Around Orlando – Retrogaming Done Right at Gamer’s, Inc.

They’re warm, they’re friendly, they’re knowledgeable. They can converse easily on a range of titles on any number of systems dating from the last 35 years. Best of all, they listen to you.

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Around Orlando is a new feature here at Late to the Theater, wherein Achariya and I detail local Orlando flavor. So whether you’re thinking about visiting, moving here soon, or just want to explore from the comfort of the internet, have a seat and take a gander at what The City Beautiful has to offer!

[Disclaimer: I received no compensation or special favors for writing this article – it is entirely to Gamer’s, Inc.’s credit that they inspire a dedicated following.]

Nestled in the suburban franchise paradise that is Waterford Lakes, Orlando, you will find an independently owned gaming shop. Upon first glance, you’ll notice orderly rows of cases – everything from Atari titles to used Xbox One and PS4s – and freestanding demo stations where you can sample Halo on a first-gen Xbox, or Duck Hunt on NES, complete with orange gun. As well as the clean floors and meticulously alphabetized game boxes, you’ll see gaming manuals, figurines, and locked cases with rare or collectible cartridges and discs inside. Reconditioned systems wait behind the glassed counter. Spend a few minutes roaming the aisles and you’ll hear at least one, maybe two excited customers exclaiming over some long-forgotten childhood treasure. You might see parents buying something to share with their kids.

And then the staff greets you.

That’s how you know you’re in Gamer’s, Inc.

They’re warm, they’re friendly, they’re knowledgeable. They can converse easily on a range of titles on any number of systems dating from the last 35 years. Best of all, they listen to you. Maybe things have gotten better in gamerspaces in recent years and I’m just out of touch, but in an age of Gamergate and doxing, it seems borderline miraculous to find an environment where customers aren’t dismissed as filthy casuals. Naturally, a positive environment such as the one found at Gamer’s, Inc. engenders a loyal following. Check out their Yelp review or their Facebook community if you don’t believe it.

And if you don’t believe it, believe them. They were kind enough to take time from their busy days to answer some questions for this feature.

Continue reading “Around Orlando – Retrogaming Done Right at Gamer’s, Inc.”

In Theaters Now: Ladybird (A Conversation)

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My friend and co-blogger Tanya and I went to see Lady Bird, a movie directed by Greta Gerwig, this past weekend at the Enzian. Afterwards, we had thoughts. Some of them (including spoilers) follow.

But what is Lady Bird? In short, it’s the story of a young woman’s relationship with her mother during a year of transition between high school and college. The story is set in Sacramento and deeply embedded within the politics of the city, especially economic and racial ones. It was also great, awkward, fun.

Here’s our post-movie discussion.

~ Continue reading “In Theaters Now: Ladybird (A Conversation)”

Sci-Fi Short – Real Artists

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Screenshot from the ‘Real Artists’ site

Sometimes I try to help new or independent filmmakers reach a wider audience. I do this of my own choosing and without receiving or expecting any payments or favors in return. I do not do this for everyone, but feel free to ask!

Recently my good friend Achariya put me in touch with filmmaker Cameo Wood about reviewing the sci-fi short Real Artists. I’ll be honest, a science fiction short starring a black woman and an Asian woman, written and directed by a woman, based upon a Ken Liu short story, about a filmmaker who gets her dream job?  Take me there! 

With that mix of components, it would have been easy for me to just rubber-stamp the movie as ‘Great! This checks all my boxes and you should give the filmmakers money!’ and move on – but I wanted to be sure I gave it a proper, objective look.

Continue reading “Sci-Fi Short – Real Artists”

A ‘There’s Hope for the Future!’ entry: Florida Film Festival, Animated Shorts #5

Maybe I’ve been out of the independent cinema world a little bit, but seeing these amazing films made me really, really hopeful for the future of cinema. That there are such imaginative filmmakers waiting in the wings, to take over the studio system, makes me think that the next 10-15 years in cinema are going to be really, really amazing.

Last night I actually managed to get across Orlando in record time in order to see my first film in this year’s Florida Film Festival, a collection of short animated films.

They were amazing.

Nathan pointed out while we were there that previously, we had been to see the MIDNIGHT shorts, which were a whole other thing–those were usually full of childish scatalogical humor, and left me wondering why the hell any of these people thought they had a future in filmmaking. And wanting my time back.

Not so last night!

Last night, not only was animator Bill Plympton (of Hair High, I Married a Strange Person, and other well-known cult animations fame) in the audience, but not one entry left me dissatisfied. Even the weird, more esoteric one, the Wonder Hospital, I think it was called, was a treat, because it was so weird and otu there it forced me to dust off my enjoyment of the abstract. Eventually I understood it, but anything that’s not facile is always a treat. 

It wasn’t just that the shorts were so creative, but I was impressed by how polished they were. One of them (the one about flying books) looked like an early Pixar piece, and the emcee actually pointed that out, remarking that he’d thought they had submitted an entry to the festival. There was also a common thread of existentialism running through them, but rather than the dreary postwar type, it was a more positive existentialism, that kind that totally aligns with my own personal philosophy of ‘Make the most of what you have.’

