Review: Tomb Raider (2018) *spoilers*

While some of my reviews are a bit multi-part, I’m starting to do smaller “Capsule reviews” of films I’m not quite wanting to do a big essay on.

 

As I’ve written before, I’ve been a fan of the last two Tomb Raider games, although admittingly, I have not played the earlier incarnations of the character. The games mixed the climbing and gunning of the other archaeological adventure game series, “Uncharted” (although of course the older TRs had a bit of this as well), with the skill trees of various other games, and also a sort of gritty and gory nature.

Lara, in particular, is portrayed as more vulnerable than in past versions, starting out kind of bookish but eventually honing her survival skills on an island not only full of cultists and mercenaries, but also the undead spirit of an evil queen.

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On the surface, this was what the basic plot of the Tomb Raider film reboot is about. The movie even re-creates some sequences from the game, such as Lara’s struggle holding onto a rusted World War II plane…

 

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, and like the game, Lara’s uses arrows and pickaxes for a good chunk of time, only getting her dual pistols at the end (although the dual pistols aren’t really used in “Rise of the Tomb Raider”. Her outfit is pretty much the same basic look too. No sunglases or shorts here.

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However, whereas Lara, as I mentioned before that game Lara was more archaeologist than hero at first, the movie kind of reverses it by having Lara be a sort of sporty, slightly rebellious woman who has little interest in her father’s profession until it offers clues to where he might’ve vanished to (The mysterious Yamatai, also the setting of the game, of course). Alicia does okay I suppose, although she seems a bit stiff, but I haven’t really seen her in any other films to really judge her acting.

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Likewise, the Endurance Crew-the nifty supporting cast (and unfortunately, part victims) are cut out/reduced….

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to just one guy, Lu Ren, whose father has also vanished while searching for the mysterious island of Yamatai. Apart from rallying up some fellow prisoners on the island, he really doesn’t get that much to do.

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Like the game, the villain is once again Matthias, although instead of the cult leader, he’s just a mercenary leader for “Trinity” (Introduced in Rise of the Tomb Raider) who’s only stuck on the island because his employer won’t send for extraction until he finds the tomb of Himiko. Although Walter Goggins does his best, the character just comes off a somewhat generic villain.

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Speaking of Himiko, she’s pretty much downgraded here. There’s no super-storms keeping everybody stuck on the island, and apart from the two planes there’s really no sign of the heavy wreckage-or really any other sign of civilization apart from the tomb-on the island itself. Although a supernatural threat is implied, turns out that she’s no ghost creature trying to possess a new body and create storms. Likewise, there’s no real gore or any of the major violence of the 2013 game. Not that it really needed the somewhat excessive gore and violence, but in making this movie PG-13, they sort of ‘sanitized’ the game maybe a bit too much. It’s really a major contrast there.

 

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…..but actually a nice Queen who unfortunately carried some sort of bizarre virus which seems to make those who get it into crazed people with strange skin and nerve blemishes.

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Which, oddly enough, is pretty much exactly what happens in the conclusion the first “Uncharted” game!

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The Tomb itself seemed kind of unspectacular and cheap-looking, with just a bunch of generic booby taps and puzzles. No giant Samurai here!

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Dominic West appears as Lord Kroft, and somewhat diminishes from Lara, as he’s revealed to actually be alive, although a bit nuts-on the island.Image result for Lord croft

 

Nick Frost, Derek Jacobi and Kristin Scott Thomas have supporting roles, with Nick as a sort of comic relief pawn shop owner, but it’s really just a tiny role. Same with the legendary Derek Jacobi who does the money stuff at Croft’s estate. Most interesting is Kristin Scott Thomas as Ana, who, like in “Rise of the Tomb Raider”-is actually the secret head of Trinity. However, unlike in ROTT-where she formed the organization in part to try to gain immortality as a disease (presumably cancer) was killing her, what exactly this version of Ana has to gain from it is unknown, or if she had anything to do with Lord Croft’s expedition to Yamatai in the first place.

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Although I’ll admit some of my criticisms of the movie might be a little biased because I played the games first, and have largely been comparing them, I think the film on it’s own is kind of weak as well, just kind of a generic story and lacking bite despite a fairly strong cast, which unfortunately is a weakness of almost every video game adaptation these days.

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Solo Part VI-Double double cross *Spoilers*

The group lands on the ‘refining’ planet Savareen, and Lando is pretty much upset by the cost of the trip-his droid co-pilot, and the damage to his ship. “I hate you” he says to Han, to which Han replies “I know”.

