Genres – Plymouth Mega Ride Wed, 21 Jul 2021 11:52:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Genres – Plymouth Mega Ride 32 32 Your Guide To Techno Thriller Books Wed, 21 Jul 2021 10:38:36 +0000 This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

So, you read Dan Brown and Lee Child novels and don’t really know what to do with yourself anymore. You read them in a daze, maybe more than once, and then no other thrill could quite match that adrenaline rush. In that case, welcome. You are now part of the ‘I love techno thriller books’ club.

What are techno thriller books, exactly? It’s a literary genre that combines the best of what thrillers have to offer – deceit, secrets, intrigue – and best of what science fiction has to offer – a world without limits. More than traditional elements of science fiction, this genre does not always involve complex technological innovations, but rather offers up a futuristic perspective in one way or another. You get complex characters, a problem that needs solving, and a mix of brains and technology that bring about the solution. Oh, there is also always heart-pounding action at the center of it all.

Did you know some classics like Jurassic Park and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo count as techno-thrillers? The genre of techno thrillers has usually been dominated by white, male authors with breakout works by Steve Berry, John Sandford, and Dan Brown, just to name a few. But, over the past years, there have been breakout works of techno thriller books by authors who identify across all genders and identities. What’s been a stand-out feature of these newer works has been how the stories are not just those that offer thrills, but also those that weave in commentary about themes such as race, class, and gender.

I am here to share four works to dip your toes in and experience the expansiveness of what this genre has to offer.

cover image of Red Widow by Alma Katsu

Red Widow by Alma Katsu

If you are unfamiliar with Katsu’s work, I suggest you remedy that immediately. Katsu is an author with incredible range when it comes to telling stories, horror, historical fiction, and now espionage, no genre can wear her down.

In this story, we follow the lives of two female CIA agent. One is Lyndsay, who was once the CIA’s number one agent, but is now sent on administrative leave, and the other is Theresa, whose husband was killed under mysterious circumstances, and she has been trying to escape from the shadow ever since. When Lyndsay is provided with an opportunity to hunt down a mole from within the CIA, and Theresa has information that can help, an unlikely friendship forms. But there is plenty of action, secrets and twists you won’t see coming in store for you as well.

cover image of Infomocracy by Malka Older

Infomocracy by Malka Older

This one takes us back to the futuristic and world-building elements of a more traditional techno-thriller, but infuses it with four intense character studies. What you can expect going in is a little bit of disorientation as you enter a new world, but it escalates quickly into heart-pounding action.

We are taken to a time in the future where the world has moved to a form of government called ‘micro-democracy’ with 100,000 people in each. As expected, each of these micro-communities votes for their leaders, but like democracy, in reality, a shade of grey hangs over the proceedings. Our story then follows the lives of four characters before, during, and immediately after the vote in the upcoming elections. Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell an uprising about to come.

cover image of Yesterday: A Novel by Felicia Yap

Yesterday: A Novel by Felicia Yap

This fascinating premise leans a little heavy on sci-fi. We have people divided into two groups. One is the Monos, who only have a day’s worth of memories, and the second is the elite Duos, who can remember up to two days. When a woman is found dead, the detective on the case is racing against time and his memory itself, before he forgets all he has found out about the motives and secrets of the people involved. And maybe that’s exactly what the murderer counted on.

This is a little bit like Christopher Nolan’s Memento with the action of a Jack Reacher novel, and it will be enough to keep you glued to your seat.

cover image of The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

Speaking of being glued to our seats, Gailey is another author that takes care of that. They have written books about everything from magical PI wizardry to lesbian librarians kicking butt, and there is not much they cannot do.

Their latest book features Dr. Evelyn Caldwell, an acclaimed geneticist specializing in cloning. But she is having a tough time in her personal life. Her husband, Nathan, who is a less experienced scientist than her, has left her for a cloned, more submissive version of Evelyn herself. Nathan ends up dead through a turn of events, and now it’s up to Evelyn and her clone to figure out what to do with what remains, including Nathan’s body.

Now, this may arguably sound more like domestic suspense, but that will get me started on the injustice of the dichotomous boundaries between the private and the public, and do we have time for that today? So, I am counting it. You have secrets, you have thrills, and you have the technology, VOILA, a techno-thriller.

