Concert Preview: The Oh Hellos w/ Dogwood & Holly

by Robert Johns | November 16, 2015

written by Brian Shesko

Student Activities proudly presents The Oh Hellos with Dogwood & Holly in concert on Tuesday, November 17, 2015. The concert will take place in the LaHaye Event Space starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are just $8 in advance for students, $12 for general public, and will be $15 for everyone at the door. Purchase them

From The Oh Hellos website:

“The Oh Hellos began in a cluttered bedroom, where siblings Maggie and Tyler Heath (born and raised in southern Texas) recorded their self-titled EP in 2011. In the fall of 2012, the sibling duo released their debut full-length record Through the Deep, Dark Valley, an album full of regret and redemption, which they wrote, recorded, produced, mixed, and mastered themselves. 

When the time came in early 2013 to bring the music to the stage, the Heaths reached out to friends both new and old and gathered together an ensemble of touring musicians the size of a circus, tumblers and all.

Their second full-length album, Dear Wormwood, is a collection of songs inspired in part by C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters and Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind, mythology and folklore, and apocalyptic literature. The album tells the story of a protagonist trapped in an abusive relationship, by way of letters written to the antagonist. It was recorded, piece by piece, in the house where Maggie and Tyler live in San Marcos, TX, and much like The Oh Hellos' live performance, the album presents two alternating faces: at times delicate, intimate, affectionate; and at others, soaring and towering and joyfully explosive. 

Their influences range from Fleet Foxes and Sufjan Stevens to The Middle East and the Muppets, bending and blending styles and genres into a unique mixture of eclectic folk rock.”

Joining The Oh Hellos will be Lynchburg/Liberty’s own Dogwood & Holly. Check them out on Facebook to see their remaining fall schedule, and go get some of their music on NoiseTrade.

The Hunger Games: Movie Marathon Preview

by Robert Johns | November 13, 2015

written by Brian Shesko

In preparation for the release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (in theaters November 20), Student Activities presents The Hunger Games: Movie Marathon, taking place on Saturday, November 14 in the LaHaye Event Space. The movies will be shown as follows:

  • The Hunger Games – 7:00 p.m.
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – approx. 9:30 p.m.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – approx. 11:59 p.m.

The Hunger Games movies have certainly earned the right to be called “blockbusters.” The first three movies have earned over $2 billion, putting them in 20th all-time on the list of top-grossing movie franchises. The release of Mockingjay – Part 2 should propel it at least into the top 15, if not higher. As with other movie franchises based on popular novels, The Hunger Games has been an engrossing experience from the beginning. Based on critical reception of the first three movies, it can be argued that The Hunger Games is one of the new standard-bearers of movie adaptations of novels, remaining true to the story as it originally appeared, the clearest sign that Suzanne Collins participated in crafting the screenplay. Perhaps more quality like this may help get us closer to a truce in the everlasting battle between Books vs. Movies. In one sense, it is a bit sad to think that people are so, well, hungry to see the embodiment of a novel’s characters, discontent to leave those characters on the page in their minds. But that is the reality of the entertainment industry we feed. Positively, however, it is only natural to want to see the action, the settings, and the characters who so capture our imaginations. This shows the power of movies to tell our stories, and when performed well, the value of strong actors.

The cast of The Hunger Games is one of the most celebrated aspects of the movies, starting of course with Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. Whoever plays Katniss in the eventual reboot of the franchise will have a hard time taking her away from Ms. Lawrence. As other reviewers have noted, her performance is a near-perfect complement to the gray sadness that characterizes Panem, an outstanding portrayal of “scarred survivor and a reluctant symbol.” Josh Hutcherson receives high marks for his performance as Peeta Mellark, so what if he’s not as handsome as Liam Hemsworth/Gale Hawthorne? Few actors could be better as President Snow than Donald Sutherland, calm yet maniacal, increasingly devilish as the series proceeds. The name value of the remaining, supporting cast is high, with Stanley Tucci, Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman all adding a great deal to an already outstanding list of performances.

Is there redemption in The Hunger Games? Yes, very much so. Both Katniss and Peeta demonstrate the high virtue of self-sacrificial love (please see Amy Simpson’s thoughts on Peeta as a Christ-figure in the movies). Despite the horrors of the Hunger Games themselves, and in the face of oppressive evil, Katniss represents hope to the masses, hope that extends beyond immediate circumstances, pointing to the possibility of a better future. It is hope in the face of fear, the two adversaries that characterize all of life. The Hunger Games deals with these issues in a compelling way, using racism, class distinctions, traditional gender roles, political corruption, and biting critique of entertainment-saturated culture as backgrounds. These movies are well worth your time and attention.

Please enjoy the FREE popcorn, get some good snacks and drinks, and enjoy The Hunger Games: Movie Marathon, brought to you by Student Activities.

I Love... - Autumn

by Robert Johns | November 13, 2015

Meet one of our staff members, Autumn.

Aretha Franklin - Nessun Dorma

by Robert Johns | November 12, 2015

I love a good story, especially when it comes to incredible musicians interacting with, and helping, their peers.

