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WWE 2K23 Review | Acknowledge It 

German suplexes and Superman punches and spears, oh my!

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This review was made possible by an advance copy of the WWE 2K23 Icon Edition. Thank you  to 2K Games! 


In a recent article, I used the expression, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” in the context of a sequel that attempted to replicate the success of its predecessor but ultimately failed to do so. The WWE 2K series has been filled with its ups and downs — WWE 2K20 is about as low as you can get — but WWE 2K22 was a massive step in the right direction after 2K took a year off between 2K20 and 2K22. And sometimes, a fresh coat of paint is all that’s required with a dash of improvements to make for a great game, and WWE 2K23 is proof of that. 

Beginning with the gameplay, 2K23 remains very similar to last year’s game. The mechanics are all the same, which works since 2K22 was a nice return to simplicity and found a happy medium between arcade-like controls and simulation. I’ll never quite understand why 2K took out the chain grappling at the beginning of matches — I lapsed from WWE from 2K15 until 2K20 — but that would be something nice to have in the future since not every match begins with the pacing of a Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg. It would especially benefit the PLE main events that have a “big fight feel,” as Michael Cole likes to say as the crowd is going nuts and the wrestlers in the ring are going through the “feeling out” process. 

The ability to have two Payback abilities is nice — for example, you can use the “Low Blow” and “Comeback” features and not have to choose between the two. It’s especially helpful in Universe Mode matches when you want to link together real spots. 

A still from WWE 2K23 courtesy of 2K Games.

Speaking of Universe Mode, much like the rest of the game, it looks quite similar to last year’s game. But one key addition is the new “Rivalry Actions.” While promos are still absent — something that would really bring this mode together — these scenarios allow players to choose certain scenarios to play out pre, post, or during a match. For example, you can extend a rivalry after a big match on a PLE (the option to choose the length of rivalries is no longer in the game), or you can choose a scenario like a post-match attack that’ll take a superstar out of action for a set amount of months. The scenario that plays out is decided by factors such as momentum in the rivalry, but there’s also an option for “Free Mode” which will allow you to choose which one happens. 

The “Rivalry Actions” are a great addition to the game, giving new life to some of the cutscenes in previous WWE 2K installments while also bringing in a whole new batch of them. Promos would go the extra mile in making these storylines really come to life, but for now, the “Rivalry Actions” suffice. 

But 2K23 is not without its bugs. Luckily, none of these are as bad as the lows of 2K20, and I’m sure they’ll be patched with time. The first is the managers and their unreliable nature. When I assign Paul Heyman as Roman Reigns’ manager, I expect to see him walk out with his Tribal Chief and utilize the amazing entrance specific to this combination. But half of the time, Reigns comes out alone and it’s incredibly frustrating. Or if you choose two managers, only one will come out more times than not. 

A still from WWE 2K23 courtesy of 2K Games.

The AI can also be incredibly frustrating. I play on “Legend” difficulty, as the disparity between “Hard” and “Legend” is massive with the former being too easy, but multi-man matches are more frustrating than in previous years. Take the Royal Rumble match, for instance, which has always been tough to nail. Even in 2K22, there’d be occasions where the AI opponents would randomly crash the party and break up your moves. In 2K23, the AI opponents never focus on one target and break up any move happening in the ring. It makes it frustrating if you’re trying to throw someone out and get interrupted by someone who was just fighting someone in the opposite corner. The “stunned” meter is back, but definitely expedited. I never had an issue with people in multi-man matches rolling out of the ring for a minute, but because of how quickly the meter moves, you hardly have a chance for a one-on-one encounter in the ring in multi-man matches. Sure, it moves the match along, but using your fifth finisher and not being able to go for a pin is incredibly frustrating. 

The small details are what save the day. The biggest one that stands out is how the champions — who traditionally come to the ring last — will usually wait a moment before their music hits. It’s a tactic that Reigns usually uses in real life, and it’s cool to see it replicated here. That extra 10 seconds between the challenger and champion’s entrance makes the match feel special. 

A still from WWE 2K23 courtesy of 2K Games.

