Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Piotrek: Guardians of the Galaxy came out before we started this blog, so I will start with some praise for Volume 1. It is one of my favourite MCU movies, definitely one that made me laugh most (remember, Deadpool is part of the Fox’s side of Marvel). Guardians had superb soundtrack, great team of characters that really worked together, extremely entertaining plot and it took the MCU to the space, introducing characters and places that will be important for the culmination that Infinity War needs to be. It was all put together so well I had no problem with slight inconsequences and a weak villain. And it gave us Groot 😉

Volume 2 is even better. Not as fresh, but seamless, within the framework of its genre – kind of perfect. It’s very different from Logan, but both these movies prove to me that superhero genre matured to the point where it deserves to dominate cinemas. If it all goes downhill from here, I’ll be happy to re-watch what we already have.

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Ola: Yes indeed, Guardians vol. 2 seem to be even better than their predecessor, and that is a feat in itself, as no. 1 was an awesome romp through the adventure and SF genres, with an added secret ingredient – family dramedy :). This time around there’s much more of family drama, and – surprisingly – of SF. A great, complicated not-entirely-villain with the rugged, trustworthy face of Kurt Russel makes for a compelling counterpart to the already established team of the Guardians, and the chemistry between the protagonists takes this movie far beyond what we usually expect from movies based on comic books – or at least MCU.

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Joe Abercrombie, The Heroes (2011)

Piotrek: Two armies march to battle. Black Dow’s Northmen and three divisions of Lord Marshal Kroy’s Union soldiers. They meet and fight for three days, and 500 pages, upon a river, next to a small town of Osrung and a famous hill called The Heroes.

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For a teenage me that would be the good parts distilled. Like what the little boy wanted to hear from his grandpa instead of all the talking and kissing and other boring stuff.

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Oh no, no it isn’t. It’s a fighting book. But not about glorious adventures of dashing heroes. It’s about the blood and piss and human stupidity. With very little magic it’s basically a detailed depiction of a fictional battle between Vikings and an early Renaissance army getting medieval on each other.

Ola: Very much a fighting book; nothing less and nothing more. And it’s not even about a whole war, just about one, maybe not even the most important incident, of this war. It’s Abercrombie at his best, reveling in gore and misery, depicting the primitive, intimate and brutal human fighting in all its terrible glory.

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Logan (2017)

Piotrek: Times are good for comic book fans. Old stuff is easily available, new things are often good, and movies/tv… our genre is probably the strongest one today, with so much being done, everyone can find something nice. Solid stories, visual experiments (Dr Strange, Legion!), profane (Deadpool) and civil (Guardians) comedies… and now Logan.

Ola: The newest instalment in XXth Century Fox X-Men franchise is a story loosely based on the premise of Old Man Logan, one of the most famous graphic novels about Wolverine. It features a post-apocalyptic near future, where United States are in turmoil, symbolized by the absence of the Statue of Liberty, regular institutions such as police or National Guard or medical help no longer work, and the world once again becomes an arena of fight between the weak and the strong. The mutant gene has been suppressed; superheroes are no longer around; and those who stayed behind are not what they used to be.

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The Dresden Files – Cooperative Card Game

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Piotrek: Last week we met with a friend of the Re-Enchantment to play a few games of Dresden Files: Cooperative Card Game, a new game I acquired through Kickstarter. It was a very nice experience and I would highly recommend the game to everyone. It looks great, it is quick – 30-minute claim from the box is not entirely unrealistic, though I’d say 45 minutes are more likely. And it’s Harry Dresden, done right. It’s not only in the art, the spirit of Harry is present in game’s mechanics, and personalities of the characters are recognizable in their decks.

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So, first things first… Dresden Files. The most famous urban fantasy series, probably, although Anita Blake might be even more influential (and almost a decade older). So, maybe the most famous urban fantasy series that does not deteriorate into were-porn ;). And Jim Butcher is a very popular figure, friendly and eager to interact with his fans. Will it stay that way, if he continues to publish mediocre distractions and not long-awaited Harry Dresden novels? Remains to be seen 😀 Right now we had two years without new Harry and I am increasingly annoyed.

Ola: The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is an urban fantasy/mystery series set in contemporary Chicago, where wizards, werewolves, vampires of many rivalling courts, faeries, monsters and demons compete for power. Of course, magic is still discredited, but the underworld of the supernatural seems on the verge of bursting out in the open and threatening the current structure of societies. The series, started in 2000, is now 15 novels long, with a number of short stories, a TV series and several graphic novels on the side. The series became itself a source of geek references, as evidenced in Aaronovitch’s series ;).

