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Entertainment

Volume 86 (Fall 2014 - Spring 2015)

Pollak Has A 'Girls Night'

GN Production Photo HR Banquette“Ladies, get ready to shake it!” This is exactly what went down in the audience on Saturday, March 7, in Pollak Theatre; the mostly-female audience clapped and sang along to popular 70s and 80s hits with the cast of “Girls Night: The Musical.” The play was fun, energetic and interacted with the audience like no other show. The crowd roared with laughter as the five leading ladies took the spotlight in this hilarious comedy that hooked viewers right from the opening act. 

“Girls Night” opens up with a young lady (Jillian Soares) dressed in white bedazzled pants and a jean jacket and has a pair of angel’s wings. We find out that she is an angel named Sharon who directly speaks to the audience as a narrator for the musical. Sharon died from a moped accident when she was a young adult; at 16, she had a baby named Candy Rose whom she never met. Now, Candy Rose is getting married and Sharon’s four friends are holding a bachelorette party for her. 

Each of Sharon’s friends has a different personality that unravels throughout the play with flashbacks of the past and conversations throughout the night. Anita (Kelly Higgins) is on constant medication for her anxiety and has weird ramblings that sometimes distance her from her friends. Kate (Alex Tripp) is the conservative one, and a very appropriate woman that turns into the life of the party after a few cocktails. Tripp succeeded in making Kate the comic relief of the play. Carol (Sarah McShane) is Sharon’s best friend and a woman who continually wants to let go of her youth, but her regretful past seems to haunt her. Liza (Erin Baltsar) is the preppy blonde with a high-pitched laugh that giggles at her own sexual innuendos.

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Wind Sails Shines With "Morning Light"

Wind In Sails Morning LightSongwriter Evan Pharmakis released his debut solo album, Morning Light, under the moniker Wind in Sails on Feb. 24 via Equal Vision Records.

Many people familiar with the post-hardcore scene may best remember Pharmakis as the former guitarist and founding member of the band Vanna. Following his exit from the band, he shifted gears and began writing and performing primarily acoustic music under the Wind in Sails name. After releasing a few EP’s, Pharmakis gained exposure in the scene once again, and proved to listeners he is a masterful songwriter capable of creating instant classics that extend far beyond his post-hardcore roots. Rather than sounding like he is cashing in on his previous reputation as an ex-Vanna member, Pharmakis instead reintroduces himself to a new audience with a captivating, eclectic mix of tracks that depart completely from his former band’s sound. 

Morning Light presents audiences with a stripped-down yet driving listening experience that includes elements of alternative rock, indie, and acoustic music. The songs frequently shift dynamic between solo acoustic and full-band in a matter of seconds and always keep listeners guessing what will hit their ears next. 

Pharmakis starts the album with the track “Push and Shove.” The song begins with a familiar, strict guitar-and-vocals dynamic before an upbeat drum track enters the mix halfway through. Here, Pharmakis slowly introduces the album’s greater full-band presence that only appeared sparsely in previous Wind in Sails releases.  

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Contestants On "The Voice" Aren't Always Undiscovered

the voiceAs NBC’s answer to the successful  American Idol, The Voice is promoted as “the Emmy Award-winning, number one series on NBC, featuring the country’s best unknown artists,” according to nbcthevoice.com.  But are the artists that audition for The Voice really “unknown”?

On Feb. 23, 2015, Meghan Linsey auditioned in the Season 8 opener and caught the attention of three out of the four judges who turned their chairs and offered Linsey a spot on their respective teams. Linsey, however, is far from an “unknown” talent, especially in the world of country music. 

Linsey was a part of the duo Steel Magnolia, who, in 2010, 2011, and 2012, was nominated for various Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association Awards including “Vocal Duo of the Year.” The duo toured with Reba McEntire, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton (who was, ironically, the only judge who did not turn his chair), and Bob Seger. Steel Magnolia topped at #4 with their hit “Keep on Loving You.” The duo officially broke up in 2013, and both Linsey and her former partner Joshua Scott Jones have since gone solo. Linsey released an album as recently as 2014 featuring a cover of OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars” and her own “Try Harder Than That,” which have both had airplay on CMT and country radio. 

