Reviews

HPN Presents: MCU Tournament

(updated April 25nd, 2018 11:10AM CST with the final bracket, details below.)

March Madness is almost over with, but this is a perfect time for us at the HPN to throw our own tournament the only way we know how: pitting great movies against each other and letting our listeners do the dirty work for us!

The Marvel Cinematic Universe will release its 19th film on April 26th, the heavily anticipated Infinity War. We have all waited 10 long years to see this film and have sat through 18 different Marvel showings, some better than others. To celebrate our dedication and fandom, join us in picking what you think is the BEST MCU FILM YET.

The bracket was put together using aggregate sites Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB, and MetaCritic to determine tournament seeds.

Download and fill out your copy below. Don’t forget to follow our social media to vote online and get daily updates on winners! Championship winner announced on April 25th! Will you have a perfect bracket?

IT’S OVER! The MCU Tournament has come to an end. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who participated! Seriously, if you even voted a single time, thank you! Check out the final bracket below and you can still snag a blank one to create your own for fun.

We had some very close match-ups, specifically Captain America: Civil War beating out both Marvel’s Avengers and Doctor Strange by just a single vote and Avengers: Age of Ultron beating out Spider-Man: Homecoming by just two. Of course, some films crushed the competition, like Iron Man getting over 89% of the vote when up against its sequel.

Haven’t participated yet? Want a clean bracket? Download the Round 4 bracket below or the completely clean bracket at the bottom and keep on voting. Voting happens on our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. So keep an eye on those accounts and may the best MCU movie win.

HPN-tournament Round Final

 

 

HPN tournament

HPN Presents: MCU Tournament

North by Outlands – Review

North is an Indie video game by Outlands that was originally released in April of 2016 on Steam. On March 6th, 2018, it releases on Nintendo Switch. The Switch is quickly becoming the go-to platform for Indie console titles, so North is in good company. Now, North is a relatively short game. In fact, if you know what to do, you could probably finish it in 30-40 minutes but the game anticipates that it should take you about an hour. With that in mind, I am going to do my best to avoid spoilers in both written and visual mediums. It’s a linear story with very few variations and I would prefer not to ruin it for anyone who is looking to pick it up.

Outlands describes the game as:

In NORTH you play a man who applies for asylum in a city filled with strange creatures and strange customs.

Dealing with the issue of the contemporary refugee crisis while at the same time being deeply rooted in a classical cyberpunk atmosphere à la Blade Runner, NORTH features a dark synthpop soundtrack, a sprawling mega-city and weird monster-like inhabitants.

The gameplay is very straightforward and mostly consists of exploration and simple puzzles. The main difficulty is to understand what you have to do in order to get asylum. You’ve come from an foreign land in the south and find yourself lost and confused – a confusion you convey through letters to your sister back home. An important part of the gameplay, these letters help you understand your tasks while at the same time moving the narrative of the game forward.

NORTH is short (20-40 min) and comes with a full soundtrack (8 songs).

North hits some heavy notes and focuses on an intense topic that impacts millions of people around the world. As you complete the game, the overtones and concepts it relays become much more clear. The story really does all tie together in a fairly creepy and unfortunately real way. But let’s start with the basics.

North by Outlands - Mines

It is a first-person game. You do not have hands. You cannot see any part of yourself or anything you may be holding. While this cleans up the screen, I would have appreciated some kind of aiming cross-hair as interacting with certain objects was tedious when using the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. It is not immediately clear what you are supposed to do but that is the nature of the game. North doesn’t have a menu. You can’t pause or save. There’s no HUD nor indication of health, location, etc. aside from one specific life monitor when you are in the mines, as show in the image above. Instead, all you get when the game begins is what you see below:

North by Outlands - Opening

The graphics are relatively simple and look like they would have been great for a VR game. However, the loading between screens is a problem. It is very buggy. The beautiful soundtrack gets broken up on a regular basis when loading between screens which really takes you out of the moment and feel. With that said, the sound is truly beautiful and reminiscent of movies like Blade Runner and The Neverending Story, two of my personal favorites.

North by Outlands - First Floor City

Speaking of bugs though, I broke the game. You see, there’s a part when you have to go to work in the mines. The atmosphere is dangerous and you have to limit your time in there. My first couple of attempts led to my death and in dying, broke the flow of the game to where I was not able to complete the steps. The arrow markers that were supposed to lead my way to the mine locations I needed to work were no where to be found and I could not interact with the drink machines that were active prior to my death. I found myself stuck and decided to just close the game and relaunch it, starting over. Being that I was about half an hour in, this wasn’t the end of the world and now that I knew what to do, it was much easier to progress.

