Fall Out Boy ‘MANIA’ Review

Fall Out Boy arrives in 2018 with a return to form, bringing back some the old sounds pre-hiatus, while offering some new experimental sounds that hit all the right notes, no pun intended.

In short: The album is excellent – it offers something for everyone, and even the songs I didn’t expect to enjoy I ended up liking quite a bit. This album would not feel out-of-place if it were  a successor to Folie a Deux, and indeed feels like a spiritual successor with the confident and experimental sounds and vocals, and songs like ‘Church’ would fit right in with Folie with songs like ‘What a Catch, Donnie’ or even Infinity on High, with ‘Golden’.

I feel like for each song, you could find a pre-hiatus counterpart to a certain extent. The album seems to cut back and forth between songs that sound like Fall Out Boy, and songs that do something entirely different. The first half of the album is superb, but the second half is just a treat. Songs like ‘Church’ and ‘Heaven’s Gate’ are particular standouts, songs that fit like a glove for Patrick’s soulful vocals.

I enjoyed the entire album – even though I seem to be one of the few people who actually enjoyed ‘Young and Menace’, a song that to me, felt like an evolution to what we heard in songs like ‘Tiffany Blews’ and ‘w.a.m.s’ from Folie a Deux. Lots of this album feels like a call back to that era of Fall Out Boy, even spilling over to the ‘Infinity on High’ era. If the hiatus never happened and this album was the next one after Folie, I would totally believe it. I’ve grown to really enjoy Save Rock and Roll, and grown to find American Beauty/American Psycho rather dull and generic – but this album is absolutely my favorite of post-hiatus Fall Out Boy and feels like a new era of their music, separating them from their 2013-2016 music and leading the way towards the future.

Favorites of this album – The Last of the Real Ones, Hold Me Tight or Don’t, Wilson, Church, Heaven’s Gate

Least Favorite – Champion. Though not a terrible song at all, it is the least inspired of the bunch. Definitely middle of the road.

This album has my love for the band soaring to new heights. They’ve been my favorite band for years, but this is the first album that has truly gotten me excited since their comeback. Go give it a listen and support physical media and pick up a copy. It truly is a delight.

– Brandon

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The Star Wars Problem

Possible spoilers for the film Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Proceed with caution.

I wanna preface this – as a massive Star Wars fan, I love the original trilogy, I have some vague respect for the prequel trilogy, and I have thoroughly enjoyed The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, despite their glaring issues. I don’t dislike any of the film’s – I really don’t even hate Phantom Menace.

My issue that I’m starting to have with this new, corporate, Disney Star Wars is that they seem to lack depth. Whether it is or not, it seems to have a major issue of ‘making it up as they go along’, which for a franchise with such a rich, deep, extensive history and plethora of lore at their disposal, seems to stick out more than should be acceptable.

TLJ was a great movie. I really, really enjoyed it. But looking at the movie as a whole, I start to feel a little underwhelmed. Snoke was underplayed – supposedly this big, powerful, deeply evil villain – that they do zero with. Rey, this character that teases depth and intrigue – never delves beyond what is teased. It seems like a movie that is focused on teasing and setting up without ever paying off – and not in a way where it builds excitement and curiosity for the next film, but where it feels lazy and unfulfilling. All these characters are teased to be these great characters, but sadly end up staying in this little box of personality that doesn’t show anymore growth than when we first met them. They go in circles – we meet them, they show that there may be more than meets the eye, we reach the climax that should affect and change the characters, then they plateau into the same people they always were.

Take Rey, for example. In the last film, we see a desert scavenger that is shown to have a strange connection to both the Skywalker’s, and the Force as a whole. She is shown to be immensely powerful and a natural with the Force, proving to be a more than fair match to Kylo Ren, who has been training in the ways of the Force for years.

What’s her lineage? What’s her connection to the Force? Why is she so powerful? Who or what is she really?

Flash forward to TLJ. Rey is an incredibly powerful user of the Force, shown to be an equal to Kylo Ren and almost Luke Skywalker himself, is able to feel both sides of the Force, walk into the Dark Side and back out again – and is a desert scavenger born to two drunkards. None of it pays off. None of this grows her character in any way – she’s powerful and shown to be an embodiment of the Light Side of the Force to match Kylo’s embodiment of the Dark, but neither she, Luke, or us as the audience have any clue why.

Anakin Skywalker was a child born of the Force to fulfill a prophecy that would bring balance to the Force – in a world where the Jedi ruled as a ruthless, arrogant system of government, Akakin’s descent into darkness throws the Jedi off of their high horse and proves that their arrogant ways have led to their downfall. As Luke states in TLJ, the Force does not belong to the Sith, or the Jedi – it belongs to every living thing. The Force uses Akakin to end the Jedi’s narcissistic hold on the Force, and then uses his child, Luke Skywalker, to bring down the Empire and restore peace within the Galaxy and within the Force, completing the circle. It’s all one prophecy that fulfills itself over the span of about forty years or so, starting with Akakin’s life and ending with his death.

This is what was intended. George Lucas may not be a brilliant writer, but they was a plan in place, there was a story to be told, and the pieces (mostly) fit together.

But what is Rey? What is her purpose? What is she trying to accomplish? So far, we’ve had nothing to tell us why she is what she is. Why she’s as powerful as she is, or even what her connection to Luke and the Skywalker bloodline really is. She’s very well acted – but in the grand scheme of things, it feels like she’s pointless. It doesn’t feel like she’s that important to the world and to the rebellion around her – while, once again looking at Luke, he was a key player in the Rebellion. A brilliant pilot who was instrumental in the destruction of the Death Star, a powerful Jedi, and the son of the second-in-command of the Galactic Empire. He had purpose. There was a reason why he was important to the story and the people around him. And each installment built on his importance with an extra layer to who he was.

Rey? She means the exact same from TFA to TLJ – hardly any growth, and nothing explained as to why she is what she is, or really even what for that matter.

To me, the only characters that make sense are Kylo Ren/Ben Solo and Finn. Ben Solo really should have been the focus of the trilogy – born of Skywalker blood, lured in by the Dark Side of the Force, yet unsure of himself and how evil he actually he is. He just wants to be something – and to prove himself to those around him and the galaxy. He’s seen as a temperamental child, and he acts the part – but while Anakin had been totally torn down and rebuilt in the image of the Dark Side – both metaphorically and literally – Ben is just a conflicted young adult.

Why wasn’t he the key focus of the trilogy? A Skywalker torn between the image of Darth Vader and the reality of Anakin and Luke. Desperate for power and a place in the world but still unable to kill his mother and only driven away because he thought he had been betrayed by his uncle?

And Finn, a meaningless, nobody clone who had always been in the First Order but pulled himself away knowing that he wasn’t like them – and chose good over evil.

