Category Archives: Entertainment

ENTERTAINMENT: Lifetime Special Shows Ups, Downs Of Simone Biles’ Career

By Dominick Buccitti – Editor-in-Chief

Team USA fans may recognize Simone Biles as a five-time Olympic medalist, who has been given the title as the best female gymnast in the world. But what fans may not know is that she has faced many struggles in her early life.

In her Lifetime special, “The Simone Biles Story: Courage to Soar,” which aired February 3, Biles’ life is shown with her grandparents adopting her and her sister Adria, after having their mother Shanon lose custody of them, due to her drug and alcohol addiction. The special follows Biles from that point to her first joining Bannon’s Gymnastix, the very same gym that would train her until she switched to the World Champions Center.

In 2012, Biles switched to homeschooling, in order to focus on training. When her senior year came, she had to make a decision between attending the University of California at Los Angeles or to take in sponsorship, where many came in after she had received medals at three World Championships.

Overall, the special was specular, accurately portraying the events, especially the Olympics. It was admirable showing clips competing at her various competitions from when she was a Junior-level gymnast to an Olympian.

With such great aspects of the special, especially how identical the actors and actresses looked like Biles’ family and friends, came one problem; the special did not cover the Olympics portion of the special as long as the other parts. Besides this, the special was flawless.

The viewer, after watching this special, will be inspired to have the courage to soar.  

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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ENTERTAINMENT: “Stranger Things: Season 2” Turns Fans Upside Down

(Photo courtesy netflix.com)

By Nick Owens – Sports Editor

The Netflix blockbuster “Stranger Things” returned for Season 2 and gave fans everything they wanted and more.

(WARNNG: This review is full of spoilers, so if you still have yet to watch the show you have been warned.)

“Stranger Things” is a show that is set in Hawkins, Indiana, just a small normal town until one kid named Will Byers goes missing riding his bike home one night. His group of friends seek out their own investigation as well as the town sheriff who just goes by “Hopper“ also starts an investigation and you get to unravel the story of the weird things happening in the town from two different perspectives. At the end of the first season, we leave off with Will getting found and not knowing what happens to the fan favorite character Eleven. Will still has part of the upside down as a part of him.

At the start of this season, you’re thrown off a little bit when the show starts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and you’re watching a bank robber’s chase with the police. The bank robbers turn down a tunnel to and the cops are on their tail but then the girl you see in the passenger seat you realize has some kind of power to her. The tunnel begins to crumble in front of the police which cause all the police to hit the brakes and crash into one another. But then the cop in front steps out of the car to see the tunnel is fine and he stopped for no reason. Everything just seemed to disappear. Then it’s revealed the girl in the passenger seat has a number on her arm just like Eleven did. 

Then we meet all of our favorite characters once again as they go to the arcade and play on some cool old time 80’s arcade machines. But then everything changes for Will as time stops and everything goes dark. He finds himself once again in the upside down. The door to the arcade opens and you can see red clouds outside almost like a storm. Will proceeds to go outside and in the distance you can see a big black shadow that looks like a big monster in the distance which freaks will out but then Mike calls out to Will and we are snapped back to reality. We learn that Will has these “moments” often. He visits a new doctor at the sketchy lab that we see in Season 1 but the old scary looking doctor of the place has been let go. A doctor tells Joyce Byers, played by the amazing Winona Ryder, that Will’s case is basically nothing it’s gonna get worse before it gets better but the most you can do is be there for him. Joyce is a little upset by this she just wants her son to be OK.  

Later on in the show Dustin (one of the boys) discovers this nasty alien life form in his trash can but be friends it as his pet. He shows him to the other boys in the janitor’s closet but they tell the new girl who just wants to fit in with the group to stay outside. After showing the boys the pet which he names Dart. The boys freak out not knowing what it might grow into and Dustin defends Dart and protects him from the other boy. Then the new girl open the closet door trying to figure out why no one is telling her anything. As she opens the door, Dart runs out the door and the boys have to find him as he gets loose through the school. It was the end of the school day, so at this point the school is pretty much empty. While the other boys are trying to find Dart, Will goes off on his own and has another one of his “moments” and gets chased by a big shadow through the halls of his school. Before he came to school that day his mom’s new boyfriend, Bob, gave him a whole speech about facing his fear head on. So Will once again sees the big scary creature in the distance but decides to try and face it head on. It was the wrong choice, though, because this allowed the monster to have full control over his body. When Joyce finds Will in the school yard he is frozen and can’t move so they rush his to the sketchy science lab doctor.

