Month: September 2017

Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters - AGO Preview 5

Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters – AGO Preview

“The reason I create monsters and love them is that I think they speak to a very deep, spiritual part of ourselves. It is my most cherished desire that as you leave the exhibition, the monsters follow you home and that they live with you for the rest of your life.” – Guillermo Del Toro

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Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters – image credit: CGMagazine

It’s not every day that you get to spend your morning ogling a gigantic dangling Frankenstein head or a life-sized replica of The Elephant Man, but that’s just the magic that happens whenever Guillermo Del Toro lets us into his mind. The occasion prompting my surreal and monster-filled morning for CGM was a preview of the AGO’s latest exhibition Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters (running from September 30, 2017-January 7, 2018). It’s a glimpse into the vast collection of monster props and paraphernalia that the Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy director has accumulated over his life. Some are from his movies; many are from his personal collection.

For years the collection was a private inspiration, filling a guest home known as Bleak House that the filmmaker would disappear into to dream up his grand and gothic projects. Now, a special selection of items from Bleak House have been curated into a strange and damn impressive art exhibition. It premiered in Los Angeles and toured elsewhere, but the final stop in Toronto’s AGO feels oddly appropriate. After all, this is the city that Del Toro has called home since shooting Pacific Rim and the land that spawned, inspired, and housed David Cronenberg and certainly welcomes any masters of the macabre with open tentacles.

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Andrea Subissati (left), Guillermo Del Toro (centre), and Jim Sheddon (right) – image credit: CGMagazine

The preview day began with an appearance and moderated conversation from Del Toro himself, appearing onstage alongside curator Jim Sheddon and Rue Morgue magazine editor Andrea Subissati. Del Toro was his usual jovial and insightful self, rattling off about everything from the reasons behind his collection (“I’m not really a collector or a completest or a hoarder. I really created this altar or church for me to go and activate my spiritual life and imagination.”) to the darkness of classic Disney films represented in his collection through vintage production art work (“Some of the scariest things that you’ll ever be exposed to are in Bambi. My collection is mostly Fantasia, Sleeping Beauty, and Pinocchio. Pinocchio, by the way, is a derivation of Frankenstein. He is a character born without a soul who discovers a notion of what it is to be human and along the way becomes a boy. So they are connected for me.”).

Yet, perhaps the most insightful and poignant thoughts he shared were the connection between monsters and humanity, which I’ll share here in full because it’s certainly worth considering.

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Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters – image credit: CGMagazine

“The beauty of monsters is that by their mere existence, they create the living different and the living other. It’s a chance to make peace with your darker side. Most people negate or demonize the darkness in themselves rather than trying to examine it or embrace it. Monsters are a way to make peace with the other and accept it,” he remarked and later added, “If you learn that we are all imperfect and that’s what we can achieve, you find peace. If you judge yourself and others by the standards of perfection? That’s infinite and unending torture. There’s a philosophy in Japan that it’s impossible for a man to have everything, but it’s perfectly reasonable to have nothing. I think the same thing can be said about perfection. No one can be perfect. Imperfect we all can be. I think that’s what the exhibit tries to do with art. There is beauty in the grotesque and grotesque in beauty, it’s a yin and yang as a unit.“

With that thoughtful monster nourishment out of the way we were let into the exhibit—and it was absolutely extraordinary. Statues and production art from Del Toro’s own films obviously figured prominently. Upon entering patrons are greeted by a life-sized statue of The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth starring you down from the eyes in the palms of his elongated hands. Behind him was a dark box containing the floating ghost from The Devil’s Backbone in a creepy chamber that’s easy to miss, yet impossible to forget. Elsewhere the figure of Death from Hellboy 2 loomed large. The faun from Pan’s Labyrinth appears later with looming jazz hands for all the good boys and girls. There were further props and costumes from Hellboy, Crimson Peak, and others scattered about. Those who adore the specifically twisted imagination of the Mexican auteur will not be disappointed by the sheer volume of material from his films on display.

