Sun02262017

Last updateWed, 22 Feb 2017 6pm

Entertainment

An Inside Look at The Merry Wives of Windsor

Merry Wives of WindsorIf any avid theatergoers are curious about the process of making a stage play, I recommend going to see an open rehearsal at Two River Theater in Red Bank. Having free open rehearsals for upcoming productions has been a way to welcome the Monmouth County community. This is an event that Two River Theater has opened to the public in the past and this tradition continues.

Last week on Monday, I had the opportunity to see the director, cast and crew rehearse for The Merry Wives of Windsor play followed by a Q&A with the audience. The most rewarding thing that I learned from watching this rehearsal is that it takes a lot of time, patience and effort to put on a performance. It is incredible to see the kind of work ethic and dedication that actors, directors and crew members have because they do what they do non-stop. They live and breathe art and it shows through their passion for it.

The creative process of The Merry Wives of Windsor is interesting when you realize that only three actors, Nicole Lewis, Jason O’Connell, and Zuzanna Szadkowski, will be headlining the show. They will be playing several characters and switching between characters during scenes. The concept sounds pretty wacky, but the director Eric Tucker put the audience at ease by comparing his version of the classic play to a Coen Brothers film or a Quentin Tarantino film. In his words, “It takes place in a dingy, seedy motel room.”

The stage was set up to look like a motel room, with two twin beds and a nightstand, although a lot of the atmosphere was left to the imagination of the actors. Since the set was unfinished, it was a little difficult to gauge what the actors were trying to convey during some of the scenes, such as the lack of props onstage. From a viewer’s perspective, it is strange to see an actor holding an invisible cup or sitting on a chair that is supposed to be a toilet during a rehearsal, but the actors are dedicated to the performance so it gives a lot of insight into what the craft of acting is. It’s a transformative art form.

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Tyler Robinson Gets Signed To Blue Hawk Records

Tyler Robinson Signed BHRTyler Robinson, also known as Teddy, is the first rap artist to be signed to Monmouth University’s Student-Run record label, Blue Hawk Records. In the past four years that Blue Hawk Records has been operating, it has had a few rap artists represented on the various compilation albums. These artists included J Piff (James Porricelli, senior music industry student), Jax the Geenius (Jamier Gee, music industry recent graduate), and Trevon Bailey (sophomore biology student).

Blue Hawk Records has primarily been a label for indie rock bands and singer/song-writers based on the artists who have been on the past nine compilation albums. Robinson auditioned to be on the applied music industry class’ tenth compilation album a few weeks ago, and although the class did not see a place for him on the album, the e-board of the record label saw a great artist in the making.

“We are really excited to sign and work with someone who has already worked hard to make a name for himself as an artist,” said Dave DePaola, a senior music industry student and president of the record label. “We’re looking forward to advancing his career and marketing such a talented musician.”

Robinson is a sophomore music industry student and was a member of the MU basketball team last season; he was a big part of the iconic “Bench Mob” that became known nationwide. Robinson has played various events on campus since he began to focus on his career as a musician.

During his freshman year, Robinson was studying criminal justice and just recently changed his major to music industry. This new course of action was actually inspired by his inability to continue playing basketball because of his injuries. Music has always been a part of Robinson’s life. He said, “I’ve been writing forever and I grew up around music. When I told people  I wanted to be involved in music, they thought I was kidding.”

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Joey Affatato Shares New Music on The Ramparts Rebel

Joey Affatato The Ramparts RebelJoey Affatato, senior music industry student and vice president of Blue Hawk Records, has been a part of the Monmouth University music scene since the beginning of his freshman year in the fall of 2013. Now he has some amazing music to share with us on his latest album. Affatato’s first band in college was The Ramparts Rebel, which included himself and his uncle’s band, Crypt Keeper Five.

This album is self-titled The Ramparts Rebel, and if you have ever had a chance to see Affatato play live, you will be blown away about how some of your favorite hits are re-created on this album. As a frequent goer of Affatato’s shows, I was honestly surprised and super pumped by the artistic magic that I heard in the songs that I often hear live at his shows.

While he explained how he composes his music, Affatato said, “When writing an album, I usually start off by writing songs stripped down on my acoustic then eventually, I’ll come up with a cool hook or catchy melody and I’ll go off that. Then, I’ll demo the songs out until they sound good enough to bring to the studio to record.” This album definitely sounds like it was carefully put together and well practiced.

The opening track begins with a Green Day-esque bass riff that brings you back to 2005 and makes you feel so angsty in the best way possible. This whole track is just angry and honest, which is very refreshing compared to the many happy, go-lucky, love songs that some people may be used to now a days.

The second track on the album is “Faults,” which is a go to song for Affatato when he plays out. The perfect example of a hooky, fun, but still angsty song. Sometimes you can’t help but scream the chorus at the top of your lungs and pronounce it, “ MY FAAA-AA-WALT!”

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Six Top Vocal Groups Perform Acapella at MU

Six Top Vocal Group AcapellaThe Center for the Arts at Monmouth University has announced that tickets are on sale for “Doo Wop Explosion II,” a March 4 concert event that showcases several generations of top vocal talent from Philadelphia, New Jersey, and NYC’s boroughs inside our flagship performance space, the Pollak Theatre.

A sequel to the first successful Doo Wop Explosion event in 2016, the Saturday evening serenade transforms the enhanced Pollak Theatre — a room that boasts nearly 700 new seats, improved sight lines, and a newly enlarged stage area — into a street corner from the old neighborhood. It’s that magical musical laboratory where the harmony-based vocal traditions of the urban African American communities coalesced into an exciting new sound in the postwar era; one that would soon come to be embraced by young audiences and performers of many different ethnic backgrounds.

More than anything else, the music known as “Doo Wop” draws its passionate power from the awesome glory of human voices working in perfect harmony. It is delivered acapella-style without benefit of instrumental accompaniment, and graces everything from the most heartbreaking love ballads and soaring songs of devotion, to the crazy rhythms of the wildest early rock and roll. More than mere artifacts from an oldies jukebox, the sounds of the great vocal soul groups continue to inform and inspire many of today’s top pop acts.

Headlining the powerhouse program of six premier groups will be Pookie Hudson’s Spaniels, inheritors of a legacy that began with their late colleague, Spaniels lead singer Pookie Hudson, and the signature swooner that defined the entire doo wop era, the 1956 million-seller “Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight.” Originating on the streets of Brooklyn, Vito & the Salutations scored regional hits in the early 1960’s with their recordings of “Gloria,” “Unchained Melody” and “Your Way.” Rick Anthony has been handling most of the group’s leads for the past 15 years, as the original Vito is no longer with them. The group also contains long time member, Shelly Buchansky, who sang on “Unchained Melody” and many of their other hits.

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MU’s Record Club Reviews Parallel Lines

MU Record Review Parallel Lines“If you don’t like something on this album, chances are you don’t like music,” said an audience member at the Feb. 7 Record Club review of Blondie’s Parallel Lines.

If you were to have wondered into Lauren K. Woods Theatre on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m., you would have found about 30 people gathered to discuss music. Monmouth’s Record Club invited the community to meet and discuss Blondie’s hit album, Parallel Lines. There were three panelists that lead the discussion that Tuesday night: Kenneth Womack, Ph.D., and Dean of the School of Humanities And Social Sciences; Michael Thomas, M.F.A., and Associate Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences; and Nick Messina, Communication Instructor.

Blondie formed in 1974, but went rather unnoticed in the United States until Parallel Lines was released in 1978, according to Messina, who noted that this album was one of the most overlooked albums of the 70s.

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The CW’s new series Riverdale is a Game Changer

New Series RiverdaleThe tone of Riverdale, the new series from The CW based on the old-school Archie comics that premiered on Jan. 26, can be easily summarized in one quote from the first episode: “Game changer: Archie got hot!”

This breathless declaration perfectly encapsulates how this is not your childhood’s Archie Andrews, for better or worse. For fans of the original characters, or those just mildly familiar with the comics like myself, fair warning: this is not a faithful adaptation of the original works, but a CW-fied version of Archie and his pals. While these changes have some fun, inventive bright spots, the overall product in the first two episodes struggles to cohesively come together despite having some potential.

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Farewell, SURFING Magazine: A Questionable Future for Print

Farewell Surfing MagazineAfter more than 50 years of publication, SURFING magazine has been put to rest.

According to the Ocean County Business Journal, on Jan. 23 of this year, The Enthusiast Network (TEN) announced it would be disbanding SURFING Magazine. TEN plans to reallocate the deceased magazine’s resources into the network’s sole surf publication, SURFER magazine.

“I was actually pretty bummed when SURFING mag shut down. I’ve been getting that magazine in the mail every month for ten years so it’s a little surreal,” said junior English student John Waldron.

In an article on Surfline.com, the author underscores SURFING’s importance for surf culture. “They [SURFING] were a voice for the youth, the punks, the innovators. The place to go for a fix of no-bullshit surf clips, an outlet for the ‘core’ surfer.”

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A Recap of the 2017 Grammy Award Show

Recap Grammy Awards 2017There were so many things about this year’s 2017 Grammy Awards that made it interesting for both positive and negative reasons. We went through a roller coaster of emotions from artist to artist; it was certainly a sight to see.

The Grammy’s took place this year on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. There were several highlights of the evening, but the most notable was possible Adele’s acceptance speech after winning the category, Album of the Year. The other artists that were up for nomination in this category were Beyonce, Justin Bieber, Drake, and Sturgill Simpson. Adele won for her newest album 25. Once she got on stage, she immediately started crying. She told the audience about the last time she was there it was five years ago and she was pregnant, and she has had some struggles since then but has now pushed through them and created 25.

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The Merry Wives of Windsor Visits Red Bank

Red Bank Merry Wives of WindsorShakespeare’s farcical comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor will be coming to Two River Theater in Red Bank, and what better way to introduce this production than with free play readings? On Feb. 13 at 7 p.m., the cast of The Merry Wives of Windsor will be doing an open rehearsal for the upcoming play. Along with that, there will be a play reading group led by Two River Theater’s artistic director, John Dias, on the nights of Feb. 27 and March 6 at 7 p.m. If you attend, you will receive a sneak peek of what is happening behind the scenes of this delightful comedy; scheduled performances this season begin Feb. 25. These free events that will usher in The Merry Wives of Windsor production would be beneficial to high school or college students, adults and children alike, and here is why:

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Girl Power At It’s Finest: SweetSexySavage

Girl Power Sweet Sexy SavageOn Jan. 27, Kehlani Parrish dropped her first full length studio album. For fans that have been following her since her appearance on America’s Got Talent in 2011 with girl group, PopLyfe, they know that this has been a long time coming. A lot has been accomplished since then and Kehlani was even nominated for a Grammy for her mixtape “You Should Be Here,” despite the fact that it was a free mixtape on SoundCloud. She was also featured on the Emmy- nominated Suicide Squad soundtrack with her song, “Gangsta.” So it’s incredible to see how much she accomplished before she even had an album out.

If this album isn’t beautifully feminine, honest, nostalgic, empowering, old school and real R&B, then I don’t know what is. As a female listening to these songs, they make me unapologetically proud to be a woman. “Intro” is a poem read by Reyna Biddy and she refers to herself as a “superwoman,” “angry woman” and “crazy woman.” Perfectly describing the several layers that comes with being a woman which is what this record is all about.

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Lady Gaga Steals the Halftime Show

Lady Gaga Halftime ShowOn Sunday, Feb. 5, something epic happened, and I’m not talking about the close game between the Patriots and Falcons. Lady Gaga had one of the best halftime shows in a while. Jeffrey from the 102.7 Morning Show said on Monday morning, “The best moment in history happened for 13 minutes at the halftime show last night!” Lady Gaga is the first solo act to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show since Paul McCartney in 2005.

Lady Gaga began her performance on top of NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, with a patriotic medley that consisted of “God Bless America” and Woody Gunthrie’s popular protest song, “This Land is Your Land.” Then, Gaga uttered the words, “…and justice for all” from our pledge of allegiance with such genuineness and grace.

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A Monster Calls is a Must See

Watch A Monster Calls Let’s just get right down to it. A Monster Calls, directed by J. A. Bayona, was the most under-looked, under-discussed hidden gem of the year. It is the one of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching films that has been released in the last decade. Yes, this is a fairly heavy statement, but to me, there is nothing about this film that was less than absolutely stunning. From the production, acting, and animation, to the genuine emotions it evokes from audiences all across the nation, A Monster Calls is the film you may never have heard of, but is certainly one that you should watch immediately. Without a doubt in my mind, it is going to hold a prime position in the coming of age genre for years to come.

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Hurricane Diane Wins The Crowd Over

Hurricane Diane Wins CrowdThe eccentric new play Hurricane Diane opened Jan. 27 at Two River Theater and I had the pleasure of seeing it performed for the first time. Theater is an immersive experience that awakens an audience and asks them to trust where the director, actors, scenes, and story line take them. This play makes you think past the existential experiences that shape human behavior in the funniest possible way, of course.

Playwright Madeleine George weaves together a satirical, yet enlightening play about the discord between humans and planet Earth. The show draws inspiration from The Bacchae, which is the Greek story of how Dionysus seeks revenge on those that openly defied her power as a god. Diane (Becca Blackwell) is the contemporary version of Dionysus who seeks to bring carnage while she poses as a gardener with experience in permaculture. Diane coaxed her way into the lives of four women living in a quiet cul-de-sac in Red Bank, which makes this play endearingly familiar. The setting is not a complete replica of Red Bank, but the sights and smells of Delfini’s, a restaurant in the area can be envisioned in this play and that is a reminder of the Monmouth County community.

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Hidden Figures is an Excellent Discovery

Hidden Figures Discovery“Every time we get a chance to get ahead, they move the finish line,” said the fiery Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) in the recently released Hidden Figures. This quote and more is what makes the film so poignant: even an early 1960s set story is still strikingly relevant today, for better or worse. Hidden Figures is a heartfelt, sometimes corny, but always inspiring story that is finally getting its opportunity to be told.

Directed and written by Theodore Melfi, and based off the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, the plot follows the little known true story of three brilliant, female, African American mathematicians: shy Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), determined Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and outspoken Mary Jackson. The three friends attempt to move up the ranks at NASA, while the contentious Space Race between the United States and Russia barrels on, as does the continuing discrimination against not only African Americans, but women.

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Kevin Chambers Returns to MU

Kevin Chambers Returns to MUn March 13, 2015, the young musician, Kevin Chambers’ life was changed forever.

Scheduled to perform at about 7 p.m. at the annual 24-hour music festival on that day in March, Chambers was preparing in the WMCX studio, the University’s radio station. Just before he was about to go on-air for his solo performance, Chambers became ill and needed medical attention.

“I played my set, everything was normal, he was on top of it,” David Rothschild said in a press release, who is a friend of Chambers and a fellow musician. “He even ripped off this beautiful piano solo when I dropped my harmonica.”

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Neil Simon Visits MU

The Center for the Arts at Monmouth University has announced that tickets are now on sale for Neil Si-mon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers, scheduled for the evening of Feb. 16 as part of the Win-ter/Spring Performing Arts Series of events.

Presented inside Pollak, the 7:30 p.m. show brings the assembled talents of Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre — America’s longest established stage company, founded in 1808 — to the flagship auditorium of the Monmouth campus. It’s a welcome engagement by the troupe that brought Eugene O’Neill’s Moon for the Misbegotten to Manasquan’s Algonquin Theatre last year — and with the Pollak’s newly enlarged performance area, improved sight lines and nearly 700 new seats, the stage is set for a fresh and funny look at a classic comedy from the era of “Mad Men” mores and manners.

The playwright who created Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple had entered the prime of his career when Last of the Red Hot Lovers opened on Broadway in 1969, during a time of fast-changing attitudes toward sex, gender roles and monogamy. The so-called ‘sexual revolution’ is very much on the mind of Barney Cashman, the play’s central character and a middle-aged, married man who yearns to get in touch with his long-suppressed “swinger” side.

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Pokémon Sun and Moon: Review and Retrospective

Pokemon Sun Moon ReviewAssuming one knows nothing about Pokémon: Sun and Pokémon: Moon, the most recent additions to the wildly popular Pokémon series, one might first ask, ‘what’s new?’ Well, Pokémon gyms are gone, mega-evolutions were put on the back-burner in favor of z-moves, the map is a collection of islands, the Pokémon professor is a tanned, ‘shirtless-stud’ who lets Pokémon test their attacks on him, and the new bad-guys, Team Skull, are a bunch of pun-cracking, delinquent, good-for-nothing kids who no one takes seriously. Pokémon Sun and Moon are certainly great games, however, I personally feel that this has little to do with any of the aforementioned changes, and more with the fact that they’re Pokémon titles.

Before I go into further detail about Sun and Moon, I’d like to talk a bit about my background with Pokémon. Pokémon Gold was the first video game I ever played, and at the ripe old age of seven, I spent an excess of 300 hours on the game. Since then, I’ve played at least one version of each core title and have always played the extended editions (Pokémon Yellow, Crystal, Emerald, etc.) whenever they released. I’ve played every remake of these core titles and I’ve even played most of the spinoffs with the Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness titles being my favorites in the entire series. These two GameCube spinoffs, much like Sun and Moon, ditched traditional Pokémon game format, throwing away both gyms and wild Pokémon battles/captures.

Given that my favorite titles are spinoffs which radically changed series format, I am tolerant of such an approach, perhaps even more likely than most to appreciate it. This in mind, the question becomes, what is it about Pokémon Sun/Moon that makes them less appealing? In my opinion, the changes made by Sun/Moon are jarring enough that it doesn’t feel like a core Pokémon title, yet it bears enough similarities to core titles that it doesn’t feel like a spinoff. Consider the new z-moves, which essentially replace mega-evolutions (one of the previous generation’s standout mechanics), they’re certainly cool, and they actually do a lot to balance out mega-evolution. That said, many feel that they’re a lot less interesting than mega-evolutions. Innovation is all well-and-good, but in this case, even if series patterns were altered, I wouldn’t say that there was true innovation here.

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The CW is Thriving with Superhero Hits

CW ArrowThe CW is ‘super’ great right now, and the man at the center of it all is writer, producer, and creator, Greg Berlanti. The mastermind is behind The CW’s hits, Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow.

In 2012, the birth of The CW’s superhero takeover began. It started with a billionaire, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), who was stranded on an island where he learned many different skills, which would turn him into the Arrow. After he realized he couldn’t fight off every villain who entered Star City, he enlisted a team to help him. The team consisted of John Diggle (David Ramsey), Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), Thea Queen (Willa Holland), as well as previous Roy Harper (Colton Haynes). The show originally focused on Queen’s struggle with letting people in, and realizing he can’t control every situation in his life. The show now relies heavily on the other characters and the relationships Queen has built over the years with these people by his side.

After the network got a glimpse of the adoration from Arrow fans, critics and viewers alike, The CW moved forward with The Flash, which starred the adorable, smart, super-nerd, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin). Much like superheroes before him, The Flash has a cover job (hey, even though they’re superheroes, they still have to pay the bills!) working as a CSI (crime scene investigator), where he works with a team of investigators who uncover his secret and help him fight off crime. His speed, willingness to help, and sometimes naïve nature sets him apart from other heroes. He isn’t aggressive or a tortured soul in a way; he’s extremely kind and very ordinary. The Flash protects Central City, and sometimes joins forces to help his friends in Star City as well as National City.

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The 74th Golden Globe Award Show Was A Success

74th Golden Globe AwardsThe Golden Globe Award Show first made its debut in January, 1944 and has been an annual success ever since. There are always new films and television shows that sweep the audience’s attention globally, and this year’s 74th Golden Globe Award Show was no exception.

One film that certainly stole the show was film director Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. The film successfully won a total of seven Golden Globe awards, which were: Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, Best Actress in a Motion Picture  Musical or Comedy, Best Motion Picture of a Musical or Comedy, Best Director of a Motion Picture, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, and Best Screenplay of a Motion Picture. This was a big deal for the film, as it now holds the new record of winning seven nominations. The last picture to hold the title was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and Midnight Express (1978), both of which had the record of winning six nominations.

 La La Land is about a struggling actress, Mia (Emma Stone) and struggling Jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), who come together and try to pursue their big Hollywood dreams. If you’re a fan of musicals, you will most likely enjoy this film. Or, if you’re a fan of seeing Gosling dressed up in an old-Hollywood fashion (like me), you’ll enjoy this film too.

Thanks to the film’s songwriters, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the soundtrack has a beautiful Jazz theme to it. There are certain songs that are repeated various times, though it is done purposefully as a way to show nostalgic memories of certain characters. This holds particularly true with the song on the soundtrack, “City of Stars,” which is also my personal favorite.

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Refn Masters The Neon Demon

Refn Masters The Neon DemonThe Neon Demon, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, is not a film with an agenda that is set to please the masses. It is a film where the director knew his vision and wanted to put it screen. He embodied his directorial style to create a story that only he could tell. He purposefully did this regardless of the anticipated reactions it would get from audiences.

I love that. Create art that you are proud of and if others enjoy it as well, that’s a bonus. All that being said, The Neon Demon is a fantastic film that is executed brilliantly, throwing the audience into the competitive world of Los Angeles modeling through the eyes of the gorgeous new girl in town (Elle Fanning) and her extremely envious competition.   

The Neon Demon is many things, but conventional is not one of them. Refn takes a fairly simple premise on the surface and transforms it into a psychedelic, visual masterpiece where his style is able to tell a greater tale of obsession and frankly, survival of the fittest in the modeling world. The film creates this very ‘still’ feeling, moving from scene to scene with little outside noise other than dialogue, making the audience hang onto every word the characters spoke.

From beginning to end it is unnerving and disquieting, which makes it difficult to turn away. Many of us are unfamiliar with the modeling industry at its core. As a result, Refn takes it upon himself to paint us a picture and create his own interpretation of this world. He presents us with this specific dimension of this unknown world to all of us and doesn’t stray away from that world or try to humanize the characters into being multidimensional. He kept them all pretty flat, in a good way, which made the characters seem more animalistic, feeling the same things and instinctually acting as a group. Various scenes present these girls not as humans, but as exotic beings or ‘animals.’ In that, making the characters flat and not giving them distinguishing traits to make them unique works well in this film.

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9 Lives Spotlight: Govel and Flores

Govel and Flores 1Every semester, Monmouth’s student run record label, Blue Hawk Records, creates and records a compilation album featuring various artists on campus. The Applied Music Industry class runs the whole production by making and producing this album. This process has many steps, starting by holding auditions in Lauren K. Woods theatre to releasing and promoting the album. This semester the class is working on their ninth compilation album, 9 Lives, which will be released Dec. 7, with a show of the album held in the Rebecca Stafford Student Center. The album features six artists from varying genres. This week, I met up with the two female singer/song writers on the album to talk about their tracks and experiences as up-and-coming musicians.

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Troye Sivan’s “Suburbia” Is a Success

Troye Sivan Suburbia 2Less than year ago, Troye Sivan announced he was going on tour once again and even though I had already previously seen him live, I purchased tickets without a second thought. Sivan didn’t disappoint.

Before the show even started, there was a charity campaign to raise money for homeless LGBTQ+ youth, which set the tone for the show. Troye Sivan has always showed his support and passion for the LGBTQ+ community and always wants his fans to feel that his shows are a safe space and tonight was no different.

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Does ABC Approach Diversity Well?

ABC On Diversity 1While the American Broadcasting Company, also known as ABC, prides itself on being one of the most diverse networks, it’s slew of comedy series seems to lean into the ‘trying too hard’ category rather than groundbreaking. Shonda Rhimes, a popular ABC series director, crafted TGIT (Thank God It’s Thursday), a lineup of strong, natural shows. There is nothing forced about it, nothing about the diverse characters seems planted or unlikely, but feels genuine and is done with ease. The characters on shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away With Murder, and Scandal are one of a kind and effortlessly portray characters that come from every walk of life.

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MU Students Perform Spring Awakening

MU Spring Awakening PreformanceMonmouth University’s Theatre Department completed a sold-out run of Duncan Shiek and Steven Sater’s Spring Awakening. The show was the first sold-out departmental show.

Based on a 1891 play by Frank Wedekind, Spring Awakening is a rock musical with music by Duncan Sheik and a book and lyrics written by Steven Sater. It is set in late 19th century Germany, where it tells the story of teenagers growing up in a strict, highly sheltered community and eventually revolting, as well as beginning to explore their own sexualities, something that they were heavily discouraged from doing previously.

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Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart’s New Show is Successful

S&M Potluck Dinner PartySnoop Dogg and Martha Stewart aren’t two names I’d instantly link. Snoop, whose birth name is Cordozar Calvin Broadus, Jr., is a famous rapper who has been in the music industry for decades. Martha Stewart is a well-known cook, television personality, and businesswoman. So, where is the connection?

On Nov. 7, VH1 gave the duo their own show, Snoop & Martha’s Potluck Dinner Party. In this show, Snoop and Stewart will cook meals while also having special guest appearances, all while making jokes in the kitchen. In a nutshell, this show is, according to comedian and actor Seth Rogan, a guest in the first episode, “the weirdest group of people ever on a stage together.”

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A New Production of Finn and Lapine’s Falsettos is a Hit

Finn Lapine FalsettosA new production of William Finn and James Lapine’s Falsettos opened on Broadway on Oct. 27. The Lincoln Center Theatre production opened at the Walter Kerr Theatre and was directed by Lapine, the original director and co-book-writer. Finn also co-wrote the book and composed the mostly sung-through score.

Originally produced in 1992, Falsettos takes place in 1979 during act one and 1981 in act two. The revived production stars Christian Borle, two-time Tony Award winner, as Marvin, a neurotic gay man who divorced his wife, Trina (played by Broadway veteran Stephanie J. Block) and left his son, Jason (played by thirteen-year-old Anthony Rosenthal) to be with his boyfriend, Whizzer, played by Hamilton and Book of Mormon star Andrew Rannells.

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Young MA Changes the Game for Females in Hip-Hop

Young MA HipHop FemalesThe 24-year-old, Brooklyn native started self-producing her music back in 2014, writing her own lyrics, creating her own beats, and receiving help from friends to mix the track. In 2014 she released “BROOKLYN (Chiraq Freestyle)” featuring Rell & La Danger (RedLyfe) via her Sound Cloud profile. In 2015, she began to earn a following within the New York music world and also gained a presence on social media when she released her mixtape Sleep Walkin. The mixtape features 10 tracks with upbeat raps such as the highly emotional track, “Through The Day,” which is a personal track which talks about the murder of her older brother; his murder took place in September of 2009. This past May, she released her debut single “OOOUUU.” Since its release, “OOOUUU” has rocketed from a Brooklyn street anthem to number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 list.

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Kenneth Womack Releases New Beatles Encyclopedia

Womack New Beatles Encyclopedia 2Kenneth Womack, Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, is set to release his new book, The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four, on Nov. 30. The book is an updated version of the original, which was published as two volumes in 2014.

“The Beatles have been the subject of more than 2,000 books,” said Womack. “For this reason, they are the subject of intense scholarly scrutiny. Yet at the same time, they are often misunderstood or the subjects of enduring myths and misinformation. In my own way, The Beatles Encyclopedia is a means for getting the story right.”

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Blue Hawk Records Spotlight: Gee and Bailey

BHR Gee Bailey 1Every semester, Monmouth’s student-run record label, Blue Hawk Records, creates and records a compilation album featuring various artists on campus. The Applied Music Industry class creates and produces this album; this includes holding auditions in Lauren K. Woods theatre to releasing and promoting the album.

This semester, the class is working on their ninth compilation album, Nine Lives, which will be released Dec. 7 with a show held in the Rebecca Stafford Student Center. The album features six Monmouth University artists from varying genres.

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Vanderpump Rules Tanks in its Fifth Season Premiere

Vanderpump Rules Tanks Season 5Tears, screams, and rumors. Yes, Bravo’s popular reality show, Vanderpump Rules returned on Monday, Nov. 7 for its fifth season, and certainly without a shortage of drama. I’m typically a fan of reality shows; I find the scripted drama of “reality” to be entertaining, which is a quintessential quality of this series. However, the first episode was a mere disappointment, as looks the rest of the season.

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WMCX Celebrates National College Radio Day

WMCX National College Radio DayFrom 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4, MU’s college radio station, WMCX, celebrated national College Radio Day.

College Radio Day is a day dedicated to the hundreds of college radio stations across the country and the students involved with them. MU’s own station, WMCX, took advantage of this day and celebrated in the Jules L. Plangere Center with twelve hours of live band interviews, performances, and of course, pizza.

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Indie-Survival Beyond No Man’s Sky

Indie Game SurvivalIndie survival games are an excellent option for consumers, particularly in terms of affordability; however, with the recent No Man’s Sky debacle, some might be feeling a little wary of the indie games market. No Man’s Sky, and indie/survival title, turned out to be an excellent example of all that’s wrong with the indie games market; the game was incredibly overpriced, it released in an under-developed state, and it employed deceptive marketing strategies. Steam has actually changed its store policy as a result of No Man’s Sky; there is a new rule that screenshots must represent footage captured in-game. Despite the disaster that was No Man’s Sky, consumers should not allow themselves to be turned off of the indie market by a single game. There are a number of other titles that offer both affordable prices and immersive gameplay of survival sims.

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MU’s Record Club Reviews Blonde on Blonde

Blonde On Blonde RevisitedFifty years ago, Bob Dylan released his album Blonde on Blonde, and it’s still just as epic today. So, on Tuesday, Oct. 25, the University’s Record Club celebrated this anniversary and hosted its second album review of the year at 7:30 in Pollak Theatre.

“There’s a lot of artistic risk on this album,” said Kenneth Womack, Ph.D., and Dean of the Department of English. He and two other panelists, Michael Thomas, M.F.A., and Associate Dean/Director of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, alongside Ronnie Brandt, a “Musician at Large,” gathered to discuss one of Dylan’s greatest successes.

The night began with a brief video of a live performance of Dylan’s “No Direction Home.” The video was from 1966 and showed various English people trashing the new style that Dylan was taking up. Some argued that all of his music was better prior to the new sound of this album and that he was going downhill. However, they seemed to have predicted incorrectly.

The first song that the panelists discussed in this hour-and-a-half-long record review, was “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” “This was a big commercial hit, but it took a while to get airplay because radios wouldn’t play it,” said Brown. He continued to say that radios wouldn’t play it likely because it was such a different style than before. “He went from being a successful folk singer to a new sound, but what some people don’t know is that Dylan was a Rock-N-Roll nut before he did folk,” Brown added.

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Grammy-Winning Shenandoah Visits MU

Shenandoah Vists MUThe Center for the Arts at Monmouth University has announced that tickets are now on sale for an Nov. 13 concert featuring the one of the greatest bands in Country music, Grammy winners Shenandoah, hosted in Pollak Theatre. Part of the 2016-2017 Performing Arts Series, the 7 p.m. concert is one of several fall events presented under a special partnership between the University and the L.A.-based Grammy Museum.

When country music lovers talk about the greatest groups in the genre, Shenandoah is always at the forefront of any discussion. Fueled by Marty Raybon’s distinctive vocals and the band’s skilled musicianship, Shenandoah became well known for delivering hits such as “Two Dozen Roses,” “Church on Cumberland Road,” and “Next to You, Next to Me,” as well as such achingly beautiful classics as “I Want to be Loved Like That” and the Grammy-winning “Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart” duet with Alison Krauss.

Today that legacy continues as original members Raybon and Mike McGuire reunite to launch a new chapter in Shenandoah’s storied career. It all began when the guys got back together to perform a benefit concert for a friend battling cancer.

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Young Thug Challenges Gender Identity in Rap Music

Young Thug 1Since the birth of rap and hip-hop, hyper-masculinity has been a constant trend, bleeding through the majority of songs under the genre. But in 2016, several rappers are starting to go against the gender norms that the culture of rap and hip-hop has created.

Since his debut in the music industry, Jeffery Lamar Williams, known by his stage name “Young Thug,” has never been scared to push the boundaries of gender norms. His uniqueness has shined through his fashion, language, and music leading him to wear women’s dresses in several print issues of magazines, as well as in his popular music video, “Best Friend,” where we wore several pieces of women’s clothing throughout the duration of the video. The rapper has been known to refer to close friends as “hubby” or “lover,” and his fashion sense has always been loud and flashy. This is especially true in comparison to hip-hop’s finest, such as Drake, Kanye West, and Travis Scott, whose more traditional style of manliness oozes through their style and music.

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Civilization VI is More of a Good Thing

Civilization VIAnyone who’s ever played the board game Risk would understand the basic premise of Civilization VI gameplay, and that of 4X strategy games in general. Civilization VI (or Civ VI) is the latest entry in the Civilization series of videogames. Like its predecessors, it belongs to the 4X subgenre of strategy games. In a 4X strategy game, the player is put in charge of a faction which they control through turn-based gameplay. Typically the goal of this is advancement/development of the faction despite competition from other factions. In the case of Civilization VI, players control a nation, like America or India, as a historical figure/leader, such as Teddy Roosevelt or Gandhi. What sets Civ VI and most other 4X games apart from Risk is the amount of overlapping in-game systems, which add complexity to the title.

