Watching: The Help (2011)

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Exploring the racial segregation of the 1960’s, The Help is a film that incorporates a unique blend of humour and heartstrings. Speaking straight to the heart, it is a faithful adaption to the book of the same name by Kathryn Stokett. The powerhouse cast is to thank for it’s degree of success, as is the translation of the narrative from novel into film. With beautiful settings and a performance driven plot, it’s no wonder that this movie has been positively received the world over.

There are only a handful of films that have managed to make me cry and The Help is one of the lucky few. It was as intense as it was heartfelt, and I couldn’t help but adore Viola Davis’s (Prisoners, Doubt) performance as Aibileen. The entire film is well thought out and its story, although a tad predictable and melodramatic, is highly engaging and leaves the viewer asking for more. I’ve watched this with the family a few times since it’s release – and it’s just as powerful every time.

It’s the 1960’s in Jackson, Mississippi as racial rights are trotted on by the hegemonic White society. Skeeter (Emma Stone), an ambitious writer working on a mundane cleaning column, becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the treatment of the coloured help by the people around her. Determined to voice out their opinions, she approaches Aibileen (Viola Davis), a maid who has raised White kids throughout her life, with the intent on writing a book on her experiences. As tensions rise between the White and the Black, Skeeter and Aibileen, along with fellow maid Minny (Octavia Spencer) and others, push through their social boundaries to expose what really happens behind closed doors and white picket fences.

The star ensemble of the film are without a doubt the film’s success. Davis is more than capable of pulling of an emotional performance, presenting the audience with a compelling act that is as touching as it is powerful. I would say that it is impossible not to feel for the characters the team gives life to, even if those emotions range from pure hate to heart wrenching pain. Stone’s (Easy A, Amazing Spiderman) act as Skeeter is, although not a strong as Davis’s is still solid and carries its own weight through the film. Although not part of the main story, an honourable mention goes out to Jessica Chastain’s (The Tree of Life, Mama) role as Celia Foote, who – like Davis – provides a surprisingly fleshed out character to the audience without overstepping her boundaries. On another note, the setting of Jackson seems to me to be highly authentic – it simply breathes a 1960’s air. Whether this vibe is used to heighten the tension between societies or to represent the simplicity of these times, Tate Taylor’s understanding of the original work is to thank for the beautifully created scenes. Add in an eloquent musical score, carefully selected costumes and the right shots – and you’ve got yourself a triumphant film that speaks for itself.

As a whole, The Help is a remarkable film that uses the talents of it’s actors to their full extent. Performances are ripe with emotions and sincerity, giving life to this beautiful and humorous fight for truth. While it at time may dip it’s toe into a melodramatic puddle, it never seems to coincide with the cliches that fill films that centre on race and ethnicity. With it’s comedic flair, topic gentility and emotional poise, The Help is a rewarding film experience that any film junkie should not go living without.

Bry Rating: 4.25/5
Recommended? Without a doubt
Country of Origin: America
Language: English

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Listening To: The Super Mario Bros. Theme Song

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Two weeks ago, I talked about the classic “A” theme from Tetris. I really enjoyed searching the web for modern and quirky renditions of classic gaming tunes, and so today I bring you all the unforgettable, the classic and the unbelievably catchy song you all know as the Super Mario Bros. theme song. Easily one of the most well known themes in the history of games, Nintendo’s timeless classic is the embodiment of early gaming. I’m sure many still remember playing their hours away on the NES, essentially growing up with the theme.

So with that, let’s go back to when it all began. Released in 1985, the theme was officially known as “Ground Theme” and was played on the over world of the Mushroom Kingdom. Described as a tune with a calypso rhythm, Koji Kondo is the one responsible for creating one of the world’s most addictive hits.

Now for the next one, I know that I said modern remakes of the tune… but I couldn’t pass this up. Played on an instrument known as the “Shou”, it dates as far back as 1100 BC and is an extraordinary (and highly amusing) instrument. Props to the lady for being able to play such an ancient instrument with such skill and humour.

