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Call of Duty: Ghosts
Call of Duty: Ghosts
Shooter
Call of Duty: Ghosts is the latest installment in the commonly popular series and the first design with the next generation of consoles in mind. The 10th main game in the series is brought to life by series creator Infinity Ward with assistance from Raven and Neversoft, was written by Academy award-winning writer-director Stephen Gaghan who lists “Traffic” and “Syrianna” among his many credits.

 

Starting a whole new story arc, the game is set in the near future when a group of militants from the Latin American-based power conglomerate called the Federation, launch a surprise attack on a space station and unleash a devastating attack upon cities of the American Southwest that utterly destroys many of them in the process. The game jumps forward in time and follows the exploits of two brothers named Logan and David who nearly escaped the destruction of San Diego and 10 years later find the remaining American forces fighting a war against the ever-expanding Federation forces. When a rescue mission goes awry, Logan and David find themselves recruited by their father Elias into an elite Ghost Squad unit who soon discover that members of their unit are being hunted down by a former member named Rorke who was assumed killed on a mission many years earlier. The fact that Rorke may also be behind the attack on the United States as well as a big cog in the Federation’s plans springs the team into action with the fate of the United States hanging in the balance.

 

Players will play as various characters and assume control of everything from remote operated weaponry, Apache helicopters, tanks, and even a German shepherd named Riley who is a very welcome addition to the series. The heavily modified engine produces some amazing graphics in the game especially during some of the more scenic locales ranging from underwater missions to snow-covered landscapes as well as desolate cities such as Vegas and San Diego. Playing on the PC, did require a bit of patience at launch as the graphics did not seem up to par with what we’ve come to expect from the series much less a next-generation tweaking of the engine. Thankfully the game was soon patched and the graphics stepped up considerably although in multiplayer there were some frustrating moments where the mouse was not recognized and I had to do a series of workarounds until a patch resolved the issue. I still have occasional issues with the system wanting to reset the graphics down to the base level even though my card is more than capable of running the high-level graphics setting. This is a very minor annoyance though as I am able to customize the controls and settings anyway that I like and the gameplay is absolutely phenomenal as the developers clearly put an emphasis on a higher frame rate and smoother gameplay experience.

 

Fans of the series will know what to expect as there are a lot of familiar touches such is the wave-based attacks, stealth missions, and at the gun battles that are signature of the series. Early in the game, many moments seem to have been almost carbon copies of earlier games but thankfully the game finds stride roughly at the midway point and presses the accelerator all the way to the boards for one nonstop thrill ride which includes an epic finale and some shocking moments along the way not the least of which are the bonus scenes during the credits.

 

While I was able to complete the solo campaign in just under five hours I did find myself really caught up in the story and the characters which is something that I had not experienced in Black Ops 2 as a largely completed the solo play portion of that game out of obligation rather than compulsion. Absolutely love the space fight sequences as the Zero G combat was great and I would absolutely love to see an entire game set in this environment. I also loved taking control of the tank and running over opponents while unleashing furious amounts of firepower upon all those that crossed my path.

 

Now multi-play is the bread-and-butter of series and Ghosts definitely has a lot to offer in this category. From the co-op missions to the alien infested “Extinction” mode for up to four players battle against hordes of aliens for survival the game truly has something for everyone. Fans will be happy to know that in addition to the standard Death Match, Team Death Match, Kill Confirmed, and Domination modes there are five other modes which include Infected, Blitz, Search and Rescue, Search and Destroy, and Cranked as well as the standard and Hardcore modes of play.

 

Customization has long been a big part of the series and this timeout players can play is either a male or female character and have the option to customize the look of their player and online matches down to the type of headgear and uniform that they wear. As with previous games in the series, players are awarded points for kills, assists, and other challenges and actions during gameplay which allow them to rank up and obtain new weaponry, perks, and kill streak rewards. While I did find the customization menus took a little bit to get used to after being so familiar with the ones in the previous games, I soon was up and running and found plenty of options to my liking and I continue to experiment with various configurations to date.

 

The online maps are fantastic and full of detail however some of them appear to not have the same graphical wow as others because most of them absolutely blow you away and are filled with all sorts of nice touches such as dust and particle effects which have caused players with itchy trigger fingers to jump at shadows and shooter the paper flowing in the wind. The biggest complaint many people have with the maps is that they are extremely large in size and would be better suited for larger teams rather than the current number that is limited for online play. I specifically enjoy one in the snow as well as one set in a devastated city complete with leaning and partially destroyed buildings which allow endless opportunity to get the drop on your opponent especially from many floors up.

 

While I had some initial frustrations with the game, they quickly vanished and the more time I spent with it the more I was drawn into the characters and storyline as well as the multi-play versatility of the game. Well if used frustrations remain I have no doubt they will be patched eventually, and while I would’ve liked a slightly longer story mode what was presented was absolutely epic and delivered one of the best call of duty experiences to date.

 

I highly recommend the game and encourage people to focus on the many things that the game and gets right instead of lamenting about things that you wish they were included or what you feel was done wrong because it is a phenomenal ride that is not to be missed.

http://sknr.net/2013/11/17/call-of-duty-ghosts/
  
Space Plague
Space Plague
2021 | Abstract Strategy, Science Fiction, Space
When is the word “plague” ever a good thing? We as a people have endured several plagues and none of them could be considered super great. However, what if the term plague was merely that of endearment? What if, in a fantasy sci-fi world, a plague was merely a settler of new worlds? Now you can play as a plague and be inspired by the game’s tagline: “We are many, yet we are one. We are the plague.”

Space Plague is a new game from first time designers who hail from the country of Colombia. In it players assume the command of a race of aliens attempting to colonize a newfound planet before the other races assume majority. Each race is essentially the same, and have similar tactics, but may use these tactics differently from other races. The player who amasses the most plagues from their race by the time the game ends will be crowned champion, and settler of the new world.

