Battlefront-Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review

The Star Wars Battlefront series (not the EA one) have always been my favourite Star Wars games, even now. That feeling of being one of the rank-and-file soldiers on the ground, fighting tooth and nail to gain ground, it’s amazing and makes you appreciate the common soldiers more. To me, Rogue One is close to an adaptation of that.

Rogue One tells the tale of how the Rebels come into possession of the Death Star plans, resulting in [40-YEAR OLD SPOILER ALERT] the destruction of the Empire’s planet-killing superweapon. [40-YEAR OLD SPOILER ALERT] A ragtag team of outcasts even by Rebellion standards, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), a key Imperial scientist, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) an intelligence officer in the Rebel forces, Captain Andor’s loyal reprogrammed Imperial droid K2-SO (Alan Tudyk), defecting imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), and Chirrut’s companion-slash-bodyguard with a blaster the size of a Warhammer storm bolter Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) goes rogue (get it?) to steal the Death Star plans and get it to the Rebels before the planet-killer can be used against them.

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About to drop the hottest mixtape this side of the Outer Rim

The first thing that stands out from Rogue One is how it feels…grittier, and not in a bad way. We’re right there with the Rebels in the trenches and with the great chemistry of the cast, being attached to them is no tough feat. The stars of the day were truly the Alliance, the brave beings who laid down their lives in service to the cause.  As their foil, Ben Mendelsohn is Orson Krennic, the director of the Empire’s advanced weapons research division, along with Guy Henry, with the help of CG to bring back the late, great Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin, and a special appearance by Darth Vader.

Without giving out too much of the plot, Rogue One manages to fit snugly in the canon etablished by the Original Trilogy without contradicting (to my knowledge) anything that isn’t already made non-canon. In its execution, the plot does have its cliches, but given the amazing chemistry of the ragtag band of Rebels and the great interaction between them, I don’t much mind. Emotionally, this movie hits all the beats. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll drop your jaw in amazement, this movie has everything. Even when most of us know what’ll happen in the end, it still doesn’t help when the feels train hits. And it hits hard.

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Trooper squad goals

For all the fanboys, this movie is LOADED with easter eggs. From Dejarik tables, references to classic lines, to little offhand mentions of canon characters from other media, it’s fanservice central up in here. They even pulled the “May the force of others be with you” line from the early 1974 rough drafts. Even the set designs echo a lot of the design cues from the Original Trilogy and some shots feel like they were lifted from the Original Trilogy, making it feel old yet new at the same time. As I’ve said and I’ll say it again, someone needs to line up all the Imperial architects out back and shoot them. Just about everything they build is a workplace accident waiting to happen. But damn if they don’t look cool!

That said, all the sameness, while I’m not complaining, would probably rub some people the wrong way. And I can’t help but feel K2-SO is like HK-47-lite, but maybe that’s just me being bitter. K2, along with Chirrut and Baze’s banter still stole the show for me.

Bottom line, Rogue One is just as it’s advertised, a Star Wars story. While it’s not a standard Star Wars movie,  it’s fun, it’s heartwrenching, and by god, it’s awesome. Any opportunity to explore the galaxy far, far away is one that’s always welcomed to me.

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I Had Bad Dreams Over This — A Look Into Clean Room

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As a reader, I like to be kept in the not-know when I jump into a new title. The sense of discovery as every panel progresses along every issue is one of the things I look forward to, as well as all the good ol’ things that makes a comic a good one: among them plot, visual, and characters. And these are all what Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt’s Clean Room provided.

I like to say that I’m not new to the horror comic book scene, having read Hellblazer years prior and the Scott Snyder-Jock project Wytches on the same day I started reading Clean Room. I’d say my basics of horror lore are none too shabby. And so, with a certain degree of expectations, I jumped in.

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The first three panels of Clean Room.

When I started on the first issue, I knew nothing about the title aside from its title, publisher, and the fact that Gail Simone is writing the book—all of which are enough reasons for me to start reading it. It being a Vertigo title, I knew from the start that some grisly contents were in store. What I didn’t take into account, however, was how brilliantly delivered those contents are. While the two titles mentioned above deliver horror in a traditional (yet still unconventional and genius in their own ways) sense, Clean Room is something else. It’s a detective story, science fiction, and horror tale thrown together in the blender that is Gail Simone’s mind, birthing something that doesn’t quite sit in any genre.

