Monster Hunter World

I was not completely sold on the look of this game. I’ve never played a Monster Hunter game, so I had my reservations. I expected it to be a challenging game to learn and one that would have me opt out early on. However, I checked my gameplay time, and I had played for over eighty hours. I love this game. I think a lot of new western gamers experienced this franchise for the first time just like me.

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Monster Hunter World is set on a new land where hunters have come to tackle new monsters and series favorites. The story is rather minimal and entices you to tackle a new monster, usually bigger than the one before with each mission. There are also these large monsters almost the size of an island that you can traverse as you battle them. These fights are quite epic and open your eyes to the scope Monster Hunter World aims for. Even after the story is finished you are still given more and more challenging bosses in the post-game. The continuous challenges make the gameplay loop rewarding.

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The gameplay involves you tracking a monster in a large open area with multiple paths. You fight the monster before they flee. You then rinse and repeat until the monster is finally slain and you can reap the rewards from the monster’s carcass. The gameplay is a bit repetitive after a while, but then something new is thrown at you. Maybe that’s a new monster or a new weapon you’re working towards. They always fill the game with constant content throughout the year too. I have an Alloy character skin and a Dante armor set, and I know there have been a ton of others available.

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The new expansion is coming out next month and with it a new area. The expansion sounds like it could be as big as the main game, and it even includes its own platinum trophy set for PlayStation players out there. So if you haven’t given Monster Hunter World a try now would be a good time to before all of us return for more monster-slaying when the Iceborne expansion is released. Otherwise, it should be bundled together when the expansion releases.

Sink your teeth into Monster Hunter World. I think I would even say it was my favorite game of 2018.

Available now on PS4, XboxOne, and PC.

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Robert Ring

Bumblebee​

There is no way I could have told you that a Transformers film would be one of my favorite films of 2018. I’m talking Top 10. And this is coming from a guy who thought the first Transformers (2007) film was terrible, and the sequel Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was the worst film I’d ever seen.

It was the day after seeing Bumblebee that I thought about how I could actually love this film when it hit me. It’s not really a Transformers film, sure it’s got robots and loosely connects it to the beginning of the franchise. But this movie is a throwback film to the 80s in nearly every way. If it has any faults, it’s because it is too nostalgic. To best describe Bumblebee I would call it an E.T the Extra-Terrestrial with Herbie as the main character.

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Bumblebee starts on Cybertron where there is a war between the Decepticons and the Autobots. Optimus Prime sends Bumblebee to Earth to wait for him and the rebellion. Also on route to Earth are two Decepticons that try hunting Bumblebee down. This sends Bumblebee into hiding until he meets Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld). Charlie is that typical 80s kid that’s sort of a loner and is dealing with missing her deceased dad. Her dad was the only person that made her truly happy and helped her be a better person. Bumblebee begins to fulfill that role, but as soon as she really begins to bond with Bumblebee, the Decepticons enter the fray.

If like me, you didn’t like the Transformers films you should give this one a watch. It didn’t make me interested enough to learn more about the Transformers franchise, and honestly, I’m ok with this being a one shot without a sequel. I would probably rather it.

Check this out if you want an 80s throwback film. It’s part nostalgia, part campy, and an overall feel-good movie. Oh, and another thing, it’s Michael Bay free.

Robert Ring

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Sony has had a terrible time in the past few years. Not with Sony PlayStation, but with its movie studio, and television sales. There was also that big Sony hack that exposed a ton of private information. It is, therefore, necessary for it to succeed on every investment they are currently producing. It would be assumed that they would have played safer with their Spider-Man franchise with the threat of bankruptcy in site. Instead, the franchise has been fragmented. Sony loaned the Spider-Man character to Disney for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They even chose to gamble on a Venom spinoff without Spider-Man. I thought Venom was a mess of a film, and it reminded me of the Green Lantern film. Luckily for them, audiences flocked to see it, making it a massive hit, especially in China. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a spectacular gamble that paid off.

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The story centers on Miles Morales, and not Peter Parker. Miles is an intelligent kid, and he is placed in a prestigious school because of his intelligence. It’s not what he wants though. Miles is more of a creative kid who happens to be intelligent. He is being pushed in a direction by his parents and teachers that think they are doing the best for him. Miles’ father is a policeman, very prim and proper. However, Miles looks up to and bonds more with his uncle, who is a bit of a delinquent and free spirit. It’s the freedom that Miles is entertained by. Miles is wrestling between being someone like his father or someone like his uncle. Eventually, Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider and finds powers similar to Spider-Man. Miles stumbles across Spider-Man fighting with the Green Goblin and Kingpin. Kingpin is trying to open a dimensional door, and Spider-Man is trying to stop him from tearing a hole in time. Alas, the dimensional rift pulls through an array of Spider-Heroes. There are a ton of them from Noir Spider-Man to a Spider-Pig, and a Gwen Stacy (Spider-Woman) too. The plight throughout the rest of the movie is to get these heroes back to their

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse does an excellent job of feeling like it has thrown everything from the Spider-Man lore at us yet at the same time feeling as if there are so many more stories to tell. You don’t feel alienated by any of it either because we are experiencing all the absurd through the eyes of Miles. This movie will mean more to people with an excellent knowledge of Spider-Man, but it won’t take away from the general public. I’m sure I missed a slew of jokes and nods to other material, yet like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it wasn’t so in your face. There are many neat surprises that I did not see coming, and they made me love it more.

