Tag Archives: Review

Movie effectively blends humor and emotion

By Brooke McAfee

When I stepped into the theater to watch the movie About Time, I expected it to be a pleasant, but an unmemorable romantic comedy. Within a few minutes, the mixture of lovable characters, witty dialogue, hilariously awkward situations, and a little bit of magic changed my mind.

Written and directed by Richard Curtis, About Time is centered around Tim Lake, played by Irish actor Domnhall Gleeson, and his quirky, lovable family. His father, played by Bill Nighy, reveals on Tim’s 21st birthday that all of the men in their family can travel back in time to previous events in their lives. Tim uses this ability to create second chances, relive certain moments, and build a more successful love life. He falls in love with a charming, but insecure woman named Mary, played by Rachel McAdams, and after plenty of time-traveling and a variety of “first meetings,” a sweet and humorous romance begins.

Though time travel plays a major role in the film, it is certainly not a perfect approach to the complicated topic. An audience searching for mistakes may certainly find plot holes in the story, but these imperfections were overshadowed by the brilliance of the movie on a comedic and emotional level. Time travel serves as the perfect comic device, yet laughter is perfectly balanced with tears as the story unfolds to reveal a simple, but beautiful message. Many romantic comedies are simply feel-good escapism, but About Time, while still maintaining this aspect, shows a deeper understanding of love and loss.

Despite the impossible element of time travel, the love story was more believable and realistic than many implausible relationships portrayed in movies. Gleeson gives a convincing performance as an awkward man struggling to find a successful relationship. McAdams is certainly no stranger to playing the love interest, and she has great chemistry with obscure, but talented Gleeson.

Although the relationship between Tim and Mary is touching, one of the most moving stories is the love between Tim’s eccentric family, particularly the relationship between father and son. Nighy is impossible not to adore in his role as the loving father who uses his ability to travel in time to read more books and spend more time with his family. Each family member has their own quirks and issues, and it is these little details that make these characters and their stories so relatable.

The soundtrack complements the movie perfectly, and the use of songs such as Ben Folds’ “The Luckiest,” contribute to the simple beauty of the story.

About Time is 123 minutes long, and is rated R for language and some sexual content.

The movie manages to be both one of the funniest and most emotional films I have seen in a while. The writing, directing, and acting are all excellent, and as I left the cinema, it left me with a smile and a feeling of optimism.

The Civil War’s second album offers intensity and emotion

 By Brooke McAfee

The Civil Wars’ new album, entitled The Civil Wars, brings a tense, dark tone to their distinctive sound. The folk duo, consisting of singer/songwriters John Paul White and Joy Williams, has broken up, due to “internal discord,” and though the exact nature of this split remains unclear, the sentiment can be heard throughout.

Their debut album, Barton Hollow, featured the harmonious vocals of the two singers, their voices blending together in a unique way. Their second album relies more on the vocal talent of Williams, and the harmony is less balanced as White’s voice often seems to fade into the background, while Williams pure, dramatic voices soars.

The album opens on “The One Who Got Away,” featuring heavier instrumentation and the intensity that signals the theme of the entire album. The vocals are passionate and are perfectly matched by the lyrics such as: “Oh if I could go back in time/ When you only held me in my mind/ Just a longing gone without a trace…”   This song is a definite highlight, since it keeps the signature sound that first drew in fans, but is also more expansive and experimental. White’s voice is featured more in “I Had Me a Girl,” a twangy song with a rougher quality.

“Same Old, Same Old” is infused with the gentle melancholy of a hopeless relationship that is crumbling apart, and seems to be an answer to Barton Hollow’s “Poison and Wine.” This particular song provides perhaps the most intimate portrait, portraying the heart of the “civil war,” which is showcased in the album.

It is followed by the haunting “Dust to Dust,” one of the most beautiful songs on the album. The poetic words are tinged with sadness, yet are reassuring: “You’ve been lonely too long/ Let me in the walls you’ve built around/ We can light a match/ And burn them down…“ “Eavesdrop” starts softly and calmly, but builds into a dramatic, defiant crescendo, with lyrics detailing the denial stage of a dying relationship.

