Everyone deserves love. If this ends up being Wynonna Earp‘s final legacy, then it’s a fitting one for a show that moved the needle on queer representation on TV and always had an immense degree of empathy for its characters, even and perhaps especially when those characters got things wrong. In a pop culture that still skews heavily towards glorifying performances of White, male stoicism, Wynonna Earp has always been unapologetic about granting its sloppy, sentimental characters grace.
Messy women don’t often get the benefit of the doubt in culture, popular or otherwise. We’re scorned, doubted, and belittled. Asked to stay quiet, to do the emotional labor for boys and men, and to give our own socialized performance of perfection while we do so. Wynonna Earp doesn’t just make space for the messiness of women; it revels in it. It celebrates it. It has fun with it. Too often, when discussing the need for better representation and inclusivity in our pop culture, we’re given a false binary: that something can either be “politically correct” or it can be fun. This is usually a bad faith argument. Just because something isn’t (fun) for you, doesn’t mean it isn’t (fun) for someone. Wynonna Earp has made its mark by understanding that just because something is pleasurable for women, doesn’t mean it isn’t important—in fact, in a culture and media that so rigidly polices women’s pleasure, that’s exactly why it’s important.
“Everyone deserves love,” Waverly tells silk-witch Brigitte in “Old Souls,” the maybe-finale (🤞) of the series and the definite finale of Season 4, and she may be talking about the murderous jilted bride, but she’s really talking about every character on this batshit wonderful show. Waverly has long been the heart of this series because she’s long been Wynonna’s heart—a manifestation of the goodness of the world Wynonna is tasked with protecting. In “Old Souls,” Waverly asks Wynonna to try to find that goodness in herself (you know, after they successfully murder the haunted wedding dress). Because how exhausting it must be to constantly fight to save a home that you believe you have no place in. “Do you want to go?” Waverly asks Wynonna about Doc’s invitation to travel the country together. “I want to protect you,” Wynonna replies.
If you’ve been socialized as a woman in this society, then odds are you are better at advocating for others than you are at advocating for yourself—you’re better at protecting others than you are at protecting yourself. We’ve seen the toll this mindset has taken on Wynonna, especially this past half-season. She’s bitter, and sad, and oh-so-tired. She’s lonely, too. She’s made a place for herself—alone—in her job as the heir, the protector, because she doesn’t think she has any right to ask for what she wants. No one ever taught her how. Waverly is there to remind Wynonna that she does have a right to ask for what she wants… if she only lets herself believe that she deserves it. So Wynonna stops fighting solely for other people, and she starts fighting for herself too. She lets herself believe that she deserves happiness (spurred on by the support of her loved ones), and she throws on her leather jacket, hops on the back of a motorcycle, and she goes to find it. Because, on Wynonna Earp, everyone deserves love—in whatever form(s) it may take—and that shouldn’t be as goddamn radical as it is, but here we are.
Rachel deserves love. She deserves the space to heal and thrive. She deserves to enjoy being a kid again, after losing her mother and having to fend for herself in a factory full of zombies. After being Nicole’s family for a hard year and a half, dressing in Wynonna’s clothes and trying to distract Nicole from looking towards the horizon for the woman she loves and lost. She deserves to go fishing with Nedley, and to take Billy along too, after fighting so damn hard to remind everyone else to save him. She deserves the chance to prove Wynonna wrong about Purgatory, and what kind of home it can be. She deserves to sing for her family, and to call it what it is: a gift.
Nedley deserves love. He deserves to see Nicole continue to grow into the role he left behind for her, and to walk her down the aisle—because just because he isn’t her biological parent doesn’t mean he isn’t her dad. Nedley deserves to binge-watch Pretty Little Liars and any other “guilty pleasure” TV show he damn well pleases (because it knows there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure—only the things that society tries to shame us for loving). He deserves to run Shorty’s for the business, sure, but really as an excuse to help take care of the town that takes care of him in return.
Jeremy deserves love, even if the show has not always known how to give it to him. (If there is one thing Wynonna Earp has consistently struggled with, it is finding space for its characters of color in a very White world and story.) He deserves a chance to run an institution like Black Badge with community and hope rather than hierarchy and violence (and to maybe find a deeper piece with what happened to Robin). After everything he has lost, I love that—just like Wynonna—when Jeremy meets someone he likes, he is still able to choose vulnerability.
Doc deserves love. He deserved the chance to turn from a cowboy into a cowman—because he took accountability for his actions and strove to be a better human. I love that Doc’s redemption has been found in loving and caring and nurturing (himself and others) rather than in the killing that got him thrown into a well to begin with. I love that this series never believed that, just because Doc was from long ago, he had to be filled with “period appropriate” hate. Instead, it believed that Doc would love as hard any anyone else, and that he would be the one to stand next to Waverly Earp at her wedding. Doc saw the goodness in Wynonna, even when she couldn’t see it in herself, and he also understood that the path to loving ourselves is one we must all take for ourselves. “Yes vengeance drove my thinking—kept my alive, gave me a purpose. But when it was dark and I was scared—and I have been scared for a long time, Wynonna—I mostly thought about love.”
Nicole deserves love. She deserves a chance to be chosen by the home she chose for herself again and again, something she has found with the Earps and in the sheriff’s office. Nicole deserves infinite peace and happiness, even if that isn’t really a thing. After 18 months losing hope, she deserves to wake up to it next to her every morning. She deserves to be at home with her wife, going on all of life’s adventures and holding her hand when the firelight grows dim.
Waverly deserves love, and she is that rare TV character who has almost always understood that. She is a superhero not because of her angel father, but because she has always found a way to be ferociously kind. Waverly Earp is Wynonna’s whole damn heart, and she kept it safe when her sister couldn’t, but that’s no way to live, and Waverly knows that too. “My biggest fear used to be that you’d never come back. That you’d never get to know the real me. But now I know you always will, Wynonna.” Waverly’s greatest wish came true when she got her sister back in the series pilot; everything that’s happened after that has been dreams she never even thought to wish for.
Wynonna deserves love. She deserves to be the hero of her own story. She deserves to ride off into the sunset with the man she loves, and her sister and best friend only a phone call away. She deserves to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and how Alice is doing. She deserves, finally, to travel light.
Everybody deserves love. We all deserve to see ourselves represented in the pop culture we love—and not just in sad subplots with tragic endings. (See, other TV shows, it’s actually quite easy not to bury your gays.) If this really is the end, then I think I will remember Wynonna Earp for the way it loves its characters and wants good things for them (even while putting them through tons of delicious angst and misery for narrative purposes). I will remember it for how it unapologetically believes that (queer) women deserve pleasure, deserve fun, deserve messy heroes, deserve love. It’s hard to believe this show has only had four seasons. Its legacy feels so much bigger than that.
Goodbye, Wynonna Earp. Until we meet again…
We now know that hit animated sci-fi sitcom comedy Rick and Mortywill be coming back for a fifth season in just a few months. But maybe that’s not soon enough for you. Maybe you need more Rick and Morty right now. Perhaps you just unsealed your very last packet of coveted szechuan sauce and yet you find yourself still unfulfilled! Your Funko POP! Rick sitting on a toilet just isn’t doing it for you anymore! You need official merch autographed by the cast and crew! You need to be drowning in Rick and Morty goods!
Well, therapy is expensive, but, luckily, trading cards are more reasonably priced and Cryptozoic Entertainment has published three seasons worth of Rick and Morty trading cards to fill that emptiness you feel inside! The base cards display iconic moments from the series, but there are also rarer autograph cards signed by the voice actors, who often add little notes or dialogue written from the perspective of their characters (from the main cast to alternate multiverse versions of the main cast to more obscure one-off characters). Also cool are the sketch cards which feature original Rick and Morty artwork drawn by a huge number of different artists. For season three, Cryptozoic added Final Cut Memorabilia Cards, which contain authentic pieces of Justin Roiland’s copy of the episode script for “Rickmancing the Stone.”
We’re going to list some of the best cards available from this series so far and then you can, to quote Rick in “Never Ricking Morty,” fulfill your purpose in life “to buy and consume merchandise.” So, read on! “Look straight into the bleeding jaws of capitalism and say ‘Yes, daddy, please!’”
From Rick to Morty to Mr. Poopybutthole to alternate dimension versions of Rick and Morty, Justin Roiland voices a whole lot of characters on Rick and Morty, so there’s loads of trading cards with his autograph on them. But this Mr. Meeseeks card is a definite standout. Mr. Meeseeks is one of the breakout side characters of the first season and a fan favorite; people are always asking for new episodes featuring more Meeseeks. Plus, in addition to Justin’s signature, you get this lovely message from the series co-creator and voice actor about how he’s slacking off and signing trading cards instead of making the show! So that’s why it takes so long for new seasons to come out.
Perhaps you recall the Eyehole Man from season two’s “Interdimensional Cable 2: Tempting Fate,” who claimed he was the only one allowed to have eyeholes. Luckily for the fans, this card completely disregards the Eyehole Man’s warning and lets you get your mitts on these delicious eyeholes that melt in your mouth (Rick’s words, not ours).
There’s the aforementioned real script memorabilia available in the season three card sets, but these “Totally Fabricated” cards from season two poke fun at the memorabilia concept by giving you “real” bits of stuff pulled from the series. How did these objects make the jump from a cartoon to the real world? It’s too complicated to explain, but you can bet it’s a real magical and scientific process, Morty. Just be careful with this one because if the Eyehole Man finds out you have it he will absolutely come to your house and beat the crap out of you.
Moving on to the real real memorabilia, here’s an authentic piece of the season three script for “Rickmancing the Stone.” There are other Final Cut Memorabilia Cards with more text on them, sure, but we have to go with this line from Hemorrhage (the Mad Maxdude who gets married to Summer for a bit) as the best just because of how thoroughly bizarre it looks without any context. You can frame it, put it up on your wall, and then try to explain it to your parents!
The Sketch cards in these sets are so self-evidently awesome, it’s tough to pick which ones are best. However, we feel the most interesting ones reimagine the Rick and Morty multiverse in a very different style and these cards by comic artist Kevin Sharpe do that brilliantly. The image above is actually made up of six cards put together to create this selfie of the Smith family, looking a fair bit more realistic than they usually do. This card is from season one, which you can tell from poor, forgotten Snuffles being yanked into another dimension in the background, referencing the episode “Lawnmower Dog.”
We couldn’t very well do a list like this without including something with Pickle Rick on it, now could we? Unsurprisingly, there’s a number of season three cards emblazoned with the enduring visage of Pickle Rick, but this Sketch card by Stephen Burch is the coolest of the bunch. Depicting the beloved pickle man in one of his more evolved forms, i.e., adorned with rat body parts, the thick outlines on this one give it a cool comic book look. Pickle Rick in this cool action pose, covered in blood and rat viscera, having just leapt out of a toilet, makes this card equal parts kick-ass and gross, much like the episode that inspired it!
As its blood-splattered title card makes clear, Amazon Prime’s Invincible is quite a bit more intense than other animated superhero shows.
Adapted from Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker’s comic series of the same name, Invincible takes place in a stylized, yet realistic world where superpowered punches have real consequences. It’s rare that an episode goes by without our titular young hero getting drenched in blood, whether it be his own or some poor villain’s.
Despite Invincible’s commitment to the violent bit, however, the show still does have quite a bit in common with its more all-ages animated peers. The series animation from Wind Sun Sky Animation studio is based off of comic illustrator Ryan Ottley’s art but it also harkens back to a golden era of superhero animation.
The character designs, with chiseled jaws, chunky limbs, and very deliberate movements is highly reminiscent of ‘90s Warner Bros. Animation classics like Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and Justice League. And just like those earlier series, each episode of Invincible thus far has proven dedicated to introducing interesting and novel villains for its hero to confront.
There’s an old adage about superhero stories that a hero is only as good as its villain. That might be oversimplifying things a bit as Batman, Superman, Invincible, and the like are all pretty interesting figures on their own. Still, the animated series surrounding these heroes always know how to put a compelling villain to good use. Batman: The Animated Series in particular built up the Caped Crusader’s impressive rogue’s gallery and each new episode was a treat for viewers in guessing which villain would take center stage. In fact, the all-time best episodes of that series were often great due to the deployment of its villains, like in the beloved Mr. Freeze installment “Hear to Ice.”
While Invincible is only five episodes into what will hopefully be a long run, the series has already proven to be particularly adept at introducing colorful villains to challenge Mark Grayson as he trains to be a superhero. Now that we’ve crossed the halfway point of Invincible’s eight-episode first season, let’s take some time to examine the young hero’s rogues’ gallery.
The Mauler Twins, voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson, are the very first villains introduced in Invincible. The Guardians of the Globe (R.I.P.) are able to put a halt to their assault on the White House, but not before the twins reveal their awesome strength. The Mauler Twins are an unusual combination of brains and brawn. First we see heavy machine gun fire bounce off of them like pebbles and then they embark on a very brainy mission for none other than Robot (Zachary Quinto).
The Mauler Twins are a consistent presence in the comic and their dynamic only works because neither of them knows who is the original and who is the clone. Their inclusion on the list is cheating a bit because Mark hasn’t crossed paths with them yet but he is sure to soon.
Titan, voiced by Academy Award winning actor Mahershala Ali, is the first great example of how Invincible will allow its villains to recur and evolve like Batman: The Animated Series’ baddies. Titan first pops up in episode 1, then he is essentially the main character of episode 5. There is quite a lot of depth to this rock-man as he tricks Mark into helping his criminal underworld coup, but he also seems to really believe he can make his city a safer, more equitable place.
Kill Cannon (Fred Tatasciore) is an extremely minor villain in the Invincible comic. He first appeared as Atom Eve’s nemesis in her standalone comic before making his proper series debut in Issue #58. Kill Cannon arrives in the Amazon series much earlier and has already popped up again as a recurring villain. He seems to fulfill the role of a particularly easy training dummy for Mark to take care of. Unfortunately, all the other villains won’t be as simple.
The Flaxans, an aliens species from another dimension, are the first baddies to really test Mark. Their lifespans are short in Earth’s timeline, but they are also tremendously capable of learning from their mistakes. Led by the hateful “Slash” (voiced by Richardson), the Flaxans embark on three increasingly successful invasions. Omni-Man appears to have wiped out their society for now but all it will take to rebuild is a handful of dedicated Flaxans.
Every superhero story needs a good old-fashioned mustache-twirler and Doc Seismic (voiced by Chris Diamantopoulos) fits the bill here…despite having no mustache or even hair to speak of. Through his advanced weaponry and seismological knowledge, Doc Seismic is able to manipulate the earth around him. In our first introduction to him, he puts these powers to a surprisingly progressive use by attempting to blow up Mt. Rushmore and its depiction of “oppressors.”
The Doc did his undergraduate in sociology and women’s studies, with a minor in African dance as it turns out. Invincible and Atom Eve are able to dispatch him ease and he appears to fall to his fiery death. Of course, these kinds of villains normally don’t go down that easy, so it’s safe to expect seeing him again.
Roarface is an entirely new creation for the Invincible TV series and she gets only a very brief bit of screentime in episode 5. According to Amazon’s helpful episode trivia feature, Roarface was developed by comic illustrator Cory Walker and the collar she wears prevents her entire body from becoming a werewolf. Only her head succumbs to lycanthropy.
Every superhero story needs a Wilson Fisk-style underworld crime boss figure. Invincible has one, it just so happens that his head is a machine, leading to the brilliant nickname Machine Head (voiced by Jeffrey Donovan). This villain loves Italian maple and is eventually usurped by Titan then arrested by Cecil Stedman. Machine Heads teleporting partner is named Isotope.
Oh yeah, now we’re talking. Battle Beast is a fan favorite of Invincible comic readers and TV viewers may now have a better sense of why. Battle Beast (voiced by Michael Dorn) isn’t so much an enemy to Mark Grayson as he is an enemy to everyone who crosses his path.
As his name suggests, this beast is really about battling. His real name is Thokk and he travels the universe looking for worthy foes to fight. Machine Head was able to lure him to Earth with the promise of a real competition. Unfortunately, he found Mark Grayson and the new Guardians of the Globe extremely wanting in this regard.
“This battle is beneath me. There is no honor in killing insects,” Thokk mutters before peacing out. Rest assured that Battle Beast will be returning to this series at some point…preferably once Mark has leveled up quite a bit.
The other villains who battle alongside Battle Beast in episode 5 are unrelated mercenaries who all fight on Machine Head’s time. They are: Furnace, Kursk, Magmaniac, and Tether Tyrant. The comics has a sixth villain involved in this battle named Magnattack, but Amazon’s episode notes indicate that production couldn’t fit him in.
Invincible streams every Friday on Amazon Prime.
The post From Battle Beast to Titan, The Invincible Rogues’ Gallery is Taking Shape appeared first on Den of Geek.
This article contains The Falcon and the Winter Soldier spoilers for episode 4, and potentially future episodes and the wider MCU.
That sure was a grisly ending to an otherwise slow boil of an episode, wasn’t it? The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 4 is heavy on the philosophizing and mostly light on the action…until the end. And while there aren’t as many in-your-face Marvel Comics and MCU references as we’ve come to expect from these Disney+ shows, the events and the weighty dialogue are all steeped in Marvel history.
