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Black Mask: Everything You Need To Know About The Birds Of Prey Villain

Birds Of Prey has supposedly nailed down its villain, and rumor has it that the DC adventure will put Ewan McGregor in the shoes of iconic Batman rogue Black Mask. We don’t blame anyone scratching their heads. After all, it’s hard to keep tabs on every Batman villain with so many re-imaginings of the Joker happening. For those that are a bit out of the loop on what this villain is all about, here are some important details.

He’s Been One Of Gotham’s Most Powerful Crime Lords

While there are some inconsistencies between different iterations of Black Mask in the comics, his role as a powerful crime lord is often the same. We wouldn’t say he’s a level above guys like The Joker or Penguin, but he’s definitely one typically considered a colleague when those rogues get together. He’s a bit less for theatrics compared to the typical Batman villain, and more in line with mob boss types.

Black Mask is so good at the mob game that he once found himself in control of all the gangs in Gotham City. Suffice it to say that takes a special kind of person, and shows Black Mask is a guy who’s not only well connected, but someone capable of big things. If Black Mask is featured in Birds of Prey, it will be surprising if it’s in a role that doesn’t place him as one of Gotham’s big crime figures.

Sometimes His Mask Is Symbolic

In the original introduction of Black Mask, Roman Sionis’ mask was symbolic. Sionis was born to parents who were incredibly wealthy, but self-absorbed and generally shitty people. For example, the couple covered up an incident where he was dropped on his head after birth, as well as an incident where he was attacked by a rabid raccoon in his yard. Their reason? They didn’t want the incidents embarrassing them and making them look bad.

Roman Sionis grew to hate his parents and especially disliked how they were so concerned over their social standing that they put it above many things in life. In short, they wore “masks” to hide their true selves in public, which is why he wears a mask. By the way, Sionis murdered his parents and ended up using his father’s shattered casket (which he destroyed) to create the mask he wears.

Sometimes The Mask Has Abilities

Other incarnations of Black Mask have made his headgear a bit more useful and grant him a unique ability. The mask has hypnotic properties and allows the villain to assume direct control over henchmen that are also wearing a special mask. That’s a particularly useful trait to have when trying to organize a plan, as one wouldn’t have to worry about getting everyone on the same page if he’s already in their heads.

Beyond the mask he wears, Black Mask has also been known to utilize masks to kill his enemies. He does this by placing masks filled with toxins over their faces, which cause the victim’s face to shrivel and turn black. Killing is one thing, but the added desecration is the type of calling card of a villain who truly has a screw loose.

He’s A Sadistic Psychopath

All Batman villains can be pretty cruel, but Black Mask is a pretty brutal individual. One doesn’t gain control of the Gotham City crime families by being gentle, of course, but we’re sure some of his methods of torture have even made some lesser Batman rogues cringe in private. No one knows that better than Catwoman, who had her life turned upside down by Black Mask when she interfered in his drug-trafficking operation.

Roman Sionis soon made a point to find out Catwoman’s real identity, and when he did, he kidnapped her sister and brother-in-law. Black Mask then tortured her brother-in-law to death with power tools and forced her sister to eat bits of his remains. That’s pretty insane, although par for the course for a villain who’s set to headline the R-rated Birds of Prey. Just knowing a scene like that could happen in an upcoming superhero film gives us chills.

He Was Referenced In Justice League

Justice League had a couple Batman references sprinkled throughout, and one of them indirectly mentioned Black Mask. For those that missed it, a sign with the name “Janus” on it was seen when Batman was battling one of Steppenwolf’s Parademons. The sign now appears to be a reference to Janus Cosmetics, which was the company the Sionis family owned and gained their wealth from.

If this is indeed the case, it will confirm that at least part of Roman Sionis’ origin story will be intact. In the comics, Roman eventually took control of Janus, but drove the company under after a bad bet on a line of face paint. Desperate to turn things around, Roman ordered a bunch of untested products were rushed to market. The decision led hundreds of disfigured women, and his childhood friend Bruce Wayne offering to buy him out of the disaster.

The False Face Society

The False Face Society is the defacto group that surrounds Black Mask and his operations. They’re not unlike the minions of most major Batman villains, except their uniforms consist of the multitude of different masks Roman Sionis owned. Sionis banded these low-level thugs together, and they soon began to sweep through Gotham with increasingly high-profile crimes as they went.

The most interesting part about The False Face Society is that each member wore a distinctive mask. We’re obviously not sure if Birds of Prey will incorporate the same thing for its possible numerous henchman extras, but doing so would be a bit of flair that livens up the typical henchman look most superhero films have. Plus, different elaborate masks always open the door for pop culture references and easter eggs, so it would be cool if this was incorporated.

He’s More Than A Guy With A Mask

Some Batman villains are pretty deadly, but once they’re separated from their legions of goons, they’re relatively harmless. This isn’t the case with Black Mask, as breaking through his crew only leads to a fight that could give heroes a run for their money. Black Mask has an impressively high tolerance for pain and is skilled enough in hand-to-hand combat to hold his own against even the likes of Batman.

