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Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)

“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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