The Aliens are here! They were spotted flying over California earlier tonight night and lighting up the sky. The official story is that everyone was just seeing Trident missiles. Watch the video below and judge for yourself.
I don’t know about you but it sure looks like aliens to me! What might our new alien overlords be like? Here’s how some others imagined this moment.
BlizzCon is always more exciting, for me at least, on odd numbered years, and the reason is obvious enough: it is when Blizzard have historically announced the next expansion in the World of Warcraft franchise. Not so in 2015. With a great deal of “huh?” and “did something important happen a few weeks ago?”, Warcraft gamers have been slowly coming to learn of Legion, which was announced at a convention in Germany back in August.
A bit anti-climatic to say the least, the announcement might have come early to fit the company’s time table; unlike previous expansions, Legion will be released in the middle of the year instead of at the end. I thought that Blizzard would at least, well, pretend like Legion was a secret during the opening ceremonies–they did as much years ago when they “revealed” Starcraft II after announcing it previously in Korea. So I decided to remain blissfully ignorant of World of Warcraft: Legion and wait for the meat and potatoes showcase. It didn’t quite pan out as I expected. This is the trailer they presented:
I enjoyed it. Watching Sylvanas duke it out with the demon got me fairly excited. But if this was all you had to go on, you would have approximately zero idea what Legion was about save exactly what its name implies: The Burning Legion. In that sense, the opening ceremony to BlizzCon 2015 was rather disappointing. I was expecting a broad four minute cinematic showcase of the new world that Legion would open up. Instead I got a narrow four minute cinematic showcase of Varian and Sylvanas fighting demons. Meh. Cool video; not what I was hoping for though.
But thankfully there was a World and Content Overview. (And a Q&A panel later tonight.) So here is the rundown on everything Blizzard revealed about Legion:
Where Warlords of Draenor left off, Gul’dan had opened a portal for the Burning Legion to invade alternate-reality Draenor and the horde and alliance had stopped it, but Gul’dan escaped. In Legion, he arrives in main-timeline Azeroth and heads to the Broken Isles–a remnant of ancient Suramar which holds the tomb of Sargeras–under orders from Kil’jaeden. (Sargeras is basically the highest-tier bad guy in WoW lore–a titan who turned evil and commanded the Burning Legion. Basically, Kil’jaeden’s boss.) A portal is opened, the invasion begins, and here we are. Oh, and Illidan Stormrage is back, because why not?
It’s pretty straight-forward stuff, and for as cataclysmic as a Burning Legion invasion might be, this one is apparently isolated to the new continent. (Don’t expect anything like the terrain-changing rampage that Deathwing went on at the launch of Cataclysm.)
Illidan’s role is going to pick up from Black Temple. Blizzard are retconning the invasion of the Black Temple in Burning Crusade to say that Illidan opened a portal to a demon prison world (Mardum) and sent the future-Demon Hunter class elves on through. Inside, they infuse themselves with fel energy in a way that does not bend their will towards the Legion. (In practice it’s something akin to Death Knights–a horde/alliance aligned variant of a traditionally evil class–and they’ll begin at level 98.) The Demon Hunters return to the Black Temple just in time to be defeated by the horde/alliance and imprisoned by Maiev. Their plot line resumes in the present, where they break out of the Vault of the Wardens and choose their factions.
That was all Blizzard had to say about the main plot overview. But when they got into discussing different zones, things got interesting. Apparently, Legion is going to double up as the Emerald Dream expansion. (I’m kind of torn on that because I always hoped it would be its own independent expac.) Basically, the Emerald Dream is an alternate dimension containing the blueprints of Azeroth as it was first formed. It’s where druids derive their power, and Ysera and the green dragonflight existed to protect it. For about as long as WoW has existed, it’s been plagued by a mysterious corruption, and in Legion we finally get to engage that head on.
A third plot device that’s coming into play here is the Vrykul. Apparently a large contingent of their people came to the Lost Isles prior to the events of Wrath of the Lich King, and their lore will be explored and fleshed out in the zone known as Stormheim. From the sounds of things, Blizzard intend to push the story pretty far via quests and dungeons, possibly diminishing expansion-tier lore into a single zone. I started worrying about this at first. I began to wonder if this was going to be a slap-together “various plotlines we didn’t think we could base a whole expansion on” expansion. But when they started showing the artwork for it all, I got over myself pretty quickly. They didn’t slap a random winter zone into the middle of the continent or anything cheesy like that. The art looked really tasteful and appropriate for this expansion’s overall flavor without breaking from Vrykul standards. Hey, if the vikings could settle south in Europe they can do it in Azeroth too. (I guess we don’t technically know where in Azeroth the Lost Isles will be yet.)
