Death of the Critic

March 2017

The Backlog – Tower of Guns

Written by: Tom Blaich

Tower_of_Guns_Boss


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

With a name like this, how could you not want to try this game.
Tower of Guns is a simple first-person shooter heavily inspired by Quake and other fast-paced, movement heavy, arcade shooters. Part bullet hell, part roguelike, it has a somewhat novel take on the genre that is unfortunately held back by its limited variety.

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Anatomy of a Scene - Dredd

Written by: Tom Blaich

Dredd


Violence can be abrupt, and horrible, and graphic, but at the same time, it can be oddly beautiful. 2012’s
Dredd adds its own take on the action genre through its highly-stylized depiction of violence that is at once horrific yet also strangely beautiful. The titular Dredd is taking along a new recruit onto a mission for her to prove herself before she is otherwise forced out of the judge’s academy. She is our surrogate throughout the film, the naïve lens through which we can start to interpret the horrors that we see.

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Ghost Recon: Wildlands – Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

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There are so many things that should have been great about Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Having a four-player co-op game set in an absolutely massive open world with free-form mission structure and tactics based combat? It sounds like the perfect storm, a game to suck up all of your time. And while it can very much eat up your time, the way it does feels cheap and unearned. There was too much to do and no real reason to do any of it, and more than once I found myself questioning why I was even playing.

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Why Did I Watch That? - Monster Brawl

Written by: Tom Blaich

Monster_Brawl_Panel


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me. I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

Sometimes you find a rare movie that transcends quality and becomes something fundamentally different. There is no question that
Monster Brawl is objectively a shitty movie, but it is unquestionably a magical experience, a bunch of movie monsters wrestling as commentators throw jokes back and forth, riffing over everything. It has comically bad acting, terrible effects, and a miserable script, but there is something here that makes it so much damned fun to watch.

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What is Death of the Critic?

Written by: Tom Blaich


It has been a long few months since we set out on this journey, and since late last fall, we have been discussing the fundamentals behind the usage of criticism and how we can apply it to different types of media. This raises an important question that we now need to answer? Why do we do what we do, and why is this site called
Death of the Critic? Read More…
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The Captivating Simplicity of Idle Games

Written by: Tom Blaich

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Games are built around feedback loops, obscured behind complex systems and mechanics, designed to draw us in and keep us there. We want to play the games so we can level up, become stronger, defeat new enemies, and get more and better loot. We play to get better and more efficient at playing, and in the last few years a new genre of games has stripped away this veneer and laid the inner workings bare for us to explore.

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The Backlog - Sleeping Dogs

Written by: Tom Blaich

Sleeping_Dogs


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

I’ve made my feelings known about open-world games before, but I just can’t stop playing them. It has been a few years since Sleeping Dogs came out, which still surprises me given the troubled lineage of the title. It was warmly received, finally giving a GTA-style open-world game a satisfying combat system. It made the game fun to play in a way that few open-world titles manage to be. By making combat fun, it made the inherent experience of playing the game better.

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Situational Invincibility and How it is Ruining Action Movies

Written by: Tom Blaich

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We like our action movies to be big, to be brash, to be full of gunfights and cool explosions and scores of dead bodies littering the streets in the wake of our stalwart hero. But this same desire often raises a problem: our hero can’t die, or even barely be hurt at all, so all elements of tension, all suspension of disbelief go out of the window.We never wonder if our hero will rescue their friend or kill the bad guy, because you can be damned sure they will, with only an annoying flesh wound and a few smartass quips to speak to the “struggle” that they went through on the way.

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Why Did I Watch That? - The Last Survivors

Written by: Tom Blaich

The_Last_Survivors


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me. I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

Sometimes movies are forgettable, mediocre even, and that is one of the worst things that I can say about a movie. When it fails to excel at anything or stand out in any way. The Last Survivors is such a movie, another in a long line of post-apocalyptic “action” films that have nothing to do or say to stand out. A group of settlers is trapped in a contemporary dust bowl, trying to survive against the land grabbing rich, and the overall lack of water.

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Explication – Holy Sonnet #10

Written by: Tom Blaich


Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Explication is one of the simplest ways that we can analyze a piece. Put simply, it is a close reading, a deep look into a text to see what surfaces. This can take on a number of different forms, depending on the media that is being analyzed, from a line by line reading of a poem or song (like the one that we are going to be looking at today), to detailed character analyses from a movie or book, to an examination of a particular chapter or section (like our ongoing
Anatomy of a Film) series. Today we are going to look at John Donne’s Holy Sonnet #10 and the themes of death and afterlife that it contains. Read More…
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The Backlog - Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

Written By: CJ Streetman

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It’s way too easy to fall way too far behind on games. They simply ask for too much of your time and money to be able to keep up with all the ones that look interesting. Thankfully, almost entirely due to online sales, eventually you’re able to get most games for a five dollar bill and an afternoon of free time.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the best entry in the already great Uncharted series.

In nearly every way,
Uncharted 4 improves upon the previous iterations; the combat feels better and makes you feel more like an action hero than ever, the “stealth” works, which is miles above the last few games, the puzzles are by and large very intuitive, almost never becoming frustrating, and the story is very compelling even though it misses the hint of the supernatural that all the previous games had.

