Thoroughbreds (2017) – Film Review

A transitory game of chess within Thoroughbreds (2017): featuring a modern suburban slasher!

No Guts, No Glory

Thoroughbreds (2017) is a film directed by Cory Finley about two wealthy suburban ex-friends who have since fallen apart throughout the years they spent in high school. Here, Anya Taylor-Joy plays a by-the-books girl named Lily who lives with her mother and her filthy rich step-dad Mark. As with most instances of step-parentry, it seems our dear Lily has a bone to pick with the newest addition to their family. Mark can be described, if spoken truthfully, as a prestigious and pompous power-hogging pig. In laymen’s terms: Mark’s an asshole. A real big asshole. The “abusive to my mom but he gets away with it because he’s got money and supports us financially” kind of asshole. There’s no way to get around it; Lily just has to learn to tolerate him. That is, at least, until her old gal pal Amanda, played by Olivia Cooke, crawls back into her life and suggests an alternative. At first, Lily wants nothing more from Amanda than some extra cash for tutoring her for the SAT. But after opening up to one another over a bottle of Mark’s stolen wine, Lily discovers her childhood friend may have more uses than just that simple monetary gain. After all, what’s a little cash compared to justice by your own hand?

There’s nothing wrong with being a little unstable. 

This film’s got it all; good sound design, strong acting, intriguing and deep characters, anxiety-boosting conflict, and BBH’s (big, beautiful houses). It also includes a single (1) horse. Truthfully, the film should be called “Thoroughbred” since there’s only one horse, but I digress. I think this film is definitely worth your time. If I had to rate it, I’d give it around 4.5/5 stars. Although Thoroughbreds (2017) left me with some strange feelings afterwards, watching the personalities of Lily and Amanda develop and change throughout the films 90-minute run time was definitely worth the ride.

This next paragraph will include spoilers.

All Guts, and Some Spine Too

The rekindling of a friendship is not something done so easily when your childhood companion has recently executed a stallion. Yeah, you heard me PETA. Amanda killed her decrepit steed with her own bare hands. Of course, I am over-exaggerating a bit. You see, it wasn’t a killing out of malice, but instead was done out of mercy. Honeymooner, Amanda’s racehorse who she won many medals with in her younger years, had broken his leg and was reported to never be able to walk again. When Amanda hears of this, she sees it as a cruelty for the horse to live any longer, and discusses it with her mother to see what can be done. As Honeymooner has been a member of their family for a long time, just as long as Amanda has been alive, the mother let’s her emotions get the best of her and doesn’t allow for him to be put down by a veterinarian. This, of course, is seen by Amanda to be an illogical move from her mother, manifested from her birth-giver’s weak moral character. She then takes up the responsibility to put the horse down herself as this was, in her mind, the most logical thing to do.

While the execution involved failed euthanasia, flesh-stripping, bone-breaking, and spine-smashing, none of this seemed to bother Amanda much. You see, contrary to most sane humans, Amanda doesn’t feel emotion. She may get tired or hungry, but when it comes to joy or guilt or remorse, it just doesn’t come to her. It was easy for Amanda to kill Honeymooner, and she didn’t revel in it either. She just felt it was something that had to be done.

This unethical act unsurprisingly lands Amanda with an animal cruelty offense, but she continues her life while awaiting trial, although she feels her existence may not have much purpose. When this is all explained to Lily, she realizes that her friend is not necessarily insane but instead just exceptionally logical when it comes to solving conflicts. Amanda’s lack of pathos results in her thinking of every scenario as a math problem: whats the most effective possible outcome and how can I get there the fastest? She does not hesitate, she makes a choice and she follows it immediately.

The Master Plan

While rummaging through Mark’s wine cellar, Amanda proposes to Lily that she should just kill her step-father. In this scenario, Amanda sees Mark as the lame horse, not functioning effectively either as a father or as a good husband to Lily’s mother, and therefore feels justified in suggesting they kill him. Doubling down on her logic, Amanda states that it would benefit a large amount of people and have very low outcomes in terms of repercussions; plus, if planned correctly, they could avoid being caught altogether. Lily gets mad and kicks Amanda out of her house, disagreeing with the brash girls way of thinking and her “lame horses should be put down” ideals. As the film progresses, Lily comes around to the idea though, and proposes they talk to their local child-molesting drug-dealer and try to hire him to pull a hit on Mark. After the delinquent falls through, however, Lily returns to the house to find Mark is still alive and kicking. She decides she will have no more of this and takes manners into her own hands.

