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Collection of thoughts about my experience as a Prius Dweller
Thought I would finally join this subreddit and give a run down of my experiences. Last year, I bought a 2018 Prius with the intent of using it to go on road trips and live in it -- mostly because I have been trapped in the middle of frickin' nowhere my whole life and have never had a true adventure. I have never seen a mountain in-person prior to these trips. I also have a very comfortable IT job that easily facilitates me living in a car and working remotely without issues and with a lot of free time. I went on two separate trips so far. The first one was about 2.5 months long and the second one was about 3.5 months long. I have traveled from Seattle, WA to Key West, Florida and put over 20,000 miles on the car in the process. My first trip was comprised of South Dakota (Badlands, Black Hills), Yellowstone, Idaho (Coeur d'alene), Oregon (Forests, Crater Lake, Portland, beaches), Nor Cal (Redwood forests, beaches), Washington (Beaches, Seattle, Olympic National Park), and Montana(Glacier National Park). And for my second trip, I went to Louisiana(New Orleans), Florida(where I spent most of the time and explored nearly everything), up the coast to Charleston, SC, and into the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains(Gatlinburg, Asheville). Everything was amazing. I don't know if I have a favorite, but the beauty of Glacier National Park particularly strikes me. I also thoroughly enjoyed swimming in the crystal clear springs throughout Florida. My setup is not particularly elaborate, but I didn't spare much of an expense: - Tinted windows. - Front and rear dashcams with batteries for when the car is off. - Custom fit sun shades for all windows (Weathertech). - Weathertech floor liners. - A basic cooler. - Redundant IT setup so I don't get fired. (2 laptops, 3 chargers, a car charger, 2 hotspots) - A 4" thick full sized foam mattress pad and a sleeping bag, couple of blankets, couple of pillows. - Suitcase full of clothes, towels.- Bag with misc supplies (Laundry, food, trash bags, medicine, wet wipes). Wet wipes are great for cleaning yourself when you don't have access to a shower for some reason. - A Black Card membership to Planet Fitness (for showering mostly). It also makes a good excuse if you ever decide to sleep in a Planet Fitness parking lot (not my first choice). - Rain guards so that I can roll the windows down in bad weather. And that is basically all I needed. I know people have much more elaborate DIY setups, but much of that I never found necessary or was interested in. I also ended up buying a USB fan that I never used because if I ever really needed heat regulation I would just use the AC. One thing that I wish I had thought of beforehand is to get a Prius with a sunroof. It would have been nice to be able to stare up into the sky while I try to sleep, or to open it up and let some air in. One thing I might consider in the future is a signal booster for my hotspots. These can be pricey, but worth it if your job depends on a reliable connection. Although I think I can get by without one by using apps that help you pinpoint the location of cell towers and by mooching off of hotel wifi access. I took out a few credit cards prior to purchasing the car and supplies in order to score a bunch of bonus travel points (I had saved up most of the cost of the car prior to buying it). I used the Plastiq service in order to use car payments towards the qualifying payments required for the credit card bonuses. The fee they charged was definitely worth it for the points I accrued. So I set out on the road with a boat load of free points I had thought I would need for hotels here and there. It's a good idea if you like to go to them from time to time. During my first trip I went to hotels twice a week (mostly to work). I eventually realized that I could work entirely out of my car without issues and without much discomfort, and during my second trip I only booked a hotel a couple times. As I write this, I still have around half of my points... It's been the time of my life. I would do it full time if I didn't have other obligations (my cat, mostly, who waited patiently at home). As a result of these trips, I have decided to move to the west coast permanently, which means I have another trip coming up soon. On my next trip I plan on going through Colorado, maybe stop at the Grand Canyon, and make my way through southern/central California. Now I'll just focus on what it was like living in the Prius and what my preferences are when I do it rather than the trips themselves. If anyone has any questions about anything, feel free to ask. I've only been explicitly shoed away twice, and one time a security guard caught my attention but allowed me to continue what I was doing. The first time I was shoed away, I was at a casino parking lot. I have stayed at many casino parking lots, and most of them never bothered me, but this one in particular had saw me put up my sun shields (from the outside) and was determined to kick me out. Since then, I started putting my sun shields on only from within the car so that people are less likely to notice, and I think it has helped. The second time is when I was staying in Key West, Florida. Key West thinks they have a problem with people living in their car, so the locals don't take kindly to people camping in their cars and are extra vigilant about it. No one actually explicitly shoed me away, but someone dinged my car with a bell and yelled "No overnight parking" generally for the entire parking lot, which was enough to scare me away. They may not have known I was sleeping in my car. And the time when the security guard approached me, I was sleeping in a large vacant lot two nights in a row. The first night went fine, and the second night alerted them more that something was going on and caused them to approach me. But, they thought I was homeless and destitute or something, and they let me stay there because they pitied me, but they told me to leave first thing in the morning. My location of choice? Mid-sized hotel parking lots. I did this almost exclusively on my second trip. Holiday Inns, Courtyard by Marriots, etc. No one who worked at any hotel ever bothered me, tow away zone signs be damned. If I park in the right location, I get free wifi access, which is great for work. That was my primary motivation. Sometimes people staying at the hotel would catch on to someone being inside of the car and gossip about it such that I could hear them, but no one ever really bothered me. Other than hotels, free camp sites are nice. (freecampsites.net) Sometimes you can get really lucky and find an abandoned camp site with a full bathroom and shower and electricity next to a scenic lake or something like that. Other places I stayed at that I would recommend: Walmart parking lots (in good neighborhoods), 24 hour gym parking lots, Cracker Barrels, Cabelas, the aforementioned casino parking lots. Side streets. I am not really a fan of side streets, but I think it depends on the neighborhood. It's a bit paradoxical because these might be locations where it's actually legal to park and stay overnight, but the people who live in the house you park next to can get suspicious of you. I would much rather deal with someone who works at a hotel or as a security guard and is underpaid than with a curious and possibly grumpy homeowner. The first night I ever slept in my car, I stopped at a small town in South Dakota where I stood out like a sore thumb, and every time I would try to find a parking spot on a side street, someone would come out of their house and approach me. They would confuse me with someone they knew, or they would just look at me suspiciously. Everyone in a small town in the middle of nowhere knows everyone, and they know that you do not belong there. I ended up sleeping in a car dealership out of desperation and with someone probably watching me the entire time. Rest stops. I never use a rest stop. They do not seem safe to me, because everyone knows that there are sleeping travelers there, and thus predators can go to these places looking for people to victimize. It defeats the purpose of stealth. The safest thing to me is to draw minimum suspicion that someone is even trying to sleep in their car. But as I never used them, I don't have any real world experience. The stories of people being attacked at them was enough to keep me away from them. PEE JUGS: An art form. I don't know how female dwellers live without pee jugs. It must be difficult. I imagine getting up to pee a bunch would break stealth. It's bad enough that you're more vulnerable as a female to begin with. But as a male dweller, you will be presented with a variety of options. Gatorade bottles might seem like a good idea, being that they have a wide top and can store a decent amount. And while you may be able to pee in a Gatorade bottle here and there, you may underestimate how much you have to pee and how much space you actually have. Really, you want at least a gallon jug, and you want something with a nice tight screw cap and probably a firm handle. Large bottles of tea also work well. The last thing you want is to spill pee. Take this sage advice and do not learn the hard way. But also be sure to take advantage of the majestic pee jug if you are privileged to do so. And never go to bed when you have to poo and think you can hold it in. It sucks. You rarely ever do this when you live in a house and you may not appreciate how uncomfortable and how bad of an idea this is until you try it. No, I did not poo the bed, for the record. Anyway, that about wraps up everything I have to say for now. I will answer any questions. I love Prius Dwelling. It's been the time of my life. I want to continue doing it on and off for the rest of my life. These kinds of long trips are simply not financially possible to do if you stay at hotels unless you are loaded. I should probably write a tl;dr. Edit: Added Rain Guards to my setup list.
Welcome to Lost in the Sauce, keeping you caught up on political and legal news that often gets buried in distractions and theater… or a global health crisis. Figuring out how to divide the COVID-19 content from the “regular” news has been difficult because the pandemic is influencing all aspects of life. Some of the stories below involve the virus, but I chose to include them when it fits into one of the pre-established categories (like congress or immigration). The coronavirus-central post will be made again this Thursday-Friday; the sign up form now has an option to choose to receive an email when the coronavirus-focused roundup is posted. House-keeping:
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Let’s dig in!
Congress passes stimulus
Last week started out with a Republican-crafted stimulus bill that was twice-blocked by Senate Democrats, who objected to the lax conditions of aid to corporations, too little funding for hospitals, and a $500 billion “slush fund” for big companies to be doled out by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin with no oversight. Conservative-Democrat Joe Manchin (WV) even criticized the GOP bill:
“It fails our first responders, nurses, private physicians and all healthcare professionals. ... It fails our workers. It fails our small businesses… Instead, it is focused on providing billions of dollars to Wall Street and misses the mark on helping the West Virginians that have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.”
Through negotiations, Democrats shifted the bill in a more-worker friendly direction. The version that passed includes the following Democrat-added provisions: expanded unemployment benefits, $100 billion for hospitals, $150 billion for state and local governments, direct payments to Americans without a phase-in (ensuring low-income workers get the full amount), a ban on Trump and his children from receiving aid, and oversight on the “slush fund” (see next section for more info). Senate Democrats also managed to remove a provision that would have excluded nonprofits that receive Medicaid funding from the small-business grants.
Further reading: After Senate Democrats blocked the Republican-crafted bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led the House Democrats in releasing their own version, a best-case scenario of their dream coronavirus stimulus bill. It is interesting to contrast what the Democrats prioritized to what the Republicans focused on: “How the House Democrats' stimulus plan compares to the Senate's”
Echoing sentiments expressed during debate on the previous coronavirus bill (the second, for those keeping track), Republican senators derided the $600 a week increase in unemployment payments as “incentivizing” workers to quit their jobs. Sens. Ben Sasse (Neb.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) delayed passage of the bill in order to force a vote on an amendment removing the extra unemployment funding. "This bill pays you more not to work than if you were working," Graham said. Fortunately for American workers, the amendment failed and the improved bill passed the Senate and the House.
Note: In 2009 only three Republicans helped Obama pass his stimulus bill in his first month in office.
The giveaways in the bill
While Senate Democrats were able to add worker-friendly provisions, the bill still required bipartisan support to pass the chamber and some corporate giveaways remained in the final version.
NYT: “Senate Republicans inserted an easy-to-overlook provision on page 203 of the 880-page bill that would permit wealthy investors to use losses generated by real estate to minimize their taxes on profits from things like investments in the stock market. The estimated cost of the change over 10 years is $170 billion.”
NYT: “...if a company owns multiple hotels, even if the overall hotel or restaurant chain has more than 500 employees — the limit to qualify for treatment as a small business — it will still be able to take advantage of the small-business benefits offered in the rescue package. ...The provision could benefit the Trump Organization, which operates a relatively small chain, with six hotels in the United States in cities including New York, Washington and Chicago.”
“A provision for the FDA to approve ‘innovative’ sunscreens—which would benefit L’Oreal, which has operations in Kentucky—appeared in the bill, which was steered in the Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.”
“The $25 billion allocated in loans and loan guarantees for the airlines will also benefit eligible businesses "approved to perform inspection, repair, replace, or overhaul services, and ticket agents.” The last two words — ‘ticket agents’ — mean that travel agents who book flights will also be able to apply for a piece of the $25 billion.”
“The credit reporting industry got a win by defeating a total ban on negative credit reports during the crisis. Instead, a watered down version made it into the final bill: Consumers wouldn't get a negative credit report if they have an agreement with a lender to delay payments or make partial payments.”
Trump’s signing statement
While signing the latest coronavirus relief bill, the president also issued a signing statement undercutting the congressional oversight provision creating an inspector general to track how the administration distributes the $500 billion “slush fund” money. The newly-created inspector general is legally required to audit loans and investments made through the fund and report to Congress his/her findings, including any refusal by the executive office to cooperate. In his signing statement, Trump wrote that his understanding of constitutional powers allows him to gag the special IG:
"I do not understand, and my Administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the [inspector general] to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision required" by Article II of the Constitution.
