Category Archives: Arts + Entertainment

A+E: The Best Films of 2022, Cult Classics vs. Mainstream Masterpieces

by Mark Lutke

These films from 2022 reflect several elements of what makes film great – beautiful artistry, powerful messaging and, occasionally, satisfying blockbusters that serve as great eye candy.

  1. Cult Classic – Vortex – Gaspar Noé

This movie by French director Gaspar Noé focuses on an elderly couple suffering from dementia. They use various medications to cope with their crumbling reality, in which their son is the only family who they can remember. He tries to take care of them but is held back by drug-problems of his own.

Instead of the descent-into-madness thriller that Noé is known for, this movie serves more as a descent-into-madness drama. That is to say that it makes the viewer think about their own life, rather than just going along for the ride.

For some less-seasoned viewers, it may come across as slow, but for many, it will catalyze the existential crisis that serious film-goers crave.

  1. Mainstream Masterpiece – The Banshees of Inisherin – Martin McDonaugh

By all metrics, The Banshees of Inisherin is the most visually beautiful film on this list. Its story is solid, but its cinematography is where it truly shines. 

The film takes viewers on a trip to 1920’s Ireland in the midst of civil war. But this film isn’t about battle strategies or history, rather it’s about the relationships between its characters, who all live on an island.

When Colm (Brendan Gleeson) severs his lifelong friendship with Pádriac (Colin Farrell), each of these character’s worlds begin to change. Pádriac is understandably distraught and much of his character arc is about developing a backbone and learning to live without Colm’s approval.

Pádriac’s sister, Siobhán (Kerry Condon), also has her own plot line. Her story demonstrates the mental and emotional impact that living on an island can have on a person, as well as the effects of finding oneself in isolation.

The Banshees of Inisherin has something to offer for everybody.

Whether one wants a humanistic take on island life, or to be dazzled by beautiful cinematography, this film will undeniably sit well with the masses. Which is why it came as no surprise when it took home three Golden Globe awards (Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Actor (Farrell) Musical or Comedy, and Best Screenplay)

  1. Cult Classic – We’re All Going to the World’s Fair – Jane Shoenbrun

Jane Schoenbrun (Collective: Unconscious and The Eyeslicer) has already achieved cult status among fans and critics alike. This is all the more impressive when one considers that they have only released one full-length film. 

We’re All Going To The World’s Fair is a psychological horror-drama that showcases a descent into abstractions and surrealism. It explores themes of isolation, gender identity and existential dread, which Schoenbrun catalyzes with Black Mirror-esque social commentary primarily focused on the isolating effect of technology. 

Alongside these elements stands Anna Cobb’s unassuming yet jarring performance as Casey, a lonesome teenager whose primary motivation is human connection in a lonesome and unaccepting world. To achieve this Casey joins an online role-playing horror game in an attempt to find excitement and adventure. Instead, she is met by JLB (portrayed by Michael J. Rodgers of Beyond the Black Rainbow ). JLB is a sadistic predator who tries to take advantage of Casey’s isolated state. 

We’re All Going To The World’s Fair portrays the internet as a manipulative cesspit full of consumption-driven false promises. This depiction rings true to many who have praised the film’s brutally honest and realistic tone.

Herein lies the essence of We’re all Going to the World’s Fair, a cautionary tale about the dangers of being a disaffected youth with unrestricted internet access and living in a world that seeks to turn everyone and everything into a commodity.

  1. Mainstream Masterpiece – Nope – Jordan Peele  

Perhaps no modern American filmmaker is more misunderstood on a than Jordan Peele. His newest film, Nope, is no exception. Many have theorized about this movies’ meaning and many subplots, as there is no discernable connection between story threads on a first viewing.

However, if one looks at Nope as a critique of blockbusters and spectacle, interpreting it becomes a far easier task. In a world full of Superhero movies and shallow action flicks, like Top Gun: Maverick), Nope brings some much needed nuance to the modern blockbuster. The movie’s apparent lack of depth can be deceiving, but it is through this lack of depth that Jordan Peele is able to craft compelling themes. If the movie was less abstract, it wouldn’t be as fun to pick apart.

Furthermore, Daniel Kaluya’s performance as OJ is reminiscent of the stoic personalities often seen in many Western protagonists. This could be seen as Peele referencing the Westerns that shaped the spectacle of old. It could also be seen as a subversion of stereotypical racial dynamics by placing a black actor in a role similar to that of a John Wayne performance (performances that are often portrayed by white male actors, specifically).

Whatever one’s take on Nope is. It is undeniable that Jordan Peele is a master provocateur of serious and productive discussions through cinema.

A+E: St. Joseph’s Theatre Company Has Strong Opening Weekend of Musical Oklahoma!

by Brett Baligad, Senior Editor

Last weekend, St. Joseph’s High School’s Five Sisters Theatre Company presented their first musical of the year, Oklahoma!, with three more shows to come this weekend.

