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30 Sep 22:07

She-Hulk episode 7 characters explained: who are Man-Bull, El Aguila, Saracen, and Porcupine?

by tom.power@futurenet.com (Tom Power)

Potential spoilers for She-Hulk episode 7 follow.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law episode 7 – The Retreat – has smashed its way onto Disney Plus. And, while viewers are still waiting for Daredevil's arrival in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) – it's coming, we promise – we were introduced to some new and unusual characters in the Marvel TV show's latest entry.

The MCU Phase 4 project has done a delightful job of introducing minor Marvel characters to a wider audience and She-Hulk episode 7 is no exception. In it, four new individuals are shown to exist in the MCU – Man-Bull, El Aguila, Porcupine, and Saracen.

Who are these characters, though? What do their Marvel comics histories tell us about them? And could we see them crop up in the MCU again?

Below, we'll explain who this new quartet is and whether they'll reappear in the MCU in the Disney Plus show again, in Marvel Phase 5 productions, or even beyond that.

She-Hulk's Man-Bull explained: who is the minotaur-like Marvel character?

Man-Bull offers to shake Jen Walters' hand in She-Hulk episode 7

Man-Bull is traditionally a villain in Marvel comics. (Image credit: Marvel Studios/Disney Plus)

A supervillain by trade, Man-Bull is a minotaur-like Marvel character who made his comic debut in July 1971. Interestingly, Man-Bull's first comic book appearance was in Daredevil #78 – another tie into the Man Without Fear's forthcoming appearance in She-Hulk's TV series. He's also crossed paths with Hulk, She-Hulk, and other superheroes in the comics. Additionally, he's run into the anti-hero/supervillain team known as the Thunderbolts, so maybe he'll reappear in the MCU's Thunderbolts movie. It's highly unlikely, but never say never.

Real name William 'Bill' Taurens, Man-Bull acquired his abilities – and his signature horns – after he was used as a guinea pig for an experimental serum derived from bulls. Subsequently, Man-Bull was imbued with traditional superpowers, such as superhuman strength, stamina, durability, and speed. Oh, and he has the ability to empathize with cows. Go figure.

In She-Hulk, he's less animalistic – in his appearance anyway – and comes across as more of a sympathetic villain/anti-hero who is trying to turn his life around. He's played by Nathan Hurd (Legion, Elementary) in the MCU TV show.

She-Hulk's El Aguila explained: who is the Matador-style mutant?

A seated El Aguila looks at Jennifer Walters off camera in She-Hulk episode 7

El Aguila is Spanish for 'The Eagle'. (Image credit: Marvel Studios/Disney Plus)

The MCU is slowly starting to build out its roster of mutant superheroes and villains. So far, we know three mutants exist in the MCU, with Ms Marvel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever anti-hero Namor, and Wolverine – who'll co-star in Deadpool 3 – making up that trio.

El Aguila takes that number to four. In the comics, El Aguila is a human mutant who possesses the ability to generate electricity, as well as being an expert close-quarters combatant and skilled fencer.

Debuting in August 1979, El Aguila was introduced as a morally gray vigilante who aided Iron Fist and Luke Cage – the latter called Power Man at the time – in taking down drug lords and other criminals. However, he's also occasionally operated as an anti-hero, with El Aguila locking horns with Hawkeye during one comic storyline.

Given his matador-like appearance, which was chiefly inspired by Zorro, it's surprising to see El Aguila and Man-Bull form a close bond in She-Hulk episode 7. Still, the pair's unlikely friendship makes for a fun side narrative. El Aguila, whose real name is Alejandro Montoya, is portrayed by Joseph Castillo-Midyett (The Equalizer, Fear The Walking Dead). Don't expect him to appear outside of She-Hulk's show, unless Iron Fist and Luke Cage make their way into the MCU.

She-Hulk's Saracan explained: who is the MCU's first vampire?

A seated Saracen talks to the retreat group in She-Hulk episode 7

It seems the MCU's version of Saracen is a mash-up of two comic characters. (Image credit: Marvel Studios/Disney Plus)

Blade might be the most recognizable vampire in Marvel's superhero/anti-hero roster, but that doesn't mean other bloodsuckers don't exist in the comics or the MCU.

While Marvel Studios' Blade movie is seemingly trapped in development hell, Saracen's appearance in She-Hulk episode 7 means that there's at least one vampire in the MCU. Well, that's if you believe Saracen anyway. The other attendees at Emil Blonsky's meditation retreat don't believe he really is a vampire, but there is evidence in the comics to suggest that he's telling the truth.

The group's confusion likely stems from the fact that there are two Saracen characters in Marvel comics. One of those, who goes by the name Muzzafar Lambert, is a globe-trotting mercenary who has regularly duked it out with The Punisher. The other Saracen, whose name is unknown, made his comic debut in Blade: Vampire Hunter #1 in October 1999. Little is known about this vampiric Saracen, though, outside of the fact that he's one of the most long-lived monsters in Marvel comics history.

It seems that She-Hulk's writers have used the latter for Saracen's first MCU appearance. The Retreat's credits list Terrence Clowe (The Harder They Fall, Dopesick) as playing Saracen, but don't mention Lambert. Unless Marvel has combined the two characters to avoid confusion, it's likely that the vampiric Saracen is the one who turns up in She-Hulk episode 7. Could he make a cameo appearance in Blade? Here's hoping.

She-Hulk's Porcupine explained: who is the masked Marvel character?

A seated Porcupine stares directly into the camera in She-Hulk episode 7

Marvel fans had previously seen Porcupine in a She-Hulk TV spot. (Image credit: Marvel Studios/Disney Plus)

Real name Alexander Gentry, Porcupine is a Marvel supervillain who usually clashes with Ant-Man and the Wasp in the comics. He made his literary debut in Tales to Atonish #48 in October 1963, making him one of the oldest Marvel villains ever. Like Man-Bull, he's crossed paths wit the Thunderbolts, so could he show up in that superhero film, too? Again, don't count on it.

A scientist who designed weapons for the US military, Gentry creates a porcupine-style super suit, which has the ability to shoot quills, gases, flames, or chemicals at those who the wearer deems to be a threat. Gentry, though, believes that the US government won't pay him for this creation – a move that sees him keep the suit for himself and uses it to start robbing banks and other establishments.

Two other Marvel characters have also assumed the identity of Porcupine. The first was Billy Bates, another mutant character who first appeared in August 2005's District X #13. Unlike Gentry, Bates is the owner of the X-gene, the DNA strand that grants its host superpowers when they come of age. Unfortunately for Bates, he acquired the abilities of an actual porcupine. He's able to grow and fire porcupine-like quills at his foes, as well as distorting his left arm into a long, deformed limb with serrated claws at his fingertips.

The final person to assume the mantle was Roger Docking, who made his comic debut in May 2006's Daughters of the Dragon #3. He also wore the suit, although his creation had different abilities to Gentry's, such as jet boots for flight purposes and night vision goggles.

Based on his more realistic MCU appearance, it isn't the Bates version of Porcupine who appears in She-Hulk episode 7. Instead, it's either Gentry or Docking. However, The Retreat's credits don't specify which individual this is – we only know Porcupine is played by Jordan Aaron Ford.

For more MCU-based content, check out our Marvel movies in order guide. Alternatively, read up on every She-Hulk post-credits scene so far, or find out who the TV show's main villain could be.

30 Sep 22:03

How The Rings of Power episode 6's explosive ending was brought to life

by tom.power@futurenet.com (Tom Power)

Full spoilers for The Rings of Power episode 6 follow. You've been warned.

The Rings of Power has officially arrived. Sure, the high fantasy Prime Video show actually launched on September 2, but it's needed a hugely significant episode to truly announce itself on the prestige TV stage.

Episode 6 is the epic and explosive entry Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series and audiences have been waiting for. It's packed with frenetic and fraught set-pieces, tells a story with multiple twists and turns, and culminates in a stunning finale that'll have viewers' jaws on the floor long after the credits roll.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of work went into designing and crafting episode 6's shock ending. And, as co-showrunners Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne told TechRadar at an exclusive preview screening, the episode's final moments were planned as season 1's tentpole moment as far back as 2018.

Galadriel stands and stares in shock at the approaching ash cloud from the newly created Mount Doom in The Rings of Power episode 6

The Rings of Power's creators knew episode 6 would be a key turning point in the series' overarching narrative. (Image credit: Matt Grace/Prime Video)

"[It took] four years," McKay says. "We've known about that sequence for that long."

"When we were blocking out season 1, we had a whiteboard of character arcs for Galadriel, Elendil, Isildur, Arondir, Bronwyn – all the main characters in this episode," Payne adds. "All of those journeys were leading to this point when we finally introduce Mordor."

That's right, The Rings of Power episode 6 shows us how Mordor – and its iconic volcano, aka Mount Doom – were ultimately created. 

Viewers had already speculated that Mordor's introduction wasn't too far away, with previous season 1 episodes teasing as much. In episode 3, Galadriel and Elendil pour over some old Middle-earth maps, which show that the region known as the Southlands sits right on top of where Mordor exists in J.R.R. Tolkien's Hobbit and Lord of the Rings novels. Adar's orc army is based in this location throughout season 1 – an area where they've dug tunnels and deforested large swathes of land – which had lent further proof to Mordor's eventual arrival.

What audiences didn't expect is that Mordor and Mount Doom would be born this early in the series. However, those familiar with Lord of the Rings' extensive history would've been able to work out that this iconic location would be part of episode 6. Its official title – Udûn – is also the name of a barren valley situated in northwest Mordor, so it wouldn't have taken much for diehard Tolkien fans to make the connection.

Still, for casual Lord of the Rings fans and general audiences, the birth of Mordor and Mount Doom in The Rings of Power is a truly shocking and visually spectacular moment. So, how was the sequence developed?

The eruption of an idea

Queen Míriel, Halbrand, and Arondir look shocked as Adar's masterplan is put into full effect in The Rings of Power episode 6

The Rings of Power's sixth episode is the series' most defining entry yet. (Image credit: Matt Grace/Prime Video)

Udûn's finale was a seismic undertaking for everyone involved in The Rings of Power. The explosive sequence's final edit comprises multiple VFX shots, complete with a huge volcanic eruption, searingly hot rocks raining down from the sky, a storm-fuelled ash cloud, and fires breaking out as the Southlands and its inhabitants are consumed by the cataclysmic event.

Before its visually arresting effects could be added in post, The Rings of Power's chief creative team had to make sure that events preceding the eruption could lead to the mountain – that becomes Mount Doom – violently blowing its top. After all, such a move is only possible via the collision of its vast lava pit with water from Ostilith's deep reservoir. That happens after Southland turncoat Waldreg uses the sword hilt, which Adar reacquires from the Southlanders in episode 6, as a key to unlock part of Ostilith's dam. It's a move that allows a deluge of water to rush through numerous tunnels – dug by the orcs – and snake its way to the ice covered mountain, which becomes Mount Doom.

All of those journeys were leading to this point

J.D. Payne, Rings of Power co-creator

Could a combination of an expansive volume of water and a giant pool of lava, then, cause such an explosive eruption? According to real-world science, yes.

"One of our writers knows a geologist," Payne explains. "So we asked them if water and lava could unite to create this gigantic explosion, and it could. They said 'if you have enough steam pressure that builds up in a confined space, the entropy inside the volcano will increase, eventually causing it to blow."

"We painstakingly studied what actually happens in volcanic eruptions," VFX producer Ron Ames adds. "We looked at photographs and we read historical documents on Pompeii so we had a clearer idea of the scale of these naturally occurring explosions."

Adar addresses his orc army by fire light in The Rings of Power episode 6

The Rings of Power episode 6's finale combined real-world footage with CGI elements. (Image credit: Prime Video)

Buoyed by the backing of real-life science, The Rings of Power's huge crew set about creating a finale that would herald the show's epic arrival on the world stage. Typical pre-production work, such as concept art, storyboards, and location scouting were carried out well in advance of principal photography. Once those elements were in place, multiple camera crews set out to film external shots – wide and sweeping landscape, as well as close-ups – to use during the sequence.

"It was important to us to use real world locations," Ames reveals. "The actual mountain itself is based on a real location. The cliff that Ostilith sits on is an actual location. We went to those areas and shot backgrounds using helicopters. We also landed in those areas and took photographs and plates. Even the water you see in the final sequence is real – it's just mixed in with some CGI elements to aid the flow of this massive deluge as it careens down the valley."

Heating up in post

Mount Doom erupts in front of a blue sky in The Rings of Power episode 6

The Rings of Power looked at historical volcanic events to bring authenticity to Mount Doom's eurption. (Image credit: Prime Video)

With pre-production and principal photography in the can, the lengthy post-production process could begin.

Like many of The Rings of Power's VFX-laden sequences, episode 6's finale was developed by multiple animation studios. Weta Digital, who worked on Peter Jackson's Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movie trilogies, produced the Ostilith cliffside-based portion. Lucasfilm's Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) crafted the underground sequence, which leads to the violent explosion. Meanwhile, Australian-based studio Rising Sun were tasked with creating the post-eruption scene, including the spewed lava rocks and rapidly traveling ash cloud.

"Once all the vendors mixed each part together, you can't tell where one shot starts and another ends," Ames says. "It's all seamlessly connected and I couldn't be more proud of the teams that worked together to compose and knit it together. It's one of my favorite sequences in the whole show."

Crunching has become a hot topic of conversation in the film and TV industries, with big-budget projects – including She-Hulk: Attorney at Law on Disney Plus – and studios coming under fire over employees' working conditions.

We looked at photographs and we read historical documents on Pompeii

Ron Amex, Rings of Power VFX producer

Given the scale of this sequence and 9,500 other VFX-based shots in season 1, it seems inevitable that The Rings of Power's backstage crew would have to crunch at some point. Ames, though, was adamant that no one under his supervision would be forced to work longer – at the cost of their physical and mental wellbeing – to ensure sequences like the Mount Doom one were completed in time.

"Having seen the film business change and being an advocate for technology, I would say mindfulness and and an approach to sharing the load is extremely important," Ames says. "Largely, we didn't work more than 12-hour days. In some instances, I had to send crew members home to sleep and shower – they all worked extremely hard, but everyone got to go home, to see their families, to attend weddings, and do all the things humans need to do. I think the future of filmmaking requires us to look at mindfulness in the workplace and how to move forward in a balanced way to get the most creativity out of our artists."

