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‘Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet’ actually gets gaming right, flaws and all

(02/10/20 6:05pm)

Gaming is a complicated industry. Video games, once considered a niche children’s form of entertainment, have become a massive, several hundred billion dollar industry — bigger than music or film. Gaming’s role in culture has evolved from the “World of Warcraft” parody on South Park to streamers like Ninja playing Fortnite with “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah. Games are an undeniably mainstream phenomenon making tons of cash. Yet at the same time, the industry faces constant controversy over toxic fanbases, abusive working conditions for employees, casino-esque monetization schemes and being a breeding ground for the alt-right. The new Apple TV+ comedy “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” attempts to tackle all of these aspects of gaming — both ugly and positive — and it does so better than any other show has. It might indeed be the “Silicon Valley” of gaming — after HBO’s similarly styled comedy takedown of tech.

Before ‘Rick and Morty,’ the MCU and Childish Gambino, there was ‘Community’

(01/27/20 6:35pm)

The most recent decade of network sitcoms has gotten progressively smarter, bolder and more revered. But long before “The Good Place” first aired or “The Office” saw a massive resurgence of popularity thanks to streaming, there was a genre-defying show on NBC called “Community.” The show — set in a community college — revolved around an absurdly diverse but lovable study group and has lain dormant since its conclusion in 2015. It does not have the clout of “The Office” or “Parks and Recreation” within the mainstream mindshare, yet it has remained relevant, and the talent it incubated is ubiquitous today. It deserves to be remembered for its innovativeness and being so ahead of its time.

Fralin committed to showcasing art from underrepresented communities

(12/09/19 4:27am)

 While the field of art is often thought of as a progressive one, social critics — and artists themselves — have long complained of minority groups not being shown their due. A monolithic curation strategy is seen as out of touch and exclusive in a time where diversity is recognized as a strength. Museums and galleries are working to change this. At the University, the Fralin Museum of Art hopes to utilize its extensive historical collection and engage with diverse contemporary artists in order to present a broader range of art.

Apple takes on students’ wallets and binge time with TV Plus

(11/11/19 4:34am)

Streaming was supposed to be the solution to expensive cable packages. Now, it seems like the myriad of subscription options will shift money from the pockets of cable companies into the pockets of Big Tech. Netflix made its name as the de facto streaming king, and HBO grew into a titanic force on the back of “Game of Thrones” in the last decade — along with the rollout of its own cable-independent streaming service. 

‘General Magic’ tells the captivating true story of a revolution before its time

(10/30/19 10:48am)

Smartphones — and the online infrastructure they run on — are seen today as inevitable, ubiquitous and perhaps even oppressive in their pervasiveness. Critics bemoan their invasion of everyday life, but the tech industry was seen as a well of optimism and dreams not long ago. Sarah Kerruish and Matt Maude’s documentary “General Magic” is a look back before Facebook and Apple made headlines for privacy scandals or concerns over tech oligopolies. 

How a 90s rock star found new relevance by defining Hollywood’s sound

(10/27/19 4:53pm)

HBO’s adaptation of the critically acclaimed graphic novel “Watchmen” premiered on the network Sunday, and the series features a soundtrack from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who have made waves in the film and television industry in the last decade as prolific musicians. The duo is releasing the soundtrack from the series as three separate LPs later this year, corresponding with events that will occur in the series itself. What many do not know, is that Trent Reznor was changing music by angrily screaming into grungy records decades before his clean, instrumental sound defined a new sound in Hollywood.

‘El Camino’ is the best kind of fan service

(10/16/19 2:14am)

The streaming wars are here, and every week seems to bring a new show of one-upmanship as one company or another proudly announces the revival, follow-up or sequel to a beloved intellectual property. Netflix had its moment of pride with the surprise reveal of “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” this summer, a “Breaking Bad” sequel delivered in the format of a movie that had been filmed in secret only one year earlier. 

‘Mr. Robot’ is the television thriller of the 2010s

(10/11/19 6:44pm)

“I’ve hurt so many people,” lead Elliot Anderson (Rami Malek) says in the premiere of Mr. Robot’s last season. “I have to make this right.” After four years, Sam Esmail’s innovative cyberpunk thriller “Mr. Robot” has evolved from a stylish, hacker-themed homage to “Fight Club” into a compelling modern fantasy about morality. The show —  despite its dark themes and unreliable narrator —  has never lacked a moral center. From the excellent pilot opener to its final remaining episodes, Elliot has remained a flawed character trying to do the right thing —   whatever that means. He suffers from depression, social anxiety, drug addiction, and yet he sees the modern world better than any of television's more typical protagonists or antiheroes.

‘Abstract: The Art of Design’ lets artists explain the magic

(10/01/19 2:45am)

The streaming era of television has been a turbulent one for the creative industry, both praised for the freedom it gives artists and simultaneously criticized for oversaturating the media landscape with a scattershot approach to programming. The imaginative content it leads to, however, is a dream for many specific audiences. Lower key projects — like Netflix’s documentary series “Abstract: The Art of Design” — are a testament to the beauty of niche media produced to perfection. The series follows influential artists and designers of the modern world narrating their careers and creative processes, and its second season debuted quietly on the streaming service Wednesday.

