Her Made me Feel Empty

On Wednesday, I had to go through the lovely experience of an almost 20-hour travel day to get back from Barcelona to LA. On the long flight from Frankfurt, I did something quite out of character. Instead of just taking Melatonin and crashing for the whole flight, I only crashed for half and decided to watch a movie to pass the rest of the time. The movie I decided to watch was a movie called Her which I had heard was one of the best-made movies in the 2010s.

Going into this movie I was pretty much expecting a two-hour-long Black Mirror episode with some pretty creepy undertones. Although I was only half right, I was not prepared for what I was about to experience. First of all, watching such a movie with the very heightened emotions that come with flying is not the best idea. Second of all, this movie is one of those Black Mirror-Esque experiences that could actually happen in my lifetime. Which is always an extremely off-putting experience. Before I get into how depressed this movie made me I just want to appraise this movie for how well made it is. Not only does it work with color imagery and contrast so well, but every character is so good and so well acted out it’s almost surreal. The way this movie deals with the depression of separating from a partner, the awkwardness of a new relationship, and even a human falling in love with a brand new Artificial Intelligence experience is genius. Every emotion conveyed in this movie is so real, it makes you want to close down your heart and never open yourself up to human emotion ever again.

Photo Credit: BBC

To someone who’s never watched this movie, it’s probably pretty weird to think that a movie about a man falling in love with a computer could provoke any real emotions, but it does. It really does. Honestly, this movie made me feel more empty than Your Lie in April, The Joker, and Dead Poets Society combined. I mean this movie made me feel like a hollow husk of a human being. It’s actually insane to me that the makers of this film even pulled it off. Her is one of those movies that was drastically ahead of its time. For being made in 2013, it could have easily made a similar if not bigger impact if it were released today.

Photo Credit: Rescu

Manga Review

In August of last year, I decided to start reading manga. I began with Tokyo Ghoul and Death Note. After reading about eight chapters, I put everything else down and completely blew through all 30 volumes of Tokyo Ghoul and :re. However, once I was finished, I had quite the hole to fill in my heart. I had read some volumes of Death Note and The Attack on Titan prequel which are very good but still didn’t hit like Tokyo Ghoul did. That was until I picked up Jujutsu Kaisen and Full Metal Alchemist.

Although I’ve only read half a volume of Full Metal Alchemist, it is already helping fill the hole in my soul that Tokyo Ghoul and Jujutsu Kaisen left. FMA is super interesting. Not only are both of the main characters very entertaining, but they have a very compelling backstory and relationship with Alchemy. The fights are very interesting and all the characters have a very meaningful place in the story and character development. From just the first half of volume one, Full Metal Alchemist has already dealt with Blind Faith, Scammy Religion, Military corruption, and working-class rights. Mangas like this are set in a completely different universe but are still able to make tangible storylines that make commentary on human interaction and tendencies are such a treasure. Similarly, unlike many special powers or types of magic in animes, there is a cost for alchemy. Some people who overuse alchemy, break the laws, or ask too much of it can face great costs. The layers of story in this manga as of just volume one are so interesting and I definitely cannot wait to read the rest.

Photo Credit: Pinterest.com

However, Full Metal Alchemist is just filling the massive hole in my soul that Jujutsu Kaisen left. Jujutsu Kaisen is one of the only storylines that are so good that I watched the whole anime twice. Even after having seen the anime multiple times, the Manga still blew me away. The art style in Jujutsu Kaisen is so interesting. It’s so polished but at the same time, you can tell it’s all hand-drawn. Every character has such unique power and look, the character design and their respective powers are just *chefs kiss*. It is the perfect mix of my two favorite animes/mangas. It has the unique character design and art style of Hunter X Hunter whilst also being able to seamlessly integrate humor. It then has the darkness and uncertainty of Tokyo Ghoul whilst having Tokyo Ghoul quality fights. All that and it has some of the most compelling and interesting characters in the manga period. I’m honestly a little glad it’s all sold out everywhere because I would blow a BAG on the rest of the series.

