Blast http://blastmagazine.com Video Game Reviews, Music, Movies, TV, Gen-Y Issues Wed, 16 Apr 2014 16:23:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 “New Girl” – Big News (3.21) episode review http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/new-girl-big-news-3x21-episode-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/new-girl-big-news-3x21-episode-review/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 16:22:59 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92471

The gang throws a party for Winston (Lamorne Morris).

The gang throws a party for Winston (Lamorne Morris).

4.5 out of 5 stars

When we were last with our New Girl  crew Jess and Nick had just gone through a painfully realistic break-up. They had realized, albeit abruptly, that they had nothing in common aside from how much they love each other and that could only spell disaster later down the road. So, to avoid a failing relationship that ends with them hating one another they decide to break it off now and hope to keep their friendship intact.

On the one hand, I respect a show for treating a relationship with as much believability as they can and the writers did make sure to drive home just how many differences the Nick and Jess characters shared as well as highlighting how they were each forcing the other to change for them. That, coupled with a stunning ending scene acted out by Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson, almost made me okay with the break-up.

Almost.

What has me still doubtful is the aftermath. All of season two was spent gradually putting the two characters together and by the halfway point I was actively rooting for it. I got it. I thought the pairing worked and I thought Deschanel and Johnson had tremendous chemistry that made all of their will they/won’t they scenes spark. To then rip that all away, just as the spring sweeps are in high gear and just as the season’s drawing to a close, seems formulaic for a show that’s gone against the grain countless times before.

My hope was that the returning episode would prove me wrong all while setting up the path for the couple to get back together. A difficult feat.

And somehow, they managed.

It starts with Nick waking up and finding himself covered in Memento style messages. He and Jess broke up, his bed burned down, and no, it wasn’t a dream is all written on his arm.  We soon realize that Jess is still living in the bedroom since Schmidt has occupied Jess’s old room. This has led to some technical difficulties with Jess changing in the closet and telling Nick that boob season is over for him.

They try to talk about it like adults, acknowledging that they’re both handling it okay. Jess isn’t watching Dirty Dancing constantly and Nick isn’t drinking or drunk calling her. This must mean that they’re totally fine with the break up but it’s soon easy to tell just how awkward everything is especially since Jess can’t go home. They go to tell the guys about the break-up to make it a little easier, but are derailed when they learn that Winston got into the Police Academy and in order to not ruin his big day that should be all about him, they keep it a secret.

They decide they need to pretend to be a couple for one more day which knowing the two characters and their tendency to overreact, shouldn’t go well. They both assure each other one more time that they’re really okay.

Jess is then seen crying on the phone to her mom about how not okay she really is and worrying about how Nick seems fine.

Nick of course is not fine and is at the park, having pulled his bench mentor out of his dance recital to talk about his problems as well. This (in certain respects) is normal. People mourn relationships especially when it involves two people who really cared about each other. Nick tells Tran that he has to hide his emotions and it’s made worse that he has to hide them from his best friend. He says that he’ll have to fake it for a day and concentrate all of his energy towards Winston, distract himself.

Nick comes home and tells Winston that he needs to dream big about a way to celebrate his best day. He needs a Honey Roast—it’s like a Roast but people say nice things to him. Since Nick is going out of his way to distract himself he agrees and asks for more ideas. Winston wants a throne. And then he asks Nick to MC, as Fergusson, his cat. He says no to dressing up as a cat.

At the bar we’re given a Schmidt and Cece moment where she tells him that she’s studying for the GED and he offers up some real support and tells her that he’s going to take over as her tutor to help. Again, nice to see them as friends however, it hurts Jess’s plans when she runs to Cece for help and finds Schmidt in her living room.

Schmidt gets locked out because girl time always takes precedence. Which is something I love about this show and I always, always appreciate more Cece and Jess friendship scenes. It’s also nice to see Jess having someone to go to in these rough times.

Nick on the other hand still has no one as Coach catches him building Winston’s throne. However, Nick doesn’t last long and he tells Coach the truth and tells him that he feels like his brain is falling apart. Coach tells him that he has to hide the pain from Jess. Good advice (bad). Coach tells him to use Schmidt’s anxiety pills. Great idea (horrible).

Cece is giving better advice to Jess and tells her that she needs to go and tell Nick how she really feels so that Nick can be open about his emotions, too.

When Jess arrives though Nick is already doped up on his anxiety pills and feeling like cotton. So, her conversation doesn’t go smoothly. When she asks him how he feels he’s able to easily say that he feels amazing because of how leveled out he is.

With two other people knowing things are about to get messy and when Schmidt runs in Cece is forced to tell him about the breakup. Wine is brought out immediately when Jess and Nick join the group and when Winston arrives the two of them agree to do ANYTHING that makes Winston happy.

Cut to Jess drunk in a cat costume (that she just had lying around) and Nick, high, and playing the MC. They’re told to keep everything cute and it’s just about as uncomfortable as the show can make it and Johnson and Deschanel play the absurdity of their characters with energy.

To make things worse, Jess, who’s a couple of cups of wine in, decides to turn it into a real roast by saying mean things to everyone in the room and when she gets to Nick, goes off. She says that the worst thing is that he is ok, and she isn’t.  Nick tells Jess not to be ridiculous, that he’s falling apart inside and is on Schmidt’s anxiety medicine which is why he seems okay. They let everything out and talk about how they thought they had a future together and now they don’t. Winston asks why they didn’t tell him and they say they didn’t want to ruin his big day.

Winston gets a really nice scene where he says that he appreciates that they’d ignore their problems for him but he’s okay and wants to be there for them now and make sure they’re okay.

Jess in the end does end up on the couch watching her break-up movie and drinking wine and Nick ends up drunk and calling Jess while emotional. He says this is all really hard and she agrees. They don’t know how to interact, where to sleep, it’s all about the social components of their relationship. They say goodnight and it’s a little sad, a little sweet and it’s just how New Girl should be and it marks the end of the first truly great episode of the show in a very long time.

The episode benefits from being the funniest it’s been in a while. From learning about how Winston yawning is agreed upon by the roommates to be his cutest attribute, to Schmidt ribbing on Cece about intelligence and then later being locked out of the room and worried about upsetting the girls with pregnancy talk, to learning that Jess has four cat costumes on standby and then the last group moment where they all hold hands and hum. This is a show about a group of weirdos and the best episodes are the ones where the show plays to that and allows all of the big personalities to shine. It’s very much a Jess and Nick-centric episode, but every character is given a moment to shine or let loose. Lamorne Morris is consistently the dark horse of the show and coupled with the character’s quirks we’re also given one of his first big wins with the Police Academy. And Max Greenfield still has the best line delivery on the show.

But by the end we’re with the two characters we began the episode with, Jess and Nick. They’re sad, and they’re separated by a wall, but they’re still talking and listening and laughing with one another and, while the possibility of reconciliation is still seemingly up in the air, their chemistry and personalities are still parts of the show’s best selling points when executed well.

It was a fantastic episode to come back with after being hit with such a lull, I hope the momentum keeps up.

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Porter Robinson Releases “Sea of Voices” Off His New Album “Worlds” http://blastmagazine.com/features/porter-robinson-releases-sea-voices-new-album-worlds/ http://blastmagazine.com/features/porter-robinson-releases-sea-voices-new-album-worlds/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 12:00:37 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92021 After a recent seemingly phony leak of Porter Robinson’s upcoming album “Worlds”, Porter has released a new song called “Sea of Voices” on his soundcloud. This song is very different from Porter’s previous complextro/electro house work – he has moved to a more melodic and progressive sound.

Check out the new song on Soundcloud and be sure to stay tuned for the release of “Worlds”:

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The Blast Interview: 7Lions http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/blast-interview-7lions/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/blast-interview-7lions/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 14:09:55 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92350

This past Friday, Blast’s Madeline Knutson had the opportunity to talk to Mika “Prophet” Guillory from the band 7Lions. The band is currently signed to RedOne’s label 2101 Records and is based in Southern California. There are six members of the group: Forrest Fulmer, Will Carpenter, Daniel Hange, Tony Tomassi, Morgan Taylor Reid, and Prophet (the honorary “7th  lion” is Forrest’s brother who passed away during the band’s creation).  During the interview, we spoke about the band and their future plans as well as his personal music background.

 

Blast Magazine: How did 7Lions form?

Mika “Prophet” Guillory: Originally Forrest was in a band and I was a solo artist. We met at an artist-in-residency program sponsored by Von Dutch. Forrest was set to perform live and asked me if I wanted to do it with him. We performed together and people really liked what we did. After that, Forrest invited me to a rehearsal for his band Omission, whose members included Will and Tony. I did a few shows with them and we decided to try something new and created the band Terra Incognita. Six months after the band’s creation, Forrest reconnected with Morgan, who became a member of the group. Eventually, we changed direction and became 7Lions with Daniel.

Mika "Prophet" Guillory of 7Lions. Media credit to blog.rapwars.com

Mika “Prophet” Guillory of 7Lions. Media credit to blog.rapwars.com

Blast: How would you describe the band’s sound?

Prophet: We are a combination of an eclectic mix of our inspirations, including underground hip-hop, ska, rock, and pop. We are a collision between all of our influences, pop culture included, and the individual ways in which we express ourselves.

Blast: How did you first get into music?

Prophet: Where I grew up, you sold drugs, were part of a gang, or did graffiti. Growing up, I didn’t want to be a monster, so I tried to find a vehicle where I could still be a part of my neighborhood, but not be killed. The Boys and Girls Club took me in and it was there that I met this guy who always had a radio and was playing hip-hop tracks.

Through the club, we went to a camp and during that time, we took a 5-mile hike. On the hike, the same guy played a bunch of tracks and freestyled. I was inspired, so I worked with him to figure out flows and how to be a better rapper. When I came back, I would try to impress the guys on the corner and make them smile with my flows. After doing this, rapping and freestyling became a real hobby for me. I would always freestyle and eventually someone came to me and said I should think about doing it for real.

In high school, my friends and I would freestyle with each other and spend our free time battling and coming up with various tracks. At some point, a light switch went off and I took the poetry I had been writing and turned them into song lyrics and worked on conceptualizing themes and concepts. When I was 21, I asked myself what the one thing I couldn’t live without was and I instinctively knew music would always be a part of my life.

Blast: What has been your favorite song to record/play?

Prophet: My favorite song to play is Born 2 Run (EP’s title track) because it has spanned all over the place and there has been a strong reaction from so many different types of people, from a boy in a remote village in Taiwan to a woman battling cancer. When we perform that live, I channel a lot of that energy and the record’s inner spirit with me. It is just such a feel-good record and brings so much positivity, which leaves the crowd with a powerful message.

Blast: Who are the artists that inspire you the most?

Prophet: Shawn Carter came from a truly difficult upbringing, which was far worse than where I came from. He gave up selling drugs and created a company and a huge body of work. What I admire is that he is not afraid to recognize his past and makes no apology for the person he was. He addresses his past with class, and focuses on his future. He is definitely the most powerful and relatable artist I can think of.

I also admire Bono and the way he uses U2 to talk about atrocities and issues worldwide. He uses his music to raise awareness and utilizes his voice as a political tool. He says what he wants and expresses what he truly believes in, regardless of other’s opinions.

Blast: Is 7Lions working on new music now?

Prophet: Yes we are trying to put together a second half of the EP for European release so that we can attract European radio, build a story, and get into touring. We ran into some issues with US radio because the alternative stations want to back a specific image. Because 7Lions has a bit of a different sound, it is a challenge for us to be contained to a certain style. We are trying to maneuverer the chess game and Rubik’s cube that is the politics of the music business. 

Blast: What do you feel is the message of “Born 2 Run”?

Prophet: If you break down the verses, I talk about a bunch of different things. It focuses on my constant struggle with myself and love and being in this hustle. However, the end message is that I know that we are all going to make it. Forrest’s deliverance of the chorus delves into the message of triumph and overcoming all obstacles. We want to send the message that you shouldn’t let anything get in your way. We were put on this planet to do, so you need to make sure you at least attempt to do whatever that is.

Blast: What is your ultimate music goal?

Prophet: I have done shows by myself all over, but my dream is to have the band tour the world together. I would love to have the messages and music and camaraderie on tour around the world at least once.

Blast: What is the most difficult part of being a musician?

Prophet fuses hip-hop with alternative rock to create the music of 7Lions with his bandmates. Media credit to Mike Danenberg Photography.

Prophet fuses hip-hop with alternative rock to create the music of 7Lions with his bandmates. Media credit to Mike Danenberg Photography.

Prophet: The hardest part is that you can’t just be a musician anymore. Long gone is the dream to just do music and solely focus on your craft. The vintage level system has self-destructed and now it is a DIY model. If you don’t know about every business aspect of making yourself popular, from advertising to promoting to budgeting, you can’t succeed. It is extremely difficult to try not to lose the focus on the artistry while juggling all the hats of a startup.com company.

Blast: How would you define the term “success”?

Prophet: From the logistical perspective, success is garnishing as much attention as possible for your career. For me personally, it is being happy with how you are spending your life and leaving a mark on the world. That varies by person: for some, it is having a child that represents you well, for others, it is leaving a legacy with many buildings sporting your name. The most honest form of that is just leaving your mark and not regretting a single day of your life. I want to do what I love to do and live autobiographically through each verse and communicate that to others.  Everyone wants someone to understand them and that is what I am trying to do through my music.

 

Follow the band on Twitter (@7lionsmusic), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/7lionsmusic), Instagram (7lionsmusic), and their Website (http://7lions4ever.com/home). Follow Prophet on Twitter (@Prophlogic) and make sure to buy their EP “Born 2 Run” on Itunes.

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Gaming Really Is Making You Thick… Brained! http://blastmagazine.com/gaming/gaming-news/gaming-really-making-thick-brained/ http://blastmagazine.com/gaming/gaming-news/gaming-really-making-thick-brained/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 15:52:03 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92465

Mention video games to a parent and you’re likely to hear something along the lines of it warping children’s brains, desensitising them, and making them fat; except the Wii of course, you can bowl on that!

But whilst consoling may be making generations a little bit thicker set, research has shown it could also be making us a little thicker brained. A study published on PLoS ONE has shown that heavy video gaming correlates with a greater “cortical thickness”, meaning being an Angry Birds addict may not be as bad, or sad, as it sounds.

Researchers studied the brains of over 150 adolescents who averaged 12.6 hours of gaming a week, and found that playing showed a greater thickness in two brain areas, the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the left frontal eye field (FEF).

Both play major roles in how our brain works, an in particularly how we make decisions. The DLPFC helps with complex decisions that involve weighing up options to achieve what could be short or long term objectives and implications.

Equally, the FEF efficiently determines what sort of reaction suits a specific event or atmosphere around us, whilst also being a big part of how good our hand-eye coordination is.

But does this research come as a surprise? Of course being sat in a basement playing computer games can brand someone a bit of a recluse, but with the host of brain training games being released over the last few years, surely there must have already been something in it.

In the past, we’ve seen how numerical calculations can advance the brain. Research taken back in the early-2000s showed that visiting bingo halls or even playing online at one of the plethora of websites like www.butlersbingo.com makes you think faster, keeps you more alert and significantly improves your numerical reasoning capacity.

Whilst the recent study doesn’t exactly show that playing GTA VI for hours a week is the definite cause for these brain areas to grow, there is a strong enough correlation to suggest that taking hold of the PlayStation or Xbox control is like entering some sort of Neuro-gym.

It’s likely that further research will be able to tell us whether gaming can actually be good for us. Should that be the case, then we must surely expect a river of games to hit the shelves designed to help the brain develop further.

For now though, stick to the hours of FIFA and Call of Duty, your brain is getting stronger, and don’t let any mothers, wives, girlfriends, or partners tell you otherwise!

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Sid Meier Launches Civilization into Space this Fall http://blastmagazine.com/gaming/gaming-news/sid-meier-launches-civilization-space-fall/ http://blastmagazine.com/gaming/gaming-news/sid-meier-launches-civilization-space-fall/#comments Sun, 13 Apr 2014 00:45:48 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92455

It seems that the next logical step for the Civilization franchise involves moving towards the future by looking to the past. Civilization: Beyond Earth is the spiritual successor to the classic  Sid Meier’s Alpha  Centauri, one of the defining 4X space strategy games. The news highlights the first day of PAX East, a conference that has never been paired with high profile game announcements. 

The game takes place sometime in the future where an “incident” forces humans to find a home in another planet. The multi-lingual trailer gives the impression that you will be able to select from different nations like before. Five different victory conditions have been confirmed. A revamped technology upgrade system known as the “tech web” retools the linear tech tree from previous games and three unique ways of colonizing a planet, known as affinities, will make this one of the most versatile Civilization games.

Civilization: Beyond Earth is due out sometime this fall for PC.

CivBE_2 CivBE_3 CivBE_1

 

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“Elementary” – No Lack of Void (2×20) episode review http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/elementary-lack-void-2x20-episode-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/elementary-lack-void-2x20-episode-review/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 20:02:05 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92444 Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) mourns the passing of a friend in this weeks Elementary.

Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) mourns the passing of a friend in this week’s Elementary.

4 out of 5 stars

“At me too someone’s looking, of me too someone is saying. He is sleeping, he knows nothing, let him sleep on.” – Waiting for Godot

The way in which Elementary has dealt with telling the story of an addict is impressive—it’s one of the reasons why the show first caught my attention so early on. It wouldn’t have been surprising for the show to discard this particular string of narration after season one closed and stories were wrapped up neat and tidy so to continue to pursue it so far into its sophomore season is commendable.

Drug addiction is hardly ever dealt with in a manner befitting the disease but on this particular show it’s given the utmost attention and no matter how sloppy other stories may become, Sherlock’s battle with addiction and subsequent recovery remain in delicate, thoughtful hands.

It’s this particular vein of story as well as a surprisingly thrilling case storyline (a rarity these days on this show) that make this week’s episode “No Lack of Void” a season two highlight despite its flaws.

The episode begins by setting into motion the two main storylines at a rapid pace. Storyline one: Sherlock is having a breakfast with his old friend Allistair (someone we met through Joan in season one) for the first time a while and two, at the station while checking up on a supposedly ill man in holding, Joan makes the grave discovery that there could be a potential anthrax outbreak.

Now you have to assume that any storyline involving a substance that could wipe out much of the city’s inhabitants would be tense and thrilling and for the majority of the episode it is. But as per usual, the storyline that attracts the most traction is the emotional one.

Sherlock meets up with the group at the station and is in an obviously poor mood. Later when Joan calls him out on it and asks if the breakfast went badly he says no because there was no breakfast on account of Allistair being dead. He tells her he had a heart attack (a lie) and then tells her he wishes to move on and not talk about it. The following progression of grief throughout the episode is Elementary at its best despite me being slightly perturbed at the idea of a one-off character being brought back for the sole purpose of killing him.

For now they have a potentially dire case to work on. After finding the original anthrax holder they seek out where his lab must be located. Upon finding it they hit a road block as they find the man, Charlie, dead and all of the trays that the product was cooked on empty. This means that 40 pounds of anthrax is loose and the city is officially endangered.

At the precinct they find a man linked to Charlie and who is presumably the man’s killer, Eugene. Eugene has a past of terrorist affiliations and anti-government beliefs. He’s dangerous and they’re told to proceed with caution and precision.

Sherlock has disappeared during this—much to Captain Gregson’s chagrin—but Joan assures him it’s for a personal matter. Sherlock has visited Allistair’s partner, Ian, and while there also stirs up some doubt as he mentions Jeremy, Allistair’s son, as a possible reasoning behind his death. Of course at this point we think it means murder or some other form of devious actions.

It is nice to see Sherlock deviating from the casework for personal matters as Joan stays on.

Bell and Joan are given a lead to Eugene’s brother, Burt, who lives up on a farm. He tells them that he and his brother had a bad relationship and that despite how smart he was, Eugene was always getting mixed up into trouble.

Sherlock is soon thrust back into the action though as they find a lead and Sherlock is first to arrive at the location. While there he’s haunted by an image of Allistair and we get the feeling that there is more to his death and Sherlock’s feelings on it than typical mourning. He doesn’t have much time to dwell on it though as he watches as two men load cases of mysterious looking substances into the back of a van. Sherlock bypasses personal safety and goes to investigate and gets caught by the men but takes them down, but not without being possibly contaminated by what looks like anthrax.

At the hospital he’s throwing a fit to Joan, telling her that he knows it wasn’t anthrax but a mixture of powders to make it appear that way. Before she can reprimand him about his reckless behavior he’s released from quarantine and they go to interrogate one of the men Sherlock found. He sells out Eugene when he realizes he sold him fake anthrax and kept the real product for himself.  They also learn that it was tested on animals.

Sherlock disappears again and while he’s away Joan receives a visit from Allistair’s son, Jeremy, who asks her to tell Sherlock to back off and stop accusing him of taking part in his father’s death. Because of his visit Joan learns the truth behind Sherlock’s friend’s death and confronts him about it when he returns home.

She tells him that she knows that Allistair died of a heroin overdose. Sherlock lashes out and says he doesn’t understand it. The man he had known since he was young and had a strong bond with him ever since. He tells Joan that Allistair opened his home to him when Sherlock showed up on his doorstep, strung out, despite having been sober for 30 years. This is a risk many addicts in recovery wouldn’t have taken, but he did.

For 30 years he was clean and still he fell victim to his disease in the end. Sherlock wants, needs even, to know what could have possibly triggered it? Was it an argument with his estranged son? He’s afraid—he is only two years sober, could this happen to him? He’s blind sighted at this loss of a friend and is bothered that it all bothers him. He tells Joan that he would have told her eventually, all of it, but just needed to get some things straight first.

Again it’s a moment where Sherlock is given some vulnerability, a trait that does wonders for the character. We as an audience want to sit in this moment for a while but the two are called upon the job again as we learn that Eugene has been killed by his brother Burt. Burt tells the police it was self-defense, that he found his brother trying to infect the cows so that their dairy would be laced with anthrax, infecting anyone who used the products from that farm. He’s let go.

Sherlock thinks this is asinine. He says that Eugene was said, by all accounts, to be intelligent and that lacing the cow’s dairy was a messy way to plan. He says that it could have been caught in countless manners. He angrily breaks what’s near him and stalks off but Joan isn’t having it and follows him and does the same. Joan tells him that Allistair was an addict and that the temptation is always there but just because he lost to it doesn’t mean that Sherlock will. Every day he’ll just have to wake up and decide that he won’t do drugs, day in and day out he has to make that same decision. It will be tedious, it will tiresome and some days he may even be tempted but he has to keep deciding not to.

He tells her that he’s mad that he took the passing of a friend and turned it into self-indulgence, as a means to worry about himself. But, he tells her, he is no closer to using and if he was he’d tell her.

This exchange and a text from Joan’s mother does lead them to the case’s outcome though: Burt and Eugene had been working together but not to poison the city’s residents, but the cows.

The cows were all insured and they would have been paid heavily by the government if they all up and died.

What a lackluster ending to an interesting case…

No matter, the positives outweigh the faults when at the end we see Sherlock, standing over his friend’s grave to pay his respects.

What would’ve the payoff been like had we’d been allowed to witness an interaction between Allistair and Sherlock before the former’s passing? Their relationship is one that lands in all of the pitfalls of telling not showing syndrome. We’re told how much Allistair cared for Sherlock, we’re told of their affection, of how Allistair was there for him when any other addict would find him a threat to their sobriety. However, the first face-to-face interaction that the friends have is after Allistair has already passed and Sherlock day-dreaming that he’s seeing him. It’s clear from the brief moments we share with these two that they have a capable chemistry and it just makes me wonder how powerful the character’s death could have been had we gotten to know him.

