Posted by & filed under Media Library, Movie Recommendations, Uncategorized.

 

The UNT Media Library recently purchased the full collection of films by filmmaker Barbara Hammer. She was a pioneer of her time, documenting LGBT+ history often with an autobiographical viewpoint and creating over 80 feature length and short films over the span of her lifelong career. Experimental in nature, her films often tested the limits of her cameras and continue to challenge viewers to see things from her unique vantage point.

 

Here’s just a few of the films in the Media Library collection you can check out:

 

Tender Fictions: An autobiographical film tracing the life of the filmmaker, including historical footage and stills from pre-Stonewall lesbian history, and other icons of her youth. Hammer challenges a younger generation to visualize a world before they existed.

 

My Babushka — Searching Ukrainian Identities: Barbara Hammer goes to her ancestral village in the Ukraine in search of her roots.

 

A Horse is Not a Metaphor: The filmmaker, fighting ovarian cancer, stage 3, returns to her experimental roots, in a multilayered film of numerous chemotherapy sessions with images of light and movement that take her far from the hospital bed. Ms. Hammer changes illness into recovery.

 

Welcome To This House: A feature documentary film on the homes and loves of poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979), about life in the shadows, and the anxiety of art making without full self-disclosure. Hammer filmed in Bishop’s ‘best loved homes’ in the US, Canada, and Brazil believing that buildings and landscapes bear cultural memories. 

 

Nitrate Kisses: A film with striking images of four gay and lesbian couples with footage of an unearthed forbidden and invisible history. Archival footage from the first gay film in the U.S., Lot In Sodom (1933) is interwoven in this haunting documentary.

 

To learn more about Barbara Hammer, read her biography here.

 

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Movie Recommendations, Television Recommendations, Uncategorized.

May is Mental Health Awareness month. Movies, TV shows and games can be great escapes in trying times. Many are even structured to help facilitate greater mental health practices, from documentaries that foster discussions, to video games designed for therapeutic purposes. We invite everyone to check out the UNT Media Library’s resources to help improve your own mental health in the hopes of erasing the stigma surrounding it. Below, the Media Library staff have shared a few of their go-to films and games for getting through difficulties. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

 

Julia: Stardew Valley (Game 904 PS4). It’s fun, relaxing, and can really help take your mind off things!

 

Jeremy: Einstein: His Amazing Life and Incomparable Science – Boardgame 601. Einstein is a game of shapes and patterns. You and your friends play Einstein at different stages of his life, trying to recreate his scientific and mathematical discoveries and theorems. This abstract game creates an artistic space where collaboration and competition combine to stretch the mind. There is a relaxing element of placing tangram like tiles to create shapes as efficiently as possible. The ability to engage my mind on something constructive yet low stakes is the ultimate definition of de-stress for me.

 

Rachel: Cowboy Bebop Remix: DVD 12520 v.1) & Samurai Champloo, the complete series. (DVD 18074 v.1) These are two classic animes that have superb soundtracks, story lines, and characters. I go back to these when I need something to take my mind off the bus, day-to-day mayhem.

 

Rachel: Fire emblem: Birthright (Game 701 3DS) & Fire emblem: Conquest (Game 7000 3DS). I’m a huge fire emblem nerd so if i’m stressed I’ll sit down and play a game through on the easiest setting. Birthright is the superior game by the way.

 

Sarah: My go to chill movie is Thor: Ragnarok (DVD 18505 or DVD 18506 Blu-ray).

 

Estela: The Good Place, (DVD 17824 V1.-2). When Eleanor Shellstrop finds herself in the afterlife, she’s both relieved and surprised that she’s made it into the Good Place. But it doesn’t take long for Eleanor to realize she’s there by mistake.

 

Stu: A good film that has helped me and makes me happy (also a little sad) but ultimately happy is Elling. (DVD 1430).

 

Stuart: We Happy Few: We Happy Few is the tale of a plucky bunch of moderately terrible people trying to escape from a lifetime of cheerful denial. Set in a drug-fuelled, retrofuturistic city in an alternative 1960s England, you’ll have to blend in with its other inhabitants, who have their own set of not-so-normal rules.

Posted by & filed under Board Games, Media Library, Movie Recommendations.

This week, humankind celebrates with Katie Bouman and her team as we get our first look at a black hole. Our first look into the dark abyss was heralded in media over the last century. Join the rest of humanity with a look into how we have perceived these massive gravity sinks through the lenses of film and games!

