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Review: ‘Deadpool’

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Review: ‘Deadpool’


It is hard to imagine a superhero movie that does not cater to the largest possible audience, a movie that has something for everyone. Yet, on Valentine’s Day, “Deadpool” was released under an R-rating with large amounts of graphic violence, a lot of nudity and a sex montage.

For some background, Deadpool, Wade Wilson, is a Marvel Comics character created in the 1990s by Rob Liefeld. Deadpool is an anti-hero who does not shy away from killing people, not just bad guys because he is a mercenary for the most part. He does work closely with the X-Men when he decides to be more heroic. However, Deadpool is most famous for his ability to realize that he is a fictional character and to talk directly to the reader or viewer. Because of this, Deadpool tends to reference pop culture and crack jokes. He also tends to be very vulgar.

The film is an almost perfect replication of the comics that the character appears in. The filmmaker and writers do not pull any punches in fully utilizing the R-rating of the film to allow the character to accurately be translated from the comic to the big screen. The dialogue is full of sexual jokes and the F-word is thrown around from the very beginning of the movie. While the movie is less than two hours in run time, the movie does not let up at all, packing as many of the jokes, winks to the audience and well-choreographed fight scenes. The pacing of the movie is especially impressive considering that there are several flashbacks during a very long fight scene.

Ryan Reynolds, who plays Deadpool, plays the character perfectly. His comedic timing as the character is amazing throughout the entire movie. He captures the fourth wall-breaking (he talks directly to the audience), near-insanity of the character perfectly, which allows for him to commit murders and still have us root for him. His love for the character shines through his portrayal of the character, and he lights up every scene that he is in, even before he has the red suit on.

The other performances in the movie are okay, the only other performance of note was from Morena Baccarin, who will be a familiar face to the fans of “Firefly.” In the movie, she plays the love interest of Wade Wilson, Vanessa. But instead of being a damsel in distress, though she does get kidnapped, she puts up a fight for the record. The best thing about Baccarin in the film is the chemistry that she has with Reynolds. In fact, with a movie about a character who kills people and is completely insane, Baccarin’s presence in the film allows for an honestly touching love sub-plot.

Surprisingly, “Deadpool” is not only one the funniest movies to come out in a long time, but in an hour and forty minutes it became one of the best superhero movies that has been released. The comedy, action and even the romance make the movie completely enjoyable. Just don’t bring your kids.

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It’s time to give Cam Newton some respect

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It’s time to give Cam Newton some respect


During the last two weeks of playoff action, the Carolina Panthers have delivered two brutal defeats to the Cardinals and Seahawks respectively en route to their Super Bowl berth. They have been clicking on all sides of the ball and capitalizing on their opponents every mistake.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

No one player has played better football for the Panthers than their quarterback Cam Newton. Newton played phenomenal, picking apart two of the better defenses in the NFL and throwing for 496 yards, three touchdowns while rushing for an additional two touchdowns. Newton and the Panthers performance should surprise no one if you look over their season’s body of work.

Yet, somehow, this season Cam Newton has been called out for seemingly no justifiable reason. There have been plenty of doubters during Newton’s career and sometimes they’ve been justified. A few years ago, Newton had a rough patch of games and became irritated with both his and the teams play. His frustration showed both on the field and during interviews so much so that eventually he was confronted about it by his teammates.

Following the confrontation, Newton has been, by NFL standards, a model citizen. In spite of his growth, Newton has had every criticism thrown against him this year, many targeted his character rather than his play on the field.

He has been called a thug by many, despite having no run-ins with the law. Others have accused him of being arrogant and “fake” because when he plays he always seems to have a smile on his face.

Perhaps the most infamous criticism that he received came in week nine of the season following a 27-10 beatdown of the Tennessee Titans when an opposing fan wrote a letter about how Newton’s celebration, a dancing dab, was offensive to her 9-year-old daughter and was a poor example to all the children watching him play. Despite all of this, Newton responded by brushing it off and continuing to play at an elite level.

This season, Newton threw over 3,800 yards, 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while leading his team to an impressive 15-1 record. Perhaps what is most impressive about this is that Newton was able to put up these numbers and lead his team to the Super Bowl with a very limited talent pool.