If you started your techno thriller books journey with authors like David Baldacci, then find some fantastic alternatives here. If you simply cannot get enough of the genre and would like to find recommendations that are personalized to what you like; maybe you like to avoid certain topics, have a low tolerance for violence, then sign up for our very own TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations. Our bibliologists make sure to take into account what works for you, and what doesn’t!

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Super Mario Bros. & 9 More Games That Are Incorrectly Credited As Starting A Genre Tue, 20 Jul 2021 17:16:07 +0000

Oftentimes, the first person or project to do a certain thing isn’t the same one that made a thing popular. This is very true in the world of video games, where the game series that often popularize a genre isn’t the same one that began the genre. There are plenty of examples of this happening in just about every genre under the sun.

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A very popular instance of this is Super Mario Bros. being believed to be the first platformer video game. In reality, this isn’t the case, as the platforming genre did exist before Super Mario Bros. Despite that, many believe Mario to be the pioneer of the platformer.

10 Super Mario Bros. Isn’t The First Platformer, It’s Nichibutsu’s Crazy Climber

Crazy Climber Screenshot

As previously stated, Super Mario Bros. popularized the platformer genre, but it wasn’t the first of its kind. Nichibutsu’s Crazy Climber and Universal’s Space Panic both preceded any game with Mario in it. Both games came out in 1980, but Crazy Climber came first.

Both games involve climbing up a structure while avoiding obstacles. However, neither had the jumping mechanic that is often considered necessary for a platformer. That wouldn’t come until Donkey Kong, which, in fairness, did star Mario, but it still came before the first Super Mario Bros.

9 Neither Ultima Nor Wizardry Were The First Western RPGs, It Was Dungeon

Dungeon Screenshot

The Western roleplaying game was considered to have started in earnest with Wizardry and/or Ultima, but neither was the first actual pioneer of the genre, though both helped popularize it while establishing many of their trademark elements. However, the genre truly kicked off in Dungeon in 1974.

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Dungeon was a text-based adventure game created by Don Daglow. It was followed by graphics-based games in the years leading up to Ultima and Wizadry, namely dnd, avatar, and moria. Temple of Asphai by Automated Simulations came around in 1979 was computing power increased, finally followed by Ultima and Wizardry in 1981.

8 Tetris Popularized But Didn’t Start Puzzle Games, Digger Did

Digger Screenshot

Tetris and Minesweeper are often considered the first true puzzle game, and they did help popularize the genre in an exciting manner. However, it wasn’t the first true puzzle video game to exist.

Digger, known as Heiankyo Alien in Japan, was the first true puzzle game to exist in electronic form. It was created by the University of Tokyo in 1979. It involved navigating a maze and digging holes to trap invading aliens.

7 King’s Quest Was Preceeded By Colossal Cave Adventure In The Adventure Game Genre

Colossal Cave Adventure Screenshot

King’s Quest is one of the most long-lived adventure game franchises in existence, and it is quite old. However, it wasn’t the first adventure game of its type. Zork predates it by a bit and is often credited as the pioneer of the genre as well, and it is the first adventure game to be graphics-based.

However, Colossal Cave Adventure was the true first adventure game, albeit text-based. It was developed by William Crowther and Don Woods in 1975.

6 Elite Was The First Sandbox-Style Video game, Not Grand Theft Auto III

Elite 1984 Videogame Screenshot

Grand Theft Auto III is considered the pioneer of the single-player sandbox game genre, and many sandbox games that followed were even called “GTA clones” for a time. However, the idea of an open-world game in which the player can explore, adventure in, and generally find their own fun long predates GTA III.

Elite is a space exploration simulator with wireframe graphics from 1984. It was developed by David Braben and Ian Bell. It allowed the player to fly a ship through space, trade with merchants, explore the universe, and fight enemies as they appear. It’s the game that was succeeded by Frontier: Elite, Frontier: First Encounters, and Elite: Dangerous.

5 Herzog Zwei Isn’t The First RTS, It Was Actually Utopia

Utopia Videogame Screenshot

Herzog Zwei is considered the first true real-time strategy game, and it did pioneer many of the aspects of the genre. However, it isn’t the first true RTS game. That title belongs to Utopia by Mattel Electronics in 1982. Admittedly, it’s more of a city or civilization management simulator than a proper RTS war game.

In that regard, the Herzog series is still preceded by Bokusuka Wars by Koji Sumii in 1983, which allowed the player to oversee a war between different factions.

