Tarantino’s films are love letters to genre cinema and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is no exception.

There is so much to unpack in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood that I imagine people will be discussing this one for decades. Whether or not history deems this to be Tarantino’s magnum opus remains to be seen. That said, this is by far Tarantino’s most personal film to date.

The year is 1969 and Leonardo DiCaprio plays Rick Dalton a male lead in the classic era of Hollywood, alongside his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Dalton, fights to remain relevant as his career in Hollywood starts to dwindle.

Billed as his ninth film, the numbering is only accurate if you count Kill Bill as one film rather than two – Columbia Pictures

Tarantino sets the scene.

Tarantino has always had a passion for the late 60s. It’s clear that he loves the fashion, the music and, of course, the movies of the era. This is Tarantino in his element and the more you know about classic cinema, the more you with get out of this one.

As you would expect, the film is littered with cinematic references but what makes this film especially significant is the way it blends fact with fiction.

1969 was one of the most significant years in history; man walked on the moon, the Beatles made their final performance, the infamous Woodstock concert took place and the Tate murders, but more on that later.

In Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Tarantino takes a revisionist alternate history approach to the latter event. It’s certainly a decision that works for the tone of the film, but it’s also one that might not go over well with everyone.

How is the portrayal of Bruce Lee?

once upon a time in hollywood
Whether you like the depiction of Bruce Lee or not, it’s unlikely that it was intended to offend – Columbia Pictures

According to Lee’s daughter Shannon Lee, “[her father] comes across as an arrogant asshole who was full of hot air, and not someone who had to fight triple as hard as any of those people did to accomplish what was naturally given to so many others.”

Bruce Lee certainly had a reputation for being cocky, though Once Upon A Time In Hollywood strips away much of the complexity of the martial arts legend.

Aside from his roles in the film and TV industry, Lee was also the founder of Jeet Kune Do – a martial arts style fused with his own philosophy. Many also see him as a trail blazer providing one of the few positive Asian role models in the 60s.

Though Bruce Lee is only in the film briefly, his scene has already divided fans by asking the question; could the legendary martial artist, take on a fictional stunt man with military combat training and win?

Tarantino has since doubled down on his depiction of her late father as seen in the following clip.

Speaking to Variety, Shannon Lee responded saying, “He could shut up about it. That would be really nice. Or he could apologise or he could say, ‘I don’t really know what Bruce Lee was like. I just wrote it for my movie. But that shouldn’t be taken as how he really was.’”

Did Tarantino speak to other non-fictional people that were included in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood?

Sharon Tate, who was a successful model, upcoming actress and wife to director Roman Polanski appears in the film played by Margot Robbie. She was murdered in real life, along with five others by the Manson family cult.

Tarantino is on record for consulting with Debra Tate, the sister of Sharon Tate. She was reported as saying, “Tarantino came to see me and he was extremely respectful.”

Debra Tate seen here with Tarantino, shows that consultation can go a long way to preventing unintentional offence – Indie Wire

Controversial film director Roman Polanski, however, was not consulted. Polanski briefly appears in the film alongside Sharon Tate.

Polanski’s current wife Emmanuelle Seigner has spoken out against the film, quoting “I am just saying that it doesn’t bother them [in Hollywood] to make a film about Roman and his tragic story, and make money with it… while at the same time they have made him a pariah. And all without consulting him of course.” 

Margot Robbie, takes on the role of Sharon Tate. For those who don’t know their Hollywood history, it may be worth reading up on her before the film -Columbia Pictures

Polanski himself remains in exile living in France having fled the US to avoid sentencing after being charged with a few heinous crimes.

Aside from all the controversy, is the film any good?

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, like most Tarantino films, will not appeal to everyone. His movies are slow burns with a strong focus on character. For much of the film it’s the characters who drive the narrative and even then, a great deal of the nuance is shown with subtlety rather than spoon-feeding.

I’m not going to make the claim that this is Tarantino’s best movie to date, I would certainly rate it higher than much of his more recent output, but what I will say is that it warrants attention. It’s essential viewing for anyone that is a fan of the filmmaker or a lover of classic cinema.

The only question you need to ask yourself is whether or not Tarantino’s revisionist approach to history appeals to you within the context of a fictional movie or if it rubs you the wrong way.

Damsel is a fast-paced action platformer that has just hit the Nintendo Switch.

If you haven’t heard of Screwtape Studios, that’s understandable because this is their inaugural release and it’s well worth a look.

There’s a great deal to love in Damsel, but let’s start with the look and story. Set in a world filled with vampires, you play Damsel a vampire hunting agent of the Department of Sanguinarian Affairs (DSA) armed with a big gun and a stake. It’s your job to bring down a corporation that manufactures a vampire drink called Red Mist, rescue hostages and of course, kill vampires.

Tell us about the presentation.

Each mission in the campaign begins with a comic book style story panel that briefly explains your mission. It’s a nice touch designed to flesh out a game which draws clear inspiration from Buffy, Blade and various other vampire franchises.

The artwork has a bright colourful cartoon style to it which really makes the game stand out and is simply not something you would expect from a game centred around vampires.

damsel
Damsel is the latest in a short line of female vampire slayers -Screwtape sudios

What do the missions involve?

The missions themselves typically give the player a set goal, such as defusing a series of bombs or rescuing hostages. Bonus points are granted for completing additional objectives, so for example you may be tasked with destroying all the surveillance cameras on a stage, but you will get extra points for freeing any hostages.

damsel
Here you can see a hostage and a bomb to defuse, you’ll need sharp reflexes to get the job done –Screwtape studios

The actual size of each stage is quite small, but they often have multiple different paths you can take in order to complete them. High scores and grades are awarded for speed, so if you’re wanting to ace a level, you’ll need lightning fast reflexes.

Does the game hold your attention?

Because the missions are short, Damsel can be quite addictive, you put it on to play for ten minutes before going out somewhere, but before you know it you have just three more stages to clear in a campaign and an hour has gone by. It may not be as flashy as something like Mortal Kombat 11, but it can still hook you in at least until you finish the campaign mode.

What can you tell us about the gameplay?

The controls are reasonably fluid and responsive though I sometimes felt that there were limitations such as not being able to shoot diagonally. In addition it can become frustrating when the game punishes you for shooting a hostage that is off screen.

