Tag: Entertainment

‘Twisted’ leaves audience surprised after series comes to abrupt end

by Desiree Lopez

A troubled high school student has just been released from juvenile detention after five years. He hopes to make amends with his childhood friends, but his past keeps haunting him.

“Twisted” is a teen drama, mystery, and thriller television series. It came out in 2013 on the television network, Freeform. The show follows teenager, Danny Desai, played by Avan Jogia. When he finally gets to come home, he soon realizes that things are not the way they used to be in his hometown of Green Grove, New York.

Danny was convicted of murdering his aunt by strangling her with a jump rope when he was 11 years old. His best friends were in the backyard when the crime occurred, so they saw the aftermath and were then scarred for life.

His two childhood best friends, Lacey and Jo, have since parted ways and are no longer friends. Jo Masterson, played by Maddie Hasson, is a social outcast who is still haunted by the past. Lacey Porter, played by Kylie Bunbury, has a high popularity status that she tries to contain.

Throughout the series, Danny tries to earn back the trust of Jo and Lacey. Jo easily forgives him, mostly because she is in love with him. She is also his only friend. Lacey and Danny eventually begin to talk to each other in private, but strong, romantic feelings between the two interrupt their friendship. Lacey hides the relationship so that the news won’t hurt her social status, and Danny does also because it is what Lacey wants.

Things were going well for Danny. He was fitting in and his two best friends were on speaking terms with him. But then Lacey’s best friend, Regina Crane, played by Karynn Moore, is found murdered in her own house after a house party she hosted. Danny instantly becomes the prime suspect.

Danny denies the accusation, but he is in possession of Regina’s necklace, which is the only thing missing from the crime scene. Later, a murder weapon is found with Danny’s fingerprints on it.Twisted_intertitle

After all the evidence comes to light, Jo and Lacey become skeptical of Danny and question whether he killed Regina.

During this time, Danny’s mother, Karen, played by Denise Richards, seems to be the only person who truly believes that her son did not commit the crime he is being accused of.

Karen used to be very involved in her community and was very social. But after her son was convicted, her status plummeted. She’s gotten to the point where she no longer cares what others think of her. She loves her son and will stand by his side, no matter what.

Danny’s father passed away six months before Danny was released. Danny praised his father and thought nothing less of him. But as the series continues, speculation that Danny’s father may be alive comes to light.

“Twisted” is full of dramatic twists and turns that the audience would have never expected. The changes from drama to romance to mystery keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. The show easily can captivate the viewer’s attention.

One thing I began to notice while watching the series is that Jo seems to become more of the main character than Danny. She has more roles and lines, and the plot somehow begins to revolve around her. It eventually takes the spotlight away from Danny, which makes one question whether the show is about a boy who murdered his aunt or about a girl who is in love with a murderer.

Another thing that disappoints me is that the show only has one season. The show was canceled after ratings crumbled. It went from having more than 1.5 million viewers when it first started to less than 800,000 viewers by the season’s finale.

The fact that the series ended with a huge cliffhanger devastated me and left me with so many unanswered questions. I guess you can say that the rest is up to my imagination.

For these reasons, I give “Twisted” a 7 out of 10.

‘Mixed-ish’ shows challenges of growing up in biracial family

by Victoria De Souza

The life of bi-racial a girl in the 1980s takes place in the television world in “Mixed-ish,” with the conflicts that her family went through in new life journey.

“Mixed-ish” is a prequel spin-off from the two series “Black-ish” and “Grown-ish.” The “ish” world of Kenya Barris is introduced through the childhood story of Rainbow Johnson, or “Bow”, played by Arica Himmel.

Created by Barris, Peter Saji and Tracee Ellis Ross, the story presents a closed look at how Bow’s life as a child with a Black mother and a white father in a society where interracial marriages were not very common.

The story is narrated by Ross, who plays the grown-up version of Bow in “Black-ish” when she is a doctor who is married with five kids. Bow tells her story to her kids, So that they know how challenging it was being biracial in the 1980s.

In 1985, when Bow was 12 years old, her life was turned upside down. She was happily living in a perfect world in a hippie commune where there was no racial differences and every one prays, eats and sleeps together. To her, this life was perfect. But to the government, it was a radicalized cult that violated more than 47 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (ATF) regulations.poster

After Bow’s parents, Alicia, played by Tika Sumpter, and Paul Johnson, played by Mark Paul Gosselaar, moved to a suburban area to be able to provide a safer and better life for their family, Bow finds herself trying to find her identity.

Being a child of mixed race leads to Bow and her siblings, Santa Monica, played by Mykal-Michelle Harris, and Johan, played by Ethan William Childress, trying to find where they belong.

To Bow’s brother, Johan, the transition to the “real word” is one big adventure in discovering everything around him, from learning how to use a toilet to playing with the ice machines.

On the first day of school, the children find themselves in a situation about not fitting in with any group, since they are half Black and half white. In 1985, these two groups had a very determined separation. The journey to adapt to this new life begins for all three kids, but it is challenging for Bow to choose what side she is part of.

Living in the city, the family has more contact with Grandpa Harrison, played by Gary Colle, and Aunt Denise, played by Christina Anthony, who help the family to feel more included.

“Mixed-ish” brings a point of view not really explored much in “Black-ish,” when Bow is always mentioned to be the hippie and not considered to be fully Black. Also, it adds an extra cultural view into what it was like growing up in a mixed racial family in the 1980s, which was not considered normal.

The series has a lot of potential to grow to become as big as “Grown-ish,” since the mixed race family and children are vast parts of our society. With the changes of time, the multiracial marriages and a different perspective on the stereotypes of a traditional family, where the mother stays home and the husband is the provider, became more accepted.

Episodes are released weekly on the ABC Network and Hulu, offering a little bit more insight into Bow’s childhood.

I give “Mixed-ish” 7.5 out of 10.

Shorts, feature films screened at Flatland Film Festival

by Autumn Bippert

Lights, Camera, Action.

The 16th annual Flatland Film Festival, which took place on Sept. 19 through Sept. 21 at the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts in Lubbock, aims to create an appreciation for film and video, while also supporting artists creating these films.

Jonathan Seaborn, a South Plains College graduate, served as chair of the festival.

“It means a lot to the community,” Seaborn said. “Our sponsors that make this possible are LHUCA, Texas Film Commission, Texas Tech Public Media, Texas Tech Department of Journalism & Creative Media Industries, Thomas Jay Harris Institute for Hispanic & International Communication, Noah David Wakefield Studio, Texas Commission on the Arts, Pioneer Pocket Hotel, Premiere Cinemas, City of Lubbock, Civic Lubbock Inc. Griffin Wink, Advertising, Two Docs Brewing Co., Tech Star Graphics Inc., McDougal Realtors, and Walk On’s Bistreaux & Bar.”

Seaborn also explained that David Wakefield made the awards for Judge’s choice and Audience choice.0Q6A7370

“They are more than we could have asked for,” Seaborn said. “He did an amazing job and are very appreciative of him.”

Day 1 of the festival included a red carpet and filmmaker meet-and-greet in the LHUCA Firehouse Theatre. Following was the screening of the first feature film and a Q&A, in the Firehouse Theatre, “Building the American Dream,” written and directed by Chelsea Hernandez.

Hernandez said that the film took five years to complete. “Building the American Dream” is her first full-length feature film.

“Building the American Dream” tells the story of several immigrant workers in the Texas construction industry who face hardship and are taking action to change the political system in order to protect workers.

“The idea for the film came in 2010,” Hernandez explained. “I grew up in Austin and was going to school at the University of Texas, and on campus, there was a student luxury condominium being constructed and three workers had fallen to their deaths when the scaffolding they were working on collapsed. That was when I recognized that the people who were building the new buildings that were changing the Austin skyline were experiencing exploitations within the construction industry.”0Q6A7421

Day 2’s events began at 6 p.m. at Premiere Cinemas with the first block of short films for the short film competition. The films competed for the Judge’s choice and the Audience’s choice awards. Block one included “Nightshift Screensavers,” “Texas Snow,” “The Beach,” “Hearing the Homeless,” “Abscessed,” “Horrorscope,” “Overnight,” “Revival,” “Made in Heaven,” “As Through Fire,” “Tightly Wound,” “Chicle (Gum),” and “Xctry.”