It’s grotesque, it’s smart, it’s emotionally moving, and most importantly, it’s deliciously unsettling—in a sense that it gave me my first real case of bad dreams for the first time in weeks. Yep, reading Clean Room before I went to sleep definitely wasn’t one of my brightest ideas. I woke up delighted, however, because that’s how I knew that this title is special.

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Demons behind the corporation–so to speak.

So what’s it about, you may ask? The first issue centers on Chloe Pierce who, after trying to kill herself in the wake of her fiancé’s suicide a few months prior, goes out to seek the truth behind her previously-happy lover’s untimely demise. Her quest brings her to Astrid Mueller, horror writer turned self-help guru, and the shady lot of activities she and her followers have apparently been doing behind the façade of motivational corporation. Those activities concern demon-like creatures that drive people crazy (or “hyper-emotive”, as preferred in the characters’ narrative) and can apparently only be seen by certain people. Astrid Mueller’s corporation is seemingly involved in a war against a greater force, but as bodies start dropping and questions start to be asked, Chloe Pierce vows to get to the bottom of whatever it is Astrid Mueller is doing.

It’s all going to feel pretty meta, especially in the first few issues, but as the story progresses, the pieces dropped here and there from the beginning will start to make sense—as much as they do, anyway. One of my favorite things about this title is how huge the mysteries in the lore are, leaving still enough holes in the fabric of issue-by-issue understanding that even when things are beginning to be revealed, I’m still left baffled and curious as to how the pieces of information will fit in the big picture.

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Bet this guy’s baffled, too.

The story is conveyed through the pencils of Jon Davis-Hunt with colors by Quinton Winter, and as opposed to the dark-and-twisted edge associated with conventional horror art, the panels in Clean Room are colorful in their realism. Davis-Hunt provides exceptionally detailed, tidy interiors, made even more eye-popping with Winter’s color palette. Make no mistake, however—the atrocity displayed in Clean Room is as graphic and delightfully detailed as in any other Vertigo title.

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Don’t say we didn’t warn ya.

Clean Room is cerebral and provoking and deeply psychological as well as being rooted in reality—a twisted one at that, but a reality nonetheless. It’s the type of story whose spirit you can feel crawling over your skin as you read on—and, let’s be real, a horror story that gives you goosebumps and bad dreams while still being visually realistic must be a hell of a good one.

Putting the Ash in Slash-Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2 ‘Ashy Slashy’ Review

 

Welcome to the madhouse that is AvED’s episode 8. After Ash’s slow spiral into madness in last week’s psychological horror of an episode, ‘Ashy Slashy’ returns to usual form, though with a darker bent.

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As we find the Ghostbeaters preparing to assault the mental hospital where Ash is being brainwashed, the body count starts to mount as Sheriff Emery and Lacey meet their gruesome, heartbreaking ends.

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Watch out, he’s a biter

The highlight of this episode is again Bruce Campbell, going almost full-on slasher villain as a brainwashed Ash. With way less quips and more ominous appearances, it’s almost enough to put even Jason Voorhees on notice.

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Heeeeeere’s Ashy!

Puppet Ash also makes another hilarious appearance, this time tangling with Kelly in a Woman vs Puppet battle for the ages. The banter between Pablo and Ruby in this episode is also something of note. For the record, I’d visit Pablito’s Fish and Chips.

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The Jefe has never been so scary

The ending has to be one of the worst cases of emotional whiplash in the show so far. After Ash manages to play EVERYONE for fools, the gang manages to finish off Baal…let’s just say Pablito’s Fish and Chips won’t be a reality anymore.

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It’s an eye-opener

This season has been all about exploring the sides of Ash we never see before, and this is no exception. We finally get to see Ash being smart, after the sporadic flashes of brilliance all throughout his appearances. With two more episodes, I hope AvED can get even better.

