“We can lie to the people we love,” one character tells another in the sci-fi play Blast Radius. She’s talking to an alien in a human’s body, and she means both to give the alien permission and to explain the warty compromises people make in times of crisis. But aliens, it turns out, have secrets of their own. This one is becoming more human all the time.
Playwright Mac Rogers has created a uniquely moving post-apocalyptic world in Blast Radius, playing at The Secret Theatre in Long Island City through April 14. (Full disclosure: I’m friends with cast member Seth Shelden and have met several other people involved with the production.) The play has the dramatic tension and sweeping stakes of a blockbuster film, but the big explosions and giant insects are all offstage. Michael Bay would be so sad! Meanwhile, with Jordana Williams’ intimate direction, the emphasis on complex characters and nuanced relationships is ratcheted way up.
The deal is this: Twelve years prior, the human race and the aliens on Mars were at the end of their respective ropes. An astronaut ambassador struck a deal with the communally-minded, nature-loving aliens: they could come to earth if they’d help the humans survive. They would save each other. Continue reading
Brian P. (aka Cyanotic)
5: Plants vs Zombies (everything)
There are too many games about zombies, but not enough games in which those zombies wear football helmets, attack from pogo stick, or cross suburban swimming pools on children’s inflatable duck innertubes. Clever, cute, addictive, cheap real time strategy and puzzle game with solid replay value. Get it for your iPhone/Pad/Pod/what you have/has you.
[P vs Z]
4: Bioshock 2 (360, PS3, Windows, Mac version January 2012)
The first Bioshock introduced us to Rapture, the sunken, failed 1950′s utopia of Andrew Ryan, (a figure inspired by the philosophy of Ayn Rand, because, hey, Aynagram). The game’s most clever conceit, revealed during its big plot twist/reveal, offered a fascinating commentary on the nature of games themselves: what is a ‘character’ in a medium in which control over (at least your) character is shared and conditional? What is the relationship between the ‘player’ and the ‘played’? How do games in which the player is given moral choices—indeed agency—coexist with the less cheerful reality that one’s character/avatar is nothing more than an automaton, to be used and abused as the player sees fit? Continue reading
Brian P. (aka Cyanotic)
Video games are the world’s most popular, most profitable artform, but they still lack the cultural cachet of books, film, and reality television. Despite a number of legitimately great titles, 2011 will probably not be remembered as the best in the medium’s history. But it will, I think, be remembered as the year when they went irrevocably mainstream: Angry Birds were featured on 30 Rock and worn by America’s Trick & Treaters, formerly nerdcore games like The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim were advertised during ESPN’s College Football Gameday, and even the editors of Forbes and The Wall Street Journal (even if begrudgingly) picked games of the year.
Commentary on the medium has become better and easier to find. Tom Bissell’s criticism on Grantland is quite good, Slate’s Year-end Gaming Club celebrated its fifth anniversary, and super-snarky Gawker Media’s own gaming site, Kotaku, published some compelling and frankly overdue pieces on gender, games, and the community; including one recently on the default male voice and female self-censoring and another on gaming/fan communities and male privilege. Continue reading
SUPER 8: Where the girls at?
This afternoon I went and saw Super 8, the new J.J. Abrams summer blockbuster, in the theaters and I must say I rather enjoyed it. The film is about a group of middle school boys, sort of Goonies style, who are trying to make a zombie movie when quite suddenly a train crash unleashes an alien upon the unsuspecting town. Great parts included, but were not limited to, hilarious 1970s middle school style banter, a murderous yet sympathetic alien that was mistreated by the government, an unexplicable section where all the dogs flee from the town of Lilian, and an odd reference to Three Mile Island.
However, upon leaving the theater I wondered why are there not any movies about girlfriends kicking butt and saving the world? And I do not think Sucker Punch counts. Seriously, why can’t a group of five hilarious young women protect a town from a mean and misunderstood alien? As it stands in Super 8, the only young lady, Alice, that we other young ladies might sympathize with winds up in need of saving and the romantic interest of the main young lad, Joe Lamb (delightfully played by newcomer Joel Courtney). Further, the town itself is absent of women: Joe’s mother dies before the film starts, Alice’s mother left her father long ago, and some of the other boys don’t even appear to have parents. The only grown up woman we encounter is Joe’s friend Charlie’s mom and she is the picture of 1950s housewife perfection, although her children seem a little lacking in the discipline category.
This is all to say that I am rather looking forward to Katniss kicking some butt in The Hunger Games. And I think that it just might be rather refreshing to see some bad ass young ladies minus the sex kitten leather saving the world up on the silver screen.