The best way to explain Civilization VI would be to describe how a typical session plays out. Civ VI is session based, which means that when you want to play it, you select a number of options to create a match. You could set up a simple game and only edit things such as which leader/civilization you play, game speed (whether the game takes 2 hours or 50 hours to finish), AI difficulty (human opponents/multiplayer is also a possibility, and these opponents can even be mixed in with AI), and so forth. There is also “advanced setup,” which provides more options for game design, such as picking which leaders the AI plays, eliminating victory conditions (one could make a victory through religious prosperity impossible, for example), and further altering the world design (such as rainfall, world age, sea levels, and abundance of resources).

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I Am Teddy Who?

I Am TeddyMonmouth seems to be the home of many talented students, and I had a chance to talk with sophomore and music industry student, Tyler Robinson, also known by his stage name “Teddy,” who has become a popular musician amongst the students of the University. He’s performed at several campus events and will be performing at the school pep rally Oct. 28.

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Scream Queens Goes Hoarse in Season Two

Scream Queens Season 2“If it was possible for me to feel anything, I would totally be sobbing right now,” said Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd), which unfortunately reflects my attitude towards this season of FOX’s Scream Queens.

The campy, crass creation was a show I fell hard for in its killer first season. The story of the snotty, selfish, yet fabulous sisters of Kappa Kappa Tau, who not only have to deal with an vengeful dean, preppy fraternity “bros,” and, you know, just your everyday serial killer on the loose, was some of the most genuine fun I’ve had watching television in the past few years. Scream Queens wasn’t for everyone, and still isn’t, but it was full of endlessly weird and original characters, rapid-fire quips, and the perfect blend of horror and comedy. Now, it merely feels like a bad imitation that is desperately trying to find that first season shine.

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How to Game on Your iPhone

Gaming on iPhoneMobile games, such as ones on cell phones, have somewhat of a bad reputation, and in my opinion, largely deserve it. Mobile games are plagued by the pay-to-win business model that typically results in the death of PC or console games. Unfortunately, this model has somehow managed to thrive on mobile devices. What exactly pay-to-win is and why it should be avoided is something that every mobile gamer needs know. If you know what to look out for it is quite possible to enjoy quality games on your cellphone, specifically iPhones, even if the deck is stacked against you.

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Bethel Boyz Release New Mixtape

Paul MattAfter hearing word that Monmouth University had its own rap group, I headed over to Bethel Avenue in Long Branch. As I walked into the house, I was greeted by Paul Matt, a junior and communication student, and one of the four members of Bethel Boyz. Singing and rapping at the kitchen table, wearing a “Suh Dude” snapback, Paul resists the mainstream categorization that other rappers chase after, mainly because he’s a completely new breed of Jersey oddball, something the rap game has never experienced.

Last month, the 20-year-old rapper released a mixtape called “Potential/Summer 16” which features 13 tracks and includes features from other members of Bethel Boyz. He’s known for his rather juvenile sense of humor and his larger-than-life personality. This persona — one associated with lyrics like, “I’ve been known to goof around, sometimes called the clown, that’s cause I never let anything bring me down. So I’m gunning for the thrown and a fitted crown, cause I’m the king of my own life.” – King of My Own Life — has him far removed from the conventional visuals of big time rappers; Paul exists completely in a category of his own making. Meanwhile, if you want to know what’s next, as I did, you’ll get the kind of answer where the platitude of a rap group merges with interview ramble into semi-deep profundity:

Paul Tyler Matt

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Beyoncé Slays the Formation World Tour

Beyonce1On Friday, Oct. 7 our lord and savior, Beyoncé, blessed New Jersey with her radiant presence. On this day “Queen Bey” came to East Rutherford’s Metlife Stadium and brought her Formation World Tour to an end.

The show kicked off at 8:30 p.m. with an opener from DJ Khaled and his impressive lineup of guests. During his set he brought out August Alsina, Remy Ma, DMX, Ja Rule, T.I., and more. Each guest did about two songs and with such a great lineup, really got the crowd excited for Beyoncé.

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Harry Styles Shows Off His Solo-Fashion Style

Harry SittingIf you haven’t seen the pictures of Harry Styles for Another Man magazine, have you been living under a rock? Styles posted a bit of a warning on his Instagram on Sept. 25 with three completely blank pictures and put all of his fans (including me) in a panic. Something was coming but no one knew what. The next day, Sept. 26, is when the internet went crazy because he revealed his three covers for Another Man magazine. It was unlike anything he has ever done before and it is a completely different way to break out and start his solo career.

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MU Hosts a Next-Generation American Music Legend

The Center for the Arts at Monmouth University has announced that tickets are now on sale for an Oct. 21 concert featuring the standard bearer for one of the greatest legacies in American music: multiple Grammy winner Rosanne Cash.

Part of the 2016-2017 Performing Arts Series, the 8 p.m. concert is one of several Fall 2016 events presented under a special partnership between Monmouth University and the LA-based Grammy Museum. Hosted inside the recently renovated Pollak Theatre, the show finds the celebrated vocalist and songwriter joined on the newly enlarged Pollak Theatre stage by husband, musical director and guitarist John Leventhal and their full band, in a set that draws from the artist’s rich catalog of recordings, with a spotlight on the triple-Grammy album The River and the Thread.

Boasting eleven Cash-Leventhal originals, The River and the Thread marked an exciting new evolution in the long-playing career of a performer who made her first big splash with the 1981 mega-hit “Seven Year Ache” (and who netted her first Grammy in 1985). A cycle of portraits in story and song, the album sketches the lives of Southern people – from the thoughts of a soldier gone off to fight in the war between the states, to the struggles of a contemporary Alabama couple – with a paint box of Delta blues, Appalachian folk, Nashville country, gospel, and the myriad other styles that sprang from the fertile soil of Cash’s native Southland.

At the same time, the record speaks to the soul of the artist whose starkly compelling 1990 LP “Interiors” signaled both an emotional and physical move from music-row Nashville to New York City, and whose storytelling skills have been honed over the past quarter of a century via the publication of an acclaimed memoir, a children’s book, an edited collection of “Prose by Celebrated Songwriters,” as well as numerous contributions to The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and The New Yorker.

RosanneGarnering three major awards at the 2015 Grammy ceremony — for Best Americana Album, as well as for Best American Roots Performance and Song for “A Feather’s Not a Bird” — the all-original River and the Thread serves as a fine complement to the award winning 2009 release “The List,” in which Cash and a cast of guest performers (including our own Bruce Springsteen) interpreted a dozen classic country selections by other composers — all of them drawn from a list of 100 essential country songs that her father, Johnny Cash, provided to the aspiring performer as a way of better understanding the deeply rooted soul of the music.

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Record Club Takes a Closer Look at Nirvana Album Nevermind

MU First Record Club 2Students and faculty gathered in the theater with three expert panelists to discuss Nirvana’s groundbreaking album, Nevermind as part of the Tuesday Night Record Club on Sept. 27 at 7:30 p.m in Woods Memorial Theatre.

“It’s like a book club, but with albums,” said Bob Santelli, Executive Director of the GRAMMY Museum and University alumnus. The University’s student-run record label, Blue Hawk Records hosted its first ever “Record Club” event. Here, music lovers gathered to discuss and review albums of the past; the first review was Nirvana’s famous album Nevermind. Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Kenneth Womack, Ph.D., said that the idea came from Santelli.

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No Man’s Sky: Interesting Indie, or Triple-A Flop?

No Mans Sky Indie Or FlopIn the gaming world, there’s a commonly used phrase, “hype-train.” If you are on the hype-train for a game, it basically means you’re excited for it and believe it will be good. Many gamers and critics alike boarded the No Man’s Sky hype-train; this game received numerous best-of-show rewards at the E3 gaming conference, the cover for an issue of GameInformer, as well as air-time on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. This is all rather impressive, especially considering that No Man’s Sky was developed by a small indie team, Hello Games.

So, what is No Man’s Sky? No Man’s Sky is an open-world, exploration-based, sci-fi space-simulation. It’s described on Steam as “a game about exploration and survival in an infinite procedurally generated universe.” Procedural generation means that many elements of No Man’s Sky (planets, animals, plants, starships) are created by an algorithm, designed by Hello Games. So, the universe of No Man’s Sky has, in some ways, near infinite possibilities. That no two planets you visit, or two ships you cross paths with, will be exactly the same (at least in some respects).

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Spanish Guitar Master, Roni Benise, Visits MU

Roni Benise Spanish Guitar MasterGuitar master Roni Benise brings his 10th anniversary tour and an international troupe to Monmouth U’s renovated Theatre, with “Strings of Passion.”

The Center for the Arts at the University has announced that tickets are now on sale for “Strings of Passion,” an Oct. 15 concert event headlined by The Prince of Spanish Guitar, Roni Benise.

Presented inside the Pollak Theatre, the 8 p.m. concert promises to be a spectacular showcase for the recently refurbished flagship auditorium of the Monmouth campus. In addition to boasting improved sight lines and nearly 700 new seats, the Pollak Theatre offers guest artists a newly enlarged stage area — a space that is more than up to the task of accommodating Benise, his touring orchestra, and an international troupe of dancers in their coastal New Jersey area debut.

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Battleborn Has Died, at the Ripe Old Age of Four (Months)

Battleborn Has DiedIn gaming, if a game is dead it is no longer played by a sizable audience. Battleborn is a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena)/first-person shooter game, developed by Gearbox Software (the renowned developers of the Borderlands series). I first heard of the game prior to its release, in 2015; I like MOBAs and shooters, also I loved playing Borderlands, so the game seemed like a must-buy. I managed to get into a beta-test while Battleborn was in its pre-release, during this test the game impressed me and I preordered it. It released in May, I played it, found it to be a solid MOBA/shooter despite some flaws, and reviewed it as 8/10. Just before this fall semester, when I was planning to run my review, I picked up Battleborn again, and immediately wished I hadn’t, because now I have to rewrite my review.

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The BreakBeat Poets Visit Wilson Hall

BreakBeat Poets WHA dash of cultural poetry, a pinch of eye-opening stories, and a spritz of new generation hip-hop all mixed together will get you The Breakbeat Poets. On Thursday, Sept. 15 authors from this revolutionary anthology performed in front of students at the University’s Wilson Hall.

The anthology featured 78 different poets from all over the country, born between 1961 and 1999. The book claimed to be the first poetry anthology by and for the hip-hop generation and attempted to create a unified statement by poets who have been shaped by the genre’s re-shaping of American prose. Angel Nafis, Nate Marshall, Kevin Coval, and Morgan Parker, four of the ‘Breakbeat Poets,’ performed a few of their most popular pieces, as well as told life stories and answered questions in a Q&A after the performance.

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“American Horror Story” is Back For a Sixth Season

AHS Season 6 1From a haunted house to a disturbed asylum and a freak show, FX’s American Horror Story (AHS) has captivated viewers time after time. Each season has a new theme and we slowly piece together one big mystery as the plot un-ravels. Now, AHS is back for its sixth season, “My Roanoke Nightmare;” a season that is already very different than the others.

The first episode began with the words, “The following story is inspired by true events.” This is already some-thing new for the show. In previous seasons, there have been characters based on real people, such as in season five, “Hotel,” when Lily Rabe played the role of Aileen Wuornos, a real person who was convicted of multiple murders in the early 1990s; however, this season, the true events stem from the Roanoke colony of the late 1500s; a colony whose people left to relocate but went missing. The definite whereabouts of those people were never resolved.

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NBC’s “This is Us” is a Success

NBC This Is Us 1When the previews for NBC’s latest drama This is Us aired, the premise looked pretty simple - four people who all share the same birthday. Those four people are Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), Randall (Sterling K. Brown), Kate (Chrissy Metz), and Kevin (Justin Hartley). They are all drastically different and are somehow all connected, which is what will be revealed later.

Jack is married to Rebecca (Mandy Moore); they are an adorable young couple who, when we meet them, are expecting triplets, or as they like to call them, “The Big Three.” The two of them are madly in love and have their world turned upside down when it is revealed that there are complications with her pregnancy.

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Mac Miller Releases “The Divine Feminine”

Mac Miller The Divine FeminineMac Miller is a 24-year-old rapper who has been putting out solo records since 2009. One of his first big songs, “Donald Trump,” generated some buzz about him and his music – including attention from Donald Trump himself. Now he’s out with his fourth studio album, The Divine Feminine, which was released on Sept. 16.

The first thing that caught my attention was the title itself. In an interview with Zane Lowe on Beats 1 Radio, Mac said that this album title was, “A concept that was told to me about just the energy of the world being a female energy, the energy of the planet… and just kind of like how that mirrors the soul of a woman, and you know, like Mother Earth and falling in love with the universe.”

There are ten songs on the album – many of which talk a lot about love and desire as he had mentioned. Of the ten songs, several big name artists were featured such as Kendrick Lamar, Ariana Grande, Cee Lo Green, Ty Dolla $ign, and more, which gives a variety to the types of songs on the album from all of the different collaborating artists.

The most popular song on the iTunes charts from The Divine Feminine is “Daang!” which features Anderson .Paak. It’s a slower-paced song and the first time I listened to it, it reminded me of a remix to a song that you’d hear in an elevator.

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New Season of Dancing With the Stars

New Season DWSThe 23rd season of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, which premiered on Monday September 12, began with new celebrities, elaborate dances and a little bit of chaos. The four judges, Julianne Hough, Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, and Bruno Tonioli, give their advice and critiques as 13 celebrities and 13 professional dancers compete to win the coveted Mirror Ball trophy. Celebrities and their partners must dance 10 of the different ballroom style dances, which includes the salsa, Argentine tango, Viennese waltz, samba, paso doble, rumba, foxtrot, jive, cha-cha and quickstep. While the judge’s input is important, the fate of the celebrities ultimately lies in the hands of fans that vote through text messages. Each week, a celebrity is eliminated. The judges are there solely to give the celebrities constructive criticism so that they can improve and hopefully make it to the end of the competition.

On this season of Dancing with the Stars, there is a wide range of competitors, from country singers and actresses to Olympic medalists and politicians. Prior to seeing the season premiere, I was familiar with a few of the competitors. There is 60-year-old Maureen McCormick, formerly known as Marcia Brady on The Brady Bunch. After McCormick’s waltz to Aretha Franklin’s “You Make Me Feel,” she was surprised when her on-screen mother, Florence Henderson, paid her a visit - it was a very heartfelt moment amidst all the chaos.

Next, there is 32-year-old female country artist and actress Jana Kramer, known for her singles “Why Ya Wanna” and “I Got the Boy.” The last competitor I knew of was 32-year-old Ryan Lochte, the reason for all the chaos. The twelve-time Olympic medalist, over-exaggerated about an altercation that happened in Rio while he was intoxicated and claimed that he and three others were robbed at gunpoint and therefore filed a false police report. As a result of his actions, he has been suspended for 10 months and cannot participate in the world championship meet which will be held in Budapest next July.

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Is tlc’s “Love at First Kiss” Practical?

Love At First Kiss 1A first kiss can be a strange experience; you may go on a date and wonder, “Will it happen? What will it be like?” In many romance films, the post-first-date-kiss question is solved at the end of the evening, after the two lovers get to know each other a little better. But what if they had skipped that step? What if the kiss happened while they were still total strangers? Would it feel different, awkward or equally as comfortable if the chemistry was right? TLC’s new show Love at First Kiss attempts to answer these questions.

Love at First Kiss premiered on Aug. 3; since then, there have been seven episodes. It seems to get a rise out of most people who watch it, as they cringe but also can’t turn it off, myself included. Over the course of the hour-long episode, a complete stranger is placed in an all-white room and awaits a stranger to walk in. Once the person enters, the person must walk up to the other and kiss. If the kiss goes well, the two can choose to go on a two-minute speed date. If this goes well, the couple meets up for a regular date on a different day. Sometimes it works and sometimes people get stood up, which is part of the drama that keeps the audience guessing.

Certain people get paired up on the show and seem as though they could really be a couple outside of the production. These people seem to hit it off and engage in genuine and smooth conversation afterwards; other pairs seem to have been placed together for the audience’s entertainment. For instance, in the first two episodes of the show the audience was introduced to Josh, a 27-year-old who had never kissed a girl before; he was then sent Annalisa, a young woman who had plenty of kissing experience. The scene was uncomfortable as the young man stuttered and trembled, keeping his eyes open wide the entire time; he returns three more times and assures the audience that he’s more prepared because he has been watching videos online, but what’s to follow may show the audience otherwise.

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Nick Viall is the New Bachelor

The Bachelor 1Millions of people tune in to ABC on Monday nights from 8-10 p.m. to watch The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. It’s an addiction, really, and it’s hard to escape the never-ending cycle of watching “true love” unfold. Each season after the final proposal, one of America’s favorite rejected contestants becomes the newest bachelor/bachelorette for the next season, and that trend continues; that is, until now.

is a reality TV show where about 25 female contestants fight for the love of one bachelor. The season continues as the bachelor takes the contestants on multiple dates across the world, slowly eliminating contestants through “rose ceremonies” until the finale. Then, the bachelor will choose his “one true love” and have a grand proposal for the world to see. Once the season is over a new bachelor/bachelorette is chosen, and this upcoming season has taken a new twist by breaking tradition.

Nick Viall was chosen as the next bachelor even though he was not on the latest season, something that hasn’t happened in a long time.

Nick was the runner-up on both Andi Dorfman’s and Kaitlyn Bristowe’s seasons of The Bachelorette and was also on the latest season of Bachelor in Paradise, where former contestants from various seasons meet and live in a house for the summer to try and find “true love.” Unfortunately for Nick, he proposed twice on national television – both proposals ending in rejection – and had a messy breakup at the end of paradise. But, after the latest season of The Bachelorette, JoJo Fletcher’s season, America was shocked to find out that he would be returning for a fourth shot at love.

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Lady Gaga Puts Out New Album

Lady Gaga New AlbumFrom “Poker Face” to “Bad Romance” and “Applause,” Lady Gaga has put out numerous hits over the past few years that reached the top of the charts. Her last album Artpop was released almost three years ago on Nov. 6, 2013. Now she’s back and ready to put down new music.

Gaga’s new album Joanne will officially be released on Oct. 21. Her latest single from the album, “Perfect Illusion” was released on Sept. 9; so far the song seems to be a hit. When asked what “Perfect Illusion” is about, Lady Gaga said in a video on her Twitter page, “Well, this song has a lot of meanings for me. I think the most obvious meaning when you first listen to it… was to create a song about how love is the most intoxicating and powerful drug in the world. It can make you feel so high that you don’t even realize that you’re in a relationship that’s not even real; it’s just a perfect illusion.”

“I didn’t really love it at first,” said senior Marketing student Cassie Stiansen, “but once I gave it a few listens it started to catch on. Now I really like the beat of it.”

Alexandra O’Connor, a senior and Education student, seemed hopeful about the upcoming album. “I’m not a big Lady Gaga fan. I think she’s a weird person but I don’t mind her music. Her new single wasn’t that bad so hopefully her new album will be just as good.”

According to Victoria Day, a recent graduate of the University, this is one of her favorite songs by Lady Gaga. “When I first heard the song I loved it and had no idea it was her song. Her voice sounds amazing and the song is so catchy. It does have the usual Gaga feel but I think this is a stand-out amongst her other singles she has released. The lyrics seemed to have matured from her past songs as well.”

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Who Stole the Show at the VMA’s?

Kanye WestFrom Madonna’s infamous performance of Like a Virgin in 1984, to Britney Spears’ memorable performance with a python snake in 2001, the MTV Video Music Awards have become a global phenomenon that people wait all summer for, and the 2016 award ceremony was no different. On Sunday, August 28, celebrities, singers, songwriters, and more gathered in Madison Square Garden to set off the year’s greatest hits. This year’s show was quiet arbitrary - to say the least - filled with many memorable performances. The show opened with Nicki Minaj singing alongside newest pop-sensation, Ariana Grande, who sang her most recent hit, Make Me, while reenacting what appeared to be a cycling class on stage. Rihanna,  winner the Video Vanguard Award, performed four dispersed times throughout the three hour showing, while Beyoncé hit the stage for a 15 minute performance of songs pulled from her newest album, Lemonade. Aside from these unforgettable performances, Alicia Keys did something extremely unexpected. Rather than singing one of her own songs, she sang a poem honoring Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech that touched many people in the audience and ones watching at home.

The performances made during this year’s ceremony were definitely one for the books, but one in particular I found to be a long awaited, exciting performance. Hitting the VMA stage for the first time in nine years, Britney Spears made her return. Singing a song from her new album, Glory, Britney sang “Make Me” featuring G-Eazy. Rather than simply singing the song, Spears incorporated her talent of dancing into the performance, which made it more entertaining. Not only was this performance eye catching, but so was her outfit on stage. Britney’s yellow leotard covered in Swarovski crystals with matching boots lit up the stage.

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New Season of “Catfish” Captivates MTV

CatfishNev Schulman and Max Joseph, hosts of the MTV series “Catfish: The TV Show,” are reeling in what could be the worst catfish yet.

A catfish is a person who pretends to be someone they are not by using social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and dating apps to create false identities, mainly to pursue deceptive online romances and relationships, however, in episodes from prior seasons, some catfish used social media solely to get money from the other person and had no interest in a relationship.

The concept of “Catfish: The TV Show” began after Schulman himself was catfished back in 2010. He believed he was talking to a gorgeous, blonde, twenty-something when he was really talking to a married and middle-aged woman, Angela Wesselman. While that occurred, Schulman’s friend, Henry Joost, and sister, Ariel Schulman, documented everything and it later premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Once it was seen by the public, many contacted Schulman explaining that they had experienced very similar situations. “Catfish: The TV Show” was then created to follow the journey of hopeless romantics that have formed online relationships without meeting each other. It is up to Nev and Max to tell the stories of these hopeless romantics as they discover the truth behind these online romances and sometimes shocking revelations along the way.

“Catfish: The TV Show” made its debut on November 12, 2012 and the show recently began season five, which premiered on August 10, 2016 with two very intriguing episodes. In the first episode, former Playboy model and mother of two, Jayme Nelson, requests the help of Nev and Max when she discovers that her online boyfriend, Lucas, is not only fake, but is catfishing an insanely large number of other women as well.

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Summer’s “Stranger Things” Should Stick Around

Stranger ThingsIn just one moment, my carefully organized, meticulously timed television-watching schedule was turned upside down.

With the fourth season of Orange is the New Black untouched, half a season of the new AMC show Preacher on my DVR, and the entire series of Gilmore Girls that has been in my watchlist for as long as I can remember, and more, I wasn’t looking for anything new. Then there was Stranger Things.

Despite a backlog of things to watch, it became almost impossible to ignore the buzz around Netflix’s new original series. Articles popped up all over, exclamations of its greatness flooded social media, and it seemed that everywhere I turned, someone was raving about this unexpected summer hit. Who was I, a mere human trying to keep up with the best of what television has to offer, to ignore it? And thankfully I did not, since it ended up being one of the most fun and satisfying shows of the season.

Stranger Things, created, written, and sometimes directed by brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, is a summer delight that should not be forgotten even though classes are back in session and it is no longer the trending topic. It has all the mystery, suspense, scares, and unexpected fun that one could enjoy during not only the warm summer nights, but also during lazy fall afternoons.

In the small town of Hawkins, Indiana in 1983, things are predictable and tame. But when local boy Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), a geeky kid who plays Dungeons and Dragons all day with his three best friends, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), things get strange, for lack of a better word. Joyce, the boy’s anxiety-ridden mother (Winona Ryder), Will’s three friends, and Hawkin’s chief of police, Jim Hopper (David Harbour) attempt to forge their own investigations into Will’s disappearance, with each beginning to unravel the mysteries behind a shady government laboratory in town, a quiet, on-the-run little girl that appears in the woods, and much more.

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Fifth Harmony Steps Up Their Game

Fifth HarmonyIn just four short years, the girl group Fifth Harmony has gone from singing competition frontrunners to a household name (most likely a household that is home to teenage girls). Their latest tour in support of their album, 7/27, is sure to wow fans and evoke plenty of awkward dancing and loud singing that should be reserved solely for shower purposes.

Opening up for the girls was 2005 teen icon, JoJo. Aquamarine herself sang songs old and new, mixing in some hits from her heyday as well as new hits, such as “F**k Apologies.” At first when my friends and I noticed she was opening we were slightly excited. We only knew her old songs and weren’t expecting too much. Then she came on the stage and completely owned it. She had a sweet moment with the crowd, where she explained why she had been gone so long and why she did not put out any new music. She then explained how she is back and ready for everyone to hear what she has been working on. Closing her set, JoJo gave the crowd the one song they had been waiting for, “Too Little Too Late.” The audience rose to their feet and the screams were deafening. From that, we were off!

The show kicked off with a flight attendant directing ticket holders to their seats, letting audience members know they are ready for takeoff. The girls open with a high energy party, “That’s My Girl,” followed by their first big single, “Miss Movin’ On.” The set list was broken into five parts, representing each part of the “flight”- Cloud 9, Fantasy Island, Mystery Island, Paradise Island, F.U.N., and then an encore. The set list for the talented singers featured songs from both Reflection and 7/27, singing hits like, “Sledgehammer,” “Worth It,” “Bo$$,” and “Dope.” Showing no signs of slowing down, the girls handled multiple costume changes and quick set changes like seasoned performers; fans would never know this was their first major tour. 

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“Fire Emblem” (Meets Its) Fate

Fire Emblem FatesIn Fire Emblem Fates you play as a prince who can turn into a dragon; also you can marry and have kids with your siblings… oh, right, context. Fire Emblem Fates was one of my most anticipated video game releases of this year; now, after having completed it, it’s currently my biggest disappointment of 2016 (don’t worry Final Fantasy XV, you’ve still got a shot to disappoint). Fire Emblem is a series of tactical turn-based RPGs set in a medieval-fantasy world, and it’s debatably the most popular series in the genre.

The installment Fire Emblem: Awakening added systems for marriages and children into the series. Basically you pair up certain opposite-sex characters by having them fight together, they become friendly over time, and eventually get married and have children; afterwards, through a cheesy time-travel plot twist, these children become units in your army. On the plus side, some of the mechanics associated with this system are interesting—by pairing characters with different classes/stats, you can essentially breed super soldiers. Unfortunately, a lot of effort had to be put into this system to make it work; tons of lines for character interactions had to be written, and complicated balancing for character stats was made essential. I feel that the rest of the game has suffered due to effort being put into these system, and its unnecessary (and occasionally disturbing) expansions.

With their newest title, Fire Emblem Fates, Intelligent Systems (the game’s developers) have doubled-down on the marriage and children systems. While I feel that these systems have played a part in making the series more popular, I also feel that they are starting to take away from the more strategic aspects of the game.

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Drones Are Changing the Game

Drone Game ChangeVideo cameras of all shapes and sizes have for many decades captured amazing artifacts, which has in turn led to the creation of our favorite movies, TV shows and now, YouTube videos. However, in 2016, the game of filmmaking is changing forever—and it is all because of drones. Drones may not have come out yesterday, but this year, it is becoming more socially acceptable for them to be used in everyday life. Something that was once shunned by everyone in close proximity due to its noisy behavior is now something you can casually fly in your backyard, and now, drones are changing the game of aerial cinematography.

While it is still incredible what a more standard video camera can do, drones are more skilled in obtaining aerial shots, and these shots are what make anything from a Hollywood movie to a homemade short film something worth talking about. The special thing about drones becoming more accepted this year is that now they are more obtainable, not just for award-winning filmmakers, but for anyone who wants one, and that is going to be very impactful for many people’s creativity. Aspiring filmmakers and YouTubers, or people who just simply enjoy messing around with a camera and an editing software, now have endless capabilities of what they can create.

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"Game of Thrones" Returns For an Epic Season 6

Game Thrones Season 6Anticipating Game of Thrones Season 6 yet? You better be. Fans of the epic fantasy series have so much to look forward to. Not only will this season return to all the characters we’ve grown to love or hate and introduce new characters and new story lines, but this is the first season that the hit HBO show has surpassed the book series by George R.R Martin. The sixth installment, “Winds of Winter,” is not scheduled to be released this year, leaving many of the book fans with only one option: watch the TV show if they want to find out what happens next. The HBO producers and writers are now faced with the task of continuing a show that doesn’t have the source material there. But since the first Season 6 trailer dropped, it has already gained millions of views on YouTube in over a day. It looks like this season is shaping up to be the biggest from all the fan reaction.

The multiple Emmy-winning TV show was left on a cliffhanger last season when Lord Commander Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) was betrayed by his brothers of the Night’s Watch. It was a chilling scene with Jon being repeatedly stabbed in a Julius Caesar “Ides-of-March” fashion. The last shot was him lying in the snow, a trail of blood coming out from his body, leaving many fans aghast about his death over the summer. Did he really die? Game of Thrones has been known to kill major characters before, so it’s no surprise that some fans are mourning Jon Snow. However, book fans have many theories. One theory about “The Tower of Joy” will most likely be uncovered this season, but another theory involves the Lady Melisandra, the red priestess who was loyal to Stannis Baratheon. After her visions about Stannis turned out to be wrong, she returns to the Night’s Watch. Could it be that Melisandra returned there for a reason? She has long been fascinated with Jon Snow and she follows the Lord of Light religion, which gives servants an absorbent amount of power. Perhaps Melisandra has a few magic tricks up her sleeve, but this is all speculation of course.

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Get Educated With Video Games

Zero EscapeIn my classes at Monmouth, every now and then I’m introduced to a concept which I already know something of from a video game. I remember last year, in Dr. Patten’s intro to political science course, when he explained the prisoner’s dilemma to us. I was already familiar with the concept thanks to Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, and this helped my group to avoid a potential 10-year prison sentence in our exercise.

Before I get into this though, let me just add a quick disclaimer: if you hear something in a video game that interests you, you should research it independently; it doesn’t have to be extensive, but be sure at least give it a quick google. Most games are works of fiction, and often they take creative license, even when they present something as factual. To illustrate this: in the video game Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, a curious incident involving chemistry is discussed. According to the game, in 1920, due to an accident involving the transport of liquid glycerin, a sample of glycerin crystallized. This was curious because glycerin had never been crystallized before, and afterwards glycerin everywhere started to crystallize spontaneously.

To call this story about glycerin half-true would be giving it too much credit; some research was done on the crystallization of glycerin in the 1920’s, but that’s about all the truth there. However, due to the game’s presentation, this story actually fooled a good number of people. Many players thought the game was summarizing a historical event, when in actuality the game was combining a semi-popular occult myth with the plot of Cat’s Cradle, a popular Kurt Vonnegut novel. Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is highly regarded for having a story made up of interesting facts and compelling fiction; unfortunately, as has been illustrated, occasionally the two blend together.

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A Closer Look at “The Legend of Heroes”

LH TCSThe Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Cold Steel is long and at times nonsensical, much like its title. To be completely honest, I went into Legend of Heroes expecting a 20-ish hour game and a very easy review. The premise of the game is basically teenagers going to school and fighting stuff… Where have I seen this before? Oh, right, Valkyria Chronicles 2, Final Fantasy Type-0, every Persona game ever, Harry Potter, and in a million other cheap knockoffs. The image running with this story actually mirrors one released for Final Fantasy: Type-0, right down to the protagonist holding a flag (no one will accuse this game of being original). Actually, in many ways this game feels like a PG version of Final Fantasy: Type-0; there’s a very similar premise/setting, but no mature content about the horrors of war. That said, as a whole I’m glad that I played The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Cold Steel, and I look forward to the sequel.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Cold Steel is a fantasy JRPG (Japanese role-playing game) set in a semi-modern world. Gameplay makes use of tactical turn-based combat and several social sim elements (interactions with other characters provide character depth and story information). And, as I may have mentioned earlier, the foundation of its plot is not exactly an original concept; actually, it’s probably the most overused premise in the genre right now. Knowing this, I went into Legend of Heroes not expecting much, and my first hour in-game didn’t change that opinion for the better. I was initially quite unimpressed by Legend of Heroes’ dated graphics and total lack of animated cut scenes; if someone had told me this was a 2007 game, I’d have believed them.

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Meet the Masterminds Behind “Jordan Belfort”

Jordan Belfort Walker DylWes Walker and Dyl are the masterminds behind “Jordan Belfort,” Spotify’s “#1 College Song” from 2015. Many college students are guilty of having this song on his or her playlist, which is truly something special when considering that Walker and Dyl are college students themselves. Walker attends Temple University and Dyl goes to Tulane University, and while being students, they were still able to produce a popular hit like “Jordan Belfort.” The song has received over 30 million hits on SoundCloud and YouTube, and on the iTunes pop chart, the song peaked at #29. This success is what ultimately led them to landing a deal with major label Atlantic Records. After talking with Walker and Dyl, I learned some pretty cool things about their careers, their successful song and what inspires them to do what they do.