DISCLAIMER: We were provided a prototype copy of this game for the purposes of this review. These are preview copy components, and I do not know for sure if the final components will be any different from these shown. Also, it is not my intention to detail every rule in the game, as there are just too many. You are invited to download the rulebook, back the game through the Kickstarter campaign, or through any retailers stocking it after fulfillment. -T


To setup, follow the instructions, as there are many steps for setup. Once complete, the game should look similar to the photo below. You will see in this photo the main board at the top, the circular world core board (in black and red), and individual board setups for three players. Of course, for this review I will be playing the purple faction: The Flat-Earthers (not that I agree with the actual group of Flat-Earthers). Each player receives the same components, just in their player color. This includes six action cards to serve as the opening hand.
Each round follows four phases: Planetary Deck, Play Action Cards, Planetary Event, and March. On the main board a Planetary Event Card is flipped at the start of each round. This will inform the players which terrain type will generate energy this turn, as well as give a glimpse into the future event that will occur once the card travels to the activation zone on the board. Once players have placed energy shards onto the requisite terrain tiles they must each choose one card to be played this turn from their hand. As each player has the same six beginning Action Cards turns may seem similar. These action cards include Producing Plague (placing a plague disc on the space furthest from the end of the terrain tile line, on top of the picture of the player’s spaceship), Producing a Captain (a stronger version of the normal plague disc), Fast Movement (allows plague discs to move twice toward the core or two discs to move one space each), Slow But Steady (allows one plague disc to move forward one space OR allows the player to place a shield disc on top of a plague to protect it from harm), and Evolving OR Getting Lucky (which allows the player to purchase an Evolution Card from the Market or to roll the energy die and place energy shards on the resulting terrain type). More action cards can be purchased at the Market and used on future turns in order to buff certain actions, abduct opponent plagues, or even create new types of plagues with special abilities.

Once all players have played and resolved their action card for the round the Planetary Event phase begins. If an event card has moved its way to the activation zone of the main board its event text is resolved now. These events signify death of plague discs if they reside on specific terrain types, allow for purchasing cards at the Market or else destroying the plague furthest toward the core, or other various and nefarious events.

When the event has been resolved the active player token is passed to the next player and the March phase ensues. Players will move each of their plague discs one space toward the core to make room for more incoming plagues and captains.


Once the final event card has made its way through each of the main board slots and past the activation zone the game will end. Players will count their plague discs that made it onto the core of the planet and the player with the most discs will win! The rules also include several tie-breakers, ending with a shared victory and a snarky, “tough toothpaste,” style of comment.
Components. Again, this is a prototype copy of the game, and components are not at all final. However, component quality aside, this game looks amazing on the table and hints at some really excellent plans for the final aesthetic. The character art and art on the cards is cartoony, but not in a bad way, and the other art in the graphic design is just stellar (checks around the room for the hook). The game feels “spacey” and “alieny” but also hip and lighthearted. I like it. I like it a lot. My hope for the final product is that the rulebook gets much more detailed, as I had to ask several questions to the designer that just were not clear or present in the rules. I am also hoping that the cards themselves will see quite a bit of beefiness added to them, as this prototype copy shipped with mega-thin cards that are delicate to handle. For a prototype, the components are good and show me what could be upon a successful Kickstarter campaign.

The gameplay is definitely something I want to discuss. I was blown away by how much fun I had playing this game! I cannot count how many times I vocalized how impressed I was with the design and how much fun I was having. I love the mechanic of giving all players the same components but allowing them to choose how to use them best for their strategies. Sometimes I felt that I need to flood my track with plagues and get them moving, while other times I wanted to just upgrade my race by using the evolution cards from the market. Those evolution cards are so interesting to use because they can change the course of the game, especially if specific cards come out near the beginning of the game.

Players can choose which world they wish to conquer at the start of each game (five were included with this copy), and each world possesses different strategies of play. That said, Space Plague definitely scores points for replayability from us.

While it was difficult to get into at first (remember all the rules questions I had), once I was able to truly learn the game it became so enjoyable, and everyone I have played with has thoroughly enjoyed it. If this is the style of game we can expect to come out of Colombia and Bamboo Studios in particular, I am very excited for the future and for the board game community as a whole. This one is a gem and I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you are looking for something a little kooky but with great art and super fun play, then it’s a no-brainer. Space Plague is a must-play at the very least.
  
Faza
Faza
2020 | Science Fiction
You know those fantasy dreams you have where an alien race comes to Earth and tries to take over the world and terraform it to match their homeland? Just me? Well, this is awkward. Okay, how about the ones where you are a freedom fighter trying to save the world from those aliens and you only have three friends to help you in your impossible mission? That one is better? Okay! Then you are in for a treat with Faza, no matter which dream is yours.

Faza is a sci-fi, grid movement, modular board, purely cooperative board game for one to four players. In this review I will be addressing it from a solo player’s viewpoint. In my plays I have used the full complement of four characters and controlled them all simultaneously.

In Faza, players take on the roles of four Faction Zeta members tasked with saving Earth from the Faza alien race. They will accomplish this by using each character’s skills effectively and efficiently, killing alien drones invading the town tiles, and attacking motherships using the help of turncoat rebel Faza. Only one path to victory lies ahead with several ways to lose. Do you got the GUTS? DO YA??

DISCLAIMER: We were provided a copy of this game for the purposes of this review. This is a retail copy of the game, so what you see in these photos is exactly what would be received in your box. I do not intend to cover every single rule included in the rulebook, but will describe the overall game flow and major rule set so that our readers may get a sense of how the game plays. For more in depth rules, you may purchase a copy online or from your FLGS. -T


To setup a game of Faza, each player will choose a character to control throughout the game. These characters are medical, political, tactical, or technological in nature, and there are two of each from which players may choose. The map of the town is comprised of 16 tiles, and once randomly setup in a 4×4 grid players will place their color-matched meeples on the appropriate Outpost tiles along with two rebels (purple fazeeples). Each of the three mothership standees will be placed on tiles corresponding to rulebook placement along with three drones and two drones per orthogonally adjacent tiles. The Faza deck is to be shuffled and placed aside, along with the remaining drones and rebels. Each player places out their character action cards in numerical order and the game may now begin in earnest!
On a player’s turn… well, there aren’t any turns in this game. In fact, the game is played over several phases: the Team Phase and the Faza Phase. During the Team Phase players may use several free actions and one action pertaining to each of their four player action cards. Each of these cards offer the player a choice of two actions. Perhaps one side is movement and the other a bazooka. Or one is an airplane while the other is a raygun, for example. As actions are spent cards are twisted 90 degrees to keep track.

