Last updateMon, 29 Apr 2019 1pm


LBJ: Doesn't Go All the Way

LBJ 1It’s Nov. 22, 1963 and President John F. Kennedy has arrived in town. There’s an exciting buzz around Dallas, Texas for the President’s arrival because he embodies everything about America: hope, energy, excitement, and strength.

For the President’s arrival, a grand parade is scheduled where Texans will have the once in a lifetime opportunity to greet Kennedy as he rides along the streets of Dallas. The weather is perfect too.

There’s not a single cloud in the sky, great for letting the hood down and taking in that Texas sun. At around 12:30 PM, you are one of the many visitors waiting for a glimpse of the President as he breezes by Dealey Plaza.

Once the President finally reaches the Plaza, you see him in all his glory, waving to raucous crowd. Then suddenly, shots are fired and the President has fallen over in the backseat of the vehicle.

The First Lady is hysterical as blood covers her hands. The motorcade speeds out of sight and there is confusion in the crowd. Later that day, President Kennedy is announced dead and there is a new man in charge: Lyndon Johnson.

Despite the pressure of filling in Kennedy’s shoes, President Johnson passed important pieces of legislation, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Wilderness Protection Act.

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Wonderstruck: A Wonderful Silent Film

Eighty-two years ago, silence was golden for the film industry. Actors like Charlie Chaplin could make audiences laugh until they cried, while actresses like Mary Pickford stole the hearts of America. Silent films could move an audience without uttering a word because a great deal of effort went into storytelling and performances.

Decades later, we are so spoiled by the magic of sound that we take for granted how far film has come. However, with movies like Wonderstruck, we can appreciate film’s roots.

Since the death of his mother, Ben, played by Oaks Fegley, longs to find his missing father now more than ever. Ben goes through his mother’s old room to find traces of his father, where he comes across a book mark stashed in a museum exhibit book.

The book reads an address located in New York City. After coming across the bookmark, Ben is suddenly struck by lightning and becomes deaf.

Despite his hearing impairment, Ben sneaks away on a bus heading to New York City to find his father. Meanwhile, there’s another story parallel to Ben’s, which features Rose, played by Millicent Simmonds, who is also a deaf child in search for someone.

While it may sound far-fetched, the story is told beautifully by giving the audience a perspective on hearing impairment, while nailing the time periods of Ben and Rose’s narratives.

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Ghost Quartet: A Spooky Delight

Ghost QuartetGhost Quartet is a delightfully bizarre gem of a show, small and intimate, performed by just four cast members in a black-box theatre seating just 63 audience members.

Currently in the midst of a five-week off-Broadway run at the New York Theatre Workshop’s NYTW Next Door location, the run sold out in 29 minutes flat - and I was lucky enough to be able to see it twice.

Written and composed by The Great Comet’s Dave Malloy, the show is dense and lyric-heavy, inspired by dozens of stories that came before it - including an Edgar Allan Poe tale, the Arabian Nights stories, a variety of religious theories, and an urban legend about a woman who grinned up at an unluckily-timed photographer seconds before she was hit by a subway train.

The plot itself spans seven hundred years and several generations, but also takes place directly in the moment.

Basically, very little makes sense, time does not exist within the boundaries of the production, and every actor is playing half a dozen characters, while also playing themselves.

Having seen the live show twice now, I memorized the cast album. And still, only about 80 percent of it makes sense to me.

However, for those willing to pay attention to every word, something resembling a coherent plot emerges.

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Jigsaw Isn't a Puzzle Worth Solving

Two months prior to the release of Jigsaw, I set an impossible goal to watch all seven installments of the Saw franchise series. I went out and bought used copies of each film for $1 a piece.

The first Saw was surprisingly an entertaining horror feature with a decent story, considering the low $1 million budget.

 Next, Saw II was a misstep for the franchise because of its plot-holes, nauseating editing choices, excruciating moments of torture, poor character choices, terrible acting, and a head scratching ending.

Then, while suffering through Saw III, something miraculous happened.

About half way through the unbearable experience, the DVD broke. For fifteen-minutes I tried to get it to work again, but I accepted this as a sign.

Instead of watching the next four installments, I would watch Jigsaw only with two and a half Saw films under my belt. It turns out I did not miss much.