Black Mask’s also pretty good with guns and is known to carry two automatic pistols, but he is proficient with many types of weapons. When the going gets tough, he’s more than capable of escaping, and is a noted escape artist and impersonator when the situation calls for it. Basically, Black Mask’s going to be a tough customer, and it’s probably going to take all of the Birds of Prey to bring him down.

DC’s presently named Birds of Prey movie is set to premiere on February 7, 2020. While we wait to see if confirmation comes from this latest casting, check out who the film found to portray its Renee Montoya.

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Nintendo Switch: A Newbie’s Guide

The Nintendo Switch is a runaway success thanks to its inventive design and impressive roster of diverse games. If you’re looking to pick one up, we’ve got some tips to help get you started.

When the Nintendo Switch launched, critics and fans alike were impressed by its versatility. The console is cleverly designed, allowing players to enjoy games on the go in handheld mode or drop it into the dock to keep playing on the big screen. Backed by an ever-growing collection of games from every genre imaginable, it’s no wonder the console became an instant success.

If you’re looking to pick one up, this handy guide should have you ready to roll in no time!

What Are The Cost And Accessories For The Nintendo Switch?

The Nintendo Switch itself will set you back $299.99, but there are a few accessories we’d recommend you at least consider picking up alongside the console.

Whether you plan on buying physical games or going strictly digital, something you’ll want to have handy from day one is a microSD card. One of the Switch’s only major design flaws is that it doesn’t have much on-board hard drive space. The roughly 30GB of space available will fill up quickly, even if you aren’t buying a bunch of digital games. Thankfully, Switch games are nowhere near as massive as on other platforms, so you won’t need to go overboard here. You can pick up a 128GB microSD card for about 40 bucks, and we recommend you get one that’s at least that big and have it ready to go right when you purchase the console. You can go bigger, obviously, but only if you expect to download a bunch of games.

Otherwise, if you’re planning on playing the console with friends, you might want to consider grabbing an extra controller at some point. Another set of Joy-Cons will set you back $80, but we’d recommend you get a Switch Pro controller for $70 instead. The Pro controller is more like a standard game console controller and, combined with the Joy-Cons that you already get with the Switch, the Pro will give you yet another way to enjoy your games.

Finally, we’d recommend picking up a carrying case as soon as possible. The Switch can be played as a portable game console, after all, so you’ll want to keep it safe while traveling. The good news is that a sturdy case will only set you back about $20.

Nintendo Switch Online

If you don’t plan on ever playing Nintendo Switch games online, then you can probably skip a subscription to the Nintendo Switch’s online service. Then again, it offers a handful of other perks that you might consider worth the additional investment. On top of online gaming, a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online allows you to back up your saves to cloud storage, grants access to the Switch’s mobile app and subscribers will occasionally gain access to exclusive offers and discounts. Another great perk is access to NES-Nintendo Switch Online, a collection of classic NES games (Super Mario Bros., Double Dragon, Dr. Mario, etc.) that you can play as much as you want so long as you’re a subscriber.

You can purchase a subscription through the Switch’s online store, accessed directly from the console or online. A one-month subscription will set you back $3.99, while three months costs $7.99. You could also just buy an annual subscription for $19.99. Finally, there’s a family plan, which cost $34.99 and supports up to eight consoles in a household.

Getting Started On The Nintendo Switch

Once you’ve got your Switch out of the box and charged, it’s time to dive into its various features. The good news is that setting up the console is super easy, since a series of menus will guide you through the process. This includes everything from creating a Nintendo account to connecting to the internet and activating parental controls. Everything can be tweaked in the options menu after setup, so don’t fret if you decide you want to change something after the initial setup.

Another plus for the Switch is that the console is very streamlined. Rather than plug in a bunch of extra bells and whistles, the Switch’s menu is a pretty elegant collection of just a few icons. Your games will take center stage and, just under that, you’ll find access to things like the Nintendo eShop, a place to check out your captured images and videos, power options and, of course, settings.

Getting Friendly With The Nintendo Switch

It can be easy to miss, but you’ll access your own profile simply by clicking the icon at the top left of the screen. From here, you’ll be able to see how long you’ve been playing your individual games and manage your friends list. The Switch offers some help in filling out that friends list with the ability to search your known contacts. If you link your Switch to your Facebook account, the console can automatically suggest friends from your existing list of pals through the social network. Similarly, if your account is also tied to a Nintendo 3DS, or perhaps a Nintendo mobile game, you can search to find out if any of your friends from those platforms also own a Switch. Send them an invite and, as soon as they accept it, you’ll be friends.

