The Newsroom on HBO

Network:  HBO

Cast:  Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher, Jr., Thomas Sadoski, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn, Sam Waterston

Producer:  Aaron Sorkin, Scott Rudin, Alan Poul

Main Writer:  Aaron Sorkin

Premise:  A behind-the-scenes look at the inner-workings of a network news program.

So I know that a show like “The Newsroom” isn’t typically the type of review that you would expect to find on our website, but I love it and maybe you will too, so here goes…

I am a huge fan of Aaron Sorkin’s work – dating back to Sportsnight, a short-lived show that was much under-appreciated.  If Aaron struck out swinging with Sportsnight then he hit the ball out of the park with his portrayal of a network news program whose only goal is to change how Americans are forced into the ever struggling battle between left and right-wing media.  The show cleverly suggests that popular news media outlets intentionally influence our political beliefs rather than just report the news.  Whether you see yourself on the left, right, or somewhere in the middle, you can appreciate this show.  As someone who would probably be said to lean toward the right,  I still find myself yearning to see a news program today that resembles what Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) and MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) bring to life in this well written, directed, and produced piece of HBO gold…a show that simply looks for the truth.

The Newsroom follows the rebirth, if you will, of McAvoy as a hard hitting, straight to the facts anchor of the program “News Night”, on the fictitious network, ACN.  Will had previously been very well respected in the industry as a non-confrontational host who would not offend his guests by asking them the hard questions.  This made him well liked in the news world, and he was able to book practically anyone that he wanted for his show.

This all changes one night when Will sees a message from an audience member at a Q&A session which makes him re-think the answer to a question asked by a student…”Why is America the greatest country on earth?”  Without giving away any of the plot, especially for those who have not seen this season, I’ll say that his response sparks a series of events that changes his life forever in a number of entertaining ways.

The Good:

Without a shadow of a doubt, this is one of the most impressive ensemble casts that I have seen on television in quite some time.  All of the main actors do an amazing job of getting you emotionally involved with each and every character.  This, of course, is also due to the incredible script provided by Sorkin.   The story-line is compellingly written as  historical fiction, following real-world events that have happened in the past, and giving the viewers a glimpse into the day to day activities that take place inside a real news room when covering them.

The Bad:

I hate to say it because I can pretty much find something bad with everything.  I’m really good at it.  However, in this case, I just can’t.  This show is the epitome of what good television is to me, and I am just thankful that I’m lucky enough to watch the original airings!

The Ugly:

The first season just ended on Sunday, August 26th…but that just means you can watch them all in order on Hulu, Netflix, or by renting the DVDs.

Overall:  5 out of 5 stars.  Nice job, HBO!  Even though you are generally considered a left-wing media outlet, I praise your courage in allowing such a moderate show on your network…which takes a realistic aim at both parties equally.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

I highly recommend The Newsroom to each and every one of you, and I promise that you won’t regret giving it a try!

The Order of the Stick

For many of you who listen to podcasts and read web comics, The Order of the Stick or OOTS, as we affectionately call it, is a staple of everything that is right in this genre and medium of web entertainment. It is for this reason that I decided to write a review of the series – though it is currently on #859, perhaps there are some people out there reading this review that have not yet read the comic, and this will help inspire them to do so.

 

 

The Good

OOTS follows an adventuring group of the same name through their various, and almost always humorous quests, all of which revolve around trying to defeat the evil Lich, Xykon, his evil force of Goblin-Fodder (and a creature in the darkness!), and the group’s evil antithesis, the Linear Guild (an almost mirror-image of The Order of the Stick, but evil). The strip pokes fun at the D&D world right from the start, encompassing things such as changes in edition, and conflicts within the alignment system (one of the characters in the group is a Chaotic Neutral-to-Evil Halfling Ranger, who’s two purposes in life are 1. Taking care of Mr. Scruffy (his cat), and 2. Delving out death and destruction to all that oppose him (and some that do not!) though he is companions with a “Good” party).

All in all, this comic is a very easy read, and is quite funny. It is also well drawn, in its own simple stick-figure 2d style. There is no wonder that it has been well received by the online community.

