‘Overlord’ Review: WWII Monster Movie That Plays Like a Celluloid ‘Wolfenstein’

What is Overlord?

On June 4, 1944, a battalion of American paratroopers are dropped into Nazi-occupied France, on a mission that’s crucial to the Allies’ success. But a Nazi commandant stands in their way, who harbours a dark secret involving evil experiments on the locals, and enemies that are no longer human.

Forget Cloverfield

Produced by J.J. Abrams under his Bad Robot banner, Overlord is an over-the-top WWII picture that combines men on a mission movie with creature feature. One that doesn’t — as previously rumoured — take place within the Cloverfield universe. But does straddle genres as effortlessly as Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane, combining action and adventure with horror, laughter, and maybe even the odd tear.

The film kicks off in startling fashion, aboard a C-47 transport carrying American soldiers to France on the eve of the war’s most important day. Their mission: to destroy a radio tower that sits on top of a church, so that the airforce can properly support the D-Day landings by sea.

Via quick-fire conversation we’re introduced to the main cast of characters. There’s Boyce (Jovan Adepo) our likeable lead who might be a bit too nice for this war malarky. Ford (Wyatt Russell) an explosives expert whose frosty exterior suggests he’s experienced the true horrors of war first-hand. Tibbet (John Magaro), a wise-cracking smart-arse with just a hint of the bully. And Chase (Iain de Caestecker) a photographer more worried about his camera than his wellbeing.

The guys are set up in effective and economical fashion; their personalities, their hopes, and most obviously their fears all well defined, so that when the proverbial hits the fan, you genuinely care about their survival. And hit it does, in breathtaking fashion as their plane is fired upon, and the soldiers are forced to parachute towards their intended target as chaos reigns in the skies.

Underground Horror

What follows starts out a pretty straightforward war adventures, the Americans endeavouring to locate each other on the ground while avoiding detection by the Nazis. They befriend a tough local called Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), whose parents were killed by the Germans, and who therefore wants revenge of her own. And together they formulate a plane to take down the tower.

Then everything changes. Because underneath the church that’s underneath said tower, Boyce discovers true horror. With the Nazis kidnapping the villagers, and “giving them a purpose” by experimenting on their minds and bodies, in an effort to create Hitler’s desired super-race. Meaning their enemy is no longer human. And also meaning that they now have to destroy the basement as well as the tower.

And while we won’t reveal exactly what goes in their subterranean laboratories, it’s enough to earn the film Bad Robot’s first R-rating, with Overlord‘s make-up department — frequently using prosthetics over CGI — doing amazing things with torn flesh, ripped skin, and rancid open wounds.

Special mention should also go to Pilou Asbæk — best known as Euron Greyjoy in Game of Thrones — who plays the movie’s true monster in the shape of Nazi officer Wafner, a character as charming as he is evil. And who very nearly steals the film from the likeable good guys.

Wolfenstein: The Movie

Genre mash-ups like this aren’t exactly unique. And what follows is a battle between good and evil that’s reminiscent of relatively recent releases Dead Snow and Frankenstein’s Army, just done on a much larger scale.

And on the videogame front, if you’ve ever wanted to watch a film version of Wolfenstein series, you need look no further, with the movie hitting several of the same story beats.

But what sets Overlord apart is the skilled direction, and that character work that happens at the start of the movie, and continues throughout. You genuinely care about these characters, making it heartbreaking when they start losing their lives.

While the dynamic way in which director Julius Avery (Son of a Gun) pulls everything together means that the film can handle those violent shifts in tone, with Overlord an emotional rollercoaster that manages to move and thrill and scare. Sometimes within the same scene.

Is Overlord Good?

Overlord is an entertaining B-movie that’s been given a blockbuster budget, and it’s all up there onscreen, the film kicking off with that spectacular set-piece, and following it with striking action and stomach-churning horror.

The film might not bring much new to the genres it straddles, but that doesn’t matter when it’s done with such energy, commitment and skill. Making Overlord a wonderfully bizarre addition to WWII movie canon, and a seriously fun night at the pictures.

‘Overlord’ Is NOT a Cloverfield Film, But It Is R-Rated as F@%&

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‘Apostle’ Review: Dan Stevens Stars in Horrific Period Piece

Apostle screened at Fantastic Fest and hits Netflix on October 12.

What is Apostle?

In this gripping period piece — set in 1905 — a former missionary travels to a remote island to rescue his sister, who is being held captive by a religious cult. But when he arrives there’s no sign of said sibling. While the powers that be are onto our hero, setting in motion a tense game of cat-and-mouse, that ends badly for all involved.

A Major Departure

Apostle is a pretty major departure for director Gareth Evans. The Welshman made his name with The Raid and The Raid 2, turning him into the go-to guy for astonishing Indonesian action. But along the way he also snuck out a segment of anthology horror V/H/S 2, that acts as something of a precursor to his new release.

That extended short — set in the present day — revolves around a camera crew visiting a cult, and becoming embroiled in the horrors therein. Apostle covers much the same terrain, albeit at the turn of the last century, and at a much more stately pace.

Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey, Legion) plays Thomas Richardson, a former missionary who is spurred into action by a ransom letter detailing his beloved sister’s abduction. And Richardson has issues. He’s addicted to drugs. There’s a cross burned into his back. And he has the haunted look of a man who has witnessed unspeakable horrors. But he’s also unwavering in his determination to rescue his sister. Making Richardson a seriously compelling protagonist.

Thomas makes the long journey to Erisden by boat, switching tickets with another passenger so he can go undetected when he arrives. And on the island he discovers a seeming paradise, where money doesn’t change hands, freedom and equality reign, and crime has been replaced by compassion. Or so we’re told.

The cult’s leader Malcolm (Michael Sheen) worships the Goddess of the land, who speaks through him, so she may “enrich the mind’s of men.” But it quickly becomes clear that Malcolm is using religion for political means, to control and oppress his people. And we meet him at a time when something is seriously rotten in that state, the crops failing, society falling apart, and his followers starting to question Malcolm’s word.

The Secrets of the Island

What follows is a slow-burning thriller in which Thomas searches for his sister while Malcolm tracks  him. But one that turns into horror as the island’s secrets are revealed, the film taking a surprising supernatural turn that has bloody consequences for all.

So while it starts out like a cross between horror classic The Wicker Man and found footage flick The Sacrament, the film Apostle most resembles is The Witch, in terms of pace, and style, and tone. Unfortunately, at 129-minutes, the movie ultimately outstays its welcome. Indeed there’s a moment where Malcolm states that “it ends tonight,” which feels like a natural place for the story to conclude. But it doesn’t, with Thomas’s mission continuing for what feels like an age.

It looks amazing however, cinematographer Matt Flannery capturing the both the beauty and the brutality of the island. While the horror is illustrated in graphic fashion, making it frequently hard to look at the screen. And this being Gareth Evans, there are snatches of the amazing action with which he made his name, Stevens kicking ass in a style that’s reminiscent of his fantastic turn in The Guest.

But The Raid this ain’t, with Apostle a more sedate affair. But one that’s no less powerful, attacking organised religion head-on, shocking with its hardcore horror, and proving that Evans is much more than just the action guy.

Is Apostle Good?

Apostle is far too long, and it times it feels like the material would have been better served as a mini-series rather than a single feature. But there are moments of greatness peppered throughout. Michael Sheen eats up the scenery as Malcolm, a magnetic presence who improves the film whenever he’s onsreen. And it’s nice to hear him using his own accent for once.

The oppressive atmosphere is impressively maintained throughout, the film feeling like a waking nightmare at times. The brief action is as good as you’d expect. And the movie has much to say about the corrupting influence of greed and power. Making Apostle Gareth Evans’ most intelligent and thought-provoking movie yet. If not quite his best.

‘Halloween’ Review: Solid Sequel That Lacks the Simplicity of the Original

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Film Review: ‘A Happening of Monumental Proportions’

Some projects presumably gather their own momentum heedless of whether they ought to have gotten rolling in the first place. A first directorial and screenplay feature for actors Judy Greer and Gary Lundy, respectively, “A Happening of Monumental Proportions” boasts a cast of worthy names (down to some significant cameos), no doubt each of whom […]

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‘Halloween’ Review: Solid Sequel That Lacks the Simplicity of the Original

What Is Halloween?

Michael Myers is back. The masked killer who murdered his sister — then 15 years later, a group of teens — has been in prison for 40 years. But he escapes the night before Halloween and makes his way back to Haddonfield, where he has plans for Laurie Strode, the girl that got away.

Changing the Narrative

The new Halloween takes an unusual approach to the sequel business, picking up the many films that followed John Carpenter’s 1978 classic, and throwing them out the upstairs window and onto the grass below. The new chapter, a direct sequel to the original, connects with heroine Laurie Strode precisely 40 years after Michael Myers massacred her friends during what’s now called “The Babysitter Murders.”

