LEGO – T. Rex Breakout 76956

Jurassic Park was such a groundbreaking film to me, and one I don’t think has ever been surpassed. This was the first film that really utilised CGI and changed the future of modern cinema forever. Since then CGI has been used to completely change everything within an environment, but back in Jurassic Park it was just used to bring dinosaurs to life on the big screen in all their glory. Dinosaurs were hella big in the 90s outside of Jurassic Park, whereas kids today probably think of them like dragons and other fanciful creations of fiction. For myself and others, we knew dinosaurs were real and our imagination was limitless, at least we thought so, until we saw Jurassic Park and the horror if we were actually faced with these creatures.

The first time we see the T.Rex on screen is terrifying, even now the scene has me anxiety ridden. It’s such a magnificent movie moment that buying this LEGO diorama set was essential. You also get a mini-figure of Tim, Lex, Alan Grant, and Ian Malcolm. Each of them is covered in a mixture of rain and mud, with alternate expressions, except Alan. I love the Jurassic Park logo print piece and quote piece they have on the front.

Each character has a marker on the ground to show where they belong on the set. I love this for being able to recreate the scene as shown on the box. Even the footing for the T.Rex is easy to place with these markers. Surprisingly this set has quite a few moveable pieces that are not locked down. Both vehicles can be plucked right off the set, however the overturned vehicle is fashioned in place by a perfect lego shaping in the ground for it. That vehicle is also held in place by the T.Rex’s foot, while the other is held in place by cheese wedge Legos.

There are so many fun details to be found in this set from Tim’s night vision goggles, to T.Rex footprints in the ground, and even the chain that held (ahem) a goat. It’s a massive set measuring nearly sixty centimetres in length if you have the tail stretched out straight, so it will take up a bit of room.

All these LEGO images come from the LEGO site, because my pictures look terrible due to poor lighting.

I hope LEGO makes more movie scenes like this in the future and it’s nice to see they are getting into the gaming space as well, with a Horizon Zero Dawn Tall Neck coming next month.

For now I’m going to need to find a space for this incredible set.

Robert Ring

Kakarot

It’s hard for people to expect new things from a series that has been remade countless times before. What they did this time was give us a definitive remake that tailors almost identically to the anime. The difference with Kakarot is that it has a real soft spot for the original Dragon Ball series and you get to meet countless characters from that series and see what they’re up to in Dragon Ball Z. Being a fan of the original series I loved seeing the likes of Nam, Emperor Pilaf, Android Eight and Launch just kicking about in the world.

In my fifty-five hours with Kakarot, I was able to complete the game to completion, which included the PlayStation Platinum trophy. To put this into perspective that’s almost exactly half the amount of time it would take to watch every episode of Dragon Ball Z. The game covers the four main sagas of the series from the Saiyans, to Freezer, to Cell, and finally to Buu. Notably absent is the Garlic Jr. Saga, but was that really a loss? With a season pass in the works, it will be interesting to find out what additional content gets added, my guess is that they will cover the movies.

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The gameplay of Kakarot is similar to the fighting style and movement in Dragon Ball Xenoverse. The world is a segmented open world full of Z Orbs to collect, side missions and battles throughout. These can be completed between the main missions, although some side missions will lock you out of them if you progress too far in the story making them irrelevant. While the game’s title is called Kakarot, you will play through the story as Gohan, Vegeta, Piccolo, and Trunks as well. Depending on where the story goes will determine who you play for the most part until the post-game. There are multiple RPG elements that involve you levelling up your main character, while you can also level up bonus stats by using Soul Emblems.

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The post-game doesn’t have a lot to offer for someone like myself that completed every side quest as they appeared, minus one that I was locked out of. It does let you summon the dragon when you collect the dragon balls to bring back old enemies. There is a Villainous questline that has you tackle very strong enemies that upon finishing lets you tackle a secret boss.

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Every other Dragon Ball Z game has let you relive the epic fights throughout the series in quick succession, but Kakarot allows you to relive the emotion you get gearing up for those epic moments. That difference had me playing this game non-stop. I enjoyed my time with Kakarot and I’m a little sad it’s over. I’ll be sure to check back in when the DLC content releases.

For fans of Dragon Ball Z, this is a must-play, for newcomers, maybe check out some videos of the gameplay first.   

Robert Ring

Available on PS4, XboxOne, and PC

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The Fast and the Furious

Everybody seems to love The Fast and the Furious.
No kidding, there are seven sequels and a spin-off. It’s also the seventh highest-grossing film franchise ever.

