Birds of Prey Review

Do these birds fly?

Birds of Prey and the emancipation of Harley Quinn is quite a mouthful in terms of a movie title. So is the film, in good ways, some in ways that fall flatter than month old gingerale. For the most part, we are privy to the delightfully neurotic mind of one Harleen Quinn, played with magnificence by Margot Robbie. The standout of the film is Robbie’s performance, from her facial expressions to eye twitches. There’s a certain sadness behind her maniacal glee, some vulnerability lurking behind her chaotic fury. We see a woman scorned by her lover, cast away like debris, only to find herself afloat in a world full of danger. Danger being a world full of mysoginists.

The bad man

Mysogyny and female empowerment are rampant themes portrayed within the film. In a post #metoo world, it is imperative that mainstream media and blockbuster films broach the subject more. Exposure is education after all. How effectively is this message conveyed though? One scene has Black Mask, played by Obi Wan- Ewan MacGregor that particularly made me uncomfortable. In the scene, Black Mask is given bad news, which hurts his seemingly fragile masculinity. He then proceeds to unleash a tirade of fury on a female patron of his club. He asks her to dance on the table and to strip her clothes off. The woman is clearly mortified, humiliated and on the verge of tears. Powerful imagery, which evokes a sense of anger and disgust with the knowledge knowing that this happens to women, in real life. Held hostage by their gender, beaten down by the patriarchy. The men in this movie seem particularly greasy, throwing slander and sexist remarks left and right. The main author of Quinn’s heartbreak and pain is notably absent. The joker is a no show, but that might be a good thing. This is Harley’s story. Her pain is ours to witness, as well as her triumph. The only thing that dampens the strong message of girl power is it’s sometimes campy writing. Mid fight requests for a hair tie might have been an attempt at comedy, but trivialize in small ways, the overall feminist vibe. Moments like those served only to perpetuate stereotypes needlessly. This isn’t the Spice Girls movie is it?

Talent.

Brilliant set pieces make up a lot of the movie, full of rich color and music. I was very impressed with Quinn’s assault on a police precinct, where she non lethally takes out a squadron of cops with a shotgun that shoots confetti explosively into the air. Another is when a full on musical dancing and singing included, takes place in Harley’s psyche, showcasing again just how great of an actress she is. Supporting cast does the job of complementing Quinn’s story, but do little to truly stand out themselves. Black Mask is without a doubt one of the most boring villains to ever grace a DC movie, being that he is just a sexist piece of shit. Even Ewan Macgregor being cast did not save the role.

Plotwise, the story is not altogether hard to follow, but also lacks the same oomph as some of it’s Marvel competition. Imagery, music and tone prevail more than storytelling in this case.

Final Verdict: If you are a girl, a guy or anything in between or neither, go see the film. It may not have the same aplomb as The Joker, but touches on a subject that is all too familiar, yet needs to be addressed more. Feminism is a thing, it’s necessary and in my books, any movie that tries to advocate is a movie worth seeing.

Has Netflix Found A Flagship Series In ‘The Witcher’?

A wolf, a witch and a cub.

I was a late bloomer when it came to streaming services. Call me old fashioned, but I had grown up accustomed to that “once that ship sails, wait for the re-run” if I didn’t have the foresight to have it recorded. Then something ‘strange’ happened. My social media feeds all started to blow up. Scarlet letters glowing in a sea of black. Everyone seemed to to talking about it. Critics, friends, colleagues. Naturally, like a moth drawn to a lightbulb, I looked up a trailer. I was hooked. A small town, 80’s vibes, ‘Silent Hill’ like monsters and 4 kids we all wished we could have been as 10 year olds, (yes even Dustin). Stranger Things made me sign up for Netflix. I watched it over weeks, still observing the primetime rule of an episode per week. I mean, why release a WHOLE series at once? Ridiculous! Then season 2 came out. I finished that over the course of 3 days. Season 3 was done in a day. I had become what I had always feared I would be. An instant gratifier. No need for patience or discipline. I wanted it ALL. When the final credits rolled, I was already looking for a replacement and was met with…disappointment. Had my foray into this on demand, always at your beck and call entertainment finally amounted a huge letdown?

