Seeing Cyberpunk 2077 Run on Google Stadia at 4K Isn’t Enough to Sell Me on Cloud Gaming

Illustration for article titled Seeing iCyberpunk 2077 /iRun on Google Stadia at 4K Isnt Enough to Sell Me on Cloud Gaming

Screenshot: CD Projekt Red

Google’s fledgling cloud gaming service could really use a win after a year of technical issues and lukewarm reception from gamers. It’s resorted to literally giving Stadia and its accessories away for free to drum up some excitement, but how it handles CD Projekt Red’s oh-s0-long-awaited title Cyberpunk 2077 next month—one of the platform’s most high-profile releases to date—could very well be Stadia’s make-or-break moment.

Advertisement

On Friday, we got our first look at how the game plays on Stadia, in 4K no less, and it’s… fine. Could be worse, could be better. You know that 10 Things I Hate About You quote? I think now I know what being “whelmed” feels like.

Google released a five-minute trailer showing off 4K gameplay footage (Warning: It contains spoilers, so beware if you’re trying to go into the story blind) of Cyberpunk 2077, which is set to release on Dec. 10 if it’s not delayed again. It should be noted that 4K streaming is only available if you subscribe to the platform’s premium tier, Stadia Pro, provided that you have a good enough internet connection. Google’s giving one-month trial subscriptions out for free too if you buy the game before Dec. 17.

Advertisement

The game runs smoothly in the trailer, though Google doesn’t disclose what kind of device or internet connection was used to capture the footage. So, as with all cloud gaming services, your mileage could seriously vary. Gameplay looks slightly less fluid compared to the performance we’ve seen on PCs with ray tracing capabilities and next-gen PlayStation and Xbox consoles, but not by any significant amount. So yeah, as I said, a thoroughly whelming performance.

If Google follows through with what the trailer promises, it could be enough to soothe the sting of Stadia’s pitiful launch numbers at the beginning of 2020. Then again, another hotly anticipated release, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, came out earlier in November and has already chalked up complaints about spotty performance and latency issues that can particularly make timed challenges a frustrating slog. Not a very promising sign, to say the least.

For what it’s worth, Google appears ready to continue throwing money at the platform for the foreseeable future. In an interview this week, Stadia director Jack Buser said the company is “unequivocally” invested in the gaming world “for the long haul” and has Stadia launches planned through at least 2023. So even if Cyberpunk 2077 ends up being a bust, Google seems prepared to stubbornly forge ahead regardless of whether gamers are using its platform (which, as it stands, they’re not).

io9 Investigates: Will Wearing a Giant Baby Yoda Onesie Improve Your Mandalorian Viewing Experience?

Portrait of a scientist in the field.

Portrait of a scientist in the field.
Photo: James Whitbrook/io9

Toys and CollectiblesAction figures, statues, exclusives, and other merchandise. Beware: if you look here, you’re probably going to spend some money afterwards.

The Mandalorian is already some pretty solid Star War. But what if we could improve on it by looking like an absolute idiot while watching? I, io9’s resident idiot, decided to find out.

Advertisement

As anticipation for The Mandalorian’s second season began building up a few weeks ago, so came with it a sea of merchandise. Toys! T-Shirts! Funkos! A…onesie for adults? As a noted impulsive Baby Yoda Item purchaser, I couldn’t help myself but to be drawn to Hot Topic’s “Plush Union Suit”, as they call it, a unisex onesie that replicates the Child’s snugglesome robes, complete with a hood depicting his lil’ head, ears and all.

Advertisement

And so, I ordered. I waited, and then several weeks and one customs charge later, my dreams came true:

But it was not enough to frolic around in the early days of a British Fall/Winter transition. The Child Plush Union Suit was very soft, and very warm, the living embodiment of that Simpsons bit where Homer is curled up in bed like a cinnamon bun of pure peace. It was, as a one-size-fits most item, like being drowned in a blanket of Baby Yoda, even more so when you pulled the hood up to envelop yourself and/or terrify any nearby pets. These are all good things. But I wanted to be rigorous, and conduct some science. As Chapter 12 drew near, I prepared to conduct a field test: would I enjoy an episode of The Mandalorian more if I saw it through the eyes of being an incredibly soft Baby Yoda in disguise?

And so, behold the notes I took while sitting down to watch “The Siege”—transcribed from my notes app—resplendent in Child regalia like a functioning adult who gets paid to write things about this dumb franchise online:

  • It is 8am and I am very tired, so being in this soft blanket of a thing is not doing favors for my ability to keep my eyes open.
  • I am warm. Maybe I should’ve kept my workout clothes on instead of putting some lounge wear on. Pretty sure it’s like 8 degrees here right now, too. I should figure out what that is in American later. [Editorial update: 46 Fahrenheit, friends!]
  • THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ONESIE BUT SPACE MACARONS!!!!!!
  • Lotta shooting in this ep. Less Baby Yoda than I anticipated, so I’m waving my head around to flap the ears during the fight scenes.
  • I am very warm. If I unzip the chest a bit do violate the entire test? There’s only 10 minutes of the episode left…
  • VICTORY. I have completed the episode and I am taking this damn thing off and getting some water.

Advertisement

Turns out, Carl Weather’s The Mandalorian Chapter 12? Pretty alright Star War! Solid episode, not much going on outside of the action, but that’s also kind of The Mandalorian sometimes. Would I have liked it less if I was not bedecked in officially-sanctioned onesie? I conducted a control test that evening after work, re-watching this time without the hoodie. I was substantially cooler—in body temperature, not social cachet, to be clear and obviously the surprises like the Dark Troopers didn’t quite land the second time around. But it was still pretty alright!

It would seem, at least, from this rigorous display of science, being dressed as Baby Yoda will not improve your enjoyment of The Mandalorian. I tested it again this week, and did not take notes, but came to the same conclusion: I looked very silly, I was very warm, and I was very comfortable. Oh, and The Mandalorian continues to be a solid piece of Star Wars.

Advertisement

So yes, maybe if you like looking a bit silly and need to be substantially warmed this winter, maybe consider dressing up like a 50 year old space baby and letting your inner child out for a bit. Or I dunno, buy a sweater or something. That might be better for when we’re allowed outside again.

Advertisement


For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.

Advertisement

The Mandalorian’s Grandest Episode Yet Uncovers Old Friends, and Older Pains

Din Djarin meets an old friend, not forgotten.

Din Djarin meets an old friend, not forgotten.
Image: Lucasfilm

The Mandalorian has always promised the picture of a much wider place it could encompass in the Star Wars universe, ever since its first episode flipped the script and put our titular hero in front of a little green mystery from the stars. Its latest chapter re-aligns the show’s place in that world even as it grows it ever larger, but does so while cementing the most intimate bond that ties it together.

Advertisement

undefined

Image: Lucasfilm

It’s hard not to treat “Chapter 13”—burdensomely titled “The Jedi” and directed by Clone Wars and Rebels executive producer Dave Filoni—as something of a turning point for The Mandalorian. The end of one part of its mystery and the start of a new expansion which builds upon that mystery. Yet, there is a loose casualness to the way it sweeps its prior slate clean, only to begin writing a new, grander story for Din Djarin and our dear Baby Yoda to take.

