Lucien’s Review: The Nutcracker (Anchorage Concert Association)

Anchorage BalletWhen one of my favorite girly-mates posed the idea of going to this to me, I was very excited.  I haven’t gotten to see this live since I was a little kid.  Having gotten to go again, all my love of this suite came right back.  I first heard and saw this as interpreted by Disney’s Fantasia, which is my second-favorite film of all time.  Ever since then, I have been in love with the music and wanting to re-see the suite live.  Tonight was my chance, and I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest.

I don’t imagine I have to explain the plot of this to all of you.  I will anyway just to follow the formula, but anyone who doesn’t know what this is should be smacked.  Anyway, the story follows a young girl who is given a nutcracker by a mysterious toymaker.  That night, she goes to sleep with it, only to have it come to life and go with her on a journey to see what her subconscious can create.

Before I gush about the things I like, I do have a couple of nit-picky little complaints.  Don’t worry, I’ll be nice.  The first was these little rats with glowing eyes that are built onto remote-controlled cars.  They are cute, but still, it takes you out of the moment when you hear the sound that a remote-controlled car makes when they run.  It was a brief humorous moment that was a little annoying.

The next thing was a segment during the last part of the third act, where there are the dancing snowflakes.  This will just involved the musical portion.  There was this part of that where there were vocals, and they were pretty bad.  It was so obvious that they were recorded, so when you have live music playing and it’s beautiful, to hear a recording of vocals come on, it takes you out of the moment.  I did still enjoy that part, but I couldn’t get past that vocal section.  That’s all the negatives.

Now we get to what I thought of the rest.  First-off, the set designs were gorgeous!  My personal favorite was the Christmas tree.  They had lights running through it and the use of light and color with it always popped.  But the rest of the sets were no slouches.  With the perfect lighting for each set, every single one of them popped.  They were amazing to look at.  The props were also well-done, with the cake that was constantly tipping over being over-the-top and cartoon-y in a really fun way.

The costumes for the characters were a lot of fun.  The ones that people are most likely talking about are the Nutcracker itself and the people outside the dream, but for me, none of those make my list of favorites.  The ones I liked best were the ones for the Spanish and Arabian dancers and the toymaker.  There was also this cute little costume for the girl who played the main character’s dog, Minnie the Poodle. The costume was so adorable and ridiculous that you couldn’t help but like it.  So were the costumes for the poodle dancers later on.  Then there were these completely cute little chicken costumes for the children playing as the chicks of a giant chicken.  That got a lot of “awww’s” from the audience.

Next up there is the music.  I don’t think I have to tell you that it was amazing.  Aside from the out-of-place vocals, the members of the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra gave it their all and it was beautiful.  The songs that I loved from one of my favorite films sounded even better in real life.  My personal favorites were the parts with the Chinese Tea Dancers and the Arabian Coffee Dancers.  There were some sections that I thought were done better than others, but I won’t say for a second that a single note was wasted.  It was all awesome to listen to.

But now, we come to the most important category.  The thing that makes or breaks any ballet – the dancing.  The only nit-pick I have with this was the fight choreography with the duel between the Nutcracker and the Rat King.  But it’s ballet.  You take what you get.  I don’t expect every fight in everything to be like Lord of the Rings.  Aside from that, this was awesome!  Act II was by far the best of the bunch.  My favorite sections were the ones with the Arabian dancers and the Russian dancers.  Damn if they didn’t put in one hell of a performance.  Now, a caveat to the Arabian performance is that, as the girly-mate I went to see this with pointed out, if you are in front of them as they perform, it works best.  But that’s not to say that any part of their performance slouches.  And don’t let me sell the rest of the hard work that these dancers put in short by not having their bits be among my favorites.  The part with the dancing poodles was hilarious.  The guy they had as the lead poodle was just awesome.  He clearly was loving every minute of that absurdity.  To each and every person of the Cincinnati Ballet Company (I think I got that right), you did an amazing job.

So, we come to the last portion.  This was am awesome night.  I got to have some good company, which was nice.  I’ve been missing this girly-mate.  I had wanted to see this for a long time and damned if it didn’t deliver.  Well-done, dancers.  You all deserve the accolades.  There are some gripes, and since I’m a nit-picker, I can’t not address them, but don’t worry.  Your score will be good.

Final Verdict:
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

For the Sake of Dreams

It’s been a really long time since I got on here and went on a rambling and totally inconsequential bit of existential musing.  It seems like all I ever get from life is a chance to see just how disappointed I can be.  I try something, it fails.  I work at something, nothing becomes of it.  I take a chance, it comes back to bite me as well.  Nothing ever goes right.  I just learned to work with it.  To let life flow.  Every time I try and block the river, I end up getting my feelings hurt, my expectations tarnished or my heart crushed.  There are days when I wonder why I do it.  But then I remember – I don’t have anything else.