They have purpose. They have reason. They can be built upon – but where’s the foundation for Rey, our main protagonist and the keeper of the flame of the Jedi after TLJ? It isn’t there. There isn’t a point, at least a point that is planned out, thought out, and then executed.

This is my problem with a great deal of the new Star Wars’ movies – a lack of a point. The Death Star had a great deal of history and gravity. Starkiller Base? Not so much. The Galactic Empire had a reason and a purpose – the First Order? Just being evil, I guess, led by a villain who never got to make their point before being Darth Mauled into irrelevance. They build up these things as huge, important plot points and never pay them off – and that’s just not fair to the audience.

Now, this could all be rendered null by December 2019.

The 9th film may show us that Kylo and Rey were being utilized by the Force to create a union between the Dark and the Light, forcing the end of the Jedi and the Sith, who have caused too much pain, war, and death in the universe. It might explain that after all these years, the Force was trying to bridge that divide – the Force is a force of life, after all, and having two religions that create a divide between Light and Dark just make death. Kylo and Rey were the vessels to do so – and together, instead of toppling the First Order, they rule it together and restructure it, creating a new Republic that isn’t fixated on the ideals of the Sith or the Jedi. No more old religions, no more Empires and Rebellions – just unity.

Or, it might not. It might be vague plot points and pointless exposition or not enough exposition and a lot of fighting without any purpose or reason to fight and end without any satisfying resolution to lead to another trilogy where they do things just for the sake of doing them – without any rhyme or reason or story to back them up.

Like I said before, I do enjoy the new movies – quite a lot, if we’re being honest. But I’ve just been thinking a lot about these things and wanted to voice them a bit and get my thoughts out so they weren’t just echoing around my head. I’m hoping that I’m wrong – that come 2019, all will be revealed and everything will come full circle and we’ll be able to look at the trilogy as set of movies that tell a specific story for a specific reason. It’s just that beforehand, each movie told a specific story while contributing to an overarching trilogy plot point – which is something that, as of right now, the current trilogy of movies can’t very well say.

But I’m optimistic – if not with life, than at least with Star Wars, haha.

And as with everything else, here’s looking to the future.

Happy holidays.

 

 

Fall Out Boy’s “American Beauty/American Psycho” Review

I have been a fan of Fall Out Boy for many years. In fact, I started listening to them in the fifth grade, right when Infinity on High came out and their song, “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs” hit the radio as their next mainstream hit. I listened to the song. I liked it, and I had no clue who it was by.
It was actually my father of all people who got me fully into the band. He had the album, and would play it constantly in the car. I grew to love it, and for the next few years Fall Out Boy and the two albums I knew about were played over and over again.
After a while, though, I stopped listening to them. In fact, I had no idea Folie a Deux existed until a couple of years ago, and I had no clue they had broken up – but after giving the previously unknown album a listen, it became what is possibly my favorite from their discography, and reignited my love for the band.

Then they got back together, and Save Rock and Roll was released. I liked it, but I was disappointed – I missed my punk rock angsty Fall Out Boy… with Patrick Stump and his red hair, sideburns and glasses, Pete Wentz with that ridiculous eye liner… it was a very sudden change. And while I grew to enjoy Save Rock and Roll quite a bit, I still haven’t gotten used to this new incarnation of Fall Out Boy.

Then comes their second album after their break-up. Fall Out Boy has been back together for a couple of years now, their name back on the roster and new waves being made. I reviewed their single ‘Centuries’ a while back, which ends up being the third track on the album. I have some new opinions on it, once put against everything else – so here is, track for track, my thoughts on Fall Out Boy’s sixth album, “American Beauty/American Psycho”.

Irresistible 

I love this track quite a bit. It opens powerfully with the sound of horns, and gives off a bit of an Infinity on High vibe, but taken to the next level.  It gains momentum every second of its 3:26 run time, gathering more and more steam and hypes you up for what might be an excellent album if they can keep up the speed.

5/5

American Beauty/American Psycho

The title track of the album continues to build the hype and speed that the first track started. It has a much more fun, loose vibe to it overall that somewhat contradicts the sheer powerhouse that was Irresistible, but is still a fantastic song that makes you want to keep your fist in the air.

4/5

Centuries

I don’t remember exactly what I said about this song before. But after listening to it so much more, I have to say that it is one GORGEOUS, powerful song. It lays a bit more heavy and perhaps a bit darker than the other two, and in all honesty it doesn’t really fit the album. The sort of dark narcissistic vibe would have either fit for a brilliant end to Save Rock and Roll, or as the beginning to a much different album.
But, the song on its own? Fantastic. Hard hitting. Arrogant.

5/5

The Kids Aren’t Alright

This sounds like a My Chemical Romance song title more than a Fall Out Boy title, and the song itself sounds quite like a Panic! At The Disco song. I’ve always been one out of a small number that thinks Patrick Stump’s and Brendon Urie’s voices sound entirely different, but the music sounds so Panic! like. This is a very good song, with some excellent soulful vocals and a nice melody that provides a nice rest after the first three astoundingly heavy songs.

4/5

Uma Thurman

This song, I’ll admit, has grown on me. I originally thought it to be a little overly long, but I’ve grown to enjoy it quite a bit. Once again, Stump’s vocals are in full effect, providing a twinge of… aggressiveness, perhaps? Plus the sample of the theme song to The Munsters had a strange, but a surprisingly enjoyable touch to it.

4/5

Jet Pack Blues

To be perfectly honest, this is one out of two tracks I really didn’t enjoy from this album. Feels like a filler track, and the chorus gets very repetitive, and it fills most of the track. The vocals are great, as always, but as a song it just falls short.

2/5

Novocaine

I enjoyed this track a good bit. Good chorus, decent hook… delivers some more of that power from the first half of the album, but while it is a good song it feels very generic. More thought was definitely put into this than Jet Pack Blues, and the lyrics sound so much better and are more fun to sing along to.
But certainly not the best we’ve seen from Fall Out Boy.

3/5

Fourth of July

Ew. I don’t know, but there’s something about this song that pulls me away big time. This is probably the most ‘pop’ sounding song from the album, and could have easily been sung by Katy Perry or Pink or something.
I guess the thing that sticks out in the most unpleasant way was the way the second line of the chorus was sung. Specific complaint, I know, but it sticks out like a sore thumb to me. Pay attention to the commas.

“You and I were, you and I were fire, fire, fireworks”

I don’t know. It’s weird and it nags at me.

2/5

Favorite Record

This track is a strange one. I don’t like the repeating words, the (robot?) voice that pops up is unappealing, but the music itself is a quite nice change of pace, I love the beat of the chorus, and it flows quite nicely. It is slightly slower and softer, like The Kid’s Aren’t Alright was, and I gotta say that I LOVE the way they connected it to the next song. I love when that happens in any album, but it works here.

