A Cure for Weirdness

The first thought that popped into my head after watching “A Cure For Wellness” was ¨what the heck did I just watch?¨

I first wanted to see the film directed by Gore Verbinski after I finished binge watching “Shutter Island” and “The Babadook.” I wanted something that would send chills up my spine but wasn’t so demonic that I wouldn’t be able to sleep for the next week. I was enamored by the trailers; they depicted a young ambitious CEO who had to go to Switzerland in order to retrieve a businessman from a wellness center. This special spa is filled with energetic, affluent individuals, who have decided to suddenly leave behind their lives many would be envious of to receive treatments to become ‘cured’ at this mysterious spa.

And that’s when the  film started to go downhill.

The film reminded me of a sort of “Alice in Wonderland” paranoia story that is too often recreated in most psychological horror films. When the protagonist Lockhart meets Hannah, a ¨sick¨ girl who has lived at the center for as long as she can remember, he begins to uncover what is really going on at the so-called “wellness” center. The villagers, people who live close to the center, are fearful of those who live in the center and conflict often arises between the two parties. It is later revealed that the villagers hate the people at the center, especially Doctor Volmer, the man who gives the residents of the center the cures, because centuries ago experiments were performed on the villagers.

Actress Mia Goth plays the character Hannah in the movie A Cure for Wellness. Hannah often appears eerie things and has never been outside of the spa and is fearful of the people living in the village.

Actress Mia Goth plays the character Hannah in the movie A Cure for Wellness. Hannah often appears eerie things and has never been outside of the spa and is fearful of the people living in the village.

The story ending made me want to punch a wall. The trailers made me have so much hope for the film, but my high expectations hit the floor around the middle of the movie. The film focused on the horror of the ¨cures¨ throughout the film, which filled me with questions about the antagonist of the story Doctor Volmer. I suppose I could be over analyzing the film, but throughout the entire production I only wanted to know why the villain had the motives that he did; and I wanted a better answer other than ‘he’s psycho and we can’t think of a better reason for him to run around terrorizing people and committing unspeakable acts.’

The film was choppy and seemed as if it were thrown together at the last minute; it was hyped up so much, yet failed to follow through.

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Roth carves new controversy

“In a galaxy powered by the current, everyone has a gift.” Carve the Mark is Veronica Roth’s newest YA novel, her first since the controversial final installment of the New York Times best-selling Divergent series. Boldly marketed as being the perfect read for “fans of Divergent and Star Wars,” it’s safe to say that Roth’s newest novel has a lot to live up to.

Undeniably gripping, if not predictable at times, Carve the Mark is certainly a departure from the fast-paced dystopic Chicago setting of Roth’s first series, at least on the surface.

Roth creates a downright beautiful, sprawling galaxy composed of planets differing vastly both in climate and culture, bound together by “the current,” an invisible power that gives all people abilities called “currentgifts.” This power can also be channeled into technology, weapons and spaceships, and provides a much needed conflict for the story. (For those fans of Star Wars, think of a less discriminatory ‘Force’: everyone gets a power and there are fancy “sabers” that channel that power, though they’re significantly less shiny.) The planets of Carve the Mark feel whole, built up by histories, languages and world building that ultimately offers more potential for the course of the series than the current story-line. (Pun intended.)

The novel takes place on Thuhve, an icy planet divided between the peace-loving Thuhvests and the brutal Shotet. The story is told through alternating chapters between the two leads, both children of prominent families in their respective cultures. The chapters are split not only between narrators, but between narrative styles; one character, Cyra, narrates exclusively in first person, while the other, Akos, is limited to a third-person perspective. While this switch doesn’t necessarily detract from the story, it certainly doesn’t seem to serve any particular purpose either.

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Fans of Divergent will still find similarities to Roth’s first series, particularly in the novel’s themes, as it grapples with the importance of family, a romance borne out of an unlikely friendship and tense, touchy-feely training scenes, intense action interspersed with banterful humor, conflict between siblings, and betrayal. (Except it’s in space this time! Wooh!)

But there’s another similarity between Carve the Mark and Roth’s Divergent series: the two have stirred up controversy in the literary world.

Carve the Mark has been accused of being racist and ableist in its portrayal of the Shotet people and the main character Cyra’s chronic pain, a symptom of her “currentgift”. Though I personally didn’t find any basis to those claims in my own reading, I know my perspective isn’t the deciding factor in determining whether or not something is racist. I do, however, think that the main character’s conclusion that pain can somehow be not only deserved but considered a gift is potentially problematic. Regardless, the controversy raises important points about the nature of representation in YA literature, especially following the 2016 We Need Diverse Books campaign.