Cassiopeia SupernovaTonight, I got to learn two things about two people that are important to me.  The first is that both of them are gay.  I knew it with both of them.  The first, my gaydar was blaring the minute she told me that she had had girlfriends.  She thought she was bi.  I knew better.  After all, I was interested in her.  Any woman I have been interested in is either gay, taken or uninterested,  The majority are the first two.  Only a couple have been the third.  So yeah.  With the second, I had a very sneaking suspicion.  My gaydar was also going off then too, but not as loudly.  It was just letting me know that the chances were good.  Again, she was also someone I was interested in.  She hadn’t realized it to herself, but now she knows for sure.  They are both good friends, and I am happy to know them.  But the truth is, at the end of the day, I realize something from their stories – I am always going to be alone.  Always.

Ever since the bullshit with Emily, a growing part of myself has been understanding that women just don’t like a guy like me.  I’m okay to look at, but nothing special.  A titan of a man, towering over everyone else.  A little weird, tending to dance to my own tune.  More than a little depressing, which makes the parentals worry about me.  When you are a strange person, outside the norms, and you live in the world I do, then you gradually being to realize that you don’t have much of a place in it.  Add to that the fact that I am remarkably easy to forget, and you have a recipe for a life where you are friend-zone material to everyone you are interested in.

Some, like both of these people, try and be nice about it.  They say we are a good friend and that your friendship is important to them.  I know they mean it, too.  Neither of them are insincere people.  However, as much as I want to take that for what it’s worth, this story has become so common that I am about to assign theme music to it.  The same song and Water Candledance that I have been through a hundred times.  I think I am going to stop my casual flirting that I was doing with both.  It feels like a wasted effort now, and when I know that a behavior gets me nothing, it just makes doing it that much of a pain, because it is not getting me anything.  Willingly beating my head against a wall isn’t my idea of a good time.  I sounds mean, and it’s not like I’m going to stop talking to them.  They are good friends.  But the conversations will take a very different turn.

A habit we have gotten into throughout me and my split-personality’s time in being is not saying how we feel.  Every time I have done that, really made my opinion known, it has always had disastrous consequences.  Instead, we are nice, hide how we really feel and then go out of our way to be a better person than we want to be.  We don’t say when we’re hurting.  We don’t say when we want to cry.  We don’t tell people that something is making us feel bad.  Because what changes?  I can get a “sorry to hear that,” but at the end of the day, when a person who is naturally depressing cries on your shoulder, it eventually comes to the point where you don’t want to be around them anymore.

So we bottle it up inside, randomly sobbing to ourselves when we are sure that we are alone.  Curling up on the floor of our dorm room, staring at the dark.  Seeing the memories play in the LED lights, like shadows cast on the wall of the cave that is our life.  We grieve, we remorse, but because we have driven away a lot of people by being who we are.  Better to hide it behind a veneer of witty sarcasm than to make people not want to be around us.  After all, I have been abandoned by every single person I have called a best friend in my life.  I’m not eager to be abandoned by more people.

I have always loved Nirvana’s music.  Kurt Cobain was a kindred spirit to me.  My story in life may end in the same way as his, but let no one say that what has been our time was wasted.  We are a damn good friend.  I have been there for every single person who has asked for my time, or who I felt needed it.  I have been loyal to all the people who have shown loyalty to me.  The quality of the life you lead isn’t in how long it is, but what you do with it.  The people who you touch and the ways you make things better for them.  Being a good friend is worth something.  It has to be.

Right?

Until next time, a quote,

“I like being alone.  At least, I convinced myself I’m better off that way…we’re better off alone.  We suffer alone.  We die alone.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a model, husband or father of the year.  Tomorrow will be the same for you.”  -Gregory House, House M.D.

Peace out,

Maverick

Happy Black Thursday!

Remember those years when you would spend this day in quiet contentment with your family and in the company of dear friends?  Spending the day having good food with good company and being thankful for all you had?  The days when you could look out the window and see the beauty of winter with those you love?  Weren’t those days wonderful?  Yeah, I didn’t think so too.

But have no fear, people!  Instead of doing that boring shit, you can now go to the store and buy stuff!  You can get $200 off a new 50″ LED TV!  Or how about a Kindle Fire for only $79.99?!  Because if you save one penny, that can make you actually believe you are saving money!  I know, it all sounds too good to be true.  Well kids, don’t you worry.

