Month: September 2020

Marvel Finds Its 'Ms. Marvel' in Iman Vellani 1

Marvel Finds Its ‘Ms. Marvel’ in Iman Vellani

With theatrical projects delayed, Marvel Studios is pushing ahead with original programming, and has cast newcoming actress Iman Vellani in the title role of Ms. Marvel, one of several upcoming Disney+ series.

Deadline Hollywood reports that Vellani, a Markham native, was chosen to play the teenaged superhero after a long search for the right actress. Vellani will play Kamala Khan, a sixteen-year-old Muslim American from New Jersey, with the Inhuman power of polymorphism. This will make her Marvel Studios’ first Muslim superhero on-screen.

The streaming series is created by Bisha K. Ali, whose previous writing credits include Sex Education and Hulu’s Four Weddings and a Funeral. Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (Bad Boys For Life), Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, and Meera Menon (The Walking Dead, Titans) have been named as directors.

Already, Marvel is staying close to the character’s roots by naming an Asian cast and creative team, which should bode well for Kamala’s authenticity and heart. (Mindy Kaling, Riz Ahmed, and Kumail Nanjiani were previously suggested to be in talks with Marvel regarding the screenplay, but no official word has been made regarding their involvement.)

Newcomer Imran Vellani will portray Kamala Khan in Ms. Marvel.
Newcomer Imran Vellani will portray Kamala Khan in Ms. Marvel.

The news will big implications for the future of the multimedia franchise, as well as Vellani’s budding career. Speaking at D23 Expo last August, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige mentioned that Ms. Marvel would cross into MCU feature films down the line as well.

Kamala Khan was introduced to Marvel Comics in 2014, when Carol Danvers abandoned the title to become Captain Marvel. Khan is inspired by Danvers to use her Inhuman powers and goes on to serve on various Avengers teams. She has since appeared in a variety of media, most recently including Square-Enix’s Avengers video game, where she was voiced by Sandra Saad.

Ms. Marvel will likely arrive in 2022, following WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki. Vellani will be the third Canadian to headline a Phase 4 MCU property, following Tatiana Maslany in She-Hulk (also on Disney+) and Simu Liu in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, due for theatres in 2021.

Serious Sam 4 Review 1

Serious Sam 4 Review

Shooting stuff is fun; violence is rad, and sometimes that’s all you need for a game to be enjoyable. Serious Sam 4 takes this notion to its core and then some, delivering a game that fans of the series will enjoy while newcomers like myself will still appreciate for its pure, unadulterated, cartoon-carnage.

Serious Sam 4 is a prequel set prior to the events of the last mainline game. However, the title does little in adhering to its canon, making it accessible to new players, which may upset diehard Serious Sam aficionados but ultimately, I think this approach benefits Croteam as Serious Sam has never been a game about its narrative.

For the uninitiated, Serious Sam is a Doom-derivative at face value but on closer inspection, plays more like a homage or tribute to id software’s legendary series of FPS games with a good splash of Duke Nukem thrown in there for good measure.

Serious Sam 4 Review
Serious Sam 4 – Devolver Digital

Serious Sam 4 features the same approach to gameplay found in previous entries into the series with a few RPG elements and co-op options that help round out the experience and keep it feeling fresh. gameplay consists of large open-ended maps with a primary objective and an optional secondary mission that usually results in unlocking some new gear. The main draw of Serious Sam 4 is its dense enemy populations that litter the game world, making the game at times feel like the FPS equivalent of Koei Techmo’s Dynasty Warriors series of action-games.

The campy nature of Serious Sam 4 also made me think of another guilty pleasure of mine, the Earth Defense Force series, which like Serious Sam doesn’t take itself too seriously while often delivering, overwhelming hordes of enemies.

Serious Sam 4 Review
Serious Sam 4 – Devolver Digital

One aspect of Serious Sam 4 that fans will appreciate is the deluge of options found in the menu, from toggles for the classic crosshair to a third-person camera — players will be able to tailor Serious Sam 4 the way they want to experience it. Graphically, Serious Sam 4 is an odd one, with environments that look photorealistic while enemies and characters look decidedly cartoony. Overall, the graphics quality of Serious Sam 4 may look somewhat dated, but the game makes up for it with the number of enemies on screen which would likely be impossible or too taxing otherwise.

Weapon variety includes everything from dual pistols to a-Doom-like Super Shotgun, machine guns, tracking rocket launchers, throwable C4, and a few other classic guns from past games in the series. Vehicles bulk out the rest of the game, although they seem to be used sparingly and only in certain levels.