And it’s a very different Laurie we meet today. One who has been bruised, battered, and broken by that tragedy. Retreating into herself, Laurie has spent four decades waiting for the killer to come home, imprisoning herself in a heavily secured compound, building up an arsenal, alienating two husbands, and having her daughter removed from her care. She calls herself a “basket case,” but Laurie knows what’s coming, and she’s determined to be ready — and will do whatever it takes to protect her family.

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t spend nearly enough time on her story. The first half instead focuses on a pair of English podcasters recording a Serial-style podcast about the events of that fateful Halloween night. The pair visits the now 60-something Michael in prison to talk to him, and provoke him, in a scene that looks amazing — Myers chained up in a courtyard, on what looks like a giant red chess set, and surrounded by equally sick individuals — but sadly plays a little silly.

So when we should be learning about Laurie’s PTSD, and the way in which her pain and grief has affected both her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Mattichak), we’re instead listening to the podcasters’ unnecessary exposition —  and watching them enable Michael to reclaim his mask and return home in a contrived and clumsy fashion.

Michael Kills

The first half of the film is all over the place, checking in on Laurie but also introducing doctors, police officers, horny teenagers, and members of the Strode clan. The film gives them little time to establish themselves and make their mark on the audience before the killing begins.

And begin it does. The second half of the flick follows Michael on a gruesome killing spree as he journeys back to Haddonfield, and towards Laurie and her girls. But director David Gordon Green and his co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley take an unusual approach to those kills, choosing to show the aftermath of much of his mayhem rather than the acts themselves. Their finest moment is a riveting tracking shot that follows Myers in and out of houses as he delivers brutal death, sometimes offscreen.

The filmmakers have filled the film with Easter eggs, with new Halloween echoing and shadowing the original, frequently poking fun at it, and using the audience’s knowledge of that celluloid history to great effect. It’s a very funny flick, with Green and McBride putting their comedy skills to good use, and the jokes rarely feel out of place. Though the way in which Allyson loses her phone is pretty painful. And not in a good way.

Unfortunately, the movie builds and builds towards that final face-off between good and evil, but fails to stick the landing. The sight of three generations of Strodes doing battle with ‘The Shape’ oftentimes feels silly and underwhelming when it should have us on our feet.

Is Halloween Good?

When dealing with Laurie, Halloween is terrific. Jamie Lee Curtis delivers a career-best performance as a woman who has been driven mad by both the events of October 31st, and the fact that no one will believe what she knows to be true: that Michael Myers will return.

Her interactions with her daughter and granddaughter, the way in which she has passed on her paranoia and neuroses, and the exploration of that generational trauma, is genuinely affecting.

The narrative also features dopey teens, dumb journalists, and eccentric doctors, however. These characters annoy, frustrate, and slow proceedings down so that the film feels like every one of its 109 minutes. The new Halloween is a solid sequel, but one that lacks both the simplicity and efficiency of its predecessor.

Halloween was reviewed at Fantastic Fest and hits screens October 19.

Laurie Strode is “Taking Back Her Narrative” in New ‘Halloween’

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TV Review: ‘Forever’ Starring Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen

Spoiler alert: Do not read until you’ve watched the first season of “Forever,” which dropped in its entirety September 14 on Amazon.  Though its first episode tries hard to convince us otherwise, there’s really no way to talk about “Forever” without talking about its capital t Twist. The premiere of Matt Hubbard and Alan Yang’s new […]

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TV Review: ‘American Horror Story: Apocalypse’

In the first episode of its new season, “American Horror Story” made a case for itself, once again, as a series designed to make us our greatest fears, even if the cure it provides at the end of the journey is merely witty distraction. Caution is warranted: The previous season, subtitled “Cult,” had seemed in […]

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Concert Review: Dave Matthews Band Teaches Crash Course in Chops at Tour Finale

Team Lady Bird, all the way. That’s one appropriate thumbnail reaction to the Dave Matthews Band’s tour-ending show Monday at the Hollywood Bowl, which included a mid-set rendition of “Crash Into Me,” as revived last year in a certain Oscar-robbed teen comedy-drama. As “Lady Bird” viewers may recall, one of the film’s key moment of […]

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‘Divinity 2: Original Sin Definitive Edition’ Review: A Truly Divine Console RPG

We’re playing as large, red, humanoid lizard. Because obviously. If you give us an opportunity to play a videogame as a large, red, humanoid lizard we’re going to do that – though Fane, the wisecracking skeleton dude ran our decision close.

Our character is called The Red Prince. He’s an exiled heir. He’s on the run from assassins. He’s basically what might happen if Julian Clary and an iguana had a baby. He runs like Bryce Dallas Howard in Jurassic World. He says actually funny things, like, “Such a nuisance, the law” and “I intend to rule an empire one day, not a tiny outcropping in the sea, lording over gulls and guppy fish.” The Red Prince flirts with everyone and everything.

And we’re dead.



We start the game afresh, this time as a dwarf named Beast. He’s Scottish, because everyone in fantasy RPG’s is either English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish. Breaking this down further, there’s often a splash of Norfolk, Devon or Geordie given to some characters. There certainly is here.

There’s that olde worlde feel to those accents. You can’t be having an elf come from New York. It’s not the done thing. Beast is a sailor. He keeps banging on about his cousin. She’s a queen. It seems like she’s responsible in some way for the game starting out on a prison ship. We discover a murder. We talk to a mysterious elf. We find ourselves getting blown up by a witch. A Kraken turns up and we’re fighting giant demon woodlice.

And we’re dead.

AN ALMIGHTY CHALLENGE



For a significant period of time, this is our experience of Divinity 2: Original Sin Definitive Edition – and try saying that after downing a few bottles of healing potion. We play with Sebille, former slave-turned-spy. We play with Ifan Ben-Mezd, a broody warrior who was almost certainly on loan at Newcastle United last season. And we play with Lohse, who, maybe accidentally, is a character that raises some interesting points about depictions of mental health in videogames.

In command of any of them, from the off, Divinity is an intriguing (if punishing) experience. And then we discover Story Mode, which scales back the battles significantly. Once we’re past the Kraken, off the boat, onto the prison island Fort Joy – once the game’s subtle, non-evasive tutorials have helped us understand what on earth we’re supposed to be doing – we’re hooked. Here we will stay until we’re prised from the sofa, kicking and screaming, shouting, “We haven’t looted all the corpses! We haven’t looted them all!”



Within a few hours, we start thinking that Divinity 2: Original Sin isn’t as much a videogame as it is our life now. Brought into the world on PC last September, developed by the hyper-creative Belgian hub Larian Studios, the game currently holds the title of ‘Universal Acclaim’ on Metacritic. It took just two months to make a million quid. It’s not hard to see why.

In following up the first Divinity: Original Sin in 2014 (though Divinity has actually existed since 2002, the first being Divine Divinity, they’re just crap at naming the series in a canonical fashion), Larian have created a rich, varied, enormous world – Rivellon – filled with quirk and charm. It feels alive. The stories told within said world are often sad, often inspiring, sometimes funny – sometimes, when Fane is on screen, very, very funny. And the whole game hangs on the concept of ‘choice’.

CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE

Now, we all know that choice is the buzzword of modern gaming, normally spoken somewhere within a sentence that also includes the word ‘consequences’. But how many games offer you that, then loop you around the obstacle you’re trying to overcome anyway? Not so Divinity 2: Original Sin, a game where ambiguities like morality and timing reign supreme.

It took us hours to get off that boat. Hours. We thought we would die there, and we did, many times. But it’s worth noting that every time we tried to escape we had a different experience. Look, you’re not going to believe that, because everyone says it – but it’s true! And this doesn’t stop in the confounds of the creaking galleon. Choice is woven into the entire games DNA.

As well as the obvious influence of top-down CRPG’s like Ultima, Wizardry and Might and Magic – though Baldurs Gate is an influence right at the very forefront – Larian boss Swen Vinke has spoken of tabletop gaming fuelling the mechanics of his smash hit sequel. This is never more apparent than in the variety of ways you can experience the core narrative. There are cool details and secrets to discover everywhere, while you can actually kill core NPG’s. Again, more consequences.



If you do this, it drastically changes how your story will evolve. Where morality comes into it, is sometimes when you kill someone, days later you’ll learn a titbit of information that leaves you thinking that they probably didn’t deserve to die. We should mention too, that the AI of the game is the best artificial mirroring of a human Dungeon Master we’ve perhaps ever experienced.

THE NEW GODS

Despite a plot that can essentially be articulated as ‘you might be a God, let’s hope you are, because there’s this thing called The Void and nothing good is ever called The Void’, it’s the subplots that really dazzle. The Red Prince, for example, appears to spend the entire game trying to get a shag, though there are subtleties to his quest that are infinitely more touching than base rutting.

Then there’s the combat, which is super smart in that it allows you to weaponize your environments – you can electrify puddles of water, freeze pools of blood – as well as allowing you to deploy the use of line of sight or the height of the ground you’re standing upon. Again, the choice is less daunting than it is lasciviously rewarding.



