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Doctor Who Recap 2014 Christmas Special, "Last Christmas"

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Doctor Who Recap: 2014 Christmas Special, “Last Christmas”

BBC

Doctor Who Recap: 2014 Christmas Special, “Last Christmas”

For Doctor Who’s 10th consecutive Christmas special, showrunner Steven Moffat presents the intersection between Doctor Who and Christmas in the most direct possible way. Almost as if cheekily daring the audience to revolt and switch off, the five-minute pre-titles sequence plays with a straight face what seems like an utterly ludicrous situation. Clara (Jenna Coleman), who parted from the Doctor at the end of the previous episode, encounters none other than Santa Claus himself (Nick Frost), and a couple of snarky elves (one of whom is played by Dan Starkey, normally buried under heavy prosthetics as the Sontaran Strax), when he crashes on her roof—in a sleigh drawn by flying reindeer. But when the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) arrives and urges her to rejoin him aboard the TARDIS, things rapidly turn serious, leading to a constantly twisting story where the question of what is real and what is a dream becomes of crucial importance.

Review: The Swapper

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Review: The Swapper
Review: The Swapper

The core mechanic of The Swapper is a gun that creates clones of the player, allowing one to transfer his or her consciousness into any of the clones at will. It’s an idea hinted at and sneakily hammered home by ship logs and the hive-minded alien intelligence you encounter across the game. Slowly, it begins to dawn on you that every clone created isn’t just tabula rasa on legs, but a fully formed human being, who may or may not have its own consciousness and knowledge of your goals. Throughout the game, advancement is contingent on sending hundreds, if not thousands, of these clones to harsh, ignominious, bone-crunching death to solve its puzzles, with zero caution thrown to the wind, thus rendering even using the gun an act of cruelty and horror.

As a gameplay mechanic, it’s a fine idea that’s been floating around the headspace of many developers over the years (even the last Mario platformer on the WiiU had a variant on this), and one so simple to craft a game on top of, that you may wonder why no one thought of it before. It makes the fact that the developer is called Facepalm Games feel like an industry-shaming joke. As a piece of the overarching story, however, it’s a factor that allows The Swapper to transcend the sci-fi smorgasbord of ideas that fuel it into something greater, which would be the case even if the puzzles weren’t as frustratingly diabolical as they are.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the Emotional Breakdown of a Totalitarian Facade

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<em>The Hunger Games: Catching Fire</em> and the Emotional Breakdown of a Totalitarian Facade
<em>The Hunger Games: Catching Fire</em> and the Emotional Breakdown of a Totalitarian Facade

Of the many surprisingly poignant moments in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the most jarring comes courtesy of Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), the über-styled PR puppet who serves the corrupt Capitol, and is tasked, like many, to coddle the oppressed, dystopian Districts of Panem, distracting them from the horrors that pervade their daily lives. (Spoiler alert: the Capitol annually sends the Districts’ youth to compete in televised, fight-to-the-death bloodsport.) After the unprecedented announcement that the latest Hunger Games will force two past winners, or “victors,” from each District into a deathtrap-filled arena, Effie, the irrepressible fraud whose job includes gleefully declaring which males and females will fight, gets mildly choked up, her meticulous mascara slightly running.

Of course, in this moment, Effie is reading the names of the chosen victors from District 12, who include co-protagonists, ostensible lovebirds, and last year’s winners, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a tailored pair Effie regards as the crowd-pleasing achievement of her career. But just as Catching Fire never feels like it’s merely peddling a Chosen One narrative (or, worse, an unfounded Special Girl saga a la Stephenie Meyer’s oeuvre), Effie’s break in character seems less rooted in personal bias than the growing, common notion that something’s epically off in Panem. Katniss’s concocted act of defiance in the last film, wherein she and Peeta threatened suicide in favor of killing each other, didn’t just yield a dual triumph, but the start of an uprising. And even Effie, a picture of privileged, blinder-wearing, Capitol hypocrisy, is being forced to feel—to truly face her world’s radical injustices.

