Pop Culture

  • What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark? Review

    The only difference between you and me is that you can’t see the difference between you and me.

    Disney+ and Marvel Studios What If…? via Facebook

    After saving genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist Tony Stark, Erik “Killmonger” Stevens is on the rise, first named head of security, and later as COO for Stark Industries after uncovering a plot to assassinate Tony by The Ten Rings and Obadiah Stane. Working closely with Tony, they build a legion of drones meant to replace and save soldiers’ lives on the front lines of war, but the only way to get them working is to acquire vibranium. Meeting with black market merchant Ulysses Klaue, Killmonger reveals his true plans, killing Tony, Rhodey, Klaue, and T’challa aka The Black Panther when he tries to take the vibranium back to Wakanda.

    Arriving at the gates of what would have been his homeland, Killmonger delivers the body of Klaue as a show of service to Wakanda. King T’chaka is happy to embrace his lost nephew, but the time for reunion is cut short when General Ross sends the army of drones against the technologically advanced African nation under Killmonger’s deception that Wakanda assassinated Tony Stark. Killmonger quickly offers a plan to defeat the drones he created, and fights admirably alongside the Dora Milaje and fellow warriors of Wakanda. Rewarded for his bravery, Killmonger is named The Black Panther, protector of Wakanda. 

    Episode six of “What If…?” Takes us back to the very beginning of the MCU; the first scene of its first movie, Iron Man. With Killmonger’s rescue of Tony, the entire timeline is rewritten, leaving the world without Iron Man, and without the Avengers. It tells a dark story not only of Killmonger, but of Tony Stark, who without his experience being captured by the Ten Rings and learning a humbling lesson, instead sees his almost assassination as a reason to create bigger and badder weapons. Killmonger’s manipulations must have been planned over years to pull the strings of not only Tony, but two world superpowers, forcing America and Wakanda into a conflict he created only for himself to become the victor. It’s a plan worthy of the Killmonger we first met in Black Panther, and that’s kind of the problem. 

    As intriguing as his plan was, he was still the same villain we’ve seen before. Wonderfully performed by Michael B. Jordan who returned to voice the character again in “What If…?”, Killmonger was one of the better villains of the MCU. He wasn’t simply after power or money, or even solely vengeance. His motivations come from the oppression of African Americans which make his aggressive actions almost justified. He was a villain who not only nearly defeated The Black Panther, but forced T’challa to reconsider his perspective of how his nation could help African Americans in the US and throughout the world. But this episode misses the opportunity to show a different Killmonger, one who doesn’t resort to murder and deception to advance his agenda, but could be a true hero to his people in the US and Wakanda, standing beside The Black Panther to change the world. 

    It’s difficult to disagree with Killmonger’s perspective, because he’s absolutely correct about the oppression African Americans have suffered at the hands of imperial minded countries. In Black Panther, we got to see Killmonger acting in the same vein as Malcom X, a leader who advocates fighting fire with fire. In this episode, Marvel missed the chance to show Killmonger taking a different approach, advocating for peace and progress through unity and understanding, similar to Martin Luther King.

  • What If… Zombies?! Review

    So you wanna survive the zombie apocalypse.

    Disney+ and Marvel’s What If…? via Facebook

    After Thanos’ destruction of Thor’s Asgardian refugee ship, Heimdall uses the last of his power to send Dr. Bruce Banner aka The Hulk back to Earth to warn the Avengers of the impending danger. However, landing in Doctor Strange’s empty Sanctum Santorum, Bruce discovers a ravaged world full of zombies infected by a quantumverse virus brought back by Dr. Hank Pym. Running for his life from the undead versions of Tony Stark aka Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Wong, Bruce is saved just in time by Peter Parker aka Spider-man, and Hope Van Dyne aka The Wasp. 

    Taking refuge among other Avenger survivors like Okoye, General of the Dora Milaje, Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier, Sharon Carter, Happy Hogan, and Kurt Goreshter, they discover a signal from another survivor camp located at Camp Lehigh, the base where Steve Rogers trained during World War 2. Fighting through waves of zombies led by the undead Clint Barton aka Hawkeye, Sam Wilson aka Falcon, and Steve Rogers aka Captain America, they arrive at Camp Lehigh and find Vision, who believes he’s discovered a cure to the quantum zombie plague with the Mind Stone after a successful test performed on the reanimated, dad-joke spewing head of Scott Lang aka Ant-Man. But after a thorough exploration of the camp, they discover Vision is keeping a dark secret; the undead Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch. 

    Since her undeath, Vision has been luring survivors to the camp to feed Wanda while he tried to find a cure, but her powers proved too strong. Hoping to make amends for his deception, Vision sacrifices himself and gives the Mind Stone to Peter and the few remaining survivors so they can travel to Wakanda and use their technology and the Stone to counteract the virus. Because of Wakanda’s shields, they hope to find the African nation free of the zombie plague. What greets them, however, is a zombie horde led by an undead Thanos. 

    “What if… Zombies?!” brings to the MCU one of my favorite things; zombies! As a fan of zombie narratives and action, I’d like to admit my own bias for this episode. I knew it was coming, and now that I’ve seen it, I know the wait was worth it. From the first scene of Bruce arriving in New York, this episode delivered a fun, gory, action packed adventure worthy of being a part of the MCU. While the story was full of heart breaking moments, like Happy’s death or Hope’s tragic sacrifice, the strength of this episode comes from Peter Parker, voiced by Hudson Thames, Kurt Goreshter, voiced by David Dasmalchian, and the overall comedy as they try to lead everyone through popular zombie movie cliches. 

    As unique as this episode was, the story felt rushed as it squeezed a number of heavy plot points in 30 minutes. The narrative would benefit from a longer runtime, or even better if it were a series unto itself. While I know many are burnt out over zombies and the multiple Walking Dead series, a zombie series with our favorite Avengers that is the same quality as this episode would be a fun and worthwhile addition to the MCU, even if it remained an animated series. This episode also misses out on an opportunity of making a Walking Dead reference between Peter and Okoye, voiced by Danai Gurira, The Walking Dead’s fan-favorite Michonne. 

    Despite “What If… Zombies?!” flaws, this episode was a fun and thrilling adventure that made me laugh, and almost made me cry. It’s evidence that the best stories are the ones that have fun. 

  • What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands? Review

    You’re a god! You can undo this!

    Disney+ and Marvel’s What If…? via Facebook

    With the death of the love of his life, Dr. Christine Palmer, in a tragic car accident, Dr. Stephen Strange, expert surgeon and future Sorcerer Supreme, seeks to master the mystical arts to bring her back in this alternate timeline. After mastering the Eye of Agamotto and defeating Dormammu (I’ve come to bargain), Strange turns his attention to reversing time to try and save Christine, but fails over and over again. Explained by the Ancient One, Christine’s death is an Absolute Point, the necessary event that cannot be changed that begins Strange’s path to becoming the Sorcerer Supreme. 

    In a desperate attempt to stop Strange from continuing his misguided path, the Ancient One splits this alternate timeline in two. As one Strange decides to ultimately move on from his memory of Christine, another pursues that memory to the Lost Library of Cagliostro, a sorcerer rumored to have found a way to change an absolute point. Strange finds the answer to saving Christine and begins to capture and harness the power of countless mystical beings (one probably being Cthulhu…) until he has the power he needs. Seeking out the other Doctor Strange to absorb his power as well, the two doppelgängers enter into a battle of mystic arts, ultimately ending in the Dark Strange’s victory. 

    Now, with all the power he needs, he revives Christine, only for her to meet the hideous creature he’s become as reality breaks around them. With a desperate plea to The Watcher to fix his mistake, to not let Christine and the world be punished for his arrogance, the universe is destroyed, leaving the smallest pocket dimension for Strange to spend an eternity in, alone and, once again, without Christine. 

    Despite all the excitement of WandaVision, the hype of Spider-Man: No Way Home, and the upcoming Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, Episode Four of What If…? is the first time we’ve returned to Dr. Stephen Strange since Avengers: Endgame, and I couldn’t be more excited. Getting back into the fray of Marvel’s mystical side is something I’ve missed since the first Doctor Strange and his roles in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War. The magic shown is so unique from the rest of the MCU. Doctor Strange brings something else to the table other than superpowers, he brings intelligence and wit, as well as some much enjoyed sarcasm and sass. Against Dormammu, instead of beating him to a pulp, he tricked him into a time loop until he was ready to relent, and his spells and magical items sound as if they’ve come straight out of the D&D Player’s Handbook. Which is where this particular adventure of Doctor Strange falls short. 

    While the overarching plot was heartbreaking and compelling, the magic this Strange used was more brute force than intellect or cunning. He consistently summons and defeats these beasts over and over, and his conflict with the other Strange throws away wits and uses another generic fight to beat the protective warding off of Strange until he’s defenseless. It lacks what I personally enjoy about the character. However, this episode offers another intriguing element that we haven’t seen yet; The Watcher in direct contact with the universe. In the beginning the Watcher warned us that he could not, would not, should not interfere in the timelines, that he must only watch. However, he’s now spoken directly the the timelines focal point, Doctor Strange. Is this foreshadowing that not only can The Watcher interfere, but will he if the situation were dire enough. Will these alternate timelines eventually converge into something dangerous that the Watcher must confront directly, or will they remain something only to be watched?

  • Trey Plays Marvel’s Avengers: War for Wakanda Expansion

    Wakanda Forever

    Marvel’s Avengers: War for Wakanda Expansion via Facebook

    When Ulysses Klaue and AIM launch an attack against Wakanda to steal its vibranium, the Avengers arrive to offer their support. Joining Wakanda’s king and protector, T’challa aka the Black Panther, and it’s lead scientist and T’challa’s sister, Shuri, the Avengers discover the wonders of Wakanda’s technology while working to stop Klaue’s destructive plans. Marvel’s Avengers: War for Wakanda expansion let’s players take on the role of the Black Panther, and explore the vast jungles of the technologically advanced African nation. Christopher Judge lends his voice to T’challa and shows off his range as a voice actor. If you were expecting Kratos’ now signature baritone (BOY!) you’re going to be disappointed. Wakanda as a setting is beautiful, but sticks to the jungle rather than seize the opportunity all the country’s settings have to offer. The actual play style of the Black Panther is also a let down as it hardly differs from other melee archetypes like Captain America or Black Widow. Though T’challa and Shuri’s sibling relationship has a charming story arc, the rest of the expansion is just more of the same basic stuff we’ve come to expect from this basic bitch Avengers game, ending in a boss battle that had me exclaiming “that’s fucking stupid.”

  • Marvel’s WandaVision “We Interrupt this Program” Review

    It’s all Wanda. 

    Disney+ and Marvel’s WandaVision via Facebook

    Meet Capt. Monica Rambeau; pilot, agent of SWORD (Sentient Weapon Observation and Response Division), daughter to Capt. Maria Rambeau, and surrogate family member to Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel. After the shock of returning from five years being vanished from Thanos’ Snappening, she’s ready to return to work at SWORD. Unfortunately, due to the anomalies of the re-Snappening, Director of SWORD Tyler Hayward is grounding her until his agency is back on its feet. In the meantime, Monica is sent to Westview, New Jersey to help FBI agent Jimmy Woo on a missing persons case that has now turned into a whole missing town. Upon discovering a strange force field surrounding the town, Monica is quickly sucked inside, vanishing from sight. 

    Meet Dr. Darcy Lewis; astrophysicist, colleague of Dr. Jane Foster and Dr. Erik Selvig, and friend of Thor Odinson. After Monica’s disappearance, SWORD is calling in every scientist they can to help solve what is going on in Westview. Running every test they can think of, Darcy picks up a hidden signal through an older television and discovers the strange new TV show, WandaVision, starring two Avengers, one thought to be dead, the citizens of Westview, and Monica as Wanda’s new friend Geraldine. SWORD tries to contact Wanda through a number of ways that somehow change when they come into contact with the force field, such as the red and yellow toy helicopter that was once a drone, and the beekeeper from the sewers that was once a SWORD agent. They’re quickly running out of ideas when Darcy and Jimmy watch WandaVision’s third episode, the one where Geraldine delivers Wanda’s babies, and she mentions Ultron. The episode is cut short and Monica is violently thrown out of the Westview force field and returned to SWORD. 

    After three decreasingly charming episodes, “We Interrupt this Program” FINALLY gives us a clue to the greater plot of WandaVision. While feeling like a very fast and short episode, we are introduced to some of the bigger events and characters not only involved in this show, but the greater MCU, such as SWORD, Monica Rambeau (Teyona Parris), and the return of Thor fan-favorite, Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings). Though there are still plenty of questions surrounding Wanda and Vision’s situation, we are given the sense that Wanda has some measure of control and awareness, along with a cryptic warning from Monica that “It’s all Wanda.”

    This episode also answers some logistical questions of how the world is operating post-Endgame. Earth and the rest of the universe suffered when Thanos snapped away half of all life, but five years after the fact, the world was healing and finding a new normal. Then, suddenly, those who vanished return without warning. We only see a glimpse of the chaos in the hospital Monica vanished from, where her mother Maria was undergoing cancer treatments, but imagine that chaos spread across the entire planet. People who vanished from crosswalks suddenly reappearing in the middle of the street. People who vanished and left empty homes reappearing to find themselves now homeless. Fortunately for Monica, her career with SWORD was waiting for her, for the most part, and she has the chance to resume some semblance of her old life, but others may not be as lucky.

  • Marvel’s What If… The World Lost its Mightiest Heroes? Review

    Hashtag-Steve-Steve-Steve-I-Heart-Steve-0-7-0-4

    Disney+ and Marvel’s What If…? Via Facebook

    There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, until those remarkable people began being murdered one by one. In just one week, Tony Stark, Thor Odinson, and Dr. Bruce Banner are found dead, presumably at the hands of SHIELD’s best agents, Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton. However, SHIELD Director Nick Fury isn’t so sure these cases are as cut and dry as they seem, especially when the Black Widow and Hawkeye die under even stranger circumstances. Trying to solve these murders goes from difficult to nearly impossible when an Asgardian army led by Loki Laufeyson invade Earth seeking vengeance for his brother’s murder. 

    Striking a deal with Loki, Fury has one day to find the would-be Avengers’ killer. With help from Agent Coulson, Fury thinks he’s discovered the killer’s identity, but to be sure, he needs the help of the God of Mischief. Traveling to a graveyard in San Francisco, Fury finds the tombstone of Hope Van Dyne, daughter of Dr. Hank Pym, and an agent of SHIELD. Pym confronts Fury while wearing his own modified version of the Yellow Jacket suit and blames him for his daughter’s death, revealing his motive and methods of murdering each of the Avengers in an attempt to leave Fury and SHIELD crippled. However, after some clever tricks, Fury reveals himself to be Loki, who captures his brother’s killer. Instead of returning to Asgard, Loki decides he’d like to stay on Earth a bit longer, and in only a day, conquers all of Misgard’s disparate nations, forcing them under his rule. Things seem bleak for Earth, but Fury has two more cards to play; two captains, one frozen in ice, and one returning from space. 

    Taking place over the timelines of Iron Man 2, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk, What If…?’s third episode attempts to be a classic whodunnit as Nick Fury tries to solve the murders of the Avengers. Much of the conflicts surround memorable scenes from the three films, much like its Captain Carter episode, though ending very differently as each of the Avengers end up dead. The twist of a vengeful Hank Pym and how he commits these murders is interesting, but the episode focuses more on Hulk’s fight scene, Tony’s donut scene, and Thor’s luxurious hair, rather than letting it play out like an actual mystery, lacking any real clues until the very end. Instead of an interesting whodunnit where the audience tries to solve the case along with Fury, it’s simply an instant replay of the MCU’s phase one with the end delivered on a silver platter.

  • Marvel’s WandaVision “Now in Color” Review

    I think something’s wrong here, Wanda.

    Disney+ and Marvel’s WandaVision via Facebook

    Changes abound for Wanda and Vision. A new house, a new time period, new colors, and Wanda finds herself halfway through her pregnancy overnight! With the baby on the way, there is plenty to prepare, such as setting up the nursery and keeping Wanda’s early trimesters a secret from the neighbors, especially when the rapid changes affect Wanda’s magic, sending the whole neighborhood buzzing. 

    In the blink of an eye, Wanda transitions from four months all the way to nine months and starts having contractions. As Vision rushes to find the doctor, Geraldine pays Wanda a visit to borrow some supplies and gossip about her new job. Wanda can only hide her pregnancy for so long until the baby decides to come early. With Geraldine’s help, Wanda delivers a healthy pair of twins, just like Wanda and Pietro, named Tommy and Billy. But the mention of Pietro sparks something in Geraldine as she remembers his death at the hands of Ultron. Memories begin to flood her mind until she simply disappears. 

    Outside the city limits of Westview, a shimmering disturbance launches Geraldine into an empty field that quickly fills with SUVs, helicopters, and soldiers. 

    “Now in Color” continues WandaVisions journey through classic television series, moving from the 50’s and 60’s of Bewitched and Dick Van Dyke, and onto the 70’s of Mary Tyler Moore. The hour long episode is full of wacky shenanigans trying to hide Wanda’s magic and pregnancy that are mildly entertaining, but more of the same that we’ve seen in the last two episodes without introducing any of the greater plot until the very last moments of the episode. This episode also misses a huge opportunity by not having That 70’s Show actor Debra Jo Rupp appear in a 70’s themed show after her appearances in both previous episodes. Hopefully with this glimpse of the world outside WandaVision, we’ll finally start getting answers as to what is going on.

  • What If… T’challa Became a Star-Lord? Review

    Classic Star-Lord.

    Disney+ and Marvel’s What If…? via Facebook

    When young T’challa (Chadwick Boseman), Prince of the technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda, seeks to explore the world, he is abducted by an alien spacecraft helmed by Ravager Captain Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker), due to a mix up when trying to find Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). Offering to show T’challa the entire Galaxy, Yondu takes the young prince under his wing, and together they reshape the entire galaxy. Now a man grown, T’challa goes by the name Star-Lord, a renowned intergalactic adventurer known for taking on dangerous missions, saving entire planets, and never backing down from a fight. And he does not travel alone; along with Yondu’s crew of ravages, including Kraglin (Sean Gunn), newly recruited fanboy Korath the Pursuer (Djimon Hounsou), and the reformed Mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin), he also calls on the help of the galaxy’s most infamous femme fatal, the luxuriously blonde adopted daughter of Thanos, Nebula (Karen Gillan). 

    When Nebula offers a job to T’challa and the Ravagers to steal an ancient artifact from the galaxy’s kingpin of crime, The Collector, they hatch a scheme to sneak into his museum past his guards, The Black Order. Everything seems to be going to plan until Nebula double crosses them, paying off a debt to The Collector with the capture of the famous Star-Lord. However, to the Ravagers’ surprise, Nebula reveals this was all a part of T’challa’s plan. As Nebula leads the Ravagers in their escape, along with the artifact, saving her Mad Titan father in the process and building a bond between them, Yondu races to T’challa’s aid as he fights The Collector. Stuffing him in one of his own display boxes, they manage to make their escape. Having saved the galaxy countless times, T’challa feels the pull of his home in Wakanda. Returning to Earth,  T’challa introduces his royal family to his adopted galactic family. 

    What If…?’s second episode is a huge turn around from its previous Captain Carter season premiere. Unlike its first episode, this wasn’t trying to fit all of the same plot points of a film into a thirty minute retelling with just a few changes, but was a wholly new and original story, though still worthy of director James Gunn’s usual insanity. While it begins almost exactly like Guardians of the Galaxy, with Star-Lord on Morag, it quickly evolves into a comedic adventure starring the dashing galactic hero, T’challa. 

