From playing on the streets of the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California to performing on Dancing with the Stars, Andy Grammer has a lot to be optimistic about. The “Honey I’m Good” and  “Keep Your Head Up” crooner had our hearts in his pocket at first listen and even has Taylor Swift smiling! Andy gave ME the details on his music career and his take on where to find the perfect guy.
ME: When did you figure out you wanted to pursue music?

AG: I wasn’t exactly sure it was music, I just knew I wanted to create and affect people. From a very young age I was learning how to impress people— like by juggling or magic and learning how I can make someone smile. When I found the guitar I was like, “Whoa, I can make you smile!” Once I kind of latched on to that, that was my favorite mode of creating.

ME: So you would go out to the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and play your music? Tell ME what that was like?
AG: With music and this rock star kind of ideology in how this works, you can get caught up in a bunch of other things besides, “Do people like me when I play music?” There are all of these other things like, “I have to look at shoes, I think that will help,” or, “If I had a video concept, that will make—” that’s all important too, but when you go out to the Promenade you can just point-blank say: “Alright, I play music. People either like it and they stop and give me 10 bucks for a CD, or they don’t.” It’s the most basic element of, “Do you like what I’m playing,” and you can really start to figure out where you stand with people’s ears. It’s a great, great way to develop if you go out in the street and just have people tell you whether they like you or not.

ME: That’s super scary! How did you get  the nerve to put yourself out there like that?
AG: You just gotta take a leap; take the leap in putting yourself out there. You have to be one of those people who is willing to take the burn of having someone come up to you say, “You need to turn down, dude, like we’re just trying to enjoy our food and you’re bothering us.”  Handle the lows and you can also get some highs which is like there’s 100 people around you all clapping to a song they didn’t even hear until today, and now they all want to buy a CD. There are highs and lows, and I think that’s the art industry for everybody. 
ME: People kind of do that through YouTube.

AG: Yeah, exactly YouTube does that too. That’s actually really interesting, and that wasn’t quite as big when I was really in my intense development stage. Now it seems like, oh my God, everyone is doing that!

ME: Speaking of YouTube, I was reading through the comments for your song “The Pocket,” and one guy said you rep the guys who don’t think with their, ummm, let’s say man-parts. Now that we know there are at least two of you out there, where do you think girls can meet more guys like you?
AG: It’s funny, to say I don’t think with my man-parts is like— that’s a little bold. I think you just want to find someone who is at least trying. We all have our demons and the things that aren’t the best about us. Hopefully you’re at least trying to work on them— that’s all I can say that I am. I wrote that song and I mean it, you know, but that’s a good day. What I will say is that I genuinely try to be a good guy, and I think there’s a lot of guys out there like that. I don’t think we’re in short supply.

ME: I believe that. You actually touch on not being the perfect guy all the time in your song “Ladies.
AG: Yeah I think there is no perfect guy, there is no perfect girl. I think you just want to be awake and at least try to be a better person, that’s the goal.

ME: “Keep Your Head Up” is a big hit for you! What’s the story behind it?  
AG: So I was out at the Promenade and I hadn’t sold enough CDs at all. I was paying my rent out there so it would get kind of tense near the end of the month when you have so many days left at the Promenade and you’re like, “I need to make this money.” So one day I didn’t sell any and I went home and wrote myself a little pick-me-up track.

ME: So it really ended up helping you out too!
AG: That’s so funny, the way the world works. Thank God I didn’t sell any CDs that day. If I sold CDs I wouldn’t have written that song that’s helping me get on tour with everybody right now.

ME: It’s a great song for everyone a bunch of situations whether they’re facing graduation or trying to figure out how to follow their dreams.
AG: Yeah that’s the thing: It’s always gonna be hard so you might as well just smile. it’s never going to be completely fine. I don’t think that’s why we’re here.

ME: So how do you keep your head up when times get tough?
AG: That’s a great question. I keep my head up by taking in inspiration from other people. So the band that I’m opening for, I’ll go and watch their sets and just really enjoy what they’ve put into it and how it’s working, or listen to other artists and see what they’re doing. When I’m home, I love to see comedy. I love to be inspired; it always helps me stay excited.

Tell ME: Which Andy Grammer song are you in love with?
-Ashlyee Hickman

chernobyl diaries

Chernobyl Diaries was released on Friday to less than thunderous applause.  The story follows six 20-somethings, the most well-known of which being Jesse McCartney, who are embarking on a great European adventure. While in Russia, they decide to give “extreme tourism” a try by exploring the abandoned town of Pripyat, where the families of the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor lived.

