Monthly Movie Review: The Princess Bride

Monthly Movie Review: The Princess Bride

Director: Rob Reiner 

Starring: Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, and Robin Wright

All right folks, this month we are taking a step back from the intense thrillers I have been throwing at you month after month. You can now rest easy, sit back in your seat and wipe your clammy hands on your blanket, because this month you will not be sleeping with your lights on when the film gets done.

The Princess Bride may have a few intense moments, but considering the year this film was made most of us will probably be able to handle the outrageous special effects the 80’s were dishing out.

The Princess Bride is a story of fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, and miracles…to steal a line straight from the film, but hey, at least that means it’s true, right? With a description like that this is a movie that everyone can hopefully enjoy.

When the film begins we see a young boy at home, sick in bed. This boy happens to be Fred Savage who in my mind will never age and will always be the kid from The Wonder Years, which is ridiculous because that show aired before I was even born, but these are the facts as strange as they may seem. Anyway, little Fred Savage is home sick and his grandpa comes to read to him to make him feel better and what do you know? He brings along a book called The Princess Bride. Coincidence? I think not.

So on a side note this film is essentially a story within a story, and that gets even trickier when you learn that the film is based on a book. So essentially it is a film about a book about a story about a book. Yeah that was a mouthful, or rather a brainful.

Now let’s get back to business. We have the grandpa, who by the way never gets a real name nor does Fred in case you were wondering, reading the boy this book. We are then fully immersed in the story and life of the characters in the book. There are brief breaks in the storyline when we cut back to the child and his grandpa, or when we can hear the grandpa’s voice narrating the story. For the most part however we are seeing the book as the main focus and attraction of this film.

  Once we get into the plotline of The Princess Bride segment of the movie, we can see that it is largely a story of finding true love, with many obstacles and battles in the way. Buttercup (Wright), is a young beautiful girl who falls in love with a farm boy Westley (Elwes). The two are madly in love, but are torn apart when Westley leaves to seek fortune at sea. Sometime after that Buttercup gets word of Westley’s death by the dread pirate Roberts and goes into deep despair vowing never to love again, or in laymen’s terms “shit gets real.” All jokes aside she is very upset, but eventually somewhat, and by somewhat I mean she doesn’t at all want to, against her will she agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck (who by the way was probably relentlessly teased because of his name poor chap, thank goodness he isn’t really a nice guy).

Shortly after the announcement of Buttercup and Humperdinck’s engagement Princess Buttercup is kidnapped by a band of three misfit men that normally wouldn’t go together even if you Gorilla Glued them to one another. These men are complete opposites in every way, but somehow came together to execute this scheme. The group consists of a giant; Andre the Giant is playing this character in the film so yeah like a literal giant, a Spaniard who is a master swordsman hell-bent on revenge (Mandy Patinkin), and Vizzini (Wallace Shawn, better known as the voice of Rex in the Toy Story movies) the mastermind behind the skillfully crafted plan.

What these men don’t count on however is that they are being followed. The elusive “man in black” that is following the men proceeds to encounter and then conquer each of the kidnappers, eventually getting the princess for himself. While all this is taking place Prince Humperdinck has been hot on their trail.

We later find out that this “man in black” is Westley, who obviously is not dead, sorry to drop that twist on you. The long-lost lovers are now reunited and are heading into the ominous fire swamp to get away from Humperdinck. Now you should be aware that the fire swamp poses great danger with its fire spurts, quick and the ROUS’s (rodent of unusual size), yes you heard right these huge rats are some pretty vicious creatures, you best be on the lookout for them.

They are eventually and predictably caught after facing the treacherous swamp. Buttercup and Westley are torn apart yet again. Buttercup goes back with Humperdinck to be married and Westley is shipped off to be tortured.

I know that this is getting to be a lengthy yet very interesting review, but nonetheless I will quickly throw the main highlights of the rest of the film at you.

Westley is rescued by the Giant and the Spaniard and they set of to storm the castle to rescue Buttercup from Humperdinck, and for the Spaniard to get his revenge on the six-fingered man who killed his father. Obviously there are a lot more details involved in getting to this point in the film, but you catch my drift. Now that the men are in the castle, you will just have to watch and see what adventures will ensue.

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Monthly Movie Review: Training Day

Monthly Movie Review: Training Day

Directed By: Antoine Fuqua 

Starring: Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke

This month we are going to have ourselves a double threat film. In honor of the Oscars taking place this month and to represent the fact that February is Black History month, I found a film that does justice for both. Well, sort of anyway. The movie highlights Denzel Washington as a skilled actor more so than the character he actually plays in the film, but I think it still works. In Training Day we see Denzel in an Academy Award winning role for Best Actor, which genuinely showcases his talents and range as not only a great African American actor, but an actor in general.

