Tag Archives: Arts and entertainment

Students’ podcasts are on the air

Communication students at NECC are making leaps and bounds in spreading information, bringing attention to contemporary issues in mass media and discussing controversial topics through HC Media’s podcasts.

Thomas Matatall, Communication major, is a discussion leader in his podcast “Breaking the Norm.”

“Our podcast is with my co-host Courtney Spera. We talk about uncomfortable topics for college students mainly, things like social justice issues. We tend to be more liberal, so when we talk about politics it tends to be more on the Democratic side,” said Matatall.

Other divisive topics like Planned Parenthood, abortion and gun control laws are brought out on a conversational platter as well. In the first episode, the issue of double standards in society — including the controversial “Free the nipple” campaign that is frequently referenced in media — were examined. “It was our first one, so it was a little rocky. My favorite part is to be able to do it with my best friend, we have a good time and talk back and forth. There’s a lot to come, you can get a podcast app on your phone,” said Matatall.

Another podcast that has made its debut is “Here and There” created by Tracy Mukami and Abdul Kamara. Mukami, a Communication major, is a leader in the discussions about very real racial issues in modern society, but also focuses on the positives of being an African American. “The podcast is my friend and I, we basically try to break the racial social barriers in society. He’s a first-generation African, and I came from Africa when I was younger, so I’m pretty much first-generation too,” said Mukami.

To try and break the social barriers, the duo uniquely offers a positive outlook by discussing where they come from, and the similarities and differences among cultures.

“We talk about how we were raised, what we enjoyed seeing, what was different, and how we were able to transition from this lifestyle to the outside world,” said Mukami.

One might expect someone who comes from a different culture to experience a lot of difficulty experiencing a college campus, however for Mukami it simply wasn’t the case.

“A lot of people were really understanding. People kind of have something in them where they want to learn, and get educated, especially at NECC. It’s very diverse and I really like it,” said Mukami. According to her, one of the most enjoyable parts of being on a radio podcast, especially when addressing social injustices or racial inequalities, is the feedback from listeners.

“People are interacting back and forth with us. When we tweet it out and have people comment back or subscribe, that tells you how you’re doing,” said Mukami.

The biggest struggle and point of contention in the current social climate is trying to get people to understand the difference between those who identify as African Americans, and those who identify as Black Americans.

“I consider myself African because I’m not even a citizen of the country yet, but I also still go back to my country. My mom speaks the language, and I understand. Then, with African Americans, some don’t know where their roots are from.  We have this whole different culture but Black Americans can also relate to it, we’re kind of in that little pod, not everyone can understand that from the outside. There can be German Americans, or French Americans who happen to be black, and their grandparents or people before them. Once you’re here and you’ve lived here for awhile and adjusted to it you’d be African American. It all depends on how the individual feels,” said Mukami.

“Here and There” has one episode out right now, and plans to do one or two each month, each being about 30 minutes long.

“We will be having guests on the show, of people of different backgrounds, from different schools, different cities. So we will have people who are in Lowell which is not as diverse in certain areas, then we’ll go to Fitchburg, and compare the different environments, and whether it’s in college or high school we’ll compare to similarities and differences growing up,” said Mukami.

Other podcasts include a sports talk with Eddie Hoar and Matt Couture, called “Couture & Hoar Sports Talk” which is now available online. To reach the podcasts, go to  http://haverhillcommunitytv.org/category/podcast-series to check out current podcasts.                

Performing Arts Showcase Takes the Stage

The Performing Arts Showcase, including performances from dance, music and theatre programs at NECC, was held on Nov. 13 at 12 p.m. in the Technology Center.

The coordinator of the dance program, Michelle Deane, introduced the dance performances which started off the show. The first dance, choreographed by dance major Nina Cabral, was performed to the song “My Moon My Man” by indie pop singer Fiest.

There were four other girls in this dance dressed in all black, wearing top hats and dancing gracefully across the front of the room to this sassy jazz number.

