Thursday, July 9, 2020

Gamemaster Review: Indie Board Game The Movie

Release date: July 7, 2020
Running time: 97 minutes
Starring: Alex Yeager, Jason Serrato, Nashra Balagamwala

Gamemaster is a documentary that takes a deep dive into the world of the board game industry and the creators behind popular games.  The board game industry has experienced a sort of renaissance in the last couple of years, and this documentary highlights the gains it has made, some of its prolific creators, and also the culture and conventions that are big in the industry.  

You can't watch this movie without thinking about one of my favorite documentaries of all time, Indie Game: the Movie.  Gamemaster has a lot of similarities with that film.  It takes a look at a fast growing entertainment product in the middle of a renaissance.  It also documents independent creators at a time when they are enjoying increased access to the market and new avenues for distribution.  The film takes a very big picture view.  Gamemaster doesn't just focus on games; large chunks of the documentary are dedicated to the business of board games and the surrounding culture.  There is a lot of very interesting information about how a board game gets made, what business decisions need to happen to bring a board game to market, balancing your vision with the realities of the industry and your market, and also some of the benefits and pitfalls of running a family business.  It really is a great primer for anyone interested in a creative endeavor and should not be missed simply because it focuses on board games.

Additionally, one major positive difference from Indie Game: the Movie is the diverse viewpoints that are heard in Gamemaster.  As much as I love Indie Game and the developers that they chose (who all very much deserved to be in the film), they were all white males.  Gamemaster, on the other hand, has viewpoints from white males, women, and diverse individuals to give a much broader view of independent gaming.  The cast of characters really make this a strong documentary.  Many of the subjects highlighted in these independent games directly relate to the diverse experiences and upbringings of their creators.  There is a Pakistani woman making a board game about arranged marriages, or a Latino man making a board game about minority culture in the cities.  It is a welcome addition and great to see so many views in one documentary.  I really enjoyed a contrasting story between two different family-owned board game companies, and the different experiences that their families had.  And the documentary is not only focused on North America.  As the board game business is a global business, the documentary highlights creators, stories, and conferences from Europe and abroad.  This documentary gives a full picture of the Board game industry and the current renaissance occurring in it.  Viewers should not pass their turn to check out this fantastic documentary.  

Gamemaster is a comprehensive, entertaining documentary about the growing board game industry, with diverse viewpoints and a wonderful cast of characters who rolled the dice on the indie board game scene. 

Watch it.
For additional information about the film and to rent / buy it, check it out at the links below.
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I Am Vengeance: Retaliation Review: Royal Rumble In Special Forces Fatigues

Release date: July 13, 2020
Running time: 90 minutes
Starring: Stu Bennett, Vinnie Jones, Katrina Durden

John Gold (Bennett) is back in a new film following up from the 2018 I Am Vengeance.  After discovering that a once presumed dead foe Sean Teague (Jones) is in fact still alive, Gold is brought in to lead a new team of mercenaries to bring in the baddest of the bad. Gold, an ex-special forces solider used to fight with Teague until Teague betrayed his team.  With this past in mind, Gold must lead a team to capture and transport Teague back to military prison to pay for his crimes.  But during this mission to bring him in, Gold will have to battle Teague's team who looks to keep him free, as well as Jen Quaid (Durden) an expert sniper who has her own on plans for Teague. Gold, one of the best in the world in getting his target will have all of his skills and morals put to the test to complete the mission.

This movie wastes no time getting you situated in the action. Quite frankly this movie only knows action as the plot is not too complicated and merely serves as a vehicle for some gunplay and martial arts. And with the action, the gun fights are a mixed bag but the hand to hand combat is what truly carries this movie.  The gunfights have good sound effects but some questionable CGI.  The fight scene choreography, however, is well done; it is a testament to both Saban Films and Director Ross Boyask who has a reputation for good action.  But even with the well done fight scenes there was an abundance of unnecessary fighting.  Although you will be enjoying the action, you will also be left scratching your head about why some of the fights occur.  I am pretty sure one character suffered from a concussion the entire movie that literally did nothing for plot development. And lets not forget that it wouldn't be an action movie with out some cheesy one-liners in which this film nails. 