Many of the songs are more eclectic. “Devil’s Backbone” will appeal to those who enjoyed the track “Barton Hollow,” and  “Down in the Valley” offers a refreshing shift from the heartache of the previous tracks. They include a few cover songs, including Smashing Pumpkins’ “Disarm,” that they make their own with their sincere vocals.

Williams sings “Sacred Heart,” a song sung entirely in French. This song lacks the intensity present in many of the tracks, and seems like a bittersweet goodbye.The somewhat unusual “D’Airline,” composed of whispery vocals woven together in a intricate melody, concludes the album.

Avid fans of The Civil Wars’ may have mixed feelings about their new album. True, it is does not have all of the gorgeous, peaceful harmonies of Barton Hollow, and the duo’s parting is certainly a disappointment. However, this album tells a different story, and it tells it with such authenticity that it is difficult not be swept into its emotion.

Iron Man 3 excites columnist

By Sidney Reynolds

Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 is incredibly refreshing and thrilling. This time Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is back with his same arrogant, brilliant, and humorous self with a slightly more humanized effect that makes it easier to connect with the audience.

Throughout the movie it shows Stark having anxiety attacks from his time in New York working with The Avengers. During this time it also shows that there are a string of terrorist attacks committed by the main villain, the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).  In response to his actions, Stark publicly insults and threatens the Mandarin. This results in his house is bombed while he and his girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), are inside. Stark goes to find him but results in getting captured by Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). This leads to a full out battle between Stark and the Mandarin.

It was very nice to see this movie pick up after The Avengers instead of just ignoring it as if it never happened. Drew Pearce and Black also did an outstanding job writing the script making each scene exciting, intriguing, and hilarious to kept the audience’s attention. They also did a good job with character development. Stark seems a little more human and less like the perfect man due to his post-traumatic stress disorder. Robert Downey Jr. did an excellent job as he has done in the past two movies. He managed to get every emotion, thought, and word to touch the audience.

In the movie, Potts really transforms from just a love interest in the first movie into a bit of a hero all her own even though she is not necessarily the main hero in this movie. In this movie she really shows more of her independence which is different than most superhero movies that typically just have a damsel in distress. She is an inspirational role model for young women showing that she does not need to wait around for Stark to save her and that she can be her own hero. Paltrow does an amazing job portraying Potts and makes it very easy to see the chemistry between her and Stark.

This movie was definitely worth seeing again and again. It is an all around exceptional movie.

Rick Riordan’s The Mark of Athena excites columnist

By Sidney Reynolds

Rick Riordan’s latest book The Mark of Athena, the third book in the The Heroes of Olympus series, is full of action and plot twists that will keep readers on the edge of their seats throughout the entire book. During the story, there is never a dull moment whether it is monsters attacking, a god or goddess going on a rampage, or another prophecy being shelled out to our heroes. The plot of the story also has the minds of the readers constantly trying to figure out the prophecy and wanting more.

The story begins with Percy Jackson at Camp Roman. Recovering from his amnesia that goddess Hera gave to him and Jason Grace, he is reunited with Annabeth and the young heroes she brings along. Together, Percy and Annabeth combine their groups of three Roman heroes: Jason Grace the son of Jupiter, Hazel Levesque daughter of Pluto, and Frank Zhang son of Mars. The two other Greek heroes — Piper McLean, daughter of Aphrodite, and Leo Valdez, son of Hephaestus — make up the seven heroes from the Prophecy of  Seven.

The seven must go rescue Hazel’s half brother Nico di Angelo from giants while dealing with other monsters, Roman soldiers, and gods/goddess that have it out for them. Annabeth, in her own quest given to her by her mother Athena, strives to learn more about the Mark of Athena. She wants to know what it has to do with her, and what she needs to do in order to fulfill the prophecy.

Because Percy was one of main reasons for the popularity of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, it was really nice to have this new story being told from his point of view. It reminds readers of how much Percy has developed from the first time we read about him in the book The Lighting Thief. It gives readers the nostalgic feeling they experienced with him in his first series.

