SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
By Sean Radican, PWTorch columnist
THE PULL LIST (VOL. 10)
”The Pull List” is a feature column that will take a look at a mix of the most noteworthy topics in wrestling, comics, books, Movies & TV Blu-Ray releases, and video games along with reviews and commentary in each category.
2016 MOTY TOP 10 LIST
This is a running list of the top 10 matches of 2016 ranked at ****1/2 or higher. This list is based on what I’ve seen so far and I will be updating the list as I catch up on my wrestling viewing for this year. I will eventually make a separate post of my entire 2016 MOTY list and keep it updated regularly. I will also update the top 10 list in this column.
2016 MOTYC TOP TEN
(1) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Sami Zayn, NXT, “NXT Takeover: Dallas,” April 1, 2016. (*****)
(2) IWGP Hvt. Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada, NJPW, “Wrestle Kingdom 10,” Jan. 4, 2016. (*****)
(3) Will Ospreay vs. Zack Sabre Jr., EVOLVE, “EVOLVE 58,” April 1, 2016. (*****)
(4) Will Ospreay vs. Ricochet in a Block B 2016 BOSJ XII match, NJPW, “BOSJ XIII: Day 6,” May 27, 2016. (****3/4)
(5) IWGP IC Champion Kenny Omega vs. Michael Elgin, NJPW, “Dominion,” June 19, 2016. (****3/4)
(6) IWGP IC Champion & CMLL Lige Elite World Champion Michael Elgin vs. Tetsuya Naito, NJPW, “G1 Climax 26: Night 4,” July 24, 2016. (****3/4)
(7) Chris Hero vs. Tommy End, Progress Wrestling, “SSS 16: Day 2,” May 30, 2016 (****3/4)
(8) Will Ospreay vs. Shane Strickland in a 2016 16 Carat Gold First Round match, WXW, “2016 16 Carat Gold: Night 1,” March 11, 2016. (****3/4)
(9) NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champions The Elite (Kenny Omega & Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) vs. Matt Sydal & Ricochet & Satoshi Kojima, NJPW, “Kizuna Road,” July 3, 2016. (****3/4)
(10) Chris Hero & Tommy End vs. Sami Callihan & Zack Sabre Jr. in an EVOLVE Tag Team Title Tournament First Round match, EVOLVE, “EVOLVE 53,” Jan. 22, 2016. (****3/4)
The Walking Dead: Michonne
For this review, I played the PS4 version of the game.
“The Walking Dead: Michonne” is an episodic three-part series from Telltale games. The entire series can be purchased as individual episodes, but I recommend going with the season pass if you decide to purchase this game to save money should you want to play through the whole thing.
Telltale games has made other Walking Dead games in the past, but this one was of particular interest to me because it was about Michonne, who is a central protagonist in the comics.
I don’t want to spoil too much of the comic narrative for people that haven’t caught up on The Walking Dead comics, so I will just say that this story fills in the blanks as to what happened to Michonne in the comics when she left Rick Grimes and the rest of her group to go off on her own.
As stated earlier this game was released in three episodes via download. I started playing through the game around the time the third episode was released. People that started playing the game when the game was released had to wait to play through the entire game as it was released, which took about 4-5 months. The first and second episodes of the game definitely did a good job of making you want to continue playing the game. The previews at the end of the first and second episode were a nice touch, as it very much felt like I was playing a part in an interactive TV show.
What makes this game special at times is the writing and voice acting. When you play this game you really get to know and understand what motivates Michonne, the people on her boat, and her antagonists later in the game. The first episode is a lot of exposition, but it’s also previews the trend of Michonne hallucinating events that happened in the past involving her young children when the zombie apocalypse broke out.
Each episode of “The Walking Dead: Michonne” takes about an hour-and-a-half to play. The final episode is a little shorter than the first to, so you’re looking at a total of about four hours of gameplay. The first episode, “In Too Deep,” begins with Michonne on a boat with Pete and their other companies on the ship. Michonne is an emotional wreck at the outset and the game delves deeper into why she feels the way she does and whether or not she feels her life is worth living. None of Michonne’s thinking has anything to do with surviving the outbreak of zombies, but instead is more focused on her internal struggle related to what happened to her family during the outbreak.
As you progress through the game, how you experience the game depends on the dialogue you select at key moments and the actions you choose in key situations. You can make Michonne seem cold and shut in or you can make her seem more welcoming to the people around her. Playing through the game, you also get to decide how Michonne interacts with the antagonists and you get to see how those choice impact the game. Action sequence take place in QTE (quick time events) and they’re a lot of fun. I especially enjoyed how the QTE’s in this game took advantage of the touch pad on my PS4 controller.
The second and third episodes, “What We Deserve” and “Give No Shelter” are both very strong. The second episode features Michonne and her companions trying to escape from Monroe, which is a floating colony lead by siblings Norma and Randall. It seemed at one point during the first episode that Norma may have been a reasonable woman, but the second episode gives you no choice but to see her as a villain and things pick up from that point going forward leading to a strong conclusion as you see Michonne not only battle her inner demons, but also try to overcome a very real conflict with Norma.
