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Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales Review – Gwent At Its Finest

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The Witcher universe has spawned a few of the most enduring ideals in video games at the moment. Geralt, the protagonist of CD Projekt Red's trilogy of Witcher RPGs, is beginning to appear in a multitude of different franchises, his name recognition making him well worth the addition. Gwent, the card game introduced in the third game of the trilogy, quickly took on a life of its own, as players lamented having put Geralt's journey on hold for dozens of hours so that they could play villagers for their cards. Gwent went on to become, well, Gwent, a stand-alone collectible card game with an online competitive scene and tournament support akin to other stalwarts of the genre like Magic: The Gathering and Hearthstone.

Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales is a strange addition to CD Projekt Red's stable of Witcher games because it doesn't really pick a lane and stick to it. Sometimes, it is a traditional RPG, where choices matter and characters interact with each other to produce emotional attachment to the narrative. At other times, Thronebreaker is a Gwent port, offering mostly the same kind of experience players might find online. Still, at other moments, Thronebreaker is a puzzle title, attempting to stump its players with Gwent-based problems. Somehow, though, this smattering of mechanics and philosophies from different genres of games coalesces into what has to be the best variation of a Gwent game that CD Projekt Red has ever released.

Related: The Witcher Developers Hint At A New Game Without Geralt

Thronebreaker succeeds because at its heart, it is still a Witcher game, even (mostly) absent Geralt's musings about monster behavior or the folly of humanity. That's largely because Queen Meve, the protagonist, is just as layered and interesting as Geralt ever was. Throughout the game, Meve has to make incredibly difficult decisions, choosing to forgo her own personal pride for the sake of her followers or obliterating civil unrest with an iron fist. The decisions aren't always that simple, of course - in fact, they're rarely so black and white. Instead, Meve has to carefully navigate political pressures and treacherous waters on her journey to save Lyria and Rivia from the Nilfgaardian invasion. That the game is set as a prequel to the world players experienced in The Witcher series, and so those experienced with the narrative know some of what is going to happen here regardless, is rendered irrelevant by the deft storytelling at play.

Maintaining alliances is also crucial in the gameplay, too. The cast of supporting characters are more than just excellently written window-dressing; maintaining their happiness is key to having a good Gwent deck, since their hero cards are present when they are allied with Meve and will depart the deck as soon as they leave. These cards are the most powerful weapons the player will have access to in the game's battles and puzzles, so losing them feels like a double blow, both emotionally and mechanically.

The gameplay itself is sublime. Gwent is just as addictive as it was in its first iteration, only it has maintained the more complex rules introduced in the standalone variant CD Projekt Red released as its own game later. Building a deck is a matter of collecting resources through battle and map exploration, and there's a distinct variety in the way the cards are introduced and integrated that makes multiple philosophies possible. Want to grind games out? Go for it. Want to cheese an opponent with board state altering effects? By all means. It's refreshing, and eliminates the chief concern that people may have harbored about playing one faction in Thronebreaker when there are many available in Gwent.

It's also worth mentioning that the puzzles in Thronebreaker are beautifully designed. They're not very easy, even from the very start, and they only get more difficult, but along with that comes a rise in the amount of satisfaction players will feel when they finally solve them. They also reward some of the best cards and resources, so they never feel like a waste of time. Thronebreaker even integrates itself with the standalone Gwent title by offering cards found in the former to players of the latter for free. Simply finding a card, often out of the game's treasure chests, will add it to a players Gwent account.

Finally, the game itself is beautiful. The world feels hand-drawn and the maps are bustling with character. There's so much to like about Thronebreaker that it is easy to overlook its few flaws in its console iteration, most of which is caused by a bit of slowdown or lag when attempting to switch between the world map and the player's camp or other similarly large leaps in environment. The experience definitely seems better suited to a keyboard and mouse, too, as some of the controller-based input seems a little clunky, especially when it comes to navigating menus. Not a dealbreaker or even a big concern, but certainly something that could have been implemented much better.

