Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Album reviews, 10/26/17

October 25, 2017

Bloodlust by Body Count: I never listened back in the day, when it seemed like just Ice-T yelling (it wasn’t a scream, it was a yell) “Cop killer” over distorted guitar. I got it, but I didn’t need it. Bloodlust is actually essential, and the yell is the perfect accompaniment. The riffs are hooky, the message is blunt and brutal, and it ends in a little over 30 minutes, so you can’t even say it’s preachy. Those guys take at least an hour.

After Laughter by Paramore: 4 years again, but who’s counting? Paramore double back on their fury for a record that is restrained and wounded, the guitar attack thinned out to retro plucks, influence and reference points vary. Despite the restraint and the defeated lyrics Paramore gonna Paramore, and the album is largely platinum hooks and that trademark enthusiasm, tamped down but still present.

More Life by Drake: These things are going to just keep getting longer, aren’t they? More vibrant than Views but just as indulgent. “Passionfruit” is good, but other than that it just evaporates.

Heartworms by The Shins: James Mercer does one thing well. He does not do that one thing anymore.

Suicide Silence by Suicide Silence: Alienation never sounded so hesitant.

Near To The Wild Heart Of Life by Japandroids: I like that after 5 years and breathless anticipation they just made another Japandroids album. Playing to the cheap seats and the casual fandom a bit, but that never hurt anyone. Everyone needs a grower, this fits the bill. Now just hope they don’t become The Black Keys.

Hot Thoughts by Spoon: Like their last one, pretty good, really good, good, last song is ok, see you in a couple years. Easy to take for granted when it doesn’t seem like they think it’s that hard.

Strangers Only by My Ticket Home: Call it nu-metal, call it puke rock, call it whatever your heart desires. If the riffs are resplendent and the hooks shouted into the sky, I will call it great.

unReal by My Ticket Home: I didn’t think it was possible for someone to overrate the mid 90’s more than me.

Crooked Teeth by Papa Roach: Never count out the lifers who might just surprise you with 10 or so hot rockers of sturdy riffs and passionate vocals with nice hooks and a half hour to get it done.

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Best Music of 2016

January 2, 2017

Being a dad means less time listening to music. Well, that’s not true, I listened to the “Busy busy busy busy/there is so much to do” song on my son’s Stand and Play table about 500 times this year. Definitely my most listened to track. The music below is what I had time for and enjoyed, in between that song and all the nu-metal I listened to over here. I echo similar sentiments from people like Al Shipley and Steven Hyden with my list this year. I didn’t get to hear as much as I wanted to, and sometimes even then I didn’t get to listen to some things more than once. As a snapshot of my 2016 listening experience, this is pretty accurate.

ALBUMS

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  1. The Life of Pablo by Kanye West
    This has been a trying year for us Kanye-Stans. We’ve had to weather the outbursts and the delays and the album rollout and the Trump supporting statements and then actually meeting with Trump; it almost broke us. But we still had these songs. As an album it is certainly Kanye’s messiest since Late Registration but the peaks are so high, and the lows aren’t really that low at all. I ride for “Facts”, but hey, I’m a Kanye-Stan.
    p.s. The Pablo tour was flames before it imploded.

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  2. A Seat at the Table by Solange
    I never thought I’d become obsessed with a Solange album but 2016 was a year of surprises both good and bad. Solange finally crafted a piece of work that felt distinctly her own, not cribbing from obvious sources, instead fueled by a passion and point of view that is shatteringly personal. All of Solange’s previous work never sounded like it was necessary, while A Seat at the Table sounds vital and needed.

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  3. Atrocity Exhibition by Danny Brown
    Danny Brown reviews always talk about how he’s melting down and his songs show a side of him that is wild and off kilter. I certainly see that, but I think the great thing about his albums is that the dude is just rapping hard. Front to back, his albums are just power raps, mowing down the competition. And I don’t even care about the competition. Beats: fire. Lyrics: crushing.

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  4. Crazy Eyes by Filter
    Filter frontman Richard Patrick has been rotating and replacing bandmates pretty regularly since 2008’s Anthems For the Damned with mixed results. The albums were never terrible, they just sounded patchy and conceptually weak and with 2013’s The Sun Comes Out Tonight, I was convinced that I could expect about half an album of solid tracks with a decent amount of filler every couple years and I was totally fine with that. Patrick got his groove back with this one, you guys. Basically front to back fury, with Patrick indulging in dance floor grooves, industrial blast beats and that wonderful strained yarl that all us Filter-heads live for. Easily their best album since 2002’s The Amalgamut.