3/5

Immortals

When this song first came out, I despised it. Where’s the guitar, first off? It sounded NOTHING like Fall Out Boy, and I shunned the song.
But then I heard it in action, in Big Hero 6, and it really worked. It fit really well there. So with the themes of that in place, it gained a few layers of complexity, and works very well as the second last song of the album.

4/5

Twin Skeleton’s (Hotel In NYC)

This song had a lot to live up to. This was the send-off song of the album, which is always a big thing, but for their next album after their reunion? It needed to be big. Powerful. Loud. Somber. Proud.

And it achieves all of those things. Brilliant percussion, excellent vocals, and the harmonizing? Oh my god. Fantastic.
I just had one request for the song, and as I waited for the song to draw to a close, it actually ended up granting me that: The song finishes off the lyrics, and ends with the harmonizing of the band members to draw the album to a close.
Great song.

4/5

So overall, AB/AP was a success. My biggest complaint was that it ended a bit abruptly – not to say that it was short, by today’s standards its run time of 39 minutes is quite good. Compared to Panic!’s last time which came out to a measly 32 minutes, this album has a decent length. But the issue was that there was no wind down, no descension… the first half was very powerful, then it slowed down a bit… then got heavy again… then slowed to the brilliantly somber end. And while it finished well, it would have had SO MUCH more impact if there was a steady fall to that point. The songs got slower, or quieter, or perhaps a little sinister sounding. Instead, this wonderful exit comes out of nowhere. I just wish there was some build up.

Over all, though, this is an excellent album. I’m slowly coming to love this new incarnation of Fall Out Boy, and while their classic years will never be trumped by this new era, this is great music by a talented band that has years in front of them.

Go out and by the CD, whether you’re a classic fan, a new fan, or someone vaguely interested. It’s a good listen.

Fall Out Boy’s sixth album, American Beauty/American Psycho, gets a 4/5.

Good morning, everyone. And if I don’t see you later, good afternoon, good evening and good night!

– Brandon, 8:34 PM

Physical vs. Digital – Books

On Tuesday, I talked about physical vs. digital media, mostly about the subject of video gaming.
Today, we are going to revisit the subject but with a topic that quite a few more people are passionate about, and can easily understand why it is an important things.
Novels.

I discussed the sort of ritualistic tradition that came with physical games. The process of installing a new game, grazing the manual as the load bar slowly inched forward… and while for many, that will ring a bell of nostalgia that they’re happy to remember, for many others that doesn’t matter at all. For a lot of people, they’re happy playing the pre-installed version of Solitaire on their PC. But many people understand the tradition of reading a good, solid physical book.

The smell of the pages. Oooh, especially if this is an older book, the smell of those pages that wafts by every time you turn a page is something that can’t be beat.
Sitting in a comfortable chair on a rainy day (or any day, really) with a cup of tea or coffee, hands gripped tightly to a good book, the only thing you hear are the somehow real and amplified voices of the characters and the crinkling of every turned page.

Another thing. The crinkle.
Ah, what a glorious sound! A lot of the time, you don’t care and don’t focus on it –  of course you read a story what is on the pages, not the pages themselves, but when you take the time and really realize it… or when you’re reading an eBook, a way of reading that obviously doesn’t have physical pages, you can notice it easily, and it can be a little off putting.

Here – take a book. It doesn’t have to be old, necessarily. I have a Webster’s Dictionary right here,  and let’s flip the page. Turn it. Feel the page scrape across the next one, hear the crisp crinkle… at this point, take a chance and really get a feel for that page. That nice, perhaps somewhat grainy, beautiful paper.
It sounds weird! I know. But you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Reading books is an experience. I mentioned before about video games being an experience inside and out of the game, well with books, the experience is one cohesive entity that never goes away. The experience isn’t just the story that is written on the pages, but it is everything I described above. The ever-growing tight grip of the bottom of the novel as the plot thickens, the crinkle of the page, the smell of the paper, the feeling of progress as the pages begin flying by, faster and faster and faster as you become totally engulfed in the words that you have no clue what’s happening in your own world until you’re either able to put the book down or until it’s complete.
It’s almost magical, the effect that a physical book has. They really are little portals in your hands that can take you to all these fantastic places. You hold the key – just let yourself go, and the hours will fly by and you will feel emotions that feel as real as any other in reality.

Digital novels, or eBooks, lose a lot of that effect.

Sure, they are enjoyable. And convenient. And easy. I have one loaded up on my phone right now because it was on sale and I wanted to give it a shot. The story and the writing is absolutely fantastic – but as a sit in a waiting room, or in a fast food restaurant, or in the car and I just want to read a little… while it is completely enjoyable, I still feel like an outsider. I stare at that bright white screen, and I drag my finger across, and I laugh at the appropriate moments and I get excited at the right times… but it isn’t the same. At all. I am not engulfed, I’m simply enjoying a story looking in, instead of feeling everything at once.

And that isn’t the author’s fault at all. In fact, I’m looking to buy a physical copy of said book at some point so I can finish it up and do it justice, instead of reading a little every time I need to wait a while.
It’s the fact that this medium of reading is… cold, uninviting, and it feels incomplete.  I’m fine with reading a news article or a blog post on a screen, but when it comes to a deep, involved story? No thank you. It just doesn’t work.

And that’s not to say I don’t approve of eBooks. They are good ways to kill time, as I said, they are frequently cheaper than a physical copy and if I really want to read a certain novel and don’t have the twenty plus bucks to shell out for it, then an eBook is certainly the way to go.

It might also help get younger kids and people who don’t enjoy reading to actually read something. I know plenty of people who do most everything digitally because it’s the ‘way of the future’ and they don’t ‘want to be stuck with a dying art form’.
Plus, give a kid an electronic gizmo, and it doesn’t matter if (s)he’s reading The Illiad, it’s on an electronic device, and it has a SCREEN! (Actual excuse, by the way, to why someone would read an eBook to a paperback. It has a screen.)

Another great thing about eBooks is that they can be used for school. If a novel needs to be bought for class, the eBook is cheaper and you can highlight and take notes directly in the app. Whether or not a teacher/professor would allow that depends, but a lot of schools these days are allowing various sorts of tech to be used in the classroom, so I imagine it would work.

And although I said it a bit disparagingly above, the eBook is handy. It isn’t that hard to lug a paperback to the doctor’s office or to the DMV, but hey… having a few books in your pocket at all times is never a bad thing. It may not be the best reading experience of your life, but it’s far better than nothing.

But despite all of the pros that each has, and although I respect both mediums… physical books will always have the win, for me, and I don’t think that was ever a question. I’m an old fashioned kind of guy. I think shelves upon shelves of books is not only more impressive, but also shows character in my opinion, compared to having a iPad or Kindle with hundreds of books that sits there on your desk.