With so many vampires to eliminate, we can’t help but feel it would be nice to have a rocket launcher or flamethrower. – Screwtape Studios

I was also disappointed that there are no options for upgrading your character or levelling up. Having some special moves or weapons to unlock would in my view have significantly improved the game.

So let’s hope this comes later with DLC or a sequel.

Does the game offer players anything beyond the campaign mode?

Yes! There is also an arcade mode which scraps the story elements and gives you three lives in order to complete the campaign.

Then there is Damsel Dash in which you compete against other players online for the best score. These extra modes do offer a certain degree of replay value. That said, there is a finite number of levels available and it won’t take players long to blitz through them all.

How does the game stack up visually?

Graphics wise, the game feels a lot like a remastered version of something that you could have been playing back in the early 90s. Damsel is by no means pushing the specs of the console.

Damsel might not be the most visually stunning platformer on the Switch, but it is certainly very frantic – Screwtape studios

Final thoughts

Damsel is a fun throwback for anyone who misses action platform games. It’s fast paced and ideally suited to the Switch. Missions don’t take too long to complete so it’s a good disposable game to play on the go. The only negatives are limited replay value and a lack of character/weapon upgrades.

I’ve no doubt that Screwtape Studios will grow and deliver some amazing titles in the future. Damsel is a promising start and I’m curious to see what they deliver next.

It’s been five years since Godzilla last roared into cinemas.

Now its sequel, Godzilla: King of Monsters has returned for even more monster-action.

The iconic Godzilla franchise dates back to 1954 and has since spanned 35 films, making it the longest running in cinematic history. Some would argue it also has the most films to its name, though Marvel would have it beat if you include the non-MCU films produced by other studios.

Just like all major blockbusters, the film has met with divided opinion, so join us as we take a look at the third instalment of Lionsgate’s MonsterVerse franchise.

Where does the film get its name?

Godzilla: King of the Monsters takes its namesake from the American re-release of the original film from 1954. That version of the movie was recut with American actors in a bid to make the movie more accessible to Western societies.

There have been a number of re-releases over the years, animated adaptations and even of course the American production in the 90s that we don’t talk about.

hanna barbera godzilla
Back in the late 70s, Hanna Barbera gave us this forgotten gem which lasted for 26 episodes. -Hanna Barbera

How has the tone shifted?

The tone of the films has varied from its thought-provoking allegory for atomic destruction, to ridiculous monster-wrestling orchestrated by aliens. Sometimes Godzilla is the saviour, other times the destroyer. It was always going to be a challenge to find the right tone for the new Godzilla film.

Tell us about the story.

This time the story centers around the Russell family that has been broken over the loss of a child. Emma Russell played by Vera Farmiga has developed a device that uses sound waves to communicate and potentially pacify the Titans.

When Monarch (the organisation tasked with dealing with the monsters) is attacked, Emma’s device is used to wake up Titan’s across the globe. Meanwhile, Emma’s ex-husband Mark, played by Kyle Chandler, joins Monarch as a consultant and tries to track down Emma and their daughter Madison, played by Millie Bobby Brown.

Essentially, it’s up to Monarch and Godzilla to stop armageddon

We can’t help but wish that Madison has some psychic powers like Eleven. There is precedent for that in some of the earlier Japanese films. -Lionsgate

Where does the film go right?

The actual monster designs are pretty solid and definitely one of the film’s stronger elements. Fans of Godzilla will be happy to see characters like Rhodan, King Ghidorah and Mothra finally hit the big screen on Western shores..

The score is also worthy of praise, Bear McCreary is one of the best names in the business. He deserves to be a household name scoring numerous TV shows from Battlestar Galactica to the Walking Dead. This time around, he delivers a booming orchestral score with the classic score worked in for good measure. If you love the iconic theme, then this alone is worth the price of admission.

Does the film improve from on the mistakes from 2014s Godzilla?

A common complaint of Godzilla 2014 was that it’s title character simply wasn’t featured enough. Lionsgate has gambled that the big monster is strong enough to carry the franchise on his own. This time round there is far more monster fighting monster action and the film is all the better for it.

The other big issue the previous film had was that the human characters aside from Bryan Cranston weren’t all that compelling, unfortunately this time round the acting is arguably worse. Which brings us to the next big question.

Where does the film go wrong?

Whilst the premise is interesting, the plot gets bogged down with excessive exposition and world-building information dumps.

Character growth and development takes a back seat and the film is a lot weaker as a result.

In this instance, the writing and editing just leaves little time for us to grow with the characters or find them engaging. The comic relief falls flat and there simply aren’t any moments where we see the characters bonding as real people.

And the monster fights?

As for the fights themselves they’re a mixed bag. While visually stunning, there are two major problems. Firstly, they frequently cut between the fights and the human actors, and as I said before, if you don’t care about the characters then you’ll likely be annoyed that they’re blocking the action.

Secondly, the fights are often obscured with smoke and debris. This may make for the occasional stunning image but when the same effect is repeated over and over again it quickly loses its impact.

godzilla ghidorah
We can’t help but wonder how much more amazing scenes like this would be without the smoke obscuring the monsters. -Lionsgate

Final thoughts?

For what it’s worth, Godzilla fans have waited decades for the perfect American adaptation of the character. I wish that this was it. In some places it works and there are definitely moments where they get it right. Some of the ingredients are perfect, but ultimately the shortcomings let down the film.

What should have been a masterpiece feels rushed and given the five year wait many fans will be frustrated. While it’s worth a look, Pacific Rim remains the gold standard for the genre in the West. With a decline at the box office, the future of the MonsterVerse is uncertain.

We can only hope that Godzilla vs King Kong demolishes the box office next year.

John Wick is back for Chapter 3: Parabellum.

With the beloved franchise making its return to the big screen, we’re here to answer the question on everyone’s minds: “can the third instalment live up to the hype or it will it put the franchise six feet under?”

How does it improve from Chapter 2?

If there was a weakness in the 2nd instalment, it was that John’s motivations seemed a lot less focussed. He was being blackmailed back into his life as an assassin for reasons that few were invested in. The audience had little connection to the power structures of the Continental and as a result John’s motivations were a lot less interesting.