Don’t understimate kids. Ever.

You might ask what I was doing in between seasons of Stranger Things. I might be inclined to tell you, if you had a few hours and I had a bottle of scotch. Let’s go with the abridged version. I forgot I had Netflix. Yes, Daredevil was an atmospheric beauty.  I may have to write a lamentation piece on that show. For the most part, I just did other things. The time wasn’t right for me to get engulfed in a new adventure. Game of Thrones was always on the sidebar. I had stopped watching the series after one the series’ most memorable episodes, ‘The Door’. I had just grown a bit bored with the whole thing. Westworld, that show had me hooked for a minute. Suddenly, when I thought Netflix had devolved into nothing more than a monthly charge, they, released ‘The Haunting of Hill House’. Reignited by a spark and love for horror, my faith in Netflix Originals was starting to be restored. Releases like Castlevania, Altered Carbon and one of my personal favorites, Kingdom, a Korean drama set in a feudal Asian Kingdom where the dead don’t quite stay dead. If you are a fan or korean drama, political intrigue or horror, I recommend Kingdom. A true masterpiece. Be warned, you might never look at ramen again in the same way. Scratching noises in the dark…

Watch with the lights on, or don’t if you’re a sadist like me.

None of the shows I listed above were able to match the same emotional attachment I had to Stranger Things. Inherently, they weren’t meant to, or made to. Nor would they really be able to capture the same vitality and sense of oomph as the new kid on the block. Enter the White Wolf of Rivia, Geralt and company.

The Butcher of Blaviken.

I will start by earnestly admitting that I am somewhat biased when writing about this show. My goal, however, is to demonstrate how that bias was created along with some real facts. Let’s start with the bias. As some of you may know from my work, I am an avid gamer. Much like I was a late bloomer when it came to streaming services, I was a late bloomer when it came to The Witcher. Originally a series of fantasy novels by author Andrzej Sapkowski, which I haven’t read, the series was realized in video game form. The first two having been Xbox exclusives, I never really paid them much mind. The games were met with critical acclaim, earning accolades and recommendations from reviewers that these games were worth a place in your collection. It wasnt until 2015, when the Witcher 3, The Wild Hunt, was released onto PS4, my native console. Friends who had bought the game were constantly praising the game. I had my reservations. Why would I start playing a video game series on it final installment? What was the point? I would be lost, with no idea who or what this seemingly rich tapestry of characters and places would represent. It just seemed like a cash grab at expanding the marketshare with the titanic Playstation base by developper CD Projekt Red. The reviews kept piling in, my friends kept talking and one day I caved. Stopped by a local Bestbuy, picked the game up and installed it. I can tell you my presumption had never been so erroneous or misguided in my life. Remember me telling you I am biased? Well hear me out. You see I started the video game series much like many of you started the show. Clueless.

In terms of the game, about 2 or 3 hours into the game, through use of conversations, cutscenes and flashbacks, I knew enough that this was a narrative I was going to want more of. Videogames can take up to 40 hours or more to complete. If we speak in relative terms, I think most people decided they would pursue the narrative set forth in the show after the first or second episode. I wasnt sure how I would react to the show. Honestly, I knew I would be willing to overlook a few misteps, maybe play devil’s advocate here and there. Truth be told, I think Henry Cavill is perfect for Geralt. I don’t mean to typecast, but the man has embodied one of my favorite video game heroes perfectly. Right down to the gruff, one word expletive. As childish as this may sound, I hate Superman, unfortunately by association, that meant I didn’t have a lot of love for Cavill. I can tell you that has changed quite a bit. Henry, you went from being a goodie-two shoes alien God to being a socially inept mutant, who hates to admit it, but loves people around him tragically. I like the latter better to be honest. Anya Chalotra’s standout performance hit the mark as Yenefer, a proper feminist heroine, who proves a point she will not easily be stereotyped as a love interest for Geralt. In a fashion, the show is as much about her and her hardships as a woman in a male dominated world as it is about Geralt and the ever present theme of racism and xenophobia. We might be talking about a medieval world setting, but the present day issues are something Sapkowski is a master at portraying in his work. The series keeps pacing taut, despite some complaints that the timelines were confusing. Paying very close attention to detail is the price to be paid for an artfully sculpted story. Like all beautiful things in life, a little effort is required. Role diversity was also a point of contention, especially regarding Triss Merigold. Red-haired and Celtic in the game, dark haired and mixed race in the series. Was I a bit confused at first? Yes, for a minute. Did it change anything in terms of plot or world building? No. If you feel it does, you have the right to your opinion, but I truly don’t believe a character’s merit in a FICTIONAL world should be dictated by the color of their skin. My two cents. Like myself going in blind to the world of the Witcher, viewers with no prior knowledge of the lore, can agree that the show is great. How great are we talking though? Quantitatively.  We’ve discussed my bias. Let’s look at the numbers and why the Witcher could become Netflix’s coup de grace.

