The Family: The Brotherhood
By Donte M McNeal

Based in Michigan, Donte's Playground is a blog by Donte M McNeal. His posts range from nonsensical ramblings about anime, in-depth reviews of books and television/film, to random spurts of philosophical babble.

I'm Back: Oct-Nov Roundup

I'm Back: Oct-Nov Roundup

Yep, I’m still alive. I know, I know. It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me, but I promise there’s a legitimate reason for that. Life kind of got in the way. I hadn’t read as much lately, and this past month I was participating in my first official Nanowrimo! Now that things have settled down though, I think it’s time for me to get back in the groove of things. So you know what that means, don’t you? Oh, has it been so long that you forgot? If so, then it’s time for my monthly roundup! I’ll be combining October and November by the way.

Marshall

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This film was about a young Thurgood Marshall, focusing on the ins and outs of one of the cases that defined his stellar career. Chadwick Boseman, who has quickly become one of my favorite actors of today, does an outstanding job as Mr. Marshall, his performance bolstered by a strong supporting cast. There aren’t many movies that center on black people such as this one did, so whenever I see one come out, I watch as soon as I can, and Marshall didn’t disappoint. From the racially charged tension throughout the movie, to the all-too relatable occurrences Thurgood encounters, Marshall does a great job showing that a person’s color doesn’t and shouldn’t dictate what they are or aren’t capable of.

Mindhunter

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I’m a huge fan of psychology. Anyone who knows me knows that, and a show that is about trying to figure out the way psychopathic serial killers work (before the term serial killer was even a thing) is a show that is right up my alley. Why do these charismatic, yet enigmatic people act that the way do? What pushes them to commit acts most would never even think to? Why do they do it more than once? These are the questions posed in Mindhunter, and man does it make for some of best television I’ve seen in recent years.

The Good Doctor

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Speaking of good television, The Good Doctor  is a show I saw a featurette of when I went to the movies, and since I stream most of my shows, and don’t watch commercials, I don’t think I would have heard of this one had I not gone to the movies when I did. Boy am I glad I learned about this show, because it is so good!

The Good Doctor follows Dr. Sean Murphy, an autistic surgical resident and his journey to become a surgeon. He deals with the prejudices of those who think autism is a disease that prevents you from doing anything without constant pampering, prodding and hand-holding. And while Sean does indeed have his quirks and encounters setbacks due to being someone living with autism, watching him grow, triumph and earn the attention, respect, and trust of those around him is a treat. Also, despite this show having the ability to make me feel good every week, it isn’t all peaches and roses. Not everyone who comes into the hospital is saved by Sean (okay, and the rest of his colleagues); there are times where things don’t work out like planned, where they go awry, and people die. I appreciate the realism The Good Doctor presents, while still being able to be an uplifting and sometimes inspirational show.

The Gifted

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Another show I’ve really enjoyed is The Gifted. It’s a show about mutants, and their fight for survival against a world that would have them imprisoned, tortured or killed. With a setup like that, you’d think it would be full of dark, brooding characters and life or death situations every second of every day. While our main characters (a family of two mutant children and their human parents) are on the run from the government, their lives aren’t all bad. They meet the Mutant Underground, a resistance group that fight back against the oppression mutants are forced to face after a peaceful rally turns fatal and kills people, both human and mutant alike. The Mutant Underground are company that the main characters aren't used to, but soon enough they feel at home in the company of fellow mutants looking for little more than the freedom to live just as the humans do. And they are willing to do what ever it takes to get that freedom. With high stakes, creative powers, memorable characters (that I love to nickname based on what power they have, despite having their own already established names), this show is one of the standouts of the year for me.

Fate/Apocrypha

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For the uninitiated, the Fate franchise can be a bit overwhelming at first glance, what with multiple shows, visual novels, games and other media outlets. However, I think you’d be doing yourself a disservice by avoiding getting into the franchise because there are so many entries. In all honesty, you could probably start with Fate/A and be golden considering this one is based off a light novel seperate from the main Fate visual novel.

The basic premise of nearly every Fate adaptation is that seven Masters each summon a Servant (which are Heroic Spirits from various periods of time, such as King Arthur, Medusa, Hercules, etc.) and these Servants battle until only one remains and the winner receives the Holy Grail, a magical object that grants its owner whatever they wish for. Fate/A offers great battles, entertaining characters (for the most part, at least), and just more Fate in general, because trust me, that’s never a bad thing.