And massive props to the developers for nailing the aesthetics. Character models look great, but the arenas, and now stadiums, are what really catches my eye. It’s unlikely we’ll ever get the uber-long entrance ramp that WWE’s stadium shows like the Royal Rumble or SummerSlam have, but they adapted and nailed the stages of those shows and Clash at the Castle (the one I was most anticipating). A small nitpick from a New Yorker, the default stadium — which typically was just Metflife Stadium in previous games — now is Metlife Stadium with a roof like the Alamodome. Most won’t care or even notice, but it’s a thought that came to mind when playing through the PLEs.

New to the WWE 2K series is the WarGames match. Apparently, it has been around since the WCW days, but it’s been used more recently on NXT. Last year’s Survivor Series PLE rebranded and utilized the match in its opening and closing matches, but due to it taking place in November, it’s a welcomed surprise to have it not only in the game but playable in the Universe mode. For those unfamiliar with this match, the WarGames match is when two teams of either three or four in 2K23 face off. One member of the team is introduced at a time — giving one team an inherent disadvantage — but the official match doesn’t begin until all of the members of each team have entered the ring. It’s really fun just like the real-life version was in November. Hopefully, the WWE continues to utilize the match in real-life and the 2K games.

A still from WWE 2K23 courtesy of 2K Games.

MyRise got a nice refresh with a story that hits the ground running. I think it has become clear that the idea of working your way up the ranks from the Performance Center is both tired and monotonous in video game form. Last year’s MyRise was brutal to get through; you had to do a certain amount of objectives before moving on to the next part of the story similar to what the NBA 2K’s MyGM has become. 

This year’s Showcase mode is centered around John Cena. It’s a nice sign of self-awareness by 2K and Cena himself to allow for players to play as the opponents in these historical recreations given that “SuperCena” was a thing, and the developers once again nail the aesthetics to recreate all of Cena’s marquee moments. Hopefully, next year’s title will include a Bloodline Showcase.

MyGM got some updates, but controlling the shows is a lot less fun than the sandbox-like playstyle of Universe mode. You’re given a budget to control Raw or Smackdown, which is cool in theory, but outside of the draft, it’s hardly riveting. At least they came to their senses and added more than one-on-one matches to it.

The biggest dud of 2K23 has to be MyFaction. I’ve never been one for the Ultimate Team modes in the Fifa or Madden franchises or the NBA 2K’s equivalent, MyTeam, and I really don’t understand the appeal of a wrestling version of it outside of the updated aesthetics that certain models get since wrestlers change their outfits all the time and their in-game models usually stay stagnant.

A still from WWE 2K23 courtesy of 2K Games.

One last miss for me is the new pin system. The button-mashing option is still there — though I would rather not break my $75 controller — so that leaves you with the new, refreshed timing option. In previous years you had to press the “X” or “A” button when the white bar reached the red area, this year it’s similar except that the red area moves. It obviously gets smaller and moves faster the more damage you’ve taken, and you have to flip the right stick up when in that area (though I just opt to use the “X” button regardless). It’s incredibly infuriating, which maybe is the point, but not being able to kick out after a signature move has made me as angry as Jey Uso when Sami Zayn turned his back on the Bloodline.

A common complaint with yearly sports video games is that they’re glorified “roster updates” (to be fair, roster updates are more important in wrestling games but I digress), but 2K23 is another big step in the right direction after 2K22 set the entire series back on track. 2K23 is a very “Ucey” and one that we all have to acknowledge.


WWE 2K23 is available now.

FILM RATING

Andrew is an entertainment journalist and film "critic" who has written for the likes of Above the Line, Below the Line, Collider, Film Focus Online, /Film and The Hollywood Handle among others. Leader of the Kaitlyn Dever Fanclub.

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Netflix

Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1 Review: Have They Lost Their Spark?

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Sam Phillips as Lord Debling, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton

Dearest gentle reader, Lady Whistledown is back for another Bridgerton season, and this time for her own love story (the ton doesn’t need to know). Classy as ever, Bridgerton Season 3 focuses primarily on Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton’s characters Penelope Featherington and Colin Bridgerton as they take their friendship to another level.

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton

What is Bridgerton Season 3 About?

After focusing on Daphne and Anthony Bridgerton in the first and second seasons, the story is now following Colin Bridgerton’s story with the girl next door. Penelope was many things for Colin but never a love interest. She was his sister’s best friend, a girl next door, a friend, and someone who had a crush on him. It’s no secret for the viewers that Penelope had a huge crush on Colin for years, but our girl finally feels ready to move on and get her life together. She is now in search of a husband after getting her heart broken in the last season.