The Black Hole – DVD 4002

  • While exploring the galaxy, the USS Palomino encounters a black hole and an orbiting ghost ship, the USS Cygnus. While investigating, the Palomino is damaged, and they must dock with the Cygnus to make their repairs. What the find on board quickly answers what happened to their fateful crew.

Monster of the Milky Way – DVD 15150

  • In the center of our galaxy sits one of the most destructive objects in the universe. It’s gravitational pull serves as the very force holding our galaxy together. The black hole that binds the Milky Way together remains one of the greatest secret keepers known to science. Journey with a group of astronomers as they seek evidence that could answer many of the most pressing questions in physics today.

The Theory of Everything – DVD 16024

  • When studying black holes, it is difficult to do so without referencing the work of Stephen Hawking. Journey alongside the brilliant mind that inspired most astrophysicists today with this biopic. From falling in love, to his fateful diagnosis, this journey will inspire as much as it tugs at the heartstrings.

Interstellar – DVD 16162

  • With our time on Earth coming to an end, a team of explorers undertakes the most important mission in human history; traveling beyond this galaxy to discover whether mankind has a future among the stars.

Event Horizon – DVD 10735

  • Many years ago, we sent out a high tech pioneering spacecraft, but it disappeared without a trace. It has recently reappeared, and a team is dispatched to investigate the ship. However, something sinister resides upon the ship. What befell the Event Horizon on its voyage?

Eons – Boardgame 342

  • The universe is a massive place, filled with stars, planets, and matter scattered through the vastness of eternity. Over millennia, it spreads further and entropy disperses. Play the hand of a being so powerful, it sees the building blocks of the universe as clay, and planets and stars as marbles. Create, combine, and destroy galaxies as you compete against other beings like yourself. Will your planets develop life, or will an interstellar event turn your largest star into a black hole, decimating everything you built?

Twilight Imperium – Boardgame 606

  • The galactic council has been dissolved, and the Lazax have been scattered through the galaxy. With no unifying force holding the different sentient races together, each falls to their own desire for supremacy. Lead the Xxcha to political power, or dominate trade with the Hacan. Can you cease Mecatol Rex, or will your ships be caught in the gravitational tides of a black hole?

Chaosmos – Boardgame 283

  • For billions of years, the universe expanded; however, the gravitational force of all of the matter in the universe was too great to allow expansion to go on forever. For billions of years afterwards, matter has been collapsing back into a singular place, the very spot where the universe was born. But there is hope. The Ovoid is an object of immense power. It cannot save you, but it can give you control of how the next universe will form. Can you be the one holding the Ovoid when the universe finally crunches back in upon itself into a singularly massive black hole?

Posted by & filed under Movie Recommendations, Television Recommendations.

This April, the UNT Media Library highlights the films, shows, & games that explore Alternate Histories – a.k.a. the What If narratives that help us understand & appreciate our past by deviating from it altogether.

 

Monty Python and the Holy Grail: (Recommended by Erin) King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table embark on a surreal, low-budget search for the Holy Grail, encountering many, very silly obstacles. DVD 10302

 

Bioshock Trilogy: (Recommended by Stuart) BioShock includes elements of role-playing games, giving the player different approaches in engaging enemies such as by stealth, as well as moral choices of saving or killing characters; additionally, the game and biopunk theme borrow concepts from the survival horror genre. Game 490 

 

Inglourious Basterds: (Recommended by Lindsay) In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers coincides with a theatre owner’s vengeful plans for the same. DVD 16064

 

District 9: (Recommended by Stuart) An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is exposed to their biotechnology. 

DVD 10918

 

Back to the Future: (Recommended by Sarah) Marty McFly, a 17-year-old high school student, is accidentally sent thirty years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his close friend, the maverick scientist Doc Brown. DVD 16283

 

Red Dawn: (Recommended by Sarah) It is the dawn of World War III. In mid-western America, a group of teenagers and together to defend their town, and their country, from invading Soviet forces. DVD 9374


Looper: (Recommended by Sarah) In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent into the past, where a hired gun awaits – someone like Joe – who one day learns the mob wants to ‘close the loop’ by sending back Joe’s future self for assassination.