Of course, this edition of the game is most likely the first chance Xbox and PlayStation owners will of have to experience Divinity 2. There’s a tonne of new material – a new difficulty level, a reworked final act, too much detail to outline explicitly here, though we’re confident in saying this version is worthy of the time of anyone who has already worn the PC version to death (and Larian are giving it to PC owners as a free update anyway, so what have you lost?). There’s also an optimized sheen applied across the game that elevates already pretty areas of Rivellon to regions of lush beauty.

Is Divinity 2: Original Sin Definitive Edition any good?

Divinity 2: Original Sin Definitive Edition [downs shot of healing potion] is an excellent port, far better than any PC-to-console port we can think of at this time, while still being limited by the simple fact this is a game that is supposed to be played with a mouse. Routes to your inventory using a tap of the controller trigger are neat, but it still feels like ramming a triangle into a square hole. That said, other innovations like holding down the X button to search every item in a wide circumference, add something new – even, whisper it, better – to the experience.

In truth, if you’re coming to the game fresh you won’t know any better. If you do, you’ll learn to live with the quirks soon enough. It’s exciting this world is coming to a new audience. It’s a game that deserves a vast audience. And we’ll just say it; Divinity 2: Original Sin Definitive Edition [downs shot] is the best classic fantasy RPG on console, ever.

And now we’re going to go loot some more corpses. With a large, red, humanoid lizard.

Divine Intervention: How ‘Divinity: Original Sin 2’ Saved Larian Studios

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Review Roundup: The Critics Weigh in on A STAR IS BORN with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

In this new take on the tragic love story, Cooper plays seasoned musician Jackson Maine, who discovers-and falls in love with-struggling artist Ally Gaga. She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer… until Jack coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally’s career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down, as Jack fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.
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Venice Film Review: ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” was originally conceived and shot as a six-episode series for Netflix. Its writer-directors, Joel and Ethan Coen, decided instead to jam the episodes — violent, picturesque, cornball mythic tales of the Old West — into one feature-length anthology film. If you were going to be cynical about it, you might say […]

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Venice Film Review: ‘The Mountain’

A near-hypnotic pall of strangeness, so opaque as to be genuinely menacing, shadows and disrupts the pristine surfaces of “The Mountain” — and that’s before Denis Lavant shows up to take its derangement into the stratosphere. The fifth and most austerely polished feature to date from American outlier Rick Alverson, this troubling fable about a shiftless young […]

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Sarajevo Film Review: ‘Love 1. Dog’

When an isolated forest ranger rescues a mysterious young woman he finds beaten and unconscious, his long-suppressed emotions surge out of control in Romanian multi-hyphenate Florin Şerban’s third feature “Love 1. Dog.” Set in some indeterminate time during the 20th century, this enigmatic but engrossing drama may look completely different from Şerban’s 2010 Berlinale prize-winner, “If […]

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Locarno Film Review: ‘With the Wind’

A farming couple trying to live an ecologically pure and ethical life are stymied by nature and their own uncontainable inner forces in Bettina Oberli’s solid and engaging “With the Wind.” Handsomely shot in the Swiss Jura mountains, the film nicely explores the unpredictable intersection of ideals and passion, making a parallel between mankind’s inability […]

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Nest Starter Pack review: An excellent intro to home security

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Nest Security Pack (T-Mobile)
$ 500 (not including incentives)
The Good

Easy setup • Intuitive app • Plenty of security features

The Bad

False alarms from the right environmental conditions • Limited area it can secure

The Bottom Line

The Nest Security Pack is aptly named. It’s a great entry point to starting your home security system.

Mashable Score4.0
Cool Factor4.0
Learning Curve5.0
Performance4.0
Bang for the Buck3.0

The Nest Security Pack is an appealing gateway to home security. Practically everything you need is in one box and the Nest app takes care of the rest. It’s almost the ideal solution for your first foray into home security with only a few caveats. Read more…

More about Reviews, T Mobile, Nest, Smart Home, and Nest Security Pack


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Los Angeles prosecutors review sex assault cases against actors Seagal, Anderson

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office said on Thursday that it was reviewing new sexual assault cases involving three celebrities: film producer Harvey Weinstein, action movie star Steven Seagal, and actor Anthony Anderson, the star of the television comedy series “Black-ish.”


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‘The Meg’ Review: Hollywood’s Latest Shark Flick Lacks Bite

Since the release of Jaws in 1975, every five years or so has a brought a film that’s intended to be “The Next Great Shark Movie.” Some, like 2011’s Shark Night, become forgettable works of pseudo-parody. Others, like 1999’s Deep Blue Sea, become generational cult classics; still others, like 2003’s Open Water and 2016’s The Shallows, pass critical muster but fail to garner a mass following. Hollywood’s latest toothy offering, The Meg, seems to have set its sights on being all of these things, and in the process fails to really deliver on any of them.

Having done as much cinematic damage as he can on land, Jason Statham takes to the seas as Jonas Taylor, a deep-sea rescue diver with a past who reluctantly signs on to a rescue mission when an ancient 80-foot megalodon (the titular “Meg”) is discovered at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. If you find yourself rolling your eyes at the previous sentence, then this movie is either right up your alley or something you should avoid at all costs, depending on your tolerance for absurdity. Statham is forced to team up with a group of scientists — including Bingbing Li and Ruby Rose, and a tech billionaire played by Rainn Wilson — to figure out how to defeat the giant fish and save humanity from extinction.

The Meg is at its best when it embraces its B-movie roots, thriving on the gasps and applause of its popcorn-munching audience. One fake-out, in particular, is engineered to draw a smile out of even the most cynical moviegoer. Unfortunately, the film seems afraid to dive into the deep end of its own schlock; for every cheer-inducing scene of shark mayhem, there are three scenes of Statham stoically addressing his co-stars, mixed with character development that might work in a movie where we really cared about any of the characters. There’s a reason that no shark movie since Jaws has fully succeeded as both a creature feature and a character study, and even that feat required the guiding hand of one of its generation’s most brilliant directors and a cast of world-class actors. The Meg, alas, has neither; no offense to Mr. Statham, but Robert Shaw he is not.

It doesn’t help matters that The Meg has been saddled with a PG-13 rating, which draws in more potential dollars but makes the shark mayhem practically toothless. When the megalodon finally makes it to civilization in the third act, you can practically feel the audience leaning forward in anticipation. The promised carnage never comes, however, leaving the ending of The Meg flat, despite an act of physics-defying super heroics that will likely be enough to leave many moviegoers walking out of the theater still laughing (in both the good way and the bad way). However, The Meg has been sold for months as a film where the biggest shark to ever appear in a summer blockbuster will finally feast on an ocean full of unsuspecting humans. This feels like the kind of film The Meg so desperately wants to be. As it turns out, we’re left to settle for some off-screen deaths, lots of close calls, and the small amount of blood the film’s rating will allow. The Meg could have been an unabashed gorefest, and seems to be setting one up, but ultimately fails to deliver. What we get feels like a missed opportunity.

Is The Meg Good?

The Meg isn’t a horrible film, but it’s not a very good one either, largely due to its complete unwillingness to fully commit to being the high-budget “low-budget” film it shows glimpses of. If the creative team had been more willing to jettison the serious stuff and risk tens of millions of dollars on an even bigger, even dumber giant shark movie, it may well have succeeded. Its big dumb moments are, by far, the highlights of the film. Unfortunately, The Meg hedges its bets and ends up weighing itself down with the kind of heavy plot and character work its audience couldn’t care less about. There’s a time and place for nuance and character. There is also a time and place for an 80-foot shark to try to eat the quippy star of the Transporter franchise for 90 minutes. This movie has too much of the former and too little of the latter. By not exploiting its strengths, The Meg exposes its weaknesses, ultimately causing the entire film to slowly sink to the bottom of the sea.

Check out this bonus video where stars Ruby Rose and Rainn Wilson take on other monstrous Megs.

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BWW Review: Renee Taylor’s MY LIFE ON A DIET Is a Comedy Feast

Back in the days, really not very long ago, when self-effacing gags about failed diets were one of the few topics of discussion deemed acceptable for women in comedy, the punchline Renee Taylor uses after telling about the time when she ate nothing but meatballs every day because it was the diet that helped Lou Costello shed twenty pounds before filming ‘Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy,’ would have been regarded as gold.
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‘Dead Cells’ Review: Carefully Crafted Combat Meets Random Levels

While many games today seem to release and then (hopefully) get fixed later, Dead Cells has been functional and fun for so long that it’s almost as if developer Motion Twin forgot to hit the release button. Marrying gorgeous pixel art with skill-based combat and cleverly randomised levels, this is a dangerously replayable action game that you can gorge on in long stretches or just in 20 exhilarating minutes before work.

Take a deep breath, because we’re about to say the name of the genre. Dead Cells is the latest in the 2D pixel art metroidvania Soulslike roguelite action platformer to hit Steam. Video games, eh? It’s a subgenre of a sub-sub-subgenre that actually manages to define more than a few other games on the horizon. It turns out people just can’t get enough of that sweet, sweet, Soulsy combat.


Dead Cells player and enemy swing at each other

Still — seems like a contradiction, doesn’t it? How can a roguelite with randomly generated levels also be a metroidvania, a genre known for its meticulously crafted and explorable worlds?