This time round, John is fighting for his very survival and the film is all the better for it. The action is unrelenting and the stakes just feel much higher. The narrative continues to build from the 2nd instalment. John has been marked for death and embarks on a mission to clear his name. The only question is how much of his humanity is he willing to sacrifice?

What can you tell us about the action in the film?

The third instalment delivers some of the best action set pieces we’ve had in the series. I would be doing the film a massive disservice to say what action sequences happen on screen. Suffice to say, terms like “knife fight” and “attack dogs” will hold special meaning to those who’ve watched the film and know how brilliant some of the set pieces are.

more outnumbered than usual, but thankfully he knows Gun Fu- Lionsgate

Keanu Reeves has always been heavily underrated as a physical performer. He embodies John Wick and is heavily involved with the stunts and action choreography. If Gun-fu (Martial arts mixed with gun play) is your thing, then this film is definitely for you!

This is not a case of simply watching a stunt actor with reaction shots from the lead. Reeves is front and centre and you feel every hit he takes. Most importantly, the fights are clear and shot primarily with wide shots so you can see what is happening. No shonky CGI or bizarre jump-cuts to take you out of the action, just pure awesomeness.

His final action set piece is a brilliant homage to Bruce Lee’s “Enter The Dragon”.

How does John Wick work as a character?

John Wick has always been depicted as a force of nature, he’s not known for being quippy or manic, he’s swift, ruthless and as stubborn as a pitbull. Much like Daniel Craig’s interpretation of James Bond, there can at times be difficulty relating to an action hero with a personality that simply isn’t dynamic.

With JW3 we do get some insight into the character’s past but honestly it feels more like a glimpse and it leaves the viewer wanting more. In many ways, one of the biggest problems with the franchise to date has been that John Wick has been a fully formed assassin right from the beginning. When we think of this in super hero terms it’s a bit like cutting out the origin story or the training arc and simply just giving us powered-up hero right from the start.

No matter how high the price on John Wick’s head rises, we wouldn’t try to collect it – Lionsgate

The original John Wick film was essentially a self contained revenge film, mostly well executed but as a one shot revenge tale it didn’t seem to need the back story. By the sequel, it started to become apparent that John Wick as a character was somewhat underdeveloped. JW3 does little to fix this problem though we do get a few more insights into his past.

What other actors can we expect to see?

The third instalment benefits significantly from a tighter narrative which builds on recurring characters like Winson played by Ian McShane and Bowery King played by Lawrence Fishburne.

That being said, it’s definitely the newcomers who steal the show.

Halle Berry’s Sofia is regrettably under-utilised, which is a shame because the scenes that she does have are some of the most memorable. Mark Dacascos is brilliant as the deadly assassin Zero, his physical performance is phenomenal but it’s arguably some of the humour that his character exudes that make him truly memorable.

Keanu Reeve’s fighting co-star Mark Dacascos aka Zero might be the most brutal fight you’ll see this year -Lionsgate

In Conclusion…

For those who’ve enjoyed the first two instalments, JW3 is certainly a worthy addition to the franchise. It offers some of the best action set pieces to date and helps to flesh out our protagonist a little more. In terms of narrative, there’s not a huge amount to offer but I suspect most action fans will be okay with this. JW3 isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel but it is an attempt to course correct. It’s a significant improvement over its predecessor and a solid example of filmmakers listening to the criticisms of their fan base.

There are few fighting game franchises like Mortal Kombat that have stood the test of time and endured.

The mythology and creativity within Mortal Kombat has made it both unique and captivating. With Mortal Kombat 11 being the newest instalment to continue this tradition, let’s look back at how the story has evolved and where it currently resides.

With a cast of new and returning characters, there’s someone for everyone in MK11 -NetherRealm Studios

How the story began

When the original Mortal Kombat game was released, the story was naturally much simpler. There was no story mode in the game. Despite there being comics, movies and even a TV series, few fans considered these to be canon.

The original story involved the concept that Earth, or rather ‘EarthRealm’ as it was also known, was being threatened with invasion by ‘Outworld’. The one thing that prevented this was an ancient ritual called Mortal Kombat.

If Earth’s greatest champions could defeat Outworld’s greatest warriors in a tournament of one-on-one combat, then Earth would retain it’s freedom. All of the characters had their own motivations for entering and their own backstories.

The series has come a long way from the original Mortal Kombat – Warner Brothers Interactive

What made the series distinctive initially?

From the very beginning there was something captivating about the design aesthetic. The early games pioneered photo-realistic graphics which instantly added depth and an extra degree of realism, however the franchise has since moved on from this technique.

The setting blended the best of martial arts films like Enter the Dragon with horror and fantasy elements and even a hint of eastern mysticism thrown in for good measure. Then there was Kano, a cyborg character. Additional sci-fi elements were expanded on with later instalments. Other cyborg characters and high tech weaponry were added and time travel was later used as a plot device but we’ll get to that later.

How did the series build its own multiverse?

As the series progressed, so too did the mythology. Additional realms were introduced with their own unique themes. Many of these realms are fairly self-explanatory, Chaos realm and Order realm act as polar opposites each embracing their namesakes and taking them to the extreme. Dream realm exists in the subconscious of people from the Earth Realm and unsurprisingly is also where Freddy Kruger resides. Vaeternus, on the other hand, is a realm dominated by vampires.

Seen here is the dreamrealm, definitely not our pic for a vacation spot -NetherRealm Studios

The concept is basically a more diverse variation on that of a multiverse. Whilst typically in fiction, we see different realities which are similar to our own with a slight deviation (e.g. a hero becoming a villain), in Mortal Kombat we see completely separate realities where anything is possible.

Finally there were crossovers most notably being the game Mortal Kombat Vs DC Universe which had a story mode split into two halves one being DC-focused and the other MK-focused. Other guest characters such as Freddy Kruger, Ash Williams and the Predator have also appeared. MK11 appears to be set to continue this tradition with a leaked list already being available online.

But then there was a reboot?

When Midway games was bought out by Warner Brothers Interactive, the series was given a new production team at NetherRealm studios. With MK9 they took the series and went in a new direction. The storyline essentially involved Raiden using time travel to send information to his younger self in order to reboot the timeline. Earlier games in the franchise had left numerous characters dead and this was seen as an easy way to bring some characters back whilst taking others in new directions.