The two have been best friends since middle school, and after they both got into the music scene from DJ-ing, they decided to collaborate together on this catchy tune. The two are always stimulated and inspired from being surrounded by so much music, which is what led them to start recording stuff on their own. Walker said, “I slowly gained a liking to all and everything hip-hop culture, and all my friends would freestyle together and that is when I started producing instrumentals and actually recording raps.” What originally started out as mindless fun has turned into a career for both Walker and Dyl, which is something that still amazes them and makes them proud to be making music. When asked how they feel about having the most popular song in the U.S. amongst college students, Walker said, “I kind of still don’t believe it. Almost every college kid in America has heard my goofy voice. Something really special indeed.”

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Pollak Set to Rock Through the Decades

Pollack RTAFive decades of rock n’ roll music are coming to Pollak Theater in a powerhouse, one-night only concert hosted by University senior and professional violinist Taylor Hope on Thursday, April 24. Hope will be joined by accomplished local musicians such as Glen Burtnik, Joe Bellia, Joe LaFragola, and Bob Stasiak as the ensemble takes audiences through the evolution of the rock genre, from the groovy vibes of the 1960’s to the cutting edge styles of today.

Hope, currently studying music and math at the University, worked closely with faculty and contemporaries in the music industry to develop her show, “Rockin’ Through the Decades.” The concert is in addition to Hope’s senior recital, and proceeds generated from ticket sales will be donated back to the University.

“I came up with the idea last year to put on a concert to wrap up my senior year at Monmouth and to donate the proceeds back to the music department,” said Hope. “It’s been a great experience putting together a show from scratch, from having a vision and being able to execute it. I’m so lucky to know so many talented musicians and am so fortunate to have some of them join me for the show.”

One of these guests, Burtnik, is a former member of the Styx revival and host of popular “Summer of Love” 1960’s concert. In addition to his myriad of accomplishments and over four decades of experience in the music industry, Burtnik has a long history of performing with Hope.

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Blue Hawk Records: Artists of the Week, Britt Cannarozzi & Band

BHR Cannarozzi BandBritt Cannarozzi & Band

Members: Britt Cannarozzi – vocals/songwriting, Chris Durham – bass, Vinnie Espinosa – guitar, Steve Filippone – drums

Genre: Pop

How did you guys decide to form a band?

Britt: Originally, I wrote this melody and these lyrics, and then I asked Vinnie a while ago to help me out with it, and we did the music and everything for it. Then we asked Chris and Steve to jump in on it, and it kind of just happened like that. And now we jam a lot and they helped me record the demo.

What got you interested in music?

Britt: I’ve been singing since I was little, and I love writing words, so I’ve just always done that. Then I switched my major a few times and switched schools a few times, and now I’m doing this.

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Blue Hawk Records: Artist of the Week, Dan Amatto

BHR Dan AmattoDan Amatto

From:  Paramus, NJ

Genre: Pop/Rock

What got you interested in music? 

Actually, it was a total fluke. I was just trying to find something to do in fifth grade, and I landed on that.

How long have you been making your own music? 

Since I was around 14.

What has been your biggest musical accomplishment so far? Have you had any big gigs?

To me, just playing in Asbury. Just the fact that I was across the street from The Stone Pony was huge to me.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future regarding music? 

Release an EP of my own stuff and just play anywhere around here and just get the word out.

What artists have influenced you?

Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Frank Sinatra, and John Mayer.

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Blue Hawk Records: Artists of the Week,The Carousers

BHR Artists of Week 2016 2Blue Hawk Records is Monmouth University’s student-run record label. Each semester, the club works with the Applied Music Industry class to produce a compilation CD that features Monmouth’s aspiring musicians. This semester, students and faculty members auditioned for the label and six artists were chosen to be on the new CD. The artists are recording their original songs in a professional setting at Lakehouse Recording Studios in Asbury Park. The album will be released on April 20, and a release show will be held on that date. For more information about the artists, visit the blog at bluehawkrecords.wordpress.com, or follow Blue Hawk Records on social media.

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Blue Hawk Records: Artist of the Week, Taylor Puzzio

BHR Artists of Week 2016 1Blue Hawk Records is Monmouth University’s student-run record label. Each semester, the club works with the Applied Music Industry class to produce a compilation CD that features Monmouth’s aspiring musicians. This semester, students and faculty members auditioned for the label and six artists were chosen to be on the new CD. The artists are recording their original songs in a professional setting at Lakehouse Recording Studios in Asbury Park. The album will be released on April 20, and a release show will be held on that date. For more information about the artists, visit the blog at bluehawkrecords.wordpress.com, or follow Blue Hawk Records on social media.

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“The Walking Dead” Concludes with Cliffhanger

The Walking Dead CliffhangerProducer Denise Huth was asked to describe the season finale of The Walking Dead in one word. She replied, “Negan.” Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, bears the nauseating name, which has evoked excitement from various viewers and complete despair from others. The episode delivered on Huth’s promise. Season 6, episode 16 was as tense as it was unsatisfying.

Approaching this season finale, the characters show complete disregard to the protection of the safe-zone community Alexandria. From Carol’s (Melissa McBride) annoying hide and seek attempt, to Darryl’s (Norman Reedus) quest for revenge, Alexandria is more dead than the walkers gnawing on its walls. Tell Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) to say a prayer and hang a vacancy sign on the front gate.

In the episode, director Greg Nicotero shows multiple vantage points. The viewer follows Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) crew as well as Carol and Morgan (Lennie James) through their individual travels. Unbeknownst to Rick and the rest of the group, the previous episode revealed that key players in the “Team Alexandria” fighting force were taken by a group of people called “The Saviors.” So, with half the group gone or taken captive and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) having painful pregnancy issues, Rick makes the call to leave in search of a doctor.

The idea of laying low is completely thrown out of the RV’s rear window as the gang piles in. While Rick’s unit heads to their allies in the Hilltop, Morgan searches for and finds Carol. Carol will not comply with Morgan’s pleas for her to return to Alexandria, insisting that Morgan leave immediately. The writer, Robert Kirkman, does a great job pairing this character combination and highlighting the fact that their beliefs differ on so many levels.

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“Black Desert Online”: A Time-Saving Time Sink

Black Desert OnlineMMORPGs, or massively multiplayer online role playing games, are often thought of as “time sinks.” Games in this genre typically expect players to sink hundreds of hours into them (perhaps thousands, in some rare cases). Black Desert Online is an entirely different animal in that it expects the average player to log over 1000 hours, and quite quickly. Black Desert has been designed to accommodate players with limited free time; due to several innovative new systems it allows one to accomplish hours of work with minutes of play. I personally feel that these features make Black Desert an ideal MMORPG for college students, but more on that later.

Similar to the popular Guild Wars: 2 and TERA, Black Desert is an action MMORPG in a high-fantasy setting. In terms of quality, it’s on a level of its own; Black Desert is hands-down the best-looking MMORPG on the market today but still manages to be very well optimized. The sound is also praise-worthy, containing a number of orchestral tracks, all deliberately lacking vocals so as to increase longevity. Two of Black Desert’s shortcomings are the voice acting and story, even though this is pretty standard in MMORPGs (particularly ones translated from Korean). As such, I was personally willing to give Black Desert a pass on this, although some might not.

Moving onto the gameplay, action combat in MMORPGs is notoriously clunky and imprecise, but Black Desert is by far the best I’ve ever seen. There is no comparison between Black Desert to others in its genre, and the quality of its combat is closer to what I would expect from an Assassin’s Creed title. Gameplay in Black Desert isn’t limited to combat though, as there are a number of occupations in game called “life skills.” These include fishing, cooking, hunting with a rifle, alchemy, taming horses, trading and more. It’s perfectly viable to neglect combat somewhat in favor of sharpening your life skills.

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Record Store Day Rolls Around

Record Store Day 2016The third Saturday of every April marks an annual event that is well known to every novelty collector and hipster across the country: Record Store Day. Record Store Day is a celebration of purchasing vinyl recordings, the oldest and most official way of collecting music. On Record Store Day, musicians and record labels release exclusive copies of their work on vinyl (either a 12-inch or a 7-inch), CDs, or even taped recordings. Musicians will also make appearances, host Q&As, and even perform at local store in celebration of this event. The first Record Store Day occurred on April 19, 2008, and has been a massive success in the following years. It has expanded to over 1,400 independent record stores in the United States and has been catching on across several continents.

It is worth noting that all stores that participate on this day are independently owned, meaning they are not under control by any major record label. The stores partake in this event because of their passion for music and their love of this format. That being said, not all record stores will have every release that is mentioned on the official list, which turns the event into an Easter egg hunt with everyone going in to search for the most exclusive of releases.

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“Zootopia” is Wildly Entertaining

Zootopia 1As a Disney film starring a bunch of talking animals, one might go into a screening of Zootopia, Walt Disney Pictures’ newest animated comedy directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore, and expect nothing less than an overdone idea and clichéd story.

Zootopia proves that it’s best to leave expectations at the door.

The film is not only incredibly intelligent and clever, which should amuse all audience members no matter what age, but also provides an important message while still being fun and surprising at every turn. While looking like many animated films of the famed company’s past, Zootopia feels new and exciting a là recent hits Inside Out and Wreck-It Ralph, thanks to some brilliantly original characters, gorgeous animations, and a memorable storyline.

Zootopia follows the astute and ambitious Judy Hopps, a female rabbit who, despite her small stature and unassuming upbringing in the farmland of Bunnyburrow with her protective family, ventures to the busting city of Zootopia to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a police officer. As she is forced to play traffic cop instead of being assigned real police work, she meets the conniving Nick Wilde, a charming con-artist fox, and learns of an ongoing investigation of animals going missing under mysterious circumstances.

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“Dancing with the Stars” Opens its 22nd Season

DWS 22nd Season“Dancing is like dreaming with your feet,” and no one embodies this saying more than the performers of Dancing with the Stars. The very first episode of the reality competition premiered on June 1, 2005, so it is crazy to think that the show has been around for 11 years. The celebrity competitors dance in a variety of styles, like the cha-cha, quickstep, rhumba, tango,  fox trot, and the samba, in hopes of winning the renowned Mirror Ball trophy. Each week, one competitor is eliminated based off of votes from the fans through text messages. DWTS has three judges: Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli, and Len Goodman, who provide professional input, but ultimately, the fate of the competitors lies in the hands of the voters.

This season’s competitors range from actors and actresses to football stars and journalists. The only two competitors that I already knew of, which happen to be my favorites, are Jodie Sweetin and Ginger Zee. Sweetin is a 34-year-old actress who started her acting career at just four years old and is best known for her role as middle child Stephanie Tanner on Full House and most recently on Netflix’s Fuller House. Zee, 35, is a meteorologist for Good Morning America and ABC News who recently had a baby. The remaining 10 competitors are Mischa Barton, Antonio Brown, Nyle DiMarco, Kim Fields, Doug Flutie, Marla Maples, Von Miller, Wanya Morris, Geraldo Rivera, and Paige VanZant. Only three of the professional dancers this season are from the United States: Witney Carson, Lindsay Arnold, and Mark Ballas. The other professionals, Artem Chigvintsev, Sharna Burgess, Peta Murgatroyd, Sasha Farber, Karina Smirnoff, Tony Dovolani, Edyta Śliwińska, Keo Motsepe, and Valentin Chmerkovskiy, are natives of Poland, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Prishtina, and the Ukraine.

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The Story Behind “Why Bother Records”

Why Bother Records 1Cassette tapes are making a comeback with Why Bother Records, an independent record label that specializes in releasing local music in a retro format. Since its inception in March of 2014, the label has released punk and indie hits from bands such as On Your Marks, Have A Good Season, and most recently, Halogen. The guys of Why Bother Records fulfill all responsibilities of a full-service label in house, recording music with an antique tape recorder before carrying out all the promotions, PR work, and graphic design necessary for a release—all while being full time students.

Behind the operation are John Bazley, a junior English and secondary education student at the University, and Christian Granier, a junior computer science/math science student at NJIT. Bazley and Granier have worked towards building a network over the last two years and aim to expand their label by working with more well-known artists as well as breaking new bands into the business.

Bazley explained that releasing these records has already been a fulfilling experience. “Nothing has been more rewarding than seeing our first release in person,” he said. “We made tapes and CDs for On Your Marks’ Movements In Loss EP and seeing the artwork, holding it in my hands, and hearing it play from my car stereo was just something else. A lot of time, money and effort went into that first release and to see it exist like that was incredibly rewarding.”

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An Interview with Editor Norman Buckley

Norman Buckley Interview 1Q. When did you realize you wanted to work in television?

A. I worked for many years as an editor in independent features. Around 2000 I started editing pilots for Warner Brothers and all of my pilots became series. I edited the pilot for The OC and asked that they consider me as a director. I started directing the show in the second season and began full time in the fourth season.

Q. What advice do you have for college students who are looking to pursue the television industry?

A. I think it is very important to be clear about what you want to achieve–for instance, if you were to say you want to work in TV or movies–that’s great, but doing what? Are you saying you’re willing to assist someone or do you only want to be a star? Do you want to start at the bottom, or do you expect to begin at the top? It’s an important distinction, because if you’re not willing to start at the bottom, then don’t bother calling people. You should just wait for lightning to strike. Certainly, there are situations where people move up quickly, but I’m a big believer in the tortoise approach (it worked for me). Proceed step by step, without discouragement or judgment of your current position. Play full-out where you are. 

Q. What is something you wish someone told you about the industry?

A. I wish someone told me earlier that no one knows any more than anybody else. Everybody is trying to figure it out. One shouldn’t be intimidated by what one doesn’t know. And people are always willing to help.

Norman Buckley Interview 2

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"Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" is Off the Mark

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot 2Tina Fey’s wartime journalist Kim Baker isn’t the only one having an identity crisis in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot; the film itself isn’t quite sure whether it’s a drama or a comedy, and ultimately fails to find its footing as something in between.

Based on “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the film wastes no time in tossing its protagonist directly into the main plot. Presented with an opportunity to broadcast live from the frontlines of Afghanistan, Kim packs her bags and boards a plane just 10 minutes into the movie. The pacing effectively jumpstarts the story, but the generic character trope leaves something to be desired. It makes it awfully hard for the audience to actually know Kim as something other than a fish out of water, and the decision effectively hinders the film from ever diving too deep.

When Kim arrives, she’s greeted by security detail Nic (Stephen Peacocke), angry army general Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton), and fellow journalist from a competing station, Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie). Tanya takes Kim under her wing and they form a fast friendship with a promising dynamic, but Tanya is never quite as funny as the trailer makes her out to be. She mostly just says outrageous things and gives Kim relationship advice, which she routinely ignores. After Kim catches her boyfriend from back home cheating on her via Skype, Tanya suggests that she pursue some of the guys around the camp—as long as she stays away from Iain (Martin Freeman), a combat photographer and notorious player.

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The 1975 Releases Another Hit

The 1975 Relase HitThe 1975, a band that many millennials are familiar with, released their second studio album entitled I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it on Feb. 26. The album might be nearing a month old, but its relevance and significance is far from dwindling in the world of music. The English band released their successful self-titled debut album in September of 2013, and ever since the band has become well-known and favored by many. Songs like “Chocolate” and “Settle Down” have not lost popularity since their first album, which truly set the bar high for their sophomore release.

The 1975 is often referred to as an indie pop or indie rock group, which is a genre that has become quite mainstream in recent years. Their presence on social media is a huge reason for their largely millennial fan base. With the band’s Instagram page having over a million followers (and lead singer Matty Healy having over half a million), it is evident that their following is devoted and definitely sizeable. The band is also extremely present on the popular blogging site, Tumblr. It is near impossible to visit the site without seeing something regarding the 1975, whether it be a picture, quote or song. Months before the release of I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, sneak peeks of the album were featured all over the site, along with on many other social media platforms. Healy went as far as to tweet various lyrics from the album before its release, giving the band’s audience a taste of what was to come.

Given the previous album’s success, the bar was set quite high for this installment, and it was highly anticipated by their outrageously dedicated fans. Overall, the album received generally favorable reviews, and hit number one on the U.S. and U.K. charts. Currently, the album is listed at number six on the iTunes top alternative albums chart, demonstrating its overwhelming commercial success.

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Guitarist Laurence Juber to Perform at Wilson Hall

Laurence JuberAs part of its 10th Anniversary schedule of events, The Center for the Arts at Monmouth University has announced that tickets are on sale for an April 1 concert featuring the Grammy winning guitar master Laurence Juber.

Part of the 2016 Winter-Spring Performing Arts Series, the 8 p.m. show finds the London-born musician making a long-overdue return to central New Jersey, on the heels of the 2015 album Fingerboard Road and the imminent publication of his third folio of innovative pop song arrangements for guitarists. It’s also a rare opportunity to enjoy a performance by a musical guest artist inside the auditorium of Monmouth’s historic Wilson Hall, a warm and intimate setting in which to experience Juber’s celebrated finger-style technique and encyclopedic knowledge of alternative tunings.

None of which is to suggest that the cerebral, innovative guitarist could not boast his own “rock star” moment. As a member of Paul McCartney’s Wings, Juber joined his hero for that 1970s band’s final album and arena-filling tour, sharing in a Grammy award for the instrumental “Rockestra Theme” and seeing his likeness featured in top music press publications on both sides of the Atlantic. While the experience remains a calling card in a career of more than 40 years, it ranks as but one highlight along a timeline that has found the sought-after session man playing Monty Norman’s iconic guitar figure in James Bond adventures, appearing on hit records by Charles Aznavour, Belinda Carlisle and Barry Manilow, and illuminating the soundtracks to fondly remembered TV shows (Happy Days, Home Improvement) and feature films (Dirty Dancing, Good Will Hunting).

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2015’s Top Video Game Titles

2015 Top Video GamesMetal Gear Solid: V, Bloodbourne, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Destiny: The Taken King, Final Fantasy: Type 0, Fallout 4… Games like these make it clear that 2015 was a very good year for video games. If you’re at all like me, you’re disappointed that you didn’t have time to play them all. However, when one stops to think about it, this attitude makes no sense; there are a number of advantages when you’ve waited to play a game. For one, the hype dies down; it’s now easier to tell the must-play titles from the duds. More information is available on them, so if you get stuck at some point, there’s sure to be a solution posted online.  On top of all that, they’re considerably cheaper, and games that were $60 last year can now be found for under $20. With all this in mind, I’m going to be rounding up and recommending some of my favorite games of the year.

Fallout 4, a first-person roleplaying game (RPG), was one of the most high-profile releases last year, but it received a surprisingly lukewarm reception. Fallout 4 was anticipated to be a major game of the year contender, yet none of the major critical video game outlets awarded it the overall prize. I personally rated it 10/10; this doesn’t mean it’s flawless, just that it’s outstanding. Despite my enjoyment of it, Fallout 4 has a number of faults, chief among them being graphically outdated character models, underwhelming melee weapons, and the new dialogue wheel, which some felt restricted conversational choices (I myself personally feel its effects are minor).

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Boom Roasted Presents: “The Addams Family”

The Adams FamiliyThis semester, Boom Roasted Productions will be putting on the stage adaptation of the classic dark comedy television show The Addams Family. The story follows the youngest Addams girl, Wednesday, as she falls in love with a “Normal Boy,” and the struggle that ensues between the two families trying to get along with each other. The show has been in rehearsal since the beginning of January, and a diverse range of students who study music, communication, political science, and even science have all been involved with the production of the show.

This is the second full staged musical from Boom Roasted, the first being last year’s production of RENT. The students who run the company took a huge leap of faith by staging their own production of the rock opera. Before the show, Boom Roasted would only run small events, such as stage readings. But hot off the heels of the massive success the company experienced with RENT, they have become involved with the Student Activities Board, and have created other events like “Theater Fest,” which is four straight nights of free theatrical events at Woods Theater.

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Netflix Releases “Fuller House”

Fuller House 1“Everywhere you look, everywhere you go, there’s a heart, a hand to hold onto.” Also everywhere you look, there is buzz about Netflix’s American sitcom, Fuller House. The 13-episode sequel series premiered on Feb. 26, 2016. The sitcom has reviews of 8.5/10 on TV.com and 77 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Some critics gave the revival very harsh, negative reviews, so Candace Cameron Bure, who plays DJ Fuller, told E!, “The critics never had a good thing to say about Full House and yet it ran for eight years in primetime and then it’s never been off the air in 30 years. So it’s a testament to what the fans want and not what the critics think.” She is absolutely right, and I personally enjoyed Fuller House—in fact, I subscribed to Netflix specifically to watch the revival.

Just before the revival premiered, Netflix released a teaser that acquired more than 10 million views, making it the most-viewed teaser on Netflix’s own YouTube channel. As many were highly anticipating Fuller House, I honestly wasn’t interested at first, but once I saw the unique teaser, I knew I had to watch it. The teaser opens with a gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge followed by an inside glimpse of the Full House house with a little golden retriever, Comet Jr. Jr., ready to greet his family.

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Pollak Experiences a “Doo Wop Explosion”

Doo Wop ExplosionPamela and Charlie Horner brought doo wop to Monmouth University on Saturday night, Feb. 20, with their show “A Night of Acappella Harmony: Doo Wop Explosion.”

Doo wop is a style of music that involves singing nonsense syllables. “Doo Wop singing reached its heyday in the 1950s. Inner city kids hung out on the street corners. They often didn’t have access to musical instruments or music lessons,” a spokesperson for Monmouth’s Center for the Arts wrote. “But they could blend their voices together in harmony.”

Not many millennials, let alone college students, have ever been exposed to this style of music, so on opening night, there were more baby boomers in attendance than anything else. And what a shame that was! The Horners began the event with a few words on the background of doo wop and acappella. Charlie Horner explained that “doo wop is, in its purest form, acappella.” 

After the opening words, the night began and ultimately ended with Re-Memberthen, a group that came together in Philadelphia in 2011. About six groups and two solo artists headlined the event. The Horners came in between each act with words of appreciation for the audience, artists, and vocal harmony.

Each act was charming in its own way, whether that be in banter amongst members or flirtatious jokes with the well-dressed women in the front row. Because these groups were based rather locally, many of them came on stage and had fans and friends in the audience.

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“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” is a Late Night Success

Full Frontal Sam BeeWith this past year seeing some of its biggest changes yet, late night television was still missing something.

David Letterman passed The Late Show torch to Stephen Colbert back in September, and while Colbert can still absolutely hold his own, it’s hard not to miss the energetic spark he had during his Colbert Report days. Speaking of Comedy Central, Trevor Noah is doing his absolute best in leading The Daily Show, but is it even the same show without Jon Stewart at the helm? John Oliver is covering excellent stories on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, but not everyone has an HBO subscription (or the nerve to illegally stream it). And, of course, there’s no shortage of mild, yet funny hosts who most people just wait to watch until the next day on YouTube (looking at you, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, and James Corden). 

The people needed someone new and fresh. Someone who, in this landscape where everything is starting to look uncannily the same, breaks the established mold. Someone who knows their platform is important and takes every minute of it to make a statement. Someone who isn’t afraid to make people uncomfortable, or make themselves look a little crazy. Or really, someone to finally say, “You know what? I think I’m kinda done with sausages.”

Insert comedienne Samantha Bee.

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, which began on Feb. 8 on TBS and airs every Monday at 10:30 p.m., is the weird, startlingly honest, and hilarious late night show that the current television scene has been sorely missing until now. Full Frontal, the only show on late night with a female host, is political satire at it’s most biting and gutsy.

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Michael Malpass Retrospective Opening in Pollak

Michael Malpass PollackWEST LONG BRANCH, NJ – Monmouth University’s Center for the Arts is pleased to announce the opening of a new gallery exhibit, a retrospective of one of the most respected sculptors of the 20th century, Michael Malpass (1946 – 1991), taking place in the Pollak Gallery from March 8 through June 30. The opening reception will be held on Friday, April 1 from 6 – 8 p.m. and will include a premiere screening of a new documentary Michael Malpass - A Great Circle created by Monmouth University Communication students under the direction of Erin Fleming, director of Production Services.

The exhibit will feature sculptures, prints, collages and jewelry Malpass made during his extraordinary career. His sculptures primarily explore the sphere using found metal objects. He would often say, “The sphere is the most perfect form. It is efficient, for example, with the most volume for the least surface area.” Applying traditional blacksmithing techniques the industrial shapes, composed of iron, steel, brass, bronze and copper, were forged into an arc and welded together to form the sphere. Ultimately they were ground and polished, wire brushed or painted. “In my work there is an element of discovery,” Michael wrote during this time. “For what I do is take what people have discarded, change the objects, rearrange objects, weld objects and grind objects to fit a sphere. I recycle but also elevate. The scrap is given importance because it becomes part of the whole and visually interlocks with the adjoining shape. It is, in a small way, revivalization.”

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Praise Be to “Hail, Caesar!”

Hail CaesarEddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) works at the fictional Capitol Pictures in early 1950s Hollywood as an enforcer of sorts (think Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It or In the Loop). His job keeps him from his family, forces him to deal with petty press problems and leaves him to fix the scandalous personal lives of the actors and directors working under him. Indirectly, it causes him to smoke a lot too, at the moral expense of lying to his wife.

There’s DeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), who has a child out of wedlock and must get married to avoid the ensuing scandal. Then there’s Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), an actor of B-movie proportions working in Western movies who must up his game and act in the film of self-styled studio auteur Lawrence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes)—except he can’t actually act. Then there are the Thacker Sisters, Thora and Thessaly (both played by Tilda Swinton). One sister thinks she covers hard news but only writes gossip, and the other is intent on gossip but actually publishes stories of worth.

Mannix is also tasked with fixing the production of “Hail, Caesar!,” Capitol’s big spectacle movie starring Baird Whitlock (George Clooney, playing his fourth idiot for the Coens). It’s a biblical epic that quotes shots directly from Ben-Hur and is destined to win 11 Academy Awards if it ever finishes production, since it is very far off schedule. Things take a turn when Whitlock is kidnapped from the set by a group of radical communist writers known only as “The Future,” and Mannix is then told that if he wants the star back he’d have to pay up.

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A Look Back at the Academy Awards

Chris Rock OscarsFor a ceremony that traditionally glorifies vanity and glamour, this year’s Oscars telecast took a drastic turn toward the political. Hosted by Chris Rock on Sunday, Feb. 28, the 88th Academy Awards covered everything from racism to gender roles with some shocking category upsets in between.

Hollywood’s biggest night garnered controversy earlier in the year when the Academy failed to nominate people of color in any of the major categories. Nods were only granted to white actors and actresses, prompting some to question why Michael B. Jordan or Will Smith had been glossed over for their powerful turns in Creed and Concussion, respectively. The drama led many black industry members to boycott the telecast, deeming this year’s ceremony as #OscarsSoWhite.

The controversy called into question whether Rock would still host the event, but he stuck to his gig and confronted the issue head on, utilizing his specific style of satire to both acknowledge the social issue and mock it for spiraling out of control. Rock proved himself to be a capable host, delivering plenty of laughs in his opening monologue without concern for being politically correct. His writing was solid but bits were often a hit or miss, scoring with pre-recorded segments but falling a little flat with some filler audience interaction. His endeavor to sell his daughter’s Girl Scout Cookies to the crowd was endearing at first, but didn’t have the weight to be maintained throughout the show (though the post-ceremony Instagram pictures of celebrities gorging on Thin Mints might have made it worthwhile).

The night kicked off by awarding Spotlight with Best Original Screenplay, a precursor of the biggest award of the night. The Big Short grabbed the statue for Best Adapted Screenplay directly after.

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Sitting Down with Bill Lawrence, Creator of “Scrubs” and “Cougar Town”

Bill Lawrence InterviewQ. When did you realize you wanted to work in television?

A. I always wanted to be a comedian or a writer, even in high school. I think having a passion—ANY passion—at a young age is the ultimate gift.

Q. What advice do you have for college students who are looking to pursue the television industry?

A. There are two simple pieces of advice. First, if you want to be in the television industry, you must move to Los Angeles. There is no way around it. Secondly, you must make connections with people who are currently working in the industry. Don’t ask for a job, just ask to hear how they broke in. We all like to talk about ourselves. Bonus advice: if you’re a writer, write a lot. If you actually finish a script, you’re immediately ahead of 50 percent of the people who call themselves writers.

Q. What is something you wish someone told you about working in television?

A. I wish someone had told me to be more grateful along the way. When I was a kid, I complained about the hours, and didn’t realize at first how lucky I was to get paid to write comedy. I’m now grateful every day.

Q. What was your first job working in television? What did you learn from it?

A. My very first job was the staff writer on a short lived show called Billy. I learned immediately how temporary every job was.

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Kanye West Releases “The Life of Pablo”

Kanye Album 7The biggest news in the music community the past month has been “Yeezus” himself, and his very anticipated seventh album. The Life of Pablo was released Feb. 14 on Kanye’s own record label “GOOD (Getting Out Our Dreams) Music, Inc.,” which has also released albums by other hip-hop and R&B artists like Common, John Legend, and Pusha T.

Three different singles were dropped in promotion of Kanye’s latest project, although none of them can be found on the final playlist. Fans were excited to see the collaboration between Kanye and Sir Paul McCartney on tracks like “FourFiveSeconds” and “Only One.” Both of these songs had a romantic element to them, and contained subject matters relating to Kanye’s own personal relationships and struggles with fatherhood. Then, the release of the track “All Day” brought back the more visceral and hip hop side to Kanye’s nature, in which he praised his own ego while being both very profane and upbeat.

Before the album’s release, the project title went under three name changes. Originally called “So Help Me God,” it was then changed to “SWISH” and then to “WAVES.” It wasn’t until shortly before the album’s release that it was renamed The Life of Pablo. The album was promised to drop on Feb. 11, but was not officially put out until the 14th; in the days between, fans were kept abreast about what was happening with the album through Kanye’s Twitter feed.

Kanye first updated the album’s track list by adding seven additional tracks, increasing the work’s run time by over half an hour, still promising the fans that the album would be done, mastered and ready to release on the 12th. He then released the cover art, as well as a website that allows you to fill in your own text in the same format as the album cover.

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“Better Call Saul” Returns for Season Two

Better Call SaulIn a parallel manner to the way Season One opened up, Better Call Saul returned Monday night and began again with a flash forward of Saul Goodman as Gene, the manager of a Cinnabon in Omaha. Portrayed in black and white, we follow him through mundane cleaning tasks as “Funny How Time Slips Away” by Billy Walker echoes in the background. Gene closes the shop and heads out with the garbage, but somehow manages to get locked in the dumpster room. Rather than opening the emergency door and setting off the alarm and police, Gene waits in the room for hours until someone lets him out, passing the time by carving a note amidst all the other graffiti smeared on the walls—“S.G was here.”

I’m a huge fan of the way the show moves back and forth in time, and I found the scene of him opting to be trapped rather than refusing to face the police or questions by opening the door to be really powerful. It is one of the rare moments when you get a glimpse of how he is in the future and the impact that his days working with criminals like Walter White has had on him. He doesn’t even want to risk a fleeing encounter with law enforcement and chance being discovered for who he truly is. However, the message left behind on the wall referencing his persona of Saul Goodman shows that he still misses the life he had to leave, and still yearns to go back to that time.

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“Deadpool” Revamps the Superhero Genre

Deadpool RevampWith the superhero realm currently being so powerful and profitable, it would be completely understandable if writers and producers didn’t want to stray from the current safe formula. The only problem with this theory is that comic book enthusiasts like myself might get bored with seeing the typical, run-of-the-mill adaption starring capes, villains and prolonged action.

Fortunately, 20th Century Fox has an answer to this genre overload—a $132.7 million, action-packed, R-rated answer, that is. Deadpool, starring Ryan Reynolds and T.J. Miller, opened Valentine’s Day weekend and broke box office records in the United States including biggest R-rated opening weekend and biggest opening weekend for first time director, Tim Miller.

Although the film received high praise for successfully breaking the fourth wall, meaning that Reynolds’ character talked to the audience rather than pretending it wasn’t there, it sadly didn’t have the deepest of plots.

Originally introduced in the early 90s by Stan Lee’s Marvel Entertainment as a spin off from the stereotypical superhero, Deadpool serves as the mercenary alter ego of Wade Wilson, who develops special powers after undergoing a sketchy, life-threating treatment for his terminal cancer. In fact, Reynolds originally played this character in Fox’s 2009 version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But of course, his character, as well as the film itself, did not leave a memorable mark, and only brought in $55 million opening weekend—a surprisingly low number for the fourth installment to the X-Men series.

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To Preorder, or Not to Preorder: Part II

Preorder Not PreorderSometimes it seems like all the good games are right around the corner, but often upon release they turn out more hype than anything else. Last semester, I ran a feature on video game preorders, within which I gave advice on which games to preorder. I advised caution towards Star Wars: Battlefront, and recommended both No Man’s Sky and Fallout 4. Since that time Fallout 4 and Star Wars: Battlefront have been released, and their reception has been mostly in line with what I predicted. In this feature, I plan to describe several upcoming, noteworthy games that I have played pre-release.