The solution, like most of what Dead Cells offers, fees like a greatest hits of other games that’s somehow evolved into its own unique thing.

The Random Worlds of Dead Cells

Dead Cells achieves this by splitting everything up into different biomes. From The Sewers, to the Black Bridge, to the Clock Tower, these areas all have their own tilesets and enemies. The content within each is randomised every playthrough, but there are reliable constants. When you arrive at The Ramparts – a section of rooftops and towers patrolled by archers and mages – it’ll always be a lower level area with appropriately scaled gear.

As you’d expect from a roguelike, players have a degree of control over which biomes they visit. Once you’ve obtained the ability to climb vines, or use statues to teleport, or even wall climb, these permanent skills let you access the previously inaccessible. Find the shortcut, and these abilities effectively effectively let you skip a few biomes.

All of that spells more variety — though hell, even the repetition is fun in this game. Even going through areas we’ve beaten hundreds of times before, we didn’t get bored of them. It’s easy to lose yourself into that Soulslike flow when you’ve mastered an area and spend hours cutting through its enemies like so much butter.

Whether you’re exploring the new, or dominating the old, it’s just a different kind of fun. In Dead Cells, the latter becomes about beating each area quickly, as opposed to just beating them. Why? Because timed rewards are waiting for those who go from slow to flow.


Dead Cells randomised island game review
Every time we look at the island it seems different. Almost random…

Combat to Repeatedly Die For

We’re still playing this game a year after its Early Access launch, and that simply wouldn’t be the case if it didn’t rest on a rock solid combat system. Based on the “Souls roll,” hitting the dodge button here will grant you a second of invulnerability.

Each weapon has its own moveset but importantly, these carry different systems for critical attacks as well. It’s a unique system that gives each weapon an interesting playstyle and individual flavour.

Take the rapier for example, which crits after dodge rolls. Or the War Spear, which crits if it hits two enemies at the same time. The Twin Daggers crit on the third hit in their combo, and the Whip only crits on targets at the maximum thwack range.


Dead Cells early game boss fight
Did you just pull a Morpheus?

You may have noticed each of these has a nugget of risk/reward baked in. They also have different timings, such as a slightly longer attack animation on the Twin Daggers’ third strike. On top of this, all gear will come with randomised modifiers, which will be music to any Diablo fan’s ears.

Players will balance weapon moveset familiarity with stats and synergies, each respawn an opportunity for ad-hoc theorycrafting. It satisfies cravings for both action and strategy in each playthrough.

Perhaps you’re more comfortable with the Balanced Blade’s moveset, but that slower Oiled Sword might couple nicely with the Fire Grenade you just picked up? Every level has a series of interesting decisions for you to make while the clock is still ticking.

Floodgated Content

It’s also a game that has a surprising amount to do. There are new biomes and bosses waiting for you as you get further and further into the island, but it doesn’t stop there. Beyond the main game and its copious unlocks, the developers have been adding different ways to have fun.

For those who want to show off – or perhaps just need to catch a bus – Dead Cells is built from the ground up for speedrunning. Though “official” speedrunning rules would operate differently (Dead Cells pauses the timer in between levels while you upgrade), it’s neat being able to see how long each level has taken and each biome comes with a treasure room that can only be opened before a specific time.


Dead Cells start of game unlocks display
That is…a lot of unlocks.

There’s also the daily challenge, another randomised gauntlet with a unique scoring system. This mode incorporates how many enemies you can take out while also keeping an eye on the clock. Seeing yourself at the top of the daily leaderboards will require you to keep that kill combo speed buff going for as long as possible.

It’s hard to even talk about Dead Cells without sounding like a midnight shopping service – “but wait, there’s more!” – and just a few days ago Motion Twin threw a bunch more shiny new features onto the stack. Support was just added for modders which is always great for longevity, and expect Twitch streamers to be using fun gimmicks like requiring the chat to issue commands to open chests for them.


The Watcher boss in Dead Cells
Limbo as much as you want, I still see you.

Is Dead Cells Good?

We’ve seen Motion Twin add new bosses, levels, weapons, enemies, items, modifiers, and more over the last fourteen months. There’ve been redesigns, balance updates, and even a few less popular features removed outright to make sure the game flowed nicely.

It’s mainly a result of listening to its community — a practice that Motion Twin might be uniquely placed to do, given its novel structure in which every employee owns the same portion of the company. “Same pay, same say” for everyone, according to Motion Twin.

This is one of those titles we would’ve been happy with even at the start of its Early Access period. You could easily squeeze tens of hours from it back then, and over the course of fourteen months it’s just added more and more. Motion Twin could’ve flipped the “1.0” switch at any point to rapturous applause from its community.

Lucky you then, dear reader, if you haven’t yet dipped into this insta-classic. Dead Cells is an example of how to do things right in so many ways. How to do Early Access. How to listen to your community. How to take inspiration from games while growing into your own style. It also happens to be the best time to jump in and ride the content train that’s sure to keep rolling for a long time to come.

‘Dead Cells’ Was Supposed to Be in a Different Genre

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‘Overcooked 2’ Review: Cooking Up the Perfect Co-op Dish

Phil Duncan and Oli De-Vine were fed up. While they spent most of their working day at Frontier Developments helping to craft brilliant games like Zoo Tycoon, they also loved to blow off steam at lunch with some expletive-filled co-op gaming. Yet during their eight years there, it wasn’t long before they had exhausted all the multiplayer classics. Frustrated, one question began repeatedly circling the duo’s mind – where are all the co-op games?

Thanks to online shooters and stat-crunching RPGs becoming all the rage, poor old couch co-op had been quietly resigned to the pages of history. If  Duncan and Oli wanted to continue their lunch time fun, there was only one option – they’d have to make their own co-op game.

In a past life, Duncan was a chef, and for him there was only one place that embodied the glorious collision of teamwork and mayhem that is co-op gaming  – and that was the kitchen. Soon their ideas grew along with their grins, and in no time their little lunchtime project was suddenly all grown up. Its name?  Overcooked.

A little serving of co-op goodness


'Overcooked 2' is finally here. But does it offer enough to justify being a full sequel?

OK, now, we know what you’re thinking. “Sure, that’s a great story, but why would I want to play a video game where you chop up onions and shout at each other over the washing up?” Well, dear reader, the answer is because it’s bloody brilliant.

Overcooked went on to sell over a million copies  across four platforms and gain (completely deserved) critical acclaim. But more importantly for this writer, it introduced countless friends to gaming who would never have touched a controller otherwise. It provided laughs, arguments, and quickly became the centrepiece for more than a few drunken nights. And now, almost two years later –  its sequel, Overcooked 2 has arrived.

Undercooked?

With a whole team now helping Duncan and Oli, needless to say, expectations were high. But with the original being such a breath of fresh air, we were surprised that our initial reaction to playing Overcooked 2 was actually one of utter disappointment.

After scrolling few a confusing character selection process and navigating a few noticeably prettier menu screens, the game’s first few levels seemed very much like a game we’d already played before.

Sure, there were new recipes to master, but couldn’t these just have been DLC? It didn’t help that those early levels were painfully easy, either. With its predecessor quickly (and brutally) slapping players into shape, we began to assume the worst.  Have we bummed you out a bit now? Well, don’t worry – because once you get to the second world, Overcooked 2 reveals its true colours.

A tasty second helping


Portals, vanishing stair cases and spooky new elevated settings like these provide some of the most interesting new gameplay experiences.

It turns out, there’s a very good reason that things feel basic and repetitive initially. Why? Because that’s the developers’ way of slowly preparing new players for the sheer amount of mayhem the game is about to throw at you.

And, boy, does it throw everything at you. Yes, even the kitchen sink. While the drip-feed of new recipes (including sushi, pasta and steamed dumplings) start off fairly easy to master, juggling them with Overcooked 2’s increasingly deviously designed stages quickly builds into a challenging crescendo.

It’s clear that pushing players to breaking point in the most creative of ways was their devs’ mission here. Whether its one map set in a gothic kitchen where haunted ingredients periodically float away from each chef or a rage inducing level where both players have to prepare ingredients on top of a pair of floating rafts, the level design here is wonderfully insane.

To me, to you


Another grin-inducing new feature are the new dynamic stages, which split the level into two very different (but equally dangerous) locales.

Thankfully though, it’s not just the levels that have evolved here. This time around, chefs can chuck raw ingredients. Now, that may sound like an eye-rollingly dull new mechanic, but trust us – it’s an utter game changer. As well as being essential for stages split over different verticalities, the throw ability really allows for some tight-knit, pro level play. Being able to dash over a gaping chasm while chucking a tomato directly to your teammate not only feels brilliant, but it also allows you to be far more productive – helping you cook more and increase that all important end of level score.

The other menu-heading addition in Overcooked 2 is online play. The netcode seemed perfectly A-OK to us, but sadly, there’s no support for voice chat at all here. With all our Overcooked sessions dependant on yelling obscenities at each other, navigating Overcooked’s madness in silence felt strangely chilling. Still, there are a few (limited) emotes at your disposal and while it doesn’t quite beat having three friends huddle around a sofa, it’s still a lot of fun.