Here’s what we found…
The title of episode 4, “The Whole World Is Watching”, is a phrase thought to have originated at Civil Rights events in the 50s, but that came to prominence at the 1968 Democratic National Convention when anti-Vietnam War demonstrators were beaten and arrested by cops outside the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago, a point in US history recently depicted in Aaron Sorkin’s Netflix film, The Trial of the Chicago 7. “The whole world is watching” has been publicly chanted by other groups of activists since.
In the closing moments of this episode, we see John Walker savagely murder one of the Flag-Smasher activists while being filmed by a crowd of onlookers. The whole world has been watching the Flag-Smashers escalate their cause, and now the world is watching Walker go postal.
We wrote about this moment and it significance in more detail here.
Nico, who admits with some embarrassment that he used to be a Captain America fan, ends up getting brutally killed by Captain America. A firmly ironic yikes. But he’s not the first Cap fan to die for some much-needed plot momentum in the MCU – Clark Gregg’s Cap enthusiast Agent Coulson also took one for the team in The Avengers.
The post The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 4: Marvel and MCU Easter Eggs Guide appeared first on Den of Geek.
This article contains The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 4 spoilers.
From the moment he was first introduced, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has been drawing very clear distinctions between how Wyatt Russell’s John Walker approaches being Captain America compared to Steve Rogers. While he only appeared for a brief moment at the end of the first episode, one detail that immediately stood out was the semi-automatic pistol prominently displayed on his hip. It makes sense, of course, Walker is already a much more seasoned and battle-hardened soldier than Steve Rogers was when he first put on the costume, and without the super soldier serum coursing through his veins, he needs every advantage he can get in combat situations.
And despite the charismatic rollout Walker’s Captain America got in episode 2, the cracks began to show in his façade pretty early on. Walker’s impatience and temper were on display in the third episode, perhaps the first hints that the stress and responsibility of being Captain America were starting to get to him. But he’s also suffering from PTSD from his time in Afghanistan, something he hints at during his conversation with his partner and war buddy Lemar Hoskins in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 4, “The Whole World is Watching.”
Throughout that episode, we see John beginning to unravel. He twitches, he mutters, and he gets particularly antsy and aggressive when he considers the possibility that someone on his team could be endangered on his watch (note his dialogue with Bucky Barnes while Sam Wilson is trying to reason with Karli Morgenthau). While we don’t know the details of what earned John his Medal of Honor (three times!), he recalls it to Lemar as some of the worst days of his life. John and Lemar both know what it’s like to lose comrades in battle, and that’s something clearly driving John throughout this series…and which pushes him to his breaking point at the end of episode four.
John’s worst fear comes true, and he experiences his biggest failing as Captain America when Lemar dies on his watch, after taking a super soldier serum enhanced punch to the chest that sends him flying into a stone pillar. While it was Karli who delivered the fatal blow, Walker flies off the handle, brutalizing and ultimately killing one of Karli’s fellow Flag-Smashers, in full view of a horrified crowd.
It’s a moment that had been foreshadowed throughout the episode. Earlier, when John and Lemar confronted Sam and Bucky on the street, you can see two guys lurking in a doorway filming the encounter on their phone, even though nothing terribly interesting or dangerous is taking place. Similarly, when John and Lemar are having their heart to heart about the horrors they’ve seen in war, John is recognized and approached for an autograph. So seeing him in full costume using that symbolic shield to brutally murder a defenseless man is going to have some repercussions, to say the least.
And while it’s a safe bet that this is the event that finally gets Sam to understand that not just anyone can wield the shield, the moment that will sway public opinion away from John as Captain America, and the one that will likely give the U.S. government second thoughts about their new Cap. And considering how human Russell’s portrayal of Walker has been, we’re likely to see this prey on his mind, regardless of how justified he may have felt in the heat of the moment.
And the way this affects Walker may call back to a Captain America comic book story from the same run that has inspired so much of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
The question of whether Captain America should kill is a philosophical debate that has raged in the comics for decades. For most of the character’s history, though, it was explicitly stated that Steve Rogers had a code against killing, much like Superman and other “lawful good” type superheroes. It’s admirable, but considering that a key piece of Captain America’s identity is that he actually fought in World War II, it never seemed all that believable to begin with (this was later retconned, first with the understanding that Cap generally didn’t carry a gun and only killed when it was unavoidable, and later when Ed Brubaker revealed that even before he was the Winter Soldier, Bucky was a deadly and highly-trained commando who often did the dirty work that America didn’t want their patriotic symbol seen doing).
But nevertheless, in the Marvel Comics of the 1980s, Cap’s code against killing was firmly and unquestionably in place. That is, until 1986’s Captain America #321, an early appearance of the original Flag-Smasher, Karl Morgenthau and the first appearance of his team, ULTIMATUM (Underground Liberated Totally Integrated Mobile Army to Unite Mankind…look, it was the ’80s). Just as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s Karli Morgenthau is the MCU’s version of Karl, the MCU’s Flag-Smashers are the equivalent of ULTIMATUM. Now, with that out of the way…
In this story, ULTIMATUM has taken 110 hostages under Flag-Smasher’s orders. One agent, named Vladimir Korda, was told to start executing the hostages if anyone tried to interfere. And sure enough, when Rogers came to the rescue, Korda turned his Uzi on the crowd, leaving Cap with no choice but to gun him down.
Despite it being a far more justifiable decision than Walker’s actions on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the killing haunts Cap for years. Cap gunning someone down in front of approximately 100 witnesses has PR repercussions and it sets in motion the chain of events that leads to Steve giving up the shield and Walker taking over as Captain America. This is just one more example of how this run of comics (written by legendary Cap writer Mark Gruenwald) has seen its events slightly remixed to serve as inspiration for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Considering how relatively nuanced John Walker has been on this show, we’ll likely see a similar crisis of conscience for him in the final two episodes. Unless, of course, the super soldier serum continues to amplify his worst qualities, in which case, we may see a very different side of him in episode 5 and beyond.
The post The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 4 Ending Echoes Chilling Marvel Comics Moment appeared first on Den of Geek.
The name is Romero. George C. Romero. And in case you didn’t guess, George C. Romero is the son of the late, legendary George A. Romero, the pioneering filmmaker whose 1968 horror classic Night of the Living Dead changed the face of horror cinema forever. George A. Romero and his small independent film collective created the modern zombie mythology, which has occupied a vast swath of the horror genre from George A.’s own later masterpieces like Dawn of the Dead all the way to modern weekly nightmares in The Walking Dead.
Meanwhile George Cameron Romero — the elder George’s son from his first marriage — went into filmmaking himself out of college, then veered into advertising, commercials, and online brand marketing with his own agency, where he created more than 100 campaigns and commercials, launched a film production facility in his native Western Pennsylvania, and directed a handful of features. Now George C. has entered the realm of comic books (which his dad also dabbled in with titles like Empire of the Dead for Marvel) through a partnership with the long-running, legendary-in-its-own-right sci-fi and fantasy comics magazine, Heavy Metal.
Romero is writing two series at the moment: the first, Cold Dead War (see cover art above), is a standalone book about a World War II bomber crew who find themselves reanimated after a freak occurrence during the Battle of Midway. Meanwhile The Rise is being serialized in each issue of Heavy Metal and offers an intriguing and gripping alternate history of not just the 1960s, but the origins of the zombie apocalypse in Night of the Living Dead itself.
The first issue (of four) from Cold Dead War hit the stands late last month while the first chapter (of 13) of The Rise has premiered in the latest issue of Heavy Metal, which arrived this week. That gave us the opportunity to speak with George about working in comics, the inspiration for both stories, and keeping his father’s legacy alive.
Den of Geek: How did you get involved with Heavy Metal and end up writing these comics?
George C. Romero: I actually met Matt [Medney], the CEO of Heavy Metal, through the tech producer for some podcasts that I do. He reached out to a connection of his at Heavy Metal, and Matt reached back out to me. We started talking because we were actually in the middle of putting on something that we called Def-Con 1, which is actually the first online fan convention. We did it like last year. The day that they announced that they were taking down all the conventions, I went on my show, and like two hours later announced that I was going to do one. I had no idea what I was doing.
Anyway, Matt and I met through that process and actually started talking about The Rise. Then from talking about that, and I think me going into detail with Matt a little bit about how The Rise was set in an alternate history from the ’60s, we started talking Cold Dead War. I think he just really liked where my head was at when it came to the alternate history and where I was going with The Rise. So we just started talking and he said, “What kind of story would you tell for Cold Dead War?” And I told him. He said, “Well, would you be interested in doing that?” I said, “Absolutely. Are you kidding me?” That’s how it started.
You’ve worked in film, you’ve worked in video, and you’ve worked in advertising. What makes comics different from these other mediums that you’ve worked in?
It’s interesting to think about it in those terms because I think, for me, coming from being a comic fan my whole life, not as hardcore as some hardcore comic fans, but a comic fan nonetheless, I always thought it was this wonderful kind of storytelling medium. Like you said, I’ve worked in a bunch of different mediums and different variants of this industry over my life. Getting into comics was always something that was appealing to me.
Then, on day one, I realized how terrifying it was, because here I was thinking that it was so limiting because I’m used to running around with a camera in my hand, in one way or another. So now I’m thinking there’s all these structure rules. There’s so many panels on a page, and you can push it to this many panels. You got to think about your paging this way. It was honestly kind of intimidating. At first I thought it was going to be very limiting.
It turns out that it has been, and continues to be, one of the most freeing creative experiences of my entire life, because where you start out thinking, “Well, you’ve got this limited number of panels, a limited number of pages,” what you don’t realize is that each one of those panels is like the construct from The Matrix. As opposed to when you’ve got a camera in your hand, you’re limited to the fact that you can only shoot, basically, something that’s real.
In the comics, each panel is like this giant construct. If you can think it, it can be drawn. And if it can be drawn, then it can be in a comic. It was just so creatively freeing. To work with people like Matt, who really encourages you to just be the purest version of your own creative self that you can be. To work with [editor] Joe Illedge and [publisher] Dave Erwin on this process, I couldn’t have asked for better people to mentor me into it.
(see an exclusive preview of The Rise chapter 3 — with art by Diego Yapur — below)
Did that freedom allow you to change the initial concepts in terms of their scope?
A good question. I don’t think it fundamentally changed my approach to the story or any of the foundations of either story, Cold Dead War, from the original concept, I think what it did was it allowed me to go to a level that no other medium I’ve ever worked in would’ve allowed me to go. So it actually allowed me to sort of really expand and blow out my thinking, as opposed to having to say, “I want to write a scene for this movie, and this scene is going to take place in a gigantic Gothic prison. Well, now I need to go find a gigantic Gothic prison for that.”
So what you end up doing when you do a movie, is you end up saying, “Well, that’s not really a practical thing for my budget level, so let me change that giant Gothic prison to some sort of holding cell.” You start scaling back. Whereas with comics, instead of hitting the brakes, you get to hit the gas at every step of the way. It didn’t change fundamentally anything; it just allowed me to really kind of pay attention to that foundation and that groundwork, and get a very comprehensive story out.
They always say film is the most collaborative art form because you have the director, you have the writer, the actors, and so on. Are comics similar in a sense, because you’re the writer, but you also have the artist, the inker, the person who does the lettering, the editor, etc.?
Correct. It is extremely collaborative. Working with Joe and Dave Erwin and Matt, and Heavy Metal in general, and Diego and everybody who’s touched all of these projects, it’s been a tremendously collaborative experience. I think there’s a balance though. While it is collaborative among the architects, it’s less collaborative when it comes to your characters. In film, the actors play such a huge part, or your cinematographer plays such a huge part in helping those actors become a character, or something like that. When it comes to graphic novels and the comics, you get to kind of puppet master all of that without question. So while it is collaborative, it’s sort of collaborative in an architectural level. That makes it really fun.
With both these series, you’re going back into the past. What made World War II the right setting for Cold Dead War? And is that book less directly related than The Rise to the mythology that your dad created?
I think with Cold Dead War, it’s no big secret that Heavy Metal has sort of undead zombie content in that era and in that period. From a writer’s point-of-view, I love exploring different periods of history. I love taking stories and putting them in those periods. I think for Cold Dead War it was so fun because there weren’t any rules that I’m used to, or any rules to really play by, with regard to a lot of the zombie stuff. It was just absolute pure fiction. Rooting that in a real period of time was an interesting challenge, but it was one that was a lot of fun to do.
The Rise is more directly related to Night of the Living Dead, and also presents an alternate version of a very turbulent era in our history.
The ’60s are such a key point in American history and world history. It makes it a joy. It’s a wonderful decade to work in. I’ve done some stuff in the ’60s time period a few times over my life. It really makes it a joy because anything that you would want to talk about, you’ve got a perfect timeline against which to talk about it.
Is this also an alternate history or origin for Night of the Living Dead? Because your dad always left the starting point for that story perhaps intentionally vague.
There’s a reason that I don’t call it a prequel, because it’s not a prequel. It’s very much my own personal sort of prologue. It’s my personal story. You know, being in this business, being George’s son, there’s certain things people have always wanted of me, or I think expected of me, and one of those things at the top of the list has always been a zombie movie. I’m very much the type, just like my father was sort of the outlaw filmmaker, I’m very much the type that if you tell me to make a zombie movie, I will dig my heels in and say, “I’m not making a zombie movie.” At least that’s how I was while I was growing up.
That kind of led me to have this interesting perspective on everything. Not to mention a lot of the conversations and things that I was lucky enough to be around. I think I’ve got a unique enough perspective on the genre, on what my father and those guys did, that I think it’s a really fun story in terms of him leaving things intentionally vague. I have no choice, as his son, but to continue that vagueness. Whether or not I personally believe that he left it that vague is another story. There are a lot of opportunities to expand some of the things that I believe that those guys wish they could have expanded on back then.
As George’s son, do you feel protective of the canon, and want to make sure that the stories, whether they’re done by you or anybody else, are of a certain level of quality?
Absolutely. I think, as any son would, I think there’s a level of protectiveness. There’s a protective coating around it. I think it comes from respect and love, and from kind of just being around it my whole life. Again, having the perspective I’ve had, I’m extremely protective of it. That’s why it took me over 10 years to find the right partner, like I found in Heavy Metal.
You originally wrote The Rise as a screenplay, right?
I originally wrote it as a screenplay because that was my world. I came up that way, so I wrote it. When I have an idea and I’m passionate about it and I want to get it done from front to back quickly, I write it as a script. Then I develop from there. But in my perfect worldview of it, I always envisioned it years ago starting as a comic and then moving into more live-action stuff. Then I got away from that, because over the years you have meeting after meeting where people say, “You should do it this way. You should do it that way.” You start thinking, “Well, maybe I should try doing it that way if it’s going to work, or if somebody is going to get behind it.”
To kind of go back to the roots of the whole thing with Heavy Metal and Matt and Joe, and David, it’s been really nice. These guys are as interested in protecting the brand and the legacy as I am. I think that that probably comes from being guardians of the Heavy Metal brand legacy, as well. They have a very unique understanding of what it means to respect and love and want to protect a brand that’s over 50 years old.
If you step outside your family legacy and look at it objectively as a creator, what makes this genre and this mythos so inspiring to work in, and why do you think it’s been embraced for decades?
What those guys did in 1968 with Night was groundbreaking on a lot of levels. Not only was it groundbreaking in horror, not only was it groundbreaking against the time period, it was also groundbreaking for independent film. Really, they did a lot of good.
Then when it ended up in the public domain, I mean, I can only imagine how it must have felt. But years later, and again, with a little bit different perspective, what I came to realize was that what those guys did was they created this open source creature. Up until then, we had this universe of monsters. It was the Wolf Man and Frankenstein and the Mummy. But they had rules and they had copyrights and they had all this stuff…These (zombies) weren’t protected by the traditional protections that monsters had back then, so there’s this sort of open source creature where now everybody out there with an eight millimeter camera in their backyard is running around making little zombie films.
Now you have all these artists out there learning and using this stuff as their creative primordial ooze almost. They’re allowed to play in the zombie world kind of legally. So you’ve got people out there making zombie makeups and pulling off all of these effects and making these little short films, which then, as these people are growing, they’re gravitating toward the industry, gravitating toward horror, becoming bigger and bigger horror fans, and merging in the horror world.
Now you’ve got these creatures that have inspired, literally… I don’t know if there’s any way to count how many people have been inspired by what my dad and those guys did in the ’60s. They created a playground where people could work to not only discover but refine and hone their craft in this world.
Have you seen The Amusement Park (the “lost” psychological horror movie directed by the elder Romero, which will premiere this summer on Shudder)?
I saw it when it was called something else, years and years ago. I saw a work print of it. I used to have a little print of it. There was all this buzz about it years ago. I think he always wanted it to get out. It’s a perfect example of the fact that, especially back then, the industry didn’t want that out of George Romero. They wanted what they wanted. They wanted zombies. Got to get that zombie.
Can you share a good piece of advice that your dad gave you along the way?
The best advice my dad ever gave me was to cut wide. It’s funny because I used to sit and watch him at this big Steenbeck editing flatbed, where you cut the film and splice it together. He used to explain to me, “Always cut wide,” in terms of filmmaking, but that became sort of life advice as well, because you know if you cut too much out of something, then you can put it back in. If you cut wide, you can always scale it back. It’s a good way to look at life, too. Kind of cast the widest net you can and then reel in what makes sense for your spirit and your heart.