4 Neither DOOM Nor Quake Pioneered The FPS, It Was Wolfenstein 3D

Wolfenstein 3D Screenshot

Id Software’s DOOM and Quake are considered the first first-person shooters in video game history to the point that many early FPS games were called “DOOM clones.”

Ironically, these games are stealing the credit from yet another Id Software video game, Wolfenstein 3D. This was the first true FPS, which was preceded by Castle Wolfenstein and Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, both platforming shooters.

3 Dragon Quest Wasn’t The First JRPG, It Was… A Bit More Complicated Than That

Hydilide Cover Art

Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest are often considered the first JRPGs, and Dragon Quest kind of is, in a way. It’s the first game that checked most of the boxes of what is considered a Japanese RPG. However, in a more literal sense, Dragon Quest was beaten out by a few games.

RELATED: 10 Games Unfairly Called Pokémon Rip-Offs (& Why They Aren’t)

1982 saw Koei’s Underground Exploration and Pony Canyon’s Spy Daisakusen as the earliest manifestations of a JRPG. Koei’s The Dragon Princess later in 1982 came closer to a traditional JRPG with random encounters and turn-based action. 1984 saw Falcom’s Dragon Slayer, T&E Soft’s Hydilide, and Courageous Perseus by Cosmos Computer. These brought Japan closer to the JRPG one thinks of when the genre is discussed. There was also Black Onyx in 1984, which was developed by non-Japanese company Bullet-Proof Software, but it was highly influential in Japan and helped push things towards Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy.

2 Island Of Kesmei Preceeded The Likes Of Everquest And Ultima: Online

Neverwinter Nights Screenshot

Everquest is usually thought of as the first MMORPG, and it did solidify many major aspects of the genre. Ultima: Online is another one often credited for kicking off the genre, but there were a pair of games that finally led to the idea of an MMO.

Island of Kesmei by Kesmei was a 1985 multi-user dungeon, or MUD, that was released commercially and had many of the hallmarks of a modern MMORPG. Kesmei wasn’t the first MUD, but it helped bridge the gap between MUD and MMO. Habitat by Lucasfilm Games and Quantum Link was the first attempt at a true MMO game in 1986, though it wasn’t an RPG. Everything really came together at last with Neverwinter Nights by Stormfront Studios in 1991. It was the first true MMORPG and was a video game adaptation of Dungeons & Dragons.

1 Resident Evil And Alone In The Dark Weren’t The First Survival Horror Games

Sweet Home Videogame Screenshot

Alone in the Dark is often given credit as the first survival horror game, though others mistake that honor for belonging to Resident Evil. However, neither game is the true first entry into the survival horror genre.

The first survival horror game is 1982’s Haunted House by Atari. 1987’s Shiryou Sensen: War of the Dead by Fun Factory is another early entry into the genre and has been considered the first true survival horror in the past. However, everything seemed to come together with Sweet Home in 1989 by Capcom. It is an adaptation of a Japanese horror movie with the same name. It had all the elements that would later be used by Resident Evil and seemed to truly cement the genre.

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In ‘Fear Street,’ a Lesbian Romance Provides Hope for a Genre Tue, 20 Jul 2021 07:28:11 +0000

They’re also the heroes. In a tender scene in “1994,” when Sam finally stops denying her feelings for Deena moments before the former becomes possessed, Deena makes a crucial vow to Sam. “Tonight, even though we are in hell, I feel like I have another chance with you,” she tells her. “I am not going to lose you again. Because you and me are the way out.”

This simple statement is often heard in horror, but it’s usually uttered by a man to his female love interest. In “Fear Street,” the promise of a future feels more significant: It signals a change that requires Deena to be sent back to 1666. There, as Sarah Fier, the queer woman who was persecuted as a witch and hanged on account of her love for another woman (also played by Welch), she can seek justice against the same kind of hatred and violence that keeps Deena and Sam apart in the present day.

In “1666,” Janiak wanted to highlight the idea that women who were accused of being witches back then were those who merely didn’t fit the standard.

They were labeled witches “because they were other, because they were looking too long at the other girl, or because they didn’t want to get married,” she said. “They weren’t falling in line with whatever societal lines were.”

As it turns out, the animus that humankind displays — as with Solomon (also played by Zukerman), who rallies an entire town to persecute Sarah in “1666” — is just as deadly as a witch’s curse, if not more so. It allowed Janiak to look beyond the supernatural scares to examine the evils of our fellow man. “That, to me, is always the scariest thing,” Janiak said. “I thought this was a cool opportunity that we could visit crazy genre villains, but then ultimately get to that underlying thing of ‘Who’s the real monster here?’”