    There wasn’t a moment of this episode that I wasn’t laughing at the jokes or references or smiling because a galaxy with T’challa in it is genuinely a better place. Not only does he convince the Ravagers to become adventuring saviors instead of space pirates, or convince Thanos that there are better ways to allocate the universe’s resources than to cull half the population (everyone calling out Thanos’ genocide plan was the funniest running gag of the episode), but he even managed to save Drax’s (Dave Bautista) planet from a kree invasion, leaving him to be a happy family man and bartender. This was a fun episode where you knew everything was going to work out in the end and I was totally fine with that because it was just so much fun. It was truly worthy of the best and most exciting Saturday morning cartoons. 

    The only way this episode falls short is a missed opportunity for a special cameo. This episode was full of little references that were pure fan service, such as the Collector having all of the Avengers’ weapons and Hell’s stylish helmet, or Howard the Duck, but one Easter egg was missing; Stan Lee. Rumors abound that Marvel’s famed comics creator and “Generalissimo” had a different cameo than what was eventually seen in Guardians of the Galaxy. Instead of his appearance in the beginning of the film with Rocket and Groot, he was supposedly meant to actually be apart of The Collector’s collection, not as some alien species, but as Stan Lee himself. Whether this was rumor or fact, the idea has become so wide spread that it is genuinely surprising they didn’t add it into this episode. 

    The fact that so many of the original Guardians of the Galaxy cast returned to lend their voices to this episode was such a treat. Michael Rooker was expected, but imagine my surprise to hear Josh Brolin and Karen Gillan’s voices, especially as the variant characters they were. 

    But the obvious star (lord) of the episode was Chadwick Boseman, performing his role as T’challa for the last time after his sudden passing a year ago. Just like this episode, this T’challa wasn’t weighed down by the burdens of leading a kingdom, avenging his father, or facing the world’s systemic racism. He was fun and charming and all of the good things you want in a character. He may have even been too perfect, but it worked and I’m not complaining. I’m so glad that Chadwick Boseman was able to perform this fun character before his passing. 

    “Dedicated to our friend, our inspiration, and our hero, Chadwick Boseman.”

  • Marvel’s WandaVision “Don’t Touch that Dial” Review

    How is anyone doing this sober?

    Disney+ and Marvel’s WandaVision “Don’t Touch that Dial” via Facebook

    Tonight is the big talent show and Wanda and Vision are preparing to perform a mysterious magic act. Before attending the show’s planning committee with the rest of the town’s housewives, Wanda discovers something strange; a red and yellow toy helicopter, clashing with the rest of the show’s black and white scenes. Putting it aside to think on later, Wanda and Agnes attend the meeting, hosted by Dottie, everyone’s least favorite and most feared planning committee leader. While Agnes gets drunk, Wanda meets a new, like minded friend, Geraldine. 

    Before the show begins, Vision accidentally swallows a piece of gum and it “gums up the works”. Taking to the stage in a humorous and inebriated state, Wanda manages to steer him on the right track of showing off the staged magical tricks instead of the town witnessing their own supernatural abilities. To great applause, they are awarded Best Comedy Act and return home to discover Wanda is pregnant! Before they can celebrate, they hear a noise outside and find a beekeeper climbing out of a sewer grate. With a simple “No”, Wanda manages to rewind the episode back to the magical discovery of her pregnancy just as the black and white transitions to full color. 

    Much like the first episode, “Don’t Touch That Dial” continues the wacky mishaps so often seen in Nick-at-Nite reruns. While we see more of the town and the cast of WandaVision, including meeting Geraldine, this episode doesn’t offer much else aside from a few WTF moments with no answers in sight. The strange moments of the episode, the beekeeper, the helicopter, radio message to Wanda, grab your attention, but they’re so brief compared to the lengthy sitcom narrative. It’s just as charming as the last episode, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

  • Marvel’s What If… Captain Carter were the First Avenger? Series Premiere Review
    Disney+ and Marvel’s What If…? via Facebook

    That was brilliant! Let’s give it another go!

    Meet The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), a cosmic being who observes the ebb and flow of time and reality. Guiding us through the multiverse of infinite possibilities and choices diverging into new timelines, he asks us to ponder the question what if…? For example, what if Agent Peggy Carter were given the super soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers? 

    Events are changed by a simple decision during what was meant to be Steve’s injection as a covert HYDRA agent shoots Steve before he can enter the test chamber. In an effort to save the experiment, Peggy Carter jumps into the test chamber and becomes enhanced in Steve’s place. Despite Howard Stark’s (Dominic Cooper) claims of success, the patriarchal military refuses to accept a woman as a soldier. With Stark’s help, and some encouragement from a recovering Steve, Carter takes up her shield, emblazoned with England’s flag, and goes after HYDRA. 

    After kidnapping Dr. Armin Zola (Toby Jones) and the tesseract, which Howard uses to build Steve the first Iron Man suit AKA The HYDRA Stomper, Carter builds her forces and pushes the Red Skull’s army back to their headquarters. Launching a full scale attack of his castle, she witnesses the Red Skull’s ultimate goal; to summon HYDRA’s true champion, a tentacle monster from beyond the stars. Carter manages to push the creature back behind its dimensional gateway, but finds herself trapped with it. Seventy years later, as SHIELD experiments with the tesseract, the portal reopens, allowing Carter to return, though no time has passed for her. Met by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Hawkeye, he tells her the war is over, they won, but Steve and everyone she knew has passed. 

    With the end of Loki breaking the sacred timeline and releasing the multiverse, What If…? gets to work on what exactly that multiverse looks like. For the first time, Marvel Studios is choosing an animated approach to tell this chapter of the MCU, and it benefits from having Disney’s backing and expertise to create the animations. While still staying very cartoonish, the effects and art style is worthy of Disney and Pixar’s legacy. 

    Hayley Atwell shines in this series premiere, as she always does. She’s played the role of Peggy Carter in four films, though only briefly in three of them, a cameo in Agents of SHIELD, and her own popular, but short lived, series Agent Carter. As much as I would love to see her return in greater fashion, having her back for this short episode just reminds me of how great she is in the role. Not only does she bring the charm and attitude of Carter to the animated screen, but now that she gets to be Captain Carter, it’s clear just how much fun she’s having playing the frontline soldier as opposed to the covert agent. Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Sebastian Stan, Toby Jones, Neal McDonough, and Samual L. Jackson also reprise their respective roles, and while they only have brief scenes, it’s good to see the old Captain America: First Avenger cast back together (sans Chris Evans). 

    It’s not just the cast of Captain America that returns, but unfortunately some of its flaws come with it. What If…? is about thirty minutes long and attempts the retell the story of a two hour movie in that half hour. Because of that, the pacing feels rushed, and while it’s entertaining, things happen almost too fast to fully enjoy each scene. While there are obvious changes from the Captain America: First Avenger storyline, such as Captain Carter, Steve “HYDRA Stomper” Rogers, and Red Skull summoning an alien, for the most part, the rest of the story follows the same exact plot lines of the original film. It felt like even with the variants of Captain Carter, I was still just watching a sped up version of the film I’ve watched more than a dozen times since 2011. 

    Like every other Disney+ Marvel show, What If…? leaves us with some exciting speculations and intriguing questions. What was HYDRA’s champion? My first guess was that it was Hive, the ancient Inhuman that the HYDRA cult worshipped and was seen in Agents of SHIELD. Both are described as champions of HYDRA, and both have tentacles, though the tentacles were toned down in Agents of SHIELD. With Peggy trapped in an inter dimensional gateway, who created SHIELD? Howard Stark would still have been involved, but who else? Steve and Bucky? What was The Watcher doing before Loki released the multiverse, aside from listening to Earth adventures from The Stan Lee Watcher as seen in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? Or because of time travel, did Loki breaking the multiverse at the end of time somehow make the multiverse an ever existing thing reaching back to the beginning of time? Finally, what is The Watchers agenda, if he has one at all? Obviously, his whole thing is just watching, and he states at the end of the episode that he should not, cannot, will not interfere. However, why show us these stories? Is he saying he won’t interfere to convince us, or himself?

    This series premiere of What If…? is a fun, animated, and imaginative view of the big events of the MCU. While it relies heavily on already seen plot points, it still manages to entertain and give fans a breather from the dramatic live action shows.

  • Trey Plays The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

    This is my story, not yours. You must let me finish telling it.

    The Witcher 3 via Facebook

    Geralt of Rivia, a revered monster slayer who has fought legendary beasts, saved kings, and faced prophecies. Now, as he searches for his lost love, the sorceress Yennefer, and his daughter Cirilla, the destined savior of the world, Geralt’s story approaches its end. While involved in the politics of a war torn land and facing an old, powerful foe, Geralt must not only protect his family, but the rest of the world. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt concludes the story begun in The Witcher novels by Andrzej Sapkowski and picked up by game developer CD Projekt Red. Not only did CDPR deliver a massive game with exciting mechanics in swordplay and magic, a living, breathing fantasy world, and strong and enticing story and characters, but they also set the gold standard for DLC and microtransactions. After a year of offering free DLC missions, items, and cosmetics, their Hearts or Stone and Blood and Wine DLC offered new lands, monsters, and stories as massive and complete as the base game. Not only do I give The Witcher 3 five stars, but I consider it to be one of the best games I’ve ever played.

  • WandaVision’s Series Premiere “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience” Review

    We are an unusual couple, ya know.

    Marvel’s WandaVision via Facebook

    Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), once Avengers, are now newlyweds moving into their first home. They have everything; a lovely house in a lovely neighborhood, Visions job and career prospects, helpful neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn), and of course Wanda’s magic. Everything a charming 1950’s sitcom household could need. 

    The only thing missing is their past, but more importantly, what special occasion marks the day. While Wanda spends time with Agnes preparing for what she believes to be their anniversary of… something, Vision is hard at work calculating numbers to increase the productivity of their input and output of… something. Vision begins to panic when he learns that they’d forgotten about having dinner with Vision’s boss, Mr. Hart and his wife (Debra Jo Rupp). 

    In a classic mixup, Vision and Wanda try to salvage the dinner as best they can with some help from their special abilities, and Agnes. When dinner conversation turns towards Wanda and Vision’s past, who they were, when they were married, where they came from, the situation becomes strange as Mr. and Mrs. Hart are temporarily stuck in a loop. Once passed it, they act as if nothing had happened and Mr. Hart awards Vision on his new promotion. After a wacky day of close calls, Wanda and Vision settle in for the night, deciding that this day will mark their anniversary. 

    WandaVision’s series premiere “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience” has all of the trademarks of classic sitcoms like Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie. A loving yet quirky family in a normal suburb, striving to live a normal life while hiding their secrets through fun and mischievous scenarios. 

    Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are delightful and fun to watch in their unique performances as they take on the characteristics of these sitcom characters. Particularly Bettany, who has most recently been seen as the stoic Vision. Seeing him simply as the charming and funny Bettany is a reminder of his range as an actor. Kathryn Hahn’s Agnes also offers her own brand of comedy as the borderline raunchy neighbor. 

    Despite being filmed with the advantages of today’s production and CGI, many of the effects of Wanda’s magic and Visions powers look authentically 1950’s with flying pans held up by strings and magic costume changes done with quick editing. It stays delightful until it takes a turn for the weird and moves from Bewitched to Twilight Zone. 

    This is already proving to be a fun, weird, and unique take on classic sitcoms and the superhero genre.

  • Trey Plays Red Dead Online: Blood Money
    Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Online: Blood Money via Facebook

    I’ve never been a fan of MMO’s that allow griefers to easily bother players who are just doing their own thing. So imagine my surprise that I’m obsessively playing Rockstar Games Red Dead Online. RDO has come a long way since it launched in 2018, and to players’ benefit Rockstar has implemented a number of ways to keep the griefers at bay so solo players like myself can enjoy the game in peace (for the most part). Though it still has a long way to go, such as implementing non pvp servers and fixing a laundry list of bugs. It’s most recent Blood Money update adds even more missions that can be completed solo or with a group of friends, though the reward for these missions is hardly worth the effort. The real gem of this update is the new Quick Draw Pass, which can be bought with gold earned in game or with real money, and gives you access to new useful cosmetics, including outfits of characters from the story mode, such as the ever planning Dutch Van Der Lind.

  • Marvel‘s Loki “For All Time. Always.” Season Finale Review

    We’re all villains here.

    Marvel’s Loki via Facebook

    With Alioth defeated and the pathway clear, Loki and Sylvie find themselves at the steps of an ominous castle floating beyond the void. As they prepare to battle whatever powerful creature waiting within, the doors open and they find themselves invited inside by the man behind the curtain; He Who Remains (HWR) (Jonathan Majors). A charismatic and welcoming host, HWR enjoys the company of the Lokis as he explains his role behind the TVA, how the brilliant and powerful variants of himself discovered the multiverse in the 31st century, and despite some variants wanting peace, others were more interested in conquering the other timelines which led to the Multiversal War. At the end of the war, the variant now known as HWR harnessed the power of Alioth and ended the conflict, then built the TVA to maintain order to avoid another war.

    Now, HWR is tired and wants to pass on the responsibility of running the TVA to the Lokis. Sylvie refuses outright and tries to kill HWR, but Loki is hesitant from his warning that by killing him, the conquering variants from other timelines will start another Multiversal War. Sylvie and Loki combat each other as they try to determine if he is telling the truth or not, until Sylvie opens a portal and sends Loki back to the TVA. Now alone, Sylvie plunges her sword into HWR’s chest, setting free the timelines.

    Meanwhile, Mobius returns to the TVA and with the help of B-15, reveals the truth about the TVA and all of its agents being variants. Finally confronting Renslayer, he tries to convince her the importance of free will and that what the TVA is doing is wrong. She however has other ideas, committed to HWR’s cause. After receiving a mysterious message from Ms. Minutes, controlled by HWR, she opens a portal and disappears. The Sacred Timeline is destroyed. Sylvie sits alone in HWR’s castle, and Loki runs through the halls of the TVA to find Mobius, only to discover he’s in a different timeline where Mobius has no idea who he is.

    It’s been an incredible fun run through time and space, but “For All Time. Always.” brings Loki’s first season to a satisfying end. Though it’s Loki’s show, Jonathan Majors’ HWR, which we already know to be Kang the Conqueror who will be returning in Antman and the Wasp: Quantumania, takes the lion’s share of screen time in this finale, and rightly so. Despite only appearing in one episode, he performs wonderfully, showing off the range of this character from comedic to insane to fury. Even when he has no lines and is just watching the Lokis interact from the background, you can’t help but focus on him. He’s like a sci-fi Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder, not Johnny Depp).

    While it’s great that we got the answers we’ve wanted all season, and despite Majors’ performance, the reveal of Kang felt expected. It was already reported that he would play Kang in Antman and the Wasp, and many of the show’s easter eggs pointed heavily to Kang. It felt so obvious that it had to be a feint. But if we’ve learned anything from WandaVision and Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it’s that the obvious answer is usually the correct one. Of the three Marvel shows so far, Loki is the first to introduce not only a villain who will show up in a future movie, like Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, but the potential big bad villain for phase four, maybe even further. It will be interesting to see how his story plays out, either as He Who Remains or other variants of Kang. If it does go the variant route, Majors will have the task and opportunity to test his range performing as different versions of the same character.

    Spider Man: No Way Home is set to come out in 2021, but we’ve seen no trailer under the mountain of rumors of the live action Spider-verse, fueled by Doctor Strange’s apparent involvement in the film. Doctor Strange’s own film, the Multiverse of Madness, is set for 2022 and will likely involve Scarlet Witch and the affects of these new multiverses. And Antman and the Wasp: Quantumania, which will feature Kang, doesn’t come out until 2023. And those are just the films that will most likely address the multiverse canonically. While the next MCU show, Marvel’s What If…?, will probably be more of a fun show and not affect the greater MCU, it is possible that the different episodes will actually be the peaks into different timelines.

    What’s next? He Who Remains is dead, the multiverse is branching, leaving the door open for worse Kang variants. Loki is seemingly lost in another timeline. Sylvie’s mission is over but she may be trapped in the void. Loki is confirmed to have a season 2 but there’s no release date yet, and we don’t know if Tom Hiddleston will appear in any of the upcoming films, such as those involving the multiverse or Thor: Love and Thunder.

    Loki has been a strong balance of fun mischief and somber moments of character development from one of the MCU’s best anti-heroes. Who would have thought the Asgardian god of mischief would work with a bureaucratic time agency? The entire show played well with common time travel motifs, making it feel like Marvel’s own version of Doctor Who, but an episode where there are multiple Doctors (Tom Hiddleston would make a great Doctor, by the way).

  • Marvel’s Black Widow Review

    My girls are toughest girls in the world.

    Marvel’s Black Widow via Facebook

    After breaking the Sokovia Accords in Captain America: Civil War, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is on the run from Secretary of State “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt). Hoping to stay hidden, Natasha is suddenly thrown back into the clandestine spy world she’s tried to put behind her for so long. After discovering the continuation of Russia’s Red Room program that turned her into the deadly Black Widow and its supposed deceased creator, Dreykov (Ray Winstone), she reunites her estranged family to help her destroy them once and for all; assassin sister Yelena (Florence Pugh), super soldier father Alexei aka Red Guardian (David Harbour), and brilliant scientist mother, and one of the original Black Widows, Melina (Rachel Weisz).

    It’s been nearly two years since our last MCU film, Spider Man: Far From Home, but Black Widow throws us back into action with Avengers levels of excitement, even if it takes place a few films back. Set between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Black Widow shows us some of the most vulnerable moments of Natasha’s life. Despite taking place near the end of the Infinity Saga, it carefully lays out Natasha’s past before joining SHIELD, and her assassination of Dreykov and his daughter in Budapest, the act that cemented her defection to SHIELD and that still haunts her to this day. The action is fun and there is plenty of spectacle, but at its heart, this film is about those moments of Natasha’s past as she figures out how to deal with her present circumstances of fixing both her Avengers family and her childhood family of Russian super sleeper agents. 

    The film’s best moments are when the Romanoffs are together, easily falling back into the rhythm of annoying sisters and awkward parents. Johansson as Natasha falling into the role of the overprotective big sister to an annoying little sister is a delight, and Weisz is as usual fantastic as Melina, the matter-of-fact mom who just accepts the family’s eccentricities. Between that mother and daughter duo, they could take on the world. However, it’s Pugh’s punk phase younger sister and Harbour’s boisterous, family black sheep dad who steal the show. While Nat and Melina focus on saving the world, it’s Alexei and Yelena who are usually in the background carrying the films’s comedy and drama in equal measure, trying to accept themselves for who they are and how they fit in this unconventional family. Seeing just how quickly and fully the Romanoffs come together again offers some insight into the Natasha we see in Endgame, the overprotective mom of the Avengers who is willing to give her life not just to save her friends or Clint’s family, but probably her own who may have been snapped away. 

    Despite the strength and development of the Romanoffs, Black Widow falls short in not realizing their full potential outside the family setting, and other characters as well. Alexei as Red Guardian, a self described rival to Captain America (though it’s unclear if they ever actually met) is mostly used as comic relief. Though he is very funny, he’s also a super soldier who rarely gets to flex his muscles. His big fight at the end with Taskmaster, one of the film’s big villains, is brief and unimpressive. Even Taskmaster as a big bad is underutilized, only showing off a few mimicked iconic moves from other Avengers, and the big reveal of their identity is hardly a surprise. While Natasha obviously gets the most action time in the film, it’s nothing we haven’t already seen in other Avengers films, and the final confrontation is less action or intrigue and more a standard toxic masculine villain defeated because of their monologuing. 

