It’s unfortunate that we rarely receive honest, hilarious, relatable coming-of-age films nowadays. Luckily, when films like The Edge of Seventeen come along, they get the deserved attention. Seventeen has a familiar premise, but thanks to writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig‘s perspective, it conversely has a fresh approach. Because of the strong writing and performances, Seventeen lives in a class among the best like Mean Girls, Clueless, and Easy A.
To summarize, The Edge of Seventeen follows awkward high school student Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) as she tries to create a social life for herself. Her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her older brother (Blake Jenner), which drives a rift between the three. In the interim, Nadine befriends a more-awkward, show-stealing kid named Erwin (Hayden Szeto). She also seeks occasional advice from unconventional, crass teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson).
As you read through my synopsis, you should recognize certain plot aspects. We’ve seen an uncomfortable teenager flounder through adolescence on film before. The witty, sometimes-rude teacher isn’t a new idea. The unassuming romance is definitely a trope in teen movies. However, the originality in dialogue and unique traits Nadine, Erwin, and Mr. Bruner possess elevate the film.
To obtain some appreciation for The Edge of Seventeen, I implore you to watch the hilarious red band trailer above. The charming, vulgar humor is immediately apparent and appreciated. This isn’t just true for the trailer, but for the entire feature. In the vein of Superbad, kids curse, and curse often in reality, but in Seventeen, conversations feel more realistic. Instead of aiming for the best gut-busting one-liner, the comedy flick opts for believability in its word choices.
Although the laughs are plentiful at the start, the final third act attempts to be poignant. While Nadine’s arc feels fulfilling, the resolution feels rather predictable and sudden. If you’ve seen one teen movie and watch The Edge of Seventeen trailer, you can guess the film’s ending easily. However, I feel the writing short-changes a particular character on closure that the audience would have welcomed. Regardless, the first two-thirds of the movie balance witty humor and character depth to cover for any finale weaknesses.
Backtracking to the performances, The Edge of Seventeen can certainly brag about its central cast. Hailee Steinfeld’s effortless skills would take years for any other actor to master. Woody Harrelson is impeccably utilized as the charismatic, sometimes-crude teacher. The star-making performance ultimately belongs to Hayden Szeto as Erwin Kim. He’s a love interest unlike any other in the teen comedy/coming-of-age genre. He acts so convincingly uncomfortable in his own body when trying to speak to Nadine. In every nervous twitch and stutter, I saw so much of my adolescent self in Erwin Kim. That earns the timid kid a spot as one of my favorite teen comedy characters to ever exist.
While the central cast’s performances are a bright enough highlight to drown out any criticisms, said criticisms still remain among the supporting cast. Kyra Sedgwick as Nadine’s eccentric mother, Mona, feels slightly mishandled. I’m unsure how the regular moviegoing audience will feel, but I yearned for more meaningful interactions between Nadine and Mona. Also, unfortunately Blake Jenner as Nadine’s older brother Darian simply couldn’t measure up to Hailee’s acting prowess when necessary. Haley Lu Richardson as Nadine’s best friend Krista eventually became moving background furniture after the first half of the movie. At times, I needed reminding that Nadine and Krista were even best friends.
While the supporting performances felt shallow for me, most of that fell on the writing of those characters instead of the actors themselves. The Edge of Seventeen definitely shows Kelly Fremon Craig’s endless potential as a writer, producer, and director, even if some areas could use improvement. Nonetheless, where Seventeen thrives is Craig’s grasp on the principal characters’ identities, the comedic timing, and the fluid pacing. Objections aside, the great outweighs the mediocre or questionable, which can 100% be attributed to Craig’s work.
Speaking overall, if you want a memorable cinematic experience to Mean Girls or Easy A (but R-rated), The Edge of Seventeen is absolutely for you. Prepare yourself for more gravitas behind its emotional moments than most of your standard teen comedies. What you’ll remember most though is the unique, charming, and relatable characters, and the unexpected laughs they bring.
I started this article during our September gaming month here at Sub Cultured. Since Hispanic Heritage Month also ran until mid-October, I had originally decided to compile a list of characters to showcase Hispanic representation in video games. I identify as Hispanic, having a mix of Spanish and Mexican blood in my genetic makeup (among others) and while my ties to my cultures aren’t very strong, I enjoyed the few times I’ve gotten to play as a Hispanic character. Upon writing this, I realized just how little I’d had the opportunity.
“From the press to the games they cover, the absence of black or Hispanic characters is limiting its fan base, its narrative potential, and its creative ideas.”
Where Are We?
For a lot of us, discovering Hispanic characters in our gaming choices means seeing ourselves on the screen and allowing us a place in the stories we played. Unfortunately, characters with darker skin tend to be strictly reserved for tertiary roles or worse, cameo appearances which end in death before we get a chance to experience any sort of character development. Honestly, I had trouble thinking of others aside from Street Fighter’s Vega and Resident Evil’s Carlos Oliveira. Vega is a gorgeous Spanish assassin whose modus operandi is killing women he deems ugly and is one of many choices on Street Fighter’s roster. Carlos is a South American ex-militia sort of guy with a good heart, and he even gets to save the day in Resident Evil 3. In addition to them, there are other, smaller roles prevalent in games, like the cholos in Grand Theft Auto installments, Bane in Injustice: Gods Among us, and while we are sprinkled throughout independent titles like Guacamelee, but where are the protagonists?
When I worked through the vast catalogue of video games I’ve ever played in my life, I found a solid argument could be made for Dead Rising’s siblings Carlito and Isabela Keyes as both were playable, fully fleshed out characters. However, it was disheartening to realize I’d come up with just two out of scores of main characters spanning dozens and dozens of popular franchises. We exist as NPC’s like Final Fantasy XII’s Al Cid Margrace and the A.I. Secundo from Beyond Good and Evil, but no matter where I looked, Hispanic and Latino main characters statistically don’t exist.
As I researched more characters, like Steve Cortez from Mass Effect or the handful of luchador based exaggerations, I noticed a trend. Mostcharacters consisted of stereotypes with similar accents no matter their ethnicity and language, or served a purpose little beyond forwarding the white male hero’s journey. Is this really how we’re seen? Settling for the bare minimum of representation is not what we deserve, and it’s something we should strive to change. Surprisingly, the fighting genre did far and above have the most inclusive characters, counting LGBTQIA individuals among their ranks like Guilty Gear’s Bridget and Kung Jin of Mortal Kombat, even though the genre is inherently catered to the male gaze.
It’s been some years since we have seen a “main character” introduced with a Hispanic background. What more do we have to do to get a game centered around us? Take a look around the next time you’re buying a video game. We ARE purchasing games, we ARE playing the shit out them, and we ARE an audience developers are not considering according to the most recent study. With the passing of one of the more influential Latino bloggers, Juan Carlos Alanis, in the past couple of years, no one has really stepped up and filled his place in the gaming community. There aren’t resources for us, so we are left to join the forums of places like the profit run IGN, or social media groups.
What Can We Do?
Can we make the gaming world aware of our existence?
Hell yes, we can.
Together we can be loud, and utilize the spaces and movements given to us. Brandish that #HeritageMonth hashtag between September 15th through October 15th. Reintroduce the gaming community to GameDev Latinos, a site highlighting developers from all over and where to buy their games. Create your own hashtags when you get to pick a Hispanic character. Overwatch, Blizzard’s immensely popular FPS, JUST added Sombra, the Mexican hacker. Use her, talk about her, and let’s raise awareness about how special she is to us.