What can you tell us about Mortal Kombat 11?

With the hit music from the Mortal Kombat movies, this trailer is sure to hit the feels for long term fans -NetherRealm studios

Whilst it would be impossible to discuss the story and keep it entirely spoiler free, I will refrain from mentioning any character deaths or major plot reveals.

The story involves Kronika, the keeper of time who decides to rewrite history and create a new timeline in which Raiden will no longer exist. This is in response to the events of MK 9.

As time ruptures, the past begins to collide with the present. Earlier incarnations of characters fight alongside or against those of the present. In many cases characters have changed over the course of the franchise leaving earlier versions questioning who they will become.

For fans of the franchise this is a dream come true, with numerous throwbacks to past games. It’s great to see Liu Kang and Kung Lao back to being hero characters, given that both were killed off and turned into much darker undead characters in the last couple of games.

Liu Kang and Kung Lao sport two very different looks in the game, but fans will be dying to see how much they learn about their future. -NetherRealm Studios

Each chapter showcases different characters, giving the story-mode more of an ensemble feel. Long term fans of the franchise or the Injustice series will know exactly what I’m talking about.

To say how MK 11 ends would be a massive spoiler, but let’s just say that this franchise is far from over. There are three separate endings for the story-mode and players will have to wait for the next instalment to find out which one becomes canon.

What about individual character endings?

There is also an arcade mode titled Klassic Towers in which you fight battle after battle. Each one symbolising a level on a tower until you defeat Kronika and unlock a character ending.

Is this story accessible for newcomers?

The one challenge with a story-mode like this is keeping the mythology and character backstories fresh in your mind. For newcomers it can be a bit like jumping into Avengers Infinity War without having seen any other Marvel movies.

You may have a vague idea of who Iron Man is but have no idea why he isn’t speaking with Captain America or why Thor is on a spaceship. Of course it’s easy enough for newcomers to simply just google the information and read up on the characters if they feel the need.

If you’re new to the franchise simply read up online before you play, don’t miss out on this game or Raiden will be pissed- NetherRealm Studios

Final Thoughts?

As noted above there have been a couple of attempts to bring this franchise onto the small screen, none have really been all that successful and there is plenty of potential for something truly special.

Mortal Kombat simply doesn’t get enough praise for its creativity and world (or rather realm) building. Of course, as long as NetherRealm Studios continues to make games like Mortal Kombat 11, you could argue we have the perfect medium for Mortal Kombat storytelling.

For many, Captain Marvel represents a major breakthrough in the massive franchise, with it being the first Marvel movie to centre around a female protagonist.

With the exception of Wonder Woman, female-led superhero properties have struggled when being adapted to cinema. So the question on everyone’s mind was as to whether this film could deliver.

The short answer is that whilst this film does have its flaws, it will undoubtedly resonate with a lot of people. Captain Marvel doesn’t make any significant mistakes, however the problem is that in an over-saturated market, superhero films are a dime a dozen.

For many, this will be seen as a mid-level Marvel movie rather than a top tier Marvel film. It may feature plenty of moments that will please both Marvel fans and casual viewers but whether or not Captain Marvel has power to succeed in the box office remains to be seen.

What’s it about?

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Captain Marvel centres around Carol Danvers (played by Bree Larson), a woman raised in the Kree home world. Her memories beyond the last five years have been lost, and not knowing her true name, she now goes by the name Vers.

She lives as a Kree soldier, fighting an alien race of shape-shifters known as the Skrulls. When a mission leads her and the Skrulls to Earth, Vers soon realises that this planet may hold the key to unlocking her past and the origins of her mysterious powers.

What about the visuals and aesthetics of the film?

Visually, Captain Marvel is another solid entry boasting some spectacular sequences. Those of us itching for more of cosmic Marvel will not go home disappointed. In all honesty, I could have easily sat through the movie set entirely in space.

Thankfully though, the film succeeds where Green Lantern failed many years earlier.

A cosmic adventure with plenty of character-driven moments. Source: Marvel Studios

By setting the film in the 90s as opposed to modern day, the film lends itself to numerous nostalgic references. We see various nods to outdated technology, 90’s films, as well as a soundtrack that is unapologetically 90s to its core.

If you remember living through that decade, this film is most definitely aimed at you.

How are the performances?

Brie Larson embodies the character of Captain Marvel perfectly. It might not be an oscar-worthy performance but no one walked into the cinema expecting an Oscar-award winning film. As with all Marvel casting, she nails her lead character.

Samuel L. Jackson reprising the role of Nick Fury allows for great chemistry between him and the titular character. The two bounce off each other incredibly well and give some of the sequences a buddy cop movie vibe, which is far from a bad thing.

Will you find out how Nick Fury loses his eye? You’ll have to watch the film in order to find out. Source: Marvel Studios

Clark Gregg returns as fan-favourite Agent Coulson. Jude Law puts in a decent performance as Yon-Rogg (Danver’s mentor on the Kree home world) though his role is too limited to allow him to shine.

Is the film agenda-driven?

Beyond some of the marketing, it’s a big no. When it comes to Captain Marvel, there is already a vocal minority attacking the film with claims of it being anti-men.

Yet having watched the film, I can say with some confidence that there is no agenda that the film attempts to beat you over the head with.

Gender issues whether they are real or not could harm the film at the box office angering Brie Larson, Marvel and fans of the MCU. Source: Marvel Studios.

In fact I’d argue that its more balanced and less agenda-driven than Wonder Woman.

Captain Marvel’s gender plays very little significance on the plot. Beyond a couple of brief lines about women not being able to fly combat missions in the 90s, gender issues never really impact the film. Fans of the Bechdel test will be happy to know it passes with flying colours.

What’s with the cat?

You might have noticed a cat in much of the promotional content for Captain Marvel. Goose, played by Reggie and three stunt cats, is Marvel’s first cat superhero. I’m not too sure if that’s the most fitting label but it’s the one I’m using so deal with it.

Goose steals the show at every opportunity.

Personally Goose should have done the bulk of the marketing for Captain Marvel Seen here at the Premiere. Source: Marvel Studios.

Marvel does actually have a comic series featuring super-powered pets and Goose would certainly be an excellent addition. If you’re listening Marvel, we want a Pet Avengers movie now #GooseForPetAvengersMovie.

