Category Archives: entertainment

‘Halcyon:’ Goulding spins sonic gold

When I first heard Ellie Goulding’s single, “Lights,” I was underwhelmed and wrote her off as just another Ke$ha-dubbed one-hit-wonder. Thankfully, I was introduced to more of her music. Let’s just say, her Pandora station currently runs my life. In particular, her latest album, Halcyon, has taken over my interest…and my iTunes bill.
It is clear that Goulding has grown from her first album Lights. Though she continues to display songs from several different emotional ranges, the music itself seems a tad more mature. The beats and tempos seem to follow suit with the lyrics in originality and they both team up and take the listener on a journey of sorts.
Usually, I don’t listen to electronica, but once I heard the unique melodies and great lyrics I was hooked. On Halcyon, Goulding utilizes a wide range of lyrical topics, like hope for the future in “Anything Could Happen,” which is an anthem of sorts. From the stand point of a college-bound senior, the future is really an unpredictable thing and this song gives me everything I need to look at the years to come with hope. The up beat tempo and great vocals always give me goose-bumps and gives me that urge to turn it up and dance no matter where I am.
Halcyon features a few tear-jerkers. The tortured love song, “I Know You Care,” is almost as heart-warming as the video (which features clips from the film Now is Good, a movie about a girl who gets cancer and meets a boy she eventually falls in love with…basically it has all the components to make most people with hearts and working emotions cry). The song brings me back to that one break up that never should’ve happened.
There’s even a song that gives a shout out to your hometown, even if you hate it in Warrenton “In My City” gives you something to be proud of here, or wherever you’re from.
And these are just a few choice favorites from yours truly, the whole album is filled with relatable themes coated in the fluttery vocals of Goulding and optimistic electropop tones. This is an album that I can listen to over and over again; I love it, and you should too.

~Maddie Lemelin, features/arts director

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‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’: Bilbo Baggins of bag end and jazz

Bilbo Baggins was going on an adventure. I was coming home.
Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of three movies chronicling J. R. R. Tolkien’s prequel to the Lord of the Rings saga, isn’t a perfect adaptation, (although neither were his LOTR films,). What matters to me isn’t the movie. I want the world-building. I want to be in Middle Earth. And as the film opened to the lilting notes of Howard Shore’s ‘The Shire,’ I shed a little tear, because here was home.
Jackson opens An Unexpected Journey in much the same way as Fellowship of the Ring; nearing his eleventy-seventh birthday, an older Bilbo (Ian Holm) places finishing touches on the narrative that will become The Hobbit. We learn of the Lonely Mountain, where a large, fierce dragon called Smaug guards inconceivable wealth that once belonged to the greedy dwarf king, Thror. Then the film launches into its main narrative; the quiet, well-appointed life of a young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is thrown into whirlwind when Gandalf the Grey (Sir Ian McKellan) arrives to persuade him to join Thror’s grandson, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), and 12 other dwarves on a quest to retrieve the golden hoard and to oust Smaug.
While at first understandably reluctant to travel so far from the comfort of the Shire, Bilbo joins the band as they fight trolls, wargs, and sentient mountains, all while evading Azog the Defiler, the Pale Orc, and his nasty compatriots, who gives An Unexpected Journey a suitable antagonist.
I’ve said that An Unexpected Journey isn’t a perfect film. The CGI has that odd glowing quality, as if it’s trying to make itself look more real, when in fact it looks like it’s right out of a bad tourism advertisement. There is the drawn-out conflict between of the tough-as-nails Thorin and the unhappy camper, Bilbo Baggins, (do not worry, they learn to tolerate each other through mutual life-saving, and even become bros). And there is a bizarre, questionably romantic moment of cheek-stroking between Gandalf and Galadriel (Cate Blanchette) while the company rests at Rivendell, which will surely lead to a smattering of bad fanfiction. Eurgh.
What is easily the most wonderful aspect of the film, is, surprisingly, the music. Many viewers don’t know (not having read the books; please do) that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Ring are filled will poetry, song, and dance. Inhabitants of Middle Earth sing about everything, and there is no lack of chants and odes about drinking, and, er, eating. The film is replete with the happy lightness of flutes, dwarf chants sung low low low, and the heartbeat-matching tha-thump of drums. Music is the most seamless aspect of the world Jackson constructed.
The famous riddle scene between Bilbo and Gollum (Andy Serkis) passes without much fanfare. Gollum is oddly charming, and, dare I say it, cute, in his babbling determination to win the riddle-banter and eat Bilbo. The audience was chortling gently at Gollum’s antics, but I couldn’t laugh. Behind the jokes, behind the darling oddity that is Gollum, is Smeagol, a being that was a Hobbit at some point. This cute riddle scene, is so gut-wrenching because the Smeagol in Gollum so desperately wants to play a game. All he wants is a riddle or two. He needs to feel at home again.
Martin Freeman, is Bilbo Baggins. He’s got a sort of Hobbity look about him, compounded by the odd aura he gives off, a mixture between a love for good food and drink, Dolores Umbridge’s need for order, and Queen Victoria’s utter lack of amusement. Freeman adopts that slightly stilted, extremely specific speech and movement some personalities acquire under the duress of change, and it’s perfect and charming and wonderfully amusing.
Go see it, if you love Tolkien. It’s isn’t a great movie, and probably not one that will even get recognition for effects or cinematography. Peter Jackson will have trouble stretching The Hobbit into a trilogy; there can’t be enough information in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings appendices to fill a third three-hour movie. (Just film The Silmarillion instead.) But Jackson’s vision of Tolkien’s world remains thoroughly enjoyable, for me, at least, and I know I’ll be taking my youngest brother to see it. I’ve been there, and I will go back again.
~Sophie Byvik, editor-in-chief

“Django Unchained”: Daring, ground-breaking film jangles raw nerves

I typically enjoy action thrillers, but I have limits when a movie is filled with excessive bad language and enough blood to keep Red Cross in business for years. Quentin Tarantino’s newest film, Django Unchained, defiantly crosses these limits and shamelessly blows them away.

The film is no softer in plot. Django (Jamie Foxx) is a timid slave who is acquired by force and treated surprisingly fairly at the hands of bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Together, the two form an effective alliance that escalates into a quest for vengeance and the rescue of Django’s wife from the Candie plantation in Mississippi.
Enter Calvin Candie. Played by charmer Leonardo DiCaprio, Candie is deceptively slick and easily one of cinema’s most despicable villains since Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. The only cast member who compares is Samuel L. Jackson (looking far older and more menacing than in The Avengers), whose performance as a sharpened house slave sends chills.
Also notably impressive in their roles are Waltz and Foxx, the two members of the story’s unstoppable bounty hunting team. Waltz, possessing his role with a domineering sense of determination, takes Foxx right up under his wing. Later in the film Django undergoes a proud transformation from a timid slave into a fearless slayer of his oppressors.
A plethora of other well-known actors compliment the screen, including Jonah Hill in one of the film’s more lighthearted sequences. In fact, that is one of Tarantino’s trademarks: a star-studded cast who are unapologetic in their use of foul language.
Though I may sound annoyed with Tarantino’s excessive language and over-the-top violence, I acknowledge that he is very good at presenting a raw examination of something very real. Tarantino’s depiction of slavery is very harsh, but as a result, satisfyingly realistic. However, the elements he chooses to employ are widely unnecessary. Roots was a moving drama that provided social commentary on slavery, as does Django. The difference is that Roots employed a sophisticated script, with a vocabulary not limited to the F or N word for every other word, as well as passable content that gets its point across.
As much as I would like to love this movie for its distinctly entertaining plot, its drawbacks are far too noticeable. I had high expectations, and it’s a shame that they weren’t met. I can’t give this multi-Golden Globe nominated Tarantino treat more than three stars.
~Ryan Perry staff reporter

