May 31, 2014

Shadowcon Mini-Views- X-Men: Days of Future Past

I've been a pretty big fan of the X-Men movie franchise, though my dedication to it has kind of turned into a "here's hoping for something better" type of thing instead of vested interest in what they actually put out nowadays. Ever since X-Men 3: The Last Stand, one of the worst superhero movies ever made and certainly the worst of the original X-Men trilogy in my opinion, I've been constantly hoping for a return to what made X2 great and the original X-Men work reasonably well as an introductory film, especially at a time when this superhero film phenomenon was relatively new. The X-Men: Origins: Wolverine had way too many problems to even constitute it as a film, and so the original cast kinda bowed out with their heads hung low. X-Men First Class on the other hand was really cool. It had a fresh batch of young actors who all really did a fine job staying true to their characters while still imbuing them with new life. This was a solid film that didn't really jump-start the franchise back to form in any way, but in and of itself it remained a solid superhero film.

Last year's Wolverine film was kind of an apology film for the atrocity that was the Origins movie, and the after-credits scene in that one really got me excited for what was going to happen next. The film itself left me just kinda cold; I didn't have much reaction to it other than I thought it was a good attempt at fixing the Origins debacle or at least making us forget about that.

In truth, I'd have to say I had about the same reaction to Days of Future Past. I've read reviews claiming this to be the best X-Men movie ever, reviews praising the direction, the tone, the writing, the ensemble cast, and I'm over here thinking to myself: really? This is the best of the X-Men films? This is what passes for masterpiece superhero filmmaking now? The movie isn't bad, but it certainly didn't strike me as anything special in its own right, and certainly isn't the best of the X-Men films in my opinion. I love X2, and I think that's the best of the bunch, though I realize that it hasn't aged well. Days of Future Past just didn't grab me the way X2 or even First Class did, and it doesn't really feel like a Bryan Singer movie. It feels more like an apology letter to the fans for making us sit through Last Stand and Origins rather than a great film on its own, and while I do appreciate the recognition that they made crap served up in shiny packaging and are now apologizing for it, the meal they're serving this time is more of a slightly underdone steak served in pretty mundane packaging: serviceable, and compared to what its predecessors were, it's great, but I don't find it remarkable on its own.

There were three things in this film that I did like a whole lot: Quicksilver, the setting of 1973, and the dichotomy between young and old Charles Xavier. Quicksilver is just made up of awesome! He's charming and endearing without being obnoxious, and the scenes that he was in just worked so well. They really played around with his super speed and they did it logically too! I loved how we got to see things from his perspective, with everything essentially frozen because of how quickly he's moving, and then him just manipulating the enemy guards and moving around different stuff to get out of his and his friends' ways. His character was really cool, and I think he should have stuck around for more of the film.

The second thing I liked about this was that this is kind of a period piece in that it's set in the '70s. Now, I didn't feel that First Class transported us back to the '60s at all; I actually felt like it was more of a current time film that just happened to be set during the Cold War. Future Past is very good at making you feel like you're in the '70s when the movie is in the '70s, and in the future when the film is in the future. I liked all the retro looking stuff, especially the '70s version of the Sentinels, and the movie just captured the feeling of the era very well. It didn't bash you over the head with reminders that this was supposed to be the '70s; it just went about telling its story while being set in the '70s and that made it seem far more genuine.

Finally, I must say that I love James McAvoy as a young Charles. I liked him in First Class, and I like his acting a lot here as well. His character is very good in this film, because he's stuck in this dilemma of either being selfish and being able to walk, or being a beacon of hope and guidance to others of his kind but losing the use of his legs in the process. That was a nice setup, and the scene between his older and younger selves talking was very nice in helping us see the evolution of the character. I do wish that more of the story had been focussed on the struggle between he and young Magneto, something that I thought they really did well in First Class, but I found all but absent in this one.

The plot of the film is pretty straightforward, but within the simple movements of the film, there's something in there that feels like it wants the movie to be far bigger than it actually is. The future stuff was all fine, though it felt a little tacked on in spots, like the writers needed to keep on reminding us that there's this other storyline going on in the future when in actuality there wasn't. The future stuff is there as an excuse for action and plot convenience for the past stuff, though I will say again that they got the atmosphere of the whole thing perfect in this one! I felt like the future scenes were really in the future, but I think they could have used more substance.

Days of Future Past is a tricky film to judge, because it has plenty of good to offer the franchise on which it's based, and the tone and atmosphere of the picture really brought me into the experience, but as a follow-up to Singer's past X-movies, and especially as a follow-up to First Class, it left me feeling like they could have done more with it. I think the Magneto/Xavier relationship, both in the future and in the past, could have been strengthened a lot, and the scope could have been brought in just a little bit to help keep things tighter. But for all its faults, there's a good screenplay here that just needs a little bit of focus and some tightening of its bolts, and as one of the softest reboots in cinematic history (in that it didn't undo everything past just by starting over but instead paid respects to all the other movies... even X-Men 3... dammit), it succeeds very well. I see this movie as more of a successful restart and refocussing of the franchise than as a good film on its own, but what it does well on its own does make for a fun time on some basic level.

May 30, 2014

Shadowcon Reviews- Scattered

        Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime season 3, episode 2: “Scattered”

One of the things that I think drags this arc down is its simultaneously slow pace and feeling of being rushed through everything, like it just wants to get itself over with. I felt that a lot in the first episode of the season, and while this one picks up the pace considerably, it still feels very much in that state where there’s a lot of movement, but not a lot is actually happening in terms of the plot. This is one of the things I felt the “Orion Pax” portion of the “One Shall Rise” maxi-arc did well: it balanced out its slow pace with elements of character building and interaction, so that the slow moments felt slow for a reason. With this loose four-parter, I think we have a case where the writers were trying to juggle a whole bunch of stuff and so none of it got to shine fully. And this is due in no small part to the fact that Hasbro wanted to put beasts into the Prime universe, which did greatly hamper the writers’ efforts to tell their story, and I think they handled themselves well when wrestling with this aspect of that story. But the aspects that weren’t the result of studio tampering I think could have been shored up a little bit better. We essentially have five plots going on at the same time: three of them are little more than one or two scenes each to remind you that they’re still there for this episode, and the remaining two try to make up for the others’ lack of screen presence and do so poorly.

May 29, 2014

Shameless Self-Promotion

Hey all!

So, I just set up a new Facebook page for all of you to check out and follow and like and all that. This is where you can find my thoughts that are even insignificant enough to escape a Mini-View- really just things that I find interesting in the moment. Thoughts on books, movies, shows, etc. can all be found there. Also, news of when things will come up here now that Project 365 is done can be found there as well. I'll try to inform everyone of what my plans are in terms of reviews and such, and it should in general be a good time.

You can find it here.

May 27, 2014

Shadowcon Reviews- Darkmount, NV

        Shadowcon Reviews: Transformers Prime season 3 episode 1: “Darkmount, NV”

Nicholas Meyer once said that “art thrives on limitations”, and I’ve always been a fan of that phrase because of how true it is. It’s the entire reason Jaws was so effective, it’s what gave several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation their charm and intriguing stories without relying on a high budget… hell, the best example from Trek would have to be Wrath of Kahn, which had about half the budget the first film had and so had to rely solely on its storyline and characters to carry it through… and it did so phenomenally.

While Prime’s third season did not suffer any financial crises (so far as I am aware), the attitude towards it from the fans was one of criticism and skepticism, and the network decided to push for selling toys instead of letting the writers tell their own story, so the writers now had to contend with both making the studio happy, and bringing back the charm that made the first season so good. Not at all easy to do, and what makes the third season so impressive to me is that they did it not only successfully, but they also were very humble about it. This meant that the writers for this third season were really trying to utilize every limit that they were given to tell the best story they could, and while Season Three is not as good as Season One, it’s the care and the acknowledgement of limitations and not shying away from that that makes this the most impressive season in terms of behind-the-scenes history for me.

May 25, 2014

Day 365

A year ago today I posted a picture of my newest Iron Man figure taking flight at the post office as the picture of the day. I now don't have any pictures going with these posts, and while they've gotten longer over time, this last month's have been rather short just because of how much has been going on. And beyond that, look at how boring my life has been in the year you've all gotten to know me kind of!