Black Desert Online releases on March 3 of this year, and if you like action-based MMORPGs, this one is a must-try. Black Desert has been out in South Korea since 2014, and public demand for it has finally brought it to North America. I’ve only put a modest 20 hours into the beta and am already quite impressed; I wouldn’t be surprised if it became the most popular action MMORPG after its release.

Black Desert’s combat is a step up from that offered in TERA Online, which had been the genre leader. The graphics are frequently compared to those from The Witcher 3, and while I believe The Witcher’s graphics are better, the fact that this is even a discussion reflects positively on Black Desert; MMORPGs are notorious for having poor graphics, and The Witcher 3 is debatably the best looking game of all time. In any case, both environments and characters look beautiful in Black Desert. There is a wide array of graphical options; this allows high-end computers to make the game look better and older models to make it run more efficiently.

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Blue Hawk Records: Number Eight is Great

BHRBlue Hawk Records is Monmouth University’s student run record label. Every semester, the Applied Music Industry class taught by Professor Joseph Rapolla, head of the music department, holds auditions and scouts artists, records and produces a compilation album and hosts a live show at the end of the semester in the Rebecca Stafford Student Center. This semester will be the record label’s eighth compilation album. After the success of Shades of Blue last semester, the label’s seventh compilation album, the student officers at Blue Hawk Records are excited to see what this class has in store for the album this semester.

This past Wednesday night, Feb. 10, the Applied Music Industry class held their auditions in Lauren K. Woods Theatre. A total of 10 acts auditioned to be on the compilation album. Rapolla said, “I was really impressed with all the auditions this semester. It seems like the talent just keeps getting better and better.”

The competition was stiff at this semester’s auditions. Brianna Roberts, a freshman music industry student who is also a member of the music industry class, said, “There was a lot of talent at the audition, which was great to see, but it also made it difficult to choose who would be on the album.”

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Get to Know Twenty One Pilots

21 PilotsTwenty One Pilots, with Tyler Joseph as the lead singer and Joshua Dun on the drums, has gone from a duo that strictly played small venues with a general admission audience to a band that everybody has heard of. After their release of Blurryface in May 2015, the duo gained a wildly vast mainstream presence that is only continuing to grow. “Stressed Out” and “Tear in my Heart” are songs that most people at least recognize or are just completely obsessed with. You can find Twenty One Pilots anywhere from Tumblr, to Spotify, to iTunes, to headlining tours, all the way to various events where they guest perform. Just a few weeks ago, they played at the X Games in Aspen, Colorado. The band is clearly doing something very right.

Blurryface, although released in May of last year, is still on the top album charts, way above many new releases. “Stressed Out” is arguably the most popular song off the album, which is currently number three on the iTunes top songs chart and its music video has over 80 million views on YouTube. Twenty One Pilots has truly made a huge mark with this album, so much so that it has not gone away even after all this time—it has only gained popularity.

The duo’s music style is pretty hard to categorize. While many would argue electropop or indie pop as their overall genre, their music fits into multiple categories. Rap, pop, rock and punk are all other styles the duo tends to dabble in, making their music highly unique and distinctive. Blurryface is especially cool because it is a concept album, which always makes an album have more depth. The character Blurryface is what the entire album is about, and Joseph, the leader singer, describes it to represent what people are insecure about.

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An Interview With Rob Thomas

Rob ThomasQ. When did you realize you wanted to work in television?

A. I remember trying to make television happen when I was 30. I’d written my first couple of young adult novels for Simon & Schuster. My book money wasn’t quite enough to live on, and I was a TV fan. I ended up writing a letter to the president of CBS television, introducing myself, and including the bound galleys of my first novel and letting him know I wanted to write for television. In some sort of miracle that will never be repeated, he read the novel, passed it along to the producers of Dawson’s Creek and asked me to develop a romantic comedy for television. That project became Cupid. I went from barely scraping together a living in Texas as a young adult author to having my own show on ABC in about 18 months. I’m not sure I realized at the time that I’d hit the lottery. I think I realized it after the business slapped me around for a few years after that initial success.

Q. What advice do you have for college students who are looking to pursue the television industry?

A. Even though this was not the path I followed, it’s the path that the vast majority of television writers I know followed. If you want to write for television, move to Los Angeles. It’s where the work is. Then do whatever you can to get a job on a television series, ideally one that you’d watch or want to write for. Do whatever you have to in order to get your foot in the door.

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Raving Over “The Revenant”

The RevenantEvery once in a while, a great actor that has been around for a long time gives a high caliber performance that reminds you of why they are so good at their craft. In a nutshell, they solidify why they are masterful at transforming into characters. We’ve seen this with Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and Daniel Day-Lewis. This year, the actor that joins the ranks of those brilliant performers is Leonardo DiCaprio.

On the surface, The Revenant looks like a typical, two-hour long movie about a man seeking revenge for his family, but it is much more a story about a man who wants to be at peace spiritually and physically. DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, a 19th Century frontiersman who gets mauled by a grizzly bear while on an expedition with his son and fellow frontiersmen. He barely survives the bear attack, but his tenacity is the remarkable thing about this scene (other than the bear, who was just as much a character in this movie). The bear attack was twenty-minutes of intense agony with DiCaprio being tossed like a Frisbee and stomped on repeatedly, but somehow this character survives. When you think that things couldn’t get any worse, Fitzgerald, a devious and menacing fur trader/mercenary played by Tom Hardy, is left behind to monitor Glass’s condition. Fitzgerald tries to kill Glass instead, but only reaches as far as to bury him alive in an unmarked grave.

This movie echoes with Native American spiritual proverbs that interweaves with the journey that Glass finds himself on. His journey is about death and rebirth as well as revenge. Here is a man that should be dead and is figuratively dead inside because he lost everything that he holds dear, but he crawls out of this unmarked grave, iron-willed and hell bent on hunting down Fitzgerald. DiCaprio’s character has minimal dialogue in the movie aside from the interactions he had with his Native American son. This made DiCaprio’s performance that much more beautiful and haunting. Not only did DiCaprio physically transform himself into a man who is desperate to live for payback, but he goes through numerous challenges like facing freezing degree temperatures and wildly cascading down a rapid, icy river while escaping from enemies, as well as eating raw bison liver in the middle of the frozen wilderness. One of the most harrowing scenes in The Revenant was an intense horse racing scene where Glass is evading an Indian ambush and rides head first off a cliff.

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Monmouth vs. The Academy

Students Weigh in on the Contenders for Best Picture

MU Vs AcademyThere are some things we all know to be true: the sky is blue, a pizza party is the best kind of party, Bey Hall is always unnecessarily hot, and you can’t make everyone happy.

For all aspects of life, the last rings absolutely true. The Academy, though, knows this all too well. Each year, when the Academy Award nominations are announced, there is the always-inevitable backlash: great movies get overlooked, some get too much praise, and some egregious decisions just cannot be ignored. This year is no different, with possibly more anger than ever before.

But what does the average person think or, more specifically, your fellow Monmouth students? The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Big Short, Brooklyn, Bridge of Spies, Spotlight, The Martian, and Room are all in the running for the biggest prize of the night: Best Picture. Are these the right choices, and did other films get ignored for no good reason?

“Like Viola Davis said at the Emmy’s, there isn’t much opportunity for black people in Hollywood,” said sophomore Jessica French. “Straight Outta Compton had an almost all black cast and should have been nominated for more, not only because of its success at the box office, but also because the acting was amazing.” 

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FOX Jives with “Grease Live”

Grease LiveOn Jan. 31, millions of Americans tuned in to FOX to watch what was going to be either a hit or a miss. Grease Live, which aired Sunday and starred Aaron Tveit and Julianne Hough as Danny and Sandy respectively, was just the push America needed to get their dancing shoes on.

The show, which was recorded live as a stage production in front of a studio audience, had its ups and downs. What stole the show, or should I say who, was not the leads themselves but the charming and cunning Betty Rizzo, played by Vanessa Hudgens of High School Musical fame. Hudgens, who is best known for her role as Gabriella Montez in the Disney Channel movies, does a total 180 here as Grease’s antagonist. Promiscuous and sultry are only two of the many words to describe her character and Hudgens did the role justice—especially under the pressing circumstances.

The news broke the morning of Grease Live that Hudgens’ father had passed away after a battle with cancer. All eyes were on Hudgens as America watched if she would crack under the pressure. Pressure, however, is not a word in either Hudgens’ or Rizzo’s vocabulary, and the 27-year-old performed the role without any hint of sadness. She shined in her heart-wrenching number, “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” and made the crowd laugh in the earlier number, “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee.” Hudgens swept everyone away.

Other members of Rizzo’s crew included Frenchy, Marty, and Jan, played by Carly Rae Jepsen, Keke Palmer, and newbie Kether Donohue, respectively. All of the Pink Ladies were accurately portrayed and were cast by FOX with the intention of giving the original characters a modern spin. Palmer as Marty was just the progressive twist Grease Live was going for, and with her sass and quick wit, Marty was a force to be reckoned with.

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Sia Releases “This Is Acting”

Sia This Is Acting40-year-old Australian singer-songwriter Sia released her seventh album, This Is Acting, on Jan. 29. Sia is known for her compelling voice and her outstanding abilities as a songwriter, and is most recognized for her hits “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart” from her sixth album, 1000 Forms of Fear.

The songs on This Is Acting were originally written by Sia for other artists such as Adele, Katy Perry, Kanye West and Rihanna, but unfortunately, the tracks never made it into production. Sia appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Feb. 2 to talk about the songs on the album which Sia jokingly referred to as rejects. Although they might be “rejects,” there are some incredible songs on this album. On iTunes, the album received 4.5 out of 5 stars after 1,486 ratings.

The first song on the album is called “Bird Set Free.” I enjoy this song because it is about doing what you want and doing what makes you happy regardless of what people think: “And I don’t care if I sing off key, I find myself in my melodies. I sing for love, I sing for me, I shout it out like a bird set free.”

My favorite song off the album is the second track, “Alive.” It is very catchy and Sia’s vocals are absolutely incredible. When I listen to music, I always pay more attention to the lyrics, and I love the lyrics to this song. “I had a one-way ticket to a place where all the demons go, where the wind don’t change and nothing in the ground can ever grow. No hope, just lies, and you’re taught to cry in your pillow, but I’ll survive.” Everyone has their own interpretation of songs, but I interpret this song as getting through rough patches. In life, you come across both good and bad people who may not always be honest with you, but that’s life, and you have to be strong and you’ll survive.

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Don’t Overlook “The Hateful Eight”

The Hateful EightWith the Oscars coming up very soon, I couldn’t help but notice that one of my favorite movies of the year went completely under the radar—and not only to the Academy, but also to the entire public. Grabbing only a mere three Oscar nominations, Quentin Tarantino’s new film, The Hateful Eight, contained everything one can hope for in a Tarantino film: malicious characters, excessive blood and gore, an intense climax, and dialogue so funny and natural sounding that any actor can have a ball with it. This new “who-done-it” murder mystery takes place in a snowed in haberdashery in Wyoming during post-Civil War America, where eight unlikely visitors are forced to spend a whole night with each other. Questions about race, capital punishment, war, and loyalty to one’s family brings these characters to violent ends, and the story culminates in a third act that kept me on the edge of my seat and guessing the whole way.

Some people were skeptical of Tarantino making another Western right on the heels of his last huge hit Django Unchained, the controversial film about a former slave turned bounty hunter. But this film has a completely different vibe and pace to it, and a much bigger emphasis on the characters and story arc. In fact, the whole movie feels as though you are watching a stage play, which is exactly how Tarantino wanted the movie to feel to the audience. Tarantino discovered that this was meant to become a stage play after a live reading at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (ACMA), and plans to adapt the movie for the stage after he ends his film career.

It also should be noted how great this movie is considering the controversy surrounding its release and the fact that it almost wasn’t made at all. In December of 2013, a first draft of the script was leaked onto the internet. Tarantino reacted to this by nearly pulling the plug on the film altogether. The studio also had to fight it out with Tarantino because he shot the film in 70mm and caused the studios and theaters to pay large fees for upgrades. Not to mention the fact that Tarantino brought the film on a classic road show, as if it were an epic film like Ben-Hur or Spartacus. Tarantino also dug up legendary Western composer Ennio Morricone to score the film, the first time he has done so for a Western in 40 years.

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Blue Hawk Records Has Its “Heart in the Game”

Men Basketball Justin RobinsonThe University’s men’s basketball team has captured the attention of mainstream media, and now the squad has its own theme song written by Monmouth students. Andrew Boxman and Guy Battaglia, who both recently graduated from the music industry program at the University, were approached by Chair of the Music Department, Joseph Rapolla, to write a song for the team. The two took on the challenge and had the rap-rock anthem called “Heart in the Game” written and produced within two weeks. At the home game against the Marist Red Foxes on Jan. 24, Boxman and Battaglia, along with other Blue Hawk Records representatives, handed out free downloads of the song to every fan in the stadium.

 As quoted in the Asbury Park Press, Ken Taylor, associate athletic director for marketing and development at the University, said, “It’s great that the students are getting behind the team and that they are putting their talents together to do this.” Taylor continued to explain that they will play the song during the team’s warm-ups right before the game for every home game. Boxman stated, “It’s great to hear the song at every home game playing for all the fans. That’s the most rewarding part of the whole experience.” 

The song has a really strong feel once you hear it playing in the Multipurpose Activity Center (MAC). “Heart in the Game” is the last song that plays right before the tip off. It’s that point when the players and crowd have so much energy and they’re ready to play. The chorus really sums up the whole atmosphere and gets the whole crowd going: “We go hard in the paint, put my heart in the game. Got players on the court and they’re making it rain. We go hard in the paint, put my heart in the game. Got players on the bench and they’re going insane.” Some of the lyrics make reference to the crazy shenanigans of the Monmouth “bench mob,” as seen all over the internet.

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Fall in Love with Todd Haynes’ “Carol”

Todd Haynes CarolThe dinner scene is the bane of all screenwriters and filmmakers, and if it is not, it should be. Yet, there is such a scene near the beginning of Carol, the new film by the extraordinarily talented Todd Haynes, and it is wonderful. Elegant and refined housewife Carol (Cate Blanchett) is sharing a meal late at night in a secluded restaurant with department store worker and aspiring photographer Therese (Rooney Mara). In this scene, Carol asks Therese if she lives alone. Therese smiles for a second and says “No.” Then her smile fades a little, and she looks away as she begins her sentence: “Well, there’s Richard…”

Richard is her boyfriend who, like many young men in movies, wants to rush things. As such, she only cares for him in a conventional sense, and not because she truly loves him. Carol, at this part of the film, is in the middle of a divorce and fighting for custody of her daughter. Her husband still loves her, but she does not love him, and her “activities,” shall we say, are in direct contrast to the current flow of societal norms in the 1950s, where the film takes place.

Both women are trying to find themselves by the time they meet each other. Therese has hit a roadblock and doesn’t know how to deal with her lack of enthusiasm for, well, anything. Carol wants everything and does not know how to compromise. Given the time period, it is especially impossible to get everything she wants. At this point I must say that it is pointless to summarize the plot of the film, and your attention must be redirected to the scene I discussed earlier. A smile, a muted but no less enthusiastic “no,” a look away as she catches herself. Stripped down to only its necessities, the emotion left after that exchange is the absolute thrill of what she has just suggested.

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YouTuber Casey Neistat is Changing the Game

Youtuber Casey NeistatIf you have ever heard of the app Beme or the HBO series The Neistat Brothers, you might know someone by the name of Casey Neistat. He is a 34-year-old YouTuber and filmmaker who pretty much broke the internet last week with just one YouTube video. Neistat resides in New York City, and his location is a key factor in what makes his content on YouTube highly interesting and different than anything else on the site.

Over the past 15 years, Neistat has made a name for himself by producing multiple films and viral videos, but this past year his focus transitioned mostly to YouTube. He started daily vlogging last year and has since produced amazing quality on a daily basis, which is a pretty incredible thing to do. On Jan. 24, Neistat uploaded a video just like he does every other day, but with this one in particular he got over 11 million views in about a week—and the number is only growing.

Neistat’s video, entitled “Snowboarding With the NYPD,” has been featured on Ellen, various news sites and channels, the Jumbotron at different sporting events, and more. In this two minute and 41 second long video, Neistat snowboarded while being pulled around by a Jeep (not even with a rope, but with an HDMI cord) all around New York City during winter storm Jonas. Neistat has always been known to pull crazy stunts and go above and beyond, but this particular act was on an entirely different level, making his video extremely talked about and shared at an insane rate.

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Brie Larson is Hollywood’s New “It Girl”

Brie Larson 1Room is a film of about captivity in many more ways than one. Based on Emma Donohue’s 2010 novel, the story follows Joy, a kidnapped young woman, and her five-year-old son Jack before and after they escape from the 11-by-11 room in which Jack has spent his entire life. The isolation of Joy, known more prominently by Jack and the audience as “Ma,” is both physical and mental: kept in a miniscule garden shed for seven years and having mothered the child of her kidnapper, Ma is left to find solace within her own mind, even after she returns home. The most impressive and rewarding case of escaping captivity, however, is that of Brie Larson and the industry attention she’s now owed.

This is not to say Larson has had an unsuccessful career—far from it. Starting from her childhood, Larson has attached herself to a number of successful television shows and films that only increase in acclaim: the much-loved series United States of Tara, the impressive indie-romance The Spectacular Now, and the critically acclaimed Short Term 12. And while the last role mentioned is considered to be her “break-out” by industry media, Room is the project that has thrust her into the narrow eye of the public.

Rather than exploiting the horrific details of Ma’s isolation and repeated sexual abuse, the film and its screenplay (a terrific adaption written by the novel’s author) force the audience to witness her turmoil on a more rewarding and weighty emotional platform through moments between mother and son. These moments are where Larson’s quiet mastery is at its best: Ma’s quick anger when Jack fails to connect with Legos, her subtle triumph when he grasps the difference between TV and real life, and her acute frustration when he won’t eat his birthday cake. And while her character spends much of the film battling fear and depression, Larson shows Ma’s inner strength and complexity rather than allowing the heavy subject matter to create a broken victim.

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“Star Wars” Makes Triumphant Return with "The Force Awakens"

Star Wars Force AwakensThe Force Awakens, the long-awaited seventh chapter in the Star Wars saga, entered our galaxy on Dec. 18, 2015. With it came a new generation of scavengers, soldiers, and pilots alongside the passionate royalty, fur-covered warriors, and scruffy looking nerf-herders of the past.  This combination of old and new inhabits a galaxy both vastly different and strikingly similar to the hopeful universe we left 30 years prior.

The film opens in true Star Wars fashion as an invasion force from the Empire’s successor, The First Order, storms a desert world looking for missing plans. The plans are given to a droid, who meets Rey (Daisy Ridley), a young scavenger. In the course of helping BB-8 deliver the map, she is joined by a disillusioned Stormtrooper, Finn (John Boyega). Escaping their pursuers in the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) later reclaims his ship, aiding them in a battle between the First Order and Resistance, and escaping to the Resistance base. In an effort to draw out their enemies, the First Order fires their ultimate weapon, setting the stage for a final battle over Star Killer base.

In many ways, The Force Awakens lives up to its cinematic legacy. The visual effects are as strong in The Force as the Chosen One. Starfighter battles are the pinnacle of this, particularly in the skirmish between the Millennium Falcon and First Order TIE Fighters during Rey and Finn’s escape from Jakku. With their weapons locked in forward position, Rey is forced to take the Falcon through the innards of a crashed Star Destroyer. The twists and turns of the ship as it jukes and dodges across outcroppings and pieces of wreckage capture the intensity of the moment and desperation of the young pilot fighting not just for her life, but the fate of the galaxy. After leaving the wreck, Rey pulls a move worthy of Han himself and kills the Falcon’s engines in mid-ascent to give Finn a shot at their last pursuer. The moment that the ship begins to drop from the sky is enough to stop the hearts of the audience as if it were them on board. The other space battles in this movie also do not disappoint; effects such blaster bolts and lightsabers are better looking than ever before.

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Fey and Poehler Throw a Party in “Sisters”

Sisters 2016December’s R-rated comedy Sisters was essentially an extended Saturday Night Live skit, the kind that tries a little too hard but is charming enough to merit a re-watch. The film stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as the titular Ellis sisters who reunite for one last house party when their parents put their childhood home on the market. During a holiday movie season that was packed with heavy dramas and fantasy franchises, Sisters’ raunchy antics were a welcome change.

While they’ve built their respective careers on individual projects, Fey and Poehler are perhaps funniest as a duo, riffing off of one another in the way that only best friends can. They served a long tenure together at SNL where they famously manned the Weekend Update desk and performed various skits as Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton. More recently they hosted the Golden Globes for three years in a row, raising the bar for awards season emcee’s everywhere. Sisters marks their first film together since the 2008 comedy Baby Mama, in which Fey plays a successful businesswoman who enlists Poehler’s irresponsible character to be the surrogate for her child.

In Sisters, the duo plays opposite roles: this time Poehler stars as Maura, a by-the-book entrepreneur, while Fey plays Kate, an out-of-control single mom without a place to live. They embody these roles well, Fey in particular reaching a depth that she doesn’t always achieve. She’s thoroughly convincing as the more outrageous of the pair, often using expert delivery to make the best of a mediocre line. As the plot shifts to incorporate Kate’s struggle to find employment and provide for a daughter that has all but given up on her, Fey hits the emotional notes and helps to carry the story.

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Catching Up With Blue Hawk Records

Langosta Lounge 2016It’s a new semester here at Monmouth and Blue Hawk Records, the University’s student-run record label, has some rocking stuff in store for us this spring. We closed out our fall semester in December with an EP release show in the Rebecca Stafford Student Center (RSSC)  for the record label’s seventh compilation album, Shades of Blue. Dan Amato opened the show with his retro style showcased in a cover of “Houndog” by Elvis Presley as well as his single “Beautiful to Me” on the EP. Dan and Jackson performed their single off the EP, “I Told You,” along with some other cool tunes. They were then followed by a set from jazz artist Kellan Brennan, who covered “I Get a Kick Out of You” by Cole Porter as well as his original “Old Soul” on the compilation album. Thanks Genie closed out the show with a set including their song from the album, “Run.”

Over the winter break, University students kicked off the Light of Day festival in Asbury Park with a four-hour show at Langosta Lounge. Light of Day is a foundation that raises awareness and money for a cure for Parkinson’s Disease. There are over 30 shows across 13 countries as a part of this festival and Monmouth is the only college involved in the Light of Day festival. Joseph Rapolla, Chair and specialist professor of the Music and Theatre Arts department, commented, “It’s great to see a show like this that has so much meaning being completely ran by students.” This is the third year that The Music Alliance and Blue Hawk Records have put on this show at Langosta Lounge and it only gets better every year. Some of the featured acts included: Jackson Weipert, freshman music industry student; Dan Amato, freshman music industry student, with Jon Bass and Owen Flannigan, both sophomore industry students. Also playing at the Light of Day festival were Joey Affatato, junior music industry student and The Emily Youth Project consisting of Mike Grant, Jon Bass, Justin Murray, and Andrew Jackle. The night was closed out by junior music industry student, Brittany Cannarozzi, along with senior music education student, Vinnie Espinoza, and junior music industry student, Steven Fillipone. There was also a surprise performance by Dave DePaola, Jackle, Bass, and myself on vocals. It was one of my first performances ever and it was personally an honor to work with Blue Hawk Records and perform in the festival among these many other incredible musicians.

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“Dance Moms” Kicks Off Sixth Season

Dance Moms“You save those tears for your pillow,” is one of the many famous quotes of dance instructor and choreographer Abby Lee Miller, who has run the Abby Lee Dance Company, or ALDC, since she was fourteen-years-old. Her dance studio in Pittsburgh, PA, has been featured on the Lifetime series Dance Moms since July 13, 2011, when the first episode premiered. The show, which has a rating of 4.6/10 on IMDB and 6.8/10 on TV.com, is currently on its sixth season. The show is full of drama between Abby’s harsh and demanding teaching skills and the over-the-top, preposterous dance moms.

The show follows Abby’s junior elite team through the highs and lows, wins and losses, of the different competition seasons leading up to nationals. Throughout the competition seasons, the dance moms will do anything and everything to get their child ahead. However, in Abby’s eyes, one of the children is already ahead: Maddie Ziegler has been Abby’s star pupil since she was three-years-old. It is obvious that Maddie is the star dancer, as it truly is her passion and she works harder than her teammates; losing is not an option for her. She even insisted on being homeschooled so that she could have more time for dance. Her hard work and determination has paid off, and she has since starred with Shia LaBeouf in two of Sia’s music videos, “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart,” which have had more than 1.6 billion views on YouTube.

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Academy Rewards “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Mad Max Fury RoadA film that includes a post-apocalyptic wasteland, breakneck action, and was actually a huge summer blockbuster that thrilled mainstream audiences is not usually considered an “Oscar film.” But on Jan. 14, when this year’s 88th Academy Award nominations were announced, Mad Max: Fury Road wound up with 10 nominations, just second behind The Revenant and its 12 nominations. These nominations weren’t in minor categories, either; the film racked up nods for Best Picture, several visual and sound categories including Best Cinematography, and Best Director for George Miller.

So Fury Road is not your typical Oscar bait, unlike competitors The Big Short (with a large A-list, award-friendly cast) or The Revenant (made by a director still riding high off success from last year’s Oscars and starring a little-known actor named Leonardo DiCaprio, gunning hard for an Academy Award). So why such overwhelming success for a hard R-rated action film that was released all the way back in the month of May? The simplest answer: Fury Road is a ridiculously fun, wildly ambitious ride that neither mainstream audiences nor critics could resist. 

Fury Road is set up as a sort-of sequel, or as director Miller called it, a “revisit,” to the Mad Max franchise that once starred Mel Gibson in the titular role. Picking up in the middle of a desert wasteland, the audience is led by Max Rockatansky himself, played now by Tom Hardy, as he unsuccessfully tries to flee the War Boys, the insane army of men under leader Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Connected to and used as a blood bag for War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult), Max is dragged on the Fury Road with Nux and the War Boy army when Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a lieutenant under Joe, goes rogue on a routine trip with his five imprisoned “brides.” With the help of Max and the brides along the way, Furiousa aims to find safety for herself and the brides at the “Green Place.”

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Will Smith’s “Concussion” is Captivating

Will Smith ConcussionThe quick staccato of coaches’ voices shouting out plays mixes with the sound of crashing helmets, and echoing whistles pound your eardrums as a plain black image emerges onto the screen. Concussion brings the audience to the setting of an average football field, then cuts to the induction of Pittsburgh Steelers center, Mike Webster, into the NFL hall of fame. Webster notably emphasizes in his speech that the only thing players have to do is “finish the game. If we finish the game, we win.” While this saying may appear motivational and reflect the dedication that football players have towards the game, when it is combined with clips of brutal physical injuries that people have experienced on the field, it makes one wonder whether finishing the game should really be the main concern. This initiates the conversation on the issue that the film delves into.

The movie shifts focus onto Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist who performs autopsies on the deceased to figure out the reason for their death. Portrayed by Will Smith, Dr. Omalu is an immigrant from Nigeria who moved to America to start a better life. To my naïve ear, I thought his accent was convincing and served its purpose, but many critics and fans familiar with the language were not exactly impressed with Smith’s take on Dr. Omalu’s accent.

Even though his speech may not have been very impressive, I found the depiction of Omalu’s actions and the way he performed his autopsies intriguing. The careful and precise motions along with the classical music playing in the background made his job seem more like an art rather than a science. In this way I feel that Smith excelled as an actor in the film.

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Blue Hawk Records Spotlight: Thanks Genie

Andy JackieBlue Hawk Records’ seventh compilation album contains a great group of talented musicians. At the release show, we will be hearing all the amazing tracks on the album and you can pick up your very own copy outside of the Rebecca Stafford Student Center on Dec. 9 at 2:50 p.m. The artists featured on this album are: singer-song writer Dan Amato and his song “Beautiful to Me,” dynamic duo Dan and Jackson and their track “I Told You,” ‘Homebrew Jazz’ artist, Kellan Brennan with his song “Old Soul,” and our final spotlight, Thanks Genie.

Thanks Genie is a four piece rock and roll band with some blues and jazz vibes. The members consist of: junior music industry students, Dave DePaola on guitar and Andy Jackle on drums; senior music industry student, Chris Durham on bass; and sophomore music industry student and singer Amanda McTigue. Their sound is greatly influenced by Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin with Haylee Williams-esque vocals.

Thanks Genie actually began last spring semester when DePaola and Jackle had just ended their old band, The Trusties. At this point, the two musicians were looking for a new project and a new bassist to jam with. Durham transferred to Monmouth from Kutztown last spring and began playing with DePaola and Jackle. The trio played under the name “Uncle Leo” in reference to the iconic Seinfeld character, Jerry’s crazy uncle. The three began playing a lot and even performed at the promotional event for the music department, “Where’s Woods?”, in May 2015. Over the summer, the boys began writing music and putting together some songs. They had some tracks written out but still no lyrics or strong vocalist for the group. Once school started up again in September, DePaola, Jackle, and Durham were able to play more and Durham asked McTigue to join the band as their singer. McTigue’s role in the band is lead vocalist and lyricist.

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Winter Break Recommendation: “About a Boy”

About BoyIf you’re bored this winter break and are looking for something to do, watch About a Boy. The 2002 English movie is one that has an interesting plot but also contains a great message. It even ends around the holidays, which definitely corresponds with the time of year.

In search of a movie that’s different than the typical ‘rom-com,’ I stumbled across this film and found it to be entertaining in a different way than other movies. The humor is subtle yet present, but also has some life lessons and serious scenarios in it. It’s definitely a different kind of movie than I’ve seen before, which is refreshing.

According to IMDb, About a Boy is about, “A cynical, immature young man [who] is taught how to act like a grown-up by a little boy.” The movie is 101 minutes in duration and received an average rating of 7.1 on the site out of 138,475 users.

The movie begins with Will (Hugh Grant) talking about how “every man is an island,” and showing that he is a loner in his adult life. He enjoys being at home, doing his own thing, and that’s about it. He’s a single man that never settled down or worked hard because he lives off of the royalties of a Christmas song that his father wrote, which is partly why he is unmotivated to achieve more in life.

The plot flips between Will’s point of view and Marcus’ (Nicholas Hoult), who is a young boy that gets bullied in school. Marcus has a tough time at home as well, but doesn’t let these things bring him down. He constantly worries about his mother, who suffers with depression. Though it sounds as though the movie is dark and sad, it gets much lighter.

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“Star Wars Battlefront”: No Stars, No Wars

Starwars BattlefrontEarlier in the semester, I wrote a feature on video game preorders in which I mention Star Wars Battlefront. I cautioned readers away from preordering Battlefront, citing questionable business practices of the game’s publisher. I also warned of potential bugs/balance issues, and that this new Battlefront title may bear very little resemblance to the original Star Wars Battlefront titles on which it is based. I finished on a positive note, stating that Battlefront would probably be a great, albeit flawed, game, due to Dice being the developer (Dice is known for the wildly successful Battlefield series). After spending a large number of hours playing it, I can say that I was very wrong about Star Wars Battlefront. It is not a great game, and, for most gamers, isn’t even worth playing.

Let’s start off positive. There are two things Battlefront nails: graphics and sound. Visually, this is the most impressive representation of the Star Wars universe that I have ever seen (be it in games, movies, or animated television series). Dice put a lot of effort into allowing players to customize the game’s graphics for their computers. In a gaming industry where console titles dominate sales, it’s impressive that they did this. When I should have been storming an Imperial bunker, I was occasionally stopping to watch AT-AT Walkers blow up my fellow rebels or stare at Endor’s foliage; the graphics were just that good. I played Star Wars Battlefront on my PC at max graphics, and you’ll need a very powerful PC to do that, but from what I’ve heard the console version’s graphics are quite phenomenal. If any gaming outlets give rewards for best graphics this year, I would expect Battlefront to be the front-runner. As for the sound, it’s basically an updated version of the original Star Wars trilogy. Imagine those sorts of sound effects, and the same orchestral score.

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We All Scream for “Scream Queens”

Scream QueensLike many Ryan Murphy shows before it, Scream Queens is not perfect. The man who created Glee and American Horror Story does not exactly know how to make a fast-paced, plot-driven series, when to tone down the camp, and struggles at times to find coherent endings to the series he helms. But Scream Queens, FOX’s comedy-horror series that just wrapped its first season on Dec. 8, reaches levels of hilarity and campiness that is nothing more than pure fun, and seems to have the potential to be Murphy’s best show yet.

