Tag Archives: indie

Island (2011 Movie)

Soda Pictures with Finite Films and Tailormade Productions

My rating: 3.5 of 5

WARNING: Mature Audience (This is technically not rated, but if it were, it would be at least PG-13, more probably R)

Nikki Black travels to an isolated island, giving the story that she’s there for a human geography research project. While staying in this small, insular community, she takes a room with the terse Phyllis and her son Calum. Although their interactions are awkward at first, Nikki soon strikes up an unusual friendship with Calum, a young man who is different–magpie-like with his collection of island treasures, full of wonder with his fairy stories, yet hesitant from living under his mother’s possessive control. But there’s much more going on here than a research project and a random friendship, something deeper and darker by far.

Island is one of those rare films that I probably would never have found if not for my attempts to watch everything Colin Morgan’s in (not to be confused, by the way, with another 2011 film, The Island). It’s really a beautiful movie, although not for everyone, I would think. This is a British psychological thriller/drama that is based on Jane Rogers’ book by the same name. It is a very indie production, which I personally found to be a good thing. The lighting, the camera techniques, the use of music, all of it is different from what you’d find in a mainstream movie, but I found it to be refreshingly so. Still, if you’re all about epic scores, fast-paced action, and big explosions, this is not the film for you. It is spare, quiet, and slow-paced. There are moments where you get simply silence, with the characters just standing there or sitting and thinking. It works here, though, and it suits the story and the bleak but beautiful island setting. The pacing allows for gradual but thorough character development, which is beautifully done through both the scripting and the excellent acting. I had never seen Janet McTeer in anything before, but her portrayal of Nikki is brilliant and nuanced. And Colin Morgan’s acting is, as usual, outstanding, bringing us a (I’m figuring, although it’s never specifically stated) high-functioning autistic young man who quickly becomes a sympathetic and beloved character. All the fine details of expression, posture, everything are just perfectly done, and I loved his work here. The plot itself is a gradual unfolding of mystery, touched with just a hint of magical realism which was surprising. All in all, Island was a well-done and interesting movie that I would recommend to those who have the patience to make themselves sit and listen.

Directed by Brek Taylor and Elizabeth Mitchell/Produced by Amy Gardner, Clare Tinsley, & Charlotte Wontner/Screenplay by Elizabeth Mitchell/Based on Island by Jane Rogers/Music by Michael Price/Starring Natalie Press, Colin Morgan, and Janet McTeer

 

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Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale (Video Game)

By EasyGameStation & Carpe Fulgur

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Ditzy and warm-hearted Recette finds herself left with her father’s enormous debt and no way to pay it off. But in the interests of protecting their investment, the creditors contract the straitlaced fairy Tear to help Recette pull her act together and open an items shop in order to pay off her debts. A shop with Recette immediately names “Recettear,” a combination of their names, with a huge grin on her face. Excited to face this new adventure, Recette begins the process of acquiring items, building relationships with customers, and honing her haggling skills. Poor Tear’s got an uphill battle to make this thing work!

If I had to boil Recettear down to one word, “cute” would definitely be it. The anime-like art style, the character designs, the music, it’s all basically adorable. The premise draws on the concept from your typical RPG of the ubiquitous items shop. But while in most games, these shops are pretty generic, this story takes it from the shop owners’ perspective, selling to adventurers and townsfolk alike. It definitely plays like an RPG, but the majority of the focus is on resource management in the shop. Not that you can’t go dungeon crawling if you want to–and sometimes the variety is nice. While the whole buying and selling thing can be a bit repetitive, you are faced with time-management challenges and an increasingly complex market as time goes by. Plus, there are some fun character interactions mixed in, especially between Recette and Tear. I think the adorable relationship between these two–and the stark contrast in their personalities–is what truly makes this game. It’s certainly what I enjoyed the most. As for sound, the music is simple but cute. There is some minimal character voicing, mostly just set phrases, which is all in Japanese but is quite well done; the timing and quality of the actors really does add to the overall flavor of the game, although none of the actual words will make sense unless you have at least a basic understanding of Japanese. All the written text has been translated to English, though, so it’s completely playable–also, the translation is actually quite good. So yeah, it you’re looking for cute RPG that’s a bit different from the norm, I think Recettear is a fun option to try.

Note: You can find Recettear on Steam at http://store.steampowered.com/app/70400/Recettear_An_Item_Shops_Tale/.

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Lust for Love (2014 Movie)

Gravitas Ventures

My rating: 3.5 of 5

WARNING: MATURE AUDIENCE

Sweet, overly-affectionate Astor manages to scare off his lifelong crush Mila shortly after they started dating; although he’s a nice guy, he was waaaay too transparent and clingy for her to handle. Desperate to win her back, Astor goes to Mila’s old friend Cali for advice, only to find out there’s been a huge rift in their friendship–details not disclosed to him at the time. Not to be discouraged, he bugs her for help in wooing women, with rather pitiful but kind-of cute results. And as he and Cali spend more time together, he begins to fall for this cynical, wonderful woman, although he’s still too set on winning Mila to admit it at first . . . not that Cali’s any better at admitting her growing feelings for him. Meanwhile, Astor is also trying to manage a truce with Mila’s current boyfriend Jake and to get Mila and Cali to work out their differences. Life for this poor guy is complicated!

