Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Used under CC License, WeeLittlePiggy 2013


The Hunger Games has made that fabled and increasingly impossible jump from book series to cultural and blockbuster phenomenon. Given the gargantuan success of the first film and the increasingly positive word of mouth preceding the sequel film adaptation, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, the real question on the minds of Games’ fans and Capitol citizens alike is unanimous: what the hell is Francis Lawrence and Lionsgate going to do with Mockingjay?

It is no secret that the Hunger Games series fully experienced the law of diminishing returns as each successive sequel book premiered. Even before the first film wowed most of the world (although still disappointed some fans, despite being widely hailed as one of the more faithful adaptations in existence) the final book and end to the story of the Capitol and the Games, Mockingjay, was met with a resounding sigh of disappointment from fans and critics alike. The final installment is not only long, but it dismantles many of the relationships and fan-favorite ideas that have been built over the course of the series in lieu of psychological discourse, gore-filled blood baths (saying this in the context of the already super violent Hunger Games universe, mind you), character expulsions, cheap death scenes and beating it over the heads of the readers that war is bad and good vs. evil is not always black and white (points most readers already fully grasped by the end of book 2.) The result is a mess that would make Effie Trinket vomit; a bloated, boring, insensitive misfire that seems as though author Suzanne Collins either suddenly got sick of writing her characters or simply sunk a knife into the beautiful mahogany of her own series.

Given the nature of the publishing industry and how fiercely protective they are of their franchises, I was actually quite shocked that Mockingjay ever made it to print. For the longest time, too, I said nothing to fellow readers as I was almost certain of the response I would get. Boy was I wrong. Not only was my opinion shared, but some other fans of the series were far, far more upset by Mockingjay than I was. This criticism was not of the superfan, super-illogical drivel that is so common in beloved series, but actual, fervent issues that seemed to be decently unilateral among readers. Length, absence of characters, poor story flow and construction, mishandled character deaths, conflicting themes, the list goes on. This creates an interesting problem, or perhaps opportunity, given your perspective, for the film adapters. Mockingjay simply cannot be translated directly into a two-part film without making some extremely serious changes. The mass public simply won’t buy it and even though readers are usually quite adamant about faithfulness in translation, most of the ones I spoke to agreed that while the first two installments were great material for mass-film translations, a point I wholeheartedly agree with, Mockingjay needs some help before it can go to the silver screen.

I took some time via simple conversations with fans of the both the film and book series and while not everyone agreed (which is largely impossible given the nature of the beast), there were many areas where their opinions, as well as some of my own, overlapped. Francis Lawrence and Jennifer Lawrence, as well as writer Danny Strong, already announced some changes to Catching Fire and heavily insinuated that some drastic changes would be made to Mockingjay. Some of the Catching Fire changes listed are as follows:

  1. Peeta is “manned up” a bit and swims, instead of needing rescuing, at the beginning of the Quarter Quell.
  2. Effie Trinket’s character and conscience are expanded and she is more dynamic than static (like she was largely in the books.) Her screen time has also been heavily increased compared to the novel.
  3. Twill and Bonnie are excised from the story and District 13 is revealed in a more “interesting” way, according to Jennifer Lawrence.
  4. The game center from the first film will appear once again, a dimension widely viewed as an inspired addition to the series.

These are relatively small changes, but they reflect a positive point amongst the filmmakers: bringing the essence of a story to life sometimes requires changes. Given these changes and the general disappointment concerning Mockingjay in literary form, here are some of the changes I have heard that fans, as well as a few of my own, would like to see incorporated into the two-part epic that will be Mockingjay:

  1. Effie Trinket’s character needs to be present, in some form, during the revolution and her dissent from the Capitol, as well as support of Katniss and change of character/conscience, made a larger plot point. Given that Effie, via the films, has become an even more beloved character, I think we are already seeing this happen in the second film and will see it continue. This, in my estimation, may end up being the biggest change to the third film. I expect her character may have an entirely different story altogether in the 3rd and 4th films.
  2. Peeta’s brainwashed stupor needs to be present, but heavily reduced and he needs to be “there” during the revolution, not relegated to a flimsy romantic side character. Some even suggested replacing this story line completely, which honestly, I would be more than okay with.
  3. Individual district revolutions, and the connections to the fallen victors, needs to be expanded upon and actually shown, not just talked about. (Already hinted at in the Catching Fire trailer footage.)
  4. Katniss’ love triangle with Peeta and Gale needs to be resolved in a louder, more revelatory manner. Additionally, Katniss needs to actually express genuine love towards Peeta, not the simple apathy present in the books. (Of all the points, this was the most agreed upon.) Again, we have already seen this start in the film adaptation of book one where it is no question that Katniss is truly falling for Peeta, a change I am hugely glad they made.
  5. Katniss’ fall from grace after shooting Alma Coin and being sent back to District 12 as a lunatic is probably the single biggest disappointment of the entire series for readers. Katniss needs an entirely different, more proactive and heroic ending.
  6. District 13 needs to be streamlined and the story there intensified with almost everyone qualifying that this was the longest and most arduous part of the story. The best suggestion I heard? “Instead of just mulling about in a bunker, the film should take the post-apocalyptic setting of District 13 to tell the story of how Panem came to be.”

And finally, the single most controversial of all the changes, but one that I have completely fallen in love with upon reflection. Take a breath, here we go…

  1. Gale needs to die…and by Katniss’ hand. Gale is heavily inferred to have been the source of the plan that killed Primrose as well as swaths of innocent people at the hands of Alma Coin, with his fire and passion for seeing the Capitol fall blinding him to the costs at which it will come. This needs to happen at a climatic moment wherein the frustrations both romantically and the continually expanding rift between Katniss and Gale is fully expressed. If done correctly, this could be wildly dramatic, cathartic and heartbreaking. I see a grand moment where Katniss makes the decision but goes to Gale’s side after she plants a bow in his chest, a crumbling Capitol behind him as he sees his dream finally come to life as he leaves this life. I would sob, absolutely sob. It’s the kind of death that is full of gray area, hard to watch, heartbreaking for the fans, but also a welcome departure and moment of closure for this character (closure that is inexplicably absent in the book, wherein there is almost no resolution with Gale at all, which is just not going to fly for a film audience.)

These are merely thoughts from critically-thinking readers and fans who want nothing but the best for this overall amazing franchise. Not everyone agrees on these ideas and indeed a few don’t think anything needs to change at all, but It seems the filmmakers and actors have already picked up on and started making some of these changes, so only time will tell if Mockingjay will be the story fans deserve instead of the one the one they got. I, for one, think that change is a good thing.

What are your thoughts on the series? Should Mockingjay be changed? What else would you like to see different in the final two films?

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Mysic Manor Courtesy of DAPSMAGIC.com

The future is here and it is unrestricted. Since the dawn of the dark ride and amusement park history the thrill of a ride has always been restricted to a metal rail, the ageless relative of the railroad track, that has long served as the backbone of both the ancient and modern thrill ride. Those days may be over…and it may be the single best thing that has ever happened to the themed entertainment industry.

Recall for a moment your favorite theme park attraction, how it felt to experience it for the first time, the thrill, the uniqueness, the sheer excitement of turning that corner out of the load station for the first time…

Now, imagine that same experience without any restrictions, no guidance rail that spoils the direction you’re headed, nothing binding you to the center of a track enabling completely free movement through a space. Now that’s easily said, but take a moment and really think about what that means…the Haunted Mansion with wood floors, simulated staircases, actual hills you descend down in the graveyard, no glaringly obvious track, no fixed viewing points and the ability to visit completely different areas of the house than you did before. Now take this and multiply it by every dark ride you have experienced and you begin to see the scope of this advancement. Now obviously, this is just an example, but the possibilities are breathtaking. The technology improves every aspect of the experience from immersion to reliability now that there is no track to be bound to and by extension no wheels and train components to have to replace/repair. Reduced down time, exponentially more ride experience variations, interactivity between vehicles, scenes that use the floor as a thrill point/scene itself, we really are only seeing the birthing stage of the trackless ride system and while current examples still bear many of the design restrictions of a standard track system, you can indeed see that Imagineers and ride designers are starting to realize the possibilities.

Point-in-case, Hong Kong Disneyland’s brand new ride Mystic Manor, a trackless first for the Walt Disney Company that clearly is the best example of what this technology can do. No on-board attractions host is needed and the ride floats effortlessly around corners and through the doorways of Mystic Manor, following the misadventure of the mischievous monkey Albert as he opens an ancient music box that brings inanimate objects to life throughout the antiquity-filled mansion. This ride has two tracks and is a seamless 360 ride experience, meaning no blank walls, no restricted viewing, nothing to ruin the illusion. In fact, the ride path even crosses over itself in the whirlwind finale that has to be seen to be believed, something that never would have been possible with track systems. Don’t believe it? See it in action for yourself.

Sea World’s Antarctica: Empire of the Penguins is another excellent example of how the ride can work. Sea World took a better approach when thinking of the ride track and

Antarctica, Courtesy of Attractions Magazine

really played with the mechanics of no longer have fixed cars, weaving the cars in and out of each other’s paths, facing other pods as they enter and exit spaces, using the exposure to the other riders as an enhancement rather than distraction, etc. Sea World’s ride itself may have a few issues with quality and general story, but the execution of technology is the true star in this attraction and it really seems Sea World wanted to show off the new system as the centerpiece of the entire experience and indeed, it is almost more entertaining to watch the other cars move and glide than it is to pay attention to the actual show (which is a huge problem in actuality, but hey, we’re having fun here.)

The story revolves around a penguin who you meet in the queue as an infant and follows his story as he learns about life for the penguins as well as his beautiful and dangerous home, Antarctica. Seals chase you under the sea, you emerge into luminescent caverns of glacial ice, sea water flows and falls around you as you glide through the caverns with your trusted friend on his journey, culminating in an unbelievable (to the point where it has already caused problems) finale where you are face to face with the penguins themselves, all while freezing at an authentic 0 to 1 degrees Celsius throughout the experience.