Photo Credit: Twitter.com

Chip Review

Kettle: Sea Salt and Vinegar

Sitting here in Journalism, eating some Salt and Vinegar chips and writing a blog, so you know I gotta do a chip review. Kettle chips are known to be the best, their immaculate crunch and their explosive flavors. Sea salt and Vinegar is the best of Kettle. The sweet vinegar taste on the chips perfectly contrasts the saltiness, accompanied by the crisp, this chip has reached the utmost peak of all snacks. The texture and sediment on the chip is a small con, as one needs a napkin or a sink nearby to clean their hands, however, it doesn’t put a dent in the pros of flavor and texture. Kettle: Sea Salt and Vinegar chips are the best chips known to man, and nobody can make me think different.

9.8/10

photo credit: Amazon

Elden Ring Keeps Getting Better

When I wrote my first blog post about Elden Ring I was about 25% through the game with about 20ish hours on record. Now, 2 or so weeks later, I have 106 hours and I’m almost done with my first playthrough. If I thought that Elden Ring was the peak of gaming at the time, I was wrong, because the mid to end game was getting ready to completely blow me away. The end game of Elden Ring is so fun. There is literally no other game that can feel so fresh even over a hundred hours into this game. Every single boss and area is a fresh and enjoyable challenge. Not only that, but the variety of builds that are possible in Elden Ring is insane. When I first picked up Dark Souls 3 I was bewildered by the variety of builds that I could run, but Elden ring is on another level. Elden Ring gives the players full creative control to switch their build at any time after a certain point, which was also a feature in Dark Souls 3. However, I have never respecked in my multiple playthroughs because it’s simply too short to want to switch builds mid-game so most players just try new builds on their next playthrough. However, the sheer size of Elden Ring almost encourages players to use this feature as switching builds to keep the playthrough fresh even to the end.

Photo Credit: nme.com

The end-game of Elden Ring is honestly my favorite part of the game. Before I got there, there were hundreds of posts all over the internet of people complaining about how unbalanced the late game portion is. I honestly have no idea what these people are talking about. It’s probably because most players don’t level vigor and just get one-shotted by literally every enemy past the Plateau. The Endgame is most definitely very difficult, but the game gives the players all the tools necessary to handle the Endgame. I mean even souls veterans who are well aware of how broken some builds can be are complaining about the difficulty of the endgame and speculating that it wasn’t playtested. I don’t believe that for one second. The increasing challenge of Elden Ring through to the end is exactly what drives me to keep coming back day after day for hours. Being slapped by every boss over and over again, learning their move set, and finally beating them after 10+ is literally the point of a Fromsoftware game. I seriously don’t understand this anti-difficulty sentiment in the Elden Ring community, not only does the game give you all the tools necessary to beat these enemies, but every other Souls or Fromsoftware game is insanely hard. I mean if you look at the Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3 DLC or the Sekiro Endgame, these are some of the most difficult bosses in the gaming period. These games have always been about overcoming what seems to be an insurmountable challenge. The point of these games is to die over and over again because these enemies are truly more powerful than you are but through trial and error, eventually, you will beat them and that adrenaline is absolutely unbeatable in gaming. Because Elden Ring is so big, the difficulty had to spike, it had to keep going up so that players had the challenge to overcome. I hate to be that classic Souls series troll, but if you find yourself complaining about the endgame difficulty, git gud shitter.

Photo Credit: https://assets.gamepur.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/07141317/Malenia-intro-elden-ring-hand-of-malenia-guide-e1646684005597.jpg

The Best Thing Ever Made

If you know me personally, you know that as a masochist, FromSoftware(Souls-Like) games are literally my favorite types of games. Bloodborne, Sekiro, Dark Souls 3, and Dark Souls 1 are all four out of my top five games. However, FromSoftware and Bandai Namco just released their newest title, Elden Ring. Which had been in the works since before Sekiro was released in 2019. It is now 2022, three years later, and Elden Ring is finally here. And it’s the best thing I’ve ever played. From minor detail to major detail this game is as close to perfect as anyone can get. (I play this on PC so I am aware of and have experienced the frame stutter when in fights, but they’re already fixing it and it really doesn’t take away from the experience at all).

