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Alec Bojalad Matthew Schuchman
Sep 21, 2018

Netflix's Maniac feels both familiar and utterly unique. Director and showrunner Cary Fukunaga confirms that's by design.

The comparisons between Netflix's trippy new mind drama, Maniac, and the works of prolific screenwriter Charlie Kaufman are inescapable.

Like Kaufman's 2004 romance classic Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Maniac features plenty of scenes within the architecture of the human brain and even deals with a man and woman whose consciousnesses just can't seem to be separated. In an interview with Den of Geek, Maniac director/showrunner and future Bond director Cary Fukunaga confirmed that these Kaufman influences were very much intentional. 

Interestingly it's not Eternal Sunshine that Fukunaga brings up but another Kaufman film (and the first he directed), Synecdoche, New York

"Synecdoche, New York is what we would have preferred to have as a budget and a timeline of the show to explore until everyone grew old," Fukunaga says.

That's interesting as Synecdoche, New York wasn't necessarily an ultra expensive film with a budget around $20 million. Surely, Maniac with its high profile cast, striking visuals, and 10 episodes has to have a budget around there. Unless...wait a minute. "Until everyone grew old." Fukunaga wishes he had the budget of the play within Synecdoche, New York! In the movie Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) puts on a play within an enormous warehouse that recreates New York City to scale and occurs throughout the entirety of his life. Netflix is doing well but I don't know if anyone has that kind of movie. 

Other interesting tidbits from Fukunaga include that the character of Annie didn't really come to life until they brought Emma Stone aboard. 

The director also describes the unsettling nature of Maniac's reality. Yes, the show deals with the unconscious and augmented realities but the show's baseline reality is rather strange to begin with. 

"It was important that baseline reality wasn’t comfortable," Fukunaga says. "It needed to have an settling feeling to it." 

Mission accomplished then. 

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Matthew Byrd
Sep 21, 2018

Telltale Games troubles continue as the studio appears to be close to shutting down entirely.

Telltale Games has reportedly suffered massive layoffs that suggest the studio will be shutting down before long. 

Earlier today, Telltale employees took to Twitter and other social media sites to state that they had lost their jobs. As the numbers grew, it became clear that these were not isolated incidents. However, the extent of the layoffs was not yet known. 

Now, though, Gamasutra and other sites are reporting that sources close to the situation have announced that Telltale Games has laid off an astonishing 225 employees. That means that a small crew of 25 employees remain on staff. The identity and job titles of those employees are unknown at this time. 

Here's what we do know: these layoffs mean that Telltale Games will not release The Wolf Among Us 2, Stranger Things, or any other games that they had previously announced they are working on. This also presumably means that they will not be moving away from their infamous in-house engine as has been previously suggested. Our understanding at this time is that Telltale Games' skeleton staff is going to finish developing The Walking Dead's final season. Beyond that, there seems to be very little chance that the studio will remain open. 

This is the latest in a long line of unfortunate incidents for the studio. Last year, they laid off 25 percent of their staff. They were then sued by co-founder Kevin Bruner (who has taken to his blog to share his sadness over the news that so many talented people have lost their jobs). Things seemed to have been looking up for the studio when they revealed several high-profile new projects and plans for the future, but it seems like the true story of what was going on was far direr than anyone could have suspected. 

We wish every Telltale employee that lost their job today the best of luck moving forward, and we will continue to update you on this situation as more information becomes available. 

Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014

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Emma Stone gets a showcase in Maniac's improved take on its own beginning.

This Maniac review contains spoilers.

Maniac Episode 2

For as intriguing as Maniac’s “premiere” episode was (can you call any one episode a premiere when they all debut at the same time?), its biggest drawback as an episode of television is that it wasn’t really an episode of television.

“The Chosen One!” with its abridged ending and expansive world building instead felt like merely the first part of a larger entity. That’s not necessarily an issue as that first part was still effective and in this brave new world of content and content alone, no entertainment entity should feel the need to conform to any one kind of storytelling. At the same time, however, Maniac was granted 10 full episodes and it would be well served to consider those episodes as their own pieces within a larger tapestry. 

Thankfully, that’s exactly what Maniac does with its second episode, “Windmills.” “Windmills” serves as a kind of second iteration of “The Chosen One!” where we’re able to see this alternative universe once again with fresh eyes. It’s also unmistakably an episode of television. 