During the Team Phase players may play their actions in any order that would benefit the team best. This also includes fighting drones and sending rebels to damage the motherships. However, with every damage to the mothership taken a Faza card is drawn and put into play. These could be real bad news for the heroes, or even reward cards. They can be devastating or not so bad at all. Once players have finished the Team Phase, the action now turns to the Faza.

During the Faza Phase the Mothership Activation Tracker will move to the next mothership in sequence and activate their abilities. The motherships will typically move, do something bad to the terrain or drop more drones or destroy something, and then pass play onto the players again.


Each mothership starts the game with 4 HP and once players send enough rebels and encounter the same number of Faza cards the mothership is downed and less powerful when their ability card is activated. However, players will win once all three motherships have been defeated! On the other hand, players will lose when any one player dies of injuries from unsuccessful battles, the players run out of drones to be placed on the board when needed, all of the Outpost tiles have been terraformed by the Faza motherships, or all rebels have been removed from the board in Hard Mode.
Components. When contacted about reviewing the game I first turned to the website and watched a how to play video by Jon Gets Games. He did a great job explaining the rules clearly and succinctly. Then I happened to get a notification on BGG that Marco Arnaudo posted a video on Faza, so I watched it as well. In his video he complains that though the components are all very nice (which they are for sure) the color palette is not great. I can certainly see why he would say such a thing, but orange is my favorite color, so to see so much of it on a game is a big plus for me. Yes, having the orange drones sitting atop an orange town tile can maybe make for unpleasant color contrast, I happen to find it tolerable and enjoyable. The quality of the components is wonderful and the box has a nice heft to it. No complaints from ME about the components. Did I mention the rebels are an amazing purple color as well? No secret here that we love the color purple! Maybe even more than Oprah!

The gameplay is where it’s at for me. Marco too. We both love this little gem! The ability to sandbox your entire turn and just have one character do one action, then switch over to another character to do one or more actions, then back to the original is just so much fun. Each character has a special ability and four action cards. Even when an injury must be sustained, actions are still available, but at a much lesser potency. That’s a great way to negatively affect the players without having to completely debilitate them. To sustain an injury the player will flip their lowest-numbered action card to the back side, and once all four of their action cards are injured they are dead. D-E-D dead.

As a solo game Faza really delivers the goods. Being able to control two to four characters by oneself and determine the best order to activate abilities and move meeples around is delicious. Having certain tiles offer combat bonuses to matching characters is excellent and a great way to thin the herd of pesky drones. I really cannot say enough great things about the game. If you have never heard of this one, please don’t worry. I really hadn’t either until the designer contacted me about reviewing it. And I am certainly glad he did because this is a marvel of a game. I am looking forward to my next play against the Faza and increasing the difficulty to really bash my confidence on this one.

If you are looking for a game that is relatively quick to play and offers so many great choices, while using a wonderful art style and color palette, I urge you to check out Faza by visiting the website and ordering your copy right away. The Earth needs you to ward off the invaders and you need to play this game of mostly orange with a dash of purple.
  
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Emma @ The Movies (1742 KP) rated Captain Marvel (2019) in Movies

Jun 22, 2019 (Updated Sep 25, 2019)  
Captain Marvel (2019)
Captain Marvel (2019)
2019 | Action, Adventure
Midnight screening... what was I thinking? Somehow I managed to stay awake in the cinema (others didn't fare so well), but I went in pretty pumped up. Not so much for the film but the overall atmosphere of a Marvel first screening. There were over 100 tickets pre-booked, and the cinema was certainly very busy. There's something about the buzz of an audience that big. I did try and hold a couple of conversations while I was there, they were not successful due to my brain's impaired state.

*sigh*

Let me just get this out now... I enjoyed this movie, but I also didn't like it. I know, what does that even mean? I'm going to waffle a bit and hopefully it'll become clear.

I don't have a lot of pre-knowledge about Captain Marvel, in fact, until the trailers started coming out I'd probably have asked if you meant Ms Marvel or Shazam. As always the similarities between characters and brand is a complete mess.

Brie Larson had some pretty big boots to fill as the MCU's first headlining female character. I feel a bit sorry for Black Widow to be honest, but this is probably a bit lighter than her offering would have been considering her background.

Watching the trailers for this I wasn't left wowed. Vers comes across as rather cocky and after seeing the film I don't think she needed to be that way. Part of me thinks that a difference actress would have played it better, but mainly I'm just happy that they didn't ruin it.

Samuel L. Jackson was a treat, but then when isn't he?! It was nice seeing this more light-hearted side of his character. It leaves us with a little gap in his history that makes me wonder what happened to him. As ever he's a great presence and shows us just a glimpse of what's to come (or rather what we've already seen) while still being funny.

Ben Mendelsohn has made a rather large splash over the last few years in big-ticket movies. Rogue One, Ready Player One, Robin Hood and now Captain Marvel. His character of Talos is comical and warm but I found it slightly strange hearing him with his normal accent. That seems even weirder when I write it down, I guess I'm just hardwired to expect most aliens to sound American! He's definitely my stand out actor in this, he handles the twists and turns of the story wonderfully and made for an incredible surprise. There was one moment with a terrible bit of script that made me cringe at the screen but everything else made up for it.

I probably need to say something about Jude Law, that something is going to be "meh". I'm not sure that I'm fuzzed by any of his roles historically, and this isn't really any different. He also suffered from a dubious bit of script near the end of the film that feels out of place, but I'll leave that one for you to contemplate on.