The St. Joseph’s and St. John Bosco go back in time with their rendition of Oklahoma! This musical marks Ms. Kateryn McReynolds directorial debut, as she has taken the reins from long time theatre director Mr. Larry Vandeventer. Ms. McReynolds is an alumna of St. Joseph’s and is a recent graduate of Princeton University.

The musical Oklahoma! takes place in the mid-1800s. A cowboy, Curly, played by senior Connor Sheehan and ranch hand, Jud Fry, played by junior Grant Hidalgo-Villanueva, both fall in love with the town’s sweetheart, Laurey, played by St. Joseph’s sophomore Gemma Villalobos. The classic western love story is chock full of romance, singing and hoedowns. 

Oklahoma! is a unique and interactive play. The Five Sisters Theatre Company featured a stage in the round that had audience members sitting around nearly the entirety of the stage. The musical truly has no bad views, as the audience members witness the action from just a few rows back.

“A round has a couple of platforms in the middle and back for cast members to perform on,” said actor and senior Jack Scalas. “In the very front row, a lot of the actors could sit next to viewers of the play which is pretty cool. Throughout the play, we also call on people, which is pretty interesting as well.”

This concept was received well by the stage crew and audience on opening night.

“I know this type of musical can be done in different ways. However, the way it was done was really good,” said stage crew member and freshman Kai Maldonado.

New actors also had positive feedback on adjusting to the interesting style of delivering the play.

“Although this is my first time performing, I have seen a lot of the [St. Joseph’s and Bosco] plays and seeing the way they set it up. It was cool to have the audience interact and have them see everything that is going on,” said actor and freshman William Pearce.

One of the highlights of the experience were audience members getting picked out of the crowd to come dance with the actors. 

“I was happy to see my friends perform,” said audience member and senior Joaquin Ramirez. “However, I was really shocked to be called up. It was really funny.”

With much of the lead cast starring in the previous, Bosco Theater Company’s Peter and the Starcatcher, Oklahoma! came with only three weeks of uninterrupted rehearsals for the cast. With actors Jack Scales ‘23 and Grant Hidalgo-Villanueva ‘24 coming off their debut performances this past October, there was a lot to look forward to as each of them respectively had a major role in the success of Oklahoma!

“We had to rely on Ms. Reynolds, the director, a lot. She did really well at preparing us and getting the cast ready for opening night,” said Jack. “I am really thankful for getting casted and I felt ready for the transition to a bigger role in Oklahoma!

Overall, St. Joseph’s and Bosco both opened strong in their respective plays, with two more productions to come in the second semester. It is not too late to go out and support the arts. The St. Joseph Theater Company invites everyone to come and see their closing weekend performances this Friday and Saturday at 7:00 pm as well as a closing Sunday performance at 5:30 pm. They also invite anyone interested in the arts to come out and audition for future plays.

A+E: Bosco Theater Company Features Many New Faces In Peter and The Starcatcher

by Brett Baligad, Senior Editor

Last weekend, the St. John Bosco Theater Company presented their first play of the year. With many new faces on opening night, there is a lot to look forward to for the theater department.

Directed by Mr. Martin Lang, this year’s fall production, Peter and the Starcatcher, is an origin story to the iconic 1953 Disney film, Peter Pan. The production follows the orphan boy in green played by senior Alex Palmer along with the infamous Black Stache played by senior Connor Sheehan.

The play is filled with plenty of British accents, pirates and magic to keep all ages on the edge of their seat. Although the play is not considered a musical, there is still an enjoyable amount of choreography and live singing. Throughout the production, the cast was complimented by a live percussionist and pianist.

What made the play’s opening weekend stand out the most were all of the new faces in the cast. This production saw six new male cast members to join the St. John Bosco Theater Company, leaving only lead roles Alex Palmer and Connor Sheehan with prior experience. However, these actors did not fall short in talent nor chemistry.

One headline actor was freshmen Kai Maldonado. Kai has years of experience acting, and it showed. As a freshman, Kai still had to acclimate to the acting culture at Bosco leading up to opening night.

“I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know the rest of the cast. The upperclassmen really helped me get to know what theater is all about here at Bosco,” said Kai.

New faces came in all ages, as there were a few new upperclassmen additions as well. Most notably, senior Jack Scalas as well as juniors Daniel Cedillo and Grant Hildalgo-Villanueva made their high school theater debuts this past weekend.

“I used to do theater in middle school. I have always liked doing it,” said Grant. “Since COVID-19, I kind of strayed away from it. However, I am thankful for Alex [Palmer] and Mr. Lang, as they were a big part in why I came back to performing in theater.”

Saint Joseph High School has and will continue to be a large part in Bosco’s biannual productions. The lead female role, Molly, is played by senior Eva Sadler. With Peter and the Starcatcher being her sixth production between St. John Bosco and St. Joseph, Eva is no stranger to Bosco’s crowd. However, there are always learning curves to new roles and personas played by the cast.

“My biggest challenge was learning the lines in which I am speaking “Norse Code” [a fictional nautical language]. Those difficult words really messed with my head,” Eva said.

Even with many new faces, the cast had an exciting and successful opening weekend for their performance of Peter and The Starcatcher. The cast will finish shows this weekend with productions tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30pm and a closing Sunday show at 2:30pm.