We then cut to the sketchy lab and they are trying to ask Will some questions. As they got him to come down from being frozen, he started to come back a bit. As the doctor is asking him questions he starts to talk in third person. That’s when we first get to see him being controlled by the monster. He starts to talk about how you can’t stop what’s coming.

As this is all happening, Hopper discovers something weird about this pumpkin patch at a farm we are introduced to in the beginning of the show. All the pumpkins were dying and Hopper starts to realize there’s something more going on here. He starts digging in the dirt in the pumpkin patch and discovers that there is a big tunnel under the ground and Hopper, maybe not making the smartest decision, decides to check it out. He jumps down and starts looking around, but as he’s looking around, he gets sprayed by something off the wall that causes him to pass out. As he hits the ground, you see something start to come over him and try to consume him.

We jump back to Joyce and Will and Joyce starts to see Will acting weird. She asks him what’s going on and he says, “it’s Hopper, I think he’s in trouble.” So Joyce, Bob, and Will go and try to save Hopper. They save him and they try to figure out what this tunnel is. This is only the beginning of the climax in the show.

To find out how this all wraps up you are going to have to watch the show yourself.

ENTERTAINMENT: Streisand Delivers Memories Through New Concert Documentary

(Photo courtesy newsday.com)

By Dominick Buccitti – Editor-in-Chief

Iconic Grammy, Academy Award, and Golden Globe award winner Barbra Streisand debuted her Netflix concert documentary on November 22. It followed Streisand at one of her shows in Miami, where she sang songs from her top-selling and most popular albums throughout her career. She also sang popular songs that happen to be featured on her most recent album.

Streisand starts the special with her husband James Brolin, flying to Miami in her private jet. An ice-cream truck is near the stage but is sold out. It is admirable seeing Streisand get so elated to see such a dessert. 

Streisand’s first song of the concert is “The Way We Were” from the 1973 American romantic film The Way We Were. Listening to her singing the song brings the viewer true nostalgia as this song is one of her most well-known pieces. The notes Streisand hits are extraordinary, as she was 74 years old at the time of the filming of the special.

Throughout the special, Streisand goes into further detail about some of her roles in movies like “Yentl” and “Funny Lady.” She thanks her manager and all of the directors, including William Wyler of her film until she started directing her films.

Streisand sang a song from “Yentl,” another popular film she not only starred in, but directed. She portrays so much emotion, so many years following the film. After the song ended, the crowd immediately stood and some were wiping tears from their face.

She sang “Pure Imagination” from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” This interpretation to the song was one of the best ever, as she talked about a politically social issue, the environment.

Streisand in act two of the special sang “Don’t Rain On My Parade” from her most iconic film “Funny Girl.” Once she started to belt her notes, the crowd immediately stood as if it were an involuntary function. It was amazing hearing her sing and still be able to belt the way she did when she was 26 years old.

Streisand was so flawless in introducing her songs by giving a little background information and then transitioning into the actual song.

One critique for this was that Streisand did not talk for long, which is understandable as it was still a concert. However, it would have been nice to get a full description of the thought process behind her albums and film.

Overall, this documentary was so amazing, to finally get to hear Streisand’s voice after having such an extensive music career.

Hearing Barbra sing her music brought back mem’ries, and it was truly magical being a viewer of this special.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars  

ENTERTAINMENT: Lovato Tells Story Through New Documentary

(Photo courtesy billboard.com)

By Dominick Buccitti – Editor-in-Chief

Fans may know Demi Lovato as Mitchie Torres from “Camp Rock” and as Sonny Munroe from “Sonny With a Chance,” but they do not know Demi, herself, as well as they thought.

In her YouTube Original documentary, “Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated,” she discusses the hardships of landing roles as a child and teen actress, drug and alcohol addiction, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders. She goes back to the point in her early childhood where she had an alcoholic “birth” father. She coins the term “birth father,” as a way of saying that she considers her stepfather her real dad. Lovato goes into talking about how breaking up with Wilmer Valderrama caused her to learn that she needs to be dependent before she could commit to a real relationship.

A part of her life that Lovato talks deep detail about was how she had a difficulty in landing roles from her youth to her teenage years. She talks about being in Barney, then later Camp Rock and soon following was Sonny with a Chance. Her manager, Phil McIntyre, talks about managing Lovato and how she soon discovers that being a well-known actress and singer caused her sense of childhood to be taken away.

Lovato talks about how she started to use cocaine and drink alcohol in high school. She started using at a young of 17. Lovato went through rehab and soon broke continued using. It was not until her whole team told her to sober up or they would quit. From that point, Lovato has been sober and has not used.

Throughout the documentary, Lovato’s sisters, Dallas Lovato and Madison De La Garza; her mother, Dianna De La Garza, and one of her high school friends make appearances. They discuss Lovato’s best and worst moments at the start of her career.

“Simply Complicated” dove into the dark moments of Lovato’s life. The documentary reveals that Lovato did not live the lucky, stereotypical life that people assign to celebrities. She did not have a happy childhood and she faces daily struggles within her adult life.

“Simply Complicated” is so enlightening and provides the viewer the ability to understand that someone’s struggles do not hinder upon their overall goals or dreams. Lovato teaches the view that it is ok to have struggles and to live life the best way someone can.

It may be called “Simply Complicated,” but there is not complicated about how amazing this documentary was.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

ENTERTAINMENT: Samurai Jack Season 5 Seamlessly Spans Gap From Season 4

(Photo courtesy ign.com)

By Owen Paiva – Entertainment Editor

On February 6, 2016, news was released that a show that ended in 2004 was picked up for a fifth season, billed as a 2016 released, later delayed till this March. The show ended on a disappointing cliff hanger which left so many unfulfilled with the ending. However, the show gained more of a following after new episodes stopped airing, and evolved into something bigger. It is “Samurai Jack,” one feudal samurai’s quest to return to the past and stop the evil that ruined the world.

“Samurai Jack” was created by legendary animator, Genndy Tartakovsky, also known for his work on Dexter’s Laboratory and Powerpuff Girls. He wanted to create a cartoon with a cinematic feel to it, akin to movies like “Seven Samurai” or  spaghetti westerns like “Fistful of Dollars.”

This show ranks at the top, or very near, in terms of overall animation. A simplistic, yet very fluid and detailed style, where actual martial arts, armed and unarmed are portrayed. The 2D style of feudal Japanese watercolor mixes seamlessly with the cyberpunk elements found in the futuristic setting. Every set piece is beautiful. Two in particular are breathtaking. Jack’s duel against the Da Samurai in the rain soaked bamboo fields during a thunderstorm is perfect in audio quality, and visual quality, in a very memorable duel. Samurai Jack’s fight against the Ninja is also memorable. The Ninja can blend into the darkness and Jack can blend into the light. The fight scene basically uses two colors in a very unique showdown.

Samurai Jack, voiced by Phil LaMarr, is a hero who does not say much, similar to Clint Eastwood in many of his westerns, yet has a very dry but witty sense of humor and is willing to help anyone along the way. Jack, equipped with a sword forged by the gods, designed only to harm pure evil, which provides one of the funniest moments in the entire series, is on a quest to return to the past to defeat the evil Aku. Aku, played by Mako Iwamatsu, later Greg Baldwin for Season 5 after Mako passed away sums the show up best:

“Long ago in a distant land, I, Aku, the shape-shifting Master of Darkness, unleashed an unspeakable evil! But a foolish Samurai warrior wielding a magic sword stepped forth to oppose me. Before the final blow was struck, I tore open a portal in time and flung him into the future, where my evil is law! Now the fool seeks to return to the past, and undo the future that is Aku!”

Aku is one of the most memorable villains in cartoon history, who is equally hysterical and menacing, incompetent, yet the most powerful villain in the entire series. There are not many recurring characters besides Jack and Aku, but the Scotsman, voiced by John DiMaggio (voice of Bender from Futurama)  is the closest. He is the opposite of Jack, loud, huge, and fights with power more than skill, and is number two on Aku’s wanted list behind Jack. It is cool to see that Jack has a friend in this new time.