Well, I guess we'll do the usual for the last time (unless I do another one of these Project 365s, which I don't think I will). I woke up late today and missed the departure of my Aunt and her adorable child, which made me kind of sad. But I woke up and it was nice to just catch my breath, because these last few days have just been chaotic! So chaotic, in fact, that I failed to post the 363 post until last night, so sorry about that! I guess you got to read about my party and my actual graduation on the same day. But today I didn't do a whole lot beyond chatting with my grandparents and setting up their Apple IDs (dear God, did that take forever!) But it was okay, because we all had leftover ribs and sausage for lunch, and man, we still have more in the fridge!

Said goodbye to my grandparents in the afternoon, and they were the last of the family to leave. Whew! I love all my family, and I thank them all for coming out and supporting and celebrating me at graduation and the party! It was such a nice couple of days, however jam-packed they were. I can't believe that graduation is now over. My high school days are over! That's still hitting me now, and probably will hit me again and again in the days to come!

Anyway, went out to Flying Star per our Sunday usual, and tomorrow we might see Days of Future Past if all goes according to the very loose plan we have going on for tomorrow. Expect a Mini-View of that and my review of "Darkmount, NV" soon!

The end of a year's worth of daily blog posts, but certainly not the end of the blog! Thanks for trekking along, and I hope you all continue to do so.

May 24, 2014

Day 364

Graduation party setup and actuality happened today!

It was very lovely, but my god, I am so tired! It was a day full of running around getting stuff, making it back home only to get more stuff, lots of screaming, yelling, and cooking!

The party itself was a lot of fun! Fool the Spruce came and played for us, and I hung out with my friends and some teachers who came. It was a lovely time, and I thank everyone who came out and supported me!

I'm really tired now, and I'll definitely do a bigger post tomorrow because it is my last one of these, but for this one, I can say that this day was a day to remember for me and a truly joyous occasion!

Day 363

I graduated from high school today!

I feel so elated, I can't even believe it! The waiting around and various pictures prior to the actual ceremony was the hardest part, because I was super excited and impatient!

The ceremony itself was very good! All the choir performances went off without a hitch, and I was mentioned three times over the various speeches that the teachers gave! The commencement speaker was really good! He talked about an active mind and even composed a poem for us! It was lovely. Our class speaker was awesome, of course; he made people cry, which I think is a win in anyone's book!

Came back to the house after spending time at the reception, and had some food, got changed, and then headed out again for family photos! These were really good, and my two little cousins held together through the whole thing, something not easily achieved by a three and four year-old!

After this, we all went out to a lovely celebratory dinner! It was awesome and I had spaghetti for dinner and bread pudding for dessert! It was great! Came back home and now suffice it to say, I'm really exhausted! I'll see you all tomorrow for the big party!

Obligatory graduation pictures!

Alumni honorary brick!

And finally, my diploma!

I had an amazing seven years at this school! I will miss it dearly!

May 22, 2014

Day 362

Okay, so today was crazy! Got up and went to the senior breakfast which was a lot of fun. We got to see the video that a fellow student made in memory of us as a sentimental thing, and it was super sweet! There was a picture in there of me and my best friend that I just love, and I'm glad that this one was able to get in there! Also was interviewed about my thesis afterwards, and that was pretty cool too.

After this, I came home and cleaned the house some more. Swept the backyard patio, cleaned the bathrooms, and prepped the master bedroom for my aunt and my three year-ld cousin who's just the most awesome thing ever! That took about two hours, and then i came back to school to walk through the logistics of procession and all that for tomorrow! Also rehearsed the Float On song for a final time. It sounds okay. As long as I remember to count my measures, I think it'll be fine.

Then my aunt and cousin got in, but their luggage was on another flight, so we had to go back to the airport and get the luggage prior to returning home. It was a whole ordeal, but the three year-old hung in there for the whole duration of the journey, so we were all proud of the little trooper for that! More family arrived shortly after our arrival, and it was a nice pre-graduation family party! My cousin who is in college gave me all the tips and hints and warnings about college life, so that was fun, and we of course talked about other stuff like English, science, Buffy, and other geeky things!

Well, I better hit the hay. Big day tomorrow! I cannot believe it's come to this at long last!

May 21, 2014

Day 361

We're on the home stretch now, people! Spent the day running errands of getting food and more food, a lot of drinks, a few more carts of food! Actually, we spent the morning cleaning house, getting ready for my grandparents to come into town later today, and then we went to the grocery and got what must have been $400 worth of food! It was ridiculous!

After stopping to get groceries, I then went to two graduation parties! The first was at a friend's house, and she's awesome because she's a huge comic book nerd! She's going to the Arizona Comic Con and Nathan Fillion is going to be there; autographs are $60... so I managed to wrangle her into getting an autograph of his for me! I'm so excited for that! The party was pretty awesome too, and I love hanging out with my friends.

The other party was much more of a get-together, with more students present and lots more going on. Not to say that the first party was bad, but this one had more activity. The person for whom the party was was awesome. She and I have known each other for twelve years, and so I was quite pleased to see her casual-like prior to all the school stuff tomorrow and Friday. It was super fun to hang out with her and all my friends here, and this was a nice end to the day.

Came back home and talked with my grandparents for a good two hours about school and yearbooks and stuff and am now heading to bed. Why so early? Because I have to be up at 7:00 tomorrow to go to a senior breakfast at my school! Tomorrow will be a very packed day, actually, so it should be pretty fun!

May 20, 2014

Day 360

Five more days!!!

Okay, so today was jam packed with errands, house cleaning, more errands, a track team dinner, and some snapchats! First, I got up pretty early, had some breakfast, and then got to work on hanging up the remaining pictures. Now our hearth for our fireplace is all clean! Also got several boxes of books out of the house and donated to the public library, and we went to my school to drop off some flowers as gifts for the administration department. After this, we went to the grocery store, stocked up on food for the weekend and then came home.

After putting more stuff away, we then got back in the car, went to the comic book store, got the car washed, and then headed over to my last lesson of composition tutoring. It was a nice lesson; I told my tutor about the Joachim violin concerto, and we talked some more theory and modal stuff. It was fun, and I'm hoping to continue studying with him on an irregular basis. We returned home again to then have a family friend drive us over to the car rental place to get our minivan for our family this weekend, then my Mom dropped me off at Chile Rio for the track team dinner. It was a fun dinner; my friend and I had these great burgers that were like green chile cheeseburgers! Yum! Talked it up with the coaches and other athletes about our time here, and my friend and I talked about college and the feeling of being completely done! It's pretty crazy.

Okay, so a few days ago, a fellow soon-to-be Freshmen at Willamette contacted me out of the blue and we immediately hit it off! We've been texting each other non-stop, and tonight I finally got to see her face and hear her speak by using snapchat (we were going to use skype, but I don't have that, much to her dismay and irritation). But I think it's awesome that we're all able to communicate and meat each other before we even see each other in person! Like, I think that is cool. Anyway, we've been sending snapchats back and forth, so I guess that's what I'll be doing for the next hour or so before I go to bed.

Also, I got my hands on my first Age of Extinction figure. It's the Evasion Optimus Prime, and honestly this is one of the only figures I'm planning to get from this line, because the rest of the line doesn't impress me. This figure though! Holy hell, does he impress! Taking the G1 cab-over-engine design and having that vehicle explode into the movie robot design is just inspired, and it's a great love-letter to the fans of the old cartoon... seven years into all of the movie stuff!

May 19, 2014

Day 359

Whew! This was a pretty exhausting but accomplishing day.

Woke up pretty early and started cleaning house. Worked on the backyard, cleaning off the table out there that we haven't used in like six years, so that was fun. Also, worked more on my Taos submission and finally submitted the outline! I was very nervous about doing this, but it's done and out in the open now, so there's nothing I can do about that. I did work on the first chapter of the actual book though, so that was good that I got some of that done.

I did actually have a little bit of time before AYS to work on my "Darkmount" review! Not a lot got done with it, but it's coming along. AYS itself was really fun! It was a nice end rehearsal before tour because we went over the logistics for the flash mob and practiced our entrances and stuff! It was super cool. We also did scramble orchestra which was nifty as always. Our music is sounding very good at this point, and I'm so glad that we don't have rehearsal next week!