Look at it from the perspective of us, your corporate overlords.  See, we only get a scant 26 days of taking your money.  That’s just not enough!  We’re “job creators,” after all.  Why, we even have food drives for our employees, so they can enjoy Black Thursday too!  We also tell them to get on government assistance, because paying them well would hurt us even more.  You don’t want to hurt us, do you? 😦

I mean, sure, you consumers are being squeezed by a higher cost of living and a lack of jobs.  We also don’t pay you to live, because a living wage would be just too much.  And we also are doing whatever we can to eliminate your access to benefits from the government.  Because if you get help from them, you won’t want to work!  Right?  If that’s not true, then it might appear to be that we are actively trying to kill you.  But you all know the truth.  We do this because we care!

Oh, and for you Jewish people out there, don’t you worry!  We’re looking into how we can exploit Hanukkah to the utmost.  After all, you are a very loyal consumer base.  Unlike those jerk Christmas shoppers who only give gifts one day, you give them for eight!  Now that’s good business!  You should get these Christian types in on the fun.  I mean, their lord and savior was a Jew.  So why aren’t they?

We’re not greedy, after all.  We just want to run our business.  Who cares if we make out plans to market on every single day between Black Thursday and Christmas in the same way as generals plan wars.  We have advertising plans for every single day.  Not one minute of time has been unaccounted for.  After all, the meanies who make the months of the year decided not to give us more time!  Why couldn’t Thanksgiving have been earlier?!  It’s just not fair!  We’ve got every day planned, from Black Thursday to Cyber Monday, and then on for every single day leading up to Christmas.  It’s not wrong to want more money, is it?

We are good, patriotic and god-fearing Americans!  We pay our taxes (well, not really.  But you do!  And bless you for it!  It’s the American way!), love our families and help our communities.  We kill jobs for small business and get rid of those socialist businesses that offer less prices for better quality.  That’s not good for America!  America needs cheap crap that is made by slave labor in some tiny country that you and your hedonistic and self-indulgent selves will never know exists.  Hell, the flag of this great nation is made in China.  So hypocrisy is cool!

And at the end of the day, it’s not our fault that we behave this way.  After all, you indulge us!  You never boycott us.  Sure, some of you are saying that you will boycott Wal-Mart on Black Friday.  Do you realize how little we care?  It’s not anyone will actually do it!  For every person who doesn’t shop there, we have three more who will!  Your boycott means nothing to us.  We don’t have to tell you how badly we’re screwing you.  You wouldn’t care anyway!

I mean, it’s not our fault that you all are glued to your phones and that your stuff owns you.  Where do you think your stuff comes from?  Why, it comes from us.  And we thank you for your business.

Happy Black Thursday everyone!

Until next time, a quote,

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”  -H.L. Mencken

Peace out,

Maverick

Single Mothers Keeping Their Children is Wrong?! (A Response to Southern Baptist Richard Land)

There are some people who I can excuse for being dick-mules, because of where they come from.  I defended Paula Deen when she made a little minor racial gaff because of the fact that she’s old, raised in the deep south and it wasn’t malicious hatred.  It was the racism she was raised with.  While not right, it wasn’t that bad.  I defended Jerry Sandusky by saying that if we are going to say that he should be raped, how does that make us any better than him?  But some people are just so foul that I lose the ability to think up a rational excuse.  This man, Richard Land, is one of them.  A man so foul that I am losing the ability to think of ways that I can insult him without sounding nice.

Recently, in a publication called The Christian Post, Land had some choice words for single mothers.  Going old-school on this.  Here’s a link to the post, now let’s tear this sexist and lacking any empathy asshole to pieces.

Saturday, November 23, is National Adoption Day. This observance gives Americans the opportunity to focus on this neglected, multi-faceted issue that impacts our national future in significant ways.

I’m sure you mean to enlighten us.

First, Christians of all denominational persuasions across America should ask themselves this question, “As a Christian, what should my response be to the issue of adoption?” A biblical response to that question would go a long way toward successfully addressing the child neglect and child abuse crisis that afflict America.

Oh really?  Like when it talks in the Bible about stoning children who are uppity to death?  Or how about when Lot gives his daughter to the mob to prevent them from raping angels?  Or maybe the section where God has a bear rip apart some children who insulted Elijah?  Or perhaps we could talk about God giving the Christians armies permission to keep the virgin daughters of a conquered land as fuck-slaves after they killed everyone else.  That kind of biblical response?

Currently there are more than 100,000 children in foster care in America alone, with many times more across the globe, awaiting permanent adoption into loving “forever” families.

Wow, he actually talked about an issue.  I’m impressed.  But here’s a question – what constitutes a “forever” family?  I mean, if we’re talking about Christian families, then that’s a joke.  Divorce rates among Christians are sky-rocketing.  So yeah, mute point.