Legion will begin with a 40-player scenario sequence (I cringed at the thought of how queues for this might work months after the launch when most players have already done it) where the alliance and horde invade the Broken Isles and establish their footholds. Blizzard showed a video of it. It looked, well, pretty damn awesome.
From there, I’m a little bit suspect of the way things will go down. There are four main questing zones surrounding the max level destination of Suramar: Azsuna, Val’sharah, Highmountain, and Stormheim:
The problem is, you don’t explore them in a set order. Blizzard got it in their heads to use the scaling technology we saw a lot of in Warlords and make all mobs scale as you level, so you can choose which order you tackle the zones in. It sounds like an absolutely terrible idea to me. First of all, so much for going back and finishing the story lines in lower level zones once you’re strong enough to speed through filler “kill 15 of x” quests. They’re now guaranteed to be a tedious waste of time no matter what your level is. Yay!
And this is going to be an absolute nightmare for pvp servers. Seriously. At least before, players 10 levels above you had to go out of their way to find you and pick a fight instead of taking on players their own size. Now a level 100 and a level 109 will routinely find themselves doing the same leveling quest. It doesn’t stop at that, either. It was later mentioned that, thanks to scaling, areas can function as both leveling zones and end-game questing areas. Uh, thanks Blizzard. There’s nothing this dwarf loves more than competing to complete a quest at level 100 against three full-conquest geared horde at level 110.
Like it or not, daily quests are coming back with a vengeance. I absolutely loved command table missions in Warlords of Draenor, because you were pretty free to do whatever you wanted within the mission area and gain credit towards the same objective. Legion‘s variation didn’t sound particularly bad though. Instead of picking up dailies from a central hub, there will be daily quest regions with objectives listed on your map–presumably dozens of them–and you can pick from a huge variety throughout the continent to do whatever you’re in the mood for on a given day. Blizzard described their intention as to “overwhelm you with options”. And I like that. Part of what made Warlords of Draenor the most fun thing Blizzard has created in a long time was this sense that you never had to do the same content twice or run out of activities. I get the impression that in Legion they are taking that idea and pushing it even further.
The more significant rewards of dailies won’t be “daily” in the traditional sense, either. They will be something more like “complete six of the dozens of daily quests in a given zone this week.” So you should never feel obligated to actually play every day in order to keep up with the content. As someone who likes to be geared for raiding early in an expansion but can’t be on every day, I really like that.
RAIDS AND DUNGEONS
Blizzard announced two raids for Legion. The first is The Emerald Nightmare, which I’m really looking forward to because the Emerald Dream is an obscure bit of WoW lore that’s intrigued me for years. We’re finally getting to see it out. The Emerald Nightmare will contain 7 bosses and open a few weeks after launch, similar to Highmaul.
Inside you’ll fight, among other things, Xavius, corrupted members of the green dragonflight, and–I thought this was pretty awesome–the one and only Cenarius, fully corrupted by the Nightmare’s blight.
I’m pretty stoked. This is the raid I’ve been waiting for for a long, long time (still wish it was a full expansion), and I don’t think Blizzard are going to disappoint. The brief video they showed of the place looked amazing.
The second raid is going to be Suramar Palace. This one will be central to the expansion’s main plot, with Gul’dan as the final boss. It contains 10 bosses, and its design is pretty unique from the sounds of it. Set in the highest palace of the Nightborn Elves’ capital, it’s going to be a bright and elaborate palace, not a dark grimy catacomb. (At least, as they described it. No preview was shown.)
Additionally, Blizzard is pushing to make dungeons central to Legion–or so they say–but I’m not sure that it’s going to have a real impact. I think most of us were quite relieved to discover that dungeons were one and done in Warlords of Draenor. It made them unique and enjoyable rather than mindnumbingly repetitious grinds. Blizzard are putting a lot of effort into redesigning dungeon scaling and reward systems for challenge mode, but it frankly sounded like an excessively complicated waste of time that no one is going to bother playing anyway. (Honestly, how many people do you know who do challenge modes? Out of a maxed out realid list of 100 people I can think of approximately zero.) But if that’s your gig, it sounds like there will be additional tiers of difficulty which incorporate additional mechanics.
The only thing that worried me is I got the impression dungeons might scale up to your current gear even if you don’t want them to. I’m really hoping this isn’t the case–especially with scaling coming into play in the world zones as well. It rather defeats the purpose of seeking better gear if it never makes you any stronger…
ODDS AND ENDS
There is something that might be a new major city but probably isn’t: Suramar. Elves created a barrier to protect the ancient capital of Suramar during The Sundering 10,000 years ago, and they have been living behind it ever since, unaware that the War of the Ancients was ever won. The city was described as “one of the most ambitious projects that this team has ever done”. Blizzard explained that the leader of the city turned over to the Burning Legion, and one speaker let it slip–seemingly by accident–that Dalaran will be moving to the Lost Isles from Northrend, so I doubt there will be a traditional hub here. “The Grand Palace of Suramar” is a raid, and the city features two dungeons. Yet Blizzard mention “aiding your allies in Suramar”. I’m not sure what to make of that, and wonder if the city will be divided into a “safe-zone” hub and the occupied districts. Is Suramar City a city or just a questing zone like Shattrath in Warlords of Draenor, but with a raid and dungeons stuck in the middle? Hard to say.