We can create our own stories, and create our own games based on our rich backgrounds. Those of us with game development dreams, go for them! Let’s discuss how different a game’s story would play out because the main character is Brazilian, Dominican, Mexican ,etc (Spoilers: it wouldn’t be different). We don’t have to wait for a story starring us; we can create that story! CollegeScholarships.org has a decent list of resources to continue your education in those fields, both academic programs and scholarships, so take advantage of them! Indie blog Remezcla even recently highlighted up and coming developers after Kingdom Rush was created by Uruguay-based Ironhide Game Studios and grabbed the attention of the gaming industry a few years back.There are people making games actively right this second for you to work with.
Are you a convention goer? Request panels from Hispanic and Latino developers, or submit your own and start the conversation. I promise that if there’s one thing I’ve learned from talking too much about everything, it’s that you’re not alone in how you’re feeling. Sub Cultured will be attending PaxSouth in January, held in beautiful San Antonio, and my focus will be on seeking out games that represent us.
The first trailer guarantees that Doctor Strange will be visually and cinematically unlike any other Marvel movie. You sense that Marvel Studios‘ latest will give basically Inception on steroids. While Strange‘s unique architecture was never in doubt, “will it have the typical Marvel charm?” was the question on everyone’s lips. Fortunately, likely thanks to renowned comedy writer Dan Harmon‘s rewrites, the most recent Marvel Cinematic Universe entry delivers in almost every regard.
We’ll definitely arrive at why I said “almost,” but first, many movie-only fans likely need some background. Doctor Strange follows the appropriately-named Dr. Steven Strange, a very stubborn, hot-shot neurosurgeon. He’s not a very likable or charming individual; traits that leading man Benedict Cumberbatch has fun with on-screen. However, as with most every origin story, his fortunes don’t last after a devastating car accident badly damages his skilled hands.
Desperate to reattain his status for his damaged ego’s sake, he treks out to a temple in Nepal to learn the mystical arts. As expected, the pompous Strange laughs off the very idea of “magic,” but the Ancient One quickly resolves his skepticism, otherwise, there wouldn’t be much of a movie. As Strange hones his otherworldly skills, he discovers the massive responsibility his newfound friends carry on their shoulders. This leads Strange to an intriguing moral dilemma of choosing to fight for others or only himself.
As with all reviews, I aim to remain spoiler-free. Unfortunately, many things I adore from Doctor Strange involve spoilers, but I’ll tread carefully. Firstly, director Scott Derrickson and the writers utilize the cast to perfection. Cumberbatch carries the film effortlessly, but you also have supporting players turning in memorable performances. Understandable controversies aside, Tilda Swinton brings an elegance, mystique, and toughness as the Ancient One. Chiwetel Ejiofor surprises as Karl Mordo with a few impassioned speeches. Benedict Wong shines as the hilariously stone-faced (and coincidentally-named) Wong. Although not exploited to her full potential, Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer is a fantastic addition as well.
To accompany the acting gravitas, Derrickson constructs the most impressive, innovative visuals from any Marvel title on any medium. The thrilling opening sequence whets the appetite, and the movie efficiently builds upon that. We’re shown a psychedelic sequence that could be this generation’s 2001: A Space Odyssey stargate scene. As seen in the trailers, there’s also a mind-bending foot chase where buildings and roads are upside down or sideways or inside each other. With the mystical rules having been thoroughly explained throughout the film, these set pieces are immensely gratifying.
As for these aforementioned “rules” of Doctor Strange‘s universe, I truly appreciated how fresh Marvel’s introduction to magic felt. You’ll see lived-in dimensions, ancient artifacts with a rich history, and an expansive library. There may be times where the audience will want to ask the movie to “slow down.” The filmmaker throws a potential overload of information at you. However, hearing the Ancient One’s musings such as “not everything makes sense; not everything has to,” the film successfully reminds you to turn off your brain, forget about the science behind the magic, and enjoy the ride.