This one is pretty metal and an excellent example of just how awesome science is. Played by tesla coils, this Mario theme is electrifying to say the least. This pretty much made the nerd inside me squeal, so sit back and enjoy the power of science. Also shout out to Nikola Tesla for making this possible.

Nobody ever said that Mario wasn’t classy. I got to hand it to this violinist – he manages to play a few themes and sound effects from the game as someone plays it behind him quite well. He has the sounds down pat, so give it a try, jeeves.

We’ll end this list with a medley of themes from the original game. The ground theme is at the beginning and it soon covers other memorable tunes, my personal favourite being the Underwater theme. These guys do it well: it’s funny, quirky and really skilfully done. Check it out!

And that’s the end! Another five different versions of a classical gaming theme, one that’s sure to be in the memories of any gamer. See if you can find any other versions, and not only with this theme, but with any of the tunes that have a place in your heart. Happy hunting!

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

You are the strongest, the wisest and the most courageous woman I know, and I’m afraid that I don’t deserve you.

I remember the time we went out to see a standing ovation because my older brother was involved in it. I exaggerated how cold I was and complained until you finally gave up and took me home. You cried when we got home, but you forgave me.

I remember the time I came home hours late and had missed 8 calls and a number of texts. I made excuses for my actions and you told me to go to my room as your voice started breaking. You were so angry, but you forgave me.

I remember the time I broke a gift I had given to you only a few months after Christmas. I tried to hide it, blamed it on others and refused to be responsible for it. You picked up the shards and tried to fix it but you couldn’t. You were so upset, but you forgave me.

I remember the time I had lost the pricy gift you had given me for my birthday when we went on holidays. I looked for it everywhere, and when I couldn’t find it I eventually gave up. You were disappointed, but you forgave me.

I have many memories that I feel guilty for and  they always end with you forgiving me. You’ve been there through the heartbreaks and the accomplishments, the highs and the lows, and the memorable and the forgettable. You’ve been with me since day one, and I can’t believe that I can call someone like you my mother. You raised three kids on your own, went out of your way to pave our futures and have guaranteed our happiness at the cost of your own. You taught me that a selfless person is one of the greatest gifts in life, and you’ve been giving me that gift from the moment you called me your son.

I’ll never be able to reach the selflessness you have – but as your son, I will try.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom.

Your terrible, but loving son, Bryan.

1st_Birthday

Playing: Zombies Ate My Neighbours (SNES) (SEGA Genesis) (VC)

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Saving your poor, defenceless neighbours as you fight your way through hordes of zombies, mummies, vampires, and even chainsaw wielding men is the aim of the cult classic, Zombies Ate My Neighbours. With a musical score and enemies that would make any B-Horror film lover squeal, this particular game was – and still is – a personal favourite.

I’ve never actually been able to finish ZAMN, causing me much frustration as grew up. I first played it at the age of 9, and until last year, I had no idea there actually was a story that (kind of) tied the game together. It stars Zeke and Julia as they save their neighbours from a wide array of monsters that have been unleashed on their suburbs by the deranged Dr. Tongue. Armed with only a water gun and a first aid kits, these teenage monsters hunters set out on their journey, traversing lakes, castles, pyramids, dungeons and even shopping malls to set things right.

This game is basically the embodiment of any respectable B horror movie – it’s very tongue in cheek, not only through it’s presentation, but it’s quirky gameplay dynamics, plot and characters. It has what any good homage to the genre has: film references, over the top music, loveable characters and a constant stream of humour. The game simply shines through it’s humour, especially through it’s monster cliches and level names (Such as ‘Forty Feet of Terror in: Level 8: Titanic Toddler‘, ‘Level 33: Fish and Crypts‘, and the special ‘Credit Level: Monsters Among Us‘).