 

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The scene is of course a callback to the classic Empire Strikes Back moment…

 

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Which of course was also given another inverse callback in “Return of the Jedi”.

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Shortly thereafter, the Cloud Riders show up, and Lando gets the hell out of dodge.

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However, it turns out that the Cloud Riders are in fact a Rebel cell, and Enfys is actually a teen girl, played by Erin Kellyman.

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Not only that, but one of her lieutenants is Teazel, one of Warwick Davis’s many Star Wars characters, making this the first of Davis’s characters that he’s reprised since Wicket. Weazel was one of Watto’s buddies at the Pod Race, but apparently he fell on some hard times once the Empire took control of everything and decided to join the Rebels.Also he played a different character in “Rogue One”, which was also part of a Rebel cell, although a somewhat more messed up one (Saw’s faction).

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The concept of Han having an early, if small, role in the formation of the Rebellion is something that’s also used in AC Crispin’s trilogy, which had Han’s former girlfriend ultimately become one of the first leaders of the alliance, and killed while stealing-you guessed it-the Death Star plans. (The comic series Underworld, which I covered a few weeks ago, also dealt with that).

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Basically Han agrees to help the Rebels by giving them the Coaxium, and fool Vos with a fake shipment. However, Vos already knows that it’s bogus, thanks to Beckett.  However, Han already anticipates the betrayal, and the Cloud Riders are able to ambush Vos’s men on the group. A fight then breaks out while Beckett flees with Chewbacca, and Vos has these interesting red daggers, another case of the not-quite-lightsabers the film uses. Although the red color not only invokes the name “Crimson Dawn” but also might be a small hint as to who runs Crimson Dawn….

 

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Qi’ra eventually saves Han by killing Vos, and Han leaves while she says she’ll catch up.

However, she decides to make a holographic call to the real leader of Crimson Dawn-none other than Darth Maul, in a scene that perhaps was the most confusing to casual moviegoers. Film-wise, Maul is seen cut in half in “The Phantom Menace”.

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However, the Clone Wars series brought him back, revealing that he wound up with some robot legs, and that he also had a brother (Savage opress). After going nuts for a bit, he was mentally healed by his mother on Dathomir, and then set about doing various organized crime things during the Clone Wars, (and has a few rematches with Kenobi)one of which brought him to the attention of his former master, whose plans had evolved beyond Maul at this point.

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After this, Maul continues his organized crime activities, and that’s the point where we are in “Solo”. The rest of Maul’s story is pretty much already been told, in “Rebels”-he winds up on the planet Malachor. After escaping, he eventually winds up on Tatooine again, once again facing his enemy, Obi-Wan, who kills him before he can reach Luke.

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Qira just decides to leave with Vos’s ship/fortress, probably realizing that with her duties with the Crimson Dawn revealed Han would never love her again, or perhaps knowing that crossing Maul-who orders her to Dathomir-would be a very bad mistake. It’s kind of unclear what happens to her. It’s possible there will be “Solo” sequels but it’s not looking good with the Box office of this film. Maybe a novel or comic down the line will deal with her fate, if the movies can’t.

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Han, in the meantime, confronts Beckett….and of course shoots first. The two have a short conversation, but Han shoots him (first!), although Han seems  somewhat agonized by the decision and holds him as he dies…

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Something he definitely wasn’t later on in the timeline with Greedo. (Then again Greedo was pretty much fried anyway). Although whether Han shot first or not depends on what version of Star Wars you’re watching.

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After declining Enfy’s plea to help with her rebellion, (something which he’ll of course, eventually reverse-makes you wonder if they ever met again?) he decides to have a rematch with Lando on a sort of jungle planet (Lando here is trying to charm someone with another anecdote that uses terms from the old Lando novels, again). Here we get a callback to ESB, with Han hugging Lando, although in this case, Han uses the opportunity to take Lando’s cheating device literally off his hands….and he’s able to win the Falcon.

 

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BTW Lando’s outfit here is even more loud than his other one, with a kind of tacky pattern on it showing what appears to be some sort of glider underneath two suns. (Couldn’t find any in-film pics so I settled for this).

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Now taking their rightful place as pilots of the Falcon, the two set upon a job that Beckett hinted at, with a gangster on Tatooine.

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Of course it doesn’t take much thought to know who the gangster is….

