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Last updateWed, 16 Sep 2020 2pm

Entertainment

Student Spotlight: Taylor Hope

Sophomore Taylor Hope is more than just the average musician from Sayreville, NJ. She is double-majoring in math and music here at Monmouth University. At only 19, she has already opened up for big stars such as Jason Aldean and Tim McGraw, played a solo at Carnegie Hall, and had Bruce Springsteen himself come and watch her entire solo set.

Hope started playing the violin when she was only 5 years old, but had the interest a couple years before. Hope said, “I wanted to [start playing] at 3. I saw a violinist playing in the park when I was little, and I loved the sound of it.”

Like any normal parents, they did not believe that their 3 year old would actually continue with such a delicate instrument. Hope explained, “[My Parents] bought me a fake violin, but I was like ‘No! I want a real one!’”

It was actually a teacher at her school that confirmed her desire to play, although that was not his intention. Hope said, “There was this teacher who taught third graders and up, and he said ‘Bring her in, she’ll be too intimidated and won’t want to play’…and after the first time he said, ‘Get her a violin.’” So persistence paid off for toddler Taylor, and her parents finally gave in and bought a real violin.

Her musical talents do not just stop at the violin. Over the years, Taylor has learned how to play the piano, guitar, and the mandolin. She also enjoys singing while playing on her multiple instruments.

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Web Exclusive: No Strings Attached: “Puppeteer” Deserves Your Attention

It seems like “Puppeteer” couldn’t have been released at a worse time. With only a couple of months left before the new consoles release and the highest grossing videogame of all time on shelves, who would give the time of day to a quirky little game from Sony Japan? However, the novelty of running over pedestrians while listening to Queen only lasts so long. In order to fight off the tyranny of boredom, a hero needs to rise from the ashes of the giant that was the last console generation. “Puppeteer” is out there, fighting the good fight, and it is about time that it got the recognition it deserves.

“Puppeteer” is a side-scrolling action platformer with a unique twist: the game takes place inside a theatre. Curtains open and close as a scene begins or ends, the audience laughs at a joke or gasps at hair-raising moments and a brilliant narrator provides context to the story. A colorful group of characters are made more memorable by the fact that they are technically actors playing a role. Occasionally, they are too over dramatic and incite the other performers, get into quips with the narrator or forget their lines. While the humor is hit or miss, these moments help to cement the theatre setting.

The narrator is one of “Puppeteer’s” biggest triumphs. Narration is something rarely done in videogames due to the high amount of voice overs necessary. It takes a truly enthusiastic voice actor and elegant writing to pull off narration. He is used just enough, although there are occasions when he talks over the characters’ dialogue and it feels as if you are in a court room. Despite these minor shortcomings, the narrator is a welcome addition, allowing players to slice up foes while he feeds them context.

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“Rayman Legends” Trumps Original

In an age where video games are becoming more gritty and realistic, hardly anyone would have guessed that what may be one of the year’s best games would be absolutely nothing like that.

Developed by revered game developer Michel Ancel’s UbiArt team, “Rayman Legends” is a vibrant splash of color and life that feels vital in today’s gaming landscape. Its fast paced platforming challenges, bizarre worlds, characters and all-too loveable sense of humor makes it a clear stand-out amongst the competition. Yet what makes it so great is just how much fun is packed into every crevice of the game.

“Rayman Legends” is the sequel to 2011’s widely acclaimed “Rayman Origins,” which attempted to revive the dormant Rayman platforming series after almost a decade (not counting the “Raving Rabbids” games, which have taken a life of their own). With its hand drawn cartoon style and wildly creative personality, “Rayman Origins” breathed new life into not just the Rayman series, but platformers in general, proving that they still had a place in today’s maturing game world.

“Origins” was a fantastic game in its own right, and on the surface, “Legends” wouldn’t seem much different. You’re still running, jumping on platforms, pummeling enemies, utilizing the same abilities, and playing many of the same characters.

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Dawes Rocks Pollak

Folk-rock band “Dawes” performed at Monmouth’s Pollak Theater Sept. 25, along with opening act Johnathan Rice and Hayes Carll.

At the start of Rice’s very mellow performance, the crowd looked like what I expected: every group of middle-age friends had a row to themselves. Rice’s performance stuck mainly to the songs, with few breaks for some intimate stories with the audience. When Rice did speak, his Scottish accent combined with a slurred tone conjured up some amusing statements: “I’ve never been to college…I guess this is as close as it’s gonna get.”

Hayes Carll’s set started quickly after Rice’s, and now the seats were starting to fill up. It is sad that a majority of the crowd missed Rice’s set and came at Carll’s because Rice was better. Unfortunately, the only thing that kept me awake during Carll’s repetitive set were his personal and entertaining stories about his son and travels. The audience was more receptive to Rice too. Audience member Justin Rayan from Fort Rivers stated, “I’ve never heard of [Johnathan Rice] before but I thought he was really good…I thought the band backing him was really good…I’ll be sure to check out some more of his music.”