It features an overhead view that allows the player to see the field with ease. It’s pretty useful, especially when you need to know how to access certain areas or avoid a horde of enemies waiting on the other side of a fence. The player starts with three lives and ten victims, the number of which carries over depending on how many you saved in the previous round. The loss of all neighbours results in a game over, as does the depletion of your life bar, which can sustain ten hits before you’re knocked out. A password system is also available, although inserting a password results in the player being only equipped with the standard water pistol and a single first aid kit. Although it’s not necessary, it’s highly recommended to play in cooperation with another player. It gets difficult saving your teachers, cheerleaders and whimpering soldiers when you’re fighting giant babies, evil dolls and beady eyed martians just by yourself, so having a trusty sidekick is preferable. Speaking of fighting, ZAMN has the most interesting weapon arsenal at your disposal – which includes silverware, soda grenades, weed whackers, and bazookas to name a few.

The graphics are, as you would expect of 1993, 16-Bit and work well with the chosen dark pallet of the game. Not only does it give the game visual appeal, but it causes it to reflect the dark, grainy and almost superficial tones that are indicative of B horror movies. The music does well to accompany it, utilising a quirky score that fits the game perfectly. It’s a sort of second rate “scary”, being both whimsical and spooky at the same time. They’re also highly memorable, especially for the first theme, and specific tracks are used for specific settings to essentially create miniature films for the player’s pleasure.

I have loved this game ever since I discovered it at the very end of my brother’s emulator back in my childhood. Standing the test of time and the progression of technology, Zombies Ate My Neighbours is an addictive game that will frustrate you and just as equally satisfy you. Whether it’s raging at the tourists who transformed into werewolves or the pleasure of entering the end stage door at the last second, ZAMN is a game that should be – no, deserves to be considered in Gaming’s Hall of Fame.

Bry Rating: 5/5
Recommended? A Must-play Cult Classic
Country of Origin: America
Developer: LucasArts
 

Watching: Frozen (2013)

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How do you write about a film, when it seems the rest of the world has already seen it? Arriving fashionably late to the hype of Disney’s Frozen, I managed to savour the newest addition to the Disney archives. I will admit, the film is genuinely funny, moving and is an excellent film for families or the Disney viewer. That being said though, I found the movie to be overrated by the fanatics of the internet (I’m looking at you Tumblr) and I expected more out of it, though I do agree with the aray of awards it has garnered.

I managed to finally get my hands on a copy of Frozen through the release in Australia. I watched it with my family on a Sunday afternoon (as we often do), and began listening to the story. At this point my older brother and I had already learnt the lyrics of all its songs, as such was the hype of the newest Disney film. While we were mostly happy with the overall film, I personally felt wronged. It’s story – although good – just wasn’t as fleshed out as I had hoped it to be.

Frozen takes place in the Kingdom of Arrendale where King & Queen rule with two daughter, one of which – Elsa (Idina Menzel)- possesses cryokinetic powers. After hurting her sister Anna (Kirsten Bell) with her powers, Elsa is shielded from the world and lives her life in isolation.  Years later, Elsa and Anna live very different lives – whereas Anna is an optimist, Elsa has become a recluse, creating a rift between the two. Elsa’s powers seem to be affected by her emotions, and so after she becomes stressed at her coronation, she runs away from the kingdom, accidentally setting off an eternal winter. Feeling responsible for her outburst, Anna teams up with Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), an iceman; Sven, his loyal reindeer; and Olaf (Josh Gad), a living snowman, in order to return summer to Arrendale and reconcile with her sister.

As expected of modern computer animation, Frozen’s characters and world are essentially flawless. There’s no doubt that a lot of detail went into the film’s creation, and it seems to have payed off – character movement is fluid and believable, structures are impeccable and objects rival their real counterparts (have you seen those snowflakes?) . Minor points are filled with information that would otherwise be overlooked (i.e. the symbolism of both princesses’ dresses), making it ripe with secrets and facts. The characters, namely Elsa and Anna, are portrayed in a realistic manner, and it isn’t an overstatement to say that both Bell and Menzel give life to the sisters. Anna’s quirky and joyful personality is rivalled only by Elsa’s stoic and refined behaviour, presenting to the audience two princesses that stray from the fairy tale norm. Whether this is the product of the string of films Disney has produced in recent years or the desire to portray a larger variety of female characters (and not just the damsel in distress stereotype), it seems Disney is headed in the right direction. The musical score of the film doesn’t fail at all, possessing a variety of memorable songs that I find myself humming to every now and again. The one point I think the film failed for me was its story – it’s not that it was bad, in fact, it is smartly written. It’s just that through all the hype and the commotion, I thought that there’d be more to it than what I was presented with.