Linsey is not the only one who has already had opportunities in the music business before auditioning for The Voice.  Season 4 contestant Luke Edgemon was a member of the cast of Glee as a Dalton Academy Warbler and has been listed as a vocal contributor on two of Glee’s Christmas albums, as well as the Music Celebrating 100 Episodes album. He was also credited as a back-up singer on Idina Menzel’s recent Holiday Wishes album. Although Edgemon’s success is limited to back-up vocals, he was also a contestant on American Idol and made it to the Hollywood rounds. Arguably, then, Edgemon has had significant opportunities before The Voice and is not really an “unknown.”

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Will Smith Struggles to 'Focus'

Focus 2015 MovieI walked out of the theater wanting my money back because I was not at all satisfied. What I saw on the screen was a confusing mess; with horrible character development and a terrible plot, it was unbearable to watch without wanting to throw my popcorn at the screen and wonder who produced this movie. 

Focus is mainly based around a con-artist named Nicky (Will Smith), who is tasked with recruiting con-artists like himself. They do things that are distasteful; they steal innocent people’s wallets from the back of their pants, they “accidently” knock women over to snatch their purses, steal money off of ATM cards and jewelry off of people. Nicky likes to describe it as “a game of focus.” The movie also includes a romantic love story between Nicky and Jess (Margot Robbie), who is a budding femme fatale. Jess meets Nicky when she tries to seduce him, but he is too smart to know what she is planning to do next: steal his wallet.  

Jess is now interested in Nicky and wants to learn from him, while he explores whether or not she is worthy of becoming part of their group. As she steals wallets, jewelry, purses and other expensive items off of drunken people, she proves to them that she is a good intern and is asked to be a part of their illegal schemes. 

During the Super Bowl, we find out that Nicky seems to have a betting problem; he starts to make little bets with Jess under the pretense of acting like a cute couple. A billionaire overhears and wants to make bets with big money. Nicky is losing until he tells Jess to pick a number of a football player’s jersey and she wins Nicky’s money back. Later on, Jess is surprised to find that the whole betting game was just part of one of Nicky’s dirty schemes. Deeming her unfit for this business, Nicky abandons Jess and leaves her there crying. 

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Wilson Hall Hosts "The Punk Singer"

IMG 2241An eager audience gathered in the Wilson Auditorium on Feb. 27 to view a screening of The Punk Singer, a documentary about Bikini Kill frontrunner and third-wave feminist icon Kathleen Hanna. Sini Anderson, the film’s director, was there to answer questions about the film after. Anderson is herself a feminist and queer art activist as well as a producer and performance artist.

Anderson was the Chief Curator and the Co-Artistic Director for The National Queer Arts Festival and has served as the president of the board of directors for The Harvey Milk Institute, and the co-chair of the board of directors for The Queer Cultural Center. In 1994, she and Michelle Tea founded Sister Spit and Sister Spit’s Ramblin Road Show, touring the US with over 40 queer and feminist writers, performance artists and musicians. Anderson’s work can also be found in The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry (Thundermouth Press) and Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution (Seal Press).

The Punk Singer opened at SXSW in 2013, and was released theatrically in 2013/2014. Anderson has won awards for the film, including the Seattle International Film Festival’s Lena Sharpe Award For Persistence Of Vision, Women in Cinema and ARCA Best Director Award, First Feature. In 2014, Anderson was awarded POV’s Humanitarian Award in Media at their 40th annual awards ceremony in Los Angeles, CA. The film features clips of Hanna from recent years looking back on her experiences, interspersed with other testimonials and recordings from the mid-nineties into mid-2000s.

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'Far Cry 4' is a Delightfully Wild Ride

far cry elephant“Like Skyrim with guns” is how Adam Kovac, host of the popular Machinima YouTube channel, referred to Far Cry 3. Ubisoft, the game’s developer and publisher, apparently liked the quote enough to put it on the box’s cover. I myself thoroughly enjoyed Skyrim, and also have a certain fondness for games with guns, so I purchased Far Cry 3. Far Cry 3 was not “like Skyrim with guns,” and neither is Far Cry 4—and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  

Skyrim is a massive open-world game, as is Far Cry 4. However, to complete all the content within Skyrim (which is impossible in a single play-through), you will literally need to set aside a couple hundred hours. Far Cry 4 is closer to 25 (which, during the semester, is a relief for me personally). Far Cry 4 is a modern first-person shooter, and like Skyrim, it takes place in a sandbox-style open-world (this means that you exert a good deal of influence over said world, and are free to roam it). However, whereas almost everything you do in Skyrim is narrative driven, more often than not you will be making your own fun in Far Cry games.