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  5. SEPT. 5TH by dvsn
    I heard a lot of R&B this year that either was too sleepy and languid for my tastes or too indebted to old sources without adding anything new. dvsn was the group that really surprised me, with a strong, passionate and seductive sound that I hadn’t been hearing in these other albums. The vocal on “Try” is some oh shit oh shit level quality.

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  6. Power Under Control by Islander
    I first heard of these guys while researching bands that are considered to be nu-metal in 2016. They have co-signs from P.O.D. and Korn, but their sound is a mix of the hard charge of nu-metal with the melodic lightness of pop-punk. I know, I was skeptical too. This is Islander’s second album, their first falling into that emo/punk sound with little need for strong hooks. In between albums the lead singer basically ditched the whole band and started again from scratch. They’re now in that P.O.D. lane of being almost explicitly a religious band with songs like “Beelezbub” but they mostly stick to kick riffs on “Bad Guy” and “Better Day”. Terrible haircuts tho.

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  7. We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest
    No one expected this album and I don’t think anyone expected it to be pretty great when they found out about it. But Q-Tip is some kind of casual genius and having everyone record in studio together clearly worked, because this album is alive and vibrant. That said, there are plenty of albums made by people in different rooms who never meet, but let the mystique be. Having the title be something that Phife liked but never explained to anyone is the perfect ending to it all.

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  8. Dangerous Woman by Ariana Grande
    We’re now three albums deep into Ariana Grande’s career and each album is better than the last. She packs it with a couple of all timers (“Into You”, “Touch It”) and just creates a real fun, high energy pop package that isn’t dumb or embarrassing. And girl can sang.

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  9. Into the Vanishing Light by Night Verses
    I found out about these guys because famed nu-metal producer Ross Robinson worked on and produced this album, one of six(!) albums he did this year (his work on De La Tierra’s II is also a highlight). For whatever reason, Night Verses and their emo/post-hardcore sound resonated with me this year, and Ross did a great job organizing the cacophony of their sound and having them branch out into other areas as well, like prog and shoegaze. I guess this one was divisive in their fan base, which could mean their next record is some “back to basics” BS. I hope not.

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  10. The Serenity of Suffering by Korn
    While I was definitely excited to hear this new Korn album I don’t think I expected it to be this good. It’s not even like it’s the best album they’ve ever done, but it is certainly the best album they’ve made in at least 13 years. The band members hyped this thing up as a back to basics, let’s just rock record, and the fact that it actually is the thing they said it would be is pretty mindblowing. 11 tracks, just Korn being Korn, big hooks, crunching riffs, no complaints from me!

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  11. Gameshow by Two Door Cinema Club
    These guys came back real strong after their second record turned out to be an actual sophomore slump. Dedication to light, fun dance pop/rock and good hooks make this the kind of breezy listen that sounds too easy, though I’m sure it was hard as hell to make.

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  12. Operator by MSTRKRFT
    MSTRKRFT’s last album Fist of God is an all timer for me, a front to back album of hard dance bangers, released in 2009 just as the whole blog house sound was dying out(much to my chagrin). They have let a couple trends come and go and come in the time since that record, and with Operator they sound like they’re in a transition mode of still knowing how to do the big hooks if they want to, but burying them in distortion and punk screams. It was initially disorienting but it is a definite grower with plenty of bangers to be found.

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  13. Prima Donna by Vince Staples
    Vince is the realest, and he sounds so disdainful half the time, and I love it. I listened to this the same week as that Travis Scott album and it only cemented the fact that that album is a piece of trash.

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  14. Cashmere by Swet Shop Boys
    Swet Shop Boys had the best song of 2014 and they now have an album that is almost as good. Heems continues his post-Das Racist run of success with more sharp/lazy sounding rhymes while Riz MC has apparently gotten even better and is spitting with a venom that is invigorating! 30 or so minutes of fire right here.

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  15. Anti by Rihanna
    When this came out, the talk was that Rihanna had finally made a cohesive album and not just a playlist of singles, which is the kind of thing you say when an album doesn’t sound like it has any big hits on it. I think this is about as consistent as Loud or Rated R, but without a big monster dance floor number, instead you have “Work”, which still sounds dumb and unfinished to me but I’m not upset about it. Most of the album is great moody numbers like “Needed Me” and “Kiss It Better”, and if I don’t think it is that much different from her other albums, it at least feels confident for an album that was being pushed back and retooled for over a year.

