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HALO | A Sci-Fi, Epic Adventure

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Today the 22nd of June is certainly an important date for the UK as the highly-anticipated streaming service Paramount+ finally lands on our shores and with it comes the first three episodes of the newest sci-fi epic and incarnation of 343 Industries and Xbox Game Studios Halo. Heavily based on the first-person shooter video-game series, Paramount + creates an adaptation that takes place in the universe that first came to be in 2001, dramatising an epic 26th-century conflict between humanity and an alien threat known as the Covenant. Halo will weave deeply drawn personal stories with action, adventure and a richly imagined vision of the future.

Before this review, I was lucky enough to see the first three episodes thanks to the Paramount+ team.

Review

War is brewing in the dusty landscape of the planet Madrigal In the year 2552. Halo trusts the audience into a rebellion as a bunch of resistance fighters are at loggerheads with the UNSC (United Nations Space Command) the militaristic branch of Earth’s government, It’s truly a nail-biting and suspenseful opening as the oppositions on Madrigal General Jin-Ha (Jeong-hwan Kong) and his daughter Kwan (Yerin Ha) are prepared to fight the UNSC’S band of marines or otherwise known as the Spartans, they’re manufactured super-soldiers created by Dr Halsey (Natascha McElhone). The UNSC are masters at shaping the public opinion with propaganda and Master Chief, John-177 is the face of it all. However, when the Covenant launches a deadly attack on the planet things get complicated and the Spartans and the people of Madrigal find themselves on the same side. This alien species storm the planet’s outpost and destroy their defences, its action-packed and bloody But when the Master Chief and his squad arrive to aid, they take no prisoners, the series’ first three episodes truly start off with a bang.

This series follows Master Chief (Pablo Schreiber) and survivor Kwan Ha on the run after they try and deal with the Covenant threat, whilst at the same time learning more about the strange object that comes into their possession. As the episode progresses Schreiber’s stoic performance shines as the Paramount+ series truly reinvents the character of the Master Chief, he’s a seven-foot super-soldier, cladded in green MJOLNIR armour, and equipped with a trigger finger. Throughout the first three episodes, viewers will get to know John as John also gets to know and discover more about himself, the transition from game to screen required the character to have a much more deeper personality. Aspects of the character have of course already been established through the multiple games and novels but the writers have captured The Spartans in the same vein, they’re used as a symbol for courage, bravery, and for effectiveness, as they’re tactile under extreme circumstances. The Series does tend to deviate from the games in certain ways but makes room for easter eggs and nods to major in-game events, we even get to see some live-action moments that are accurate to the source material. The Halo series ticks both boxes for balancing references to the games and creating some high-quality storytelling.

The Halo franchise also introduces a bunch of original characters including Ha’s Kwan and we get to experience her journey from being caught up in the war between the UNSC. Her character is experiencing all that’s happening for the first time, she acts as the eyes of the audience to this lore-heavy universe. More of the characters including the other Spartans, Riz-028 (Natasha Culzac), Vannak-134 (Bentley Kalu), and Kai-125 (Kate Kennedy) deepen our understanding of Master Chief.  It’s a fascinating relationship as John-117 discovers his humanity, which is an impactful theme throughout. Another favourite of the supporting cast is Dr Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone) who’s at the centre of the UNSC deviously working on Reach though what she’s got planned, we’ll just find out, as she begins a new project called Cortana, a new and advanced AI. 

Verdict

The TV series takes place in the so-called Silver Timeline which allows them to forge their own story and not collide with the canon. Paramount+’s Halo was developed by showrunners Kyle Killen and Steven Kane. Otto Bathurst, an Emmy winner for directing multiple episodes of Peaky Blinders, led the first two episodes. However, Kane wrote the entire series. 

I absolutely loved the Science-Fiction aspects as Halo is truly packed with adventure, action, aliens and an overall intergalactic narrative.

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Streaming & TV

‘Knuckles’ Review | A Warrior’s Journey of Self-Discovery

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This review was made possible by advance screeners of all six episodes of Knuckles. All episodes of Knuckles release on Paramount+ on April 26 and April 27 in the UK.

