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

Piotrek: Wiedźmin. THE Polish fantasy series, the only one famous enough to break from the genre ghetto and into genuine literature. Well, for the most part, hardcore old-timers refused to acknowledge that anything genre can be worth their attention… losers. Anyway, wiedźmin (“Witcher” in Polish) Geralt of Rivia became famous soon after the first short story was published, and kept the attention of domestic fantasy enthusiast until the final instalment of the saga arrived in Polish bookshops in 1999. It was translated into several, mostly central-European, languages and became quite popular throughout the region. Wiedźmin inspired a disastrous cinematic adaptation, a slightly better (as some people claim, myself I don’t like it at all) comic and, finally, a video game. One of the best video games ever, but let’s concentrate on the books for now.

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Ola: Yeah, let’s ;). I haven’t played a single minute in any of them, and though all I hear around is praise, I’m just… not into computer games, I guess. That’s probably a serious blow to my nerdy cred, but heck. The only computer game I ever enjoyed was Worms… Oh, and that one where with the use of a mouse, a piece of line, a bottle and a plank you had to build a working machine ;).

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Doctor Strange (2016)

Piotrek: After 6 weeks of playing Witcher I finally left home, to go to the cinema. I’ve arrived there late enough not to see the regular commercials, but early enough to enjoy two trailers: Guardians of Galaxy 2 and Rogue One. Both movies look great so far and it was worth half the price of admission 😉 And than Doctor Strange started. Good times continued for the rest of the evening.

Ola: Well, I guess I should start with congratulations! 😛 Did you take a sword or two with you? The roads are so unsafe these days 😉 At least you chose well the reason for leaving your safe harbor for the evening…

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Piotrek: Another solid part of the MCU. Not the best, but one of the very good movies we can count on to hit cinemas a couple times a year. When the comic book movies bubble bursts, I’ll miss it.

Ola: Yeah, Doctor Strange is solid. A curious blend of Inception, Batman Begins, and typical Marvel flavour… One cannot but start to wonder what the movie would look like if Nolan made it… As for the bubble… well, good things come and go ;). And the times we live in promote escapism, so I don’t readily see the end of the trend. I cannot say it saddens me though 😛

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