Just as “The Chosen One!” takes us back to the very beginning of the universe, “Windmills” taks us back to the beginning of the show itself. Jonah Hill’s Owen doesn’t appear until the episode’s very end, when everything is caught up to the previous episode’s ending point. Instead “Windmills” charts Annie’s path to the NPB drug trial and does a better job of character building along the way. 

Perhaps this is too simple of an observation but damn, the leads on this show can act. Hill’s performance as Owen last week was justifiably understated as his character is muted and depressed and the environment of the show was the real standout. Still, in hindsight I definitely didn’t sing his praises enough in the original review and it wasn’t until I saw the Emma Stone showcase this week that I fully appreciated the level of talent on display.  Far be it from me to continue to encourage the stereotype of television as the movies’ jealous little brother but the effect of having two incredibly charismatic, well-known, and talented actors onscreen has been revelatory through just two episodes. 

Like Owen, Annie has entire overhead compartments full of emotional baggage. Annie doesn’t have Owen’s schizophrenic symptoms but she is clearly massively depressed. She spends her days crushing up mysterious pills and disappearing deep into the couch of her crowded apartment, cigarette smoke swirling above her like rank spirits. 

This is the last pill, however, and she picks up a massive copy of Don Quixote to celebrate. “I am healthy Annie now and healthy people read books,” she says aloud to herself. But like the windmill slayer, himself, Annie is not healthy. The drugs don’t help, as she’s clearly addicted to this mystery substance. She even visits her would-be dealer, who is in the process of losing a game of chess in the park to a purple koala bear robot puppet. But the unhealthiness goes beyond that. Something is deeply, fundamentally wrong with not only Annie, but the world around her - and she cannot ignore it much longer.

Maniac’s strongest trait two episodes in remains how it reveals the state of this strange world through only privileged glimpses. The sight of a purple kola bear robot puppet is certainly a pretty strong visual indicator that things have gone a little screwy in this sideways-world New York. But the heavier, more worthwhile stuff still comes in the background - like the fact that Annie clearly has up to 10 or so roommates in her tiny apartment. There’s also the omniscient Ad Buddy employees, who seemingly pay people just to look at ads, and the apparent friend and spousal “proxy” services where people pay for strangers to pretend to be close to them. 

So much of this could easily come across as freshman year philosophy 101 “isn’t capitalism wild, maaaaaaan” stuff. As long as the world believably and subtlety exists in the background though it’s effective. It also helps that the characters themselves are believable and subtle so far as well.

No one can relate to a world in which people hire “friend proxies” because we don’t live in that world (yet). But hopefully we can relate to the kind of characters who is simply lonely. When Annie realizes she can no longer live without this drug she utilizes another kind of dystopian service that digs up dirt on any individual. Annie receives the information for NPB employee Patricia Lugo. Annie finds out that Patricia has a friend proxy appointment coming up at a bonsai garden and decides to pose as the friend.

While at the garden, however, Annie gets one detail of her story wrong and just defeatedly admits that she was going to attempt to blackmail Patricia for NPB drugs. This is all a fascinating look into Annie’s temperament and desperation but the real interesting reveal comes after her cover is blown. Patricia (as played by Orange is the New Black’s Selenis Leyva) has just dodged a massive bullet. Someone just admitted to her face that they were going to attempt to blackmail her but lost their nerve. Instead of counting her blessings and moving on, however, Patricia won’t leave Annie alone. Annie wants to move past this whole episode yet Patricia wants to talk with her, help her if she can. In this world true companionship has grown so rare that you’ve got to find it where you can - even if that means with a would-be blackmailer.

“Windmill” does such a good job in continuing to build its world and its characters in the margins that it’s disappointing when its ending once again becomes e too explicit. With Patricia’s help (who Annie eventually does have to blackmail after she “fails” her interview), Annie finally gets into the drug trial to get more of her beloved “ULP.” Once there, we’re finally entreated to an appearance from Justin Theroux as Dr. James Mantleray, albeit in a corny orientation video alongside Dr. Muramoto. Drs. Mantleray and Muramoto explain the process of this new drug therapy. There are three pills, A, B, and C. A is for diagnostic purposes. It will help the user and supercomputer GRTA access memories. B is Behavioral. It will tear down the self-defense mechanisms, walls, and mazes of the user’s mind. C is confrontation. GRTA will use all of this information to create a plan for a more efficient you.

This is all interesting, easy to understand stuff. The problem is Annie’s experience with “A” is just too on the nose. Annie had previously told Patricia that she wanted to get better so she could get to Salt Lake City and see her estranged sister, Ellie (played by Julia Garner, bringing Maniac’s count of The Americans alums up to two after Lev “Arkady Ivanovich Zotov” Gorn popped up as a convenience store owner in episode one). That motivation is so simple, so direct, and so comprehendible that the show likely didn’t need to explore it more deeply - especially this early.

