WrestleMania Winner Take All: Becky Lynch Defeats Ronda Rousey & Charlotte Flair

Becky Lynch defeated Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair to capture the Raw and SmackDown women’s championships during the first ever women’s main event at WrestleMania XXXV. Ever since her attack on Flair at SummerSlam last year, Lynch has unexpectedly become the hottest act in WWE. Similar to Seth Rollins, Lynch earned her championship match at the Royal Rumble event, where she won the titular bout for the women.

Lynch has been a major influence on the current landscape of WWE, as fans have grown tired of certain stars getting the same opportunities. Refusing to stay in the shadow of her competitors, Lynch adopted a new attitude and began calling herself “The Man”. This new attitude would eventually lead to the “Irish Lasskicker” securing a guaranteed championship match at WrestleMania. After winning the Royal Rumble match, Lynch opted to challenge for the Raw women’s title, which was held by Rousey. Lynch was originally supposed to square off against Rousey at Survivor Series last year, but couldn’t compete due to injury. Despite that, Lynch’s new gimmick got the best of her and she was suspended for 60 days leaving her old rival Flair to take her spot against Rousey, the same way she had at Survivor Series. Eventually, Lynch was allowed back into the match and it became the main event. However, Flair’s presence in the match remained meaningless, so in order to prove she belonged Flair defeated Asuka for the SmackDown women’s title and the triple threat bout became a winner take all contest.

Related: Joining WWE: 20 Things About The Company Wrestlers Only Find Out When They Get There

After months of hype and anticipation, Lynch defeated Rousey and Flair to capture both women’s titles. However, the win didn’t come without its issues. While Lynch celebrated in victory, replays showed that Rousey’s shoulders weren’t down for the count entirely. Of course, this controversial ending could have been done to not only please the fans but to keep Rousey looking strong, as she is reportedly taking a break.

The match itself didn’t live up to expectations, but a small portion of that can be due to the longevity of WrestleMania, as the events seem to get longer each year. Many fans will agree that Vince McMahon should learn the importance of quality over quantity because the crowd was silent for the most part during the highly anticipated triple threat bout. While Lynch’s crowning moment didn’t end with her submitting Rousey, at least she walked away from the match victorious. And, while the match itself was sloppy and lacking in its execution, the women’s division should be looked at differently following what Lynch, Flair, and Rousey accomplished by competing in the first-ever women’s main event at WrestleMania.

With Lynch now holding both championships for both brands, it will be exciting to see if WWE makes any adjustments to the women’s division. Despite holding both titles, WWE could still have Lynch defend them one at a time, but booking Lynch to work two programs against two different opponents would probably be too difficult to book. As “The Man” tightens her grasp on the women’s divisions, WWE will more than likely merge the women on Raw and SmackDown into one mega division.

More: John Oliver Slams WWE Over Not Caring About Its Wrestlers’ Health

2019-04-08 05:04:26

Eric Trigg

The Big Winner From Disney’s James Gunn Fiasco Is James Gunn

James Gunn is the big winner from Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 fiasco. Last summer, around the time of San Diego Comic-Con, Gunn became the target of a politically-motivated attack when some of his old comments and tweets went viral. Gunn had started out working for bad taste film studio Troma, and at the time he’d used off-color and offensive humor both in his work and online. He’d long since moved on from that, and had even publicly reflected on the fact he regretted his old comments on social media, but they were still out there and proved to be a potent weapon against him. After his old tweets were dredged up again, Disney reacted by swiftly firing him.

Although fans campaigned for Gunn to be rehired, the writer-director of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies never once bad-mouthed Disney for their decision. There have been reports that he met with Disney’s Alan Horn a number of times after his firing, and Horn was impressed with Gunn’s maturity. Disney reportedly rehired Gunn several months ago, and the news has finally gone public. The whole controversy will have a major impact on the Marvel slate, as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 had originally been planned to release in 2020, launching the future of Marvel’s cosmic range of movies. Instead, that role will be played by The Eternals, a new franchise. Given that Gunn has signed up to write and direct The Suicide Squad for Warner Bros., it’s reasonable to assume Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will probably come out in 2023.

Related: Best Online Reactions To James Gunn Being Rehired For Guardians Of The Galaxy 3

Gunn’s firing had always seemed to be something of a knee-jerk response from Disney, who surely should have known about these old comments and tweets if they’d conducted basic due diligence before hiring Gunn in the first place. Still, it was also perfectly understandable, given Gunn’s jokes included references to subjects like rape and pedophilia, and there was no way Disney would want to be associated with those two topics at a time when they were in the bidding to expand by acquiring the bulk of Fox’s film and TV empire. Now the controversy is finally coming to an end, and Gunn is returning to the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise that he’s made his own. He’s gone through a hard time over the last year – but he’s come out as the big winner from this whole affair.

James Gunn’s rehiring effectively confirms that the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise just doesn’t work without him. When Marvel first announced Guardians of the Galaxy, the prospect of a superhero film featuring a walking tree and a talking raccoon raised more than a few eyebrows. It was believed by some that Guardians of the Galaxy would be Marvel’s first flop. But Gunn’s creative approach took everybody by surprise. He transformed the little-known heroes into a blockbuster franchise, reinventing the characters for the big screen and adding an eclectic and creative ’70s soundtrack. The first film grossed over $773 million worldwide, and became hugely influential. Gunn’s judgment and taste had proved sound, and it was no surprise when he was brought back to direct the sequel.

Gunn remained tremendously protective of his characters, writing their dialogue for Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. He even argued for changes to the script, insisting that Peter Quill would be willing to shoot his beloved Gamora rather than let her be captured by Thanos. Gunn’s position at Marvel Studios appeared to be growing, as he suggested his script for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 would set up “the next 10, 20 years of Marvel movies.” Kevin Feige has recently claimed Gunn’s reputation as the architect of Marvel’s cosmic universe was blown out of proportion, but one thing seems certain: Gunn was in a position of influence – right up until the moment he wasn’t.