Following the short films was a screening of the feature film, “Extra Ordinary,” directed by Enda Loughman and Mike Ahern. “Extra Ordinary” is about a woman who has supernatural abilities and must save a possessed girl. A driving instructor, Rose, has a love-hate relationship with her abilities. But she decides to help Martin and his daughter Sarah. The movie was originally released in Ireland, where it was made, and is planned for release in the United States theaters on Sept. 27.

The evening of Day 2 ended with a special screening of the film, “Make Out Party,” and a Q&A with director and writer, Emily Esperanza. “Make Out Party” is a no-budget, high-style comedy that follows three vibrant characters through a day of misadventure as they set out to attend hostess Mary Woah’s Make Out Party.

“I wanted this film to give you an eye cavity,” Esperanza explained about her film. “I wanted it to be so sticky and sweet. I wanted you to feel like you need to brush your eyes afterward.”

Esperanza also explained during the Q&A that she only uses technology for her films that are mid-90’s or older. She also discussed her film inspiration, timeline of the film and how she hopes to one day teach a class on how to make DIY gorilla films.

The final day of the festival began at 11 a.m. at LHUCA with a screening of the feature film, “Jaddoland,” directed by Nadia Shihab, in the Firehouse Theatre. “Jaddoland” explores the meaning of identity and home across three generations of the director’s Iraqi family in Texas. After the screening, there was a Q&A with Shihab.0Q6A7368

The third day continued at 4 p.m., with block two of the short films, including, “Studio,” “Dreams and Visions from the Llano Estacado: Salt/Permeable Earth,” “Rosalind,” “Creeping Autumn,” “Dance With Me, Mija,” “Potential,” “No. 19,” “Origin,” “Now You See Me,” “Chrome Girls,” “Tonight,” and “Panic Attack!” shown in the Firehouse Theatre.

Seaborn served as moderator for a Q&A for the short film makers after the second block. The short film makers answered questions about their film inspiration, casting process, their criticism on their final products, and future plans.

Following block two was a panel discussion on Women in Filmmaking, which was moderated by Casey Ellingson. Panelists included Angela Patters, who was the co-editor of “Seadrift,” Emily Esperanza, Shelby Knox, who starred in “The Education of Shelby Knox,” Nadia Shihab, and Lisa Barrera, writer and director of  “Chicle (gum).”

Some of the topics that the panel discussed was how they got into their filmmaking career, the difference between being in front of the camera and behind the camera, intended audiences and when beginning a new project begins and ends.

They also gave advice for other women wanting to get into filmmaking.

“To up-and-coming documentary filmmakers, tell the story that is most authentic to you, not the one that you think is going to be the most sensational or the next social justice subject,” said Knox, who attended Lubbock High School. “Stories are what connects us as humans. And if you don’t have sort of a personal stake in the story that you’re telling, it’s going to come off as inauthentic. No matter who you are, where you live, what your identities and identifications are, there is a story that is authentic and is it important to you. Why not tell it? All the people in the world who are saying, ‘Well, why would you be the one to tell it?’ It’s probably oppressors telling you not to. So why not? You be the one to tell that story.”

The final feature film, “Seadrift,” is a documentary about the fatal shooting of a white crabber in 1979 in a Texas fishing village that ignites a maelstrom of hostilities against Vietnamese refugee communities along the Gulf Coast.

The three-day event wrapped up with a closing reception and awards party in the LHUCA Plaza.

The winner of the Judges’s Choice Award for the short film competition was “Tightly Wound,” which is an animated short about a woman recounting her experience living with chronic pelvic pain and how health professionals have failed her, men have rejected her, and shame, anger, and hatred have plagued her body.

There were two winners for the Audience Choice Award,  “Made in Heaven” and “Dance With Me, Mija.”

‘IT: Chapter Two’ highlights aspects of community, friendship in horror film

by Kendall Rainer

With the looming threat of “IT,” the “Losers Squad” must re-assemble to take down the monstrous clown once and for all.

“IT: Chapter Two,” directed by Andy Mushietti, is a sequel to “IT,” the cinematic iteration of the Stephen King novel.

“IT: Chapter Two” follows heroes Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy), Richie Tozier (Bill Hader), Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain), Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone), and Stanley Uris (Andy Bean), who make up the “Losers Squad.”MV5BYTJlNjlkZTktNjEwOS00NzI5LTlkNDAtZmEwZDFmYmM2MjU2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg2NjQwMDQ@._V1_

The second film picks up 27 years after where the first ended. In “IT,” the group defeated the killer clown, Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), a demonic entity that has taken the shape of a clown, in an intense battle in “IT’s” storm drain hideaway under the city of Derry, Maine. Or so it seemed that they had defeated him.

The town is hit again 27 years later by the clown’s torment, as mysterious disappearances, murders, and dismemberments wreak havoc on the town of Derry. Mike Hanlon is the only member of the “Losers Squad” who stayed in the small town after the first encounter with the entity. For 27 years, Mike has stayed in waiting for the beast’s return, and that day has finally arrived.

Mike begins the task of reuniting the losers, which proves to be more difficult than it seems. The remaining members have little to no recollection of the events that occurred 27 years prior. The one thing that they all definitively remember is the blood oath that they made to return if the beast ever made an appearance again, and to kill it once and for all.

The heroes reunite in their hometown of Derry with one exception, Stanley has not returned.

Once the Losers are back in Derry, their memories of the events begin to return. Fear, anxiety, and anger all come flooding back to their minds. Mike urges them to join him in defeating the monster once and for all, like they promised they would 27 years ago.try this one 2

Mike takes the group to the forest, to their old hide-away Ben made for them all those years ago. He tells them that in order to defeat Pennywise, they would all have to collect “artifacts” from the one time the group wasn’t together in their first showdown with the clown.

Mike tells them that he learned of a ritual from the Shokopiwah people, the people who first encountered the being millions of years ago, which would lock Pennywise away forever.

Each member of the group re-lives an encounter with the beast that they experienced on their own and retrieved an item from that “revisitation.”It-Chapter-Two-Review

After Bill’s encounter, he runs into a boy who lived in his old house and reminded him of his younger brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) who was killed by the clown in the first movie.

After reuniting with the group at the Inn where they were staying, Bill realizes that Pennywise was going to go after the boy. In a clown-themed house of horrors, Pennywise consumes the boy in front of Bill, which was the last straw for him. He knew there was only one thing left to do.

The band of losers charged the beasts’ hideaway and charged deeper into its depths, farther than they had ever traveled, to the “crash site,” where the entity had first made contact with the Shokopiwah tribe.

Mike leads the group in a ritual, which proved to be doomed from the start. The ensuing battle against the giant demonic entity proves to be too much for the team, and heavy losses ensue.

With what remains of the group, they discover that in order to defeat the beast, they have to make it small. They begin belittling the clown, which shrinks its size, eventually making the entity so small it is all but a husk.

The heroes prove to be victorious and finally defeat the being once and for all.

“IT: Chapter Two” proves to be everything I expected it to be. It was a visually stunning, scary, gut-wrenching, adrenaline-pumping horror film.itchaptertwo_slide-d30ab3ec3159129bac2953ee59c5538bcb3f0d6a-s1600-c85

However, the story is more than just pure terror. There is a deeper meaning to the film than just a scary clown.

It highlights aspects of self endearment and persistence. It proves that no obstacle, whether it seems larger than life or not, is insurmountable.

The film provides the jumpy, horrifying action that was evident in the first film. It is what is expected of a horror film. However, it is intertwined with a deeper meaning and a story that is, at times, loving and empathetic to a feeling of friendship and community that we all strive to have. For this reason, I give “IT: Chapter Two,” a 10 out of 10.