The end effect of seeing Annie’s memories of an ill-fated road trip with her sister is that the show undercuts its own intriguing sense of “something is off here” for more explicit trauma. Annie and her sister had a falling out over their respective relationships with their mother and Annie’s inability to take things seriously. The whole experience is punctuated by a massive car crash that leaves Annie with extensive scarring and Ellie’s survival in doubt. Is Ellie really out there in Salt Lake City? She must be because Annie told her father, who was naturally entombed in a home deprivation chamber called “A-Void” that she was going to see her.

Regardless of whether Ellie is alive or not, the car crash is too overtly cinematic and consequential for an episode that was doing so well quietly picking its spots, building characters, and dropping hints. It’s small emotional misstep and Maniac is so good at crafting tone and aesthetic that it doesn’t matter that much for now. Creating an emotional framework is harder though and the show is going to have to find the correct balancing act for it soon.

Alec Bojalad is TV Editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his stuff here. Follow him at his creatively-named Twitter handle @alecbojalad

Review Alec Bojalad
Sep 21, 2018
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Tony Sokol
Sep 21, 2018

The Ramones' Road To Ruin turns 40 with a previously unreleased music video and a reissue to prove it.

Some fans think The Ramones reached their peak with their fourth album, Road to Ruin, which turns 40 today. Released on September 21, 1978 through Sire Records, it followed Rocket to Russia, which saw a drop off in album sales, pushing Tommy Ramone to put more time into production. Bassist Dee Dee Ramone snagged the drummer from Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Marc Bell and rechristened him Marky Ramone, leaving Tommy to produce the album with Ed Stasium, with a nod to the Phil Spector sound. With the single, "I Wanna Be Sedated" as a lead-off, Road to Ruin was considered Billboard-ready. But it only hit 103 on the charts, 50 notches down from the last record. The Ramones recently dropped a deluxe reissue of the album and found a previously unreleased video of the song “She’s the One.”

Further reading: Rock n' Roll High School vs. Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park

The song promises the band will keep on being the Ramones. The video presents the four in their jeans and leather jacket uniform punching it out in a garage. The reissue features two mixes of the original album.

You can watch and hear the video here:

Ramones - She's The One (Official Music Video) - YouTube

The Ramones did things they never did on records before, Johnny Ramone played solos, and acoustic guitars. The album included ballads like the country-inflected “Don’t Come Close,” “Questioningly,” and a cover of Sonny Bono's “Needles and Pins,” which was a huge hit for The Searchers. Joey Ramone sang sweeter than ever before but the band still bashed through songs like "Bad Brain," "I Wanted Everything," and "I'm Against It."

Further reading: 30 Must See Punk Rock Movies

The Ramones recorded Road to Ruin at Media Sound Studios, a former Episcopalian Church in Midtown Manhattan. The artwork's came from Gus MacDonald, a fan who penned the band playing out of a lobster claw amp. John Holmstrom erased Tommy and drew in Marky. Joey wrote "I Wanna Be Sedated" in a hospital after he was treated for burns he got from an kettle of boiling water that exploded.

Further reading: Martin Scorsese May Direct Ramones Biopic

The new 80-song 40th anniversary deluxe reissue includes acoustic versions and alternate takes of songs, as well as unreleased outtakes “I Walk Out” and “S.L.U.G.,” and ‘Live At The Palladium’ from New Year’s Eve 1979.

Road To Ruin 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition Tracklist  DISC ONE: Original Mix Remastered

“I Just Want To Have Something To Do”

 “I Wanted Everything”

 “Don’t Come Close”

 “I Don’t Want You”

 “Needles And Pins”

 “I’m Against It”

 “I Wanna Be Sedated”

 “Go Mental”

 “Questioningly”

 “She’s The One”

 “Bad Brain”

 “It’s A Long Way Back”

40th Anniversary Road Revisited Mix

“I Just Want To Have Something To Do”

 “I Wanted Everything”

 “Don’t Come Close”

 “I Don’t Want You”

 “Needles And Pins”

 “I’m Against It”

 “I Wanna Be Sedated”

 “Go Mental”

 “Questioningly”

 “She’s The One”

 “Bad Brain”

 “It’s A Long Way Back”

