The Word November 2013
THIS ISSUE: The Hunger Games
Person of Interest
And Much More â€Ś
Table of Contents th
‘The Day of The Doctor,’ Doctor Who 50 Anniversary Special, Lives Up to Hype (Julian Spivey) …. 3 ‘Doctor Who’ Fans Remember Favorite Episodes … 5 ‘Doctor Who’ 3D Showing at Theatre is Shared Moment for Whovian Community (Julian Spivey) … 8 ‘Person of Interest’ Episode ‘Crossing’ a Real Shocker, Game-Changer (Julian Spivey) … 9 Red John’s Demise on ‘Mentalist’ Seems Rushed, Lets Down Fans (Aprille Hanson) … 11 Movie Review: ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ (Philip Price) …. 14 Movie Review: ‘Thor: The Dark World’ (Preston Tolliver) … 17 Movie Review: ‘12 Years a Slave’ (Philip Price) … 18 Movie Review: ‘About Time’ (Philip Price) … 21 Album Review: ‘Marshall Mathers LP 2’ by Eminem (Kellan Miller) … 24 Garth Brooks’ CBS Special Fun, Disappointing at Same Time (Julian Spivey) … 28 Kacey Musgraves, Florida Georgia Line Fight for Future of Country Music (Julian Spivey) … 29
Edited by Julian Spivey Additional Editing by Aprille Hanson & Wendy Spivey
Note: All of these pieces were previously published on thewordwebzine.webs.com
Television ‘Day of The Doctor,’ Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special, Lives Up to Hype By Julian Spivey
“The Day of The Doctor,” the 50th anniversary special of the iconic British science fiction series “Doctor Who” was one of the most hyped television episodes that I had ever seen, especially after the announcement that the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) would be returning to the screen to join the Eleventh (and current) Doctor (Matt Smith). The hype meant that the series would have to put forth an absolutely fantastic episode to live up to the expectations of its many fans. The extended 75-minute episode was indeed absolutely fantastic and didn’t leave me wanting anything but more. That’s really my only negative critique of “The Day of The Doctor” – I wish Steven Moffat, showrunner and episode scribe, had fleshed the episode out to a two hour feature length film. “The Day of The Doctor” takes us back to the mysterious war between the Time Lords on Gallifrey and the Daleks, which we know ended with The Doctor destroying his own home planet and race in an effort to put an end to the evil Daleks. The beginning of the episode brings us to the moment where John Hurt as The War Doctor, reprising his brief appearance from last season’s “The Name of The Doctor,” is about to destroy Gallifrey, his fellow Time Lords and the Daleks – only to be questioned by The Moment (the device he intends to use to destroy the planet), portrayed as an interface by the returning Billie Piper, whom some fans will surely be disappointed didn’t reprise her companion role of Rose Tyler or have any real scenes with Tennant where they communicate, about whether or not he’s willing to kill off entire races of beings. Meanwhile, The Eleventh Doctor is brought in by UNIT leader Kate Stewart (a returning Jemma Redgrave) with an important notice from the past from Queen Elizabeth I, who apparently got hitched to the Tenth Doctor and is in danger from the shape shifting monsters known as the Zygons, making their first appearance on the series since it was rebooted in 2005. The Eleventh Doctor goes back into time where he runs into his past self and is eventually joined by his companion Clara (Jenna Coleman) and The War Doctor. The 50th anniversary special really takes off about 30 minutes into the episode when Smith and Tennant’s Doctors run into each other and the two terrific actors are able to react and play off of each other. Their first scene together in the forest after a Zygon has shape-shifted into Queen Elizabeth I and the two of them are trying to figure out which one’s the real queen and which one’s the Zygon is an absolute nerdgasm moment for fanboys of the series. 3|Page
But, it’s not really the Zygons this special is too concerned with (hopefully the villains will make a return sometime in the future during the Twelfth Doctor’s (Peter Capaldi) run. The episode is quite the shocker, at least for me, as it’s a way for The Doctors to team up together to right the one big wrong that The Doctor had made during his thousand-plus years in the universe – The Fall of Gallifrey. I spent much of the second half of the special thinking The Doctors were going to attempt to figure out a way to save Gallifrey from ruin, but would ultimately realize that you can’t re-write something that important or big (that it basically had become a fixed point in time). I figured they’d ultimately realize The War Doctor did the only thing he could possibly do. It seemed unlikely or too big of a step for the show to completely go back and change something that had been the biggest factor in how and who The Doctor was today – a tortured soul determined to save as many species and planets as he could, because of the ones he couldn’t or had failed to save in the past. However, it appears Moffat, realizing that Smith would be leaving the show during this year’s Christmas special next month and that Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor could essentially be a new start not only for The Doctor, but for how the series goes about writing The Doctor, decided it was time to go back and save the Time Lords and not put an end to the Daleks – who, as we’ve seen, weren’t completely eliminated anyway. It was a fairly big risk, I think, for the show to make and one that some fans of the series may not really approve of, as it basically changes certain important things about the series from here on out. However, I think it worked fantastically well and the way Smith, Tennant and Hurt’s Doctors team up to save Gallifrey is epic as all hell. It’s likely to go down in history as one of the real iconic scenes in the series’ run. A few other moments I absolutely loved from the 50th anniversary special were Capaldi’s very brief, blink-and-you’ll-miss it cameo, as the future Doctor, David Tennant’s final line of “I don’t want to go” in reference to the Eleventh Doctor telling him they die at Trenzalore, which was also his final line as the Tenth Doctor in “The End of Time” and Hurt’s War Doctor asking the other two Doctors why they acted like children all of the time and the subtle reasons behind it. Ultimately, “The Day of The Doctor” gave Whovians pretty much what they wanted – an epic story featuring priceless and not-soon-to-be-forgotten interactions between two of their all-time favorite Doctors. It also leaves us wondering where the series is going to go from here with one of its biggest reasons for existing seemingly wrapped up in a lovely little package. I can’t wait for this year’s Christmas special, but I’m also dreadfully sad to know it will be the last adventure I get to take with my favorite Doctor, Matt Smith. Hopefully that episode is just as great, if not even better, than the 50th anniversary special … surely, it will be.
‘Doctor Who’ Fans Remember Favorite Episodes The 50th anniversary of the much-beloved, iconic British science fiction series “Doctor Who” is upon us with the 50th anniversary special “The Day of The Doctor” airing on BBC America and around the world at 1:50 p.m. Central Standard Time on Saturday, Nov. 22. There have been numerous classic episodes and thrilling adventures for the eleven incarnations of The Doctor over these past 50 years, which makes choosing just one favorite episode such a hard task that even The Doctor himself would have trouble figuring out. However, our Whovians have done their best to choose their favorite “Doctor Who” episode and explain why the episode stands out so much to them as hardcore fans. Jennifer Hoornstra Exterminate! Exterminate! The invasion of the Daleks in “The Parting of the Ways” (Season 1, Episode 13) sent The Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack Harkness risking their lives to save Earth. Christopher Eccleston was my first Doctor; therefore, he will always be my favorite. One never forgets their first Doctor. The same Doctor that always put others first, used over 5,000 languages to defeat countless enemies, even if they are plastic, and controlled a blue box that was bigger on the inside. He had that certain quirky charisma and humor that made this the best, yet worst, episode for The Doctor. After he discovered the Daleks harvested humanity to rebuild their army, only to be driven mad by their own existence, The Doctor knew that they were more dangerous than ever. He soon figured out what he must do in order to defeat them and simply explained that he would rather be a coward than a killer. He would not allow himself to be lowered to the same level as a Dalek, even if it resulted in his own death. Then, Rose opened the heart of the TARDIS, absorbed its power, saved The Doctor and conquered the Dalek army. The Doctor knew that the power would kill Rose, so without hesitation, he kissed her and the power transported into him. It would soon be the end of Eccleston. Before he regenerated into a ‘new’ doctor, he exclaimed to Rose, “You were fantastic, absolutely fantastic. And you know what, so was I.” Even as he stood dying, he still eluded the same charm and wit that made him so “fantastic”. Throughout all of his adventures, this episode showed strong, selfless thoughts and actions that I could not forget … Eccleston’s best and last episode. Kristin Neel “The Satan Pit” (Season 2, Episode 9) is my favorite episode of “Doctor Who” because it puts The Doctor in a situation in which we have never seen him. He is stranded without his TARDIS, which is literally all he has left in the universe. This episode also shakes the Doctor's certainty about what he believes about the universe and the root of all evil when the villain presents himself as the devil that has been entombed since before time. This is my all time favorite episode due to its overall horror tone, plus the incredible monologue from David Tennant as he yells at Satan about his faith in Rose, "I've seen fake gods and bad gods and demi-gods and would-be gods. I've had the whole pantheon. But, if I believe in one thing ... just one thing ... I believe in her!"
Bruce Neel So many of our modern icons are idealized for their power, a power that stems from cunning, violence and sometimes brute force. We see them in television today – a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher that embraces an intriguing life of crime and violence, or an idealistic cop that turns into a ruthless survivalist during the zombie apocalypse. Sure, Walter White and Rick Grimes are great characters and are symbols of power and leadership, but they are often successful because of quick violence, brute force and an underlying cynicism. Most of why I love The Doctor is that his power does not involve any of these things. He does not win the day through cynicism or savagery. Quite the opposite, The Doctor's power comes from intellect and empathy, yet he is still to be feared by those that would oppose him. My favorite episodes are those that illustrate these traits the best. “The Family of Blood” (Season 3, Episode 9) is one such episode. The duality of The Doctor as a beacon of the romantic notions of hope and love and also as an overwhelmingly powerful and ageless force is laid out best in it. He is described in this episode as “fire and ice and rage,” like the “night and the storm in the heart of the sun.” This is a being that has never held a man at gunpoint or never held a knife to anyone's throat, but he is more powerful perhaps for exactly those things. Those that would cause harm in this episode said this of him, “He never raised his voice. That was the worst thing... the fury of the Time Lord... and then we discovered why. Why this Doctor, who had fought with gods and demons, why he had run away from us and hidden. He was being kind...” Julian Spivey Like many Whovians, I became introduced to the greatness of “Doctor Who” by essentially binge watching the series over the span of a few months. For this reason I’ve found it particularly hard to pin down a favorite episode of the series (something that I’ve also found is pretty common for me when I binge watch TV shows). I’m sure that my favorite episode comes from the Matt Smith era of the Eleventh Doctor, as he was my first doctor (I basically watched the rebooted BBC America series backwards) and the one I identify the most with. I also think that both “Doctor Who” and Matt Smith’s version of The Doctor is the rare show where specific moments within episodes actually stand out more to me as a viewer than the episodes as a whole. For instance, has there ever been a more badass moment than in Smith’s very first episode as The Doctor “The Eleventh Hour” (Season 5, Episode 1) when he runs off the Earth-threatening Atraxi with his epic “Basically, run!” monologue while walking through a montage of the previous 10 Doctors. Perhaps the moment where he dons a Stetson, because Stetsons, much like bowties, are cool, in “The Impossible Astronaut” (Season 6, Episode 1)? But, I digress. Almost every single episode of “Doctor Who,” regardless of the actor portraying The Doctor, has these epic moments of badassery. Moments that you remember and recall long after you’ve even forgotten which episode they appeared in. Again, maybe that’s the binge watching talking, but these are moments where you realize how perfect (and how damned unappreciated in some circles) the series is. As I said, my favorite episode of “Doctor Who” is a nearly impossible task and is something that may change at any given time depending on how recently I’ve seen it. Because everybody is choosing just one I feel that I shall, as well, and will go with Matt Smith’s second outing as The Doctor in “The Beast Below” (Season 5, Episode 2). My favorite Doctor moment was that monologue at the end of the previous episode, but “The Beast Below” is where we pretty much get the full extent of everything that 6|Page
Matt Smith’s incarnation of The Doctor is/was going to be. You get every emotion that is humanly and Time Lordly imaginable from Smith’s Doctor and all in the span of 60 minutes when he believes he has to sacrifice the last remaining Star Whale to save an entire starship of people, only to have his companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) ultimately save the day. “The Beast Below” was the first realization of Smith’s range as The Doctor and fans haven’t been disappointed ever since. It was this episode where I truly realized how big the heart of The Doctor is – maybe that’s why he needs two of them? Aprille Hanson The Doctor (Matt Smith), his companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), his wife River Song (Alex Kingston) and what many view as the most terrifying of villains to grace the small screen – The Weeping Angels. Those elements create a truly magical moment in space and time which include the episodes “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone” (Season 5, Episodes 4 & 5). The Doctor, Amy and the still mysterious River Song are tasked with fighting off an army of Weeping Angels in an underground labyrinth that is about as terrifying as it ever gets with the statues that inch closer and closer each time you close your eyes. This episode has several elements that make it one of my favorites. One, the relationship of River Song and The Doctor is interesting because she has met him several times before, while at this point in the time stream, he’s only met her once – this offers up an interesting dynamic, one that intrigues Amy because she obviously knows there’s something more between them, even if The Doctor doesn’t realize it just yet. Call it woman’s intuition. But the task at hand is on the planet Alfava Metraxis where the Byzantium spaceship has crashed and the Angels decide to use it as a power source to reenergize their race. Inside the spaceship lurks a Weeping Angel, discovered by Amy, who can’t help but stare at it as it attempts to launch at her through a screen, as she stands alone, helpless and trapped in the ship. She escapes, but that doesn’t mean it’s over. 10 … 9 … 8 … Amy begins counting down, a strange little tick she’s developed. The Doctor realizes when she hits one, she’s dead, because there is in fact a Weeping Angel that’s taken up residence in her eye. This episode is terrifying and tragic because it causes Amy to put her life solely in the hands of The Doctor. From overriding the angels control over her in the cave to blindly walking through the forest to avoid blinking for the final time, it’s the first real terror we see his closest companion have to face. She of course, pulls through with help from The Doctor and misinterprets that trust and care into a tad bit of love and lust – she soon throws herself at The Doctor and the two share a funny, passionate kiss that seems to terrify him more than the killer statues. It’s definitely one of my favorite scenes and it’s where I thought that Amy should in fact leave Rory like she intends. But, later in the season, that opinion is changed as Rory becomes “The boy who waited.” But for these two episodes, a trust and bond is developed between The Doctor and his companion that is both a delight to watch on screen and adds to the heartbreak when the characters eventually part ways. The episodes are a must see, but remember … don’t blink. 7|Page
‘Doctor Who’ 3D Showing at Theatre is Shared Moment for Whovian Community By Julian Spivey
On Monday, Nov. 25 hundreds of Whovians, hardcore “Doctor Who” fans, packed into multiple screenings of the long-running British science fiction series 50th anniversary special “The Day of The Doctor,” being shown for one night only in 3D and on the big screen at the Cinemark Towne Center in Conway, Ark. In Conway, they were welcomed with a life-size replica of the TARDIS, the time machine that the heroic Doctor uses to travel through time and space, which proved to be the hot spot in the theatre lobby for fans to take photos with. Many of these fans were dressed up or decorated as their favorite Doctors or characters from the series — complete with bow ties, fezzes, tweed jackets and sonic screwdrivers from a myriad of different Doctors. There were also a few dressed as the TARDIS itself smattered about the crowd. It was a really special moment to be able to share such an incredible anniversary for a much-beloved television series with more than a hundred fans who feel just as passionate about it as you are. It’s clear there is something about these Doctors and their companions that really speak to the fans of this show and really become a big part of their life, even if it is on the surface about a weird alien traveling the universe doing good and defeating evil monsters in a 1950s British police call box. It was delightful getting to share laughs and heartwarming moments with fellow Whovians for two hours as applause erupted no less than a dozen times through the special and sonic screwdrivers could be heard throughout the room. It was also fun knowing that a good portion of the audience seemingly hadn’t opted to spoil the special by viewing it on BBC America two days prior, so the ones in the audience who had previously seen it could smile in delight in the first-time reaction from many of their Whovian brethren. I previously reviewed the episode, which you can see two stories before this, but the theatre viewing added tenfold to the experience simply getting to see it on the larger than life big screen, as a show of this magnitude should be seen, and in exquisite 3D that really makes the heroics of the Doctors and the threat of the Daleks and Zygons come to life. It also took a second viewing of “The Day of The Doctor” for me to realize just how unbelievably hilarious it was — by far, one of the funniest episodes of “Doctor Who” that I’ve seen. Also, adding to the wonderful theatre experience was the added features both before and after the screening, most notably our favorite Sontaran, Commander Strax, hilariously informing the audience of proper theatre etiquette before the main feature.
Art, like television series, really has a way of bringing people together to form their own unique community, where everybody can share in their love of one specific thing and not have to worry about anything else in the world for a while. The special showing of the “Doctor Who” 50th anniversary special was an excellent opportunity for this community to get together and share some laughs and their passion for “Doctor Who.” There really should be more opportunities for fans of pop culture to do so.
‘Person of Interest’ Episode ‘Crossing’ is Real Shocker, Game-Changer By Julian Spivey
*Spoilers Ahead* - I don’t usually throw out this cautionary advice before any of my reviews, because I feel people make entirely too much of a big deal about spoilers. But, what happened at the end of Tuesday night’s (Nov. 19) “The Crossing” episode of “Person of Interest” is about as big of a spoiler as they come. Thanks to tight-lipped advertising and a brutal surprise that I don’t think any of its fans saw coming “Person of Interest” was able to pull off one of the most shocking endings to any television episode I have ever seen. They were able to do so by keeping a tight lid on the fact that they were going to be killing off one of their regular characters, and that they were doing so at midseason and not the season finale when these sorts of shockers typically take place. It’s not even the fact they kill off a main character and do so at midseason which is really the shocking part, but rather who the character is and what happens about 15 minutes before the character’s demise. We kind of had the idea the gang (John Reese, Harold Finch, Joss Carter, Lionel Fusco and Samantha Shaw) was on the verge of finally taking down the almighty group of dirty cops known as HR, which basically run New York City and help to keep it corrupt, and do so for good this time. We just didn’t realize how swift this takeover would occur and what cost it would bring our group of superheroes and do-gooders. At the end of the previous episode Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Carter (Taraji P. Henson) have taken Alonzo Quinn (Clarke Peters), the head of HR, into their custody and “The Crossing” begins with them trying to get Quinn to the FBI across town as the entirety of HR and every gang member and criminal in the city, as they are indebted to HR, is on the hunt for them. While all of this is taking place Fusco (Kevin Chapman) has been apprehended by HR in an attempt to figure out where his former partner Carter is hiding the proof she has of HR, and his life has been placed in grave danger in the process. Shaw (Sarah Shahi) is tasked with helping to rescue Fusco, while Finch (Michael Emerson) is left in the dark for much of the episode after having his communications between most of the parties involved severed.
In a breathtaking scene, HR sends one of their men to Fusco’s home to kill his son if the information he gave them on the whereabouts of Carter’s intelligence turned out to be a lie. When it does turn out that Fusco has lied to HR about the location we hear the command given to kill Fusco’s son and an ensuing gunshot. Thankfully, it turns out that Shaw realized HR would likely use Fusco’s son against him and she saves the boy’s life only to essentially sacrifice Fusco’s. However, in one of the many shockers of the episode, Fusco is able to slip his handcuffs and strangle his captor to death in an incredibly intense moment portrayed by Chapman with some of the finest “crazy eyes” ever seen on television. Meanwhile, unable to get Quinn to the FBI building with HR blocking off all routes Reese and Carter are forced to hideout in the city morgue until they can figure out what to do. This is where the best scene of the episode and one of the finest of the entire series thus far takes place. Knowing what’s at stake and the precarious situation they find themselves in, Reese and Carter begin to share their closest brushes with death. Carter reveals that her nearest flash of death was while she was in labor with her son and how it was the scariest moment of her life followed by the greatest. When Carter asks Reese about his closest brush with death, he simply pulls a bullet out of his pocket and reveals that he once almost used it on himself when times were particularly tough – only to be saved by a certain detective who took him into custody after duking it out with a gang of thugs on the subway. This scene where Reese informs Carter that she saved him is a beautifully emotional moment, especially coming from a man who doesn’t have a very large range of emotions. Reese then embraces Carter in a kiss and two and a half seasons of friendship and caring for one another flourishes into one of the most welcomed budding relationships on television. Shortly after the dramatic kiss, Reese tricks Carter into looking into a supply closet in the morgue for helpful chemicals only to escape and take on the bad guys by his lonesome. The plan works and Reese and Carter are able to finally get Quinn to the FBI and take down the entirety of HR, except for Quinn’s number two guy Officer Patrick Simmons (Robert John Burke), who will obviously return to avenge the capture of his boss. Everything seems to be back to normal for our gang of heroes at the end of the episode when Simmons shows up to kill Reese, shooting him once in the midsection, before shooting and fatally wounding Carter in the process. This all taking place in front of Finch who was about to join the duo in celebration of their victory before hearing the rings of a local pay phone – the machine calling him about a new number or person in danger. The episode ends with the tear-jerking image of a profoundly shaken Reese embracing Carter’s lifeless body in his arms – the woman that we all now know he loved having been murdered trying to save his life. It’s a moment that’s so touching and horrifying, because seeing an uncontrollably sobbing Reese is so un-Reese like it hurts to watch. The devastating ending to “The Crossing” came as such a huge shock because we’re lead to believe that characters like Reese, Finch and Carter are essentially untouchable when it comes to the series. We believed Carter was too important to the series to kill off. We believed Henson, who put forth her very
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best performances on the show at the very end, was much too great of an asset to the show to sendoff in a hail of gunfire. We’re also stupefied, because of the flash of romance we’d just seen from the two. Boy, were we wrong! And, that’s why this is such a shocker, such a game-changer for this series. Nobody is safe, and the show is willing to go to any length to prove so. This is why episodes like “The Crossing” are so amazingly fantastic and the series is the best of its kind currently on network television. But, damn, could they have done this without killing off Carter? Probably not. And, that’s why such an awesome episode also hurts so freakin’ badly because we lose a cherished character in the process of greatness. The finish of “The Crossing” also leaves us with many questions going forward for the series, which will likely begin with the avenging of Carter’s death in next week’s episode. The biggest question this ending leaves us with is, how will Reese react and will he be the same man we’ve known for two and a half seasons? I think we’re about to see the wrath of Reese and in a majorly kickass fashion. The ending also leaves us questioning how personally will Finch take Carter’s death, as it is the duty of the machine that he created to protect people and what role will Carter’s partner at the precinct, Fusco, take in all of this and in the show going forward? One thing is for sure, “Person of Interest” has taken another step forward and there’s no telling how much better this show is going to get. And, that’s a scary-good proposition.
Red John’s Demise on ‘Mentalist’ Seems Rushed, Lets Down Fans By Aprille Hanson
It was the moment. For six seasons, viewers were taken on a heart-breaking journey of revenge and grief with conman-turned California Bureau Investigation Consultant Patrick Jane (Simon Baker). Jane joined the CBI with one goal — find and kill Red John, the serial killer who brutally murdered his wife and young daughter, drawing his signature smiley face on the wall in their blood. We’ve seen the torment and anguish build in Jane as he conquered each other murder that was thrown at him, helping out boss Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) and agents Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman), Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti) and Kimball Cho (Tim Kang), all the while knowing Red John is still out there … just waiting to kill again. For six seasons, we’ve seen Red John “play” with Jane, killing more people he cared for and sending terror into anyone who crossed him. Jane had a crack at him in season three. Timothy Carter, played with perfection by Bradley Whitford, chillingly detailed to Jane the smell of his daughter’s strawberries
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and cream scented shampoo on the day he killed her. It was a horrifying conversation, taking place in a busy mall when Jane suddenly pulls the trigger. And he’s dead. And lo and behold, he was not Red John. But man, I wish he was because the final face-off between Jane and Red John in the episode aptly named “Red John” that aired on CBS Nov. 24, lacked the intensity and sheer terror and relief that the audience should have felt when watching it. Revealed in the penultimate episode, it is clear that Red John has developed a secret organization called “The Blake Association,” full of crooked law enforcement officers and judges that do his bidding. Jane had his list narrowed down to possible Red John candidates because of a three-dot tattoo, but when three people — Sheriff Thomas McAllister, FBI Agent Reede Smith and CBI Director Gale Bertram — had the tattoo, it wasn’t so easy. A bomb killed off McAllister and Smith was later obtained by the CBI, which left the only possible suspect — Director Bertram, (Michael Gaston). With the FBI shutting down the CBI to try and weed out all the dirty cops, Lisbon and the others are left in handcuffs, while Jane agrees to meet Bertram in a little white cemetery church in the cemetery where his wife and daughter are buried. Bertram is clear that while he is a part of the Blake Association, he is not Red John. The point is confirmed quickly — Bertram is shot and out from the shadows walks in Sherriff Thomas McAllister or more appropriately, Red John (Xander Berkeley). Turns out, the initial bomb that supposedly killed him was a flash bomb, allowing him to drag out the bodies of Jane and Bertram and escape, putting a “decoy” body in his place. A crooked cop helped him alter the DNA records, showing he was in fact dead. Jane proceeded to calmly tell Red John what a sexually perverted sociopath he was, despite staring down the barrel of a gun. Red John, in a chilling turn, heightened his voice, as he did the few times he made contact with Jane. It was a creepy moment, followed by Jane placing some pigeon food in his hand – a pigeon swooped down, startling Red John, allowing Jane to grab a previously hidden gun from under a pew inside the church. It was a tad silly, this little bird incident, but it was a nice ode to the cleverness of the Jane character. Then comes a moment before the moment — Jane shoots Red John in the stomach and while on the floor begging for his life, Jane stops to savor the moment. In enters a woman, a Red John follower, who tries to slit his throat. Both escape — Red John and Jane — and the two take us through town on this sunny day. For symbolism, it’s big. At that moment, the viewer is seeing played out this chase that’s been bubbling for six years and Jane has the madman in his sight. Red John finally collapses by a pond in a park and actually has the audacity to call 911. Jane kicks away the phone and grabs Red John by the throat. He asks him some very simple questions; blink once for no, twice for yes: Are you sorry for murdering my wife Angela and daughter Charlotte?
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Two blinks. Are you afraid to die? Two blinks. Then we zero in on Jane’s face, shaking, crying as we hear the life choked out of Red John in the background. It’s by far the best scene in the entire episode and possibly the series. That is the positive that came out of this episode — Red John is dead at the hands of Patrick Jane … literally. It keeps in line with Jane, he always hated guns. Jane leaves a simple voicemail message for Lisbon: “It’s done.” The final scene is Jane running slow motion in the street. It was good TV. But it should have been great TV. We should have seen more of Red John and their final encounter should have lasted the entire episode. Questions needed to be answered straight from Red John, most importantly, why? It could have been done in flashback sequences, showing Red John sneaking into the Jane household before he kills the family. Disturbing yes, but it would have been closure for the fans. Why the red smiley faces? Why was he called Red John? This is a man who has instilled terror in so many lives, has so many followers and has been able to outwit one of the smartest people on the small screen and he’s only featured for a few minutes … and furthermore, it’s that doofy sheriff? We don’t see the evil mastermind that is Red John in person and I guess we never will. It seemed rushed, even after it has dragged out for six seasons. Yes Jane is mad at him, obviously, chokes the life out of the guy. But even in their conversation, it’s almost matter-of-fact. We didn’t see the raw emotional scars come through as vividly from Jane as we should have. When the stand-off with the nonRed John (Whitford) is more exciting than the actual scene with Red John, there’s something wrong. I’ve seen it called the “biggest let-down in TV history.” I wouldn’t go that far, but what I will say is that the series should have ended with Red John’s death. The preview for next week’s episode, tagged “A New Beginning” with the new episode called “My Blue Heaven,” it shows Jane seemingly yucking it up in Mexico or some beach oasis, walking hand-in-hand with another woman. No! Totally wrong! Fans want Jane to be happy, but it’s not realistic or plausible for him to just stuff all that emotional baggage away just because Red John is dead. He will always be alive to Jane because he’s more than a person — Red John has become a catalyst to Jane’s life. I can’t judge it too much yet without seeing the next episode; maybe the teaser was misleading. With the Blake Association at large and other bad guys on the loose, maybe even those wanting to copycat or avenge Red John’s death, Jane will need to assist Lisbon and the others for sure. But without Red John, the show is going to lose its edge. The best ending to the series, the way I thought it would go, would be Jane killing Red John and the screen fading to black. 13 | P a g e
The writers have had this entire series thus far to write out the best final showdown between the show’s central characters and they came up short. It was the moment, that became just a moment.
Movies ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ By Philip Price
There are plenty of perks to being the middle installment of a giant trilogy. Whether you've read the books or not, I think it goes without saying that ‘Catching Fire,’ the film, is a much bigger and more impressive exercise than what the first film was able to deliver after it finished setting up the world all of this would be taking place in. This, coming from the benefit of being that middle child. It has always been the case though (‘Empire Strikes Back,’ ‘The Dark Knight,’ ‘X2: X-Men United,’ ‘Spider-Man 2’) that without having to deal in exposition and not having to worry itself with how to wrap everything up nicely, that the second chapter of a larger story is the one where we get to dig in, where we are able to see the meat of the conflict and get to really know the characters and what drives them, what makes them different and why we remain interested in their plight past the unbelievable circumstances they were thrown into the first time around. All of this remains true in director Francis Lawrence's follow-up to Gary Ross's faithful and fervent opening chapter. Yes, it is important to note that I am a fan of the books, all three of them, but that ‘Catching Fire’ was by far my favorite and for all the reasons I've listed above I desperately hoped the film turned out the same way. As we reach the final shot of this film it became all the more clear that we'd just witnessed something rather special. It may not have been a game-changer like “The Dark Knight” or as exceptional as ‘X2,’ but it has some clear moments and techniques that are more than impressive and more than intriguing that lead us to become intensely wrapped up in the world of Panem and the brewing revolution. The scope and scale, the performances all-around, the more confident hand behind the execution; it all adds up to a film that knows what it is, what its message and main themes are, and where it is going because there is a driving force behind the narrative that makes the briskly paced film (not a bad thing with a run time of two and a half hours) feel like a consistently mounting piece of music that perfectly staggers its force and intensity until hitting that crescendo. This is only one passage though, and that perfectly timed climax of this specific progression only leaves us wanting more which can only mean part two has done its job and done it well.
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Picking up about a year after the events of the first film Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) now live in Victor's Village with their families and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) who has been there for quite some time. They are preparing to board the Victory Tour where they will travel and visit a district a day paying their respects to the fallen tributes from each, but there are rumblings in the districts about the true intention of Katniss's defiant actions at the end of the 74th annual Hunger Games. Those who prosper in District one and two think nothing more of it than a love story for the ages while the outliers only see a symbol of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel and someone who is going to spearhead the campaign to do away with the Capital and its barbaric traditions once and for all. â€˜Catching Fireâ€™ keeps things interesting story-wise because it likes to add on layers of complexity and not just from the adolescent girl perspective that pits Hutcherson's earnest and humble Peeta against Liam Hemsworth's darker, more brooding Gale Hawthorne. What is slightly ironic about these films though are that the satirical elements are meant to shine a light on our own pop culture/reality show obsessions and yet they have become a product of that environment themselves. Still, there is real sentiment here and it helps that at its center they have the one young actress in Hollywood who is seen as a legitimate and genuine person rather than a manufactured pawn of a bigger industry. The way in which Lawrence's public persona mimics the defining characteristic of Katniss is ever so slight, but it is there and it is important otherwise it would be hard to take the idea of this young starlet heading up a revolution. This is what Katniss was destined for though from the time she stepped up to volunteer she allowed those rumblings to finally turn into cries and screams. President Snow (a menacing Donald Sutherland) is at odds with the threat of an uprising that will remove him from his comfortable seat as ruler of Panem though and he sees Ms. Everdeen as public enemy number one. In order to rectify this situation he puts the fear of God in her by threatening her family, forcing her to convince him and the rest of the world that her love for Peeta is real and then pushing her over the edge when he arranges the Quarter Quell (an edition of the games every 25 years that mark the anniversary of the districts' defeat by the Capital that involve some sort of twist that make the games more disastrous or difficult to compete in) as an all-star game of sorts by using reaping victors from the previous Hunger Games as contestants in the latest fight to the death. Where the first film had the daunting task of introducing us to the sprawling cast of characters and more than that establishing the world where these kinds of brutal games are looked upon as sport the second film takes advantage of not having to divulge all of the information in order to make sense, but it also sets up the context for everything going on and why it is happening this way with much better measure. We see the inner workings of President Snow's thought process and when he wants things done and how, but more importantly we see those desires debated and thought-out with new Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in delicate conversations where we realize the power of one person in the Capital and how it can so easily decide the fate of those that seem to matter little in district 12. For a little more than the first hour of the film we are thrown head first into the politics not only of Katniss and what is going on in her world, but given how the bigger picture relates and influences her issues. It is in Lawrence's performance that we are given a window into just how demanding and emotionally exhausting all of this has to be for a teenager who wants nothing more than the simplicity of doing the right thing, but is held back and beat into submission time and time again so that she can protect what is important to her in her life. Lawrence is able to not necessarily shift, but present a duality of how this young girl can at once be broken-hearted and lost and the next put on the face that will symbolize the revolution. She is someone who brings those nuances to the role in a subtle manner where you don't even realize the complexities of the performance she is giving simply because it is so naturalistic in nature and gut reaction tells you this is how she would react and so naturally that is what she does. To translate all of that into a performance where we don't necessarily see the inner-workings of those decisions being made only helps to elevate the material and the level of credibility at which we 15 | P a g e
accept this world. Of course, she has plenty of help in that task as everyone from the original returns including Elizabeth Banks as Effie who we begin to see suffer from the fact she is being forced to face a certain reality as well as Stanley Tucci's over-the-top Caesar Flickerman who makes us laugh and cringe at the same time, but not for the performance but in what he stands for and how proud he is to be the face of the Hunger Games. Besides Hoffman, we also have a slew of new characters joining the ranks in the form of a charming Sam Claflin as fellow tribute Finnick Odair who clearly hides more under his playboy facade than he is letting on. There is his mentor and mother figure Mags (Lynn Cohen), fellow tributes Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) and Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) who each make an indelible impression upon first coming into contact with Katniss and her team and not to mention, the audience. It goes without saying that ‘Catching Fire’ is kind of a big deal in that it will only catapult its stars further into stardom and indefinitely carve out a place on the walls of tweens everywhere that rip the posters out of their latest magazines. But even as the antithesis of what the film stands for fuels the entire reason it is reaching such a wide audience, there is something to be said for the fact that this particular message has struck a chord with the young audiences, but also has the power and concept to entrance the older members of the crowds that will flock to see this and that it demands the attention of such a wide variety of spectators that they might just actually take something more away from it than pure entertainment. The films stand for something and functions not only as a product but as a thought-provoking piece making the movies on many levels, true art. It is hard to swallow those ideas when operating on as large a scale as Suzanne Collins’ novels and these adaptations now do, but all of it began somewhere and it is hard to ignore the fact that this all began with the kernel of an idea about our reality show culture. It truly is about how if we continually move in the direction at turning anything into entertainment it won’t be long before we are broadcasting live footage of a war and then moving on to manufacturing war ourselves and coming up with some flimsy, silly justification for it that would allow the masses to feel better about continuing to consume this junk wrapped up in professional packaging. At the core of “The Hunger Games” series, that is what they are operating on: turning a magnified mirror on its own audience that hints at a future that feels unlikely but hits closer to home than we'd like to admit. We laugh at people making a fool of themselves on singing talent shows, but there is no doubt many of them who have genuine dreams of becoming more than just complacent and average, but they are wiped out in a matter of seconds with the harsh words and dismissive attitudes of those who think of themselves better than the common man. It is the sacrificing of human integrity for higher ratings and though I realize that is a far cry from making children murder one another, it certainly says something about the human spirit and how flexible it can be. All of that is to say that ‘Catching Fire’ captures the heart of what Collins was writing about. There is spectacle galore with large action set pieces and glorious costumes and premium production value that will keep us entranced, but what had me really into the film and loving it were the small moments where Peeta reassures Katniss as the sound drowns out and the atmosphere crushes us; where Gale sleeps on a table and Katniss lightly kisses him; and where Caesar looks back at the tributes all holding 16 | P a g e
hands and his demeanor changes from the bright-white smile he usually carries to a look of anxiety and concern that hints even the most artificial of Capital slime realize all is not well. It is all in the details and director Lawrence has crafted a film that appeals to the masses while speaking to the conscience of each person in a very specific and affecting way that will make for interesting discussions among every set but will also have you clamoring for the next installment.
‘Thor: The Dark World’ By Preston Tolliver
Comic book movies, while the trend of the 2010s, are always a risk for studios to undertake. Regardless of what a studio puts in the movie – no matter the special effects, or how in-line the movie is with a printed storyline – fans who grew up with the comics on which the movie is based will nitpick. If you change something, you'd better be able to make up for it somewhere, which is why several superhero movies have floundered. “Wolverine: Origins” was a complete clusterfuck; “Daredevil” was comically unpleasant; “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver” managed to screw up its own title character's superpowers – being an incredible nerd (and somewhat of a superhero myself – my superpower is being a 25-year-old comic book fan who still manages to score dates), I can go on and on and on. And after the Robert Downey Jr.-sized turd that was “Iron Man 3,” I was a little wary of what sort of floater I might be left to marvel at when “Thor: The Dark World” ended. To my delightful surprise, though, I left the movie theater thinking that maybe Marvel Studios had a little too much Taco Bell when it wrote some of its previous titles. After all, not every Marvel movie has been a failure. In fact, most of ‘The Avengers’ titles (with the exception of the aforementioned turd) have been hugely successful, among both comic book enthusiasts and moviegoers new to the characters. The newest ‘Avengers’ installment, centered around everyone's favorite Asgardian Thunder God, did what the best Marvel movies do: Provide plenty of action, drama and special effects with a couple pinches of campy humor. Where DC movies flourish on tragedy and dark-themed storylines, Marvel has a tendency to balance its movies with off-centered, yet somehow oddly well-placed jokes to let its viewers breathe a slight sigh of relief in the midst of a chaotic story. In the newest ‘Thor’ movie, obviously these jokes are delivered perfectly by Tom Hiddleston (who plays the God of Mischief Loki), and backed up on occasion by Chris Hemsworth and Stellan Skarsgard and at times too-much-so by Kat Dennings. While I'm not what you would refer to as "brushed up" on ’The Dark World’ protagonist, Malekith the Accursed, Marvel Studios made him a convincing villain and formidable threat to Earth and its eight partnering worlds (newsflash: that might be the nerdiest sentence I've ever written). He was sinister and
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his story in the movie contained no cheesy twists, making Malekith perhaps one of Marvel's best adapted-for-movie villains. The only thing the movie lacked was involvement from its supporting cast. Loki was given a fair role in ‘The Dark World,’ though not as big as I had hoped. Thor's Asgardian brethren, such as Volstagg and Sif, also played small, though not nearly large enough parts. Luckily, this was the movie's biggest flaw, and it certainly wasn't a fatal one. Obviously, ‘The Dark World’ fell in line with the building arc leading to the Infinity Gauntlet -- a seemingly coming storyline any comic reader is popping a nerd boner over, leaving us all to bring our comically-sized woodies back to the theater for each new installment. Anyway, it's been over four hours since I saw the movie, so I should probably go call a doctor.
’12 Years a Slave’ By Philip Price
As Brad Pitt's character Bass states after hearing Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) recount the story of how he was wrongly kidnapped and sold into slavery, this is an amazing story, but in no good way. There has been much made of director Steve McQueen's third feature that adapts the autobiography of Solomon Northup and takes an unflinching look at how slavery and ownership dominated the South and was inflicted upon the unfortunate souls born into that time period. Northup's tale is one of emotional and physical devastation and the success of the film hinges on being able to convey both of those impressions with equal weight. If there is an ideal director to take on this stark subject matter it would be the fresh pair of eyes and mind that is McQueen who, after his previous two films (“Hunger” and “Shame”) has focused on the downsides of humanity enough to understand where he needed to go to reach the emotional depths that the subject of slavery needs to take on. It is a subject which deserves this unflinching look illustrating how slaves were treated, how they were perceived, and how some plantation owners saw them and treated them as employees while others saw them as little more than property they could do with what they pleased. “12 Years A Slave” doesn't dive into the politics of what started slavery, why these white owners saw these people as they did, or how our main characters might put a stop to the tragedy, but instead we are forced to accept the facts which define our history and the true story of Solomon. Neither Solomon nor any of the slaves he comes to meet along the way knew why there were some slavers like William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) and others like Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), why it all began or how it was going to come to an end, but they simply had to accept the idea that this was their life and they were meant to deal with it and that harsh reality is what McQueen forces his audience to accept as well with the only glimmer of hope being implied by the title. This is a film both so involving and at the same time so draining you feel exhausted after having experienced it. It is a damn tough film to watch, but a necessary lesson in perspective which ultimately makes you appreciate what you've seen, if not for the unflinching history lesson, then for the craft in which it is conveyed. 18 | P a g e
We first meet Northup as he is taught the process of cutting cane and preparing it for the planting gang. This is a far cry from his comfortable life in Saratoga, N.Y. where he operated as a free man and a talented violinist who was rewarded nicely for his skill. While the one glaring issue with the film is not so much one at all, but instead the fact we do not get the full impact of just how much time is passing as we go on this journey. Solomon is drugged and kidnapped by men simply named Hamilton and Brown (Scoot McNairy and Taran Killam) and then transported to the South to be picked up by Freeman (Paul Giamatti literally showing up for one scene here) who purchases Solomon at auction and sets him up to be sold to plantation owners once he polishes them off. From here Solomon is sold to Master Ford along with Eliza (Adepero Oduye) whom he separates from her children and has an understandably difficult time dealing with it only to receive no empathy from Mistress Ford (Liza J. Bennett) as she dismisses her depression with a simple, "your children will be forgotten soon enough." Solomon spends a presumably fair amount of time with the Ford's, but it is clear early on that an overseer by the name of Tibeats (Paul Dano) has both a lower intellect and hunger for power which will not serve him well when coming up against an educated man forced into submission as was Solomon. When tensions come to a head, Ford is forced to trade his debt on Solomon to a different slaver. This, unfortunately, happens to be Epps, a despicable human being who prides himself on breaking his slaves, forcing them to live under the worst conditions imaginable. It is on Epps' farm where we come to realize the more gritty, harsh realities of the time period both through Solomon's journey and Epps' prized possession, Patsey (a breakout performance from Lupita Nyong'o) whom he treats as his own play-thing while his Mistress (a chilling Sarah Paulson) beats her down even further with her jealousy. It is only when Solomon comes in contact with Bass, a man Epps has hired to build a gazebo on his land, that we see a light near the end of the tunnel for our protagonist. This is clearly a project not intended as a popcorn flick or as a way to escape for a few hours, but instead screenwriter John Ridley and director McQueen were intent to make a powerful, artistic piece which really cut to the heart of the embarrassing scar slavery has left on the U.S. For the most part, they do this to a grand extent with lush photography, set and costume designs that truly capture the tone of the period and performances across the board which are superior, even in the smallest of supporting roles, to those many movies might find in their lead actor. It almost goes without stating, â€œ12 Years A Slaveâ€? is a good movie, a film which will hit you deep in the gut and make you stand up and take notice and even look at the world differently than you might have prior to being confronted with the reality it presents, but in that execution it didn't grasp the level of greatness I expected from such a strongly hailed film. It should be made clear this does not come from the fact that I hold something against it because I thought it too gratuitous in its violence or gruesome in its representation, but more because it seemed disjointed in moments and never hit a stride that was consistent for the remainder of the film. In fact, the few complaints I do have concerning the film have nothing to do with its story. Instead, they recall the previously stated slight qualm with how the passing of time is conveyed with some inadequacy, and that the pacing sometimes seems to have a misstep and depending on the given circumstances around the point we're at in the story may or may not pick back up quicker than you expect it to. Again, these are small issues I took with the film as a whole and are only stated here to justify my reasoning for not rewarding it a perfect score. McQueen has so much going for him in terms of craft in fact, it is easy to forget these shortcomings as it is more fulfilling to take in both the horrific and fascinating ways McQueen uses his camera; his still shots and his long takes to emphasize the pain and mindset many of our characters live with day in and day out. There are two prime examples of this technique which are more than cause for audience members to look away and close their eyes, but even then McQueen and his sound mixers make sure you feel the impact of what is happening on screen. There is nowhere to run, no way to hide from the brutality of this world and that is exactly what McQueen wants you to
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understand, he wants to put you in the middle of the psychology of these slaves and in that regard, he succeeds several times over. Only aiding in this closely detailed and highly artistic vision of the South are the performances McQueen has elicited from his top notch cast. Much will be made of the many white male performers who come and go throughout the course of the film, and Michael Fassbender's is surely one worth seeing and attempting to comprehend how he might have even become such a man, but this is Ejiofor's show and he commands it from the opening shot on. He embodies Solomon who, despite his esteemed career and status in the north, somehow has the ability to understand that the odds are not in his favor and he will likely never see his family again. That he succumbs to this realization so early in the film is something of a shock to the audience I think as I expected for much of the movie to center on Solomon's countless attempts at getting out of the situation in which he was so unjustly placed. Instead, we see him, just as all the other slaves around him, come to terms with the fact their lives will be all about surviving and nothing more. It is a harsh reality, but there was no other way of life known at that time. I'm sure many of the slaves even were surprised by what opportunities they were afforded, no matter how small, simply on the basis they were conditioned to think themselves as less than human. This especially comes to mind when taking in the full effect of Nyong'o's performance which gives us the perspective of the worst position a slave could ever hope to have. The affection of her master, the spite of her mistress and no matter how hard she works, how much better she does her job than any other slave on the farm, it is her that will face the brunt of both punishment and the disgusting desires Epps has a need to fulfill. If we didn't already feel a compassion for Solomon and his plight, the introduction of Patsey and the layers of emotion Nyong'o brings to the character will certainly have your heart truly breaking at the thought human beings could bring such hatred and pain to their fellow man. Cumberbatch offers his inherently charming self as Ford while both Paulson and Fassbender will be revered for the fact they were able to find a place within themselves that allowed them to resurrect such despicable human beings. Others in the cast, including Dano, Alfre Woodard, Quvenzhane Wallis and Pitt bring varying degrees of effectiveness to their roles depending on the amount of influence (Wallis will only stand out if you know who she is, otherwise it could have been anyone) their characters have, but it should be said that for such a limited amount of screen time, Dano brings an impressive duality to his role. There is so much more to be discussed concerning this film, it is hard to find a place to stop. As I watched this story unfold I couldn't help but take it in and begin to ask myself questions and wonder how those questions should be taken into account when evaluating the film, but it more than anything seems to have added to the respect I have for this movie. It is a daring film that was willing to go that extra mile and put you in the psychological state of a slave who lived under constant pressure and stress, a life many would say is not worth living, yet our ancestors are the ones who subjected these people to that lifestyle and held their one chance to make something of this one life nothing more than an existence they would have never lived given the choice. When Fassbender's Epps uses scripture to try and justify his actions I wondered how African-Americans have not come to resent a white God that subjected them to a life of pain and suffering. That their white masters taught them their white God condoned this type of behavior and punishment makes it a wonder any African-American today still upholds the Bible as something worth living by. From there, I began to wonder what drives Fassbender 20 | P a g e
to play these roles in which he portrays such dislikable people. Whether it is in “Shame,” “X-Men: First Class,” “Prometheus” or even “The Counselor” it seems he has an appetite for those seriously flawed, but layered men who have deep-rooted vindication for their actions. From here, it went on and on from how far have we come and how much have we recessed to how does this compare to “Django Unchained” and did this make ‘Django’ seem insensitive? I think ‘Django’ was meant as a revenge fantasy so as to give the black man a surrogate to exact retribution on the white man whereas ‘12 Years’ is more a pure documentation of how it actually was and gives us that setting unfiltered. They come at the subject from two vastly different perspectives making it impossible to compare, but what that brings to light about McQueen's work is that he wants to present us with this picture and then sit back and have us interpret it as we will, without giving any indication of his own stance. It is a method of storytelling which doesn't always work, but when done with as great an understanding of the story and subject as McQueen seems to have, it can be all the more fulfilling as an active audience member. And, if that isn't enough, (which it very well should be) the final scene is one of both joy and heartbreak in the actuality of what Solomon's life had become and what was really taken from him.
‘About Time’ By Philip Price
Maybe it is the point I'm at in my life, maybe it was the non-existent expectations, or maybe it is the simple fact that there is true emotion coming through on screen which translates to the audience in spades, but any way you cut it, “About Time” bowled me over and hit me like a ton of bricks. Billed simply as a romantic comedy, I began to expect more upon seeing Richard Curtis (“Love Actually,” “Pirate Radio”) wrote and directed the film and has also said this would be his final directorial effort. I should have known that we were in for something magical. For all intents and purposes, the film looked to be nothing more than a light romantic comedy with the twist of time traveling, all of which was plagued by the fact star Rachel McAdams had already starred in a movie where the central conceit was that her husband involuntarily time traveled causing all kinds of problems with their marriage. Still, despite these pre-conceived notions, I was more than anxious to see Domhnall Gleeson get a leading role and the supporting cast of top notch British talent wasn't so off-putting and neither was the fact it was obvious the film would have that native sense of charm that director Curtis effortlessly sprinkles throughout each of his projects. It was watching the film progress, feeling it move in on you and being completely taken aback when you realized you were watching something truly great that took me by surprise. The pure characterization of these people brought to the forefront and developed so well throughout that we genuinely feel we've been on a journey with them, that we've come to be a part of their close-knit family gives the film the ability to transcend its time traveling plot device and help us understand the point it is trying to make with said device rather than succumbing to the inherent hokey nature it usually implies. This is a film about life and it is as equally funny, warm, heartbreaking and uplifting as any single day of any of our lives might be. It is a truly moving film that I didn't see coming, but am keen to place as one of my favorites of the year. It struck a chord no other 21 | P a g e
film this year has and has serious replay value, something I've not been able to mention much at all this year. Hats off to you, Mr. Curtis. From a script which is easy to see hits too close to home for Curtis we first meet Tim (Gleeson) as he hits his 21st birthday and learns of the secret that the men in his family have the ability to travel through time. His father (Bill Nighy) has been doing it for years, mainly to find extra time to read and finds it difficult to convey this family secret without sounding completely ridiculous. Once Tim tries it out though, by going into a dark place, clenching his fists, and thinking of a specific moment, he realizes this is no elaborate joke. Initially, he uses it for small things such as going back to make himself look all the cooler in front of what he believes is the love of his life in his sister Kit Kat's (Lydia Wilson) best friend, Charlotte (Margot Robbie), who comes to stay with their family one summer. The summer goes by with no initial spark between the two of them despite the fact Tim uses his new skill to the max; there is simply no manufacturing what isn't naturally there. And so, Tim moves into the city getting a job as a lawyer and rooming with one of his dad’s old playwright friends, Harry (the always hilarious Tom Hollander), and trying desperately to meet a girl who might make his life whole. Tim states at the beginning that for him, it was always going to be about love and staying true to his word when he first encounters Mary (McAdams) he is not only completely smitten, but when he goes back in time to change the circumstances of a horrible opening night for Harry he undoes the whole event and is forced to meet her all over again. This, as you might imagine, gives way to a few complications but Tim eventually is afforded the opportunity to win her heart again and the two take off on a whirlwind romance where it's as if they know they are meant to be together and therefore embrace it rather than constantly worrying, constantly suspecting one another, but always loving one another without condition or worry because if there's one thing certain in each of their insecure worlds it's that they love each other. Not only was this refreshing because the eyes of cynicism are nowhere to be found, but because we truly believe in the genuine nature of the relationship these two have and the relationship we build with each of the characters on screen. There is a large amount of sentiment going on here and I didn't expect to be as swept up in the world of these characters as I became, but that is essentially why we become so attached to certain films and “About Time,” for me is a movie that took me in and made me a part of the experience, a part of the family it was discussing and dissecting. It is at once very specific to the people, the nature of their lives and the circumstances they find themselves in but also has the ability to hit a part of each of our hearts and minds that will allow the audience members to see themselves in the world of Tim and Mary. While these two are at the center of the film’s action the supporting cast is what brings the atmosphere around to its full potential. Bill Nighy comes to mind first as Tim's father. Nighy has always been a charming presence no matter what world he is surrounded by, but in this comfort zone of a character he shines through and gives the patriarch presence real depth and a relationship with his son which makes us want to keep his company. He is wise. He has used his ability not to make himself rich, not to help him live a life of lavish luxury, but to allow him the opportunity of seeing the world through the mind of Charles Dickens two times over. There is a peaceful understanding to everything around him, a kind of sense that makes him aware of when he is present in the "good old times" that brings his ability the advantageous aspect of truly cherishing his life and that is what Curtis is trying to get across. He hopes to pass this realization onto Tim, but not by shoving it down his throat and not by manipulating what he can and cannot do with his new found gift. He simply allows Tim to live his humbly-aspired life trusting that once he has met Mary he will have found a way to appreciate the small things from day to day; never growing tired of seeing the face that swept him away the first time he laid eyes on it. And not just Nighy, but Lindsay Duncan as Tim's Mum, Richard Cordery as Uncle D and Joshua McGuire as Tim's new best friend Rory all shine through and assist in making “About Time” as equally hilarious and genuine as 22 | P a g e
it is sappy and familiar at times. It is familiar, but not in the way we've seen it all before, moreover in that our lives aren't going to be perfect no matter what powers we possess and if it's not one thing it will be another, but it is those challenges that build us and make us who we are. As for Tim and Mary though, both Gleeson and McAdams are equipped to handle this material and their characters while at the same time being expected and non-conventional. McAdams has played these roles before whether it is in aforementioned time-traveling romance or bigger hits like “The Notebook” and “The Vow” while Gleeson is not your typical leading man. What reverses expectations a bit is the fact Tim isn't that kind of Matthew McConaughey leading man in who he truly is, otherwise why would the need to travel through time be crucial or exciting? Tim is a regular guy and Gleeson is able to play that well, he understands Tim's shortcomings and what makes his character specific to him as opposed to falling into a generic group of people as McAdams’ Mary resembles more closely as she easily defines the hipster generation that likes to be comfortable but rebelliously vintage at the same time. As Tim is our narrator in this piece, we naturally feel closer to him from the start while it takes longer for us to accept Mary as an authentic personality rather than just an archetype. Small qualms aside though, Gleeson and McAdams do form an unexpectedly charismatic duo that doesn't send fireworks shooting off into the sky the first time they meet, but are instead forced to have that first moment several times to emphasize the awkwardness and insecurity of their personalities which might have otherwise resulted in them either never meeting in the first place or being too bashful to follow-up with one another. Tim's ability gives him the confidence to go up to Mary and address her with the advantage of already being comfortable around her and deflating the possibility of this cinematic venture following the same path every typical romantic comedy wanders down. There is a moment in the film, about halfway through, when Charlotte comes back into play and I feared that all the potential, all the good will this film had built up during its first act was going to be squandered on this standard archetype which would see Tim do something stupid and would cause Tim and Mary to have to rebuild and reconcile for the second hour of the film. I won't say what the results are, but I think it’s obvious by my rating of the film that “About Time” doesn't give us a world where the success or failure of one relationship isn't what everything hinges on, but instead this is an experience that takes in every aspect of life and the grand improvisational nature of what we hope for but most of the time never see coming.
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Albums ‘Marshall Mathers LP 2’ by Eminem By Kellan Miller
Ah, yes. The sequel album. An artist releases a timeless album and more often times than not, the second installment is a shameless PR stunt when released years and years later. If you didn’t come of age in the year 2000 when the original “Marshall Mathers LP” dropped, you don’t understand the nostalgia factor at play here, and therefore the dilemma. Nostalgic memories are the mind’s own hideaway in times of necessity, and I’m not ashamed to admit I go there … sometimes even 13 years ago when I moved Heaven and Earth to find the ‘MMLP’ album, only to discover years later that my parents had sifted it after watching a story on the news claiming, incredulously, that a topical album about murder fantasies, drug addicts and prostitutes was not constructive listening material for 11 year olds. So truth be told, I didn’t even want to listen to the album. Why not call it “Redemption” or something, a natural, witty progression in the whole ‘Relapse-Recovery’ series? Then I could judge it objectively. But, no. A quick skim over the track-list did nothing to quell my pessimism either. Who the hell is Jamie N Commons? Where’s D-12? Where’s Dre? Where’s Stan … ? Oh wait. With such a bold title, Em better come hard (no Ken Kaniff) I told myself. The first album changed my life and made me a lifelong Em fan. In a black man’s game, Em Dirk Nowitzkied his way into the top of the hip-hop pantheon, all the while rapping about killing his mother, killing his wife, killing Dr. Dre and Vicodin. (Pre-listen session thoughts) There is no chance in hell that ‘MMLP2 ‘is better than the original, but if it’s even half as good it deserves props. Thankfully Em recognized my concerns and addressed it in Rolling Stone magazine: “Calling it ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2,’ obviously I knew that there might be certain expectations. I wouldn’t want to call it that just for the sake of calling it that. I had to make sure that I had the right songs — and just when you think you got it, you listen and you’re like, ‘Fuck, man. I feel like it needs this or that,’ to paint the whole picture. So there’s not gonna be, like, continuations of every old song on there or anything like that. To me, it’s more about the vibe, and it’s more about the nostalgia.” The first song I heard off ‘MMLP2’ was “Berzerk,” the first official single that’s currently getting mad radio spins. But radio-play doesn’t mean a damn thing to me especially in this day and age, when obscene noise abominations like “You don’t know you’re beautiful but that’s what makes you beautiful 24 | P a g e
uh ohhh” can top the charts. “Berzerk” is energetic, and has an old-school Beastie Boys feel, but the song doesn’t cut it for me in the end. Judgment day soon arrived, and I put aside my skepticism and gave Em a chance. Along came “Bad Guy,” and my first thought is “this is the best Em song I’ve heard in years.” “Bad Guy” is a helluva opening, with Em ingeniously providing a first-person account of his plot to murder himself. Da Art of Storytelling has always been Em’s most finely tuned gift, and as “Bad Guy” progresses, anecdote becomes authenticity, and before you know it you are trapped in the story. Em is one of the closest rappers to late great B.I.G. in terms of meticulous detail. It’s the same reason why you feel like you are really standing next to Dre with a can full of gas and a hand full of matches whenever you listen to “Forgot About Dre,” or why you’ve heard “Stan” a billion times but still cringe when you get to the part where the car plunges over the bridge amid screams. No matter the absurdity of the lyrics, Em layers his raps with so much picturesque minutia that the narrative smacks of potent reality; the portraits are like 5 Tequila shots straight to the dome. On “Bad Guy” the narrative stops abruptly, the characters vanish, the masks come off and Em spends two full minutes talkin’ to himself but his fans as well with some of the most introspective man-in-the-mirror raps I’ve ever heard. I wanted to trim this quote down a little to give you basis of the testimony, but I can’t bring myself to edit out one line. Stunning… “I also represent anyone on the receiving end of those jokes you offend I’m the nightmare you fell asleep in and then woke up still in I’m your karma closing in with each stroke of a pen Perfect time to have some remorse to show for your sin No, it’s hopeless, I’m the denial that you’re hopelessly in When they say all of this is approaching its end But you refuse to believe that it’s over, here we go all over again Backs to the wall, I’m stacking up all them odds Toilets clogged, yeah cause I’m talking a lot of shit but I’m backing it all up But in my head there’s a voice in the back and it hollers After the track is demolished; I am your lack of a conscience I’m the ringing in your ears I’m the polyps on the back of your tonsils Eating your vocal chords after your concerts I’m your time that’s almost up that you haven’t acknowledged Grab for some water but I’m that pill that’s too jagged to swallow I’m the bullies you hate, that you became With every faggot you slaughtered Coming back on you, every woman you insult That, with the double-standards you have when it comes to your daughters I represent everything, you take for granted ‘Cause Marshall Mathers the rapper’s persona’s half a facade And Matthew and Stan’s just symbolic 25 | P a g e
Of you not knowing what you had ’till it’s gone ‘Cause after all the glitz and the glam No more fans that are calling your name, cameras are off Sad, but it happens to all of them I’m the hindsight to say, “I told you so” Foreshadows of all the things that are to follow I’m the future that’s here to show you what happens tomorrow If you don’t stop after they call you the Biggest laughing stock of rap who can’t call it quits When it’s time to walk away, I’m every guilt trip The baggage you had, but as you gather up all your possessions If there’s anything you have left to say Unless it makes an impact then don’t bother So before you rest your case Better make sure you’re packin’ a wallop So one last time, I’m back Before it fades into black and it’s all over Behold the final chapter in the saga Trying to recapture that lightning trapped in a bottle Twice, the magic that started it all Tragic portrait of an artist tortured Trapped in his own drawings Tap into thoughts Blacker and darker than anything imaginable Here goes a wild stab in the dark uh As we pick up where the last Mathers left off” From the outset, it’s clear Em is on a mission. A seasoned vet in the game, Em em-ploys the full assortment of his artistic expertise on ‘MMLP2.’ The master ringleader of his own domain, Em juggles these various traits of his musical prowess like a circus act. Snippets of the manifold Marshall Mathers personas are all in attendance here. For better or worse, each bar and flow is crafted methodically. Sprinkles of the introspective, sentimental “Beautiful” and “Sing For The Moment” Em. Dashes of the maniacal “Kill You” and “Criminal” Em. Specks of the goofy “The Real Slim Shady” and “Just Lose It” Em. Hints of the blood-boiling “Lose Yourself” and “No Love” Em. Not to mention the polished producer Em has grown into over the years, 8 miles removed from those wack-ass “Encore” beats. But the different characteristics are not easily detectable, blended almost too perfectly. Blurreeddd Lines! Em received a lot of praise for his verse on Drake’s “Forever,” causing him to repeat that same accelerated flow on future recordings. But Em is too much of a rap aficionado to just rely on one crutch, which I suspect is the main reason the rhyme+flow combinations on the album are simply dazzling at times, such as on “Asshole” and “Rap God.” Em comes close to mimicking the same flow he exhibited on “Forever,” but he drowned in it. On “Rap God,” Em’s pacing is rapid, yet contained. Usually the artist 26 | P a g e