The book is also told from the point of views of Leo, Annabeth and Piper. While I feel like this could have easily gone wrong and would have made the book hard for readers to understand, Riordan did an amazing job making sure all of the points in the plot lined up with the side stories in the book. This allows readers to see what is happening with the other six members of the group and to get a more complex story.

I could not put this book down for a moment and I cannot wait for the fourth book, House of Hades, to come out next fall. If you have not read this series or the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, I highly suggest starting. Reading the books in chronological order will keep things from getting complicated. The overall plot is thrilling and the characters themselves are deep and complex. This book is worth reading over and over again.

Bioshock Infinite separates itself from modern games

By Jacob Baumann

A little over five years have passed since gamers were first introduced to the horrors of the underwater city of Rapture, and now the third installment has been released. When I first heard the announcement for Bioshock Infinite back in 2011, I was ecstatic, and after seeing its demo at E3, I was even more so.

Although the game has seen countless delays, I feel that they were well worth the wait. I applaud the developers, Irrational Games, and the publisher, 2K Games, for allowing this game to acquire the polish that it rightfully deserved.
Nowadays, games are constantly churned out with thrown together stories, programming, and pointless DLC. Bioshock Infinite defies all of those characteristics. The man behind Irrational Games deserves the most praise for what this new title accomplishes, and his name is Ken Levine.

Not only did he create the wonder that is Bioshock Infinite, but he developed the whole idea of the series. He is only of the best storytellers in the business, and he thought that the game wasn’t ready for production and delayed it. Obviously, he had to get it approved, but who wouldn’t listen to someone who created the multiple “game of the year” award winning Bioshock.

Moving onto the game itself, from the moment your eyes gaze at the wonder that is before you, it is impossible to be drawn away. The game immerses you into the storyline so quickly and with such force, it takes your breath away. All I could imagine was the quality games of my childhood, where the passion the developers could be seen and this game ranks itself up with those.

Nostalgia is something that also comes to mind, because although it doesn’t appear like a Bioshock game, but it feels like one.

In game you play a middle aged man by the name of Booker DeWitt, and although his past is sketchy, he is easy to become attached to. He was contracted to find the girl and repay his debt. The game is set in 1912 in a world in the sky called Columbia. The mysterious city of Columbia has the theme of the Chicago World’s Fair that occurred in 1893, and in my opinion the game’s interpretation is spot on.

I was distracted by the attention to detail the game provided, and would catch myself listening to a barber shop quartet instead of following the task at hand. The graphics in this game are impeccable, especially because I was playing it on PC in the highest detail. It may not be Crysis 3, but it is exceptionally good for being such a story driven game.

The visual experience on the aging consoles will not come close to my experience, but for this game graphics mean nothing. The Unreal 3 Engine is great and games like Call of Duty will be outdone by Bioshock’s graphics, but that’s not saying a whole lot. Overall, the quality of the visuals will be great for all platforms.

Gameplay is always important, and this game draws upon action that made the series great to begin with. The weapons are fantastic, and the sound engine provides an equally pleasant experience.

Another important character in the game is Elizabeth, and she is always by your side. Elizabeth provides the emotional characteristics that missing form games today. She drives the game forward, and it took me back to my experience with the first Bioshock. The AI for Elizabeth must be fairly sophisticated, because it was almost like I was playing with a friend and not a computer operated player.

While strolling through the streets of Columbia, I felt as though I was in Disney World making my way down Main Street USA. It is beyond fascinating how this game is able to include history into its story. In Columbia, people seem to worship our founding fathers, but not in the way you might imagine. How the game manages to deal with concepts like religion and racism really speaks to the care that was given to its development. Game creators shouldn’t be afraid to tackle these issues, because they are more thought provoking and meaningful than Michael Bay style fighting cinematics.

If you do pick up this game, take your time with it. Also, there is no need to play the other two games to pick up on Bioshock Infinite, but I highly recommend them. There is no reason to run through game just to say you beat it, because that destroys what the game was for. Exploration and becoming involved in the story is what games are for, not going for achievements or kill streaks, and this game capitalizes on that through its tremendous story-telling ability.

Score: 9/10

Available on: PC, Xbox 360, and PS3