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the Scott Pilgrim of the Marvel comic book films. It’s hilarious, utterly absurd, and irresistibly heartfelt. I think it is subsequently the best Marvel film yet. It’s the best animated film of the year, and this is the same year The Incredibles 2 came out. The animation is a feast for the eyes. It’s super stylistic, and I hope to see more animated films come out looking like this.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse should not be missed!

Robert Ring

Creed II

Creed was a movie that was better than anyone could have expected. Sure it was by Ryan Coogler fresh off directing Fruitvale Station, but still, how could any director pull it off? As it turned out even Stallone had to be persuaded. Creed is an exceptional film on its own, but as a Rocky film, it’s superb. I would also say that it could debatably be the best film in the franchise; however, I think the first Rocky edges it out.

The first Creed follows Apollo Creed’s son Adonis the illegitimate son wanting to pave his way into the boxing ring like his father before him. Rocky Balboa, Apollo’s old rival and later friend eventually takes Adonis under his wing. The road to the top is similar to the first Rocky film with a fresh take. The parallels of the original Rocky movies don’t end there but continue to enhance the franchise in Creed II.

Creed II centers around the theme of family. The story delves into Rocky’s family, and Drago’s as well. Drago’s character may be the most interesting in the entire film because we are catching a glimpse into a guy who had it all before being abandoned by his own country after losing the fight to Rocky all those years ago. Drago’s story is about redemption, and he seeks it by training his son to be able to take on Creed. Creed being at the top is like his father, Apollo in the first Rocky film with all the ego before fighting Rocky. The story takes a few neat twists and turns down this road, and as for Rocky, he is filling the Mickey role now.

The best order for watching the Rocky franchise is probably Rocky I-IV, and Creed before attending this one. Rocky V is notoriously bad, and Rocky Balboa is good but skippable. I gave a mini review of each here on the first Creed trailer a few years back now. Creed II was enough to finally satisfy me if they do choose to close the book here on the Rocky franchise. If they do make another in the same ilk, I’m there.

If Creed is the greatest fan film of all time, then Creed II is the icing on the top.

Check it out.

Robert Ring

Fallout 76: So Far

Fallout 3 was my first foray into the wasteland. It’s a simple idea executed in a rather fun way. The heart of the series to me has always been the time capsule of the sixties marketing combined with the American dream now in decay. The mascot of Fallout is one of gaming’s most recognizable and compelling because he is a bit of an enigma. The Vault Boy is a complete contrast of the post-apocalyptic setting. The Vault Boy is always there, everywhere, mostly positive, and always with a smile. Fallout 4 continued the franchise after the Fallout: New Vegas spin-off with much of the same and graphically a little crisper (granted not much). Fallout 4 added the function to make a camp, a little finicky, albeit a nice addition.

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Fallout 76 is the later with less of a focused narrative, interactive NPC’s and a world that feels more desolate than ever before. Fallout 76 has been overly criticized and rightly so. The game was marketed terribly. For a franchise that is tongue in cheek of consumerism, it should have spent more time understanding how to market their own product. Fallout 76 is a game of the same ilk as Ark, Conan, Rust, and 7 Days to Die. These games were a blossoming niche genre a few years ago, but since then the genre has nearly become obsolete. They need to evolve in order to create a growing player base properly. These games were successful at launch by staying in Beta form for years as they continually fixed the bugs. Fallout 76 feels like a Beta that is at least six months from being consumer ready due to stuttering issues, a slew of bugs, and a lack of focus due to an uninspired narrative. Fallout is a franchise too big to be blundered with messy messaging of what the game is. Fallout 76 has become an expensive experiment that has hurt the Bethesda brand. Is it all bad? No. I like it quite a bit. It’s a Fallout game that feels like it is at the very end of the timeline when the remnants of humanity are left to the androids. Or if you look at it the other way (as I believe they intended) the very beginning of the post-apocalypse with only a few survivors beginning to leave the comfort of their vault for the risk and reward only available in the wasteland.

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There is a fine game in Bethesda’s Fallout 76, somewhere. For me, it is in the exploration, the other player encounters and the simple reward of slowly growing my skill sets and camp. Ark, Conan, and Rust have continued to become more refined gameplay experiences with each update, so if Bethesda continues to back Fallout 76, this game may be something exceptional in time. If you are limited to only buying a few games this year, there are some amazing ones you should spend your money on. If you are ok with riding this game through like a Beta, then, by all means, pick it up. At the end of the day the Fallout series has never been perfect, nor the Elder Scrolls, but Fallout 76 shows more imperfections then previous entries.

