All posts by Anthony Farrell

Pop culture addict and social commentator offering sarcasm and pointless musings on all things pop culture. From The Walking Dead to X-Men Comics and Vintage Action Figures it's all happening at Thepophub.com

Call of Duty’s Battle Royale Blackout Mode isn’t Really Anything New

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I’ll be honest.  I suck at ‘Battle Royale’ style games.  You know the type.  One giant map, you (or two or four team mates) flying in on a wing suit then parachute to some location, scrounge around quickly for supplies from ammo to weapons and everything in between while trying to be the last man or woman standing all the while a deadly gas closes in on your playable area.

Fortnite and Player Unknown Battle Grounds, two of the biggest and most popular games in this genre have set the tone of what’s to expect within this game mode and Call of Duty have now thrown their hat into the battleground with their own take called ‘Blackout’ which is now in closed beta mode for anyone with a pre-order for the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, due for release in early October.

Blackout is Activision’s way of saying “sorry we’ve killed off solo campaign mode, but here’s a blatant rip off of some other games you ‘might’ enjoy.”  It’s an attempt to fill the void left vacant by the sorely missing solo mode but does it with not much difference from those other game readily available such as two other, very popular releases already with a strong and rabid fanbase.

Between Fortnite and PUBG, Blackout falls heavily into the latter of the two with it’s semi-realistic graphics that we’ve come to expect from CoD.  Thankfully there’s no fort/defense building and there’s an array of vehicles you and your team can take control of to whisk you quickly cross the ever collapsing map.

Dropping into a map, it’s a quick scramble to try and find a weapon of any kind along with backpacks, armor, health packs and ammo along with an assortment of Call of Duty based perks such as Iron Lungs and Dead Silence, among others, before really getting into the game.

That said, and going back to my opener, I truly suck at these games and coming off the face past multiplayer mode, I literally don’t have the patience to sit around and wait (for what seems like an eternity) for the next game to start or run around trying to build myself up only to be taken down in one foul swoop from some random player who was lucky enough to find a sniper rifle and knew how to use it.

Actually, of the ten or so games I have played of Blackout, I have spent more time playing a game of hide-and-seek more than shooting at other players.  In one game, as the last man standing of my squad of four, I managed to survive until the last moments of the game without seeing a single other player.  And such as it goes with this style of game.  Then again, the game shortly after that saw me and my squad drop into a train station, only for me to be taken out within thirty seconds of landing on the ground.

Having played CoD for going on a decade now, I can handle myself nicely within their multiplayer world and if anything, the first person shooter game play does sit nicely within a battle royale setting and makes playing the mode somewhat familiar.  I did find movement, vehicle control, aiming and shooting much more easier within Blackout than I ever did in any other battle royale game.

At the moment, the beta allows maps filled with 80 players compared to the 100 found in other releases, and by the looks of it, may offer some form of character customization with the option to choose playable characters from Black Ops 4’s multiplayer mode and zombie mode along with 4 standard male and female skins that, in all honesty, are pretty boring and bland right now.

Is Blackout a fun game?  Don’t ask me.  Remember, I hate AND suck at battle royale.  Is it a worthy replacement for CoD’s solo campaign mode.  Hell no.  The story-line and characters that make the campaign mode can not be replaced with a game mode such as royale.  But in the end, with three multiplayer options now going on within the world of a single Call of Duty game (Multiplayer, Zombies and Blackout) players will have more opportunity to flick between the gaming style that suits them best.

The closed Blackout beta is now on for PlayStation users and begins on September 14 for Xbox One.  The Blackout beta will end for all platforms on September 17 with the full game launching on October 12.

Do you have any thoughts on the brand new Blackout mode?  Sound off in the comments section!

Update 12/9

After day one of Beta testing, Treyarch announced an increase to the player database per map from 80 players to 88.  Another adjustment is to the item pick up speed which players have noted as being very slow and cumbersome to do.