This is another one of those random indie films that I basically only watched because of the cast. Lust for Love is a pretty cute and random romcom focusing on this guy who is super sweet and earnest but who totally has no clue and no luck with girls, especially with the girl of his dreams whose personality totally does not mesh with his. I don’t even know what to call the love polygon that ensues during this story’s development–there are so many weird off-shoots and connections that it resembles some bizarre molecular construct. And I’m not usually a fan of even your basic love triangle, so that part of the story was kind of a downer for me. Also, fair warning that, while this is officially not rated, it would probably be rated R if it were . . . so there were some parts that were definitely TMI. But in spite of that, there were aspects of this story that were really beautiful. I loved the dynamic between Cali and Astor; there’s this one scene where they’re on the roof together just relaxing, watching birds, dancing, and being themselves, and it’s pretty much perfect and wonderful. (Of course, I think Fran Kranz and Dichen Lachman have a good dynamic on-screen together just in general. Actually, the whole cast pretty much has a great dynamic, which is one of the things I love most about this group of people.) It’s pretty obvious right from the start that these two will end up together–so much so that I don’t even feel guilty about spoiling that part one little bit. I also liked the way that all the friendships were worked in amidst the drama and the romance. I would actually have loved to see more of this so the ending didn’t seem quite so forced; it almost feels like we’re missing a scene or two right before the conclusion. One of my favorite relationships (and one of the few that was never romantic at all) is the friendship between Astor and Jenny (played by Miracle Laurie). They just have such a fun, sweet atmosphere between them that’s absolutely precious. I think for people who enjoy indie romcoms–or for those who enjoy Whedon’s shows (especially Dollhouse) and want to see more of the actors in them–Lust for Love may be a random but fun movie to try.

Written & Directed by Anton King/Produced by Anton King, Dichen Lachman, & Jack Wylson/Starring Fran Kranz, Dichen Lachman, Beau Garrett, Caitlin Stasey, Enver Gjokaj, Karim Saleh, Miracle Laurie, Felicia Day, & Maurissa Tancharoen/Music by Jed Whedon

Note: You can find out more and view the trailer at the show’s website, http://lustforlovefilm.com/.

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Ten Inch Hero (2007 Movie)

Follow Spot Entertainmentten-inch-hero

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience/Rated R

The help-wanted sign outside the quirky little sub shop tells you everything you need to know: “normal people need not apply.” The employees certainly attest to that, from the owner Trucker, a surfer child of the sixties who is obsessed with owner of the crystal shop across the street, to the new hire Piper, a bright young artist who came to Santa Cruz in search of her daughter. Then there’s Priestly of the crazy hair and ironic t-shirts, Tish who mostly uses her (formidable) sex appeal to get what she wants, and Jen who feeds the homeless and is sure she’s met her true love online. Together, these individuals form something more than just a group of co-workers–they’re a family. Which is a good thing, because for all the fun, flirtation, and laughter that permeates the very foundations of the shop, there’s a large measure of tears and broken hearts to get through as well. . . . Which they will do, together.

Ten Inch Hero is definitely one of those movies that I would normally never have watched and that I basically picked up just because Jensen and Danneel are in it–because I feel like you can hardly be a Supernatural fan and not watch the movie where they fell in love. And I have to say, the Priestly/Tish dynamic in this story is superbly adorable. But I found that I loved this movie for so much more than just that. Actually, I found myself entirely captivated within the first five minutes. The characters are–every single one of them!–unique, well-written, and excellently cast. They cast some seriously talented people (not what you’d typically expect on an indie film like this), and the actors fit the roles beautifully. The story itself is adorable and heartwarming–a quadruple love story, no less, so if you’re in the mood for romance, this should fit the bill. Plus you’ve got all the friendship dynamics within the shop and Piper’s interactions with eight-year-old Julia, which are just wow. Those are aspects I would love to see a lot more of in any and all stories. Honestly, the movie could easily have been disgustingly Hallmark-y, but the combination of indie quirkiness, funky humor (it’s very funny), and the language/sex/nudity that make it R-rated help to counterbalance the sappiness and keep the story grounded. Just be warned that the rating is earned; there is a lot of sexual content here, although surprisingly I found it a lot less embarrassing to watch than some PG stuff I’ve seen. That’s probably just me. In any case, for adult viewers who like a cute romance with a refreshing indie tone, quality acting, and nice original music, Ten Inch Hero would definitely be on my recommended list; it’s certainly a happy place for me.

