Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

Album Review: Doves’ ‘Kingdom of Rust’

By Melissa Traynor / Editor-in-Chief

For a band with bigger name in the Brit alt rock scene, and one slightly better than the rest with a few albums under their belt, their fourth studio album sounds as though it’s their awkward debut.

Doves’ Kingdom of Rust has the right direction, but somewhat mediocre execution and lackluster. There is an air of predictability and the tired feel of familiar chords.

Admittedly, you have to give the band credit, or at least whoever produced the track listing for Kingdom of Rust, for sprinkling the more attractive and listenable songs throughout. With that said, it now logically follows that this will be an album of ups and downs and a pretty good amount of twisting in the middle

Title track “Kingdom of Rust”, though placed at track number two really sets the mood for the record and slightly melancholy and dark framing of each song. Where the verses are plain and tinged with southern guitar, the choruses breathe with an uplifting orchestral backing and some sort of muddled string instrument for a melody.

Unlike Doves’ 2005 release Some Cities, namely their track “Black and White Town”, the rest of Kingdom of Rust is largely forgettable or a little too familiar to be outstanding.

More appropriately, tracks such as “Spellbound” and “Compulsion” would blend quite nicely into a movie soundtrack; the latter has an extremely catchy baseline and a sexy Pink Floyd brand of brooding for an otherwise boring track. Unfortunately, Doves decide to spice up the track far too late unto the song (3 minutes in) with a piano breakdown.

The track lengths also run a bit long, sometimes reaching past 4:30 to 5 minutes, and it doesn’t exactly help the record. At 4:27, the closing song “Lifelines” moves through an ominous stretch of guitar and into an anticlimactic solitary guitar solo, if you can call it that. The entire song is utterly depressing, despite Doves’ attempts to infuse it with bits of life and anthem-like choruses.

It’s not so hard to expect something better from Doves. They’ve proven that they can produce a great album or two, but this record seems more or less like something they pulled together to get another album released.

Hopefully the band is gearing up for future emphatic and upbeat songs – something they are genuinely good at – so fans can more easily forget Kingdom of Rust.

Dinosaur Jr. Visits Milford, Conn.

By Melissa Traynor / Editor-in-Chief

New England’s own Dinosaur Jr. recently embarked on a national tour in late March, kicking it off with a gig at Austin’s South by South West and are passing through Milford, Conn. tonight.

As they prepare to release an album in summer, the alt-rock band will be playing shows into May and are making their second tour stop at Daniel Street in Milford.

Dinosaur Jr., hailing from Amherst, Mass., will be joined by Awesome Color, a psychedelic punk rock group of out Brooklyn and are teaming up for the next two weeks of tour dates.

Dinosaur Jr.’s ninth studio album since their formation in1983, to be named Farm, contains tracks the band is testing out on the road in the upcoming months, according to their Web site. The plans to release a new album come with their recent signing with the indie label Jagjaguwar.

The two bands have shared a tour before, while Awesome Color supported Dinosaur Jr. and their 2008 release Electric Aborigines.

For the tonight’s performance, Dinosaur Jr. is giving away a limited edition, tour-only 7” or a digital download code with every ticket. The a-side will hold their new single “I Don’t Want to Go There”, while the b-side is “Tarpit” off the band’s 1987 release You’re Living All Over Me. Tickets are $20 pre-ordered and $20 the day-of.

Last House Proves To Be a Worthy Remake

By Michael Walsh / Asst. Entertainment Editor

What worked in the 1970s just won’t work these days. Therein lays the beauty of time and change. The big question for the latest remake to sneak its way into theaters, The Last House on the Left, is whether the advent of modern horror filmmaking can successfully bring the gripping story to a new audience.

Twelve years after Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman took the basic story of a 13th century Swedish ballad named “Töres dotter i Wänge” and created The Virgin Spring, Wes Craven took the same story and brought it out of medieval Sweden and into 1970s America. Go forward 27 more years and you have Craven producing a remake of the film that jumpstarted his lengthy and illustrious career in horror films.