What Stole the Show?

Apart from Nicola Coughlan getting the most deserving highlight, Netflix did their fan service and gave more screen time to now-extremely popular Benedict Bridgerton. Benedict Bridgerton has always been one of the fan favorite characters but after this season he has certainly got a huge following. Luke Thompson’s charms deserve to be studied in a university. He seems to be people’s new crush and I don’t blame them! The beautifully written dialogues are as usual top notch.

Bridgerton is famous for many reasons, including its orchestral remix of popular songs. This season Pitbull’s ‘Give Me Everything’ is in the limelight as one doesn’t expect such an iconic party song to sound so classy. Huge kudos to the makeup and costume department for carrying the show with its theme gracefully. They certainly grasped the attention and enhanced the characters of the show.

Benedict Bridgerton and Lady Tilley Arnold

Benedict Bridgerton and Lady Tilley Arnold

What’s Bothering Us in The Show?

The scripting of the show seems rushed. It lacks the spice, passion, and the slow burn romance that defines a Bridgerton story. Colin’s character has been poorly developed this time. After being sidelined for the last two seasons this one was supposed to make him the knight in shining armor, but he rather lacks the character. He tries to help Penelope only because he feels guilty for insulting and hurting her. Later on, he ruins her chance with a great suitor only because he feels jealous for not having her. He acts like a child who wants his toy back as soon as some other child starts playing with it. He misses Penelope’s attention after seeing her happy with someone else who wants to marry her. Some may call it ‘true love’ but I believe it’s too immature and childish thing to do for a Bridgerton character. Nothing against Luke Newton but his character development is not helping the show.

Apart from lacking the slow-build and passionate love story, the show seems to have forgotten about Daphne and Simon Basset (played by Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page) completely. Anthony and Kate Bridgerton (played by Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley) appear in one episode and are not even mentioned in the rest.

Nicola Coughlan – The Show’s Star

Nicola Coughlan is shining brighter than any star in the sky. Both Nicola and Penelope are role models for body positivity. Young girls and women across the globe highly relate to Penelope and seeing her accepting herself, being comfortable in her own skin, and getting a complete makeover to feel more like herself is bound to create a positive wave among the fans. Unlike the last two Seasons, the Third Season is also focusing on other characters of the show as well, as it creates branches and stories for potential upcoming seasons. Yet, no one and nothing shines in front of Nicola Coughlan as she wears her crown with grace.

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington

Is It Better Than Last Two Seasons?

Each Bridgerton story has its unique charm that keeps our eyes glued to the screens. Some love Season 1, others like Season 2, and the rest prefer Season 3 but is it better than the last two? Probably not. Nothing can beat Season 1! As much as the show focuses on the ‘Friends to Lovers’ storyline, it lacks the true essence of romance and no, I’m not talking about the spiciness even though they severely lack to give us butterflies. Polin’s storyline sometimes gives us butterflies but not as much as previous seasons did. The groundwork for the couple was laid since the first season yet they are not coming as strong and passionate as expected.

Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1 is currently available to stream on Netflix. Part 2 will be released on June 13.

FILM RATING
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Entertainment

‘IF’ Review | The Most Meaningful and Heartfelt Movie of The Year, Delights With Pure Imagination

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This review was made possible by watching an advanced screening

The most meaningful and heartfelt movie of the year. “IF” enchants with delight and wonder as John Krasinski crafts a love letter to our childhood, making us experience emotions that ultimately hit me right in the feels as he reminds us to never lose sight of our imagination! 

In a cinematic landscape often dominated by cynicism and darkness, John Krasinski’s “IF” is a breath of fresh air, a heartwarming and endearing tale that will leave you beaming with joy as it expertly balances the magic, wonder, and adventure of childhood with the poignancy, trials, and tribulations of adulthood, creating a narrative that is at once both nostalgic and universally relatable. The real magic of “IF” lies in its ability to tap into the collective shared childhood experience by evoking memories of our imaginary friends & the adventures we’ve shared with them. 

