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Michael DeLaney

The Multiversity #1 review

Grant Morrison has still got it

Comic book fans rejoice: Grant Morrison’s The Multiversity is here. A project that Morrison had described as being a decade in the making is well-worth the wait my friends. Whereas most of DC Comics’ The New 52 rebooted line of comics has had a strong scent of forced “brand new” and “totally different,” The Multiversity is completely devoid of that stench; in fact it doesn’t even have The New 52 branding that all of DC’s covers have these days. This is what DC fans have been craving since the relaunch three years ago.

The Multiversity is Grant Morrison’s latest “final statement” on comic books, in a career of such final statements. It is the semi-continuation of works like Final Crisis or Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery – meta-comic books that Grant Morrison has made a living off of. Morrison puts the reader in the seat of Nix Uotan, a character introduced in Final Crisis, as he embarks on a universe-spanning adventure. We follow Nix Uotan as he “vivisects” an as-of-now unpublished haunted comic book that spells certain doom for creation as we know it. From there we travel to multiple parallel Earths and are introduced/re-introduced to various comic book characters that serve as analogues for popular characters from DC Comics, Marvel and Image. The plot thus far is fairly familiar for veteran comic book readers: heroes from multiple versions of planet Earth are faced with larger-than-life threat that they must band together against.

The Multiversity uses elements introduced in Morrison’s Action Comics run to move the plot along, but even if you haven’t read any of his prior work, The Multiversity #1 is still a great and accessible read. The only thing you need to do when reading this book is to let go and enjoy the ride. The Multiversity has Morrison’s trademark use of economical writing – each line of dialogue is a relatively quick summation of everything you need to know about a character. High-concept ideas are the lifeblood of a Morrison work that fuels the entire read. Characters and themes from comic book history are utilized in ways that make The Multiversity remind us of the innocent joy that comes with loving comic books.

Each issue of The Multiversity will feature a different artist, and #1 is drawn by Justice League and Green Lantern veteran Ivan Reis. Reis plays with panel work in accordance with the hyper-aware scripting, leaving hero Nix Uoatan literally suffocating between the shrinking drawn framework. The Multiversity is the kind of book where an artist gets to flex their muscles, with characters and concepts that range far beyond the norm. We get to see bombastic blockbuster pages full of action and bravado alongside cartoon logic and physics portrayed by characters like the rabbit Superman Captain Carrot. The shock and confusion shown in Reis’ faces matches that of the reader. Crazy shit is going down and it’s beautiful.

DC Comics has been overdramatic and silly since it relaunched with The New 52. The Multiversity is also a blend of wackiness and sensationalism, but it knows that’s what it’s doing and embraces that fact. Check. This. Book. Out.

Hannibal: an appreciation of pop culture's favorite cannibal

Mea cupla /full disclosure: I started watching NBC’s Hannibal in my periphery. I assumed that it would be the same kind of silly cashing in on a horror franchise that Bates Motel was; this was the ratings-desperate NBC after all. Midway into season 2 I stopped watching Hannibal while I folded my laundry and started paying attention. And what I realized was this: Hannibal is kind of a masterpiece.

In order to do the series justice, I rewatched it in its entirety. I also plunged into the Hannibal novels to see what genius that occurred onscreen that was due to showrunner Bryan Fuller and what was author Thomas Harris’ ideas to begin with. So commenced my Hannibal consumption that took around 2 ½ weeks: 2 seasons of Hannibal, four films (The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon, Hannibal Rising and Manhunter) and 3 ¾ books (I read most of Hannibal Rising, but goddamn was it bad.) Throw all of that media together in a crockpot, let it simmer and you get an interesting broth mixture of melodrama, psychology, psychopathy and sexual tension.

What makes Hannibal an amazing piece of TV fiction is that it is a prequel/reboot/homage all wrapped into one – as if Hannibal himself were serving up a turducken (OK, there’s no way in hell Hannibal Lecter would make that, I know.) Here’s some truth for you: prequels pretty much suck. Why do they suck? Because if they were all that interesting to begin with, we would have seen that story in the first place. If The Phantom Menace was so essential, it would’ve come out before A New Hope and we would all live in a different/scarier universe. What makes Hannibal a great prequel is that it’s not one. Sure, it is the early days of Hannibal Lecter’s career as a practicing psychiatrist before he was caught, but it also is a bold step forward making its own path outside of the novels and films while at the same time respecting them. Hannibal eats his victims in a way that honors them; so needless to say, I think he’d dig the analogy.