Gunn’s return simply emphasizes his importance to the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, and indeed to Marvel’s future slate. It’s uncertain whether or not he’ll return to the influential position he previously enjoyed; no doubt Marvel’s plans have changed since he was last in the know, and will change even more when they gain access to the X-Men and Fantastic Four film rights. But the fact remains that Marvel and Disney both clearly felt Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 needed the James Gunn touch. Indeed, it’s been reported that Marvel didn’t even discuss the film with any other directors; it seems they put it on indefinite hold while this whole mess sorted itself out. The Guardians of the Galaxy films are officially Gunn’s baby.

Related: What James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Rehiring Means For Suicide Squad

In the meantime, Gunn has also gained another feather in his cap by signing on with Warner Bros. to write and direct The Suicide Squad, a sequel/reboot of David Ayer’s 2016 blockbuster. His rehiring makes Gunn the only director to be signed on simultaneously with both DC and Marvel – a position he’s perfectly suited to given his view on the traditional “rivalry” between those two superhero franchises. As DC Films producer Peter Safran put it in an interview with JoBlo:

“And you know what I love about James directing for both Marvel and DC is he has always espoused the view that that which unites comic book and superhero lovers is much greater than that which divides us. Because, there’s always been this Marvel/DC rivalry, which he has has said, and I agree, is absurd. There’s room for everybody and certainly that which unites us all is far greater than that which divides us, so hopefully they’ll see that you can be both a Marvel and a DC fan and the world won’t spin off its axis.”

Warner Bros. reportedly went to great lengths to court Gunn, offering him the pick of the crop. He even had a chance to direct a Superman film, although he was apparently more interested in Superman’s dog Krypto. The Suicide Squad is Gunn’s priority, and is still slated for an August 6, 2021 release, so Disney’s rehiring of James Gunn appears to have been made with his current deal with Warner Bros. and DC considered. It will certainly be interesting to see whether Gunn continues to work on both Marvel and DC movies going forward.

Page 2 of 2: The Trolls Have Lost

The whole affair is a sorry one for Disney, who caved in to Internet trolls in the first place and made what was clearly a hasty and ill-considered decision. The social media campaign against James Gunn was never really about his old posts and tweets at all; it was politically motivated, with right-wing trolls feigning outrage to get him sacked. They compared Gunn’s fate with the firing of Roseanne Barr, a parallel that doesn’t quite work given Roseanne continued making discriminatory statements after being hired by Disney (ABC, the network that produced Roseanne, is a Disney subsidiary), while Gunn completely ditched his off-color humor – and admitted, to his surprise, that he’d felt liberated by doing so. “I suddenly was working for Marvel and Disney,” Gunn told BuzzFeed in 2017, “and that didn’t seem like something I could do anymore. I thought that that would be a hindrance on my life. But the truth was it was a big, huge opening for me. I realized, a lot of that stuff is a way that I push away people.

Disney’s decision set a disturbing precedent, emboldening trolls whose only interest was in destroying the careers of the people they disagreed with. They swiftly began to launch other – thankfully less successful – campaigns against other actors and directors. It’s possible that Disney’s higher-ups didn’t really appreciate what was happening; they simply saw that the words “Disney” and “pedophilia” were being linked, and reacted with speed. They had played into the trolls’ hands, and had unwittingly given them power. Rehiring James Gunn changes that power dynamic once again, with Disney telling the world that they do indeed believe in the possibility of change and redemption after all.

Related: Avengers: Endgame Can Set Up Marvel’s DARK Guardians As Phase 4 Villains

Ultimately, far from destroying James Gunn’s career, the social media campaign against him has transformed it. While the jokes were indeed crude and offensive, it had become clear to anyone who did any digging into the issue at all that Gunn had put them behind him. What’s more, the writer-director has handled the controversy with grace and style, demonstrating to the whole world that he’s grown up beyond the off-color humor he deployed back when he worked for Troma. Gunn never criticized Disney, he accepted responsibility for his past actions, and he dramatically reduced his social media presence over the course of the last 12 months – all of which eased the way for his eventual comeback.

Meanwhile, it’s become clear just how strong a fanbase James Gunn has. MCU fans launched a petition calling for Disney to rehire him, which garnered over 429,000 signatures. The Guardians of the Galaxy cast issued an open letter in which they expressed their support for Gunn and made clear how great he was to work with, and Dave Bautista vocally threatened to quit the entire MCU. Hollywood A-listers stood up behind Gunn, boosting his cause and profile, all surely aware that the same trolls would do their best to silence them as well. Gunn became a cause célèbre – and, with his rehiring, a successful one.

The trolls intended to destroy the career of James Gunn. Not only have they failed, they have achieved the opposite, boosting his profile and actually enhancing his career. His past is well-known now, and can never be used to undermine him again. What’s more, his repentance is so clear that Disney has rehired him less than a year after he was originaly fired. The theme of redemption has always been central to Gunn’s work; he’s admitted that he identifies the most with Rocket, a character with rough edges who’s gradually learned to open up and embrace others. Now Gunn himself perfectly embodies that theme.

More: Why James Gunn Was Rehired For Guardians of the Galaxy 3

2019-03-17 11:03:33

Thomas Bacon

True Detective Season 3 Gets an Official Premiere Date & New Images

HBO has announced that True Detective season 3 will premiere early next year on Sunday, January 13. Nic Pizzolatto’s crime anthology series hasn’t been on the air since it wrapped its largely-derided second season in August 2015 and went on an extended break, in an effort (on the network’s part) to give the show’s creator more time to deliver a third installment that could better live up to the standard set by the series’ widely-celebrated freshman run. Judging by everything that we know about season 3 thus far, it seems that Pizzolatto is taking a back to basics approach with his latest crime narrative.

True Detective season 3, like season 1, takes place in the U.S. South (the Ozarks in Arkansas, to be exact) and explores a narrative that unfolds across multiple time periods (three, in this case). Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali stars in Pizzolatto’s new crime story as state police detective Wayne Hays, a fellow who (much like season 1 detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart before him) is haunted in the present by a case that he originally worked years earlier, back when he was a younger man. As Wayne puts it in the True Detective season 3 teaser trailer, “I want to know the whole story”.

Related: HBO’s Watchmen TV Series Will Feature Music By Reznor & Ross

In addition to confirming the premiere date, HBO has released a handful of new images from True Detective season 3 that feature Ali with his costars Carmen Ejogo (the Fantastic Beasts movies) and Stephen Dorff (Somewhere). You can check them out in the space below.

Pizzolatto is once again the sole writer on True Detective season 3 (though he got an assist from Deadwood‘s David Milch on episode four) and further directed this season alongside Daniel Sackheim (Jack Ryan) and Jeremy Saulnier (Hold the Dark). However, even with so many of the same story elements as season 1 and equally strong acting talent, season 3 is still missing an important ingredient from the show’s first season – namely, Cary Fukunaga, who helmed all eight episodes and is generally credited for elevating the series in a high-art take on pulpy crime genre tropes.

Still, there’s a lot about True Detective season 3 that sounds promising on paper and it seems reasonable to assume that, if nothing else, this installment will be a step-up from the slow mess that was season 2. Moreover, for fans of Ali’s work in films like Moonlight (which he won his Oscar for) and his soulful performance as the villainous Cottonmouth from Netflix’s Luke Cage season 1, this new season of True Detective promises to showcase the actor’s powerful screen presence in a way that it never has been before.

MORE: Riverdale Season 3 is Similar to True Detective

True Detective season 3 premieres January 13, 2019 on HBO.

Source: HBO

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2018-10-11 01:10:23 – Sandy Schaefer

Better Call Saul Season 4 Finale Ending Explained

This post contains SPOILERS for Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul’s fourth season ended with “Winner,” an exciting finale that inches the spinoff closer to its Breaking Bad roots. This year, AMC’s acclaimed drama had to followup the jaw-dropping cliffhanger of season 3, where Chuck died in a horrifying fire. That tragedy is what truly spurred Jimmy McGill’s transformation into Saul Goodman as he dealt with the consequences and aftermath of not only his brother’s death, but also his bar suspension. Over the course of the fourth season, Jimmy became more involved with the criminal underworld of Albuquerque, launching his “get-rich-quick” scheme of selling prepaid cell phones to unsavory individuals.

Elsewhere in the Saul universe, Gus Fring looked to expand his cartel operations, commissioning the construction of the famous “super lab” Walter White and Jesse Pinkman cooked in during Breaking Bad. Entrusting Mike Ehrmantraut to oversee the operation, Gus hired a group of German nationals led by Werner Ziegler. While the project was taking longer than originally planned, the crew was working diligently and hoped to have it finished soon. Of course, things hit a snag at the end of last week’s “Wiedersehen” when Werner went AWOL, leaving only a note with detailed instructions for his team. These storylines (Werner’s disappearance and Jimmy’s bar reinstatement appeal) are the crux of the finale’s narrative, with both resolving in powerful ways.

The Tragedy of Werner Ziegler

Throughout the season, Werner’s team were recurring players, frequently interacting with Mike. Early on, it looked like Kai would be the troublemaker of the group, especially after his incident with the nightclub. However, Kai turned out to be a red herring, and Werner caused the biggest headaches for Gus and Mike. Werner, of course, is far from home and dearly misses his beloved wife. Wishing to see her again, Werner pitched Mike the idea of going home for a weekend, but was denied. Since he couldn’t get his superiors’ approval, Werner took matters into his own hands and hatched a plot for a loving reunion.

“Winner” reveals Werner ran off to a resort where he planned to spend time with his wife. He made travel arrangements that would see her fly over to America for a weekend and go back home. Sadly for Werner, he never gets to see her again. Mike tracks him down and after a discussion with Gus, realizes there’s only one resolution for this setback. Allowing Werner the opportunity to call his wife and tell her to return home before Gus’ people do anything to her, Mike then (reluctantly) kills Werner. Ehrmantraut says Werner’s death will be covered up as a tragic accident and his men will be sent back. As one might expect, Gus is angered by the lack of progress on the super lab (cutting a conversation with Gale short), which he thought would be completed by now.

Related: How Better Call Saul’s (Unseen) Breaking Bad Character Connects To Jimmy

Werner clearly had no ill intent (Mike knew he was jut homesick), but when he ran off, his fate was essentially sealed. This was the second transgression Werner committed against Gus – the first being his friendly chat about construction work with bar patrons. These two incidents back-to-back made it very difficult for Gus to trust Werner moving forward, and by now, fans are well aware of Fring’s ruthlessness. Mike mentions multiple times in the episode there are other ways to go about things, but he can’t convince Gus to spare Werner’s life. No amount of begging or pleading has any effect on Gus when he’s made up his mind about something. Unfortunately for Werner, he never completely understood what he got himself into and crossed the wrong people.

Lalo also factors into this storyline, with the mysterious member of the Salamanca clan tailing Mike and trying to locate Werner for his own reasons. Lalo does discover which resort Werner is staying at and briefly speaks to the Russian over the phone, posing as one of Gus’ employees. Not knowing any better, Werner begins to tell Lalo the first couple of basic instructions for the super lab construction, before Mike arrives in person and interrupts the call. Near the end of the episode, Mike tells Gus about what happened, and it’ll be fascinating to see how this continues in season 5. Of course, Fring does not get along with the Salamancas, and despite Lalo’s cheeky offer of a peace treaty in last week’s episode, the two warring sides will continue their power struggle. Lalo is clearly curious about what Gus is up to and wants to get an upper hand for himself.

Page 2: Jimmy McGill Becomes Saul Goodman

Jimmy McGill Is Finally Saul Goodman

Jimmy’s arc in season 4 is dealing with the fallout of his felony from season 2 (tampering with Chuck’s documents) as he tries to get by in life with his one-year suspension. Picking up lawful employment at CC Mobile, he does everything he’s supposed to do to work himself back in the graces of the committee. However, last week’s episode ended with the shocking twist that Jimmy was denied reinstatement – after he was found to be insincere in his comments. Kim, as she always does, stays by Jimmy’s side to help him win the appeal. In Kim’s mind, the sincerity issue stems from Chuck and Jimmy needs to show remorse for what’s transpired.

