Writing for Another

Hello readers. I just wanted to update you on a new development recently regarding my writing. About two weeks ago, I was emailed by a website called rednow. Rednow explores the “wonder” in the media we experience. To quote the website, rednow exists, “to provide opportunities to feel and think: to wonder.” Their tagline for the website is, “Rednow: The Art of Wonder.” What does their name mean? Even that is left for us to “wonder” about.

 

Naturally I checked out the site to see what they were about, and after reading their mission statements, I was on board 100%. I began by writing a piece about Garden State for them about a week ago, you can see that here. After editing it a few times and running it by their editor, they liked what I had written enough to put it on their site! I was very excited, because even though I have many viewers on my blog here at wordpress, this was a new and exciting opportunity that I never thought I would get to experience.

I want to let you know here that I am not going to stop writing on my blog, but I WILL be running my articles that I write for rednow through my blog. I’d like to give my friends over there some much deserved traffic, as their site aims to explore media from a totally different lens rather than just letting it wash over us from a numb, mindless, perspective.

I hope that you can check out their site and read some of their articles on film, music, tv, and other fascinating stories. Most of them will make you wonder yourself, and frankly, that’s not a bad thing in todays world.

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Prison Break Explained: A Full Summary and Integrated Review

I am finding it hard to remove myself cold turkey from the act of reviewing media that I come in contact with. So, in good nature, I have decided to give my fairly unbiased opinions about a television show that was first featured in 2005 and I first watched in 2012 called Prison Break.

 

Prison Break follows a man, Michael Scofield, on his mission to break his brother out of prison. Michael is convinced that his brother, Lincoln Burrows, is innocent of the crime for which he was committed, which was the murder of the vice president’s brother. Burrows is on death row, and scheduled for execution within the month. Scofield must make connections on the prison block that will aid him in his escape, but enemies are sure to make slow work of Michael’s plans.

[FOR A COMPLETE SUMMARY OF THE PRISON BREAK SEASONS 1-4, SCROLL TO THE RED BRACKETED SECTION]

I thought that Prison Break was a complex and intense show. From a story buff’s perspective, I thought that this show did an excellent job. I was captivated the entire time I was watching and I thought the show had its fair share of plot twists, which I love. The characters were difficult to love, which is very real to life. No character should ever be perceived to be perfect and always good. I loved Michael Scofield the most, as he always tried to do the right thing, and was nearly always loyal and honorable. He refused to murder anyone, and always found a way around hurting others. The show constantly illustrated the moral war being waged inside Michael’s head, and this was fascinating to me as a viewer. Though he never pulled the trigger, people’s lives were ruined by some of the things Michael needed to do in order to get his brother out of prison. Throughout the show, you could see the weight that Michael took on himself for the bad that had been done.

The elements of Good vs. Evil were very evident in this show and were not only portrayed by the “good guys” or just the “bad guys.” You generally were exposed to good and bad in every character. Even the most despised character, Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell, who killed recklessly and was convicted sex offender was not all bad. Viewers were able to see his more vulnerable moments and even pitied him occasionally. The show was excellent at demonstrating the grey areas of life. Very few things are ever black and white, but rather a thick shade of grey.

The “bad” sides of “good” men generally reared their ugly heads in the show when they were trying to protect family or loved ones. They were willing to do ANYTHING to protect the ones they loved and cared about. A line said by Michael says it all, “You have obviously seriously underestimated the lengths I am willing to go to to get my brother out of prison.” I found this show an excellent study in morality, good & evil, and the nature of man.

[FAITH BASED SECTION]

I think that from a faith perspective (a word I haven’t used since Calvin College, ha) I am conflicted with Prison Break, as with other shows (Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Dexter, etc) With these shows and Prison Break, there lies a very complex and fascinating story/plot. There is a well written script and incredible character development. This can be used as a crutch to justify watching the show…if you know that this is something that you shouldn’t be watching. This is not a broad sweeping generalization, but rather more individualized. As a Christ follower, I live a life that runs media and other stimuli through a filter of discernment and wisdom. Some people just let ANYTHING enter their brains, and sorry if I’m too frank, but that is pretty dumb…not even from a religious context, just from a wise context. There is some real crap out there, and limiting the amount of seriously messed up content that we expose ourselves to is generally a good idea. It’s a free country, but again, this is just my two cents.