The show follows the sorority sisters and pledges of Kappa Kappa Tau of Wallace University, an exclusive group that only accepts the richest, prettiest, and most popular of girls. The new president, Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts), runs the sorority with her wealth, style, unmatched meanness, and her minions, Chanel #2 to Chanel #5. Yet when Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) decides that KKT has to accept all of their pledges, no matter how nerdy or lame, all hell breaks loose. Of course, that is not where the story ends. The audience is reminded of a mysterious death that occurred in the sorority house 20 years ago, which may have something to do with the serial killer on the loose at Wallace. Known as the Red Devil, due to their creepy, full body devil costume, this killer seems to only have an interest in the girls of KKT and the people around them.

A serial killer terrorizing a bunch of sorority girls is not a new story by any means. But what makes Scream Queens so fun to watch is how quick and witty it is when it comes to nonstop jokes. Each character talks so fast that it’s almost hard to keep up, which allows for every silly, crude, ridiculous remark to hit the audience so fast that they cannot help but pay attention. The comedy element works perfectly for the show, allowing it to be as campy and over the top as it can be. It does not try to push dramatic elements like Glee, or even try to truly scare the audience and fail, like American Horror Story. It knows that it’s a show to entertain and make someone laugh, and it completes that job to a T.

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“The Night Before” Rings in the Holidays

Night BeforeWhile the latest film produced by Seth Rogen may not be a new Christmas favorite to watch every year, it certainly provided viewers with gut-wrenching laughter and a nice transition into Christmas time. The Night Before revolves around the tradition of three best friends: Isaac (Rogen), Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and Chris (Anthony Mackie). These longtime friends have always spent Christmas Eve together since the death of Ethan’s parents, but now that they all are growing up and forming their own traditions, this year will be their last spent together.

The friends parade through the city with their ridiculously  ugly Christmas sweaters as they try to follow their previous escapades. They venture to bars, Chinese food eateries, and even mimic the giant piano scene in F.A.O Schwartz from Big, opting for a rendition of Kanye West’s “Runaway.” The song undoubtedly adds extra laughs to the scene, especially as the surrounding parents tried to cover their children’s ears. This goofy humor continues as the trio moves onto karaoke and sing surprisingly rather well—though the same can’t be said about their dance moves.

Regardless of the fact that it is their last year of completing this tradition, the friends seem to repeatedly get caught up in their own concerns and lives. This develops into the core dilemma of the movie: they are grown up now. Chris is becoming a famous football player, Isaac is married and about to have a child, and Ethan still has some growing up to do as he grapples with abandonment issues. However, the film manages to not make it get all gushy and stereotypically emotional like most other Christmas movies. It solves the issues between them using more humorous methods rather than the typical feel-good ones.

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“Mockingjay Part 2” Misses Its Target

Katniss 2A brutal plotline and heavy themes have always made The Hunger Games a complicated series. Suzanne Collins’ dystopian story about a girl at the center of a rebellion is expertly nuanced with social commentary that makes it a standout in its genre. It’s a shame, then, that the final film installment feels rather dull.

After the immense popularity of the books, The Hunger Games got the Hollywood treatment in 2012, kickstarting a franchise that would make a huge success out of its cast. Starring as the arrow-slinging heroine Katniss Everdeen was Jennifer Lawrence, now an A-lister and recently named Entertainment Weekly’s Entertainer of the Year. Beside her was Josh Hutcherson as the earnest baker Peeta and Liam Hemsworth as the brooding Gale. Rounding out the cast was Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks, both perfect fits for their quirky portrayals of Haymitch and Effie, respectively.

The Hunger Games was most successful when it focused on just that: the games. In a post-apocalyptic world where children are forced to kill each other for sport, the first two installments of the series were packed with themes about the media and big government. By the time we reach Mockingjay, Katniss has incited a full-scale rebellion movement as factions throughout the districts have gone to war. As the series draws near its conclusion, the wellbeing of an entire civilization is at stake, but the significance of it all gets lost in translation from book to film.

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Adele Returns to Mixed Reviews

Adele 2015English singer-songwriter Adele has serenaded us once again with her powerful vocals and love-struck ballads. The Grammy-winning artist released her last album, 21, in 2011, which earned her extreme popularity in the media and love from critics. Her follow-up to that album, 25, was just released on Nov. 20. Given the significant time gap between her previous album and 25, one would think there would be some sort of uniqueness to her new work. Unfortunately, Adele has crooned us with her same old style. This is her third studio album filled with a jumble of slow songs that all sound the same when thrown together (not to mention her lack of creativity with the numbered title once again). When giving this album a listen all the way through, you’ll find very few standout tracks and tons of noticeable flaws.

It is undeniable that the woman has tremendous talent, but it would have been nearly impossible to top the success she had with her latest album. 21 was certified diamond in the U.S., setting the bar high for 25. After much anticipation, the lead single, “Hello,” was released in October and was highly successful in the media and with critics. Much like her older work, “Hello” is a powerful, slow love ballad that honestly sounds just like it could be placed on her album 21. Although it was typical of her to release a song like this, it is certainly a track that gets stuck in your head, plays on every radio station, and contains lyrics that are plastered all over the internet. “Hello” was a perfect lead single for 25, getting everyone excited for its release.

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Alessia Cara is Pop Music’s Break Out Star

Alessia CaraAlessia Cara, 19-year-old singer-songwriter, got her start in the music world by posting acoustic Youtube covers of popular songs from her bedroom floor in Brampton, Canada. She was discovered by Taylor Swift after covering “Bad Blood” and Swift tweeted at her, impressed by her cover. Having 66 million Twitter followers, Swift’s tweet helped bring attention to and propel Alessia’s single, “Here,” to No.1 on Billboard and Twitter emerging artists chart, according to billboard.com.

On Nov. 13, Alessia released her debut album, Know-It-All. Her voice is dominant, soulful, and captivating throughout the album. Many of the ideas present in the songs were relatable to me because I’m the same age as Alessia and this really captured my attention. Since Alessia contributed to the songwriting, the album is so real and personal, giving it an individual touch; she describes experiences I have been through myself, in a different perspective, making it fascinating.

The first track is “Seventeen,” and it’s an ideal opening to Know-It-All because it sets the mood for the rest of the album; it’s an invigorating song where Alessia celebrates and embraces her youthfulness. She discusses how, as a young girl, she’s always yearned to grow up, but now that she’s older, she wishes she could, “freeze the time at seventeen.” It’s a fun, upbeat song and symbolizes Alessia’s freshness in the music career.

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Blue Hawk Records Spotlight: Kellan Brennan

Kellan BrennanOne of the contributors on this semester’s Blue Hawk Records compilation album is jazz artist Kellan Brennan. Brennan is a junior communication major focusing on radio and TV studies at the University. He has been playing piano for nine years and enjoys listening to and playing all genres of music. Some of Brennan’s influences are Steely Dan, Esperanza Spalding, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, and Sublime.

“Kellan is a phenomenon that only comes around once in a while, personality wise and musically,” said Liam Frank, a junior music industry student, about our featured artist. “His music shows great understanding of standards in his favorite genres, while also mixing a bit of mystery so that the listener can’t quite classify it.”

It wasn’t until Brennan started here at Monmouth and began to listen to more jazz that he started writing more music. He has since been very active in the local music scene, writing music and playing locally.

“Jazz can be anything you want...as long as it’s dynamic,” Kellan said about the combination of jazz and R&B influences with pop and rock foundation that can be heard in his music.

For this semester’s compilation album, Brennan has recorded a song called “Old Soul” in Lakehouse Studios. Kellan says this song is about that classic “Piano Man” bar scene and a beautiful, smart, amazing girl. Originally, he only had two chords that he knew had to be made into a song, and this foundation became the masterpiece that is “Old Soul.”

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“Fallout 4” is the Best Game of the Year

Fallout 4 2015I’m about two hours into Fallout 4 and have just made friends with “Dogmeat,” a stray German Shepard and my first in-game companion. I’m walking along, mostly following a road, occasionally going through ruined woods, and doing a bit of scavenging. By the time I come upon a red rocket gas station, I’ve picked up a double-barrel shotgun and a pipe-rifle to go with my 10mm handgun. Dogmeat and I kill off a few nuclear mole-rats infesting the place and are quite happy to find some empty cans and a hotplate.

I lockpick a door, hack a computer, and find a journal entry. It has details on caves beneath the gas station which contain stores of smuggled goods. I take a minute to give Dogmeat some stuff to carry, tell him that he’s a good dog, and then we’re off running through cave-muck and nuclear waste in search of new guns. After what felt like a few minutes, we’ve picked the cave clean and we’re headed back to Sanctuary where we’ll store our loot. I take a quick break to check how long I’ve been playing, and am more than a little surprised to find that I’ve logged four more hours, and it’s now 2:30 a.m.

Bethesda, Fallout 4’s developer/publisher, excels at making immersive open-world games where players lose themselves in the fiction. The last Bethesda game of this type was the wildly successful Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Skyrim is considered by many to have been the best game of the last console generation, and commercially it sold over 20 million copies. Skyrim also received numerous “Game of the Year” awards from various gaming websites/publications. There were two key features which made Skyrim so successful: it had hundreds of hours’ worth of content and it provided a uniquely immersive experience to players. Skyrim gave you choices, and it made you feel like the character you were playing was an embodiment of you.

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Drama Reigns in Season Two of “The Royals”

The Royals Season TwoHeavy is the head of he who wears the crown.

The he in this case refers to Cyrus (Jake Maskall), the reprehensible monarch that schemed his way onto the throne in May’s season finale of The Royals. The original E! drama about the fictitious royal family returned on Sunday after a surprisingly entertaining inaugural season packed with scandals and conspiracy theories. Season Two picks up two months into Cyrus’ reign of terror, and as always, it’s anarchy in the monarchy.

At its core (and its best), The Royals is about the sibling relationship between Prince Liam (William Moseley) and Princess Eleanor (Alexandra Park). While both indulge in the lifestyle of the rich and the famous, they are shocked back into reality when their older brother, Robert, dies under mysterious circumstances. As Liam suddenly becomes the heir apparent and all eyes turn to the royal family in this tragedy, life beyond the palace gates is flipped upside down.

The Royals functions largely as a soap opera, but this isn’t a bad thing, nor is it unexpected—airing on the same network as the Kardashians, over-the-top drama is practically a requirement. Still, Royals remains grounded in its character dynamics and family themes. Liam and Eleanor’s supportive relationship is a fresh take on the sibling bond, and is foiled nicely by their respective struggles with their vain mother, Queen Helena (Elizabeth Hurley), and earnest father, King Simon (Vincent Regan).

Much of the show’s success can be attributed to creator Mark Schwahn of One Tree Hill fame. Schwahn expertly paced the first season with juicy scandals and snappy dialogue to distract viewers from a slow-burning conspiracy theory that drove the plot for the second half of the season. This structure, combined with a memorable variety of both sympathetic and despicable characters, makes Royals well worth the return for Season Two.

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Waiting On Mongo Rocks Asbury Park

Mongo Asbury ParkThe smooth, funky bass line and the giddy up of the guitar welcome you onto the dance floor like old friends you haven’t seen in awhile. There are conjoined shouts of a crowd and one amplified voice above them all singing “’Cause this is thriller, thriller night and no one’s gonna save you from the beast about to strike.” The beast was Waiting On Mongo (WOM), a local jam band, and it struck at Langosta Lounge, a boardwalk bar in Asbury Park, on Friday, Oct. 23. WOM plays the same venue again the night before Thanksgiving on Nov. 25.

Lead singer and bassist TJ McCarthy, 25, said, “We’re willing to play anywhere as long as there’s a good scene with good people.” Sure they do it for fun (a lot of musicians just say that), however when a band really enjoys interacting with the different people in the audience, that’s when they spread the fun vibes around. “They’re half the show, ya know, and we like to pick up on what the crowd likes and roll with it,” McCarthy said.

WOM plays for many different audiences, and it is adaptability that will make or break any band. This past summer, along with playing at local Jersey Shore bars, WOM played a pool party gig, a wedding and a few house parties. Lead guitarist Mike Susino, 24, said, “We would play on the moon or in someone’s basement in Lancaster, PA. It doesn’t matter to us.”

Coming off their successful debut on a festival circuit at Souper Groove in September, WOM is always looking for new people that would enjoy their music as much as them. But the band’s odd name is not out there yet; people do not identify with it or the story behind the name either.

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Blue Hawk Records Spotlight: Dan and Jackson

BHR Dan JacksonEvery semester, students in the Music Industry program at the University take Applied Music Industry 3 where they get to experience every aspect of scouting artists, producing and recording music and releasing an album. Joe Rapolla, Chair of the Music and Theatre Arts department and specialist professor, said, “This is a very unique and great experience for these students and it has the ability to reach across many different majors.” Last week we read about  Dan Amato, our first Blue Hawk Records artist this semester. Let’s meet some more artists on the compilation album!

Fresh from Long Valley, NJ, are the freshmen Music Industry duo Dan and Jackson. They are made up of Dan Gilby and Jackson Weippert from the group The Jake Squilby Band, who are well-known in their hometown. Their band name was actually from Dan’s twin brother, Jake, who also goes to Monmouth.  Dan and Jackson have been playing music for 10 years and have known each other for six years. About four years ago they realized that their love of music could be brought together, so they just picked up some instruments in a friend’s basement and started jamming. That eventually turned into playing a few events at their church and grew into several shows throughout their community.

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“Persona 4: Dancing All Night” is Persona Non Grata

Persona 4 Dancing All NightLet me start off with a little disclaimer: I have a bias for video games from the Persona series. I first encountered the Shin Megami Tensei series (and its Persona spin-off) in my senior year of high school. Since that time, I’ve paid close attention to both series, with Persona specifically becoming my favorite videogame series. As a little background, Shin Megami Tensei is a series centered on the occult and the ending of the world. Players fight to control the fate of these worlds (for better or for worse) by taming and controlling various creatures from folklore, religions and mythologies ranging from a Unicorn to Thor to Jack Frost. In some ways, it’s like a more adult version of Pokémon (much, much more adult). Shin Megami Tensei titles normally feature deep and mature plot points with branching storylines. Characters live and die depending on the choices you make, and in some cases, your decisions will literally have world-ending consequences. Actually, in some games, you may even choose to end a world deliberately. If you like moral conundrums, the occult and playing god, this series may be for you.

Now we get to the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series, a spinoff of the Shin Megami Tensei series, which has surpassed its parent series in popularity. For the purpose of this story, I will only be referring to titles from Persona 3 forward (the preceding titles were much more similar to other Shin Megami Tensei titles). Persona is the Latin word for mask, and a psychological term created by Carl Jung for a sort of social mask that people wear. Think of how your personality changes in different circumstances/company and how you might behave around friends as opposed to family—those different sides of your personality are called personas. Persona games are heavily influenced by Jungian psychology, and in more than one game, you actually sit through lectures on the subject.

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The Spectacle of “Spectre”

Spectre SpectacleBy beginning Spectre with four simple words—“the dead are alive”—the latest edition of the Bond franchise immediately foreshadows the forces that James Bond is up against and the ghosts from his past who will inevitably haunt him. Filling the scene with a Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico City, massive, ornate skeleton heads pervade the sky as people in costume crowd the streets among the shimmering streamers and decorations of a variety of colors. The rustic and delicate features of the buildings of Mexico City provide a stunning image to viewers, especially when combined with the illuminating pops of orange and red mixed with the black and white of the skeleton attire.

The film continues with the startling landscapes of different countries throughout the world, traveling to Rome and the mountains of Austria. Incorporating places of such elegant, beautiful scenery juxtaposed by the constant firing of bullets and explosions following Bond everywhere he goes, the film does a great job of creating powerful, attention-grabbing action scenes.

However, it was not only the scenery that intensified the array of action scenes, but the fact that the creators of Spectre opted to do all of the stunts, explosions, and car chases in real life. Without any computer-generated action scenes, it appears more real and thrilling for the viewers. The pounding echoes of helicopters and the screeching of tires that invade your eardrums is sure to give any person an adrenaline rush.

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Justin Bieber is Back With “Purpose”

Justin Bieber ArtworkThe highly-anticipated fourth studio album by the world-renowned Justin Bieber was just released on Friday, Nov. 13. Entitled Purpose, the pop album has been long awaited by fans that call themselves “Beliebers.” Bieber’s previous full-length album was released in 2012, and this three-year gap between records was beginning to drive his fans mad. Bieber began the hype for his album with a 30-day countdown for his first single this summer, finally releasing “What Do You Mean?” on Aug. 28. The next single, “Sorry,” was released on Oct. 16, and both songs did extremely well on the Billboard charts, which exhibited just how successful this album was going to be. Everyone’s predetermined thoughts and considerations were right: Purpose is absolutely everywhere.

With the singles he began releasing, you could tell Purpose was going to be different than any other album he had ever put out. Bieber is not a 15-year-old YouTube star anymore; he is a 21-year-old musician that has matured and he is expressing his change through his music. Many of the songs featured on Purpose are rather upbeat and really make you want to get up and dance. “Where Are U Now,” a song he produced earlier this year with Diplo and Skrillex, was featured on this album and was the first song that really had this upbeat, dance style to it. Other songs on the album, like “No Pressure,” are more mature and feature more of an R&B style.

Many people seem to really enjoy Bieber entering this genre more and more. He started to dabble in this style in his 2013 release Journals, but it has not yet been featured on a studio album until now. Bieber, already one of the most powerful stars in the public eye, is reaching an even larger audience now, which is crazy to think was even possible. Bieber’s new style has gotten him compared to artists like Drake and The Weeknd, which shows how mature his music really is becoming.

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“Quantico” is the Best Drama of the Fall

QuanticoWhen new fall shows are released, the reviews for the cable series are usually negative. Typically, the general public picks one show and runs with it, or at least it a full season to catch their attention. In 2013 it was the musical drama Nashville, in 2014 it was the adorable and charming Jane the Virgin, and this year it was the Joshua Safran FBI trainee drama, Quantico.

 There are a number of reasons as to why this show not only works, but soars as a new series. One of those reasons is that it has taken a different route from the typical spy/ FBI drama. It doesn’t resemble the brilliant J.J. Abrams’ Alias, nor is it an exact replica of the comedy-infused secret agent style that Chuck mastered. Quantico is its own show, and what a show it is. The characters are not one-dimensional, and nothing is as it seems. So far, five episodes in, we’ve rooted for and against just about every character. We’ve judged and accused every character of wrong doing. It’s refreshing for there to not be one character that is constantly getting our sympathy and vote, but rather every week we have a new favorite. 

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John Stamos Shines in “Grandfathered”

GrandfatheredIf you enjoyed the show Full House, then have mercy, you’ll enjoy FOX’s new sitcom with John Stamos called Grandfathered. The two main characters are Jimmy Martino (Stamos) and Gerald, Jimmy’s son, who is played by Josh Peck from Nickelodeon’s Drake and Josh.

Grandfathered was created by Daniel Chun and first premiered on FOX on Sept. 29. The show, which was recently renewed for a second season, received reviews of 7.5/10 on IGN and 62% on Metacritic. USA Today stated that, “Stamos is best in scenes where he babysits his young granddaughter so Gerald can go on a date. Jimmy might play like he’s as edgy as Jesse Katsoplois but inside he’s a total softie” and, “Grandfathered definitely has room to grow, and a strong foundation to do so.” Similarly, New York Times said, “Grandfathered is as winningly cast as The Grinder- Mr. Stamos manages to be smarmy and charming at the same time.”

In the pilot we are introduced to Jimmy, who thinks of himself as the ultimate bachelor and owns a restaurant that he named after himself. His manager, Annelise (Kelly Jenrette), and his head chef, Ravi (Ravi Patel), know Jimmy better than he knows himself, and the three of them are very close. Their world of restaurant business and celebrities is suddenly altered when Jimmy, already 50, just learns that he is not only a father, but a grandfather. He spoke too soon when he said he loves his life and would give it all up for a family.

Grandfathered has aired five episodes so far. In the first episode, Jimmy is approached by Gerald, who he thinks is just a customer. He completely blows him off until he hears, “I’m your son.” Jimmy is a deer in headlights as Gerald then goes around the corner to grab the baby stroller and introduce Jimmy to his granddaughter, Edie.

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“Homeland” Heats Up

HomelandThe recent episode of Season Five’s Homeland entitled “Better Call Saul” has finally started to pick up the pace after four episodes. This season, former CIA intelligence officer Carrie Matheson (Claire Danes) is the target of an assassination attempt and faces numerous dangerous enemies coming out of the woodwork as a result of stolen classified CIA documents. Who could be behind the assassination attempt on Carrie’s life? How many more people will die because of those stolen documents? These are some of the questions that are slowly being unraveled in the latest episode of the Showtime drama.

Homeland is easily one of the best shows on TV right now because it manages to integrate real life issues going on in the world today. The war on terrorism is something that has received a lot of focus in the first four seasons of this series, and now Season Five is dealing with a whole new ballgame of characters in a setting like Germany that has long history of violence. After leaving the CIA to raise her daughter, Carrie is forced to confront her old life again headfirst. She must interact with people that she was not on good terms with after leaving the agency, such as her former mentor, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin). She also faces Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), the assassin and potential love interest whom she is currently in hiding with trying to figure out who wants to kill her. One of the most game-changing moments this season is a shootout in the middle of a crowded square with children having just been let out of school. An injured Quinn barely escapes with his life as he and Carrie must flee the scene.

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Bradley Cooper’s “Burnt” Sizzles and Fizzles

Bradley CooperI have mixed feelings for the movie Burnt—while there were some aspects that I liked, others fell flat. One of the things I enjoyed was the overall message about a chef who had it all but struggled with his own demons and had to make a name for himself again. However, this message was often lost as some of the scenes felt unnecessary and pointless. Even better, the film could have utilized flashbacks to establish a better connection with the characters instead of aimless conversations. There were so many characters that it got confusing to keep track of their past and relationship to Chef Adam Jones, because character development wasn’t present in this film.

The movie stars Bradley Cooper as Jones, who has been a chef since he was 19-years-old. At one point, Jones was considered the top chef and worked for a restaurant in Paris for a man named John Luke. Eventually, Jones lost everything he had to drugs and alcohol, and he is now a washed up chef working in New Orleans cleaning clams. Early in the movie, he leaves his job and heads back to Europe, this time to London. He is searching for Tony (Daniel Bruhl), a good friend of his from Paris who once worked with him in the kitchen. At first, Tony does not want anything to do with Jones and blames him for losing John Luke’s restaurant. Ultimately, Tony softens, and allows Jones to run his restaurant’s kitchen.

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“Steve Jobs” Brings Apple to Life

Steve Jobs 2When most people hear the name “Apple,” they associate it with Steve Jobs. However, there is much more to this global company than just one man, as seen in Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs, released on Oct. 23.

According to IMDb, “Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac.”

The opening scene is set in 1984, where Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is about to present his first Macintosh launch to the world. Jobs’ right hand “man,” Joanne Hoffman (Kate Winslet), is trying to prepare him for this big moment. Hoffman is the Head of Marketing at Macintosh at the time, and basically tells him what he should or shouldn’t do and makes sure that everything is aligned correctly.

While Jobs is having trouble with the Macintosh right before the launch, he faces one of his biggest personal problems in the form of his ex-lover, Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), and her daughter, Lisa, (Makenzie Moss). Lisa is said to be more than 90 percent likely his daughter, but he will not admit to this. Instead, Jobs wires Chrisann money as she begs for it and denies that Lisa is his responsibility. In this opening scene, Lisa is merely 5-years-old, and Jobs is very cold towards her. He only lightens up once he sees that Lisa has used the Paint application to draw her own “abstract” picture.

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Netflix Releases “Master of None”

Master Of NoneWhile it’s best known for fulfilling all of our bingeing needs, Netflix’s foray into original content has made it more than just a streaming service. With series like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards achieving fan and critical praise despite never actually airing on television, Netflix has ushered in a new age of entertainment in which stories are no longer bound by the confines of cable.

Most recently, Netflix has presented us with Master of None, a quirky slice-of-life style show that takes some refreshing stylistic and tonal risks. The mastermind behind Master is Aziz Ansari of Parks and Recreation fame, who produced, wrote, and stars in the show as Dev, an Indian-American actor navigating life and relationships in New York City. All 10 episodes of the first season were released online on Friday, Nov. 6.

Master of None is old-fashioned in the way it is structured, rolling the credits at the beginning of the episode and using minimalist settings throughout. The comedic timing relies on awkward beats and snappy writing that is funny when you think about it but doesn’t necessarily click right away. It features an odd ball cast of characters and weirdly disjointed plots—three episodes in and I’m not exactly sure where the season is going overall.

But at the same time, it’s also completely revolutionary. Master of None is a platform for stories never told on television. It approaches parenthood (or lack thereof) from a fresh perspective, as the first episode chronicles Dev’s misadventures in babysitting and his anxiety over whether or not he wants children. The following episode examines the life of American-born children and their relationship to their immigrant parents. Cutting between flashbacks and present day, we see how much Dev’s parents sacrificed to get their family to America, while in the next scene, we watch Dev forego fixing his dad’s iPad to go see a movie with friends. Master starts to find its footing here, easily pulling on the heartstrings of any viewer that hasn’t called home in a while. The emotional beats are made even more poignant given that Ansari cast his real life parents to act as Dev’s family in the show.

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Halsey Rocks New York City

Halsey NYCThe fictitious town of Badlands came to life on Halsey’s headlining national tour for her album of the same name. The sold-out tour was filled with roaring crowds, outrageous lines, and special effects, making each show something unique. Halsey’s voice sounded even better live than it does recorded. On Friday, Oct. 23, Halsey did a hometown show at Webster Hall in New York City that was astoundingly iconic.

In such a short amount of time, Halsey has gained notable recognition in the media. The singer, who recently turned 21, has only been writing music since she was 17. She began professionally recording in 2014 and has since experienced a drastic increase in popularity. In this past year, she went from a small artist with a modest fan base to being one of the most talked about and prevalent artists in the media: she hit one million followers on Instagram, has launched an impressive debut album, and sold out an entire headlining tour.

Prior to this show, Halsey announced that she added a grand finale date to her tour next August at Madison Square Garden. She talked about this joyfully to her audience, and overall did a wonderful job of communicating with the crowd by thanking them for what they do for her and her career during the show. A cool thing about Halsey is that she is not an artist who got her career handed to her, so she still is a very down-to-earth person. You could tell she was sensible solely by the way she connected with the crowd.

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To Preorder, or Not to Preorder

No Man SkyFor any readers unfamiliar with the term “preorder,” it refers to buying and/or reserving a video game prior to its release. Most people who consider themselves “gamers” have probably preordered a video game before, and many do so regularly. When a consumer preorders a game, they’re typically taking a risk: reviews of the game have yet to be released, and most of the information on the game was provided by the game’s developer and/or publisher (who are clearly not disinterested parties). Often one will preorder a game, expecting great things, and receive a title that disappoints, be it slightly or severely. So, one might wonder, why do people preorder at all, if it would be safer to purchase a game after release? Mainly because video game publisher’s and retailers love preorders (they’re guaranteed full-price purchases) and incentivize them.

These incentives can take many forms. Under Bethesda, for example, an Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim preorder came with a physical map of the game’s world. Such an incentive is not coercive, just a small bonus for those who are certain they want the game. With Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, CD Project: Red actually offered a discount for preorders; this is generally considered to be among the most ethical of incentives. One of the more controversial (and more frequent) methods of incentivizing preorders is the usage of downloadable digital content (DLC) giving players something in-game for preordering said game (this could be cosmetic items, weapons, playable characters, story content, or much more depending on the game).

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“Crimson Peak” Misses the Mark

Crimson PeakCrimson Peak, the new film by visionary director Guillermo Del Toro, is a beautiful, disappointing mess. It is structured and paced like a B movie but is told like an A movie, only to be reduced back to B movie status in its ending revelations.

However, “beautiful” extends beyond the visuals in this film, which is what saves it from itself. Though the aesthetic make up a good 85 percent of the film’s success, it contributes to the heart of the film, which is about the aura of romance in haunted houses, the secrets of obsessive relationships and skeletons in the proverbial closet. Though the story is passionate and intensely felt, much of it is unconvincing, which is Crimson Peak’s main downfall.

The film foreshadows the threat to come when the ghost of Edith’s (Mia Wasikowska) dead mother tells her to “beware of Crimson Peak.” Then, the film flashes forward 14 years, where Edith has grown up to become a writer, albeit a rejected one. Her father, played by Jim Beaver, is a well-groomed, rough-handed industrialist who perhaps tends to his beard a bit too carefully.

Edith doesn’t want to write love stories and isn’t interested in falling in love. Of course, there’s a suitor, Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunman), who is intelligent, successful and, ultimately, emphatically bland. He is the sensible pick in these types of stories, and she does care for him, unlike us. Then, there’s the mysterious, lanky and sensitive Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Edith’s father dislikes him intensely, but Edith forms a mysterious attraction to him—at first by the pity of his plight, and then by what can only be explained as his Hiddleston-ness. He brings his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), in search of fortune to build his machine. Edith’s father rejects his request for funding, and goes a step further in blackmailing him when Edith and Tom begin to fall in love. He sends Tom and Lucille away.

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“Broadway’s Next H!t Musical” Coming to Pollak

Next Hit MusicalThe Center for the Arts at Monmouth University has announced that tickets are on sale for a one-night, exclusive area engagement of the show that’s been called “a musical of, by and for the people,” Broadway’s Next H!T Musical.

Scheduled for a single 8 p.m. performance on Nov. 6, this is the first-ever trip to the Pollak Theatre stage for the all-improv, audience-interactive comedy tunefest that boasts a format in which “every song is fresh; every scene is new; every night is different.” It’s also the latest in the 20th annual slate of Performing Arts Series events at Monmouth.

The formula for fun couldn’t be simpler: using the concept of a theatrical awards show, a troupe of master improv comedians solicits ideas for “hit” showtunes from the audience, and proceeds to transform the spontaneous suggestions into a merrily make-it-up-as-we-go-along mashup of music and laughter.

Things get even more delightfully out of control when the audiences votes for its favorite song of the evening—and the cast turns it into a full-blown improvised musical, complete with “memorable characters, witty dialogue, and plot twists galore.”

The musical that “could be written by YOU” is a co-production of artistic directors and NYC-based improv veterans Rob Schiffman andDeb Rabbai, a pair of pros whose formidable collective credits as performers, directors and teachers (Chicago City Limits, American Academy of Dramatic Arts, The School for Film and Television) should in no way detract from the off-the-cuff fun and games to be had on the H!T Musical stage. The producing partners have assembled a company of colleagues with proven skills on the improv comedy circuit, for a show that made its mark at such Manhattan institutions as Don’t Tell Mamaand Off Broadway’s Triad.

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“The Martian” is Out of This World

The Martian

The Martian was an intense and adventurous movie that seemed so realistic at some points that I felt like I was watching a documentary. Everything from the acting to the graphics was done so well that I sat in the theater with goosebumps from all the beautifully crafted scenes; there was not a single dull moment. Director Ridley Scott made a Mars-tastic movie that allows his audience to be fully immersed in the dangers that astronauts experience in space.

The movie starts off with a NASA mission on Mars, in which astronauts are exploring the terrain when a bad storm hits and they attempt to run to the aircraft for cover. One of the astronauts, Mark Watney (Matt Damon), gets hit by a hard metal object and, when he is unable to respond over his radio, the crew presumes him dead. For their own safety, the team proceeds with their mission and leaves Mark behind.

Later, Mark wakes up to find himself wounded and alone. He starts making video blogs about his survival on Mars and utilizes his skills as a botanist to grow his own crops. The film follows his quest for survival as NASA learns of his coordinates and works to bring him home safely.

It is worth mentioning that the film’s CGI and graphics were out of this world. It legitimately seemed as if I was watching astronauts explore Mars, and the movie’s other sets, like the NASA headquarters and the aircraft fort, were extremely realistic. One scene in particular, in which there is an aircraft flying in space, blew my mind because it actually looked as if they filmed the whole sequence in space. I have not seen graphics this well done since Avatar.

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Selena Gomez Sees Career ‘Revival’

Selena GomezSelena Gomez emphasizes confidence and individuality in her new album Revival, which was released on Oct. 9. The former Disney Channel star displays her maturity and growth as an artist in her latest record.

 The cover of the album is simple: it’s black-and-white and Gomez appears serene and natural. Her wavy, black hair rests on her shoulders and she has a serious expression on her face. She is stripped down to her underwear, displaying that she embraces and takes pride in her body, despite hateful comments she has received on Instagram.“I feel very empowered and confident in where I am,” she explained On the Air with Ryan Seacrest. “I think it took me a long while to get there because the past year was so interesting because I’ve never been body-shamed before.”

The nasty remarks only motivated the pop star. She told Extra, “I was getting a lot of hate for my body and ‘you’re gaining weight,’ and so I was in Mexico and I was just feeling all of this stuff and I would be lying to you if I said it didn’t’t kind of hurt my feelings, but I kind of channeled that into my music.” While listening to her new music, I was immersed in this emotion that Gomez poured into the album.

The record had me mesmerized from start to finish, commencing with the self-titled song, “Revival.” The single enticed me by opening up with Gomez reciting poetry,

“I dive into the future / But I’m blinded by the sun / I’m reborn in every moment / So who knows what I’ll become.”

