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Hilda Review

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(Photo Credit: http://www.animationmagazine.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/hilda-post2.jpg)

Hilda is a charming and overall very likable series on Netflix which I highly recommend checking out. It is the type of show I could see people watching on a cold fall night just before winter has fully settled in the air, or during a snowy winter’s day when you have nothing to do but curl up with a nice cup of hot cocoa (extra marshmallows, butterscotch syrup, and whipped cream) curled up nice and tight with a favorite pillow or blanket for warmth. It’s one of those unassuming shows that mostly fly underneath people’s radar, but I personally think it deserves an advocate, despite how simple and unassuming it might be. It may just be a silly little kid’s show, but once in a while I think silly little kid’s shows deserve their limelight too, and Hilda is one of those times.

If I had to equate it to other pieces of media, I would say it’s somewhere along the lines if Gravity Falls and Over the Garden Wall had a slightly less neurotic love child. A calming atmosphere with soothing tones to every episode, Hilda is the perfect Netflix show to watch if you want to be transported back to days of forgotten childhood where adventure and exploring the world was all that mattered. The relaxed story throughout the series follows the title character Hilda along her journey with her friends throughout the city of Trollburg and all the wild types of things they get up to.

The series touches on many topics that people can relate to even in college. Things such as leaving one’s home behind for a new one, trying to fit in, conquering your fears, and making new friends. While it does touch on some mature topics now and then, it handles them in a very nuanced and relaxed way, more focusing on the characters interacting with each other, rather than dwelling on issues and hitting you over the head with moral lessons and ethical philosophies. The animation style is also a breath of fresh air; soft earth tone colors scatter the screen in a relaxed and flowing manner. While it still grabs one’s attention, it doesn’t overwhelm the senses with erratic and overwhelming bursts of color every moment on screen. Even if cartoons aren’t your thing, I would recommend checking out the overall playlist of the show. It is super soothing and I would really recommend adding it to anyone’s study playlist if they like soft bouncy music without any lyrics that evoke the sense of wonder and adventure. Personally, those kinds of songs are the ones that get me through any form of math class. Not only that but also the main characters are also very charming as well, each one memorable and likable in their own unique way with a variety of personalities. If whimsical music and somewhat childish antics aren’t your thing, perhaps give this one a pass. If you are like me and love a burst of nostalgic intermingled with lovely calming visuals, interspersed with a soothing yet whimsical overall orchestration in the background swelling to reveal beautifully drawn landscapes, I highly recommend this show.

Serenity (No, Not That One, The New One)

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(Photo credit: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6476140/)

Baker Dill: “I need you to deliver me from temptation.”

Duke: “What temptation?”

Baker Dill: “You don’t need to know.”

Last year, it seemed that the whole film world collectively got up and declared Gotti the worst film of the year upon release. And while it wasn’t –– that particular dishonor goes to Holmes and Watson –– it’s all too easy to see where critics were coming from. Gotti was a special kind of bad, a movie where ineptitude and poor decision making seemed to become a character in of itself. Though it only came out in June, it seemed primed to be the butt of the joke even as December came to a close.

And now, we’ve got another impossibly bad movie, another contender for the “surely, this is as bad as it gets, right?”, except we’re only in January. Holy shit. If this is any indication, we’re in for a bumpy ride. A hilarious, fascinating, often awe-inspiring ride, and one in which we see Matthew McConaughey’s “O” face and bare ass way too much (if such a thing were possible), but still…batten down the hatches. Here we go.

The crazy thing is, I was looking forward to this one. I’m a die-hard neo-noir fan, and according to the trailers, that’s exactly what this was, though in my defense, the trailers didn’t give any hint to how batshit insane this movie is. The movie initially seems to follow Matthew McConaughey as a washed up fisherman, completely obsessed with catching this one big fish. He really wants to catch this big fish, and everyone knows he wants to catch this big fish, and everyone is always talking about how obsessed he is with catching this big fish, until I’m like, “Alright, alright, enough with the big fish.” This was less than a third of the way through the movie.

I’m gonna describe the first scene of the film real quick. We open on an extreme close up of a little boy, before zooming into his right eye to reveal the wide ocean, where Matthew McConaughey is sunburnt and fish hunting. In order to supplement his income, he allows himself to be hired out by rich old dudes to fish on his boat. When Matthew McConaughey’s lure catches the big fish, one of the old dudes try to take his rod away. Remember, this is the service that this man has paid for. So, the old guy tries to take Matthew McConaughey’s rod away, saying, “I paid you $700 cash for this!” Matthew McConaughey responds in the only way he knows how: he unsheathes his knife and charges at the old guy, hissing and spitting like mad. The only reason he doesn’t skewer the guy right then and there is the timely intervention of his first mate Duke (Djimon Hounsou). That Duke knows just what to do here implies that this isn’t the first time Matthew McConaughey has attempted to murder the people hiring him. After a valiant struggle, the fish gets away, and the old guy who has already paid $700 says, “If you think I’m paying you one cent for this, you’re out of your mind.”

Hoo boy.