Ultimately, the “Fear Street” films are aspirational — though there is obviously much carnage along the way. Deena and Sam help to save the town, but more important, they preserve their love for each other. “The trilogy allowed us to give a little bit of hope that I don’t think usually exists in horror movies,” Janiak said, and with a laugh added, “When you only have an hour and a half, you’ve just got to kill everyone. But the experiment of the movies allowed us to push and question and change things a little bit.”

And it was necessary.

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Scopely Invests $50 Million in European Gaming Studios Mon, 19 Jul 2021 07:06:54 +0000


 Culver City-based mobile gaming company Scopely Inc. invested a combined $50 million in three boutique European game studios, the company announced July 19.
 Scopely invested in Barcelona, Spain-based Omnidrone; Leamington Spa, England.-based Pixel Toys Ltd.; and Dundee, Scotland-based Tag Games. 
All three companies focus on mobile game development. The companies will work together to develop games across multiple genres, Scopely said. 
“Scopely’s investment in our team allows us the freedom to create a truly unique, fresh and ambitious atmosphere at Omnidrone, and attract even more talent to our studio,” Omnidrone Chief Executive Gerard Fernandez said in a statement.
 “We can combine the agility of a boutique games studio with the expertise, leadership, and transformative technology of Scopely.” Scopely’s partnerships with Omnidrone and Pixel Toys will be for the development of “yetto- be-announced midcore” games. Its partnership with Tag Games is to co-create a title that will expand Scopely’s multiplayer online games slate. 
The company’s investment in these studios is a part of its strategy to grow its international footprint. It has more than 500 employees across London; Barcelona; Dublin; and Seville, Spain. 
It also has a presence across Asia in Seoul, South Korea; Shanghai; Singapore and Tokyo. “These studios share our vision to create extremely meaningful, dynamic experiences for players and represent outstanding passion and expertise in their respective genres,” Tim O’Brien, Scopley’s chief revenue officer, said in a statement. Founded in 2011, Scopely has a portfolio of nine mobile games for casual and core gamers. The company has found success with games based on popular entertainment brands, such as “Star Trek Fleet Command,” “Marvel Strike Force” and “Looney Tunes World of Mayhem.”

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Series aim to engage, build commuity Sun, 18 Jul 2021 06:30:01 +0000

Between the Momentary in Bentonville and its big sister space just up the road, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, music lovers in Northwest Arkansas can enjoy an outdoor concert every day of the weekend through the summer.

Crystal Bridges is in the middle of its summertime Forest Concert Series, with concerts on Saturdays, and the Momentary began hosting Live on the Green on Friday nights and Courtyard Sessions on Sunday nights earlier in the summer.

“One of the things that’s particularly beautiful for me about the Momentary is how many different spaces we have for artists to engage with and activate,” offers Pia Agrawal, curator of performing arts.

The Green, she explains, may feel more like a park setting. Visitors can bring a blanket or lawn chair, the whole family can come out on a Friday night, local and regional names with more members can be accommodated under the canopy.

On Sunday nights, the Courtyard Sessions maintains itself as kind of a social casual atmosphere, she suggests. The intimacy of the smaller space, with the RØDE Bar and a food truck sitting right there, establishes a different vibe, Agrawal says.

“One of the things that tie them together for us is we’re hoping that you discover artists you haven’t heard before, even if it’s one that’s living in your own back yard,” she shares. “Through the series, through the environment that we’re offering, we’re hoping that people are taking the chance to discover something new. In that way, the series are really tied together; they just offer different environments and different vibes for our audiences to engage with the music.”

So far, the Live on the Green series has presented concerts in collaboration with local organizations Al Bell Presents and Anthony Ball of Smoothman Music Productions and Music Moves. The Courtyard Sessions are presented in partnership with local arts services organization CACHE (Creative Arkansas Community Hub & Exchange). The exchange is part of the Northwest Arkansas Council.

“It’s artists all at different stages of their career, but really focusing more on Northwest Arkansas-based artists, with some smaller acts — DJs, trios, work that I think finds itself sounding better in a little bit more intimate setting,” Agrawal says of the Courtyard Sessions series.

