to buy items, which are perhaps the most important part of the game actually, granting very substantial buffs and bonuses.

I tried a couple of the champions briefly but didn’t find a favorite. Then I decided to stick with one champion for a longer time. My first pick was Ashe, an archer with freezing skills. Her skills are a frost arrow that slows enemies down, a cone of arrows that also slows, a passive skill giving more gold when a minion is killed and finally a super arrow that can be aimed at any part of the map, gaining more damage the further it travels and freezing an enemy champion once it hits. Of course the closer you are the easier it is to actually hit a champion, but then you pay in damage. With all skills available my basic tactic is freezing with the super arrow, keeping the enemy in range by slowing with the other skills and letting attack speed do the rest.

While Ashe’s arrows do a great deal of damage with the right items, she’s got very little health. Any dps getting too close makes short work of her. Keeping in the right range is the key when playing as Ashe. I like her in that she is rather straightforward in the way you play. With items I’ve been stacking attack and movement speed making me able to run in, do a lot of damage and run away again. Guerrilla tactics you could say.

Playing like this I actually won a couple of matches. Most of the game naturally depends on your teammates. At the moment players disconnecting is a big problem. 4 vs 5 isn’t a fair game so even one player not giving everything he has, or worse, leaving entirely, results in a quick loose. Even a little teamplay gives you the upper hand.

Another problem with the game is that I’m forced to play with random people. Of course you never know who you’ll be facing. Also there’s no telling what level people you play against. A match between someone 26 and 6 isn’t all that fair. If I ever get enough buddies in League of Legends to play with a team I know, the game will be a lot more fun. With random people LoL doesn’t really get to it’s full potential.

Even though the game is in it’s beta I’ve had some fun playing it and once I find a character that sticks… well who knows how big a time sink LoL might become.  After Ashe I think I’ll try a melee dps, expect a post on how that goes later, concentrating more on the champion now you know how the basics about the game. If you want to try it out, apply here and don’t hesitate to add me as a buddy, look for ironanno.

monster

Been some time since a trailer rocked this much. The music, the footage, the crazy comic style, all come together wonderfully, creating an overall Wild West mood. Guns, cars, a desert, bad guys to kill and good ones with an attitude? I can’t wait till October and getting to play Borderlands. Thanks for the heads up to Rock, Paper, Shotgun and may I link to you again. Get watching already.

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