The two forge ahead with another one of their brilliant schemes. Jimmy spends the one-year anniversary of Chuck’s death mourning at his brother’s grave. An “anonymous” donation is made to HHM to name the legal library after Chuck, with members of Jimmy’s go-to video team telling people in attendance they heard the gift was from Jimmy. It all builds up to another hearing in front of the committee, where Jimmy uses the letter Chuck left him as a weapon in his favor. After (faking) being unable to read it in place of an opening statement, Jimmy launches into a nostalgic monologue where he reminisces about his brother, talks about wanting to make Chuck proud, and credits Chuck with influencing his interest in a law career. In their celebration afterwards, Kim feels some it was truthful, but Jimmy’s reaction makes it painfully apparent it was all a show for the committee so he could get his law license back. As he prepares to sign the necessary documents, Jimmy states he’ll no longer be practicing under his legal name. Turning to a clearly shocked Kim, he closes out the season by saying, “S’all good, man.”

Related: Bob Odenkirk Responds to Fan Theory About Chuck’s Letter

At a certain time in his life, Jimmy probably aspired to be an honest, hard-working lawyer like Chuck, but the events of Better Call Saul have rendered that impossible. During a key sequence of the episode, Jimmy (as part of his sincerity scheme) sits on the board awarding scholarships in Chuck’s memory. He vouches for a student named Kristy Esposito, who received only one vote (from Jimmy) because she was found guilty of shoplifting. In that moment, Jimmy realizes that the law community at large will never accept someone with a prior record, and clearly sees himself in the young Kristy. Because of his actions in season 2, the most prominent firms in the country will always consider Jimmy a liability, no matter how much he swears he’s changed. Chasing down Kristy after the scholarship meetings, Jimmy basically lays out the Saul Goodman playbook, telling his favorite student to cut corners and to not worry about what others think (because she’ll never “make it” the traditional way).

Instead of conforming to fit within the perceived standards of the field, Jimmy gamed the system to his own advantage. He told the reinstatement committee what they wanted to hear – even though he has no intention of following through on it – and is now set to play by his own rules. In his argument with Kim on the rooftop in “Wiedersehen,” Jimmy went on the defensive about how Kim views him as “the kind of lawyer guilty people hire” and is unworthy of sharing an office with her (while she thrives at a large firm in New Mexico). Jimmy is embracing his reputation. Saul Goodman, as Breaking Bad fans know, is exactly the type of lawyer criminals hire. Howard Hamlin wouldn’t touch Walter White and Jesse Pinkman with a 10-foot pole, but Saul went into business with them, doing whatever he could to protect his clients’ rights and help them avoid jail time.

The beauty of this is how it all traces back to Chuck and recontextualizes the character of Saul Goodman. When he was introduced in the second season of Breaking Bad, he was nothing more than an entertaining side player; a riff on the “sleazy lawyer” archetype who came up with elaborate schemes to win his cases. Now, the persona is revealed as a last resort for a man who once upon a time looked up to his brother, only to have his hopes and dreams destroyed by that very same sibling. Chuck went out of his way to block Jimmy from getting a position at HHM, fearful of what “Slippin’ Jimmy with a law degree” would be capable of. He wasn’t willing to give Jimmy the benefit of the doubt, and ended up unknowingly launching the career of Albuquerque’s shadiest criminal defense attorney. Maybe if he was more accepting and loving towards Jimmy, things would have turned out differently.

It’ll be exciting to see how the confirmed fifth season picks up on this. There were already hints the Jimmy/Kim relationship was fraying (the wonderfully constructed cold open of “Something Stupid”), and the former’s new career path might be the final straw. Kim is never mentioned in Breaking Bad, so obviously something happens there. Better Call Saul correctly took the long road to get to this point, and now the possibilities for its future are wide open.

More: Better Call Saul Fills In Breaking Bad Gaps

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2018-10-08 07:10:07 – Chris Agar

Super Mario Party Review: The Best Mario Party in Years

Super Mario Party isn’t just a return to the classic gameplay, bringing back the board game format and forgoing the controversial car. It’s the best entry in the Mario Party franchise in years though admittedly, Nintendo hasn’t set the bar very high. The last time there was a halfway decent Mario Party was back in 2007 with Mario Party 8 and to find a truly great addition you need to go even further back in time. Super Mario Party makes up for some of that, finally.

The newest first party title for Nintendo Switch isn’t without flaws. In their effort to bring back Mario Party to relevance Nintendo went overboard. Super Mario Party spreads itself very thin, adding too many extraneous modes. And sadly, Nintendo also hasn’t managed to capitalize on the obvious when it comes to online multiplayer and Mario Party. Overall though Super Mario Party is a celebration worth throwing especially with three friends along for the (now metaphorical) ride.

Related: Best Multiplayer Games To Play At A Party

Super Mario Party should be viewed as an apology for the absolute rubbish that was Mario Party 9 and 10. The failed experiment that was all four Mario Party players being stuffed into the same car with no autonomy is over. The classic Mario Party mode has the four partiers move about a colorful board game map, snagging stars and playing mini games at the end of each turn. It’s glorious. The board game’s return and the pleasing ways it can be used to screw over opponents with random chance would be enough of a victory. Super Mario Party goes further with the board game mechanic and adds exciting new layers of strategy.

There are several little changes to board game play. Stars cost just 10 coins now, not the customary 20. Bowser and other villains are now playable characters and maps are much smaller than before. The biggest change concerns dice rolls. They’re still completely random but Super Mario Party has added some dice rolls by giving every playable character their own dice block. The choice of playable character now means more than simple Mario franchise favoritism. There is a regular dice block and going along with the smaller maps it only has 6 sides as opposed to the previous 10 but with the character dice blocks, this mechanic can get wacky and interesting.

For example, Shy Guy’s die has 5 sides of 4 and 1 side of 0. This means that if a player wants to move just 4 spaces on the board to get to a star or avoid a trap, they’re best off using Shy Guy’s dice but there is a chance that they might not move at all. Similarly, Bowser has a 10 on his dice but also two sides where he can lose coins if he’s unlucky enough to hit them. These new special dice might sound strange but in practice they add in a surprising amount of depth.

The special dice don’t just end at the playable characters either. In a holdover from Mario Party: Star Rush for the 3DS it’s now possible to recruit allies. These allies will loan out their special dice and in certain mini games even help out as a part of a team. Allies are always computer controlled but they can turn a player’s game around. Allies seem like they could over-complicate play but they add just enough to the game without becoming too distracting or that big of an advantage. Even though ridiculous RNG is part of the charm of Mario Party it does sting when a computer ally wins a tense minigame but that’s a relatively minor quibble. Nintendo has nailed the board game dynamic with their first Mario Party on the Switch even though it’s disappointing that there’s only four boards at launch with no more coming (as of right now).