The signing statement further suggests that Trump does not have to comply with a provision requiring that agencies consult with Congress before it spends or reallocates certain funds: "These provisions are impermissible forms of congressional aggrandizement with respect to the execution of the laws," the statement reads. While some have said that Congress fell short in this instance, one Democratic Senate aide told Politico that Congress built in multiple layers of oversight, including “a review of other inspectors general and a congressional review committee charged with overseeing Treasury and the Federal Reserve's efforts to implement the law.” Legal experts have pointed out that a signing statement is “without legal effect.” But that ignores the fact that oversight is not equal to enforcement. The problem, in my opinion, isn’t that Congress won’t be notified of any abuses of power by Trump. The problem is that congressional Republicans and the judiciary have largely failed to hold him accountable and enforce our laws even after learning of his abuses.
Concerns about the IG
Another potential weakness in the oversight structure is the inspector general position itself. The special inspector general for pandemic recovery, known by the acronym S.I.G.P.R., is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate. As we’ve seen from Trump’s previous nominees, particularly judicial, many unqualified individuals have been confirmed. The Democrats will not have the power to stop the president and Mitch McConnell from jamming through a loyalist to fill the SIGPR role.
Former inspector general at the Justice Department Michael Bromwich: “The signing statement threatens to undermine the authority and independence of this new IG. The Senate should extract a commitment from the nominee that Congress will be promptly notified of any Presidential/Administration interference or obstruction.”
You may recall that Trump has already proven that he’s willing to interfere with the legally-mandated work of an inspector general. When the Ukraine whistleblower filed a complaint last year, the IG of the Intelligence Community, Michael Atkinson, investigated and determined the complaint to be “urgent” and “credible.” Atkinson wrote a report and gave it to Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire to hand over to Congress. However, the White House and DOJ interfered and instructed Maguire not to transmit the report to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. Chairman Adam Schiff had to subpoena Maguire to turn over the report and testify before his committee. Further, there are already five IG vacancies in agencies that have a critical role in responding to the pandemic. The Treasury itself has not had a permanent, Senate-confirmed IG for over eight months now, and Trump hasn’t nominated a replacement. The Treasury Dept. has taken a lead role in the coronavirus response, with Secretary Mnuchin handling most of the negotiating with Congress on Trump’s behalf. The fact that the lead agency doesn’t have IG oversight should be troublesome in itself; replicating the situation with a special IG doesn’t seem to be a promising solution.
The other four coronavirus-related agencies without a permanent IG: Department of Health and Human Services’ IG has been vacant for nine months, Department of Defense’s IG has been vacant for four years, Department of Education’s IG has been vacant for one year, and Office of Personnel Management’s IG has been vacant for four years. Overall, there are twelve IG vacancies in the 37) presidentially-appointed offices.
UPDATE: The nation's inspectors general have appointed Glenn Fine, the Pentagon's acting IG, to lead the committee of IGs overseeing the coronavirus relief effort.
This is one of several oversight mechanisms built into the new law. They include: A committee of IGs (now led by Fine), a new special IG (to be nominated by Trump), a congressional review panel (to be appointed by House/Senate leaders)
Included in the stimulus bill is a $1200 one-time direct payment for all Americans who made less than $75,000 in 2019 (less than $150,000 if couples filed jointly). More details can be found here. I have read that the Treasury will use 2018 information for those who have not filed yet this year, but I am not 100% sure that’ll happen. Mnuchin has said that Americans can expect to receive the money within three weeks, but many experts expect that timetable to be pushed into late April. Additionally, that only applies to Americans who included direct deposit information on their 2019 tax returns. Those who did not include their bank’s information will have to be sent a physical check in the mail… which could take anywhere from two to four months. Other options are being discussed, including partnering the Treasury Dept. with MasterCard and Visa to deliver prepaid debit cards. Venmo and Paypal are reportedly lobbying the government to be considered as a disbursement option. Future payments? House Speaker Pelosi is already planning another wave of direct payments to Americans, saying that the $1,200 is not enough to mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic: “I don’t think we’ve seen the end of direct payments.” Republicans, meanwhile, are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach, using the next couple of weeks to measure the impact of the $2 trillion bill passed last week.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy: “What concerns me is when I listen to Nancy Pelosi talk about a fourth package now, it’s because she did not get out of things that she really wanted...I’m not sure you need a fourth package...Let’s let this work ... We have now given the resources to make and solve this problem. We don’t need to be crafting another bill right now.” For the fourth legislative package, Democrats have said they would like to see increased food stamp benefits; increased coverage for coronavirus testing, visits to the doctor and treatment; more money for state and local governments, including Washington, D.C.; expanded family and medical leave; pension fixes; and stronger workplace protections.
Trump’s signature Normally, a civil servant signs federal checks, like the direct payments Americans are set to receive. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Trump has told people that he wants his signature to appear on the stimulus checks.
War on the poor continues
Amid the coronavirus crisis, Trump has defended his continued support of a Republican-led lawsuit to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which would result in 20 million Americans losing health insurance if successful. The Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in the case this fall. Contrasting with his position that the ACA is illegal, Trump is considering reopening enrollment on HealthCare.gov, allowing millions of uninsured individuals to get coverage before potentially incurring charges and fees related to COVID-19. Joe Biden called on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the charge against the ACA, and President Trump to drop the lawsuit:
“At a time of national emergency, which is laying bare the existing vulnerabilities in our public health infrastructure, it is unconscionable that you are continuing to pursue a lawsuit designed to strip millions of Americans of their health insurance and protections under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the ban on insurers denying coverage or raising premiums due to pre-existing conditions.”
The Trump administration is also pushing forward with its plan to kick 700,000 people off federal food stamp assistance, known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The USDA announced two weeks ago that the department will appeal Judge Beryl Howell’s recent decision that the USDA’s work mandate rule is “arbitrary and capricious." Additionally: The Social Security Administration has no plans to slow down a rule change set for June that will limit disability benefits, the Department of Health and Human Services still intends to reduce automatic enrollment in health coverage, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development will continue the process to enact a rule that would make it harder for renters to sue landlords for racial discrimination.
Lawmakers’ stock transactions
The Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission are beginning to investigate stock transactions made ahead of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. CNN reports that the inquiry has already reached out to Senator Richard Burr for information. “Under insider trading laws, prosecutors would need to prove the lawmakers traded based on material non-public information they received in violation of a duty to keep it confidential,” a task that won’t be easy. Sen. Burr is facing another consequence of his trades: Alan Jacobson, a shareholder in Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, sued Burr for allegedly using private information to instruct a mass liquidation of his assets. Among the shares he sold were an up to $150,000 stake in Wyndham, whose stock suffered a market-value cut of more than two-thirds since mid-February.
Using the pandemic as cover, the Trump administration has begun to more aggressively roll back regulations meant to protect the environment. These are examples of what Naomi Klein dubbed “the shock doctrine”: the phenomenon wherein polluters and their government allies push through unpopular policy changes under the smokescreen of a public emergency. On Thursday, the EPA announced (non-paywalled) an expansive relaxation of environmental laws and fines, exempting companies from consequences for pollution. Under the new rules, there are basically no rules. Companies are asked to “act responsibly” but are not required to report when their facilities discharge pollution into the air or water. Just five days before abandoning any pollution oversight, the oil industry’s largest trade group implored the administration for assistance, stating that social distancing measures caused a steep drop in demand for gasoline.
Monday morning update: In an interview with Fox News this morning, Trump said he was going to call Putin after the interview to discuss the Saudi-Russia oil fight. A consequence of this "battle" has been plummeting prices in the U.S. making it difficult for domestic companies (like shale extraction) to turn a profit. It's striking that the day after Dr. Fauci told Americans we can expect 100,000 to 200,000 deaths from COVID-19 (if we keep social distancing measures in place), Trump's first action is to talk to Fox News and his second action is to intervene in an international tiff on behalf of the oil and gas industry.
Gina McCarthy, who led the E.P.A. under the Obama administration, called the rollback “an open license to pollute.” Cynthia Giles, who headed the EPA enforcement division during the Obama administration, said “it is so far beyond any reasonable response I am just stunned.” The EPA is also moving forward with a widely-opposed rule to limit the types of scientific studies used when crafting new regulations or revising current ones. Hidden behind claims of increased transparency, the rule would require disclosure of all raw data used in scientific studies. This would disqualify many fields of research that rely on personal health information from individuals that must be kept confidential. For example, studies that show air pollution causes premature deaths or a certain pesticide is linked to birth defects would be rejected under the proposed rule change. Officials and scientists are calling upon the EPA to extend the time for comment on the regulatory changes, arguing that the public is unable to express their opinion while dealing with the pandemic.
“These rollbacks need and deserve the input of our public health community, but right now, they are rightfully focused on responding to the coronavirus,” said Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Other controversial decisions being made:
A former EPA official who worked on controversial policies returned as Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s chief of staff. Mandy Gunasekara helped write regulations to ease pollution controls for coal-fired power plants and vehicle emissions in her previous role as chief of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. In a recent interview, Gunasekara, who played a role in the decision to exit the Paris Climate Accord, pushed back on the more dire predictions of climate change, saying, “I don't think it is catastrophic.”
NYT: The plastic bag industry, battered by a wave of bans nationwide, is using the coronavirus crisis to try to block laws prohibiting single-use plastic. “We simply don’t want millions of Americans bringing germ-filled reusable bags into retail establishments putting the public and workers at risk,” an industry campaign that goes by the name Bag the Ban warned on Tuesday. (Also see The Guardian)
Kentucky, South Dakota, and West Virginia passed laws putting new criminal penalties on protests against fossil fuel infrastructure in just the past two weeks.
The Hill: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Friday that it will extend the amount of time that winter gasoline can be sold this year as producers have been facing lower demand due to the coronavirus. It will allow companies to sell the winter-grade gasoline through May 20, whereas companies would have previously been required to stop selling it by May 1 to protect air quality. “In responding to an international health crisis, the last thing the EPA should do is take steps that will worsen air quality and undermine the public’s health,” biofuels expert David DeGennaro said.
NYT: At the Interior Department, employees at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been under strict orders to complete the rule eliminating some protections for migratory birds within 30 days, according to two people with direct knowledge of the orders. The 45-day comment period on that rule ended on March 19.
WaPo: The Interior Department has received over 230 nominations for oil and gas leases covering more than 150,000 acres across southern Utah, a push that would bring drilling as close as a half-mile from some of the nation’s most famous protected sites, including Arches and Canyonlands National Parks… if all the fossil fuels buried in those sites was extracted and burned, it would translate into between 1 billion and 5.95 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide being released into the air. That upward measure is equal to half the annual carbon output of China
Press freedom case Southern District of New York District Judge Lorna Schofield ruled that a literary advocacy group’s lawsuit against Trump for allegedly violating the First Amendment can move forward. The group, PEN America, is pursuing claims that Trump “has used government power to retaliate against media coverage and reporters he dislikes.” Schofield determined that PEN’s allegation that Trump made threats to chill free speech was valid, providing as an example the White House’s revocation of CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s press press corps credentials:
”The threats are lent credence by the fact that Defendant has acted on them before, by revoking Mr. Acosta’s credentials and barring reporters from particular press conferences. The Press Secretary indeed e-mailed the entire press corps to inform them of new rules of conduct and to warn of further consequences, citing the incident involving Mr. Acosta… These facts plausibly allege that a motivation for defendant’s actions is controlling and punishing speech he dislikes.”
Twitter case The president suffered another First Amendment defeat last week when the full 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals declined to review a previous ruling that prevents Trump from blocking users on the Twitter account he uses to communicate with the public. Judge Barrington D. Parker, a Nixon-appointee, wrote: “Excluding people from an otherwise public forum such as this by blocking those who express views critical of a public official is, we concluded, unconstitutional.” Trump-appointees Michael Parker and Richard Sullivan authored a dissent, arguing the free speech “does not include a right to post on other people’s personal social media accounts, even if those other people happen to be public officials.” Park warned that the ruling will allow the social media pages of public officials to be “overrun with harassment, trolling, and hate speech, which officials will be powerless to filter.” Florida’s felon voting U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ripped into Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s administration for failing to come up with a process to determine which felons are genuinely unable to pay court-ordered fees and fines, which are otherwise required to be paid before having their voting rights restored. “If the state is not going to fix it, I will,” Hinkle warned. He had given the state five months to come up with an administrative process for felons to prove they’re unable to pay financial obligations, but Florida officials did not do so. The case is set to be heard on April 28 (notwithstanding any coronavirus-related delays).