Ultimately, despite the death being more than anything a tool to refocus the story back on Sherlock’s sobriety it’s sold so well by Jonny Lee Miller that I’m hard pressed to nag all too much. Do I think that as an audience we require more insight into a character to be affected by their death? Yes. But I also think that Miller sold the grief and his onslaught of emotional conflicts so well that we care because Sherlock cares. Because at the end of the episode Sherlock is standing over the grave of one of his few friends, telling a ghost that he loves him and will always be missed.

I thoroughly enjoyed this week’s episode. It didn’t feel as if it was simply going through the motions and rather allowed characters moments of reflection, moments of doubt, all as a thrilling case involving an anthrax threat plays out (until the end at least, the cow bit was a little silly, but so bookish Holmes I couldn’t complain).

There’s another two-week break until the next episode but the season is almost over, what are you hoping for next?

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Draft Day – Movie Review http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/movies/draft-day-movie-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/movies/draft-day-movie-review/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 11:00:09 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92331

The thing I liked most about this movie was how it showed the immense pressures on general managers in the National Football League—especially on draft day. There might be more pressure on a GM on this day than at any other time of the year—even the Superbowl. After all, if a team is playing in the Superbowl, they’ve made it, and, win or lose, it’s seen as a tremendous accomplishment. But draft day is another story.

Draft Day

Draft Day

Draft day can make or break a team for years to come. Choose the wrong players, and your team could be wallowing in last place for half a decade. But it’s more than just assembling a winning team. There’s what ownership wants, the coaching staff and the players who have their own priorities, and then there are the fans who want God knows what. There’s even your own mother berating you about your choices!

All these forces combine on one harrowing day every year for NFL franchises, and as the clock ticks the weight of the world rests on the shoulders of general managers, who are responsible for the picks. Such is the plight of Sonny Weaver Jr., played by Kevin Costner, in Draft Day, who is the GM of a fictional Cleveland Browns team. He must produce a great draft not only to revive the flagging franchise, but also to placate the owner and shore up his personal life.

2 out of 4 stars
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Rajiv Joseph & Scott Rothman
Starring: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Sean Combs, Frank Langella, and Sam Elliot
Rated: PG-13

There are shades of Major League in this movie, but history was unkind to the production. Major League was a comedy about the Cleveland Indians baseball team which had been terrible for a long time but suddenly puts together a bunch of misfits for a pennant run. The reality meshed with the fiction, for the Indians, by and large, have remained an underperforming franchise. But in Draft Day the entire narrative pivots around a trade made by the Seattle Seahawks and the Browns on the morning of draft day. Seattle, you see, is also under pressure to produce a winning team. They have the number one pick which means they were the worst team during the prior season. They want to use their pick to draft a star college quarterback. Here, reality’s rubber doesn’t even come close to the road. The Seahawks won the Superbowl last year and have a young, star quarterback who will be with them for years to come.

If you are not a football fan, you likely won’t know or appreciate any of this. But if you are (as is this reviewer) then it is quite hard to square the fictional narrative with reality. I’m sure when the script was written and the movie produced, Seattle’s prominence as a team could not have been foreseen. Still, I wonder how much gusto will be taken out of Draft Day due to Seattle’s championship last year.

Adding to this oddity are many of the conversations that take place in Draft Day. Much of the dialogue feels as if it would have been said months and weeks prior to the actual day of the draft, but in the movie it’s crammed in for expository purposes, which is a drag. Again, if you aren’t a football fan, you probably won’t notice it, but if you are you may feel disengaged from the story.

Screenwriters who don’t like expository writing, whether they are football fans or not, will certainly cringe at lines such as “How’s my favorite super agent?” and, ten minutes later, “How’s my favorite strength coach?”

If the dialogue is strained, the editing is interesting. There are a number of split screen scenes in Draft Day, but oftentimes the characters, who are in separate cities, seem to bleed into each other’s space, which is a nice effect and one I can’t recall seeing before in a movie.

A word about Kevin Costner. If there’s anything he’s known for in his long career it is the sports movie. From Bull Durham to Field of Dreams to Tin Cup to, now, Draft Day, Costner is more prolific in sports films than John Wayne was in Westerns (that’s an exaggeration). Perhaps more in the way of a sharp observation, I’ve always marveled at the way Costner does comedy. I don’t think he’s laughed or even smiled in any movie he’s ever done; but he still can be quite funny and does the deadpan better than anyone.

Clint Eastwood is funny because his face is so weathered and his manner so gruff it’s obvious when he is mugging for a laugh. But Costner is subtle and we aren’t laughing at him the way we do at Clint. We’re not even laughing with Costner (because he doesn’t), but it’s no mistake that so many of his films are built around the unique tone and bearing he brings to the screen.

Draft Day is just such a movie, and if the script were stronger it would have been one of his better films. Unfortunately, there’s too much packed into the movie. There’s a domestic angle involving Jennifer Garner and some scenes with Costner’s character’s mother which feel forced into the narrative to not much effect. In addition, I wonder how real life coaching staffs and behind the scenes sports folks will react to the movie. Will they say it’s accurate or feel they are being mocked?

In my review of the Clint Eastwood sports movie Trouble With the Curve, I noted how preposterous the conclusion was. Something similar happens in Draft Day, where it seems all the work staffs do to get ready for the NFL’s draft can be thrown out the window at the last second as the GM wings it. There’s dramatic license in writing and movie making, but there’s also absurdity. It will be interesting to see the reaction from those in the know.

Draft Day does continue the trend of sports movies in which the focus is not the field of play or the players themselves. Trouble With the Curve took a look at baseball scouts. Moneyball was about baseball statisticians. Draft Day examines the most important off-field day of the year for football front offices and coaching staffs. In this sense, it’s a compelling look at the inner workings of a sports franchise and the hair-thinning pressures placed on the men and women who run them.

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Five Things You Need To Know About Pro Gaming http://blastmagazine.com/gaming/gaming-news/five-things-need-know-pro-gaming/ http://blastmagazine.com/gaming/gaming-news/five-things-need-know-pro-gaming/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 11:54:51 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92438

While many of us stick to gaming as a purely recreational activity, some players out there make it their living. Pro gaming is a serious industry and one that gives fans and gamers alike the chance to step things up a gear.

The rise of social aspects and online multi-player features in modern gaming has given titles a global reach, and allowed a new sense of competition to take off. If you’re dreaming of breaking into world of pro gaming, and earn some extra money from your talents, then here are some things you should know first.

It takes a lot of time

You can’t just pick up a controller, launch GTA V and expect to be on your way to earning the title of pro gamer. It’s a lot more complex than that. Firstly, the most lucrative and popular competitive titles are often in the strategy format and are extremely complex and time-consuming to master.

Secondly, it’s not necessary an enjoyable experience. You may be happy playing for hours at a time but Kevin “Purge” Godec, a skilled Dota 2 player, has a commonly repeated mantra that it takes at least 10,000 hours to become a master. In addition to this, many games carry an open hostility towards new players, which can simply suck all the fun out and put hardcore gamers off.

You have to be fast

Button bashers have no chance in surviving the world of pro-gaming. As previously mentioned, many of the top competitive titles require a fast and strategic mind. The best real time strategy competitors can exceed more than 400 actions per minute, including issuing orders and selecting objects. Unless you can move at this lightning-fast speed, you have little hope of posing any real threat to the guys at the top.

You can build a fan base

Enough with the negatives. Although it is an extremely difficult and challenging career to break into, pro gaming does come with a bundle of rewards. Many of the professionals report having an avid entourage, consisting of fans and groupies. As well as having the potential to generate a following, your action could be watched a lot by your supporters and competitors.

Twitch, the pro gaming premier online platform, allows social engagement and the chance to stream videos of gameplay. The average viewing time on Twitch is 28 minutes, with 58% of users spending over 20 hours a week on the service. Last year, the average Twitch user watched a massive 106 minute of gameplay per day.

You can earn a lot of money

Twitch not only allows you to get your skills known, it’s also a chance to make money. Pros have the option to join a partner program, build up an online audience and profit from a cut in ad revenue. Utilising these services can mean big bucks, with Twitch partner Roberto Garcia making around $96,000 annual income, without even being in the top player ranks. Not to mention the skills you learn are transferable to sites such as royalvegas.com, where you can subsidize your earnings further.

Alternatively, you can try to break into the glamorous world of tournament play. The cash prizes for winning major competitions can be staggering, with the most elite events boasting a standard prize pot of between $2 million and $3 million.

South Korea is the place to be

South Korea is actually the capital of the global pro-gaming scene, thanks in no small part to the fact that the country boasts the world’s fastest internet connection. The gaming culture is prevalent in South Korea, where celebrity status surrounds the crème de la crème of players.

This is also where the big bucks can be found. South Korea leads the world in total e-sports winnings with $17.6 million. Some professionals in the country are netting an annual income of more than $470,000: significantly more than the average income of around $16,000. It is also home to the world’s most successful player Jae Dong Lee, who has netted over half a million dollars from games such as StarCraft.

If you want to move into the big league, then you’re going to have to move to South Korea first.

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In Eerie, self-fulfilling prophecy, The Ultimate Warrior gave his own eulogy hours before his death http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/eerie-self-fulfilling-prophecy-ultimate-warrior-gave-eulogy-hours-death/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/eerie-self-fulfilling-prophecy-ultimate-warrior-gave-eulogy-hours-death/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 23:23:29 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92430

I’ll be honest. I’m sad. I was a kindergartner, but I remember Wrestlemania VI. It’s the favorite of my brother and me. We’d rent the VHS in the years that followed and re-enact every move of The Rockers, Earthquake, Rick Martel, and especially The Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan.

Warrior, aka Jim Hellwig, died late Tuesday night in Arizona at age 54. Less than 24 hours before he suddenly collapsed, he appeared on WWE Monday Night Raw to celebrate his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame the previous day.

Nobody knew that this would be the last time we saw The Ultimate Warrior. I was so excited that he was “back” in the business after so many years of anger and bitter separation from the company. I never thought the WWE was fair to him. They tried to erase his legacy — more so they tried to discredit it with an at-best inaccurate, at-worst horribly libelous DVD in 2005.

This was it, though! He’s back. He has years to reconnect with the WWE Universe. We’d see him every few months and be reminded of the old glory. He’d put over young stars. He’d shake the ropes. It was an enormously positive feeling.

Then it was gone.

Instead of giving a preview of things to come, Warrior was giving his own eulogy. And it was a hell of a eulogy:

Speak to me, Warriors! As I thought about what I was going to say this evening, it’s been hard for me to find the words. [Puts on mask.] Well then, you shut up Warrior, and let me do the talking.

No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe a final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others, and makes them bleed deeper, and something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever.

You, you, you, you, you, you are the legend-makers of Ultimate Warrior. In the back, I see many potential legends, some of them with warrior spirits. And you will do the same for them. You will decide if they lived with the passion and intensity. So much so that you will tell your stories and you will make them legends, as well. I am Ultimate Warrior. You are the Ultimate Warrior fans. And the spirit of Ultimate Warrior will run forever!

Rest in peace, Warrior.

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“Game of Thrones” – Two Swords season premiere review http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/game-thrones-two-swords-season-premiere-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/game-thrones-two-swords-season-premiere-review/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 20:51:39 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92421 680x478

4.5 out of 5 stars

As bleak as the world of Westeros seems, this episode DOES end with hope on the horizon. While Arya’s dark grimace as she rides her white horse is troubling (and she has become the poster child for PTSD), the Stark sword is reborn through her “Needle.” Currently, the scorecard favors the Lannisters. But mostly because of addition by subtraction. Ned, Catelyn and Robb—DEAD. Sansa is a Lannister. Theon, once loyal to Winterfell was instrumental in its demise and now has been disowned by his birth father due to his clipped manhood. Jon Snow is at the moment still a member of the Night’s Watch. So it is the puppies who must grow into their roles as the wolves of the house. Bran, now beyond The Wall, is absent from this week—as well as Rickon who is under Osha’s protection. Arya, with a big assist from The Hound, makes the most headway in her campaign to restore the Stark name.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two characters with the most transformative potential are young women. Daenerys Targaryen has a substantial army now. Between the Unsullied and the slaves of Yunkai, she’s got to have over 10,000 able-bodied soldiers by now. Plus, she has her triumvirate of protectors: Jorah Mormont, Ser Barristan Selmy and Daario Naharis. And let’s not forget the dragon triplets she birthed back in season one. How legitmate could her conquest of Westeros be? With the preoccupation of the White Walkers and the building resentment toward the reigning family, I’d say it’s absolutely legit. Everywhere she has gone, she has added to her following. She has recruited disciples not through intimidation, but adoration. And yet she is ruthless to those who wrong her. Sounds a lot like Arya Stark. Considering the accomplished swordsmen who have schooled her, Arya could have the skill and the spine to bring the new Warden of the North—Roose Bolton—to his knees.

If there’s one thing creators David Benioff and D.B Weiss have been deliberate in depicting it’s the overbearing nature of the patriarchy and its resulting misogyny in the Thrones universe. So who else could bring down the powers that be other than a defiant young woman? While the two swords of the title likely refer to those Tywin Lannister forged from Ned’s Stark mammoth blade—or the Stark swords, one destroyed and one reclaimed—or even the two swords GreyWorm and Daario Naharis gamble with, for me the two swords that clang the loudest are the twin female oppositions to Joffrey represented by Daenerys and Arya. Ironically, it is those without plalluses that carry the biggest sticks. In a show criticized for its excessive female nudity, one can be pleased to see the evolution of these feminist champions taking center stage in this premiere.

Clearly, you see where my allegiance lies. The Targaryen and Stark daughters are by far the characters I’m rooting for the hardest. But there’s an abundance of plot left to delve into. Like the mesmerizing intro sequence, I’ll be bouncing around the map to bring you up speed on the goings-on in Westeros and across the Narrow Sea.

King’s Landing

As already mentioned, Tywin Lannister sets the tone for the fourth season with a grand gesture worthy of him. He melts down Ned Stark’s legendary steel to craft two new Lannister swords (the only newly forged Valyrian steel swords in the land) and put a period on the War of Five Kings. It signals not only the downfall of House Stark but the supremacy of the Lannisters. The thrill of victory doesn’t last long though. Jamie, after receiving his new weapon, disappoints his father greatly by refusing the lordship of Casterly Rock.

Daddy doesn’t believe his eldest can retrain himself as a lefty swordsman, so he asks him to resign from the Kingsguard and rule over their homeland in his stead. Jamie refuses to break another vow—he’s already called the Kingslayer and the Man Without Honor for crying out loud—and has no interest in a wife or children. While Tywin is the hardest father to please in the land, I might have humored him if I were Jamie. His odds of dying in the line of duty are literally doubled, he has to serve the most insufferable nephew-son in the Seven Kingdoms AND he’d have an excuse to break it off with his sister-lover. However, as miserable an existence as it is, it’s the only one he knows.

Forever the family punching bag, Tyrion is dumped with the drudgery of greeting guests to Joffrey’s wedding along the Kingsroad. In particular, he awaits the Prince of Dorne, Doran Martell. Apparently, like half the families in Westeros, there’s beef between the Martells and the Lannisters. It turns out the prince isn’t coming. He has the sniffles or something. So the ruling house of Dorne sent their second son and renowned warrior Oberyn Martell in his stead. This makes Tyrion anxious because Oberyn a.k.a The Red Viper’s reputation as a hothead precedes him. Tyrion deduces he has probably hit the brothel already. He describes Oberyn as having “fucked half of Westeros” and has been traveling for weeks. He asks Bronn, “Where would you be?” Bronn retorts, “I’d probably go to sleep, but I’m getting old.”

After an entire offseason of hearing about Pedro Pascal’s new character, I was mighty eager to meet Mr. Martell. He didn’t disappoint. Thrones has a knack for big entrances, too. We find Tyrion was right on the money and The Viper is inspecting the women of Littlefinger’s establishment along with his “paramour” Ellaria Sand (evidently like “Snow” in the North, they name bastards after their land’s elements in the desert city of Sunspear). As soon as Ellaria finds an adventurous woman to makeout with, Oberyn overhears someone singing “The Rains of Castamere” in the room over. And suddenly Tyrion’s apprehension over Oberyn’s rage becomes realized. The Lannisters cousins don’t do much to smooth things over. They joke that the Dornish man needs no woman. His standards are so low a shaved goat and olive oil would suffice. Oberyn returns his jabs with one about how the Lannisters are not golden lions, but simply pink men too slow to the draw. A few tense seconds later, the Lannister reaches across his body and immediately has his wrist driven into the table by Oberyn’s knife. Blood spurting, he suggests to his cousin that he tend to his wound before it’s irreparable.

It’s at this moment that Tyrion walks in, too late for intervention. After his brutal atttack, Ellaria attacks his mouth and makes it quite uncomfortable for Tyrion to welcome him. The pair of second sons go for a walk, and initially bond over their status as family embarrassments, but when Oberyn brings up the last time he was in the capital, the mood changes. As far as exposition dumps go—and with the vast history of Westeros, they happen often on this show—it was fairly elegant. Oberyn’s younger sister Elia was the wife of Rhaegar Targaryen—older brother of Daenerys, and heir to the throne of their father, The Mad King. Rhaegar, however, had his eyes on Lyanna Stark. His “kidnapping” of Ned’s sister started the war that would lead to Robert Baratheon overtaking the throne. But what really gets Oberyn’s blood boiling is what the Lannisters did to his family. His niece and nephew were swaddled in Lannister colors and slaughtered, and The Mountain raped and sliced his sister in half. So, he is understandably pissed to be back in the company of the Lannisters.

Another spurned child of a prominent house, Sansa Stark, is rejecting food offered to her by Shae. Tyrion tries to console her (as Shae looks on jealously), but it’s hard for her to feel anything but contempt for her new husband. While he certainly does not represent Lannister interests, he wears the same colors as those who ordered her mother and brother to be slaughtered. Tears drip down as she describes the horrific treatment of their bodies by the Frey bannerman. Tyrion eulogizes Robb simply as a good man he didn’t know. Catelyn, he expresses admiration for, despite her wanting to have him executed. Even he recognizes her fierce defense of her children.

Back at his quarters, Shae is laying on his bed undressed. With all his stresses, he can’t bring himself to satisfy her sexually. Shae attributes his reluctance to a budding love for Sansa, though he vehemently denies it. She grills him about Varys appraoching her with a sack of diamonds requesting she leave for Essos, but he has no idea to what she’s referring. When Shae leaves in a huff, another handmaiden sees her. Later, that same handmaiden reports to Cersei, so next week might be a rough week for Tyrion.

Speaking of the incestuous queen regent, Cersei gifts Jamie a golden hand that Qyburn helped design with the goldsmiths. Jamie is ungrateful since it isn’t as practical as a hook nor does it help his sword fighting. Jamie tries to get a spark going between them—little sis hasn’t put out since he got back (I feel so filthy and despicable for writing that)! Cersei can’t just pretend like things are back to how they were. And I think her hesitation is valid. The feud with the Starks began because they were spotted doing the nasty and since he left the capital late in the first season, Cersei has been through a ton! She is betrothed to Ser Loras Tyrell now, she survived a (rather short) siege and her son is marrying her soon-to-be sister-in-law. Jamie wants to press reset, but there’s no going back. Cersei and Tyrion discussed solemnly last season about how their misery will only end once all their enemies are vanquished. While for now there’s no contest, their triumphs have only given rise to more enemies.  The relative peace they enjoyed before when their affair was fresh is truly a thing of the past. Cersei believes that Jamie took too long, and her feelings have went with the months that passed in his absence.

My favorite blunt old bat, Lady Olenna Tyrell, is unimpressed with the jewelry selection for her granddaughter. Margaery quips, “Perhaps I should let Joffrey choose—I’ll wear a chain of sparrow heads around my neck.” Her grandma cautions her from those sorts of comments, even in the safety of her company. Brienne of Tarth interrupts their chat and I love Lady Olenna’s astonishment. Her remark that she is “absolutely singular” is dead-on. Brienne walks off with Margaery to tell her what she saw when Renly was murdered. She swears by the Gods it was the shadow of Stannis Baratheon. As she thanks Brienne for her honesty we see a new, redonkulous statue commissioned by Joffrey—the boy king standing atop a vanquished wolf. He’s TOO much.

Then there is a beautiful transition from his statue to his statuesque pose as he is briefed about wedding security by Jamie. Joffrey mocks his uncle-father for having such a small excerpt in the Kingsguard Book of Brothers after Jamie disses his leadership, saying that Margaery is the beloved ruler and not him. Later, Jamie meets with Brienne where she implores him to get Sansa out of King’s Landing. If you forgot, he made an oath to Brienne that he would return both the Stark girls to their mother. He tries to claim his oath is null and void after Catelyn’s murder, but Brienne won’t let him get away that easily. She wants him to help her escape King’s Landing to where she’ll be safer.

As her ears are no doubt red from their whispers from above, Sansa gets some peace and quiet in the Godswood. She feels she is being followed and is startled when out of the brush appears Ser Dontos, the former knight turned fool that she had saved from Joffrey’s torment on his nameday. He gives her a necklace, the last remnants of his house. He hopes by her wearing it his name will have its last day in the sun. She promises to wear it with pride. She needed a pick-me-up, and Ser Dontos delivered.

Night’s Watch

I didn’t realize how much time we spent in the capital! Well there’s some action elsewhere, too. We quickly are assured that Jon Snow survived. He broods over Robb’s death in true brotherly fashion, lamenting over how he was better than him at everything. Samwell responds that he feels similarly about Jon, except that he is better at reading, to lighten the mood. Jon then meets with the Night’s Watch leadership including Janos Slynt, Maester Aemon and acting commander Allisar Thorne. Jon’s on trial for his actions while living among the Wildlings. I’m glad Maester Aemon said what I was thinking, he should not be punished for sleeping with Ygritte. You just KNOW that every other ranger has paid for sex during their Watch. Eventually he reveals Mance Rayder’s plan to attack Castle Black and Maester Aemon trusts him. When Thorne asks how he acquired the skill of knowing when someone is lying, without missing a beat he says he grew up in King’s Landing. *Rimshot*

Meereen

On the way to another slave city, Dany’s dragons (stunning visual effects in their aging process) fight over a goat corpse. Jorah warns that even their mother cannot tame them. Daario Naharis and Greyworm are gambling over who will ride by Dany’s side by seeing who can hold their sword up the longest.

I’ll use this time to comment on Daario Naharis’ recasting. Michael Huisman replaces Ed Skrein, and while I can already see more potential with Huisman’s ability to play charming suitor and strategic asset, I wish they had found someone who looked even a little like Skrein. While “pretty boy” isn’t a positive in Westeros, he had the air of a man who would lay his life down for Dany’s beauty. Huisman looks more calculated and scruffy. Like he would abandon Dany if she got slightly clingy. It’s nit-picky for sure. Because this premiere presents new and old arcs with grace. It just stuck out as the only moment where I was drawn out of the Thrones universe and into the world of storytelling. I suppose it can’t be helped. And like I said I’ll give Huisman the benefit of the doubt for a few episodes.

When Daario approaches her along the route, Dany definitely seems like she is keeping her guard up while definitely intrigued by this man. He holds out some flowers, but slyly explains he just wanted to school her on the flora of the land she is about to liberate. I like that after Khal Drogo, Dany isn’t eager to hitch herself to a man, but her curiosity makes her human and adds risk and emotion to her so-far rational annihilation of the slave cities.