Romance novel highlights separation of lovers, distrust

by Abi Hernandez

As Madeline picks her bathing suit on this forbidden trip, Olly gazes at her beauty and stares in awe. They walk on the beach and jump into the water as Madeline has her first beach experience.

“Everything Everything” by Nicola Yoon takes readers on a romantic and twisting journey. Madeline Whittier was diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID). The 18-year-old has a nonexistent immune system, so her mother seals her off inside their house. The only other person who has contact with her is her nurse, Carla.

Every day, she lives the same life on repeat with the same routines over and over again. She wears the same white t-shirts and the same color of clothes. Madeline has lived indoors her entire life, passing time by reading books and doing her school work. All this changes once a teenage boy and his family move in next door.

Oliver, also known as Olly, tries many times to get Madeline’s attention and become friends with her. Eventually, they exchange emails and begin communicating via email. As they communicate more, they arrange little face-to-face meetings with the help of Carla, with the condition of no touching. But eventually, the two teens end up kissing each other and falling deeply in love.everything3

One day, Olly’s dad is abusing him and they start fighting in the front yard. Madeline hears this and leaves the safety of the house without a second thought, going out to protect him. Then her extremely overprotective mother finds out about the two teens and their face-to-face meetings and fires Carla after finding out that she allowed it. She then forbids Madeline from emailing or talking to Olly in any kind of way.

Madeline decides to leave with Olly so she can finally live and be with him, even if that means risking her life. They go to Hawaii, where they jump off a cliff, snorkel, and eat Hawaiian food on the first day. Soon after, they prove their love to each other verbally and physically. The second day, Madeline wakes up with a bad fever and her heart stops. She is rushed to a hospital in Hawaii, where she is revived.

A few months pass and Madeline tries to tell herself just to go back to reality in seclusion. Then she gets an email from the doctor in Hawaii who treated her. He explains to Madeline that she does not suffer from SCIDs. Madeline then goes and sees a local SCIDs specialist, who confirms the suspicions.

Madeline then confronts her mother. Her mother explains how she invented her diseases to protect her, and because she doesn’t want to lose Madeline like she lost Madeline’s brother and father in a car wreck. Since Madeline was sick as an infant, she used that to keep her in a sterile environment to “protect her.”

Madeline is frustrated that her mother has basically stolen her life from her, even though she said she was doing it in the best interest of Madeline. She then flies to New York, where Olly and his family went to escape his abusive father. She meets him in an old book store to fix things. She leaves a copy of the book, “The Prince,” and Olly sees it, recognizes it and smiles.

This book ends beautifully and peacefully with the two reuniting. I would definitely recommend that anyone read this heartwarming book. This book received a lot of backlash from parents concerned about their kids reading it because of the little sex scene between Madeline and Olly in Hawaii. I would recommend that 15 and older is an appropriate age range to read this book.

For a love story, I would give “ Everything Everything” a 10 out of 10.

‘Jane the Virgin’ captivates viewers with final season

by Desiree Lopez

An aspiring writer is faced with an unfortunate predicament. But as time goes on, her world changes for the better.

“Jane the Virgin” follows the exciting saga of Jane Gloriana Villanueva, a young woman in her 20s, raised by her mother and grandmother, who was accidentally inseminated by a heartbroken and distracted gynecologist.

This show has so many twists and turns, from kidnappings to murders to maimings, the threat of deportation and so many crushing breakups that I almost wept to death. But thankfully, everything ended just as I had hoped, with even more excitement and tears than I had anticipated.

“Jane” first aired in 2014 on the television network, The CW. The actress who plays Jane, Gina Rodriguez, is the reason why this show comes together so perfectly. She played Jane with absolute originality. The show also takes into consideration every side character, background design, and literally every detail from costumes to one-liners. This made the show so meaningful and well thought out. It proves that there was so much work put into this show to make it just right.list_page_p10781393_b_v9_af

The American telenovela takes place in present day Miami, Florida. Jane is 23 years old and enjoying her life as she studies to become a teacher. She is engaged to a handsome detective.

After a routine visit to a clinic, Jane is told that her gynecologist accidentally inseminated her. The news becomes more intense when she finds out that the unintentional sperm donor is her boss. Once the news comes out, Jane’s life begins to fill with many complications.

The show’s director, Jennie Snyder Urman, played around with different kinds of format, tone, and form. It utilized different styles that worked together perfectly to create such interesting content. Because of its dramatic style, the show was a true telenovela. Even the characters – Jane, Xo, and Alba –  loved to watch telenovelas, and they even implemented them into their lives on the show.

Jane is all about family, love, and romance. The whole concept of the show is how the ways of childhood affect the ways of adulthood. It is also about how many people create patterns in their day to day lives, but they’re not always healthy ones. There are many lessons learned by the characters, and even the audience, because of this series.

I cannot think of any other show that I love so much. It’s so sustaining and comforting, as well as dramatic, that it’s easy for it to capture the audience’s attention and keep it for the entire 45 minutes of each episode. There are other series to watch to get this kind of hype and content, but “Jane” is the show that gives the audience what they want… eventually. It is the show where family is a priority, love is in every corner, and romance is essential.merlin_158606955_d147d142-ef3e-4580-8700-03968bef3727-articleLarge

The series finale was, as most people would say, “straight out of a telenovela.” I was so worried that somebody would die, or that Michael would die again, or that Rafael’s discovery of his biological parents would ruin something or everything. I wasn’t expecting to be so unscathed by this finale, but I was. That is how every telenovela should end, and I enjoyed it wholeheartedly.

I definitely will miss Jane’s strong will, Rogelio’s tenderness, and Rafael’s sense of hope. I will miss Alba’s advice, Xo’s adaptability, and Petra’s loyalty. I will really miss how much the show’s director loves television.

I will forever treasure “Jane.” Maybe the reason “Jane” is so easy for me to love is because it’s the rare kind of show that made me feel like it actually loved me back.

‘This is Where it Ends’ tells story of mass shooting from four perspectives

by Autumn Bippert

Many see the effects of mass shootings. But only those who live through them know what it is like to experience the horror that has occurred in front of them.

“This is Where it Ends,” written by Markeke Nijkamp, tells the story of a school shooting from four different points of view of those who experienced the atrocity. This emotional story is told by characters Claire, Toḿas, Autumn and Sylv during  the course of 54 minutes.0Q6A7421

The book was #1 on the New York Times bestsellers list, on the National Indie bestsellers list, and several other acclaimed listings.

The book begins with the normal everyday mornings of  students in the small town of  Opportunity, Alabama, the setting for the story. The principal of Opportunity High School calls a beginning-of-term assembly, which gathers the entire school into the auditorium.

“10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity High School finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve. 10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class. 10:03 a.m. The auditorium doors won’t open. 10:05 a.m. Someone starts shooting.”

A gunman, outcast Tyler Browne, uses the occasion to lock the auditorium doors from the outside, using the room as a personal “shooting range” to settle his scores with his classmates.

Autumn, Tyler’s younger sister, wants to leave Opportunity, Alabama, and follow in her mother’s footsteps of dancing around the world. She also wants to be far away from her abusive father. She wants her girlfriend Sylvia, or Sylv, to come with her, but she’s torn between her dreams of the future with Autumn and the need to stay behind and care for her sick mother.

Tomás, Sylv’s twin brother, is the school prankster, which is why he isn’t in the auditorium for the assembly. He is sneaking around the school instead. 

Claire, Tyler’s ex-girlfriend, has a last-minute track practice in the morning. She and her teammates are running outside in the cold January air when the first shots are fired. Claire and Tomás decide to help their trapped friends and family, even if it puts their own lives in danger.

The author uses the four characters to tell the emotions from different perspectives – the family of the shooter, those who used to be close to them, someone from the other side desperate for their loved ones to be safe, and a first-hand witness. There are many secondary characters involved as well, which gives a truer feeling to the story. There are many students at a high school and many people who are affected by mass shootings. Telling the story as only happening to one person wouldn’t be an accurate account.

“This is Where it Ends” is an emotional narrative that pulls the reader into the pages. This story is more than fiction. It is reality, a reality that many have been affected by.