So final thoughts…

Captain Marvel might not be the strongest entry in the MCU and to be honest I don’t think an entry level film could hit that mark. That said, Captain Marvel gets a hell of a lot more right then many other super hero films in and out of Marvel.

It’s a fun nostalgia-fuelled space adventure with the coolest cat that the MCU has seen (so far, at least). If the cat doesn’t sell you on this film, then I’m not sure what else will.

Now in its 2nd season, Seth Macfarlane’s The Orville has significantly surpassed the expectations of most sci-fi fans.

Instead of a lazy parody, viewers were shocked to instead see a series that embodies the spirit of Star Trek arguably far closer then the officially licensed products of the last ten years.

Seth Macfarlane has always been a lifelong fan of the Star Trek franchise. As a teenager Macfarlane made his own fan film inspired from the original series. Many years later he achieved a lifelong dream of being in Star Trek when he appeared in the prequel series Enterprise for two episodes: “The Forgotten” and “Affliction“.

Macfarlane’s first attempt at Star Trek. You have to admit that for an early attempt by a teenager it’s not bad.

Macfarlane would go on to unsuccessfully pitch a proposal for a new Star Trek series to CBS/Paramount. When that met with failure, he set out to create his own space-based sci-fi series for Fox, inspired by the style of storytelling seen in Roddenberry’s Star Trek.

On the 10th of September 2017, The Orville made its debut running against Star Trek Discovery on CBS. Interestingly enough, Star Trek Discovery received an 82% critic approval rating but a mere 54% audience approval rating. The Orville on the other hand suffered a startling 27% critic rating yet proved to be much more popular with audiences overall receiving a 94% audience approval rating.

How do the two shows differ?

While Star Trek Discovery went for a dark, gritty tone focusing more on action and spectacle, Macfarlane took the Orville in a different direction. The Orville instead focused on more intimate character driven self contained stories with no significant story arc. The result was a series that was far closer in tone to classic Star Trek than Discovery ever was.

The colour scheme aesthetics and costume design, make a massive impact on the style and overall feel for both shows. But which do you prefer – CBS and Fox

Not only is the format incredibly close to that of Star Trek, but the show features a number of core Trek elements with simple name changes. The Federation is now called the Union, the ship uses a quantum drive instead of a warp drive and the Holodeck is now the environmental simulator.

Furthermore the series is shot using the same camera angle techniques that were used in the earlier incarnations of Trek. The camera shots are more often than not steady and still, the sets are lit clearly and in conversations they often cut between two differing fixed angles.

All of this leads us to ask one simple question: “Is the Orville a love letter to Star Trek or is it simply plagiarism?”

What about the Trek alumni from past productions?

Incidentally Macfarlane has managed to get a number of Trek alumni to work on the Orville ranging from guest actors such as Robert Picardo to former Trek producer Brendan Braga who is not only a producer here but also one of the writers. Then there is Penny Johnson Jerald who plays Doctor Claire Finn, who was a recurring guest character on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Discovery by contrast has had just a few alumni names involved in its production. Former show runner Bryan Fuller left the production midway through season 1. Fuller had previously worked as a story editor and co-producer back on Deep Space Nine and Voyager, while current show Runner Alex Kurtzman previously penned the scripts for the first two JJ Abrams Trek films.

Jonathan Frakes, who is best known for the role of William Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation has directed episodes for both The Orville and Discovery, proving it is possible to work on both productions.

So is The Orville a parody, a homage, or a carbon copy?

A term that gets batted around a lot for fans of The Orville is that its the spiritual successor to Star Trek which is incredibly high praise. The problem is that beyond modernised humour aimed at an adult audience, there isn’t really a great deal of original content. In fact most of the stories with a few modifications could fit quite easily into Star Trek: The Next Generation.

For many, the fact that The Orville is more or less Star Trek in everything but name is the key selling point. The Orville has a great deal of heart and is at its best when it is focusing on the character interactions. MacFarlane has created a crew that viewers not only enjoy seeing but are emotionally invested in.

The Discovery crew might be battle hardened and better in a fight, but the Orville crew are probably the ones you’d prefer to spend a friday night hanging out with.

So where are the two shows now?

Now entering its 2nd season, The Orville is finally starting to get praise from critics. The 2nd season carries a 100% fresh rating on Rotten tomato with a 93% audience approval score with five episodes under its belt at the time of this article.

Discovery is at present just two episodes in and currently has an 87% fresh rating and a 29% audience approval score. Whether the numbers increase over the next few weeks remains to be seen but CBS certainly has its work cut out for them.

In America, Star Trek Discovery is considered to be the flagship show for their CBS all access streaming site. Consequently they have a lot riding on the series, so don’t expect it to disapear any time soon. Given its ratings, success and popularity I would equally be surprised to see The Orville get cancelled.

The war between these two giants is only beginning and we have yet to see if the galaxy is big enough for both of them.

The DC ArrowVerse has always been somewhat progressive when it comes to diversity.

Now in its fourth season Supergirl, is taking on the modern political landscape with a story arch that is a paper thin analogy for modern America.

Season 4 of the hit series deals with the rise of anti-alien sentiment, see what they did there! This is embodied in a terrorist group called the children of liberty that recruits disenfranchised people especially those who have suffered from alien attacks.

Unlike previous seasons the lead antagonist this time round has no super powers. Ben Lockwood is an ordinary man, a bitter man who has lost a great deal from the alien attacks. The greatest weapon he possesses is his voice, his charisma and his ability to tap into the hearts and minds of the general public. What makes Lockwood a compelling character is that he’s well educated and makes compelling arguments which are much more difficult for the heroes to combat.

Whilst Lockwood is obviously not the leader of the free world its hard to deny that he has one thing in common with President Trump and that his ability to make the majority feel like a minority. Whether or not you agree with Trump and Lockwood its hard not to see the comparison. Since taking office Trump has turned his attention to illegal immigration, the LGBT community and in particular the transgendered community. Lockwood has kept the focus on aliens of an extra terrestrial nature but his message is the same. They’re coming here and they’ll put an end to your way of life.