So, does Carve the Mark succeed in carving out a name for its own? While certainly set in a unique sci-fi world, there are times when the novel just misses the mark. Whether you’re a Divergent fan willing to give Roth another chance, wanting to join the discussion about the book’s more controversial issues, or even if you’re just looking for some good YA science fiction, all in all, Carve the Mark is worth reading. Just don’t go looking for anything life-changing.

And, may the current be with you.

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‘Black Mirror’ Pioneers Surrealist Television

Created by Charlie Brooker, season three of “Black Mirror” is a new high, for not only the quality of programming on Netflix, but also in terms of the nuanced social commentary that makes the show so great. Unlike most shows on television, “Black Mirror’s” cast and story telling structure change with each episode. This makes sure that each episode is fresh with new settings, character dynamics, and most importantly ideas. The closest show that could be compared to “Black Mirror” would be the late fifties to early sixties show The Twilight Zone, not only due to its changing cast and episodes, but the social commentary of the way we live and think.

“Nose Dive:” The first episode starts the season extremely well. Directed by Joe Wright, written by Charlie Brooker, Rashida Jones, and Michael Schur, “Nose Dive” does not disappoint. In a world where everybody has a rating based off of how they act, this creates a somewhat humorous and somewhat uncomfortable feeling while watching. This episode states how we use social media to judge people, as well as the facade that people make to be accepted. In contrast to the next two episodes, “Nose Dive” is less grounded to reality and in terms of aesthetics it is very appealing.

“Playtest”: Written by Charlie Brooker and directed by Dan Trachtenberg, “Playtest” is definitely one of the scariest episode that I remember seeing in all three seasons of the show. It’s essentially where a semi-unlikable guy plays a virtual reality game and things take a turn for the worst.

“Shut Up and Dance”: Out of all of the episodes of Black Mirror, “Shut Up and Dance” is by far the most suspenseful. The episode is full of twist and turns and a plot that will leave you without words.  You feel bad for the main character up until the very end. This is due to personal information being taken by a hacker and the only way for him to get it is to perform a multitude of tasks. From there you don’t know where the plot goes, then all of a sudden it hits you like a brick wall.Image result for black mirror

“San Junipero”: This is one of the most emotional episodes in the season and this time it actually has a relatively nice ending. Although “San Junipero” has less tension, its overall tone is that of mortality and the complexity of the human psyche. “San Junipero” takes place throughout different periods, but the location stays the same. It is marketed as a place where you can do whatever your want, which is what makes the episode so great.

“Men Against Fire”: Directed by Jakob Verbruggen and written by Charlie Brooker, this shows the consequences of high tech warfare, the shows overall twist is pretty easy to identify at the beginning of the story. But although you can see the plot from a mile away, it still has a message that can be told through non-conventional means.

“Hated in the Nation”: “Hated in the Nation” is essentially a murder mystery turned global crisis. It also demonstrates the dangers of social media, the dangers of technology, and the lack of punishment that comes with harassment on social media.

 

 

 

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Venturing to Night at the Museum

Night at the Museum is an annual event held in Denver on the first Saturday in November from 5 pm to 11 pm.

   This event is when most of the museums in Denver are free and open to the public. More information about exactly which museums are open can be found at the city of Denver’s website. The city also provides transportation to and from all of the museums that are participating.

   I have gone for the past two years, and it has been wonderful. This year I went to the Art Museum and the History Colorado Center. The Art Museum was splendid; we got there early enough so didn’t have to wait in a line and it wasn’t too packed. We got to the History Colorado Center late and when we went to see the exhibit By Their Hats, Horses, and Homes We Shall Know Them, there was quite a line. We only ended up waiting for about 20 minutes because the volunteers working there were quick at their job. The only other time there was a line was as we entered the Renaissance Exhibit at the Art Museum. Both of the exhibits were both worth the wait, the Renaissance Exhibit was full of beautiful artwork from Venice during the Italian Renaissance, and the History Colorado Exhibit was full of hilarious photos.

This is an unknown painting of a saint by an unknown artist. This painting can be found in the Venice Renaissance Exhibit. Photo by Abigail Armstrong

This is an unknown painting of a saint by an unknown artist. This painting can be found in the Venice Renaissance Exhibit.
Photo by Abigail Armstrong

   Both times that I have gone to this event I have enjoyed the museums that I have visited, and I would recommend it to anybody. Even if you aren’t a fan of museums, Night at the Museum is an excellent way to enjoy the city with some friends.