Back home now and pretty tired. Tomorrow my Mom is taking the day off and we'll be finishing up tidying up the house. Off to bed now. Goodnight. I'll try to work more on the review tomorrow. See you all tomorrow.

May 18, 2014

Day 358

Okay, so I have some bad news.

My plan for delving into the third season of Prime must be put on hold until after this weekend. There's just too much stuff going on this week for me to get this out, and I am so sorry about that! I know I said I'd have the first part out this week, but just looking ahead, I have way too much happening! I have family coming in, parties, house preparation, and I don't have time to sit down and watch it, organize my thoughts, and then write a review. I know it doesn't seem like a lot of work must be done to get these review out, but I do all of this stuff on my own (that's why so many of my review have typos in them). So, I'll be getting back to reviewing next week after all the guests are gone and I've graduated!

Anyway, enough excuses! I spent a majority of today cleaning house and getting stuff for our backyard garden. I actually really enjoy gardening! Planted some awesome flowers and other assorted plants, and then went out to lunch and got some gifts for people in my class as graduation presents! Picked myself up a copy of Tough Women, a collection of short stories with female leads by all types of authors! I'm eagerly anticipating digging into it (because it's really long)! Also ran into my headmaster at that bookstore; that wasn't weird at all! He did say that the head of the middle school at the eighth grade graduation (yes, we have one) in her speech mentions Buffy and Joss Whedon! I might just drop by to hear that! In fact, I am able to do so as I have a senior breakfast this Thursday, the same day as the eighth grade graduation, so I could make it!

Came back home and continued getting the house in shape for guests to, y'know, stay here! We still need to get the excercycle (which we don't use anyway) into the garage so that my Mom's room has enough space in there for her sister and a three year-old! Hung up some pictures that were just lying on the hearth of the fireplace to get those out of the way too.

Okay, so I found this awesome violin concerto by Joseph Joachim, and just listening to it has now inspired me to maybe tackle a third violin concerto of my own! I encourage you to look this guy up! He didn't write much, but the stuff he did write is just gorgeous. The concerto I found is Joachim's first violin concerto in G minor, and it's insane! It's a romantic piece, but it feels very much like a symphonic work that just happens to star the violin! It's incredibly difficult but so beautiful! It might beat the Kabolevsky concerto as my favorite violin concerto ever! Here are two links to the first and second parts of the first movement recording (because it's really long): First part; Second part.

Well, I'm off to bed. I'll try to finish that review tomorrow! Again, sorry about the longer wait.

May 17, 2014

Day 357

Woke up really late this morning! I spent most of the day working on my Taos Writers Workshop submission and watching the Age of Extinction, Days of Future Past, and Lucy trailers multiple times because those all look really awesome! Also went to see Godzilla, and I put up a Mini-View of it if you're interested in how I feel about it! House cleaning is coming along nicely; we now have everything off the hearth of the fireplace and got several boxes of stuff loaded into the garage. We're making progress.

Saw last Monday's 24: Live Another Day episode. This one was a little more bland than the previous two, but it had some good moments in there. I'm curious how this whole thing is going to play out! Well, I realize that this is a short post, but give me some slack! You got two other posts on here for today, I'm sure you can deal with a short post this time (not that these are anything huge). I'm off to bed. Tomorrow there will be more house cleaning and maybe drafting my "Darkmount" review!

Shadowcon Mini-Views- Godzilla (2014)

Yeah, we're talking about this.

Because you can't see a film about a giant lizard fighting two other giant lizards and then not blog about that shit!

There are spoilers in here, so if you haven't seen the movie and want to be surprised, read no further.

Right off the bat, I want to talk about the style and tone of this film, because these are two crucial elements that the director and the writers play with throughout the movie in order to make it seem more "old school". Much of the first two acts have very little Godzilla in them, and when we do see him, he's obscured by smoke or debris, giving us a very gripping tension and build-up that just works. Most of the time, we're seeing this play out from the humans' perspective, but unlike Michael Bay and the Transformers films' camera work, or lack of it, here it doesn't feel like the camera is deliberately trying to not show us the monsters, but rather that we are seeing what the humans are seeing, and the humans can only see so much of the monsters.

The tone of this thing is very ominous and hellacious. The amount of damage done to the San Francisco Bay is just insane, and there are many scenes where it really feels like these monsters are actually there in the city. The bleakness of the military as they try to stop these things is very palpable, and the sheer scale of all of this makes everything believable (to a degree, of course) and gives us one of the tallest Godzillas, and certainly the most badass out of all of his film incarnations (in my opinion, anyway).

So, characters? What a joke! And really, that's as it should be; this film knows that it's not a character piece, and I'd much rather a film be honest about what it is rather than try to manipulate you into thinking it's something more. This is obviously first and foremost (and some would argue only, though I hope that doesn't come across as having negative connotations) an action kaiju movie, and the characters in here really exist to serve the plot. And the plot of this is very simple, but surprisingly tight in a film like this. I liked the ties back to the original '54 film and how the nuke testings were trying to kill Godzilla, and the plans that the characters come up with are logical and enacted well. It makes the modern-day setting feel natural and consistent in-universe, which is really cool.

While the action for the most part is very good at immersing you in the experience, at some points I was taken out of the movie. This happened primarily with the wide shots of the giant monsters fighting each other, and especially when we see them on the television screens of hospitals and stuff like that. They didn't seem like they had mass behind them, nor did they move in any way that suggested that they were as big as they looked. However, this only happened a couple times, and when the camera is at human-level and pointing up, the in-universe physics remembers to keep the kaiju monsters believably slow-moving while still conveying a required sense of awe and super powerfulness!

In the end, Godzilla is a worthwhile action flick that remains faithful to its source material while injecting enough humanity into the work to give it a life of its own rather than feeling like a mere ripoff of films past. See this movie; it's a visual treat with a surprisingly nice plot to justify the visuals and the action!

Stuff That I Like- 5/17/14

Alright, so I haven't done one of these in a good while now, and given that my "Darkmount" review is going very slowly, I figured I'd give you guys something to read to pass the time. I'll be talking about Lindsey's new video as well as the new Age of Extinction trailer which I know I said I'd do a post about, but really what I have to say fits right in with this format because I don't review trailers, and my thoughts on this are brief enough that they can fit into this post altogether.

So, this came as a bit of a nice surprise for me. I'm usually up on my Lindsey activity and news, but this completely passed my radar and showed up out of the blue for me. There's a lot going on in this just in terms of the music; I mean holy cow, this is a great instrumental/orchestral version of her "Shatter Me" song! And I love the way that she changed the background stuff in the music too: having that springing sound carry from the beginning and then evolve into the drum line is awesome, and how she plays around with the main violin's line in relation to the second violin's is really cool! I like this one more than the regular one; nothing against Lzzy Hale (I obviously still love that song), but I've always liked the orchestral remixes of Lindsey's stuff more than the originals (except for "Crystallize"), and this one is something super special. And that's just with the music; I haven't even touched on the video portion of this music video! The costumes in here are good, though having never played the Child of Light game, I cannot comment as to how accurate they are or their meaning in relation to the song. I do like the backgrounds though: the predominantly warm atmosphere gives this instrumental version of "Shatter Me" a different feel than the original, and the warmth of the violin as an instrument really augments that feeling too. Very cool, and I really want this to be released on iTunes or Spotify or something so that I can listen to it all the time!

So, then we have this new Age of Extinction trailer. Right off the bat, I'd like to say that trailers... I hate trailers. Or rather, I hate to love trailers. Because what a trailer is isn't supposed to tell you what the movie is supposed to be about; it's supposed to get you interested in the movie, and trailers can go about this in very dubious ways. A trailer can lie to you. The trailers for the past three Transformers films have all lied to us. The Revenge of the Fallen teaser trailer looked really awesome, having a darker tone than the first one. Then the movie turned out to be one of the worst films ever made, so there's that. I did a "review" of Dark of the Moon in the way back (I think it was like my eighth or ninth review). Anyway, I had just started to dip my feet into the Transformers franchise as a thing to review, and I remember giving the film a lot of credit for being better than the second one, and I think I rated it as like a 7 or an 8 out of 10. Well, I don't want to give you the impression that this film is good; it's obviously not, but in relation to the rest of the franchise and in relation to the first film (which in my head I have ranked as a 10/10, because it's the best of the three), this one was "good" in the same sense McDonalds is better than Taco Bell to me. Both are shit, but one is better than the other.

