Category: Entertainment

Guitar virtuoso John 5 bringing electrifying instrumentals to Lubbock

Guitar legend John 5 is taking instrumental guitar to new levels with his new “Invasion” album and tour.

John William Lowery, more widely known as “John 5,” has performed around the world with headlining bands such as Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. He has also played sessions with Rod Stewart, Paul Stanley of KISS, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. He has been playing guitar for Rob Zombie since 2005.

John 5 has been working on solo records since 2004. Currently he is touring for his solo project, “John 5 and the Creatures,” while debuting his new album, “Invasion.”

logo-john-5-zoinks-tvscreen-header-transparentJohn 5 and the Creatures will be on the road starting February 20, performing for his ‘Invasion’ tour around the country. They will perform in Lubbock at Jake’s Backroom on March 1 at 7 p.m.

John 5 released a solo album, “Careful with that Axe,” in 2014. He decided to take his solo act on tour as “John 5 and the Creatures” in 2015. He needed a few band members and recruited Rodger Carter on drums and Ian Ross on bass.

“I went to MI (Musical Institute,) I said, ‘Give me the best bass player and drummer you got, and I kind of put it together,” John 5 told The Plainsman Press recently in an exclusive interview. “I said, ‘I don’t know what’s gonna happen guys. But let’s play these songs and see what happens, and people really enjoy it, and that makes me happy.”

John 5 is very passionate about the music he creates and performs. He says that his love of music started when he was a child watching television.

“Like the “Brady Bunch,” or anything that had music on it, “Hee Haw,” even “Happy Days” and things like that,” he explained.

He later became a fan of Van Halen and Jimmie Hendrix. John 5 says he is always looking for inspiration.

“I think it’s one of the most important things, to be inspired,” said John 5, “so it’s very, very important to me.”

The musician has been performing since the late 1980’s and has seen the music industry evolve in big ways. With the rise of the Internet and online streaming, getting a band or musician’s name and content out into the world is much easier than it was in the early 1990’s.

“Before, you needed to have these big corporate machines approving everything…” John 5 explained. “But nowadays, everything is done by yourself, and it’s wonderful. You can reach the whole world in a matter of seconds.”

John 5 makes and manages his own music videos, records, and his own tours. Because he is self sufficient, he doesn’t need a manager.

“It couldn’t be working out better for me,” he added.

logo-john-5-zoinks-tvscreen-header-transparentIn 1997, John 5 joined K.D. Lang in hosting the 1997 Fashion Music Awards. While he was on stage, he noticed the front row of his audience was comprised of Prince, Madonna, Peter Gabriel and their significant others watching him. This made John 5 feel like he was successful in his endeavors.

“I watched them my whole life, and now they’re watching me,” he said. “I really felt like I made it.”

John 5 has been very humble and kind to the people around him despite his fame and good fortune. The only things he says he would do differently through the years is a few business decisions. He said he feels that he has treated everybody in his personal life with respect.

Unlike some musicians, John 5 says that he loves touring life and everything that goes with it. He gets to wake up and play music, hang out with his friends, meet people, and sign autographs. He says that touring may be hard, but it also is enjoyable. He also gives himself plenty of time in between tours to stay home to manage his day-to-day responsibilities and personal interests.

“It (touring) is wonderful,” explained John 5. “I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

John 5 linked up with Rob Zombie in 2005 at the Camp Freddy benefit gig. He heard from a friend that Rob Zombie was going to be performing there.

“I was like, ‘Oh, I’d love to play with Rob Zombie, I’m a really big fan,” he continued. “We got to jam together at that benefit and got to talking. I told him what a big fan I was and how much I respected him.”

John 5 and Rob Zombie stayed in contact after the benefit. Rob Zombie wanted to do some shows with him, and John 5 made himself available.

“It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life,” he said.

He also released his “Crank it” music video on February 1. His “Invasion” album will be released this year in a series of music videos. John 5 music can be found “anywhere digital music is sold.”

‘Glass’ shatters expectations of fans

There is no hiding now. There are superheros among us.

When “Unbreakable” was released 19 years ago, the idea of costumed beings tearing apart Philadelphia and raking in oodles of cash at the box office was a near-impossibility. The caped crusaders of this medium were so far relegated into the subculture that M. Night Shyamalan wanted to give fans a spin on the art form.

Directed by Shyamalan, “Glass” stars James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L.Jackson, and Sarah Paulson. It is the sequel to “Unbreakable” and “Split.” This is a surprise addition that blew a lot of people’s minds, including mine.

David Dunn (Bruce Willis) uses his supernatural abilities to track Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy). Eventually, they end up in a psych ward with Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson). They are interrogated by a specialist who believes that they are all under a delusion that they are superheroes, and her job is to convince them that it is all in their mind.

To say that I was excited for this movie would be a massive understatement. “Glass” has a lot to love, as the first 20 minutes are amazing. It is so good that I was almost worried. I didn’t understand how the movie would sustain for the entire runtime.

I loved the introduction to David Dunn and seeing what his life was like. I especially loved seeing Crumb, who is amazing throughout the entire movie once again. To see him reprise all of these roles that live inside of his mind, it is absolutely the best part of this film. Although, I felt Dunn’s character felt left on the sidelines for a majority of the movie. As for Elijah Price, once he decided to become active, his character is amazing.

The psych ward scenes throughout the movie are very intriguing, although they feel a bit too long. It is still fascinating to see, especially as a story about the human psyche, the condition, and how people view themselves along with the rest of the world.

This film was also very well shot and directed. Shyamalan definitely did not disappoint with Mike Gioulakis as the same cinematographer who worked on “Split.” I have to give kudos to him because the use of color and direction in this film is beautiful. Although, there is an excessive utilization of point-of-view (POV) shots, that was probably my only and biggest issue I had with the cinematography.

I was very disappointed by the ending of the film. I struggled to comprehend the way the film was ended, versus another way the film could have ended. I feel it was the kind of ending that does not feel earned. “Glass” was guaranteed to succeed, as so many fans supported Shyamalan from the beginning.

Nevertheless, I love this psychological thriller, and I wasn’t expecting this movie to be like a Marvel movie like many people were expecting it to be. I was hoping it would be the antithesis to that. In many ways, it was.

Some people may just want to see the superhero action that was hinted in the first film. Actually, there was a lot more action than I expected, with the movie opening and with some major action scenes toward the end, which were all produced very well.

I give “Glass” an 8 out of 10.

‘Fallout76’ disappoints with server, game-play glitches

The “Fallout” series follows the survivors of a nuclear apocalypse who spent a long time in “Vaults” while waiting for radiation to die down to livable levels for human beings to survive.

“Fallout 76” is not different in that respect, only now the survivors you meet get to be other “Fallout” players instead of non-player characters.

The new game by Bethesda begins like other “Fallout” games in the series, with the vault dweller waking up leaving their now abandoned vault. The game immediately opens up, and players can do whatever they want, giving the game a “sandbox” feel. This sandbox does have quests, including a short tutorial. Overall, the game feels exactly like its predecessor, “Fallout 4.”

That is, until the player realizes, “Wait, this is Fallout 4… online.” I can’t say if this is particularly a bad thing, but it does take some getting used to. Immediately after hitting the world of “Fallout 76,” I wanted to explore on my own. My friends who were online at the same time wanted me to stop what I was doing to check out something new that they had found, or help with a fight.

“Fallout 76” has extra features, though, including the C.A.M.P. system, which acts almost like a settlement from “Fallout 4,” except, it is your very own. The C.A.M.P. is fully customizable, with some of the content and structures gated behind specific prerequisites. Not much of this is incredibly “new” to a “Fallout 4” player.

The game has so much lore hidden between the lines. There are countless terminals to hack to learn the story about a specific place, or written letters to find and read. Most of the clues found point to certain events, or context to the world in which the “Survivor” is now living in. It is up to the player to read the lore and put the pieces together to find out what is going on in the world of “Fallout 76,” just like it was in “Fallout 4” but with less of the story being spoon-fed to the player using NPC’s (Non-Player Characters).

In fact, there are not any human NPC’s, only robots in “Fallout 76.” The only other humans I have encountered are other players. The fact that this is an online game is what makes it so brilliant. I have always wanted to be in a group of survivors rather than a lone survivor. But sometimes playing in a group hinders the player in ways that were unexpected.

The game is absolutely broken. The number of bugs and glitches in the game (on the PS4, at least) is staggering. If there are more than four “entities” nearby, such as players, NPCs, or enemies, the frame rate slows to stupidly low numbers. This makes much of the combat choppy. It is honestly not as fun as it should be to take on a horde of the new enemy, “The Scorched,” as one might think, because the player is constantly experiencing massive frame drops. God forbid a player decides to use an automatic weapon. Using one does all but crash the game.

There are also many “clipping” issues when players can get stuck or hung up on physical, unmoving objects. Additionally, the menus are unbelievably laggy when used in the heat of combat, which is something that a player has to frequently do. Opening the pipboy is a death sentence, and the quick radial menu is sometimes unresponsive to inputs. So switching weapons or frantically searching for meds usually gets the player killed, instead of giving them the upper hand.

“Fallout 76” has a ton of content. The map is huge, and more content is being planned already. There are parts of the map that are unused for future expansions, which is something to look forward to. The game needs many improvements, especially towards the optimization and frame rates.

Other than frequently encountered, (almost) game-breaking bugs, the game is a solid hit. Bethesda continues to deliver the RPG that their fan-base says they never deliver. The potential that I see for “Fallout 76” is that it will be a long-standing online RPG that many players will never want to put down. I’ll have to give this game two scores. Pre-bug fixes, I give “Fallout 76” a 4/10. Wake up, Bethesda! Why would you sell such a broken game? Post-bug fixes, I give “Fallout 76” a 9/10.

Animated Adaption of holiday classic defines Christmas spirit

by GENEVA NATAL

 

The green, grouchy, Grinch is back again trying to steal Christmas from all the Whos in Whoville.

The new animated version of  Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” offers a kinder view of the lovable and sometimes relatable character, who learns a lesson that teaches adults and children alike.

The-Grinch-2018In the movie, the Grinch, voiced by the dazzling Benedict Cumberbatch, tells the story from his point of view, as a grumpy and miserable outcast whose heart is “three sizes too small.” His voice, along with Will Pharrell’s narrative voice, gives the movie a more cheerful version than the 2000 Ron Howard-Jim Carrey collaboration where the Grinch was more mean and hateful.  He explains that he hates Christmas because of his childhood, and, in this version, how alone he was during this time of year as an orphan. He had no home, no family, no presents, and no joy. Because of this, he grew to be bitter and resentful towards Christmas and everything about it.