 

Abraham Lincoln — Vampire Hunter: (Recommended by Rachel) Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, discovers vampires are planning to take over the United States. He makes it his mission to eliminate them. DVD 13783

 

Wolfenstein: (Recommended by Rachel) A series of games set in World War II in which the player controls an unnamed American prisoner of war as he steals German files containing secret war plans. Game 596

 

Raiders of the Lost Arc: (Recommended by Lindsay)The first installment of a series starring Harrison Ford as archaeologist Indiana Jones, who battles a group of Nazis searching for the Ark of the Covenant. DVD 16293

 

Stranger Things: (Recommended by Rachel) When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief, and his friends must confront terrifying forces in order to get him back. DVD 17895 

 

Unexploded Cow: (Recommended by Jeremy) A card game in which the objective is to blow up unexploded bombs in France with mad cows from Britain, earning money in the process. 

Boardgame 618 

 

Posted by & filed under Board Games, Media Library, Movie Recommendations, Video Games.

This month, the UNT Media Library is celebrating Women’s History Month by showcasing the ways that women shape the landscape of storytelling through film, television, and gaming. Below are just a few of our staff picks for media that showcases amazing stories about and/or created by women. 

 

 

Arrival (2016) DVD 17303, Recommended by Caleb.

Louise Banks (Amy Adams) a Professor

of Linguistics plays the center role in this worldwide upheaval, when 12 spaceships appear suddenly at different points of the globe, causing tension to rise as world leaders grow skeptical of the tourist’s intentions, while trying to break through the communication barrier with an interplanetary intelligence, and establish why the visitors have arrived. With an unforgettable first act that establishes the visitors, incorporating our own sometimes strangely foreign planet to create an atmosphere of suspense until the aliens reveal themselves. The movie slumps a bit in the middle through some soft pacing. This somewhat hurts the third act with its breakthroughs and questions for the audience. But despite that, Louise Bank’s character brings a subtle and intense characterization that plants these sometimes out-there ideas firmly in reality. Arrival sets forth to ask its audience some of the more philosophical questions that sci-fi can approach, and achieves this goal with a vigor that most of Denis Villeneuve’s movies carry in stride.

Journey: collector edition Game 297 PS4. Recommended by Rachel.

Journey is executive produced by Robin Hunicke, the co-founder of Funomena, and a professor of game design at UC Santa Cruz. Prior to Journey, Hunicke worked on MySims as a lead designer and Boom Blox as a producer. Hunicke is known in the space as an advocate for indie development, experimentation, and women’s representation. 

 

Animal Crossing: New Leaf Game 544 3DS, Recommended by Rachel.

Co-directed by Aya Kyogoku, it’s one of the most celebrated and highest Metacritic ranked game in the Animal Crossing series. Kyogoku also served as a writer on The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure. Kyogoku contributed some of the game’s fun, sense of exploration and calmness to the development team’s “peaceful gender diversity.”

 

 

The many games of Marsha J. Falco – Designer, recommended by Jeremy.

Five Crowns – Boardgame 277

Quiddler – Boardgame 251

SET – Boardgame 250

Set Dice – Boardgame 191

 

Century: Spice Road — Boardgame 58, Recommended by Jeremy.

Discover the beauties of the spice trading road and its colorful markets, with the amazing artwork by international renowned artist Fernanda Suárez. Wrap your mind around the simple and pure game mechanics combined with a touch of deck-building, that will lead to endless strategies and decisions.

 

Erin Brockovich – DVD 713, Recommended by Sarah.

An unemployed single mother becomes a legal assistant and almost single-handedly brings down a California power company accused of polluting a city’s water supply. The film is a dramatization of the true story of Erin Brockovich, portrayed by Julia Roberts, who fought against the energy corporation Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). The film was a box office success, and critical reaction was positive.

 

Hidden Figures — DVD 17361, Recommended by Rachel.

The story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program. It is loosely based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly about black female mathematicians who worked at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during the Space Race.

 

 

The Imitation Game, DVD 16013 – Recommended by Estela

During World War II, the English mathematical genius Alan Turing tries to crack the German Enigma code with help from fellow mathematicians. Turing’s team, including Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), analyze Enigma messages while he builds a machine to decipher them.

 

Big Eyes DVD 16023 – Recommended by Rachel.

A drama about the awakening of painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s. The film stars Amy Adams as Margaret Keane and Christoph Waltz as Walter Keane.

