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Retro Review: Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights



Charlie Chaplin was one of the greatest actors, writers and directors that ever lived. His meticulous planning, directing and made his films ever lasting and something that withstands the tests of time. His lovable tramp character is one of the most iconic characters and have transcended films.

One of the finest films he made was actually released on this day, January 30, 1931 and that film was City Lights.  This film is an underrated classic and highly regarded by most film historians and critics. After many years later and into the next generations and new millennium, does this film still hold up as one of the greatest? Well, in lieu of it’s anniversary, we’ll be going over the story, the acting and the feeling that the film has on the audience. Let’s sit back and get our bowler hat and walking stick and hobble over to our couches as we review City Lights.

The story revolves around the lovable Tramp walking around the town during daytime and evening under the city lights (get it?) and just having all these stories getting connected. Chaplin is walking around town when he meets a blind woman selling flowers. He is smitten by her and has a desire to want to be with her. After he leaves her, later on during the evening, he saves a rich millionaire from trying to kill himself by drowning. The man is drunk and decides to invite Chaplin to come with him to a party and to his house. The main problem is when the millionaire recovers from his drunken stupor, he doesn’t remember the tramp and usually kicks him out of his house.

The rest of the story revolves the Tramp trying to raise money for the blind woman so she can pay for her rent and also get some eye surgery so she can have the ability to see. The whole movie revolves around the Tramp trying to get money through many shenanigans like Chaplin’s famous boxing scene, working at a street cleaner, and getting money from the millionaire. The plot is simple and because it’s a silent movie, the acting has to be top notch just so we can get emotional and laugh and feel something as we gaze onto the big screen.

The acting, especially Chaplin, is right on point. There is a reason he is an acting legend and this is just one of his many examples of showcasing his ability to show much emotion and feeling and comedic chops without saying a single word and just use his body language and his facial abilities. When he is with the blind woman and receiving a flower, you feel how he feels based on the way he is looking at her and how he probably has never been treated so kind by a woman in a long time that you can see how much it means to him. When he saves the millionaire, he takes off the flower that he got from her because it means a lot to him and he doesn’t want to ruin it or lose it. With the silent movie limiting the dialogue to nonexistent, the acting is pantomime.

The blind woman did a great job with her acting ability showcasing her smile and her eyes are so piercing and so innocent that you want to help her and you want the Tramp to help her as well. The millionaire plays the drunken fool well. He is grandiose and over exaggerated. He is that kind of jerk who is nice while drinking but sober, is a crotchety droll, bitter man. All the main characters each have their strong suite and use it to their ability to showcase the story and make it a nice character driven expose on the Tramp and what he does in a movie that takes place over a couple of weeks in a then modern urban city.

Silent movies are different than many modern day movies. While the modern movie gets you amped up or make you happy or sad, they have a bigger production and a dialogue and a cinematography that helps you delve into your psyche to make you feel that way. Silent movies, it is all pantomime. The actors have to showcase their expressions in the face and gestures. They have to feel it all and over extend their ability to give us the chance to get any kind of emotional response. Watching this movie, I felt what the Tramp was feeling. He is so innocent and I wanted him to help the blind woman and I wanted him to succeed and win and get the girl.

With the millionaire, I wanted him to remember the Tramp and accept that he befriended a lonely poor man who walks the street. All of these emotions is what makes this movie special. They were able to touch me and make me root for them without opening their mouths and hearing them and with a camera that many of the times were stagnant and didn’t offer mood setting or any dynamic sets. It used a nice basic set and made something special with this movie because of the actors and what they were able to do with getting their emotions and acting across and reaching the audience.

Overall, this movie is fantastic. It has lasted this long and even though many of Chaplin’s works get more credit like The Great Dictator, Modern Times and The Kid, let’s not forget that this is a great movie that does show us some great comedy with the boxing scene, great emotional responses when the Tramp sees the blind woman at the end of the movie, and the frustration you feel when the millionaire runs into the Tramp at different times intoxicated. The movie hits every chord of your emotions and it is a nice movie to spend time watching alone or with a group of people who value classic movies. The movie was released in 1931, so, it is now 87 years old. Happy birthday City Lights and may you continue to be the beckon and starting point for people to admire classic silent movies.