Overall, Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales is by far the best representation of Gwent that CD Projekt Red has developed so far, and a worthy adventure RPG that deserves your time even if you aren't the biggest fan of card games. Thronebreaker could be, and hopefully is, the beginning of another long and fruitful Witcher-based IP, because this is a game that achieves something special.

More: The Witcher Creator Seeks $16 Million in Royalties From CD Projekt Red

Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales is available now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Screen Rant was provided with a PS4 code for the purposes of this review.

Aquaman’s Jason Momoa Discusses Affleck & Cavill Potentially Exiting the DCEU

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Aquaman star Jason Momoa weighs in on the potential DCEU exits of his Justice League co-stars Ben "Batman" Affleck and Henry "Superman" Cavill. To say that the production of Justice League was a mess would be an understatement. By now, the behind the scenes turmoil surrounding the exit of original director Zack Snyder during post-production is well-known, as is the rushed nature of replacement director Joss Whedon's reshoots, leading to the infamous debacle surrounding Cavill's mustache. At this juncture, many fans are certain that Snyder's original cut would've been a big improvement, leading to the "release the Snyder cut!" movement on social media.

It's now been over a year since Justice League hit theaters, and proceeded to earn mostly bad reviews and lose lots of money at the box office. The DCEU looks to regroup with this month's release of James Wan's Aquaman solo film, which chronicles the journey of Arthur Curry (Momoa) from half-human/half-Atlantean misfit to worthy king of Atlantis. Early reactions to the film have been highly positive, and it's already cleaning up at the box office in China.

Related: WB Still Has No Plans For Ben Affleck's Batman & Henry Cavill's Superman

Throughout Aquaman's worldwide press tour, Momoa has become renowned for his willingness to speak frankly about both his time playing Aquaman and the DCEU as a whole. During an interview the other day, Momoa even openly called on Warner Bros. to release the Snyder cut of Justice League, complete with F-bomb. More recently, Huffington Post asked Momoa for his thoughts on the rumored departures of both Affleck and Cavill from the DCEU, and he responded in his usual forthright way.

If they're both out, then listen: It's just the place they're at in their careers. I mean, how many has Henry done? He's done three? Yeah, I mean, like, you want to move on. I think if I did... shit, I have done three. ... I mean, Henry wants to just expand on something. Ben is an amazing director that is of age, and probably he's done enough. I don't know how to speak on behalf of them, but I had the time of my life [on 'Justice League'].

While Momoa - who's currently under contract for at least one more DCEU film after Aquaman - seems to be loving his time playing a superhero, he also seems to fully understand why Cavill and/or Affleck might want to move on with their careers, and wouldn't begrudge them that choice. Furthermore, Momoa went on to say later in the same interview just how much affection and respect he has for both his Justice League co-stars and director Snyder, who he considers "family" and "like a soul mate." Based on those sentiments, it's obvious why he's pulling for the Snyder cut of Justice League to be released.

Based on Momoa's comments above, he doesn't seem to be anymore in the know when it comes to Affleck and Cavill's status with the DCEU than anyone else. To be fair though, if he did know, he still probably wouldn't reveal private information about the contracts of his colleagues. For now, whether or not Affleck will ever suit up again as Batman or Cavill will ever take flight again as Superman remains a question without an official answer.

More: 12 Actors Who Could Replace Ben Affleck As Batman (And 13 We Don't Want)

Source: Huffington Post

Nitin Sawhey Interview – Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

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Nitin Sawhey is a versatile producer, songwriter, and composer who has worked with artists such as Paul McCartney, Nora Jones, and Sting.  He has an international reputation from performing around the world. His most recent project is composing the music for Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, a fantasy adventure based on the stories by Rudyard Kipling.

Screen Rant: Nice to meet you. A lot of regional flavors you can pull from for a soundtrack like this.

Nitin Sawhey: Yeah. It was important, I think, to Andy. And also, to me, to really get across the authenticity of the original book. Rudyard Kipling's version of Jungle Book. And so, it was really about setting it in India. And so, I've brought in a lot of Indian classical instruments, as well as keeping that strong orchestral flavor too.