 

 

Across the Universe, DVD 8492 – Recommended by Benjamin.

Directed by Julie Taymor, the music of The Beatles and the Vietnam War form the backdrop for the romance between an upper-class American girl and a poor Liverpudlian artist.

 

But I’m A Cheerleader, DVD 298 – Recommended by Steven.

Directed by Jamie Babbit, “But I’m a Cheerleader” is the classic comedy about a naive teenager sent to rehab camp when her straitlaced parents and friends suspect her of being a lesbian.

 

Amelie, DVD 16289 – Recommended by Stuart.

Amélie is an innocent and naive girl in Paris with her own sense of justice. She decides to help those around her and, along the way, discovers love and perhaps the meaning of life in general. She grows up in an original, if slightly dysfunctional family. She learns that she must reach out to others to achieve happiness.

 

Monarch, Boardgame 516 – Recommended by Julia.

Created by game designer Mary Flanagan & artist Kate Adams, Monarch is a strategic card game in which the princesses of a mythical land must prove their ability to serve as the next queen. Flanagan was inspired by strong, influential women of the past to create a game in which the future of a kingdom rests in the hands of powerful women, writing that “both empresses and queens had more power than the history books have granted them.”

 

RBG, DVD 18283 — Recommended by Erin.

At the age of 85, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has developed a lengthy legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon. However, the unique personal journey of her rise to the nation’s highest court has been largely unknown, even to some of her biggest fans–until now. RBG explores Ginsburg’s life and career.

 

 

Dolores, DVD 17775 – Recommended by Erin.

Dolores Huerta is among the most important, yet least known, activists in American history. Her enormous contributions have gone largely unrecognized. Dolores tirelessly led the fight for racial and labor justice alongside Chavez, becoming one of the most defiant feminists of the twentieth century–and she continues the fight to this day.

 

 

Mad Max: Fury Road, DVD 16556, Recommended by Lindsay.

In a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a woman rebels against a tyrannical ruler in search for her homeland with the aid of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshiper, and a drifter named Max.

 

 

Posted by & filed under Media Library, Movie Recommendations, Uncategorized, Video Games.

 

Love — It’s complicated.

 

Whether you celebrate Singles Awareness Month or just regular old Valentine’s Day, the UNT Media Library has you covered. This February, we’re sending a Valentine to all the romantic movies, shows, and games that remind us all that love can be messy, challenging, and sometimes downright bad.

 

Stuart Recommends:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: When their relationship turns sour, a couple undergoes a medical procedure to have each other erased from their memories. DVD 3385

 

Moonstruck: Loretta Castorini, a bookkeeper from Brooklyn, New York, finds herself in a difficult situation when she falls for the brother of the man she has agreed to marry. DVD 5583

 

Sarah Recommends:

Crossroads: Three childhood best friends, and a guy they just met, take a road trip across the country, finding themselves and their friendship in the process. DVD 12318

 

Ever After: With the death of her father, Danielle is made a servant by her stepmother. Still, Danielle grows up to be a strong-willed young lady, and one day her path crosses that of handsome Prince Henry. DVD 920

 

Julia Recommends:

Twilight: Bella Swan moves to Forks and encounters Edward Cullen, a gorgeous boy with a secret. DVD 9998

 

Benjamin Recommends:

Silver Linings Playbook: After a stint in a mental institution, Pat moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Then, Pat meets Tiffany. DVD 13866

 

Estela Recommends:

She’s the Man: When her brother decides to ditch for a couple weeks, Viola heads over to his elite boarding school, disguised as him, and proceeds to fall for one of his teammates. DVD 16963

 

Erin Recommends:  

Sixteen Candles: A girl’s “sweet” sixteenth birthday becomes anything but special, as she suffers from every embarrassment possible. DVD 2618

 

Jeremy Recommends:

Marrying Mr. Darcy: Marrying Mr. Darcy is a strategy card game for 2-6 players based on Jane Austen’s classic novel “Pride and Prejudice.” Boardgame 574  

 

Council of Verona: In Council of Verona, players take on the role of influential citizens of Verona and use their influence to either add characters to the council or cast them into exile. Boardgame 134

 

Tomi Recommends:

The Time Traveler’s Wife: A Chicago librarian has a gene that causes him to involuntarily time travel, creating complications in his marriage. DVD 11723

 

Josh Recommends:

The Notebook: A poor yet passionate young man falls in love with a rich young woman, giving her a sense of freedom, but they are soon separated because of their social differences. DVD 4375

 

Caleb Recommends:

Her: In a near future, a lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with an operating system designed to meet his every need. DVD 15488

 

Stu Recommends:

Ballad of a Soldier: Young Russian soldier Alyosha earns a medal, but asks to visit his mother instead. His journey recounts various kinds of love during wartime. DVD 4231

 

Lindsay Recommends:

Final Fantasy X: the story of Tidus, who journeys with a summoner on her quest to save the world of Spira. Game 493 PS4

 

Posted by & filed under Media Library, Movie Recommendations, Uncategorized.

It’s a new year, and that means most of us are looking forward as we come up with resolutions for 2019, and goals we want to accomplish. With that in mind, we thought that this month, the Media Library Staff Recommendations would focus on media about THE FUTURE. 

 

DISTRICT 9 (CALL # DVD 10918)

Recommended By Lindsay

IMDb: An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is exposed to their biotechnology.

 

 

EX-MACHINA (CALL # DVD 16852)

Recommended by Jeremy

IMDb: A programmer is selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in synthetic intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a humanoid A.I.

 

 

THE HANDMAID’S TALE (CALL # DVD 18031)

Recommended by Laura

Imdb: Offred, one of the few fertile women known as Handmaids in the oppressive Republic of Gilead, struggles to survive as a reproductive surrogate for a powerful Commander and his resentful wife.

 

WESTWORLD (HBO) (CALL # DVD 17764)

Recommended by Benjamin

IMDb: Set at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past, explore a world in which every human appetite can be indulged without consequence.

 

ARRIVAL (CALL # DVD 17303)

Recommended by Sarah

IMDb: A linguist is recruited by the military to communicate with alien lifeforms after twelve mysterious spacecrafts land around the world.

 

LOOPER (CALL # DVD 13783)

Recommended by Nathan

IMDb: In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent into the past, where a hired gun awaits – someone like Joe – who one day learns the mob wants to ‘close the loop’ by sending back Joe’s future self for assassination.

 

FORBIDDEN PLANET (CALL # DVD 6799)

Recommended by Erin

IMDb: A starship crew goes to investigate the silence of a planet’s colony only to find two survivors and a deadly secret that one of them has.

 

AKIRA (CALL # DVD 16311)

Recommmended by Josh

A secret military project endangers Neo-Tokyo when it turns a biker gang member into a rampaging psychic psychopath that only two teenagers and a group of psychics can stop.

 

MOON (CALL # DVD 11082)

Recommended by Stuart

IMDb: Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he, working alongside his computer, GERTY, sends back to Earth parcels of a resource that has helped diminish our planet’s power problems.

 

BRAZIL (CALL # DVD 16300)

Recommended by Caleb

IMDb: A bureaucrat, in a retro-future world, tries to correct an administrative error and becomes an enemy of the state.

 

INTERSTELLAR (CALL # DVD 16162)

Recommended by Caleb

IMDb: A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in space in an attempt to ensure humanity’s survival.

 

WALL-E (CALL # DVD 9358/DVD 10441 Blu-ray )

Recommended by Kelsey

IMDb: In the distant future, a small waste-collecting robot inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind.

 

MINORITY REPORT (CALL # DVD 1796)

Recommended by Steven

IMDb: In a future where a special police unit is able to arrest murderers before they commit their crimes, an officer from that unit is himself accused of a future murder.

ROBOCOP (CALL # DVD 1176)

Recommend by Bennet

IMDb: In a dystopic and crime-ridden Detroit, a terminally wounded cop returns to the force as a powerful cyborg haunted by submerged memories. 

 

Is your favorite on the list? If not, what is your favorite film, show, or game about the future? 

Posted by & filed under Media Library.

Attention to all patrons who use the streaming platform Kanopy:

Kanopy is changing! Most movies will need to be requested before they can be viewed.

 

Kanopy gives UNT students, faculty, and staff access to an online catalog of streaming video and it is a popular resource — some people even describe it as “Netflix for libraries.” However, unlike Netflix, which allows a user unlimited access to all content for one small monthly fee, Kanopy charges individually for films whenever they are viewed 4 times for more than 30 seconds. We are licensing some films and seeing high usage, but other licensed films are watched only for a few minutes! As the popularity of Kanopy increases more people are browsing around on the platform previewing movies – this has led to significant spending increases.