ICE, Jails, and COVID-19
ICE One of the most overlooked populations with an increased risk of death from coronavirus are those in detention facilities, which keep people in close quarters with little sanitation or protective measures (including for staff). Last week, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ordered the federal government to “make continuous efforts” to release migrant children from detention centers across the country. Numerous advocacy groups asked for the release after reports that four children being held in New York had tested positive for the virus:
“The threat of irreparable injury to their health and safety is palpable,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers said in their petition… both of the agencies operating migrant children detention facilities must by April 6 provide an accounting of their efforts to release those in custody… “Her order will undoubtedly speed up releases,” said Peter Schey, co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the court case.
On Tuesday, 13 immigrants held at ICE facilities in California filed a lawsuit demanding to be released because their health conditions make them particularly vulnerable to dying if infected by the coronavirus. An ACLU statement says the detainees are “confined in crowded and unsanitary conditions where social distancing is not possible.” The 13 individuals are all over the age of 50 and/or suffering from serious underlying medical issues like high blood pressure.
“From all the evidence we have seen, ICE is failing to fulfill its constitutional obligation to protect the health and safety of individuals in its custody. ICE should exercise its existing discretion to release people with serious medical conditions from detention for humanitarian reasons,” said William Freeman, senior counsel at the ACLU of Northern California.
Meanwhile, ICE is under fire for continuing to shuttle detainees across the country, with one even being forced to take nine different flights bouncing from Louisiana to Texas to New Jersey less than two weeks ago. That man is Dr. Sirous Asgari, a materials science and engineering professor from Iran, who was acquitted last year on federal charges of stealing trade secrets. The government lost its case against him, yet ICE has had him in indefinite detention since November.
Asgari, 59, told the Guardian that his Ice holding facility in Alexandria, Louisiana, had no basic cleaning practices in place and continued to bring in new detainees from across the country with no strategy to minimize the threat of Covid-19...Detainees have no hand sanitizer, and the facility is not regularly cleaning bathrooms or sleeping areas…Detainees lack access to masks… Detainees struggle to stay clean, and the facility has an awful stench.
Jails State jails are making a better effort to release detained individuals, as both New York and New Jersey ordered a thousand people in each state be let out of jail. The order applied only to low-level offenders sentenced to less than a year in jail and those held on technical probation violations. In Los Angeles County, officials released over 1,700 people from its jails. A judge in Alabama took similar steps last week, ordering roughly 500 people jailed for minor offenses to be released to lessen crowding in facilities. Unlike in New York and New Jersey, however, local officials reacted in an uproar, led in part by the state executive committee for the Alabama Republican Party and Assistant District Attorney C.J. Robinson. Using angry Facebook messages as the barometer of the community’s feelings, Robinson worked “frantically” to block inmates from being released.
Reuters: As of Saturday, at least 132 inmates and 104 staff at jails across New York City had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus… Since March 22, jails have reported 226 inmates and 131 staff with confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to a Reuters survey of cities and counties that run America’s 20 largest jails. The numbers are almost certainly an undercount given the fast spread of the virus.
Tribe opposed by Trump loses land
On Wednesday, The Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs announced the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s reservation would be "disestablished" and its land trust status removed. Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell called the move "cruel" and "unnecessary,” particularly coming in the midst of a pandemic crisis. Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.), who last year introduced legislation to protect the tribe's reservation as trust land in Massachusetts, said the order “is one of the most cruel and nonsensical acts I have seen since coming to Congress.” The administration’s decision is especially suspicious as just last year Trump attacked the tribe’s plan to build a casino on its land, tweeting that allowing the construction would be “unfair” and treat Native Americans unequally. As a former casino owner, Trump has spent decades attacking Native American casinos as unfair competition. At a 1993 congressional hearing Trump said that tribal owners “don’t look like Indians to me” and claimed: “I might have more Indian blood than a lot of the so-called Indians that are trying to open up the reservations” to gambling. More than his past history, however, Trump has current interests at play in the Mashpee Wampanoag’s planned casino: it would have competed for business with nearby Rhode Island casinos owned by Twin River Worldwide Holdings, whose president, George Papanier, was a finance executive at the Trump Plaza casino hotel in Atlantic City.
In the Mashpee case, Twin River, the operator of the two Rhode Island casinos, has hired Matthew Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a vocal Trump supporter, to lobby for it on the land issue. Schlapp’s wife, Mercedes, is director of strategic communications at the White House.
The current stay-at-home order will remain in effect until April 30. Alabama Governor Ivey said the state needs to expand its testing before resuming normal economic activity despite being eager to get the state’s economy moving.
On April 24th, Alaska allowed businesses and restaurants to open back up in most parts of the state. These personal services and companies must do so under strict health and safety restrictions. Bigger cities like Anchorage delayed their partial opening until April 27th. Additionally, Governor Dunleavy has said citizens may visit their doctors and schedule elective surgeries on/after May 4th.
Governor Ducey has announced the stay at home order will continue only until April 30th. The state also will allow elective surgeries to continue starting on May 1st. On the other hand, Navajo Nation’s government will remain closed until May 17th.
While there is no exact date, Governor Hutchinson has plans to loosen the restrictions on businesses over the next few weeks. This means certain non-essential businesses will be allowed to operate. Elective surgeries were allowed to continue on April 27th.
CA Governor Gavin Newsome has not announced any official end to the stay at home order. Despite that, the state has allowed the scheduling of important surgeries like heart surgery or cancerous tumor removal. The state is limiting the issuing of permits for events and activities for the foreseeable future. On April 13th, the Governor announced the Western States Pact with Oregon and Washington. This pact articulates that these 3 states will operate together in their reopening on when it is safe to do so. Nevada and Colorado have also joined this pact.
Colorado’s stay at home order has been replaced with a “safer at home” strategy that started on April 27th. While not mandatory, residents are heavily urged to stay at home as much as possible. High-risk populations have been asked to stay home at all times possible. Special businesses that offer curbside pick up are now open. Additionally, personal training and dog grooming have been allowed to resume (if they follow social distancing practices). Elective medical procedures have also been allowed to continue. Governor Polis states that more businesses will be allowed to open in the following weeks. On May 4th, non-essential office work will be allowed to continue. Colorado has also coordinated its re-opening plans with Nevada, California, Oregan, and Washington.
The mandatory state shutdown will continue until May 20th. Governor Lamont has recommended a higher amount of COVID-19 testing before the state can start is opening plans. Connecticut has joined with New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Deleware, and Massachusettes to coordinate the reopening of the Northeast.
Deleware Governor Carney has extended the statewide stay at home order until May 15th or when the “public health threat is eliminated.” The state has said that opening can start upon seeing a 28 days decline of new COVID-19 cases. Additionally, the state has joined up with the other states in the Northeast to ensure a safe re-opening and start to their economy. The governor also stated that even if the state reopens, social distancing, hand washing, face covering, and a limit on large gatherings will stay in effect.
The stay at home order for Florida will continue until April 30th. Beaches of Florida are able to reopen if the local leaders have decided it is safe to do so. On the other hand, the Keys will not reopen to visitors or tourism until June or later.
State restrictions were eased starting on April 24th. Businesses like tattoo shops, gyms, bowling alleys, barbers and hair salons, nail salons, and others have been allowed to re-open if they follow safe distancing rules. Nightclubs and bars are still closed with no clear word on when reopening can continue.
Governor Ige has stated that the stay at home order will last through April 30th and potentially later. Bigger cities like Honolulu have their own independent stay at home order which extends through all of May.
The state of Idaho is currently allowing businesses to operate under certain conditions like curbside pickup, drive-thru/drive-in, or delivery. The state doesn’t have an explicit stay at home order but rather an “Order to Self Isolate” that ends on April 30th. There is no official word on when the full state will open.
Illinois Governor Pritzker has stated the stay at home order will extend to May 30th based on data they have analyzed in the last two months. Some modifications may be made in that time and restrictions lifted depending on testing and tracing initiatives.
So far, Iowa has not given an official stay at home order. Governor Reynolds did issue a State of Public Health Disaster Emergency in mid-March. This required all nonessential businesses to close until April 30. On April 27th, the government stated the 77 of Iowa’s 99 counties can begin reopening on May 1st. This includes gyms, restaurants, enclosed malls, and retail stores if they stay at 50% capacity. The remaining 22 counties have higher rates of COVID-19 and will have their closures extend until at least May 15th.
Kansas’ stay at home order is expected to end on May 3rd. Governor Kelly has said that the state “nowhere near where we need to be with testing supplies,” which could mean the stay at order will be extended. Either way, the state plans to loosen restrictions in a gradual rollout rather than an all at once reopening.
Kentucky Governor Beshear has begun to reopen the health sectors of the state. On April 27, in person, office and ambulance visits were allowed to continue. Additionally, diagnostic, radiology and non-urgent visits are allowed. The state plans to reopen the state in phases, with restrictions easing each week for a four week period. This reopening plan will begin on May 11th but could be pushed back depending on COVID circumstances. Additionally, customers and employees will be asked to wear a mask while visiting/working in essential businesses.
Louisiana Governor Edwards has extended the stay at home order until May 15. Despite that, some restrictions have been lifted for nonessential businesses. On May 1st, retail stores can open under the condition of offering curbside delivery only. Restaurants will also be allowed to offer seats to customers, but there will be no wait staff or table service. Customers are allowed to sit outside and eat at restaurants as long as the mind social distancing rules. Gov. Edwards has also required all workers that are interacting with the public to wear masks. Despite the easing of restrictions, Edwards says the state is not near where it should be in regards to new cases, hospitalizations, and testing.
Maine issued a “Stay Healthy at Home” executive order that lasts through at least April 30. Additionally, Governor Mills extended the state’s civil state of emergency until May 15. The state of Maine has joined its neighbors New Hampshire and Vermont on planning their state’s reopening measures
Maryland Governor Hogan outlined a three-stage reopening plan on April 24th. This will allow a gradual reopening of non-essential businesses, gatherings, and public services. Not giving a clear date, the governor stated that the easing of restrictions may begin in early May if COVID-19 hospital cases decline. The first phase includes allowing certain small businesses to reopen, outdoor gym glasses, recreational activities to continue, and allowing religious gatherings of limited attendance. Certain medical procedures will be allowed to continue as well. The second phase allows raising the minimum number of people allowed in a gathering, childcare services reopening, indoor gyms, the return of transit schedules, and bars and restaurants reopening under certain conditions. The last phase allows larger social gatherings in places like religions services, entertainment venues, and dining establishments along with fewer restrictions on nursing homes and hospital visits.
Currently, the state’s emergency order that requires all nonessential business to be closed ends on May 4th. Governor Baker has informed citizens that he and state officials have begun discussing the reopening of the state but there isn’t a clear plan yet. Before reopening, the state says they need to have more testing, tracing, and quarantine procedures in place. Massachusetts is actively working with its neighboring Northeastern states to develop a plan to reopen the economy.
Michigan’s stay at home order extends til at least May 15th. Currently, Governor Whitmer has eased restrictions of their COVID-19 response, allowing some businesses to open and outdoor activities to continue. Most recently, the governor has allowed landscapers, nurseries, lawn service companies, and bike shops to re-open as long as they follow social distancing rules. Additionally, citizens are allowed to travel between houses and visit family members even though it isn’t encouraged.
Minnesota has allowed some businesses to open starting on April 27th. This order allows 80,000 to 100,000 office, industrial, and manufacturing workers to return to their jobs. Governor Walz has stated that businesses must create and implement a COVID-19 readiness plan that outlines what measures they are taking to protect their worker’s health and safety.
Mississippi “safe at home” executive order will remain for two weeks and expire on the upcoming Monday. Right now, Governor Reeves urgers all citizens to stay home whenever possible. Any at-risk citizens are required to shelter in place. State officials have also begun relaxing some restrictions on non-essential businesses if they offer curbside delivery, drive-thru, or other delivery options. Other nonessential businesses remained closed for now.
