Gradations of Marvel: Ranking The MCU Films

Gradations of Marvel: Ranking MCU Filmsavengers infinity war

Film | Opinion

by Benjamin Ferrarini

With the release of “Avengers: Infinity War” there have been 19 films that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Following is my ranking of the MCU films from worst to best, admittedly with one exception.

 

Left out: The Incredible Hulk

I have yet to see all of this phase one entry which featured Edward Nortan as Bruce Banner/The Hulk.  What I did see wasn’t overly compelling and had little if any impact on later films.  Regardless I won’t give it a formal ranking since I haven’t seen it.

18. Iron Man 2

This film came in the middle of phase one and was a bit of a disappointment.  It’s forgettable villain and convoluted plot didn’t leave a mark with me and the focus on the rift between Stark and Rhodey felt forced an unnecessary.  However, it did introduce Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow to the MCU even if she was underutilized.  Over all I feel Iron Man 2 remains the weakest of the MCU’s films.

17. Thor: The Dark World

Like “Iron Man 2” Thor’s second outing was not as strong as his first.  It banked too much on spectacle to hold together it’s thin plot and another horrendously weak villain.  It also showcased some truly bizarre moments such as a crazy Dr. Selvig parading around in his birthday suit or Jane’s research associates who didn’t offer anything but needless comic relief.   It has some strengths to be sure, such as formerly introducing the concept of the Infinity gems, but over all “Thor: The Dark World” isn’t one of Marvel’s best.

16. Captain America: The First Avenger

Despite the title Cap’s first film was actually the fifth MCU film released and the last stand alone film before Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers”.  The first film wasn’t bad per se but it did have odd tonal shifts between taking itself too seriously and being a goofy comic book film.  I thought the special effects used to transform Chris Evan’s from a short lanky Steve Rogers to Captain America worked for the most part but wasn’t totally  without the shadow of the uncanny valley.  Still, the writing beautifully set up Roger’s character and it perfectly blended all the elements of the MCU prepping for the first Avengers film.

15. Guardian’s of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I may get flack for this but I really wasn’t impressed with GotG’s second outing.  It recycled too much of the original, focused on perpetuating some unfunny jokes and tried to build up an emotional attachment for a character who was clearly meant to be unlikable in the first film.  Also far too much of the film’s plot was told rather than shown.  Ego’s past, his journey and even Rocket’s arch was mostly provided through exposition not action.  It’s still entertaining but not as strong as the first entry.

14.  Thor

Thor’s debut was a fairly solid one.  Directed by Kenneth Branagh and boasting a stellar cast and a tone very different from what had come before.  The basic story of Thor’s personal progression was similar to that of Tony Stark’s arch in the first Iron Man.  This focus on character grounded the film’s more fantastical elements.  It also established Tom Hiddleston as Loki MCU’s best and most dynamic villain.

13. Iron man 3

The third outing for Iron Man was somewhat divisive among fans many of whom panned the film for the subversive bait and switch of the films villain as well as Guy Pearce’s portrayal of the Mandarin.  However, “Iron Man 3” did accomplish something much-needed for the series and for the MCU.  It offered us a different look at Tony Stark.  Stripped of his suits and bravado Stark evolved as a character making him more relatable and giving him some compelling character progression.

12. Guardians of the Galaxy 

James Gunn brought his peculiar style and sense of humor to bear as the MCU departed earth for the stars.  “Guardian’s” was not well-known by film going fans which some believed made it a gamble.  In fact some who were more bearish critics had predicted “Guardians” would be Marvel’s first major misfire.  Kevin Feige and James Gunn proved them all wrong as the film proved to be a smash hit.  With the charisma of Chris Pratt leading a strong cast “Guardians of the Galaxy” legitimized Marvel’s MCU plans.  While the film is far from perfect its balance of humor, action and nostalgia blend perfectly while also advancing the infinity stones subplot.  

 

11. Doctor Strange

Harnessing the charisma and star power of actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor “Dr. Strange” offered another expansion of Marvel’s MCU.  Opening up the realm of spells and wizards “Dr. Strange” offered something stylistically different while staying thematically consistent.  The focus on Strange’s personal journey from cocky surgeon to astute super hero was entertaining and compelling.  Unfortunately Mads Mikkelsen was underutilized as the kind of vapid antagonist that has given MCU villains a bad name.  However, the visual aesthetic is beautiful, the writing spot on and the acting passable enough to make “Dr. Strange” a successful entry in Marvel’s cinematic universe.

10. Ant Man

Exploring a lighter side of the MCU “Ant Man” offered a fun adventure with a different kind of hero.  Scott Lang played pitch perfect by Paul Rudd was a sympathetic and believable underdog trying to put his life together.  While there were some logic gaps in the plot and the particulars of Ant Man’s powers weren’t fleshed out the film manages to build a lot of positive momentum.  It all works together well enough to earn “Ant Man” a top slot on this list.

9.  Captain America: Civil War

Billed as the third “Captain America” film “Civil War” operated on a scope closer to “The Avengers” then any of the other stand alone films.  Offering a much scaled back version of Marvel’s comic book series which pit heroes from across the comics against each other.  This “Captain America” film changed the MCU in ways both subtle and strategic.  It broke up the Avengers and set in motion plot threads that led directly into “Infinity War”.  While some of the character motivations weren’t fleshed out the plot was undergirded by a compelling personal story between Steve Rogers and Bucky Barns.  The airport fight scene is also one of the best in the series.  

8. Avengers: Age of Ultron

The second “Avengers” film and the second outing for Joss Whedon.  Messier and more convoluted than its predecessor with an overuse of CGI the middle “Avengers” film is oft considered the weakest.  The romance between Black Widow and Banner came out of no where and though James Spader’s voice acting was excellent it didn’t save Ultron from ending up a one note villain.  Yet, there’s plenty to like about this “Avengers” film including Whedon’s impeccable script and some great action set pieces.

7. Spider-Man: Homecoming 

Having appeared in “Captain America: Civil War” new comer Tom Holland makes his formal entry as Spider-Man into the MCU with this stand alone film.  “Homecoming” is significant for a couple other reasons.  First it’s a direct continuation of Peter’s story after the events of “Civil War”.  Second it has a compelling hero journey and lastly it has effective nemesis in Michael Keaton’s Vulture.  Fully immersed in Marvel’s grounded approach Peter’s high school struggles and desire to be a hero held more resonance than previous incarnations.  Best of all they resisted the temptation to retell Spidy’s overtired origin story.