North by Outlands - Church

I did use some walk through from Steam because the whole Church conversion tied in with the street cameras was not immediately intuitive for me. I think that’s my chief complaint. The game relies a lot on you just figuring things out but since I essentially broke the game during my experimenting, I was also hesitant to do anything I wasn’t fairly confident in. Of course, there are the letters to fall back on. As mentioned earlier, you are sending letters to your sister and as you progress, they tell you vital information about upcoming tasks. Yes, it’s a little weird. Essentially, you perform an action and a letter becomes available to send your sister. In posting the letter, you get to read it and learn what… you… learned. It’s a little convoluted but it’s a solid mechanic that does help you along. So it works.

North by Outlands - Letters

In the end, it’s a short game that does have a solid message about the way many refugees are treated, the hoops we force them to jump through, and how we make them feel about their background and who they are.  There are some technical issues, specifically around loading between events and what happens if you die or do not convert correctly. Hopefully these things will be fixed with patches. I am playing pre-release, so I will cut them a little slack. Also, it’s a dirt cheap game, only $2.99 USD on Switch, making it easily one of the cheapest games on the platform and not a terrible way to spend an hour.

North by Outlands - Police Station

If you’ve played North by Outlands, please hit me up on Twitter @TheStarTrekDude and use the hashtag #northgame. I’d love to talk to you about it.

If you haven’t played and are going to snag it on Switch, also hit me up and let me know! It releases Tuesday, March 5th on the Nintendo Switch eShop.

North by Outlands – Review

A Case of Distrust Review

As soon as you enter the stylish, monochrome world of A Case of Distrust, you can immediately feel the mood this game is trying to set. It’s the 1920s, you’re a down on your luck gumshoe with a troubled past, a former cop who interacts with the seedy underbelly. There’s a lot of fun and winky nostalgia as you talk very seriously to your cat as you lament your empty fridge in the game’s clever tutorial phase.

The game has virtually no user interface. The only persistent element on the screen is a small tab in the corner that allows you to review your notes. It’s a great touch and lets you entirely focus on the story being told through the game’s text blocks and static images.

Case of Mistrust

There are three ways to interact with A Case of Distrust. There are large scenes with objects you can click on that will give you clues or flavor text, there are conversations where you can pick from multiple dialog options, or there is the “Show Notes” interface where you can press for more info or contradict someone’s story by presenting something from your detective’s notebook.

For anyone that’s played L.A. Noire or Ace Attorney or any number of detective games, this will all seem very similar. That’s really the problem with A Case of Distrust, though. The more I played, the more things felt familiar. Not a new take on an existing genre or a nostalgic look at a foregone period, but a tedious attempt to capture the feeling of something else while doing none of the work.

Case of Mistrust

The art for the still images is crisp and stylish and the writing is a fun homage to detective writers like Dashiel Hammett or Raymond Chandler, but when all is said and done you’re basically paying $15 to read a short choose-your-own adventure detective story with pictures. Your notebook fills up with red herrings as you try and press the game’s few characters for information, all of which return stock responses. Progression is linear, there is no fail state.

The game is cute and interesting, but it never quite justifies it’s price tag. The main character’s backstory is a fascinating look at a female cop in the 20s, but you never feel like you get a strong sense of who she is under the layers of PI tropes. Going from place to place can trigger a neat little conversation with a cab driver, but it never amounts to anything. It’s like an informational loading screen when nothing is loading and the information isn’t germane to the game being played.

A Cast of Distrust would be a great game for anyone looking for an introduction to the detective/noir genre in either novel or game form, but it might be a little too familiar for anyone who’s spent some time with Phoenix Wright or Humphrey Bogart.

A Case of Distrust Review

SteamWorld Dig Lands on Switch

For those who don’t listen to our video game podcast, Gamer Heroes, you might not know that I’m a big fan of Image & Form (now part of Thunderful) and their SteamWorld series of games. If SteamWorld Dig Rustyyou’re not familiar with the series, the SteamWorld games follow steam-powered robots in two different game styles. SteamWorld Dig and SteamWorld Dig 2 are both digging platformers while SteamWorld Heist is a turned-based RPG platformer. I’ve spent a lot of time playing these three games and you can find my reviews of them here:

This article is going to focus on the newly released Nintendo Switch version of the original SteamWorld Dig game. It’s priced at $9.99 USD and is available on the Nintendo eShop now.SteamWorld Dig Rusty

Overall, they’ve done a nice job bringing the game to Nintendo Switch. Back when I first played, it was on the 3DS and while it’s still one of my favorite handheld games, the graphics were certainly not HD given the restrictions of the DS hardware line. The game, also being available on Steam, PS4, Vita, Xbox One, and Wii U means that it’s been available in an HD format on other platforms for a while now. In fact, the Nintendo Switch version of the game is the first release of SteamWorld Dig since the 2015 release on Xbox One.SteamWorld Dig Dorothy

Now, I’ve only ever played on 3Ds and Steam. So if you’ve played on Playstation or Xbox and had a totally different experience, please let me know but also keep in mind that I wasn’t exposed to those platforms for this title.