As Carll’s set ended and Dawes started setting up, I looked back (my seat was towards the front right of the theater) and saw that there was barely a seat empty. The whole theater was packed in anticipation for the band. The lights dimmed and the crowd started to holler and whistle, but the band added extra suspense by not yet appearing.

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“Breaking Bad” Comes to a Close

Showrunner Vince Gilligan concluded the AMC series, “Breaking Bad,” in a 75-minute finale on Sunday, Sept. 29. Millions of viewers tuned in to watch the airing of “Felina” at 9 pm, which reinforced “Bad” as one of television’s greatest drama series.

Five seasons and 62 episodes later, Walter White, the loving cancer-stricken high school chemistry teacher who transformed into the maniacal blue methamphetamine manufacturing drug kingpin, finally met his fate. Gilligan said during an interview on the after show “Talking Bad,” “This show was intended all along to be very finite. It’s a story that starts at A and ends at Z, as it were. It’s a very closed-ended thing.”

The stunning finale opened up with Walt in a car: weak, dying, and alone. His diminishing drive to live made it appear to viewers that it was over – but then he found the energy and desire to tie loose ends. He was fueled to go back to New Mexico and embrace both his fate and identity as Heisenberg. It is both odd and depressing seeing Walt on our television screens hit a low, for he is always portrayed as strong and intimidating.

Every move Walt made from that point forward seemed almost flawless and perfectly calculated. He first stopped at Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz’s residence, the owners of the prosperous “Gray Matter Technology” who stole Walt’s research and publically announced that Walt was useless to the establishment of such a company.

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“Massachusetts” Comes to Monmouth

massachusetts-comes-to-monmouthUpon walking in on the “Massachusetts” art exhibit in Joan and Robert Rechnitz Hall, you’ll be greeted by a wide array of art styles. Some paintings are dark and ominous, others are surreal, depicting reality in supernatural ways. Despite differences, each piece invokes you to come closer for further inspection. The exhibit is a combination of works from nine artists in total, each bringing their unique flavor to the Vincent DiMattio Gallery. DiMattio is also a professor of art at the University.

The commonality that brings these pieces together isn’t found within the art itself, but within each contributor’s relationship to the state of Massachusetts. All but one of the artists graduated from Massachusetts College of Art during the mid 1960s. The other received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Boston University. After graduating, most of the artists went their separate ways. Regardless of the path they chose, they all found success in the arts. This special class has reunited to showcase their works to the public.

One of the first artists’ works you’ll be greeted by is Enrico Pinardi. His paintings lure you in with a sense of familiarity, but you’ll notice something strange: a plate floating slightly off the table, a shadowy figure in the background or a cracked floor underneath a clean white table. It seems as if the paintings are trying their best to show you that everything is fine, but instead reveal that something is missing.

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Visiting Writer Series Introduces Katie Ford

Poet Katie Ford came to read a selected collection of her works on campus on Thursday, September 19, as part of the Visiting Writers Series. This marks the first reading of the ninth year this series has run.

Ford is the author of two books of poetry (“Deposition,” “Colosseum”) as well as the upcoming “Blood Lyrics.” Colosseum was named one of the Best Books of 2008 by Publisher’s Weekly and The Virginia Quarterly Review. She received the Lannan Literary Fellowship, a $100,000 dollar award, as well as the Larry Levis prize. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Paris Review, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and a wide variety of high-circulation journals. Ford teaches at Franklin & Marshall College.

The event opened to a nearly full house at 4:30 pm in Wilson Auditorium. She was introduced by Michael Thomas, Assistant Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, who not only praised her work but cited the praise of others, such as a New York Times review that described her work as having “the veiled brilliance of a stained glass window at night.”

“We also hope that you will be moved emotionally by a writer’s representation of what it means to be a human being, whether that experience is one of joy, celebration, longing, love, or sorrow,” Thomas said. “Art needs audiences as much as we, the audience, need art.”

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Student Spotlight: Idol Threat

Retro rock music takes on a modern twist in songs written by local band, Idol Threat.  Lead singer and guitarist Robbie Reiner is a junior at the University studying criminal justice. He writes and performs classic-meets-contemporary rock music with drummer Pat Reiner, and bassist Brian DeSeno, both of whom attend Manasquan High School.

The band takes inspiration from artists such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Ultimately, Idol Threat aims to make rock n’ roll mainstream once again. “It’s something that a lot of people are missing out on,” said Pat. “People don’t listen to rock and roll the way they used to and we want to keep the art form alive and expose as many people as we can to it.”

Coming from a family of musicians, Robbie and Pat have been playing music from a very young age. “Basically our whole family is musical. My mom played the flute and my dad played guitar and I guess I always wanted to play the guitar as he had,” Robbie said.

Bassist, DeSeno is the neighbor of the two brothers. “[DeSeno] apparently played bass and we didn’t know it. We did a show with him once and it just clicked from there,” said Robbie.