What makes this attempted murder even more bizarre is that the rest of the movie hinges on Matthew McConaughey’s unwillingness to commit murder, this time actually justifiable. Anne Hathaway, who is introduced into the movie with a fake sparkle on her ring and a truly bizarre camera spin, reenters Matthew McConaughey’s life with a startling proposal: take her new, deeply abusive husband out to sea, and kill him before he hurts her and their son any more. Jason Clarke plays the husband, and in an early scene we see him talking about a rumor he heard regarding the cheapness of hookers on the island. This scene climaxes with Clarke saying the line, “I gotta hit me up with some of that $10 ass,” and if you thought the theater I saw this in wasn’t laughing uproariously…well, they were.

The film is filled with lines like that. Matthew McConaughey (whose name is technically Baker Dill, but c’mon; it’s Matthew McConaughey) describes his backstory as such: “I went away to war. The war fucked me up. When I came back, she was with him…except I never really came back.” Duke, his shipmate, describes their fortunes as such: “Ever since your wife died, we ain’t caught jack shit.” Matthew McConaughey’s abused son has a photo of his old man that has the words, “ME AND DAD BACK THEN” on the back. I literally don’t have the space here to go into all the other weird shit this movie does, with the fish-based dream sequence, the frequently appearing Ominous Seagull of Foreshadowing and Doom, the bespeckled guy everyone just calls “the skinny guy” even though he’s really not all that skinny, and holy shit there’s just so much. It’s genuinely overwhelming.

How did this happen? Steven Knight has two films under his belt, the Jason Statham vehicle Hummingbird (released as Redemption in the US), which I haven’t seen, and the Tom Hardy vehicle Locke, which I did see, and thought was absolutely brilliant. Locke (which at time of writing is available on Netflix, and I urge you to check it out) takes place entirely in one car, yet it is never boring. It is a lesson in technical expertise and pitch-perfect directing. Serenity has actors, including the main ones, looking into camera by accident. It boggles the mind.

Even before the big twist, I had this movie pegged as a serious drama as filtered through the mind of a six year old. I had no idea how right I actually was. Serenity is a movie so bad, so incomprehensible, so fucking weird, that the frequent appearance of Matthew McConaughey’s bare ass barely warrants a mention.

Book Review: The Odyssey, Translated by Emily Wilson

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Picture source: kensandersbooks.com

I read The Odyssey my sophomore year of high school, and the beautifully antiquated English and repetitive, ornamented epithets of the “wine-dark” sea and “rosy-fingered” dawn were not enough to entice me towards forming a personal connection with the text. Instead, I viewed the androcentric narrative of a man’s journey home after plunder and conquest as yet another ‘universal’ story that excluded, essentialized, and violated women. Call me naive, indeed I was; yet, it should come as no surprise to those well-versed or even peripherally familiar with classical studies that the boys’ club mentality of the discipline has a fraught history with welcoming female scholars to its elite ranks. In 2018, Emily Wilson became the first woman to publish an English translation of The Odyssey. Wilson’s introduction moves nimbly between the ancient world and the modern one. She presents a convincing argument for rendering an ancient text using frank, modern English. In effect, Wilson has authored a translation student readers will find accessible, casual readers enjoyable, and hopefully academic readers ideal for teaching and worthy of scholarly acclaim.

In her introduction to the translation, Wilson begins by defining an epic poem. According to Wilson, The Odyssey is an epic “in the sense that it is long, and in the sense that it presents itself as telling an important story.” On the one hand, The Odyssey’s elevated style, the regular poetic rhythm of dactylic hexameter (in Wilson’s translation iambic pentameter) and use of an assortment of formalistic language unassociated with the common dialects of ancient Greek peoples during any single time period, place the text in an elevated realm. On the other hand, Wilson notes how Odysseus’ story deviates from what modern readers may expect of an epic narrative in that there is no individual moment of climactic victory. Unlike “Jason claiming the Golden Fleece, Lancelot glimpsing the Holy Grail,” or modern examples such as Harry defeating Voldemort: “In The Odyssey, we find instead the story of a man whose grand adventure is simply to go back to his own home … For this hero, mere survival is the most amazing feat of all.” A central tenet of Wilson’s introduction is that Odysseus’ story is fundamentally tied to its roots in antiquity; yet, The Odyssey’s themes—of migration, ambiguous morality, homelessness and hospitality, fidelity and infidelity, deity worship, and the aftermath of violence and war—continue to carry profound relevance in the canon of Western literature, as in our contemporary world.

Wilson summarizes the contentious debate over the date of The Odyssey’s conception and the text’s authorship. The closest scholars have come to establishing consensus on the composition date of The Odyssey is sometime between the late seventh and late eighth centuries BCE. Long before the poem was transcribed, diverse versions and sections from the work were performed by bards as a form of entertainment for the elite families of ancient Greece. The poem’s origins in the oral tradition establish an additional level of complexity regarding the composition date and authorship of The Odyssey. Even if there existed a single author and scribe with an independent vision, the story of Odysseus predates The Odyssey as a written text.