Although Jigsaw, played by Tobin Bell, has been dead for ten years, there are a string of murders that point towards the killer’s gruesome games. As usual, a couple of cops try to track down who is killing these people.

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Sweeney Todd Serves Satisfaction

Sweeney Todd Serves SatisfactionBarrow Street Theater’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has been running in downtown Manhattan since February 2017, selling out at almost every performance. Before that, it enjoyed a similarly stellar run in London.

Both times, the show has been a wildly immersive production - the theatre has been turned into a functioning pie shop (essential to the themes of the show), and the cast paces every inch of the theater, surrounding the audience, performing on tables, and even using audience members as props.

Taking place in 19th century London, Sweeney Todd tells the story of Benjamin Barker (played here by a wonderfully dark Hugh Panaro), a wrongfully convicted barber who was sent to Australia on trumped-up criminal charges. The judge who sent him away, Judge Turpin (played by Michael James Leslie), had him convicted because he was in love with Barker’s wife.

Barker returns to London on the ship of sailor Antony (played by Jake Boyd), now calling himself Sweeney Todd and driven nearly mad with revenge after he finds out that Turpin destroyed his family, leading to the death of Todd’s wife, Lucy, and leaving Turpin the guardian of Todd’s daughter, Johanna (played by Eryn Lecroy).

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There's a Lot to Love in Loving Vincent

Loving Vincent is an Oscar-winning film that is produced by two studies:
“Breakthrough Films” and “Trademark films.”

The movie, which pays tribute to the legendary artist, Vincent Van Gogh and features an applaud worthy cast of Douglas Booth, Saoirse Ronan, and Chris O’Dowd

Before I critique, I challenge you to think for a moment:

What comes to mind when one thinks of Vincent Van Gogh?

Maybe it is the iconic “Starry Night,” painting, with its strokes representing his struggles and thoughts on the next life through obscure expressionism with short gestured lines.

Or, it could also be the Bedroom in Arles, which focused on a solid color for each object and later depicted by texture.

Digging deeper, there is then  the famous Van Gogh “Self Portrait,” in which is resembles similar gestures and artistry from the renowned “Starry Night” background, by means of focusing on the dramatic color scheme, which is usually shown throughout his works.

From the swirly lines to the short strokes, we enter the life of a man who struggled to find his place in the world.

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Netflix's Big Mouth Has Room for the Crude and the Heart-Felt

Netflix’s new animated adult comedy from comedian Nick Kroll is not for the faint of heart. 

With a tagline like “coming of age all over the place,” did you have any doubt?

Despite the show’s constant crude humor, Big Mouth is still wildly entertaining, original, and even heartfelt. 

The series follows a group of friends attempting to survive the minefield that is middle school: first relationships, bullying, and, of course, puberty.

And not to give anyone the wrong idea, the honest summary of this program is that it is about a bunch of young kids going through puberty and discovering their bodies in the most uncomfortable and awkwardly relatable ways. 

Nick Kroll, known for his roles on The League and in his own Comedy Central sketch show The Kroll Show, voices the prepubescent Nick, who just wants to hang out with his friends and finally hit puberty.

The audience follows Nick and his much more interesting friends and family. Nick’s entourage including his nerdy, terrified, and puberty-stricken best friend Andrew (John Mulaney), the headstrong, mature Jessi (Jessi Glaser), magician and certified creep Jay (Jason Mantzoukas), and the awkward, walking encyclopedia Missy (Jenny Slate).

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American Vandal Is Totally Binge-Worthy

American Vandal Binge WorthyEvery month Netflix releases so many Original Series that it’s hard to keep track. Some of them, including House of Cards, Stranger Things, and Making a Murder, gained traction and are now fan favorites and Emmy nominated television shows.       

However, some fly under the radar and are overshadowed by the more popular titles.

In a binge watching society, this one show in particular proves that its crazy subject matter and controversial commentary on the justice systems within public schools possesses  the ability to pull viewers in .

After roped into the series, it will have the audience members asking questions for hours after the show has finished.

That show is American Vandal.

The show centers on an investigation by two sophomore students into a car vandalism case.

Sure, on the surface it seems like a typical crime show, until viewers learn that the details of the vandalism focuses on the drawing of twenty seven phallic symbols on twenty seven teacher’s cars.

Viewers may be thinking that this must be a raunchy, juvenile documentary on shows such as Making a Murder.