Heavy Metal magazine (including The Rise) and Cold Dead War are available at comics retailers nationwide.
The post How George C. Romero’s Heavy Metal Comics Keep Dad’s Zombie Legacy Alive appeared first on Den of Geek.
Wondering when your favorite shows are coming back and what new series you can look forward to? We’ve got you covered with the Den of Geek 2021 TV Premiere Dates Calendar, where we keep track of TV series premiere dates, return dates, and more for the year and beyond.
We’ll continue to update this page weekly on Fridays as networks announce dates. A lot of these shows we’ll be watching or covering, so be sure to follow along with us!
Please note that all times are EST.
|Friday, April 9||Them||Amazon|
|Friday, April 9||We Children From Bahnhof Zoo||Amazon|
|Sunday, April 11||Fear the Walking Dead (9:00 p.m.)||AMC|
|Sunday, April 11||The Nevers (9:00 p.m.)||HBO|
|Sunday, April 11||Saints & Sinners (9:00 p.m.)||Bounce|
|Monday, April 12||Keeping Faith||Acorn TV|
|Monday, April 12||All American (8:00 p.m.)||CW|
|Tuesday, April 13||Mighty Express||Netflix|
|Tuesday, April 13||The Resident (8:00 p.m.)||FOX|
|Tuesday, April 13||Prodigal Son (9:00 p.m.)||FOX|
|Tuesday, April 13||Big Sky (10:00 p.m.)||ABC|
|Wednesday, April 14||Dad Stop Embarrassing Me||Netflix|
|Thursday, April 15||Infinity Train||HBO Max|
|Thursday, April 15||Younger||Paramount+|
|Thursday, April 15||Spy City||AMC+|
|Friday, April 16||Big Shot||Disney+|
|Friday, April 16||The Last Drive-In With Joe Bob Briggs||Shudder|
|Friday, April 16||Frank of Ireland||Amazon|
|Friday, April 16||Why Are You Like This||Netflix|
|Friday, April 16||Fast & Furious: Spy Racers||Netflix|
|Friday, April 16||Mythic Quest: Everlight | Special||Apple TV+|
|Friday, April 16||Van Helsing (10:00 p.m.)||Syfy|
|Sunday, April 18||Luis Miguel, The Series||Netflix|
|Sunday, April 18||Godfather of Harlem (9:00 p.m.)||Epix|
|Sunday, April 18||Mare of Easttown (10:00 p.m.)||HBO|
|Monday, April 19||Midsomer Murders||Acorn TV|
|Monday, April 19||9-1-1: Lone Star (9:00 p.m.)||FOX|
|Monday, April 19||American Dad! (10:00 p.m.)||TBS|
|Monday, April 19||The Secrets She Keeps (10:00 p.m.) | US broadcast premiere||AMC|
|Tuesday, April 20||Sasquatch||Hulu|
|Tuesday, April 20||Cruel Summer (9:00 p.m.)||Freeform|
|Wednesday, April 21||Zero||Netflix|
|Thursday, April 22||Create Together||YouTube|
|Thursday, April 22||Rutherford Falls||Peacock|
|Thursday, April 22||Archibald’s Next Big Thing Is Here||Peacock|
|Thursday, April 22||Bigger||BET+|
|Thursday, April 22||Thin Ice||Sundance Now|
|Friday, April 23||Shadow and Bone||Netflix|
|Friday, April 23||A Black Lady Sketch Show (11:00 p.m.)||HBO|
|Monday, April 26||Bäckström||Acorn TV|
|Tuesday, April 27||Fatma||Netflix|
|Tuesday, April 27||Go! Go! Cory Carson||Netflix|
|Wednesday, April 28||The Handmaid’s Tale||Hulu|
|Wednesday, April 28||Sexify||Netflix|
|Thursday, April 29||The Bad Seed||Sundance Now|
|Thursday, April 29||Deadhouse Dark||Shudder|
|Thursday, April 29||Yasuke||Netflix|
|Thursday, April 29||Looney Tunes Cartoons||HBO Max|
|Thursday, April 29||Let’s Be Real (8:30 p.m.)||FOX|
|Friday, April 30||The Mosquito Coast||Apple TV+|
|Friday, April 30||The Innocent||Netflix|
|Friday, April 30||The Unremarkable Juanquini||Netflix|
|Friday, April 30||Assembled: The Making of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier||Disney+|
|Sunday, May 2||DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (8:00 p.m.)||CW|
|Sunday, May 2||Pose (10:00 p.m.)||FX|
|Tuesday, May 4||Star Wars: The Bad Batch||Disney+|
|Tuesday, May 4||Selena: The Series||Netflix|
|Tuesday, May 4||Trash Truck||Netflix|
|Thursday, May 6||Stuck With You||ALLBLK|
|Thursday, May 6||Girls5eva||Peacock|
|Friday, May 7||Shrill||Hulu|
|Friday, May 7||Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet||Apple TV+|
|Friday, May 7||Ghostwriter||Apple TV+|
|Friday, May 7||Jupiter’s Legacy||Netflix|
|Friday, May 7||Dynasty (9:00 p.m.)||CW|
|Wednesday, May 12||The Upshaws||Netflix|
|Friday, May 14||High School Musical: The Musical: The Series||Disney+|
|Friday, May 14||The Underground Railroad||Amazon|
|Friday, May 14||Trying||Apple TV+|
|Sunday, May 16||Run the World (8:30 p.m.)||Starz|
|Sunday, May 16||Good Witch (9:00 p.m.)||Hallmark|
|Wednesday, May 19||Who Killed Sara?||Netflix|
|Thursday, May 20||Special||Netflix|
|Friday, May 21||Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous||Netflix|
|Friday, May 21||Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K.||Hulu|
|Sunday, May 23||Duncanville (8:00 p.m.)||FOX|
|Sunday, May 23||The Chi (9:00 p.m.)||Showtime|
|Sunday, May 23||Black Monday (10:00 p.m.)||Showtime|
|Sunday, May 23||Flatbush Misdemeanors (10:30 p.m.)||Showtime|
|Wednesday, May 26||Parot||Amazon|
|Wednesday, May 26||The Bold Type (10:00 p.m.)||Freeform|
|Thursday, May 27||Eden||Netflix|
|Friday, May 28||The Kominsky Method||Netflix|
|Friday, May 28||Lucifer||Netflix|
|Friday, May 28||Panic||Amazon|
|Monday, May 31||Housebroken (9:00 p.m.)||FOX|
|Wednesday, June 9||In the Dark (9:00 p.m.)||CW|
|Friday, June 11||Loki||Disney+|
|Friday, June 11||Zenimation||Disney+|
|Friday, June 11||Love, Victor||Hulu|
|Friday, June 11||Home Before Dark||Apple TV+|
|Monday, June 14||The Republic of Sarah (9:00 p.m.)||CW|
|Sunday, June 20||Rick and Morty (11:00 p.m.)||Adult Swim|
|Friday, June 25||Central Park||Apple TV+|
|Friday, June 25||The Mysterious Benedict Society||Disney+|
|Friday, July 2||Monsters at Work||Disney+|
|Wednesday, July 7||Riverdale (8:00 p.m.)||CW|
|Friday, July 16||Turner & Hooch||Disney+|
|Friday, July 23||Chip ‘N’ Dale: Park Life||Disney+|
|Friday, July 23||Sky Rojo||Netflix|
|Thursday, August 12||Star Trek: Lower Decks||Paamount+|
|Sunday, August 22||The Walking Dead (9:00 p.m.)||AMC|
If we’ve forgotten a show, feel free to drop a reminder in the comment section below!
Netflix and Ben Falcone’s new movie, Thunder Force, is a comedy obsessed with superpowers. Octavia Spencer wants them, Melissa McCarthy stumbles into them, and a supremely bored looking Bobby Cannavale flaunts them. Everyone gets a power. Yet Thunder Force’s real gift isn’t those CGI tricks; it’s that like a humor-vampire, it can drain all the spark, charm, and wit from its talented cast, leaving behind the soulless carcass we have before us.
Greenlit by Netflix before the pandemic, Thunder Force is the exact kind of half-hearted laugher (read: with no actual laughs) that’s become Adam Sandler’s bread and butter on the streamer. You know, the type where good enough is never particularly good, and the most pressing question from the crew might be “when’s lunch?” Of course the greater shame in this is that a comedian as talented as McCarthy—who has actual Oscar winners like Spencer and Melissa Leo to play against here—is not over the hill. But she might get there if she continues to star in Falcone’s movies.
With a script by Falcone that stinks of a first draft left undone, Thunder Force follows two pals named Lydia (McCarthy) and Emily (Spencer). We meet the two as children in the early ‘90s for a series of perfunctory vignettes which highlight a falling out between the rocker and the studious nerd (you can guess which is which). Now in 2021, and at their (27-year?) high school reunion, the pair is totally estranged. Lydia is a blue collar worker, and Emily is the owner of a major tech company.
Even so, Emily never lost sight of her passion: to develop technology that will turn normal people into superpowers. Oh yeah, presented almost as an afterthought, it’s revealed early on that they live in a world where only devious people develop mutant superpowers, and they’re called “miscreants.” Miscreants killed Emily’s parents. So she wants to take the fight to them by injecting herself with drugs that will make her both invisible and super strong. Unfortunately for Emily, old buddy Lydia accidentally stumbles into her laboratory and gets the super strength formula (which there is inexplicably only one dose of). Now they’ll have to share the powers and take the fight to a litany of supervillains played by cameoing paycheck-seekers.
A comedy about women of a certain age, and of all body types, demanding the spotlight from the 20-somethings who star in Hollywood’s favorite genre is an admirable thing. It could even be applauded in a comedy that is barely competent. But there is nothing competent about Thunder Force. The film is Falcone’s fifth movie as director, and every one before this was mediocre. However, there were at least genuine attempts at cleverness in Superintelligence or pathos in Tammy.
By comparison, Thunder Force reeks of resignation. A cynic might even assume there was a calculation made that if the streaming service’s algorithm guarantees some audience will watch this dreck, why bother caring if any of the “gags” actually work? There is an actual sequence in this movie where McCarthy stands before Spencer and Leo—with seven Academy Award nominations between the three actresses—and they just watch slack-jawed as McCarthy does a deeply unfunny Steve Urkel impression that would’ve been dated 20 years ago. And it goes on for minutes.
Spencer is also checked out but is at least able to provide some vague maternal warmth to her scenes, walking away with her dignity intact. But the only person really engaged may be Taylor Mosby as Emily’s daughter, Tracy, a young woman confident enough in her intelligence to have graduated from Stanford at the age of 15, but inexplicably still offended by the word “nerd” like it’s a 1980s comedy. Except, you know, not funny.
Among the villains, who include Cannavale and Guardians of the Galaxy’s Pom Klementieff, Jason Bateman leaves the biggest impression as “The Crab.” He’s half-man and half-crab, having his arms turn into pinchers after a radioactive crab bit his testicles. No, really. He doesn’t succeed any more than McCarthy in wringing blood from this dull stone, but he and McCarthy at least have some semblance of comic chemistry. Imagine what they could do if they starred in a movie with a pulse?
Unfortunately, Thunder Force is its own kind of kryptonite: deadly, unoriginal, and best left in the leaden box it was found in.
Thunder Force is streaming on Netflix now.
The post Thunder Force Review: No Laughs is Kryptonite to Netflix Superhero Comedy appeared first on Den of Geek.
Whether you don’t know the difference between a mark and a bump or you can name the main event of every WrestleMania, you’re probably aware of at least some of the absolute best wrestling games of all-time. Titles like SmackDown: Here Comes the Pain, WWF No Mercy, and WCW/NWO Revenge have transcended the popularity of professional wrestling itself and have become a part of many gamers’ fondest memories.
Yet, there are some forgotten wrestling games that are still worth remembering. While it’s true that there are well-defined tops and bottoms in the wrestling game hierarchy, there are also a few titles somewhere near the middle that have been unfairly lumped together even though some of them deserve a spot near the top of the card with the undisputed legends of the wrestling game scene.
So join us as we look at 20 of the most underrated wrestling games of all-time:
1994 | Human Entertainment | Super Famicom
Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special’s status as one of the earliest wrestling games with a substantial story mode is noteworthy enough. However, what really makes this one special is the fact that one of the game’s scenarios writers was Suda51: the legendary game director known for some of the weirdest games ever made.
True to form, this game is weirder than you could ever imagine. I can’t think of another wrestling game that ends with the protagonist killing themselves after realizing that their championship win is hollow due to the pain and losses they suffered along the way, and while I’m grateful no other game has tried something like that, this title’s dark and bizarre story should at least make it more talked about than it typically is.
1994 | Natsume | SNES
This is hardly the best wrestling game on this list (clearly), but it does represent a fascinating turning point for wrestling video games that is sometimes overlooked.
This game combined two eras of wrestling games by featuring the more simplistic arcade style of many early console wrestling titles with a few concepts (such as an advanced fatigue system) that would go on to help shape the more complex wrestling games that would define the years to come. If you like that classic style of wrestling game, this is one of the best ways to revisit it.
2014 | MDickie | Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Mac, Ouya
Let’s be clear: this is a very bad game. It’d go so far as to call it objectively bad in many ways. However, it’s the fact that the game is so bad that makes it so much fun.
Considered by many to be maybe the only example of a “So bad, it’s good” wrestling game, Wrestling Revolution is slow, awkward, broken, and clearly made with love. At a time when so many of the recent yearly WWE games end up being glitchy messes anyway, there’s something to be said for a game that embraces its glitchiness and usually leads to a lot of laughs.
2012 | Yuke’s | PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
As suggested above, there’s a point where it’s hard for all but the most hardcore WWE game fans to distinguish recent WWE titles from one another. Maybe that’s why WWE ‘13 is sometimes forgotten when we’re talking about the best relatively modern wrestling games.
This game’s best feature has to be its “Attitude Era” story modes which let you relive some of the best moments from WWE’s most beloved period. More importantly, this game benefited from pretty good animations and a hit detection system that made it feel good to play years before the clutter of this series’ engine would drag these titles down.
Given that PlayStation gamers spent years lamenting that N64 owners got to play WCW/NWO Revenge and WWF No Mercy (two of the best wrestling games ever), I’m shocked that we don’t hear more people praise WCW vs. The World.
Essentially the predecessor to those brilliant N64 games made by AKI, WCW vs. The World is by far the closest PlayStation gamers came to getting a wrestling game on the level of the best N64 titles. It’s pretty rough compared to those titles, but I can’t help but think of the years I spent missing out on this true gem.
1998 | Sculptured Software, Acclaim | PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy
Granted, it’s not nearly as good as the best wrestling games of its era, but at a time when WWE (then WWF) was enjoying an incredible popularity resurgence, WWF War Zone allowed fans to live out a truly special era of wrestling.
War Zone’s roster is a time capsule of that era that includes a fascinating blend of big-name stars and notable novelty acts. Its gameplay could have been much smoother, but the game’s presentation and graphics made it feel special. It’s still one of the better PS1 wrestling games of its era and is sure to invoke a strong sense of nostalgia.
2002 | Sculptured Software, Acclaim | PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, Game Boy Advance
Legends of Wrestling II’s appeal was (and always will be) its roster. This game’s roster of legendary wrestlers includes some names that still haven’t been included in modern WWE titles. The list of superstars in this game includes Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Mil Mascaras, Bam Bam Bigelow, and many more legends.
The game’s appeal goes beyond its roster, though. The game’s territory-based story mode, which lovingly recreates the structure of ‘80s wrestling, is one of the most inventive ever featured in a wrestling game. It even lets you recreate the famous feud between Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman.
2008 | Midway Games | PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Wii, Nintendo DS
TNA Impact was not a great game. Its roster was thin, its gameplay needed a few more months in development, and it just didn’t have nearly enough modes and features to compete with WWE titles. However, the one thing TNA Impact did have was the benefits of the TNA name.
It turns out that counts for quite a lot. Developed during the arguable peak of TNA’s talent level, Impact allowed you to play as everyone, from Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe to AJ Styles and Abyss. On top of that, the game benefited from its impressive presentation and a surprisingly deep story mode. It was far from perfect, but it was and is a must-have for any TNA fans.
1987 | MicroLeague | Commodore 64, Amiga, DOS, Atari ST, AmigaOS
MicroLeague Wrestling is arguably the most obscure, odd, and fascinating game on this list. Released for Commodore 64, Amiga, DOS, and Atari ST, MicroLeague was actually a professional wrestling strategy game that allowed you to decide matches and careers through a series of turn-based commands.
It may feel hopelessly outdated today, but MicroLeague Wrestling was a surprisingly advanced concept at a time when wrestling games were dirt simple. It would be fascinating to revisit this concept through some kind of modern wrestling management game.
1988| Konami | Arcade
You’d think that a wrestling game released by Konami in 1988 would be better known, but The Main Event has somehow managed to mostly escape the scrutinizing lens of history. That might have something to do with its unlicensed roster that was only vaguely (and hilariously) based on actual wrestlers.
Still, The Main Event should have been a stepping stone for bigger Konami arcade wrestling games to come. It featured deep wrestling gameplay (for the time) that served as a preview of some more notable wrestling games to come.
1989| Nihon Bussan | NES
The NES wasn’t exactly known as a haven for great wrestling games, but WCW Wrestling still deserves to be remembered above most of its console contemporaries. Somehow, though, memories of it remain relegated to the few that played it and are not always as fond as they should be.