I know I've been a bit of a mix so far about Captain Marvel but there are a lot of things to like about this movie. In particular, Marvel have really nailed music on the head recently, Guardians Of The Galaxy (1 not 2) and Thor: Ragnarok being two of my favourites. There's that moment of joy when you hear those old tunes, a smile crept across my face for every one of them. It was a great selection and they fitted into place amongst the story so well.

Nostalgia value is high in this one. Ahh, Blockbuster, I do miss you. There are plenty of things to spot, I'm sure that someone has already created a bingo game to go along with it... or a drinking game, "cry into your drink uncontrollably when you see Stan Lee". We obviously knew he'd filmed some cameos before he moved on into his big ol' galaxy, it was lovely to see him smiling out at us. Not only was it a fun little cameo but Marvel also did something magical with those opening titles and it made me cry... don't judge me!! I didn't cry as much as I did during the credit tribute in Once Upon A Deadpool though.

I could keep waffling, I'm fully aware that I've gone on a lot longer than normal about this one. I'll try not to keep you too much longer.

Obviously they've used some artistic license with the characters from the comics, as they do. The Skrull minions are so close to the comics, I was a little dubious about them when they popped up but they're carbon copies. The main thing that I know they changed was Nick Fury's eye, this version is better than the comics. I'd be interested to know how SLJ felt about finally being able to play Fury with both his eyes.

De-aging was used again but with much heavier usage than we've seen before. It was a bold choice doing it on one of the main characters when he's got so much screen time but I'm glad they chose this over recasting him. There weren't any of the minor oddities that were visible during Ant-Man & The Wasp's use of it, it all looked quite natural. There's no denying that Coulson might be a little overdone but *squeeeeee* little Coulson is so adorable that I don't care!

I mentioned my issues with Vers in the trailers, that wasn't the only misgiving I had. There weren't as many as the "I'm never going to see this movie" crowd (you know you're going to see it, get ahold of yourselves) but there were a few.

We've been with this series for over 10 years, this film leads into the last film in the sequence... and now they're giving us a new character? That's what I have an issue with. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea that they're bringing in a female character to clear up the mess created by the (mainly) boy's club, it's art imitating life... I'm joking, partly... but I can't help feeling like this is more of a last minute add-on. Previous new additions have appeared in other films, they've been able to interact with characters. The whole way through we've been shown teamwork and camaraderie, and throwing Captain Marvel in at the last minute flies in the face of that. But if we'd had her around before this then we probably wouldn't have needed Endgame because there would have been no distractions from what needed to be done. (Before you start on me we see that for a fact, none of Thor and Starlord's nonsense.)

For all of my waffling about it feeling separate they have clearly tried to connect her to the existing MCU. There are links in there on multiple fronts which give you hints at other films, it's quite impressive that they managed to make this without it being filled with series continuity errors.

As my last parting comment I want to say that Goose was amazing. Sadly not so hot on the CGI, I did wonder at one point if he was going to jump up and dance Garfield-style at one point. Annoyingly I already knew some details about this fluffy character before seeing the film but it just left me with anticipation. I didn't think that Fury would be a cat person though.

What you should do

If you're a Marvel fan you're going to have to see it before Endgame, but quite frankly you should want to see it. You could skip it if you really want to... but do you want to risk it? No, I didn't think so.

REMEMBER: There are two credit scenes, one in the middle and one at the end.

Movie thing you wish you could take home

Of all the things I'd have to say Goose, that cute little floof would brighten my day as well as coming in handy for several reasons.
  
Tales from the Loop
Tales from the Loop
2020 | Sci-Fi
8
7.3 (3 Ratings)
TV Show Rating
Such is the competition for our attention on the major streaming services, and such is the daunting depth of choice, that sometimes something of real quality can slip through the net for a while. I like to think that eventually, everything gets the audience it deserves, because eventually enough people that appreciated it will find it and pass it on. But it is apparent that good things can go under the radar very easily for one reason or another.

Everything about the production and presentation of Amazon’s Tales From the Loop suggests they thought it might be a bigger hit, or at least they had enough faith in it to let it be different from the mass appeal conventions that apply to sci-fi shows. They have proved this many times in recent years, with shows like The Man In the High Castle and The Expanse favouring patient and mature story-telling over interminable flashbangs and whizzpops usually found in the more action based sci-fi on Netflix and others (The Handmaid’s Tale being another notable exception).

Having raised myself auto-didactically on the oldest traditions of science fiction writing in novel and short story form since my teenage years, I can say with some amateur authority that the point of using sci-fi ideas was always about the people and the parallels to social reality and politics that could be highlighted by putting them in a “what-if” situation. The lazer guns and spaceships and evil aliens were much more a product of Hollywood, and still are. Great science fiction writing can and usually does revolve around a very simple change to the world we know, an inversion or a convention or a technology that turns how we live on its head. At its best it is philosophical and moral poetry.

Tales From the Loop, inspired by the beguiling paintings of Swedish Artist Simon Stålenhag aspires to return to these principles, eschewing breakneck pace and unnecessary exposition at every turn – it is entirely content to confuse and sometimes even bore you with its patient, melancholy approach, testing almost if you are worthy to reach the prize of deeper meaning buried away in the final few episodes.

The idea of Stålenhag’s work is to juxtapose a familiar and mundane landscape with a detail of technology that does not exist in our reality. Often it is something broken, run-down or neglected, leaving a strange sadness and beauty behind that has you wondering who once made this and what was it for, and why is it no longer loved? The untold stories objects and hidden lives, secrets and desires that have been lost, is what this sensitive and delicate show is about. It is about the interconnection of lives caught in time, and the sci-fi / tech conceit is only the hanger that coat is put on. Which… I love.

The surface idea is that we are looking at the inhabitants of a small American town that once relied on farming and community, but now has been changed by the presence of an underground facility that deals with experimental physics and finding ways to make impossible things possible. They call it The Loop. It is never fully explained where it came from, or why, or what it is truly capable of – the mystery is always allowed to remain mostly a mystery – which, again, I love!

