In my review, I called The Leftovers’ second year one of the “all-time great seasons of television.” Almost two years later, those 10 perfectly realized episodes still stand tall over everything I’ve seen, from wonderful character dramas like Better Call Saul to pulp-fantasy fare like Game of Thrones. Few shows since have been as profound, moving, entertaining, deftly written, or hilarious, and none have managed to hit all of those buttons at the same time.
Somehow, with only 8 episodes left to provide an answer for the meaning to life, The Leftovers wrapped with an even more brilliant season of television. It’s a perfect swan song, managing to broaden its storytelling horizon more than previous years while somehow clarifying and solidifying its central thematic question. The degree of difficulty here is astounding, yet you never get the sense that the creators are struggling or being crushed under the weight of the monumental challenge. In the end, The Leftovers tells you everything, or nothing. It just depends on how much you want to believe.
Continue reading The Leftovers Season 3 Review
Nier: Automata is a good game after one trip through its world. It’s a great game after three. Creator Yoko Taro takes the player’s familiarity with science fiction conceits and uses them to lure him or her into a sense of complacency, then continually builds and complicates his themes and his world until it’s hard to know which way is up anymore. The result is mesmerizing and completely unlike any game released this year.
The setting is the far-future. Humanity has abandoned the planet Earth entirely, leaving behind a race of androids created in their image. These creations are at constant war with the “machines,” another race of sentient robots sent by an alien race to invade Earth. As android unit 2B, your role is to fight back the machine menace so that humanity can have its planet back.
Continue reading Nier: Automata Review
It’s helpful to know going in that Alien: Covenant is more of a Prometheus sequel than it is an Alien film. Despite an ad campaign that emphasizes the infamous xenomorph alien and a return to the franchise’s roots, director Ridley Scott is far more interested in the questions he raised in 2012’s controversial Alien prequel. This should come as no surprise for anybody who’s been keeping up with Ridley, who declared the original alien creature “done. Cooked” in 2014. He’s been envisioning a sequel to Prometheus for some time, and didn’t come around to re-introducing the xenomorph until fairly recently.
Given Scott’s hesitancy to fall back on the iconic beast, Alien: Covenant is noteworthy for how well it bridges the gap between Prometheus and Alien. The film takes some bold creative risks in merging the two stories, but ultimately does so in a way that the xenomorph is not only compatible, but integral to the story being told. It’s the last line in an increasingly long line of creations and creators, all with complex relationships to those that made them and those that they will create.
Continue reading Alien: Covenant Review
Adaptations have to toe a fine line with their audiences. On the one hand, one must consider the newcomers first. If the adaptation fails to tell a compelling story on its own merits, then it doesn’t matter how true to the original it is. On the other hand, if an adaptation strays too far from the essence of what made the source material appealing, it risks alienating its base. The first episode of American Gods is a gorgeous, at times fascinating interpretation of the book. It moves briskly, features incredible cinematography, and certainly entertains. And yet, it shows signs of being both too literal in its portrayal of the book, and not quite true enough to what made it interesting in the first place.
A great example comes early in the episode, when Shadow, the protagonist, is turned away by an airport employee. He flashes back to a conversation he had in prison. A fellow inmate tells him about how he once got out, but after feeling disrespected by an airport attendant, he lost control and ended up back in prison. Shadow remarks that perhaps the lesson here is that prison culture encourages a type of behavior which, when applied to the real world, is instead harmful. “No,” the inmate insists. The real lesson is “don’t piss off those bitches in airports.”
Continue reading American Gods – Pilot Review
Speaking purely in terms of entertainment, the first few months of 2017 have been spectacular. Peak TV has not let up one bit, with promising newcomers like Legion joining continuing successes like The Americans. Movies, especially more “popular” releases like Get Out, Logan, John Wick 2, and Lego Batman, have been exceedingly great.. But both still pale in comparison to the gaming landscape, which has seen a historically excellent slate of games, right in the middle of a period notorious for being a slow.
I already wrote about my love for Resident Evil 7, a game that is beginning to get left behind in the larger cultural conversation. February saw the release of Horizon: Zero Dawn, one of the greatest Playstation exclusives in Sony’s history and an enormous step forward for developer Guerrilla Games. But even that title, a massive Ubisoft-esque open world action game, was shortly eclipsed by the hype surrounding Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a game that was universally hailed as an instant classic and one of the very best games ever made a full week before it even released.
Continue reading Open-World Fatigue and the Importance of Release Dates