Minigames are another area where Super Mario Party succeeds … for the most part anyway. There are 80 minigames in all and they switch between standard and motion controls. It’s impossible though to play Super Mario Party with anything but a single joy-con which prevents prevents Super Mario Party from being played in the Switch’s handheld mode. Some of Super Mario Party‘s best games use the joy-con’s stellar motion control and HD rumble features so it becomes an understandable sacrifice, and of course, tabletop mode is still available. There are still a couple of stinkers in the minigame department but Super Mario Party might just have the most consistent overall collection of the series.

Everything else in Super Mario Party is a a mixed bag. In an effort to live up to the Super part of the title, Nintendo has added a bunch of new modes to the game and would have been better off leaving them alone. They aren’t all terrible though. For instance, ‘River Survival’ has four players working together to paddle down a raft on mountain rapids and playing in cooperative minigames is pretty interesting. So is Partner Party which is the standard Mario Party mode but in teams of two. The other modes are lot less successful.

The worst of the bunch is ‘Sound Stage.’ This is a collection of rhythm-based motion control minigames where the player who triumphs at the most minigames wins. The minigames themselves are surprisingly solid with a good mix of rhythm and motion, but there’s no reason for them to exist in their own separate section. It’s a waste of space.

Sound Stage isn’t the only time that Super Mario Party allows you to just play minigames either. There’s also Minigame Mode which is a hit or miss. The one and only highlight of Minigame Mode is Square Off. Here, laying minigames is still the main focus but the real winner is chosen by how much territory a player steals on a square board (one minigame usually equates to one territory). Everything else in Minigame Mode takes out all the strategy of Mario Party for just boring minigame brawls. This is particularly true in Mariothon where whoever wins the most of a collection of five minigames is crowned the champion.

Mariothon being a bust stings because this is the one and only mode Super Mario Party has chosen to make available for online multiplayer. Super Mario Party is the first Mario Party to include online play but there’s no way of playing a board game in the mode. One could argue the commitment (a 10 turn board game can take up to an hour) would be a problem in online matchmaking, but there being no option is disappointing, especially the only available mode is Mariothon where the Minigames have little stakes. Online play even shrinks down the available games in Mariothon to just 10 random ones not the full 80. It’s terrible.

There are other features in Super Mario Party like a lackluster single player campaign called Challenge Road, but playing the standard board game mode with computer opponents is a much more satisfying single player experience. There’s also Toad’s Rec Room which can use two switches to play special minigames. It’s an interesting tech demo but not much more than that. The bulk of Super Mario Party‘s successes and failures can be found in the other modes. Overall, those positives do outweigh the negatives.

Super Mario Party isn’t perfect. It doesn’t even supplant Mario Party 2 or Mario Party 4 as the best Mario Party game ever. It does, however, get very close. Super Mario Party would’ve been stronger if it did away with some of the extra game modes and focused on quality more than quantity. Toad’s Rec Room or Sound Stage could’ve easily been swapped out for three to four new board game maps. As it stands, Super Mario Party is a solid rebirth for what has become the redheaded stepchild of Nintendo franchises. Hopefully there will be many more and impressive sequels to come building off what it does right and ignoring what it does wrong.

More: Nintendo Switch 2 is Already Going to Release in 2019

Super Mario Party is available now for $59.99 on Nintendo Switch.

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2018-10-08 05:10:06 – Derek Stauffer

A Star Is Born’s Ending Is Bad (And Always Has Been)

WARNING: Major spoilers for A Star Is Born

A Star Is Born‘s ending undoes what could have been a Hollywood classic – but that’s not exactly Bradley Cooper’s fault. From its first version in 1937, A Star Is Born has always had a problematic resolution to its story, one that’s only got worse over the past century, and this latest version is no different.

A Star Is Born is a classic story that Hollywood loves so much it’s told it four times (with a suspiciously-similar earlier version, several failed attempts and many, many imitators). A top-of-his-game star (in 2018, Bradley Cooper’s rock star Jackson Maine) is suffering from alcoholism and in a stupor discovers a struggling artist (Lady Gaga as Ally, a waitress moonlighting in a drag bar), falling in love with both her and her talent. He provides her with a big break, sending her fame into the stratosphere just as his addictions begin to derail his career. The pair marry, but despite their love things begin to fray.

Related: Read Our A Star Is Born Review

It’s a tale of rags to riches, of falls from grace, of the power of love, and personal identity within all of that. And, for much of the runtime, A Star Is Born 2018 is genuinely a great version of all those stories. Gaga’s first major concert leaves you floating, Cooper shows mental affliction with grace, both perform their songs incredibly (to actual live crowds, no less), and are utterly believable as troubled lovers. It is, for much of its runtime, a very good film worthy of that deafening hype.

However, everything implodes into a black hole of pretentiousness as what could have been a great film its own right has to follow through on being called A Star Is Born

  • This Page: The Problem With A Star Is Born’s Ending
  • Page 2: A Star Is Born’s Ending Has Always Been Bad
  • Page 3: Why Bradley Cooper Couldn’t Fix A Star Is Born

What Happens In A Star Is Born’s Ending

We’ll stick with Cooper’s take for now before going deeper into the past. A Star Is Born‘s third act is kicked off by Ally winning the Grammy for Best New Artist – a major step for her career, undercut entirely by Jack drunkenly taking to the stage with her and relieving himself on live TV. He goes into rehab and she wrestles with where her focus should lie, eventually deciding to try and protect her recovering husband. She cancels her European tour when her agent, Rez, blocks the duo playing together.

As a result, Jack kills himself. He’s confronted by a seething Rez who has no sympathies or expectations of sobriety and states outright Jack’s ruining his wife’s career. When she matter-of-fact states the tour cancellation, he sees the impact of his actions and, while she plays a concert, he hangs himself in their garage.