I would encourage all eligible Christian couples to pray seriously about whether or not God wants them to adopt children in need of loving, caring parents.

If they need Gawd for this decision, then they are already in trouble.  Empathy should guide them on this.  Not some imaginary sky-daddy.

Adoption is not only the best answer for the heartache and loneliness of foster children and those in orphanages both here and around the world, but it is also the best answer in almost every case where a mother finds herself with a “problem” pregnancy. Such pregnancies can arise from numerous circumstances, but most commonly they are a “problem” because the father is not married to the mother.

I just love in these Christian pep-talks and ego-stroking, they never talk about rape.  It’s like, “if I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist!”  Too bad the buy-bull, I mean Bible, is chock-full of rape.  Also, yeah, every single mother is just like, “Oh no, I’m not married to the father!  I need an abortion!”  Fucking genius…

Currently, almost all such single mothers choose either to abort or keep their babies (only 1 percent of such pregnancies currently end in adoption). Last year, 53 percent of babies born to women under thirty were born to single mothers. And yet, though adoption is seldom chosen in response to such pregnancies, it is virtually always the best option for everyone concerned.

Where on EARTH are you getting your statistics?!  There isn’t a SINGLE link on this post to anything, so where the fuck are you getting this?  Like single mothers are all just running to Planned Parenthood like “oh shit, got knocked up.  Can you deal with this?”  The misogyny displayed here is abhorred.  I feel sick.  As for adoption being the best option, I’ll get to that at the end of this.

Killing your “problem” or “unwanted” pregnancy through abortion is never an acceptable option (unless the child is a direct and immediate threat to the mother’s continued physical life.) In an abortion, the baby always dies, and we lose that child’s unique and never to be known God-given gifts and contributions to the world. Further, an abortion is much more traumatic physically to a mother’s future reproductive life than carrying a baby to term would be. There are also often lingering psychological issues for the mother as well.

Again, where are you getting your information?  I’d love a source or two.  Oh, did Gawd whisper it in your ear, you fucking chauvinist?  This idea that the women who do this are just sluts or idiots offends me.  I once had a friend who was 17 years old when her boyfriend at the time was insistent upon them having sex.  She got knocked up, and then had to make the unbelievably hard choice about what to do.  Her family was dirt-poor, the boyfriend had treated her like a sex toy and she had no options.  The decision to have an abortion was one that took her so much effort to make, and she never took it lightly.  This belief that the women who do this are doing it because it is easy just pisses me the fuck off.  Yeah, there is psychological issues, but not like you think.  I cannot hate you enough.

Keeping the baby is almost never preferable to allowing a baby to be adopted into a solid, faithful Christian home. A single mother who keeps her baby is quite often denying that baby the father that God wants for that baby, and every baby, to have. Furthermore, in most circumstances, keeping the baby circumscribes and forecloses both the mother’s and the baby’s economic futures in tragic and unfortunate ways.

And now we come to the point that I have been wanting to for this post – single mothers are doing something wrong by keeping the baby.  That’s the argument that this sexist asshole is making.  Yes, because a single mother has NEVER raised a good kid, right?

Here is a list of a few people from single homes who show your contention to be bullshit –
Stephen Colbert
Bill Clinton
Enrique Iglesias
Samuel L. “Bad Mutha Fucka” Jackson
Jet Li
Jack Nicholson
President Barack Obama
Tupac Shakur
Sir Paul McCartney

So yeah, you are full of shit and offensive on SO many levels!  But we’re not done.

If the mother is doing what is best for her baby (one of the defining marks of maternal love), she will part with her baby so that it will have the future God intended for him or her to have.

UGH!  You foul, venereal disease-ridden piece of shit!  What an awful thing to say!  This is disgusting!  Hell, you aren’t even a piece of shit.  Calling you that would be to step on the good name of shit.  You’re worse than shit.  You’re like gonorrhea or syphilis.  Yes, single mothers, who probably love their children, should give them up for Gawd.  If that’s something he actually believes, then fuck him too!

Adoption allows the mother to give her child both a mother and a father who will love and cherish the child. Also with today’s open adoption policies, she can have as much or as little contact with, and information about, her child as she desires. She can dictate the terms of the adoption (monthly reports, quarterly visits, etc.), and the adoptive parents either agree or the adoption does not occur.

Because that makes it all better or any easier, right?

It is a tragedy of tragedies that only 1 percent of the “problem” pregnancies in America end in adoption. The terrible cost of the lost human potential of the aborted children is both breath-taking and overpowering, as well as the heartache of parents who long to adopt, but cannot find children to embrace and love as their own.

