The Last Of The Last Of Us

***If you haven’t finished playing The Last of Us Part II, and would be upset at the INSANE amount of spoilers below, this article isn’t for you. You can go here***

Thirty minutes ago credits rolled on my playthrough of The Last of Us Part II.  I’m sitting at my desk looking up reviews, ending theories, and the like.  It’s a weird moment where I’m feeling sort of like my bell was just rung.  I almost want someone else’s point of view to replace my own so I don’t have to think about any of the feelings that the freaking game just made me feel.  But that’s not the right way to go, so how about I write a quickfire review instead!

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The Other Voices: Blindspotting

Last night I watched BLINDSPOTTING.

Written by its stars, Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, and directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada, this 2018 film is about a black man and convicted felon at the end of his probation, trying desperately to avoid trouble in Oakland while his white best friend tries as hard as he can to start it.

I know this column, which I cruelly abandoned a few months ago with every intention of getting back to it soon (I AM going to finish my opus on 50 Shades), is supposed to be primarily about directors, so I’ll give a nod to Estrada, who cut his teeth on short films, music videos, and TV episodes before being given BLINDSPOTTING as his feature debut, so although he’s not a household name, he had a ton of experience before he walked onto this set, and this film appears to have raised his profile.

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Strange New Worlds: The Most Important New Star Trek Series?

With the announcement on Friday 15th May of the new Star Trek series, Strange New Worlds, fans are unsurprisingly in a euphoric state. A lot of fans lauded Anson Mount and Ethan Peck for their portrayals of Captain Pike and Spock in Discovery’s second season and there were campaigns for a Pike series whilst Discovery season 2 was still airing. It looks like CBS have listened to what we want and commissioned this new series and it may be more important than we realise.

Putting aside the ability for it to offer explanations for some of the canonical irregularities that more hardcore fans of Star Trek accused Discovery of there is something way more important that it can do. Captain Christopher Pike is not someone who was just plucked out of thin air for the sophomore season of Discovery, he is quite an important character in the Star Trek mythos.

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Pandemic Picks: Sam’s Existential Book Club

Just before COVID-19 hit the US in force, I moved from Los Angeles to the suburbs of Nashville in hopes of a slower pace of life in which I could pursue more of my hobbies and spend more time with my family. I got the monkey paw version of this wish, to be sure, but I am truly enjoying all the time I’ve had to read while sitting on my back porch with my dog. 

I started with a collection of essays purchased before leaving titled Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed about writers who have chosen not to have children. It’s a great read. Something that fascinated me, and something nearly each author highlighted, is how new the choice to be child free really is. In the course of human history, people have been unable to produce children, but they have never had the ability to opt-out like we do now. That choice is more weighted than we give it credit. 

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Pandemic Picks: The Nice Guys

You will all have favourites out there, favourite actors, favourite directors, favourite writers. It’s natural that you gravitate towards certain people, with actors it’s because you probably identify with him or her more, or just that you like their performances. Directors and writers though are a little different, you don’t like the people themselves necessarily, but you like their style, their techniques, their voice. For me I love Shane Black and will watch anything that he does and for the most part I love everything he has written or directed. What really appeals to me about Shane Black is the way he can switch very quickly and almost effortlessly between hilarious comedy to serious drama. Not only that but he manages to subvert clichés by setting up what looks to be a cliché situation and then turns it completely on its head.

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Stepping Through the Wormhole: 25 Years of Stargate: The Complete Franchise

Because it became clear very early on into this project that an article covering the entire Stargate Franchise would be far too long I broke it down into four parts. But I also wanted to present the full article in all it’s glory as well so here it is. What you might consider the Deluxe Edition. I hope you all enjoy it.

UNLOCKING THE GATE – THE ORIGINAL FEATURE FILM

In October of 1994, Stargate hit the cinema screens and became a surprise hit. Critics were not kind to the Roland Emmerich-directed epic adventure, but it struck a chord with audiences with it’s stunning photography and intriguing story. It launched a franchise that has become one of the most popular Science Fiction franchises of all time. A franchise that consists of: 3 films, 3 live action series, 1 animated series and, most recently, a 10 part mini-sode series. Not to mention the various games and books that were released. But we will get to all that in time; first we need to go back to the beginning, to where it all started….The 1994 feature film.

I should probably preface this part of the article with a small statement; it may seem like I am being harsh against the feature film but that is only because of everything that came after. The film started it all and without it we wouldn’t have got SG1 or anything else, however, for me the film just doesn’t hold up in comparison to the series.