If you’re interested in checking out either of these museums before next year’s Night at the Museum, the Star Wars Exhibit and the Design Lab have opened at the Denver Art Museum.

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“Revolution Radio” Rocks the Music World

img_2990Nostalgia, hard-hitting lyrics and a classic punk-rock rage fuel Green Day’s newest album Revolution Radio to new, yet oddly familiar heights.

The album, their first since the decidedly over-reaching trilogy ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré!, has launched Green Day to the top of the charts for the first time in over a decade. Written with the intention to “destroy the phrase ‘pop-punk’ forever,” as lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong described it, Revolution Radio sold 95,000 copies in the United States alone and was streamed 4.7 million times in its first week out, according to the Billboard 200.

Mixing their traditional style with a balanced 12 tracks of often surprising ragers and softer punk ballads, the band reflects upon the state of the world today, finding violence, war, death and injustice around every corner, with the occasional glimmer of hope in love and acceptance. The initial outlook is far from optimistic, ranging everywhere from unsure to downright enraged, though as the album progresses, that outlook begins to soften.

Opening with nothing but a gentle guitar melody and Armstrong’s voice, “Somewhere Now” sets the tone of the album. “I never wanted to compromise or bargain with my soul/How did a life on the wild side ever get so dull?,” Armstrong sings as the song launches into its angry, uncertain yet oddly nostalgic chorus.

Next, the explosive lead single “Bang Bang” takes on the controversial yet prevalent perspective of a teen shooter, exploring the complexities of the post-modern American mindset that fuels the album’s raging uncertainty for the future. The title track “Revolution Radio” continues the theme of social unrest, this time in the form of protest with a guitar backing that sounds almost as frantic as the lyrics themselves.

The powerful celebration of survival against all odds “Still Breathing” hits home with lyrics as catchy as they are emotionally charged. “As I walked out on the ledge/Are you scared to death to live?” Armstrong asks, echoing the overarching uncertainty of the album, paired this time with a sort of cautious optimism underneath the rage and fear.

The seven-minute “Forever Now” ties the album together, comprised of everything from classic Green Day vocals and drummer Tré Cool’s mosh-pit beats to a more hopeful reprise of the opening “Somewhere Now,” as Armstrong now asks “How did a life on the wild side ever get so full?”

Embodying sounds both new and old alike, along with a social commentary that manages to find beauty in an “Ordinary World”, full of violence and uncertainty as it may be, Revolution Radio demonstrates a return and a rebirth all at once for the band, almost thirty years after it first burst onto the music scene.

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Frank Ocean delivers with long-awaited sophomore album

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The official Boys Don’t cry magazine, sold at pop-up shops around the world as a companion to the album. The magazine features poems and verses from artists who worked on Ocean’s album as well as numerous exclusive photographs.

For four years, musical icon Frank Ocean has kept fans waiting and waiting for the release of his sophomore album, and on August 20, he finally delivered with a twelve track full length LP entitled Blonde.

With an incredible list of producers and contributors such as Kanye West, James Blake, Beyonce and David Bowie, this album has been well worth the wait for many fans of Ocean.

Ocean’s return was not just marked by the album Blonde, as he also released a visual album called Endless just a few days earlier. The release of Endless shows a new way for artist’s audience to experience the music put out by their favorite artists, while also demonstrating how Frank Ocean is at the crest of this new wave of music release techniques.

Endless was one of the first of its kind, and its abstract visual elements combined with Ocean’s sound created an unparalleled experience for listeners of Frank Ocean.

An unusual aspect of Ocean’s album is the fact that he has not one guest feature, yet fans do not seem to mind, as his album has soared to the top of the charts at light speed, something that is incredibly hard for an artist to do with no features on a full length LP.

The response to both Blonde and Endless has been overwhelmingly positive, and superstar artists who are at the top of the music industry right now, such as Adele and Kanye West, have voiced their love and admiration for both Frank Ocean’s lyrical ability and musical ability, only echoing the noise that his album sales have made thus far.
On top of that, According to the Billboard 200, only two albums in 2016 have made stronger debuts than Blonde, those being Views by Drake, and Lemonade by Beyonce. Ocean’s album debuted with 276,000 albums sold, and for an album that was delayed repeatedly over a four year period, the sales perfectly reflect the hype surrounding the album’s long awaited release.