WCW Wrestling not only offered WCW fans the chance to play as some of their favorite wrestlers of the era, but it included features such as an expanded ringside area and customizable move sets that were ahead of their time. This game certainly remains one of the most playable of its generation.
1999| EA | PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy
It’s generally agreed that the N64 got better overall wrestling games than the PS1, but it’s simply a fact that the N64’s WCW games were better than those featured on the PlayStation. However, WCW Mayhem did offer PS1 gamers a taste of something pretty good (especially if they missed out on WCW vs. The World).
Granted, Mayhem was a poor man’s version of the WCW N64 wrestling games (its canceled sequel was going to be developed by the same team that made those N64 games), but it was unfairly overlooked by many PS1 gamers who were burned by too many bad wrestling games over the years. Of course, the game’s N64 version was less impressive in comparison to its direct competition.
1996| Yuke’s | PlayStation
Power Move Pro Wrestling was originally based on the NJPW promotion, but it seems that fears over the international popularity of that promotion (at the time) caused the NJPW stars to be replaced with generic wrestlers with NJPW move sets. That decision stands as this game’s most glaring weakness.
Otherwise, this is a solid wrestling title for its era. Power Move Pro Wrestling was released on the cusp of an incredible generation of wrestling titles, but even though it lacks some of the refinement and features of those games, it does boast some admirable 3D gameplay that was head and shoulders above many other wrestling games at the time.
2003| Anchor Inc. | Xbox
The WWE Raw games for Xbox were generally not as strong as their GameCube and PS2 counterparts, but they have been unfairly swept under the rug by fans that feel that they had very little to offer.
WWE Raw 2 actually boasted a few features that would soon become standard. The most notable of those features is the game’s “Create an Entrance,” which not only let you create custom Titantron videos but even let you import your own music. Raw 2 also featured an interesting RPG-lite story mode that complemented its more arcadey elements.
1994| Human Entertainment | Arcade, Sega Saturn
Fire Pro Gaiden: Blazing Tornado was a 1994 Arcade/Sega Saturn game that combined elements of Saturday Night Slam Masters, Street Fighter, and more “traditional” pro wrestling games. It was a strange hybrid that was sadly overlooked by too many gamers.
Blazing Tornado is more of a fighting game than a wrestling game, but the ways that it incorporates grappling and other pro wrestling elements make it one of the more notable games of its kind. Its visuals are also enjoyable in a cartoonish kind of way.
2003| Yuke’s | GameCube, Wii
While WrestleMania X8 and XIX would eventually be spun into the overall superior Day of Reckoning titles, WrestleMania XIX deserves to be remembered both as the forerunner of that series and for its wonderfully absurd story mode.
WrestleMania XIX’s story mode saw you seek revenge on Vince McMahon by fighting regular employees and other wrestlers across construction sites, barges, malls, and other random locations. The goal is to cause enough havoc to ruin WrestleMania. It’s a glorious piece of “who came up with this?” game design.
2007 | Yuke’s | PlayStation 2
Wrestle Kingdom 2’s release date is notable not only because it’s the newest game on this particular list but also because it was released at a time when major wrestling games were veering more into “simulation” territory, a time when wrestling games stopped catering to more casual players.
Well, Wrestle Kingdom 2 happens to be “arcadey” and accessible in all of the right places without sacrificing depth. Its gameplay is deep enough for genre masters, but can also be picked up fairly quickly. The fact that it so happens to feature some brilliant tournament modes along with an impressive collection of Japanese stars is just the bow that tops this gift to wrestling.
2005| Yuke’s | PlayStation 2, PSP
“Underrated” might be a bit of a stretch in this instance considering that those who love this game place it alongside the greatest wrestling games ever made, but the fact remains that not enough gamers know that this is an absolutely brilliant wrestling title.
In fact, some believe this to be the perfect middle ground between SmackDown: Here Comes the Pain’s lovably ridiculous gameplay and the more grounded games that would follow in this series. SvR 2006 includes an unbelievable number of match types, a very welcome general manager mode, and pick up and play gameplay that some at the time compared to the timeless WWF No Mercy. It deserves to be remembered as a classic.
2004| Spike | PlayStation
While there are quite a few Japan-only wrestling games that would qualify as underrated in the West, many consider King of Colosseum II to be the crown jewel of that particular crowd. With its massive roster, deep grappling system, and incredible create-a-wrestler mode, this game is often thought of as the closest we’ve come to a 3D successor to the Fire Pro Wrestling series (it was made by the same team responsible for many of the early games in that series). It’s a shame that it was never exported to the West.
2002| AKI Corporation | GameCube
Many people know that AKI Corporation, developers of those classic N64 wrestling games like WWF No Mercy, went on to develop the first two excellent Def Jam titles. What fewer people remember is that AKI also developed this absolute gem of a wrestling game.
Essentially an anime wrestling game, Ultimate Muscle: Legends vs. New Generation sees good and evil wrestlers battle across the universe. Bolstered by AKI’s all-time classic grappling gameplay, Ultimate Muscle proves to be a wonderfully over-the-top wrestling game that’s just as fun to watch as it is to play. Imagine if DragonBall FighterZ and WWF No Mercy had a video game child. This is what you’d get, and it’s better than you can imagine.
An otherwise quiet week for gaming was rocked by a Bloomberg report that reveals, among other things, that a shift in the PlayStation team’s creative direction may have left Naughty Dog working on a PS5 remake of The Last of Us.
I highly recommend reading that report if you haven’t already as it sheds some light on Sony’s long-term plans and has already triggered a heated debate over the changing nature of the Triple-A video game industry. For now, though, let’s focus on that rumored remake of The Last of Us and try to answer the question “Why would Naughty Dog be interested in remaking that game?”
As that report reveals, the most likely answer to that question is “money,” but what’s really interesting is that the report seems to strongly suggest that the project is being referred to as a remake rather than a remaster. That distinction could be significant, as modern video game remakes tend to be major investments on-par with a new Triple-A title. If pressed to guess, I’d suspect that Sony wouldn’t continue with this project if they weren’t sure this remake was going to inspire people to buy the game for the first time or, more importantly, yet again. It will certainly feature better graphics, it will certainly feature PS5 controller integration, but if we’re talking about a modern remake, then there’s a good chance the project may even alter the original game in other notable ways.
On the surface, it would seem that The Last of Us‘ story should be untouchable in any remake. The Last of Us is defined by its story which many consider one of the best in video game history. Even if there are some who don’t consider it to be so sacred, the fact that we just played The Last of Us Part 2, which obviously follows in the footsteps of that story, would seemingly eliminate any chance that Naughty Dog would ever drastically alter the original game’s plot.
The thing you have to consider, though, is that the remake may not have to significantly alter that story to fundamentally change it in ways that will at least be perceived as “major” by many fans. It’s when you start looking at it from that perspective that you start to see how tempting making minor changes might be.
First off, you’ve got to consider that this remake will almost certainly be released alongside (or close to) the debut of The Last of Us HBO series. We’ve already learned that the HBO series will deviate from the original game through new sequences, dialog differences, and all of the other changes you might expect when you’re taking a story from one medium to another.
While it’s unlikely a remake would change the original story in such a way that directly follows the events of the series, you certainly see where there’s room (and maybe even a bit of temptation) for the remake to feature a few new sequences, a couple of dialog changes, or even just a handful of little things designed to catch those familiar with the game off-guard.
It could all be relatively harmless, but when you’re talking about a story that many consider pitch-perfect, any change to any of those beats or any additional scenes that potentially interrupt the flow of the narrative could end up being significantly more impactful than they’d otherwise be. Even just a change in tone or delivery that affects how we perceive a character’s intentions could greatly impact how we read the events of the first game and how those events impact the second title (and any future installments).
That’s the other thing about this remake. To be blunt, the reactions to The Last of Us Part 2 show that there are some fans of the original game who have an interpretation of that game’s events that don’t necessarily gel with what happened in the sequel. Those differences fueled one of the most heated debates over a game’s plot in years. As those vocal (and sadly sometimes hostile) detractors point out, The Last of Us‘ ambiguous ending did suggest a few different paths forward and whichever one Naughty Dog committed to was almost always going to upset those who read the final moments of the game and the implications of what came next a bit differently.
On some level, Naughty Dog must be tempted to alter The Last of Us‘ most meaningful moments in perhaps minor ways that more clearly lead into what eventually happens. If that proves to be the case, there will always be questions regarding whether or not those changes were made as a kind of attempt to bring everyone “on board” and eliminate any confusion over what direction this story is going in and how the events of the first game should be interpreted. We already saw hints of that in the sequel, and those hints were not taken well by some fans.
There is certainly a section of The Last of Us‘ fanbase that makes unreasonable and simply hateful demands in regards to the game’s story and content, but as the Star Wars re-releases showed us, any differences can result in lasting blowback due to the general agreement that once a popular piece of entertainment has entered the public consciousness, it’s pretty hard to justify changing it in even well-meaning ways without doing some kind of damage.
We’ll see when (and if) we get a PS5 remake of The Last of Us and just how different it proves to be. One thing that’s becoming increasingly clear, though, is that The Last of Us is becoming a contentious series and that the implications of this remake and how it represents Sony’s apparent change in creative direction will make its very existence more contentious than it already would have been.
That leaves the team working on this remake in the unfortunate position of producing a pretty “by the books” remake of The Last of Us and needing to answer questions over why this project got funded over new properties or changing the game in more noticeable ways and having to deal with the fallout from those who feel that any changes to The Last of Us are inherently unjustified.
Games like Demon Souls‘ and even the upcoming Diablo 2: Resurrected show that you can remake great games and do justice to them while bringing them into a new era. However, the circumstances surrounding The Last of Us‘ reported PS5 remake remind us that the conversation over the cultural and industrial value of these remakes may never go away no matter how good remakes become.
The post Will The Last of Us PS5 Remake Change the Game’s Story? appeared first on Den of Geek.
Netflix’s new anime The Way of the Househusband is a hilarious slice-of-life comedy worth checking out.
“There are few things in this world funnier than watching an otherwise extremely scary individual being forced to do something mundane. That is the exact form of comedy that Netflix’s new slice-of-life anime series The Way of the Househusband is predicated on, and it’s uproariously funny every single time.”
Old Hollywood actress Mary Astor and her Purple Diary were at the center of the biggest sex scandal in the 1930s.
“In 1936, Mary Astor, star of The Maltese Falcon (1941), was the center of a Hollywood scandal so big, it knocked news of Hitler off the front page. Her estranged husband stole her private diaries, called the Purple or Lavender Diary, to use in a bitter custody battle.”
The CW’s live-action Powerpuff Girls just released some behind-the-scenes photos, and people are losing it over the girls’ terrible outfits.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment, when the world got their first glimpse at The CW’s live-action Powerpuff Girls, with bated breath, because I knew in my heart’s heart that it would go either of two ways. One, their outfits would be inspired by the show but more practical because it’s 2021 and if you’re going to fight, you might as well do it with armor or a suit à la Supergirl. Or two, their outfits would be right from Party City or Spirit Halloween.”
Zoom had quite a year during the pandemic lockdown, where much of their success came at the expense of their rival Skype.
“Remote work has changed dramatically over the past year, and the platforms we use for collaborating have changed with it. Believe it or not, Skype was the most popular video call platform at the beginning of 2020. Now we’re all on Zoom. EmailToolTester has the data to show that, before the pandemic, Skype owned a commanding 32.4% of the market in 2020 before losing 25.8% of its market share in a single year. Zoom grew 22.3% and Google Meet grew 20.2% in that same time.”
Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton‘s original Angelica Schuyler, has been casted in Disney+’s upcoming Marvel series She-Hulk.
“Deadline reports Renée Elise Goldsberry, best known for her Tony Award-winning performance as Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton, has been cast in Marvel Studios’ upcoming Disney+ show She-Hulk. Tatiana Maslany stars as the title character, a lawyer with powers similar to that of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo, who will appear on the show). Goldsberry will be playing a character named Amelia, which could be Marvel Comics character Amelia Hopkins, but that’s unclear.”
What made Amazon’s Invincible such a success was the same thing that made The Walking Dead great in the first place.
“Iron Man is dead. Superman died, too. But did they really? In both cases, these comic book movie casualties either came at the end of a sprawling cinematic saga sketched out across more than a decade worth of films, or as an easily backtracked attempt to raise the stakes for a franchise that went nowhere. (Ease down, Snyder bros. You got your cut.)”
The post Link Tank: Should You Watch The Way of the Househusband on Netflix? appeared first on Den of Geek.
This The Falcon and the Winter Soldier review contains spoilers.
The first three episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier were all about world-building. The first episode was about what our titular heroes were up to in a post-Blip world. The second episode focused on the new Captain America John Walker. The third episode was a Captain America: Civil War throwback by revisiting Baron Zemo and Sharon Carter. All the while, we’d check in on the Flag-Smashers and get an increased idea of what they’re about while there’s something in there about a mysterious evil threat in the background, ready to make a play. Oh, and there’s a pissed-off Wakandan bodyguard mixed in there.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 4, “The Whole World is Watching,” isn’t about introducing new characters or concepts. It’s not about visiting new cities or countries that have specific ties to Marvel lore. It’s about cooking with the ingredients we’re given and seeing what kind of stew we get. This does mean that we get an episode that’s less-than-thrilling and even spins its wheels for a bit, but that doesn’t mean that nothing of note happens.
The first half of the episode is about reaching the boiling point between three main parties existing around our heroes. Three volatile parties that the show has gone to great lengths to portray as sympathetic and likeable at times, only to remind us that they aren’t as pure as they’d like us to believe.
In one corner, you have the accomplished soldier taking Captain America’s place, who wants to do right by his country, but his shortcomings are starting to build within and it’s affecting his attitude. You have the group of revolutionaries whose ultimate goals are noble, but their leader is starting to go off the rails by slipping into mass murder, understandable as some of her actions may be. Then there’s the cool and overly-competent escaped convict/dancing machine, who has proven his worth to our heroes, but is also a bit of a loose cannon and also murdered a country’s king years ago.
Sam Wilson has been able to see eye-to-eye with Walker and Zemo at times. He believes he can see eye-to-eye with Karli if given the chance. Unfortunately, this strength means nothing when those three are in the same vicinity as it is in their natures to oppose each other.
After seeing Sam being little more than a tag-along in the previous episode, it’s nice to see him step up here, less as an action hero for most of the episode, but more as someone with empathy for his foes looking for solutions that don’t necessarily need superheroic action. Sure, he’s more than capable of throwing down with super soldiers, but he doesn’t want to. He wants to help people with their trauma and make the world a better place through that. If he could have it his way, he’d convince Karli her way was wrong, Zemo would go back into custody, and John Walker would go back on his way to wielding the shield without Sam having to deal with him regularly. It’s what he wants, but it isn’t what he’s going to get.
The real person of interest this time around is John Walker. Zemo’s story is simple in that he’s a manipulator who is able to take control of any situation. Karli is someone who feels she’s doing the right thing, but keeps feeling that her back is to the wall. Walker acts like he’s in Karli’s shoes, but its more of a mix of selfishness and humiliation. Walker went into this story thinking he was the second coming of Rogers, but now he’s taken a few shots to the face and no longer knows what he is.
There’s a quiet moment with Walker talking to Battlestar that really waves the red flag about the choice of having him wield the shield. The second episode talked up his war medals and how empowering they are, but are they really? War is hell and to gather so many of those medals means Walker has gathered his share of scars and not all of them are on his skin. These feathers in his cap also qualify as baggage.
If I could compare Captain America to Spider-Man, then Nuke (AKA Will Simpson in Jessica Jones) would be his Carnage. He’s the out-of-control version that twists the original into a psychotic nightmare. John Walker ends up being Venom in that scenario. He stands somewhere in-between heroic and monstrous. The real drama is finding out just where on the map he lands in this continuity, especially when the chaos gets heightened. Soon a development happens that is both predictable and won’t do anyone any good in the long run.
Actually, in my vagueness, I realize there are two developments I can be describing there.
Bucky seems to be taking the backseat this time around, but we do get a flashback early on to his days in Wakanda where Sebastian Stan sells the hell out of the character’s emotions. Fantastic stuff, though while I understand the use of it here to tie into Ayo’s sudden appearance, it felt like it would have been more at home in the previous episode.
While not the most must-see episode of the show, it’s a good cog in the storyline and I’m excited to see what’s next. If anything, the cliffhanger for this episode blows the other three episodes out of the water, and that image of Walker wielding a bloody shield (a grisly counterpoint to the usually bloodless violence of the MCU) while bystanders look on in horror is a haunting one.
The post The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 4 Reveals the True Horror of John Walker appeared first on Den of Geek.
This Clarice review contains spoilers.
Clarice, episode 7, “Ugly Truth,” is a monster-of-the-week exploration of a cold case procedural. It also moves the overall arc along as true ugliness is found within. “Some monster killed two little kids,” Ardelia Mapp (Devyn Tyler) says. The episode opens with a hideous image, foreshadowed and cinematically darkened by the growing buzz of a swarm of flies.
The opening shot is quite masterful. It takes a while for the idea to register that flies are drawn to dead things until just a moment before we see what died. The flies should be given credit, as they will continue to recur as both a character and mood-setter over the course of the early investigation. Clarice routinely plays with forced perspective and stalled chronology to move the inner story. The camera-work goes into overtime this episode as clues, details and emotional states are captured through the shifting flow of time. The film may slow down as a character passes a child’s toy, or the first glimpse of a covered corpse. The effect works, but gets pushed to the edge of user-use before they finally cut back on it.