“I started choreographing the group dance in September, so by the time rehearsals started, I already knew everything I was going to teach. I was really particular about being prepared. I didn’t want to end up close to the show with an unfinished dance. I know as a dancer how stressful that is, so I didn’t want my dancers to go through it… or myself,” said Cabral.

Alisa Bucchiere, a professor on the music faculty at NECC, introduced her students Ambar Marte Vargas, Carli Hamilton and John Francavilla at the Showcase.

All three had been participating in voice lessons with Bucchiere.

When Deane asked if she had any students who would be interested in performing at the Showcase, Bucchiere asked her students and they said yes. When making song selections, she tried to pick pieces that were in contrast with jazz, since the jazz band was also performing.

Carli Hamilton, a Voice and Music Therapy major, sang the song “Watch What Happens” from the musical Newsies, displaying her talent for theatrical singing.

“Carli’s performance was amazing,” said her friend Nicole Diamond, a Deaf Studies major in her sophomore year at NECC.

“It was a last-minute thing for her. She didn’t even have time to warm up and she still pulled it off.”

Other musical performances included Ambar Marte Vargas, who sang “To Make You Feel My Love” by Adele.

“Before performing, I was a little nervous,” said Vargas. “However, I’ve shared this piece with a couple people already. Performing is like my happy place. It’s the moment when I feel like I can truly be myself.”

Vargas is a Music Studies major in her sophomore year. After she finishes at NECC, she plans to help kids who don’t have the resource to pay for a music school, as she experienced that struggle when she was younger.

John Francavilla sang a jazz version of “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess, a 1930s opera written by George Gershwin.

“He kind of sounded like Michael Bublé,” said Diamond, who named Francavilla as one of her favorite performances.

Bucchiere described the performances at the Showcase as “phenomenal.”

“I’m a proud music mama,” she said.

The show wrapped up with songs from the NECC jazz band, including an original song titled “If I Were You” by Sean Lavigne, a music studies major at NECC.

“I originally titled it ‘Where’s the Pizza?,’” said Lavigne, who was performing his original for the first time. “It was really exciting,” he said.

Performances of King Lear captivates

The Top Notch Players of NECC held a breathtaking performance of William Shakespeare’s tragedy “King Lear” Nov. 12, 13, and 14 this past week. “King Lear” depicts the story of King Lear (Jim Murphy) in ancient Britain, attempting to divide the kingdom among his three daughters Cordelia (Abigail Seabrook), Regan (Caitlin Kennedy) and Goneril (Geehae Moon). 

His initial plan to give the largest portion to his favorite daughter Cordelia goes awry when she refuses to be a part of his challenge to profess her love to him in order to win over his land.

Instead of deceiving him with sappy, excessive compliments, she tells him she only loves him as a daughter.

He is enraged by this and banishes her from his kingdom, along with the Earl of Kent (Craig Ciampa), who tries to defend her.  Cordelia leaves and accepts a marriage proposal from the king of France (E.P Lehner) while the Earl of Kent secretly stays behind to protect Lear from his two remaining daughters and their corruption. 

The tragedy unfolds when the remaining daughters begin to show their true nature.

Goneril reveals she plans to treat him like he’s an old man, so he opts to stay with Regan

Lear discovers his daughters put. Kent and he realizes they are conspiring against him.

The Earl of Gloucester (J. Mark Morrison) overhears the sisters are planning to murder Lear and informs Kent immediately, to warn Lear.

Kent, Lear and the Fool (played by Sarah Bird) leave for Dover at once. 

Edgar (Christian Doyle) remains hidden and Regan and Goneril discover Lear’s plan to flee. The Duke Cornwall (Hunter Gouldthorpe) gouges Gloucester’s eyes out.

The tragedy ends with Goneril poisoning Regan due to her jealously for Edmund (Daniel Burns-Mckernan) and the death of Cordelia.

Upon the discovery of her death, Lear falls dead on her body.

The vindictive sides of both Goneril and Regan are beautifully crafted on stage, coinciding with Murphy’s portrayal of Lear becoming more and more paranoid as time goes on in the tragedy. From soliloquies to fight scenes, the Top Notch Players gave an incredible and captivating performance that encapsulates the turmoil in ancient Britain and accurately portrays Shakespeare’s complex characters.