Now I disclose why I earlier claimed Doctor Strange to “almost” deliver in every regard. Unfortunately, the Marvel villain conundrum continues. Mads Mikkelsen plays Kaecilius, and turns in a portrayal that’s nothing or less than “fine.” The most frustrating part is his lack of clear motivations. He monologues to Strange about his devious intentions (which don’t really seem that devious), but the “why” is entirely avoided. There are effective efforts to tease future villains that do have more depth, but it’s at the sacrifice of the current villain’s arc.
Also, I’ve spotted a few articles mentioning how Marvel movies not named The Avengers have forgettable musical scores. After hearing the Michael Giacchino presided over the musical arrangement, I was ready to lay those sentiments to rest. I gained confidence after listening to the end credits music released a few weeks ago. Yet throughout the film, I didn’t even notice the music as anything more than ambient noise. Yes, you don’t want the melodies to distract from the motion picture, but the musician in me clamored for something of literal and figurative note.
Luckily, none of these criticisms ruined how tremendous Doctor Strange was as a whole. I’ll never forget feeling that ultimate high after leaving the theater, having seen Marvel’s most inventive, creative entry yet. There are enough Easter eggs and name-drops peppered throughout to justify revisiting the movie often. As a bonus, this movie’s mid and end credits scenes possess heavy implications to Marvel’s future titles too. Most importantly, Strange has the familiar well-timed humor and joyous fun you’re looking for. The Doctor is in.
Dragon Ball Z games have launched in various degrees of quality. It is always good to practice skepticism with these games because for every great game like Dragon Ball Z Hyper Dimensions on the Super Nintendo, we get three horrific entries like Dragon Ball Z Raging Blast. It is never fun being burned by a bad game adopted from a pre-existing franchise with personal and nostalgic ties. Thankfully the new Xenoverse series has acted as a new age for incredibly fun Dragon ball Z games when the first entry came out back in 2015. The sequel, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, moves the franchise forward with minimal changes but carries the torch of the original by bringing quality, fandom, kinetic controls, and an incredible roster to longtime fans of the anime.
The adventure continues to be yours in this entry and you again create your own character to participate in some of the most memorable fights in the Dragon Ball Z lore. Expect all the fast action, hard punches, enormous energy beams, and evasive teleportation maneuvers that made the TV show iconic.
There are plenty of customization options to choose from as you appoint you look to the five races of, Sayian, Namekian, Human, Buu, and Frieza race. Each race has their own ability to transform. Sayians go Super, Frieza goes perfect, Buu goes Kid, humans have hidden potential, and the Namekian’s grow large like Lord Slug. Nobody is left out of the transformation game this time around which levels the playing field in a big way. The other races lacked a true transformation which found those character under powered when fighting against transformed Super Sayians. This addition was more than welcomed.
Once you cook up your fantasy character, you are dropped right into the world of the Time Patrollers where you’ll help keep time’s flow safe from the dastardly villain duo of Towa and Mira. These characters return from the first game and use their energies to increase the power of other villains across time. These time manipulators team up with Turles and Lord Slug and tackle every major moments in the Dragon Ball Z history. These super powered versions of classic villains are determined to change the timeline for the worse. Your job as a Time Patroller is to ensure that the events go according to how they originally transpired. For whatever reason your original character’s presence does not affect time like the presence of new villains, so in that aspect the narrative makes little to no sense. Leave logic at the door for this story folks. The time traveling rules are basically nonexistent and offered up in convenient and illogical ways.
The mechanics are not much different from Xenoverse 1, however, they are refined and honed. Everything just feels faster in all the right ways, which for a Dragon Ball Z game is majorly important. You want to feel like Vegeta when reeling back for a final flash and you want to harness the speed of Gohan when you are zipping around the large areas looking for the next bout. This game delivers on that fantasy of embodying a Z Fighter, and any fan of the series would be hard pressed to feel differently.