**WIN**

I have three Call of Duty 4 Blackout Beta Codes up for grabs!  Simply share this post on Twitter and email me your name, country and twitter handle to Anthobuzz@live.com and three random entries will receive a beta code for PlayStation version of Blackout Beta!  Prize drawn Friday, September 14th @ 7pm Australian time.  Winners will be notified by either Email or trough twitter DM.

 

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Why Netflix’s Great News is Your New Binge Worthy Show

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Briga Heelan and Nicole Ritchie star in Great News now streaming on Netflix Australia

To kick this review off, I’ll just start off my saying Great News is…well…GREAT!  Low-ball comedy here from me but Great News comes to us from trusted stock in the form of Tracey Wigfield, Tina Fey and Robert Carlock – all familiar names to those who knew and loved (and still love) 30 Rock.  

The pedigree of those behind the scenes shines through in the cutting yet hilarious take on life behind the camera on The Breakdown, a nightly news program broadcast from New Jersey where executive producer Greg (Adam Campbell) has to deal with egotistical and old-school co-anchor Chuck Pierce (John-Michael Higgins) and his millenial co-host Portia (Nicole Richie) while news producer and lead character Katie Wendleson (Briga Heelan) is trying to vie for meatier stories to work on all the while dealing with her helicopter mom Carol (Andrea Martin) who has just been hired as an intern.

But don’t think that the mother-daughter relationship that plays between Katie who is dying to earn more respect and responsibilities at work and her overbearing mother Carol who has found her way into Katie’s work life as an intern is your usual sit-com fare as the snappy and quick witted script pushes this work place comedy into territory seen in Arrested Development (and of course 30 Rock) and the gone-too-soon Ground Floor and Cougar Town.

Martin’s Andrea, who has been out of the workforce for decades has been hired (out of spite by Greg) to be Chuck Pierce’s intern who, in similar age to Andrea, is struggling to keep relevant in a fast moving, technological era where news stories are delivered via Snap Chat and Facebook and becomes increasingly worried his age and lack of ability to keep up will be the end of his reporting career.  And I quote “Like, who is Snapchat and is he one of the Minions? And are they all Pokémen?”

The biggest shame surrounding Great News is the fact it only survived two seasons before being cancelled by NBC only to find a new life in the world of on-demand television on Netflix.

Check out the trailer below:

Great News season one is now streaming on Netflix Australia

New Soul Calibur 6 Game Mode Revealed Plus DLC Character

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Tira announced as new DLC Character

In some exciting news released out of the Bandai Namco camp regarding their upcoming Soul Calibur VI game, custom character creation is back, not only for arcade and versus modes but also along with a new single player game mode called Libra of Souls.

Being touted as an updated Chronicles of the Sword from Soul Calibur III (which has easily been the best mode ever to come out of the Soul Calibur series) that will see your custom created character (made from a selection of sixteen races including mummies, skeletons and automatons) go on a quest to stop “a new evil mastermind” from gathering the Soul Edge shards. Characters from the main storyline, Chronicle of Souls, as well as other players’ custom fighters will appear throughout Libra of Souls.

Matches in this mode will also have their own specific rules that Bandai Namco says will let players shape their own path.

Custom fighters from Libra of Souls can also be used in online casual and ranked matches.

Check out the reveal trailer below which also offers a look at some of the customization that will be available.

Also announced is fan favorite Tira, who will be making a return as a standalone DLC purchase or free for those who have pre-ordered the season pass.

SOul Calibur 6 is set for release in October

 

Series Review: 9-1-1 on Channel 7

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Let’s be real here.  Those cop/doctor/fireman procedurals flooding the airwaves right now, would not really make for exciting watching if the emergencies they were attending were not of major grandeur.  A bomb in chest of a man, multiple plane crashes, a 20 story apartment building on fire with no fire exits….it’s rudimentary that the bigger the emergency, the bigger the show (no matter how outlandish) and that’s what new show 9-1-1 is aiming to do – except most of the emergencies featured in each episode are based off actual real-life events.