The 10 Best Final Girls in Horror Cinema

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The 10 Best Final Girls in Horror Cinema

Columbia Pictures

The 10 Best Final Girls in Horror Cinema

Happy Halloween, folks. Hope you’re enjoying our epic horror list, which is counting down the best of the best in a genre that’s near and dear to our hearts. As an added bonus, I thought I’d pay tribute to one of my favorite horror tropes—the Final Girl, a very specific type of heroine who’s usually left to deal with the cops when they come to clean up the bodies. There are newbies, legends, and even a comedienne on this roster, but all of them have earned their right to be here, either by standing on the shoulders of giants or wildly impaling creatures of the night. Sadly, I Know What You Did Last Summer’s Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) didn’t make the cut, but as she would say, “What are you waiting for?!?!” Read on.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot R. Kurt Osenlund’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: R. Kurt Osenlund’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: R. Kurt Osenlund’s Top 10 Films of All Time

Editor’s Note: In light of Sight & Sound’s film poll, which, every decade, queries critics and directors the world over before arriving at a communal Top 10 list, we polled our own writers, who didn’t partake in the project, but have bold, discerning, and provocative lists to share.

The highly subjective task of compiling a list of the 10 best films of all time is nearly as daunting as the thought that plagues every film completist: How on earth will I ever catch up with more than a century’s worth of cinema? The answer, of course, is that nobody really can, and in a sense, surrendering to that truth offers a kind of liberation. We all want to devour as many great movies as possible, but there comes a time when we have to accept a certain morsel of defeat. Which is basically my disclaiming way of saying that I came at this project with a highly personal and minimally authoritative approach, selecting a group of favorites instead of stamping my feet and declaring history’s 10 best films. Contributors were encouraged to tackle their lists however they saw fit, and some have certainly delivered what they regard as the definitive cream of the crop. More power to those folks, and to those whose picks are far less populist and more Sight & Sound-friendly than mine. Ultimately, while I gave much consideration to artistic influence and chronological diversity (and winced at the snubbing of films like The Red Shoes, Pulp Fiction, My Own Private Idaho, and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul), there were really only 10 titles I ever could have chosen. Quite simply, these movies changed my life.

15 Most Anticipated Summer Films

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15 Most Anticipated Summer Films

20th Century Fox

15 Most Anticipated Summer Films

The Avengers will assemble for what may be the most overstuffed tent-pole ever, and Katy Perry will unleash the first movie that could actually give you cavities, but that doesn’t mean this summer’s cinema landscape is a wholly barren wasteland.

Between superhero orgies (The Avengers) and bubblegum 3D concerts (Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D), there’s a rich array of warm-weather fare, from pint-sized love stories (Moonrise Kingdom) to sci-fi prequels (Prometheus) to breakout festival faves (Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Queen of Versailles). In addition to catching the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga (The Dark Knight Rises), we’re dying to see Joachim Trier’s follow-up to Reprise (Oslo, August 31st), Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest sure-to-be humanistic triumph (I Wish), and a twisted revenge-horror flick that’s already made waves in Australia (The Loved Ones).

If there’s time after Channing Tatum’s semi-autobigraphical strip show (Magic Mike), we might squeeze in a sit with The Avengers, but only if they promise to deactivate Katy’s whipped-cream boob cannons for good.

Summer of ‘86: Aliens

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Summer of ‘86: <em>Aliens</em>
Summer of ‘86: <em>Aliens</em>

In Scream 2, the question of whether a sequel can be better than the original film becomes a running gag, with participants intermittently suggesting examples. For Wes Craven, it’s just another of the many self-referential gestures in his Scream films and elsewhere. But for film lovers, it’s a game worth playing. Enthusiasts differ on whether The Empire Strikes Back really is better than Star Wars (now A New Hope), or should be disqualified as the middle part of a trilogy; and whether Superman II outshines Superman: The Movie. Probably the one sequel that no one denies is superior to its original is The Road Warrior. But in the Summer of ’86, James Cameron’s Aliens outdid Ridley Scott’s Alien in every way imaginable.

A sequel has to be both the same film and different, and this is a challenge for anyone undertaking to direct a follow-up. How to make the film your own, turn it into something that stands up in its own right, while still repeating enough of the successes of the original to justify its coattail riding at the box office? Cameron had announced himself with The Terminator a couple of years earlier, and now faced the challenge of reinventing one of the most popular and successful fantasy-genre films of all time. The 1979 film had married science fiction with horror in a way unseen since the ’50s, reviving the monster genre, which had, for the most part, died out in the wake of Psycho’s ushering in of an era of more personal, intimate, human horror.