Passengers vs. The Shining: A Movie Review (Spoilers)

Over the past weekend, I had the opportunity to see the new movie, “Passengers.” From the commercials advertising the movie, I was intrigued- I had seen a scene deliberately referencing, one of my favorite movies, Stanley Kubrick’s classic, “The Shining.” So I had to know more.

The bar-lounge aboard the spaceship in, “Passengers” is more Art Deco than even “The Shining” is.
The bar/ballroom in, “The Shining.”

As it turns out, the entire movie had more in common with, “The Shining” than I had anticipated. Here is my list of the similarities I noticed between the two movies. (Please note, this is full of spoilers.)

  • In, “The Shining” the main character is named Jack and in “Passengers” the main character is named Jim. Both are short names that begin with the letter, “J.”
  • In both movies, one of the lead characters works as a writer and writes a book while trapped in solitude.
  • As described above, both bar scenes look alike, with “Passengers” modeled directly after “The Shining.”
  • Speaking of the bars, the bartenders in each movie are not only dressed alike, but are both not real people, although they seem like they are. In, “The Shining,” Lloyd the bartender is actually a ghost and in, “Passengers,” Arthur reveals that he is in fact an android.
Arthur, the bartender in, “Passengers”
Lloyd, the bartender in, “The Shining”
  • The character bound on coming to the aid to each couple in each movie is black: Dick Halloran from, “The Shining” and Gus Mancuso in, “Passengers” and unfortunately, is also the first one killed off in each movie.
  • In each couple in the two movies, the female character is genuinely afraid of the male partner and the murder he is capable of pulling off.
  • In, “The Shining,” the female lead wields an ax in self-defense. In, “Passengers,” the prop of choice for the female lead is a crow bar. Both are dangerous and similar objects.
  • One of the most iconic moments from, “The Shining” is Danny riding around the halls of the hotel on his toy bike for fun. In, “Passengers,” we have athletic-minded Aurora instead running/jogging throughout the halls of the ship to pass the time.
  • In both movies, it is as if the hotel in “The Shining” and the space ship in “Passengers” *chooses* its caretaker before the actual caretaker realizes it. In, “The Shining,” Jack has always been the hotel’s caretaker, so him getting the job is a given. In, “Passengers,” it is almost as if the ship’s malfunctioning is a way for it to claim Jim as the only one who can properly fix and maintain it, especially given Jim’s background as an engineer. In both cases, each main character is more than properly equipped to handle their duties.

With all this being laid out though, each movie goes in a very different direction. “The Shining” becomes a horror flick, whereas, “Passengers” is more the romantic sci-fi genre. I almost wish this movie could have captured the horror of the situation more and did explore the route of a futuristic remake of, “The Shining.” If that were to have happened, you could even see, “Passengers” being the combination of two of Kubrick’s finest movies, “The Shining” and, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” However if “Passengers” were remake of, “The Shining,” it may not have been as successful a movie. An audience member could either be frustrated by the sheer number of references to, “The Shining” without it actually having enough of the same storyline; could delight in the similarities in the two movies without actually being the same thing. Either way, “Passengers” is definitely a novel approach to a futuristic story, while bringing in aspects from another familiar movie gem.



Blue Healer is 2016’s Wonder Of The World

A lot of people have been hating on 2016. Sure, it brought us too many high-profile celebrity deaths than we know what to do with, but I promise it wasn’t an all-bad year. For one, it brought us not only my new favorite band but this band also released a full-length debut (and unfortunately also final) album.

I first saw the band, Blue Healer last year at SXSW. This threesome of guys (David Beck on vocals and bass, Bryan Mammel on keys, and Dees Stribling on drums) separated themselves from their former country-light group, Sons Of Fathers, and are based out of Austin, TX. When I first heard the group’s new sound, I was immediately enthralled. They turned a Simon & Garfunkel meets Mumford & Sons sound into an electro-pop, fresh new feel. Incorporating a modern synthesizer/keyboard plus youthful beats and airy, catchy vocals, I could see Blue Healer really succeeding and going places.

Unfortunately because this is the year 2016, Blue Healer band is ceasing to be and they play their final show tomorrow night on New Years Eve (what a way to go out). What they left us with though, is a self-titled album- wonder of the world. Let’s dive right in…

The album starts out with the ultra-mellow, “Only The Rain.” The tune gently rocks you to a climax that is somehow still gentle and relaxed, but very even-keeled. The song is a good introduction to Blue Healer, yet it allows for plenty of breathing room for the rest of the album to follow.

Next up is, “Luminescent Eyes.” Let me tell you what I think of when I hear this song. My fiancé and I are fans of the television show, “Grimm.” A general summary of the show is that there are certain types of people who can “animorph” into strange creatures when they feel angry or threatened. The show takes place in present-day Portland, OR. We imagine this song being used as a cute little montage during any episode where a character is roaming the streets of Portland in full-on animal mode. This song could fit right in, aiding to Portland’s quirky character.