The Last House on the Left focuses on the kidnapping and assault of two young girls by a group led by a prison escapee. Soon after, the group unknowingly seeks refuge at the house owned by the parents of one of the girls, which leads to the parents having to make decisions that might shake the foundation of their morals.

1970s exploitation films, much to my chagrin, are best left in the 1970s. The campy style and cheesy dialogue simply wouldn’t fly over well with audiences these days. Although the word remake seems to send shivers down my spine these days, I do appreciate the ones that are able to successfully update a story by making use of what technology has provided filmmakers with. This reiteration of The Last House on the Left is able to do just that.

In style the remake comes off as being much more brutal and visceral. While yes, visually and theatrically the film is more brutal, this illusion can be credited to the modern style of horror filmmaking.

What keeps it from actually being more brutal is the attempted political correctness and safety nets. Instead of being a full-fledged junkie in search of his fix, Justin, the youngest of the group of criminals, is simply a pot-smoking loser. The captive girls aren’t forced to degrade themselves by peeing their pants, they aren’t subjected to humiliation by being forced to “make it” with each other, intestines aren’t played with and there’s no oral sex castration. If I wanted to spoil both films, I could continue with more examples, but I think I’ve proved my point.

This isn’t an exercise aimed at putting the remake down, just a look at what society has stated is and isn’t allowed in an R-rated film these days. If this film had gone any further it certainly would have ended up in the dicey NC-17 area. The one key scene that is a little beefed up is the pivotal rape scene, even though this film’s version only shows a side of an ass cheek. I’ve still seen worse. I Spit on Your Grave, I’m looking at you. My desensitized nature aside, I could see others wanting to walk out of the theater after viewing this specific scene.

One of the shining aspects of the original film is the performance by David Hess. Hess plays main villain Krug and turns out one of the most intensifying, psychotic and violent performances in the history of the genre. He was so good at playing crazy that he did it two more times in the films House on the Edge of the Park and Hitch-Hike. Replacing him was my main concern when walking into the new film.

The man attempting to live up to those standards, Garret Dillahunt, is an actor I was fairly familiar with, mostly from Deadwood but also from his smaller role in No Country for Old Men. Without subjecting him to a harsh comparison, I’ll give Dillahunt credit for doing a solid job at recreating one of filmdom’s most volatile characters.

As far as the plot goes, the remake has its differences with the original, which is absolutely okay by me. Whether one plot choice is better or worse than the original is a whole different story that is up to the viewer themselves. The ending is reworked a bit as the parents’ motivation to take revenge comes a bit differently. The screenplay, which was written by Adam Alleca and Carl Ellsworth, works as an effective exploitative revenge horror/thriller.

The Last House on the Left is certainly one of the better horror remakes of the decade. Just like Alexandre Aja’s 2006 remake of a different Wes Craven film, The Hills Have Eyes, the subject matter is successfully adapted to modern times by way of intensifying the events with a glossy overcoat.

Horror and exploitative B-movies from the 1970s distinguished themselves from those of other eras very easily. Highlighted by lots of sex, sleaze, violence, cheesy dialogue, low budgets and midnight showings, the decade became an animal unlike any other that these days is long gone.

As we near the end of the first decade of the new millennium, modern horror filmmaking, for better or worse, has distinguished itself and come into its own as an era best known for bigger budgeted, fast-paced and intense films full of gore. And while this updated version doesn’t have the smarts, wit, satire or certain charm of the groundbreaking original film, it is a great example of what the genre has become.

This Haunting Came As A Surprise

By Michael Walsh / Asst. Entertainment Editor

At first glance, The Haunting in Connecticut seems to have all the fixings to make it just another horror film wading in the swampy waters of modern mainstream horror filmmaking.
There is a house haunted by ghosts, based on a “true” story, hallucinatory freak-outs, an unknown director and a PG-13 rating. In most cases, this combination would prove deadly for the film at hand. There was something a bit different about this haunting though.
The Haunting in Connecticut is somewhat based on the true story of the home of Al and Carmen Snedeker in Southington, Conn. which was originally featured in the book In A Dark Place. The film follows a family that relocates to the supernatural house which is closer to the hospital cancer-stricken son Matt Campbell (Kyle Gallner) needs to receive treatment from.
Let’s set a few things straight here. Haunting doesn’t do too much to break ground or separate itself from the rest of its genre-related counterparts. The film is a rather conventional take on the concept of haunted houses. That said, it isn’t a bad take on the horror subgenre.
Haunting also isn’t scary. At least in the typical meaning of scary in modern horror films, it isn’t. The “jump-out” scare tactics the film employs, which have been a major reason horror films have taken the fall they have the last 10 years (filmmakers forgo atmosphere and other key qualities for the eerie soundtrack aided by the loud sound and quick pan of the camera), just don’t work.
Most of the first half of the film is comprised of these types of moments, such as having a shadowy figure appear and disappear or the long stare into the mirror that turns into a quick and expected attempt to make the viewer jump.
The good thing for Haunting is that the film is scary in the way I feel horror films need to be. I might be out of the ordinary in saying this, but the only way a horror film needs to scare is in concept of what is happening to the film’s characters.
There’s a reason why zombie films became such a huge genre, and it isn’t because they constantly provide the viewer with loud, spine-tingling sounds. The thought of the world becoming a post-apocalyptic hell of people you once knew coming back from the dead to attack you is terrifying. The same goes if you try to put yourself in the shoes of anyone in the house, especially those of Matt, a young man reeling with pain whose nearing death due to cancer is being expedited by supernatural events within the house.
Where the film truly excels is in its attempt to stay grounded as a realistic horror film rather than something far too phantasmal. Sure, a lot of this true story probably didn’t happen and some of it probably was stretched, but since a lot of it deals with the visions of Matt, it can all be questioned. Writers Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe, along with director Peter Cornwell, used the cancer patient subplot to the utmost advantage by giving emotion to the film and the characters. Granted, this is nothing too deep, but it adds something most films of this kind just don’t have.
The best performance was from the experienced Elias Koteas, who gave a sympathy-inducing performance as Reverend Popescu, a cancer patient Matt meets and seeks help of in attempt to rid the house of its evil spirits. The rest of the cast, including Virginia Madsen and Gallner, is good enough for their roles and the type of film. None of it is close to being great, but it’s all far from terrible.
Once the film reaches its final third, there’s a lot to love. The film begins a bit slow, feeling the effects of the failure of the conventional modern horror scare tactics I mentioned earlier. Once the supernatural events spread from Matt to the entire house and family, things pick up greatly. There is some legitimately cool and atmospheric imaging towards the end of the film that has been showcased on the film’s movie poster. This includes the impressive ectoplasm from the bodies of mediums scene.
As far as the near oxymoron of PG-13 horror films go, this is a valiant and surprising effort. A lot of high-brow critics have already laid the smackdown on the film and I’m sure that trend will only continue. It might be a tad cynical to say, but I also expect a lot of the general public to write it off as a stupid, weird and unimpressive film.
It comes to a point where you have to realize what to expect from a film. While this film surely draws from the big guns of the haunted house genre such as The Amityville Horror, it’s still an enjoyable and interesting effort that came as a huge surprise to me. Don’t go in expecting a truly terrifying film and don’t go in expecting the next classic. Heck, don’t even expect something better than simply good. This is nothing more than a solid way to kill a Friday night.

Watchmen Comic Has Roots in Connecticut

By Michael Walsh / Asst. Entertainment Editor

Well before the characters of Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen were chosen to be turned into a live-action film, they were a part of a minor comic book publishing house located in Derby, Conn. called Charlton Comics.

Charlton Comics’ main secret of early success was keeping the costs low. 

Part of its Connecticut connection was an integral part of this process. According to Donald Markstein, creator of the cartoon encyclopedia website toonopedia.com, operating out of Derby was much cheaper than operating out of New York City like giant comic book companies of the time did.

In addition, Charlton Comics, which closed its doors in 1986, used an in-house second-hand press originally used for printing cereal boxes. 

The minor comic book company was the original owner of the characters DC Comics eventually acquired in 1983 while Charlton was on its last breath. DC Comics commissioned Moore, giving him free reign to disguise and transform them into what we now know as the characters of Watchmen.

Watchmen, heralded as one of Time’s 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present, has been skyrocketing upwards ever since the trailer for the Zack Snyder-directed film debuted before The Dark Knight last summer. Amazon.com has Watchmen in their top spot for bestsellers in books while book giant Barnes & Noble lists the graphic novel third overall in sales rank among books.

Most people, readers or not, know that the Watchmen film is an adaptation of the legendary DC produced graphic novel. What many might not be aware of is where the inspiration for these famous characters came from. 

In the mid-1960s Steve Ditko, listed as one of the co-creators of Spider-Man, returned to Charlton Comics to create a few of the characters that would serve as the basis for some of the most popular Watchmen characters.

Before Jackie Earle Haley put the ink blotted mask on and became the live-action Rorschach in the big budget motion picture, Ditko created The Question, the mysterious, merciless and faceless vigilante who also wore a brown trench coat and fedora.

Ditko and Charlton Comics co-worker Joe Gill were responsible for the inspiration of Watchmen’s big blue hero, Dr. Manhattan. Captain Atom first appeared in Space Adventures #33, a March 1960 comic book. Both Captain Atom and Dr. Manhattan received their powers from a similar scientific mishap. The main difference in these two characters lies with Dr. Manhattan having much greater powers than the original incarnation of Captain Atom.

In a 2000 interview in the publication Comic Book Artist, Moore confirmed the fact that the Charlton Comics characters were indeed inspiration for his Watchmen characters.

“The Question was Rorschach, yep. Dr. Manhattan and Captain Atom were obviously equivalent. Nite-Owl and the new (Ted Kord) Blue Beetle were equivalent,” said Moore. 

Nite-Owl I and II were both inspired by the two versions of the Blue Beetle with Dan Garrett inspiring the original Nite-Owl (Hollis Mason) and Ted Kord inspiring the second Nite-Owl (Dan Dreiberg). The Comedian was The Peacemaker. Ozymandias was Thunderbolt. Silk Spectre had correlation with the original character Nightshade.

More than 60 years after Charlton Comics became Charlton Comics, a film with a budget of $150 million has been made. And it all came from comics that used to cost 10 cents a pop.

CCSU Will be Skanking

 

Charles Desrochers / Staff Writer

Though the Central Activities Network managed to keep Spring Week’s headlining band a secret until Monday, they announced Monday that the ska band Streetlight Manifesto will be the main act.

At Monday night’s Battle of the Bands, also sponsored by CAN, New Haven-based rock band The Smyrk won the privilege to open for Streetlight Manifesto after the night’s competition.

Rumors had been circulating around campus that Streetlight was the headliner, but CAN did not confirm until Monday’s announcement.

“I’m ecstatic,” Said Sal Carshia, a DJ at Central’s radio station WFCS. “Their fast pace and melodies are just awesome.”

Carshia, who plays Streetlight Manifesto during his ska show on Mondays, was informed of the announcement shortly after and said that he’s never seen them live, but that makes him all the more anxious to attend The Spring Weekend in scheduled to take place in late April.

Streetlight Manifesto, who is currently touring in Europe and is slated to play the Van’s Warped Tour this summer, may be better known for their former affiliation with bands Catch 22 and One Cool Guy.

With a heritage routed in third-wave ska, Streetlight has been touring since their debut album Everything Goes Numb was released in 2003. Originally intended to only produce one album the band has stayed together through two more studio albums and several robberies.

The Smyrk is scheduled to play March 18-21 at the South by Southwest music festival that brings national and local music acts to Austin, Texas.

Album Review: Mastadon’s ‘Crack the Skye’

 

By Nick Viccione / Asst. Entertainment Editor

Crack the Skye is the inevitable progression for Mastodon. Whether or not fans will embrace or reject the album is another story. I, for one, am still on the fence. This does not come as a surprise to me though. With the release of their last full length album, Blood Mountain, it took me a good month of straight listening to it for it to grow on me. And I love that album now. I assume Crack the Skye will do the same. 

 

I will not write this album off right away for that reason. It is actually a spectacularly catchy album with great song writing. However, there are parts throughout the record where I feel the technicality that I have grown to love from Mastodon’s previous efforts, is just not showcased enough. This could have been the mindset of the band going into the writing process for the album, whether they wanted to make Crack the Skye more accessible to a wider audience or whatever their motive may have been. The fact is, from a technical standpoint it does not match up to previous efforts. 

That does not discredit the band’s ability to write a fluent album though. I am all about fluidity and Crack the Skye flows from start to finish and it is a testament to any band when this is accomplished. The vocals are brooding as always. The guitar work is still great. There are not as many memorable riffs as there was on Blood Mountain. But I guess that comes with the territory. The drumming on Crack the Skye seems a little curbed.  Brann Dailor is a beast behind the kit, and this album does not showcase his talents as much as earlier material. 

All in all, Crack the Skye is not a letdown by any means. And I know for sure that it will grow on me the more I listen to it. However, strictly in relation to previous efforts, I can understand how this album may seem like a step back to some. I will continue to embrace Mastodon with loving arms. And if Crack the Skye does not work out, I will just throw on Remission and rip phone books in half.

Album Review: Pure Reason Revolution’s ‘Amor Vincit Omnia’

 

By Michael Walsh / Asst. Entertainment Editor

Progressive rock isn’t an easy genre to love these days. It’s hard not to get too cynical about the state of music with the way the mainstream record business is run and handled. That’s why when I first heard British band Pure Reason Revolution’s debut album The Dark Third I was absolutely blown away by the band.

The Dark Third still ranks among my favorite albums of the last few years. It’s progressive rock the way it should be. It came as no surprise that the album was produced by Paul Northfield, a man who has worked with progressive rock giants such as Rush, Porcupine Tree and Gentle Giant.

Initial thoughts on Amor Vincit Omnia, the personally long-awaited release, consisted of the differences between this new album and the bands first effort. Still progressive but experimental as ever as the band fuses more electronic sounds into the mix. The Dark Third is an album that would be hard to live up to and while Amor Vincit Omnia doesn’t quite do that, it’s still an admirable sophomore album.

The band’s lack of fear to change sits high in my book. Its something I typically admire in artists. Those who aren’t afraid to change what their fans originally loved, show the music is as much for them as it is to make money. I personally think the band is at its best when utilizing its progressive rock background, but I can respect the change.

Amor Vincit Omnia is led by the track “Deus Ex Machina”. Funny thing is, I’ve had heard this track before, as it had been in work for awhile and was included on their 2007 live album. It’s a throttling and intense track complete with the bands unique vocal styling of soaring choruses and repeated lines from the bands two main singers, Chloë Alper and Jon Courtney. 

The weakest song the album is aptly titled “Disconnect” as it comes as being a huge disconnect from the style of music that makes Pure Reason Revolution as good as they are. This is as electronic as their music gets on their album and it proves to be a bad thing. The song isn’t awful, but it feels out of place and unnatural for the group. 

Change can be both good and bad. Amor Vincit Omnia is a good effort from this up and coming progressive rock band. Anyone looking for that next great progressive rock band shouldn’t look too much further past this group.

International Film Club Premiers

 

By Jason Cunningham / Entertainment Editor

The International Film Club hasn’t been a club on campus for very long, but already they have big plans for how to help broaden students’ knowledge of world issues, cultures and events through film. First, however, they must survive this semester, their first as a club. 