The Bosco Theater Company will then take a much deserved break and pick it back up in the Spring. The Company invites you to get involved in the arts and try out next show.

“Try it out! Theater has been my absolute favorite experience throughout all of high school, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t also the hardest,” said Eva. “The work and dedication you put into a show will reward you on opening night. There’s no feeling like being on stage, especially when you adore the role you’re playing.”

A&E: Bosco Theater Opens the Year Strong with a Thrilling Performance of “Hands on a Hard Body”

by Brett Baligad

Following two years of COVID-19, St. John Bosco’s Theater Department hosted its first plays of the year last weekend, with more to come this weekend.

The Braves’ Theater Department kicked off the winter season with three productions of the musical “Hands On a Hard Body.”

Directed by Mr. Martin Lang, the story takes place in East Texas, as a small-town Nissan dealership hosts an annual car contest. The story follows a cast of ten Texans who learned what the prize truck really means to them. Over the course of the play, the audience sat at the edge of their seats wondering who will come out on top. The play featured plenty of catchy rock-n-roll, country and gospel scores for everyone to enjoy. On opening night, the nearly sold-out crowd stood in ovation as a musical encore concluded the heartfelt play.

“I was super excited to see the play. I haven’t seen one in person since my sophomore year. I thought it was really well done and I was happy to support the cast,” said senior and opening night viewer Kaimana Storch ‘21.

The first performance was on Friday, December 3, at 7:30 p.m. The cast was greeted by a filled crowd with students, family, friends and faculty. Alumni, such as principal Dr. Anderson ’04 and history teacher Mr. Cordero ‘97, even made an appearance on Friday. Following this successful opening night were two more performances on Saturday and Sunday evening.

The emotional and passionate performance featured St. John Bosco and St. Joseph students. Remarkably, the cast featured many first-time performers. This included lead roles junior Connor Sheehan, senior Zachary Gillett and Brianna Golani, just to name a few. 

Junior, Connor Sheehan, took on the largest and most impactful role as a newcomer. 

“Seeing my friends and family come out to support me was both exciting and anxiety-inducing. With it being my first role and the magnitude of the role, I didn’t want to disappoint. I hope I didn’t,” said Sheehan.

With these new faces to the scene, there were many bumps in the road to reach their success. This included the early learning curve to singing. 

“Some people (new coming performers) were pros, and some had never sung before in their entire life,” said Mr. Lang.

St. John Bosco hosts two plays a year, one being a musical while the other being a non-musical. As Bosco featured constant choreography and witty lyrics, the cast flexed a variety of early talent when it came to singing. By opening night, however, the chemistry and confidence between the performers shined through as demonstrated by the recognition within the crowd.

Another challenge within the program is COVID-19. The Visual and Performing Arts program, along with the whole student body, were waiting for the theater’s comeback all school year. The crowd’s enthusiasm was present as this was Bosco’s first play with a full crowd in over two years. 

“There’s no other feeling greater than performing for people and telling a story in person. Getting those live reactions helps make the story feel more real and sends an overall stronger message,” said junior Kriss Valente. 

The cast was also eager to perform in front of a live audience. Even some members that were considered veterans to the program, such as junior Alex Palmer, had never performed in front of such a large audience because of the pandemic.

Mr. Lang claimed that Bosco’s virtual production of the musical “Working” from earlier this year was very different as it featured even higher COVID-19 restrictions within the production. These restrictions included choosing a play with a smaller cast, constant COVID-19 tests and a heavily limited audience. Due to contact tracing within the production, Mr. Lang himself had to perform a lead role in order to keep the show running. These off-the-cuff adaptations are what made this past weekend’s production more memorable to the program.

As the first semester comes to a close, the theater department will perform three more times this upcoming weekend. This includes a Friday and Saturday night performance at 7:30, along with a closing Sunday night performance at 6:30. Following this upcoming weekend, St. John Bosco’s Theater Department will take a much-deserved break heading into the winter vacation. The unannounced spring play will premiere in April. 

“We want everyone in our school to be involved in something, and why not be a part of something that is creative, exciting, fun, and a way to express yourself,” said Mr. Lang 

The theater department welcomes all of the Brave and Jester community to support them in their final weekend performing “Hands on a Hard Body.” Mr. Lang also invites any students interested in performing in the spring production to try out.

A+E: Top Five Hip Hop Albums Of 2021

by Aydn Morris & Jeremiah Davis

As 2021 slowly winds down, we take a look back into the world of hip-hop and rank the top five hip hop albums of the year.

5. The Melodic Blue – Baby Keem

With the anticipation of album releases from both Kanye West and Drake, the attention given to smaller artists was slim to none.  However, Carson native and cousin of Kendrick Lamar, Baby Keem was an exception to this rule.  Being related to the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lamar puts a lot of pressure on a performing artist, and Keem understood that and delivered.  