Madhouse-Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2 ‘Delusion’ Review

Once again, AvED shows why it’s one of the best shows currently airing on television, period. The growth of the series from pure guts n’ gags to a show with a well-developed cast, amazing character dynamics, and riveting storylines while keeping the franchise’s signature feel intact is really something to behold. This latest episode is one of its most ambitious yet.

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This might come as a shock for some of you

After the predicament Ash found himself in last week, he wakes up as a patient in a mental hospital. A doctor who looks suspiciously like Baal explains that he’d been commited there after the cabin incident thirty years ago and that the whole of Evil Dead was something his imagination cooked up to deal with the murders.

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Finger counting taken to its extreme

The episode that ensued is quite possibly the darkest Evil Dead has gone in its whole lifetime, eschewing most of its tried-and-true formula of slapstick, gore, and one-liners for a more psychological horror, following Ash’s journey in this weird insane asylum that Baal’s put him in. Or did he?

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He’s like Ash. Only with a hand up his ass

This outing seems to give quite the spotlight to Bruce Campbell and Dana DeLorenzo, giving Ash and ‘Kelly’ more room to flex their dramatic chops to amazing results. Newcomers to Campbell’s body of work may be surprised at the range he displays here, with Ash going from full-on ‘Ash’ all the way down to resigned, broken down Ash, which came as quite a surprise to me. Puppet Ash also came out as the breakout character of the episode, being annoying enough to make you want to kick him across the room but charmingly funny enough to make you want to keep him.

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Apparently they finally set him strait

While insane asylum episodes are hardly new territory, AvED’s take does it well and throws in just enough twists to keep you guessing about things in the insane asylum, if not necessarily the nature of Ash’s supposed delusions itself. That said, AvED travels outside its comfort zone in this episode and finds its mark well.

Home Invasion-Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2 ‘Trapped Inside’ Review

We’re past the halfway point of AvED’s sophomore season and things don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Following right up from last week’s brouhaha in the police station, our heroes hole up back at Casa Williams to deal with Pablo’s new…development. Elsewhere, desperate after the quick divorce last week, Sheriff Emery starts getting devil whispers from Baal himself, urging him to take action against Ash and his crew.

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Shouldn’t have had that Necronomicon for dinner

For a thirty-minute episode, this episode manages to juggle three plotlines like a circus clown without it ever feeling like they were shoved in without care. At the front of the house, Linda and Kelly are holding the fort against the angry mob roused by Emery, plus a little help from our friendly demon Baal.

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Upstairs, Ruby and Pablo are doing their best to find the spell that can banish Baal back from where he came from…on Pablo’s body. And they have to do this before Pablo gets turned into a walking Necronomicon. No pressure, right?

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She’s baaaaack!

A little further down the hall, Ash faces a blast from the past. Cheryl, his dearly departed sister is brought back as a Deadite and the requisite action set piece of the episode is as much emotional as it is intense.

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Heartwrenching. Literally AND figuratively

This episode, in one word, is a rollercoaster. An intense ride from top to bottom, with lots of laughs, scares, pure d’aww moments, and maybe a few tears along the way. Of particular highlights were Kelly psyching Pablo up with the laugh-out-loud callback to the vagina line several episodes back and of course, Ash’s whole ordeal with Cheryl. Emotionally, this might be one of the strongest sequences throughout the series and Cheryl convinces us once again why she’s one of the most dangerous Deadites in the franchise.

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This season’s Primitive Screwheads moment?

All this combined, plus the references to the classic movies is more than enough to convince me that this is the strongest episode of the season so far, and a powerful proof that Evil Dead isn’t just blood, guts, and slapstick. While it’s true that those are its major selling points, it’s only through character development sneakily put in throughout the show’s run that makes us care for the cast this much in times of trouble. If this is the direction Evil Dead is taking going forward, then I’m in for the ride.

Assault on Precinct Elk Grove-Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2 Episode 5 ‘Confined’ Review

As I missed last week’s episode due to reasons, lemme recap Episode 4 quickly for you: DELTA DESTRUCTION DERBY FUCK YEAH. Now that’s out of the way, onto the fifth episode and we’re already halfway through season 3. And how.

Baal finally makes an appearance here, cutting into the scene in one of the best gore scenes I’ve seen in the franchise so far.