Climate conversation on Grounds continues with Ruffin Gallery Display

(09/29/19 2:59am)

“We are not scientists,” explained activist artists Yvonne Love and Gabrielle Russamongo when giving a talk on their latest work, currently on display in Ruffin Gallery. “Our entrance into this work was visual.” The pair of collaborating artists may not be climate scientists, but Russamongo’s photography and Love’s material-based sculptures tell a story of climate change that numbers and data cannot. Their work, titled “A Quick and Tragic Thaw,” was made possible thanks to the research of Environmental Science Professor Howard Epstein. Love and Russamongo have weaven a story through that data and materialized myriad climate maps, data, trends and migration patterns into an intimate and emotional installation.

The Emmys celebrate real talent in antiquated fashion

(09/24/19 1:54pm)

“Television has never been bigger, television has never mattered more and television has never been this damn good,” Bryan Cranston said when introducing the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards airing on FOX Sunday night. If only a similar sentiment could be said about the Awards themselves, a prolonged menagerie of advertisement, occasionally interesting if predictable speeches — shoutout to Michelle Williams calling attention to the still very-real pay gap in the industry — and self-congratulation airing on a medium that loses relevance by the day. The Emmys in 2019 celebrated profoundly innovative television in a remarkably antiquated way — highlighting efforts by unique creators and pioneering streaming companies through the same channels that your grandparents watch their nightly network news.

Israeli espionage thriller ‘The Spy’ sticks to the script — with one notable exception

(09/16/19 1:47am)

Few would be shocked to discover a new espionage miniseries, based off historical events, written and produced by “Homeland” talent Gideon Raff. As premises for new shows go, it is a fairly formulaic recipe for success. What is surprising is that the star — the spy himself — would be none other than Sacha Baron Cohen, perhaps best known for pranking America with his series of parody personas like Borat and Ali G. In “The Spy,” Cohen portrays Eli Cohen, an Egyptian-born spy working for Mossad in the early ‘60s.

‘Legion’ concludes three-season run of superpowered psychic dreams and nightmares

(08/23/19 7:56pm)

Superheroes are not necessarily heroes in “Legion,” Noah Hawley’s bold psychological drama set in an alternate X-Men universe prone to the surreal and strange. The show, which premiered in February 2017, stars Daniel Stevens as David Haller, the psychically-powered and unstable son of Professor X (Harry Lloyd). The third and final season concluded August 12th, and proves that Hawley is not only a gifted stylistic imitator, as seen with his work on the television adaption of “Fargo”, but a talented and risk taking storyteller fed up as anyone else with the stale state of superhero monopoly under Disney’s monolithic-feeling Marvel Cinematic Universe.

A Pokémon virgin’s take on ‘Detective Pikachu’

(05/21/19 1:44pm)

Cinematic universes and long, serialized epics are the norm in modern pop culture. In the past month, the blockbuster Marvel Cinematic Universe reached a milestone of 22 serially plotted movies with “Avengers: Endgame” and HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is currently airing its final season after an eight year run. The big screen and small screen alike seem to require more viewer investment and passion than ever before, banking on mega franchises that have become iconic in fandom and even the mainstream.

Miller Arts Scholars showcase creative expression in myriad ways

(05/03/19 1:32am)

The University is often not recognized as a vibrant environment for the arts. However, for the past six years the Miller Arts Scholars Program has cultivated small, selected groups of artistically-gifted students — with the intent of increasing participants’ access to arts resources — and showcased their various projects at the end of the academic year. 

Art and science unite to promote a greener conversation

(04/25/19 2:01am)

Climate change has long been framed in national and local media as a political matter, with occasional surges of passionate interest that have never amounted to substantial legislative action. At the University, environmental science Prof. Deborah Lawrence and her students have been working to change that, using scientific evidence and activism through writing to spur green conversation and a sustainability mindset on Grounds.

‘Barry’ returns with a denied cliffhanger and new status quo

(04/03/19 3:00am)

HBO’s comedy-meets-drama series “Barry” was a delightfully innovative subversion of traditional television genres in its first season. In following the exploits of a hardened killer who develops a passion for a theatre class in Los Angeles, the show was able to explore a world of vibrant stereotypes and tropes and parody them in a refreshing new way. At its best, the first season of “Barry” was a commentary on violence, the human desire for connection and expression and people’s frequent failures at both.

WTJU trades student convenience for more ambitious, connected future

(04/02/19 6:52pm)

The American college experience is iconically defined in popular culture by several universal markers — lively Greek life, hip campus coffee shops and of course, the cultural force of a student-run radio station. WTJU — and its companion, entirely student-run sister station WXTJ — have served as the University’s broadcasters for over 60 years since its founding in 1957. 

Fralin program showcases films on the arts

(03/27/19 3:14am)

The Fralin Museum of Art continued its Downtown Film Series Wednesday at the Violet Crown. The series — a collaboration with the theater that occurs throughout the year —  intends to showcase “thought-provoking films that focus on artists and the arts.” For this showing, students treated to free tickets saw “Salvador Dalí: In Search of Immortality,” directed by David Pujol. The documentary ran only one hour and 45 minutes, but a series of questionable presentation decisions led to a bloated feature that failed to live up to the extraordinary footage and information about the famed surrealist painter on display.