6. Iron Man

Thought to have launched the MCU Marvel Studios first movie was actually a trial run.   “Iron Man” was an experiment to see if Marvel could successfully produce their own films instead of licensing out the rights to other studio’s like 20th Century Fox.  Obviously “Iron Man” worked out well with much of the credit falling on executive producer Keven Feige and star Robert Downey Jr.  With a tight script and a grounded take “Iron Man” did a fantastic job of setting the stage for what would come.

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier 

It’s hard to understate what this film did for Captain America as a franchise and for the MCU as a whole.  The first film did a good job portraying Cap’s origin story which kept some of the campy elements of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon’s early Captain America comics.  “Winter Soldier” managed to modernize the character and make the Captain a legitimate force to be reckoned with.  With a solid script and some amazing action set pieces it’s one of the strongest of the MCU films.

4. Black Panther 

The end of Marvel’s Phase 3 has produced some of their best films to date and “Black Panther” is no exception.  Expanding on the aesthetic, setting and mythos of the MCU “Black Panther” has broken multiple records. But, beyond that it’s a compelling journey with a surprising amount of philosophical depth.  T’challa’s journey from prince to king in a time when culture and tradition come under attack helps this film operate on another level from anything that came before it.

3. Thor: Ragnarok

Aside from being the best of the Thor trilogy, more than providing much-needed advancements in story and character, even beyond it’s unique style and look “Thor Ragnarok” is a lot of fun.  It has a joy and enthusiasm that permeates the entire film.  It’s a beautiful and stylish epic with action and heart.  It provides a gateway into “Infinity War” and is one of Marvels very best.

2. Avengers Infinity War

The capstone of phase three and supposed culmination of the entire MCU up to this point.  I’m not going to lie a lot of this was marketing hype.  “Infinity War” did bring together a bunch of threads from across multiple films.  It united characters and waved together plots.  It balanced all these elements extremely well.  It also did justice to Thanos the biggest, baddest villain in the MCU.  The spectacle, the characterization and the pathos work better than is probably should.  However, that said it is a lot of set up for “Avengers 4” which will hopefully pay it all off and pave the way for the next evolution of the MCU.

  1. The Avengers

The first Avengers stands as a landmark film for a variety of reasons.  It was the first of Marvel’s films to twine together its various films from Phase One.  The first big budget film to bring together a group of heroes.  Joss Whedon’s script balanced an impressive cast giving each screen time and made the excellent choice to recast Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner.  It also introduced Thanos and set in motion threads that would weave through phase two and three of the MCU.  It’s a near perfect Marvel film which set an impressive standard that would be chased by others both inside and outside of Marvel.

film-movie-motion-picture-390089.jpeg

There’s my list of the MCU so far.  With “AntMan and The Wasp” on the horizon along with “Captain Marvel” and “Avengers 4” coming next year this list has plenty of room to grow.   Please let me know if you agree with my list, if you disagree or I’d love to see your own rankings if you want to share them in the comments below.  

Also you can find my spoiler free reviews for:

Avengers: Infinity War HERE

Black Panther HERE

Thor Ragnarok HERE

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Deadpool 2 Review

Deadpool 2 Review deadpool 2 poster

Action, Comedy, Comic Book

Rated R: For strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material.

Review by: Benjamin Ferrarini

Two years after the first Deadpool broke records and expectations in 2016 revitalizing the R rated comic book movie niche.  Ryan Reynolds was instrumental in getting the first film made serving as producer and co-writer as well as staring in it.  Seen as a mea culpa for the awful depiction of Deadpool in Gaven Hood’s 2009 “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”.  It paid off in grand fashion and paved the way for a sequel.  “Deadpool 2” has been hailed as a triumphal return more confident in its identity and rating.  This works in its favor allowing the filmmakers the air to play in established areas while also expanding into new territory.  Much of the original cast returns including Reynolds as Deadpool, Morena Baccarin as Venessa, and TJ Miller as Weasel.  It also adds a massive new set of characters including Josh Brolin as Cable, Bill Skarsgård as Zeitgeist, Terry Crews as Bedlam and Zazie Beetz as Domino.  Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick return to write the script but this time David Leitch takes the helm as director.  Fresh off his debut with “Atomic Blond” last summer Leitch elevates the action set pieces adding to the style and bringing it into a place all its own.

“Deadpool 2” picks up a short time after the end of the original and sees Deadpool enjoying his globetrotting exploits as an anti-hero killing bad people.  It also shows the progression of Wade’s relationship with Vanessa.  However, a tragic turn of events sends Deadpool on a journey to become a better person, a better hero.  To this end Deadpool decides to protect a young mutant named Russell, a task that becomes increasingly difficult when a human cyborg named Cable appears from the future intent on killing Russell.  Out matched and outgunned Deadpool enlists the help of other heroes to form his own team, the X-force.

This film is rather impressive with it’s ability to add depth to Deadpool both in it’s narrative and to the character himself.  Stripping away the R rated trappings the first film was a standard origin story wrapped inside a revenge tale.  “Deadpool 2” aims to be more tackling themes of love, loss and what it means to be a hero.  It’s not always successful, but works enough to be impressive especially as it occurs in a film known for raunchy and irreverent humor.  However, there are times when Deadpool’s drollness clashes against the films well-meaning characterization.  That is to say the film tries to pivot from self-aware fourth wall breaking hijinks to introspective philosophizing making the tone inconsistent.  This doesn’t happen often and it doesn’t stop the film from being effective overall.  It gives “Deadpool 2” another layer of appeal that goes beyond the first film.

The larger cast offers some surprises but also threatens to over load the screen.  New comers like Domino stand above the rest as Zazie Beetz almost steals the show.  However, other characters get sidelined and aren’t featured nearly as much as they should.  Still the writing and performances help sell the ridiculousness of the shenanigans which helps them own “Deadpool’s” unique style even if they style sometimes overwhelms the substance.  Regardless the writing in “Deadpool 2” is more direct and more playful than the first time around.  It’s more self-aware and even less timid about poking fun at other things.  From the opening shots it’s clear the film will be unapologetic in its treatment of cultural touchstones.  Even ones that are fairly recent.  For instance Deadpool calling Cable Thanos in what seems to be a throw away jab earns a puny chuckle with “Avengers Infinity War” still fresh in people’s minds.  Though truth be told Josh Brolin has been the voice of Thanos since “Guardians of the Galaxy” in 2014.