The body of Cody Phelps, a 13-year-old boy who went missing 10 months earlier in Alexandria, Va., is found stuffed lovingly behind a wall of a suburban home, we learn from TV news. It’s a serious case, and Agent Clark (Nick Sandow) lets us know this by moving his stash of “Spank” magazines to a lower drawer. This doesn’t turn out to be what it seems, but is equally indicative of his priorities.
When told Clarice (Rebecca Breeds) has been thrown back into field duty when she should be on psychiatric leave, Clark asks Deputy Assistant Attorney General Paul Krendler (Michael Cudlitz) to “define okay,” a perennially effective shortcut to both a reassessment and a punchline. Clark winds up redefining his own adequacy as he appears to crumble under the pressures of temporary command.
The slide into Captain Queeg of The Caine Mutiny territory begins when the body of the dead boy is uncovered in the wall, and continues throughout the investigation until Agent Esquivel (Lucca De Oliveira) wants to punch him out. That is until we find out exactly why the agent is so hung up on missing kids’ cases. Placing the victim in a fetal position is a very interesting detail, because Clarice’s interpretation plays into Clark’s true dilemma. Did every agent on this series become a federal cop because of some trauma-induced vendetta? That is becoming a very tired cop show cliché.
The early part of the episode also fills in some of the spaces on the ongoing “River Murders” and the conspiracy behind it. In the last episode, under the hypnotic guidance of Dr. Li (Grace Lynn Kung), Clarice was able to see the face of the man who attacked her while she was being held captive. But she has no idea who face belongs to. In “Ugly Truth,” that man’s face is on the cover of a magazine on Krendler’s desk. What are the odds? Clarice is filled with many such coincidences which ring too loud even when they can be justified.
It is understandable how, as the episode plays out, the lawyer worked his way into Krendler’s life. It makes sense Clarice would recognize him, but putting him on the magazine cover is so forced a perspective even Krendler is justified thinking Agent Starling is grasping at psychological straws. It makes sense to her that the magazine cover confirms the investigation is being taken seriously. It makes equal sense how Krendler could see the agent as picking up on the first vaguely familiar face she sees.
Ultimately, we get to see Krendle steamroll Clarice, and effectively the entire squad, in such a blatant play outside bureau politics even veteran agent Clark is caught off guard. Agent Shaan Tripathi (Kal Penn), who took a smoking gun photograph which gets silenced, runs his mouth in place like his tongue is on a stair-master. The whole ViCAP team suffers from the larger paranoia which the FBI apparently fosters.
For all their talk about “the team,” Ardelia can’t even do a little victory dance over her first professional recognition without having to pirouette away from the spotlight which would be thrown on her by joining the budding coalition of Black agents. There are just a few too many fires to put out at the same time. The main arc is already being stretched to a breaking point. Each individual case also comes with extra twists.
In the cold case investigation, DNA ties the crime to the murder of a Black child who was murdered a decade earlier. The uncle of the child believes the police killed his nephew. Of course, the first reaction of the federal cops is to repeat the pattern and blame the uncle, but the trail takes a very twisted turn before it ends with a very expected confrontation. The arc portion of the episode also spins in a different course at the very close. We knew it was coming, but it is still an extreme veer.
“Ugly Truth” moves at a good pace, even with all the time-stop analysis, and muddies the water of the conspiracy investigation with some interesting dirt. But there is nothing really threatening in the threat. It feels forced and empty, just one more loose end getting tangled in the tapestry.
Clarice airs Thursdays at 10:00 p.m. on CBS.
This Manifest review contains spoilers.
Secrets abound in Manifest season 3, and the promise of a payoff when those secrets are revealed is enticing in the extreme. Again, there’s always a few bumpy moments when the callings clunkily manipulate characters into their convenient narratives, but once everyone is in place, the story really has a chance to shine. Even minor details, like the fact that Zeke can read Saanvi’s mental state remarkably well these days, evoke curiosity and wonderment about how these developments will play out.
Let’s be real, though; Manifest has the irritating habit of expecting us to accept feelings and hunches in place of legitimate character motivations, and these meanderings were on particularly awkward display this week. For example, when Olive is convinced that she is meant to help Angelina with her calling, breaking up the family in a time of danger, she might as well add, “It says so here in the script,” at the end of her line. That’s how mechanically those machinations come across in the moment.
But at least we got to see Angelina come to terms with the faceless angel that’s been haunting her, and the friendship that’s sure to blossom between her and Olive is warmly anticipated. That burgeoning relationship makes it easier to overlook the sometimes bizarre path the callings inspire: leading the two girls from the defaced stained-glass window to the time capsule to the photo taken outside of King Cone, a reminder of happier times when Angelina’s parents weren’t abusive captors.
Somehow it feels more real when the callings compel the returned with words like, “Go to her!” rather than pepper them with obscure symbology. The trio of kidnappers were pulled to the King Cone like magnets, even if Jace thought it was his idea to return to his former employer to grab a little spending money. Manifest set up in season 2 the reluctance of the other minions to engage in criminal activity, and the most fun in this episode came from speculating what might happen now that Pete has seen himself in Angelina’s photo and been separated from his crew.
Admittedly, it was nice to see Michaela playing by the book in her investigation of the three men, even if her rule following is not meant to last. Her partnership with Drea and the support she gets from Captain Bowers really reinforce the official nature of her contribution to the overall investigation, something Ben sometimes lacks. But even his interplay with Emmett and Powell and the visit to Vance’s wife gave us hope that calmer (and more qualified) heads would prevail.
The same sense of hope surrounds Grace and Cal as they work together to make amends with Tarik and create a safe haven for themselves and Eden in a time when news of the tailfin will make it harder for the returnees to escape scrutiny. That same approaching danger is present each time someone mentions the Major, reminding us that Saanvi has told no one about what she has done to the group’s most formidable enemy.
Add to those impending conflicts the mystery of Ben’s glowing hand, and Manifest has built quite a solid foundation for its third season mythology. That’s without even considering the unanswered questions concerning Al-Zuras, the missing Captain Daly and Fiona Clarke, and any remaining threat the Major’s faction might pose. In fact, if the show can avoid using its own premise as a narrative crutch too often, the season ahead could be the best yet.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’s third episode was another important step forward for Marvel’s second Disney+ series. The hour found Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) springing Captain America nemesis Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) from prison and heading off to new Marvel location Madripoor.
Even more thrilling than the introduction of Mardipoor, however, was the reveal of Baron Zemo: Dancing King. For, as the mismatched trio entered a Lowtown night club, Zemo decided to blend in and let off some steam with a little dance.
Zemo’s dance took all of three seconds, but what a glorious three seconds it was! The Internet, always a font of good taste, immediately latched onto Zemo’s hesitant shimmy like a moth to a flame.
Soon, however, The Internet discovered that it had been cruelly robbed of more Zemo dancing content.
“It was a long dance,” Brühl told EW. “There’s more to it, but they cut this little moment [for the show].”
Excuse me, what now? Long dance? More to it? Cut this little moment? We, the citizens of the Internet, demanded that if a longer cut of this moment exists, then we demand to see. That’s right. #ReleasetheZemoCut. Thankfully, Marvel decided to do just that.
Early on Thursday evening, with only a handful of emojis as fanfare, Marvel finally, mercifully ended our long national nightmare and released the Zemo Cut. Here she is, folks, in all her glory.
Look at him go! Released from Marvel supervillain incarceration and not a single care in the world. Turtlenecked up, arms swinging, and absolutely owning the dance floor. He even breaks out two absolute classic moves in the awkward dancer arsenal. The first is the “Finger Spin”, as if he’s trying to communicate to both the DJ and God himself that this is fun and we need to keep it going.
Then there’s “The Clap” (name subject to change). While dancing among one’s peers, it’s important to offer frequent visual encouragement like a Little League coach after a dropped third strike.
As if the arrival of the Zemo Cut weren’t enough, Marvel sweetened the pot by releasing a full hour of Zemo dancing to its YouTube page. Watch it and cure whatever ails you.
Obviously, this is all just Marvel tagging up on a joke that started natively on social media. But if movie and TV studios are going to fiercely guard their IP (as is their right) from appearing in bootleg YouTube cuts, then it’s at least courteous to do the meme work themselves. It’s also worth pointing out that Marvel’s first two Disney+ series are now two for two in producing viral musical content. Case in point:
What a fun little saga we all just had! Let’s enjoy the whimsy before The Falcon and The Winter Soldier reminds us Helmut Zemo is a cold-blooded murderer.
The post Rejoice! The Falcon and The Winter Soldier Zemo Cut Has Arrived appeared first on Den of Geek.
The day anime fans thought would never come is here.
Premiering in 1982, Super Dimension Fortress Macross was the start of a massive anime franchise that’s continued to this day with numerous sequels and films. While the first Macross series came to the west as the first part of the Robotech series (and was released uncut later on), most of those sequels and films haven’t been released outside of Japan due to varying legal disagreements between rights holders Big West Co. LTD., Studio Nue, INC. (who were both involved in the original creation of Macross) and Harmony Gold U.S.A. (who created Robotech.)
That all changes today.
An “expansive agreement” between Big West, Studio Nue, and Harmony Gold will allow immediate international distribution of “most Macross television sequels and films.” It also affirms Harmony Gold’s rights to the Robotech franchise. Going forward, Big West and Harmony Gold will both cooperate on the international distribution of future Macross and Robotech projects post 2021.
From the press release,
“Tokyo based BIGWEST Co. LTD. and Los Angeles based Harmony Gold U.S.A. announced an agreement regarding the worldwide rights for the legendary Macross and Robotech franchises. This expansive agreement signed by both companies on March 1, 2021, ends two decades of disagreements and will allow Big West and Harmony Gold to chart a new path that will unlock the great potential of both the Macross and Robotech franchises worldwide.
The landmark agreement immediately permits worldwide distribution of most of the Macross films and television sequels worldwide, and also confirms that Big West will not oppose the Japanese release of an anticipated upcoming live-action Robotech film. The agreement also recognizes Harmony Gold’s longstanding exclusive license with Tatsunoko for the use of the 41 Macross characters and mecha in the Robotech television series and related merchandise throughout the world excluding Japan.
Moving forward, both parties will cooperate on distribution regarding future Macross and Robotech projects for the benefit of both franchises.”
This is a major shift for the Macross franchise in the west. For years fans outside of Japan have been clamoring for official releases of the Macross sequels and films and now they’ll be getting most of them! The press release doesn’t mention which sequels and films will be excluded so stay tuned for more information on that as it becomes available.
The press release also contains the fascinating tidbit that Big West won’t oppose a Japanese release of the upcoming live-action Robotech film. Hopefully ironing that out removes one of the road blocks in that film moving forward.
Big West representative director, Kaya Onishi said in a statement, “stories that feature Valkyries, a transformable realistic mecha, in action among the galaxies while diva’s sing in the background, as well as love triangles involving the pilots and singers. That was and continues to be the concept behind the Macross series, and I am happy that I can now help bring Macross to people all over the world on the 40th anniversary of the series. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Harmony Gold Chairman, Frank Agrama for his courageous decision in this matter.”
Haromy Gold USA chairman, Frank Agrama adds, “this is an incomparably historic moment for both Harmony Gold and Big West and the anime industry overall. This is also an exciting moment for fans of Robotech and Macross worldwide. I thank my friend, Big West Representative Director, Kaya Onishi for her hard work to help us reach this long-desired resolution that protects both of our franchises while building a better tomorrow for both our companies.”
While there are no doubt many questions from fans about this new agreement, it’s great to know that after waiting so long we’ll finally be able to legally see much more of the Macross franchise available outside of Japan. Alongside the license renewal for Macross (and the other shows that made up Robotech) between Harmony Gold and Tatsunoko, another player in the original creation of Macross, hopefully this can only mean good things for both Macross and Robotech moving forward.
Stay tuned to Den of Geek for more as it becomes available.
(If you want more Robotech check out the RoboSkull Cast, a podcast by this writer which features discussions of EVERY episode of the original Robotech anime series, and the movies.)
The post Macross Sequels and Films To Be Released Worldwide by Big West and Harmony Gold appeared first on Den of Geek.
Rocky IV remains a prototypical example of 1980s American franchise filmmaking, having conveyed a patriotic Cold-War-evocative ethos through the aesthetically shiny lens of scrappy superhuman pugilists pummeling each other over revenge and world peace, all to Vince DiCola’s absurd synthesizer-strewn score. Oh, and lest we forget, it had a robot! While those attributes entitled the 1985 film to the smug dismissal and earnest appreciation of posterity, star/writer/director Sylvester Stallone’s upcoming director’s cut risks erasing its allure.
Stallone, who announced his plan for a new Rocky IV cut last year, has completed his redux of the famous franchise‘s four-quel. However, unlike that other director’s cut dominating current conversations, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Sly’s upcoming Rocky IV Director’s Cut is an update of a film that was properly released by its director. Having premiered back on Nov. 27, 1985, Rocky IV was a box-office-topping hit that proved profoundly profitable for studio MGM, with a worldwide gross of $300 million ($733.3 million adjusted for inflation,) against a budget of $28 million. Moreover, despite its oft-focused foibles, the film retained enough interest 33 years later to be directly followed up in Creed II. However, to borrow his parlance from 2006’s Rocky Balboa, Stallone seemed to have “stuff in the basement,” to unleash for the fourth film.
“We’ve just been working on punches and sounds because it’s never complete,” explains Stallone of his director’s cut approach in an Instagram update. “I’ve said this before, you can go back and see a movie that you’ve done 50 years ago and go, ‘I’ve got to re-edit that.’ And every director feels the same way. It’s not about making a movie, it’s about remaking. Unfortunately, you run out of time, you run out of money. They basically throw you out of the room. So, therefore, you don’t get a chance, but on this one, I finally got a chance, so I’m feeling great about this.”
While the full extent of the changes Stallone made to Rocky IV obviously won’t be known until he premieres his new cut, some tidbits have made the rounds. One of the earliest-known changes is the elimination of one of its most campy, pseudo-sci-fi elements, the aforementioned robot. Specifically, the Jetsons-esque talking robot—a real-life invention called SICO, created by International Robotics Inc.—that well-to-do champ Rocky gives as a birthday present to his leachy live-in brother-in-law, Paulie (Burt Young) in the film’s first act. However, the robot—complete with a fancy-for-1985 cordless phone system installed—became a punchline, even for within film, during which it was implied that Paulie eventually altered its settings to sound and act like an alluring female maid that worships him while fetching his beers. Thus, the elimination of the robot not only deletes the amusing automaton, but it also necessitates an essence-altering recut of Paulie’s birthday party scenes. Yet, Stallone’s response to a fan’s posted desire to give SICO a reprieve was met with Ivan Drago-like coldness, stating, “I don’t like the robot anymore.”
And that brings us to the film’s Siberian Bull big bad himself, Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago, whose claim-to-fame fight in which he beat Carl Weathers’s Apollo Creed to death will apparently be extended in a yet-unknown manner in Stallone’s new cut. The role positioned newcomer Lundgren for stardom in what was only his second onscreen appearance, having previously appeared six months earlier in 1985 Bond movie A View to a Kill as a thug named Venz; a role he acquired due to his real-life romantic relationship with co-star Grace Jones. Besides being an imposing spectacle of a human being (which he remains to this day), Lundgren’s outing as Drago was meant to depict him as the ultimate villain, a soulless Soviet slayer shaped by communism, steroids and all-around godlessness. However, while that façade was shattered by the end of the film (and even more so in Creed II), it remains to be seen if extended Drago scenes—specifically in the Apollo fight—ends up weighing the film down unnecessarily.
If there’s one thing that critics can’t take away from Rocky IV, it would have to be Stallone’s artfully economic approach as a director. The film manifests as a slim, trim 91-minute affair that saves money by being deliberately diluted with lengthy montages—FOUR of them in total. In fact, even if we generously discount his blatant reuse of Rocky and Apollo’s Rocky III-closing sparring session for the opening scene, two of said montages fully consist of recycled footage from the previous three films. Indeed, the movie kicks off by playing “Eye of the Tiger” during the franchise-obligatory recap of the previous film’s final fight, and Rocky’s contemplative car ride after Apollo’s death is riddled with flashback scenes, during which a soundtrack song, Robert Tepper’s “No Easy Way Out,” plays out in full! You certainly have to hand it to Sly, the man knows how to get a big bang for his production buck. Yet, as with other intrinsically-Rocky IV aspects, one must wonder if Stallone has soured on his in-retrospect-amiable montage method of movie-making as much as the Robot.
On another note, Rocky IV is also known to be riddled with major movie mistakes, and I do mean A LOT of them; proverbial warts that have also come to define the film. For example, a major continuity mistake occurs before the Apollo/Drago fight when Apollo is in the ring trash-talking Drago, shouting, “I want you! I want you!” while his bare hand mockingly points at the Russian. Of course, just minutes earlier, we saw Apollo getting his hands taped up in his dressing room, and he was clearly gloved up when he came down to the ring in a James Brown-accompanied spectacle entrance. Additionally, a similarly bizarre mistake occurs during Rocky’s mid-movie vision of Drago in the aforementioned “No Easy Way Out” montage, which shows the Russian in the red trunks that he would later wear in the film’s final fight. Yet, most egregiously, Drago is clearly sporting the actual cut under his left eye that Rocky would deliver to him in the second round! While I could see Stallone wanting to fix mistakes like this, it would still be a shame to lose them.