In this new animated version, there are the original characters such as the Grinch’s dog, Max, who is just as cute as he is in all the other versions. Cindy-Lou Who, with her bright blonde hair and can-do attitude, is crucial to getting the Grinch’s heart to love Christmas. Other characters not in other films include a bearded neighbor who provides comedic relief. I was confused about why the Grinch had neighbors in the first place, but the storyline still follows the same general path with only small tweaks. By having a neighbor, it shows him not being cast out from society but being isolated by his own action. Hopefully that teaches kids about a friendlier community than in other versions where the Grinch was cast out.

As the storyline progresses, the Grinch’s hate reaches a breaking point, so he decides to deviously plan to steal Christmas from the Whos. He becomes the anti-Santa, who, instead of giving, takes away Christmas in the hopes of stopping the celebration.o-grinch-750x380

The Grinch makes the outfit himself and finds a different mode of transportation than expected. He acquires a sleigh through illegal activity, which I assume he makes right by the end of the film. He turns the sleigh into a contraption only Dr. Seuss could have made up to properly execute his plan. This sleigh includes more high tech features than expected, but I do like that the creators were more modern in the design.

As the old story progresses, the next part features the Grinch making the outfit to really play the part of Santa. Music accompanies this entire process with a spin on the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr.Grinch.” He does a test run with his new equipment to reach the roofs of the houses with his giant bag to carry the stolen items. However, his mode of transportation has a secret the Grinch didn’t know about. The audience sees that the Grinch just might have a heart, or at least the audience sees he isn’t the monster that everyone, him included, believes.

imgres-2The Grinch finds another way by “promoting” Max. They ride on Christmas Eve night to stop Christmas. They succeed, and at the last house they meet Cindy Lou-Who, the girl who plants the seed that changes the story.

In the beginning of the movie, Cindy is planning just like the Grinch was planning. She wants to catch Santa to ask him a very big Christmas wish. Instead, she catches the Grinch instead of Santa, and he convinces her to go back to bed before he is found out.

She touches his heart, and those of many others, by asking for her special Christmas wish. Cindy explains the momentum of each Christmas holiday and the real meaning. It’s not about the materialistic things; it’s the people you spend it with.

The community continues to sing, even without the presents and trees. Just like in other versions, the Grinch sees this as he is staring down from the cliff. This causes him to have a change of heart, literally and figuratively, by having his heart grow three times as big as his original.

He wants to give back Christmas, but it was already going over a cliff. There’s a nice surprise twist that warms the hearts of the audience. In a miracle event, the characters go back to Whoville with Christmas in the backseat.

The Grinch apologizes and explains himself before heading home. He is adjusting to being nice instead of mean, even giving Max a special present at the end. In another surprise twist, the Grinch does fulfill Cindy Lou-Who’s Christmas wish in a special way. They take him in and include him in the celebration. Finally, he feels happy on Christmas.

I think the movie is great. It was different than the other version I have seen, but the extra characters were not too overdone and fit well into Seuss’ world. The movie left me smiling and wishing for more. It definitely got me into the upcoming holiday season.

The animation was really detailed and well executed. The new take on the movie was a bit odd, but the change was needed. I originally thought that it would be something I paid only half attention to, but that was not the case. Since there are different characters, it kept the audience intrigued and paying attention. On the downside, the kids were not what I thought they would look like. However, that is a small price to pay for such an amazing experience and movie.

I give “The Grinch” a  9/10.

Romance author shares passion for writing at book signing

Jodi Thomas always dreamed of becoming a New York Times best-selling author.

Thomas came to South Plains College’s Library In Levelland on Nov. 12 and opened her speech with the question, “How many of you are interested in becoming writers?” After a show of hands, Thomas said “I never quit writing, because I didn’t want God to say, ‘if you would have written one more book, you would have hit big.’”

She told the audience that she estimates that she has about 20 million books in print. She explained that two things made it easy for her to be a writer.

“One is I have a very loose grip on reality,” said Thomas, adding that she has daydreamed ever since she was a little girl. “The second thing that made it easy for me to become a writer is I come from a long line of liars.”

She told a short story about her uncle who will have a fender bender and by the time he has told the story 10 times, he is saying that it was a neardeath experience. Before Thomas began telling about her journey, she said, “I am a story teller; I am not trying to write a great American novel.”

Thomas then described her childhood, saying, “I am the daughter of a father who was a bus driver and a mother who checked groceries,” Thomas said.

She went on to explain that both of her parents read all of the time. However, her first challenge she had to overcome was that she did not read until the fourth grade. One of her teachers had spotted her learning disability and sent her to a special summer school in Amarillo, which is where she is from.

“Now, when you learn to read after the fourth grade, you don’t catch up immediately,” Thomas said. She explained that she caught up by her junior year in high school.

“I do not look at dyslexia as a handicap,” Thomas said. “I look at it as a blessing. For four years, I sat in a classroom and couldn’t read. I made up stories about everybody, and my imagination might have not grown as great if I hadn’t had that disability.”

She paused before adding, “When hard times hit, there’s always a blessing.”

By the time Thomas was a junior in high school, her dad was blind and could not work. She explained that she and her siblings had to go get jobs because her mother could not make a living sacking groceries.

“I had very little interest in school,” Thomas said. “I graduated from high school in the bottom fourth of my class.”

One of her goals was to buy a Camaro, so she saved as much money as she could for one. However, during her senior year of high school, she had to take a remedial English class. In that class, there was a boy named Thomas Koumalats.

“I remember thinking, if lightning didn’t strike that guy, I was going to marry him,” Thomas said. She found out that he was going to college, so she decided to take the money she had saved for a Camaro and go to college too.

“The only place that would let me in was Amarillo College,” she said. “We’d sit in the library and hold hands under the table.”

Two years later, they were still dating and both decided to go to Texas Tech University. Not knowing what to major in, her mother suggested she major in home economics, so she did. Two years later, during their senior year, Thomas Koumalats was drafted to the Vietnam War. Wanting to live together before he went off to war, they got married after they had graduated.

“As soon as he got out of the Army, we went back to school to get our masters,” Thomas said.

By the time she went back to college, she knew that she did not want to work in home economics. So, she decided to be a family counselor. After 18 months, she got her degree in marriage and family counseling. Because of a man who welcomed her into his practice, she did not have to set one up. After six months, she decided that family counseling was harder than teaching home economics. So, she went back to teaching at a high school and at Amarillo College.

Thomas and her husband bought a house and had a couple of kids. However, her dream of being a writer was still there.

“I began to write, Saturday mornings, a few hours at school, and it became slowly a passion,” she explained. “The stories were coming faster than I could write them. I will never live long enough to write all the books I want to write.”

She advised that the best thing to do if you want to become a writer is to take master classes, adding that “James Patterson has an excellent one.”

Thomas entered several writing contests and took several writing classes. However, she got her big start when she attended a convention. Her husband heard about the national Romance Writers of America Convention that was being held in Dallas.

“We did not have the money for me to go to Dallas and spend the weekend,” Thomas said. Her husband told her, ‘we will put it on the credit card.’”

“When I checked in, they had given me a name tag that said writer, and it was like I had been an alien all my life and I had found my home planet,” Thomas said.

The last day she was there, she got a 10minute interview with a New York editor. Thomas told the editor that her book was about the Civil War, and before she could finish, the editor interrupted and said that they were not buying Civil War. So, Thomas started telling about another book she had written about early Texas during the bloody years.

The editor then asked, ‘how soon can you ship it to me?’ “I said, I’ll mail it before I go to sleep,” Thomas said.

She did not hear back from the editor all summer. Finally, while preparing for a lecture, she got a call from the editor who told her that they wanted to buy her book. There was a problem, though. Her legal name, Jodi Koumalats, would not fit on the book cover. Needing a pen name, she decided to take her husband’s first name as her last, Jodi Thomas.

Thomas’s career kicked off after her first book. She sold five books within the first 15 months. Her third book became a national best seller, which meant Thomas had to write full time. With her husband helping out with dishes and putting the kids to bed, Thomas was able to have more time to write at night.

Thomas has published 50 books and is working on book 51.

“They’re going to have to pull the pen from my hand to get it in the casket,” Thomas said, explaining that she will never stop writing.

‘The Hate U Give’ depicts civil unrest following police brutality

Imagine being a 16-year-old girl who takes on systematic racism and manages the balancing act of gaining her self-confidence.

That is the premise of the movie “The Hate U Give,” which is based off a debut novel by Angie Thomas published following the 2009 police shooting of an unarmed, 22-year-old Black male, Oscar Grant. She captures a range of concerns and events throughout the MV5BZDVkMWJiMzUtNjQyOS00MGVmLWJhYmMtN2IxYzU4MjY3MDRmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzA5NjIzODk@._V1_novel that have animated the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as broader conversations about race: police shootings of young, unarmed black men; an asymmetrical justice system; gang violence; and much more which is also portrayed throughout the movie.

‘The Hate U Give’ also adopts its title and central philosophy from a concept created by Tupac Shakur, a rapper who had “THUG LIFE” tattooed across his torso. This phrase was an (admittedly profane) acronym which stood for a vicious cycle of societal violence, “The Hate U Give Infants ‘Effs Everybody.” Tupac’s philosophy suggests that this way of life

 encourages those caught up in the system of violence, drugs, and oppression should stop transferring their hatred to children and teach them to break out of that destructive cycle.

The film was directed by George Tillman Jr., who was faced with multiple obstacles while creating the film. While trying to refrain from strong language and showing too much violence, he wanted to create a film to catch the attention of a younger audience. Although he faced one dilemma after the next, there was not a dull moment throughout the film. I truly enjoyed the authenticity and outcome of the movie.

The film opens with a powerful scene of Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) recalling the time when her father, Maverick Carter (Russell Hornsby), gives “the talk” to her younger self and two brothers. A heartbreaking conversation, it is one parents of black children have to teach them ways to avoid being injured or killed by a police officer.

 

I think Tupac’s mindset is what Maverick tried to exemplify for his family and hoped that the conversation instills a sense of pride in his children.

As she gets older, Starr begins to switch between living in two separate worlds. By day, she is surrounded by rich, mostly white prep high school teens at Williamson High School, including her friends Hailey (Sabrina Carpenter), Maya (Megan Lawless) and her white boyfriend, Chris (KJ Apa). This Prep-school version of Starr Carter avoids using slang to avoid bringing attention to herself as “ghetto.”

