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Monday, June 27, 2022

2015: The Semester Ahead

Surprise releases keep music lovers on the edge of their seat

If 2015 is anything like last year, the anticipation for new music will be an anxious process. With other artistic mediums like movies and plays, you have the full body of work released all at once in a controlled setting. For albums, singles and leaked songs dictate the appropriate “hype level,” causing speculation to swirl into a massive heat ball until the anticipation becomes its own entity separate from the release. With more and more mainstream artists following the Death Grips methodology of surprise releases, 2015 is shaping up to be a heart attack-filled year. Nobody is safe from their favorite artist dropping an album when they least expect it.

Despite my overly neurotic fear, there are some solid LP’s that we can rely on to fill this year’s big release quota. Frank Ocean is set to follow up 2012’s amazing debut album channel ORANGE with more dreamy R&B jams. Some new tidbits of music are floating around Ocean’s Tumblr, and he’s reported to BBC Radio1 that he’s “10, 11 songs” into what is looking to be another classic concept album.

On New Year’s Eve, Kanye West flew over all of our houses and blessed us with a beautiful ode to his daughter titled “Only One,” a joint effort from West and Paul McCartney. With his daughter now an integral part of his life, we might get to see a more gentle fatherly side to Yeezy, sharply contrasting his aggressive industrial sound from 2013’s Yeezus.

A number of artists broke into the mainstream in 2014, and many still have to answer the question of whether they can live up to the hype bestowed on them. I’ll be looking to Atlanta to see whether iLoveMakonnen will be able to put out full releases that transcend the catchy viral bangers that dominated YouTube last year. Mythical artists that aggressively avoid the sunlight of publicity are returning to the surface in 2015, such as the ever-elusive Jai Paul and songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr. This year’s turning out to be a healthy mix of up-and-comers and big names. Be careful where you step though, you might just get sidelined by the new Death Grips album.

—Jake Witz

'Tis the season for awards

So, before we get to anything else, we’re going to spend the next month or so arguing about, talking about and saying far too much about the Oscars. It’s just sort of how this works, as February doesn’t have a lot to offer film wise. And yes, most of the discussion will center on “Selma” getting snubbed and “American Sniper” completely exploding beyond all expectation, but don’t let them distract you from the slew of other great films that will be more quietly creeping into theaters. Stuff like Mike Leigh’s excellent artist biopic “Mr. Turner,” Russia’s monumental best foreign film nominee “Leviathan” or the breathtakingly tense “A Most Violent Year,” none of which should be overlooked.

And of course you still have opportunities to see Oscar films like “Foxcatcher” and “Birdman,” while “The Grand Budapest Hotel” might swing through on its awards buzz re-release (plus, a friendly reminder that you can still catch the seriously under-seen “Inherent Vice”).

But getting past the awards stuff, there’s a lot to look forward to this spring. While February is usually a dumping ground for films no one has faith in, the Wachowski siblings’ “Jupiter Ascending” looks like enough of a bonkers space opera on par with a lot of their post-Matrix work to be completely weird, fascinating and worth seeing.

Similarly, March has a glimmer of hope in “Chappie,” from “District 9” and “Elysium” director Neill Blomkamp, about a robot built with emotions who gets kidnapped by a group of gangsters. So, hopefully insightful and original sci-fi with some action thrown in. Things really pick up in April, when we get the insane true story of “True Story,” starring James Franco in a (hopeful) return to serious dramatic form, “Child 44,” a Soviet era mystery starring Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman and “Ex Machina” with Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson and artificial intelligence, and holy cow, it looks so good.

Finally in May things get a bit bigger, in the shape of “Pitch Perfect 2,” the “Mad Max” reboot with Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron and Brad Bird’s “Tomorrowland,” which are my two most anticipated blockbusters of the year, as well as something called “Avengers: Age of Ultron?”

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—Austin Wellens

Television blasts off with HBO, Yahoo shows

Spring 2015 is shaping up to be an excellent season for television. Pretty much all of my favorite shows from last year are starting up at some point in the spring–you can’t see it, but I’m actually tingling with excitement.

First off is HBO’s slate of spring programming, much of which starts on April 12. Obviously, this starts with “Game of Thrones.” The fifth season of the network’s flagship program has been the subject of much anticipation, both because of the show’s steady improvement and its continued forays into territory uncharted by the book series. It’s probably the show I’m most excited for in 2015.