Related: Every Song On A Star Is Born’s Soundtrack

This breaks Ally at first, leaving her emotionally distraught, before her understanding the meaning of Jack’s sacrifice – to enable her to truly become the star he always saw – helps her pull through. The film ends at a tribute concert in Jack’s memory. “My name is Ally Maine.” she declares before singing “I’ll Never Love Again”, a song based on their relationship they wrote together while he was recovering. A flashback shows the pair singing, she looks through the camera at the audience, the end.

Why A Star Is Born’s Ending Is Bad

Removing the ending of all presentation and self-imposed importance (a character looking into the camera at the end is an overused trope that Cooper simply doesn’t earn), in just writing down the events of A Star Is Born its problems should be obvious.

Jack decides to kill himself to save his wife, committing suicide because it’s the only way to set her free. This comes about two hours into a film which has slowly built up its numerous interpersonal relationships, and so comes as a drastic and rather unearned turn. Now, there is an argument to be made about accuracy to the unpredictability of mental illness, but given the intimacy audiences had with both Jack and Ally up until this moment, that doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. A Star Is Born, plainly, presents suicide as the only way out. It’s meant to come across as a selfless act but still values success as a true route to happiness, meaning anything emotional about the “gesture” is laced with hypocrisy.

But it’s what comes after and Ally’s coming to terms with her loss that’s so disquieting. For all her innate talent being the drive of the story and her freely made decision to step back what motivated Jack to kill himself, the final scene makes everything about Jack; the mononymous singer for the first time takes on her husband’s surname at his concert, where she performs a song that he helped her write in her original singer style. The suggestion is meant to be that Jack was holding her back, but in the shadow of the previous two hours the strange implication is that the act of a true star being born came from the adversity of Jack’s sacrifice. Making Ally’s success symbiotic to her dead husband is already heavily in the text of the film, but the final scene makes her final ascension even more indebted to his drastic act.

It’s hard to not read A Star Is Born‘s ending as trivializing suicide down to a plot point to give the fundamentally broken male lead the defining role in its female protagonist’s arc. It’s a weird move to make in 2018, although don’t believe this is just the product of an 80-year-old movie being remade. There’s something flawed at the heart of A Star Is Born.

Page 2: A Star Is Born’s Ending Has Always Been Bad

The True Story Behind A Star Is Born’s Ending Explains The Problem

There have been four versions of A Star Is Born: the 1937 Hollywood-skewering original starring Janet Gaynor and Frederick March, the 1954 musical starring Judy Garland and James Mason, the 1976 shift to the music industry with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, and the latest Cooper/Gaga release. Each one has its own quirks, but all endeavor to tell the same story of love and fame intertwined, and all have the same basic ending. But the 1937 version isn’t the start. While A Star Is Born‘s narrative is a fiction, it’s very much based on truth; each movie is rooted heavily in the entertainment industry of the time – Hollywood for the 1937 and 1954 versions, music for 1976 and 2018 – and aims to tell an encapsulating story. There are some real-life events that inspired it.

The established star falling for an unknown as she climbs to the top was seen in actors Barbara Stanwyck and Frank Fay’s relationship, with the pair marrying in 1928 when the former was an unknown after starring in a Broadway show together. Their marriage fell apart after she rose above him and he fell into alcoholism. They separated in 1935 after seven years of marriage, two years before A Star Is Born was released. This appears to have been composited with the death of silent film actor John Bowers, who died at sea in 1936 after failing to win a part (whether it was a suicide or not is unclear). There are others (as we’ll see) but these are regarded as the ones who powered the 1937 version.

Related: Lady Gaga Fans Are Trolling Venom With Fake Bad Reviews

Of course, there’s one key distinction between inspiration and movie: in real life, it was two unrelated stories. There are the famous lovers who piggyback success and the past-it star who takes his own life, but in all cases these two aspects are entirely independent; the woman goes on to greater success by cutting the man out, while elsewhere another man falls from grace. Both stories epitomize Hollywood together, and taken alongside each other rather than melded have an ingrained believability. A Star Is Born trades that for something more streamlined in having the suicide be the culmination of the romance, but it’s also idealistic and wistful, losing the real moral of either.

This is reflected in what is regarded as a proto-Star Is Born, the 1932 film What Price Hollywood? Released five years before the 1937 version and produced also by David O. Selznick (and directed by George Cukor, who was approached for the first A Star Is Born and directed the first remake), this is regarded as something of a dry run at the story. Obviously from the release year it can’t share the same real-life inspirations (although, because this is the Golden Age of Hollywood, there are others pointed to), but the core concept and even smaller story beats are there, albeit with one massive difference: the leads are not romantically involved. Lowell Sherman’s Max drunkenly finds Constance Bennett’s Mary and helps make her a star, eventually killing himself after he sees realizes how far he’s fallen and is hurting his friend, while Mary’s suffers an ill-fated marriage that breaks down due to her absences filming and is reconciled at the end.

Watched today, What Price Hollywood? has a cynicism about the film industry ahead of its time despite ultimately being a movie romanticizing Hollywood – and at the core of this is the tragic story of Max and its impact on Mary’s life. The title question is apt.

How The Remakes Have Tried To “Fix” The Ending

In contrast to What Price Hollywood?, A Star Is Born 1937 carries a self-awareness and charm, but in bridging the romantic and the career side of protagonist Esther creates the problematic suicide reading. It’s not helped by dated elements, including the defining part of Esther’s ascension being the actress known as Vicki Lester taking on her husband’s name with a declaration “This is Mrs. Norman Maine“. It works given the time period, but even 16 years later needed an update.

Related: Watch the Trailer For A Star Is Born

The 1954 version is, for the most part, a beat-for-beat remake, just with dance number expansion to make it a musical, but it does make some strides to justifying the ending. The toll that caring for a drunk has on Judy Garland’s Vicki Lester is shown gradually, most upsettingly in an off-stage breakdown she immediately returns to filming from: an unavoidable presentation of the line between art and performer. But, ultimately, it ends in the same way: Norman Maine overhears Vicki’s plans to quit acting to care for her husband, so he feigns going for a swim and drowns himself; after a traumatic period and being unmasked at her funeral (the invasion of the press), Vicki returns to the public eye where she declares herself “Mrs. Norman Maine“. Every issue discussed is here.