Training Day is a somewhat dark film that depicts a day in the life of two undercover narcotics officers. We have Alonzo Harris (Washington) as a badass detective who slowly morphs into the type of criminal he has sworn to keep off the streets. Washington perfectly portrays the wickedness of a man who could turn his back and his badge on the people and city he is supposed to be protecting. In fact, he is so convincing in this role that he makes me completely forget about the tough, but fair football coach in Remember The Titans and the good guy I imagine him to be in real life and instead makes me want to reach my hand into the television screen and slap him silly. When you match the off the wall (and not to mention illegal) policing tactics of Harris with the naïve and good intentioned personality of his trainee officer Jake Hoyt (Hawke), you’ve got yourself the makings of a wild, thrilling and dangerous ride of a movie.

The only somewhat brief (and I mean brief) comic relief that breaks up the action in this non-stop adrenaline pumping movie, would be the magnificent acting styles of Snoop Dogg, who by the way should probably stick to his music career instead of trying, like many other singers/rappers, to cross over into the acting field. Despite this fleeting comical scene, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t meant to be funny, but which I found smirkable; the rest of the film will leave you with a somewhat eerie and hollow feeling in your gut.

As I watched this film I wondered are some cops really like Alonzo? Can the people we entrust our lives to, the people that swear to protect us really wind up becoming what we fear the most, secret criminals, law breakers hiding behind the mask of a badge and gun that says they are good?  Sorry that sort of turned into a rant, but this movie to me was dark and twisted, and I think it was the film’s intention to make us think about it.

The movie progresses with Harris schlepping Hoyt around the streets of Los Angeles and taking him on crazy and dangerous adventures, for better lack of a word, which would make even the cockiest rookie shake in his shoes. Hoyt begins to recognize Harris’ shady techniques in handling his job, this same behavior is shown in the members of Harris’ team as well, illustrating the different level of rogue cops among LA’s finest. Hoyt is too intimidated at first, and too eager to be accepted by Harris, to say anything about it. However, when the stakes gets raised from stealing money to murder and blackmail, Hoyt is in so far over his head that it becomes unclear if he will be able to make it to the surface before he drowns in all the lies that he finds himself swimming in.

Director Antoine Fuqua does a good job here of letting the plot thicken and the tension rise on its own. He does this through the tight jawed and clenched fist stares that Alonzo and Jake share with each other, that makes me want to hide under my blanket afraid that they may shoot me by accident in the cross fire.

Eventuallym when Alonzo takes it too far when he sets Hoyt up, now we can see the bomb about to explode. Hoyt is sick of being Alonzo’s punching bag, something that he thinks he can smack around without being hit back, so Hoyt decides to take matters into his own hands by going after Alonzo himself.

What ensues is a major throw down of good and evil, dirty cop vs. clean cop. There can only be one winner, and with the determination of Hoyt to clear his name and his honor and Harris’ general badassery, it will be a fight too close to call. How will Detective Hoyt’s first day on the job finally end, well you should definitely watch the movie to find out.

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Monthly Movie Review: Primal Fear

Monthly Movie Review: Primal Fear

Directed by: Gregory Hoblit

Starring: Richard Gere, Edward Norton and Laura Linney

            Primal Fear is a film filled with excitement, suspense, intellectual stimulus (meaning it might make your brain hurt) and of course, as the title states, a little bit of fear thrown in the mix as well.

This movie happens to be Edward Norton’s first film and if you don’t know who Edward Norton is, then you should be ashamed of yourself. In fact, you should stop reading this review right now and go watch Fight Club and then tell me you don’t know who Edward Norton is. Also ,after you are done watching Fight Club, come back here and finish this article.

Incidentally, Edward Norton earned his first Oscar nomination for his heartfelt and emotionally raw performance in this movie. Norton has a way of making you believe in him, and if that doesn’t get you to watch the movie then I don’t know what will. Maybe it will end up being my awesome writing skills that will finally pull you in. No matter what it is that ultimately gets you to watch this movie, you will be thankful when you are done.

 Primal Fear is the type of film that keeps you on your toes, constantly making you guess what the next move will be. This movie might be more appropriate in a boxing ring the way you keep getting knocked down, one surprise after the next and before you even have time to recover from the last blow, you’re getting smashed in the face again. That analogy might have been a tad too literal, but you get my point. It is not one of those multitasking do-your-homework-while-texting-your-BFF-and-watching-the-movie kind of movies. You will have to ask someone else what is going on if you do that and then they will probably want to hit you, because they don’t like answering questions during a movie. Or is that just me?

Okay that’s enough of my rambling; lets get back to the movie. In this film we are introduced to prominent defense attorney Martin Vail (Richard Gere) who is good at his job and isn’t afraid to flaunt the fact that he knows it. He is also a very arrogant man who thinks he can win any case that he touches. So when he sees on the news that the archbishop of the Catholic Church has been murdered and a young scared alter boy named Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton) has been arrested and convicted of the crime, Vail jumps in to take the case and defend Aaron. Thus begins Vail’s crusade for glory and innocence.

