Culture Feature

9 Movie Tie-In Video Games That Actually Don't Suck

Sometimes movie tie-in video games are...actually great?

Marvel

No matter how much you love a movie, chances are good that its tie-in video game will be a pile of hot dookie.

For video game developers, movie tie-in games are not what one might consider "passion projects." On the contrary, movie tie-in games tend to be cheap rush-jobs that studios churn out for quick profit from all the grandparents who don't know what birthday presents to buy their grandkids, but then remember that lil' Brayden has a Game-chamacallit and probably saw Shrek 5. Of course, when Brayden actually tries Shrek 5: Battle of the Swamp, he realizes it sucks ass and goes right back to Fortnite.

But sometimes that's not the case. Once in a blue moon, a movie tie-in video game will actually be great, doing justice to its inspiration and, in the rarest of occasions, even surpassing it. These are those few times:

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FILM

"Bambi" Is Sure to Be the Worst Disney Remake Yet

Why would we want the trauma to be more realistic?

Disney has just announced plans to remake another one of their animated classics as a live-action feature, and it has the potential to be the worst one yet.

As with The Lion King and The Jungle Book, Bambi's cast of characters is made up entirely of animals, so it's bound to present the same problem of unsettling CGI mouths. But unlike those movies, the original Bambi came out in 1942. It's part of Disney's older catalogue of films with forgettable soundtracks and scattered, poorly-paced plots. The animation was innovative for its time, but at this point these older Disney films remain popular primarily through the power of nostalgia and passed along to children when they're too young to know better.



young bambi

No doubt half the people reading this are gasping at the audacity of these claims and recalling Bambi's iconic scenes—the introduction of Thumper and Flower, the terrifying forest fire, and of course the unforgettable death of Bambi's mother. While these scenes are certainly memorable, I doubt anyone protesting could flesh out an outline of Bambi's "story"—to the extent that it has one. Bambi is happy with his mother. Bambi's mother dies because humans are terrible. Bambi meets other animals who help him grow up. The forest burns because humans are terrible. Bambi meets another deer. The end? Happily ever after?

While Bambi has the potential to deliver a potent ecological message, it would need some extensive rewrites to get it ready for adaptation. Maybe that means it will be better than the other remakes—assuming Disney will do a good job with the process. Will they add some songs to try to make it a musical? That might add some interest, but they will certainly have to keep those handful of iconic scenes for it to remain a Bambi movie at all. So ask yourself, does anyone—let alone children—want to see those scenes in a live-action world? Do you want to see a realistic baby deer realizing its mother has been killed by hunters, or realistic animals running in horror from a wildfire? Would you take a child to see that? It might make a generation of vegans, but it would also fuel a massive boom in the mental health industry.

Disney has had a string of box office successes with these remakes. If they want to keep it going, they should probably give up on Bambi.

bambi fire

MUSIC

Baby Yoda Is Emo, and We Love That

Thanks to the Twitter account @emo_yoda, our favorite galactic infant now comes with your favorite sad tunes.

@emo_yoda on Twitter

By now, we've already discussed in detail why internet celebrity (and my ideal offspring) Baby Yoda is so great, to a degree that he should probably run for president.

A lot of us haven't even watched a single episode of The Mandalorian, the Disney+ Star Wars spinoff that gave Baby Yoda a platform to steal our hearts, but that doesn't mean we can't participate in enjoying memes of the robed green creature. Naturally, many such memes have centered around music, whether little Yoda is bumping "Get Low" from the cockpit of his spaceship or proudly holding Charli XCX's Pop 2 mixtape.

This week, a Twitter account by the username @emo_yoda joined in on the fun for a specific lane of music lovers. In the wake of viral Instagram accounts like "Chandler Holding Ur Fav Album" and "Drake Loves Ur Fav Album," where different album covers are edited into the hands of either Chandler from Friends or Drake from Drake and Josh, @emo_yoda is where your favorite emo, pop-punk, and indie records are all beheld by the baby himself.

It all started a few days ago when Baby Yoda started listening to Modern Baseball's Holy Ghost. While he certainly enjoys the classics—the header photo is Baby Yoda superimposed over the cover photo for American Football's 1999 debut—he enjoys many newer records, as well, like Joyce Manor's Never Hungover Again, Snail Mail's Lush, and PUP's Morbid Stuff. The latter band responded, saying, "Just noticing your profile photo, which is totally f**king unhinged." The photo is unhinged, indeed: a shot of Pope Francis lifting a chalice, except the Pope's face is edited over with PUP frontman Stefan Babcock and the chalice is—you guessed it—Baby Yoda. Imagining Baby Yoda would headbang to PUP or cry to American Football is a true delight, and we're thankful for all iterations of the meme to keep him alive in his adorable glory forever.