The Bad

There is no consistency in the posting of new strips. When it first came out, a new comic was posted 3 set days per week…this changed to 3 days per week, with no set days, to one or two new comics per week, to now it’s sometimes one new comic per week…sometimes not.

I know that this has been a result of both Rich Burlew’s health, and at times getting burned out on writing the strip, so I don’t complain at all…I just look forward to reading the next one, and continuously check back for it! It does, however, drop my rating from 5 out of 5 to 4.5 out of 5.

Overall

You should definitely give this comic a read! Not only will you find yourself laughing throughout, but the characters are very likeable (even the evil ones!), and mesh well together within the series.

Nice Job, Rich Burlew!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Preview: Prince of Ravens by Richard Baker

Having not read the previous Jack Ravenwild book, City of Ravens, I was not sure what to expect from Prince of Ravens, but being a die-hard fantasy fiction fan, I was excited to embark on a new journey with the hopes of finding a story that would connect with me as a reader – that would spark emotions, and not allow me to stop reading until I found out what happened next.

To that point, Thank You, Richard Baker, for introducing me to the world of Jack Ravenwild!

Baker does an excellent job of connecting the reader with the main characters quickly, and giving those characters a sense of humanism that is difficult for all but true masters of their craft to portray. The storyline keeps the book interesting throughout, with just the right amount of detail here and there to make you feel as though you are part of Jack’s world.

My only complaint is that the book is so easy to read, that I found myself flying through the pages, and it almost felt as though it was over before it started. Seeing that it has been 12 years since the release of the previous Jack Ravenwild book, I truly hope Baker decides to continue this storyline sooner rather than later.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Review: Psience Web Series

Psience is a new web series coming out today.  From the press release:

Get ready to be spellbound by Psience, an exciting sci-fi mystery series (http://psiencetv.org) where Big Brother meets Harry Potter. This new WEB series is set in an Orwellian world where young 20-something sorcerers or psientists, as they are called, hone their magic skills in The Co-op, a secret community in the heart of a large urban centre.

The Good

This is a very intriguing idea and the use of the words psionics and science together to form psience is smart.  The show does a good job of incorporating both fields.  For an all-around theme for a webcast show, I was very interested in seeing what this was all about!

The Bad/Ugly

There are  random ominous tones and random pauses by the actors that give the feeling of a horror movie.  I was actually expecting Jack the Ripper to jump out from behind a closed-door and start murdering people…didn’t happen.  The over-use of the seemingly made up word “deiche”, if that’s how it’s spelled, is confusing.  I found myself wondering if this is the Canadian version of the word “douche”, the majority of the audience will be clueless as to what deiche means, or at least I am.

I only watched the first issue entitled “Don’t Snoop” so most of my comments are very issue 1 centric and some of the problems I saw could be resolved in later issues.  That being said, the show moves painfully slow.  The acting is what you expect from a web show, especially one that is only just getting started, not great but better than my little brother reading it in monotone.

Conclusion

This show is a very cool idea.  The Co-op full of houses with innumerable doors that require the right key to get inside is very interesting.  Plenty of shows that go on to be great have bumpy starts and this could certainly end up falling into that category, we’ll just have to wait and see.  For now though I lost interest and probably won’t go back to Psience unless someone I trust can convince me that it gets better later on and is worth my time to watch again.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Game Review: The Legend of Drizzt

The Legend of Drizzt

The concept behind this game is actually quite good.  You get to explore dungeons as Drizzt or his companions, OR you can choose to spice things up and play as one of the villains from the books.  First-time players will find the pace to be slow and confusing, but once you get down the concept, it goes much faster.

When choosing a character you get to select from several abilities (determined by each individual character), and can change them up from game to game.  The object of the game is to explore the dungeon and successfully win your encounters while keeping all party members alive.  Should a party member drop to 0 hit points, and not be able to heal themselves or be healed by the party for 1 full turn, the game ends, and the encounter is failed.  The dungeons are completely random, and utilize a tile-based system to determine the layout.  Tiles are placed one at a time as the party explores, until the final objective is reached.  (It is important to note that tiles can still be placed after this point, but there is rarely a reason to do so.)

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