Vail begins to take a personal interest in poor, sweet, stuttering (I’m not trying to be mean here, he actually stutters in the movie) Aaron and believes that he is innocent. The fact that Vail believes in Aaron only fuels his fire more to prove that Aaron did not commit this crime. Vail begins to resort to low and shady tactics – not that he didn’t do this in many of his cases before mind you – to help sway the jury in his favor. By doing this, Vail starts to upset a lot of important people who want Aaron convicted, like the district attorney and Janet (Laura Linney), the prosecuting attorney on the case.

While all these courtroom antics and evidence gathering are taking place, Vail had been having Aaron talk with a therapist. In these sessions the therapist and Vail come to discover a surprising revelation that could turn the trial on its head. The shock here is completely unexpected in my opinion and a very hard twist to guess, and yes, that is a challenge for any of you who think you could guess this one, or the one that comes later on as well.

So Vail and Molly, the therapist, have discovered this “fun fact” let’s call it, and now have to figure out how to slyly incorporate it into the trial in order to help Aaron in winning his case and being set free. Well, from here on out a series of unraveling and shocking events take place until it all comes down to the final battle of wits and cunning between Vail and Janet.

“Who wins?” you might be wondering. “Does poor Aaron finally get set free? What are all these damn twists you keep hinting about?” Don’t worry, all your questions will be answered shortly, and by shortly I mean when you eventually decide to watch the movie yourself (gotcha). So instead of sitting here wondering what happens in the movie, like if Vail’s unorthodox and at times illegal ways will help him to win again, or if they finally catch up to him in the end, because these things can only be discovered by watching the film and finally experiencing your Primal Fear.

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Monthly Movie Review: Serendipity

Monthly Movie Review: Serendipity

Released: 2001

Directed By: Peter Chelsom

Starring: John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale and Jeremy Piven

Okay guys, I’m going to do it!  I am jumping on the band wagon with the department stores, radio stations and half the people in America and I am going to start celebrating Christmas before November is even over. I know, I know, gasp if you must, but I just can’t help it. The holiday spirit has come upon me and I cannot seem to shake it, so I am officially making all of you join in it with me. That being said, let the Christmas movie watching begin! Serendipity is not necessarily a Christmas movie, though it does take place in wintertime around Christmas, so I guess I’m not really jumping the gun, at least not yet anyway.

I can hear you all thinking “enough with the rambling and get on with it already,” so for all you short-attention-spanned impatient people I’m sorry, but I am a rambler.  Just kidding, but with that being said I will, shall I say, get on with it.

Serendipity, at its core, is a romantic comedy or, “RomCom” for all you cinema snobs out there. It’s also a good, funny, Christmas-y and cute in an “aww” sort of way. It may not be the most manly movie, but guys it sure would be a good date movie (and yes that was a hint).

This movie is about love, second chances and fate, which is something I’m sure most of us want to believe in, but are never actually sure if we believe it or not, even though we like to say we do especially when that “fate” turns out to be good instead of  bad.

Our two main characters Jonathan (John Cusack) and Sara (Kate Beckinsale) meet in a Bloomingdales department store while last-minute Christmas shopping. Maybe we should take a cue from this movie and all go walk around our local fancy high-end department stores looking for that special someone. If that doesn’t work out then we can still do some shopping.

Anyway, the two meet and instantly hit it off. So instead of doing the normal sensible thing they decide to leave their relationship up to fate. They do this by writing each other’s names and numbers on a five dollar bill and in a book, then sending them out into the world and hoping one day to find them again and only then will they know if they belong with each other. A few years pass by, however, and they have yet to find their tokens of fate. Even though both have moved on, there are still lingering thoughts of what could have been.

After having one too many doubts and second thoughts, Jonathan takes it upon himself to go searching for his long lost almost love Sara (with help from his best friend Dean, played by Jeremy Piven. If you liked Piven in Entourage then you should enjoy his performance in this role, too). The plot spins into a wild goose chase of love, and a fair share of misunderstandings and fate-driven events ensues. With a funny twist of fate, Sara herself decides to make a trip back to New York, possibly to find Jonathan as well.

This movie shows us that it is nice to believe in happy accidents or serendipity and sometimes it does work out for us in the end, even though we do still have to put in some effort to make it work. Spoiler alert: (Oops I guess I should have put this part first, but oh well, this is a romantic comedy. Come on, you cannot honestly tell me you thought it would end any other way). Anyway, sometimes fate takes its course and leads us to the life we want, but it doesn’t always and we should be prepared for that as well. Whoa I got a little deep right there, let’s take a step back now and get back to the important stuff. Jonathan and Sara do eventually meet up again as I so rudely spoiled for everyone a few sentences ago. The two finally and inevitably meet again by fate. They then fall in love after a slow emotion filled silence set to a romantic song with the two looking longingly into one another’s eyes, ending with, yes you guessed it, a kiss.

