“Bad Genius”: High risk, high reward

Foreign Film Series hits of spring semester with thrill and high action…about good grades

ROSEMARY SCHWEITZER

schwe035@rangers.uwp.edu

Listen up bitches courtesy of imdb
Lynn explains her final plan to Pat and Grace     COURTESY OF IMDB

Cheating. Most students have either thought of, or actually have cheated on some test at some point in their lives. Those slick enough to get away with it can live freely in anonymity, silently gloating at their success. However, those who are caught are not so lucky. Every few years some college board is under fire for recycling test answers, or having too lax of security measures in their testing rooms. Students who get caught up in these scandals have their test results nullified, are punished by their schools and branded with the moniker of “cheater”. Surprising as it may be, organized cheating rings in Asian countries taking advantage of recycled test forms is a constant issue. “Bad Genius” tackles the strange world of Asian cheating rings in an intense, two hour long, heist-style film.

The heist

Teen genius, Lynn (Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying), aids her best friend Grace (Eisaya Hosuwan) in cheating on a test so her grades will be high enough to audition for the school play. Simple enough, and done with good intentions. A one time thing, right? Unfortunately, things get complicated when Grace brings in her boyfriend, who brings in five friends, who all bring in their friends. Suddenly, Lynn is not only one of the two smartest students in school, but she is revered as something of a crime boss, with dozens of students hanging onto her every word and handsomely paying her for her “tutoring” lessons. But what happens when Lynn takes on more “students”? What happens when the tests get harder, the security stricter, the stakes higher?

Not your typical action flick

Unlike many popular heist-style movies, Lynn is the singular mastermind behind the various plots in the film, making her seem unrealistically intelligent, but she is not the only one. Every single one of the people involved in the cheating ring eventually go to pretty extreme lengths to keep from getting caught, though that can partially be explained by how much is on the line for these students.

Also unlike other heist movies, the various characters of “Bad Genius” do not have the familial relationships that many American viewers are used to seeing in films like “Ocean’s Eleven”, “Mission Impossible” or “Fast and Furious 5”. Their relationship is less akin to friendship and is actually closer to a cut and dry business transaction. They remain loyal to each other under threat of getting caught and, not because they genuinely care for one another.

While many of the characters possess more adult attributes, they are still, at their core, relatable teenagers. The teens of “Bad Genius” are rash, self-centered, self-serving, and manipulative in ways that no teen would ever want to admit they are, and yet it is not hard to see oneself in them. There are students all over the world that would go to extreme lengths to get good grades, be accepted to a good school and prove to the adult world that they are no longer just a “kid”. However unlikely as the specific events of this movie may be, it speaks to something that lies deep within most every young adult: the bad genius we all want to be.

Pat and Grace celebrate passing their test courtesy of imdb
Pat and Grace celebrate passing the STIC      COURTESY OF IMDB

Critical acclaim

The film received much critical acclaim, winning seventeen of its twenty-seven award nominations at various national film festivals, and it is not hard to see why.  The film was largely awarded for the stellar acting of the main cast, as well as the direction and editing of the film. Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying (playing Lynn), is a fashion model making her debut to the big screen in “Bad Genius”, and by her performance it is difficult to believe that she is not a well seasoned actress. Likewise, the rest of the cast is relatively new to the feature film seen, but they all present such riveting performances that one wouldn’t notice at first glance.

“Bad Genius” is an adrenaline packed ride of bad decisions and over-complicated schemes from start to finish and a must-see for any lover of thrilling heists or despiser of standardized tests.

“#Sadtrap”: an emotional masterpiece

Local rapper releases tense, conceptual project

TYLER STRAKA

strak006@rangers.uwp.edu

Ever since the rise in popularity of hip-hop music, its mass appeal and influence have reached mainstream and local music scenes alike, and the Racine/Kenosha area is no exception. From the Cactus Club and the Hatrix Bar in Kenosha to Greg’s Catering in Racine, the various venues give room for plenty of artists to perform, and a big example of a local musician is Shaggy No Scoob. Shaggy’s been busy performing his newest records since 2017, and his latest album, “#SadTrap”, is one of the most emotional and impactful releases South-Eastern Wisconsin has witnessed in recent years.

Carefully Detailed Layout

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“#Sadtrap” album cover     COURTESY OF SPOTIFY

 

Drawing from various musical influences and personal experiences, Shaggy crafts a solid pallet that’s both dark and reflective, using melancholy and trap-styled beats to go with the more depressing themes of the project. The intro, sung by DoMo BankZ, is an excellent title track, beginning the introspective tone that the other songs continue. This track leads into the first single, “Losing Control”, featuring Ethan Anomaly and Miggy Bars. Gliding through with swelling synths and perfectly concocted drums, the tales they weave of mental tension and devastating events define themselves on the verses and chorus alike.

From this point onward, the record begins a transformation, bringing out different scenarios with which he explains his thoughts. The primary example here is “Red Light Interlude”, where our protagonist describes his thoughts of running the red light, but just as a means of personal reflection. Other main cuts in this style include “Love Games” and “A Million Years”, the latter featuring Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills. Swirling backdrops and rattling high hats paint the backdrops for these withdrawn and icy songs, and the sung hooks contrast beautifully from the dark, sharp verses.

The Necessities of the Record

When discussing major moments on the record, the outro is a staple, titled “X” after XXXTentacion. Shaggy closes out the record by dedicating his creation to the murdered artist, explains what XXX did for this album’s sound and content, and using the last words to wish him and those closest to him peace and well wishes.

Overall, I was personally really impressed by what Shaggy No Scoob brought to the table here, combining elements of trap rap, emo hip-hop and even slight jazz-rap tendencies for an intoxicating and relatable listen. The personal narratives, the diverse but dense flows and the pretty but enveloping production present a unique adventure to be cherished, both as a studio album and a live experience.

“Kingdom Hearts 3”: I didn’t hate it

Latest installment of beloved game offers more new questions than it answers (Spoiler warning)

HOLLACE VILLARREAL

Villa068@rangers.uwp.edu

The game

“Kingdom Hearts 3” is the ninth game in the Kingdom Hearts series, though it is the first real made-for-console game released since “Kingdom Hearts 2”. The game follows Sora, the protagonist of the series, as he looks for the Power of Waking throughout different Disney themed worlds.

In this game, Sora and his friends are trying to find the seven guardians of light. Ultimately, Sora’s goal is to defeat his enemy, Xehanort, and Xehanort’s “Organization XIII”.

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Sora, Donald, and Goofy face off against Organization XIII     COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS

The overall plotline

The Kingdom Hearts series has a notoriously complex plotline, so complex that “Kingdom Hearts 3” comes with over a half hour of recap videos available on the title screen before the game even starts. The backstory that stretched out over the last nine games is repeated many times over the course of the game’s cutscenes. I found this annoyingly repetitive. As someone familiar with the franchise, nothing in the first half of the game was new information.

The worlds

As Kingdom Hearts is a blend of Final Fantasy and Disney, there was a fair amount of Disney worlds. Personally, I was a fan. I felt like each of the worlds were fleshed out, had interesting storylines, and had fun new game mechanics to work with. While the musical cutscenes in Arendelle (the world based on the movie “Frozen”) were frankly awkward, and the plot and length of San Fransokyo (based on the movie “Big Hero 6”) left much to be desired, the worlds were overall pretty good.

I was disappointed that no Final Fantasy characters made an appearance in the entire game. Though they have not made big appearances since “Kingdom Hearts 2” and “Birth by Sleep”, the characters added a lot to the games. By removing them, the game seemed to be missing something.

Kairi: Princess of heart, guardian of light

In the original “Kingdom Hearts” game Kairi was a main character. She went missing early in the game and Sora and Riku were both separately trying to find her. In the game, she was shown to be a “Princess of Heart”, a vague term that referred to characters with exceptional “light”. Because of her status as a “Princess of Heart”, Kairi was able to return Sora’s heart to him, when he gave up his life to save her.

In “Kingdom Hearts 2” Kairi also played a key role, showing how the outside world had forgotten the events of the original game. Though she did not have a whole lot of personality in this sequel, she still had self-sufficient qualities and even fought off a kidnapper and escaped a cell.

In “Kingdom Hearts 3”, Kairi has been training to become a keyblade wielder. Her aptitude for the keyblade was hinted at in “Birth by Sleep” where Aqua bequeathed her a keyblade. The game also mentions how there are new “Princesses of Heart”, but that Kairi is still one of them, along with a guardian of light.

It’s unforgivable that, in her first fight–after all this training–she is immediately defeated. She’s kidnapped by the villain and he shatters her in front of Sora.

Before this fight, Kairi only talked to Sora twice, and both times were stilted and awkward. The writing was strange, and her previously lively character was flat and uninteresting. She offered Sora a paopu fruit–a symbol of intertwining their destinies–without any lead up, creating an awkward atmosphere. This romance subplot fell flat.

After she was shattered, Sora vowed to get her back, even if it destroyed him. The game ends with everyone back and safe on Destiny Islands, except Sora–who seemingly gave up his life for her.

The game wasn’t awful

Overall the game was a fun time, I enjoyed playing it. After so long, I expected a better plotline that actually made all of the aspects of the overly complex storyline fall together. I was disappointed with how the game handled previously strong female characters. They appeared watered down and less powerful than they were in their original games. Again, it was fun–but it could have been so much better.

“Foxtrot”: controversial, surreal, and heartbreaking

ROSEMARY SCHWEITZER
schwe035@rangers.uwp.edu

Latest foreign film tackles harsh realities of war

The second pick for UW-Parkside’s Foreign Film Series is not only a thought provoking piece, but also a highly controversial one. “Foxtrot”, an Israeli film depicting the fictional Feldmann family as they real from the loss of their son, tackles aspects of the quagmire of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As fun as that all sounds, the Israeli government was not amused. Culture minister, Miri Regev, repeatedly criticized one specific scene which depicted the military covering up the wrongful deaths of several Palestinian teens. Following the Foxtrot’s success at the Venice Film Festival, Regev posted on Facebook, “When an Israeli film wins an international prize, the heart fills with pride and my natural desire is to strengthen and encourage the Israeli success….This rule has one exception—when the international embrace is the result of self-flagellation and cooperation with the anti-Israel narrative.” In addition to these strong words, the Israeli government boycotted the film’s appearance at a Paris film festival, despite having helped to fund the event.

