2016 (WTF)

Here’s the most compact way I can describe 2016.

2016 truly has been a year of things changing forever. In pop-culture, in world government, world economics, and in our hearts. So much loss. Loss of life and loss of identity. So many changes happening so quickly one after the other that we’re not even given a moment to process one before the other one hits. Suddenly we’re all face-to-face with an avalanche of self-awareness.

I was reminded over and over that our childhood heroes are not immortal. That our world is changing faster than anybody can comprehend or realize. And that in the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Death doesn’t discriminate between the sinner and the saints. He just takes and he takes and he takes.”

Sadly, I don’t have the time to give proper homage to everything deserving of 2016, but I will mention a handful of them and share what these changes personally mean to me. (more…)

Hamilton (An American Musical and The Mixtape)

ha_1After five years with my blog, I am going to be writing my first music album review. Well, two, technically. To tell you the truth, I was never very much into music when I was younger. Movies, TV, and video games were my thing.

On top of that, if I was going to write about music, never in a million years did I ever think I would write about a Broadway musical. But this has been a long time coming. As usual, I don’t really know where to start. I don’t really “plan” these out as well as I should. I just always seem to “write like I’m running out of time.” But I do know that I have been listening to the broadway musical soundtrack of “Hamilton” since probably the very beginning, which was early 2015.

hamilton-mixtape-artist-lineupNow nearly two years later, a record-setting 11 wins of its 16 Tony nominations and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in drama for its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, just scratches the surface of the unforeseen accolade and pop-culture immortality “Hamilton” has achieved. On Friday, the much-anticipated “Hamilton Mixtape” album dropped featuring artists from nearly every spectrum of the pop and hip-hop genre going back twenty years. But before I get to that, and in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last two years, let me take you back to “the room where it happened.” (more…)

Arrival

posterfix-449x700“Arrival” is a science-fiction movie about an alien encounter where the heroes are a soft-spoken linguist and an awkward theoretical physicist. Amy Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks, a linguistics professor who is recruited by the military to learn the alien language and be able to communicate with them to find out why they are here. This is not your typical science-fiction movie and I was pleasantly surprised by that. It also rings ever so true in the world we’re living in today where the consequences of misunderstood language can lead to very dire consequences.

This is something I have somewhat of a personal connection to. Languages are something that I’ve always had a hungry curiosity for. I grew up in a household where two languages were spoken simultaneously and where I was always told (and assured) that being able to speak more than one language would give me an advantage regardless of whatever job or career path I would take. That has since proven true, but I’m always pushing myself to learn more phrases and ways to communicate in additional languages. I’m also fascinated by the idea that being multilingual can actually result in having different personalities based on which language you speak at that time. I wonder how that would work with my family, friends, and I who jump from one language to another mid-sentence.

But I digress… again. (more…)

My Bucket List of People

bucket-listWe’ve all been given some variation of (if not this exact) prompt in school. Probably several times over. “If I could spend a day with anyone in the world, it would be…” and off you would go on your homework adventure. 99.9% of the time, we’d choose a favorite celebrity of ours. We think it’d be so cool to spend a day to hang out with them. To talk to them about their craft or expertise. To learn from what we believe to be the best at whatever it is that they do.

Now who’s thought of that as an adult? I have. Not only have I thought of it, I’ve become a little obsessed with the fantasy of it. Over time, its’ become a bucket list of sorts. The situation is as follows, however: I have several and specific interests. I think it’s only fitting that I be able to choose multiple people depending on my interest and hobby. Much like how I broke down who would direct my perfect movie based on a Three-Act Structure, here are who I would hang out with based on a particular topic of conversation or activity.

 

Ground rule: In order for any of my choices to have even a hairline of possibility, everyone on my list are people who are still living at the time of this publication.  (more…)

Snowden

snowden_film_posterThe world we now live in is a shady one. The last few years alone has (whether we want to accept it or not) opened Pandora’s Box of interpreting the blurred line between surveillance and privacy. George Orwell was very right and very wrong. He was right about everyone being under constant surveillance one day. He was wrong when the people all freely agreed to it.

“Snowden” is the docudrama based on the career of Edward Snowden, a whistleblower who worked for multiple government agencies working in surveillance and clandestine security. Completely blindsided by what his own government was doing, as Snowden continued to work in government agencies and had more of the digital veil removed from in front of his own eyes, was when he made the decision to go public. Doing so, of course, would result in treason, mutiny, and every classified violation under the sun.

Oliver Stone sets the movie primarily in a hotel room in Hong Kong as Snowden gives his first interview to British and American journalists. The rest is told in flashback regarding his very short-lived military career and his quick rise to the top-secret top of what was shown to essentially be a CIA hacking school. Only soon after to be ping pong’d around the world for a variety of surveillance missions for the entire alphabet soup of government agencies. All with his girlfriend in tow who seems to understand (though not always agree) with the rule of being unable to ask any questions regarding the specificity of the work Snowden does.

Stone’s display of the dramatic and overly dramatic played well in showing suspense, intrigue, and anger; the emotions the character Snowden displays throughout the film. Yet, I personally never felt confused or overwhelmed in following the plot.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt absolutely nailed the role of Snowden, at least in regards to his cadence and the presumed reactions he would’ve had to all of this. I read that Gordon-Levitt (along with Oliver Stone) travelled to Russia several times (where the real Snowden now resides) for research.

“Snowden” is a fantastic movie that no matter what side you sit on at the political table will leave you somewhere between intrigued and infuriated. I highly recommend it.

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

imagesI remember hearing about this hypothetical comic book crossover wet dream becoming a reality over a year ago. Naturally, I wrote about it as soon as I heard. How more perfect could it be for me? My two favorite comic/movie/television franchises of my lifetime uniting for what I was certain would be an epic series and storyline. I’m only mad at myself for not thinking of it sooner and creating my own storylines for it. (But who’s to say I won’t even after this?)

The first (of the six-part issue) released in December of 2015 and the final issue of the series released in May of 2016. Back in May of 2015, I called every comic book store I could find in Los Angeles. No one had them and/or they would sell out within hours of receiving them. So I looked to eBay and the individual issues would sell for anywhere from $20-$45 each!! As much as I wanted to read them, I knew that it was more important for me to be able to eat and pay rent.

So I made an executive decision:  (more…)

Suicide Squad

tumblr_o14a20KvDG1u5ntugo1_1280The resounding popularity of the comic book genre movie is unquestioned. Most (if not all) are automatic cash cows for the studios that produce them. Despite the amount the money they make, most (especially in the DC franchise) are stuck in a sort of critical purgatory. Fanboys and film critics alike get into shouting matches via online message boards defending their stances, often comparing it to the last franchise/actor who portrayed that character. I have been guilty and will be guilty of that a little bit throughout this review. In the case of “Suicide Squad,” there was a very unique opportunity to be had. For the first time (in live-action anyway,) the villains were the main characters. It was their time to shine.

I will admit that I did break my own rule a little bit with this one. Generally I stay away from reading critiques and asking my friends what their thoughts were on a movie before I see it. I like to go in with a clear head and zero expectations. But this time around, there was one major controversy that just kept building up. I’ll get back to that later.

In regards to the movie as a whole, “Suicide Squad” is the story of all the super villains sent on a mission under the control of a sociopathic government agent to stop a supernatural being from taking over the world. It does sound a bit cliché, but again, so much potential because the main characters are all the bad guys with unredeemable qualities. Right? Much like my review of “Stranger Things,” I’m going to break this down with a little more detail than I usually do. In particular with the characters because there are so many and so crucial to the flow and progression of the story.

Some minor spoilers ahead.

(more…)