This is a feel-good fun movie that reminds us that it’s the holidays and we’re all miserable, wait that doesn’t seem right. How about it’s the holidays and we are all more open to possibilities and love, yeah that sounds better. Happy Holidays everyone and watch tons of movies over break, especially this one.

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Monthly Movie Reviews: Layer Cake

Monthly Movie Reviews: Layer Cake

Director: Matthew Vaugh

Starring: Daniel Craig, Sienna Miller and Michael Gambon

In honor of the upcoming release of Skyfall on November 9, which by the way is the new James Bond movie for all of you who have been living under a rock the past few months, I decided to choose a movie to review starring James Bond himself, a.k.a. Daniel Craig. And let’s face it, we can never have too much of Daniel Craig.

While the only thing that may be related in these two films is the fact that Craig gets to run around being a bad ass, that doesn’t mean Layer Cake is not an action packed British (yes ladies, I did say British, so get ready to drool over all the amazing accents) crime thriller as well.

Layer Cake, in spite of the misleading name, has nothing to do with cake (bummer I know). Layer Cake in this movie actually refers to the social strata in the British criminal world, along with the numerous plot layers that exist in the film. That being said, the movie is in reality about Craig’s character, who does not have an identified name in the film, a cocaine dealer on the brink of retirement who is asked to do two more challenging jobs, one of which is completely out of his league. The first is finding the missing daughter of a major coke supplier (and she’s a drug addict, surprised?) and the other is organizing the purchase and delivery of one million ecstasy pills from an arrogant gangster named the Duke. Did I mention that this movie might have to do with something about drugs? Well in case I didn’t here it goes, this movie has a lot of drugs in it. You’re welcome.

So you are probably thinking things can’t get much worse for him now right, but you’d be wrong. Things pretty much just keep on getting worse. With a slew of lies, secrets and hidden agendas that spiral down into a bloody mess, we see the evolution, well actually rather the degeneration, that a life of crime brings on.

One big glitch in the plan is when we learn that all the pills the Duke has acquired turn out to be stolen. Which isn’t really good for anyone, especially Craig, who now has a hit man after him who wants the pills (and the Duke’s head) and isn’t afraid to takes Craig’s head along with it in the process if he has to.

Around half way through the film we are introduced to the father of the runaway coke addict teenage girl. When I first saw the father/menacing drug supplier Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon), I knew he seemed very familiar and then it hit me like a lightning bolt. Bloody hell, it’s Dumbledore! After the shock of seeing Dumbledore without a beard down to his knees, and not a wand in sight, it was easy to picture Gambon as an experienced and cold-hearted drug lord. Scary, I know, but he does it well.

Also, of course, there is a hot, but complicated girl added into the mix here as well, which doesn’t exactly appear to be a threatening or terrible problem for Craig, if you know what I mean. There always seems to be “that girl” in this type of movie, let’s say Sienna Miller for the sake of this movie, on screen for two minutes in order to further progress and add insight to the plot of the film.  That is why they do it, right?

This movie does at times get a bit confusing and pulls at our intellectual abilities to be aware of everything at all times in a film, which, let’s face it, is not an easy task for me to do. Be it the accents, or just that I had a bit of trouble following the story line at various points in the film, I didn’t grasp a few of the elements that had been presented in the movie. Don’t be alarmed by this though, because at no point did it take away from my understanding of the movie as a whole, or my experience of watching the film. All it really did was muster a few looks of confusion with my head cocked to one side, which by the way, made me glad I watched this movie alone.

Without giving too much away, since I hate when people do that and I really can’t say much more about the film without doing so, I will say this: there are some unanticipated twists and turns that go down which will take you by surprise in this film, along with a few semi-predictable plot lines, but all in all it is a very well-written and acted film. So ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts, hold on to your popcorn and get ready to push the pedal to the metal because you are in for a crazy, action packed and suspenseful ride in Layer Cake.

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Monthly Movie Reviews: King of California

Monthly Movie Reviews: King of California

Starring: Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood

Directed by: Mike Cahill

If you are looking for a movie that will make you laugh, excite you and possibly make you cry (for all you manly men out there, don’t let that stop you from watching this movie), then stay tuned.

In a world where frequent visits to the mental hospital and searching for buried treasure is the norm, we are introduced to the reality of King of California. This movie is a witty, indie dramedy following the adventures of wise beyond her years Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood) and her eccentric father Charlie (Michael Douglas), who was recently released from his stay at a mental hospital.

While Miranda struggles to keep them afloat financially by working at  a McDonalds (because that’s legit), Charlie is in search for buried treasure. Though Miranda is frustrated by Charlie and his constant shenanigans, they are all that each other have in this world. And despite her best efforts, she cannot help but love and take care of him. Due to this, Miranda resists in helping Charlie with his extravagant plans at first, but then we soon see the wall she tries to put up between her and Charlie begins to slowly crumble (like MSU’s football team this year, don’t hate, we all know it’s true) as this adventure brings some joy and hope back into her life.