Advertisement

That’s a casualness that also extends to its treatment of the titular Jedi, perhaps the show’s worst-kept secret in a long time: Ahsoka Tano (played by the equally-ill-kept secret, Rosario Dawson, who has been the center of an ongoing legal case regarding the alleged discrimination of a trans employee). For all the reverence we as Star Wars fans place on the character, The Mandalorian is not particularly of the same eye. Ahsoka is not some grand secret kept hidden away for a lavish arrival onto the scene, or kept at arm’s reach as That Thing We Know. From the moment the episode begins, no grand airs are made: Ahsoka is here, lightsabers swinging on the planet Corvus—the wandering ronin to our western gunslinger in Din. Ultimately, as so often is the case with The Mandalorian, she is someone willing to help Din if he helps her in turn.

undefined

Image: Lucasfilm

What Ahsoka needs in exchange for lending a hand (and a floating rock or two) is access to the Magistrate of Calodan, Morgan Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto)—a woman whose lingering scars from the Clone Wars not only saw her align with the Empire during its reign and help build its navy, but continue to keep a cold grip on the people under her thumb even as that Empire lies in ashes. Ahsoka wants Elsbeth, not just to liberate the people under her control but for information, the continuation of her own quest from Star Wars Rebels to locate both Grand Admiral Thrawn and Ezra Bridger, who vanished into the unknown regions in the animated series’ climax.

Advertisement

Although Ezra himself goes unnamed here, it is a connection to this brash, once angry, once emotional young Jedi Knight that seems to plague Ahsoka for much of the episode, something of a running theme in her long life at this point. In spite of ultimately making good on her offer to help Din, she cannot teach the Child the ways of the Force. After making a connection with him, Ahsoka lays out something that is as clear in her as it is in the Child—in the process, revealing his name, Grogu. A young Padawan raised on Coruscant, Grogu was hidden away during the Clone War, only to be rescued and kept secret once more when it fell during Order 66. Through the Force, Ahsoka senses Grogu’s pain and despair, but also anger: an anger she has seen lay even the greatest Jedi of her time low.

undefined

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Advertisement

So, like she herself seemingly has with the world around her, Ahsoka begs Din to cut Grogu off—let his connection to the Force dwindle, keep him secret as he once was. Because the thought of training that power only to see it give in to the dark, uncontrolled impulses Grogu has displayed before could only lead to the heartbreak she once saw with Anakin. Ahsoka lost her master and is in the process of attempting to recover a lost young friend strong in the Force, one who needs as much guidance as Grogu does. These connections have driven her over the years, yes, but they’ve also caused her unimaginable pain. Pain she does not want to burden further in taking on Grogu and training his abilities: the fear of a failure that saw her unable to save Anakin or Ezra (yet).

But Ahsoka’s distance with Grogu, even as she is able to connect with him and share his story with Din, is tempered by something made more explicit in “The Jedi” than it ever has previously been in this series: the simple fact that Din loves this child. It’s not outright said, The Mandalorian isn’t really that kind of show, but this chapter’s most gleeful, earnest moments aren’t in Ahsoka swinging a lightsaber about or the mentions of Star Wars’ past, canon or otherwise.

Advertisement

undefined

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

They’re the intimacy in his interactions with Grogu in this episode, made all the stronger after Ahsoka’s mental connection to the Child provides context for him. The lovingness with which he knows how to get Grogu to reach out with his power for Ahsoka, his joy and pride when Grogu does so for him and not her, the quiet moment of melancholy when, in the episode’s climax, Din believes he’s waking the child up on the Razor Crest one last time before parting ways. Hell, even the way he practically coos when calling the Child “kid,” or by his name.

Advertisement

We know that Din cares for Grogu at this point, but it’s typically been presented with a gruff distance, the underprepared sudden father figure attempting to deal with a wacky kid high on space macarons and midi-chlorians. The bond between them has never been depicted as openly and as intimately as it has here, and it’s vital that it is presented openly, as The Mandalorian evolves from the mystery of who this child is, and instead onto where he will go next. It’s a rare emotional denouement in a show that is otherwise mostly preoccupied with tone and context: we now know who Grogu was, but it is also made clear who he is now, the adopted son of a man whose bond is just as potent with him as a Jedi’s connection to the Force is.

Advertisement

undefined

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

As to where he’ll go next? Ahsoka is, at least, willing to pass the metaphysical buck, so to speak. After Din aids her in liberating Calodan from Magistrate Elsbeth and her Forces, Ahsoka insists once more that she cannot train Grogu, but offers hope that there may yet be more Jedi that could: but they will have to be Jedi open to that idea, not ones who have this little child thrust into their paths as she was. Ahsoka gives Din a location, Tython, home to an ancient Jedi temple, and a seeing stone that will allow Grogu to decide his own path: reach out and allow others of his kind to sense him, or stay hidden as the Jedi’s twilight continues.

Advertisement

A new quest for our heroes, albeit a spin on the old one, but many questions still remain, of course. Who kept Grogu a secret for all those years of tutelage? Who saved him from the rise of the Empire? Who, if not Ahsoka Tano, could be the Jedi that reaches out to him now on Tython? But in some ways, even for a show that is all-too-fascinated by lingering questions and the promises of wider teases to Star Wars canons old and new, they don’t necessarily matter in this immediate moment. For all the importance laid upon the appearance of Ahsoka here, “The Jedi” keenly reminded us that the most vital thing The Mandalorian has is the relationship between Din Djarin and his child.

undefined

Image: Lucasfilm

Advertisement

Assorted Musings:

  • Shout out to Michael Biehn! Also, RIP Michael Biehn, I guess.
  • Are you ready for the inevitable, incredibly stupid fandom war that’s going to break out between people who will continue to casually call Grogu “Baby Yoda,” those who are insistent that now his name is known we must call him Grogu at all times, and then the third faction attempting to still use “the Child” as a middle ground? It’s Star Wars. People will complain about this.
  • Ahsoka is still looking for Thrawn at this point, which means she’s been doing so for around four years—The Mandalorian takes place around 9ABY, while Star Wars Rebels’ epilogue has previously been established in the book Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy as taking place around a year after the Battle of Endor, so in 5ABY. What’s interesting here is the way she refers to Thrawn as Elsbeth’s “Master,” which almost carries the implication that Thrawn is not as missing as he was when Ezra shipped them both off with the purrgils into the unknown. Is Thrawn once again a presence in the Imperial Remnant, as he was in the old Expanded Universe? Is he Gideon’s master? And if Thrawn has returned, and Ezra hasn’t, what became of our young rebel friend?
  • Tython has been previously mentioned in the Disney era of Star Wars canon as home to one of the earliest known Jedi temples, but it has a much longer history in the prior Expanded Universe as the ancestral seat of the Jedi Order, home to its spiritual predecessors in the Je’daii, first covered in the Dark Horse Comics series Dawn of the Jedi. Players of Bioware’s MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic will also be familiar with it—Tython and its Jedi temple are where all Knight and Consular characters begin their journeys as padawans.
  • Speaking of the Old Republic games: HK Assassin Droids! Elsbeth’s two HK-87s aren’t from a model that’s appeared in Star Wars before, but their series has an infamous legacy. We first met them in the form of HK-47, the sardonic mercenary killer who joins the player’s party in the beloved Knights of the Old Republic CRPG, making appearances in its sequel The Sith Lords as well as the aforementioned The Old Republic MMO. While the series itself has had fleeting mentions in Star Wars’ current canon, this is the first time we’ve actually seen one in action. Frankly, the 87s don’t seem quite up to the task like HK-47 was!

