Tom Chick

Creative Assembly’s Middle Kingdom shows up Warhammer’s kingdoms

, | News

Maps of fantasy kingdoms look cooler than maps of real kingdoms, because real kingdoms don’t have lava rivers, mountains festooned with Minas Tirith looking cities, or massive blue sky vortices. But that’s not stopping Creative Assembly from trying to wow Total War: Warhammer players with the map of China in their upcoming Total War: Three Kingdoms. The above video has a touch of the usual army spectacle, but it’s mostly a flyover of campaign map graphics that would make any ork green with envy.

Total War: Three Kingdoms is scheduled for a spring 2019 release.

The one huge problem with Dan Simmons’ sci-fi mystery Hyperion

, | Book reviews

Hyperion is not what you would expect if the only Dan Simmons you’ve read is The Terror, a slab of historical fiction with an uneven supernatural glaze. It’s overlong, tedious, confused, and ultimately flat. You’d never guess it was written by the same person who wrote Hyperion, a sparkling collection of multi-faceted science fiction, with carefully built characters, a lovingly detailed world, and a glaring problem that threatens to undermine it all.

But we’ll get to that later. The first thing that’s clear in Hyperion, which I don’t remember being a takeaway from The Terror, is that Simmons is an adroit writer. Maybe it helps if you’ve been reading someone who isn’t.

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Basquiat: the uninformed opinion

, | Features

My first thought upon flipping through a volume of Jean-Michel Basquiat works from a 2005 exhibit in Brooklyn was, “This is Basquiat?” He has such an exotic and dignified name. I assumed someone with that name would paint idylls and classical portraits. I expected he would be famous because his creations were moving works of beauty. Someone named Basquiat might even be a French master.

My second thought was, “This looks like garbage.” Angry childish scrawls. Gerald Scarfe when he was in boarding school. The cover of a Butthole Surfers album. An unabashedly amateurish webcomic. The scene when the protagonist flips through another character’s journal and discovers that character is totally insane. I don’t like this stuff. This is not the sort of thing I even understand.

So here is the exercise. Continue reading →

Worst thing you’ll stream all week: Extinction

, | Movie reviews

Extinction starts out as an alien invasion movie. As one of the invadees, Michael Pena plays a family everyman. It’s nice to see him as something other than a Hispanic sidekick, comic relief, or a comic relief Hispanic sidekick. Lizzy Caplan plays his wife. It’s nice to see her as something other than a token female playing thankless second fiddle to a male lead. Hopefully I’ll get to see that in a movie soon, but until then, I watched Extinction.

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Sol: Last Days of a Star throws a graceful apocalypse party and everyone’s invited

, | Game reviews

The premise of Sol: Last Days of a Star is that the sun is about to go supernova. She’s gonna blow any moment and you’ve got to beat feet, which is no mean feat, given that suns are a real drag. All that gravity, you know. Your only hope is to harvest sun energy to build up momentum to slip the fiery bonds of Sol.

The sun machine is coming down and there’s gonna be a party. Continue reading →

Best bad thing you’ll see all week: Terminal

, | Movie reviews

If a movie can’t be good, at least it should be pretty. And if it can’t be pretty, at least it should be memorably gaudy. That’s where Terminal lives. This trite flash of neon noir plays like a community theater version of Sin City. The dialogue is the sort of oh-so-self-aware wordplay that an actual playwright might have written when he was still learning to write plays. The story is a mostly conventional femme fatale fable with precisely the unexpected twist you expect; the only reason you didn’t see it coming was because it’s all just made up at the end. Surprise! Every enthusiastically lit set looks like a first pass at concept art, drawn by someone whose only exposure to film noir is The Matrix. Shadows and fog not included.

But the appeal of Terminal is that its cast of accomplished actors is dedicated enough not necessarily to pull it off, but to at least give it a real go. Simon Pegg with the beard and brow of a Tsarist Russian intellectual; Max Irons as the slow witted and square jawed patsy; Dexter Fletcher and his unabashed mutton chops playing a vicious East End thug. Mike Meyers dons fake teeth and meanders through a couple of cameos. But above all else, Terminal offers Margot Robbie gamely reprising her Harley Quinn character, mad as a hatter and happy to slather on the make-up and gruesome grin to prove it. She’s nothing if not committed, and despite the dopey dialogue, cheap sets, and comic book visuals, she’s fascinating to watch. If Robbie can find her own Tim Burton, she’s guaranteed a career of caricatures as riveting as Johnny Depp’s. I, Tonya for the serious recognition with an occasional Terminal to show she’s still happy to come out and play.

The astonishing cluelessness of The Crew 2

, | Game reviews

The Crew 2 is a real surprise. Not at all what I expected. It’s actually astonishing. Maybe even breathtaking. It seems completely, utterly, stupenduously, jaw-droppingly unaware of why I played The Crew. It flagrantly violates the conventional wisdom that videogame sequels are better because game design is an iterative process. Design something, improve on it for the sequel, repeat. But The Crew 2 doesn’t feel the least bit iterative. It simply can’t compare to The Crew. It’s as if it never even heard of it. It’s not just one step forward, two steps back. It’s not even no steps forward, two steps back. It’s popping the clutch when you didn’t know the car was in reverse and plunging over a cliff. It is one of the worst open-world games I’ve played, and easily the worst caRPG I’ve ever played.

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