Photo Credit: TechRadar

First of all, this game is absolutely gorgeous. Elden Ring is hands down the most artistically and graphically impressive game I’ve ever played. Sure there are a lot of games with technically better or more realistic graphics but, the care and detail put into making this world is absolutely unparalleled. As an open-world game, I was expecting it to be a little lazy with lots of walking around between one interesting location to the next like most large open-world games. I was wrong. This world is jam-packed with detail, easter eggs, items, side quests, characters, hidden levels, the list goes on. And every single one is great with immense detail, no enemy, no boss, no area feels unfinished. Every nook and cranny is filled with fun things to do. It is the single best open-world game I’ve ever played. And as a souls game, it is easily the best. It brings back my favorite part of Dark Souls one which is semi non-linear progression. Instead of only being able to go to one level and being stuck there if you’re under-leveled or skilled, you have the option to go do something else and explore the lush and lore-rich world that surrounds you.

Photo Credit: IGN

Secondly, Elden Ring takes everything good about the other games and packs them all into one. Weapon arts from DS3? Check. You can even change your weapon art on the fly. Powerstancing from DS2? Check. I am currently power-stancing two greatswords. A separate jump button from Sekiro? Check! 83 bosses??? CHECK. This game is jam-packed with content, it is everything FromSoftware learned from all the time they’ve been making games. And just like the masterpiece that is Bloodborne, it is a completely separate game from Dark Souls in every way. It doesn’t matter that the combat is technically similar, the environment, the feeling of playing Elden Ring, the satisfaction is all just on a different level from their previous games. It is a culmination of all of their previous masterpieces. If there’s any game that defines the spirit and the artistic value of gaming, especially RPGs and Open World games, it’s Elden Ring. I adore this game.

Plus it has the two best NPC’s ever in gaming, Pot man and Wolfman. Buy it right now

Photo Credit: IGN

Over-rated

I do not know why I am so obsessed with burgers, but I just love eating and trying out burgers that I’ve never tried around the world. It is really interesting to taste different burgers around the world. From Shake Shack to IN N OUT it was truly fascinating to have an opportunity to taste delicious burgers in the US. After moving out to California, I had the opportunity to try out a place called Habit Burger after the flag football game, and I heard Habit Burger was basically a renowned place in California, so I decided to give a shot. Since me and my friends were starving to death, we were expecting something really good. However, the result was truly disappointing. The burger was mediocre, and I did not find anything special. Maybe my selection was poor, but I am not willing to try it again.

Credit: patch.com

Freaks and Geeks

The TV show “Freaks and Geeks” is a true gem hidden behind TV’s biggest names like “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Friends.” It only ran for one season, but still developed a cult following around the world.  In 2012, Entertainment Weekly listed Freaks and Geeks at #16 in the “25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years”. This show actually means a lot to me and has helped me understand myself more.

Photo Credit: IMDb

The show is set during the 1980-81 school year at the William Mckinley High School. Lindsay Weir, a previously proficient student called a star “mathlete”, one day decides to transform her life. She starts hanging out with the school’s “freaks” that are troubled rebels and slackers.  Lindsay, a goody-goody tries very hard to get approval from her new friends and gets into drinking and smoking. Lindsay’s new friendships create all sorts of problems for her, they cause friction between her and her parents, problems with self-image and love triangles. There’s a second storyline of Sam, Lindsay’s younger brother, and him trying to fit in during freshman year. Sam and his friends aka “nerds” are in a constant struggle for popularity and trying to fight off their bullies.