“Empty Bottles” brings the rock aspect to Blue Healer’s description. This song reminds me of early 00’s rock-pop mixed with influences by The Black Keys. It features heavy keyboard-synth styling on top of a deeper sound. Eerily, David Beck’s otherwise light and airy vocals, actually create a mysterious sound to this song. I can’t decide if this song sounds angry or scary, but not in an aggressive way, which makes me ok with these conflicting feelings.

In a turn of events, we are greeted with, “O-Y-O” up next. We get immediately hit with a fun, poppy keyboard riff. This song might be the most slightly reminiscent of Blue Healer’s roots with their former group. You can hear it in the familiar, easy harmonies and the easy-going energy. It’s a relatively simple song structure with a catchy melody, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What stands out is the odd minor key the song flirts with. It’s like, you can have fun- but only if you watch your back.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is, “Crystal Chandeliers.” It begins with nifty “crystal” sound effects. The back-up vocals sound right from The Smiths, in a surprisingly deeper tone which speaks to me. Again, Blue Healer plays with a haunting sound that melts with a sweeter side. The mystery is captivating and creates a very synth-heavy cradle to rock you along.

“Song Of The Stranger” is an interesting tune that follows the storyline of a stranger. This is not necessarily the topic many songs, which is an unusual change of affairs. The lyrics and melody remind me of something you might hear Bob Dylan sing. This song is actually less of a narrative and more of a way to relate to life lessons. It’s a thoughtful, almost spiritual song and spirals around you at the end.

My other favorite song is, “Wonder Of The World.” This song has a bouncy, early-1960’s structure and a little kid-like feeling to it. It’s cutesy, it’s fun, and it wants to be friends with The Beach Boys because it is just as lighthearted and joyful. This is an easy-listening tune that seems like it could work in a retro way but then also plays with a 90’s, “Island in the Sun” Weezer-esque vibe. Very nice.

Coming off that high, we get, “Bad Weather,” a more serious track. Maybe it’s just me, but the first line sounds like, “I think my house is horny.” Obviously, the next line nixes that odd idea, because you soon learn this is a song about ghosts. I am a big fan of this subject and so I can’t help but really enjoy the unusual complexities of this song. The track jumps around in tempo and features what sounds like bongos. It’s appropriately scary and I love singing along to the shouted, “hey!” about 2/3 of the way in. This song features an almost “Seven Nation Army” (The White Stripes) feel of power and strength and it is most appreciated.

Following is, “30,000 Ft.” which starts out by ironically grounding you with strong guitar chords. The guitar also seems to be influenced by video game music- Super Mario’s castle levels, perhaps? The song gets lifted by some surreal synth and keyboard bits which keep you adrift amongst the floating vocals. The song leaves you right where it promises: 30,000 feet, way up high.

Another more happy-go-luck song comes next with, “Hold Me Close.” This is like the peppy, better looking sister to the album’s first track, “Only The Rain.” Again, this is an ultra-mellow tune, with sweeping landscapes of long chords and drawn-out vocals. The instrumentation wants to take you for a ride, and the vocals are just way too chill, man. This would be the ideal song to just mellow yourself away into a pool of no worries. “Hakuna Matata, y’all.”

Do you ever wish the lyrics of a song were something they weren’t, even though it really made no sense whatsoever? At one of the concerts I saw Blue Healer, multiple people I heard said they thought the lyrics in this next upbeat rock hit, “Like Diamonds” were actually, “Only if she tastes like Dominoes.” Pizza probably would taste batter than diamonds, though we may never know, unless we have any diamond-eating volunteers. Anyways, this song is a hit! Want to get pepped up? This song is for you. It’s got clapping and more shouting out, “Hey!” “Like Diamonds” wants to get you dancing right out the door. This song wants you to rock and it sure succeeds.

Coming down to the last couple tracks is, “Know Better.” Think you were all hyped up from the last track? Good job, but Blue Healer still wants you to think back and reflect. This is a sad, somber tune. If you want an album that lets you experience all of your emotions, even the ones you might not want to experience, then you’ve come to the right place. “Know Better” is a fine example of the kind of song you might want to listen to if you’re having one of those truly crummy days. “I don’t want to give up, I still got love, just maybe not for this life.” Man, what a downer line. Get ready to feel all emo on this one.

And, lastly we’ve got another acronym title, “I.Y.F.L.D.” which you soon can figure out is the song’s prerogative to get you back to the way you were feeling two tracks ago. Yes please, let’s end on a happy note. This is another song on the album to discuss ghosts, however this time it’s in a happier way (who knew?). Although, unlike, “Song Of The Stranger,” this is a narrative-focused song. This album wants to tuck us to bed with a goodnight story and sure, I’ll take it. The song illustrates an unusual fellow and interrupts each vignette to pretty much remind you to be who you are and “if you feel like dancing, go on with yourself.”  Not a bad way to end an album, if you ask me.

Thanks to Blue Healer for making wonderful music. You helped make 2016 less bad.