The two of them grow closer during their hunt for the long lost treasure, which finally leads them to believe that the gold doubloons they have been looking for are buried under their local Costco store. Although I am glad it wasn’t a Wal-Mart that they were breaking into, because the only thing I can think about when I am in one is breaking out of it.

While it may seem strange to root for a character that is justifiably insane and knows it (since normally we are thinking they should go back to where they came from), you can’t help but fall in love with Charlie and his sense of adventure and obliviousness to the real world.  This man is absolutely ridiculous, but it only makes you want his ravings of buried treasure to be real as much as he does for both Charlie’s sake and Miranda’s sanity.

The two actors play off each other wonderfully, as if they were meant to be together in these roles like peas and carrots, as Forest Gump would say, or me and Robert Downey Jr…. Anyway, we have Douglas as the perfectly eccentric, yet slightly unstable father, matching seamlessly with Wood’s responsible, level-headedness, making this quirky movie come to life. Together the pair  reminds me of Obama and Romney, but I’ll let you decide for yourselves which one is level headed and which one forgot to take their meds.

King of California is a heartbreakingly sweet betrayal of the love between a father and daughter and that no matter how much it might be strained, family is a bond that can never be broken.

Check out the trailer below!

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Zombie Culture

Zombie Culture

By Emily Green

Zombies, although not literally, have been sweeping the nation, with movies like Zombieland and television shows like The Walking Dead. With the zombie fever heating up, a new game Humans v Zombies, or HvZ as the players call, has emerged across the world at over 650 colleges and universities.

HvZ is essentially a game of tag. All of the players start the game as humans and one player is randomly chosen to be the original zombie. This original zombie then has to tag the human players and turn them into zombies. The game is won when either the zombies have turned all the human players into zombies or when the humans survive long enough for all the zombies to starve, which is when a zombie does not tag a human within forty-eight hours.

“There really isn’t anything more appealing then running around a beautiful campus like MSU’s, shooting NERF guns at other people. It just sounded like so much fun,” humanities pre-law sophomore Ben Burroughs said when speaking of why he decided to be a part of the HvZ game.

Photo credit: humansvszombies.org

A few of the basic things to know about HvZ are that humans must wear a bandana around their arm to identify themselves as humans in the game. When the players are turned into zombies, they must transfer the bandana to their heads.  Players are turned into zombies by getting tagged by an existing zombie in the game; after they are tagged they have now become an official member of the zombie team. The human players of the game are the ones who are waking around with the NERF guns.  They have these guns so they can stun the zombies for fifteen minutes by blasting them with the dart guns. This means that the zombies cannot interact in the game in anyway until those fifteen minutes are up.

With the undead roaming the streets of MSU’s campus, the humans are on the lookout, NERF guns held high in anticipation for a zombie attack. The HvZ game has really taken off and many students have joined in on the fun.

“I absolutely enjoy playing it, and I will most likely play until I graduate. It makes going to class and hanging out on campus a thousand times more fun,” said Burroughs.

HvZ has become very popular on campus. When the game is going on you can count on seeing a multitude of students running around campus wearing their bandanas with pride.

“My favorite part would have to be the thrill of walking to class, looking over your shoulder every few steps, feeling completely paranoid that a zombie could jump out at you any second, and then the rush when you survive an attack is amazing,” said Burroughs.

HvZ has made such a huge impact on the students and the culture at Michigan State that even the staff at MSU realizes how popular this zombie epidemic is by offering a zombie-themed class in the Social Work Department, entitled “Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse: Catastrophes & Human Behavior.” Along with classes about zombies there are many other activities and projects on campus that are incorporating zombies into them.

One of these projects would include the student film titled Apocalypse Theory, which is about the end of the world at MSU. This film was made by brothers and MSU students Brandon and Cameron Laventure. Together they decided to incorporate a scene with students playing HvZ into it.

“[HvZ] is a really interesting bit of culture we have at MSU. It gives campus its own unique life. Even if you are not a part of the game you are aware of the game and experience a part of it [just] by watching it,” said Brandon, who graduated from MSU in 2010.

The two brothers thought that including this scene in the film would bring a more personal feel to the film and be more relatable to the students, since this game is actually played here on our campus.

This craze has gone beyond being just for the students here at MSU; Troy Hale has recognized how popular zombies are in our culture and the entertainment industry right now and has decided to make a documentary film on the topic.

“Like anything, [zombies are] the current fad. A few years ago it was all about vampires, now its zombies.  Entertainment follows what people are currently interested in and vice-versa. Many shows are being made right now. The popularity and success of those shows create even more shows,” said Academic Specialist and Big Ten Network Coordinator Troy Hale.

Hale does not seem to think that this zombie mania will last long saying like everything, it has its life cycle. Something “new” will come along and interests will change. It will lose popularity and probably come back again in 50 years.