 

Kanopy is a great platform with thousands of online movies that support and enhance UNT curriculum, and streaming video is a crucial resource for 21st century university faculty and students. For these reasons, the Libraries want to continue providing access to the entire collection of films on Kanopy – with one notable change: we have decided to shift our involvement with Kanopy from automatic patron driven acquisition (PDA) to a mediated model of PDA.

 

This means that movies that do not already have a current license through Kanopy will be available for viewing only after library approval. If you find a film on Kanopy that you want to watch, an automated pop up will prompt you to send a small amount of information to the Media Library. Media Library staff will process and approve requests as they come in. If you are selecting a film for a specific course, please let us know when you will be teaching the course and whether or not the movie you need will continue to be included in future semesters. Most licenses on Kanopy expire after one year, so future access will be contingent upon extending or renewing licenses.


While this might not be a popular change in the immediate future, we are making it in order to ensure that we can continue to provide access to this valuable resource in a sustainable way.

 

This switch will take place on January 4th as of 5:00 PM.

Posted by & filed under Movie Recommendations, Uncategorized.

We’re at the peak of holiday season, and for most people, that means presents, food, praying for snow, and getting together to enjoy the company of family. This year was a big one for movies that focused on the drama of family life. From funny rom-coms to new horror classics, the ties that bind were a major theme in the media we consumed this year.  Let’s rewind and take a look at some of the biggest movies of the year, and what they had to teach us about family.  

 

[[Possible spoilers ahead for “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Hereditary,” “Black Panther,” “Three Identical Strangers,” and “First Man.” Tread carefully.]]

 

Romance – Crazy Rich Asians

 

Undoubtedly one of the biggest hits of the year, “Crazy Rich Asians” follows Rachel Chu as she meets her boyfriend Nick’s family for the first time – and is shocked to discover that not only is Nick filthy rich, he’s also part of one of the most well connected and established families in Singapore. What follows is a journey of Rachel’s culture shock wrapped up in the anxiety of trying to impress her boyfriend’s judgmental mother, Eleanor, who isn’t impressed by the simple economics professor who stole her son’s heart. This contentious back and forth is at the center of the film’s lessons on how to deal with family.

 

In the climax of the story, Rachel becomes tired of the battle between Eleanor and herself, and the damage it is causing her relationship. Rachel decides that sometimes the best way to win a game is to refuse to play at all, especially at the cost of her own values. She declares her intent to Eleanor that she will leave Nick, even at the cost of her own happiness. It culminates in one of the best monologues of the year, an excerpt of which is below:

 

“There’s no winning. You made sure of that. ‘Cause if Nick chose me, he would lose his family. And if he chose his family, he might spend the rest of his life resenting you. […] I just love Nick so much, I don’t want him to lose his mom again. So I just wanted you to know: that one day – when he marries another lucky girl who is enough for you, and you’re playing with your grandkids while the Tan Hua’s are blooming, and the birds are chirping – that it was because of me: a poor, raised by a single mother, low class, immigrant nobody.”

This moment completely shifts the dynamic between the two. Eleanor finally sees that Rachel values Nick, and not just his money and lifestyle. A mutual respect is cemented, and a happily ever after seems possible for Rachel and Nick after all.

 

Horror – Hereditary

 

A masterclass in tension, “Hereditary” is not for the faint of heart. The buzz around this film grew to a fever pitch in Horror fan circles long before it actually hit the box office, and it did not disappoint. The tremendous talent that is Toni Collette stars in the film as Annie, the matriarch leading this familial drama. There seems to be a lot of darkness that has always followed Annie and her loved ones, but there are only vague hints as to what is going on inside her household at first. An overbearing grandmother, a daughter who collects dead animals, the strange artistic creations that Annie creates as a miniatures artist… All these things present as omens, suggesting a family on the edge of some unacknowledged but waiting danger.

 

That becomes starkly clear when tragedy strikes in one of the most shocking plot twists and disturbing imagery in modern movie history. Things only get more bizarre as pressure from this tragedy shifts the dynamic in Annie’s household. From bizarre nightmares to dark witchcraft, Hereditary really makes you thankful that most family drama only rises to the occasional angry political debate, and doesn’t end with a demon possessed character crawling up on the ceiling.