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“Dexter” Series Finale Kills

America’s favorite serial killer, Dexter Morgan, had his final bow last night in Showtime’s series finale of “Dexter.” There were disappointments taken to social media, claiming the series finale was a sellout. However, I think the writers ended the hit show the only way they could.

Dexter, Hannah, and Harrison are riding off into the sunset of Argentina, while Deb and Quinn continue their life in Miami? Sounds good in theory, but let’s be serious, it’s just not “Dexter” material.

From the beginning, we saw Dexter’s two worlds collide and come dangerously close. By day, he balanced his family and career in order to appear normal. The other part of him, his dark passenger, always got in the way of any humanity he felt in his other life.

Through the entire series, he struggled to feel what regular people do, but it’s just not who he was fated to be. Every single turning point in the series happened because of Dexter’s selfish addiction. It’s no secret he was responsible for the death of characters like his wife Rita, arguably Captain LaGuerta and, in last night’s episode, his own sister, Deb.

Throughout this season especially, we saw Dexter as more of a human being than a serial killer. The motherly figure character, Vogel, entered the season to make Dexter’s understanding of who he is come full circle. Dexter’s darkness makes him who he is. We love to love him. We root for him, but the same joy we get watching him take out bad guys is the joy he gets from doing the actual killing. His drug is killing; our drug is watching.

We are reminded of this during the shocking finale. Dexter gets into his traditional kill clothes and ends Deb’s suffering, takes her onto his boat and into the impeding storm. Viewers are led to believe he is going to kill himself and his sister.

When Dexter tells his son, “I love you. Remember that every day until I see you again,” I was sure he was long gone. Hannah reads about his boat wreckage and suspected death in the newspaper, chokes back her tears and walks off with Harrison in Argentina. The screen goes black and, simultaneously, viewers choke back our tears too.

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“Grand Theft Auto” Renews Grandeur

Hang onto your Playstations and X-boxes because Rockstar Games has one last game for you to play before you trade them in for the new consoles. Despite working with decade old hardware, Rockstar has managed to make its latest installment one of the most beautiful, detailed, and spacious games this console generation has ever seen. Set in the fictional city of Los Santos (think Los Angeles), “Grand Theft Auto V” (released September 17) is literally Rockstar’s biggest game yet.

How big? According to Game Informer, “Los Santos is bigger than the worlds of ‘Red Dead Redemption,’ ‘San Andreas,’ and ‘Grand Theft Auto 4’ combined.” But bigger doesn’t always equate to better. Does “GTAV” live up to the hype of being hailed as the last great game of this generation, or does it buckle from the weight of its own ambition?

It is safe to say that Rockstar delivered on exactly what they set out to do. The over world of Los Santos is a technical masterpiece. The city is bustling, with noisy pedestrians on their cellphones and traffic whizzing by. The countryside is barren, brown and dusty, and the mountains on the outskirts of the city give you a bird’s eye view of it all. The graphical fidelity is astounding, and when coupled with the superb sound effects, the world is given a life of its own.

As you interact with different objects in the environment, each sounds as if it is right there in front of you. When you climb a chain fence you hear the clang of metal jingle. When you jetski, you feel the “vroom” of the motor every time you go airborne, and the splash of water when you land. Even the simplest of actions have been given the utmost care, making Los Santos the centerpiece of the “Grand Theft Auto V” experience.

Scattered throughout this world is a plethora of activities to partake in. There are darts, drag racing, scuba diving, stockbroking, and more. There are also random encounters that will occur organically as you navigate through Los Santos. People shout through the streets yelling that their car has been stolen or a drunken couple may wander up to you and ask for a ride. It is entirely up for you to decide if you help these people or not (as long as you weren’t the one who stole that nice old lady’s car).

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Janelle Monáe Falls Short of Expectations

R&B isn’t an easy genre to stand out in these days, but for a singer as hard working and charismatic as Janelle Monáe, it’s kind of impossible not to. With a powerful voice, wild imagination, and restless creative spirit, Monáe has made some very exciting and inventive pop music since bursting onto the scene, with her debut album, 2010’s “The ArchAndroid,” being quite an artistic achievement.

Despite her talent, however, her latest record, “The Electric Lady,” shows that even she is still susceptible to one of the biggest curses in the music world: the sophomore slump.

Can you blame her, though? You try following up an album like “The ArchAndroid” – a dense, kinetic, sci-fi-themed odyssey that blended R&B with more genres and styles than I can count on one hand while never losing sight of its infectious pop sensibilities. The fact that something so overly ambitious worked the first time is a miracle in itself. What do you possibly do to follow such a monster?

Monáe was certainly up for the challenge as “The Electric Lady” is still a very ambitious record that clearly comes from the same warped mind as before. But while “The Electric Lady” is still a unique record by modern R&B standards, I can’t help but feel that something is missing this time around.

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Contact Information

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

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

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