Although the show had some setbacks due to illness among the cast and crew, the Top Notch Players pulled together an incredibly well done show, celebrating one of the greatest playwrights of all time.

Students Hold Summer Music Festival

Young musicians show off their new skills


The harmonious sounds of the 5th Annual Summer Music Festival, directed by Christina Dietrick, permeated TC103 in the Hartleb Technology Center on August 14.

Dulcet melodies drifted into the hallways as parents proudly watched their children demonstrate their musical talents.

The festival this year was held from Aug. 9 to Aug. 15. The artists presented their hard work after a grueling but enlightening week of musical camp.

What started as just a fun program for aspiring musicians to hone their talents has turned into an annual music festival event.

Director Christina Dietrick became a part of NECC through Michael Kramer, a previous faculty member of NECC who performed as a guest pianist for the festival. He brought Dietrick to NECC after a change of direction in his path, by becoming a mathematics teacher. Leaving his piano class expertise, he chose Dietrick as his replacement.

“I wanted my class piano course to go to somebody who I knew was very competent, and I graduated with Christine from Boston University,” he said.

We both did our master’s and doctorate’s there at the same time,” said Dietrick.

Dietrick has been the piano teacher at NECC since 1994, as well as the music faculty at Mount Wachusett Community College, Indian Hill Music, and is the founder/director of the Chopin Conservatory of Music on the North Shore.

Her other notable accomplishments include her performances both in the United States and Europe as a soloist in concert, as well as with orchestras performing on a plethora of stages including Jordan Hall, Alice Tulley Hall at Lincoln Center.

He regularly performs at the New York Public Library and Chopin Society of New England.

The Annual Summer Music Festival began 5 years ago when Dietrick received the opportunity to organize a music festival from chairman Kenneth Langer.

“First it started with just being a piano camp, but then I said, why don’t I make it chamber music? So I brought in two colleagues. First it was Alice Holstrom, then it was Caroline Reiner-Williams, and then her husband Angel Hernandez-Dominguez joined us 3 years ago,” Dietrick said.

Both Reiner-Williams and Hernandez-Dominguez performed alongside the students at the festival, adding even more life to the pieces. Both artists are of the highest caliber in their musical talents.

Reiner-Williams, who plays the violoncello, received her undergraduate degree in cello performance at age 19, and has gone one to complete her master’s degree in cello performance at the Longy School of Music.

Having toured Canada, England, France, Russia, Spain, and Portugal and being a member of the Boston Youth Symphony, she now spends her time as a faculty member at Brooks School in North Andover, Fay School, Indian Hill

Music Center, and Joy of the Music Program. Reiner-Williams also founded the Nashaway Trio with her husband Hernandez-Dominguez and pianist Roy Imperio.

Her husband Hernandez-Dominguez graced the stage with his exceptional talents on the violin and viola.

His accomplishments include his studies of violin at Manuel Saumell Conservatory in Havana. From there, he has been a part of the Aguascalientes Symphony Orchestra, the Queretaro Philharmonic, and performed as a soloist on many occasions.

He currently teaches violin and viola at Brooks School in North Andover, Cushings Academy, and the Shrewsbury MA Public schools. He also builds and repairs violins.

From Brahms to Mozart, the artists’ renditions of classical music transformed TC103 into a music hall. The performers varied from all ages, from 4 to 14.

“I put on (Disney’s) ‘Fantasia’ one of the days we had camp, and all the kids ran to the practice room because they were so eager to practice their skills,” said Dietrick.

For more information about the music department, contact Ken Langer at klanger@necc.mass..edu.