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Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters – image credit: CGMagazine
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Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters – image credit: CGMagazine
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Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters – image credit: CGMagazine
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Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters – image credit: CGMagazine

Yet, the collection is hardly limited to Del Toro’s own work. This exhibit is pulled from his Bleak House of inspirations after all. It would be a bit much of the filmmaker decided to surround himself with his own creations all the time. The bulk of the material comes from other films and inspirations. The whole exhibition is organized into sections defined by themes. They vary from broad topics like “Insects” and “Childhood” to more thoughtfully arranged thematic collections like  “Death and the Afterlife” or “Outsiders”. Some offered insight into Del Toro’s unique creative process, like a recreation of a room in a constant rainstorm with sound effects, window-shaped screens of storming imagery, and a life sized statue of Edgar Allen Poe enjoying the morbidly dark space. Del Toro admits in some of the plaques that he uses that unique space to write as it inspires him. Since dark and stormy nights don’t tend to run on cue with screenwriting deadlines, he’s found a way to create the environment for himself 24 hours a day. Read into that what you will.

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Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters – image credit: CGMagazine

Nerds of all types will find something to tickle their fascinations within the exhibit. There’s a corner wall filled floor to ceiling with vintage comic books and original artwork from such comic luminaries as R. Crumb and the late great Bernie Wrightson. The mask from Brian De Palma’s cult classic The Phantom Of The Paradise rests near a death mask of the actual Boris Karloff. That classic Frankenstein looms large, given an entire section with multiple statues and a stunning massive sculpture of the monster’s head (if nothing else, the exhibition proves that Del Toro desperately needs to be given the opportunity to make a film from Mary Shelley’s classic as we are long overdue for a reinterpretation and it’s clear no filmmaker loves the material more deeply). Elsewhere, The Elephant Man stands next to statues of iconic members of Todd Browning’s Freaks, with H.P. Lovecraft planted around the corner. The experience is overwhelming for those who adore the history of the horror and monster movie genre that Del Toro holds so dear. He’s curated a love letter to the art and artists who inspired him alongside the work he created to add to the history of the genre. It’s all rather remarkable.

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Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters – image credit: CGMagazine

Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters is a beautiful, fascinating, and even mildly haunting exhibit that fills the AGO with something truly special. There are thousands of pieces of art on display, each holding significance to this particular master of horror. Collectively, the exhibit isn’t just a history of monsters in pop culture, but an exploration of what those images mean both to Del Toro and the wider cultural landscape as a whole. It’s not just a collection of creepy artefacts and oddities, but an exploration of how they reflect certain sides of humanity and how if we allow ourselves to engage with the material beneath the surface, we can see beauty and acceptance in creations often considered grotesque. It’s a beautiful ode to the artistry of horror and Guillermo Del Toro that I can’t hope to properly capture in these words and pictures I compiled after the giddy head rush of wandering through the exhibit. This is something that you really have to experience for yourself to truly appreciate and anyone near Toronto with a sweet tooth for the dark and macabre arts owes themselves a visit to this special exhibit. There’s something here that stretches beyond mere appreciation for Del Toro and horror. To discover what that is, you’ll have to see it for yourself.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Pill’s take on Kingsmen: The Golden Circle, American Made, and It! He also had a chance to sit down with Guillermo Del Toro. Check out his interview here!

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CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

Pixels & Ink Podcast Episode #267: The Most Important Shooters of ALL TIME!

Pixels & Ink Podcast Episode #267: The Most Important Shooters of ALL TIME!

This week, Brendan, Quinn, Phil, and Lisa discuss the most influential shooters of all time. From game-changers like Wolfenstein and Doom, to Quake, GoldenEye 007Half Life, Halo, and the dominating Call of Duty, the team walks through how these titles changed the face of the genre and videogames in general.

In games news, the gang takes a look at the new trailer for the highly anticipated Red Dead Redemption 2, and the battle-royale tension between Playerunknown’s Battleground and Fortnight. They discuss what the cross-play glitch in Fortnight means for the possibility of a cross-play feature between Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Phil is back with his take on Tom Cruse’s latest movie, American Made. He also gives the team a rundown of the surrealist feature, mother!.