Screen Rant: Now, was there a shift in instrumentation or regional influence per from when you go from character to character? You had some very dominant themes going, when Kaa was on screen for example.

Nitin Sawhey: Absolutely, and that's exactly right. With Kaa, for example, I use an Indian classical instrument called a sahnai, which is a cross between a traditional instrument called a sarangi and a violin, a western classical violin.

But it was also, using an instrument called the bean, which is like a snake charming instrument from India. But then, with Mowgli, because I wanted to capture a sense of optimism and excitement, I used the bansuri which is a bamboo flute. And so, for each of the characters, I wanted to capture something of them. For example, with a Baloo I was using a mridangam and pakhavaj because they have a real weight and gravitas to them. And so, there were changes between the different kind of Indian classical instruments that we use.

Screen Rant: And then, a big shift again, when you go to the village. Those village scenes, especially the big-- there's like a big celebration.

Nitin Sawhey: Yeah, that's right.

Screen Rant: Were those all original pieces as well? Or were there some traditional?

Nitin Sawhey: No, I've created a totally original score for all of it. And for the scene in India, that's the holy seen, the Festival of Colors, I went to a-- actually shot in South Africa, so I was musically supervising it there. But it needed to feel like diegetic music.  It needed to feel like it was coming from the scene itself. And so, I prerecorded a lot of the music in India. And I'd written it for some great musicians I knew from over in Mumbai. And then, we made sure that it fitted in with exactly what was going on with the action in South Africa as well.

Screen Rant: So, it sounds like a lot of sounds that you picked, you work with Andy, to match instruments to characters. Was that part of the process?

Nitin Sawhey: Yeah, it was part of the process. It was also about finding music that really got across the flavor, not only of the characters themselves, but also their journeys, respectively. Particularly Mowgli.  When I wrote the theme for him, which is the main theme of the film, it was about watching, I had four Quicktime movies up simultaneously of him in different settings. So, there was a consistency of this theme that would work against all the different moves and experiences he had during the course of the film. So, it was important to me that the music felt like a glue between all of Mowgli’s quite diverse stages, in terms of how he develops as a character.

Screen Rant: Interesting. So, my last question for you then. This is your second film with Andy. It seems like your projects are getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

Nitin Sawhey: Absolutely. Although I did two video games with him, Heavenly Sword and Enslaved. And actually, Enslaved was also with Alex Garland, who wrote it. But, yeah. Absolutely. It's been amazing. What a privilege. And Andy's great to work with. I worked with, as you rightly pointed out, I worked on Breathe before, with Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy. And that was a very different kind of film. But it was an equally enjoyable process. Because Andy himself is a great musician. He's a great saxophone player. Which a lot of people aren't aware of. He's multitalented, but—

Screen Rant: Did he make it under the soundtrack anywhere?

Nitin Sawhey: Not in this one. He did on Breathe, on the last one. And he played beautifully, but he's-- Because of his musicality and his musical intuition, it's very helpful to be able to have an almost shorthand in terms of how we communicate. And he's very articulate, not only in terms of normal language, but also musically, and in terms of his emotional intelligence.

More: Rohan Chand Interview For Mowgli

Adam Pally Interview: Champaign ILL

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After scoring success with hits like Cobra Kai and Origin, YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) is launching a new comedy series, Champaign ILL. The series stars Adam Pally and Sam Richardson as members of a hip-hop entourage who are forced to find their own way in the world after their best friend and meal ticket, Lou (Jay Pharoah) is killed in a tragic accident.

We spoke with Adam Pally about the foundations of Champaign ILL and he shared some insight into building an unusual comedy protagonist, as well as building a friendship with his co-star, Veep and Detroiters star Sam Richardson, among several other topics. He shares his comedy inspirations and explains what makes YouTube different from – and similar to – traditional television networks.