Advertisement


For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.

Advertisement

The Nerd’s Watch: The Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Streaming in December

Maybe the biggest streaming movie...ever is coming this month.

Maybe the biggest streaming movie…ever is coming this month.
Photo: Warner Bros.

Viewers are turning to streaming entertainment more than ever thanks to the global pandemic, and the plethora of services can serve as a much-needed escape. At the start of each month, most streamers do a little shuffle, adding new movies and taking some away, and io9 is here to help with your decision making.

Advertisement

Welcome to the Nerd’s Watch, our monthly column where we curate the most interesting sci-fi, fantasy, and horror movies coming to the biggest streaming services. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney+, and HBO Max are all ready for December with lots of holiday content, would-be theatrical movies, and more, so let’s get to it.

Rango is coming to Netflix.

Rango is coming to Netflix.
Image: DreamWorks

Advertisement

Netflix

Available December 1 

The Da Vinci Code – Not quite up to the entertainment value of the book it’s based on, this slick mystery directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks based on the Dan Brown bestseller is still pretty entertaining if you’ve never seen it before. (Also on Hulu)

The Happytime Murders – I know I said these are the “best” streaming titles and this is literally one of the worst movies I’ve seen in some time. But now that it’s on streaming, I think that level of awful definitely makes this weird, R-rated, puppet human hybrid starring Melissa McCarthy worth a watch.

Jurassic Park; The Lost World: Jurassic Park; Jurassic Park III – Come for the original all-time classic, stay for the diminishing returns in the sequels that at least have some great visual effects.

Advertisement

Kung Fu Panda 2 – It might be weird to watch Kung Fu Panda 2 without watching the first Kung Fu Panda, but these movies are so damn entertaining for the whole family, we’re pretty confident you can pick it up. Big panda kicks ass. Got it? (Also HBO Max)

Little Nicky – After a bunch of hugely successful comedies in the lates 1990s, Adam Sandler made the weird story of a demon named “Little Nicky.” It was not as revered as those earlier movies but it has since gained some cult fans for being oh-so-strange.

Advertisement

Monster House – Right in the middle of Pixar’s early 2000s renaissance, Sony released this super creepy, cool animated film about a haunted house terrorizing a neighborhood. It was a hit, but got a little overshadowed by the Pixar films, so maybe you missed it. Now you can catch it. It’s very good.

Stargate SG-1: Seasons 1-10 – I’ve never seen these shows, but when 10 seasons of a fan-favorite sci-fi series comes to streaming, we take notice. And now you’ll notice too. Here’s some more on the Stargate franchise.

Advertisement

Available December 8

Bobbleheads: The Movie – This is an actual movie that exists. Cher does a voice in it.

Advertisement

Available December 10

Alice in Borderland This adaptation of the manga of the same name follows a group of Tokyo gamers who wake up in a very weird version of Tokyo and get drawn into games that could kill them. It’s a Netflix original series.

Advertisement

Available December 23

The Midnight Sky December has some big, big movies coming to streaming. Among them is this Netflix original directed by George Clooney in which he plays a scientist who has to stop a group of astronauts (including Felicity Jones) from returning to Earth after a massive global catastrophe.

Advertisement

Available December 26

Fast & Furious Spy Racers: Season 3: Sahara With the wait for F9 continuing for a few more months, Fast and Furious fans will at least have the third season of this animated series to enjoy.

Advertisement

Available December 28

Rango – After several years of Pixar dominating the Best Animated Feature Oscar, a little green lizard voiced by Johnny Depp (under the direction of his Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski) came along and ended the streak. Rango is a very quirky, funny animated film that stands right along side those Pixar classics.

Advertisement


No this isn’t a live shot of 2020, it’s the movie 2012.

No this isn’t a live shot of 2020, it’s the movie 2012.
Image: Sony

Advertisement

Amazon

Available December 1

2012 – He was only a few years off. In 2009, Roland Emmerich made this global disaster film about a father (John Cusack) trying to save his family as the world basically ended around them. What’s more 2020 than that? And though the movie isn’t great, you could do way worse in terms of Hollywood escapism.

Advertisement

Anaconda – Giant snakes, Ice Cube, and Jennifer Lopez. What more could person want?

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs – Before they made The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street, and so much more, Phil Lord and Chris Miller were TV guys making the leap to the big screen with this excellent, smart, and funny story about a man whose food-making machine threatens to end the world.

Advertisement

Dr. No; Goldeneye; Goldfinger; The Spy Who Loved Me – A kind of random quartet of James Bond movies are coming to streaming. A few of the best too, though. (Also on Hulu)

The Natural – You might be thinking, “How is this baseball movie on here? That’s not a sci-fi movie!” And yet the story of nobody Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford), an older man who comes out of nowhere to, for a brief time, become the most amazing baseball player in the world with a magic bat created by lightning…sounds more like a comic book than a drama, right?

Advertisement

True Lies – James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger have made some great movies, especially together, and this one—with Schwarzenegger as a man whose family doesn’t know he’s a spy—remains highly underrated. It’s so much fun and well worth a rewatch if you haven’t seen it in a while

Available December 16

The Expanse: Season 5We interrupt this column with an urgent break in from Expanse superfan Cheryl Eddy: “Season four ended on a cliffhanger—all those space rocks are still making their way toward Earth, and it wouldn’t be The Expanse without some sort of teetering-on-the-brink-of-war situation—but look for the series’ penultimate season to also delve into the complicated backstories of its more mysterious characters, especially fan favorites Amos Burton (Wes Chatham) and Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper). The first three episodes drop December 16, then the show shifts to a more traditional format, with episodes popping up each Wednesday through February 3.”

Advertisement


The cast of Sunshine.

The cast of Sunshine.
Image: Fox

Advertisement

Hulu

Available December 1

Lupin the 3rd Part 5: Complete Season 1 – James Whitbrook loves the franchise. You might too.

Advertisement

30 Days of NightJosh Hartnett stars in this decent little horror movie about a town that plunges into its annual stretch of perpetual darkness right when a bunch of vampires invade. Since vampires only can be out at night, that’s probably a bad thing.

Advertisement

Charlotte’s WebThe classic 1973 animated version of the E.B White book is coming to streaming. Perfect to watch and cry at with your kids, or all by yourself, as if you were a kid again.

Dominion: Prequel to the ExorcistThis is Paul Schrader’s version of this twice-made tale, not to be confused with Renny Harlin’s version, and is generally considered the superior take. As the title suggests, it’s a prequel to The Exorcist in which we see Father Merrin (Stellan Skarsgård) first encounter the demon Pazuzu. It’s not in the same league as the original but fans will find a few interesting connections and scares along the way.

Dragonball: Evolution Being voted one of the worst movies ever on IMDB makes this loose, live action Dragonball adaptation worth a watch on its own, yes? Probably not if you’re a fan of Dragonball, but for other people, bad moves can be fun.

Advertisement

SunshineDanny Boyle’s movies are almost always awesome, and yet somehow, this 2007 sci-fi film featuring Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, Rose Byrne, Cillian Murphy, and Mark Strong, plus a script by Alex Garland, oddly gets overlooked. It’s about scientists traveling into space to reignite the sun for crying out loud! It’s awesome!

The 6th DayWhile the aforementioned True Lies is great, this 2000 Arnold Schwarzenegger action film is…less great. It’s about a man running into a clone of himself and the wildness that ensues. Not much about it is memorable but it’s Arnold so that by itself makes it worth watching.

