Horrible Imaginings Film Festival Presents Sion Sono’s ‘Tag’: Schoolgirl Slaughter-ific

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Briefly summing up the film’s plot in a small paragraph is actually very difficult, so what we will say is that a schoolgirl on a field trip begins encountering strange phenomena that convince her more and more she’s not real.

Okay, even with the weird-ass explanation chapter at the end of the film, this is a difficult one for the average movie-goer to get. Some sequences are almost dream-like, while others have the happy slaughter of a Takashi Miite movie feel to them, and then of course there are some scenes that are almost impossible to fathom at all. The pig-faced demon groom throws me for a loop, what can I say. You’ve been duly warned, this is an incredibly weird, wild ride. But we will attempt to dive headlong into Sion Sono’s Tag, and discover what his apparent obsession with schoolgirl slaughter is, already.

To begin with, we have pretty little Mitsuko. She, like her raucous classmates, is on a bus headed for a hotel with, it’s a pretty safe bet, hot springs. Mitsuko is a little more reflective than her friends, and she gently blows away the pillowcase feathers of her play-fighting comrades off her poetry journal. Only a dropped pen saves her from an Evil Dead-style demon wind execution, one that takes out the entire bus, the other bus, the bikers and hikers, and just for an encore, the nearby telephone wires. And Mitsuko does what she apparently does best, which is to take off running.

Best friend Aki catches up with Mitsuko and just latches on for dear life, joyfully taking her friend’s shaken mind off what she thought she saw with a little class-skipping action. They bring along the girl Sur, short for ‘surreal’ because she apparently is. Sur pontificates about ripples and changing one’s fate by doing the unexpected. This, along with the almost-constant presence of Aki, seem to be key points in the movie, giving the chaos some semi-balance of plot to attempt to follow.

At this point we’ve gone off into some rather wacky territory, where the teachers are attempting to kill the entire schoolgirl student body, and, for some reason, Mitsuko in particular, with all kinds of forbidden hardware.. What can Aki do but distract them while she screams for Mitsuko to run!

But now, everything is very different. The scenery has completely changed, Mitsuko has a job and a different face and a new name, Keiko, and holy crap, we have to go, Keiko-chan’s about to get married!

Okay, sure, but … well, that’s not like any pre-wedding girlie prep I’ve ever attended. And what’s with the all-girl audience who turn into strippers? (I’m not actually kidding, and that’s the mild part of the wedding scene.) Do something unexpected and change your fate, Sur said. Certainly, no one expected Keiko-chan to go all Bride from Kill Bill on all of them with a broken bottle.

A blink, a flash, something, and we’re now running a race, with another different name and face. Izumi’s whole thing is running, apparently, her friends all reminisce about running everywhere as they grew up together, as they run beside her. Izumi-chan is being chased by the pig-faced demon from the previous face. Certain themes are beginning to bleed into each other and despite the occasional, incredibly zany visual, you remember that yes there is an underlying story being told here.

So, here we are at what may be the actual truth, with one last door left to open. Mitsuko-chan is just exhausted and confused and petrified, and it just gets worse when she hears she literally has to go through Aki-chan to get through that door.

I’m not going to spoil the ending, that would do director Sion Sono (who gave us Tokyo Tribe and Strange Circus, among many other Japanese film gems) a large injustice. I will say that it seemed like there was a small attempt at a Bladerunner feel towards the end, and that was an unexpected turn. Sono skillfully gives three important moments in a girl’s life – her carefree middle teenage years with her girlfriends, her fairy-tale wedding of course, and the first time she won any sort of large competition – and infuses them with manic energy while somehow getting his story across at the same time.

In the end, it was a totally weird movie, gigantic and frantic and lovely at parts, and while not for the casual stab at J-Horror, Tag manages to be an enjoyable romp of schoolgirl slaughter!

Horrible Imaginings Film Festival 2016 was justifiably proud of being the California premiere of Sion Sono’s ‘Tag’, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park!

‘Allegiant’: Always Another Wall to Get Over

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

We’ve been waiting for two whole movies to find out what’s beyond the surrounding wall of post-apocalyptic Chicago, and it’s finally here! The first film, Divergent, set the stage for the world in which post-devastation Chicago lives under the yoke of the factions that divide them from each other, and the legend of the mold-breaker Divergent haunts the city leaders. In the sequel, Insurgent, Tris Prior has been labeled a fabled Divergent and, as the factions break down in Chicago and people are chasing her for their own ends, prophecy comes to light about what’s really beyond the walls of the city. Now, here we are with a third film in which, immediately, Tris and crew are dead-set on scaling those walls and finding out what’s really in the great beyond, so let’s get into this!

The spoilers, they never end!

