Britt’s Anime and Gaming Adventures: Lycans, Vampires, Giant Babies, Oh My! A Look at Resident Evil Village

Welcome back, readers! Over the summer I played some great games and watched some excellent anime that I am absolutely thrilled to cover this semester. I would like to kick off this semester of blogging by reviewing the first game I played this summer: the highly anticipated Resident Evil Village.

I vividly remember how ecstatic I was on release day, and I have a feeling I’ll remember my giddy excitement for years to come. This being a game I and countless other fans had been waiting over a year for, I preordered it the day the game was available for pre-order, way back in winter 2020. (Technically the day after because the website was acting weird with everyone and their mother pre-ordering a copy). A few agonizing months later, release day–May 7th, 2021–arrived. I’d been tracking my package all week, and every time I saw a UPS truck in my area I’d get all jumpy, thinking my copy was on the truck. It was an excitement I hadn’t experienced in literal years, which is kinda depressing now that I think about it. Anyway, when I got an alert on my phone saying my copy had been delivered, I sped home, popped the disc into my Xbox, and waited (ugh, MORE waiting) for the game to install. I spent the next few days playing it, then replaying it. I could not have asked for a more perfect start to my summer. 

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Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: Journey to the Center of the Earth

Journey to the Center of the Earth is a 2008 American science fantasy action-adventure film directed by Eric Brevig and stars Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, and Anita Briem. It is an adaptation of Jules Verne’s 1864 novel of the same name. The film starts with volcanologist and lecturer Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser) as he finds out that his late brother, Max’s, lab is being closed. While trying to deal with this, his nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) comes to visit him for 10 days. When Sean’s mother drops him off, she gives Trevor a box of his brother’s things, which includes a copy of Jules Verne’s novel Journey to the Center of the Earth. In the book, there are extensive notes and Trevor, along with his nephew, go to his brother’s lab to figure out what the notes mean, and the two soon realize they will need to travel to Iceland to get answers for themselves. When they get there, the two meet a woman named Hannah (Anita Briem) whose father believed Verne’s books included factual accounts, like Trevor’s brother did. Hannah agrees to be Trevor and Sean’s guide up the mountain where an instrument used by Max is strangely working again after being inactive for 10 years. When they get up to the site, a lightning storm starts and the three end up trapped in a cave system, and with no way out are forced to go further into what turns out to be a mine system. The three find themselves going deeper in the Earth, and eventually reach the center. In this blog post, I will look at how the adaptation is different from other films based on books and how this affects the characters and their actions. 

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Meet the Editors: Emilio Franchini

We have quite a few new editors this semester, and we hope you are as excited to meet them as we are to introduce them! The first editor we will be introducing is Emilio Franchini, who is joining JFR as an assistant poetry editor, assistant prose editor, and copy editor.

Emilio Franchini is from Joliet, IL and now lives in Plainfield, IL. He holds a particular interest in both writing and drawing, frequently crossing over the two disciplines as his preferred methods and techniques in storytelling. Additionally, he enjoys exploring music, movies, and other mediums of entertainment in search of inspiration for his written works.

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A Community Collaboration: Golden Shovels

Jet Fuel Review Issue #21 Cover

For our Spring 2021 issue of Jet Fuel Review (cover art by Deedee Cheriel), we devoted a special section to golden shovels. If you are unfamiliar with the form, it is an interesting take on acrostic poetry where a poet chooses a line and puts each word from that line at the end of each of their new lines. Terrance Hayes created the form and based his poem “The Golden Shovel” on Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool.” (In Hayes’s poem, he explores his childhood and memories of his father).

We felt that it was necessary to take this golden shovel form beyond the confines of our journal. Like previous issues that had special sections, we would often have a call-out throughout Lewis University in order to foster community engagement and celebration. This time, unlike our 19th issue that focused on collaborative poetry, we chose the golden shovel form. To celebrate the successful launch of our 21st issue, and to witness a mosaic of creativity at the end of the Spring 2021 Semester, we asked students, faculty, and alumni to join together to create golden shovels. These shovels could be from a line of poetry or music that inspired the community member to write.

Presented below is an excerpt from the Special Section’s introduction written by JFR Assistant Managing Editor, Jo Spangler, that discusses the form in more detail. Located underneath the excerpt from our journal, there is a collection of fantastic golden shovels written by some of our own editors of Jet Fuel Review as well as some faculty and alumni of Lewis University. In summation, each of these golden shovels represents communication between the original author of the line and the poet using it. This community project is one that connects to the theme of our special section and gives a glimpse into the creativity and talent of our community. I hope you love Jet Fuel Review‘s 21st issue and also enjoy reading some golden shovels from the Lewis community.

Thank you, and I hope the blog has served you well during this difficult semester!

— Christian Mietus, Blog Editor

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths: Midsommar

I have no idea about this one.