Advertisement

The Fifth ElementThe late ‘90s were great for sci-fi and while The Matrix and Star Wars may get the headlines, Luc Besson’s excellent story of a cab driver (Bruce Willis) saving the galaxy with the unforgettable Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) is right up there.

Advertisement

The Hulk The Hulk has become a fan-favorite character in recent years thanks to his portrayal by Mark Ruffalo but this earlier approach, starring Eric Bana, saw multiple Oscar winner Ang Lee take a crack at the big green machine. It’s a weird movie that should have been better than it is, but is nevertheless fascinating.
 
The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring; The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers; The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King – The holy trilogy of fantasy filmmaking. Bow at its greatness. (Fellowship is also coming to HBO Max)

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon EmperorAlmost a decade removed from the first film in the series, by the time Tomb of the Dragon Emperor came about in 2008, the Mummy franchise had pretty much been put in a tomb. But, director Rob Cohen got Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh to come out for this film and tried his best to bring it back. He failed but it’s a valiant effort nevertheless.

Advertisement

Available December 6 

The Secret GardenThis 2020 version of the classic, and often remade, tale of a young girl finding a magic garden got largely lost in the annual shuffle. But now it’s coming to Amazon and reviews make it sound like at least a solid attempt at capturing the wonder and whimsy of the story.

Advertisement

Available December 15

Hitman: Agent 47 For a second, I got excited that this was the Timothy Olyphant Hitman movie from 2007. But, alas, it’s the 2015 film with Rupert Friend as the bald assassin. Both movies are bad but at least Olyphant is having a moment.

Advertisement


Pixar’s Soul is coming to Disney+.

Pixar’s Soul is coming to Disney+.
Image: Pixar

Advertisement

Disney+

Available December 4

Anastasia – My wife has been begging me to watch this Fox musical for years. She says I’ll love it. For some reason, I keep putting it off. But now that it’s on Disney+, I think it’s unavoidable.

Advertisement

Big – Tom Hanks’ signature role as a teenage boy who longs to be an adult (and then unexpectedly gets his wish) remains as funny, poignant, and charming as it was over 30 years ago.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms – If you’re looking for a visual feast, you can’t do better than The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. It’s just a stunningly gorgeous movie. Unfortunately, it’s not a very good movie. At least it’s finally on Disney+ where it belongs though.

Advertisement

Sky High – I need to say this in all caps: IF YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN SKY HIGH, IT’S TIME TO WATCH SKY HIGH. IT’S THE INCREDIBLES MEETS HARRY POTTER WITH KURT RUSSELL AND IT IS AMAZING. No further questions at this time.

Godmothered – In this Disney+ original, Jillian Bell plays a fairy godmother in a world that doesn’t really believe in those anymore—including the girl she’s come to Earth to help, who’s now an adult played by Isla Fisher.

Advertisement

Available December 11

Ralph Breaks the Internet – The video game world of Wreck-It Ralph was so worth exploring audiences luckily got to see more of it in this awesome 2018 sequel, where Ralph jumped from the old-school arcade to the new-school internet. Chances are you haven’t seen it and, if not, you should watch it.

Advertisement

Available December 18

Into the Woods – Rob Marshall’s fairy tale-filled musical adaptation isn’t quite as good as fans had hoped upon release, but the iconic songs and performance by the likes of Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt still make it a nice addition to the Disney platform.

Advertisement

Available December 25

Soul – When Pixar releases a new film, it’s a big deal. It’s an even a bigger deal when it skips theaters to go to Disney+ and even bigger again when it’s the latest film from Pete Docter, director of Monsters Inc., Up, and Inside Out. Soul follows Joe (Jamie Foxx), a jazz teacher who gets his big break and then dies in a sudden accident. He then helps a soul (Tina Fey) learn why life is so precious. I’ve seen the film and it’s every bit as good as you hope it will be.

Advertisement


One HBO Max subscription, please.

One HBO Max subscription, please.
Image: Warner Bros.

Advertisement

HBO Max

Available December 1

Annabelle: Creation – Why not start the holiday season by diving into one of the many subsets of The Conjuring Universe, such as this second film about a sinister doll, which helps explain her origins?

The Crow; The Crow: City Of Angels; The Crow: Wicked Prayer – The main event here is the original Crow, a moody, powerful comic book adaptation starting the late Brandon Lee. Then, if you’re so inclined, you can go to the second and fourth films in the franchise. Not as good, obviously, but at least you get the original.

Advertisement

Deep Blue Sea – Genius sharks, Samuel L. Jackson being eaten in one of the greatest on-screen deaths ever, plus an amazing LL Cool J theme song? This is what cinema is all about.

Demolition Man – Grab some Taco Bell and enjoy one of the best and most underrated sci-fi action films of the 1990s, starring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, and Sandra Bullock.

Advertisement

Fallen – Denzel Washington stars in this excellent supernatural thriller about a killer who passes into other people’s bodies through touch. Chilling, tense stuff. Absolutely worth watching if you’ve never seen it.

Final Destination; Final Destination 2; Final Destination 3; The Final Destination – You can’t escape in these four pretty damn awesome horror films about people who avoid death and then find it following them at every turn. The original is great but even the sequels are good.

The Girl With All The Gifts – One of the best zombie movies you’ve never seen. Read more about it below but seriously, don’t miss it.

Advertisement

Harry And the Hendersons – John Lithgow stars in this Bigfoot comedy from the 1980s you may have forgotten existed until this moment. But it does. And it’s dumb as hell in the best possible way.

Logan’s Run – This 1976 classic is crazy dated but still hugely important to the sci-fi genre. It follows a society that seems like everything is perfect and peaceful, mostly because everyone is killed when they hit a certain age.

Mars Attacks – ACK. ACK. ACK. TIM BURTON. ACK. ALIENS. ACK. WATCH IT.

The Omega Man – Charlton Heston stars in this adaptation of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend in which a man fights mutants while believing he’s the last person on Earth.

Advertisement

Shaun Of The Dead – The best zom-rom-com of all time. Edgar Wright co-writes and directs the modern classic about a regular guy who tries to reconcile his failing relationship during a zombie apocalypse.

Snakes on a Plane – The fact Snakes on a Plane is coming to HBO Max along with Deep Blue Sea makes for a very good double feature of Samuel L. Jackson fighting weird creatures. In this one, he actually survives longer than a few minutes.

Snow White and the Huntsman – Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth fall in love while battling Charlize Theron in this better-than-you-remember fantasy adaptation.

Spawn – As fans wait for Todd McFarlane to make a new Spawn movie, never forget in 1997 Hollywood already made one. It’s pretty bad but there are some cool effects and stuff.

THX 1138 – Before he created Star Wars, George Lucas made this heady sci-fi film starring Robert Duvall. It’s not as exciting as Star Wars but the big ideas and filmmaking talent are well on display.

Westworld – If HBO Max is gonna have the Westworld TV show, it’s probably good to have the Michael Crichton movie on which it was based. Required viewing for fans of the show and Yul Brynner in a black hat.

Advertisement

Available December 19

Wendy – The sophomore film from Beasts of the Southern Wild director Benh Zeitlin is a modern, gritty, beautiful, and poignant reimagining of the Peter Pan myth. It got a little buried in the 2020 shuffle but is absolutely worth watching.

