Review – The Bravados (1958)

This is my first movie review for a while. As some of you may know, almost all of my reviews for new releases can be found on Flickering Myth but I’ve decided to continue reviewing older movies that I’m discovering on here. I won’t review every movie I watch, just ones that have struck me in a particular way. Having said that, I will continue to post the odd review of a new release (expect one for Thor: The Dark World soon). 

The Bravados stars Gregory Peck as Jim Douglas, who plays a grizzled man hunting four men who he believes raped and murdered his wife. He’s tracked them for six months, eventually catching up with them in a small town where they’re awaiting a hanging. The townspeople don’t take too kindly to Douglas’ arrival, his gruff and surly manner seem suspicious to them. However, due to a series of unfortunate events the criminals escape, and Douglas leads a posse to hunt them down as he vows to do the duty that the law couldn’t fulfill.

I love a good revenge thriller, but this had an added layer of depth. As the story unfolds, doubt emerges as to whether these men were the ones who actually committed the crime that Douglas has accused them of. It’s enthralling to see Peck show the journey of this man, a man of utter conviction whose icy demeanour and single-mindedness crumble as he’s forced to question whether he’s done the right thing. 

The Bravados is an engaging and thought-provoking film made all the more captivating by Peck’s strong and compelling performance. At first I was expecting a straightforward revenge thriller but I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the film. It’s one I would highly recommend, even if you’re not a fan of westerns. 

 

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Review – James Dean: The Mutant King by David Dalton

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I enjoy reading biographies, I prefer them over autobiographies because I think you get a more unbiased, objective sense of events. However, that is not always true because sometimes the author’s hero worship blinds them, and sadly this was the case here. 

I enjoy James Dean’s movies but I’ve never really gone beyond that, so I was excited to discover what the man was really like. Obviously he’s an iconic figure and with biographies like these I enjoy seeing the person behind the myth, and while the book delves into his background growing up and some of his motivations to become an actor, I never really got a sense of who James Dean was. It’s certain that he was a complex person, but it seems as though the author wanted to keep him as an enigmatic mystery, and coming out of it I don’t really feel that I learned anything substantial. 

Most of the book was made up of passages waxing lyrically about how mysterious and charming and amazing James Dean was. At no point in the book did I ever feel that I was reading about a human being. It never examined his relationships or friendships, and most of the quotes from people who knew him seemed cherry-picked, and they said mostly the same thing, ‘he was special’ etc. This is all well and good, and for someone who didn’t know much about James Dean going it I’m glad I read it because I got a bit of background on him and his movies, but for someone who is already a James Dean fan I don’t think there’s anything in here that they wouldn’t already know. 

The author also makes some bizarre choices throughout the book, one of the more annoying ones is his insistence to play around with anagrams to try and force through the idea that James Dean was some kind of divine, mythical being. At one point, when discussing East of Eden, the author writes that, “Dean is almost an anagram of Eden,” as if to suggest the idea that it was divine intervention that he was crafted for this role. Firstly, it’s just a coincidence. secondly, ‘Dean’ is one letter away from a lot of other words. David Dalton returns to this throughout the book and they only become more tenuous and groan-inducing. 

I’m aware that this has turned into a very critical review, which I didn’t intend. I think if you don’t know anything about James Dean it’s a pretty good read. I’m glad I did read it. I enjoyed finding out about his background and the events that surrounded him, but I just wish that the author could have separated himself from the subject matter and given a more intimate and human account of James Dean’s life. 

 

 

Review – Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game

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Today I’m going to be talking about a recent purchase of mine, Legendary, which, as you can see, features some of the famous heroes from the Marvel universe. I’ll also talk a little bit about the expansion, Legendary: Dark City, although that only arrived yesterday so I’ve only played a few games. 

In Legendary you don’t play the role of a specific superhero, instead you recruit them into your deck as you go along and you use your cards to fight villains, battle masterminds and try to survive the scheme. The base game comes with a lot of cards. There are heroes like Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, Gambit, Cyclops, Wolverine, Rogue and a few others and in each game you will shuffle together a selection of heroes and try to combine the cards to create powerful attacks, taking on masterminds like Magento, Dr. Doom and Loki. The masterminds are joined by henchmen and other villain groups, and there are a selection of 8 schemes (which are basically like little narratives), and there are a number of ways you can lose to the game. 

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So you can see how the board is set out (some of the cards used in this picture are from Dark City). One of the best things I like about this game is that it can be played solo, because you’re basically playing against the game. At first the concept of playing a board game solo seemed a bit strange to me, I suppose it’s because usually board games are social affairs and part of the reason I enjoy playing is because I get to hang out with my friends while I play them. But then I was thinking about it and I thought about the hours I must have spent playing various versions of Solitaire, or sitting in front of a screen playing a computer game and my reservations seemed silly. That isn’t to say that it’s more fun playing solo, but I’m glad I have the option. 