Further reading: Real Vinyl History: The New York Dolls

DISC TWO: Rough Mixes & 40th Anniversary Extras

“I Walk Out” (2018 Mix) *

“S.L.U.G.” (2018 Mix) *

“Don’t Come Close” (Single Mix)

“Needles And Pins” (Single Mix)

“I Just Want To Have Something To Do” (Basic Rough Mix) *

“I Don’t Want You” (Basic Rough Mix) *

“I’m Against It” (Basic Rough Mix) *

“It’s A Long Way Back” (Basic Rough Mix) *

“I Walk Out” (Basic Rough Mix) *

“Bad Brain” (Basic Rough Mix) *

“Needles And Pins” (Basic Rough Mix) *

“I Wanna Be Sedated” Take 2 (Basic Rough Mix) *

“I Wanted Everything” (Basic Rough Mix) *

“Go Mental” (Basic Rough Mix) *

“She’s The One” (Basic Rough Mix) *

“Questioningly” Take 2 (Basic Rough Mix) *

“S.L.U.G.” (Basic Rough Mix) *

“Don’t Come Close” (Basic Rough Mix) *

“I Wanna Be Sedated” (Backing Track) *

“I Don’t Want You” (Brit Pop Mix) *

“Questioningly” (Acoustic Version) *

“Needles And Pins” (Acoustic Version) *

“Don’t Come Close” (Acoustic Version) *

“I Wanna Be Sedated” (“Ramones-On-45 Mega-Mix!”)

Further reading: Real Vinyl History: The Mercer Arts Center Collapsed 43 Years Ago Today

DISC THREE: Live At The Palladium, New York, NY, December 31 1979

“Blitzkrieg Bop” *

“Teenage Lobotomy” *

“Rockaway Beach” *

“I Don’t Want You” *

“Go Mental” *

“Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment” *

“I Wanna Be Sedated” *

“I Just Want To Have Something To Do” *

“She’s The One” *

“This Ain’t Havana” *

“I’m Against It” *

“Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” *

“Havana Affair” *

“Commando” *

“Needles And Pins” *

“I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” *

“Surfin’ Bird” *

“Cretin Hop” *

“All The Way” *

“Judy Is A Punk” *

“California Sun” *

“I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You” *

“Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World” *

“Pinhead” *

“Do You Wanna Dance?” *

“Suzy Is A Headbanger” *

“Let’s Dance” *

“Chinese Rock” *

“Beat On The Brat” *

“We’re A Happy Family” *

“Bad Brain”

 “I Wanted Everything” *

 * previously unreleased

Further reading: Forest Hills Names a Street After The Ramones

LP: 40th Anniversary Road Revisited Mix

Side One

“I Just Want To Have Something To Do”

 “I Wanted Everything”

 “Don’t Come Close”

 “I Don’t Want You”

 “Needles And Pins”

 “I’m Against It”

Side Two

“I Wanna Be Sedated”

 “Go Mental”

 “Questioningly”

 “She’s The One”

 “Bad Brain”

 “It’s A Long Way Back”

Oh but now I wanna sniff some glue.

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This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman’s new film wants to teach you about the randomness of life, one forced ugly cry at a time.

Before the first of many, many time and space jumps strewn throughout Life Itself, I knew that writer and director Dan Fogelman’s ensemble drama was essentially going to be a feature-length version of his hit NBC show, This Is Us. And one doesn’t need to know beforehand that he wrote and directed Life Itself to quickly figure that out either. While Amazon Studios’ promotional campaign made the connection abundantly clear, I knew Life Itself was going to be a cinematic regurgitation of the same (or similar) emotional and narrative beats present in This Is Us because of Oscar Isaac’s coffee shop meltdown. It’s raw, unnerving and expertly performed by the actor. It also reeks of foreshadowing, even though the plot it foretells has technically already happened.

Life Itself is billed as a multigenerational story of love and loss that, for the most part, centers in on a young couple, Will (Isaac) and Abby (Olivia Wilde). If told chronologically, the film would essentially follow the pair from their college courtship and its rocky continuation through marriage, children, and the many experiences that such a life implies. But like one of the This Is Us series premiere’s most famous twists, Will and Abby’s story is not a told sequentially. Nor, for that matter, is it a reliable one, for as Abby, Antonio Banderas’ Saccione, and other characters constantly remind us throughout, life itself is the ultimate unreliable narrator.

Also, instead of delving into the aforementioned “many experiences that such a life implies,” Life Itself quite literally, and repeatedly, dwells on one of the most significant events one can ever experience: death.