Fate/Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel

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Given the spotlight Fate has had in the latter parts of this year, it’s a given that you’d see more of it in this roundup. Remember how I said that the franchise could be a bit overwhelming at first glance? Well, that’s mainly due to all the spinoffs, games, and adaptations. Fate/Stay Night, is the original visual novel that the other properties sprouted from and sports three routes you can take, “Fate,” “Unlimited Blade Works,” and “Heaven’s Feel.” As you an guess from the title of the film, it adapts the “Heaven’s Feel" route, which has Sakura, the main character’s childhood friend as the heroine. The Holy Grail War is in full swing, and Servants are killed left and right. Ah, good times!

Heaven’s Feel has all the usual trademarks of a Ufotable adaptation: stellar visuals, crisp art, and crazy action. Seeing these characters again after so long away from them (it’s been a while since I watched the Unlimited Blade Works anime) was a welcome change. Shirou (the mc) is still a pretty dull protagonist, but the other characters are back as well (I missed you so much Medusa and Rin), so I wasn’t too bummed about seeing Shirou again. With this film being the first in a trilogy, I'm eager to see the next installment. Truth be told, more Fate is always a good thing in my book, because you can never have enough long-winded monologues, gorgeous action and lovely character designs, am I right?

Justice League

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Even with all the flak Batman v Superman got last year, I enjoyed. It was the first time the Holy Trinity of DC (Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman) were on the big screen together in live-action. I’d been waiting for what seemed like forever for that to happen, and while the movie as a whole wasn’t legendary, that trio being together made that movie for me. Then, a year later, we get the live-action assembling of the Justice League.

In Justice League, Bats and WW bring together Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg in order to fight against Steppenwolf, a forgettable otherworldly villain and his army of minions bent on destroying the world. Seeing this group form, and deal with their respective issues and growing pains is time well spent, and even though the villain is as lackluster as his faceless minions, seeing all of these new additions to the Holy Trinity kept me entertained throughout the film. It’s certainly a great time to be alive if you’re a comic book fan.

The Punisher

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Speaking of being a comic book fan, Marvel-verse over on Netflix has been more hit than miss, and it's latest offering is definitely the former. Netflix's The Punisher is the spin off for Frank Castle, Daredevil season two's violent vigilante with a penchant for killing his foes rather than allowing them to live. The Punisher picks up after the conclusion of DD season two, with Frank living under the guise of a new name, what with him having "died" in an explosion during Daredevil.

With a new name (Pete), and a new lease on life, Frank spends his days (and nights even) as a construction worker, but even with a physical outlet for relieving his emotional tension, he is still haunted by the murder of his wife and kids. Couple this with the scars, be they mental, emotional or physical from his time serving his country as a Marine, then as part of covert ops unit? Well that isn't exactly a formula for good night's sleep. Soon enough, he's approached by an unlikely ally, another "ghost" in New York who has information that Frank believed to be top secret, info that sheds new light on what happened to his family and the purpose of his time as part of the aforementioned covert ops unit. What follows is a race against Madani, an engaging female lead on the "right" side of the law who shares Frank's desire for the truth and justice. Even if Frank's justice is a bit more...fatal to those trying to cover up the truth.

The Punisher is look into what it's like to be a veteran back from war, unable to get away from the things you did in service of your country. It shows the extremes of those who crave the war they've left and those who've done their best to leave it behind and lead another life. You see people lose themselves to vengeance, while also doing their best to help others. Frank may be a vigilante, but he cares about a select few, and he does what he can to help them if able. God help anyone who tries to cross him or those he cares about.

Honorable Mention

Fate/Grand Order

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So, if you haven't noticed by now, I'm a big fan of the Fate franchise, be it the films, anime novels or games. And this entry is Fate/Grand Order, or FGO, a Fate mobile game. This is actually the only mobile game I have on my phone other than the scarcely played Words With Friends, and with how much time I spend playing it, I'm surprised I still have WWF still installed at all. FGO is a turn-based tactical RPG, where you summon Servants to fight enemies and...yep that's pretty much it. The game's story introduces Servants I haven't heard of before, including those from other spin-offs and even some created solely for the game. That's without a doubt one of the better things about the game: learning about characters I didn't know before, while at the same time allowing me to lean more about those I have seen before. I'd be lying if I said I don't play this during most of the free time I have outside of reading and writing, but it's a fun way to pass the time, and has a fair amount of reading when you're doing the story missions. FGO is definitely my favorite mobile game, until they inevitably come out with a mobile Persona game. Then, all bets are off!

Year End Roundup

Year End Roundup

Jennifer Quintez's "Thrall"

Jennifer Quintez's "Thrall"