Missouri’s stay at home order lasts until May 3rd. Governor Parson has stated that he is working with hospitals, health officials, and business leaders to develop the state’s reopening plan. Businesses will be able to open as long as they keep up the six-feet social distancing rules. Additionally, any indoor retail business will be forced to limit its capacity to 25%. The governor has allowed local leaders to determine if their cities and towns need stricter rules.
Montana began reopening on April 26th, allowing individuals and businesses to have fewer restrictions. Retail and street businesses were able to open on April 27th if they follow social distancing practices and limit store capacity. Restaurants and bars can start offering some services after May 4th while businesses like gyms, theaters, and places of large assembly must remain closed. The state’s travel quarantine will still remain, requiring non-work related out of state travelers to quarantine themselves for 14 days.
Nebraska state officials plan to relax some of their COVID restrictions on May 4th. Nebraska is one of the few states that issued no stay at home order for its citizens. On May 4th, restaurants will be allowed to let customers inside as long as they operate under 50% of normal capacity. Businesses like salons, barbers, tattoo parlors, and massage centers are limited to 10 people in a store at a time. They are also required to wear face coverings or masks. Churches will also be allowed to continue worship as long as those attending stay 6 feet apart. All other businesses like bars and theaters are required to stay closed until May 31st.
The current stay at home order is set to expire on April 30th but Governor Sisolak says the state is currently not ready to reopen. Despite that, Mayors in cities like Las Vegas have been urging for the reopening of Casinos. Currently, there is no set reopening time or plan for casinos or other similar businesses in the state.
As of now, there is no expiration date to New Jersey’s stay at home order that began on March 21st. Like many other states in the area, New Jersey has teamed up with its Northeastern neighbors like New York and Delaware to develop a plan on when to reopen their economies.
Governor Grishman has extended New Mexico’s stay at home order until May 15th. After that period, there will be a gradual reopening of some businesses if conditions are safe to do so. The governor states that there is “no magical date” for when the state will be safe to reopen all businesses.
One of the hardest-hit states, New York has some of the most detailed plans for COVID 19. Governor Cuomo’s “New York State on PAUSE” executive order was issued on March 22nd. There is no clear end date for New York’s restrictions, but as of now, nonessential businesses are required to stay closed until May 15th. The state officials have stated the reopening is going to happen in phases once the state meets the federal guidelines that hospitalizations decline for 14 days. The first phase includes construction and manufacturing businesses to continue. The second phase would be implemented by a business-by-business analysis of risk. Governor Cuomo did state that each phase will have a 2 week period between to monitor the results.
North Carolina’s current stay at home order for North Carolina is extended through May 8th. Governor Cooper has stated the state could open in three phases if COVID-19 cases continue to decrease. Phase one would be that stay at home orders would remain, but some non-essential businesses will be able to open. Phase two includes the lifting of stay at home orders for those not at risk and the reopening of bars, restaurants, and churches under reduced capacity. Phase three would ease the restrictions for at-risk populations and allowed increased attendance at businesses and social gatherings.
North Dakota has stated that many closed businesses may be allowed to open on May 1st. The state is another one of the few places with no explicit stay at home order and only shut down schools, gyms, restaurants, salons, and theaters. Governor Burgum says that he is going to follow the federal guidelines in deciding to officially reopen the state.
Governor Dewine’s stay at home order currently extends until May 1st. After that, the state will begin its first phases of reopening but do not have any specifics at this time. As of now, large events with big crowds are not expected to open anytime soon.
Oklahoma began lifting restrictions on businesses as early as April 24th. The reopening plan is a three-phase operation that will progress when COVID-19 data tells state officials it is safe to do so. Restaurants, theaters, gyms, and sporting events will be allowed to open after May 1st if they follow strict social distancing practices. On the other hand, bars will remain closed.
Governor Brown issued an executive order requiring citizens to stay at home and will stay in effect until ended by her. There has been no official word on when the order will end but some restrictions on businesses will be lifted on May 1st. This will allow hospitals, surgical centers, and medical and dental offices to resume nonemergency procedures as long as they follow safe COVID-19 distancing and sanitation practices. State officials say more restrictions will not be eased until the state sees the following: a decrease in the growth of active COVID-19 cases, sufficient personal protective equipment available, large open capacity in hospitals, increased testing, tracing and isolating of new cases, and plans on how to protect at-risk communities.
Pennsylvania is set to reopen the state in three phases that begin on May 8th. The phases, broken down in red, yellow, and green, will be analyzed and remain in the interest of flattening the curve in the state. Recently, Governor Wolf announced that marinas, golf courses, guided fishing trips, and private campgrounds are allowed to reopen on May 1st under the condition that they follow social distancing protocols. The state has joined with its northeastern neighbors to develop a plan on when it is safe to reopen their economies.
Rhode Island’s current stay at home order extends until May 8th and is actively working on new measures to open parks and beaches. Governor Raimondo is actively working with neighboring states in the Northeast to develop a collective plan on how they should open their economies.
South Carolina allowed the reopening of some retail stores on April 20th. This included department stores, sporting goods stores, flea markets, businesses that sell books, furniture, music, flowers, clothing, and accessories. This was done under the condition that the businesses remained at 20% regular capacity or 5 people per 1000 square feet. Governor McMaster’s State of Emergency has been extended until May 12th.
South Dakota never issued an official stay at home order. Governor Noem stated that despite that, the citizens of South Dakota were staying home at greater rates than states that had an active shelter in place order.
Governor Lee has allowed restaurants and retail outlets to open as long as they remain at 50% capacity. Additionally, some state parks have been allowed to return to business as usual. There is no official word on when other businesses will be able to reopen or have restrictions lifted.
Stay at Home orders for Texas currently extend till April 30th. Retail stores, restaurants, malls, theaters, museums, and libraries will be allowed to reopen on May 1st if they limit to 25% of their regular operating capacity.
Utah’s “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive extends until May 1st. Despite that, all schools will remain closed for the remainder of the year. The state has not issued an official stay at home mandate, but citizens have been urged to stay at home as much as possible and restaurants are not allowed to have dining rooms operating. Utah is currently developing a plan for how and when further restrictions will be lifted.
Vermont has a similar “Stay Safe, Stay Home” order that extends until May 15th. Governor Scott has also developed a 5 point plan on how to open the state while fighting the COVID-19 outbreak. Phase one of the plan included allowing construction businesses, home appraisers, municipal clerks, and property managers to continue work on April 20th if they followed social distancing measures. Starting on May 1st, farmers' markets will be allowed to open as long as the social distancing guidelines are followed.
The state of Virginia’s stay at home order is effective until June 10th. Reopening the state will be done in a way that focuses on public health, says Governor Northam. Limiting state restrictions will be done in phases outlined in the “Forward Virginia” blueprint. Steps include continued social distancing, limited public gatherings, the use of masks in public, etc. The state will begin reopening when data and health experts suggest it is safe to do so.
Stay at Home orders in Washington state currently last until May 4th. Additionally, most parks and recreational areas will be allowed to open on May 5th. Washington has joined California, Oregan, Nevada, and Colorado in the Western States Pact to determine when it is safe to reopen their economies.
Governor Justice has introduced the “Comeback Roadmap” as an outline of how the state will reopen going forward. The plan contains three phases that are broken up into weeks. Week one allows hospitals to start elective medical procedures and also allows the reopening of outpatient healthcare including primary care, dental, mental health, and more. Daycare centers will also be allowed to reopen. Week two would allow businesses with less than 10 workers to go back to work. Restaurants with outdoor seating could resume service and church and funerals services could start again. In the third phase, which is a three-week process, includes retail stores, gyms, hotels, spas, casinos, and other businesses to reopen. Additionally, offices and government businesses could return. Each of these phases would include the required temperature checks and mask-wearing.
Governor Evers’ stay at home order extends until May 26th. Restrictions were lifted on certain businesses like libraries, arts and crafts stores, and other places that provided materials needed to make face masks as long as they could provide curbside pickup. Golf courses have also opened around the state.
Another state without an official stay at home order, Wyoming did request a federal disaster declaration on April 9th. Currently, all out of state travelers are required to quarantine themselves for 14 days until April 30th.
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The Prestige: The prestige is about two stage magicians and their journey from partners to rivals. In this Christopher Nolan masterpiece these two men find themselves at odds following a catalytic tragedy. A usual stage trick of theirs involved Julia, Robert Angier’s (played by Hugh Jackman) wife, being tied and locked up then lowered into a locked glass cage filled with water, which she then would escape from. Starting off all as friends, things were going peachily until Alfred Borden (played by Christian Bale) decided to change up the act and use a different and more difficult knot for the trick. This was against the wishes of Angier but Borden still wanted to go through with it. That night on the stage Julia wasn’t able to get out. In one of the most frustrating scenes I can think of in cinematic history, Borden and Angier (Batman and Wolverine) watch idly by in horror as Cutter (played by Michael Caine, or more famously known as Alfred) is trying to break the glass detaining Julia. Because Borden made the change without Angier knowing beforehand this caused a rivalry that continued to spiral end escalate throughout the years. As competing magicians they continually and tirelessly worked to disclose each other’s new tricks and sabotage their acts. The actions of sabotage eventually lead them to extremes which result in tragic consequences. It starts with tricks such as catching a bullet. Once Angier discovers the trick he sabotages Borden, ultimately leading to Borden losing a finger. The final magic tricks from each involves cloning, prison, and murder? A star studded cast of Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson and many more, this is one movie that deserves to be watched by all. Thor Ragnarok: Thor Ragnarok in my opinion is the greatest of all 23 currently released marvel movies. Taika Waititi is a creative genius and was allowed to use those skills in his adaptation for this movie. The aesthetic makeup of this movie is bold, vibrant and quite simply childish, exactly something you would anticipate the inner workings of Taika’s mind to be like. What makes this film different from all the rest is the lightheartedness and quality humor that percolates throughout the entirety of this theatric masterpiece. Snide humor such as Thor and Hulk’s reunion in the arena of Sakar when Thor says “we’re friends from work” to the spectators. This line was a from a Make-A-Wish child who suggested it for the scene when he visited the set. Nearly every scene with Korg is an instant favorite, filled with one-liners made even better by the New Zealand accent. To top Korg off he is played by none other than director Taika Waititi. One thing that I did find irksome however was highlighted when watching “how it should have ended”. In the film Thor is easily incapacitated by a shocking device that is planted on him by Valkyrie. It makes you question how, if the device works so effectively on Thor then why wouldn’t they use it on Hela? The biggest change in this movie from the others, for Thor’s character perspective at least (pre endgame), was when Stan Lee hacked off his luscious locks. It