I had only seen the “original trilogy” of films at least once each, so NBC’s Hannibal was relatively new territory for me the first time around. The second viewing however showed me scores visual references, thematic nods and lines of dialogue ripped from the pages of Thomas Harris’ novels that make the show infinitely richer. There’s a scene in Hannibal’s second season where Will Graham fantasizes about killing a bound Hannibal with a noose-pulley attached to a tree and a stag. This is directly out of Hannibal Rising, which is what makes Bryan Fuller so good at what he does: cannibalizing the parts of the books and putting them to better/different use.

Anyone who has watched any of his past work (Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies) knows that Bryan Fuller is adept at visual arts and metaphor. The visual aesthetic of Hannibal is probably what makes it stand out most from other TV shows. Not only is every serial killer crime scene a carefully thought-out piece of art, but the staging, lighting and motion are as well. Upon reading the novel Hannibal (which, controversially, might be my favorite of the books) it is clear where Fuller pulled his inspiration from. The Hannibal novel is the first (and only?) chapter of the saga that features that dream-like and philosophical aura that Fuller’s show lives and revels in. That fantastic Stephen Hawking tea cup time sequence discussion? That’s right out of Hannibal, where the titular character discusses with Clarice Starling how he yearns for his long-dead sister Mischa to return from the grave. In the show, Will Graham and Abigail Hobbs are replaced, respectively, but the conceit is the same…and it’s awesome nonetheless.

Before I wrap up, allow me to reflect on the films and books I have experienced.

Red Dragon: as a book, it is fairly procedural. Will Graham is kind of boring however, and is portrayed as a moody sonofabitch in Manhunter by William Petersen and white bread by Edward Norton in Bret Ratner’s Red Dragon film. Curiously, this is Will Graham’s first and last outing in the Lecter-verse (until NBC’s Hannibal of course.)

The Silence of the Lambs: more layered and complex than Red Dragon, largely due to the addition and psychological probing Clarice Starling. Certainly the most popular of the novels and films, most likely because of the balancing act it does with show us just enough of Hannibal Lecter that it leaves us wanting for more. In the film, Anthony Hopkins of course kills it with his hungry eyes and devilish charms.

Hannibal: More of a melodramatic game of revenge than a thriller, Hannibal dares to address the nature of Dr. Lecter’s relationship with Starling. While it is most certainly bizarre (in the novel, they end up running off together as philosophical contemporaries/lovers) it is nonetheless fascinating. The novel introduces us to the concept of Hannibal’s “memory palace,” a place in his mind where he returns to, often while confined. The film suffers from cast changes and character omissions, leaving a less satisfactory experience.

Hannibal Rising: Just the worst. Hannibal pealed back the curtain a little bit in the form of Lecter lamenting the childhood death of his sister Mischa. Hannibal Rising decided to expand upon this in the most boring and un-Hannibal-like way imaginable. Taking place mostly in France, we spend and exhausting amount of time with Hannibal tracking down his family paintings, trying to remember how his sister Mischa died and then finding and killing the Nazi scavengers who ate Mischa. Played by Gaspard Uliel in the film, this character is leaps and bounds away from the villainous Lecter that we’ve seen in other media. He’s a different person altogether, fawning over his Japanese Aunt. The prequel ends relatively early in his career, before he even became a practicing psychiatrist, implying that Harris intends to tell more boring stories. (Fun fact: MGM considered Hayden Christensen for the role, which would’ve been his second terrible young bad guy performance.)

NBC’s Hannibal honors all of the adaptations that have come before it and uses them in new and interesting ways. The Starling/Lecter relationship from The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal has been fully mapped onto the Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen himself plays a Hannibal that is unlike anything that has come before, with a poker face that you try to read through over the entire series. Fuller has even stated that Season 3 will feature Lady Murasaki from Hannibal Rising, who we can only assume will be infinitely more interesting. If you love Hannibal and you can’t wait until 2015 for more from NBC, I’d recommend visiting/re-visiting the films and novels. Just not Hannibal Rising. Never Hannibal Rising.

Guardians of the Galaxy review

SO. MUCH. FUN.

