Category Archives: entertainment

A ‘Twilight’ rehash, ‘Host’ offers muddled characters, plot, acting

If you’re looking for a plot-less version of the Twilight franchise with more visual effects that’s set in a post-apocalyptic society, then you should go see Stephanie Meyer’s latest book-to-film gem The Host. But really, you shouldn’t waste your money.
The “plot” focuses on an Earth where all human bodies are inhabited by a peaceful alien species that has apparently dominated several other planets without any sort of rebellion. Where the species came from and why it needs to dominate other life forms is never explained, which really helps the audience understand.
The film focuses on an average-looking teen named Melanie (Saoirse Ronan), who is abducted by a gang of alien-inhabited humans who attempt to find human rebels, a group Melanie was part of. Her new identity, Wanderer, or Wanda, tries to extract the memories from Melanie in order to expose the human rebels, but Wanda and Melanie form a connection that is displayed in awkward, schizophrenic conversations. Wanda/Melanie eventually escapes and rejoins Melanie’s old friends where conflicts with old and new love interests arise.
Basically, nothing added up. It wasn’t believable that two people were living in one body. What’s worse is that there was a complete lack of chemistry between Roanan and the two love interests. We should’ve learned our lesson about Stephanie Meyer from the Twilight franchise, but apparently America can’t get enough of standard-looking brunettes involved in supernatural stories, who must choose between the affections of two men.
Unfortunately, the acting mirrored the plot. Ronan gave a confusing performance as Melanie/Wanda in which she changed her accent from awkward teen to southern belle nearly every scene. She also wore heels the entire film, even when she was walking in the desert for days. Diane Kruger’s The Seeker (not the Quidditch position) was irrelevant and mediocre at best. The two leading men (Jake Abel and Max Irons) were great eye-candy, but that’s about it. Not even hot, shirtless men can make up for the perplexing plot or terrible line delivery.
Meanwhile, in what seemed to be a totally different movie, people in all-chrome technology hunt them down. If only they had caught them.

~Maddie Lemelin, features/arts director

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‘Gears of War: Judgment’ faster, bloodier, and better than the rest

The always magical Gears of War franchise returns with gore and violence galore. Judgment is the prequel to the first three Gears of War games, but it offers an entirely new spin on the series, taking the slow gameplay to a faster, more exciting level.
The story in Judgment begins at the end. The player starts as Lt. Damon Baird on trial for treason against the Coalition of Ordered Governments. Baird testifies that during the first year of the Locust War, with humanity being slaughtered, he and Kilo squad discovered that the Locust general planned to destroy Halvo Bay. Kilo squad decided to use the Lightmass missile (the equivalent of a nuke without the fallout) against the order of their commanding officer.
For the first time in the series, the campaign is experienced through flashbacks, rather than unfolding as the player moves through an ever-evolving story. It is a challenging, competitive, and fun way to play with friends. But when playing alone, it is ridiculously frustrating because the A.I. allies in your squad are a bunch of morons with chain saws and knives. The experience is boosted by “declassified” missions that make the game more challenging. They implement scenarios where players may only use certain weapons or are blinded by smoke or roaring winds. The reward for doing these missions is in game content, such as dialogue that would not be heard otherwise. Another advantage to doing declassified missions is that players accumulate stars by which he or she gains achievements or unlockable multiplayer characters and skins.
Why is Judgment different from any other Gears? Speed. Speed has become the most deadly force in Judgment. Little things like reloading or picking up weapons faster, or even just moving faster, has infused new life into this already stellar series of games. Many players may find that the adjustment to a much faster, Call-of-Duty style of gameplay takes some getting used to. Epic Games took a chance releasing a game that does not play like the others in the series, but the reward is a truly exciting change that is worth the $60.
Judgment allows players to enjoy the violent world of online multiplayer, where players can dominate and humiliate their opponents. Judgment has brought the domination and free-for-all game modes to the series. In domination, players contend to control separate areas on the map for short periods of time, and in free-for-all players fight without teammates. The multiplayer is not new, but it is different. In this case, different is good.
Gears of War: Judgment is not the best game in the series, but it is new. Epic Games not only made several changes to gameplay, but it also put out a different game with the great Gears feel. It is still third person, it is still full of the blood and body-part ripping that we have all come to love, but now it is even more fast-paced, allowing even more glorious death. A short, yet challenging, story will give gamers a solid six to eight hours of challenging gameplay with a few friends, while a seriously enhanced multiplayer mode will provide endless hours of explosive fun. This game is definitely worth a four of four stars and is a must-buy for the upcoming summer season.

~Josh Henry, design editor

Bowie boisterously bounces back after heart attack

David Bowie’s iconic music and performance on stage need no introduction. Best known for his 1972 revolutionary album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, and his flashy, vivid getups, he has been dubbed by Rolling Stone as one of the greatest artists of all time. Ten years since his last album, Bowie is neither rusty, nor out-of-date with his spectacular recent release, The Next Day.
There has always been something undeniably intriguing about Bowie, and this album puts that quality in the spotlight. He begins the record with something of a doomsday mystique, ironically playing on the recent rumors of his crumbling health with lyrics like, “Here I am, not quite dying, my body left in a hollow tree.” Gritty sax and guitar playing characterize this album, giving the glam-rock artist a muddy, almost sultry edge. Bowie succeeds in effortlessly combining his old, legendary sound with an intimate, vaguely mysterious, and less bluesy tone. This intimacy is found in tracks such as the lyrically dense “I’d Rather Be High,” which recalls the post-war life of a traumatized soldier. Other tracks follow suit, covering a spectrum of heart-wrenching topics, from the tragic ballad of a high school shooter, to Bowie’s meditations on celebrity culture.
“You Feel So Lonely You Could Die” is a song for stereo speakers, incorporating a blazing guitar and drum line indicative of Ziggy Stardust’s “Suffragette City.” “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” is perhaps the most revered and successful track on the album, and reflects on the immortal nature of a celebrity with a backdrop of descending synth and guitar progressions.
The Next Day is a musical resurrection, a work of art, and a thrilling comeback for anticipating fans. While many of the songs could easily fit into one of his many hit records from the 70s, Bowie has successfully extended his abstract themes from previous works into a new, modern, and energetic achievement. The Next Day proves that Bowie, at age 66, has plenty left to give the world musically, and this record has earned a spot among his many great works.

~Michelle Daniek, staff reporter

Tyler triumphs on new album

A lot of people hate Tyler, the Creator. The soccer moms, suburban churchgoers, and sensitive hipsters hate his attitude and his satirical sarcasm. They hate his vulgar language, his violent imagery, and the sound of his voice. They hate him the same way they hated Eminem in the early 2000s, and they will not tolerate him. One can’t help but think of the Sex Pistols.
However, even Tyler’s critics have to admit that he’s unique. His new album, Wolf, is further proof of his authenticity. I can’t remember the last time I heard a rapper with as much conviction. His deep, rolling voice always has something to say, whether he’s complaining about his hype, lashing out at his absent father, or narrating the thoughts of a serial killer. Tyler’s entire musical attitude is soaked in artistic creativity, a dark and interesting atmosphere, and often in raw intimacy. When he’s not wasting time with shock lyrics or fan-rallying catch phrases, Tyler is one of the most personally honest and intriguing voices in modern hip hop. His debut album, Bastard, was an emotional rollercoaster. Wolf represents a return to form after his somewhat inauthentic sophomore effort, Goblin.
On Wolf Tyler rehashes the accessible hooks so many people liked on Goblin, but also reincorporates the emotional intensity so many people missed from Bastard. Songs like “Jamba” and “Domo23” burst with fiery production and provocative rhymes catchy enough to bring in a wider audience. Tracks like “Cowboy,” and “Awkward” focus on avant-garde lyricism, dark beats, and conceptual character development. “Answer” is not only the most emotionally charged song on the album, but it is also one of the most powerful songs in hip-hop so far this year, fusing Tyler’s real life with his story characters and giving him an outlet to vent about paternal abandonment. Every verse drips with an impeccable honesty and emotional power, backed by a beautifully subtle drum beat and synth line.
Unfortunately, the whole album isn’t gold. Tyler shows he has yet to grow out of his somewhat stale, horror-core shock-tactics. However ironic he intends the homophobia and sexism in his lyrics to be, sometimes his characters come off sounding unimpressively plastic. There aren’t any particularly bad songs on Wolf, but many of them don’t sound too fantastic either.
Tyler’s new record has its blunders just as he has his, but overall, Wolf is a rich, artistic concept album, and represents an artist growing in maturity and nearing a possible magnum opus. Even with his faults, Tyler remains one of the most interesting MCs in modern hip-hop, and one of the most daring, as well.

~Patrick Duggan, news director

Love Taylor; Don’t be a hater

As soon as a musician like Taylor Swift rises to the top, a stream of constant criticism will likely follow:
“She sounds like a dying raccoon.”
“She’s not even pretty. She has rat eyes.”
“This music is for 10-year-old girls!”
I have heard these comments attacks on her abilities, her beauty, and her music for the seven years that Swift has been on top of the charts, and it’s time to set the record straight.

She is gorgeous
Blonde hair, blue eyes, long legs, beautiful smile. Taylor Swift is quite simply the all-American idea of flawless. She is one of the few in Hollywood who isn’t notorious for fashion blunders. Taylor has changed her style as she discovers who she is, just like any young adult. Watching her transition from awkwardly cute country girl to glamorous CoverGirl model has been exhilarating.
She writes songs we all (secretly) relate to
Everyone has heard a Taylor Swift song. Everyone has also related to a Taylor Swift song. The attacks on Taylor often involve the maturity level in through her songs. I didn’t get the memo that once you turn 23, you stop having feelings, experiencing heartbreak, and obsessing over relationships. Her songs are the conversations that girls have with their friends put to music, and they touch on everything, from spending forever with your best friend, to rants about exes who didn’t treat her right. No matter what you’re going through with a guy, you can find a Taylor Swift song to put on repeat until the situation is resolved.
She’s self-made
Taylor Swift pursued a passion that turned into a success story. After singing in talent shows and bars, 14-year-old Swift moved to Nashville with her family to pursue a music career. With persistence, Swift released her first album at age 16, raw look into her teenage mind. Swift is known for writing her own lyrics. She maintains a clean, authentic image that makes it easy for fans to relate to and love her.
She is a good role model
From Vanessa Hudgens’ racy role in Spring Breakers to Miley Cyrus’s destruction of her clean country image, young female celebrities have an iffy track record. Swift, however, has managed to keep a squeaky clean reputation; a serious Swift scandal has yet to hit the newsstands. Swift’s songs also teach important lessons to young girls, since her songs don’t revolve around partying, drinking, or promiscuity (looking at you, Ke$ha). Through her music, Swift sends the message that heartbreak is human and just because he dumped you, it doesn’t mean you will die with cats, which is an important lesson for adolescent girls.
She has matured and will continue to grow
I cannot deny that Swift’s earliest songs sound like a whiny teenage girl’s Tumblr read aloud. Her first eponymous album goes through a relationship, from fond memories of sneaking out and talking all night, to how much Taylor actually hated her ex’s pickup truck. Rhymes were hastily crafted, and lines were paraphrased cliches, which is perfectly fine for a 16-year-old’s debut album. Swift’s artistic maturation is documented through her albums. In her 2012 release, Red, Swift compares a broken relationship to “driving a new Maserati down a dead end street, faster than the wind.” As her music career advances, Swift continues to develop into the fantastic woman she is bound to be.

~Abby Seitz, online/associate editor

7 bands you need to know

Even in the digital age, finding good music can be a Herculean task. One has to sort through all of the B-grade, “underground” rappers, the poor-quality demos of aspiring country stars, and the horrible singles of rising pop stars to find the few good new artists. To help save you some time, here’s a short list of some of the best artists to check out this year.
1. Kendrick Lamar – If you haven’t heard Kendrick Lamar, then you might be living under a rock. The 25-year-old rapper established a huge internet following with his mixtapes back in 2010, but with the release of his studio album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, Lamar has become one of the biggest names in rap. He has collaborated with everyone from Dr. Dre to The Lonely Island, and Lamar has received universal acclaim for his unique voice and lyrical talent. Be on the lookout for more collaborations and a slew of awards for the young rapper.
Must-listen song: “Swimming Pools (Drank)”
2. Husky – Australian indie rock band Husky hasn’t had a hit – yet. The quartet is named for the lead singer, Husky Gawenda, whose name describes his voice. The band’s material ranges from songs with slow rhythms and soothing acoustics, to upbeat tempos and sweeping melodies, but all fall into the genre of good. This is definitely a band to watch if you like music that will make you sit down, relax, and just appreciate the song.
Must-listen song: “Animals and Freaks”
3. Angel Haze – Females rappers have been underrepresented, but recently some bright stars have risen, and Angel Haze is definitely one. The 21-year-old phenom broke into the rap scene in 2012, after she covered Eminem’s classic “Cleaning Out My Closet” – and made it better. With new collaborations and original work on the horizon, keep an eye out for Angel Haze.
Must-listen song: “Gossip Folks”
4. Florida Georgia Line – Anyone who’s listened to the radio recently has probably heard this band. The group scored a top hit with “Cruise,” off the Here’s To the Good Times LP. The band is composed of musicians Brian Kelley, from Florida, and Tyler Hubbard, from Georgia, hence the band’s name. With talent that suggests more than one-hit-wonder status, the rest of the album is worth a listen. New backing from a major country label could make Florida Georgia Line a fixture in country music.
Must-listen song: “Cruise”
5. Death Grips – It’s hard to describe Death Grips’ sound beyond the relatively uninformative term “unique.” They have described their sound as punk, mixed with hip-hop, mixed with “noise.” The group’s approach to music has garnered ample critical acclaim, with their studio album, The Money Stone, ranking ninth on Pitchfork’s Best Albums of the Year of 2012.
Must-listen song: “I’ve Seen Footage”
6. Future – Future is the second vocalist for the 2011 YC hit “Racks,” and has collaborated with big-name hip-hop artists such as Lil Wayne, Drake, and T. I.. His sound is that of a mediocre rapper, but with melodies more on point than most of the big players in hip-hop. With a new studio album, Future Hendrix, featuring Kanye West, Rihanna, Drake, Rick Ross, Jeremih, and others, it’s likely that Future will pop up in 2013.
Must-listen song: “Tony Montana (ft. Drake)”
7. Animal Kingdom – For fans of the indie alterna-rock genre, British trio Animal Kingdom delivers songs that are reminiscent of folk-rock meets Muse. The traditional guitar-drums-bass setup is accompanied by sweeping piano and synth melodies on most every track, in addition to the lead singer’s quiet voice. Although the band has been around since 2009, their latest studio effort, The Looking Away, is the one that merits attention.
Must-listen song: “Strange Attractor”