On the singles “Family Ties” and “Range Brothers,” both featuring Kendrick Lamar,  Keem undoubtedly held his own, while some listeners have even felt he had better verses than Kendrick.  Both of these songs were featured on his album, The Melodic Blue, which got the approval of NBA legend Lebron James, who played songs off the album on his Instagram story.

Keem also was able to attract fans on all social media platforms garnering a viral sound off his new song “Range Brothers.” One could also say that the help of Kendrick Lamar played a vital role in pushing his album out there for the world to hear.  

Whatever the case may be, one could not deny the amount of raw talent that Baby Keem possesses at young age.  At only 20 years old, Keem still has what it takes to continue growing as an artists, which is why his album stands at number five on our list.

4. Call Me If You Get Lost – Tyler, The Creator

Tyler, the Creator is a name that is familiar to many hip hop fans and indie music fans alike.  His sonic versatility, playful aesthetic and nonchalant attitude intrigues many listeners and has kept his music so in tune with popular audiences.  

In 2021, despite hype around Kanye and Drake’s beef, rap fans were distributed amongst all artists, both the mainstream and the underground.  Many artists have die-hard fan bases that will enjoy listening to whatever music the artist puts out.  This anticipation, however, comes with a lot of pressure involved as well.

Tyler the Creator released his seventh studio album, Call Me If You Get Lost, on June 25th, 2021, and fans were elated by the project. With mainstream features from the likes of Lil Uzi Vert, Pharell Williams, Lil Wayne, 42 Dugg, NBA Youngboy and Brent Faiyaz, the album showcased some of the industry’s best.  

The most streamed song came from Tyler, NBA Youngboy and Ty Dolla Sign’s collaboration titled, “WUSYANAME.” The song was an overall success as everyone did their part and was able to show how three completely different artists were able to come together and create a popular track.

The album did very well, selling 117,000 copies in its first week.  Many fans expected this from Tyler, as he is a well-established and respected artist within the industry. His longevity within the rap community is well noted to many people, and it will only continue to grow as he gets older.

In comparison to past Tyler, the Creator albums, one could infer that this album brought out a different version of Tyler in comparison to what we usually see from him.  These reasons made it easy to mark Call Me If You Get Lost at number four . 

3. The Off Season – J.Cole

After a three-year-long wait, J. Cole released his newest project The Off-Season, on May 14th.  After J. Cole’s previous album KOD, he announced this new project in 2018, which created much anticipation in the industry. 

On May 4th 2018, Cole announced his album release date on Instagram and then surprised his fans with a song called, “ i n t e r l u d e,” which gave his fans a taste of what was to come on the album. 

J Cole is known for being a lyricist and the album proved that even more. The project consisted of twelve tracks with features from 21 Savage, Lil Baby, Morray, Bas, 6Lack and also had a secret feature from NBA superstar Damian Lillard, who is known as one of the best rappers in the NBA.

When Cole made his post on Instagram announcing his songs, it only showed the twelve song names, but not the features, which led fans to believe that there would be no features on the album. 

However, the hashtag #NoFeatures was trending on Twitter, due to J. Cole’s 2014 Forrest Hills Drive album, which showcased just Cole on vocals and productions. That album cemented his place as one of the most influential popular hip hop artists of this generation along with Drake, Kanye, and Kendrick. 

The Off-Season’s most popular song is track seven, “p r i d e . i s . t h e . d e v i l,” which had a feature from famous artist Lil Baby. Lil Baby is a popular, young, talented artist who showed his potential on this feature with J.Cole.  

J. Cole was amazing on the song and set the tone, but what made the song so special was hearing Lil Baby’s verse after Cole, matching his wordplay and flow. 

The Off-Season sold a total of 282,000 first week album-equivalent units, which gave J. Cole his sixth number one album.

2. Certified Lover Boy, Drake

Drake is no stranger to dropping hits, whether that be from an album perspective or simply just a single. The man knows how to make pop music. 

The release of his sixth studio album garnered major media attention for several reasons. For one, it had been three whole years since the last release of a Drake album.  Fans were on pins and needles waiting for the next release from the Canadian superstar. 

The second reason was due to his rumored beef with Kanye West. The beef has been stirring up for quite some time now, only adding more fuel to the fire when West posted Drake’s address on his Instagram account before immediately taking it down. 

Drake later responded to what West did as he posted a video of him laughing at Kanye on his Instagram story.  Fans were eager to hear the diss track that Drake was preparing in order to combat Ye leaking his address, but that diss never came.

The album consisted of 21 songs, and overall, it was a feel good album.  Drake also showcased his versatility on this album ranging from storytelling on a song like “Champagne Poetry” to having fun on a song like “Way 2 Sexy.”

The features on the album did not disappoint either with guest appearances from the likes of Future, Young Thug, Lil Baby and 21 Savage.  The album also smashed several records, which didn’t come ax a surprise at all due to the amount of anticipation surrounding its release.  

The album sold 600,000 copies in first week sales and now occupies 9 out of the top 10 spots on the Billboard top 100.  

Drake would drop Certified Lover Boy just days after Kanye’s album to compete with the beefing artist. But either way, it is refreshing to see so many successful artists drop new music.  