Those improbable Dauntless climbing rigs really are cool; I think you all should’ve kept them once you made it over the wall. And, yes, it’s a shame Tori (Maggie Q) only made it to the top of the wall before getting killed, but hey, it was farther than she ever got in her Divergent-helping life. Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James), along with the ever-insistent Peter (Miles Teller) and Tris’ forgiven brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), are out there traversing the pink, pock-marked wasteland in despair while the bad guys from Chicago are trying to chase them down. Is this really all there is beyond the wall — say it’s not so — there has to be something else out here besides a bleeding sky and dead building skeletons and – wait, what’s that? It’s another wall.

But, hey, once you get past that wall and the unexpected super future-science soldiers show up, saving us from the bad guys who chased us all the way past Chicago’s wall, it’s not so bad. Time to get placed in a transport bubble, taken to the cleanest decontamination process you’ve ever had ever, and dosed with a heaping helping of future-truth from the guy in charge, Director Call-me-David (Jeff Daniels).

The present-future is still rather hampered by the past, where we humans did all manner of fuckery to ourselves with genetic modification and the like. This is not explained all that clearly; basically, what we’re left with is the revelation that Chicago itself is a giant petri dish experiment, struggling to bring about the natural selection of the Pure amongst the Damaged. Tris, being a Divergent, is, of course, the very first Pure to be brought out of Chicago, and David wants to take her to the nearby city of Providence, before the Council, to prove their experimentations actually worked and change the face of the world forever!

Whew! Meanwhile, Four has been assigned to the Dauntless-sneering futuristic military operations of the Bureau, and Caleb and Peter have been remanded to the amazing surveillance system, to keep tabs on the war brewing in the faction-less aftermath of Chicago. The experimental city is bent on tearing itself apart in the wake of former leader-villain Evelyn’s death, and the factions are re-forming as they prepare to go to war. Inevitably, what was Amity now announces its new name, Allegiant (there’s your fourth wall broken), and is determined to go to war with the other factionless, who are staging executions as part of the newly discovered freedom of what to do with POWs there in Chicago. Four got himself assigned to what ultimately turns out to be a raid — of children, no less — kidlings living out in the badlands to be stolen from their parents on David’s own orders and sent to be raised as brainwashed soldiers for the Bureau. Four tries to warn Tris that David is a bad man but Tris figures she’s got this and goes off in the flying bubble with David to Providence to state their case before the Council.

But it’s all happening more or less simultaneously – Chicago’s about to go to Armageddon-like war, Tris screwed David and the Council over pretty hardcore, Peter’s made his choice to help the bad guys of the Bureau – the metaphorical and real walls are caving in everywhere! David’s son Matthew, whom you might recognize as Bill Skarsgard, has decided to help Tris and company escape the Bureau however he might, and there is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it easter egg when Tris uses his key card to get out and the card announces Matthew as Pure, as well. The orange forget-me-not gas is being let out everywhere, people are panicking, and only Tris and her friends can save the day! The movie draws to a somewhat climactic close with Tris and her pals, except the raging, kept-out Peter, of course, preparing to bring down yet another wall and stop the war brewing inside Chicago, and the present-day battles revving up on the outside!

I’ve long been a fan of the Divergent movie series, far over The Hunger Games or pretty much any other dystopian future films based on a YA book series. This latest installment film doesn’t disappoint. In both tone and scope, keeping the same faction and breakout elements that made the book series so enjoyable to begin with, but also introducing a breath of fresh air in the form of sci-fi elements to the over-arcing storyline.

All the kids we met in the first movie have grown immeasurably, some into heroes and some into misled villains, and, for the most part, we approve of what they’re doing without the yoke of adult regret. Not yet, anyway. As always, Tris Prior is made to stand out, both when she’s a Divergent among the beleaguered of Chicago and when she’s among the Damaged of the Bureau, where she wears all-white amongst the fighting-practice blacks of everyone else. At least she has a much better haircut this time. The many walls of the Divergent world are constantly coming up and being broken down, both metaphorically and literally, often, and the films remind the up-and-coming generations to break free of their own walls with grace and gusto!

XXX

‘Boldly Go!’: Where No Musical has Gone Before

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Who doesn’t love the sweeping span of the Star Trek universe? While we all wait for our next beloved offering of the Roddenberry-inspired series to come back to the small screen, we can all get off our collective butts and go see the Trek-inspired stage play of Boldly Go!

A stage musical of epic farcical proportions, Boldly Go! follows the intrepid crew of the — what else? — Starship Enterprise, featuring the return of many beloved characters along with some brand new ones, all off on a brand new exciting adventure! Previous assumptions will be confronted, old paradigms challenged, new alliances tested, and brand new contacts made – whether for good or ill as has yet to be seen. And our beloved sci-fi world is all set in a side-splitting tour de force of musical mayhem!

While the stage show has fun with the sometimes ludicrous aspects of science fiction and parodies Star Trek, this new show also lovingly satirizes the entire musical theater genre as well. At its core, Boldly Go! is a story about being true to oneself and one’s convictions even if and perhaps especially when they can be considered laughable, about friendship and love, about the discovery and wonder of things new, about the triumph of the individual over any adversity, and about the joy of sharing with one another this vast and mysterious Universe.

Boldly Go! is written by the Remmen brothers: Cole, a University of Minnesota Theatre Arts Senior, and Grant, a Caltech theoretical physics graduate student. The Caltech world premiere of the stage play features a talented cast from the Caltech and Jet Propulsion Lab communities. The musical is being shown at the Ramo Auditorium of the Caltech Campus in Pasadena, California. Scheduled performances are as follows:
Friday, February 26, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 27, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 28, 2:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 3, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 4, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 5, 2:30 p.m.

Purchase your tickets online here, and remember, to Boldly Go! where no musical has gone before!

XXX

CosLosseum 2016: Enter the Cosplay Arena

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror) 

Welcome to San Diego’s very first CosLosseum event, where we honor every last cosplayer, from the obscure obsessions of the anime folk to the well-known lightsaber and sonic screwdriver crowds, and everything in between!

So, the first official event of the day was “The Video Games,” put on by the good peoples of MB Stage. A parody of The Hunger Games, in which all the tributes are characters from some of your favorite video games, all battling it out live for the coveted title of Player One! The audience is said to alter the outcome of the battle, by live and Twitter voting, which changes the game storyline throughout the performance.

Tyrant Queen Zelda commanded the Games to begin and put Mario (yes that Mario) and Jigglypuff in charge, and it turns out a Renegade version of Commander Shepard is the video game designer. Then we got treated to the likes of Scorpion (Mortal Kombat), MasterChief (HALO), Princess Peach (Super Mario Bros.), Paragon Commander Shepard (Mass Effect), Donkey Kong, Pikachu (Pokemon), Link (Zelda), Lady Yuna (Final Fantasy), Samu Aran (Metroid), and even Lara Croft running around trying to kill each other!

This was a live action performance, full of props and audience participation and carefully scripted fight scenes that were truly a joy to watch. All the players tried, within their various character modes, to up the audience participation, and threw their hearts mightily into those roles. You can just tell, the performers at MB Stage Productions really do care about their stagecraft. Every character got at least a few minutes of personal stage time and some fight scenes, most of which were screamingly funny and completely character-appropriate.

The front entrance hall to the ballroom where the con was held was lined with vendors and there was a whole other section of ballroom for yet more vendors. One wall had celebrity tables, where you could walk right up and talk with the likes of Rashaad Santiago and Anthony Reyes, or Sandi Sellner, Moses Moseley and others. The merchant booths themselves were great little corners of all manner of fandom – Wired Redhead Jewelry sold fantasy wire pointy-eared jewelry; the Elder Gods and their alcohol on t-shirts made an appearance with Wyngd Lyon Creations; Leelo Jewelry had flasks and coasters and earrings, oh my; a mad scientist sold geek-favorite pocket watches at insane prices. There were all sorts of Steampunk accessories available at several booths, original art prints and kawaii things and even comic books, and all that barely scratches the surface. No matter how fandom-specific a booth and its merchandise might have been, I saw plenty of money changing hands and smiles all around. Because nothing says ultimate fandom like a flask emblazoned with, ‘THE DARK SIDE MADE ME DO IT”!

Also in the front hall was an entire table set up for emergency cosplay repairs, put on by the brilliant folks at International Cosplay Corps, as they now do at many cons. There were actual freaking sewing machines set up on that table, along with helpful mobile Sergeants who carried cosplay repair kits upon their persons like the best support troops to us wacky cosplayers ever. Far from running repairs with nothing but duct tape and a prayer, these ICC Sergeants and their troopers are a walking blessing at any con that has cosplayers.

The Research for Lupus Fundraiser event was quite small but heartfelt. Dan Posey, leader of this intrepid new con in his Punisher pride costume and chains, gamely took the mic and introduced Hollaine Hopkins of the Lupus Foundation, and former Power Ranger Sandi Sellner, also a Lupus sufferer. The ladies spoke of how Lupus is becoming far too common these days, newer treatment options becoming available with research, and the ever-present need for more research to find a cure. Audience members were encouraged to speak out of their own issues with Lupus, and then the auction, benefitting Lupus research, was held. And Dan Posey proudly announced that, despite it being a small con and on the first day, they had taken in, from ticket sales alone, just slightly over $1,000 to forward towards Lupus Research for a Cure. If you want to donate to research for a cure for Lupus, go here.