Many people in the town work at The Loop and rely on it for their livelihoods and collective economy, including Jonathon Pryce and Rebecca Hall, who are ostensibly the show’s main characters. But most folk have no idea what is really going on. Each episode focuses on one or two members of the community that interweave with one another; several important people begin as background dressing and become more prevalent as the full story of their lives and connections unfolds. But no one character is in every episode… which, you know, I love.

Their lives, that seem simple at first glance, are revealed to be complex tapestries of emotion and personal history, revolving around how The Loop has affected them and the things they love. The progression and unfolding of the detail is so deliberate and usually under-explained that very often you don’t realise the effect the full image will have. And when it does catch up with you it becomes a very moving and meaningful experience. Characters that you don’t understand or even like at first come into sharper focus as we reach the climax of the season and grow to learn why they are the way they are. The story arcs of Pryce and Hall in particular are very satisfying, tragic yet utterly beautiful to comprehend.

A lot of the criticism you will see about the show will concentrate on how slow it all is. I am totally convinced this is a deliberate artistic choice to weed out the thrill junkies. They are very welcome to go elsewhere, and it sounds as if many of them did, basing their reviews on one or two half watched episodes they couldn’t be bothered to engage with or wonder at. Which is why I think in time the respect for this as a work of art will come back around.

There is nothing to fault in the production at all. From the opening credits to the end of each episode, what you get is a very highly polished and considered look and feel, designed to evoke certain feelings over others – a wistfulness, an ennui, a bittersweet smile of knowing, perhaps. It invites you to watch patiently and relate, not to watch eagerly and expect… which, you know, I love.

The photography is crisp and well framed always; the music is subtle but effective; the dialogue is often sparing and well chosen (no detail is merely thrown away); and the direction is of a remarkably uniform vision, considering each episode is a different guest professional, including such prestigious names as Jodie Foster, Mark Romanek and Andrew Stanton.

I absolutely urge anyone that isn’t put off by a little sentiment to give this one a try. Sadness and regret in life is not something to shun and be afraid of, they are parts of human experience, and I love art that explores them as concepts. Put that art in a science fiction context and I am bound to love it even more. Like the final moments of Blade Runner, we know that one day all these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. We have to take time to see the beauty while we can, even if that beauty is painful.

It may not be for you – I don’t think it is better or worse than other things, just more… me. There is every chance that if it isn’t you… you will hate it. If you do begin, however, please see it to the finish before casting judgement – the final episode directed by Jodie Foster is truly wonderful: a pay-off of such emotion after your investment of seven previous stories, tying it all together perfectly. Rarely have I felt so stupid for not understanding the point of something sooner, or been more pleased that I hadn’t. The final moment of the season is literally unforgettable, and gets richer in my imagination by the day.

Will there be a second season? There certainly could be. Was it enough of a success to justify the investment? Hmm, not sure. Either way, it either sits as a perfect self contained collection of fine, old-fashioned sci-fi stories, or I’d be happy to see it expand, as long as the temptation isn’t to listen to the negative reviews and pander to the fast-food mentality that has already rejected it without fully understanding it. Because nothing needs to change here. A thing of beauty, recommended to those who like beautiful and delicate things.
  
Wonder Woman (2017)
Wonder Woman (2017)
2017 | Action, Fantasy, War
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman Chris Pine as Steve Trevor No Man's land sequence The score Girl Power F YEAH Steve and Diana's relationship (0 more)
Third act is a little generic Villians aren't as memorable as other DCEU villians (0 more)
"I can save today, you can save the world"
Remember when some trickster claiming to be a former worker from Warner Bros. wrote an open letter saying that Wonder Woman was just another mess of a DC movie, et cetera? I remember how Patty Jenkins responded to that. She tweeted: "Just wait and you'll see".

Honestly, I don't know how anyone could even consider that there was the slightest chance of this movie not being good, and I'm gonna tell you why: this is the very first big female-led superhero movie, in which the title character also happens to be the greatest female superhero in history. If you really think that Patty Jenkins, also the first woman to ever direct a superhero movie of this caliber in a industry where women barely stand any chances to get to direct major blockbusters, would let this movie be anything less than great... You've got another thing coming, mate.

Wonder Woman is a traditional, oldschool superhero movie, but the first essentially feminist one at it, and they couldn't have chosen a better setting to tell this story, or a better character to star in it. The movie's social comments are strong and constantly present, but never forced, because it is only natural: by placing Diana, a princess raised in an island of warrior women, in the middle of the reality of World War I, the absurdities of the feminine role in the world - and so many other human corruptions - automatically come to light. The way Diana reacts to this world raises a great sense of awareness, with a touch of poignant humor to it. There is a very funny subtle arc of her wanting to take out her cloak, but not being able to because her armor is "barely any clothes", hinting not only at society's sexist feminine dressing code - which is still a thing today -, but also gradually adding power to the iconography of Wonder Woman in full costume; this is Wonder Woman's much awaited debut on the big screen in a solo movie, and like Superman and Batman before her, her first appearance needed to be something incredibly striking. Patty knew that, Gal knew that, and they made it happen. Even if we already saw her in BVS, the very first time Wonder Woman walks up in full costume here is undoubtedly one of the most iconic moments in superhero cinema.


Jenkins is extremely devoted to giving Wonder Woman the iconic debut film she deserves, and she nails it - there's quite a bit of remarkable shots and set pieces that let out the same imagetic power as in Donner's Superman, Burton's Batman or even Raimi's Spider-Man, and I must highlight the No Man's Land sequence. It's my favorite part of the movie; Jenkins and Heinberg carefully work on Diana's mindset as she first witness the horrors of human war, not being able to help everyone, horses being hurt so they can move faster, a mother and a child begging for help, and it all leads up to the powerful moment of a woman crossing the land no man could cross - and Heinberg's dialogue doesn't rely on obvious statements such as "fortunately I'm a woman" (I'm looking at you, Batwoman trailer), it simply lets the image strike us, because it is powerful enough by itself, and boy did that cause some serious goosebumps.