The action spectacle also evolves a bit under Director David Leitch with a plethora of CG effects which largely hold up.  Though of course it isn’t perfect and doesn’t always work.  Though most of the time it is used as an augment of practical effects.  As such when they do use the CG it’s to good effect.  A large fight between two principle CG characters at the film’s climax of the film is a good example of this.  The knock down drag out works both cinematically and viscerally.  The action also plays a bit into the plot as well as the comedy this time as a natural extension of the themes the film wants to explore.

The first “Deadpool” reinvigorated mature comic book films.  “Logan” legitimized them and Warner Brothers has proliferated them with a series of R-rated animated films.  Still they remain a somewhat niche in their appeal, but if you have enjoyed some of these offerings or if you’re a fan of satirical action comedies then you will be right at home.  However, if you enjoy lighter PG-13 fare or if you’re easily offended then I would recommend sticking with the Marvel films.

 

New 4 stars
Final Score: 4 Stars

For more on the ratings please see our ABOUT page.

Shadow of The Tomb Raider New Trailer and Details

Shadow of The Tomb Raider New Trailer and Details shadow of the tomb raider

News | Opinion

Written by: Benjamin Ferrarini

On April 27th Square Enix made the official reveal of their next game in Tomb Raider franchise “Shadow of the Tomb Raider.”  The reveal came with a new trailer and a few bits of information.  Right off we now know this third installment has been developed by Eidos Montreal in collaboration with Crystal Dynamics.  The latter studio has been the driving force on the tomb raider franchise going back to Tomb Raider Legend in 2006.  It’s not immediately clear which studio took the lead or what Eidos Montreal’s involvement signifies moving forward but it does signal positive things for “Shadow”.  Eidos Montreal is a major studio responsible for the Deus Ex games and with them carry a reputation for beautifully conceived, well produced, highly polished games.

Secondly we got some scant plot details.  As we thought the new game takes place in Mexico and the forests of Central America.  Also, it does indeed deal with Mayan myths including a prophecy about the end of the world.  Apparently something has triggered pexels-photo-414061.jpegthis ancient doomsday prediction and Lara must attempt to stop it.  The Trinity organization is of course still involved somehow, though it’s unclear if they are involved in the Mayan aspects or if they are pursuing Lara out of revenge for the events of the past game.

What is clear is that the development team are placing a heavy emphasis on character arcs this time around.  The effects of Lara’s actions will have consequences.  Alan Torres a writer for Variety wrote about seeing a cutscene featuring a “heart-wrenching” moment in which “Lara is forced to bear witness to the collateral damage caused by her high-octane adventures”.  This is hopefully a major element in Lara’s newest adventure.  The first of the new reboots cemented Lara as a survivor.  It took her from a timid and reluctant young woman and traced her journey to become a self-possessed fighter who would do anything to reach her goals.  It made for a compelling story that hooked a lot of players.  However, “Rise of the Tomb Raider” didn’t do an effective job building on the first game’s foundation.  The game kept pushing Lara out on an ideological edge as she did increasingly extreme things to achieve her goals.  But, at the same time the game held back the practical effects Lara’s actions had on herself and others.  There were some minor repercussions the game gave head nodding recognition to but there was little sense of Lara’s progression as a character.  With “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” it seems they may actually attempt to settle the question of who and what Lara is becoming.  Is she a hero, a villain… a monster?  

 

It’s not that there isn’t some room for ambiguity in fact my hope is that enough material is given that players are able to make up their own minds on the subject.  However, they must offer enough material for a critical opinion to be formed.  Otherwise they run the risk of falling into the Jack Bouer trap.  In the early season of Fox’s action series 24 the writers tried to hook viewers by having the lead protagonist, Jack Bouer, do things of questionable moral veracity.  His antics grew more dubious as the show went on while at the same time insisting that Jack was still a “good guy”.  This was addressed in the shows latter seasons but a similar disconnect exists for Lara because of “Rise of the Tomb Raider’s” lack of clarity.  Can Lara kill dozens of people with brutal efficiency, then walk up to an ally showing a complete emotional detachment and still  be considered a healthy individual?  There’s a couple reasons this is an important question.  

The trope of the violent carefree hero has changed in recent years with iconic characters like James Bond undergoing introspective transformations.  Closer to home the past decade has seen gamers voicing their disapproval of games that make them heroes for mowing down countless foes.  There is a shift in the public consciousness that Tomb Raider will hopefully reflect.  The other point of consideration comes down to how Crystal rebooted the franchise.  The developers took great care to make Lara’s first kill something of prominence in the first game.  They wanted her transformation to have weight.  Since they chose to emphasize this before than it stands to reason they bring it full circle as they conclude Lara’s origin story.   Thus “Shadow” is really their chance to bring and end to the moral ambiguity and offer a substantive take on the character.

Finally through the article over at Variety as well as some other sources we’ve learned the developers are continuing to push the gameplay into new territory as well.  Continuing to refine the combat, traversal and crafting systems and adding some new ones.  For instance Senior Brand Director Rich Briggs told Variety that they’ve focused on crafting larger environments that players will have to adapt to.  Embracing fewer but more dangerous enemies Lara will have to use guerrilla warfare tactics and stealth to pexels-photo-531321.jpegtraverse Peruvian Jungles and ancient tombs.  There will be more wildlife and more puzzles than in previous games.  In fact Briggs told Variety that “Shadow” contains one of the biggest environments they’ve ever created.  These areas were called “hubs” in the previous games and consisted of wide open areas where Lara could search and hunt for special items, resources and even short side quests.  Navigating these areas successfully will mean Lara and by extension the player will have to make greater use of stealth than ever before.  One thing the Variety article mentions is the ability for Lara to cover herself with mud to better blend into the shadows.  This potentially offers a wider variety of gameplay that will continue to evolve Tomb Raider beyond it’s roots.

It sounds as if the developers at Eidos Montreal and Crystal Dynamics are taking the best elements from the previous two games and melding them into one experience.  It makes for a tantalizing tease as they promise more details including a gameplay demo will be revealed at E3 in June.