So, when going into this trailer, going into this movie, I know exactly what's going to happen in the film: bad humans are chasing all Transformers, bad Transformers are fighting the good Transformers, and good humans will save the day. It's the same plot as the last two films. Now, as a trailer, this one I actually think shows a lot of promise in terms of the writing. The film won't be written well, I can tell you that right now, but in terms of showing us potential, this trailer shows us a lot of potential, none of which will manifest in the film, but I'm glad that it's there in the trailer at least.

There's one piece of dialogue between Optimus and Mark Wahlberg's character that sticks out to me as having the deepest meaning, and that is when Optimus asks how many more of his kind must be sacrificed in service of protecting Earth, and Wahlberg responds: "You gotta have faith, Prime. Maybe not in who we are, but in who we can be." Cliché? Absolutely, but it grounds at least this scene in a more thematic setting. But who am I kidding, this scene will probably end with a cheap laugh or a stupid action sequence, and the potential will be completely forgotten. The action looks awesome of course, and the robots this time around look cleaner. They're less junkyard scrapheaps and more actual cohesive robots. I'm loving the new look for Optimus, and that ending to the trailer is beautiful with him leaping off of Grimlock and spinning around with that awesome sword and shield! Yeah, that's badass!

Is the movie going to be good? No; that should go without saying. But for God's sake, it seems like they're at least trying with this one! Anyway, those are my thoughts on this new trailer. New review of a show far superior to the Transformers films will be coming sometime in the next week, so look forward to that!

May 16, 2014

Day 356

Today started out great because my fellow advisees had breakfast at Weck's as a get-together with our advisor and thank him for how awesome he is. It was a great breakfast because Weck's is freaking awesome, and it was a nice hour of hanging out together for the last time before graduation! After this, my Mom and I went to Costco to get some large packages for next Saturday's party! We got two big cases of wine, a huge thing of Coke, some Rice Krispies for ourselves because we love sugar and carbs, and some other snacks for the party. Spent some time today writing up my review of "Darkmount", the first of the four-part Season Three opener for Transformers Prime. It's slow-going because of real life stuff and also because I'm just really not feeling review-y right now if that makes sense. I need to be in a mood to do these, and I'm just not feeling it right now. Sorry, and thank you for your patience!

Had the big huge bombastic concert with 300 other musicians from all twelve grades at my school! Take a look at this picture of the orchestra on the far left and the audience on the right! It's awesome!

The concert itself was the smoothest one out of all four of the ones I've done. For one, it wasn't drastically windy, rainy, or otherwise bad weather, and also we stayed together better than we have in past. We didn't sound great, but by God was this an improvement over previous years! Logistically too, it was tighter this year. People got there, got set up, and coordination and communication were better. I'm glad this was my last one of these! This is one aspect of my school I will not miss!

Came home and had Indian food because I love Indian food and was in the mood for something spicy! Now off to my room to catch up on my reading for pleasure (maybe actually get back to A Feast for Crows; that'd be such a novelty!) and then bed! Goodnight all!

May 15, 2014

Day 355

As of now, I'm officially done with curricular activities! Granted, I still have to play at the concert tomorrow, but besides that, I'm done! I'm done with high school minus graduation (so I guess I have next week)... the point is, I'm really happy!

Today, I worked more on my Taos outline submission, sketching out some characters to populate my story, giving them names and such, and also watched a lot of reviews of Transformers toys. And speaking of Transformers, the new Age of Extinction trailer came out! I might do a post on this after this one, but no promises. Found out also that tomorrow morning, my advisory is having a farewell breakfast, because getting sappy and emotional at Apple Mountain wasn't enough; we also now have to all gather at Wex and chill there with our advisor! It should be awesome, though!

Hey, let's talk some colloquium! So, I must say that it was really nice to just have to show up and not talk to thirty people! I learned a lot tonight too. It was a lovely experience; every presentation I went to (except for the last one) I felt I gained a new perspective about the world. In the first one I saw, I learned about being a vegan and how it's not as black and white as people think it is, nor is it as hostile as everyone makes it out to be. It was very interesting, and the presenter did a great job of not coming across as attacking the people who aren't vegan. It was a very well-balanced talk, and that was excellent to see on a rather hot-button topic! The second presentation talked about groupthink in the jury system of the courts, and that was really good too because the speaker talked about her education at my school alongside that, and how our school does a good job of diversifying its students' intellectual development. It was really interesting.

The third presentation was also really cool. This one was on comic books and art and the messages and themes behind that and how that's changed. This was fascinating, because it looked at art in comics from the 1950s, talking about the aftermath of WWII, the cold war, all that stuff, and then compared that to stuff seen in the '80s like Watchmen, which looked at a more complicated hero, all the way up to now where the presenter argued that superhero comics are really not as popular as they once were, that we're now looking for more realistic people to relate to. I don't agree with that, but the argument was presented very well, and I loved how he analyzed the thematic importance of the art in comics and the development of that over time!

And then the last presentation. This is the one where I had to play my violin to help out with it, and while I sucked because I messed up and was absurdly nervous for no reason, that wasn't the problem with the whole thing. The problem with the whole thing was really what the presenter argued. He said that heavy metal was like classical music in that it was harmonically similar and used the same techniques as classical music of being made up of major and minor chords, progressions, etc. Well yeah, but you could make that argument for any music in comparison to any other music form! Hell, isn't that what music is? And what makes this bad is that the presenter actually touched upon a great topic that was so close to what he was talking about... but he did it in the Q&A session, in which he said that heavy metal should be just as respected as other types of music... great! But where was that in your argument, sir? Not trying to be negative here, but truth be told, this was the weakest presentation I saw, not because of the presenter's flawed argument, not because I messed up in helping him demonstrate what he was talking about, but because he was so close to talking about something that could have and should have been his main point! So disappointing! While it did kinda suck to end on a rather bland note, overall, this colloquium thing was a huge hit! I'm so happy my school does this, and I liked that some alumni came back to watch it! That's cool; I hope I'll be able to do that in the future!

Came back home and watched the Season Three finale of Person of Interest! It was intense, but I wished they had focussed more on the moral and ethical debates regarding the Machine and what Finch was going through. It kinda felt like it was retreading ground. Not bad, but just a tad underdone. The final act though, that was awesome! And I like that it's kind of entered a soft reboot with the ending there. I can't wait to see Season Four in the fall!

Well, I'm off to bed. Great day today, and I'm hoping that tomorrow's concert won't be too bad (it will, but I can dream, can't I?)

May 14, 2014

Day 354

I'm feeling both relieved and still also quite giddy about tonight, but I'll get to that in due time. First off, I started my day with going to the eye doctor and getting my eyes checked out. It turns out that my glasses suck for my eyes, so I got a new prescription today and will probably get new glasses this weekend. Came back home, took a nap because I got my eyes dilated, and then practiced the hell out of my colloquium presentation!

Went to school for a rehearsal for Friday's big ridiculous bombastic concert. It was only twenty minutes. I spent the next ten just hanging out, and then went home to change and eat an early dinner before colloquium night! I was super nervous upon arrival, and fumbled my way through setting up the technology for my powerpoint. Everyone around me was pretty nervous too! But then the big moment came (I was in the first group to present), and my room was just packed to the brim with people! Not at all calming for the nerves, to be honest, but I presented and did my best to smashing success. I'm unashamedly happy to admit that my presentation was received with rave reviews from those who saw it. That's a good feeling, I'll admit. The other presentations I saw were all really awesome, too! There was one excellent one on the benefits of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles which was very nicely presented, another which examined Desperate Housewives as a feminist show (which it absolutely is), and that was great! The other two were also really cool, too. One talked about the importance of being aware of forrest fires, the other talked about the drawbacks and ethics of solitary confinement. This whole event was amazing to me, because it really showcased what we've learned over the year in a way that has us talk about what we love! And it continues tomorrow, and I'm super excited about that!

Now back at home, still pretty high up in the air about all this stuff. I'm glad to be done (though as is my way, I'm still going to be working on my thesis because reasons), and it was super enjoyable to see peoples' presentations that I had not yet seen. Super enjoyable!