Advertisement

Available December 25

Wonder Woman 1984 – The reason why HBO Max is now on the list, and while you’re all soon to become HBO Max subscribers. Warner Bros. has decided to debut one of its biggest 2020 release on its streaming service, the continuing story of Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman. We are so pumped for this you don’t even know.

Advertisement

Available December 26

Independence Day – What better way to ring in the new year than with this 1996 sci-fi blockbuster? Bonus, this is the “Extended Edition” which adds a few little scenes, nothing significant, but it’s still a great movie.

Advertisement


For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.

Advertisement

Cannibal! The Musical Has No Right Being as Good as It Is

A crop of the poster for Cannibal the Musical

A crop of the poster for Cannibal the Musical
Image: Troma

io9 ReviewsReviews and critical analyses of fan-favorite movies, TV shows, comics, books, and more.

Having watched Cannibal! The Musical is one of those things that feels like a badge of honor. The movie was not something anyone saw first in theaters. It had to be discovered. You had to find it or be told about it by a friend. When you finally watched, you were rewarded with proof of pure genius—a film that by all traditional standards is subpar, but rises above that because the people making it were so unbelievably talented.

Advertisement

Those people are Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the men who co-created South Park. Way before that show became a global sensation, when the friends were still in college, they collaborated to make Cannibal, a feature-length horror comedy musical. At times Cannibal absolutely has the feel of a student film, and yet, its ambition is staggering. It blends genre and tone in ways many seasoned filmmakers could never fathom, moving from horror and violence one minute, to poetic romance the next and absurd comedy right after.

Advertisement

Cannibal was initially made and released in 1993 but didn’t start circulating widely until a few years later. That’s when Troma, the company behind The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High, picked it up for distribution. The timing lined up with Comedy Central debuting South Park, which raised Parker and Stone’s profiles, and made fans curious about their past. That’s when many of us, myself included, discovered the film. I subsequently became obsessed with it, watched it weekly, devoured the DVD extras (which include an all-time great drunken director commentary), and even found live performances in New York City. It’s the kind of movie that sticks with you and never lets go.

undefined

Parker on his horse Lianne singing the movie’s opening number “Shpadoinkle.”
Photo: Troma

Directed by Parker, and written by Parker and Stone, Cannibal tells the story of miner Alferd Packer (Parker) who, in the late 1800s, traveled from Utah to Colorado with a group of men in search of riches. Along the way, all the men died, save for Packer, and he was accused of murder and cannibalism. Most of which actually happened. Parker and Stone’s version isn’t beholden to any truth, though. It’s all used as a basis for characters to sing ridiculous songs and rip each other’s flesh off.

Watching Cannibal then and now, the main thing that stands out are those songs. Parker would later go on to help create not just the Oscar-nominated South Park movie musical, but the underrated Team America as well as the Tony-winning The Book of Mormon, and those talents are on full display here. It’s almost a shame songs as catchy as “Shpadoinkle,” “The Trapper Song,” and “Hang the Bastard” are relegated to this weird little movie. In a major Hollywood or Broadway production, their funny lyrics and pleasing melodies could have made them classics. (Also, if you thought Frozen was the first musical to have a song about building a snowman, you may want to listen to Cannibal’s “Let’s Build a Snowman.”)

Advertisement

undefined

“The Trapper Song” is my favorite one in the film.
Photo: Troma

What’s also undeniable about the film is its charm. Everyone involved is so game to try things and so earnest with their performances. There’s a sincerity to it. A warmness. The characters, at least at the beginning, are ostensibly good people. So no matter what situation they’re put in, even if the movie isn’t working, their willingness to be real and go the extra mile makes it all work anyway. There’s rarely a moment that doesn’t have at least a tiny hint of aw-shucks optimism.

Advertisement

Beyond those things, Cannibal is half raw and exciting, half amateurish and boring. When the group (which also includes roles played by Stone, Dian Bachar, Jason McHugh, John Hegel, and Ian Hardin) are singing or joking, everything is an absolute delight. Parker’s comedic sensibilities were so incredible, even at a young age, joke after joke just lands perfectly. There’s ridiculous repetition, shocking but excellent edits, joke set-ups that pay off multiple scenes later—he’s never afraid to take the audience out of the movie for a second to get a laugh.

On the other hand, this is a story about six men walking across hundreds of miles of land and you feel that in the pacing, especially in the middle of the film. Once the group gets to an “Indian” encampment, I found myself sighing deeply, checking the time and waiting for things to pick up. Eventually they do, and the film ends on a few wild high notes that tie everything together. Unfortunately, the ending loses a bit of its impact because it comes after such a slog.

Advertisement

undefined

Parker, Stone, and gang.
Photo: Troma

There are other big flaws too. Characters are introduced for no real purpose. Some plot and character motivations are unclear. Several long scenes add nothing. There’s not a strong sense of time and place. Plus, most notably, there’s a distinct lack of diversity on screen and, in the rare instances there is a woman or person of color , their characters are objectifications or stereotypes. A product of the film being set in the 1800s? Sure, but it still stands out.

Advertisement

And yet, many of those flaws are forgivable because Cannibal is so damn ridiculous. After all that, it somehow balances scenes of extreme violence with Broadway-level musical numbers, has fourth-wall breaks to wink at its lack of quality, and the production value on what we can only assume was a tiny budget is, frankly, stunning. The costumes and make-up effects in particular stand out. That Cannibal is a movie basically made by kids who were on spring break makes many of its flaws not just understandable, they become part of the charm too.

You get the sense that, if you’d seen this movie before you’d heard of South Park or The Book of Mormon, you would have bet Parker and Stone were going to be hugely successful. Everything about Cannibal! The Musical screams “We will be very, very good at this, even if we aren’t yet.” It’s overflowing with that energy. Watching the movie now, with the knowledge of just how successful they became, makes it even more rewarding. It’s a time machine back to see the origin of so many things we love today. It’s rough around the edges, gross, offensive, and at times a little hard to watch, but the good outweighs the bad so massively, you can’t help but fall in love.

Advertisement

Cannibal! The Musical is available digitally on Amazon.

Advertisement


For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.

Advertisement

Turns Out, Star Trek: Discovery Does Want Michael to Have It Both Ways

Michael and Tilly discover there’s more to the Burn than the Federation thought.

Michael and Tilly discover there’s more to the Burn than the Federation thought.
Image: CBS

Last week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery put Michael Burnham in a hard place. At a crossroads between the potential new life she’d found in the 32nd century and her commitment to her family in Starfleet, our hero faced the consequences for trying to have it all. This week, the show decides that the actual solution is that she can, in fact, have it all.

Advertisement

undefined

“Unification III” ups Michael’s (Sonequa Martin-Green) desire to burden the fate of multitudes upon her shoulders when, having been knocked down a few pegs in the wake of her unsanctioned mission for Burn data, Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) decides to task her with maybe one of the wildest things she could ever do. Which is saying something, considering so far she’s stopped a war, saved organic life from extinction at the hands of an A.I., and also time-traveled nearly a thousand years into the future.

Advertisement

What is this task? Recover experimental data from the Vulcan and Romulan scientists behind the SB19 project—a promising FTL travel alternative to dilithium. The problem? The Vulcans and Romulans don’t want to share it, because they believe their tests were responsible for the Burn in the first place.

Oh and…Vulcan left the Federation a hundred years ago. And isn’t even called Vulcan anymore. Hundreds of years after the Discovery crew initially lived, the hard work of Ambassador Spock finally brought about unification between the Vulcans and their Romulan siblings: their newly-shared home now renamed not of Vulcan or Romulan identity, but of a new one entirely, Ni’var.