Making Your Mark

On a seemingly regular night sitting on the couch with Amanda, Lily asks her if she believes her life is worth living. Amanda is taken aback by this on accounts of her not having thought of it before. After turning it over in her head for a bit, she decides that it isn’t, and asks Lily why she asked such a question while taking a sip of her lemonade. “If you can’t feel happiness, if you don’t have a good future, is life even worth living?” It appears in this case that it is, as Amanda’s lack of goal or purpose allows her to be a signature component of Lily’s plan. Lily informed Amanda that she tried drugging her lemonade in order to knock her out, kill her stepdad with a knife, and frame it on her. Amanda is not offended however, and instead drinks all of her lemonade in order to knock herself out and help Lily continue with her plan. By taking control of the situation and catalyzing Lily’s plan, Amanda acts as a martyr in order for her friend to succeed in her goal to end Mark’s life. Lily goes through with it, framing (consenting) Amanda for the murder of her step-father and landing her in a mental hospital. Amanda again doesn’t mind this because she believes it’s the most logical thing to do. Her friend is miserable because of Mark and she herself has no life purpose, so she believes the best option is to be take the fall for it and let Lily come out victorious.

By the end of the film, it’s almost as if our two protagonists have shifted personas. Lily now walks around town like the queen she is, giving everybody cold stares and presenting very little emotion while being more stern and logical. Amanda, on the other hand, spends her jailbird days painting and crocheting with all the other locked up loonies in there. She doesn’t mind it though. She tells Lily in a letter that the staff there are very nice for the most part. She explains a recurring dream to Lily too, one where all the people in the world are rich and can’t take their heads out of the material things in the world. Time passes and everything rots away, only leaving the thoroughbred horses. They roam the planet with no worry of their value or goal in life but instead just enjoy being wild animals. In this sense, the girls are the thoroughbreds. They do what they please, they roam with no rules and they live with power in their hands. They aren’t afraid of what will be done to them, they know that if the world ever falls apart and all the filthy rich bastard rot in place, they will be there still. They’ll gallop over fields of grass and drink from clear rivers and clop over debilitated houses. In a way, they both used each other, but it was a mutual gain. Lily learned how to be cold and got rid of the person who hurt her family the most, while Amanda learned how to see beauty in the small and insignificant, and even learned how to smile without looking in a mirror. She might’ve ended up in confinement, but she doesn’t care so long as she had a reason to live for.

All in all, Thoroughbreds (2017) is definitely a film you shouldn’t miss. That is, if you can handle topics such as murder, patricide, drug use, and other not-so-innocent topics.

Written by: Fabrizio Ramirez

Is How to Train Your Dragon: the Hidden World Worth Your Time?

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ends the long-running trilogy with a fun, wholesome ending.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was directed by Dean Belois.  This is the third and seemingly final film in the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy produced by Dreamworks Animation.

If you’ve never heard of this trilogy before, these animated films tell the story of Hiccup (played by Jay Baruchel) and his friends who live with their dragons at Berk.  The first film told of the people of Berk domesticating the dragons after initially hunting them down.  It was about the relationships that these people could develop with these seemingly violent and frightening creatures.   It was a wholesome yet exciting film that would launch arguably Dreamworks’ best franchise to date.  The second film then resumed Hiccup’s journey as he searches for his mother that he believed was dead.  In terms of the whole trilogy, this one reigns supreme as the best one in the series; the film carried the most emotion without losing sight of the larger world the series was trying to build.  Additionally, action scenes in The Hidden World were by far and away some of Dreamworks’ best animation to date.

The newest How to Train Your Dragon film starts off following the events of the second film, with Hiccup’s father now dead and his mother back in his life.  After learning about yet another person who wants to take their dragons and destroy their homes, they realize the possibility of the existence of another world in which the dragons can live in peace away from the rest of society. Hiccup, having assumed the role of chief, decides that it’s a good idea to get not only the people of Berk to safety but more importantly the dragons as well.  Things get more complicated when the main dragon, Toothless, meets another female dragon and develops a relationship with it.  While the gang wonder what the best way to accomplish this goal could be, they begin to consider the possibility of releasing the dragons into the wild.

Although this latest entry in the How to Train Your Dragon series has heart and some touching scene, it’s not perfect.

I would say the scenes whenever the characters considered what life would be like without their dragons are probably the best ones of this film.  I further think this is the emotional highlight of the film when it comes to the way this story is structured.  The other aspect I really liked is of course the animation, but I also don’t really think animated movies are released today without top-notch animation.  These movies have always had really nice animation and this film is no exception.

The biggest flaw with this movie is the pacing.  Despite running for 1hr 44mins, the filmmakers still didn’t have enough time to tell the story they wanted to.  This affected certain elements of the film into feeling rushed, whereas other unnecessary elements felt overly drawn out and exhausting to watch.  The film chooses to spend much of its time showing either the characters quickly interact with the villains, the two leading dragons going on their little dates (which admittedly are very entertaining), or the other side characters being goofy and getting into silly shenanigans.   Many of these moments felt like they were only there in order for the film to force either substance or bad comedy into it.  Although it’s been awhile since I’ve seen the first two How to Train Your Dragon films, but I remember them being pretty funny.  I think that’s why it was surprising to me to see this film and acknowledge that it’s really not that funny.  The humor is mostly very juvenile and meant to cater towards children.  If the humor took a backseat to the drama the characters face this wouldn’t be a big deal, it’s just the fact that jokes are thrown in very often which makes this experience very distracting.

