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Castlevania: the game that made it to TV

A good story should never be confined to a quarter of a megabyte. By BRYAN TURNER

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From Super Mario Bros to The Legend of Zelda, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was the first home to many iconic games that still live on today.

In the early days of home consoles, Konami dominated the action-adventure video game market with Castlevania – a gothic horror that launched on the NES. Gamers play as Simon Belmont, who comes from a long line of vampire hunters, as he fights his way through Dracula’s minions to eventually defeat Dracula himself.

The game received many more follow-up titles, with the latest instalment coming soon to Android and iOS. Loyalists to the franchise consider the last game that was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, to be the best. Castlevania III is a prequel to the game series that defined how the Belmont family came to fight against the super-human powers of vampires. Trevor Belmont, a forefather of Simon Belmont, wields a Vampire Killer Whip that he uses against Dracula’s minions.

The strong story and graphical improvements with the limited system hardware set this game in 5th place of IGN’s Top 100 NES Games, and it’s considered to be the title that kick-started video games into having strong storylines.

In a post on Facebook two years ago, US film producer Adi Shankar announced that a Castlevania game was being adapted into an animated mini-series. At the time, fans speculated about which game they’d chosen. All we did know was: it was going to be a Netflix Original produced by Frederator – the animation studio behind Adventure Time and The Fairly Odd Parents.

While those titles are more lighthearted, Castlevania is more of a horror drama. Shankar confirmed in an interview with Collider that “there will be a lot [of violence in the show]. The goal is to bring hard-hitting anime to America and be America’s first animated series for adults.”

When the show was released, fans were pleased to see the series was adapted from the third Castlevania game, with some twists. In the game, players got to choose between three sidekicks to play with, while in the TV show, the main character meets two of them along his journey.

In the show, simply called Castlevania, Count Dracula’s wife is burned at the stake for being falsely accused of witchcraft. He takes revenge against everyone in Wallachia by summoning an army of demons that overruns the country, causing everyone to fear him. Trevor Belmont steps up to the challenge of defeating Count Dracula with the help of a magician and Dracula’s own son.

Trevor is voiced by Richard Armitage, who delivers dry humour excellently while having an accent that conveys his former nobility. Matt Frewer, the voice for the wicked Bishop, does a good job of sounding evil, even when one isn’t looking at the screen.

A criticism of the first season is that it’s very short, at only four episodes. Thankfully, the second season is available now, with an additional eight episodes.

Overall, Castlevania is one of the best video game adaptations I’ve ever seen, as it stays true to the original story while adapting it to make it more interesting for viewers.

If you enjoy Castlevania, try these adult animations:

  • The Jellies!: A sitcom about a family of jellyfish and their adopted human son Cornell. The show was created by Tyler the Creator and Lionel Boyce.
  • Black Dynamite: Based on a film by the same name, this 1970s animation follows the misadventures of Black Dynamite, Bullhorn, Cream Corn and Honey Bee.
  • Samurai Jack: In the fifth season of this action animation, Samurai Jack must battle Aku, a demon who sent him 50 years into the future, as well as with his mental health.

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Black Widow trailer debuts

The latest movie from Marvel, Black Widow, has been teased in a trailer and a movie poster.

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Scarlett Johansson reprises her role as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow in Marvel Studios’ action-packed spy thriller “Black Widow” — the first film in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Florence Pugh stars as Yelena, David Harbour as Alexei aka The Red Guardian and Rachel Weisz as Melina. The film is directed by Cate Shortland and produced by Kevin Feige.

Black Widow is set after the events of Captain America: Civil War, and showcases how Romanoff deals with being on the run and forced to confront her past.

The film will be in cinemas on 1 May 2020.

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The Righteous Gemstones – Streaming on Showmax

The Righteous Gemstones, HBO’s most watched comedy debut in three years, has just landed on Showmax.

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The Righteous Gemstones, HBO’s most watched comedy debut in three years, tells the story of a world-famous televangelist family with a long tradition of deviance, greed and charitable work – all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Now streaming on Showmax in South Africa, The Righteous Gemstones was recently renewed for a second season, after earning an 8.1/10 rating on IMDb, an 81% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a place on Best of the Year lists everywhere from Hypebeast to Rotten Tomatoes.  

Creator Danny McBride (Vice PrincipalsEastbound & Down) stars as Jesse, the eldest of three grown Gemstone offspring, who looks to lead in his father’s footsteps but finds his past sins jeopardising the family ministry.  

Adam DeVine (Pitch Perfect, Modern Family) and Edi Patterson (Vice Principals) co-star as Jesse’s siblings, Kelvin and Judy, while John Goodman (Roseanne10 Cloverfield Lane) plays Jesse’s father, televangelist Eli Gemstone (and appears three decades younger in an extended flashback, thanks to ground-breaking de-ageing VFX). 

“The Gemstones are a world-famous televangelist family,” says McBride, who also wrote and directed the pilot. “They started out from humble beginnings and have slowly but surely built a humongous empire spreading the good word. The church used to be run by Eli Gemstone and Aimee-Leigh Gemstone; they were a husband and wife duo. Aimee-Leigh Gemstone has passed away and Eli finds himself in a place where he has to fill that void. He’s looking to his children to do that but all of his children come up short.”  

That combination of extreme wealth and extreme paternal disappointment has earned The Righteous Gemstones a number of comparisons to another hit HBO show, Succession. As CNN says, “It’s a superbly written and acted dark comedy that humanizes its greedy characters as much as it mocks them in preposterous plots that make for delicious television – much like Succession.” 

McBride says he grew up in a religious family, attending a Baptist church, with an aunt who is now a minister in the church. “I hope people don’t come out and think this is in any way anti-religious,” he says. “Ultimately, this is not about trying to target people’s faith and what they believe in – it’s really just targeting hypocrites and a family that has exploited religion for their own gain, which has made them lose touch with what their original mission was.” 

Goodman says McBride’s insider approach was part of the appeal of the project. “I like Danny McBride’s view on things Southern. He’s from there, he’s very observant and it’s a nice prism. He makes these people funny by never talking down or punching down – it’s just basically human nature.”  

So if you’re in need of a laugh, The Righteous Gemstones is the answer to your prayers. Can we get a Hallelujah? 

The show is streaming now on Showmax.

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