Related: Cobra Kai Renewed For Season Two On YouTube

All ten episodes of Champaign ILL debut December 12 on YouTube Premium

Tell me about Champaign ILL.

This is a show from me and the creators of Happy Endings, David Caspe and Daniel & Matthew Libman. We decided we wanted to work together, and we were looking at a bunch of different ideas, and we really related to this character that wasn't necessarily "the guy," but was next to "the guy." Those guys tend to be the most entitled. Once we nailed that down, it became about this hip-hop entourage, because we thought that would be a really funny place to play entitlement.

"Entitled" is a great word to describe Ronnie. It must be so freeing, as a comedian, to get to play a character who is so jolly and fun to watch, but also so overtly unlikable in some ways!

I think the fun thing about playing a character like Ronnie is that it's very true to life; nobody is likable all the time. Good people do unlikable things, but that doesn't make them bad people. It was awesome to get to do that.

How do strike the balance of making viewers want to watch him, but also making him someone we want to see fail?

That's an interesting interpretation. I think, if anything, you want to see him fail because that would be more fun to watch. I'd say that's a positive to me.

I was on the floor during the gambling scene in episode three.

That was one of my favorites. I really love that episode.

You and Sam Richardson have an amazing chemistry. I already see you two as an iconic comedy duo.

Wow, that's high praise! I think the world of him. I learned a ton. Just the way he reads a line is so funny to me. It was amazing to work with him.

He told me that you knew each other but you weren't close before the show, and I almost didn't believe him. What's it like, as an actor and a comedian, building up a rapport with a new co-star?

It's always different. I think you have to remove expectations in both positive and negative. All of these relationships happen organically. You have to just let it happen. Sam and I got to know each other, and we were like, "oh, we have a very similar upbringing," in a lot of ways; different in others, but we were able to just click in right away as if we were going out on stage to do an improv piece.

The third star, he doesn't have as much screen time since he dies in a tragic and hilarious moment, but what was it like bringing Jay Pharoah into the show?

Jay has such a wild, different energy from me and Sam. It was so nice to understand that that is, usually, what it's like with a friendship like that. I've been in a lot of dynamics where I've been one of three, and everybody brings their own thing to it. Sometimes, when you're a duo, you kind of share a mind. It was exciting to have someone who's so naturally funny and talented, my God! The impressions and the voices, they had me on the floor all night.

Jay has only a few scenes in the first three episodes; will he have a bigger role going forward, in flashbacks and visions and things like that?

Yeah, he comes back quite a bit. It's always fun and surprising. I've watched most of them in a sitting, and you start to get this real, heavy feeling in your chest every time you think Jay is going to show up, because it means so much.

You come from an improv background, and the show has these great outtakes at the end of every episode. There's definitely a lot of improv on the show. You have such a great, biting sense of humor. I particularly enjoyed the Peter Berg joke in episode two!

That's a Libman Classic. Happy Endings certainly had a lot of Libman Specials, as well.

Tell me about having a safe environment on set? Do you ever feel you might get in trouble? Or do y0u feel free to experiment?

I definitely feel, sometimes, like I could get in trouble. I try to feel free, and hope that if I were to get in trouble, I would be able to apologize honestly. I don't know if any of us are free of trouble, eventually, in that way, but I would hope that I would be able to see and know if I were doing something wrong.

Do you feel some sets are more open or safe than others when it comes to taking those kind of creative risks?

No, I would say that's an excuse for when people do something wrong. I think, again, you have to know what your moral compass is, and what you're doing; if you do cross that line, you have to take ownership of it. Being on a more comfortable set, you still have to be the same actor. I certainly don't want to provoke. I only want to entertain.

And you do. I'm always entertained when I see you on television. You've been around the block! From Happy Endings on ABC, to Making History and The Mindy Project on FOX, and The President Show on Comedy Central, now you're on YouTube, which is sort of a new player on the scene. Do you feel like it's different than working with other networks, or is it, on the set, day to day, just making a show?