During the 1998 Grammy Awards, Luciano Pavarotti was scheduled to perform his famous ‘Nessun Dorma’. However, last-minute, Pavarotti informed the show's producers that he couldn’t go on because he was sick. This left show organizers trying to figure out what to do with the scheduled slot. Phil Ramone, one of the show’s producers, knew that Aretha Franklin had sung that very song at Radio City for a MusicCares event just two nights prior. One problem: her arrangement was completely different than Luciano’s. With just twenty minutes until the scheduled performance, Ramone rushed to Aretha's dressing room to convince her to cover for Pavarotti. After listening through a rehearsal tape three times, she agreed to do it...even without a rehearsal.

You can see below how the performance went. She stunned the audience.

Fall/Winter 2015 Movie Season Preview

by Robert Johns | November 9, 2015

written by Brian Shesko

The 2015 movie year is nearly over. The late fall/early winter blockbusters will be here soon, while the year’s biggest hits, like Jurassic World and Avengers: Age of Ultron, have fallen like memory leaves in our brain forests, just lying there with the other crappy ones, like Jurassic World and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ah, this cruel life, as we trod over what was “then” for what will soon be “now.” What’s that you say? The new Star Wars is out in like 40 days?!? Well, what are we waiting for?? Let’s trample all over those dumb memories as we look ahead to the Fall/Winter 2015 Movie Season!

Yes, it’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens’* (Dec. 18) universe, and we’re just a small, Hoth-based, Rebel alliance in it. Many of you have likely downloaded some sort of countdown timer for it, or, Yoda help you, forced yourself to re-watch the Jar-Jar Binks nightmare that is Episodes 1-3 in anticipation of the biggest movie of our time. These are very natural feelings you’re having toward The Force Awakens, and we encourage you to embrace them. Use your aggressive feelings, feel the hatred of other movies flow through you! Yes! Good! GOOD!!***

Actually, there are some other huge movies in the next month and a half that are worth checking out, so don’t go too crazy with the dark side there, kids. In fact, why not start with the very opposite of the dark side at The Peanuts Movie (Nov. 6)? Watch the cartoon stars of MetLife commercials/various holiday parade balloons come to life on the big screen in amazing animation! Charlie Brown will probably try to kick that football again, Snoopy will probably fly his doghouse like a WWI fighter pilot, and the kids’ teacher and/or parents will talk like a muted trombone. There may even be some surprises!

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (Nov. 20) may be the other, most anticipated movie of the year after Star Wars. Mockingjay – Part 2 follows in Part 1’s footsteps, challenging the establishment, daring to use both a dash and a colon in the title, a clear homage to the bravery of Katniss Everdeen herself. WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Don’t miss Donald Sutherland as The Most Interesting Man in Panem, or Julianne Moore as what looks like a fancy ghost.

Pixar is back again, presumably for more of your tears, with The Good Dinosaur (Nov. 25). It’s the story of a prehistoric-looking, grunting boy who shares an adventure with a somewhat sophisticated, talking dinosaur. MOVIE DOUBLE-TAKE: If you replace the boy with Anne Hathaway, you basically get The Intern.

Two, beloved old stories are shocked with Hollywood electricity, revived for blockbuster movie life, and then (probably) harpooned or torched by angry critics: Victor Frankenstein (Nov. 25) and In the Heart of the Sea (Dec. 11). Victor Frankenstein is the name of the scientist. The monster is actually Daniel Radcliffe’s neck beard. In the Heart of the Sea is based on the story which begat Moby Dick and features the can’t-miss, Hollywood magic of adding Chris Hemsworth to the cast. Call me Ishmael…’s wife, AM I RIGHT, LADIES??? (Actually, his movie name is Owen Chase, so I am not at all right, ladies.)

If you love the seventh circle of hell mixed live-action and animated characters on screen, then you’ll want to see Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (Dec. 18). THE END IS NIGH ALERT: The Road Chip is the FOURTH MOVIE in this series. Why/how? Surely, there are not many puns or days on earth left. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Four Horsemen of the Chip-ocalypse cannot be far behind.

Finally, just in time for the holidays(!), Christmas Day brings us a set of very interesting, not-very-feel-good movies: Concussion and The Revenant (Dec. 25). Concussion looks like it’s going to force Will Smith to act, and with such a relevant topic, the combination may make everyone forget his movie Focus, and maybe, fingers crossed, start to cleanse the stain of After Earth. As for The Revenant, there is no joke. The only possible downside is that the trailer makes it look a little too good. Here’s hoping there is no downside. And here’s hoping you finally get that Oscar, Leo!

There you have it: just a little preview of a fall movie season jam packed full of movies that look like they could be at least pretty good, maybe even very good, but possibly also not so good. It’s our seasonal way of saying “Don’t get your hopes up too much” and “Don’t forget: more than anything, ‘Hollywood’ wants your money.” Now go pre-order those Star Wars tickets and pick your camping spot for The Force Awakens’ premier!