Legendary is pretty simple to play, the rule book is mostly easy to follow and even though there were a few things I was unsure of it was easy to find the answer. The designer is very active on BoardGameGeek and he’s been around to clear up any questions people have had. I’ve had a lot of fun playing this game. Due to the variety of heroes and schemes and masterminds there is a lot of variation and it’s pretty much guaranteed that no game will be the same. There are a few apps that people have designed to randomize the game set-up, which is handy, but sometimes I like doing themed set-ups as well, for example the X-Men taking on Magneto and the Brotherhood. 

The heroes complement each other really well but they all play a little differently and they all have their unique abilities. I think credit needs to go to the designer for making the heroes feel really individual while maintaining the balance. The variety and flexibility of the game is just amazing, and with one expansion out already and more to follow the re-playability of this game is incredible. 

Speaking of the expansion…

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Yep, 350 new cards, bringing the total up to almost 1,000. And this leads to the original box looking a little something like this:

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A big box o’ fun. The dividers came with the base game, but you have to sort them out yourself. Some people may find that a chore but I found it a fun part of the process I mean, I was going to have to sort through the cards anyway and this gave me a chance to check them out while I was sorting. I also just increased my anticipation for playing the game. Having said that, there weren’t any dividers that came with Dark City, so It was lucky I had some spare ones to use. Be prepared for that if you do buy both of them. Hopefully Upper Deck will include some more in future expansions. I’m also going to sleeve my cards soon as well. They do get shuffled a lot and I’m not ordinarily one to be really fussy about this kind of thing but I know this game will be coming out a lot so I want to keep it in good condition. 

Dark City comes with even more heroes, including Professor X, Jean Grey, Angel, Blade, Daredevil, Elektra, The Punisher, Nightcrawler, Colossus and loads more, and you’ll be battling Kingpin, Mephisto, Mr. Sinister, Stryfe and Apocalypse as well as new villain groups, new scheme twists and a few other little things that I’ll leave as a surprise. 

Now, one of my few criticisms of Legendary is that it’s a little easy. It’s definitely more tense with the more people you play with, but the solo mode can seem a little straightforward. However, this is mitigated by the fact that the game is flexible, so there are ways for you to make the game more difficult, but Dark City…wow it’s tougher. I’ve played five solo games with the expansion so far, two I’ve lost, two were narrow victories and one was fairly straightforward, and I haven’t even touched Apocalypse yet, I can’t wait to try out these new schemes. 

I love this game. The gameplay is fun, the variety is exciting and keeps things fresh, I’m a huge fan of superheroes so I get a big kick out of the theme and I love the strategy of building your deck to create the most powerful combos. With the masterminds and the villains and the scheme twists there’s always something bad around the corner and it can get very tense at times, especially with some of the schemes introduced with Dark City

Now I’ll mention some of the cons. I’ve already talked a bit about how it can feel a little easy, but due to the flexibility of the game that can be mitigated. The one thing that may put of a lot of people is the price. At the moment it’s around £50-60+ for the base set alone. Granted, it’s a big box with a lot of cards but that is a lot of cash. I used a lot of gift vouchers for mine so it wasn’t as big a deal for me, but my eyes did widen in shock when I saw how much it cost. It’s also very hard to find in the UK and Europe. It hasn’t actually been licensed for a European release, so the only copies available are imported, which obviously means they’re scarce, so it may take a bit of shopping around to actually find one. It’s definitely worth it though because you will be playing it a lot. 

Dark City varies in price as well, I think the lowest I’ve seen it for is £29.99, There’s also a smaller Fantastic Four expansion that was released yesterday, so I’m eagerly awaiting that to make its way over here. 

The other negative is the set-up/tear down time. It’s not so bad in a multi-player session because you can delegate the shuffling, but in a solo game it can become tiresome. It also takes a bit of time if you want to change the scheme or the heroes etc in between games. Again, it’s not a huge detrimental factor but it’s just a bit of an annoyance. 

Overall, though, I cannot recommend this highly enough. I’m not saying it’s a perfect game, but it’s really fun, really enjoyable and if you love superheroes you’ll get a big of a kick out of it as I do. 

The Worst Thing That Can Happen to a Writer…

…happened to me. 

Okay, maybe that statement is a bit hyperbolic but this last week has been horrible. Last Friday life faded from my laptop charger. Quickly, before my battery ran out, I ordered a replacement from eBay. Then, miraculously, the charger sparked back to life but alas, it only lasted a day. Since Saturday I have been unable to type. It’s been a killer. This is the first time in about a week that I’ve typed anything and man, does it feel good. 

I’m sure the fellow writers out there can feel my pain. What made it worse is that I’ve recently begun working freelance and I have a number of projects to work on, so I’m a week behind on them, which is very frustrating. However, it wasn’t all bad. I did manage to get some work done on ‘Battle for New London’, a board game a friend and I are designing. I also purchased Legendary and the expansion Legendary: Dark City, a really cool Marvel deck-building game that I’m rather addicted to. A review of that (with pictures!) will be posted shortly. 

 

– Rob