Brody-The-God-U-Hate

When not at school, Starr is another girl. She lives with her parents and two brothers in a poor, mostly Black neighborhood called Garden Heights in Atlanta.

She tries her best to balance these two worlds, but ultimately shatters when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil Harris (Algee Smith) at the hands of a police officer.

In all honesty, the scene of the shooting was rather difficult to watch. The officer on the scene was inexplicably aggressive and demanding while performing a routine traffic stop, and Khalil’s defiance did not help the situation. Despite Starr’s pleas for Khalil to cooperate, when asked to step out of the car, Khalil reaches back in the front seat to grab his hairbrush. The officer panics and mistakes the object for a gun, and ends Khalil’s life.

What truly makes “The Hate U Give” work is the performance of Stenberg, who carries much of the film’s drama and levity on her shoulders. I also found Starr’s ‘code switching’ at the beginning of the film to be rather intriguing, as she tries to keep her two worlds separate while battling with her insecurities throughout the movie.

The film’s driving plot begins with Khalil’s death and Starr begins to struggle with self-doubt. Throughout the movie, she has bouts with lack of confidence and becomes more outspoken. I think the aftermath of the incident is what pushes Starr to find her voice as an activist.

A few scenes later, it shows issues of racial tension as the students at Williamson run down the halls shouting, “Black Lives Matter!” as an excuse to cut class rather than understanding the deeper importance the controversy that is building up.

I would think that for Starr, it had meant something completely different. Starr and her 19thehateugive-rating-articleLargefriends struggle with racism, though Starr recognizes it and tries her best to move past it. But there were a few moments in the film when she is willing to confront her peers regarding the issues.

After Khalil’s murder, there is civil unrest. Crowds of protesters turn violent, smashing windows, burning vehicles, and damaging buildings. At such a young age, it is hard to fully understand how any teenager would handle being in these tough situations.

Starr’s Uncle Carter, who is a police officer, also tries to explain why tensions might be high when a cop pulls someone over in rough-edged area of town. But even his explanations fall short of trying to justify the police brutality seen in the movie.

“The Hate U Give” is a stunningly powerful film about the impact of police violence and racism on the Black youth of America. The brutality and the truth in the movie’s harsher moments may be difficult for some viewers, especially those who share many of the experiences of Starr or her family members. Although, the honesty of the film assures the movie is not too exploitative for young viewers. It was heartwarming to see the young character, Starr Carter, find her voice and stand up for what is right.

I give “The Hate U Give” a 10 out of 10.

‘The Crime of Grindelwald’ captivates audiences with nostalgic theme

The newest sequel to “Fantastic Beasts” is filled with action and events that help widen the imagination of what the wizarding world is like.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is based on the book “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” which is a companion book to the “Harry Potter” series by author J.K. Rawling.

This movie takes place several years before “Harry Potter,” showing Albus Dumbledore, played by Jude Law, as a young man. Besides Dumbledore, no other characters from “Harry Potter” are in this film.

The movie, which was released on Nov. 13, starts out with Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp, in a wizard prison. While the prison guards are moving him elsewhere, he starts a fight and escapes.

In an effort to stop Grindelwald from completing his plan, Dumbledore asks his former student, Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne, for help. Being unaware of the dangers which lie ahead, Newt agrees.

While helping Dumbledore, Newt tries to find a place where he feels he belongs. He does not pick a side right away, runs his actions and judgements off his ethical beliefs, and helps a lot of magical creatures. Eventually his friend, Jacob Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler, asks Newt to help him find his girlfriend, Queenie Goldstein, who is played by Alison Sudol.

In an adventurous quest to help his friend, Newt comes across Tina Goldstein, the woman he likes. Tina, played by Katherine Waterston, joins Newt and Jacob in trying to find Queenie.

While taking shelter in a safe house, Jacob looks into a glass ball and sees Queenie in a grave yard. Rushing out the door, Jacob goes to find his love, while Tina and Newt are trying to find a letter. All end up in the grave yard. They walk into a trap set up by Grindelwald. Having to fight once more, the three are able to escape. Seeing what Grindelwald can do, Newt finally picks a side.

“The Crimes of Grindelwald” is exceptionally good. However, there is a lot of action with little explanation of what is going on. The movie was obviously different from the typical “Harry Potter” theme. With that being said, the movie, as a whole, is good. It brings in a lot of new, cute, and fun magical creatures from around the world, which at times, seemed to be harmful until Newt calms them.

Although the storyline is a little confusing and leaves you with questions, it is intriguing and keeps you on the edge of your seat.

I also did not like how Newt held himself back. He was almost always looking down, hiding his face. He was shy and lacked words when it came to conversing with other humans. He could not make up his mind about what to do in certain situations and seemed to be unsure of himself. At the end, he does seem to become a little more confident after he finally picks which side to be on. However, I felt that he was too introverted.

I thought the movie title was misleading. The title made me think that the movie was going to be about the crimes Grindlewald had already committed. That is not the case, since the movie was about gaining followers to build an army.

Something else I noticed was Professor Dumbledore in a suit. In the “Harry Potter” movies, Dumbledore wears old fashioned wizard robes. Why would Dumbledore go from a modern, sharp, suit to wearing vintage wizard robes? More than likely, this part of the movie was just poorly thought out by the director. But being a big “Harry Potter” fan, I, and I am sure others, noticed this and questioned what happened there.

Even though this movie had a lot of action and showed different events the magical world of Witches and Wizards has outside of Hogwarts, I give it a 7/10.

Neurotic father arranges marriage of his daughter in ‘Imaginary Invalid’

Students in the theatre program at South Plains College had the audience rolling with laughter with their performances of “The Imaginary Invalid” their first play of the fall semester.

The play, which was held from Nov. 2 – Nov. 4m was written by Molière, who actually collapsed from a coughing fit on stage during his fourth performance as Argan, dying soon after from pulmonary tuberculosis in 1673.

The “Imaginary Invalid” is a French play featuring a hypochondriac named Argan, played by Justin Frayley, who tries to marry his daughter, Angélique, played by Mia Pekowski, to a young and stupid doctor, Thomas Diafoirus, played by Caden Leverton.

Argan wants to do this so that does not have to resolve his past medical bills, and can have cheaper medical bills in the future.

Angélique is in love with the handsome Cléante, played by Ryan Burk, who poses as a substitute music instructor to get closer to her. They even break out into a short song professing their love for each other right in front of Argan, who is too dull to notice what is actually happening.

Meanwhile, Argan’s wife, Beline, played by Kelly Deuvall, has only married Argan for his money, and plots to scam Argan by bringing in her own notary, who is also her lover, convincing Argan to leave his entire wealth and estate to her.

Argan’s  intelligent maid, Toinette, played by Tracie Boyd, notices Beline acting suspicious and chooses to investigate. Beline tells Angélique her plan to try to stay close to Argan, and promises to stop terrorizing him while nobody else is around.

Béralde, played by Joel Palma, is Argan’s brother. He visits Argan in his home to talk to him about his actual illness of hypochondria. Argan is having none of it, and they switch topics a few times between who Angélique is going to marry, whether or not Béline is a disloyal wife.

Argan and Beralde also have a discussion about doctors, and how they prey upon the poor to avoid financial and reputable blowback when they end up killing their patients, which happens often. Argan does not believe any of this, and is convinced he will die of his illnesses.

angeliqueToinette disguises herself as an old, reputable doctor, and confronts Argan about his health, saying his lungs are killing him, and that his left eye is taking nourishment from the right and needs to be removed, along with one of his arms. This further reinforces the idea that Argan is delusional and will believe anything an alleged doctor would tell him.

Toinette then comes up with a scheme for Argan to pretend to be dead when his wife gets home from her errands. They act out the scene, and a bewildered, excited Beline confesses her happiness that her husband is now dead. Argan confronts Beline and she runs off.

Next, Toinette and Argan do the same skit for Angelique, who is horrified and deeply upset at her father’s death, claiming that he is everything she has ever held dear. With these newfound epiphanies, Argan is convinced to become his own doctor. His family tells him that it is as simple as saying a few words, donning doctor clothing, and the knowledge will just spring up into his head.

The play closes with Argan’s ceremony, validating him as a doctor.

The cast enjoyed their experience rehearsing for “The Imaginary Invalid”.

“This year, everybody is getting along,” said Palma. “Everybody is getting to know each other. It feels like more of a family.”

The cast rehearsed almost daily for the past few weeks, putting in time and effort to learn lines, and the set.

“It’s been very stressful and time consuming,” said Leverton. “Dr. Nazworth is an experience to have, and the friends are worth it.”

The play was a pleasure to watch. It was full of witty euphemisms and had (maybe) inadvertently tackled a few modern issues surrounding healthcare.

‘American Horror Story: Apocalypse’ blends two past seasons with future

The newest season of “American Horror Story” has brought back previous seasons and beloved characters to go along with new ones.

“AHS: Apocalypse” premiered on September 12, 2018. It is a crossover between the first and third seasons of the series, with many of the cast members playing multiple roles within the season. Returning cast members include Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, Evan Peters, Adina Porter, Emma Roberts, Billie Lourd, and Jessica Lange, among others.

“Apocalypse” takes place on the West Coast of the United States in the near future. Following a nuclear blast that wipes out the world, Outpost Three, an underground bunker, is constructed in order to shelter specific survivors with strong genetic makeup. Wilhemina Venable, played by Sarah Paulson, and Miriam Mead, played by Kathy Bates, both command the bunker, torturing the people inside the bunker.

People inside the bunker include: hairdresser Mr. Gallant, played by Evan Peters; his grandmother Evie, played by Joan Collins; talk show host Dinah Stevens, played by Adina Porter; her son Andre, played by Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman; the billionaire, Coco St. Pierre Vanderbilt, played by Leslie Grossman; her assistant Mallory, played by Billie Lourd; and couple Timothy Campbell, played by Kyle Allen, and Emily, played by Ash Santos. All face the wrath of the two women.

79255_pplIn the second and third episodes, Michael Langdon, played by Cody Fern, who is also the Antichrist, arrives and begins to throw the order into chaos, as he intends to bring those who are worthy to a “sanctuary.” Michael’s arrival causes a domino effect of lust, betrayal, and self-destruction.

The fourth episode takes place three years before the bombs drop. It shows what is Outpost Three as the Hawthorne School for Exceptional Young Men. Its inhabitants are warlocks living in the shadow of the coven of Cordelia Goode, played by Sarah Paulson. The warlocks have placed their hopes on a new, troubled apprentice, Michael Langdon. It was interesting seeing the flashback to the past and learning how it all started. When the series starts, the world is ending and there’s a lot of confusion about why and what is really happening. I think it was a very clever way of telling the story and pulling previous seasons back into the show.