seemed to completely change my image of the character but for the better. Originally, I hated that they would do such a thing. However, I like the new look and once he went back to long hair I found myself almost longing for the short haired version. When people who are against Marvel/ Superhero movies for some reason this is the film to suggest. It isn’t like all the others which cause you to feel almost comatose because the atmosphere, storyline, or whatever is not the same. Instead of responding to the question of “how was the movie” with “it was a typical superhero flick” Thor Ragnarok warrants a better response, a positive response, one that doesn’t group it with all the other superhero movies. The Patriot: Mel Freaking Gibson. This film is a journey and a half of the American Revolutionary war. Here’s the storyline given on IMDB “It is 1776 in colonial South Carolina. Benjamin Martin, a French-Indian war hero who is haunted by his past, now wants nothing more than to live peacefully on his small plantation, and wants no part of a war with the most powerful nation in the world, Great Britain. Meanwhile, his two eldest sons, Gabriel and Thomas, can't wait to enlist in the newly formed "Continental Army." When South Carolina decides to join the rebellion against England, Gabriel immediately signs up to fight...without his father's permission. But when Colonel William Tavington, British dragoon, infamous for his brutal tactics, comes and burns the Martin Plantation to the ground, tragedy strikes. Benjamin quickly finds himself torn between protecting his family and seeking revenge along with being a part of the birth of a new, young, and ambitious nation.” One of the greatest cinematic antagonists Col. William Tavington is the catalyzing factor for all sorts of emotional highs. Being the cause for the deaths of Benjamin Martin’s children at the onset of the movie, you find yourself cringing each time he makes an appearance. If you’re familiar with the Game of Thrones T.V. series then you will understand well when I say he gives the same emotional trauma as King Joffrey did. It’s not only because he killed Eddard Stark but the way he did it that caused you to despise him, among other things, that draws remarkable contrast to the emotional “attachment” you feel towards Colonel Tavington. It doesn’t help that one of the son’s he kills is portrayed by the late Heath Ledger. Two fun facts about Heath Ledger in relation to this film are such: · “He didn’t work for a year because he only got offers for teen heartthrob roles. He was about to quit acting, and return to Australia, when he was cast in the film.” (And thank goodness because he is an incredible actor and we would have missed out on the greatest villain portrayal of all time in the Joker had he not remained in the acting world) · “Heath Ledger said researching the American Revolutionary War for the film answered his question of why Americans “wave their flag so high.” “It’s because they went to hell and back to build their country.” Being an American this film promotes ample feelings of patriotism and pride. Despite the fictional aspects it is always a great addition to any movie when applicable. Something about being reminded that the United States of America is the greatest and most skilled, powerful and dangerous militaristic forces can’t be undersold (some other great movie examples are Lone Survivor, 13 Hours and American Sniper) Warrior: Crying can be defined as: “to utter inarticulate sounds, especially of lamentation, grief, or suffering, usually with tears.” This emotion is not an unusual one to experience when watching your typical rom-com or drama, even a pixar or dreamworks animation can cause the waterworks to start flowing. Maybe there is something wrong with me but I have never been brought to the point of tears while watching a movie. Not when they put down Marley in Marley and Me, nor when Iron Man died at the end of Endgame, not even when Mufasa was killed by Scar in the Lion King (and we all know that that is at least in the top 3 of the saddest cinematic scenes of all time). So, how is it that the closest I got to crying was in a movie whose storyline is: “Two brothers face the fight of a lifetime - and the wreckage of their broken family - within the brutal, high-stakes world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting in Lionsgate's action/drama, WARRIOR. A former Marine, haunted by a tragic past, Tommy Riordan returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh and enlists his father, a recovered alcoholic and his former coach, to train him for an MMA tournament awarding the biggest purse in the history of the sport. As Tommy blazes a violent path towards the title prize, his brother, Brendan, a former MMA fighter unable to make ends meet as a public school teacher, returns to the amateur ring to provide for his family. Even though years have passed, recriminations and past betrayals keep Brendan bitterly estranged from both Tommy and his father. But when Brendan's unlikely rise as an underdog sets him on a collision course with Tommy, the two brothers must finally confront the forces that tore them apart, all the while waging the most intense, winner-takes-all battle of their lives.“ Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is not the most emotionally stimulating category but yet this movie was able to bring me nigh unto tears, twice. The first was a scene involving Tommy Conlon (portrayed by the talented Tom Hardy) and his father Paddy Conlon (played by Nick Nolte). Throughout the film you feel bad for Paddy as he is just trying to make amends for the terrible father figure he was, on his journey to find his way back into either of his sons polar opposite lives. It climaxes for him when he is at the casino and is emotionally destroyed by his son. You next see him in his hotel suite listening to a tape recorder and drunk (which destroyed his sobriety that he had been working so hard on so he could be allowed back into Brendan Conlon’s life). Tommy takes over and helps his father get into bed then comforts him as he sobs himself to sleep in his son’s arms. The second scene is the finale. Brothers Tommy and Brendan fight their way through a major tournament to ultimately meet each other in the championship. Here’s the script of the final scene: “Brendan climbs into the cage as the house LIGHTS DIM. The crowd is going bonkers. And they EXPLODE when Tommy appears at the end of the tunnel with his hoodie up and begins his march toward the cage. The Marines shower him with cheers and "Hoo-ahs." The girls scream. The rest of the audience stamps their feet and chants his name. But he acknowledges no one, and the hard look on his face never wavers. INT. COLT'S PITTSBURGH FIGHT CLUB - MOMENTS LATER Fenroy and the crew on the edge of their seats, all staring at the big screen. ON TV SCREEN: TOMMY GETTING GREASED UP AND CLIMBING INTO THE CAGE. INT. TAXI - SAME A nervous Paddy sits in the back of the cab as the DRIVER navigates through holiday traffic. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA CAGE - SAME And here it is. The two brothers face to face in the middle of the ring, staring each other down. Tommy with his usual controlled fire, Brendan intense, searching his brother's eyes for some flicker of recognition. JOSH ROSENTHAL Gentlemen, this is the final. Five rounds. I expect a clean fight. Obey my commands at all times. Defend yourselves at all times. Touch gloves, go back, let's do this. As Rosenthal finishes his instructions, Brendan peers into Tommy's empty corner. BRENDAN Where's Pop? Tommy turns without answering. All business. Brendan returns to his corner. Looks at Tess. So much emotion on her face. 96. JOSH ROSENTHAL Gentlemen, are you ready? Are you ready? Let's go to war! Tommy comes right after his brother. Just like with his previous three opponents. A natural wrecking machine. Frank screams at Brendan to stay calm, but Tommy is all over him, POUNDING on him with savage intensity. As bad as the other fights were for Brendan, this one is worse. EXT. STARLIGHT DRIVE-IN - SAME The crowd is tense and subdued. It's not going well. ON MOVIE SCREEN: TOMMY KEEPS TATTOOING BRENDAN WITH HEAD SHOTS. BEATS HIS BROTHER WITH MALICE. IT'S HARD TO WATCH. INT. COLT'S PITTSBURGH FIGHT CLUB - SAME Fenroy and company thoroughly enjoying themselves. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA - SAME Tommy continues to batter Brendan, then he swoops in, picks him up, and SLAMS his big brother into the ground. Then he does it again. And again. And again. Brendan, the wind knocked out of him, is on his back, trying to protect himself from Tommy, who mounts him and starts blasting away with a BLUR of lefts and rights. The only thing that saves Brendan is the HORN. Which Tommy ignores, blasting his brother with a brutal CHEAP SHOT to the jaw well after the round had ended. TESS What was that! FRANK C'mon, Josh! Brendan lays on the ground as Josh Rosenthal pulls Tommy off him and admonishes him for the cheap shot. Tommy stares at Brendan. You want more? Frank runs into the cage with the stool and Brendan limps over to him and sits down. Brendan stares at Tommy, who paces in his corner like a caged animal. FRANK (CONT'D) Sit down. Look at me. Look at me, Brendan! Let it go! Breathe. (MORE) 97. FRANK (CONT'D) Beethoven. He's coming hard, just like we planned. I want you to angle out, hit, and move. BRENDAN Angle out, hit, and move. FRANK Good. Breathe. Relax. He's not your brother, right? He's just a guy who's in the way. Josh Rosenthal claps his hands. It's time. Frank glares at him as he picks up the stool. FRANK (CONT'D) I'm taking a little more time for the cheap shot! Do your job, Josh! Tess sits uncomfortably in her chair. Her husband's face is a mess. In front of her, Callen and Sheridan commiserate. J.J., the TapouT crew, and Colt Boyd look on. The electricity in the crowd is greater than ever. They want a champion. EXT. STARLIGHT DRIVE-IN - MOMENTS LATER Very quiet at the Drive-In. It's tough for everyone to watch what's happening to Brendan. ON MOVIE SCREEN: ROUND TWO. A REPEAT OF ROUND ONE. TOMMY JUST WHALING ON BRENDAN AND BRENDAN TRYING TO HANG ON FOR DEAR LIFE. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA - SAME The Marines in the crowd are all on their feet, screaming for Tommy to end it. The chant starts up again. 15,000 strong. "Tommy! Tommy! Tommy!" Frank tries to instruct Brendan, but he can't hear him, and he's too overwhelmed. Tommy presses Brendan against the cage and does the same thing Koba did. He lifts him off the ground, carries him on a dead run, and body SLAMS him so hard the cage shakes. Then Tommy mounts him and starts pounding away again. The HORN sounds ending the round, but this time it's Brendan who pops up and pushes Tommy. Tommy shoves him back. Rosenthal has to separate them as the crowd roars its approval. 98. CALLEN (V.O.) Here we go, Mom! Time to lock up your china, the boys are at it again! INT. COLT'S PITTSBURGH FIGHT CLUB - LATER Fenroy and company watching the big screen. ON TV SCREEN: ROUND THREE. MORE TOMMY DOMINATION, BUT BRENDAN IS SOMEHOW TAKING IT. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA CAGE - SAME Again, Tommy is on top of Brendan, trying to ground and pound him into submission. Frank, leaning on the apron nearby, screams at Brendan. FRANK Switch! Switch! Tommy tries to pound Brendan out, but Brendan latches on to Tommy's arm, wraps his legs around him, and REVERSES position, just as he did with Midnight, the Dane, and Koba. Tommy is in deep trouble. Brendan pushes him face down on the canvas and cranks his shoulder. There's no escape. SHERIDAN (V.O.) Oh my God, that's a deep omoplata! CALLEN (V.O.) He's doing it again! Conlon's doing it again! This is going to be over! Brendan applies intense pressure. Tommy's shoulder is contorted, WRENCHED backwards, and his face is a mask of pain. Tommy's in agony, but he won't give in. BRENDAN Tap, Tommy! Tommy SHRIEKS like an animal, but still won't quit. In fact, he elbows Brendan in the face in defiance. Brendan in turn cranks the shoulder even more. It's at the breaking point. BRENDAN (CONT'D) Tap! The shoulder twists. Twists. And then, audible only to Tommy and Brendan, CRACK. Dislocated. Then the HORN ending the round. 99. Brendan, worried he hurt his brother, leans over to see if Tommy's alright, but Tommy, like a wounded animal, leaps up and grabs Brendan around the throat with his one good arm. He shoves him all the way across the cage and into the fence, and it takes Rosenthal and Frank to separate them. EXT. STARLIGHT DRIVE-IN - SAME The crowd fired up by Brendan's comeback, and mesmerized by what's taking place in the cage between the brothers. It's complete and utter chaos in there. ON MOVIE SCREEN: TOMMY PACES IN HIS CORNER, HIS SHOULDER WRECKED. JOSH ROSENTHAL TRIES TO SEE IF HE'S ALRIGHT BUT TOMMY TURNS AWAY. HE'S NOT QUITTING AND NO ONE'S GOING TO TELL HIM HE HAS TO. INT. COLT'S PITTSBURGH FIGHT CLUB - SAME Sheer amazement that Tommy didn't submit. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA CAGE - SAME Tommy, flap down, tears of pain pouring down his face, stands defiantly in his corner. In the other corner, Frank attends Brendan. In the crowd, Tess covers her mouth. She can't believe what Tommy allowed to happen to him. Frank puts the stool down and gives Brendan some water. Brendan's face is wracked with guilt and concern over his brother. BRENDAN I popped his shoulder. FRANK Relax, breathe. BRENDAN I heard it tear. FRANK You popped his shoulder? Good. I want you to pop his other shoulder. This is not what Brendan wants to hear. He looks over to Josh Rosenthal. BRENDAN Josh! 100. Frank snaps. Grabs Brendan by the face. FRANK Hey! Hey! No Josh! Look at me! You got two rounds left! You need both rounds! Go in there, kick him in the head, take him down, and finish him! Rosenthal claps his hands. Frank exits the cage. The wounded Tommy stands in his corner, his ruined left arm hanging low. Brendan makes eye contact with him. BRENDAN Tommy! What are you doing? TOMMY Shut up! C'mon. BRENDAN What are you that crazy? JOSH ROSENTHAL Let's go to war! The BELL sounds. Round Four begins. Tommy throws useless right jabs. He's one handed and has no chance. Brendan stays away from him, not wanting to hurt his brother. BRENDAN What are you doing? It's over! Frank screams at Brendan from cageside to take the wounded Tommy out, but Brendan is reluctant. BRENDAN (CONT'D) It's over, Tommy. C'mon. We don't have to do this. Tommy and Brendan circle each other. Tommy throwing rights and wincing in agony at any movement. Brendan stares at him. Everything about him says "Quit, Tommy." But Tommy won't. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA TUNNEL - SAME Paddy runs up the tunnel, his All Access pass around his neck, and enters the arena. Sees Brendan and Tommy in the cage. Quickly figures out what the situation is. 101. EXT. STARLIGHT DRIVE-IN - SAME Zito and the kids staring at the screen, imploring Brendan to take the helpless Tommy out and win the championship. INT. BOARDWALK HALL CAGE - SAME Brendan continues to circle and not engage. Frank is livid. He knows he'll lose the fight on the judges' scorecards if he doesn't do something. FRANK Finish him! You finish him! Tommy keeps throwing defiant right jabs at Brendan. Finally, with no choice, Brendan fires back. He batters the defenseless Tommy up against the cage and POUNDS away at him, blasting his left shoulder with punches that make Tommy wince in pain. It's anyone's guess how he can take it. Brendan presses his brother up against the cage. Begging him to quit. But Tommy merely responds by elbowing Brendan in the face again. This sets the older brother off, and he resumes pounding on Tommy until the HORN sounds and Rosenthal pulls Brendan away. JOSH ROSENTHAL Break! Break! Brendan heads back to his stool as Tommy leans against the cage in agony. The Marines scream for him, but his eyes are glazed over. It's unthinkable that he hasn't broken yet. From near cageside, Paddy looks to the corner and makes eye contact with Brendan. They exchange a small look of understanding. A NOD. They both know what needs to be done. EXT. STARLIGHT DRIVE-IN - SAME The crowd wants a victory. Tito and the boys start the "Mis- ter C!" chant again. ON MOVIE SCREEN: FRANK ADMONISHES BRENDAN IN HIS CORNER. IT'S OBVIOUS WHAT HE'S TELLING HIM, BUT BRENDAN'S EYES ARE FAR AWAY. HE'S NOT LISTENING TO A WORD. INT. BOARDWALK HALL CAGE - MOMENTS LATER Tommy and Brendan stand for Round Five. Tommy's face is battered after Round Four and Brendan's face is ruined. 102. In the crowd, the "Tommy" CHANT begins in earnest. In fact, it may be louder than ever. Having done the impossible and carried on with one arm, Tommy is more superhuman and heroic than ever before. But his face tells another story. Soaked in pain and anguish. All his stoic walls crumbling down. INT. COLT'S PITTSBURGH FIGHT CLUB - MOMENTS LATER All eyes riveted to the screen, where the brothers circle each other as in the fourth round. ON SCREEN: MORE PAINFUL STABBING JABS FROM TOMMY. BRENDAN GIVES HIM ONE LAST, LONG LOOK, BUT TOMMY RESPONDS BY KICKING HIM IN THE LEG. FINALLY, LEFT NO CHOICE, BRENDAN SWOOPS. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA CAGE - SAME Brendan SLAMS Tommy to the ground. His face is contorted in merciless pain. Brendan slips his forearm under Tommy's neck and squeezes. Tommy struggles, but he's got one arm and there's NO ESCAPE. His face getting red from lack of oxygen. As an anguished Tess and a shaken Paddy look on, Brendan CHOKES his brother. As he does, he pleads with him. BRENDAN I'm sorry, Tommy! I'm sorry! Tommy continues to struggle. BRENDAN (CONT'D) Tap, Tommy! Tap! Tears pour down Tommy's face. Brendan is crushing his wind pipe. Tommy's eyes bulge. BRENDAN (CONT'D) I love you, Tommy! I love you! Tommy, about to pass out, no more air to breathe, slowly opens his left hand, looks at Brendan, and TAPS his shoulder on the Conlon family crest. Finally submitting. EXT. STARLIGHT DRIVE-IN - SAME While most of the crowd erupts in celebration and the kids leap into each other's arms, Joe Zito stares at the screen. ON MOVIE SCREEN: AS PEOPLE ENTER THE RING, BRENDAN AND TOMMY STAY ON THE GROUND, BRENDAN CRADLING HIS BROTHER IN HIS ARMS. 103. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA CAGE - SAME Frank makes eye contact with the jubilant Tess. Indicates she should meet them in the locker room. Meanwhile, people pour into the cage. Frank pushes them aside, keeping them away from Brendan and Tommy, who remain on the ground, exhausted. Tommy to begins to WEEP. INT. COLT'S PITTSBURGH FIGHT CLUB - SAME Silence at Colt's. Everyone spent from what they've seen. ON TV SCREEN: CHAOS IN THE RING. BRENDAN HOLDS TOMMY IN HIS ARMS AND PUSHES AWAY A DOCTOR. INT. BOARDWALK HALL ARENA CAGE - SAME Tommy buries his head in Brendan's chest. A torrent of sobbing gushes from him, years of pain pouring out in heavy bursts. From the crowd, Paddy stares into the cage and watches as Brendan comforts his little brother, then helps him to his feet. Callen, Sheridan, and J.J. Riley make their way inside for the post-fight interview, cameras trailing behind them. With Frank continuing to run interference, Brendan pushes through the crush of people, arm around Tommy, and exits the cage. The crowd parts for Tommy and Brendan. Paddy watches them, a tear in his eye. He's overwhelmed by the sight of his two boys together again. As the noise from the arena fades, the brothers walk through the wild crowd and continue on through the tunnel, arm in arm... THE END For me, the part the just punched me right through the gut was when Brandon started talking to Tommy, “I’m sorry, Tommy! I’m sorry!... Tap, Tommy! Tap!... I Love you, Tommy! I love you!”. As soon as this is all over Today by The National begins to play and it just causes you to melt inside. Warrior Is A Cinematic Masterpiece! And, if it can almost make me cry then it has my respect. Batman Trilogy: Batman Begins – The Beginning of one of the greatest trilogies out there. Christian Bale accepted the mantle of portraying the caped crusader and brought us one of the finest live action superhero movies. In a reversed dogmatism, the first film of the series was the worst of the three. Were I to make any changes to batman in general, in all the adaptations out there, the “batman voice” is one of my least favorite things. Why in the world does he need to talk like that? If people aren’t able to piece together who he is then changing his voice is more so just an awkward attempt to add another aspect to the film. Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors in Hollywood and Batman is no exception. Liam Neeson is a legend and making him the main villain, Ra’s Al Ghul,, made me happy. The Dark Knight – The Dark Knight is the best of the three, and that is because of Heath Ledger and his genius take as the Joker. Chalk full of one-liners his performance was so great that he won an academy award. - “Do you wanna know how I got these scars?” - “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” - “How about a magic trick? I’m gonna make this pencil disappear. Ta-daa! It’s… it’s gone.” He showed off more talents than with just his acting. He directed both homemade videos that The Joker sends to GCN. As Christian Bale takes this journey of toeing the line with one of the greatest villains you’re constantly on edge, as is typical of a Christopher Nolan movie, wondering how close Batman is really going to get to breaking his one rule of killing someone. One dislike or complaint that I had for the movie was the casting choice for Rachael. Although she is Jake Gyllenhalls sister, I don’t have much care for her as an actress and feel like they could have, and should have, cast someone else in the role, especially since she does play an important part in not just The Dark Knight, but through into the next movie as well. The Dark Knight Rises – The voice of Bane is a heavy favorite among people. Plenty of memes have been created using Tom Hardy’s portrayal of him. Despite being just 5 foot 9 inches and Christian Bale 6 foot, the camera work makes it seem as though bane is a behemoth of a man compared to him. He was too big (tone wise) from his role in Warrior so in the dark knight they made him put on a little bit more of mass to make him look like he did in the movie. I remember the scene where he picked up batman and broke his back and his dialogue “I was wondering what would break first, your spirit, or your body”. The scene sent chills throughout my body and now every time the movie is on, no matter where I am or who I am with, there is without fail at least one person who will say the line along with him. When I first heard that Anne Hathaway was going to be playing catwoman I was a little upset. However, she did an incredible job and I ended up really liking her performance and my mind was changed. In this concluding film of the trilogy I was left at the end hoping that they were going to make another film with Robin since they teased him but unfortunately that never came to fruition. Peanut Butter Falcon: Top 3 movies of all time. Peanut Butter Falcon is the story of three people, Zak (Zack Gottsagen), Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) and Tyler (Shia LaBeouf). Let’s start with Zak. Zak is a down-syndrome kid who is confined to a nursing home because he has no family. He loves wrestling and wants to attend his favorite wrestler’s (Salt Water Redneck) wrestling school. One night with the help of his roomie, Carl, he covers himself up with lotion and slips through the bars that were put on his window since he tried to escape just a few days prior. As he is hiding out in a boat, in just his whitey tighties, the boat is suddenly boarded and takes off through the marshes. Eleanor. Sweet Eleanor, a nursing home employee is responsible for Zak. Upon his runaway she is commanded essentially by her boss to find him before he has to report it to the authorities and government. Tyler. The getaway boat driver is the main character. He lost it all essentially when his older brother died in a car crash. In an act of retaliation he burns down a fishers equipment and jumps on his boat to escape from them. This boat had a stowaway hiding in the back who almost got him caught, that stowaway was Zak. Initially Tyler is trying to get rid of Zak as soon as they get to some civilization but since Zak is determined to get to the wrestling school Tyler agrees to help him get there (after a few unfortunate events that sort of force him into it.) So Zak and Tyler, Shia LaBeouf and a down syndrome kid, brodies, set out on their journey with Eleanor trying desperately to find Zak. Tyler and Zak develop a very special and close bond with each other as they are trekking to their destination. Eventually Eleanor catches up to them and is livid at Tyler since she ran into him a few days before and he lied about knowing anything about Zak. Zak forces Eleanor’s hand into coming with them on their journey as he throws her keys into the water. The three of them set out and become a makeshift ragtag family. This is just one of those movies that you can watch multiple times a year and not get sick of. Additionally, it is because of this film that Shia LaBeouf has started to make a resurgence into the film industry and recreated himself. If you watch an emotional video you can see how much Zak changed Shia’s life and it only adds to the connection you feel to them and their characters as you embrace this heart warming adventure tale