So what kept me from jumping into this highly profitable franchise?
Well, just about everything. The Fast and the Furious just sounded like another action film among the dozens that seemed to crop up around that time. It looked like a lot of racing and over the top masculinity. When the series had a renewed interest by the fourth or fifth film I was going to give it a go until a friend of mine told me the timeline is out of order. From what I gathered, the third film is a bit of an anomaly and takes place after further sequels, and it was enough to turn me off. Then the popularity of the franchise was so big it was generating over a billion dollars a movie and the marketing was all in your face. From the trailers, it reminded me of the Transformers franchise which was following the same upward trajectory, except I saw the first two and they were terrible. It wasn’t until I saw the trailer for the horribly titled Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw that I saw potential interest in it. Fast forward to last night and without further ado, I watched it.

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You would be wrong, if like me you thought this movie was going to be about racing. That’s all just the background. The Fast and the Furious is about respect, and family wrapped up in a crime story. The story starts with some juiced up street racing cars hijacking a truck full of electronic merchandise. They do it flawlessly. They are trained and professionals at this type of literal highway robbery. The next scene we are introduced to Brian (Paul Walker), a pretty boy getting himself into an arena he doesn’t belong. That arena is street racing and he wants to take on Dominic (Vin Diesel) the head of a Los Angeles illegal street racing crew. Brian goes in headstrong in the race but just loses out. It was enough to gain the respect of Dominic and the two become buddies. Before long Dominic brings Brian into his family, and then we find out that Brian is an undercover cop trying to find out who is behind the hijackings. Brian starts falling for Dominic’s sister and finds it hard to be objective as he is pulled further into Dominic’s crew. Along the way, Brian is being pressured by his bosses to pinpoint who the criminals are, and Dominic is mixed up in a turf war between another crew. Everything that brews together comes to a climatic and action-packed end.

It turns out The Fast and the Furious is quite a good film. There is a lot to like. The characters all feel like family by the end, and that’s where the heart of the film is. Through the eyes of Brian, we see these people we don’t relate to at first until we see their bond and respect for each other over time. It all becomes heartfelt. I can only assume that this is the theme that runs through the franchise, even as the trailers show some ridiculous stunts, and I mean ridiculous. I enjoyed Paul Walker in Pleasantville, and Varsity Blues before this, but his acting is still very similar overall. Considering how beloved he was at the time of his death, he must completely grow as an actor and into his character in the later films.

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The editing is effective at making all the racing scenes seem adrenaline-fueled. I recall it being talked about on the documentary The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing. I bought the movie Bullitt on Blu-ray years ago just because this feature-length documentary was on there. I still haven’t watched Bullitt to date. The documentary is on Youtube and worth a watch. Check it out below:

I know how outrageous this franchise gets in the later films, so my curiosity is peaked and I question how they can keep it together for so long. For now, I’ll leave those curiosities up in the air and return to the franchise sooner than I have in the past.

Robert Ring

Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling

Spoiler Alert: There is a trans storyline in this special.
At least I gave you the warning… It’s just weird seeing that a great little kooky show from Nickelodeon’s stellar 90s catalog is being applauded for dealing with a trans character, and not much else. Every news article I’ve seen has ‘trans’ in the title. I went in completely blind, and it was a neat surprise, but it wasn’t even that big of a character. I’m unsure of why it’s such a big deal considering it’s done in the most clique way. Ok enough of that, and now on with the review.

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Nickelodeon in the 90s had this particular style in each of it’s animated programs. Shows like the Rugrats and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters had a Russian influence in the animation. Shapes are always more obtuse looking, most notably in the character models. For me, I loved how different they felt from the more realistic scalings of Loony Tunes and Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Nickelodeon also had a lot of pastel colors used throughout all of its shows, which I liked. Rocko’s Modern Life was like a more child-friendly Ren and Stimpy. The show aired between 1993 to 1996 and follows a wallaby named Rocko. Rocko being a wallaby comes from Australia, and essentially works his way through the modern world. Along the way, he finds himself in chaos usually from being led by his friend Heffer. Now, after twenty-three years Rocko has returned in an interesting fashion. For one it’s a special that runs for about forty-five minutes and not a feature-length. It also becomes very clear that this special has no interest in appealing to new audiences, which is odd considering the original series is not available to watch on Netflix. This special is purely for the fans.