“It’s an interesting topic. People have a lot of interest in the topic so it’s the right time to make a documentary about it. Kevin Epling and I started to chat about all the interesting things going on around the topic of zombies. It’s an exciting thing to talk about so we started compiling interesting angles that we could cover in a documentary,” said Hale.

We see can see through the entertainment industry and the games that we play that zombies have truly taken over the world for the moment in a matter of speaking. Besides for HvZ being a part of the zombie craze right now, it is also a game of fun and excitement. It is a nice break for the students involved and even for those students who are just spectators between classes to take a small pause from constantly thinking about school work and focus on the game.

“Yes I would recommend the game to other students; it’s the novelty of embracing a childhood toy, combined with the fun and skills of being a college student. Not to mention the more people that play, the better,” said Burroughs.

With players as excited as this to share the game with as many students as possible makes it easier to see why this game is becoming so popular and many more students keep joining every year.

If you want to learn even more about HvZ, the official website is http://humansvszombies.org where you can find a more in-depth account of all the rules, as well as interesting facts and information about the game, including how the game was invented.

 

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Dancing with the Spartans: MSU’s Own Ballroom Dancing

Dancing with the Spartans: MSU’s Own Ballroom Dancing

By Emily Green

Dancing with the Stars isn’t the only hot spot for competitive ballroom dancing. Ballroom Dance Club/Competitive Ballroom Dance Team here at Michigan State University has room for plenty of dancers from novice to expert.

The Ballroom Dance Club has been around since the 1980s and is mainly focused on providing inexpensive dance lessons to the community. These lessons are held on Sunday afternoons throughout the school year on campus at Demonstration Hall.

“The Sunday lessons are taught by a professional couple while there are student captains who are [also] student captains appointed to help teach,” said Secretary/Public Relations and zoology junior Sarah LoPresto.

Photo credit: Jill Hakala

While the club has been around since the ’80s, the Competitive Ballroom Dance Team, which is connected with the Ballroom Dance Club, just started recently in 2009. This aspect of the team brings a more aggressive and creative feel to the club because students get to actually compete and show off their dancing skills instead of just constantly practicing them.

“For the competitive dances all colleges [who have a Competitive Ballroom Dance Teams] train for collegiate competitions,” LoPresto said.

Some of the competitions that they attend are the Ohio Star Ball Competition, which takes place in November and the Ohio State University Competition that takes place in April. When the members of the Ballroom Dance Team compete they have to dance with other members on the team as their partners.

“It is very important that the students pick their own partners and we don’t assign them,” LoPresto said.

This is because dancers must have good chemistry with their partners in order to perform well in their dances. Due to this fact and the lower membership of men on the team, some of the guys may have up to two or three partners. Because of this, the team is especially in need for new male members.

“Anyone can join the [competitive] team there are two levels. If you want to be on level two then you do need to audition, but there are no cuts,” LoPresto said.

The team is always open to new members and anyone is welcome to join.

Before the dancing part of the competitions begins there are some guidelines that the members must remember and need to follow before they can begin competing. While there are no set rules on the dress code for the dancers at the competitions, the members usually try to wear dressier clothes.

“The guys wear all black and the girls wear heels and dresses. Nothing like all the fancy costumes you see on Dancing with the Stars,” LoPresto said.

Along with the dress code there are also specific dances and techniques that the dancers need to know.

“We have a dance syllabus that tells us what dances to do and different moves and skills within the dances,” LoPresto said.

After the team figures out what dances they are doing for the competition, they begin practicing for the day when they get to show off their dancing skills and techniques in the competition.

“Everyone on the team competes at the competitions, there are just different levels in [each] competition. Bronze, which is the lowest level, then silver, and finally gold. In the gold level there is more technique,” LoPresto said.

The members who are a part of the bronze group at first shouldn’t get discouraged according to LoPresto because you can move up in categories based on your skill level and number of years on the team.

Photo credit: Jill Hakala

SPREADING THE WORD

For just starting in 2009 the Competitive Ballroom Dancing Team has done a good job with getting the word out about their club, in a variety of different ways. Some of the existing members on the Ballroom Dance Team were introduced to it through their friends or by fellow members on the Ballroom Dance Team.

“I have been dancing forever and when my friend told me about it, I went. I love it, it is like home,” said English junior Kaitlyn Hlywa.

Additionally some team members happened to come across the Ballroom Team on their own. Several people found out about it from the Michigan State’s student life web page that lists all the clubs at MSU while other members heard about it at Sparticipation when the Ballroom Dance Team had a spot there to recruit new team members.

“I wanted to keep dancing after high school, [then] I heard about the club through their booth at Sparticipation and wanted to try out ballroom dancing,” said accounting sophomore Ashley Wood, a member for two years now.

The members of the Competitive Ballroom Dance Team are very passionate about dancing and each other as a team, many see the team as being as close as family.