One last note… Square as also been forcefully signaling that they have no intention of ending the Tomb Raider franchise anytime soon.  They have stressed that though “Shadow” signifies the end of their prequel trilogy they plan on continuing Lara’s story in future games.  However, with Eidos Montreal taking a greater part in the development it’s possible Crystal Dynamics may be moving on to other things after development on “Shadow” is complete.  It will be interesting to see if members of the original team continue with the franchise or if they shift to a new project after over a decade of working on “Tomb Raider”.

What are your thoughts on “Shadow of the Tomb Raider”?  Are you excited, passive or uninterested?  Leave your thoughts below and stay tuned as their will likely be more news in June and as we inch closer the games release in September.

The Avengers: Infinity War Review

The Avengers: Infinity War Reviewavengers infinity war

Action, Comic Book

Rated: PG-13 for Sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language, and crude references.

Review by: Benjamin Ferrarini

We’ve been told that this is it.  This is the end of the MCU as we know it, the culmination of a project 10 years and 18 films in the making.  Based on one of Marvel’s most infamous comic storylines and pulling together all the disparate elements across their cinematic universe the anticipation for this film as reached fever pitch levels of hype.  In fact Collider reported that ticket pre-sales for “Infinity War” surpassed that of last seven MCU films combined!  Marvel has been very willing to trade on this ratcheting up expectations since they revealed the massive two-part finale in 2016.  So, the question ringing in everyone’s ears like a bad case of tinnitus is whether Marvel can pull it off and deliver on years worth of fan fervor.

“Avengers: Infinity War” is directed by Marvel alums Anthony and Joe Russo the directing duo behind “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Civil War”.  It is written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely who have worked together on the “Captain America” films as well as the “Agent Carter” television show and Disney’s “The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe” franchise.  It stars… well just about everyone from Marvel’s MCU from Robert Downy Jr. to Chadwick Boseman and from Sean Gunn to William Hurt.  There are also a couple of surprise cameos which I won’t spoil, just reassured the cast is not a place where this film is lacking.

This Avengers film picks up following the events of the last couple Marvel movies and rushes head long into a showdown with the MCU’s shadowy puppet master Thanos.  He’s been the fringe threat since the mid credit sequence of the original Avengers film and has maintained a mysterious presence in many of the films since with the implicit sense that Thanos has been manipulating events to work for his own ends.  Those ends come into shocking clarity very quickly with Thanos’ expressed intent on gathering all the infinity stones so he can wipe out life on an unprecedented scale across the entire galaxy.  This threat unites the heroes from across the MCU as they make a desperate stand against annihilation.

Marvel’s game plan to create what is essentially a grand cinematic universe that built on itself has been fascinating to watch.  But, attempting to bring all those elements together and contain them in a single film seemed a titan sized task.  Even with the deft hand of Marvel Studio’s head Keven Feige and the direction of the Russo Brothers I had serious doubts Marvel could avoid the pitfalls DC has fallen into time and again trying to throw a bunch of characters on-screen together.  However, most of my doubts have been allayed because the filmmakers managed to stay anchored to the things fan’s have come to love and trust about MCU films.  Right away it’s evident character and plot are the driving force instead of action and spectacle.  For the most part there are clear motivated reasons for our characters to run into each other and for the different story threads to cross.  Though it all happens at breakneck pace offering no time for recaps of “the story so far”.  “Infinity War” counts on you being fully up to date on all the characters and previous films especially phase 3.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it will be a hindrance for those who have only been watching the Avengers films and are not current on all that’s happened since “Age of Ultron”.  Conversely if you have been keeping up with each stand alone film then your devotion is rewarded.  Being firmly grounded in these character’s with their journeys give “Infinity War” its weight.  They establish early on that Thanos is a serious threat and that even our favorite characters are not safe.

Thankfully the writing is up to the task offering some great character interactions and plenty of levity to break up the darker tone this film carries.  As with the best MCU movies most of the humor comes out of the character’s personalities as they work or clash with each other.  This is where “Infinity War” actually surprised me.  The prospect of seeing characters share the screen has had lessened impact since “The Avengers” all the way back in 2012.  However, the writers manage to pull it off by having the team assemble in unique groups, pairing characters you wouldn’t have intuitively thought would go together.  For instance seeing Thor interact with Rocket the Raccoon offers a dynamic that goes beyond quaint amusement.  That said there are moments where rational is  traded for convenience and logic loses to practicality.  However, these moments aren’t enough to derail the film which works impressively well.

The Cinematography is handled by Trent Opaloch the Director of Photography for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” as well as Neill Blomkamp’s “District 9” and “Elysium”.  The camera work and special effects are everything you’d expect from Marvel and are solid enough to carry the film.  However, they don’t push the envelope or do anything truly innovative.  The size and spectacle of this film tops anything Marvel has done before and so at times the digital effects become overwhelming.  I also find myself again in the position of having to critique a CG villain.  It’s become a common and disappointing practice to use CG characters to pull the weight of the lead villain in films.  “Justice League” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” both lost points on this.  Even when the performance behind the CG  is good the effect just doesn’t match the on-screen presence or nuance a flesh and blood actor has.  Josh Brolin’s vocal performance as Thanos is excellent and the CG shows an advance in technology but it still falters holding back what could have been a much more compelling villain.

My biggest complaint against “Infinity War” is one of pacing.  With as big as the film is and with all it has going on it’s a problem which seemed unavoidable.  The film jumps around a lot between different locations and groups of characters.  This means feeling like you don’t get enough time with anyone and at times it is overwhelming.  In other words “Infinity War” offers breath at the expense of depth.  I don’t think it breaks the film but editing can feel random and it is exhausting by the 2 and a half hour mark.

Avengers: Infinity War is impressive for all it attempts and how often it succeeds.  It delivers on what Marvel has been promising and manages to slip in a few surprises along the way.  If you are a fan of Marvel’s MCU then “Infinity War” is definitely worth your time.  If you’re not a fan or you haven’t kept up with the films then this isn’t a good place to start.  This film is dependent on a level of knowledge and investment to truly be enjoyed.  It’s likely to be a divisive capstone that will keep people debating over the next year while we await the conclusion that will close out this phase of the MCU and pave the way for the future.