1. DONDA – Kanye West

Kanye released his tenth studio album on August 29th, 2021 with a total of 27 tracks.  Kanye said that the album release date was never approved by him.  The album was initially set for release on July 24, 2020, but was delayed multiple times by Kanye.  

There was a huge build up and anticipation to this album since Kanye’s last album Jesus is King, which was released in October 2019.  After many setbacks, Kanye finally declared that the album was dropping and finished.  

This album was such a big deal that Kanye hosted listening parties at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and Soldier Field in Chicago. He held three listening events, two in Atlanta and one in Chicago, all of which sold out. 

Kanye has taken an initiative to make gospel music which started in his previous album Jesus is King, which led into Donda being a primarily hip hop and gospel album. Since the album showcases strong gospel influences, it was aptly released on a Sunday morning.

This may have made sense because of religious ideals, but this may have hindered his first week album sales as well, because albums are usually set to drop on Friday or Thursday night depending on where you are, but he ended up releasing at a time no one would expect an album.

Although it may have seemed like a bad time to release an album, he still was able to sell 520,000 album-equivalent units in that week, which at the time was the biggest album debut of the year (later beaten by Drake’s Certified Lover Boy). 

Kanye also broke the most streamed album in a day record and placed second in the biggest opening days in Spotify history, even after dropping at eight in the morning on a Sunday. 

Kanye called on a whole gang of features, which included rappers Playboi Carti, Lil Baby, Fivio Foreign, The Weeknd, Roddy Ricch, Baby Keem, Lil Yachty, Jay Z, Da Baby, Chris Brown, Young Thug, Kid Cudi, Travis Scott, Pop Smoke, and many others. 

Donda‘s most popular song was track four, “Off the Grid,” which included Playboi Carti and Fivio Foreign. Playboi Carti is a very controversial artist, but still held up to have one of the best songs on the album. Playboi Carti also featured on two other songs on the album. 

Playboi Carti and Kanye West have worked with each other and became friends in the past year when Kanye helped produce and feature on Carti’s album Whole Lotta Red.  Their friendship, connection and mix of fan bases are what made “Off the Grid” a highlight the album, along with Fivio’s amazing drill flow and verse. 

Another highlight on the album was track five, “Hurricane,” featuring The Weeknd and Lil Baby.  This song is what the album is all about, with the melodic, gospel singing and mix of rap by Lil Baby.

Donda and Certified Lover Boy can both make a case for being the number one album in 2021 so far. Off of album-equivalent units sold and streams Certified Lover Boy walks all over Donda, but from the perspective of quality and depth, Kanye gets the best Drake. 

A+E: Spring Musical The Payoff Of Four Years In Theater For The Senior Class

by Joaquin Medrano, Managing Editor

The Saint John Bosco Theater Department along with Saint Joseph High School are pleased to present Working, the inspirational musical about the lives and experiences of hard-working Americans. The virtual play begins streaming Friday, April 16th and runs until Sunday, April 25th.

For the senior class, Working is an important show, as it will be the last show of their high school careers on the Saint John Bosco stage. Ending their season with a musical about the adventures and life of the American working class is a great way to segue into what someday may become their future, while enjoying their last moments of their high school years. 

Saint Joseph senior and theater veteran, Victoria Martins, who plans to go to college and major in theater, wants to cherish and enjoy her last moments on a high school stage.

“I think there is something so magical about being on stage and performing live,” Victoria said. “Knowing that anything could happen at any moment and you just have to keep going is such a rush, and I love it!”

For many of the seniors, letting go of the Bosco stage is extremely hard, as it has been their comfort zone for the last four years of their lives. Bosco senior Parker Deaton feels particularly saddened to leave such a place where he was able to cultivate some of his greatest moments as a Brave.

“This being my last show is bittersweet. I’m sad to leave this theater department, but I’m glad for all the good memories I’ve made and because I grew as an actor in this place,” Parker said.

For people looking to be a part of a team where they can explore all their potential, theater is an amazing opportunity to discover hidden talents. The great privilege of being part of a community like that of the Bosco Theater Department is that it is welcoming of anyone trying to find who they really are.

Theater, for many, is a door that opens the possibility of being who they are truly meant to be. It is a space that people can enjoy and be grateful about what opportunities they have. And being able to put on a production in the midst of a pandemic is a privilege not many people have.

Saint Joseph senior Lola Powell is happy to be able to tell a story on stage for the eleventh time in her high school career and change the ordinary life of people for even just a couple hours.

“People should do theater during these times because theater brings many people joy and happiness; being able to entertain people on stage is one of the most fulfilling feelings,” said Lola.

Working is a musical that will teach valuable lessons to anyone who is a part of the show, whether as an audience member or as a performer. The different characters the actors portray, the different mindsets that people will encounter in life as well as the different struggles that life brings are truly lessons that anyone can carry for the rest of their lives.

If you are looking for a great way to end your week and relax for a little bit before being hit with reality, supporting the Bosco theater department and their sisters at St. Joseph’s is a great way to forget about any of your worries.