It’d be a tough task for anyone, but with Michael facing the internal conflict of whether or not she actually wants to remain part of Starfleet, as well as the external conflict in completely shattering Saru’s trust in her (and losing her First Officer title in the process), it seems like she’s the worst person to task this with. Except, Star Trek: Discovery realizes, Michael’s the protagonist! It must be she and she alone who takes on the burden of solving the Burn, getting the information she needs, and also maybe bringing one of the founding members of the Federation back into the fold!

Advertisement

undefined

Screenshot: CBS

Okay, so the actual reason is that Vance realizes Michael is a secret weapon: the Vulcans and Romulans won’t listen to a Federation they don’t trust, but the surprise that the sister of their beloved Unifier has arrived in this moment in time? That’s an asset Vance is willing to use, even if it flies in the face of Michael’s prior, repeated insubordination. So off the Discovery goes to Ni’var, another grand burden laid upon the shoulders of Michael Burnham. Once there, Michael leans on her history as not just Spock’s sister, but a graduate of the Vulcan Science Academy, to demand that a quorum of Romulan and Vulcan officials essentially undergo viva voce with her: an oral examination of her thesis to prove that the SB19 experiments did not cause the Burn, but an outside factor. What follows is not really a trial for the data, but a trial of Michael herself.

Advertisement

It turns out that part of the process (aside from the fact half of a Discovery conference room is filled with spectating Vulcans and Romulans, the other half Discovery crew, while Saru and the President of Ni’var, T’Rina, watch on like they desperately want one of those Starfleet-branded cups of popcorn from a few episodes ago) is that Michael receives an advocate from the Qowat Milat. You may recall they’re the order of Romulan warrior-nuns who believe in absolute candor, introduced in Star Trek: Picard earlier this year. When you think about it, it kind of makes sense for a quasi-legal tribunal like this—and, as T’Rina explains, the order’s dedication to the truth told truthfully aided in the reunification process. What makes less sense? Wouldn’t you know it, Michael’s Qowat Milat is her mom, Gabrielle (Sonja Sohn).

undefined

Screenshot: CBS

Advertisement

One tearful reunion later, what is actually meant to be a conversation about whether the Vulcans and Romulans can once again trust that the Federation will do the right thing with the data they earnestly believe changed the universe for the worse becomes one over whether or not Michael is a person they can trust. For all her platitudes that she stands for the Federation’s ideals, she can’t actually ask anything of the quorum other than for them to trust her at face value: she is Starfleet. She is Spock’s sister. She is the protagonist. Is that not enough for these side characters? It isn’t and it isn’t for her mother, either.

After exploiting her daughter’s emotional vulnerability, Gabrielle, in the name of the Milat’s dedication to candor, turns on Michael mid-trial, publicly airing her repeated recklessness bringing about dire outcomes as an example of how she’s woefully unequipped to be the Federation representative that Ni’var can trust. To get her own way with the Klingons, she ended up getting her captain and mentor killed. To get her own hands on Burn data, she defied Saru’s orders and was relieved of duty in the process. She herself doesn’t know whether Starfleet and the Discovery is the right place for her anymore. But exposing these truths lights a fire in Michael, and a moment of realization: she has overcome so much over and over, believing what she was fighting for, only for the stakes to become higher and higher, the sacrifices bigger and bigger.

Advertisement

It’s almost a metatextual realization in and of itself: Michael has realized that her place at the center of these massive moments and events threatens to destroy not just her, but the people she loves. She’s not unsure of her place, necessarily, but her mother’s candor makes her realize she’s scared that messing up might make all her prior sacrifices ultimately pointless, that she is constantly living on the edge of making the one decision in a crisis that could undo her and those around her entirely. She’s unsure of her place within the Federation out of a need to protect them from that stress, burdening it all on herself in the process.

undefined

Screenshot: CBS

Advertisement

That candor is a double-edged victory, however. In speaking the honest truth to the quorum about herself, Michael proves she is indeed speaking the truth: she is before them out of a desire to help the greater good, not to aid the Federation in exploitation. But that realization threatens to fracture what is clearly, despite their repeated claims of desiring stability, a tenuous accord between the Romulans and the Vulcans. As a result, Michael decides the data is not worth undoing her brother’s good work and convenes the quorum, her mission failed, but the truth of her personal crises now known to her (and most of the crew!).

If the episode ended there? That’d be pretty interesting! Michael has confronted her desire to be in the midst of galactic events and admitted the insecurity of her place in this new future and why it scares her. In accepting failure—there’ll be other ways to access data to discover the origins of the Burn, as she’s been doing so this entire season—she has accepted that sometimes her gambits won’t always play out. Except it doesn’t end there.

Advertisement

As Michael reflects in her quarters, her mother reveals that in accepting defeat honestly, the quorum has actually decided to give her the SB19 data after all. In witnessing Michael’s plea, President T’Rina even indicated to Saru that she’s willing to consider the potential path for Ni’var to return to the Federation. Maybe. Some day. On top of that, we even get a brief scene where the bridge crew is totally fine with Tilly replacing Michael as First Officer after she undermined their choice to sacrifice their livelihoods by committing insubordination! Even Book is seemingly happy to stay with Michael—living in his ship in the Discovery’s cargo bay—as she re-commits to her place with her Starfleet family, so she still gets her handsome courier boyfriend win.

Advertisement

It undercuts what was, up to the last moments, a fascinating examination of a wider struggle the series has faced since the very beginning. At one point while in bed with Book this episode, he jokes that Michael just loves taking on an interstellar crisis as her own. It’s a joke that’s been leveraged multiple times this season, in the show’s past, and even leveraged seriously in this episode, as part of Gabrielle’s candor. A little admittance of the wider metatext that, as a Star Trek show that’s less about the ensemble than past entries in the franchise, Michael finds herself flung into these crucibles all the time, mostly of her own volition, and comes out of it the hero time and time again. The thing is, it stops being something the show can comment on and acknowledge in this light way when the show also repeatedly falls back on it—without actually addressing or even really considering what constantly taking on all these burdens actually does to Michael as a character. Because the answer, outside of some big-picture things (like the whole “now I live in the 32nd century” deal), is she’s rarely had anything other than a net gain out of her most conflicting choices.

This is far from the first time Discovery has pondered a bold question only to settle on the safest answer. Sure, there are still more episodes this season—there’s always a chance that Michael’s decision to stay with her Discovery family and try to make things work with who she’s become in her relationship with Book crops up again later, putting her in another position of compromise. But after last week set up the potential that our hero would have to make the ultimate choice between two increasingly conflicting trajectories, the fact that the answer is she actually gets everything she wants in a high stakes moment rings a little hollow.