Bentley ArtSpace Gets a New Name

A ceremony was held to dedicate this space


Over the summer, the ArtSpace located in a remote corner of the Bentley Library received a new name and some well deserved attention during a dedication ceremony on May 15.  So did Linda Hummel-Shea, for whom the space was renamed.  Hummel-Shea started at NECC as a part-time librarian 35 years ago and retired last June as the assistant dean of libraries.   Throughout the years, this space had been used for a variety of purposes, including a conference room and a place for hosting large events, but in 2009, after a unanimous vote, it was decided that the space would be recreated as “…a long desired and needed location for the students, faculty and community to display their work.” said Mike Hearn at the dedication ceremony.  Hearn is the college’s director of libraries and he emceed the dedication ceremony. “The artspace would not exist as it is today  had it not been for the vision and support and  tenacity of Linda Hummel-Shea.” said Hearn.

Several people spoke at the dedication, including NECC President Lane Glenn and Art Department Director, Marc Mannheimer, who shared anecdotes from their time working with Hummel-Shea.  Also speaking that day was Dr. William Heineman, vice president of academic affairs who recalled how much she cared about the college and community.

“Beyond anything she did for the library, Linda was a great citizen of this college,” he said. Speeches were given while standing at a podium situated just to the left of a digital screen which rotated images of some of the incredible artwork that has been shown at the gallery throughout the years.

Hummel-Shea was also recognized at the college’s commencement on May 16, when she was awarded emeritus status, which recognizes “sustained excellence in performance, character, and meritorious service to the college,” according to the school’s website.

According to Mannheimer, the dedication will not change the way the ArtSpace is used, but he hopes it can lead to increased recognition, grant money and signage for the gallery.  New work will be on display later this month by visiting artist,

“The fact that it’s being named for you makes perfect sense.” Mannheimer said to Hummel-Shea.  She responded with a “thank you” muffled by tears.

For more information about the artspace, contact Mike Hearn at  mhearn@necc.mass.edu


Hottest Movies of the Summer Critiqued

We’ve got time to spare during the summer, and Hollywood knows it.

Blockbuster after blockbuster is released during the months of June, July, and August, but chances are you didn’t get to see everything theatres had to offer. 2015 was a particularly excellent year for summer films, so here’s a guide to help you catch up on your days off.


Mad Max: Fury Road (****)

By far the best action movie to come out this summer, this year, and possibly any other year, George Miller’s fourth entry in the consistently excellent Mad Max series sees the Road Warrior helping lead an exodus of women out of harm’s way. But don’t mistake that for some kind of damsel-in-distress scenario.

Tom Hardy’s version of Max is a more subdued character, letting the focus remain on butt-kicking Imperator Furiosa (played wonderfully by Charlize Theron) and her ragtag group of ladies coveted by the villainous Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, returning after his role as Toecutter in the first film). Nicholas Hoult also gives a charming performance as Nux, a rogue “War Boy” whose comic relief is amazingly both comic and a relief.

The feminist twist on the series is due in no small part to “Vagina Monologues” writer Eve Ensler’s assistance as an on-set adviser, and the story is raw and open in its humanism. Of course, Miller’s post-apocalyptic Australia is as gleefully bizarre and desolate as it ever has been, and wife Margaret Sixel’s sublime editing always gives us the best view of the anarchic action.

This is a surreal piece of art that somehow got mashed with commercial action filmmaking, and it’s one of the most suspenseful, moving, and viscerally satisfying movies you’ll ever see.


Inside Out (***½)

Pixar is back on top with this superior animated film that personifies the five emotions (Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear) present inside a little girl named Riley Andersen. The movie flips back and forth between Riley’s story, in which her family relocates from Minnesota to San Francisco, and the world of the emotions, where the disturbance caused by the move begins to upend their routine.

It’s a simple story that’s intriguing for kids and adults alike, with a number of creative allegorical devices to explain human psychology. The animation is simply beautiful, with one particularly stunning sequence reducing the characters’ dimensions and playing around with abstract art.

The relationship developed between Joy and Sadness, and the eventual revelation that all emotions — even the ones we perceive as negative — are necessary, are easily the standouts in this superb piece of family entertainment.


Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (***½)

Who could have believed the Mission: Impossible movie series would hit such a high at its fourth film? 2011’s “Ghost Protocol” was a tense, rip-roaring thriller with a great deal of camaraderie between Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and newcomers William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg).