Serious Sam 4 Review
Serious Sam 4 – Devolver Digital

Serious Sam 4 can feel repetitive, bordering on obnoxious at times, but its a game best played in short bursts as it genuinely can be a fun experience and finding the best strategies to survive some of the later levels can be exhilarating. A friend is recommended for maximum enjoyment, especially for those new to the game as a friend or two can make the difference between life and death, particularly for some of the more relentless encounters later in the game.

If I had to summarize Serious Sam 4 in a sentence, it could be best described as an arcade shooter that stays true to its root while feeling modern enough where not to turn off newcomers. Serious Sam 4 is a no-brainer for fans of the series and is a game that fans of singleplayer/co-op shooters will likely enjoy too.

Mulan (2020) Review 1

Mulan (2020) Review

The original Mulan is a classic, but there’s room for improvement. The timeless story of Mulan has plenty of room to grow, but it needs a powerful script and a cast willing to pull it off. Disney’s live action remake only musters one of those.

I wouldn’t have a problem with a dour re-telling of Mulan if that was what Disney was going for. I similarly wouldn’t take umbrage with a new version of Mulan that added wise-cracking dragon sidekicks and musical numbers. But the finished product tries to combine elements of both, adding moments of levity and yes…magic, into the mix. It works until it doesn’t.

Mulan (2020) Review
Mulan (2020) – Disney

It’s befuddling from a granular, script level. This newer version has more explicit violence of soldiers falling in battle on-screen (even if blood isn’t gushing from them) with Mulan doing a lot of the killing in a few impressive battle sequences. But it also tries to execute comedic turns at times and completely falls flat on its face. The other issue: the clashing magical elements.

“Chi” is added into the mix as a thematic storytelling element, but instead of using the overall concept, it’s also a way for Mulan and one of the primary antagonists to cast magical spells. This ranges from powers like turning into swarms of animals, impersonating other humans, or in the case of Mulan: making the ground shake like Goku from Dragon Ball Z. At times — with one particular standout moment of cheese near the end complete with a superhero score to boot — it plays out much like a Marvel film. Which can be fun!

Mulan (2020) Review
Mulan (2020) – Disney

There’s an interesting angle there with “The Witch” and Mulan (which takes up a sizable chunk of the film), but that feels like a completely separate story. Which leads me to Mulan’s other chief sin: editing. Somehow Mulan is two hours long, but also constantly feels rushed. We know there are scenes that were cut from the film ahead of time, but even during the narrative certain elements are hurried. As a result some of the relationships between characters don’t feel as genuine as they could have.

That said, there are a ton of great character moments and the actors themselves — with the material they were given — put in an above average effort. Some of the backdrops are also stunning: it’s just a shame that some of those angles were ruined with some strange editing that try to pay homage to classic Chinese action, but aren’t nearly as elegant. I was often of two minds while watching Mulan, enjoying myself, then bored in the next moment.

Mulan (2020) Review
Mulan (2020) – Disney

Mulan is a better effort than a few of the other live action remakes in recent years, but it still suffers from a lot of the same problems. Disney needs to replicate whatever secret sauce it brewed for the Jungle Book remake.

'The Lion King' Remake Gets A Sequel 1

‘The Lion King’ Remake Gets A Sequel

Audiences can soon return to the photorealistic savannah of The Lion King remake, as Disney has begun development of a sequel. Jeff Nathanson is set to reprise as screenwriter, with Barry Jenkins of Moonlight fame taking over as director.

No plot details are available at present, as the project is still in early scriptwriting stages. However Deadline Hollywood has word that the story will be a sequel while also exploring Mufasa’s past in the process. This suggests the new film will not follow the narrative of The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride, the 1998 direct-to-video sequel to 1994’s classic.

(The upcoming sequel to last year’s Aladdin remake will almost certainly deviate from its own straight-to-VHS counterpart as well, according to producer Dan Lin.)

Jenkins, whose 2016 film Moonlight won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, inherits the director’s chair from Jon Favreau. He said, “Helping my sister raise two young boys during the ’90s, I grew up with these characters. Having the opportunity to work with Disney on expanding this magnificent tale of friendship, love and legacy while furthering my work chronicling the lives and souls of folk within the African diaspora is a dream come true.”

Oscar-winner Barry Jenkins will direct the sequel to last year's photorealistic remake of The Lion King.
“I grew up with these characters,” Jenkins said.

In addition to the screenplay for the remake, Nathanson has worked on Speed 2, Rush Hour 2 and 3, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Given The Lion King‘s $1.6 billion gross at the box office, as well as the legacy of the 1994 original and the spin-offs it spawned, this sequel has considerable pawprints to fill. The remake featured Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, and James Earl Jones, but no casting or release date announcements have been made yet.