There is a lot of death in this movie, and the majority of it is random. I say this not to spoil the many ways Fogelman torments his characters and the moviegoers who watch them, but to point out that on more than one occasion, these moments reminded me of the Final Destination franchise, a series of popular supernatural slasher films from the 2000s. While Life Itself doesn’t make frequent use of Rube Goldberg death machines to kill off its characters, the randomness and suddenness of it all is strikingly familiar.

The second of the big This Is Us plot twists that also pops up in Life Itself is the surprise family relation. Yes, Abby and Will’s story takes up a sizable chunk of the story, but they aren’t the only players in this game. Hell, their setting in New York City isn’t even the only major place that Fogelman places his ensemble. Jean Smart and Mandy Patinkin play Will’s parents, and Annette Bening plays his therapist. Across the Atlantic, we find Banderas’ character, as well as Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Laia Costa, and Àlex Monner. Olivia Cooke also plays an important role, and—no joke—Samuel L. Jackson narrates it all.

The Life Itself ensemble is as wide and varied as the story’s geographical locations and plot twists, but that doesn’t mean the cast assembled here isn’t working hard. Isaac and Wilde do much of the heavy-lifting and it shows, especially whenever the pair is on screen together. On his own, the Star Wars actor also proves again and again just how good he is, especially during some of the film’s heaviest moments.

Unfortunately, a few great performances and a generally wonderful ensemble aren’t enough to make up for the fact that, more than anything, Fogelman’s latest is just another example of what his popular television drama has been for two seasons (and will be for its upcoming third season). That is to say, a commercially viable form of tragedy porn. The stories underpinning Life Itself hinge on out-of-the-blue familial connections and strikingly sudden deaths, accidental and otherwise, that affect those separated from them by great distances as much as those who were in the immediate vicinity. Like with This Is Us, Fogelman takes great care in driving these plot points into the audience’s brains as forcefully as possible, so much that it becomes impossible not to shed at least a few tears over the trauma endured.

That’s not to say that some people won’t enjoy a movie like Life Itself. Millions of people regularly tune in to watch This Is Us, and they’re going to keep watching it until Fogelman and his team finally run out of steam. The target audience, however, seems to have plenty of tears to shed, and this movie is more than willing to manipulate them into shedding them over the course of its nearly two-hour runtime. As for me, I’d much rather revisit Final Destination.

Life Itself is tearing up theaters now.

Review Andrew Husband
Sep 21, 2018
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Matthew Byrd
Sep 21, 2018

Capcom is evaluating one of Devil May Cry 5's themes due to allegations against a band's lead singer.

Capcom is in a bit of hot water after uploading a trailer for Devil May Cry 5 that featured a song from a band whose lead singer is being investigated for sexual assault. 

The song in question, Subhuman, was reportedly intended to be Dante's battle theme in the upcoming sequel. When fans heard it in a recent trailer, though, they immediately lashed out against the choice of music. Interestingly, it seems that much of the initial backlash concerned the quality of the song itself. As the criticisms raged on, though, some who are familiar with the band's (Suicide Silence) lead singer (Eddie Hermida) noted that they can't believe Capcom would choose to feature music from this band considering the legal situation that Hermida is currently in. 

It seems that a girl has accused Hermida of manipulating her to send nude photos of herself when she was only 17. According to a post she made on Facebook (which has since been removed but reported on by Kotaku), she said that the singer "manipulated me into sending him nudes, which I was totally against. But hey, if your idol wants nudes, you send them.” 

Hermida addressed the matter by apologizing for his actions and stating that was raised to be "respectful to all women" and apologizes that he has failed. 

As for Capcom, they have pulled the video in question and say that they will not promote the song anymore. However, they're still not sure whether or not they will include it in the final version of the game. 

"The music was recorded for the game before the incident came to light and we were unaware of the incident until now," says Capcom. "We are also currently evaluating what options are possible for the full game at this point, which is dependent on various factors such as resources.”

Given that the song was seemingly going to featured somewhat heavily in the final title, and that Devil May Cry 5 is going to be released on March 8, 2019, it will certainly be interesting to see whether or not the song in question makes it into the final build of the game. 

Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014

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John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix shine as gunslinger siblings in the unorthodox oater of The Sisters Brothers.

The term “revisionist” gets thrown around a lot in film criticism, especially when it comes to genres like the Western, but in the case of The Sisters Brothers, the description certainly applies. Directed and co-written (with Thomas Bidegain) by the French filmmaker Jacques Audiard--best known for searing world cinema films like A Prophet and Dheepan--The Sisters Brothers takes the traditional Western template and then veers unexpectedly, humorously and humanely away from it, creating both a funny buddy comedy and a brutal character-driven drama within the same occasionally shaggy framework.