That same team is back in “Rogue Nation,” which isn’t quite as good as the former film but still provides outrageous entertainment that blows the first three out of the water.

CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) is fed up with Hunt and friends’ destructive antics, calling for the dissolution of the IMF at a Senate hearing. His wish is granted, and naturally this couldn’t come at a worse time; the group has just discovered the existence of an international crime group known as the Syndicate, whose members include Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and sneering lunatic Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). The movie is filled wall-to-wall with the series’ hallmark outrageous stunts, including one particularly impressive scene that takes place underwater and a brilliantly-paced mission at the opera.

Amazingly, despite the certainty of the IMF’s success, the increasing absurdity of the situations continue to effectively generate suspense.

Rebecca Ferguson is easily one of the best characters in the series as Faust, in a complex and multifaceted role that is mercifully written as a beautiful friendship with Hunt rather than a romance.

In one of the only missteps, Sean Harris’ Lane is more slimy and creepy than intimidating, and his villainous role is ultimately a bit of a letdown. In the end, though, this film remains better than it probably has any right to be as the fifth entry in an action franchise.


Ant-Man (***)

Paul Rudd takes on the role of the miniaturizing superhero in this latest entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which takes after the crass and self-referential humor of last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It never quite reaches the delirious heights of that film, but Ant-Man still carves a name for himself as a funny and endearing action hero. After Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) has his research used against his will by malevolent protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), it’s up to Scott Lang to don the titular suit and steal the tech back.

Accompanying Pym and Lang on this journey is Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne, Pym’s daughter serving as a double agent. Lilly’s performance as Dyne is easily one of the best parts of the movie; her convincing attempts to reconcile with her father provide light drama amongst the comedy and action.

Less effective is her slapdash romance with Lang, unceremoniously tossed in as an afterthought near the end credits. The colorful collection of caricatures that serve as the comic are actually quite funny (led by Michael Peña having way too much fun). Almost as funny is the overacting of Stoll in a goofy and admittedly weak villain role.

“Ant-Man” plays it a bit too safe to be one of the best, but it’s still in the upper echelons of the MCU. One wonders if it would be up there with “Galaxy” had the touch of “Hot Fuzz” director Edgar Wright still been present.


Jurassic World (***)

Colin Trevorrow’s take on the “Jurassic” franchise is silly, preposterous, and the best entry since the 1993 original. Yes, this one is about a dinosaur genetically modified to be bigger and badder than the rest, and yes, it is as over-the-top and dumb as you could possibly expect. But you don’t go to a “Jurassic” movie to see its characters wax philosophical, do you?

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard play the leads. It would be a kindness to call these actors’ roles “characters,” as they barely edge their way into two-dimensional territory and engage in exchanges of dialogue that may or may not be unintentionally hilarious.

“I don’t control the raptors. It’s a relationship. It’s based on mutual respect,” says Pratt’s goofy dinosaur-trainer-dude, practically winking to the camera. “That’s why you and I never had a second date.” It comes out worse than it looks on paper.

Howard and Pratt are charming, however, which is more than you can say for the two little snots they bring along for this theme park adventure. Who are these young actors? Who cares?

They’re easily the worst part of the movie, human props meant to give Howard’s strict aunty character some sort of ham-fisted character development. Apparently the writers didn’t care much for these boys either, because there’s a scene about the impending divorce of their parents in the middle of the picture that comes out of nowhere, goes nowhere, and is forgotten by the end credits.

Oh, right, but how about that good stuff?  All right, the script is lame, but it’s lame in the best kind of way, best enjoyed guffawing with one’s friends over the corny dialogue.

The acting is about as good as you’d expect for writing like this, especially Vincent D’Onofrio hamming up every minute as this film’s human baddie.

The CGI is better than ever, blending into Trevorrow’s expertly-directed action scenes realistically. And yeah, the Indominus Rex is pretty cool.

If only it’d taken a chunk out of those brats.


