Category Archives: entertainment

Lil Baby Delivers for Hip-hop Enthusiasts

On November 30th, Lil Baby, a rapper from Atlanta, Georgia,  dropped a new album called Street Gossip. Lil Baby’s last album was Drip Harder, which is a collab with Gunna. Which was released almost a month before Street Gossip.

Lil Baby has been featured on many songs with a lot of artists who are on the top of the list like Gunna and Young Thug. When he entered the game of rap, many people quickly took sight of Lil Baby. His voice was something different, and is something that fans of hip hop wanted to hear, something new. Lil Baby has been teasing fans by releasing leaks of his new album for a while.

I personally like the album, the rappers he includes make new vibes in the songs. The beats of the songs vary in the album and that’s what I enjoy in the album. My personal favorite is Ready featuring Gunna because the vibe of Lil Baby when he comes in is a new voice I have never heard before from him. What I like Lil Baby is that each song in the album gets you a different kind of vibe. When I hear the songs myself, I start to get different feelings to it. I get a chill vibe, or sometimes the beats hits hard and Lil Baby’s voice just goes on with it no matter what type of beat it produces. Street Gossip opens up with “Global” which gives the listeners a certain type of image of Lil Baby’s mental state. What is interesting in Street Gossip, is the type of instruments he adds to his songs like “Pure Cocaine”, which gives the interest of a lot of listeners.

When the features are introduced in the songs, they all have a different tone in each song. And how Lil Baby approaches after, gives the listeners a hype feeling. When Lil Baby approaches, he approaches in a different type of way on every feature in a song. This is what we want to hear. I like personally how Lil Baby’s voice changes in certain type of songs. It gives us what we want.

2018 has been the ultimate come up for Lil Baby, releasing large amount of songs with different quantity of beats. There is no doubt that Lil Baby is one of the top breakout artist in Hip-Hop 2018.

by Luis Rodriguez–Staff Reporter

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Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali create comedy, emotion in Green Book

We’ve seen it before. An Italian-American bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) in New York becomes the driver for a famous black pianist (Mahershala Ali) who is touring the South. As their journey through America begins their friendship grows and blah, blah, blah. Having seen the trailers and knowing the general plot going in, I thought I knew exactly what to expect, and in some respects I was correct. Green Book, however, blew any and all expectations out of the water.

This is easily one of the most heartwarming and charming films of the year so far. Peter Farrelly, the writer/director, typically does not take on films with even remotely serious subject matters. He was one of the people who did Dumb and Dumber, for Pete’s sake. However, he writes this movie better than any seasoned dramatic screenwriter could have possibly done. Farrelly injects his sense of humor into the script, and makes this drama one of the funniest movies of the season.

The screenplay may be excellent, but that is not what should be getting the Oscar buzz. Viggo Mortensen delivers a typically great performance as Tony Lip, the lower-middle class Italian whose favorite hobby is eating as much as humanly possible. The character is straight out of The Sopranos, which fits perfectly since the real-life Tony Lip had a minor role in the iconic television show, as well as iconic films like Goodfellas and The Godfather. Lip was a real-life Tony Soprano, just without the murder and mob killings. Mortensen has every single mannerism about Lip down, from the way he talks to all of the small gestures he makes. Lip was a heavyset man who loved food, so naturally Mortensen gained upwards of forty pounds for the role. Ever since The Lord of the Rings Mortensen has been hitting home run after home run, and his role in Green Book is no exception.

The glue that holds this film together is the chemistry between Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali as real-life piano player Don Shirley. Mortensen gives a more comedic performance, while Ali brings the emotion. His character is a very isolated man who has no family or friends to rely on despite his many riches. He lives all alone in a kingly apartment directly above Carnegie Hall, and he feels as though he doesn’t belong in his own African-American culture. Shirley was truly a genius piano player, and Ali absolutely nails every facet of his personality. Shirley’s personality contrasted with Lip’s is why Green Book works wonders. I could’ve watched Ali and Mortensen joke around with each other for far longer than the two hours and ten minutes that this film covers.