Based on a novel by Patrick DeWitt, there’s little pioneering spirit or old-time black-and-white morality apparent in The Sisters Brothers. Audiard’s Old West is a crude, filthy, mean and often barbaric place, a vast wilderness marked by scattered pockets of, if not civilization, at least the semblance of a society or community. It’s on a symbolic representation of this wasteland--an empty plain on which sits one lonely, tiny ranch--that we meet Eli and Charlie Sisters (John C. Reilly and future Joker Joaquin Phoenix), siblings who are also deadly hired assassins.

We first encounter them at the end of a job, which Audiard films from a distance: we never see the violence up close, but we see the bursts of gunfire that flash out from the ranch and the Sisters’ weapons like distant strokes of lightning against the dark sky. There are screams and finally a fire (including the haunting image of a running horse, flames rippling out from its body). The one immediate notion we come away with is that the Sisters are damn good at their job, although Audiard never glorifies the brothers’ considerable skills and shows the violence in all its ugliness.

What the director seems most interested in is getting into the psyches of these two men, who are vastly different in many ways but united by blood both inside and out. Eli is the more thoughtful of the two, a man who we soon realize has had enough of the Sisters’ nomadic, amoral lifestyle and wants to find a new direction in life. Charlie is not quite there yet: dissolute, often drunk, he revels in whoring, fighting and killing as if he knows that it will all eventually catch up with him one way or another.

The bones of a narrative are put in place when the Sisters are hired by their regular employer, the Commodore (a briefly seen Rutger Hauer), to find and kill Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed, soon to be seen in Venom), an idealistic inventor who has discovered a new chemical formula through which prospectors can detect gold. A detective named John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), sent by the Commodore previously to retrieve Warm, has been seduced by the man’s confidence, passion and dreams of building a Utopian society down in Texas with the riches they’ll presumably acquire from Warm’s formula. Now the Sisters are tasked with dispatching both men and bringing the formula back.

But The Sisters Brothers is not as concerned with Warm’s MacGuffin-like discovery as it is with subverting the structure that it sets up. Nominally built as a chase (and shot in epic fashion by cinematographer Benoit Debie in the film’s one deliberate nod to a genre hallmark), the movie takes a long, leisurely, meandering course on its way to the resolution of the story, focusing instead on the evolving characters of its four leads.

Reilly is impeccable and soulful as Eli, pulled by his sense of responsibility to both his brother and his job but knowing that he wants to experience a different life and perhaps even love. Phoenix is also excellent as Charlie, tamping down the heavy existential dread of some of his recent roles while subtly portraying the younger brother’s gradual transition toward Eli’s way of thinking. The series of tangents and mini-adventures the two encounter on their journey--from a bizarre accident with a spider to a confrontation with the creepy bordello owner Mayfield (Rebecca Root)--highlight the near-unbreakable bond between the two even as their goals become increasingly divergent.

Ahmed, with his large eyes and disarmingly candid way of speaking, provides a core of grace and gives a warmly open performance. Gyllenhaal’s character is perhaps the murkiest in terms of his development and saddled with a strange accent that veers toward British and then hairpins back toward a sort of upper class affectation, neither of which is quite successful. The movie spends a bit too much time with this pair--balancing their principled quest against the more prosaic and ruthless one of the Sisters--but their storyline finally finds its footing when Morris and Warm inevitably meet up with the Sisters.

That meeting doesn’t go quite as one might expect, and neither does just about all of the last third of The Sisters Brothers. The kind of plot developments one might expect from a standard Western never quite materialize, and in some cases are actively turned on their heads. But ultimately, all four men are changed forever by the strange manner in which they are brought together, and the film reveals that what Audiard is most interested in--as with much of his earlier work--is the ways in which damaged, hardened or cynical men can at least be introduced the possibility of change. The epilogue provides a final, eloquent coda to this most unusual and fascinating of Westerns.

The Sisters Brothers is out in theaters today.

Don Kaye is a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and associate editor of Den of Geek. Other current and past outlets include Syfy, United Stations Radio Networks, Fandango, MSN, RollingStone.com and many more. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @donkaye

Review Don Kaye
Sep 21, 2018
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Matthew Byrd
Sep 21, 2018

Blizzard's Diablo may soon become Netflix's next animated adaptation.