SteamWorld Dig DorothyThe game looks good. Visually, the graphics are nice and hold up well on my HD TV as well as in handheld mode on the Nintendo Switch. Of course, SteamWorld Dig 2 just looks a lot better. While the basic visual style is similar, SteamWorld Dig 2 has a lot more going on with more background animations and minor movements. I think the biggest change for me is the single screen experience. On 3DS, the mini-map, inventory, and some other features display on the bottom touch screen and are easily accessible by clicking on them. The Switch, only having a single screen, handles this by providing the mini-map in the upper right of the game play screen and the inventory on the bottom. Clearly, this works better than it would have on 3DS due to the significantly higher resolution but I truly loved the dual-screen experience on the 3DS. Steam provided a secondary window for the mini-map, which I found a bit clunky, so I would at least rate the Switch version higher in that regard. One cool feature is that the options menu provides a slider for increasing or decreasing the size of the mini-map. I just made it as large as can be, since I primarily play in TV mode.

The game play is solid and smooth for the most part. I do find that the game is a little slower in response when compared to the more recently released SteamWorld Dig 2. So if you are going back to play this one, that felt pretty noticeable. If SteamWorld Dig on Switch would be your introduction to the franchise, then I doubt you’ll notice.SteamWorld Dig Digging View

At the end of the day, I think this is a solid version of the game but I don’t think I can call it the definitive version or anything like that. Where you play the game will likely depend on your personal preference. I think the 3DS version still has a lot to offer but if you’re like me and seem to be playing your DS less and less thanks to the Switch, I’d snag this new release of the game and once you finish, you can move on to SteamWorld Heist, since it’s also available on Switch now.

SteamWorld Dig is a personal favorite of mine and it’s definitely an Indie game worth checking out. If you’d like to hear more of my thoughts on gaming, please check out Gamer Heroes. We have new episodes on Tuesdays and you can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Blog Talk Radio, Google Play, and Spreaker!

‘Till next time… keep on diggin’.

SteamWorld Dig Lands on Switch

Batman and Harley Quinn – Quick Movie Take

Ian and Rae of Costume Couture hit up the Fathom event for Batman and Harley Quinn, a new animated movie focusing on the Dark Knight, Harley, Nightwing, and Poison Ivy. The movie includes legendary Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy and Harley Quinn newcomer Melissa Rauch (Big Bang Theory). The story is by Bruce Timm too!

We’ve got their spoiler-free Quick Movie Take below, so check it out and then see the movie yourself on Blu-Ray August 29th.

Here’s the description from the Fathom One Night Only Event held on August 14th:

From an original story by animation icon Bruce Timm, comes an all-new DC Universe animated movie. Poison Ivy and Jason Woodrue (a.k.a. The Floronic Man) embark on an ecological quest to save the planet – and, unfortunately, eliminate most of humankind along the way. To save humanity, Batman and Nightwing are forced to enlist Harley Quinn to catch Poison Ivy, Harley’s BFF and frequent partner-in-crime. But Batman’s patience is put to the test by the unpredictable and untrustworthy Harley during the twists and turns the reluctant companions face during their bumpy road trip. The result is a thrill ride of action, adventure and comedy no Batman fan has seen before.

Batman and Harley Quinn features a stellar voice cast led by Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Animated Series) reprising his role as the Dark Knight, alongside Melissa Rauch (The Big Bang Theory) making her debut as the irrepressible Harley Quinn. Loren Lester, the voice of Robin in Batman: The Animated Series, returns as Nightwing.

Does this sound like a movie you’d enjoy? Did you see it already? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or hit us up @HeroesPodcasts on Facebook and Twitter!

Batman and Harley Quinn – Quick Movie Take

Ironcast Game Review

Ironcast is a new game coming to Nintendo Switch next week from developer Dreadbit and published by Ripstone. Here’s a little excerpt from the press release to give you a preview:

Ironcast is a turn-based strategy game set in an alternative Victorian history; where refined men and women command gigantic mechanised war machines, laying waste to enemies of the British Empire. As Commanders of the Consortium of Merit, players take control of their own 7 metre tall walking Ironcast to defend 1880’s Victorian England from an invading force of enemy Ironcast.