Despite Cordelia’s visions of a terrifying future, she lets Michael attempt the Seven Wonders in the fifth episode. Michael is successful, which fills this episode with suspense that made me eager for the next. It was a very well shot episode, with different cinematic styles.

landscape-1536765821-ahs-codyIn the sixth episode, Behold, played by Billy Porter, and Madison, played by Emma Roberts, are sent on a mission to Murder House to uncover the truth about Michael’s past. The revelations about their next Supreme paint a bleak picture for the future and confirm Cordelia’s fears. This is by far my favorite episode. I love that the series took the viewers back to where everything started. It’s amazing that these seemingly unrelated seasons lead up to this one. I never thought what happened to the family of Murder House would be seen or known.

In the seventh episode, the witches recruit a clairvoyant friend to expose the traitors in the male coven. Mallory’s powers also are tested and reveal more about the future Supreme. Both covens unite to send Michael a message by getting rid of his conspirators.

After the deaths of his most trusted advisors, Michael goes on a vision quest in the eighth episode to find his place in the world. A group of followers devoted to his unholy father point him toward his destiny. I found this episode pointless. It didn’t do much for the story line. Not much happened or was revealed. The season could have gone on without this episode.

In the ninth episode Michael is still trying to figure out his purpose and how to end the world. He also seeks revenge for the deaths of  his trusted advisors and sends the Coven into their darkest hour, forcing them to gamble their hopes on Mallory’s developing powers. Michael met up with some of the world’s most powerful people, known as The Compound. They discuss the beginning of the end of the world.  This was another lackluster episode that only got interesting during the last 10 minutes.

This season has surpassed all of the previous seasons. It pays homage to beloved past seasons of the series by bringing back old characters and continuing their stories. I really enjoy this season. It has my favorite characters from previous seasons, along with some new favorites.

I give this season of “American Horror Story” a nine out of 10 so far.

Legendary bandit faces moral crisis in ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’

Arthur Morgan and his posse of outlaws jump a moving train from horseback. Guns drawn, Arthur yells, “Your money or your lives!”

Robbing trains becomes a bit of a past time in Rockstar’s “Red Dead Redemption 2” a western-themed adventure game, set in 1899, just before the decline of the American frontier. “Red Dead Redemption 2” made more than $725 million on opening weekend. The only other game to beat this record was “Grand Theft Auto V,” another RockStar game.

RDR3It begins with a character named Arthur Morgan, a legendary bandit, who is loyal to the Van der Linde gang. The Van der Linde gang is run by Dutch Van der Linde and is full of other bandits who loosely try to follow a moral code to not kill innocents or rob those who are making legitimate money.

There are a few spoilers ahead, but I’m not going to try to focus on too much of the story. Also, I have not played any other Red Dead series either. I do know a nutshell’s worth of knowledge about the first “Red Dead Redemption” story. So any nostalgia or excitement to see reappearing characters are lost on me. But I do not think that takes away from my gameplay experience.

Arthur and the rest of the Van der Linde gang were pushed out of their old base, losing everything, including a handful of members. The game starts with the gang trying to find another place to set up base and survive while doing it.

While playing Arthur Morgan, the game presents a plethora of decisions to make. The player can choose to rob, greet, or antagonize most people in the game. I suspect there are hidden cues if you want to be successful at robbing people, because 99 percent of the people I try to rob just pull guns out on me. For the few people I have successfully robbed on the road, I aimed my weapon at them before they drew theirs, during Arthur’s dialogue, “Yer being robbed, son.”

There are also random events, when a non-player character (NPC) may be spouting off a few lines of dialogue out of the norm. For example, I was riding around on my newly tamed, stark-white Arabian horse. My horse’s name is Digiorno, and he receives many compliments from the local populace. A man asked me to race Digiorno in the opposite direction that I was headed. Since I was in a hurry to track down whatever was at the end of my treasure map, I declined. The man called Arthur a coward. A quick execution sent this disrespectful do-gooder into the afterlife while his own prized race-horse dragged his body from the stirrups down a hill.

One of my favorite things about the game is Arthur’s dialogue. While exploring the map, you can find “Collectors.” Collectors ask you to be on the lookout for all sorts of things, such as rare, collectable cigarette trading cards, dinosaur bones, and rock carvings. A paleontologist asks Arthur to collect bones in search of a specific dinosaur.

Arthur says, “Wait, they’re REAL?!”

Almost everything about Arthur’s dialogue depicts him as an uneducated outlaw, but he is not stupid. He is always out to make a buck, regardless of the legality of that dollar he is making. He is known throughout his gang for his sarcasm and witty insults.

I would say that Rockstar Games did a wonderful job of forging Arthur’s personality within the cut scenes of the game. But the Arthur in the cut scenes, versus the Arthur that roams the world, are two different people.

In an early story mission, Dutch Van der Linde, the leader of the gang, has Arthur rob a train. Arthur is expected to open fire and beat on anybody who does not fork over that sweet loot. At the end of the mission, the player is presented with a choice, to spare, or kill, the remaining occupants.

The Arthur that chooses to spare the occupants does not make much sense, considering he is, and acknowledges, that he is a cold-blooded killer. Yet Arthur justifies his actions through the Van der Linde gang on the premise of freedom and lawlessness. Arthur is against unnecessary killing, especially if it puts his friends in danger. Some might say that a lot of the killing required in missions is unnecessary.

The Arthur in the story is rough, cold, and ruthless. But in the open world, Arthur can choose to be friendly and helpful to complete strangers. For example, there is an encounter where Arthur is given the choice to suck the rattlesnake venom out of a dying man’s leg. This reaches toward the realm of disbelief when understanding Arthur’s character. I feel myself having to keep a bit of distance from the story version of Arthur, while I play my own version of him out in the open world.

The game has an Honor system, where your deeds may affect certain people or encounters later in the game. Murder, looting bodies, killing domesticated animals, and good ole fashioned thievery will usually receive negative honor. Talking to strangers, helping people, and giving to the poor net positive honor. I plan on playing through the game twice, one with the lowest honor score and one with the highest, to see if the story changes at all.

I have not finished the story missions. I’ve heard rumors of content being locked after certain chapters, and I want my first play-through to be slow and full of exploration.

The characters of the Van der Linde gang are fleshed out very well, with each having their own opinions about Arthur. Arthur also has his own opinions about everyone in the gang as well, which makes for interesting banter around camp.

My favorite part of the game is being able to roam the country freely. As far as I can tell, there is not much content gated behind the story so far. I’ve reached two out of the four corners of the map, and there is still so much more to explore. I’ve come across a massive crater, where a meteor had crashed into the earth. Upon finding this scene, Arthur documents it in his journal, and draws a pretty neat picture.

I recommend finding the Arabian horse early on. It’s quick, and quite pretty to boot. It can be found in all of its wild glory just west of Lake Isabella, usually within eyesight of the lake. This is wolf country, and the horse is spooked easily, so approach with caution.

I can’t wait to play this game more. Roaming the world as a legendary bandit has never been such a fun experience. I give “Red Dead Redemption 2” a 9/10.

‘Black Ops4’ has repetitive aspects from previous titles

Buying and playing “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4” was a poor way to kill time while waiting for the release of “Red Dead Redemption 2.”

“Call of Duty: Black Ops 4” is the latest title in Treyarch’s “Call of Duty” franchise. “Black Ops 4,” or, “BO4,” has some issues that are seen throughout the Triple-A gaming industry as of late. Treyarch does redeem itself a bit, by catering to the fad of  “Battle Royal” type games that have been dominating the gaming industry in the few past years by adding a “new” game mode called “Black Out.”

top__id1535111616_343178It is hardly a redeeming feature, though. The game mode, “Black Out,” is by far the most boring way to play “Call of Duty.” The entire experience is 40 minutes of chasing a closing map and trying to find fights with other players, and then dying at the hands of an enemy that happened to spot you first. I have never been much of a fan of “Battle Royal” games, such as “Fortnite” or “PUBG.” However, my friends almost exclusively play “Black Out.”

My biggest issue with “BO4” is the “Multiplayer” game mode. This is how the classic “Call of Duty” experience comes into fruition. Only, there is no fruit. Treyarch had the grand idea of reusing old maps from previous “Call of Duty” titles. When I spend $60 on a “NEW” game, I expect new content. Other than the weapons and a few perks, (most of the perks are ALSO reused) there is simply not enough new content to make me want to keep playing the game.

The only time I feel any satisfaction playing “Multiplayer” is when I join “Hardcore” lobbies. The time-to-kill, or TTK in “Core” modes, is simply too long. I feel like I am playing “Halo” with as much lead that I have to pump into my enemies before they fall down. But even in “Hardcore” lobbies, since the maps are reused, veteran players of the series have a huge edge on the competition for people new to the franchise, because they already have so many hours on the same maps. Much of the time, playing “Hardcore” is either getting spawn-camped, or, spawn camping.

What would “Black Ops” titles be without ZOMBIES? The new Zombies is yet another map and story of the same, old, repetitive survival mode. I hate fighting unending waves of AI in any game. It is brainless, just like the zombies. And planting some Easter eggs in a new map is not going to sell me on boring gameplay. With almost every “Zombies” lobby I’ve joined, the other players make it very clear, “We are just going for the Easter Egg.”

At first, I loved the new “BO4.” New game modes, new zombies, cool weapons — and How could I forget, the Operators? — “BO4” features a group of tragically hip, tacti-cool meat heads that use different equipment to give players an edge in combat.

I find myself relying on good ole’ fashioned gun skills more than anything. But the abilities are kind of neat. If only the Operators weren’t so boring looking and so “geared” with too much MOLLE system on every piece of equipment they wear.

I won’t play “BO4” any more until I see new maps released. Even then, I doubt I will feel any better about this copy-pasted junk I wasted my money on. Until then, I give “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4” a 3/10.

Not enough head chomping in new ‘Venom’ movie

Not enough head-chomping in new “Venom” movie.

The new “Venom” movie is loosely based on Marvel’s “Lethal Protector” story arc, with aliens called “Symbiotes” planning on invading earth.

The infamous anti-hero, Venom, is introduced in another Marvel movie adaptation of a classic comic book title.

This iteration of “Venom” featured Eddie Brock as Venom’s first host. But do not get this Eddie Brock confused with the crybaby, bird-chested Eddie Brock in “Spiderman 3.” The new Eddie Brock is played by, Tom Hardy, who tried his best to perform underneath miles of black licorice.

