"Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" soundtrack is a refreshing mix of pop and Hans Zimmer

The other day while cleaning my room, I stumbled upon my old DVD collection with all the best movies of my childhood. Flipping through the stack, I recalled all my favorite characters and storylines: “Shrek,” “The Iron Giant,” “Toy Story,” “James and the Giant Peach,” and undoubtedly my favorite of them all “Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron.”

Immediately I ran to my TV room and popped the movie in.  The movie was as wonderful as I had remembered. However, one thing stuck out to me this time that I had never noticed before: the music.

The music resonates beautifully with every theme and emotion that the story line conveys.  Upon further research I found that the score was produced by none other than the legendary Hans Zimmer.

For those of you who are not familiar with Zimmer, he created the scores for such films as “The Dark Knight,” Gladiator,” “Inception” and “The Lion King.”  It was all starting to make sense now.

I went online and purchased the soundtrack to “Spirit,” and I’ve been secretly listening to it ever since.  While it may be hard to admit to listening to a soundtrack from a kids movie, I have to make the argument that these musical scores are not just for kids. Great music knows no age, race or gender.

The album starts with alternative rock and pop songs with a driving beat, sung over by Bryan Adams.  A few tracks in we receive a guest appearance from Sarah McLaughlin on the song “Don’t Let Go.”  About two-thirds through the album, the content changes entirely.  However it’s a smooth enough transition that it works, especially in context to the movie.  This is where the work of Hans Zimmer appears.  Epic and nearly overwhelming scores finish out this album strong.

The music on this album really needs to be experienced in order to understand what I’m talking about here.  It’s as epic and touching as the movie itself, which is also worth a viewing.  I would recommend that everyone, regardless of age or gender, immediately purchase both the movie and its soundtrack.  You won’t be disappointed.

This is an absolute 5/5 in my book.

PS4 is the obvious choice in next-generation consoles

Fuel has been thrown on the fire that is the competition between Microsoft and Sony with the long-awaited release of two new gaming consoles, The Xbox One and the Playstation 4.  The Playstation 4 was released on Nov. 15, and the Xbox One will be released on Nov. 22.

Both systems offer new features and better graphics.  While the Xbox One has built in motion capture technology, it falls short to the new Playstation in terms of resolution.  The PS4 has stepped up its display, making it remarkably clearer and the new vivid colors add to it. When it comes to aesthetic and design, the PS4 really takes the cake.  It’s build is sleek and elegant compared to its much larger and boxy competitor.

With Christmas nearing, people will have to decide what console is going to be under their tree.  Microsoft’s “Xbox 360” created a bit of a cult following that will have a lot of buyers leaning their way.  Another thing they have going for them is that there is almost twice as many games to be released with the console than the PS4.

The new Xbox One retails for roughly $400, whereas the PS4 is $100 less.  Both systems require a monthly fee in order to play multiplayer games online.

For my money the PS4 is obvious choice.  I generally go for quality over quantity, and while the Xbox One boasts a lot of great features, the PS4 seems to be a better console for a cheaper price tag.

Review of Eminem's newly released album MMLP2

To understand Eminem’s eighth studio album, “The Marshall Mather LP 2,” you must first travel back to 2000 and listen to Eminem’s raw, emotional and controversial effort “The Marshall Mathers LP.”

The fastest selling hip-hop album of all time upon release, “The Marshall Mathers LP” was insulting, loud and extremely explicit. And it’s a classic.  Tracks such as “Kim” and “Amittyville” showcase an inner anger and passion that are prominent in what is one of the most honest and cutting rap albums ever made.

The album also contained some of Eminem’s most recognizable and popular songs including “Stan” and “The Real Slim Shady.”  So the question is, does “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” capture the same rage, emotion and twisted sense of humor that the Eminem from 2000 was able to create?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.  If you are expecting to hear the same style and unmitigated force that was in “The Marshall Mathers LP,” you will be disappointed.  But this isn’t surprising considering that it has been over a decade since the album’s release and Eminem is a completely different person and artist now.

So why did he choose to name the album “The Marshall Mathers LP 2?”  From what I can tell, the album isn’t about being a direct sequel to “The Marshall Mathers LP: and sounding exactly the same. it’s about nostalgia.  From this standpoint, the album works well, with many nods to Eminem’s old music including lyrical references and even snippets of old songs within certain beats (such as the reference to “The Real Slim Shady” within the song “So Far… “).

Eminem even writes lyrics about his father who left him as a child in several songs as well, which was also a recurring theme in “The Marshall Mathers LP.”  So let’s go track by track and look at what makes up this album (not including deluxe version tracks).


•Bad Guy:  The story behind this song (spoiler alert if you haven’t heard it yet) is that the narrator, Matthew Mitchell, is the little brother of Stan Mitchell, a character from The Marshall Mathers LP.  Matthew decides to murder Eminem as revenge because Eminem caused the death of Stan many years ago.  Though “Bad Guy” is a sequel to “Stan,” it does not capture nearly the same amount of emotion and powerful lyricism.  A common theme in this album is the more pop-like production that seems to detract from the raw emotion behind the lyrics.  The story-telling is great, but Eminem never really seems to get into character during this song, making it a little bland.  However, the idea behind the song and it’s powerful conclusion make up for these things.  One other thing to note is that the simplistic rhyme schemes and over-exaggeration of the last words in sentences seem to be Eminem’s attempt to mimic the juvenile and inexperienced rapper that Matthew Mitchell would be, which is an incredibly creative effort on his part.  3.5/5


•Parking Lot (Skit):  This one minute skit is a direct continuation of the final song on “The Marshall Mathers LP,” “Criminal.”  There’s not much to say about this one. It contains many references to lyrics from “Criminal” and serves to further link the two albums.  Near the end of the skit, Eminem shoots a dog and himself, acts which are commonplace in the satirical and outrageously over-the-top mind of Marshall Mathers.  While the shooting of the dog almost feels like an attempt to capture the old, offensive Eminem that we know and love, it feels forced and might be going a little too far for no reason.  It’s not that I’m offended by it (it’s not real of course), but I feel like he could have come up with more funny or entertaining things to put into the one skit on the album.  It’s just a little empty.  2.5/5

•Rhyme Or Reason:  I am a total sucker for the sampling of old classics for use in rap songs.  Eminem samples The Zombies “Time Of The Season” for this track, and it works wonderfully.  That alone makes this song a winner.  Eminem’s lyrics are also ace as always, though I will admit the chorus is a little awkward.  Eminem’s yoda impression is slightly jarring and out of place, but despite this “Rhyme Or Reason”  is a very solid entry to the album and it is one of my favorites.  4/5


•So Much Better:  The beat on this song is SO wonderfully reminiscent of the old Dr. Dre production that graced “The Marshall Mathers LP.”  With similar themes to “Kill You” from The “Marshall Mathers LP,” this song is the closest that you will get to the Eminem from 13 years ago on this album.  The hook is catchy and outrageous at the same time, and shows us that the same mad genius is still alive and well within Eminem.  4.5/5


•Survival:  This is where things start to go a little bit downhill for me.  With a cheesy guitar-line in the background and an uninteresting and generic chorus, this song is just boring.  This is the promotional “Call Of Duty” affiliated track on the album, and it sounds like something that could be straight off of Eminem’s 2008 album “Recovery.”  For this reason it feels incredibly out of place on “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.”  I understand that it’s supposed to be a high-energy anthem, but it just doesn’t have enough energy to interest me.  It’s like a carbon copy of the last “Call Of Duty” Eminem track, “Won’t Back Down.”  2/5


•Legacy:  The first song on the album with more serious and introspective tones, “Legacy” is an honest look by Eminem at himself and his past.  A nice and simple piano riff combined with slightly muffled vocals weave a sad and nostalgic atmosphere.  This song feels genuine and comes from a real place.  However, this song commits one of my largest pet peeves in music:  The cheesy rain sound effects in the background.  It’s a sort of cheap way to make your song seem sad and depressing rather than just rely on the music to do so.  That knocks it down a few points.  Also the loud uttering of “Italian sausage” really breaks the otherwise captivating theming of the song for me.  The chorus is a little boring too, and the singer never really gets to shine because of this.  3.5/5


•A–hole (Feat. Skylar Grey):  On this track, amidst a wild and raucous drumline, Eminem admits that he is a bit of a hypocritical a–hole.  He relishes in this fact, and always has throughout his career.  The lyrics are absolutely stuffed with references to “The Marshall Mathers LP,” and it is wonderful.  Also, the Insane Clown Posse diss is wonderful and shows that Eminem still isn’t afraid to call out celebrities in outrageous ways just as he always has.  Once again though, the chorus is boring and unimpressive for Skylar Grey.  I don’t see the point in getting a good singer to be on your song if you aren’t going to give them anything interesting to do.  4/5


•Berzerk:  This song is an attempt to pay homage old-school rap, with a very Beastie Boys-esque beat and feel.  The problem is, it’s not old-school rap, and it’s not the Beastie Boys, and it just doesn’t work.  Eminem messes around with record-scratching effects and other trade-marks of a time long past, but this doesn’t really do anything to improve a generally boring and uninteresting song.  The sample of Billy Squier’s “The Stroke” doesn’t really do much to improve things because it is watered down and drowned out by all of the other effects and vocals happening around it.  The song just feels disjointed and full of too many ideas, and the lyrics aren’t engaging enough to distract from this.  2/5


•Rap God:  A six-minute barrage of rapid-fire lyrics and absolutely no breaks or choruses, this song is impressive.  Lyrically, this song is amazing and probably the best display of Eminem’s raw skills on the whole album.  Eminem even spits 101 words in 16 seconds during one section, rapping “Uh, summa, lumma, dooma, lumma you assuming I’m a human/  What I gotta do to get it through to you I’m superhuman/  Innovative and I’m made of rubber/  So that anything you say is ricocheting off of me and it’ll glue to you/  I’m devastating, more than ever demonstrating/  How to give a motherf—in’ audience a feeling like it’s levitating/  Never fading, and I know the haters are forever waiting/  For the day that they can say I fell off, they’ll be celebrating/  Cause I know the way to get ’em motivated/  I make elevating music, you make elevator music.”  Unfortunately, from a production standpoint, this couldn’t be further from The Marshall Mathers LP.  This point in the album is where we are the furthest from the Eminem of 2000 and it becomes unclear why this is a sequel at all.  Nothing about this song is reminiscent of “The Marshall Mathers LP” besides a few referential lyrics.  Stylistically, it is new age Eminem.  The beat is so repetitive and boring that it gets a little grating after a while.  3.5/5


•Brainless:  The production of this song is refreshing after the awful beat of “Rap God,” and is once again more reminiscent of a classic Dre beat.  Eminem is nostalgic and introspective within the lyrics of this track.  Eminem reflects, “It’s like you grew up on drug street, from jump street/ But if I had just kept my head up my a–/  I could accomplish any task, practicing trash talking in a trance/  Locked in my room yeah, but I got some plans Momma.”  The chorus is catchy and works well and the lyrics are great, but this is nothing new.  There isn’t much that stands out about it, bad or good.  3.5/5


•Stronger Than I Was:  Eminem sings a lot on this one.  That’s not really a good thing.  The lyrics are cheesy, and it seems out of character and out of place.  I understand that it’s supposed to be a genuine and heartfelt ballad, but the weird beat ruins any chance of this, as well as the fact that Eminem isn’t exactly the most experienced at singing ballads.  The great rap verse at the end makes up for this a little bit, but I would have rather just had three great rap verses.  2.5/5


•The Monster (Feat. Rihanna):  I hate this song.  Why?  It’s another generic, bland, radio-friendly pop tune that doesn’t belong on this album.  Eminem probably needed something good to sell as a single and decided that he would just repeat the success of his last collaboration with Rihanna, “Love The Way You Lie.”  This song is boring, uninspired and has no shock value.  This is everything that I hate about the Eminem of today in one neat little package.  This could go right onto “Recovery” and nobody would notice the difference, and I truly feel like it has absolutely no place on this otherwise nostalgic and introspective record.  To the casual listener it is catchy and fun, and it does contain a somewhat interesting message, but it never reaches the level of profundity or draws nearly enough uniqueness to keep me engaged.  1.5/5


•So Far…:  Wow this track comes out of nowhere.  I’ve never heard anything like it to be honest. It goes through a huge variety of transitions and styles with several distinct samples from Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good,” to a sample directly pulled from “The Real Slim Shady” from “The Marshall Mathers LP.”  Somehow it all works wonderfully as the song remains entertaining and throws unexpected turns throughout.  4.5/5


•Love Game (Feat. Kendrick Lamar):  This unique song samples “Game of Love” by Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders.  Like I said earlier, I love it when rappers sample old classics, so this is another winner for me.  Lamar is an up and coming rapper who has garnered a large following by dissing other rappers.  It seems like a bandwagon move to have him featured on the album, but I will admit that he offers a solid verse that fits perfectly into the track.  4/5


•Headlights (Feat. Nate Ruess):  While “Stronger Than I Was” didn’t work as a genuine and heartfelt track, this track triumphs as such.  This is the most genuine and touching song on the album as Eminem talks directly to his mother, apologizing for all of the insulting and dated references to her such as the track “Cleaning Out My Closet” from his fourth album “The Eminem Show.”  Nate Ruess from the band fun. offers a great chorus and verse because his voice and style perfectly compliment the atmosphere of the track.  This is an emotional peak for the album and is my personal favorite track on “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.”  4.6/5


•Evil Twin:  Eminem finishes off the album with another track that disses many celebrities and has many references to pop culture packed into every line.  The lyrics are great, but once again the beat is repetitive and uninteresting.  Rather than going out with a BANG, Eminem goes out with a bang.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid track, but it doesn’t stand out.  By this point in the album, it’s easy to glaze over it because it just doesn’t engage the listener.  I almost think it would have been better if Eminem had just ended the album with “Headlights,” or put this track before “Headlights,” because this song does not feel as emotionally conclusive or effective with this placement.  3/5


There are definitely many solid efforts on this album, and it holds a great deal of self-referential nostalgia towards Eminem’s career as a whole.  That being said, it seems that Eminem has lost the fiery passion and rage that set him aside from all other rappers back when “The Marshall Mathers LP” first hit the scene.

The quality of the lyrics is still there, but the delivery somehow feels slightly hollow or disingenuous.  That combined with the more “pop-oriented” production makes for a slightly forgettable album with solid highs and glaring lows.


'Martians over Brooklyn' recreates infamous radio broadcast

A radio series drama called “The Mercury Theatre on Air” had a Halloween special on Oct. 30, 1938. The special, narrated and directed by Orson Welles, was titled “War of the Worlds.”

The plot of “War of the Worlds” was that aliens were attacking Brooklyn. Some listeners misunderstood and believed that extraterrestrials were actually taking over the world. The broadcast was followed by a widespread panic over the city.

The drama club’s latest production, “Martians Over Brooklyn,” told the story of both the infamous radio broadcast and the reaction of the local citizens.

Tomi Dres was the director, and Erin Palmer was the technical director for the show. Palmer has directed over a dozen productions for the Dexter Drama Club.

She says this set design was especially unique.

“Our set is actually split between a neighborhood in New York and a radio station for the entire show,” Palmer said.

Orson Welles was played by senior Tyrus Caldwell. He, along with the rest of the actors in the radio station, had to work with live props to make it sound as though aliens were invading for the “broadcast.”

Palmer was excited to see Caldwell in his first main-stage production.

“He’s kind of a character in everyday life,” she said. “He’s got so much energy; it just brings the whole play to life.”

According to Palmer, Caldwell and senior James Fischer, who played an unhinged grandfather, “had the time of their lives up there.”

Palmer found Fischer’s character especially interesting.