What I found most interesting about Ironcast is that while it is a turn-based strategy game, it’s not as simple as I fire and then they fire. It combines normal turn-based play with the ever popular icon matching mechanic found in popular titles like Candy Crush and Futurama: Game of Drones. Ironcast includes several different items or icons. Some provide ammo for weapons, others provide power for defensive measures. A third is a coolant that helps keep your systems from overheating. There’s an item for repair work and finally scrap that can be used for upgrades between missions. There are special nodes that pop up from time to time that either boost your matches or allow linking, which is really cool when it lands in the right spot. Linking allows you to, for example, match three ammo then the link and then four power. Since you only get two matches per turn, the links can really help boost your nodes in a time of need.

Ironcast - Matching

To be honest, I’ve never really been a fan of these matching style games and have tried to get on the bandwagon each time a new one hits big. With that said, using this as simply a mechanic in a larger game is a lot of fun and provides a unique twist on standard turn-based strategy games. My girlfriend compares Ironcast to Puzzle Quest and says a lot of the basic mechanics are similar.

You’re given 9 days before the big bad is available to encounter. In those days missions are randomly made available to you. Some are as straight forward as attack and destroy an enemy Ironcast. Others are more complicated, asking you to retrieve certain items or to hold out for a certain number of days. The varying mission types keep the game play fresh. Additionally, you always have options. You’re basically provided three mission options on any given day. They are color coded, some medium difficulty, others hard.

Ironcast - Starting Map

Once the time runs out, you must face the final mission. I’ll be straight with you, my first time around was not successful. I failed one mission because I damaged an enemy Ironcast’s part that I was meant to salvage (more on that in a minute) and then I died during the final battle. Dying is a BIG deal in this game. Death is permanent. Once you die, you’re dead and the game is over. Now items and other unlocked things carry over. It’s as if your people have gained this technology and knowledge and you are stepping in as a new Ironcast pilot the next time around. Think of it like getting all your stuff back from your zombie self in ZombiU but you don’t have to kill your old body.

Now, I do want to complain, for a second, about the missions where you have to retrieve a particular component from an enemy Ironcast. My first time doing this, I had the shields targeted and wanted to harvest the drive. Somehow, even though I was targeting the shields, my weapon hit the drive and damaged it. Mission failed. Just like that. A failed mission results in far fewer rewards, making it harder to repair your Ironcast and essentially wastes a day. Since it was random chance and not a mistake of my own doing, this was pretty frustrating. But hey, if that’s my big complaint, I think we’re ahead.

Anyway, after each mission, you return to base where you can repair your mech and perform upgrades. Upgrades include new weapons, new shields, new armor, etc. Essentially, if it’s something you can use or have damaged during a mission, you can upgrade it at some point. Upgrades are handled via blueprints that are earned at the end of successful missions. They are random, so you might not get the ones you want right out of the gate. Aside from straight upgrades, you can also earn abilities. Some are passive while others are used in battle and take a certain number of turns to recharge. Abilities might include a bonus on your first attack or interfering with the enemy’s ability to repair on their next turn.

Ironcast - Base

Finally, after completing a game (whether you’ve died or won… though let’s just say winning has some unique advantages) you will receive commendations that can be used to unlock new features like new pilots and even new Ironcasts. These new features combined with the randomly generated missions provides for a unique and fresh experience each time you start a new game.

Overall, Ironcast is a fresh take on the simple matching games. The late-1800s steampunk aesthetic is a cool and unique atmosphere that doesn’t feel old or repetitive. While I would have preferred some voice acting since the game is text heavy, the game brings you back to the action quickly. Even though you might start the game feeling a bit cocky and overly confident, it will throw wrenches at you (pun intended), making you pause and think twice before committing your next move.

Ironcast hits Nintendo Switch next week and is currently available for PC, PS4, and Xbox One but playing it on Nintendo Switch provides for several options including a fully touch-enabled experience using the Switch tablet and nothing else. Personally, I played it in TV and handheld modes.

I give the game 4 destroyed mechs out of 5.

(Updated 4:52PM EST Aug 8th 2017)

Ironcast Game Review

Alien: Covenant Spoiler-free Review

The next installment in the Alien franchise is here. This time Ridley Scott is admitting upfront that it is, in fact, an Alien movie. With that said, if you have not seen Prometheus, I highly recommend watching it before seeing Alien: Covenant. Without spoiling too much from Prometheus, Michael Fassbender’s character David, is a very important part of Alien: Covenant and his motivations are directly tied into the events of Prometheus.

Now, moving on to Alien: Covenant, it’s an Alien movie…. kind of. I say “kind of” because it still sits firmly in the world that Prometheus created, focusing on the tone and overarching plot of that film. Sure, we have a new crew, a new mission, but at the end of the day, it’s the same shtick.