follows the beat, but somehow it seems that the instrumentation seems to be following Em, without even the slightest hint of an off-beat flow. Always the fearless artist, Em goes deeper into expanding his musical horizons with a lot of ‘MMLP2’ tracks, enlisting the help of wizened producers when the time calls for it. In the beginning of his career, Slim mostly distanced himself from things that Colgate-mouth-washed his image, going so far as to threaten The Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, Britney Spears and New Kids On The Block while spitting on XXplosive beats by Dre. Maybe this had to do with the racist tapes Em had recorded in his tweens, but most likely had to do with the wise decision to avoid having his career tainted with the wackness of Vanilla Ice. Songs like “Sing For The Moment” (classic) and “Beautiful” dabbled in more Rock-influenced territory, but on songs like “So Far … ” Em is fully embracing his Detroit Rock City roots: “Maybe that’s why I can’t leave Detroit/ It’s the motivation that keeps me going.” Rick Rubin samples Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good” and is a melodic standout on the disc. Em even covers The Zombies with “Rhyme Or Reason,” with some more help Rubin, adding another triumph. And speaking of Rubin, his production style works so well together with Em’s song-writing/musical preferences that I’m left wondering why they haven’t made a ton of more records in the past. “The Monster,” featuring Rihanna, will be playing all over the in a few weeks at minimum, so I only have a short amount of time to enjoy it before I begin to detest it. I’m not a big fan of things related to Rihanna besides her body, but her collaborations with Em are always on point. Not too much to say about “Love Games,” Kendrick and Em? Do I really need to tell you that the song is flames? Ain’t nobody got time for unnecessary words, even in the blogosphere. I said earlier that ‘MMLP2’ couldn’t possibly be better than the original, and of course I was right. Some songs are easily forgettable, like “Baby,” “Brainless” and “Groundhog Day.” Some tracks have a majority of the right ingredients for long-term #kellmill replay value, like “Stronger Than I Was,” but they are not immediate bangers. But I ain’t got no worries. Nothing has changed about my perception of Eminem, even though I rank this album right behind “The Slim Shady LP” as his fourth greatest album to date. A great accomplishment, considering Em is 41 years old now. Can you believe that shit? Personally, he had long ago proven to be one of the greatest rappers of all time, so this album doesn’t raise or lower my stake in him. This is just another notch on the already impressive resume, minus “Encore” of course. While still not better than Jay-Z, Tupac and Biggie, Andre from Outkast or Nas, he’s one of the best to ever do it. My personal top 10 list of the GOAT emcees is like a Where’s Waldo picture with one white dude in a beanie cap and an over sized gray Air Jordan hoodie. They call him Slim Shady.
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Music Garth Brooks’ CBS Special Fun, Disappointing At Same Time By Julian Spivey
The “Garth Brooks: Live from Las Vegas” concert special on CBS on Friday, Nov. 29 was the rare case of something being both fun and disappointing all at the same time. The show was a televised performance of the one man shows Garth Brooks has done over the last few years at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas, during his semiretirement form music, where he goes through his life and career and performs for the crowd bits and pieces of songs and artists that helped to influence him. The songs and artists range from the hardcore classic country of George Jones and Merle Haggard to singer-songwriters like Paul Simon and James Taylor to soul singers like Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight. There were some real gems performed during the night by Garth Brooks, who seemed to be the same raving maniac on stage that fans knew and loved throughout the ‘90s, such as Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” and George Jones’ “The Grand Tour.” Brooks also performed snippets of his own classics throughout the night and a duet with wife and fellow country singer Trisha Yearwood on “In Another’s Eyes.” It was also incredibly fun to hear Brooks talk about his childhood and family and what music people like his father and mother enjoyed listening to and how their musical tastes affected his and his future career. It was nice to see how funny Brooks is, even if at times he’s a little too corn pone, and at times throughout the one man show it almost seemed more like stand-up comedy than a concert special. Despite knowing the special was going to mirror his Las Vegas shows and that he would be performing mostly cover songs this is where the disappointment came in. I really would have much rather preferred Brooks to perform entire songs, even if they weren’t his, and I think he could’ve done a good job at still letting us into the stories behind how these songs influenced him. Sure, he wouldn’t have covered so much ground as far as quantity of songs, but the quality of the special would’ve been a lot better. However, you could tell that the extremely excited Brooks loved playing stand-up comedian and storyteller for the show and it appeared that the live audience as well as many watching from home, judging by social media output, enjoyed it, as well.
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Seeing Garth Brooks again was a huge part of the fun of the CBS special, but it also almost seemed like just a way for him to advertise and sell his current box set “Blame It All On My Roots,” which are covers performed by him during his one man show, something that’s only available at Wal-Mart. Watching Brooks having a ball onstage and his voice sounding as great as ever on the snippets of songs he did sing was worth the watch, but I never could get over the feeling of being robbed of actual concert performances.
Kacey Musgraves, Florida Georgia Line Fight for Future of Country Music By Julian Spivey
One of the closest award races for Wednesday’s (Nov. 6) CMA Awards is the New Artist of the Year battle between bro-country duo Florida Georgia Line and kickass country chick Kacey Musgraves. It’s also a battle that could be an important moment for the future of country music. The winner of this award, which will most assuredly be either Florida Georgia Line or Musgraves, despite the fact that my vote, if I had one, would actually have gone to fellow nominee Kip Moore, will essentially be either an “it’s here to stay” welcoming of brocountry, stereotyping, pop-country, bullshit or a “putting our foot down” statement of our past and future will mesh brightly in the originality and poetics of a burgeoning singer-songwriter. Florida Georgia Line is what country music currently is – bland, degrading, dumbed down. Musgraves is what country music can and should be – creative, lyrically smart and actually country. Now, don’t get me wrong I don’t think this award will actually dictate whether or not country music continues on its downward path creatively and artistically, because that’s here to stay for at least a little while, I just think it’s the moment where the country music industry will either announce its approval for this style of music or announce whether they begrudge it, but don’t necessarily respect or award it, simply because it makes them money. And, that’s why this current state of country music isn’t going anywhere for a while … because, despite the fact that much of it sounds like the soundtrack to Hell, it’s incredibly popular and makes the industry a ton of money. You could argue that country music is more popular today than it’s ever been, because it’s essentially dumped everything that it used to be – and unfortunately all those things made it the great genre it used to be. Country music has sold its soul for popularity and money. Whether or not it gets its soul back depends on how it reacts to artists like Kacey Musgraves. Florida Georgia Line has had nothing but success since entering the country music fray in 2012. Their first three singles released to country radio, “Cruise,” “Get Your Shine On” and “Round Here” have all topped the country radio airplay chart, despite all being utterly horrible. “Cruise,” nominated for Single of the Year at the CMAs, is statistically (and vomit-inducingly) the most successful single in country 29 | P a g e
music history by spending 24 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot Country chart, breaking a record set almost 60 years ago by honky tonk crooner Webb Pierce. Musgraves, on the other hand, hasn’t seen the same amount of chart success. Her breakthrough single “Merry Go ‘Round,” considered the best country song of the last year by numerous publications and has been nominated for both CMA Song of the Year and Single of the Year, barely cracked the country top 10. Her second single “Blowin’ Smoke” failed to break into the top 20 and her newest single “Follow Your Arrow” isn’t seeing significant airplay amidst its controversial lyrics (even though the controversy is idiotic) that don’t seem to mind homosexuality, which is something a lot of country fans disagree with. Florida Georgia Line, and similar acts, aren’t going anywhere because their generally beloved by fans. Musgraves isn’t going anywhere either, because truly great artists like her get to hang on due to their critical acclaim. However, the popular act is the one likely to remain on the radio and at the forefront of the industry, while the lesser one will have to settle for making great music that fewer people hear. It’s really becoming an adage in today’s music world that you can either make popular music or good music, but rarely shall the two mingle. Tomorrow night we’ll tellingly see which one the country music industry will honor. I won’t hold my breath, but would love to have it taken away. UPDATE: Kacey Musgraves won the award and country music traditionalists everywhere rejoiced.
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