I’m gonna say it right now: Guardians of the Galaxy is Marvel Studios’ best movie yet. Written and directed by James Gunn, it’s a fast-paced fun space adventure that revels in its own peculiarity. Expertly honed writing and self-aware casting makes Guardians of the Galaxy a near-perfect movie.

Guardians of the Galaxy is the story of space thief Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and the aliens that eventually become his comrades and friends. At the top of the film Quill steals an orb that the film’s villain Ronan wants to use to destroy a planet. A bounty is placed on Quill’s head and the would-be Guardians Gamorra, Rocket and Groot come to collect Quill and/or the orb. After they are all imprisoned and meet Drax the Destroyer they join together to escape and later stop Ronan from doing his evil stuff. That’s the plot in a nutshell; it’s fairly simple but it matters so minutely because watching all of the characters interact and banter is more than worth the price of admission.

The Avengers had its fun moments, but you could really feel the plot mechanics at work. We all knew that the Avengers would have to assemble because that’s what the damn movie was called. But with Guardians of the Galaxy, everything was so effortless; the “team’s” purpose for being was explained within the span of several minutes. Comic book movies are so hell-bent on justifying why they do the things they do, as if a higher power of realistic fact checking is keeping score. Man of Steel had to explain the insanely stupid science of a Kryptonian codex as if that’s going to make things more relatable. Guardians of the Galaxy is without that burden of justification – a tiny mining spacecraft is indestructible because the film says it is. Done. Moving on.

James Gunn’s script for Guardians of the Galaxy is super sharp – it is succinct and to the point. Within a few lines of dialogue we know the intentions of a particular character and have an excellent sense of who they are for the rest of the film. The lighting-quick pace of the script is what makes Guardians of the Galaxy so wonderfully entertaining. Just like the great episodes of Arrested Development or Parks and Recreation, if you laugh TOO much you will miss the next great joke.

The performances of Guardians of the Galaxy are equally superb. Chris Pratt plays Peter Quill like the Han Solo of the 2010s (that’s what we’re calling this decade, right?); the cocky bastard who is secretly unsure of himself. Zoe Saldana maintains the unforgiving nature of the Gammorra of the comics while giving a necessary element of emotional accessibility that the character needs. While Dave Bautista may not be a seasoned actor, Gunn utilizes him in the greatest way possible – giving Drax the silliest and most literal dialogue of the film. Vin Diesel voices tree man Groot, the Chewbacca of the film, who only says the same three words “I am Groot” – he does this well. Bradley Cooper kills it as however as Rocket, the murderous alien raccoon. Rocket easily gets the best lines in the film and pretty much steals the show. Marvel Studios’ villains are generally their weak point and Lee Pace’s Ronan is not really an exception to this. Josh Brolin’s Thanos pops up for a bit, but it’s too little of a sample to really evaluate. These flaws are only minor in the larger scope of the film and are easily forgiven.

Guardians of the Galaxy is the smartest major studio film in a while. It is economical in every way possible – it spends just the right amount of time in each piece of the film.  It knows exactly how long to stay in one place – whether that is plot pace, character dialogue or action sequence. With songs by David Bowie, Blue Swede and The Jackson 5, the music of the film keeps the audience tied to Earth while barely spending any time there at all. Guardians of the Galaxy is the comic book movie that you’ve desperately been wanting to see; you just didn’t know it until now.

Title news- Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Because justice is best served with breakfast!

The Batman/Superman movie that we have all been talking about for the past year and will continue to do so until the end of time has an official title: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Directed by Zack Snyder, the film is set to be released in 2016 and drive us insane in the meantime. Since the internet is limitless, let’s fill up some webpages with speculation about that title, shall we?

Dawn of Justice is a title that Snyder probably invested a lot of energy and resources into. No doubt Snyder solicited the advice of his most trusted counsel of ten-year-olds for such a title. I’m picturing a recreation of the Tokyo-Krypton council chamber from Man of Steel, with Snyder sitting atop the thrown, equipped with the required chandelier headdress. On the far wall of the room is a white board with feverish little tots fueled by Mountain Dew writing synonyms and antonyms for words like “vengeance,” “darkness” and “anonyms.” Its zero hour and Warner Bros. is demanding a title from the think-tank of youngsters. Upon finishing his final twinky, wee Jimmy McAlister comes up with the title that we neither deserve nor need right now: “Batman v. Superman: The Dawn of Justice.” Lex Luthor himself, Jesse Eisenberg walks in with Justin Timberlake to declare “Drop the ‘the.’ Just Dawn of Justice.”

