Wondering what to do with your upcoming free time? Good thing we have some suggestions for what you should be watching, playing, reading, listening to, etc.!
Ben’s Anime Pick: Fate/Zero – Not only does this prequel anime serve as an equally solid starting point in the overall Fate series (in which mages battle each other to the death while teaming up with spirits of legendary heroes in order to win a wish), it actually surpasses the original show, Fate/Stay Night, in almost every respect. Studio Ufotable (the same animation studio behind that Demon Slayer anime that I still won’t shut up about) delivers some of their best work with stunning action choreography and jaw-droppingly gorgeous animation in each mind-blowing battle. The story is far darker than the original’s too: along with the villains, most of the “good” guys ditch their moral compasses in an effort to attain victory. Yet even so, they’re just so damn compelling – and badass – that you can’t stop watching. It’s one of the most well-crafted and beautifully animated anime out there.
Ben’s Movie Pick: 28 Days Later – Although it is widely known for popularizing the fast-moving zombie, 28 Days Later’s slower moments are actually some of its best. The movie allows its small, terrific cast to grow and bond with each other in relative peace more organically than most zombie movies, building up its characters and their relationships in a believable way that makes you genuinely care about them. That in turn makes all of the moments when their lives are in danger all the more intense and harrowing, along with giving their losses much more emotional weight. The film’s final action sequence is probably my favorite scene in any zombie film, as it shows the tenacity, will, and outright ruthlessness that even a decent person may resort to when forced to protect their own from a post-apocalyptic Great Britain.
Ben’s Movie Pick: Extraction – The story and characters are about as predictable and clichéd as you can get, but the wonderfully-shot, expertly-choreographed fights make Extraction an engaging and entertaining action flick. The clinical precision that Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) takes the bad guys out with is almost in John Wick territory, and it left me wishing it was actually part of the Wick-iverse. It’s fast, focused, and brutal. Hemsworth also delivers a genuinely great performance that blends his natural charm with an affecting air of melancholy. He’s not Thor: Ragnarok or Infinity War/Endgame great, but he manages to elevate a lackluster character into one that I was able to get behind almost instantly. Of the three action-ish Netflix Originals I’ve seen this year – the others being 6 Underground and Spenser Confidential – Extraction is easily the best of the bunch.
Ben’s Movie Pick: Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge – Even if it doesn’t add anything new to the lore of Mortal Kombat, Scorpion’s Revenge should still please fans of the video game series. It has all the Mortal Kombat kalling kards – a decent roster of superpowered fighters, some self-aware humor, a whole lot of Easter eggs, and an unhealthy amount of gnarly action – and is a solid retelling of the original Mortal Kombat‘s plot. The film spends a good deal of time fleshing out the titular vengeance-seeking ninja’s backstory, but then directs its focus mainly on the klassic karakters Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, and Johnny Cage, which gives it an uneven, but still entertaining, feel to it. Similarly, the animation is top notch during the fights, but unfortunately looks a fair bit weaker when the kombatants are just standing around and talking. It isn’t as awesome as the first live action film, which admittedly also has its share of flaws, but this animated outing is still worth watching for any Mortal Kombat fan.
Lauren’s Theatre Pick: Fleabag – Having recently watching Fleabag’s full run on Amazon Prime multiple times for last week’s Suggestion Box, I still found myself not ready to let the series go quite yet, making creator/writer/star Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s appearance on Stephen Colbert’s late night talk show to promote the release of the play that started it all rather fortuitous. I was already rather curious just to see how the one woman show was expanded out into a full TV series (or the first season or one, to be more specific), and more PWB is more PWB. I said it two weeks ago and I’ll say it again: she’s a genius. And just crazy talented. Having to give 5 minute presentations in school was enough to send me into panic stricken, cold sweat fugue states in front of the class, so being capable of remembering 1.5 hours of material is beyond baffling to me. But she does it with nary a stumble over carrying on two person conversations solo, an amazing Bus Rodent impression, and bouncing from emotional confident highs and rather raw lows as Fleabag grapples with the memories that haunt her. Warning: you will ugly sob. But you will be ugly sobbing for charity as the money raised will be going to Covid-19 relief efforts. (Fleabag can be rented for $5 here.)
Lauren’s Video Game Pick: Final Fantasy 7 Remake – For the better part of my life I’ve always heard nothing but praise for Final Fantasy VII, with many touting it to be one of the best games ever (Ben being one of these individuals). Yet even so, my aversion to turn-based RPGs kept me from giving it a chance. Well no more! Now that Remake is out I get to finally understand what all of the fuss is about! Well, partly, seeing as Remake only covers a fraction of the story of the original game. But 40 hours of gameplay is more than enough to fall in love with this world and all of these characters, even if they are terrorists: from the dramatically passionate Barret who may or may not need to chill a bit, to the hometown girl who “would kill for a shower” Tifa, to the mysteriously in tune with everything Aerith, WHO I WILL PROTECT WITH MY LIFE. Honestly not enough credit can be given to the team that developed the combat for this remake, amalgamating a simpler press this button to swing away with your weapons fighting style with a system that welcomes the uninitiated to a turn-based type of combat amplifier, allowing for power moves, item use, and spells to really set things off. There were a few bosses that frustrated me because some of my more melee heavy characters were basically removed from the fight, but other than that there really isn’t anything to complain about with this game. It was epic, plain and simple. And that ending! Talk about a ridiculous ending to get everyone hyped for the next installation, whenever that release may be. I felt like the “that was totally wicked!” kid, except instead of a car I just witnessed Mr. Incredible lift an entire planet over his head. Final Fantasy VII Remake gets all the chef kisses.
To read Ben’s full review of Final Fantasy VII Remake, click here.
So what do you think about these picks? What content did we miss over the past two weeks while we were spending time with these? Be sure to leave a comment below letting us know about everything (both current and simply new to you) you’ve been consuming lately!
And while you’re here, be sure to check some of the site’s other recent content:
- Jon’s written review for the tv show Never Have I Ever.
- Jon’s interview with Stephen Christian for a Middle of the Dial podcast episode.
- Lauren’s written reviews of the films Underwater, Little Women, and The Invisible Man.
- Middle of the Row’s flashback podcast episode for Cast Away, The Virgin Suicides, and I’m Still Here.