X-Men: Apocalypse (Review)

X-Men: Apocalypse (Review)

The X-Men franchise has been around for 16 years and remains Hollywood’s oldest living superhero franchise. With their show stopping debut in 2000, the X-Men followed up their surprise success with X2 in 2003, another massive hit, both directed by franchise-pioneer Bryan Singer. However, the franchise took a turn in 2006 with a disappointing sequel in the form of Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand. Franchise breakout Hugh Jackman soon became a leading man in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which was received very poorly. With two contingious failures, the franchise decided to go back in time to the 1960’s to tell the story of the birth of the hero team in the Matthew Vaughn’s 2011 prequel, X-Men: First Class. Followed by 2013’s The Wolverine and the massive return of director Bryan Singer with the mega success that is 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. Now, Bryan Singer returns to the helm of the ship he started with the newest installment of the X-Men franchise, X-Men: Apocalypse.

This film is a popcorn action flick if ever I’ve seen one. With great performances from returning veterans James McAvoy (Charles Xavier) & Michael Fassbender (Magneto) and excellent debuts of new cast members Tye Sheriden (Cyclops), Sophie Turner (Jean Grey), & Kodie Smith-McPhee (Nightcrawler), X-Men: Apocalypse surprised me. While the writing (by Simon Kinberg) was a little wonky in places, director Bryan Singer made up for it with big action set pieces and magnificent handling of characters. The film features brilliant cameos by Jubilee, Stan Lee, William Stryker, & even an extended cameo from Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) himself. I must also mention the brilliant return performance of Evan Peter’s Quicksilver, who once again steals the show.

Now for the negatives. Jennifer Lawrence sleepwalks through an obviously bored performance as Mystique and the secondary characters of Angel (Ben Hardy), Storm (Alexandria Shipp), & Psylocke (Olivia Munn) are very lackluster and feel more like extended cameos than secondary roles. The return of Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) feels forced and unnecessary. Oscar Issacs performance as the titular villain feels bloated and unmenacing, recycling plot points and villain tropes from the titular character in Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Overall, there are ultimately more positives than negatives to me, therefore Apocalypse passes with 7/10 stars. The film gives me much hope for the future of the franchise and the returning hands of Bryan Singer.

Grade: B+

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Down With The DC Talk: An Essay

Down With The DC Talk: An Essay

Introduction

In 1998, the Christian music genre was rocked on its head. The supergroup DC Talk has disassembled. Vocalists Kevin Max and Michael Tait were headed for solo careers and rapper/vocalist/songwriter Toby McKeehan was off to run his Christian label, Gotee Records. The Intermission had begun. Flash forward to 2016, the individual members of DC Talk announced that the Intermission was ending and that DC Talk would be reuniting for an event called the JESUS FREAK CRUISE. The band made a mark on the music industry as a whole and looks to continue to individually in the years to come.

Creating the Talk

DC Talk is the brainchild of Washington DC native Toby McKeehan. Toby met a fellow student and singer Michael Tait while attending Liberty University. The two began performing together and recorded a song written by Toby called “Heavenbound”. They performed to an audience of 8,000 students and sold 3,000 copies of their demo tape Christian Rhymes to a Rhythm, which included the single. Tait also recorded with the Falwell Singers and appeared Jerry Falwell’s The Old Time Gospel Hour. Soon after, the band grew to included Kevin Max Smith, later Kevin Max, from a fellow campus rock band. The three named themselves “DC Talk and the One Way Crew” before shortening to simply DC Talk, which stood for “decent Christian talk”. The demo tape soon found its way into the offices at ForeFront Records and the group signed with them in 1988. In 1989, the band released their debut album, DC Talk, which included “Heavenbound”.

Spreading the Talk

In 1991, the group released their sophomore effort Nu Thang, which produced two hits with the songs “I Luv Rap Music” and “Can I Get a Witness”. The band blended the styles of rock and rap music into a sweet blend. Later that year, the group released their Christmas EP Yo Ho Ho, with singles “The King” and “Reason for the Season”. The band also addressed social issues such as racism and abortion with songs like “Walls” and “Children Can Live Without It”. The rock/rap blend garnered attention to the group and soon they began opening for Michael W. Smith and won a Dove award. A year later, they won two more Dove Awards for Nu Thang, which had sold 300,000 copies. DC Talk gained an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1992 due to their growing fame. Nu Thang was soon after certified Gold after selling 500,000 copies, a feat for Christian music at the time.