Sharing The Fun

While the Switch features a bunch of buttons and inputs you’re likely familiar with at this point, there’s a button on the left Joy-con that’s new to the console. It’s a square button with a circle on it, which just so happens to be how you access the console’s Capture features. The Nintendo Switch allows players to more easily save and share their special moments in-game, which is where this feature comes in handy. While you’re playing, you can simply press the Capture button to take a picture of whatever is being displayed on the screen at that moment. If you hold the button for a bit, it will instead save a recording of the past 30 seconds of gameplay.

From the main menu, if you click on the Gallery icon at the bottom of the screen, you can check out your captured images and videos, edit them and, if you’ve linked your console to Facebook or Twitter, share them to social media.

Play Games With Your Nintendo Switch

Now that you’ve got your Switch set up, it’s time to actually play some games. The good news is that the console already has an impressive library of titles, with games coming from every genre imaginable. If you like epic adventures, you might want to check out The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Prefer jumping around bright and colorful worlds as a mustachioed plumber? Then maybe you’ll want to give Super Mario Odyssey a spin.

The Switch is also home to a veritable ocean of smaller games that are much easier on the wallet. We’d recommend diving into the eShop and starting to poke around to see what catches your attention. The Switch’s virtual storefront includes easy access to a list of the latest game releases, featured titles and top-selling games. There’s also an option to simply view games on sale, in case you’re looking to save a few bucks. Finally, the search feature lets you locate games based on a wide array of criteria, so be sure to give it a gander if you’re looking for something in particular. The search tab is also where you’ll be able to peruse games that have demos available, which you can download and take for a spin before committing to a purchase.

And if you’re looking for some of our top recommendations, you’ll find them below.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

If you’re looking for classic Nintendo adventuring on the go or from the comfort of your couch, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild should be the first game you pick up for the Switch. It’s absolutely massive and evolves the series in fun and unexpected ways. It also won about a million Game of the Year awards in 2017, so you know you’re in for a treat.

Super Mario Odyssey

Mario’s biggest and most diverse adventure to date, Super Mario Odyssey is packed with fun and lively worlds to explore and secrets hidden around every corner. There’s plenty here to enjoy if you just want to run and jump around, with even more adventures waiting for dedicated gamers who want to keep on digging. The core objectives are light and family friendly, with plenty of extra challenges bolted on for those who want to put their platforming skills to the test.

Splatoon 2

It turns out that Nintendo can make any genre PG, including third-person shooters. Like everything else Nintendo does, Splatoon 2 is all about having fun in lively worlds full of vivid colors. Whether you like to play competitively, join friends in cooperative missions or tackle a bunch of single player challenges, Splatoon 2 will put your trigger finger to the test in an adventure that trades bullets for splashes of paint.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

The best Mario Kart game is made even better on the Switch with beautiful graphics, a huge number of tracks to race on and additional game modes that let you challenge your friends or online opponents. With plenty of unlockables and fun competitive modes to explore, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will have everyone begging for “just one more race.”

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

If you’re looking for a game to put on your wish list, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is due out in December and promises to up the ante by a sound degree. The roster of characters in this fast and frantic brawler totals nearly 80, with levels, music and assist characters pulled from throughout Nintendo’s history. Developed to be the ultimate Smash Bros. fighting experience, this game will likely be a party favorite for years to come.

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Travel Mistakes That Can Land You in the Hospital

Travel Mistakes That Can Land You in the Hospital
Photo: Rob Shepperson

Smart travelers do dumb things. We do things on the road that we would never attempt at home. We let down our guard, stop taking medications, make poor decisions when jetlagged, and sometimes just think that monkey in the tree must be friendly because he’s so cute.

It can all quickly lead to the emergency room.

“What generally gets people in trouble is overestimating their abilities and underestimating their risk,” says Tim Daniel, senior advisor for innovation and business strategy at International SOS, a travel-security firm.

Tourists take a selfie at a temple in India. Incidents involving animals are a common cause of injury on the road.
Tourists take a selfie at a temple in India. Incidents involving animals are a common cause of injury on the road. Photo: Vishal Bhatnagar/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Mr. Daniel believes that this flawed judgment—known as cognitive bias—leads even the savviest of travelers astray in many situations. Experienced travelers may take precautions for petty theft, hotel fires and data security, then have a couple of drinks and get behind the wheel of a rental car in a foreign country. It’s different when you’re out of town, the thinking goes.

Travel is generally disorienting, Mr. Daniel says. We’re all wired to process information in a certain way, but we get inundated with new information when traveling and end up focusing on the wrong things and making poor choices.

What’s happening more often, insurance officials say, is that travelers have grown more independent and more willing to take risks. Social media raises pressure on people to participate and show off pictures of amazing adventures. And the “bleisure” trend of mixing a vacation day or two into a business trip means some travelers think nothing of trying a day paragliding over a waterfall before a big sales conference.

Your Travel Questions Answered

Join WSJ editors and the Middle Seat columnist as they discuss the best and worst airports and answer your travel questions ahead of the busy holiday travel season, Nov. 15 at 1 p.m. ET. Submit your questions to subscribercall@wsj.com, and our journalists will answer live during the call. Register here.