One of the biggest responsibilities of any biopic is representing its characters and events with relative accuracy. A major reason as to why I despise films like Bohemian Rhapsody is because all of the events were fabricated for Hollywood purposes and the subject of the biopic was not represented accurately at all. Green Book, however, gets almost everything about this unique story correct. Having researched the actual story after watching the film, it is staggering how much the writers got correct. After all, Tony Lip’s son, Nick Vallelonga, co-wrote the movie based off of stories his father told him while growing up. It is easy to see how much effort all of the filmmakers put into making the film as accurate as possible, which is exactly how every biopic should be helmed.

The fact that this film can be as true to real life as it is and still be so entertaining is a lesson to all other filmmakers who simply fabricate events and treat them as if they were real. The only slight flaw I have with Green Book is that yes, it is pretty predictable. The movie handles the plot with such expertise that it doesn’t matter most of the time, but from the beginning of the story arc it isn’t terribly difficult to see what direction the film is taking us. However, when a movie is this entertaining, whether or not the plot is predictable gets shoved into the background. Green Book is getting plenty of Oscar buzz, and it is easy to see why. Very few films this year put viewers in as good of spirits as this one does in the last few minutes. This film proves that you don’t need explosions or a big budget in order to have fun at the movie theater this holiday season. Green Book should be shown to families and schools everywhere, as it makes a better case against racism than most films, while also giving a fun and heartwarming experience that the whole family should be able to enjoy.

by Joel Alexander–Entertainment Editor

Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse easily outranks predecessors with humor, depth

Ever since comic book movies and TV shows have become popularized, there have been numerous Spider-Man releases; from the good Tobey Maguire/Sam Raimi Spider-Man films to the mediocre Andrew Garfield Amazing Spider-Man films, a wide range of releases have captured the character in many different styles and fashions. Therefore, when the new Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was announced, I, like many others, was very neutral on the subject. The trailers looked promising, but as of the last few years, a bit of a Spider-Man fatigue had set in, for I had seen the story told so many times before. Spider-Man: Homecoming was very good, but how many times can the same story be delivered to audiences in a slightly different manner?

An endless amount of times apparently, because Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an absolute masterwork. All of the other Spider-Man films have focused on the character of Peter Parker, but this is the first to introduce Miles Morales as the protagonist. Yes, you’ve heard the story before: kid gets bitten by radioactive spider, his hands start sticking to random objects, he must learn to control his powers, etc, etc. This film, however, gives itself a considerable leg up from the other Spider-Man feature-length films by letting the audience know straight out the gate that they are aware the story has been told before. The filmmakers are more than aware that they are not the first to pave this territory, which means they are able to build off the conventional material to create more original extensions of the main characters.

By the way, Peter Parker is actually featured in this film via parallel universe along with Gwen Stacy, Noir Peter Parker, and Peter Porker (don’t ask). All of these characters are wonderfully introduced with sequences that reflect each other in structure, but add their own unique situation and humor depending on the character. Every character’s motivations are understandable, because they are all so similar, given they have the typical superhero backgrounds but just slightly altered due to the parallel universes.

However, these minor characters from other universes rightfully take a backseat to Miles Morales, who is one of the more likeable superhero protagonists in the last couple years. His relationship with his father and his uncle are beautifully realized, and have brilliantly executed story arcs. The film also explores Morales’ inability to fit in, whether it be with his peers in the private school he doesn’t want to attend, or the fellow Spider-Men (and Women) who are more experienced than he is. Some of the arcs can be a little predictable, but as stated before, the movie isn’t about the predictability of the story, but the personal ralizations along the way.

Not only does Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse succeed as a superhero movie, but it is also a tremendous comedy and animation film. This is far and away one of the funniest films of the year, having more self-aware humor than Deadpool 2 and better slapstick comedy than the last five Adam Sandler movies combined. I will be unnecessarily quoting this film out of nowhere at social situations for months, and I will never run out of funny moments to spout. There’s not a joke in the entire two hour runtime that doesn’t land, which is rare for any Marvel movie given their track record of injecting unnecessary humor into serious situations.

If Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse doesn’t win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars this year then there is no justice in the world, for this is the finest animation I’ve seen in years. The city scapes have so much detail in them that it’s hard to tell if it’s animated or if it’s really good CGI; the neon-lit color palette of the nighttime scenes creates a visceral experience that is unparalleled in today’s cinema. The action scenes are enthralling and have filmed Spider-Man in ways never even conceived of in live-action alternatives. While shown in the trailer, the shot where Spider-Man falls upside-down is magnificent, and there are similarly great shots when Peter B. Parker casually walks on the side of buildings.

There is not one misstep that the directors make here. The end message is perfect, and will make many kids seeing this with their parents feel special — like they can achieve anything if they try. The directors of this film also know exactly when to cut a scene. No scene lingers too long or goes by too fast, everything is executed in the exact perfect time. Whenever I finish a movie that I think is exceptional in every way, I always go looking for flaws, for no movie is perfect. Only a couple films have been released this year where I haven’t found any, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of themThis new Spider-Man outing is easily the best of all the Spider-Man films, and is also my personal favorite movie of this year so far (yes, I like this better than Avengers: Infinity War). Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of the biggest surprises of 2018, and will give moviegoers of all ages a cinematic experience that they will remember for years. See this on the biggest screen possible in order to get the full experience, and definitely stick around for the end credits, because this film has the funniest after-credits scene in years.

by Joel Alexander–Entertainment Editor

Red Dead Redemption 2 Claims Spot as the Best Game of 2018

Red Dead Redemption 2 is an instant classic and fine successor to the first. The game starts off with a snowy scene, and depicts the main character as a part of a small cowboy gang running from the law and fighting for their lives. This prologue stands around two hours, and takes place in a winterous environment. The intro drags on at a slower, yet enjoyable pace; after that, the game throws you into the massive open world. It gives you the option to play main missions and experience the cowboy life, or to just explore the massive open world and experience its many wonders.

One of the ways you can truly see the density and richness of the open world is by going into one of the many towns. Once you enter a town, you can see npcs living their everyday life: drunkards in the saloons, builders building houses, and shepherds leading sheep. You can step into the general store and buy anything you see, go to the gun store and customize your rifle,  you can do nearly anything. And the best part is, you can interact and talk to anyone you see. But with the jam packed towns comes a spacious, yet full wilderness. When exploring the less populated wilderness, your surroundings feel vibrant and alive. With many random events and hidden characters, it gives you a variety of things to do while exploring this thriving open world and makes the world of Read Dead Redemption 2 feel just that much more full.

With this being a cowboy game, you would only expect a hard and unforgiving desert, yet you get quite the opposite. In Red Dead Redemption 2, you can explore great snowy mountains, dense forests, flooded swamps, and open plains. In these biomes there are a variety of animals ranging from bears to snakes, but with this open world comes a rich story. Though you would think the old cowboy western would be stale and dry, with meticulously crafted dialogue and clever character development, the story stands as the cherry on top. With the game’s realism and its ability to keep you entertained no matter what, I believe that it has easily taken the spot of the best game of 2018.

by Vincent Fanelli–Contributor

Outlaw King: A boring but well-constructed Braveheart follow-up

Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) is Scotland’s new hope for freedom in Outlaw King.   photo acquired via imdb.com

The long awaited sequel to Braveheart has arrived! Not really, but Outlaw King is likely to be the closest we will ever get to a follow-up to the 1995 Mel Gibson classic. It follows Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) shortly after the death of William Wallace and the quenching of the latest Scottish uprising. Robert has just been forced to kneel to the King of England (Stephen Dillane), and his father has just died. All of these events coalesce with Robert rising up against the English tyranny and claiming himself as the King of Scotland.

The one thing this film does better than Braveheart is that it is considerably more historically accurate. Braveheart is an excellent film, but let’s face it, almost nothing depicted on screen actually occurred. Outlaw King has considerably more accuracy, and while there are some obvious liberties taken here and there, it gets the general gist of things correct. Unfortunately, this may be the only aspect of this film that truly improves upon Braveheart.