 

New 4 stars
Final Score 4 Stars

 

For more on the ratings please see our ABOUT page.

You can find my thoughts and predictions before going into “Infinity War” HERE.

My review for “Black Panther” HERE  and review for “Thor Ragnarok” HERE.

Avengers Infinity War Predictions!

Avengers Infinity War Predictions!

News | Opinion

Written by Benjamin Ferrarini

The newest installment of Marvel’s MCU is upon us with “Avengers Infinity War” the first part of the two-part finale which promises to bring phase 3 to a close.  It will also, as Kevin Feige put it “change the MCU” forever.  “Avengers Infinity War” premiered Monday night and review started pouring in on Tuesday.  I have done my utmost best to avoid any kind of spoilers and I haven’t looked at any reviews.  I am going into this film as blank as I possibly can but before I do I am going to share some thoughts and predictions about what I think we may be in for.

The opening credits.  popcorn-movie-party-entertainment.jpg

This first one is less of a prediction and more of a hope.  The last few MCU films have opened with pre-credit sequences that connects to a major plot element later on.  “Guardian’s of the Galaxy Vol. 2″ opened with Peter’s Mother and Ego setting up Ego’s seeding of planets all over the galaxy.  “Spiderman Homecoming” began with the background for Vulture the Villain.  Then “Black Panther” started with a seemingly innocuous scene that turned out to have huge implications on both the heroes and villain’s journeys.  With those foundations laid I am hoping Marvel takes the time to re-introduce Thanos properly.  My theory/hope goes like this:  In the trailer we clearly see Loki hold out the tesseract presumably to Thanos.  We’ve also seen Thanos slot the blue tesseract gem into the gauntlet.  As he does this the purple power gem from “Guardian’s” is already in the gauntlet.  Thus the power gem is the first infinity stone he acquires.  As of the end of “Guardian’s of the Galaxy” the power gem was being kept in a vault on Nova  Prime.  Picture this then… the vault door opens, Thanos’ gloved hand removes a small box and opens it to reveal the Power Gem.  He takes it and slots it into his Gauntlet.  Then he turns and walks away and as he does the camera reveals the utter decimation of the Nova Corp.  A sequence like this would establish Thanos’ acquisition of the first infinity stone and also quickly set up the threat he poses.

Thor’s ship:

Marvel has also developed a history of after credit sequences being part of larger scenes in later movies.  For instance the after credit sequence in “Captain America the First Avenger” became a scene in “The Avengers”  and the mid credit sequence of “Dr. Strange” played into a more involved scene in Thor Ragnarok.  This is almost certainly going to be the case with the mid credit scene from “Thor Ragnarok” in which Thanos’ ship showed up dwarfing Thor’s vessel.  Evidence to this is also found in the trailers for “Infinity War” with images of someone stepping over bodies that appear to be the Asgardian refugees and the afore-mentioned scene in which Loki offers up the Tesseract.  We also know Thor is separated from the others and winds up falling in with the Guardians.

Banner back on Earth.

Another tidbit offered in the trailers is that Bruce Banner somehow winds up back on earth after he crashes into Dr. Strange’s New York Sanctum.  Presumably it’s Hulk who crashes into the sanctum and then becomes Banner.  The question is how does this happen, how does he end up on earth when he was last seen in space with Thor?  My running theory is tied to the Tesseract.  Once Thanos has the space gem he’ll have the ability to bend space to his will.  Thanos will use the tesseract’s power to effectively teleport himself, his ship and Hulk to Earth.

Who will Die:

At this point in the MCU we’ve had very few hero deaths with the only noticeable exception being Quick Silver in “Avengers Age of Ultron.”  Because of this our heroes have developed an air of invincibility which will more than likely be broken by “Infinity War”.  There are some practical reasons for this as well as some narrative ones.  Practically speaking contracts for Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth are expiring.  They were contracted to appear in a set number of films and they have finally reached that number.  Realize that Robert Downey has been playing Tony Stark for 10 years across eight films.  Likewise Chris Evans has appeared in 6 films and cameo’ed in others.  It is likely they are ready to move on from these films as Marvel shifts the MCU to a new set of heroes and new actors.  

From a narrative perspective they are tackling Thanos, a villain that is notorious for being one of the biggest baddest most powerful villains in the comic universe.  In order for Thanos to carry the same weight and danger it means the stakes will have to be higher than ever and that means we’re going to lose some beloved characters.  Ironman and Captain America are arguably the most important as they have carried a lot of weight in the Avenger’s films and are kind of the glue of the team.  The rift between them in “Civil War” broke the team apart.  Thus it’s easy to surmise one or both of them will meet their end before the end of Avengers 4 but I strongly suspect it’s Cap we’ll lose in “Infinity War”.  Other than that I have a suspicion that Loki will be an early casualty.  There are a couple of reasons for this.

First Loki is a fan favorite and losing him will send a strong message that no one is safe.  Second I want to point to the massive development in Loki’s character over Thor Ragnarok.  By the end of that film Loki found some quasi redemption and even reconciliation with his brother Thor.  This gives Loki a compelling arc and makes it a convenient place to send him off a better character then the one who has been an antagonist across 3 or 4 films.

Final thoughts:film-movie-motion-picture-390089.jpeg

Marvel is again doing something unprecedented merging a pantheon of characters across 18 films and a number of different franchises.  However, because it comes after two “Avengers” films and “Captain America Civil War” the prospect of seeing a bunch of heroes in one place has lessened somewhat.  Genre fatigue as also begun to set in making it harder to impress audiences.  Still, they are riding high on the momentum from “Thor Ragnarok” and “Black Panther” so they have a lot going for them going into this film.  There are a ton of elements and expectations but Feige and the Russo Brothers have proven deft at handling the pressure before so I have confidence in their ability to deliver something worthy of it’s heritage.  

What are your thoughts on “Avengers Infinity War”?  Do you have any predictions?  What are some things you want to see or what are you hoping you don’t see?  Let me know in the comments and stay tuned as a full review will be incoming soon!

You can find my review of “Black Panther” HERE ,  Thor Ragnarok HERE  Or some of my thoughts and reflections on Marvel’s MCU HERE

Sunshine Blogger Award

Sunshine Blogger Award

I want to extend my most sincere thanks to Strange Girl Gaming for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award.  Check out her blog HERE where she reviews and shares her thoughts on popular video games like Far Cry 5  and Mass Effect Andromeda.  She’s got some great insights so check them out!