With cognitive bias, people sometimes become over-reliant on the first thing they hear, or listen only to information that confirms preconceptions. Sometimes they overestimate the importance of something they know. There’s a bandwagon effect for some people—if others are doing it, it must be OK. Our blind spots become more pronounced when we travel, Mr. Daniel says, and sometimes we favor prior information over new evidence. (That neighborhood was safe when I was here 20 years ago.)

All that can lead to poor decisions. Among the worst International SOS has seen travelers make:

• Deciding to go for $350 Lasik surgery in Vietnam. A bad outcome left two airline pilots unable to work.

• Arriving jet-lagged to a corporate retreat and getting on a Segway for a “team-building” tour.

• Renting a car in a country with a high rate of road accidents. In most cases, you could hire a local driver for not much more.

• Trying ultralight flying for the first time. Somehow when we’re a tourist we think we can handle it even without proper instruction and training.

“A lot of times people get caught up in the moment,’’ says John Gobbels, chief operating officer of Medjet Assistance, a company that offers medical evacuation services. “That’s why you travel, right? You want to experience things and have those experiences.’’

Renting and using potentially dangerous vehicles without proper instructions is the No. 1 cause of injury when traveling, according to the travel-insurance division of American International Group: riding mopeds, participating in Segway tours, using jet skis for the first time.

Shared electric scooters like those from Bird Rides, here in Los Angeles, are popular with tourists, who may have little experience riding them.
Shared electric scooters like those from Bird Rides, here in Los Angeles, are popular with tourists, who may have little experience riding them. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Bikes and motorized scooters for rent in cities are inviting to travelers and they often jump on with neither helmets nor familiarity. “We see a good number of bumps and bruises and broken bones,’’ says James Page, AIG Travel’s chief administrative officer who oversees assistance and claims.

People who wouldn’t consider them safe in their own neighborhood see a pack of riders somewhere on vacation, and it looks easy.

AIG also sees claims from travelers seduced by pictures of people riding horses bareback through the surf at resort beaches. “Very unathletic individuals think it’ll be relaxing and easy,’’ Mr. Page says, “and they go tumbling into the surf. That’s kind of a common thing.’’

Also common—and sometimes fatal—these days: selfie injuries. Mr. Page says people trying to get their perfect angle fall off balconies, decks and piers, sometimes two or three stories up. Among the more exotic selfie accidents AIG has seen: tourists pose with a monkey in a tree behind them. The monkey jumps down and bites them.

Mr. Daniel of International SOS says ground transportation is among the top risks of injury to all travelers. In a country where vehicles drive on the opposite side of the road than at your home, you’re programmed to look the wrong way for oncoming vehicles. People not paying attention get tripped by holes in pavement and curbs, or walk into alleys or even lanes of traffic. Others jump into a taxi and never put on a seatbelt.

“We put down our guard,” he says.

The best way to protect yourself when traveling is to build systems that give you consistency. If you’re trying something new, do you always have a backup plan? If you know it takes you a day or two to adjust to a new time zone after crossing oceans, get in the habit of always waiting a day or two before you rent a car or hike up a mountain or ride a scooter.

Claims related to sickness far outnumber injuries, travel-insurance companies say—more trips get interrupted by heart attacks and various illnesses than accidents. But there are always plenty of falls down unfamiliar cruise-ship staircases and twisted ankles on cobblestone streets.

Insurance experts note that in addition to exclusions for pre-existing conditions, many travel policies exclude coverage for extreme sports type activities. So ultralight flying, heli-skiing or even motorcycle riding might cancel coverage if you’re injured. Companies do sell policies that include coverage for extreme sports, and if you plan to partake and buy travel insurance, you might want to get a policy tailored to your trip.

Gail Mangiante, claims advocate at InsureMyTrip, had a case of a college professor who suffered from neuropathy and knew his condition could be worsened by cold weather. He went hiking in the winter in the Alps in France—and had to cancel the rest of his trip. Insurance refused to pay as the neuropathy was a pre-existing condition.

“I’m sure that the average traveler is not thinking about these things. They are just thinking I’m going on vacation, I’m going to have a good time and I’m going to do things I’ve never done before,’’ Ms. Mangiante says.

Top 10 Travel Accidents

The travel-insurance division of American International Group compiled a list of the most common causes of accidents and injuries on the road.

  • Renting and using vehicles such as mopeds, Segways, jet skis or scooters without proper instructions.
  • Drinking alcohol: Falls cause numerous injuries, and poor judgement in any situation can lead to an accident.
  • Going beyond physical limits: If your knee hurts while walking the dog, it will hurt even more on when you attempt to cover Paris in one day.
  • Falling during transfers on and off the tour bus, from dock to boat, etc.
  • Riding or approaching animals.
  • Ignoring existing medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
  • Getting ill. (Wash your hands, a lot.)
  • Taking selfies: Watch where you walk and remember that circumventing safety measures to get better pictures can lead to injury.
  • Eating exotic cuisines that can cause stomach problems.
  • Engaging in adventurous or strenuous activities with no experience—rock-climbing, challenging hikes, zip lines.