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Joy Ride Is An Extremely Raunchy And Hilarious Comedy



Joy Ride is an extremely raunchy and hilarious comedy that takes the mantle of ensemble risky
comedies that at times, leave your mouth on the floor. Joy Ride focuses on two best friends
Audrey and Lolo (Ashley Sullivan and Sherry Cola) end up getting roped up into a trip to Asia,
they end up on gals pal cross-continent trek to find Audrey’s long lost birth mother so she
doesn’t lose a huge business deal.

The chemistry in this movie is superb. Every character has their moment to shine and there’s
rarely a scene where you don’t get a belly laugh. I was shocked at how crazy and bold this
movie got, continually pushing the line to get a laugh. The movie does a good job of getting to
the point and getting to the scenes that really make you chuckle. There are some editing choices where the story flies by some stuff, and it feels a little incomplete, but never at the expense of really enjoying being around for the journey.

I thought that this was a sleeper for this year and certainly a movie worth watching with your
friends some weekend. It’s great to throw on if you want a laugh and really just enjoy some
great actors riffing off each other. The focus on culture was a nice touch and really elevated the movie to another level. While I would say if you’re easily offended, this movie is not for you – if you’re looking for a no holds barred comedy, Joy Ride is a trip worth taking.

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Who Doesn’t Want To Wear The Ninja Suit Of Snake-Eyes Or Dress Like The Mandalorian?



Hasbro has had their pulse app out for a while now. It allows for access to items to buy, preorder, and a look into future projects and releases. It also allows for a very cool thing most nerds (a group of which I am a proud card-carrying member) have always wanted, the ability to make yourself into an action figure. I’ve contemplated making one for a time but, I finally got my chance to get my hands on one at Comic-Con this year. Now, of course, I had to wait in line as it was a pretty sought-after item. Who doesn’t want to have themselves wear the ninja suit of Snake-Eyes or dressed like a Mandalorian? I was approached by one of the booth staff as I was showing my nephew all the cool ways we could get him his own MIles Morales action figure with his face (as he’s a massive fan) and invited to take a seat and scan our faces into the Hasbro Pulse app with the help of their awesome team and make this dream a reality. My wife was with us, so of course she got in on the fun too. We scanned our faces in and it was very simple and quick. Then we all selected our figures to add our heads to. We all chose Power Rangers(Me as the Black Ranger, my wife chose the pink ranger and the nephew got the red ranger). Then we were told that we needed to wait about 4-6 weeks and we’d have our custom action figure team in our hands. This was a major part of our Comic-Con adventure and definitely, a memory my wife and nephew won’t forget (as it was both of their first Con ever). Thank you to Hasbro for being so generous(also getting me brownie points that home) and I highly suggest checking out Hasbro Pulse and all the cool stuff it has to offer.

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The Last Voyage of the Demeter: Double-knock on wood!  



Adapted and written largely from the Captain’s Log chapter of Bram Stoker’s magnum opus Dracula, The Last Voyage of the Demeter tells the story of Dracula’s journey by ship from Carpathia to London, and what happened to her crew in the interim.

So here we are in Bulgaria, middle of 1897, and Captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham) of the Russian schooner Demeter is here to take on some strange cargo from some unknown client and transport it to Carfax Abbey in London. In need of some extra hands, the Captain sends out his capable Second Wojchek (David Dastmalchian) to scout for some, and initially the roving black doctor and aspiring philosopher Clemens (Corey Hawkins) is passed over in favor of more work-roughened men. The adorable cabin boy of the Demeter, Toby (Woody Norman), narrowly misses being crushed by the mysterious dragon-marked crates being loaded onto the ship, saved by Clemens himself and switched out with the superstitious sailors running from the Demeter like they had been poisoned by the sign of Dracul. And now, armed with some nine or so crewmen, Doc Clemens, and Captain Eliot himself, the twenty-four strange what looks like coffins adorned with dragon signs brought mostly safely aboard, the Demeter can make for open water and the Hell that awaits them there.