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So that’s Solo. Unfortunately, it’s probably one of the weaker Disney Star Wars efforts. While it’s got a decent cast, some nice additions to Star Wars lore and nicely incorporates elements from the “Expanded Universe” into it, but Alden Emmerich doesn’t quite have the charisma of Harrison Ford or the presence, which I think unfortunately hurts the film. Also, although it doesn’t really incorporate much of the Jedi/Sith/force aspects of the larger saga, it still does feel a bit ‘recycled’ in some aspects, a criticism often applied to Disney’s films-the Kessel Run sequence in particular seemed to be a bit of a “Greatest hits” thing. It’s a bit unclear if any of these problems were due to the film’s director drama, or some other aspects. Unfortunately, SOLO wasn’t a huge hit, and Disney seems to be recessing their Star Wars release strategy at this point, although Episode 9 is still on track for a 2019 release and there are other projects in the pipeline apart from the “Story” films.

 

Solo Part V-Kessel run!

 

Although they manage to clear Kessel, the Empire has decided to pop up and block the Maelstrom with a Star Destroyer. It’s a pretty cool image that appeared in the trailers. Say what you will about Disney’s handling of the franchise, but they’ve really managed to get some cool Star destroyer imagery in these films. The Empire’s arrival is signaled by an ominous DUN, DUN DUN DUNNNN!!!! music, used in Star Wars and Rogue One at the beginning of most Death Star scenes.

 

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And they’re definitely not letting Han and co. through, as they release TIE fighters. Among these is the TIE brute, a new model of TIE fighter that doesn’t particularly look as different as Rogue One’s Striker and Last Jedi’s silencer, seeming more like a downgraded version of the the TIE bomber from ESB and (briefly) ROTJ.

 

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Han decides to go around the Destroyer, launching on the fabled Kessel run. Unfortunately, to me, this scene sort of plays a lot like a sort of greatest hits kind of thing for the films. First, you’ve got Beckett using the Falcon’s manual cannons, which of course we “later” see in A new Hope, Force Awakens and Last Jedi. It even uses the same “Here they come!” music, although with a bit more drums….and the cannon is somewhat not quite a ‘quad’ yet, but a single and mostly useless one.

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Then we get the Falcon trying to evade the TIEs in an asteroid field; naturally, of course, playing the Asteroid chase music! It’s a great piece of music of course, and it’s nice to hear it again in a Star Wars film (While “Here they come” shows up in ROTJ and TLJ again, ESB was the only other film to use this theme)….but still, couldn’t come up with something more original?

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It’s here that Chewie takes his rightful place as Han’s co-pilot as well, set to the triumphant Star Wars theme. We also learn that Chewie’s 190 years old, which sticks with most non-film sources saying he’s about 200 at the time of the OT.

Lando plugs what’s left of L3 into the Falcon’s computer to help them navigate, allowing for her to pretty much become the ‘brains’ of the Falcon, so we know who Threepio was ‘talking’ to in ESB.

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Finally, we get to the big finale-which involves a giant space monster. While monsters-including ones out in space-have been a sort of Star Wars trope for a long time, it still feels a bit ‘greatest hits’, especially after the last two parts of the chase.

 

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Although “Solo” does add something new, or rather, something reworked from the novels; the Maw, a massive black hole that soon snares both the monster and the Falcon. I’m pretty sure this is the first time we see or have a black hole mentioned in a Star Wars film, although they’ve been around quite a bit in the EU-especially this one, the Maw. In the Jedi Academy novels (now non-canon) it’s revealed that the Maw is host to an isolated Imperial weapons factory, which had a prototype version of the Death Star (something obviously completely retconned by “Rogue One” and even further back, “Revenge of the Sith”) and also a super-powerful “Sun crusher” which has torpedoes that create supernovas. (One such torpedo destroys Carida in the trilogy; Carida is actually mentioned earlier in this film as one of the Imperial academies).

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The Maw pretty much ‘eats’ the giant space monster, and almost the Falcon, but by ejecting some of it’s extra weight and a little coaxium, manages to escape the Maw….in 12 parsecs. Sort of. Of course, all this wear and tear pretty much gives the exterior of the Falcon it’s “classic look”. Sort of.

 

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Solo Part IV

Kessel! We first see our characters go through the Akkadese maelstrom, a sort of big gas tunnel. Funny thing is, it almost sounds a lot like the “Antares Maelstrom” the way it’s pronounced, which puts me in the mind of a quote from another “Star” franchise.