So we know the title, but do we REALLY know the title? Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice – are we so sure that the “v” stands for “versus?” At one point V stood for Vendetta, you may recall. Is it possible that DC and Warner Bros. are going to shoehorn V for Vendetta into this film alongside Wonder Woman and Cyborg? After all, this isn’t the first time that Snyder has tackled an Alan Moore character. I think we are too focused on the looming Justice League movie. Perhaps Snyder is using Dawn of Justice not only as a Launchpad for the Justice League but for a modern-day Watchmen follow up and maybe even a rebooted Swamp Thing feature film. A movie where Batman and Superman team up with a dystopian anarchist, a shiny naked blue man and a walking pile of moss practically writes itself after all.

A lot of people don’t think that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy will have anything to do with Ben Affleck’s Batman, but look at it this way: Dawn of Justice – Harvey Dent once told us that it “the night is darkest just before the dawn. But I promise you, the dawn is coming.” Two-Face was right y’all! Snyder is such a visionary that he can incorporate continuity from Nolan’s world without explanation. As evidenced by the Michael Jackson and 2-Pac holograms, anything is possible, so maybe we’ll get to dig up Heath Ledger and put him back in the Joker’s head after all!

I gotta say, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is an impressive beast you guys. Zack Snyder is a movie magician, building the most captivating super hero hype machine that we have ever encountered. Just when you’re upset that Ben Affleck is Batman? BOOM! We’ve got Fast & Furious 6 Wonder Woman. Frustrated that Mark Zuckerberg will be playing Superman’s nemesis? BAM! We’ve got Cyborg in the movie too! This type of slight-of-hand mass marketing is exactly what it will take to top Marvel’s growing number of superhero franchise movies. I can’t wait till Channing Tatum says he wants to play Robin.

How I Met Your Mother: why we obsess over finales

SPOLIERS FOR EVERYTHING EVERRRR

It has been a week since the series finale of How I Met Your Mother aired, and as is common practice these days, everyone on the internet freaked out about it. The general public (or at least the more vocal social media portion of it) seems to feel robbed by the ending of the series, for some even ruining How I Met Your Mother as a whole. If you want an example of angry How I Met Your Mother fan-splosions, look no further than the comments section of any Facebook post from the show’s account.

How I Met Your Mother‘s finale fan rage is nothing radically new of course. We as a collective 2014 culture place a lot of stock into our pop culture; especially as far as series finales are concerned. The television milieu of the past several years has positively changed but I think it’s safe to say that we have always been pretty critical of series finales, for better or worse.

If Lost or The Sopranos ever comes up in casual conversation, you can bet your last jar of Dharma Initiative mayonnaise that somebody is going to steer the dialogue into “Worst Finale Ever” territory. When Breaking Bad’s finale aired in October, Lost showrunner Damon Lindelof received a legion of tweets that simultaneously denounced his show’s finale while praising Breaking Bad’s. What is it about that final episode of a series that stirs such emotion in us as a viewing collective? Is it some strange form of survivor’s guilt? Are we evaluating our TV finales accurately?

Generally what loyal fans want from a series finale is closure – IE will Walter White get his come-uppance for his methy ways, will Ross end up with Rachel and most importantly, will we get some goddamn answers to the goddamn questions we’ve been having this whole goddamn show? Asking for that kind of closure can be tricky though; in a way you’re holding the series hostage and making a list of demands that it must accomplish before it comes to a close. Also, expecting the final episode of a series to be the best one is probably a fool’s errand. We all learned story structure in grade school right? There’s no way that the conclusion is going to be as thrilling as the climax that precedes it. (IE Breaking Bad’s “Ozymandias” > “Felina.”)

More important than specific plot points and story beats is the overall theme and message that the finale sends. Does it gel with what we have been presented up to this point? Breaking Bad was a show of consequences, and we might not have loved the finale as much if the soul of the show Jesse Pinkman didn’t escape while the soulless Walter White lived to fight another day. Probably what upset How I Met Your Mother fans the most was a combination of unwanted closure (Ted ending up with Robin after seemingly haven gotten over her) and thematic betrayal (from the viewers’ perspective, “the Mother” was killed off shortly after she met Ted on screen.)

To properly wrap it up, let us take a look at possible definitions for what a series finale actually is.

Definition A: The Finale is The Last Will and Testament of the Show

  • Barring any pipe dreams for a movie continuation, the series finale is usually the final word on a story. This is the series’ deathbed letter to all of its loved ones. To its loyal sons and daughters, the show bequeaths rewards in wealth, love and happiness. To the children that have been nasty and ungrateful, the show condemns them to burn in hell for their misdeeds. And they all lived happily ever after…except for the ones that didn’t. This type of finale is often a bedtime story that the show tells its viewers as we are tucked in at night – reassuring us that karma is real and we all get our due in the end. Breaking Bad’s finale was arguably as popular as it was because it followed this format explicitly.

 

Definition B: The Finale is a thesis statement. (The Show is ______ or Humanity is _____)

  • This one goes in line with my little discussion on theme. With this theory, the series finale takes one last stab at defining itself with a period at the end of its long sentence. This is the creative team’s final chance to say something unique about the human condition, after all. People rag on The Sopranos’ “cut to black” ending, but it absolutely fit into the thematic mold of a series that never wrapped up its narratives in neat little packages or particularly cared about “answering all of the questions.” (Whatever happened to the Russian in the woods?!?) Often the series finale/final season will try to reincorporate themes that were explicate at the show’s beginning (IE Buffy the Vampire Slayer = Girl Power.)

 

Definition C: The Finale is an acceptance speech that goes on way too long

  • How I Met Your Mother can count itself among many other shows that have outlived their usefulness long before ending (The Office, Dexter and Weeds included.) These are the types of finales that bring back old actors from the show’s past who have wisely moved on from the show. Before The Office finale, NBC aired an hour-long retrospective that reminded us why we loved the show in the first place. That certainly made the otherwise average finale much easier to swallow; while simultaneously reinforcing the idea that the cold embrace of cancellation couldn’t have come soon enough. Stunts like these are a strange juxtaposition that become clearer as a show takes that gratuitous victory lap. Yes, you lasted for nine years, good for you.

Definition D: The Finale is a drunk rock star that grabs its crotch, screams “F*#% you!” and exits stage right

  • A lot of people probably subscribe to this particular definition, typically when things in the narrative don’t go their way or they don’t get “answers.” While I will argue till the end of days that Lost and The Sopranos do not necessarily fall into this category, many viewers will absolutely disagree. One particular finale that does fit this mold of self-celebration and inexplicable behavior is the Dexter finale. If you so soon forget, this was the finale where our anti-hero callously tosses his dead sister’s body into the ocean like so many of his victims, sails head first into a hurricane to fake his death then ends up as a solemn lumber jack in exile. How I Met Your Mother’s finale is equally head-scratching in a way that makes you feel like the showrunners don’t really give a crap about what you think the show is about.

Definition E: The Finale is like life because you never know when you’re going to get cancelled

  • Life is random, TV is not. But for every The Office there is an Arrested Development. For every Dexter there is a Deadwood; sometimes TV doesn’t get to plan its ending either. While the majority of audiences enter into fits of hysteria if certain loose ends aren’t tied up, there is also a kind of wonderful reality that resonates when we don’t get to see characters ride off into the sunset to their pretty, happy lives. One of the great almost series finales was the season 3 finale of Community – a show perpetually on the verge of being cancelled. What made that work so well was that it tied up its current narrative while laying seeds for the future seasons, knowing full well that they might never be explored.

The How I Met Your Mother finale may be filed under each of these definitions depending on who you ask. Right now everyone is still up in arms about it, but maybe it will die down eventually? Then again, this is the internet we’re talking about, where mistakes live forever!

Finales may bring us to tears of joy or fill us with infinite rage; but perhaps now you’ll have a better handle on why you’re feeling all the feelings.

Cancel Colbert trending after out-of-context tweet

Let’s get mad!

Last night a myriad of Twitter denizens took to the data-sphere and demanded to “Cancel Colbert.” The trending topic came on the heels of a tweet from the @ColbertReport account saying “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” In response, #CancelColbert became a trending topic.

Cancel Colbert tweets then took over the Twitter-verse, with accusations of racism being thrown Stephen Colbert’s way. The controversial tweet in question was an out-of-context quote from Wednesday’s night’s episode of The Colbert Report. Colbert poked fun at Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and his new charity “The Washington Redskins Original American Foundation,” created to sway racist connotations from the team’s name.