One thing Blizzard definitely confirmed is that we will be able to see it. Visibility distance will be increased to three times its current level. That might honestly be the most exciting announcement about the whole expac for me, and a pretty cool reason to go re-explore the world.
There will be moose, games where you roll around in a barrel, and male banshees (manshees). All of these points received special attention because 😕 why shouldn’t they?
Blizzard made no mention of whether or not there would be level 110 flying. I think no flying had a tremendously positive impact on Warlords of Draenor. It felt like the largest expansion in the game by far–a place you could get lost in like nothing since Vanilla WoW. But the decision saw its fair share of opposition, so it’s hard to say whether they’ll repeat the process in Lost Isles.
World of Warcraft: Legion is due out in mid-2016. It looks pretty good, and has manshees.
Directed by the legendary Monte Hellman, China 9, Liberty 37 is a revisionist take on the western genre. Fabio Testi plays Clayton Drumm, a legendary gunslinger who is about to be hung for murder. At the last minute, men from the railroad company show up and arrange for Clayton be released. They want him to kill a rancher who is refusing to sell his land. Clayton agrees but, before he leaves for his mission, he gives a brief interview to a writer from “out East.” Cleverly, the writer is played by director Sam Peckinpah, to whose films China 9, Liberty 37 clearly owes a huge debt.
After telling the writer that his eastern readers have no idea what the west is truly like, Clayton rides out to the ranch. Along the way, he gets directions from a nude lady (Jenny Agutter) who is swimming in a nearby stream. When Clayton reaches the ranch, he meets his target. Matthew Sebanek (Warren Oates) is himself a former gunslinger who used to kill people for the railroads. From the minute they meet, Matthew knows who Clayton is and why he is there. Both Clayton and Matthew have grown weary of killing and, instead of having the expected gunfight, they instead become fast friends. Matthew allows Clayton to stay at the ranch and introduces him to his wife, Catherine, who it turns out was the same woman who Clayton talked to earlier.
Catherine loves Matthew but resents his rough ways and feels that he treats her like property. One night, she and Clayton go for a nude swim and then make love. When Matthew finds out, he strikes his wife and, in self-defense, she stabs him in the back. Believing Matthew to be dead, she and Clayton go on the run.
Matthew is not dead and, once he’s recovered from being stabbed, he and his brothers set off to track down the two lovers. While Matthew chases after Clayton, he is being pursued by Zeb (Romano Puppo), another gunslinger who has been hired by the railroad to kill both Matthew and Clayton.
As a western, China 9, Liberty 37 is more interested in its characters than in the usual gunfights. There are no traditional heroes or villains and Monte Hellman emphasizes characterization over action. Even while he is relentlessly pursuing Clayton and Catherine, Matthew admits that he does not blame Catherine for leaving him. As for Clayton and Catherine, they are both consumed by guilt over their affair. This is one of the few westerns where the main character often refuses to fire his gun.
As Clayton, Fabio Testi is stiff and inexpressive, but Jenny Agutter and Warren Oates are terrific. Though their films were never as critically or financial successful, Warren Oates and Monte Hellman had as strong of a director/actor partnership as Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. China 9, Liberty 37 was the fourth and final movie that Monte Hellman and Warren Oates made together. It was also Oates’s last western before his untimely death in 1982.
Director Monte Hellman is as well-known for the films he did not get to make as for the ones he actually did make. (Originally, Quentin Tarantino wanted Hellman to director Reservoir Dogs. When Tarantino changed his mind and decided to direct it himself, Hellman was relegated to serving as executive producer. A lot of recent film history would be very different if Tarantino and Hellman had stuck to the original plan.) Like a lot of the films that Hellman actually did get to make, China 9, Liberty 37 was only given a sparse theatrical release and was often shown in a heavily edited version. It has only been recently that the full version of China 9, Liberty 37 has started to show up on TCM. It is an interesting revisionist take on the western genre and must see for fans of Monte Hellman, Jenny Agutter, and Warren Oates.