The Sunshine Blogger Award is a way for bloggers to recognize and promote new blogs.  It allows the community of bloggers promote and celebrate one another.  Here are guidelines for receiving and giving the award.

  1. Thank the Blogger or Bloggers who nominated you and link back to their site.
  2. Answer the questions you received as part of your nomination.
  3. Nominate new blogs to receive the award and write them a new set of questions.
  4. You also must list the rules and display the Sunshine Award logo in your post.

With that in mind here the answers to the questions Strange Girl Gaming asked. 

Questions:

  1. What is your favourite video game genre?

A: I have played a lot of shooters and enjoy them for cathartic stress relief but I think story driven RPG’s are where I’ve dropped the most amount of hours.  Games like “Mass Effect” and “Dragon Age”.

  1. If your life were a movie which one would it be?

A: “Groundhog Day.”  My life seems to move in cycles where I end up in the same place over and over… existentially anyway.  Still each time I find myself in familiar territory it feels as if I’m being granted the opportunity to “get it right” which makes me feel a bit like Bill Murray’s character Phil in “Groundhog Day”.

  1. What is your perfect day?

A: A day where I get a long date with my wife.  A few hours away from the kids taking her on a nature hike or paddle boats, then dinner and maybe a movie… that would be an amazing day!

  1. Heroes or villains?

A: It’s kind of a toss-up.  Heroes save the day and get the girl but villains have more fun and they get the best lines.

  1. You can only play one video game for the rest of your life, which one is it?

A: Right now I’d have to say “Fortnite” especially “Battle Royal”. “Fortnite” is continuously being updated with new weapons and play modes.  There’s also the potential for new maps in the future and I’m a bit obsessed with it.

  1. Favourite Zombie game?

A: “The Last of Us”, no contest.  

  1. What is your favourite video game series?

A: “Mass Effect” bar “Andromeda”.  The original “Mass Effect” trilogy is not only my favorite game series but one of my favorite sci-fi series period. The atmosphere, the world building and the unforgettable characters like Garrus, Wrex and Mordin.  Not to mention a couple of the most compelling villains in video games.  Not without their flaws but these game’s strengths far outweigh their weaknesses.

  1. Do you prefer to be too hot or too cold?

A: I tend to run hot so I don’t mind the cold as much.  Also you can always add layers and bundle up against the cold.  There’s only so much you can shed to stay cool… before you run the risk of getting arrested anyway.

  1. Indian or Chinese?

A: We talking food?  If it’s food Chinese wins. 

 

My Nominees are

1. Caleb Raves

In this blog Caleb offers reviews on movies and music as well as sharing some thoughts on culture and his own poetry. He’s non-traditional reviews offer a brief snapshot with a little commentary you can find his newest review on A Quiet Place HERE.

2.  Smash Cut  

Smash offers reviews on movies, anime and games with really good break down and some sharp insights.  You can find his review of Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” HERE and his thoughts on the cult hit “Doki Doki Literature Club” HERE.

3.  Believe in JD

This one is different because JD’s blog isn’t strictly media driven but the personal journey of a guy dealing with a devastating spinal injury.  Though his will and spirit come through as he share his challenges and his love of gaming.  It’s an inspiring blog that is worthy of your time.  Especially his explanation on how he plays video games despite his condition which you can find HERE.

Questions to my Noms.

  1. What is your favorite film of 2018 so far?
  1. What film or game has most affected you?
  1. What’s one thing you hope to accomplish with your blog?
  1. Something on your bucket list you haven’t done yet?
  1. Wes Anderson or Tim Burton?
  1. Name one Film, TV Show or Video Game you want to see rebooted.
  1. Name something you like that everyone else you know doesn’t.

 

Thanks again to Strange Girl Gaming and for all of you who read and support The Glitch.

Netflix Lost in Space Episode One “Impact” Review

Netflix Lost in Space Episode One “Impact” Netflix Lost in Space poster placeholder

Sci-fi, Adventure, Drama

Rated: TV-PG for Sci-fi peril, a sequence of violence and mild language

Review by: Benjamin Ferrarini

This is a spoiler free review of Lost in Space Episode One “Impact”

Netflix just released their newest sci-fi show a reimagining of the 1960’s classic “Lost in Space”.  The title was also translated into a critically derided feature film in 1998.  This newest incarnation is developed by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless who previously collaborated on “The Last Witch Hunter” and the newest “Power Rangers” film.  It stars Toby Stephens (“Black Sails”, “13 Hours”), Molly Parker (“Dead Wood”, “1922”) and Parker Posey (“Superman Returns”, “Scream 3”) who makes an appearance as a female version of Dr. Smith.

The first episode wastes no time throwing audiences into the thick of it with very little setup.  The opening scene sees the Robinson family in pressurized space suits strapped into seats around a table playing cards.  The scene quickly establishes a tense atmosphere indicating something isn’t right.  A harrowing sequence later has the Robinson’s ship crashing on an unknown planet.  The rest of the episode chronicles their attempts to survive their desperate situation and lays some foundation through the use of flashbacks.  They are oddly spaced but do build enough back-story to provide and understand how our characters came to be where they are and establishes the family dynamics between the family members.   It’s a lot of set up executed while also trying to deliver some high stakes adventure and drama.  This makes the first episode a very dense affair that moves at a slow deliberate pace.

Lost in Space quote box

This methodical approach may be off-putting to some.  The show isn’t in a hurry to do much of anything even the crises the Robinson’s face aren’t under great time pressure.   This lack of urgency in any of the plot elements does make the pacing feel off and takes away from the stakes which don’t build as effectively as they should.  However, the dialog is solid.  Sazama and Sharpless really try to hook your emotions and pull you into caring about this family from the get go.  Starting the episode with having the family do something as normal as playing Go Fish is just one of the things they do to help anchor the story.  There are some gimmicky elements that rely on the cliché but over all I think they are moderately successful in offering reasons to invest in the characters.  The performances also do a good job of carrying the weight.  Even the younger members of the cast act well giving credibility to their respective roles.