The basis of the film is historically accurate. The guide, Uri, played by Dimitri Diatchenko, explains to the other characters about the dangerous levels of radiation that forced immediate evacuation from the town of Pripyat in 1986. To add a little bit more of authenticity to the project, the movie was actually filmed in parts of Europe and on location in Pripyat, Russia.

However, that’s where the positive points come to an abrupt halt.The entire movie was painfully predictable, with the single exception of a random brown bear. Confused? Basically, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the movie. It’s all fun and games until the cables to the van are cut and the naïve tourists are trapped with no cell phone service. What was that noise? I’ll go investigate! Cue the screams and hello there, victim number one. More will be joining you shortly.

This movie is basically like any other “we are not alone type of horror film,” just set in a different location. We got to see a lot of the town of Pripyat during the constant blind running of the protagonists who spent half of their time racing away and hiding from the mutant creatures that were after them, and the other half running towards them in order to make absolutely sure their friends were completely dead before leaving them behind.

Most of the dialogue consisted of “Oh, my God’s,” startled curses, crying, and screaming. The camera work was intentionally shaky, to give the effect that we, as audience members, are there with the actors on the screen in that situation. However, it produced more of a headache effect than anything else. There were, of course, the obligatory moments that caused viewers to jump, but that was mainly due to a spark in the music, because the mysteriously distorted beings that were hunting the group in Pripyat were never clearly displayed for the audience.

The one moment when these characters really caused emotions to stir was SPOILER ALERT when Jesse McCartney’s character, Chris, proposed to his girlfriend, Natalie, played by Olivia Taylor Dudley, in a moment of desperation about halfway through the film. He knew they weren’t going to make it to the end credits, so then was as good a time as any, right?

The ending of the film was a feeble attempt at a twist that anyone could see coming. If anything could have saved this film, a deeper development of the proposed conspiracy would have done the trick, but alas, that was just a burst of an actual story after 80 minutes of blandness. Maybe that’s the reasoning behind the short running time length—lack of a plot. Overall, Chernobyl Diaries isn’t a movie worth racing towards.

-Amy Lauren

Katniss and Peeta gearing up for the 'Games'

The premise seemed a little freaky: a young adult novel about teens killing each other, but the controversial story set the world ablaze. Suzanne Collins penned this novel detailing a dystopian future in which, in order to assert its ultimate authority and discourage rebellion, the global government,  simply called the Capitol, randomly selects 24 adolescents to participate in a televised battle in which only one person may emerge alive. The movie further spreads the flame, and does not stray from the raw brutality of the book.

Jennifer Lawrence again plays the role of protector, which she held so skillfully in Winter’s Bone, the Oscar-nominated film that ignited her career. Here, she is Katniss, a commoner, a care-giver to her considerably weak sister and mother, and comparable to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Lisbeth in fierceness. When Katniss’ baby sister, the saucer-eyed, angelic-faced Primrose (Willow Shields) is chosen for the Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place. In doing so, she leaves behind her loyal and undeniably handsome best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and journeys to the strange and extravagant land of the Capitol where she must prepare to enter the Games. To make matters even more unfortunate, one of her competitors is the warm-hearted Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), a boy from Katniss’ district (Hunger Games lingo for state) who once saved her from starvation.

Before the Games begin, we are introduced to an array of interesting characters. Elizabeth Banks, nearly unrecognizable in eccentric Capitol garb, is delightful as the shallow, eerily upbeat Effie Trinket, who represents Katniss and Peeta’s district and to whom the Hunger Games really is just a game. Stanley Tucci is similarly delightful as the bizarrely lovable Caesar Flickerman, a Capitol talk show host covering the Games. Caesar is like a male, blue-haired Ellen DeGeneres, adding an element of fun into a very dark film.

But the fun subsides when the Games begin and the audience is treated to an eyeful of frenzied teens attacking each other to save themselves. Despite its PG-13 rating, The Hunger Games movie does not shy away from violence. Still, this violence is not needlessly glorified. This is certainly not a slasher flick out to shock you with excessive blood and guts.
Shaky cinematography during action sequences successfully conveys the Katniss’ fear. Collins’ best-selling book had the advantage of constant narration of Katniss’ inner monologue, but in the movie, where the heroine’s silence is necessary to her survival, Lawrence must capture all these complex emotions and thoughts solely through facial expression. As she is a talented actress, she pulls it off. The movie also differs from the beloved book by occasionally divulging from Katniss’ perspective. Some motives that were kept a mystery until the sequel are seamlessly slipped in. This alteration may anger fans looking for a word for word adaption, but the majority of the book’s fanbase should be satisfied. The filmmakers may not have stayed entirely true to Collins’ first novel, but they are true to the vivid world Collins crafted. Fan or not, The Hunger Games is a powerful story that’s made an unusually smooth transition from page to screen, and is guaranteed not to disappoint.
—Karina Stow