I love Hitman. It’s the only video game franchise that I’ve played in its entirety, and it’s a series I will keep playing for years to come, regardless of whether or not they ever release Hitman 3. The key to Hitman’s greatness is its replayability. Every level has more than one solution, and the best have seemingly countless. I love sitting down with pretty much any Hitman game, loading up a favourite level, and executing a perfect hit in a way I’ve never done before. Don’t ask me about the overarching story, because I’ve only played most of these games linearly once, but ask me the best way to assassinate both targets at the fashion show and boy do I have tales to tell. So without further ado, here’s my rundown of every level in every main Hitman game with a brief write up and an overall replayability score. It may be a little obsessive, but hey, that’s part of the fun of being a Hitman fan. (If you’re wondering, the best way to kill both targets in at the fashion show is to push Dalia off a balcony onto Victor below. Seriously, it’s the greatest feeling in the world) Hitman: Codename 47 This is where it all began, and it’s absolutely a game Hitman fans should play once. I don’t think it holds up all that well but it’s fascinating to see where a lot of the series’ trademarks came from. As you probably know, the majority of the levels in the game were remade in Hitman: Contracts; I think Contracts improves on them significantly, so I will be leaving them out of my Codename 47 ratings, and discussing them when we get to Hitman: Contracts. 1 - Training - Ort-Meyer’s Asylum, Romania Here we go - our intro to Agent 47 (well, “47” here). As far as training levels go, it’s pretty decent, doing a good job of explaining gameplay mechanics, without overstaying its welcome. I’ve only ever played it once, however, and feel like I got everything I need out of it. Replayability: ⅕ 2 - Kowloon Triads in Gang War - Chiu Dai Park, Kowloon, Hong Kong See Slaying a Dragon in Hitman: Contracts 3 - Ambush at the Wang Fou Restaurant - Wang Fou Restaurant, Kowloon, Hong Kong See The Wang Fou Incident in Hitman: Contracts 4 - The Massacre at Cheung Chau Fish Restaurant - Cheung Chau Fish Restaurant, Kowloon, Hong Kong See The Seafood Massacre in Hitman: Contracts 5 - The Lee Hong Assassination - Wang Fou Restaurant, Kowloon, Hong Kong See The Lee Hong Assassination in Hitman: Contracts 6 - Find the U'wa Tribe - Colombian Jungle The three missions in Columbia are some of my least favourite in all of Hitman-dom, simply because you have to play all three as third person shooters. Stealth is almost never an option, and it drives me INSANE. Replayability: ⅕ 7 - The Jungle God - Colombian Jungle More of the above, and I feel worse for that little pig than any target in Hitman history. Replayability: ⅕ 8 - Say Hello to My Little Friend - Pablo Ochoa’s Camp, Colombian Jungle Look, I don’t hate Codename 47. It’s just that the levels that weren’t remade mostly aren’t very good. Sorry, Codename 47 - this one’s gonna be a no from me. Replayability: ⅕ 9 - Traditions of the Trade - Hotel Gallàrd, Budapest See Traditions of the Trade in Hitman: Contracts 10 - Gunrunner’s Paradise - Harbor, Rotterdam See Deadly Cargo in Hitman: Contracts 11 - Plutonium Runs Loose - Harbor, Rotterdam See Deadly Cargo in Hitman: Contracts 12 - The Setup - Ort-Meyer’s Asylum, Romania I actually like this one! It can, and should, be done stealthily, and even though I don’t care very much about the overall story of Hitman, these last two levels are pretty interesting. I also like bringing patients the items they want. It’s not that replayable, but it’s definitely a cut above the Colombia ones. Replayability: ⅖ 13 - Meet Your Brother - Ort-Meyer’s Asylum, Romania After the stealthy fun of The Setup it’s a little disappointing that the game ends with a shooting gallery. That said, killing clones of 47 is fun to do once. Replayability: ⅕ Hitman: Codename 47 Average Replayability: ⅕ Hitman 2: Silent Assassin This was the first game in the series I played, and my god did I love it. It improves on everything that worked about Codename 47, and ditches pretty much everything that didn’t. It doesn’t all work quite as well as I remembered, but it’s still a good game. 1 - The Gontranno Sanctuary - Vittorio’s Church, Sicily We begin in a cute little Sicilian church, and while there isn’t anyone to kill here, I like revisiting this level from time to time because it’s very zen and 47 seems to genuinely enjoy not killing people for a change. Replayability: ⅖ 2 - Anathema - Villa Borghese, Sicily Before we know it 47 is back to his old tricks and Diana sends him to assassinate a mafia don. The setting is certainly limited by the graphics, and there isn’t a ton to do once you get into the compound, but this has the honour of being the first proper Hitman level I ever played, and will always have a special place in my heart. Replayability: ⅗ 3 - St. Petersburg Stakeout - St. Petersburg, Russia This is a great one. The location, the music, the time limit, and the process of elimination game you have to play to identify the general all works together to create a mission that I still enjoy going back to. Replayability: ⅗ 4 - Kirov Park Meeting - St. Petersburg, Russia While not as good as St. Petersburg Stakeout, there’s plenty of fun to be had either sniping or bombing the targets. And that Jesper Kyd score - my god. Replayability: ⅖ 5 - Tubeway Torpedo - St. Petersburg, Russia This one feels a bit like filler, but it’s always nice when Agent Smith pops up. Replayability: ⅕ 6 - Invitation to a Party - St. Petersburg, Russia I love just about any Hitman mission with civilians hanging out at what would otherwise be a fairly ordinary location. Invitation to a Party fits the bill, and I think it’s a wonderful conclusion to the Russia chapter of this game. Replayability: ⅗ 7 - Tracking Hayamoto - Hayamoto’s Mansion, Honshu, Japan Hitman in Japan is fun because Agent 47 is basically a ninja. This level isn’t amazing, but poisoning sushi while dressed up as a chef is extremely satisfying. Replayability: ⅖ 8 - Hidden Valley - Honshu, Japan Definitely filler. Replayability: ⅕ 9 -At the Gates - Honshu, Japan Wait, we still can’t kill Hayamoto?! If I was giving out zero scores, this would be the number one candidate. Replayability: ⅕ 10 - Shogun Showdown - Katsuyama Mansion, Honsu, Japan It isn’t totally worth the two levels of tedium it took to get here, but Shogun Showdown is a cool level. Dressing up as a ninja and sneaking around lasers just feels so right. Replayability: ⅖ 11 - Basement Killing - Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia This level is fairly easy, but I absolutely love it. It can be done so smoothly with practice, and I find either of the three basic solutions to be a blast. I’ve completed this level waaay too many times. Replayability: ⅘ 12 - Graveyard Shift - Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia This level would feel right at home in a Splinter Cell, which is never a bad thing. Replayability: ⅖ 13 - The Jacuzzi Job - Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Everything about The Jacuzzi Job is goofy fun, from the all-female guards to the rubber duck to the fact that Charlie is totally nude. I most definitely want to make boom boom with Charlie. Replayability: ⅗ 14 - Murder at the Bazaar - Nuristan, Afghanistan The most memorable thing about this section of the game is that 47 looks like Professor Quirrell from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Replayability: ⅕ 15 - The Motorcade Interception - Nuristan, Afghanistan Not only is this as dull as Hidden Valley it’s incredibly frustrating too. Hard pass. Replayability: ⅕ 16 - Tunnel Rat - Nuristan, Afghanistan Well, at least this is the last mission in Afghanistan. Replayability: ⅕ 17 - Temple City Ambush - Temple City, Punjab, India The layout of this level isn’t anything to write home about, but the surprise of the third assassin appearing never ceases to bring a smile to my face. Replayability: ⅖ 18 - The Death of Hannelore - Temple City Palace, Punjab, India The location is nice, but this mission’s just never done it for me. Replayability: ⅕ 19 - Terminal Hospitality - Hospital Island, Punjab, India Like the previous mission, there’s something about this one that just doesn’t click. The clone showing up at the end is kind of neat though. Replayability: ⅕ 20 - St. Petersburg Revisited - St. Petersburg, Russia I had forgotten how much this game sags at the end. We go BACK to St. Petersburg?! Replayability: ⅕ 21 - Redemption at Gontranno - Vittorio’s Church, Sicily Like Codename 47, we end where we began, and like Codename 47, we unfortunately end with a shooting gallery. It’s not a bad mission, just not a very replayable one. Replayability: ⅕ Hitman 2: Silent Assassin Average Replayability: ⅖ Hitman 2 Christmas Game Yes I’ve played this - no, you should not. Hitman: Contracts Like 2018’s Hitman 2, Contracts doesn’t set out to reinvent the wheel. What it does is focus on what made Silent Assassin great and do more of that. There are a few gameplay tweaks, but as far as mechanics go, Contracts mostly stays the course. What’s so special about it is the atmosphere; it’s by far the darkest Hitman game, and every level feels wonderfully seedy and grim. 1 - Asylum Aftermath - Ort-Meyer’s Asylum, Romania We start with the aftermath of 47 killing Ort-Meyer, and it’s a nice introduction to the basic concept of the game - revisiting the past. Replayability: ⅖ 2 - The Meat King’s Party - Slaughterhouse, Romania Everything about this mission is completely disgusting - I love it! Replayability: ⅘ 3 - The Bjarkhov Bomb - Remote Base, Siberia, Russia This mission feels very been-there-done-that, especially after the giddy grotesquery of The Meat King’s Party. Replayability: ⅕ 4 - Beldingford Manor - Beldingford Manor, England Oh HELL yes. One of the best Hitman missions ever, Beldingford Manor is the perfect illustration of what this series can offer. Interesting, but believable location - check. Endless ways to complete the mission - check. Wonderfully evil targets - check. Great score - check. So. Much. Atmosphere - check, check, check. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go play Beldingford Manor for the 100th time. Replayability: 5/5 5 - Rendezvous in Rotterdam - Flaming Rotterdam’s Compound, Rotterdam, Netherlands Bikers are kind of the worst. I don’t like their shitty attitudes, shitty music, or shitty decorating choices. I don’t like this level. Replayability: ⅕ 6 - Deadly Cargo This is the first full-on Codename 47 remake in the game, combining Gunrunner’s Paradise with Plutonium Runs Loose. The location isn’t the most exciting, but with a nuclear bomb to diffuse and a treasure trove of different ways to complete the mission, I’m not complaining. Replayability: ⅘ 7 - Traditions of the Trade - Hotel Galar, Budapest, Hungary Another home run, this level is dripping with atmosphere AND features a ghost. Yes please. Replayability: ⅘ 8 - Slaying a Dragon - Chiu Dai Park, Hong Kong This level can be completed so hilariously quickly that I never really feel like putting in the effort to try other solutions. Replayability: ⅕ 9 - The Wang Fou Incident - Wang Fou Restaurant, Hong Kong It wouldn’t work that well story-wise, but these Hong Kong missions should probably have been combined Deadly Cargo-style. They’re just too simple on their own. Replayability: ⅕ 10 - The Seafood Massacre - Cheung Chau Fish Restaurant, Hong Kong This one is quite fun, and framing someone else for murder is always a good time. Replayability: ⅖ 11 - The Lee Hong Assassination - Wang Fou Restaurant, Hong Kong It’s not a bad end to the Lee Hong series of levels, but it’s a bit anticlimactic. Agent Smith raises its pedigree slightly. Replayability: ⅖ 12 - Hunter and Hunted - Hotel, Paris, France 47 goes full Leon: The Professional and it’s glorious. Playing Contracts for the first time, a part of me knew this mission must be coming, but actually playing 47s impossible escape blew my expectations away. A superb end to a very underrated game. Replayability: 5/5 Hitman: Contracts Average Replayability: ⅗ Hitman: Blood Money What more can be said about Blood Money? It’s the game where everything just fell into place. 1 - Death of a Showman - Southland Amusement Park, Baltimore, USA It’s a testament to the greatness of Blood Money that even the training mission is excellent. It’s not as replayable as some of the truly legendary levels this game has to offer, but Death of a Showman is the perfect introduction to everyone’s favourite Hitman game. Replayability: ⅗ 2 - A Vintage Year - Colchagua Valley Vineyard, Chile This is a very good Hitman level, but it hasn’t stuck with me the way some of Blood Money has. Replayability: ⅗ 3 - Curtains Down - Garnier Opera House, Paris, France This is one of those levels that you can point to and say, “THAT’S what Hitman is.” It’s Hitchcockian in its construction, gorgeous, and may feature the most satisfying kill in any Hitman game. And can I mention how fantastic the mission titles are in Blood Money? Replayability: 5/5 4 - Flatline - Pine Cone Rehabilitation Centre, California, USA Three targets AND you get to rescue Agent Smith. Hitman had done medical centres before, but this was the best yet by far. 47 in a robe makes me chuckle every time. Replayability: ⅘ 5 - A New Life - Suburbs, San Diego, USA Dear god this game just keeps knocking it out of the park. This may be my favourite Hitman level of all time, and it all comes down to the simple location. There’s something so twisted about watching 47 stalk his prey in the suburbs; it’s like Michael Myers in Halloween. It’s an inversion of everyday life, and a brilliant examination of the darkness that can lurk just below the surface. Replayability: 5/5 6 - The Murder of Crows - New Orleans, Louisiana, USA The (ahem) hits keep coming. I sometimes forget just how many great levels Blood Money contains. This is the first Hitman level to feature a colossal amount of NPCs and IO Interactive really uses them to their full advantage. Pushing through a raucous crowd while wearing a bird costume - perfection. Replayability: ⅘ 7 - You Better Watch Out… - Rocky Mountains, USA Perhaps it’s due to the quadruple whammy preceding it, but this level doesn’t totally work for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good, but not quite Blood Money good. Replayability: ⅖ 8 - Death on the Mississippi - Emily, Mississippi, USA This is a damn good mission, and I love how many targets there are. Replayability: ⅗ 9 - Till Death Do Us Part - Mississippi, USA I’m truly torn over whether to give this a 4 or a 5. It’s wonderful, but maybe not quiiiite top tier. Maybe. I dunno - it’s amazing. This is really a 4.5 Replayability: ⅘ 10 - A House of Cards - Shamal Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, USA They really nail the feel of Vegas here, but something about this mission has never totally drawn me in. Replayability: ⅖ 11 - A Dance with the Devil - The Shark Club, Las Vegas, USA The concept for this level alone is mindblowing, but the (ahem) execution is just as flawless. This game is so good it makes me cry. Replayability: 5/5 12 - Amendment XXV - White House, Washington, USA Blood Money takes place mostly in America, so where better to have the final full level than the White House? It doesn’t quite reach the dizzying highs of some of Blood Money’s missions, but this is a supremely satisfying almost-finale. Replayability: ⅘ 13 - Requiem - Unknown, USA Ok, remember when I said I don’t really care about Hitman’s story? Or when I said I don’t like shooting galleries? Somehow all of that melts away in Requiem, and I’m left absolutely floored by this ending. As a mission