The plot is an origin story about how the symbiotes came to Earth, and what they were planning when they got there. Carlton Drake, founder of the Life Foundation, had astronauts and scientists retrieve alien symbiotes from space in a quest to achieve immortality. Many people died while landing back on Earth, because one of the symbiotes escaped and sabotaged the mission.
Eddie Brock is tasked with interviewing Drake. Brock tells his boss he does not want to perform the interview. Brock is then reminded about his troublesome track record by his boss, and is warned not to make the same mistakes. Brock steals some incriminating information about Drake from his fiancé, and ends up facing a moral dilemma.

Brock attends the interview half-cocked and ends up blasting Drake on live television, asking him questions about the families of the astronauts who died in the space mission to retrieve the symbiotes. Eddie Brock refuses to give up his sources to his boss, because he feels guilty for stealing that information.

The opening to Venom’s story was dry and predictable. The action that follows does not give the movie much redemption. After Eddie Brock bonds to the Venom symbiote, the movie does get much faster paced. Action scenes arise, but many of them are so dark, and the camera angles are so awkward, that most symbiote action is hard to interpret.

There are also many plot details that defy logic. The motivation for the characters to act on the impending crises is convoluted. For example, Venom tells Eddie that the symbiotes are planning to invade Earth, but changes his mind because he “likes it here.”

As far as gratuitous head biting, I only counted three bites, only two of which were Eddie and Venom. If three decapitations are the maximum amount allowed for maintaining a pg-13 rating, then “Venom” should have been rated R, so viewers would get to see more head chomping.

“Venom” was not as demented or violent as I would’ve hoped and expected from a “Venom” movie adaptation. Instead, Venom was more of a comic relief, from giving very solid relationship advice, to teasing Brock for not wanting to bite people’s heads off. This watered down version of “Venom” was not very exciting.

There were a few funny bits when Eddie Brock crashes a fancy restaurant date, or when Venom calls Eddie inappropriate names when he refuses to eat people. I wonder if the makers of “Venom” could have traded one of the curse words Venom says for another head chomping. It would’ve made for a better movie.

“Venom” was a decent movie, but not as good as I was expecting. Most people I’ve talked to about “Venom” had very good reviews, and said “Venom” was a must-see with gratuitous head biting.

The final battle between Riot, the team leader of the symbiotes, and Venom was very hard to see. There was too much black string cheese on top of dark backgrounds, making the entire fight scene an incomprehensible mass of the hero always winning anyway. I give “Venom” a 5/10.

‘Night School’ gets good grade for comedic storyline

“Night School” is a comedy that portrays a young adult man who hits rock bottom in order to build his life up once more.

The movie “Night School” was great! However, this comedy is not one to bring your children to.

This hilarious, inappropriate movie was about a man, Teddy Walker, played by Kevin Hart, who was a high school dropout because he was not able to concentrate on school. Several years later, he’s working as a salesman for barbeque grills. In hopes of gaining ownership of the store once the owner retires, Teddy acts as if he is better off than he actually is. Because of this, he never told his girlfriend, Lissa, played by Megalyn Echikunwoke, who is out of his league, about his poor life and how he dropped out of high school.

Not only was Teddy a high school dropout, he was also a liar, hustler, and had several learning disabilities.  While proposing to Lissa inside the store, Teddy accidently blows up his place of employment. Being out of a job and only able to become employed at a fast food restaurant, Christian Chicken, Teddy is forced to go to night school in order to receive his GED so he could potentially get a job at a financial investment firm where his friend, Marvin, played by Ben Schwartz, works.

Teddy also decides not to tell his fiancé about going to night school, since she does not know he is a drop out. Teddy learns that his high school nemesis, Stewart, played by Taran Killam, is the new principal, who would stop at nothing to get Teddy out of there.

While Teddy attends night school, he learns, through a patient and determined teacher, Carrie, played by Tiffany Haddish, about his learning disabilities. He also makes some great friends. Through attending classes, Teddy and his class mates learn more than just what is in the textbook. They learn how to stick up for themselves, be honest, take responsibility, and, most importantly to never give up.

On the last day of class, they all decide to go to the high school prom to celebrate. Stewart realizes that Teddy has not told his fiancé about night school, so he calls her, pretending he wants corporate sponsorship to improve the school. Hurt that Teddy had lied to her, she calls off the engagement.

Heartbroken, teddy decids not to take the GED test. However, thanks to his teacher spanking him, yes, spanking, he went in to school and took the test. Sadly, Teddy did not pass his first GED test, or his second, or his third, or his fourth. But finally he passed and was able to celebrate it with his classmates and walk down the aisle with them to graduate.

Lissa came to the graduation and afterwards Teddy started over, introducing himself fully. Asking Lissa on a date, admitting he wouldn’t be able to pay because he does not have any money. Forgiving him, and deciding to give him a second chance, Lissa accepts.

The storyline does not sound that funny. However, the writers of the story – Kevin Hart, Harry Ratchford, Joey Wells, Matthew Kellard, Nicholas Stoller, and John Hamburg – did a wonderful job of turning this typical, cliché movie into a hilarious, slightly inappropriate, but not over doing it, comedy.

The movie includes plenty of obscenities and adult jokes, making this a perfect movie for a date night away from the kids or for more mature couples. Out of comedy movies, I give it a 10/10.

YouTuber investigates dangerous content creator

Young teens stare intently at their television screen as they watch their idol engulf the pool in his backyard into flames.

Jake Paul sits back and watches as the flames continue to grow to the point when his house, as wells as his neighbors, are in danger of being burned to the ground.

The-mind-of-“The Mind of Jake Paul” is a documentary web series created by Youtuber, Shane Dawson, who investigates the mind of controversial fellow YouTuber, Jake Paul and the psychology of YouTubers.

YouTube is an American video sharing website which allows users all over the world to upload, view, rate, and share a variety of videos for millions of individuals to enjoy on a daily basis.

Popular YouTuber’s work for the site and make their entire livelihood producing content and receive paychecks based on the amount of views and subscribers they have.

One of YouTube’s more famous vloggers, Shane Lee Yaw, better known as Shane Dawson, is an American YouTuber, vlogger, and an all-time favorite for millions of teens around the world.

He began his channel in 2008, and as of 2016, he had amassed more than 3 billion views and more than 16.4 million subscribers to his channel.

Many loyal subscribers watched him transform through the years from a shy, young teenager to an outgoing, hilarious individual who shares his life full of fun adventures for the world to see.

Along with videos that depict the fun parts of his life, Dawson began posting a video series to his channel, which includes conspiracy theories and videos looking into the lives of fellow YouTubers.

On Sept. 25, 2018, Shane Dawson released a video titled “The Mind of Jake Paul,” which sparked a huge controversy in the YouTube community.

In his eight-part series, Dawson looks into the life of Jake Paul and his family at an attempt to help end conflicts and rumors that had been spreading across multiple social media platforms.

As a fan of Shane Dawson, I wasn’t sure how the series would turn out because of all the people and drama involved. As suspected, Dawson uncovered many hidden truths about Jake Paul and his personal life that I was not expecting. Near the end of the series, I did sympathize for Jake Paul and tried to watch the series with an open mind.

Dawson’s original purpose for creating the series was to have a look inside of Jake’s life and persona for his own curiosity, even though he knew it would spark a controversy with his fans.

Jake Paul, originally a Vine sensation, reached more than 1 million followers in just five months in the year 2013. By the time the app was discontinued, he had amassed more than 5 million followers.

He and his brother, Logan Paul, then turned to YouTube to continue entertaining their young viewers and launched a franchise, Team 10.

They began partnering with other social media stars, posting comedy sketches, vlogs, and music videos.

Jake Paul quickly became known for being the one to perform dangerous stunts, such as jumping over fast-moving cars and hanging from a 300-foot cliff, as a way to see how many views he could receive.

Due to Jake Paul’s insane stunts, it resulted in members of Team 10 leaving because of alleged abuse, among other reasons, and he quickly began losing thousands of subscribers.

In Dawson’s first video of the series, he plays a voice mail left by Jake Paul making claims that he is excited for the series that will be coming out, and that he is “putting a lot of trust in [Dawson] to share [his] side of the story.” He is willing to be as truthful as possible for past situations that had occurred.

Throughout the first video, Dawson makes strong allegations that Jake Paul may be a sociopath because of his actions in previous videos.

Dawson begins by conducting an interview with iNabber, a British Youtuber who is famous for his commentary and rants on YouTube stars. 41dca344-3dbd-4d30-9637-36351d9d8cd6.sized-1000x1000

iNabber starts off by stating there is more to Jake Paul than his viewers may realize, and the content on his channel may be staged in order to gain more popularity and/or profit.

An example iNabber used was the Team 10 house itself. In 2010, Jake Paul rented a house for $17,000 a month, and members in the house may have had to pay large amounts of money in order to have a spot on the team.

Also, by creating fake friendships and couples, it is believed that members of Team 10 were only there to gain popularity and to help push themselves into other careers, such as modeling or acting.

The controversies first began when Jake Paul supposedly kicked out his supposed girlfriend, Alissa Violet, for cheating on him. But soon after, in a video posted by Violet, she claims that they were never in a real relationship to begin with.

In her video, Violet continued to expose Jake Paul by informing viewers that she, along with others in the house, had signed a contract for 20 percent of all their profits for five years.

After Violet was kicked out from of Team 10 house and posted the video full of accusations, Jake Paul followed with a video claiming that Violet’s current boyfriend, Faze Banks, assaulted his assistant and that none or her allegations toward him were true.

Jake Paul tried to clarify in the video that he wasn’t trying to retaliate or target anyone in particular. However, it was eventually proven that his claims about Banks were false, though he has yet to take down the video claiming the abuse.

Whether these claims are true or not may never be fully uncovered. Either way, I’d say both YouTubers are in the wrong for attacking each other on the internet for the world to see, rather than dealing with their issues in person.

To many viewers, myself included, wonder if the allegations of abuse and other mistreatments are true, many members should have left sooner to avoid sparking drama. However, it would seem logical for them to stick around if they had signed a contract or had been spending large amounts of money to gain popularity.

Since then, Jake Paul has continued to perform outrageous stunts that not only put his life in danger, but the lives of his fellow co-workers as well.

Two former members of Team 10, Ivan and Emilio Martinez, better known as the Martinez twins, decided to step forward and admit that there was physical abuse and bullying that had been going on in the house. They claimed that it was hard for them to mentally continue working with Jake Paul.