Dany spots a mile marker of a dead slave girl pointing up the road. Disgusted, she asks Jorah how many more there are…163. They suggest sending some soldiers ahead to bury them, but she insists at looking each girl in the eye before they bury her. She also demands their collars be removed. I wonder what might corrupt her cause? The closer she gets to the throne, I imagine the temptation to be ruthless above compassionate will be strong.

The Riverlands

And of course we end with the best buddy comedy on HBO, Arya and the Hound. The tavern they approach is crawling with Lannisters, but they’re starving. Against The Hound’s better judgement, they stroll in. Arya instantly spots Polliver, the man who killed her friend and stole her sword Needle when she traveled with The Night’s Watch. Then Polliver captured her and imprisoned her at Harrenhal. After a beautifully directed suspense sequence (artfully executed in his first time directing by D.B Weiss), revenge is sweet when after growing impatient with Polliver’s incessant talking, The Hound incites a brawl. Among the shocking death blows are a sword to the groin and a knife turned against its owner and thrust repeatedly into his face. But the bone-chilling Needle poke to the throat of Polliver, courtesy of Arya, steals the show. Let’s not ignore her Karate-Kid homage as she sweeped the leg before making Polliver beg.

How cold-blooded was she reciting the conversation he had with her and her friend before she took his life away? Like I said, her PTSD is problematic, but if we can point to a reason why the Starks continue to diminish in numbers, it’s that they are TOO honorable and trusting. So I like Arya’s chances to shake shit up with her disregard for gore and penchant for vengeance.

Now before I ride off on my white horse with a menacing grin on my face, I want to make a BOLD PREDICTION. Next week’s episode will center around Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding. The episode is titled “The Lion and the Rose.” There has been rumblings that Joffrey has GOT TO GO for a while now. So, for the record, here’s my prediction. The Tyrells orchestrate it somehow that Joffrey drinks a poisoned cup of wine, AND they frame Tyrion. Why? Well, one, the previews for the new season show Tyrion in prison. Two, it’s believable, and both his sister and father would LOVE a reason to have him executed. Three, with Sansa married to Tyrion, they need him gone if they are to go through with the intended marriage of Loras and Sansa. What about Cersei, you ask? I think they try and kill her too and the attempt fails. I could be WAY off, but I think the chances that Joffrey survives these nuptials is slim. And with Shae already doomed, I think Tyrion has just the worst week. I love Tyrion. After Dany and Arya, I root for him the most to buck the system. But he’s also the perpetual punching bag.

What does everyone else think? What are you looking forward to in the new season? Will next week’s wedding end blissfully?

DISCLAIMER: I am not a reader of the A Song of Ice and Fire series. Please, by the light of the Seven, DO NOT DARE speak of spoilers—meaning any plot point or character revelation that hasn’t happened in the TV show—or I will show no mercy. If you are not an avid watcher of the show, I will be operating under the knowledge that you HAVE seen seasons 1-3. So any questions about previous episodes is acceptable. We will only be discussing events as they have unfolded on the show. I am not in the business of comparing two distinct works of art. I’m only here to discuss the merits of the stories as they have been told in the television medium. I respect the books as their own entity, please respect the show as its own thing. Basically any mention of “the books” will not be tolerated. Thanks.

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The Elder Scrolls Online: Early Access Impressions http://blastmagazine.com/features/elder-scrolls-online-early-access-impressions/ http://blastmagazine.com/features/elder-scrolls-online-early-access-impressions/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 21:00:17 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92408

Screenshot 2014-04-01 20.29.03

It wasn’t until I got off the boat at Davon’s Watch that I realized how far I had come. In an attempt to become fully immersed in the universe, I have always played as a Dark Elf in the Elder Scrolls games and, despite the centuries in between the respective storylines, I imagined them all being part of the same lineage. This is why I was a little bit emotional when my Dunmer, Marchamp, had finally made it back to his home province in Morrowind, a trek that took me twelve years since I first played Elder Scrolls III.

However, my journey did not start there. Like all other members of my family (at least the ones that matter) Marchamp’s journey began in a prison. Here, in an unknown part of Oblivion known as Coldharbour, I built my character. Unlike the previous Elder Scrolls games, there is a significant focus on streamlining the creation of your online persona. Choosing a race does not affect your starting attributes past a few bonuses and race specific spells. Everyone starts out at level zero for all their skills, the race you choose will only determine how fast you can level up in a certain skill tree. There are also only four classes, Dragonknight, Sorcerer, Templar and Nightblade. These only determine the special abilities you can use, not the weapons you are restricted to like the previous games.

Screenshot 2014-04-01 20.15.51

Another race specific attribute comes in what style you can craft your gear in. Thankfully the game does a good job at showing you what a high level build will look like so that you can make your cosmetic choice carefully. It is liberating after stressing so much about what character to build in my previous adventures. Suddenly my Dunmer can wear heavy armor and carry a battle axe, yet still have a high enough skill with the bow to be stealthy; this is all within the first ten levels.

What is extremely important comes in what faction you choose. Without the Explorer’s Pack add on, your race will determine what faction you are in. Dark Elves, Argonians and Nords comprise of the Ebonheart Pact, Orcs, Bretons and Redguards the Daggerfall Covenant, and High Elves, Wood Elves and Khajiit form the Aldmeri Dominion. Each of these factions have different starting quests, and until you get to Level 10 and unlock PvP you are locked in these areas. If you are well versed in Elder Scrolls lore, you’ve already made your choice. If you are new, go with whatever sounds more fun.

With Marchamp perfected to my liking I made my way out of the Whaling Prison. Immediately I encountered familiar enemies that I had previously fought in Oblivion. What wasn’t so familiar was seeing other players battling the monsters as well. Elder Scrolls Online does not ease you into the “online” aspect. Suddenly you go from building a character like you always have, to seeing other people populate your game.

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Either way, what Elder Scrolls Online does very well is making you feel like it is your own game. If you turn off the chat and stick to the main storyline, it really does feel like another adventuring trek through Tamriel all on your own. The main story keeps your attention like any other of the games, and although the side quests are diminutive in comparison with what we are used to, none of them feel like pointless “go here, kill that” tropes.

Leveling is also done in a very Elder Scrolls kind of way. Not once did I feel like I was grinding, nor do I have to kill fifty thousand mudcrabs to upgrade my dual wielding skill. You earn the most XP by completing quests, and if you get any sort of hit on an enemy before it dies, part of those experience points go to you, regardless of who actually killed it. This helps in making ESO feel like one of the most accessible MMO’s I’ve ever played.

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Crafting has grown to become one of my favorite pastimes in the game. Raw materials scatter the land, anything from Iron Ore to Maple to Jute and Rawhide. All of these can be refined at a particular crafting station and turned into the weapon or armor of your choice. It goes past that though, with cooking and alchemy thrown into the mix. Every one of these skills can be learned by any class or character. It will be interesting to see how the raw goods economy flourishes once the in game population grows. Already I was starting to see expert Alchemists crafting potions for their guilds and others selling high level armor at Guild Stores. The crafting system is very well designed. If a weapon is not to your liking, you can deconstruct it to extract raw material or research a trait it might have and use it on something you want to build. If you find books on other kinds of crafting designs, you can also build things in a style other than your race.

In another effort to simplify the Elder Scrolls formula, your inventory is now determined by slots rather than weight. You can carry sixty items when you first start out, with the ability to purchase more space later on. There are banks where you can leave any items for further use and thankfully any crafting material you have in the bank can be used to build things without taking it out. You can’t steal every item on a table like you could on Skyrim, but it is an understandable step back considering the scope of the game.

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So this is where Marchamp is right now. I recently bought a horse which I named Joakim Noah, I am fully enjoying exploring my homeland of Morrowind outside of Vvanderfell, and I’ve joined three guilds with very vocal members and an active community. I even made a friend. I am one level away from testing out the PvP which is why I will hold off on a score for the game until a couple of weeks after launch. From the looks of it, the server at ZeniMax is doing a fantastic job at keeping all the players connected and removing any type of queue.

What amazes me the most about the game, however, is how personal an experience it is despite the presence of so many other players. When you leave a city and simply go exploring, and the Elder Scrolls theme comes on, you know you are in a very familiar, yet foreign place. From my initial impressions it would be a crime to pass this experience up if you are an Elder Scrolls fan. This is not some side quest; it is a fully fledged new chapter in the saga.

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“Elementary”- The Many Mouths of Andrew Colville (2.19) episode review http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/elementary-many-mouths-andrew-colville-2-19-episode-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/elementary-many-mouths-andrew-colville-2-19-episode-review/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 19:11:16 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92399 We learn more about Joan's (Lucy Liu) past in this weeks episode of Elementary.

We learn more about Joan’s (Lucy Liu) past in this week’s episode of Elementary.

4 out of 5 stars

Sometimes you have to suspend your level of disbelief just enough in order to enjoy an episode of television. It’s something I have a deft skill set for as I spend much of my movie going hours watching stories about super-powered men and women in garish costumes saving the world from over the top, flamboyant baddies.

I can suspend my disbelief with the best of them.

But oh boy has Elementary been testing my abilities with a few of their more recent episodes. The first that made me nearly roll my eyes into the back of my head was when they caught a killer who grew a pair of ears on their back. Also, I was just repulsed.

The second is in this week’s episode where the primary clue was dentures modeled on the teeth of the week’s killer. It’s absurdity, it’s madness! It’s the primary plot of this week’s episode so we all just have to roll with it.

Luckily, Joan Watson and her plights more than pick up the slack and we’re finally given an episode that is Watson-heavy, allowing her plot to shine and her character moments to be the ones that take precedence over everything else.

Admittedly, I was almost instantaneously apprehensive of the episode considering that one of the opening shots is a dead body.

No hyperbole here, it’s about two seconds of an establishing shot and then BOOM death.

A man has been shot and killed with a thief on the loose and one of the dead bodies found has bite marks on their necks reminiscent of a serial killer’s trademark, Andrew Colville, who died years ago.

The thief is found and the old case of the biting killer is reopened with Joan at the helm. Joan wants to see the files from the Colville case because she believes she may have had a brief encounter with the man years prior.

We see a flashback to 2005 when Joan was still a surgeon and working with a Doctor Flemming who was the main surgeon on as Colville was wheeled into the operating room in dire condition after being attacked. Joan wasn’t in a position of power and watched Flemming take in the information that Colville was an organ donor, as Colville whispered something into Flemming’s ear and then did what Joan believed to be a subpar job of saving his life.

Joan goes back to the hospital where it happened to speak with Flemming about it directly. He won’t speak about it at all at first but Joan tells him that Colville may have been innocent—he thinks it’s a copycat murderer on the loose. She isn’t convinced and asks him what Colville said to him and he says it was gibberish. He made a call which is what surgeons do.

She’s beckoned home by Sherlock who has, in his mind, exciting news as the two of them have been invited to look for an abandoned ship. She isn’t as enthused as she is preoccupied with Flemming and Sherlock quickly realizes this as he notes that going alone wouldn’t be fun, only in the right company would it be an enjoyable experience for him.

Joan tells him what’s wrong and his demeanor shifts right into work mode and he begins to look over the case with her. A nice reminder of how he’s there for her just as much as she’s there for them. There’s a developing codependency between the two of them.  Despite him helping her out he is not supporting of the guilt she’s feeling over a case that was well out of her control. His way of setting her straight is putting them on the task force of finding the murderer who’s out on the streets now.

To start out they need to go back and ask their friendly anonymous hacker group for help and a couple hours later along with a sore arm they’ve gotten their first lead with a file full of dental records.

Joan stays up all night and finds who she believes to be the lead suspect, Alan Taylor. They’re proven wrong when the man is brought in and shows that his teeth aren’t his own but a set of dentures that were given to him while he was in prison. He says there’s likely a handful of men out in New York currently that have the same pair.

This means that Coleville was the model for the dentures, making the case all the more tricky to narrow down and a little silly.

They visit the attending dentist at the prison where Andrew was held and learn that the dentist who came up with the denture plan passed away a few years ago but that his assistant still worked there. They get records of anyone who received a pair and narrow it down to four men and bring them in for interrogations. None of them fit the bill though and are sent away.

Captain Gregson warns their little team that things are about to get messy with the case re-opening. It will cause a stir in the media and will likely upset Andrew’s family and drive them into looking for a lawsuit. Which leads Joan into more self-inflicted guilt as well as looking further into Doctor Flemming who she can’t help but feel some doubt for after his comment about “making calls.”

She tells Sherlock all of this later as he finds the boxes of Flemming’s files. Sherlock tries to dig at Joan’s current psyche and asks her what she was feeling on that night. She says that sure she thought the world might be a better place without Colville but she would never do anything to get in the way of saving a man’s life. Sherlock tells her that he believes this is all about Joan needing to forgive herself. She was is no place in 2005 to make a call that would have caused any sort of change and if she had reported Flemming she could have received backlash. Some of the best scenes in this week’s episode—and many of the shoes episode’s—are the quiet moments between the two characters. Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller’s rapport shines when they’re allowed moments of nuance. He doesn’t have to be overtly affectionate and she doesn’t need to be overtly reciprocal of what he’s saying, but we understand the warmth he’s offering and the appreciation she feels.

Their next revelation is the assistant at the prison, Stan, who was suspicious when being asked about files they had kept. They soon learn that he had been convicted of sexual assault and had been in prison when he started working as a dentist’s assistant and had simply continued when his sentence was finished. He had realized they’d be on to him and had left his apartment. The duo track him down and when they find him are less than impressed. He has been taking a doctored chemical solution to self- castrate himself and had stopped taking it months before. His body was left damaged and they realize in his weakened state he couldn’t be the killer.

Flemming calls Joan and tells her to back off. He tells her that he holds all of the cards and tells her that Andrew had whispered to him that he had killed the two women he was convicted for—believing that Flemming was a priest there to give him his last rights. That’s all he has to offer Joan and asks her to leave.

Later that night, as Joan is watching the news, Colville’s mother appears on the news damming the people who falsely convicted her son, she comes to her last lead. Colville’s mother was talking about the lawsuit and if she won would be receiving a large sum of money. On top of that bit of information it was known that Colville’s household was never a happy one.

They get a warrant for her house and Sherlock snoops a bit as Joan distracts her and he finds a pair of the dentures Andrew had made, incriminating the mother. Turns out she had orchestrated all of the recent murders to mirror her son’s all for the money.

Later we watch as Joan burns her files on Flemming and Sherlock walks in. She says that nine years ago as she watched Andrew die she was thinking about they why’s and the how’s. About what his death would mean and that’s not what surgeons are supposed to do. They don’t think about who the person was or what they’d done, they simply act and hopefully save a life.

No, Sherlock agrees. He says that sounds like a consulting detective.

Again the last moment of the episode leaves us on a high note as we learn along with Joan that maybe she’s always had this skillset lying beneath the outer surface. That even before she lost her patient she was always suited for something different.

It’s a fine episode that verges into campiness every once and a while but it still feels by the books. Nothing big happens; nothing piques my interest for the remaining episodes. It’s as if with each passing episode I keep expecting some big turning point to come and it doesn’t. The promo for next week’s episode looked at the very least more action-driven so if anything, maybe that will be the episode to rejuvenate the last few episodes of season two.

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5 reasons why the How I Met Your Mother finale was perfection http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/5-reasons-met-mother-finale-perfection/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/5-reasons-met-mother-finale-perfection/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 05:26:55 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92393

Once, a very long time ago, I was an avid How I Met Your Mother fan. I loved the premise of the show, the actors, the storylines, all of it. A few seasons ago I lost my interest in it. Perhaps because they were slowly but surely growing up, settling into their lives as parents and husbands and wives. Whatever the reason, I stopped watching it regularly and only gleaned information about it from various tumblr users. When I heard about the series finale, I contemplated watching it despite my concerns as to how they’d wrap up a show I used to love. I decided, after seeing endless bloggers describing their hatred in overwhelming detail, that I couldn’t miss it. And honestly, I don’t understand what all the negativity is about. The show came around full circle, in the most perfect way. I looked deeper at some of the angered fans’ remarks, to get some sense of why they hated it so much. To all those who hated the finale, here are all the reasons you should actually love it. If you’re reading this I want to assume you’ve seen the finale already. But, if not, spoiler alert. You have been warned.

  1. They didn’t throw Barney’s character development away. Contrary to what everyone else seems to think, all of that growth didn’t just vanish. He was handling something that was completely new and unpleasant for him, a divorce. Everyone deals with things in their own way, and for Barney it was reverting back to his lethario past. His capacity to love, and the emotions he slowly revealed were still right beneath the surface. And it took looking into his daughter’s eyes for the first time to pull it all right back up. He needed to find love again to allow himself to be the Barney everyone came to know and love. It’s human nature to revert back to old behaviors in times of struggle. So if anything, I see Barney’s actions throughout the finale to be incredibly realistic.
  2. Yes, it is very sad that the mother died of an illness. And yes, there should be a grieving process. However, Ted and his children shouldn’t be depressed until the end of time. I’m not saying they should forget about her, not at all. But at some point, he has to move on with his life and find someone new. They had six whole years to deal with the loss, and to come to terms with it all in their own way. I’m sure there was plenty of crying, and late nights spent as a family in the living room sharing stories and looking through old photographs. I don’t doubt for a second that there was grieving, and neither should you. Just because they chose not to document the grieving process is no reason to be angry. People move on, it’s how the world works. Ever heard of the five stages of grief? Well the last stage is acceptance, and that’s exactly what the Moesby’s did. Accepted the reality, stored up the best memories, kept her in their hearts, and pushed forward.
  3. Ted ending up with Robin was actually brilliant, if you ask my opinion. I will admit that I am biased, considering my adoration of that couple, but that is beside the point. For starters, they made a pact years before promising they’d get married if they were forty and single. (I’d like to think that after the credits rolled they fell in love all over again, and spent the rest of their lives together as husband and wife.) And secondly, it paints a beautifully realistic picture. Sometimes you don’t get to spend forever with the person who is seemingly perfect for you. Things go wrong, the love can fade, or they could even pass away. The writers showed through Ted and Robin’s relationship that there can be love again. Even when you think the only person you could ever truly love is gone. Plus the reason their relationship didn’t pan out is because they wanted entirely opposite things in life. But he got his family, she established herself in the world of broadcast journalism, and now those things are no longer roadblocks to their otherwise happy relationship. Of course I may be unable to convince you that Ted and Robin winding up together was the perfect end for a not so perfect story. Especially if you happen to be a fan of Barney and Robin, like most. All I’ll say is, he stole a blue French horn for her.
  4. This brings me to Robin and Barney’s divorce. Even those who think they are meant for each other may not make it to the end. It’s the cold, hard truth of the matter. These two were depicted as remarkably similar throughout the entire run of the series. And, I will admit, it was clear that they were very much in love. But at the end of the day, she wanted her career more than she wanted to play housewife and there is nothing wrong with that. Not all marriages work out, we can’t all be Lily and Marshall. It is sad, and I can understand how the shippers feel let down. But it stays true to the real world, and I can appreciate a show that doesn’t just hand out perfectly happy endings to all. Life is about struggles as well as triumphs, and they captured both of these so wonderfully.
  5. It was a magnificent show, and one episode can’t possibly tarnish the other 207 episodes. People saying things like they’ll never watch the show ever again, and that the other seasons were basically meaningless frustrates me. It was one episode. So what if it didn’t turn out the way you expected. They gave us six wonderful characters who I’m sure practically became a part of your family. And over the course of nine seasons, we watched them grow into adulthood and many of you were probably dealing with the same situations. A ‘bad’ finale doesn’t make a bad show.
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LUFTRAUSERS Review http://blastmagazine.com/features/luftrausers/ http://blastmagazine.com/features/luftrausers/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 20:18:15 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92376

Bullet hell is such a special place. Flying into this Indie golden age, Dutch developer Vlambeer’s newest title, LUFTRAUSERS, brings us back to the time when aerial dominance dominated the gaming landscape.

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Taking command of a small airplane over a vast ocean, LUFTRAUSERS tasks you with destroying as many enemies as you can before you are blown up yourself. The controls can best be described as Asteroids with gravity; a generous boost can propel you in the direction you are aiming but the laws of physics constantly drag you back down. This scheme makes the game very friendly for keyboards and allows for some ridiculous air maneuvers. Despite being categorized as a “bullet hell” shooter, there was some compassion running through the developer’s veins. Your health regenerates if you are not shooting and you can even dive into the water for a short period of time.  Considering you will be facing both air and sea threats, most matches have you pulling moves off that would make even the best pilots pass out.

Developed by: Vlambeer
Published by:
Devolver Digital
Genre:
 Arcade shooter
Platform: 
Pc,PS3, Vita, Mac, Linux
What works:
Intense dog-fighting action | Surprisingly detailed, old school graphics |Difficult, but not masochistic| 
What doesn’t work:
 Takes almost no time to unlock everything | Limited enemy and map variety|
3.5 out of 5 stars

There is a multiplier that stays alive as you blow up your foes, which can make you chase the trouble a la Resogun a few times. To spice things up there are a objectives that show up which have you kill a certain number of enemies or do tasks with a particular weapon. Thankfully they are not maniacally difficult. However, the game does a poor job of explaining exactly what you have to do. I was waiting for a blimp to show up so I could beat an objective but I had no idea if it was randomly generated or I had to destroy a certain number of enemies. Eventually it showed up, but I have no clue what I did to get it to.

Embracing its old school appeal, the graphics hearken back to an old Game Boy Color game, with a two tone color scheme and a rough nerdcore soundtrack. Upon closer inspection though, the amount of detail is impressive, with sweet reflections on the water and a camera shake effect when you blow up a large enemy.

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As you gain points and climb levels, customization options will open up for your ship. You can mix and match your weapon, body and engine to whatever type of game you feel like having. Want to take down battleships? Use the heavy armored body, scatter gun and underwater engine that lets you stay there for as long as you want. The modifications add a bit of variety and extend the life of the game, in which you can unlock everything after a few hours. However, once you unlock the “nuke after you die” mod, achievements will roll your way due to cheap kills. It can be an easy game to break, but the fun is still there.

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Like any game of its kind, how much you enjoy LUFTRAUSERS will depend on how twitchy you like your games. The old-school charm is instantly apparent and taking down a blimp in a mind-numbing dogfight is amazingly intense. There is no story, most unlocks can be earned in a few hours, and you only have one map. Even still it is one of the best arcade shooters in a market that really misses them.

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“The Blacklist” – Milton Bobbit (1.18) episode review http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/blacklist-milton-bobbit-1-18-episode-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/blacklist-milton-bobbit-1-18-episode-review/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 06:27:33 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92364 james-spader-the-blacklist-milton-bobbit-NBC

3 out of 5 stars

This week gave a short glimpse of the show I actually want to be watching. It’s not that I don’t like The Blacklist the way it is, but the prospect of Elizabeth going rogue and making a little family of badass criminal folk with Red and Dembe is unbelievably appealing, don’t you think? Maybe they could get Ressler to join!

In actuality, this only happens for a short segment near the end of the episode and Elizabeth leaves them in a rather disgusted huff, but still, it’s started the cogs in my mind.

The case follows a Blacklister with the unfortunate name of Milton Bobbit, who goes by the equally unfortunate pseudonym of The Undertaker. Okay, seriously, what is up with these names? The Stewmaker? The Courier? The Undertaker? I will confess that my knowledge of the international organized crime underworld is a bit rusty, but I feel like they don’t name themselves like bad Batman villains. Feel free to jump in and correct me if I’m wrong.