Udûn's final sequence is a visually striking sight to behold. It's the brainchild of multiple creators and studios, all of whom worked diligently to collaborate on The Rings of Power's most harrowing spectacle to date. "It was ILM VFX supervisor Jason Smith's creation," Ames says, but the countless artists, animators, renderers, and other crew members deserve as much praise for creating such a devastatingly beautiful moment in Middle-earth's history.

With two more episodes to come in season 1 – not to mention four more seasons' worth of storytelling to come – The Rings of Power will contain more shocking, big-budget sequences like episode 6's finale. Right now, though, Udûn is the explosive show-defining entry that the Prime Video series required – and it'll take something truly amazing to usurp it.

The Rings of Power's first six episodes are available to stream on Prime Video now.

29 Sep 10:15

Star Wars: Andor Reveals the Divided Factions of the Rebel Alliance

by Jesse Schedeen

Warning: this article contains spoilers for Star Wars: Andor Episode 4! If you haven't already, be sure to check out our spoiler-free review of the first four episodes.

The original Star Wars trilogy paints the Rebel Alliance as a plucky band of freedom fighters all united in a common cause. And maybe that was true by the time Luke Skywalker strolled in, but it wasn't always the case. Star Wars: Andor is the latest series to reveal just how fractured and divided the Rebellion was in its early years.

With Episode 4 of Andor reintroducing Genevieve O'Reilly's Mon Mothma, now seems like a good time to break down the many factions that formed the Rebellion and why this resistance movement didn't always qualify as an alliance.

Mon Mothma and the Loyalists

Mon Mothma first appeared in Return of the Jedi, by which point she had emerged as the leader and public face of the Alliance to Restore the Republic (as it's officially known). But if there's one takeaway from Mothma's appearances in chronologically earlier projects like Revenge of the Sith, Rogue One and now Andor, it's that she had to spend decades building up the resources and support needed to spearhead a true rebellion.

Andor Episode 4 reveals how difficult that process was in its early stages. We see Mothma meeting with Luthen Rael, who has to press her for the funds to hire Cassian into his group of undercover spies. Alongside her ally Bail Organa, Mothma is responsible for bankrolling the early Rebellion. And while Imperial senators may have a level of wealth that most ordinary people would struggle to comprehend, it takes more than a few rich politicians to fund an army capable of taking on Emperor Palpatine's vast military.

Mothma's faction of Rebels is known as the Loyalists, a name that dates back to the Clone Wars. At that point, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine tasked Mothma and her committee (which also included fellow Senators Bail Organa and Padme Amidala) with promoting loyalty to the Republic, hence the name. Mothma did so less out of support for the war than because of her belief that a strong, functioning Republic was the best thing for the galaxy. That's why her ultimate goal is to restore the Republic as it existed before the Clone Wars, not create an entirely new system of government. One could argue that her commitment to the old ways helped bring about the rise of the First Order decades later.

The Atrivis Resistance Group

Little is known about this mysterious group of freedom fighters, but thanks to the reference book Star Wars: The Rebel Files, we know the Atrivis Resistance group was an important player in the early days of the Galactic Civil War. They were led by a woman named Travia Chan. After a fellow resistance cell called the Liberators were killed in a failed uprising on Mantooine, Chan opted to officially align her group with Mon Mothma. That partnership showed Mothma that cooperation was possible, paving the way for a more focused and unified Rebellion.

Those events happen roughly five years before the Battle of Yavin, which happens to be the same general time period as Andor. Could we see that particular conflict play out during the course of the series?

Saw Gerrera and the Partisans

Rogue One offered a sobering reminder that some freedom fighters become so committed to their cause that they lose the moral high ground in the process. That's certainly the case with Saw Gerrera, the militant, highly paranoid leader of the Partisans.

Gerrera was a resistance leader for most of his adult life. He originally helped spearhead a rebellion on his home world of Onderon, whose king sided with the Separatists during the Clone Wars. After the rise of the Empire, Gerrera transformed his surviving soldiers into the Partisans and began launching deadly guerilla attacks wherever the opportunity arose. While technically on the same side as Mon Mothm and Bail Organa, Gerrera eventually alienated himself from the rest of the Rebellion because of his extreme methods.

The trailers for Andor confirm that Forest Whitaker will reprise his role for the series. With the events of Rogue One still five years in the future, we'll see a Saw Gerrera who isn't quite as radical and physically deformed as he is in that movie. Even so, we'll no doubt learn more about the bitter divide between the Partisans and their more idealistic allies.

The Separatists

War makes for strange bedfellows, as Andor's fourth episode reminds us. When first meeting Luthen Rael's guerilla team, Cassian demands to know what faction they serve, even name-dropping the Separatists. For all the Prequels painted the Confederacy of Independent Systems as a nefarious military power led by Sith Lords and evil bankers, there were valid reasons for seceding from the Republic. Many worlds simply wanted to leave the corruption and pointless bureaucracy behind. And so it is that some Separatists wound up joining the fight against the Empire.

We know that the Rebels occasionally made use of discarded, Clone Wars-era tech to bolster their limited resources. Star Wars: Andor may reveal more about the role the former Separatists played in growing the Rebellion. After all, the rise of the Empire basically proved they were right all along.

Enfys Nest and the Cloud-Riders

Solo: A Star Wars Story introduced the Cloud-Riders as another key faction in the early days of the Rebellion. Led by Enfys Nest, this group of armored space bikers devoted most of their resources to battling Maul's Crimson Dawn syndicate, rather than directly opposing the Empire itself. However, Enfys Nest made her true goals clear when she convinced a young Han Solo to turn over his stolen coaxium supply, giving the fledgling Rebellion a much-needed shot in the arm.

Phoenix Cell

Phoenix Cell is probably the earliest incarnation of what Star Wars fans traditionally think of when they hear "Rebel Alliance." Led by Commander Jun Sato, this group of hotshot pilots launched a number of daring raids against the Empire. They received most of their funding from Bail Organa. Based on the events of Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi, we can assume Senator Organa was feeling more and more motivated to secretly resist the Empire, after his daughter Leia nearly met her end.

As seen in the animated series Star Wars Rebels, Phoenix Cell was eventually dealt a serious blow when they were tracked down by Darth Vader. The survivors joined up with Hera Syndulla and the crew of the Ghost, ensuring that Phoenix Cell continued to play a key role in battling the Empire in the years leading up to the Battle of Yavin.

Ahsoka Tano: Fulcrum

The first season of Star Wars Rebels introduces a mysterious character codenamed Fulcrum. Fulcrum runs an intelligence network that helps the various Rebel cells plot attacks against the Empire and stay one step ahead of the enemy. The Season 1 finale then reveals that Fulcrum is none other than ex-Jedi Ahsoka Tano herself.

As much as Mon Mothma and Bail Organa, Ahsoka can be credited with helping unite the scattered factions and resistance cells into a cohesive movement. She fed them the information they needed to become a true thorn in Emperor Palpatine's side. Had Ahsoka not been taken off the board due to the events of the Rebels Season 2 finale, Palpatine's reign may have ended even sooner than it did.

For more on Star Wars: Andor, brush up on the show's release schedule and find out why it's exactly what the series Star Wars has been needing.

Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.

29 Sep 10:09

Lip Reader Reveals What Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman Said in the Deadpool 3 Video

by Logan Plant

One of the internet's most well-known lip readers has shed some light on what Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman were probably saying in their latest teaser video for Deadpool 3.

If you missed it, earlier today Reynolds and Jackman shared a bit more information on Deadpool 3, after yesterday's announcement that Jackman would return to play Wolverine alongside Reynolds' Deadpool.

However, just as the two break into a description of what appears to be a very violent fight scene between Deadpool and Wolverine, music plays over the video making it difficult to decipher what the two actors are saying.

Fortunately, Jomboy came to the rescue. Jomboy is a sports content creator best known for creating lip-reading breakdowns of important on-field moments in baseball games, where you can see what players, coaches, or umpires are saying without being able to hear them. So this is no amateur lip-reading — Jomboy says his channel has over 2,000 lip-reading videos.

But the lip-reading breakdown suggests what we already suspected: Jackman and Reynolds are simply relaying a fight scene between the two characters with not many details to go on. You can watch the video below to see the full description of this fight for yourself.

Basically, Reynolds and Jackman talk about Deadpool and Wolverine stabbing each other with swords and claws, respectively. But, given their mutual ability of accelerated healing, they're both okay, and even laughing about the fight. Jackman also mentions a "huge huge f***ing explosion", in case you were worried Deadpool 3 would be explosion-free.

One interesting note is that Jackman says something along the lines of "we're in our prime". This suggests that Wolverine won't be in nearly the same deteriorated physical state we saw in Logan, which lines up with Reynolds and Jackman's statements that Logan is a "totally separate thing".

For more, read up on what the Logan director thinks about Jackman's return, and check out our six biggest burning questions about Deadpool and Wolverine's MCU debut.

Logan Plant is a freelance writer for IGN covering video game and entertainment news. He has over six years of experience in the gaming industry with bylines at IGN, Nintendo Wire, Switch Player Magazine, and Lifewire. Find him on Twitter @LoganJPlant.

27 Sep 12:43

Two Bombings in One Night? That’s Normal Now in Sweden.

by Paulina Neuding
The aftermath of a bombing at a multi-family home in Stockholm. (Barbro Bergfeldt via Alamy)

Yesterday morning, Swedes woke up to news of a kind that has become all-too familiar: During the night, powerful bombs exploded at apartment buildings in two different towns in southern Sweden. 

One person was severely injured in Åstorp, where a witness told the press: “People screamed and cried. It felt so unreal.” A resident told Radio Sweden that his 7-year-old had come running into his bedroom screaming, as the blast made their apartment shake. 

In Helsingborg, the explosion was so powerful that, according to the police, cars parked nearby were destroyed. It is still unclear if the bombings are connected to each other, or who is behind them.

Since 2018, there have been almost 500 bombings—yes, bombings—in what is known as one of the most stable societies in the world.  

There’s not just a bombing problem. There are shootings, too. 

Sweden, which has a population of around 10 million, has the highest per-capita number of deadly shootings of 22 European countries. Forty-seven people have been shot dead so far this year, which, while far from American levels of gun homicide, is extreme for Europe. Other European countries have come to look at Sweden with horror

It may be shocking for Americans to learn that in Sweden—the land of IKEA, Spotify and Greta Thunberg—all of this is going on. Perhaps the reason you don’t know about it is because of the uncomfortable reality of how we got here.

Among shooting suspects, 85 percent are first- or second-generation immigrants, according to the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, as immigrant neighborhoods have become hotbeds for gang crime. National Police Commissioner Anders Thornberg has described the violence as “an entirely different kind of brutality than we’ve seen before” and his deputy, Mats Löfving, says that 40 criminal clans now operate throughout the country. Spreading fear are “humiliation robberies,” targeting children and youth, in which victims are subjected to degrading treatment by assailants, such as being urinated upon. Just this week, four men were sentenced for robbing, beating and urinating on an 18-year-old, who was also filmed by his tormentors. 

All of which is why, for the first time ever, crime emerged as a top priority among voters ahead of this past weekend’s general election. Swedes made their concerns plain on Sunday, when they awarded the country’s most strident anti-immigration party more than 20 percent of the vote.

The Sweden Democrats, or SD, is now the second-biggest party in parliament, and the biggest party of the right-wing bloc—gaining more votes than the more traditional center-right Moderate party. (It remains to be seen whether Ulf Kristersson, leader of the Moderates, can form a government with the support of SD, while sticking to his promise not to allow the party into the government coalition.)

So how did Sweden’s famously liberal electorate usher in a party with roots on the extreme right? In a word: denial.

In response to Sweden’s increasing problems with gang violence and social unrest in immigrant suburbs, the government’s strategy for many years was to deny how serious the situation had become. ​​In the meantime, those people who noticed the problem—many of whom were working class—and spoke out about their diminished safety were accused of racism by leading politicians, the mainstream press, and the cultural elites. Only one political party did not: the SD. And in election after election, they gained more and more popular support.

This is a story of what happens when the people who run things want to avoid confronting the consequences of their actions.


Sweden Democrats party leader Jimmie Akesson gives a speech as he campaigns in Landskrona. (Johan Nilsson via Getty Images)

Too Dangerous for the Ice Cream Truck

Sweden’s foreign-born population has doubled to 20 percent since 2000. No other country took in more immigrants per capita during the 2015 migration wave—from countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly 23 percent of Swedish adults were born abroad. (At the height of American immigration, in 1890 that statistic was slightly less than 15 percent.) And most asylum seekers have been men. In 2015, for example, 70 percent of those seeking refuge in Sweden were male.

Many immigrants have integrated well into Swedish society, but too many have ended up in segregated suburbs, where unemployment is high and crime is rampant. In an area like Malmö’s Rosengård, for instance, labor force participation among adults is less than 50 percent, and 21 percent of households rely on social welfare.  

Sweden is one of the most generous welfare states in the world: Although these neighborhoods are marked by high unemployment, there is no American-level material deprivation. Health care comes only at a token cost. Dental care is free for anyone under 19, as are schools and universities. Social service coverage is universal.

Yet police are struggling to maintain control of some 60 immigrant-majority neighborhoods—officially labeled “vulnerable areas”—where gangs and clans compete with the state for local authority. In some of these neighborhoods, like Gottsunda in the university town of Uppsala, the postal service has had to cancel deliveries for security reasons. UPS temporarily stopped delivering parcels to Rosengård in 2019. 

In January of this year, Swedish public television, SVT, visited the neighborhood of Tjärna Ängar in Borlänge, Sweden’s northernmost vulnerable area. They were targeted with rock throwing on their first night and met with this demand: “Don’t badmouth Tjärna Ängar.” That was two years after the ice cream truck canceled its stop in Tjärna Ängar for security reasons. Early-morning newspaper deliveries were canceled for the same reason. Such cancellations are usually temporary, but can nevertheless have significant effects on vulnerable neighborhoods: In parts of the vulnerable suburb of Tensta in Stockholm, for instance, parking was chaos for nine months between 2016 and 2017, because the area was deemed unsafe for traffic wardens. 