    Black Widow is also an unfortunate victim of Covid. Pushed back over and over again for over a year, and then being the first MCU film post-pandemic, there were high expectations that it just couldn’t live up to. While we’ve gotten three great MCU shows via Disney+, a new MCU film carries much more weight after 13 years of filling movie theatres two or three times a year. Sitting down in your living room to watch this new movie just isn’t the same, and that is a significant feeling. Of course this isn’t Black Widow’s fault, but simply a casualty of the situation we find ourselves in. 

    Black Widow is a fun addition to the MCU, and it’s best moments come from the complexity of the Romanoff family rather than the spy action we’re so accustomed to from Natasha. Despite its flaws, it’s good to be back watching MCU films again, and I’m looking forward to what Phase Four has in store.

  • Marvel’s Loki, “Journey Into Mystery” Review

    Why the Hel is there any alligator in here?!

    Marvel’s Loki via Facebook

    After witnessing the pruning of Loki, Sylvie confronts Renslayer about the truth about the TVA. Renslayer admits she’s as much in the dark as Sylvie is, except for the fact that the temporal energy can’t be destroyed, so when something is pruned it is sent to void at the end of time. After some stalling from Renslayer, Sylvie prunes herself in order to rejoin Loki and find whoever is behind the TVA. 

    Meanwhile, back in the void, Loki joins four other variant Lokis; Kid Loki, Old Man Loki, Worthy Loki holding a variant of Mjolnir, and an alligator with Loki horns I am lovingly calling Loki-gator (move over Baby Yoda!). After discussing their backstories, the strangeness of Loki-gator, and fight the more violent variant Lokis who have survived the void, Loki learns about the greatest danger of the void, a beast named Alioth, an all consuming cosmic being who devours everything in its path. As Sylvie arrives, finds Mobius, and joins Loki, they come up with a plan to enchant Alioth and find whoever is behind the TVA. With some distraction from Loki and an impressive display of magic and sacrifice from Old Man Loki, Alioth is enchanted and dissipates, revealing a castle beyond. 

    After the last episode’s dramatic revelations and near goodbyes to favorite characters, “Journey Into Mystery” throws out some silly antics to lighten the mood. Particularly funny are the variant Lokis Loki meets in the void, such as Worthy Mjolnir wielding Loki who lies about gathering the Infinity Stones, or President Loki and his “Vote for Loki” marauder Lokis who are constantly betraying one another. But honestly, Loki-gator steals every scene he’s in just by existing and having his growls translated. But when there’s danger, Loki-gator is fast to lend a hand to his friends, or bite one off. 

    It didn’t skip out on offering more insight into the greater story though, or building the love between Loki and Sylvie. Having the different Lokis, while entertaining, also offers new perspectives for Loki to see himself, such as Old Man Loki who was tired of the destruction left in his wake and chose to simply live alone instead of being killed by Thanos. Loki also glimpses just how powerful he could be based on Old Man Loki’s magic. 

    One of the biggest, and exciting, questions from this episode, though, is the origin behind Alioth. It’s not likely to be a creation of whatever is behind the TVA, but an inevitability that will occur at the end of time. Given its nature, is it possible that Alioth is somehow connected to Galactus, the all encompassing cosmos being who feasts on galaxies? Could Loki and Alioth be evidence of the MCU beginning to focus on its cosmic elements? Silver Surfer? The Fantastic Four?

    Who is behind the TVA? What will Loki and Sylvie find in the castle? Is Loki-gator going to save the day? There is only one episode left of this season and we are only steps away from answers, hopefully.

  • Marvel’s Loki “The Nexus Event” Review

    Work your Loki.

    Marvel’s Loki via Facebook

    While Mobius and Renslayer deal with the fallout of Sylvie’s attack and the Lokis’ escape, Loki and Sylvie sit on Lamentis-1 accepting their doomed fate. Then, the blossoming love Loki feels for Sylvie causes a nexus event the likes of which has never been seen before, and the TVA rescues them just in time. 

    Loki is placed in a time-loop cell of a memory of Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) beating him up and Sylvie is put under guard. Renslayer and Mobius toast to a case closed, however, Mobius can’t shake the feeling that something is off after Loki tells him what he learned from Sylvie; the TVA agents are all variants. While he digs for the truth, Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) forms her own doubts after Sylvie brought up an old memory when she was enchanted in RoxxCart. 

    Finding his own evidence of the TVA’s lies, Mobius makes his move to release Loki and Sylvie, but is quickly found out and pruned. Renslayer brings the Lokis to stand before the Time-Keepers, then with help from B-15, Sylvie and Loki fight their way to the Time-Keepers and cut off one of their heads, only to discover… it’s a robot. Unsure of what to do now, Loki seizes his chance to reveal to Sylvie his feelings for her, but before he can say it, Renslayer prunes him. 

    In an after credits scene, Loki awakens in a strange place, with two variant Lokis and a variant Thor standing over him. 

    That escalated quickly! Not only were the seeds of doubt planted in “The Nexus Event”, but they were watered, harvested into cabbages, brought to the market to sell, only for the cabbage cart to be knocked over. So many significant developments happened that it’s hard to review this episode, and instead I just have to freak out and speculate on what we just saw. Mobius and Loki were pruned! The Time-Keepers are robots and even Renslayer is in on at least part of the lies. Will word spread of Mobius’ and B-15’s rebellion and cause other agents to doubt and want to find their old lives, possibly causing a civil war within the TVA?

    All this time we thought when a variant was pruned, they were destroyed. But with Loki’s awakening in another place, does pruning instead transport variants to some sort of TVA re-education camp to bolster their ranks? Are these other Loki’s leading some sort of resistance? What other variants are we going to see here? Since they would vary from the Sacred Timeline versions and Avengers and other characters, there are literally no limits to who we might see. We could even see characters from other universes from Marvel Comics (please be Marvel Zombies!). Finally, who is behind the Time-Keepers and the TVA? The level of technology within the TVA was always advanced, but now that we know the Keepers themselves are robots, perhaps that technology is the clue. MODOK? Mephisto? (Probably not) Some other villain we haven’t thought of yet?

    I don’t even know what to do with all of the information we learned in this episode. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going into deep hibernation until next week’s episode airs.

  • Trey Plays Red Dead Redemption
    Rockstar Games Presents Red Dead Redemption

    Though it takes place after the events of Red Dead Redemption 2, the story of John Marsten really began in 2010’s Red Dead Redemption. Coerced by the government to hunt down his former gang brothers, John travels across the state of New Austin and Mexico meeting strange allies and deadly enemies. For its time, RDR stood as one of the best games Rockstar had made, as well as an amazing western tale for a modern world. Now, over ten years later, RDR is still the masterpiece that it was, despite its obvious age with clunky mechanics and old graphics. RDR is a game truly worthy of a remaster.

  • Marvel’s Loki “Lamentis” Review

    Independence, authority, style.

    Marvel’s Loki via Facebook

    After setting off dozens of TVA time bombs across the sacred timeline, the Variant Loki, aka Val, aka Sylvie, her actual name that we soon learn, jumps through a portal to commence her attack against the TVA with Loki close behind her. Fighting her way through TVA hunters, Loki eventually corners her, using her TVA TemPad to transport them away from the TVA and to one of Sylvie’s hideout apocalypses; Lamentis-1, a sci-fi, western, mining town about to collide with a moon. 

    Now stuck, Sylvie and Loki agree to a truce until they find a way to escape. During their time together, the Lokis get to know each other better, discovering their similarities and differences, and even forming a bond with each other. Running out of time, they decide to hijack the planet’s ark, meant to transport civilians to safety, but arrive too late as the ark is destroyed by crashing meteors. 

    The focus of “Lamentis-1” falls on the variants Loki and Sylvie as they dig into each other’s backstories, allowing us to find out just who Sylvie is, and more about her motivations. Apparently living a harder life on the run from the TVA, Sylvie lacks the magical abilities Loki does, aside from her self taught enchantments, though it seems she does have some raw, untapped power within her. They also share their own stories of their mother, Loki’s memories of Frigga, and Sylvie’s loss of her own, though whether they share Frigga as an adoptive mother is uncertain. 

    This episode also touches on the theme of romantic love, an aspect of Loki we’ve never seen before. It’s been confirmed that Loki identifies as gender fluid and they outright state their interest in “princesses and princes”, but what’s interesting is the kind of romantic spark between Loki and Sylvie, so essentially Loki and… Loki. Leave it to Loki to fall in love with him or herself, finally finding someone they’d consider an equal. 

    One last bomb of information is about the TVA itself. According to Mobius, who is missed in this episode for obvious reasons, everyone in the TVA was created by the Time Keepers. However, according to Sylvie, the truth is all of the TVA agents are actually other variants who’ve had their minds wiped. What other secrets are the Time Keepers hiding? It seems obvious that while destructive, Sylvie’s motives may be more altruistic than we’ve been led to believe.

  • Trey Plays Marvel’s Avengers

    Avengers Reassembled

    Marvel’s Avengers

    After releasing Terrigen gas in San Francisco, turning ordinary citizens Inhuman and leading to the death of a beloved hero, the Avengers are no more. It’s up to young Inhuman Kamala Khan to reunite Earth’s disgraced mightiest heroes to combat AIM and put a stop to their inhumane Inhuman experiments. A co-op action RPG, Marvel’s Avengers let’s fans play as a handful of their favorite character from Marvel comics in a unique story separate from the MCU films. Dropping players into individual maps to fight bad guys and find gear to help rebuild the Avengers and SHIELD, the gameplay is fun and action packed. However, the story is short and is followed by repetitive missions, and undelivered new characters and DLC causes Avengers to be pushed out of gamers minds so that when a new character is released, no one cares.

  • Marvel’s Loki “The Variant” Review

    Are we holding out for a hero?

    After an annoying TVA training orientation, Loki and Mobius visit the most recent attack of the Loki Variant; a renaissance festival in 1985. Finding nothing except signs of a struggle and a missing TVA agent, Mobius puts Loki to work studying all of the past encounters with the Variant to see if they missed something. Searching through the records, Loki comes up with a theory; the Variant is hiding in timeline apocalypses where consequences don’t matter since everything is about to be destroyed anyway. Confirming their theory with a visit to Pompei on Volcano Day, Mobius and Loki’s next stop in search for the Variant is during an apocalyptic event at a RoxxCart superstore in 2050 Alabama. Splitting up, Loki encounters the Variant through a number of mind controlled people and tries to discover their motives until he meets the real Variant face to face; a female variant of Loki. Setting up a series of bombs in an attempt to destabilize the Timeline, Variant Loki escapes through her own TVA portal with Loki following close behind.

    After a therapeutic first episode, “The Variant” quickly puts Loki to work with Mobius and the rest of the TVA on their hunt for the Variant Loki, who I’m currently calling Val, because 1. Variant Loki is a lot to type over and over, and 2. throughout the credits the TVA logo is shown upside down and spells out VAL and I’m speculating there’s a reason for that. Or maybe not. We’ll see. 

    This second episode also raises questions about the origins and true motives of the TVA and the mysterious lizard people aka Time Keepers. In an enlightening conversation between Loki and Mobius, they discuss the nature of existence; Loki’s birth of a frost giant and raised of Odin in Asgard, realm of the gods, and Mobius and the TVA’s creation by the Time Keepers and the predetermination of the end of time. Mobius’ comments on the end of time and everyone joining in an everlasting peace and an end to chaos is said with reverence, making the TVA sound almost like zealots rather than a fascist time dictatorship erasing free will, with the Time Keepers set as gods and saviors, which fits strongly with Loki’s running theme and self identity as a god. 

    This idea of an end to chaos might also illuminate the motives behind Val’s war against the TVA. As the god of mischief, an end to chaos would likely mean an end to Val, and in turn Loki. But chaos comes with negative connotations when in Loki’s perspective, chaos would also mean free will. Destabilizing the timeline creates branches of new timelines which could create a sense of free will against the TVA. Val’s motives may actually be altruistic, even if her methods are extreme. This chaos Val might be striving for could lead to the reformation of the Multiverse, which may come into play in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. 

    This episode also brings a small reference to the greater MCU with RoxxCart, which is likely a retail outlet owned by Roxxon, a familiar, and often villainous, corporation seen in other shows and movies like Agent Carter and Daredevil. And finally, a possible nod to another popular time traveling series, Doctor Who, after the “you’re the criminal with the blue box!” line in episode one, when Loki and Mobius visit Pompei, which the Tenth Doctor visited as well.

  • Loki, “Glorious Purpose” Series Premiere Review

    You’re that criminal with the blue box!

    Only enjoying a brief escape from the Avengers after the events of Endgame, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) finds himself a prisoner of the Time Variance Authority (TVA), a powerful agency charged with protecting the timeline from disruptions. While many wish to “reset” Loki for his crimes, Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) has other ideas. Sitting down with the god of mischief, he digs deep to find out Loki’s motivations before offering him a chance at redemption for helping them catch another dangerous time variant: another Loki. 

    Loki’s series premiere continues to fix the character of Loki that was introduced in Thor: Ragnarok; more mischief, less gloom. However, where Ragnorok focused more on the mischief and comedy, “Loki” manages to strike a strong balance of causing mischief and still playing the dramatic role Hiddleston so excels at. 

    The TVA is an interesting addition to the MCU. Created by three all-powerful beings, the TVA seems to be even more powerful than the Infinity Stones, which many employees use as paper weights. But with their power also comes a comedic bureaucracy that you’d find in a Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett book. 

    Finally, Wilson’s Mobius is a surprisingly charming and insightful counterpart to Hiddleston’s Loki. It might even be said that Mobius is the Agent Coulson of the TVA, who is also seen briefly in a memory. The majority of this episode focusing on their conversation, it was almost like a therapy session that also caught this post-Battle of New York Loki up to speed to the current events of Infinity War and Endgame, successfully continuing Loki’s overall character development since the first Thor instead of resetting the entire arc.

    Just how powerful is the TVA? What are the other variant Loki’s motives and where does he come from? What are Mobius’ plans for the god of mischief? Hopefully we’ll have answers to these questions in the coming weeks.

  • Trey Plays Red Dead Redemption 2

    After 8 years of impossible hopes, Rockstar delivered the hyped sequel to one of its most popular games; Red Dead Redemption 2. Set before the events of John Marsten’s journey in Red Dead Redemption, players follow Arthur Morgan, fellow gang member to John Marsten, as he tries to protect his surrogate gang family from a modernizing world that won’t suffer outlaws. Spread across a vast landscape based on southern US locations like New Orleans, players get the feeling of living and breathing life in the old wild West. Shootouts, quick draw duels, poker, hunting, RDR2 not only succeeds in matching its hype, but also as one of the best immersive gaming experiences.

  • Trey Plays Mass Effect: Legendary Edition

    The biggest update in Bioware’s Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is the first game of the series. At the time of it’s original launch, the mechanics for Mass Effect were clunky and frustrating, dragging down a fantastic story. Now remastered, Mass Effect’s gameplay feels smoother, closer to the quality of Mass Effect 2 and 3. While the following games don’t have updated mechanics, the graphics do get a boost, down to the smallest details like seeing the different fabrics of each character’s outfit, along with implementing all of the gear and mission DLC that many players may not have gotten for their original game. Thankfully, the ME:LE should be considered a success for BioWare, who has delivered disappointment after disappointment over the past few years. It’s also a relief to the gaming community as we received the game we were expecting, even if it’s a game we already loved. Now we get to revisit Shepard’s story in shiny new packaging.

  • Trey Plays Star Wars Day: Star Wars Battlefront 2

    Star Wars Battlefront 2

    Star Wars Battlefront 2 delivers on its promise to transport gamers to a galaxy far, far away and drop them into the middle of some of the biggest battles in Star Wars history. Spanning the timelines of the three trilogies, players can choose maps and characters from the clone wars, the galactic rebellion, and finally the galactic resistance. While multiplayer is the focus, Battlefront 2 also offers single player arcade modes and an intriguing story campaign set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, though this campaign is sadly very short.

  • Trey Plays Mass Effect 3

    The reapers are here. In Shepard’s final fight to save the galaxy from the reaper threat, #MassEffect3 stays true to the formula of its predecessor #MassEffect2 with strong cover shooting and an engaging story, upgrading only a few mechanics in terms of melee combat. Though while it brings many of its over arching narratives to satisfying ends, based on your decisions, the game fails to deliver in its final moments, offering a mediocre ending; not bad, but also not that good. Despite #Bioware retroactively improving some plot points with free #DLC, it couldn’t fix the damage that was done, especially after a disastrous DLC controversy over #EA appearing to take out parts of the original game to sell back to players as day one content. Fortunately, ME3 also offered a brand new cooperative multiplayer mode that was applauded by even the most committed solo gamers, like myself, and is still active today.

  • NOPD Hunts Dangerous Wookie
    NOPD seeking suspect in Eighth Distrcit Stabbing

    The NOPD is seeking to locate a suspect in the investigation of an aggravated battery by cutting on April 24, 2021 in the 700 block of Toulouse Street.

    At about 8:50 p.m., the pictured subject – a street performer in the Eighth District known to wear a Wookiee costume, one of the races from the popular sci-fi franchise Star Wars – reportedly stabbed the victim with a knife after a verbal disagreement. The subject’s actual identity is unknown.

    Wookiees, natives from the planet Kashyyyk, are a proud warrior race who aided the Grand Army of the Republic during the Republic Clone Wars, but were then enslaved by the Galactic Empire. Seen as savage animals by their captors, wookiees were used as slave labor or hunting targets, until the Empire was destroyed by the Rebellion during the Galactic Civil War.

    Anyone with additional information on this incident is asked to contact NOPD Eighth District detectives at 504-658-6080 or call anonymously to Crimestoppers of Greater New Orleans at 504-822-1111 or toll-free 1-877-903-STOP.

  • Trey Plays Mass Effect 2

    Shepard’s return to the Milky Way galaxy in #MassEffect2 fixes many, if not all, of the technical short comings of its predecessor and offers a much darker story. Tasked with gathering an elite team for a suicide mission against a mysterious enemy threatening Earth, Shepard is again faced with decisions that not only affect the lives of his team, but the Galaxy at large. Co-starring the voice talents of Martin Sheen Yvonne Strahovski, and a host of new and old faces, each with their own motivations and relationships, Mass Effect 2 succeeds in every category, and stands as one of the best science fiction games ever made.

  • Falcon and the Winter Soldier “One World, One People”, Finale Recap Review

    The only power I have is that I believe we can do better.

    The Flag Smashers have made their move to stop the GRC’s vote, which would restore the world’s borders and status quo before the Snap, by attacking their offices in New York City. Bucky tries to make his way up from the ground while Sam, sporting a brand new Captain America uniform and wings, gifts from Shuri in Wakanda, and the shield, makes his way to the top floor. Before getting very far, he encounters an angered Batroc, hired by Sharon to help the Flag Smashers, who is out for revenge, as Bucky and a covert Sharon Carter try to track down the Flag Smashers and their GRC hostages. 

    Making short work of Batroc, Sam takes to the sky as the Flag Smashers escape with the GRC by both air and truck. Following their helicopter, Sam manages to to unseat the Flag Smasher pilot and get the hostages to safety.  Bucky chases Karli through the streets until they’re interrupted by John Walker, equipped with a DIY shield and a thirst for vengeance against Karli. Bucky trades blows between Karli, John, and the rest of the Flag Smashers, until Karli maneuvers a situation where John must choose to go after her or save the hostages. John, surprisingly clearing his head, chooses to save the hostages, with a little more help from Sam. With the hostages safe, Sam, Bucky, John, and Sharon, go after Karli, enraged at her failure. Cornering her alone, Sharon and Karli stand off at gunpoint where it’s revealed that Sharon was the Power Broker all along. Interrupted, Sam confronts Karli one last time, urging her to stand down before she draws a gun on him and Sharon takes her shot, killing Karli, ending the Flag Smashers, and keeping her secret role as the Power Broker safe. 