This point about parents who are looking to adopt but who “cannot find children to embrace and love as their own.”  Pay attention to it.  We’ll be coming back to it soon.

Let’s all get behind adoption as the best option. After all, adoption has followed the Christian faith wherever it has gone in the world, and for good reason. Adoption reflects God’s love experienced by all professing Christians throughout the last two millennia.

And that’s the end of this man’s article.

Alright, time to get ugly.  It’s telling that he said that women who don’t give up their children for adoption are denying people a chance to give a kid a good home.  Why, didn’t you just say that there are over 100,000 kids currently in the system?  The number’s actually much bigger here in the US.  According to a AFCARS Report, there are 400,000 children currently in the system right now.  They don’t need to be “given up.”  They’re there, right now!  So, why aren’t all these good “forever families” adopting them left and right?

Well, it’s because they aren’t babies!  See, adoption typically only works when it’s a baby.  Because people love babies.  If it’s a baby, then there’s no baggage with the kid.  It’s easy.  Raising a kid who was taken from a problem house, with a lot of issues, that’s hard.  People are lazy by nature, so naturally we take the simpler option.

But this idea that adoption is the best option, the last person I truly loved was raised in the system.  Her and her little sister.  Her strung-out junkie mother left them at a home, saying she’d come right back.  No one knows where she is now.  If I could find her, I would kick the shit out of her for what she did to those children.  Growing up in a group home in Chicago, where the gang violence of the streets comes right in to the home, is hell.  She never told me what she had to do to keep her and her little sister safe.  I never asked.  If she didn’t want to say, I respected that.  This imaginary belief that adoption is so wonderful is so stupid and so antithetical to the facts that it just pisses me off even more.  Adoption hurts people.  It makes their lives harder.  Because if they aren’t picked when they are a baby or really little, the chance that they will ever get out of the system is so small that it breaks my heart.

I never told anyone this, but the girl I knew, she had a chance to get out.  There was a couple who she talked to, who was wanting to adopt a kid.  She was smart, quick-thinking and more well-adjusted than most.  But there was a problem – her little sister.  The kid was rambunctious, loud and didn’t follow directions well.  So, if they were to get her, they told her that they could only take one.  She declined, saying that she wasn’t going anywhere without her little sister.  That was the one and only time she ever saw a chance to escape.  She stayed, because without her, her little sister wouldn’t have survived.  She’s dead now, and her little sister got out.  It wasn’t anything approaching a happy ending.

One last thing I want to touch on is this idea that parting with the kid is just so fucking easy.  The aforementioned former friend who got knocked-up, she told me that if she had carried that child to term and given birth to it, she couldn’t have given it up.  It was easier to destroy a clump of cells that wasn’t a person, yet.  Easier to not allow this growth inside to become something more than to know that she was never going to see this child again and never be a part of its life.  That it would live with someone else.

Richard Land, you make me sick.  You are such a misogynist.  It can’t be argued that.  Your open dismissal of single mothers and the struggles they go through to give their children a good life, it’s reprehensible.  I hope that someday, you get to be a single parent, working two jobs to make ends meet and barely having enough time to see your children, much less have a relationship with them.  Maybe then you wouldn’t be so cavalier with your statements that giving a child up is so easy.

Until next time, a quote,

“You know the things I went through as a youngster, coming into the business, all the good, the bad and the ugly that came. I’d had a rough life. I grew up single parent. My mom, she was like a father to me.”  -Raekwon

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Catching FireThis isn’t gonna be pretty.  What’s more, I know for a fact that this is going to piss off a lot of the teeny, tweeny, girly crowd who likes this garbage.  Up-front, while this movie wasn’t actively terrible, it was boring.  I was bored.  They did a few things right, but overall, the problems I had with the original came right the hell back in this film.  I’m just putting this out there – if you like the source material for this, and this franchise, stop reading.  I’m about to nit-pick the hell out of this, because the problems with the book translate right into the films, and they are worth talking about, because when I see wasted potential, it gets on my nerves.  I’m also going to be calling out a bullshit argument against my position in a big way.  This movie wasn’t a total waste, like the original, but it certainly didn’t help.  With that said, let’s get to it.

Up front, I won’t be going after the fact that this series is a DIRECT rip-off of Battle Royale.  For real, as annoying as that is to me, I am willing to let that sit and talk about my other issues with this movie.

Alright, let’s get this over with.  The plot for this film picks up where the previous one left off.  Katniss and Peeta return home, only to discover that their actions have inspired the Districts to rebel, which is becoming a huge issue.  Now they are caught up in a political battle to help keep their society together, even while it is crumbling, and their loyalties are tested.  There is also a new form of Hunger Games that only happens ever 20-odd years or so that they are now entered in (which seemed like a REALLY convenient plot element to keep things familiar).