When it comes down to it, books, music, movies, video games… I’m a collector. Sometimes people want to compare collector’ with hoarders, and sometime hoarders call themselves a collector to justify their problems, but that isn’t the truth. Sure, they take up a bit of room. Sure, it would be easily to have all of my media on a single device, but where’s the fun in that? Where’s the personality?

I like being able to touch, hold, and interact with my media. It makes it personal, it makes it unique, it makes it me. You walk across my room and you can learn a little bit about me.
As much as I enjoy technology and how it can bring us together in ways never once thought… I’m also against the way it pulls us apart, makes us so tied to our device, and allows us to almost never have to leave our chair.

But that’s just one guy’s opinion. I’m a bit biased in the first place because when I grew up, hardly anything was digital, except for perhaps some music. I grew up with Blockbuster instead of Netflix, a library card instead of a Kindle, boxed games instead of Steam.

And some day, digital media may surpass it all. It might be the end all be all, and physical media will become irrelevant and outdated.
But until that day, I’ll happily clutch my paperbacks and my boxes and my DVD cases, and just hope that physical media won’t become an old trend of the past.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 3:01 PM

Physical vs. Digital – Video Games

For a long time I have been a big supporter of physical media. The ability to hold a tangible, real product in one’s hands brings me much more joy than downloading a few strands of code from the cloud. I prefer physical copies of most media – books, music, movies, games… But that isn’t something everyone understands. My family, while they love the content, doesn’t care to much about actually having it. As long as they get the content in some form, it doesn’t matter.
I do see some arguments favoring digital media. Such as the lack of space to hold physical copies of everything they might own. Some people may have hundreds of games on Steam, or dozens of books on Kindle, and there would be no way to store all of that.
I am by far more passionate about physical games then most other media. Well, that and books. Movies and music, while I will continue collecting the physical copies, I see as a lot of good reasons to make them digital. Not enough for me, but in general… I feel that those are better candidates for the cloud storage/digital era.
So let’s break it down, starting with the games.

I recently subscribed to a service called Indiebox. This company works for the noble cause of returning PC games back to their big box roots. If you are unaware of what that is, basically video games didn’t used to come in those DVD style cases. Not even console games, perhaps with the exception of Sega. They used to come in large, cardboard boxes complete with physical manuals and other inserts. PC games, though, got the best deal. Those cases were HUGE, frequently coming with large manuals sometimes as long as books, and other extras called “feelies”. Games like the Ultima series came with a beautiful cloth map of the game world. I was excited two years ago when my copy of Skyrim came with a cheaply made paper map.
They might come with a piece of the in-game money, or little booklets of lore, or sown iron on patch… Basically, things you only find it the good, expensive collector’s editions of games today.
Sometime in the early 2000s, the switch was made from the big box, to the DVD case, because it was more convenient and cost less to produce.
Basically, Indiebox strives to bring back a bit of that nostalgia, and give people that like stuff some real good stuff. They take indie titles that usually only get a digital steam release, and craft a big box (not exactly of PC box caliber, more along the lines of the Nintendo boxes, but they are FANTASTIC none the less) complete with a physical USB cartridge copy of the game, beautiful full color manuals, the game soundtrack, and plenty of other goodies pertaining to the game.
This is really a cause I can get behind. Video games are meant to be experienced, in the game world and out. I can’t tell you how disappointed I get when I find out I paid $50 – $60 dollars for a case and a CD that is so laden with DRM that they might as well just slapped a Steam code in the box and saved them the money on the CD. (I’m just joking, please don’t). What happens to be even worse is putting a little piece of paper in the case that tells you about a digital copy of the game manual. That just feels like they’re pouring salt on the wound.

Indiebox helps relieve a lot of the pain, and I thank them for it.
But that’s the problem with this growing digital era of video games. I enjoy Steam. I use Steam. It is convenient, frequently cheap, and I get to play it without ever leaving my chair.
And as much as I like that at times… When you see where we were, and where we are now? There is something about going out to a game store, picking out the game, taking of the plastic and (used to be) seeing what goodies lay within… I enjoyed carefully putting the CD in and downloading the game, maybe having multiple CDs you had to alternate between, reading the manual and getting excited as the progress bar slowly fills up and your expectations are soaring… It truly is something you are never going to be able to explain to someone who doesn’t understand. Its a ritual, a tradition, that is being left in the dust. And maybe for some people who are too young, or just not a collector, or is simply a casual gamer, this doesn’t matter.
But I’ll tell you, seeing a copy of that game sitting proudly next to the rest of them on your shelf is a much better feeling then seeing that long list of titles in your Steam library.

Like I said, not everyone shares that feeling, and not everyone will understand. The love of physical games to put on your shelf is slowly becoming a niche demographic. A lot of people enjoy the digital convenience, but I say that just gives us another reason not to get up from our chair, and we really don’t need another reason.

You can check out Indiebox at https://www.theindiebox.com/ if you enjoy physical copies of indie titles that are usually only digital, or if you simply enjoy stuff. Because Indiebox really delivers the stuff.

I’ll be back on Thursday to discuss physical versus digital books, and until then…

That’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 2:58 PM

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 Review

I am not a fan of young adult novels.
Well, let me take that back. I’m fine with young adult novels in general, but there is a certain… niche, a sub-genre of young adult novels which I believe is over-used, mostly unoriginal, and getting old.

You probably know what I’m talking about.  Teenager lives in post-apocalyptic world with an oppressive government. Teenager finds out they’re the chosen one or whatever term they choose, and works to bring down said government.

The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner are the most popular examples these days, and if you strip away the small amount of original content… they are all basically the same story.

I have not read a single one of those three series’ books. And I have no interest in doing so.
But there’s something about the film of The Hunger Games that I’ve always liked. I’ve seen each one in theaters, after my grandmother pulled me along to the cheap seat showing of the first movie back in 2012.

My classmates had talked excessively about the book at the time, and while I felt no need to read the book, I ended up enjoying the movie greatly despite walking in with low expectations.

This is usually quite the opposite. I am a pretty big Harry Potter fan now, but back when the movies were still going, I was COMPLETELY engulfed in it. I read the series throughout my fifth grade school year, skipping recess just to stay in and read.

So naturally, I wanted to watch the movies, and naturally, I was highly disappointed.
The movies weren’t bad by any means, but being such a large fan, I was able to pick out the discrepancies pretty quickly. (It was DOBBY who gave Harry the Gillyweed in Goblet of Fire so he could grow gills to survive the second task, NOT Neville!)

But perhaps it was the fact that I HADN’T read the books that made the movies so enjoyable. Maybe it was because it had such a great cast, Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Josh Hutcherson…. I don’t know. All I know is that on a cinematic level, The Hunger Games was a good piece of entertainment that wasn’t just entertaining, but made you think a little.

When it came to the action oriented portion, the actual Hunger Games themselves, I found Catching Fire to be even better in that department.

