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Will Springsteen’s Music Ignite The Spark? Blinded By the Light Is Certainly Hoping So.



Bruce Springsteen begins his 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town with these words…

Well, lights out tonight

Trouble in the heartland

Got a head on collision

Smashin’ in my guts, man

I’m caught in a cross fire

That I don’t understand

Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) sets her new film, Blinded By the Light, in 1987 Britain, and she sets it to the sound of Springsteen. And what’s she’s hoping for — and this is a film that is fueled by hope — is that her film speaks Bruce’s language, Bruce’s commitment and passion:

But there’s one thing I know for sure, girl

I don’t give a damn

For the same old played out scenes

Baby, I don’t give a damn

For just the in-betweens

Honey, I want the heart, I want the soul

I want control right now

You better listen to me, baby

Her success in doing so is mixed, but there’s never a doubt where her heart is, where her intentions lie, and how wide open is her embrace for her audience and for the power of music and film.

Just like at a Springsteen concert.

VIVEIK KALRA as Javed in New Line Cinema’s inspirational drama BLINDED BY THE LIGHT, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.Copyright: © 2019 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.
Photo Credit: Nick Wall

Javed (Viveik Kalra), a meek, first generation Pakistani-English teen, is trying to navigate the shoals of school and home; friendship and family; English culture and Pakistani culture. The classic immigrant story. He relies primarily on meekness and submission, even against those bigots who taunt and threaten him, but especially with authority figures, particularly his rule-the-roost father.

Then a Sikh stranger, a schoolmate, sees his struggle to find both himself and his place in the world, and slips him the key — Springsteen. Specifically, cassettes of Born in the USA and Darkness on the Edge of Town.

(For Springsteen devotees — and I have to admit that is me — the choice of that combination of albums is significant. Born in the USA is his most accessible and commercial album, his most popular and the one where his personal angst and existentialism is dressed up in the brightest and cheeriest of settings and music; Darkness on Edge of Town, in contrast, is his most naked and bare-bones cry of pain, disappointment, hope, and passion).

Once Javed plugs in and hears the Boss’ siren cry, he is transformed. Just like that! Here is his voice, his world.

Of course, the film keeps playing on the anachronism of a American rockstar from New Jersey speaking so directly to a Pakistani-English teen, but what the film sets out to do is shatter the restricting notion of anachronism and replace it with the ideal of the universal.

And if there’s a badge this film longs to wear, it’s idealism.

The question I left the theater asking, however, and one that I continue to ask, is whether idealism still speaks to a Trumpian and Brexitian world. Are things so dark, so cynical, that one can barely see the light, let alone be blinded by it?

VIVEIK KALRA as Javed in New Line Cinema’s inspirational drama BLINDED BY THE LIGHT, a Warner BrosCopyright: © 2019 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.
Photo Credit: Nick Wall. Pictures release.

Director Gurinder Chadha certainly puts her bets on idealism. There isn’t a hint of irony in her presentation of Sarfraz Manzoor ’s memoir. Rather it’s heartfelt, even earnest, in a wonderfully Spielbergian way.

For instance, one way the film dramatizes that differences can lead to universalism is through period. And nothing says period more than music and the fashion that grows out it.

The film is set during the transition from the mascara-caked, draping locks of the New Romantics (Culture Club, etc.) to the Synth-Pop of Duran Duran and the Fine Young Cannibals.

The flannel, denim and leather of Springsteen was not appreciated among the young. That is, with the exceptional of Javed and his Sikh buddy. And they exist in a delicious Bollywood world of the Boss.

It’s in those musical moments in the film, when Bruce’s lyrics swirl around Javed’s head and float across the screen, where street fairs become flash mobs of Dancers in the Dark, that the movie is at its absolutely most delightful and enrapturing. These scenes both ground the film in the truth of the heart and the street and launch it into the movie musical stratosphere. They are as wonderful and elevating as any of the numbers in La La Land.

It’s Springsteen’s music, of course, that provides the fuel for both the street race and the liftoff, but it is Viveik Kalra’s performance — and this is true for every moment he’s on screen, which is pretty much the entire film — that carries the film. He is spot-on and a pleasure to watch.

NELL WILLIAMS as Eliza, VIVEIK KALRA as Javed and AARON PHAGURA as Roops in New Line Cinema’s inspirational drama BLINDED BY THE LIGHT, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.Copyright: © 2019 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.
Photo Credit: Nick Wall

The problem, and this is nearly inevitable when a movie mixes genres (in this case, Bollywood Musical/High School Dramedy/Social Problem Film) is that the results, and the acting, is uneven. Javed’s father and his girl friend’s parents are overdone, but perhaps that’s just the High School Dramedy trope at work. In the end, the connection we feel for Javed overrules all inconsistencies and wins our hearts.

And winning our hungry hearts is just what this film sets out to do.

But — and here I ask the question again — can our hearts be won in the times we currently suffer through? The film connects its actions and characters to the present moment, through the economic hardships suffered by the working class, the anti-immigrant sentiments, as well as the presence of Neo-Nazis marching in the streets. But if the film is going to heal, to offer hope, to lift us over the walls of division and cynicism that surrounds us, then it must move from analogy to activator.

When the music is playing it does just that. A little less so between songs.

Yet, I wonder if this film, if Springsteen’s music, will appeal across demographics. As a 64 year-old, uber-Springsteen fan, it spoke right to me. I think everyone will fall for Javed, but does Bruce still speak to the masses?

VIVEIK KALRA as Javed in New Line Cinema’s inspirational drama BLINDED BY THE LIGHT, a Warner BrosCopyright: © 2019 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.
Photo Credit: Nick Wall. Pictures release.

I remember the night that Ronald Reagan won the White House. It was the night, Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town tour played Phoenix. He came onto the stage, announced Reagan’s win, and then in an act of resistance, protest and hope, he broke into Badlands:

Well, lights out tonight

Trouble in the heartland…

Badlands, you gotta live it everyday

Let the broken hearts stand

As the price you’ve gotta pay

Keep pushin’ ’til it’s understood

And these badlands start treating us good

Today, Reagan seems like a level-headed statesman, beloved even by the working class that Springsteen speaks from, to and about. In a Trump America, will the old connection fire? Will Springsteen’s music ignite the spark? Blinded By the Light is certainly hoping so.

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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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