Category Archives: Pop Culture

Introducing Donald Glover

If you’ve seen an episode of 30 Rock, Community, or watched anything by comedic group, Derrick Comedy, you’ve heard the material of Donald Glover before. However, up until the past year, you may not have known it.

As the face of Troy in NBC’s 30 Community, Donald plays a washed up high school jock, still clinging on to his letterman jacket. The 26 year old began writing for NBC’s 30 Rock , right after graduating from NYU’s Dramatic Writing program. It was at NYU that he started to play around with music and founded the comedic group, Derrick Comedy. While at NBC, he began writing stand up material and subsequently left the show after it’s third season to pursue a career on the stage. Shortly after leaving 30 Rock, however, Donald auditioned and received the role of Troy.

Derrick Comedy is a sketch comedy group that produces a series of Youtube videos, many of which Donald helped write. The group formed at NYU while performing in the comedy group, The Wicked Wicked Hammerkatz. The group released a slew of videos and is now premiering it’s first feature length movie in select cities nationwide.

Now, the entertainer is releasing albums, performing on Comedy Central, and wrapping up his first season on Community – all in the past 6 months.

Donald was recently the subject of a social media campaign to portray the first African-American incarnation of Spider-Man. Fans tweeted constantly for the chance to have Donald Portay the popular webslinger. Although newcomer Andrew Garfield received the role, Donald hasn’t slowed down. On the 16th of July, He flew to Montreal to receive the Rising Star comedy award at the annual Just for Laughs festival. With a year as successful as his, it doesn’t come as a surprise. In The midst of the Community season in March, Donald’s first stand-up special premiered on Comedy Central. This is where I first encountered his standup ability and had to looked him up.

Earlier this month, Donald also dropped his third album, CULDESAC, under the moniker of Childish Gambino. He has repeatedly stated in interviews that he uses the pseudonym to disassociate fans from his comedic efforts. In March, he told New York Magazine the name came from a Wu-Tang Clan name generator he and a few buddies in college were playing around with, and has stuck with the entertainer since. The album is an indie-rap production similar to artists like Kid Cudi or Drake, with wordplay a step below Lil Wayne. Donald infuses indie beats and hip-hop bragging in this unique collection. For those on the fence about it, or are definitely interested, Donald provides all of his music free on his site. There you can find everything from his first mixtape, “ I Am Just a Rapper” to his current efforts.

And as for Community, it’s been renewed for a second season to premiere September 23rd. Glover is set to reprise his role as Troy on Thursdays at 8 CST.

For Donald‘s latest album, go to http://www.culdesac-album.com/

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6 Movies You Should Have Seen Already

By William Johnson

After scanning the list of upcoming movies in the past weeks, none particularly stuck out to me. So, I’ve decided the list a few movies that do stand out from the rest. These are the movies, from recent years, that are on my all time favorites list, and that I suggest you check out.

1. Away We Go (2009)

This film features a couple in search of the perfect place to raise their unborn daughter. Burt and Verona are still struggling to keep the lights on their mid 30’s and want start over for the sake of their child. The couple travels across to country in hopes of finding a place with the right amount of stability, including friends to support them.

Anybody familiar with The Office will recognize a much scruffier version of John Krasinski as the lead role in this comedy-drama, directed by Sam Mendes (Jarhead). This movie features comedian Jim Gaff and actress Maggie Gyllenhaal in supporting roles as well as a cast full of familiar faces.

Singer-Songwriter Alexi Murdoch provides the majority of the movie’s soundtrack with songs from his Time Without Consequence album. His indie-folk tunes direct the mood of this film almost as much as the cinematography.

What holds this movie together for me is the enduring chemistry between the two lead roles, Burt and Verona. Though both have their own dorky quirks and worries about life and people, they are able to confide in each other. Their bond and ways they handle every situation is what attracts me to this movie.

2. Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind (2004)

Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) explores a notion originally used in Alexander Pope’s Eloise to Abelard. In both stories, a young woman falls for a teacher and wishes the memory of her love be wiped clean once she finds that she cannot have him. Kaufman provides the possibility of memory erasure in his script while director Michael Gondry helped visualize the process in modern cinema.

Eternal Sunshine travels deep into the minds of main characters Joel and Clementine, two estranged lovers who have their memories wiped of each other. Jim Carey (Yes Man) and Kate Winslet (The Holiday) provide the right amount of chemistry for this love/hate relationship gone wrong. Carey is in one of his most serious roles as Joel, who decides that he doesn’t want the procedure done halfway through and fights to keep a hold of his memories.

This film asserts the idea that removing the memory of an act does not change the type person of person you were when you committed the act. Eliminating the memory of somebody doesn’t change your tendency to be attracted to that person. In a film that audience can’t help but to identify with, Eternal Sunshine demands your emotions and your intellect with every viewing.

3. Kingdom of Heaven – Directors Cut (2005)

Ridley Scott (Gladiator) brings his usual hack and slash action elements to this movie, but with a bit of class and beauty. Orlando Bloom portrays the historic figure of Balian, a blacksmith turned defender of Jerusalem against Muslim forces during the Crusades.

The first thing audiences may notice in Kingdom of Heaven is the allure of the landscapes used in this film. Every scene attempts to include the beautiful backdrop. The detail in this film is remarkable. The crew recreated the ancient city of Jerusalem in the Moroccan Desert.

Although the Muslim people are the invading force, they are portrayed with much more respect that most contemporary films. In fact, this film provides criticism to the Christian Crusaders.

I recommend the directors cut because the original film was incomplete. Characters were reinserted to the directors cut make a more coherent story. Although this brings the running time up to 194 minutes, for anybody planning to watch it, this is the only way to truly appreciate it.

4. Anything by Quentin Tarrantino

Whether is be Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs, Inglorious Basterds or Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino brings cinematic gold to the silver screen every time.

Tarrantino brings a sort of over the top violence and black comedy that most contemporary films are missing. His non linear story telling and over the top dialogue set him apart as one of the decades top directors. His intentional use of cliches and habit of killing off more half of the original cast in him films are trademarks of his style.

5. Up in The Air/ The Hurt Locker (2009)

I combined these two movies because the portray similar lead characters. Both The Hurt Locker and Up in The Air feature men who have been trained to do one thing, and excel in this by dedicating their lives to it. In the process, they lose the ability to live outside of their skill set.

George Clooney (Ocean’s 11-13) plays Ryan Bingham in Up In The Air, a corporate downsizer who travels across the country with his life in his backpack. His job is to lay people off when company managers are too cowardly to do it themselves. This movie follows his travels and the way he perceives people and relationships.

Jeremy Renner (Dahmer) is Sergeant First Class William James in the Academy Award Winning film, The Hurt Locker. James is a bomb specialist with an extensive service history who is assigned as the team leader of an Electronic Ordinance Disposal Unit. The Hurt Locker follows his tour in Iraq, and readjustment to home life.

While these films share similarities, they are quite different movies. I grouped them together because of the similar themes and the way both films made me feel. Up In The Air caries a theme of voluntary detachment, while the EOD unit in The Hurt Locker must find unity to succeed together.

6. Babel/Crash (2006/2004)

Babel is a combination of concurrent perspectives in regards to a shooting in Morroco that fatally wounds an American tourist. The story is shown from the perspectives of those affected and following investigation. Crash is about a car theft that systematically sparks a chain of events.

Babel and Crash have been called large and small scale versions of each other. While similar, the difference between the movies lies in how connected the groups of people are. In Crash, a series of racially charged events affects the lives of several families. Babel is based around one event that has international consequences.

Both movies, however, examine the racism and prejudice that exist in our national and global societies. The harsh realism behind these movies is necessary when discussing these issues.

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First Impressions of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

By William Johnson

M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) attempts to translate the entire first season of a popular animated series in his newest film, The Last Airbender.

In a world where the four elements ( Air, Water, Earth, Fire) can be controlled by special beings known as benders, there is one person who can wield them all. The Avatar is a bender who reincarnates in a cycle among the nations through each generation. For example, if he or she were born in the earth nation one century, they would reappear in the fire nation the next century. This person serves as a medium to the spirit world to who keeps the balance of power between the nations. Siblings Katara and Sokka find the avatar in a dormant state and race around the world with him to help him learn all of the elements so he may overthrow the tyrannical fire nation and it’s leader, The Fire Lord.

Fans of the series will make sure notice of the differences between the film and the series immediately. While no film is ever just like the creative entity it’s based on, M. Night Shyamalan makes sure to remove any comedic value from this film. This was something the series relied heavily upon in the character of Sokka, who is represented by Jackson Hale (Twilight). Instead, he opts for a more serious version of the character whose bland love story isn’t presented with the slightest bit of interest.

It doesn’t, however, take a fan of the series to notice the evident flaws in this film. The credit for this underperforming movie doesn’t all belong to Mr. Shyamalan. This film is anchored down by a weak script, unbelievably bad child acting, and poor cinematic presentation. At times, the movie felt unfinished and rough. The acting from newcomer Noah Ringer, as Avatar Aang, felt as pretentious and cheesy as the rest of the film. The movie didn’t involve anyone of the audience who hadn’t seen the original series, thusly alienating anyone who had the misfortune of trying out what they expected to be a coherent movie.

Of all the things this film does wrong, it still has the gimmick of bending the elements. Even in this, the production value felt low like a made for TV film or straight to DVD release. When the movie crawls within the last ten minutes, and the climax is happening, the cinematic quality shoots up as if to reward the audience for having to sit through the first hour and a half.

The one thing done right in this movie are the fight scenes. Choreographed sequences in the film show where all of the effort from the crew was placed, by both the actors and the post production team. The final battle scenes are intense and flashy. They do not, however, eliminate the rest of the movie from my memory.

The Last Airbender proved to be a movie that I could hardly sit through, and much less recommend to anyone besides the most diehard of fans.

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I love It When a Plan Comes Together.

By William Johnson

The 2010 film remake of the 1980’s action adventure  television series features an ensemble of stars direct by Joe Carnahan (Smoking Aces).

The film is about four Iraq War veterans and Special Forces servicemen who are attempting to prove their innocence after being framed for a crime they didn’t commit. After escaping from military prison, the men must chase down the real culprits in order to clear their names.

This film feels like Carnhan’s last movie, Smoking Ace, an adrenaline injected thrill ride with little attention to detail. This isn’t the type of film that will leave you pondering over cliffhangers or unexplained plot twists. The A Team is pretty frank in it’s delivery, as if offers no illusions of grandeur of deeper meaning. That being said, this is a classic summer action movie.

Liam Neeson (Taken) and Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) both offer their usual on screen personas. Cooper is, of course, cast as a smooth talking ladies man with a sense of humor, while Neeson retreats to his usual wise, father figure role. The two characters, John “Hannibal” Smith and Templeton “Face” Peck, are portrayed believably by the Neeson and Cooper.

The role of Mr. T’s character, B.A., was filled by UFC mixed martial artist Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (The Ultimate Fighter). Rampage took some time out of the ring to prepare and film this movie. He made headlines by losing his first fight after the movie to rival Rashad Evans. Jackson provides what seems to be a caricature of the original B.A. His actions sequences are well choreographed, and he provides the comic relief needed in such an action oriented movie. Where he seems to fall short on the screen is in dialogue. His lines felt rushed and jumbled at times when his character was actually required to speak.

South African Sharlto Copley (District 9) delivers an unremarkable performance as the team’s aviation specialist H.M. Murdock. His character normally serves as the get away driver and saving grace of the team with little involvement with action of the plan.

This film uses all of the original catchphrases from Hannibal’s “I love it when a plan comes together”, to Mr. T’s, “ I ain’t getting on no plane” and “You’re crazy fool!”.  B.A.’s fear of flying is used prominently, along with a nod to the classic GMC van he used to drive.

Those going to see this film should expect a montage of gunshots and things blowing up, along with a few laughs. The main problem isn’t with the movie, which achieved what it set out for. The vehicle on which the movie is based, the original series, is shallow. For those who are fans of the original series and are feeling a bit of nostalgia or just want an action oriented movie experience, I recommend the movie. However, in what feels like a two hour long episode of the classic, some viewers may get annoyed with seeing the team in the same type of predicaments, only to be saved in the same formulaic fashion.

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The Emerging of a Sport.

By William Johnson

The U.S. national soccer team disproved a number of preconceptions about them at the 2010 World Cup. The U.S. team led it’s group for the first time in 80 years, went undefeated during the group stage, and Landon Donovan broke the U.S. record for most goals scored in World Cup play. The most interesting fact, however, is that the American people cared enough to watch it all.

The broadcast of the U.S. team’s 1-0 win over Algeria broke ESPN ratings records as the largest audience for a soccer game in network history, reaching a reported 4,582,000 households and 6 million viewers. the online broadcast at espn.com became the highest watched online sporting event stream in the site’s history. logging over 1 million viewers. Two U.S. presidents voiced their support for the teams as President Barack Obama called the team to congratulate them after their win over Algeria and President Clinton could be seen in the stands of every U.S. game.

Even after the crushing loss to Ghana on Saturday, fans are supporting a petition to get a U.S. bid as the host of the 2018 or 2022 World Cup. Landon Donovan is appearing on everything from Good Morning America to The Daily Show and Late night with David Letterman. Fans who had never watched a full soccer game before this World Cup are reciting player bios and fact, myself included. Facebook updates, news headlines, and television networks flooded with information about every goal and bad call. The nation became interested in soccer.

America isn’t known for being particularly keen on soccer. The lack of interest in U.S. soccer in the past is evident in the compensation the players receive. According to a chart recently released by a players union for Major League Soccer, Some players make as little as $20,000 a year to play the sport. Landon Donovan, who has been hailed as the greatest player in U.S. history, is paid $900,000. While this isn’t a meager amount by any means, in the NFL or NBA this would be considered completely unacceptable for any starting player, much less one of his caliber. Another example is the salary of the U.S. team’s head coach, Bob Bradley. Bradley receives $500,000 a year to coach the team, while Britain’s head coach, Fabio Capello makes a reported $7.3 million. With more national attention comes sponsorships and bigger advertisers. If this trend of increasing popularity continues, we may see a raise is pay and talent is U.S. game play.

Hopefully, the spike in U.S. support will carry over to the regular season. After a season long stint in Everton with national teammate Tim Howard, U.S. football poster boy Landon Donovan will be playing for the L.A. Galaxy this season. With any luck, he’ll bring his new found fans along with him.

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