The 1976’s A Star Is Born is overall incredibly melodramatic, nowhere less than its handling of the ending. What it should be praised for is its attempts at giving the female lead a greater sense of autonomy: throughout Streisand’s Esther makes decisions that power the narrative, not just being led along by Kristoffersen as those who came before her, but that’s lost thuddingly in the finale. After his meltdown, John Howard has imposed isolation – not rehab – and when returning home immediately sleeps with a reporter wanting an interview for Esther. The couple tries to power past this, but John figures he’s still broken and crashes his car at high speeds. Again, Esther is sad before taking his name (and singing at a tribute event).

Like we’ve already explored with A Star Is Born 2018, all versions have tried to provide their own contemporary spin on the tale to iron out its kinks, yet all wind up having to repeat the same suicide-anger-name triple-tap that doesn’t belong. A degree can be accounted to the changing times, but that ignores that the original trio of movies released over nearly 40 years, and that Cooper wasn’t able to address it either.

Page 3: Why Bradley Cooper Couldn’t Fix A Star Is Born

Why Bradley Cooper Can’t Fix A Star Is Born

Bradley Cooper certainly tries to bring a modern slant to the worn tale of A Star Is Born. He invests heavily in making Jack and Ally’s opposite trajectories operate independently – Jack is suffering from tinnitus before he’s heard a note of “La Vie En Rose”, while Ally’s SNL appearance is deemed to contradict his advice – while making the love story more immediate. It’s a bigger story, more personal and considerably more consummately paced.

But, like all the others, the ending hits a snag. And some of his decisions make it worse. The method of final descent is different, with the awards show upset and rehab undone not by Maine going off the rails again as in every other take, but rather by Ally’s agent calling his supposed bluff. It’s implied from the British Rez knowing when exactly Jackson first toured across the pond that he was once a fan, now disillusioned with his hero, making him a millennial scapegoat to any affronting reading.

Related: 2018 Fall Movie Preview: The 30 Films to See

This generational push and pull could have been what sent A Star Is Born to greatness. Sam Elliott’s speech about there only being twelve notes played over and over, with the majesty coming from how the artist uses them is a beautiful sentiment that sees Cooper self-justifying another remake and appears like a zen view on the entertainment business that birthed it. Except it isn’t, because this idea is also trying to explain the ending, claiming that the music industry is cyclical and that stars are born and then new stars are born later; Jack’s death is enabling that. What the film seems to miss is that for one state to ever enter another, a star must always die. Ally will fall too. The raw textual argument is that the failures are as eternal as the successes, raising the question of worth, yet the film provides no further exploration and presents it as somehow immediately uplifting.

And that’s the hump that A Star Is Born 2018, like its predecessors, can’t get over. The story thinks it’s a biting, self-aware take on itself, but it’s too close to the subject to see that it’s really just propagating a harsh cycle. This isn’t helped by the film being weighted by so much – the casting of Lady Gaga, his writer-director-producer-actor whammy, even Sam Elliott as the Sam Elliott-type – although those concerns are also the key explanation for what’s really going on.

A Star Is Born Only Exists Because Of Ego

Throughout this article, there’s been one question dangling unspoken. Why are there four versions of A Star Is Born anyway? It’s a story that is flawed and dated, on a topic which has been tackled in more films than any other. Yes, each movie got serious Oscar nominations and wins, but that alone isn’t enough to justify going back. The true answer is enlightening.

1954’s A Star Is Born was conceived as a bid to restart Judy Garland’s career after it stalled over the 1940s. 1976’s A Star Is Born was Barbra Streisand’s attempt (along with then-husband Jon Peters) to boost her standing in Hollywood. And 2018’s A Star Is Born is Bradley Cooper’s grand attempt to win the Oscar that he believes he deserves (his entire post-Hangover career is a carefully played game of chess with a Golden Baldie the King). There are studio concerns too (before Cooper, Warner Bros had been attempting to get a remake off the ground since the early 2010s, although as a Beyonce vehicle has the same career expansion goals), but those are the primary purposes of each version. A Star Is Born is a vanity project on repeat.

Related: A Star Is Born Is An Oscar Favorite – But Could An Infamous Producer Hurt Its Chances?

Now, vanity projects needn’t be bad, and indeed a lot of good comes from each of these attempts. Indeed, each was ultimately successful in both their primary and commercial goals: Garland’s career was rejuvenated; Streisand won her second Oscar; and Cooper’s currently the front-runner in multiple categories for next year’s Academy Awards.

But this aspect appears to be why each version of A Star Is Born struggles to understand the real meaning of its ending. Each powering force believes this movie will be what takes them being a Norman/Jack Maine to a new Esther/Ally while missing that it’s built into the story to be impossible. They believe so much in the two contradictory Hollywood legends wholesale, so don’t see that the story is almost warning against such a thing.

A Star Is Born Is No Longer Needed

In recent years, we’ve seen Hollywood’s reliable rotation of movies about itself take a genuinely incisive slant. 2015’s Best Picture Winner Birdman was an ostentatious exploration of ego that too ended with the protagonist committing suicide, but there it was with the wry critique that fame and adoration are fleeting and that such a bold act was the only way for the self-involved hero to reach the heights he dreamed of. Then there’s 2017’s almost-Best Picture Winner La La Land, which was a celebration of Hollywood-gone-by looking at love in a city of stars, eventually concluding that success required the sacrifice of the central relationship.

Together, these take on all the ideas that A Star Is Born is playing with and apply them in a more thoughtful way. The messages are more widely applicable and their endnotes have considerably less of the hypocrisy. Birdman and La La Land may find joy in the arts, but they also uncover the trials of creativity and fame, keeping the brutal truths in earshot while presenting from a position of success.

A Star Is Born 2018 is a good movie, an undeniable achievement for both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. But there is a flaw at the heart of the tale that just doesn’t ring true. Unless it’s made with a completely revisionist, ego-less eye, in twenty years we do not need another one.

More: Every Version Of A Star Is Born Ranked, From Garland To Gaga

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2018-10-06 01:10:52 – Alex Leadbeater

Sierra Burgess Is A Loser Review: Netflix’s Teen Rom-Com Isn’t A Winner

Sierra Burgess is a Loser attempts to be a modern and progressive teen rom-com, but tends to lean on the genre’s regressive tropes too much.

This year, romantic comedies are making a comeback in a big way thanks in large part to Netflix. Between the rom-com Set it Up and the streamer’s more teen-geared fare like The Kissing Booth and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Netflix is nearly single-handedly reinvigorating the genre. Now, just a few short weeks after the release – and massive success – of To All the Boys, Netflix returns with another teen-geared rom-com, this time starring two actors the streaming service helped make stars. The film, Sierra Burgess is a Loser, stars Stranger Things‘ Shannon Purser and To All the Boys‘ Noah Centineo in a modern adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac. Sierra Burgess is a Loser attempts to be a modern and progressive teen rom-com, but tends to lean on the genre’s regressive tropes too much.

Sierra Burgess is a Loser stars Purser as the titular Sierra Burgess, an incredibly smart high school student who doesn’t fit into the societal definition of beautiful – but thanks to a mom (Lea Thompson) with a motivational mantra for everything, Sierra’s mostly OK with it. For the most part, Sierra is focused on getting into college, tutoring fellow students and joining various clubs with her best friend Dan (RJ Cyler). That is, until Sierra gets a text from Jamey (Centineo) out of the blue. The pair form a relationship over text, and eventually talking on the phone, despite Jamey not truly knowing what Sierra looks like, or even who she really is. As Sierra later finds out, popular mean girl Veronica (Kristine Froseth) gave Jamey Sierra’s number as a prank and that’s who Jamey thinks he’s been talking to.

However, Sierra starts to fall for Jamey and she believes he could fall for her too – so long as she keeps up the charade of being Veronica long enough. In order to keep it going, Sierra enlists Veronica herself, who agrees to help in exchange for Sierra’s tutoring skills to improve Veronica’s knowledge so she can impress and win back her college boyfriend Spence (Will Peltz). Through the process, Sierra and Veronica grow closer, with Sierra gaining insight into Veronica’s home life and her tough relationship with her mom Trish (Chrissy Metz). Meanwhile, Sierra must live up to the standards set by her mom and her literary genius dad (Alan Ruck) all as she tries to build a relationship with Jamey. Still, as Sierra struggles to balance all aspects of her life, it remains to be seen if she’ll be able to maintain healthy relationships once she comes clean – to everyone, including Jamey.

Directed by Ian Samuels, Sierra Burgess is a Loser marks his feature-length directorial debut. The film’s script was written by Lindsey Beer, who’s worked on a number of upcoming films (including YA adaptation Chaos Walking and Sony’s now-split Silver Sable & Black Cat movie) and served as part of the writer’s rooms for Godzilla vs. Kong and Paramount’s Hasbro Universe. That’s all to say: Sierra Burgess is a Loser comes from a creative team of relative newcomers, albeit incredibly buzzy in the case of Beer especially. And while the direction and writing of the film undoubtedly shows potential for both, there’s also a sense of unrefined talent. Sierra Burgess is, unfortunately, of the somewhat subpar quality that’s come to be associated with Netflix’s originals – most of which are buried quickly under the massive amounts of content the streaming service is continually adding.

What helps Sierra Burgess is a Loser stand out, however, are its young leads – Purser, Centineo and Froseth – all of whom bring more depth to their characters through their respective performances. Purser is a little weak as the lead character, having only played supporting characters on the likes of Stranger Things, Riverdale and Rise, but she has a natural and endearingly awkward charm that carries her through. Centineo, as he proved in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, has a lot of charisma as a rom-com leading man and he efficiently shifts into a slightly different character in Jamey (though it’s a character fans of his Peter Kavinsky will undoubtedly appreciate). Froseth, meanwhile, also brings a great deal of added depth to what could have been a stock mean girl character. Though she’s helped a great deal by the story and script, it’s still a feat that Froseth’s Veronica is sometimes a more sympathetic character than Sierra herself. Altogether, the film boasts a respectable main cast.

Then there’s Cyler’s Dan – and, to an extent, the parent characters. Cyler is unfortunately relegated to the token/sassy black friend role, which gives him little to work with. However, the actor does shoulder much of the film’s comedy admirably and he works well with Purser to bring their characters’ friendship to life. The parents of Sierra and Veronica are similarly sidelined with very little to do aside from provide some insight into the girls’ lives or be sounding boards. The issue of Cyler’s Dan and the parents being underdeveloped stock characters that play into outdated – if classic – rom-com tropes is one that carries through much of Sierra Burgess is a Loser’s script, especially in some of the film’s comedy.

There is a sense that Sierra Burgess is a Loser doesn’t quite know how to make its story funny without playing into the exact habits and societal expectations it’s aiming to combat. For instance, the movie uses offensive jokes about Sierra’s appearance to showcase how hurtfully she’s treated at school (being likened to a man or called ugly), but similarly offensive jokes are meant to be funny to the audience, like folks mistaking Sierra for a lesbian. It’s a strange case of Sierra Burgess is a Loser obviously advocating for everyone to be true to themselves and love themselves for who they are, but then turning around and using marginalized groups as the butts of their jokes – all without interrogating why that might be. Instead, the movie tries to have its cake and eat it, too, being progressive in some ways but falling back too much on dated jokes and tropes.

As a result, Sierra Burgess is a Loser certainly could have been a revolutionary coming-of-age teen rom-com featuring a female lead who shirks societal standards of beauty. And there are undoubtedly successful aspects of the movie, like the complicated relationship between Sierra and Veronica, as they’re forced to confront and attempt to transcend society’s expectations for them based on their looks. Further, Jamey is a charming and endearing male lead who unfortunately doesn’t get nearly enough screen time. But Sierra Burgess is a Loser isn’t quite developed enough or refined enough to truly be the progressive rom-com it aims to be. Instead, it’s a fine teen rom-com for fans of the genre (or fans of Purser and Centineo), but won’t appeal to a wider audience as much as some of Netflix’s other 2018 releases within the genre have. Still, as Netflix tries their hand at more and more romantic comedies, Sierra Burgess is a Loser is another indication that the rom-com is making a big comeback – even if they aren’t all instant-classic hits.


Sierra Burgess Is A Loser is now available for streaming on Netflix. It runs 106 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sexual references, language, teen partying and thematic material.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comments section!

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2018-09-07 04:09:01 – Molly Freeman