“This series with the Momentary is going to be one microcosm of us trying to get a few more types of genres and sub-genres and whatnot in front of other folks who may not experience that on a daily basis,” adds Jesse Elliott, creative ecosystems director with CACHE.

“One thing that I love about this area is this incredible diversity of artists,” he continues. “We don’t always realize how many different artists across all different genres are doing all these interesting new things.”

“We built this space, and the vision and the mission of the Momentary, around really being a community space and a gathering place for community, and now we’re able to achieve that pretty differently than we were in the last year,” Agrawal muses.

And that extends to the artists as well, she asserts. When talking about community, artists are also a part of that. So, when it comes to the needs of artists — having the space to perform, how and when to be creative after coming out of a pandemic, building an audience — these are all the needs the community as well.

“To go back to the sort of core mission, core value for the Momentary, is to build community around that work,” Agrawal says. “And what that looks like, we’re going to be constantly evolving and paying attention to and listening to, because it’s the people — it’s people seeing art, experiencing art — that makes it a community experience.”

Photo by Ironside Photography / Stephen Ironside.

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Live on the Green

WHEN — 7 p.m. Fridays

Courtyard Sessions

WHEN — 7 p.m. Sundays

WHERE — The Momentary, 507 S.E. E St. in Bentonville

COST — Both series are free

INFO — 367-7500,

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Biz Markie, hip-hop and beatboxing pioneer, dead at 57 Sat, 17 Jul 2021 00:39:54 +0000

LOS ANGELES – Biz Markie, the rapper, singer and actor behind the 1989 hit “Just a Friend,” died Friday in Baltimore. He was 57.

“It is with profound sadness that we announce, this evening, with his wife Tara by his side, hip hop pioneer Biz Markie peacefully passed away,” his rep Jenni Izumi said in a statement to Rolling Stone.

He had been suffering from complications due to diabetes, according to TMZ

Markie made a splash in hip-hop with the single “Just a Friend” in 1989, off of his second album, “The Biz Never Sleeps.” The song’s signature piano melody (interpolated from Freddie Scott’s “You Got What I Need”) matched with Markie’s narrative-driven rapping and raspy, off-kilter singing voice, made it a success — reaching No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart — and an eventual oldies favorite.

Its music video, too, was a hit, detailing Markie’s romantic problems in a humorous way, including a scene of Markie at the piano dressed as Mozart.

Born Marcel Theo Hall on April 8, 1964 in Harlem, N.Y., Markie was raised on Long Island and began his music career performing in night clubs and colleges, eventually finding himself a member of Marley Marl’s famed Juice Crew, where he performed as a beatboxer alongside the likes of Roxanne Shant? and MC Shan. (Though he didn’t pioneer the technique, Markie was one of beatboxing’s most visible early practitioners.)

He released his debut album, “Goin’ Off,” on the Cold Chillin’ imprint in 1988, with singles “Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz,” “Vapors” and “Nobody Beats the Biz” helping him break into the top 100 of the Billboard album chart. His sophomore record, “The Biz Never Sleeps,” followed in 1989, quickly going Gold on the success of “Just a Friend.”

With his third album, 1991’s “I Need a Haircut,” Markie found himself at the center of one of the most consequential battles over copyright law and sampling in hip-hop, when ’70s singer-songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan sued the rapper for sampling his song “Alone Again (Naturally)” without permission.

The case went to trial, with the judge ruling against Markie, and even referring him to criminal court on possible charges of “theft.” A criminal case was never brought, but the matter wrought huge changes to the way hip-hop producers approached sampling going forward, as well as substantial setbacks for Markie’s career. (Markie made cheeky reference to the case with the title of his next album, 1993’s “All Samples Cleared!”)

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‘Torch Song,’ ‘Barefoot’ genre bookends for The Studio Players’ season Thu, 15 Jul 2021 12:01:12 +0000

If you’re not sure you’re sold on one production by The Studio Players, wait five minutes. Something totally different will come along.

The community theater organization that feeds on edgy but loves nostalgia for dessert is offering both Harvey Fierstein‘s “Torch Song” (Sept. 10-26) and Neil Simon‘s “Barefoot in the Park” (March 18-April 10) in its coming season. Sprinkled in among those two are:

  • “Nuts” (Nov. 5-21), the Tom Topor courtroom drama of a call girl who fights her parents’ motion to declare her mentally unfit and spare her the charge she is facing. Barbra Streisand created the character in a 1987 film adaptation of the play.
  • “Slow Food” (Jan. 14-30), a new play by Wendy MacLeod about a couple whose anniversary dinner evening has holes punched in it by an importuning waiter who wants to micromanage their experience.
  •  “All New People” (June 3-19), a comedy by Zach Braff about a man whose plans to commit suicide are continuously interrupted by strangers who could have easily driven him to the brink themselves.

