Lots of games involve racing, but Camel Up from Z-Man Games focuses on betting on different parts of the race to earn the most pounds and win the game.  It also has a goofy game mechanic that makes the race pretty unpredictable.

Accommodating between 2 and 8 players, Camel Up players (who start with three pounds each) are betting on a race among five camels (blue, yellow, green, orange, and white) on a sixteen-space course around a pyramid.  An interesting mechanic is how the camels interact: If a camel moves forward and ends its move on the same space as another camel, the moving camel goes on top of the camel that was there.  If a camel with other camels on top of it moves, it carries all camels on top of it with it when it moves.  And in terms of race ranking, the highest camel in a stack is in the lead, then the next-highest camel, and so on.

On each turn, players can take one of four actions.  They can place an Desert tile (Oasis or Mirage side) on the race track, an an empty space that isn't adjacent to another tile.  If a camel lands on an Oasis, the player who owns it gets a pound and the camel moves forward one space.  If a camel lands on a Mirage, the owning player gets a pound and the camel moves backwards; if the move back puts the camel on the same space as another camel, the moving camel goes on the bottom of the stack.
Players can bet on the Leg of the race (when all five dice have been rolled) or the race's ultimate winner or loser.  To bet on a Leg, a player takes the top available Leg betting tile from the board.  The highest tile gives five pounds if that colored camel comes in first on the Leg, one pound if it comes in second, and loses a pound if the camel comes in third or worse.  The next tile gives three pounds for winning, and the last one gives two pounds for victory.  Players can also use one of their five colored cards to bet on the winner or loser of the race.  These are placed face-down on the board and rewarded when the race ends. 
And since camels have to move, players can take one of the five pyramid tiles.  When this is selected,  the player takes the pyramid, shakes it, and releases one die (numbered from 1 to 3).  The camel matching the die color moves ahead that many spaces, and the die goes on the board.  When all five dice have been rolled, the Leg scoring round happens. Players get or lose pounds bases on their Leg betting tiles; players also earn a pound for each pyramid tile they had.  After these are all resolved, the Leg betting tiles are returned to the board and all the dice go back in the pyramid.

When a camel or stack of camels passes the finish line, two things happen.  There's a final Leg scoring round, then the bets for the overall winner and overall loser are resolved.  Awarded in the order of correct bets, the correct bets get eight, five, three, two, and one pounds, for both the first-place and last-place bets; incorrect bets lose the player a pound for each bet.  After that, the player with the most pounds is the victor!

Camel Up is a very simple, fun, and unpredictable game.  Since the camels all move between 1 and 3 spaces, it's rare for a camel to be so far ahead it can never be caught by the others; and it's easy for a camel in the lead to find itself on the bottom of a stack of camels, almost certainly ruining its chances for victory.  The betting system rewards those who bet first, but penalizes those whose bets are incorrect.  And earning pounds through the Desert or pyramid tiles are slow and steady, but not as rewarding as correct bets.  Plus who wouldn't like large piles of multi-colored camels standing on top of each other?  Camel Up is a whole lot of fun for pretty much all ages.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch



Nothing can be as annoying as telemarketers -- or as lucrative.  Sorry to Bother You is a comedic satire of the search for the American Dream, racism, and consumerism.

Cassius "Cash" Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is struggling.  While he ponders what his life means, he's unemployed and living in his uncle's garage.  His chance for change comes when he gets a job as a telemarketer, pushing a lifestyle called Worryfree that seems to offer people contracts for food and shelter -- as well as controversy that they're being used as slave labor for large companies.
When elderly co-worker Langston (Danny Glover) recommends that Cash use a relaxed, confident white person's voice (provided by David Cross), Cash is a huge success and promoted to power caller -- where he's pushing even more morally dubious, lucrative proposals to big businesses.  Meanwhile Cash's girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson), a performance artist and sign spinner, also works as a telemarketer.  And Squeeze (Steven Yeun) is trying to get the telemarketers to unionize.  Oh, and the big boss Steve Lift (Armie Hammer) has a truly bizarre plan to make money -- one that directly involves Cash.
Sorry to Bother You is a strange, funny, and thoughtful satire of modern life.  The question of selling out to make money is nothing new, but the movie takes that to bizarre lengths.  There's a not-so-subtle theme of racism through the movie, from Cash's success once he starts sounding white to when he's forced to rap for an party of all-white people.  Lakeith Stanfield is solid as the hapless success, and the rest of the cast delivers as well.  Sorry to Bother You isn't a classic, but it is original and thoughtful.
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch



While some Marvel movies can be pretty intense, the last Ant-Man movie was a lighter caper film.  Ant-Man and the Wasp continues that tradition, as assorted characters race and battle to get hold of the same item.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is just a few days from finishing his house arrest, he's got a new security business going, and he's ready to stay out of trouble.  Unfortunately, his dreams about Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) lead Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) to conclude that Janet is still alive in the quantum realm -- and they need Scott's help to bring her back to this world.  So they break Scott out of his home, covering for him and telling him it'll be taken care of quickly.
Of course, it's not nearly that simple.  Hank and Hope's plan revolves around their lab, which is in a building that can br shrunk to the size of carry-on luggage.  This is hunted by Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), a woman who can become intangible and needs the lab to cure herself by extracting the energy from Janet -- which could kill Janet.  The lab is also pursued by Sonny (Walter Goggins), a businessman who's promised to sell the lab to some disreputable people.  So soon Scott has become Ant-Man, Hope is the new Wasp, and they're shrinking and enlarging things while fighting the enemies and working together.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is fun.  The movie is more comedy than action, but the action sequences still work pretty well.  There's some nice romantic chemistry between Scott and Hope, and the Ghost is one of the more sympathetic villains of the Marvel universe.  This works well as summer escapism -- and fits in nicely with the Marvel universe.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch



Rhett Miller, lead singer for the Old 97's, has a distinctive voice that would make me listen to him is he read names out of the phone book.  He's also a terrific guitarist who can shift from exciting riffs to melodic, emotional sounds from song to song.  The Interpreter has Rhett covering some of his favorite songs.

Recorded live at the Largo club in Florida before its closing, The Interpreter has a wide variety of songs done by Rhett and his guitar (with occasional piano support).  This near-acoustic approach fits in very well with songs like Simon and Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound" or Bob Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome when You Go."  But it also works for songs that are hardly folk-sounding, whether it's David Bowie ("Queen Bitch"), the Beatles ("I'll Cry Instead") or a Pixies-Ramones mash-up.

Rhett Miller's vocals are terrific through the album, and his guitar works keeps up with his voice perfectly.  The end result is that The Interpreter is an impressive and varied album.

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch