Read This, Watch That TV: Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp

By Aaron Stiles

Staff Writer

Now, that everyone is returning to classes, homework, and fighting over parking spaces, is the time when everyone starts to hate the classes they are enrolled in and starts to think of a better time, a simpler time: summer vacation.

While some students went on great camping trips, cruises, and spent lazy days on the river, others stayed on our couches eating junk food, binge-watching Netflix… At least, that’s what I did.

If you were like me and spent your two months of vacation on Netflix shows, then you will have noticed the new Netflix original series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp season one. If you were one of the people who did really fun and awesome things this summer and missed the show, then this review is for you (also, you can stop rubbing it in).

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is a prequel to the 2001 film Wet Hot American Summer. Both are created and directed by David Wain and Michael Showalter, who plays the main character Coop. First Day of Camp features all of the same actors from the 2001 film, which became a cult hit not only because of its raunchy and over-the-top comedy, but because of the actors themselves, who now have achieved incredible fame and popularity in mainstream media. The actors from First Day of Camp as well as the original film include stars Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Michael Ian Black, H. John Benjamin, Elizabeth Banks, and Kristen Wiig.

The acting in this first season is remarkably like the original film, which is impressive due to the fact the original film was made 14 years ago. At that time, Bradley Cooper and a few other actors in the film were brand new to the film industry and were acting in their first film at the time. To mimic something that was made 14 years ago without allowing other roles to influence you at all shows the talent these actors possess.

Paul Rudd plays a hilariously oblivious and cocky camp counselor, Amy Poehler and Bradley Cooper play a theatre-obsessed couple whose relationship is rocky, and Elizabeth Banks plays a 20-something news reporter going undercover as a 16-year-old camp counselor. The combination of the acting and the ridiculous roles makes for an uproariously funny comedy. In all honesty the acting is about 85% of what makes this show so fun to watch.

The other 15% of the amazing quality of this TV show comes from the jokes that Michael Showalter and David Wain wrote for the show. In the spirit of the movie, most of the jokes are raunchy but there are many other great jokes added in as well. Most of the comedy comes from the fact that the actors in the film are portraying 16-17 year olds but are in reality anywhere from their late 20s to late 40s, making a lot of the interactions they have with the campers awkward to watch but delivered so cleverly that it just makes for extremely funny stuff.

There are also some great moments of slapstick and situational comedy that are perfect for the over-the-top tone of the film. The humor tackles all sorts of topics from relationships to facing your bully, making for some actual heart-warming moments that are immediately followed by crude jokes that ruin the moment in the funniest way possible.

All in all, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp brings great laughs for everyone involved and is sure to be a great time. Fans of the original Wet Hot American Summer will be in for some great surprises and huge laughs. Even if you haven’t seen the film, First Day of Camp will hook you immediately and you will find yourself laughing over and quoting the jokes days later. Even if all you know about the show is the actors, I can guarantee that’s enough of a reason to watch it, because you will instantly love it.

Another great thing about the show is that the episodes only run about 25 minutes and season one has only eight episodes, so it is an easy show to pick up and begin watching immediately and extremely easy to get through, especially if you are a binge-watcher. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is a whole lot of fun, you will enjoy every minute of it.

Read This, Watch That: Mr. Jones

By Billy Huntsman

Managing Editor

I remember when I saw The Blair Witch Project the first time. It scared the hell out of me.

I remember when I saw Paranormal Activity the first time. Once again, it scared the hell out of me.

Several years later I watched both films again, and couldn’t bear to get through them.

Though terrifying upon first viewing, the “shaky camera” and “found footage” subgenre of horror does not at all lend itself to repeating viewings. In fact, watching such films a second, third, fourth ad infinitum times makes them evermore sillier.

I have only watched Mr. Jones, currently available on Netflix streaming, once. I don’t know that I’ll ever watch it any additional times. But I know that it was a powerfully affecting horror film.

Let’s do a quick plot synopsis: married couple Scott, an apparent aspiring filmmaker, and Penny, an employed photographer, uproot themselves from society and move into the boondocks, in order for Scott to make a nature documentary.

The venture soon reveals itself not to be as stimulating as Scott had once thought, and he goes into the filmmaker’s equivalent of writer’s block, spending hours rhapsodizing into the camera about the foolishness of his recent actions, as well as philosophizing about the ephemerality of art.

At the same time, his relationship with Penny starts crumbling—again, as it turns out this endeavor was also meant to mend their marriage.

Relationship woes and creative impotence are soon in the back of their minds, though, when the couple discover a run-down cabin not faraway from their own. The inside looks like the abode of some hoarder, and further investigation yields a basement, full of grotesque candlelit twig-and-bone-and-rope-and-cloth effigies

Penny, the art enthusiast, soon recognizes the works as the modus operandi of Mr. Jones, the art world’s Thomas Pynchon. Penny tells Scott of how Jones came onto the art scene abruptly, disseminating his works to several people throughout the country for seemingly no reason. The ghoulishness of his aesthetic quickly seized dilettantes and aficionados around their throats, so that Jones’ works could sell for upwards of $1 million—if only he would make more.

But he doesn’t. He’s a recluse, nothing of him is known to anyone.

Upon this character’s discovery, Scott’s passion is reawakened. He decides to make the documentary about Jones and then flies to New York City to interview the owners of the art galleries displaying Jones’ works, as well as Jones-fanatics.

One interview in particular is of a man who received an original Jones—and soon thereafter destroyed it. Why?

“They get inside your mind and they explode.”

Meanwhile, Penny remains at the cabin, taking photographs of the Jones cabin and of the effigies—called scarecrows—there around. Scott wants to make a documentary about Jones, while Penny wants to create a coffee table book. One night as she’s taking photos, she comes more or less face-to-face with Jones, a black-robed shadowy figure with just the vaguest hint of a dirt-brown skeletal face within his hood.

But he doesn’t attack Penny, and afterward Penny describes her feelings upon meeting Jones: she never felt afraid.

Though Jones’ figure is ominous, is he really what Scott and Penny should fear in the woods?

The film’s Blair Witch influence is almost immediately evident, and for about half the film a viewer might think Jones is merely imitating Blair Witch. But Jones’ third act, replete with the ambiance of David Lynch’s more disjointedly nightmarish films—Eraserhead, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive—dispels this idea.

Jones is most certainly an ambitious, original film, even if its “found footage” motif is dreadfully trite in this day and age.

But its use of this filming method, like Blair Witch, is more organic within the confines of the film’s narrative—Scott is a filmmaker making a documentary. The “found footage” genre is even briefly uplifted into the more refined realm of true documentary by Scott’s interview with the New York people.

These interviews are well lit, angled, and shot on a tripod or monopod. Though Blair Witch tries to portray itself as a documentary film, it does not go to such lengths, does not worry about such details, as watchability, which the “shaky camera” technique takes for granted.

Though there are some portions of Jones that are difficult to watch because of the flatness of the filming, the shaking of the camera, and the lack of lighting, there are other stretches that are perfectly watchable because of their professional quality.

This is a disparity on which I’ve gone back and forth in terms of whether to criticize or praise.

Because while most of the film is either Scott or Penny filming, there are some parts of the film in which neither is filming and in fact their camera is not being used, leading me and perhaps other viewers to the presumption that the film’s actual camera operators are doing the filming.

Is it acceptable for the film to begin with essentially breaking down the fourth wall, only to intermittently reestablish it throughout the movie?

I lean more and more to the side of “yes.” I generally despise the “found footage” and “shaky camera” subgenres, and what Jones does is to make both more tolerable while still maintaining the undeniable anxiety both instill within a viewer.

Another aspect of the film I find might warrant criticism, of both Jones and other FF/SC films, is the idea of who edited the film together?

Take the Paranormal Activity movies, for instance. The narrative asserts that the hauntings were recorded by cameras installed for the express purpose of proving the existence of malevolent spirits within the houses.

Fine, but if the cameras were recording all night and perhaps all day for months at a time, that amounts to hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of footage. Who put an hour and a half film together from it all?

An average person likely has neither the knowledge nor the patience to do such work.

Then perhaps the FBI? I desperately hope the filmmakers do not think their audiences so stupid as to accept the idea that the FBI, in addition to hunting down murders, terrorists, rapists, and cyber criminals, has a Found Footage Division, the sole purpose of which is sifting through thousands, millions of hours of gas station, mall, and traffic camera footage, in order to create an hour and a half commercial film to be released to movie theaters worldwide to perhaps, maybe, catch the perpetrators of unsolved crimes.

This question has frustrated me with every other FF/SC film I’ve seen—The Devil Inside, The Last Exorcism, The Sacrament, Devil’s Pass, Chernobyl Diaries, and dozens of others—but with Jones I’m more at ease with this question, as Penny, the wife of a filmmaker and a photographer herself, seems a likely editor.

Perhaps I’m too nit-picky. And anyway all that matters is what Mr. Jones amounts to, which is a good horror film, one that will long resonate with viewers.

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Read This, Watch That: Kill Me Three Times

By Billy Huntsman

Managing Editor

If you were to look up Rotten Tomatoes’ or The Hollywood Reporter’s review of the 2014 film Kill Me Three Times, currently available on Netflix streaming, you will surely notice two similarities between the two: both refer to the film as “derivative.”

That word, meaning something imitative of another thing, has a negative connotation. But what distinguishes “derivative” from “influenced by”?

Take this snippet from The Reporter’s review: “This derivative smoothie appears to have been made by putting Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and the Coen Brothers into a blender along with Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths. The brash result squanders a talented cast, sharp visuals and spectacular locations on a grisly trail of mayhem that rarely yields much mirth.”

Let’s examine the Tarantino reference, because Tarantino is the most fun and likely the most recognizable name in the above paragraph. They say Kill Me Three Times is derivative of the works of Tarantino, a filmmaker who voted for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly as one of the top 10 films ever made in a 2012 British Film Institute Sight & Sound Poll. GBU was directed by Sergio Leone, an Italian filmmaker who made many Westerns and essentially invented the genre of spaghetti western.

Compare Leone’s Westerns to Tarantino’s 2012 effort Django Unchained. Are there not similarities?

Undoubtedly.

But critics do not say Django is derivative of GBU, nor that Tarantino is derivative of Leone. They merely say Tarantino and Django were influenced by Leone.

At the same time as I would say the negative connotations of “derivative” should be reevaluated and then abolished, I would say Kill Me Three Times is a good film because it’s derivative of the like of Tarantino.

Let’s sum up KM3X’s plot: private investigator/hitman Charlie (Simon Pegg) is hired by a wealthy motel owner to follow his wife because he believes (correctly) she is having an affair. Once the affair is confirmed, the motelier orders Charlie to kill her, which he does not have the opportunity to do before the motelier’s sister and brother-in-law step into the picture.

The plot is revealed nonlinearly, making it difficult to sum up without fear of spoiling, much like Christopher Nolan’s Memento, Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible, or Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

Come to think of it, Irreversible is derivative of Memento, which is derivative of Pulp Fiction, which is derivative of His Girl Friday, which was based on a stage play, which art form is entirely derivative of the works of Shakespeare, who primarily derived his works from the folklore of Ancient Britain, Rome, and Western Europe, as well as from the Bible, whose stories bear some striking resemblances to Islam, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism—do you see what a deep, dark, kaleidoscoping rabbit hole “derivative’s” negative connotations leads you down?

It must be understood that being derivative is not akin to being bad. Cormac McCarthy’s prose is derivative of Hemingway and Faulkner, the latter of whom was derivative of Joyce, while McCarthy’s narratives are derivative of Faulkner, L’Amour, Twain, among others. Though derivative, McCarthy has won a Pulitzer, a National Book Award, a James Tait Black Award, and National Book Critics Circle Award (and rightfully so).

Likewise, while I do not think KM3X is likely to win any Oscars, it is still a strong and thoroughly enjoyable dark comedy.

The writing is ambitious, reminiscent perhaps of Christopher McQuarrie’s The Usual Suspects script, an admirable but wholly frustrating and unrewarding film. But KM3X is not unrewarding. In fact, the ease with which each scene and character action follows another is reassuring of the fact there are still people in the film industry who give a damn, about art, about quality, about storytelling.

I’ve been on a Simon Pegg-binge of late, and have come to the conclusion—after watching Hector and the Search for Happiness, Burke & Hare, and rewatching Hot Fuzz—that he is a great underrated actor, as so many great actors are.

His penchant for dark comedy and serious delivery make KM3X both humorous and dramatic, particularly the third act, in which all the dark elements of the film come to fruition, and it’s only Pegg’s impeccable humor that keeps the film from morphing into a Christopher Nolan film (don’t misunderstand: I love Nolan, but such an ending as his Insomnia would not fit KM3X).

KM3X is not a satire—as satire is inherently a-dramatic—nor is the film at all bad. The only thing it could be guilty of is wearing its influences on its sleeve. God knows more trenchant criticism has been leveled at other, lesser films.

Read This, Watch That: The Gift

By Aaron Stiles

Staff Writer

Music is such an important thing in life that we tend to surround ourselves with it as constantly as we can. We listen to music on the radio or to get our day started, maybe to express the way that we feel about someone.

Music not only provides ambiance for a special place or your favorite restaurant, but it also plays an important role when we are not actively thinking about it at all, as is the case in film.

Oftentimes the music of a film will be so subtle that you may not even be aware that you’re actually hearing music, yet the music speaks to you still, causing you to tense up with dread in a horror film when the low bass sound rumbles the theater floor, or pulling tears from your eyes with a soft piano in a romantic film.

Then there are films like Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut The Gift, a haunting film that demonstrates just how important music is in a film…by having hardly any at all.

The Gift utilizes silence to cause tension in the audience, something that makes the film so much more terrifying: the feeling that everything is static and calm and that it’s all too good to be true… that something is coming.

The Gift stars Jason Bateman as Simon and Rebecca Hall as Robyn, a couple who has just moved to a new and better house. We find out that Simon is in line to get a promotion at his job and that things are looking great for both of them, until a childhood peer of Simon’s named Gordo, played by Joel Edgerton, comes into their lives and brings them gifts.

Simon and Robyn start to notice Gordo is constantly coming around unannounced, something that Simon finds troubling. The film then takes a sinister turn when it is revealed that Gordo is not merely trying to reconnect with an old peer, but rather has formulated a plan for revenge.

I have personally always been a fan of Jason Bateman since I saw the film Juno in 2009.  His performance in this film shows Bateman’s versatility as an actor, pulling him away from his more comedic roles and putting him not only at the forefront of a thriller, but also with a dark side that makes his performance fresh and interesting.

Rebecca Hall also demonstrates in this film that she has very sharpened acting skills perfect for a dramatic role, utilizing miniscule, almost unnoticeable facial expressions. Joel Edgerton’s performance is arguably the best performance in the film with his quiet, unsettling gaze that lingers as it pierces you, giving a strange, terrifying feeling.

Joel Edgerton not only acted as Gordo in the film, but he also wrote the screenplay and directed the film, showcasing his many talents. The film is shot with a very dark composition throughout, with somber, dark lighting that is moody during the day, and haunting at night. The cinematography in the film is very fresh and subtle, very clean and simple at first glance, but when you pay more attention, you find that Edgerton uses slow shots around corners, creating suspense as well as wide shots and close ups with steady cameras.

Edgerton also made the decision to include the theme of glass throughout the whole film, shooting through glass and using it as a device for mood and space, from props to using the glass as a portal for more suspense and even some very great surprises.

The Gift has extremely compelling and interesting characters including even some of the minor characters in the film. The film feels very simple and at times maybe too clean and perfect for a thriller movie. But when you look closely you see that this is done on purpose… Edgerton wants you to see the world as clean and possibly hopeful and maybe a little bright, but that these things can change in an instant, and even though things look good on the outside, the damage could be very deep.

The Gift deals with how our mistakes catch up to us from the past, no matter how small and that when we make a decision that affects someone, it can be lasting and that may not always be a good thing.

The Gift is packed with awesome performances, great visuals, and an extremely entertaining, harrowing, and impressive story that has a twist ending that will make a lasting impression on you and have you thinking for days afterword. The Gift is an example of a filmmaker who knows exactly what kind of film that he wanted to make, and carried it from pre-production to post-production all on his own and made a really good film.

I can’t wait for Edgerton’s next work, because I’m sure that his skills can only get better from here.

Read This, Watch That: Welcome to Me

By Billy Huntsman

Managing Editor

There is an old, perhaps sexist cliché regarding female actors—that to be taken seriously, to get nominated for an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony, they must get nude.

I disagree with this notion. There are plenty of female actors who have never gone nude and have reaped great success—Katharine Hepburn, Sandra Bullock, and Meryl Streep were never and have never been, to my recollection, nude.

I do believe, however, that going nude, whether male or female, is a sign of immense dedication to a role, especially when considering how image-conscious Americans are.

And so after seeing Welcome to Me, currently available on Netflix streaming, I hope viewers and critics alike will take Kristen Wiig more seriously as an actor.

Wiig portrays Alice Klieg, a diagnosed manic-depressive who spends her days watching videotapes on which she has recorded shows, most notably episodes of The Oprah Winfrey Show from the 1990s.

A devout follower of the lottery, she watches the numbers go up every night during her dinner of tapioca (or vanilla) pudding, part of her newly adopted high-protein, low-“carbohydrant” lifestyle, which she informs her psychiatrist (Tim Robbins) will better help regulate her moods than her prescribed medications.

Eventually she wins the lottery, $86 million, and does what any logical person would do: she permanently moves into a casino hotel suite. She then sits in the audience of a live infomercial filming and volunteers to go up on stage. She quickly takes command of the stage, telling the audience and homeviewers of her winnings, as well more information about herself than probably anyone wanted to know—in particular, her use of masturbation as a mood stabilizer.

The owners of the station broadcasting the infomercial, Gabe and Rich Ruskin (Wes Bentley and James Marsden), are hard up for revenue. So, when Alice mentions she wants to use her lottery winnings to produce her own Oprah-esque TV show, the owners leap at the opportunity.

Each episode will cost $100,000 to produce, Gabe says, but on second thought, it’s probably more like $150,000, Rich contradicts.

What will each episode consist of? Discussion of current events, a show with special guests being interviewed?

“No,” Alice answers.

“What kind of stuff do you want to talk about?” Gabe asks.

“Me.”

Among the highlights of Alice’s 100-episode-two-hours-apiece show, titled Welcome to Me, are Alice coming onstage aboard a swanboat, baking a meatloaf cake with sweet potato frosting, and castrating dogs.

The film, which will probably remind more than a few viewers of a modern-day, female-driven version of Network, is equal parts comedy and drama. And like that wondrous, overacted, foreshadowing marvel of 1976, Welcome to Me is an indictment of modern television, its producers, and the daytime (perhaps even the primetime) viewing audience at large.

Honestly, the film is flawed and I cannot say that it deserved to be seen in theaters, but it does warrant watching on Netflix, primarily because of how strong Wiig’s performance is.

Like “go nude, get nominated,” another cliché in the acting world is that comedic actors are often the best actors, capable of switching successfully into dramatic roles, but there’s far more proof to prove this. Robin Williams—whose dramatic roles include Good Will Hunting, Awakenings, and Insomnia—Jim Carrey—dramatic roles including The Truman Show, Man on the Moon, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind—and Kelsey Grammer—most widely known for his comedic role as Frasier on television, but who more recently starred in the searing political drama Boss—evidence that comedy can make actors great.

Wiig has already received kudos for her writing with an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay for Bridesmaids at the 84th Academy Awards, but she deserves more praise for her acting, as well as her prolificacy, which could rival Liam Neeson’s.

Between Bridesmaids in 2011 and Welcome to Me in 2014, she starred in 11 films. Some of them were drags—Girl Most Likely and Revenge for Jolly!—while others are secret gems—The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Skeleton Twins—much like Welcome to Me.

If Wiig would raise her standards a little and star in higher-exposure projects, the moviegoing public, as well as influential critics, would glean her brilliance, occasionally on display in other films and subtly demonstrated throughout Welcome to Me.

Read This, Watch That: From the Dark

By Billy Huntsman

Managing Editor

I often find myself despairing of the current state of the film industry. I find it depressing to live in such a time when a movie with the scope and ambition of Interstellar is largely ignored at the Academy Awards, while a masturbatory effort such as Birdman is bombarded with praise and accolades.

The fact that mediocre movies get even more mediocre reboots – Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, to name a couple – and vapid tentpole movies get seemingly endless sequels – The Avengers, Transformers, to name a few more – is disheartening, almost to the point where I find myself wanting to say, “I give up on movies.”

Most depressing of all, though, is the state of the horror movie industry. With campy though guiltily enjoyable contributions such as Sharknado, dime-a-dozen flicks such as The Purge and Paranormal Activity, and the downright despicable existence of such a film as Unfriended, perhaps no other genre of film is in such disrepair as horror.

Imagine my delight then when I recently stumbled upon the hidden gem of a horror movie From the Dark on Netflix. The tab for it on that website is at once arresting: a filthy blonde seemingly entrenched in earth and darkness holding up a dim lantern. The quality of the tab is such as to put a potential viewer in mind of the horror movie posters of the 1970s and early ‘80s: The Exorcist, The Omen, The Thing.

Still more ensnaring, for me and probably for a number of others as well, is the fact From the Dark is set in Ireland.

I love Ireland and have studied its history and culture for a number of years, and have often thought its landscapes – particularly the picturesque flatlands of the center of the country, as well as the rocky barren west – are ideal settings for horror movies.

Unfortunately, the horror industry at large has not tapped into such settings, and what few projects have – Assault of Darkness, Shrooms – have done so with tongue-in-cheek mindsets.

But From the Dark sets itself in County Offaly, an area of the Republic of Ireland riddled with unsettling, misty boglands, and from the start the film takes itself seriously.

A lone peat farmer wakens something (just between you and me, Abhartach, a horrific character in Irish mythology) buried in the earth and is soon after attacked, but not killed, by it.

Later, a charming couple – whose accents, I’m fairly certain, mark them as from the Dublin area – travel through the vicinity of the peat farmer’s fields and home when their car gets stuck in the mud.

Not unforeseeably, the car is so stuck that they must call for a towtruck, which means they must venture through the heavy forests and then the expansive open fields beyond in the hopes of finding some homestead with a landline, because cellular reception here is not existent.

Oh, and the darkness is just coming down and there are no cities, towns, or villages for miles all around.

They soon find the peat farmer’s home, appearing empty. They find his telephone disconnected. And then they find the farmer, swooning and unresponsive to their inquiries.

He has a bloody wound on his neck and moves with the stealth and litheness of a feline – make that a ghost-cat. He loses none of his furtiveness, only gains in fulsomeness, when his exterior turns gray and scaly, his head bald, ears Spock-like, altogether not unlike one of the cave-dwelling creatures from The Descent.

This monster terrorizes the couple throughout the farm and fields, its only weakness? Any sort of light, from the weak flame of a kitchen match to the blaring headlights of a tractor.

The film is a treasure in a number of ways. Firstly, it knows how to build suspense, an art lost upon most modern-day horror movies. Scarce are the occurrences of cheap scares – shocks to the nervous system by sudden orchestral crescendos, inevitably accompanied by a monster or murderer leaping into frame from outside the audience’s view.

There are few of this type of scare in From the Dark because the filmmakers know what they are doing, they don’t need to resort to such novice methods. They implement the common horror movie tropes – couple stranded in the middle of nowhere, no cell service – in order to set the stakes of the story, then carefully craft each scene.

The film has more in common with Murnau’s Nosferatu and Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs than with any modern horror film. The characters’ obsession with finding one source of life-preserving light after another is pulse-pounding for a viewer when it should be mind-numbingly trite.

Each development in the film occurs organically, nothing is contrived, another bit of praise to set From the Dark above modern horror. When Sara – the blonde – finds several candles and puts them in a candelabrum, it deftly enriches the Stoker-esque ambience of the film, while also speaking to Sara’s remarkable intelligence – more candles means more light means more safety.

Conceivably, some viewers might find the film frustrating for its lack of candor about the creature’s origins. I would urge you: do not get hung up on rationalizing.

The film explicitly gives no answers – though there are answers for those who will look closely – because it asks no questions. Neither Sara nor Mark question or try to refute the creature’s existence – a sign of desperation, of trying to lengthen the run time, in other horror movies – they simply accept the creature for what it is, a monster seeking to kill them.

From the Dark is as concerned with the lower portions of the iceberg as a Hemingway novel. The film is not introspective, as introspection is a product of evolved intelligence. From the Dark is primitive, as the hunt for light against the dark is one of the most primordial of human activities.

Opinion: More Protesting Means More Accountability

By Nani Lawrence

Staff Writer

Abuse of power is nothing new.

As long as there have been people who view others as lesser, they have found ways to negatively assert their dominance. With the sense of authority imposed by society on some, it’s even worse, and the result more troubling. Documenting every instance in which an authority figure stepped over the line would probably fill this entire website, so let’s narrow it down a bit.

In the last 40 years, at least, police have felt the right to use excessive force, and quite familiar excuses to justify it.

Significantly, in 1973, a police officer shot and killed a black 10 year old. Clifford Glover and his stepfather, Add Armstead, were walking when a car pulled up and a plainclothes cop exited with a gun.

Shortly after the pair ran away, Glover was shot in the back. According to the New York Daily News, Officers Thomas Shea and Walter Scott were heard over their walkie-talkie transmissions celebrating.

“Die, you little bastard,” Scott said.

Both claimed the boy was pointing a pistol at them, but no one ever found a weapon in the area. This was the first time an officer had been put on trial for misconduct.

About two decades later, the NYPD again used excessive force, this time on a Haitian immigrant. Officers arrested Abner Louima as part of a nightclub brawl. According to several sources, he was beaten on the way there.

At the Brooklyn police station, Justin Volpe later admitted to sexually assaulting Louima with a broken toilet plunger. This case sparked national outrage and accusations of racially motivated hostility within the NYPD. Volpe originally received a 30-year jail sentence.

And that’s just in the City.

Last December, in South Dakota, Native American Allen Locke was shot a day after attending an anti-police brutality march. Officer Anthony Meirose claimed the man charged at him with a knife, but witnesses say it was a cell phone in his hand. You probably had no idea it happened until now, unless you regularly read Native news sources.

In June, 2003, another Native man was beaten by police in Minneapolis. Witnesses say they saw a squad car pull up to a housing complex, drag a Native man and woman into the parking lot, and beat the man unconscious. Witnesses, police/security for the complex and hospital staff all corroborated that his head and torso had also been urinated on by someone.

Obviously, minorities are targeted for this kind of harassment more often, but it also goes beyond that. This leads to an obvious yet startling conclusion: no one is safe.

Kelly Thomas of Albuquerque was shot by police, and his “disadvantage” was mental illness.

White teenager Deven Guilford of Mulliken, Michigan, was tased at close range and shot seven times during a traffic stop.

In March, Jesse Jacobs died at the University of Texas Medical Branch. His family believes he died of a seizure as a result of being denied medication in jail. What is there to do when an authority figure decides you are inferior?

Honestly, not much in the moment. However, the latest incidents show a distinct change.

On July 19, 2015, a 43-year-old black man was shot by a University of Cincinnati campus police officer. Ray Tensing was indicted a mere 10 days later.

Somewhat similarly, closer to home, an Albuquerque Fire Department dispatcher hung up on a 911 caller for cursing. While it is unclear whether the June call would have kept the 17-year-old shooting victim alive until an ambulance arrived, the dispatcher’s unprofessionalism is inexcusable.

The Associated Press reported on August 27 the dispatcher’s license had been revoked following an investigation by the Department of Health.

In the case of Darren Wilson, it took three months just to decide not to put the case forth to a court of law. I’d say accountability is swifter these days.

The rioting, looting, and protesting the media highlights must be working. I’d imagine law enforcement feels more pressure to do right by citizens knowing their inactivity may lead to national attention. The former are in no way ideal, but they are, unfortunately, much more effective than the latter.

In looking up Guilford, only about two non-local results popped up, and from the looks of it, the only “fuss” made about the case has primarily been on Facebook and Twitter.

Similarly, only local media reported on Jacobs’ death. Media and what they choose to cover may be partly to blame, but people need to know they have more influence than they think.

The ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is very important, and focuses on this disturbing issue. However, it needs to realize that ‘All Lives Matter’ isn’t too far off the mark. Police brutality and misuse of authority affects us all, even if not in the same numbers.

The issue has been identified for a while now, but the focus should change a bit if this movement wants to succeed. Making this struggle about more than just race doesn’t necessarily invalidate ‘Black Lives Matter’ (as I suspect most utterances of ‘All…’ denotes). Rather, it brings us all together to fight for a common goal. Police killings of anyone is just as troubling.

Authority figures, and I think especially officers upholding an oath to protect and serve, should be held to higher standards.

It isn’t about whether the accused were indeed violent or the authority figures overstepped their bounds. Heck, it’s not even about whether police serve time for their transgressions.

It’s about holding those figures accountable every time to keep them trustworthy and make sure they are, in fact, doing their job.

“With great power comes great responsibility,” right? We’re definitely getting there, but it will take much more awareness to put a stop to excessive force and misuse of authority.

Read This, Watch That: Sabotage

By Billy Huntsman

Managing Editor

I like violence.

No, I love violence.

And perhaps at no other time in recent American history (except, perhaps, soon after 9/11) has there been a less appropriate time to make this confession. But in order for me to review Sabotage, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, currently available on Netflix streaming, for you, it is a necessary confession.

So, yes, I love violence. But not mindless violence, not violence for the sake of itself—such as is seen in Peter Jackson’s 1992 Dead Alive (a.k.a., Braindead), David Fincher’s 2014 Gone Girl, and any number of ‘80s slasher flicks—but smart violence, violence that enhances the film’s aesthetic intent, story, message.

No Country for Old Men, Inglourious Basterds, The Devil’s Rejects, The Silence of the Lambs, American Psycho, American History X, and hundreds of other films are brilliant, necessarily violent movies.

So, to a lesser degree, is Sabotage.

The film, written and directed by David Ayer, whose other efforts include such films as Training Day, End of Watch, and Fury, follows a special operations team within the Drug Enforcement Administration. At the beginning of the film, the team, led by “Breacher” (Schwarzenegger), infiltrates a warehouse of a fictional Mexican drug cartel, from which the team steals $10 million of a $200 million block of money.

This $10 million the team hides in the sewers beneath the warehouse before blowing up the rest of the money. Returning later for the hidden cache, they find the money has been stolen.

The team are investigated for six months, with no member confessing to the team’s plans. Shortly after the team are reinstated, one of them is brutally killed, followed by another, then another.

After the first killing, two homicide detectives are assigned to investigate the team. The subsequent murders of other team members seem to align with how the cartel, from which the team stole the $10 million, kills people.

Are the team being hunted down by the cartel? Or are the killings more internal?

The film is one of the more violent and graphic I’ve seen in a while. But this alone would not be enough to make me like the film.

I like Sabotage because of David Ayer. Like John Kennedy Toole, author of A Confederacy of Dunces, a book replete with Yat dialogue, a New Orleans dialect, and John Steinbeck’s flair for Okie-talk, Ayer has an ear for authentic dialogue, in most cases the gruff, stripped down talk of men (and women, in Sabotage) in precarious situations: a narcotics detective in South Central Los Angeles, two patrolmen in the same area, tank operators in World War II.

The dialogue in Sabotage is no less authentic than in Training Day or Fury (all of which, however, are inferior to End of Watch), nor is Sabotage less good than those former titles.

The film’s biggest problem is Schwarzenegger. Aside from his undeniable onscreen charisma, nostalgia from the Terminator/Conan/Commando days, Schwarzenegger has no acting finesse, no instincts.

Roger Ebert, the greatest film critic who has ever lived, perfectly summed up Schwarzenegger’s acting range in his review of 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day: “Schwarzenegger’s genius as a movie star is to find roles that build on, rather than undermine, his physical and vocal characteristics.”