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Rick & Morty Mocks The Action Genre’s Worst Tropes Tue, 13 Jul 2021 23:37:00 +0000

Rick and Morty “Rickdependence Spray” features one of the series’s most bizarre stories — here’s how the episode was designed to mock action tropes.

Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for Rick and Morty season 5 episode 4 “Rickdependence Spray.”

If there is one thing Rick and Morty loves to do, it’s making fun of tropes — and the action genre’s worst tropes have become its target in season 5, episode 4, “Rickdependence Spray.” The action genre is laden with rapid-fire, thinly put-together plots, testosterone-packed characters, and sexism. Here’s how “Rickdependence Spray” highlights all of the worst elements of the genre.

After Morty uses horse breeding equipment from Beth’s vet hospital, one of Rick’s experiments — which was supposed to create a beast that would help them fight cannibalistic horses called CHUDS — creates sentient beasts out of Morty’s sperm. Rick and Morty have to work together to prevent the “space sperm” from taking over the world while keeping the truth of the beasts’ origins a secret. The episode is riddled with explosions, pacts with the cannibalistic CHUDS, oversized eggs that turn into rockets, and a Giant Incest Baby.

Related: Rick & Morty’s ’90s Episode Proved How Much The Series Has Grown Up

“Rickdependence Spray” is one of the series’s most bizarre storylines — but that’s part of the bit. The episode has Rick and Morty continuously breaking the fourth wall to point out how farfetched the plot of the episode is — just like the plots of most action movies. There’s little explanation for the developments in the plot (including why Morty’s friend Sticky has two tails), which come at a rapid pace, but the episode makes up for it with plenty of guns and explosions. It doesn’t attempt to make sense of these developments — the ridiculousness of the Sperm Queen’s existence and their ability to build infrastructure and trebuchets without hands is pointed out by Rick, but is ignored in favor of more violence, as most plot holes in action movies are.

Much like most trope-filled action flicks, the Rick and Morty episode is fueled by testosterone. The episode is filled with explosions, guns, and literal sperm. All of this testosterone was funneled into one person to create Blazen, the katana-wielding expert sent in by the President to help Rick and Morty defeat the space sperm. Blazen is the epitome of an action hero trope; he’s muscular, he silently broods, has a mononym, and is married to supermodel Kathy Ireland. Though Blazen doesn’t get much screen time, he is an amalgamation of every cliche, male protagonist in the action franchise. Brazen’s existence serves to poke fun at how vapid and similar most action protagonists can be — and his sacrifice ultimately had little impact on the plot.

The episode also highlights the inherent sexism that action tropes replicate. When the President is planning their attack on the space sperm, he says he’s sending his best men with Rick — when Summer interjects to add women, he replies that he doubts “their leader will be a sexy queen who needs to be kickboxed,” before ordering “100% male Marines.” This bit pokes fun at the lack of women in action genre casts and the fact that when they are included, they’re relegated to stereotypical roles. The joke is continued toward the end of the episode with the inclusion of the Sperm Queen, who comments that they can’t defeat her because they “didn’t bring a woman that can kickbox” — a critique on the fact that action tropes love to pit the one female hero against the one female villain, typically in hand-to-hand combat. The Sperm Queen’s armor is also sexualized; an issue that faces female characters in a large number of action movies. There is also the running gag of Summer’s ideas being ignored and claimed by a man, which Beth says makes her a woman. Sexism is a rampant action trope, and Rick and Morty isn’t afraid

Next: How Rick and Morty Season 5 Explains Rick Is The Show’s Best Villain

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Genre round-up — the best in children’s books Mon, 12 Jul 2021 04:00:44 +0000

The extraordinary popularity of the late Eric Carle’s books isn’t simply due to the vivid collage artwork or the text that can endure umpteen re-readings. A good picture book, if it’s to stand the test of time, should have some universal lesson embedded within. In the case of Carle’s best-known title, The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969), the imagery of a food-fattened caterpillar becoming a glorious butterfly teaches that change may be difficult but can also be positive.