Whilst he also dons the alias of Agent Liberty,  Lockwood is at his most deadly when we presents well articulated arguments.  -CW 

Season 4 also introduces the first transgendered character to appear within the ArrowVerse. Nicole Maines  who is herself a transgendered actress, plays Melissa Benoist. A character working at Catco media but clearly set up for a more prominent role going forward. Given President Trump’s crackdown on transgendered rights, the introduction of this character seems to be a calculated response from the show’s writers.

Nicole Maines is herself a real life activist. In 2014 she sued her school district when they prevented her from using the women’s bathroom.   She won and was awarded $75,000 in compensation.  -CW

The third character introduced this season is Manchester Black. This is where things get really interesting. Black is an extremist, he’s out to tear down the Children of Liberty by any means necessary. In short he’s a stand in for what many classify as the intolerant left; a growing movement both in America and globally. This political faction isn’t interested in opening a dialogue. They want results and are happy to tear down their political opponents. In reality this usually happens through language, but in Supergirl Black uses violence, torture and murder to achieve his ends. The message is clear, when we use extreme methods to achieve our goals we become the exact thing that we hate.

Traditionally a Caucasian character, this time round the creators of Smallville decided to change his ethnicity though not his nationality.  -CW 

From a narrative perspective this season actually makes a lot of sense. When you’ve got a show that has spent the last three seasons dealing with aliens both hostile and friendly landing on Earth; its only a matter of time before the question needs to be asked does humanity want aliens on the planet. Would Earth be better off without the aliens. More importantly how do hostile alien attacks impact on the every day people living on the streets?

One significant aspect of this story arc has been James Olsen and his search for the truth. As much as he may oppose the Children of Liberty,  he also knows that as a journalist he is obligated to report both sides of the story. To that end he is compelled to meet with the leaders of this movement and hear them out. There is a fine line here. How much should one listen to their opponents? By giving them equal air time are you giving them a platform? But perhaps most importantly do you run the risk of being converted to their way of thinking?

Perhaps the most challenging question this season of Supergirl  asks is whether or not we should listen to those with a viewpoint diametrically opposed to our own.  -CW

The stance that Supergirl has taken is clear even for those of us without X-ray vision. The path forward is one of optimism and hope. Embrace immigration, open your hearts to those that are different but steer away from violence when it comes to dealing with those that don’t share your values. Be willing to listen to your enemies and try to understand them.

It takes a lot of guts to put out a story arc that is this politically charged. The writers it would seem are betting that the majority of their audience will either be fully onboard or at the very least be willing to stay onboard. This move does carry significant risk especially given the fan backlash against other geek properties such as Doctor Who and Star Wars which have been accused of pandering a political agenda.

For those of us who routinely watch the ArrowVerse its hard not to notice the left leaning writing at times. This season of Supergirl thus far is probably the strongest example of this but its also the best written. Questions are being asked, the different view points are being examined and the main villain is compelling because to a certain degree his arguments are carry weight. Where the series goes from here is anyone’s guess but it will be fascinating to find out.

When it comes to horror in video games, most people think of either first person shooter games such as Doom, or third person survival horror games like Resident Evil. Now Indie developer Nippon Ichi Software is changing all that with the Yomawari series.

The Yomawari series is currently comprised of two games, Night Alone and Midnight Shadows, both of which are now available as a bundle pack titled Yomawari: The Long Night Collection for the Nintendo Switch.

Night Alone tells the story of a young girl whose sister goes missing on a dark night. Armed with only a flashlight she sets off in search of her sister, only to find the town has been over run by a variety of supernatural spirits and creatures.

The adorable SD anime style is the last thing you typically expect in a horror video game –
Nippon Ichi 

Midnight Shadow tells the story of two girls Yui and Haru who attend a fireworks festival together but get separated. The story switches between the two as they try and find one another.

Unlike most survival horror games, the Yomawari games use an overhead perspective similar to that seen in many of the older Legend of Zelda games.

There are no weapons and no health bar. If a spirit touches you, it’s instant death and a return to the last save point. Your options are to either run away, hide or distract a spirit with an item.

Both games involve a significant amount of problem solving and exploration.  A typical chapter will involve you having to find keys and other useful items hidden around the city whilst evading the supernatural creatures.

What really sells the Yomawari night collection is the sound design.

You would think that stripping a game of music would be the worst decision possible, yet in this instance it not only works but it amplifies the suspense and tension.

The focus is instead placed on the typical sounds you would expect to hear whilst walking out at night, whether it’s the buzz from a convenience store, a light flickering, or a stray dog. Or one of the multitude of other sounds you’ll come across.

This technique works because it is guaranteed to stir up memories of when we ourselves have had to walk through a creepy neighbourhood at night.

Yomawari brings to life your worst fears of traveling home at night, no really this is way scarier then that creepy guy following you –
Nippon Ichi 

The most notable sound effect however, is that of your own heart beat, which serves as a warning sign as to how close you are to a spirit. The closer they get to you the more anxious the protagonist becomes and the faster her heart beats.

The only negative I can really throw at these two games is that there are a couple of challenging sections which required multiple attempts to get past. At times it felt that evading the ghosts was more a fluke then a learning process. This problem was compounded by the fact that at a certain point it devalued the tension and jump scares.

Speaking of jump scares…

Yomawari: The Long Night Collection is bound to make you jump out of your seat at least a couple of times. Because most of the spirits are obscured by the dark, it’s easy for them to take you by surprise.

It becomes increasingly unnerving each time you encounter a new type of spirit because they each have their own behaviour patterns that you will need to learn. Some spirits will chase you, others teleport in front of you, and some will just leave you alone entirely.

The enemy sprite designs are  all unique and creepy in their own way –
Nippon Ichi 

Overall, Yomawari: The Long Night Collection is definitely recommended. It’s a solid addition for anyone looking for a simple title to play on a rainy night. Whilst it might not be as polished as Mario Odyssey, it is certainly far more original and unique. You’d be hard pressed to find a game with a similar feel.

After a range of controversies and failures, can CBS win back the Star Trek fan community, or are they headed towards a Solo style disaster?

Star Trek licensing has become incredibly muddy, with two distinct brands. This is due to the old Viacom corporation and CBS splitting in 2005. Much like a messy divorce, Paramount took the movie franchise, creating the Kelvin timeline, whilst CBS took control over Star Trek for television.