There are, of course, a TON of silly new chefs to choose from, too. While old favourites like wheelchair racoon and bucktooth boy make a welcome return (we’re going with those as their names) players can now hop into the kitchen as an alligator, a bespectacled ginger maestro or either an elderly man and woman, to name but a few.

It’s worth noting that you can technically play the game in single player as well — but we wouldn’t recommend it. When cooking on your lonesome, players find themselves in control of two chefs, switching between each with a tap of either bumper. Unsurprisingly things get pretty ridiculous pretty fast, with multi-tasking as both chefs soon becoming sweat-inducing as you attempt to avoid disintegrating stages one chef at a time while chucking ingredients across gaping chasms. We found later levels near impossible to do solo, so lonely offline players — be warned.

Is Overcooked 2 Any good?

There are two types of sequels, those that take the template of the original and improve upon it beyond recognition and those that just opt for the bigger and better approach. Overcooked 2 is undeniably the latter.

Yet, when you’re building on such a solid gameplay foundation, it’s hard to really ask for any more. Despite some early concerns, Overcooked 2 is an undeniably brilliant co-op experience. Thanks to some wonderfully inspired (and at times vein-poppingly frustrating) level design, Overcooked 2 is sure to bring any group friends together and make them laugh, scream and cry.

And really, what else could you ask for from a co-op game?

The post ‘Overcooked 2’ Review: Cooking Up the Perfect Co-op Dish appeared first on FANDOM.

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Concert Review: Shania Twain is the Glam Queen-Next-Door at Staples Center Stop

“The best thing about being a woman is the prerogative to have a little fun,” Shania Twain famously sang in the late ‘90s. That prerogative also happens to be the best thing about being an unashamed appreciator of commercial genre-straddling in its highest form, as presented by Twain Friday night at Los Angeles’ Staples Center. […]

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Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post Skewers Conversion Therapy, Gently

The idea of conversion therapy is so inhumane that it could be some alien race’s idea of a sick joke. Bad enough that it actually exists; the fact that it’s generally put to use out of religious convictions elevates it to a sin of supreme arrogance. People who won’t come right out and say, “We don’t like you the way you are” feel perfectly comfortable saying, “God doesn’t like you the way you are”—as if they’re in any position to know.

God probably likes The Miseducation of Cameron Post, or at least the idea of it: Chloë Grace Moretz plays Cameron, a high-schooler growing up in the early 1990s somewhere in Bible Belt America. Cameron does normal high-school things, like going on a double date to the school prom. But it also appears that she’s in love with her closest friend, Coley (Quinn Shepard): The movie’s early moments telegraph the tender, exploratory carnality of their relationship. But when they sneak away from the dance and get caught together in the backseat of a car, it’s Cameron, and not her prom-queen friend Coley, who pays the price: She’s sent off to a special school called God’s Promise, run by an “ex-gay,” Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.), and his supremely uptight sister Lydia (Jennifer Ehle). (“She de-gayed him,” is the whispered lore swirling around the brother-sister duo.) Ostensibly, this is a place where Cameron’s head—and everything else—can be put right.

Conversion therapy was a hot-button issue in the 1990s; it’s less talked about today, though the concept certainly hasn’t gone away. The Miseducation of Cameron Post—directed by Desiree Akhavan (who previously made the 2014 feature Appropriate Behavior) and adapted from Emily M. Danforth’s novel—is set squarely in its time. Yet it doesn’t feel like a period piece. You stop thinking of the God’s Promise detainees as misunderstood gay kids and more as misunderstood kids, period: Most of them feel pretty comfortable in their own skin; it’s the cloistered world around them that fails to accept them as they are.

That actually presents some story-structure problems: The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a fairly tame picture. A horrific off-camera event introduces some tension, but its impact feels indistinct and diffuse rather than wrenching. Still, these kids get to you. Moretz plays Cameron as a young woman who knows her own mind, refusing to let it be reshaped—but she also suggests how long-term defensiveness can cause a kind of internal bruising that doesn’t always show. Sasha Lane and Forrest Goodluck are terrific as the two fellow God’s Promise inmates who become her friends. Lane’s character, Jane Fonda—the name could be an affectation, or maybe not—is a firecracker who stashes weed in her prosthetic leg. Goodluck’s Adam Red Eagle is a marvelous deadpan comedian who takes everything in stride, silently defying Lydia when she harangues him for failing to keep his gorgeous mane of hair out of his face. One day, having had enough, she finally shaves it off: His stubbly head only makes the mutinous glare in his eyes more evident. The Miseducation of Cameron Post may not hit as hard as it should. But it at least suggests that the only real losers in life are those who presume to read God’s mind.


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Review Roundup: Critics Weigh In On TWELFTH NIGHT in Central Park

The Public Theater’s production of Public Works’ TWELFTH NIGHT, conceived by Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub, music and lyrics by Shaina Taub, Choreography by Lorin Latarro, and directed by Oskar Eustis and Kwame Kwei-Armah, opened tonight and will run through Sunday, August 19.
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‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout’ review: Tom Cruise and spy franchise in top form

It’s not just “Impossible,” it’s irresistible.

The sixth chapter in the Tom Cruise-controlled spy franchise, “Mission: Impossible — Fallout,” opening Friday, picks up where the last one, “Rogue Nation,” left off.

And then pushes it further, with the kind of breathless sequences — skydiving stunts,…

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BWW Review: Joshua Bergasse Creates a Sensational New Style For the Leiber and Stoller Smash SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE

When the smash hit revue SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE, celebrating the pop classics of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, opened on Broadway in 1995, director Jerry Zaks staged each beloved number with snazzy show-biz slickness and glitz, suggesting the ways they might have been performed by the artists who introduced them when in concert or on television variety shows.
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‘Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion’ Review: A Faithful, but Basic RPG

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, or don’t watch cartoons but decided to read a review of a video game based on one for some reason, here’s a quick refresher on Adventure TimeThis colourful animated series follows the adventures of Finn, a heroic human boy, and Jake, his yellow talking dog as they roam the cutesy post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo. And it’s pretty darn brilliant.

While it’s obviously aimed at children, thanks to some silly and abstract humour, over-the-top voice acting, and surprisingly deep (and often chilling) lore, the show has managed to amass a rabid adult and teenage fanbase too.

More importantly though, its charming and colourful cartoon world of swords and hijinx is one that’s simply ripe for video game adaptations. But so far, video game-loving fans haven’t had much luck with Adventure Time.  Previous releases, such as the exhaustingly named Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know! and Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!!, felt like Cartoon Network merely slapped the Adventure Time brand onto the most basic of gaming concepts and called it a day.

A license to thrill?



Now though, fans are hoping that might change. Why? Because Bandai Namco is publishing the first ever open world Aventure Time RPG– Pirates of the Enchiridion. With the show set to air its last ever episode later this year, this game could be the perfect way to say goodbye to the land of Ooo. So, does Pirates of the Enchiridion finally do justice to Adventure Tim eas a video game adaptation?

Almost.

The game opens with Finn and Jake waking to find the Land of Ooo has flooded and transformed into a vast ocean, thanks to the villainous-but-lovable Ice King’s Kingdom having almost entirely melted. Very conveniently, the duo finds a makeshift boat nearby their destroyed home, and sets sail to find answers in this newly oceanic Ooo.

Although the sailing aspects may be Pirates of the Enchiridion‘s namesake, it’s perhaps the game’s most boring element. Initially, the sailing gives off strong Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker vibes, but it soon becomes apparent that instead of being the open world we hoped, it’s actually more like your average old-school RPG’s overworld map. And sadly, it’s just as barren.

With the exception of the odd item out at sea for Jake to grab a hold of, there is absolutely nothing of interest to interact with, and these sailing sections act as little more than a way to travel between the waypoints of the various islands around the land.

A (not so) Open World

The one that saves the sailing though, is that these sections contain some of the most genuinely charming moments in the entire game. Thanks to some brilliant performances from the show’s original cast,  we couldn’t help but smile whenever Finn and Jake broke out into song on their journey across the sea. This is reflective of what is perhaps the game’s greatest asset in general. Unlike with previous adaptations, its developers have clearly done their research to understand the show, and have made the effort to emulate the sort of story and dialogue you’d expect to see and hear in a typical episode.

Its characters feel like they do in the series, and its comedic personality is a perfect fit, which, unfortunately, is a real rarity for licensed video games.

The only fault in regards to the personality of the show – which is, let’s be honest, is the single most important element for fans – comes on the technical side, particularly in cutscenes. Although the graphics are generally charmingly cel-shaded, the animation is at times pretty janky, with lip-syncing a little off, and character’s expressions often seemingly unfitting of the situation or dialogue. Finn, for example, appears to be smiling regardless of what he’s actually saying, which is… well, a little weird.

Additionally, there’s some general freezing and juttering in the minute-to-minute gameplay, but if you came into Enchiridon expecting the quality and polish of a blockbuster title,  quite frankly, you were always going to end up disappointed.