There is a lot to like about Alien: Covenant and if you love monster movies, it’ll be an enjoyable experience for you. With that said, if you are looking for a classic Alien movie that brings you back to Sigourney Weaver’s era, this is not going to fulfill your wishes.

Alien Coventant poster 2

The cast is fine. It features Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them), Bill Crudup (Watchmen), and Danny McBride (Pineapple Express), with Michael Fassbender playing two different characters, David from Prometheus and Walter, the Covenant’s android. They all do a good job with what they are given but as usual, Fassbender steals the show, much as he did in Prometheus and much as he has done in the more recent X-Men films. Everyone else is just along for the ride, in some cases literally.

The story is pretty interesting and has a lot of solid horror movie moments that Prometheus definitely lacked. We spend a lot of time off the ship which, while similar to Prometheus, is still very different from the original Alien Quadrilogy movies. Ridley Scott clearly is trying to pave a path between Prometheus, a movie he was adamant was not an Alien movie, and the original Alien. So, I expect at least one if not two more films before we catch back up to Ripley.

Alien Coventant poster 3

The special effects are inconsistent at best. The ships and technology look amazing and are great updates to the original films while not directly copying Prometheus. The bridge set, the corridors, etc. are all finely detailed and just really well done. The aliens and major action sequences leave much to be desired. The aliens are inconsistent in size, amorphous in shape, and deal damage convenient to whatever needs to happen in a particular scene. When a green\blue screens are used it’s painfully obvious that the backgrounds are fake. With that said, scenes where Fassbender is interacting with himself are very well done and incredibly convincing.

Alien Coventant poster

Overall, it’s a decent Alien movie. You can see my specific rating below. It expands on the universe. The movie provides some very cool and dark explanations for events but at the same time does not stand up to the quality of the original two films when it comes to special effects, suspense, or action. Ridley Scott has tried twice to replace Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and has clearly failed to do so both times.  That’s about as much detail as I can go into without spoiling the movie, so if you’d like to know more, I’ll provide an in-depth take in an upcoming ranking of the Alien franchise films.

Did you like the movie? Comment below!

Alien: Covenant Spoiler-free Review

Prodigy – A Film from KC

Prodigy (2016) by Kansas City native Alex Haughey is a science-fiction drama. It stars Richard Neil and Savannah Liles, in her debut starring role. It has been billed as a blend of “personal drama and psychological thriller.” Young Ellie (Liles), who is blessed with a razor-sharp intellect, is pitted against non-traditional psychologist Dr. Fonda (Neil). As the two conduct mental combat, the truths and lies are revealed. While the movie makes an enthusiastic attempt at this genre-bending approach, it does fall short on some of its goals.

The film has been shown at some film festivals already including Cinequest and Sedona.

Some spoilers for Prodigy follow after the break.

Prodigy Chess

The story is interesting: Ellie is held captive in a highly-secure shadow government facility. Accused of a crime, it falls upon Dr. Fonda to reason with her and discover the depths of her involvement with a murder. Time is running out: the government wants to euthanize Ellie and learn what gives her the astounding abilities she displays. Dr. Fonda has to work with his former colleague Olivia (Jolene Andersen) to unlock Ellie’s mysteries. In the stunning conclusion, many truths are revealed.

All in all, the film attempts to have a conversation about guilt and responsibility. Through much of the exposition, the characters expound greatly on personal choice, protection, and control. While it is a battle of the wits from the onset, it’s fairly clear that Ellie’s cold, calculating logic is outmatched by the more experienced, nuanced, and feeling Dr. Fonda. There is lesson here that only through understanding and acceptance of powerlessness can brute strength be overcome. It’s an interesting commentary on many social topics facing the world today.

Prodigy at the table

However, there are some technical aspects with which I take issue. For one, the script. While the actors deliver good performances – and they seem to strengthen as it moved along – often times, they seemed to be locked into a very specific dialog. This “tell and not show” approach is a common hallmark of first-time filmmakers. In a way, it assumes that the viewer isn’t in on what’s going on so everything needs to be explained. But, it’s a little too much. Ellie’s lines were almost too sculpted; Liles’ performance was almost melodramatic. Perhaps a stylistic choice; however, it failed to engender any real empathy for her as a character. I found myself on numerous occasions asking “why do I care about this girl?” I found Dr. Fonda’s troubles far more interesting.

In the end, this was very solid attempt at starting a conversation about responsibility and grief. It had great sound, good editing, and (although a bit campy) serviceable performances.

I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

You can find more information on Prodigy on the film’s website here. The site includes information about the film, cast, a trailer, screening information, and a gallery of stills and behind the scenes photos.