Enough With Christmas Music, Here Are Some Thanksgiving Tunes

I don’t know about you but I have already had more than my fair share of Christmas music in the stores, prior to it even being Thanksgiving. And while I realize there are a good number of you out there who actually enjoy such music, but I actually do not. Many people associate Christmas music with Thanksgiving (for reasons I may never know) but I think it is because most people simply do not realize that there is actually music specifically geared at (or can be thought of as being directly related to) Thanksgiving. Maybe you don’t know any or can only think of one. Let me assist. I’m more than happy to…

Let’s start out with a number that by now, should be your go-to classic:

Here’s a song that my family has been playing on Thanksgiving every year since before I was alive:

As for the subject of eating because what would Thanksgiving be without gorging ourselves with American-grown food, so this song’s title says it all (excluding the bit in the parenthesis, which I would just substitute with “all of the good turkey” or something to that ilk)…

And then, because there are enough songs with the most appropriate title for Thanksgiving:

And one variation:

Some Thoughts on the 2016 Election Results

Back when I was in high school, I was a self-proclaimed hippie. I got really into the 60’s- the music, the literature, the history, the fashion, and the politics. I vividly remember attending a rally at my high school the day before George W. Bush officially declared war on Iraq. It was the day after my birthday and I could have thought of no better way to celebrate my birthday than to stand up for something I had felt so passionately about. There might have been 100 of us, protesting outside the school building. We had made signs, painted faces, I had made a masterful mix tape of anti-war songs, there was a local television there to report on the events. It was probably the first time I can remember really standing up for what I believed in. It was amazing and empowering. The next day war was declared and although our little protest had no impact on the course of world events, it did bond us closer together. I was aware that there were other like-minded folk like me who felt the same awful way about war.

That day reminds me a lot of today. It’s thirteen years later, and instead of attending an actual protest, I see my peers taking to social media to voice their concerns and feelings about our newly declared president-elect. Our now monotonous workdays may not allow us to attend protests or rallies, but our voices are still being heard and our thoughts are in unity with others who feel similarly. It is comforting to know that this election was close and that we, the people of the United States were able to muster up so much hope for progress and change in a liberal-minded manner.

I am immensely grateful to reside in a country that grants us the freedom to say and act how we feel, despite disappointing election results.  I realize that this is not the first time an election has been so polarizing, not just in our country’s history, but in the world. And my solace is remembering that in the past, we have pushed on. We have overcome despite hardships before and we will do it again. History has shown that we, the people can and will prevail. It won’t be easy and it won’t be enjoyable. We may have our doubts about the future and how we fit into everything. But we need to remember that this election was not won by a landslide. There are still enough people in this nation, let alone the world who feel that this next president is not the best fit. With that many people standing and fighting as one, I can not help but to remember that hope can still be alive within us.

This is still “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Watch this to take a Stand! ->

Delightful Decomposing Pumpkins

You know those Jack-O-Lanterns you carefully carved leading up to Halloween? It’s quite a shame when their pristine looks can’t make it at least as log as the holiday they were meant for. Here’s a gallery of these such wonders, the wonders of decaying carved pumpkins. Sometimes the withering ones look more creepy than the fresh ones!

Good luck to your Jack-O-Lanterns & Happy Halloween! 

A Haunting Interpretation of Cinderella

When you go to a ballet and it starts out with a death scene, a graveyard and a magical tree, you know you are in for something different. Last night I went to see the San Francisco Ballet’s production of, “Cinderella” and surprisingly enough, I am now blogging about it as part of my Halloween Countdown. Although this run at The Kennedy Center ends this Sunday, October 30th, if you find yourself with the spare time, I definitely recommend grabbing some tickets.

I’m sure we’re all aware of the fairy tale of Cinderella, made popular by Disney, but this rendition although definitely magical, is at times spooky and mysterious. This ballet incorporates some truly magnificent costumes, complete with oversized heads, trailing fingernails, a full suit of armor, and creepy masked figures. Some might think this show depicts a nightmare, however it is all because of magic. One of my favorite parts of the show was a rainbow created out of floating chairs. If my chairs ever floated up to the rafters, I’d be scared out of my mind. But in this production, the somewhat randomly flying chairs seem to be in lieu of a scene change to clear off the furniture. Whatever the reason for the ghostly appearance, it becomes quite the spectacle.

Nightmarish, indeed.
Cinderella (at right) looks quite distressed, unsurprisingly.

In addition to the at times, spooky scenery and costumes, the musical score written by Sergei Prokofiev also reflects the eerie tale. Some of the melodies reminded me of something you might hear in a “Harry Potter” movie, which adds to the magical feeling and aura of mystique. I also enjoyed Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography of intertwining twirling and unpredictable “cheerleader” like lines of movement.  I was impressed with how well the story was told through dance at times, bits of humor like the drunken dance by the stepmother and the prince as a child scheming with his friend.

As much as this is a “happily ever after” tale, this production will not let you forget how twisted and dark the story is. A great lead-up to Halloween, this story of a tossed aside slave girl who finds love in unexpectedly, is one that might just haunt your dreams.  Bet you would never think to “beware of Cinderella,” but for this ballet, you might be thankful you did.

Halloween Countdown: 3 days!