Fueling the Talk

In 1992, DC Talk released an album that would change the face of Christian music and go on to be certified Platinum, as well as be ranked the 9th best Christian album of all time. Free At Last included the songs “I Don’t Want It,” a cover of Bill Wither’s “Lean On Me,” and a remake of the Art Reynolds Singers song “Jesus Is Just Alright “. The album stayed at number one on the Billboard CCM sales chart for 34 weeks. They became one of the first Christian artists to appear on a late night show when the group appeared on The Jay Leno Show in 1993. Free at Last also garnered the group’s first Grammy Award for Best Rock Gospel Album in 1994. The album’s success led to the band moving away from strict rap and more to a hip hop/pop blend. The band was set to make a film titled Free At Last: The Movie, which was set for a September 17, 1995, release, but it never found a distributor and was released in its unfinished form to DVD. In 1995, the band released its fourth studio album, Jesus Freak, and achieved the highest first five weeks sales of any Christian release in history, reaching number 16 on the Billboard 200. The album was eventually certified Double Platinum and was certified Gold within 30 days of its release. This album was a fusion of the musical stylings, with a more pop-rock oriented sound combined with hip hop. The album marked a milestone for the group as they signed with Virgin Records in 1996 to distribute to the mainstream market. They also earned their second Grammy. The title track is also of historical importance. It is believed to be the first link between grunge and rapcore in Contemporary Christian music, and was the first non–Adult Contemporary song to win the Dove Award for Song of the Year. The song was also played on some secular stations. “Between You and Me” was a successful single, reaching number 24 and number 29 respectively on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary and Hot 100 and number 12 on Casey’s Top 40, while the video received regular airtime on MTV and VH1. With the release of the album, the group launched a massive tour titled the Freakshow Tour, which took the trio across the United States, Canada, and Europe. The group released a live video titled Live in Concert: Welcome To The Freak Show which contained footage from the Freakshow tour. An audio CD of the soundtrack from the video was also released under the same title, reaching No. 109 on the Billboard 200. The CD Welcome to the Freakshow was certified gold and won dc Talk another Grammy award. Their last all-original album, Supernatural, was released in 1998, debuting at number 4 on the Billboard 200, another feat for Christian music. The songs “Consume Me,” “Into Jesus,” “Red Letters,” and “My Friend (So Long)” received their fair share of radio play on Modern Rock, Contemporary Christian, and Alternative outlets. The group then embarked on a 60-city tour across the United States titled, The Supernatural Experience. Footage from the tour was combined with interviews and released as The Supernatural Experience video and was certified Gold for long form video. In addition to touring and recording Supernatural, the members of the group went on to co-author a book titled Jesus Freaks in collaboration with The Voice of the Martyrs in 1999. The book contains the shortened biographies and incidents in the lives of famous and lesser-known Christians who stood up for their faith. Since then, the group has co-authored a series of other books.

Silencing the Talk

After their breakup in 1998, the band’s members each branched off into solo careers. In 2000, the band recorded two new songs for their album, Intermission: The Greatest Hits. In 2001, they each released their solo debuts.

Toby McKeehan, under his new stage name of TobyMac and signed with ForeFront Records, in conjunction with Capital Records, released his debut album Momentum, followed in 2003 by Welcome to Diverse City, in 2008 by Portable Sounds, 2010 by Tonight, 2012 by Eye On It, and 2015 by This Is Not A Test. Toby has since won multiple Grammys and Dove Awards as well as reaching the mainstream media. He is commonly called the “King of Christian Music”.

Michael Tait started his own band Tait in 2001 and released their debut Empty. This was followed by Lose of Life in 2003. He planned to release his album Loveology in 2007, but this has been delayed indefinitely. Tait never issued a breakup statement, but Michael Tait has since left his band. In 2009, Michael Tait was named the new lead singer of Christian music staple, Newsboys. Since then, Tait has recorded five albums with the band: Born Again (2008) , God’s Not Dead (2010), Restart (2013), Hallelujah For the Cross (2015), & Love Riot (2016).

Kevin Max instantly pursued his solo career, also on the ForeFront Records label. His debut, Stereotype B, was released in 2001, followed by Between The Fence & The Universe (2004), The Imposter (2005), Holy Night (2005), The Blood (2007), Crashing Gates (2008), Raven Songs 101 (2009), Cotes d’ Armor (2010), Broken Temples (2015), and Starry Eyes Surprise (2016). In 2009, Kevin Max became the lead singer of revived 90s band Audio Adrenaline, and recorded their album Kings & Queens in 2010. He left the band 2012 to return to his solo career.

On May 11, 2016, DC Talk announced their reunion for the JESUS FREAK CRUISE.

Conclusion

DC Talk remains one of the most influential and successful Christian bands in history. Its music and members still inspire to this day. While the band hasn’t made anything original in years since the Intermission started, but now the Intermission may be over. Please return to your seats for the second act.

Regarding You: An Open Letter

Regarding You: An Open Letter

To Whom It May Concern,

History and literature go hand in hand. You can’t learn history without reading and you can’t scribe it without writing. When you think about it, history books are an anthology of people’s stories; a collection of events and truths journaled in one place. These events flow from year to year, period to period, age to age; all the way to you and I. Every day that you are alive is a gift and is another chapter in your history. History doesn’t necessarily mean George Washington, World War II, or Martin Luther King. History can be a personal story of your life, in fact that is what history is: true events of the past. You are shaping the future just by being alive, therefore your existence is making history. Nothing makes you appreciate that more than history and literature, reading stories and telling your own. A wise author once wrote what I think perfectly sums up how extraordinary you are. He writes, “In over 900 years of time and space, I have never met anyone who wasn’t important.” 

You have a story to tell. We all do. Stories don’t happen in a day, sometimes the adventure takes chapters or even books to reach the happy ending. Frodo didn’t take the ring to Mordor in a sentence, he did it in three books. Narnia wasn’t made safe in one chapter, but over the course of seven books. Your life, what you struggle with, is merely a chapter in your own story. All great stories develop over time and there are conflicts to be had along the way. 

Turning the analogical page over to film to better explain my point, conflicts constantly arise and you must not let them deter you from finishing your adventure called life. Rocky Balboa took hit after hit from opponents like Apollo Creed and emotional beatings in conflicts with the media, his son, and himself. Over the course of Rocky’s story, which has spanned over forty years, he loses so much and it appears as if he has nothing left to fight for by the time we reach the seventh film. However, Rocky keeps fighting, albeit no longer physically boxing, but has seen his opponent change from a boxer to cancer itself. Rocky’s story is not over yet and neither is yours.

Under no circumstances should you throw in the towel or toss down the pen and end your story before it’s time. You may not think you have anything to offer or that the fight is too hard, but it’s only one chapter in your amazing story that is unfolding. You are special. You are important. You are loved. Regardless of your situation, condition, or relation; your race, religion, or gender; you should never end your life. Suicide is never the answer. You are loved and you have something to share with the world.

You have a story. Now go and live it. 

Sincerely,

Kaleb Koho