Prodigy – A Film from KC

How They Held Up: 2017 Anticipated Movies Part 1

You may remember a Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2017 list that we published back in January.  Or you may not. I don’t know if you read it…

Either way, as of March, three of the ten films on the list have already been released. What a great time to recap these films and see if our some of our 2017 Most Anticipated Movies lived up to our expectations or if they fell flat.

Kong: Skull Island

download (4)

Released: March 10
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%    Metacritic: 62%    imdb: 7.1
Worldwide Box Office Gross: 394 m
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly

This movie was really everything I wanted from a Kong film, to be honest. When I see a disaster monster film, the last thing I expect is Oscar-bait performances and epic story telling. I expect over the top stakes and realistic terror-stricken actors. That’s what I got. I was ultimately impressed with the well placed story lines woven throughout the film. Each character had a different goal once they set foot on Skull Island, which was handled by everyone quite well. The center of the movie, King Kong, was brilliant. His CGI was rendered so well it was frightening at moments. As an audience, you believed he was the perfect protector.

Overall grade: B. See the movie, stick around after the credits

Beauty and the Beast

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Released: March 16
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%     Metacritic: 65%     imdb: 7.8
Worldwide Box Office Gross: 710 m
Director: Bill Condon
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline

What a spectacular film! This long-awaited live-action adaptation of the classic Disney cartoon blew me away. It left me with such a magical fulfillment that very few movies give me nowadays. I was astounded by the sheer talent and detail that was packed into every corner of the film. Aside from the visual spectacle the movie created, the beloved soundtrack, including the newest additions, were stunningly recorded from start to finish. This movie will be tough to beat for me. It was everything I wanted and more, making it a shoe-in for my favorite film of the year.

Overall grade: A. Relive the magic again and again.

Power Rangers

download (5)

Released: March 24
Rotten Tomatoes: 44%          Metacritic: 47%           imdb: 7.1
Worldwide Box Office Gross: 61 m
Director: Dean Israelite
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston, Bill Hader, Dacre Montgomery

As far as the numbers go, this is the most polarizing film of the year so far. The fans and critics are once again at odds. And I can’t say I’m surprised. For Power Rangers, this film is amazing. It features some great moments that even casual fans of the franchise will love. It does Power Rangers immense justice. However, there were a lot of issues that left critics feeling sour. It lacks an identity between a kids’ film and an adult fan service movie. It’s very apparent they had no idea who the target demographic was at any point.  And it struggled because of it. My hope is that now the pesky origin story is out of the way, they’re able to build on what they created, give us more Ranger time and less Breakfast Club moments.

Overall grade: C+. Go in expecting to have fun and nothing more.

 

****BONUS****

Logan

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Released: March 3
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%      Metacritic: 77%     imdb: 8.5
Worldwide Box Office Gross: 567 m
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen

This film was not on my Most Anticipated list. That was a mistake. For me, the previous Wolverine films had been ultimate let downs and I was almost certain that this one was not going to be any different. I was dead wrong. Logan brings every ounce of A game it had to the table. Featuring stellar performances from every actor involved, the film hits you with an emotional heaviness that isn’t found often on screen, despite the many efforts.  It was a movie that could stand on its own, not requiring the knowledge of any previous X-Men films beforehand (which is fantastic, because who needs homework?)  The combination of Mangold + Jackman + Stewart, all of whom have said this is the end of the line for their characters*, was so overwhelmingly brilliant that I cannot recall another director/actor combo that produced the same gravitas in a comic book film.  It’s almost a shame that this was a finale for them all. But what a beautiful beginning to Dafne Keen as X-23.

Overall grade: A-. Nothing is perfect, but this is damn close.

 

What did you think of some of our most anticipated films? What are you most anticipated movies for 2017?

 

*The author is well aware of multiple interviews where each party gave stipulations for their individual returns. She is noting that as of now, all of them have confirmed their characters would go no further in the timeline.

How They Held Up: 2017 Anticipated Movies Part 1

Beauty and the Beast – Quick Movie Take

Rae, host of Screen Heroes and member of the Super Sirens cosplay duo, gives us her Quick Movie Take on the brand new live action Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, and Luke Evans. Catch her review below!

Are you going to go see Beauty and the Beast? Is it on your list of must-see movies this month?

If you have seen it, what did you think? Was Emma Watson a good Belle? Comment below or on our video!

Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for even more fun content!

Disney’s animated classic takes on a new form, with a widened mythology and an all-star cast. A young prince, imprisoned in the form of a beast, can be freed only by true love. What may be his only opportunity arrives when he meets Belle, the only human girl to ever visit the castle since it was enchanted. source

Beauty and the Beast is rated PG with a running time of 129 minutes.