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Lady Gaga Checks in to American Horror Story Season Five

AHSIt’s fall again, which means it’s time for American Horror Story’s newest season. Heading into its fifth year, the show returns with the Hotel motif, and promises a season full of ghosts, addictions, and murders based on the Ten Commandments.

That’s not to mention the return of a star-studded cast, including show veterans like Cathy Bates and Evan Peters, as well as newcomers like Lady Gaga and Cheyenne Jackson. Some fans will be disappointed to know that Jessica Lange will not be returning, but as the actress herself noted at the end of Freak Show, there was no topping that performance, so it was time for her to bow out.

Hotel kicked off with what is, by far, the show’s weirdest opening yet—but it was also one of the rockiest and most disheartening. While there were some great elements (like a man being killed and sowed into a mattress only for his ghost to reach out and drag new tenants in), viewers have been faced with an alcoholic-but-now-sober cop who feels responsible for his son going missing, the ghost of a heroin addict that lures the living into the grip of drug and alcohol abuse, and near-constant references to The Shining.

As with all AHS seasons, there are two main stories here. While the first is the cop investigating a string of murders and looking to redeem himself for ‘killing’ his son when the child is abducted at a fair, the other follows Lady Gaga (as The Countess Elizabeth), who is another knock-off vampire-that-is-not-a-vampire. While she drinks blood, dresses in provocative yet often Victorian-esque fashion, and relentlessly pursues  drugs, sex, and alcohol to spice up her immortal and eternally young existence, she can go out in sunlight and describes her condition as ‘a virus.’

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What to Watch on Halloween

The ShinningFall means pumpkin spice lattes, carving pumpkins, apple picking and, of course, watching horror films on Halloween. Everyone has their favorite seasonal movies to watch—when it comes to Halloween, my favorite has always been Casper Meets Wendy. But for those of you who can’t get enough of horror and suspense, here are some of the best horror films to watch this season.

Upon doing some research for this article, I discovered the website Ranker, which is a credible website that thoroughly ranks the best and the worst of everything from movies to trends, people, places, music, sports teams, cars and so on. Ranker’s list of the 10 best horror films streaming on Netflix this fall includes The Omen, Night of the Living Dead, Rosemary’s Baby, Scream 1, 2 and 3, Let the Right One In, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, V/H/S, Children of the Corn, Identity and The Conjuring.

IMDB offers a similar list on its website, but features a vastly different selection of films. IMDB recommends The Shining, Alien, Shaun of the Dead, Psycho, Cloverfield, Zombieland, Saw, The Exorcist, 28 Days Later and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Ranker’s top pick, The Omen, was released on June 25, 1976. The R rated movie received a 7.6 out of 10 on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie begins when Robert Thorn’s wife, Kathy, has a stillbirth. A priest suggests adoption to the grieving couple, and while Robert and Kathy are hesitant at first, Robert agrees, thinking it would cheer up his devastated wife. They adopt a little boy named Damien, but things take a scary turn when the couple is informed that Damien is the son of the devil who is out to kill everyone around him, and the only way to stop Damien is to kill him.

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“Pan” Adaptation Misses the Mark

Peter Pan 1I really had high expectations for the movie Pan because of my love for the story and the iconic characters of Neverland. I was hoping to get that magical, heroic feel when watching this adaptation of one of the most beloved children’s stories, but I got nothing but a predictable plot that never took off. I expected the film to tell the origin story of how Hook became Peter’s enemy, but it focused instead on the defeat of Blackbeard, an original character that I couldn’t have cared less about.

The movie starts off with a woman running through London with a baby in her hands. It is revealed that she is Peter’s mother (Amanda Seyfried) and is dropping her son off at an all boys orphanage. 12 years later, Peter (Levi Miller) spends his time trying to find his mother and being bullied by the nasty nuns that run the orphanage he stays in. One night, when the boys are sleeping in bed, the nuns help the pirates kidnap the orphans. In the next scene, we are taken to a mine where men dig for Pixie Dust for the loathsome Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) and the boys who are kidnapped are forced to assist.

Peter meets Hook (Garrett Hedlund), and at first Hook is standoffish, claiming that they are not friends and he wants nothing else to do with him. Later, Peter finds Pixie Dust only to have it ripped from his hands by another miner, and a fight ensues that results in Peter having to walk the plank. Blackbeard kicks Peter off, only to discover that the young boy can fly. Hook is amazed, and sees Peter’s flying as a way to escape the island. He rescues Peter and they make their escape to a forest where they spot a tribe who takes them in—first as enemies, and then as friends. Here, they plan to make their attack on Blackbeard to get rid of him once and for all with the help of Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara).

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Ben Rector Puts on a Show

Ben ReactorTo me, concerts always feel the most intimate in a small venue with a devoted crowd. It is the absolute best when the lights are dim, the barrier between the stage and crowd is small, and the artist is on stage with their guitar in hand and small backup band behind them. The feeling of a close-knit show like that is truly inexpressible. These are the concerts that are well-remembered and cherished. These are the moments that turn the little things into big things.

On Sept. 30 in Silver Springs, MD, singer-songwriter Ben Rector stopped at The Fillmore Silver Spring on his Brand New Tour, which involved various performances across the county. Other stops he made closer to the University included New York City on Oct. 2 and Philadelphia on Oct. 3. Rector released his newest album Brand New on Aug. 28 and is touring until early November. Judah and the Lion, a small folk band, opened up for Rector on this tour.

Being a huge fan of Rector, I made the trip all the way to Maryland to attend the concert with a friend of mine who goes to school down there. Although I had to drive through a ton of rain thanks to Hurricane Joaquin to get there, it was entirely worth it. Rector is pretty low-key—his crowds are still numbered around a thousand for most of his shows (depending on the venue) and this was not his first headlining tour.

Although he is not the biggest artist out there, he still has gained some mainstream popularity with his more well-known singles. Rector, being an independent singer-songwriter, tends to stick to an acoustic style of music, but with his latest album, he dipped more into the radio pop genre. Since this was the style of music on his latest record, the concert was very upbeat and lively.

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The Decline of the Garage Band

Garage BandIt all used to be so simple. A few friends or classmates getting together, sitting around until that one line is uttered, marking four words that would change their lives forever—“Let’s start a band.”

They would then get some cheap instruments—used electric guitars, a primal set of drums and maybe a few amps that were on sale. Then, filing into the house or garage of the kid with the coolest parents, they would start strumming a few chords, possibly some covers of their favorite artists. Posters would hang on the wall of bands like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, and they would envision themselves playing at MSG or Wembley Stadium for hundreds of thousands of screaming fans.

This is how music used to be made. The Doors, U2, Nirvana—all started in someone’s garage (though U2 technically started in drummer Larry Mullen Jr’s family kitchen) and progressed, together, to make it big and get their songs on a world stage. However, somewhere along the line, the idea of the classic garage band was lost.

“The idea of promoting a brand has been so dumbed down and simplified,” said senior Guy Battaglia, whose band the Flammable Animals started when he got to college and have been featured on Blue Hawk Records. “It is easier to sell ‘Taylor Swift’ than a group.”

With the skyrocketing popularity of rap/hip hop/EDM music over the past two decades, music has strayed away from the atypical band consisting of three or more people, and is now much more focused on individual artists. This is not necessarily a good or bad thing—just a noticeable change. Jonathan McElroy, adjunct professor in the music & theatre arts department, credits the shift to music trends working in a cycle, that cycle now being focused on the individual.

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Bungie Launches "Destiny: The Taken King" Expansion

DestinyA year ago I reviewed Bungie’s newest video game, Destiny. In essence, I said it was quite good, but with some flaws, and gave it an 8/10. I reviewed it as a relatively linear experience, with a solid, yet skeletal story and excellent gameplay mechanics. What Destiny was really missing at that time was an endgame. Destiny was marketed as something in between a multiplayer first-person shooter (FPS) and a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG). As far as being a multiplayer FPS goes, Destiny wanted for nothing. The competitive multiplayer (PVP/player versus player) was very well-done, and the story was better than what you would expect in a multiplayer FPS. However, as far as being an MMORPG goes, Destiny was unfinished. It launched without rewarding endgame player versus environment (PVE) activities, a virtual must-have in modern MMORPGs.

Since then, three expansions and numerous updates have been released, and with each one Destiny has become more of an MMORPG. Several flaws from launch have remained, and several new ones have emerged, but there has been consistent net improvement.

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"The Visit” Isn’t Worth the Trip

VISITOn Sept. 11, The Visit premiered in theaters. The hour and 34-minute film was produced by M. Night Shyamalan, who also produced and directed the Paranormal Activity films and The Sixth Sense. 

I was immediately interested in seeing The Visit because I love scary movies. Unfortunately, the film is not as scary as the trailer portrayed it to be, and the cast consisted of unknown actors and actresses. Much like in the Paranormal Activity series, The Visit was shot in ‘found footage’ style, which resulted unfavorably in the camera being all over the place. However, the movie had a very unpredictable twist at the end that left the audience thinking. In fact, the unexpected ending was about the only thing I liked about the movie. Rotten Tomatoes reviewers agreed with its overall poor quality, as The Visit received a rating of 58 out of 100 from 19,544 ratings, or a 3.4 out of 5. 

In the beginning of the movie, siblings Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) and Becca (Olivia DeJonge) are off to visit their estranged grandparents for the very first time. Becca is very eager to go to her grandparent’s farm in remote Pennsylvania; she could not wait to see where her mother grew up and she had her camcorder ready to document the week. At first, things seemed picture perfect: their grandmother was baking a plethora of things for them and their grandfather gave them a tour of the house, explaining that they would be staying in their mother’s childhood room. It was made very clear that the basement was off-limits and that bedtime was 9:30 p.m. 

Eventually, Tyler starts noticing weird things; he and Becca confront their grandparents about their odd behavior, but they always seem to have a clever excuse. Becca chooses to ignore all these strange occurrences, but Tyler can’t let it go.

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"The Witcher 3" Is Dark Fantasy At Its Best

Witcher3While Game of Thrones has reached an impressive amount of universal critical acclaim, the video games based off of the franchise have been, to put it delicately, considerably less successful (or, to put it indelicately, they’re about as much fun as the red wedding). Thankfully, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, based on a set of Polish novels and comparable to George R.R. Martin’s epic series, is all that one could possibly want in a dark-fantasy video game, and then some. 

To discuss the third installment, we’ll first need to start at the beginning with the original game, The Witcher. The Witcher clearly drew on a well-developed narrative setting (courtesy of its preceding novels), but for a 2007 video game, it felt awfully outdated with technical issues, antiquated gameplay mechanics, ugly graphics, goofy romances/sex-scenes, and an inconsistent plot that dragged it down. On the plus side, the world of The Witcher was fascinating, filled with lore, occasionally deep characters, political intrigue and social commentary. There was enough there to make it worth playing, but if it hadn’t led into The Witcher 2 and 3, I probably would have passed it by, as there are many better games out there. I’d probably rate it 7.5 out of 10 (in my book, that’s a good game). 

CD Project Red, the game’s developer, clearly stepped up its game (so to speak) for The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. The graphics went from third-rate to beautiful and the gameplay went from tedious and isometric to responsive action-style gameplay. The soundtrack and voice-acting quality improved, and the plot, while already generally intriguing, received better writing and became a masterpiece in the minds of many. With all these improvements, the plot of The Witcher 2 was much easier to take seriously, and the fantasy felt much darker than the original. Rather than have the 25 or so romance options that the original had (complete with shallow, crude scenes), The Witcher 2 had only four romances, each of which was much more tasteful and provided meaningful character exposition. I personally feel the decision to handle romance in a more mature, tasteful manner gave the game more class, and am glad that The Witcher 3 followed The Witcher 2’s example. 

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“Seven Guitars” Rocks Two River Theater

Seven GuitarsSeven Guitars, directed by Brandon J. Dirden and currently being performed at the Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ, is an emotional ride comprised of fantastic performances and an immersive story. 

The play, written by August Wilson in 1995 and first performed in 1996 on Broadway, takes place in the year 1948 in the backyard of a Pittsburgh Hill District home. It focuses on seven African American characters, one being Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton (Kevin Mambo), a blues singer who is released from jail to find that his recently released song is a hit. Offered the chance at a record deal from a major label in Chicago, he decides to return to see his old girlfriend Vera (Christina Acosta Robinson), and persuade her and some old friends to join him in Chicago. 

Wilson, famous for plays such as Fences and regarded as one of the most influential American playwrights, explores themes and ideas in his work that are relevant in contemporary times. Racial prejudice, masculinity, the influence of women on men, and the idea of taking chances are all explored, and Dirden uses these as the main focus of the play. 

Dirden, in his directorial debut and also an actor himself, brings the audience into the world of these characters and sucks them into their stories. He also balances the tone of the play perfectly: it has its poignant, heart-wrenching moments, but it can also be hilarious and stirring. Despite the longer length (with an intermission the entire runtime is about two hours and 45 minutes), there is no moment that feels out of place or unimportant. From just the mundane moments in these characters’ interactions, Dirden fleshes these people out more and keeps the audience invested in what happens to them. 

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Blue Hawk Records Selects Artists for December Compilation

Blue Hawk RecordsMusic has a way of bringing people together, and that’s exactly what Blue Hawk Records, Monmouth’s student run record label, achieves.  Blue Hawk Records is one of Monmouth’s most diversified clubs; it is professional, fun, expressive, and distinctive, and is completely unique to the University. 

Every semester, Blue Hawk Records records and produces a compilation CD of around four to six original songs. Different artists and bands come into the recording studio here on campus and record original work that is then put onto the CD. Blue Hawk Records hosts club meetings every Wednesday and is open to students of all majors. 

On Monday, Sept. 28, Blue Hawk Records held auditions for the compilation CD being produced this fall. The auditions began at 7:30 p.m. and took place in Woods Theater right here on campus. The audition process consisted of various bands and solo artists performing a song selection in front of the club representatives and the advisor. A lot of great talent of all different musical genres was showcased at the auditions and everyone that observed was floored by the expertise. 

Mike Grant, a sophomore music industry student, is one of the A&R representatives for Blue Hawk Records. He was one of the members of the club who sat in at the auditions and listened to the different artists to get a feel for what their music style was like. “We have never had a record that was all one genre,” Grant said. “We have considered doing a theme record, but that’s all based on what the artists present. We normally don’t have repeats, but it has happened in the past. Blue Hawk Records is growing.” 

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“The Intern” Works As A Feel-Good Comedy

InternThe new Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway flick The Intern takes a fresh approach to comedy. It’s a film that is not only for young adults but senior citizens too, as most of the jokes are puns that the older class can relate to. 

When I first saw the film’s runtime, I thought two hours was far too long for a comedy. However, the extra minutes allowed for excellent character development and I was able to connect with each and every character in the plot. The movie kept my eyes glued to the screen because each scene was full of surprises that unraveled throughout the story.

The movie opens with a retired Ben (De Niro) searching for a purpose now that his wife has passed away. He wants to fill a hole in his life and sees a flier for senior interns at an online clothing company called “About the Fit.” He gets the job but doesn’t immediately click with the rest of the young, technologically-inclined employees and still carries around a briefcase with a calculator and flip phone. 

“I feel like everyone’s uncle around here,” Ben says at one point during the film, and accurately so; he is a kind-hearted, respectful, old-fashioned guy who often doles out words of wisdom. Jules (Hathaway), the company’s CEO and founder, is the opposite: she at first is a rude, bitter, fast-paced woman trying to juggle her personal life and a career, but ultimately finds inner peace through her interactions with Ben.

Originally, Jules isn’t interested in working with someone Ben’s age, but as the film progresses, they eventually form a bond with mutual respect. The other employees also start to really like Ben and his old-fashioned style and values; he becomes the guy everyone wants to be friends with and the guy who you can trust for a helping hand. 

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“Spring Awakening” Revives Broadway Production

Spring AwakeningOn Sept. 27, a revival production of Spring Awakening opened on Broadway. Unlike any other production ever done before, this version of the show combines singing and American Sign Language (ASL), making it accessible to both deaf and hearing audiences. 

The original production of Spring Awakening, based on an 1891 play of the same name by Frank Wedekind, opened on Broadway in December 2006, where it won 8 Tony Awards. Its cast included Lea Michele, Johnathon Groff, and John Gallagher Jr.; it then closed in January 2009. 

In the summer of 2015, the Deaf West Theatre in North Hollywood, CA, ran a short run of the show where it mixed singing and ASL. Each main character is played by two actors—one hearing actor, who does the singing and speaking, and is called the ‘voice’ of the character, and the other actor, who is deaf or hard of hearing, does the ASL portion. The ASL and choreography are beautifully blended as well, making the production look flawless and polished. Several actors do both the speaking and ASL parts, especially for smaller characters or ensemble parts. 

This mix of speaking and ASL makes the musical completely unlike anything else that has ever been done on Broadway before. While Deaf West Theatre is famous for doing productions in this style, this is the first time one of their musicals has transferred to Broadway. It has received nothing but praise from critics. The show has also been slightly altered to make the deaf characters fit even better—for example, the character of Moritz Stiefel, who was always written as a teenager who had trouble in school, is now written as if the character is deaf, which only compounds his problems with his schoolwork and causes him to get into trouble with his teachers, since he appears to be slacking off in class. 

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Director of “Foreign Puzzle” Visits Pollak Theater

Foreign PuzzleOn Friday evening, Sept. 25, the documentary Foreign Puzzle was shown at Pollak Theater with its director, Chithra Jeyaram, in attendance.

With a small crowd present, the film carried a strong message that was capable of impacting many.

Foreign Puzzle tells the story of Sharon Marroquin, a choreographer, elementary school teacher, and mother who is battling breast cancer. Filmed over a period of 18 months, the documentary follows Marroquin as she creates an interpretive dance show to express her fight with breast cancer that will be performed in front of a large audience.

Prior to watching this film, I had very little knowledge on what it is actually like to battle breast cancer. I know plenty of people whose lives have been affected by breast cancer, but I never understood what they really went through. After viewing Foreign Puzzle, it made me see the true struggle of living a normal life while fighting such a deadly disease.

Marroquin lives a busy life as it is, yet she still manages to roll with the punches as a single mother who loves her son Dali very much. Dali is in elementary school, and does not have a complete understanding of what his mother is going through. When Marroquin asks her son how he would feel if she died, Dali responds by saying, “I’d be really sad,” as he plays around on the couch. Though Dali cannot quite grasp what his mother struggles through, he understands how much his mother loves him.

In a touching scene, Marroquin is in her son’s bed reading a book to him before he goes to sleep. Once Marroquin concludes the reading, her son quickly falls asleep and she tucks him into bed. Before she leaves the room, she rests her hands on his head and thanks God for all the blessings in her life, including her health.

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Asbury Park Zombie Walk Lives to See Another Day

ZombieAfter flatlining over the summer, Asbury Park will be holding its annual Zombie Walk this fall—solidifying that the walk, just like its members, has come back from the dead.

Founded by Jason Meehan in 2008, the Asbury Park Zombie Walk has served as a haven to the undead, breaking the Guinness World Record for largest gathering of zombies in 2010 and 2013 and hosting thousands of participants every year. However, on Aug. 20, its creator posted on the event’s Facebook page that the walking dead would walk no more.

“The New Jersey Zombie Walk has died,” Meehan said on the Facebook page, which has over 19,000 followers. “Its death was not sudden, and every attempt was made to revive the deceased.”

Meehan credited the extreme exponential growth and popularity of the walk to be its true demise and cause of death. He, along with everyone else involved in the creation of the walk, wanted to keep it free to the public so any brain-eater could stroll without having to purchase some kind of ticket or entrance fee. But with the increase of zombies came the inevitable rise in the cost of the walk through safety measures and vendor expenses—a number that became too large for Meehan to continue on.

“I will also eternally be grateful to the Asbury Park Boardwalk for hosting our horde and doing everything possible time and again to minimize what expenses they could,” Meehan went on to say in the social media epitaph. “Above all, the Zombie Walk could never have happened without the help of the countless volunteers, family and friends who collectively have put in tens of thousands of hours of work year after year to make the event happen, never demanding anything more than the good time that they had being a part of the Zombie Walk team.”

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Mac Miller Releases “GO:OD AM”

On Sept. 18, Mac Miller released his third studio album entitled GO:OD AM, which is his first record on the major label Warner Bros. Records. His album tour began on Sept. 20, stopping in New York City on Sept. 27 and returning to the Big Apple again on Dec. 16.

Mac Miller, born Malcolm James McCormick, is a 23-year-old rapper from Pittsburgh, PA. He’s been making music ever since 2007 and gained popularity in 2010 when he went on his first tour and sold out every show. GO:OD AM has been highly anticipated by Miller fans, and he has been working hard to not disappoint them. Miller tweeted, “I put 2.5 years of my life into making this album,” and also, “I made 9 different albums until I finally arrived at this one,” which showcases the effort he put into GO:OD AM.

Ever since the album came out last week, I have been listening to it as much as possible to get an accurate feel for Miller’s work. I have listened to Miller a small amount in the past and I would not consider myself his biggest fan, but being very into rap, I decided to check out GO:OD AM. After hearing it in its entirety, I can definitely say that Miller has put forth a solid compilation. 

When I originally listened to the first single, “100 Grandkids,” I really did not like it. However, after exploring the album in full, it has become one of my favorite tracks. “Break the Law” and “Clubhouse” were also released ahead of the album, but I didn’t give them much of a chance until the full release of GO:OD AM.

Overall, I would say the record has a very chill vibe. It’s an easy listen and is generally very mellow, which is something I really liked about it. However, there were a few songs (“When in Rome,” “Cut the Check,” and “Break the Law”) that I found to be slightly out of place. Those tracks are a bit more aggressive and don’t really fit into the laidback theme that the rest of the album portrays. 

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Blue Hawk Records Holding Open Auditions

Hawk RecordWith the new semester underway, Monmouth University’s student-led record label is back for its seventh consecutive semester! For those who have never heard of Blue Hawk Records, the on-campus record label was founded by Monmouth students back in 2013 with the help of professor and Chair of the Music Department, Joe Rapolla. Since then, the Music Industry students of Blue Hawk Records have released an album every fall and spring semester, and most recently, their first summer album.

At the beginning of each semester, the Blue Hawk team holds auditions to decide who will be featured on that semester’s compilation. While the auditions used to be exclusive to music majors, Blue Hawk Five, released Spring 2015, opened up auditions to the entire school. The album boasted diversity with artists like Brian Perrino, a mathematics major, and Tatiana Walia, a criminal justice major. 

This semester, Blue Hawk is following the same format and opening up auditions to all students and alumni of Monmouth University. After the auditions, the chosen artists will participate in discussions about the album and head to Lakehouse Recording Studio, a world-class professional studio located in Asbury Park. 

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“Captive” is an Engaging True Story

CaptiveI have to say that the movie Captive was a job well done. It had everything I look for in movies: emotional and inspirational scenes, decent acting, strong supporting characters and one brave heroine who is actually a real person, because Captive is based on a true story. Just how much truth there is to the story is for the viewer to decide in this dramatic and bittersweet film.

Captive is about a young female named Ashley Smith (Kate Mara) who is a recovering drug addict. Smith goes to a church-based recovery group so she can gain custody of her daughter Paige (Elle Graham) and have a second chance to be a mother. Soon after we meet Smith, she is kidnapped by Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo), the antagonist in this unfortunately true and sad story. 

It is later revealed that Nichols was sentenced to jail on rape charges, but escaped a prison sentence because he found out from his lawyers that he had a son and didn’t want go to jail. When he captures Smith, he admits to her that he did not rape anyone and that the girl who accused him was his ex–girlfriend, who he claimed he loved. Throughout the movie, Smith talks to him and gains a better understanding of who he truly is. She reads to him The Purpose Driven Life, a book written by Rick Warren, which talks about how God has a purpose for everyone in their life, including being forgiven.

Mara’s acting was exceptional  and proved that she can stand as a strong leading lady in film. She portrayed Smith as a brave, good-hearted person who struggled in her life. Mara gave the audience a rollercoaster full of emotions: fear, sadness, hope, and pain. She made you feel for her character as she too overcame her demons. 

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“America’s Got Talent” Crowns Season 10 Winner

America TalentSeason 10 of America’s Got Talent wrapped up on Wednesday, Sept. 16, and the winner turned out to be a crowd favorite.

The episode began with a montage of the season and the judges’ opinions of who was going to win, each saying that it was a hard decision because of all the talent. Up first was popular musical act the Craig Lewis Band, who performed a Foreigner song.

Following the commercial break were the three magicians: the first was Oz Perlman, who performed a card trick, followed by Derek Hughes and Freelusion with Uzeyer, all of whom put on impressive acts. 

Comedians Drew Lynch and Gary Vider hosted a “joke off,” which had the crowd in a constant state of laughter. 

Perhaps the most astonishing act was the Professional Regurgitator, a performer who, true to his name, swallows and then spits up various objects in near perfect condition. This act was a crowd favorite, but it did not take the crown. Neither did Piff The Magic Dragon or comedians Lynch and Vider. 

Taking the crown was none other than Paul Zerdin, professional ventriloquist. As part of his act, he pulled judge Howie Mandel on the stage and put a moving mask on him. Zerdin performed without touching Mandel and used him for comedic relief, making him do various tasks while acting as his voice. 

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Halsey’s “Badlands” is Worth the Listen

HalseyJust three weeks ago on Aug. 28, Halsey, birth name Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, released her debut album entitled Badlands. Her album peaked in the United States at number two and has been getting a lot of attention in the media recently. 

In case you haven’t heard of her before, Halsey is a 20-year-old singer/songwriter and New Jersey native with outstanding talent, a killer voice and a wildly fun personality, which you can see shine through in all of her social media posts. Her music is typically categorized as indie pop or electropop, but I personally think her music slips into multiple different genres and sometimes cannot be categorized as just one. Overall, I would highly recommend giving Badlands a listen, no matter what genre of music you are typically into. 

Halsey’s style is the perfect combination of underground indie music mixed with radio-playable pop, topped off with an entirely unique vibe. Badlands is the type of music that takes you to another world when you listen to it, and that is something I really appreciate about Halsey’s work on this album. 

Badlands is a concept album, which is another really incredible part about it. The concept Halsey conveys with Badlands is the isolated state of mind she was in whilst writing the album. “Badlands” represents a fictitious town she created, originally inspired by Las Vegas. 

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Greta Gerwig Shines in “Mistress America”

Mistress AmericaAn article I read on Indiewire heralded Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck and Noah Baumbach’s/Greta Gerwig’s Mistress America as the revisionist screwball comedies of our generation, or at least of this summer. In these cases, I refuse to refer to Trainwreck as director Judd Apatow’s film. Though I found the film to be mostly devoid of laughs, any point during which the film could be even remotely funny is completely independent of him and due to Schumer’s so-so screenplay and Bill Hader’s wonderful performance. 

It is in these cases, however, that Mistress America fully belongs to co-writers Baumbach and Gerwig, the former directing with a precision and warmth rare among independent filmmakers today and the latter starring and bringing soul to the film. Baumbach has been making films for twenty years, starting off with Kicking & Screaming—not you, Will Ferrell—which brought together upper class protagonists who articulate with wit and fierceness, and who act as if they had all the time in the world to spar verbosely. Though that film is wonderful, it’s not difficult to understand why people might find the characters insufferable and thus turn away from it. 

Since the creative pairing between Gerwig and Baumbach, however, and since the effervescent Frances Ha in 2012, things have taken a warmer, more incisive and very down-to-earth turn. This all comes together in their newest film, Mistress America, which is a film that perhaps begins and ends too quickly, and thus feels more like an exercise. It also feels like an idea that needed to be gotten out of their heads before they lost the passion for it, and thus you can sense which scenes they enjoyed writing and filming most, lending to the film an uneven and sloppy quality. 

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“Hamilton” Premieres to Rave Reviews

HamiltonOn Aug. 6, Broadway’s newest sensation Hamilton opened to nothing but stellar reports and five-star reviews and praise from critics everywhere. Opening night—along with most other performances that followed—was sold out, and over 700 people lined the block in the hopes of winning lottery tickets.

Hamilton boasts an all-star cast, led by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who previously starred in and wrote In The Heights. Miranda was also responsible for the creation of Hamilton—he found inspiration in Ron Chernow’s biography “Alexander Hamilton,” and, upon finding out that nobody had ever written a musical on the historic figure, began working on the project. It would take him seven years to complete.

Other cast members include Philippa Soo as Elizabeth Schuyler-Hamilton (Hamilton’s wife), Renee Elise Goldberry as Angelica Schuyler-Church (Elizabeth’s sister, and Hamilton’s possible mistress), Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr, Johnathon Groff as King George, Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson/Marquis de Lafayette, and Christopher Jackson as George Washington. Once a week, Miranda’s understudy Javier Munoz plays the role of Hamilton.

One of the most interesting concepts of the show is the color-blind casting that was used. Hamilton, Jefferson, Washington, and other Caucasian historical figures are now played by black and Hispanic actors, a move that Miranda said was intentional and should not require any suspension of disbelief.

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Taylor Swift Launches “1989” World Tour

T SwiftIt’s hard to label Taylor Swift’s 1989 World Tour as a concert. To some, myself included, it felt more like a two-hour emotional rollercoaster, a motivational speech, dance party, and religious experience.  When you enter the arena of one of Swift’s concerts there is something different about the atmosphere, almost as if you’re about to be wiped clean of any problems or curveballs life has been throwing at you lately. You are now in an environment surrounded by people who just get it.  Whether they are new to the fan base or have been by Swift’s side since “Mary’s Song,” every Swiftie will enjoy her newest venture, solidifying her status as an icon.   

Throughout her ground breaking, 80’s-infused, juggernaut of a tour, Swift has had a slew of chart-topping and runway-worthy guests.  From Alanis Morissette to The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, Swift’s mission to share the stage with as many talented performers as possible is making some incredible strides. 

As wonderful and exciting as these guests are, nothing compares to Swift herself. With her years of small coffee shops and county fairs far behind her, Swift is a full grown stadium performer; it’s hard to imagine her playing any other way at this point. While I am very lucky to have seen her at both small intimate performances as well as Madison Square Garden crowds, nothing compares to the way she has carried herself throughout this tour.    

“Feel so Close” by the ever-so-charming Calvin Harris fades out and the lights in the arena dim, Swift appears and shouts, “Welcome to New York” and we’re off. The screams pierce your eardrums as Swift makes her way to the stage and begins her long strides down the never-ending cat walk. 

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“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is a Must-See Action Flick

UNCLEOn Aug. 14, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., based on the original television series, was released to theaters. I’m typically not an action fan, but decided to see it, because, well, Henry Cavill. But fortunately I really enjoyed the film and its interesting twists (and that’s coming from a non-action fan).

I had never seen the original show prior to the movie, so I wasn’t exactly sure what was going to happen. I read the basic description on IMDB, which said that “In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.”

The opening scene is set in East Berlin, 1963, where Napoleon Solo (Cavill) makes his way to a mechanic shop in search of a woman named Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander). Gaby’s father is being ordered to create an atom bomb for Nazis, and Solo needs Gaby’s help getting to her family. In return, Solo will sneak her out of East Berlin. The two are followed by a Russian man, who turns out to be Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), Solo’s future partner.

Solo and Kuryakin are brought together for a mission. Kuryakin and Gaby will pose as fiancés and Solo as an antiquities dealer. There’s a “family business,” which Gaby’s uncle Rudi works for, that is believed to be a cover up in Rome, Italy. By getting to the family and accessing Gaby’s father through her uncle Rudi, the three of them will get to the bottom of it.

Towards the end of the film, we learn that one person involved in the trio hasn’t been completely reliable, which results in the capture of another. After several action-packed scenes, fights, and explosions, we are left with an interesting ending (during which someone finally uses an “uncle” reference). 

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BLOCKBUSTER BREAKDOWNS

Mini Recaps of This Summer’s Mega Movies

AvengersThis summer brought us a huge amount of movies, but what was worth seeing? Here are a few snapshots of the good and the bad from this past season.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

This sequel was a well-crafted story bolstered by an amazing cast. The chemistry between the titular heroes (and heroine) really shined through, creating a relatable group that is as great during downtime as they are on the battlefield. The Avengers find themselves facing Ultron, an advanced AI bent on wiping out mankind, who is flanked by Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Even the slower moments of the movie are enjoyable, as they include a post-battle party where Thor lets the others try to lift his hammer, and a far more depressing scene where the crew tries to shake off the after-effects of Scarlet Witch’s mind control.

The visual effects were, as with The Avengers, impressive, and the budget was clearly high, though the sound felt lackluster and the music was forgettable. There were also a few predictable fatal flaws that screwed characters over in dramatic but clichéd ways. Overall, a 9.5 out of 10 viewing experience.