Season 5 has taken a new, more mature tone, with an emphasis on more mature storytelling, and a bit more violence than before. The show is airing on the Adult Swim block, which allows the show to be less restricted than its previous seasons, now boasting a TV-MA rating.

Season 5 takes place 50 years in the future, with Jack seemingly losing the ability to age.  [SPOILER WARNING] Jack has lost his sword during this time, and Aku has destroyed the last time portal. Jack has become more depressed, and an even more conflicted character. The guilt of failing his quest to return to the past and save his family weighs heavily on Jack, causing hallucinations. Aku makes an appearance in episode two, and he is still as hysterical as ever. Jack however faces a new threat from a cult dedicated to Aku, and other bounty hunters along the way. The first two episodes of season five are very polished, yet both endings are on cliff hangers. Season five has more of a narrative than previous seasons, with the first villain Jack fights being equally annoying and hilarious, and still shares some of the humor, it is way more toned down than before.  

Season 5 has the best animation of the series, with Genndy being able to utilize the newest technology, and brought back much of the original team. One scene from episode two, which is a kind of homage to the graveyard scene from “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” both in music and in visuals, is absolutely magnificent. The tension is very real in this scene. Episode two in general has outstanding action set pieces, with the graveyard scene barely providing a break, with action being traded for suspense.

Season 5 has aired three of the new episodes so far, with new episodes every Saturday. If “Samurai Jack” continues with the same quality, then the show will finally get its proper sendoff.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

ENTERTAINMENT: Live Action “Beauty And The Beast” Remake Hits Theaters

By Dominick Buccitti – Staff Reporter

(Photo courtesy imdb.com)

A tale as old as time – actually 1991 – was re-created and released on March 16. “Beauty and the Beast” is the story of a young woman named Belle, whose father is captured by monstrous beast that actually was once a prince. Belle takes her father’s place and is a prisoner of the beast.

Throughout the progression of the movie, the beast becomes less cold-hearted, compared to the beginning, where he displayed much anger and isolation. The beast actually falls in love with Belle, which means that the curse placed upon him can be broken. As he has learned to love, Belle does not make her love for the Beast apparent until the end of the movie.

In this recreation, Belle is portrayed by Emma Watson, an actress widely known as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies. The Beast is portrayed by Dan Steven, Gaston is portrayed by Luke Evans, and LeFou is portrayed by Josh Gad. This version of Beauty and the Beast features popular songs like, “Gaston,” “Be Our Guest,” and “Something There.” In this version and the 1991 version, the first song is Belle, which is quite well-known, since it characterizes Belle as being seen as an outcast by the citizens of her village. As the movie continued and after Belle escapes from the castle [for the first time], she is chased [on horse] by vicious wolves. Before the Beast decides to show up, she tries to fend them off herself.Through this part, Watson portrays Belle as not a damsel in distress, but as a courageous fighter.  

The scene that includes the song “Be Our Guest” was amazing. It was actually more exciting than the original. The iconic ballroom dance between Beauty and the Beast was spectacular. Emma Thompson, who portrayed Mrs. Potts, did a superb job of singing “Beauty and the Beast.” The movie was consistent with the original, except for a couple scenes.

The backstories of both Belle and the Beast were further developed, where it is explained that Belle’s mother passed away from the bubonic plague. Also, there is further detail of the prince becoming the Beast.

The movie has mostly positives, but there were a couple negatives as well.This version of Beauty and the Beast had some inconsistencies with timing, where things began to move at a faster place when they should not have.

This version of “Beauty and the Beast” cannot compare to the original; however, it was still amazing and the score of the movie was great.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

ENTERTAINMENT: “La La Land” Looks Pretty, But Doesn’t Go Much Further

(Photo courtesy imdb.com)

By Tyler Chavez – News Editor

“La La Land” has quickly become one of the more popular films among critics and the box office in the past few months. Directed by Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”) and starring Emma Stone (“Birdman”, “The Amazing Spider-Man”, and “Easy A”), Ryan Gosling (“The Big Short”, “Drive”, and “The Notebook”), and recording artist John Legend, “La La Land” tells the story of two young artists struggling in Hollywood to achieve their dreams and maintain their relationship. What’s interesting is that while this is an age-old trope, especially in musicals, it’s been quite a long time since an original film musical has captivated audiences as much as this film has.