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Pandemic Picks: Future Man

It’s funny how you find new shows to watch, for example with Future Man I found it purely by accident. I put a photo up onto a Facebook group for The Expanse, the photo was of my Amazon recommendations and I was pointing out that Amazon was recommending that I watch The Expanse again. See my previous Pandemic Pick on The Expanse for reasons why I would happily watch the whole series again. However, by pure chance the cursor was actually highlighting this other show called Future Man, and several people on the group mentioned how much they enjoyed that show. So, I thought I’d give it a shot.

I’ll pre-warn you, just like I was, the show is definitely for adult only audiences. Produced by Seth Rogan and Even Goldberg the series tells the story of Josh Futturman, a twentysomething janitor who lives with his parents. He is a hardcore gamer and addicted to a game called Biotic Wars, when he completes the game he is recruited by two freedom fighters from the future, Tiger and Wolf, to help them defeat the Biotics. Does it sound a little familiar? The Last Starfighter anyone? Well the show knows that it’s ripping off it’s concept from the eighties film because it makes a joke about it immediately. The series is littered with references to various Sci-Fi films including a lot of time travel films including The Terminator and Back to the Future to name two. The font that is used for the on screen text is the same one that is used in the Terminator series.

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Pandemic Picks: Waco

In 1993, the ATF raided the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX. Tipped off by the media and terrified after a similar situation in Ruby Ridge, ID that left a child dead, the Davidians started a firefight. Eight cult members and four ATF agents were killed. The FBI came in to handle the situation and commenced a 51-day standoff that ended in a horrifying fire that killed 76 people, including 25 children who lived on the compound. Waco, the six-episode miniseries currently available on Netflix, originally made for the Paramount Network, covers the events that lead to this standoff and the horrifying outcome. 

It’s hard to find anyone to root for in this situation, but Michael Shannon as FBI negotiator Gary Noesner grounds the story, helping us to see the humanity on both sides. Taylor Kitsch is incredible as charismatic Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh. He’s as magnetic as he is reprehensible, and it’s easy to see how he amassed a following, even if he was bent on martyrdom. One of my faves, Shea Wigham, makes an excellent turn as militant FBI agent Mitch Decker. He is so bent on getting the job done that he’s willing to use PSYOPS against American citizens and tear gas toddlers, even after killing a woman and her child at Ruby Ridge.

Waco is a shameful chapter in American history, and I’ve seen a lot of documentaries on the situation. But it wasn’t until I got to see it played out as drama made it somehow more real for me. Telling these stories, however difficult it might be, is important, especially when they are dramatized. It allows us to connect with the players as characters, creating some distance from their bad actions and giving us a glimpse of the souls underneath. Writers and actors get to the genuine emotion behind people who are likely nowhere near as eloquent or uncomplicated in real life. 

It’s a tough watch, but a rewarding one, and since most of us still have nothing but time, I suggest taking a look at Waco. 

Pandemic Picks: The Martian

Ridley Scott was shot into the mainstream with his 1979 Sci-Fi thriller Alien, he cemented his position as a visionary director of Science Fiction with 1982’s Blade Runner and then he moved onto other genres. In 2012 he returned to Sci-Fi with the mediocre Prometheus, audiences felt like he had lost his touch when it came to Sci-Fi. Thankfully he proved everyone wrong with the exceptional 2015 Sci-Fi drama The Martian.

Based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by Andy Weir, The Martian follows astronaut Mark Watney as he tries to survive alone on Mars after he is accidentally left behind when his fellow astronauts perform an emergency evacuation of the planet during a storm. The film has a lot of elements to it that make it such a wonderful film, the acting is superb and the characters themselves are deep and believable. The realism in the film is interesting because everything feels like it is something that not only could exist, but will exist in 2035. The realism is due to the fact that the filmmakers consulted NASA in the elements of space travel and Mars.

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A Modern American Classic: The 25th Anniversary of Heat

It’s rare that films come along that are recognized as an instant classic, but 25 years ago the Michael Mann written and directed crime epic Heat did just that. Heat was not just any crime thriller; it was an intricate story that wove interconnected plots together like a fine suit with a realism that is rare in crime cinema. Not only that, it was one of the most meticulous and detailed films not only in the crime genre itself but in all of cinema history.

It is not widely known but Heat was actually based on a true story that happened in Chicago in the early 1960s. Neil McCauley was a real career criminal who had been in and out of prison throughout his entire adult life. The pursuit of McCauley was led by Chicago Detective Chuck Adamson, who would later serve as the inspiration for the character of Vincent Hanna. Adamson and McCauley did sit down and have coffee like in the movie and on 25th March 1964 McCauley was chased down during the execution of a robbery and gunned down by Adamson. When Michael Mann was introduced to Adamson by a mutual friend, a man by the name of Nate Grossman, the McCauley story captured Mann’s imagination. He put a lot of the real events into the story that would eventually become Heat.

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