After hearing about DETOUR for years and reading all the critical acclaim, I finally got the chance to watch it this year, thanks to TCM and the good ol’ DVR. I wondered if it would live up to all the hype, and I was not disappointed. DETOUR is a textbook example of how to make a great film on a shoestring budget. Indie auteurs today could certainly learn a lot from director Edgar G Ulmer’s inventiveness, as he crafts a film noir gem on a six-day schedule and $20,000 budget. Although reports do vary on shooting length and cost, let’s be honest…this is a PRC film, not an MGM prestige production. “Make em fast, make em cheap” was the studio’s mantra!
DETOUR tells the story of Al Roberts, who we meet in an Arizona diner. Al’s a disheveled looking guy who seems to have a chip on his shoulder bigger than the Grand Canyon. When a trucker plays the tune…
What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!
If you were suffering insomnia at around 2:30 this morning, you could have turned over to ActionMax and watched the 2005 film Born Killers.
Now, probably the first thing that you noticed about this film is that the director is named Morgan J. Freeman. That J is there for a reason. In no way is Morgan J. Freeman the director related to Morgan Freeman the actor. Instead, Morgan J. Freeman is a director who has done a few indie films and who will probably never live down the fact that he directed American Psycho II: All-American Girl. According to the imdb, Freeman is also an executive producer on Teen Mom.
In other words, Morgan J. Freeman has been involved with a lot of crap.
However, Born Killers is actually a fairly good film. It’s certainly far better than anything you would expect to see from the director of American Psycho II.
Born Killers tells the story of two brothers, John (Jake Muxworthy) and Michael (Gabriel Mann). John and Michael are both killers. They call other human beings “piggy banks” and they spend all of their time murdering innocent people and then robbing them. For the wild and unpredictable Michael, it’s fun. For the coolly calculating John, it’s strictly business. They’re both sociopaths but, as quickly becomes apparent, Michael is the only one who is having any fun.
Through flashbacks, we discover that Michael and John never really had a chance to be anything other than what they eventually became. From an early age, their father (Tom Sizemore, who is absolutely chilling) taught them how to kill and steal. After their father’s violent death, John and Michael go on their own killing spree.
And everything seems to be going well for them, until John ends up shooting Michael. Why did John kill him? Even though John is narrating the story, he doesn’t seem to be sure. He admits that his memory may be fooling him. He thinks that it might have something to do with a woman named Archer (Kelli Garner), who the brothers reluctantly murdered.
With his brother now dead, John tracks down his half-sister, Gertle (Lauren German). John hasn’t seen Gertle in years and, when he first approaches her, he pretends to be a Mormon missionary. Gertle responds by leading him into her house and, after they have sex, she tells him that she knows that he is her half-brother.
Though John was originally planning on murdering her, he instead finds himself falling in love with her and even feeling that maybe his love for her would redeem him for all of his past crimes. When she tries to warn him that she has issues of her own, John replies that he knows they are meant to be together. He begs her to take a chance on him.
But Gertle, as you’ve probably guessed, has secrets of her own…
At first, I wasn’t expecting much from Born Killers. And, for the first 30 minutes or so, it plays out like your typical serial killer road film. I kept watching because of the performances but I didn’t think much of the story. However, as soon as John tracks down his sister, the entire movie changes direction and it actually starts to catch you off guard. Suddenly, you’re no longer sure just what exactly is going to happen or how it’s going to end. During the final half of the film, Lauren German and Jake Muxworthy give such good and compelling performances that you forget about the shaky first half. Even if the film’s ending is a little bit too twisted for its own good, it’s still an interesting journey.
All in all, Born Killers is not at all bad for a low-budget serial killer film airing on Cinemax at two in the morning!
I’m a little late in sharing this (well, about three days) but things have been a little bit busy around these parts. The nominees for the International Documentary Association’s awards were announced a few days ago. You can view the full list here.
For the purposes of those of us who are obsessed with trying to predict all the Oscar nominees, our main concern is with the 6 movies that were nominated for the Best Feature Award. Best Documentary Feature is, traditionally, one of the most difficult categories to predict. Every little bit of info helps. All 6 of the movies listed below have also been included on the list of the 124 documentaries that have been deemed to be Oscar-eligible this year.
Best Feature Award Amy, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, Listen to Me Marlon, The Look of Silence, The Russian Woodpecker, What Happened, Miss Simone?
Despite making an effort to see more documentaries this year, Amy is the only one of the above nominees that I’ve actually watched. It definitely deserves to be nominated.
One final question: though Going Clear was not nominated by the IDA, it is Oscar-eligible. If Going Clear did somehow get an Oscar nomination, would Tom Cruise and John Travolta still show up for the ceremony?
Seeing as how the Dazzling Erin and I went to see The Peanuts Movie on Friday night, it now seems appropriate to share the 16 films that have been submitted for consideration for the Best Animated Feature Oscar! Now, to make clear, these films have just been submitted for consideration. The actual nominees have not yet been determined.
But still, you know how much I love to share Oscar news!