David Ouimet’s I Get Loud (Canongate, £12.99) conveys a similar message. A girl who expresses herself demonstratively, symbolised by the bright red kite she flies, finds companionship in a smaller, quieter girl. The pair then become displaced from their home town. They cross the sea in separate boats, part of a flotilla of desperate, haunted-looking refugees, and are reunited in a new land.

The language is poetic while the illustrations are darkly gorgeous, with muted hues and linework as blocky as a woodcut. The book is a follow-up to 2019’s I Go Quiet and, like its predecessor, offers balm to the introverted and to anyone unsure of their place in the world.

Sunflower Sisters (Owlet Press, £7.99) by Monika Singh Gangotra and Michaela Dias-Hayes is likewise about two girls who are friends. Amrita and Kiki come from different communities — south Asian and Nigerian respectively — and find commonality in their love of bright dresses. The book also tackles colourism: the belief in some cultures that paler skin is more desirable. Self-acceptance, regardless of familial pressures, is the focus here.

The theme of Daisy’s Dragons (Studio Press, £6.99) is feelings. Each of Daisy’s key emotions — happiness, calmness, anger, fear, sadness and bravery — manifests as a dragon that only she can see. When they get out of control, some of the dragons loom larger while others dwindle and disappear. The solution lies in a balance of all six and the understanding that even feelings that seem negative are there for a reason. The book, by Frances Stickley and Annabel Tempest, is lovingly rendered and its central conceit is well sustained.

The Cat and the Rat and the Hat (Nosy Crow, £11.99), by Em Lynas and Matt Hunt, is a more rambunctious affair. A cat and a rat vie over a shocking-pink hat. Then, to complicate matters further, along comes a bat in a no-less-pink cravat, resulting in a dispute that nobody wins. The text’s pounding rhyme scheme will be picked up by toddlers in no time, and the knockabout humour, which owes something to Tom and Jerry cartoons, is a hoot.

The latest from collaborative cohabitees Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet, I Spy Island (Simon and Schuster, £6.99), sees a treasure chest wash up on the shores of a sentient desert island. At first the chest is standoffish, keeping apart from the other inhabitants — a glove, a banana, a bottle and a bird — in order to protect the valuables inside it. Soon enough, though, it’s joining in their games, and even sacrifices its riches to give its newfound friends shelter during a storm. There’s surely a moral about the “one per cent” here; there’s also the gaudy, nonsensical fun we’ve come to expect from the creators of Barry the Fish With Fingers and Supertato.

Lo Cole’s We Want a Dog (Sourcebooks, £13.99) is a more toned-down affair. The art restricts itself to a palette of black, white and red and has a beautiful design aesthetic. The text lists all the kinds of dogs one might adopt, and their various drawbacks, before coming to the conclusion that a cat might make a better pet. Dog lovers know, however, that imperfections are all part of the fun.

Speaking of which, Barbara Nascimbeni’s pleasingly whimsical Home Alone (Thames & Hudson, £10.99) imagines what our canine friends get up to while we’re out of the house. In the case of Frido, it’s scootering, raiding the fridge, having guests round, ordering pizza, and even doing yoga. And definitely not making a mess.

Lisa Sheehan’s Just Being Ted (Buster Books, £6.99) is a lovely fable about a shunned, misunderstood dragon with a creative soul. He infiltrates the bears’ picnic disguised as one of them in order to make friends, only to discover that being himself is enough.

A sense of loneliness in a time of coronavirus permeates the book, as it does more explicitly in The Longer the Wait, the Bigger the Hug (Faber, £6.99). Here, hug-loving Hedgehog — from two earlier books by Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar — emerges from hibernation yearning for best friend Tortoise, who is nowhere to be found. The simplicity of the tale resonates.

The Wonderful World Was Waiting (Owlet Press, £7.99) by Lauren Fennemore and Zoe Damoulakis, is specifically about lockdown, with mentions of masks and the two-metre rule. These references will date it quickly, but it’s a book very pertinent to the here and now.

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‘Till Death’, ‘The Vigil’ and ‘The Night’: Three single location genre wonders that will leave you very impressed | Opinion Sat, 10 Jul 2021 01:52:25 +0000

JULY 10 — One of the things that never fails to impress me when it comes to genre films is how resourceful the filmmakers had to be in order to execute their vision, often working with very low to no budgets and normally having to make do with less than professional and even amateur acting talents. 

