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Review: In ‘S—house,’ a college coming-of-age comedy

This image released by IFC Films shows Dylan Gelula, left, and Cooper Raiff in a scene from " S---house." (IFC Films via AP)

This image released by IFC Films shows Dylan Gelula, left, and Cooper Raiff in a scene from ” S—house.” (IFC Films via AP)


You would assume a college comedy with the unprintable title of “S—-house” to be another sad, low-brow retread of “Animal House.” You would almost bet on it. But 22-year-old Cooper Raiff’s is not only not that film at all, it’s one of the freshest college movies in years, a nano-budget breakthrough of rare sensitivity that announces more than one new talent.

“S—-house,” which opens in theaters and on-demand Friday, might have already made more of a stir had the coronavirus not canceled the SXSW film festival, where it had been set to premiere. It still played virtually in Austin, and took home the festival’s award for best narrative film. On Friday, IFC Film will release it in theaters and on-demand.

There are house parties, hung-over roommates and hook-ups in “S—-house” (the name comes from an unloved frat house), but there’s also innocence, loneliness and stuffed animals with subtitled thoughts. Raiff’s film, in which he also stars as a homesick freshman from Dallas, is poised exactly on the edge of adulthood.

Alex (Raiff) is finding college life harder than he expected. After everyone else has paired off, he’s friendless; even his roommate Sam (Logan Miller), a hard-drinking water polo player and stand-up wannabe, considers him lame. Alex has only his stuffed animal, which tells him, “You tried. Let’s go home.” He spends a lot of time on the phone with his mom (Amy Landecker) and sister longing for the comfortable, loving home he’s now hundreds of miles away from, in California.

Alex isn’t shy. But he won’t play the role his classmates manage with ease. At a party, a girl asks him to play spin the bottle. Instead, he goes outside to watch videos on his phone. When his RA Maggie (Dylan Gelula, fabulous), invites him to her room and then onto her bed, he stands awkwardly at the door asks, “What, to kiss and have sex?” Still, he hesitates, incredulous that Maggie doesn’t even know his name.

This is about when “S—-house” turns into something more romantic and thoughtful than you’d expect of any movie with drunk kids soiling themselves in dorm rooms. Alex and Maggie, after a patch of awkwardness, settle into a long night together of talking and walking around campus. Their conversation feels genuine, and the dialogue is natural, sincere and funny. Raiff, it’s clear enough, is working more in the mold of Richard Linklater (“Before Sunrise”-on-campus is the film’s easy shorthand) and mumblecore (Jay Duplass helped develop it).

The morning after their night together, Alex presumes they’ve made such a deep connection that a relationship has begun. Maggie, though, has no interest in breakfast burritos and soon begins acting like they’ve never met. The sudden chasm between them befuddles Alex, and the tension in “S—-house” begins to hinge not just on finding friendship or romance, but learning to be a decent adult.

Star Wars: Squadrons Multiplayer Review: the space combat game I’ve been waiting for

It’s been a rocky few years for multiplayer Star Wars games. In 2015, EA revived the Battlefront franchise only to deliver a beautiful but shallow arcade experience that didn’t require much skill. This was then followed up by an improved and expanded sequel, which only reached its full potential years after it was nearly immobilized by an industry-shaking microtransaction controversy.

Despite this, Battlefront II turned out to be one of my favorite Star Wars games. It received a batch of updates that I believe made up for its rocky start and kept me coming back. These updates were mainly focused on ground combat modes, leaving Starfighter Assault, its space battle mode, to go without an update since launch. While it was a fun mode, it largely relied on its spectacle and speed over engaging gameplay. It was fast, fun, and dumb.

Star Wars: Squadrons, EA’s new combat flight sim, slows down the pace and replaces the mindless one-button abilities with intricate systems that require moment-to-moment decisions and long-term planning. The ability to manipulate these systems, like power distribution and shield allocation, can separate the good pilots from the great.

Image: EA / Motive

Squadrons lowers the player count to 10, split between the New Republic and the Galactic Empire. Both sides allow players to select from four classes: the all-around fighter, the dedicated bomber, a speedy interceptor, or a team-focused support ship. Rebel ships come equipped with shields and generally have great visibility, which comes in handy in VR. Imperial ships, with the exception of the TIE Reaper, trade shields for the ability to immediately transfer power from one system to another, providing a complete laser recharge or full boost refill. They also have worse visibility, due to the classic TIE fighter cockpit design.

Within each faction, the classes all have a distinct feel. Some are more maneuverable, while others give and take more damage. Modifications to your ship’s components can bend one class to mimic the role of another. You could outfit your fighter to be more effective against capital ships, or you could tweak your bomber to be more effective against other starfighters.

These modifications always come with a trade-off, a theme that permeates throughout the rest of Squadrons. Every benefit has a drawback. In order to raise your top speed, you may need to sacrifice your overall health pool. This allows for a lot of personalization in your starfighters and really changes the way you play. Some loadouts may benefit from an aggressive mentality, requiring you to get in close and get out, while other kits allow you to move a bit slower and deal as much damage as you take. The variety of possibilities ensures that no two matches of Squadrons are exactly the same, and you have to be ready to adapt to any given situation. The starfighter with the steepest learning curve seems to be the support ships, which handle like big space