As you can imagine, this created a minefield over which company owned control of what aspects of Star Trek. It is likely for this very reason that Star Trek Discovery looks incredibly removed from the fan-loved Prime Timeline in which all prior Star Trek shows took place. This is in spite of CBS claiming the exact opposite.

In January 2017, in the run up to the launch of Star Trek Discovery, an ongoing legal dispute with the creators of the fan film Axanar came to an end. CBS was successful in shutting down the largest Star Trek fan film of all time.

The reasoning behind CBS was clear: Axanar had raised $638,000 before going into production. That’s a hefty sum of money and the production level was high enough that it could potentially draw existing fans away from Star Trek Discovery. In addition, CBS set up a series of guidelines to limit the scope of any future fan films.

When Discovery did eventually air in September 2017, developers of the indie game Tardigrades were shocked to discover an uncanny resemblance to design and concept elements that appeared to be lifted from their unreleased game. Both Discovery and Tardigrades involve the concept of giant Tardigrades being used to unlock interstellar travel.

Whilst CBS will more than likely win this lawsuit (assuming it isn’t settled in private), the damage is already done. Whether the corporate giant lifted ideas matters far less than the perception. It is entirely conceivable that this was just a pure coincidence given that the two went into production around the same time. Yet fans are unlikely to see it this way.

You be the judge, was this a mere case of coincidence or was it plagiarism? -CBS and Tardigrades

Discovery itself has received a mixed reception and stiff competition from Fox’s Star Trek homage series The Orville. Unlike Discovery, The Orville adapted the values and style of storytelling that Star Trek had previously been famous for.

More importantly, there were a number of Star Trek alumni names attached to the series, ranging from actor and director Jonathon Frakes to Brannon Braga, one of the key names behind 90s Trek, serving as both writer and executive producer.

It was clear that CBS needed to course correct.

First came the announcement that there were plans for a number of future Star Trek TV shows. Then in early August came the announcement that Sir Patrick Stewart himself would be reprising the role of Jean Luc Picard for a currently unnamed Star Trek series.

On paper this should be one of the few announcements likely to reintegrate the fan base. There are few characters from the 90s era of Star Trek that are as iconic and beloved as Picard.

Are you excited to see the return of Jean Luc Picard or do you fear they may destroy the character? -CBS

While this announcement was largely welcomed by the fan community, there are still many who question whether they’ll get the style of storytelling that they want with the character.

In terms of tone, the writing for Star Trek has been stripped back from the slower more thought provoking types of stories that Trek was once notorious for. Discovery is perhaps best described as more of an action sci-fi adventure series. This leaves a genuine concern as to whether or not fans will get a return to the Star Trek they love or more of the new series that many are less enthusiastic about.

Unfortunately, much of the good will of the Picard announcement was undone recently with yet another cease and desist order from CBS.

This time CBS went after a fan made VR experience by a group called Stage 9. This VR simulation gave fans the chance to enjoy a complete recreation of the Starship Enterprise. It was available for free and produced as a non profit project for fans by fans.

The argument goes that this was most likely due to the company Ubisoft already having been contracted to create the Star Trek game Bridge Crew, although the intent and style of the two productions are radically different. The Stage 9 production was promptly ordered to shut down.

For many, the chance to walk through a virtual recreation of the Enterprise was a dream come true. -Stage 9

This brings us to the present. CBS is now once again dealing with an outraged fan community, with many taking to social media refusing to support CBS in the future.

It is worth noting that in regards to both Axanar and Stage 9, CBS was legally well within their rights to take action to protect their intellectual property. The real question is whether or not they did so in the smartest way when it comes to building a fan community. Perhaps a smarter tactic would have been to offer to legitimise some of these groups and monetise them as co-productions.

At this point, a return to the Prime timeline and the style of storytelling of the past is highly unlikely.

It would quite likely be a nightmare sorting out the legalities. Instead CBS seems determined to hold its ground and focus on building a new fan base geared towards the mainstream public.

Another issue CBS may be concerned with is the ageing fan base. Right now people in their mid thirties and above are working, they have disposable income and are paying customers. Let’s look ahead: How long will this trend continue? How many fans of classic Trek does CBS believe fall into the the under 25s?

CBS would have run the numbers. They want new Trek to tap into as many people as possible. If they were to make a new series that was heavily tied into existing continuity, they would risk alienating far more people and the show would likely struggle to connect with younger viewers. When Star Trek the next generation was transferred to blu ray it underperformed in sales. Like it or not, CBS needs any new series to reach new audiences

So whether or not the Trek community will continue to support CBS or continue to turn against the company remains to be seen. Ideally CBS needs to find a balance. They need to find ways to appease and appeal to the old fanbase whilst at the same time making their product accessible for future generations and younger fans.

Creating new Trek content shouldn’t need to come at the expense of the older material. With limited information about the profitability of Star Trek Discovery, it’s difficult to say whether or not their strategy is working. If CBS does struggle to create a new strong fan base, then they may need to reassess their policy.

Insomniac has been praised for delivering what some consider to be the best comic-book video game of all time. So does Spider-Man PS4 live up to the hype?

As a veteran gamer who started with the original NES, I’ve played a lot of retro gaming. My first experience with a comic-book video game was Wolverine on the NES. A clunky platformer, Wolverine was just awful.

My experience wasn’t much better on the Super Nintendo. Batman Returns was treated to a Final Fight style beat-’em-up, whilst Spider-Man and the X-Men teamed up for a game consisting of several sub games in which you could control various characters in different environments – none of which were particularly well polished.

We’ve come a long way in graphics since Wolverine. -Acclaim Entertainment

It wasn’t until the PS2 came along that we started to get superhero games that started to genuinely nail the feel of comic books. Spider-Man 2 and Ultimate Spider-Man both gave gamers the opportunity to swing through New York in an open sand box. While both games look dated by today’s standards, they were incredibly impressive at the time.

Marvel’s Spider-Man is not only a spiritual successor to those early games. It builds on them.

Wou would be hard pressed to find a game with a more richly detailed city then this. The numerous nods to other Marvel characters and landmarks is just icing on the cake- Insomniac.

Underneath all the gloss, the same basic mechanics are at work in both this title and Spider-Man 2. In both games there are a number of collectable items hidden around the city; the combat is somewhat similar; there are small groups of criminals for you to defeat scattered throughout the city, mini-quests and even the ability to drop onto a car.