In short, “La La Land” is a film that looks and sounds pretty, but does little beyond that. Damien Chazelle should be awarded for his precise directing that makes the film both beautiful and at times emotional, and there are moments where “La La Land” does really take the audience on a musical journey, but the weak storytelling and the film’s lack of commitment to the art of the musical prevents the movie from being truly great. “La La Land” is not a bad film by any means; it’s quite enjoyable and entertaining, but it doesn’t deserve all of the praise it has received.

Chazelle burst onto the directing scene with 2014’s “Whiplash”, a movie that is quite different from a musical. But he has proven himself as a great director with “La La Land”. Even though the films have quite different tones, they have the same themes of the danger of working for your dreams and an appreciation for old art like jazz. “La La Land” has some truly beautiful scenes. The opening number is energetic and a prime example of what an opening ensemble number should be. And Stone’s and Gosling’s dance sequence featuring a beautiful backdrop makes the Hollywood twilight seem like a gorgeous painting for a big Broadway set. Chazelle proves with “La La Land” that he is a director to keep tabs on for the future, he is not a one-hit wonder. The film’s directing and cinematography are charming, colorful, and reflect the art of the musical quite well.

As mentioned earlier, “La La Land” is interesting as it is the first big original musical in quite some time. But does it stay truthful to the genre? In my eyes, not consistently. While there certainly are some impressive and fun numbers, the majority of the songs themselves are not very memorable, Outside of “City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”, the other songs are forgettable. Viewers will remember some shots and sequences, but that’s due to the directing and cinematography. Truthfully, it’s like “La La Land” wants the aesthetic of a musical without the full commitment to it. For example, the songs in a musical are meant to mean something. They introduce characters or a setting, explain plot and story, or are a major plot point. But in “La La Land”, the majority of them are just excuses to have a fun choreography sequence. They don’t add anything to the plot. As a musical, “La La Land” is pretty barebones.

The numbers are not the only thing that failed to leave an imprint. The story of “La La Land”, while not boring or easily predictable, isn’t satisfying. The film tries so hard to keep the focus on Stone and Gosling’s characters. For example, there is an extremely interesting dynamic between Gosling and Legend’s characters. The two used to be in a band together and disagree over how to jazz relevant. John Legend thinks that jazz needs to evolve and modernize to stay relevant while Gosling believes that jazz should stay pure and to its roots. What’s interesting is that this debate, whether art should modernize or not to stay relevant, is a central theme of the movie as it takes old forms of Hollywood storytelling in a modern setting. Does this conflict, which honestly someone could make a whole movie out of, ever get resolved? No. Gosling leaves the band at the start of the third act and we never hear from John Legend again. What could have been an interesting conflict is tossed aside to keep the focus on Stone and Gosling’s relationship.

“La La Land” should be applauded for not being predictable and having an ending that may seem quiet and bitter-sweet, but has a lot to say and is ultimately for the best. The ending is moving in a sequence that captures the untold truth of achieving your dreams and falling in love. This does not justify the other problems of the story (that it focuses too much on the lovers and just kind of lounges around for the first two acts), but the story does enough to not make me bored. There have been debates over whether the characters are likeable or not, and a strong argument can be made that Stone’s is more likeable than Gosling’s. Ignoring the fact that Ryan Gosling isn’t that great of a singer, his character is written to be not very likeable as he undermines Stone’s dreams and more often than not just comes off as a jerk. Stone’s character is more innocent and hopeful, she’s charming and likeable.

“La La Land” is a pleasant film. It’s very pretty and has a somewhat engaging story to tell, but the hype is overrated. The main characters, while still nice, are not too relatable, the movie doesn’t stay true to its musical roots, and there’s a more interesting plot point that gets swept aside for the sake of focusing on the main characters. There’s not much to “La La Land” beside its pretty people, pretty music, and pretty visuals. “La La Land” is deserving of some praise, but much of that praise comes from the fact that it’s a movie about old Hollywood, and Hollywood loves movies about itself.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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