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Act-Age turns making movies into edge-of-your-seat blowout battles

Words: Julia Lee - Polygon - 16:05 08-07-2020

Act-Age, a manga about a girl trying to become an actor, is not your typical premise for a Weekly Shonen Jump series. But the series’ outstanding popularity is proof that there can be way more to the shonen genre than good guys punching bad guys (Though there’s nothing wrong with that, either. One Piece fans rise up).

With the first volume of the manga finally hitting shelves in English this week, we thought it would be a good time to take a deeper dive into what makes Act-Age so appealing.

Act-Age is written by Tatsuya Matsuki and illustrated by Shiro Usazaki. It’s the duo’s first serialized manga, making the quality of the series all the more impressive.

Kei Yonagi is a rookie actor who has mastered method acting, to the point that she sometimes loses her ability to see the difference between the real world and a movie production. So she goes a little bit feral, overly emotional, or angry — that’s what makes her such a good actor!

The story begins when a peculiar director discovers Yonagi and thrusts her into the world of acting. She has to figure out how to control her method acting, while learning other acting strategies from her rivals. Each arc focuses on Yonagi in a new job in a new situation, where she has to adapt and learn in order to outshine her costars.

Shonen manga isn’t always manga about young boys fighting superpowered villains. Sports manga like Haikyuu!! and The Prince of Tennis have always put an action-packed lens over activities that might not seem as exciting as a battle between ninjas. Even series like Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma and Bakuman showed readers that there are exciting battles in cooking and writing manga, respectively. Act-Age does that exact thing, but with the entertainment industry.

Yes. Act-Age might not be about a person trying to become the strongest fighter around, but it applies that story hook — of characters who grow incrementally more powerful with each plot line and can reveal shocking new abilities at any moment — to turn something as quiet as “acting” into an all-out action.

Act-Age is not a realistic depiction of the entertainment industry, but it never claims to be. Mundane ideas like “a girl filming a commercial where she cooks” are turned into explosive battle scenes. The exaggeration reminds me of the weirdly fake action basketball you’d see in Kuroko’s Basketball, but it’s never too over the top. Usazaki’s art complements Matsuki’s story so well that it takes a while before you realize how wild the scene you just read was.

And Matsuki’s characters are all likeable and earnest, without a real villain. The stars of the comic are really just trying to be the best actor around. Even if Yonagi doesn’t have any costars to actually “fight” against, she’s battling against herself, learning how to turn her past into a weapon for acting.

Act-Age, Vol. 1

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Image: Shiro Usazaki/Viz Media


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Warrior Nun and everything else on the Netflix top 10

Words: Matt Patches - Polygon - 00:20 09-07-2020

Welcome to our guide of the most popular new releases on Netflix. It’s July 2020, and the world is spinning in every direction. AMC theaters is suing the state of New Jersey in order to show movies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Universal just bumped every fall-time horror movie to 2021. Ghostbusters was the #1 movie in America this week. That’s life.

However melty time gets, each week still promises new movies, TV shows, anime series, and comic books, providing everyone with a moment of downtime. What are audiences turning to? Netflix now has a list of the 10 most-watched movies and TV shows in the country at any given time, and this week, it’s everything from Floor Is Lava to Warrior Nun to a reboot of Unsolved Mysteries and an Adam Sandler that’s probably better off forgotten. To help you navigate the list, we’ve gathered our reviews, features, and quick takes on the shows and films that have cracked the Top 10 list for the United States, and put them in one easy-to-read place.

Read on to find out what people are watching, and get coverage to help you choose which of Netflix’s most popular hits meet your needs or personal tastes.

Polygon updates the Netflix Top 10 each week. The actual top 10 may is subject to change between updates.

The Lorax speaks for the trees, unlike The Once-ler, who speaks for the autosexual shipping community.

From director Takashi Doscher (Still), this post-apocalyptic thriller stars Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) and Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton) after a virus wipes out most of the women on the planet. Think Y: The Last Man in reverse, Children of Men on the low-low-budge, and a brutally apt for the moment.

Adapted from Chuck Hogan’s book Prince of Thieves by writer-director-actor Ben Affleck, The Town is a family drama tricked out with all the crime thriller stops. While the movie garnered critical praise and awards consideration back in 2010, its legacy is as a dutiful channeling of Michael Mann’s spirit. The movie is lean, mean entertainment.

Netflix users are all in on Adam Sandler, having clocked millions of hours watching his content on the platform. So it’s no surprise that the addition of I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, a movie in which he and Kevin James play firefighters masquerading as a gay couple to receive health care, would pop to the top 10. It’s hard to imagine the movie has aged well in the last 13 years, but if you want to find out, you can.