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  16. Hit Reset by The Julie Ruin
    It would be a shame if the only thing people remembered about Kathleen Hanna this year is that terrible song she put out with a (briefly) reunited Le Tigre. Thankfully, history should record this excellent Julie Ruin album, filled to the brim with strong rockers about standing up for yourself, getting over your past wounds and kicking ass.

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  17. Beyond the Fleeting Gales by Crying
    Writer Ian Cohen put these guys on my radar when he tweeted an enthusiastic endorsement of their first single from this album, “Wool In the Wash”. He said “Van Halen” and I’m always dying for more vintage Van Halen so I did not walk, I ran, to hear this band. And y’know, at first I agreed with a lot of the internet people who said that making the Halen comparison did not do this band any favors, because your mind goes to David Lee Roth in a codpiece doing kick flips, not a soft voiced woman singing over guitar solos and enthusiastic keyboards. But the guitar is shiny and glittery, the riffs are potent and the momentum never lags. It sounds like the future.

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  18. Lemonade by Beyoncé
    I think this is only her fourth best album, but it’s still pretty good and the visual element is an all timer. I also believe that the whole storyline is just for the album and has little to no actual basis in fact. I will accept the facts as they are presented.

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  19. Gore by Deftones
    Has a fair share of rippers along with the spacey, sensual stuff that I always expect from Chino. I’d say it’s a lesser work by them after the great run of Diamond Eyes and Koi No Yokon but it still crushes where it counts and the finale is a classic.

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  20. A New Wave of Violence by Head Wound City
    I have spent a lot of time listening to the Johnny Whitney post-Blood Brother’s projects but this was the first Jordan Blilie and Cody Votolato project I checked out, and I am glad I did because it is 24 minutes of fury, the closest to Blood Brothers we’re probably going to get. Along with members of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Locust, and produced once again by Ross Robinson, A New Wave of Violence is thrashing guitars and screeched vocals in the Blood Brothers vein, but with a punk efficiency. One story about Ross Robinson is that he likes to throw things at the bands while he records them, to get them to be alert and awake in the moment. Head Wound City sound like they would be ready to throw something right back.

SONGS

1. Crying: “Wool in the Wash”
2. Ariana Grande: “Into You”
3. Primal Scream: “Where The Light Gets In” (feat. Sky Ferreira)
4. Kanye West: “Father I Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”
5. Filter: “Nothing In My Hands”
6. Kwesta: “Ngud'”
7. Tegan and Sara: “U-turn”
8. Deftones: “Doomed User”
9. Beyoncé: “Formation”
10. Tokyo Police Club: “PCH”
11. Islander: “Bad Guy”
12. Chance the Rapper: “All Night” (feat. Knox Fortune)
13. A$AP Mob: “Yamborghini High” (feat. Juicy J)
14. Noname: “Diddy Bop” (feat. Raury and Cam O’Bi)
15. Chance the Rapper: “No Problem” (feat. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz)
16. Justice: “Randy”
17. Desiigner: “Panda”
18. Korn: “Take Me”
19. Rae Sremmurd: “Black Beatles” (feat. Gucci Mane)
20. John Mayer: “Love On the Weekend”

Spotify Playlist

Apple Music Playlist

Jason Bourne

August 22, 2016

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Jason Bourne is the worst entry in the series to feature Matt Damon. I haven’t watched the Damonless The Bourne Legacy but Tony Gilroy wrote it so it probably has some moments. Gilroy also wrote the original trilogy but did not return for this run around the globe. It shows. Director Paul Greengrass attempts to make Bourne current by having a subplot about internet privacy but it just lays there on the screen, everyone tapping their toes wondering when Bourne is going to throw a guy off a roof. Don’t worry, that eventually happens.

I remain confounded by the popularity of the Bourne franchise. Sturdy, sure, but so damn dull. The original trilogy managed to deliver the same film three times, each one more efficiently than the last, with little sense of play or fun. Jason Bourne is a nothing character and he demands so little emotionally from Matt Damon. Yet, that wouldn’t matter if the films were better. But they are largely shots of screens and suits and people on cell phones barking the names of cities. The action is always shaky and blurry, the hint of movement with zero clarity. Why anyone would prefer this over even the worst James Bond or Mission Impossible film is the great mystery of our time. I have seen the argument that these films are “smart” but I think people just mean “serious” and “humorless”. Jason Bourne doesn’t joke, the people chasing after him don’t either. This is spy craft and espionage at it’s most dry. I will give the original trilogy credit: right when you start to glaze at the pointlessness of the plot, something crashes, someone is shot, Bourne kills someone with a magazine.