Freaks and Geeks really stuck with me because I was going through exactly what Lindsay was- an identity crisis. This was the first show aimed at teenagers that I could actually relate to. It wasn’t sugar coating high school, and it didn’t try to make characters “cool” and “relatable”, it showed raw and painful teenage problems. It helped me to realize that a lot of decisions I was making at the time were self-destructive. The show shows the mistakes almost every teenager makes with compassion and there’s a lesson to learn from each episode.

If you haven’t watched the show, I highly suggest finding some time to sit down and binge it. I guarantee that you will see yourself in one of the characters. Also, did I mention that James Franco is in it?

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0193676/

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/freaks_and_geeks/

 

 

IT : a review

*Contains spoilers

IT, where to start? Born from the brain of literary machine and titan Stephen King, IT is the story of how fear and childhood trauma haunts people into adulthood. Written out, the entire story takes about 1,100 pages and is quintessential King. So, when Andrew Muschietti declared that 2017 would see IT reborn exactly twenty-seven years after the television adaptation the world of King fans was ready to see Pennywise again, ready with a bit of trepidation.

Photo Credit: wikipedia.com

To take on such a gargantuan story would be daunting to anyone and considering how long an IT remake has been on the drawing board it is a bit of a gift and surprise Pennywise even made it to the big screen.

While overall an enjoyable and successful adaptation there are a couple of definite flaws that despite solid casting, genuine chemistry among the young actors and overall success must be discussed.

But before the long haul starts, there is a shorter review by Time Magazine: here.

Now buckle up and let’s get this show on the road.

It was a brave decision to take on Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise and with twenty-seven year old Bill Skarsgård in the role most of the pedophilic undertones of Curry’s older Pennywise were buffed out, but that still leaves a child eating, embodiment of all the hatred and evil in the hearts of the Derry folk that is Pennywise the Dancing Clown, so all in all still disturbing and skin crawl worthy.

While Skarsgård did a wonderful job as Pennywise, the physical appearances of Pennywise throughout the movie lacked the true terror of the novel and the manipulative taunting of the T.V. series. As the 2017 movie tried to combine the two it came up seemingly empty handed, lacking true all-chips-in terror of the source material but equally lacking the restraint and presence of Curry’s.

But again compliments must be paid to Skarsgård, whose clown face is possibly more terrifying without the makeup and skull cap. His take on Pennywise is unique from Curry’s and is definitely akin to the book’s. He gave a convincing and often times pitch perfect performance, marked by a genuine understanding for the character of Pennywise and seemed to understand the inner, festering motivations in a way the Curry never did. But alas, Skarsgård’s Pennywise was sadly marred by timing and strange cut offs that lacked the tension and drama of a true chase.

Given the enormity of Muschietti’s challenge slack must be cut for the adaptation. 2017’s IT focuses solely on the childhood half of the novel, an effective and advantageous decision for pacing and continuity. By cutting the novel in half and detangling the time lines Muschietti gave himself room to build the relationships and character arcs of the Losers Club, but even that seemed to lack oomph.

Photo Credit: comicbook.com

That being said since Muschietti was adapting IT for the silver screen not the small screen the development of the complexity in the kids, the parents and Pennywise were lacking. The adults were blatant and lacked subtly, the kid’s character development was simplified and hinged on singular moments instead of many. Pennywise was parred down to just a very scary clown rather than a symbol for racism, homophobia, of the hatred and fear that can inhabit very real people, but this simplifying of a complex character, simplifying of fear, is not unique to just 2017’s adaptation, the 1990’s T.V. adaptation was lacking as well.

Due to the time constraints of a conventional movie the Loser’s Club as a group also suffered. The time that could have been spent building the club into the truly loyal and incredibly strong group of friends it is in the book and even the 1990’s version seemed to be spent focusing on the “maybe” relationship of Beverly and Bill, important yes, but it should not have occupied as much screen time as it did.