This book draws attention to a major problem in our society that seems to be continually overlooked. With so many mass shootings, it has become the norm to see a story on the news and then forget about it the next day. This book put people in the shoes of students who experience this every month and tells the untold effects of school violence. Hopefully it will help increase awareness, helping prevent more mass shootings at schools.

This is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. It is sad and terrifying, yet somehow inspirational and relatable. “This is Where it Ends” is more than action and horror.

I truly could not put down this book until I was done reading it. I give “This is Where it Ends” a 10 out of 10.

Disney Studios ruining good franchises with greed

By Kendall Rainer

Disney Studios holds the largest film franchise on the planet and is still growing, with new stakes in entertainment companies arising every year.  

The familiar family-friendly company has made its mark with some of the most profitable movies that have hit the silver screen. However, they are steadily ruining some fan-favorite film series. 

Disney purchased Lucas Films in 2012, which subsequently gave them the rights to the “Star Wars” franchise. Shortly after the purchase, Disney Studios began production of the first installment of a sequel trilogy set to take place after “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.” Star-wars-9-plot-reveals-guerilla-war-1013044

In December 2015, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was released. The film grossed more than $245 million on opening weekend. That figure makes it sound like it was a big hit. However, the film was lackluster in both story and the overall action that fans have come to expect from a “Star Wars” film. Although the visual effects were quite stunning and done well, there was still something missing that didn’t quite make it feel like a “Star Wars” film.

Disney continued to produce “Star Wars” Universe films such as “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” in December 2016, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” in December 2017, and “Solo: A Star Wars Story” in May 2018. All of these movies hit it big on opening weekend but seemed to be missing a lot of the traditional “Star Wars” feel that came with the original six movies.  

Since Disney has taken over the “Star Wars” film franchise, the films have suffered. If George Lucas had not sold his company, “Star Wars” films would be significantly better. The fan base of the films would be growing continuously instead of shrinking as it has been since the release of the first “Star Wars” film Disney produced. 

Lucas Films isn’t the only film franchise Disney has ties with. Disney purchased Marvel Entertainment in 2009 and has helped Marvel produce the most successful film series to hit the big screen, grossing more than $18 billion worldwide. 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has 28 films in the series. Some of the highest-grossing films from the series include: “Guardians of the Galaxy” (July 2014), “Doctor Strange” (October 2016), “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2” (April 2017), “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (April 2017), “Thor: Ragnarok” (October 2017), “Black Panther” (February 2018), “Avengers: Infinity War” (April 2018), “Ant-Man and the Wasp” (July 2018), “Captain Marvel” (March 2019), “Avengers: Endgame” (April 2019), and “Spider-Man: Far from Home” (July 2019). cover

However, Disney did not ruin any of these films. They were actually a huge success. The film that began to round out phase three of the MCU, “Avengers: Endgame,” was one of the most highly anticipated films of the year and grossed $1.2 billion worldwide on opening weekend, breaking the record for highest-grossing opening weekend film. 

The following film, “Spiderman: Far From Home,” completed phase three and was a pivotal part of the MCU linking the past 10 years of films with what comes next in the MCU, phase four. 

However, Disney’s destruction of the MCU came after “Spiderman: Far From Home.” Everyone’s favorite “Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman” will no longer be a part of the Marvel Universe, as Disney burned their bridges, at least for now, with Sony Pictures, which owns the rights to the Spiderman films.

The reason for the two cutting ties is the fact that Sony did not agree with Disney’s proposition to increase the financing of the Spiderman films, with Disney receiving 50 percent of the profit from the films. Sony was also disappointed in Disney’s proposal to scale down Marvel President Kevin Feige’s involvement in the films. 

Feige has produced all of the films within the MCU and acted as an executive producer in the Spiderman films within phase three.  

The split, for which Disney was largely to blame, has ruined the future of the MCU, as Spiderman plays a crucial role in phase four and is a favorite character in the Marvel films.

Phase four will still continue to be produced and will garner some amazing movies and television shows. However, Marvel will have a hard time trying to write out Spiderman from the plans. Subsequently, some films may suffer. 

Unleash shinobi warrior justice in ‘Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice”

A bloodied shinobi warrior is struck down, stabbed to death by a group of Ashina clan soldiers.

As the shinobi lays dead in the street, the Ashina turn their backs from the bloody mess. The shinobi rises to his feet, ready to finish his fight by executing the Ashina warriors.

“Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” is FromSoftware’s new action-adventure game. It features historical parallels with a re-invented 16th-century, Sengoku-period Japan.

Sekiro_04The game’s high-skill ceiling is synonymous with FromSoftware’s other games, such as “Bloodborne” and the “Dark Souls” series, that has triggered countless controversial online discussions about difficulty in video games. Some people claim that game difficulty is an “accessibility” issue.

“Sekiro” had more than 108,000 concurrent players on the “Steam” gaming platform on release day, making it the most popular game launched between January and March 2019. Within 10 days of its release, more than 2 million copies of the game were sold Sekiro-Shadows-Die-Twice (1)world-wide.

“Sekiro” is the first game I’ve played by “FromSoftware.” The “try and try again” idea has never appealed to me until now. The difficulty of “Sekiro” is refreshing. I enjoy a challenge, and it has been a while since I have experienced one. Most games that are being released lately are impossible to lose at. “Sekiro” may not feature a “Game Over” screen, but some might say certain areas of the game are exceedingly difficult, making some players feel stuck.

The mechanics are fluid. The game emphasizes sword play that shadows every game before it that has attempted this. While playing as Wolf, a young prince’s shinobi bodyguard and the main protagonist in the story, the player is given options for how to encounter and execute every fight. Players have options to stealth, distract, flee, or fight, or even combine these tactics to make challenging encounters conquerable.

To avoid spoilers, I will not explain much of the plot. Every event for as far as I’ve gotten in the game (near the end of Ashina Castle) seems to be very significant. The basis of the story seems to revolve around the kidnapping of the young prince who Wolf is taskedDmusKlqUYAAgwoZ.0 with protecting. There are secrets about Wolf’s heritage that get uncovered later, such as why he is able to resurrect after death, and the effects that his resurrections have on his body and on others around him.

I have loved every hour I’ve spent in “Sekiro” so far. The frustrations and challenges that the game presents are not staggering enough to dissuade me from moving forward. I admit that I am tempted to look up guides every once in a while. But the temptation is often curbed when I actually find the answer to something significant on my own.

“Sekiro” is an absolute pleasure of a video game. Every respectable gamer should include “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” on their bucket list of games to beat. I give “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” a nine out of 10.

‘La Llorona’ modern retelling of Latin folklore

A cursed family is face to face with an evil entity. A widowed mother will do anything to protect her children from this force and remove the woman from her house.

She will be faced with many obstacles as she tries to overcome this paranormal situation.

MV5BMTkxODk1MTM3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDUxNzg0NzM@._V1_“La Llorona,” Curse of the Weeping Woman, recently was released to theatres as the latest addition to the conjuring series.

This twisted spin on an old-fashioned ghost story is made Hollywood-style.

This movie brings to life the curse of the weeping woman, an ancient Mexican ghost story.

There are many versions of “La Llorona,” but the key parts of the story are how a beautiful woman who is heartbroken by her husband after he leaves her with two children goes into a jealousy rage, wanting to take something away from the man who left her.

In her range of anger and jealousy, she drowns her two children in the nearby river. After her children are dead and her anger rage is over, she then realizes the damage she has done and is consumed with guilt. She becomes known as the weeping woman who eventually dies in the same waters as her children.

Her tortured soul wanders the rivers and different bodies of water, crying for her children and taking any children that come in her path or hear her cry.

This story has been passed down to many families and is a well-known story around the river cities of south Texas. Its purpose is to keep young children away from the river, and to make children obey their parents, or “La Llorana” is waiting around for you and will drown you.

In this movie, Linda Cardellini plays working widowed mother Anna Garcia, who has two children. She is a social worker and has been struggling with the death of her the-curse-of-la-lloronahusband as she is trying to do the best she can for her family.