Some stuff was different, but I've really only worked on network TV in that way, for the most part. For me, the major difference was getting to shoot ten episodes of the show before anyone sees it. You're not adjusting to the ratings or the comments; you're just making the thing you want to make, and then you see where the chips fall. That's a new thing for me, and I was excited by that. I was excited to not have to worry about the pressure of the outside. You can just focus. But then, at the same time, they were a lot like a regular network. They have development executives who said "no" and all that stuff. I would say it was a really good working relationship. I don't know what their plans are. I don't know how Google runs YouTube, I don't know what goes on in Silicon Valley, but I know we made a great show, and I love it, and I'm really proud of it.

Who are some of your acting heroes, inspirations, who were some of your favorites growing up?

My number one is Gene Wilder. I love him. I think I know every line to every Gene Wilder movie. And I really like Steve Martin. I think Steve Martin has a real eye for beauty in his comedy, which is... A lot of his comedy is not going for a laugh, but it's really beautiful. Like, L.A. Story is a beautiful movie, and Bowfinger is amazing. Steve Martin is up there. I love Howard Stern. He's one of my big comedic idols because, I don't know, the important things matter to Howard, and the unimportant things don't. I don't know, there's something about his comedy that was very much a north star. And then, I guess, Amy Poehler is probably the next voice I hear in my head when I'm thinking, is this going to be funny? I think, would Amy laugh at this if she was watching me on stage when I was 19? Those are my big heroes.

It was so great to talk to you, thanks so much for your time.

More: YouTube Original Shows & Movies Will Now Be Free

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Officially Certified Fresh

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is now officially Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. The animated film, which sees Miles Morales team up with several other Spider-People in a reality-bending adventure, is shaping up to be one of the biggest hits of the holiday season. Of course, the recognition and popularity of the source material all but guaranteed Spider-Verse would do well commercially, especially with the box office currently going through a bit of a lull. In addition, it appears Sony has a bona fide critical darling on their hands, with Spider-Verse currently riding waves of positive buzz.

The film already took home the New York Film Critics Circle's award for Best Animated Feature, and it's also been nominated in that category for the Golden Globes and Critics' Choice Awards. In all likelihood, it'll be in contention for the Oscar as well, raising interest in the latest superhero film to grace screens in 2018. Critics definitely enjoyed Spider-Verse, and now it has a famous seal of approval to boast about.

Related: Every Spider-Man Movie In Development

Today, Rotten Tomatoes announced Into the Spider-Verse is Certified Fresh. As of this writing, 88 reviews have been counted, and 87 of them are positive. The film no longer sports the perfect 100% rating, but it's still going to go down as one of the best-reviewed films of the year. Stars Shameik Moore and Jake Johnson expressed their gratitude in a humorous video message, which you can watch below:

Though comic book movies (especially ones about Spider-Man) are extremely prevalent in this day and age, Spider-Verse found a way to be a fresh and exciting entry in the ever-expanding genre. Pundits have praised numerous aspects of the film, including its heartfelt story line and unique animation style. Sony is clearly loving the response, as there are already plans for a direct sequel and an all-female spinoff - both of which have directors lined up. Into the Spider-Verse becomes the second Sony/Marvel project of 2018 to launch a brand new franchise, following the record-breaking box office success of the live-action Venom film starring Tom Hardy. It wasn't too long ago the studio was struggling to make the most of the Spider-Man property, but now they're definitely on the right track.

It'll be interesting to see what impact the critical acclaim has on Into the Spider-Verse's box office prospects. Initial projections had it pegged for an opening weekend in the range of $30-40 million, which is a solid (if unremarkable) haul. It's worth keeping in mind that those estimates came out before the review embargo was lifted, so it's very possible Spider-Verse exceeds those first expectations. It isn't facing much competition this weekend, as the other wide releases are Clint Eastwood's The Mule and panned fantasy novel adaptation Mortal Engines. Both of those films shouldn't make much of an impact at the box office, opening the door for Into the Spider-Verse to have a fruitful frame.

More: Read Screen Rant's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Review

Source: Rotten Tomatoes

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