As scrutiny over the value of U.S. police heats up, Peter Berg’s dramatization of the Boston Marathon bombings manhunt has risen to the top of American Netflix’s watch list. While visceral and entertaining, the movie became notorious for fudging some details to valorize a made-up hero cop played by Mark Wahlberg.

Not since the Star Wars-themed Legends of the Hidden Temple game show [checks watch] ... two weeks ago ... have I been so envious of people flailing around an indoor obstacle course. Like a combination of American Ninja Warrior and a rowdy backyard cookout with the whole tipsy family, Floor Is Lava translates the classic childhood imagination game into absolute mayhem.

In the vein of Netflix’s Ibiza and Murder Mystery, Desperados mostly looks like an excuse for a bunch of funny people to fly down to Mexico and have a good time. But here’s the thing: Nasim Pedrad is one of the most underserved, underrated, straight-up-hilarious performers working today, and her going full slapstick in a rom-com means Desperados is a promise for at least some enjoyment. You could do worse! Have I mentioned I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry?

The Baby-Sitters Club book series dates back to the 1980s, but the new revival on Netflix is getting almost universal praise. From our review:

The books were praised for tackling big themes like death and divorce, but it’s important to remember that the little problems — crushes on older boys, fights with friends, or redecorating childhood bedrooms — can be just as weighty, especially for 13-year-olds. The Netflix adaptation makes every episode and plot point feel important, and lets the characters’ details and desires feel valid. That makes this the kind of kids’ show that transcends audience age.

Perhaps less successful, but just as popular, is Warrior Nun, a beat-em-up action series based on Ben Dunn’s comic series Warrior Nun Areala. From our in-depth first look:

Netflix’s modern-day fantasy series Warrior Nun starts with a bang. The first episode shows a squad of women wearing stealth suits and chainmail, crashing into a church shouting about being ambushed by mercenaries wielding “Divinium shrapnel.” They pull an angel’s halo out of their mortally wounded leader. A nun dies to protect this artifact from a demon-possessed soldier. The rush of jargon and mythology feels like John Wick mixed with the literal interpretation of Christian cosmology found in John Constantine stories.

But then the action grinds to a halt, as the perspective shifts to Ava (Alba Baptista), a dead orphan resurrected by having the halo implanted in her back. After she died under mysterious circumstances and was brought to the church for burial, her corpse was used as a hiding place for the sacred relic of the Order of the Cruciform Sword — a secret society of women warriors dating back to the First Crusade. What had the potential to be an entertaining, schlocky spectacle turns into a litany of the worst YA Chosen One and Reluctant Messiah tropes, as Ava denies her destiny as the new divinely empowered Warrior Nun, then eventually accepts her place fighting demons so the action can pick back up again.

Here’s a blast from the past: Netflix and the producers of Stranger Things revived the old CBS series (which many of us know from endless repeats on Lifetime) as a episodic alternative to their wave of true crime series. The result is a snappy update of the open-ended format, but as always, the one about the UFOs is the best.

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Doctors are better at treating COVID-19 patients now than they were in March

Words: Nicole Wetsman - The Verge - 19:45 08-07-2020

In early March, most doctors in the United States had never seen a person sick with COVID-19. Four months later, nearly every emergency room and intensive care physician in the country is intimately familiar with the disease. In that time, they’ve learned a lot about how best to treat patients. But in some cases, they’re still taking the same approach they did in the spring.

“There’s so much that’s different, and so much that’s the same,” says Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and associate professor at the Brown University Department of Emergency Medicine.

For the first few months of the pandemic, recommendations for every incremental decision made in a hospital were changing faster than they ever have before. “You almost couldn’t keep up — from one day to the next, your practice would change and your protocols would change. It was really disorienting for doctors and nurses,” Ranney says.

Information spread between colleagues, through medical education blogs and podcasts, and on social media. Doctors talked about new research on Twitter and shared new strategies in Facebook groups and on WhatsApp. If a suggestion that floated by a doctor in a Facebook group was low-risk and seemed like it might be helpful, it could be put into practice immediately. “If it’s a small change, they could start using it the next day,” she says.

That’s how the now-common practice of asking patients with COVID-19 to flip onto their stomachs spread: through word-of-mouth and on social media. When someone is on their back, their organs squish their lungs and make it harder for their airways to fully expand. When someone is on their stomach, their lungs have more room to fill up with air. The advice started circulating through the medical community before there was a formal, published study on the practice.

Testing it out wouldn’t have many downsides (it wasn’t dangerous to patients), and it was easy to do. “There’s this possibility that it could be positive, and there were a lot of stories about it having a positive effect,” Ranney says. “So, it spread in a much more organic and quick way, because it was something that we could do, but we weren’t worried it would hurt patients.”

Doctors like Seth Trueger, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University, saw the position help patients get enough oxygen to avoid needing a ventilator. “I started jokingly call it ‘tummy time,’” he says. Studies are starting to validate those observations, finding that patients who spent time on their stomachs were, in fact, better off.