Les Mis: Epic story brings tears

I have been a sucker for musicals since my family took me to New York at age five, and I saw my first Broadway performance of Beauty and the Beast. So, when I heard that Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Les Miserables, was being made into a movie, I knew that I had to see it. Better known as Les Miz, the film was mesmerizing.
Taking place in France about 25 years after the French Revolution, Les Miserables is a tale about political injustice, redemption, unrequited love, and lost dreams. The story centers on Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a downtrodden man, who is paroled after serving a 19-year prison sentence for stealing a loaf of  bread. The film chronicles his trials and triumphs as he works toward redemption. Along the way, he encounters characters such as Javert (Russell Crowe) the relentless police inspector, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) an unwed mother, and the Thenardiers, played by Helena Bonham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen. Needless to say, director Tom Hooper pulled together an A-List cast. Anne Hathaway shocked me with her amazing vulnerability, and the raunchy comedian, Sasha Baron Cohen, has redeemed himself.
The film’s soundtrack is sure to please. The classics, “I Dreamed a Dream” and “On My Own,” are sure to provide chills to listeners. These songs have been stripped down of the usual theatrics, and the lyrics truly resonate, so that the audience can fully empathize with the characters. You’re definitely going to want to bring tissues. There are also campy tunes, such as “Master of the House,” which was stuck in my head for days. This song provided some much needed comic relief.
Another thing that I enjoyed was the spectacular costumes and make-up artistry. I felt like I was sitting in the middle of the students’ revolution. Because the film covers a large span of time, all of the characters had to age realistically; Hugh Jackman is virtually unrecognizable at times. I would not be surprised if there is an Oscar nomination in the costume designers’ future.
Les Miserables is a truly epic production. It was heart-wrenching, touching, uplifting, and an all-around emotional roller coaster. Thematically, the film offers a powerful portrayal of the poor and the wretched during a pivotal point in French history.  I give Les Miz four stars, and rate it as quite possibly the best movie of 2012.
~Jordyn Elliott, associate editor

“Red”: Fourth album sells Swiftly

“YES!! FINALLY!!” I screamed, when Taylor Swift’s new album, Red, hit stores on Oct 22. And, yes, the album is spectacular. T-Swift maintains the “I hate you, you loser!” aspect to her break-up songs, and it’s perfectly displayed in her hit single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” If you’ve been in a toxic relationship you just couldn’t escape, it’s the perfect song to blast from the radio with the windows down while screaming lyrics at the top of your lungs… but I digress.

However, the majority of the break-up songs on Red to posses a new quality that has not been seen before in T-Swift’s music: maturity. There is an element of somber acceptance in the tunes, including my personal favorite, “All Too Well,” which recounts particularly pleasant memories of a past relationship and how she remembers them… all too well. Yes, I was brought to tears.

Although the album has plenty of break-up anthems that will leave listeners crying and laughing (but mostly crying), there are also quite happy tunes to jam to. “Starlight,” was inspired by Ethel and Bobby Kennedy and describes a night back in ’45 when they snuck into a yacht party and had a blast. Dancing with the ones you love is a popular theme in Red; “22” is about a night Swift and friends went out for a night on the town.

Red is good because it displays a wide range of topics, which isn’t always seen in T-Swift’s albums. Usually her lyrics are about how she loves a boy or how she hates a boy- black and white. This time, however, Swift expresses the fragile vulnerability that comes with the pain of heartbreak in her lyrics, and in her vocals.

Swift writes her own music and often hides messages about other celebrities in her lyrics. When I listened to the album for the first time, I kept wondering who the songs were about.  Well, luckily Swift leaves a code in the album guide that helps fans make educated guesses as to who the songs are about. Speculation says some songs are about Love and Other Drugs actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who reportedly dated the singer for a few months. Others may be about Connor Kennedy, which makes sense considering she wrote a song for his grandmother. But unfortunately Swift keeps her songs on a “you know who you are” basis and leaves the rest of us wondering.

What is important, however, is that T-Swift’s songs are easy for teens to relate to. It feels good to hear a song that expresses a feeling you didn’t know how to put into words or that captures a situation you’ve experienced perfectly. Does Swift play it a little middle school when she calls out all of her exes in song? Sure. But that doesn’t make blasting her anthems in your room, or car, or headphones any less fun. I loved this album, and you should too.

~Maddie Lemelin, features/arts director