    Outside, a stunned crowd and GRC thank Sam for his heroics, though he quickly shuts them down and explains the ramifications of their actions trying to return the borders to how things were before the Snap, comparing them to the actions of the Mad Titan, Thanos five years ago. Giving them something to think about, Sam has one more thing to take care of before returning home. Visiting Isaiah Bradley, Sam brings him and his grandson to Washington DC, where he shows them a new addition to the Captain America memorial exhibit in the Smithsonian; a statue of Isaiah and a history of his service as a super soldier, ensuring that America will never forget what he has done for this country. 

    The season/series finale of Falcon and the Winter Soldier, or Captain America and the Winter Soldier as the end credits show us, makes up for the lack of action from the previous episode by getting right into thick of things. Sam has shown some pretty incredible moves as the Falcon throughout the entire season, super soldier or not. But when he adds attacks with the shield AND his wings? That was AWESOME! It would have been even cooler if I wasn’t so distracted by the new uniform. I hate to admit it, but I’m not a fan. I know it looks very similar to the comics, but I’ve never been a fan of that outfit either. It may just be a preference thing, and it’s a trifling matter as Sam’s real moment to shine was not how he looked or his sweet moves, but what he says in his ending monologue to the GRC, and really the whole world. And it’s not just what he said but it’s THAT he said it. So often people shy away for fear of rocking the boat or biting the hand that feeds or poking the bear or any other metaphor, and not take a stand for or against something. Not to say Steve or even Tony Stark ever kept their opinions to themselves, but seeing this character share this view was refreshing, even if it was the view he’s had for the whole season. Something about him standing up for what was right, directly to the politicians and the reporters and the mob, right beside the river of truth, and telling them “No, YOU move.” Of all the moments Sam earned the title of Captain America, that one shined the brightest. 

    John Walker, former Captain America, received his own small redemption arc as he made the right choice to forgo his pursuit of vengeance against Karli and instead helped save hostages. Good for him for doing the bare minimum of saving people over killing someone? If you’re going to give a villain, or even just an asshole, a redemption arc, make it a strong one. This felt too easy. Even Bucky, who had the most to say against John, seemed to quickly accept him as a new team mate, at least in this particular fight, even somewhat teasing him later on like they were old pals. Of course, that could show some of Bucky’s own character development, but for John it didn’t feel earned. Especially given his new role as US Agent by Contessa Valentina and evidence that he’s perhaps learned nothing from this experience. 

    What are Valentina’s true motives, and who does she work for? Remnants of Hydra? Some new government agency we haven’t met yet? What are Sharon’s plans as the Power Broker now that she’s back in the good graces of the US intelligence community? Either seem like a formidable enemy for Captain America and the Winter Soldier to face in an upcoming movie or second season.

  • Falcon and the Winter Soldier, “Truth” Recap Review

    They will never let a Black man be Captain America. And even if they did, no self-respecting Black man would ever wanna be.

    Confronting John after his brutal and public murder of one of the Flag Smashers, Sam and Bucky take the shield from him, aggressively. With Karli’s disappearance and John being brought up on war crime charges, the US government and Global Repatriation Council (GRC) taking over jurisdiction of the hunt for the Flag Smashers, Sam seeks out Isaiah Bradley to understand his story and experience as one of the first Black superheroes. Hearing his tragic tale, Sam returns home to Louisiana to focus on saving his family and his community rather than saving the world. 

    Bucky easily tracks Zemo down at the Sokovian memorial where the city once stood before it was destroyed by Ultron, one of the big three. Bucky isn’t swayed by Zemo’s warnings against Karli’s radicalism and that the only way to stop her is to kill her, and to Zemo’s surprise, Bucky turns him over to Ayo and the Dora Milaje who promise to bring him to the Raft, the government’s maximum security lock-up for enhanced criminals, like Jessica Jones’ Trish Walker. Bucky also asks one small favor from Ayo and Shuri; a new set of wings for Sam, which he delivers to Sam back in New Orleans, and stays for a time getting to know his family and slowly becomes a part of the community. Before he leaves, Sam and Bucky discuss the ideas and unfortunate repercussions of Steve’s decision to pass the shield to Sam, a Black man. However good intentioned he was, neither Steve nor Bucky could truly understand what experiences Black men like Sam and Isaiah have had, and why their representing the stars and stripes of America is complicated, to say the least. But, knowing Karli and the Flag Smashers are still out there, Sam and Bucky decide to not let the shield’s legacy decide who they are, and build their own identity away from Steve’s shadow. 

    The building intensity and globe trotting of Sam and Bucky’s hunt for the Flag Smashers takes a back seat in “Truth”. That back seat however is actually the trunk of a large van with three rows of seats that are filled with the messages of racial inequality and mistreatment of veterans that this show has put at the forefront of Sam, Bucky, and even John Walker’s story, just in case those messages were too subtle for you. 

    Early in the episode we see John Walker’s hearing for the murder he committed, and as much as we want to rail against him for his actions, the statements he makes about doing what he was trained to do, what he was “built” to do, the same actions that the US government were now discharging him for, weren’t wrong. While there aren’t many super soldier veterans, this same scenario is a familiar one for many who find themselves tossed aside after a military career because they were no longer needed or they were inconvenient. While they give John a pass on the murder due to his service, he’s given no counseling, no accountability, and no military benefits often reserved for veterans. The men who trained John to be the ultimate American star-spangled man are the same exact ones tossing him aside, not because he murdered someone, but because he did it in front of everyone and made them look bad. Does any of this forgive John of his actions? No. But just like many aspects of this series it offers an intriguing perspective into how soldiers and veterans are treated. 

    It’s also interesting, and tragic, to hear Isaiah Bradley’s full story as a Black superhero. What stands out is how similar it is to Steve Rogers story, a man even Zemo had admiration for, though with key differences.  While Steve signed up for the super soldier serum and was hailed as hero, Isaiah was lied to and used as a test subject for the experimental serum. Steve single handedly fought his way into a Hydra base and freed Bucky and the rest of his future Howling Commandos, and in return was heralded as Captain America and given his own authority to lead troops in the war. Isaiah broke into an enemy POW camp to rescue his fellow soldiers before the American army could bomb the compound and kill them to get rid of the evidence of their experimental serum, and in return was locked away from the rest of the world for 30 years. This parallel shows signs of the two (Captain) Americas that are still present today; one for the white majority, and one for the Black community and other minority groups. And Isaiah is right, nothing has changed. 

    Lastly, who is Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine?! It was a huge surprise to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus take the screen in a very brief meeting with John Walker after his hearing? A woman who clearly has big plans for John, but what are they? Could she be the mysterious Power Broker we’ve been hearing about? Does that take the suspicion from Sharon Carter now that she’s apparently helping the Flag Smashers by connecting them with Batroc? But then Batroc wants revenge on Sam? So many questions. Hopefully they will be answered in next week’s season (series?) finale.

  • Falcon and the Winter Soldier, “The Whole World is Watching”, Review

    Were you ever offered it, the serum? If you had been, hypothetically, would you have taken it?

    Falcon and the Winter Soldier via Facebook

    Following up on their lead from Madripoor, Donya Madani, Sam, Bucky, and Zemo find themselves in Ziga. After learning that Madani has since passed, Bucky discovers another complication; Ayo and the Dora Milaje have followed them and intends to take Zemo back to Wakanda to answer for his murder of King T’chaka in Captain America: Civil War. Uninterested in Bucky’s reasons for working with him, she gives him eight hours to conclude his business and hand him over.

    Pressed for time, they search for the location of Donya Madani’s funeral, hoping to find Karli and her Flag Smashers and stop her before she becomes even more violent in her crusade. But again, they find themselves followed by the new wanna-be Captain America and Battlestar, John Walker and Lamar Hoskins. Hoping calmer heads will prevail, Sam convinces the others to let him speak with Karli alone, referring back to his experiences as a counselor for fellow veterans who struggled with mental health after returning home from war. They’re talk begins to go somewhere as Sam and Karli discover they’re more alike then they thought, before a hot headed John breaks up the conversation, sending Karli on the run. Losing Karli, John focuses on capturing Zemo who had his own plans with Karli as he catches up with her and destroys what little super soldier serum she has left. John knocks him out and discovers one intact vial left. Blaming Sam and Bucky for Karli’s escape (seriously?), John assumes to take command of their mission and Zemo, until Ayo and her sisters arrive to take Zemo on their own. Tearing through John and his shield as if he were wet tissue paper, they discover that Zemo had slipped away during the fight.

    Emasculated by being beaten so badly by warriors he assumed were just girls with “pointy sticks”, John secretly takes the last vial of serum before going after Karli one more time. Unbeknownst to him, Karli was setting a trap to kill the symbol of a bygone era as she lured away Sam and Bucky by calling his sister, subtly threatening her and setting a meeting. Once they discover her plans, Sam and Bucky chase after her before she and the Flag Smashers kill John, but are too late as they instead kill Lamar in the struggle. Enraged, John chases the Flag Smashers through the streets of Ziga until catching one unawares and smashing his skull with the shield in front of everyone.

    While it was only a small part of “The Whole World is Watching”, the inclusion of not just the Dora Milaje, but also a short scene of Ayo and Bucky in Wakanda during his recuperation, was exciting to see. For a moment, I half expected to see the late Chadwick Boseman appear on screen, and was heart broken when I was reminded of his passing. But this scene in Wakanda also came with it a brief moment of celebration for Bucky as we were witness to the first moment he knew he was free of Hydra’s programming as Ayo repeated his trigger words and he remained in control of himself. Knowing Bucky’s history, so many of the things he’s been through, this one true, pure, moment of happiness was such a powerful, if brief scene.

    While this is a buddy-cop-esque series between Sam and Bucky, more and more I feel Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes takes more of the spotlight, or at least pulls a lot of the weight of the show. I LOVE Anthony Mackie as an actor (NOLA represent!), but I’ve always felt his portrayal of Sam Wilson wasn’t that far from his own personality, which isn’t a bad thing. Stan’s performance as Bucky, however, is so layered. He has plenty of humor to offer the show, but it’s a dry kind of humor based off the stark contrast of Mackie’s sarcastic and upbeat attitude. But Stan also has the challenge of presenting a veteran suffering from extreme cases of PTSD from nearly a century of horrifying experiences of war and violence. Not that Sam doesn’t have his own share of turmoil, but his war time experiences are more managed, to the point that he is even able to act as support for his fellow veterans, like Bucky. But Bucky is still healing, still sleeping on the floor and waking up in old sweats, still having nightmares and flashbacks. So that one moment of happiness that Stan shows on Wakanda was performed beautifully and made you feel for this character, if you weren’t already.

    This episode also gave a small glimpse into the war time experiences of Wyatt Russell’s John Walker. There is very little we know about this character before being given the title of Captain America aside from a service record that earned him three Medals of Honor. But in a short discussion, we learn that those medals are apparently reminders of the worst day in his life, a time when he did things that didn’t seem heroic. We now see more of John’s motivations for taking up the mantle of Captain America, and why he puts so much pressure on performing to the best of his abilities, despite seeming to fail time and time again, pushing him further over the edge as we see in this episode.

    One final note…

    STOP HARRAASING WYATT RUSSELL! STOP HARRASING ACTORS AND PEOPLE IN GENERAL BECAUSE OF A ROLE THEY PLAY IN FILM OR TV! IF YOU DON’T LIKE THEIR PORTRAYAL OF A VILLAIN, IT MEANS THEY’RE DOING THEIR JOB AND GIVING A GOOD PERFORMANCE!

    Time and time again we “fans” have shown just how emotionally immature we are because we apparently think it’s a good idea to harass and bully and threaten people because we don’t like the character they play on screen. This kind of behavior is unacceptable. These actors, these PEOPLE, owe us NOTHING. They don’t have to portray a character accurately from the comics. They don’t have to give a good performance for us. Yet they do their best, take the criticism that is bound to come with the job, and still show up to press conferences and conventions to meet fans. And for this, we take things too far and threaten them for performing a character to the best of their ability. If this continues, actors are going to stop taking these roles, and I wouldn’t blame. No one deserves that kind of treatment, and we should be ashamed.

  • Trey Plays: Cyberpunk 2077 1.2

    I can’t think of many other games that have had a harder time getting their shit together. It’s been three month’s since Cyberpunk 2077 launched with a slew of bugs and was taken off the Playstation digital store. Now, update 1.2 has come out in the hope to fix many of the bugs facing the game, but is it enough? I originally gave Cyberpunk a 4 out of 5 because beneath the bugs, it’s a decent game. But after months of these issues, of few updates from CDPR (whom I normally sing their praises over their handling of The Witcher 3 and its DLC), I feel like the damage has been done. Yes, this new patch fixes a number of bugs, but not enough to make this the game we were promised. It breaks my heart, but I’m bumping this down to a 3 out of 5. I hope in time, with fresh DLC, and an upgraded console, I can return to Night City and enjoy this game again.

  • Falcon and the Winter Soldier, “Power Broker” Review
    Falcon and the Winter Soldier via Facebook

    I can’t run in these heels!

    Hitting a dead end on their investigation into the Flag Smashers and their super soldier serum, Sam and Bucky decide to take drastic actions and visit Zemo, the Avengers manipulative enemy from Captain America: Civil War. In return for information on Hydra’s involvement with making the serum, Zemo demands that Bucky break him out of prison, promising he is an invaluable asset and ally as he shares their desire to rid the world of super soldiers and to stop the creation of an army of Avengers. While not thrilled with the idea of allying themselves with the man who pitted Cap and Iron Man against each other, crumbling the Avengers from the inside before their initial battle with Thanos, Sam goes along with the plan and they make their way to Madripoor, a city that has maintained its status as a haven for crime lords despite governments’ best efforts.

    After some failed cloak and dagger tactics to acquire information about the serum, they receive some surprise help from an old friend, Sharon Carter, former SHIELD agent and niece of Peggy Carter. With her aid, Sam and Bucky manage to find the scientist, Dr. Nagal, who was able to recreate the serum from Isaiah Bradley’s blood samples for a criminal known as the Power Broker. That’s all they manage to learn, however, before Zemo quickly kills Nagal and they’re attacked by more of Madripoor’s criminals. Escaping again with Sharon’s help, Sam, Bucky, and Zemo try to follow up on their next lead to the Flag Smashers, Donya Madani, while the new Captain America and Battlestar pick up their trail after breaking out Zemo.

    While it was fun watching Sam trying to act the part of a hardened crime and lord and intriguing to see Bucky once again take on the role of the Winter Soldier to infiltrate Madripoor, Sharon Carter and Baron Zemo steal the spotlight in “Power Broker”. Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo was an interesting but underused villain in Civil War, so getting to see him as the fully realized Baron Zemo, complete with riches, private jets, cool cars, and his famed comic book mask was a treat. Bruhl dances on the line of maniac killer and sophisticated aristocrat while staying humorous and even charming, even when getting down at Sharon Carter’s party in Madripoor.

    Another under used character, Emily Van Camp’s kind of former Steve Roger love interest before he went back in time and married her aunt, Sharon Carter, gets the chance to show just how much of a bad ass SHIELD agent she was. While Sam, Bucky, and Zemo hold their own in the fight in Madripoor, Sharon takes on the majority of their foes single handed with maneuvers that would rival Black Widow. But, I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something more villainous behind Carter’s motives of helping Sam and Bucky.

    It’s obvious Zemo will have alterior motives, that’s what his character does; schemes within schemes. But Carter has always been fairly straight forward (for a spy). Bucky was able to get pardoned after the snap, but not Carter when all she did was steal Steve and Sam’s gear from the CIA? There was no point in that five years that Steve didn’t try to clear her name after Civil War? While it’s clear she’s done very well for herself while hiding in Madripoor, it seems like there is something else keeping her there. Is she perhaps the mysterious Power Broker?

    What are Sharon’s and Zemo’s true motives? what are the Flag Smashers planning? Who is Donya Madani, Sam and Bucky’s next clue to Karli Morganthau, the leader of the Flag Smashers, and is there a connection to agent Dinah Madani from Marvel’s The Punisher (doubtful)? Hopefully these questions, and more, will be answered next week.

  • Falcon and the Winter Soldier, “New World Order” and “The Star-Spangled Man” Review
    Falcon and the Winter Soldier via Facebook

    The world’s broken. Everyone’s just looking for someone to fix it.

    Months after half of Earth’s population was snapped back into existence due to the efforts of Iron Man and the Avengers, the world makes an effort to move on and find a new normal. Offered the role of the new Captain America by Steve Rogers himself, Sam Wilson aka The Falcon decides it’s best that the world not focus on empty symbols, but instead remember the men, like Steve, who gave those symbols weight. However, when new world order groups like the Flag Smashers come on the scene with enhanced abilities, the US government decides it’s time for a new Capt. America of their own choosing: All-American hero and veteran, John Walker.

    While Sam deals with the news of Steve’s replacement, Bucky Barnes aka the Winter Soldier is making an effort to fix the mistakes he made as Hydra’s assassin over the past century. In therapy and performing his own step-by-step program to make amends, Bucky’s world is shaken when he learns of Sam’s declining of Cap’s shield, and of John Walker. Begrudgingly following Sam on a mission to uncover the mystery behind the Flag Smasher’s enhanced abilities, they’re taken on a chase through Europe, struggling to work together, and run into even more problems when John Walker arrives on the scene with his hot shot sidekick, Battlestar aka Lemar Hoskins. Thoroughly beaten by the Flag Smashers, Bucky reveals to Sam a secret he’s kept about another enhanced soldier, much like Steve Rogers; Isaiah Bradley. 

    From the beginning, Falcon and the Winter Soldier presents itself less like a superhero or sci-fi show, like that of WandaVision, and more of a political and military thriller, like Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Its opening of Sam packing up Cap’s shield to bring to a donation ceremony to the Smithsonian carries the reverence of a veteran preparing for the memorial to a fallen comrade. But, if the tone wasn’t strong enough, Sam’s mission as the Falcon against French terrorist Batroc, previously seen in The Winter Soldier, carries the message home of what kind of show this is going to be.

    What is surprising, though perhaps it shouldn’t be, is how it approaches the topic of racism and economics after the Snap (I’m not calling it the Blip). We’re given a peek into Sam’s personal life and family as he travels back to New Orleans to be with his sister and nephews and handle the selling of their family’s fishing boat. Despite being a hero, an avenger, a military contractor, and meeting all of the requirements for a loan to help their business, they’re denied a loan for reasons of “the economy”, or more likely “being black”. However, this racism may not be apparent to some. The banker makes good points about the economy being in flux after billions of people were snapped back into existence and banks are making it even harder to apply for loans. So, to drive the point home about racism and the differences between white and Black America, we witness Sam and Bucky being harassed by police, presuming to check on Bucky’s “safety” because he and Sam were having an argument.

    With the introduction of Isaiah Bradley as one of the first Black superheroes, and the privileged status of John Walker’s Capt. America, who thinks Sam and Bucky should “stay out of [his] way” (seriously?), these themes of inequality and racial injustice are only going to become more apparent. Even the Flag Smashers, whatever their ultimate goals are, claim to act on the ideals of economic equality and fighting for the people who were abandoned by their government during the Snap, and are now even more desperate as the government tries to go back to the normal status quo of giving the lion’s share of resources and wealth to the wealthy and powerful.