Support the arts; help to keep them stay alive; and let the hopes and dreams of many talented people shine through and do what they love most. Get your tickets here.

A+E: Spring Is Here, Which Means Its Boysenberry Season!

by Diego Santizo, Sports Editor

Knott’s Berry Farm “Taste of Boysenberry” is currently the best food tasting event in Southern California, a perfect event you won’t want your taste buds to miss out on!

Guests are given their food tasting card and a virtual Easter egg hunt card upon entry

The Knott’s Berry Farm Taste of Boysenberry Festival began on March 5, however, the experience will continue until May 2, on select days. Hours will be noon to 9 p.m., except on Sundays when the park will close at 8 p.m. in Buena Park.

The Knott’s Boysenberry Festival annually celebrates the berry that made the theme park famous. With California’s COVID-19 theme park restrictions, the Boysenberry Festival was cancelled in 2020. This year, the first Taste of Boysenberry Festival will attempt to recreate some of the same experiences offered by Boysenberry Festival while practicing recommended safety guidelines.

While Knott’s Berry Farm theme park’s normal operations remain closed due to COVID-19, attendees of the Taste of Boysenberry Festival will be able to attend the limited-time food event, as a substitute for the annual Boysenberry Festival that the theme park normally hosts during the spring. 

New and familiar menu items will include boysenberry Dippin’ Dots, boysenberry brisket tater tots, boysenberry BBQ glazed wings, and popcorn with boysenberry butter. Alcoholic beverages like boysenberry wine and berry cider will also be on the menu. The full menu and tasting booth map are available for preview online.

Other menu items guests can choose from a lineup of tantalizing delicacies such as beer cheese soup with a boysenberry drizzle and brown butter croutons, beef tips served with creamy boysenberry mashed potatoes, and boysenberry BBQ carne asada pizza garnished with cilantro and onions, plus options for all dietary preferences. Thirst-quenching drinks include boysenberry lemonade with basil, boysenberry ICEE float with vanilla soft serve, boysenberry mint and pineapple aqua fresca and so much more.

Upon arrival through the Marketplace from the parking lot to the entry gates, a lengthy stream of guests crowd the walkways to satisfy taste buds. Patience and social distancing are also among key ingredients to the fun that awaits.

Just some of the many food items Knott’s is currently offering for the Taste of Boysenberry event

Ghost Town is the first location people in which most people enter the first lines since it is at the front of the park so a tip would be to make a right turn which would lead you to Camp Snoopy. Camp Snoopy has two locations in which you can redeem your food voucher which consists of five tastings which can be spent however you please.

Following Camp Snoopy, there is Fiesta Village and the Boardwalk. Both locations carnival games available for guests to enjoy. Whether it’s the 3pt basketball challenge at the Boardwalk or the loteria baseball challenge at Fiesta Village, carnival games are a fun way to pass the time and surely a good opportunity to get your money’s worth.

The entertainment during the “Taste of Boysenberry” event deserves a round of applause as the characters, performers, and musicians really helped bring a little jolt of energy and theme park magic to an already electric festival. Just walking around you might encounter the following: The Mayor of Calico, a disaster in the bakery – Lotta Leftovers, Fiesta Village DJ, a dude waxing his surfboards, a magician, and K-NOT radio playing some nice retro music.

The star of the show and the entertainers who got the most guests paying attention to them was the return of Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies. After a full year of hiatus, Kirk and the gang are now playing several sets on select nights of the Taste of Boysenberry Festival. Seating is strictly monitored by Knott’s Staff at one party per table

There are also distanced photo opportunities with favorite characters such as Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the Easter Bunny in case you want a picture to remember during such a weird time period. Since Easter is approaching soon, Knott’s created a colorful hidden egg hunt around the park. You use your smartphone to scan a QR code each time you spot a hidden egg in the park and it tracks your progress. 

To attend the “Taste of Boysenberry” event, guests will need to purchase an advance tasting card online. With the tasting card, attendees can enter the park to select three-to-five food or drink choices from over 80 boysenberry-infused drinks and food items as they walk through the inside of the theme park. The event will currently be ongoing for the next straight fourteen days and will have its final day of the year on May 2nd.

Tickets to the event start at $40 (plus tax) for adults and $20 (plus tax) for children ages three to eleven. Adult tickets include five tastings, while children’s tickets include three tastings. Guests will have the option of purchasing additional food and drink items while at the festival. Tickets may be purchased in advance online using the link https://www.knotts.com/events/taste-of-boysenberry-festival.

A+E: Universal Studios Hollywood Is Now Offering A Taste Of What You Have Been Missing Out On!

by: Diego Santizo, Sports Editor

Universal’s current “Taste of Universal” offers admission to shops and restaurants in the theme park’s upper lot, which most notably includes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Simpsons-themed Springfield, USA.

Universal Studios Hollywood — Theme Park Review - YouTravel.com.au

While rides, shows and attractions will not be operational during this experience, guests will be able to take in the incredible environments that surround them as they enjoy the scrumptious food, including vegan and vegetarian options, served within these areas. 