The curse is introduced in the film with flashbacks about the old ghost story of the deadly weeping woman who wears a white dress. Anna is working on a case where she becomes introduced to the words she doesn’t understand but will soon become her reality.

While Anna was working on a case with a mother who has been in hiding with her children, she yells, “it’s La llorona” at Anna. At the time, she doesn’t understand what this means. But she will find out once her children become the new target of this evil spirit who drowns children. Anna will be face to face with “La llorona.”

Searching for help to get rid of this curse, she turns to Raymond Cruz, who plays a curandero, Spanish for a healer, who heals in traditional native ways, like a shaman. His decision to help this family will help Anna’s family fight against the aggressive evil woman who wants the two young children.

I actually enjoyed this movie. I’ve heard many different versions of this ghost story, and being able to see it in theaters was pretty cool. I liked the story line.  It was interesting how the old Mexican ghost story became a Hollywood movie.

I liked how this scary movie attempted to tie in Mexican traditions with the curandero. That was a nice touch. I enjoyed the jump scares and even screamed once or twice. I rate this film a 9 out of 10.

‘Unplanned’ tackles ethical issues with true story

by DEBRA MONTANDON

One of the youngest directors of Planned Parenthood, Abby Johnson was a part of more than 22,000 abortions, and she counseled women on their choices.

Abby’s deep conviction for a woman’s choice led her to speak out for Planned Parenthood. She also fought for legislation for something she deeply cared about. Then one day she saw something that made her change her mind.

“My story isn’t an easy one to hear,” Johnson said at the beginning of the movie, “Unplanned.” I think I probably ought to warn you of that up front.”

It was released April 4 and sold out more than the Marvel movie.

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This is a true story done in the form of a documentary showing how Abby used to be a director for Planned Parenthood for many years. This movie is not an easy one to watch. It does makes you look at views on abortion and rethink the whole thing.

This story starts out with Abby at college at Texas A&M University. She was from a little town, but that did not stop her from being a “small-town super achiever,” as Abby calls herself.

When she started college, she soon became the “party girl.” When she found herself pregnant and tells her boyfriend, he is quick to suggest that she abort it.

Abby does not want her parents to find out that she had sex and got pregnant. She quickly gets a new credit card and was able to pay the $500 for the abortion. She also decides to marry Mark.

When Mark cheats on her, Abby gets a divorce. While the divorce is going on, Abby finds out she is pregnant once again. But this time she gets the RU-486, the “morning after” pill.

When Abby is at a job fair during her junior year at college, she meets a woman who is with Planned Parenthood.

Scn-146-13-resized“It’s hard to believe that there are still people who want to tell us what we can and can’t do with our body,” Abby says in the movie.

This led the woman to ask Abby if she would like to help out by volunteering at the clinic.

“I left the campus that day as a proud champion of women in crisis,” says Abby.

Little did she know where this volunteering would lead her. At one point, Abby says, “Never trust a choice you make you don’t want your Mom to find out about.”

She was offered the directorship of Planned Parenthood, and she accepted it. Her family is not happy with her job choice, nor is her second husband, Doug.

But Abby is convicted that she is helping women who are in a crisis pregnancy. That is, until she is asked to help with an abortion. She had worked almost eight years without ever helping with one before. What she saw on the ultrasound changed her heart.

In the beginning of the movie, there is a scene with Abby, involving a question she is asked a lot. Were you really that “gullible, foolish and naïve” in reference to Planned Parenthood’s view on abortion? Her reply is a simple, “Yes.” She believed that the tiny fetus is just a blob that doesn’t feel anything.

Abby’s parents and husband are members of the Coalition for Life. They pray that Abby will change her mind. They talked to her about It, but they never push in a bad way. Patience and kindness are felt as Abby changes her mind.

“Planned Parenthood’s own statistics show that if someone’s praying out there, it (the abortion appointment no-show rate) can go as high as 75 percent,” Abby says.

As much as I would like to tell you more about the film, I hope that you will see it for yourself. I rate it a 10 out of 10.

John 5 and the Creatures electrify Lubbock with ‘Invasion’ tour

Smoke pours from a fog machine, obscuring almost the entire stage. An ambient tune is playing, and the audience falls silent.

A strange swamp-like creature appears and prances around the stage for a few seconds, causing the crowd to scream at the first sight of John 5 and the Creatures. A few seconds later, John 5 appears on the stage in full makeup, lights in his mouth, and of course, his guitar in hand.

John 5 is the guitarist for Rob Zombie and has played for other legends in the music industry such as Marilyn Manson and David Lee Roth. Since 2004, John 5 has recorded eight solo albums, which he seems to trickle out song by song via YouTube or live shows.

He is currently on his “Invasion” tour, which included a stop at Jake’s Backroom in Lubbock on March 1.

The show was opened by “Jared James Nichols” and “Dead Girls Academy” who put on a good, but cramped performance for a fan base that did not have the same appreciation for them that they had for John 5. The stage was very small for the opening bands, which forced them to tone down any stage presence that they might have wanted.

After intermission, the crowd refilled their drinks and waited impatiently for the guitar god to reveal himself and bestow upon them his generous gift of instrumental guitar. Meanwhile, the stagehands set up Halloween yard ornaments around the stage.

  John 5 and the Creatures bring energy to the stage that I have not seen before. Some people might think an instrumental guitar concert might be a bit dull. But John 5 had the entire venue erupting, jumping, screaming, and begging for more. He lets his guitar do the talking and singing for him.

Only a few sentences were spoken in between songs, a few of note were, “I love Lubbock” and “Who says metal-heads can’t enjoy country?”

  John 5 and the Creatures’ setlist was mostly composed of songs off of their album “Season of the Witch” and a few recently-released songs from his “Invasion” album, including “ZOINKS!” and “Here’s to the Crazy Ones.” Every song was beautifully executed. Watching John 5 display his creativity and technical skills with machine-like precision was

One of the best parts of the concert was that, even for instrumental guitar, all of his songs stand out to be genuinely unique. I was able to recognize and name every song from the very beginning.

John 5 had an arsenal of different stringed instruments that he quickly rotated throughout the show, including a banjo, a few different guitars, and a smaller lute-looking thing that I could not quite identify. The effects of rotating his instrumentation made the show dynamic and exciting.

It was a pleasure watching John 5 and the Creatures perform, especially after getting to know him a bit more during a telephone interview just a few weeks before the show. John 5 has nothing short of fantastic guitar skills, and I cannot wait to see what he does next.

Former SPC professor achieves bluegrass dreams

by DEBRA MONTANDON

Alan Munde was a traveling musician and 40 years old. He traveled a lot, but he had a wife and daughter and was ready to settle down a little.

He was in a group called “Country Gazette” and had performed at South Plains College a couple of times. In 1986, he got the opportunity teach and settle down in Levelland.

“I sure do miss it.” Munde said of the Creative Arts Department at SPC. “Buildings used to be just opened for the day. But here, people didn’t want to go home, so the building was open all night. It is a good place here, for sure.”

Munde performed with the Pickin on the Plains band, Steve Williams, Ed Marsh and Flatlands Bluegrass on March 1 in the Tom T Hall Recording and Production Study in the Commercial Music Building in Levelland.

Munde was a professor at SPC until 2006. He now resides in Wimberly, Texas.

IMG_6302“I’m retired from teaching” Munde said. “But I am still trying to be a banjo picking star. Put your thumb and index figure almost together, and that is how close I am to achieving that.”

Munde was about 14 when he started playing the banjo. He played the guitar first, and about a year later he started picking the banjo. His brother and sister played the accordion. He enjoyed his playing so much that he did not keep track of how many hours he practiced.

“Ask my mother,” Munde said jokingly. “She is the one who kept track of the hours. She probably notched it in the door frame with a knife.”

Munde said he would never put the banjo down unless he had to go somewhere. He would play for a while, set it down, then go back and play more.