For years now, ambulance drivers and firefighters have had to await police escort before entering certain neighborhoods. “I know it’s sensitive and controversial,” Gordon Grattidge, head of the ambulance drivers’ union told me in an interview in 2017. “But for us it’s really a no go because we have directives not to go into dangerous situations.” Another paramedic told the press last year: “Since we work in vulnerable areas we know how some people have zero respect for other people’s lives. They don’t give a damn that we’re paramedics.”

Then, there are the bombings. A few years ago, hand grenades began appearing among criminal gangs in Sweden. Now, bombs are often home-made IEDs.

In the fall of 2019, a group of New Jersey police travelled to Stockholm to learn about the bombings first-hand. “I was shocked by the use of grenades in Sweden,” Rick Fuentes, former superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, told Svenska Dagbladet. “I’ve worked within the police for 40 years, and I’ve never heard or seen anything like it.”

By that time, the use of explosives among Sweden’s criminal gangs had reached levels that the police described as unique, not only for Sweden or Europe, but for any country in the world that was not at war. 

After a particularly powerful bomb exploded at a residential building on Östermalm, an affluent part of the Stockholm city-center, in January 2020, a victim told the press how he had been watching Netflix when the explosion sent him flying to the floor. Half his left ear was blown off; months later he still suffered from reduced hearing. His two children were so frightened by the attack that ever since they refuse to sleep by the window.

“It’s awful. I’ve lived in Sweden for 35 years and I have never experienced such a situation. For two, three hours, I was deaf, I couldn’t hear anything,” said a resident of a building that was targeted in Husby just over a week later. About 50 people had to be evacuated from the building, and they described what looked like a “war scene”—a very common choice of word used by those who have experienced bombings in Sweden first-hand.

Because most bombings never make it to court––evidence is literally blown up, and a strong code of silence marks the Swedish gang scene––it has been difficult to tell the motives behind each attack. But when journalists reviewed legal verdicts in such cases between January 2018 and January 2020— 20 detonations involving 32 perpetrators—they found motives ranging from attempted murder, extortion, and revenge for infidelity. They also noted that not every single explosion is related to the gang scene, although most are.

The bombings have mainly been directed at objects—such as cars and buildings—rather than individuals, which explains why there haven’t been more deaths. Still, fatalities have included a 4-year-old girl who was killed in a car bombing in Gothenburg (2015); an 8-year-old boy who was asleep when a hand grenade was thrown into the apartment where he was staying in Gothenburg (2016);  and a 63-year-old man who picked up a hand grenade lying in the street in a Stockholm suburb, thinking that it was a toy (2018). In 2019, a 23-year-old student in the university town of Lund suffered severe facial injuries when she happened to pass by a shop when a bomb exploded in a trash can outside. Her eyesight was reduced to 2 percent. She told the press in an interview that she still does not dare to walk by trash cans. 

The Swedish criminologist Amir Rostami has described Sweden’s bomb epidemic as part of a cycle of violence among criminal gangs, going back some 15 years: “First they shot at legs and behinds, then they started shooting each other, then there were more shots, pure executions, and humiliation of the victims. Now we have extreme amounts of explosions,” he told the newspaper DN in 2019.  

As this development picked up speed, it was considered bad taste to suggest that immigration and failed integration had led to severe problems with crime—or even that crime was a growing problem at all. This changed in the fall of 2020, when then Prime Minister Stefan Löfven of the Social Democrats, the left-wing party that has been the dominant force in Swedish politics for the last century, admitted what everybody knew: That immigration had affected crime in a negative way. His successor, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson echoed this in her recent election campaign. “We don’t recognize our Sweden,” she said, and stressed that her government had limited migration flows to the country.

Many voters evidently thought that it was a bit of a late awakening. 

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven during an interview. (Nils Petter Nilsson via Getty Images)

‘Sweden Is Safer Than Ever’

When stories started appearing about gang-rule and attacks on people going into immigrant neighborhoods, sometimes referred to as “no-go zones,” a government agency started a PR campaign to rename them “go-go zones.” The government had help from left-leaning Swedish media. In 2015, the editorial page of Dagens Nyheter, for instance, said that people expressing alarm about crime were “safety-deniers,” and compared them to climate deniers. The Social Democratic publication Aftonbladet said in 2017 that the idea that Sweden needed to recruit more police officers was “populism at its worst,” given that “crime is declining”.

Meanwhile, the link between immigration and crime was turned into a taboo topic. 

Aftonbladet, for instance, argued that there was no need for authorities to publish statistics on immigrants and crime because the very idea was inherently racist. Then-Prime Minister Stefan Löfven reiterated the same notion when he was asked whether immigration had affected crime levels. “We should act against what is wrong and criminal no matter the background and the cause. I don’t want to link crime to ethnicity,” he said in 2020––as if there were no legitimate questions about how his government’s immigration policy had affected crime.

Because consequences of failed integration––such as gang crime and social unrest––have been more acute in less affluent areas, it effectively made it possible for elites to ignore the problems for longer than large parts of the electorate could. Among progressives, such as the opera singer Malena Ernman––now perhaps mainly known as Greta Thunberg’s mother––the idea that “Sweden is safer than ever” became a slogan and an emblem of political belonging.

In the meantime, those elites dismissed any criticism of large-scale immigration as “racism.” The political editor of the Aftonbladet editorial page Karin Pettersson, for instance, claimed in 2014 that she could not even imagine an argument in favor of decreased immigration that was not racist. Even in 2021, as Sweden’s problems had become all-too evident, the Aftonbladet columnist Jan Guillou claimed that warnings of gang violence were a matter of racism: “For the Swedish public, slippery bathtubs thus constitute a considerably larger threat than armed teenage gangs with the ambition of shooting each other.” In 2020, one person died in a bathtub in Sweden, while 48 were victims of gun homicide, according to official statistics.

Police officers point to a board showing images of seized weapons in Rinkeby police station. (Jonathan Nackstrand via Getty Images)

‘All I Want Is for My Kid Not to Get Kidnapped and Peed on’

Right now, the usual people are condemning Swedish voters—or at least the 20 percent who went for the right-wing Sweden Democrats—as racists. The SD, founded in 1988, does have roots in extreme-right circles. According to a white paper published by the party by an “independent” historian (he turned out to have been a member), a significant number of SD’s founders had ties to Nazi or fascist movements. And scandals keep rocking the party as individual candidates are exposed to have racist views. 

But the party has been reformed since its early days as a fringe movement on the extreme right. SD has systematically thrown out members who have expressed racist views, including cutting off its entire youth wing. Today’s party program is that of a typical Scandinavian national populist party—and such parties have already been part of governments, and supported governments, in other Scandinavian countries.

To dismiss the party’s voters as “racists” is also to fundamentally misunderstand Sweden and what Swedes have been asked to normalize. 

Friends with children in their teens and twenties tell me that the fear of crime shapes the lives of their kids and their friends. Indeed, mock elections at schools this month showed that teenagers now lean to the right, with the majority voting for parties in the right-wing bloc, including 21 percent for SD. 

This is not a problem that is confined to the stereotype of the discontented “losers of globalization.” The crime wave has moved Swedish voters—rich and poor—to worry about the most elemental of needs: the safety of their loved ones, in ways that we simply didn’t use to. 

As an acquaintance told me the other day, when we were talking about the election: “All I want is for my kid not to get kidnapped and peed on.” 

Ulf Kristersson, leader of the Moderate Party, and Ebba Busch, leader of the Christian Democrats––the two parties at the heart of the right-wing bloc––observed in a recent op-ed that Sweden has met the threat to its global security with an historic bid to join NATO. But, they asked: “What will it take for Sweden to seriously address the great inner threats that we face today?” They also warned that “crime is nearing levels that threaten the [democratic] system”.

They are right. 

Sweden’s “vulnerable” areas have turned into enclaves that threaten the ideals, values, and even the ability of the Swedish state to keep order. The gang control also threatens the safety and limits the freedom of other immigrants, making life difficult for all those who seek to integrate into Swedish society.

This is nothing less than a threat to Swedish democracy. It is about time that Sweden’s opposition steps up to deal with that threat—even if it is with the support of the Sweden Democrats. 


At Common Sense, we work hard to get to the bottom of things. If you appreciate reporting like today’s story, please become a subscriber today.

25 Sep 19:44

3 Body Problem: Netflix Sci-Fi from the Game of Thrones Showrunners Is Coming in 2023

by Joe Skrebels

Netflix has shown off a behind-the-scenes look at 3 Body Problem, its ambitious adaptation of the epic sci-fi book series from Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. It is confirmed to debut in 2023.

Revealed at Netflix's Tudum event, we saw members of the cast, as well as executive producers David Benioff, D.B. Weiss and Alexander Woo, explain a little of the show, and reveal that it's coming next year.

3 Body Problem is described in the clip as a "history of humanity from the point of first contact with an alien civilization all the way to the end of the universe." The team was excited about the "ambitious storytelling" and "breadth and scope" of the novels by Liu Cixin.

First announced in 2020, the show is an adaptation of Cixin's award-winning book trilogy The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth's Past), and will be "the story of humanity's first contact with an alien civilization," portraying a vision of the future that sees "all of humanity vulnerable to the same external threat."

The show will feature Benedict Wong (the MCU's Sorceror Supreme, Wong), Eiza González (Baby Driver), Tsai Chin (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings), John Bradley (Samwell Tarly in Game of Thrones), Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth in Game of Thrones), and more.

The show's first confirmed director was Oscar-nominated Hong Kong director Derek Tsang.

Joe Skrebels is IGN's Executive Editor of News. Follow him on Twitter. Have a tip for us? Want to discuss a possible story? Please send an email to newstips@ign.com.

23 Sep 14:07

Beyond Meat exec charged with biting man in traffic dispute

by Associated Press
20 Sep 12:16

KAMELOT And KOBRA AND THE LOTUS Singers Share Photos From Wedding Ceremony

by Blabbermouth

KAMELOT singer Tommy Karevik and KOBRA AND THE LOTUS lead vocalist and songwriter Kobra Paige held a wedding ceremony this past June, more than two years after they were officially married. Earlier today, Tommy took to his social media to share a few photos from the event, and he included the follow...
17 Sep 06:01

8 Times Rings Of Power Has Foreshadowed The Fates Of Its Characters

Prime Video's Lord of the Rings TV show is halfway through its first season. Here's how it's tee'ing up a tragic ending.


We've officially hit the halfway point in Season 1 of Prime Video's Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power--and, make no mistake, there's still plenty of mystery left on the table. The Second Age of Middle-earth is as ambiguous as it's ever been and, with four more episodes left in this season--and a whopping five season run planned already--it's safe to say we're going to have to keep guessing for a while now. But be that as it may, with these four episodes under our belt, we've been given plenty of clues and hints to start making some educated guesses about the future of these characters.

Rings of Power has been layering in tons and tons of foreshadowing with every member of its massive ensemble cast--from tiny details to major plot points, it hasn't been shy about teasing what's coming. Some of these hints are easy to spot--it doesn't take a Tolkien scholar to know that the Dwarves' mining operations for Mithril are going to end in tragedy--but others have been a little more obscure. And some, we'd be remiss to not mention, might even be red herrings meant to play with our expectations for seasons in the future. There's absolutely nothing to say that Rings of Power can't dodge and duck around established canon elements of the Second Age and subvert some of our expectations. We simply don't have enough information yet to know.

But we do have enough information to start speculating wildly, so naturally that's what we're going to do. Here are the biggest pieces of foreshadowing in the first half of Season 1 of Rings of Power, what they might mean, and how we can expect them to pay off down the line.


1.) Theo and the sword


You don't have to be Columbo to start guessing that Theo is in for a dangerous road ahead with his apparent connection to the Sauron-flavored sword. Did you notice that the wound it produces in his arm when he stabs himself with the hilt is also in the shape of Sauron's symbol?


2.) The great wave


Miriel's visions of Numenor being swallowed up by the sea will, eventually, come to pass--Numenor is famously an Atlantis-style legend in the Third Age, having been completely drowned. The question for the show isn't if but when this will happen--unless, of course, the show wants to pull a fast one on us and go a wildly different direction.


3.) Harfoot brutality


The Harfoot custom of just leaving their friends and family behind is as cold blooded as they get--and an interesting way to subvert our expectations from what we know about their ancestors, the Hobbits. It might take a while to get there, but we can expect them to learn the error of these ways--after all, we eventually have to get to a place where Samwise can believably refuse to let his best friend travel to Mordor alone, even if it means nearly dying himself.


4.) Mithril and the fate of the Dwarves


This might be the most obvious bit of foreshadowing in the whole show but the Dwarves and their prosperity will, eventually, bring about their downfall. We already know what happens when the Dwarves mine too deep, too fast, and awaken the Balrog--and while the timeline is a bit fudged here for the show, we can expect to see consequences coming very soon, after all the Balrog made an appearance in the trailers.


5.) Isildur's failures


Poor, young Isildur just can't seem to catch a break--a trend that will obviously continue for him for the rest of his life. Sure, accidentally screwing up on a sailing test and getting he and his friends kicked out of the guild is small potatoes compared to keeping the One Ring instead of destroying it when he has the chance, thus condemning the world to another potential age of darkness, but at least he's consistent in being a disappointment.


6.) Mordor


You may have noticed that of all the familiar Middle-earth locations mentioned in the show, the name Mordor is conspicuously absent--that's because it isn't actually Mordor quite yet. Galadriel notes that the symbol Sauron has been leaving is actually a map--more specifically, a map to his base in the Southlands--which we know from the Third Age is eventually his base in a hellscape called Mordor. The Orcs are already hard at work terraforming the farmland, and we can expect to see more and more of that as the show progresses.


7.) Celebrimbor's ambition


We haven't seen much of legendary Elvish smith Celebrimbor in the show--but we've seen enough to establish that the dude's got a bit of an inferiority complex. He wants to make something truly noteworthy, and he enlists Elrond's help to make it real. What neither he nor Elrond realize just yet is that this ambition is going to blow up in just about everyone's faces--Celebrimbor is being manipulated into forging the rings for Sauron. Hopefully, we'll get to see just how that plays out soon--including some scenes between Celebrimbor and the man himself, even if he's disguised at the time.


8.) Halbrand's royal lineage


Like Theo, Halbrand is a character invented for the show who seems to have a deep connection to the lore in an interesting way--but unlike Theo, this has yet to tie him directly to Sauron just yet. Instead, Halbrand is apparently a lost king of the Southlands--or at least Galadriel is convinced that he is. This is potentially important, given that there are nine rings of power that eventually need to be handed out to the kings of men, and many of those kings were never named or established within the original canon.