We’ll give the Undertaker a pass, however, because his nose is removable and he frequently just walks around with a giant hole in his face like a skull. So perhaps he warrants a Batman villain name. I’m really not sure how or why he got a prosthetic nose; that was all a bit confusing. All I know is that he can reattach it in like three seconds and somehow get it perfectly straight. Good on him, I suppose.

The Undertaker’s deal is that he convinces terminally ill people to carry out assassinations, committing suicide in the process. In return, he gives their loved ones significant amounts of money. We see a taxi driver kill himself and his passenger by hitting a large truck, and a woman burn herself and another man to death at a gas pump. Both deaths look like suicides or accidents, but after Red’s tip, the FBI realizes they aren’t. They’re able to prevent a third man from shooting a politician. “Is this really how you want to die?” Elizabeth asks him, and he puts down the gun. The FBI find that all the killers had a life insurance policy with the same company, and trace the assassinations back to Milton. Based on a tip from his coworkers, the FBI agents find Milton in a cemetery with a hostage. His MO has changed and he’s now taking out the people involved in an illegal medical trial from years early that gave him serious side effects (including, but not limited to, a missing nose). The newly wild and emotionally unstable Ressler ends the stand-off by walking in, grabbing and arresting the hostage, the leader of the trials, and walking off, totally aware and okay with the fact that Milton is going to kill himself.

There, now that that’s out of the way, we can discuss what everyone actually tuned in to see: the fallout of last week’s cliffhanger. Elizabeth finally, FINALLY knows that her husband is a creepy spy man. In his oblivious manipulative way, he asks her to renew their wedding vows. Is that a thing people do at like 30? After he leaves, she goes of the deep end for a few minutes, smashing about their house, and then buckles down and decides to actually deal with life. It’s thrilling, because I feel like I’ve spent all season waiting for this silly girl to pull her head of the sand and grow up. In this episode, she finally realizes that everything is not okay, and that she needs to fix it. I love Elizabeth this week and I hope this is an upward trend I’m seeing.

To deal with the problem, she goes to make herself a nice serial killer billboard. I’m pretty sure I could have spent a whole paragraph questioning the usefulness of a serial killer billboard, so I’ll just grumble quietly to myself this week. Red arrives with some sandwiches (Eartha Kitt’s recipe, of course), but Elizabeth wants to know the secrets he’s inexplicably hiding. Red tells her that he noticed Tom buying fake passports, tipping him of to the duplicate nature of the man, and that he likely is getting close to Elizabeth because of her connection to Red. “How are we connected?” Elizabeth screams in response to that, smashing and destroying more things, but I think they’re probably warranted this time considering he still refuses to tell her or explain why he won’t tell. “Right now the only thing that matters is the immediate threat: your husband. Finding out who he is and who he works for. The rest will come.” Translation: “I need to string that out until at least the season finale or the producers will get mad at me, hun.” Lizzy, never one to sabotage her chances at a season three, acquiesces.

Later, Elizabeth tells Red that she’s really uncomfortable with pretending to love Tom and sleeping with him and all those things that are terrible when you know the person in question is spying on you. Red basically says, “Tough, cause I need help tracing the organization that’s spying on me.” Stay classy, Raymond. To accomplish this, she manages to invite all her friends, including Tom’s “brother,” over on short notice and surprises him with a vow-renewing ceremony the very next day. The brother, Craig, another spy, thinks Elizabeth is onto them, but Tom is sure he knows how to read his wife. Yah, you’re doing great buddy, especially considering her vows end with “I have a feeling this is going to be one hell of a ride” and you don’t pick up on any lingering double meanings.

Elizabeth finds a key hidden under a lamp in her house, but can’t identify it. She also gets Craig’s fingerprints, which she gives to Dembe when he stops by. “This paint. What color is it?” he asks about her house’s walls, responding to her answer with a somehow tough-sounding “nice.” Dembe’s cool, guys.

Red meets a friend in El Salvador who can help identify who Craig Keen actually is with the fingerprint, which leads to a funny interaction where they discuss how Red’s apparently slept with the man’s wife. However, Red wins him over, and offers to introduce him to a “ravishing dame who would adore you. She’s slightly cross-eyed and there’s something hypnotic about her gaze.”

After Elizabeth captures him, she leaves him with Red who rants about a Hansel and Gretel puppet show and Bob Ross, which are both about as related as it sounds, all the while threatening not-Craig’s actual mother.

This investigation leads to my favorite part of the episode. Elizabeth finds Red and Dembe laughing at the television with Craig tied up. The three of them work together questioning him, getting him to mention Tom’s real brother in Chicago and a woman named Nikki that is also connected to him somehow. It’s going well until he manages to throw himself out a window to his death. “Okay then.” says Red, before leaving with an order for Dembe to grab the yogurt-covered pretzels from the minibar. It’s really just a short scene, but the rogue pairing of Red and Elizabeth is much more fun than the FBI standing around all the time. With her hiding the truth about Tom from all her co-workers, it seems likely that we’ll get more of this rebellious, looser-wound Elizabeth. Red searches through Harold’s accounts for information on The Undertaker’s clients for some unexplained reason, while Elizabeth goes home and has the creepiest make-out session ever.

In Craig’s last moments, the gang learns about “Berlin,” something related to the people hunting Red. Is it the city, or, as a few friends suggested to me, a person? With all these questions, Blacklist better serve up some answers soon.

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An Evening with the Stars http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/evening-stars/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/evening-stars/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 14:51:07 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92355

As devoted fans, we all wait for our favorite artist to come to town, and to see them live.  However, those hour-long performances are never enough. You keep checking the clock, wishing the night would never end. Even on your way back, you keep listening the band’s songs, recalling the moments you just had.

If you are also a fan of progressive metal bands, I highly recommend you join the progressive metal gods Dream Theater on their “An evening with Dream Theater” as a part of “Along the Ride Tour”, to promote their self-titled album Dream Theater.

Dream Theater performing in Paris. Media credit to Road Runner Records

Dream Theater performing in Paris. Media credit to Road Runner Records

Before I dive into the beauties of this one-in-a-million concert, let me talk about the latest album a little bit.  The album was released on September 24, 2013 in the United States last year through the recording label Road Runner Records.  With the launching of this album, the band added a twentieth album to their discography.  As a fan of the band, I personally believe that Mike Mangini is a great fit to the band. In this latest album, band took a big step into depths of progressive metal and brought their classical influences and elements back to life, working with a great orchestra and having a solo orchestral part for the first time in their twenty two minute long song “Illumination Theory.”  The band hired Eren Basbug to arrange orchestral parts. The arrangements made by this young, yet extremely talented musician, received a great deal of positive feedback from the fans.

Dream Theater in Paris. Media credit to Road Runner Records

Dream Theater in Paris. Media credit to Road Runner Records

The show is amazing; I was especially lucky to see them in Boston. This event was special since they were recording a DVD of the show and thus played with Berklee College of Music Concert Choir and Berklee World Strings, conducted by the great Eren Basbug. I had a few minutes to talk to the guys before the concert and they were really excited to be playing with Berklee Students.  I believe it is good to remember that John Petrucci, John Myung and the former drummer of Dream Theather, Mike Portnoy, were all students at Berklee when they found the band back in 1985. Also new drummer Mike Mangini is a former Berklee faculty member.  The concert took place in Boston Opera house, with Basbug and the orchestra placed in the orchestral chamber and the choir joining the band before “Illumination Theory” was performed.  Although the concert was “seated”, the crowd stood up throughout the whole concert.

The concert lasted nearly four hours and consisted of three parts;  Act 1, Act 2, and an encore, with a fifteen minute break between Act 1 and Act 2. The set list of each part can be found below.  During the break, they showed funny videos related to band. Throughout the concert, the connection between the songs was also maintained by animations and videos, which can be found on YouTube.

Dream Theater's Jordan Rudess performing in Sonisphere, France. Media credit to Road Runner Records.

Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess performing in Sonisphere, France. Media credit to Road Runner Records.

Act 1:

False Awakening Suite

The Enemy Inside

The  Shattered Fortress

On the Backs of Angels

The Looking Glass

Trial of Tears

Enigma Machine

Along for the Ride

Breaking all Illusions

Act2:

The Mirror

Lie

Lifting Shadows off a Dream

Scarred

Space-Dye Vest

Illumination Theory

 Encore:   

Overture 1928

Strange Deja Vu

The Dance of Eternity

Finally Free 

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“The Walking Dead” – A (4.16) Season Finale Review http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/walking-dead-4-16-season-finale-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/walking-dead-4-16-season-finale-review/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 17:29:31 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92339 Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) take center stage in the season finale of The Walking Dead

Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) take center stage in the season finale of The Walking Dead

3.5 out of 5 stars

Well, that was…violent. If you haven’t seen or read about the episode yet, I feel compelled to put a trigger warning here that it contains attempted sexual assault of a minor. If that’s in any way difficult for you to watch and/or read about, I’d be careful about what you consume regarding this episode.

The opening to “A” is a flashback to the idyllic days at the prison, back when Hershel was alive (still sad about it) and Rick was learning to be a farmer. In a flash forward to present day, Rick sits against an abandoned car, shaking and covered in blood.

The plot really starts the day before Rick ends up doused in someone else’s blood. He, Carl and Michonne are on the hunt for food, and they talk about Terminus as they go. Carl wants to know if they’ll tell the people there everything about them and what they’ve had to do to survive. I’m thinking not so much, especially after what happens in the rest of the episode.

Rick teaches Carl about trapping rabbits and tying slipknots, which is a neat throwback to Shane teaching Carl about knots way back when. All this talk about trapping animals both in this scene and in another Hershel flashback had me nervous; turns out it was great foreshadowing for their arrival in Terminus.

The father/son bonding time ends abruptly when a man cries out for help in a clearing. He’s alone, and has somehow managed to get himself surrounded by a pack of zombies in an open field. How he managed to get this far, we’ll never know, because Rick holds Carl back from going in to save him. The walkers eat his face pretty quickly, and it’s definitely in the top five grossest ways a walker has eaten a human on this show. Props as always to the makeup and special effects team for making me regret snacking while I watch.

Another mini-flashback strikes, this one featuring Beth taking care of Judith and a reminder that Hershel gave his watch to Glenn, which is useful information later when one of the Terminus guys pulls said watch out of his pocket.  They’ve done more flashbacks recently than they used to, and I generally like how they’ve been used, especially Michonne’s dream sequence flashbacks. The ones in this episode provide good information and foreshadowing, but overall feel like they don’t quite fit where they’ve been placed.

Present day Rick and Michonne are talking about Terminus by their campfire when a twig snaps in the woods and suddenly Joe has Rick at gunpoint. For a bunch of guys who couldn’t contain their noise in a house, they sure got sneaky out in the woods. Joe says the day of reckoning has arrived, and he starts counting down to when he’ll shoot/beat Rick, but Daryl interrupts him. Good old Daryl; he may have adapted to this group to survive but he’s no traitor. In fact, he offers himself instead of Rick if Joe really needs blood to avenge Lou.

Joe’s not really in a deal striking mood, so he has a couple of the guys start beating on Daryl for telling them the lie that Rick and the others are good people. Another of Joe’s guys (the creepy one who looks like he belongs in Pirates of the Caribbean) grabs Carl from where he was sleeping inside the car. This scene is pretty much straight out of the comics, but I imagine folks who only watch the TV show found it a little much. I mean, I was unsettled, and I knew it was coming. Joe’s plan is to beat Daryl to death, then help themselves to Michonne and Carl. Michonne’s held up at gunpoint just like Rick, but Carl’s already been pinned by the creepy guy.

Just like that, Rick goes into his scary mode, complete with that weird camera angle close-up that always came along with his hallucinations last season. Carl is crying and struggling to get free, and that’s all that matters to Rick. When Joe grabs him and Rick can’t reach a weapon, he straight up bites Joe’s throat out to get free and save his son. Which, naturally, he does, slicing open the creep from stomach to throat. Andrew Lincoln is much better at being scary Rick than he is at being sad Rick. The intensity he pulled out in this scene was incredible.

While it’s heartbreaking to see Carl take refuge with Michonne rather than his father after everyone’s been taken care of, it’s also totally understandable. If I saw my dad literally tear a guy’s throat out with his teeth to save me, I’d be grateful but also definitely not want to go near him for a little while. At least not until he washed his mouth out.

There’s another mini flashback here, with Hershel teaching Rick about ways to domesticate animals and grow crops. He wanted to teach Rick so Rick could teach Carl, and show his son “the way.” He asks which way Rick is going to show him, and a shell-shocked present day Rick is wondering exactly that as he sits outside the car, covered in blood and shaking like a leaf.

Michonne and Carl are inside the car, trying to rest and recover while Rick talks to Daryl outside. Daryl offers him some water to clean up a bit, but Rick doesn’t want to waste it. They sit there side by side and catch up with each other: Daryl shares that he got out with Beth but that she’s just gone now, and he apologizes for Joe’s group. He didn’t know they were tracking Rick until they had found him, and he didn’t know what they were capable of doing. There is so much pain in Daryl’s voice and face (you go, Norman Reedus), Rick immediately reassures him that it wasn’t his fault. I never realized how much guilt Daryl internalized until his breakdown outside the cabin with Beth, but Rick seems to know instinctively that he’d blame himself. He even calls Daryl his brother in tonight’s only aww-worthy moment.

The four of them head off to Terminus, and Rick suggests not just strolling in the front gate since they don’t know who these people are. He has them spread out along the outer fence to see what they can find out, and Carl refuses his offer to stick with him. He chooses to go with Michonne instead, and I’m so glad he did because Michonne finally tells us more about her son. They were in a refugee camp and she had been out on a run when the camp was overtaken by walkers. The fences were down when she got back, and Mike and Terry had been high when it happened so they ended up bitten. She didn’t kill them to prevent their turning, she just waited until they did and then took them with her. She didn’t know they’d end up disguising her as another monster.

The idea of becoming a monster has always been part of the show (after all, everyone turns into a zombie eventually) but it’s been an especially big theme this season. The Governor turned into a monster, Rick was afraid he’d turn into one, and now Michonne is worried Carl sees his dad that way. Carl’s upset not because he thinks his dad is a monster but because he thinks he’s one and that Rick doesn’t realize it. Michonne gives him a hug, and I’m so glad they’ve found a mother/son relationship in each other, even though it’s very different from the ones they used to have. Carl needs someone who isn’t his dad to talk to, and Michonne needs someone to care for.

After their short info-gathering session, they hop the fence into Terminus. There’s a woman recording the message Daryl and the others heard in the car radio, and other folks working near her. So it isn’t just sketchy Mary and her barbeque here, that’s good to know. They’re introduced to Gareth, who seems to be the leader (at least in this building), and Alex, who’s been tasked with taking them to the real welcome wagon.

They meet Mary, who’s apparently the official Terminus receptionist, and she says it was smart of them to come through the back door. She says Terminus has been around practically since the beginning of the outbreak, and that they let people in in order to get stronger. Yeah, by ingesting them. She hands the gang a plate of food apiece but they don’t eat. Instead, Rick wants to know where Alex got that watch from (I told you it’d be good to remember that flashback), or where they got the poncho, the riot gear, or that backpack.

Alex is a terrible liar, claiming to have got them off dead people. Too bad scary Rick mode has already been activated, because he’s not in the mood for this crap. He demands to know where his people are, and it breaks out into a firefight. The snipers on the roof are driving them somewhere (either that or they’re the worst shots in the apocalypse), and the four of them end up in a creepy building full of candles burning everywhere. There are names on the ground, and cries for help coming from somewhere else inside, and the walls read “Never again. Never trust. We first always.” Not only are these guys potentially the cannibals from the comics, but they also have a terrible grasp on sentence structure.

Rick and the others end up surrounded outside, clearly led here by the gunfire just like any other wild animal they talked about trapping. They’re ordered to drop their weapons and get into a traincar marked with an A. Finally, the episode title makes sense. They do so grudgingly, Rick first (as ordered). When their eyes adjust to the gloom inside, they see Glenn and the others emerge from the shadows. Maggie explains that the others (Abraham, Tara, Eugene, Rosita) are their friends and good people. Rick looks like he might recognize Tara which could get ugly, but he doesn’t say anything now.

There’s another flashback to Rick’s days as a farmer, planting crops with Carl and Hershel in the prison yard. Rick playfully puts Carl’s hat on Beth, saying there’s a new sheriff in town and that Carl will need a farming hat now. I can only hope the point of this flashback is to let us know Beth will be back in a big, badass way. Otherwise, why stick it here at the end when it’s supposed to be all suspense?

In the boxcar, Rick says these guys are going to feel pretty stupid when they find out. “Find out what?” Abraham asks, probably hoping Rick has an actual plan of attack in place. “They’re screwing with the wrong people,” Rick replies, dashing all my hopes of an actual cliffhanger. He is lit nicely, with shadows obscuring one of his eyes a la The Governor’s eyepatch, so shit is definitely going to get real next season.

Overall, though, this just didn’t feel like a Walking Dead season finale. Where was the epic ending twist to keep us all talking until October? Where was the breakneck pacing and the nonstop action to make up for any slow episodes that we didn’t like over the course of the season? Where was the major character death? (Not that I’m complaining about that one, it just feels odd to make it through a season finale with everyone pretty much intact). The acting was great, but after all the hype and the great episodes we’ve had this season, the finale was pretty anticlimactic.

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Texas Hold ‘em returns to the movie screens http://blastmagazine.com/the-news/business/texas-hold-em-returns-movie-screens/ http://blastmagazine.com/the-news/business/texas-hold-em-returns-movie-screens/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 14:22:26 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92342

Casinos have long remained an iconic place for gamblers across the world to enjoy placing bets on a plethora of odds-based games in the hope of winning a fortune. Their considerable appeal and attraction is summarized by the millions of people who continuously travel to the most iconic locations in the world, such as Las Vegas and Macau, to savor a rich gambling experience in the most luxurious casinos. Although online casino sites have revolutionized the gambling industry, the excitement, drama and tension that can be experienced within a casino is ideal within movie storylines. This is particularly the case with poker which not only requires considerable mental strength and calculated decisions within each hand of a tournament, but also carries the suspense element that the single turn of a card could change the entire outcome. Poker contains the perfect ingredients to be interwoven into a movie as a predominate feature within the main plot line, or included as a sub-plot to create a twist in the storyline that captivates its audience and creates a box office hit.

Runner Runner

The movie Runner Runner is based upon a popular word from the Poker glossary which means two perfect cards which a player requires to make a hand are dealt on the table during a game. Directed by Brad Furman, the movie was screened across America in October 2013 and received mixed reviews from film fanatics and critics. Runner Runner is the most recent film to date that illustrates the drama and suspense that is associated within gambling and poker, in addition to the underbelly of a popular worldwide culture where billions of dollars are spent every year. David Levien and Brian Koppelman, the co-writers of Rounders, teamed up once again to create a movie that, according to the general consensus, fails to hit the same heights.

Runner Runner is predominately based upon college student Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) who turns to playing online poker in order to raise more funds and solve his financial worries. Furst begins to promote an online poker site across campus in return for commissions to pay off his tuition fees, and becomes an expert player in the process. After the college clamps down on his gambling activities, Furst places all of his savings on an all-or-nothing bet – and loses. Furst believes he has been conned by the online gambling tycoon Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), and travels to Costa Rica to confront him in the hope of having his money reimbursed. Block instantly realizes Furst’s gambling abilities and offers the student a position as a trusted runner for his business. It becomes instantly apparent that Block’s business methods are unscrupulous as FBI agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) threatens to take action. The FBI attempt to encourage Furst into bringing Block down, which begins an intriguing dilemma for Furst who tries to outwit both in his biggest gamble ever.

Gambling in movies

The gambling culture has been integrated into movies for many years as directors perfectly depict the qualities of playing poker and other games in a casino, in addition to the drama and suspense that can be experienced when playing a game. Casino, Ocean’s Eleven and Casino Royale are archetypal examples of box office hits which are orientated around events in a casino, while classic films such as Cool Hand Luke and Titanic also include a poker game in its storyline. This not only adds extra context and meaning to the story arc, but also promotes poker to a worldwide audience who may be encouraged to visit their local casino, or log onto an online poker websites, to follow in the footsteps of their favorite movie stars and enjoy a few hands in a tournament.

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“Supernatural” – Mother’s Little Helper (9.17) episode review http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/supernatural-mothers-little-helper-9-17-episode-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/supernatural-mothers-little-helper-9-17-episode-review/#comments Thu, 27 Mar 2014 12:32:18 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92318 wo0mlsnbfbgpr6k1yh9q
2 out of 5 stars

The big gimmick of this episode of Supernatural was that it was Misha Collins’ directorial debut. Which, I suppose is supposed to be exciting to Castiel fans. But honestly, when I’m told that Misha Collins is directing, all I hear is Misha Collins is not acting. Just sayin’.

I’m sure they all had a lovely time off-screen. But unless he steps on camera, I can’t really appreciate his pretty face, now can I?

This Cas-free episode starts with a woman beating her husband to death when he complains about her meal choice. I can picture my mother watching this somewhere with a morbid sense of satisfaction, cause I definitely complained about her meals one too many times.

In the bunker, Dean is being angsty and obsessive, which sets off a red flag for Sam, but honestly not for me or anyone else because Dean lives and breathes angst and obsessive. Dean assures him that he’s fine, but after Sam leaves he sneaks out a bottle of alcohol and drinks the whole thing, which is also apparently supposed to set off red flags. Again, not sure why, because Dean has been a raging alcoholic for at least nine years now, but okay.

Sam heads out sans-Dean to check out the domestic murder, discovering that the wife has hung herself, leaving blood on the wall. The next day, there are more similarly behaving people in prison, writing in blood and ranting crazy thoughts. They aren’t demons. Sam makes the connection to his soulless days based on their behavior. “Remember that?” he asks. Trying not to, buddy. Dean, hiding out at a bar, tells Sam that he can’t come help because he’s close to an Abaddon breakthrough. “You’re lying to Sam like he’s your wife,” Crowley comments, popping in. Oh, Supernatural, why do you say these things and then get confused when people ship the brothers together? You bring this down on yourself. “Which kind of makes me your mistress,” he adds. He accuses the Winchester of being afraid after using the first blade.

At the police station, Sam overhears an older woman telling a patronizing officer that the demons have returned. Sam pulls the woman, Julia, a former nun, aside, and she immediately assumes he is one of the Men of Letters. Apparently, they came to the town in 1958 with Henry Winchester, because apparently Henry Winchester was the only actual member of the Men of Letters and the show is lying. Oh, and of course Josie, aka Abaddon’s vessel. They came to investigate the suicide of a nun who killed several others and carved an ancient crest into her wall indicating the Knights of Hell.

Back in the day, possessed nuns tied Julia up with a group of others in the basement of a church and Henry and Josie came to rescue her, only to discover Abaddon with the demons. The Knight intends to possess Henry, but Josie offers herself as a host instead, because of her adorable but kind of tragic love for him, giving us the angry redheaded Abaddon we know and love (?) today.

Meanwhile, Crowley and Dean are still hanging out in the same bar having the same conversation where Crowley tells him he’s scared and that he’s growing addicted to the blade and Dean throws out one-line insults. Seriously, that is all these two do for the first half of the episode, over and over again. Fighting, Dean denies Crowley’s claim that he is a lot like Cain. “What’s in that bottle, delusional!?” Crowley snaps back. Yah, sorry Dean. Crowley’s right on this one (and on most other things).