    What is Isaiah Bradley’s story? Who are the Flag Smashers? Will John Walker succeed or fail in his role as the new Captain America, or will Sam pick up the shield? Hopefully, these questions and more will be answered in upcoming episodes.

  • “You’ll get through this”: Celebrities Helping Social Distancing
    Jodie Whitaker as The Doctor via Facebook

    Last week we talked about “The Office’s” John Krasinski and his new YouTube series, “Some Good News,” helping everyone who is social distancing by reporting only on the good news that is going on in our world today. While he’s still knocking it out of the park with this series (literally, as he treated some of Boston’s COVID-19 medical staff and Red Sox fans to a private trip to Fenway Park), there are so many other celebrities who are taking the time to reach out to us to remind us that things will be okay, and we are all in this together. Below are just examples of a few.

    Borderlands Science

    Gearbox Studio’s latest entry into the first person “shlooter” series “Borderlands,” is still running strong since it’s release in September 2019. Since it’s release, they’ve added new DLC’s, including an exciting return to the world of Handsome Jack, “Borderlands 2’s” fan-favorite villain. Another addition to the game is now allowing “Borderlands” players to help with real-world science with a small mini-game called “Borderlands Science.” “By playing ‘Borderlands 3,’ you can contribute to real-world scientific research,” says “Big Bang Theory”  actor, Ph.D. scientist, researcher, and your favorite person, Mayim Bialik in a short introduction to “Borderlands Science.” The mini-game itself is very similar to phone games like “Candy Crush” as you simply match the retro-style colors and pictures together until you hit the point goal and move on to the next level. It’s what the game does behind the scenes that brings the science into it. In an effort to organize the data of the 55% of foreign DNA in human bodies, the Microsetta Initiative is teaming up with Gearbox Studios and gamers like you. By organizing this open-source data, scientists can use this research for new breakthroughs in food, medicine, and more. So next time someone thinks you’re wasting time playing video games, tell them you’re engaging in real-world science.

    A Message from The Doctor

    “Oh! Hi! This is an emergency transmission,” begins Jodi Whitaker as The Thirteenth Doctor from the beloved BBC sci-fi show “Doctor Who.” “If you’re seeing this, then the TARDIS must have detected an upsurge of psychological signals from somewhere in space and time. Basically, I think someone somewhere might be a little bit worried.” Filming from her phone and posted on the official “Doctor Who” Twitter, dressed as The Doctor, Whitaker gave some tips to survive the social distancing and quarantine, and the message that “you’ll get through this.” She lists The Doctor’s own methods of self-isolation, or as she likes to call it, hiding, such as tell jokes, even bad ones, be kind, look out for each other, listen to science, and to stay strong, stay positive; you’ve got this.

    #ASonnetADay

    “Full many a glorious morning have I seen

    Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,

    Kissing with golden face the meadows green,

    Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;”

    Beloved and renowned actor, Sir Patrick Stewart, known for his roles as “Star Trek’s” Capt. Jean-Luc Piccard, “X-Men’s” Dr. Xavier, and an endless history of roles in films and plays, is taking the time to deliver to us #ASonnetADay. Working his way through playwright and poet William Shakespeare’s volumes of sonnets, Sir Stewart is using his naturally soothing voice and demeanor to deliver what many believe is food for the soul; poetry.

    Coldplay’s Chris Martin put on an Instagram Live mini-concert called #TogetherAtHome. Ellen Degeneres is updating us on her putting together a 4000 piece puzzle. Ryan Reynolds is reminding us that it’s the celebrities that will help us get through this, right after the healthcare professionals. Even actor Tom Hardy is reading and recording bedtime stories to play for kids. There are so many who are giving everything they can from their time to their financial support to help flatten the curve of COVID-19. In uncertain times like these, having sources of entertainment, comedy, poetry, and even gaming, are invaluable as we self-isolate to flatten the curve.

  • Final Fantasy 7 Remake: Review
    Final Fantasy 7 Remake via Facebook

    Hired by eco-warrior group AVALANCHE, mercenary Cloud Strife arrives in Midgar, a city run by the corrupt Shinra Corporation. Profiting from sucking the planet dry of Mako, an energy substance that serves to power their company and the city’s power grid, Shinra has no care for what its actions mean for the well being of the planet. With his friends and fellow AVALANCHE fighters, Cloud stands against Shinra’s fascist regime while uncovering the history of Mako, and the original inhabitants of the planet, the Ancients, who may hold the key to saving their world. 

    Originally launching in 1997, Square Soft’s Final Fantasy 7 has since been lauded as one of the best RPGs (role-playing games) ever made. Now, 23 years later, Square Enix has finally released the long-awaited remake of Cloud’s story for both veteran players of the Final Fantasy series, as well as new gamers who will be introduced to the city of Midgar for the first time. The reception to Final Fantasy 7: Remake has been one of enthusiasm and, so far, the game is being considered a resounding success. 

    While the original Final Fantasy 7 is a pop-culture favorite, now over 20 years later, the game is hindered by the limitations video games had in 1997. The character models looked like a hodgepodge of blocks with eyes and hair. The combat system was easy enough to play with but often left much to be desired in terms of flare. The maps of each level offered frustrating navigation when you couldn’t tell the difference between an inaccessible painted background and the door to the next level. Thankfully, Remake fixes all of that, and then some. 

    Even by the high standards of video games in 2020, Remake is a beautiful, master-crafted game and might be Square Enix’s best work to date. The city of Midgar, with its steam-punk upper city and shantytown lower city slums, looks amazing. Not only that but the city feels even more alive with people standing around talking, eating, and even remarking on your events as you play through the game. Despite its normal beauty, players can still be caught by surprise when entering Aerith’s garden full of flowers not seen throughout the rest of the slums. Square Enix has done such a superb job of making Midgar that while even changing 2D settings to dynamic 3D maps, the city still looks exactly as players have always known Midgar. Aside from longer alleys and maps, everything looks just as it did in 1997. There are even small details added to character designs of being able to see the individual materia (items that allow you to cast magic when equipped) in a character’s weapon, which add just a bit of cosmetic customization of what colors you want to showcase (I have Cloud with Mardi Gras colors of purple and green on the Buster Sword). 

    The combat system is vastly different from the original 1997 game, which was the standard JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) turn-based combat system. Remake has shifted its mechanics into a more action-focused style of fighting and button-mashing, with a small command menu that allows you to use spells and other abilities. It does offer a “classic” style of combat but as one of the few downsides of the game, this is misleading. Where many thought that “classic” would mean the original JRPG combat, this style just acts as kind of an auto-pilot, leaving Cloud to attack and dodge on his own while the player makes strategic decisions of when to use a spell or a summon. 

    One of the biggest changes to Remake, though, is the story itself, but not in the way you think. Though many gamers worried that remaking the beloved classic would change the game and story into something it’s not, Remake stays very true to Cloud’s original story, while taking intimate time to add substance and context to other parts of the story that the original never did, or never did in an overt way. For example, three of Cloud’s fellow AVALANCHE fighters, Jessi, Biggs, and Wedge, were nothing more than beloved, two-dimensional characters. Remake changes that, giving strong characteristics, backstory, and motivations as to why these eco-warriors are fighting to stop Shinra and save the planet. Other additions to the story set up some of the game’s future events and even throws new, mysterious hooded figures into the mix leaving even veteran players to speculate on who, or what, they are.

    It’s rare, though, for a game, as good as it is, to have no drawbacks, and Remake does have a few. While the action button-mashing combat is exciting and looks awesome, the camera angles can be frustrating. When locked on to an enemy, for instance, the camera can sometimes shift to behind a box or some other environmental detail that gets in the way of being able to see the fight. But, when not locked on, it can be frustrating rotating the camera yourself to find the enemy you’re trying to hit. Remake also misses an opportunity for some character customization. Sure, the characters in the original had their set outfits for the game, and the new and enhanced adaptations look amazing. But over the 23 years since the game’s original release, there have been multiple movies, game spin-offs, and even cameo appearances of these characters in other Square Enix games like Kingdom Hearts where Cloud and his friends had different outfits. I see little reason that these cosmetic outfits couldn’t be added to the game, at the very least for long-time players who’ve followed Cloud’s story over the last two decades, especially when the last game, Final Fantasy 15, had plenty of cosmetic items and outfits. Hopefully, this is something that could be added in Final Fantasy 7: Remake Part 2.

    Speaking of Part 2, there is still yet to be a confirmed release date for the next chapter of Cloud’s journey. While it was announced very early in development that Remake would tell the entirety of the Final Fantasy 7 story over multiple installments, and Remake itself has a completion run time of between over 40 hours, it’s frustrating to not be able to play the well known and loved story to completion. It’s only speculation at this point, but given the release timeline of past Square Enix games, we may not see Remake Part 2 until at least March 2021. Hopefully, Remake doesn’t take the Kingdom Hearts schedule and spend a decade between parts 2 and 3, with the mashing of other confusing games released in-between. 

    The best way to describe Final Fantasy 7: Remake is as if someone took your favorite movie and made a TV show adaptation of it. The adaptation stays true to the original film, but instead of a two-hour movie, it now has a ten-hour season to fill, and so it takes time to flesh out other characters and smaller parts of the story. Despite some of the small frustrations, of which they are tiny in comparison to the overall success of the game, Remake is Square Enix at its best and introduces Final Fantasy 7’s story to new fans, while bringing long-time veteran players back to standing beside Cloud to save the planet.

  • “I’m only delivering the good news. You ARE the good news.”: John Krasinski’s “Some Good News”
    John Krasinski's Some Good News via Facebook

    There’s no point in denying it; right now we are living in a scary time. While we can make jokes and share memes about Covid-19, it doesn’t change the fact that this is something that most of us, if not all of us, have never experienced. Even for those who grew up in a post-9/11 world and survivors of Hurricane Katrina had the hopeful perspective that there will be a tomorrow. With Covid-19, that kind of outlook gets a little fizzier day by day.

    Thankfully, there are those out there doing everything within their power to make sure we’re not only taken care of via healthcare, but emotionally. Teachers have gone to great lengths to make sure their students have what they need to finish their school year. Sports teams and celebrities are donating resources and money to medical professionals and affected families to survive the coming months. Even video game developers have added bonuses to their games to give old and new players a more fun experience, like Blizzard Entertainment offering a 100% Experience Bonus in their MMO World of Warcraft, or Gear Box increasing the drop rate of legendary items in Borderlands 3. All of this good news is being collected and delivered to us in a brand new YouTube series to help hold back the despair of the Covid-19 news cycle. 

    “Why is there not a news show dedicated entirely to good news?” wonders “The Office” and “Jack Ryan” star, and director of “A Quiet Place,” John Krasinski in the opening of his latest project, “Some Good News” on YouTube. “Without question, we are all going through an incredibly trying time. But, through all the anxiety, through all the confusion, the isolation, and all ‘The Tiger King,’ the human spirit still found a way to break through and blow us all away.”

    Krasinski’s “Some Good News” series is only two short episodes in, but it’s already succeeding in reporting on some of the most heart-warming events from around the globe. In his very first segment, after making a few jokes at himself and the DIY quality of his videos, he showcased social media posts and videos from Spain to London to right here in the USA of patients and ordinary civilians taking the time to show their appreciation and applaud the healthcare professionals who are working around the clock to save their lives (I’m starting to cry just while thinking about it). Another piece of good news Krasinski shared was the 15th anniversary of his beloved series “The Office,” and was joined by Some Good News Entertainment Correspondent Steve Carrell. But, as if sharing their funniest and most touching moments from “The Office” wasn’t enough of a show topper, Krasinski took time to interview Coco, a young girl who, on her return home from her last chemotherapy treatment, was welcomed back by her friends lining the streets and decorating their cars to celebrate her cancer remission. 

    Krasinski’s video was a huge success and he went on to make his second episode, sharing clips of fans who took his lead to create their own “Some Good News” segments. He continued his coverage of the support of healthcare professionals who received masks, medical gowns, and even protective face wear made by baseball and hockey equipment manufacturers, with some being delivered on the New England Patriots private jet, as well equipment made by students across the country. He quickly switched to his new weather correspondent, Robert De Niro, who reported that the weather “looks, uh, looks pretty good.” His last story, how young Aubrey couldn’t attend a cancelled “Hamilton” show, brought a surprise to the young fan when the entire cast of the smash Broadway musical (THE ENTIRE CAST) performed the opening song “Alexander Hamilton” via video conference. 

    The stories John Krasinski shares in this series may not be ground breaking or world changing, but they may change the world for one person, like Aubrey, or like his viewers. Only two weeks in and Some Good News already has 1.41 million subscribers and is trending in YouTube’s Top 3. 

    Humor my getting personal for a moment, but watching these videos was the first time I’ve cried tears of joy since this quarantine began. This comedy and bliss at seeing enormous acts by people like you and me just trying to fix a world gone mad has helped keep me sane. So far, videos are only premiering once a week, but I would willingly donate to a patreon to make them daily. Then, I’ve started rewatching “The Office” again. 

    As John Krasinski signs off, “No matter how dark it gets, there’s always some good in the world.”

  • Interview with Kristin Kavanaugh of Vitality Community Fitness
    Vitality Community Fitness via Facebook

    Located between two train tracks in Jefferson, La is a large, beige warehouse. Inside, you can find the walls covered with work-out equipment from weights to stationary bikes to punching bags, and music blaring a variation of music from N.W.A. to Brittany Spears. On a back wall, behind row and ski machines are three words; THIS SHIT WORKS. Welcome to Vitality by Kristen.

    “Vitality, since day one, has sought to build a community of true diversity. We do things differently,” says Kristin Kavanaugh, the gym’s founder and trainer. “We have an all-female coaching staff, we integrate beginners with seasoned pros, we do not push ‘diet culture.’ All of these things are ways we set ourselves apart from most of the fitness world. Health and wellness is not something that should be reserved for some and not others. We want everyone who has ever thought ‘I’m just not a gym person’ to walk through our doors and see people that look like them and maybe have felt that same way. We want those people to trust that our staff will be present with them from day one and meet them at whatever fitness level they are at today. Our community is warm and welcoming but also fun as hell!”

    Offering several training courses multiple times a day and throughout the week, Vitality’s work-out sessions are a blend of strength training and conditioning, cardio, and CrossFit. “I discovered CrossFit in 2012 and it was a game-changer. It reminded me of all my favorite sports teams and workouts combined.” Not only does Kavanaugh train her gym members with these exercises, but she pushes herself through the same work-outs. “I’ve become so aware of my own body and it has changed my workouts. I’ve gotten nutrition certifications and I’ve learned better ways to fuel myself to maximize my workouts. Customizing my meals and daily workouts to maximize my gains is basically a hobby for me. I love working out and I can’t see a life without some level of fitness!”

    A key element of Vitality is its open and welcoming nature to those on any stage of their fitness journey, beginners and pros, those who want to lose weight or just want to get healthier. “DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO ANYONE!” Kavanaugh encourages her members. “We work-out for ourselves. My favorite quote right now is ‘You don’t have to be good to start, but you do have to start to be good.’ It’s easy to pick ourselves apart if we feel ‘out of shape,’ but try to just take it day by day and accept little victories. For a while, the victory may just be that you showed up in the first place, and that is okay. Be proud of yourself more than you are ashamed. It may take practice, but it will change the experience and your life.”

    Despite mandates to practice social distancing amid the Covid-19 outbreak, Kristin and her team at Vitality are making efforts to keep their members working hard and to not lose steam over the coming weeks. “We have shut down our facility for the mandatory length of time. We have been in constant communication with our members through virtual remote training with scheduled classes Monday-Saturday offering weighted and weightless workouts. We have also let our members rent out equipment to take home for our weighted program,” says Kavanaugh. While these online sessions aren’t as intensive as their usual gym sessions, Vitality’s members are still working up a sweat and keeping healthy during the quarantine. “Even though it’s sad not to see our members in person through the week, I’m enjoying seeing them at their homes with their pets and loved ones. We are still getting that one on one connection via zoom! We are a strong community that will stick together. It’s been a stressful time in our community, but I know once we make it through this we will be stronger and smarter.”

  • Remembering Local Celebrity Brian Held
    Trey Plays with Brian Held via Facebook

    On March 17, 2020, New Orleans lost popular radio host and local celebrity Brian Held Jr. Together with co-hosts David “D-Squared” Ducorbier, and Sean “Skungy” Scrontino, they brought The Week in Geek Radio Show to life every Sunday night at 7 PM, sharing the latest news and gossip of pop-culture, interviewing actors, artists, cosplayers, and giving a voice to the “geeks” of New Orleans. Not only was Brian a radio show host, but could be found nearly everywhere when there was something geeky going down in New Orleans, either representing The Week in Geek or the popular Star Wars cosplay group, The 501st Legion, hosting panels and events, and often times doing all at once. 

    On March 22, David and Skungy hosted The Week in Geek without Brian by their side. To memorialize him, they gave Brian’s friends and loved ones the chance to call in and share their favorite memories of Brian. For an hour that Sunday night, cosplayers, gamers, LARPers (Live Action Roleplayers), authors, conventions goers, and friends called in, and instead of tears, there was laughter about their times with Brian. 

    “Brian was a person who would come and regale anyone who would listen with stories and jokes,” says Hillary DuPont, a mutual friend of ours who I spoke with after hearing about Brian’s passing. “He always had time to talk and share his experiences. He was a big influence on why I am a cosplayer. When I got engaged I told him and he was super excited. I asked him to marry my husband and me and he happily agreed. I made sure to see him at every local con I could go to. He was like an older brother to me. I will miss him dearly.”

    I remember when I first started trying to make it as a journalist five years ago. The guys at The Week in Geek Radio Show, Brian, David, and Skungy, were a huge source of support. I have social anxiety, so going to fan conventions can be difficult. At nearly every convention I went to, The Week in Geek table had become a place of support. Whenever I was nervous about interviewing someone, these guys were there to give me advice, encouragement, or we’d just chat about the fandoms we loved most. I have some footage from one of the earlier conventions I’d visited and I somehow let the camera keep rolling after I’d spoken with Brian. For the next five minutes, while the camera was pointed at our feet, it recorded Brian giving me advice about how to interview people, good ways to get their attention, the kinds of questions to ask, all to help me on my journey. I ran into Brian so many times after that at conventions and movie premieres. We even coincidently bought seats right next to each other for “Avengers: Endgame so we got to enjoy the movie with friends. 

    Brian was larger than life. He was always happy to see you, take a selfie with you, and to support you. Geeks everywhere have lost a powerful voice. New Orleans radio has lost a great host. The New Orleans geek community has lost a dear friend. 

  • Doctor Who Season 12: Review
    Doctor Who via Facebook

    The BBC’s 57-year-old science fiction series “Doctor Who” ended its 12th season of “New Who” with its 13th Doctor played by Jodi Whitaker. Investigating strange extraterrestrial signals coming from Earth, the Doctor and her new fam’ of Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tasin Cole), and Graham (Bradley Walsh), find themselves entangled in the sinister plot of the Doctor’s oldest friend and enemy, the Master (Sasha Dhawan). Narrowly escaping with their lives, the Doctor is left a final message from the Master that forces her to question everything she knows about her people, the Time Lords, and her own memories. Searching for answers, the Doctor and fam’ travel through time, going on adventures with historical figures like Mary Shelley, Thomas Edison, and Nikola Tesla. 

    This latest season of “Doctor Who,” led by showrunner Chris Chibnal, offered its viewers a wide range of adventures through space and time that didn’t have everything in the universe at stake in every episode. Being able to breathe from one dire episode to another made the show feel more fun, and most of all let Jodi Whitaker’s Doctor have more room to play to her strengths; her enthusiastically geeky moments when meeting historical figures like Tesla and Shelley. This Doctor is such a nerd and is so much fun to watch as she travels from place to place genuinely excited to be there. But this season also gave Whitaker opportunities to play the more dramatic role of the Doctor as she dealt with somber issues of her own identity. 