May 13, 2014

Day 353

So, I had a pretty nice day today. I took a break from House of Cards and instead continued to work on my Taos submission and my thesis. I also read my friend's thesis on Star Trek and post-colonialism, and practiced the violin. Went through my colloquium presentation a few times today, now able to cut it down to around nineteen minutes, which is pretty good, I think. I will go over it a lot tomorrow, because tomorrow night's the big night! I'm pretty nervous, not gonna lie.

Read some more of Nervous Conditions. I'm getting the sense that once I'm done with this second reading of it, it's going to get bumped up in my list of top ten favorite books, because I'm noticing some elements upon a second reading that I didn't notice on the first, which is always a sign of a good book. Bought my penultimate figure for my Transformers Prime toy collection, the 2014 Voyager Predaking mold, which I'm looking forward to a lot! After that, I'll only need the purple-colored Jet Vehicon, and then I'm all set!

Composition tutoring was okay. We reviewed some theory stuff and he gave me a book called Original Wisdom by Robert Wolff. Should be an interesting read. Came home and watched the season finale to Agents of SHIELD. It was okay. I'm actually more impressed with just how far the series has grown from it's inception to where it is now, mostly due to how it's responded to outside events in the MCU. It's not a great show by any means, but compared to where it started... yeah, it's definitely come a long way, and I give it significant points for that! Oh, and yes, Sam Jackson kicked ass in this too!

Well, I better get some sleep. Tomorrow I have a doctor's appointment, and then must rehearse like crazy for my presentation tomorrow night. Wish me luck, everyone!

May 12, 2014

Day 352

Had an awesome day today. I started the Netflix series House of Cards, and it is just ruthlessly awesome! This Underwood character is just a piece of work, and Kevin Spacey plays him with such cold calculative precision that he's able to make you tremble and scared as hell even when he's being nice! It's really a remarkable show, and I highly recommend it!

Well, you can guess what I did with my day today then. I also ran through my colloquium presentation, which apparently now is running over twenty minutes, and I'm kinda freaking out about it! I don't know why it's going longer, it's not like I've added anything to it beyond a five second synopsis covering the show. I must tighten it up prior to Wednesday! I also worked on the thesis itself a little bit more, and worked on my Taos Writer's Workshop submission a little bit. It's getting there.

Worked on my friend's thesis presentation a little bit as well. Just rehearsed the Beethoven and the Aces High excerpts a couple of times. They sound much better now than they did on presentation day four weeks ago. Then my Mom and I went out to dinner and then headed over to the awards ceremony at my school. The ceremony is mostly for seniors, but there are a few junior, sophomore, and freshmen awards as well. Last year, I won the History award. This year, I won the Strings music award, so that was nice. Groups were recognized as well (I was awarded a cord for my participation in Tri-M Music Honors Society), and a few of my peers were recognized for outstanding academic performance over the course of their four years of high school. Anyway, the whole thing was super awesome and fun, and it was nice to be supportive to those who got the really prestigious stuff, and it was nice to win something of my own.

Now I'm back at home working on my Taos submission and watching more House of Cards! See you all tomorrow!

May 11, 2014

Day 351

Happy Mother's Day to all the awesome moms out there! I neglected to get my Mom a lanyard, though I did get her some flowers and a nice card.

Ran some errands today after working on my thesis a little more. This thing is seriously making my brain way too excited for my own good, but I can't stop working on it. I guess that's a good thing; it means I'm interested in my topic even after a year of working with it. Anyway, we shopped at the World Market to get some curtains, some wine for the party (for the adults of course, though I'm sure a few of us will try to sneak in a few sips; not me though, I'm very wary of alcohol), and some yummy chips.

Came home and got caught up on the latest Person of Interest! This show, man! I can't wait for next week's episode that's the season finale! This one was really cool, though I could have used more of the Finch/Greer ethical debates, but the action and the tension was really fun, and it was nice to get some character development for the Collier character. I also love how all of the organizations are converging for a big showdown "trial" next week! Should be awesome!

Also checked out the first two episodes of 24: Live Another Day. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'm not the biggest 24 fan, though when I get into it, I really get into it, because it is super suspenseful when written well. This feels very much like it's running on the show's staying power and name recognition as of right now, but I'm looking forward to what goes on from here!

Had a nice dinner out at Flying Star and am now working on my manuscript for the Taos Writer's Conference. Pretty excited to get cracking on this thing. Oh, and here's a very belated promotion of my friend's first music video! See it here. See you all tomorrow.

May 10, 2014

Day 350

Had a pretty good day today, getting really awesome in the evening, but I guess I'll get to that! I started off the morning working a little bit more on my thesis: I read the introductions to all of my Buffy books to get a sense of what these people are saying overall, and then reread my introduction to see if I did the same. I think I did, but I do want to incorporate some of what these other authors are saying into my paper because even in their introductions, these people have stuff to say that's relevant to the whole of my paper! It's really awesome!

Aaron and I went to the state track meet today. It was really good! Our girls team got third, and watching the medleys was really awesome! We also had lunch and picked up Mother's Day gifts. Came home and worked more on my thesis. Aaron's family flew in and arrived around dinner time, so we went to meet them before Aaron left. The dinner was really great, and it was nice to see Aaron's family before saying goodbye. I'm glad he stayed over, and I hope he had a good time here!

Then my Mom and I went to see George RR Martin and Diana Gabaldon speak at this even called A Word with Writers! It was a great talk, with the two talking about their experiences writing their respective works, how they work when writing, the inceptions for their books, and so on. It was really great to hear them talk about this stuff; both are super articulate and thoughtful, and it was just a joy to listen to them discuss their books and their lives. Super awesome talk!

Now I'm back home and ready for bed. Tomorrow I get to sleep in, thank God. I'll see you all tomorrow!

May 9, 2014

Day 349

Alright, so I'm still really sick. I actually think I'm getting better, but that doesn't mean I feel good. I feel terrible! Got up and had some yummy French toast, then headed out to the senior barbecue with Aaron. The lunch was fine, and I got to hang out with my friends, and that was cool. It was a gorgeous day outside, and it was nice to be at school for just a laid back event.

Of course, then it turned out that the strings and choir people had a spontaneous rehearsal of the graduation song I arranged, and so that kinda sucked. But, the rehearsal itself went fine I guess. I must arrange a new piano part for the pianist because they don't want to drown out the strings that have the top line of the piano, so I will do that this weekend.

Came back home and did some more work on the introduction of my thesis. I've started rereading Nervous Conditions too for some reason. I really like that book! Went out for Indian food for dinner. I had a really nasty bloody nose though, so that kind of hampered things. Had this awesome spicy shrimp though, and that was really good! Came back home and Aaron and I watched X-Men: United. I think that's still the best film of the X-Men film franchise, with First Class coming in at a close second for me.

I'm now off to bed because I'm really tired and sick and just a disgusting creature right now. See you all tomorrow!

May 8, 2014

Day 348

Well, I got up early this morning, because Lord knows my sanity needed that little cherry on top of this rather crap sundae! I'm still sick (it's now turned into a congestive head cold), but I went to strings rehearsal anyway because I'm a good student like that. We didn't do a whole lot in there today. Actually, the amusing thing is that all of us in there today were seniors; everyone wlse had decided to ditch class I guess. Sk, we got to work on rehearsing Float On for the senior graduation. It went horribly, but hopefully with the choir and drums and piano keeping everything in check, we should be fine... so yeah, basically we're relying on everyone else to get this to work!

Came home after this and had a long nap because I was super tired. Then I got up and started in on getting my Willamette email set up and Colloqium classes and questionnaire submitted. Now all I need to do is take the language placement exam, register for the rest of classes, get a firm and roommate, and go off to college to learn some stuff! I remind myself daily that the stressful part of this was over when the acceptance letters rolled in (lol! Nope!)

Practiced the violin for an hour before heading out to what is probably going up be my last violin lesson for May just because of how much stuff I've got going on for the next few Thursdays. We worked pretty diligently on Kabolevsky and we quit early because I'm sick and I must have been pretty shit company!

Came home and had some yummy spaghetti and then watched the first X-Men movie because I guess Aaron and I are marathoning the movies now. I like to think it's in perpetrator for the new ins coming out here shortly! I'm off to bed now. Goodnight.

May 7, 2014

Days 346 and 347

Had a fantastic time up at Apple Mountain with my class! We all got our yearbooks and basically spent the last two days standing or sitting around and signing them or just shooting the breeze. It was lovely up there. Unfortunately, I got sick, so now my throat's all aching and my head's messed up. Got it from a friend, I think.

