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Non-Review Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Early in the film, a supporting character reveals the ingredients of the eponymous culinary delight, the mysterious “potato peel pie.” Those ingredients are, somewhat predictably, potatoes and potato peels. With some small measure of pride, the character in question boasts that his potato pastry remains conceptually pure. There is no flour, no sugar, no flavouring. There is only potato. Watching The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this almost feels like a moment of self-awareness.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society could certainly use more flavouring.

Pie in the sky thinking.

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Non-Review Review: Tomb Raider (2018)

Tomb Raider is an excavation of a video game classic.

Tomb Raider gets a lot right in terms of pitching itself as an action-driven blockbuster, certainly enough to elevate it above recent computer-screen-to-cinema-screen efforts like Assassin’s Creed or Warcraft. Tomb Raider has a solid action director in Roar Uthaug and a charismatic lead in Alicia Vikander, while understanding that the premise of the movie rests within its title. Tomb Raider is a movie about raiding tombs, and even the somewhat strained opening act is very striving towards that objective.

“Okay, where’s this tomb I need to raid?”

At the same time, Tomb Raider suffers from the problem that haunts so many video game adaptations, which is a complete misunderstanding of the mechanics and appeal of the medium. The appeal of video games is one of immersion. It is one of actually doing something (almost) firsthand; solving puzzles, making decisions, timing your reflexes just right. These are aspects of gaming that are very difficult to emulate on the big screen, but it seems like the best video game movies understand that the possible appeal of video games is in watching that doing.

Instead, like Assassin’s Creed or Warcraft before it, Tomb Raider makes the mistake of assuming that the audience’s investment in video game world-building extends beyond their direct engagement with it. Tomb Raider too often feels like a video game movie that believes the appeal of playing video games is to watch the in-game cut scenes.

“No, but seriously… tomb?”

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The X-Files (Topps) #35-36 – N.D.E. (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

N.D.E. is a nice clever character-driven story, one that perhaps suggests a direction that John Rozum might have taken the monthly tie-in comic.

Ten Thirteen had made it quite clear that they did not want long arcs or ambitious storytelling from their licensed comic books. They wanted reliable straight-down-the-middle storytelling, with none of the playful self-awareness and meta-narratives that drove Stefan Petrucha and Charles Adlard’s work on the title. As a result, the comic has been rather more conservative in approach since John Rozum took over. His time on the title has not produced anything as cynical or grim as One Player Only or Home of the Brave.

Healing palm...

Healing palm…

While Rozum is undoubtedly limited by constraints imposed by Ten Thirteen, there is something disappointing about his run on the comic. Rozum has tended to favour done-in-one stories, single issue adventures that wrap up everything quite neatly within twenty-four pages. Rozum has grown quite efficient at this, but there is little room for nuance in stories like The Kanishibari, Silver Lining, Crop Duster or Soma. Rozum’s stories tend to work better when stretched out a little, with Be Prepared and Remote Control allowing room for nice character moments.

N.D.E. is another two-part story that takes advantage of that additional space to tell a story about Scully. N.D.E. has a fascinating central idea, and a number of clever twists, but it also allows room to explore Scully’s character and philosophy in more depth than the comic has really afforded her. N.D.E. is perhaps a bit clunkier than Be Prepared or Remote Control, but it is the strongest story of Rozum’s final year on the title. Looking at how well this approach works in those stories, it is a shame that Rozum did not employ it more frequently.

You can play the theme to The X-Files in your head if it helps...

You can play the theme to The X-Files in your head if it helps…

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