Even worse though was the final show down’s use of CGI, a slapdash attempt to use all the new fangled tech available, the final “We all float down here” was taken too far. It was an unnecessary, overt and a lazy just-for-shock effect.

>> A Brief Interjection: If one is going to make a point about racism, one should not drop a one liner into a script like throwing in the gym towel. Racism is a complex topic that in order to land right and meld with a story must have development behind it. The line dropped by a mad and Pennywise influenced Henry Bowers felt like a sore thumb, out of place and awkward. The line lacked any build up or support from the rest of the movie. No back to CGI. <<

The use of CGI for the floating children, Pennywise’s floating blood and his final “diffusion”(?) cheapened the essence of what Pennywise is, it sucked the emotional weight from the final showdown and made it a fight of the supernatural alone, it takes the symbolic humanity out of the fight.

Photo Credit: shockmansion.com

The CGI also stole from the kids the sort of finality of facing their demons, of facing Derry. Muschietti gave Pennywise the benefit of a mystical “death”, admittedly Pennywise is fated to return but he needed to slither away like the pathetic creature he is by the end of the show down, not ambiguously dissolve like some dramatic end for the weight of story to land properly.

Now it may seem like this is about 900+ words just bashing 2017’s IT, in part that is true, but in all honesty despite the flaws the movie is an enjoyable one, it is all in all a very good movie, well worth the price of admissions and perfect for the upcoming Halloween season.

The Monkees.

VH1 documentary Behind the Music featured a 1960s band, “The Monkees” in the year 2000.

The show portrayed a profile of the Monkees starting with interviews with band members to tell the story of their rise from “pretend” band to bona fide pop stars, ones who sold 35 million records in 1967 alone.

The story began with the excitement of Monkees’ fans. They were screaming and so eager to break a fence to hug their stars.

Then following with archival footage and some stills, the story went back to the fall of 1965, when Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, a pair of producers from Columbia Pictures, came up with an idea for a television series about a rock group.

Inspired by Richard Lester‘s groundbreaking comedies with the Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, Rafelson and Schneider imagined a situation comedy in which a four-piece band had wacky adventures every week and occasionally burst into song.

The production began with The Monkees in early 1966 on NBC with fairly high popularity. The group contained four members – Micky DolenzDavy Jones, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork and each of them was unique.

Later on they decided to form a real band instead of the comic actor-musicians. At their peak in 1967, the band outsold both the Beatles and Rolling Stones.

The show ended with each member’s life after the era of “Monkees” and their high point revival in 1986 in L.A.

The whole story brought the audience back to the 1960s which would be mostly favored by elder people, but it also provided the younger a sense of older generation’s life.

It could not be more comfortable to sit down and enjoy the past glory through the Monkees’ music.

Finding Joe

Today, I saw the documentary “Finding Joe” at the Ojai Playhouse. The film was all about the teachings of the mythologist and philosopher Joseph Campbell.

Basically, Campbell’s ideas about life come from his ideas about mythology. He says that there is only really one story in all stories of all time. That story is that there is a character that faces a problem, and then changes as a result of that problem. He put this idea into his philosophy.

He said that people will face problems, but eventually overcome them if they are strong enough, or try hard enough. Success, in his words, is obtainable by all.

In my opinion, success is not obtainable by all. Sadly, some people, no matter how hard they try, will never become what they really want to be. Some people are either luckier or just happen to do things at the right time.

Anyway, I got a free ticket to the screening of the movie and to the reception afterwards with the director since I’m part of the Ojai youth film society board.    The director was actually pretty cool, and I got a high five from him after I brought up that I was not allowed to show my most recent movie at my school.

“That’s how you know how you know that you are making better films.” He said, “If more people dislike it, then they are probably better. Until a certain point.”

I get the feeling that I’m going to remember those words for a while. I want to become a director and screenwriter when I’m older. Let’s hope I’m as lucky as Mr. Campbell.