As the game plays out, you feel as if you’re interacting inside “The Walking Dead” comic book. One of the biggest strengths of the game is the voice acting. Samira Wiley, who is known best from her work in “Orange is the New Black” does a tremendous job adding emotional layers to Michonne’s character to keep her interesting the entire way through.
The graphics do a good job of capturing the essence of the comic book series. The dialogue is tremendous. There are many memorable sequences during the second and third episodes that provide some heart pounding moments as you wait to see how your choices impact the story. The final sequence is a blazer and walking out of this game, you will feel like you learn a lot about Michonne, which is a tremendous bonus if you’re a fan of “The Walking Dead” comic series.
Overall Thoughts (8.5) – This is an extremely well-made game. Not only are the interactive parts of the game a blast because your choices impact the narrative, but I found myself caring out Michonne and her friends while also being able to see what drove Norma and her madness as leader of the Monroe floating colony. The voice acting is tremendous and the script is as well. If you play this game, you will get emotionally invested in it.
The episodic nature of Telltale games is a nice storytelling device as well. I played through all three episodes quickly, but it’s a lot of fun to play through an episode and then see what’s coming next, as each of the first two episodes ended with a teaser for the next episode. One other fun feature included was that at the end of each episode, you could see how your choices in the game matched up with the choices of other people playing around the world.
I give this game a big recommendation. It gets off to a bit of a slow start with the first episode, but episodes two and three are an emotional rollercoaster that build up to a big finale. Thumbs up!
The Walking Dead: Michonne is currently available through the Xbox One, PS4, and PC online stores via single chapter purchase or a flat price for a season pass for all three episodes at a discount. This game is also available now on disc as well where video games are sold.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition (Blu-Ray, DVD, & Digital HD combo pack)
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” was an unlikeable movie with a PG-13 rating when it originally was released in theaters. It felt like a Batman movie with Superman just along for the ride. As a movie designed to launch a new cinematic universe, it felt like it was way too dark and the script was too uneven to launch a new line of DC movies.
“Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition” is a better movie and allows the audience to fully understand that Lex Luthor is pitting them against each other to make them fight. The fight scene between Batman and Superman in the theatrical version and the extended cut both suffer from the same problem in that instead of fighting over a moral or philosophical issue, Batman and Superman are goaded into fighting by Luthor.
The build to the fight between Batman and Superman is a long and slow road in both versions of the movie. If you’re going to get this movie on Blu-Ray, it’s going to be because you want to see a version of the movie that is at least somewhat satisfying. Despite the flaws in the script, the movie is a visual wonder that will leave your jaw dropped in amazement. The climatic fight scene is especially thrilling from a visual standpoint.
That leaves me going back to director Zack Synder and his vision for the movie. If the extended cut is Synder’s true vision to launch the DC Cinematic Universe, then I have no idea what he was thinking, as you can’t launch this new series of movies with an R rated movie. The movie felt dark enough as a PG-13 release, but it’s even darker with the extra footage. As a standalone movie centered on the conflict between Batman and Superman this would be fine.
As I said, the extra footage does flush out that Luthor is behind the conflict that drives Superman and Batman to war with each other. Luthor’s actions are given more context as a great deal of the extra footage shows Lois Lane doing some detective work with some evidence that was left at the scene of an incident with Superman earlier in the movie. The context given of Batman and Superman screaming about Martha to each other as they do battle also makes sense, but logic says that Superman could have easily avoided the conflict with Batman by using his powers more logically.
The three cornerstones of the movie are Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Ben Affleck does a great job portraying Batman and Henry Cavill also turns in a strong performance as Superman. The original version of this movie was very one-sided in terms of how it felt like a Batman movie. As I said, the extended cut of the film balances that out. However, according the director and various producers featured in to the “Uniting The World’s’” finest Blu-ray extra feature, this movie was supposed to also introduce Wonder Woman (Gal Godot) and she simply isn’t given enough time on screen to be fully flushed out even though the movie is long. She feels more like a minor character and when she joins in during the climactic scene of the movie, it feels like more of a shock instead of a heart pumping moments. That’s not the fault of Gal Godat, who does what she can with what she’s given in the script.
As was the case with the theatrical cut, the best performance in the extended cut still belongs to Jessie Eisenberg’s portrayal of the unstable Lex Luthor. He’s just tremendous in all of his big scenes and brings Luthor to life with his superior acting skills.
Overall Thoughts: (6.5) – I definitely recommend at least renting “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition over purchasing it. The extended cut really adds some depth as to why Batman and Superman are at odds, but it still doesn’t make a lot of sense to present them in the first movie in the DC Cinematic Universe as being easily duped by a villain. The extra features aren’t anything worth going out of your way to see, but they make for a solid watch to expand on the thought process behind how the movie was made. Mild thumbs up.
You can purchase the “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition” on Blu-ray, DVD, & Digital HD combo pack at most retail and online outlets.
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