    With the Master’s return, this season dances around the line of an overdone gimmick and a welcome classic aspect of the series. Just as the Doctor always finds a way to survive at the last moment, escaping whatever danger may be facing them, so too does the Master and surviving whatever scheme they throw at the Doctor. Having the Doctor and Master locked in their battle of intellect is as fundamental to “Doctor Who” as Batman and the Joker or Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty. But Dhawan’s performance of the Master was sometimes lacking. The strength of his character is a strength he’s carried in a number of his other roles in “Iron Fist” or “Sherlock;” a strong, imposing figure, a softly, but confidently, spoken villain. But his moments of whimsy and craziness felt very forced as if he was trying to recapture the madness of John Simm’s Master from 2007. 

    This season also had a very obvious message it was trying to convey to the audience on the subject of climate change, specifically in two episodes. In “Orphan 55,” the Doctor and fam’ travel to a possible future of Earth where humans have evolved into monstrous biped predators living in an ashen wasteland, ravaged by climate change from a world government who chose to do nothing to save their planet. In another episode, “Praxeus,” they discover a microscopic virus made of plastic particles infecting people and turning them to dust when they come into contact with a massive plastic waste heap floating in the ocean. While this message is strong and should be taken more seriously than the flu or a presidential scandal, the end messages of these episodes felt slightly shoehorned in. However forced, taking up a good cause like climate change or social justice is what the Doctor has always done, at least in the New Who that began in 2005. 

    Where we last left the Doctor, she’d somehow found herself in trouble with another group of aliens and her fam’ stranded back on Earth with her TARDIS. We may have to wait until the next Christmas Special to find out how she’ll escape and get back to Earth, but hopefully, we’ll be traveling with her a lot sooner.

  • Audubon Soul Fest: Great Food, Great Music
    Audubon Soul Fest 2020 via Facebook

    If you found yourself stuck in traffic on Magazine Street this weekend, it was for good reason. On Saturday and Sunday, March 7th through 8th, the Audubon Zoo celebrated its 17th annual Soul Fest that celebrates African American Culture. Centered around Audubon Zoo’s Capital One stage, between the Audubon Tea Room and the Sea Lion Exhibit, New Orleans locals filled the field with fold-out chairs and blankets with their entire families to enjoy the festival. The stage hosted jazz and soul musical guests such as The New Orleans Horns Show and Dance Band, Sierra Green & The Soul Machine, and The Nayo Jones Experience. In between musical performances, guests could visit a number of organization tables, gift vendors, and especially food vendors, if they were willing to wait in line as it seemed EVERYONE was excited to try out the various offerings of New Orleans’ Soul Food from vendors like Cafe’ Dauphine, Down Home Creole Cookin’, and Palmer’s Cuisine. 

    “I love the fest! The zoo is a beautiful place,” says Dinah Campbell, a long time Soul Festival attendee. “My family has a food vendor and we’ve been here since day one, Palmer’s Cuisine, and we have the jerk chicken, the Caribbean fish, the jambalaya, and the red beans and rice, and we’ve been in the festival since 2005 when it first started.” 

    An obviously strong aspect of the Soul Fest is its focus on the New Orleans’ African American culture of the festival and its intertwining with the natural world. During the festival, the zoo remained open for its regular hours, allowing guests to take their own excursions to visit some of their favorite animals of the Audubon Zoo. “It’s a great place to come with family. You get to take advantage of going into the zoo, then when you walk around and look at the animals you can enjoy the festival where there’s great food, great activities, and wonderful organizations,” continues Campbell. 

    Campbell wasn’t just attending the Soul Fest as a guest, or even with her family’s food vendors, but was running a table and recruiting new members for her organization The New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network. “We try to showcase businesses that are multicultural, African American, Latino, Asian businesses and give them a chance to serve tourists coming in. The majority of the time, they’re directed to Bourbon St. or Canal St. Whether it be for a wedding, family reunion, or girls’ trip, if they want different services, they can find out about our merchants here and give businesses that are multicultural a chance to work with the tourists.”

    Many other businesses and organizations like Dinah’s populated the edges of the festival grounds, but the real excitement was happening among the guests. Those who had initially staked their claim on the grass with fold-out chairs were now dancing with neighbors of every culture that New Orleans has to offer. Campbell is correct in the Audubon Zoo being such a perfect location for this kind of festival. Year-round, the  Audubon Institute shares with its guests the different animals of the world and their natural habitats. In turn, Soul Fest manages to show the animals what humans are like in their natural habitat of good music, good food, and even better company. 

  • Wakanda Moon: Cosplay is for Everyone!
    Wakanda Moon via Facebook

    Diversity and representation of minority groups are on the rise in pop-culture, though not as fast as we’d like it to be. Despite successful films such as “Black Panther” and “Get Out,” the majority of film and television are filled with more white actors than actors of color. Even roles intended for actors of color are often portrayed by white actors, much to the disappointment of the film’s potential fanbase. In spite of such low representation, however, people of minority groups are finding ways to stand up to the white-washing of Hollywood and express the change they want to see in the world; people like cosplayers Sailor Uru and Sailor Adamantium of Wakanda Moon.

    “The Wakanda Moon concept came to Sailor Uru in the fall of 2018. She really wanted to do something for Wizard World in New Orleans and wanted to create something unique,” says Sailor Adamantium. “At the time she was obsessed with the movie ‘Black Panther.’ She was really impressed by the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s army of female warriors.” While King T’challa’s Black Panther alter ego, played by Chadwick Boseman, was introduced in Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War,” “Black Panther” introduced Wakanda’s royal guard, the Dora Milaje, led by Okoye played by “The Walking Dead’s” Danai Gurira. “While their bald heads, tribal markings, and impeccable details were impressive, [Uru] really loved how in-depth their style matched their personalities,” continues Adamantium. “She thought about other strong female warriors that she could mash this idea with and immediately the scouts of ‘Sailor Moon’ came to mind.”

    The African inspiration is apparent in Wakanda Moon’s costumes, such as the tribal face-paint, chokers, and the bright colored fabric of their skirts. On their chests sit a large bow of similar color to each of their costumes, similar to that of the Sailor Scouts from the anime “Sailor Moon.” On their shoulders are pieces of metal armor of different colors based on their cosplay identities. “When picking names, we searched the web for strong powerful metal elements within the Marvel Universe,” says Adamantium. “After reading about elements such as Uru and Adamantium, it was only fitting that we take on these identities.” 

    Though the Black Panther fights with the help of enhanced abilities and armor, the Dora Milaje are less equipped but manage to fight alongside their king due to their training and ferocity. “[The Dore Milaje] exude such poise and confidence which inspires us as Black women. It is so refreshing to have this representation to look upon for inspiration and pride in the cosplay community.”

    Wakanda Moon took home awards from the Wizard World New Orleans Cosplay Contest in January of 2020. Though their unique style deserves praise, Uru and Adamantium hope to show people more than their awards. “The biggest message is love! We want to be able to hug the world one day. How do we do that? We aren’t quite sure but we will continue to move to inspire other people of color, like ourselves, to give themselves permission to try it out. You’ll be surprised by the love you receive from many loving geeks who support you. COSPLAY IS FOR EVERYONE!!!”

  • Floats and Throws: A Mardi Gras Survival Guide
    Krewe of Chewbacchus Mardi Gras Parade via Facebook

    Night after night Mardi Gras parades fill the streets of New Orleans, often bringing the city’s functionality to a halt. Though Mardi Gras can be one of the biggest parties of the year, it can also bring the biggest headaches if you don’t know how to navigate the ins and outs of the revelry. By following the advice from past Mardi Gras veterans, you can make the best of your Mardi Gras holiday.

    #1. Parade Tracker App

    “Don’t assume mardi gras is just on bourbon street,” says Melissa Miller, a hotel and tourism professional. While Bourbon St. is infamous for its revelry, there are parade tracker apps that can guide you to all of the other parades around the city. The three most common ones are the WDSU Parade Tracker, the WWL Mardi Gras Parade Tracker, and the Fox 10 Float Tracker. Not only do these let you track where the parade is, but it shows you the route, schedule, and theme of the parade ahead of time, as well as predicted weather. “Don’t assume mardi gras is just on bourbon street,” says Melissa Miller, a hotel and tourism professionals. While Bour

    #2. Before Going to the Parade

    Never [wear] flip flops!” urges New Orleans local Kelley Chauvin. You’ll want to pack light for the parade, but you’re going to be walking and standing for a long time, sometimes through mud,  so you’ll want to wear comfortable and safe shoes. Cargo shorts or pants, depending on weather, or a simple string backpack is perfect to store your belongings and beads. If you can, only bring your ID, credit/debit card, and some cash, and store it in a wallet or in the casing of your phone. If you can, bring a folding chair with you so you can take a rest from time to time during the night. While you want to stay hydrated, you may want to forego eating anything heavy before the parade as most bathrooms along the parade route will either be closed or for customers only, leaving you only with a port-o-potty, which no one wants to use. 

    #3. Going to the Parade

    Nearly all of New Orleans’ 300k population will be going to these parades so you want to make sure you get there before they do. Make sure to leave no less than two hours early. Parade traffic builds up quickly and parking is truly a nightmare. In fact, in spite of surge pricing around parade time, it might be best to take an Uber or Lyft, or at the very least get a ride so you’re not the one who has to worry about driving and parking. 

    #4. At the Parade

    “Don’t cross the parade line!” says Mariah Sinclair, a long time veteran of Mardi Gras. Stay on the sidewalk or the neutral ground. While the crowds may push and overflow onto the street, even stepping in front of people who were already there, it’s safest to stay off the street for both yourself and the parade. Marching bands and dance groups need the room to perform, and police will push you back where the crowds need to be. “Don’t pick the beads up from the street,” suggests Michelle Shambly, a New Orleans local. While it’s mostly frowned upon to pick up beads off the street, the main concern is cleanliness and hygiene. But, if there’s a really good parade throw on the ground that looks clean enough, you should make the decision for yourself if you want to pick it up. 

    #5. Be Kind

    Don’t get pushy. Be nice, be courteous, apologize if you bump into someone, and recognize that everyone feels just as cramped as you do. Letting tempers flare over a few accidental nudges will not only ruin everyone’s experience, but the ensuing fights can land you in jail. “Don’t expose your boobs for plastic beads you can buy anywhere,” warns UNO Master’s Graduate Grecia Medina. While there is a reinforced stereotype of lewd behavior from both men and women in return beads, these actions can often get you arrested for indecent exposure. As proud of your body as you should be, this isn’t the time or place to showcase your beauty. Finally, don’t get greedy. There are dozens of parades over the near month-long Mardi Gras season. You will have ample time to get more than your fair share of beads. Also, you don’t want tons of heavy bags of plastic beads taking up space in your home, hotel, or luggage. Catch a few good pieces, especially if they’re unique medallions or thrown by the celebrity King or Queen of each parade, but give the rest of your loot away. This will endear you to the people around you, as well as stop you from becoming overburdened with cheap plastic things you could easily buy in any tourist shop.

    Mardi Gras is my favorite holiday because it’s such a unique experience every year. Instead of doing the standard hangouts at bars or cafes, you get to go to one of the biggest lock parties in the world with your friends and leave with an experience like no other place in the world could give you. 

    Mardi Gras 2020 has had some tragic events. It’s spread an ill feeling over the whole season. It’s also reminded me of some other survival tips that I perhaps should have put in the first draft of this survival guide. So, as it’s Lundi Gras and tomorrow is the big day, here are a few more tips that may keep you and your loved ones safe this Mardi Gras. 

    #6 Don’t Stand in the Street

    Entire streets are closed off for parades, and it can be a fun and surreal experience to walk up and down Veterans and St. Charles, enjoying the huge block party before the parades. Once the parades are rolling, though, please stay on the curb, the sidewalk, or the neutral ground (median). Floats often vary in size, so you’re never sure how much of the street they will take up when they pass, so just to be safe, stay off of the street. 

    #7 Don’t Approach the Floats

    Most parades have between 10 and 20 floats or more. You may be tempted to get closer to the floats with hopes of getting more throws, but please don’t do this. Floats are big, loud, and riders can only throw and give out so many items. If you feel you’re not getting enough throws, don’t worry, you will get more throws over the month long season. And if you don’t, it’s not that big of a deal as once you get home, you’re just going to put your loot in a bag somewhere and never do anything with it. Enjoy the parade, catch what is thrown, and calm down. 

    #8 Seriously, don’t Stand in the Street

    You really should not be standing in the street. While standing in the street puts you in danger, it also can be a risk for the various bands, dancers, and marching crews. Often these groups have chaperones who follow alongside them, telling people to back up so these crews have space to perform. If they ask you to step back once, adjust where you’re standing and enjoy the performance. If you’re CONSTANTLY being asked to step back, maybe you should sit parades out until you know how to listen to instructions. 

    #9 Don’t Rush the Floats

    If the parade stops for any reason, don’t use this as an opportunity to approach the floats begging for more beads and toys. Mardi Gras is already a crowded event, so forming a mosh pit for the chance to get shoes, purses, coconuts, or any other throws puts both yourself and those riding in floats at risk. It’s also just bad form. Stay on the side and catch throws as they come. If not catching these items will literally ruin your life, perhaps you should look into joining these krewes and/or make them yourselves. 

    #10 DON’T STAND IN THE STREET

    I cannot say this enough. There is little reason you should be in the street during a Mardi Gras parade. Chaperones tell you to stand back for a reason. Float riders throw things away from the floats for a reason. If you are right up against a float, it puts everyone around you in danger, and no parade loot is worth getting hurt over. If you HAVE to cross the street during the parade, wait until there is a sizable gap between floats and walking groups, then quickly and safely cross the street, but even this I would advise against. 

    Mardi Gras is a fun activity that can be for the whole family. However, some behavior is not only looked down upon as bad form, but also puts yourself and others in danger. Someone being hurt at a parade is no small deal. Even if you aren’t hurt, knowing someone was killed due to bad parade behavior just half a mile away sits with you. Recognize this bad behavior and adjust. This will keep you and your loved ones safe, as well as ensure you will all have a happy Mardi Gras. 

  • Chewbacchus Celebrates 10 Years of Roaring Wookies

    Saturday night, New Orleanians began the Mardi Gras season with dancing space princesses, stomping snow beasts, and roaring Wookies. The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus had the honor of being the first parade of the season and they did not disappoint. This wasn’t just any Mardi Gras season for Chewbacchus as they celebrated their 10th year of rolling. Their theme for this anniversary was “The Roar of the Wookie!”

    Despite having a huge number of krewe members, Chewbacchus is still regarded as one of the smaller Mardi Gras parades as it doesn’t have many elaborate floats or beads and throws that parade-goers expect to see at most of the other Mardi Gras parades. What Chewbacchus does have is a large enrollment in its krewe as any creative fandom group is welcome to join the parade as long as they meet the qualifications set by the krewe’s organizers. In place of floats, you instead see smaller contraptions of droids, Daleks, aliens, and monsters pulled by a bicycle. While you may not leave the parade with a dozen pounds of beads hanging around your neck, you will definitely get some of their more unique Mardi Gras throws like handmade patches, stickers, toys, and other light-up gadgets.

    The Krewe of Chewbacchus’ first year rolling in Mardi Gras was in 2011. A smaller parade than it is today, their overall theme sci-fi and other fandoms stand in stark contrast to the other parades in New Orleans. While many parades are named after various figures from history and myth like Bacchus and Poseidon, Chewbacchus is named for Chewbacca, Han Solo’s stalwart companion throughout the “Star Wars” saga. The various small groups that make up the krewe take inspiration from as many pop culture and geek fandoms you can think of, from “Star Wars” to “Lord fo the Rings” all the way to “Doctor Who.” 

    However, since this IS carnival season, these different fandoms take on lives of their own as krewe members take creative liberties by combining some of their favorite things like “Star Wars” and “Pokemon.” They also take inspiration from other groups like the 610 Stompers, but in this case it’s the 610 Wampas, another reference to “Star Wars.”  

    As Chewbacchus’ 10th year parading seemed like their biggest celebration of geek and pop-culture yet, the krewe has had its share of bumps along the way. In 2016 after the death of national treasure and beloved Princess-turned-General Leia Carrie Fisher, Chewbacchus was met with some local blowback in their effort to organize a second-line in her honor, a parade in itself often taking place after a funeral as mourners grieve the loss of their loved one. Many in the city felt that the geek parade’s memorial of Fisher was cultural appropriation. Then, in 2017, a mural depicting Princess Leia painted on the warehouse owned by Chewbacchus by L.A. graffiti artist Muck Rock was vandalized and covered in green paint. 

    Despite these controversies, Chewbacchus puts on a fantastic show each year and their enthusiasm is only rivaled by the hundreds of parade-goers who line streets eager to see what the krewe has in store. 

  • Physical Games in a Digital World: The Fall of GameStop?
    Game Stop via Facebook

    A popular meme features a picture of dozens of video game cases and various gaming consoles with the text “GameStop be like ‘We can give you $1.99’” But, just as in sarcasm, there is a kernel of truth to this joke. The nationwide video game retailer GameStop is infamous for offering low trade-in value for games and consoles when gamers feel like they should be offered more, either in-store credit or cold hard cash. Despite these practices, GameStop has managed to keep its throne as the world’s largest video game retail store. However, due to the evolution of the video game industry, GameStop’s place at the top might not be as stable as it once was. 

    From the earliest game of Pong developed in 1958 to the newest games of 2020, the video game industry has gone through plenty of changes from the ways games are made to how they are sold. Where once video game characters were created as 16-bit squares, now they have popular actors in motion capture suits bringing those characters to life. Gamers used to frequent GameStop’s numerous locations to buy physical copies of their games, but now with digital stores offered on nearly all gaming consoles and devices, gamers appear to be buying more digital copies of games than physical.

    Over the past year, GameStop has closed nearly 200 stores nationwide, including their Canal St. location in New Orleans, LA, right across the street from the French Quarter. These closings are due to a number of stores underperforming in sales. These poor sales seem to be the cause of a number of reasons, as some gamers refuse to shop there due to its culture of pushing pre-order sales, unsatisfactory trade-in offers, and the shift to more digital sales. 

    “I think there should always be a physical retail outlet for games,” says UNO graduate student Allyson Langhoff. “Consoles are becoming more accommodating. I can see why this is happening.” Though GameStop’s closures are for a number of reasons, the easy access to digital stores via consoles or services like Steam on PCs is giving gamers easy access to their favorite games without worrying about the trip to GameStop or care and storage for a physical copy of their game. However, when looking deeper into the issue of physical copies vs. digital copies, a more balanced divide becomes clear.

    Fifty gamers were asked whether they preferred physical copies or digital copies when purchasing their games and why and the answers came to a complete tie with twenty-five preferring physical and twenty-five preferring digital. The twenty-five gamers who preferred buying digital cited reasons such as having less physical clutter, ease of access from switching from one game to another without having to change the disc, and efforts to “go green” and not produce as much plastic waste. Gamers who continue to buy physical copies enjoyed owning collector’s editions, displaying the games on their shelves, and fear of not being able to play a digital title due to poor wifi or the network being down completely. “Personally, I like having the physical copy best because it feels more secure. With digital copies, I’m always afraid something will go wrong and I’ll lose my game progress,” says Langhoff, throwing her support to the physical games side of the argument.

    Fortunately for GameStop, physical copies of games and trade-ins are only one part of what the store has to offer. It still serves as the best place to shop for gaming accessories, carrying cases, controls, memory cards, and even gaming apparel and collectibles like the phenomenally popular Pop! Funko figures. GameStop hopes to end its store closings by March of 2020. By focusing on sales in their most successful stores and changing some aspects of its sales culture, GameStop has a strong chance of holding on to its throne as the world’s largest and most successful video game retailer. 

  • Netflix’s “Dracula” Sucks the Life from its Audience
    Netflix's Dracula via Facebook

    When it was announced that Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat were reuniting to bring the classic story of Dracula to the small screen, fans were excited for a new series from the former “Sherlock” showrunners. Running from 2010-2017, “Sherlock” amassed one of the largest and most devoted fan bases to date. The modern adaptation reintroduced the famous detective Sherlock Holmes and his partner in deduction Dr. John Watson as they solved murders around London while trying to stop the infamous criminal mastermind James Moriarty. Unfortunately, Sherlock’s series finale left the “Sherlock” fandom adrift in a sea of melancholy, so a new series from the same creators was a glimmer of hope. Sadly, that hope was misplaced.

    Premiering on Netflix in early January, 2020, “Dracula” adapts the story of Bram Stoker’s 1897 gothic horror story of the brilliant and deadly vampire, Dracula. Arriving under the guise of assisting the reclusive Count Dracula to sell his Transylvanian castle before he ventures to the new world of England, he quickly becomes Dracula’s latest victim as his life and blood is slowly drained, reinvigorating Dracula. Finding the case of Jonathan Harker and his experience with Dracula fascinating, Sister Agatha Van Helsing investigates Dracula in Transylvania and his escape to the shores of England. With their fates now intertwined, Van Helsing’s descendant, Dr. Zoe Van Helsing, attempts to continue her work and prepare for Dracula’s return to the modern day world.

    “I thought the use of dreamlike states and important reveals was handled really nicely,” says UNO graduate student Chad Hopkins. “The acting was much better than I thought it’d be, and it managed to portray a homosexual relationship faily respectfully. Not perfect, but better than most.” While many enjoyed a number of aspects of “Dracula,” to others it felt like slow, dull narrative that leaves its viewers drained of life, much like Dracula’s own victims. 

    Netflix’s “Dracula” only adds a few new, fresh aspects to the classic Dracula story, overall, it’s the same tale we’ve seen before. It’s one saving grace comes in the character of Sister Agatha Van Helsing played by Dolly Wells. Similar to Anthony Hopkins’ Prof. Abraham Van Helsing in the 1992 film “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” Agatha Van Helsing steals the show in every one of her scenes with her quick wit, snarky comebacks to the manipulative vampire, and her ingenious MacGyver like methods of keeping the creature of the night at bay. The decision to cast a woman as the popular vampire hunter isn’t surprising from Moffat and Gatiss, as they’ve at least attempted to promote women in their casting of past shows like “Sherlock” or “Doctor Who,” but their choices often feel like mansplaining to its viewers, such as in “Sherlock’s” “The Abominable Bride” where Sherlock explained feminism to a group of female feminists. 

    Outside of the character of Van Helsing, the rest of the series is a drag focusing on the uninteresting title character of Count Dracula. With each episode spanning around 90 minutes, the slow narrative focuses on telling its audience how manipulative, ingenious, and seductive he is, but these characteristics are rarely shown in Claes Bang’s Count Dracula. Where “Sherlock’s” 90 minute episodes on Sherlock and Watson working to solve the crime, seeing their methods and watching them connect the dots, all we see of Dracula’s manipulations are the aftereffects and the unearned fear it instills in his future victims. The few moments and twists that do take place throughout the story are thrown away shortly after their introduction, like the 2020 institute studying Dracula’s blood contagion in preparation for his inevitable return. This was one of the most interesting and new aspects to the story, and is quickly ended when Dracula’s lawyer shows up, played by show creator Mark Gatiss. Once Dracula is free and clear from the institute, it’s back to being told how awesome Dracula is, when he is in fact not.

    It may be unfair to compare Netflix’s “Dracula” to “Sherlock.” It’s simply difficult to understand how the creators of a brilliant adaptation of the world’s greatest detective would create a dulled adaptation of the world’s greatest vampire. Thankfully, “Dracula’s” slow pacing is briefly lifted by the brilliance and snark of Sister Van Helsing, but even that isn’t enough to make the 90 minutes of each episode feel like a never ending vacation slideshow of how cool Dracula is supposed to be.

  • The 501st Legion at Wizard World New Orleans: “We all help each other out”
    The 501st Legion via Facebook

    Wizard World New Orleans marks both the end and the beginning of the New Orleans Comic Con circuit. Usually taking place the first weekend of Jan., this year Jan. 3-5, 2020, Wizard World New Orleans is one of, if not the biggest, comic convention taking place in New Orleans. Every year it fills the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center with shop tables, board games, fandom panels, and, one of the biggest draws, celebrities. In the past, Wizard World New Orleans has hosted legends like Stan Lee, Peter Mayhew, Bruce Campbell, and even a number of the Marvel Cinematic Universe cast such as “Captain America” Chris Evans and New Orleans’ own “Falcon” Anthony Mackie. This year saw much of the cast from “Smallville,” the Superman prequel series. Visitors had the chance to meet some of their favorite characters like Erica Durance, who played Lois Lane, Michael Rosembaum who portrayed Lex Luther, and even Superman himself, Tom Welling. But what really gets fans excited for this convention is the cosplay.

    Cosplay, a combination of costume and play, sees cosplayers, designing, building, and wearing costumes portraying their favorite characters across pop-culture. While it’s a hobby for many, a number of cosplayers have found enough success and popularity to make a career out of cosplay and convention appearances. All cosplays are different, though. Many cosplayers strive to work toward film accuracy, even using the same materials used by costume designers for the official films. But other cosplayers take more creative freedoms, mixing fantasy and science fiction characters, genres, and even creating pin-up style costumes. 

    While solo cosplayers wander the show floor posing for pictures, other cosplay organizations have their own tables set promoting the group’s cosplays, events they have attended in the past, and even promoting charity organizations. “We are generally a costuming a group but we focus on charity and community programs, so we support charities, cancer walks, any kid groups and organizations, a lot of school events, and conventions. In this case, we’re raising money for The Peter Mayhem Foundation,” says Kevin Bachemin, the Commanding Officer for the Bast Alpha Garrison of the 501st Legion in Louisiana. 

    The 501st Legion has a long history of cosplaying dating back to their founding in Aug. 1997. According to their website, “… The Legion seeks to promote interest in Star Wars through the building and wearing of quality costumes, and to facilitate the use of these costumes for Star Wars-related events as well as contributions to the local community through costumed charity and volunteer work…” 

    The 501st’s table held pamphlets with information about upcoming events, 

    “One of the primary drivers of the 501st is the screen and film accuracy,” says Bachemin. “A number of our California members were in “The Mandalorian,” and we’ve had members who have been in some of the films as extras, so they come with that kind of screen accuracy. We look like we can be on the screen because we have been.” Behind Bachemin were other members of the 501st, dressed as different stormtroopers, standing in front of a backdrop simulating a hallway in an imperial star destroyer. They posed for pictures with other “Star Wars” fans, and even let con-goers try to shoot them with nerf-guns.

    “Get to know the community. Get to know the people, a lot of our folks are very friendly, knowledgeable, and have been through costume builds for all the Star Wars groups,” said Bachemin, gesturing to a number of other tables in the area. While the 501st cosplayers were dressed as imperial stormtroopers, other subgroups had cosplayers dressed as characters from Disney+’s recent show “The Mandalorian.” Another was a mix of Rebel and Resistance fighters and Jedi Knights wielding differently colored lightsabers, the iconic weapon for the Jedi Order. “A lot of members will sometimes have groups that will get together to have costume parties. Once you have the materials, we’ll help out. We have a lot of resources. We all work well together. We all help each other out.”

  • Cute, Baby Yoda Is

    Jon Favreau’s latest show, “The Mandalorian” on Disney+, is already shaping up to be a strong entry into the “Star Wars” canon. Taking place between Episode VI “Return of the Jedi” and Episode VII “The Force Awakens,” “The Mandalorian” follows the adventures of a mysterious and skilled bounty hunter simply known as the Mandalorian. During one particularly difficult bounty, he discovers his objective is to retrieve a child of a mysterious species and hand it over to holdouts of the defeated Galactic Empire. Finding a source of empathy, the Mandalorian chooses to escape with the child and go into hiding until he can ensure its safety. While the premise of the space-western genre with gun-slinger with a rough exterior looking after an innocent and learning to love along the way is a bit cliche, “The Mandalorian” still manages to keep things interesting, action-packed, and intricately simple. But, the quality of the show isn’t what’s catching everyone’s attention.

    The child the Mandalorian is protecting is ADORABLE. The child, who fans have dubbed Baby Yoda, is probably the cutest thing since Baby Groot in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” and fans cannot get enough of him. Despite the series only being four episodes into its first season, posts and memes about Baby Yoda have flooded the internet on social media, Reddit, gifs, and he already has his own memes. Baby Yoda has even replaced Kermit in the “Kermit sipping tea” meme and the cat in the “woman yelling at a cat” meme. Even though the Baby Yoda’s name isn’t accurate, as Yoda died in “Return of the Jedi” (pushes up glasses), anyone who has spent even a minute checking their email on the internet has become familiar with the character. But what do we actually know about him?

    Baby Yoda is from a species that is still a mystery in the “Star Wars” canon. After some research, it is the fifth member of its race that we’ve seen, following Jedi Master Yoda from the entire “Star Wars” saga, Master Yaddle from Episode I “The Phantom Menace,” Master Vandar from the RPG “Knights of the Old Republic,” and Master Oteg from the MMORPG “The Old Republic.” Despite this handful of characters that have been present in multiple “Star Wars” titles ranging from 1980 to the present, there are only a few details available on this short, green, force-sensitive race. There is no name, no planet of origin, no information about its culture, or even what they like to eat, aside from seeing Baby Yoda capturing and eating frogs whole. What we do know is that their lifespan can last to almost 1,000 years, and their species is apparently strong in the force, as all the members we’ve been introduced to have been Jedi Masters, aside from Baby Yoda, who we’ve seen is able to use the Force, even at his young age of 50. According to “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, Yoda’s species was meant to remain a mystery, adding some unknown mysticism to the character. This could just be an excuse, however, for Lucas to not have to flesh out another alien race. 

    Baby Yoda is not the first adorable member of the “Star Wars” galaxy. Throughout the films, books, TV series, and video games, we’ve met Jawas, Ewoks, Porgs, Lothcats, and even the droid BB-8, which have all been met with varying degrees of acceptance. There have been some fans who have been enraged by the cute races of the galaxy far, far away, considering them nothing more than a cheap form of fan service and toy marketing. However, most fans, new and old, have been able to take some delight in these creatures while still loving “Star Wars” for the epic science-fantasy saga that it is.

  • Top 3 Video Games of the Decade
    Red Dead Redemption 2 via Facebook

    The past decade of video games has seen mishaps such as companies getting greedy with loot boxes and games not living up to promises made by developers. But this decade has also produced some amazing games. Before we enter the new roaring 20s, let’s take a look back at the top 3 games of the last decade. 

    (This list is my own opinion based on the games I’ve played.)

    3. ‘Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,’ Bethesda 2011

    As the Dragonborn of legend, you must discover the meaning behind the return of dragons, while a civil war rages across Skyrim. Bethesda’s 5th entry into their “Elder Scrolls” franchise, “Skyrim” takes players through an intricate narrative of war, magic, and heroism. However, players also have the option to skip the story and do whatever they want. They can lie, steal, cheat, and kill almost anyone they want to, but must also face the consequences. Skyrim offers something extra, as well, in the form of game moderations (mods). Bethesda opened up the world of Skyrim, allowing gamers to create their own content such as weapons, armor, characters, and new quests, using the same assets used to create the original game. I use mods that keep me from dying, so I can have a smooth ride and explore the world without worrying about survivability. 

    2. ‘Mass Effect 2,’ Bioware 2010

    Humanity is under attack. As Commander Shepard, you must assemble the best operatives the Milky Way has to offer and take the fight to the Reapers. BioWare’s “Mass Effect 2” continues the story of Shepard and his fight against the biggest threat the galaxy has ever faced. Similar to most of BioWare’s games, players are given control of who they want their character to be. They can choose their look, background, class, and make noble decisions, paragon, or more rebellious decisions, renegade, throughout the series that will affect the world around them in different, oftentimes unforeseen, ways. Where “ME2” excels in is its characters. In order to complete the mission, Shepard gathers the most skilled individuals in the galaxy, regardless of race or planet of origin, who all come with their own strengths, weaknesses, and histories. Add that to some polished gameplay mechanics and an epic soundtrack, and “Mass Effect 2” offers an incredible gaming experience that can be replayed either with the same decisions or totally new ones. I usually play my Shepard as a paragon, with a few cool renegade choices thrown in to keep things fun.

    1. ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’, Rockstar Games 2018

    The American west of 1899 has been tamed. Arthur Morgan must keep his family of outlaws safe from the government, and from themselves. Rockstar’s “Red Dead Redemption 2” is the long-awaited sequel to 2010’s “Red Dead Redemption.” Throughout the story, players get to know each member of Arthur’s gang, bonding with them between missions as they hang around their camp. “Red Dead Redemption 2” also achieves a level of simulation that no other game has before. Playing as Arthur Morgan, gamers have the chance to experience one of the most authentic western experiences to date, like gambling in saloons, eating, drinking, riding and taking care of your horse, and of course exciting gunfights. And, as an added bonus for local readers of the Driftwood, much of the game takes place in Saint-Denis, an intricately designed, fictional version of New Orleans in 1899. It’s truly a game someone can escape into. The first time I beat this game, it felt like I’d just lived another life. I also sobbed like a baby at the ending. 

    This is just my list, and I know everyone will have their own top games of the decade, so I reached out to fellow gamers to hear their own favorites. “‘Nier Automata’ for sure, ‘Detroit: Become Human,’ and ‘Kingdom Hearts 3,’” says Grecia Medina, soon to be UNO master’s graduate. Maylon Waldrop, a UNO grad student says “‘Assassin’s Creed II’ or ‘Fallout 4!’” Making this list was more difficult than I thought it’d be. There are so many truly amazing games that have come out over the past 10 years, and I wish I could talk about every single one of them. 

  • The Rob Cerio at CONtraflow 2019: It’s About the Authors
    Contrflow via Facebook

    In a large room of the Hilton New Orleans Airport, vendors have set up their tables to sell their goods and creations at the CONtraflow Sci-Fi and Fantasy Literature Convention of 2019. The hotel is filled with cosplayers dressed as “Star Wars” stormtroopers and bounty hunters and there’s even a T.A.R.D.I.S. in the lobby. Among the sights are rows of tables filled with books, and behind them sit their authors. While many conventions focus on gaming and pop culture, according to local author the Rob Cerio, “it’s definitely more about the authors. The people that run it, they’re not as interested in meeting the actor that played so-and-so; they want to meet the person that actually made that character interesting through the story.”

    Rob Cerio, or THE Rob Cerio as his fans have come to call him because he “never put an end to the joke,” sits at a table near the center of CONtraflow’s vendor room. He dons a classic Star Wars t-shirt and fedora and in front of him sit his books, such as “Jake Price and the Reality Realtors” and “The Scientific Adventures of Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla.” Rob Cerio has been attending CONtraflow’s literary convention for years and is an active and supportive member of the New Orleans’ writing community. 

    “I’m really fond of writing in the genre I like to call “working-class schlub,” says Cerio when discussing his sci-fi/comedy novels featuring interdimensional moderators. “Basically, when humanity develops the ability to travel through dimensions to other worlds, the first thing they use it for is tourism. The Moderators essentially make sure the tourists don’t screw things up too much.” One of the covers of these books, “Dimensional Games,” shows the dark silhouette of two characters, giving the vibe of a classic cloak and dagger mystery. Another, “Interdimensionally Yours, Jake Price,” looks like the cover of a steamy love affair novel. “Jake Price is overworked and he is underpaid,” explains Cerio. “He finds himself in these world-saving situations through no fault of his own. But, he’s getting a paycheck. If he happens to save the multiverse, cool, but the paycheck is what matters here.”

    While discussing Rob’s background, he says he’s been writing since he was eight years old. “I didn’t have a lot of success with it, but at some point, I hit upon independent publishing, and I developed a brand. I knew that if I did a science fiction novel I’d have a market in conventions.” This was true as visitor’s kept stopping by to speak with Rob about his latest work and what they loved about it, or two ask questions about his books. “New Orleans has a very large writing community, especially during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Someone is always asking you how your word count is. My first novel was a NaNoWriMo novel, and without the community, it never would have happened.”

    Finishing the interview, Rob chose his side between the two genres that CONtraflow focuses on. “I’m a sci-fi guy. Sword and sorcery isn’t really my thing. My friends still give me crap because I haven’t watched ‘Game of Thrones.’” Joining The Rob Cerio at CONtraflow was a number of other New Orleans local authors, cosplayers, and radio personalities with their own leanings between science fiction and fantasy.

  • Time Travel Survival Guide to the Louisiana Renaissance Festival

    Time travel can be tricky. Venturing into the past is rife with dangers where even the slightest change to history can result in damages to the timelines, paradoxes, and the risk of becoming your own grandparent. But fear not, for this is the comprehensive survival guide for traveling back in time to the Louisiana Renaissance Festival. 

    Step 1: Planning. 

    Before traveling back in time, you should plan your trip accordingly. After all, you don’t want to end up in the wrong time period. The LA Ren Fest is celebrating its twentieth year in 2019 and takes place between the weekends of November 2nd to December 8th in Hammond, LA. Every weekend has its own theme, such as Celtic, Time Travelers, and Pirates and Heroes. Over the month-long festival, each themed weekend offers different sights and costumes, which brings us to our next step. 

    Step 2: Wardrobe

    The LA Ren Fest is meant to emulate the 16th Century English village of Albright, which means wearing modern clothes and accessories would not only be out of place but hazardous to disrupting the time ways. You don’t want to be the cause of Hitler getting a cell phone, do you? If you plan to dress up in period clothing, the theme of the weekend is a hint at how you should prepare your costume. For example, during Pirate’s weekend, get out your eye patches, hooks, and peg legs and enjoy some rum with your fellow scallywags and landlubbers. 

    Step 3: Attending

    Now that you’ve put your time coordinates into the TARDIS and are dressed appropriately, you next have to prepare how you’ll interact with the locals. Throughout your visit, you’ll come into contact with a number of characters from chivalrous knights, fancy-pants nobles, and badger-crotched pirates. They’re more than happy to welcome you into Albright with open arms and entertain you throughout your visit. The LA Ren Fest hosts a number of shows and exhibits. You’ll see acrobatic shows and fire-breathers, bards dancing and singing, and shops to buy various clothing, goods, and accessories to take back to 2019. But the festival isn’t all fun and games. Creatures both villainous and magical alike have come to join in the fun. If you fear facing a monstrous ogre, you can practice your archery and axe throwing skills so you’re prepared for whatever danger crosses your path. 

    Step 4: Food

    Even time travelers need to be fed. Throughout the village are shops and stalls selling food and libations for you to try. Surprisingly, Albright’s 16th-century diet isn’t that different from 2019. You can get pretzels and popcorn to snack on, fried chicken, burgers, hot dogs, and even nachos, with cakes and other pastries for dessert. If you’re ready to get loosy-goosy, there’s more than one tavern and beer maiden to sell you wine, mead, and ye old Budweiser. One drink, in particular, you should get, and a personal favorite, is the Wizard’s Wine. While not an alcoholic drink, it’s a delicacy of the Albright and can come in a blue souvenir glass bottle that can get you free refills. 