A bit more wandering, money-spending and picture-taking later, it’s time for the inevitable Cosplay Costume Contest! With only a dozen or so actual entrants and six categories of prizes to win, the contest was an interesting little do-si-do of coordination. Cosplay entries included characters from The Evil Within, League of Legends, The Strain tv show, Ragnarok Online 2, Final Fantasy, and the anime Black Butler. Winners were as follows –

Group Cosplay – Black Butler trio (Sebastian, Ciel Phantomhive, Undertaker)

Best Makeup – Jack Skellington (The Nightmare Before Christmas)

Best Craftsmanship – The Evil Within

Best Performance – Master Vampire (The Strain)

Best in Show – Ragnarok Online 2

Con Favorite – Tenjo (Final Fantasy)

And that was the end of my very first CosLosseum experience. Yes, the venue was small and without the crushing crowds of the likes of Comic-Con – given some of the costumes people were sporting, trying to do SDCC in them seems like a good way to inadvertently commit homicide. The atmosphere was open and loving and genuinely heartfelt, and I bet you my favorite TARDIS dress that not only will CosLosseum be back next year, it will be bigger, more together, and always full of that adorkable Cosplay insanity fandom!

XXX

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Movie Review: ‘Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens’

by Agent Nur Hussein (a.k.a. The Robot Whisperer)

Are you a Star Wars fan?

Go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, right now. Drop whatever you’re doing and go right now. It is essential that you go in the movie knowing nothing about it, other than this fact:

This is the Star Wars you’re looking for.

It is brilliant, not just visually or plot-wise, but it also packs an emotional wallop. Some of our beloved characters return. We fall in love with all the brand new ones, too. Spaceships race across the screen, roll and flip in space and through the skies of distant planets. The Millennium Falcon roars. TIE fighters scream. The Star Wars you remembered, the one you missed, is back.

There are no spoilers in this review, I am going to talk about it in the broadest of strokes possible. Still, you really shouldn’t even be reading this, just stop and go see it.

Still with me? Do you still need some convincing? Did the prequels let you down?

Okay then.

The thing that made the classic trilogy great wasn’t really the fantastic visuals or the special effects, although that was icing on the cake. The classic trilogy was great because it had heart. It had characters we could root for and relate to. The space war was epic but the characters and their interpersonal conflicts kept it grounded despite the fantastic things that were happening around them. George Lucas lost sight of this when he made the prequels, and decided to concentrate on spectacle. In The Force Awakens, director J.J. Abrams delivers the spectacle in droves, but he never loses sight of the characters. As a result, as soon as we’re introduced to the new heroes and villains, we love the good guys instantly, and the bad guys repluse us with their evil and cruelty. The story of Star Wars was always good against evil, and while there isn’t a lot of subtlety here, a back-to-basics approach definitely helps the narrative this time around.

To write a story with a punch is no mean feat, and joining Abrams for screenwriting duties are Michael Arndt and Lawrence Kasdan, the latter being the person who originally wrote The Empire Strikes Back, regarded by fans as the best in the series. However, the movie doesn’t (just) ride on the coat-tails of nostalgia. It builds a mythology of its own; as mysteries are revealed, more questions pop up, and the cluttered galaxy we’ve got to know from the original Star Wars movies, prequels, and countless (now non-canonical) spin off media has been pared down, yet contain new surprises of its own.

The production of this movie is utterly gorgeous. Abrams and company spared no expense, and the heavy use of practical effects pays off big time, as we feel pulled into the magical world of Star Wars, yet again. Most of the sets and creatures look like they belong in the physical realm, and interact with the actors in the real world, thus bringing out nuances in performances that were utterly missing in the prequels.

The returning cast members will make audiences cheer: It’s like meeting old friends again. Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) are the primary returning heroes, and we see they are now aged and battle-weary, yet still carry the same sparkle in their eyes as we remembered them from years ago. However, this movie belongs to the new generation of heroes; the new actors really, really shine. The film’s weight is carried on the three new leads: John Boyega as Finn, Daisy Ridley as Rey, and Oscar Isaacs as Poe Dameron. Boyega, Ridley and Isaacs all have their own unique wit and charm, the missing ingredient from the prequels that show up in spades here. Up to this point, Boyega and Ridley were obscure actors but this film may catapult them to superstardom (perhaps, boosting Isaacs’ visibility even more too).

If there is a fault to this movie, it’s that, in making a loving tribute to the original Star Wars trilogy (while also continuing it), there’s a certain lack of originality to it. Some story elements go from familiar to too-familiar; some key plot points have a somewhat derivative feel to them. However, the director and screenwriters make very bold choices too, and you are going to be at the edge of your seat throughout.

I give Star Wars: The Force Awakens four out of five stars, and it is quite possibly the best genre movie of the year.

XXX

Dark Whispers: Masked Fatalities

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Welcome to Dark Whispers, the horror corner of the Super Villain Network – speak intently, break the rules, and may all your nightmares come true!