Throughout the series, Dawson shows clips of videos from Jake Paul’s channel where he makes racist remarks toward the twins and continues to harass them.

Dawson later consults with sociologist Kati Morton during the second video of the series, “The Dark side of Jake Paul.” He spent most of the video discussing what defines a sociopath and Morton’s personal opinions of Jake Paul.

In the beginning, Morton first describes a sociopath as someone who lacks empathy.

“Imagine someone who sees something that majorly affects another person but they don’t seem to care,” Morton explained. “They don’t care how others feel, they don’t seem to care what happens to those around them, as long as it doesn’t affect them directly.”

According to Morton, sociopaths will also try to rationalize bad situations to place less of the blame on themselves and more towards others around them. Dawson questions if sociopaths live a robot-like lifestyle and they ‘wear different masks’ to impress other people around them. Morton explains that sociopaths will also try to turn attention on to themselves to make others feel bad for them. They will complain about losing money, or other situations, to be the center of attention.

Morton elaborates that they will even refuse to show the people close to them who they truly are, almost as if that person doesn’t exist anymore, because they have spent their whole life mimicking others or trying their hardest to fit in.

After the interview is almost complete, Dawson asked Morton her opinion on Jake Paul and if she would classify him as a sociopath.

“It’s possible, but I don’t know him,” Morton said. “People put on shows to be on YouTube, or personas. But looking back on the symptoms we went through, like not caring if people get hurt, he’s definitely done things that have put people in danger.”

Dawson even goes as far as asking Morton to tag along when he meets Jake Paul in person for the first time. He also informs her that they should not make it known that Morton is a therapist to keep Jake from concealing his true personality.

I wasn’t sure how Jake Paul would react to this once he found out he was being evaluated by a therapist. Although, later on in the video, Dawson discloses that Jake Paul sent him a text message saying “anything goes” and not to hold back as the series progresses.

In the third video, “The Family of Jake Paul,” Dawson opens with an apology to his fans for the backlash he has already received for his video series. He states that he has no intention of hurting anyone’s feelings or criticizing mental illnesses.

Dawson then reads messages that have been sent from Jake Paul’s even more controversial brother, Logan Paul, who admitted that both Paul brothers have sociopathic tendencies, but claimed neither him nor Jake were sociopaths.

Throughout the video, viewers are introduced to Greg Paul and Pamela Stepnick, better known as Vlogdad and Vlogmom. Dawson tries to pinpoint where the Paul brothers’ problems began, and it seems as if their issues circle around their father. It becomes apparent that their dad instilled a competitive nature between the two brothers at a young age. Even after becoming famous, the brothers are constantly competing with each other. They both make claims about being the favorite son, or even creating music videos with lyrics to pick on each other throughout the entirety of the song.

I cannot assume what happens behind closed doors, but after watching the videos, it is apparent that the Paul family lacks discipline and encourages stunts that place others in danger, even though they do not see it that way. Jake Paul even admits to abuse from his father in a past vlog, but laughed it off to seem as if it was a normal living situation.

His father, Greg Paul, also lives in the Team 10 house with Jake Paul and seems to try to take control of how things run throughout the house. He seems to try to use his son’s success and fame as an outlet to seek attention and become more controlling over the lives of his sons, moreso toward Jake than Logan.

   After digging more into the Paul family, Dawson finds Pamela Stepnick’s YouTube channel. In one of her videos, Jake Paul says, “I’m glad that we can have real connections now. It’s just both of us vlogging each other through facetime.”

This part of the series struck home for me, and I would say this is when I began to sympathize with Jake Paul. It seems as if he must work hard to receive attention from his parents, and I would say that is something millions of teenagers can relate to on a personal level.

In the fifth video, “Enemies of Jake Paul,” Dawson sits down with one of Jake Paul’s longtime friends, Nick Crompton, who agreed to an interview to discuss what it was really like to live in the Team 10 house.

“I was super close with the Martinez twins before they left,” Crompton said. “It was a lot of fun up until the point when they came out with their video accusing Jake of the bullying.”

According to Crompton, and Jake Paul in a later video, he states that every stunt they ever did for their videos was staged. Before Jake Paul tried to perform a stunt, according to Crompton, he always asked for permission and made sure that everyone was OK before and after the video was filmed.

In the video released by the Martinez twins, they claimed that Jake Paul broke down the walls to their bedroom as a prank. However, during the interview, Crompton says that the team originally built the bedroom for the purpose of it to be torn down. It was a fake room, and supposedly the Martinez twins were fully aware of the prank that was going to take place.

Questions began to surface from Team 10 fans wondering that if it was staged, why would individuals who had been living in the house for so long be stepping forward making claims of abuse that had been happening?

“If Jake would have just come out and said that it was all fake, it would have debunked everything the Martinez twins were claiming to be true,” Crompton said. “Every time something happens, we don’t want to tell our viewers that everything is fake, so we just keep taking these hits.”

Crompton says that Jake Paul doesn’t want to step forward and admit everything is fake because of all the younger kids who are still watching, and it may push their fans away.

Crompton also puts an end to the rumor that the members of Team 10 are cast to be there. He says that everyone in the house has a role or a purpose. However, the things they do for their video productions are dramatized.

“There’s no way that anybody would ever be signed to Team 10 because they bribed their way in,” Crompton said. “Jake would never accept someone to be a part of the team if he thought they couldn’t be something.”

As everyone would like to believe, the 20 percent of profits that Jake Paul collects from his co-workers do not go straight into his pocket. Team 10 is a business, and Jake fulfills the role of CEO. The money was also used to help cover the cost of paying staff, such as their video producers and editors.

I was somewhat shocked to find out how the Team 10 house worked. The amount of stress Jake Paul experiences on a daily basis is incomprehensible.

Crompton also speaks about the issues involving Jake Paul’s father living in the house. According to him, people began leaving once Jake’s father tried to be involved. There were issues already happening before he showed up. But once he forced his way into the Team, Jake would leave the house to go back to Ohio to stay with his mom.

To everyone who lived in the house, it was obvious that Jake Paul and his father had their differences, and it was hard for the both of them to get along while living together. Crompton also says that Greg Paul pushed his way up into an authority position in order to make decisions for the group.

This is the reasoning behind why Crompton left Team 10, because he saw that Greg Paul was trying to control everyone in the house and realized he didn’t want to be a part of it anymore.

“That’s how Team 10 unfortunately works,” Crompton said. “If someone leaves the team, then it’s automatically assumed that there’s a bigger issue and are kind of shunned. I’ve tried to get in contact with Jake a few times since I’ve left, and I haven’t heard anything back.”

In the last three videos of Dawson’s series, all the topics are repetitive. Throughout the sixth episode, therapist Kati Morton returns to the series. After a full day of evaluating Jake Paul, she determines he may not be a sociopath, but he struggles with coping and sorting out his emotions.

Dawson also circles back to Alissa Violet in the seventh episode. During an interview with her, she restates her claims of abuse or mistreatment. Since Violet and Jake Paul are sharing two different stories, it may never be clear as to what truly happened during her time in the Team 10 house.

In the eighth and final episode, Dawson sits down with Jake Paul to address all the controversies and let him have an opportunity to be honest with his fans.

Jake Paul goes into more details about his relationship with his father, and that Greg Paul asked his sons to move back with him to Ohio for a stronger father-son relationship.

He also dug into the controversy with the Martinez twins, saying, “they were exaggerating their experiences.” Jake Paul admitted to doing ridiculous pranks, and that he has made many mistakes with his content.

Jake also discusses the backlash he received from his brother’s Suicide Forest video that was posted on Logan Paul’s channel. Jake Paul lost two or three brand deals, and even though there was a negative impact, Jake Paul claimed that it actually brought his family close together.

Finally, Jake Paul spoke about his situation with Alissa Violet. He admits that they both hurt each other for too long. He acknowledged that it was his fault that she was upset and how he was emotionally affected after she left.

The whole series received a lot of backlash, especially the last episode of the docu-series. Many viewers thought that Dawson wasn’t critical enough of Jake Paul’s actions and seemed to excuse his problematic behavior.

I thought the series was decent. However, I do think Shane Dawson could have done a better job of organizing and executing the series. A part of me does feel bad for everything Jake Paul has gone through, and I would think that haters of Jake Paul will leave fewer hateful comments on his page after watching the series.  After completing “Inside the Mind of Jake Paul,” I give the series an eight out of 10.

‘the Good Doctor’ delivers inspiring messages of self worth

by GEVEVA NATAL

A young autistic surgeon battles stereotypes and prejudices from his patients and coworkers in “The Good Doctor”.

The popular ABC-TV show is about Shawn Murphy, played by Freddie Highmore, who is most known for his work in “Bates Motel” as Norman Bates. Highmore is an outstanding actor, praised by colleagues,who is fluent in French, and a graduate of the University of Cambridge. It comes as no surprise that Highmore successfully portrays a character who copes with autism.

CHUKUMA MODU, ANTONIA THOMAS, BEAU GARRETT, HILL HARPER, FREDDIE HIGHMORE, RICHARD SCHIFF, TAMLYN TOMITA, NICHOLAS GONZALEZMurphy is a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome. Murphy moves from his isolated town to the big city to work at San Jose Hospital, which is a training hospital for new surgeons.

The first episode kicks off with a dramatic twist that proves the talent of Dr. Murphy, who witnesses an accident at an airport. The person who had the accident needs help fast, and Murphy makes a contraption out of a borrowed knife that he got from TSA, a straw, and a bottle of booze. The contraption saves a boy’s life and shows the talents of Murphy. Despite his autism, his differences make him successful.

Murphy uses his photographic memory and intense evaluation skills in every surgical situation. His autism is accurately portrayed to the best of Highmore’s ability. There is no certain way that an autistic person will act. But the robotic speech, detachment from society, and blunt way of speaking are common traits that Highmore portrays wonderfully.

Despite Murphy’s amazing abilities, when getting the job he is forced to prove himself first. The board in charge of the hospital is hesitant to risk their reputation on him because of the baggage he brings and the risks that face the hospital if Murphy were to mess up. So his friend, Dr. Aaron Glassman, president of San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital, played by Richard Schiff, puts his job on the line. He promises that if Murphy messes up or proves to be less than exceptional, he will resign as president.171106-ira-good-doctor-tease_pb8otc

Glassman is an old friend of Murphy, and later audience sees that he was the one to help Murphy after his brother died. There are flashbacks to explain Murphy’s past, which is littered with traumatizing events, including his bunny dying by his father, living in a bus with his brother after they left their home, and his brother ultimately dying.