Speaking of dialogue... It's so terrific, so well written. The exchanges between Diana and Steve Trevor are very clever and funny, but most of all natural. All the characters are also extremely likable; Allan Heinberg's writing knows that not all of them can be given deep development, but nonetheless he gives them stories, personalities and purposes, and that - plus the charismatic performances - makes them very empathetic. The villains are not as remarkable as in some of the other DCEU films, but they didn't need to be; the movie doesn't require in-depth arcs from its villains. They have a strong presence when they're in scene and a well elaborated lore, and that's everything they need.

Contrary to the Nordic mythology depicted in the MCU, here we are talking about real gods, true deities, not superpowerful aliens that only strike a similar image - and that also brings a few narrative dangers along with it, after all, it was in greek mythological stories that the concept of Deus Ex Machina first appeared. Heinberg's screenplay, though, makes a few clever twists in that mythology to avoid easy solutions, which adds to the storytelling, the world building and the developing of the themes as well. The lore surrounding the God of War Ares, for example, is not a simple Diabolus Ex Machina as "he influences men to war and if you kill him every man goes back to being good and everything's alright", no, it's more narratively complicated and socially engaging than that.

And Gal Gadot... I'm at a loss for words. I'll confess right here that when she was first announced as Wonder Woman, I was one of the few who were very opposed to that casting. I've never been so wrong in my life, and I've never been so happy about it. She really is Wonder Woman. She's so graceful and adorable, but a major badass when she needs to be. The way she moves, the way she curiously looks at things, the way she speaks, and the way she incarnates Diana's evolving from her naive beginnings to the wise warrior... She's not only an icon, she's a true hero. Comparisons to Christopher Reeve's Superman were made for good reasons.

Chris Pine is also great, he walks perfectly in the line between funny and serious, Steve Trevor is a darling character and his chemistry with Gal is on point. Their relationship is very well constructed and becomes highly emotional by the end - there are scenes that filled my heart with joy, and others that made it ache.

The action is exciting and full of originality, and I like how Jenkins uses slow-motion differently than Zack Snyder. I know that Snyder helped her direct some of the action sequences, which is understandable since Jenkins had no experience with this type of movie, but you can tell it's not the same. In the fights themselves, there's this feel of sensibility to how these people react to Diana, and it's slightly different from the typical "regular people react to superhumans among them" trope. The cinematography is very keen on portraying the difference between Themyscira - an island of colors and natural beauty - and "jolly ol' London" - desaturated and smoggy, a scenario in which Diana's colorful armor shines in a most beautiful contrast.

And the soundtrack. Rupert Gregson-Williams made a beautiful score that brings out the best in every scene. It's heroic, very heartfelt, and loyal to the foundations of what makes superhero music so memorable. Gregson-Williams adds new themes to compose Wonder Woman's musical identity, but Hans Zimmer's main theme from BVS still lives, and it plays in some heart-pounding scenes. I love that they're dedicating that much attention to the musical continuity, because amongst Marvel's many qualities, they're doing a lousy job in that area. Wonder Woman's theme is the most catchy superhero theme in a long time, it quickly gained a lot of appreciation and by continuing on using it, Gregson-Williams collaborates to making Wonder Woman the strong cinematic icon she's setting out to be.

The irregular reception of previous DCEU movies also extols the impact of Wonder Woman, as do the distinct styles between the films. One of the DCEU's biggest virtues is that singularity of each film; be it a near disaster movie epic such as Man Of Steel, a complex deconstruction of heroic values such as Batman v Superman, an stylish chaos such as Suicide Squad or a traditional, graceful superhero film such as Wonder Woman, these movies are all in the same universe, and that very fact is an example of its richness. A lot of people will think Wonder Woman is the best DCEU movie of the lot, some will stick to BVS, others to MOS, maybe for some it's Shazam, but that's the fun of it: we can discuss this forever. Each of these movies mean different things to different people, we're way past simply labelling one as "better" and the other as "worse".

Wonder Woman, however, is not simply a movie about a very strong woman. It's an achievement for every woman. There were tons of girls dressed up as Wonder Woman in the theater, and just seeing how ecstatic they were after the movie brought me joy. There were tons of applause. It's a mark. Be that as it may, Wonder Woman will be remembered as the most impactful superhero film of its time. In 1978, Superman showed to the world how a man could fly; in 2017, Wonder Woman showed to the world how a woman can fight.
  
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Christopher Kirk (1768 KP) rated The Mandalorian in TV

Jan 22, 2021 (Updated Jan 22, 2021)  
The Mandalorian
The Mandalorian
2019 | Sci-Fi
Being a child of Star Wars, born in ’73, whose first memory of a cinema was A New Hope in ’77, of course the entire franchise is still close to my heart. I am no superfan, however. I do not need to remember every name of every character, or know the obscure names of planets to enjoy it. I remember that deeply competitive nature back in the playground – how important it was to prove Star Wars was yours by knowing more than any other kid! Fortunately I managed to let that go shortly after The Return of the Jedi. Ok, maybe 1995.

The Mandalorian is definitely for all Star Wars fans, but it is mostly for the kids that never grew up and need those details of “the canonical Star Wars” universe in their lives. And there are plenty of them. It is a geek’s wet dream! With chat rooms and fan sites going wild in debate and argument over the smallest of Easter eggs and hints to connections across the medium. As if this is a lost historical document that sheds light on the truth of many characters and events, that until now were shrouded in darkness and speculation only.

I find that phenomenon weird and a little creepy, but I do appreciate where it comes from. For me, I am merely glad it isn’t crap. It is nice to be in the Star Wars universe without holding your face in your hands for shame of lazy storytelling and moments that shit on the spirit of the original trilogy. The first thing that pleased me about The Mandolorian is how close it is in feel to the old school trilogy. In fact it surprised me, because, despite the very modern effects and full budget of Disney behind it, it feels very old fashioned, like a TV show from around 1986, maybe. And I wonder how they have achieved that every time I watch it. It has an intangible magic about it.

In fact, the feel of the show as a whole is often a little cheap, shockingly – the posters and toys and all associated media is as glossy and crisp as all money can afford, creating an image of the show that isn’t actually what the show is. In reality it is a cross between old spaghetti westerns, with The Mandalorian cast as The Man With No Name, and episodes of The A-Team or Knightrider. I kinda like it; very nostalgic, and a smart move by Jon Favreau and the other show-runners. It appeals to middle aged audiences and new alike, because it is a knowing hybrid of all things cool and nerdy!