~Fiona McCarthy, staff reporter

Political thriller becomes entangled in its own manipulative machinations

Is it good? Yes. Could it be better? Probably. Does it really need to be? Probably not. Like its protagonist Frank Underwood, House of Cards, a first foray into Netflix-produced programming, is unashamedly itself. Its premise is fairly straightforward: House Majority Whip Frank Underwood (D-South Carolina) helps elect president Garrett Walker, in exchange for the promise of promotion to Secretary of State. When he is passed over after the election, vengeful machinations ensue.
Wife Claire (Robin Wright) backs Underwood (Kevin Spacey) through the conduit of her tightly-run clean water non-profit. The senator also executes his smarmily Southern puppeteering with personal Chief of Staff Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) and Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), a stereotypically spunky young reporter working for the fictional Washington Herald. Zoe just wants to get somewhere. Unfortunately, Underwood seems to be doing most of the thinking for Zoe, feeding her juicy advance scoops and scandalous editorials that hang on the skeleton in a Congressman’s closet. Finally, Underwood lures budding Pennsylvania Representative Peter Russo (Corey Stoll) into doing his bidding by lifting alcohol and prostitution charges against him; apparently booze, blunts, and babes are not unfamiliar to this Friendly American Congressman.
The hooplah surrounding the show occasionally distracts from the show itself. The entire first season of House of Cards was release at one time up front and available solely online, a practice that has been hailed as “the future of TV,” as Internet access and television streaming (via Netflix and…other providers) continues to expand. I like having shows online. I watch more TV programming on Netflix than movies, and it’s pleasant to be able to finish an entire series in bed, on my laptop, without having to wait week-by-week for the next episode. But I’m not sure if I started and finished HOC so quickly because I liked it, or because it was available and I just wanted it to be over.
Frankly, I decided to watch HOC because it stars Kevin Spacey. Creator David Fincher aptly hailed Spacey’s work on a recent production of Richard III as quality preparation forHOC; Underwood’s sheer, pleasantly distributed ruthlessness and sassy direct-to-camera asides echo Shakespeare’s villain. Spacey obviously relishes his role, which makes the rest of the show at least bearable.
I feel obligated to like this show, because of Kevin Spacey, because I should support Netflix’s gutsy venture, but…eh. HOC’s impossibly sleek, pristine production interferes with everything else. Even in supposedly gritty scenes, involving Peter Russo, cocaine, and an old hippie, the light falls just so on the dusty yellow couch in the run-down home. HOC looks as if the production team paged through Pottery Barn and the Washingtonian and rented photo spreads that don’t look real or lived-in, but eerily perfect. Shots of the Underwoods’ impeccable downtown townhouse make me want to throw duvets or spill lemon juice around the kitchen. These sets are just too clean. They’re disquieting.
I felt that same disquiet about the oddly trope-y characters, as though I’d seen versions of these people before. Ah, yes, the young politician struggling to recover from drug and alcohol addiction. The frighteningly cool-as-ice, uber-capable power wife, a frustratedly frumpy managing editor, and the jilted head of a teacher’s union populate a cast I’ve seen somewhere before. And this is the show’s tipping point to meh, for me, at least – none of the characters “clicked” for me. The character I wanted more of was essentially cast aside after the second episode: Catherine Durant, Underwood’s longtime friend whom he promotes to Secretary of State in his place. I’d much rather go globetrotting with Catherine Durant that schmooz-plotting with Frank Underwood.
There’s something about this show, like The Big Bang Theory, that unsettles me. Maybe it’s the tropes, maybe it’s the broad, sleek production, maybe it’s Underwood’s relentlessly precise machinations; whatever the cause, something is out of place. Plot and character and design slip into neat little boxes that portray Washington as the legendary stereotype of itself the parties, the politics, glossy modernity smashing into American Neoclassicism. I’m reminded of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette; fed up with the endless, farcical etiquette at the royal palace, Marie complains that “this is ridiculous.” Her companion the Comtess de Noailles simply replies, “This, Madame, is Versailles.”

~Sophie Byvik, editor-in-chief