In essence, Ebert says Schwarzenegger is perfect for the role of the Terminator because that character is larger than life, much like Schwarzenegger’s physique, and because he’s a machine, so Schwarzenegger’s wooden delivery of lines is perfectly acceptable in that role.

But when it comes time for Arnie to play a human—The Last Action Hero, The Running Man, True Lies, and Sabotage—he can only imitate what he has seen of other actors throughout his lengthy career.

Schwarzenegger is and never has been an actor, he’s a very sophisticated prop the likes of which Linda Hamilton, Jamie Lee Curtis, Robert Patrick, the Predator, Danny DeVito, and James Cameron have used to move stories along.

Altogether, the casting of Schwarzenegger in the lead role is a regrettable decision, one that, I believe, prematurely alienated audiences and critics, and prevented them from taking Sabotage seriously.

But in the end, the film is solid. Its story is compelling, if a little contrived, its violence necessary and interesting, and the acting from the supporting cast passable.

A Final Thought on the End of The Daily Show

By Nani Lawrence

Staff Writer

Jon Stewart decided to retire from The Daily Show. His two-hour finale aired on August 6.

Stewart—originally Leibowitz—was born in New York City. He and his brother Lawrence grew up in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Stewart graduated from The College of William and Mary in Virginia in 1984, with a degree in psychology. In 1986, he moved back to the City, and a year later, made his stand-up debut at The Bitter End.

Stewart’s first foray into television came in 1989, when he was a comedy writer for Caroline’s Comedy Hour. In 1991, he co-hosted Short Attention-Span with Patty Rosborough on Comedy Central.

He developed a talk show for MTV, The Jon Stewart Show, which began airing in 1993. According to a 1994 piece in TV Guide, his talk show ranked second-most-watched for the network, behind Beavis and Butthead.

The Daily Show premiered in July 1996, with Craig Kilborn as host. Jon Stewart took over in January 1999, changing its format to focus more on politics and the media. The show under Stewart earned 20 Primetime Emmy awards.

During his 16-year tenure, Stewart has definitely commented on news and events with a liberal perspective, but the younger generations relied on him for their news. In fact, Rolling Stone called Stewart “America’s last honest newsman.”

In his early years, the comedian satirized politics. Now, as Rob Sheffield writes, America’s political climate is meaner and more divided. He goes on to say:

Political satire, as Stewart defined it on The Daily Show, requires him to appear equally tough on the left and the right. But that means he has to pretend there’s such a thing as a moderate center. If his show got more predictable in the past few years — making the same jokes every night about the same Fox News/Tea Party bullshit — that’s because America did…It’ll be an uglier world without Stewart — but then, that’s the main reason he’s bailing: It’s an uglier world already.

A bill to provide $7.4 billion to first responders who fell ill from their work on September 11 was blocked by Senate Republicans, because they disagreed with higher taxes on wealthier Americans.

On an episode in 2010, Stewart interviewed four first responders—a firefighter, a police officer, a public transportation official, and an engineer. They had all suffered illness due to their work at Ground Zero.

According to Slate magazine, the only two media sources to cover the topic were The Daily Show and Al Jazeera. Because of this coverage, The New York Times puts him on the same level as Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow.

Variety magazine has suggested that it may be impossible to find a replacement for Stewart. His wit, intelligence, and comedic timing made this a perfect job for him.

His show’s eye for talent has catapulted some of its staffers’ careers, as well. Perhaps most famously, correspondent Stephen Colbert earned a show of his own, The Colbert Report, which premiered on Comedy Central in October of 2005.

With critical acclaim almost from the very first episode, Colbert lasted until December 18, 2014. The last episode ended with a sing-along, featuring cameos from famous guests and fans. Colbert is set to succeed David Letterman on The Late Show, starting in September.

Stewart’s sabbatical in 2013 led to a similar-in-format weekly HBO program. Jon Stewart took a twelve-week sabbatical to direct the movie Rosebud, a film about a journalist imprisoned during the Iraq war. Correspondent Jon Oliver took his place at the anchor desk, and must have impressed the right people, because Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver premiered on April 27, 2014.

Other notable correspondents who went on to greater success include Rob Riggle and Steve Carell.

Stewart has stated that he plans to turn his New Jersey farm into an animal rescue, but at this point, no one knows what he’ll do career-wise after his retirement from the show. He performed a set at the Comedy Cellar in Manhattan on July 29, following Louis C.K.

According to sources, Stewart said he “could do this again.” Stand-up may or may not be the comedian’s path after The Daily Show, but it’s safe to say America will miss Stewart greatly.