“IF,” is a whimsical fantasy family adventure that explores the concept of abandoned imaginary friends or IFs as they call themselves. In this heartwarming tale, Bea, a young girl played beautifully by Cailey Fleming discovers her unique ability to see these unwanted characters and reconnect the forgotten IFs with their original creators who have now fully grown up as she embarks on a magical journey through this imaginative, colourful, and creative world. As one girl learns the power of imagination and friendship. Bea thinks she must be hallucinating – until the man in the apartment upstairs reveals he can also see the IFs. 

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Several years ago, Krasinski, known for his work on “A Quiet Place,” penned a script intending to uplift his children who were struggling with feelings of depression amidst the challenges of the pandemic. Krasinski not only wrote the script but also took on the role of director for the film. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Cailey Fleming, Steve Carell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr., and Fiona Shaw, among many other A-listers lending their voices to the characters, “IF” was inspired by the impact of the pandemic on Krasinski’s daughters, Hazel and Violet.

Having long harboured the desire to create a film for his children, Krasinski found inspiration in the imaginative worlds his daughters would delve into. Witnessing the genuine joy and authenticity with which they played, he was motivated to capture this magic on screen. Through “IF,” Krasinski aimed to show his daughters that this world of imagination and make-believe is always within reach, a place where they can be anything they desire. This magical world is ever-present and waiting for them to explore.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Imaginary friends, these elusive entities existing solely in a child’s vivid imagination, serve as a comforting beacon amidst the chaos of adulthood. In this whimsical tale, away from the foreboding presence of sightless extraterrestrials, audiences are treated to a cascade of endearing characters and a wave of nostalgic charm that instils a heartwarming sense of joy and wonder. “IF” is a delightful escapade that celebrates the virtues of curiosity, creativity, and innocence, rekindling the essence of childhood wonder, and reminding us that the magic is always within reach.

Featuring a star-studded lineup of IFs including Steve Carell, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Bradley Cooper, Keegan-Michael Key, and more, the film introduces a mix of charismatic imaginary beings brought to life through the distinct voices of these esteemed actors. Each character, with its unique backstory and quirks, adds a human touch to the ethereal world, resonating with both younger viewers and their older counterparts.

The film’s exploration of imaginary friends serves as a poignant reminder that our childhood aspirations and dreams are not just fleeting fantasies, but rather tangible time capsules that hold the power to shape our future. These creations, born from our imagination, are a manifestation of our hopes, desires, and innermost ambitions – a reflection of who we wanted to be and what we wanted to achieve. As we grow up and face the harsh realities of adulthood, it’s easy to lose sight of these childhood ideals, but the film suggests that we don’t have to let go of that spark. By tapping into the imagination and embracing the spirit of our youthful selves, we can reignite our passions, rediscover our sense of purpose, and continue to evolve into the best versions of ourselves. In this way, imaginary friends become a powerful tool for self-reflection, creativity, and personal growth, reminding us that even as we age, we can still hold onto the essence of our childhood dreams.”

Through the vibrant personalities of figures like Blue, Unicorn, Sunny, Spaceman, and Ally, the movie explores the boundless bounds of a child’s imagination. A blend of conventional and eccentric companions, such as Blossom, Ice, Cosmo, and Marshmallow creates a tapestry of humour and charm that engages viewers in a realm where the fantastical meets the mundane in delightful ways. Most significantly Lewis, an old teddy bear voiced by Louis Gossett Jr sadly passed away and the film is lovingly dedicated to him with such a touching tribute after the credits rolled.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

To render the unseen into vision, director John Krasinski enlisted the expertise of VFX supervisor Chris Lawrence and the revered effects studio Framestore, weaving together around 800 meticulously crafted shots featuring a diverse ensemble of 42 CGI characters. Within this narrative realm, a poignant blend of fantasy and magical realism flourishes, engendering a profound sense of belief in the audience as they witness these ethereal beings coalesce on screen. Employing a blend of physical puppets and digital animation, the film sought to honour the sanctity of space and performance, poised on the precipice of seamlessly integrating these otherworldly entities within the tangible fabric of the film universe.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Through this meticulous fusion of technical prowess and artistic vision, the film emerges as a testament to the transformative power of storytelling, poised to captivate audiences with its charm and artistry.

With a captivating blend of computer-generated CGI forms seamlessly integrating into the real world, expertly led by the dynamic duo of Fleming and Reynolds, As the live-action leads, they exhibit effortless chemistry on-screen, commanding attention and drawing the audience in. The initial wariness between Bea and Cal gives way to a warm and engaging rapport, characterised by witty banter and exasperation.

