The Newsroom – Charlie’s Restraint

What do I love this week in The Newsroom? A lot. I like a lot and I don’t like a lot. Episode seven of season two is the big event following weeks of build up, reminiscent of how Game of Thrones season two episode nine was.

If you want reviews and write ups I can recommend the AV Club or the Huffington Post, both of whom are my go to sites for decent TV coverage and insight (for the huge amount of TV I watch, having named about 50% of the shows I watch in the above paragraph). I’m going to talk about the moment that stayed with me after watching it – avoiding spoilers in case you haven’t seen it.

We have previously been reminded that Charlie was a Marine in younger days. In the opening episode, during a rant from Don, he screams the following:

I’m a marine, Don! I will beat the shit out of you! I don’t care how many protein bars you eat!

We were even reminded earlier in season two, when Frank Wood’s G-Man* character is introduced they twice use the line “If your son was a marine, like you were…”

So when this moment happens, there’s a lot going on that’s not spoken.

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If the GIF doesn’t play click the image above to see the moment

Charlie is probably my favourite character in The Newsroom. Whenever he’s introduced into a scene he’s usually the catalyst for something interesting happening. Sam Waterston brings joy to the roll, and is a different boss than Martin Sheen and Amanda Peet (from West Wing and Studio 60 respectively). His back and forth with Sloan, the second best character on the show, is some of the best stuff written.

His reaction to being slapped is all over his face for a few seconds. He wants to react, so badly he wants to react. He knows this is someone equal to him, who could potentially take him down. And he knows that the slap was deserved.

In most other shows there would be some sort of retaliation. Here he takes it, stands straight, and knows that nothing he can do will make a difference. It’s a few seconds that define the context of the episode really well (even though the conceit to get there is pretty poor).

So bravo to everyone involved. The whole scene evokes memories of the X-Files, and I had a flash of the fight between AD Skinner and Mister X from 2×17 arising in this moment. But, like in recent episodes, The Newsroom subverts that expectation and rises above what other writers would do.

* I’m not sure G-Man is the right US government spook slang to use here – tell me if there’s something better

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The Newsroom – Olivia Munn’s Hard Face Mask

There’s a lot I could write about The Newsroom. I probably will one day. But for now here’s on thing I want to discuss from season 2, episode 5 – a shot of Sloan Sabbath’s face.

I’m avoiding spoilers, but suffice to say that Sloan is in some bother and not happy about it. In the shot below she is sat in a darkened room with Don. The light is clearly coming from one direction only, and no attempt has been made to soften anything. Even the curve of her face away from the light seems to have a definite line to it, as though the face is a mask.

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There are a lot of things to love about this shot. As you can see from the loop the camera is actually being held, it isn’t on a fixed stand. Given their position sat on the floor the easiest thing would have been to have the camera fixed, by having it held and the associated movement it feels almost voyeuristic, like we are in the room with them. The Newsroom often uses camera dollies and tracks to pan around the set, taking in all the activity going on. Here it feels less sterile and more personal, perfectly highlighting the personal nature of the story.

The sound in the original is pitched perfectly too. Sloan’s line “I want to die” is just above a whisper. The background noise of the office itself is almost overwhelming, people talking, air con rumbling, and her just trying to hide from it.

This shot is impressively crafted to convey the emotion of the scene, and a contrast to the usual fast dialogue of an Aaron Sorkin show. It’s striking how Sloan is shown in a patch of darkness where just the mask of her face is visible, and I applaud the people who created it for something so well portrayed.

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Ni no Kuni Review Prime – Peace of my Heart

In Ni no Kuni you play as Oliver, a boy wizard from 1950’s America, who uses the ‘Wizard’s Companion’ all through the game. The special edition of the game had a physical copy of this book with it, and I saw an offer to get a copy of the book with the game in the original Japanese. For my girlfriend who lived in Japan for several years and loves Studio Ghibli films this seemed a perfect Valentine’s present (and indeed was, lots of brownie points for Matthew).

My experience with JRPGs is minimal. I’ve played Final Fantasy VII two or three times, and briefly tried others with friends. My girlfriend has never played one. So for us to play our way through a game that helped us understand the mechanics and how everything fit together was incredibly useful, despite the frustrations that occurred time to time. This would be a perfect game for a child to play, on their own or with a parent, as well as someone who knows how a game like this should work but wants something less intense.

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2013 Resolution – Read More Stuff

I’ve been pretty lax in my book consumption (reading, not eating) during 2012. My commute is now a lot easier than in previous years and all above ground, so using my phone for Twitter, email, games etc is much easier. But that means I’ve built up a backlog of books I wanted to read:

IMG_0632I’ve separated them straight away into my three customary reading types – fodder, literature, and non-fiction. I’ll go into these in a minute, but I figure it might be appropriate to answer ‘why are they on your stairs?’