 

 

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Here’s some sort of character downtime, where we get a look at the much cleaner interior of the Lando-era Falcon. We also learn why the holo-chess is a bit flickery later on-Chewbacca hits it, thinking the “pieces” are in fact, solid.

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We also get Qi’ra and Han reminisce on old times-and share a kiss-in Lando’s closet, which of course is full of many capes and outfits. She also states that she’s reluctant to restart her relationship with Han because she’s done terrible things for the Crimson Dawn syndicate (Not really elaborated on, but it’s a criminal organization so probably some bad stuff).

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I wonder if the Cloud City outfit is in there?

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The white interior of the Falcon and the clothes put me in mind of yet another sci-fi franchise; the Doctor Who series, where the Doctor keeps a closet of multiple outfits handy in the TARDIS, which comes in helpfully when the regeneration alters his personality-and fashion sense-sometimes, not for the better.

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I also wonder if this is the same area where Han and Leia first kiss later on. I’m not about to dig out a technical manual or anything to look that up. Kind of makes sense though, that Han would scuttle the closet once he gets the ship. Han basically has two main looks in the OT-the vest and jacket (The jacket also made a comeback in The Force Awakens), so he probably has little need for a fancy closet.

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We also learn that Han is familiar with the YT-1300 design because his father worked on the docks. That’s pretty much all we learn about Han’s father (Who is of course Kylo Ren’s paternal grandfather, and probably didn’t end up anything like his maternal grandfather)…..that would be an awkward family visit.

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We also learn Lando was raised by a single mother as well, a slight detail from the old Lando novels (not the only mention they’ll get). We also get a bit of an awkward conversation between L3 and Qi’ra, and how L3 and Lando seem to have feelings for each other.

Finally, we come to Kessell, where the group pose as slavers selling Han and Chewie to the mines. The mines actually look fairly cheap for a Star Wars film, just kind of a regular mine.  Sorry to bring Star Trek into this yet again, but they don’t look all that different from the Rura Penthe mines in “Star Trek VI” (although with out snow).

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Here we get a little bit of an easter egg-Becket’s disguise here is pretty close to the one Lando wears to infiltrate Jabba’s palace in ROTJ.

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Chewbacca briefly splits to help out another Wookie, a sort of more hairless one (possibly from being in the mines so long)….who is played by none other than Anthony Daniels, AKA C-3PO! When Daniels was cast, everybody naturally assumed he’s be playing 3PO in a cameo similar to his “Rogue One” appearance. Nope! This is the second time we see Chewie among others of his own kind, after “Revenge of the Sith”. Of course, The Holiday special set the precedent (and some assumed from the trailers that the other Wookie was a member of Chewie’s family, as seen in that special)….but that’s best forgotten.

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L3 causes the droids in the control room to revolt while Becket and the others steal the “Coaxium”. While some have been mixed on L3 as a character, I really liked that the droids in this had a sort of  boxy ‘retro’ look, like they could’ve walked out of the 1977 film…

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or even one of the knockoffs, such as “The Black Hole”.

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Chewie also rips a guard’s arm off, the first time we really see him do such a thing, although JJ Abrams did intend for him to do that to Unkar Platt in a scene deleted from Force Awakens.

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So all hell breaks loose, and the group are soon shooting for their lives. Lando, meanwhile, talks about the chronicles of Lando Calrissian to a holographic recorder, I think talking about the Mindharp of Sharu. Pretty much puts the old Lando novel ‘more or less’ back into canon, I guess, if you substitute L3 for Vuffi Raa.

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Unfortunately, during the escape, L3 is fatally shot down, one of the saddest droid ‘deaths’ in the series along with K-S20 (R2 and 3PO were frequently damaged in the series, but ‘got better’ for the most part). While K-S20 sort of had a brave sacrifice and his ‘light’ went out, L3’s is far more shocking, as she starts talking in ‘malfunctioning’ language and seems to be in great ‘pain’ as she ‘dies’.  Lando is also injured as well….which of course now means it’s up to Han to take his rightful place…..

 

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Next: Kessel Run

Walking Dead: Clean from Grimes?

 

People are gonna die. I’m gonna die. Mom. There’s no way you can ever be ready for it. I try to be, but I can’t. The best we can do now is avoid it as long as we can, keep one step ahead. I wish I had something better to say, something… something more profound. My father was good like that. But I’m tired, son.-Rick Grimes, season 2, episode 12 “Better Angels”

 

One of the more shocking news regarding the “Walking Dead” has been that Andrew Lincoin-the British actor who has been the lead and one constant of the Walking Dead-will be leaving the show.