Since March, physicians have also figured out other ways to help severely ill patients avoid ventilation. “We appreciate that it’s probably not a great thing for these patients, and we’ve developed other ways to get people high levels of oxygen,” says James Hudspeth, the COVID response inpatient floor lead at Boston Medical Center. For example, doctors are turning to nasal cannulas, which are noninvasive prongs that blow oxygen into the nose, before a ventilator.

They have better medications for hospitalized patients now, too. Since March, doctors have cycled through a few different options — like hydroxychloroquine, which turned out not to be effective. Now, they’re primarily using remdesivir, and antiviral drug that appears to help COVID-19 patients recover more quickly, and the steroid dexamethasone, which helps improve the survival rate for patients on ventilators. “Many intensive care units and many hospitals have created their own standard order sets, or standard therapies, for people with COVID-19,” Ranney says. Those shift as new evidence comes out around different medications.

That’s not unusual, Ranney says. Hospitals regularly change the drugs they use for conditions like flu and pneumonia as new data comes out. “What’s unusual is to change practice so quickly,” she says. “That’s just the reality of a global pandemic, with a disease we’ve never seen before.”

Most of the changes in doctors’ strategies over the past few months have been in patients who are severely ill. If someone is sick enough to be hospitalized with COVID-19 but doesn’t need to be in intensive care, there still isn’t much doctors can do for them. They’ll get fluids to make sure they stay hydrated and are given oxygen if they need it. Doctors will try to keep their fever down and monitor them to see if they get sicker, but that’s about it.

“It’s just those basic things,” Ranney says. Doctors now are more vigilant to the threat from blood clots, which have appeared in many COVID-19 patients over the past months. Because testing is more available in hospitals than it was earlier this year, they’ll also confirm that a moderately ill patient actually does have COVID-19 — and avoid giving them unnecessary treatments. But active interventions for patients with less severe symptoms are still around the same as they were back in March. “We’re still kind of in this watchful waiting,” she says.

One lingering question, Hudspeth says, is figuring out how to keep those moderately ill patients from becoming severely ill. Steroids may be helpful earlier on, he says, as could artificial antibody treatments that block the virus, though those strategies are still under investigation. “Part the challenge we face at the present moment is that the moderate patients are often where we would want to intervene,” he says.

Changes to treatment strategies for patients who are not severely sick have been harder to come by — in part because it’s riskier to try something new in that group. If someone isn’t dangerously sick, there isn’t as much to gain from using an experimental treatment that may have a chance of causing harm, so doctors are less likely to take risks. “We’re more likely to try stuff with sicker patients,” Ranney says. “And their families are more likely to consent to a clinical trial.”

Despite the open issues around COVID-19 treatments, the rate of new information is slowing down. Doctors aren’t shifting their practices as quickly as they were back in March and April, and Trueger says he thinks the next few months may be relatively stable. Doctors might get new information about which medications are more or less helpful, but other common best practices might be more entrenched. “I don’t think things are going to change as rapidly as the changes we had up front, when we were really flying half blind,” he says.

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This headshot landed a cow the title role in an A24 film

Words: Karen Han - Polygon - 16:06 08-07-2020

The new film First Cow is a sublime experience. Director Kelly Reichardt approaches the story of two men trying to survive in 1820s Oregon with extreme tenderness — and, on top of that, has the most beautiful cow as the creature who brings them together.

In the film, the cow is the very first cow in the territory, and the sole source of milk for Cookie (John Magaro) and King-Lu’s (Orion Lee) cake-baking enterprise. Every night, they sneak onto the grounds of her owner, Chief Factor (Toby Jones), and milk her to prepare for the next day’s cakes.

To cast the role of the cow, Reichardt looked through dozens of cow photos. “It was head shots of cows, and body shots, and then narrowing down the type of cow,” she said in an interview. “I wanted [the cow] to be someone that you can be friends with, and wasn’t intimidating [...] and then I saw Evie, and then I got videos of Evie. She was easy to settle on, because she was so beautiful.”

What does a cow’s headshot look like? Luckily, Polygon has the answer. Take an exclusive look at Evie’s headshot below:

Evie, a gorgeous Jersey cow, certainly stands out: She has caramel-brown fur that looks so soft you can almost feel it through the screen, and big eyes framed by long lashes. She’s made such an impression that she now has her own Cameo profile. In the year since the film’s world premiere at Telluride, she’s also had a baby, Cookie, named after one of the movie’s main characters.

Take a look at Evie and Cookie below:

Evie (titular cow of @FirstCow) had a baby and named it Cookie! They are doing great thank you for asking

— A24 (@A24) February 26, 2020

First Cow will be available on VOD on July 10.

First Cow

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