Dean spots another hunter, Jake, which is a rather interesting development, and, recognizing the stranger’s intent to kill Crowley, talks him down. This is actually a pretty lame accomplishment, however, considering Jake is revealed to be working with Crowley. It was a test to see if Dean would save the King of Hell. “Of course he saved me. We’re besties!” says Crowley. “And now he’s ready.” But what is it that he’s ready for?

Sam goes to the now defunct convent, where there is still a creepy nun in the basement, keeping souls in mason jars. The human souls are being harvested from people, like the crazy town residents, across the country, and turned into demons for Abaddon’s army. Sam manages to escape the demon, who chokes him when he begins to exorcise her, but playing a pre-recorded exorcism on his phone. Huh. That’s quite clever, really. He even manages to return the souls to the townspeople.

Outside Sam and Julia have a touching moment where she expresses her shame at not daring to warn Henry of Abaddon and Sam reminds her that she saved lives in the present day by coming to him. It’s a nice moment and a different dynamic than we tend to see in the show. Surprisingly, as the camera pulls away, Julia is not revealed as evil nor killed. That’s a pleasant surprise!

Beyond the final moments and the reveal that Abaddon is harvesting souls, I really can’t think of anything in this episode that I will even remember a week from now. Honestly, I’m not sure anything actually happened in this episode. Nothing changed with Dean, nothing changed with the brother’s awkwardness. We got only one tiny piece of plot advancement at the end, and the monster-of-the-week story turned into a myth arc story, but didn’t actually further the myth arc. Nothing about the episode was distinctly unpleasant and I’ve seen much worse, but boy, wasn’t it completely forgettable?!

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“New Girl” – Mars Landing (3.20) episode review http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/new-girl-mars-landing-3-20-episode-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/new-girl-mars-landing-3-20-episode-review/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 17:38:15 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92311

Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) discuss their future in this weeks episode of New Girl.

Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) discuss their future together.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Technically speaking, this was a strong episode of New Girl. It was tightly written, allowed moments for all of the characters to revel in their comedic antics, and it threw a very realistic wrench in the Jess and Nick pairing—one that many could guess would be the eventual problem, but also one the writers had seemed dedicated to ignoring for much of season three.

Jess and Nick have called it quits and it left me feeling very sad—not a feeling I look forward to in my half hour sitcom. Luckily for me Brooklyn Nine-Nine followed shortly to lift my television spirits.

There are two aspects that make the Jess and Nick break up as effective as it was. The first is that it happened in a very true-to-life manner. There was no side flirtations or cheating, neither of them lied to one another, they didn’t say something accidentally insulting. The best part of their fight is that they can’t exactly pinpoint what started the argument—all they know is that it’s happening and now they have to figure it out. In reality when people in relationships have fights it’s typically something stupid that starts them, something like not being able to choose what to watch on Netflix, and then it just snowballs into everything and anything that you don’t agree about.

It actually seemed as if Jess and Nick had a nice little groove going at the start of the episode.

The night prior the gang had played another round of what seems like the most fun as well as most dangerous drinking game around called True American. Jess wakes up to find them all passed out in the same bed, destined for hellacious hangovers. Hours later Jess and Nick wake up in bed alone and discover themselves to be completely unable to function. Their motor skills are messy due to the previous night’s intoxication and when Nick goes to reach for some water he only manages to knock it over and allows Jess to drink the water hanging on his fingertips.

That’s love.

Jess is horrified to realize that the two of them are supposed to be getting ready to go to a one year old’s birthday party—the epitome of hell for some people on a good day and to all on a hungover morning. They get up to start getting ready and that’s when it begins to fall apart.

Both are struggling with getting dressed as Nick all but climbs into his t-shirt and Jess walks out in a bikini top and Jess is emotional when dealing with hangovers, something that is made worse when she realizes that Nick hasn’t set up the toy they bought as the birthday gift, something she asked him to do weeks ago.

Jess is now envisioning a Christmas years away with their kids, sad because Nick hadn’t played Santa and put the gifts together on time. Nick is more perturbed by the idea that Jess has given thought to their future children. Jess is surprised he hasn’t thought about it at all and begins prodding at Nick about his future plans. His plans range from naming his first born a ridiculous name based off of a lost best and becoming a truck driver and driving to space.

Jess’s future plans involve moving back to Portland and getting her kids into good and safe education systems. For a moment it seems like Nick also agrees with the good education bit until he brings it to the extremes and says that his kids are going to beg for school so that they never hate it and always view it as a gift.

This quickly dissolves into a screaming match where the words break up are mentioned and the two are stunned into a silence. Before they could catch up, the disagreement had turned into something much larger. They try for a while to laugh it off, asking what on earth they’d break up for. They get back to building the toy but it isn’t long before things heat up once again because there were words that were spoken that can’t be brushed off.

Nick tells Jess that he doesn’t understand how she can have her life so meticulously planned out that sometimes in life no matter how well you plan, crazy things can come and knock you off your feet and force you to change your plans. Jess doesn’t understand how Nick can’t plan his life at all and just meander about. Jess is angry that Nick didn’t build the toy and he says maybe it’s because he didn’t want to force a toy on a kid that the parents might have wanted to return, that maybe the family would want to build it together.

Jess yells that all she wants is for Nick to take on more responsibility and he in return yells that he wants her to have a little more faith in him to not screw up.

It’s at about this time that they realize a curtain has caught fire due to a dropped lighter and they have to evacuate the building.

Ouch.

The authenticity in the scene is almost too much given how the show has gone out of their way to ignore how Jess and Nick weren’t the most compatible people. Jess and Nick still look like messes—Jess’s raccoon, pillow smudged eyeliner is a tragedy I understand all too well—and both are aggravated because of their ill state and being more honest because of it. It doesn’t take a lot for a fight to snowball but it does take a lot to reign it back in.

Back in the apartment later, Jess and Nick try and have an honest conversation, despite how much it stings. Nick misses his friend and Jess agrees. They miss a time when they didn’t have to try so hard to be people they weren’t to make the other happy. Jess misses when she could be honest with Nick without fearing a fight like the one they just had. They miss how easy it was. On the flipside though, they both love each other, Nick tells her that he loves her more than he has ever loved anyone.

Sadly, Jess asks, what if that’s the only thing the two of them have in common?

There’s been a break in their structure and they decide to split. Nick walks Jess to her room and for a moment is left alone before Jess runs back out and hugs him, mirroring the shot of when they shared their first kiss. She also ran out though because Schmidt is still living in her old room.

And this leads to my second problem: I’ve been thoroughly convinced since they got together that this pairing worked, more often than not because of Jake Johnson and Zooey Deschanel’s palpable chemistry rather than the writing. I’ve grown attached to the couple despite the pitfalls and to have them wrenched apart after over a season of being told that they work is disheartening. Nick has been written into the man child corner while Jess has become more sensible and if the writers had found a way to equalize the two and lessen the extremities of their personalities they could reconcile the relationship. I hope that this is merely a way to jumpstart the last few episodes of season three, but there was an underscore of finality to the tone of the last few minutes.

There were some B-plots as well that served their purpose but didn’t garner many laughs. The rest of the group is also hungover and stumbling about their day but with less troubling circumstances. The boys encounter the new neighbors, one of which is True Detective’s Alexandra Daddario. However, due to their state of minds aren’t able to make the impression they wish to and instead spend the day plotting on how to get into their good graces. Coach and Schmidt quickly kick Winston out of the plan, thinking he’ll drag them down while instead he actually makes the most traction. He does what the other two refuse to do and offer to help the girls move and in the process learns a lot about them. Of course by the day’s end they all stand on the curb after the fire Jess and Nick started and the girls realize just how weird the three of them are.

Cece is also dealing with the repercussions of her night of drinking as she sees the amount of drunken texts that she sent her new 20-year-old boyfriend. It’s a problem that’s all cleared up by the end and regardless of how well the storyline fit into the episode or not it’s always nice to see Hannah Simone allowed to play up the silliness of her character.

Despite all that goes on it’s undeniably Jess and Nick’s episode and Johnson and Deschanel put in some heartfelt work alongside the physical comedy. I’m sad to see the end of the relationship—temporary or not—and hope this is the jumpstart the show needed. It was a strong episode of New Girl, maybe even one of the strongest the show has had this season. There was a steady build to the concluding break up that left the audience, or me at least, as exhausted as the characters felt.

What are your thoughts on the break up? Is it final or is it going to take the season finale to bring them back together?

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Review: Pharrell Williams’ G I R L http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/review-pharrell-williams-g-r-l/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/review-pharrell-williams-g-r-l/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 14:15:41 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92305

Whether you’d heard of him before 2013 or not, Pharrell Williams has been around in the world of mainstream pop longer than many would realize. It’s not hard to see why he’s been flying under the radar since his first album, In My Mind. The record was almost universally received with a shrug and dismissed as a patchy and incomplete. Pharrell then seemed to disappear as he worked as a writer, producer, and vocalist in collaboration with pop mega-stars like Madonna, Beyoncé, and Britney Spears.

Pharrell's latest album G I R L. Media credit to Columbia Records.

Pharrell’s latest album G I R L. Media credit to Columbia Records.

He now returns with a light, breezy album that pulls all the best from his work for nearly ten years. G I R L is an easy listen that carries you through with energy and urgency. A string of guests follow you throughout the listen, from Hans Zimmer to Miley Cyrus. The record is everything you’d expect from such an influential figure in the music industry.

The album begins with “Marilyn Monroe”, where Hans Zimmer’s influence is immediately present in the opening strings of the album. The full, cinematic style gives way to a catchy beat as Pharrell sings about a woman who outshines some of the most desirable women in history. There is a clear Michael Jackson influence in what could be Pharrell’s next chart topper.

The album then flows into “Brand New” with guest Justin Timberlake. Surprisingly, Pharrell is so confident in his sound that he doesn’t do much to emphasize Timberlake’s presence. Both of their falsettos are put on display in a funk-inspired, feel good song that could get anyone out of bed in a good mood.

“Hunter” builds off of the 70s inspired funk in the previous song, offering a soft, bouncy beat that’s reminiscent of Motown. Despite being about hunting down a girl, it comes off considerably more appropriate than the controversial “Blurred Lines” that Pharrell collaborated on with Robin Thicke in summer 2013.

For a song with clear intentions, “Gush” comes off as more sensual than explicit. It’s a relatively light song with a catchy hook that fits well in the context of G I R L.

There is hardly a soul who hasn’t found themselves dancing to “Happy” sometime in the past month. Originally released last year as a part of the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, “Happy” has found its place in the charts after being nominated for an Oscar. It’s now become the feel good tune for many who can’t help but become swept up in the perfectly simplistic, overly optimistic tone.

“Come Get It Bae” surprises by bringing in guest star Miley Cyrus, who is toned down just enough to fit in with the record. This one could easily do well as a single, as its carefree sound seems like just the beat for a summer hit.

Hans Zimmer returns in “Gust of Wind,” but this time joined with one of Pharrell’s past collaborators, Daft Punk. Most will remember Pharrell’s appearance in the Grammy winning “Get Lucky.” It now seems like the duo is repaying the favor, offering computerized tones that have a clear Pharrell influence.

“Lost Queen” at times seems to throwback to the time Pharrell spent working on Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, containing elements that remind of Ocean’s “Golden Girl,” co-written by Pharrell himself. The tribal, minimalist sound is guaranteed to comfort any who listen to it.

The hidden track, “Freq” is wonderfully alluring, and sets the tone for the remainder of the album. Preceded by a few seconds of rolling waves, this song no longer carries the fast-paced, high-energy attitude as the previous ones. There are obvious sexual undertones that feed off the rest of the record, allowing it to feel like a part of a whole rather than a disconnected track.

“Know Who You Are” with Alicia Keys is exactly what you’d expect from a song with her as a featured artist, with the addition of apparent ska elements. Keys croons along soulfully without being overstated. The successful track comes off as tender and sensitive.

The record ends with “It Girl,” the perfect end to an album that is more of an ode to women and their sexuality, without being insensitive. The end of this track leaves the listener satisfied and tempted to hit the replay button as it comes full circle, ready to pick up right at the beginning of the record.

Overall, the album was about effective moderation. Pharrell didn’t just bring together the stars and offer a stellar performance, but he knew where to stop. His experience as a producer has only helped him with this newest album. Pharrell clearly knows what the audiences want, and delivered with a fun, light album that favors simplicity and effective communication over complex sounds and jumbled concepts.

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Puzzled and wired: Austin’s very own Cathedral of Junk http://blastmagazine.com/culturefashion/puzzled-wired-austins-cathedral-junk/ http://blastmagazine.com/culturefashion/puzzled-wired-austins-cathedral-junk/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 12:51:21 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92258

Vince Hannemann showed me a black and white photograph of his 16-year-old self in his backyard in Santa Fe, N.M. It was then, in 1979, that the sculpture artist started building installation work out of found objects. Ten years later, he moved to Austin, Texas, where he’s been erecting his massive Cathedral of Junk ever since. This project has evolved into a three-story tower of eclectic doodads and nifty gadgets. A unique engineering and artistic marvel, he calls it a “poster child” for the “Keep Austin Weird” saying.

The structure is like a Dada performance of the avant-garde period—a passionate convergence of art, anti-art, politics, and local culture. An overwhelming display of organized chaos: a zen TV garden, beer signs, cables, bottles, bicycle parts, lawnmower wheels—you name it, you’ll find it within the wiring. The Cathedral appeals to quirky sensibilities while offending traditional aesthetics. Perhaps most importantly, the structure reenacts scenes from childhood, exhibiting a space for memory to replay itself.

One of the things that happen here is that people go down memory lane,” Hannemann says. “They see something, and it brings up these memories—usually pretty good memories like, ‘Grandma used to have an iron like that!’” As I walk through the sculptural marvel, it’s like embracing one bizarre dream after another. The surroundings feel familiar yet novel at every twist and turn, nook and cranny. The naked Barbie dolls that greet me in the large room below remind me of all the times I used to dress and undress my own dolls during childhood play. Walking the mosaic, cement-filled tires upward, a sort of spiral staircase, I feel a gentle breeze hum through the vegetation that grows in and around the massive frame. I have a hard time telling whether or not I’m moving within fantasy or reality.

When I come out here, I disappear into my own world. This is my secret fort,” he says. It’s a place for the imagination to run wild. There are no rules, no boundaries. A popular destination for parents who want to take their kids somewhere they can roam free, it’s a spectacular place for endless adventure and discovery. The kids who come here and run around and play are, in a sense, participating in a sacred act. For Hannemann, “Playing is like praying.” It shows the ultimate reverence for life. And so does Hannemann’s reason for architecting the structure: “I just did it because I liked it.” Hannemann, who works from home creating sculptural art for sale, has always lived life on his own terms.

In March of 2010, however, his world began to crumble. Several neighbors had been filing complaints about the structure, and he was told by local officials that he was in violation and needed a building permit for the auxiliary structure. “In order to do that, I had to tear down everything and have an engineer sign off on it,” he says. Tearing stuff down was a traumatic and visceral experience for him, like a physical amputation. “There’s this phantom limb pain I still experience from what is gone here,” he says. No one was allowed in for a period. The whole first part of the cathedral was gone and 60 tons of junk disappeared. During that time, a couple hundred or so locals came through and helped him out. At the end of that process, he finally got an engineer to sign off on the newly improved structure, so the city could issue him a building permit. “It was very motivating to have the public support,” Hannemann acknowledges. “The Cathedral is really a cathedral. It has a congregation, it has a life, and it serves a public purpose. It’s owned by all these other people, not just me.”

My journey through the Cathedral ended where it began—in the little shed out front. On one wall were the old black and white photographs of Hannemann’s own artistic journey. On the opposite wall were countless signatures from visitors all over the world: Uruguay, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Vermont, Georgia, Finland, Japan, Morocco. The wall speaks of the Cathedral’s true spirit for public ownership and access.

What’s your favorite part of the structure?” I ask.

The donation box,” he replies, in total seriousness.

That simple answer makes a lot of sense to me. How is art supposed to maintain its value and vitality, anyway? Through the ongoing support of the people.

“Keep Austin Beautiful.”

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Information for Visiting

Address: 4422 Lareina Dr., Austin, Texas

Hours: Private home. By appointment only.

Phone: 512-299-7413

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Facebook Buys Oculus Rift http://blastmagazine.com/technology/tech-news/facebook-buys-oculus-rift/ http://blastmagazine.com/technology/tech-news/facebook-buys-oculus-rift/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 21:53:00 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92254

The social media giant has just announced that it made the $2 billion purchase of one of the most revered gaming start ups in the industry, Oculus VR. In the press release Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says “”Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.”

The California based virtual reality company has been releasing development kits for the much anticipated peripheral for a few years now with the intention to bring virtual reality to everyday gaming in the near future. The purchase will not be finalized until the second quarter of this year with about $400 million being cash buyouts and the rest Facebook stock, according to Kotaku.

“We believe virtual reality will be heavily defined by social experiences that connect people in magical, new ways. It is a transformative and disruptive technology, that enables the world to experience the impossible, and it’s only just the beginning.” says Brian Iribe, CEO and co-founder of Oculus in a press release.

Facebook recently acquired the mobile texting app Whatsapp for $19 billion and picture sharing database Instagram. Oculus Rift is their biggest non-communication related purchase to date.

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The Most Memorable Moments in the Past Gaming Generation: Part 4 http://blastmagazine.com/gaming/memorable-moments-past-gaming-generation-part-4/ http://blastmagazine.com/gaming/memorable-moments-past-gaming-generation-part-4/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 23:34:11 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92240

We are in the top ten. Any one of this moments can stand on their own as some of the best in gaming period, but we were blessed enough to get to play them in the past decade. Enjoy.

9. The Spider (Limbo, 2010)

limbo-spider

Fear is a hard thing to capture in games. You don’t really feel that level of vulnerability in most games as you do in real life. Even when you are not given any means of fighting, you can still hide. Sometimes games become a type of haunted house, where after a single playthrough, you are as scared as you will even be playing it. Limbo was different. It tapped into a psyche I had not experienced since I was a kid, a type of internal fear of the dark that every child possesses. Wandering those woods, searching for the unknown, you see it. Out of the shadow of a tree comes the monster from under the bed. When that spider chased me, I felt lost, helpless. Vulnerable. I knew this was no haunted house.

8. Walking out of the Vault (Fallout 3, 2008)

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A first impression in a game is extremely important. It sets the mood for what the adventure holds and most importantly, it gives the player just enough of a tease to keep them playing. Fallout 3 should take a Noble Prize for first impressions. While any part of the first hour or so of this highly anticipated sequel could be on this list, nothing made my jaw drop quiet like taking my first steps out of Vault 118. Bethesda has mastered the art of giving players a world to survive in rather than force them down any particular path and my God did they get me hyped to start exploring. Pick your jaw up of the floor.

7. Braid’s Final Puzzle (Braid, 2008)

braid

How often do games turn around on you at the last second? Movies have been using this trope for generations, but few times does your concept of what you were doing in the game flip on you at the very end. As you piece together the puzzle that is Braid’s story you are slowly brought into a tragic love story, one which has you play the hopeless romantic. As appealing as it might seem you run face first into a heartbreaking reality at the very end of the game. Suddenly the ability to rewind time, your best tool in the game, becomes the method by which the obsessive truth is shown to you. It becomes your worst enemy.

6. No Russian (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, 2009)

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How do you follow up the game that put you on the map? Despite garnering a loyal following from the WWII Call of Duty days, Infinity Ward was still playing second fiddle to Medal of Honor for much of that time. In 2007, they make the wise jump to the modern day with Call of Duty 4 and revolutionize the way we play shooters online. Suddenly they are the rock stars of the industry, keeping old and new fans waiting eagerly for their next installment. What we got was more of the same fantastic gameplay, an even tighter online component, and the most controversial moment of the past generation. Less than a decade removed from the 9/11 attacks, Infinity Ward places you in the shoes of a CIA agent who infiltrated a extremist terrorist cell and tags along to a mass shooting inside a Russian airport. Despite never being forced to fire on innocent people, clearly claiming that you are playing the “good guy” in the scenario, and giving you the chance to skip the entire sequence if you are opposed to it, the backlash was clear. Controversy or not, “No Russian” stands as an example of games pushing the envelope, trying something different, and maybe going a bit too far.

5. Who is Comstock? (Bioshock Infinite, 2013)

bioshock_infinite_comstock

From his ivory tower, Comstock is revered as the benevolent patron of Columbia. His power extends throughout your time in the game. Yet, the more you start to understand Elizabeth’s powers, the more you start to wonder who this man really is. Is he really her father? Where does Booker fit into the puzzle? Despite spoiling the majority of endings that are in this list, I will leave this one for you to play through. The understanding of who Comstock is and what his motivations are put some Greek tragedies to shame. It acts as a beautiful social commentary on the American mindset and blows away any preconceptions of what kind of story one might find in a video game.

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“Muppets Most Wanted” movie review http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/movies/reviews-movies/muppets-wanted-movie-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/movies/reviews-movies/muppets-wanted-movie-review/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 21:21:21 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92232

3 out of 4 stars

Disney snatches up anything that isn’t bolted down, and The Muppets have belonged to “The Mouse Almighty” for a decade now. The last Muppet movie was a big success. Loved by critics and audiences, the $45-million picture grossed more than $150 million and even brought home an Oscar for best original song. Now a bit over two years later, it’s time for the sequel, and I’m happy to say that not only is it an entertaining movie, it’s superior to its predecessor.

The movie resumes seconds after the end of the previous movie. The Muppets are a name again and have decided to capitalize on their triumphant return to the stage with a world tour, hiring international tour manager Dominic Badguy, played by Ricky Gervais (pronounced Badgy, wink wink, nudge nudge.) As they head to Europe, “The World’s Most Dangerous Frog”, Constantine, who looks identical to Kermit, escapes prison and takes over his life and Kermit is falsely arrested. Kermit is taken to a prison, while Constantine and Badguy have a plan to steal the royal jewels and are going to use the Muppets to do it. And that’s more than you need to know. The premise, as cliche as it is, pays off because the movie is completely self aware and commits to the insanity and goofiness of it all. It’s a Muppet movie; that means classic characters, musical numbers and celebrity cameos.

To be frank, I did not enjoy Jason Segel’s “Muppets.” It’s a highly overrated rehash brought down by the plot threads of three uninspired, generic characters that took time away from the Muppets you actually came to see. This movie takes a big step away from that and keeps the plot centered on the actual Muppets. The “we have to put on a show to pull ourselves from financial adversity” plot is completely absent and it’s a big breath of fresh air. The character Constantine is fabulous. He has zero regard for the people around him and watching him try to get through life as Kermit is pretty funny. The voice itself is great; the Eastern European accent telling people “whatever” or “who cares” is hilarious. Ricky Gervais is a decent host; they use him sparingly so you never get sick of him. He’s paired often with Constantine so you’re never bored with either of them. Even the character Walter (who I HATED in the last movie) is played on the down key. (By the way, look up Walter on Google images, then look up Princeton from “Avenue Q” and tell me that Disney didn’t steal that design.)

Now the real question is this: What about the Muppets? Yes, they are all present and accounted for. Everyone has their chance to say something, but that’s the problem. They only get one chance. The Muppets cast is so bloated that even old standbys like Gonzo and The Swedish Chef feel absent. There’s even a line in the movie referring to several specific Muppets whose screen time was axed. I don’t want to put the movie down because the balance here is much better than before and even when they leave the Muppets, what they’re cutting to this time is way better than Jason Segel and his girlfriend in the last movie. But I’m still disappointed that the balance isn’t there yet.

Since this is a Muppet movie, it’s a musical and the music here is stellar. The soundtrack is infectious and I found several songs happily stuck in my head for days after seeing it. Muppet movies are full of cameos and this one is no exception. Most of them are pretty good; a few felt out of place but most were funny. Other supporting characters include Ty Burrell as an Interpol agent teamed up with Sam the Eagle, and Tina Fey as a Russian prison warden. Ricky and Ty are the funniest because they are teamed up with a Muppet to rebound off of. Tina Fey has no partner and is unable to carry her scenes due to the dry material she’s given. While most of the movie is constantly funny, the scenes set in the Siberian prison fell flat, Tina Fey’s only joke is the fact she’s doing a Russian accent. There are a few good jokes here and there but on the whole, it’s the weakest link.

My favorite aspect of the movie might be the relationship between Kermit and Ms. Piggy. It’s always been clear that their relationship was rocky but I’ve always loved it when they explored it (as in the episode of “The Muppet Show” when Kermit fires Piggy.) Kermit’s trying to run this business and no one is listening to him and when Piggy shows up and announces that they’re getting married, he has no patience for it whatsoever. It plays even deeper when Constantine arrives and tries to court Piggy. All he has to do is play on her insecurities (which pour from her like a waterfall) and and you end up getting one of the best musical numbers in the movie.

Or maybe I’m just looking at this way too closely. One final note: The last 20 to 30 minutes felt really rushed. I can’t tell you how it ends, but you can probably guess it, it’s that simple. I know it’s a kids’ movie but that’s no excuse for bad writing. I didn’t like the last movie, but I did recognize that a lot of heart and appreciation for the Muppet Show went into it. That same sense of love for the classic Muppets is not carried over.

I’ve always been a Muppet lover but the Muppets haven’t really put out anything to be proud of in almost two decades, but this breaks that mold. The music, cast, humor and plot come a long way. The director, James Bobin, directed the last one and I think he’s made positive steps forward. It’s not perfect by any means but is a big improvement. We have not seen the last of the Muppets; they’ll always be around. What we don’t know is how long it will be till the next one. If it’s similar to this one, I welcome it. I give this 3 “Manamanahs” out of 4.

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What is the environmental impact of Keurig K-Cups? http://blastmagazine.com/technology/earth/environmental-impact-keurig-k-cups/ http://blastmagazine.com/technology/earth/environmental-impact-keurig-k-cups/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 21:09:48 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92229

K-Cups—those little one-serving coffee containers that allow people to brew one cup at a time in a specially designed Keurig brewing machine—are all the rage these days. Each K-Cup is made up of a plastic outer container with one cup’s worth of ground coffee and a small filter inside, capped off with a foil lid. They go into Keurig brewing machines which pierce the bottom of the K-Cup with a nozzle that then forces hot water through the coffee grounds and filter, and then out into the drinker’s cup. K-Cups and the Keurig brewers are convenient and require little to no clean-up while producing gourmet quality coffee for a fraction of the price that a retail coffee shop would charge.

Environmentalists’ beef with the Keurig system is in the single-use, non-recyclable nature of the packaging, given the implications for our waste stream. The individual parts of a K-Cup (plastic, paper and foil) could theoretically be recycled on their own, but the combination is too small and messy for recycling facilities to be able to sort. So our only choice is to throw the whole K-Cup pack, lock stock and barrel, into the garbage. Each pound of coffee consumed sends 50 K-Cups to the landfill. And with upwards of 17 million U.S. households and offices possessing Keurig brewers these days, billions of K-Cups are already ending up in landfills every year.

Keurig Greenountain, the company behind the K-Cup revolution, is on the case about the bad environmental reputation it is developing over the issue. As a first step, it launched its Grounds to Grow On program in 2011 whereby office customers can purchase K-Cup recovery bins and fill them up with spent K-Cups. When the boxes are full, they are shipped to Keurig’s disposal partner, which turns the used coffee grounds into compost and sends the rest out to be incinerated in a “waste-to-energy” power plant. Critics point out, though, that waste-to-energy is hardly green given the airborne pollutants released from incinerator smokestacks and the fact that, in the words of Julie Craves of the Coffee & Conservation blog, recycling is the enemy of the never-ending stream of garbage needed to feed waste-to-energy facilities.

In 2012, Keurig Green Mountain, realizing it still had a lot of work to do on sustainability matters, undertook a lifecycle assessment across its product lines—and set ambitious sustainability targets to achieve by 2020. Chief among them is to make all K-Cups 100 percent recyclable. Other goals include ensuring responsible sourcing for all its primary agricultural and manufactured products, reducing life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of its brewed beverages by 25 percent compared to the 2012 baseline, and achieving zero waste-to-landfills its manufacturing and distribution facilities.

Those who love the Keurig system but are ready to forego the environmental guilt sooner than 2020 do have some options. Julie Craves reports that used K-Cups can actually be refilled with ground coffee and reused. An easier option might be buying a reusable K-Cup—most of them are made out of plastic with a stainless steel mesh filter. Still the best choice for the environment, however, might be getting the old traditional coffee pot out of storage and brewing up several cups at once—just like the old days.

CONTACTS: Keurig Green Mountain, www.keuriggreenmountain.com; Coffee & Conservation Blog, www.coffeehabitat.com.

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“The Walking Dead” – Us (4.15) Episode Review http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/walking-dead-us-4-15-episode-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/walking-dead-us-4-15-episode-review/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 17:51:48 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92222 Glenn (Steven Yeun) takes center stage for part of this week's episode of The Walking Dead

Glenn (Steven Yeun) takes center stage for part of this week’s episode of The Walking Dead.

3 out of 5 stars

So I’m still not over “The Grove” to be perfectly honest. It was just so chilling, and that’s definitely part of why “Us” ends up feeling pretty below average. The bulk of why it feels that way though is that this show follows patterns, and this is the typical softball setup to next week’s cliffhanger season finale.

The episode opens on Glenn and his group making their way along the tracks to Terminus. Eugene is busy trying to dispel mullet stereotypes by talking about dinosaurs and videogames with complicated words and his monotone southern drawl. He’s got Abraham convinced, but something about him just doesn’t sit right with me. You know, besides his obvious creeping on Tara.

Maggie gets to say a big fat “I told you so” to Bob and Sasha, because her bloody messages to Glenn worked, and he takes off running and smiling down the tracks straight into the opening credits. I’ve decided to keep track of the genuine smiles that happen in this episode because my prediction is that next week’s finale will be exponentially awful to the characters depending on how much they smiled this week. So Glenn’s grin here takes the number one spot.

Our second smile/harbinger of an intense season finale comes from Rick. He, Michonne, and Carl are making their way to Terminus as well, though they seem to have conflicting priorities. He’s worried about water and logistics, they’re worried about who’s going to win their bet for who can balance along the rails the longest. It’s one of the only lighthearted moments that we’ll probably get until next season, so we should cherish Michonne and Carl splitting one of their last candy bars and joking around with each other.

Oddly, that’s the only scene in which we see Rick, Michonne, and Carl. “Us” focuses mostly on Glenn’s group and Daryl’s group, so it looks like the finale will be Grimes heavy. I’m not mad about it; the show has been light on the Grimes family drama recently, so it’ll be nice to see them step back into the story spotlight.

The other group that gets the main focus in “Us” is Daryl’s newfound gang of unsavory dudes. They keep a pretty neat camp, all roped off with barbed wire and cans for noise alerts, and they all manage to get along despite being guys who typically don’t play well with others. The reason for this is, as we find out in Daryl’s fight with Len over who gets to eat the rabbit they both shot, Joe’s personal set of rules.

See, Joe believes that a few simple rules are necessary to keep them all from killing each other over every little thing. His rules are as follows: something belongs to you once you claim it (which, ugh, probably includes women the way these guys talk), there is no lying, and there is no stealing. You break the rules, you get beat up as severely as your transgression warrants. Since Daryl’s a newbie, Joe has the two guys split the rabbit.

Things don’t seem to work out on this show when one guy decides he gets to make the rules for everyone else. Just saying.

Glenn’s group, meanwhile, is experiencing a version of the same problem. Now that he has confirmation that Maggie is alive (or was when she wrote the messages), Glenn is an unstoppable force. No resting, no recuperating, just keep moving until they find either Maggie or Terminus, whichever comes first. Obviously Abraham has a problem with that since it clashes with his prime directive to keep Eugene safe until they reach Washington. The only compromise the two men can reach is to have Glenn give his riot gear to Eugene and they’ll keep going until sunset.

It was hard to see in the bigger group setting, but Glenn is one single-minded dude. Despite the obvious differences between him and Abraham (at least physically), that’s something they have in common, and I think it’s something they respect about each other.

Tara got injured when Abraham pushed her out of the way of the falling walker from the tower by the tracks, but she’s still willing to go with Glenn, whatever it takes. Rosita is quick to call Glenn out for taking advantage of Tara’s guilt, which I like about her. She’s not afraid to tell it like it is, a quality I always like to see in a female character.

Back on Daryl’s path along the tracks, the gang finds an old garage to camp out in for the night. Daryl’s reluctant to lump himself in as part of the “us” Joe is always talking about, but he can’t deny the fact that at least for now, he has to be part of the “us.” The other option is to go it alone, and we’ve all seen that turn out badly. There’s no surviving without other people anymore, and even if you did survive, as Daryl found out with Beth it’s not really living unless you have someone with you.

The guys all claim different sleeping spots, shuffling a silent Daryl along until he curls up on the first free patch of cement floor. It’s upsetting to see him being forced back into a group of Merles when he had grown so far away from being that guy while he was with Rick’s group, and with Beth especially in the last few episodes.

Len tries to start a fight with Daryl over his missing half of the rabbit from that morning. Daryl says he doesn’t have it, Len says he does, and it would be a whole Real Housewives thing if these guys weren’t armed and ready to defend themselves violently. The rabbit half turns out to be in Daryl’s bag, but as he suspected, it was planted there by Len. Joe turns Len over to the rest of the guys for his punishment for lying, and commends Daryl for his honesty. Something tells me being Joe’s teacher’s pet isn’t good for your long-term life expectancy.

Glenn and the others hit a roadblock when they come upon a tunnel that’s obviously full of walkers. Abraham does the sensible thing and suggests a detour, but Glenn is too close to Maggie now to give up. So he and poor guilt-ridden Tara decide to take their chances with the tunnel of death. Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene leave them with a flashlight and two cans of food and head off in search of transport to Washington.

They have an almost-touching goodbye where Glenn apologizes for punching Abraham in the face and Rosita gives both of them a hug. Too bad Eugene has to ruin it by telling Tara she’s seriously hot. When she tells him she likes girls, his response: “I’m well aware of that.” What a creep. I guess there’s still remnants of good old patriarchal values shining through in the zombie apocalypse.

The tunnel has a cave-in partway through that has a whole bunch of walkers trapped in its rubble. Tara starts to open up to Glenn about “Brian” and what it felt like to see her girlfriend, niece, and sister all die horribly in the same day because of him. They sympathize with each other, and I was so sure that because they were sharing this moment that something terrible was going to happen in this tunnel.

Naturally, nothing does. Oh, Glenn anxiously searches the faces of every walker in there to make sure one isn’t Maggie, and there’s a ridiculous number of walkers making their way towards our two heroes as they stand atop the cave-in, and there’s even an almost tense moment where Tara gets caught in the debris and offers to stay behind so Glenn can get out. Thing is, none of it felt real. The suspense felt contrived, and the longer it went without Maggie, Bob, or Sasha being one of the walkers, the more obvious it became that they’d be reunited.

And so they were, after Eugene deliberately misleads Rosita with the directions so they end up back on the tracks instead of on an interstate or something. The three of them pick up none other than Maggie, Bob, and Sasha, and they all come blazing to the rescue just as Glenn is ready to die along with Tara. I don’t doubt that he would have done everything he could to protect her, but I am saying I felt no urgency in their situation.

Husband and wife are happily reunited among the corpses of the zombies, and all seems well again. They give us genuine smiles number three and four, by the way. Glenn introduces Tara as someone he happened to meet on the road instead of as someone who used to be in the Governor’s inner circle (a wise choice), and he and Maggie proceed to get lovey-dovey for the rest of their scene.

She has him burn the polaroid of her sleeping that he carries with him because now that they’re reunited, he won’t need a picture anymore. So something terrible is now going to happen to one of them, probably, because what better way to tempt fate, am I right?

The group decides as a whole to check out Terminus for potential supplies and people to join them, but they’re all down to rejoin Abraham’s quest to deliver Eugene to Washington once they see the supposed sanctuary for themselves.

Daryl’s group is heading to Terminus as well, but for different reasons. When he wakes up in the morning, he finds that they killed Len in their beating of him. He almost lays a tarp down over the body, then seems to think better of it and walks off instead. Daryl, did you not learn anything about karma from Len’s situation?

Joe explains that they’re not really into Terminus for the whole sanctuary thing – no, he thinks that’s completely false. What they’re really doing is tracking this guy who was hiding in the house they were staying at. This guy who strangled their buddy Lou and left him to turn. This guy that only Bandana Man (real name Tony) saw. This guy whose discarded candy wrapper they step on as they make their way down the tracks. Yikes. And I used to worry about what Tyreese would do when he found out about Carol. Something tells me Joe’s gang isn’t going to be riding that forgiveness train.

The episode ends with the first party’s arrival to Terminus. Glenn and the others find a complex with fences, signs, and plants but an odd absence of people. The only one around is a woman named Mary who’s manning the grill when they arrive. She wants to help them get settled and make them a plate, which, judging by the suspicious lack of other human beings around, could be a euphemism for putting them on the plates. But we won’t know until we spend more time at Terminus.

Anyone have predictions for the season finale? I’m guessing at least one of the core characters dies, that Terminus is hiding something worse than the Governor, and that Rick ends up having to kill Joe or one of his cronies in a confrontation.

“Us” was very clearly just a set-up for next week, and I’m okay with that. It’s not an episode I’d seek out to rewatch, but some groundwork-laying is definitely necessary before we can get that action-packed season finale we’ve come to expect and love from The Walking Dead.

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The Rise Of eSports Betting http://blastmagazine.com/gaming/gaming-news/rise-esports-betting/ http://blastmagazine.com/gaming/gaming-news/rise-esports-betting/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 21:15:31 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92219

eSports have risen hugely over the last few years growing from its humble online beginnings in the early 1990’s to a professional industry that sees thousands of gamers, and millions watching, particularly in the USA.

Professional gaming is still relatively new to the world compared to the more traditional sports, with them not being recognised until the year 2000. Games such as NBA Jam and Virtua Racing kick started the craze, whilst superior internet connections, innovative designing, and huge demand has seen games progress even further.

Starcraft is perhaps the finest example of this. The game has sold over 11 million copies worldwide and is a major tournament for those professional gamers playing with the likes of Major League Gaming.

The organisation formed in 2002 and in 10 years has become an integral part of the eSports world, offering hundreds of thousands of pounds to pro gamers, and encouraging millions to watch tournaments such as the MLG Pro Circuit Championship events.

2012’s event saw more than 11.7 million unique viewers online, and with the pros competitive nature, it has seen a rise in another industry, gambling.

eSports betting is taking the sport in a totally new direction and is likely to rise dramatically. Even the more traditional sports such as football and horse racing are seeing rises in the betting industry, most likely due to bookmakers offering promotions such as Grand National free bets or money back guarantees on an own goal to entice punters.

And the rise in eSports betting is already in evidence. Once a specialist sport with only sites such as eSports offering odds, it’s expanded to more mainstream bookmakers like Bet365, with the possibility of many more to follow.

However, it is still in its early phases. As the popularity of betting on DOTA 2 and League of Legends continues, more books and odds will become available with the likes of in-play betting, like football, rugby, and cricket, becoming part and parcel of the up-and-coming sport.

Of course, unlike other sports, where effectively one horse could fall at the last hurdle, or the favourites are generally well known, betting on a competition in Major League Gaming is very different.

Because the sport is still widely unknown, to become a success with the bookmakers, or indeed in a competition as a player, you must study meticulously. Players such as Jae Done Lee put countless hours into perfecting strategy, communication skills, teamwork, all in order so that they can stand a chance.

For a viewer, that is clear. Although rarely featured on television, except South Korea and Sweden, where eSports events are shown, games are broadcast via the internet and with every moment available to study, not only will players be heading out with prizes of up to £400,000, punters could also make a tidy sum.

It’s expected that the game as a whole will become even more popular over the next few years. MLG’s events continually beat their previous best in all departments, and with more and more viewers becoming more and more intrigued, expect the gambling numbers to surge too.

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What Google Chromecast Means For Gaming http://blastmagazine.com/technology/tech-news/gadgets/google-chromecast-means-gaming/ http://blastmagazine.com/technology/tech-news/gadgets/google-chromecast-means-gaming/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 21:42:06 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92216

Google Chromecast is still in its infancy but has already made huge strides in the technology market, transporting the functions of web browser, Chrome to a high-definition television, giving users the chance to stream the likes of Netflix and YouTube beyond the desktop or mobile.

Although whilst uses are still fairly limited, the demand is huge and with more and more to be added to the device, that is only set to rise. Google so far has only released the product in the US and has sold millions, with the corporation even holding back on a UK release because it would unlikely be able to meet the demand.

And with consumers already lapping up the $35 device, like the iPhone and tablet, could change the way we do many things, in particularly gaming.

Since July, Chromecast has been lauded for its affordable price, smartphone integration, and easy to use style, whilst the potential for additional features will no doubt be as bigger influence on gaming as app stores.

Platforms like Steam or Origin are likely to become involved with Chromecast at some point given the products streaming capabilities, meaning games could be played directly through your television. This is no doubt some way off however. There are certain limitations that come into play for more advanced gaming. Primarily controlling.

GamingCast have kick-started what will no doubt become a trend, but the app only features very basic games such as Pong or Snake using a controller downloaded to a mobile device. It’s a simple step but one that could introduce many more games particularly those with a more strategic-focus such as those on Full Tilt Poker.

But that is where it ends? Or is there room for more complicated first person shooters, or adventure games on Chromecast?

The likelihood is, yes. And with cloud gaming services, users of Chromecast may not even need a PC to do so. Where it can be taken from there, who knows. The corporation’s Google Play has continuously gone from strength to strength with over one million apps in the store, and is likely to become a key part of how the digital media player functions.

What is unlikely however is that consoles will join the party. The likes of Microsoft and Sony see Google as direct competition, but if Google Play can fully link up, with downloadable controllers becoming more advanced, the so called ‘Golden Generation’ of gaming could just about turn platinum.

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“Supernatural” – Blade Runner (9.16) episode review http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/supernatural-blade-runner-9-16-episode-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/supernatural-blade-runner-9-16-episode-review/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 19:59:32 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92206 Blade Runners

3.5 out of 5 stars

“Too busy inflicting pain to answer”— Crowley, on his voicemail message. Within the first minute of the episode, not only do we get this gem, but we find out Crowley has Dean as “Not Moose” in his cell phone, drunk dials Dean, doing drugs, having wild sex with one of his followers, and crying at Casablanca. All and all, he’s having more fun than the Winchesters have had in years and is also distinctly not searching the bottom of the ocean for the first blade. Any episode that starts with this little collage can’t be all-bad.

And it’s certainly not all bad. In fact, it’s one of the strongest of the season, with a compelling villain and an interesting dynamic with Crowley and the brothers. It does, however, bring back that frustrating mark of Cain situation.

Crowley’s fun doesn’t last long, as his mistress actually hates him and is spying on him for Abaddon. At least the Winchesters still care! But he won’t return their phone calls.

Desperate, they summon a crossroads demon…who is Snooki. That’s a thing that’s happening. Not, like, Snooki playing a character on Supernatural. Snooki playing Snooki, on Supernatural. Turns out, she’s a crossroads demon, which, as Sam puts it, actually makes a lot of sense. Don’t worry; after they get little information of Crowley from her, they exorcise her.

Sorry, I need a minute to get over that plot development. I guess she must be a fan of the show? I have something in common with Snooki….

Anyway. Crowley’s reading Little Women when his mistress comes in. He kills her, having realized she’s a liar, but his lack of productivity and the angsty CW soundtrack playing seems to get to him, and he starts crying. It would be sad, but it’s done in this ridiculous mirror shot that I think is trying to be artsy. It’s really not. So he calls the Winchesters for help. Dawwww.

They’re kind of not at all impressed by the slobby, drug-addicted mess he’s turned into. “You don’t know what it’s like to be human,” he snaps. Well, they probably do, but okay. Apparently, he’s become an emotional mess, and since he told Abaddon’s spy about the first blade, the Winchesters tell him he’s quitting the human blood drug cold turkey.

“I’m still a little tainted by humanity,” he tells Sam, explaining that brushing with humanity makes him sentimental “You and I both know we shared a mo’ back in that trench.” I will never understand how the Supernatural actors can get so disrespectful about slash shipping WHEN THEY MAKE ALL THE DIALOGUE THIS HOMOEROTIC. It’s frustrating, guys. This show is simultaneously angry and homophobic and the gayest show on television.

Crowley explains that the first blade had been picked up by a submarine by the time he got to the ocean floor, so they trace the trail of sales of the blade to the National Institute of Antiquities. Of course, because Crowley is a silly, big mouthed demon, Abaddon’s people get there first, but find the knife already gone from there, too.

The curator admits that she had the first blade and sold it to an anonymous buyer named Magnus, aka the fake name used by Members of Letters at different points in time. But all of the Men of Letters are dead, right? Also, she hits on Dean, but it’s stupid and weird so we’re ignoring it.

They ask Crowley for help, but he flips, pointing out that it’s their fault his empire has fallen and that he’s a junkie, because they’re the ones who kept him locked up and injected him in the first place. He kind of has a point, so the Winchesters give him crappy scotch and all is forgiven. Considering he’s the King of Hell, he’s not actually that difficult to please, is he? He points out that an inactive Man of Letters may have survived, which seems kind of obvious. ”Seriously, boys, how’d you ever function without me?” he asks, posing the question I have asked myself every episode this season.

They follow Crowley’s directions to where a prominent disgraced man of letter is maybe hiding, and discover the man has built an invisible, warded mansion in the middle of the woods. It’s so cool I can’t even handle it. I want one. After fighting off his tester vampires to prove that they are hunters, the boys are introduced to the disgraced Man of Letters, with the unfortunate name of Cuthbert and an even more unfortunate striped bow tie. He’s friendly and nice, but he’s also pretty much completely nuts. He has a zoo of monsters in his house.

When he learns Dean has the mark, he very cheerily casts a spell and makes Sam disappear and reappear outside of the house where Crowley is waiting. “I did what any good collector would do. I separated the ordinary from the extraordinary,” he says, indicating Dean. Cue the Psycho theme. Not really, but it’s definitely playing in my head. He now has the mark of Cain to complete his set with the blade. He offers Dean a chance to be part of the great collection and to keep him company. ”When you were saying that, did it feel at all creepy?” Dean replies. Yah, Dean, we heard it, too. He forces the blade into Dean’s hand everything glows kind of orange, which apparently means there’s lot of power involved, and he uses mind control on Dean.

Outside, Crowley is still trying to bond with Sam, suggesting matching tattoos, and I’m still shipping it. Sam’s evidently not, but is forced to concede Crowley’s usefulness when they have to use a spell to enter the house. Crowley’s smirk of satisfaction is lovely. Inside, Sam is captured in about two seconds, and Cuthbert/Magnus ties him up, realizing that Sam will be a much better motivator than the sub-par mind control. “Magnus, I swear to God,” Dean snarls in a manly tone, to which Magnus replies, “What are you gonna do? What is he gonna do?” I’m not sure it’s supposed to even be a comedic line, but something about the way he flippantly pokes a hole in every ridiculous, angry declaration of the kind Dean has made on the show is so on point it’s hilarious.