The debate centering around The Odyssey’s authorship has therefore been similarly argumentative. In the nineteenth century, for example, Homeric scholarship was divided between the Unitarian and Analytic schools. The Unitarians believed that the poem was “not an aggregate of earlier, shorter compositions, but … composed by a lone author with a single overarching structure in mind.” Whereas, “[t]he Analysts, by contrast, argued that the epics [The Odyssey and The Iliad] were produced by many different hands.” Although it may be tempting to imagine Homer, “the poet,” as a single individual—most likely a man—Wilson invites readers to “question the notion that a unified structure and coherent creative product must necessarily be seen as the result of an individual’s work.” Modern readers familiar with the various forms of storytelling born as a result of advancements in technology may be more adept at viewing Homer’s text “as a mostly unified whole … which was created by multiple different people, over a long period of time.”

Migration, plunder, conquest, nationality, colonialism, and physical and racial Othering, are all recurring themes of The Odyssey. Wilson walks a careful line between using modern theoretical work in her introduction, while not utilizing terminology that evokes anachronistic interpretation in her translation. For example, while many modern translators have used the word “savage” to describe the cyclops, Wilson avoids the application of terms that carry connotations associated with British colonial history. Such terminology may cause readers to incorrectly map European colonialist practices on to those of ancient Greek peoples. In contrast to modern fears regarding migration, hospitality—albeit among elite, adult men—is a core motif of The Odyssey. Hospitality and the fair, honest treatment of strangers, or “guest-friends,” signifies for Odysseus whether or not an individual or a community is civilized. Wilson writes, “The word … xenos can mean both ‘stranger’ and ‘friend’; it is the root from which we get the English word ‘xenophobia’, the fear of strangers or foreigners, as well as the sadly less common ‘xenophilia’, the love of strangers or of unknown objects.”

The roles of women and the navigation of gender dynamics in The Odyssey are likewise rigorously addressed in Wilson’s introduction and translator’s note. Wilson discusses the text’s strong emphasis on female sexual fidelity. Although Odysseus has multiple affairs during his absence, the narrative rewards Penelope for remaining sexually chaste. Penelope’s fidelity to her husband, her role as the loyal partner, is paralleled with Agamemnon’s wife’s betrayal which results in the war hero’s tragic death. In regard to translation, Wilson does not use language that eroticizes the murdered slave women’s bodies at the text’s obscene conclusion: “in the scene where Telemachus oversees the hanging of the slaves who have been sleeping with the suitors, most translations introduce derogatory language (‘sluts’ or ‘whores’), suggesting that these women are being punished for a genuinely objectionable pattern of behavior, as if their sexual history actually justified their deaths. The original Greek does not label these slaves with any derogatory language.” Furthermore, Wilson refrains from presenting female beauty as a catalyst of male conflict, as in Christopher Marlowe’s famous words on Helen’s face: “the face that launched a thousand ships.” Directly translated, Helen’s face is described as “dog-like” and Wilson employs the verb “hounded” to describe the role of Helen’s objectified body during the Trojan War. Wilson emphasizes the patriarchal imaginary of The Odyssey, rather than attributing male actions to an essentialized aspect of women’s sexuality.

Wilson’s contemporary English translation flows effortlessly. Unlike many modern translators, Wilson engages poetic structure. She uses (unrhymed) iambic pentameter (five metrical feet, unstressed/stressed) the most common meter in regular English verse found in Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton. Moreover, Wilson states, “Homer’s language is markedly rhythmical, but it is not difficult or ostentatious … My translation is, I hope, recognizable as an epic poem, but it is one that avoids trumpeting its own status with bright, noisy linguistic fireworks, in order to invite a more thoughtful consideration of what the narrative means, and the ways it matters.” Linguistic flourishes may have a pseudo-scholarly effect; but in reality, our grandparents’ English, or the English of their parents, is no closer to the ancient Greek than our modern tongue.

The Odyssey is a story that encompasses many themes modern readers will find familiar: “loyalty, famil[y], migrant[ion], consumerism, violence, war, poverty, identity, rhetoric, and lies.” However, this ancient text displays foreign characteristics as well: Gods move among men, and men move between the worlds of the living and the dead; sea monsters, sirens, and cyclopes inhabit the earth; nymphs live autonomously on islands, although mortal women are confined to their marital homes; and cunning Odysseus, who has survived against unimaginable odds, is trying to return home. At the conclusion of Wilson’s translator’s note, she invites her readers to imagine Odysseus’ story as one would a traveler, inviting him in with all the “warmth, curiosity, openness, and suspicion” that hospitality entails. Odysseus is a military leader, migrant, mass murderer, husband, and father. Above all, as the first lines of Wilson’s poem indicate, he is no ordinary hero: “Tell me about a complicated man / Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost.”

Emily Wilson is a professor of classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her translation of The Odyssey has received widespread critical praise.

 

Bumblebee: or, How They Finally Got It Right

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Picture source: straitstimes.com

The Transformers were kid toys; they were literally meant to be played by children. You wouldn’t know it, though, based on the previous decade of movies: long, ponderous, grim, unintelligible, and so, so boring. In recent years, the Michael Bay Transformers movies have become every cinema geek’s go-to punching bag and for good reason. They’re really, really fucking terrible. But beyond all the poor directing choices, bad acting, and everything else, the movies seemed to possess a fundamental misunderstanding of who exactly the movies were supposed to be for. This fundamental identity crisis is just one of the many things Travis Knight’s Bumblebee rectifies.