Colbert’s “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong” bit is a long-running joke on the show which tackles racial stereotypes with satire. (Side note: According to the dictionary, satire is “the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.” You know, what The Colbert Report does every episode.)

Regardless of its satirical intentions, the tweet that has enraged so many Tweetizens has since been removed by @ColbertReport. The account is not controlled by Colbert himself – no surprise there – but by Comedy Central, who stated “For the record @ColbertReport is not controlled by Stephen Colbert or his show. He is @StephenAtHome Sorry for the confusion … This is a Comedy Central account, with no oversight from Stephen/show.”

Stephen Colbert himself addressed the entire kerfuffle via his personal Twitter, saying “#CancelColbert – I agree! Just saw @ColbertReport tweet. I share your rage. Who is that, though? I’m @StephenAtHome.”

So all in all it sounds like this whole “Cancel Colbert” mess was a case of bad micromanaging on Comedy Central’s part. The takeaway for them should be “Funny sound bite does not always equal successful tweet.” You’ll learn Comedy Central, you’ll learn.

Also it’s probably a safe bet that the next episode of The Colbert Report will address the whole thing in a wonderfully-humorous and not at all apologetic manner.

You can check out the segment featured on last night’s Colbert Report, HERE around 4:45

 

The Lego Movie review

Everything is Awesome

If you haven’t seen The Lego Movie yet, then what’s wrong with you? What have you been doing? Watching the Olympics? Celebrating Valentine’s Day? Filing your taxes? Whatever the excuse is, it will not suffice, because The Lego Movie is (using a word the film relishes in) awesome. So if you haven’t seen The Lego Movie, go see it. Right. Now. If you have seen it, see it again, because why not?

The Lego Movie is an animated high-stakes adventure of the imagination. The film opens with the villain Lord Business (Will Ferrell) attacking the wise wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and taking the weapon of ultimate power – the Kragle. Flash forward to present day (8 ½ years later) and we meet Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt), who is a common everyman that lives in the city of Bricksburg, which is full of worker bee types. The citizens play by the rules and follow basic instructions for how to live their day-to-day lives. At the end of one such average day Emmet stumbles upon an enchanted item known as “The Piece of Resistance,” and is struck with magical visions. Because of this, a character named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) takes Emmet to her group of “Master Builders” and believes that he is the prophesized “Special” who is destined to defeat Lord Business and his plans to destroy the world with the Kragle.

The Lego Movie could have very easily been an hour-and-a-half toy commercial but instead dared to embrace the exact opposite mantra. When you buy a Lego set, it is a very straight-forward process: you open up the set, follow the instructions and build the model seen on the front of the box. Within the first ten minutes of the movie, the filmmakers take this common knowledge notion and use it as a framing device for individualism vs. collectivism; “order and stability” vs. “chaos and anarchy.” Emmet literally does everything by the book and The Lego Movie’s message is that that might be a bad thing. The Lego Movie wants us all to fight our programming and stop living life by the instructions.

The comedic structure of The Lego Movie follows a similar mold of unconventionality. It plays by the new age quick-cut school of comedy that will introduce an concept and play with it just long enough before they hit the audience with another even more ridiculous idea. It is so hard-hitting that you don’t get a chance to breathe from joke to joke. It doesn’t stay in one place too long, or even in one dimension for too long.

The Lego Movie is a film that draws its strength from not underestimating its audience’s intelligence. It’s playful and lively for the kids and gives winks and nods to the real world for the adult audience, in a similar way to Toy Story. And it commits to the medium of Legos so well – everything is broken down to Lego bricks, and the animation style imitates a form of stop motion. If anything else, The Lego Movie is worth a viewing for the cameos alone. There are plenty of licensed characters that pop up such as Will Arnett’s entertaining take on Batman as well as scores of Lego figures from your childhood that you may have forgotten about. So put down your instruction manual and do what I tell you to – go see The Lego Movie. (Ok, that sentiment may  contradict the idea the movie is trying to put out there, but still. See it!)

Washington IL hit hardest by tornadoes

As many as 80 tornadoes raged across the Midwest yesterday, leaving a path of destruction in towns like Washington IL. In the wake of the storm the Illinois Emergency Management Agency has confirmed that there have been six storm-related deaths: three deaths in Massac County, two in Washington County and one death in Washington IL. Along with the single fatality, the storms left 80 Washington IL residents injured.

