Kakegurui Review (TV Show, 2018)

I warned you to stay tuned for this during the Kakegurui anime review last week. 

The success of the Kakegurui manga and anime in 2017 led to the production of a 10-episode live action adaptation released in 2018. It's the same story, only told with real life actors and a whole lot less of the disturbing sexualization of teenagers from the cartoon.

Kakegurui is about an elite school ruled by gambling. The student government ranks students based on earnings and donations to the school, and only the best gamblers can keep themselves at the top. The bottom 100 students are treated as house pets, students who must do anything asked of them until they can pay their way out of debt through gambling. A new student, Yumeko, enters the school excited to play any and every game she can with ridiculous stakes. She drags new house pet Ryōta along as her tour guide, forcing him to witness some of the most absurd and depraved gambling you've ever imagined.

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Tau Review (Film, 2018)

Cinema has an obsession with exploring artificial intelligence. It's almost innate to the medium. We're talking about a history that goes all the way back to Metropolis in 1927. The trend really took off in the wake of 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968, but the tropes of the trend were already pretty well established at that point. When you're watching a film about artificial intelligence, you're in for a story about what defines humanity, creation, and morality.

Tau is a science fiction/thriller about scientific experiments in a smart house. Julia (Maika Monroe) is kidnapped by Alex (Ed Skrein), a programmer and scientist, for experimentation. Alex's goal is to create the most advanced, adaptive artificial intelligence system ever. His current model, Tau (the voice of Gary Oldman), is tasked with protecting his mansion, overseeing the experiments, and doing everything per Alex's orders. Once Julia breaks free of her literal restraints, it's up to her to convince Tau of his own humanity to save her own life. Can a computer program ever learn to think and feel like a human? What happens if we train them to? Who gets to define humanity?

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Kakegurui Review (Anime, 2017)

Kakegurui is a manga turned anime (turned live action series--stay tuned) about an elite school in Japan with an unusual set of rules. Your status is determined by your gambling abilities. The student council ranks students based on their winnings and donations to the school. Win your student-created casino games and you stay at the top of the class; lose, and you wind up as a house pet to the rest of the student body. House pets have to do whatever anyone else commands and can only free themselves by gambling their way out of debt.

Yumeko Jabami is a new transfer student to the school and she is eager to participate. She is partnered up with a new house pet, Ryōta Suzui, for a tour of the school that quickly turns into some of the highest stakes games in the history of the school. Yumeko is driven by the thrill of the game, not winning or losing, and always finds ways of pushing her opponents to bet more than they have on single rounds of increasingly convoluted games.

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The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit Review (PC Game, 2018)

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is a free standalone game in the Life is Strange universe. You play as Chris, a young boy who wants to be a superhero. He lives with his father, a grieving alcoholic with rage issues. The pair are spending their first Christmas together without Chris' mother, who you discover has passed away. Chris is left to pick up the pieces and do everything he can to keep his father happy and become Captain Spirit.

The game plays out in a close approximation to real time. You have about 90 minutes of playtime to achieve as many goals as you can. Some are purely Chris having fun--build your superhero suit, piece together a map to buried treasure--while others are chores reimagined as superheroic events--resetting the water heater, cleaning up the house. Whatever you choose to do has a direct impact on how your adventure unfolds.

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Ant Man and the Wasp Review (Film, 2018)

It feels strange to be at the point in cinematic history where there are so many superhero films being released that we can get past the amazing/terrible dichotomous reaction. Ant-Man and The Wasp is the fifth new superhero film of the year so far. That's not even counting the home video market for animated superhero films or the ever-increasing number of superhero shows on television and streaming services. The genre is being embraced and consistently does well at the box office and in ratings. It's more of a story now when something blatantly fails (like Inhumans or Iron Fist) than if something succeeds.

We're also, mercifully, at the point where superhero films can just be fun. Each of the main Marvel branching series has a pretty clear tone and the Ant-Man universe is just comedy. There's a slapstick element to a series of characters whose abilities are changing size or phasing through matter and it's used to tremendous effect in Ant-Man and the Wasp.

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Revenge Review (Film, 2018)

Warning: the film Revenge and this review contain depictions and discussions of rape and violence against women.

I started going into a certain subgenre of horror with my review of Split on Monday, but backed away because the problematic element of Split that really set me off is such a small part of the film (literally one flashback scene) that it seemed a disservice to a true critical analysis to go into it then. I needed to look at other texts. I needed to spend the time to evaluate the film in a more modern context, something I haven't been particularly keen on in recent years.

That subgenre of film is the rape and revenge film and, by the nature of the subject, there's a lot to unpack. These films stem from the exploitation film in the 1960s, a wide-spanning category of cinema driven by budget and screening venue as much as content. A certain audience existed to see both the heinous acts of violence and the fallout and repercussions against the perpetrators. These films are still made today, and the best among them examine a truly disturbing style of film with a critical lens; the worst mindlessly copy what they've seen before with nothing new to say.

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