Even though I really liked the animation and I thought the emotions shared between the characters and their dragons were strong, this movie overall is somewhat boring.  Honestly, this is perhaps the weakest movie in this trilogy and the reason for that would be because the film does not have much substance to it.  The supposed feeling of dread that these characters have is never fully related or felt by the audience.  My guess as to why this is the case is likely because they don’t want to make the kids watching this feel uneasy.  And while that is understandable, you can still keep the audience engaged and feeling like the stakes are high while still entertaining the kids.  Good examples of this concept are the first two How to Train Your Dragon films or the Toy Story films, as these films showed managed to be entertaining for both kids and adults.

I will say that the resolution to this film and the ending to the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy is very well done.

When it is time for the climax to come that has been built up for the entire film, it feels mostly underwhelming and it comes in really quickly.  I would say the final fight of this film, although very good, is probably under 10 minutes, which is not usual for one of these movies.  What’s interesting though is that I really like the climax and I think it is my favorite part of the film, it’s just jarring to see it come so quickly is all.  What leads after the fight is really wonderful I will say though.  I won’t give away the resolution of what happens to the dragons and to Hiccup and his friends but I thought that was very satisfying.  I just wish the film had a story with higher stakes so that this ending could feel more earned.

I know I’ve been trashing on this movie a lot, but I really don’t think it’s bad.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think this film was disappointing, but I acknowledge that these films could be so much worse and more childish.  I think this film has the potential to bore some audience members, but I thought it was fine really.    I am happy I saw where these characters ended up and was able to watch their growth and development.  The main characters all go through incredible arcs that changes who they are and that was very interesting to see as well.  If you want to see how this trilogy ends, I’d say check it out.  I would say my enthusiasm for this film is mostly reserved just because I thought the film was underwhelming more than anything, but I still thought it was perfectly fine.  I would just say expect to possibly be disappointed and acknowledge that the film does feel rushed at times.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo

How Will Rashaad Penny Do In His 2nd NFL Season?

Speculations on the Seattle Seahawks decision to draft Rashaad Penny as their 27th overall pick, and what’s next for the SDSU alumni.

With the 2019 NFL Scouting combine, the top talent from this year’s NCAA class will be showcasing their skills in order to land themselves on a professional football team come time April. A couple of those prospects include junior defensive end Nick Bosa from Ohio State (L.A. Charger Joey Bosa’s brother), Christian Wilkins from the national championship winning Clemson Tigers, and the University of Alabama’s running back Josh Jacobs. However, I was left wondering how some of the prospects that went onto to be drafted from last season were holding up in the National Football League? One person stood out to me right away… Rashaad Penny.

Rashaad Penny, a San Diego State University graduate and former Heisman Trophy candidate, weighed 220 pounds and ran a 4.46 second 40 yard dash at the 2018 combine in Indianapolis. Though some scouts believed him to be a slow and heavy running back, I knew from my time watching him at San Diego State that he was going to be a threat at the professional level.

Expectations for Rashaad Penny were initially low, but then…

The Seattle Seahawks decided to trade one of their draft picks to acquire Rashaad Penny as the 27th overall pick. I guess San Diego State alumni make 1st round picks too! Immediately, there was buzz surrounding the Seahawks’ latest 1st round draft choice. Pete Prisco, a sports writer, did not take too kindly to the choice and gave the Seahawks a D grade.

“He’s a nice runner, but they have so many other needs and there are better backs. Weird.” Prisco said.

The pick started to make more sense to me as I thought about it. With the loss of Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls to free agency because of a plagued offensive line and lack of production in the run game, nobody was there to receive a handoff from Russel Wilson for Pete Carroll’s offense except for Chris Carson & Mike Davis (who combined for a lackluster 448 rushing yards all of 2017). I guess this is where head coach Pete Carroll thought Penny could fill in.

“He’s a fantastic competitor in that he’s applied himself so much to get his pass protection stuff right, which he knew he needed to do in terms of the scheme and physical side of it.”

Rashaad Penny has done a decent amount of work out of the gate for his new home team…

Over the course of the first four games, Penny managed to carry the ball 29 times. However, his carries were limited to Carson and Davis for the next 4 weeks and only received 54 rushing yards over that time span. I was afraid that Penny was starting to turn more into his SDSU teammate, Donnel Pumphrey, who got cut by the Philadelphia Eagles after just one season. However, that all changed when Penny went off against the Los Angeles Rams at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum where he ran 108 yards and scored first career rushing touchdown. Penny then went on to score one more touchdown later in the season against the San Francisco 49ers.