Vinnie Jones is a natural heel and plays this role perfectly.  His demeanor, tone, and natural charisma make him perfectly situated to bring the best out of this questionable script.  Stu Bennett, former WWE Superstar, continues to flourish in his action star niche. He creates a towering presence in every scene and absolutely shines in any hand to hand combat moments.  Lastly as much as the two leads excelled, I loved the addition of Katrina Durden as a new, dangerous threat.  She was the strong female that character that more action movies need. Totally fearless and stood on her own two feet.  The rest of the cast are also enjoyable, and some have funny quirks that are carried out through the film.  With its overexaggerated performances and good action, it often feels like a WWE royal rumble in special forces fatigues. 

I Am Vengeance: Retaliation is a 90 minute action fest that doesn't take itself too seriously.  With its exaggerated performances, memorable characters, and fantastic hand-to-hand combat, it often feels like a WWE Royal Rumble in special forces fatigues.  

Rent it.

For additional information about the film and to rent / buy it, check it out at the links below.
This site contains affiliate links. //Commerce or this site may be compensated when you click through links on our site.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

News: Oprah and Lionsgate Join With Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones For Adaptation Of 1619 Project

Oprah and Lionsgate have joined forces with the New York Time and Pulizter Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones to adapt the acclaimed 1619 project into a portfolio of films, television programming, and other content.  Pulitzer Prize®-winning journalist Nikole
Hannah-Jones and The New York Times have chosen Lionsgate to be the home for a wide-ranging partnership to develop Ms. Hannah-Jones’ landmark issue of The New York Times Magazine, The 1619 Project, and hit New York Times podcast, 1619, into an expansive portfolio of feature films, television series and other content for a global audience.

In a bid to pretty much ensure that this is successful, Lionsgate has also partnered with media titan Oprah Winfrey as a producer who will provide stewardship and guidance to the development and production of the 1619 Project.

Lionsgate, The Times and Ms. Winfrey will join forces with Ms. Hannah-Jones, who will serve as the creative leader and producer in developing feature films, television series, documentaries, unscripted programming and other forms of entertainment enlisting world-class Black creative voices to help adapt her celebrated series chronicling the ways that the original sin of slavery in America still permeates all aspects of our society today. Her colleague at The Times Magazine, Caitlin Roper, an editor of The 1619 Project and head of scripted entertainment at The Times, will also produce.

One of the most impactful and thought-provoking works of journalism of the past decade, The Times Magazine’s 1619 Project was a landmark undertaking that connected the centrality of slavery in history with an unflinching account of the brutal racism that endures in so many aspects of American life today. It was launched in August 2019 on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the English colonies that would become the United States, and it examines the legacy of slavery in America and how it shaped all aspects of society, from music and law to education and the arts, including the principles of our democracy itself.  Ms. Hannah-Jones created and was the architect of the initiative at The Times Magazine with contributions from Black authors, essayists, poets, playwrights, and scholars comprising a special issue of the magazine and a special section in the print edition of The New York Times produced in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History & Culture, as well as a five-part podcast that topped the Apple Podcast charts. One of The Times’ most widely read pieces of journalism last year, The 1619 Project has been discussed in the Senate, is being adapted into a series of books with One World, a division of Penguin Random House, and is already changing the way that American history is being taught
in schools.

Please see a link to The 1619 Project essays here and podcasts here.

Oprah Image Credit: Harpo Inc./Ruven Afanador
Nikole Image Credit: James Estrin/The New York Times

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

News: HBO Max To Develop Animated Series YOUNG LOVE, based on the Academy Award®-winning short film HAIR LOVE

HBO Max has ordered a 12-episode season of an all-new, 2D animated series, Young Love, based on the characters introduced in the Academy Award®-winning short film, Hair Love from Oscar® winner Matthew A. Cherry and Sony Pictures Animation. The new series for HBO Max is created by Cherry, who will showrun with long-time animation creative Carl Jones (The Boondocks, Black Dynamite). The series will be executive produced by Blue Key Entertainment's Monica A. Young (producer of Hair Love) along with Lion Forge Animation’s David Steward II and Carl Reed.

Hair Love centers around the relationship between an African-American father, his daughter Zuri, and the most daunting task a father could ever come across – doing his daughter’s hair for the first time. The short resonated with people everywhere, especially fathers who found themselves in similar situations.

The all-new animated series Young Love seeks to expand on the family introduced in Hair Love, as they juggle their careers, marriage, parenthood, social issues, and multi-generational dynamics all while striving to make a better life for themselves.