The duty of showing Clemens around the ship falls to a cheerful Toby, who proudly shows him the living areas, the Captain’s quarters, the very-large cargo hold, the galley and kitchen where the overly-devout Joseph (Jon Jon Briones) cooks the crews meals, the various above decks, even the sails, and the rigging are all at least touched on, and the livestock pens that Toby himself is in charge of, including the handsome good-boy doggy Huckleberry, or just Huck. We the audience get a very clear feeling of what it’s like to actually be aboard the Demeter, just how large she really is, and what living on a ship for months at sea is really like, the reality and practicality and the dangers of it.

Everyone more or less settles in for a hopefully uneventful voyage, taking mess around the common table and exchanging ideas or aspirations for when they arrive in London early thanks to the fair winds, and receive a handsome bonus for their troubles. But that involves being alive and making it to London to spend said bonus and pay, and the coffin crates spilling dark soil from the motherland and disgorging all sorts of other nasty secrets, have some serious plans to the contrary.

First, it’s the livestock, innocent and shrieking in their locked pens as a monster takes great furious bites out of their necks, and of course, the creature just straight up ruins poor doggy Huck. Then there’s the fully grown girl that gets dislodged from an open coffin-crate, covered in bite scars and as pale as death, she eventually starts interacting and talking after several blood transfusions from Doc Clemens, Toby learns her name is Anna (Aisling Franciosi). And then, as the weather turns foul and the winds begin to be a serious problem, the attacks turn toward the remaining humans onboard the Demeter.

Most people these days are familiar with Dracula, that gorgeous cunning vampire Elder who can supposedly transform into a bat or a wolf, seducing women to voluntarily offer up their veins like an unholy sacrament, a being at once beautiful and powerful, but also horrific and murderous if given half a heartbeat to smell your blood. This is not Dracula.

Instead, the creature that hunts the humans occupying the Demeter is an absolute monster, not a single human feature left to it, barely even recognizable as humanoid-shaped, instead boasting not just full-length bat wings but an entire exo-skin of bat membranes that can be used for feeding, a mouth full of needle-like teeth akin to a predator of the deepest darkest parts of the ocean, those yellowed Nosferatu eyes that will not tolerate light in any way, and of course giant pointy bat-ears. This is a thing, a grotesque straight from the depths of Hell, and no amount of glamor magic can make this Dracula (Javier Botet) seem like anything other than what he, is – a parasitic demon who only wants your blood. There is no reasoning with it, no trapping it, not even really any talking to it (kinda hard to talk when your throat has been ripped out), and, like the much more frightening Dracula stories of old, no amount of pure faith behind a symbol does anything other than give false hope.

Coming face to face with an actual abomination does different things to different people. The formerly delightfully foul-mouthed Abrams (Chris Walley) dissolves into a blubbering mess; poor Larsen (Martin Furulund) didn’t even get to see his own death coming; and it turns out Olgaren (Stefan Kapicic) wants to live so badly, he’ll suffer becoming a blank-eyed Renfield if that’s what it takes. All of Cook Joseph’s purported pure faith didn’t stop him from trying to take the coward’s way out and didn’t save him anyway when the sound of unnatural bat wings descended on him. I find that kind of irony delicious. Dear Anna, resigned to her fate to be eternal food for the horror that terrorized her village, nevertheless wants to try and save whoever is left of the Demeter with her own sacrifice, and there aren’t many. Wojchek of course wants to kill Dracula, but for all his logic and solid practical nature, has no experience whatsoever with this sort of thing, and sure doesn’t want to sacrifice the Demeter, the beloved ship he called home that was promised to him by Captain Eliot himself, in order to destroy that demon. Even poor sweet Toby isn’t safe from the creature’s clutches, and what happens to the cabin boy of the Demeter is what finally sends Captain Eliot over the blooming edge. And who could blame him? For this sort of thing to happen during the last voyage of such a proud, solid ship as the Demeter, is some serious bullsh*t.

To leave such a film open for a potential sequel, especially when called the last voyage of something, was a pretty hefty ask, and somehow the filmmakers managed it. I personally think a different version of Van Helsing, the infamous vampire hunter, teaming up with a certain black doctor who nurses a serious grudge against Dracula, could be a kickass sequel. Until then, experience the doomed final journey of the Demeter and her poor crew in all it’s bloodstained glory, in theaters now!

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