The sentimental mood was felt throughout my class though, because along with yearbooks, our Senior Committee handed each student their own "Paper Plate Award", a paper plate with a reference to the person written on it, usually running the lines of "most likely to" or "best". Mine was "Most Likely to Write My Own Dictionary", which I found quite appropriate because I love words!

Other than that, not much happened over these two days. We got back at around 3:00 today, and then Aaron and I headed home. We watched The Amazing Spider-Man in the hopes of getting the bad taste of the second one out of our mouths. Now, we're watching X-Men: First Class, because we really have nothing better to do. I'm still really sick, so I might call it an early night tonight. Glad to be home, everyone!

May 5, 2014

Day 345

This was a shit day.

As some of you may know, I'm not really big on the whole service learning program that we have at my school. My biggest issue with it is the person in charge is completely incompetent, and the work we do besides that isn't even very good or rewarding. Like today. Today we all split up into groups and worked on different farm sights, and I guess every other group had a much better time than I did by God, because y'know what I did with my day? I dug trenches! It was literally my own, and several others' definition of hell! And our chaperon didn't even help out! And then she almost got us killed on the way back because I guess she was so incompetent that she didn't even know how yo drive a bus, and then she blamed us for nearly getting into an accident! I fucking hate service learning!!!

Loner we got back to school though, things got better. We all got our caps and gowns, so I guess we're all graduating! That's exciting! Also , I talked to my track coach, and it turns out I only have to go to practice Wednesday! I don't even have to go to the meet! I mean, I will home out and support the team for a bit, but I won't be required there for the whole time, which is nice. Also, we got our Colloquium schedule! I'm going first on Wednesday of next week, which works out super well for me because I'll already be there for a strings rehearsal! I'm also going to several of the ones that I haven't yet seen! Should be awesome!

AYS tonight went very well! We're really staring to polish up our pieces for our New York tour! Also, our conductor, you know, the sexist dictatorial asshole, yeah, he's resigning! Thank God! I'm actually a little sad that he's leaving honestly, but I'm glad of it too. It'll be nice to get a fresh pair of eyes in on the program.

Tomorrow, we do more work that doesn't matter and then head over to Apple Mountain for an overnight! Might not be able to blog tomorrow because there's no wifi up there, so we'll see!

May 4, 2014

Day 344

Today was an enjoyable relaxing day of watching movies and planning out the week! I got up at around noon again, because I stayed up kinda late posting my Mini-View of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I also worked a whole lot on expanding my thesis for no reason today. I just had this urge to write more on it, because I started reading all these essays in some of the Buffy books I had read for my thesis in the first place. I went back to those and started reading some stuff that I hadn't read before, and so I wanted to include that in my paper... I'm a weird kid, okay?! I also wrote a really shoddy "review" of Shatter Me. Really it's more of an explanation of why I don't do music or album reviews than anything else.

Aaron and I watched the first Transformers movie, which I surprisingly hadn't seen in at least four years! Okay, maybe not that long, but it'd been a while. I remembered it perfectly though because I have nothing better to commit to memory than the first in a long string of Michael Bay car porn movies! We took a little break in the middle of this to plant our first couple of plants in my backyard garden that we now have going! I'm pretty excited about it actually. Aaron and I finished off the movie and by the end I was exhausted. I did not remember this film being as long as it felt this time around. Probably because I had seen it before, but it also had that feeling of you know everything that's going to happen so it feels protracted, if that makes sense.

And then after that movie, Aaron and I decided to watch The Dark Knight, because why the hell not?! It's one of my favorite movies anyway, so I felt better about this one than i did rewatching Transformers for the umpteenth time. Strangely, both movies' discs were scratched, and so both movies froze up in places. Besides this, though, watching The Dark Knight again was a thoroughly enjoyable experience!

Bagged and boarded up my comics from the past two months, and this began to clear off my desk in my room. Now all I have on there is an SAT book that I use as a platform to put my laptop on because I don't want to be hunched over all the time, and some CDs. All three of us went out to Flying Star, and there we discussed the logistics for this week. It's a pretty weird week because the normal schedule is all messed up! Now I'm off to bed to get some sleep so that I may embark on that crazy schedule starting tomorrow!

A Look at Shatter Me

I've been a fan of Lindsey Stirling for a good three years now, discovering her through her Zelda Medley video and quickly developing a huge respect and adoration for her. She has this element of inspiration about her that I've not seen in many other artists. She's very humble, and it's her story of how she came to be here that really is the crux of why I love her. It's not her musicianship or her music, though the latter is certainly something that I love; it's the fact that she struggled and prevailed in the face of obstacles, most of which I can wholeheartedly relate to. If you've ever been told you can't do something, you've either given up or proceeded with whatever it is anyway but with more determination than ever. It's the second option that Lindsey chose to take, and she made the absolutely right decision because of it.

With her first album, I had written a review of it that was really awful because quite honestly, I don't know how to review music. It's not something that I do, and I don't have much knowledge on what to exactly convey in the review. I'm conflicted on what to talk about here, because on the one hand, Lindsey's music is very personal to her and so she wants to convey her messages whatever those may be through the music. But for me, music is most meaningful when it is judged by the person listening to it. Subjectivity in music is absolutely fine; I actually encourage it. Because what is music even about if it has a specific meaning? I mean, you can argue that a song has a message in it (and this album definitely has a message behind it), but to what degree that message is allowed to permeate your feelings about the song is really up to the listener. Music is so powerful in this regard.

Shatter Me is an album that Lindsey has always wanted to make. With her debut album, about half the stuff on there had already been released as singles, and the rest of it didn't really feel like authentic Lindsey stuff upon first listening. It took me a long time to really "get" the new music on there, which is why my review sucked. I don't have it anymore because I was kind of ashamed of putting such a weird and off-the-point thing on my blog, but in that review I said something to the affect of "this isn't Lindsey. I'm not hearing anything meaningful in here."

I've since changed my views about that completely, because that album isn't the one that she gets to go all out on and take risks; that album is the one that she must prove can swim before she can get into deep diving. Shatter Me is the deep diving album! This thing is amazing mostly because Lindsey really did put her all into this. First off, this includes two songs: the titular "Shatter Me" sung by Lzzy Hale, another one of my favorite artists, and "We are Giants" sung by Dia Frampton. Both of these songs were written by Lindsey to help express what she was going through early on in her life, what she believes in, and her mental process in getting to where she is now... at least that's what she says it means; to others it could mean something completely different.

Anyway, the two songs on here are both really good, but I will come out and say that I don't think that this album should have been called Shatter Me at all. I think it should have been called We Are Giants, because that is the song that best expresses Lindsey as she is to me. But again, that's just my interpretation of the whole thing. "We Are Giants" is a great song, talking about standing up for what you believe in even if your voice sounds so small, and how that doesn't matter because you mean something to someone. This best illustrates in music what Lindsey has said elsewhere, and I think this song is the track that best represents what she means to me.

Other tracks on here that are of note are "Roundtable Rival", a really neat pseudo orchestral piece that mixes with dubstep and awesome fiddle motifs that all result in this nifty tune that just sounds like it's meant to be in a car commercial! It has this slick feeling about it; I love it. "Swag" is another one on here that I originally didn't really like, but it's grown on me a lot. I like the tune of this, and the backbeat of the piece is pretty groovy. In fact, unlike a lot of her previous album's pieces, most of these are very lyrical; I can hear themes and leitmotifs that come back in other pieces, and some thematic material from the last album that's been expanded or changed a little for this one, which is also really cool. It's a nice evolution if you will from one album to the next.

The lyricalness of most of the tracks on here I think is indicative of what Lindsey was trying to express here: that of finding yourself and being what she calls a "free spirit", not bound by the rules set out by the industry. I think her album reflects this perfectly, as the tracks on here are very bright, they're all really dance-like, and they bring Lindsey back to her roots of being a dancing violinist, as all of these make you want to get up and dance.

I'm still not sure if this review is at all helpful or informative in any way, but I am sure that Shatter Me is an awesome experience! It's a very story-oriented album from an inspiration of mine whose struggles and accomplishments in light of those obstacles are very meaningful to me. I continue to listen to Lindsey's music daily, with this album as a welcome addition into the mix of Lindsey Stirling music!

