Feburary Movie Reviews

By Anne Bransford

The Woman in Black

“The Woman in Black” features Daniel Radcliffe in a classic horror movie. As a Victorian lawyer, Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) heads to Eel Marsh House, a foggy and mysterious manor where evil things have been happening. With faces in the window and wind-up toys that start themselves, the atmosphere of the entire movie looks to be creepy enough to keep you on edge the entire time. The center of the ghost story is the belligerent Woman in Black, the late owner of Eel Marsh House. Providing an alternative to more cuddly Valentine’s flicks, the movie is now playing.

Big Miracle

“Big Miracle,” based on a true story, is a feel-good family flick on one level and yet an engaging gem of storytelling on another. In 1988, an Alaskan reporter (John Krasinski) desperate to break into the lower 48 discovers a family of three whales trapped in the ice. The reporter, his Greenpeace ex-girlfriend (Drew Barrymore), the town, the national news, the Reagan administration, oil executives and the Soviets all get involved in the rescue attempt. The characters are original and human, the comedy light and the situation poignant in many ways. “Big Miracle” is now playing.

Safe House

Ryan Reynolds, a frustrated CIA operative aspiring to be taken seriously as an agent, is responsible for holding an extremely dangerous fugitive (Denzel Washington) at a backwater safe house. In a classic action sequence, the safe house is attacked by mercenaries. Reynolds and Washington must team up to escape and find out whether the attackers were sent by terrorists or by the CIA itself in a clean-up attempt. “Safe House” is now playing.

The Vow

Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams star in “The Vow” as couple Leo and Paige. In this romance, a woman loses her memory after a spectacularly choreographed car wreck. It becomes Leo’s job to “make his wife fall in love with him again,” a task that is complicated by the fact that Paige can only remember her ex-fiance. “The Vow” is sure to be an emotional roller-coaster with plenty of romance and heartbreak, out just in time for Valentine’s Day.
This Means War

“This Means War” is 2012’s Valentine’s Day romantic comedy. Tom Hardy and Chris Pine play CIA partners who must compete for Reese Witherspoon thanks to an online dating mishap. Full of explosive action scenes and touching romance, the comedy itself has been reviewed as genuinely funny, with the two agents whipping out their absurd high-tech devices and even some quick quips. Give “This Means War” a chance as a belated Valentines date.

Act of Valor

A wartime movie with a plot reminiscent of previous films such as “Saving Private Ryan” “Act of Valor” introduces a unique twist: Most of the footage used in the film shows active duty Navy Seals in action. This makes the film a must-see event, in addition to making it, in this reviewer’s opinion, one of the coolest war-inspired films ever. This movie has a sense of realism that will thrill and amaze. “Act of Valor” premieres February 24.

Wizard World hosts Austin Comic Con: Convention Returns for Second Year, Showcases Art, Pop Culture

Austin Comic Con, hosted by Wizard World, returns to the Austin Convention Center for the second year in a row November 11 to November 13.

The name ‘Comic Con’ is often associated with San Diego Comic-Con International, the most well-known of the comic book conventions, but the Wizard World made its fair bid for popularity with Wizard World Chicago, second only to San Diego in sheer attendance numbers.

This convergence of pop culture and population brings in people from all over and showcases a variety of well-known guests, fun events, celebrity panels and booths selling comics, graphic novels, anime, merchandise, and other collectible items.

Bringing fans of all ages and interests into one convention center, the Austin Comic Con features writers, artists, actors, games, contests and photo-ops.

“Two of my best friends went to Austin Comic Con last year and they’ve gotten me really intereseted in going,” said sophomore Ashley Scott. “They had a lot of fun and I can’t wait to go with them this year! It’s going to be great!”

This year, the convention brings guests such as Hayden Pantettiere, Adam Baldwin, Kevin Sorbo, four members of the cast of “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” and many more well-known people, including Academy Award Winner Louis Gossett Jr.

Comic creators Marv Wolfman, Bill Sienkiewicz, Kevin Maguire, and others will be in attendance to meet fans, sign autographs and create sketches. Phil Ortiz, five-time Emmy winning animator, will also be on hand to “Simpsonize” people. There will also be a reunion between four of the children who starred in the original “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” for the movie’s 40th anniversary.

The Dealer’s Room contains many booths and tables where toys, apparel and other kinds of merchandise can be bought with either cash or credit, depending on the vendor.

The Artist Alley features different artists that have come to sell their artwork or commissions of your requested character, game or movie.

The convention encourages people to come in costume.

Information about purchasing tickets and the convention in general can be found on the Comic Con website, http://www.wizardworldcomiccon.com/home-tx.html.

Rai$e your firework, ’cause we r born this way

Pink and Ke$ha. Courtesy of Google Images.

Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R”, Katy Perry’s “Firework,” Pink’s “Raise Your Glass,” and Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” all have a common theme: self-confidence.

In response to the string of suicides in the LGBT community, many of the reigning pop queens looked to inspire youth to be themselves in the face of adversity.

This clearly is a message that many were hoping to hear as all of the songs found major success in sales on the Billboard Top 100 Chart.

In fact, each song has reached number one during its time on the chart, and they all currently remain in the top 20.

However, these songs fail to fully separate themselves from stereotypical, cookie-cutter, sexualized pop music.

“We R Who We R” urges the listener to “live it up” while looking “sick and sexified.”

Someone should explain to Ke$ha that those are two terms that simply do not mesh.

That aside, the song is about independence and being true to yourself rather than listening to the opinions of others, or, as in the case of previous songs, brushing your teeth with a bottle of Jack. Still, the message is slightly mixed.

Sending even more of a mixed message is Pink, with “Raise Your Glass.” Again, the song is mostly about getting as drunk as possible and having a rocking good time – not the greatest message to send to the world.

But she certainly sends a message of independence with, “All my underdogs, we will never be anything but loud and nitty gritty dirty little freaks.”

Pink seems to encourage her listeners to drink heavily to celebrate everyone’s differences. Maybe individualism can be accepted without substances?

Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. Courtesy of Google Images.

“Firework” sends a clean, simple message.

The video addresses topics such as self-image, domestic violence and cancer, while Perry says, “You don’t have to feel like a waste of space. You’re original, cannot be replaced.”

All in all, the lyrics are not exactly quality material. It sounds like she took a stack of Hallmark cards and picked a line from each. But the song does have a very inspiring and powerful message, even if it’s trite.

The music video, however, pushes barriers that are not so common by featuring two men kissing. Perry’s video definitely pushed her song to the top of the charts by making her message of inspiration to the downtrodden perfectly clear.

Gaga’s “Born this Way” reads like a proclamation for individualism. “I’m beautiful in my way,” she says, “I’m on the right track, baby – I was born this way.”

She also is the most blatant in addressing LGBT issues in possibly the most controversial way

The chorus of her song says, “A different lover is not a sin, believe capital H-I-M.” Gaga states that she does not believe that God thinks homosexuality is a sin.

Gaga also sings, “No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian, transgender life, I’m on the right track baby. I was born to survive.”

Lady Gaga clearly takes a stand for the LGBT rights, and uses her song to encourage the community and others to accept themselves for who they are.

Other than encouraging confidence and independence, all four songs are lacking one of the most common components of pop- love.

All four artists leave out any mention of romance or relationship entanglements. Given that the vast majority of radio hits focus on romance in some way, this is a refreshing change of pace.

It seems that the queens of pop want us to love ourselves and accept others. These songs will hopefully spread a message that influences the youth of America.

Avatar: Impressive, but Classic?

Avatar is a movie that features the Na'vi, who are blue.

Avatar is a movie that features the Na'vi, who are blue. Courtesy of Google.

After over a month since its premiere, James Cameron’s “Avatar” is still receiving critical attention. Audiences are still pouring into theaters and IMAX showings are still selling out. And now “Avatar” has won a Golden Globe and received several nominations for the Academy Awards, such as Best Director and Best Picture – a remarkable second for Cameron, who first one the awards with “Titanic.” Clearly, there is a public fascination with the cinematic techniques used to make “Avatar,” but is this attention warranted?

Surely, Cameron has made some strides in cinematography through “Avatar.” His use of 3D and computer animation is unrivaled by any other film to date. Its colorful textures and gorgeously animated action sequences certainly can keep an audience’s attention for hours.

Not to mention the films extensive marketing campaign, from viral marketing to ads on just about every major website (including articles, which have appeared in such high profile websites as cnn.com and bussinessweek.com). When “Avatar” was released, the world was waiting, and audiences were not hard to find. Many left the theaters awestruck by the sheer size and presentation of Cameron’s decade long project. Others, however, were not impressed.

Critics of the film find their qualms within the story. In the film paraplegic marine Jake Sully is put into an “Avatar,” a body composed

James Cameron, the director and writer of Avatar.

James Cameron, the director and writer of Avatar. Courtesy of Google.

of both human and na’vi DNA, and through a series of unfortunate circumstances is admitted into the species’ inner circle, falling in love with the na’vi princes Neytiri. The story has been criticized as an overused Pocahontas archetype of a man falling in love with a foreign culture and “going native.”

The motivations behind each of the characters are common tropes within the film industry: There is the man who is changed from his prejudice by love, an entire race fighting to defend their dying and misunderstood culture (supposedly this is a metaphor for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it can apply to almost any international conflict), and even the evil government officials who can be described only as heartless.

Lastly, there is the predictable outcome of the film: Good guys win, bad guys lose, hooray!