MORE FROM THE MIDDLE SEAT

Write to Scott McCartney at middleseat@wsj.com

Appeared in the November 8, 2018, print edition as ‘Travel Mistakes That Hurt Top Travel Accidents.’

*Riverdale* Season 3 Episode 4 Recap: All the *Breakfast Club* References

This week’s episode of Riverdale went back in time and saw our favorite teens playing their parents. KJ Apa played young Fred Andrews, Lili Reinhart played young Alice Cooper, Camila Mendes played young Hermione Lodge, and so on and so forth. It was a fun episode—and as trippy as you’d expect. Apa even dyed his hair black for the occasion!

But the episode didn’t really move season three’s plot along. Instead, we learned how the Riverdale parents first came into contact with Gryphons & Gargoyles, the creepy game that’s slowly taking over the town and killing some of the students at Riverdale High. It turns out the parents were just as invested in G&G as their kids—and they may have even played a hand in one of the game’s first murders.

That’s certainly intriguing, but the best part of the episode has nothing to do with Gryphons & Gargoyles: It’s all the Breakfast Club references made throughout. Everything from the costumes to the dialogue and even some of the plot points feels like it came straight out of the John Hughes classic. Watching this episode must’ve been wild for Molly Ringwald, Luke Perry, Skeet Ulrich, and all the other Riverdale parents who were once huge teen stars. This flashback chapter was their lives at one point—literally, for Molly Ringwald.

Below, here are all the major references to The Breakfast Club tonight’s Riverdale episode made:

1. The title. It’s called “The Midnight Club.” Subtle.

2. Alice’s leather jacket and plaid shirt wrapped around her waist. It’s very reminiscent of Judd Nelson’s look in The Breakfast Club.

PHOTO: The CW

3. Their nicknames. The Bad Girl (Alice), the Rebelling Catholic (Hermione), the Teacher’s Pet (Penelope), the Artist-Athlete (Fred), the Political Animal (Sierra), and the Ladies’ Man (F.P.)

4. The rude principal administering the detention. What’s his damage? He won’t even let these kids go to the bathroom!

5. The story kicks off in Saturday detention. All the kids have landed themselves there for various reasons. Sound familiar?

PHOTO: The CW

6. “Secrets and Sins.” It’s a game the kids play during detention where they confess their deepest, darkest secrets. They do this while sitting cross-legged on the floor—just like the scene in The Breakfast Club.

7. F.P.’s letterman jacket. Is that Emilio Estevez I see?

PHOTO: The CW

8. The contentious, abusive relationship between F.P. and his father. It mirrors the abuse John Bender (Judd Nelson) details at the hand of his dad in TBC.

9. The eighties-tinged music. It’s the perfect soundtrack. Listen closely for the “Take on Me” instrumental.

10. The lunch unpacking scene. At their second detention, the kids unpack their food for lunch time. Penelope has a prim-and-proper canteen. F.P.’s just eating a sandwich. Molly Ringwald easily could be in this scene eating sushi.

PHOTO: The CW

11. The secret romances. Well, quasi-romances. F.P. and Hermione share a sweet moment while playing G&G at school, and so do Alice and Fred. It’s exactly like when John and Claire (Ringwald) kiss in The Breakfast Club.

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The Parents of Riverdale Were All Really Famous Teens—and Yes, They Have Stories

Why Is Riverdale So Thirsty This Season?

Final Fantasy VII Remake Could Bring Companion Games Back As Well

The release of Final Fantasy VII Remake is still a ways off, but director and producer Tetsuya Nomura is already talking about the potential of bringing back the companion games that launched as spin-offs of the main Final Fantasy VII story.

Gematsu is reporting that, during the The World Ends With You: Final Remix closed event that took place back on October 30th, Nomura took a couple of fan questions, one of which was centered around Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII. Nomura didn’t just address that particular game, but talked about the entire anthology of companion properties based on Final Fantasy VII, saying…

To put this into context, Nomura is also directing Kingdom Hearts III for Square Enix, in addition to working on Final Fantasy VII. The current development schedule sees Nomura putting Kingdom Hearts III at the top of the priority list, with the game scheduled to release at the end of January in 2019 for the Xbox One and PS4. Once the game is up and out then Nomura will return to work on Final Fantasy VII Remake.

The remake was announced back in 2015, and has been moving very slowly through development since then. It likely won’t be complete until 2020 or 2021. However, it’s interesting that he’s actually considering something that could be done surrounding the compilation properties for Final Fantasy VII.

As explained by Getmasu, these are the projects that released after the initial game came out for PC and the PSX, such as Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and the very popular but story-opaque Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, which was actually a CGI companion story that followed up on the events that took place after the initial story in VII concluded. It was Square’s big return to CGI movies after The Spirits Within failed to gather an audience at the box office when it released during the turn of the century.