His brother, Steve Murphy, played by Dylan Kingwell, dies when he falls off at a train when playing hide and seek with the other children. When he falls and Murphy sees him die, it was the end of his world, and a devastating loss that he never forgets. However, sad as it maybe, it is revealed in later episodes that Murphy became a doctor because he didn’t know what to do when his brother was bleeding out.

When he gets the job, Murphy meets his new coworkers who soon become family. That is, until Season Two, when they must compete to keep their spots at San Jose. Through trial and

error, the residents at the hospital save as many lives as possible. Murphy shows his dedication to saving patients when he goes above and beyond protocol.

In many instances, Murphy takes it upon himself to fix a problem no one believes is there. In one episode, he shows up at a patient’s house in the middle of the night because he believes that there is something terribly wrong when no one else thought so, and he was right. He saves the patient’s life, and through this he finally starts earning some respect from his colleagues and mentors.

Just because he doesn’t understand feelings very well doesn’t make him any less of a surgeon. Each character slowly comes to believe in Murphy and respect his abilities as a surgeon. Slowly but surely, the casts does an amazing job of realistically reacting to the strange things that Murphy does or doesn’t do.

Murphy is still human, and he makes a mistake that almost cost the life of a young man. The man lived despite Murphy’s mistake in surgery, but Murphy doesn’t want to lie. He chooses to tell the truth, despite the consequence of Glassman losing his job, because it is protocol. Murphy knows his obligations and duty to the job are the most important thing to him. He doesn’t do this to hurt his longtime friend, but to be true to the hospital and himself because he made a mistake and wants to own up to that.

Along with saving lives and making mistakes, there are typical personal problems from each of the characters, such as the romance of Dr. Clair Brown, played by Antonia Thomas, the personal struggles of Dr. Marcus Andrews, played by Hill Harper, or the very big problem faced by Glassman.

At the end of the first season, Dr. Glassman receives terrible news, and there is a cliffhanger. At the start of the second season he has options, but the stakes are high. Being a surgeon himself, he is hesitant to let anyone else do the procedure. He tells Murphy, who in his own way, is heart stricken. Murphy doesn’t want him to die and stresses out trying to find a solution. On top of that stress, Murphy’s Season One love interest returns.

the-good-doctor-season-2-1534883713Lea, played by Paige Spara, returns after hurting Murphy by leaving him to go home with her brother. She returns in the second episode, which ends on a cliff hanger with Glassman on the surgical table and Lea being told to leave.

Throughout Season One, we see that Murphy has to deal with being his own person. His biggest problem is not being able to understand people on a deeper level. However, he surpasses expectations and grows as an individual to become a semi-independent person.

The show’s fanbase is smitten with Highmore because of his abilities as an actor and cute face, making it a popular show on television.

I love that the show is about something different. It has realistic problem solving. I rarely see shows that accurately portray a person on the autism spectrum. He is more than what society says he should be, which is particularly inspiring.

This inclusive show accurately portrays a person beating the odds and succeeding in his dreams despite his obstacles. I love the odd, quirky couple of Murphy and Lea. Even though they are different, they make it work by being understanding, especially on Lea’s part. However, the autism isn’t focused on with their relationship. It’s cute and funny, and it fits in a dysfunctional way that is different from other relationships on screen. It seems more realistic.

The show is awesome, from the highs of Murphy’s successes to the lows of his failures, I feel it each time. I love the way he is, because the show includes this side of him as he tries to understand normal behavior, such as smiling. He went around smiling at people to see their reactions. It was the funniest, craziest, and cutest thing I have seen that definitely made me smile.

Murphy brings the show together with his different traits that differentiate from other hospital shows. I will continue to watch new episodes and I give “The Good Doctor” a 10/10

Continue reading “‘the Good Doctor’ delivers inspiring messages of self worth”

Retro sci-fi series delivers severe mind warp

In the dystopian futuristic city of New York, one man feels that his purpose of saving the world is dawning.

The new Netflix original limited series, “Maniac,” tells a story of what could become our future. “Maniac,” created by Patrick Somerville and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, is based on the Norwegian television series of the same name.

The series follows Annie Landsberg, played by Emma Stone, and Owen Milgrim, played by Jonah Hill, two strangers drawn to the late stages of a pharmaceutical trial, each for their own reasons.

maniacAnnie is fixated on broken relationships with her mother and her sister. Owen, the fifth son of wealthy New York industrialists, has struggled his whole life with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Neither Annie’s nor Owen’s life has turned out typical and happy. A new radical pharmaceutical treatment created by Dr. James K. Mantleray, played by Justin Theroux,  promises to repair anything about the mind, whether it is mental illness or heartbreak.

Neberdine Pharmaceutical and Biotech draws Annie, Owen and 10 other strangers to their facilities for a three-day drug trial that will, they’re assured, solve all of their problems, permanently, with no complications or side-effects whatsoever.

The series has a “Black Mirror,” another Netflix original series, feel to it, as each episode has a different storyline with a futuristic dystopian spin. Although un-like “Black Mirror,” “Maniac” pulls each episode into the overall story arc.

In contrast to this seemingly advanced society, it’s running on some old technology. The PCs in an office building look like desktops from the late 1980s. Landline phones with large buttons are installed in city apartments, while billboards speak their pre-recorded promotion to passers by, the images appearing on rotating panels rather than flashy LED screens.

Additionally, in this future there are odd jobs/services that appear, such as an AD buddy, and Friend Proxy. An AD buddy is a form of payment that allows users to obtain goods and services by letting an actor recite ads directly to them. Both Annie and Owen use AD buddy when they are low on funds, which is what draws them to the trial. A Friend Proxy can be hired to be used as company when a person is lonely or feeling down.

The first few episodes focus on telling the stories of who Owen and Annie are in the world. The series starts off with Owen seeing an imaginary brother named Grimsson, who looks like his brother Jed with a moustache, both played by Billy Magnussen. Grimsson keeps reminding him that he is on an important mission and that he will save the world soon.rs_1024x759-181002093254-1024-maniac-netflix.ch.100218

Meanwhile, his family is protecting Jed, his actual brother, from accusations of sexual misconduct. Owen is planning on defending him by claiming to have witnessed the event. He is fired from his job and refuses his father’s offer of working with his company and his money. He hears about Neberdine and signs on to test their new drug to earn some money.

While there, he meets Annie, which he has been hallucinating in advertisements before he even met her. Grimsson explains that she is the agent he needs to see. After speaking to her, Annie confirms her association to him, but tells him not to “blow their cover.” Owen complies and prepares for the trial. Owen feels that this is the beginning of how he is meant to save the world.

As they begin testing, they are taken to where they will stay for the duration. The room looks like something out of an ‘80’s science fiction movie. There are pods for them to sleep in and a table to have meals at, with screens above the table to inform them of when testing is. From the color scheme to the computers, you can’t put your finger on if it is the past or not.

The participants of the trial take a series of tablets, the A, B, and C pill, and are hooked up to a supercomputer, named G.R.T.A., voiced by Sally Field. G.R.T.A. has artificial intelligence and controls the simulations that the participants go through. The trial room looks similar to the rest of the trial area and the general feel of the show. There are chairs around the room, facing a control room, with each having two microwave plates on the sides.

The trial begins with the A pill, which stands for Agonia, which means “struggle” in Greek. The A pill’s effects are the most tangible. The pill is meant to reveal the patient’s most raw and significant trauma that has shaped his or her life. Before the computer begins the simulation, Owen throws his pill across the room. He doesn’t take the pill, because if this is his mission, is he really supposed to participate?

In Annie’s vision, her and her sister Ellie, played by Julia Garner, are traveling to Salt Lake City, where Ellie’s fiancé lives. Annie behaves almost cruel toward her sister the entire time. The vision shows why Annie has struggled during her life. Her regret has destroyed her.

The next pill, B, stands for behavioral. After identifying a participant’s source of trauma, G.R.T.A creates a personalized pill meant to bulldoze his or her defense mechanisms. This is when the experiment starts to go off the rails. The hallucinations of Annie and Owen become intertwined, which isn’t supposed to happen. They experience two sequences together. In the first, Annie and Owen are reimagined as Bruce and Linda, a happily married Long Island couple. Annie convinces Bruce to track down a lemur that belonged to a dead patient of hers. In the second, Annie and Owen are estranged spouses and con artists trying to track down a missing chapter of “Don Quixote” during a 1940s seance.

maniac-hill-stone-copertinaThe final pill, C, stands for confrontation. A and B pills are about acknowledging trauma, but the C pill is about moving on. A lot happens during this pill, and it is shown over several episodes. When the simulation begins, Annie is a half-human, half-elf guiding the ailing elf Ellia towards healing waters. Owen is watching Annia and Ellia’s elven journeys on a TV show.

Owen is a gangster with braids being pressured by his father to be loyal to the family, even if it means committing crimes. Owen also connects with Olivia, played by Grace Van Patten, his high school crush in the real world. Years after running away from his family and marrying Olivia, Owen awakens to realize he’s living in a simulation and needs to track down Annie, intertwining their simulations again.

The C pill has tangible effects on Annie and Owen. Annie is able to talk to her sister and finally process her devastating loss. Owen is able to realize that his family is terrible, more or less, and it’s not worth lying on the witness stand for his brother in the real-world trial.

The series is a mix of retro science fiction and a dystopian future we might soon face. It was incredibly well written and filmed. Each episode, although having different plots, flowed perfectly together. I give “Maniac” a 10 out of 10.

Young artist takes different approach for newest album

During the past decade, self-made rapper Russ Vitale has made a successful name for himself.

Russ was born in New Jersey and currently resides in the northern suburbs of Atlanta. He is one of four siblings in a Sicilian-American family.

His music career began at a young age while working alongside a small group of friends. He and his friends formed a musical collective known as DIEMON: Do It Every Day Music Or Nothing.

To many, it may seem that he is an overnight success. But Russ wants the world to acknowledge that he built himself up during an extended period of time.Russ-1_1522114235958.jpg_10827037_ver1.0_1280_720

Russ created his first album in December of 2011 and would later release 10 more during the course of a decade. He then made his one and only SoundCloud account in October of 2014, which is what made him into the up-and-coming artist.

By producing a new song every week, Russ had amassed close to 5,000 followers on SoundCloud by August of 2015. The following year, he surpassed that with 200,000 loyal followers. In 2017, not only did Russ have 368,000 followers, but also a record deal with Columbia Records and co-signs from celebrities ranging from Kylie Jenner to Rick Rubin.