Set in loose continuity with the other movies (meaning thankfully that seeing the others before this one is not at all necessary), the movie opens on Cybertron for an opening battle that – gasp, shock – I could actually see. Already, this was a damn game changer for the Transformers franchise. From there, we move to 1987s California, where an escaping Bumblebee meets up with Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld), a teenager still smarting from the death of her father. Bumblebee has fled to Earth on orders from Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobot resistance, with a mission: protect the planet until further Transformer backup can arrive. Unfortunately, two Decepticon villains have traced his signal back to Earth and have teamed up with the military to take Bumblebee down. Further complicating matters, Bumblebee has lost both his memory and his voice. Will Charlie and Bumblebee be able to overcome their obstacles and save the world?

First off, this movie is fun. It is really, really fun in a way that Transformers movies haven’t been in a very long time. It’s a movie that completely understands that it’s about a robot that can turn into a car and shoot missiles. One of the Decepticons has a liquifier gun! A gun that liquifies! But the action isn’t centered around robot wars. For me, the best parts of the movie were the more low-key moments, when it became an Iron Giant-like story about a girl and her robot friend, just living their lives. This is a very low stakes movie for most of its running time, which was absolutely the right choice. Over the course of its 114 minutes, I got to know both Bumblebee and Charlie pretty well, which meant that by the time the fireworks factory opened its doors for the climax, I actually cared about what was happening.

Also, the action in this movie is very well done. Gone are the nausea-inducing clusterfucks of old, where you occasionally got a clear glimpse of Optimus Prime’s elbow (but really, it could be anyone’s). Travis Knight, in his second feature after Kubo and the Two Strings, knows exactly where to place the camera for maximum effect, getting everything into frame and making sure the punches have impact. The climax is legitimately thrilling, never descending into “two CGI things punch each other for 1,000 minutes”, but instead relying on both Charlie and Bumblebee to use their wits to defeat the menace.

For all that, the movie is not without fault. It’s a little too similar to The Iron Giant, for one thing, with shades of E.T. thrown in there for good measure, and this movie can’t help but pale in comparison to both. Some of the scenes are a little too rote, and while the movie is a deliberate throwback, that doesn’t stop it from occasionally feeling a tad too familiar. Love Simon’s Jorge Lendeborg Jr. gets too little to do as the love interest, Charlie’s family disappear from the movie for long stretches at a time, and John Cena’s character only has an emotional arc by virtue of John Cena giving it his all, performance wise. The script kind of leaves him out to dry.

But while watching Bumblebee, none of that occurred to me. I was hopeful a directing change would imbue new life into this franchise, and it’s always nice to be proven right.

 

The Mule and the Legacy of Clint Eastwood

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Picture source: irishfilmcritic.com

When looking at Wikipedia to research this review, I learned that Clint Eastwood is a big fan of jazz. It was one of those moments where, suddenly, a whole lot of things snapped into place. So much of Eastwood’s filmography, this film in particular, has a breezy, easy, almost lackadaisical quality. And like jazz, it’s best to just sit back and let the rhythm take you where it takes you.

The rhythm, in this case, takes us down the story of Earl Stone, the 90-year-old Korean war veteran turned horticulturist who has been all but rejected by his family. A lifetime of bad decisions and missed anniversaries has piled up, making him a pariah at most get-togethers. His twilight years are given new direction, however, when he stumbles into a new job: drug running. He’s now a “mule”, transporting bags full of cocaine through Illinois for a Mexican drug cartel, all while the DEA (led by Laurence Fishburne, Bradley Cooper, and Michael Peña) close in.

Wouldn’t it be easy to write off Clint Eastwood? Here’s a man coming up fast on his 90s and still directing and starring in movies. Shouldn’t he be content with his two Oscars? But to do so would risk overlooking the legacy of one of cinema’s all time masters, as well as ignoring just how weird most of his career has been. Yes, he’ll most likely always be known first and foremost as The Man With No Name, with Dirty Harry as a close second, but does anyone remember that his first ever directorial feature was the stalker thriller Play Misty For Me? Or that he soon followed that up with the hippie-positive Breezy? Or what about The Bridges of Madison County? Or Changeling? The point I’m trying to make here is that Clint Eastwood’s collection of movies is far more diverse and experimental than most people give him credit for or even realize.

So in a way it makes perfect sense that this be his swan song. Why not? It’s no less weird than the time he planned Gran Torino, the movie about an aging war veteran coming to terms with his bigotry as his final bow. It wasn’t, of course. In the 10 years since Gran Torino, we’ve had a whole slew of films from the movie-making machine that is Eastwood. And honestly, a part of me can’t help but wonder if we’d be at all more charitable towards Eastwood if Gran Torino really were his last picture. It’s easy to forget, but for a while there the man was a God-Mode directing streak of Spielbergian proportions. Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, one after the other, all magnificent. In the decade since Gran Torino, while we did get the wonderful Invictus, we also got the “just alright” Sully, the tepidly recurved J. Edgar and Hereafter (though I do quite like that one), and the downright awful Jersey Boys and The 15:17 to Paris. By comparison, it’s hard not to think how the mighty have fallen.