Given that Square has become a lot more comfortable with companion properties releasing alongside games, I can definitely see a UHD remaster of Advent Children making its way onto the market as a companion release alongside Final Fantasy VII Remake.

As for the PSP release of Crisis Core, or the PS2 outing of Dirge of Cerberus, those remain up in the air, but we’ll see if Nomura will tackle them depending on if the remake sells well. Given that Final Fantasy is still extremely popular, it’s completely possible that maybe Square Enix will tackle the other games.

For now we have to look forward to Kingdom Hearts III coming out in January, and then it’s back to the waiting game for Final Fantasy VII Remake to make its way to home consoles.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 Update Removes The 9-Bang Grenade Everybody Hates

Maintaining a fine balance of operation for highly popular first-person shooters, or heck, any competitive multiplayer game, is a task that many probably would never want to take on. However, Treyarch made Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and so the company must maintain that content equilibrium, and part of that includes removing the 9-Bang grenade that everybody hates.

Over on the Black Ops 4 sub-reddit, Treyarch unloaded the changelog for the latest update to Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. One of the most significant changes that arrived in the update was the removal of the 9-Bang grenade from the Battle Royale mode known as Blackout.

According to the changelog, the change came as the developers decided to reevaluate the grenade’s place within the mode, and where it fits within Black Ops 4′s gameplay loop.

The grenade was not missed by various members of the Call of Duty community.

As you can see, there was no love lost on social media for the 9-Bang grenade being temporarily removed from the gameplay loop of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Popular streamer Tim Havlock waved it off in a tweet.

Others casually noted that the grenade was simply way too over-powered for what it was intended to do. They did not lament nor shed any tears for Treyarch deciding to temporarily disable the grenade from being used in the very popular Battle Royale mode.

One user stated that it was simply too overpowered and deserved to get the axe.

You don’t have to look far to see how the 9-Bang can be used in ways that some felt were exploitative. There are plenty of videos up on YouTube right now showcasing the 9-Bang being tossed down and basically blinding the opponent long enough for them to get put down.

The issue, however, isn’t just that the 9-Bang blinds opponents due to its concussive force, it’s that the range is rather significant, so much so that even if you toss the grenade a few meters out from where the opponent is standing, they’ll still get affected by it in a significant way.

It’s interesting because, in the changelog, Treyarch actually increased the grenade count for the concussion grenade and increased the throwing distance as well. So, while the 9-Bang may have been removed for the time being, the concussion grenades got a little bit of a buff.

The developers made a bunch of other changes to Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 as well, including a number of new additions to the playlist updates, and several tweaks to the gameplay balance across the PvP and the Zombies modes, this includes squashing a UI bug, fixing a few crashes in the Zombies maps, and adding a bunch of new storyline characters to the character missions. The update is available right now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One gamers. There’s no ETA on if or when the 9-Bang grenade will make a return to the Blackout mode.

Bryan Cranston Responds To Breaking Bad Movie News

Breaking Bad came to an end back in 2013 with a finale that closed the door on Walter White’s journey from unassuming chemistry teacher to meth kingpin. For a long time, it seemed that the only way the show would continue in any way, shape, or form would be via the Better Call Saul spinoff. News recently broke that Breaking Bad is getting a movie, and original series star Bryan Cranston has responded to the announcement of the movie, saying this:

Somehow, the Breaking Bad movie feels all the more real for having been confirmed by Bryan Cranston. He didn’t give away a whole lot in the way of details regarding the project, and the fact that he hasn’t read a script for the movie indicates that he couldn’t give away tons of plot details even if he felt so inclined. His comments even give reason to doubt that the Breaking Bad movie will feature Walter White at all.

Once upon a time, a Breaking Bad project without Bryan Cranston would have seemed inconceivable. The drama probably wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did or earned the pop culture legacy it did without Cranston as leading man. The success of Better Call Saul, however, proves that there is an audience for projects set in the Breaking Bad universe, with or without Walter.

Whether or not the movie includes Walter likely depends on the timeframe and the main characters. If the project is set after the conclusion of Breaking Bad, Walter could really only show up via flashbacks, hallucination, or dream sequences considering his ending on the show. If set during Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston could simply play a Walter White still in his rise and fall as Heisenberg.

Bryan Cranston may not look exactly as he did in the original run of the series, but who’s to say that he couldn’t pull it off if he shaves his head and maybe adds the Heisenberg hat? Of course, the presence of Walter White also depends on whether or not Cranston would be open to reprising his most iconic role. Cranston shared whether he would play Walt again in his chat with The Dan Patrick Show:

It’s not altogether surprising that Bryan Cranston would be on board with reprising his role as Walter White. He (and Aaron Paul) have said before that they’d appear on Better Call Saul if Vince Gilligan called them up and said he’d found the right story. If Vince Gilligan calls Cranston up for the Breaking Bad movie, Cranston would apparently be game!