Created by the minds of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk  (American Horror Story, GLEE, Nip/Tuck)  this ‘first responders’ drama takes the most insane “what could possibly go wrong” horrors and amps them up ten fold to offer up some of the most skin crawling, “ewwww” ensuing and spine tingling emergencies.

Let’s just say a new born baby flushed down a toilet in the series opening episode (written by Murphy, Falchuk, and showrunner/co-creator Tim Minear and directed by Murphy series regular Bradley Buecker) isn’t even scraping the surface of what’s to come.

Along with the freakishly outlandish scenarios, 9-1-1 is fitted out with a dream cast of core characters including Angela Bassett as tough as nails cop Athena who is dealing with some home life dramas, Peter Krause as fire station captain Bobby Nash who is a recovering addict with a family secret he’s not telling anyone (well just yet), Connie Britton as 9-1-1 responder Abby Clark who is struggling to balance work and looking after her ailing mother and Oliver Stark as the rookie rule-breaker firefighter who may or may not be a sex addict.

The day jobs of these characters see them often intertwining with one another though Britton’s 9-1-1 call centre responder Abby Clark is virtually cut from any real involvement until she forcibly inserts herself into the life of young firefighter Buck.

Of all our heroes personal struggles, I found Krause’s Bobby Nash the most difficult to swallow with his former addict status sending him to the local priest to confess his sins on a regular basis.  It does takes five episodes of this sullen and private Bobby to finally reveal just what is causing him such depression and that reveal in itself is quite shocking and heart breaking but once revealed and dealt with, is quickly swept under the rug and never mentioned again.

For the most part, 9-1-1 seems to offer up a somewhat even balance between the  daily emergencies our heroes deal with and the personal struggles waiting for them at home though a note I took down while watching the first few episodes read “get back to the life saving action!!” – not to say that the home life aspect of our heroes was boring.

9-1-1 starts Wednesday August 1st, 8:30pm Channel 7.

 

Could the Wave 2 FRIENDS Pop! Vinyls Be Any Cooler?!

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The first wave of FRIENDS Pop! Vinyls released back in 2016 remain a collectors favorite even though the wave has now been vaulted and prices on the secondary market have sky rocketed (around the $90 to $110 price point).

The original character releases were more character specific than episodic specific with Monica in her chef whites, Ross with pet monkey Marcel, Joey and Chandler with ‘chick’ and ‘duck’, Rachel in her Central Perk uniform and Phoebe with her guitar.

That’s all about to change with the recently revealed wave 2 of the FRIENDS Pop! Vinyls which are heavily episodic specific and perfectly iconic for each character.

First up in Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) from the season 10 episode 11 titled “The One Where the Stripper Cries” which offers an 80’s college-era flash back with Chandler rocking a Flock of Seagulls inspired hairstyle.

 

Next in the line, and from the same episode, is Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) also in flashback form with his tight perm and matching mustache holding an episodically identical pamphlet for their band “Way, no Way!”

 

Also from this very same episode AND flashback is the third in the line, Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) rocking high hair, garish outfit and plastic red drinking cup.

Moving onto a new episode is the next release, Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) from season 3 episode 2 (and one of my personal favorite episodes) “The One Where No One is Ready” where Joey, frustrated with Chandler’s antics, wears ALL of Chandlers clothing.

Season 9, Episode 24 “The One in Barbados: Part 2” get’s the Monica Geller (Courteney Cox) treatment with Monica’s god-awful braids, gotten in an attempt to deal with the high humidity in…well Barbados.

Last up is Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow) sporting her Supergirl outfit from Season 8, episode 6 titled “The One With the Halloween Party” where Phoebe causes the break-up of her twin sister Ursula’s engagement to Eric played by Sean Penn.

 

These new wave of pops are pretty epic with incredible detail for the hardcore FRIENDS fans though the only thing I can pick up on is with Monica’s hairstyle which is evened off at one length versus her varying braid length as seen in the episode.