Luckily, Crowley comes in to free Dean and the Winchester uses the blade to decapitate Cuthbert. Wow, that was an overreaction. After getting rid of the threat, however, Dean can’t seem to calm down and drop the blade, and it takes Sam to snap him out of it.

Outside, they find that Abaddon’s demons have keyed the Impala with a threat for Crowley. It’s heartbreaking.

Crowley double-crosses the brothers, but honestly, they were going to double-cross him at the exact same moment, so it’s not really his fault. Knowing that they’ll kill him along with Abaddon, he takes the blade, telling them they get it back when they find the queen.

See, I already have no patience with this plotline. Dean accepting the mark, knowing the dangers and consequences, was such a cringe-worthy and stupid moment. I literally screamed at my TV when it happened and I don’t want to deal with the aftermath. Dean was so dumb, he deserves whatever goes down, me thinks.

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“The Blacklist” – Mako Tanida (1.16) episode review http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/blacklist-mako-tanida-1-16-episode-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/blacklist-mako-tanida-1-16-episode-review/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 15:41:30 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92198 the-blacklist-mako-tanida-NBC

2.5 out of 5 stars

The Blacklist is a mean, spiteful, evil little show. It left the last episode on the massive cliffhanger reveal that Tom Keen is actually a sketchy agent spying on Elizabeth and not the unfaithfulish hipsterish schoolteacher he was pretending to be. This, of course, was not out of the blue by any means, but it was still a huge shock and a game-changer. So, Blacklist followed it up with a week off, making us wait two weeks to see where things go from here. We start the episode with Elizabeth still in the dark, but Elizabeth lives her life in a constant state of confusion. But now the audience is, and the stakes are therefore much higher. It’s the biggest step we’ve had in the mythology since Red was revealed as not Elizabeth’s father (which is barely a step because, honestly, who actually believes him? No one? Yah), and it’s therefore a refreshing burst of energy of the at-times convoluted story.

So, after two weeks of waiting to see the continuation of that scene, we start the episode, not on Tom and Jolene/evil lady, but on a Japanese prison, which is a bit of a letdown. Actually, it’s a huge letdown! C’mon people. This is the first time ever I have actually wanted Tom on screen, and now he disappears?

A man, Mako Tanida, escapes from the prison, and shows up at an FBI agent’s temporary home in Japan with an uncomfortably large blade. Explaining that he was collateral damage in the hunt for our dear Raymond Reddington, he attacks the agent. There’s a lot of cheesy dialogue in this scene, with Tanida going on about honor and humility like he’s competing with Prince Zuko (free cookies to anyone who got that reference). He gives him a sword to stab himself with, which is the “honorable” thing, and, in order to save his family, the agent does it. There’s a nice guttural death sound effect and everything.

Back home, Tom finally shows up, coming home to find Elizabeth chatting it up with crazy Jolene lady. Awkward. She’s apparently trying to move into the neighborhood. You could cut the uncomfortable squirming tension with a butter knife.

Ressler’s at the agent’s funeral, looking sad and pouty and adorable, despite having Audrey as his date. The other agents at the funeral think Reddington is responsible, so Ressler asks Elizabeth to set up a meeting with Red for him. Surprised, she responds that Red is actually looking to speak with him, as well. Assuring Ressler that he didn’t murder his friend, he tells him about Mako Tanida and his escape. Ressler suggests that the man double-crossed Red and therefore he wants Tanida taken out. “There’s a thought”, Red says with a smirk. “But for the moment, the scalp I’m worried about is yours.” No! He has such a nicely styled, blond scalp! Lots of product and blow-drying went into accessorizing that scalp! Just as Red issues his warning, Tanida is entering the United States on a fake passport, telling the woman at customs that he’s visiting for “a reunion with some old friends.” Cue up the ominous music.

Not long after, he attacks another member of the task force, saying, “You don’t remember me? You will.” The guy is basically a bad cartoon villain.

Ressler and Malik brief the team, explain that after Tanida was arrested, his brother took over and expanded the man’s criminal empire. When the body of the task force member is found, Ressler heads off to move Audrey to a safe house. Clearly none of these people watch TV, cause it’s when the characters decided to move to the safe house that you know they’re so going to get attacked.

Meanwhile, finally returning to the conversation from the cliffhanger, Tom sasses Jolene lady for coming to his house. She tells him that Berlin is having doubts, whatever that means. He counters that he was selected out of a wide range of candidates for this job and that he’s kind of been busy dealing with Red uprooting his peaceful, duplicitous existence. He wants to know who put the cameras in their house and shows Jolene his serial killer billboard tracking Red and Elizabeth. Do people actually have these things in real life? They seem to make no sense and just use a lot of red string ineffectively. I kind of want to make one, just to see how it goes. Unfortunately for the two of them, they’re being watched and photographed.

Meanwhile, Ressler succeeds in totally freaking out his girlfriend by pointing a gun at her thinking she’s an intruder and then frantically rushing her into the car. Before they can make their escape, his car is hit, wounding Audrey in an extremely violent, bloody way. As Ressler fights Tanida, the criminal is able to get a shot off and hit Audrey in the stomach. While Tanida flees, Ressler holds her, falling apart as she dies. It’s really quite heartbreaking, and Diego Klattenhoff and his big blue eyes knock the scene out of the park.

Harold tells Ressler to sit the search for Tanida out and let them find him, to which Ressler agrees. Harold somehow buys that, which made me horribly embarrassed for him.

Instead of being a good agent, Ressler does the obvious thing and meets up with Red. “Searching in the desert for a drop of vengeance to slake an unquenchable thirst is a lonely walk, friend,” Red tells him. Ressler is unwilling to give up on his mission, however, so Red directs him to an underground hospital where Tanida’s injured men are likely to be. After some gun-related negotiations, Ressler is able to get Tanida’s location out of one of these men.

Meanwhile, Red attempts to have Jolene picked up, but Tom saves her with mad ninja skills that he apparently has. They squabble and fight in a far more interesting way than he’s ever done with Elizabeth, and even though I hate him and they’re both mysterious and evil, I’m totally shipping it for a few minutes. And then he has to go ahead and strangle her to death and kill all the romance.

Well. That was shocking.

Elizabeth questions Red about Ressler’s location, criticizing him for helping with the man’s angry quest. “He’s not like you. He can’t just murder somebody in cold blood and come out of it okay on the other end,” she snaps at him. “Nobody can murder somebody in cold blood and come out okay on the other end,” he replies. Sometimes I feel like Red has layers of self-esteem problems hidden under that cocky facade. Elizabeth mentions Tanida’s brother, but Red tells her that the man is dead, and therefore not running his brother’s empire in his stead. After reviewing the case with this new information, the agents discover that on the day Tanida was captured and his brother apparently killed, an American federal agent was also with them. That federal agent? The fourth member of the task force. This is basically the dumbest plot twist ever, and doesn’t flow well with the episode, but whatever.

Coincidentally, Ressler just so happens to have stopped by the house of this man, who goes by the name Bobby Jonica, and taken him along for Tanida’s capture. The two of them capture Tanida and drive him out into the middle of nowhere, while the killer taunts Ressler about Audrey’s death. He then explains that he is attacking the task force to get revenge for his brother’s murder and not for his own arrest, and causing Bobby to pull a gun and crash the car as Ressler figures out the other man’s deceit. As Ressler tracks the fleeing agent through the woods, the FBI, in turn, track Ressler to a cabin he owns where had planned to take Audrey for protection.

Ressler basically falls apart as he points a gun at his friend, horrified by the realization that he reunited with Audrey because of Reddington, his nemesis, and lost her because of his best friend.  He’s so upset that he basically turns into Tanida, telling Bobby to kill himself with a knife he gives him and “do the honorable thing.” Elizabeth shows up to talk him down, and Ressler snaps back “What if he killed Tom? What would you do?” Ummm, probably nothing, but I get what you were trying to do there, Ress. There’s a lot of screaming, and for a minute it seems like Ressler will kill him, but he unloads his clip into a snow bank. As Ressler walks away, Bobby stabs himself with the knife, which I guess isn’t legally Ressler’s fault, but sure seems like Ressler’s fault. Meanwhile, Tanida has escaped, which also kind of seems like Ressler’s fault.

Still, it’s impossible to stay frustrated with him when he returns home to find A PREGNANCY TEST IN AUDREY’S THINGS. Oh my god. Poor Ressler. They’re really twisting that knife in there.

As the episode ends, Red watches a ballet of Swan Lake that he heavily sponsors because apparently his daughter was once in the show. This part seems very out of place with the episode. It’s juxtaposed with a note from Red explaining to Ressler that he understands what he’s going through, but it still seems rather disconnected. Tanida’s head in a box accompanies the note!!!

This week’s episode was enjoyable, but frankly had too many stupid moments, like all of the ones involving Tanida and the twist at the end. Not bad, but not the best this show can do. Still, with not one, but two surprise deaths, the episode still had that wild Blacklist feel that makes it so fun.

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The Flip Side: 6 Things We Loved About BBC’s Sherlock and Why We Are Excited for Season 4 http://blastmagazine.com/features/flip-side-6-things-loved-bbcs-sherlock-excited-season-4/ http://blastmagazine.com/features/flip-side-6-things-loved-bbcs-sherlock-excited-season-4/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 21:49:32 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92187 Sign-of-Three-2

Season 3 of the BBC’s mystery critical-darling was pretty damn polarizing. And how could it not be? Sherlock took over tumblr (and the world?) in 2010 with three tantalizingly short, crazy fun episodes of admirable quality. Then, in 2012, it somehow came back with an even better season, culminating in one of the most shocking, heart-pounding cliffhangers of all time. Yah, these are some pretty big declarations, but I think anyone who watches the show would agree with me. It ended on a fantastic note.

And then….it did nothing. For two years, all fans got were vague promises, constantly changing release dates, and a couple of mediocre action movies with series leads Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman to tide them over. Anticipation built. Every fan with a Youtube account made a video explaining how Sherlock must have survived. I know; I watched them all. The fan base grew as more people found the show on Netflix and basically everyone lost their minds with excitement.

So when the season finally aired this year, of course it was polarizing! After waiting for an answer to an impossible question, of course not everyone would agree with the resolution. Of course not everyone would be satisfied with only three meager episodes. Blast’s own Angelica Marciano and Megan Seabaugh wrote a great article from the perspective of many who were disappointed, and I highly suggest you check it out. They make some good points (I want to second the mention of “queer baiting,” which is an overlooked issue on a lot of shows. Yes, Supernatural, I’m looking at you.)

But to me, there was too much good in these episodes to focus on why it wasn’t quite as good as the first two seasons. Here are my top 6 things (spoilers ahead):

1. “I heard you”

Let’s talk about those videos clogging up Youtube I mentioned (along with the tumblr posts, forum responses, and fan fictions). Do you think any of those came to the same conclusion? No, no, no. Everyone had a different theory they were rooting for, one they were proud they came up with themselves. After so much build-up and pressure, there was no way the reveal could be anything but a let down. Short of revealing Sherlock was actually Khan, the writers had no way to explain his survival without using a trampoline or bungee jumping. So yes, it was a bit of a let down that Moffat and Gatiss didn’t give us a definitive answer to the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers. But giving us an answer would be a let down, too. Sherlock jumped onto a giant pillow is not that fun. They, instead, gave the only answer that I think could ever satisfy me. While discussing how he survived the fall, John recalls, “I asked you to stop being dead,” to which Sherlock simply responds, “I heard you.” It’s the only explanation John ever gets, and if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me. Because, while obviously no one’s implying that Sherlock actually came back to life because of his friend’s request, isn’t it a much more beautiful and emotionally satisfying moment to end the mystery with, than, say, a giant inflatable cushion?

2. More Moriarty!

During the first two seasons, the writers and brilliant actor Andrew Scott created an ever-surprising and intriguing twist on a classic character. Scott’s Moriarty was half menacing and brilliant, half hilarious and fun. On top of that, he was Moriarty, the man we’ve been told over and over in all Sherlock Holmes lore is Sherlock’s ultimate adversary. So, as shocking as his death at the end of season 2 was, it left the show with nowhere to go but down. Magnussen was a good villain, but nothing could ever top Moriarty. So the perhaps not entirely shocking but very exciting reveal at the end of the season that Moriarty is (probably) alive brought a hope and spark back to the series. Sherlock needs an equal yang to his yin.

3. Drunk Sherlock

I’ve heard many complaints about “The Sign of Three,” the second episode of the season, and they’re not necessarily unfounded. It’s a bit ridiculous. The episode kind of has no plot and focuses mostly on comic relief. But it’s okay, because it was so so funny! After seeing lovable but angry and brooding Sherlock for two seasons, we got the pleasure of seeing what happens when the genius gets totally wasted with his best friend. Misunderstood drinking games, stairway sleeping, and confused deductions abound! It may have been strange and out-of-sync with the rest of the show, but sometimes it’s ok to take a step back from the drama and have a little fun.

4. Moffat’s Actual Impossible Girl

Nope, it’s not Clara Oswald. It’s Mary Mortson. The show took a character who singlehandedly ruined the Guy Ritchie Holmes movies, is underdeveloped and short-lived in the books, and is pretty much designed to split up Johnlock, and turned her into an instantly lovable fan favorite. I was completely against her going into this season, but I was won over halfway through the first episode. I mostly credit Amanda Abbington, the phenomenally charming, warm, talented actress who made the character so natural and organic. Congrats to Martin Freeman for actually being married to her, ’cause she’s brilliant. The writers also made it clear very early on that Mary had no interest in coming between Sherlock and John, actually promising Sherlock she’d fix the broken bromance in one of her first scenes. I was nervous going into the finale with all the rumors that she was evil, but was pleased to see that giving her secrets and nuances didn’t require making her one-sided or a bad guy. She was realistic and fit perfectly into the boys dynamic. I don’t know how they did the impossible here, but they did.

5. *That* sequence

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Out of all the outstanding moments in Sherlock’s three seasons, were any of them as beautiful as the amazing sequence in the mind palace after the hero is shot? The sprawling shots of the staircase alone sold me on this season. The all-star cast is all together in the fun, fantasy location, and it’s easily the most heart-pounding and exciting look we get at Sherlock’s often mysterious mind. To top it off, there’s the return of Andrew Scott, killing it as a deranged figment of Sherlock’s imagination.

6. The Holmes Family

For the first time in season 3, we got an inside (and strangely adorable) look at the family that made Sherlock who he is. The introduction of his parents as totally normal, charming people who love Les Miserables was both hilarious and heartwarming, given the fact that the actors were actually Benedict Cumberbatch’s real life parents. Seriously, I still can’t handle the feels. We also got a great deal more development between the generally icy brothers. The sassy deductions scene over the hat and Mycroft’s pain upon realizing he couldn’t protect his brother after the Magnussen fiasco added color and emotion to an underused relationship on this show. Plus, we got a teaser about “the other one” which may or may not be a reference to an extra member of the Holmes family.

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Trend Alert: Wearable Tech is here http://blastmagazine.com/technology/tech-news/gadgets/trend-alert-wearable-tech/ http://blastmagazine.com/technology/tech-news/gadgets/trend-alert-wearable-tech/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 00:49:18 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92183

Technology has continually been integrated with our lives since the beginning of mankind. Over time, it has gotten more personal, convenient, and entertaining. It is no surprise that wearable tech is the newest trend taking over the tech world. From Google Glass to the Fitbit, wearable tech has the potential to change the way people interact as well as improve our health.

Current Wearable Tech

Not all wearable tech is the same, both in looks and in function. Some are designed to access main functions of your phone while others are meant to get access to apps — and still some others are designed with personal security in mind.

The first generation of wearable tech was produced by technology giants like Samsung and Google. The Samsung Galaxy gear watch, for example, was designed with your phone in mind. It has a miniature touch screen to allow you to perform some of the common tasks on your phone like making calls, checking weather, and sending messages.

Google is still in the alpha phase of its Google Glass launch. These glasses are a small but powerful computer that looks similar to normal glasses. They can capture video, take pictures, and connect with your iOS or android cell phone to perform any main function.

The problem with this first generation of wearable tech is that the main hurdles were technological. Fitting hardware in such a small space and achieving high functionality is currently a difficult task. This left aesthetics to be addressed with little concern, which made these products appeal to a limited crowd. The look of both the Samsung Galaxy gear watch and Google glasses have often been criticized, which keeps them from being adopted wider.

The Next Generation of Wearable Tech

Wearable tech is destined to be the future for people across the globe, and just like any new technology it’ll adapt and improve. The second wave of devices have started to make a splash in the tech community and have improved upon areas where initial products have struggled.

Nike has released the Nike+ Sportswatch, a fairly aesthetically pleasing watch, which uses GPS to track your running and see your stats in a simple and fun way. You simply press a button on the watch when you start running, and when you return home you can connect the watch to a computer and see full details on your route and speeds.

More specialized products are also hitting the market. Cuff is a fashionable bracelet for women that allow them to send either a security alert with a quick touch of a bracelet to friends and family, or to send an alert to a specific person if they want to meet them.

Challenges in Wearable Tech

These products are far from a solved problem from the perspective of manufacturers. The technology is still improving, and getting the hardware and software into a widely acceptable form is still the primary challenge. One product that’s the first to successfully incorporate both a high level of technology and aesthetics is the Pebble watch.

The Pebble watch addressed this problem by compromising on both ends. Instead of trying to make a full featured smartphone interface on a watch, it realized that most people only need access to a couple of key features. The watch is designed to have access to eight applications on your phone at any time. The benefit from this decision was having the flexibility to design a truly good-looking watch that most people would gladly wear.

The Future of Wearable Tech

This is still an emerging niche market within the broad technology scope that’s rapidly expanding. Large companies like Google and Samsung will continue to iterate their products until they improve to the point of mass adoption, which could be closer than first thought. Simultaneously there are many new entrants focusing on making simple, stylish, and effective wearable tech that could have a large impact.

Keep your eyes and ears peeled for the latest wearable tech; it has the potential to make your life more enjoyable, convenient, and even accent your look.

 

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Mick Jagger’s Girlfriend found dead in New York apartment http://blastmagazine.com/culturefashion/couture/mick-jaggers-girlfriend-found-dead-new-york-apartment/ http://blastmagazine.com/culturefashion/couture/mick-jaggers-girlfriend-found-dead-new-york-apartment/#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 19:43:20 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92178

 L’wren Scott, 49, was found dead in her New York apartment Monday at about 10 a.m.

L'wren Scott, 49. Media credit to Zimbio.com

L’wren Scott, 49. Media credit to Zimbio.com

Her assistant found Scott, the long-time girlfriend of rockstar Mick Jagger, with a scarf tied around her neck hanging off a doorknob. The model-turned-designer had canceled her London Fashion Week show in February, but it appears those close to her had not suspected that Scott was suicidal.

Police have not found a note, but do not suspect foul play.

A spokeperson for Jagger said that the Rolling Stone’s frontman is “completely shocked and devastated.”

Scott began her career as a designer in 2006 with her “Little Black Dress” collection, and garnered attention when Madonna made her “Headmistress” dress famous. Prior to designing, she had modeled and worked as a stylist for many stars, including Mick Jagger, for the documentary Shine a Light. The couple had been dating since 2001.

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“The Walking Dead” – The Grove (4.14) Episode Review http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/walking-dead-grove-4-14-episode-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/walking-dead-grove-4-14-episode-review/#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 15:26:52 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92168 This week's episode of The Walking Dead features Tyreese (Chad Coleman) and Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) as well as Carol and Mika

This week’s episode of The Walking Dead features Tyreese (Chad Coleman) and Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) as well as Carol and Mika

5 out of 5 stars

Well that was one of the most intense, dark, and well-acted episodes of The Walking Dead to date. Unless something truly spectacular happens in these next two episodes I’m going with “The Grove” as my favorite of the season.

It had everything that makes me love this show: heavy character focus, crises of post-apocalyptic mortality, foreshadowing that played out in twisted, unexpected ways, callbacks to the comics, and of course Carol. There was lots of Carol in this episode, and Melissa McBride did an absolutely wonderful job of portraying her as both that mother we used to know and the hardened person she’s become since season one. Atlanta camp Carol could never have made the decision to take out Lizzie, let alone be able to be the one to pull the trigger.

I hadn’t expected to get an episode solely focused on Carol, Tyreese, and the girls as they journeyed to Terminus. I figured they’d get thrown into a mix of an episode that looks at everyone’s first arrival to the supposed sanctuary. Much to my surprise, I got complex character decisions and tears all over my face.

Poor, poor Mika was destined to not survive the episode the second Carol compared her to Sophia. The parallels were all over the place, starting with the use of the phrase “not a mean bone in her body” to describe them both. In her first conversation with Lizzie, Carol agrees that her daughter being so sweet was what led to her death. It seems easier for Carol to talk about Sophia now, and though she grieves for her still, she’s tried to use that grief to do good by the other kids of the apocalypse.

She tries to help Mika toughen up over the course of the episode. Mika’s okay with killing walkers because she knows they’re bad, but she can’t see any situation where she’d be okay with killing a person. She isn’t even able to kill the deer she and Carol find near the pecan grove. Carol tries to give her the zombie apocalypse version of the stranger danger talk, desperate to impress on her that sometimes there will be people it’s necessary to kill for your own safety, but Mika doesn’t believe that. Mika believes in things working out for the best and in eating peaches and pecans and in naming dolls things like Griselda Gunderson.

At first, things look great at their new digs: plenty of well water, tons of pecans, wild deer, and a real house to shelter in. Tyreese and Carol even debate staying here instead of heading to Terminus, and it would’ve been a picture of domestic bliss if they had. Hell, the stove even miraculously still had gas in it to boil water for the creepy tea kettle whistle from the cold open. (But seriously, how eerie was that image of a normal kitchen juxtaposed with Lizzie playing zombie tag out in the yard?)

Lizzie’s big problem is that she can’t seem to conceptualize the zombies properly. She just sees them as different, not dead, and certainly not a threat. That’s why she names them and feeds them rats. She protested the killing of walkers multiple times throughout the episode and it seems that watching people put them down sends her into some kind of panic attack.

I’m incredibly intrigued by what might have been going on with Lizzie, and I wish we could have had more time to explore her history. Clearly she was dealing with some issues pre-apocalypse, since Mika and their dad had established techniques to calm her down. I can’t imagine what it would be like to struggle with some kind of mental illness during the end of days. There’d be no way to seek or continue medical treatments, and there’s certainly no therapy appointments in the zombie apocalypse (though everyone could use some, that’s for sure).

I’d like to take this opportunity to state my policy on Lizzie-hate: don’t do it. No one should be celebrating this character’s death or calling her a psychopath or saying she deserved what she got. This character clearly had issues, and Brighton Sharbino did an absolutely incredible job playing the nuances of Lizzie’s emotional outbursts. I’m not saying what Lizzie did was remotely okay. I mean, she murdered her sister in cold blood for crying out loud. I’m just saying that we can have far more interesting conversations about her than mindlessly spewing hate, that’s all.

The really terrifying thing about this episode was that it looked so safe, yet it all turned out so horrible and wrong. Even when there were walkers following the girls back to the grove, they were dispatched with relative ease. I thought Mika was going to meet her fate right there at the fence when she got stuck, but Carol, Tyreese, and Lizzie managed to get her free. (Side note, those burnt walkers were some of the grossest, coolest walkers they’ve come up with so far, were they not?)

