Sunday, May 26, 2013

Film Review: What Comes Out Of The "Oblivion"

by Jeff Siler

Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman are two people who would definitely draw you to a movie. Throw in outer pace and some amazing special effects and you would most definitely have a really good movie. That’s not the case when it comes to “Oblivion”.

We’re in the year 2077 and Earth has transformed into a post-apocalyptic state after battling through a war with an alien species known as the Scavs. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are the last remaining humans on Earth.  Jack’s main focus is repairing drones that cycle through the planet making sure it is protected while Victoria keeps an eye on him using cameras and other forms of technology. Everything seems to be going well until a crash landing on Earth turns everything around for Jack and Victoria.

Visually this is one of the best films I have seen in a long time. The special effects are out of this world and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman are also about as stellar as they have always been. There is quite a bit of Action, but other than that the movie is very slow paced at times and there are numerous plot holes that I saw throughout (I don’t want to spoil too much for you).

To be honest, I think that this movie caters to the sci-fi junkie crowd but other than them this movie will be kind of boring to most other people. I will give it credit for being a very original idea and the visuals alone make this a film that should be seen but I personally wouldn’t rush out to see it.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Play Review: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Your Word Is "Awesome"

by James Hess

PHOTO CAPTION – The cast of “Spelling Bee” from left to right, front row: 
the Spellers Jacqueline Daniel-Bolden as Logianne Schwartz-and-Grubeniere, Kevin Slattery as William Barfee, Rebecca Loughridge as Olive Ostrosky, Joseph Guccione as Chip Tolentino, Robert Hanson as Leaf Coneybear, and Heidi Pennington as Marcy Park.
Back row: the adults Donna Nelson as Rona Lisa Perretti, Richard Ross as Counselor Mitch Mahoney, and Tom Flynn as Vice Principal Douglas Panch

The latest play to light up Florissant Valley’s stage, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”, finished its two weekend run at the Terry M. Fisher Theatre on April 20, 2013. The way I see it, it is not just a musical story of children’s desire to win, but of several other aspects of life. It is a story of adolescence, dark humor, and social problems along with family struggles as well. All these are humorously lit up through song and jokes throughout.
            The story centers on a group of adolescents in middle school who all vary greatly in personality and background. The children (portrayed by adults) can be described as equally quirky, but in different ways. The spellers include Leaf Coneybear, an eccentric son of hippies who makes his own clothes, Marcy Park: an Asian-American overzealous perfectionist, William Barfee (pronounced bar-fay): a quintessential nerd who requires a visual of a word with his “magic foot” before spelling it, along with the Logianne Schwartzandgrubenniere: an accomplished young girl who speaks with an exaggerated lisp. The adults judging them include 2 administrators whose quirkiness get laughs from the audience throughout, along with a passionate, street-talking guidance counselor whose demeanor can be compared to any one of the Wayans Brothers. The music has a basic sound amidst a grand piano with a harpsichord accompaniment, but the lyrics connect to adult situations and carry out in a literal sense as the singer would speak it; not in rhyme or verse (parallel to the style of “Rent”).
The music within “Spelling Bee” illustrates many adult themes with the two songs I find most interesting: “I’m Not that Smart” and “My Unfortunate Erection”. In the “I’m Not That
Smart” sequence, the character Leaf Coneybear (played by Robert Hanson) sings about being ostracized for his eccentricity and his low intelligence level. He panics being asked to spell an unfamiliar word and goes into a reminiscent song, where he literally describes his feeling of inferiority. His peers and his siblings riddle him with a “dumb kid!” taunt. His gentle personality is a gift as it brings out a charismatic character in him, but adds shame to his “aggressive family”. His goofy demeanor along with his love for making his own clothing is illustrated in this silly sequence. “Unfortunate Erection” musically glorifies the character Chip Tolentino’s (played by Joe Guccione) problem with getting an erection when having to speak on stage and also hiding it from a girl he has a crush on (who ironically is Leaf Coneybear’s sister, Marigold). Chip carries out a big-band style ballad lamenting his erectile problem;: distracting it from himself by throwing candy out to the audience. This is also one of the sequences where the actors interact with the audience, as he throws out an assortment of candy from Smarties to Heath Bars.
The most intriguing thing I found about this production is its style of humor with references to adult situations contradicting the middle school setting. Every minute is filled with comical hijinks, as the spellers not only add goofiness to spelling their words, but also illustrate their backgrounds with zany flashbacks, along with moments of inner thoughts from some of the characters. A couple of very peculiar flashback occurs as Logainne (Jacqueline Daniel-Bolden) thinks how the hard effort she puts into her academic success is plagued by the arguments of same-sex couple guardians. Something not often shown in productions is bits that reflect life among homosexual couples struggling to raise an [adopted] daughter. A scene of inner thought that struck me in both the mind and the funny-bone is a “Jesus” sequence in which the character Marcy Park (Heidi Pennington) prays to Jesus for help with a super confusing word and Jesus Christ, played by the same actor as street-talking Counselor Mahoney (Richard Ross), comes down and speaks to her. She asks him for a better word but is assured by the Lord that it does not make a major difference to him if she wins or loses. Rarely do you see scenes like this in plays, especially if they are about children (with today’s educational laws against religion).
So with its references to adult humor, stages of puberty, academic/social standing amongst adolescents, along with zany scenes of flashbacks and inner thoughts, “Spelling Bee” makes a good example of a display of the antics and eccentricities of children coming of age. A play like this stands out as one that can connect to all people, adolescents and adults alike, and instill reminiscence of their own childhoods and of the funny antics we all engaged in. With all these things mixing together in one production, I give “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” two words to describe it: I-R-O-N-I-C and H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Indicud Review: The Return Of The Man On The Moon

by Andre Bunn

The Cleveland native formally known as Scott Mescudi, or Kid Cudi as the hip hop world knows him, has just released his newest album “Indicud”. Some would say this is the third chapter of Cudi’s coveted Man on the Moon albums but the artist himself noted that “Indicud” would be fashioned with a different style than his freshmen and sophomore performances. This undoubtedly left some fans wondering if they would still enjoy the unorthodox Cudi they had grown to love.

I’ve been a fan of Kid Cudi since I heard “Day N’ Nite” and I absolutely fell in love with his freshmen debut “Man on The Moon: The End of Day”, which chronicled a man unique in his own right, a man on the moon aloof from the world. It was relatable for me and those of us that aren’t as socially competent as our peers.

Then Man on the Moon II dropped and it was much of the same but the second chapter of the Man on the Moon was definitely traveling through a black hole. It took on a much sinister version of the life that lives secluded with silence, as Cudi’s dark thoughts contemplated their interior world mixed with riveting bass and sonorous vocals. The production was absolutely gripping and spellbinding.

Then we travel to “Indicud” and our Man on the Moon is in a much different space than his counterparts. This man isn’t in as much contemplation as before. Instead our new man is boasting about his eccentric personality while he inspires himself and his listeners when “Unfuckwittable” drops after an eerie introduction. I immediately understood that this man on the moon was in a word content with himself as understood in one of my favorite songs, the standout “Just the Way I Am.” The track opens with that classic intergalactic Cudi sound, written with self examined lyrics but this time he recognizes he is exactly what the title suggests and he’s perfectly okay with it. In fact he welcomes it. Cudi becomes so enveloped with his new sense of awareness on his hit single “Immortal” that he feels he is capable and ready to rule the night and the world: “I can’t explain this sudden peace in my walk.” This fresher Cudi has definitely reached new heights of self –assurance and confidence. 

The new Kid Cudi is no longer stressing about how he fits in to the norm. Instead, he chooses to forge his own lane and he’s driving full throttle with a great many flavor of “Girls” featuring who else but
Too $hort, who is still showing us how to mack.

However, even with all the braggadocious antics this new man isn’t without digression, going back to his wandering and pensive self when “Solo Dolo, Pt. II” featuring Kendrick Lamar pops or “Lord of the Sad and Lonely” marches across the stage. The triumph of the album is the way Kid Cudi owns who he is with upbeat and bodacious tempos. The box he once felt himself to be stuck in is now marked V.I.P Only and if you’re not with the posse then you’re just out of luck.

I personally like this revamped Kid Cudi; it’s always a good thing for us reclusive souls to find peace and some sense of self-actualization. Kid Cudi is now occupying a larger portion of the canvas to display his ever growing artistry, not only musically but personally as well.  Its great music to raise your hand and jam to. It’s the type of music to lay back and contemplate man to man and man to self relationships while floating away in thought. It’s the kind of music that will help one understand themselves and adore who they are naturally. I implore you to close your eyes and vibe to “Indicud” and walk with the Man on The Moon.       