In light of that perspective, I find it difficult to watch certain shows regardless of plot, story, character development, entertainment, or complexity. Each person has their weaknesses. For some who have had a family member murdered, it would be seriously insensitive to recommend Dexter to them as a show they should watch. To someone getting clean, I wouldn’t ever recommend Breaking Bad. You get the idea. After watching Prison Break, I find myself asking questions like: “Was that show necessarily good to watch? Was it worth it? Did the good outweigh the bad? What was the good? What was the bad?” I have to admit, when I watch TV, I blaze a trail. I was done with 4 seasons of Prison Break inside of 2 1/2 weeks. Sometimes I can forget to discern what I am watching until I am already done with it. I think that many of us are caught in the same dilemma and should incorporate some more wisdom in what we watch. Think about it. What we put into us is going to come out somehow. In speech? In manner? In lifestyle? This is for you to think about, not for me to preach about.

PRISON BREAK SUMMARY

[THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE SERIES]

In the first season we find Michael making connections, scheming his plans and remaining completely focused. RARELY does Michael become unhinged and nervous. Michael seems to have every angle thought out and every contingency considered. Only when Lincoln was about to executed did his plans fall apart. If it wasn’t for that rouge call from the judge, Lincoln would have been fried. It was only when the plane took off the runway, leaving the convicts waving down the plane, that it finally sank in. Some things can’t be accounted for. Humans. It seemed that everything that went wrong in Michaels plan was not due to some equipment malfunctioning, but rather a human acting, well…unpredictable. And I just have to say, for about 45 minutes of that final episode in season 1 (which was all of it, haha) I was holding my breath. I couldn’t believe the amount of suspense that led up to the final escape. I found my heart racing like a dubstep beat. Man that first season was solid.

Season 2 was very interesting in my opinion too. I loved the new addition with FBI Agent Alex Mahone heading up a task force to retrieve the escaped convicts. I thought William Fichtner did an incredible job as the FBI agent. In this season, we follow the gang as they attempt to escape the clutches of the law and remain low as to not get noticed by any civilians. I have to mention this right now though, because it bugs me as a serious plot hole. You would think that with all of Michael’s knowledge and foreplanning, he would have decided it was a smart idea to purchase some decent disguises for himself and his brother. It seemed like THE MAIN problem the brothers and the Foxriver 8 were running into was being “made” by the local populous. Some of them were arrested and even killed because of it. “But Nooooooooo! We’ll just put on some civilian clothes, maybe a hat, and we’ll be fine! Yeah, our faces are plastered all over the country, but I think NOT disguising our faces in ANY way is good enough.” Hardly. Anyway, aside from that, I enjoyed the suspense of the Foxriver 8 trying not to get caught. Season 2 was not worse than season 1, just different in design. I still loved it.

Additionally, I thought that the continuing plot-line revolving around “The Company” was starting to get interesting. You really begin to feel how strong of a hold The Company has on those in law enforcement, politics, government, even on the executive level. You start to think, “Is there anything that The Company can’t do, or get to?” We find that The Company has a TIGHT hold on FBI Agnet Mahone, as well as any person who has someone they love and doesn’t want to see any harm come to them. The Company loves to exploit this angle.

Season 3 starts with an interesting twist. At the end of season 2, it seemed like it was all over. Lincoln was exonerated for his crimes, they had a boat in Panama, Sara (Michaels love), and the money. Life looked good. Then Agent Kim enters the scene to screw everything up. He has  Lincoln and Michael at gunpoint at the boat and is out for blood. Just as he is about to shoot, Sara comes from the back of the boat and shoots Kim in the chest. Kim falls into the water dead. The money falls into the river and is lost. Sirens from the Panama police are heard in the distance (from when Mahone made the call about two Americans shooting an Asian-American male.) Things don’t look good. Michael and Sara run and Lincoln escapes in the other direction. Michael takes the fall for the murder and is thrown into Sona Prison, the worst of the worst, and no one has ever escaped.