However, a director’s cut of Rocky IV could yield benefits. After all, it could correct Apollo’s funeral scene, in which an odd focus error occurs on the right side of the frame that blurs out a few attendees, leading viewers to think it was censored. Moreover, it could prospectively integrate legendary lost elements. For example, Drago’s iconic evil line—delivered after he just killed Apollo—declaring “If he dies, he dies” was originally complemented by another would-be famous line that wasn’t even delivered in the film, but could finally get its onscreen due. Rocky IV’s teaser trailer featured an ominous introductory monologue from the villain that, contemporaneously, was just associated with the character as the movie line. Delivered in Lundrgen’s labored Russian accent, lines such as “My name is Drago” and “Soon, the whole world will know my name” were prominent pieces of the film’s early ephemera. In fact, the latter line was famously sampled at the end of New Wave act Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s 1986 hit (famously used in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off), “Love Missle F1-11,” in which the trailer clip—along with imitated lines from Scarface and The Terminator—was included to exemplify the song’s commentary on American cinematic ultraviolence.
Regardless of how it turns out, fans of the campy four-quel will be anxious to see what surprises Stallone has in store for the Rocky IV Director’s Cut. However, he has yet to reveal release date.
Now that Warner Bros. has seen consistent success with its line of DC superhero movies, the future of the DCEU seems assured with a healthy slate of films on the horizon, and with the Snyder Cut of Justice League finally released into the wild, you would think it might be time to finally stop worrying about the franchise’s early missteps, notably the difficulty that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had getting out of the gate and the subsequent effect it had on Justice League.
But then screenwriter Chris Terrio comes along and delivers a bombshell interview to Vanity Fair that just seems destined to get people relitigating the events surrounding a movie that just recently celebrated its 5th anniversary.
Terrio, who won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for 2012’s Argo, is “happy and relieved” that Zack Snyder’s Justice League has been released, but he has plenty to say about what went into the studio decisions surrounding the making of Batman v Superman and how they changed the direction of Justice League. His frustrations began when 30 minutes of Batman v Superman were removed from the theatrical release, which made the motivations for key characters, including its two title ones, unclear (those missing scenes were subsequently added back for the home release Ultimate Edition of the film and currently on HBO Max). Despite that, Terrio returned to write Justice League, in the hopes of completing the planned redemption arc for Batman, an arc which is much clearer in Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
“There was a mood of fear at the studio. No doubt,” Terrio said of the climate after Batman v Superman was met with a muted critical reception and relatively modest box office success. “My impression was that people in boardrooms started making the decisions. And they were decisions based on arbitrary metrics that had nothing to do with the stories that were being told.”
While the plan was always for Justice League to be a more hopeful film, Terrio still did a rewrite to reflect the input he was getting.
“I rewrote Justice League to lighten the mood a little bit—which became the Zack Snyder Justice League,” Terrio said. “That’s a slightly lighter, less dense version of the script, which I was fine with.”
But it wasn’t until Zack Snyder had to leave the project after a terrible personal tragedy and was replaced by Joss Whedon that things took a turn on the project.
“When the movie was taken away, that felt like it was some directive that had come from people who are neither filmmakers nor film-friendly,” he said. “The directive to make the movie under two hours, regardless of what the movie needed to do, and to make the colors brighter, and to have funny sitcom jokes in it.”
To complicate matters further, by that point there was a schedule in place for the expanding shared universe of DC superhero movies. This left Terrio working on a team-up film featuring characters whose own worlds were still meant to be fleshed out in future films.
“The Wonder Woman script wasn’t even finished when I wrote Justice League,” Terrio said as an example. “So I had no basis to write Wonder Woman other than Batman/Superman. Themyscira didn’t even exist. I was never shown anything on the page for it. I didn’t know whether people could talk underwater. That was a thing that I had to ask, because I didn’t know if I could do underwater scenes with Aquaman and Atlanteans. It was all just from scratch because there had been no [solo] character films.”
The full interview with Terrio at Vanity Fair is a fascinating read. Go check it out.
The post Batman v Superman Writer Describes Post-Release “Mood of Fear” appeared first on Den of Geek.
After years of waiting, Blizzard is finally releasing a remake (or remaster, as seems to be the preferred wording) of Diablo 2 that you might have a chance to play early if you’re one of the lucky few who receives an invite for the game’s upcoming technical alpha.
While it’s understandable that you may be wary of another remake of a classic Blizzard game after Warcraft 3: Reforged, everything that we’ve seen of Diablo 2: Resurrected so far suggests that this will indeed be the Diablo 2 update that fans have been begging for. In fact, there’s a chance that the quality of this remaster may put the Diablo 4 team on their toes.
If you want to get in on one of our most anticipated PC games of 2021 a bit early, then here’s what you need to know about the Diablo 2: Resurrected technical alpha:
The Diablo 2: Resurrected technical alpha is currently set to run from Friday, April 9 at 10 a.m. EST to Monday, April 12 at 1 p.m. EST. It will only be available to PC players during that time via the Blizzard launcher.
As with many of these test runs, there’s always a chance that the window to play the game will be extended. As there have been no indications that there are any plans in place to extend the alpha beyond the dates and times listed above, though, we suggest you spend as much time as possible diving into the game this weekend if you’re really interested in taking it for a spin.
The good news is that signing up for Diablo 2: Resurrected‘s technical alpha is a fairly painless process that simply requires you to follow these steps:
When will you receive that invitation? Well, that’s where the potentially bad news comes into play.
See, the invitations will start going out on Friday, April 9 at around 10 a.m. EST. However, the current plan is to send those invitations out in waves to accepted players. That means that there’s a chance you won’t be selected in the initial wave and will need to wait longer to receive your invite. The selection process is also handled randomly, so there’s really no way to guarantee that your name will be drawn out of the hat.
Considering that I’ve also heard the word “limited” tossed around in regards to the total number of invites, though, I’d say it’s probably best to keep your expectations low if you’re planning on spending this weekend grinding through the game.
While we don’t know the exact dates yet (or whether or not they’ll be referred to as alphas), Blizzard has confirmed that they plan on opening additional testing periods to the public sometime later this year. We already know that the development team plans on launching an additional playable build of the game later this year that will focus on multiplayer.
There’s also no word on whether or not those tests will require a separate “opt-in,” but if you’re interested in joining this alpha, then it certainly can’t hurt to just opt-in now.
Based on what we’ve learned so far, here’s what you can expect to see in the Diablo 2: Resurrected technical alpha:
All told, it sounds like this is a fairly substantial alpha that should give curious fans a taste of what’s to come.
Diablo 2: Resurrected is scheduled to be fully released for PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S sometime in 2021. There’s been no word on an exact release date, but if the game delays of 2021 are any indication, you should probably expect this one to be released sometime towards the end of the year.
The post Diablo 2 Resurrected Technical Alpha: How to Sign Up For an Invite appeared first on Den of Geek.
Twenty years ago, Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods burst onto our screens with her infectious can-do attitude and an early-2000s penchant for all things pink and fuzzy, from her jacket to her phone. Reese Witherspoon’s iconic sorority sister who goes to Harvard Law School in pursuit of an ex-boyfriend—dressed in head-to-toe pink, carrying a copy of the Bible (Cosmo, obvi)—didn’t jive with the era’s conception of a Strong Female Character, a la Trinity from The Matrix, Sarah Connor from the Terminator movies, or Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider franchise. Elle derives her strength from what many would deem her traditionally feminine character traits and pursuits, not in spite of them, like her undergraduate study of fashion and her focus on loyalty and cooperation rather than competition. While some fall for the trap of associating masculinity with strength and intelligence and femininity with conservatism and vapidity, Elle’s fans have always seen her for who she really is: a feminist ahead of her time.
Everything about Elle Woods is bubblegum pink femininity, from her wardrobe (“I don’t understand why you’re completely disregarding your signature color!”) and tiny purse dog Bruiser to her enthusiastic vernacular and name, derived from the 2000s teen fashion magazine, which also happens to be the French pronoun “she.” When Elle is frustrated, she channels the feeling into studying and achieving. When she’s rejected from a study group (essential to surviving law school), she politely takes her homemade treats and leaves. An early precursor to Annie Murphy’s Alexis Rose on Schitt’s Creek, Reese Witherspoon’s charm and relentless positivity help turn an archetype that’s normally considered shallow or even villainous into a fully-fledged character with depth and heart.
It’s easy to look at Elle Woods and the film Legally Blonde and discredit them both—and many have. She’s arguably let into the school based on her looks, and her own advisor made a mean joke about acing a class on polka dots, discrediting her fashion merchandising major. But don’t forget that she had a 4.0 GPA and a 179 on her LSAT (out of 180 possible points), making her a top candidate. She was also president of her sorority, involved in extracurriculars and philanthropy. Oh and that pink resume? It’s inspired by the true story of how the manuscript for the book that Legally Blonde was based on got scooped from the slush pile.
Legally Blonde doesn’t make fun of its heroine for her interest in feminine-coded pursuits like shopping or her penchant for the color pink. An early shopping scene, a spiritual sequel to the couplet in Pretty Woman, sets Elle up to be the butt of a saleswoman’s joke about stupid rich girls spending daddy’s money. Instead, Elle asks the woman a series of questions about the garment’s construction and provenance, the saleswoman agreeing to everything in pursuit of a sale, not realizing she has exposed her own ignorance and deception by doing so. Elle’s fashion education isn’t an air-headed pursuit, but a fulfilling interest as worthwhile as any other, one where accumulating knowledge can come in just as handy as knowing about political science.
Legally Blonde is a fish-out-of-water story, so while Elle’s hobbies are no less important than how her Harvard classmates spend their time, they’re certainly different. She uses her specialized knowledge to figure out parts of the Brooke Windham case (Ali Larter), like realizing that gay men are more likely to know shoe designers than straight ones (even if that’s a bit, uh, reductive), and using her shared interests with Brooke to help make her time while incarcerated more comfortable and gain her trust, so that Brooke would share her alibi. The coup de grace, of course, is Elle’s use of perm knowledge to expose Linda Cardelini’s socialite daughter lying on the stand, causing her to crack and confess to killing her father, exonerating Elle’s client Brooke.
Throughout the movie, Elle is happiest in women-dominated spaces that focus on community and collaborative support, traits typically associated with femininity. When she was prepping for a proposal from Warner and then nursing the heartache afterwards, it was as much a Delta Nu experience as it was her own. Once Elle decides to go to law school, the entire sorority pitches in, helping her study for the LSAT and make her video essay. When Elle gets to Cambridge, she once again seeks solace at a nail salon, a place where women take care of one another and give advice, even if they are strangers at first. And it’s no coincidence that, when Elle quits working on the Brooke Windham case and wants to leave Harvard altogether, she cries her eyes out at the nail salon, where Professor Stromwell (a pitch-perfect Holland Taylor) overhears her plight.
Warner tells Elle, “If I’m going to be a senator, I need to marry a Jackie, not a Marilyn.” In the world of Legally Blonde, women don’t have to choose. You can be a shy manicurist, but also have a killer bend-and-snap. You can be a strict law professor who also goes to the salon and has her student’s back when a colleague sexually harasses her. It’s fitting that, for Elle’s moment of triumph, when she takes the lead in Brooke Windham’s case, Elle makes her entrance in her signature color: vibrant pink. Since her first class at Harvard, Elle started cosplaying as a normie law student, her clothing getting darker and more traditional to match her surroundings. She traded in her pink-lensed sunglasses for reading glasses. When it was time for Elle to have her crowning moment of achievement, though, she did it by looking and acting like herself, and relying on the knowledge and drive that got her to Harvard in the first place—pink sparkles and all.
Elle’s mother doesn’t want her to “throw away” being the first runner up in the Miss Hawaiian Tropics contest to go to law school, but over the course of the film, Elle proves that she doesn’t have to choose between the two. Furthermore, she doesn’t have to choose between love and a career, or settle for a guy who doesn’t appreciate her for the powerhouse that she is. While Warner is the catalyst for Elle’s journey into jurisprudence, he quickly shows himself to be something of a “bonehead” once they’re both in Cambridge, telling Elle she’ll never be smart enough to win a coveted internship spot, encouraging Elle to break her word to their client once she does get the internship, and then never noticing the sexism of their professor who only asks the women to fetch him food and drink. Eventually, Warner does come around, like all of Elle’s classmates and teachers, but by then she has the self-worth to tell him to take a hike.
Speaking of Warner, when he shows up in Cambridge he comes with his preppy fiancé Vivian Kensington (Selma Blair, in a mini Cruel Intentions reunion). Vivian and Elle were set up to compete over not only Warner, but grades and career opportunities, like Professor Callahan’s internship. The film’s first act sees a bit of bad blood and back and forth. As the rivals see one another’s legal prowess and come to see the sexism in their field from powerful men like Callahan (and the way less powerful men like Warner either don’t see or pretend not to), they grow closer. Eventually, Warner reveals his low character while Elle displays her loyalty by keeping Brooke’s alibi a secret, and the two drop Warner and their competition to become friends instead. For young women watching, it’s a valuable lesson that other women and girls aren’t your competition—they’re your allies.
Elle and Legally Blonde aren’t perfect—her journey started out in pursuit of her ex-boyfriend, and classmate Enid was probably right that many women in sororities would call her a dyke and mistreat her. It’s a shame Elle never finds common ground with the one woman in the film who’s an actual avowed feminist. But people grow, and Legally Blonde allowed its heroine the room to do that, even after the credits rolled. Elle Woods has inspired many women to become lawyers, and it’s easy to see why. She believes in herself and others, fights for her friend Paulette’s dog, and fights back against sexual harassment. But even for those who aren’t interested in the law, Elle’s way of winning people over by being kind, supportive, and “using her blonde for good” sends an important message that traditionally femme traits and esthetics are powerful in their own right.
The post How Legally Blonde Created a Feminist Hero Ahead of her Time appeared first on Den of Geek.
Despite the fact that GTA 5 is playable on three generations of gaming consoles, and despite the fact that it’s been offered to millions via various subscription services over the years (most recently Game Pass), people still can’t seem to get enough of the 2013 game that regularly tops global sales charts.
There’s a lot you can say about why GTA 5 has stayed popular over the years, but any discussions have to start with the fact that it is a great game. It managed to surpass even unreasonable levels of hype and has received widespread acclaim from fans and critics over nearly eight years. Most importantly, it stands as developer Rockstar’s masterpiece despite the fact that their library of titles already makes many other Triple-A developers envious.
That’s a bold claim, but a deeper look at GTA 5 after all these years reveals the many reasons that even the now mythical GTA 6 might not be able to top what Rockstar accomplished with GTA 5.
GTA 4 remains arguably the most divisive modern Grand Theft Auto game, but there are ways that it undeniably brought the series into a new era of game design. Its stunning open-world city that felt truly alive was a highlight, but when you hear people praise GTA 4, they’re typically talking about the sequel’s mature story which touched upon the “American Dream” from the perspective of a down-and-out modern immigrant.
While GTA 4’s story was certainly thematically ambitious compared to what came before, Rockstar clearly struggled to present that story against the absurd backdrop of this series’ trademark style. GTA 5 embraced that style a bit more with its ridiculous characters and sometimes silly stories, but it advanced GTA 4’s ideas of a character-driven narrative by focusing on the lives of three criminals at very different points in their lives and careers.
I don’t know if GTA 5 gets enough credit for the way it examines three distinct protagonists through a series of events that weave their adventures in and out of each other while giving each of them more than enough time to shine as stars. Most importantly, GTA 5’s story never stops having fun.
While GTA 3’s 3D open-world is rightfully credited with changing gaming forever, even the early GTA games captured that simple thrill of being able to explore a large environment without anything in particular to do. As GTA evolved, though, driving around the series’ maps became a little more about getting to the next story point or your own planned activities.
By fixing GTA 4’s…well…awful driving system, GTA 5 surpassed its predecessor in terms of how much fun it was to just drive around. The joy of exploring GTA 5‘s world is about more than improved controls, though. Through subtle design decisions and some truly excellent vehicles, GTA 5 constantly encourages you to test the limits of your driving abilities and often rewards you in various ways for your efforts.
Even if you don’t play GTA Online, it’s easy to justify firing up GTA 5 once more just to lose yourself in the ecstasy of getting behind the wheel with nowhere in particular to go.
For quite some time, I considered San Andreas to be the peak of the GTA series. Its large map, ‘90s setting, and memorably outlandish moments thrilled me in ways that even GTA 5 did not when I first played it.
Over the years, though, GTA 5 won me over with the ways it reimagined some of GTA: San Andreas’ best elements while acknowledging the ways in which that ambitious game was hindered by the limitations of its time. GTA 5 went back to the “wilder” style that was missing from the base GTA 4 experience, but by balancing those moments with more restrained storytelling and world-building methods that better grounded the entire affair, GTA 5 avoided feeling quite as comical as San Andreas while still taking time to just get weird with it.
Rockstar clearly recognized that GTA: San Andreas brought something to the table that GTA 4 kind of lost, but it was their ability to draw from those qualities rather than depend on them that makes GTA 5 so brilliant.