Jason Bourne picks up with Jason living off the grid and earning money as some kind of underground fighter. He is reintroduced taking out a guy with one punch(!) and then walking off, all bad ass. But then he starts feeling sad, because Jason Bourne has never felt cool ever, because he’s too busy either being confused or depressed. He gets contacted by good ol’ Julia Stiles to find out more about Operation Treadstone and Daddy Bourne’s involvement with it. This leads to the first action sequence of the movie, where Bourne and Julia ride around on a motorcycle, weaving around incredibly docile rioters. No one ever really gets in their way, but in typical Paul Greengrass style, at one point someone puts their leg right in front of the camera, because it isn’t an action shot if Greengrass can’t obscure the action with either a head or a limb or just shaking the camera until the image is a rusty blur. Eventually all this riding around comes to an end with the death of Stiles by a sniper’s bullet. This is a direct echo of Franka Potente’s death in The Bourne Supremacy, so if you’ve been looking for another woman to die for a man, Jason Bourne has you covered.

The action throughout Jason Bourne is consistent with this style, blink and you’ll miss it fights and impacts, and strangely blocked scenes that only work to frustrate a viewer trying to just see what the fuck is going on. The big finale in Las Vegas is just oh so very slightly clearer, but still an edit fest requiring you to basically guess where these cars are in relation to one another. It helps that they get stacked on top of each other a few times.

Jason Bourne is one of the more blatant money grab IP extenders of the summer, with no one in front or behind the camera caring about much besides hitting their marks and cashing a check. Tommy Lee Jones might be the most bored and evil character of all time. My man is fucking yawning at one point.

Music Journal, June 6th 2016

June 5, 2016

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Islah by Kevin Gates

The great contradictions of a person make them interesting, like when Vin Diesel goes to give a woman a kiss. Kevin Gates is the greatest embodiment of contrast, with moments of real empathy and openness right alongside tracks where he goes on and on defending his decision to assault a fan at a show. The music is good to great across the board, lush and full without being overproduced, the beats aren’t particularly showy but never generic. Islah has Gates offering footrubs while his lady talks about her day, juggles his two phones(business and pleasure) and he loves to fuck. He can also rap, sing the hook, and eschews guests. Kevin Gates is too real.

Ξ by The Toxic Avenger 

The overhanging menace is a bit much. No attempts to dance. I think there is a GG Allin sound bite. A good reminder that blog house is dead too. Closing track “Together” aspires to some kind of lights in the sky, hands up in the air losing it moment but that dark menace, for whatever purpose it is supposed to lend, just sucks the air out of the room. This is so tasteful it might as well be hors d’oeuvres tray.

The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us by Beach Slang

The lead singer has that nice grit in his voice that makes guys like Ryan Adams and Walter Schreifels so appealing. The majority of these tracks rip it up, and “Dirty Lights” might be the rippiest of them all. My favorite part is this line in “Ride the Wild Haze”:

Get really high
Stay up for days
I come back down and somehow things are all the same

That’s fucking life, man.

The Life of Pablo by Kanye West

7 for 7, or 8 for 8 if you count Watch The Throne. For all the mess of the release and the fact that you still can’t buy it unless you have a Tidal account, TLOP is a winner. I’ve been listening to it incessently and it’s one of my favorite things he’s ever done, just like Yeezus before it. Kanye doesn’t seem interested in being a rapper anymore, and his twitter bears this out, but his curating and production abilities are still without peer. Is this a mess? I feel like Late Registration was a messier album, plus it had those terrible skits. TLOP doesn’t have any skits, it does have more prayers but it also has the drops and misogyny and that certainly gives you whiplash but that’s every Kanye album.

Post Pop Depression by Iggy Pop 

Iggy has made hints that this is a retirement record and it sounds like it. More subdued than one would expect considering the Josh Homme assembled band, Iggy Pop gets some jabs and wails in but he mostly sounds like someone who is tying up loose ends. A nice record to go out on, just don’t expect him to tear the world down around him while he exits.

Don’t You by Wet

This album is boring and sucks.

Majid Jordan by Majid Jordan

This is nice and pleasant and then you’ve fallen asleep on the couch.

Hotel Paranoia by Jazz Cartier

Fake Drake songs bump into fake Meek Mill songs into fake everybody else. Guy has no personality of his own. He is sure of himself though, so shouts to his self esteem.

I Don’t Think It Is by Say Anything

This is the worst album Say Anything have ever made. The production is either purposely bad or they literally had no budget. I kinda think it’s the latter. Max Bemis does more of the same from the last couple Say Anything albums, but with weaker hooks and a thin sound. I would say it’s a cry for help but every Say Anything album is a cry for help. This one just sounds more desperate.