Rick of course started as a sheriff’s deputy in Georgia, with a normal life with a wife and kids. However, he was shot while on duty….

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….which plunged him into a coma. Eventually though, he woke up….

 

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….but EVERYTHING had been turned upside down. The hospital was abandoned, organized society was pretty much gone….and the world was now covered with roaming Walkers, people who had died and were reanimated into walking corpses with a taste for human flesh and poisonous, fatal bites.

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Throughout it all, Rick was eventually able to find other survivors, including his wife, Lori (who unfortunately, had been having an affair with his partner, Shane, who helped get them out) and son Carl.

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Through eight seasons, Rick has led a group of survivors, faced human and walker adversaries, and generally made it out alive. However, not all of his fellow survivors have made it. Including Lori who died giving birth to Judith (either Rick or Shane’s daughter, it’s kind of up in the air), and was put down by Carl before she could become a Walker. This event in particular caused Rick to go temporarily insane.

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…..and last season, he lost Carl due to the sickness from the walker bite, which he got as a result of being a good samaritan. However, the two managed to spend some time together-with Carl telling his father to remain strong-instead of the sudden shock of Lori’s death, and Rick was able to collect himself to continue and finish the war against Negan and the Saviors. Plus, he still has to take care of Judith.

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But now Rick will be gone too, with perhaps Norman Reedus’s Daryl taking charge of the group. As much as I like Reedus as an actor, I’ve never really seen Daryl as much of a leader-he’s more of their scout, tracker, secret weapon etc. and much more of a lone wolf. I just can’t see it…

However, on the topic of Daryl, I can’t help but wonder if he’ll be in some way responsible for Rick’s downfall/death. Although the two didn’t exactly hit it off at first, they became good friends, with Rick calling Daryl his ‘brother’ towards the end of season 4. However, in the last season the two actually came to blows due in part to Daryl’s thirst for revenge against the Saviors who imprisoned and tortured him (and also killed Glenn because he tried to stand up to Negan) and Rick’s somewhat more cautious, and eventually merciful approach.

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….and of course Daryl is seen plotting against Rick along with Maggie and Jesus in the season 9 finale after he spares Negan.

….and then there’s Maggie herself (Who has arguably lost even more than Rick-her father, sister, and husband as well as her best friend Sasha) who also of course has it in for the Saviors (although she was merciful enough herself to just imprison a few and actually became good buddies-and perhaps later, something more? with Savior Alden). Of course Lauren Cohan is rumored to be eventually leaving too as she’s got a new show lined up.

 

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….in the comics, both Carl and Rick are still alive and dealt with the Whisperers next, but it’s unclear what path the TV series is taking at this point with both of them gone and a possible civil war looming.

I’m thinking Michionne and Carol might actually be good replacements-both have shown to be resourceful, badass women with leadership skills (although Danai might want to move to films, given how “Black Panther” and “Infinity War” helped to raise her profile). Michionne is also Rick’s girlfriend and was also pretty much a mother figure to Carl. Carol of course is pretty much the co-leader of the Kingdom community at this point, especially since Ezekiel became heavily demoralized after the loss of much of his soldiers and his tiger friend Shiva.

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Perhaps a clue to Rick’s fate is the massive zombie hordes heading towards the communities. While Rick and co. have been able to fend off smaller hordes in the past (although the season six horde was an extremely close call), maybe this is one fight Rick won’t be able to win, and he’ll end up a zombie victim. Although given Rick’s long-running time on the show, such an exit would be somewhat anti-climatic. Carl pretty much had a long goodbye, and even Lori’s exit was a bit drawn out too, with “ghost Lori” haunting the unstable Rick. Then again, Glenn was also a series lead since day one, and he certainly didn’t get a Carl-sized send off (although certainly his death was one of the major motivations for the war, despite being arguably the ‘heart’ of the group.)

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Speaking of which, makes me wonder if we’ll see her again at the end of Rick’s time. Apart from Lori, characters have come back as hallucinations; pretty much everybody on Rick’s phone call with Lori, Shane when he he went to Woodbury, Tyreese’s fever-induced sightings of Beth, the Governor, Bob, the sisters etc.