That said, if the movie does indeed focus on characters with incomplete journeys from Breaking Bad, that likely means that Walter White won’t be the star. Perhaps Jesse Pinkman could be the leading man. There’s no word at this point if Aaron Paul is attached to the movie, but his character’s journey is arguably incomplete. Although he technically did escape his captivity by neo-Nazis, he was last seen driving hysterically in the opposite direction from the dying Walter. What happened next?

Aaron Paul did just land a role on Westworld, so he might be busy with another small screen project for the foreseeable future. Only time will tell. Breaking Bad isn’t the only successful AMC show to score an order for a movie, so it should be interesting to see if this is the beginning of a trend. If you’re now in the mood to relive the glory days of Breaking Bad and/or the first few seasons of Better Call Saul, check out Netflix!

See All the 2018 WSJ. Magazine Innovators

See All the 2018 WSJ. Magazine Innovators

Film Innovator

Jonah Hill Makes Directing Look Easy

Once Hollywood’s go-to comedic sidekick, the two-time Oscar nominee is the writer and director of a new film, ‘Mid90s’

By Jason Gay, Photography by Craig McDean, Styling by Julie Ragolia

Read it here.

Two-time Oscar nominee Jonah Hill takes on his most natural role yet: director.
See All the 2018 WSJ. Magazine Innovators

Philanthropy Innovator

How the Record-Breaking Sale of a Lichtenstein Painting Changed Agnes Gund’s Life

An art collector and patron turns her talents to criminal justice

By Derek Blasberg, Photography by Taryn Simon

Read it here.

By combining two of her passions-art and philanthropy-Agnes Gund is making a lasting mark in both worlds.
See All the 2018 WSJ. Magazine Innovators

Design Innovator

In ‘Black Panther,’ Costume Designer Ruth E. Carter Found a Career-Defining Challenge

‘Black Panther’ pushed Carter to abandon rigorous historicism for fantastical Afrofuturism—and put her talents in even higher demand

By Rob Haskell, Photography by Ethan James Green, Styling by Patti Wilson

Read it here.

Though she has dabbled in spoofs and sci-fi and rom-coms, Ruth E. Carter Carter is, above all, a historicist.
See All the 2018 WSJ. Magazine Innovators

Food Innovator

David Chang’s Culinary Universe Is Still Growing

“It’s like, ‘Be better or f—ing see you later.’”

By Alex Bhattacharji, Photography by Dario Catellani, Styling by Giovanni Dario Laudicina

Read it here.

David Chang was sick of the notion that great cooking was the exclusive province of fine dining, so he changed the whole industry.
See All the 2018 WSJ. Magazine Innovators

Technology Innovator

How Nonny de la Peña, the “Godmother of VR,” Is Changing the Mediascape

Long considered a pioneer of virtual and augmented reality, de la Peña unveils her latest breakthrough

By Ryan Bradley, Photography by Gregory Harris

Read it here.

How do we shake ourselves out of our extremely personalized versions of reality? Nonny de la Peña has the answer.
See All the 2018 WSJ. Magazine Innovators

Architecture Innovator

Swiss Architecture Firm Herzog & De Meuron Celebrates 40 Years

And Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron celebrate 60 years of friendship

By Ian Volner, Photography by Juergen Teller

Read it here.

After 40 years, the Swiss firm’s ideas and approaches are still fresh with each new project.
See All the 2018 WSJ. Magazine Innovators

Television Innovator

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a Powerhouse on the Rise

With ‘Fleabag’ and ‘Killing Eve,’ the writer-actor-producer has emerged as one of television’s most distinctive voices—and she’s looking forward to her next act

By David Kamp, Photography by Jamie Hawkesworth, Styling by Emilie Kareh

Read it here.

With Killing Eve, Phoebe Waller-Bridge slayed a new genre.
See All the 2018 WSJ. Magazine Innovators

Entertainment Innovator

How John Legend Found His Voice

To add to chart-topping ballads, Oscar-winning anthems, Emmy-winning broadcasts, Tony-winning revivals and a holiday album, the singer-songwriter has emerged as a force for social justice

By Alan Light, Photography by Thurstan Redding, Styling by Karen Kaiser

Read it here.

John Legend’s mind is always on his politics, even when he’s making music.
See All the 2018 WSJ. Magazine Innovators

Fashion Innovator

Ralph Lauren Wants People to Feel Good About Their Country

Over five decades, the designer has created a sweeping vision of America. Now he’s looking ahead to what’s next for his $9.85 billion corporation

By Christina Binkley, Photography by Cass Bird

Read it here.

After five decades, the iconic designer Ralph Lauren is still looking ahead.