Beauty and the Beast – Quick Movie Take

Kong: Skull Island – Quick Movie Take

Ryan of the Screen Heroes podcast and Buster Props bring us an early take on the monster movie reboot Kong: Skull Island. The new incarnation of the giant gorilla takes place at the tail end of the Vietnam war and stars Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman.

Have you seen Kong: Skull Island yet? What did you think? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for even more fun videos.

A diverse team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers unite to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific, as dangerous as it is beautiful. Cut off from everything they know, the team ventures into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature. As their mission of discovery becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape a primal Eden in which humanity does not belong. source

Kong: Skull Island is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 118 minutes.

Kong: Skull Island – Quick Movie Take

Rebirth Harley Quinn: The Joker’s Call Review

Allow me to start by making a statement of opinion: I am not a fan of The New 52 Harley Quinn writing team or the work they have done on the series. The review you are reading is a reflection of that opinion, and I understand that there are readers who appreciate this series. I do not wish to put off that audience. While sales suggest this audience is turning away from the series, the readership was strong and committed to the point that. Unlike almost every other DC title, the creative leads on the series were not changed over or stories reset by the Rebirth event. This was a disappointment to me, but there have been suggestions of a shift in story that might occur.

Please be aware that from this point on there will be spoilers for some of the Harley Quinn series, specifically the more recent issues with the return of the Joker. You have been warned.

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I have not read the complete series of The New 52, now Rebirth, the Amanda Connor and Jimmy Palmiotti Harley Quinn, but not for lack of trying. I find their stories inconsequential and shallow, and feel that the character they are working with now, that their continued storytelling has created, has little similarity to the 25-year-old character that shares it’s name. However, this is not to say that Harley Quinn cannot survive on her own without The Joker, a choice that much of these stories works with, or that she cannot hold her own in a title of her own. Her early 2000s series and Gotham City Sirens both demonstrate otherwise. Any reader, fan base included, who claims that stories involving this character needn’t or shouldn’t have depth are simply incorrect. Characters change and evolve, but this character isn’t only dissimilar to what she had been but has been stripped of what one would consider character. Removing her of larger, more worthwhile conflict has created mostly a vehicle for jokes and innuendo that is great for selling products and looking good on covers. Outside of character issues, I find the writing in itself difficult to follow. I won’t make sweeping statements; most of these critiques are reflected in the recent issues that I want to comment on. All of this said, let’s focus on the most recent issues of the series that offer a carrot to fans of the origins of the character and a possible relationship with Joker. I tune-in and read the series when there is a story being told that interests me. Recently, the series has courted fans who want to see Harley in a more consistent relationship that reflects her history, grounding her in her roots between Joker and Poison Ivy that were cemented in Batman: The Animated Series. A few panels went viral and created discussion and debate when Harley seemed to finally answer the will they/won’t they with Joker.

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He attacks her, forcing himself on her, and she bites his lip, leaving him bleeding on the floor and stating she will never follow his demands again. Many fans liked this, as it demonstrated her ability to overcome abuse and gave her growth beyond being a subsidiary character to Joker. Issues followed in which Harley and Ivy are shown solidifying their relationship, with Harley asking to become something consistent. This story was done over several issues, and the answer from Ivy delayed by a story of their vacation adventures. Finally, she states that she can’t commit, because of her responsibility to plants. Really.

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While I understand the concept that Ivy’s mission is more important than her relationship with Harley, there are no stakes that dictate the need for a choice. There is nothing pressing that keeps Ivy from spending her time with Harley and nothing that kept her from taking a vacation and participating in adventures with Harley any more than she would be creating adventures individually.

At that juncture, I tuned off again. However, it didn’t take the creative team long to create a new relationship option, one that interested me within the confines of this canon: Joker wants her back.

Issue #9 shows Harley returning to the roller derby and once more fighting someone who beat her in an early comic, Bertha. Someone in the audience kills Bertha when she is close to murdering Harley, saving her. The rest of the comic is essentially padding with multiple dream sequences that are cute but have little importance. Yes, we know Harley is weighed by her past with Joker. Yes, we know Harley likely remembers her affection for Ivy sweetly. Outside of reminding us of that, these sequences do little. There is also a small subplot in which Harley buys some pizza, stops a robber, and gets free pizza for life, giving some to a homeless man. These sorts of stories are common in this series, attempts to show Harley as compassionate and human in extremely hammy ways that otherwise aren’t important to the plot. The disjointed subplots and dream segments make for stories that are difficult to follow. These minor plots, attempted to actually convey some form of character, are often more limited in page count than fluff, making them difficult to take with weight. The comic ends with Joker being in Harley’s apartment when she gets home.