In total, Frozen has become a hit worldwide, and personally one of my favourite animated films. I do think that Disney is returning to it’s roots, simulating the inspiring hits of the 20th century (In particular The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast) with a new formula that seems to be working quite well. While I wasn’t completely satisfied with it, I think that its been one of the better movies of 2013, and one of the best movies to come out of the 2010’s so far. If you have been left completely in the dark on this snowstorm of adventure, like I was until a few days ago, be sure to check it out. There’s nothing better than a Disney film to put you in the right mood.

Bry Rating: 4/5
Recommended? Don’t miss out on another Disney hit!
Country of Origin: America
Language: English

Listening To: PMMMM: The Rebellion Story OST

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Bundled together with the DVD and BD releases of Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie 3: The Rebellion Story last month, the soundtrack of the film is an excellent example of how melodies evoke sincere emotions in those who listen. Almost the entire track is comprised of sombre themes, matching the overall mood of the film quite well. While the film isn’t necessarily an uplifting addition to the series, and by extension it’s soundtrack, the sounds that it manages to convey are not only presented at a high standard, but are also highly emotive.

Anyone remotely familiar with the series understands that, although the plot centres on magical girls, it is by no means a childish or joyful series. Instead, it takes a dark and grim approach to the traditional magical girl genre, creating a more meaningful story than anyone could have imagined. The new film, The Rebellion Story, is a worthy addition to the franchise, and it’s OST certainly doesn’t fail to keep up with the tone of the series.

Yuki Kajiura’s work on the soundtrack is simply amazing – each of the tracks composed by her are coherent, relatable and most importantly: genuine. It’s no surprise that her experience in working with other anime soundtracks have led her to create such a refined OST, and I’m glad that she managed to keep true to the heart of the story. The pieces that feature orchestral sounds are by far my favourites, but by no means are her other tracks less than stellar. Her tracks encapsulate chaos, disorder and the death of hope, acting as the basis of the entire film.

I first got notice of the soundtrack when they were uploaded onto media sharing websites a few days ago. A few friends and I were, as expected, thrilled to be able to hear the music from the film. Now proudly close to the top of my phone’s playlist, I’ve been replaying the more sadder songs of the OST simply because they’re emotionally powerful. Although the film’s ending wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for in the storyline of Puella Magi, I have zero complaints about the soundtrack.

Songs to look out for:

  • Holly Quintet
  • One For All
  • Something, Everything Is Wrong
  • Noi!
  • Theater Of A Witch
  • I Was Waiting For This Moment

10 Weird Things That You (Hopefully) Do As Well

I say hopefully because otherwise… I just outed myself! These are 10 things that I do quite frequently, and more often than not, a conversation topic that people approach me about when I do it. As it turns out, all of my family members wouldn’t dream of doing these things but they are 4 out of the billions of people in the entire world. So, hopefully, someone out there knows my struggle – because the struggle is very real.

10. Pacing During Phone Calls

Pacing During Calls

At number 10, and likely the most relatable of this list, is pacing around the house during a phone call. I just can’t help it – if it’s longer than 3 minutes I begin the walk. Through hallways, across bedrooms, and even walks outside, I just begin pacing throughout the house. I’ve been called out on it many times by my family members, the number of times they’ve yelled at me for moving across the TV for the 5th time too many to count. The worst of this habit though is when I end up fiddling or resting on things for no apparent reason. No, I’ve never had a case as extreme as the gif above, but I’ve had ended up in some pretty strange places.

9. Solo Spontaneous Dancing

Spontaneous Dancing

It doesn’t matter if you’re good or bad at dancing – you do it anyway. Without anyone seeing or being around, I burst out in impromptu dance routines simply because I can. Sure, it’s usually to music but I have caught myself dancing to complete silence. I’m more than certain that everyone has done this at least once. When the need calls, you certainly answer.