Design-wise, the look of The Mandalorian himself is perfect fan bait and very cool. The music goes a long way to drawing you in – Ludwig Göransson, known for his work on Black Panther and Tenet, has hit on a career defining theme that blends Clint Eastwood and Star Wars in perfect harmony. I can’t imagine the show working half as well without that theme music! The spaceships and detail of every alien and weapon and costume is meticulous (if at times a little wobbly or cheap looking), and the wider feel of background and tertiary characters is pretty damn good.

But, let’s face it… The Mandalorian is the success it has been predominantly for one reason. I could give him his real name, but if you haven’t finished it yet that would count as a huge spoiler, so I will refer to him as The Child. The temptation to use the phrase Baby Yoda is hard to resist, and has been a cultural phenomenon that only comes along once or twice in a decade, but on this I agree with the fans: it is inaccurate and misleading. The Child is fine. It’ll do until you learn his true moniker.

In season one, where the build up of story, character and mystery is superb, we see very little of The Child at first. But we cannot take our eyes off him for every second he is on screen. The whole concept is so beyond cute and incredibly strong as a hook for a Star Wars story it is almost impossible not to squeal out loud at everything he does. Who is he? Why is he? What is he capable of? How will he fit in to the longterm idea for the story? So exciting, and total genius to keep everyone watching.

It isn’t all about The Child on his own though. It is about the unlikely symbiotic bond, like father and son, that develops between the tiny, vulnerable and childlike focal point, and the increasingly confident and loyal antihero, who will stop at nothing to protect his ward, as he struggles to find his own place in the universe. After a very short time, we care more about this relationship than 90% of all romances in all of TV history.

Through danger, mayhem and a touch of comedy, we grow to adore the two of them together, and can’t bear to think of them being apart. Some trick when you realise The Child is as much a mini-muppet style prosthetic as it is added CGI for expression and detail. Perhaps another callback to our 80s sensibilities, when we accepted ETs and Gremlins and all of the residents of Mos Eisley’s cantina as real without hesitation. It doesn’t have to look real, is the point, as long as it fits the story, is cool and is fun! Which The Child totally is – for entertainment value they have got the tone of the show so right.

What doesn’t hold up that strongly to critical scrutiny though is quite a lot of the scripts, the repetitive nature of the context of many episodes and missions the duo find themselves on, the mismatch quality of the guest directors abilities, and quite a lot of the dodgy acting by supporting characters. It’s as if at some production meeting at one early point they all said, look it’s Star Wars, we make the aliens and the spaceships and the weapons look good and we can’t fail… plus we have The Child and Boba Fett’s (yes, I know) armour, we can’t fail!

The basic storyline is enough to hook it on, just about, it is the detail that sometimes feels weak and lazy. But don’t worry, any minute something cool to look at and a big fight will happen, so we’re all good! I’m sure Pedro Pascal (the actor under the armour) can’t believe his luck! He is one of the biggest stars in TV all of a sudden, for basically doing a fairly monotone voice-over performance of some seriously dodgy dialogue. That is the magic of Star Wars.

So, I came to season one late, having no access at that time to Disney plus. In fact, I watched all of season one in a day the day before the launch of season two, so the switch to a new episode to look forward to suited me well. It gave me something to look forward to on a Friday between Halloween and Christmas. Trouble was that, although still having fun with the exploits of The Kid, I was starting to weary of the plotlines, and put my viewing on hold after S2E4 in favour of the far superior scripting of His Dark Materials on BBC.

I must have needed the hiatus, because when I came back to mop it up and finish season two a few days ago I realised that I had in fact missed it. It also helped that episode 5 onwards is when the season gets really good again. Rosario Dawson as Ashoka Tano (known well by fans of The Clone Wars) was a truly great addition that the show much needed by that point.

I had no trouble after that in bingeing to the end. You could feel a climax and a revelation coming, and although the character of Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) crumbled disappointly away into nothing much, the last 15 minutes of the final episode had me slack jawed in fan wonderment. I felt 9 years old again, and I loved it! I had been amazingly lucky not to stumble upon spoilers, I guess. Amazing ending, and all faults forgiven for that unforgettable moment and feel. Wonderful stuff!

To say any more, again, is to spoil. So, let’s just talk about it privately, or, you know, in about a year when season 3 is over and it is old news. Hmmm, season 3…? I wonder where they will take that now…? Actually, properly exciting, in a back in the playground kind of way.
  
Those Bones Are Not My Child
Those Bones Are Not My Child
Toni Cade Bambara | 1999 | Crime, Mystery, Thriller
8
8.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
A different type of True Crime book (1 more)
Things you probably didn't know about the case
Writing transitions are confusing (1 more)
Smash poetry breaks up the flow
Toni Cade Bambara, a writer, documentary filmmaker and screenwriter, gives True Crime readers a unique viewpoint of the real Atlanta Child Murders. Bambara mostly writes from the eyes of Marzala, a mother of three whose oldest son goes missing during one of the worst murder sprees in Atlanta's history. Marzala and her family were not actual people during this time- - - all of them are based off of parents and siblings of the real victims. Not soon after Marzala does everything she can with the police to find her son, she joins a group of African-Americans that are outraged by the lack of progress to catch who is killing Atlanta's black children. This group forms what is called STOP (a citizen-run task force). For the majority of the book, Marzala with most of the black community in the area typed out letters to prominent government officials asking for help to stop the murders, also using Vietnam vets in the area to use their tracking skills to keep an eye on suspects, and investigating buildings that police refused to believe had anything to do with the childrens' disappearances and/or murders, which Bambara did an amazing job putting all the real facts together of the actual community members that were involved with this at the time. This story is upsetting, but enlightening on how politics may have caused so many children to be murdered. This is a story no reader will ever forget.

