Reviews

Scene It? Twilight

You probably shine like a diamond too.


Scene It? Twilight

Publisher: Konami
Format: Nintendo DS (Reviewed), Wii
Price: $29.99
Players: 1-3
ESRB Rating: Teen
Developer: Screenlife
Release Date: 2010-02-09
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Whatever the appeal of Twilight may be on the printed page or the big screen, it hasn't translated to gaming success. Part of this is due to what publishers probably think of as a "soft" target audience. The teen and tween girls who tend to be the most devoted fans of Stephenie Meyer's inescapable romantic vampire/werewolf series aren't typically going to be interested in the run-of-the-mill running, jumping, and exploring of the typical film translation to video games. It's not as if Twilight would even translate well to that particular style of play -- the best case would likely be a Persona 3-style RPG, in which the player, likely as Bella, spends half her time navigating the travails of everyday life in high school and half her time dealing with the good and bad of the secret occult world around her.

Alas, this game will never happen. The people behind the movie would never be so daring with their prized bit of intellectual property, throwing actual resources into a game that will never be embraced by more than a few of Twilight's masses of fans. So, instead, we get Scene It? Twilight, a properly half-assed trivia game that'll do just fine as a gift that moms can buy for their reclusive, black-clad kids.

Mass generalizations about Twilight's audience aside, Scene It? Twilight is exactly what you would expect: a DS trivia game where you answer questions and show off your encyclopaedic knowledge about the original Twilight film (New Moon is nowhere to be seen in this game -- presumably, it's being saved for a future installment). Its press materials boast "400 multiple choice questions based on movie clips, music and audio from the Twilight movie", which sounds like a lot until you realize you go through 20 questions or so over the course of a single game. This gives you a maximum of 20 games without a repeat . . . and usually, it's much fewer than that. Granted, the game is based on a two-hour movie, so one couldn't possibly expect an endless flow of questions, but the limited supply certainly brings down the replay value of the game. There are unlockable promo pics included, but they seem like an even more tacked on than usual attempt to get people to keep playing a sub-par product.

As a single-player experience, Scene It? Twilight is predictably boring, not to mention lazily implemented. Without the thrill of competition, there is no urgency and no real goal to the thing other than to beat your own score. Is there any motivation for getting a high score?

Well, consider this evidence: in my first game, I surprised even myself with my apparent knowledge of Twilight (a film I have never seen front to back, I should add), and I scored over 120,000 points. The game saw fit to tell me: "You shine like a diamond."

"Well, that's nice," I thought.

On my next game, karma kicked me in the ass and I ended up barely cracking 10,000 points, which is a wretched score.

"You shine like a diamond," the game told me.

Well, perhaps I do shine like a diamond, but for at least one game of Scene It? Twilight, I did not. I actually resented the game for telling me I did. There is no motivation to getting a high score other than some vague sense of self-satisfaction. That's it.

To its credit, the game seems aware of its own limitations, by only bothering to implement a pass-'n'-play multiplayer game. This is smart. It does not require multiple people to own the game, and it only takes one of a group of Twilight fans to own it and a Scene It party can start. Theoretically. Passing the game around actually works pretty well, though the inability to see what the other players are doing makes it a passive game at best. You almost have to be doing something else while playing to combat between turn boredom, which can be a recipe for disaster in a multiplayer game that's not all that exciting in the first place.

As of the writing of this review, Scene It? Twilight is the 11th most popular Trivia game at Amazon.com, behind such titles as THQ's Fabulous Finds, a seek 'n find title based on having a yard sale, and something called Wordfish. It's one spot up on a kids' spelling game that's not out for another month. This thing is not selling. Whether it's a matter of the Twilight crowd just not intersecting with the gamer crowd or the fact that you could get it ten bucks cheaper as a board game with far more video content, there's just not an audience for Scene It? Twilight on the DS. It's product for the sake of product -- one more tiny little billboard for the movie sitting on game store shelves everywhere.

3

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White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star Salim Shaheen, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people.

"Now I am just more tired and poor. So no, I haven't changed. I'm just older and more tired," says French radio journalist and documentarian Sonia Kronlund, as she looks back on the experience of making The Prince of Nothingwood (2017).

Joining Salim Shaheen, the most popular and prolific actor-director-producer in Afghanistan on his 111th no budget feature, Kronlund documents the week-long shoot and the events surrounding it. She crafts an insight into a larger than life persona, yet amidst the comedy and theatricality of Shaheen and his troupe of collaborators, she uncovers the heavier tones of the everyday reality of war and patriarchal oppression. If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people. Alongside the awareness of the country cultivated by mainstream media news outlets, Kronlund's film offers an insight into a country that can humanise the prejudice and xenophobic tendencies of a western perspective towards Afghanistan.

In October of this year at the UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, Kronlund spoke with PopMatters about being driven by questions rather than inspiration. She also reflected on the subjective nature of documentary filmmaking, the necessary artistic compromises of filming in Afghanistan, and feeling a satisfaction with imperfections.