I wish I had time to track down the websites for each entry; maybe I’ll do that later today. But if you have a chance to catch any of them at other festivals, here are a few of the names I can remember.

Annie and Danny – A short about an elderly couple’s relationship. Reminded me of the first 10 minutes of ‘UP!’ And I totally cried.

The Birds Upstairs – Stop motion done in the style of a Regency-style anti-romance, about two people (puppets with birdskull heads) and their attempt to conceive and raise a child. Amazing.

Bottle – Long-distance romance between sand and snow, who come to know each other by communicating through a bottle.

Fred – Another stop motion in which a performer (who looks kind of like a muppet) tries to talk himself into quitting his performance. I had the feeling he was going to be a ventriloquist’s dummy, since his boss seemed to be a shouting hand, but it was never confirmed. I wasn’t as keen on this one, although the execution was amazing. I just wasn’t sure why I should care about this seemingly bitter, worn out character.

Tales of Mere Existence – Untraditional 2D animation containing very witty observations on relationships and masculinity. Writing reminded me of David Sedaris.

Guard Dog Global Jam –  Plympton’s entry, which was a sort of redux of his other short, Guard Dog, but all the segments had been done by amateur animators from around the world. He mentioned there were entries from an Iranian woman and a young Chinese boy. 

The Deep – Stop motion animation of keys, gears, and other mechanical devices arranged to resemble abyssal plain creatures. Very creative.

Always, Only, and Ever – A monster deals with a breakup, drunkenly. MUCH better than the summation makes it sound!

Forensic Science  – A young couple visiting San Francisco with too much interest in forensic science are convinced their driver may be the Zodiac Killer. The animation reminded me of the PS3 game Little Big Planet, in that everything had a handmade feel and rich textures.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (here’s a link for this one!) – Amazing, amazing story about a man who discovers a sort of library where the books are all alive, and in caring for them comes to understand the importance of a good story. Totally made me cry, in its beauty and simplicity.

Maybe I’ve been out of the independent cinema world a little bit, but seeing these amazing films made me really, really hopeful for the future of cinema. That there are such imaginative, talented filmmakers waiting in the wings, to take over the studio system, makes me think that the next 10-15 years in cinema  are going to be really, really amazing.

Spotlight: Inception’s Tom Hardy

When I saw the box cover in our Instant Watch queue I thought from it’s Tom Of Finland look that it was a gay documentary of some kind, and wondered if my boyfriend had put it in the queue for me, as he sometimes does.

Man, I was really, really wrong.

Midway through Inception I finally realized why the actor playing Eames was familiar–it was Tom Hardy, who I’d seen a few months before in the brutal, brutish and brilliant documentary Bronson. I just didn’t recognize him because he was urbane, dressed and not covered in mud and policemen!

Who wants a terrifying mustache ride?

Bronson is the stylized  biography of English career criminal and ‘most violent man in England’ Charlie Bronson, who changed his name at an early age when he decided he wanted to be famous (but didn’t know for what).

When I saw the box cover in our Instant Watch queue I thought from it’s Tom Of Finland look that it was a gay documentary of some kind, and wondered if my boyfriend had put it in the queue for me, as he sometimes does.

Man, I was really, really wrong.

Bronson is still a marvelous film–just not the one I thought I was watching.

It’s genius lies in the fact that you realize early on that you are being charmed by a sociopath–what it took the Sopranos almost three seasons to address, Bronson manages to explore in about 2 hours. It shows Bronson the man as a stifled artist, a man with a rich inner life but no tools to express that other than violence. Violence became his art, and we the audience have a duty to remember that no matter how he convinces us to cry, how he charms us or shows us he just wants to be understood, he is still a dangerous animal.

Do Not Trust This Man.

And the engine powering this complex, manipulative machine  is actor Tom Hardy.

Many biopics seek to paint a picture of their subjects not quite aligned with reality. They often overplay their sympathy–especially in the case of serial killers or psychopaths–while leaving out the inhuman cruelty such a person visits on their victims. No matter how ugly the portrait of a disturbed artist is, it is still attempting to humanize the subject enough for the audience to empathize with their plight. After all, who wants to sit and have their stomach turned for 2 hours by how revolting a human being can actually be?

Which is where we come back to Tom Hardy. His witty, sometimes funny portrayal of Bronson charms and entertains us, but never lets us forget that we are not to trust him, never to think that he’s ‘safe.’  He has depth, certainly, and there is something heartbreaking in watching someone who might have been a great artist founder on the tides of his own passions–but you must never, ever turn your back on him. Not for a moment.

Remember to brush your teeth, because this picture is just candy. Plain and Simple.

(BTW, I’m not dissing Hardy’s appearance in Star Trek: Nemesis–it’s just I saw that when it came out, it’s not on Instant that I know of, and as a vehicle for Hardy’s acting talents it wasn’t that engrossing.)

Bronson is not a movie for everyone, but now that you’ve read a little about it (and perhaps will watch the trailer) you will appreciate what a marvelous range Tom Hardy has.

I point that out not because I am creepily fangirling him, but because MOST actors have a range they never get to explore, because they are typecast from the start. Although his depiction of Eames was spot-on, it is not the limits of his ability and I hope filmmakers in the future remember that.

“You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, Darling.’ – Eames