 

Ignoring the spoilsports

Despite the government’s outrage, the film was a huge success, taking home eight awards from the Israeli Film Academy, including best film, director, actor, cinematography and sound. The film has won a total of sixteen awards from eight separate academies and festivals all over the world.

 

The content

As previously established, the film centers on the Feldmann family and their anguish when military soldiers knock on their door and deliver the news that young Jonathan has fallen in the line of duty. The way that the family tears themselves and each other apart is genuinely disturbing to watch, especially when they attempt to contain their sorrow, only to further hurt themselves.

With a limited soundtrack, and little background noise, the film has lengthy stretches of near silence. However, sound effects, such as the buzzing of a doorbell or ringing of a phone, seem to be purposefully louder than is normal in such a dower film. This could be intentional on the part of the filmmakers or dial turned up too high on the part of the theater attendants, but it has a jarring effect in either case. The sudden bursts of sound following suck long moments of quiet mimic the despondent shock of such crushing news and truly help to put the audience in the dazed shoes of our protagonists.

 

Showing more and more promise

While the series’ opening film, “Hotel Salvation”, dealt with themes of death in an accepting and almost lighthearted way and focused on an old man ready for whatever was to come in death, “Foxtrot” is something of a 180 degree spin. The death in this Israeli film is an untimely tragedy, and not something to be accepted with an open mind, but mourned with a heavy heart. That is not to say that there are no laughs amidst all the drama and tears as, just with real life, we must find some solace in our pain or otherwise go mad.

 

Another strong addition to UW-Parkside’s 2018 Foreign Film Series, “Foxtrot” has kept the through-provocation-ball rolling and has at least one UW-Parkside student eagerly awaiting the next film showing. Said showing will be of the Italian film, “Call Me By Your Name”, and run from Oct. 11-14.

Station Eleven: an easy read

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Station Eleven

HOLLACE VILLARREAL | Villa068@rangers.uwp.edu

The Big Read has just begun and there are about two more weeks of activities left surrounding the book “Station Eleven”.

The plot (slight spoilers ahead)

Our story starts out with Arthur, one of the main characters in the book, dying onstage of King Lear. Jeevan, a paparazzo turned EMT, runs onstage to try and save him, but his efforts seem to be in vain. Instead, while a cardiologist from the audience does CPR to try to revive Arthur, Jeevan goes to comfort Kirsten, a little girl who was acting as one of Lear’s daughters, and the main protagonist of the book.

After trying to revive Arthur, Jeevan receives a call from one of his friends, Hua, who works in a hospital. Hua tells him to leave town as quickly as he can, that there is an epidemic of epic proportions on the way. Jeevan decides to hole up in his brother’s apartment building with mass amounts of food instead.

Flash forward to the future: Twenty years after the outbreak, civilization is destroyed. Kirsten is travelling with a band of musicians and actors, the Travelling Symphony, and again acting in King Lear. Her troupe is there to preserve human culture, to not let people forget where they came from. They play Shakespeare because the people like it; they like to see “the best of humanity”. Upon the caravans is a Star Trek quote: “Survival is insufficient”.

Kirsten keeps Station Eleven comics on her, gifts from Arthur when she was young. They were written by his first wife, Miranda, and she treasures them.

Great readability and constant themes

The first thing I noticed about Station Eleven was how it sucked you in. If you are worried about the time commitment to the book, do not be. The read is smooth and easy, captivating and compelling.

The main characters, Kirsten, Miranda, and Arthur, are all multi-faceted and interesting. Kirsten is the main protagonist of the story and she values culture of all kinds, values anything that preserves her humanity.

Throughout the book there are stories of people clinging to culture in whatever form it takes. Before the collapse of civilization, Miranda throws herself into her work, creating Station Eleven (the comic) and Arthur wholeheartedly loves to act.

After the collapse, Kirsten inherits Arthur’s love for acting, playing in “high-brow” Shakespeare shows, while still collecting the “low-brow” media of comics, bringing Miranda and Arthur’s interests together in her life.

Kirsten’s best friend, August, collects TV guides, despite the lack of TV. Clarke, Arthur’s friend who escaped the collapse with Arthur’s second wife and son, creates a “Museum of Civilization” inside an old airport to preserve the history of the world he once knew.

Even by rejecting culture, the theme of culture still exists. Tyler, Arthur’s biological son, rejected the old world’s culture and tried to create his own, becoming a lecherous prophet. But still, he practises a religion that goes back thousands of years and even obsesses over the Station Eleven comics in the same way that Kirsten does. Culture affects every aspect of life, regardless of what the person wants.

Overall thoughts

“Station Eleven” was definitely one of the best books I have read all year and, though the library is out of free copies, I highly recommend going to find one at your local library or bookstore. Events will be going on until March 14th!