This week we’re bringing you all kinds of newest of the new horror, from the sci-fi adventures of furious Riddick, to the foray into 1800s Transylvania by the CW, and finally to iconic nightmare character entering the Kombat arena!

A return to the mercs of ‘Furia’

Who remembers the adventures of the silver-eyed slaughterhouse of a man called Riddick? In Pitch Black, he was a prisoner on a planet of sci-fi darkness monsters, the only badass among them who was likely to survive. In The Chronicles of Riddick, he was the Conan-like last of his Furian kind, fighting against the hordes of Necromongers, taking over whole planets with unexpected allies. The most recent film, Riddick, has plenty of to-ing and fro-ing with mercenaries, dying Furian races and scifi monsters on distant planets, but Riddick manages to evade them all with that gravelly wit and badass survival skillz. There was even a cartoon film, set between Chronicles and the most recent film, called The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury, made by the creator of Aeon Flux, Peter Chung. Two video games have been put out too, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and Assault on Dark Athena. Whew! So what does this all have to do with anything? So glad you asked!

Star of the Riddick movies, Vin Diesel, as the title character himself, took to social media to announce a great holiday treat to the legions of silvery-eyed survivor fans. David Twohy, the writer of all three Riddick films, will begin writing the next film chapter of the Riddick universe in 2016. Called Furia, we’re all hoping this will give plenty more insight into the lost species of Riddick’s original peoples! Also, Diesel announced, there is a TV spinoff series from the Riddick universe in the works – called Merc City, the show follows the mercenaries and bounty hunters of the Riddick universe. I’m a big fan of shows like Killjoys, so this will hopefully be awesome!

The CW heads to ‘Transylvania’

Yes, it seems as though everyone is jumping on the horror-TV bandwagon. That isn’t to say that every TV network or writer group has enough talent to pull it off. Real, my-little-black-heart-adores-you-like-Hannibal horror is hard to come by. However, the CW network has a whole slew of great shows – DC powerhouses Arrow and Flash — did you know iZombie is a DC property too? —  Supernatural, the award-winning Jane the Virgin and others, and they’re now taking an official stab at horror, too!

The series is currently called Transylvania, and is set in the 1800s, with a stubborn young woman searching for her missing father. From New York to Transylvania she searches, teaming up with a wrongfully disgraced Scotland Yard detective (I’d wager on his name being Abberline), and together, they bear witness to the most famous monstrosities and villains of their time!

No word on who’s starring or when the show will air, but in great anticipation of this show, we’ll keep you posted!

‘Mortal Kombat X’ brings all the horror-pack

So, we know Mortal Kombat X is out, and they keep offering other DLC and different characters to be, from some of our more favorite horror icons. First was slasher Jason Vorhees and the horror-pack (giving costume skins for Vampiress Milena, Kraken Reptile and Pharoah Ermac), then came the scary Predator from the AVP universes, and now, they’ll be joined by a chainsaw-wielding Leatherface and the flip-side of the Predator-verse, the marauding acid-spitting alien called a Xenomorph! I can’t wait to see what their various particular Fatalities will be!

Check out the very NSFW trailer for these newest characters below!

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‘The Hunger Games, Mockingjay, Part 2’: It’s Mocking, All Right

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

The wrapup to the futuristic dystopian world of Panem, the Hunger Games, reluctant leader of the rebellion Katniss Everdeen and the war for freedom for all!

Okay, I actually lack the words for just how disappointing this purportedly epic conclusion movie turns out to be, but I shall try. This is supposed to be the time where Katniss, as the Mockingjay, symbol of freedom and burning rallying cry to the oppressed, gathers the rebels into a cohesive fighting force to storm the Capitol, take out President Snow, and free all of Panem! Right? Oh, we couldn’t be more wrong.

As I’m sure we all recall from Mockingjay, Part 1, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) was brainwashed by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and sent back to assassinate Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence). This is where we begin, with President Coin (Julianne Moore), self-appointed leader of the resistance and her cohort Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), former Hunger Games designer, trying to undo the damage done to Peeta, while figuring out their next move against the Capitol and Snow.

Katniss is being sent with a new squad and her old videographer to the front lines, except she’s not – Katniss and crew are considerably behind the actual fighting, only sent there, far away from any real violence, to shoot propaganda videos with appropriate backdrops.

The area around the Capitol has been evacuated and President Snow with his Game designers have set out Pods, these horrific machines from the Hunger Games that can bring up all sorts of nastiness, from inexhaustible machine guns to terrible, caustic oils to complete area-atmospheric changes. Katniss’ squad carries with them a box that shows the location of the Pods but, as the squad keeps constantly reminding themselves and thus the audience, their information may be outdated and there may be a lot more Pods in currently unknown locations. What follows is an almost boring series of shots of either members of the squad dying in nasty ways, or them running away. The only fun moment of this entire act is when someone grins and mockingly says, “Welcome to the 76th Hunger Games.” And then, right as it looks like Katniss is finally going to get to do something and make her little speech or whatever, poof, she gets shot and wakes in the infirmary. Again.