Hey, It’s MY TURN

Outside of the sailing sections, there are two other primary modes of gameplay. Once you’ve disembarked from your boat, you control your party in very simplistic and (at times) excruciatingly linear platforming and puzzle segments. Much like the sea, it may at first look more open than it is, but you are effectively set on a very linear path. It feels like the same sort of basic video game concept that licensed titles have been doing since the PlayStation 1 era, bringing little new to the table.

Oh, and Jake can transform into a motorbike for these sections – just don’t ask where the motor sounds are coming from.

Thankfully, these bits are quick enough that they don’t often outstay their welcome. When it comes to the rest of the game, the overworld exploration wasn’t the only thing the developers borrowed from 90’s RPGs. If you’ve ever played a turn-based RPG before,  battles are going to feel all too familiar. When you encounter an enemy, everything plays out exactly as you’d expect an RPG unwilling to shake the boat would; you’re given the option for a standard attack, to use an item, such as a heart vial to recover some of your health, a block, or a special attack.

Special attacks use some of your energy points, which slowly replenish during the course of the battle, and range from simply inflicting more damage, hitting multiple enemies or causing a status effect, such as freezing or confusing. Your ultimate ability, or final attack, can be initiated once a party member takes a significant number of hits during the match, and enemies have their own elemental strengths and weaknesses.

RPG Time


Adventure Time: Pirates Of The Enchiridion Battle

Ending a match victoriously assigns each party member XP, which can eventually level them up, and you can utilise the in-game currency to upgrade your heroes’ health, attack power, defence, etc. Losing a match, however, results in you having to load from your last save or automated checkpoint. This isn’t likely to happen often, if at all, as combat is very, very easy and you’ll always have an abundance of recovery items to keep you safe. That is, unless you approach an high-level enemy with a red skull above their heads, in which case we strongly recommend you run away and return once you’ve levelled up.

Pirates of Enchiridion never diverges from established genre cliches that have existed for decades then.

Still, while it’s easier to look at this with our serious gamer hats on, what is important to take away here is that despite the show’s varied audience, Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridionis absolutely aimed at children. It sticks firmly to the RPG genre and licensed game cliches that have been present for decades, rarely straying from that path to risk presenting any original gameplay ideas. While it’ll be a great entry point to RPGs for younger fans, adults will undoubtedly grow tired of it quickly.

Is Adventure Time: Pirates Of The Enchiridion Any Good?

Although it may not be saying much, this is the most authentic representation of the series in a video game to date, and it is comfortably the best game based on the show so far. Yet, unless you are a child or somebody completely obsessed with Adventure Time,  despite its charm, Pirates of the Enchiridion will struggle to keep your attention for long.

Still, if you are a big Adventure Time fan and don’t require every game you play to be an original, stellar experience, there’s definitely fun to be had here thanks to the game’s charm and authenticity alone. For fans looking to say goodbye to the land of Ooo, you could definitely do a lot worse.

‘Pokémon: Let’s Go’ Breathes New Life Into Kanto but Feels Worryingly Shallow

 

The post ‘Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion’ Review: A Faithful, but Basic RPG appeared first on FANDOM.

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‘The Equalizer 2’ review: Denzel Washington an avenging angel in less-than-heavenly sequel

In “The Equalizer 2,” out Friday, Boston vigilante Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) now drives for Lyft. He picks people up — get it? But he also crushes baddies. That includes creeps who abuse a young woman and then dump her into his car. “Make sure I get a 5-star rating,” McCall barks, just…

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After e-cigarette incident, China cuts Air China’s flight hours and launches safety review

China's aviation regulator will cut Air China's flight hours for its Boeing 737 fleet by 10 percent and cancel the licences for the pilot and co-pilot involved in an emergency descent incident last week, Chinese state television said.
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‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!’ Review: Sappy Sequel Dissolves Into the Cher Show

Here we go again. That’s the title of the sequel to the 2008 smash hit Mamma Mia. But this time around, the trip is not as charming, the ABBA songs not as well-known, and the plot even more ridiculous. Luckily, Cher enters in the third act to save this sappy but at times charming sequel.

The Prequel Problem

As we’ve seen with several films this year, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! suffers from the prequel problem. The first film was adapted from a successful musical with the same name. The follow-up feels pieced together, switching back and forth between the present, where Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) is trying to re-open her late mother Donna’s (Meryl Streep) hotel, and the past, which depicts how a young Donna (Lily James) became pregnant with Sophie via three potential suitors.

The identity of Sophie’s father is the device that drove the first film; in the second, it’s inconsequential as she has strong relationships with all three. Instead, her battle is with a looming storm, literally.


Mamma Mia 2 Mamma Mia Here We Go Again! Donna and the Dynamos
Donna and the Dynamos perform at university.

The film incorporates more obscure tracks from ABBA’s discography — including “One of Us” and “Andante, Andante” — to tell of Donna’s dalliances and desires to do something on her own (opening a hotel). Popular songs from the first film like “Dancing Queen” and the titular “Mamma Mia” — are re-used. Some numbers feel lifted straight from the first film; the townspeople once again descend to the docks singing “Dancing Queen.” Lily James performs most of the vocals in Here We Go Again! She has a sweet voice, but lacks some of older Donna’s swagger (and thankfully Amanda Seyfried’s vibrato).

Younger audiences who do not know the more obscure songs end up waiting for the more familiar ones to come on. They’re treated to eye candy in the forms of young Sam (Jeremy Irvine), Bill (Josh Dylan), and Harry (Hugh Skinner).


Mamma Mia 2 Here We Go Again! Pierce Brosnan
There’s no face Pierce Brosnan can make that looks bad.

The men are so impossibly attractive that the women ask, “Jesus Christ, what kind of island is this?” And while the men are easy on the eyes, they’re hard on the ears. Each has a mercifully short solo, and their older counterparts (Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, and Colin Firth) even less. However, when the familiar melodies do come, moviegoers can’t help but smile and tap their feet along. That’s the magic of ABBA’s music.

There are some additional highlights. Christine Baranski and Julie Walters reprise their roles as Tanya and Rosie, Donna’s best friends and bandmates. Once again, they provide much of the laughs, especially during the cheesy group choreography numbers. Even their younger versions are quite funny; Jessica Keenan Wynn channels young temptress Tanya perfectly, while Alexa Davies proves Rosie’s always had spunk.


Cher mamma mia here we go again
Cher swoops in and saves the sequel.

Of course, the sequel’s biggest savior is Cher, who plays Sophie’s estranged grandmother Ruby Sheridan, a famous Las Vegas headliner. Cher’s performance is so over the top (like any diva, she has multiple wig and outfit changes in the limited scenes she’s in) that viewers can’t help but laugh. It’s sheer, or should we say, Cher ridiculousness. And audiences eat it up.

Is Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! Good?

Even the most diehard ABBA fans wouldn’t call Here We Go Again! good, but it’s cute with a few surprisingly tender moments. Not least of which is an ending duet to “My Love, My Life.” And of course, the stunt casting of Cher can’t be missed.

‘Mamma Mia 2’: Meet the Hot New Additions to the Musical Sequel’s Cast

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TV Review: ‘Orange is the New Black’ Season 6

It was hard to know how “Orange is the New Black” would — or could — come back after its fifth season, which was as ambitious as it was ultimately disastrous. The show became as scattered and chaotic as the inmate protest-turned-riot it was trying to depict, sending every character spinning seemingly for the sake […]

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Omni 20 USB-C battery pack review: If you try this $200 battery, you’ll never go back

Best USB-C battery pack for laptops: Omni 20 USB-C review

I remember introducing the rest of my family to rechargeable battery packs about seven years ago, just as everyone was migrating from Blackberries onto a mixture of Android and Palm Pre (!) devices. At the time, a 2,000mAh device that fit in a backpack and gave you 60 percent more battery life was the most magical thing I could remember.

Fast-forward to 2018, and battery packs can do a whole lot more. Thanks to improvements in battery technology, a pack the size of a few decks of playing cards can charge your phone for a week, and USB-C technology means that much bigger and more powerful devices can take a charge.

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Omni 20 USB-C battery pack review: If you try this $ 200 battery, you’ll never go back originally appeared on BGR.com on Sat, 14 Jul 2018 at 16:20:35 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


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‘Mary Page Marlowe’ review: Tracy Letts traces life of one woman played by six actresses

“Mary Page Marlowe,” a frustratingly non-impact and not particularly well-acted drama at Second Stage through Aug. 12, recalls the notion of seeing something six ways from Sunday – as in, from every angle.

As such, the title character is played by a half-dozen actresses of various ages, as Mary…

/entertainment – New York Daily News

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‘A Child Went Forth’ by mysterious author Boston Teran is a great American saga: book review

The award-winning author and cult sensation known as Boston Teran, who keeps his real identity a secret, is back with the thrilling and thought-provoking new book, “A Child Went Forth.”