By far the most outstanding element in this episode is the cinematography and special effects.  The camera work by Sam Mccurdy (“The Descent”, “Into the Badlands”) does a bevy of heavy lifting making us feel the environment and situations the story places the characters in.  From tight claustrophobic spaces to sweeping majestic landscapes Mccurdy conveys it all with beautiful and effective camera work.  The special effects here are mostly simple and understated and only really faulted in one or two places.  If the rest of the series can keep up this level of aesthetic it will help carry the series if only for its visual appeal.

“Lost in Space” has a lot of potential.  It’s production design and cinematography are top-notch and it is trying to use some very human elements to ground its story.  The first episode is weighed down by a ton of exposition and some dramatic set ups not all of which work.  However, there’s plenty of space for them to build on this foundation with more than a few mysteries and questions for them to answer in the proceeding nine episodes.  

 

New 4 stars
Final Score: 4 Stars

For more on the ratings please see our ABOUT page.

What if BioWare Fails: The Worst Case Scenario

What if BioWare Fails: The Worst Case Scenario.

News | Opinion 

Written by: Benjamin Ferrarini

BioWare is a fabled game developer with a long and prestigious history.  They are responsible for such classic hits as “Baldur’s Gate”, “Jade Empire”, “Knights of the Old Republic”, “Dragon Age Origins” and the “Mass Effect trilogy”.  BioWare’s has built a tradition of story driven RPG and adventure games that connect with gamers all over the globe.  Their talent is undeniable and in some cases unsurpassed.  That however is BioWare’s past, their present is beset with doubt and their future uncertain.  After the disappointment of “Mass Effect: Andromeda” the studio seems to be on thin ice with their publishing partner Electronic Arts and this vicarious state has led them to place a lot of pressure on their next big game.  This project is a brand new IP titled “Anthem”.  Thus far we’ve only seen a little bit of Anthem but it appears to be an online multiplayer title which boats a persistent online world.  The game can be played solo or in groups, additionally friends can jump in and join games already in progress.  An early gameplay trailer showed off some impressive graphics and a lot of potential.

The stakes are high for “Anthem” to be an instant success at it’s launch.  With mounting pressure from EA there are those of us who believe “Anthem’s” failure could spell BioWare’s demise.  This fear was given added legitimacy in the summer of 2017 when EA shuttered BioWare’s Montreal studio which developed “Mass Effect: Andromeda”.  Then in October of 2017 EA shutdown Visceral studios, the company behind the popular “Dead Space” games.  Visceral had been in the middle of creating a single player Star Wars game under the direction of Amy Hennig who served as creative director on the “Uncharted” series.  The cancellation of the untitled Star Wars game wasn’t a huge surprise as it had faced a troubled development, but the demise of the studio with the game raised more than a few eyebrows.

dead space 2
Dead Space 2 published by EA

These closures have added fuel to the fear over BioWare’s fate should “Anthem” under perform.  There’s another fear is sadly founded in current market trends.  “Destiny 2”, “No Man’s Sky” and “Sea of Thieves” are all recent online multiplayer games that have struggled to find success.  Gamer’s have been frustrated with these games lack of content and overall polish upon release.  A scarcity of things to do, server crashes and pervasive micro transactions have had a significant impact on the reception of online games and the blow back has at times been breathtakingly severe.  EA’s  “Star Wars Battle Front 2” hit major player revolt for it’s implementation of loot boxes, a reaction that not only cost the company game sales but a stock slump which by some estimates cost EA upwards of 3 billion dollars.  Now, there has been no news as of yet about micro transactions such as loot boxes being implemented in “Anthem”.  However their presents has become part of the business model EA has been aggressively pushing for the last few years.  That means most believe it’s a forgone conclusion that “Anthem” will contain them in one form or another.  

All of this is to say the current market is not ideal for BioWare’s newest IP.  “Anthem” will have to overcome a lot of derisive turmoil to have any shot of success even by the most modest of standards.  It’s unclear right now what EA’s expectations are for “Anthem” or what their time-table is for judging it’s success.  So I think it’s worth looking at the outcome no one wants to acknowledge.  What if “Anthem” fails?  What if the game just cannot secure a large enough audience and sales slump?  What if the worst case scenario comes to pass and EA closes BioWare?

It’s easy to slip into a bitter malaise of resentment toward the indifferent and ethically questionable business model of EA.  This is after all a company voted the worse in America two or three years in a row.  But, I do not want to spend time steeped in the murky depths of what might constitute acceptable backlash against a corporate giant who is likely to roll over internet unrest and be no worse for the wear.  Instead I’d like to pexels-photo-117178.jpegoffer some hope with this little thought experiment, pointing out that even if the worst comes to pass their may yet be light at the end of the tunnel.

So let’s start at the bottom, EA shutters BioWare bringing an end to the beloved studio and cannibalize it’s resources among it’s other studios.  In this Black Friday moment there is hope for an Easter Sunday of resurrection.  It isn’t out of the question that Casey Hudson and key members of his team could break out on their own and start a new studio under a new banner.  There are a couple of things that make this a more than viable option.  First is the markets acceptance and hunger for indy game development.  Small studios making short simple games have laid a strong claim to video game market share.  Short experiences selling for $20 to $40 on outlets like Steam are numerous.  Thus it isn’t hard to imagine Hudson and the talent he engenders to find a home on a similar platform.

The other thing looming in the distance is Microsoft.  The tech giant has been showing signs of moving to acquire more first party studios to make console exclusive games for the Xbox One.  There have been rumors that Microsoft is eyeing Valve, PlayerUnknown Studios and even EA itself in possible buyouts.  That means if the talented people of BioWare were suddenly loosed to form their own company it would be exactly the kind of opportunity Microsoft appears to be looking for.   

Either of these scenarios offer a wealth of possibilities for a new studio to make its mark especially one carrying the talent responsible for a past library of beloved games.  A case in point is game designer Hidao Kojima who is the brains behind the Metal Gear saga.  After Kojima parted ways with Konami the he started his own studio Kojima Productions.  Very quickly Sony interactive partnered with Kojima and his new studio intent on helping him develop an original game for the Playstation.  Out of this partnership came “Death Stranding” which was announced at Sony’s press conference during E3 in 2016.  

It’s a hugely ambitious title that promises Kojima’s unique style and opens a whole new world of possibilities for Kojima and Playstation.  While there’s still reason to lament the loss of Kojima’s creative genius in the Metal Gear franchise, especially given the disastrous “Metal Gear: Survive” the potential of “Death Stranding” offers a bit of hope for his continued influence on gaming at large.  