We are not there yet with this technology, we have only begun to tap the surface of trackless ride systems and the innovative possibilities they hold that are just waiting for the taking. It will take an entire paradigm shift, a completely new way of thinking and creating to use this technology to its fullest. The dark ride rule book is about to be rewritten and I will be on board for the ride, will you?

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Following the jarring events at Tarantella’s mansion the night before, Jules arrives at the London Fog only to receive a new delivery from an address that is strangely familiar….

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Tarantella continues with the conclusion of Chapter III: Mob Mentality…

Join Jules as he races to the house of Lady Tarantella only to face a violent, armed mob at the gates to her home, forcing Tarantella to protect herself by ANY means necessary….


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TARANTELLA continues with Chapter III: Mob Mentality…

Jules watches as a press conference outside of the Bailey garners hatred for Tarantella at the leading of Archbishop Depardieu and Prime Minister-elect Simeon Starch, all while the news is broken that Lady Tarantella has been formally charged with murder…

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TARANTELLA continues with the conclusion of Chapter II: Headlines!

Join Jules today as he begins to unravel the truth of the disappearances and illness that is plaguing London…

TARANTELLA: Chapter II: Headlines Continued

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5. Marie Antoinette

Director: Sofia Copola

Production Designer: K.K. Barrett

In 2006, young Sofia Copola (Lost in Translation) brought to the table of cinema a very different portrayal of one of history’s most notorious characters in a world of pastels, gold, pastries and excess. Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst in the namesake role, is a cinematic treat both for the eye and for the soul. Namely because it is one of the first and only sympathetic portrayals of the young French monarch, Marie Antoinette, and her arranged marriage to the equally young, equally naive Louis Auguste XVI. Criticized largely for its historical inaccuracies (despite being hailed by many in France as one of the better portrayals of Antoinette and winning multiple palms at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006) as well as for its long-winded second act, Marie Antoinette was only a moderate success at the box office, but visually, it is a treat unlike any other. Granted the privilege of being one of the few films allowed to shoot at the Palace of Versailles, the film has an insane oppulence to it that is scarcely seen even in period pieces. This is partially because of the palace/grounds itself and the historical scope it offers, but it is also attributable to Sofia Copola’s vision to purposefully deviate from history and interject colors, styles, motifs, palettes, music and language that admittedly would never have existed (or at least allowed in royal court) in late 1700s France. This clash of the historical and the modern, specifically in a period piece, creates such a subconsciously juxtaposed visual that it is hard not be awed by the sheer magnitude of what Copola is presenting. Add insanely designed pastries to boot and you’ve got a film that is as visually yummy as it is long…

3 Scenes to watch:

Copyright Columbia Pictures 2006

(Left: The Coronation, Middle: The Birthday Party, Right: The Hand-off)

Copyright 20th Century Fox

6. Alien

Director: Ridley Scott

Production Designer: Michael Seymour, Roger Christian (uncredited) and H.R. Giger

“In Space…No One Can Hear You Scream”

Alien. The 1979 science-fiction, low-budget horror film that arrested the minds and the hearts of theatergoers the world over. It’s almost ludicrous to even describe the plot it is so well known in modern culture…and for good reason. The story revolves around the towing ship Nostromo and its ship board computer “mother” that wakes up the crew from cryo-sleep with months until they reach Earth so that they will, according to protocol, investigate a distress signal sent from LV-426, a desolate planet devoid of life.  Aided by last-minute crew addition Ash, the doomed crew lands on LV-426 where they trace the signal to an abandoned, behemoth spacecraft. Yet, while 3 members of the crew search the derelict ship, they discover a massive, fossilized alien, named the “space jockey”,  whose ribs have been blasted open from the inside out, while all the while, back on the ship, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has been decoding the original message only to discover that it is, in fact, a warning to stay away from the planet. Ash convinces her that it is too late to warn the other crew members and she believes him, the crew aboard the ship searching the cavernous recesses of the craft only to find a chamber of leathery eggs that respond when a layer of protective mist is disturbed…the egg unravels, a hideous arachnoid creature attaches itself to the face of one of the crew and hours later, an alien xenomorph explodes from the chest of the doomed crew member…the rest, as they say, is cinematic history. A history it owes to the claustrophobic and nightmare inducing designs of the production designers and they’re inspiration, HR Giger. From the hyper-sexual design of the Alien itself and the derelict space ship to the claustrophoic, dark corridors of the Nostromo, the entire film is a psychologically visual mind game.  Playing on the human mind’s psychosexual nature and the primal fears of the hunter versus the hunted.

Whether it be the wondrous cyberpunk interiors or the heart pounding, beacon filled, steam ridden finale of the Nostromo self-destruct sequence, Alien is a creature-feature unlike anything the world has ever seen and to this day, it still, despite many attempts, has yet to be duplicated…

3 Scenes to Watch:

Copyright 20th Century Fox

(Left: Derelict Spaceship, Middle: Nostromo Self-destruct sequence, Right: Nostromo Cryo wake-up)

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