Then came along Mockingjay. (Part 1, of course, because all young adult movies have to split their final movie into a two parter. It’s become an unspoken rule of the business). I was excited for this movie because at this point, like I said, I had seen each one in the theater and I had become invested in the cinematic characters.
Having not read the books, though, I didn’t know exactly what I was walking into unlike other people.

And what happened in this movie, while it might have set other non-readers like me off due to the lack of action, might have been the best film of the series.

I call this a not review because I’m stating upfront, this is a GREAT film. It did a lot of things I didn’t expect for a movie aimed at the demographic it has.

This movie has a great portrayal of war. It not only incorporates the politics of the situation, but it involves the emotions of the war-torn nation and how it effects the protagonist and the supporting cast. It delves into the dilemma of ‘is any war a good war’, and showed the struggle that the rebellion was going through.

A lot of war movies go for the battlefield approach. Showing war from one angle, which is the actual fighting that might happen. What made this film so good is that it went deeper. For a series about kids murdering each other in an arena for television, it suddenly took a very serious, mature and dark tone. Now don’t get me wrong, the other films were serious, mature, and dark. Like I said, kids murdering each other… that’s dark. And while the previous two films hinted at the political thoughts and reasoning, there was little exposition for the first film and half of the second. This makes up for it.

I read a couple of reviews, and they complained because of the massive amount of exposition, but in my eyes… it made up the lack of it previously, and they do it in a way that keeps you interested and invested.

I particularly enjoyed the way they depicted the making of the propaganda. (Who knew they’d still have Adobe Premiere?) The first scene with Katniss trying to do it the first time was a little humorous, but every moment you could feel the weight of it all. This rebellion against the huge Capitol…  gave me a little bit of a Rebel Alliance/Galactic Empire vibe, I’ll admit. But at times, when plans were going south for the rebellion, you could feel the hopelessness through Katniss. Jennifer Lawrence did a great portrayal of the character as usual, depicting her mental struggles with being a young girl that also has to be the face of a huge rebellion within her country. I don’t know how old Katniss is supposed to be, but a girl that young not only fighting in an arena of other kids, but then fighting against the government in a civil war? I can imagine that would cause a little stress. And she pulls it off wonderfully.

And this goes for all of the other characters shown in District 13. The fear, hopelessness… or perhaps the utter confidence that President Coin has in her actions… (Julianne Moore pulled this off fantastically. The confidence mixing with perhaps a little ruthlessness was a great combination) and President Snow’s cockiness and snide personality.
Everything was played in ample amounts, at the right times, and was done very well.

My main point I am getting with this, is that for a young adult based movie… this film was incredibly mature with it’s portrayal of war.
It also reminded me slightly of Elysium, but I’d have to give the upper hand to Mockingjay here.
I walked out of the theater not only thoroughly entertained and eager for part 2, (another year? Jeez! Deathly Hallows Part 2 came out only a few months after part 1!) but thinking about the consequences of the war in this world and what the outcome would be.
I used to watch it because of the great cast and good action scenes, but this film pulled me in and got me truly interested and invested in the history, the world, the people… it’s weird to say this, but it was probably one of the best war movies I have seen all year.

I’d recommend you go watch it. The $5 – $7 dollars it costs is well worth the movie, which clocks in at over two hours and never over stays its welcome.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, gets an 8.5/10.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 9:55 AM

Violence and Video Games

*WARNING – Rant alert. This post is rated T for light profanity.*

I am an avid gamer. I enjoy many different genres, everything from Super Mario, to The Elder Scrolls, The Sims, Bioshock… I’ve been a gamer for a long time, because it is a great way to immerse yourself in another world and explore the medium. It kills times. It is relaxing. But all in all, it’s just a fun hobby.
For years, there have been activists complaining about the violence in video games. I believe the first case of this was with the original Mortal Kombat in 1992, and suddenly the ESRB was born.
Many games have had controversy over the years. From Mortal Kombat, to Wolfenstein 3D, to Doom, which was played heavily by the two perpetrators of  the Columbine High School shooting. Hell, even Sims 2 had some controversy because there were claims that underneath the pixelation of your Sims bodies, there were highly detailed genitals and the like. (Which was proven false by EA, they simply look like Barbie dolls underneath the pixelation.)

There are claims that video games instigate violence. Games such as Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Saints Row, and a multitude of other first person shooters and fighting games are targeted everyday to try to support these claims. People say that these games encourage and promote violence and murder.

And I’m here to tell you, that yes. I agree with that. I agree that video games cause violence… just as much as any television show, music, or movie can, to an unstable person.
ANYTHING can ignite that violent spark inside of a person. It doesn’t even have to be entertainment.

But here’s what makes me furious… parents and so-called activists want to blame the developer and the game for the violent nature? I’ve heard people who want anyone that worked on a certain game in a prison cell! And that is where I want to blow up.
These people make games for a certain demographic. That is why the ESRB is there in the first place! You have your nice E rated games, and T rated games… but some companies make mature games for adult audiences.
It is not legal for a kid under 17 to purchase an M rated game. In fact, most video game stores treat it as if it were cigarettes or alcohol. They card the kid, and reject the purchase if underage.

So usually, it is the PARENTS that buy the games for the kids, not paying attention or not caring that it says right there on the bottom left corner that it is a MATURE GAME.
Or… the other situation, is that a kid buys a game from a friend, or someplace that doesn’t sell them retail, and the kid takes it home and plays it without parental consent.
Sorry to break it to the parents, but a kid playing a game behind their back ISN’T THE DEVELOPER’S FAULT. It is the kids fault, for doing it without permission, and it is the PARENT’S FAULT for not paying attention and checking up on the kid!

How many times do I hear from my 12-year-old brother about his friends playing Grand Theft Auto. A good game, yes, but an undeniably violent one, one made for people my age and up. If you don’t want your child to be exposed to violence of that proportion… don’t try to stop mature adults who know right from wrong from being able to have a little fun. Don’t blame the developer because a game for adults got in your child’s hands without you knowing.

There is a site that simply makes me furious. It’s called commonsensemedia.org. Type in an adult game. Grand Theft Auto V for instance, a game with drugs, sex, torture, murder, criminal activity… and the site’s personal review clearly states that the game is not for kids.
But… you scroll down further, and you see the spot where parents and children put in what age THEY think is appropriate…

ADULTS SAID 12 YEARS OLD.
The children? At least they put it two years higher at 14!

THIS is the problem! There were a couple of people who rated it not for kids, and I applaud them, but the parents who think that their 12-year-old child is ‘mature enough’ is full of crap!
I saw people rating it okay for ten-year olds… eight year olds… I’m really sorry, but WTF is wrong with these people?!?! You have people complaining that violent video games are ruining our children’s heads, but they don’t want to look at sites like this at see the source?! They don’t want to realize that it is the PARENT’S who allow their children access to these violent games at such an early age?!