In the meantime, you can catch The Lion King streaming now on Disney+. Read CGM’s review here.

The Walking Dead Onslaught (VR) Review 7

The Walking Dead Onslaught (VR) Review

The Walking Dead Onslaught is miles apart from being a fully-realized game based on the franchise, but still holds its own as a fun zombie shooter.

Following Skydance Interactive’s earlier franchise dibs with The Walking Dead Saints & Sinners, I was surprised at how much depth there could be in such a genre. By combining survival horror with some existential dread and strong human adversity, it also set a high bar for how Robert Kirkman’s universe can work in VR. The Walking Dead Onslaught falls short of the resource-driven tension from its counterpart. But has the advantage of veteran VR studio Survios and AMC to create a somewhat more enjoyable experience based on the iconic TV series.

Along the 2020 VR pipeline, The Walking Dead Onslaught is the second game to release and features the show’s cast, settings and action which made viewers hooked since 2010. Its action was fueled by seeing series staples like Rick Grimes, Michonne and Daryl Dixon fighting zombies – which is what exactly Survios has focused on in their own VR game. Gone are the creepier walkers shuffling in the fog, as the franchise’s zombies slowly became less of a threat across the series. This is where Onslaught takes place between Seasons 9 and 10, after Rick’s settlement and the Militia battled Negan’s Saviors. Like The Walking Dead‘s viewers over time, players jumping into VR have grown accustomed to seeing good-old-fashioned zombie kills. But that’s as far as Onslaught goes with its core gameplay, bordering on an arcade-y experience that plays it too safe with AMC’s license. Surprisingly, it’s also the official game fans of The Walking Dead series have been waiting for. The Walking Dead Onslaught fills that licensed void, despite games like Arizona Sunshine and Dead Horizon being around.

The Walking Dead Onslaught (VR) Review 4
The Walking Dead Onslaught – Survios

Unsurprisingly, expect yourself to be killing walkers. Unfortunately, that’s all there is to it. It’s hard not to look at Saints & Sinners for having the perfect balance of what makes The Walking Dead unique. Its elements of zombies are just one part of an equation with rival humans surviving out of their own best interests. This makes Saints & Sinners‘ universe double-dip in danger. Deteriorating weapons, crafting and looting were also elements reminding VR players they never felt safe in Kirkman’s world (as it should be). Meanwhile, The Walking Dead Onslaught chucks much of that fear out the window in favour of a traditional action game. Players feel more like John Wick as they annihilate walkers in their path and to their heart’s content. Some players might appreciate literally becoming their favourite characters and using their weapons without any direction. Others can spend hours running around to kill an unspecified amount of zombies just for the heck of it.

Survios had some weight on their shoulders with carrying a new IP like The Walking Dead. But they stuck to their strengths in delivering a signature brand of physical gameplay seen in Raw Data and Creed Rise to Glory. Onslaught features Survios’ intuitive run-and-gun shooting mechanic. Players won’t have any trouble holding guns to aim and fire manually while reloading quickly. The game is also accessible for left and right hands and asks for a dominant hand calibration at the start. It’s a nice addition in an already comfortable game that requires tons of turning and moving. This can be done with joystick or arm swinging. Snap and smooth turning are also an option, though players are better off using their muscle memory to turn and fight walkers. A brief combat tutorial was enough to make me excited for the carnage ahead, and it’s absolutely fun. The guns have a weight that’s just right for two handed use. You can also use guns one handed without much limitations, just as long as you aim well. It made for some pretty cool TV moments and bordered on DOOM as I grabbed zombies by the neck and executed them. Developers have nailed The Walking Dead Onslaught‘s melee combat, as pushing zombies back for crowd control becomes another TV adapted feature that’s fun and powerful. You can even push zombies back, or trip one and watch the rest stumble for giggles. They’re just enough to make up for its barely responsive inventory system inspired by Half-Life Alyx, where you move your hand into one of four slots and equip a weapon. While I was clutching a zombie’s neck, the last thing I wanted was equipping an empty pistol (again) when I needed the knife.