Some talks with President Coin and the wedding celebration of Finnick (Sam Claflin) later, Katniss decides she’s had enough and sneaks onto a medical transport to go assassinate President Snow her damn self. Later joined by her crew, whom she promptly lies to, Katniss attempts to infiltrate President Snow’s mansion, hidden by the gathering crowds he promised sanctuary to. Before Katniss has the chance to be any kind of effective though, there’s yet another attack, this one ostensibly from the rebels Katniss hasn’t been allowed to rally, which is why they’d dare to attack with the Mockingjay in the crowd. Or is it?

Because, see, after the bombs drop and there is much gratuitous glossed-over death, Katniss finally has her chance to confront Snow and kill the bastard once and for all. Yet she lets him talk, and in doing so, finds out who the real architect and villain has been, all along. Yes, Snow is a bad guy, but he’s never professed to be anything else, so the betrayal of those Katniss thought she was helping, the purported good guys, is so much worse. What to do now? Have a final Reaping and last Hunger Games performance, of course!

So Katniss is dressed by Effie Trinket a final time in her Batman-Arrow-like hybrid suit, and goes out to execute Snow before the Hunger Games commence. What happens there is … for me anyway, entirely predictable. The film tried valiantly to put forth the idea that Plutarch Heavensbee was the actual mastermind behind the outcome of the war, as the book had it, but because poor Philip Seymour Hoffman died before the film was made, it just comes across as more desperation.

Then, finally, after poor Katniss has her one breakdown moment in her house, Peeta, of course, shows up and they attempt to make some sort of life together. Finding him planting primroses around the edge of her house also seems a bit trite, but then, so does Katniss explaining to her baby that some games just aren’t worth it. Even as a wife and mother, Katniss is still is plagued by nightmares that won’t ever go away, which we can understand, but having her take a stab at emotion at the very tail end of the movie is near-insulting, both to the audience and to Katniss herself, poor thing.

The pacing is just awful, and the tossed-in, mini tender moments of the Katniss-Peeta-Gale (Liam Hemsworth) love triangle don’t help. Katniss has never been one to openly show emotion, so when she tries to sort-of encourage both Peeta and Gale, it comes across as less real and more desperate, like Katniss is clinging to what remains of her former life. Katniss has been reluctant and wooden through most of these movies, and who could blame her for that, but this last movie almost seems to have a reluctance from actress Jennifer Lawrence, too. Like she disapproves of what the film does to Katniss, as well.

The burning Mockingjay truly wants freedom for all of Panem and thinks that she can get it from killing Snow, so when she learns the extent of the betrayal of the rebel leaders, it just hurts so much more. Even then, Katniss doesn’t allow herself to succumb to her rage and pain until she’s finally alone, with no one but Prim’s stubborn cat for company. These small moments that seem to be desperate to show the human side of our Mockingjay come across as rather mocking to the rest of us, because they’re simply not enough.

The final book is said (I haven’t read them) to remonstrate over the use of an actual person as a media symbol to justify the use of mass murder, and that is prevalent today. This final film made a valiant effort to stay true, for the most part, to the book, but that effectively means very little in the way of exciting fight scenes or grand gestures. Mostly, Katniss and crew are hiding, running, or lamenting. If this was the way my world had ended, with insidious black betrayal of those I thought my friends, the thock of a final arrow, and the quiet of never-ending melancholy, I can’t blame Katniss for her closing off what’s left of her heart. She, and the audience, deserved more for the ending.

XXX

K-Pop Kapow! ‘Star Wars’ Collaboration

by Agent Zoe de Lellis (a.k.a. Han-ji)

Welcome back to K-Pop Kapow! Your one stop for all things K-Pop.

Whew! This has been an interesting week. Earlier in the week, fans began accusing singer/songwriter and actress, IU, of using a sample of Britney Spears’ “Gimme More” without permission after someone pointed out the similarities between “Gimme More” and IU’s single “23.” IU and her company responded that they had obtained the sample with permission, but that they would be more careful in letting fans know when popular songs were sampled.

Then, fans started noticing another song called “Zeze,” off IU’s album, Chat-ShireThe song is named after a young boy character in a novel called My Sweet Orange Tree. The song has what some might interpret as sexually charged lyrics, and some felt that they were inappropriate because the character of Zeze is only five years old. The drama escalated when critics began to point out what they felt were Lolita concepts throughout IU’s whole album: her album cover shoot, the artwork on her album, and the song “Zeze.” IU herself has issued an apology to fans, taking full responsibility for the misunderstanding of her lyrics. She blamed her inexperience as a songwriting for the unclear meaning of “Zeze,” and promised to work harder in the future so this doesn’t happen again. Amidst all this drama, though, IU has been taking first place at music shows, beating out Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon’s solo debut.