What the show begins to appear as at first takes a jolted turn into one of the most thought provoking television shows Netflix has ever released.


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There’s Magic In The Florida Project

Starring Willem Dafoe, Bria Vinaite, and Brooklynn Prince

My friend Andrew transferred from Monmouth to Miami University because he wanted a change of scene, and he got it. Any time I receive photos from Andrew, I expect to see golden beaches, crystal clear waters, enormous palm trees, or a blazing sunset. When someone mentions Florida, these images come to mind.

On the other hand, when one mentions Florida to Director Sean Baker, he thinks of the busy roads packed with shopping malls, the abandoned waterfront properties, backcountry filled with cows, and of course, the purple Magic Castle Motel.

The Magic Castle Motel is located right down the street from Walt Disney World, the place where dreams come true. It is home to a rebellious young adult mother Halley, played by Bria Vinaite, who struggles to make each week’s “rent.”

Her around 5 year old daughter, Moonee, played by Brooklynn Price, is basking in the glory of summer, going off on daily excursions with her playmates.

As the ringleader of her small group of friends, she drives them to spit on people’s windshields, ask customers for money to buy ice cream, and shut down the motel’s power.

Ya know, kid stuff.

While Moonee is out playing with her friends, Bobby the motel manager, played by Willem Dafoe, has a residency to run.

With the ice and laundry machines on their last legs, Gloria tanning shirtless by the pool, and fights breaking out in the parking lot, Bobby has his work cut out for him.

What elevates the authenticity to their lives are the excellent performances, well written script by Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch, and gorgeous cinematography by Alexis Zabe.

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Greetings from Beautiful Columbus

The first time I came to Monmouth University, I was in awe of Wilson Hall. Its marble floors, stained glass ceiling, and grand staircase were striking. The enchantment of this building continued into my freshman year, when I had a political science class on the third floor. The gorgeous painted walls and picturesque views outside the window were breathtaking (and no, not from climbing up those stairs).  Now as the years go on, I and many other students overlook the beauty of Wilson Hall. However, a film like Columbus brings architecture to the forefront, while reminding viewers of the grandeur they may take for granted.

After the collapse of his father, Jin (Cho) flies in from Korea to be with his father as he recovers in a Columbus, Indiana hospital. Jin is a translator, who has a distant relationship with his father. During Jin’s stay, he accepts a cigarette from Casey (Richardson), a library employee whose appreciation of architecture is fervent. The two hit it off well, and Casey becomes Jin’s architectural tour guide of town. Although there is an age gap between the thirty-something-year-old Jin and twenty-year-old Casey, what brings them together is the small conversations that negate from the daily grind.

When the couple first come together, it makes for one of the year’s best moments in camerawork and choreography. Casey shares her cigarette with Jin, who is on the other side of a brick wall with columns. The two slowly walk straight as they break the ice. Once there is an opening in the gate of the fence, Jin steps towards Casey and introduces himself. This shows that Jin and Casey will have nothing to hide in their forthcoming conversations and beautifully sets the tone.

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The Opposition is a Missed Opportunity

Opposition Missed OpportunityThe first episode of Comedy Central’s new satire comedy The Opposition with Jordan Klepper begins with the eponymous Klepper introducing the Golden Rule of his show: may you only hear from others what you’ve already been telling yourself.

 From just this “rule,” audiences will get a pretty quick idea of what this program is all about. It also previews the overall content of the show: clever, but not packing enough punch.

After the cancellation of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, the coveted post-Daily Show timeslot of 11:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday was left wide open. This previous spot made a star of Stephen Colbert (who now hosts possibly the most prestigious late night stage, The Late Show), and it has potential to launch some underappreciated new talent. Especially in the era of Trump, a political satire is guaranteed to gain some interest among audiences. Is Klepper the right person to have this spot? I say yes. Is this show the best platform for him? The answer would have to be no.

What sets The Opposition apart from some of its contemporaries (The Daily Show, Last Week Tonight, Full Frontal, etc.) is Klepper’s character. Where Trevor Noah, John Oliver, and Samantha Bee all stay true to life, Klepper adopts the image of a paranoid, conspiracy crazy, ultra conservative, in the way of infamous Infowars host Alex Jones.


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

The Outlook
Monmouth University
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Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151