    Step 5: Return Trips

    The village of Albright wraps around a large lake and has too many things to do in one trip. Fortunately, your time machine can take you to and from Albright the entire month of the festival so you can take your time experiencing everything it has to offer. “My best piece of advice is to attend multiple days,” suggests Jess Farizo-Guidry, UNO alum and time traveler extraordinaire. “I think people rush through it trying to squeeze everything into one day. You get a much different experience if you take your time.” Not only does every weekend have its own theme, but different shows and performers come and go over the entire month. And those attending the last weekend of the festival are treated with Albright’s closing ceremonies and a spectacular fireworks display. 

    Louisiana’s Renaissance Festival is an annual event that’s fun for the whole family. Even if you’re going without a costume and just want to have a fun day with your loved ones, Albright serves as a wonderful escape from modern-day to a time where things may have been a bit simpler. 

  • Wizardfest: Holding Out Hope that Dragons are Real

    What gets a group of geeks to hang out at a bar late on a school night? Wizardfest! Pop-Up Party Tours and Southport Hall in Jefferson hosted a “Harry Potter” themed “pop up wizarding experience” for fans of the popular book and movie series. 

    Walking towards the bar, Southport Hall looks fairly unassuming; a large, dark, cabin looking building off River Rd. across from the levee. The parking lot wasn’t full, and there wasn’t any activity going on outside or people hanging around the door. I thought I’d gotten the location or the date wrong. Is there another Southport Hall? Walking inside, however, I was met with the sights of people dressed in red, green, blue, and yellow Hogwarts colors, and others dressed up as “Harry Potter” characters and creatures. This was definitely the right place. 

    After receiving a small gift bag full of themed treats like a rubber bracelet, a Wizardfest koozie, and candy (no Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, though), I made my way to the merch table where I got to pick out my own wand, which proudly sported the yellow and black Hufflepuff colors of my Hogwarts house (or black and gold for New Orleans’ Saints? Who Dat LeviOsa!). This wasn’t one of the larger, film-accurate wands that could be bought online or at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but were simply handcrafted with a small wooden stick and sparkling hot glue, which actually makes it all the more unique. 

    The trivia contest was starting soon, so I made my way to the bar to prepare for the questions and got to check out the specialty drinks being made for the event. They had drinks like ButterBeer, Polyjuice Potion, and even Unicorn Blood (I stuck with the ButterBeer). As the trivia began, I racked my brain to come up with answers to some of the harder questions (who was Harry’s first kiss?! Cho Chang? Ginny? Moaning Myrtle?). The winning team were dressed in their own Hogwarts house colors and called themselves the Golden Snitches (though “snitches” was replaced by innuendo).

    After trivia, the wizards and witches headed to the dance floor and I had the chance to speak with fellow fans about what they loved about Harry Potter. “The stories are fun and nostalgic,” says Laine, dressed as a Slytherin student and sitting next to her friend dressed as Volde- uh, You Know Who. “It was the best reading experience of my life!” 

    “I’m holding out hope that dragons are real,” says Kate, fellow Harry Potter fan and zookeeper at the Audubon Institute. “I basically want Hagrid’s job.”

    For me, I grew up with Harry Potter. When Harry was 11, so was I, and I felt a strong connection to the character and the things he dealt with; mean teachers, bullies, making friends and just finding where you belong. Even going back now 10 years after the final book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” was released, I’m amazed at how relevant the story remains and how it brings back that connection I felt when I was younger. Though, I do find myself yelling at Harry more and more (go find an adult!).

    Everyone has their reasons for loving “Harry Potter,” from just being good books, to dreaming of taking care of dragons. Wizardfest may have been a small event, but it brought together fans of the books and movies to share and celebrate their fandom. Hopefully, the party didn’t keep the Muggles up too late.

  • BlizzCon 2019: Blizzard Announces Plans for 2020
    Blizz Con 2019 via Facebook

    “The skies shattered and we are left staring across the veil between life and death,” says Ion Hazzicostas, Game Director on Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. Behind him is a large screen depicting two castles, almost mirror images of each other, one cast in blue light, the other in a bright red. In front of him is a sea of fans wearing “World of Warcraft” merchandise, some holding their phones up, recording Hazzicostas’ panel, others in costumes of their favorite characters. This is BlizzCon 2019, and Blizzard Entertainment’s annual convention where they preview all of the new games that they will be releasing over the next year, held at the Anaheim Convention Center in California.

    Blizzard’s dark, hellish R.P.G. “Diablo IV” was the first game to be announced with a new trailer. Tomb raiders are fleeing a swarm of monsters, breaking into a chamber and slamming the door behind them. They discover the treasure they search for is actually a gateway, and they become sacrifices to summon the Mother of their world, Sanctuary, into the mortal realm. What designs the demonic mother of creation has for the mortals of Sanctuary is unknown, but fans were given a glimpse at the characters they’ll be playing and the changes coming to the franchise. As of this reporting, Blizzard has announced only three classes; the Barbarian, the Druid, and the Wizard. “Diablo IV’s” biggest change seems to be in its diversion from a linear storyline and gameplay. Where past entries have been mostly single-player from one map to the next, this new chapter is opening up the world not only in the border but making it a shared multiplayer world. While I’m a fan of the series and excited for the game, this gives the impression that “Diablo IV” will be more like “World of Warcraft,” or “World of Diablocraft.”

    “Overwatch 2” was announced next, a sequel to their newer, but quickly popular series, “Overwatch.” The first-person P.V.P. (player versus player) game promises the same action-packed missions with fun and exciting heroes new and old. While I’ve been a fan of Blizzard’s games for a long time, “Overwatch” was never my style. I prefer games that are more story-centric over the jump-in quick play format that “Overwatch” takes on. However, I may now have to start getting into the game as “Overwatch 2” will include story missions, as well as new, adventuring-style cooperative missions. This is a good move on Blizzard’s part to bring in fans of their more plot-driven content. 

    Finally, the big reveal for BlizzCon 2019 was the next expansion of their popular M.M.O.R.P.G., “World of Warcraft: Shadowlands.” Following the unfortunately poor reception of the previous expansion “Battle for Azeroth,” and some fan anger over the game’s storyline being almost completely recycled from a previous expansion, “Mists of Pandaria,” Blizzard hopes “Shadowlands” can restore some faith and goodwill between them and their player base. While the new expansion doesn’t offer new races or classes as others have, they are introducing a number of character customizations that will allow players to make their hero look just as they imagined. This offers a new layer of diversity as human characters are receiving options such as different ethnicities, hairstyles and textures, and eye colors, making a stronger push for representation in video games. 

    BlizzCon 2019 didn’t offer many breathtaking announcements but had its share of interesting features to look forward to over the next year. I can’t help but feel like the lack of excitement may indicate some troubled waters for Blizzard. However much I’m ready to play “Shadowlands” (I already pre-ordered it for the bonuses…), the expansion feels like it has less to offer than the stronger expansions of the past. Even the base price of the game was only $40, much less than a new expansion would normally go for. This price drop could simply be an olive branch from Blizzard, or it could mean the company itself is struggling. Hopefully, the games seen at BlizzCon 2019 are successful enough to keep them going until BlizzCon 2020.

  • Big Easy Con 2019: Do what You Love at Home

    Big Easy Con 2019 opened its doors to New Orleans for the first time this weekend. Setting up shop in the Ernest C. Morial Convention Center, its host, LeftField Media, promised a weekend of fun, pop-culture events for fans of all ages. 

    Spanning from Nov. 1st. to Nov. 3rd, Big Easy Con held panels ranging a variety of topics from Marvel vs. D.C., to learning how to survive the zombie apocalypse with “The Walking Dead” stars like Dan Fogler. Fans had the chance to meet other celebrities, too, such as Zachary Levi, “Weird Al” Yankovic, and cast members from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbachus held a ceremonial march commemorating the late actor Peter Mayhew who played the Mighty Chewbacca, whom their parade pays homage to. 

    Entering the convention, I saw similar rows of vendor booths, selling patches, pins, toys, and comics, as well as many of the usual Louisiana geek community faces and organizations. As a New Orleans local, coming to conventions like these is kind of like visiting your favorite club or cafe. The venue changes from convention to convention, of course, but you happily run into the same groups with who you become more familiar with as each convention goes by. Walking up and down the rows, it seemed like I was running into at least one person I knew on every row. 

    One of the panels I got to see was a discussion comparing the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the D.C. Extended Universe. On the panel were a number of local New Orleans celebrities like Little Red Fox Cosplay, and Brian Held, and Skungy Scontrino from The Week in Geek Radio Show. While the majority of the fans in the audience (myself included) preferred Marvel to D.C., we had a strong discussion on the differences between a cohesive story like in the M.C.U., and individual “verses” that don’t rely on each other and can stand alone like in the D.C.E.U.. Shortly after this panel, I got to sit down at the +1 Gaming and play a short Dungeons and Dragons campaign that was only supposed to last two hours. Four hours later, I was still playing my barbarian and slicing a goblin in half with my axe while saving a bard pop-star from a portal into the netherworld. 

    “I had so much fun hanging out with friends and cosplaying together.,” says U.N.O. Theatre Major Will Leonard. “The con was pretty good for its first year, especially with the scheduling trouble. Definitely room for improvement, but I’m hopeful for its future.” Putting a con like this together isn’t easy, and can often lose sight of its goal; offering a positive experience for fans like Will. 

    “We have always said we want to put on a fan first event,” says Ron Brister, showrunner for Big Easy Con. “We always ask ‘How does this provide a positive experience for the fan?’ We’re fans too and want to put on the type of events that we’d like to attend. I’m also from Louisiana, so it’s nice to do what I love at home!

  • The Batman: Hero or Pirate?

    After D.C.’s successful release of Joker, news is coming out for director Matt Reeves’ The Batman, with Twilight star Robert Pattinson playing the Caped Crusader. Two of the films roles have been revealed and cast, with Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle’s Catwoman, and Paul Dano as Edward Nashton’s The Riddler. 

    While the film is still in the early stages of production, this casting news sheds potential light on what we can expect from this new film. While the most recent Batman, played by Ben Affleck,  was older and grizzled, much like the Batman seen in The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Pattinson’s younger Batman could take more inspiration from Batman: Year One, also by Frank Miller, which introduced young Bruce Wayne to the seedy underbelly of Gotham. 

    Speaking to the New York Times about his preparation for the role, Pattinson revealed his thoughts on the character of Batman. “Batman’s not a hero… He’s a complicated character, I don’t think I could ever play a real hero; there’s always got to be something a little bit wrong. His morality is a little bit off. He’s not the golden boy, unlike almost every other comic-book character. There is a simplicity to his worldview, but where it sits is strange, which allows you to have more scope with the character.”

    While Batman is a very dark and complicated character, as Pattinson remarks, I have to disagree with the idea that Batman isn’t a real hero. The term hero can be subjective and include a number of different qualities and characteristics. But to consider Batman as “not a real hero” seems like a stretch, considering his crusade against the corruption in Gotham, and working to ensure that no one else suffers the same loss of family that he did. 

     Taylor Oliver, an English graduate student, briefly weighed in on the idea of Batman as a hero. “I think Batman has heroic qualities and exhibits the mystery of being a superhero, while also being human.”

    However, Pattinson had more to say about his upcoming performance as Batman, specifically his voice. “[Willem Dafoe’s] voice in The Lighthouse was quite inspiring for it, to be honest. It is pretty similar, the voice I’m gonna do, to Willem’s. Batman has a sort of pirate-y kind of voice.”

    “Oh no! No!” exclaims biology major Troy James. “It’s messing up our idea of Batman! He’s from Gotham! Not some skinny pirate boy!” 

    While I am doing my best to reserve judgment on Pattinson’s Batman until I see it, I share the same fears as James. As good of an actor as Willem Dafoe is, his high pitched and scratchy voice with a pirate (or privateer) drawl doesn’t seem appropriate for the Caped Crusader. Despite it only being one aspect to the character, previous performances of Batman’s voice have been highly ridiculed before, specifically Christian Bale’s rough, raspy, difficult to understand growl. Is this voice heading down the same path before it’s even premiered?


    We will have to wait until The Batman’s 2021 premiere date to find out. But until then, some of us may share English graduate student Kirsten Quarforth’s thoughts on the film; “No matter what, I’m always going to imagine Robert Pattinson as a sparkly vampire.”

  • Superhero Movies: Cinema War

    Despite Marvel Studio’s Avengers: Endgame, the applauded finale to their twenty-year-long Infinity Saga, the survival of their recent tug-of-war with Sony over whether Spider-Man will remain in the M.C.U. or not (he’s in, for now), and D.C.’s surprisingly successful release of Joker, superhero movies everywhere are once again under attack. 

    In an interview with Empire, critically acclaimed director Martin Scorcese recently shared his views on the popularity of superhero movies. “I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema. Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

    Standing in solidarity with a friend and fellow filmmaker, famed director Francis Ford Coppola let know his own thoughts. “When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration. I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again. Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

    Despite their words being harsh, Coppola and Scorsese are titans in cinema. Both are recognized as two of the greatest directors of American film, so when they are speaking about what is and isn’t cinema, they might just know what they’re talking about.

    So, that’s it, folks. Time to put away our Captain America t-shirts and Iron Man sunglasses. Superhero movies aren’t cinema and are despicable. 

    Not so fast. It can be argued that in Scorcese and Coppola’s own words, Marvel movies, most superhero movies, in fact, qualify under the umbrella term of cinema. 

    In their latest film, Marvel Studios accepts Scorcese and Coppola’s challenge of delivering a film that gains “some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration,” and presents “human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” In Spider-Man: Far from Home, we see a post Avengers: Endgame Marvel Cinematic Universe where the world is trying to figure out how to move forward, while young Peter Parker grieves the loss of his mentor, Tony Stark. Not only does he work through this grief with friend and former bodyguard of Tony Stark, Happy Hogan, but he also becomes more confident in his abilities as Spider-Man without the safety net of Iron Man. 

    To gain some perspective, I reached out to fellow students at U.N.O. “Yes, [I’m a fan of superhero movies]! Every single last one. Even the dumb ones,” says Biology major Troy James. “They make people who think they may not be able to do something feel like they can impact the world in a big way.” Kirsten Quarforth, an English graduate student, feels differently, that “they are a cinematic experience, but I don’t take away anything else from them, apart from just seeing a lot of violence.”


    This entire discussion is subjective to each person’s own tastes. Someone who loves superhero films may also love The Godfather (1972) and The Departed (2006), but think Apocalypse Now was boring (I’m talking about myself, here). Whatever our different opinions, movies are also meant to entertain. As long as they continue to do that, whether superheroes or cinematic dramas, they’ll still have a place in society.

  • Superhero Movies: Cinema War by Trey Guillotine

    Despite Marvel Studio’s Avengers: Endgame, the applauded finale to their twenty-year-long Infinity Saga, the survival of their recent tug-of-war with Sony over whether Spider-Man will remain in the M.C.U. or not (he’s in, for now), and D.C.’s surprisingly successful release of Joker, superhero movies everywhere are once again under attack.

    In an interview with Empire, critically acclaimed director Martin Scorcese recently shared his views on the popularity of superhero movies. “I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema. Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

    Standing in solidarity with a friend and fellow filmmaker, famed director Francis Ford Coppola let know his own thoughts. “When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration. I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again. Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

    Despite their words being harsh, Coppola and Scorsese are titans in cinema. Both are recognized as two of the greatest directors of American film, so when they are speaking about what is and isn’t cinema, they might just know what they’re talking about.

    So, that’s it, folks. Time to put away our Captain America t-shirts and Iron Man sunglasses. Superhero movies aren’t cinema and are despicable. 

    Not so fast. It can be argued that in Scorcese and Coppola’s own words, Marvel movies, most superhero movies, in fact, qualify under the umbrella term of cinema. 

    In their latest film, Marvel Studios accepts Scorcese and Coppola’s challenge of delivering a film that gains “some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration,” and presents “human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” In Spider-Man: Far from Home, we see a post Avengers: Endgame Marvel Cinematic Universe where the world is trying to figure out how to move forward, while young Peter Parker grieves the loss of his mentor, Tony Stark. Not only does he work through this grief with friend and former bodyguard of Tony Stark, Happy Hogan, but he also becomes more confident in his abilities as Spider-Man without the safety net of Iron Man. 

    To gain some perspective, I reached out to fellow students at U.N.O. “Yes, [I’m a fan of superhero movies]! Every single last one. Even the dumb ones,” says Biology major Troy James. “They make people who think they may not be able to do something feel like they can impact the world in a big way.” Kirsten Quarforth, an English graduate student, feels differently, that “they are a cinematic experience, but I don’t take away anything else from them, apart from just seeing a lot of violence.”


    This entire discussion is subjective to each person’s own tastes. Someone who loves superhero films may also love The Godfather (1972) and The Departed (2006), but think Apocalypse Now was boring (I’m talking about myself, here). Whatever our different opinions, movies are also meant to entertain. As long as they continue to do that, whether superheroes or cinematic dramas, they’ll still have a place in society.

  • Jay and Silent Bob Reboots in New Orleans

    Whether you were rocking out to Nirvana or being Saved by the Bell, nothing presented the 1990s pop-culture better than Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse. Created by the now cult classic actor and director Kevin Smith, his production company View Askew gave us classic like “Clerks” (1994), “Mallrats” (1995), “Dogma” (1999), and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” (2001). With each new film the View Askewniverse grew, adding actors who were at the beginning of their careers like Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, and Michael Rooker. “Mallrats” was even one of the earlier Stan Lee cameos (the same cameo Lee can be seen rehearsing in his Captain Marvel cameo).

    It’s been nearly a decade since fans have gone to theatres to see a new Kevin Smith View Askewniverse film, and the lack of immature jokes has taken its toll. But now… THEY’RE BACK! “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot” is now in select theatres across the country and Kevin Smith fans can rejoice. 

    Part of Jay and Silent Bob’s epic return to theatres was filmed here in New Orleans, the new “Hollywood of the South.” I recently had the chance to speak with one of the film’s extras. “I would say I am a fan of Kevin Smith’s View Askew films. My favorite is honestly a toss-up between Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Dogma. I love them all though and really I can pinpoint where I was on my personal journey when each one came out,” says Kelli Ledet, lifelong New Orleans resident and extra for “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.”

    “Originally we were just extras, but while I was waiting in the makeup line, my friend Anne was pulled aside to be “Zombied.” They asked if she was paired with a SIlent Bob and they came and got me. They tore our clothes and then we had to sit through makeup. The fake blood was AWFUL, and throughout the night they would apply it over and over again. 

    “Kevin Smith came in and talked to us as a group at one point, and Jason Mewes played around a lot in between takes and interacted with the extras. For the final scene, Kevin thanked us all, shook our hands, and really seemed nice.

    “Filming reaction shots was weird. We would start at a mark that was usually attached to a crane, and as they would start to roll someone would yell out things and they wanted to film our reactions to it. So, you are looking at a piece of neon orange tape and making facial reactions to things like “nipple twisting!”

    “The movie is very tongue-in-cheek and really does an excellent job of absolutely poking fun at itself. It felt like it was a great send-off that touched every one of his previous View Askew films.  I was surprised at how much was cut too. WE FILMED A TON OF STUFF. It flowed, but it was just amazing as to how much content was cut out. I am hopeful for a director’s cut.” 

    While Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is only open in select theatres, fans can hope to see it when it comes out on Blu-ray or digital release. Thankfully, Smith has plans for more films, namely “Clerks 3,” which has not announced a premiere date yet.