“My favorite part of the team is the bonding experience. [The team] is more about fun, it is like a family,” Hlywa said.

“I love that the team is one big family and when we all hang out together. I also love midnight breakfasts with the team. [Everyone] makes me feel welcome,” said studio art junior Jill Hakala.

If you are at all interested in joining the competitive ballroom dance team or in taking lessons from them the best way to contact the team is through their website www.msu.edu/-ballroom. If you would rather have a firsthand look at the club instead, then go Thursday nights when the competitive team holds an open practice which is more of social and informal practice from ten to midnight in Demonstration Hall.

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A <i>Gourmets</i> Evening of Pure Michigan

A Gourmets Evening of Pure Michigan

By Emily Green

Would you spend $150 on an evening of appetizers, dinner and entertainment? Well, 256 guests already have making the 61st annual Les Gourmets officially sold out for 2012. Les Gourmets is a student-run dining experience that is hosted by the School of Hospitality Business at MSU.

The occasion is primarily run by students alone, although there are some faculty advisers to lend a helping hand and support during the preparation and actual event.

“We have guest chefs and faculty advisers who are there to be mentors, but students have the final say on decisions,” said chief financial officer and hospitality business senior Nicole Scherff.

“[I] provide them with information that mirrors the highest of industry standards,” said Chef Allan Sherwin, one the faculty advisers for Les Gourtmets.

Chef Sherwin also shared that some past students have gone on to work in the industry at some very well-known venues and cities such as the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, Event Planning in Las Vegas, New York, Chicago and Miami, to name a few.

The students involved in this event are very dedicated and enthusiastic about their work. They work hard to make the evening a success and a night that the guests will not soon forget by planning and hiring the entertainment for the night, as well as completely transforming the space, the Big Ten rooms in Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. Through decorations corresponding to the theme that they have chosen for the year, the guests feel as though they have stepped into an entirely different world.  Because the students have the responsibility of planning the entire event, they make sure it is well thought out and runs smoothly every single year.

Les Gourmets is a non-profit event that runs on help and several types of donations. Assistant executive director and hospitality business junior Sam Patterson said there are food donations that go toward the event, volunteer food donations which go to the people who are working and helping make the event happen (so they have something to eat while the event is going on) and cash donations that go towards paying for the performances and decorations.

Each year there is a theme chosen that will be represented throughout the evening. This year’s theme is Pure Michigan.

“The theme is hitting close to home, and we are trying to promote and provide locally for the event,” said Brittany Friddell, chief executive officer and hospitality business senior.

The theme is emulated throughout the night through decorations as well as the menu. Some local sources that may be providing resources for the event are the MSU Student Organic Farm and the MSU Dairy Store.

“I will definitely tell you that when guests walk into the Kellogg, it will be transformed into everything they love about Michigan, the trees, the water, etc.,” said director of marketing and hospitality business senior Courtney Johnson.

The arts and entertainment department posted a few hints on the Les Gourmets blog about the decorations for the occasion:

“We are working hard to capture the beauty of our state through décor and entertainment. Some interpretations you can expect to be literal, while others aim to capture the essence of great landmarks and pieces of Michigan culture… Guests can expect a nod to the natural beauty of our state (think beautiful greens and blues), and representations of the industrial city of Detroit in its “Motown” hay-day.”

Along with great decorations representing Michigan throughout the night, they plan and taste test the food for the night to make sure it both looks and tastes amazing. There will be various unique and flavorful foods showcasing the best of Michigan. The chefs are trying to get most of the food locally to go along with the theme.

“We are trying to find non-typical Michigan items for the menu, not just apples and cherries,” said assistant Heart of House director and hospitality business senior Freddie Wurster. Heart of House is the Les Gourmets department for chefs and cooking volunteers.

“Pure Michigan is a special theme for us,” said Heart of House director and hospitality business senior Nate Redner. “There are lots of great products across the state that we want to showcase. When thinking about Michigan made products, it’s imperative that we use our campus resources, especially the MSU Dairy, featuring cheeses and potentially an ice cream collaboration.”

Since the main students chefs are all from Michigan, they are trying to choose foods that remind them of growing up here. The chefs are still going over and making slight changes to the menu even now.

“We have a good idea of what we want, but need to make sure we can execute it,” Wurster said.

Anyone who attends the event will be able to see all the great local food they end up choosing represented in the nine hors d’oeuvres, which are small bite size portions of food that you can normally eat with your hands that are served before the meal, and the seven course meal, including dessert, that make up the dinner.

“Be on the lookout for unique Michigan dishes such as vegetarian pasties, venison brochettes, morel mushrooms, shrimp raised in Okemos, barley and sweet corn risotto and apple brandy sorbet,” said Redner.

Along with a massive hors d’oeuvre selection and a multi-course feast, there are plenty of performances that will be going on throughout the night.  Some of the ideas they have planned for this year’s event are slam poetry, lyrical dance by the MSU Impulse Dance team, a jazz performance, the all-female a cappella group “Ladies First,” a Motown band and, “a special entertainment act, a wow factor,” Friddell said.