It is, more often than not, the most hardcore kind of DIY and independent filmmaking applied to tell popular and low-brow stories, therefore needing some really solid filmmaking skills and craftsmanship in order to deliver a good final product.

While the past few years have seen some ambitious genre filmmakers even going as far making one-shot films like La Casa Muda from Uruguay (which was remade in Hollywood as The Silent House), Let’s Scare Julie, Victoria and the little-seen Canadian thriller Broken Mile, a more feasible and budget-friendly option would be to make a film set in very few locations, or even better, a single location.

The most famous of these is surely Buried (in which Ryan Reynolds is trapped inside a coffin throughout the film) and the recent Netflix hit Oxygen (which is basically Buried set in outer space), but there are plenty of other good and relatively obscure examples out there like Pontypool, Frozen, Splinter and Coherence.

As John “Hannibal” Smith used to say in The A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together, and when I saw the latest Megan Fox movie Till Death a few days ago, I knew that it’s time to write about some new single location genre movies that came out in the first half of 2021, so dig in!

Megan Fox plays Emma, who’s been cheating on her husband and is plagued by guilt because of it, and on the eve of their wedding anniversary, decided to end the affair. — Screen capture via YouTube/ONE Media

Till Death

Not strictly a single location movie (which applies to all three movies here), as the film’s setup in the first 5 to 10 minutes involved a few other locations as well, but once it settles at its main location at a remote lake house, that’s the only place where all the action occurs afterwards. 

This being SK Dale’s feature film directing debut, Megan Fox was the initial draw for me when deciding to dive into this one, which I’m sure will be the case for everyone else checking this movie out as well.

Fox plays Emma, who’s been cheating on her husband and is plagued by guilt because of it, and on the eve of their wedding anniversary, decided to end the affair. 

Long story short, as an anniversary surprise, her husband takes her to their lake house after dinner. Waking up the next morning, Emma finds herself handcuffed to her husband, after which her husband promptly shoots himself in the head, with Emma later finding out that the house has been stripped of anything that might let her communicate with the outside world or cut herself loose from her husband.

This being a thriller, of course this is all part of her husband’s grand plan to punish her for her affair, and so begins a tense and thrilling tale of survival as all sorts of twists and turns start to reveal themselves as the plot progresses, and Dale stages everything with exemplary finesse and resourcefulness, making this film a rock-solid calling card for when Hollywood must surely come calling next.

The Vigil

Also using the first few minutes to establish the story at other locations, debuting director Keith Thomas then quickly settles on a single location when its main character Yakov (a superb Dave Davis), a young Hasidic man who’s left ultra-Orthodoxy behind, was asked by a rabbi to become a “shomer” — a Jewish tradition of watching over a body from the time of death until burial — for a recently deceased old man named Mr Litvak, for money of course. 

You know what happens when you leave someone with a dead body in a horror film, right?

Set entirely within the house from then on, barring a few moments when he futilely tries to escape and leave it, it is simply outrageous how much suspense and scares Thomas manages to wring out of such a simple setup. 

Cleverly using Jewish folklore to tell his story, the film benefits greatly from concepts we’ve rarely seen, perhaps even never seen, in a horror film before, this time of a “mazzik”, which is a demon from Talmudic lore. 

This is a superb horror flick about Jewish trauma that seamlessly blends the expected horror thrills with more personal issues regarding Jewish identity, and the never-ending battle between tradition and modernity.

The Night

If The Vigil was about the Jewish experience in modern-day America, how neat is it that we’re also served with another immigrant experience, this time of Iranians settling down in the USA, but wrapped up in the form of a horror movie as well. 

Debuting director Kourosh Ahari’s film, shot in Los Angeles, in which every department head is Iranian-American and with at least 80 per cent of the dialogue in Farsi, was the first American-made film to be invited to screen commercially in Iran, such is how thickly Iranian it is.

We first meet married couple Babak Naderi (Shahab Hosseini from The Salesman and A Separation) and his wife Neda (Niousha Jafarian) during a dinner with their Iranian friends, and on their drive home they seem to be unable to navigate their way using their GPS, leading them to decide to spend the night at a hotel, which is of course the single location that I’ve been talking about.

Part The Shining and part Barton Fink, Ahari has delivered an outstanding debut film, littered with plenty of superbly effective scares yet unique enough psychologically to stand out from the usual horror pack. 

As the Eagles have famously said in Hotel California — you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave. Haunting.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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