Washington IL is a town of nearly 15,000 people 140 miles southwest of Chicago. The EF-4 tornado that hit the town had racing winds traveling from 170 to 190 mph. This tornado tore a path an eighth of a mile long from one side of the state to another.

According to Mayor Gary Manier, an estimated 500 homes were destroyed and city streets were torn apart. This destruction caused to the Illinois National Guard to send in a 10-person search and rescue team to help.

From 6 p.m. Sunday to 7 a.m. this morning a curfew was enforced in Washington IL. Those wishing to enter the city limits had to prove that they had lived in the town at several checkpoints. Other entrances to the town were blocked due to the severe damage.

Many residents tell stories of their homes and neighborhoods being ripped apart in an instant. Michael Perdun recounted how he huddled his family in his basement until the storm passed:

“The whole neighborhood’s gone. The wall of my fireplace is all that is left of my house…I stepped outside and I heard it coming. My daughter was already in the basement, so I ran downstairs and grabbed her, crouched in the laundry room and all of a sudden I could see daylight up the stairway and my house was gone.”

Along with the National Guard, the White House released a statement detailing that President Obama was briefed on the storms in Washington IL and through the Midwest and had been communicating with federal, state and local officials.

“Everybody’s without power, but some people are without everything,” Mayor Manier told the Associated Press. “How people survived is beyond me.”

According to ComEd, roughly 19,000 customers in the Illinois area are still without power as a result of the storm. Around 1,300 of those customers are in Chicago, 1,000 in the northern region, 5,400 in the west region and 11,200 in towns like Washington IL in the southern region.

The Chicago Tribune reported that according to the Chicago Weather Center, there have been 194 tornado warnings in the month of November in Illinois since 1986. Of these, more than half of them were issued during yesterday’s numerous storms.

Almost Human is almost good, but mostly average

Almost Human almost delievers a good first outing in last night’s premiere; almost. The sci-fi drama that Fox wants you to think of as the next Fringe pretty much plays out like an episode of Fringe; specifically the pilot. Almost Human was created by Fringe showrunner J.H. Wyman, with Fringe creator J.J. Abrams serving as executive producer.

Almost Human’s series premiere details the futuristic future of 2048 – the world is a violent place filled with crime, drugs and Japanese-influenced architecture. Because the crime rate of the world of Almost Human has risen to 400 percent (no joke), every police officer is partnered up with “an advanced combat-model android.”

The top cop of Almost Human is Detective John Kennex, played by nostril flare professional Karl Urban. We discover that Kennex has been in a coma for almost two years due to a run-in the faceless criminal organization “The Syndicate,” which will most certainly serve as the primary antagonist of Almost Human.

Kennex is trying to recover memories of his fight with The Syndicate with the help of a black market doctor and an illegal memory-retrieving procedure. His injuries sustained from The Syndicate also include the loss of his leg, which has been replaced with a synthetic robo-leg, making him “almost human.” – HEY-OH!

Kennex isn’t exactly the perfect picture of mental health, suffering from PTSD, his robo-leg having the functionality of a fickle toaster and basically just not liking the android partnered-police force status quo. Early on, Kennex’s clearly visible problems are spotted by his MX class android partner, so Kennex pushes the droid out of his moving car into traffic.

Kennex is then partnered up a DRN-class android, who goes by the name of Dorian (Michael Early.) Unlike the MX-class, Dorian is part of a series of androids that were programmed to have emotions and draw conclusions, but were mostly decommissioned after they “went crazy.” But for some reason the police chief wanted to use old crazy bot anyways. So Dorian’s free thinking and emotional capacity give him the ability to be “almost human” as well – DOUBLE WHAMMY!

Kennex and Dorian get into the buddy cop scenarios that you’d expect them too, especially with the framework of human and robot partners. A sweeping generalization of an exchange between the two of them would probably be something like:

Kennex: “What do you know about that, you’re just a damn robot! Rasa frasa.”

Dorian: “I’ve been programmed to think and feel; I’m not like the other robots.”

Kennex: “Well I guess I’ll just have to wait and see until you inevitably prove your worth to me and I respect you, won’t I?”

Dorian: “Pretty much.”

Almost Human isn’t horrible by any means, but it’s not a hugely impressive freshman episode for a television show. Most of the key beats of the pilot are nearly identical to those of Fringe’s pilot back in 2008: tough cop, chemical warfare, high-tech weaponry and a shadowy organization with a very unclear goal. The latter is probably the most frustrating part of the series thus far.