Don’t forget to tune in every Friday the Pixels & Ink Podcast to hear the latest news, previews, and in-depth game discussions!

Want to read more about the topics we talked about today? Check out Phil Brown’s reviews of mother! and American Made.

CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

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Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out past episodes of the Pixels & Ink Podcast, as well as first looks at the latest games!

Red Hook Studios Teases Darkest Dungeon on Switch 1

Red Hook Studios Teases Darkest Dungeon on Switch

Red Hook Studios added another reason on Saturday to consider getting the Nintendo Switch. The official Twitter account and Facebook page for the award-winning indie darling Darkest Dungeon released a video that hinted the title may be headed over to the system.

The video features a player’s party in combat as the screen slowly pans out to reveal the Nintendo Switch. The company has not made an official statement at this time. It’s unclear whether the Darkest Dungeon Switch release will be a port or whether it will feature any changes from the original although the gameplay in the video seems similar to the original game.

Red Hook Studios released Darkest Dungeon for the PC last year in January. It received a delayed console release for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita later in the year. It went on to win a number of awards including PC Gamer’s Best RPG of 2016 award, three awards from Game Informer’s Best RPG of 2016, indie game awards at Pax East in 2014 and 2015, and numerous others. The developers are also dedicated to the game as new builds are released often to address bugs and issues.

Red Hook Studios Teases Darkest Dungeon on Switch

Featuring a distinct art style, the punishing roguelike forces players to make tough choices and sacrifices as they progress through the game. Darkest Dungeon features a wide cast of adventurers the player can recruit and develop to their liking, which only makes the loss of them that much worse. Check out our thoughts on the game in our review.

Red Hook Studios isn’t the only developer to hint at releasing a previous title for the Nintendo Switch. Platinum Games tweeted an image on a new Twitter account in July featuring the protagonist of Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 in distinctly Switch-like colours. Only time will tell whether players will see the gritty heroes of Darkest Dungeon alongside the titular character of Bayonetta on the Nintendo Switch in the near future.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Jake Yanik’s review of Darkest Dungeon for PC

Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15 – Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite and Cuphead!

Don’t forget to tune in every Friday the Pixels & Ink Podcast to hear the latest news, previews, and in-depth game discussions!

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CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

Asus Pro B9440UA (Notebook) Review 4

Asus Pro B9440UA (Notebook) Review

While Asus has been riding high on its Republic of Gamer’s branded workstations and laptops, the company also continues to make strides with its business-targeted division. The Asus Pro B9440UA is the company’s latest business-oriented notebook that aims to steal the hearts of gung-ho entrepreneurs with its nearly paper-thin portable design and industry proven components.

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Asus Pro B9440UA (Notebook) – image credit: CGMagazine.

Weighing in at a measly 1.05kg and packing a price tag of $1,000 USD, the Asus Pro aims to be the next top contender for business savvy users who are constantly on-the-go. While the notebook may look like a wafer-thin paperweight, the Asus Pro is anything but weak. The 13” all-metal chassis is crafted from military-grade tested magnesium alloy and built to take the toughest falls and harshest abuse users can throw at it. From drop tests, to pressure points and even hinge abuse, Asus wants to deliver a notebook that keeps the users’ mind at ease if any “unfortunate” mishaps were to occur while in the office or out in the field.

To keep in line with this business targeted mentality, the Asus Pro sports a simplistic yet professional design. The steel-like aesthetic and thin profile are great to look at from every angle and users are sure to quickly notice the unique hinge design. When users open up the 14” FHD screen the bottom of the panel will act as the primary support for the notebook, creating an elevated chicklet keyboard that will provide users with a more comfortable typing position than a traditional laptop.

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Asus Pro B9440UA (Notebook) – image credit: CGMagazine.