12 Sep 08:06

Marvel, Star Wars and 20th Century Studios D23 showcase: Everything announced

by tom.power@futurenet.com (Tom Power)

D23 Expo 2022 is in full swing, and day two of the ultimate Disney fan event delivered plenty of spectacular announcements and reveals for Marvel, Star Wars, and 20th Century Studios fans to enjoy.

With day one of D23 Expo 2022 unveiling new projects in the works at Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, today (September 10) was all about Disney's two biggest franchises – the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and Star Wars – and one of its most notable film studios in 20th Century.

From announcements concerning MCU Phase 4 and Marvel Phase 5, to new Star Wars movies and 20th Century Studios flicks, day two of D23 Expo 2022 largely delivered the goods. New details on superhero films, trailers for upcoming Disney Plus shows, and a a brand-new look at Avatar 2 were just the beginning, too, with a variety of surprise cast announcements also part of proceedings.

Below, we've rounded up everything that was announced during the main panel on day two of D23 Expo 2022. Use the navigation bar at the top of the page to jump to the projects you're interested in, or scroll through slowly to find out more about every announcement and reveal.

Lucasfilm: Star Wars, Willow, and Indiana Jones 5

Andor: final trailer released

Andor, the next Star Wars series to debut on Disney Plus, received a final trailer as part of D23 Expo 2022.

The 90-second teaser gives a stunning glimpse into arguably the most mature Star Wars TV show yet, but plenty of action, tense drama, and complex relationships on show in the footage.

"This is like a 12-episode film," Diego Luna, lead actor and executive producer on Andor, told D23 attendees. "It's a gigantic film." If it's half as good as it looks and sounds, we might have a new number one Star Wars show on our hands.

Andor launches with a three-episode premiere on Wednesday, September 21.

Willow: "epic" fight scenes teased and new trailer drop

Willow, the Disney Plus TV sequel to the similar titled 1988 fantasy movie from Lucasfilm, received a new trailer and some intriguing details during its brief time on stage.

Erin Kellyman, who plays Jade in the Disney Plus show, said fans can expect to see some "epic" fight scenes, while Christian Slater (Mr. Robot, Archer) was confirmed to be part of the series' cast.

Lastly, a new magical-but-foreboding trailer was debuted, which provided a better look at the adventure that Willow (Warwick Davis) and his band of followers will go on to save the world once more.

Tales of the Jedi: first trailer and release date revealed

A six-part short story series, Tale of the Jedi sees Star Wars return to its Clone Wars-style of animation.

The trailer, which provides an exciting look at what we can expect from the miniseries, looks like it'll fill in some backstory details concerning key Star Wars characters, including Ahsoka Tano and Count Dooku. According to creator Dave Filoni, three of the shorts will expand on Ahsoka's journey from her home world to the iconic Force wielder we know her to be.

Finally, an official release – Wednesday, October 26 – was confirmed for the series of shorts, which will all debut on the streamer that day.

The Bad Batch season 2: January 2023 launch confirmed

#TheBadBatch returns with a 2-episode premiere January 4, 2023. #D23ExpoSeptember 10, 2022

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It's been a long time since we received any concrete news on The Bad Batch season 2. But it's been confirmed that the animated series will return to our screens on January 4, 2023. It'll get a two-episode premiere on that date, too, while the series will contain 16 episodes overall.

New Ahsoka, Skeleton Crew details revealed

Jude Law is here again (after debuting as Captain Hook yesterday) #D23Expo pic.twitter.com/sntwhkVk5gSeptember 10, 2022

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More details were revealed for other forthcoming live-action Star Wars shows, such as Ahsoka and Skeleton Crew.

Per Jon Favreau, Ahsoka will be Dave Filoni's "magnum opus", while the idea for Skeleton Crew was formed during Favreau's time working on Marvel's Spider-Man movies alongside Jon Watts. Watts directed all three MCU movies for the webslinger and will be showrunner on Skeleton Crew.

A first-look image at Jude Law's character in Skeleton Crew was also revealed, which you can see above (thanks to Total Film for the screenshot). Speaking about the show, Watts simply said: "It's a show about a group of kids who get lost in the Star Wars galaxy."

The Mandalorian season 3: first trailer unveiled

Not to be outdone by its contemporaries, The Mandalorian season 3 was also part of the showcase.

Teasing what fans can expect to see from Moff Gideon, the villain of the piece, in the show's next installment, Giancarlo Esposito told attendees: "You haven't seen Moff be vulnerable before... Only you can supply yourself with the patience to find out what comes next." Sounds ominously intriguing. Meanwhile, Katte Sakhoff, who portrays Bo-Katan, revealed that she'd seen footage from season 3, calling it "crazy".

Oh and, to give us a taste about what can look forward to, a first teaser was also unveiled. Suffice to say: it looks as drama-fuelled, action-packed, and thrilling as we remember the show to be. No official release date was revealed, but the teaser confirmed that season 3 would arrive sometime in 2023.

Indiana Jones 5: first trailer debuts during showcase

INDIANA JONES footage! A big sequence during a New York ticker tape parade. A horseback chase in a subway tunnel. A train sequence. The whip versus a dozen guns. It plays.September 10, 2022

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The first trailer for Indiana Jones 5 debuted at Saturday's presentation, but it's yet to make its way online.

Still, we've received some insight into what was shown. The teaser is said to contain plenty of high-octane sequences, including high-speed chases on planes, boats, and a horseback one in a subway tunnel. There's a scene where Indy uses his whip against a number of foes holding guns.

Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), Indy's friend from Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade, is back for the fifth and final movie. Meanwhile, there'll be a couple of flashbacks to a younger Indy, played by a de-aged Harrison Ford.

Director James Mangold, iconic actor Harrison Ford, and co-star Phoebe Waller-Bridge were all in attendance to show off the movie's first teaser. Ford got notably emotional during and after it was shown, according to attendees, before he told audiences: "We have a really human story to tell, as well as a movie that'll kick your ass."

MCU: Werewolf by Night, Secret Invasion, and more

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: exclusive footage shown

A screenshot of the new Black Panther with their back to the camera in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

A new scene from Black Panther 2 was shown exclusively to attendees. (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the next Marvel movie set to debut in theaters, was first up during Marvel Studios' presentation.

Director Ryan Coogler was on hand to deliver some exclusive footage, with a new teaser showing a scene from the film itself. The footage shows Queen Ramonda delivering a powerful speech to the United Nations about other countries trying to steal Wakanda's stash of vibranium. It's a moment interspersed with footage of mercenaries trying to break into Wakanda laboratories to steal the precious metal, but they're halted and incapacitated by the Dora Milaje. That'll teach them.

Other footage reportedly showed Riri Williams/Ironheart flying through the sky and antagonist Namor showing off his superhuman strength in a fight against M'Baku, whose staff shatters against Namor's flexed arm. Meanwhile, there was a brief blink and you'll miss it moment featuring Michaela Coel's new character Aneka. 

It's unclear if the teaser will be released online. But, with Wakanda Forever less exactly two months away from being released – it's out November 11 – hopefully we'll get to see the new trailer soon, regardless of whether this scene is posted online.

Ironheart: first teaser shown

The official artwork for the Ironheart Disney Plus show

Ironheart received its first teaser at D23 Expo 2022. (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Ryan Coogler wasn't done when the Wakanda Forever portion of the panel was over, though. The director is also an executive producer on Ironheart, Riri Williams' upcoming Disney Plus show, so he remained on stage – and was joined by co-star Anthony Ramos, no less – to tease a first look at the superhero series.

Ramos, who plays someone called Parker Robbins, aka the supervillain known as The Hood, was described by the actor as a "complex guy" with a bit of good and bad in him. He'll deal in the dark magical arts, too, which will put him on an interesting collision course with the more technology-minded Riri Williams, who is portrayed by Dominique Thorne.

Again, no word on whether this teaser will make its way online. Regardless, the show is still being filmed in Chicago and Atlanta ahead of a late 2023 release.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania: new details and trailer teased

The official logo for Marvel's Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantamania

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania will be unlike anything we've seen before concerning the diminutive heroes. (Image credit: Disney/Marvel Studios)

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania will be the first project in Marvel's Phase 5 line-up, with the film debuting in theaters in February 2023.

Speaking during the event, lead star Paul Rudd said: "This is unlike anything you’ve seen, certainly from Ant-Man and the Wasp. This thing is bananas." Rudd goes on to praise Jonathan Majors' role in the movie, with the actor continuing to play Kang the Conqueror and his many variants – the first of who we saw in Loki's season 1 finale.

Meanwhile, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige teased Ant-Man 3 will kick Phase 5 off "in a big way" and that it'll begin the "direct line" to Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, one of three confirmed films in Marvel's Phase 6 slate.

A full trailer was shown off but, as with most Marvel D23 trailers, it hasn't been made available publicly. Lastly, Randall Park's Jimmy Woo will be part of the film's cast.

Werewolf by Night: release date finally confirmed

After months of waiting, Werewolf by Night – an upcoming MCU TV special – has an official release date: it's coming October 7.

Directed by film composer Michael Giacchino (Lightyear, multiple MCU movies), Werewolf by Night will star Gael García Bernal and Laura Donnelly, and takes inspiration from horror films shot in the 1930s and 1940s.

And, based on the special's first trailer, that's exactly the kind of retro aesthetic and mysterious tone it gives off. Shot in black and white, the teaser gives off a very old school vibe, complete with timey-wimey humor, Hitchcockian camera angles, and plenty of mature themes. There's even more than a few lashings of blood, which shows Marvel isn't averse to crossing that family feel line it's been afraid to cross since the MCU's inception.

Secret Invasion: first teaser released online

Following its debut at Marvel's Comic-Con 2022 panel, the first trailer for Secret Invasion has been publicly unveiled.

Starring Samuel L Jackson's Nick Fury, Secret Invasion will see the ex-SHIELD director and his Skrull companion Talos (Ben Mendolsohn) investigate the invasion of a secret society of Skrulls on earth.

Billed as an espionage thriller in the same vein as Captain America: The Winter Soldier – the teaser certainly gives off that vibe – Secret Invasion looks like it'll be a series full of twists and turns, with the show's major players forced to work out if they're speaking to, and working with, real MCU human characters or Skrulls masquerading as those individuals. 

The teaser gives us our first looks at characters played by Olivia Colman, Emilia Clarke, and Kingsley Ben-Adir, while revealing that Cobie Smulders' Maria Hill, Don Cheadle's James Rhodes/War Machine, and Martin Freeman's Everett K Ross are part of its cast. Expect plenty of surprises from this one.

Armor Wars: the MCU show lives!

Just announced at #D23Expo, Don Cheadle will return in Marvel Studios’ Armor Wars, coming to @DisneyPlus. pic.twitter.com/Ac3nj6LYuiSeptember 10, 2022

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After its no show at Marvel's Comic-Con 2022 panel, many fans had feared that the War Machine-starring Armor Wars had been put out to pasture.

Thankfully, Marvel confirmed that wasn't the case, with the series coming soon to Disney Plus. The show will reportedly follow on from the events of Secret Invasion, and see James Rhodes pursue criminals who procure some of Tony Stark's old tech. The six-part series will enter full production next year, so expect it to form part of Marvel's Phase 5 slate.

Loki season 2: new cast member announced and footage shown

A screenshot of the official logo for Loki season 2 on Disney Plus

Loki season 2 received a cast upgrade at D23 Expo 2022. (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

There was no footage to show off for Loki season 2 – publicly, at least – which is currently filming in the UK, but there was an opportunity to reveal a new member of the Disney Plus show's cast.

Ke Huy Quan, who featured in A24's multiverse movie Everything Everywhere All at Once, has been added to the series' main cast. No word was given on who Quan is playing yet, though.

Loki season 2 will apparently connect to the whole Multiverse Saga, meaning it'll span Phases 4, 5 and 6. Talk about head-spinning!

Fantastic Four: Matt Shakman confirmed as director

The logo for Marvel Studios' Fantastic Four

The director for Marvel's Fantastic Four movie reboot has been announced. (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

It was a rumor that's done the rounds online for weeks, and Marvel finally confirmed that Matt Shakman will be director on the studio's Fantastic Four film reboot. Shakman helmed one of the best MCU TV series to date in WandaVision, so it seems that Fantastic Four will be in good hands.

Disappointingly, though, MCU head honcho Kevin Feige revealed that no cast announcements would be made just yet. That's sure to frustrate Marvel fans – Fantastic Four fans specifically – with online speculation also hinting at which actors may be cast as the iconic quartet. We'll just have to wait for more at a later date.

Echo: filming has wrapped, Wilson Fisk confirmed to wear eye mask

The official logo for Marvel Studios' Echo TV show

Marvel Studios' Echo has wrapped filming. (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Marvel Studios' Echo, the spin-off series from its Hawkeye Disney Plus show, has wrapped filming. Speaking during Marvel's presentation, Kevin Feige revealed that production had ended on the upcoming Phase 5 series, which will be released in mid-2023.

The show's main cast members were in attendance to debut some of the first footage from Echo, with Vincent D'Onofrio's Wilson Fisk seen sporting an eye patch. That's from when Alaqua Cox's Maya Lopez shot him during Hawkeye's finale, so expect Fisk to be gunning for Lopez in her solo series.

The footage also teased plenty of links to Echo's Native American culture, with attendees describing it as "looking very different to what you're thinking".

Daredevil: Born Again: filming set to begin in 2023

A screenshot of the official logo for Marvel Studios' Daredevil: Born Again Disney Plus series

Daredevil's MCU TV series will start filming next year. (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Daredevil: Born Again, the 18-part series starring Charlie Cox's masked vigilante, also got a brief update during Marvel's presentation. Cox took to the stage to confirm that the show would begin shooting in 2023 ahead of its confirmed 2024 release.

With little else to chat about, a clip from She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, which Cox's Daredevil will cameo in, was shown. It showed the two superheroes arguing about the best approach to taking out their foes, which drew plenty of laughs from the crowd.

Captain America: New World Order: new cast announcements

A screenshot of the official logo for the Captain America: New World Order movie

The fourth Captain America movie received some new cast news at D23 Expo 2022. (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Fresh from its reveal at Comic-Con 2022, Captain America: New World Order received some more new, well, news at D23 Expo 2022.