The Grinch Reviews Are In, Here’s What The Critics Think

Whether you’re a fan of original book, the 1966 animated TV special or the 2000 live action movie, the How The Grinch Stole Christmas! story has been a Christmas staple for decades. The latest adaptation, titled Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, puts Dr. Seuss’ creation through a computer animated lens from the folks at Illumination Entertainment. With The Grinch finally arriving in theaters this weekend (it was originally supposed to come last year), reviews for the movie are now pouring in, and while it doesn’t sound like it will become the most cherished of Christmas movies, there’s still a fair amount from it to enjoy.

Starting off, CinemaBlend’s own Dirk Libbey awarded The Grinch 3.5 out of 5 stars in his review, noting that while it won’t become the definitive version of the story,” it’s a much better cinematic out than the Jim Carrey-led Grinch movie from nearly two decades ago. Dirk also mentioned that although seeing the familiar Grinch elements in this movie will just remind you that they’ve been handled better before in a much shorter run time, the new material, such as the side plot of Cindy Lou Who trying to capture Santa Claus for her mother and the Grinch’s (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) new backstory, actually elevates The Grinch.

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch may not be the best version of this story ever told, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a warm and fun story that has enough warmth and charm to be exactly what many families will be looking for during the holiday season.

Empire Magazine‘s Amy West had similar feelings about The Grinch in her review, giving it 3 out of 5 stars. In Amy’s opinion, in its efforts to be a child-friendly movie, The Grinch ends up being a “a safe and often sickeningly sweet film” that’s more concerned with the ‘Christmas is about being with loved ones, not presents’ message than adding anything new to the story. That said, it does help that The Grinch boasts some clever visual gags.

Despite its story-telling ambition being two sizes too small (much like its hairy protagonist’s heart), The Grinch is impossibly cute, visually rich and boasts enough festive fun to satisfy young viewers.

Collider‘s Matt Goldberg wasn’t quite as kind to The Grinch in his review. Giving it a C grade, Goldberg states that the movie, like Illumination’s previous movies, doesn’t rise above mediocrity, preferring to highlight antics and gags over an emotional story, resulting in something that’s “safe and disposable.”

It’s not that The Grinch is an awful movie as much as it’s simply straining to fill time, and while there’s some creativity in the production design and Benedict Cumberbatch does some really good voice work, ultimately you can’t help but feel like this is a bauble designed to distract children for an hour and a half.

Michael Rechtshaffen from The Hollywood Reporter felt that The Grinch did a good job of resembling the original book and TV special than the live action movie did, and with the new elements (like making the eponymous character more complex and adding the reindeer Fred to accompany Grinch and his dog Max) and “visual energy,” particularly with the design of Whoville, there’s plenty to appreciate from this latest adaptation.

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch is a vibrant, amusing CG animated feature that gives the big mean, green guy a kinder, gentler makeover.

Jesse Hassenger from The AV Club, on the other hand, gave The Grinch a C grade, calling it a “a more meager, timid iteration of Seuss’ story.” In Jesse’s opinion, the movie doesn’t do a good enough job registering Grinch as an outcast, instead coming across as “a sitcom’s cranky upstairs neighbor,” despite his new backstory.

Illumination’s focus on cartoon villainy should set it apart. But by this point, the filmmakers have softened the very concept of ‘bad’ into just another bowl of brightly colored sugary mush.

Birth.Movies.Death.‘s Michael Gingold also felt that The Grinch was an improvement over the live action movie, but ultimately the new attempt to rationalize the green-furred grump’s meanness still falls short. The visuals of The Grinch are top-notch, but the rest doesn’t compare to what we saw in the Boris Karloff-led animated special over 50 years ago.

The Grinch will no doubt provide a satisfying holiday diversion for family audiences, and little kids will probably dig it, but we older grinches who grew up on that TV version can only hope that someone doesn’t try yet another unnecessary movie 18 years from now.

Finally, The Wrap‘s Alonso Duralde stated in his review that The Grinch is “bright, both in its color palette and in the wit and liveliness of the storytelling.” There are some missteps, to be sure, but it manages to expand the tale without taking away the charm of the original, and it shines best when its focus is on Whoville.

Purists may balk about revisiting this tale, but The Grinch earns its laughter and its sentiment, both of which are plentiful. It’s a full-throated Fah-Who-Foraze.

Christmas movies are often be hit or miss, and judging by these reviews for The Grinch (just some of many), it falls right in the middle. It won’t exceed the popularity of the original book or the TV program, and the efforts to stretch out the story to an 86-minute runtime may not necessarily be to your liking. But The Grinch also doesn’t sound remotely like a train wreck, and if you’re looking for a little holiday cheer on the big screen, this could be worth checking out. At the very least, The Grinch should entertain the young moviegoers like most of Illumination’s previous movies have.

You can judge The Grinch for yourself when it arrives this Friday, November 9, and be sure to stay tuned to CinemaBlend for continuing coverage. If you’re interested in learning what other movies are coming out before the year is over, head to our 2018 release schedule. Or you can get a head start on next year’s theatrical offerings with our 2019 release schedule.

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