Advertisement

undefined

Image: CBS

Assorted Musings:

  • Don’t worry, Michael, I also cried the first time I watched Spock in “Unification.” Joke aside, this was actually a very sweet moment and perhaps one of Discovery’s smartest uses of nostalgia as character work—a loving way to cap off Michael and Spock’s arc in season two with a bonus Leonard Nimoy cameo.
  • The one non-Vulcan/Romulan subplot in this episode is Saru offering Tilly Michael’s prior position as First Officer (temporarily for now), which in and of itself is another lovely play off of their prior development in episode two this season. But there’s also the fascinatingly dark moment where Tilly, who’s very clearly still emotional about Michael’s actions, openly asks Saru if he’s asking her to do it because he believes in her to be a good First Officer, or because he thinks that because she calls him sir all the time she’ll just be a compliant stooge. Heat I did not expect here! I wonder if that will actually come up again at some point.
  • As much as I don’t particularly like the handwaving of the final scene between Gabrielle and Michael, it’s an incredibly heartfelt moment between the two. Sonja Sohn and Sonequa Martin-Green sell the hell out of it, and it’s a nice, momentary endcap on this mother/daughter relationship that was left unresolved in the whole Red Angel hubbub.

Advertisement


For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.

Advertisement

Google TV Users Won’t Be Able to Add Netflix Originals to Their Watchlist

Illustration for article titled Google TV Users Wont Be Able to Add Netflix Originals to Their Watchlist

Photo: ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP (Getty Images)

One of the better features of the new Chromecast with Google TV is missing support for some of Netflix’s best content.

Advertisement

Earlier this week, 9to5Google reported that Netflix originals weren’t able to be added to Google TV’s watchlist, a super-hub for content users are interested in across their various services. On Wednesday, the site reported that the Google TV Android app appeared to have lost support for Netflix’s catalog entirely. That’s kind of a bummer for anyone hoping to use Google TV to help manage content from one of streaming’s biggest players.

A Google spokesperson confirmed to Gizmodo by email that the Netflix app and its catalog will still be available on Chromecast with Google TV. But Google TV users now won’t be able to add the service’s originals to their watchlist, give the content a thumbs up or down, or mark them as watched. Google further confirmed that search and discovery features will not work for Netflix on Google TV’s Android app.

Advertisement

“With Google TV, our goal is to bring the best of our search and discovery features across your subscriptions to your favorite devices,” the spokesperson said. “We work with each content partner to enable these entertainment experiences, and the level of integration will vary by partner.”

Netflix did not immediately return a request for comment.

Is this the end of the world or a deal-breaker for Google TV? No, it is not. You’re probably opening the Netflix app to peruse titles and kill time anyway. But discovery and recommendation are two of Google TV’s most attractive features, and it’s one reason why I’m upgrading friends and family to this device over rival streaming sticks or dongles. Discovery among multiple apps can often feel overwhelming, and sometimes the apps themselves lack solid recommendation features for surfacing content relevant to you, the viewer.

Basically, it’s just one more hoop to jump through to find stuff to watch. But we’re used to that by now, anyway.

The Art of The Mandalorian Says ‘Peekaboo’ in This Exclusive Preview

We see you, little baby!

We see you, little baby!
Image: Richard Lim, Abrams Books/Lucasfilm

The Mandalorian has always put its concept work front and center—from behind the scenes looks in shows like Disney Gallery, to literally every episode of the series itself, since its end credits highlight the concept work that helped bring what you just watched to life. Now, as we journey through the second season, a new art book is looking back on season one, and we’ve got a look inside.

Advertisement

io9 is excited to give you a sneak peek at The Art of The Mandalorian (Season 1), by author Phil Szostak—he of many, many, many incredible Star Wars artbooks—and published by Abrams. Taking a look into the process of creating a new live-action Star Wars story for the small screen, the book is filled with concept art not just like the ones we saw in every credits sequence, but explorations and experimentations that helped scope out designs for fundamental parts of the show.

Advertisement

Everything is in here, from the forging of Mando’s ship, the Razor Crest, to his own pre-Beskar look, and, yes, an exploration of how the designs of Baby Yoda would come to be one of the cutest little things in the galaxy far, far away.

Illustration for article titled iThe Art of The Mandalorian /iSays ‘Peekaboo’ in This Exclusive Preview

Image: Doug Chiang, Abrams Books/Lucasfilm

Check out our exclusive preview below—with art by Ryan Church, Brian Matyas, Jama Jurabaev, and Christian Alzmann—including scenes from the first season, Razor Crests that might have been, and a much more patchwork look for the shadows of the Empire in some very beaten up Imperial Remnant Stormtroopers. Oh, and of course, a few pieces of art dedicated to your son and ours, Baby Yoda.

Advertisement

The Art of The Mandalorian (Season 1) hits shelves on December 1.


The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian (Season One), by Phil Szostak, published by Abrams Books © & ™ 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd.

Advertisement


For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.

Advertisement

The Pop Culture We’re Thankful for Getting Us Through 2020

From left: Pottery Barn Star Wars swaddle, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Digimon Adventure, and What We Do in the Shadows.

From left: Pottery Barn Star Wars swaddle, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Digimon Adventure, and What We Do in the Shadows.
Image: Pottery Barn, Square Enix, Toei Animation, FX

No matter who you are or where you are, 2020 has been a rough year. It’s been a year where things have gotten so bad, sometimes you just had to find joy in the most unexpected of places. Family, friends, a new book or video game. It’s different for everyone.

Advertisement

So with Thanksgiving around the corner in the United States, the io9 team has come together to discuss some of the unexpected, weird, and even personal things we’re thankful for in 2020. Hopefully, you can do the same in the comments below.

Advertisement


A scene from season two of What We Do in the Shadows.

A scene from season two of What We Do in the Shadows.
Image: FX

Things Just Actually Being Released

In a year when so many things we were looking forward to (movies and comics conventions, but also vacations, parties and gatherings, and other life-in-general type stuff) got postponed or outright canceled, I’m thankful for the stuff that DID happen: TV shows like What We Do in the Shadows, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Unsolved Mysteries, Lovecraft Country, Archer, and The Mandalorian, and movies that recognized that jumping to streaming can actually be a good thing, like Bill & Ted Face the Music.

Advertisement

No doubt the pop culture that did make it to the streams this year didn’t come without some scrambling behind the scenes—whether in production, post-production, trying to market the thing in the era of “Zoom junkets,” or all of the above. But in a year where there wasn’t always much for fans to look forward to, these nuggets of escapism helped make a big difference. – Cheryl Eddy

Cloud likes big swords. That’s kind of his thing.

Cloud likes big swords. That’s kind of his thing.
Image: Square Enix

Advertisement

The Final Fantasy VII Remake

Final Fantasy VII is one of the most fundamentally transformative pieces of media of my young life. I was six when the game came out, watching it play out over my brother’s shoulder well before I got to play it, wrapping myself up in the experience of Cloud, Tifa, Aerith, and the rest of the gang’s quest to save the planet. I was that kid you always hear about, the one whose mind and heart was shattered when Sephiroth plunged his distressingly long sword through Aerith’s chest and ended her life, the one who, in that moment, understood the kinds of stories games could tell.

Advertisement

So in a year as earth-shattering as this one, I greatly valued the chance to be with those characters, to be in the spaces of Midgar again, in Final Fantasy VII Remake. Released pretty early in the stages of the coronavirus pandemic’s lockdown sprees about eight million years ago, Remake did more than sweep me up in the histories of these characters I’ve known and loved for most of my life: It recontextualized them, boldly dared to lay the groundwork for a fundamentally different re-examination of VII’s wider story in which these characters took hold of their fates as their own, beyond your memory of what was told before. It provided the comfort I craved in the nostalgia of my past, but at the same time revitalized what I loved about those memories of watching Final Fantasy VII as a child and made something new with them.