GTA: Vice City’s rightfully beloved soundtrack is really just an example of its best quality: the game’s over-the-top 1980s setting. The ways that Rockstar celebrated an especially beloved era in American pop culture history ensure that Vice City’s setting never really feels out of date simply because it’s trying to recreate an idea rather than an exact time.
GTA 5 goes for something a little different but succeeds in similar ways. It tries to capture roughly the era it was developed in, which would seem to be a nearly impossible task given our ever-changing times and the fact Rockstar’s writers and designers couldn’t benefit from hindsight. GTA 5 doesn’t necessarily capture every nuance of the 2010s, but it impressively targets so many of the absurd elements of modern society that make our world feel more like the world of GTA games than ever before.
From billionaires with a cult of personality that allows them to behave like supervillains to our ever-widening social gaps, GTA 5 uses its social commentary so well that some remain unsure whether it’s a parody of the GTA series itself or just a spot-on recognition of what was going on.
No matter how much you love the early GTA games, you have to admit their combat was usually pretty awful. Every GTA game improved the series’ combat somewhat, but it got to a point where many of us just assumed that GTA’s combat was always going to be limited.
GTA 5 changed all of that by looking at the brilliant action of Rockstar’s Max Payne 3 and folding that game’s most refined action elements into the GTA universe. You aren’t constantly diving in slow motion while firing dual machine guns in GTA 5, but the way that you’re able to bounce in and out of gunfights and turn even minor encounters into spectacles speaks to the lessons that Rockstar learned over the years.
I never thought that a GTA game would feature truly compelling combat, but I find myself wishing more games featured a variation of GTA 5’s action mechanics.
As I’ve talked about in the past, I feel that GTA Online’s evolution has been hindered by the expectations of the live service era, a few bad ideas, and Rockstar’s decision to not support that content with more traditional single-player DLC offerings.
However, I can’t deny that GTA Online has succeeded in ways that no other Rockstar game (even the similar Red Dead Online) has ever matched. Rockstar has always been one of the premiere narrative-driven developers in the industry, and in GTA Online, they eventually found a way to combine those narrative elements with the series’ open-world anarchy in a way clearly spoke to millions of gamers.
After years of failed attempts at a multiplayer mode (or no attempts at all), GTA Online captured the wonderful potential of GTA multiplayer in ways that are honestly still a bit hard to believe.
Any discussion about the “best cast of characters in a Rockstar game” tends to be contentious. This is a studio famous for assembling large casts of wild characters and usually getting the perfect people to voice them.
The thing about GTA 5’s cast that stands out to me to this day, though, is how well-rounded it is. Maybe it features fewer throw-away characters designed to deliver a particular joke or embody an archetype, but that’s kind of what’s brilliant about it. If GTA 5’s cast isn’t “all killer, no filler,” then it comes closer to achieving that goal than any other GTA title.
At the very least, GTA 5 features a trio of protagonists who could have easily starred in their own GTA adventures. That’s an accomplishment that can’t be overlooked.
While GTA made a name for itself via open-world mayhem, the series’ narrative-driven main missions and thrilling side-missions often end up defining so many of our memories of these games. As we looked at in our retrospective on the best GTA missions ever, this series has gifted us with some of the best assignments in open-world gaming history.
GTA 5 distinguishes itself in that respect by raising the quality of the “average” GTA mission. Yes, there have been great standalone missions in GTA games of the past, but many of those early games relied on variations of simple fetch quests and other basic assignments to stretch out storylines. GTA 5 isn’t perfect in that respect, but more than any GTA game before (or any other Rockstar project) it finds a way to lend a bit of weight to whatever you’re doing and spice it up through some kind of twist or even just a memorable conclusion.
Of course, GTA 5’s heists represent the absolute best of GTA mission design and should serve as the rough template for whatever comes next.
When GTA 5’s map was first leaked online, there were those who noted that it seemed far less substantial than GTA: San Andreas’ world (which featured three distinct cities as well as rural connecting areas). Others said that there was just no way that GTA 5 could hope to match that living city that GTA 4 emphasized like no other game before it.
While GTA 5 is indeed larger than previous GTA games from a statistical standpoint, it’s the ways that the game’s map and world emphasize the little things along the way that truly make it stand out. There’s a little something in nearly every bit of GTA 5’s map that helps distinguish it from the rest. That something may be little more than a beautiful stretch of highway that connects two key locations, but Rockstar found a way to inject more of GTA 5’s map with genuine personality.
I’d say Red Dead Redemption 2 comes close to topping GTA 5 in that respect, but the difference is certainly debate. Speaking of RDR 2…
I love RDR 2 and will always defend it against those who say it’s too slow, too awkward, or just too different than Red Dead Redemption. However, when it comes to the debate over whether Red Dead Redemption 2 lost those trademark “Rockstar elements,” it becomes a bit harder to defend that game.
Much like GTA 4, RDR 2’s methodical design is hindered slightly by the realization that an otherwise impressive effort is being made by a company battling its instincts and trying to break out of its comfort zone. I believe RDR 2 succeeds (for the most part) in that pursuit, but there is certainly something to be said for the ways that GTA 5 tells a more refined story that still captures the sarcastic and outlandish voice of the studio that created it.
Rockstar was right to challenge themselves with RDR 2, and I suspect GTA 6 will borrow heavily from that game. However, it’s hard to overlook the ways that GTA 5 pulled from the best of both storytelling worlds.
Cult classic BMX movie, RAD is experiencing a renaissance 35 years after it release. To celebrate, we’re giving away a prize bundle of a limited-edition RAD x etnies t-shirt and a RAD Blu-ray.
Thirty five years ago, both the BMX film RAD and apparel brand etnies were brought into this world. In celebration of pop culture nostalgia, and their respective anniversaries, the two have joined forces to help us host a new giveaway! The grand prize winner will take home a limited-edition RAD-themed etnies shirt, along with a Blu-ray of the film. Two runner-up winners will receive one copy of the Blu-ray film. Enter the giveaway using our official entry form below, and good luck!Giveaway: RAD Movie Blu-ray + etnies Shirt Swag Bundle
J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the most celebrated writers in fantasy fiction history. Check out a quick biography about the author of The Lord of the Rings and other Middle-earth works.
“There aren’t many 20th century authors whose popularity could match that of English fantasy icon J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973). The mind behind The Lord of the Rings and various other works set in Middle-earth has inspired generations of creators and helped establish the high-fantasy genre as one of the most powerful in the marketplace today.”
Cryptocurrency has been a tax conundrum since its inception, but the IRS is beginning to tax it. Here’s what you need to know so far…
“Cryptocurrency is digital currency, or a ‘digital representation of value,’ as the IRS puts it. You can’t see it, hold it in your hand, or put it in your wallet. It’s been in use for over a decade and has grown in popularity over the last few years. Instead of using a bank to create, transfer, and exchange funds, cryptocurrency employs a distributed, encrypted blockchain network to process transactions.”
Zack Snyder’s Justice League and HBO Max may pave the way for the Dune reboot to be a bigger success than if it had been purely a theater release.
“The biggest shock about Zack Snyder’s Justice League wasn’t that that it was actually kind of good, it was that over a million people watched the Snyder Cut in its first weekend — and some of them even finished the 4-hour epic. Without a doubt, the Snyder Cut benefited from its straight-to-streaming release on HBO Max.”
Made For Love is a technology nightmare akin to Black Mirror, and a science fiction series well worth your time.
“Though HBO Max’s new series Made For Love, an adaptation of Alissa Nutting’s 2017 novel of the same name, is charged with the same foreboding dread about a technology-saturated near future that’s present in Black Mirror, the show imagines a hero who has enough sense to understand how messed up the world she lives in is.”
From WandaVision to Made For Love, here are the best new sci-fi and fantasy TV shows 2021 has to offer so far.
“These days, we’re all looking for an escape from reality, at least for a couple hours a day, and what better way to do that than to binge-watch the best genre television series this year has to offer? It’s only April, but we’re already off to a great start, and with many productions starting back up again or finally kicking off after lengthy delays, there is even more great science fiction and fantasy TV coming in the next months to tide us all over while we wait until we’re allowed outside again.”
The post Link Tank: We’re Giving Away a RAD Movie x Etnies Swag Bundle appeared first on Den of Geek.
This Fear the Walking Dead article contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead season 6 has been one of the darkest seasons of the show so far. Our heroes have been separated, some left for dead while others were forced to join Virginia and her cruel group of Pioneers who want all the survivors they meet to fall in line or die.
When Morgan stood up to Virginia in season 5, it ended very badly for him. Not only was his group broken but so was his spirit. But season 6 has been all about putting those pieces back together for Morgan. After a deadly encounter with a bounty hunter in the first half of the season gave him a new lease on life, Morgan has been busy plotting the downfall of the Pioneers, one strike at a time.
By the midseason finale, it seemed Morgan had his winning card: Dakota, Virginia’s rebellious sister who doesn’t agree with her older sibling’s methods. At first, Morgan planned to trade Dakota for the rest of his group but was convinced to instead take her with him to the secret place he’s building for his people. But Morgan doesn’t know that Virginia has something up her sleeve, too.
As we learned in the final minutes of “Damage from the Inside,” Virginia has her own trump card, which will significantly complicate things for Morgan and his friends in the midseason premiere. “The Door” will deliver its biggest Morgan moment of the season when he reconnects with his love interest Grace, whom we learned at the end of season 5 might be carrying his baby.
Watch the exclusive clip below to see Morgan’s reaction to hearing Grace’s voice for the first time in a long time:
While we don’t know what exactly is in store for Morgan and Grace for the rest of the season, the synopsis for the remaining episodes paint a bleak picture:
“As Morgan’s (Lennie James) bid to free the remaining members of the group becomes bolder, Virginia (Colby Minifie) grows increasingly desperate to find her sister and protect the settlements from forces working inside and outside her walls. The second half of Season Six reveals the impact of what living under Virginia’s control has done to each person in this group, who once saw themselves as a family. New alliances will be formed, relationships will be destroyed, and loyalties forever changed. When everyone is forced to take sides, they discover the meaning of, ‘The End is the Beginning.’”
Despite his new lease on life and more laissez-faire attitude regarding beheadings, the odds are still pretty stacked against Morgan. Virginia controls a whole army of rangers, a fleet of vehicles, and even the oil fields that power said vehicles, while all he has are a few friends and a vision for a new settlement hidden behind a dam. Virginia’s people are a Savior-level threat, and this time, Morgan doesn’t have a whole army behind him like Rick did on The Walking Dead season 8.
The second half of Fear the Walking Dead season 6 will also introduce three new characters played by John Glover (The Good Wife), Nick Stahl (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines), and Keith Carradine (Fargo).
Fear the Walking Dead season 6 returns this Sunday, April 11 at 9 pm ET on AMC.
Keep up with all of our Fear the Walking Dead coverage here.
The post Fear the Walking Dead Season 6 Returns with Big Morgan Moment appeared first on Den of Geek.
The events as they’re presented in Saving Private Ryan would never happen that way. This was my grandfather’s terse review of the Steven Spielberg movie back in 1998. He would know. After serving in the Pacific Theater throughout the war—being there from Pearl Harbor to Saipan, and then Okinawa—he carried a quiet lifelong interest in documentaries about the World War II American experience. And he had little time for Hollywood sentimentality.
“Eight guys for one man during D-Day? Never would’ve happened.”
Indeed, the idea of eight men being potentially squandered during the largest seaborne invasion in history is probably a flight of fancy by Spielberg and screenwriter Robert Rodat. Nevertheless, there is a poignant, mostly heartbreaking truth which informs Saving Private Ryan’s fiction. The context can be absurd at times, with Tom Hanks’ Capt. Miller leading a group of U.S. soldiers behind enemy lines to find one paratrooper, Pvt. Ryan (Matt Damon), after his three older brothers died in battles around Europe. However, the idea of the U.S. military wanting to prevent an entire family from being wiped out?
That cuts to the heart of War Department policy near the end of the Second World War. Here are a few of the true stories which inspired Saving Private Ryan’s Hollywood narrative.
Near the beginning of America’s entry into World War II, the family of Thomas and Alleta Sullivan from Waterloo, Iowa endured a tragedy so all-encompassing that it made national news. In November 1942, all five of their sons, George, Frank, Joe, Matt, and Al Sullivan, died after the sinking of the light cruiser USS Juneau in the Pacific. The youngest of them, Al, was aged 20, with oldest brother George being one month shy of his 28th birthday.
Before their deaths, the U.S. Navy already made it a policy to separate siblings upon enlistment, but it was never strictly enforced. And as George and Frank had served in the Navy before, they wanted to take the three younger brothers under their wing. All five volunteered to enlist in January 1942, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. But they did so only upon the written stipulation that they serve on the same ship.
“We will make a team together that can’t be beat,” George Sullivan wrote to the military. “We had 5 buddies killed in Hawaii. Help us.” The Navy granted that wish, putting them on the Juneau, which soon headed to Guadalcanal where an Allied campaign began in August to wrest the island from the Empire of Japan.
The Juneau participated in a series of naval engagements before the ship was struck by a Japanese torpedo on Nov. 13 during a naval battle near the Solomon Islands. The cruiser was forced to withdraw, and later that day it traveled with other damaged U.S. warships toward the Allied rear-area base on Espiritu Santo. The Juneau was the lone vessel not to make it there. Torpedoed again, this time by Japanese submarine I-26, the cruiser’s ammunition magazines were struck by the blast and the ship exploded, sinking immediately.
It would be several days before there was any attempt to search for survivors.
At the time of the sinking, Capt. Gilbert C. Hoover of the USS Helena deemed it unlikely anyone survived the Juneau’s explosion and considered it reckless to look for survivors, thereby exposing more wounded ships to the unseen Japanese submarine. The other ships did not turn back. Instead the Helena signaled a nearby B-17 bomber to tell headquarters to send other aircraft out to search for survivors. However, the bomber could not break radio silence and did not report the sinking until the plane landed.
The bomber’s report went unnoticed for more than 48 hours under paperwork. By the time naval staff realized the clerical error, the more than 100 initial survivors of the Juneau’s sinking had long begun to see their numbers dwindle. This included several of the Sullivan brothers.
Of the 100 or so men who went into the water after the Juneau sank, only 10 were alive when a PBY spotted them eight days later. All five Sullivans were gone. According to those who did survive, Frank, Joe, and Matt died instantly on the second torpedo’s impact. Al drowned the next day. George, meanwhile, survived for four or five days before delirium set in, apparently caused by hypernatremia (a high concentration of sodium in the bloodstream). As a result, he jumped off the raft he was sharing and was never seen again. He was one of many who died from exposure to the sun, starvation, dehydration, and of course shark attacks.
Their parents Tom and Alleta did not know any of this for months. The U.S. Navy deemed it necessary to keep the Juneau’s loss classified, so as to not provide crucial information to the Japanese. But as days became weeks, and then months, parents of all the sailors grew fearful when communication with their children stopped.
After one anxious letter by Alleta was sent to the Bureau of Naval Personnel, inquiring about a rumor that all five Sullivan boys were dead, no less than President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded.
“As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I want you to know that the entire nation shares in your sorrow,” Roosevelt wrote. “I offer you the condolences and gratitude of our country. We who remain to carry on the fight must maintain spirit, in knowledge that such sacrifice is not in vain.”
The day before the letter arrived on Jan. 13, 1943, the Navy informed the Sullivans their sons were dead. When Tom Sullivan asked the approaching chief petty officer which son had died, the Navy man responded, “I’m sorry. All five.”
The brothers left behind a younger sister named Genevieve, as well as Al’s widow and son (Al was the only brother married). It became an international story, with Roosevelt sending another letter, and Pope Pius XII sending a silver religious medal and rosary with a message of condolence to the Catholic family. Alleta was there when the Navy launched a new destroyer, USS The Sullivans, in 1943. She and her husband also became regular speakers for the war effort in the following years.
As a result of the Sullivans’ sacrifice, plus another family’s suffering, the newly named Defense Department soon implemented the Sole Survivor Policy. But before that happened there were…
Alben and Gunda Borgstrom of Thatcher, Utah were already touched by tragedy before the Second World War. The parents of 10 children, seven boys and three girls, one of their sons had already died in 1921 from a ruptured appendix at the age of 10. When World War II began, five of the remaining six sons either volunteered or were drafted into the war: LeRoy Elmer, Clyde Eugene, twin brothers Rolon Day and Rulon Day, and Boyd Borgstrom.
Over the span of about five months, four of the brothers died all over the world. The oldest of them, LeRoy, was only 30 while twin brothers Rolon Day and Rulon Day were aged 19 when they died on different sides of the English Channel.
Clyde, 28, was the first to die in March 1944, struck by a falling tree while clearing land for a new airstrip on the Solomon Islands in Guadalcanal. His older brother LeRoy followed three months later when he was killed in action while fighting in Italy. Rolon Day died in August when the bomber he was on experienced engine failure and crashed in Yaxham, England. Rulon Day, meanwhile, was reported as missing in action after an attack on Brest, France, a port city in the Brittany region held by the Germans. He was later found gravely injured, and soon died from combat wounds on Aug. 25, 1944.