it’s quick, but as a conclusion to the best Hitman game - flawless. Replayability: 5/5 Hitman: Blood Money Average Replayability: ⅘ Hitman: Vegas Well I thought I played all the Hitman games. There’s a great video review of this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbgKsgKZS8s and it does kind of make me want to give it a shot. Hitman: Sniper Challenge The first of three sniper games, Sniper Challenge is fun. I’m not going to include it in my rankings because it’s so different in concept, but it’s definitely worth checking out. Hitman: Absolution Ok, let’s talk about Hitman: Absolution. It’s...a really good game, and if it wasn’t called Hitman I don’t think many people would complain. Compared to Blood Money, Absolution is indeed a bit of a misstep for the series. There’s less freedom or need to experiment, and those are two of Hitman’s greatest strengths. Here’s the thing though - I will never hold it against an artist for trying something new. That’s what art is all about. Did the changes totally work? No. So they course-corrected, and four years later gave us exactly what we asked for. This game also looks and sounds great. Textures, lighting effects, and NPC dialogue are polished until they gleam. The gameplay is by far the smoothest the series had ever seen, and they even came up with a solid story, told through well produced cut scenes. I’m just gonna say it - I’m a fan of Absolution. Please don’t hate me. 1 - A Personal Contract - Outskirts of Chicago, USA The target’s Diana?! Right off the bat Absolution takes a hard left turn, and I’d put this training mission up right up there with Death of a Showman. It does a fantastic job of explaining how the game works (including the much-maligned but actually really fun point shooting feature), and looks absolutely stunning. Replayability: ⅗ 2 - The King of Chinatown - Chinatown, Chicago, USA I think even Absolution haters would have to admit this level is awesome. There are endless way to kill the King, and having them all be in such a contained space is really impressive. Replayability: ⅘ 3 - Terminus - Terminus Hotel, Chicago, USA This mission is...kind of dull. If all of Absolution were like this I’d definitely be in the “not a fan” camp. I’m giving it an extra point for the scary bear and the really cool way it ends. Replayability: ⅖ 4 - Run for Your Life - Chicago, USA Here is where this game very much announces how different it is from other Hitman games. This feels like a mission from a completely different series and I enjoy it a lot. Replayability: ⅗ 5 - Hunter and Hunted - The Vixen Club, Chicago, USA This mission is great! Going from the stripclub to Chinatown feels like something from 2016’s Hitman, and a quick glance at all the challenges available demonstrates just how much this level has to offer. Replayability: ⅘ 6 - Rosewood - Rosewood Orphanage, Chicago, USA This one’s OK. Starting with carrying Victoria is very tense and atmospheric, but once that part’s over the rest of the mission isn’t that memorable. Replayability: ⅖ 7 - Welcome to Hope - Hope, South Dakota, USA This mission is mostly cutscenes AND features bikers. No thank-you. Replayability: ⅕ 8 - Birdie’s Gift - Hope, South Dakota, USA Even though the mission is very easy to complete, I love this location. They totally nailed the look and feel of this particular kind of place and sneaking through a shooting range is terrifying in all the best ways. This is also a fun location for target practice. Replayability: ⅗ 9 - Shaving Lenny - Hope, South Dakota, USA Having the Hope Cougars be a 1950’s style greaser gang makes me so very happy. Another gorgeous location, with plenty of targets and lots of ways to get the job done. Replayability: ⅗ 10 - End of the Road - Desert, USA This level is a work of genius. It’s a brilliant subversion of everything we expect from a Hitman game, and once you start experimenting there are practically endless ways to complete a level that can technically be beaten in three seconds. Replayability: 5/5 11 - Dexter Industries - Hope, South Dakota, USA This mission has a great opening cutscene, but for the most part it’s pretty bland. Replayability: ⅕ 12 - Death Factory - Hope, South Dakota, USA There’s sooo many ways to complete this mission, but for whatever reason the layout of the level just doesn’t appeal to me so I rarely come back to it. Replayability: ⅖ 13 - Fight Night - Dexter Industries, Hope, USA Dressing up as a luchador and killing Sanchez in the ring is really fun, but there’s not a ton else to do here. Replayability: ⅖ 14 - Attack of the Saints - Waikiki Inn, Hope, USA This is another great location, but let’s face it, there’s only one correct way to do this, and it’s dressed as a scarecrow. But I will happily dress as a scarecrow over and over again. Replayability: ⅗ 15 - Skurky’s Law - Hope, South Dakota, USA Another very solid level, with some fun disguises, and a cameo from Kane! Replayability: ⅗ 16 - Operation Sledgehammer - Hope, South Dakota, USA Operation Sledgehammer is OK, but the best part by far is just walking towards the church at the end; it’s epic. Replayability: ⅖ 17 - One of a Kind - Chicago, USA There’s not much to do here, save for some cool Hitman easter eggs. Replayability: ⅕ 18 - Blackwater Park - Blackwater Park, Chicago, USA The game is definitely dragging at this point and the part with Layla trying to seduce 47 only to have him murder her is really mean-spirited. Replayability: ⅕ 19 - Countdown - Chicago, USA The fog is awesome, the countdown adds a great level of tension, and pushing people off the roof is a blast. Replayability: ⅘ 20 - Absolution - Cornwall, England This mission feels pretty tacked on, especially after Countdown, but 47 saying “You’ll never know” makes the whole thing worth it. Replayability: ⅖ Hitman: Absolution Average Replayability: ⅗ Hitman Go Hitman chilled out for a bit and released a couple more mobile games. I’m not going to include either in my level rankings because they aren’t typical Hitman levels at all, but Hitman Go is a must-play for any Hitman fan. It’s equal parts delightful and challenging, and every level is a minimalist work of art. Hitman: Sniper Hitman: Sniper is also worth checking out. It’s bogged down by the usual mobile game unlockable nonsense, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had here, and it’s ridiculously cheap if you don’t fall for any of the microtransactions. Hitman I’m a little bit torn on Hitman. Let’s start with the good: Sapienza and Hokkaido are fantastic locations that I can literally play endlessly. IO has fully embraced the sandbox nature of these games and when it all works it’s as good as Hitman has ever been. But...I really miss the personality of Contracts, Blood Money, and Absolution. It’s easier to create atmosphere when levels are smaller and more contained - that’s why a lot of open world games aren’t very distinctive. The massive levels in Hitman just haven’t stuck with me the way some of the best missions in other Hitman have. That said, all I need to do is load up Sapienza, Hokkaido, or Paris and I’m pretty much guaranteed a great time. This game is a little tough to break into missions since there so many are twists on the six main locations so I’m only going to focus on the story ones. I debated doing a write up for Patient Zero but considering it’s also in existing locations I’ll just say that it’s totally worth playing at least once, especially the final level, which is bananas. And I also want to give IO a shout out for their commitment to players. They were releasing content for Hitman pretty much up until the release of Hitman 2, and they really, really seem to care about everyone who plays this game having something new to do whenever they boot it up. 1 - Freeform Training - ICA Training Facility, Greenland I love the idea of having training be in a simulated ICA environment - it’s a great tongue in cheek nod to the artifice of games themselves, especially training levels. Knowing that everyone in the level is just acting gives every playthrough an added level of enjoyment and the general shittiness of the fake boat is perfect. Replayability: ⅘ 2 - The Final Test - ICA Training Facility, Greenland I could have stood to have only one simulated environment - two seems like overkill. Replayability: ⅖ 3 - The Showstopper - Palais de Walewska, Paris, France This level really feels like IO announcing that they listened to fans’ reaction to Absolution. It has more ways to complete it than any previous Hitman level and really rewards multiple playthroughs. The targets aren’t all that memorable, but this is a welcome return to Agent 47’s roots. Replayability: ⅘ 4 - World of Tomorrow - Sapienza, Italy Sapienza takes everything that makes The Showstopper work and cranks it up to 11. The location is maybe the prettiest in any Hitman game, the layout is perfect, and it’s a blast to walk around in 47’s casual clothes and just hang out in this perfect little Italian town. Replayability: 5/5 5 - A Gilded Cage - Marrakesh, Morocco This one’s a bit of a bummer. It’s competent but just isn’t all that fun. Replayability: ⅖ 6 - Club 27 - Bangkok, Thailand Definitely an improvement over Marrakesh, but not as good as Paris or Sapienza. Replayability: ⅗ 7 - Freedom Fighters - Colorado, USA Oh man - I really dislike this mission. It’s bland and easy and just feels like something from a much worse stealth game. Replayability: ⅕ 8 - Situs Inversus - Hokkaido, Japan Luckily, Hitman totally sticks the landing. Situs Inversus is even better than Flatline. It’s equal parts tranquille and creepily sterile, plus 47 gets to dress up as a ninja and run across rooftops with a samurai sword. It’s a perfect ending. Replayability: 5/5 Hitman Average Replayability: ⅗ Hitman 2 Hitman 2 is to Hitman what Contracts was to Silent Assassin; It’s so similar that you can even play all of Hitman 1 within it, utilizing all of the updated gameplay features. But, like Contracts, Hitman 2 takes everything that worked in Hitman and doubles down on it, creating a truly immersive experience. Each location has a distinct atmosphere and there’s a running theme of how unsustainable wealth and power is. This is the best Hitman game since Blood Money - it might be the best Hitman game ever made. IO, now an independent studio, includes another fun sniper mode called Sniper Assassin, and there’s even multiplayer for the first time. Ghost Mode basically pits you against Agent 47 from an alternate universe and you compete with another player to try and get the best score on a level - it’s fantastic. There’s also plenty of single-player DLC yet to be released. It saddens me that the game isn’t doing super well commercially, and I really, really hope there will someday be a Hitman 3. I’m on board for life, IO, and I know a lot of other people are too. 1 - Nightcall - Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand Nightcall features a nice location and there are quite a few ways to get the job done, but I definitely prefer the training level in Hitman. Replayability: ⅖ 2 - The Finish Line - Miami, USA Oh man - this is one for the ages. There’s so much to do, and it feels like four levels all in one. Every mission story is worth playing, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll be playing this one for years to come. Replayability: 5/5 3 - Three-Headed Serpent - Santa Fortuna, Colombia The only Codename 47 location that had never been revisited was Colombia and Three-Headed Serpent makes the return trip worth the wait. It’s nothing like the Colombia missions in Codename 47, but it’s a great level. I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the things to do, and the three distinct elements - the military, the wealth, and the drugs - all play beautifully off one another. Replayability: ⅘ 4 - Chasing a Ghost - Mumbai, India This level really shows off how much better the voice acting is in Hitman 2 compared to Hitman. Mumbai feels truly alive, and the level’s tight, labyrinthian structure is so packed with authentic details I would often stop just to marvel at the sun blazing from behind a skyscraper or to appreciate the all the little elements that were combined to create the laundry foreman’s office building. Trying to find the Maelstrom isn’t quite as fun as I hoped it would be, however, and I think the mission could have done without him. Replayability: ⅘ 5 - Another Life - Whittleton Creek, Vermont, USA As a huge fan of A New Life, this feels like a level created just for me (though I’m sure there are many, many other New Life fans out there). The scale of this compared to the original absolutely blows me away, and like the original, discovering all the darkness hiding beneath the veneer of small-town Americana makes for a wonderful juxtaposition. Whether it’s a creepy basement full of poison and baking or a politician with some truly reprehensible ideas, it’s eminently clear that 47 isn’t the only boogeyman in town. Replayability: 5/5 6 - The Ark Society - Isle of Sgàil, North Atlantic Ocean All the themes of class structure and wealth disparity come to a head in a perfect final mission. This article by Cameron Kunzelman beautifully articulates what makes this level, and Hitman as a whole, so special: https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/4397e3/hitman-2-makes-you-the-catastrophe-everyone-is-dreading I’ll end by saying that I encountered a bug during my first playthrough of this mission and was unable to load any of my saves, forcing me to restart. With most games this would be a chore, but with Hitman I eagerly dove back in, and immediately discovered a completely new way to take out a target. That’s why I love Hitman so much. Replayability: 5/5 Hitman 2 Average Replayability: 4/5
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