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Most used apps of 2016

Today’s generation has started to use technology more than ever before. The use of iPhones and Androids has increased immensely. These devices app’s draw in the attention of today’s generation. The app’s listed here are some of the most used and most popular apps among iPhone and Android users today.

1) Snapchat: Snapchat has become one of the most popular apps today because of the fact that it keeps people in communication quickly and easily. It allows users to send pictures with a text attached to it. Users are also able to chat quickly without sending pictures. Snapchat offers filters that show the time, temperature, and speed. You can also filter the color/tint of the photo taken. Recently filters were added that allowed a face swap, puppy face and other funny alterations to the picture.

2) Facebook: Facebook has been keeping people in touch for years now. You are able to post pictures/videos of what is happening in your life, and you can easily see what is happening in your friends lives through their posts. You can find long lost friends who seemed to go out of touch. Facebook also offers the app Facebook Messenger as a way to talk to your friends. You can video chat, call, or text the person you want to get a hold of.

3) Instagram: Instagram allows its users to post pictures that show what is going on in their lives. This is another app that keeps people connected. Pictures/videos are the main focus of Instagram, but you are also able to DM, or direct message, other users on there.

4) Twitter: Twitter is an app that keeps the whole world connected. You can follow celebrities as well as anyone else you want. Twitter allows text, pictures and videos to be posted. It is similar to Facebook, but with a more hilarious and creative tone. Facebook tells people what is happening and twitter is more focused on how you feel.

5) Spotify: Spotify is the new easy way to listen to unlimited music. The free app allows you to listen to any number of songs on shuffle with commercials. If you were to purchase premium, you can listen to unlimited music without commercials, any song you choose. With premium you can also go offline so you are not using mobile data to listen.

popular apps kj pic

These are the most popular apps in today’s generation of phone users. It includes apps that allow you to share ideas and opinions, as well as music apps.

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The brilliance behind “Fargo: Year Two”

Earlier this year, I reviewed the first season of the Fargo TV series inspired by the Coen brothers’ film of the same name, praising it for memorable characters, disturbing depictions of violence, and  writing.

Because I missed it on TV when it aired, I had a lot of hype for the second season Blu-ray, even picking it up on the day it was released, which, surprisingly, is a first for me.

The second season of Fargo is not a continuation of the first, but rather a completely new “true” story that isn’t true about crime in Minnesota. It is again created and written by Noah Hawley, who out-did himself for this season.

The first season followed a standard police procedural format. Considering that everything else in the show was so unorthodox, even more so than the film at times, the fact that the format was so standard bothered me, not because it was bad, but because it was just too mundane compared to everything else. The second season is a lot more like an action thriller. It focuses much less on the police trying to catch the criminals. Instead, they are trying to stop a catastrophic gang war between two opposing factions, that two regular people, by chance, just end up getting involved in. The fat has been trimmed out for this season, and part of that is due to the shift in focus. At the end of the day, a police officer trying to solve the case has been done to death. Even though the first season did this well, the second season brings something new to the table, something fairly rare within television.

The one thing that hasn’t changed, and never should, is the tone. This more than anything ties it back to the source material. At the end of the day it’s still a “true” crime black comedy with a touch of the absurd (although I would argue that this season has been slapped with the absurd instead, which isn’t a bad thing). It still balances comedy and drama on a knife’s edge except this season takes a lot more risks.

A couple of elements are unbelievably divisive. For example, there are two deus ex machinas involving a flying saucer that are never explained. I can’t articulate why these elements don’t bother me, but they just sort of fit in with the Fargo universe. Going into it, you expect that a Fargo story is going to be bizarre. This just took it further than it ever has before and it’s up to you to decide whether it has gone too far.

Overall, I enjoyed the second season of Fargo more than the first. The idea to take the tone from the film and the first season and make the events that happen even more absurd, was a risky one, but had a giant pay-off. The second season may distance itself from the film, but it is the most original thing on television I have watched in recent memory.

 

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The Pioneer S02 mini 02 | Review | Sly 2: Band of Thieves

Tonight we take a nostalgia trip as we have an in-depth discussion on why Sly 2: Band of Thieves is the perfect childhood game.

Edited and Directed by Michael Neave
Produced and Presented by Michael Neave and Ryan Moore
Produced by Lynden Murphy
Supervised by Amanda Hurley
Film Produced by mace|film.
Technical Aspects: 2016 – Color – 1080p – 1.78:1 – 22min