I played the PlayStation 4 version.

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Robert Ring

Bad Times at the El Royale

First of all, this film has one of the best trailers of the year. It has an ensemble cast, and it is the best film of the year after The Quiet Place.

The El Royale is this hotel sitting smack on the middle of the state lines between Nevada and California. The line dividing the states can even be seen going right through the lobby. Guests can choose which state they want to have a room in, with California rooms costing one dollar more.

The film begins with an array of characters coming to stay at the El Royale. We see a salesman (Jon Hamm), a drifter (Dakota Johnson), a priest (Jeff Bridges), and a girl far from home (Cynthia Erivo). The story unfolds with vignettes of each character and how they were motivated to come to the hotel. Each role in this movie is worthy of a film of their own. Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Erivo outshine everyone else, which is hard to do with so much talent surrounding the production. Their story arc is the most endearing of them all. Cynthia Erivo was so good in fact that she’s now on my radar, and I’m sure she’s going to be offered a lot more work hereon. Her acting was second to her singing, and she can make a man cry with that voice. Cynthia was also the most level-headed character throughout the film. Like things go nuts, and she reacts the way we all would. Chris Hemsworth gives his best acting to date. And Bill Pullman’s son Lewis Pullman is the next Paul Dano regarding acting ability.

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The director of Bad Times at the El Royale is Drew Goddard, who co-wrote and directed Cabin in the Woods. Cabin in the Woods flipped the stereotypes of horror movies and the self-aware nature of Wes Craven’s Scream to poke fun at the genre. Bad Times at the El Royale shares some similar sensibilities, but more to do with breaking expectations over humor. This second outing for Goddard shows that Cabin in the Woods was not a fluke. He has proven himself to be stylistic and a brilliant auteur twice now, so here’s to me looking forward to everything else he directs.

This film is excellent. It’s long at two hours and twenty minutes, yet the way we see the night play out through everyone’s point of view the film goes by like a breeze. If the bonkers nature in the third act of Cabin in the Woods turned you off it, I would still be inclined to recommend this to you because it’s not demons and monsters here. It is however crazy in the best way possible at times. Worst case you will have listened to a killer 60s soundtrack. Check it out!

Robert Ring

Insatiable

You should be watching this show!

Netflix dropped Insatiable last week, a show that came off a trailer that had people blasting it for dealing with fat shaming. Yes, the initial trailer for the show even made me roll my eyes at what I assumed was going to be the final product too. So when I saw it available to watch on Netflix, I begrudgingly wanted to see just how bad it was. As soon as the short premise was over where the title character had lost the weight, which was I want to say in the first fifteen minutes, I was in, and I enjoyed what I was seeing. By the time I finished the last episode I was a huge fan.

Insatiable begins with Patty Bladell, a girl who took to eating and became very obese, getting into an altercation with a homeless man that breaks her jaw, that therefore stops her from eating and becoming skinny. Patty finds the lawyer, Bob Armstrong to help her on the case against the homeless man. Armstrong is also involved in beauty pageants and sees Patty as his new protege. Patty set on wanting to get even with all the hate she had when she was fat intends to become a beauty queen to show up everyone who called her names. It’s an over-the-top premise, and it’s meant to be because it’s partly a black comedy. It’s essentially the film Election (1999) with beauty pageants, and a slice of My Name is Earl. The revenge plot of the show is the central inconsistency within it, which can be righted in the second season. The show is filled with great characters, and they all come together nicely amidst absurd confrontations. The show is just as much about Bob Armstrong as it is Patty Bladell and I think he steals the show; his character is excellent.

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Critics hate on Netflix’s latest tv show Insatiable. I skimmed enough reviews to see that the majority of them just don’t get it. Instead, they are sticking to the fat shaming labels that ridiculed the show from the trailer. I thought that the show would keep going to flashbacks of her character being portrayed as fat, but it didn’t. The first portion of the first episode is the only hint of what outlets are saying. Patty’s character is not someone who thinks she becomes all that when she gets skinny, instead she still feels uncomfortable in her skin, like many young women do regardless of their image. It’s moments like this that show the real heart of the show amongst all of the craziness. There are also some relationships that form in the second half of the series that are hilarious and ballsey. The show deals with sexuality in a way I appreciate as I’ve never seen it done before as well.

I don’t want to give much away because I think the show has a lot of substance that is not being recognized by entertainment outlets. The show has an 11% rating on Rotton Tomatoes, and I think it should be in the 75-80% range. Not only that, there is a change.org petition for Netflix to cancel the show with 230,000 online signatures. Seriously? I’ll be recommending this show for the remainder of the year. It’s the best new show I’ve seen this year after Cobra Kai, and I want to see a second season happen. So give the first episode a watch and see if it tickles you.

Robert Ring