What do Star Wars and K-Pop have in common? Well, nothing, until now! The huge news that a K-Pop group would be collaborating with Walt Disney Korea to release a single for the newest movie in the franchise dropped this week. It had fans instantly speculating about which group it might be. But the company took pity on anxious fans and revealed that EXO would be that group! Way back before EXO even debuted, there was a teaser video put up for member Kai that featured a song called “Lightsaber” that fans never got to hear in full. Now, there is a teaser video out featuring a rap by Chanyeol and some dramatic scenes leading up to what looks like a lightsaber duel! In traditional EXO fashion, the song is heavy-hitting, electronic, with a catchy hook, and what I’m sure is going to be epic choreography. It’s also reported that EXO’s company, SM Entertainment, will be collaborating with Walt Disney Korea for more projects related to the Star Wars release on December 17, 2015, in Korea.

The Melon Music Awards were held this week, as well. BIGBANG won Artist of the Year, EXO won Album of the Year for EXODUS, and BTS won best dance for I Need U. iKON and GFriend took home the Rookie Awards.

The performances this year were crazy! BTS performed a remixed “I Need U” with an amazing intro dance break and slightly altered choreography to keep things interesting. They also had Iron Man-esque hand lights that lit up a darkened stadium, and slick shiny black costumes to suit the mood. iKON also came out strong with performances of “Rhythm Ta” and “My Type.” Even though they faced some microphone malfunctions, they managed to perform like pros and not let the difficulties stop them from having an amazing performance. Other notable groups that performed were Apink, with a medley intro and “Remember”; BIGBANG with four songs off their MADE album; EXID with a medley of their hits; Red Velvet with their hit “Dumb Dumb”; GFriend; and MONSTAX. This award show got fans excited for the upcoming MNet Asian Music Awards, or MAMA, coming up in early December.

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Japanese Trailer For ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

by Agent Nur Hussein (a.k.a. The Robot Whisperer)

After the “final” trailer we saw last month, we didn’t think there’d be any more trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. However, today the Japanese trailer dropped for the movie, and there’s a ton of new footage!

While it is more or less the same sequence of events we saw during the last American trailer, which aired on American TV last month during Monday Night Football, there are slightly different clips. Instead of Rey descending into the ruins of the Star Destroyer, we see her right outside its massive remains. We see Rey chatting with the cute little BB-8 droid as it rolls along after her on the dunes of Jakku. One extra nugget that dropped is that Rey is waiting for her family. Just who is her family? Some folks we already know? We’re left in suspense! Next, we see a very alarmed BB-8 alerting Rey and Finn to the coming squadron of TIE fighters. The shot of the fighters approaching is framed by a giant red sun, like an attack at dawn (or dusk). Dramatic!

The next few shots are almost the same as in the U.S. trailer: Kylo Ren blabbering on about destiny, and then a ground attack by stormtroopers, led by Captain Phasma. We get a quick glimpse of Finn and Rey introducing themselves to each other. We see BB-8 looking at a faraway explosion. After that, Chewie blows up some bad guys. And then we see Rey being threatened by Kylo Ren and his weird crossguard lightsaber. How’s she going to get out of this one?

So many new questions now! Disney’s marketing machine sure knows how to make us go crazy with anticipation for a movie franchise that pretty much almost flatlined with the disappointing prequels. Let’s hope we get the Star Wars we’ve been waiting for this time.

“Hope is not lost today. It is found.”

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdAUiyeJMFQ

Dark Whispers Special Edition: Celebrating the ‘Time Warp’ of 40 Years of Rocky Horror Picture Show!

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the highly convoluted musical story of a mad-scientist, transvestite alien (I said it was convoluted), his servants and groupies who aid him in making his ultimate lover, and the two squares who get involved in the night of birth when their car breaks down! Here in 2015, The Rocky Horror Picture Show celebrates forty years of iconic songs, ripped fishnets, men in corsets, and fan-atic freakdom!

It actually took me two viewings of Rocky Horror for me to understand that yes there was an entire plot to the movie, not just a bunch of singing, dancing transvestites and escapees from Universal monster movies. The first time I saw RHPS, it was in Korea on the military-run television channel, so of course, it was censored to hell and gone, which didn’t help me trying to figure out WTF was going on. A few years later, back in the States, I got to see the film in its entirety, and went, “Ohhhh, okay then!” That year, a friend invited me to a Halloween showing of a live-cast performance of Rocky Horror, and that was how I found out about the entire live experience in the theater!