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CRAAAAAAWLING IIIIN MY SKIIINNNN

Meanwhile, our heroes (and assorted others) are holed up in a police station, just in time for Baal to make his debut. This episode plays very different from most other Evil Dead things so far, though, concentrating instead on tension between characters and a little claustrophobic horror thrown in.

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It’s a Michigan Standoff!

This episode tries to do something very different, by concentrating on character work and the building of tension between them, sort of like The Thing only with the threat of Baal looming over them.

But when Ruby goes down to retrieve the Kandarian dagger, all the suspicion the others are putting each other through turns out to be for nothing as Baal is actually downstairs with her. Cue awkward reunion.

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HEEEEEERE’S BAAL!

Oddly, even with an action set piece near the end, the tense interactions between everyone held up in the police station is what makes this episode a great one for me. This episode provides a lot of insight into the characters and sets up a lot of potential plot points for the coming episodes. Plus it’s a lot of fun seeing Ash trying (and subsequently failing) to woo Linda.

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Sumerian letters on your body. Never a good sign

 

Only five episodes left, and the stakes couldn’t be higher! Bring on the next five!

 

A Strange Trip-Doctor Strange Review

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In an increasingly expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange chooses to explore an uncharted territory in the mystic side of Marvel’s titanic franchise.

The result from this is an entertaining trip (in more ways than one) into worlds and wonders without end, that might just open an equally infinite amount of doors to potential properties for future exploration.

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He couldn’t HANDle this

The clear winning feature of Scott Derrickson’s foray into the MCU is its visuals. From Inception-on-steroids style folding buildings to just pure psychedelic imagery that’d make Steve Ditko himself proud, Strange’s visuals are nothing we’ve ever seen before. This lends itself into its action scenes, giving us fights that are literally off the wall–No, these fights don’t even /need/ walls. If I saw this in IMAX, my head would probably still be spinning as I write this.


With a star-studded cast, almost everyone shines in their own way. Benedict Cumberbatch, no stranger to arrogant and insufferable characters, plays the admittedly clichéd character arc well with a dry wit and a fair bit of magical ineptitude. Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One is a more affable, more ‘human’ take of the traditional old master stereotype, and one more easy to be emotionally invested into. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo is one of the movie’s standouts, turning the traditionally villainous character into the ‘straight man’ in the Strange-Mordo double act and a worthy foil to Strange, while building on his eventual rise of darkness well. Mads Mikkelsen is, to be blunt, sadly an origin story victim in his role as Kaecillius, in another example of Marvel squandering great actors in forgettable villain roles. With a little more development, Kaecillius would’ve been the perfect Anti-Strange but alas, it was not to be. Benedict Wong’s…Wong differs from the tea-serving manservant of Strange in the comics into more of Strange’s take no shit peer im a way, and provides a healthy helping of humor in most of his scenes. Rachel McAdams’ Christine ‘Not-Night Nurse’ Palmer, does well as the muggle caught up in magic and provides a good enough anchor for Strange, but sadly she wasn’t quite memorable enough.

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Just a typical tea ceremony in Kamar-Taj

As with most origin stories, Doctor Strange suffers from a case of Originitis, with its almost wholly predictable plot that hits all the beats of your usual Superhero Origin. That’s not to say the script isn’t anything to write home about, though. The movie still manages to distill and simplify the concept of Marvel magic into an almost-science, leaving not many questions as to how it works. The film seems to also take a few cues from Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s excellent Doctor Strange: The Oath, with several notable scenes and characters echoing the book. Michael Giacchino’s scoring also works really well for the movie, sounding very much different from past Marvel movies with its use of strings that’s slightly reminiscent to JRPGs or just RPGs in general.


Easter egg hunters will have a field day with this. Just about almost every entity Strange has ever invoked in the comics, with a few notable exceptions, were namedropped in the film, even other cosmic entities. And with some of the secondary characters’ relations to major players in the Marvel universe, one can’t help but wonder how these more famous relatives will figure into the MCU next.

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Aperture’s branching out

While the plot is nothing special, by merit of its eye-popping visuals and amazing scoring, Doctor Strange is another very solid addition to the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Or could we be expanding beyond universes?