Even before a mortally wounded Rulon Day was discovered, his parents had already gathered the support of neighbors and Utah congressional leaders to petition the U.S. military to release their last surviving son, Boyd, from service. The petition was successful, and Boyd was transferred home to the U.S. and thereafter discharged from the Marines with a special order of the Commandant of the Marine Corps., Gen. Alexander Vandegrift. Further the Borgstroms’ youngest son Eldon, who was not yet old enough to serve in the military in 1944, was exempted from the draft and military service.
A funeral service was held when all four deceased brothers’ remains were returned to Utah in 1948. During the service, their parents were presented with three Bronze Star Medals, one Air Medal, and one Good Conduct Medal. The loss of the four Borgstrom Brothers, like the five Sullivans before them, triggered the official adoption of the Sole Survivor Policy.
Implemented in 1948, the Sole Survivor Policy is a Defense Department directive which describes a set of regulations to be observed by the U.S. military in all its branches. The policy is designed to protect the sole survivor of families from combat duty or the draft if the son or daughter in question has siblings who already died in combat.
However, the policy is entirely voluntary. Which means the designated “sole survivor” of a family in the military must apply to be sent home by commanding officers. Additionally, it only applies during peacetime, and not in times of war or national emergency as declared by the U.S. Congress. But since Congress hasn’t officially declared war since 1942, it’s pretty much been in place in perpetuity, although each branch of the military has its own special provisions for the regulations.
While it would not have been implemented during the events of Saving Private Ryan—in fact, several of the fallen Borgstrom brothers would still be alive during the events of the film—its creation would have already been on the minds of the top brass when something like the Pvt. Ryan situation occurred. However, even if the Sole Survivor Policy had been in place by ‘44, Damon’s James Ryan would still need to apply to return home (which he did not want to do in the film)…. and that paperwork probably would not have been processed during the middle of a massive invasion.
Still, it makes for a great movie.
The post Saving Private Ryan: The Real History That Inspired the WW2 Movie appeared first on Den of Geek.
Writer-director Neil Burger has dipped into science fiction both for adults and the YA audience a couple of times throughout his career. First with his 2011 film Limitless, in which Bradley Cooper becomes a mental powerhouse thanks to a mysterious drug; in 2014, he helmed Divergent, one of the last gasps of the dystopian young adult subgenre; and with the new film Voyagers —which features the filmmaker’s first original screenplay since 2008’s The Lucky Ones—Burger plunges full-on into sci-fi with a space-based thriller that takes some familiar material, and… doesn’t do much with it.
There are two familiar—perhaps overly familiar—plot threads happening in Voyagers. On one hand, the story is set on a generation ship, a well-worn genre device in which a group of people board a spacecraft for a vast interstellar journey, knowing that they won’t reach their destination but that their descendants will. In this case, the passengers are a crew of some 30 young people who have been literally bred in a lab for intelligence, loyalty, and dedication to their mission.
Shepherding them on the mission, and the only actual adult on the ship, is Richard (a warm Colin Farrell), the scientist who has supervised the youngsters since birth and feels a moral obligation to accompany them, even though he knows he won’t see the end of the 80-year journey. The kids are headed to a new home for the human race in a distant star system since the Earth is pretty much screwed at this point.
Voyagers also deploys an instantly recognizable plot development that more or less started back in 1954 with the novel Lord of the Flies: put a group of young people in an isolated, closed space for any amount of time, and set a timer to see how long it takes before that group descends into lawlessness and savagery.
With Voyagers, it doesn’t take very long at all because while barely into the mission, friends Christopher (Tye Sheridan from Ready Player One and the last stretch of X-Men movies) and Zac (Fionn Whitehead of Dunkirk fame) make a shocking discovery: a medication the kids must take everyday called the “Blue” (and which is billed as a vitamin supplement) is actually a sedative that is used to suppress all emotions during the trip—including anger, fear, and sexual desire.
Sure enough, Christopher and Zac decide to stop taking the “Blue,” at first keeping this information from Richard but spreading the word among the rest of the kids. It’s not too long before there’s a leadership vacuum on the ship, with Christopher and Zac soon heading up different factions and all hell breaking loose as the crew feels lust, rage, fear, and all sorts of unfamiliar and overwhelming impulses for the first time in their lives.
The premise of placing groups of people inside spaceships and seeing what happens to them under extreme circumstances has cropped up recently, and successfully, in the Swedish-Danish film Aniara and A24’s French-German production, High Life, both released in 2018. Both of those films took their concepts in interesting, existential directions. The problem with Voyagers is that one knows exactly where this film is going pretty early on, and Burger does nothing original or compelling with the material once he starts turning his story into a simplistic Lord of the Flies in space.
The biggest unanswered question is: couldn’t these kids, literally raised to be the cream of the crop in terms of their intelligence and capabilities (they are crewing an interstellar craft, after all), also be cultivated through the same psychological/biological engineering to be emotionally stable without drugs? Wouldn’t keeping them heavily medicated for at least part of the journey create problems even when they’re supposed to be taken off the “Blue” and allowed to start mating?
There is potentially rich material here to explore in a different, more intellectually satisfying sci-fi drama, but Burger dispenses with all that by the end of the first act. He also dispenses with any real character development. Since we don’t get to know any of these kids very well at all, including other familiar faces like Lily-Rose Depp (The King) and Isaac Hempstead Wright (Game of Thrones’ Bran Stark), we don’t really have a connection to any of them. Their plight becomes more irritating than genuinely gripping.
At least the visual effects are top-notch, and the design of the ship is itself somewhat striking. But the second half of the film just seems to plunge the camera up and down a repetitive series of white corridors as the two warring factions chase, fight, and try to kill each other. But all the neat-looking space gear in the universe can’t do anything to change the fact that Voyagers hits one note and keeps banging away at it, eventually reaching a conclusion that is meant to strike an emotional chord but just feels flat.
Sheridan is appealing enough, even if he’s not a particularly expressive actor, but he’s also not ready for leading man status. His Christopher and Depp’s Sela are supposed to be the moral compasses of the story, but only Depp truly generates some real spark here and there. Whitehead is high-tension right from the start and drops quickly into insanity and hate while everybody else just kind of blurs into the background, including Wright, who still appears to be in semi-comatose Bran mode.
A subplot involving a potential alien force outside the ship is murky and ends up going nowhere, while Burger’s worst decision is introducing montages at various points of psychedelic colors, scenes of animals attacking and hunting each other, and other explosive glimpses of nature—all to hammer home a point we got in the first few minutes.
The movie’s setup has the same template of many a fine story from the past, and not just in science fiction. Burger and company could have taken it in any number of powerful new directions with Voyagers. But we’ve been down the road he’s chosen many times before, and giving it a new coat of futuristic paint doesn’t make the journey feel like it’s moving forward this time.
Voyagers is out in theaters on Friday, April 9.
The post Voyagers Review: Horny Sci-Fi Movie Needs a Time-Out appeared first on Den of Geek.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition will undoubtedly inherit the original franchise’s controversies (and start a few new ones of its own thanks to some fresh camera angles), but a series of changes recently revealed by BioWare suggest that the Legendary Edition may just become the best way to experience the divisive title that kicked this series off.
2007’s Mass Effect was touted as BioWare’s most ambitious game until that point, which was true in a lot of ways. Unfortunately, all that ambition resulted in a game that clearly wanted to be a more modernized version of BioWare’s best RPGs but often fell flat on its face as it baby stepped its way into a new era of game design. Like re-watching certain TV shows, the quality and design of the first Mass Effect created a division over whether you should endure that awkward first season.
Can Mass Effect: Legendary Edition’s changes and improvements convince even the original game’s most vocal detractors to give it another shot? Let’s look at the biggest ways the debut game will change and how those updates may come together to rescue its complicated legacy:
Rather than talk about everything that was wrong with Mass Effect’s original UI, I’d like to direct your attention to this blog series that does just that in stunning (and hilarious) detail.
The good news is that BioWare is committed to fixing most of Mass Effect’s worst UI sins. While we don’t know the full list of changes quite yet, it sounds like the goal is to take the best of Mass Effect 2 and 3’s UI improvements and work them into the original game in ways that still make that title feel pleasantly distinct from what came next. At the very least, those changes mean that Mass Effect’s combat HUD won’t make you want to quit the epic RPG a few hours in.
Mass Effect‘s UI always suffered from BioWare’s attempts to fit incredibly detailed RPG stats and info into something you could navigate with a controller (as well as some truly baffling visual choices), so the hope is that this new approach to the game’s UI may finally come closer to realizing the best of both those worlds.
Prior to Mass Effect 3’s ending and pretty much everything about Andromeda, you could argue that Mass Effect 1’s Mako was the worst thing BioWare ever did to the series. The original game relied way too much on those vehicle segments which made it all the more baffling that the vehicle was a nightmare to control.
Along with improved handling and camera controls, BioWare is updating Mass Effect 1’s Mako to ensure that touching lava no longer ends the game. While BioWare says they want to retain certain personality elements of the Mako’s jankiness (you can “still drive off cliffs to your heart’s content”), it’s clear that they’re addressing problems that were simply the result of bad decisions.
Maybe Mass Effect still made you drive the Mako a bit too much, but at least those driving segments will be upgraded from “nightmarish” to “kind of annoying.”
Those who defended Mass Effect’s combat by saying that it was never really supposed to be an action game have long overlooked the idea that Mass Effect was unsatisfying as an action game combat experience and an RPG combat experience. It tried to have it all and ended up about as awkward as a sixth-grade dance.
BioWare hasn’t completely abandoned the first game’s ideas, but the version of that game featured in the Legendary Edition benefits from a series of changes designed to make the combat feel “snappier.” BioWare is removing some of the RPG elements that limited the use and effectiveness of certain weapons and are evening toning down that annoying expanding reticle effect that absolutely nobody enjoyed. Generally speaking, it sounds like the game’s guns will feel like they’re being used for more than a way to trick people into thinking that Mass Effect was a sci-fi action title.
Oh, and Legendary Edition will even add a dedicated melee attack button to Mass Effect rather than having those attacks be automatic…wait, there were melee attacks in the original Mass Effect?
While leveling in RPGs seems like a simple enough concept on paper, the fact is that it takes a lot of expert balancing to make RPG leveling truly feel good. Then you’ve got games like the original Mass Effect that tried to think outside the box and forgot to get the essentials right before they broke the mold.
Legendary Edition will address some of Mass Effect’s worst leveling problems which quietly (and sometimes loudly) hindered the role-playing experience that the game was trying to emphasize. By removing the first playthrough level cap, spreading leveling more evenly across the game, and changing the drop rate/effectiveness of certain items at higher levels, the hope is that the updated Mass Effect will make leveling feel rewarding rather than something you’re constantly having to put up with.
Whether or not BioWare is making the right amount of changes to Mass Effect’s UI and leveling remain to be seen, but this is one of the fascinating ways that they’re really trying to improve “Mass Effect: The Sci-Fi Action Title” and “Mass Effect: The BioWare RPG” at the same time.
Even with all the (hopefully) welcome changes featured in Legendary Edition, the fact of the matter is that some people are going to want to skip Mass Effect. It was a rough entry into an otherwise fairly beloved franchise that’s bad ideas are amplified by the bad memories people associate it with.
Fortunately, BioWare has revealed that they’re retaining the Dark Horse comic segments in Mass Effect 2 and 3 which allowed you to make series-wide choices without having to complete the previous games. While that idea was introduced in Mass Effect 2 largely as a way to help PlayStation and PC gamers who couldn’t access the Xbox 360 exclusive original game take advantage of the series’ biggest gimmick, it’s nice that concept is being revitalized here as a way to help you play the Mass Effect series however you want.
Will you be playing the original Mass Effect again (or for the first time) now that it’s hopefully been improved? Let us know in the comments below.
The post Mass Effect Legendary Edition Changes Might Save the Original Game appeared first on Den of Geek.
“I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something I loved from my childhood. Something that could never ever possibly destroy us: Mr. Stay Puft!”
Ghostbusters: Afterlife just revealed how it will make those words from Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz more prescient—and poetically meta—than ever. The line, from the 1984 original movie, was a contrite explanation for his impulsive decision to choose the now-iconic, pillowy “destroyer” form of ancient evil entity Gozer for its attack on the Big Apple. Now, the 32-years-awaited follow-up to the franchise’s original iteration (last seen with 1989’s Ghostbusters II,) is bringing back Mr. Stay Puft—miniaturized and multiplied. Thusly, speculation on Gozer’s prospective return is potent.
Paul Rudd’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife character, summer school teacher Mr. Grooberson, will collide with the original team’s spectral legacy, as indicated in a new teaser clip (seen below). Indeed, some grocery shopping—rife with forensically-framed Baskin Robbins product placement—goes sideways quickly when the search for toppings leads Grooberson to a moving bag of marshmallows—Stay Puft Marshmallows, which apparently survived its monumental PR nightmare—after which a single puff escapes, revealing its resemblance to the pancake-cap-modeling mascot himself, all to the needle drop of Elmer Bernstein’s haunting original movie score. However, the pint-sized snack’s brief display of Baby Yoda vibes abruptly ends when it gnashes its teeth and bites his finger. What follows is an orgy of macabre marshmallow mischief with a runaway Roomba and barbecue grill. While the small town Oklahoma location makes the Gozer connection seem puzzling, it’s actually not.
The 2019-dropped first trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife provided some Gozer-implicit material, notably with the shot of an abandoned property called Shandor Mining Co., which—barring an unnecessary coincidence in Jason Reitman and Gil Kenan’s script—explicitly points to the name of Ivor Shandor. Still not with us? Well, that name was mentioned in key expositional dialogue in the 1984 original movie from Harold Ramis’s Egon Spengler, who explained that Shandor—a wealthy architect and physician—was a cult leader who had Dana Barrett’s fateful apartment building constructed in the 1920s to secretly serve as a doorway for Gozer to enter our world, making it the hub for New York’s wave of supernatural activity. The endeavor—motivated by disillusionment from the First World War—would come to fruition in the events of the first film, decades after Shandor’s death, relegating his presence in the film canon only to Egon’s dialogue. Yet, non-canon offerings such as the 2009 Ghostbusters video game and the recent IDW comic book series utilized Shandor more effectively.
However, the mine and newly-revealed army of mini Stay Pufts aren’t the only things in Afterlife pointing to Gozer. The aforementioned trailer also contains a blink-and-you-miss-it shot of Rudd’s Grooberson in a car, seemingly in the midst of a frantic escape, when something lands on the hood. While the creature is mostly out of the frame, a familiar-looking clawed, canine-esque foot does make the shot, implying the film’s presence of Terror Dogs. One of the most iconic creatures from the original Ghostbusters (save for Stay Puft himself), the Terror Dogs were the frightening forms of Gozer’s demigod lackies, Zuul, a.k.a. The Gatekeeper, and Vinz Clortho, a.k.a. The Keymaster. Of course, the former ended up possessing Dana Barrett and the latter would take over her awkward floor neighbor, Louis Tully; a necessary step to create the coupling that unlocks Shandor’s interdimensional doorway. The result was a liberated Gozer, who initially took the form of a demonic-looking woman sporting a Sheena Easton haircut and pink jumpsuit before becoming a kaiju-sized manifestation of the fictional marshmallow brand’s mascot made from Ray’s happy childhood memory. Consequently, the apparent presence of Terror Dogs in the new movie seems to point to another Gatekeeper/Keymaster conundrum.
The film will nevertheless serve as a generational handoff of the franchise from returning classic players in Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz, Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman, Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddemore, Annie Potts’s Janine Melnitz and Sigourney Weaver’s Dana Barrett. The plot kicks off with the ordeal of single mother Callie (Carrie Coon), who’s forced to move to a rural Oklahoma farm owned by her family. However, her inquisitive two kids, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (McKenna Grace) discover that said farm was built for a purpose, one connected to the supernatural activity that now stirs within the Shandor Mine. While the film’s early character details remain ambiguous, the trailer shows the children at home finding the Ecto-1 and Ghostbuster uniform of the late Harold Ramis’s Egon Spengler, thus implying that they are his grandchildren. The apparent familial connection further solidifies the notion of a Gozer-centric plot, presumably with the idea that Egon purchased the farm to watch over things based on his research on Shandor.
Regardless, it’s clear that Afterlife is a legacy movie, and its usage of nostalgic concepts was always inevitable. Yet, while the name Gozer may be iconic to us geeky movie buffs, the creature itself is not widely renowned, at least not to the casual moviegoers who may have only seen the film once or just maintain passing knowledge due to the franchise’s pop culture presence. After all, even Activision’s infamous original Ghostbusters video game—most widely played via the 1988 NES version—mistakenly labels Gozer as “Zuul,” a famous botch (uncorrected across all of its ports) likely attributed to the film’s oft-quoted “There is no Dana, there is only Zuul” line and the Japanese development team’s equally infamous lack of competent English translators. Thus, we’re not quite ready to put Gozer on a Darth Vader-type pedestal of veneration.
It will be interesting to see if director Jason Reitman builds upon the legacy established by his father, Ivan Reitman, on the classic first two films, or if he ends up going the trope-mimicking, member-berries-bountiful unironic parody route that has become so commonplace with modern film reboots. We will certainly find out when the frequently-delayed Ghostbusters: Afterlife presumably makes its long-awaited premiere at theaters on Thursday, November 11.
The post Do Ghostbusters: Afterlife’s Stay Puft Marshmallow Men Confirm Gozer’s Return? appeared first on Den of Geek.