Piotrek: We haven’t reviewed Butcher’s series so far, but it’s been mentioned regularly, as a standard against which other UF series are measured, and usually they fail. For me, it’s not great literature, but extremely cool read, sometimes guilty pleasure. The amount of geeky references, extremely likeable characters, humour… lots and lots to like, and written by a very able writer who usually knows when to stop. Dresden Files are everything Iron Druid Chronicles aren’t, for Butcher seems to know the value of restraint, even when (spoiler!) he sends Harry to fight on an undead dinosaur in one of the coolest showdowns of the series.

How cool is Harry? He plays table-top RPG, that’s how cool he is! Sarcastic, genre savvy part-wizard, part-noir detective that grows from novel to novel, collecting friends and enemies while the intrigues go bigger and bigger, and we slowly learn about the Big Picture. Butcher’s mastery is, for me, two-fold. First, he creates extremely readable books. Secondly, he keeps the series interesting, avoids most traps  by letting the characters, and stakes, grow. He’s a master, and Dresden Files might be the pinnacle of the genre that seems to be increasingly dominated by paranormal romance. Although everyone I know, including myself, complains about the way it start. First books were far from perfect.

Ola: Well, I admit, I had a hard time getting into the Dresden Files. It clicked for me only in the fourth book 😉 So if not for a period of several days of convalescence with limited access to books – limited to Dresden Files, exactly – I would be sorely tempted not to continue reading after the first three instalments 😉 And I would miss out a lot – for Dresden Files is a type of series that gets better with each next book (well, almost without exception ;)).

Rodzyn: Last year, following Piotrek’s recommendation, I’ve picked up on Dresden Files. Having been so far around –for most part – around “proper” fantasy genre rather than its Urban branch (apart from Gaiman’s works), Butcher’s novels seemed like a nice interlude from my usual ‘to read’ list. It seems now that I love that kind of lightweight distractions for the reasons stated above by RotW Authors :). 

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John Hurt (1940 – 2017)

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Ola: Sir John Hurt – who hadn’t seen him? Unforgettable Elephant Man, Ollivander from Harry Potter franchise, the dictator Adam Sutler from V for Vendetta and Winston Smith from 1984, Kane from Alien – and from Spaceballs – Trevor ‘Broom’ Bruttenholm from Hellboy, Controller from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Gilliam from Snowpiercer and, for one-hour special episode (and a little bit more, to be precise), War Doctor from Doctor Who. And many more, of course. He was the rare actor who with equal dedication and equanimity accepted roles in contemporary dramas, costume movies, horrors and science fiction flicks. And his presence was always felt.

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Rogue One (2016)

Long time with total radio silence… has ended 😉 It’s been a busy few weeks, pretty hectic and full of work – after all, the end of semester is near and students finally wake up from their usual slumber. And now the before-mentioned and hopefully long-awaited review of the latest installment in the Star Wars universe is finally here :).

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Ola: I’ve written a few words about Rogue One before, promising a longer review later on. Now, after almost everyone who wanted to see it had actually see it, we can safely present our spoiler-full review ;).

Piotrek: Well, I waited two weeks to see Rogue One and I really can’t remember what was that important to prevent me from doing that earlier… because the movie was great, a perfect end to my best year ever (cinema-and nothing else-wise). Now I consider the statue of limitations expired.

Ola: Rogue One is the first in the already announced plethora of tie-ins to the main Star Wars movies trilogies, reaching back to the time before New Hope, when a group of daring Resistance members stole the plans of the mysterious new weapon employed by the Empire – the Death Star, thus enabling the events of New Hope to happen.

Piotrek: A movie built upon a few sentences from New Hope, and settling some age-old controversies. The gods of canon have spoken.

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Andrzej Sapkowski, Witcher (1986-2013), Part Two

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(for Part One, go here)

Piotrek: But before it gets so-so, it is great. I’d like to mention three areas where I believe Witcher shines.

First – elves. And dwarves, I guess. Also, gnomes and halflings, but in less detail. Some of the best versions of classic fantasy races. Not as otherworldly as various insect races of Czajkowski. Way more down to earth than Tolkien’s original versions. Grounded in deep history that we only glimpse at in the books. Very human, that’s true, in many ways, but distinct enough from their homo sapiens conquerors thanks to their old culture and longevity. Persecuted, diminished, morally as complex as everything in Sapkowski’s universe. Often cruel and vengeful, when given a chance. Psychologically much more realistic than elves of Middle-Earth (which does not make me feel less of Tolkien, of course, we are talking about books written in totally different cadence). Dwarves are shorter, even more cynical, expectedly coarse and just as complex.

Second – politics. Realpolitik, necessary sacrifices, ruthless negotiations, hard alliances, betrayals. With wizards. A world where everybody wants to be Machiavelli. And with mages and elves living for centuries, some of the schemes get really complicated. The decorations are deeply rooted in Europe of Middle Ages, with strong – and quite realistic – addition of magic, but the truths about politics are timeless. Everybody can be outplayed, few loyalties last, the most benevolent (if paternalistic) plans lead to disastrous consequences.

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