The book opens with 13-year-old Charlemagne Griffin — Charlie — and his father in New York in 1851, appealing…

/entertainment – New York Daily News

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Film Review: ‘White Fang’

The wild wolfdog isn’t the only thing that gets tamed in “White Fang,” Luxembourgish animator Alexandre Espigares’s ravishingly designed new take on the old Jack London chestnut: London’s hard-bitten survivalist narrative is in for a wholesome cleanup too. Ostensibly more faithful to the novel than Randal Kleiser’s 1991 live-action family adventure — rather than introducing […]

Variety

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‘Whitney’ Doc Review: Does It Tell The Whole Truth?

The life and legacy of Whitney Houston, who died in 2012 at the age of 48 in a Los Angeles hotel room is too big to be distilled down into one documentary. So it’s entirely fitting that to date, there are two documentaries.

The first, Can I Be Me, is based on footage shot by Nick Broomfield, who had Whitney’s approval to follow her during what turned out to be a tumultuous tour. The second, simply titled Whitney, takes more of an overview of her life and was approved by Whitney’s estate and family. Directed by Scot Kevin McDonald, who also directed The Last King of Scotland and the Marley documentary about the reggae legend, it’s surprisingly candid.

Watch the ‘Whitney’ trailer:


Entertainment – Black America Web

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Karlovy Vary Film Review: ‘Crystal Swan’

At a time when the U.S. borders are being made as hostile as possible to migrants, stories of hopeful outsiders betting the farm on the American Dream hit hard and true in the heart — even one as outwardly oddball as “Crystal Swan,” freshman helmer Darya Zhuk’s spirited, bittersweet comedy about a restless Belarusian DJ […]

Variety

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Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD at City Center?

Opening the 2018 Off-Center season running through June 30, is Songs for a New World- the first musical from three-time Tony Award-winner Jason Robert Brown. This powerful collection of songs examines life, love, and the choices ordinary people make when faced with extraordinary moments. From the deck of a 1492 Spanish sailing ship to the ledge of a Fifth Avenue high-rise, each character faces a new world which follows the unique challenge they encounter.
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NFL Fines Ex-Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson $2.75M After Misconduct Review

(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — The NFL has fined former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson $ 2.75 million following its investigation into sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace.

The league said Thursday the investigation conducted by former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White substantiated the allegations against Richardson, that the improper conduct was limited to him and that the team and its ownership failed to report the allegations or any resolution agreements to the league.

The league also said most of the money will go toward organizations that address racial- and gender-based issues in and outside the workplace.

Richardson put the team up for sale after a Sports Illustrated report in December that Richardson made sexually suggestive comments to women and on at least one occasion directed a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout. The report also stated that the settlements came with non-disclosure requirements forbidding the parties from discussing the details.

Richardson has an agreement to sell the Panthers for a league-record $ 2.2 billion to hedge fund president and owner David Tepper. The league owners unanimously approved the sale last month, and NFL officials said the sale is expected to close in the next two weeks. Tepper is a former minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Coach Ron Rivera declined to comment Thursday on Richardson’s fine when reached by The Associated Press. General manager Marty Hurney did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

White, who was appointed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as the independent investigator, said her findings and recommendations are the product of a review that included interviews with team executives, former and current employees, document analysis and electronic records.

White states that the Panthers’ anti-harassment and discrimination policy should help prevent a recurrence, and she and Goodell recommend the team report on its internal policies and procedures that address racial discrimination and sexual harassment claims, as well as related workplace issues, by the end of the year.

She also recommended the league prohibit non-disclosure agreements to limit the reporting of potential violations or cooperation with league investigations, require workplace misconduct claims to be reported to the league office, establish a confidential hotline for league and team employees to report workplace conduct issues and review policies and procedures with owners, team counsel and human resource executives.

The NFL said the recommendations will be presented to the league’s Conduct Committee before the coming season.

NFL officials have said they didn’t know about the allegations against Richardson until Dec. 15, the same day the Panthers issued a stunning news release first announcing its own investigation of Richardson’s alleged workplace misconduct. That was followed two days later by the Sports Illustrated report that detailed Richardson’s alleged misconduct and also by the announcement that Richardson would sell the team he founded.

The Panthers also promoted Tina Becker to chief operating officer in the wake of the investigation.

Sports – TIME

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Review Roundup: Critics Weigh-In On Carey Mulligan in GIRLS & BOYS

BAFTA Award winner and Academy amp Tony Award nomineeCarey MulliganSkylight, An Education opened tonightin Girls amp Boys, the shattering new play byDennis KellyMatilda The Musical, Taking Care of Baby and directed by Olivier Award winnerLyndsey TurnerMachinal, Chimerica.
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‘Girls & Boys’ review: Carey Mulligan’s must-see Off-Broadway triumph

The less said about “Girls & Boys” and its star Carey Mulligan the better — and that’s the opposite of a dis

One reason for being tight-lipped that this play from London at the Minetta Lane Theatre by Tony winner Dennis Kelly (“Matilda The Musical”) goes to unexpected places. No one should spoil…

/entertainment – New York Daily News

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Trump administration to use review panel to curb China tech investments

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he will use a strengthened national security review panel process to deal with potential threats from Chinese acquisition of American technologies, instead of imposing China-specific restrictions.


Reuters: Technology News

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BWW REVIEW: Patti LuPone’s DON’T MONKEY WITH BROADWAY Is Masterclass Of Musical Theatre Storytelling With Magnificent Music

Broadway Musical Theatre legend Patti LuPone shared an intimate night of memories and marvellous music in her concert DON’T MONKEY WITH BROADWAY.
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Review Roundup: The Critics Weigh In On Idina Menzel in SKINTIGHT

Roundabout Theatre Companypresents the world premiere production of SKINTIGHT, by Roundabout Underground alumnusJoshua HarmonBad Jews, Significant Other, with direction by three-time Obie Award winnerDaniel AukinBad Jews. The cast includesWill Brittainas ‘Trey,’Stephen Carrascoas ‘Jeff,’Eli Gelbas ‘Benjamin Cullen,’Cynthia Maceas ‘Orsolya,’Idina Menzelas ‘Jodi Isaac’ andJack Wetherallas ‘Elliot Isaac.’
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BWW Review: Chukwudi Iwuji and Corey Stoll Give Memorable Turns in Director Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s OTHELLO

From the very beginning, one of the most important tenants of Joseph Papp’s vision of free Shakespeare in Central Park has been the insistence the company of actors audiences see on stage will always reflect the extraordinary and powerful cultural diversity of New York City.
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In Review: Old Navy All-Temp Twill Five-Pocket Pants

O.N. Slim Built-In Tough All-Temp Pants – $ 29.99 w/ STYLE ($ 49.99)

About the Author: John Sosnowski is a warehouser by night, budding freelance writer by day, and style enthusiast at all hours. He believes clothes, music, and animals are just a few of the things that make life incredible. See more at www.snowskiwrites.com.

Many stylish guys rue the day when the temperature climbs too high to wear our favorite jeans without fear of heat stroke. Luckily, Old Navy has come through with a five-pocket that nails the “jean” look and feel about as well as a summer-weight pant possibly can.

In Review: Old Navy All-Temp Twill Five-Pocket Pants | Dappered.com

The fabric is a reasonably lightweight and impressively soft Cotton (70%) / Polyester (28%) / Spandex (2%) blend that seems almost too good for the price point. Old Navy suggests that the All-Temp fabric on these is truly all-season, but based on their weight and breathability, I wouldn’t rely on them in freezing temperatures. But these should be capable three-season performers, even through the dog days of summer.

In Review: Old Navy All-Temp Twill Five-Pocket Pants | Dappered.com

They also state their Built-In Tough fabric technology offers double the durability of ordinary denim. The pants haven’t been torture tested for this review, but they should be more than tough enough for casual wear. One wonders if the Built-in Tough construction gives them their denim-like characteristics, which for me are the truly remarkable aspect. Compared to other lightweight five-pockets, details like the riveting and fabric texture bring the overall vibe of these pants closer to the jean than chino side of things.

In Review: Old Navy All-Temp Twill Five-Pocket Pants | Dappered.com

The slim fit seems on par with most Gap Inc. pants: A 30 x 30 is somewhat roomy on my 5’ 11” 152 pound frame. It may be just right for those with average thighs. Thanks to Old Navy’s Built In-Flex, they offer an ample amount of stretch as well. If slim with stretch is still too confining for your tastes, note that a straight version is also offered. The “Willow Bark” color is shown in this review; the khaki “Craig’s Castle” shade is the only other color offered as of this writing. Returns are free if you’re not happy with sizing and they should be frequently on sale because it’s Old Navy.

Nothing is quite the same as pulling on your favorite pair of dark jeans, but when the mercury climbs above 80, Old Navy has you covered with the next best thing.

In Review: Old Navy All-Temp Twill Five-Pocket Pants | Dappered.com


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Review Roundup: Barrington Stage’s THE ROYAL FAMILY OF BROADWAY With Music and Lyrics by William Finn; Updating Live!

Barrington Stage Company BSC, the award-winning theatre in downtown Pittsfield, under the leadership of Artistic Director Julianne Boyd, presents the world premiere musical, The Royal Family of Broadway. Performances run through July 7 on the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage 30 Union Street.
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BWW Review: An Irresistible Tom Hanks Goes for the Gusto as Falstaff in HENRY IV

Director Daniel Sullivan’s adaptation of HENRY IV, Parts 1 amp 2 may only be playing in the Japanese Garden on the VA campus for another three weeks but it is bound to rank as one of the summer’s most talked-about events. Why Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles has saved up a secret weapon for the production, one few can resist.
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Writer of viral Olive Garden review grateful for Bourdain

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A North Dakota newspaper columnist who received online vitriol in 2012 for her glowing review of an Olive Garden in Grand Forks said Saturday she was grateful that Anthony Bourdain came to her defense as others ridiculed her prose about the town’s hottest new Italian restaurant.
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‘Hereditary’ Review: A Punishing Horror Film That Must Be Seen

Horror is often viewed as a genre that exists only to entertain. Some audiences watching a horror movie only want a thrilling experience that allows them the fun of being scared with none of the actual danger that fear represents. Hereditary shirks that approach and delivers a horror experience that is genuinely uncomfortable. This isn’t a fun time at the movies.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary viewing. Because it is.

Emotional Horror


hereditary funeral
Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro) attend Ellen's funeral.

Hereditary centers around the Graham family shortly after the death of the family matriarch, Ellen. Her daughter Annie (Toni Collette) is trying to cope with the loss. She’s afraid of the mental disorders she’s possibly inherited from her mother and she’s starting to sense a presence in her old home. There’s also Steve (Gabriel Byrne), Annie’s sympathetic but frustrated husband, and their two children Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro).

Much like The Exorcist and Rosemary’s BabyHereditary isn’t a film that is centered around big jump scares. Instead, it focuses on intensely emotional moments to drive home its feelings of terror and dread. This is a film where people reacting to a tragedy is as skin-crawling as a possible specter lurking in the shadows. A lot of credit goes to the superb cast, especially Toni Collette who gives a performance worthy of all the awards.

Nightmare Logic


hereditary dollhouse
Annie (Toni Collette) builds miniature dollhouse models that reflect moments in her life.

Another impressive element of Hereditary is its ability to present surreal imagery without coming across as pretentious or obtuse. For example, there are multiple times in the film where a strange light pulses across the screen. We aren’t told what this light is but we get a sense of its intention. It’s off-putting and bizarre but not in a non-sensical way. Because of this, it feels both creepy and strangely understandable.

And just wait until the movie ramps up as it heads towards its climax. The levels of hysteria and insanity in Hereditary reach such a fever pitch that you start to feel as if you’re going mad. Considering the film is using its story as a metaphor for mental illness — particularly dementia — this is an appropriate escalation. And boy, it works too well. By the end of the film, it feels like you’ve woken up from a nightmare.

Characters You Cry For


hereditary family
The Graham family is not alright.

Honestly, the strongest part of Hereditary is its success in creating truly human characters. The Grahams feel achingly real. You’ve known these people and they are probably in your family. What’s great is that none of them are heroes or villains. They are just people. That means they have interesting qualities — Annie is an artist who makes miniature models — and believable flaws. There are moments of devastation and danger that will have you gasping for these people. That’s powerful.

And it bears repeating: the actors in this are at the top of their game. Toni Collette is doing work that most will pass off as pure histrionics. Those people would be missing how gut-wrenching her character’s perspective is during the film. Her reactions and fears come across at completely genuine. And young Alex Wolff has a difficult job in presented Peter as an apathetic teen whose relationship with his mother is more disturbing than we first know. Plus, young newcomer Milly Shapiro is the secret, sad heart of Hereditary and she demonstrates an emotional intelligence that few child actors ever reach.

The Nitpick

Okay, so there is one thing about Hereditary that doesn’t quite click but it’s not possible to talk about in depth without spoilers. So, in the interest of keeping this review spoiler-free, we’ll just say that Hereditary is very vague with its motives for most of the film. It’s towards the end that an explanation begins to take shape. And honestly, it feels somewhat out-of-place for the movie you’ve been watching.

It doesn’t sink the film at all but it does try and give a clear-cut reason for the supernatural shenanigans going on. The film works without this explanation and that’s a testament to its narrative strength. The ending actually makes things more confusing by trying to give a somewhat easier answer. It works but it’s not nearly as interesting as when things were kept unknown.

Is Hereditary Good?

Full of nightmarish imagery and emotional terror, Hereditary has the makings of a horror classic. There is true evil lurking inside this film. The acting is superb, the atmosphere is unsettling, and the tension is nigh unbearable. When it comes to making an unabashedly horrifying experience, writer/director Ari Aster has knocked it out of the park. See this immediately but don’t expect to sleep well that night.

The post ‘Hereditary’ Review: A Punishing Horror Film That Must Be Seen appeared first on FANDOM.

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‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ review roundup: What the critics thought

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The latest installment of the Jurassic Park series sounds like a palatable film for fans of the series but doesn’t offer up a completely enrapturing experience the whole way through.

Reviewers have weighed in on the upcoming Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the sequel to Jurassic World, and it isn’t getting the most thrilling praise so far. In this movie, a volcano at the Jurassic World theme park has erupted, sending the human protagonists and a handful of dinosaurs away from the island and into normal society which is fine for the humans but not so great for the dinosaurs. 

More about Movies, Jurassic Park, Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom, Review Roundup, and Entertainment


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Concert Review: Pink Reaches Full Altitude at Spectacular Forum Show

In the history of traveling pop music outings, there’s probably never been a better first 10 seconds of any tour than the opening of Pink’s current show. After a small eternity in which the audience is left gazing at a reddish curtain, increasingly indented as unknowable pieces of staging are pushed into place, it suddenly […]

Variety

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Review: Ye Is an Uneasy Look at Kanye West’s Life as a Walking Contradiction

Kanye West’s projects since he teamed up with his now-wife Kim Kardashian West in 2012—the abrasive Yeezus, the sprawling The Life of Pablo, the series of personal appearances punctuated by top-of-the-head singles—have had varying stylistic contours. The one thing they’ve consistently focused on is contrast: Light and dark, ugly and beautiful, self-aggrandizing and self-loathing.

West is perhaps uniquely qualified to grapple with this. In the public mind of 2018 he is “Kanye,” shorthand for an outspoken black man who says a lot of outré things in a world still struggling mightily with its racial politics, who Barack Obama has called a “jackass,” and who’s married to a similarly polarizing figure. (Among other things.) He’s also Kanye West, rapper and producer born in Chicago, happy when he’s eating ice cream. The back-and-forth between “Kanye” and the public can be excruciating to watch unfold in real time, particularly when it deals with topics like mental illness and opioid edition, and even moreso when it touches even more volatile third rails like President Donald Trump. It’s perhaps most disheartening when it crosses onto platforms that take the wink-and-nod approach to any subject they tackle—your TMZs, your 24-hour news networks, your drive-by Tweeters looking for an excuse to blow off steam—and erase the humanity at the star’s nucleus.

But West didn’t reach his exalted position because he went on a reality show with no interest in making friends. He was an innovative producer who minted hits, both for himself—the Ray Charles callback “Gold Digger,” the dreamy “P.Y.T.” flip “Good Life”—and for others, like former confidante Jay-Z and pop megastars Rihanna and Paul McCartney. This year, in addition to his gossip-blog-poking appearances, he returned to music, “chopping samples from the sunken place” (as he said on Twitter—he apparently meant Jackson Hole, Wyoming) on albums for himself, as well as other artists in his G.O.O.D. Music stable.

Ye, West’s eighth solo album and the second in this pre-summer flurry, was launched at a splashy listening party in Jackson Hole on Thursday. West collected boldfaced names and influencers in order to hear the record around a campfire. It opens in the dark; the first track is unnervingly called “I Thought About Killing You,” and it opens with West in monologue, his voice stretching and shifting as he talks about murder and suicide over watercolor synths. “I think this is the part where I’m supposed to say something good to compensate it, so it doesn’t come off… bad,” he says, then chuckles mirthlessly before his voice is pitched to an even lower point, so as to emphasize the “really, really, really bad things” knocking around his brain. (Think American Psycho where the exalted business cards are flaunted on Instagram.) Those impulses recede, but linger over the rest of the record.

Sonically, Ye resembles Pablo but, perhaps appropriately given its terse title, more stripped-down, with the occasional pitch-shifted voice dropped in to add uneasiness. Ye doesn’t deviate too much from the lyrical concepts of Pablo—it blends the trivial and the life-or-death like on the darkened-club “Yikes,” where he declares his bipolar syndrome (which he calls out on the scrawled-on-iPhone-pic cover) to be his “superpower” and compares the U.S.-North Korea tensions to his long-simmering beef with Wiz Khalifa. “Wouldn’t Leave” is a love song that doubles as an apology to his wife; closing track “Violent Crimes,” which features a shoutout to and cameo by fellow stratosphere-dweller Nicki Minaj, draws from the “I respect women more now that I have daughters” well that’s simultaneously frustrating and a relief. But it wouldn’t be a Kanye album without fundamental contradictions to the very end.


Entertainment – TIME

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