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Controversial Practices in the Gaming Industry

Call Of Duty Advanced Warfare 13991332947595Video games, as a newer medium of entertainment, have seen their fair share of controversy. Many are aware of at least some element of this, even if they don’t play video games themselves. I remember hearing from my grandparents (who don’t play video games) about “violent video games” such as the infamous Grand Theft Auto series. But what many non-gamers (and even some dedicated gamers) haven’t heard of are the controversial business practices within gaming.

Franchises such as Call of Duty, Assassins Creed, or Madden are the poster children of annual video game franchises, the merits of which are open to debate. An annual franchise is a series of video games, such as Assassins Creed, with at least one major release every year (in recent years, Assassins Creed has actually started to release more than one game in a year). On the plus side, for fans of the series, this means more content. However, critics argue that this also means a shorter development cycle for each game, and less improvements from one game to another. Proponents claim that the large development teams allow them to develop games more quickly, without sacrificing quality. One thing’s for sure: a $60 game every year will likely generate more money that a $60 game every other year, provided people buy it.

Imagine if there were a new A Song of Ice and Fire book released every year. On the one hand this would be great—more content for fans. However, previous novels were written over the course of several years. Would the same quality stay constant if they were both written and released in under a year? Getting back to gaming, there appear to be some annual franchises that have managed to keep quality more or less constant (such as Pokémon). However, other franchises once seen as the pinnacle of their genre, such as Call of Duty, have fallen out of favor, at least somewhat. Some, such as vocal gaming critic Angry Joe, believe this is a result of lack of innovation due to the rushed development cycles of annual franchises. 

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A Guide to Summer Must-Reads

beach bkgdThe snow is finally melted, the UGG boots and winter coats are put away, and the sun is out to play! Now that the weather has finally changed and it is nice outside, put down that television remote, pick up a book, and go outside and enjoy the sunshine. Not sure on what to read? Check out one of these 2015 “must-read” books.

#1. “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she passes the same scenery, including stopping at one signal that allows her to watch the same couple sharing breakfast on their deck. She watches them each day and starts to feel as if she knows them; she’s even named them  Jess and Jason. But then suddenly she sees something. Something that is so shocking that it changes everything. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police and tells them everything she knows, but then becomes intimately intertwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone else involved. The question is: has Rachel done more harm than good? 

This instant #1 New York Times Bestseller is a must-read if you are into psychological thrillers! If you are a fan of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, then you will absolutely love this book.

#2. “The Walking Dead” Novels by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

In The Walking Dead universe, there is no greater villain than The Governor. These novels, along with the other books in the series, teaches readers how The Governor became the man that he is, and what drove him to such extremes. They also give a different perspective of how things went down in the television series. If you are a fan of The Walking Dead, these books are a must-read!

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"Little Boy" Tells a Big Story

Little Boy movie poster 640x480If a loved one was away fighting in a war, wouldn’t you do anything to bring them home safely? That’s the premise of Little Boy, a film about a young boy whose faith is tested as he promises to do everything within his power to bring his dad home safely from World War II.

Little Boy, released by independent film studio Open Road Films, opens with a narrator recounting his hometown, the fictional O’Hare, CA, telling us his story set on the homefront of World War II. The narrator remembers his childhood as we focus in on Pepper Busbee (Jacob Salvati), a young child who, according to the narrator, has no friends other than his father whom he fondly calls his partner.

Pepper is very small for his age, a short 39 inches, and never seems to grow taller. In fact, his short stature is a reason that Pepper is bullied by the other children, including Freddie (Mathew Miller). As the doctor’s son, Freddie nicknames Pepper “Little Boy” in order to avoid being punished by his father (Kevin James) for calling him a midget. This “politically correct” nickname sticks, and before long, the entire town is calling Pepper “Little Boy,” which, aside from being the title of the film, has an important connection to the war as the story unfolds. Without giving away too much, it is important to remember the name of the atomic bomb that is released on Hiroshima.

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"Elite Dangerous" Misses its Mark

Elite Dangerous 3Elite Dangerous has one of the most impressive foundations I’ve seen in the space simulation genre. The controls are complex yet precise, the sound is phenomenal, and the graphics are riveting.  Put all of this together, and you have one of the most atmospherically immersive space-sims I’ve had the pleasure to play (and I’ve played quite a few). Unfortunately, Elite Dangerous has a substantial fatal flaw: its lack of depth and content.

The premise of Elite Dangerous is simple: you play as the pilot of a spacecraft who sets out to make his or her way in a sci-fi styled universe. When playing Elite Dangerous, you will literally forget that you’re staring at a computer screen and not actually in a space ship. Elite Dangerous forgoes drama for realism, and this is one of its best features. When you accidentally crash into an asteroid, shattering your cockpit, you will see warning lights, but there will be no sound (true to the actual conditions of space).  It makes the game as a whole feel more believable, and it’s easy to get drawn in as a result.

The ships, space stations, planets, and even space itself are beautifully designed, with painstaking detail. Every ship has a number of unique graphical features, even the early-game ones that you want nothing more than to sell for a better ship. For me personally, one of the highlights of buying a new ship was seeing the new cockpit. Unfortunately, as the game is right now, the cockpit and the exterior of your ship is all that you will ever see. You’re never allowed to get up and leave the ship, or even walk around it (all exploration is via your ship).

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TheaterMetro Station and The Ready Set Host Disappointing Concert in Howell

metro-stationWhen I bought my tickets three months ago for The Outsiders Tour, I thought that I had made the best purchase for the approaching fall concert season.

I was very wrong.

On Sunday Nov. 9, I anticipated having an excellent time seeing Metro Station, the band I have been a fan of since I was 14 and spent my hard earned work money to see. I did not get what I expected.

Before I even arrived at the venue, my iPhone GPS took me to a fish market across the street, which should have been where the venue was, and from then on the evening did not improve much.

I did end up finding the venue once I pulled into the sketchy looking parking lot, and a man flashing a light in my eyes greeted me ever so kindly. He eventually stopped flashing his light at me when my friend handed him five dollars for parking and we went on our way. When we got out of the car, we couldn't help but notice he was greeting every other patron in the same rude fashion.

We waited in line with the rest of the high school kids, who we assumed did not drive there on their own, and mentally prepared what was now turning into a terrible time.

Walking into the venue, GameChanger World in Howell, NJ, we did not expect the atmosphere to be what it was.

According to their website, GameChanger World is "a state of the art event space." I didn't realize that every concession stand at an ice skating rink is considered to be "state of the art," because that is exactly what this place looked like. Already, I knew that I was not going to have a good time.

I assumed there would only be three bands performing that night (The Downtown Fiction, Metro Station and The Ready Set), but I was very wrong.

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“Our Town” Comes to Monmouth

our-town-posterThe Department of Music and Theatre Arts at Monmouth recently presented their production of the play Our Town at the Lauren K. Woods Theatre from Nov. 5-9 and 12-15.

The three act play of Our Town was originally written by American playwright Thornton Wilder in 1938. It was first performed as a play at the McCarter Theater in Princeton, NJ, on Jan. 22, 1938, and started its run on Broadway on Feb. 4 of the same year. It enjoyed an incredibly successful run, and Wilder won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama that year for the play. For the past 75 years, it has consistently been one of the most produced plays in the world.

"If you pick six of the greatest American plays, this is one of them," says director of Our Town, Dr. John J. Burke. "There is a performance of Thornton Wilder's Our Town somewhere in the world every day. This alone testifies to the fact that it is one of the best American plays ever written."

The story does not follow a typical plot. Instead, the character of the stage manager, played by junior Stephen Lang, takes on the main role in Our Town, guiding the audience through years and events that happen in the small town of Grover's Corners, NH. With audience interaction, flashbacks, flash-forwards, little scenery and more, the production is an incomparable, unique theater experience. Despite being written in 1938, Our Town continues to have universal appeal, even today. Much of this has to do with its familiar message and being incredibly relatable to anyone who has ever experienced small town America.

"When the play premiered in 1938," continues Burke, "Wilder's use of little scenery, a stage manager who travels through time to tell the story, and the focus on the seemingly unimportant events of everyday life gave the audience a sense that this could be 'my town,' anywhere in America."

"Everyone resonates with small town America," voiced freshman Molly Hubert, who played the character of Mrs. Soames. "It's universal."

The loose story does follow two families in the town: the Gibb family and the Webb family, and the story of the eventual relationship between two of their children, George Gibb, double casted and played by juniors T.J. Bent and Michael Qualiano, and Emily Webb, also double casted and played by seniors Zoe Bullitt and Kelly Thomas. It is the ideas of the play that are of true importance in the production. To always appreciate life and making sure not to let it pass by without a thought is the lesson Our Town wants the audience to take away from it.

"I've never done a show as groundbreaking or meaningful as this," explained junior Patrick Hall, who played Simon Stimson, during a talk-back after the Nov. 9 production. "This play is really timeless."

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“Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor” Sets Standard For Licensed Games

middle_earthLicensed games are typically, to put it delicately, awful. More often than not they're simple cash-ins, next to nothing is spent developing them, and, in the case of Lord of the Rings properties, the publisher knows that the picture of Gandalf on the cover will make back any expenses several times over. Thankfully, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is not your average licensed game. Production values, along with several unique ideas, make it a game worth playing, especially if you're a fan of Tolkien's The Lord of The Rings.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a non-canonical entry set in between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring. The Dark Lord Sauron is slowly waking and gaining power, and Mordor is being overrun by orcs called 'uruks.' There are two player-controlled protagonists, a former ranger captain of Gondor cursed with undeath (Talion) and an elf-wraith (who is actually an important character within The Lord of the Rings, having a special relationship with the One Ring). These two actually play as one character, Talion, for unlike the wraith, he has physical form. The wraith provides a number of unique abilities for Talion to use, such as teleportation, a wraith bow, mind control, and enhanced senses.

The two set out to use Sauron's own armies against him, and stop him from returning to Middle Earth with his former strength. This quest brings them into conflict with the uruk of Mordor.

In terms of gameplay, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor should be immediately familiar to anyone who's played a title from the Batman: Arkham series or Assassins Creed. Shadow of Mordor surpasses the last Batman game I played (Batman: Arkham City). One of the game systems that allows it to do this is the nemesis system.

The nemesis system allows for additional depth among enemy leaders by displaying their strengths and weaknesses, overall power, standing within the uruks, etc. As one would expect, there are unlimited numbers of uruk grunts, none of whom should pose a problem to Talion.

There are three tiers of captains, and they serve as a sort of field leader of the uruks. You will find them scattered amongst the grunts; they can be easily detected with your wraith vision. However, if you don't rely on wraith vision, you'll be in for quite a few surprises. Some of these encounters may be pleasant, in which you receive experience points and a rune that can be used to enhance weapons. Other battles can involve enemy captains getting promoted and gaining strength, like in one instance when I lost a battle to my nemesis, who I later hunted down for the boosted reward.

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World War II Rages On In “Fury”

Fury-MovieOn arguably the worst first day of work anyone has ever had, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) is a young American clerk thrust into the midst of warfare on the German front in April 1945. Trained to type 60 words per minute, Ellison is rotated in as the fifth crew member of a Sherman tank christened "Fury," and must now ruthlessly kill Nazi soldiers from within this metal monster.

The other crew members are older men who have been manning "Fury" together for three years. Bonded together but psychologically damaged from the tides of war, they dismiss Norman as nothing more than another dead man. Spurned by his fellow tank mates, Norman is told to clean his new seat, which is covered in the blood and the blown-off face of the soldier who sat there before him.

Repulsed, Norman vomits and begs the headman of his tank, Wardaddy (Brad Pitt), to be rotated elsewhere. Aggravated at his new soldier's weakness in the face of gritty war, Wardaddy forces Norman to shoot a captured German soldier through the back. The audience's sympathies are with Norman, for he is definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time, and his new job as a Nazi killer does not match up with his morals. Consistent with a pro-war film, the "Fury" tank-mates Wardaddy, Bible (Shia LaBeouf), Gordo (Michael Peña), Grady (Joe Bernthal), and eventually Norman all keep to their mantra that being in the war is "the best job [they] ever had."

Tasked by their commander to move out with a group of tanks and capture a run-down city, Norman reluctantly enters the tank and the group heads out. Partly hidden by the foliage of the forest they are travelling along, Norman spots a young German boy, but chooses to dismiss him as nonthreatening. This turns out to be a mistake, when suddenly one of their own men in the tank ahead of them is doused with fire from a flare and takes his life to end the suffering. Wardaddy uses this horrifying instance as another opportunity to get it through Norman's mind that to leave a Nazi alive means certain death for the American troops.

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“Civilization: Beyond Earth” One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

civilization_beyond_earth_00"Civilization: Not Earth" might very well be a more appropriate title for the latest game in the hit Civilization series. I say this because Civilization: Beyond Earth fails almost entirely in going beyond what was done in the last Civilization title, Civilization V (which was released in 2010). This is especially disappointing when taking into account the outstanding reputation of Fireaxis Games, developer of the Civilization series.

Fans of the series will find several minor innovations in this title. One supposed development within this game is the "technology web." As opposed to the linear technology tree of previous Civilization titles, the technology web starts you from a center point, with different technologies radiating from said center point. This gives players more flexibility in how they choose to develop their civilizations.

However, I found that while you aren't forced to develop your technologies in a slightly branching linear pattern as in previous games, you wind up choosing between three. This is because of the new affinity system, which allows for three alignments; purity, supremacy, or harmony (and depending on the alignment that you choose, different technologies become available). However, each affinity has its own technologies which are pretty much essential, so rather than letting one develop their civilization freely, this technology system gives you more choices. In order to get the most out of their resources, one is going to have to remove miasmas (toxic alien gasses). This need (and others) direct ones advancement on the technology web, limiting freedom.

Also worth mentioning is the removal of technology trading from the diplomacy menu. While technology trading did serve to imbalance previous titles, I think removing it was a poor decision, as its elimination severely reduces available diplomatic options. Even if technology trading was unfixable (which I find unbelievable), it should have been at least replaced by another system to fill the void left in diplomacy. Civilization has had a flawed diplomacy system for a while now, but at least Civilization V made improvements. Try as I might, I cannot identify a single tangible improvement in Beyond Earth. Fireaxis Games has had negative feedback in regards to this system from players and critics alike, and on top of that, they had over four years to work on it. In my mind that is very difficult to overlook.

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NJ Artist Spotlight: Zak Smith

Zak-Smith-1-0718-Photo-Credit-Stephan-AlessiSeeded in the roots of the Garden State is a passion and a drive for music of all kinds. From Sinatra to Springsteen, NJ has produced some of the greats, and continues to inspire up-and-coming musicians. 31-year-old Montclair, NJ native Zak Smith is following in the footsteps of these artists with his latest album, Signs of Life.

After picking up the guitar when he was 15 years old, Smith took cues from influences like Neil Young and Kurt Cobain, developing a rock and Americana vibe. "I had a good friend that got me into rock music," Smith said. "[The guitar] seemed like the coolest instrument to play if you were going to play one."

Smith's interest in poetry came alive in a big way when he combined powerful words with meaningful music and became a singer/songwriter. Smith said, "When I heard music, it was like writing but plus something else. The musical aspect made words into something even bigger."

Once Smith got into music, he was hooked. "I became obsessed pretty early on," he said, "and I envisioned doing it for the rest of my life." Smith took the first step at a recording studio in Red Bank, NJ, where he was able to produce a demo and start making connections. He proceeded to play shows throughout the tri-state area, meeting people who shared his passion for music and writing.

"The best way to connect with people is to be serious about what you're saying," Smith said. He makes many of these connections on tour, which he considers to be one of his favorite parts about playing music. "Being able to play every night to different people feels like what it's all about," Smith enthused. "I would do it every day if I could."

When writing his music, Smith prefers to develop lyrics late at night and in solitude—sometimes he'll even get ideas while driving. In regards to what he likes to write about, Smith said, "I'll write about the typical relationships, but [I like to sing about] more than just that. I try to respond to stuff that's going on in the world."

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Breaking Down "Signs of Life "

Zak-Smith-1-0277-Photo-Credit-Stephan-AlessiMontclair, NJ-based artist Zak Smith released his newest album Signs of Life on Oct. 7, 2014. This marks his sixth official release and his first collection of new tracks since 2013's The Precambrian Age.

Smith, the winner of the 2013 Jersey Acoustic Music Awards "Top Male Vocalist" category, delivers a distinct Americana sound in his latest effort that reminds listeners of another prominent NJ artist. Signs of Life features songwriting that takes many cues from Bruce Springsteen's musical catalog. Though both artists feature a sound that appeals to folk, rock, and country lovers, Smith's stripped-down musical approach and humble sincerity in his voice establishes its own unique identity on his album.

This unique musical identity also sets Smith apart from other current NJ artists. His approach looks back to American music icons such as Springsteen and Neil Young, but he shows a modern sensibility in his songwriting that prevents his music from seeming like a rehashing of classic Americana staples. Though his music might not resemble anything other local artists are striving for, Smith's sound can easily fit in with whomever he shares a gig. The versatility evident in his songs allows him to reach a broad range of audiences across multiple genres.

Signs of Life uses a minimal number of instruments on each track, yet still delivers a masterfully crafted sound. Piano, guitar, percussion, and vocals make up the four major musical components distinctively heard on the album, save for harmonica used sparsely throughout. Female backing vocals also accompany Smith's voice on multiple tracks.

Though this minimalist approach proves effective, one component had been left out entirely: drums. No song on the album features the use of an actual drum set. Though the drums could enhance the dynamic on some of the songs, Smith still delivers a collection of strong tracks with musical timekeeping cared for by mixture of percussion instruments such as a tambourine, shakers, and a cajon.

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Taylor Swift Takes Us Back to “1989”

ts-bannerWhen it was first announced that Taylor Swift's new record was going to be pop instead of country, I have to admit I was already disappointed with the album. How could the girl who moved to Nashville to be a country artist just decide one day that she can change her style without any effort? I was one of the skeptics when the album 1989 was finally released on Oct. 27, but I crossed my fingers, hit play, and surprisingly fell in love with the new Swift. The theme of moving on instead of dwelling in heartbreak somehow made this album shockingly catchy.

Before the track list was even shared, Swift put out three songs for her listeners: "Shake It Off," "Out of the Woods," and "Welcome To New York." I will be the first to admit that "Shake It Off" made me want to shake Swift off. The song sounded the opposite of what we were used to hearing: lyrics about heartbreak with Swift playing the piano in the background. Then, "Out of the Woods" was released.

With speculation that this track was about the famous Harry Styles of One Direction, it was a reminder that Swift is still the same girl who writes songs about relationships. "Welcome To New York" was the last song to be released before 1989 hit airwaves. This was track number one, so naturally this is the song I used to judge the whole album. For the first time in what feels like forever, Swift was singing about taking chances that did not involve loving anyone but yourself. Within the past year Swift finally moved to New York after being on the fence about it. This song was to show that she was proud of her decision, and it was the best change she ever made.

1989 is comprised of 13 tracks (Swift's favorite number) and ranges from songs about being stabbed in the back by a friend to moving on from someone who no longer serves you any purpose.

The genre of pop welcomed Swift with open arms as if she had been doing it her whole life. Upbeat songs keep your foot tapping throughout the whole album, and listeners really hear a different side of Swift 's voice.

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An Evening With Rock Legend Jerry Lee Lewis

jerry-lee-lewisImagine this: it's 1957 and Rock n' Roll music is forming, growing more popular in the teen generation by the day. The music is fast, it's loud, and it's nothing anyone has seen before. The baby boomer post-World War II kids are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, breaking away from previous social norms. Parents are furious.

Word gets around about a young kid in his twenties from Louisiana recording at Sun Records, where Elvis got his start. Word also says he's a lunatic. Flipping his curly hair, he pounds on the piano keys with a chaotic proficiency that only a genius could produce. He sings about "shakin'" and "wigglin' around" with a Southern twang that can shout over his piano or fall loosely from his mouth like thick molasses.

"He's the white Little Richard," you say to your friend as both of you jump around your bedroom to the sounds coming out from the record player in the corner. Sweating, gasping for breath, you realize music has never made you feel this way before—so alive, so in the now. A new star is born, and his name is Jerry Lee Lewis.

57 years later, celebrating his 80th birthday on tour, Lewis took to B.B. King's night club in NY's perpetually bustling Times Square last Thursday. And not even sitting in the night-before-Halloween New York City traffic could take away from what this night gave to me.

Arriving at B.B. King's venue at 7 pm, an hour before the show began, all the seats in the house were taken. My father and I ended up standing at the bar where there was plenty of room to hang around. However, by the time Lewis came on at 9 pm we were packed in like sardines, fighting for position to get a clear view of the stage.

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Blue Hawk Records S oars Higher

blue-hawk-imageStudents of Blue Hawk Records (BHR) changed the selection process in preparation for their fourth compilation EP for the fall semester, allowing a mixture of artists on the record. Members of Blue Hawk Records Applied Industry III class held open auditions on Wednesday, Sept. 24.

"This year, we changed the process entirely by having open auditions to not only the rest of the department outside the class, but to the entire University as well. Musicians or artists could email BHR to reserve their audition slot to come perform their song in front of a panel of judges," said Mike Burke, president of BHR. The songs performed during auditions were judged based on completeness of composition and overall musical appeal. For predominately electronic pieces, there was an opportunity to submit audio files rather than performing.

Open auditions enabled the student organization to grow not only in size, but also in musical talent and variety. "The Blue Hawk CD is not at all exclusive to BHR members. Looking at it from a business standpoint, that would be dramatically limiting our talent pool and our audience," Burke said. He pointed out that interest in the auditions was strong, giving members of BHR a challenging decision to make.

"It was a tough decision for the judges, but they eventually managed to come to a consensus," said Dave DePaola, head of BHR public relations. Among the judges were Burke, Professor Joe Rapolla and Professor George Wurzbach of the music department. The remaining judges were students currently active in BHR.

The album for this semester will feature Ice House Gallery, Joey Affatato, JKC, Joe Sullivan and Dan Robinson, and Jessica Leigh. Among the artists chosen, Sullivan and Robinson were new to the department. Robinson noted, "At first we were intimidated by the theater and people around us, but it turned into excitement when we started playing. Overall, it boosted our confidence and it was a great experience."

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The Flawed Arguments of the “Gamergate” Controversy

Grand_Theft_Auto_VOne of the main reasons many people in the gaming community have heard about 'Gamergate' (something that is neither representative of gamers, nor comparable to Watergate in any real way) is because Anita Sarkeesian, a self-described "feminist media-critic/blogger" has seized upon the conflict (if one can even call it that) to draw attention to her own personal agenda. Sarkeesian believes that the portrayal of women in video games is sexist, and has used the issue of 'Gamergate' to help her criticism gain traction. According to MSNBC's The Reid Report, 'Gamergate' is "an online battle of the sexes over how gamers are portrayed, and the sometimes violent reaction to women who speak out." As far as I can see, this is what some in the media would like it to be, but not what it is. This entire controversy feels manufactured.

That's not to say that there isn't a controversy right now. There is, but it wasn't built off of sexism in video games (there was a domestic spat in the life of a game developer which received media attention, and it has since devolved into 'Gamergate'). There has, unfortunately, been much toxicity towards Sarkeesian, even death threats. When she was scheduled to speak at Utah State University, someone threatened to carry out a school shooting were she allowed to speak. Honestly, I feel there's very little to say on this area, as most reasonable people would agree that offensive language and death threats are bad.

I have an issue with Sarkeesian and others who are framing this controversy as being representative of gaming (and gamers) as a whole. First of all, the sexist portrayal of women is not constrained to video games. Some of you have probably seen a story about 'Gamergate' on the news. If you stick around until the commercials, you'll likely see sexist portrayals of both men and women just as bad as what's featured in games (and it's much more difficult to argue that there's a narrative basis in an ad).

Grand Theft Auto V was cited by Sarkeesian as one of the franchises portraying women in a sexist light, and she's absolutely right. However, she neglects to mention that the game itself is a satire, and as such is meant to show humanity at its worst. Throughout the Grand Theft Auto series as a whole, players will see and partake in such deviant behaviors as theft, murder, arson, torture, rape, and cannibalism. In some cases players are meant to enjoy the deviant behavior, and in others they are meant to be disturbed by it.

Many of the worst aspects of Grand Theft Auto can be seen in The Sopranos, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones to name a few examples. I'm not saying that what Grand Theft Auto does is right—I'm conflicted about this particular series myself. My goal is to fully inform the public of the flaws in Sarkeesian's reasoning behind the sexist portrayal of women in video games.

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“Constantine” Lights Up NBC

constantine-originalDC Comics originally came up with John Constantine for the Hellblazer series, and since its first issue in 1988, both the series and character have been iconic in the comic book industry. Constantine, known for his trench coat, skinny red tie, and near-constant smoking, made his way to the big screen in 2005, as portrayed by Keanu Reeves. However, the comic series ended in 2013, being replaced with the Constantine comic series that features the New 52 John Constantine, who is both younger and was the leader of Justice League Dark, a version of the Justice League that focuses on the supernatural heroes/heroines and their otherworldly foe.

While the newer run of Constantine's comic legacy has been met with criticism, this reviewer feels the jump to television was a great move. Premiering Oct. 24 at 10 pm, the show, so far, features the iconic characters, chilling special effects, and a sense of disturbance and dread without the need for jump scares and other cheap tricks.

Beginning in the Ravenscar Mental Asylum, the pilot episode shows Constantine encouraging the nurses to give him electroshock therapy, saying, "Some days, you need to forget. Others, you can't," giving a hint at the personal demons that plague him. He doesn't stay locked up for long, because after an argument with a psychologist who tries and fails to convince him that demons aren't real, Constantine follows a trail of cockroaches to a possessed woman painting on a wall. After exorcising it, he sees the message was for him: "Liv Die."

This is a not a misspelling—Liv Aberdine, the only daughter of his late friend and mentor, is being targeted by an 'inner circle' demon and is going to die without his help. His dark past starts to get in the way at times, as he is forced to recollect the events that led to him checking himself into Ravenscar during a car accident.

The viewers learn, through flashbacks and comments from those who were there with him, that he was involved with an exorcism a few months prior to the show's opening. Instead of just sending the demon back to Hell, he summoned a more powerful demon, expecting to be able to command it to do his bidding and drag the lesser demon off. Instead, it dragged a nine-year-old girl named Astra to Hell.

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Emarosa Returns with “Versus” for Fresh New Sound

emarosa_versus_RGB-1024x1024Rise Records' post-hardcore outfit Emarosa released their third studio album titled Versus on Sept. 8, 2014. This release marks their first since their 2010 self-titled sophomore album and their first to feature new lead vocalist Bradley Walden.

The band parted ways with previous front man Jonny Craig in 2011 and stated they would continue writing music without him. After months of perceived media inactivity, they announced in mid-2013 that Walden would assume Emarosa's lead vocal duties from then on and that he would record a new album with them. This album became Versus and Walden did not disappoint on these recordings.

Emarosa established a welcomed presence in the alternative music industry with Craig. Their two albums recorded with Craig, Relativity and Emarosa, featured atmospheric and hard hitting guitar-driven instrumentals as Craig's distinct voice soared overtop. His trademark soulful tones, coupled with the ability to also sing with edgy, raspy belting, gave the band a crossover sound between R&B and alternative rock and gained the band exposure.

Walden's performance on Versus shares many similarities to Craig in terms of soulful crooning and powerful belting over aggressive music. Versus delivers hard rocking tracks that will please listeners who appreciate Emarosa's past discography. However, this release also has a newfound sense of experimentation and maturity that sets it apart from Craig's era. Walden's voice features deeper and smoother tones than Craig's. Rather than singing over the music, his melodies dig into the songs with a sincerity not present in the past releases.

Versus features tracks incorporating elements of pop and indie rock, which are two styles not prevalent in the band's back catalog. This exploration gives each song on the album its own distinct sound. Walden shows listeners his versatility as a vocalist, as his voice fits seamlessly across the eleven tracks.

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The Verdict on Robert Downey Jr.’s “The Judge”

the-judge-movieThroughout his long acting career, Robert Downy Jr. is best known for playing the superhero Iron Man, but his most recent performance in The Judge is sure to reinvigorate Downy Jr.'s image as a serious actor.

Interrupted by a phone call from his brother relaying news that his mother had passed away, successful but arrogant lawyer Hank Palmer (Downey Jr.) exits a Chicago courtroom for his childhood home in rural Indiana. As he travels, we learn that his marriage is crumbling and his relationship with his daughter, Lauren, is strained. The audience can quickly gather that Hank has a lot of animosity towards his childhood home, and is extremely reluctant to go there.

The three Palmer brothers, Glenn, Dale, and Hank, are reunited at their mother's funeral. Glenn has a family and business in town, and Dale seems to be socially awkward and married to his camera. After several references to "The Judge," we meet this infamous character in the form of Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall), a serious local judge for over four decades and patriarch of the Palmer family.

Although happy to see his sons after so long, The Judge greets Hank with a stiff handshake, which infuriates him. Pieces of his past slowly unfold the longer he stays with his family. It is revealed to the audience that Hank and his brother Glenn were involved in a terrible car accident as teenagers. As a result, Glenn's promising future as a professional baseball player was shattered along with his arm, and the boys' father harbored resentment towards Hank, blaming him entirely.

The audience also learns that the Palmer past is a hard one. The Judge once let a young man in court off easy for a crime because he saw reflections of Hank in him. Unfortunately, the young man was released from the short sentence and murdered a young girl, revealing that Hank's father is so harsh with him out of love and a fear that Hank would become a felon.

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Live Your "Fantasy Life"

fantasy-life-characterHave you ever wanted to wear a cape while walking your dog and holding a sword? Maybe you wanted to make a name for yourself hunting monsters and fulfilling the requests of a glowing, chattering butterfly. Or perhaps you wanted to live in a fantasy world where you can change professions at will, and wander around at your leisure, doing anything from saving the world to interior design. Whatever your desire, you can do it in Level 5's new role-playing game (RPG) Fantasy Life for the Nintendo 3DS.

The major draw of Fantasy Life is the freedom given to the player. The game starts with players customizing every aspect of their digital avatar. They could create one that resembles themselves, or literally have stars in their eyes and blue hair. They are also afforded a living space that they can decorate however they please. After picking their initial lives and meeting with the king, they are free to do whatever they wish. There is a main storyline, but it can be pursued at any pace.

In fact, there is so much to do that completing the story may itself become a fantasy. Players can easily get lost gathering materials, fighting monsters, exploring new areas, doing quests for non-player characters (NPCs), or trying to rank up their lives.

Objectives, both story and miscellaneous, are kept in an easy-to-reach journal and are organized by story, life challenges, and quests for other characters. Completing story objectives and challenges awards the player Bliss points, which allows them to unlock bonuses such as the ability to carry more items, or to adopt a pet. The more bliss a player obtains, the better.

One of the other major draws of the game is its life system. Each life is synonymous with a job the player can have. Possible choices include Paladin, Mercenary, Angler, Carpenter, Blacksmith, Miner, Woodcutter, Tailor, Cook, Alchemist, Wizard, or Hunter. Each choice gives the player certain skills and abilities that are unique to the class, with some offering the ability to collect materials by mining or cutting trees, and others to create armor and weapons, clothes, or furniture. As players complete challenges associated with the classes, they gain ranks which unlock more skills, special moves, and crafts that they can create.

These classes can be changed at nearly any time, and the player retains any skills and abilities they learned previously. Skills are leveled up as they are used, meaning players only need to change a class long enough to learn its particular skills before returning to their favorite life.

Aside from skill sets, types of items a player can equip, and certain interactions with characters being restricted to having a certain rank in a specific life, classes do not affect how the player can interact with the world.

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Lena Dunham is “Not That Kind of Girl”

lenadunhamNot many TV stars can make the tough transition from actress to writer. Lucky for Lena Dunham, her fantastic writing skills ensured that debut book "Not That Kind of Girl" didn't turn out just okay—it was incredible.

The book focuses largely on Dunham's adolescence and self-discovery phases growing up. She mentions a lot of her firsts: first relationship, first sort of online boyfriend, and first therapist. It is a delicious read in the sense that her words are so powerful and enchanting that you can't put the book down. A lot of people criticize Dunham for how she got her start in the business and how her family connections helped her get to where she is. I feel that her connections might have helped her get her foot in the door, but her talent is what has secured her spot not only as an actress, writer, producer, director, but also as one of the most creative people of our time and the voice of a generation.

In "Igor: Or, My Internet Boyfriend Died and So Can Yours," she talks about her 'internet boyfriend' whom she never me and later finds out has died. Dunham finds herself becoming infatuated with her new online suitor (like she does with most things throughout the book) and wants to learn everything about him. When she finds out through a mutual friend that has physically met Igor that he has passed, she feels somewhat heartbroken. Out of all of the chapters in this book, I really, really enjoyed this one. The premise that she found herself caring for this boy that she had never met only to lose him was just so tragic—almost like an episode of "Catfish" with no ending.