Are these going to be on your must-get list?  Sound off in the comments section!

Watch this space for release dates and pre-order details!

PS – I’m totally devastated we still haven’t got a Fat Monica Pop! Vinyl who I think was much more iconic and memorable than corn-row Monica!

First Look: Barbie Signature X-Files Scully and Mulder Dolls

It’s been 20 years since Mattel released the first ever X-Files Mulder and Scully Barbie gift set featuring the spooky duo in conjunction with the very first X-Files movie, all the way back in 1998.

There were two versions of the gift set produced, the first and rarer version, was quickly pulled from shelves because it was deemed that Scully’s hair was too long and promptly replaced with a second release with shorter hair.

Fast forward 20 years later and the first images of new brand new Mulder and Scully Barbie Signature dolls have leaked online showcasing brand new sculpts of the duo made specially for this release.

Each doll is packaged separately and while not 100% confirmed, may seem to include some points of articulation.  Both are dressed in screen accurate outfits from the show along with ID and FBI badges,

Slated to release later this month, one of the Scully dolls has already appeared on eBay (where the images came from) so it can’t be too soon before we see them hit our local retailers!

Case Pre-Order now up at Entertainment Earth!

ThreeZero’s X-Files Dana Scully Figure Details and Pre-Order

Mid last year, toy company ThreeZero released a crazy detailed 1/6 scale figure of X-Files’ Special Agent Fox Mulder featuring incredible likeness to David Duchovny, tailored suit, alternate hands, weapon, badge and much more.  Cut to almost 12 months later and now ThreeZero have released details on Mulder’s partner, Special Agent Dana Scully’s release.

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From ThreeZero:

Highly detailed figure featuring life-like realism that is crafted with the authentic likeness of the FBI Agent Dana Scully as portrayed by Gillian Anderson in the ‘The X-Files’ television series.

1/6th scale Agent Dana Scully collectible details:
* 11” (~28cm) tall, articulated figure
* Black 2-piece suit (coat and slacks).
* Formal shirt
* Black pencil skirt
* Black pumps

Accessories & weapons:
* FBI IDs
* Pistol (SIG-Sauer P228)
* Pistol holster
* Watch
* Flashlight
* Cellular phone

Exchangeable hands:
* One pair of fists
* One pair relaxed
* Right hand for gripping pistols
* Right hand for holding cellular phone & flashlight

Just like with the Mulder release, a deluxe version is available with everything mentioned above along with a tailored trench coat.

Pre-orders are now live over at Entertainment Earth via the following links….

Standard Version 1/6 Scale Dana Scully Deluxe Version 1/6 Scale Dana Scully

The stanard version will retail for $170USD while the deluxe for $185USD.

Same Same but Different for Cycle 24 of America’s Next Top Model.

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Cycle 3 winner Eva Pigford and Nigel Barker return this season of Top Model

Tyra is back ya’ll!  The face and name associated with America’s Next Model has snatched back the hosting gig out of the lingering grasp of last years host Rita Ora and is making a change (but not really a change) to the modeling competition reality show she has hosted for all but one of the 24 cycles.

Now onto cycle 24 (yes 24!!) Tyra is back and smizier than ever, joined by Paper Magazine editor Drew Roach , model Ashley Graham and celebrity stylist Law Roach as judges.

Kicking Rita Ora to the curb, Tyra set out to put together the ‘most diverse group of models ever seen on Top Model’, taking it back to an all female casting call, removing the age limit of 27, bringing in more than one plus-sized contestant and throwing in the ability for any girl to be cut at any time seen fit by Tyra and her co-judges.

From here, we’re back to the usual Top Model fare with the annual ‘casting session’ where a random selection of girls are trotted out, interviewed and are then to present the judges with one of their own photos from their over-filtered Instagram or a previous photo shoot.