Understand that in no way do I want to see Anthem fail or BioWare to close.  I would like nothing more than for Anthem to be a smash hit and for the studio to surpass all
excitations.  However, I want to be honest about the reality BioWare faces.  Also I want to point out that if Casey Hudson and his BioWare team members were forced to start over they would have the freedom to create something new.   As such there’s hope for the future even if BioWare ceases to exist.

Jessica Jones Season 2 Episode 3 “AKA Sole Survivor” Review

Jessica Jones Season 2 Episode 3 “Sole Survivor”Jessica Jones s2 e3 place holder

Action, Drama, Comic Book

Rated: TV-MA for violence and language

Review by: Benjamin Ferrarini

The following review contains spoilers for “AKA Sole Survivor”

Simpson is dead and buried leaving a lot of questions and plot elements hanging in the empty space he leaves behind, most notably the shadowy assassin who killed Simpson.  For better or worse “AKA Sole Survivor” doesn’t directly address these hanging threads and the assassin himself disappears entirely.  Instead the focus shifts to investigation and melodrama.  “AKA Sole Survivor” is written by Melissa Rosenberg and directed by Mairzee Almas.  Almas directed several shows for CW including episodes of “Arrow”, “iZombie” and “The 100”.

The brief “funeral” for Simpson gave way to a quiet moment between Jessica and Trish that was given added weight by Jessica’s admission of contemplating suicide after her family’s death.  It was a beautifully written and acted scene which allowed us a to linger if only briefly on Jessica and Trish’s friendship.  However, after this short-lived exchange the episode shifted track pretty substantially.  Dropping the assassin in favor of Jessica trying regression therapy was an odd pivot away from the events of the previous episode.  It also turned out to be of little use as it predictably didn’t end well between the therapist and Jessica.  It seemed to be played more for humor than plot and if that was the intent then it fell a bit flat for me.  Yes, Jessica latter claimed it helped but there was little evidence beyond Jessica’s nightmare which didn’t directly connect to the scene with the therapist.

That said it was interesting to see Jessica go into full detective mode, especially because this time she was investigating herself.  There was a morbid sense of character growth as Jessica opened the files on her family, placing pictures of her dead brother on her makeshift evidence board.  This worked because it moved Jessica past a significant hurdle.  It also led Jessica back to the facility she discovered in the first episode and to the clue about Dr. Hansen.  This all felt a bit like a rabbit trail until the woman claiming to be Hansen asked for a meet.  There was just enough doubt to make the ruse work right up to the reveal that the charred skull really did belong to Hansen.  Even so the identity of the mystery woman and her connection to the assassin and IGH is more of a tease then a true development.  So our main plot dithered a bit while most of the action centered around the show’s melodramatic subplots, some of which were handled better than others.

It was good the full revelation about Hogarth’s diagnosis finally came out even if her having ALS instead of some kind of aggressive cancer wasn’t what I expected.  I have to say I am still struggling to understand the writers intent with Hogarth this season.  Hogarth chewing out Foggy for his attempt to help does nothing to endear her to us.  Turning to Jessica for help seemed closer to the end game but her less than humble mea culpa and her asking Jessica to find dirt on her partners again doesn’t show any sign of progression.  The only thing that worked was her self diagnosis of her life.  It was a rare moment of vulnerability which signified a step in the right direction but is still far from making Hogarth a likable or relatable character.

Jessica Jones season 2 ep3 quote box

Then there’s a decent amount of relationship drama between Trish and Griffin.  The first season had it’s share of drama between Jessica and Luke Cage but that felt grounded in the larger scheme of the season.  The fact the Jessica killed Luke’s wife while under Killgrave’s control bonded them together in ways beyond the carnal.  Giving Jessica someone to care about also offered the risk of something to lose.   No such stakes exists in this season and as such the whole subplot feels unnecessary and needless.  The one development we got here was Griffin taking something from Trish’s computer.  This may be nothing more than Griffin fishing for a story but it’s an unfortunate development that will lead to trouble down the road.

Lastly this episode did offer something of interest when it came to Trish’s character.  That’s the talk of Trish being Jessica’s sidekick.  This was played as coy humor but it hints at a possible development.  In the comics Trish Walker takes on the alter ego Hellcat and there’s been speculation since season one whether this would happen in the show.  Trish’s roll in the first season gave no indication this was in the making, however season two has fast laid the groundwork for such a transformation.  If not then it’s a giant tease masquerading as an easter egg.

Episode 3 “AKA Sole Survivor” does some good things but it’s focus on various subplots dilutes the episode and weighs it down.  Hopefully much of this is set up for future episodes because otherwise it’s a lot of plot filler which will only highlight a narrative weakness in the main plot.

New 3 1:2 stars
Final Score: 3 1/2 Stars

 

Review for episode 2 HERE

Spoiler free review for episode 1 HERE

For more on the ratings please see our ABOUT page.

The Next Step: A Personal Note to Readers

The Next Step: A Personal Note to ReadersThe Glitch Logo 3

March 22ed marked 10 months since we launched The Glitch.  Since then the blog has been slowly growing thanks to your readership.  With the first anniversary only a couple of months away we are looking to expand the scope, reach, and content provided by The Glitch.  To that end we’ve launched a brand new YouTube channel to serve as a companion to this site.  The Glitch Blog YouTube channel will have a more particular focus on video games at least at first.  Right now you can find some gameplay videos  there but more content will follow soon including analysis, reviews and video essays… We are still experimenting with style and format so any suggestions or feedback you wish to offer will be instrumental as we build this new platform.

 

Don’t worry we’ll continue to publish written reviews and opinion pieces, but we’re excited about the possibilities The Glitch has on a video based platform.  If you’d like to continue supporting this site and get a slightly different kind of content head over to The Glitch YouTube channel to like, comment, subscribe and watch us fail miserably at playing Fortnite.  You can find our Youtube Channel HERE

 

Beyond YouTube you can also find us on Facebook  and you can follow us on Twitter @Bcoolpro

Thank you for your support during this exciting time.   We hope as we expand you will find content that informs, encourages and makes your day a little bit better.

Writer & Editor of The Glitch

Benjamin Ferrarini aka Bcool