Most theaters don’t allow it these days, because live-cast, or shadow-cast as they’re sometimes called, performances of RHPS have a tendency to get messy and loud. But if you can find one, the live-cast showing of Rocky Horror is an experience like no other! The live-cast performances are basically a showing of the movie on a big screen, with a stage right in front of it where live actors reenact the movie shot for shot at the same time.

I remember being so proud of my Crow makeup and costume, and getting upset because (it is tradition of the live-cast performances, mind you) before the movie, I got hauled up on stage for the “virgin circle” and had huge V’s scrawled in whore-red all over my face. My friend and I who attended the live-cast got water tossed on us when Dr. Frank’n tosses his water-cup at the screen singing “Sweet Transvestite,” a cast-member snuck up behind us and did the water-cup trick to bring us closer to the live performance. The lady acting as Janet wore condom barrettes in her hair, the entire audience (us included) got up and danced the “Time Warp” in the aisles, rock-concert lighters dotted the theater during “There’s a Light,” and nearly everyone chanted the familiar lines of almost the entire movie right along with the live cast. The live-cast performances of Rocky Horror are designed to get the entire theater, the cast, the audience, even the projectionist and the ushers, all involved in a raucous riot of enjoyment of one of the zaniest movies you will ever see!

The call-back or talk-back or, as some high-brow folk call it, “counter-point dialogue,” tradition is said to have originated in New York some five months or so after the film was first released. Being enjoyed by the freaky crowd at midnight showings, at first the talk-back lines were discouraged in the tradition of the repressed two main characters, Brad and Janet. But by the next year, the shadow-cast live performers and talk-back lines were considered fan staples, and the tradition has continued to this day, forty freaking years later!

I’ve been fortunate enough to attend various fan functions of RHPS over the years, the costumes and songs and beloved snark are forever recognizable and always create an instant bond between fan-freaks of any age. I can remember attending a stage performance of RHPS years ago at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights and enjoying the hell out of myself! Seated in the middle of the audience near the front, I unabashedly sang right along with the song medleys the stage show made (they had to allot for a 30-minute performance, after all), completely uncaring that some folk in the audience turned to stare at me. I swear I saw a stage performer wink right at me as I sang and danced the “Time Warp” right where I was, signaling that my enjoyment was all that mattered. That is what the long legacy of Rocky Horror is all about!

There are plenty of epic performances in the movie – rocker Meatloaf as poor Eddie immediately comes to mind – but let’s face it, the film just wouldn’t be what it is even today without the sweet transvestite who rocked the corset before it was popular, he with the wickedest grin and the astounding singing voice, Tim Curry! I heard him sing a very appropriate Halloween song in The Worst Witch too, but this has to be quite possibly still his most well-known performance. To that end, here, enjoy the spicy Curry-ness in all its delectable glory!

To fully understand the incredibly long-lasting effect of RHPS on the world, you have to go way back to its origins. The whole thing began as a musical stage production in 1973, they were doing this satirical tribute to sci-fi and B-horror flicks of the 1930s through the 1970s, even back then. The film was shot in the United Kingdom in 1975, in an old country estate called Oakley Court, known for its earlier usage by Hammer Film Productions. Many of the props from various Hammer Films were used in RHPS too.

The film has a tendency to approach all sorts of topics that are relevant, even today. The transvestites of the movie are actually aliens, but that touches on the idea that alternate sexuality can be alienating, even in these purportedly modern times. The entirely too-repressed main characters of Brad and Janet can be taken to represent the “straight-man” that needs his eyes opened to all manner of glorious depravity in our society. The music itself can also teach lessons, the enduring legacy of how great music preserves the age and style in which we live, and remind us of the past, while providing an enchanting vehicle to move into the future!

There are some interesting things you may not have known about Rocky Horror. The original writer of the play that led to the movie, and of the script for the film itself, Richard O’Brien, also starred in the movie as handyman Riff Raff! Due to poor weather and run-down conditions in Oakley Court, actress Susan Sarandon, who played Janet Weiss, came down with pneumonia during filming. Makeup for the actors in the film was done by Pierre La Roche, who had previously been a makeup artist for Mick Jagger. The lips who sing the opening number in the film, “Science Fiction Double Feature,” belong to Patricia Quinn, who plays Magenta. However, in true sci-fi-horror parody fashion, the lips are lip-synching, as the actual vocals of the opening number were performed by Richard O’Brien.

This year, to celebrate the fortieth anniversary global tour of the original international smash hit, London’s Playhouse Theatre did a brand new two-hour gala stage performance of the play! Starring original creator Richard O’Brien as the Narrator, with guest Narrators Stephen freaking Fry, Sir Anthony Head, Emma Bunton, Adrian Edmondson, and Mel Giedroyc, the stage play show is full of the loving snark that made the movie so enduringly popular! A Halloween midnight airing in the tradition of Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight showings follows a full day of Doctor Who-lloween, on BBC America!

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