In another chapter of her glorious book, Dunham discusses therapy. Therapy isn't for everyone, but in her case it wasn't so much about deciding whether or not to go to therapy, but rather who would be her therapist. She talks about forming a special bond with her therapist and later having that bond become overwhelming to the point where she had to get a new therapist. Eventually, she found out that her therapist had a daughter her age, and they would later meet at college and become friends—a happy coincidence for Dunham.

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“Ultimax’s” Place Within the “Persona” Series

persona4ultimaxAs a "Persona 3" fan, I felt let down by the plot of "Ultimax" (although the "Persona 4" fan in me was satisfied). Within the "Persona" series, "Persona 3 and 4" are night and day. "Persona 3" is about gaining strength by facing one's own death. The Latin phrase "Memento Mori" is displayed during the opening sequence; it is then translated as "remember that you will die" (and a lot of people die in this game). Every time there is a fight in "Persona 3," the main characters raise a gun-like object (called an evoker) to their head and pull the trigger.

"Persona 4," on the other hand, is much more feel-good (and funny). In stark contrast to the "Persona 3" color pallet of dark blue and dark green (meant to symbolize rot and decay), "Persona 4" has vibrant pink and gold. Though it has several deaths, they are nothing close to what "Persona 3" does, neither in the number of deaths nor the importance of them. The theme of "Persona 4" is enjoying one's youth and finding inner strength by accepting oneself. Also, the evokers are replaced with tarot cards. In "Ultimax," these two games are fused together—this may not bother newcomers or "Persona 4" fans so much, but "Persona 3" fans will likely be disappointed.

Finally, the "Persona" series as a whole is heavily influenced by psychology (Jungian Psychology in particular). In core titles, the player will actually sit through lectures on the subject. The word 'persona' is Latin for mask, used by the famous psychologist Carl Jung to describe the different faces people wear at different times. Other concepts like chaos theory, projection, and the collective unconscious are explored in depth. However, the amount of psychology in "Ultimax" is negligible. I personally found this to make it feel less like a "Persona" game.

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“Persona 4 Arena Ultimax” Fights Off Competition

If you are a fan of arcade fighting games for their mechanics and design, then you don't even have to read any further—this game is perfect. If, on the other hand, you care more about its narrative, then there are several factors which may detract from your experience.

"Persona 4 Arena Ultimax" is an arcade-style fighting game, developed mainly by Arc System Works in the style of Atlus's hit series "Shin Megami Tensei: Persona." The game itself is considered to be a spinoff within "Persona" because while it is not a core title of the series (like "Persona 3" or "Persona 4"), its events are considered canon to the "Persona" series plotline.

As a disclaimer, I haven't played a lot of fighting games (three that I recall are "Smash Bros," "Dissidia Final Fantasy," and "Injustice: Gods Among Us"). However, with that said, the mechanics, look, and sound of "Ultimax" all appeared to be flawless, and they have been received as such by critics. The difficulty when playing against computer opponents can be easily adjusted (in the context of Story Mode, it can even be automated) so no one should be prevented from enjoying this story by a single tough opponent or difficulty grasping the controls.

However, while I thoroughly enjoyed the gameplay itself, depending on the mode that one plays there is either too much or too little. In Story Mode, expect at most two percent of your time to be devoted to gameplay (it is essentially a visual novel broken up by the occasional short lived brawl). In other modes, such as Arcade Mode, you will find a skeletal story. One of my personal favorites, GoldenArena Mode, removes story entirely, but adds in character progression (you level up, increasing stats and learning or finding abilities). There's definitely room for improvement, but it's refreshing to see that sort of mode in an arcade-style fighting game.

The music and cut scenes of "Ultimax" deserve special mention. Although the music probably isn't everyone's taste, it is the epitome of its genre (mostly j-pop and j-rock). The same can be said for the anime-style cut scenes. A good measure of whether you like this or not is if you watch and enjoy anime; if you do you probably will like "Ultimax." If you dislike anime and aren't an arcade style fighting game enthusiast, you'll probably want to steer clear of this game. My only criticism is that I personally feel that there should have been more cut scenes (it felt like, and I'm being generous, 15 minutes of them, counting all of the story episodes and the opening).

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Exploring “The Evil Within ”

theevilwithinThe video game community has been clamoring for a return to good old-fashioned survival horror, and they were promised just that when "Resident Evil" creator Shinji Mikami was announced as the game director for "The Evil Within," developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda Softworks. This highly anticipated title was promoted with phrases like "ammo scarcity" and "nightmare inducing," with the trailers showing the protagonist, Sebastian Castellanos, sneaking through dark, trap-laden corridors stalked by hulking monstrosities. Above all, the world was promised that this would not be a "Resident Evil" game.

However, Mikami seems to have spent a little too much time on that franchise, because "The Evil Within" is chock-full of the same old badness that "Resident Evil" fans are used to. In fact, if you played "Resident Evil 4," you came pretty close to playing this game. The player must dodge trip wires and bear traps while avoiding human beings that have been mutated by some powerful, previously untapped source that only the antagonist—in this case, a scientist named Ruvik—can control. Some similar enemies make a comeback too, including a giant chainsaw-wielding monster that decapitates Castellanos exactly like the Ganado did in "RE4."

Some of these moments are obvious nods to the aforementioned franchise. For instance, the first enemy you come across is hunkered down over a corpse, eating some random organs, and looks back at the player while lightning flashes. This little Easter Egg will be familiar to those who played the original "Resident Evil." It can be difficult to tell where homage ends and replication begins, but there are many similarities, only a few of which I'll go into.

Overall, this was a well-done game. The graphics are fairly nice, offering an impressive range of detailing, but this is limited to the characters. While the player can count the hairs of Castellanos's five o'clock shadow, flowers and shadows appear bulky, even pixilated, at times. The sound effects are more effective, offering an array of clangs, groans, and scuttles that left me swiveling the camera around, desperately trying to figure out if what I was hearing was a broken pipe or the hiss of something that might force me to empty my already low amount of ammo.

This can be a problem, because the camera hovers so close to the character that he takes up nearly half the screen, resulting in a lot of confusion, spinning, and sometimes, eye strain, motion sensitivity, and seizures.

The other interesting part was the difficulty. This game will kill you in dozens of ways, ranging from the mundane, such as a mutant stabbing you to death, to the occasionally hysterical, like if a bomb you're trying to disarm detonates and sends your arms to the other end of the level.

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“Gone Girl” Isn’t Going Anywhere

gone-girlIt is so typical to see Hollywood create movies where romances have happy endings, but what happens when a love story is nowhere near predictable? In the newest craze "Gone Girl," Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) shows audiences what the real meaning of "on the edge of your seat" feels like.

Before even entering the theatre, you think you know the story. Even with no knowledge of the book, you get a sense that this is just the usual husband kills wife plot—or at least that's what I thought.

The movie opens up with Nick going to a bar to meet his sister (Carrie Coon). Immediately, you think that he must have a drinking problem because the scene is set early in the morning. After getting a call at the bar from a neighbor about the cat being let out, Nick rushes home. While entering his kitchen, he notices that a table has been flipped upside down and smashed. He calls for his wife, but there is no answer.

The rest of the movie is twist after twist after twist, and there is no telling what will happen next (unless you read the book!). As the investigation progresses, "Gone Girl" gives a completely new meaning to the word 'gone.'

The way Nick tries to convince the crowd he had nothing to do with the disappearance of his wife is chilling. On one hand, you want to believe everything he is saying. But at the same time, all signs point to him. As Nick's character develops throughout the movie, you can tell that the harsh words of the media take a beating on him, as if he knows he did not kill his wife but the media's interrogation makes him question himself.

One of the biggest plot twists comes as soon as the audience thinks they have it all figured out. Without giving anything away, let's just say this movie does not feel as if it is two and a half hours long.

Even though Affleck, Pike, and Coon are the main focus in the mystery-thriller-love story that "Gone Girl" is, there are a few familiar faces you can expect to see on the screen. Neil Patrick Harris plays Desi Collings, a past love interest of Amy. This is unlike any other character Harris has played. He is creepy, overbearing, and controlling, which are opposites of his usually funny roles.

Audiences will also see Tyler Perry play Tanner Bolt, a lawyer who decides he wants to defend Nick in court. Known best for his series of "Tyler Perry's Madea" movies, it was refreshing to see Perry in something new. One other face audiences might recognize is Emily Ratajkowski, whose character Andie Hardy gets caught up in Nick and Amy's drama. Ratajkowski is a well-known model, and can be seen in the music video for the song "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke.

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Nintendo Releases Smashing New Game

super-smash-bros-3ds-release-dateOn Oct. 3, Nintendo released the fourth entry in its successful, "Super Smash Bros." series for Nintendo 3DS. For anyone unfamiliar with this name, "Smash" is a fighting game starring characters from Nintendo's iconic franchises duking it out in frantic four player action until only one is left standing. Players select one of these characters, and using a variety of attacks and special moves, attempt to rack up enough damage to send their opponents flying out of the ring. Characters in this version include famous Nintendo icons such as Mario and Link, non-Nintendo characters such as Mega Man, Pac-Man, and Sonic the Hedgehog and even lesser known Nintendo personas such as Mr. Game & Watch and the Duck Hunt Dog.

This new version offers several first time features aside from new characters. Smash Run allows players to run through environments, defeating enemies and collecting power-ups for their selected character while competing against three other opponents. After five minutes, all fighters are brought together for a final challenge ranging from a timed battle to see who gets the most KO's, to climbing a tower, to running a race, or anything in between.

Another new mode that takes advantage of the 3DS's Street Pass function is Street Smash. In this mode, players select a token based on a character they have unlocked and do battle with others in a borderless arena. Each token is moved around the field and rammed into other tokens, attempting to knock them out of the arena until only one remains. Winning grants coins and equipment that can be used in the third new game mode, character customization.

Character customization is by far the strongest addition to the series. By collecting equipment in Smash Run, Classic, or Trophy Rush, the player can apply them to any character and gain benefits to one of three stats, Attack, Defense, or Speed. Typically, equipping something to boost one stat gives a decrease in another stat in a rock-paper-scissors type of relationship. Attacking raising items reduce defense, defense increasing items reduce speed, and speed enhancing items reduce attack. One can even customize the special moves of each fighter based on different versions they've collected. Now anyone can take a fighter they like and truly make it their own.

You can even build your own fighter from the ground up in the form of a Mii Fighter. By using digital avatars saved on your 3DS system, you can create a fighter from three distinct archetypes (a hand-to-hand fighter, a swordfighter, or a gunner) and select special moves in the same way as you would a customized fighter. You can even select different outfits to customize your fighter's appearance and put yourself in the game, literally!

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“Once Upon a Time” is Frozen Over

640_OUAT_Season_4_FrozenThe small New England town of Storybrooke was 'frozen' over when Season 4 of ABC's hit series, "Once Upon A Time," premiered on Sunday, Sept. 28.

The show's storyline revolves around classic fairytale characters that lose their memories and are transported to our world after a curse created by the Evil Queen, Regina (Lana Parrilla). Even though the curse was broken at the end of Season 1, each episode is still packed with drama. Now that Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) has restored everyone's memories, we are torn between who is good, who is evil, whom we should root for, and whom we root against.

Characters like Snow White, Prince Charming, Rumpelstiltskin, Belle, Robin Hood, Captain Hook, and many more, are still peacefully living in the small town of Storybrooke — but those who watch the show know that trouble is about to start.

In the Season 3 finale, Emma and Hook returned home after being taken back in time to Storybook Land, the original residence of the fairytale characters. While there, Emma freed Maid Marian (Christie Laing), from the Evil Queen's fortress. Emma felt that if she left Maid Marian there to die, she would never be able to live with herself — but by doing so, she complicates the future timeline: Robin Hood (Sean Maguire) is shocked by the reemergence of his previously-deceased love interest. With Maid Marian's return, what will happen to viewers' new favorite couple, Robin Hood and Regina?

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The Pros and Cons of “Destiny”

Erde-Die-Stadt-und-der-ReisendeThere are few video games more popular than "Halo," and few game developers more well-established than Bungie. When Bungie sold "Halo" to create "Destiny," they promised gamers the stars, literally. Now, "Destiny" has been out for a month, and the question is: did Bungie deliver?

My answer is that it depends on what you want from "Destiny." If you loved everything about "Halo" and you're a fan of multiplayer first-person shooters (FPS), then "Destiny" may very well be game-of-the-year. However, if you're here for the story, or the supposedly MMO-inspired character progression, then there's a very good chance you'll be disappointed. For what it is (a multiplayer FPS with roleplaying elements) "Destiny" is outstanding; the problem is that Bungie presented it as more than that.

What "Destiny" does best, above all else, is the player-versus-player (PVP) combat (which should come as no surprise to fans of "Halo"). The controls are prefect and the selection of weapons and abilities allow for widely varied playing styles. Vehicles and turrets are well executed, and I've never played a game with a better sense of verticality. Jetpacks and other similar movement abilities allow for complex maneuvering during combat and some devastating kills. Using a jetpack to boost yourself for a melee kill is tons of fun. The ability to summon a vehicle into combat allows you to get to enemies more quickly, and offers more versatility in combat. My fondest memory of this system was using a motorcycle-like vehicle to get me to a turret. The turret had been picking off my team, so I dropped a grenade on its occupant.

My only criticism for multiplayer is that, like with the rest of "Destiny," loot drops are completely random. This means that someone who died ten times and got two kills could get a legendary drop, and the person who carried the team might get nothing. Sure everyone gets equal treatment, but what's the point of trying if you're barely rewarded for it?

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ABC’s “Selfie” Has Potential

 

selfieThe new ABC sitcom "Selfie," created by Emily Kapnek and starring Karen Gillan and John Cho, is interesting, to say the least. The show, based on the "My Fair Lady" take of George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion," follows Eliza Dooley (Gillan), a social media obsessed young woman who suffers from an embarrassing viral video that destroys her reputation among her so-called "friends," followers, and co-workers. Hoping to rebuild her image, she enlists the help of marketing expert and co-worker Henry Higgs (Cho), who will hopefully turn her into a respectable and self-aware member of society.

 

The beginning of the pilot episode does not cast the brightest light on "Selfie." The set up for the premise is done too quickly, and the introduction of lead character Eliza is particularly off-putting. While we are not supposed to really relate to Eliza at all, she is still too annoying and self-absorbed to like or develop interest in. Even the embarrassing situation that leads her to seek help from Henry does not really evoke any sympathy until later.

 

Taking on an interpretation of an already known work could also be its detriment. With a familiar premise, it is hard to really set the show apart in its pilot. I would not blame anyone who turned off "Selfie" after the first commercial. It does not start off very funny, the use of various social media lingo is cringe-worthy, and it takes a while to really get started.

 

As the pilot continues, though, the series does show some potential, as it gives us more information about our lead characters and plays with some clever comedy. Through voiceover, we learn more about Eliza, and her explanation of her desires, insecurities, and fears shows that she is not as vapid as she seems. Henry, who is first shown as intelligent yet holier-than-thou, is slowly revealed to have his own flaws.

 

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MTV Gets “AWKWARD.”

awkward2The "AWKWARD." fall season premiere aired on MTV this past Tuesday, Sept. 23. After last season's finale left a million questions, fans were anxiously waiting to see what Jenna (Ashley Rickards), Matty (Beau Mirchoff), and Eva (Elizabeth Whitson) were going to do next.

The episode starts off during finals week. The pressure of getting into college is affecting everyone, but the stresses of Jenna's past relationships are upsetting her even more. With Luke (Evan Williams) and Matty both on her mind, she decides to give her relationship with Luke one last shot and go visit him at college. When she gets there, he's with another girl, and later tells her that he does not want to be in a relationship.

Now with Luke out of the picture, all Jenna is thinking about is Matty, Eva and their baby. The premiere showed Jenna continuously harassing Matty about how to live his life, which gave clues that this season will focus on their relationship just like all the others. Jenna and Matty forever!

While I am one of the biggest supporters of the Jenna and Matty relationship, it seems like we've been through this a million times. She loves him, he loves her, he changes his mind, then loves her again. Why can't they just be together?

When Matty and Eva went to go pick out engagement rings, I was one of the many viewers who was cringing in their seats. Getting married just because she said a month ago she was pregnant? The best part of the whole episode came in this scene, when Matty finally called out Eva (or should we say Amber?) about lying. He gave her the proposition to either transfer out of the school, or he would ruin her reputation.

Later in the episode, things got awkward when perfect Christian girl Alyssa hooked up with her adopted brother, Tyler. This just seems wrong. She is hiding it from everyone, and she begins to create a distraction by saying she is back in love with Jake. Poor Jake; he has no clue that he is just a distraction, and he seems to genuinely like Alyssa again after having dated her back in Season One.

The end of the first episode gives viewers a little bit of hope when Matty shows up at Jenna's bedroom balcony to announce that he broke up with Eva. With Eva faking her pregnancy, it seemed like Matty had finally been coming to his senses that Jenna always knows best. Though this appealed to fans, it showed that last season's plot was just a big waste of a storyline.

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Fright Fest Brings Thrills & Chills To Six Flags

fright-festIt's that time of year again! The air is crisp, the leaves are changing colors, Pumpkin Spice coffee is back at Dunkin Donuts and everyone is breaking out the sweatshirts. This could only mean one thing: it's finally fall!

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the weather, the apple cider, and the hayrides, but most of all, I love going to Fright Fest at Six Flags in Jackson, NJ. Fright Fest is back for its 23rd year with its famous slogan, "Thrills by day, fright by night!"

Six Flags is currently decorated with spider webs, haystacks and pumpkins, and the famous fountain is now colored red. You are safe to walk throughout the park until 6 pm, which is when "awakening" occurs.

Before awakening, there are tons of activities to do that many people overlook (though they are mainly aimed for kids). There is the Six Flags Spooktacular Street Party, which features the Looney Tunes characters and some of your favorite Halloween music. There are also shows such as the Spooky Kooky Magic Show, Sea Lion Scary Tales, and You Otter Know. Kids can even go trick-or-treating on the Trick-Or-Treat Trail.

But once the clock hits 6 pm, over 2,000 zombies, ghosts and goblins come out to do what they do best: scare! These ghouls wonder around the park, sneaking up on guests, creepily following them and of course, making them scream. Ghouls are only allowed to stay in front of the park by the fountain, and clowns must stay at the entrance to the Boardwalk. These are known as scare zones – if you want to go to Fright Fest but don't want to be scared, just avoid them.

Not only are the zombies wondering the park, but they put on great shows and travel through the famous terror trails. Some crowd favorites are back this year, such as Voodoo Island, Total Darkness, The Manor, and Wasteland. Guests can pay an extra fee to walk through these frightening trails, but be warned, because you never know when something (or someone) will pop out and scare you!

New this year is the addition of Crop Circles. Crop Circles is a terrorizing trail with an alien scarecrow theme.

Nighttime shows will return this year as well. The most popular event, Dead Man's Party, is back and better than ever. With new hit songs, people will see the zombies dance like they've never danced before. Also returning are shows like Ghoulmaster's Ghosts, Circus of Thrills and The Awakening. The list of show times can be found on the park map.

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Dakaboom Comedy Duo Visits Monmouth

20140926_200756_LLSSilly antics and comedic original songs entertained a decent crowd on Friday, Sept. 26. As one of Monmouth University's SHADOW program events, many freshman students attended to acquire an "O" for this week. Consisting of Paul Peglar and Ben McLain, Dakaboom utilizes their voices, a synthesizer, and a keyboard to create intricate beatboxes or comical mashups of actual songs.

The show, sponsored by the Student Activities Board (SAB), was full of fantastic vocal work as well as hilarious skits and banter between the two comedians. Peglar and McLain's chemistry is an obvious reason for the show's great success. The two mentioned being roommates for about seven years while being best friends for much longer. Although they live in two very different cities and states, the duo is still able to write new material and perform together.

In addition to Peglar's beautiful vocal range, his talent stretches into piano playing. Peglar was the original piano player in the first season of the musical TV show "Glee." Once this was mentioned to the crowd, many "Glee" fanatics cheered and shouted, "I knew I recognized him from somewhere!" Several songs performed by the duo utilized Peglar's fantastic pianist capabilities, proving that his role in "Glee" was well-deserved.

McLain has made appearances on "General Hospital," but he mostly spends his time with his electronic band located in Los Angeles. McLain's acting ability was showcased during the performance throughout the skits onstage. The comedian's reactions and involvement with the crowd created a believable and enjoyable experience for all.

Darius Jenkins, a sophomore member of SAB, mentioned, "Dakaboom is one of the events we brought from NACA last year, so this is their first time here at Monmouth University." Dakaboom has offered their talent throughout many colleges around the nation, entertaining students when they need it the most.

The duo's introductory piece took jabs at the other's interesting characteristics while demonstrating their perfect chemistry in the most upbeat way. Peglar proved his astonishing falsetto vocals while covering the works of Jackson 5, a-ha, and several others. McLain impressed the crowd with his beatbox original while comically claiming, "I'm a bat!"

A following song included a silly collection of questions that the duo has received after shows in the past: "Who are your influences?" "Where do you normally work?" "Are you single?" All of which garnered humorous half-responses.

Another song boasted a hilarious chant about friendship and all the qualities that made them great friends, which effortlessly cued laughter from the audience. A perfect play on words made the next piece a crowd favorite. Peglar's solo performance twisted girls' names into seemingly romantic phrases. "You're the girl I'd like to pick: Rose!" Peglar's clever wordplay continued into another composition that he called "Cheesy Love Song." This song switched out certain words with similar sounding cheese names. Yet again, the crowd gave positive feedback of the adorable lyrics.

The duo engaged the crowd numerous times, asking for answers throughout skits, and even singling out a girl in the crowd by creating an uncomfortable yet hilarious song purely about her name.

With many more songs sprinkled between the aforementioned ones, Dakaboom ended their hour-long performance with "50 Theme Songs Under 5 Minutes." The original mashup consisted of exactly what the title stated: 50 popular theme songs to TV shows including "Saved By The Bell," "Smurfs," "The Flintstones," "Animaniacs," "Happy Days," "Friends," "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," and many, many more.

At the end of the performance, Dakaboom received overwhelming applause and feedback. Many students stayed after the show to mingle more with the duo, as well as ask any questions that Dakaboom themselves didn't answer. The duo was more than happy to communicate with the starry-eyed students.

Emerald Umstead, a freshman, commented, "It was definitely a cute performance and they were very fun to watch. I'm glad I came."

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“South Park” Makes Triumphant Return to Comedy Central

south-park"Boner balls," blabbered off Cartman as he welcomed viewers to the 18th season of "South Park."

Creators of "South Park" Trey Parker and Matt Stone didn't hesitate to jump (scratch that, dive) right into things. And boy was it beautifully and hilariously executed.

The season premiere, "Go Fund Yourself," opened with the boys scheming a way to get rich without really having to exert much energy, as usual. After some (absurd) deliberation, an Internet Kickstarter company was named the ideal mean of achieving this goal.

Stan, Kyle, Cartman, Kenny, and Butters assumed that all a company needs is a great name to emerge into a money-making machine.

Minutes after rattling off only the filthiest, raunchiest names for the Kickstarter company, Cartman finally had an epiphany – he decided to call their company the "Washington Redskins," since the whole "court thingy" just recently made the name available.

Capitalizing on the name "Washington Redskins," their company exploded into a giant success overnight. But not everybody was in favor of the new Kickstarter company, especially Dan Snyder, owner of the NFL Washington Redskins.

Snyder felt Cartman was mocking the "Washington Redskins," and was deeply offended – it was almost as if Cartman was poking fun at the team's heritage or something. I mean really, how dare he be so cruel and dehumanizing!

Cartman assured Snyder that the company name is only meant to show their deep appreciation of Snyder's "people." The satire is nothing less than greatness, with "South Park" executing this at its finest.

Besides, Cartman has an incredibly legitimate excuse to continue to keep the "Washington Redskins" name: "We can't change the name of the company, because it's like super-hard."

Kyle, being the most ethical and conscientious one of the group, decided to start his own company called "Furry Balls Plopped Menacingly on the Table, INC." It's a name that only "South Park" could devise because of its utter ridiculousness. Stan joined him in his endeavors, but then left after deciding he didn't like the name, insisting that the title was entirely too long.

Refusing to accept Cartman's reasoning for keeping the company name, Snyder visited Commissioner Goodell, who happened to be a robot. Unsatisfied and hungry for a solution, Snyder then turned to other NFL team owners for advice. His colleagues insisted Snyder force Cartman to change the Kickstarter company logo.

Cartman complied – but definitely not to Snyder's standards. The increasingly vulgar and overtly sexual logos were probably (no, definitely) the highlights of this episode. I'm sorry Redskins fans, but I couldn't help but chuckle each and every single time Cartman unveiled a new rendition to the company logo during one of his Ted Talks. Pure comedic gold, Parker and Stone. I applaud you both.

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“This Is Where I Leave You” Hits Theaters

fmp-this-is-where-i-leave-youWe all have that one memory of our family that just stands out among the rest. For the Altman's, it was the time their Dad died, and they were forced to sit Shiva, even though they aren't Jewish. "This is Where I Leave You" was overflowing with gifted performers, perfectly sculpted scenes, and beautifully written dialogue. Oh, and Tina Fey swears a lot!

"This is Where I Leave You" is the gathering of a family in support after their father's death. The film focuses on the four Altman children and their significant others coping with not only the loss of their father, but in some cases, the imploding of their love lives. One person is dealing with infertility issues, another is dealing with her ass of a husband, one is fighting off adulthood like it's a disease, and the other is having a baby with the woman he hates most. Are you sold yet?

Each performer could carry this film on his or her own — that's how impeccable they all are. They each crafted and perfected their roles so distinctly. Even the smaller roles gave phenomenal performances.

My personal favorite was "Parks and Recreation's" Ben Schwartz, who played Rabi Charles Grodner (better known as "Boner"). Adam Driver served as the film's resident Peter Pan, making inappropriate jokes, acting out, and toying with Tracy's (Connie Britton) emotions. This was one of the first serious roles comedy queen Tina Fey has taken on, and she shined as the cynical daughter, Wendy.

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‘River Read Reading Series’ Hosts Established Poets and Aspiring Writers

MemmerThe Manhattan Bagel in Red Bank, NJ, served as the host of this month's River Read Reading Series, coordinated by Linda Jade and Gregg Brown, on Saturday, Sept. 20. This community-focused event brings celebrated poets into a close setting with a few dozen eager listeners, letting them autograph their works for paying fans, and ends with an open mic for aspiring writers to share their own work.

Dr. Michael Waters, Professor of English, was in attendance, as was former University professor Lauren Schmidt, among a few University students. This installment featured Philip Memmer and Gerry LaFemina.

Memmer is the author of four books of poems, including "The Storehouses of the Snow: Psalms, Parables and Dreams" (2012) and "Lucifer: A Hagiography" (2008). His poems have appeared in journals such as "Poetry," "Poetry Northwest," and "Poetry London." He lives in upstate NY, where he directs the YMCA's Downtown Writers Center, and also serves as Associate Editor for Tiger Bark Press.

LaFemina is the award-winning author of 11 books of poetry and prose poetry, as well as a collection of short stories and a novel. His latest collection of poems, "Little Heretic," came out earlier this year, and recent poems have appeared in such magazines as the American Poetry Review and The Sun. He serves as Executive Director of Poets at Work, and directs the Center for Creative Writing at Frostburg State University, where he is an Associate Professor of English.

The event opened with Jade taking the microphone, briefly welcoming the audience and thanking its members for their attendance on "this fluky summer day." She then introduced Memmer, who spoke first, by noting that his poem "Psalm" was "so simply profound that it reminded me of the 'Cosmos' series. I had chills going down my spine."

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“The Mindy Project” Returns to FOX

the-mindy-project-20333-1366x768September 15 came around, and that meant that it was finally time to see America's favorite doctors back on TV. These are the doctors of "The Mindy Project," who seem to barely speak about medical needs at all, but more about what happens when their strangely entangled lives get even more complicated.

This episode starts off just the way it should, with Mindy (played by the show's writer, Mindy Kaling) and Danny Castellano (played by Chris Messina), finally being a couple. Anyone who watched more than one episode of the previous seasons knows that the show was always leading up to Danny and Mindy getting together.

One would not expect Mindy, the loud, pop-culture obsessed, slightly independent woman, and Danny, who is usually an angry divorcee, to have the chemistry they do — but the writers and actors have done a good job at finding things for the two to bond upon. Mindy and Danny should in no way get along (as shown in the first two seasons), but are now in a committed relationship.

This episode had Mindy and Danny's first fight as an official couple, and in proper "Mindy Project" fashion, it was an unusual disagreement. It began with Mindy finding a thong in one of Danny's drawers, believing it was for another woman. Later in the episode, Mindy and viewers discover that Danny had previously become a stripper to pay for med school.

While I am a fan of "The Mindy Project," this plot just reminds me of a Season 1 storyline from "Grey's Anatomy," in which Izzy (Katherine Heigl) becomes a lingerie model to pay her way through med school.

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U2 Releases New Album

Whether You Want It Or Not

 

U2main_1146547aWhen students checked Twitter a few days ago, most thought the tweets regarding the Irish band U2's new album, "Songs of Innocence," were a joke. How could every single iPhone have inexplicably downloaded the same CD? Through the mysterious qualities of the iCloud, this bizarre situation really happened — and not everyone is happy with Apple's gift.

On Sept. 9, Apple used the power of the iCloud to download the album to every device. Bono, lead singer of the band, admitted that he and the band are "on the verge of irrelevance." While he probably assumed this free release would lead to a positive response, what occurred was a tremendous amount of negative backlash.

The fact that Apple holds the power to download anything it wants to its users' computers, phones, and tablets is a big concern. Apple's website proudly stated: "Apple and U2 are giving the new album 'Songs of Innocence' to over 500 million iTunes customers worldwide. Never before have so many people owned one album, let alone on the day of its release." Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, boasted that this move was "music history," and "the biggest release of all time."

This free download was in the wake of the recent celebrity nude photo scandal, where a hacker stole over a hundred private photos — apparently using the iCloud. After receiving such negative attention, it is strange that they are once again forcing their power on the people. While Apple provided a tool for users to remove the album, there is no telling what Apple will do next with its new power over technology. Samantha Marella, a sophomore business marketing major, contended, "The iCloud is just a part of modern technology. People ned to be more careful and roll with it — or get a flip phone."

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"Teen Wolf" Finale is All Bark, No Bite

teen-wolf-season-4When MTV's Teen Wolf first premiered in June of 2011, its first season was surprisingly successful, despite low expectations based on the mere fact that it was a show called "Teen Wolf" on a network that does not exactly carry the best reputation when it comes to producing high-quality television.

If one were to survey fans of the show (which includes myself), they would most likely say that the success of the first season was mainly due to the fact that it focused heavily on its charming characters, such as the incredibly selfless Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) and his rather sarcastic best friend, Stiles Stilinski (Dylan O'Brien), and the relationships that they held. Although the first season had its share of intriguing plotlines and conflicts, the show never seemed to stray from what was making it a hit—the teens themselves.

Now, three years later (as I sit here and contemplate just how long I have dedicated my time to this show), Teen Wolf finishes up its fourth season. Unfortunately, this particular finale was just another underwhelming addition to an overall disappointing season.

This season, fans followed their protagonist Scott as he came to terms with the fact that he is now the Alpha (or "leader") of his own wolf pack, which now includes a very young (and very moody) freshman boy named Liam that Scott bit himself.

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Blue Hawk Records to Hold Open Auditions

Will Be Held at Woods Theater on Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 7:30 p.m.

bhrStudent-run record label, Blue Hawk Records, is holding its first open auditions for all Monmouth students; students can audition for its newest compilation record in Woods Theater on Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 7:30 p.m.

Organized by Professor Joe Rapolla and Monmouth's Music Industry students in 2013, Blue Hawk Records was designed to give participants a first-hand look at what it takes to write, produce, and distribute original music. This unique experience allows education to transcend the classroom, and provides students with the opportunity to better understand the industry they hope to be a part of in the future.

Blue Hawk Records acknowledges the various career paths that can stem from a love of music, and thus encourages students to pursue the area that interests them most; these areas include talent scouting, artist promotion and development, live music and record release, as well as artwork, packaging, sales, and marketing material.

In putting together three previous diverse compilations from scratch, Music Industry students have gained invaluable insight and expertise useful for a future profession. This semester, Blue Hawk Records will extend this experience to any Monmouth student willing to audition for the label's fourth EP next week in Woods Theater. Acts will be judged by a panel of senior student record executives and Professor Rapolla. Chosen artists will be offered a spot on the compilation album, and any students not selected will be offered other ways to become involved with the campus music scene, like playing shows through Blue Hawk Records' sister organization, the Music Alliance.

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Contact Information

CAMPUS LOCATION
The Outlook
Jules L. Plangere Jr. Center for Communication 
and Instructional Technology (CCIT) Room 260, 2nd floor

MAILING ADDRESS
The Outlook
Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey 07764

Phone:(732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151
Email: outlook@monmouth.edu