More specifically, casting news. Danny Ramiez's Joaquin Torres, who had a supporting role in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, will have an "expanded" role in Captain America 4, which will star Anthony Mackie as the new winged Cap.

More surprising than that, though, was the revelation that Tim Blake Nelson will join Tim Roth in making his long awaited return to the MCU. Nelson, who played Samuel Sterns/The Leader in 2008's The Incredible Hulk, will play a significant part in Captain America 4. He joins Roth in returning to Marvel's juggernaut franchise, with Roth's Abomination having a role in She-Hulk's TV show. 

Finally, Shira Haas (Unorthodox) has been cast as Israeli superheroine Sabra, while Carl Lumbly returns as Isaiah Bradley from Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

Thunderbolts: full cast revealed

A screenshot of the official logo for Marvel Studios' Thunderbolts movie

The main cast for Marvel's Thunderbolts has been revealed. (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

After months of speculation, the main cast for Marvel Studios' Thunderbolts movie was also unveiled.

The Thunderbolts' full line-up is: The Winter Soldier (Sebastien Stan), Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Red Guardian (David Harbour), Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), and US Agent (Russell Wyatt). The six-strong team will be led by La Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus).

Speaking about the line-up, Kevin Feige joked: "It tell you a lot about the team when beloved Winder Soldier is the most stable among them". Filming will begin early in 2023 ahead of the movie's July 2024 release date.

The Marvels: new footage revealed

The official logo for The Marvels movie

The Marvels teased new footage at D23 Expo 2022. (Image credit: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Company)

The final part of Marvel's presentation was reserved for The Marvels, which arrives in theaters in July 2023.

All the movie's main cast members were in attendance, with Brie Larson (who plays Captain Marvel) expressing her delight at "having a team" in the all-female superhero film.

A batch of new footage was shown off during the presentation, which included a call back to Ms Marvel's post-credits stinger. The snippets shown included Zawe Ashton's unnamed antagonist wielding an accuser's hammer, plenty of body swapping between the trio, a brief glimpse at Nick Fury and Kamala Khan's family, and a small cameo from Goose the cat. It seems like the teaser went down well with viewers, so here's hoping it's a blast when it lands in cinemas next year.

20th Century: Avatar: The Way of Water

Avatar: The Way of Water: new footage revealed

Zoe Saldana in Avatar: The Way of Water

New footage for Avatar 2 was shown exclusively at D23 Expo 2022. (Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Calling in from New Zealand, legendary director James Cameron brought a bunch of new Avatar: The Way of Water footage to show exclusively to D23 attendees.

Dolby 3D glasses were handed out to every member in the packed auditorium, with Cameron and company – the film's cast were also in attendance – showing off a number of beautiful looking underwater and on-land scenes from the upcoming sequel. 

Sigourney Weaver, meanwhile, revealed that she'll be playing the daughter of Sulley and Neytiri in Avatar 2, who is called Kiri. "Only Jim [Cameron] is crazy enough to have written this character for me!" Weaver said on stage.

Finally, a new piece of concept art for the film, which arrives on December 16, was released online:

Pandora’s beauty awaits.Brand-new concept art has arrived for #AvatarTheWayOfWater, in theaters December 16. pic.twitter.com/EymxRYJfDDSeptember 10, 2022

See more

And that's a wrap on the main panel on day two of D23 Expo 2022! There were a few reveals we were disappointed not to see – the lack of Fantastic Four cast announcement, little in the way of new Marvel Phase 6 projects, and no news on upcoming Star Wars films among them. 

Still, we can't complain with what we've just learned about from Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 20th Century Studios. Here's hoping all of the above projects live up to expectations when they arrive on the big and small screens.

02 Sep 14:10

LG OLED Flex solves the flat vs curved gaming monitor dilemma

by Chris Smith
LG-OLED-Flex

Choosing between a curved and flat gaming monitor can be difficult for gamers, but LG reckons it has the solution with its LG OLED Flex, aka LX3.

The 42-inch display can be manually adjusted from a flat screen to a curve of up to 900R. Users can essentially create their ideal arc, personalising the experience. There are twenty different levels of curvature overall. There are also two presets available via buttons on the remote control, as well as the manual options, which alter the curvature in 5-degree increments.

In a press release LG adds: “Additionally, the screen of LG OLED Flex can be tilted toward up to 10 degrees or away up to 5 degrees from the user and has a height-adjustable stand – up or down by 140 millimetres – guaranteeing ergonomic comfort for those who like to sit up, and those who like to lean back.”

LG-OLED-Flex

The bendable screen could be a great option for PC and console users who like to go from watching a TV show to enjoying an immersive gaming session, for instance.

LG says the LG OLED Flex is a world’s first and it’s possible thanks to the backlight-free, self-lit OLED tech. The company says the same display quality and 0.1 millisecond response time is available whether the display is in a flat or curved configuration.

LG is also packing in its Alpha Gen 5 processor, shortcuts to popular gaming-adjacent apps like Twitch and YouTube, support for Dolby Atmos sound and a Multi View mode that enables users to view content from two different sources at the same time, while selecting which audio source to hear.

The built-in speakers are 40W, while the Dolby Vision HDR enabled display maxes out at 4K 120Hz with variable refresh rate and G-Sync and AMD FreeSync platform support.

LG is yet to announce the release date or recommended price for the LG OLED Flex (LX3), but we’ll keep you posted.

The post LG OLED Flex solves the flat vs curved gaming monitor dilemma appeared first on Trusted Reviews.

31 Aug 12:01

Crafty cops set phantom speed traps on Waze – and drivers are slowing down

by Chris Smith
Waze police

If you use the Google-owned navigation app Waze, you’ve probably tapped your break pedal once or twice after seeing after seeing the police officer icon on the map.

The crowd-sourced data provided by fellow drivers can be handy in helping you avoid those seeing flashing blue lights in your rear view mirror if you’ve been driving a bit too fast. However, now the fuzz are turning the tables.

Police in Surrey have admitted laying fake speed traps using Waze, in tweets spotted by The Guardian, and drivers are slowing down as a result. “We definitely don’t drop Police markers on Waze at random points on our patrol, nope – never” the force’s Roads Policing unit wrote on Twitter accompanied by the winking emoji.

The tweet, which remains live, referred to the tactic an “easy way to get drivers to slow down on our roads” and actually thanked Waze for including it in the app. When the obviously outcry from the Twittersphere followed, the officer running the account pointed out that the markers were “technically not false” because the units “are there at that very specific point in time”.

Well played.

Indeed, there’s nothing on Waze that mandates the police traps have to be stationary, the account pointed out. Still, that hasn’t stopped Twitter users citing the Computer Misuse Act and accusing the police force itself of filing false reports. The tactic might be short-lived as, the Surrey Police force itself has issued a statement saying it has not endorsed its use.

The statement reads: “While officers used this application to deter dangerous driving on our roads, this is not a tactic or policy endorsed by Surrey Police. Innovation and technology will always have a part to play in keeping our communities safe but, although well-intentioned, we know this has caused concern and undermines the trust the public has in us. Media coverage has claimed “phantom” units have been created. This is not the case. Technology has not replaced the presence of officers on our roads. We’re currently reviewing and addressing the use of this tactic.”

Are the Surrey road cops justified in turning the tables, considering the feature is ostensibly there to outfox them in the first place? Let us know @trustedreviews on Twitter.
.

The post Crafty cops set phantom speed traps on Waze – and drivers are slowing down appeared first on Trusted Reviews.

29 Aug 10:38

30TB Portable SSD Hits Walmart For $39 But Stay Away From It

Twitter user Ray Redacted unmasks a mysterious 30TB portable SSD that sells for $39 at Walmart.
24 Aug 08:39

House of the Dragon: HBO Max Crashes as Millions of Game of Thrones Fans Tune in for Series Premiere

by Ryan Leston

Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon has crashed HBO Max. Millions of subscribers flocked to the app on Sunday for the series premiere, but many were unable to view it due to technical issues that affected at least 3,500 users.

As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, it seems that certain Amazon devices couldn’t keep up with the influx of viewers. Meanwhile, HBO Max users turned to Twitter to vent their frustrations.

“House of the Dragon is being successfully viewed by millions of HBO Max subscribers this evening,” HBO said in a statement. “We’re aware of a small portion of users attempting to connect via Fire TV devices that are having issues and are in the process of resolving for those impacted users.”

Right now, it looks as though those issues have largely been resolved. Game of Thrones fans were left stranded and frustrated last night, however, when the debut episode was officially released, only to find that they simply couldn’t watch it.

HBO Max support advised users that: “To help with the crashing issues you're experiencing, please go to any other show/movie on HBO Max, turn off subtitles/captions, and then try streaming House of the Dragon again.” This reportedly worked for some users, but others remained unable to watch. Of course, it also didn’t help those who need closed captioning to view the episode at all.

This isn't the first time Game of Thrones has caused Amazon Fire crashes as similar issues were reported during the final episodes of the original show.

House of the Dragon is the long-awaited Game of Thrones prequel that’s had fans on the edge of their seats since it was first announced.

IGN’s review of the debut episode called it “a strong, well-cast start to the Game of Thrones spin-off. This feels very close to its predecessor in tone and content, but immediately establishes a struggle for power around an amiable, weak-willed king, and vivid new characters to fight those battles. We also have dragons, inbreeding, and resentment. It’s good to be back in backstabbing Westeros.”

Want to read more about House of the Dragon? Check out everything we know about House of the Dragon so far, and find out what we know about the Gold Cloaks.

Ryan Leston is an entertainment journalist and film critic for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter.

22 Aug 10:20

Raspberry Pi Cat Doorbell Listens for Meows

Tennis Smith has created a Raspberry Pi-powered doorbell that listens for his to meow before sending a notification text.
19 Aug 12:55

Janet Jackson's 1989 mega-hit 'Rhythm Nation' sonically smashes old hard drives

by Andrew Tarantola

The "brown noise" is a legendary tone purportedly capable of causing people to lose control of their bowels when subjected to its gut-punching harmonic resonance. South Park did a whole thing on it. Turns out that the 5,400 RPM hard drives from a number of old Windows-era laptops possess a brown note of their own: Janet Jackson's 1989 mega-hit "Rhythm Nation."

According to Microsoft Software Engineer, Raymond Chen, who recounted the tale in a Microsoft Developers Blog post earlier this week, "a major computer manufacturer discovered" that playing the music video (above) would not only crash the hard drive of the laptop it was running on, but also any other similar model within earshot.

The Mitre Corporation was not amused by this newfound vulnerability, issuing it an entry in the CVE database. After a thorough investigation, the device manufacturer confirmed that the song contained one of the natural resonant frequencies of the hard drives playing the song essentially rattled the devices apart. Rather than recall untold numbers of decades-old drives, the manufacturer instead opted to develop a workaround by "adding a custom filter in the audio pipeline that detected and removed the offending frequencies during audio playback," according to Chen. 

17 Aug 13:02

BLIND GUARDIAN's HANSI KÜRSCH Talks 'The God Machine': 'We Said It Was Time For An Intense Album'

by Blabbermouth

By David E. Gehlke German power metal veterans BLIND GUARDIAN have a defined songwriting core of vocalist/lyricist Hansi Kürsch and guitarist/composer André Olbrich. The two are responsible for some of the finest epic metal numbers of the last 30-plus years and also for some of its most orchestrated...
15 Aug 09:21

Emily The Criminal Director John Patton Ford On Making A Throwback Crime Film [Interview]

by Jack Giroux

"Emily the Criminal" isn't about a glamorous life of crime. It's not about the rocking highs, the one last job, or the score to end all scores. It's a crime story about survival, with its characters just trying to make it through another crummy week. As Chris Evangelista wrote in his review, "Coupled with the prevailing sense of economic hopelessness, 'Emily the Criminal' often feels like a crime saga for the gig economy; a 'Scarface' for people who work at DoorDash, with capitalism as the film's Big Bad."

John Patton Ford is the writer and director behind the throwback crime film, which focuses more on the mundane than the highly stylized. There's no artifice -- just Emily (Aubrey Plaza) working and hustling. It's a character-driven film with Plaza making every moment feel believable and vital. It's a great performance When we caught up with Ford recently to discuss the movie, we talked about that great performance, and how he realized it was so strong, in fact, that he had to cut out scenes that didn't have her in them.

'I Haven't Seen The Whole Spectrum Of What She Has Yet'

Of course, you had a voice for Emily on the page, but how did that voice change or evolve with Aubrey's performance?

Aubrey is very ... she is aggressive and determined, and when she wants something, she just goes for it in such a fearless and focused way. I think when she came on board, the character became even more narrowly focused and more driven. I leaned into that. She has so much of that naturally, that kind of seeped into the character a bit more when she came on board for certain, if that makes any sense.

It just naturally happened. I feel like we talked a lot about the character's backstory and what her relationship was like with the other people in the movie. But in terms of just what she's like, just walking around, I feel like that just happened. There's a lot of Aubrey in that, a lot of her doggedly determined nature. There's a lot of her.

What made you decide to make her from Jersey?

I think that the perennial East Coast character who's stuck in L.A. is a classic, iconic character. Especially when you move here, there's just so many people from the New York area. And either you acclimatize to what it's like living here, or you don't, and you're constantly this fish out of water. I know so many people from New Jersey. And in a way, I feel like I should be from New Jersey.

My parents were living in Manhattan in the '70s and then they moved somewhere else to have kids. And usually people moved to Long Island or Jersey, but my parents moved to South Carolina. So I'm from South Carolina, but in a weird way, I almost feel like I should have been from one of those places around the city. I feel a kinship with people who are from there.

Of the '70s crime movies "Emily the Criminal" calls to mind, you really capture the mundanity a part of them, just trying to get through the day. Was that important to you?

Yeah. So many of my favorite movies are from that era, especially a lot of Sidney Lumet movies, like "Dog Day Afternoon," or [William Friedkin's] "The French Connection." Those are the big obvious ones. So many of those movies are not afraid to test the audience and to stretch the audience and to ask the audience to empathize with the sort of person that they typically would not be asked to empathize with. In a lot of ways, those movies just had a lot more faith in the audience. This is before there were algorithms telling studio execs what to invest in. It was just individuals going, "Let's take a gamble on this." So yeah. It's a big throwback.