If it sounds like I’m reviewing Clint Eastwood’s entire filmography more than Clint Eastwood’s latest film, it’s probably because I kind of am. But it’s also because at 88 years old this really might be it for him. And this man’s been working since movies were black and white, and he’s still at it, and for that we owe him our due. As far as swan songs go, you could probably do better than The Mule, although it’s by no means bad (and although I’m saying “swan song” here, no one would be less surprised than me if 10 years or so down the line, Eastwood popped back up for a third cinematic farewell). It’s interesting, certainly. I’ll admit to spending more time in the movie thinking about what Eastwood was saying about his enduring legacy than I did getting invested in the character, which probably speaks to some kind of failure in the way the movie’s written, but weirdly it’s not a crippling one. Eastwood is good in the movie, very good in fact. He manages to be funny in ways that aren’t immediately obvious and affecting in ways that are never in-your-face about it. I always like it when he reminds people he’s more than just a scowl and a growl (though he does a lot of both here). For a lot of scenes, his character is downright jovial. The supporting cast is certainly game as well, with Bradley Cooper in particular getting two very good scenes with Eastwood, although I can’t help but notice that the ending hinges on a connection between Eastwood’s character and Cooper’s FBI agent chasing him…a connection the movie doesn’t quite sell.

It’s also very obviously an old man’s movie. One of the running gags is the previous generation and how obsessed they are with their newfangled cellular telephone devices, and wasn’t it so much better when people just lived their lives instead of staring at a screen day in and day out, don’t ya think (although I’d probably be less annoyed, I think, if the dumbass next to me didn’t go out of his way to validate the movie’s point by going on his phone during the movie several times. Screw you, dude). The relaxed pace of the movie certainly benefits someone of Eastwood’s age (and I’ll warn you now, this isn’t a film with a BANG BANG BANG ending), and reminds me once again of Gran Torino, which was actually written by the same guy (Nick Schenk). And it once again has Eastwood playing a prejudiced old man, although like Gran Torino, the movie very explicitly doesn’t condone or agree with his views (this, of course, hasn’t stopped a fair number of online clickbait articles to decry “Eastwood’s racism”; I especially love the articles written by people who get critical plot elements of the movie wrong, indicating that they haven’t even seen it).

This is a movie with immersive scenes, but it’s not a particularly immersive movie, at least not in the way Eastwood’s been previously. But if it’s never quite immersive, at least it’s always enjoyable. It’s jazz: there’s the odd missed note, but mostly it’s just got this wonderful flow that carries you away and leaves you smiling.

Incidentally, it also taught me that horticulturists have their own awards ceremony. There is an awards ceremony for people who work on flowers. Hey, the more you know.

DeltaRune Review

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Emblem for the DeltaRune video game. Picture Source: aminoapps.com

DeltaRune is one of those games that I would recommend even if you aren’t a gamer in any sense of the word. As someone who finds video games to be often more expensive than they are worth and would rather just vicariously live through “Let’s Play” videos on YouTube, I can’t say I would define myself as someone who plays video games. However, Deltarune is different. I will admit I am a bit biased, but first a bit of context is needed.

Deltarune is the spiritual successor to the critically acclaimed indie game Undertale. Undertale is without a doubt my favorite video game, and its “sequel” really is no different. Although technically unfinished, Deltarune is a fantastic play, not just as a game but as an experience. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the game itself and at the request of the developer and creator of the two games, Toby Fox (Aka the Annoying Dog), I don’t want to disclose too many details (spoilers and all that). What I can do, however, is list the reasons why I find this game series so inspiring and captivating to the point that I will probably be annoying my friends about playing it for at least another two months (sorry not sorry guys).

From the very moment you start it’s clear that the graphics compared to the last game have drastically improved. The visual style in the first game, while certainly reminiscent of old-school 70’s and 80’s video games, still felt a bit lack luster at various points due to its very minimalistic nature. In the sequel, everything seems so enhanced. It’s bright and colorful yet still keeping its old-school pixelated style, which I just adore. It’s obvious that Toby Fox really pushed the pixelated visual style of his sprites and characters, this time drawing on what he learned in making his previous game. Another thing that I can’t stress enough about is how amazing both games are at overall story-telling. Toby Fox does a fantastic job of creating loveable characters that you can look back fondly on, almost like old friends. Not to mention fantastic worlds in which you will want to live in forever.

Another important aspect to the game is the play style. I highlight this aspect because unlike most video games the very playstyle itself helps tell the story of the game. Toby Fox has done a fantastic job of intertwining the game into the story and the story into the game. It’s one of the few games I can say I’ve seen a creator use the video game medium as an advantage rather as something to work around when creating it, and even more far and few between have I seen it be so intentionally and effortlessly done as Toby does with his works.