Cut to an actual photo shoot on the grounds of Greystone Mansion in Los Angeles featuring some elaborate couture outfits where we get a quick glimpse at some of the girls who straight-up outshine the others, a quick cut of some of the girls who struggled and a runway walk to determine the 14 finalists making their way into the model mansion.

Once inside the mansion, our models true colors start to shine and the ‘normal’ girls are identified and hushed away while the cray cray ones are singled out for ‘editing purposes’ such as 19 year old Idaho native Liberty could have been our front contender for the ‘unstable one’ classification as the gushes about her political support for Trump, but it’s loose cannon Liz and sapsorrow Brendi who get singled out as the troubled ones in the season – and..as you will quickly see….rightfully so.

This cycle 24 offers a few ‘Flashback Friday’ feels to it with former judge Nigel Barker coming back for a shoot along with cycle three winner Eva Marcille (Pigford) returning to recreate one of her most memorable shoots from her cycle.  There’s also contestant Erin, who at 42 years of age looks flawless and brings all her 90’s model glam to each and every of her shoots.

In reality though, there is never going to be anything new within the world of Top Model.  We’ll pick our favorites, they’ll do some photo shoots, they may or may not make it to the finale, we’ll watch with glee as some of the girls literally meltdown right in front of our eyes and the group will segregate themselves into ‘bitchy’ and ‘not that bitchy’ groups.  There’s tears, tantrums, walkouts and Tyra – but did we ever really need anything more from Top Model for it to be classed as our guilty pleasure?!

And as always, the make-over episode is the one to watch!  It comes pretty early on this season too and will see one girl literately loose all her hair – and still look stunning.

America’s Next Top Model begins June 26th, 8.30pm on Fox8.

‘Evil Genius’ – Netflix’s Newest Must-Watch Crime Series

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Brian Wells moments before his untimely death – Netflix

The True Crime genre love that has been drawing in viewers for some time now from Making a Murderer to The Keepers and The Staircase among others, has a new must-watch show featuring one of the most bizarre cases ever documented.  Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist recently dropped on Netflix and the four part documentary has enough of all the right genre ingredients for it to be binged in a single sit and leave us wanting more.

At the very base of this case is the town of Eerie, Pennsylvania and a pizza delivery driver named Brian Wells who robs a bank with a working walking cane gun (it’s literally something out of James Bond), a note demanding $250,000 – and a collar bomb around his neck.

After obtaining less than $9000, Wells leaves the bank, is apprehended and while waiting for the bomb squad to arrive, dies when said collar bomb explodes in one very graphic and horrific scene that has traumatized me since viewing. Moments after Well’s shocking death, it’s discovered he was on a scavenger hunt, following a map and instructions in order to defuse the Saw like collar bomb.

The web of this case begins to expand when one of Well’s co-workers mysteriously dies only days later and two people – Bill Rothstein and Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong – enter the fray with a third dead body sitting frozen in Rothstien’s chest freezer.

This fascinating case features master mind criminals, red herrings, crazy theories and law enforcement bungles – just as others in the genre have – but unlike those, the focus on the judicial system is just a haze as the unusual circumstances within this case are just too outlandish to not be put front and centre.

Of the two criminals in this case, Diehl-Armstrong is the only one still alive and the only one to actively communicate with director Trey Borzillieri about Well’s case and the ever expanding landscape that surrounds it.

Check out the trailer below:

Evil Genius is streaming now on Netflix Australia/New Zealand.

p.s – for fans of the genre’, the compelling The Staircase is coming to Netflix along with three all-new episodes starting on June 8th!

Review : The Assassination of Gianni Versace

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Ray Mickshaw/FX

Taking the what-if around this murder as gospel, the follow up to The People Vs OJ Simpson is more flash than facts but is still a good watch.

I’m putting it out there front and center – the actual murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace is only a fraction of what is featured within the world of Ryan Murphy’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace so much so, the show would have been better titled The Delusional Life of Andrew Cunanan as Assassination delves into the world of Versace’s killer (played by Glee’s Darren Criss) more than Versace’s terrible fate as the title would suggest.