I thought of "Straight Time" because of the casting. In that movie, Dustin Hoffman is terrifying, and at the time, I don't think people thought of him in that light. Aubrey, she's great and has range, but was showing her in a different light appealing? 

Yeah. I love so many of those movies that cast someone who you think you know, and then suddenly you see them in a totally different light. I mean, there's a joy to that. That just stands apart from the movie itself. Just that experience alone is pretty fun. I think of seeing Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler," it was so fascinating. I was like, "Here's this guy I haven't thought of in so long, and now like he's doing this." Or Sandler in "Punch Drunk Love" is the example that we always bring up.

So yeah, meeting Aubrey and suddenly being like, "Oh, look at this complicated, colorful person. I haven't seen the whole spectrum of what she has yet. I didn't know that she had all this going on. Wouldn't it be cool to show that to an audience and to pull back the curtain on this person who we think we know?"

So every day was a nice surprise?

Every day. Every day. With her, it's never predictable. She has this profound ability to catch you off guard at all times with all things. You never quite know what you're going to get. She's, and I mean this in the most loving way, a really unsafe person. She's so unpredictable. And so every day was just a huge surprise. It's a cop-out answer, but that's really the truth.

'Usually, Crime Movies Are About Someone Who Loves Being A Criminal'

How many shooting days did you have?

I mean, we shot the movie in no time, man. We shot the whole thing in 20 days or 21 days. But believe it or not, we did shoot a lot of takes and that's because of the way that we shot it. We did it in a way that's loose enough where we were able to maximize our time. We would just shoot and shoot and shoot. Very often, we'd start the scene the way it was written, and then we'd start improvising. And then by the time we've done nine or 10 takes, it's still the same scene, but it's just way looser and way more improvised than it started off.

What about Los Angeles was important for you to capture over those 21 days?

I'd say the diversity of Los Angeles. It's something I'd never see in movies. Usually, movies about L.A. are isolated to certain ethnic worlds. We're either in east L.A. in Boyle Heights with Mexican gangsters or something, or we're in South Central or we're just with all white people in Santa Monica. And none of those things are accurate.

I mean, the movie is diverse in every single corner. You have a cross section of people in every corner. There's something like a 60% non-Anglo population. 40% of the people here, their parents are first generation. So it's just diverse in a way that's hard to compare to really anywhere in the world. I wanted to show that. I wanted my experience of the diversity of L.A. to be felt in the movie.

You first experienced the world of credit card fraud in L.A., right?

Yeah. I lived in this neighborhood 10 years ago and I knew there was some kind of crime going on. I knew there was some organized crime in the neighborhood, but I didn't know what was up. And then just one day, cover of The L.A. Times, it was this massive FBI bust. And I realized, "Oh, these are literally the dudes on my block." I read about what they'd been up to. A lot of it was unexciting. A lot of it was drugs and guns and stuff I didn't care about. But then they did this elaborate credit card fraud that I couldn't believe. It was so strange and so unique. That's how I got interested.

There really aren't many guns or drugs in this movie.

There are actually no guns in this movie. The thing is, audiences have seen that stuff so many times, that when they see it, it's just so familiar. You just tune it out. Whereas if you see something you've never seen before, suddenly you have the suspense of the unfamiliar. I wanted to capitalize on that and really make it seem so granular and so singular that you feel like, "Oh, this must be real. This isn't something that I can just categorize and put into some box that I'm already familiar with. I have to pay attention, because this is the first time I'm seeing this." That's how I wanted it.

After all the research you did for this, how much do you now know about credit card fraud?

Enough to potentially put me on some watch list, I'm sure. I'm sure someone in the FBI's listening to me on my phone right now. No, I did a lot of research and spoke to people who shall remain nameless. So I feel like I have a pretty good handle on it at this point.

Not to talk out of school, but what did you learn from some of those people you talked to?

That none of them like doing it very much. That none of them did it for pleasure or enjoyment. They all had goals. They all had really specific things that they wanted to achieve. And this was just a means to an end. I think this is something integral: Usually, crime movies are about someone who loves being a criminal. I think those people are out there, but more often than not, it's just people who really want something and they can't figure out another way to get it. They end up doing this thing that's just available and accessible.

'I Always Knew That It Was A Coming Of Age Story'

Did you always have this ending in mind for Emily?

Yeah, but it's tough to talk about without totally giving the movie away to people. I always knew that it was a coming-of-age story underneath it, and that it was about someone learning what they're good at and what they like to do and what they'll probably continue to do in the future. While you're watching the movie, you're watching a thriller and you're held in suspense, but when it's over, only then do you realize, "Oh, that was a coming-of-age story," about someone arriving at, perhaps, where they were always destined to go. And so, yeah. I always had that ending.

So you always saw it as a coming-of-age story?

No, I think the first draft, I was just writing a thriller. I was trying to figure out how to write something that I could make inexpensively and that had thrilling set pieces. It wasn't really personal in the beginning. As I continued to work on it, it became more personal and more emotional. It became more about the character.

Once Aubrey got involved, was it easy to get this made?

No, it was a lot of work. I mean, I met Aubrey four years ago when she got the script. At that point, I'd been writing the script for a couple years. And so, it took us a couple years from that point to find the money. The reality is that we live in a world where it doesn't make a ton of sense to make a movie like this that's this low budget. How do you do that? How do you sell it? How do you make money? How? The system is no longer set up to support stuff like this. So it really was a small miracle that it happened.

Correct me if I'm wrong: She's in every scene, right?

Yeah. There are actually some scenes that she's not in, but we cut them out.

When you cut the scenes that Emily wasn't in, did it just make the movie more intimate?

Yeah. And also, we just discovered that the minute you leave her, it felt like some sort of violation of a contract that had been created with the audience. Without her in the scene, it felt like, "Wait a minute, this isn't the movie that we were told we were watching." It felt just wrong. She has a certain magnetism and a certain charisma. You just want to watch her do things. You just never know what she's going to do in life and in this movie. If you got her, you might as well hold on her.

"Emily the Criminal" opens in theaters on August 12, 2022.

Read this next: The 23 Best Heist Movies Of All Time

The post Emily the Criminal Director John Patton Ford on Making a Throwback Crime Film [Interview] appeared first on /Film.

15 Aug 09:16

How Matt Ryan's Constantine Became The Center Of The Modern DC Universe

by Rafael Motamayor

The DC cinematic universe, especially its live-action movies, seems quite disjointed and messy. There is no cohesive arc to the movies, no build-up to something bigger. For the last couple of years, however, that has been part of the charm, with standalone, isolated movies like "The Suicide Squad," "Birds of Prey," and "The Batman" exploring weird stories and characters in creative ways. Sure, they are not connecting into a big event film, but the sheer creativeness of each of the films makes them better than what a coherent, uniform, but formulaic universe could produce.

Reportedly, this was all supposed to somewhat change with "The Flash," a movie with a lot of aspirations. Not only is it supposed to introduce the multiverse to the DCEU, but also bring back Michael Keaton as Batman, all while also serving as a sort of reboot the same way "Flashpoint" did for the DC comics. In that storyline, Barry Allen, aka The Flash, ends up accidentally changing the course of history by going back in time and changing the past. When he goes back to undo it, it accidentally resets the entire DC universe.

While the fate of "The Flash" movie is still up in the air, it is time to recognize we don't need to wait for Barry Allen to become the center of the DC multiverse, because we already have one. The answer to every DC problem has been staring us in the face for the past eight years: make it all about Matt Ryan's Constantine.

From Humble Beginnings To A Central Role

Back in 2014, Ryan starred as John Constantine in an NBC pilot for a show built around the character created by Alan Moore, Stephen R. Bissette, Rick Veitch, and John Totleben on the pages of the iconic '80s run of "Swamp Thing." A working-class occult detective, warlock, and con man, Ryan's Constantine was praised for being a comics-accurate depiction of the Hellblazer in a show that had fantastic special effects and good use of creepy atmosphere, especially for a NBC series. But as comics-accurate as Ryan was in the titular role, the show was severely bogged down by a dull narrative and network censorship that prevented the character from smoking on screen or from being bisexual like in the source material.

The show was canceled after 13 episodes, but almost immediately there were plans to bring Constantine over to the Arrowverse. Stephen Amell and "Arrow" showrunner Marc Guggenheim campaigned to integrate Constantine into that universe as they had already introduced some mystical elements from the comics like the Lazarus Pit. Finally, in 2015, Ryan reprised the role in an episode of "Arrow" where he helps bring Sara Lance's soul back from hell, playing the same version of the character from the NBC show.

The news got even better once Ryan made an appearance on the best TV show, "Legends of Tomorrow," which then led to a series regular role and some of the best moments of that show. Constantine brought dry humor, tons of scams, and some horror flair that mixed phenomenally with the Legends' wacky slapstick, all while quickly becoming a bisexual icon on the show.

The Animated Return Of A King

Live-action is not enough for the Hellblazer, of course. Even before "Legends of Tomorrow" got tragically canceled, Ryan was already giving voice to the character on various animated projects. There was the Arrowverse-adjacent "Constantine: City of Demons" web series, but also the "Justice League Dark" movie set in the DCAU — a series of interconnected animated movies that started out as adaptations of comic book storylines but started to revolve more and more around original stories.

Most importantly, Constantine even got to be the center focus of the last DCAU movie before that continuity got rebooted, in "Justice League Dark: Apokolips War." That movie played out as a Crisis event, and was inspired by Grant Morrison's "Final Crisis." The film follows the efforts of the remaining members of the Justice League to regroup after Darkseid decimated the Earth and all its heroes. Constantine plays a major role in getting the team together and saving the world (while reuniting with his ex, King Shark!), and it is he who convinces Flash to go back in time and change the timeline, leading to a reset.

Most recently, Ryan reprised his role once again in the excellent third season of "Harley Quinn." This one is notable because the show is renowned for its disregard for DC canon and continuity, as it constantly reimagines popular characters like Nightwing, while killing established characters like Scarecrow, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, and even actual actor Billy Bob Thornton.

The Key To The DC Universe

If the whole point of "The Flash" movie being crucial to the future of the DC cinematic universe is that Barry Allen is the one that causes the plot of the movie — and the eventual reboot — to happen via time travel, then Warner Bros. Discovery can easily find a way to make Constantine the culprit. I mean, the guy is a wizard! Would it be harder to believe that a spell gone wrong causes the entire multiverse to change compared to a guy running so fast he goes back in time?

Granted, Matt Ryan reprising the role in so many projects could be just a coincidence or a cool homage to a good actor in a fantastic role, but what if it isn't? What if Matt Ryan's Constantine is the one constant in every DC universe? That would easily solve all of DC's continuity problems, and allow for arguably the single biggest crossover in film. 

Forget "Infinity War," and forget "Spider-Man: No Way Home." Make a DC crisis film where you bring in all the live-action movies, the entire Arrowverse, but also the DC animated universe, and even "Harley Quinn." Hell, if you want, you can even bring in Keanu Reeves from 2005's "Constantine" for good measure and explain it as bizarro world. And if we're really shooting for the stars here, why not get Guillermo del Toro to direct the film and make the Justice League Dark movie he always wanted?

Read this next: Every DC Movie Made Prior To The DCEU Ranked From Worst To Best

The post How Matt Ryan's Constantine Became the Center of the Modern DC Universe appeared first on /Film.

15 Aug 09:14

Bodies Bodies Bodies Star Maria Bakalova On The Movie's Depiction Of Gen Z [Interview]

by Jack Giroux

Maria Bakalova is the audience's eyes and ears into the claustrophobic world of "Bodies Bodies Bodies." Bee (Bakalova) is one of the two outsiders among a group of friends throwing a hurricane party in a mansion. She's a mystery to this otherwise tight-knit group, so when someone dies, people look in Bee's direction. That's about as much as should be said about Halina Reijn's horror-comedy, which takes pleasure in toying with audience's expectations. 

Bakalova, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm," pulls off a tricky performance in "Bodies Bodies Bodies." One, she plays the only reserved character in a house full of big personalities. Two, Bakalova needs to walk a fine line between revealing too much or too little about her character. She is in a murder mystery, after all. It's a fun role for the actress, who told us about her experience making "Bodies Bodies Bodies" in a recent interview.

'That Type Of Fear And Comedy Satire Reflection Of The Decade We Live In Is Contagious, In A Way'

This movie is a great time in the theater. 

Thank you so much. I think that the movie is pretty theatrical and that type of fear and comedy satire reflection of the decade we live in is contagious, in a way. A24 managed to create something that feels so authentic and contemporary like this right now. That is a mixture of, "Oh gosh, that's mortifying, and funny, ridiculous" at the same time. Yeah, thank you for watching it.

Halina comes from theater, and you have a theater background.

[Turns to look at her background] 

[Laughs] Oh.

I started in with the jokes because now I'm like, "Okay, I didn't get to do a lot of jokes in this movie, but I can do it now in the press." Yes, Halina is incredibly talented in every way possible. She is so sensitive and she knows how to express, to explain, to make you feel comfortable that you can dare to do something extreme. I think the directors who happened to be actresses prior, their directorial debuts are very much ahead of the way that they connect with their cast. She's been phenomenal. 

The background that she has that is theatrical has been just an incredible benefit for me, because we literally spoke the same language somehow, the way that she goes through the script, goes through the idea of rehearsing, table readings, physical blocking the scene, long takes that feel like a stage play, it's been amazing. I quite missed playing on stage. So having to work on "Bodies" and feeling like I'm still in a play felt incredible.

'I'm Trying Not To Think About The Jokes In General, Even With 'Borat''

What were some of the major discussions you and Halina had about the movie?

It was very important to me to work and develop this character with her, because the character itself is so far away from me. I mean, I have to learn a lot of things from her because she's so private. That is so respectable and interesting, because I feel like the more mysterious you are, the more interesting you are, somehow. With me, it's like, whatever goes to my head, goes straight out of my mouth, which we have to work on that. But Halina helped me develop somebody that is mysterious. Somebody that is quiet. Somebody that has lots of secrets. Somebody that feels, but is afraid to say it out loud. That's the way they communicate. The way that they try to fit. The way that they even walk. Because it's such a unique part of human behavior, the way they walk.