An animated Diablo series may soon be coming to Netflix. 

Andrew Cosby, founder of Boom! Studios, has tweeted that he's in final talks with Netflix regarding an animated adaption of the Diablo series. The original tweet has since been deleted, but it stated that Cosby hopes "to the High Heavens" that it "all works out," which would tend to suggest that the deal is not final at this time. 

However, that initial tweet was enough to inspire people to do some digging into the situation. It seems that Cosby has previously spoken about his interest in doing a Diablo series and noted that if he were to do one, it would "DEFINITELY be Rated R." While there's no word at this time regarding whether or not he has stuck by his guns and is still insisting that an adaptation of Diablo be R-Rated, we don't think it's that much of a stretch to suggest that Netflix would be into that. 

Why? Well, the reported success of the adult Castlevania animated series - which we loved - would seem to suggest that Netflix might be open to the idea of pursuing other, similar projects. So far as that goes, the world of Diablo would certainly translate well to an R-Rated series

Blizzard isn't saying anything about these rumors at the moment, but previous statements from the company suggest that this adaptation may indeed be in the works. Blizzard community manager Brandy Camel previously suggested that the studio is working on several projects related to the Diablo franchise. At the time, it was widely speculated that they were referring to multiple games (like a Diablo II remake). However, it makes a lot of sense that one of those projects is actually an animated series. 

As for Cosby, he seems like the perfect guy to run such an adaptation. He's clearly passionate about the Diablo franchise, has worked on a variety of "adult-oriented" properties, and has even worked on projects related to video games in the past. All in all, we're excited by the potential of this project and look forward to bringing you more information on this project as it becomes available. 

Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014

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Netflix's Maniac debuts with a first episode that's as ambitious and strange as one would expect.

This Maniac review contains spoilers.

Maniac Episode 1

Oftentimes the experience of watching a new Netflix property with a critical eye means assessing what this means for Netflix rather than whether the show works on its own merits.

Netflix has become such a cultural and entertainment behemoth that it’s hard not to view what it produces through a socioeconomic prism rather than a creative one.

Take Maniac for example. The first episode of the ambitious Jonah Hill and Emma Stone reunion project is by any definition bold television. It’s certainly not perfect and some may not find it enjoyable even but few could argue that it isn’t a legitimately creative television endeavor. Still, the most surprising moment of “The Chosen One!” may be some housekeeping at episode’s end.

Three and a half minutes. That’s how long the ending credits run on this thing. I’ve been watching original Netflix TV shows ever since House of Cards debuted back in 2013 (any Lilyhammer fans out there?). This represents the first time I’ve seen the credits of a show extend past three minutes…hell, it’s the first time I’ve seen ending credits extend past two minutes. 

I knew Maniac was a big project for Netflix. Jonah Hill and Emma Stone are legitimate movie stars. Director Cary Fukunaga is arguably one of the five or so most sought after directors in the world right now. His work on True Detective Season 1 was superb and led to new opportunities like acclaimed 2015 war movie Beasts of No Nation and next year’s still untitled 25th James Bond film. Fukunaga, Hill, Stone, and so many other creative folks involved in this endeavor could have chosen virtually anything they wanted to do. The fact that they chose this must mean that they knew Netflix would spare no expense. Netflix would make sure each and every one of Maniac’s 10 episodes would reach that mythical “film quality” that television so often strives for, jealous little brother that it can sometimes be. Based on those three and a half minutes of credits alone, it’s clear that Netflix obliged. 

So what do those three and a half minutes of credits bring to Maniac Episode 1, “The Chosen One!”? More than enough to create something compelling. The story that “The Chosen One!” tells is familiar enough. Owen Milgrim (Hill) is a dissatisfied office drone from a rich family living in a small New York apartment. Owen has experienced problems with schizophrenia in the past, hallucinating things like popcorn kernels popping by themselves on lukewarm streets and his older brother delivering him cosmically ordained missions to save the world. 

Meanwhile Annie Landsberg (Stone) is a struggling actress who can only get work posing in photoshoots for the multitude of ads scattered across this futuristic-ish version of the city. Both Owen and Annie are experiencing hard times, with Owen losing his job and Annie seemingly not having one in the first place. The two decide to apply for a drug trial with Neberdine Pharmaceutical Biotech. Also Owen thinks he might be the chosen one to save the world because his fake brother told him so and that Annie is his new secret agent “handler.”