So, let’s start with what the film did right.  The camera work has gotten a hell of a lot better in this film.  They got the director of Constantine, who knows what he’s doing.  His style of film-making was all over this picture, which was for the better.  The bad cinematography was enough of an issue in the previous film.

While the violence is all PG-13, it at least feels more visceral in this film.  The previous film had deaths that made no sense and combat that was laughably fake.  This film got it down better, but again – new director.  A better director can go miles for a film.

That’s about it.  For real, that’s all the accolades I can give this film.  Now, we get to tearing it up.  Look, I’m not one of these people who says that a film needs to be a direct send-up to the book.  The Ender’s Game film wasn’t, and it wasn’t half-bad.  But here’s the thing – in the original film, there were a fuck-ton of plot-holes that needed some explanation.  If you want a very detailed look into it, here is a video from one of my favorite film critics, Your Movie Sucks.  Not one of them was answered in this film.  If anything, they got worse!

The biggest thing that I want to talk about, however, is a gripe I have about the book and film series, and the argument people make to defend it.  Both the books and the film don’t embrace the darkness of their premise.  For me, this is something that gets on my nerves, because it seems like a waste.  The world that this series takes place in should have been much more bloody and violent.  The common argument that I hear from that is – it’s for kids.  Don’t give me that bullshit!  That is not a good argument!  As a kid, I read a TON of books, written for children, that were dark as all get-out.  My two favorite series’ growing up were His Dark Material and Animorphs.  The former being a direct middle-finger to the Catholic Church and organized religion, while the latter being a violent and gory story about the loss of innocence and the cost of war.

This idea that teenagers and kids can’t handle the dark stuff boggles the mind.  One of my favorite films growing up was Return to Oz, which was a surreal and terrifying experience.  My favorite Christmas film was The Nightmare Before Christmas.  You have films like Pinocchio and Land Before Time.  All of these were for a much younger audience, and they embraced their darkness so much more!  Well, as far as they could.  Anyone who has read the story that Pinocchio is based on could tell you – it’s sadistic!  So this idea that kids can’t handle the dark stuff kind of pisses me off because not only is it insulting young people’s intelligence, but it is a waste of a good opportunity.

Another big waste was the fact that they had Katniss get involved in ANOTHER Hunger Games-esque battle.  The premise of this story, with dissension among the Districts and her not really having a dog in this fight would have made for a fascinating story all on its own!  I was hoping that this would be something more like Metropolis, with Katniss being the person being strung along by forces beyond her control, taking it all in.  They set this film and the book up for that.  And, without spoiling it for anyone who is still reading, it kind of ends on that.  So why not have it be that all the way through?  For as much as they try and put in this movie, I feel like very little actually happened.  So much wasted opportunity, which is a bummer.

So, overall, is it a bad movie?  No.  It’s just a waste.  So much potential, so much could have been done.  But if it had gone that route I want, then I guess it wouldn’t have appealed to its target audience – teenage girls.  Lord knows, subjecting them to an intelligent film would have been too damn hard.  Though, after hearing the girl on her phone here on campus bitching about learning, maybe it’s just giving them what they want.  Oh, and Peeta does nothing.  For real, he’s even more useless in this film than he was in the last.  But him doing something would get in the way of the female-power message that was jammed down your throat in the previous film and kind of acknowledged in this one.

In the end, the truth is that this film is pretty much the EXACT same film we saw before.  And that is just pathetic.

Final Verdict:
6 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Top 10 Horror Films

I haven’t done a post like this in a dog’s age.  Originally, I intended to do this as my Halloween post.  Well, the time of year has long passed, but the concept is worth something anyway.  Here is my list of my top ten horror films.  If you like what’s here, let me know.  Be sure to say what your favorite horror films are as well.  Open dialogue changes the world.

Dead Silence10. Dead Silence
On the surface, this horror film is like a dozen others.  There is a supernatural monster, evil puppets and the plot isn’t all that unique.  However, as with others on this list, the trick is all in the execution.  Especially with respect to the villain.  Mary Shaw was a remarkably intimidating villain, given her frail look and dark voice.  Sure, the puppets added to it, but she was still something.  I also liked her motivation.  She didn’t just kill people because she could.  Without giving it away (because it is central to the plot), her reason for killing people was tied up in her hobby and how she died.  The film made a lot of use of dark lighting and good practical effects.  All-in-all, while it isn’t a ground-breaking horror film, it is still very good all the same.