According to Ross Martowski, the president of the International Film Club, their function is tto provide screenings of foreign films for students, following the screenings with group discussions that analyze the film’s content and how it represents the attitudes and lifestyles of cultures from around the world. 

“This club is mostly analytical, the critique of films. I don’t want our club to be restricted though; I’m open to new things, including film production. We still haven’t figured everything out,” said Martowski. “It’s difficult to screen films because the licensing is expensive. We’ll probably work with CAN a lot, viewing their screenings. In the long term we want to get celebrity speakers on campus and organize trips to film festivals.”

Though Martowski is the club’s founder, it was Chengiah Ragaven, a professor of International Studies, who prompted him to get it started this semester. Ragaven, who serves as the club’s advisor, believes the IFC can help answer questions students may have about international politics as well as clear up any misconceptions students may have about other cultures due to lack of exposure.  

“The goal is to draw the various cultural communities on the campus, and this would be a tremendous medium, a phenomenal medium to bring together the students on campus to understand the diversity within the community, within our society and within the campus. There should be a catalyst for cultural diversity and awareness here,” Ragaven said. 

Some of the more critical films that are being screened address the international conflicts we hear about. Ragaven said that after viewing a film on Palestine, many questions were answered for participants of the group discussion that followed in concerns to the region and its struggles. 

“This will add another resource to create awareness for students here on campus. The issue will be, once films are shown, discussion will follow, which will contribute to the intellectual nature of the university, other than just sitting there and watching movies. The difference will be that we’ll be verbally addressing what’s in the film, not just thinking about it,” Ragaven said. 

Though the club has good intentions, it doesn’t make the process of becoming one any easier Martowski said. In April the international Film Society will be presenting their club to the Student Senate for full-time club status, right now they’re only a temporary club. 

“Currently, we haven’t had frequent meetings, it’s difficult to start a club here, but things are getting rolling. You’ll see me in the student center promoting the club until then,” Martowski said. “We’re trying to establish our constitution right now. We currently have around ten members signing up and showing interest, there are three other members who have had time in their schedules to help me out.” 

In addition to this being the club’s first semester, this is the first semester Central Connecticut State University has offered an International Film Studies course, also taught by Ragaven. He said that though he would encourage people to take the course, it is not necessary in order for students to participate in the club. 

“There’s an intellectual and academic component of films, which needs to be addressed, and this is by focusing on not only the ideas, but how these are translated into actual life experiences,” Ragaven said. “There is much to benefit from in intellectual conversations. The film society needs all the support it can get, we welcome all, whether they study film or not, to join us in understanding the issues of the world.

Witch Mountain Fails to Surpass Mediocrity

By Sean Fenwick / Staff Writer

Race to Witch Mountain follows The Rock as he escorts two alien children to their ship located in the top-secret military base on Witch Mountain.

This is Disney’s run of the mill family action flick, with a charming lead, a passable story and action sequences all with the sole purpose of turning out big bucks.

Race to Witch Mountain is a reboot of a yet again passable 30-year-old franchise. The originals were more spooky and strange rather than fast and action-packed. In 1975 Disney introduced this series as a quick way to make money and they learned they could be successful. It’s no surprise they’ve done it again, except it has become a lot easier to get people into theaters. 

This movie is a great example Disney’s movie making machine at work. In the first weekend they raked in $25 million. They also learned that if they combine sub-par actors, an ordinary script and a relatively cheap director, they can work with a small budget with large returns.

Throwing on some cheap and dazzling special effects and paying The Rock a small fortune most likely didn’t hurt either. Then, with the help of marketing and even worse choices at the box office, the public has no choice on the matter but to bring their kids to this latest Disney flick. 

Nobody hates Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He is funny, charismatic, and can throw a mean elbow. Johnson has been building his reputation as an entertainer for a while now. And apparently he isn’t beyond taking a role in yet another kids’ movie.

Acting in movies such as Doom and Southland Tales and then switching to Disney films shows that even The Rock needs money. Johnson’s acting is bland at best, sometimes pulling laughs. His performance is paired well with the film’s mediocrity.