No. They don’t. They just always want someone else to blame. They let their kids shoot people in the head in a game, and then blame the company who made the game when the kid goes out and does it in real life… instead of pointing the finger and themselves and their own bad parenting.

Here’s a little tip, for all parents. E is for everyone, everyone can play… and the T for Teen rating? That can be flexible. If you have a mature child, let them enjoy some T rated games.
But no matter how mature your child seems to be… there is never a threshold of maturity to play an M rated game. You have to be 17 to buy the games, so a kid should at least be 16 before playing them.

And we wonder why we have such a violent culture. Kids are allowed these things to enter their head at such a young age, and it’s all they’ve ever known. Games are made more violent for older people because it is people of those ages that can understand not to take it seriously.

And the same thing goes with any other form of entertainment… R rated movies, or MA rated television… elementary school kids shouldn’t be watching Family Guy. I shouldn’t be sitting in a theater watching an R rated flick and turn my head to see a kid, maybe seven years old, eyes fixated on the violence.

I’m not telling anyone how to parent. You go ahead and do whatever the frick you want too. Expose your kids to all of the violence and sex you feel.
But what I am telling you to do, is if your kid happens to do something. If something goes wrong… take the responsibility as a mature adult, and not try to shove the blame in the arms of someone who makes video games, movies, television shows… for adults.

And (before I start going off on another rant) that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 2:05 PM

Doctor Who ‘Death in Heaven’ Review

It’s over. Season 8, with all of its ups and downs… is over. And it went out with a bang, that’s for sure.
Let us talk about ‘Death in Heaven’.

Spoilers ahead.

The word ‘Death’ in the title certainly is justified. There is a lot of death in this episode, and in fact most of the time it’s engulfed in a depressing grey tint. I’m not going to summarize  the entire episode. Instead, I’m going to list the things it did right, and the things I thought were wrong. The episode itself was good, and the finale as a whole was great.
But there are certainly some grievances to be had. First off, though, here is what’s to like.

  1. More references and throwbacks than Day of the Doctor. From a Mondasian cyberman head, to the Brigadier, and a mention of Jenny. This had a lot of good stuff thrown in.
  2. Loose ends were tied up… mostly. The remaining threads from Matt Smith’s era were finished, and the few that season 8 brought up were nice and tied. They happened to untie a thread from season four, and then retied it back up again here. Even though we know the show is connected to previous seasons, it’s nice to know that they remember.
  3. Missy. Played by Michelle Gomez, I can’t think of anyone else that could have embodied that madness like she did. As much as I want to hate her… she is a great character. Insane and aware of it. She’s a lot like a female John Simms.
  4. The acting. There is a lot of chemistry between all of these characters, and it really helps make it real.
  5. Emotions. My eyes got watery twice here. Because of number four, I was really able to feel what was going on, and mourn with them, and smile with them.

Put simply, it was good episode. Pacing was good, acting was good, plot was good and the conclusion was good… if a little bit rushed. Now, I’m going to give you some of the bad points to this episode.

  1. Wasted opportunities. At the beginning of this episode, it’s revealed that when Clara says to the cyberman, “I’m not Clara Oswald, Clara Oswald never existed!”, she follows it up with “I’m the Doctor.”, and the theme music plays with Jenna Coleman in top billing and her eyes going across the screen. I have never before wanted a female Doctor, but done this way… I really did. I wanted Clara to reveal herself to have always been a future incarnation of the Doctor who went back in time to save her/himself, and that Capaldi was really the Valeyard. I thought that some of the dialogue in ‘Flatline’ was perhaps foreshadowing this, with Clara being a good Doctor and all. Or maybe, because ‘good’ had nothing to do with it, Clara would have been the valeyard, insuring her/his own survival for his later plans.
    I don’t know… all in all, they really could have fit a lot more twists in there. Missy being the Master, while shocking to hear out loud, was rather obvious. They could have gone further.
  2. Wasted opportunities. Danny is gone, as far as we know. He was a great character to me, and I wanted him and Clara to ride around in the TARDIS ala Rory and Amy or Ian and Barbara. I thought that was where it was going, with them both being Coal Hill teachers and all. But no, Danny got turned into a cyberman, and sacrificed his only way of getting back for a little kid he killed during war. Danny and Clara worked well together, and I wanted that dynamic to be inside the TARDIS, and with the Doctor. Guess that’s not happening.
  3. Wasted opportunities. I sure as hell hope that Missy isn’t really dead. A great character, too good to be gone after one season. Here, I thought maybe the Doctor would try and take her along with him, like Ten offered John Simms Master… and then Clara wouldn’t go for it, be ashamed with the Doctor, and leave them.
    Or, they could have had Missy get away somehow and have her be the big bad for the entirety of Capaldi’s run. She knew how to get to Gallifrey, apparently, and he doesn’t. That could have been something. And while she may come back, and her death may not be permanent, for now basing myself on what I saw… that was a waste.
  4. Wasted opportunities. I really wish Doctor Who would stop trying to resolve plots like this in only two episodes. Sometimes, they’ve resolved what could have been big plots in one. (AKA, the Power of Three). They could have stretched out this whole cybermen and Missy plot for at least a couple episodes into the next season, to make it truly seem like a big deal. The problem with resolving plots like this in two episodes is that it seemed crunched down for time. The Cybermen didn’t invade. They didn’t shoot a single person, all that happened was they turned into rain and the rain made dead people into cybermen. This was TRULY a wasted opportunity, with the army of the dead, It should not have been resolved so quickly, and with such ease. (Although I will say I do think that if they had to resolve it so quickly, they did it in a way that made some sense and genuinely worked.)
  5. Bad conclusion. If this was really the end for both Clara and the Doctor, I don’t like it. They ended it with lies, and even though Clara got a hug… for a companion that got to be with two different Doctors, (the only one in Nu-Who to get to do that was Rose), she deserved a better send-off. I can only hope this will be fixed in either the Christmas special, or this truly isn’t the end for the two of them.

This episode was good. In fact, it was one of the better ones in the series. But so much more could have been done. All of the actors perform brilliantly, but I think the core story of Doctor Who is going a bit too far off the rails.
I enjoyed the little homage to the Brigadier, and how the Doctor gave him the salute he wanted.
I also, despite my complaint about the ending, liked how they sort of tied up the Doctor’s complaint with soldiers, after Danny commanded his army away and sacrificed himself. Also, despite my complaint, liked the resolution and “redemption” for Danny, sending the child he killed in the war back to the living world.
I have high hopes for season 9. Whatever happens, I will watch. As a Whovian, I owe the series that much. I’m also looking forward to the Christmas special, with Nick Frost as Santa Claus… because who the hell can resist Nick Frost as Santa Claus?