Moving onto specs and storage, the Asus Pro needed to prove its worth. Under the hood of this lightweight contender is an Intel Core i5-7200U dual-core processor, 8GB of DRR3 SDRAM and a 512GB Solid State Drive all operating on Windows 10 Pro. The interesting choice here to me is the dual-core processor. At first I thought the i5-7200U would be too slow to prove reliable, but the machine was able to boot up in a matter of seconds and handled web browsing as well as word processing adequately. It’s a shame that the machine couldn’t take advantage of a native quad-core setup, but the i5-7200U’s four threads and speedy SSD should be enough to handle any business user’s tasks efficiently. The battery life of the Asus Pro is great, lasting 10 hours on a single charge under a mild workload and recharging back to full strength in just under an hour.

The 14” full HD no-glare display of the Asus Pro is also a nice inclusion, keeping with the business theme by allowing users to work efficiently in any outdoor environment. The only drawback from this anti-glare matte display is that colours will never appear as rich or as bright as they could on a traditional glossy display. Users who want to use this notebook as a substitute for watching or streaming HD video should look elsewhere if they want a satisfying viewer experience. This notebook only seeks to please the user who wants pure performance.

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Asus Pro B9440UA (Notebook) – image credit: CGMagazine.

As with all business notebooks of this size, the Asus Pro is not without its drawbacks. The elephant in the room being the severe lack of ports that a majority of mainstream users take advantage of in their daily lives. The Asus Pro completely strips away onboard USB 3.0 functionality in exchange for two USB type-C connectors. Thankfully, the headphone jack found enough room to still be built into the chassis, but this poses a severe problem for most users.

Asus’ solution is the inclusion of a mini-dock, which provides users with an additional Type-C port, one USB 2.0 port and an HDMI port. While I like the attempt, the execution is flawed. Instead of bottling in an additional Type-C port, the smarter design choice would be to have two USB ports and an SD-card slot. Users can purchase a better version of the doc, however, which includes many of these ports but will rip away $160 USD from your wallet. The worst drawback, in my opinion, is the lack of a webcam. Most people can get away with using their phone to facetime in a conference call, but business-oriented users love the added convenience because it makes their work lives easier.

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Asus Pro B9440UA (Notebook) – image credit: CGMagazine.

The Asus Pro B9440UA is one of the more affordable business-oriented notebooks on the market, but it’s not without its flaws. Users seeking a business class notebook need to realize that most of these models have tradeoffs caused by their thin designs and need to properly research what their essentials are in a workplace device to find the best tool for the job. From its specs and features, I feel the Asus Pro will satisfy most of its target audience, but users looking for more convenience and playability should look elsewhere.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out some of Cole Watson’s latest reviews such as the Sound BlasterX Siege M04 and Vanguard K08 mouse and keyboard, and the Apple 2017 iMac!

Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15 – Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite and Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony!

Don’t forget to tune in every Friday the Pixels & Ink Podcast to hear the latest news, previews, and in-depth game discussions!

Never miss when new CGM articles go out by following us on Twitter and Facebook!

CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

One Piece: Unlimited World Red Deluxe Edition (Switch) Review 1

One Piece: Unlimited World Red Deluxe Edition (Switch) Review

While Nintendo Switch players eagerly await the next big exclusive first-party exclusive to come down the pipeline, Bandai Namco Entertainment aims to make that wait a little more bearable by re-releasing Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 and One Piece: Unlimited World Red Deluxe Edition for the portable-console hybrid. Originally released back in 2013 for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, One Piece: Unlimited World Red has set sail on a grand voyage of platforms spanning three generations of hardware but arrives on Switch with nothing new to experience for previous players.

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One Piece: Unlimited World Red Deluxe Edition (Switch) – gameplay images via Bandai Namco

One Piece: Unlimited World Red Deluxe Edition is developed primarily for existing fans of the 20-year-old manga and anime series, providing no background or character info to make this a suitable jumping on point for people who have yet to establish a relationship with the infamous Straw Hat Pirates. What ensues for Monkey D. Luffy and his lovable crew is a mediocre 10-hour original storyline lacking any of the depth or emotion that even the worst arcs of One Piece still manage to possess. While the story isn’t anything worthwhile, the character’s personalities and humour are spot-on thanks to the great performances by the Japanese voice actors.