The main reason is so that they’re visible. Resolutions as a whole fall by the wayside when people start forgetting they made them, so by keeping them somewhere I walk several times a day it means I should have a hard time forgetting I wanted to read more. It also makes them accessible, so I can grab one on my way to bed, when I’m heading out of the door, or when I want to sit and read for a while.

Historically I’ve read most either on my commute or in bed. As before my commute is much better now, although I now manage a team across four London locations, so this will give me a better chance to knock out a few pages. I’m also planning to move my phone away from my bedside table at night, distracting me less and in theory meaning I pick up a book more. I’m notoriously bad at getting to sleep which is why I do so much reading there to relax my mind – right up until the final third of any book I can’t put down!

Fodder

FodderI use fodder to describe books that won’t appear on anyone’s lists of great writing or classic literature, but are worth the read and highly enjoyable. There would probably be contention on what sort of thing should go here (particularly from the authors), but these are books I read because they’re not too worthy or complex.

I have the rest of the Song of Ice and Fire to read, but I’m only going to read each book after I’ve seen the dramatisation of it on television. The two Star Wars books are actually books 1 and 3 from a 9 book series.

Literature

IMG_0636As you can probably see this is a very different set of novels. These books, and authors, are touted as great examples within their genre, and generally I read them because I want to understand the origins of some of the more modern books I work through.

Watchmen might be an unusual choice, but generally it’s considered the greatest graphic novel of all time. The Silmarillion will probably be dipped into occasionally rather than consumed at once.

Non-Fiction

IMG_0637As you would expect this is the catch all for ‘everything else’. It’s a larger pile after I kept a number of books from my uncle’s collection after he passed away, so these probably won’t all be read this year but are subjects I know I will want to read more on at some stage.

I’ve started Reality is Broken already and at the moment I’m not sure whether I will enjoy the rest. There are a lot of leaps of faith being taken to justify some of the definite comments. Onward is the one book here I’m most eager to read, I’ve heard very conflicted reports on it so I’m looking forward to getting into the story of his time at Starbucks.

I’m planning to put on my tumblr (Rise Before Zod) when I start each book, as well as new games and other media that I work on during 2013. I may even write more about them as I work my way through these piles, so check back for updates on progress.

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Personal Best: Game of the Year 2012

Last year I listed the 13 games that I’d played during 2011. The fact that I’ve hit 50 games during this year is pretty pleasing. I’m not going to do a summary of all of them, instead I’ll stick to the top 13 premiere picks – games I have spent the most time with, enjoyed most, been surprised by most, and generally considered the most of something that caused me to remember them. Most.

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that Journey has been my best experience with a video game this year. I’ve not been quiet about how much I enjoyed the game and I’m trying to remind people of the joy they felt when playing it even though it was 7 months ago. Just that $10 game has made me glad I bought a Playstation 3 this year. I go into a bit more detail below, but to cut to the chase that’s my number one game of the year for everyone.

If you have a PS3 this is an absolute must play game. If you don’t have one, then 2012 is the year to get one for some of the downloadable titles below.

Click read more for my list which represents, in no particular order, everything I would recommend to people in some way.

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The 2012 Outstanding Games

Or the ‘If I’d had more time, money, and a computer that worked I would have played these too’ list

Before my list of the very best games I played this year, I wanted to put a list of games that either could have made the list if I’d played more of them (or started), or are too old to be realistically considered:

Not played enough for consideration:

  • Dishonored
  • Fez
  • X-Com
  • The Walking Dead
  • Far Cry 3

Too long in the tooth to be considered:

Bioshock – Yes I finally played it through. I’d still recommend it though, a triumph of a story and some great moments that everyone seems to remember.

Final Fantasy VII – This was my third run through FF7 and I still love it. Poor Aerith though.

Warcraft 3 – I got half way through when this came out but I never completed it. Well I corrected that this year and I’m pleased to knock this off my pile of shame.

Next year I want to complete Quake 4 and Halo 2 (PC) from my pile of shame.

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Spelunky – Brief Review

Spelunky is kind of a hard review to write. These are the facts as to why:

I’ve now put in a few hours
I’ve made it as far as the 11th level
There are 16 levels
There is an achievement for finishing the game in 8 minutes
I don’t think any one ‘attempt’ has lasted more than 10 minutes

So I haven’t finished the game and I haven’t seen all that it has to offer (in probably more time than I had to put into Bulletstorm). My opening gambit therefore is to say that I will be playing it more, and I will probably write something further once I’ve ‘completed’ the game and seen if not all, then the majority, of what it has to offer.

For now though, read on for my take on the current sensation sweeping XBLA…

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