With all the running around and pure surviving they’ve all had to do lately, I think everyone forgot about the simple danger of other people. In this case, that danger was Lizzie. My stomach dropped when Carol and Tyreese came back from their walk (complete with one dumb “deer nuts” joke) only to find Lizzie’s hands dripping with her sister’s blood.

And Lizzie just stood there smiling like she did something good, like she’s expecting praise from the adults she loves for what she did. “It’s okay, she’ll come back, I didn’t hurt her brain,” she explains in a line lifted straight from the comics. Tyreese looks horrified, and I’m pretty sure I sat there staring at my TV with the same slack-jawed, bug-eyed look of disbelief and nausea that he wears here.

We all knew Lizzie was messed up, it’s been illustrated and alluded to quite a bit over the course of the virus arc in particular, but I don’t think any of us guessed she’d go this far. Well, maybe some people did after she nearly smothered Judith, but I certainly didn’t expect any of her issues with walkers to come to a head until after they joined a larger group.

Again, serious hats off to Brighton Sharbino for her work in these scenes. It can’t be easy to play a girl who’s just murdered her sister and doesn’t understand that it was wrong, but she certainly knocks it out of the park.

Carol manages to talk Lizzie down despite her own emotions, and would probably have succeeded as a hostage negotiator if they still existed. Lizzie confesses off-screen to Tyreese about feeding the walkers and dissecting that rabbit from the prison, which he relays in an info-dump to Carol. They halfheartedly discuss their options, but the conclusion to this whole sad chapter can’t be avoided.

Lizzie and Carol go for a walk in the grove and I like to think that if she had shown remorse or understanding of what she had just done that Carol would have let her live. As it was, however, all Lizzie could think to apologize for was pulling that gun on Carol to keep her from getting to Mika. It’s so sad that she couldn’t comprehend what she had done, and even sadder to think that in different circumstances she might have been able to pull through whatever was a little bit off in her hard wiring.

As it is, I cried for the first time since Hershel’s death as Carol told Lizzie she loved her and to look at the flowers before she pulled the trigger. Bless whatever broadcast restriction or writer’s decision that led to us not having to see Lizzie get shot or witness Carol putting Mika down before she reanimated, because I could never have handled watching that. Just watching tears roll down Carol’s face as she had to destroy yet another surrogate daughter was hard enough, thank you.

It seemed almost anticlimactic to get Carol’s big confession to Tyreese after all that heavy emotion. Melissa McBride and Chad Coleman do a wonderful job playing this quiet scene, though. They sit there in shock and grief, and Carol pushes the gun across the table to Tyreese before admitting to killing Karen and David. In the wake of what they just went through, it almost doesn’t seem to matter, but she tells him to do what he needs to do.

Tyreese reacts much differently than Rick did, or even than I think he himself would have reacted before Mika and Lizzie’s deaths. He’s only briefly angry, and even then it’s silent: he just grips the table so hard he could break it, and grabs for the gun once before moving his hand away. Instead of yelling or punishing Carol he simply asks if Karen suffered at all (to which Carol says no) before forgiving her. He won’t ever forget it, he takes care to point out, but he forgives her for it. I think if he wasn’t part of another of Carol’s tough decisions he wouldn’t have the insight to truly forgive her. Now, he has seen firsthand what awful things you sometimes have to do in order to survive or ensure others’ survival, so he can understand.

The two of them pack up, take Judith, and head to Terminus because all that’s left in the grove is horror, grief, and what could have been happiness.

Judging by the sneak peeks we should see most of the other characters next week, and the ramp-up to the season finale should have plenty of twists and turns to tide us over until the trademark finale cliffhanger in two weeks.

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Youth Marches on MBTA http://blastmagazine.com/features/youth-marches-mbta/ http://blastmagazine.com/features/youth-marches-mbta/#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 01:57:09 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92162 On Wednesday afternoon, students and youth organizers from across Boston marched on the Massachusetts Transit Building to demand a youth pass.

A mass of protestors built from the Youth Affordabilit(T) Coalition (YAC), Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE), the Boston Youth Organizing Project, and Youth on Board gathered at the Park St. T stop at 3:30 p.m. The crowd began marching at about 4 p.m., flowing down the sidewalks following leaders in orange traffic vests. Chant leaders with megaphones created riffs off of classic protest chants like, “When transit fares are under attack what do we do?”

“Fight back!” cheered protestors.

Media credit to Ellie Williams

Media credit to Ellie Williams

Unlike many youth-organized protests, the marchers were well versed in why they were on the streets that day.

“The bus passes only work 5 days a week and stop at 11 p.m.,” said Esmeralda Sosa, a 15 year old at Urban Science Academy in West Roxbury. “If I’m out [late], I can’t get home.”

Currently, the MBTA offers a Student Pass that allows students in middle school and high school to ride the for half price. The pass costs $25 a month and, as Sosa said, is valid Mondays through Fridays. Students can also pay $28 a month for a 7-day-pass, but many protestors argued that the price is too high.

Marcus Wade, a junior at Dorchester Academy, said that sometimes, he doesn’t have money to get to work and school.

“If I had a youth pass, I’d be able to get to school and work on time, and I’d be able to save money for something more useful, instead of using it on the bus.”

The Youth Pass Wade mentioned is the current issue in question. And according to protestors, it’s been in question for quite some time.

Media credit to Ellie Williams

Media credit to Ellie Williams

“It’s been 8 years, when are you going to stop ignoring us?” protesters called outside the Transit Building. The leaders of the march claim that transit officials have promised a $10 drop for the past 8 years, but that officials are pushing off the fare reduction for another 8 years. By that time, the students who would be affected won’t even be in the age bracket anymore. Riders believe this is too long, and want change now.

The Youth Pass that the YAC has proposed would cost a mere $10 a month for youth between the ages of 12 and 21—and more importantly, it would not be limited to students. The pass would be accepted at all hours and on the weekends, which matters a great deal to youth across Boston.

“We’ve seen a few acts of faith to address the youth crisis and protect students in fare increases,” said Lee Matsueda, the political director of ACE. Matsueda believes that the Youth Pass would actually raise revenue for the MBTA, not cause the Authority to lose money. He cited the youth pass program instated in Chicago and estimated that a youth pass would bring close to $50 billion a year in additional revenue from the student population.

Although the protest turned out a solid crowd, the rain seemed to deter protestors as the afternoon wore on. Organizers planned for protestors to stage a “die-in” outside the transit building, but upon their cue, “Don’t drop the ball!” only around half the protestors dropped to the ground. The other half stood in the drizzling rain and watched, reluctantly kneeling as the organizers chanted.

Marcus Wade dressed as LEARN: his solution to the Youth crisis. Media credit to Ellie Williams

Marcus Wade dressed as LEARN: his solution to the Youth crisis. Media credit to Ellie Williams

In the past however, the YAC has made progress following their meetings with transit officials. The organization has gained ground in reducing the fare hikes from the MBTA, but is still waiting for the youth pass they seek.

Adanarys Barragan, a 21 year old, explained her need for the youth pass simply.

“I’ve got a hole in my pocket,” Barragan said. “Youth don’t have jobs and we can’t get on the train. We can’t go to school, we can’t go to doctors appointments, and we can’t go home.” 

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Graphic: The 7 weirdest storage unit finds of all time http://blastmagazine.com/the-news/offbeat/graphic-7-weirdest-storage-unit-finds-time/ http://blastmagazine.com/the-news/offbeat/graphic-7-weirdest-storage-unit-finds-time/#comments Sat, 15 Mar 2014 15:30:41 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92175


Via: Lockaway Storage

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“Elementary” – The Hound of the Cancer Cells (2.18) episode review http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/elementary-hound-cancer-cells-2-18-episode-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/elementary-hound-cancer-cells-2-18-episode-review/#comments Sat, 15 Mar 2014 14:18:01 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92156

Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) must solve a case involving a framed suicide.

Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) must solve a case involving a framed suicide.

4 out of 5 stars

Elementary has rarely been so overt with their canonical links, so when I saw this week’s episode was entitled “The Hound of the Cancer Cells” a play on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most popular Sherlock Holmes story, “The Hound of the Baskervilles” I was curious as to how it was going to play out.

Unsurprisingly, there is no monstrous dog in the dark of night. Instead there’s possibly the most undignified death that the show has had so far as it opens with a man taking a shower and being gassed with helium—calling out while naked and high pitched for help—and then having it be framed as a suicide.

Sherlock, Joan and Gregson arrive on the scene and the latter immediately tells the other two that he has his doubts about it being a suicide—something that Sherlock agrees with once he takes stock of the evidence. A quick glance around the room brings him to the door of the bathrooms where he notices a residue under the door frame, indicating that it has been taped closed. He figures out that a small hose could have fit in and deduces that the man, Mr. Granger, was murdered.

This makes his suicide note all the more ominous, with it saying that the accusations were true. They’re told that the accusations concern the project that Granger had been working on and an anonymous email that accused him of being a fraud.

They seek out the financer of the project; a man named Hank, and ask him about his involvement in the project and his whereabouts at the time of Granger’s murder. He says that the project was supposed to be a huge hit in the medical field. The prototype—named The Hound—was a Breathalyzer that could detect cancer.

However, with the anonymous email calling Granger and the plan fraudulent, people were less apt to invest, ruining the long-term efforts. Hank’s alibi is that he was with his girlfriend but doesn’t want it widespread knowledge because he’s still in the middle of a divorce.

This week’s A-plot is better at weaving between its suspects than prior episodes but it still hasn’t mastered an effortless transition between them which is hindered even more when the B-plots, such as this week’s, takes on an emotional core.

Bell has called for Joan’s help on checking in a would-be witness for a drug/murder case who bailed after realizing her life was in danger. Joan travels to visit the woman, Nicole, at a Manny Rose’s house, a teacher who’s always been seen as a beacon of hope by his students. Nicole is hiding there for the time being and she tells Joan that she has withdrawn her testimony not only because of her own safety but because she’s recently learned she’s with child and can’t endanger their life.

Joan says she understands and she and Bell won’t press her for anything but Rose has a different perspective. We spend much of the episode’s side plot learning about the man Rose and how he teaches in a rough neighborhood and does his all to improve the living situations of students but often doesn’t see immediate results. He goes to Bell and tells him he can testify in Nicole’s place but Bell tells him that would be illegal. Rose is angry that Nicole had to see someone murdered right in front of her and she’s the one who has to carry the burden, not the killer. Bell says that Rose has already done so much but he doesn’t see it that way.

Speaking of Bell, the other tighter and effective narrative stems from his as well. At the start of the episode he invited Joan to a welcome back party of sorts being thrown for him and told her to bring Sherlock as well. However, when she brought it up to her partner she was met with resistance. He first tells her it’s because it’s being held in a bar and there will be too many triggering items surrounding him to feel comfortable. He then says it’s because he feels like there are some aspects of his job, such as personal gatherings, where he should stay on the sidelines.

He ends up further on in the episode telling Joan that he may have reconsidered but is having trouble rectifying what he wants to do with what he should do.

The personal moments are, as always, the highlights of the episode.

Back in plot A, Sherlock and Joan have tracked down the anonymous person who had emailed not only Granger but a number of other medical startups and discover that, barring his own attack, it was a partnership between Granger himself and an old boss.

This leaves Joan and Sherlock grasping at straws for who the attacker could be and their next point of reference is to look and see if the company Granger was working for had any competition that would be looking out for him.

Before they can look too deep a scandal hits when Hank’s ex-wife is found murdered with all of the evidence pointing at Hank himself. Hank says he’s being framed and has an alibi, with his girlfriend yet again, to prove that it wasn’t him.

This, however, is all a part of a larger scheme which Sherlock realizes after visiting Granger’s competition. He’s told that their means of besting Granger’s company was simply to buy them out.

Sherlock puts the pieces together and they all lead back to Hank. Hank didn’t want any money going to his ex-wife from the business deal he struck so he killed her after getting Granger out of the way and had his girlfriend find people who looked like him to construct a believable alibi. After hearing the trouble she could get into though the girlfriend confessed to everything, leading to Hank’s incarceration.

It was a bit of a convoluted ending to a case but at the very least more exciting than others and none that involved ears being grown on a woman’s back.

Bell receives a call right before the end of the episode and he learns that Manny Rose has been killed. He goes to the morgue to identify the body and learns that Rose had gone after the drug dealer on his own—trying to confront the problem head on and make the difference he promised he would. He killed the dealer in question, but was then shot by the man’s men.

It’s a sad way for a legend to go, in Bell’s eyes, and it’s more affecting than I would have believed a B-plot character’s death could be. Here was a man who was simply trying to make things better for the people in his neighborhood, who lived a long life doing the best he could while following the rules and finally was too tired to put up with it any longer.

It deeply affects Bell as well as he says that he must have only known the legend after all, not the man who would go to such drastic measures.

We see him next standing outside the bar where his party awaits, looking in at the cheer and carefree nature of his friends and co-workers, unable to join just yet.

Sherlock walks up to him and catches the mood and tries to lighten his spirits but to no immediate avail. Bell asks Holmes if he’s ever just had one those nights to which Holmes replies, “my fair share.” Bell says that he should be ready to go inside and join the people who care for him and want to celebrate with him, but he’s not. He’s expected to be happy and doesn’t know just how well he can put on a façade at this time. So Sherlock asks, what’s the hurry? He says there’s a coffee shop nearby that they can stop in first and then after make their way back to the bar where he’s sure his friends will still be waiting.

Bell takes up the unlikely invitation and the two of them walk the streets of New York, searching for their destination, in no rush at all.

Bell and Sherlock have had a bit of a tumultuous relationship this season ever since Bell was shot due to Sherlock’s short-sightedness. As Bell began to recover, it seemed that their friendship also was immediately put on the mend but this episode clinched it. Sherlock made mention earlier in the episode of how misanthropy was easy—the ability to look at the world with a cynical edge. It’s being able to contain compassion that is troublesome to him and him reaching out to Bell like a friend who simply wants to get the other man to cheer up is a big step in Sherlock’s evolution. He spent much of the episode worrying about whether or not he should actually attend Bell’s party but the moment he arrives and sees that he’s needed—albeit in a manner he’s not used to—he immediately slips into the version of himself that wants to help.

The ending scene, like so many of the show’s episodes, is indicative of what the show and its creators are capable of. It’s just about time the entirety of the episodes met the quality of the last five minutes.

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Lucky Bastard: Found Footage/Porn Movie Review http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/movies/lucky-bastard-found-footageporn-movie-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/movies/lucky-bastard-found-footageporn-movie-review/#comments Thu, 13 Mar 2014 18:03:48 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92150 What’s the saying? “He was a man ahead of his time.” Or, “She should have been born in a different century.”

Such is the case with the movie Lucky Bastard, which will have a short theater run and probably some life on DVD, VOD, and cable. It’s a found footage movie about a porn shoot in which all the participants are murdered. By piecing together video and film footage found at the scene of the crime we discover how it all unfolded.

Lucky Bastard

Lucky Bastard

Someone forgot to tell the producers that found footage was hot five years ago but has now been relegated to the cinema’s closet. I wrote a review of the found footage film Evidence last year, and I noted how this movie, too, though intriguing at times, was past its use-by date.

Yet here we are again with another found footage movie, this one combining thriller aspects with porn and porn humor. It’s one of those movies that sound good in the pitch session but turn out dull and trite.

Lucky Bastard is well made and well-acted, with a slew of veteran film and TV players (the most notable actor is the guy who challenged Jerry Seinfeld to a race in one episode). It was probably done on a shoestring budget but the filmmakers and performers are not amateurs. There’s enough T and A to give it a rating of NC-17, but it’s not a porno.

The movie is a one-note story about a porn fan who’s chosen to be the “lucky bastard” who gets to sleep with one of the hottest women in the industry. About the rest of the story, I’ll only say that things don’t turn out as planned and the situation turns deadly.

There’s just not much else to discuss. One could probably muster something about it being a comment on the industry and how women are used and portrayed. Or I could go on about post-modern attitudes regarding sex and celebrity. But that would be granting Lucky Bastard too much credibility.

I don’t think that much thought was put into this movie beyond “has anyone done a found footage porn movie”? In my review of Evidence I detailed how the found footage genre began with The Blair Witch Project and then ebbed for a while only to come roaring back between 2005-2010—only to die again shortly thereafter. Perhaps the makers of Lucky Bastard believe they can be on the forefront of the next wave. Though no one can ever predict what will sell and what will not, I think they’d have to come up with a more original story and more compelling characters to reignite the genre.

As it exists, Lucky Bastard is flat and pedestrian. I could conclude by offering porn-related cracks about how the movie leaves you hollow inside or how it’s about as deep as, well, you know…

If you are into schlock or the underground film scene, you might find something of interest here. Otherwise, you’d be quite correct in assuming this is a movie whose time has passed.

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“New Girl” – Fired Up (3.19) episode review http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/new-girl-fired-3-19-episode-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/entertainment/tv/new-girl-fired-3-19-episode-review/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 20:36:26 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=92144

Jess (Zooey Deschanel) gets Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.) a job at her school.

Jess (Zooey Deschanel) gets Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.) a job at her school.

4 out of 5 stars

The difficulty I’ve found recently with writing about New Girl is how utterly formulaic it becomes after a number of episodes pass with no real shift in the dynamics or storytelling techniques. New Girl hasn’t taken many chances as of late—which isn’t terribly problematic with episodic sitcoms, however it could add a welcomed variety.

This week’s episode doesn’t necessarily progress from that idea, but it does rearrange the groupings a bit and gives most of the characters a positive note to end on—Coach in particular finally gets an episode to shine.

We learn at the start that Jess has managed to snag a coaching job for Coach at her school. She enthusiastically bangs on his door to wake him up for his first day and he peaks his head out, deadpan and says that he doesn’t like kids, or teaching, but he does like paychecks. I had to watch this episode later than the airtime and as I spend my spring break at home, sharing a room with a younger sister, I had to stifle my laughter at Damon Wayans Jr.’s delivery of that line. Every New Girl episode needs to begin with that big of a laugh.

Winston, Schmidt and Nick take the day to go and visit the store that Schmidt threw all of his money at for Abby, Jess’s sister. Schmidt is talking about how he wants to progress forward in life rather than be like Nick and be content to live in the caboose of life. He thinks Nick loves it there with no expectations.

The conversation is interrupted when a man comes into the store to look around despite it not being a real store and while looking falls and breaks his arm—he immediately threatens Schmidt about suing him.

Coach is having more luck as we seem him thoroughly enjoying coaching the boys volleyball team. He tells Jess during a break that he loves it—all of it. During their talk he notices that Jess has become a bit of a pushover when it comes to offering to take favors from other teachers at the school. When he calls her out on it she tells him it’s because she’s hoping that the Principal will notice all of the hard work she puts in and in couple years when she’s earned it she’ll get the Vice Principal gig.

Coach tells her that if she wants the promotion she should just ask for it, and she says that she believes good things only come from dedication and hard work.

Coach thinks that’s ridiculous and uses a volleyball metaphor and yelling to sell his point.

Back with the rest of the boys, they’re discussing how to handle Schmidt’s predicament since he can’t afford an attorney and Nick says that he could do it—he’s legally allowed to practice in the state so why not? He says it’s just like riding a bike, you never forget.

Flash to a scene where Nick Miller forgot how to ride a bike.

He tells Schmidt that he’ll take on his case but only if he says please. I’m surprised Schmidt agrees at all but it allows for him to play straight man to Jake Johnson’s more unhinged Nick. Schmidt quickly realizes his mistake as the three of them role play the situation to try and see how it will turn out and once Nick begins asking questions on how to do his job, takes that as the final straw and fires him about as fast as he hired him. Schmidt will just have to represent himself and deal with the consequences rather than let Nick into the room and turn it into an embarrassing situation. I was relatively disappointed in Nick’s lack of success; it would have been nice to see him win.

Jess is having a good day. After taking Coach’s advice she went to her boss and asked him about taking the Vice Principal position and she was given it without any hassle—indicating that the job is more work that it may be worth and that her boss is just happy for someone to take on his workload.

Jess is still excited though and so is Coach when he hears.  These two characters have a similar enthusiasm—albeit shown in difference venues—and their personalities work well together.

Soon Jess realizes that the perks of the job (which aren’t a lot) don’t erase the downsides which include budget cuts which result in having to fire teachers to save money. Jess is told to cut the most recently hired first and realizes that this means Coach. She doesn’t want to, but the principal gives her an ultimatum, saying that she has to or she’ll lose her new position.

Jess, in her tough spot, talks to Coach, who understands but is also equally crestfallen having grown attached to the job and the kids he was coaching.

Nick is also stewing about being fired by a friend and has determined that he’s going to ignore what Schmidt said and is going to prove him wrong in the meeting. This would probably be a more plausible plan if he had thought beyond what briefcase he was bringing and how studious it made him look. He grabs the briefcase and his power suit and is ready to take on the world.

Kind of.

Nick shows up at the meeting with Winston in tow and it takes 30 seconds for me to cringe at how awful Nick is doing. I recognize the comedic element and Johnson sells it but it’s hard to not feel some sort of embarrassment or sympathy for the character.

It continues to go downhill until Nick brings Schmidt outside to talk to him. He tells him to trust whatever he does next and to just go along with it. They walk back into the room and Nick sneaks some bolts and screws into Schmidt’s hand and just as Nick sits back in his chair, it collapses and he falls dramatically to the floor.

His plan is to fake negligence—a case that will be annoying to have appeared on the other attorney’s desk.

“What do you call a lunatic who has one case and no hobbies? Your worst nightmare.”

This at the very least showcases that when he puts his mind to it, Nick can accomplish quite a bit. Even if it’s due to him bending the rules a bit.

Coach and Jess’s plot gets tied up a bit neater. After drinking and getting a little emotional the two of them decide that they can’t listen to what their boss said and need to go to the volleyball game and get Coach’s job back.

The principal at first is against it—saying they don’t have the money and if they keep Coach on they’re going to have to cut something else but things are sorted out when another teacher suggests moving a practice to another room.

It’s decided that things can be moved around if it means saving a job.

Out of the two I would have enjoyed seeing the Coach and Jess plot given more time—especially since the pairing worked so well—but since it didn’t have the obvious big laughs, more time was given to the Nick and Schmidt B-plot than was necessary.

I didn’t give much mention to Cece’s plot because it seemed too detached from the rest of the story and seemed like it was just there to make sure all of the characters were included. She’s asked about by a guy who’s only 20 years old (this 22-year old is dubious) but his selling points are his charm and his intelligence.  And he’s super handsome—so Cece agrees. The boys clap and jeer as she leaves with him.

The ending seems almost inconsequential but it’s that lackadaisical nature that allows for it to stick its landing. Nick walks in on Jess passed out in bed, surrounded by paperwork. He makes a comment about them being a power couple and cleans up the mess, turns off the light and lies down next to her, content.

A lot of viewers have found themselves complaining about the way the Jess and Nick relationship is being handled, either saying that the spark is gone now that they’re actually an item or that their storylines dominate too much of the screen time.  The end showed how the show can utilize their relationship and allow for their moments to feel natural without dedicating large portions of the episode to them. They spent their day apart, they came together to sleep it off—the end. They work; they didn’t need to put work into the dynamic this week, so why force the issue? If more relationships were allowed to just be on television shows rather than the audience being force-fed a new dramatic issue of the week, it’s likely that the lead pairings would fare better in popularity.

Another solid episode and I can hardly believe that we’re already 19 episodes into the season and that it will be drawing to a close soon.

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