On the shopping side, you’ll be able to return to all of your Wizarding World favorites, hit up the Animation Store and preview the Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash shop, which sits next to the upcoming attractions. Look out for some physically distanced photo ops along the way, too. Physically distanced photo opportunities with select favorite characters will offer guests the chance to reconnect with Universal Studios Hollywood and share their experiences with friends and family via social media.

Guests could make their way into Springfield and find Homer Simpson at his traditional spot at the Kwik-E-Mart.  Donkey from Shrek could also be found next to the Kung Fu Panda theater talking to Guests and taking numerous photos. Minions can also be found by the Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem ride either wandering around Super Silly Fun Land or standing right in front of Minion Mayhem ride itself.

In addition to this exciting “Taste of Universal” event, guests can extend their day with more shopping and dining at the adjacent Universal CityWalk. The 4 main locations available in the Upper Lot for guests during “Taste of Universal” were The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Springfield, USA,  Minion Cafe, and Hollywood & Dine. 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Hogsmeade village is finally open and guests are able to enjoy shops such as Honeydukes™, Ollivanders™, Owl Post™, Zonko’s™ Joke Shop, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Dervish and Banges™, Gladrags Wizardwear and Filch’s Emporium™ of Confiscated Goods! The dining locations available to feast on food favorites are Three Broomsticks™ in which you can get a taste of Fish & Chips, Sticky Toffee Pudding and the famous Butterbeer.

Springfield, USA

The home of The Simpsons features Krusty Burger, Suds McDuff’s Hot Dog House, the Lard Lad Donut Cart as dining options! Guests are able to shop for the best Simpson merch at Kwik-E-Mart where Homer Simpson is available for a photo opportunity throughout the day.

Minion Cafe

Minion Cafe made its debut during opening day of “taste of universal” and it brought a whole new delicious dining experience to the park. Minion Cafe is located next to the popular “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem” ride, and it offers items like Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Meatballs, Chicken & Bacon Mac and Cheese, and Nutella Banana pudding.

Hollywood & Dine

The Hollywood and Dine section of the park consisted of 3 restaurants. The first was the actual Hollywood and Dine restaurant which featured selection of comfort foods including, Hot Chicken Sandwich, Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bowl, Personal Pizza with choice of pepperoni or cheese, Brisket Sliders with Caramelized Onions, Korean Hot Dog, and mini funnel cake.

The second restaurant was City Snack Shop which offered grab and go treats such as the quintessential NYC Giant Pretzel, Spicy Pomegranate Glazed Turkey Leg, and the debut of the Crepewich, which features sweet (Banana and Nutella, or Strawberry Chocolate) and savory (club or Spinach and Berry vegetarian) temptations.

The third was Cocina Mexicana which had delicious plates such as Queso Street Tacos, Loaded Nachos all topped with choice of Tinga or Carnita & Birria, Tortilla Cut Chips with Guacamole, Chili Relleno and Elote Corn on the cobb with Lime Crema.

Admission tickets to “Taste of Universal” include access to select themed areas of the park along with a wide selection of nearly 70 choice culinary options, of which 30 are new to the event. Adults can choose five options and kids can choose three with additional food offerings available for purchase. Tickets start at $44 plus tax for adults and $25 plus tax for kids ages 3-9 years. Discounted admission tickets will be available for Universal Annual and Season Pass members. Each ticket includes five menu items for adults and three for kids. Additional food can be purchased. Visit www.UniversalStudiosHollywood.com to purchase tickets and for more information.

A+E: The Brave News Top 10 Songs To Listen To During Christmas Season

by Aydn Morris

Christmas, one of the most anticipated times of the year where the smell of hot chocolate and fresh baked cookies fill any room while cheerful tones invade any radio station for weeks.

Billboard's Top 10 Most Popular Holiday Songs | Billboard

It is no surprise that some of the most happy songs play during the Christmas season, a tradition many enjoy around family and friends.

Here is the Brave News Top 10 MUST listen songs to during this season of joy:

#10- White Christmas- Bing Crosby

This song is a classic Christmas song. Every time I hear this song I think of one of the best Christmas movies of all time Home Alone because it was featured. This song was made in 1942 and is one of the more calming and mellow songs.

#9- Let It Snow- Frank Sinatra 

I really like this song, whenever I go into a mall during Christmas time I always hear this song playing. This song was released in 1957.

Frank Sinatra & The Swanson Quartet - Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow  (1950) - YouTube
#8- Silver Bells- Bing Crosby

Bing Crosby appears again this time with Silver bells. This song reminds me of going out and looking at Christmas lights, where everyone’s lights are on Christmas Eve. 

#7- Santa Claus is Coming to Town- The Jackson 5

This song is very interchangeable and has many different remixes, from Mariah Carey, Bruce Springsteen, the Jackson 5 and many more. The original version of this song is by Bing Crosby who shows himself multiple times on this list. Personally I like The Jackson 5 remixed version.

The Christmas Song by Jackson 5 (Holiday) - Pandora
#6- Feliz Navidad- Jose Feliciano

This is one of my favorite Christmas songs. It just always brings me joy whenever I hear it on the radio. Feliz Navidad means Merry Christmas in Spanish. This is the most famous Spanish Christmas songs made. 

