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Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)

“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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Contact Information

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

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

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151