As with their previous albums, the Gaslight Anthem sing primarily about loves lost, youth lost, and on "Keepsake" lost family. There's a sense of nostalgia for the old days of music as well: The album opens with "45" comparing an old relationship to a '45 record, and the title track proclaims "and to ease the loss of youth/ and how many years I've missed you/ pages plead forgiveness/ every word handwritten." The band only jumps to the present on the mournful album closer "National Anthem," where the band says, "And everybody lately is living up in space/ flying through airwaves on invisible transmissions/ with everything discovered just waiting to be known/ What's left for God to teach from His throne? And who will forgive us when He's gone?"
Fortunately, the band's looks back at old loves and losses is matched by some pretty powerful music. Brian Fallon's vocals are as strong as ever, as packed with emotion and power as Eddie Vedder at his prime. The rest of the band backs him with a punk-sounding sound filled with catchy guitar hooks and exciting drums. Handwritten isn't as deep as some of the Gaslight Anthem's previous albums, but it is as exciting to listen to as any album you're likely to hear this year.
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch
Evan (Ben Stiller) is the ultimate fan of his suburban town of Glenville, Ohio. He manages the local Costco store, loves forming assorted groups in the town, and doesn't share the enthusiasm his spouse Abby (Rosemarie Dewitt) has for New York City. When Costco security guard Antonio Guzman (Joe Nunez) is brutally murdered at the store after it closed, Evan feels the local police (Will Forte and Mel Rodriguez) aren't doing enough to find the killer -- or worse, suspect Evan. So Evan does what he thinks he does best: form a new group, this time a neighborhood watch.
The response to Evan's call to arms doesn't get the best applicants. Bob (Vince Vaughn) is more enthusiastic about drinking and having a good time than fighting crime; he's also obsessed with his teenage daughter's social life. Franklin (Jonah Hill) is a young adult who was rejected by the police force and who tends to play with a knife. And Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) is a cheerful Brit who joined the group with a specific erotic fantasy in mind. The police mock them, teenagers throw eggs at them, and the guys seem to party more than stop crime.
There's a lot of potential humor about life in the suburbs and how aliens would fit in there -- and all of that is completely skipped in The Watch. Stars Stiller, Vaughn, and Hill play the same sort of characters they always play; Ayoade is terrific, but he gets much less screen time than his American counterparts. The humor tends to go for "ironic" slow-motion scenes set to rap music, lots of profanity, and (near the end) action movie heroics. There are several gaps in logic near the end, but in this sort of movie there's no attempt (or, really, need) to resolve them. There are some laughs among the stars, but The Watch settles for strictly superficial humor.
Overall grade: C
Reviewed by James Lynch
First, let me note that Witch of Salem from Mayfair Games is set in H.P. Lovecraft's fictional town of Arkham, not Salem; also the "witch" is Robert Craven, who is more accurately described in the rules as a Warlock. With that out of the way, this is a fun, quick, and simple cooperative game for 2-4 players about battling horrible entities trying to enter our universe.
Players are investigators who wander around the town, trying to close all open portals and then banish the Great Old One in R'yleh. Each investigator starts with six sanity, space to hold three regular items and one gate token, and cards to go to each building in Arkham (plus a Secret Passage that lets an investigator spend a sanity to go anywhere). There are six Great Old Ones around the board, with the first one revealed (face-up) and the final one in R'lyeh.
At the start of each turn, a monster card is drawn. If the monster's copy isn't on the board, it goes to the first available open space. If the monster is on the board, the investigators suffer its effects, from losing items or sanity to shuffling the possible portals to advancing Necron. And if the board is filled with monsters, the drawn card is discarded.
Next, players move (they can never stay in the same place for two turns) by playing an avaliable location card; going to Miskatonic University gets them all their cards back. If a player goes to a location where a monster is, the player rolls a die and suffers the effect if possible; if the Witch is there, no roll is needed. If a player has the 2 items needed to dispel the monster, they can discard it; they can also discard a dagger (if they have it) to discard a monster if the Witch is there. Players can trade items with other players there, use items (the Necronomicon reveals the next Great Old One; the Glasses let a player look at a face-down Portal tile at their location; the Elixir gives 1 sanity, or 2 if used when the Witch is there; the dagger can be used to defeat monsters; and the Artifact can seal a portal). Players can also buy an item at their location: Some are free, while others cost sanity, advance Necron, or require a monster or Event card to be drawn.
After a brief recap of the end of The Dark Knight (with Batman taking the blame for Harvey Dent's murders), we jump ahead eight years. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has retired the Batman and become a recluse in Wayne Manor, wandering its halls with a beard and a cane; he also spent his half his fortune on a source of clean energy, only to pull the plug on it when he learned it could be turned into a weapon. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) has almost rid Gotham City of crime, largely due to "Dent's Law." Alfred (Michael Caine) is still hoping Wayne will find some happiness in life, while Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) keeps coming up with innovative tech for Wayne. There's also a young "hothead" officer named Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who admires Batman (and knows far too easily his secret identity), and a beautiful rich woman named Miranda (Marion Cotillard) who believes in Wayne's clean energy project even when he doesn't.