News: GKIDS Acquires North American Rights to Studio Ghibli's "Earwig and the Witch"

GKIDS, the producer and distributor of animation for adult and family audiences, announced that it has acquired the North American distribution rights for legendary animation house Studio Ghibli's latest feature EARWIG AND THE WITCH. The film is directed by Goro Miyazaki (From Up on Poppy Hill, Tales from Earthsea) and produced by studio co-founder Toshio Suzuki, with planning on the feature from his father, Academy Award®-winner Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro).  Based on the children's novel "Earwig and the Witch" by Diana Wynne Jones ("Howl's Moving Castle"), the film marks Studio Ghibli's first entirely 3D CG animated feature.  An official selection for the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, the film is slated to air on NHK in Japan Winter 2020. GKIDS will release the film theatrically in North America in early 2021.

Director Goro Miyazaki has previously commented about the film, "Nowadays, in our country, there are many adults and few children. It must be tough for these children, so few of them having to deal with so many adults. It was while I was thinking about this that I got to know Earwig. And I realized, 'That's it!' How does Earwig deal with the annoying adults? Please watch Earwig and The Witch to find out. She may be cheeky, but I sincerely hope that our adorable Earwig will encourage children and cheer up adults."

Growing up in an orphanage, Earwig has no idea that her mother had magical powers. Her life will take a new turn when a strange family takes her in, and she is forced to live with a selfish witch.

Palm Springs Review: The Goundhog Day Formula Gets A Boost From Samberg And Milioti's Fantastic Chemistry

Release date: July 10, 2020
Running time: 90 minutes
Starring: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, J.K. Simmons 

Palm Springs is a Groundhog Day movie where carefree Nyles (Samberg) is stuck in a time loop, repeating the same Palm Springs wedding day over and over.  However, when reluctant maid of honor Sarah (Milioti) has a chance encounter with Nyles, things get complicated as they are unable to escape the venue, themselves, or each other.  

Although many movies have taken on the repeating day formula that Groundhog Day made famous, Palm Springs has a fun new take on it.  Nyles is carefree, having long come to terms with his constantly repeating day.  He tries new things but mostly just tries to live in the moment.  This character is perfectly suited for Andy Samberg, like he was made for this role.  He is charming, aloof, and charismatic in his constantly repeating world.  However, later on he is joined by Sarah, who provides a nice foil for him.  Milioti is the perfect complement to Samberg.  She is much more serious overall, and although she can also let loose and have fun in their predicament, she tends to be more focused than Samberg.  Together they make a great team, and one that you'll want to see over and over again (thankfully, that's the point of the film)!

And although the story of the film revolves around a repeating day, there are enough surprises to keep the story fresh.  The pair try out many new things in order to beat the boredom, and meet new people along the way.  There are also slow reveals of their past that keep the story fresh and allow the characters to surprise you and keep growing.  One reveal will change the way you look at a certain scene you have seen many times before.  And the story stays interesting because  of both the characters and the very funny writing.  The dialog feels natural, and gets changed enough during the repeated viewings to keep it from getting stale.  And, as you would expect from an Andy Samberg film, there are plenty of jokes and laugh out loud situations.  However, although there are plenty of silly events that occur, it feels like they could have gone a little crazier in what they do.  It's not much of a criticism, but I could have used with a few more over the top events, despite absolutely loving this film.  

Palm Springs is a fresh take on the Groundhog Day formula, with a charismatic duo, plenty of ridiculous and laugh-out-loud moments, and a story that grows on you as it repeats! 

Watch it.

Monday, July 6, 2020

News: HBO Max Debuts Trailer for Seth Rogen's An American Pickle

HBO Max just debuted the trailer for Seth Rogen's An American Pickle, which is coming to HBO Max later this summer.  The new WarnerMax film starring Seth Rogen will premiere Thursday, August 6th on HBO Max.

The film, directed by Brandon Trost, is based on Simon Rich’s New Yorker novella and stars Seth Rogen as Herschel Greenbaum, a struggling laborer who immigrates to America in 1920 with dreams of building a better life for his beloved family.  One day, while working at his factory job, he falls into a vat of pickles and is brined for 100 years.  The brine preserves him perfectly and when he emerges in present day Brooklyn, he finds that he hasn’t aged a day.  But when he seeks out his family, he is troubled to learn that his only surviving relative is his great grandson, Ben Greenbaum (also played by Rogen), a mild-mannered computer coder whom Herschel can’t even begin to understand.

Watch the Trailer: