Preview: Movie Night

by Stephanie Ward | August 18, 2016

written by Brian Shesko

What would Fall Welcome Week be without a Movie Night? It would still be very good. However, it is hard to argue that a Movie Night does anything other than make Fall Welcome Week better. So please, do not argue with us. Come to the Vines Center on Saturday, August 27 for a double feature of these:

  • The Legend of Tarzan – 8:00 p.m.
  • The Jungle Book (2016) – 10:00 p.m.

On one hand, it does not seem to be surprising to see more than one critic ask why or how The Legend of Tarzan came to be. Maybe by pointing this out we’re cutting off our own vine in mid-swing, so to speak, but this is our nicer way of pointing out that this movie was not particularly well-reviewed. Besides, how many current moviegoers, especially that coveted 18-39 year old demographic, were clamoring for more of a character that has been represented on movie screens over 50 times since 1918, a few of those occurring since 1998? And as other reviewers have asked, given the current socio-political climate in the US, is this really the time for a reboot of the British colonial, white-guy-as-king-of-the-jungle hero story that is Tarzan? Well, on the other hand, it’s pretty clear that the Tarzan filmmakers were aware of these things, as the cast and certain plot points suggest. The various historical issues of the story are present but primarily serve as a backdrop and catalyst for the action. Samuel L. Jackson as George Washington Williams gets to be both Tarzan and the audience’s guide through it all; his facial expressions are probably the closest thing to what everyone should feel as they watch this movie. This lets Christoph Waltz be his usual, slightly insane bad guy self, Alexander Skarsgard be the almost perfectly physique-d Tarzan, and Margot Robbie the near-perfect Jane. Plus, since no one is coming to this movie for a thorough exposition and denunciation of European colonialist practices circa 1881-1914, it should allow most folks the chance to enjoy Samuel L. Jackson wisecracking and Tarzan swinging on things, fighting some people and some animals, and, of course, saving Jane.

Our second movie for the night is the most recent version of The Jungle Book, which at least critically speaking is the polar opposite of The Legend of Tarzan. One of the best reviewed movies of 2016 (so far), The Jungle Book is a CGI marvel and an absolute load of fun to watch. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising at this point, but it is amazing to hear how some actors are almost able to voice their own persona into an animated character, and this is particularly true for those in The Jungle Book: Bill Murray (Baloo), Scarlett Johansson (Kaa), Idris Elba (Shere Khan), Christopher Walken (King Louie), and Ben Kingsley (Bagheera). The seamless blend between live action and animation is largely the result of an excellent performance from new actor Neel Sethi as Mowgli. It’s an outstanding blend of nostalgia and novelty, and you should come see it whether you’ve seen it already or not.

As usual, we will provide free popcorn and lots of inexpensive junk food and drinks for your snacking pleasure. Enjoy the show!


by Robert Johns | August 16, 2016

written by Erin Diaz

With NEEDTOBREATHE visiting us this fall (November 12th, see you there!), it’s important to take a few minutes to go over some highlights of their new album: Hard Love.

If you listened to Rivers in the Wasteland, NEEDTOBREATHE’s album prior to H A R D L O V E, you know that the album is pretty emotionally weighty. Songs such as “Difference Maker” and “Wasteland” show the heart behind the album, one that was joyful and lively, yet also full of real life lessons and deep thoughts.

H A R D L O V E follows suit, showing sides of positivity as well as thought-provoking songs. The album begins with an electronic/R&B feel in MOUNTAIN, Pt 1, which sets the tone for the upbeat pop vibe of the album (carried along by songs such as “Hard Love” and “When I Sing”). Along with the upbeat songs there are a few that are slowed down and a bit more reflective, such as “No Excuses” and “Be Here Long”. 

NEEDTOBREATHE never fails at giving everyone what they want. Those who are romantics and want to hear a little bit more of a “lovey-dovey” song, put on “Let’s Stay Home Tonight” and you won’t be disappointed. When it comes to a more worship-style song, “Testify” is just that.

NEEDTOBREATHE’s sound is relatable to all. Leon of “The Musical Melting Pot” describes it well when he writes, “H A R D L O V E is a gamble, ambitious in scope and utterly immersive in its execution. This music would sound out of place in small venues, if the walls of such venues were capable of bearing its onslaught in the first place. On this album, NEEDTOBREATHE are an unstoppable sonic force.”

This album is one that deserves your listen, and if you like what you hear, grab your tickets to see them live at Liberty University on November 12!

Kings Kaleidoscope: “Beyond Control”

by Robert Johns | July 29, 2016

written by Erin Diaz

June 24, 2016 marks a day that sparked a bit of a controversy in the Contemporary Christian Music (or CCM) realm – it was the day that Kings Kaleidoscope’s album “Beyond Control” was released, and also the day the word “explicit” appeared on a CCM album.

Hailing from Seattle, Washington, Kings Kaleidoscope claims their style as “an alternative rock hybrid band”. If you’ve listened to Kings Kaleidoscope in the past, you remember that the band is known for their reworking of hymns such as “Come Thou Fount” and “In Christ Alone”. They also have three albums besides “Beyond Control”, the first being released in 2011, and an EP called “Live in Focus” which came out in 2015.

“Beyond Control” is comprised of 13 songs, ranging from a jazzy opening entitled “A Resting Place (Intro)” to more of an alternative rock feel in “Enchanted”. Each song is obviously one to be sang to God, crying out words such as “Break me free to live enchanted!” and “Pray I find my peace, pray I slay the dragon”. Therefore, it obviously comes as a surprise to see the word “explicit” next to a song on the album, especially when the song is entitled “A Prayer”. Perhaps lead singer/songwriter Chad Gardner didn’t realize the implications of this bold word being on his album. Then again, maybe he did.

Amidst the controversy of “A Prayer”, Gardner sticks to his guns. In an interview on “Reel Gospel”, the lead singer states, “It barely feels like I wrote the song. One afternoon I was listening to the first part of that song and all the lyrics just appeared in this app I use on my phone to write lyrics. I bawled my eyes out, just feeling the Holy Spirit’s presence, just writing them down. Just thinking them. Once again, I even had to wait longer to record it, it was so heavy on me. The next day I was able to sing it through, twice. And I lost it both times singing it… It is the deepest fear of my soul and the deepest truth of my soul. That’s how it got written.”

This was definitely a risky move on Gardner’s part (and the whole band, for that matter). The use of one word on this album has the potential to push a lot of listeners away, yet this ultimatum didn’t scare Gardner away. When asked about the vision behind the song by Spirit You All, Gardner stated “I'd say, I'm not trying to change anyone's mind about it or convince anyone of anything. I'm just trying to be honest and vulnerable. I think that's important in art, and important as a Christian. If there's any place that I can share my story and my testimony for what it really is, it should be the church at large. And that's what I'm doing.”

So what does this mean for Christian music? Because of this being a relatively new development, it’s hard to tell right now what will be said about this situation or if much will be said at all. Kings Kaleidoscope doesn’t really fit the mold of the typical CCM band – they’re not exactly at the top of Christian radio’s Most Played list. Therefore, in the Christian realm, how much does this really matter?

To some, it really matters. The band tweeted on July 21st “Friends, @CreationFest has decided to no longer have us this year, hopefully we’ll get to sing these gospel songs another time…” Creation Festival, the largest Christian music festival in the nation, chose to uninvite Kings Kaleidoscope after “Beyond Control” was released. While they do not cite the profanity in “A Prayer” as their reasoning, it is assumed that this was the cause of the un-vitation. This situation shows that “A Prayer” is definitely causing some controversy, but as of now it’s hard to tell how much of a stir this is going to make in the CCM pot.

But if there is one thing that is going to stir the CCM pot, it should be the sound of “Beyond Control”. This album is charged with all sorts of different “feels” – electronic, rock, alternative, and just about everything that will make you take your Beats off, hand them to anyone around and say “Listen up!”. Kings Kaleidoscope makes the type of music that must be shared – they aren’t afraid to stand out, and this album is a perfect example of the risks they are willing to take. Timothy Yap of Hallels encapsulates the band’s music seamlessly by writing, “Kings Kaleidoscope can't be explained. It can be heard. It can be felt. It can point us towards home.”

Pokémon Go or Pokémon No?

by Robert Johns | July 20, 2016

written by Erin Diaz

After seeing that Liberty University’s Instagram account posted a photo about our campus having plenty of room to catch Pokémon (and the 2,300+ likes on the photo), it is impossible to ignore the impact this game has taken as of late. And our 7,000-acre campus isn’t the only place booming with the excitement of little virtual creatures; in just a couple weeks, Pokémon Go has made an impact on places and people all over the world. Like every global trend, there are many advocates as well as nay-sayers, and this game has no lack on either side. In order to make a fully developed opinion on the game and what it means to indulge in playing it, it is important to look at both sides, taking into consideration everything Pokémon Go has created over the past week or so.

When it comes to the downsides of the game, you may have heard about the armed robbery in Missouri last week, where “Armed robbers used the game Pokémon Go to lure victims to an isolated trap.” You may also know about the complaints from places such as the Holocaust Museum, Arlington Cemetery, and Ground Zero due to the lack of respect the game represents on their honorable grounds. And these are factors that cannot be argued with – these instances and situations are uncalculated misuses of the game.

Yet, there is some good coming from the game as well. Vox recently published an article titled “Pokémon Go May be the Greatest Unintentional Health Fad Ever”. Whether or not this statement is true, there is undoubtedly an increase in exercise from our fellow Pokemon-playing US citizens over the past couple of weeks. Vox’s article includes tweets stating “Co-worker walked 7 miles on Saturday to catch Pokémon” and “Just walked at least 8km in the past 3 hours”. The game is definitely getting people on their feet, which is inarguably a positive feature.

So what can we conclude? With the facts in front of us (whether positive or negative), perhaps the best way to use the game is just like with anything else – in moderation. Whether the Pokémon creatures become your friends (that you can have a good time with but are also okay being away from for a little while) or your ultimate foes (that become your only focus) is really up to you.

Aside from whether or not it is beneficial to people, there is no argument that the game is ingenious – it combines nostalgia and our modern-day detachable devices, creating the perfect mixture for excitement and worldwide buzz. And in our society of needing to be ahead of everyone else, it promotes the kind of competitiveness that is causing people to go outside much more than they may have before. Therefore, there isn’t really an objective answer to the question: Is this a “good” game or not? The answer is different for everyone, and if the game is being used simply as a game and it isn’t taking over your life, then hey, go for it!

Yet, the question that remains is: Is it possible to play the game without it taking over your life?

Spotify and the Downside of Streaming

by Robert Johns | July 11, 2016

written by Erin Diaz

Relevant Magazine reported on June 21st that Taylor Swift and hundreds of other artists are "petitioning to Congress to update the legislation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to allow them to be paid properly and have more control over the way their music is used on the website." Many people know at this point that Taylor Swift seems to be the captain of the "artists should make the money they deserve" team, and for the past couple of years she has spoken out against streaming companies (especially Spotify). Besides Swift, artists such as Beyonce, Adele, lead singer of Radiohead Thom Yorke, Bjork and countless others all agree that they are not being compensated properly for their music from streaming sites. And as convenient as Spotify and other streaming sites may be, it’s time we ask a tough question: Are we cheapening music, and for that fact artists as a whole, by not buying albums directly anymore?

Artists are getting upset, and mainly it seems as though the biggest artists are the most angered. Perhaps this is due to the fact that they have already been discovered and now they are feeling frustrated at a lack of compensation. Some of the most important female singers in the world are all choosing to be off of Spotify, and this is not something that can be ignored. Clearly, Spotify is causing certain artists and their work to feel undervalued. Singer Bjork made a statement to Billboard in early 2015 stating, "To work on something for two or three years and then just, Oh, here it is for free. It's not about the money; it's about respect, you know? Respect for the craft and the amount of work you put into it."  

Robert Johns brought up this issue on our blog about a year ago and made the point that he uses Spotify strictly to discover music. From there he purchases the music that he finds and enjoys. While this is undoubtedly the best way to support artists and the music that you enjoy from them, it wouldn’t be a huge statement to say that most people do not use that model. Non-upstanding citizens like me simply subscribe to Spotify Premium and take advantage of the wide library of music that is offered to me for $9.99 a month. Yet, I cannot deny that from time to time, I pose the aforementioned question to myself about the cheapening of music. Is that what I’m doing? Is that what we’re all doing? When it comes down to it, Spotify does not pay its artists enough for them to live off of if Spotify earnings were their only income. Spotify pays an artist between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream, which is possibly a decent amount for artists that have their music streamed constantly. Yet, smaller artists struggle greatly from this amount.

This issue has been brought up for a while now, and it’s just the beginning. The recent petition for the updating of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is just the push that the war between dissatisfied artists and streaming sites needed to continue. We the listeners can only wait and see what ends up happening with the digital streaming debacle. Yet, in the meantime we can try to figure out what it means to stream songs that are important to people even though the people aren't being compensated in the way they wish to be. It's a tough question to pose, but what I believe is most important is that we are always conscious that we are not undervaluing music or the people who write and perform the music we love.

What do you think about the petition? Should Congress update the law in order for artists to have more control?