Doctor Who’s season finale, ‘Death in Heaven’, gets a 7 out of 10.
Check back next Sunday for a Season 8 retrospective.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 1:34 PM

Top Five Best Comedy Horror Films

It’s the end of October! It’s also Halloween, and I know many people who are more than happy that it falls on a Friday this year.
My family doesn’t celebrate Halloween for religious reasons – some of which, after studying the lore, I can understand. But I do enjoy the autumn scenery, and being a fan of horror, I enjoy using the holiday as an excuse to stay up into the wee hours of the morning with a movie marathon.
This year, the marathon is question is going to be an Evil Dead-athon, watching the original trilogy and finishing with the reboot which I haven’t seen. As I mentioned before, The Evil Dead is my all time favorite horror film, but when you’ve seen as many horror films as I have, it’s hard to really narrow it down. For the sake of that previous post, I omitted quite a few other movies that carry the ‘horror’ label, but lean further on a comedic tone. I am a HUGE fan of black comedy, and if I had included these, the previous list might have gone a whole different direction.
So we’ve had our (subjective) list of best horror movies, here’s the my (subjective) list of the top five best black comedy/campy horror films!

NUMBER FIVE

Freddy vs. Jason

Now, to some people, they might truly consider this a horror film. After all, it has two of the genre’s biggest stars duking it out in a battle of murderous dominance. And admittedly, it does have a little bit of fear working for it – mostly in the range of jump scares, but hey, whatever works.
This is number five on my list because it is a LOT of fun. The fight scenes between Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees are really only reason to watch the film. The story, while decent, wasn’t executed in the best way. The characters are ‘eh’, with stereotypes and tropes guiding them the entire way, and the acting is equally ‘meh’.

But like I said, the movie is really about the two killers, and that’s where it shines. The reason for their feud is decent enough, and some of the ideas really work. I enjoyed the separation between the two domains of Freddy’s dream world, (signified by the color red), and Jason’s Camp Crystal Lake reality, (signified by the color blue). It really added some nice contrast, and I enjoyed the fact that they each were more powerful in their own realm.
I also enjoyed that they included the weaknesses between Freddy’s fire and Jason’s water. It added some nice background, and it really made it seem like a battle of the elements.

But don’t get me wrong, FVJ is a camp-fest. Right down to the overuse of Freddy’s oneliners, Jason turning into a deformed man-baby after being confronted with water, and that scene where Freddy throws Jason around and it makes pin ball noises? I mean, once the pin ball noises were added, it became camp.

Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining movie, no matter what people say. A good movie? That might be stretching it. But entertaining it is, and very much worth the hour and thirty eight minutes.

NUMBER FOUR

Scream

This movie… I’m sorry I have to put it at four, because that makes it seem less worthy than it really is. I would say that number four and three could easily be interchangeable, and this was merely a choice that had to be made.

I really, really like this movie. I watched the trilogy (which is all that matters in my book, they ended it just right and the forth one doesn’t count) about a year ago, but I’ve been wanting to watch this movie since I was about ten years old. The Ghostface costume was popular, and I wanted to wear it for Halloween (back when we celebrated it) and watch the movie so I’d know my source material.
I never did, but instead we settled on me watching Child’s Play and being Chucky. Eh.

But, later on when I was much older and could pretty much watch what I wanted, I gave it a watch and it was fantastic. It was directed by Wes Craven, the director of the original Nightmare on Elm Street, had this fantastic meta feel to it AND had a legitimately good twist.

The weird thing about this movie is that I feel it’s half and half on the comedy/horror spectrum. It is a genuinely freaky movie, because this is just some dude in a common costume. It isn’t supernatural at all, and it makes it very real.
But some of the actions of the characters… the very nature of the premise, and the meta feel in general I believe allows me to put it on this list. After all, I don’t think anyone will say that watching Scream scarred them for life.

But definitely give this a watch, and the entire trilogy if you have a chance. It is a very good progression, and it honestly got better each movie.
Just leave the forth movie alone.

NUMBER THREE

Army of Darkness

Like I said, you can safely change number three and fours place back and forth if need be. But what kind of list would this be if I didn’t include Army of Darkness?
Despite not having the Evil Dead name, (apparently it was supposed to be called the Medieval Dead, which is brilliant and I don’t know why they scrapped it), this is the last movie of the Evil Dead trilogy, and picks up where the last movie finished. Ash Williams, now the ultimate epitome of a man, has gone through a portal to the Middle Ages and must save a kingdom from the Deadites by retrieving the Necronomicon and saying the magic words, “Klaatu barada nikto”, which came from the 1951 film, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

I saw this film when I was very young – six, seven, eight… it was one of the few movies my family had on VHS, and I was allowed to watch it due to its light horror. I had no clue it was part of a series until many years later.

This movie, like it’s predecessors, is a LOT of fun. This film relies on slapstick humor for most of it, which I typically don’t enjoy. But it just works SO well here, perhaps because we’re already accustomed to seeing Ash take the abuse.

Despite coming from a series of rather scary films, the first being terrifying and the second, while a little campy, still fairly freaky – if you go on Wikipedia, they don’t have the word ‘horror’ any where it talks about genre. Instead calling it a ‘comedy-dark fantasy’.

But still. It has some good creepy bits, even if its almost always laced with humor. It’s a great movie, and the best part is you don’t have to watch the others if you don’t want too. It works well as a third entry in a series, and as a stand alone film.

NUMBER TWO

Zombieland

When I first heard of this movie, I was expecting a budget film. It looked like it could be a fun romp at best, or a heaping pile of one hour and twenty seven minutes I’d never get back. I didn’t know anyone who starred in it at the time, and I just wasn’t a zombie fan.

Then I sat down and watched it, and for the next hour and twenty seven minutes… I was enthralled. The comedic timing, the acting, the bad-assery that is Woody Harrelson… this movie did so many things right. What I assumed would only have the bare minimum of entertainment value turned out to be one of the smartest, funnest, and despite the context of the movie… realest movies of that year, and maybe of the past ten years.

But still, it isn’t the best.
This next movie, like Zombieland, is another zombie film.
And it’s the best damned one… horror, camp, comedy, or whatever… I’ve seen.

NUMBER ONE

Shaun of the Dead

This movie, put simply into one word, is brilliant. Just thinking about it makes me want to watch it again.
I am a big fan of the Cornetto trilogy in the first place. All of the actors are fantastic, the first two films were fantastic, the third was good… but this first movie is just it for me. I dunno, it just hits me in all the right places. Lubes my gears something swell.

Perhaps I’m biased. British comedy is my favorite. Would the movie be as good if it were American? Probably not. There is just something special about it. Something I just can’t pinpoint.

The chemistry between Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is just undeniably great. Never before, that I’ve seen, have two actors fit so well together. (Well, besides maybe Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, but that’s a different topic).

