Category Archives: Entertainment

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

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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

ENTERTAINMENT: “The Blue Album” Still A Masterpiece

(Photo courtesy of Reddit)

(Photo courtesy of Reddit)

By Owen Paiva – Entertainment Editor

Weezer released their first eponymous album, known as “The Blue Album,” in 1994.

This album launched the act and they have released nine other albums to this date. Does the first album hold up to the others? Is it still the triple-platinum classic that created many fans, or is it just a product of its time? 

Weezer is an alt-rock band that consists of singer Rivers Cuomo, drummer Patrick Wilson, guitarist Jason Cropper, and at the time, bassist Matt Sharp. Cuomo, from Pomfret, Connecticut, has also worked on B.o.B’s song, Magic. Cuomo has channeled many of his personal experiences into the music, but that mainly happened after the blue album.

The album has three singles that shot the band into the mainstream and are still among the band’s most popular to this day. “Buddy Holly” is a loving tribute to the 1950’s singer who died in the infamous plane crash in the “day that music died”. It also praises Mary Tyler Moore, who was a popular actress in the 50’s and on. The song is also famous for its music video consisting of Weezer playing at Arnold’s Drive-In from the show Happy Days featuring cameos using footage from the show of characters such as Fonzie. “Undone – The Sweater Song”, is another song that may be the band’s most popular. The chorus consists of, “If you want to destroy my sweater, pull this thread as I walk away.” This is known by many, even if they do not recognize the song. Cuomo has later stated it as an inadvertent ripoff of Welcome Home (Sanitarium) by Metallica. The song’s video is also directed by Spike Jonze, who has also worked with Daft Punk, and the Beastie Boys, is famous for the one shot style that has the band playing a sped up version of the song which creates an effect of slow motion with the lyrics and music remaining normal if played slower.

The last single, “Say It Ain’t So” has an intro riff that sounds oddly similar to “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran, which predates the song by over a decade. The video is not directed by Spike Jonze, rather Sophie Muller, and did not have the same acclaim, but was another top ten hit for the group. “Surf Wax America” is the hidden gem of the album, taking surf rock in a more alternative direction, with hints of skate punk, in an ode to the sport and lifestyle.

Some of the other tracks are solid but unspectacular. Not every track can be a classic, but the tracks retain the charm and feel of the album. “My Name is Jonas” is solid but blends into the background of the album. “Only in Dreams” is a more somber feel similar to “Undone”

There are two main types of songs on the album, the energetic, upbeat ones, and the somber, toned down ones. This was a great debut, laying down the band’s style perfectly.

This album is great to look back and see the evolution of the band. The follow-up, “Pinkerton” was more abrasive, dark, and lamenting about being a rock star. Cuomo grew dissatisfied with the lifestyle, and wrote a more personal album. The album was a commercial and critical failure, but later grew a cult following, and is regarded by many as one of the best albums the band wrote.

“The Blue Album” is a masterpiece, and one of the staples of the early alt-rock stage. The album received stellar reviews across the board. The album was a far cry from the grunge scene that was very popular in the United States at the time. Weezer was more akin to Britpop, like Blur and Oasis, and stood out from the competition in the U.S.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

ENTERTAINMENT: Plath Addresses Mental Illness In Classic Novel “The Bell Jar”

Photo courtesy pinterest.com)

(Photo courtesy pinterest.com)

By Valeria Araujo – Editor-in-Chief

In the 1950s, on a late night partying in jazz-ridden Manhattan, is where readers are introduced to the main character in “The Bell Jar,” Esther Greenwood. Working at an internship at a magazine in New York she sticks out like a sore thumb – tall, pale, and awkward. She is seemingly ahead of her time because she is more interested in academics and a career. Esther takes on a new world where she learns things about herself that change her life forever.

“The Bell Jar” is a gripping tale of this young woman’s downward spiral into a pool of mental illness. Although it is a piece of fiction, some argue it is also a tool in showing the reader a glimpse into author Sylvia Plath’s own struggles with her mental illness. The novel is relatable in the sense that it is timeless because mental illness happens to people in similar ways today.

There are many graphic but tasteful images given to the reader about the happenings of Esther’s depression. Although still taboo, it’s more open to treatment and discussion than in another school-read classic, “Catcher in the Rye,” where Holden is forced to go through it alone until he goes far off the rocker. Plath doesn’t sugar coat what happens in the facilities that Esther is treated in, which makes “The Bell Jar” an evocative and interesting read.

All of the characters are also extremely well-rounded. They all have shortcomings that can bitter the taste of them and other qualities that might sweeten the deal. For example, Buddy Willard, a former love interest for Esther, has a tendency to think he knows more than the person he’s talking to. Esther realizes he was better from afar. He also had some very sexist views about marriage, but we it can chalk it up to it being the 1950s. Then there is Doreen, who seems like the average party girl, but when Esther decides she doesn’t want to be associated with her during their time in New York, she never loses the kindness she always held for Esther (even if some of it was for personal gain).

One problem with the novel is that while the language is very eloquent, some of the parts describing LGBT ideas are extremely dated and can deter the reader’s focus if only for a second. But other than that, “The Bell Jar “helps readers understand mental illness a little bit more and helps them realize that things can get better after a severe rough patch.

This beautifully written, depressing, yet motivational novel is a must-read classic that will continue to haunt readers minds for years to come.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars

ENTERTAINMENT: Animated Movie “Sing” Hits All The Right Notes

(Photo courtesy visitcatalinaisland.com)

(Photo courtesy visitcatalinaisland.com)

By Maeve Rourke – Sports Editor

Buster Moon is going to have audiences across the country singing in the aisles.

“Sing” is an animated movie in which animals are living in a world similar to ours. Buster Moon, voiced by Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club,” “Interstellar,” “The Wolf Of Wall Street”) is a charming koala who owns a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times. Due to his shortage of funds, Buster cannot afford to pay the theater’s bills or renovate the building which is falling apart. Now up against bankers threatening to repossess the property, Mr. Moon decides to save his beloved theater by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.  

This movie has experienced skepticism because it seems like another over-rated children’s movie that has no established plot. However, “Sing” has done very well and has drawn in adult audiences as well.

The movie contained great and entertaining music from well known artists such as Stevie Wonder, Elton John, and Queen.

Despite the common notion the children’s movies have predictable plots, this movie was full of unpredictable twists. The movies keeps viewer of all ages on the edge of their seats, eager to see how the plot will play out.

The cast is also jam packed with well known actors that viewers can recognize almost instantly.

Scarlett Johansson (“The Avengers,” “Lucy,” “The Nanny Diaries”), Reese Witherspoon (‘Legally Blonde,” “Walk The Line”), Jennifer Hudson (“Dreamgirls,” ), and Singer-Songwriter Tori Kelly (“Unbreakable Smile”) all have at least one musical number within the movie. These talented voice actors nailed their roles and added another level of humor  to this movie.

The actual characters of the movie were great as well. Each individual learned their own life lesson throughout, which added another element to the plot. The directors, Christophe Lourdelet and Garth Jennings, set the movie in such a way that the audience is shown each characters’ background, and hardships they need to overcome. They also deliver these life lessons with humor so viewers of all ages can enjoy the hidden morals of the story. The way the character’s are developed is brilliant. All the characters’ personalities were lovable and unique, causing the audience to care about the characters and their stories.

This movie is a great family movie that everyone will enjoy. Its run time is about 108 minutes, which is perfect especially for children who may get restless in the theater. “Sing” has also done well in the box office. As of December 27th, 2016,  the movie has made a gross of over $147 million since its release on December 21.  

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

ENTERTAINMENT: Gorillaz’ Debut Album Still Holds Up As Band Preps For 2017 Release

By Owen Paiva – Entertainment Editor

(Photo courtesy of last.fm)

(Photo courtesy of last.fm)

Sixteen years ago, Gorillaz released their eponymous debut album. The album was the product of Blur frontman Damon Albarn’s vocals and instrumentals and Tank Girl creator Jamie Hewlett’s artwork to create a virtual band. The band consists of leader singer 2-D, Murdoc Niccals, drummer Russel Hobbs, and guitarist Noodle.  The virtual band served as a way for Albarn to experiment and combine many genres, including rock, trip hop, rap rock,art rock, Britpop, hip hop, dubreggae, Latin, psychedelia, and punk rock. The album was produced by acclaimed hip hop producer Dan the Automator.

The album has a big hip-hop/alternative vibe, with the use of turntables and drum machines allowing to fit right at home with classic ’90s hip-hop like the Beastie Boys, De La Soul and other similar acts. The stand-out track of the album, and the mainstream American and British breakthrough single is “Clint Eastwood.” The song has a melodica riff that is an homage to Ennio Morricone, the composer behind the soundtracks of classic spaghetti westerns like the “Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” which stars Eastwood. Another reference to the actor is the line “Sunshine in a Bag” referencing a saddlebag full of gold from the actor’s numerous westerns. The reggae-style guitar and piano riffs blend perfectly with the eerie melodica, and Albarn sings the chorus, while Del the Funky Homosapien provides two verses that prove to be the highlight of the song. Del also lends his voice to the album “Rock the House,” another song that features the melodica, but it provides a cheery tune to a song that only features Del’s vocals. “19-2000,” which has a more alternative feel, is the second-best song on the album. Albarn’s melancholy is used with a smooth bassline to provide a catchy song that is sure to impress. The song’s Soulchild remix takes the song and makes it even better. The last track that stands out is “Tomorrow Comes Today” a dreary ballad highlighted by Albarn’s moody melodica playing and tough drum beat.

The album is less alternative and more hip-hop. Gorillaz other albums are less and less hip-hop oriented, and more influenced by alternative. The album is not as mainstream friendly as the other three Gorillaz albums, but that does not take away from this album. The album also suffers from not having too many great songs. Besides the four singles, only “5/4” and the instrumental “Double Bass” stand out. The other songs on the album are solid, not spectacular, but that more or less comes down to preference.  

The album is an experiment for the creative Albarn, with his creative differences with Graham Coxon delaying Blur’s album “Think Tank,” since Albarn was devoted to Gorillaz. Those who like Blur will find some songs they enjoy, and some they do not.

Sixteen years after its release, “Gorillaz” really stands the test of time. It holds up extremely well, with songs like “Clint Eastwood” still being used in soundtracks. The band as a whole has over 4.3 million listeners a month on Spotify, which makes them the 367th most listened to artist. That’s impressive for a band whose last song came out in 2012 and whose last album was released in 2011. 

It’s also notable because the Gorillaz are about to make headlines – and hits – again.

Albarn has said that the Gorillaz’ fifth album will be released in 2017 and will be more like “Gorillaz” and “Demon Days,” which is amazing, considering the quality and success of those albums. De La Soul and Snoop Dogg are both confirmed to be collaborators on the new album. Both Albarn and Hewlett are ecstatic with the progress.

Worldwide, the self-titled debut album has reached 5x Platinum, which means it sold over five million copies. The experiment set the foundation for the masterpiece that is “Demon Days” and the sensational “Plastic Beach.” Hopefully the new album is out sooner rather than later.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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