 

 

Action – Black Panther

 

The biggest movie of the year was, without any shock, a super-hero movie. That has been a predictable pattern for many years. However, “Black Panther” was different for a number of reasons, not the least of which was its all black cast of actors. Through all the CGI, beautiful costume design, and amazing world-building, “Black Panther” was a family drama at its heart. This tale of kings and royal courts set in a highly modern society at times felt like Shakespeare Does Superheros – there’s even an entire sequence of our protagonist, T’Challa, communing with the spirit of his dead father in a way that hearkens back to scenes straight out of Hamlet.

 

The real tension of the film focuses on T’Challa and his cousin Erik, perhaps the best villain the Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has delivered so far. These two Wakandan sons fight each other not just as would be heirs to the throne, but symbols of competing philosophies. While T’Challa considers letting the rest of the world in on the amazing advancements of Wakanda, Erik desires the crown in order to make Wakanda a threat to the rest of nations that exploited and enslaved his ancestry for their own advancement.

 

As T’Challa and Erik both look to the past in order to justify their goals of the future, only one could survive. Defeated, Erik refused surrender, and left “Black Panther” with one of the best lines of dialogue in the franchise’s history.

T’Challa: We can still heal you…

Erik Killmonger: Why, so you can lock me up? Nah. Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, ’cause they knew death was better than bondage.

Kings rising and falling, charismatic villains, and royal intrigue, Black Panther had all the bones of a classic epic tragedy, with really great fight scenes to match.

 

Documentary — Three Identical Strangers

 

A documentary that has to be seen to be believed, “Three Identical Strangers” highlights the incredible true story of triplet brothers, separated at birth, and raised in drastically different ways, and the life they developed together once they reunited. In the first phase of the film, as an audience member, you are forced to tell your brain that you are actually watching said brothers detail a true story, as their account of events are so bizarre, it sounds like fiction. Upon discovering one another, the young men are quickly launched into international stardom, appearing on various TV shows, and making a name for themselves in their local area. That’s when you realize there’s still an hour left in movie, and the real drama hasn’t even yet begun.

 

What starts out as a feel good story about a rather miraculous re-connection delves into a real life conspiracy where people played god in the name of discovery. There is so much more behind the story of the reunited triplets than a simple strange adoption process. Exciting, fascinating, and devastating, “Three Identical Strangers” will make you question the nature of identity itself, and adds more confusion to the age-old debate over nature versus nurture.

 

 

Drama – First Man

 

There are few on Earth who don’t know the story of NASA astronauts landing on the moon in 1969. But, there’s more to the story beyond Neil Armstrong’s iconic first words as he stepped onto the Moon’s surface – that one small step was actually a long, arduous, and deadly experiment to defy the heavens themselves and journey off planet. That in itself would be an excellent story to follow – but “First Man” decides to do something very different, and scale back its worldview to center not just on the dream of the Moon landing. The film takes an intimate look at Neil Armstrong the man, not just the astronaut.

 

The heart of the film is told a majority of the time in intense close ups between husband and wife Neil and Janet Armstrong, played by Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, reading their expressions on the small scale as they contemplate the larger one. It’s a film not just about the danger and excitement that went into the Apollo 11 mission, but the sacrifice these two very real people made to get there. Neil struggles over the memory of their daughter who died from a brain tumor and staying connected to the living children he leaves behind every time a new risky assignment comes his way. Janet tries to hold together their family knowing her children’s father could be killed with one faulty wire. “First Man” is a reminder that even the grandest of humanity’s accomplishments come down to families making sacrifices for us all to set our sights on greater horizons.

 

So, as the holidays bring us all together for dinners, parties, and gatherings with loved ones, perhaps take a moment to be grateful that PopPop isn’t spending Christmas on the moon, or Auntie Rose isn’t possessed by a demon. Perspective is important.

Posted by & filed under Board Games.

 

This week, humankind took another step towards understanding our universe with the successful landing of InSight on the surface of Mars. We still have a long way to go before the data comes in. While we wait, celebrate with a boardgame of galactic exploration.

Terraforming Mars – Boardgame 534

1-5 Players          120 Minutes      Ages 12+

Mechanisms: Card Drafting, Engine Building, Resource Management

                400 years in the future, mankind begins the process of terraforming Mars. Each player takes on the role of a mega-corporation, all vying to boost economic power and public opinion while collaborating in the process of terraforming mars. Will you focus on creating an atmosphere through plant life, or on filling the riverbeds with water? Each player can take a different route to victory, but which one will reign supreme?