Opening with soaring operatic music and a flowing visual tour of Versace’s gaudy Miami mansion, Versace is dead even before the title credits.  However, the aim for Murphy wasn’t for us to follow those trying to solve this murder (hence the title) but in fact send us back in time and follow Cunanan and how he ended up with a gun in his hands aimed at the famed fashion designer.  Yes, Versace’s untimely death at the hands of Cunanan plays as the pilot episode’s main premise but that’s more to do with Versace’s celebrity status over Cunanan’s four other victims, who also get a look in during the shows eight other episodes in the form of time jumps.

Based off the book Vulgar Favors: The Hunt for Andrew Cunanan, the Man Who Killed Gianni Versace by author Maureen Orth, Assassination is spread among three different lines – Cunanan and his victims, Versace’s loved ones (including Ricky Martin as Versace’s long-time partner Antonio D’Amico) dealing with the fashion empire pre and post murder and the bumbling FBI who can’t seem to get to grips with the ‘gay’ aspect surrounding the murders (it was the 90’s).

The source material also happens to blur the lines between truth and made-up and Assassination quickly becomes a show that will have you asking “did that really happen?” while trying to decide what is fact and what is fiction considering to this day, there is still no actual proof that Versace and Cunanan had even met prior to the murder.

Gianni’s sister Donatella (played with startling verbal similarity by Penelope Cruz) has claimed the series as “a work of fiction” while the programme itself carries the disclaimer: “Some events are combined or imagined for dramatic and interpretative purposes. Dialogue is imagined to be consistent with these events” and that’s because the main players within this world are….well, dead.

Cunanan’s prior interactions (or lack thereof) with his victims – Versace (Édgar Ramírez), Jeffrey Trail (Finn Wittrock), David Madson (Cody Fern), Lee Miglin (Mike Farrell) and William Reece (Gregg Lawrence) – is somewhat pure speculation so while the work is based off fact, it is done so with much “let’s assume this is what happened“.

That aside, the character study of Andrew Cunanan is a rather intriguing one and is explored heavily within the series.  Cunanan’s ability to seamlessly morph into any given situation or social standing and flee when his lies have all been revealed is quite remarkable though giving so much focus on his life, his lies and his troubled youth feels like we’re being forced into empathizing with Cunanan in light of the fact he is/was a notorious serial killer.

Part of this comes down to how star Darren Criss brings the killer to life, playing Cunanan as mysterious yet suave with an air of charm, a believer in his own lies and the false world around him that he has created while trying to decide just how much of his true self he needs to reveal.  One could only presume by the middle of this series, much more freedom for Criss was enabled with Cunanan as this is where most of the fact/fiction lines become very blurred.

Perhaps the biggest problem with Assassination is the glaring fact that unlike season one’s OJ Simpson story, there is no real hero to root for.  While we all knew the end result, Sarah Paulson’s Marcia Clark still had us backing her to go and get hers in a male dominated environment yet in Assassination, that task is less male dominated environment and more gay acceptance.

That job is pretty much left vacant even though it may feel like we’re being forced into believing it should be Cunanan who, while never ashamed of his sexuality, understands how being gay can be perceived by those less educated on the topic.

The missing hero however is through no fault of anyone’s as there just was never one in this story to begin with.  It could never have been Cunanan (regardless of his childhood), the FBI, as it’s shown, were a bunch of bumbling bigots who couldn’t have cared any less about Cunanan’s victims and others such as Versace or even Lee Miglin’s wife Marilyn (played wonderfully by Judith Light) were so far removed from the central story line it would have meant stretching the truth even further to find that hero.

On the whole, this tale of Andrew Cunanan is a worthy watch and while lacking in the suspense and law and order that drove American Crime Story’s first season of The People Vs OJ Simpson there is still enough substance to dig in and make your own mind up about how much truth is actually found within this series.

American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace begins Thursday May 24th at 8:30pm AEST, on Foxtel’s showcase.