Okay, I have some, but this movie makes me feel like I know nothing. Jon Snow and I have that in common.

Welcome back, dear reader! Who’s in for a psychedelic, folksy Alice in Wonderland mind ****? Because Christ. This flick is not playing around. This viewing marks the second time I’ve seen Midsommar. The first was opening weekend back in 2019. My main takeaway then was how little I understood. It’s not that I couldn’t follow the plot or anything, but the film is so dense with imagery and implication. Forget a fine-tooth comb. You need a rake to sort through this stuff! It plays with ambiguity much like The Empty Man, but they’re not the same. This one is a thinker—no disrespect to the casual viewer, but this movie doesn’t play to broad appeal. Midsommar is a very particular film with specific sensibilities. If you’re looking for escapist horror, this isn’t the movie for you. If you’re looking to get weird, and I mean really weird, then welcome!

Following a tragic loss, Dani (Florence Pugh) joins her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends on a backpacking trip to Scandinavia to partake in a rural Swedish commune’s midsummer festival. But rather than escape her pain, Dani instead finds herself in the grip of an increasingly sinister pagan cult whose ambitions are anything but idyllic. What is it with this blog and pagans? I’m starting to get a bad feeling…

That’s the nutshell, but there’s much more happening on and beneath the surface. This is writer-director Ari Aster’s follow-up to his smashing debut, 2018’s Hereditary—a genuinely horrifying flick that deals with similar themes. If you’ve seen Hereditary and dug what that movie was doing, I think you’ll appreciate this one. While Hereditary is rich in substance, it wasn’t exactly an audience hit. CinemaScore is a service that polls theatre-going audiences to gauge a movie’s appeal. A+ to A- is where you’d want to be at, B+ isn’t too bad, but anything below that could spell trouble for a movie’s box office legs. Opening weekend audiences gave Hereditary a D+. Yikes. Still, the film managed to make a buck (relative to its budget), scored big with critics and generated a fanbase for Aster. He became an instantly buzzed-about filmmaker, so going into Midsommar, curiosity was high. I loved Hereditary, so I was all in on Midsommer. Now here we are, two years and two viewings later, and I’m still working it out. I’m a late bloomer, y’all.

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Christian’s Cinematic Syntax: Rebel Without a Cause: Symbolic Representation of Post-War Society

In Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Director Nicholas Ray and Screenwriter Stewart Stern cast James Dean in a performance of a lifetime. Although Dean died in a car accident at the age of twenty-four, his three performance’s left him a lasting legacy that is still referenced today. It is not hard to see how Dean’s method acting propelled him to stardom with only three pictures because when Jim Stark (James Dean) screams: “You’re not listening to me!” in Rebel Without a Cause, the desperation in his voice reverberates off the screen. When Jim Stark and Buzz Gunderson fight outside the observatory, Stark’s psyche is complex. Dean’s calm and collected demeanor turns into a rage-filled knife fight after being called chicken. These moments stop us cold, and Nicholas aligns us with Dean through various techniques such as the recurrent use of the eye-line match. Jim Stark, a teen who tries to understand what manhood means and his place in society, is thrust into a new environment after his parents move to a new neighborhood. A misunderstood teen who doesn’t have strong parental figures to guide him through adolescence, we see Dean’s character navigate his problems alone. Through the film’s characters, Jim Stark (James Dean), John ‘Plato’ Crawford (Sal Mineo), and Judy (Natalie Wood), Ray and Stern seem to be using them symbolically as products of the ineffectual parenting styles during the postwar era. Furthermore, parts of Ray’s mise-en-scene can be taken symbolically, outwardly representing dysfunctional parental styles and the struggling youth characters searching for a cause.

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Britt’s Anime and Gaming Adventures: Yakuza Kiwami (2016)

Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of the 2005 video game Yakuza. Originally for the Playstation 4, Kiwami is also available on Xbox One and PC. Known as Ryū ga Gotoku (Like a Dragon) in Japan, the Yakuza video game series isn’t extremely well-known in the West. However, its wildly successful prequel, Yakuza 0 (2015), helped introduce more Western gamers to the wacky, one-of-a-kind franchise. Yakuza has often been described as the Japanese version of Grand Theft Auto due to its eccentric characters, zany side quests, and the fact that you can beat people up. The series has birthed seven numbered entries, a prequel, and two remakes, not to mention several spin-off titles. In addition to video games, Yakuza has two live-action movies to its name. The series is a mixture of various video game genres, most notably the beat ‘em up and role-playing genres. Despite featuring a wide cast of characters, the franchise’s main focus is on Kazuma Kiryu, a former yakuza member who is constantly dragged back into the doings of the crime syndicate throughout the series. 