8. Comfort is a Very Real Struggle

Comfort is a Struggle

Getting comfortable is surprisingly difficult for me. I find it very strange though – the seats and cushions I have are amazing, but no matter what, I never seem to be comfortable. I move, squirm, change the way I’m sitting, shift the cushions around me, all in an attempt to achieve… The perfect position. I think the gif sums it up pretty nicely.

7. Animals are a Weakness

Animals are your WeaknessCute animals are very powerful and dangerous weapons that must be handled with care. Eye contact essentially renders me a child, and I can’t help but “Awww” at their adorableness. The level of sheer cuteness is deadly, and animals that are either really young or really old have an added advantage that deals extra damage. Luckily, for this one most of my friends share this trait, so it’s not as embarrassing as I thought.

6. Talking with Inanimate Objects

Inanimate Friends

I treat inanimate objects as if they were living things. I argue, complain, insult, and express my adoration for things that I know will never express anything towards me. Hit my toe on a sofa? “Damn that sofa for being in my way”. Phone works fine after being wet by liquids? “It’s a miracle, and don’t you dare scare me like that again!”. I love it when other people do this, especially when they negotiate with an object into working, bargaining with it and promising it to take better care of it.

5. The Shower is a Stage

My Shower is a Recording Studio

A shower is many things. A place to reflect on your life choices. A place to think of what the future holds. A place where you think of what to say back to that girl that insulted you in Year 3. These are all true but for me a shower is a stage – a place where my voice knows no limits and I freely express myself through song. I belt out mostly hits from the 2000’s, and singing way too loudly has caused me to enter hot water with my family. But hey, they shouldn’t watch a TV show so close to a concert.

4. Forgetting Someone’s Name Multiple Times

Panic Attack

I manage to do this all the time. Every time I meet someone new and they tell me their names, I completely forget it within a few minutes. It gets worse when you have to ask them again… and again… and again. At that point I make it my mission to learn their name through some other way, because it’s just way too awkward to ask for it for the 4th time in a row. And it’s not just confined to names too – ages, facts, simple statements. You name it, I’ve probably forgotten it.

3. Resigning from Life after an Awkward Situation

Resignation from Life

Whenever I find myself in a socially awkward position, I instantly resign from life in my mind. I decide on becoming a hermit, living the remainder of my life away from civilisation and with a few animals to keep me company. It’s a frequent panic reaction from me, and it also happens when I look back on embarrassing memories. While it’s not as clear or visible as the others on this list, this one causes much internal pain.

2. Becoming Paranoid after Encountering a Single Bug

Surrounded

Let it be known that I hate bugs of all kinds. Ever since I was a child, I’ve hate insects and I have no idea why. You could imagine my torment when I learned that if you see a single bug, there’s probably a lot more nearby. And so with that interesting fact in my mind, paranoia sets in whenever I see a single bug. It probably doesn’t help that I live in Australia – where multiple types of deadly spiders roam in common areas. For reference, I hate cockroaches the most, and don’t even get me started on the ones that fly.

1. Pulling Expression on a Mirror

Mirror Expressions

And finally,  the top weird thing that I do all the time is… pulling expressions on a mirror! I put this one first on the list because I’ve yet to know anyone who does this the way I do. While most people look in a mirror and smile at it to know how they look, I take it to the next level. I get up to my mirror, close the door, and begin – I look at myself while pretending to be  sad, angry, surprised, confused or thinking. I’ve done it as far as I can remember, in order to know how I would look throughout the day if I were to pull a certain expression. And let’s admit: that is pretty weird.

So there it is, a list of weird things that I do daily throughout my life. Although I’m sure there’s a lot more, these are just a few that come to mind. I’d really love to know if anyone else does this too (so I’m not the only one), because they’re not exactly things that everyone else does too, right? In any case, that’s all about me for this week, so until next time.

Stay Tuned!