But that kind of sells the rest of the slate short. Both “Silicon Valley” and “Veep” start on the same night, and both were tremendous last year. “Veep” may be the funniest show on TV, and “Silicon Valley” had an awesome rookie season. “True Detective” also begins again, with an entirely new cast and story that has to be good.

In other sectors of the Television world, Will Forte’s new sitcom “The Last Man on Earth” looks stupendous. The plot seems to be exactly what the title suggests; what would you do if you were the only person left on Earth? Judging by the promos, Forte (who also happens to be a fantastic comedian) seems to be doing a whole lot of nothing; I’m totally down.

Another one of my programs, “Community,” returns this spring as Yahoo’s first real foray into television. “Community” had an excellent bounce-back season on NBC last year, and when the network cancelled it, I was devastated. But devastation quickly turned to joy when Yahoo picked it up. It will be exciting to see what Dan Harmon and company can do with the new freedoms allowed by the Internet.

Last but certainly not least is “The Walking Dead,” which is coming off of its best fall yet. Rick Grimes and friends have a big spring ahead of them. I’m more than ready to go along for the ride.

—Jake Smasal

Upcoming expos to stem video game drought

Last year was maligned for being the year great games were delayed to the next. Ostensibly, that should make for a great year of video games. However, this semester is light; it seems most of these delays are geared towards holiday releases. Three of this season's major releases, "Dying Light," "Evolve" and "Battlefield Hardline," have all previewed poorly. So, what good is coming?

Two of the best gaming conventions are this semester. The Game Developers Conference, exclusive to games press and industry members, will begin March 3. GDC is a event where those who make games share ideas, and shape the future of games. For fans, Penny Arcade Expo "East" begins March 6 in Boston. PAX is widely considered the definitive fan event in games. Even if the two men running Penny Arcade are pretty huge jerks, it'll be a great chance to sense a shift in the culture following last year's toxic #Gamergate debacle.

Before March is done, Nintendo will release the New Nintendo 3DS, with more technical power, like a new iPad generation, and multiple exciting games. The best-seller is likely "The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D," a 3DS remake of the well-loved sequel to "Ocarina of Time," which is widely considered one of the best games ever made. Additionally, the 3DS will see the release of "Code Name: S.T.E.A.M." and "Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate," two games that will offer lengthy challenges.

The Nintendo Wii U will be receiving an air-drop, with "Mario Party 10" and the adorable "Kirby and the Rainbow Curse,” releasing before March is through. The end of the semester will also greet third-person shooter "Splatoon," and a possible release of "Yoshi's Woolly World," another entry in a saga of Nintendo drowning everyone in cute stuff.

The spirtual successor to the first "Dark Souls" is releasing on PS4 under the name "Bloodborne," and the semester will end with another epic-length RPG in "The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt" on non-Nintendo platforms. If you're not about the above, evolving free-to-play games like “Defense of the Ancients 2" and "Hearthstone: Heroes of WarCraft" will welcome you willingly, and there's an infinite catalog of great games of decades past.

—Alex Lovendahl

 

Spring into a good book

Book champions all over the world share one irrevocable thing in common: a mutual scorn for the majority of movies adapted by books. It’s a fact that has been unanimously accepted as truth for so long, that nothing short of a literary visual miracle would be worthy of contesting it. That is until recently. 

For quite some time now, we’ve witnessed an influx of giant book series and trilogies reproduced onto the big screen. And while some of them may be able to stand as quality movies on their own, they fall short of expectations when compared to their book counterparts. 

The dilemma therein lies with the fact that we’re introduced to these books before the movies. Books that invoke our imagination in a way where we see the whole story play out in our minds without any outside help; just mere words showing us a whole new world, the people existing within it and their stories. How can anything else possibly measure up? Any adaptation that we see on the big screen then—no matter how brilliant—is a let down. 

There is a surprising flip side though. What if you came across an exceptional movie, fell instantly in love with it and then found out it was based on a book? My 2015 had such a beginning and it could not have been a more perfect foreshadow for the rest of my upcoming literary and visual shenanigans. I watched “The Imitation Game” in theater a few days into the new year, a movie I had been waiting to watch for quite a while now, and it blew all my expectations to smithereens. I had failed to fathom how good this movie would be. 

I also had not expected it to be adapted from the book, “Alan Turing: The Enigma” or the fact that I’d be inspired to pick up the book about the man who invented the very machine I am tapping these words on, the very first computer. I therefore look forward to a year filled with literary surprises, as should you.

—Maham Hassan

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