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One Piece: Unlimited World Red Deluxe Edition (Switch) – gameplay images via Bandai Namco

Now running natively at 60 FPS on the Switch in either Portable (720p) or Docked mode (1080p), the brawler-like gameplay of One Piece: Unlimited World Red Deluxe Edition is a treat to play due to the fluid animation and beautiful cell-shaded character models. While the combat is simple and with time will feel quite repetitive, the true fun is building a three-member team out of the nine available cast members and seeing how much chaos players can create on the screen at one time. Luffy’s Gum-Gum moves zip him from one end of the arena to the next in a flash, while characters like Zoro and Frankie fill the screen with projectiles and flashy combos. Each of the Straw Hat Pirates plays differently due to their unique special moves and attacks, keeping combat feeling fresh throughout the adventure.

What bores me about One Piece: Unlimited World Red Deluxe Edition is the lack of any exciting environments. Outside of the main hub world, many of Unlimited World’s environments are just barren wastelands or small cityscapes filled with nothing but breakable crates or boxes. By shoehorning in a poor crafting mechanic and reusing the already lacklustre environments as the homes for side quests and collectable materials, any steam the adventure mode has is quickly dissipated by a poor excuse for exploration.

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One Piece: Unlimited World Red Deluxe Edition (Switch) – gameplay images via Bandai Namco

What I prefer is the Battle Coliseum side-game, which features its own original story and further expands the roster with characters that weren’t playable during the main quest. The easiest way to describe Battle Coliseum is that it’s akin to Smash Bros.’ challenge stages, offering players a mixture of boss rushes, survival challenges and one-on-one duels. This mode plays to the best strengths of One Piece: Unlimited World Red Deluxe Edition by keeping the combat as the key gameplay focus and can even be played co-op with a friend by handing them a Joy-Con.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out some of Cole’s prereviews, such as Total War Arena and Detroit: Become Human!

Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15 – Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite and Cuphead!

Don’t forget to tune in every Friday the Pixels & Ink Podcast to hear the latest news, previews, and in-depth game discussions!

Never miss when new CGM articles go out by following us on Twitter and Facebook!

CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (Smartphone) - A Long Awaited Comeback 3

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (Smartphone) – A Long Awaited Comeback

I’ve been a fan of the Samsung Galaxy S8 since its official reveal. I was able to try the device at several events before it was released and even then it seemed like a great phone. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 takes everything great about the Galaxy S8 and adds a number of its own original features, successfully repairing the damaged reputation caused by the explosive Note 7.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (Smartphone) – images via CGMagazine.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a great looking phone. It borrows its sleek design from the Galaxy S8 but features a larger 6.3 inch screen. The newly introduced InfinityEdge feature also makes a return with the Note 8, giving the phone ultra-thin, barely noticeable bezels. The Note 8 has a resolution of 1440 x 2960 pixels, which makes images appear extremely nice on the Super AMOLED screen. Despite its larger size, the Note 8 is still surprisingly light and should be able to fit in just about anyone’s pocket. The Note 8 is coated in Corning Gorilla Glass 5. While this means it isn’t the most fragile phone out there, I still wouldn’t risk dropping it. My only real problem with the Note 8’s design is that although the Midnight Black colour looks great, fingerprints and smudges will stand out on the back of the phone.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (Smartphone) – images via CGMagazine.

One of the biggest features of the Note 8 is the included S Pen. Located at the bottom of the device, this stylus adds a number of unique features to this phone. Pulling out the S Pen while the phone is locked turns the phone into an electronic notepad for you to write and draw on. The S Pen can be used for much more than that though. Aside from the obvious fact that it makes selecting and highlighting things on the phone easier to do, a shortcut wheel will appear when the stylus is in use to give you access to some of its features. It can even be used to create animated. GIFs. The S Pen is comfortable to use and allows for more precision than I usually find with other styluses. I also appreciate the fact that you can hear a distinct click when you slide the S Pen back into its little nook.

There’s a lot of power behind the Note 8. Running on Android’s 7.1 OS, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 uses a Qualcomm MSM8998 Snapdragon 835 chipset. This means there won’t be any performance issues when it comes to running any of the latest apps or games. With 6 GB of RAM, the phone is also great at switching between apps seamlessly or even running multiple apps at the same time with its split screen functionality. The Note 8 Also allows for storage space of up to 256 GB via microSD. Another important feature of the Note 8 is its inclusion of Bixby, Samsung’s latest AI assistant. The more familiar you are with Samsung branded apps, the more useful you’ll find Bixby when it comes to taking notes or scheduling events.  While Bixby is functional, it doesn’t do much more than any other AI assistant does and with Google’s own AI present on the device, I almost found it redundant to have both.

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Taken on a Samsung Galaxy Note 8
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Taken on a Samsung Galaxy Note 8
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Taken on a Samsung Galaxy Note 8
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Taken on a Samsung Galaxy Note 8
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Taken on a Samsung Galaxy Note 8
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Taken on a Samsung Galaxy Note 8
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Taken on a Samsung Galaxy Note 8
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Taken on a Samsung Galaxy Note 8
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Taken on a Samsung Galaxy Note 8

The Note 8 has a great 12-megapixel dual-camera. The main camera is especially good when it comes to taking moving pictures thanks to its optical image stabilisation feature. The camera also features a pro mode which allows you to make all sorts of customizations in order to get that perfect shot. Suffice to say, if you’re only planning on taking photos for Instagram or any other social media, the Note 8 will go above and beyond your expectations. Other features include autofocus, 2x optical zoom, dual-LED and of course, flash. The Note 8 is also able to capture 1080p video at 60 FPS and even slow-motion video at 720p.

The battery life of the Note 8 is its weakest point. Using default power settings, the Note 8’s 3300mAh battery was barely able to make it through the day with regular use. Power optimization settings do help but not by much, giving the phone an extra few hours of battery life. Unlike with most phones, an important question when it comes to the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is whether or not it’s safe to use. As of now, there haven’t been any reports of the Note 8’s battery exploding and during my time with it everything was fine. Samsung has gone through a number of safety checks to ensure that the battery of this model isn’t a repeat of the one before it.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (Smartphone) – images via CGMagazine.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 excels in nearly every area. The phone performs great, the camera is amazing, and the S Pen proved to be far less of a gimmick than most people would expect. The only problems with the device are the weak battery and the fact that Samsung is charging over a grand for it. If you’re stuck between the Note 8 and the Galaxy S8+, I’d say it all comes down to whether or not you’d actually use the S Pen. In any case, The Note 8 proves to be one of Samsung’s finest devices available.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Find out why Remington thinks the Escapists 2 makes breaking out of prison fun, or why Sonic Mania earns its spot next to the titles released during Sonic’s golden era!

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Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15 – Dishonored: Death of the Outsider and Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony!

Don’t forget to tune in every Friday the Pixels & Ink Podcast to hear the latest news, previews, and in-depth game discussions!

CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

American Made (2017) Review

American Made (2017) Review

For the last few years going to see a Tom Cruise action movie has been an absolute chore. Desperate to keep his star status alive and launch new franchises, Tom Cruise movies have turned into empty vessels for the inflated ego of the world’s leading Scientologist. It’s gotten so bad that even audiences stopped showing up, with The Mummy and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back bombing badly enough to suggest his reign of box office dominance might be over. All of which makes the delightfully subversive American Made an extra special surprise. Cruise has reunited with Doug Limon who directed the last genuinely great movie starring the genre icon, The Edge of Tomorrow (the title remains terrible). Together they’ve created a rather insane action/biography/satire that cynically rips apart American values and Tom Cruise’s persona so well that it’s amazing the movie even exists and the star was self-aware enough to let it happen.

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Tom Cruise and Domhnall Gleeson in American Made (2017) – image credit: Universal Pictures.