Despite these qualms with the story, the bare fact remains that “Avatar” is something new. Its use of CGI has created a mixture of real time action and computer graphics that creates a flawless stream of picture and motion throughout the entire film.

The characters themselves, while simple are believable due to the solidarity of the plot. Unexplained actions and random spurts of emotion so common in other films with romantic elements are absent from Cameron’s latest film.

Bottom line: While critics may be snipping at “Avatar,” it is a uniquely presented film and should be valued at what it is, something refreshing. Because of this, it is no doubt going to be receiving attention for years to come.

With recent talks of a sequel, new problems revolving around the film arise. Will audiences be satisfied with the same technology used behind the first, or will it grow unimpressive by the time of a sequel’s release? If Cameron does not direct, will an “Avatar 2” be the next “Alien 3”?

And lastly, if “Avatar” does not win any of the Academy Awards, will there be enough hype to keep the sequel afloat?

Lady Gaga Reigns

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta is a 23-year-old artist. She was born in New York City and had an interest in music from a very early age. She started playing piano at the age of four and was slated for the prestigious Julliard by the age of 11 but instead accepted an early admission to the distinguished music program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Despite her already impressive credentials, she dropped out of school to pursue her dream and started to perform in the underground club scene, making a name for herself from her outrageously provocative costumes and burlesque performances.

Stefani was finally able to release a few songs through varied recording companies but her epidemically catchy single “Just Dance” was her breakout performance in 2009. Stefani, or better known as her glamorous stage name, Lady Gaga, had finally found some mainstream success although some people still shrugged her off as a one-hit wonder. However, Lady Gaga kept her momentum with later popular songs such as “Poker Face,” “Love Game,” “Paparazzi” and most recently, “Bad Romance” and has since proved that she is sensation that needs to be reckoned with.
Many critics see her music as nonsensical dribble with lyrics that include overly-excessive innuendos such as “bluffin’ with my muffin” and “disco stick.” They see her music as just another American pop phase that will soon fade away once people find someone more interesting.

Others think that her bizarre wardrobe is just a publicity stunt and that her personality is too weird and freaky. Lady Gaga is constantly surrounded by controversy as people are still extraordinarily curious despite being uncomfortable with her shockingly unfamiliar artistic expression. The most well-known controversy has been whether or not Lady Gaga is a hermaphrodite and other various aspects of her sexual history. Although she has somewhat avoided the question with obscure answers, she has been perfectly honest with her fans, letting them know that they should not be concerned about such minor details but rather focus on her creative products and ambiguity as an artist for all audiences.

Her devotion to her music can been seen by her award-winning albums and ingenuity as a musician who is willing to shock her audience with her seemingly natural ability to meld art with melodies.

Despite all the praise and scrutiny that Lady Gaga has encountered in the past year, she has declared herself as a music artist, first and foremost. In a recent interview with Barbara Walters, she was asked the question, “Just who is Lady Gaga?” She answered, “Well, I am a songwriter, [...] a performance artist, [...] a daughter [and] an Italian girl from New York.” She continued opening up by stating that all she really was was a girl “with a dream” with the ambition to match it. Lady Gaga sincerely added that one of the reasons why she makes music is that she wants to help her fans by “free[ing] them of their fears [of being different] and make them feel like they can create their own space in the world.”

On Sept. 13, 2009, I fell in love with Lady Gaga. She appeared on the stage of MTV’s Video Music Awards with her latest single “Paparazzi.” Looking like a beautifully deranged angel dressed in white, she belted out her song while dancing feverishly among a “Phantom of the Opera” inspired set. She then proceeded to play the piano with such talented grace as she placed her legs on top of the keys and rolled her eyes backwards. Grabbing the microphone, she started to approach the screaming fans, when all of a sudden, she started to bleed. Looking down, she wiped the blood onto her face and sang even louder. I watched in awe and gasped as I saw her performing with such raw and unadulterated passion. Her voice grew with a raspy and achingly beautiful vibrato and I literally felt the chills run across my skin. I crawled closer the screen until my face almost touched hers and knew that this woman had something in her that nobody would ever be able to take away.

Ever since then, I have utterly been obsessed with Lady Gaga and her ability to express herself without any limitations or regard to others. Her dedication, passion, talent (she is one of the few artists that can actually sing live acoustically and have the guts to do so), courage, artistic ability and love for music has made her completely deserving of the success she has encountered so far.
Critics may call her shallow, an attention-seeker or a freak. I, however, call her an inspiration to all those who may not exactly fit into the mold that society and others have set out. She is such a beautiful example to those holding onto an impossible dream surrounded by nay-sayers and non-believers. She may be a “freak,” but she is our “freak,” and really in the end, the “freaks” are the ones who shall inherit the earth.