 

Bambara writes not in a normal narrative - - - just telling a story from specific viewpoints, but she often breaks off into smash poetry to depict a character's state-of-mind, which, sometimes can be off putting for the reader, breaking the flow of the story. Yet, the use of smash poetry combined with the era and the heart breaking subject at hand, separates Those Bones Are Not My Child from every True Crime book I have ever read. But a note for fans of True Crime, this story is from the view point of the victims' families and the search they went through to try and catch the murderer(s), unlike most TC books, which follow the police through the investigation leading to, usually, the capture of the perpetrator. From living in Atlanta during the time of the murders, Bambara was able to reconstruct the life of a black family in 1980's Georgia, while focusing on the effect these terrible crimes had on the surrounding community. Bambara did an amazing job on what most writers cannot.

 

The amount of characters, specifically the fictional ones, are very well created. She describes just enough to give readers the ability to tell them apart, showing every now and then from their own viewpoints. Out of all the characters, I came to really like Zala's two other children: Kenti and Kofi. One particular scene shows the strain of Sonny's disappearance on their family: " Zala parked the comb again and sat back. 'Listen, you two.' Kofi dropped down onto his knees. 'The police and the newspapers don't know what the hell is going on, so they feel stupid, because they're supposed to know, they're trained to know, they're paid to know. It's their job. Understand? But it's hard for grown-ups to admit they're stupid, especially if they're professionals like police and reporters. So they blame the children. Or they ignore them and fill up the papers with the hostages in Iran. Understand? And now... Jesus... they've got people calling those kids juvenile delinquents.'

'Don't cry.' Kenti tried to lean into her lap and got pushed away.

'They don't know a damn thing and they act like they don't want to know. So they blame the kids 'cause they can't speak up for themselves. They say the kids had no business being outdoors, getting themselves in trouble.'

'You let us go outdoors.'

'Of course I do, baby. We go lots of places, 'cause a lot of people fought hard for our right to go any damn where we please. But when the children go out like they've a right to and some maniac grabs them, then it's the children's fault or the parents who should've been watching every minute, like we don't have to work like dogs just to put food on the table.'

Kofi walked on his knees towards the bed, but he didn't lean on her like he wanted 'cause she might push him away. So he just put his hand on the mattress next to hers."

 

During the Atlanta Child Murders, victims were random, except for that they were children from the same neighborhood, and they were African-American. At first, police didn't believe a serial murderer was going around abducting children, but rather that 'poor, broken' families were killing their own. In the Prologue, Bambara shows that the victims' families and private detectives came up with more ideas of the motive than the police did:

" White cops taking license in Black neighborhoods.

The Klan and other Nazi thugs on the rampage.

Diabolical scientists experimenting on Third World people.

Demonic cults engaging in human sacrifices.

A 'Nam vet unable to make the transition.

UFO aliens conducting exploratory surgery.

Whites avenging Dewey Baugus, a white youth beaten to death in spring '79, allegedly by Black youths.

Parents of a raped child running amok with 'justice.'

Porno filmmakers doing snuff flicks for entertainment.

A band of child molesters covering their tracks.

New drug forces killing the young (unwitting?) couriers of the old in a bid for turf.

Unreconstructed peckerwoods trying to topple the Black administration.

Plantation kidnappers of slave labor issuing the pink slip.

White mercenaries using Black targets to train death squadrons for overseas jobs and for domestic wars to come. "

 

All of these theories are explored with evidence in Those Bones Are Not My Child. One scene in Part III, Zala's cop friend, B.J. shows up to her house to tell her to stop bringing attention to the investigation, " 'That Eubanks woman - - - your husband's friend? - - - she said you were bringing in the TV networks to blow the case open. I thought we had an agreement to keep each other informed. This morning I find out through the grapevine that you parents got a medium stashed in a hotel here in town, some woman who's been making headlines up north with cases that supposedly have the authorities stumped. If you knew how much work has been done on this case - - - no, listen, don't interrupt me. Then I find out - - - and not from you - - - that some of you parents are planning to tour the country cracking on the investigation. That's not too smart. And you should have told me.' " These two may have been fictional characters, but in Bambara's Acknowledgments, she states that all scenarios were true, and that she made B.J. to tell about the actual police officers who were involved with the investigation.

 

The tension between the police and the public is felt throughout the entire story. Despite all of the work the citizen task force put in, police arrested a man named Wayne Williams for the murder of two adult victims (who, due to their mental age, which was stated to be that of children, were placed on the victims' list of the Atlanta Child Murders): " Wayne Williams, charged with the murder of twenty-seven-year-old Nathaniel Cater and implicated in the murder of the other adults and children on the official list..." Zala, having worked for almost a year at the STOP offices, she, along with most of the community, doubt that Williams was a lone killer or even the killer at all. Williams never stood trial for the childrens' murders, but the police informed the public that he did it, case closed - - - although, after Williams' arrest, children were still being abducted and their bodies were still being found. Even after Williams' trial and the guilty verdict for two adult victims, some people stuck around to continue to investigate and claim Williams a 'scapegoat' of politics: " There were still pockets of interest and people who wouldn't let the case go. James Baldwin had been coming to town off and on; a book was rumored. Sondra O'Neale, the Emory University professor, hadn't abandoned her research, either. From time to time, TV and movie types were in the city poking around for an angle. Camille Bell was moving to Tallahassee to write up the case from the point of view of the STOP committee. The vets had taken over The Call now that Speaker was working full-time with the Central American Committee. The Revolutionary Communist Party kept running pieces on the case in the Revolutionary Worker. Whenever Abby Mann sent down a point man for his proposed TV docudrama, the Atlanta officials and civil rights leaders would go off the deep end. " At the end of it all, the questions still remain: did Williams kill all of those children by himself? Was he part of a pornographic cult that killed the children? Or is Williams completely innocent, and the murderer(s) are still out there? In Those Bones Are Not My Child, I guarantee you will be left questioning if the police were right.

 

All in all, the writing transitions can become confusing sometimes, especially the interludes of smash poetry, but I highly recommend this book to people who like the True Crime genre, especially of any interest in this specific case.