Another thing that I love about the sequel is that it is not a repeat of the same plot by any means. In fact, I would say that if you had no idea it was a sequel to anything, you wouldn’t really know other than a few character interactions later on in the game, which are winks and nods to the first game. Though, it really is worth it to check out the first game, Undertale, before playing the sequel as it will lend you to a lot more context within the universe Toby Fox has created as well as create further depth of characters. Of course, there are multiple endings to the first game which I would recommend looking at just to understand the full context of everything before going into the sequel, but as far as giving anything else away, I don’t think it would be right of me to spoil any more than that. All in all, please check out Undertale and its spiritual successor chapter 1 of DeltaRune if you have time over Thanksgiving break. I don’t think you’ll regret it!

Halloween (1978) vs Halloween (2018)

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Picture Source: www.frightday.com

Horror is a genre full of killers, but the real killer is familiarity. Over the past thirty years, we’ve seen Michael Myers, the terror at the center of the Halloween franchise, unsheathe his knife and kill in ten movies. Ten times he’s come back from the dead, ten times he’s killed the horniest of teenagers, and ten times he’s been defeated in a slightly more extreme way than the last…only to come back and start the cycle all over again.

But this year was different. David Gordon Green, the director of the new version, went on record saying that he was ignoring every Halloween sequel after the first one; essentially, he was making a direct sequel to the movie from thirty years ago, thus unburdening himself from the overly convoluted mythology the franchise had accumulated over the course of ten movies (two of which are technically a reboot). The star of the first one was back, as was the original director to craft a whole new score. The stars were aligned to make something great.

I should probably get into the original. Fifteen years before the film begins proper, we see an eight year old boy pick up a knife and, for no apparent reason, kill his older sister. Cut to the present day, and the boy (Michael Myers, who I should mention shares no apparent relation to the Shrek actor) manages to escape from the mental institution he’s been kept in, seemingly intent on heading back to his hometown to terrorize the residents, including teenager Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends. It’s up to Myers’ psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) to stop him before he kills anyone again. Loomis had spent the past fifteen years observing Myers, and has come to the conclusion that Michael Myers is pure evil.

While watching the original again, I found myself agreeing with Loomis. Michael Myers managed to be scary in a way he never really was again, and the comparison I kept coming back to was Jaws; like the shark, Myers is barely in the movie. His first on screen kill after the opening scene isn’t until almost an hour into the movie; before that, he kills a man off-screen to steal his clothes. But he’s always there, even when he isn’t, and this is largely down to the film’s greatest asset: the cinematography. In his review of the movie for The New Yorker, film critic Pauline Kael wrote, “The film is largely just a matter of the camera tracking subjectively from the mad killer’s point of view, leading you to expect something awful to happen. But the camera also tracks subjectively when he isn’t around at all; in fact, there’s so much subjective tracking you begin to think everybody in the movie has his own camera.” She obviously meant this as a knock against the movie, but it somehow winds up being what gives the film its awesome power. By never letting up on the slow, creeping build of the camera, director John Carpenter very deliberately gives off the impression that Michael Myers could be anywhere, and strike at anytime, doing wonders for Dr. Loomis’ claim that he is “pure evil”. When he is on screen, he’s usually in the background, slightly out of focus, or in close up, with his head cut off by the frame. We don’t get a good look at him until over an hour into the thing, and by then, it’s far too late for most of our protagonists, most of whom we’ve really come to like by then.

These two things – slow-burn dread and likable characters – were the first to go by the time the sequels rolled around, followed quickly by Michael Myers’ mystique and practicality. In the first one, he stabs and strangles people, and we don’t see all that much blood. In the next several movies, he bashes heads with hammers, electrocutes bodies with Christmas lights, impaled with extreme prejudice, and, in one memorable instance, drowns/burns someone in a hydrotherapy tub. Throughout all of this, he gets killed and resurrected so much, that he essentially becomes immortal, a far cry away from the power the first film was smart enough to only suggest.

So when David Gordon Green said he was going to get back to basics, I was understandably excited. I sat down to watch it, popcorn and soda in hand…

…and thought it was okay.

It’s probably the best of the sequels, honestly. Much as I have a soft spot for Halloween II, it does jettison most of the likable characters, including Jamie Lee Curtis, who spends about 80% of the movie confined to a hospital bed, dreaming in flashbacks. The 2018 Halloween, at least, does right by her, putting her front and center again to great effect. It’s easy to say that Jamie Lee Curtis is the best thing in the movie and leave it at that, but she is really, really good. For whatever problems the movie has otherwise, you feel Laurie Strode’s pain in a way you never did before, not even in II or H20. Laurie centers the movie in her character, and gives it a weight the original didn’t have.

Which is good, because everything around Laurie is a tad lackluster. One of the key elements of the original Halloween was how direct it was, and how well the slow burn was built to a fever pitch. While there are moments of excellent suspense in the movie (I’m thinking especially of the long-take in the middle, that has Michael move from house to house, picking off random people), the overall pacing itself is way too scattershot. Scenes begin and end at the wrong place, often cutting off when things are about to get interesting. And while Laurie and her immediate family are reasonably well-defined, the rest of the characters (or, more accurately, cannon fodder) suffer from only one dimension. And where the original got away with having little brutality, the new is chock full of gore. It has one character better served than in the original, but other than that, it falls short.