“It was about getting your fingers to these magic places,” Munde explained. “It’s like a pilgrimage. You walk where others have been. Your fingers are where other famous people have played. People can tell you to play this cord, but it isn’t the same as when your fingers make the sounds.”

Munde counts bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs among his role models.

“To this day, I can still listen to his music and be thrilled by it,” said Munde, who also lists Doug Dillard from the “Darlins” band of the “Andy Griffith Show” and Eddy Shelton from Dallas as his influences.

He said his favorite form of music is, “any music that is creative,” adding,” I like pickers, what ever it is. Country, jazz, classical guitar players. If rock and roll has a guitar base, then I like that.”

When asked how many CDs he has made, he paused, then said, “24 sounds good, but before that was LPs.”

As for advice for aspiring musicians, Munde offers, “Get as good as you can on your instrument.” The good musicians I knew not only had their music good, but their life was in order, where their lifestyle didn’t demand more than their music brought in.”

“Play your music all the time, and be around musicians where music is made,” he added. “Just make music your lifestyle. It’s not the money. You get to know some of the best people in the world. You meet people who want to know you, be around you, and play music with you. That’s really good. It is the best you can do. Work really hard at your craft.”

When Munde arrived at SPC, the bluegrass program was already going, but he influenced it and helped it grow into what it became. The program started in 1975 with IMG_6305John Hartin. When Munde arrived, the program was called “Country and Bluegrass Music.”

“With Munde being at South Plains College, he drew people from all over the world to come here,” says Steve Williams. “He is world known and highly respected.”

Once a year, Munde comes back to Camp Bluegrass at SPC in the summer. Joe and Paula Carr helped manage the camp with him. The camp has been in session more than 34 years.

Some of the famous musicians Munde has played with include Johnny Bush and Fiddlin Frenchie Burke. He played in the band County Fair with Burke, who Munde says “had a hot band.”

“They could really play,” Munde said. “They just burned it.”

Steve Williams first taught at SPC in 1989, then left for 10 years to go on the road to play music. He came back in 1999 and has been teaching for 20 years.

The associate professor of commercial music plays the guitar, dobro, steel guitar, lap steel, bass and harmonica. He was 12 when he started taking lessons and playing music. He grew up loving blues, soul, and country. Williams enjoys playing old country music and blues, though he can also be heard playing ‘60s music and more modern pop.

Back in the 1990s, Munde, Williams and Marsh put together the Steve Alan Trio and would jam on any given Friday night.

“He is one of the heroes,” Williams said of playing with Munde.

Like Munde, Williams’ words of wisdom for a rising artist is to “take it seriously, work hard, practice and keep your head on straight. Don’t get into drinking and all that bad stuff. It is hard, and people are always encouraging and tempting.”

Also performing on March 1 along with Alan Munde was the “Pickin’ on the Plains” ensemble and the Flatland Bluegrass band.

Levi Humphreys played the mandolin and shared vocals in the “Pickin on the Plains” band. Jason Sain played the guitar and shared vocals. Sain described playing with Munde as “Incredible.”

Leah Bynum played violin and vocals. Her twin sister Megan Bynum performed on bass, violin and also vocals. The sisters said playing with Munde was “Once in a lifetime, iconic and surreal.”

Loot, pillage in sandbox pirate adventure game ‘Sea of Thieves’

Sail the seas and take what you want in Rare Interactive’s sandbox pirate adventure, “Sea of Thieves.”

“Sea of Thieves” gives players balanced options that are rarely seen in the gaming industry today. For example, all weapons are exactly the same and cannot be upgraded. A player who has been active for some time would not have a better weapon than somebody logging in for the first time. The veteran pirate may have a classier outfit and a golden pistol. But the golden pistol gives zero benefits, only swagger.

kraken_1.pngA “sandbox” game emphasizes exploration and gives the player choices of what to do, instead of having a linear story line. “Sea of Thieves” places the player and their crew anywhere on a giant ocean littered with a plethora of unique islands. Almost every island has a secret or treasure waiting to be found.

There are special islands called “Skull Forts.” Each Skull Fort is a named island, with a fort guarded by skeletons. Every half our or so, a giant skull-shaped cloud appears over a random fort, triggering a raid. Pirates have to fight through at least 10 waves of skeletons, including a final boss at the end of the raid. The boss drops a key to a large stash, which is the prize for the risk of taking the fort. Not only are the skeletons and their canon fire lethal, other pirates can see the skull cloud, and race to the loot, either sabotaging players actively taking the fort, or stealing the loot once the raid is finished.

Three pirate companies dish out gold pieces for the treasure players find. If a treasure chest is found, the “Gold Hoarders” faction will happily pay for it. The “Order of Souls” company purchases magical skulls, which are either stolen, or looted from the most common enemy: the living dead. Also, there is the “Merchant Alliance,” which tasks players to collect animals and other tradable goods such as cannonballs.

When a player reaches level 50 in the original three companies, they earn the status of “Pirate Legend.” Lastly, “Athena’s Fortune” grants voyages to those who have reached max reputation with the other three companies.

The content in “Sea of Thieves” has been lacking since launch. Going on voyages or spamming skull fort raids is very repetitive. Luckily, Rare developers have addressed this since launch, saying that “Sea of Thieves” will evolve over time into a truly satisfying experience. Furthermore, Rare likes to tell players that the point of the game is less about the destination, but the journey it takes to get there. Rare tries to emphasize the adventure in a quest, raid, or voyage, not just the reward.

The freedom that “Sea of Thieves” delivers is by far my favorite aspect of the game. With new adventures being released every few months, some forcing opposing crews to work together, “Sea of Thieves” is a game that creates fantastic stories of classic pirate shenanigans. Whether a crew is involved in a heated skirmish on the high seas, or an espionage scheme where a crew is dedicated to the long con of stealing a huge stash of loot, the game never ceases to keep players talking about it.

Another point that cannot be ignored is Rare’s attention to detail, along with the aesthetics. The graphics are truly a spectacle, especially while on the open seas. I have never taken more screenshots of a video game than in “Sea of Thieves.”

Additionally, Rare has delivered no shortage of Easter eggs. The music sounds like it was produced by “Conker’s Bad Fur Day” developers. The bananas and barrels are straight from “Donkey Kong,” and there is even an island to travel to where a player can hear Diddy Kong yelling at the wind.

As the game evolves, I’m sure my rating will increase. But for now, I give “Sea of Thieves” an 8 out of 10.

‘The Informant!’ puts vivacious spin on corporate espionage

It’s an ordinary day at ADM when the FBI comes knocking on the door of Mark Whitacre’s office door.

He was given a script by his bosses about what to say to the FBI, but what will he decide to do? Will he speak his mind, or stick to the script given by his corporate managers? A life-changing decision that will affect Mark’s life forever is waiting to be made.

informant“The Informant” portrays a shocking story that reveals damaging information regarding corporate crime.

Matt Damon plays Mark Whitacre, who works for Archer Daniels Midland, also known as ADM. Mark, who has been working for the agriculture corporation, decides to make a drastic decision on his own behalf to bring down ADM. He is unaware of what the actual circumstances are when working with the FBI.

This movie will take you on Mark Whitacre’s adventure as he becomes a mole for the FBI during intense investigation that will happen over a during a two-year span.

This movie is based on a true story that is quite serious regarding a corporate crime conspiracy that happened in the late 1990s case against multinational corporation, Archer Daniels Midland. This movie brought the case to life with comedy and real-life situations that make it very interesting.

Mark Whitacre was the main character of this film who took on the role of assisting the FBI in bringing down the company that he loved. One of the interesting aspects of the film is that the audience is able to hear Mark’s thoughts. He is a very knowledgeable man about the company he worked at, and he would list many facts and interesting statements about the company.

Mark was put in a very difficult position. In fact, I looked at the movie as if he were an FBI agent. He just didn’t have any training or the background an FBI agent would have. He was just an ordinary man who worked at ADM to provide for his family.

During the investigation, his wife was very concerned about her husband’s career protection. The movie presented a great all-around aspect of Mark’s life. He wasn’t superhuman, just an intelligent man who had the courage to speak up when he knew informant-watching-recommendation-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600something wasn’t right.