Everything happened with Halina, through Halina, because the character was exactly the opposite of myself and the things that I did prior to "Bodies" in the last two years. I spent almost a year working on [her "Borat 2" character] Tutar, which became part of my life, which is so extroverted and out loud. It was interesting to try to fill these big shoes of somebody that has a lot to say, but will not say it. People will take that she's weak. She is the most vulnerable one and ready to, I don't know, to escape and cry and be shy when she might be actually the strongest one at the end of the day.

The misconception that niceness is weakness.

Yeah, unfortunately.

Since you didn't get to make many jones in the movie, how did you approach the few you did have?

I'm trying not to think about the jokes in general, even with "Borat." I mean, with "Borat," which was full-on satire comedy, I was approaching it as real drama, as a real-life situation, and with this one as well. I think the jokes in "Bodies Bodies Bodies," which there are not a lot of, are happening because of the circumstances she fell into and the way that she's approaching these circumstances.

These people around her that are so far from her, they have it all. They're like kids with privilege and having all of these glamorous ideas and possibilities to get them. So it's nothing like she's seen before, nothing she had experienced before. I think the jokes with Bee are the awkward moments that she just creates for herself because she's going to try to fit in the group, but she will not. She will fail because that's just not her. Just by going through the Instagram of these people or TikTok and seeing how impressive they are and trying to be impressive yourself as well. But by somehow portraying somebody that you're not, of course, is going to make you fail. And, of course, you're going to look even more ridiculous. So I think her funniness in a way is because of her awkwardness and because of her trying to fit, building a fake persona somehow, lack of communication, and she is a little bit too kind.

'What The God Damn F*** Am I Seeing?'

Probably for a lot of people, you're playing the most relatable character in the movie. Did you see her as the audience's eyes and ears in this story? 

Well, we only can do so much as actors to try to make people empathize our characters. I think that's why "Bodies" was so well-written: You can empathize all of these horrible characters somehow. Because all of them are like, "What the god damn f*** am I seeing?" But at the same time you're like, "Well, I kind of feel for you." I hope they feel for her. I hope that the message had landed properly. 

Somehow I think she has the most objective perception of all of them, because she's just seeing all of them together for the first time, whereas they have seen each other for years and years and years, having all of the secrets, developing further more toxic relationships between each other. She's like the camera. She's like the audience, so I hope it feels this way.

They all do have moments where you think, "Oh yeah, this is a person you shouldn't just laugh at."

Yeah. Especially by seeing the ending and seeing how much they destroyed each other for this. I'm not giving any spoilers, but was it actually worth it?

Since the movie plays with expectations, and you're playing a mysterious character, did you try to do anything that would lead the audience to think one way or another about Bee's part in the murder mystery? 

Well, I feel like when the script is good, you just follow the script and the director's guidance. I try to be as honest as possible, because that's all I can do. I don't think she thinks she's mysterious. I approach her as Maria. Like somebody that is mysterious. She has her reasons to be mysterious. Maybe she doesn't need them, though, because the more secrets you have, the more weak you become because you have to hide a lot of things and you have to remember what you've hidden before. 

If you say a lie, you have to remember what type of a lie you've said. So just try to be honest, whether on screen or in life. It's easier. It's way easier. But yeah, she is mysterious. But she's just somehow scared of exposing herself in a way that she might look bad, she might fail. Which is going take her to a failure as well, because she's just so hidden and mysterious.

What read especially truthful to you about the depiction of Gen Z? 

Sarah DeLappe has done a phenomenal work by using the proper language and putting a meaning behind it, because a lot of people are kind of underrating the language that Gen Z and millennials, are using. Very popular words, we're using it without meaning it. I feel like all of these people, we can see, are pretty intelligent. They are intelligent. They're just using a different slang. So, that was relevant in the script. Plus, the way that they communicate with each other. I remember the first scene was starting with the kiss that is in the movie. And I was like, "Okay, I can immediately have a vision of how this is going to look on screen."

I was seeing all of these characters that have been introduced to me. "This is this girl. This is that girl. This is the boy of the group. This is the new guy, as well. Maybe these two people can be connected." I just couldn't stop reading in one breath. I was waiting until the end to see who did it and who started it? What happened? What went wrong in this whole game night? What is happening? And when I saw the ending, it felt like somebody slapped my face and I was like, "Whoa, I would've absolutely never guessed that's what it's all about!"

So did the movie end up very close to what you first imagined when you read it? 

Yeah. I was reading it and it was all of this mixture of genres that are so well connected. It's a thin line between comedy and horror, tragedy and satire. Because the bigger the fear, the funnier the expression, somehow. The deeper the sadness, the more satirical it looks, because, at the end of the day, we're so small in this huge universe and we're focused on our little problems when something bigger around us is happening. When we see them fighting about a podcast or fighting about, I don't know, a memoir book that somebody has written? It's ridiculous!

"Bodies Bodies Bodies" is now playing in theaters.

Read this next: How These Child Stars Feel About The Horror Movies That Put Them On The Map

The post Bodies Bodies Bodies Star Maria Bakalova on The Movie's Depiction of Gen Z [Interview] appeared first on /Film.

11 Aug 13:13

This robot from Amazon monitors your home and follows you around autonomously

by Autoblog Staff
11 Aug 13:11

Bird of prey: Hawk hired to scare pigeons away from San Francisco metro riders

by Reuters
03 Aug 17:17

Turn Your Aquarium Up to 11 With the MetalFish PC Case

The case includes a USB-powered filter, oxygenator, fish health tuned lighting, and it can fit up to a Micro-ATX motherboard, 90mm tall CPU cooler, and 220mm graphics card.
28 Jul 09:05

Sylvester Stallone’s latest film looks like Rocky, Logan, and Superman rolled into one

by tom.power@futurenet.com (Tom Power)

The official trailer for the Sylvester Stallone-starring Samaritan has been revealed – and it looks like another surprisingly fun superhero offering from Amazon Studios.

Released on Wednesday, July 27, the Prime Video movie's first teaser poses a simple question: what if Rocky Balboa, aka the legendary boxer Stallone portrayed for nearly 50 years, possessed superpowers?

Intrigued? You should be. The forthcoming superhero film looks like Rocky, Logan, Unbreakable, and Superman blended together in a potentially good film. Prime Video subscribers, then, will want to add this flick to their watch list ahead of its August 26 release.

Check out the official trailer for Samaritan below:

Based on Bragi F Schut, Marc Olivent, and Renzo Podesta's comic series of the same name, Samaritan stars Stallone as Mr. Smith, an elderly and reclusive Granite City citizen and neighbor to teenager Sam Cleary (Euphoria and The Umbrella Academy's Javon 'Wanna' Walton). One day, when Sam is attacked on the way home from school, Smith steps in to save the day – and, to Sam and his bullies' surprise, displays abilities of a superhuman nature.

Putting two and two together, Sam realizes that his savior is none other than Samaritan, a superhero thought to have perished in a titanic, fiery battle with his arch-rival Nemesis 25 years earlier. Smith has been laying low ever since and, despite an increase in criminal activity in the three decades since he faked his own death, Smith refuses to adopt his superhero mantle once more. It's up to Sam, then, to coax Samaritan out of retirement and rescue a city on the brink of chaos.

Based on its teaser trailer, Samaritan looks like it'll be a far cry from other Prime Video superhero offerings. The Boys and Invincible, two of the best Prime Video shows, are jewels in Amazon's streaming crown, albeit ones with a hard R rating. 

The official poster for Prime Video superhero movie Samaritan, which stars legendary actor Sylvester Stallone

Check out the official poster for Samaritan. (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

By contrast, Samaritan seems as though it'll toe the line of a PG-13 film (that's a 12 rating in the UK), which would align it with similarly rated superhero flicks including every Marvel movie to date and most Batman films. Samaritan's gritty, real world aesthetic is sure to draw comparisons with other non-Marvel or DC films, such as Unbreakable and Chronicle, while its locations and sets have the smaller scale budget look and feel of those seen in early Rocky movies. Given its "reclusive superhero meets starry-eyed youngster" story, too, Samaritan seems like it'll take its cues from another superhero film in 2017's Logan, although it's sure to bypass the mature content on show in that X-Men movie.

Samaritan's supporting cast includes Game of Thrones alumnus Pilou Asbaek, Spider-Man: No Way Home's Martin Starr, In The Heights' Dascha Polanco, and Riverdale's Sophia Tatum. The movie adaptation's script has been penned by Samaritan's co-creator Schut, with Julius Avery (Overlord, Son of a Gun) on directing duties. Stallone and Braden Aftergood (Nobody, Hell or High Water) are among Samaritan's producers.

Having been delayed several times by the pandemic, Samaritan will launch on Prime Video worldwide on Friday, August 26.

25 Jul 12:33

A chess-playing robot broke its seven-year-old opponent's finger

by Steve Dent

In something out of Black Mirror meets Queen's Gambit, a chess robot accidentally broke the finger of its seven-year old opponent during an exhibition in Moscow, The Guardian reported. The child apparently moved his piece too soon and the robot grabbed his finger and squeezed it, causing a fracture before help could arrive. "The robot broke the child’s finger," said Moscow Chess Federation president Sergey Lazarev. "This is of course bad." 

Video shows the robot grabbing the boy's finger and holding it for several seconds a group of people come to free him. It's not clear what went wrong, but Lazarev said the child had "made a move, and after that we need to give time for the robot to answer, but the boy hurried and the robot grabbed him." He implied that the robot's suppliers may need work on the safety aspects, saying the are "going to have to think again." 

The boy was identified as Christopher and went on to play the next day, finishing the tournament. His parents, however, have reportedly contacted the public prosecutor's office. Russian chess official Sergey Smagin downplayed the incident, calling it "a coincidence" and saying the machine was "absolutely safe." 

In any case, the incident can be seen as a modern parable of the dangers of robots, even in something as innocuous as chess. On a larger scale with things like robotic cars, however, the stakes are considerably higher

21 Jul 09:58

First Look At the Characters from Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

by Luke Reilly

Paramount Pictures and eOne have unveiled the first glimpse at their upcoming fantasy film Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves via a series a shots showcasing the cast of the film in full costume.

The images, which feature stars Hugh Grant, Michelle Rodríguez, Chris Pine, Justice Smith, and Sophia Lillis, can be seen in the gallery below.

Little is officially known about the film, but an apparent synopsis discovered back in 2021 indicated the plot would involve a thief assembling a crew in the wake of a botched heist, in order to rob a traitorous
conman who stole all his loot.

Hugh Grant has been confirmed to be playing Forge Fletcher, the main villain.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves will release on March 3, 2023 after several years of delays.

To hear more from some of the cast and crew of the film, IGN will be hosting a TikTok Live at the Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Tavern Experience at San Diego Comic-Con on Wednesday, July 20.

Luke is Games Editor at IGN's Sydney office. You can chat to him on Twitter @MrLukeReilly.

01 Jul 08:33

A swarm of Cruise robotaxis blocked San Francisco traffic for hours

by Amrita Khalid

A small fleet of Cruise robotaxis in San Francisco suddenly stopped operating on Tuesday night, effectively stopping traffic on a street in the city's Fillmore district for a couple of hours until employees were able to arrive. TechCrunch first noticed a Reddit post that featured a photo of the stalled driverless cabs at the corner of Gough and Fulton streets. Cruise — which is General Motor’s AV subsidiary — only launched its commercial robotaxi service in the city last week. The rides feature no human safety driver, are geo-restricted to certain streets and can only operate in the late evening hours.

Cruise apologized for the incident in a statement, but gave little explanation for what caused the mishap. “We had an issue earlier this week that caused some of our vehicles to cluster together,” a Cruise spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “While it was resolved and no passengers were impacted, we apologize to anyone who was inconvenienced.”

The GM-backed AV startup won the first driverless taxi permit in a major US city, and began offering San Francisco residents free rides in February. After launching its paid passenger service on June 24, early reviews from Cruise passengers came pouring in. One passenger noted that his Cruise car took an unusually long route to get to his home. Another passenger seemed to have a more positive experience, even leaving a cash tip for the driverless car.

This week’s traffic jam appears to be Cruise’s first major stumbling block, at least for its commercial service. Back in April, police stopped a Cruise car for not having its headlights on. Officers appeared unsure of how to proceed after discovering there was no human behind the wheel.

The State of California requires AV companies to report any collision that involve property damage, bodily harm or death to the DMV, which publishes the data online. A total of 18 reports involving Cruise vehicles have been filed this year.

25 Jun 11:55

Gaming and Entertainment Companies Respond After Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade

by Rebekah Valentine

Following this morning's Supreme Court decision to overturn landmark abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade, video game and entertainment companies are beginning to speak out against the ruling, and in support of reproductive freedoms.

Having previously made a statement of support when the decision prematurely leaked in May, Bungie has updated its blog post on the subject to announce it was implementing a travel reimbursement program for employees and their dependents to access reproductive healthcare that may not be available in their states.

Previously, Bungie also encouraged its audience to donate to charities including URGE (Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equality), Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, In Our Own Voice, and Trans Lifeline to help support rights to essential healthcare.

Bungie CEO Pete Parsons also tweeted the following with regard to the decision:

"This is a difficult day for our country. Good people will be hurt by this decision. Bungie will do whatever we can to protect our people and ensure they can live happy, healthy lives."

Bungie isn't alone in speaking up. Insomniac Games tweeted a statement as well which reads, "We are human beings who make games. Reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy are human rights."

Sony Santa Monica tweeted similarly a few hours later: "We believe that bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom are fundamental human rights. Santa Monica Studio will continue to uphold these values and support our team members in receiving access to the care they need."

And Naughty Dog, Guerrilla, Bend Studio, PlayStation London, Media Molecule, and Sucker Punch have also spoken up with similar language:

These statements are notable given the stance of their (and, soon, Bungie's) parent company Sony when the draft opinion first leaked earlier this year. At the time, PlayStation president Jim Ryan asked PlayStation employees to "respect differences of opinion" and reportedly discouraged internal studios from making public statements. Insomniac pushed back internally, resulting in both Insomniac and PlayStation donating $50,000 each to the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRRAP).

Among Us developer Innersloth has also joined in with links to a number of organizations providing reproductive and essential healthcare, alongside its own statement:

"Innersloth supports reproductive choice and liberty. The ending of the constitutional right to abortion is a gender, racial, economic, and human rights disaster for both present and future generations. There are so many people and local organizations to support. If you can, len them your voice, time, action, money, or privilege. We stand with everyone affected."