While it’s understandable that Almost Human is trying to establish a world that its characters live in, there are a lot of plates spinning in the first hour; many of which have been done (and overdone) before. At this point the basic gist of Almost Human could be about several things: A) a corrupt police force B) The continuing arms race in the form of robots C) An unseen enemy’s attack on society or D) The ongoing conversation that science fiction has with us about our humanity, our soul and loveable robots.

The most interesting potential that Almost Human has lies in the class warfare between humans and robots. Several times in the premiere, Kennex calls Dorian a “synthetic,” which Dorian responds to as if it is a racial slur.

Race allegory or just buddy cop show in the Asiatic future? We shall see my friends. Almost Human continues its two-night premiere tonight on Fox at 8 PM EST.

Batkid and his amazing day

The Make-A-Wish foundation gives young boy the coolest gift ever

If you haven’t heard about Batkid by now – whether by social media, TV or word-of-mouth – you may have been sleeping all day or you live somewhere like Japan. So first off I’ll say this: good morning and/or konnichiwa; I hope you feel well-rested.

Batkid of course refers to 5-year-old Miles Scott, from Tulelake California, who has been fighting the battle against leukemia since he was 18 months old. Today, Miles got the opportunity to put on the cape and cowl and become a pint-sized Batman: Batkid. The entire city of San Francisco was transformed into a real-life Gotham City as well.

Like many children, (and let’s face it, pretty much the rest of us) Miles had grown to love superheroes and their constant struggle to fight for justice and beat the bad guy.

“Miles has always been a fighter,” his dad Nick Scott told the San Francisco Chronicle. “He fought through cancer and he beat that. I think it goes hand in hand that he’s a fan of Batman and superheroes, as well.”

San Francisco’s Make-A-Wish foundation asked Miles what he wanted more than anything. His answer? “I wish to be Batkid.” And so, the plan was hatched to turn the city of San Francisco into a real-world version of Batman’s own Gotham City.

Batkid’s adventure could have been something as minute as riding along in a Batmobile, but Miles’ dream-come-true was a child’s game of make-believe turned into a reality. The Batkid craze extended to the citizens of the temporary Gotham City, its police force and local government, and even President Obama himself.

Make-A-Wish teamed up with social marketing company Clever Girls Collective and laid out a whole day of events for the Batkid Miles. Batkid received an urgent message from San Francisco’s Police Chief Greg Suhr. Suhr needed Batkid to save the city from Batman rogues The Penguin and The Riddler.

With Miles’ baby brother dressed as Robin, Batkid set off with an adult Batman in two Lamborghini Batmobiles. The dynamic duo (plus 1) raced to save a damsel-in-distress from a ticking time bomb and an oncoming cable car. Next he prevented The Riddler from robbing a bank and apprehended the questioning criminal.

Batman and Batkid took a lunch break at San Francisco’s Burger Bar before heading back out to stop another criminal: The Penguin. It turns out that The Penguin had kidnapped San Francisco Giants’ mascot Lou Seal. Batkid and Batman confronted The Penguin at the ballpark, before the vile villain begged for mercy and the grateful Lou was freed.

The end of the day saw Batkid gracing City Hall with his presence. Mayor Ed Lee gave young Miles a (chocolate) key to the city, thanking him for his hard work. The Justice department even released an indictment against The Riddler and The Penguin, which praised Miles as well. It read:

 

“Because even if you get out of jail someday, you will never succeed in your criminal actions as long as Miles, aka ‘Batman,’ aka ‘Batkid’ is looking out for the citizens of Gotham.”

 

The San Francisco Chronicle made a specialized “Gotham City Chronicle” in honor of Batkid and his special day. The headline read “Batkid Saves City,” and the article itself was written by Superman alter ego Clark Kent. President Obama later sent out a Vine video thanking Batkid for his super heroics.

Having ended his treatments in June, Miles’ leukemia is now in remission. Nick Scott thanked the Make-A-Wish Foundation for all of their help, as well as the people of San Francisco who cheered Miles on. The feel-good event was attended by around 7,000 people.

“All the doctors, nurses and all the other parents that have to deal with the same thing we’re going through. I hope they get a conclusion to their illnesses like we’re getting,” Nick Scott said to KGO-TV.

Yes, this happened, and yes, it is awesome. Score one for the human race.

 Long live Batkid!