Goosebumps’ biggest scare: how much it insults the audience


“Goosebumps” currently sits at 73% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. I am mystified. This movie somehow takes the dopey-fun formula of the 1995 Robin Williams comedy “Jumanji” and sucks out all likability. It should have been titled “Dumb, Pretty White People Running Away from Unconvincing CGI Monsters.” Ah, but then Sony couldn’t have benefited from a brand-name tie-in.

The movie’s opening, which must set some sort of record for nonchalant use of cliche, follows Zach Cooper (Dylan Minette) and mom Gale (Amy Ryan) as they … wait for it … move into their new house. Zach is mildly angsty because the fictional town of Madison, Delaware is lame, and because unpacking a box of things from his old house reminds him that his father died.

I say “mildly angsty” because Zach is less a character capable of feeling angst and more a repository for the sort of cool, distant sarcasm used by bad screenwriters in place of actual dialogue. That goes for the rest of the cast, too, including Hannah (Odeya Rush), the gorgeous girl next door, and Champ (Ryan Lee), the dorky kid at Zach’s new school that will inevitably become his comic foil. We know Champ is a dork the first time we see him because he is wearing a shirt that says “This Kid is Cool.” And because his teeth are sort of funny looking. And because his name is Champ.

But I digress. We sit through laborious opening scenes of Hannah placed in apparent mortal peril by her father. They’re laborious because we’ve seen the trailers, which reveal that her father is not some sort of disturbed child-abuser, but in fact “Goosebumps” author R.L. Stine (Jack Black). He has to prevent his secret collection of magical books from being opened, because they contain the monsters he created. Guess what Zach and Champ do in their attempt to rescue Hannah?

The premise, I’ll admit, is not a bad one. “Goosebumps” readers who have grown up can hardly be expected to remember the nitty-gritty details of Stine’s formulaic novels, but you can bet they remember the creatures: Slappy, The Blob That Ate Everyone, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena. Unleashing these creatures on a small town leverages the same visceral satisfaction many viewers felt while watching “Jumanji,” where Robin Williams and friends became passive observers of suburban destruction.

But my mind raced ahead of the movie’s script, which offers few surprises and fewer laughs. Black is on auto-pilot here, delivering a sensationally unfunny and embarrassingly mannered performance as Stine. Why couldn’t the script explore his inspiration for these creatures? Why couldn’t we be offered a compelling explanation for their transition from fiction to reality?

No, the movie chooses to answer a different question instead: How much can we insult the intelligence of kids in the audience? In the name of “wholesome family entertainment,” the movie labors over tired, dated jokes: sexist ones, mostly originated by Jillian Bell as Zach’s aunt. She gives him a Bedazzled New York Yankees hat as a moving-in present, and you can almost hear the wah-wah music: “But auntie, this is a girl’s hat!” And when Champ makes the absurd mistake of asking Zach to attend a dance with him? Wah-wah-waaah: “Two boys, dance together?!”

The humor of Bell’s character is supposed to come from the fact that she’s incompetent at finding a man to date, ho ho. But don’t worry: every single character, including her, comes to be matched with a corresponding white mate at the end. Except Zach’s mom, but to be fair, they did write in a nice gym coach for her — it’s just that, like her dead husband, he’s forgotten by writers who couldn’t care less about Stine, his books or the kids who read them.

HC Media Radio Plays Your Music

Exciting opportunities for unsigned local music artists are at HC Media, also known as Haverhill Community Media.

Recently launched is their radio station, which gives opportunities to musicians who want to get their music out into the airwaves for free.

Matt Belfiore, Director of Operations at HC Media and adjunct faculty at NECC, shared with other staff members the idea of doing something more audio-oriented in contrast to their traditionally visual-oriented televistion programs.  For a few years they had been thinking of doing something like newscasts or playing top 40 music hits.

“Something about it just never clicked, and I never really liked the idea of it all that much. . . so I got the idea to do something more like an alternative rock radio station … geared toward unsigned local and semi-local acts,” said Belfiore.

Brian Hough, multimedia developer at HC Media, put together the mechanics of what would become HC Media Radio.

“Basically, it’s set up with an open source software called Shoutcast which is really popular in the independent radio world,” he said.