Devolver Digital, publisher of games like Card Shark, Inscryption, and Death's Door, shared the following short statement:

And Guild Wars 2 creator ArenaNet, which was one of the first companies to speak out when the draft ruling initially leaked, reiterated its support as well:

Ubisoft has also tweeted support for reproductive rights, and additionally pointed to a longer statement penned by chief people officer Anika Grant and VP global diversity and inclusion Raashi Sikka from June 15 that expresses support not just for reproductive freedoms but also for the LGBTQ+ community amid the potential impact of this decision.

"On behalf of Yves and all of Ubisoft’s leadership team, we want to be clear: at Ubisoft, we believe that women’s rights are human rights, trans rights are human rights, and equal rights for all are essential to creating a world where everyone can be their authentic selves and thrive," the longer statement reads. It goes on to reiterate that it is reviewing its benefits packages for US employees to ensure that women and LGBTQ+ workers and their families "will have access to the quality healthcare [they] need."

Fellow AAA publisher EA has not issued an express statement against the overturning in keeping with its prior reported internal statements that it was "inclusive of all points of view" and thus would not issue a public statement either way. However, it did publish a letter it sent to employees today announcing it too would offer expanded travel health benefits in the wake of the ruling, and encouraging employees to participate in company social impact programs.

More and more companies have joined them throughout the day, including AAA developers such as Bethesda and Niantic:

And mid-sized and smaller developers such as Unbroken Studios, Airship Syndicate, Team Meat, Cold Iron Studios, That's No Moon, Future Club, and Hi-Rez Studios.

In addition to individual studios and publishers, the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) has also issued a statement, alongside a list of suggested resources for reproductive rights, care, and support, which includes the Center for Reproductive Rights, Human Rights Watch, Planned Parenthood, National Women's Law Center, and United States of Women. Its statement is as follows:

The International Game Developers Association supports and empowers game developers around the world in achieving fulfilling and sustainable careers. We believe bodily autonomy and choice over one's own reproductive and healthcare matters are pertinent to achieving this mission. One must be in control of their own health matters in order to successfully manage their career and life.
As a global organization, we understand that not all individuals experience or have access to freedoms and liberties pertaining to bodily autonomy, and we oppose efforts to weaken existing liberties. We are deeply concerned by increased government interventions undermining and limiting reproductive choice and access to care. We applaud and show solidarity with games industry and community leaders who are taking action to support all who are negatively impacted by these attempts.

And in tech, Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman has shared a statement from Apple affirming its benefits support employees seeking reproductive healthcare that may be unavailable in their home states.

Netflix and other entertainment companies also respond

Gaming isn't the only space that's taking action. While major entertainment companies have refrained from issuing statements as of yet, reports indicate that a number of them are issuing statements to employees and offering healthcare support.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix is offering a $10,000 lifetime allowance for travel reimbursement for, among other things, gender affirming care and abortion. In an email to employees, Paramount CEO Bob Bakish reminded them that company health policies include coverage of travel-related expenses “if the covered health service, such as abortion, is prohibited in your area.” And Warner Bros. Discovery is apparently expanding its healthcare benefits to "include expenses for employees and their covered family members who need to travel to access a range of medical procedures, including care for abortions, family planning and reproductive health.”

Per a Variety report on the same topic, Meta, Sony, and Conde Nast are similarly offering or looking into offering travel reinbursement. And Disney has expressed its commitment to employees to provide access to family and reproductive care "no matter where they live."

Hollywood unions have also spoken up. A report from The Hollywood Reporter reveals that the Directors Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA, Writers Guild of America, IATSE, and Actors Equity have all issued statements to their members offering support for reproductive freedoms to their members, while also demanding legislative action to codify the right to abortion.

In a joint statement, WGA East and West's board of directors condemned the ruling:

“Once again, this court has chosen to ignore public opinion and to violate the privacy and health of a vast percentage of the American population," the statement reads. "This decision will lead to injury, death, and the denial of basic human rights that allow Americans to lead the lives they choose without fear of interference or bodily harm. We now look to the states to enforce existing law or to act to pass new legislation that will protect against the Supreme Court’s misguided and harmful decision.”

It's likely we'll see other gaming and entertainment companies similarly come out in public support given the large number that spoke out when the draft opinion first leaked. We will continue to update this article as more issue statements.

Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.

Update 6/24/2022 2:12pm: This piece was updated post-publication to include statements from the Directors Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA, Writers Guild of America, IATSE, Actors Equity, PlayStation London, Ubisoft, Media Molecule, ArenaNet, EA, Bethesda, Niantic, Unbroken Studios, Airship Syndicate, Team Meat, Cold Iron Studios, That's No Moon, Future Club, and Hi-Rez Studios.

24 Jun 11:54

Harley Quinn Season 3 Finally Arrives on HBO Max This July

by Ryan Leston

It’s official – Harley Quinn is back, arriving on HBO Max this July. The hit animated series starring Kaley Cuoco as the iconic Harley Quinn doesn’t have a confirmed release date just yet – but it will be back at some point in July, according to a Warner Media press release.

That’s good news for fans, who will be dying to see where Harley goes next…

At the end of Season 2, Harley and Ivy (now officially a couple) headed out on the road to cause chaos and mayhem on a cross-country road trip that Harley describes as their “Eat, Bang, Kill Tour.” A spin-off limited comic book series aptly named “Eat, Bang, Kill Tour” depicts their antics as they find themselves pursued across the country by Commissioner Gordon.

Season 3 will pick up where they left off, heading back to Gotham with Commissioner Gordon hot on their heels… and it looks as though we can expect to see even more DC characters, with Nightwing, John Constantine, Mad Hatter, Clock King, and Amanda Waller already confirmed. There’s even a cameo with director James Gunn, so expect it to get a bit meta.

Elsewhere, Harley Quinn’s Kite Man will be starring in his own spin-off – a show that’s described as “Cheers for villains” which sees him running a bar where supervillains hang out.

IGN’s Harley Quinn Season 2 review says: “the series looks to be even stronger in its sophomore outing. The new status quo and stronger emphasis on Gotham's villains help create a darker tone while still delivering all the zany, deep cut DC humor fans could ask for. Season 2 may well succeed where Birds of Prey never quite did - exploring what happens when Harley sets out to become her own woman.”

Kaley Cuoco stars as Harley Quinn alongside Alan Tudyk, Lake Bell, Rahul Kohli, Diedrich Baker, Tony hale, Matt Oberg, and Ron Funches. Harley Quinn was developed by Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker, and Dean Lorey with Halpern and Schumacker serving as showrunners.

Ryan Leston is an entertainment journalist and film critic for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter.

24 Jun 10:46

Westworld Season 3 Finale Recap

by Scott Collura

Warning: Full spoilers follow for Westworld Season 3.

Westworld's third season wrapped way back in May of 2020 with the episode "Crisis Theory" (read our Season 3 finale review), capping off the HBO series' journey to the "real world" of the futuristic society where theme parks are populated by robot "hosts." Or so we thought. But now, trailers for Westworld Season 4, which debuts on Sunday, June 26, continue to feature what at least appears to be a world outside the parks. Of course, with Westworld, one never can tell...

Westworld of course stars Evan Rachel Wood as the host Dolores Abernathy, who, having gained sentience over the course of the previous seasons, left the Delos park where she lived for decades as, essentially, a slave, now on a mission to take down humankind for the sake of her fellow 'bots. Or so we thought...

A lot happened in the Season 3 finale of Westworld, so let's delve into some of the key points and try to figure out how they might play in Season 4.

Westworld Recap: Is Dolores Dead?

Year three told the story of what happened to Dolores after she had escaped the Westworld theme park at the end of the previous season. Setting up shop in a near-future L.A., she created a bunch of copies of herself, or more specifically, copies of her mind, but in different bodies, all as part of her grand plan for the season...

But did Dolores Prime die in the Season 3 finale? She seemed to be gone by the end of "Crisis Theory," even if she sacrificed herself in order to achieve her true mission. After being captured by Vincent Cassel's tech genius Serac, Dolores had her mind probed by the uber-AI system known as Rehoboam. It was looking for the key to accessing the "Sublime" (the Valley Beyond artificial reality where many of the hosts escaped to last season). The thing is, Dolores didn't actually have the key -- she had hidden it with Jeffrey Wright's character Bernard (more on that in a second) -- and so as Rehoboam dug deeper, deleting her memories as it went along, it found nothing... except for a trap.

Dolores managed to hack Rehoboam while it was hacking her, and gave control of the AI to Caleb (Aaron Paul). In so doing, Caleb, with some clutch help from Maeve (Thandie Newton) and her samurai sword, commanded Rehoboam to erase itself, which it did and which would now allow for humankind to live out their lives by their own accord -- for better or for worse -- instead of under the guiding influence of Serac's ultimate computer. The last thing we see before the credits roll is Caleb and Maeve watching as the city around them burns. Yes, Dolores' true plan was to free humankind. "This is the new world," says Maeve, while "Brain Damage" from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon plays. "And in this world, you can be whoever the f**k you want."

Yes, Dolores' true plan was to free humankind.

So which Dolores will we be getting in Season 4? When the Season 3 finale dropped, showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy insisted that the Prime version of her was done, telling Variety: "Dolores is gone. We’re not yet discussing publicly the direction the show is taking, but the fun thing about this show is, you know, from the beginning Lisa and I wanted to make a show that constantly reinvented itself, that could be a different show every season. I think it’s important with a show in which death can be impermanent — these are robots, after all — to mark the occasion with Dolores. That version of that character is gone. We love Evan Rachel Wood and we haven’t started talking publicly about exactly what the show looks like going forward. But it looks very different."

Her mind had been wiped last we saw her, a lifeless husk laying on the platform beneath Rehoboam's giant orb. Still, we also know that Dolores duplicated her mind in other hosts in Season 3, creating divergent Doloreses, if you will. Most of those were seemingly destroyed throughout the season, but at least two remain: The Dolores inside a Charlotte Hale host body (Tessa Thompson) who had turned against Dolores Prime by the finale, and seems set to be an antagonist in Season 4. And then there's also Clifton Collins Jr.'s host. He had been a recurring character named Lawrence (a.k.a. El Lazo) in the previous seasons and popped up briefly in the Season 3 finale under the guise of a cop, although Bernard figured out that his body was housing another copy of Dolores. Surely transplanting the Lawrence host's pearl (brain) into a fresh Evan Rachel Wood body wouldn't be too much effort, even though she wouldn't have the same memories from Season 3 that Dolores Prime did.

In the trailers for the new season, we see that Evan Rachel Wood is back as a Dolores... or rather, according to the actress, a character called "Christine." She told EW recently that her character is "much more human this season." She seems to be mirroring her Season 1 version, where she was on the cusp of realizing she was living in an artificial reality, essentially. "This is the story about a girl," she says in the trailer. "Every single day she wakes up, the more she sees it. But nobody else can. There's something wrong with the world, and it's her fault."

William: The Man in Black or The Host in Black?

The Man in Black is dead. Long live the Man in Black! Ed Harris' character, also known as William, Delos' big bad boss, spent Season 3 struggling with his inner demons. He was institutionalized through the trickery of the Charlotte Dolores, where he participated in a therapy session with various versions of himself from the past (and perhaps the future?), including the young incarnation who was a regular character in Season 1 of Westworld and played by Jimmi Simpson. In "Crisis Theory," William is committed to "saving the world" from the host uprising, and we last see him in the first of two post-credits scenes.

It is there that he entered a Delos International facility in Dubai where, after stating that the hosts are "breeding" and shooting a security guard in the head, he made his way down to the basement-level research lab and found exactly what he expected: host shenanigans. The Charlotte Dolores was there, telling William he's right on time, and that yes, he is going to save the world -- for the hosts. A duplicate of William, in full Man in Black get-up, then appeared and, after a brief struggle, slashed William's throat. We then saw that he was right about the breeding thing -- the facility is full of host-making machinery.

The idea that the Man in Black would go full host certainly calls back to many fans' impression of him from before the show debuted.

The idea that the Man in Black would go full host certainly calls back to many fans' impression of him from before the show debuted, as he was clearly designed to evoke the Gunslinger robot played by Yul Brynner in the original 1973 Westworld film on which the show is based. And while it sure seemed as though the real William was a goner after his post-credits run-in, the trailer for Season 4 would seem to indicate that Charlotte/Dolores has somehow kept him alive, if trapped.

Still, existence of a Man in Black host (or duplicate) does track with the post-credits scene from the end of Season 2 where a version of the character still existed in what was apparently some distant point in the show's future. Speaking of which...

Bernard Gets Dusty

Jeffrey Wright's Bernard is the last person we see in the Season 3 finale, in the second post-credits scene. As noted above, while Dolores had led Serac (and the viewer) to believe that she held the key to accessing the Sublime, she had actually placed it with Bernard, apparently because she couldn't fully trust herself with it.

Earlier in the episode, Bernard paid a visit to Gina Torres' character Lauren Weber, who is now an elderly woman but also the wife of the late Arnold Weber, the co-creator of the hosts and the human that Bernard was based on. Back in Season 1, Bernard thought he was actually a human, and part of the trickery engineered by Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) to maintain that illusion was the false memories he had of his dead son Charlie, as well as video calls from Lauren -- or at least the simulation of the same. But here Bernard had the chance to finally meet the older Lauren face to face, which was also a nice chance for Gina Torres to return to the role as the two characters mourned the loss of Charlie.

Returning to the motel where he was hiding out with the injured host Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), Bernard dons a VR headset to finally access the Sublime. And then he seemingly shuts down and the scene cuts away. But later, in that final post-credits scene of the episode, we see that Bernard comes back online. The only thing is, clearly some time has passed. Like, maybe, a lot of time. He's covered in dust, and it's possibly not just regular old dust but fallout from a nuclear war or some other disaster. It seems clear that the Westworld timeline has jumped far ahead in this scene. After all, this is how Joy described the time period that the Man in Black was in at the end of Season 2: "In the far, far future, the world is dramatically different. Quite destroyed, as it were."

Quite destroyed sounds very dusty, doesn't it? So what do you think all this means for Westworld Season 4? Let's discuss in the comments!

This story orginally ran in May of 2020. It was updated on June 23, 2022, with the latest information about Westworld.