Paramount+ has made a triumphant return to the Sonic the Hedgehog universe with their latest event series, “Knuckles,” celebrating the 30th anniversary of the beloved character this year after his first appearance in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 back in 1994. Knuckles the Echidna, portrayed brilliantly by Idris Elba, truly gets his time to shine in this six-episode streaming series that I thought truly delivers a fresh and captivating take on the iconic Sega character. Plus It’s only fitting that Paramount’s version of the character should get a chance in the spotlight, and boy do they deliver. 

This series stands out as one of the best interpretations of Knuckles we’ve seen thus far, capturing his stoic and proud nature while also infusing moments of comic relief. Throughout, the six episodes seamlessly weave an original narrative while simultaneously staying true to the essence of Sonic’s world, and the Paramount franchise offers a cohesive and visually striking continuation of the previous two Sonic movies. 

Paramount

The second installment of Sonic the Hedgehog found Knuckles (Idris Elba) choosing to remain on Earth and guard the master emerald. The Paramount+ series begins with Knuckles getting used to life in Green Hills and is ultimately tasked with mentoring the bumbling sheriff’s deputy Wade Whipple (Adam Pally). Knuckles takes on the role of a guide and leader as the series takes them both on a hilarious and action-packed road-trip journey of self-discovery as he agrees to train Wade (Adam Pally) as his protégé and teach him the ways of the Echidna warrior. The series takes place between the films Sonic The Hedgehog 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 3. However, despite Knuckles being the title of the show, Wade Wipple plays a significant role, adding to the dynamic and charm of the storyline as a beloved character from the previous movies.

Paramount

Wade is on a journey from zero to hero in a tale of self-discovery. Whipple is an underdog in every sense of the word, and while he has a good heart, he’s significantly lacking in skills and self-confidence. The dynamic between him and the lovable Green Hills deputy Wade Whipple, portrayed by Adam Pally, adds depth and humour to the storytelling. Pally’s portrayal of Wade as an underdog on a journey of self-discovery brings a refreshing and endearing touch to the series, balancing the comedic elements with heartfelt character development.

While Sonic is cheerful and embraces Earth’s pop culture, Knuckles is a lot more dis-trusting and judgmental. Meanwhile, Wade’s pretty much a Sheriff’s deputy and fits none of the cop cliches. He’s nothing resembling a warrior, and he’s underestimated by every single person in his life. Knuckles and Wade are both remote in unique ways, and that’s the key to the series’ success. Both Pally and Elba are outstanding but as a result, Pally ends up stealing the show. By adding layers to the character and driving the narrative with humour and heart. The series is arguably more about Wade than it is about Knuckles, but Idris Elba does get some moments to shine another favourite of mine was Stockard Channing as Wade’s Mum, Wendy Whipple. 

Director Jeff Fowler expertly reintroduces familiar faces like Sonic, Tails, and Maddie Wachowski, grounding the series in its established universe while creators John Whittington and Toby Ascher explore new depths for Knuckles and Wade. The offbeat and unpredictable dynamic between the two leads sets the series apart, offering a fresh perspective on the Sonic universe that fans will appreciate.

Paramount

Idris Elba’s portrayal of Knuckles shines, showing a different side of the character. Ultimately, the incorporation of comedy, action, and heartwarming moments kept me engaged throughout the series. With warming themes on finding ones home, it is apparent that Knuckles is the last remaining member of his species, and from the beginning, it is evident that he holds the belief that “an echidna warrior has no home.” Therefore, it is expected that by the conclusion of the season, we will witness his transformation as he embraces a newfound sense of belonging. Whipple is instrumental in facilitating this change by providing Knuckles with the support of a loving family, complete with Stockard Channing, as I’ve mentioned being a standout in the role of his mother, who introduces him to the comforting embrace of their Jewish-American customs.

Paramount

We also witness the family and sibling dynamic, especially at the dinner table between Edi Patterson’s Wanda and Pally’s Wade, which is delightfully juvenile and petty. Though they both portray cops in this, she gets to one-up him a bit as an actual FBI agent, rubbing that in her brother’s face. The Whipple family, I found, brought further depth and entertainment to the series, enhancing the overall viewing experience. Episode three is a firm favourite.