The Woman in Black9. The Woman in Black
Something that bugs me about the modern horror scene is that it seems like every film these days is trying to use gratuitous amounts of gore to appeal to the gross-out factor.  Called “torture porn,” by the Saw and Hostel franchises, it is rare to see a horror film come out these days that doesn’t have it.  This film is not one of those.  It is also nice to see that Daniel Radcliffe can act outside of the Harry Potter films.  I was worried that he would be typecast after those movies, but this film showed that his acting chops go much further than that.  Since he is alone so much in this film, in the dark house the film is set in, seeing him able to have such versatility as an actor was nice.  Plus, this film got the setting and mood just right.  Set inside a house in a bog.  The sense of isolation is perfectly captured.  Plus, the way that they used the toys inside the house was scary as shit!  A very intimidating film that showed that great horror can be done without all the blood and guts.  But that’s not to say that it has no place, as you’ll see in another entry.

The Ring8. The Ring
The ONLY remake of a Japanese horror film that actually works, but that’s because of it having Gore Verbinski as the director.  He know what he’s doing.  The sequel was crap, but the original film was a wonderfully-dark psychological horror film.  Part of my interest in this film is due to the well-shot video that the film is based on.  The story of a little girl and her psychotic journey down the rabbit hole, only to make a video which punishes other people for what was done to her, which is an ironically-common theme in horror films.  The premise of the main character only having seven days to figure the mystery out before she dies is even better, making it feel like there is a time limit and that the race is on.  Seven days to death, as it were.  An underrated film, if you ask me, and one of my personal favorites.

The Shining7. The Shining
You probably saw this coming.  I mean, Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.  So it only makes sense that a film of his is on the list.  It’s ironic that Stephen King hated this movie.  He was personally-involved in a remake some years later, which sucked so much ass.  But this film is a classic piece of horror.  The Overlook Hotel will go down in history as one of the greatest horror settings of all time.  The pacing, the shots, the dialogue and the unbelievable use of psychological horror was just amazing.  This movie scares you from start to finish.  My favorite scene is the one in the bar.  You see the main character’s descent into madness, along with some amazing dialogue that shows us just how much he is enjoying it.  Arguably the greatest horror film ever made, it is on this list for a reason.

Sleepy Hollow6. Sleepy Hollow
Comedy and horror.  Those two things are VERY hard to merge together.  But wouldn’t you know it, Tim Burton does it almost flawlessly.  This is Burton at his best, before his work went completely downhill.  The cinematography of this film is amazing.  Depp’s performance as Ichabod Crane is hilarious and the Headless Horseman is such an intimidating villain.  Christopher Walken’s portrayal of him before he loses his head (which is oddly uncredited in the film.  Weird, right?) is intimidating as fuck.  There is a neat twist about the villain that actually is pretty good.  But the best selling point of this film is the dark atmosphere and the overly-fake blood and gore.  It is totally ridiculous, but this was a deliberate decision.  Since this film involves a lot of headless bodies, it is only natural that one would have a lot of gore.  But this film makes it work because it isn’t realistic and it is used in a way that makes sense within the film.  A film that is so underrated, and one of my favorites.

Ginger Snaps5. Ginger Snaps
This film proved that a film does not need a huge budget to be a good one.  This film is amazing, for what it had to work with.  Telling the story of two sisters – Ginger, the dominant and over-powering sister and Bridgette, the submissive and vastly intelligent younger, it is a story about the supernatural and maturity.  It mixes the themes of womanhood, werewolf lore, growing up and puberty into one terrifying package.  While the plot alone is good, seeing the lengths that Bridgette will go to to protect her sister, who is clearly the only person in her world who matters, all while finding out what she is made of, is just beautiful.  This is a very dark film, mixing heart-breaking drama with grotesque horror and personal tragedy.  This film proves – never judge something by its cover. (except Twilight and the Hunger Games.  You can judge those things all you want.  They suck!)

2001 A Space Odyssey4. 2001: A Space Odyssey
A lot of you might be thinking – wait, isn’t that a sci-fi film?  Sci-fi and horror are not mutually exclusive.  Nowhere is this better displayed than my favorite of Stanley Kubrick’s movies, this one.  This film is psychological horror at its best.  HAL is one of the greatest villains of all time.  A monster who feels no emotion, has no malice, it is merely going on programmed instinct.  The terror of this creation came from the fact that we made it.  This monster is a product of our design, acting on programmed instinct.  We have no one to blame but ourselves for what it does.  The slow pace of this film can bug some.  Robot Chicken did a very funny parody of this by having a girl with nice boobs inserted into shots from it.  But for me, this was just the right kind of psychological terror, and much like another choice on here, it shows that sci-fi and horror are great bed-fellows.