Season 3 wasn’t exactly my favorite, but it was still interesting enough. The entire season is about Michael trying to free a man named James Whistler. The Company wants Whistler out of Sona and are holding Lincoln’s son and Sara as collateral until Michael complies. Michael doesn’t exactly have a lot of time, and Sona is the kind of place where inmates regularly die from feuds. Lincoln is working on the outside to help Michael, but things aren’t easy…heck, when are they in this show? Lincoln decides to try and find his son and Sara before they are killed, and after Sara gave the brothers a clue as to where she was, Lincoln investigates. He finds where they are held, but fails to free them by seconds. Gretchen Morgan, the woman holding the two captives, decides to send Michael and Lincoln a message for their insolence, so she cuts off Sara’s head and put’s it in a box for Lincoln to find. This was easily the most darkly intense moment of the season. Still, the long and short of it is this: Michael escapes with Whistler and Whister leaves with Gretchen.

In Season 4, we find Michael devoting his entire focus to finding Gretchen and Whistler. His rage after finding out Gretchen beheaded Sara is palpable. You can tell in his eyes that he wants to do the same to Gretchen that she did to his beloved. Immediately in the episode Michael has done just that. He has caught up with the two of them and cornered them at gunpoint. Gretchen then explains something phenomenal. We find out that Sara was never killed. Sara escaped, and Gretchen didn’t want to loose credibility on the brothers. As a follower of the show, I was very pleased that they didn’t actually kill Sara off.

Season 4 is all about taking The Company down. A team is put together, The Brothers, Sucre (Michaels cell mate in Foxriver Prison), Mahone, Brad Bellick, Sara, and Roland Glenn, the techy. The team was put together by Homeland Security Agent Don Self. This season in my opinion was the most complex. The Company, the reason for SO many deaths surrounding each member of the team, was finally being taken down. Each member had a reason to take down the company. Each member knew someone killed by The Company in order to carry out The Company’s selfish plans.

The season ends with The Company being taken down and justice coming to those responsible. Still, you feel like you have to take a deep breath after it all comes to a slow. The scene where Michael is at the table about to hand over Scylla (The Company’s black book and patented ecological technologies worth billions) in exchange for exoneration, you can see it in his face…he is tired. Just as you think it’s all about to go bad once more, Michael says, “I’m tired of running…” And he hands over Scylla. His team is fully exonerated and their families safe. Everything that they had been fighting for the past 4 years was finally coming into fruition. As a viewer, it felt good. Like taking a deep breath after tense lungs are relaxed. If you were a watcher of the show, you know how it ends. I feel like the ending is very appropriate and beautiful.

Call Me Never.

So just this morning I came across one of the funniest renditions of the ever popular, but arguably attractive song, “Call Me Maybe.” We’ve all been there, singing the lyrics even though we publicly bash its face off. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Annnyyyway, my point is this artist, Nate Leslie, home based in Warrenville, Illinois, created a “CRAZY METAL VERSION” of Ms. Jepsen’s song. With Arrested Development references, a constant use of Bears, and an ending that had me in stitches….you just have to see it for yourself.

You really have to know the lyrics and watch this video 2 or 3 times before you get all the hilarious subtleties. Even if you don’t though, Nate Leslie captured the heart of what every guy, and some girls feel when they listen to this song, or watch the music video. “This song is ridiculous!” I know that I have to listen to Call me Maybe about 5 times a day in the Pizza Shop I work at, so I might be a little bit bias…but this song just made my day. Heck, it made my week! Thank You Nate Leslie, for all that you give back to the world.