CULTURE

Brenda Song on "Crazy Rich Asians" Role: When Are You "Not Asian Enough"?

It's not her fault she's played mostly Caucasian roles.

Despite being born to a Hmong father and Thai mother, Brenda Song is a consummately American actress–so much so, that the Californian recently told Teen Vogue that she was once deemed too American to play an Asian-American role.

Known–nay, beloved–as a Disney Channel legend for her roles on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody (2005-2008) and Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior (2006), not to mention (as elder millennials fondly recall) Nickelodeon's 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd (1999-2002), Song was the only actress of Asian-American descent that many of us saw on TV throughout the aughts. "I don't think people realize how ahead of the curve Disney Channel was," Song said of her Disney tenure. "They were colorblind casting way before anybody else. They were giving me TV movies since I was 15 that people would never even think about. They were just telling stories and wanting kids to be able to see themselves on TV at a young age."

Brenda Song Through the Years | Amphibia | Disney Channel youtu.be

Yet, the 31-year-old said that she was not given the opportunity to audition for Jon M. Chu's $238 million-hit Crazy Rich Asians, despite being a fan of Kevin Kwan's book series and asking her managers if she could vie for a part. She was told "no." "Their reasoning behind that, what they said, was that my image was basically not Asian enough, in not so many words. It broke my heart," she shared. "I said, 'This character is in her late to mid-20s, an Asian American, and I can't even audition for it? I've auditioned for Caucasian roles my entire career, but this specific role, you're not going to let me do it? You're going to fault me for having worked my whole life?' I was like, 'Where do I fit?'"

In response, Chu has taken to social media to clarify that, if that was the message Song received, he certainly didn't send it. He posted, "Would these words ever come out of my mouth? Nope makes no sense. I feel horrible she thinks this is the reason. The fact is I love Brenda Song and am a fan. I didn't need her to audition because I already knew who she was!"

Regardless, operating under the belief that she was rejected for being an inadequate representation of her own race, Song came to terms with the criticism. "I got myself together and said, 'Brenda, there is only one you, and you can't change who you are. You can't change your past.' I am so grateful for every job that I've done," she said. "All I can do is continue to put good auditions out there, do the best that I can — that's all I can ask for."

Song now stars in Hulu's Dollface. She plays Madison, an effervescent young publicist whose energy sets the show's quirky tone. Kat Dennings and Shay Mitchell co-star in the female-created show, which is a characteristic Song praised: "I've always been a part of male-driven projects and it was amazing [to be] literally going to work every day and hanging out with my girlfriends."

From London Tipton (a non-Asian name) to Madison, Song's success has been predicated on an unusual mix of Asian erasure and respectability politics in American media. In a time when Asian actors still only account for 1% of Hollywood's lead roles, playing into the stereotypes promoted through TV tropes is, in cold terms, the only way for many actors of color to succeed. For instance, in 2017 Paste explored "Industry Bias, Whitewashing, and the Invisible Asian in Hollywood," quoting an unnamed casting director who actually said, "Asians are a challenge to cast because most casting directors feel as though they're not very expressive." In another casting director's words, the reason Asians haven't been featured in American media is because they (yes, all of us, apparently) are "very shut down in their emotions … If it's a look thing for business where they come in they're at a computer or if they're like a scientist or something like that, they'll do that; but if it's something were they really have to act and get some kind of performance out of, it's a challenge."

In response, #ExpressiveAsians trended on Twitter to call out the deep racial bias and false stereotypes at the core of Hollywood's shut-out of Asians and Asian-Americans. Yaoyao Liu of the Seattle Asian American Film Festival critiqued the tokenization of Asian characters, emphasizing "the importance of not simply including Asian performers in media, but of casting them in roles more meaningful than portrayals that are, at worst, perpetuations of racist assumptions or, at best, ineffectual lip service to substantive calls for diversity."

