Student reviews: Read, watch, play and listen

TV Series: Dr. Who

Reviewed by Avery Johnson

With all of its quirkiness, complexity and “British-ness,” you are not likely to forget Doctor Who anytime soon. It is the story of a humanoid alien called “the Doctor” who travels through time and space. He usually has a human companion or two traveling with him—the most recent being Amy and Rory Williams.

The Doctor and his companions travel through time and space in a blue police box called TARDIS—an acronym for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. Together, the Doctor and his companions explore—and often save—the universe. Some of the Doctor’s toughest enemies are the mutant Daleks, the cyborg Cybermen, and The Master, who is a Time Lord alien like the Doctor.

Not merely a whimsical sci-fi adventure, Dr. Who explores many aspects of human culture and life. Whether it’s a dispute between aliens and humans, general oppression, or trying to right wrongs that have been committed, the Doctor and his companions always, somehow, sort it out. Despite the problems that the human characters often cause during an episode, they redeem themselves and show their true potential, thanks to the help of the Doctor. 

Video Game: Spec Ops: The Line

Reviewed by Thomas Brown

Can a “first person shooter” (FPS) video game make you think about the consequences of war? Most soldiers will tell you that FPS games just make you run and shoot—that they never show the darker side to warfare.

But Spec Ops: The Line does just that.

This game tries very hard to focus the player on the consequences of each action taken. It forces you, as the player in the game, to consider your actions instead of just doing them. Will you look back on this decision and feel all right about it, or will you regret what you have done?

The mechanics of this game are polished and well-thought, and the graphics are top of the line, but it is truly the plot that makes this game shine. It has been a long time since I have played a game that was this engaging or thought-provoking. There were a few times when the game presented me with an impossible situation and I had to stop and think. I actually had to pause and think. If a game can make you do that, you know it’s worth playing. 

Musical Album: Flamingo by Brandon Flowers

Reviewed by Maria VanDyken

“Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas,” says The Killers’ frontman, Brandon Flowers, in the first chorus of his debut solo album, Flamingo. It has been eight years since I first sat on my bedroom floor with my Discman listening to The Killers’ debut, Hot Fuss, and since then each of The Killer’s albums has become a valued piece of my music library. That now includes Flowers’ solo album, which he released in 2010 while the band was on hiatus.

Flowers’ hometown of Las Vegas provides the context for his record. Soaring melodies and fist-pumping choruses of synth-infused rock combine with fantastic storytelling. Flowers’ songs follow a pattern: His characters find themselves in a place of darkness, searching for somewhere to belong or take refuge, until they find it, whether that refuge is in another person, or in God. Flamingo somewhat follows the style of his previous albums with The Killers, but Flowers shows more personal depth here, both lyrically and musically. His melodies pull back and are more relaxed and varied from song to song, leaving you at moments breathless and dying for more.

TV Series: Community

Reviewed by Tom Speelman

What it is: A sitcom focusing on the crazy gang at Greendale Community College, including ex-lawyer Jeff (Joel McHale), nerdy-awesome best friends Troy & Abed (Donald Glover and Danny Pudi), retired crazy millionaire Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase), protestor hippie Britta (Gillian Jacobs), bookish Annie (Alison Brie), divorced Christian mother Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown), and many other off-the-wall characters.

Where it airs: NBC

Number of Seasons: 3

Why I like it: Initially, I watched this show because I loved McHale as host of E!'s pop culture clip fest, The Soup. But I quickly fell in love with everything about this show: the incredibly sharp, hilarious writing (with lines like, “She has more fights about stuff that doesn't matter than a YouTube comment section”) the off-the-wall scale of things—which leads to such things as a pitch-perfect Law & Order homage and a claymation Christmas episode—and especially the brilliant interplay of the cast. Among the many sparkling characters, Chevy Chase shows why he's a comedic legend, and Glover & Pudi are a brilliant buddy team.

Why you should watch it: Do you like funny people being funny? Do you like a wonderful barrage of pop-culture references that range from brilliantly obvious to delightfully obscure? Do you want to see a positive depiction of nerds on TV (Big Bang Theory, eat your heart out)? Then this show's for you.

When it's on: As of this writing, that's unfortunately up in the air. Originally on Thursday nights, it was scheduled to start its fourth season on Friday, Oct. 19, but NBC pulled the show—which has never had high ratings—from the schedule at the last minute. So its status is TBD at this point, but in the meantime, the show's first three seasons are available on Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant and on DVD. So start watching, and Go Greendale!

Film: Inception

Reviewed by Nick Keeley

A truly original film, Christopher Nolan’s Inception is a magnificent look at the complexity of dreams and one man’s determination to get home to his children. Christopher Nolan guides the film’s outstanding technical work with a deft hand, while working with editor Lee Smith to give the film an outstandingly quick pace and tension. The film’s stunning visual effects, especially the groundbreaking zero gravity scene, go hand-in-hand with the film’s dreamlike nature. Inception also features a strong and complex script by Nolan, giving the film likable characters while raising several compelling questions, such as the film’s haunting and open-ended ending. The film features several great performances, from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy’s breakthrough performances as Arthur and Eames to Oscar winner Marion Cotillard’s fantastic performance as Mal, Cobb’s wife. Leonardo DiCaprio anchors the film with his great performance as the lead character, Cobb. Thanks to its well-crafted film elements, Inception stands as one of the most impressive achievements in recent film history.

VERGE: winter 2012

First-Year Experience