The little romantic aspect between Shaun and Liz isn’t too intrusive, or too overbearing. They don’t force it, it fits right within the story with ease.
The incompetence of Shaun and Ed is fantastic. Too often does a movie start off with leads that are bumbling idiots, but just by happenstance they do a complete personality change and end up as charismatic heroes that can take on anything. Shaun and Ed start off as fools, and for the most part… they stay fools. They get by pretty much on pure luck, not because any of them know what the hell to do, which feels a LOT more like what would happen in reality, but just simply they happened to do the right thing at the right time.

One of my favorite bits in the film was them beating on one of the zombies while Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ plays in the background. I enjoyed the record throwing scene, I enjoyed Shaun and Ed walking through the street drunk at night, singing, and a zombie provides background vocals. There’s so much to this movie to laugh at and enjoy.

It’s little things like that, that makes this movie so great. It is a movie about a couple idiots making their way through the zombie apocalypse, and yet it is so smart, so well done, so funny… this is some of the best that the zombie genre has to offer. Wherever you are, if you have an hour and thirty-nine minutes free, go swing by Wal-Mart and pick this movie up. Most Wal-Marts I’ve been too have it in their five dollar movie bin, so if you are looking for some of the best comedy around, this is great watch. The minutes will just fly by.

HONORABLE MENTION

The Cabin in the Woods

This movie was an unexpected joy. It reminds me of Scream in the way that they both commented on the genre of movie they were trying to portray. At first, you are led to believe that you are going to be subjected to a sub-par Evil Dead type film, with stereotypes and tropes galore. You have all your classic characters – the jock, the stoner, the slut, the virgin girl… all college age and going away together for some good ‘ol hedonism.
But that’s not the case. It’s a movie that defies everything you know and it works EXTREMELY well in their favor. I won’t reveal anything, because you need to see it for yourself. So go on, after Shaun of the Dead, give this a whirl.

This is only getting honorable mention because while it is a great film… there wasn’t the special click with me that all these other films had. With this, I was enjoying a good movie. All of the others, it went on a much higher level for me, so that’s why it’s not up there.

And that’s about it on the film front for now! Once again, this is merely my personal list of best films. Our idea of best might be exactly the same, or completely different.

I hope everyone had a fantastic, safe Halloween, whether you’re young enough to be trick-r-treating, or old enough to not care if you’re young enough to be trick-r-treating.
And whether from my list or not, enjoy some horror movies. Tonight gives anyone the perfect excuse to enjoy any of the horror flicks that float your boat.

Also, tomorrow marks the first day NaNoWriMo! So you can expect frequent updates from me on the writing process, and the novel itself entitled ‘The Bright Side to the Dark Arts’. My Twitter will also be updated on a (hopefully) daily basis with progress.

And on Sunday, I’ll have a review on one of my most anticipated albums this year… I had high hopes, and as I write this I’m listening to the album for the sixth time.

So once again, have a happy Halloween and I’ll see you on Sunday!

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 6:48 PM

‘Horror’, ‘Terror’, and everything in-between

When people think of the two separate words, ‘horror’ and ‘terror’, they usually think of them as interchangeable. Horror seems to be the prevailing term, as the go-to term for everything deemed frightening, whether movie, book, or music. There really isn’t a ‘terror’ movie genre, but instead ‘horror’ movies that are terrifying. Horror is usually the genre, while we use terror and its many variations as an adjective to describe the horror film/book/etc.
I generally don’t have a problem with this in the film industry. It works just fine, and when I want to see a movie I know exactly where to look. The line is vague, but there. But when we get to writing… I feel that the line between the two adjectives need to be more clean cut.

Horror and terror mean two separate things. Generally both are frightening, but the distinction comes from what makes it frightening.
When I think of horror… something that is horrifying, I usually think of gore. Shock value. Saw, Hostel, The Human Centipede… what happens in those movies are horrific. I mean, people getting chopped in pieces, tortured, and sown mouth to anus? Disgusting. Horrifying. It is horrible to see these things happen, because the thought of it happening in real life to anyone including yourself makes you sick and scared. That is typically how horror works, at least in my mind, is the real of something that gruesome happening to yourself or people you care about.

Terror, on the other hand, is a bit more heavy handed and also subjective. Something that is terrifying is generally more mental. Someone’s terror won’t be yours and vice-a-versa, but whatever yours might be it is a truly terrible thing to witness. It sends chills down your spine. You start looking behind your back, and jumping at the smallest sound. Your brain goes into high alert, and the thought of it being a film is usually no consolation.
Something that is terrifying has a lot more fear factor than horror does. Less gore, more mentality that screws with the way you know things. Terror brings the fear from the movie or book, and forms itself into something very real inside your head. It puts a pit in your stomach of pure dread.
Films like the first Nightmare on Elm Street, Insidious, The Evil Dead, and the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Once again, subjective, but generally things that rely on ambiance, subtlety, and surrealism fare better as terrifying then things that have visuals that are, horrible or not, based in reality.

Terror is the unknown. The ‘what could be’. It’s the suspense of not knowing, it’s the fear of whatever hit that personal spot in one’s mind that makes them afraid in the first place.

Terror is the little child who truly believes that there is a monster under his bed. It is the child who tries sleeping with one eye closed, one eye in the shadows to watch that creeping shape. It is the person who swore he heard his name called, or heard a scream, or saw an image in the corner of his eyes. The feeling of not knowing is intense. Whether or not there is something lurking in the shadows doesn’t matter. It is the fear of not knowing.
Horror is the feeling you get after you know for sure… after you swallow that lump in your throat and realize that yes, there is something in the corner that is going to jump out at you once you move or scream.

Both are brilliant emotions, but must be used carefully and must be controlled and tamed for whatever you may be writing. My own horror novel, The New Phantasm, strives for the terror of uncertainty for a good portion of it. The main character, Aubrey Kasey, has no clue what is hunting him or why. It is an enigma, the villain is literally made of the shadows, so he has no idea how to fight back, how to defend himself, or even where to look.

I do believe terror is more potent, which is why I spread it over the majority of what I’m writing. I feel that the horror should come at once, in one big blow, in one revelation, and let the horror of what has happened carry the rest of the story.

Of course, this is just my opinion. People have different methods for delivering horror or terror, and a lot of them work brilliantly. The key is finding the right combination that works for you, and how to deliver it so there isn’t an overpowering sense to whatever your writing. There have been books I’ve had to stop reading, movies I’ve had to stop watching, because I didn’t think I could stomach anymore.
The trick is to keep them on the brink of that… never let them go over, keep them invested enough that they want to know what is going to happen so they keep on turning the page… but at times, so scared they don’t know why.

So to everyone, keep on writing… NaNoWriMo is right around the corner, and I’ll have more information on my first year participating soon.
Everyone enjoy the continuing descent into Autumn, and I’ll see you on Halloween for a little more movie talk.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 11:24 PM