I didn’t see the last episode that aired of Rocko’s Modern Life, however, the movie begins right where the last episode ended. Rocko and his two best friends Heffer and Filburt are launched into space inside Rocko’s house. Twenty years pass and nothing has changed for these characters as all they have done is rewatch the same videotape of The Fatheads every day. After the videotape becomes warn out and breaks they discover the control to get them back to Earth has been stuck to the backside of Heffer all along. Cleverly, the show essentially has kept these characters in stasis this whole time as they have no idea how the modern world has changed in all those years. All the changes Rocko and pals see are shown as quick gags, and it would have been more enjoyable if we got to spend a bit more time poking fun at today through the lens of yesterday. Quickly Rocko finds that The Fatheads was canceled years ago, so he quickly rallies to have it brought back. The second half of the special is Rocko clinging to The Fatheads revival because he can’t accept change. The moral than for the special is that we must accept change, and we even have a literal character named The Winds of Change telling Rocko as much.

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The special overall isn’t all I had hoped for in a new Rocko. The biggest problem was the pacing at the start that hindered it, and by the time it was near the end I was just warming up to the world again. I wanted more time surrounding Rocko with his friends, and especially Spunky. What we got was a nice taste of Rocko after all these years. It doesn’t set up future stories, instead, it’s just a nice little bonus for kids who adored the show.

I liked it and if you were a fan you will find some nostalgia in it too.

Available to watch on Netflix now.

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

Spider-Man PS4 – Review

After Superman, Spider-Man is my favorite superhero. And if I’m honest, these were the only two I ever cared about. In recent years I’ve begun to enjoy Batman as well. This is in part due to the storytelling portrayed in a game much similar to Spider-Man, which is the Batman Arkham series by Rocksteady Games.

Playing Spider-Man, I couldn’t help, but compare this game to the Batman games. I think that it’s the same way we distinguish the Nolan Batman films as the high point of the superhero movies. It’s almost silly to compare those films to the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. That was my own prejudice on my part during my first half of the Spider-Man playthrough.

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Alright, let’s get on with it.

Spider-Man is an intellectual property that people are starting to grow weary of. It’s only the origin story. People don’t want to see Uncle Ben die yet again, likewise with Batman and the death of the Waynes. Spider-Man on PlayStation 4 by Insomniac decided to skip that part and put the player into the shoes of Spider-Man roughly a year into his powers. This allows for Insomniac to litter the game full of easter eggs that have taken place beforehand, and still be early enough into the lore to watch the origins of some villains. Most notably, Doctor Octavius who we meet in this game as our mentor and an esteemed scientist. Peter isn’t at the Daily Bugle; instead, he is working with Doctor Octavius to work on robotic engineering to help advance those with missing limbs with robotic replacements. That’s where Peter Parker spends most of his time. Parker has also been involved with Mary Jane, although we are not entirely sure what split them apart. As the story progresses, we learn of a villain named Mister Negative. Mister Negative is the overarching villain that is mysterious and unlike anything Parker has faced before. Mister Negative is after revenge against Norman Osborne and will do anything to get his revenge. There are plenty of villains sprinkled throughout the game. Most of them are humanized amid all the usual comic troupes.

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Initially, I may have been burned out by the nature of open world games, and therefore didn’t truly become enamored with the world at first. Sure, it looked good. I just wanted the open world to be revolutionized in this game. The side quests and challenges found all over the map were tedious to me and held me up from continuing the story. Maybe halfway through the game, the pacing got better between story missions and exploration. Once the story gets rolling it’s a roller coaster ride. I wish there had been more story towards the universally known Spider-Man villains like Green Goblin, but the villains appeared in a mostly boss fight manner. The sequel I suspect will do a better job at giving us more backstory into the Sinister Six.

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The gameplay takes the Batman Arkham combat and gives it a shot of adrenaline. This was mandatory for Spider-Man. The combat is buttery smooth when you’re in the thick of it and you quickly get a feel for the controls. Most of the game lets you choose to take down enemies silently. I tended to get the first couple down like so before swinging in. There are also tons of gadgets to help you strategically aid you in combat. There are tons of costumes to collect that are usually rewarded with level progression. I unlocked everything, completed the entire game and even got the platinum trophy. Overall, this game has a lot of bang for your buck.

Spider-Man is a good game, not amazing. I think it’s been a little overhyped, but good nevertheless. I would say it’s a mixture of Horizon Zero Dawn and the Batman Arkham series. So if you like those games or even just Spider-Man, you’ll love this.

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

Disgaea 1 Complete – Review

Disgaea 1 Complete brings the original Disgaea game that started the beloved franchise to the PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. With it comes the addition of the Etna mode that was present in the PSP version, as well as improved visuals and sprites. Disgaea is a tactical turn-based RPG that lets you take control of Prince Laharl as he tries to claim his place as Overlord of the Netherworld, as his father was before him. However, the throne will not easily be taken as the Netherworld is full of demons that all want a shot at the title. Alongside Prince Laharl are a crew of allies that will help him in his quest, most notably the vassal Etna, Flonne the angel in training, and of course the delightfully cute peguinesque Prinny.