That’s not to say this movie is completely worthless, because it’s actually not bad. In fact, it’s actually very good at times. One of those times is the very opening scene, which introduces all of the main characters in one long nine minute shot. It really gives of glimpse of the immaculate set design that went into this film, and it is insanely well shot. In fact, the absolute best thing about Outlaw King is the combination of cinematography and production design. Even when some scenes can be kind of boring thematically, this film looks positively gorgeous. Director of Photography Barry Ackroyd (Captain Phillips, The Hurt Locker) really outdoes himself with this one. The battle scenes (though tone-deaf, but we’ll get to that later) are fully realized and incredibly gritty, and all of that is due to both the incredible set design and cinematography.

Director David Mackenzie also shows he is not a one-off director here. He has to follow up his previous film, Hell or High Water, which is one of the best films of 2016. He doesn’t get anywhere near that level of suspense or expertise, but it is easy to see that the talent is still there, especially in some of the quieter scenes, which I found to be far more chilling than the loud and bombastic war scenes.

Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce is another highlight, but did we honestly expect any different? Even when Pine is in an abysmal film (A Wrinkle in Time), he still manages to be the best part of it.

On the subject of acting, this unfortunately brings me to my nitpicks with Outlaw King. Many people often say that a movie is only as good as its villain. This is definitely not always true, but if a movie has an awful villain, than chances are it won’t succeed near as much as the filmmakers want it to. Unfortunately, Outlaw King falls under this spell. The main antagonist, in the end, is not the King of England: instead it is his son, Edward. Edward is an incompetent and sadistic baby who cannot keep his temper under control for more than half a second, which was honestly more funny than menacing. When the main villain is that incompetent, it is impossible to feel at all threatened by him, which means that throughout the movie there are essentially no stakes. Yes, I know that he could potentially die and be oppressed by the English, but the film made it feel as though the main characters were just wandering around Scotland fighting random battles.

This leads to another unfortunate aspect of this film: the battle scenes. They remind me of the action scenes in Michael Bay’s Transformers movies: they give the viewer no sense of what is happening. Random objects are flying around, people are getting hit by objects, blood is being sprayed, and I have no earthly idea what is happening. Whenever I look to a great medieval battle sequence, I look to the Battle of the Bastards sequence in Game of Thrones. All of the carnage is shown in complete clarity so that the audience can feel every blow that the main character receives. I could go on for days about the mastery of that sequence, but unfortunately Outlaw King does not follow any of these visual techniques.

My biggest complaint about Outlaw King is that it is simply boring. The movie seems to drag on far longer than its actual runtime, and the Netflix version isn’t even the full cut of the movie shown at the Toronto International Film Festival. Even during the action scenes I was checking the time, which is the last thing a filmmaker wants a viewer to be doing when they should be scared that the main character will violently perish.

Outlaw King is not a bad film. It just isn’t good either. I really do wish I was more invested in the events portrayed, but the film had a significant lack of suspense that I could not seem to get over while watching. I would recommend this for some casual viewing, but there’s an extremely graphic sex scene at the end of the first act, so I definitely wouldn’t recommend inviting your girlfriend/boyfriend over to Netflix & chill. If you’re a fan of Chris Pine or just war films in general than you might like Outlaw King, but if not, it’s probably not worth wasting your time.

by Joel Alexander–Entertainment Editor 

Bohemian Rhapsody film provides disappointment

Via 20th Century Fox

There is no better Oscar bait than the biopic, and Bohemian Rhapsody, an examination into the life of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, fits the bill perfectly. Mercury is indisputably one of the greatest vocalists to exist, and, to me, he is the best lead singer of all time. Queen is known by essentially everybody under the sun, and even for those who don’t know them by name (if not, where have you been for the last 40 years?), you will definitely know them from songs like “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.” They are absolute legends, and it’s about time Hollywood made a film about them.

Unfortunately, the filming of Bohemian Rhapsody has become almost infamous at this point, because of the change of directors halfway through filming. For those not educated in the drama, the director, X-Men’s Bryan Singer, was showing up late and neglecting his responsibilities according to lead actor Rami Malek. On top of that, Singer was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women around this time. Malek complained to the studio, and they fired Singer, who was shortly replaced by Eddie the Eagle’s Dexter Fletcher.

Typically, whenever this much turmoil happens behind the scenes of a film, it shows on screen. Unfortunately, this is no exception.

Bohemian Rhapsody comes up short on almost every level. Some of the only positive traits I could take away from it were Malek’s dedicated performance as Freddie Mercury and the soundtrack (obviously). That’s about it.

I wasn’t alive when Mercury was, but even I can tell when a man’s reputation is slandered on screen. I’m not saying this movie needed to be a propaganda piece about Mercury’s genius, but it didn’t need to make him look like the anchor that was dragging the rest of Queen back. The film doesn’t concentrate on his genius at all. From the beginning, they simply portray him as an eccentric personality who would strut around like he was on top of the world, putting his own needs above that of his band members. I don’t know where they got this information, but this just seems like a portrayal based on stereotype, not on reality.

This movie misses on a whole bunch of aspects of Freddie’s life, but easily the biggest that it gets wrong is its portrayal of his homosexuality. From the instant it is brought up in the film, there is a negative connotation surrounding his sexual preference, which sends an awful message to those struggling with their identity. The film also completely generalizes homosexual mannerisms by making Freddie Mercury seem overly “flamboyant.” If you take a look at Mercury’s actual mannerisms, they are outgoing yes, but not flamboyant. Bohemian Rhapsody takes the fact that he was gay, and injects the stereotypes into his personality. This perpetuates stigmas that shouldn’t exist in society, and casually slips them into viewers minds.

The entire reason that viewers watch biopics is to get some new and interesting information either about a person they already know or a person they are discovering for the first time. The only new information that Bohemian Rhapsody gives us is either uninteresting or just completely false. Every time Mercury or any other members of the band write a famous song, it is just incidental–like they just happened to be playing it in order to get a cheer out of the die-hard Queen fans in the audience. There is absolutely no insight into the creative process that goes behind the writing of their iconic songs, and when there is an attempt, it ends up just being a montage sequence of Malek and crew lip-syncing in the recording studio.

There is also a conflict that lasts the second half of the movie between Mercury and the other members of Queen that was cringe-inducingly fake. The film depicts a falling-out of Mercury and Queen that goes on for years, but in reality this never happened. Mercury did make two solo albums, but they never made the entire band fall apart, and the Live Aid concert that comprises the finale was in no means a reunion.

There are far too many historical inaccuracies in Bohemian Rhapsody to name, which is shameful beyond words. There is absolutely no point to making a biopic if most of the events you depict are based on false information. Not only that, the actual Mercury’s real life was far more interesting than this film made it seem. Mercury spent the first seventeen years of his life in India listening to American music and striving to be a rock star, even forming his own band in his tween years. The first seventeen years of one’s life form who they are as a person, so why wasn’t this depicted? The Live Aid concert would have been far more impactful if we had seen his poor upbringing in India, and it would have given the film an emotional weight that is nonexistent in the version we got.

Rami Malek is good here, but he is not good enough to pull this dumpster fire of a movie together. Remember Freddie Mercury as he actually was, not what this film wants you to think of him. Mercury was one of the best performers ever, and if you want to see why, then looking on his Wikipedia page would be a far better source of information than Bohemian Rhapsody. Few films this year left me as disappointed as this one did. Instead of wasting money on this film, stay home and watch the incredible and iconic Live Aid performance yourself rather than viewing a mediocre recreation of it.

by joel alexander–entertainment editor

The Haunting at Hill House is a Truly Horrific Spine Chiller

Via imdb

Truly effective horror shows are very difficult to pull off, which is why they are so rare. Netflix pioneered the concept of good horror television with Stranger Things, and have gone all out with their new project The Haunting of Hill House. Horror to this degree has not been done effectively in television due to the difficulty of keeping the audience in constant suspense for an entire ten hours of film. Nevertheless, Mike Flanagan seems to have cracked the formula, with one of the most bone-chilling and truly terrifying pieces of horror in the last decade.