This is a big and extravagant event. The students in charge of organizing the event need some additional support which is why they hire on volunteers to give them an added hand helping out with the activities.

“The volunteers are mostly from the Hospitality Business College, but this year we did something new,” Friddell said. “We held a charity event at Gateway Community Center, and we invited some of the kids there who would be prospective MSU students to come and help out at the event. We also will be helping them by showing them what college is like and giving them jobs to do here that are related to their interests.”

Les Gourmets is an event that is planned and executed with massive amounts of hard work, dedication and love for what they are doing.

“I started with Les Gourmets my sophomore year as a volunteer, and it confirmed that this is what I want to do,” Wurster said.

“I love Les Gourmets and the challenges and lessons I will take from it will be with me long into my career — the relationships I have developed working with my peers as well as our faculty advisers are what I like best,” Johnson said.

With the positive experiences of the students who run the event, Les Gourmets can be a great environment for an aspiring chef or event coordinator to gain experience and meet other students who share their interests.

Les Gourmets will be held on March 31 at The Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. The reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. with dinner following directly after at 7 p.m. Although Les Gourmets is sold out, there is a waiting list available if you are still interested. To check this out or to look up any additional information on the event you can visit its website.

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So Long, Barnes & Noble

So Long, Barnes & Noble

By Emily Green

The Barnes and Noble located on the corner of Grand River  and Charles Street  here in East Lansing is closing its doors on December 31. Barnes and Noble had just recently celebrated their 10 year anniversary at that location in September.

“I think that this will be a big loss to the city. It is an ideal set up for East Lansing and I hate to see it go,” said R. Dale Wilson, professor of marketing at MSU.

“Barnes and Noble is a place to read, browse and socialize. It is a retail anchor in East Lansing. I will miss it,” said Patricia Huddleston, professor of retailing.

While the reason for the closure is unknown, the vice president of development at Barnes and Noble David Deason did release a statement saying, “The current lease is at its end of term and we will be closing the store at the end of this year.”

Photo Credit: Julia Grippe

The company is keeping pretty tight lipped about the reason for the closure. While Barnes and Noble employees were questioned, they declined to comment on the story. It is known, however that the company and the building owner were unable to agree on the cost of a new lease for the upcoming year, which played a role in the closing of the store.

Huddleston speculates that this Barnes and Noble was one of their less profitable stores to begin with and that parking is a big issue. “If you do not have campus parking, or are on foot, you have to pay for parking. This makes the location of the store less convenient.”

“Many citizens of East Lansing will be disappointed by the closure, and wish that the two could’ve came to an agreement on the leasing price,” said Wilson.

The reaction to the closure of the store will most likely vary from person to person depending on who you ask. Both elementary education freshman Caitlin Karram and Lyman Briggs Freshman Darren Donnelly were not aware of the closing, but were also not very upset that Barnes and Noble will be closing.

“I would rather buy books online, it is easier,” Donnelly said. This brings up the debate on whether online shopping and e-readers will end up putting traditional books stores out of business.

“We are in the transition mode from traditional to online retailers, consumer preference is hurting their business,” Wilson stated.

On the other hand, biochemistry freshman Alek Guettler and Lyman Briggs freshman Breanna Borg were shocked to hear the news.

“I am very upset and very surprised,” Borg said.

With the closing of Barnes and Noble in a prime retail space and one of the biggest buildings on Grand River,  it may make people wonder how long will it be until another business will take its’ place, and what that  business  will be. Jacobson’s Department store was located in that building before Barnes and Noble moved into it.

Photo Credit: Julia Grippe

“It will be hard to find one retailer to take over the space. It may have to be subdivide,” offered Wilson.

While agreeing with Wilson that a good option for the building would be to subdivide it, Huddleston suggested that, “It might be interesting to subdivide the building as an incubator for local entrepreneurs to start up a business and merchandise their stuff; this could be a creative way to use the space.”

Some of the students on campus also shared what they might like to see open up in the vacated building once Barnes and Noble is gone.

“I would love to see another book store open there. I think that location is great for books,” said Guettler.

“I want to see a nice sit down restaurant go into the building,” Karram said. Even with many different ideas on what will fill the newly vacated building once Barnes and Noble is gone, both Wilson and Huddleston agreed that it will be hard to say how long the building will stay unoccupied.

With the closing of Barnes and Noble creeping closer by the day, whether you are upset or indifferent about the closing it is becoming apparent that the citizens of East Lansing will need to find a new place where they can buy books and music while also spending a quiet afternoon wandering through the shelves, or  to study silently.

“We will lose a convenient place for students and faculty of Michigan State to buy non-school books,” Huddleston said. Schuler Books and Music will now be the closet major book store to campus. It is located in the Meridian Mall.

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