It all begins with a seemingly idyllic trio of people in Laguna Beach, California. Ben (Aaron Johnson) is a hippie idealist who helps poor people in third-world countries, believes in developing alternative energy, and creates and grows some of the most potent marijuana in the world. Chon (Taylor Kitsch), Ben's best friend and business partner, is a cynical ex-marine who handles the violent side of their drug business. And then there's O (Blake Lively), short for "Ophelia," the blonde beauty who has an open relationship with the two of them. The three enjoy an opulent life of sun, wealth, and friendship.
Young siblings Dipper Pines (Jason Ritter) and Mabel Pines (Kristen Schall) have been sent to spend their summer in the town of Gravity Falls, located in the Pacific Northwest. They're staying with their great uncle Stan (Alex Hirsch), who runs the Mystery Shack. "Grunkle Stan" is a boorish guy, obsessed with money and his hokey, very fake "mysteries" he peddles to tourists. Dipper isn't happy to be there, but Mabel -- a hyperactive "girly girl" -- is thrilled.
But there's more to the sleepy town than meets the eye. Dipper finds a mysterious book with descriptions of the unexplained creatures and supernatural phenomena of the town -- along with the warning "Trust no one." So it's up to Dipper (scared) and Mabel (hyper) to uncover the truth in a town filled with sea monsters, kid psychics, a haunted convenience store, the beheading of a wax figure, and more.
Mike (Channing Tatum) has a dream and business plan to start his own company, designing and making unique furniture out of almost anything he finds. However, Mike makes most of his money as "Magic Mike," a male stripper at the club Xquisite in Tampa, Florida, run by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). Mike has several irons in the fire -- auto detailing, roof tiling -- which brings the young Adam (Alex Pettfyer) into his life. Mike introduces Adam to the world of stripping, introducing him to a world of screaming lustful women, lots of cash (in singles and fives), and other perks. But Adam lives with his sister Brooke (Cody Horn), who may have an interest in Mike but also has grave concerns about Adam's new lifestyle. There are a number of other players -- Joanna (Olivia Munn), Mike's casual-sex girlfriend; Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias), the club DJ with some seedy side projects -- but Magic Mike is mainly about Mike and Adam, moving between Brooke's suspicions about the "stripper lifestyle" and Dallas' gleeful embrace of the same.
Tell me about yourself:
I have had an interest in fantasy worlds for a long time. That partly explains my interest in ancient and medieval history. I have an M.A. from NYU in European history. It is embodied in the world that I created, which is a rough, fantasy approximation of Europe in the time of the Roman Empire.
Why did you write Blood Like Wine?
I have wanted to write a novel for a long time. A very long time. Ever since I read The Lord of the Rings when I was ten I have wanted to make my own version. Some have been just mental creations. Others have found their way into my short stories. World-building is fun! The East, which is what I call the world of Blood Like Wine, is a civilized place beset by barbarism. The Danthesians, my analogue of the Romans, are the dominant power in the world, but they will discover that their position at the top is not so secure as they thought. Their army is strong, but their political class is largely venal and ineffective.
What is Blood Like Wine about?
Numerian is a captain of the Danthesian army, and a great soldier. He is also in love with Acronea, the daughter of Danthesia’s foremost general and politician, Marshal Troponus. They are betrothed, but Numerian can’t marry her without her father’s permission. When Troponus starts a war with a kingdom of the undead, Numerian dutifully follows his commander, knowing that he can wed Acronea in no other way, despite his severe doubts about the wisdom of the invasion. The tragedy that ensues is caused in large part because of this ill-considered war. Numerian, Acronea, and everyone around Marshal Troponus will suffer because of this.
Who are your favorite authors?
My favorite authors are J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, Frank Herbert, and C.S. Friedman. They are all great world-builders and truly original in their writing. Of the four, it is likely that readers have heard of all of them except perhaps for C.S. Friedman, who deserves to be better known. Her In Conquest Born is one of the best science fiction novels that I have ever read.
It says the first novel in the series. How many are planned?
Blood Like Wine is the first novel in the Marshals of the Dominion trilogy. Of course it is a trilogy! I will continue on with the adventures of Numerian and the other characters and explore how the war has changed them.
When can the sequel be expected?
I hope to have it ready within a few months. It is under way right now. These things take time. I put a great deal of thought into the plot, characters, and structure of Blood Like Wine. It is not a haphazard creation, as I hope everyone who reads it will appreciate. The pieces all fit together, and even though I have left the possibility of a sequel open, it is a novel that stands completely on its own.
Where can Blood Like Wine be purchased?
Blood Like Wine can be found in the Amazon Kindle Store and at Smashwords for the Nook, iPad, and other devices for $0.99.
As a child, Peter Parker was left with Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) when someone seemed to be after his scientist father Richard and mother Mary (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz, appearing very briefly in the film). Jump ahead, and Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a lonely teenager picked on by jock Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka) and with a crush on Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone). An accidental discovery leads Peter to Dr. Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans), a colleague of Richard Parker. Curt and Richard worked together on splicing together human and animal DNA; Curt imagines this would both let him regrow his missing arm and improve humanity by removing its weakness. Of course, during the visit Peter Parker winds up in an area where experimental spiders are, and when one bites him, it leads to superhuman spider powers -- and, eventually, the spandex-clad Spider-Man. Similarly, Curt's experimenting on himself transforms him into the Lizard: a giant, disturbingly powerful cgi creature with plans for his transformational formula...