Flanagan introduces the Crains, a fragmented family who are all still haunted (literally and figuratively) from their past–specifically when they lived inside Hill House, a giant and spacious mansion that is tailor made for horror. The show often flashes back to the Crains’ childhood in order to give more context to the events happening in present-day. Storyline-wise, Hill House contains virtually everything you could possibly want in any television show: insanely suspenseful sequences, emotionally investing characters, and insane non-linear storytelling.

As the show goes on, each episode appears to take place at the same span of time but from different characters’ perspectives. The greatest aspect of this show’s structure–which is saying a lot–is that it is like putting together a puzzle. When each episode passes, more pieces are added to the puzzle, and a bigger picture is gradually created that is equally horrifying and emotional.

The best horror films/shows are those that don’t just involve demon possession. No offense to The Conjuring, but when a film’s only theme is simply attempting to scare the audience, it seldom succeeds due to the weak emotional stakes. Of course, there are exceptions to this generalization, but fortunately Hill House doesn’t have to deal with problem at all, because it has more emotional stakes than the best of TV’s dramas. This season is essentially a better version of This is Us. Episode Five, “The Bent-Neck Lady,” is a wonderous example of how the show combines nail-biting horror with tear-inducing melodrama. The last twenty minutes of this episode contain some of the most beautiful scenes in recent years of television, despite the horror undertones. And then the final thirty seconds…. Well, you’ll have to watch it for yourself.

The horror is all the more terrifying due to the emotional stakes it brings to the table. Every single creature or entity that is introduced in the first half of the season is explained later in a way that isn’t simply saying, “it’s a demon.” The explanations also make the entities that much more disturbing, instead of quenching all the horror that was built up throughout the show with a shallow write-off.

Flanagan writes and directs Hill House with ease and has finally made the horror masterwork that audiences have been yearning for from him. His previous films, while very good, nearly achieve mastery but just barely fall short. Here, Flanagan finally rises to all of the potential he showed with films like Hush and Oculus. One episode that was especially masterfully crafted was Episode Six: “Two Storms”. This episode was filmed in roughly five shots, with the cast and crew continually working without cuts for twenty minutes at a time. This is quite an achievement, especially since Flanagan still manages to make it suspenseful and gut-wrenchingly emotional.

One particular quirk that cannot be ignored when discussing The Haunting of Hill House is the inclusion of random presences appearing and disappearing in the background of shots. This can be as simple as a person standing in the doorway in one shot and then disappearing the next, to entire statues moving positions to face ominously towards the camera. Most of this is very difficult for the casual viewer to spot–someone had to point out to me that there was a stark white face in the background of the scene in which young Theo goes into the cellar–but once you do, it will cause you to peer into every dark corner as if something is staring back at you.

If this show does not win every single Emmy for acting, then there is no justice in the world. Particularly transcendent are Victoria Pedretti as Nell, Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Luke, and Kate Siegel as Theodora. Pedretti has an especially tough job, delivering some of the most emotionally devastating scenes in recent TV history during Episode 5. Jackson-Cohen nails the gait of a drug addict who cannot seem to escape a levitating figure from his childhood. Siegel delivers an understated performance as the sister who hides a secret from society that gives her an advantage (or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it) in her area of work. The Haunting of Hill House is easily the best horror I have seen in recent years, and it will most definitely get under your skin in some way by the time the ten episodes are up. When finished, I immediately wanted to watch it again despite its horrifying nature; the twists and turns along the way changed my perspective of the show and it would be interesting to see the ways it foreshadowed what was to come. Skip over Chilling Adventures of Sabrina; the best show around right now is easily The Haunting of Hill House.

by joel alexander–entertainment editor