Kiwami begins with Kiryu going to prison in place of his lifelong friend Nishiki, who murdered their clan’s patriarch after finding out that he sexually assaulted Yumi, a woman Nishiki cared for. When Kiryu is released from prison ten years later, he discovers that the yakuza has changed drastically in the past decade, as has Nishiki, who is now the boss of his own family. Kiryu also learns that Yumi has vanished without a trace and that practically every clan in Japan is after the ten billion yen stolen from Kiryu’s former clan. Every clan is also searching far and wide for a little girl named Haruka, who is believed to be somehow connected to the ten billion yen. Kiryu eventually meets this girl. Their interactions are nothing short of adorable; there’s something so endearing about seeing a buff yakuza care for a young girl he doesn’t even know. Kiryu’s fatherly bond with Haruka makes him stand out from most action video game protagonists. He might look the part–buff, always looking like someone just spit in his coffee–but deep down, he has a heart of gold. Despite being affiliated with the yakuza, he refuses to kill, torture, or partake in any other activities done by the crime organization. He doesn’t use his status as a yakuza member to gain women or power but instead keeps to himself and regularly helps others. These traits are what make Kiryu such an unexpectedly human video game protagonist. 

Nishiki’s descent into villainy is revealed through flashbacks, and as someone who’s played the prequel, it was disheartening to watch him grow to despise Kiryu, his sworn brother. His inferiority complex plays a big part in this. Several of these flashbacks consist of Nishiki being degraded by his superiors and being told that Kiryu is better suited than him for a leadership role in the yakuza. Nishiki vows to obtain the missing money, not because he wishes to prove himself to his superiors but so that he can afford a heart transplant for his sick sister. Things don’t quite work out, however, and his sister ultimately dies. This causes him to kill his superior, Matsushige, who was partly responsible for his sister’s death. This also marks the point when Nishiki becomes a true villain, as he becomes so obsessed with rising to power that he betrays his former friends and tries to kill Kiryu multiple times. However, there is a shift towards the end, which I won’t reveal because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. 

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths: The Empty Man (2020)

Hello, dear reader! Our journey through the Monsterverse complete, I ask myself: what now? We’re not currently suffering from a lack of quality shows or movies, but I wanted to keep with the blog’s core theme if I could. Thank God for YouTube! Specifically, thank you, Chris Stuckmann. Because without him, I don’t watch this movie, I don’t write this blog, and I don’t lose myself to The Empty Man

In a small town with three or four murders a year, people begin dying in droves, leaving behind a simple message written in blood: The Empty Man made me do it. On the case of a missing girl tied to the strangeness, former undercover officer James Lasombra (James Badge Dale) becomes entangled in a web of mystery, cult worship and supernatural terror. As the case unfolds, reality and truth begin to bend, and James must confront whether The Empty Man is a mere tale or something more.

If that summary gives you little to go on, I apologize. It took me the better part of 40-minutes to put it together. It’s tough to talk about this movie in broad strokes because the one thing you absolutely do not want to do is give away too much. And folks, there is SO much to give away! This movie thrives on its mystery, having an audience live the experience lock-step with James, particularly in the first viewing. Beyond that, this movie’s shelf life will come from the discussions it generates. Writer-director David Prior (in his directorial debut, I may add) crafted a wonderfully dense and singular story. It’s a genre film that doesn’t play to the cheap seats or is interested in being a four-quadrant feature. It will alienate some, anger others and exhilarate a lucky bunch. Personally, I love this movie, but I’ve got some qualms. And oh boy, do I have questions.

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Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: Sherlock – The Hounds of Baskerville 

Sherlock is a BBC television series that ran from 2010 to 2017 and starred Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as John Watson. In the series, the screenwriters often referenced the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and sometimes they even adapted whole stories for a specific episode. This is the case for season two, episode two, “The Hounds of Baskerville” (2012), which is a modern retelling of the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902). In the Sherlock episode, Holmes and Watson are contacted by a man named Henry Knight (Russell Tovey), who believes that he saw a “gigantic hound” kill his father when he was a young boy 20 years ago. The way Henry says “hound” instead of “dog” convinces Holmes to take the case and go to Dartmoor to uncover the truth. Once there, Sherlock and Watson find out about a top secret military research base, Baskerville, adjacent to the place where Henry’s father was killed, Dewer’s Hollow. Finding out that the hound is a local legend, the two detectives visit Baskerville using an I.D. card stolen from Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft, as it appears that the hound might have escaped from there. Eventually they are forced to leave because Mycroft finds out what they are doing and an alert is sent through the military base. Given the limited information acquitted from Baskerville, Sherlock decides there is only one real way of figuring out if the hound is real, and that is actually finding it. So that night, he has Henry take himself and Watson to the place where his father was killed. Watson gets separated from the two but soon hears growling, forcing him to run and find the others. When he does, they are frightened and in shock after believing they have seen the hound, and Sherlock is forced to consider a possibility his mind can not rationally believe. In this blog, I will be looking at how the tv series adapted the original story for a modern audience. 

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