“(The grandfather) is kind of crazy. He thinks he’s a civil war veteran,” Palmer said. “Then he starts yelling about martians, and it’s like the boy who cried wolf. Nobody believes him at first.”

The New York apartment has many different characters, each of whom have a unique reaction to the “alien invasion.”

Some lead actors in the neighborhood included senior Havah Roussell, the owner of the apartment complex; freshman Owen Brooks, the comic book-loving kid who thinks there could be nothing cooler than an alien invasion; and sophomore Alexis Benson, who wishes to marry an alien.

The multitude of leading roles is an aspect Palmer thinks viewers enjoyed during “Martians Over Brooklyn.”

“A lot of people have a lot of lines. It’s very much an ensemble piece,” Palmer said. “Who wouldn’t want to come and watch a bunch of their friends have fun on stage?”



Declination release strong new album, Human Blood

The stage lights dim, the monitors hum and tension builds as Joe West prepares to take the stage. He tunes his guitar and checks over his setlist, as he has hundreds of times before. West has been at it for years now, playing rock/metal shows, self-recording and releasing albums under the project name “Declination.” However tonight is special. For the first time he will be playing songs of his newly released album “Human Blood.”

Following the lead of his first E.P. “Abyss” (2012), “Human Blood” contains brutal, invigorating riffs, with technical breakdowns and dark, disturbing lyrical imagery.

“He is definitely stepping his game up with this album,” senior Chris Richter said, “The overall production quality of this album is fantastic, from the song structure and transitions, right down to the album art.”

The first track of the album “Prelude” offers a ghoulish and completely unnerving monologue to set the theme for the rest of the album in its twisted and tortured nature. The lyrical content throughout the next 13 minutes that make up the rest of the album is a combination of harsh social commentary and almost maniacal fantasies.

“The album (to me at least), is a reflection of human life, nature, and habits,” West said.

As someone who is not generally a fan of thrash metal, I have been surprised by Declination time and time again. I’ve known West personally for several years and have had the privilege to watch him grow as an artist. The musicianship displayed on this album, (and in live performances), is phenomenal and inspiring. Even if you are not a fan of metal or rock in general, I would definitely give this album a listen.

The album can be streamed offline for free at here or purchased for a donation of a dollar or more.

Despite murderous rampages, GTA V is captivating

Upon its release Rockstar Games “Grand Theft Auto V” sales broke $800 million globally within 24 hours.

Divide that number by 60, the average price of the game, and you get the number of people who jumped at their first chance to virtually assume the role of a hardened gangster.

Virtual gangster and senior Tim Ewen said, “The whole GTA series makes up some of my favorite games. I really like the upgrades from IV to V.  The graphics are better and the gameplay is more intuitive.”

Countless people gave the game such great reviews that I had to give it a try for myself.

Upon putting the game into my console I was greeted by a hooker on the load screen, followed by flashing photos of sketchy looking people.  To some one not seasoned by the cold hard streets of GTA I, II, III, and IV, this might seem inappropriate or even offensive.  I wasn’t too surprised.

The game started with some captivating and high-action missions intended to give the player a feel for certain new controls and give a little back story.  After completing the setup to the story mode, I got to dig into what I really enjoy: wreaking havoc on the city of Los Santos.

I noticed while playing that the driving is a lot more sensitive than previous Grand Theft Auto games which gives you more control over the things you can do.

Like the previous games, there are five stars in the upper in right hand corner of the screen.  A star illuminates for every level of how wanted you are by law enforcement.  I started my rampage by stealing some cars and plowing down people.

The fuzz came after me with full force.  My streak ended in a bloody shoot out with the police.  It sounds terrible, but there is definitely an addictive element to this game.  The release of the game caused many absences in school for a day or two to come.

“I didn’t sleep any more than five hours for the first three days,” Ewen reported, “It’s too addicting.”  The game takes about three days to complete if you’re a go hard like Ewen.

The game play is captivating, and the story is great.  We all owe Rockstar Games a thank you, for once again allowing kids and young adults to let out their murderous rampages virtually. My overall rating:  five out of five.