Let’s get some things straight. The Seahawks like to use the West Coast offense behind offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. They also utilize the run-pass option in which Russel Wilson can hand off in case of a blitz, or tuck and run to pick up a few yards if need be. I believe Rashaad Penny is perfect for this style of play. He can pass block while receivers such as Baldwin and Locket get open in the slot, or he can take the ball up the center of the field pick up some yardage on a draw play.

Will Rashaad Penny produce more in his second year?

I believe so. He is a big, versatile back that can run the ball and catch passes when he needs to. It appears that he has found a home in Seattle for the time being and I can’t see any reason why Coach Pete Carroll would want to get rid of him anytime soon. Unless the Seahawks trade up again to acquire another back in the draft or they pick up one in free agency this summer, I can’t see him getting less touches than he had the previous year.

I predict that Penny will at least match and/or increase his total of touchdowns in the 2019 season. I also believe he will double his all-purpose yards to bring him in somewhere between 800-900 yards. This is all being said if he stays healthy.

I guess only time will tell.

Written by: Jacob McCulloh

Dojo Marketplace at The Dojo Cafe

Dojo Marketplace

The coordinated effort between Creative State and Family Reunion finally came into fruition this past Saturday on February 23rd. Presented as “Dojo Marketplace” the event promised a culmination of live music, yoga, clothes, food, and more at The Dojo Cafe.

I had very recently become a part of Creative State and was excited to see all of the hardworking efforts and displays of arts these individuals were going to share at Dojo Marketplace. Arriving to the event shortly after noon, I was automatically greeted with positive spirits and artistic pop-up shops on every corner. Nearly every person that I looked at wore the combination of a smile and a unique outfit.  

 I joined a few of my friends, Bryan and Evan, who I had planned to meet, then came across a group of people wearing shirts with different shades of purple and gray as the live DJ filled the event with music. I began talking to the man at the table, Ernesto, who told me their collective of clothing was known as “aRT Brand Co.”. He explained to me that the team consistently commutes around all of Southern California including Los Angeles, San Marcos, and San Diego. My friends and I entered our names into their raffle for a free shirt, then continued on.  

Enjoying the Dojo Marketplace

As we enjoyed the abundance of happy dogs and good sunlight, I started to wonder how such a eccentric event came to be. It had to start somewhere right?  

That’s when I asked Nick Mora, one of the founders of Creative State, how it all started.  

He explained to me that he and co-founder, Khayri Carter, were sitting on a friend’s couch in Winter 2017 when they began to form the concept that is now officially Creative State. With a lack of any sort of platform for creatives and artists to share their work at San Diego State University, the idea seemed like a gold mine. Now, over a year later, it is really interesting to see just how necessary a group with this mission was. 

Little did I know, I would actually come across Khayri and his own clothing company “Garde” during my next stop at Dojo Marketplace. Bryan, Evan and I caught the design of the clothes by the corner of our eyes and were immediately intrigued. After chatting with Khayri for a while about the long journey his personal designs have come, Bryan and I happily purchased one shirt each and were featured on the official @staygarded Instagram story.  

Nick Mora's Garde shirts at Dojo Marketplace

Garde Shirts

From what I gathered, the yoga sessions were fairly easy, offered as an introduction for beginners. The yoga practice area was very aesthetically pleasing too, so I definitely took advantage of this by aiming the lens of my Sony a6000 and clicking the button on top repeatedly. 

A few art display boards were set up in the middle of the marketplace, with the correlating artists hanging out next to their pieces. We put on our best art analysis hats and began to check out the optical illusions of colors and nude paintings that hung on the display boards. My friend Bryan really seemed to like the nude paintings. Although I personally know little of any drawing, painting or art theory, it was satisfying to see these artists tangible and hard-work being showcased.  

Yoga and Fun

As I took the last of my pictures and felt my skin begin to burn from the high ultraviolet index, we decided to call it a day.  

This is neither the first or last Creative State event, in fact. Dojo Marketplace was the first event of theirs I have attended in my 18 months at San Diego State, and it has certainly got me hyped for the rest to come. 

I feel like a lot of individuals at our college have great ideas and art, but lack an outlet to share it on. Feel free to contact Creative State to meet some similarly-minded people!  

“We host these events to challenge ourselves to test our creative limits and to inspire others to do the same, and I can’t wait to show everyone what we have in store for the SDSU creative community!” stated Nick Mora happily, regarding the future of the collective.  

Creative State x Family Reunion at Dojo Marketplace

Creative State x Family Reunion

Follow the Creative State account to stay posted on the awesome events coming up for the rest of the Spring ‘19 semester. I can guarantee that you will meet a person or find a brand at the events that will make you feel creatively inspired and happy.  

Written by: Justin Neely