BY SAM STASHOWER

A Rocky Horror Picture Show

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Picture Source: CelebMix.com

At least one hundred students were sitting outside of Merrick Lecture Hall Friday night, October 26th. Anticipation went through everyone as they waited for the doors to open, where they would be led into the world of Rocky Horror. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a movie about Brad and Janet, who get stuck with a flat tire outside of transvestite scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s mansion. They are taken for a wild ride in the mansion, where they meet an array of different characters including Rocky, a creation of Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

Goucher College’s rendition of the movie is done as a shadow cast, meaning cast members dress in lingerie and mouth out the words to the movie while the actual movie is projected onto a screen. Goucher has been doing this since the 1980’s, which explains why students get so excited when it gets close to Rocky weekend.

This year’s co-directors were seniors Chris Meyhew and Sophie Mezebish. Mezebish was a part of the cast her sophomore year, and then was assistant director her junior year. When asked why Rocky Horror is performed the way it is with a shadow cast, Mezebish said that because it’s such a cult classic, “people didn’t want to stray too far from the original movie,” hence why it is performed in front of it with actors mouthing words. Mezebish says that the reason why Goucher’s production is so unique is because it is so close to being a theatrical version but is still a shadow cast.

Zoe Gilmore and Jared Sumar played the loving couple Janet and Brad. Gilmore and Sumar are both sophomores, and it was both their first times being a part of the Rocky Horror cast. Gilmore decided to audition because she wanted to “step out of [her] comfort zone” as well as think about the different ways theater presents itself. She was in the theater department in high school but took freshman year of college off so she could scope out the theater scene here at Goucher. The rehearsals, meaning staying up past midnight to perfect scenes, was a great bonding experience for her as well as for the rest of the cast.

Jared Sumar, on the other hand, was not a total fan of the show at first. He decided to audition because his friend Chris said that he had to go because his name was on the audition list. Sumar enjoyed the fact that Meyhew and Mezebish made it a fun environment for the cast. Sumar wants to be involved again but most likely not until his senior year.

One of the most anticipated character reveals was Dr. Frank-N-Furter, played by Moe de la Viez, a senior here at Goucher. After a singing number, the spotlights moved to the top of Merrick, towards the entrance. Ensemble members held a white sheet, and with a sudden drop, De la Viez was revealed.

De la Viez has been a part of Rocky Horror for the past three years. She first watched the shadow cast before even knowing what she was getting herself into. She then portrayed Magenta her sophomore year, Eddie her junior year, and, of course, Frank her senior year. “Ok ya, everyone is going to be half naked” De la Viez said, describing it to be the culture of the show.

Having the show in Merrick lets there be much more audience participation throughout the show. As an audience member, you volunteer yourself to be crawled over, sat on, and even consensually made-out with by ensemble members. This kind of intimacy, however, is a one of a kind experience.

Too many details cannot be given, however, because then the surprise of the show will be ruined for all those who did not get the chance to see it this year. Thank you to this year’s cast for creating such a fun experience for all. If you did not get the chance to see it this year, get to Merrick even earlier next year.