Most pointedly, Liu notes: "Even though the #ExpressiveAsians on American televisions today defy certain stereotypes, they remain within the parameters of being educated, middle class, and culturally assimilated; in other words, they capitulate to the standards set by respectability politics...Respectability politics refers to the policing of certain behaviors or values within marginalized groups in accordance with mainstream (read: white supremacist, patriarchal, heteronormative) codes of conduct. In the context of Asian Americans in media...prominent characters...toe the line of acknowledging their identity-based difference in a manner that is fully comprehensible and palatable to white audiences. For example: they have Asian names but they don't speak English with an accent... Nothing happens on screen that would alienate their white viewers."

Indeed, the first role to cement Song as a beloved figure in millennials' childhoods and, in many respects, an Asian American icon, was Wendy Wu. "The beginning of the end of Disney's promise of an all-inclusive cast," the film captured the cultural and cognitive dissonance that painfully characterizes the Asian-American experience. In describing "How Wendy Wu Homecoming Warrior Taught Cultural Acceptance," Nyah Hardmon wrote, "Wu was this preppy Chinese-American who struggled with the grips of her culture. Like most second-generation immigrants and other culturally and ethnically diverse people of this country, Wu didn't feel connected with her home country. She turned her nose at Asian cuisine and distance[d] herself from her Chinese heritage. Eventually, Wu comes to terms with who she is and the history of her family, but it definitely wasn't an easy conclusion."

It's no wonder we still root for Brenda Song. Her continued success from child actor to comedic female force is a living manifestation of the impossible dream of all people of color: to live in a world that doesn't erase culture and racial identity and histories of oppression under the demeaning guise of being "post-racial" or "color-blind," and where no one asks us to prove we're worthy of being seen.

Recently, Taffy Brodesser-Akner at The New York Times released a celebrity profile that, according to her, "healed" her from a spell of depression.

It was World Kindness Day, and in a hospital in Pittsburgh, newborn infants were being dressed in red cardigans in homage to Pittsburgh native and history's kindest man, Fred Rogers. Hanks is starring as the patron saint of childhood in his upcoming film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, premiering next Friday, and considering the real events it portrays—a jaded writer whose life and outlook are transformed by his time with Mr. Rogers—this touching anecdote about Hank restoring Brodesser-Akner's faith in Humanity seems a bit too convenient.



It's far from a new idea that Tom Hanks is a nice guy, and there are countless stories of fans receiving warmly-worded notes from his typewriters and other simple kindnesses, but the slew of new anecdotes that came out in this profile, about what a sweet and generous and caring person he is—along with the moment that he brings his interviewer to tears—it's all too much. There is a concerted campaign to convince me that the man who taught me what kindness and love are has found his successor in the man who's playing him in a movie. And I won't accept it.

Tom Hanks isn't good enough to play Mr. Rogers, because no one is.

Mr. Rogers was a Presbyterian minister, who never used his national platform to preach or proselytize. He embodied the idea that God is the love that lives in each of us and that spreading that love is the truest way to do God's work. He was a registered Republican in a way that seems antithetical to all the hate and cultural retrenchment that party has come to stand for.


Joanne Rogers reacting to the newborns dressed as her late husband


He was consistently ahead of his time in promoting gender and racial equality, pacifism, and acceptance of every sort of difference. He was a vegetarian and co-owned a magazine promoting vegetarianism, because he "didn't want to eat anything that has a mother." Think about how hard you would roll your eyes if anyone else said that, then remember that the kindest, most sincere, least pretentious man on the planet said it, and let your heart melt.

When John Williams first saw a cut of Schindler's List, he famously told Steven Spielberg that the film deserved a better composer, to which Spielberg responded, "I know, but they're all dead." That's the dilemma we face with A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Yeah, Tom Hanks is thoughtful and humble and nice. Great. So he helped some girl scouts sell more cookies. Big deal. Mr. Rogers taught those girl scouts that they have value—that just being the person you are and giving love is all it takes to deserve love for yourself.


A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD - Official Trailer (HD) www.youtube.com


Tom Hanks is good, but he isn't good enough to capture the power of such a purely kind and gentle spirit. You would need some sort of Paul Newman/Jimmy Stewart/Bob Ross hybrid to even come close. It's still important to tell the story—to do as much as we can to hold up this model of goodness; remind society of the value of kindness, and what it really looks like. This movie should be made. It has to be made. And there's no one better for the role than Tom Hanks… Except maybe Keanu. Is it too late to do reshoots?


Keanu Reeves