“We kind of modified it just a little bit to suit our needs. We set it up  over on a new server that we had, we are able to broadcast mp3 files from our server directly out of the building to the website and wherever else.”

Deciding on content was no issue for Belfiore, who was once in a garage band back in the ’80s and ’90s. With a deep appreciation for local music, he reached out to a few people he knew who play in bands.

“I think we started with like three bands, and then within a month and a half, we’re up to 26 bands now — meaning we’re up to a couple hundred songs. Obviously we want more, and the idea is to get more bands,” said Belfiore.

The only criteria to get airtime is that the music has to be unsigned with no royalties.  It’s a pretty sweet deal for local bands who want to get their music out there to a larger audience, and it’s free.

“We launched it before we really had any sort of format,” said Belfiore. “I’m a big believer in do-it-yourself stuff, and maybe it goes back to my old rock and roll garage punk days … it’s like, don’t worry about learning how to play, just pick up an instrument and do it and eventually you’ll figure it out.”

Having the station available, even if it’s not perfect, gels perfectly with the sort of content it’s presenting.  So many amazing local bands have unsigned music they’ve worked so hard to produce, and it should be shared and enjoyed. Young musicians don’t always have the money for huge recording contracts or ways to distribute their music among large amounts of people.

HC Media Radio is an amazing new medium to sate the public’s desire for new refreshing music while simultaneously helping local artists be heard.

Shawn Smith, a recent NECC graduate who attended Belfiore’s class a few years ago, did an internship at HC Media.   Since his internship he has become a part-time staff member and has become the to go-to guy for the radio station.  Smith does most of the programming for the songs and does little blurbs for the radio station in between songs, along with some rudimentary taped deejaying.  There has not been any live deejay work yet, but that is a definite possibility.

“What we’re working at next is we want to do live deejaying. We don’t want it to just be one person. We just recently hired a training coordinator here that teaches people how to be a deejay,” said Belfiore. “You could come in, learn how to deejay, then come here, volunteer for an hour and pick the tracks that you want to play. We’ll record it live, you can come in here and be a deejay for an hour, man.”

It’s an amazing volunteer opportunity to showcase different music and different tastes. It gives the ability to play the music someone thinks is really cool. They can make that time slot their own, putting an individual stamp on the airwaves.

The radio station can only continue to grow with new musical content; it needs more local music. Any musician interested in submitting their work can do it in multiple ways. They can give HC Media a call at (978) 372-8070, send a message to the HC Media Radio Station’s Facebook page at facebook.com/HCMediaRadio or fill out a contact form at HaverhillCommunityTV.org. The other option is to drop off a CD or music files at HC Media’s physical address, which is 60 Elm St. Haverhill, Mass.


‘The Martian’ a Warm, Humorous Tale of Isolation and Survival

People who go into “The Martian,” whether they’ve read Andy Weir’s novel or not, will probably be able to predict how it ends.I don’t dare spoil whether or not the title character ever makes it off Mars after getting marooned there, but you’ve probably got the answer in your head right now.

Why bring this up? Well, rare is the movie that remains gripping despite its predictability; “The Martian” is the newest gem in this category. This might be the warmest movie about isolation ever made.

As I’ve partially revealed, the plot centers on Mark Watney (Matt Damon), a sweet and snarky astronaut whose team is forced to leave him behind in the wake of a deadly sandstorm.

They think he’s dead, but you don’t cast Matt Damon just to have him play a corpse. He wakes up to find himself minus four friends, literally the only person on the entire planet.

Oh yeah, and it will be years before NASA can send a rescue mission.

What’s a guy to do? Start figuring out how he can survive long enough to be rescued in the first place, of course. Even with all the food from the crew members who fled the scene, he’s still short a couple years in the eats department.

Good thing he’s a botanist.

The scenes of Watney by his lonesome, attempting to grow food, are surprisingly warm and funny.

His character requires a certain sense of humor and optimism for us to believe he’d actually make it through this ordeal, and Damon lends him this credibility in spades.

We also get a lot of fun details about his teammates in the process.