Top Ten Horror Movies

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Image from: https://www.fool.com.au/
  1. Green Room – a punk rock band barricades themselves in a green room after witnessing a crime. A deliberate throwback to older, grungier movies, Green Room manages to rise above being a pure gorefest by virtue of moments filled with frighteningly unpredictable violence. Green Room is one of the finest examples of a non-supernatural horror villain.
  2. The Shining – one of those movies that’s so classic, everyone probably feels like they’ve seen it even if they haven’t. “Here’s Johnny”, “REDRUM”, and “Come play with us, Danny” are moments I’d seen referenced and parodied long before I finally sat down to watch the thing. But even so, this film works beyond its famous moments. There’s a creeping, eerie power to how this film is shot, making The Overlook Hotel with its empty hallways and endless corridors feel alive. The best compliment I can give is that at close to three hours, the movie doesn’t feel long at all.
  3. The Conjuring – a throwback horror film that nonetheless manages to be pretty spooky in its own right, The Conjuring follows a husband and wife paranormal hunting team trying to save a family who moved into the wrong house. Based (very loosely) on the real-life exploits of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, any issues with telling the story of real people with this many liberties is quickly swept away by just how brilliantly spooky the whole film is. Director James Wan manages to make the tired old “haunted house story” feel fresh and new with likable characters, good practical effects (what’s done with a mirror in one scene is nerve-jangling), and some truly inspired cinematography.
  4. The Ring – what I like to call “fun horror”, The Ring isn’t grisly, violent, or uncomfortable; hell, it’s not even really scary until the final twenty or so minutes. In the place of deep, bone-rattling horror is a terrific sense of spooky joy that comes from seeing a capable, smart protagonist put together an intriguing mystery. Naomi Watts plays a journalist looking into the deaths of several teenagers, all of whom have seen a cursed videotape (it’s kind of a period piece). The curse dictates that whoever sees the tape will die in seven days, meaning it’s a race against the clock for Watts to save herself – and her son. While the film probably isn’t as good as the Japanese movie it’s remaking, The Ring nevertheless gets a lot of mileage out of deadly silence and odd imagery.
  5. The Babadook – one of the most popular recent horror films, The Babadook gains an impressive amount of power from its minimalist quality; you rarely see the monster, and a large portion of the action is confined to inside a house. Jennifer Kent makes her feature film directorial debut here, adapting her short film Monster (all ten minutes of which are on YouTube) into a powerful and oddly uplifting look at the power of a single mother in a seemingly unwinnable situation.
  6. The Invitation – a simple but effective premise that leads to simple but effective scares, The Invitation stars a couple going to a dinner party hosted by the man’s ex-wife and her new husband. Things start off weird and get progressively weirder, but the film is commendable in how long it manages to keep up in the air whether or not the main character is really in danger, or if he’s having some kind of stress-induced psychotic break. A slow burn for sure, the film both serves as a completely fair mystery (in that the clues are peppered through early and often) and a unique character study.
  7. Halloween – the one, in many ways, that started it all. Halloween, originally titled The Babysitter Murders, opens with a six-year-old boy murdering his older sister for seemingly no reason. Fifteen years later, he manages to escape incarceration, returning to his old hometown to finish what he started. The first thing to understand about Halloween is that I just made it sound a whole lot more violent than it actually is. You can count the number of murders on one hand (one of whom is off-screened to death), and none of them are particularly overblown or even all that gory. No, what really makes Halloween work, even after so many imitators, is the atmosphere; that oppressive dread that comes with the assurance that The Boogeyman is out there and he’s coming for you.
  8. Alien – the tagline “in space, no one can hear you scream” has become something of a legend itself, in no small part because it perfectly sums up the isolating terror of Alien. Set in the year 2122, a crew lands on a planet in response to a distress call only to find evidence of a much bigger, more advanced ship having been completely wiped out by…something. The best thing going for Alien is the claustrophobia; you really feel like you’re trapped on this tiny vessel hurling through the cold depth of space, being hunted by a parasitic thing you barely understand. The performances are iconic, the scares are unforgettable, and the look of the monster is a sight to behold. Even if science fiction isn’t your thing, it’s worth checking out.
  9. Hereditary – the most recent “scariest movie ever” to come to theaters, Hereditary, more so than any other film on this list, is not for the faint of heart. Describing the plot would do the movie a disservice, so suffice to say that the family dynamics at the center of this movie are twisted enough to not even need the ghosts, demons, and headless old people the film trots out as it goes along. Strictly for those with nerves of steel.
  10. The Gift – diabolically turning our fear of misreading situations against us, Joel Edgerton does triple duty to magnificent effect as director, writer, and actor. A married couple played by Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall move into a new house, where they run across Bateman’s old friend from school (Edgerton). While Edgerton’s Gordo seems harmless enough, there’s something…off about him. Is he a well-meaning but socially awkward, poorly adjusted guy, or is he something else? And why is Bateman so resistant to seeing him again? The cinematography emphasizes wide, open spaces and backgrounds where people can easily hide, and on more than one occasion, do, turning this movie into something of a demented Where’s Waldo? at times. The script is also brilliant, with constantly shifting character motivations and believable dialogue grounding this story.

BY SAM STASHOWER

Charm City: Documentary Review

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Photo Credit: IMDb.com

The ‘C’ in Charm flickers. The documentary title, Charm City, switches between Charm and Harm City, and then it begins. Scenes of the streets of Baltimore cascade across the screen: men smoking on a front stoop, a young girl peeking out her window, a police cars lights flashing in a dark alley. This is Baltimore.

Baltimore is known, throughout the country, as a crime ridden city. Its streets filled with needles, drugs, and murders.

It’s not until you get to know the city that you realize how much more this city really has to offer. Baltimore is filled with beautiful, old buildings, museums, waterfronts, universities, and much more that I have yet to explore. The rumors, however, do still ring true. Much of the city is still filled with violence, and inequality.

The documentary follows the efforts, of many different Baltimore natives, to lower the crime rate, keep their communities and families safe, and prove to everyone that their city is much more than just a murder rate reaching the top of the charts. The audience gets insight on one community member, and his entourages efforts in their neighborhood. Mr. C runs the Rose Street Community Center. He is the communities guide, wisdom filled master, and man with all the answers. He is respected and has many young men and women that look up to him, and see him as their leader. Through him, and Rose Street, there are several programs being run: a street cleanup crew, conflict mediation crew, and a youth group to keep the children active, and off the streets.

We then follow a police captain and her team, through a normal 12 hour day tolling the city for crime. However, we get a glimpse of the good as well, when we are shown scenes of one officer joining in on a game of cards, or stopping by to listen to a marching band practice. Those were the moments of hope, of true connection the producer gets through to the audience so seamlessly.

The last person showcased, who has made huge efforts to lower the crime rate, is Baltimore’s youngest councilman Brandon Scott. He initiates the discussion of making the city’s efforts interdisciplinary, so that the sole responsibility does not lay on the police forces shoulders, but instead is spread across public safety, and public health and even the school system.

Everyone’s efforts have already made a difference in decreasing the violence rate. The natives were so open, and willing to share the occurrences of their daily lives over a span of three years with the filming crew, and the filming crew so respectful about not intruding or intervening into their daily lives. This documentary will definitely make you want to get out there and make a difference, so, let’s do it!

BY AMELIA MEIER

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