OK, ultimately the thrust of that plot doesn’t sound very “conventional” on its face but the elements driving our lead characters are as archetypical as it comes. Episode 1 finds these two people very squarely in the first part of Dan Harmon’s storytelling circle: two characters in a zone of comfort…but they want something and enter into an unfamiliar situation. It’s a wise move for Maniac to follow the storytelling basics here in its first episode because the real star of the show so far is its aesthetic. 

The world of Maniac is like our world…just different. Its version of New York is like if 1984 Ghostbusters-era New York immediately jumped to 2025. There are still New York Post newspaper stands and those paper Greek coffee cups but they exist alongside janky little street cleaning robots and a new, more hardcore Statue of Liberty. Technology is clearly advanced to our current world’s standards or maybe even a touch beyond - but computers still have a Matrix-esque greenish tint on their displays and all TV’s seem analog based.

All of the various technological contradictions of this world immediately open up a host of new possibilities of storytelling in the viewer’s mind so that the show doesn’t have to become too expository. We can make certain conclusions about this environment based on the multitude of advertisements and Owne’s modest digs that income inequality may be even more extreme in this version of New York. If nothing else, the pervasiveness of all of these ads and all of this artificiality present an interesting theme that could become useful in future episodes. Yes, Owen is undoubtedly crazy but how could he not be? How could one get a handle on what the real world even is if everything is an ad?

Now, just because Maniac don’ts have to become too expository doesn’t mean that it doesn’t become too expository. The extended voiceover sequence that begins the episode tips the show’s hand much too far. The voiceover tracks the beginning of the universe from the Big Bang to photosynthesizing amoebas to these strange human creatures and how we’re all looking for “infinite truth of our connections.” For starters, the viewer needs to be in charge of learning that this story is becoming one of looking to connect in a world of artificiality. That’s what the ads on the Brooklyn bridge are there for. Not only that but Maniac was going to draw some comparisons to the works of Charlie Kaufman to begin with, most specifically that of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It only hurts its case that it borrows starting the show at the start of the universe from another Kaufman film in Adaptation.

“The Chosen One!” also suffers a little bit from clearly being only part of a whole. This is a good introduction to the world and to the characters but the episode’s end is anticlimactic with the pharmaceutical trial having not even started yet. While Netflix has branded this a “limited series,” one episode in it does feel like we’ve just seen one-tenth of a movie rather than an episode of television.

Ultimately, however, this is still an appealing one-tenth of a movie. From Owen’s desire to be a hero, the introduction of an intriguing mythology (“The pattern is the pattern”), and the look of a very familiar, yet very strange New York, Maniac Episode 1 is intriguing enough to match its three and a half-minute end credits scale.

Alec Bojalad is TV Editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his stuff here. Follow him at his creatively-named Twitter handle @alecbojalad

Review Alec Bojalad
Sep 21, 2018
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Matthew Byrd
Sep 21, 2018

The Destiny 2 weapon that has become a meme will soon be fixed.

Destiny 2's most ridiculed weapon is finally going to be fixed. 

Ever since Destiny 2's Forsaken expansion launched, players have noticed that they've been receiving an unusual amount of the legendary grenade launcher, the Edge Transit. While receiving a lot of a legendary item is usually pretty good in loot games, there are a couple of problems with the Edge Transit that have caused Destiny 2 fans to start pulling their hair out whenever they see it. 

First off, it's not a very good weapon. It's fine, but it's not a top-tier item in its category by any means. Second, Destiny 2's loot system utilizes a kind of vague classification system. That means that you will pick up a Legendary engram without actually knowing what's in it. In a perfect world, picking up a legendary engram means that you have fairly decent odds of acquiring a top-tier, rare item. In the world of Destiny 2, it probably means that you've picked up another Edge Transit. 

Because Destiny 2 doesn't feature a Hearthstone like fail-safe that prevents you from receiving duplicate legendaries, players have had their hopes dashed time and time again when they opened their new Engram only to find that it contains yet another Edge Transit. Until now, the popular theory has been that Bungie just didn't add enough legendary power weapons to Destiny 2's Forsaken expansion. However, Bungie says that there's just a bug in the game's code. 

"Since the launch of Destiny 2: Forsaken, we have heard player feedback regarding the aggressive drop rates of the Edge Transit grenade launcher," says Bungie in a weekly update. "Our investigation has confirmed that this weapon is dropping more frequently than intended, and we are pursuing a fix for a future update."

There's no word on when they update will hit, but it's likely that Bungie will expedite it do to the relatively simple nature of the problem and the fact that Destiny's fans are starting to lose their sense of humor about the problem. 

Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014

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