Source: rottentomatoes.com

From a critical standpoint, it would seem the show fared as mediocre. A 60% grade is barely a pass. Audiences were much more favorable homing in at just shy of the 90% mark. A critics job is to remain as critical as possible, as a consumer, I take that with a grain of salt, as when your job is to be critical, we can sometimes be more punitive than we mean to be. It’s human nature. Audiences, were much more receptive, whether for the ladies or gents who found Anya Chalotra’s or Henry Cavill’s lack of clothing pushed their mark up just a wee bit higher. Again, take this with a grain of salt. If we average the two scores, we get about 75%. What is that, a B – or a C +? I never was very good at those, even in university. Personally, I’d give the show a solid 90%, a tad bit higher than audience score because the narrative was a lot easier to digest given my exposure to the narrative through other media. This was a pleasant surprise considering I wasn’t sure if this show would be a flop. Now, given these points, what would make this series a flagship? HBO had Game of Thrones, AMC had the Walking Dead and Breaking Bad and let’s not forget Amazon Prime’s Man in the High Castle.

Just like Geralt, Mando is a good father.

I think that the other heavy hitter here is a show I adore. Set in the iconic, multigenerational universe of one of the most recognizable and marketable franchises in cinematic history. Disney + has a gritty, tautly heroic and ultimately touching story in ‘The Mandalorian’. I will be touching points on this show in a seperate piece at another time. If 2019 endee with a bang in streaming services, the two titans here were very clear. The objective here is merely to showcase numbers. Both shows have their merit. Netflix executives surely will make the same case as I am considering the following.

According to Parrot Analytics, The Witcher surpassed The Mandalorian in total demand streams. Despite being released very late in the year, with, at the time of report, only ablut a month under its belt, came close to topping demand views for shows that were available all year. Let that sink in. The Witcher came in second as a Netflix original for lifetime demand streams. In one month. Who is still the demand stream king for now? You may have guessed it. Stranger Things. Oh lover of mine, we come back to your open arms. Stranger things will only have one more season as per series writers and producers, the Duffer bros. One more glorious season. Without a doubt, Stranger Things season 4 will make a huge splash when it releases and by splash I mean Tsunami. What happens when that final curtain call is made? Does Netflix really need to look any further? The replacement is already being groomed. You see, Stranger Things is what made me sign up for Netflix, The Witcher is what is making me stay.

Why Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Should Avoid Fan Servicing

With the launch of 2019’s Call of Duty installation, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, there came a lot of hope and interest to the franchise. Over the last few years Call of Duty has turned back the clock on it’s franchise with the installation of Call of Duty: WW2 and the remastering of COD4 paired with the launch of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare in 2016.