So, good ol’ TC stars as Barry Seal in a loosely fabricated version of that man’s actual life. He was a commercial airline pilot in the early 80s bored of his job and far too talented to be coasting. Salvation arrives in the form of Domhnall Gleeson’s squirrely CIA agent who offers Seal a gig flying a private plane over war-torn Central and South American countries to snap intelligence photos, and despite all the bullets flying and engines blowing up, he proves to be quite good at it. This act draws the attention of the growing drug cartels who hire Seal to smuggle cocaine on the side. The guy proves to be even better at that (he’s a great pilot, a ‘top gun’ if you will), but gets caught. Gleeson bails him out, but only on the condition that he start illegally running guns to the Contra faction to help the US secretly fight a war against communism. Next thing you know the guy has a whole staff of pilots on daring war and drug-related missions and has millions of dollars spilling out of his pockets. Obviously, this adventure can’t end well. Yet, since the guy has done so much shady work for the US government, it’s not like the law can ever properly come down on him. Not a bad place to be.

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Tom Cruise and Sarah Wright in American Made (2017) – image credit: Universal Pictures

First and foremost, American Made is a deliriously entertaining sugar rush of a movie the likes of which Cruise hasn’t delivered in years. There are some stunning and visceral action/flight sequences that’ll leave viewers breathless while blasting across IMAX screens. Doug Limon directs it all in a state of constant movement. Camera jitter around characters, edits are relentless, and jokes fly out of every corner. The movie never slows down with even the dialogue scenes feeling like mini-setpieces. The filmmaker fuses satire, drama, reality, fiction, action, and biography until they are barely distinguishable. Facts are fudged and the story is confusing, yet that’s almost appropriate given how insane, strange, and classified this all was. The movie can feel convoluted and virtually every character other than Seal is shortchanged (especially his wife and children). These are flaws, yet they also fit with the style of this first-person narrative about an egotistical nut flying by the seat of his pants without concern for anyone else or thoughts towards consequences. Sure, sometimes it can be a bit much or distracting. It just somehow all kind of works as a whole.

It helps that American Made is hysterical (in both senses of the word) with constant laughs and over stimulation. If there is a dominant genre here, it’s certainly satire. American Made might be set in the past and based on specific events, but it feels like a pointed and poignant condemnation of America. After all, Barry Seal’s adventure is rooted in capitalistic success and militaristic action (you know, America’s greatest past times beyond baseball.) Yet, the greed is so gross and the violence so pointed that it feels ugly despite all the fun. The fact that Tom Cruise is at the centre of it all makes the satire even stronger. After all, Cruise specializes in playing characters who are the best in the world at what they do (be it flying planes or mixing drinks), get the money, love the girl, and kill the bad guys. He does that here, just from a morally corrupt and confusing place. That he does it all with that Cruisian smile and charm makes the whole movie a subversive take on the Tom Cruise persona and its place in Americana.

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Tom Cruise in American Made (2017) – image credit: Universal Pictures.

That’s all pretty clever, especially coming from an actor who often seems so lacking in self-awareness that such things seemed impossible. This movie only exists because Cruise made it happen and it’s wonderful that he used his Hollywood power to make a movie so critical of America as well as the type of American fantasies and men that he typically embodies with a straight face. Could I be over reading into this? Sure. But it doesn’t feel like it. Somehow in 2017 Tom Cruise and Swingers director Doug Limon have made a brilliantly cynical blockbuster that bites that hand that feeds them while still delivering a rush of action entertainment designed for the big screen. Hopefully, audiences show up to celebrate. It’ll be tough after the last few years of embarrassingly unambitious and ego-driven Tom Cruise joints. If anything, American Made is a movie that’ll play best for viewers tired of the typical Tom Cruise BS. Hopefully, they’ll give it a chance.  The guy should be encouraged to make more movies like this, not just increasingly disappointing Mission: Impossible and Jack Reacher pictures. Getting this film made is more daring than strapping himself to a plane for a stunt, even if the courage and conviction involved isn’t as immediately obvious.


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