Mark makes it known that he loves the company he works for, and he even dreams of running ADM. He just wants to run the corporation properly without crime.

ADM knew they were being investigated and would not go down with a fight. Who will protect the one individual who gave his time and job safety up? Will the FBI protect Mark, or will he get swallowed up by the savage company?

I feel that this movie is actually very informational about all the ways crime can happen in the business world. This film gave a great insider look at a case that happened in real life.

I enjoyed watching this film on Netflix. Damon played his role very well. I enjoyed watching him play Mark Whitacre as he transformed into an FBI agent while working at ADM. I liked how humble the character was. He was an honest guy who seemed like he just wanted people to know the truth about the hidden corporate crime that was happening at ADM.

I rate this film a 7/10.

Romantic comedy surprises with positive outcome

If you are not a fan of romantic comedies, you might want to watch “Isn’t it Romantic,” because it has a different storyline.

The movie starts out In New York City with Natalie as a pre-teen girl  (played by Alex Kis). Natalie, who is watching a romantic movie, is told by her mother, played by Jennifer Saunders, that romance can not happen unless you look like a Hollywood actress. Natalie grows up to believe this and is left being stuck in her own miserable, romantic-less world.

Rebel-Wilson-Movie-Set-Isnt-t-Romantic-Tom-LOrenzo-Site-5Twenty five years later, Natalie, played by Rebel Wilson, is being used by her coworkers and is only seen as the coffee girl. Feeling completely invisible because of how her boss, coworkers, and others treat her, she complains for three hours about how romantic movies are lies to a coworker, Whitney, played by Betty Gilpin. Whitney ends up telling her that if she would be more open, people might not pass her by as much.

On her way home, Natalie gets robbed once she steps off the subway trains. After chasing her robber and getting her purse back, she turns around to run away, only to run straight into a metal beam and is knocked unconscious.

When she wakes up, Natalie is greeted by a very handsome doctor. Being completely freaked out when the doctor tells her how beautiful she is, she flees from the hospital, only to get hit by a limo as she’s trying to cross the street. The business man, Blake, played by Liam Hemsworth, who is inside the limo, gets out to check on her and apologizes for his driver. Being in complete awe of her, he gives her his phone number and tells her to call him if she ever needs anything.

Natalie ends up getting arrested, and not having anyone’s number memorized, uses her one phone call to call Blake, since she still had his number in her pocket. After he bails her out, he takes her to her home, where he sets up a date for later that night.

Realizing that she’s stuck in a “romantic movie” life, her goal becomes to get someone to fall in love with her.

Toward the end of the movie, Natalie’s best friend and coworker, Josh, played by Adam Devine, is about to get married. She then realizes that the person she loves, and who she thinks she needs to get  to love her back so she can go back to her “normal” life, is Josh.

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On the day that Josh is getting married, she decides to try to break up the wedding. Flying through the doors of the church, she starts to tell Josh that he’s about to make a big mistake and that he should be with her. But mid-way through, she realizes that the person she needs to love is herself. After stealing a car and driving away from the church, she’s finally happy with her life because she realizes the only person she has ever needed is herself.

Natalie then gets into a car accident and wakes up in a realistic hospital. Finally, back in her “normal” life, she goes to work and becomes the boss who has always been in her by stepping up and not letting her coworkers walk all over her.

Although this movie is not one of the best romantic comedies I have seen, it has a very good message. It is one that I personally needed to hear: The person you need to love is yourself.

This was the first movie in a theater that I went to watch alone, and because of the message, it should be one that others see alone as well.

The movie does a good job at the end of showing that it is not OK to let people walk all over you, and that you should believe in yourself more and take credit for what you have done.

But most importantly, the movie shows that you need to be happy with what you have, where you live, and who is around you.

“Isn’t it Romantic” really surprised me. The trailers of this movie made me think it was going to be negative and hate on romance, when, in reality, it was very funny and uplifting. I rate this movie a 7 out of 10.

‘Abducted in Plain Sight’ tells harrowing story of kidnapping

Manipulators are careful and meticulous planners.

Netflix’s new documentary “Abducted in Plain Sight” tells the story of a family that falls prey to the manipulative charms of a neighbor, who then abducts the family’s daughter.

06-abducted-in-plain-sight.w700.h700Robert Berchtold also know as “B,” was a master manipulator who tormented a Washington family with brainwashing, arson, death threats, and aliens.

Berchtold gained the trust of the Broberg family by being a member of the same church and posing as a family man who loved kids. He was also the new guy in town making friends.

“B” was able to kidnap one of the Broberg children twice. The first time he kidnapped a daughter, he was taking the child horseback riding and gave her an allergy pill that was later found out to be sleeping medications so that his victim would be unconscious.

While hiding out in Mexico in a mobile home, “B” would play the recordings of aliens saying that the child needed to breed with a male friend to complete the mission, and  told her that he and the child were both aliens.  If she did not complete this task, terrible things would happen to her family. Her dad would disappear forever and her sister would go blind if she did not have a child with her captor by age16.

B’s wife was a key manipulator, as she begged the Brobergs not to report the kidnapping. The family kept quiet for a few days before finally getting the FBI involved. They were able to eventually get them to return home from Mexico after the family agreed not to press charges. The FBI begged them to stand firm, but the family was afraid of Berchtoldblackmailing both the mom and dad. Berchtold had had sexual relations with both the mother and the father. The family was afraid of being judged, and so they wrote out an affadavit allowing the kidnapping to be legal.

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The second time the child was kidnapped was when the parents sent her to Utah to work for “B” and he ended up hiding her at a Catholic school in California under a false name. This was during the time of the Lebanon crisis, so he posed as a CIA agent, which was why nobody questioned what was going on in California at this time.

16th birthday, when she realized that nothing occurred to her family when she expressed interest in a different boy and attending drama camp at Brigham Young University.

Berchtold was never convicted of any crimes against the family. The mother and daughter of the Broberg family went on to write a book exposing him, and he started to harass the family again. That’s when they filed a restraining order. Berchtold was convicted in another case of pedophilia years later. Rather than facing the jail sentence, he went home, took all of his heart medication, drank a bottle of Kahlua and ended up killing himself.

This documentary shows how easily a family can be manipulated and lead to easily trust people. The reenactment through the ‘70s gritty film of home movies ads an extra layer of creepiness to the story. I found the story hard to watch at times, not because film was bad, but because of how parents could be so trusting and so manipulated. If you’re a true crime junkie and looking for an interesting film to watch, I highly recommend watching “Abducted in Plain Sight.” I would rate this 6 out of 10

‘Alita’ accentuates brutal cyberpunk universe

Every city on Earth has been all but destroyed, with the exceptions of Iron City and the floating city of Zalem directly above.

“Alita: Battle Angel” brings a post-apocalyptic cyber-punk universe to life with stunning visuals, heart-breaking scenes, and intense battles.

It is the year 2563, and a cataclysmic war between the people of Earth and the “United Republic of Mars,” coined “The Fall” or “The Great War,” has left Earth in ruins.

dimsCybernetics and robotics are part of daily life in a place called Iron City. It has a giant scrapyard in the center, which is supplied Zalem. Zalem is the last floating city on Earth, where only the elite can live. Zalem dumps all of its junk, including damaged cyborgs, down on to Iron City. Iron City inhabitants live a mostly subservient life to those on Zalem, with a large factory that produces and ships parts and goods for the floating city.

Alita is a cyborg that was found in the scrapyard by Dr. Daisuke Ido, who is the best engineer in Iron City. Ido is originally from Zalem, and he was sent down to Iron City after his daughter, who was also named Alita, was diagnosed with a rare disease.

Ido repairs the amnesiac Alita by giving her the body he created for his daughter. Later, through her muscle memory of a lost fighting technique, she experiences flashbacks of her past and starts hunting answers.