I would recommend checking out Nate Leslie’s site, which I linked above, but you can also type it in at http://www.nateleslie.com. There you will find all of his music (not death metal), including his most recent album, Burst, which I listened to, and this is some good stuff. At $10, you are getting some nice beats. Nate Leslie plays all of the instruments in his albums, records, and produces it too. Pretty impressive. Nate Leslie is also in a band called Black Canvas that has a few albums out.

Film #40: Hook

Well tonight was the final night of my challenge to myself to watch 40 films in 40 nights. I have to say..that was WAY longer than I anticipated. Of course, I knew it was going to be 40 days, thats not what I meant. It felt much longer for some reason than just 40 days, and I have to say that a lot has happened in those 40 days.

I was just recently asked what my favorite film from the challenge was. Which one stood out above the rest? I didn’t know how to answer him. I was never very good at trying to think about my favorite film. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I came up with The Indiana Jones Series, Jurassic Park, and Hook, as my favorite films. “Why those Eric? Those aren’t  exactly the ‘best’ movies of all time…” Well reader, thats very observant. However, I chose those films for nostalgic purposes. I chose those films for the way that they make me feel. They stir within me something magical, and new again. Transport me to a time when I had never seen a dinosaur on screen, or a pirate ship come to life, or a chase scene through a desert. They have the ability to make me feel like a kid again, like I am right back at my home on 1872 Lisson Rd, Naperville, IL, 60565, (630) 961-2637…yep, it’s amazing what you can remember when given the proper stimulus.

Tonight I watched Hook, one of those very movies I was talking about above. Hook somehow has the ability to transform the viewer into a specific state of viewing. Blame it on the “Pirates vs. Lostboys” theme, or the “Never-Never Land” concept, but this film has a way of making you wish you were a kid once more, never to grow up and do grown-up things. It is a major theme throughout the movie, and it truly permeates into the viewer. I love the set design in this film and TOTALLY wanted to be a “Lostboy” when I was growing up. No Question. Additionally, the “pirate ship dock area” was incredibly designed and meticulously perfected to look incredible. I loved the alternative take on the entire Peter Pan story, and the casting for this film was absolutely perfect. Is it a coincidence that all three films were directed by my favorite director Steven Spielberg? Actually, yes, haha.

I could not have asked to end this challenge on a higher note, and I loved every second of it. I urge you to try one of your own, but I warn you to shoot for a…less ambitious goal than 40, ha.

Film #39: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

It would be fitting to finish up this challenge with a few all time classics in my humble book of films. So I decided to make the second to last film, one of my favorites, The Lord Of The Rings. 

It is with utmost respect for the entire fandom that surrounds the LOTR franchise…I believe that my friends and myself, collaboratively, make up some of the most die hard LOTR fans known to mankind. My older sister Nicole could, at one point, recite the entire prologue from the first film verbatim. We played LOTR trivia games and can’t go an entire movie without quoting nearly every quotable line in the films. I have a friend that I used to work with at a summer camp, and our thing was to quote LOTR lines to each other whenever we passed each other. My friends and myself have seen the movies well over two dozen times each, if not more..need I even continue?

These three films could very well be the most entertaining and enjoyable form of storytelling that I have ever experienced in film. It’s no joke when I watch all three, extended edition films back to back in a marathon nearly on the annual. Thirteen hours. 13 hours of pure film bliss…ahhh, yes. It’s even a running joke in my family to recommend watching all three films whenever we get bored at the house. All that is said is, “Marathon?” Then we laugh, and 30% of the time, we actually do it.

I won’t bother breaking down the plot for this film because if you haven’t seen it…shame on you. Seriously. For shame. Stop reading this post and go find a friend to watch it with.

I think that my movie going experience will only increase as I get to experience The Hobbit Part 1 here in the states, and then travel to themotherland, New Zealand, to watch Part 2, and Part 3. It will be a pleasure indeed to be able to experience The Hobbit in all its glory, in the same country it was made in.

Tonight was a good night, and I am happy that I was able to go back and enjoy this instant classic once again.