#5- The Christmas Song- Nat King Cole
Cole, Nat King - The Christmas Song - Amazon.com Music

Like many of the other songs this is a classic and had to make the top 10. Nat King Cole is an African American artist and he died 4 years after this song was released in 1965.

#4 Jingle Bell Rock- Bobby Helms

This is one of those songs that you hear in a Christmas party and can’t get enough of it. Bobby Helms released this song in 1957 when he was 24 years old. 

#3- Rocking Around the Christmas Tree- Brenda Lee

My favorite part of this song is when they scream “Deck the halls with boughs of holly.” I also like the saxophone solo in the middle of the song. This song was released in 1958 October.

#2- Last Christmas- Wham
Last Christmas - Wikipedia

RIP to George Michael who wrote one of the best Christmas songs of all time. George Michael died on December 25, 2016 which is pretty ironic. Last Christmas release date was 15th December 1984.

#1- All I Want For Christmas is You- Mariah Carey

In my opinion this is undoubtedly the best Christmas song ever made. It is one of the most popular Christmas songs and for good reason. Every year this song hits number one on the charts during the holiday season. It is Mariah Carey’s most popular song and it was released in 1994.

Christmas Singles of the Week

A+E: The Best Places To View Christmas Lights This Holiday Season

by Ryan Dwyer

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic having tremendous ramifications on the way people have lived, the joyous spirits of the Christmas season are still present to shed some light on people’s lives in what has been an otherwise grim, dark year.

Christmas lights at a home in Hastings Ranch in Pasadena.

This past weekend I took a ride around parts of LA County and Orange County to look at Christmas lights. With Covid-19 keeping us mostly in lock-down, I wondered if many homes would decorate their houses and yards with Christmas lights and decorations. I also wondered if Covid had killed the Christmas spirit, or if it made people want to decorate their homes to bring some joy back into their lives.

What I found this weekend was a mixed bag.

I noticed that there were lots of businesses that normally would decorate their properties for the holidays not putting out any decorations this year. However, I also noticed that most people were still decorating their homes, and in some cases, full streets or neighborhoods were getting things decorated to celebrate the season. If you like driving around looking at Christmas lights, here are my top 5 picks for you to choose from.

1. Hastings Ranch in Pasadena, CA.

Within the borders of Sierra Madre Blvds, Rivera Dr, and Michillinda Ave, Hastings Ranch lights run from Dec. 12th – Jan 2, 2021, 6pm to 10pm nightly. Although there were some homes in the Hastings Ranch area that have not gotten their decorations out, there were still plenty of homes to drive by and enjoy the lights.  Each street had a theme from snowman to penguins. Setting up Christmas lights and decorations have been a tradition in Hastings Ranch since 1952. You’ll see everything from blow-up Santas and snowmen, to nativities, to simple light icicles hanging under the eaves of homes.  

2.  Christmas Tree Lane, Altadena, CA. Christmas Tree Lane (on Santa Rosa Avenue between Altadena Dr and Mariposa St.) Download the app: https://christmastreelane.glideapp.io/

Not far off from Pasadena is Altadena. Here, I found a mile long stretch of avenue lined with cedar trees that were decorated with lights. According to socalfieldtrips.com, this is “the oldest large-scale Christmas lighting spectacle in the United States.” There are over 10,000 lights decorating these trees, making it look like you were going through a tunnel of lights. Because the street is so heavily lit by the lights, you should be able to drive down the street with your car lights off. The cars get backed up a bit so don’t expect to get in and out of there in a few minutes. Along with the lit trees, many of the homes were also decorated, so there’s a lot to look at.

Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena, California.

3.  Northwestern Way, Westminster, CA. Major intersection of Bolsa Chica & Westminster Blvd.

Not to be outdone by LA County, Orange County has some spectacular lighting as well. My first stop was in Westminster, CA, right off the 405 on Bolsa Chica St. There is a little enclave that has been decorating their street and homes with lights. Northwestern Way is the major street that has the most lights. Here, you’ll see homes decked out with lights and an assortment of decorations such as a ferris wheels with stuffed animals going around and around, and a projection of Santa in one of the windows of a house. There are even a couple of houses that have snippets of Christmas movies projecting onto the garage doors. 

4. Fountain Valley near Mile Square Park (Brookhurst between Heil & Endinger;Tract behind Denny’s).

Not far off from Westminster is the city of Fountain Valley. Right across of Mile Square Park is a little neighborhood with Christmas lights to see. The lights are truly a sight to see, and truly give off a sense of the joyous holiday spirit.

5.  Eagle Hills, Brea, CA, on Primrose Ave off of E Birch Street and S. Starflower st. 

Eagle Hills is another little neighborhood that has a tradition of decorating with lights. The major street is Primrose Ave, but the other adjoining streets have as much Christmas spirit. Another great option in the Orange County area, the friendly environment also gives off a huge christmas spirit vibe while having a beautiful display of christmas lights.

« Older Entries