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It’s also possible, I suppose, that Rick’s despair at Carl’s death might have a delayed effect, and he’ll simply wonder into the woods again, looking for stuff….and things….although seeing him broken might not be the best end for the character, it’s kind of worked as an arc for Morgan, in a sense, although Morgan’s personality is a bit different, they both have now shared the same loss. Plus, like Morgan, it could be mean he could come back (speaking of which, where’s Heath? Guy kind of vanished into thin air. Not that he was a big character, but still it’s one of those “where” things. Then again, we were left wondering where Morales was for seven seasons, and we got an answer finally this year).

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Granted, TWD’s ratings haven’t been that great for the past few years, although this probably will not mean cancellation-like the current Doctor Who, although the ratings aren’t as good as they used to be, the brand is still strong and makes quite a profit off merchandising too, and it’s ratings are still OK for it’s time slot and in comparison to other shows as well. So the franchise probably won’t be quietly retired just yet….

Although if they did choose to end it, they could have Rick just wake up from the coma and have the whole thing be just a bad dream, as one fan theory has speculated. It’s almost liked they teased us with that in the season 8 teaser, although it turned out to be something else entirely (Carl’s “dream”).

 

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….and what of Andrew Lincoin himself? Some former TWD cast members of course have moved to new pastures. There’s Cohan possibly going on to do her new show. Jon Berthnal is doing movies and MCU’s Punisher. Similarly, Michael Rooker played Yondu in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Laurie Holden joined the Americans….and most notably Sonequa Martin Green is the new face of the Star Trek franchise in “Star Trek Discovery”….something that clued fans in when it was announced that Sasha wasn’t exactly going to last much longer.

Maybe Andrew will return to doing movies, a field he was first well-known in, for Love Actually as Mark. Heck, he even came back for the Red Nose day special. Question is, will these films feature him with his british accent, or the southern accent he’s adopted as Rick?

 

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But as always, my speculation threads aren’t exactly always accurate. My “Who will die” post really only managed to really pinpoint Simon as one of the casulties, and missed the mark elsewhere (I thought Michionne or Rosita would die. Nope).

Games in Review: L.A Noire

 

 The city on the verge of greatness. A new type of city, based not on the man, but on the automobile. The car, symbol of freedom and vitality. Where every man can own his own home and have room to breathe and not be overlooked by his neighbors. A city where a man’s home is his castle. A quarter acre of the dream made possible by the victory. A city of opportunists. A city of dreams where Hollywood will shape the thoughts and desires of the entire planet. A city of pioneers. A city of dreamers. A city of undercurrents, where not everything is as it seems. A twentieth century city that will become a model for the world. A city that has no boundaries, that will stretch as far as the eye can see.

 

L.A Noire is a 2011 video game published by Rockstar games, the same company that also created the Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption series. It was recently remastered for current gen systems in 2017, and given a first person VR version as well.

The game follows the career of Cole Phelps, a young LAPD officer fresh out of World War II’s pacific campaign-a plot point that later becomes very important to the game’s overarching story (if giving it a bit of a “small world” feeling by game’s end). Cole is pretty much by the book and very intelligent (something that his partners find a little annoying at times, almost most warm to him eventually), but he’s far from perfect (Which, again, becomes a major plot point). The game has Cole start out in regular patrol, but then he quickly rises through traffic, homicide, and Vice, although he eventually gets knocked down to Arson after a scandal; however, it’s in this department that he’s ultimately able to solve a troubling and complicated case involving illegal morphine, mysterious fires and a real estate swindle.

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The game also features frequent flashbacks to Cole’s World War II experience, which also flesh out not only Cole, but some of the other characters in the ‘present day’ version of the game. Most importantly, Jack Kelso, who frequently butts heads with Cole in the past, but is an important player in the present.

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Cole is ‘played’ by Aaron Staton, whose likeness and expressions were captured using a motion capture technique called “Motion scan”. Staton is mostly known as Ken Cosgrove from the “Mad Men” TV series.

 

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This technology also is key to one of L.A noire’s more unique mechanics-when questioning a witness or interrogating a suspect, the player can try to determine if a character is lying or concealing something by observing their body language, (if their eyes are shifting etc.). Cole has three options-“Good cop”-take it easy on the suspect-“Bad Cop”-where Cole can get a bit more grumpy, and “accuse” where he pretty much states the person is lying or guilty. It generally doesn’t give a ‘game over’ if you choose the wrong option, although it does count against your case rating. (In the original version of the game, this was “Truth, Doubt, Lie”.)