The Walking Dead Onslaught (VR) Review 2
The Walking Dead Onslaught – Survios

Since The Walking Dead Onslaught doesn’t use Saints & Sinner‘s stamina or breaking weapon system, players are much more efficient zombie killers this time around. It’s refreshing to not have to worry about energy as I heave an axe over a walker’s skull. It’s also a treat to reload ammo without losing my reserves as I blast away at a herd. But there’s still some considerations to be had with ammo and health, which are plenty over your supply runs. Survios doesn’t leave you hanging on resources in order to keep its momentum. You’ll rarely (if never) die as long as you keep your weapon ready and watch your back for sneaky walkers. They’re ugly, always shuffling and are deadly in numbers if you start becoming careless. These are the only things players have to worry about as they continue having fun in Onslaught, until the game can start feeling repetitive like its drawn-out TV series. There’s also fun to be had in replaying a supply run by changing your four-weapon loadout and trying upgrades which drastically change the quality-of-apocalyptic-life. Difficulties also significantly leave room for challenges. Playing on Novice felt like a superpowered wish fulfilment at the cost of supply turnout. The veteran difficulty rewards big loot, dries up ammo and encourages swift melee multitasking to survive hordes of walkers. But players are still trapped in the cycle of picking up supplies, headshotting walkers and pushing doors open until the end of playtime.

Sure, there is some variety in collecting an arsenal of pistols, rifles, melee weapons and signature character pieces. Certainly, I was spoiled with upgrading my weapons for way more walker-killing fun. Yes, the game features special walker types straight from the show (including the spiked metalhead ones). Absolutely, there is a campaign and open-ended supply run mode. But the entire experience is made dull by The Walking Dead Onslaught‘s overreliance on gameplay over substance. Survios has stayed in a limit of a short story and shorter supply run mode that is repetitive as hell. AMC has lost its storytelling knack for some reason and delivered a flat campaign told from Daryl Dixon’s perspective. Interestingly, the levels are told through flashbacks as Daryl sits with you (as Rick) over the fireplace. You then enter Norman Reedus Daryl’s body and play through a linear, but expansive set of locations. From churches, trainyards and biker gang strongholds, the story feels deceptively short until later levels get longer. For variety’s sake Daryl’s levels are also locked until players complete more supply runs. This is where players drop into a handful of locations reused from the campaign and loot for supplies to build New Alexandria. The Walking Dead Onslaught has taken some notes from Saints & Sinners by adding a “herd” behind players, encouraging them to manage their time and stay a step ahead. But the threat becomes a minor annoyance as players quickly learn how to sweep through houses for materials, health and new guns.

The Walking Dead Onslaught (VR) Review 3
The Walking Dead Onslaught – Survios

It’s somehow engaging, as The Walking Dead and Death Stranding alumni Norman Reedus makes an effort to keep players company as they trudge along. Reedus doesn’t get an Emmy here, but his soothing thoughts and commitment to lines grow on you across five to six hours. Melissa McBride and Josh McDermitt somewhat steal the show as their respective characters Carol and Eugene over supply runs. But the dialogue becomes unintentionally hilarious as Carol randomly yells “Yeah, that’s a headshot!” every ten minutes in your dance of death. Daryl’s campaign of opening doors and killing walkers gets interrupted by Rick, who strangely acts like an overprotective dad. I made weird VR faces at their constant banter, which made Daryl feel like a frustrated teenager explaining why he snuck out of New Alexandria. Rick becomes this broken record player of protecting everybody, including Daryl who is lectured at with every new detail shared. Unlike Saints & Sinners, players never encounter or fight another human being in The Walking Dead Onslaught. Its main characters are reserved as life-sized NPCs guiding players across a small hub in New Alexandria. It’s worth noting the hub is a place for players to build and upgrade building, with specific ones adding perks for health and ammo as they venture out. However, players might just spend all their resources on weapon upgrades without any real consequences by ignoring New Alexandria.

The Walking Dead Onslaught (VR) Review 1
The Walking Dead Onslaught – Survios

Visually, Onslaught looks great over max settings on PCVR. Even over the Oculus Quest Link, sunlight shimmered off weapons and walls naturally. Walkers featured just as much tattered details from the TV show, giving players a clear idea of who they used to be pre-apocalypse. They also decay, with giblets and bloodstains splattering on walls and pavement with impressive physics. Some textures over The Walking Dead Onslaught‘s characters suffer from pop-in, while cheesy dialogue is masked on expressionless faces. The game’s countless houses might also feel familiar, but are filled with decrepit detail. Wall messages, abandoned mattresses and corpses all mimic the TV show’s eerie setting enough to bring players back.

The Walking Dead Onslaught doesn’t exactly escape the shadow of Saints & Sinners, which provides a story-heavy survival horror game for players. Despite falling into a few traps that come from officially-licensed games, Survios successfully delivers a fun walker-killing fantasy fans of the TV series have craved for years. It’s easy to say Onslaught is the game The Walking Dead Survival Instincts should have been. Survios uses what’s given by AMC, cuts to the chase and lets VR players become a part of the show without its baggage.

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