Remake was exactly the thing I needed most at a dark time during this miserable year. It was great seeing its cast again, my eyes slick with tears at each evocation of their past. But it also pointed to a path where their futures were theirs, and not my recollections—taking a thing I thought I knew and transforming into something new and exciting. Thank god for its boundless, terrifying freedom in a year of anything but. – James Whitbrook

Advertisement

Another Vanessa Hudgens clone appears.

Another Vanessa Hudgens clone appears.
Image: Netflix

The Netflix Holiday Movie Universe (NHMU)

It’s been a long, tough year for movie fans. So many of the films I was stoked to see in 2020—like Wonder Woman 1984, Candyman, and especially Dune—kept getting pushed back because of the pandemic. There’s small comfort in the movies you love that still managed to come out during this hellscape of a year. One of them is The Princess Switch: Switched Again, which came out on Netflix earlier this month. I am a dedicated fan of the Netflix Holiday Movie Universe, starting with A Christmas Prince and The Holiday Calendar all the way through the bizarre time-traveling adventure about a knight who falls in love with a human clone. It’s uncertain times like these that we can be thankful for consistency wherever we can find it. The Netflix Holiday Movie Universe—full of magic, weird science, and countries that run on a Christmas economy—will always be there when I need it. – Beth Elderkin

Advertisement

The Artwork of Scott C

I’ve admired and collected the artwork of Scott C for years. No matter what movie or show he’s painting or drawing, the characters always have a huge smile on their faces. They just make you happy, which is something we could all use in our lives, and our art, at anytime. In 2020 in particular though, his art impacted me in a whole new way.

Advertisement

This year marked Scott C’s first Great Showdowns gallery show in six years. It was something I’d been anticipating for, well, six years, so I took time off work to camp out for it. This happened the first weekend in March. After two evenings of sleeping in a car outside the gallery, the night was a smashing success. I got the art I wanted, my friends got the art they wanted, it just was fantastic. Five days later the world changed. I, and everyone else, were told we needed to stay mostly inside our homes for months. But, thanks to Scott C’s artwork, not only did I have some new, happy paintings to enjoy, it turned out that on the last weekend of normalcy, I had unknowingly snuck in an unforgettable experience. One I took for granted at the time, but haven’t since—the chance to hang out with a bunch of friends. – Germain Lussier

Digimon = Digital Monsters.

Digimon = Digital Monsters.
Image: Toei Animation

Advertisement

Digimon Adventure in 2020

Between the Digimon Adventure reboot and Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna, the franchise’s original story about a group of kids being transported to the digital world to save the “real world” from destruction is simultaneously coming to an end and being reborn as something fresh and fitting for 2020. It’s incredible that Toei’s managed to pull both of these projects off in a way that feels reflective of Digimon’s themes of rebirth and evolution being key elements of the sort of growth it takes to be a heroic person, and even more impressive still that both the reboot and Kizuna are some of the most visually stunning, dynamic stories in the franchise’s history. At a time when many of us were understandably looking back at things in order to feel comforted by nostalgia, Digimon instead encouraged us to keep our focus on the future while understanding that keeping the past in mind is also an invaluable asset. – Charles Pulliam-Moore

Advertisement

It’s a good time to be a nerdy parent.

It’s a good time to be a nerdy parent.
Image: Pottery Barn

Nerdy Baby Stuff

It’s not easy shopping during a pandemic—sometimes it downright sucks. I haven’t bought a good bra in so long. But there’s one consumer joy I’ve discovered, something I’m truly thankful for: nerdy baby stuff. I’m currently pregnant and due in March 2021, which means I’ve spent the past few weeks prepping my baby registry so I can guilt family members I never see into buying me shit. Some of it is the boring, necessary noise, like a bassinet or diaper pail. But I’ve also managed to sneak in some truly adorable geeky stuff. The Child baby toys, Star Trek hoodies with little Spock ears on them, wall art of dinosaurs in space helmets hanging out with Wall-E. It’s a good time to be a nerdy parent!

Advertisement

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: This has been a hard year. My husband and I went through a lot to become pregnant, only to finally have it happen during a once-in-a-lifetime global crisis. Preparing for a child during a pandemic is a challenge, to say the least, but the love, excitement, and anticipation we feel toward this little person-to-be makes everything worth it. It’s why I’m not guilting myself over putting a $40 Star Wars swaddler set on my gift registry, even if I end up having to buy it myself. We’ve been through so much—just as I’m sure you have—but we also have so many good, beautiful things to be thankful for in 2020. Make sure you find ways to thank yourself too, for everything amazing you’ve done. – Beth Elderkin

Gotta catch ‘em all!

Gotta catch ‘em all!
Image: Topps

Advertisement

Star Wars Card Trader

So much of 2020 has been spent on our phones—what better way to spend that time with an app that not only has its own unique, built-in community but valuable collectibles to boot? Though I originally got into Star Wars Card Trader by Topps in 2015, I fell off for most of 2019. In 2020 though, I was lured back and it saved me. It gave me something to engage with, collect, and have fun with on an hourly basis. Something to fill in the spare time that was not just fun but exciting and engaging. I’ve met a bunch of new friends on social media who were also into it; we all help each other out and feel great when someone gets a much-desired card. Plus it’s Star Wars and art, all things I love. Are digital trading cards about the nerdiest thing in the entire world? Absolutely. But that nerdy thing has helped me forget about the horrors of the world for a few hours a week. – Germain Lussier

Advertisement

io9 is always watching.

io9 is always watching.

The io9 Staff

I’m forever thankful for my wonderful io9 team and I will never get tired of telling everyone about them. They are truly some of the best in the business and they impress me every day with their thoughtful critiques and interviews, unique ideas, and ridiculous shitposting. The pandemic had me worried for all of us this year and while it was never easy, I’m so glad I had them on my side. – Jill Pantozzi

Advertisement


For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.

Advertisement

Now’s Your Chance to Get Hulu Dirt Cheap for a Year

Illustration for article titled Nows Your Chance to Get Hulu Dirt Cheap for a Year

Photo: Michael Kovac (Getty Images)

An already cheap subscription just got cheaper.

Say what you will about Hulu’s cable-rivaling, ever-spiking Live TV pricing, which saw another jump in cost just last week. But Hulu’s most basic plans are actually a pretty good deal for what you get. Its ad-supported tier costs $6 per month, or you can pay $12 per month to go ad-free. The plans offer a mix of live and on-demand content—and quality content, too, rather than just an alphabet soup of B-movie titles and series that were canceled after one or two seasons (cough Netflix cough).

Advertisement

This year, though, Hulu is bringing back its Black Friday promotion that offers new and eligible returning subscribers a chance to get its ad-supported tier for $2 per month for 12 months, a deal that’ll save them $48 over the course of the year. Hulu told Gizmodo by email the deal will start at 12 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning and will extend to 11:59 p.m. on Cyber Monday.

Unfortunately, the promo will not be honored if, say, you decide to switch to the ad-free version of the service during that 12-month period. A spokesperson told Gizmodo that if a user chooses to switch during the promotional cycle, Hulu “would prorate for the remainder of that billing cycle then charge the $11.99 monthly for the next cycle.” Womp.

Advertisement

Is this the kind of year-over-year savings that’s going to pay off your mortgage or send your kid to college? No, probably not. But $48 is nothing to sneeze at, particularly if you’re already subscribed to more services than you reasonably should be (it me). Personally, I’ll take those savings wherever I can get ’em—especially because streaming fees just keep going up, up, up. Save where you can, you know?