The Factory is operated by a sort of criminal conglomerate, led by a man named Vector. Vector makes the factory and himself money through a game called “Motorball” and other criminal activities. Motorball is a gladiatorial racing game. The only rule seems to be “get the ball in the hole” at the end of a large, concrete track. Motorball players are typically cyborgs or humans in an exo-suit, equipped with special racing gear and weapons to fight off opponents. There are no teams.

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Many people in Iron City have cybernetic enhancements. It is not uncommon to see a normal-looking human with two robotic arms that are specifically engineered for an occupation. Many humans exchange their own body parts for robotic upgrades in an attempt to live better lives. People with interchangeable body parts face certain risks, however.

The criminal conglomerate that runs and oversees “Motorball” and the factory hires young criminals to poach valuable body parts from the citizens of Iron City. Vector hires a young man, Hugo, as one of his poachers with the promise of sending him to Zalem after he pays Vector 1 million credits.

Additionally, the big, bad, “Nova,” who lives in Zalem, collects body parts of the people he admires. The world Alita lives in is truly a dog-eat-dog world, where the strong prey on the weak.

“Alita: Battle Angel” brings a beautiful, rugged landscape to a post-apocalyptic Earth. Even the “Badlands,” which is the area outside of Iron City, is a beautiful natural scene with a handful of the terrible reminders of war that had once torn the land.

Most of the movie was filmed in Austin, Texas. A gorgeous scene of The Badlands features some of Texas’ beautiful landscape.

“Alita: Battle Angel” was a very good adaptation of the manga and anime versions. I hope to see a sequel hit the big screen in the future. I give “Alita: Battle Angel” an 8/10.

‘Atomic Heart’ preview offers futuristic solo adventure

A myriad of hostile robots and ravenous zombies lurk in a sprawling underground complex defending a mystery shrouded in death in “Atomic Heart.”

A new developer with only one unfinished game under its belt, Mundfish, has released a breathtaking gameplay trailer for an original first-person action roleplaying game for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

“Atomic Heart” takes place in an alternate reality in which the Soviet Union never collapsed and scientific progress there seems void of ethics or limits. Evoking the same curiosity and uneasiness in gamers as “Bioshock,” the setting alone tells a story of catastrophe shrouded in a mystery that will keep gamers pressing forward through adversity.

Players take the role of a KGB officer sent to investigate what has gone wrong at Soviet research facility 3826. Facility 3826 features an above-ground area with houses and lush wilderness, while it grips its darkest secrets underground. Gameplay suggests that the facility conducted biological and neurological experiments while also being heavily involved in robotics. A huge variety of robots in all shapes and sizes paired with zombies seen in the underground areas of the facility indicate a need to adapt to different situations.

The gameplay of “Atomic Heart” differs from Mundfish’s previous title in many ways, though details and awareness for their new title are scarce. “Soviet Lunapark VR,” their unfinished project, is comprised of portions of the same setting and seems to be a precursor to “Atomic Heart.” Both games have impressive visuals provided by the Unreal Engine 4 game engine they are made with.

The virtual reality element of the previous game suggests Mundfish may offer virtual reality as an optional way to experience “Atomic Heart.” Even if virtual reality is supported, “Atomic Heart” is guaranteed to still feel different from “Soviet Lunapark VR,” due to pacing and gameplay mechanics. The previous game’s constant barrage of enemies and mass amounts of ammo differ from “Atomic Heart,” as survival is a much more strategic affair. Unfortunately for gamers planning on buying, or who have already bought “Soviet Lunapark VR,” updates and sales have been cancelled, as Mundfish is focusing its whole team on “Atomic Heart.”

Instead of an arcade shooter where conflict is always welcome, the first thing the player does in the gameplay footage is avoid four patrolling robots. Observant gamers will notice the player only has 12 rounds in their pistol, with none in reserve. The player doesn’t often find more ammunition and soon finds a melee weapon, suggesting that avoiding enemies whenever possible and using melee weapons at short distances is essential. The damage output of enemies is very punishing, and robots are durable, but the player is seen to be able to block with a melee weapon, dodge attacks with a side-step, or backpedal while an enemy prepares to attack.

No items the player picks up have been shown to restore health. However, cigarettes and condensed milk are consumable items that likely serve this purpose. Two pistols, a shotgun, and five melee weapons have been confirmed, while “Soviet Lunapark VR” weapons are liable to make an appearance as well.

Weapon customization and upgrading have also been confirmed, but armor and clothing options have not. “Atomic Heart” is much more focused on single-player rather than cooperative play than its predecessor, but Mundfish’s website does mention player-versus-player combat.

The gameplay does not feature the player picking up any documents or finding any human characters that can flesh out the story with dialogue. The player character, based on an insignia on his gloves, is believed to be named P3, and is shown to make remarks during combat and when looking at enemies through binoculars. P3, if that’s his name, speaks in Russian, and with the in-game text being in English, it isn’t yet clear if dialogue plays enough of a role in the game to justify translating his lines, even in the final product.

“Atomic Heart” is currently in full production, and the gameplay is so polished a release date is expected to be announced within the year. Gamers have responded well to release dates close to release date announcements, and it’s likely gamers will have “Atomic Heart” downloaded onto their hard drives early next year.

Those excited for “Atomic Heart” can follow Mundfish on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or periodically check their website.

‘Miss Bala’ touts empowering story with strong lead actress

A night out on the town turns into a deadly shootout for Gloria that will change her life forever. As bullets fly across the nightclub, Gloria ducks for protection. Her eyes search the room for her friend. She must decide how far she will go to protect her life and her loved ones.

How far would you go to protect your loved ones ?…Think about it

“Miss Bala,” an action-packed drama film starring Gina Rodriguez as the amazing character, Gloria, takes the audience on a roller coaster adventure. This 104-minute film will have you biting your nails wondering what is going to happen next.

The movie features an amazing cast that is able to create suspense.

5c5330b37acc0.imageThis film is empowering for women, especially women who look like Rodriguez. Her strong role in this film is amazing and will have you wondering how far Gloria will go to protect the people she cares for and loves.

Gloria is a make-up artist who lives in San Diego, California near the Mexico border town of Tijuana. She visits her very close friend, Suzu, whom she has known since childhood. Gloria plans to help Suzu win the Miss California Baja Pageant. Gloria and Suzu seem to have a very close bond and care about each other as sisters would.
Gloria seems trapped in her life. She looks as if she is stuck where she doesn’t want to be and wants more out of life. In one instance, she creates makeup drafts to show a manger her ideas. Instead of being open to her ideas, he just told her to do her job! Period. She was shut down and her idea wasn’t even given a chance in her work place. Perhaps Gloria is in the wrong work field but doesn’t know it yet.

The weekend starts off with Gloria packing and driving to Tijuana, Mexico. The setting is shown realistically. The audience watches the screen as Gloria anxiously goes through customs with her passport to enter into Mexico to see her close friend Suzu.

Gloria’s smile and mood are becoming extremely visible as she gets closer and closer to arriving at her friend’s house. The greeting between the two women is very heartwarming and welcoming. They are overwhelmed with happiness, and they both scream and embrace each other. The women are very ecstatic about the upcoming weekend, which is off to a great start.

The next day, the women attend pageant meetings while enjoying each other’s company. After a series of unfortunate events, Gloria finds herself in a very difficult situation. She is faced with many challenges that will bring out strength she never knew she had. Gloria’s life, and the lives of the ones she loves, are put into a gang leader’s hands after being handed over by a corrupt cop.

Ismael Cruz Cordova stars as Lino, a gang leader. To avoid any instances with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Lino makes a deal with Gloria, who will have to make a decision of a lifetime about how far she will go to protect those she loves. Will Gloria gamble her life and the ones she loves? Watch this film to find out what Gloria’s next move is.

I loved every second of the movie, but I do believe it could have been more scandalous. I expected a little more romance or some form of deception along with romance. That could have been the cherry on top for this film.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie, and I hope to see more action thriller films with female leads. I enjoyed the role Rodriguez played as she did an excellent job of representing a strong women who is not afraid of taking on obstacles in her life. I give “Miss Bala” 8 out of 10.