Whereas Far Cry 3 was set on the tropical rock islands, Far Cry 4 is set in Kyrat, a fictional country in the Himalayas. The plot follows Ajay Ghale, who was born in Kyrat, but grew up in the US. He has no memory of Kyrat (he was too young) but returns there at the age of 26 to deliver his mother’s ashes to a certain shrine. Ajay quickly finds himself getting caught up in a civil war, fighting against a sadistic dictator, Pagan Min. 

The gameplay, audio, and visuals of Far Cry 4 are some of the highest quality I have ever seen. The controls feel precise and the AI is intelligent (typically). The sounds/music are well designed, and Kyrat looks stunning. You will have the opportunity to use a wide array of weapons, and I was more than satisfied by the ones provided to me (a flamethrower, crossbow, grenade launchers, bows, landmines, throwing knives, and many varieties of guns). The bow was particularly fun and varied in its potential uses. One can use it close range or long range for silent takedowns to avoid alerting guards. It also allows one to get clean kills when hunting, providing extra loot. Special arrows can be used with the bow, grenade and Molotov, allowing it to take down difficult targets (such as a helicopter, or a body-armor wearing person). 

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The Villains Take Over 'Once Upon A Time'

once upon a timeThe small New England town of Storybrooke may be in trouble in the mid-season premiere of ABC’s hit series, Once Upon A Time. The show, which revolves around fairytale characters that come to our world because of a curse, left us on the edge of our seats before going on hiatus in December. 

In the finale, Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) disappointed his true love, Belle (Emilie de Ravin), when she held the dagger that controlled Rumpel and she commanded him to step over the town line. Rumpel had no choice and did as he was told, but once he stepped foot over that line, he would never be able to enter Storybrooke again. We were left hanging when we saw Rumpel reunite with an old, evil friend, Ursula, the sea witch (Merrin Dungey). 

In Once Upon A Time’s mid-season premiere, which aired on March 1, fans’ questions were finally answered. The episode began with a flashback in Storybook Land. We see how Ursula, Cruella DeVille (Victoria Smurfit), and Maleficent (Kristin Bauer van Straten) all meet one another through Rumpelstiltskin and his mischievous plans. We learn that the three villains were invited into the mansion by Rumpel so that they could all work together to find the dark curse.

The show then flashes to current time in our world, where we learn that Rumpel is now living with Ursula in New York City. It is not long before Rumpel reunites with Cruella and convinces her to take him and Ursula to the small town of Storybrooke. 

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The 87th Annual Academy Awards

oscarredoOn Sunday, Feb. 22, the 87th annual Oscars wrapped up award season live on ABC at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. With Neil Patrick Harris hosting, it was hard to predict just what was going to happen.

The red carpet was filled with actors and actresses from movies, documentaries, and short films. The always-flawless Meryl Streep was seen in a sharp blazer paired with a blouse and a high-waisted skirt. This year was Streep’s 19th Oscar nomination. She holds the title for most Academy Award nominations any actor or actress has ever received in history. 

Another best dressed was Jennifer Hudson. Wearing yellow to any event is a gamble, but she paired a long, tight yellow gown with emerald earrings, which made her shine unlike many others who walked the carpet. Other actresses that stole the spotlight for their dresses were the fabulous Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, and Anna Kendrick. 

There always has to be contenders for the worst dressed on the red carpet. This year Solange Knowles, Lady Gaga, Diane Warren and Nicole Kidman all fell short on style. Newly-engaged Lady Gaga showed up with red gloves on, which looked more like oven mitts. They did not go with her dress whatsoever, and actually ruined her whole outfit. Hopefully she has better luck with love than her style choices. 

The show opened with Harris telling a few jokes, and, to no  one’s surprise, an extravagant musical number. The special effects are what made the song; on the screen behind Harris were little bits of movies and pictures of actors and actresses over the years. Half way through the dance number, Harris actually put himself into the scenes, which was the best part of the whole thing. Kendrick and Jack Black both made special appearances in the opening monologue. 

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Fall In Love With “The Last Five Years”

The Last 5 Years MovieA movie adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s award-winning musical, The Last Five Years, was released in limited theaters on Feb. 13, just in time for Valentine’s Day. 

The movie is a love story, though it is by no means a standard, happy tale—instead, it is about a couple falling apart. The story is told through both sides of the relationship of protagonists Cathy (Anna Kendrick) and Jamie (Jeremy Jordan). These two are the only principal cast members in the entire film. They are also the only ones who sing; many of the songs are solos with the occasional duet. 

The two characters are also travelling along separate timelines—the movie opens with Cathy in a New York apartment, alone, after having been just left by Jamie, beginning her timeline with the end of their relationship. The next scene shows Jamie’s timeline, where he is just beginning to fall in love with Cathy; his story moves from beginning to end, while hers goes from end to beginning. The two timelines only overlap for one brief moment, when the couple marries. 

The movie is told almost entirely in songs—only a few lines are spoken and there is continuous music playing in the background. Much of the singing was performed live, with only three songs recorded. The singing is certainly one of the strong points of the movie—both actors have performed in Broadway shows, and Kendrick starred in another musical adaptation, Into the Woods, earlier this year. Much of the directing choices are simple, giving the actors room to exercise their voices and really shine. 

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“Selma” Marches Into Greatness

selma redoSelma was one of the best civil rights movies I’ve seen in a long time. It allowed the audience to get a closer look at Dr. Martin Luther King as he gathers a rally of people of all races to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama for the right to vote for African Americans in 1965. The film shows not only the struggles that Dr. King had as a civil rights protester and preacher, but also the dysfunctions that it brought upon his family.

The film opens with Dr. King (David Oyelowo) tying his tie in a mirror and practicing for his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize Speech. He starts to get frustrated not being able to make a perfect knot, and calls on his wife, Coretta (Carmen Ejogo), to help him. The scene changes to Dr. King being honored and awarded with the Noble Peace Prize. “I accept this honor for our lost ones whose death paves a path,” he says as the camera cuts to four little African American girls innocently chatting while walking down a long spiral staircase in a church. 

Suddenly debris is flying around with chunks of wood, dust and fiery red everywhere. The camera pans out and on the floor we see the four girls’ lifeless bodies with debris on top of them from an explosion. This particular scene made me jump from my seat, giving me goose bumps to think that this is where the movie begins. 

Where Selma picks up, segregation has just ended and African Americans want the right to vote, especially in the South where life is especially challenging. We watch Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah) try to apply to vote, only to be disrespected and denied. Momentum for the movement picks up as we see Dr. King asking President Lyndon B. Johnson to pass a bill granting all African Americans the right to vote, but Johnson is too afraid that it might start an uproar in the south. This gives King no choice but to take matters into his own hands, and he goes to Selma to start his protest. 

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“Fifty Shades” of W.T.F.

50 shadesWhen I showed up with my overpriced box of popcorn and large beverage to see Fifty Shades of Grey, I simply did not prepare myself enough for what I was getting into.

Fifty Shades of Grey, in so many words, is well-shot, expensive pornography.

You cannot make a movie about BDSM (Bondage and Discipline and Sadism and Masochism) and not expect it to be graphic. I can only assume most people knew this going in, but there was a little voice in the back of my mind saying, “They can’t really put that in theaters, can they?”

Well, they did.

The sex scenes were very graphic, and if you are not a fan of looking at other people’s body parts, I would not recommend seeing this film. I do, however, understand why it had to be done. 

If you were curious as to what the female body looks like, Fifty Shades of Grey will definitely give you an anatomy lesson. I saw more of Dakota Johnson, the actress who plays female lead Anastasia Steele, than I would ever have liked to, but that was not the most disturbing part for cringing movie-goers such as myself.

During the very graphic sex scenes, her reactions to the pain being inflicted on her seemed very natural, but also something I would have liked to see. Honestly though, I expected nothing less from a high-budget pornography film.

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Monmouth University
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