In 2019, the yearly release of Call of Duty is no different as we see a reboot of sorts to the COD4 release, Modern Warfare. This iteration comes with some nostalgia as we see the return of classic franchise characters such as Captain Price who looks and sounds a little different, but with good reason. For most, the campaign and overall story has been a major success with gamers who have had the chance to play it. However, when we shift to the multiplayer portion of Modern Warfare, we begin to see some dissatisfaction among gamers who have played the base multiplayer from October 2019. The major complaints surround the map design and sizes that can evidently be found on maps such as Aniyah Palace and Azhir Cave. With the complaints of poor quality maps in the multiplayer mode, Infinity Ward and Activision were quick to spring to action with the release of Shoot House and the additional maps that accompanied the launch of Season 1. With the start of Season 1 we saw the addition of the classic Modern Warfare map, Crash, come to the 2019 vision of the 2007 classic. While Crash was well welcomed in the early days of being added to the game, many people became vocal of how it didn’t add enough to the game in lieu of the original 10 maps which are to be considered mediocre at best.

Source: Activision Blog

Not too long after Crash was released came the fan favorite maps of Shipment and Vacant right before the 2019 holiday season. These maps were widely welcomed by the Call of Duty community but not without there fair share of complaints.

Many users have complained about the spawn locations and in turn, the flow of how game modes play on Shipment. Infinity Ward addressed these by randomizing and correcting the spawn locations for modes such as TDM and Kill Confirmed but other modes such as Domination still face their fare share of spawn camping and choke points based on flags held and spawn locations. Additional complaints were raised about Vacant which is considered a larger map in comparison to Shipment and Shoot House. Vacant includes and entire outside area with shipping containers that rarely sees any action unless you are playing a mode such as Headquarters or Hardpoint which leads you to the containers or out-buildings for objectives. Many players indicated that the map needs a re-work or removal of the outdoor area for it to be enjoyable in the 2019 Call of Duty landscape.

Source: Activision Blog

Now you may be asking yourselves, “Why does any of this matter? We know all of this already.” and you would be right to indicate that but where my concern lies, is with the launch of Season 2 upon us, we still face issues with the game and the approach that Infinity Ward is taking. Whether this approach is coming down from the powers above at Activision, there are still issues that need to be discussed. Season 2 is set to bring back yet another Modern Warfare series classic with the addition of Rust. For those who are not familiar with the map, it’s another tight map with a square form-factor that plays just as chaotic as Shipment does. There is a difference though as Rust adds an element of vertical combat as players can climb the oil rig in the middle of the map to see players down below or seek out enemy players who have snaked themselves away in the oil rig.

Why is this an issue? Well, with the addition of this map comes the concern over spawn locations and the toxic play that will come with players who decide to take advantage of this fact. Not to mention that the rotation of maps will greatly increase in the 24/7 playlist slot which seems to stir a big outcry from players online whenever Shoot House or Shipment have been removed to make way for a new map in the 24/7 playlist (yes, i’m looking right at you 24/7 Crash and 24/7 Shipment & Vacant).

Source: Activision Blog

While Season 2 is also including a fresh lineup of original maps for both the standard modes and ground war, the focus is clearly still set on fan servicing players who want the classics to return. While that in itself isn’t a bad idea, the problems that follow this focus is an issue.

We will continue to see players who are not happy with the layout of the classic maps, the flow of game play, and the playlist changes that come on a weekly basis. While I welcome the inclusion of these maps to the game, I would also thoroughly enjoy building new maps that will become the fan favorites of the future. We can already assume that this will not be the last Call of Duty game where we see Shoot House as that is a fine example of a new map that has gone over huge with the player base. Is it a game changer? No, but it is a proven formula that players like, three lanes in a standard map layout.

One thing that the Call of Duty franchise has showcased throughout the various installations over the last 10 years is that more is less. The shift from present-day warfare to space warfare was highly criticized and it saw me personally take a hiatus from a few titles due to the space jumping and weaponry that was laid out for players in those titles. The fact that the game has come back to earth, literally, is a huge step in the franchise and I for one, hope that the success of Modern Warfare (2019) continues in the future. The Black Ops franchise is one example of the above as we are poised to see yet another installation in that franchise within the next year or so.

What do you think of the decision to bring back old maps from the Call of Duty franchise? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!