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Anatomy of a Scene - Alien

Written by: Tom Blaich

Alien_Ripley


Alien has changed so much as a franchise since it was first made. It went from science fiction horror to action to crossover monster battles. But it all started with this, a few people trapped on a ship with their worst nightmare. When we talk about horror, we speak a lot to tension, that feeling of building unease that makes us worry about what is coming next. More importantly, it makes us almost beg for it to happen. Alien begins with almost an hour of it, moodily piling on the tension before taking it away all at once.

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Why Did I Watch That? - Leo the Lion

Written by: Tom Blaich

Leo_the_Lion


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me. I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

It is hard to call a children’s movie bad in the same way that I do with a lot of the films that I watch or this series. I hold children’s movies to a different standards. I don’t expect depth of plot or complex characters or action. But no matter what, I don’t expect a movie like this. Leo the Lion confused me, left me scratching my head at many of the decisions that were made.

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American Teen - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

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For a first effort,
American Teen is undeniably impressive. It is a simple, soulful music built on repetition that catches your ear and makes you want to keep listening. But by virtue of this style, it is restricted in some way. It is not deep, but it means something to the 19 year old who made it. It is music about being an American Teen. Finding your place in life, exploring the world and experiencing all of its ups and downs that come with it. He compares it to a rollercoaster in “Coasts” and while the metaphor is apt, it’s far from original.

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Critical Touchstones

Written by: Tom Blaich

When reading a text,
it is important to build out your toolkit, your set of references for how you look at a work. And while every person’s is different, there are a few tool that everyone should have in their arsenal. Texts reference ideas that they expect the reader to be at least partly familiar with, as the goal is to have the audience understand. There are a few broad cultural touchstones that we keep looking back to for our works: the Bible, and Shakespeare. Read More…
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Logan - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

logan


Logan
is a much different “superhero” movie than any we’ve seen before. In fact, it is hard to even call it a superhero movie. It is a movie about old, tired men trapped in a world in which they no longer belong. It is a movie about Logan, not about the Wolverine. It gained a lot from the R-rating, building a bleak world that Logan is trapped in. He’s wracked with pain, scarred and broken from hundreds of years of fighting and killing. He’s taking care of Charles Xavier as they live on the run, the world around them now devoid of mutants.

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The Backlog - Super Time Force

Written by: Tom Blaich

STF_Screenshot_4


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

Sometimes all a game has is a good idea, and the one behind Super Time Force is unquestionably good. It is a side scrolling, bullet hell shooter a la Contra, but they remixed classic concept by letting you rewind time and use previous versions of your character (think ghosts from a racing game) to help you progress. Admittedly, this concept is hard to comprehend without seeing it in action. It lets you rewind time to try a challenge over and over again, each time becoming easier by virtue of having additional help from your ghosts.

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Do the Right Thing

Written by: Tom Blaich

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Moral choices have long been a part of gaming. They offer the chance for a player to leave their mark on a game, affecting the outcome and changing the course of a game. These binary, good vs. evil choices are so often structured in the same way. Evil choices are flashy and violent, giving you a small amount of short term gain in return for a karmic hit. Good choices then should be the opposite, giving up personal gain in exchange for doing the right thing. But this isn’t how they manifest. You are almost always rewarded for doing the “good” thing, and frequently the long term gains outweigh the gains from evil. The only real difference ends up being different achievements, or possibly some different dialogue at the end of the game.

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Why Did I Watch That? - Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

Written by: Tom Blaich

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I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me. I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

Video game movies are almost universally terrible. They’ve attempted different franchises and actors in pursuit of finally making a good video game movie. And it just isn’t working. In the midst of this, somehow, a sequel to Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, a movie about finding a magical triangle that can control time that was almost universally critically panned, was greenlit. A franchise built almost entirely upon leering shots of Angelina Jolie being sexy.

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Psychoanalytic Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused.
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Logan and the R-Rated Superhero

Written by: Tom Blaich

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Deadpool
came out almost a year ago and somehow managed to be a huge commercial success. With Logan coming out today, many have predicted that this success will be repeated. But what does this mean for the comic book superhero? Comics can be dark, frequently being much more explicit than their on screen counterparts. Glossy pages splashed with blood and gore, provocatively dressed heroines, and sinister plots spanning decades. Movies aren’t afraid of violence, but blood and sex make them squeamish.

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The Backlog - Dead Rising 4

Written by: Tom Blaich

Smash


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

Zombies might be a bit overdone the days, but the Dead Rising series has always brought its own unique look and feel to the genre. They are dumb, but in the best sense of the word, and no other game quite matches the amount of action on screen at one time. When you boil them down, they are essentially Musou games, where you run around and slap zombies with increasingly ridiculous weapons. In this sense, Dead Rising 4 definitely delivers. While it does tone down the number of weapons from 3, it has a world that is big and fun to run around in, and the return of Frank West brings the franchise back to its roots, in more ways than one.

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Anatomy of a Scene - Chef

Written by: Tom Blaich

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Sensuality is a difficult thing to portray. Making a man like Jon Favreau sexy is only adds onto the challenge. He falls well outside the lines of “conventional” good looks, especially those of Hollywood’s masculine ideals. But the scene where he cooks for Scarlett Johansson in his apartment is as sexy as any we’ve seen. It combines light and playful shots with loving attention to detail to bring you a veritable feast for the senses: aural, visual, and more, as you can almost smell and taste the pasta that he makes for her. It is a scene about simplicity in many ways, in the midst of a turning point for his character, foreshadowing the rest of the film, and perfectly encapsulating his passion as a chef.

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