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Op-Ed: Where's The Love For Flo?

by Desese Ursery

School pride on the Florissant Valley campus is abysmal at best. On a scale of 1 to 10, Flo Valley is at a 4, a 5 at best. There are only a handful of students who truly cherish and represent their school to the fullest. For college students, not showing pride in the school that they attend is not only devastating for the college, but it can be detrimental to the student as well. 
What is school pride exactly and why is it so important?
            School pride is when a student represents his or her school proudly. It means to buy into the overall mission of that school and in doing so renewing ones commitment to a higher education. This commitment can in turn act as a deterrent to negative behavior, such as dropping out of school. School pride is important because it gives the student a sense of belonging to something greater than themselves. It promotes togetherness and comradery as well. School pride is also important because it gives the student a chance to branch out and meet new people. Besides that, school pride is advantageous to create an environment of positive learning for both the students and teachers. Having a positive learning environment is one of many things that make going to school so exciting.
            School pride can be shown in a variety of ways: participation in spirit and club activities, wearing school colors and paraphernalia, pep rallies and representing through athletics.
            On the Florissant Valley campus there are a number of clubs for all types and personalities. There is no reason for a student not to maximize his or her opportunity. Participation in school clubs and other school activities can bolster a students’ transcript and resume. There seems to be a disassociation with the students at Florissant Valley and the school itself. More and more students entering Flo Valley are deficient of school unity or pride and that seems to be a generational problem.
“Students are embarrassed to show pride in their school. It is whatever the so-called ‘cool kids’ deem to be cool. If my friend says that he doesn’t like this school, then I am not going like it either, just because my friend said so. It is a lack of individualism between the students that lends itself to this type of mentality,” said Bradley Rayford, vice president of the Student Government Association (SGA). “School pride is important because you chose to come to Flo. And since you chose to come here you, you might as well show some sense of pride. You have to pay for it.”
Rjeem V. Pearson, president of the Student Government Association says, “Students of this generation have the mentality of if it doesn’t concern me; I’m not interested in it.”
            Most students on the Florissant Valley campus are reluctant to participate in school activities or to show school pride because they are so caught up in what other people think. “I notice a lot of times from people that attend Flo Valley or STLCC, they bad talk it. Even coming from high school…a lot of people had a stigmatism about going to Flo. Flo Valley is a going to be a bad school. Flo Valley is this, Flo Valley is that. Flo Valley is going to be just like going to high school again. I feel like that’s a problem too because when people do a lot of bad talking about Flo they discourage future or potential students from attending and that damages the community and environment of our school,” said Rayford. “They are also ashamed to admit that they go to Flo Valley or any community college because they feel that they are not good enough to attend a 4-year university or college.”
            Some students are not even motivated to maintain a passing grade, let alone participate in activities that would promote school pride or unity. They really don’t care one way or another about school pride or unity. Others are too busy.
“Florissant Valley can be defined as a ‘commuter college.’ Students from across the region attend class here. They drive and drive and drive and have little time to get involved in school pride,” said Professor Unger, science professor and program coordinator for Civil Engineering and Construction and Surveying Technology Programs. “It is a problem that may never be fixed. It is hard to be involved in school pride activities when you are working two jobs and raising a family on top of attending school. The students’ heart is there but there is no time,” Unger added.
            The onus of the lack of school pride falls solely on the shoulders of the student. The administrators sponsor student based events, while flyers and information are passed out and plastered all over campus.  The administrators give the students the information, but it is up to the students to use that information. Students have to step outside of their comfort zone and be proactive in capturing the full experience of college life. Students have to be somewhat self-motivating and want to take advantage of the opportunities afforded them.  
“The lack of school pride at Florissant Valley is because people don’t really know too much about our school’s history. Most people don’t even know when our school was founded. If students were more knowledgeable about the tradition and the history here then students would probably value the pride of Florissant Valley more,” said Pearson. “Students can be more knowledgeable of their school by becoming more aware of the school itself. Once you know the history behind something you have more value for it because you know where it came from.” The SGA does a good job with having events for the students, but it will take more commitment from the students to inform other students about campus-based events. “As a student it is hard to relate to an administrator because you see them as a teacher, but when you see another student doing something you value it more because when students see other students doing something they inquire about it and want to know what’s going on,” said Pearson.
The lack of school pride is troublesome on all levels. Although it won’t lead to serious deviant behavior, it can and will have adverse effects on the school and its students. The lack of school pride is like an infestation of termites destroying a building from the inside out. It totally undermines the integrity of the institution from top to bottom. Once it begins to permeate through the system it disrupts the whole integrity of the system.