Early on in the season Newton lost his top receiver Kelvin Benjamin to a knee injury leaving him with a group of unproven and some injury-prone wide receivers. Further adding to potential problems was a running game that also lacked consistency. Newton’s only consistent weapon was tight end Greg Olsen. The only other quarterback to play at this level with so little weapons is Tom Brady, putting Newton near the same level as one of the best quarterbacks of this generation.

Cam Newton is now approaching a milestone that no other quarterback has ever done before. According to CBS Sports, if Newton wins the Super Bowl and League MVP he will be the only other player to win a Heisman, BCS National Championship, MVP and Super Bowl in the history of the NFL. Even if Newton is unable to complete this incredible feat, he will still have a lasting impact on the game.

Newton has revolutionized the quarterback position by being both a great runner and superior passer, something very seldom seen in the NFL and even more rare from a QB with a lack of skilled position players. Newton has also been the latest QB to try to disprove stereotypes for what is expected of an African American quarterback. The main stereotype being that black quarterbacks are only good runners, not passers, which Newton’s play over the last two seasons has disproved that notion.

Cam Newton has proven time and time again that he is an elite QB that will do everything in his power to put his team in position to win. He has grown significantly as a team player and face of a franchise while maintaining his image.

When Newton plays the game he shows his emotion and looks as though he is genuinely having fun, which makes watching him that more enjoyable. This Super Bowl Sunday you can expect to see Newton playing his heart out in an effort bring a Lombardi Trophy back to Charlotte for the first time in the team’s history. So maybe it is time that Cam Newton’s critics take a step back, look at all Newton has accomplished in his short career, and appreciate his greatness.

Statistics via ESPN.com

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Review: ‘Jessica Jones’

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Review: ‘Jessica Jones’


Photo via Creative Commons.

Photo via Creative Commons.

Since the superhero movie came into prominence with films such as “The Dark Knight” and “Iron Man” there has been a push to make the heroes that were once godly, more human. Give them flaws, and make the movies more gritty and realistic. Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy did that, and Marvel for the most part still made their superhero movies light-hearted, at least when compared to the Batman movies.

As more movies were made, especially by Marvel, they started to combine genres. “The Winter Soldier” was part superhero and part political thriller, but it was still family friendly. Then, Netflix teamed up with Marvel and made “Daredevil.”

Similar to the comics about the character, the “Daredevil” show was dark, gritty and met with very high praise. However, “Daredevil” was the start of something bigger: a street level hero project similar to The Avengers. The second show was released one week before Thanksgiving, called “Jessica Jones.”

“Jessica Jones,” like “Daredevil,” is very dark. However, unlike “Daredevil,” it is even more adult. This tone is because the show is about a former superhero who decides to quit the hero business because of her dark and broken past.

Jones becomes a private investigator so that she can still help people. The fact that she is a private investigator lends the series (13 episodes in all) to being part superhero and part noir. Just like the private investigators in classic film noir stories, and even some modern ones. Jones is a hard-drinking loner, who makes wise-cracks at inappropriate moments. The story begins with her taking a case that soon begins to involve the person that broke her in the past. Jones not only hides a dark past from those around her, but also suffers from PTSD, a result of her traumatic past. This plays an important role in her journey to find answers.

Krysten Ritter plays Jones. She not only excels at showing Jones’ witty, hard-drinking side, but her broken side as well. As Jones deals with the case, and the reemergence of her enemy, her past comes back to haunt her and she is forced to deal with more than she can handle. Through it all, Ritter manages to balance the tough exterior that Jones has created to hide the very broken individual.

The supporting cast of the show is not as strong as it was with “Daredevil,” but the cast is still very great. Besides Ritter, the standout performance definitely comes from “Doctor Who” alumni David Tennant.

Tennant plays Kilgrave, the villain for the season who has ties to Jones’ past. Unlike his counterpart in the comics, known as “Purple Man” who is a complete sociopath with no redeeming qualities, Tennant’s character Kilgrave is not played as someone who is completely irredeemable and fleshed out more than he is in the Alias comic series that the show is loosely based on.

The other supporting characters are portrayed with varying degrees of success. Mike Colter’s performance as Luke Cage, the next hero of Hell’s Kitchen to get a show and an important person in the life of Jones, was a disappointment, especially when he was in a scene with Ritter.

All of these things considered, Marvel hit this one out of the park. The show is full of emotion, mystery and style. With more focus on the characters and the effects that tragic events can have on a person’s life, Marvel has created a superhero show that even people who don’t like superheroes can enjoy. People who do like superheroes will enjoy the unique tone that is offered by the show.

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Review: Dirty Dancing at the Wharton Center

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Review: Dirty Dancing at the Wharton Center


A great balance between music and dance, this Broadway adaptation of “Dirty Dancing” captivates and keeps you on your toes with humorous anecdotes. Not straying very far from the original story line, there is an even bigger emotional connection to the characters of Baby and Johnny as their time on stage allows their chemistry to grow. Gillian Abbott (“Baby”) encompasses the true spirit of her character and flawlessly convinces that she had nothing in her repertoire at the start of the show. Full of quality, show-stopping dance numbers, this show does not disappoint both the dance and musical lover with two smaller cast members stealing the show. Doug Carpenter (“Billy Kostecki”) and Jennlee Shallow (“Ensemble”) with their duet and individual solos are what really sent audiences cheering through the roof.

The key factor that makes this musical so unique is the balance between the music and dance talent.

“I think it’s special like that,” Christopher Tierney said. “As leads of the show we have our parts, but it’s great that you get these other two singers who who get to be their own leads.”

Photo via Wharton Center for Performing Arts at Michigan State University

Photo via Wharton Center for Performing Arts at Michigan State University

The show basically gives you two tiers of people enjoying the show, and the characters for different reasons. The live music on set certainly helps, of course.

The diversity of this production’s cast shows on and off stage. Lead actor Christopher Tierney, who plays Johnny Castle, has the most experience with the show as this is his second tour of “Dirty Dancing” with the same director.

His dance experience started at the young age of 12. “I got that bug and I just kept making the next right choice,” he said. “I joined dance companies, met great choreographers who brought me to great movie directors, who also brought me to Broadway.”

A fun fact from Tierney: he never watched the original film to study his character. This may come as a surprising fact because the consensus reigns that Tierney actually looks very much, and even sounds like Patrick Swayze!

On the other end of the spectrum, this is Jenny Winton’s first Broadway production. Winton plays Penny in the show and although her character flows on the dance floor with ballroom dance, she is classically trained in ballet.

On her connection with her character, she said, “I’ve just drawn on certain things in my life and we both share the passion for dance.”

Winton commented that since her character has multiple layers, it really gives her the opportunity to express parts of her personality that not everyone sees. Dancing on “Dirty Dancing” has opened many new doors for Winton and she wants to continue to explore her options in theatre and dance.

“I think it’s a story, that no matter what generation you’re in, you can relate to,” Winton said. “The passion for dancing and music is so relatable because these songs are so iconic.”

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Movie Review: Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro’s not so terrifying tale

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Movie Review: Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro’s not so terrifying tale


I don’t like to be scared, but when Guillermo del Toro released a new horror movie, it was hard to resist going to see it.

Del Toro’s movies, such as “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Pacific Rim”, are always beautiful to look at, fun to watch and usually very creative.

“Crimson Peak” looked like it might be a creepy look at horror films of the past, as the trailers did not show the modern tricks that cause jump scares. However, not having any expectations—other than the movie would be very pretty and well-designed—was good because the movie wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either.

crimson_peak

The film follows up-and-coming writer Edith Cushing, who is played by Mia Wasikowska, of “Alice in Wonderland” fame. As viewers learn at the beginning of the film, which takes place in the early 1900s, Cushing can see ghosts. She tries to publish a manuscript containing a ghost story but is turned down by publishers because it is handwritten, and they can tell that it was written by a woman. The manuscript gets the attention of a man trying to get money to rebuild his clay mining operation: Sir Thomas Sharpe, played by Tom Hiddleston.

Eventually the two marry, despite Sharpe’s wicked-looking sister’s objections, and move to Sharpe’s decrepit English mansion, which lies on top of the scarlet clay mine. Once they move in, the ghosts start to appear and Cushing starts to feel sick; then the hunt for the truth begins.

From the very first frame of the film, del Toro’s skill as a set designer and visual director shine, as we see a coffin carried to the front of a giant and elaborate headstone. Throughout the movie, the designs of the ghosts—which look like opaque skeletons of varying colors, depending on where they were killed—and the house where the characters live are amazings spectacles. Many parts of the house have liquid clay running from the wall, and because the clay is red, it looks like blood. Everything about the house is unnerving yet alluring at the same time.

There is not a moment in the film where there isn’t something nice to look at in the scenery or sets. Del Toro does not shy away from the creepy visuals either, but that is just what the film is. It’s creepy, not scary.

The only point in the film that would be very scary comes in the first half of the movie, but once the characters move to the mansion, the ghosts turn into something very different than expected: messengers for what’s to come.

The characters in the film were very one dimensional. If viewers have seen a movie in the last 10 years, they could probably predict what each character was going to do next. Sharpe’s sister was onscreen for maybe four seconds before I felt I knew everything there was to know about her character. The same goes for many of the characters in the film. The two main characters, Cushing and Sharpe, go through minimal character development in the film, and it’s not enough to make them interesting beyond the fact that one of them is played by Hiddleston.

One of the big issues with this movie was outside the theatre. It was advertised as a horror movie, which misinformed the viewing public. “Crimson Peak” is a classic Gothic romance, which may be hard to swallow for the people who were influenced to buy a ticket because of the deceiving trailer.

The movie is creepy the entire run time, but there is not a big scare anywhere, which is something that the old Gothic romances do quite well. There is an excellent love story between Cushing and Sharpe. The film brought to mind several different stories and novels from the era of Edgar Allen Poe, though naming them could spoil the movie, so none will be named. Those looking for a straight-up horror movie will not be pleased with this one.

At the end of the day, “Crimson Peak” will probably be divisive if you go with a group of friends. Some of them will really like it, especially if they are fans of Gothic literature, some of them will hate it because they were expecting something scarier, and some will be left with mixed feelings.

If you want to catch this crimson tale, be sure you know what you want to get out of it. In the end, don’t go because you think it will be frightening—the visuals will thrill you, but the scares will not.

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Album Review: Mac Miller’s “GO:OD AM” and Lana Del Rey’s “Honeymoon”

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Album Review: Mac Miller’s “GO:OD AM” and Lana Del Rey’s “Honeymoon”


“GO:OD AM” – Mac Miller

After dropping his singles “100 Grandkids,” “Break The Law” and “Clubhouse,” Mac Miller released his third studio album titled “GO:OD AM” on Sept. 18.

This Pittsburgh born and raised rapper is known for his many mixtapes including “K.I.D.S.” and “Faces.” The sound that listeners are used to hearing from Miller is usually sampled beats and carefree lyrics. “GO:OD AM” gives listeners a different, more mature sound through 17 tracks.

Mac Miller at NYC Governor's Ball in 2011.

Mac Miller at NYC Governor’s Ball in 2011.

Starting off the album slow with “Doors,” Miller follows that beat with “Break The Law” and “Rush Hour,” these songs open your ears to his lyrics against smooth rap beats.

His lyrics throughout “GO:OD AM” speak about the real world and what he has learned throughout life. He is telling listeners who he is as a rapper, and that “there ain’t nothing wrong with a little bit of fun.”

Some artists you would not expect to be featured on his album include Ab-Soul and Little Dragon. But, most surprisingly, Chief Keef  in “Cut The Check”, and Miguel in “Weekend.” Even though each artist has different styles, they managed to sound well together throughout the songs.

If you are looking to bump the bass in your car, “In The Bag” and “When In Rome” are the ideal songs for that. If you are looking for the softer side of Miller, “ROS” would be the perfect song.

Overall, this album shows the grown-up side of Miller, but still includes hints of the familiar sounds we are used to. “GO:OD AM” is the perfect album to listen to on those morning bus rides to ensure not only a good morning, but a good day.

 

 
“Honeymoon” – Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey has written many songs in her 30 years of life. Her more mainstream album with a hip-hop sound “Born To Die,” and her guitar filled album “Ultraviolence,” give you a good perception of Del Rey. But, “Honeymoon,” which was also released on Sept. 18, digs a little deeper into Del Rey’s true self.

Lana Del Rey performing at Irving Plaza in 2012.

Lana Del Rey performing at Irving Plaza in 2012.

The first of 14 songs is the title track “Honeymoon,” you hear the softer, more sad side of Del Rey. The familiar sound is also heard in “Terrace Loves You.”

From deep, sad sounds, you begin to hear more hip-hop, sultry tunes in the sixth and seventh tracks “Freak” and “Art Deco.” She also includes a more mainstream sound with “High By The Beach,” which was one of her singles for “Honeymoon.”

While showing off her more romantic side with this album through her own life experiences, Del Rey also expresses herself with a cover of Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” Also, Del Rey recites part of a poem by T. S. Eliot in “Burnt Norton (Interlude).

Her original sound definitely shows through “Honeymoon” with amazing range and soothing sirens. Del Rey also performs great harmonizing over orchestra tunes throughout the album.

Del Rey has not released “Honeymoon” tour dates yet. You can purchase this album on iTunes for $12.99 or on her website for $12.98. Her new album is also available to listen to on Spotify.

 

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Movie Review: The Martian

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Movie Review: The Martian


It’s been a while since the theaters have shown something that didn’t involve superheroes, Sherlock Holmes or reanimated dinosaurs. “The Martian” qualifies as science fiction because it takes place in a world where we can put a team of people on Mars, but it tends to be realistic (or realistic enough that Neil deGrasse Tyson said on “CBS This Morning” that it’s pretty accurate). Going into the movie, I didn’t really have any expectations, and because of that I was blown away with how good it was.martian400

In the film, the astronauts are on Mars on a scientific mission. It is never really explained fully why they are on Mars, although we do see some of the characters collecting soil samples. There really is not any time wasted on the details of why they are there, because within 15 minutes of the movie starting, the astronauts are forced to abandon their mission due to a storm. After they start preparing to leave, the movie wastes no time in stranding Mark Watney, played impeccably by Matt Damon, on Mars by himself.

Not only is the writing of Damon’s character enjoyable, but how Damon plays him as a snarky character who seems to keep his sanity by quipping to a computer monitor. Damon manages to keep the interest of the audience even when he is alone on the planet for a majority of the run time of the film.

When we are not with Watney on Mars, we get to spend time with the people who are trying to get him home. The cast of the movie as a whole is amazing and packed with familiar faces. Watney’s crew alone has three people who have been in recent superhero movies (Sebastian Stan, Michael Peña and Kate Mara), and the team at NASA has Donald Glover, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig and Sean Bean. Each member of this all-star cast is giving their best performance, and no one feels out of place. But it is indisputable that Damon gives the stand-out performance.

The special effects used in the film are top notch. All of the shots of the landscape of Mars look very real and are extremely beautiful. Everything in the film looks very familiar, and even realistic when you consider the technology that we have now. This helped the movie feel much more dramatic—because we, as a viewing public, know all too well that everything can go wrong with space travel. With this in mind, the filmmakers play on our emotions.

“The Martian” was a very intense movie. Even when Damon’s character is snarking in a video diary, there is always the feeling that something could go wrong at any moment. That feeling just keeps growing throughout the movie. As a whole, the tense vibe aids the movie in creating a literal edge-of-your-seat thriller.

To be completely honest, it was difficult to find anything wrong with “The Martian.” The pacing was perfect, the acting was top notch and the music was perfect in capturing the mood. The jokes in the film work because they tend to be on the dark humor side of the comedy spectrum, and this does not take anything away from the movie.
The only complaint most viewers will have is a minor one: the run time. While the movie does not drag during its two and a half hour run time, it’s still very long. However, if the that is the only issue, then maybe there isn’t really anything to complain about at all.

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Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past


In the wake of The Avengers, the X-Men franchise needed to release a movie that showed there was still some life in the team—besides the usual focus on Wolverine.

X-Men First Class, the franchise’s last effort was enjoyable. However, X-Men movies were few and far between since the wildly successful Avengers franchise was introduced in 2011. The only X-Men-related film released during that time was The Wolverine, which didn’t breathe new life into any role except Hugh Jackman’s character.

Thankfully, the newest X-Men movie, Days of Future Past, proves not only does the lasting life of the franchise still have life, but that Marvel films besides The Avengers can still be quality and enjoyable.

In the film, future, mutant hunting robots called Sentinels have taken over the world, and the last surviving X-Men need to send someone back in time to stop the event that caused the rise of the robots.

Before you say that you’ve seen the robots taking over the future plot over and over, it should be brought up that the movie is based on a comic book of the same name that came out before both the Matrix and Terminator. Also, a bulk of the movie takes place in 1973, so the war in the future is not main focus of the story, but provides a sense of urgency for the past X-Men to succeed in their mission.

The X-Men from the First Class were not overshadowed by the attention-grabbing charisma that is Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. That was something that was never achieved in the original X-Men trilogy—even though the movies were called “X-Men,” all of the movies were really about Wolverine. All the X-Men from the First Class manage to stand out, and show that the future of the franchise might not rest solely on everyone’s favorite razor-clawed mutant.

Because of this, we get an X-Men movie that is, in fact, about the X-Men!

While on the topic of overshadowing mutants, there is one mutant who outshines everyone else, even though he is only in the film for 20 minutes, tops. This would be Quicksilver, played by Evan Peters.

The character is introduced to help the X-Men (a time-traveling Wolverine, Beast, and Professor X) rescue Magneto. Peters plays the character as a fast-talking, kleptomaniacal teen, and in the short time he is on screen manages to steal the entire show.

The now well-known “Time in a Bottle” scene that shows us what it’s like to move as fast as Quicksilver and is easily the best scene in the entire movie. It’s worth the price of a ticket or DVD on its own. Hopefully Quicksilver will return in future movies and have a larger role, because when he leaves the film it feels like he wasn’t there long enough.

As good as some parts of the movie were, there were still some problems. The biggest issue was that in the future, Magneto said that Wolverine would need his help on his mission in the past, but once they get Magneto, he almost immediately proceeds to screw everything up.

Was this because Future Magneto is still evil? Because it doesn’t look like it at the end. There was no explanation for this, but I think that Jennifer Lawrence’s star power might be the reason for the lack of focus on Magneto and the new focus on Mystique.

Another issue was the introduction of four entirely new mutants in the future, who have no character development at all. The mutants have several well-executed fight sequences, but we know nothing about these characters besides that they are the last of the X-Men.

Hopefully some of the mutants will return in future movies, because they all deserve at least a little character development. However, at least they are named in this movie, which is better than what happened to most of the mutants introduced in the other films, especially in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

The way Beast is treated in the film is also an issue. He still looks human, with the help of a serum he created in the last movie to hide his powers, but when he gets mad he turns into a monster with super strength. Does that sound familiar to anyone else? At least he doesn’t say he’s going to smash anything.

There are a few other nitpicky things—like Kitty’s surprising new power to send people back in time that no one bothers to explain how she got or why she has, and a severe underuse of Peter Dinklage—but these are just minor problems with a movie that is in general of very high quality.

I really enjoyed the movie, and I appreciated the fact that it went back and fixed the mistakes that the franchise made in the past without rebooting the entire thing. And even though I still love some Wolverine, it was nice to see an X-Men movie that focused on the other mutants in the X-Men universe.

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Wharton Center goes Blue

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Wharton Center goes Blue


Photo credit: Alex Tekip

“When meeting people from a foreign culture, offer a few gifts that reflect your interests as a gesture of friendship. Better yet, give things you’ve created yourself. Also, explore their interests and their culture. Ultimately, the best way to forge a lasting relationship is to create something together. Whether it is a meal, an art project, or a spontaneous dance party, when you create something with others, you build a connection that lasts a lifetime.”

These words, some borrowed from the International Diplomacy Guidebook, were graced upon a projector before Blue Man Group took the stage at Wharton Center’s Cobb Great Hall on Sunday, Feb. 22. These simple, powerful paragraph was only the starting point of a performance filled with culture, creativity, and chaos. It was almost as if these words sufficed as a  screenplay of sorts, embodying the entire philosophy of Blue Man Group and the ways in which they perform in a show that exceeded my expectations.

“When meeting people of a foreign culture, offer a few gifts that reflect your interests as a gesture of friendship. Better yet give them things you’ve created yourself.”

The Blue Man Group forms a culture of their own: one where they communicate without speech, motion with acknowledgement, and explore with constant curiosity. These characters understand each other, but do not understand the marvels of our modern society; therefore, they give gifts to reach out to the audience in an attempt to do so.

The Blue Man Group created art projects on stage, such as a pinwheel painting or a mini snowman, and gave them to random audience members. Gifts like these were openly accepted, whereas gifts such as “twinkie mush” in a takeout box (more details to be explained later) were taken very reluctantly.

However, it was not the gift that was important: it was the message behind the gift. It was almost as if the Blue Men were saying “this is what we like, this is a representation of our culture and ourselves, and we would like to share it with you” as a way to fully engage the audience in their creative endeavors. And it worked.

“Also, explore their interests and their culture.”

The Blue Man Group seemed to amazed yet questioning of the technological society that currently defines our culture: baffled and excited about all the things technology can do, yet dismayed at its effects on interaction and personal growth.

An act of the show with 2-d characters afraid to step out of their comfor zone and interact with one another in 3-D instead,effectively conveyed this message.

The performers also encouraged the audience to be aware of the effects technology can have on mental capacity and social interaction (another act where classic literature was dumbed down into tweet language in a fake iPhone app called “Twit that Lit!” was indicative of this).

The Blue Man Group found a less digitized way to interact with the audience based on the culture that we in the crowd were familiar with, col collaboratively playing  popular songs such as Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” on a  xylophone.”  During group’s rendition of  “Bad Romance,” each Blue Man disappeared under the xylophone for a few seconds and came back up wearing some sort of headgear. The first two reappeared wearing over-the-top headdresses reminiscent of Gaga’s style, but the third one reappeared wearing a Spartan helmet. This provoked a roar of applause from the audience, one that lasted significantly longer than any cheering during the entire show. Through the simple gesture of putting on the helmet, the Blue Man was showing us that he knew what Michigan State valued, what was important to us, and that he understood our culture…so we welcomed the Blue Men.

“Ultimately, the best way to forge a lasting relationship is to create something together.”

The Blue Men didn’t just perform for the audience; they made the audience a part of their performance.

After giving a gift to an audience member, a Blue Man would raise the audience member’s hand and have the crowd cheer for him or her.

Blue Man Group also took audience members on stage in acts involving a dinner table setting and human painting.

During an act centered around setting a dinner table and eating a meal.  an audience member, presumably in her late teens or early twenties, taught the Blue Men her ways of eating while they taught her theirs-all without speaking. The Blue Men and the girl created a communication system to exchange cultural customs through working together, and a relationship was built.

Later in the show, an adult male audience member was taken backstage and covered in paint. He was then hung from the ceiling by his ankles and swung against a canvas by the Blue Men. The outline of his body was left on the canvas, which was then splattered with even more color. All of this was shown on a camera on the main stage as it was happening, and the man was able to keep the painting of himself that the Blue Men helped create- a memory to remember the moment of collaboration he had with them.

 “Whether it is a meal, an art project, or a spontaneous dance party…”

All of the act previously mentioned  lead up to the big finale of the show: a dance party to the Blue Man Group’s song “Shake Your Euphemism”.

Complete with a techno beat, bright digital images, and a giant dancing stick man operated by the Blue Men, the finale encouraged the audience to stand on their feet and shake their “rump,” “hindquarters,” “hippobottomus” as the Blue Men threw out streamers and giant lighted globes into the crowd.

This act was filled with  hilarity- I was thoroughly amazed at how many words could be used to describe one’s rear end. However, it also exemplified everything wonderful about the Blue Man Group’s performance: well-executed props, spectacular colorful lighting, creative music, unity, and fun. I found myself smiling throughout the entire song (even though I had to sit down after a while), and left the show in awe of the artistic capabilities of Blue Man Group.

“…when you create something with others, you build a connection that lasts a lifetime.”

Blue Man Group’s time at Wharton may have ended on the 24th, however the groups philosophy of unity through creativity remains. Working together to make something, no matter what that something is, is a lesson that can be taken beyond the world of the Blue Man. A Blue Man Group show is a truly unique, one of a kind experience that has the power to change one’s thinking in unexpected ways…and I can only hope that Wharton Center decides to go blue again in the near future.

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ICYMI: Oscars 2013

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ICYMI: Oscars 2013


It certainly has been a remarkable past year in movies, having six of the nine best picture nominees grossing over $100 million. Presented by Michelle Obama, the Oscar for Best Picture went to Argo this year. Directed by Ben Affleck, this thrilling expose describes some of the untold stories of how a CIA exfiltration expert devises a plan to help six individuals who managed to escape from the Iranian invasion of the United States Embassy in Tehran, Iran in 1980.

Argo takes Best Picture. Photo via mashable.com.

This is the first time since the 1989 film Driving Miss Daisy that the director of the winning film for Best Picture had not been nominated. This came as a shock after Affleck’s recent win of best director at the Golden Globes in late January.

Life of Pi won for Best Cinematography, which some criticized as untrue to cinematography.

“So, Life of Pi won [Best Cinematography], which had beautiful cinematography, but relied too heavily on visual effects to get there,” exclaims Lawles Borque III, professional cinematographer for The State of Louisiana. “In essence, the film was nothing but nice shots of water and sky.” 

However, Skyfall took home awards in both sound editing and best song performed by Adele that evening, which received a standing ovation.

“As always, Roger Deakins should have won for Skyfall,” Bourque describes, “ he is the best cinematographer in the business at the moment and brought a fresh, beautiful look to a worn out franchise. Every frame of that movie looked like a beautiful photograph, even when we were looking at something ugly.”

Tributes to music in the film industry continued as the evening progressed. Viewers had the rare opportunity to see performances by Barbara Streisand, performing the theme song from the 1973 film The Way We Were, and a performance of the the theme to the acclaimed James Bond film, Goldfinger, by Dame Shirley Bassey. Musicals were paid special tribute at the awards, with performances by the actors from Dreamgirls, Chicago and Les Miserables.

The Academy, desperate to increase viewership among people ages 18 to 49 years old, hoped Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane would be the solution.

“I knew Seth MacFarlane would be great,” Goksu Adanali, MSU freshman engineering student, describes, “but I never expected him to rock the show in the first five minutes.”

However, this was not the opinion of numerous viewers that night, that described his brash humor as being too extreme and often very insulting. Many reviews of MacFarlane’s hosting performance and humor viewed him as being self-indulgent, racist and sexist.

Despite viewership of this years Academy Awards, it did in fact increase amongst people of the targeted population. Seth MacFarlane released on Twitter that he will not be hosting the ceremony ever again.

 

After her surreal performance in the surprising nominee for Best Picture, Beasts of the Southern Wild’s Quvenzhane Wallis, made Academy Awards history by being the youngest nominee for Best Actress in a Leading Role at nine years old.

Both the film and Wallis did not end up winning an award. Victoria Diebel, MSU communications student, was surprised by this snub, “because of the unexpected quality of acting and performances that came from an indie film.”

Additionally, Diebel describes her feeling for who should have won Best Actress in a leading role.

“I think that Jessica Chastain was also snubbed for her performance in Zero Dark Thirty,” Diebel said.

This category had a lot of buzz throughout the night from Hollywood A-listers, as each individual seemed to have their own opinion of who had the best performance.

In the end, the Oscar went to Jennifer Lawrence of Silver Linings Playbook. Even though she “stumbled” her way through her acceptance speech, she was able reclaim herself during her witty after Oscars interview.

Jennifer Lawrence stumbled on the steps up to receive her Oscar for Best Actress. Photo via usmagazine.com.

Beating out the Los Angeles Times and New York Times predicted winner Robert De Neiro of Silver Linings Playbook, Christoph Waltz takes home the Oscar win for Best Supporting actor in Django Unchained.

Anne Hathaway’s Oscar winning dream “finally came true.” Since her talked about performance in Les Miserables, after its release this previous Christmas, many critics had predicted her to win the award for Best Supporting Actress. After years of waiting, Anne Hathaway was able to take home her first Oscar.

After a night full of unexpected surprises, media reviews and critics are proving that this will certainly be a very well remembered Academy Awards.

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