Alien3. Alien
Another science fiction film that is a great horror film.  Since Ridley Scott knew that he was going to be making a movie with a dude in a rubber suit, he made this film all about its psychology elements.  The feeling of isolation in this film is captured nigh-perfectly.  The tagline for this film set it up flawlessly – no one can hear you scream in space.  Nice.  The story of the Nostromo and the xenomorph is now among sci-fi film legends.  The xenomorphs were a terrifying and implacable enemy who slowly stalks its prey, turning a very professional crew, along with very well-trained and well-armed marines in the sequel into terrified children in its presence.  These creatures are smart, without mercy and stalk their prey with absolute precision.  A wonderfully terrifying film, that I still remember fondly to this day.

Let the Right One In2. Let the Right One In
Since this is one of my favorite films of all time, you may be wondering why it isn’t at the top of the list.  I’ll get to that.  This film is amazing.  Each visual, each line of dialogue, each shot is utterly perfect.  The tale of a young boy and his growing love for a vampire is among the greatest films ever made.  Why America had to go and make their own shitty-ass version of it is beyond me.  We seem to do that a lot.  It’s like – if another country made a good film, then by god, so can we.  Wrong!  Almost always wrong!  However, the original Swedish version is one of my favorite films, with just the right mix of romance, horror and dark imagery.  But my favorite scene in the film is all done in one take, without seeing hardly anything.  A young boy is being drowned, and the people who are drowning him are being brutally killed.  Not one scene of this massacre do you see, with the camera holding on the boy’s head underwater, vaguely hearing the screaming and carnage above.  Beautiful.

And my favorite horror film of all time is –

The Thing1. The Thing (John Carpenter’s remake)
Talk about a film that got SO little respect.  Both Siskel and Ebert tore it to pieces, due to the level of gore in the film.  And yeah, the gore levels in this film are off the chart.  But here’s the thing – it’s never in bad taste.  The creature in the film is able to become anything.  Any organic life form.  Every single part of it is dangerous.  Every single part of it can mutate.  Even its blood is a threat.  The sense of isolation in this film is amazing.  All of the main character’s are believable, with their sense of impending doom getting ever closer as the monster starts tearing them apart.  How it all comes together is the icing on the cake.  An unappreciated film in the worst way that I mean to get people to recognize for how good it truly is.  If you haven’t seen it, and you have the stomach for it, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

So, those are my favorites.  How about all of you?  Any horror films that catch your eye?  Let me know in the comments section.

Until next time, a quote,

“Why don’t we just wait here for a little while.  See what happens.”  -MacReady, The Thing

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONR/L: Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC – How it Should Have Been Used

Before you go off on me, I love the Citadel DLC.  I did a review of it, praising how it played to nostalgia and was fun.  But a friend of mine pointed out – I only loved it because I was in love with the series, and was able to see it through nostalgia.  Without that, if someone played it, it would take them out of the mood.  But then, a friend of mine and I got to talking about how it should have been used.  And I think I’ve come up with something.

If Mass Effect 3 had had a far better ending, then this DLC would have been just awesome after the end.  For real, think about it – you are just through beating the Reapers.  You’ve saved the galaxy.  Assuming you’ve survived, you’re a hero in the eyes of everyone.  Now, after all that, you get back to the Citadel and what happens – you end up fighting your clone.  Just think about how amazingly ridiculous that is!  For real, can you imagine the face-palming at this.  You have your crew together, looking forward to some shore leave while the Normandy is being repaired, and now they have to fight Shepard’s clone.  The humor levels in that are off the chart.  Then, playing to nostalgia would be even more fun, because the jokes about character’s actions through the rest of the series would be that much more fun.

But there’s another thing to point out – the party at the end.  If the final act of this game had been better, more like Mass Effect 2, and all of your choices mattered and affected who lived and who died, then the party at Shepard’s new digs would have been that much more fun.  Because then, you could invite more than just your crew.  You could have Anderson, Bailey, Aria, Kolyat, Padok and a dozen other people whose survival could be affected by what happened.  So much nostalgia!  For real, the conversation options, the chances to get new perspectives on the characters, getting to see Anderson and Sanders get back together again, Jack getting drunk with her students.  So many amazing possibilities, that would have made the ending to this game that much better.  It would have been an awesome epilogue to what could have been one the defining series’ in all of gaming history.

Alas, EA and Bioware made this game.  Neither of them have had a good track record, lately.

Until next time, a quote,

“Wait, job?  You mean that you are all getting paid for this?”  -Garrus Vakarian, Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC

Peace out,

Maverick