As Bea navigates the challenges of transitioning through her teenage years, she finds solace in these quirky and unique imaginary friends, embracing the comfort and security of childhood delights. Meanwhile, the film’s relationships take centre stage, led by the charismatic performance of Ryan Reynolds and standout Cailey Fleming, alongside Fiona Shaw. The movie’s greatest strength lies in its nuanced balance between lighthearted moments and emotional depth, evoking a sense of warmth and family, particularly during poignant reunion scenes.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

One of the film’s most endearing relationships is that between Bea and her father, played by Krasinski, which is charmingly tender and heartfelt.

Michael Giacchino’s music score for the movie “If” is a masterclass in emotional depth and thematic complexity. The composer delivers one of the best scores of his career, weaving a sonic tapestry that perfectly captures the film’s poignant exploration of connection whether that’s from human or imaginary. Giacchino’s themes are creative, heartfelt, and sincere, expertly conveying the emotional highs and lows of the characters’ journeys. From the tender warmth to the soaring grandeur of the score’s more uplifting moments, every note feels carefully crafted to elevate the film’s emotional impact. Giacchino’s score is a stunning achievement, showcasing his remarkable composer skill and ability to tap into the heart of a story.

FINAL THOUGHTS

In essence, “IF” is a cinematic celebration of the power of imagination, brought to life through a tapestry of endearing characters and heartfelt moments that left me feeling nostalgic and uplifted. With its colourful jumble of personalities and whimsical storytelling, the film is a captivating journey into the enchanting world of make-believe that will warm the hearts of viewers of all ages. 

IF” hits theatres on May 17. 

FILM RATING
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Adventure

Arthur the King is an Epic Masterpiece

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Arthur the King movie poster (Lionsgate Films)

Here follows the review of Arthur the King, a story of deep connection between people and dogs. Not all heroes wear capes, some have wagging tails and would cross a river (and jungle) for you.

Plot

Desperate for one last chance to win, Michael Light convinces a sponsor to back him and a team of athletes for the Adventure Racing World Championship in the Dominican Republic. As the team gets pushed to the outer limits of endurance, a dog named Arthur comes along for the ride, redefining what victory, loyalty and friendship truly means.

Arthur Foundation

Mikael Lindnord raced through a jungle in Ecuador and after feeding a few meatballs to a stray dog made a friend for life. The dog followed Mikael and his team through the rough terrain. Mikael named the dog Arthur and took him back home with him.

Arthur and Mikael Lindnord (Photo taken by Krister Goransson)

The Arthur Foundation collaborates with various organizations in different countries that work towards animal welfare.

Click on the following links to reach out to Mikael Lindnord.

Movie Review (no spoilers)

The movie is based on the memoir, Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home by Mikael Lindnord, who was the athlete who participated in the Adventure Racing World Championship in Ecuador. It is important to note in the movie they refer to him as Michael Light. Even though the original race took place in Ecuador, the movie changed the location to the Dominican Republic. The original race took place in 2014, while in the movie the race takes place in 2018.

Mark Wahlberg portrays the part of the Mikael and delivers an excellent performance alongside Simu Liu, Nathalie Emmanuel and Ali Suliman. Ukai, a stray dog, was a real champion portraying the role of Arthur. The film takes us through picturesque locations in the Dominican Republic. The suspense was felt at every turn and corner and you are kept glued to the screen with a gripping storyline. The story balances the journey of Mikael and Arthur and eventually joins their path like a jigsaw puzzle.

Mark Wahlberg as Mikael Light (Lionsgate Films)

A fictional backstory is provided of Mikael’s competitive journey as well as the journey that Arthur took to get to Mikael. The movie successfully tells a deep story of connection between dogs and people. If you want to know more about the real story, you can check your local bookstore or Amazon for a copy of Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home

This movie is a 5 out of 5 for me. The connection between Mikael and Arthur is brought to life in this epic masterpiece. Arthur found a home in the heart of Mikael and thanks to Mark Wahlberg and Ukai, this film adaptation of ‘Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home’ became a memorable movie.

The trailer doesn’t spoil any of the important scenes of the movie. Arthur the King has a runtime of 1 hour and 30 minutes. There is no post-credits scene so no need to wait till the end.

Arthur the King Official Trailer (Lionsgate Films)

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