There are plenty of customization options as you progress in the game. Once you start collecting costume pieces and buying new articles of clothing with your awarded currency. You can look like some of your favorite characters or go for a completely unique look as you pan through your item drops to see which clothing has the best stats and look. If you don’t like the stats but love the look of your clothes, there is a remedy for that! QQ Bangs can be mixed up by combining clothing and power items. This negates the effects of the clothing stats which, in turn, uses the QQ Bang stats, which gives you the choice to look how you want but have the stats that fit your play style.
There are other things to do in the HUB world as well. This world acts as your lobby, a place your character engages in as you queue up missions and quests.This open area known as Conton City, is much bigger than Xenoverse 1’s HUB world of Toki Toki City. Your created characters. It is so awesome to see all their creations as you run around the world communicating through emotes. Bonus: No load times for this HUB area with up to 250 other player-controlled combatants, all with their owns hinder this areas as you fly from end to end and do small quests and missions in that world.
There are plenty of activities to occupy your time in Conton City. Time rifts are quests that has you going to famous locations like Guru’s house, Frieza’s ship, Capsule Corp Building, and Master Roshi’s Island. Here you will find your character participating in missions that are specific to these locations. Guru’s house will have you fighting off Frieza forces and collecting Namekian Dragon Balls. While over at Frieza’s ship you will find yourself aligning with different Lieutenants as they usurp one another all in the name of becoming Frieza’s right had man. Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 does not lack content, but it does lack diversity. In any of these quests, the main thing you are doing at any time will always be fighting. The only things that do change are the enemies, the win and lose stipulations, and the arenas you fight in. It sounds like a negative point but it is no more repetitive than any other fighting game.
The gamplay loop is very exposed early on, but that comes with the territory of these mission based/grind heavy/loot collecting games. You will spend your time doing all the various types of missions I have talk about, which are ultimately the same mechanically. You will load up a story mission, fight some bad guys, and then at the end of the match get some credits, items drops and possibly even new moves. You will then utilize item drops, sell them off, or mix them into new items. Doing story missions unlocks patrol missions which are just variations of the story quests. In between these mission you can do all the time rift events which, again, is just more fighting. The game is repetitive, there is no denying that. I think this shortcoming is overshadows by all the other working parts of this game though.
The story and mission progression have not changed much from Xenoverse 1. The story itself is all about fixing the timeline of the original series, while the Patroller Missions, which can be played up to 3 players co-op online, takes more creative chances as yr avatar teaming up with the bad guys in alternative-history-like scenarios. Playing online with 2 other friends is a blast and has quickly become one of my favorite co-op experiences of this year. There are also 6-player raid missions where you’ll participate in fighting big bosses for big payouts and loot. These fights get incredibly large scale in terms of the open spaces you occupy and the amount of movement and activity going on at any given time. The intensity levels of these battles really ramp up as the screen becomes a cornucopia of colors as you blast energy waves together in an attempt to take down the damage sponges in the form of long time villains.
Out of all the games this year that I have played, the only game me and my gamer group could agree on to play co-op this year was Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. My squad and I loved the first game and played hundreds of hours of co-op, so it was obvious that we would return to this series. Also an important personal note if you’re debating to purchase this for group gaming: out of the four people I play this game with, only 2 of us are major Dragon Ball Z fans, one is a passive fan, and the other hates the entire series. He plays the game because it offers fun co-op, jaw dropping graphics, and a great fighting game/action RPG hybrid.
There is nothing else like the Dragon Ball Xenoverse series. The creative team, Dimps, has taken everything they did right about earlier fighting game entries, and shaped it up into an Action/Adventure RPG hybrid. Much like what Gearbox did with marrying the first person shooter genre to the Role Playing Game genre with Borderlands, Xenoverse series successfully merges two completely different game types to make something that feels fresh. I think that anybody, fan or not, that is willing to give it a try, can find something to enjoy about this game. Buy it now if you’re a longtime fan, try and check it out if you have a passing interest…but this is one of those gems of this year that will be sorely under-appreciated by most of the gaming community.