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Issue #10 is a holiday comic. Issue #11 starts with a terse discussion between Harley and Joker where he asks her to meet him the next day in public to show he is a changed man. It then reacquaints readers with Red Tool, a parody character intended as a stand-in to answer the fan question, “what would a relationship between Harley and Deadpool be like?” The answer is “uninteresting.” Deadpool may be intentionally grating and verbose, but this character shares none of that wisecracking brevity or fun. Red Tool is essentially a guy in a suit similar to Deadpool who seeks to protect Harley because of an attraction to her. His dialogue is wordy, yes, but it isn’t written to be fun or clever. It’s lengthy because they haven’t resolved how to show story instead of tell story, an issue I have always had with these comics. That isn’t to say the dialogue reads like exposition drop. Between the accents they awkwardly write into each character and the choices made in speech layout.  It can be difficult to follow what is being said between forced catchphrases and supposed colloquial language. Red Tool makes Joker leave and Harley intends to meet him later. The pair return to an earlier unfinished plot of a door on the carnival lot that is locked. They break the door with grenades and find a monster inside. Similarly, this story is short, depicting it as insignificant, despite there being lots of questions about a huge goo monster. Escaping it, Harley returns home exhausted and sets her clock to meet Joker. Instead, Red Tool meets him.

Issue #12 has Harley sleeping through the meeting because Red Tool changed her alarm, and the two men exchange words. Joker tells him he will not fight. Red Tool then beats him. Harley is woken by the noon bells and realizes her alarm was changed. She hurries to find Red Tool beating Joker, telling him to stop and that, because of the altercation and change of her clock, she will not speak to him for a month. She takes Joker home and ties him to a chair, blindfolding him and taking him into the city. Joker demonstrates he does not intend to harm her. His dialogue is somewhat unusual, little of it seeming like it is coming from the character. He rarely smiles or makes a joke. This can be attributed to his hope to show himself as a “changed person,” but to me, personally, it simply feels out of place. Harley leaves him in the middle of the road with a sign that says “Brooklyn Sucks.” He is beaten and run over by several drivers. While the comic is billed as a conflict between Red Tool and Joker, it really isn’t. Joker takes the beating and Red Tool is shown as a bully. While Joker isn’t depicted as a victim, really, he is more of a mannequin; the reader doesn’t feel bad for him or validated for Harley’s choice to have him harmed. The actions he takes, or lack of, seem so lifeless that it comes across as totally inconsequential, something that has always been the main issue with the series.

In all, the attempt to draw in fans of Harley and Joker as well as fans of Harley who don’t want her to return to Joker is unsatisfying for either. Joker does little, Harley doesn’t make a choice, and the most significant encounter is Red Tool’s leaving the story for what will likely be the duration of this arc, something fans of Red Tool will be frustrated by. The choice to show Joker as less aggressive towards Harley is presumably a response to the reception of Joker as a more compassionate character in Suicide Squad. With the abuse removed from the final film, fans can subscribe to their relationship with limited backlash and DC can sell more merchandise that references their partnership. That said, one of the biggest criticisms of the merchandise is also one of the strangest parts of this story up to issue 11: Mad Love.

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“Mad Love” is the story that summarizes the pair’s union and depicts their backstory that every version since has worked around, up until The New 52. And this issue of Harley Quinn either redraws and re-contextualizes or flat-out blatantly reuses panels or concepts originally presented in Mad Love. These panels are some of the most interesting and engaging pages of these issues, and that’s the problem, because these stories didn’t exist in this canon until now. Harley in her nightie with bleached skin doesn’t seem unusual, but it depicts a version of this character, and her relationship, that carries more depth and subtlety than this series has offered. Not only do these panels serve only as a reminder of what both was and what this series struggles to be, many of them are improbable or impossible in the canon of this series. This is not only a problem in writing, but serves to demonstrate what fans want against what they choose to give us. These panels serve to do little more than to bait readers with a strong reaction to the original stories, with either affection or disdain. If references to other stories, stories that the series has mostly ignored or worked around in unsubtle ways, is the most appealing part of your current series, that series has, no pun intended, issues.

While this arc will likely see Joker warming in Harley’s opinion, the handling of this concept over the current series seems more like a choose your own adventure but not for the reader, rather for the staff. The series will be predicted by responses, each issue ending without resolution and being drawn out similar to the story of Harley and Ivy. At best, they will make a choice that will violate the trust of a group of readers. At worst, there will be little movement in the story, something this series has struggled with for years, and while no one will be entirely put off, no one will be served, either. In other words: please tell us a story.

Rebirth Harley Quinn: The Joker’s Call Review