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Another important aspect of the game are the clues scattered around the various crime scenes, or on the crime victim/object itself. They’re not always easy to spot, but are often hinted at by a musical cue and magnifying glass. Although multiple objects can be manipulated, not all are relevant to the case.

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The game also has a series of small puzzles to unlock clues, such as radio tuning, maps, ciphers, and even a calculator at one point.

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The game does have some more conventional modes of gameplay, of course. The driving is somewhat similar to the GTA series (Phelps can even “borrow” other people’s cars), and there’s certain missions which involve of course, car chases. However, the player is encouraged to not wreck too much stuff of city property or pedestrians, as it’ll go against your final score.

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Several cases/missions-and side missions-also have an action component (The only time Phelps can use weapons BTW, once again this isn’t GTA). For dealing with bank robbers and especially dangerous criminal suspects, there’s shooting, which is somewhat similar to Uncharted’s-meaning cover is an extremely good idea.

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…..but if Phelps just wants to knock people out, he can simply just do fisticuffs in a melee mode.

 

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There’s also some stealth, although it’s comparatively small compared to the rest of the game. Cole can track the suspect both from behind while trying to stay out of sight….

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….or tail a suspect.Image result for car tail L.A noire

All of this is set of course, given the title, in an open world 1947 Los Angeles, which includes of course, “Hollywoodland”. The motion picture industry of the time does play into a few cases here and there, but is not a huge thing in the game, and plays only a little bit into the game’s overall arc. There’s also some nice 40’s touches with the Jazz clubs, malt shops, old time, Norman Rockwell style advertisements, and even the radio station which features some old music (Including “Into each life some rain must fall” which might seem familiar to Fallout fans, except here it’s a bit more period appropriate!), news (including, naturally, some early cold war stuff) and radio sketch comedy….including some familiar names such as Jack Benny

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BTW this definitely isn’t a game for kids-it deals with some rather unpleasant subject matter, both visually and storyline-wise. Pretty much a very rated “M” game (although maybe not as violent as some other games, it still deals with some stuff-you do after all, investigate crimes. Bit like a CSI crime drama on the gore level, although with some added stuff which sort of earns it a bit more caution ). Also, it’s important to keep in mind the title, that this a noir story-a genre focusing on a sort of cynicism-and like the classic Hollywood films it’s somewhat inspired by (Maltese Falcon, Big Sleep, Chinatown etc) a happy ending might not be in the cards for everyone.

Like any good crime drama there’s also some interesting supporting cast, mostly involved with forensics.  There’s your Medical Examiner Malcolm Caruthers, who’s a pretty cool guy, as is Ray Pinker in forensics. Even when Phelps has his fall from grace, they have no problems working with the man, who whatever his personal problems is a “good case man” as they both say.

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The game also has a femme fatale of sorts, German lounge singer Elsa Lichtmann-although unlike some Femme fatales, she’s actually quite heroic and one of the keys to the game’s major case.

 

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Phelps various captains are all pretty much cool guys, although like his partners they take a while to warm up to the man.

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The game has quite a few antagonists-not only the various suspects, but those involved in the whole arc. One of the most recognizable is Leland Monroe, played by John Noble, who people might remember from “Lord of the Rings” as Denethor II (Boromir and Faramir’s father, and the steward of Gondor/Minas Tirith) and Walter Bishop from Fringe.

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The game also features many other recognizable character actors in various roles, including a fair amount of Aaron Staton’s Mad Men co-stars (although don’t expect to see John Hamm, Elizabeth Moss or others here, such as Vincent Kartheiser ).

Overall, although some aspects of the game are a bit unconventional and experimental, and the game is heavily scripted and linear (as in the story still continues even if you flop the interrogations), it’s still a very fun game with a compelling story and excellent graphics, especially in the motion capture of the faces, and enough to do to keep the player occupied for quite a bit, and the open world/easter eggs/collectibles as well as using different interrogation techniques can give earn the game a replay too.

 

Solo My thoughts Part III *spoilers*

There’s a bit of a nice scene with Han and Qi’ra before Dryden shows up and sort of spoils the reunion. Basically, Vos isn’t too happy that the Coaxium was lost. It’s a bit like that scene in the special edition of “A New Hope” where Han talks to Jabba, except Vos here is a bit more intimidating (Han seems to not be too intimidated by Jabba here, even stepping on his tail, even if that of course was added as a CG joke by Lucas), but still kind of a bit cartoonishly evil.