Directed by David Mackay/Written by Betsy Morris/Music by Don Davis/Starring Elisabeth Harnois, Clea DuVall, Sean Patrick Flanery, Jensen Ackles, Danneel Harris Ackles, Alice Krige, & John Doe

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Impossible Quest

Developed by Axel Sonic/Published by OtakuMaker Studioimpossible-quest

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Interested in a quirky text-based game filled with wacky humor, snark, and tons of geeky references? Impossible Quest might be just the game for you. In this choose-your-own-adventure game, you are given a text cue and must select from three possible choices to advance through the game. . . . Actually, that sounds kind of boring. If you don’t take into account the hilarity of some of your possible choices, the 100+ possible endings, the frequency of your demise, and the probability of at some point meeting zombies, Nyan Cat, or Doctor Who.

I have really enjoyed playing Impossible Quest, as weird as it may sound. It is a weird game, and it will appeal strongly to certain people while others will likely hate it–it’s just that sort of game. Still, it’s well worth a try (especially at $1.99 on Steam). It has had me laughing, dying, and repeating quite enjoyably. The dying . . . reminds me significantly of Long Live the Queen in that you die, try something different, get a bit further, and die again, having fun even while being infuriated. And the endings themselves are kind of funny in a snarky way. Hey, there are even a few endings in which you survive and escape. Also, the geekiness must be mentioned. Your initial scenarios are A) a dungeon where you may meet trolls, mermaids, and a talking walrus, B) a plane trip complete with zombies and flying cars, and C) a spaceship with most of the usual suspects for that sort of scenario present at one point or another. So yeah, geekiness in the basic setting, but also inserted wherever possible in the text options as well. Very fun!  I know Impossible Quest won’t be for everyone, but I would strongly encourage those with geeky leanings to at least give it a try.

 

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Dread (Tabletop RPG)

Publisher: The Impossible Dreamdread game

Designers: Epidiah Ravachol & Nathaniel Barmore

Just recently, I was introduced to a rather unique tabletop RPG called Dread. I found this game to be most interesting to play. It involves many of the elements typical to other tabletop RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons, but rather than using, say, dice for ability checks, players have to pull from a Jenga tower to see if they can successfully complete a task. This makes the game particularly well suited for horror and suspense style stories, since (as you can imagine) the tension builds more and more the longer the game goes on. Also, since a large number of players will likely be removed from the game at some time during play (since your character is removed if you knock down the tower), this is great for one-shots. I think that, while I still prefer a more fantasy-themed longer-duration game, Dread is pretty interesting for something different on occasion. If you like tabletop RPGs at all, I think it would be worth trying at least.


For more information, you can check out The Impossible Dream’s Dread page here or their WordPress blog here. Enjoy!

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Cinders

MoaCubecinders

My rating: 5 of 5

You all know the story, right? A young, orphaned noblewoman oppressed by her evil stepmother and stepsisters until her fairy godmother steps in, saves the day, and gives the girl the opportunity to meet Prince Charming. But what if none of it is that simple? What if Cinders’ stepmother and stepsisters are more than just evil oppressors? What if there’s a chance to really be a family? What if there are other people involved, other secrets to uncover? And what if Cinders decides to take matters into her own hands and decide her own fate?

Cinders is such a great visual novel! It takes the classic fairy tale and utterly transforms it in an amazing way. The creators describe it as a “mature” version of the story, and it’s definitely that–but not in the sketchy way that might seem to imply. Rather, it’s mature in the sense that choices have consequences and people are complex individuals. I think the characters are some of the best, most developed ones I’ve ever seen in a visual novel. There are so many different facets of their personalities, and even the unlikable ones (like Cinders’ stepmother) have a depth that is unusual. Cinders herself is a far cry from the typical stereotyped “Cinderella” character–fiery red hair, determined self-confidence, and a witty tongue complement the dreamier side of her character, making her a rich, enjoyable character to role-play. And there is a good deal of role-playing and decision-making involved in this visual novel, with the choices you make significantly influencing the ending you get and what you encounter along the way (although of course, there are numerous set events along the way as well). I found it interesting that the creators put in a small, tasteful indicator in one corner to show the places you could have a different outcome if you chose differently (it popped up a lot). The music and art add a lot to this visual novel as well, with the art being particularly notable. It takes a more western semi-realistic style (as opposed to the anime-styled art of many visual novels), and the work is really quite beautiful. There’s so much attention to detail that I found myself pausing just to stare at the scenes and take it all in–colors, expressions, fashions, even subtle animations on flames and such. For those who enjoy visual novels–or who just enjoy a great retelling–Cinders is an excellent game that I would highly recommend.

Credits: Game & Story by Tom Grochowiak/Art by Gracjana Zielinska/Music by Rob Westwood/Writing by Hubert Sobecki, Agnieszka Mulak, & Ayu Sakata

Note: Cinders is available on Steam, and you can find more information at the official MoaCube website. One play-through took me about 3 hours, and the game definitely has replay value, with at least 4 distinct endings available.

 

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