Why filmmaking as a means of expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?

Not really, no. I have always done documentary. I used to write scripts and TV series but I only make documentaries myself for radio and television. For this story, I figured out after a while that it deserved a bigger ambition and a bigger screen and that's why I don't very much believe in inspiration. To be honest, I made this film because I had to do something. I didn't have a big project where I thought: I want to make this. I went there and I found a little money and at the end the ambition and the inspiration came along the way. But there was not an urgent necessity to make this film. It fits with a lot of things that I'm interested in, like popular culture -- What does art stand for and why do we go to the cinema? What is the purpose? This is a question I'm interested in, but inspiration, not so much.

Has The Prince of Nothingwood provided you with the answers to those questions?

It has, and I hope it helps people to think about this question. It tells you that there is an urgent need to make images, to make films, even during war,and even if you don't have the money. And even if the films are not very good, they will find somebody who will like them. So something is going to happen, and I think that's very touching. I don't like Shaheen's films, I hardly watched them -- I paid somebody to watch them. But I'm very moved by all these people that do like his films, and it makes you think about the value of art and the purpose of why we make cinema. I used to study aesthetics in London, so it was one of the questions I had and while the film is lighter than this, that's what was in mind.

The film uses Shaheen as a doorway, beginning as a story about one man which becomes a story about Afghanistan, its people and culture.

Yeah, but it's not so much about Afghanistan and it's not my purpose is to say things about the country. There's one guy like him in Iran who makes cowboy movies in the Iranian desert and there's also a guy like that in Tunisia. I mean you have this person with an urgent need to film whatever they have under their hand and since it's war, then it tells you something about the war. But it's not so much interested in him.

There was a lot of editing, 148 hours that you haven't seen [laughs]. Making a documentary is really telling a story and I don't have any idea of objectivity -- it is my point of view on Shaheen. Some people say to me that they would like to show his films, that they really want to see his films, and I say: "You don't see how much I have edited. I show you the very nice parts of his films." People think he's a great filmmaker and that's the story I wanted to tell -- but I could have told another story.

To my mind, objectivity is a human construct, a falsity that does not exist.

Except mathematics maybe, and sometimes physics.

The purist opinion of documentary as objective is therein built on a faulty premise. From the subjective choices of the filmmakers that bleed into the film to the subjectivity of the subjects, it's not purely objective. Hence, it calls into question the traditional dividing line of the objectivity of documentary and the subjectivity of narrative fiction.

Totally! It's the editing, and why you chose this guy, how you film it and what you show, or what you don't show. It's not only subjectivity, it's storytelling. Not many people ask me about this, they take it for granted that it's the real Shaheen. But I'm not lying, I'm not saying things that aren't true, but I am telling a story, a fictional story out of what I filmed. I took scenes that happened one day and I put them with another story that happened three months later and that's why we had seven months of editing with three editors. So it was a lot of work.

One of the striking aspects of the film are the light and comedic moments offset by a darker and heavier sensibility, which include moments when, for example, Shaheen talks about arranged marriages.

We made 70rough cuts and there was one version we tested and you couldn't believe you were in Afghanistan. People would say: "Oh this is too funny. You don't see Afghanistan, it's just a bunch of crazy guys." I then said: "Let's put in a little more darkness." You then have to strike a balance and to me, if it's not perfect, I'm happy.

Shooting the film in a dangerous and volatile part of the world, was the approach that once you had enough footage you then looked to shaping the film in the edit?

It's not when you feel you have enough, it's finding a balance between security and artistic concerns. That's it. You have a plan and you have an agenda. There are things you want to do, but it has to be balanced with security concerns. The real story I was going to tell about Shaheen I found in the editing room and in the end, I only kept five days of the shoot. The whole film takes place in Bamyan (Province), nothing in Kabul, although I had weeks and weeks of footage there that I had to take away.

There's a moment when Shaheen asks if you are scared, which sees him verbalise our silent recognition of your boldness and courage to bring this story to the screen.

It's very difficult and it's not like you are walking in the street and there's a bomb. This is not what's difficult. The difficulty is to cope with your fear and to have rules and to follow or to not follow those rules. There are many foreign people that never go out at all in Kabul -- it is forbidden. You have British diplomats who do not even drive their car from the airport to the embassy -- they will take an helicopter that costs £2,000 each way. Then you have foreign people who walk in the street without a scarf -- these girls get kidnapped.

In between these you have Shaheen, who is telling me all the time that I'm too scared, because it's a man's value to be brave and he's a brave guy, there's no question about that. He was in an attack two weeks ago. There was a bomb in a Shia Mosque and he helped to carry out the bodies. So there's no kidding about the fact that he's a brave guy and he has to be because he's been fighting to make his films. But you are in the middle of this and I'm not a brave person at all and I don't think being brave is a very important question. It is, but I'm not brave, I'm very scared and so in the middle of all of this stress it's enough just to manage to not go crazy, or to not drink too much [laughs].

Salim Shaheen and Sonia Kronlund (courtesy of Pyramide Films)

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