 

 

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After a bit of negotiating they agree they’ll get some unrefined Coaxium from Kessel-Kessel of course the planet mentioned multiple times in A New Hope, as the place where there are “Spice mines” that 3PO worries will be their punishment, and of course Han’s famous line about making the Kessel run in twelve parsecs. Although the planet has been featured many times in Star Wars expanded media, “Solo” is it’s first on-screen appearance.

Of course Dryden’s hand in this can not be seen since he as an alliance with another criminal organization around that area….so Han and co. need to do things a bit incognito. Although he does send Qira in as their chaperone, which does kind of tie her to Vos if she’s discovered, so that’s not exactly a plan that’s 100% foolproof. Plus they need a ship/pilot.

Enter Lando. Gambler, card player, scoundrel. You’ll like him.

We shift to a scene on the same planet, with another, far more run-down lodge/cantina, which looks a bit more like the more divey places from the other Star Wars films than Vos’s ship.

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This bar also has something a bit new-droid fighting. While we see droids in the other films in competitive sports (attack of the Clones) and being tortured (Return of the Jedi) I think this is the first time we see them as a sort of “battlebots”.

 

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It’s here we meet Lando, one of the highlights of the film, played by Donald Glover. Glover has plenty of Billy Dee’s mannerisms down, and we also learn that Lando is a bit of a cheat, using a device on his arm to rig the card games. There’s also a nod to Billy Dee William’s weird pronunciation of Han in the OT (Which sounds more like “Haan”). I also feel this is one of the scenes where Alden has more of the old style Harrison Ford swagger.

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This is also the first time we see “Sabacc” a card game mentioned in the EU but never seen in “canon”. The old EU frequently portrayed the cards as actually small electronic devices, which would shift values electronically-as seen in this artistic rendition from the Shadows of the Empire card set-the cards appear to be lit up.

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But the Solo version of the game seems to be somewhat more like your old fashioned card game, and also uses symbols that might be a bit more familiar to Star Wars fans.

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Han tries to get Lando’s ship, but this isn’t the point where he wins the Falcon. We also meet L3, a female droid who is Lando’s co-pilot, but who also has a thing for droid’s rights, a topic that’s sort of been implied a bit in the films but never really explored (“We seem to be made to suffer, it’s our lot in life etc.”). L3’s an interesting design, she basically looks like an R2 unit with a more humanoid body. Lando likewise also had a droid pilot in the old EU as well, although in the end he turned out to be some kind of strange alien (The old Lando novels were kind of weird, although they’re actually sort of referenced in this film a bit later! So I guess there’s a “canon” version of them, but with L3 instead of the droid/alien thing Vuffi Raa) She breaks up the droid match, which kind of embarrasses Lando and provokes an angry rebuke from the guy running the fight…

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Who turns out to be this film’s Clint Howard cameo. Clint is of course, Ron Howard’s brother, who has had small roles in many of his brother’s films, as well as several other TV and movie credits, including memorable roles in “Star Trek” “Seinfeld” and “Arrested development”.

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This isn’t the first time he’s shown up in something Star Wars related-he also played an Imperial officer in a commercial for “Kinect Star Wars”, the somewhat infamous game with, among other things, the Han Solo dance game.

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Yep, that was a thing.

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So Lando agrees to help Han and crew go to Kessel in exchange for a share. We’re given a somewhat weird scene with L3 asking the group not to look at her as she uses an R2-style buzzsaw to open the impoundment area. She looks a bit…different, with the mandible gap filled out and in noticeably better condition than later on.

 

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The ship also appeared in “Revenge of the Sith” as well, in a “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo. (Falcon like ships are also seen in “Attack of the Clones” but according to Lucasfilm, this is the actual Falcon). Funny thing is, the “Revenge of the Sith” version is pretty close to the OT version, which means Lando must have fixed up the Falcon a bit, only for Han to kind of mess her up again. Some of the blue paint scheme is still a bit visible though.

 

 

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However, we’re shown that Enfy’s Nest has planted a tracking device on the Falcon, which seems to me to clearly evoke this scene from ANH, where Vader and Tarkin talk about how they’ve let the Falcon escape so they can track it to the rebel base-although there’s no real escape here, and Enfys is not as nearly nervous about the plan as Tarkin was.

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Next: The Kessel run!