Star Realms – Boardgame 337

2 Players              20 Minutes         Ages 12+

Mechanisms: Deck Building, Head-to-Head play

                The universe isn’t as big as we thought, and there isn’t enough space for all of us. Make allegiances between galactic factions to garner enough trade and military power to eliminate your opponents. But don’t get too bogged down with outdated ships, or disperse your power too widely, or you will find your allies unwilling to collaborate.

Twilight Imperium (4th Edition) – Boardgame 606

3-6 Players          240-480 Minutes             Ages 14+

Mechanisms: Area Control, 4X, Variable Player Powers, Trading, Voting

                After the fall of the Lazax Empire, the remaining galactic races vie for dominance and control over the galaxy. Take control of your favorite race, and build political, military, economic, and technological might. Hold onto your sector while invading others’ in hopes of tipping the scales in your favor.

Star Munchkin Deluxe – Boardgame 10 Star Deluxe

3-6 Players          90 Minutes         Ages 10+

Mechanisms: Take-That, Trading, Dice Rolling

                The galaxy is filled with clichés and oddities pulling from every sci-fi space opera from TV, Film and Literature alike. Compete against the other space heroes to reach max level before they do. But watch out! As you explore, so does your rivals, and at any moment they may spring a trap, or sick an army of fanged fuzzballs on you!

Chaosmos – Boardgame 283

2-4 Players          60-90 Minutes  Ages 12+

Mechanisms: Hand Management, Bluffing/Deduction, Take-That, Variable Player Powers

                The universe is collapsing and there is nothing that can be done to save it. However, legend says that whomever holds the ‘Ovoid’, a mystical cosmic egg that will birth the new universe, when the current one collapses will be able to shape the new universe as they see fit. Can you make sure that your species holds the Ovoid when the time comes? Take control of one of the remaining species in the universe as you participate in the largest game of reverse hot-potato the universe has ever seen!

Battlestar Galactica – Boardgame 308

3-6 players          120-300 Minutes             Ages 10+

Mechanisms: Cooperative Play, Bluffing/Deduction, Variable Play Powers

                Step onto the legendary ship Battlestar Galactica as you lead the whole of humanity through the stars to find a new home. Along the way, fight off the Cylons and beware betrayal from within. Each player takes the role of one of the major characters from the Battlestar Galactica TV show. Who will be the Cylon sleeper cell? Can you stop them before they betray you?

Eons – Boardgame 342

2-5 players          90 Minutes         Ages 14+

Mechanisms: Resource Management, Hand Management, Take-That

                As the universe expands continuously, and energy disperses across a wider range of space, the universe cools. From the Big Bang to its inevitable cold death, stars are born and die, planets and civilizations rise and fall. In this game, each player is a cosmic architect, attempting to create solar systems to survive the eons. Manage your elements well and time galactic sabotage on the scale of heavenly bodies to write your name in the very matter of the universe.

Race for the Galaxy – Boardgame 209

2-4 Players          30-60 Minutes  Ages 12+

Mechanisms: Engine Building, Hand Management, Simultaneous Action Selection

                Your civilization has developed the technology to join the stars, but quickly you discover that so has a dozen other civilizations. Now the race is on. Claim planets and develop technologies as quickly as you can, but make sure your economy doesn’t stall out. In the end, only one civilization can claim dominance over the galaxy.

Among the Stars – Boardgame 335

2-4 Players          30 Minutes         Ages 12+

Mechanisms: Tile Placement, Simultaneous Action Selection, Drafting

                The galaxy has been ravaged and scarred by war. However, when immenant destruction loomed, the alien races declared peace. Now, in the wake of that threat, each species seeks to build the greatest space station to promote trade and diplomacy as well as to ward off future threats. Will your space station stand the test of time?

Tiny Epic Galaxies – Boardgame 268

1-5 Players          30-60 Minutes  Ages 14+

Mechanisms: Dice Rolling, Area Control, Variable Player Powers

                A compact game of galactic control. Take the role of a galactic empire seeking to expand their dominion. Use your actions well to take control of planets and to expand your reach. Strike out alone on the less desirable planets, or fight for dominion over the more lucrative ones. The more you risk, the more you have to lose!