In 2016, Russ released his hit song “What They Want” which is what put him on the map and became his first Hot 100 Hit at No. 83.

In August of 2018, the rapper announced the title and release date for his new LP, “Zoo” which released Sept.7. That same month, he released “The Flute Song,” which got fans excited for the new music that was to come.

Russ does an excellent job of staying connected to his fans and producing music that they want to hear. By changing up his style, his fans get a deeper look into his personal life. To him, it’s not all about being famous and having an abundance of money.

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After listening to the new album completely, I noticed that throughout different songs, Russ raps heavily on the music industry and the threats he receives from his haters.

I feel that the lyrics on his newest album stand out because they are fueled less by his arrogant attitude from past albums and more by his anger toward the outpouring of hate he has received from other artists and their fans in the rap community.

Russ has received a lot of hatred through the years. However, throughout the album, he calls out rappers whose songs encourage drug abuse and their fans who have made a game out of harshly criticizing his music.

During the second song on his album, “Outlaw,” Russ raps about how he isn’t affected by how others label him as an artist. He still plans to make his own music, and he continues to believe in himself more than anyone ever did.

In “Zoo,” it’s clear to me that the negative feedback he had been receiving throughout his career is having a major affect on him. There is a large shift in his music from themes of love and about being famous to his deep personal struggles.

On one of the mid-album songs, “Parkstone Drive,” Russ raps about his struggling relationship with his father and how he is be unable to support his own family while Russ continues to be a growing success.

It’s impressive to see such a young artist produce self-made albums during such a long period of time. It’s something that makes Russ standout from many artists in the music industry.

Russ explained in an interview that there was never a time when he thought his music was not good enough. He shares that at the beginning of his career he learned to not let doubt get in the way of his confidence.

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Some would say that would make Russ an arrogant and cocky music artist. But maybe that’s what it takes to be successful in this line of work.

His music continues to stand out from other rappers. He became a success without the help of someone who had already made a name for themselves.

I think this album became a personal project for Russ and gave him a sense of relief once he opened up to the public. I have always enjoyed listening to his music because of the fact that he could fit in with other rappers by speaking about drugs or other bad influences, yet, he chooses to stay true to himself and connect with his fans on a deep, personal level.

I give “Zoo” a nine out of 10 for the deeper connection Russ creates with his fans and how well he carries his messages throughout the album.

‘Tomb Raider’ exceeds some expectations, falls short short in other areas

“Shadow of the Tomb Raider” is the final piece of a three-game story arc rebooting the “Tomb Raider” franchise.

“Shadow of the Tomb Raider” is sporting some fine graphics and unique gameplay customization features not seen every day. But the main content follows a boring, predictable pattern, where you are railroaded from one conflict to the next. While some mechanics hint at a more open world aspect, the reality is that the game feels very restricting, especially within the first hours.

This is my first “Tomb Raider” game. The trailers, graphics, and hype on Reddit made me fairly excited to play. Unfortunately, the game’s shortcomings have shaped my opinion pretty early in the game, and I’m not sure if I even want to finish the story.potential cutout

One of the most annoying issues with gameplay is the time it takes to open menus. It’s good to take quick glances at the map often. I might be being nit-picky, but I would prefer some emphasis on “quick” glances instead of waiting four seconds or more.

The graphics in this game are top tier. The graphic designers did not only focus on how voluptuous they could make Lara Croft using current generation graphics, but they also put a lot of time into the graphics of the world Ms. Croft explores.

“Tomb Raider” offers many places to explore, including three bustling city-hub areas, each with its own atmosphere. The detail put into each marketplace, road and alleyway, coupled with the way the non-player characters move and interact with Lara and each other, really make the places feel alive.

Combat is awkward in the way the AI moves and reacts. Enemies with melee-only kits run at you in straight lines, making it very easy to just run the other direction and line up a head shot. The ranged enemies make all sorts of erratic movements, while pushing you one person at a time. Shooting guns is not so bad. They handle fairly well, but the bow took some getting used to for a first-time player.

“Shadow of the Tomb Raider” does not focus on combat as much as it does on exploration. It is, by far, the best content the game has to offer. Combined with the amazing visuals and great level design, exploring almost any map feels rewarding, other than the plethora of collectibles scattered in every corner. The collectibles aren’t necessarily a bad thing, as the crafting system is simple and rewarding. I just thought it was a bit irritating to have five or more things to pick up every 10 meters or so.shadow-greatleap

When reading about “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” on Reddit, it’s clear that this franchise has a strong following. The game receives a 9/10 rating from IGN. The health of a game can be roughly estimated by how much Reddit traffic it gets, which is very little.  It’s not like IGN really plays the games they rate most of the time, but a 9/10 rating still raises my eyebrow.

Mixed reviews and high ratings aside, I still enjoyed “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” enough to keep playing it. All in all, the game, in a nutshell, is Run, Climb, puzzle, shoot, repeat. It is not one of those games for which I am in class thinking, “I can’t wait to go home and play “Tomb Raider.” But I’m still curious to see what other challenges the game still has to offer.

I give “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” a 7/10.

‘The Meg’ delivers new take on popular movie genere

A massive 75-foot shark approaches a heavily populated beach off the coast of Asia. The beast barrels past a yacht, with passengers watching helplessly as the megalodon wreaks havoc on the innocent beach-gowers.

“The Meg” is packed with thrilling and suspenseful scenes that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats throughout the entire movie.

the-meg-new-posterDirected by Jon Turteltaub, “The Meg” is a movie about a colossal prehistoric shark known as a Megalodon. The movie is set on a high-tech, deep sea research facility submerged on the edge of the Mariana trench. The facility was funded by Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), an eccentric billionaire.

The facility’s main purpose is to study and possibly find new depths in the ocean floor thought to be hidden under a layer of frozen gas.

The main character, Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), was a retired deep sea rescuer.  He is brought out of retirement when he was sought out and tasked with a mission to rescue the stranded team.

A team of researchers led by Jonas’ ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee) sets off in a deep sea submersible vehicle, reaching the hypothesized layer of gas. The team proceeds and breaks through the layer of gas separating the rest of the ocean from a secluded deep sea environment.

The team is suddenly attacked by a gargantuan creature that abuses and disables their submersible, leaving them stranded at the bottom of the ocean.     

Jonas is recruited by Dr. Minway Zhang (Winston Chao), who is the head scientist on the research facility, and Mac (Cliff Curtis) an old friend.

Jonas believes that a Megalodon is responsible for attacking and disabling the submersible, due to his previous encounter with the beast years before when it attacked a wrecked military submarine and forced him to leave two friends behind.the_meg

Jonas is brought to the research facility where he meets Suyin (BingBing Li), a shark expert who is running the research facility.

While Jonas is rescuing the crew, they are attacked by the Megalodon. Jonas nearly escapes with the crew, but not before releasing the Meg from the icy depths of the trench.

Generally, when people think of a movie with a giant shark, they think of one of the “Jaws” movies, a cliche and poorly developed movie with underdeveloped characters. When a character dies in a “Jaws” movie, it is not really a big deal.

In “The Meg,” the movie and the characters are well developed. The audience can easily connect with the characters. When one gets eaten by the Megaladon, it is sad and feels like a personal loss. When a character sacrifices himself to save the other divers stranded at the bottom of the ocean, it feels like a personal loss.

My favorite scene from the movie is when the team punctures the layer of frozen gas and first sees a completely different world at the bottom of the ocean, one that is untouched by man and has been completely cut off from the rest of the ocean for millions of years. The team drops lights revealing the beautiful landscape at the depths of the ocean.

I give “The Meg” an eight out of 10 for its amazing special effects and the well developed characters.

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ has cliché, repetitive storyline

The most popular movie right now might not be as good as people are saying.

“Crazy Rich Asians” is a romantic/screwball comedy. The movie, which features an all-Asian cast, is about Nick Young, played by Henry Golding, and Rachel Chu, played by Constance Wu, who are dating. Nick grew up in Singapore but moved to New York for a short while. That is where he met Rachel Chu, who grew up in New York and is an economics professor.

Nick’s best friend, Colin Khoo, who is played by Chris Pang, got engaged and is getting married, so he invites Nick to be his best man at his wedding, which is going to be the event of the century. Nick decides this would be the perfect time for Rachel to meet his tough-loving family, so he brings Rachel along with him. However, he fails to tell her anything about his family, leaving Rachel oblivious to what she has coming.

From the very beginning, Nick’s mother, played by actress Michelle Yeoh, does not approve of Rachel because she believes Rachel is not classified on the same society level as her family, the Youngs. In other words, Rachel is not good enough because she is not rich.

While Rachel is battling for the approval of Nick’s mother, she is able to meet up with an old college friend, Goh Peik Lin, played by Awkwafina, who moved back to Singapore after college. Goh Peik Lin helps Rachel build up confidence to keep trying to impress Nick’s mom.  Things end up taking a turn for the worse until the mother comes through.

I watched this movie two times. The first time I watched “Crazy Rich Asians,” I absolutely hated it. I was uncomfortable, stressed, and nervous throughout the movie. I felt like Nick’s mother was degrading me personally, and I had to keep reminding myself that she was not, that it was just a movie.

The mother in the story made me feel insecure about my own life choices, overall, I felt it was too negative. The only part I truly enjoyed was Goh Peik Lin, who was quirky, strange, loving, helpful, bubbly, and funny. She really helped to lift the movie, making it more enjoyable.asians3.0

However, I decided to give the movie a second chance, thinking I might not have liked the movie because I simply do not like stressful negativity. Giving it another go, the second time I watched the movie was a lot better. Knowing about all the negativity helped me to be able to see the comedy in it and laugh a little more.

Even though “Crazy Rich Asians” was better the second time, I felt the movie was dry and repetitive. The only action was the mother hating Rachel, Rachel running to her friend for comfort, and Rachel getting confident to go back to the family, only to run away again. Rachel’s friend was still the best part of the movie to me, seemingly being even more funny the second time around.

Overall, I would still recommend the movie to others, despite my feelings toward it, because most people do not have a problem with negative acting. It has luxurious scenes which everyone loves, and it portrays a royalty feeling.

This movie is based on the book, “Crazy Rich Asians,” written by Keven Kwan. The book is loosely based on the author’s childhood in Singapore. Kwan ended up writing two more books, continuing the story, called “China Rich Girlfriend” and “Rich People Problems.”

I give the movie three stars out of five, because I found the movie to be too negative. Everyone was trying to prove something to someone while at the same time everyone was trying to tear someone else down.