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I was first introduced to Disgaea on the PSP. It was something I download on a whim, and within moments I was enamored with it. It was the first over the top anime game I had ever played, but it has fun, and it has a heart. It’s over the top in a unique way that in essence parodies what a role-playing game is. For instance, you can reach level 9999, and every item has its own stages should you choose to strengthen the item’s properties. If you’re like me then at first glance it sounds daunting, but it’s speaking to the post-game, and to those who want to get into the minutia of it all. Even the gameplay and strategy can get quite involved as the levels progress, however, this is just giving you more tools at your disposal. Every map has its own set of rules that handicap you in some way or work to your advantage if you think of the stage as a puzzle.

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Each chapter has a world with its own stages. The first stage of each world was usually the hardest for me because you are meeting a new enemy or terrain condition that you need to work out. In addition to that, the first stages would see the enemy a lot stronger than previously, so I would grind a couple of previous stages to make it a little less taxing. It is ideal to have all your characters work as a team; otherwise, they will not all share in the experience from killing an enemy and become easy targets as the stages increase in difficulty.

You can create characters and promote them through exams to get an approval rating. This lets you do any number of things from getting better gear at merchants to extorting money from the judges or allowing your character to be reverted to level 0, while retaining your stats and some bonus attributes. The gameplay is fun, yet I was compelled to aptly get through the stages to see how the story progressed. The story will continually surprise you and have you chuckling at the humor throughout. I mean how can you not want to become the Overlord of the Netherworld, when most other games are churning out heroes.

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I recommend Disgaea 1 Complete to newcomers and series veterans unless you don’t like Japenese sensibilities or tactical role-playing games. Disgaea may be coming out in a packed month of games, but it’s different enough to scratch a different itch over all the big open world games. The gameplay is relaxing enough to jump in for a couple of stages and opt out daily too. I enjoy being able to play this game again, and I hope we may see similar editions for Disgaea 2-4 on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch eventually. Oh, and did I mention the PlayStation 4 version has trophies? Give it a go.

Robert Ring

Release Dates:
North America – 9th Oct
Europe – 12th Oct
Australia – 19th Oct

Disclaimer: NIS America sent me a review copy.

AHS: Murder House

Back in 2011, American Horror Story was getting a ton of Emmy buzz. There was no subtitle attached to the original series, and it was simply American Horror Story. The nominations pegged the show as a miniseries, which intrigued me as the series was twelve episodes long, a number that is rather absurd for the format. As the next couple of years progressed the show became a series that entailed a new standalone story each year with new characters, while the cast largely remained. Now that the latest entry (Apocalypse) goes back to the beginning and combines itself with the third series (Coven), I thought I would give it a shot.

The story centers around a family that moves into an old house that has a history of people dying, by murder and suicide. The family has a few secrets of their own when they come to the house as they are looking at the purchase of this house and city as a new start. Before long we understand that the house is inhabited by ghosts that freely walk the halls, and can choose to be corporeal at their choosing. The ghosts become key players after each of their backgrounds are played out over the course of the season and influence the family’s arc. The arc is fairly original as far as haunted house stories go, yet I did find myself predicting the outcome of most story twists.

After the first few episodes, I believed the show was a mess. The biggest problem for me that continued throughout the show was the close-ups. About seventy percent of the show was shot in close-ups and I was pained by it. In the show’s defense, I believe it was to not give too much of the house away. If the entire show is mainly set in a house it would feel very stale after twelve hours. Another messy point for me was a lot of the weird things they have the ghost do in the early episodes that make no sense until further on in the series. My problem here was I was not enthralled to find out what each of these things meant, whereas David Lynch can do something of his own ilk and I am deeply fascinated to see where it goes. Overall, I’m not sure what the message of the series was, if there was one at all.

From what I can tell it seems as if the target demographic is mostly women, and after seeing the first season I presume it comes to a lot of the soap-opera acting throughout. The main cast does a fine job at portraying their characters, but the flashback scenes involving actors for a bit role are atrocious, and to me, cheap. The scary scenes in this are pretty tame, but that might be to television sensors. I will probably continue watching the further entries in American Horror Story and ultimately hope that the problems I have with Murder House are not extending to the rest.

I love The Twilight Zone, and I think American Horror Story is like an extended episode of that. I would caution people to be wary of jumping into this show because it was a battle for me, in the beginning, to become invested in the story.

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