Shadowcon Mini-Views- The Amazing Spider-Man 2

This review contains spoilers for The Amazing Spider-Man and for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Read at your own risk.

Let me say this to start: I loved The Amazing Spider-Man. The first one. I loved that film. It had problems, yes, but it also had something that the first Sam Raimi film lacked, and that was characterful heart. What I mean by that is that this movie told an origins story for the Spider-Man character that I felt was lacking in the Raimi film. That film focussed on the powers, the spectacle, and the action more than it ever did the Peter Parker character. That's a real shame, because Peter Parker is a great character. But The Amazing Spider-Man did focus on the character of Peter Parker, and what's more, it showed what the Spider-Man powers were doing to Peter. This showed what he was going through in learning all of this new stuff, instead of just showing us Spider-Man do Spider-Man things.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 tried to do a similar thing. It really did. And for the first act and even a little bit into the second, it did it quite well. After a brief prologue (which I'll get into later), we pick up with Peter and Gwen in a kind of awkward but manageable relationship, but something is tugging at Peter's conscience: see, in the last movie (spoiler alert), Gwen's dad died, and his last wish for Peter was that Peter not involve Gwen in his life, that he keep her out of his life so as to protect her from Spider-Man and the harm that this persona poses to her. And we see here that Peter and Gwen are together... but this is tearing Peter apart on the inside. He feels like he's betraying what Gwen's dad had made him promise to do. This is great! The character-centric elements of this were awesome, and we see this really well in the relationship between Gwen and Peter, and what the Spider-Man persona is doing to them. That is such a strong thematic and story-worthy development, and I absolutely loved this part of the movie; really this whole theme could have been the heart and soul of the work, and to a certain extent it was, but not to the degree that I think it could have or should have been. There's a boat-load of extra stuff going on around this, most of which doesn't work.

Along with this, we have the introduction of Harry Osborne, solving the mystery of Peter's parents, developing the character of Electro... you can see that this movie is trying to do a whole lot, and all of this is in the first two acts. And I know you wouldn't believe me if I told you, but there's still other stuff that they set up in the third and, need I remind you, closing, act of the film! Okay, did these people watch Spider-Man 3? Did they learn nothing from that film? Ambitious though this may be, Amazing 2 feels very crowded, too fan-oriented, and far too focussed on spectacle over substance.

To the film's credit, this one does have one element that all other Spider-Man films lack (even the last one), and that's the off-the-cuff wisecracks that Spider-Man is so known for cracking while in battle. Here, we see him not only fight, but also offer jokes and mockery to his villains, and we also see him save and interact with civilians as he does this. Spider-Man's dialogue while in costume was really amped up for this film, and this really made you feel like you were watching an issue of the comic book! That was great! The action too is plentiful, and looks great! If you're in here for an action flick, then you'll get plenty of that.

But I'd like to talk about the problems that I had with this because there are a great many. First off, let's talk about Harry Osborne and his introduction and character interaction with Peter Parker. This Harry sucks. He sucks as a civilian, he most definitely sucks as a friend of Peter Parker's, and he sucks as the not-villain that he was in the end (more on that later). In this universe, Harry is a long-lost friend of Peter's, much like Eddie Brock was in the Ultimate Spider-Man universe. The problems here are that first, Harry Osborne is not Eddie Brock, and that second, Harry and Peter only share three scenes together (five if you count Harry meeting Spider-Man for the first time, and the final battle). But in terms of character-building scenes, we get only three scenes of these two friends interacting. What makes this bad is that we don't know Harry yet, and yet the film expects us to understand what he and Peter mean to one another right off the bat. I really hate it when superhero films rely on past knowledge of the comics in order for the audience to get through the film. If you want us to know Harry, or to know Peter and Harry's relationship, then you must show us these things in your movie! This didn't do that. It threw Harry in there and then tried to shuffle him in with all the other stuff going on. And the real killer here is that we don't even get to know Peter any better when looking at his character through Harry! These two have no chemistry on screen, and their relationship is entirely at the expense of the plot. Not at all how I like to see writers set up or evolve their characters.

The main villain of the piece is Max Dillion, aka Electro, and he barely fairs better than Harry does in the fleshed-out character department. We're introduced to him very well actually, with Spider-Man saving Max's life. Max is thrilled about this because he's a huge Spider-Man fan... like it's actually one of the creepiest things about the movie! This character is a little bit crazy, but one thing that he's clear on is that Spider-Man is a force for hope and good. This establishes the theme of what Spider-Man means to the people, but the theme is so quiet compared to the rest of the movie that it never gets a chance to resonate with the audience. Much like Peter's guilt over Gwen's dad and the promise he made to him, the theme of what Spider-Man is for never really lifts it's head above water because of all the other things it must contend with. And after Max gets his Electro powers, his character just becomes a bad guy who shoots at you. They did have a nice scene with he and Spider-Man battling and then Spider-Man having to talk to Max to try to calm him down, but that went nowhere and Electro, the script, and supposedly the audience, just forgot about it. I didn't, because that scene was good, so it stuck out in my mind. But Electro's character didn't really learn anything from this encounter. He sees the public cheering on Spider-Man in the wake of this conversation and then has a tantrum and starts attacking people again. So, what was that great conversation for? Electro's theme in the film is that he wants to be noticed, he wants to be somebody. That conversation tried to bring that home for Spider-Man as well, but it didn't do it very well, and after this, the theme is dropped almost entirely. Actually, no. It's dropped, period. Any time it's brought back it is in service of the plot, and so it ruins it's return and resonance with the audience.

It may seem like I'm bitching about the movie (and I am), but I'm not mad at it. I'm more disappointed in it than anything else. That is, I was until the climax... then I got really pissed off. Harry Osborne frees Electro on the grounds that he needs him to get back into Oscorpe after having been kicked out, and Electro needs Harry to get to the power grid that he designed but then had taken from him by the Oscorpe business people... I'm not sure how getting to the physical grid will make you reclaim it legally, but whatever. And then we reach the climax. Electro fights Spider-Man while Gwen tries to shut down the grid to cut off power to Electro (I think... it was kinda complicated), and then once Electro's defeated, out of nowhere comes Harry Osborne in the goblin armor and glider! Okay, so where was the setup for that? Oh, it was in a one-off comment by a computer?! WHAT??? So, what does this say about Harry's character? Absolutely nothing. He's hear because they needed to cram the Green Goblin in here so that Gwen can die.

Let's talk about that death and the lead-up to it. Gwen Stacy's death in the comics is one of the most profound and powerful deaths in all of comic book history, and she is one of the few characters who hasn't been brought back in the 616 continuity as far as I know, because that death was so powerful, so shattering to Peter Parker, that no author could possibly bring her back and do it justice without lessening that death's power. Well, maybe no one's tried to bring her back, but by God that won't stop this film from doing the death again... except so, so, so much worse. And it isn't even the death itself that's bad. It's the setup and the thematic follow-through that is lacking here. What the Green Goblin in the comics was doing to Peter was making him suffer. He was making Peter suffer emotionally as well as physically, and that meant going after his love, Gwen Stacy. Targeting her was to target Peter's life, and that's his greatest weakness. Here, they try to do that, but the Green Goblin was introduced literally seconds before this battle, so it loses any and all hope of having meaning to the audience. And Harry's character throughout the film didn't demonstrate any desire to make Peter suffer; all of his actions geared towards taking Spidey out were for the purposes of the plot, and not in any way related to his character. Because Harry sucked as a character, so too does he suck as a secondary villain who is now apparently the main villain as he and Spidey fight. There was no build-up to he and Spidey being enemies, and there was even less build-up to him wanting to ruin Peter's life by going after Gwen. From here, the expected happens (with a little fake-out that was kinda cute before moving on with the actual death). The death itself was handled actually pretty well. They do make Gwen's death a snapping of the neck like in the comics, and the web forming an outstretched hand was a nice touch, but it didn't mean a whole lot beyond the fact that Gwen was dead; what was the point of it? There's no thematic tie-in with this, no character-driven motivation for this beyond Peter not wanting her to die- they try to bring back Peter's guilt over his betrayal of Gwen's dad in order to foreshadow this, but that theme was dropped an act and a half ago! Really, this whole thing was in there just for fan service, and like Into Darkness's Kirk dies scene, this aped the source material and went through the motions without any thematic- or character-relevance.

Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is an ambitious film that tries to hit every Spider-Man mark possible for no reason. It didn't need to be this crowded! We already know that we have at least two more of these things planned; why not save a few of these plots for later films? Have this one be centered on Peter's and Gwen's relationship struggles and Electro's desire to have meaning, cut out Harry and Oscorpe and Peter's parents (which I didn't even touch on because it was such a small part of the film), and just have a solid Spider-Man character-driven movie like the last one. This one feels stuffy and while not as bad as Spider-Man 3, is still a poor successor to the breath of fresh air that was The Amazing Spider-Man.

May 3, 2014

Day 343

Lots of cleaning and getting things in order today! I actually woke up at noon, by which time my Mom had already been to the grocery store, gotten rid of some things, picked up the dry-cleaning, and returned home to continue sprucing up the guest room! I was a little abashed, I'll admit. I helped out in the afternoon, though. I cleaned my bathroom, and we made sure the spare room was presentable for Aaron to stay in. I also cleaned out a lot of junk in my room.

Went to the comic book store today too! It was Free Comic Book Day today, so our store was super crowded. I didn't get any free comic books. Instead I caught up on the IDW Transformers series with their cross-titled "Dawn of the Autobots" line, one of the stupidist titles ever, and picked up the new Amazing Spider-Man #1, which I'm really excited to read. I now have a huge stack of comics on my desk because I failed to bag and board last month's haul.

Aaron arrived at around 6:00, and we had dinner. That was fun. He's staying over for the week, so that should be interesting! Hope no one dies. We went to go see The Amazing Spider-Man 2 after dinner, and I'll be putting my thoughts on that film up here shortly. Now we're back home, and I'm ready to go to bed. Oh, and after two weeks of waiting, my signed booklet and second copy of Lindsey Stirling's Shatter Me album came today (expect a review of that to go up sometime tomorrow).

May 2, 2014

Day 342

And so, it has thus arrived that I am now done with classes! Today was super bittersweet! The senior pranks hit it off really well with everyone, and the mood around campus was one of joy and sadness at the prospect of being done with high school academics. For me personally, I'm more sad than not; I've had an amazing seven years at this school, and today it really hit me hard that I'm leaving for college, and that I'm now done with high school classes! I'm just overwhelmed with feelings right now!

I began the day with our daily Morning Meeting, in which everyone gathers in the cafeteria and sits through faculty and student announcements. It's normally a rather boring time, but today was really special, because all the senior advisors got up and each read their own section from Dr. Seuss's Oh, the Places You'll Go. It was really heartwarming because they also had a slideshow of pictures of us from across the seven years and displayed all of our colleges up there as well! It was a really great send-off into the day.

Presentations concluded for me first block with two presentations that were both very strong and very weak in different areas. The first one was weak only because the presenter was not very well put together. Truthfully, she doesn't have a very good public speaking ability nor can she hold a room very well. She also wants to be a teacher, and that's what her thesis was about: good teaching. The topic itself was fascinating, and what she was talking about was very strong. She knew her facts and her ideas about what makes a good teacher agreed with my opinions on that topic, and even the ones that didn't sit well with me (like grouping each person into a specific kind of thinking) were still very interesting and presented clearly. But the speaker's speaking ability and her inability to hold our attention definitely withdrew several points from her grade according to the teachers.

The second presentation had almost the opposite problem. This speaker talked about Guantanamo Bay and how we need to get rid of it and the military courts in place there. This was an amazing topic, and the presenter did really well with presenting her arguments about it. Her facts were strong, her delivery was clear and blunt... and therein lay the problem. She showed us a video of a man voluntarily being force-fed a la Guantanamo torture, and it was just brutal. The images she showed were also rather graphic and the whole thing was almost too depressing for a presentation. It was an excellent presentation, but definitely not something I'd want to go to to have a good time.

Advanced English was alright. We handed in our portfolios and then spent the rest of the time chatting it up with our teacher. He told us about his trip to DC this past week, and we all went around in a circle and presented our portfolio covers and our stories about our titles and/or works we put into the portfolio. It was a nice way to end this particular class.

Strings was nice too! Along with the choir, we all met in the band room to run through our end of the year big concert pieces. They went okay. We all sound very unbalanced, but I'm sure with a few more rehearsals we'll all get it... aw who am I kidding? This end of the year thing always goes terribly! At least this year we have somewhat respectable pieces. After this, my strings class took a trip to the frozen yogurt place and we had a nice discussion about theses and being seniors (even those of us who weren't seniors were in on the conversation), and it was a nice time! I really loved the strings program at my school!

Finally, we ended our high school academic career with STAM, the class I least enjoyed this year. However, this survey project was really interesting to me, and I completed it as well as handed in my textbook which we literally didn't use at all over the course of the year! This was again a very low-key class (only five people showed up because the rest of the class was done with their projects), and since I got done like right away, I spent the rest of the class chatting with other people while they worked (without annoying them, I assure you). The class ended nicely and there was ice cream! You can't beat ending a day like that!

The bittersweet-ness was all over the Upper School building today as we all headed home! The pranks were taken down while I was in STAM, so I had to do virtually no clean-up, which was nice. I had a great discussion of sentimentality with some friends of mine, one of whom lost their keys, another of whom lost their wallet after they left school... people I guess lose things a lot at my school. You'd think I'd've picked up on that seven years into all this, but no, it still surprises me!

Went out to a celebratory dinner with my Mom and now I'm back home. I set up all my academic books that I've supposedly read over the course of my seven years at my school! The mass of literature is just astounding! I'm off to bed now. It was a fantastic day, and a huge thanks to everyone for making it a kick ass seven years!

May 1, 2014

Day 341

Got a lot of stuff done today! First I had presentations, and these two were by two awesome friends of mine! The first was on the morality of a superhero, and the interesting thing here was that the presenter took the opposing view to what most would take: she argued that killing the villains was better in the long run than just locking them up. She looked at Batman and Rorschach as examples of the hero who doesn't cross the line and the one that does, and the presentation was super awesome. I don't agree with the argument, but again, like with the Star Trek presentation, the argument that was presented was presented well and respectfully, with intelligent uses of evidence and clips of the various films and video games. It was really cool.

The second presentation was also very cool. It argued against the incarceration of drug abusers, suggesting that we get them the help they need instead of just tossing them in jail. That's a very simplified synopsis of what hers was about, and it was a very good presentation because of all the statistics she threw at us, and she presented her argument without turning this into a political slamming of the opposing view point. Very effective and not at all easy to do.

Strings was okay today. We worked more on the end of the year hupla concert pieces. America the Beautiful still sounds like crap, but we're getting there. I also printed out and turned in strings parts for the senior graduation song. The choir parts are already being worked onby those singing, so I figured it was time to get on it with the strings people. I feel bad because I didn't realize that this was my project; I thought I was just the arranger for the music, but I guess I'm in charge of everything. Wonderful (not).

Third block was more presentations! These two were really cool. The first one was comparing Vaugner's Ring Cycles to Lord of the Rings! It was awesome because the presenter not only discussed the two works, but also the two men who were radically different from each other, and she commented on the idea that they had created works of similar origins and plots given this. It was super cool and we got to listen to some Ring Cycles opera, and that got stuck in my head for the rest of the day!

The second presentation took a look at misrepresentation in dance and the treatment of young women in the industry. This was fascinating because like many presentation, this one had a personal element. It was pretty powerful and really interesting!

Fourth block I worked on STAM stuff. I'm not going to the track meet tomorrow because I need to finish my conclusion to this thing, but it's coming together, and tomorrow will be a nice opportunity to wrap everything up. Went off campus for track today as usual, but I came back to school this time because then my Mom picked me up and we had a quick bite to eat before I returned to school for senior prank setup!

Getting everything ready for tomorrow was a hell of a lot of fun! And we didn't even stay all that late. Certainly not until midnight, obviously. Everything looks awesome, and while it'll be a little bit of a hassle taking things down, it's worth it I think. We have a lot going on for tomorrow's pranks! It's gonna be awesome!

Well, I'm off to bed now. Pretty tired after all that went on today! Tomorrow is my last day of classes for high school! Hot damn! Can't believe how quickly seven years of education went by!