This time round though the presentation of those game mechanics is so finely polished it feels like the video game equivalent of jumping from a guitar to an electric guitar.

And that’s what makes Spider-Man shine: the little touches. Details such as seeing Spider-Man swing through a pipe in a construction-site, or noticing that you can see through the windows on buildings. It keeps the game feeling fresh. At times the level of detail in the cityscape is so phenomenal that you can find yourself spending hours just exploring and uncovering easter eggs.

While creating an immersive environment is essential for a superhero video game, it’s even more important to nail the characterisation. With fifty years of comic-book history, films and cartoons to draw inspiration from, you would think it would be near impossible to please everyone.

Yet Insomniac has nailed this too.

Spider-Man also has multiple un-lockable costumes, referencing various iterations of the character from the comics and films. There are also several backpacks hidden throughout New York, each with an item of sentimental value to Peter. Now some of these are mundane items like a University ID card, but others reference off-screen adventures or part of the lore of the character.

There are so many touches that not only help build Spider-Man up as a character but also make the world feel lived in. This isn’t a Spider-Man starting out on his first adventure. And that’s a good thing. Insomniac has left plenty of space for sequels and prequels, which will undoubtedly appear in the years to come.

Voice acting done right

A decade ago this would have looked impressive as a cut scene, now it’s in game graphics. -Insomniac.

Yuri Lowenthal has a list of voice credits a mile long, but has never really become a household name. It’s Yuri’s voice-acting that not only brings Spider-Man to life but cements this game as a bona fide classic.

Yuri actually recorded several lines of dialogue twice. There’s a standard version of a line and a variation that is played whilst web slinging, in which Peter sounds more out of breath.

More to the point, Yuri captures the heart of Peter better than any film adaptation to date. Peter is a genuinely likeable guy. He may be witty, but not in a way that makes him obnoxious. This is a Spider-Man that cares about the people around him he’ll try to help others when he can.

So the city looks incredible, the voice acting is on point and the characterisation is flawless, but what about the combat?

Once again, Insomniac delivers. Spider-Man moves exactly like he should. He’s agile and has numerous web-based attacks at his disposal. You can use webbing to snatch a weapon, web up a crook or simply give them a beat down with a wide range of combat moves at your disposal.

On top of this, you’ll find a great number of ways in which you can clear out an area, whether it be with stealth or as a brawler. The options can seem endless.

Spider-Man PS4 Verdict

Several elements for Spider-Man have been adopted from a variety of video games. Dealing with petty crimes for the police is reminiscent of Arkham Knight; much of the open sandbox elements have been seen in games like Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row.

But what makes things shine this time around is all down to presentation. Everything is done to service the key objective of creating a definitive version of Spider-Man. And Insomniac has succeeded.

If there is any criticism that I can level at this game, it would be that at certain points the game switches control to another character in the interest of storytelling. During these points you may find yourself simply wanting to get back to web-slinging. This however is by no means a deal breaker, more a minor niggle.

Overall, Spider-Man PS4 is an essential buy – especially for anyone who is a fan of the character.

This is a landmark game, but it’s ultimately not the impressive game mechanics or graphics that make it one of the best comic-book video games of all time. What makes this game succeed is the way it successfully fleshes out Spider-Man. When you buy into this incarnation of Peter Parker, empathise with him and swing through New York, it becomes clear why this is a landmark video game and one that has set a very high bar to swing above.

In June 2018, Kelly Marie Tran deleted her Twitter account. At the time she was silent, but now Tran has opened up on the reasons she left and the level of harassment she received.

At the heart of Tran’s response is the deeply rooted issue of ethnic marginalisation that has plagued Hollywood for a long time. Representation in Western cinema has become a divisive issue in recent years, with a bitter online feud between those who support representation and those who oppose it.

What has often been overlooked is the personal cost that the war on representation has been having.

“Their words reinforced a narrative I had heard my whole life: that I was ‘other’, that I didn’t belong, that I wasn’t good enough, simply because I wasn’t like them. I believed those words, those stories, carefully crafted by a society that was built to uphold the power of one type of person – one sex, one skin tone, one existence.” The full article can be found here.

Hollywood’s course correction can, for some, feel jarring.

The reason for this is that we’ve come to expect a certain narrow focus in the celebrities and characters that create our entertainment. When that focus is challenged – particularly in a franchise that holds a place of love and nostalgia in our hearts – it’s easy to see and understand how people can feel that something they love has been changed.

Sometimes this can mean that characters they once identified with now belong to a minority that they are not a part of. In short, a percentage of fans can feel like something of theirs has been taken away from them.

Yet the reality is that a growing percentage of the world’s population needs role models, heroes and characters to aspire to that they feel represent them. Sixty percent of the world’s population is Asian, and yet twenty films into the MCU and there has yet to be a single leading superhero from an Asian background. The closest we’ve got thus far is the supporting character of Wong from Doctor Strange.

Agents of Shield may have a fantastic diverse cast, but the MCU by comparison has failed thus far to deliver a single Asian superhero besides Wong. We’re not counting Mantis, she’s an alien. -Marvel

The world has now reached a point where the old non-inclusive Hollywood is starting to become non-profitable. A lot of the money being pumped into Hollywood is coming from investors in countries like China. Films are being structured so that they can tap into markets outside of the West. Economically, Hollywood has to adapt to a changing global demographic.

If Hollywood fails to be inclusive there is a very real danger that foreign markets may lose interest.

When consumers should and shouldn’t be labeled sexist bigots.

As consumers we have every right to chose what films, video games and TV shows we spend our hard earned cash on. We are also free to criticise those products without being labelled a bigot or a sexist. That said, if your criticisms fall into the realm of bigotry or sexism, then the label fits and people are right to call you out on it – especially if you’re referencing gender, race etc in a negative when it’s not relevant.

Rose Tico is slated to return for Episode 9, lets hope fans are kinder to the actress when the next installment hits cinema screens. -Luccasfilm.

Final Thoughts

Whether or not Kelly Marie Tran’s response in the New York Times has any long term impact remains to be seen. We can only hope that her words on her personal experiences change the hearts and minds of the public. Her experience demonstrates the necessity to treat all celebrities with dignity and respect, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, race or religion.