One adorable scene sees Watney bemoaning his commander’s taste in disco, the only music available to him on Mars.

“Don’t you have anything from this century?” he says.

Watney’s adventure is broken up by scenes of the folks at NASA, trying to figure out how to save Watney while fighting off a nightmarish PR situation. Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig and Chiwetel Ejiofor (who, to my knowledge, has never given a bad performance) are all phenomenal in their supporting roles. Donald Glover, in a bit part as a young aerodynamics specialist, is a scene-stealing pleasure every time he appears onscreen.Later on, for reasons I will not disclose, Watney’s team becomes involved in the story again. Like those of the NASA crew, these performances are filled with life and energy. It’s nice to see Michael Peña so soon after his comedic sidekick role in “Ant-Man,” and Jessica Chastain — leaping from last year’s space epic “Interstellar” — lends this role the same drama and sensitivity.

“The Martian” is a movie about humanity at its most resilient. Every person in the film reminds us that, in spite of the horrible news we hear every day, amazing things can happen when we put aside our differences and work toward a common goal. We all need the occasional reminder that our world, and the humans that occupy it, are not as bad as they seem.

Black Mass Review

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| NECC Observer

Black Mass

Starring Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch


There is no denying that Johnny Depp’s performance as James “Whitey” Bulger in “Black Mass” is his finest in years, a twisted tour-de-force of subtle, reserved psychopathy. A shame, then, that the movie around him is so uninventive in its structure. It’s not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination; it just spends too much time recounting events and not enough on the intriguing details.

While the story of Bulger has fascinated people across the nation, it’s obviously of particular interest to Massachusetts residents. The criminal’s infamous alliance with the FBI — and his subsequent ascendance to untouchable “crime lord” — happened in and around our state’s capital city, involving corruption of local law enforcement and murders in locations a bit too close to home. With Bulger’s capture in 2011 reigniting the fire of interest, it’s only natural that it would get the big-screen treatment, complete with an all-star cast: Joel Edgerton as FBI liaison John Connolly, Benedict Cumberbatch as Bulger’s brother William, and “Breaking Bad” alum Jesse Plemons as young recruit Kevin Weeks.

The actors deliver their Boston-accented lines with fluctuating authenticity. At times they might not sound out-of-place in Dorchester, at others they appear to be speaking through a mouthful of marbles. Either way, they are all too compelling to take lightly; while the phoniness of a few early lines elicited laughs from the audience, there was quickly silence.

Depp is invisible as an actor, cloaked by a thick layer of makeup and an unbelievable dedication to character; his Bulger is cold, seething, ready to explode at the first sign of betrayal. His scenes with violence are revealing, but those without even more so. A dinner conversation involves an associate revealing a “secret recipe” — to which Bulger responds with fury and suspicion.

“I’m just f—ing with you,” he says, after much too long. We’re not so sure. Less sure are we when he “checks up” on Connolly’s wife feigning illness to avoid eating with the mobsters, running his fingers through her hair and caressing her throat while fearful tears roll down her cheeks.

It’s these scenes, exploring the nitty-gritty emotions of Bulger and the rest of the Winter Hill Gang, that are the most fascinating. And there are a great deal of them, to be fair: those around the death of Bulger’s son; those around the childhood friendship of Connolly, Bulger and his politician brother; and those around Connolly and his wife, who is slowly realizing that her husband is getting in over his head. We want to see these individual stories develop, and we are still wanting when the credits roll.

Ultimately, there is too much material to fit the two-hour running time, and so director Scott Cooper chooses to give us summaries rather than stories. The framing device, which sees the present-day Winter Hill boys giving testimony to the FBI in close-up shots before cutting to flashbacks, is more “documentary dramatization” than film artistry. A tighter focus might have helped; major players come and go without much context, Connolly is missing for large sections of the film, and goofy epilogue text tells us “Rudy” style how these people went on to do some other things.

There is probably enough in the story of Bulger and the Winter Hill Gang for five movies. We can still wait for those to be made, but in the meantime, this is a damn good highlight reel.