However, hot on their tails are Agents Mason (Scott Mescudi, AKA Kid Cudi) and Willoughby (Ellie Taylor), who are in close pursuit, revealing the underlying tensions within the narrative. I found the Team Rocket-like dynamic of the G.U.N agents particularly engaging. However, I found some of the antagonists lacking in intrigue, especially when compared to the compelling portrayal of Jim Carrey as Doctor Robotnik in the previous films. The goals of these antagonists felt derivative, echoing a familiar yet diluted plot from the first Sonic the Hedgehog movie. The Knuckles trailer, featuring the iconic 1990s rap song “Knuck if You Buck,” showcased Rory McCann in a mysterious villain role. Known for his role as the Hound in Game of Thrones, McCann’s talent feels underutilised in this series. The character of The Buyer is disappointingly underdeveloped. However, Scott Mescudi (Kid Cudi) and Ellie Taylor deliver enjoyable performances as the antagonists, bringing a sense of fun and charisma to their roles. While their motivations are not deeply explored, their association with G.U.N. provides enough context for their menacing presence. Despite the lack of character development, the actors’ performances elevate the portrayal of these antagonists.

Paramount

As a fan of Sega’s iconic Hedgehog and the games I found that the series is enriched with thoughtfully placed Easter eggs and references, catering to fans like myself with a keen eye for detail. To my amazement, Knuckles undergoes a surprising transformation into a rock opera midway through, featuring spectacular needle drops and a soundtrack. The choice of the ’80s rock anthem ‘The Warrior’ by Scandal is a stroke of genius. It elevates the narrative and sets the tone for the action-packed adventure. The animated credit sequence features rewritable CDs organised in a binder, adds a unique touch to the overall presentation.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, “Knuckles” masterfully incorporates humour, action, and heartfelt moments, providing a captivating portrayal of the beloved Sonic character. The series excels in storytelling, performances, and hidden gems, ushering in an exciting new chapter for the Sonic The Hedgehog Cinematic Universe and leaving audiences eagerly anticipating more. Adam Pally delivers a standout performance in the six episodes alongside Idris Elba’s Knuckles. This lighthearted and entertaining series strikes a perfect balance between adventure and emotion, making it a hit with families.

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Comic Book Movies

The Penguin | Official Teaser — HBO Max

Following the events of ‘The Batman,’ Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin, makes a play to grab the reigns of the crime world in Gotham.

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Genre:

Crime, Drama, Fantasy

Release Date:

2024

Director:

Craig Zobel

Cast:

Colin Farrell, Cristin Milioti, Rhenzy Feliz

Plot Summary:

Following the events of ‘The Batman,’ Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin, makes a play to grab the reigns of the crime world in Gotham.

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Action

‘Warrior ‘ Cancelled After Three Seasons

Netflix has acquired the rights to ‘Warrior’

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Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji) has fought his final fight over at MAX, as the beloved martial arts show, Warrior, has been cancelled after just three seasons. However, fans may be happy, and hopeful to learn that streaming giant, Netflix has recently acquired all rights to the three seasons of the show set to start streaming February 2024. Does this mean we could get a fourth season after all? Well as we’ve seen with previous shows like Cobra Kai, one of Netflix’s biggest successes’, if Warrior does become a successful addition to the Netflix catalogue, then a fourth season is all but guaranteed. But only time will tell.

Starting its journey on Cinemax for its first two seasons, before landing an temporary place on MAX for its recent third season, Warrior now finds its third home in four years. Its first season premiered in 2019 on Cinemax through to 2020 before the the network announced the cancellation of all original programming. A year later, in 2021, MAX announced a third season of the show which premiered this summer.

Still from Warrior (MAX)

Series creator Jonathon Tropper shared in an exclusive article from Deadline that “Warrior is a show that simply refuses to die. Through platform and regime changes, the writers, producers, cast, crew, and our stunt team continued to make something powerful, relevant, and wildly unique. And now, thanks to Netflix, we’ve been given yet another lease on life, and I’m thrilled for everyone involved that millions more viewers around the world will discover it”.

Based upon the writings of legendary martial artist Bruce Lee, Warrior follows Ah Sahm, a martial arts prodigy from China, who immigrates to San Francisco and a hatchet man for the most powerful Tong in all of China town.

For now though, Warrior is still available to stream on MAX

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