Khalifa by Wiz Khalifa 

Wiz Khalifa is the owner of the most bored tone in rap, maybe tied with Big Sean. He just never sounds that interested in anything he is saying. The production on this one is not bad, always good to see Lex Luger getting a check. Strictly for the die hard Wizheads, or whatever they’re called.

10 Ways to Steal Home Plate by Wolfgang Gartner

We’re ten years removed from the Summer of 06, the beginning of the blog house era, an incredible time to be alive and have an internet connection. We’re now in a sort of post EDM era, so guys like Gartner, who as recently as 2011 were dropping mega opus albums with 8 minute tracks, are turning around and making 3 minute pop tracks featuring rappers. Not complaining, you have to work hard to put food on your family. 10 Ways gets the job done.

Views by Drake

I guess I’m back off the Drake train again. After the back to back delivery of Nothing Was The Same and it’s run of all timers (“Worst Behavior”, “Hold On We’re Going Home”) with 2015’s If You’re Reading This Its Too Late I figured Views would be a slam dunk. But instead Drake has delivered his first dirge record. Rapping at a minimum, singing and whining cranked up to 11, all over 40’s “The fridge is running” production soundscapes. No one needs these cold bummer tracks for such a hot summer.

Anti by Rihanna

It is easy to declare “Best Rihanna Album” on first listen. It seems so cohesive! I went back and listened to Rated R, Loud, Unapologetic and Talk That Talk just to be sure and those albums basically have the same success/failure rate as Anti, though Anti has less obvious A&R trend chasing.  Without any bangers, much of Anti’s runtime is given over to moody midtempo slither. “Needed Me” and “Kiss It Better” have a simple majesty and as a singer Rihanna has never sounded better and maybe one day she’ll make a true front to back burner. “Work” still sounds like RiRi’s “The Lady I Know” and that Tame Impala song is now a Rihanna song, sorry, no take backs.

Hymns by Bloc Party

A couple years ago I went to my cousin’s high school graduation party and I happened to mention an upcoming Bloc Party concert. “No one cares about Bloc Party anymore”, my cousin informed me. Hymns will not change that view. The title is taken in a literal sense, with endless soft paeans to a higher power that have no interest in strong hooks or melodies. Now running without Matt Tong’s iconic drumming or Gordon Moakes bass work, Bloc Party has taken on the guise of one of front man Kele Okereke’s tedious solo records. This guys used to be the jam. A real bummer.

Transmission by Death in Vegas

Richard Fearless is now partnering with Sasha Grey on his ventures as Death in Vegas, and while it’s a better album than 2011’s endless drone Trans-Love Energies it doesn’t play as much more than extended interludes. Grey doesn’t add much to the mix besides some monotone vocals, and besides functioning as a kind of white noise, I’m not sure what anyone is supposed to do with this music. It never elevates to the point of interesting art and instead functions as elaborate “on hold” muzak.

Coloring Book by Chance The Rapper

I still can’t take Chance’s voice for too long. Too thin, always sounds like he’s on the verge of a gasp or a crack. And if he tries to sing, it’s even worse. Sorry Chance, you’re no Kevin Gates. Still, Coloring Book has his best songs so far. “No Problem” has an incredible hook and some pretty good verses from 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne and “All Night” is the kind of party banger that you have to put on repeat because 2 minutes and 21 seconds isn’t long enough. Chance says his favorite Kanye album is The College Dropout and Coloring Book is slathered in it’s influence. Not a bad place to start.

 

 

 

Favorite Movies of 2015

February 15, 2016

I didn’t see everything that came out in 2015, so it is entirely possible that in a year’s time when I eventually get caught up this list would be completely changed. But that’s my problem, not yours.

The Best

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1) Mad Max Fury Road:  Fury Road tells a story with glances and actions. It might be the best film in the genre, maybe even the best of all time. I’ve seen it twice and both times I felt like I was watching some kind of miracle. Charlize Theron says it all with her eyes, Tom Hardy says it with “It’s not my blood.”

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2) Magic Mike XXL: A tale of a bunch of friends going on a road trip and having the best time as they meet people, have parties, and try to be their best selves. Channing Tatum is in his natural element, being charming and dancing. The workshop dance to “Pony” is an obvious tip of the hat to Fred Astaire, and the final sequence at the convention is one of the great finales, with an incredible build and payoff. Magic Mike XXL is more fun than we deserve.

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3) Furious 7: 

It could have all gone wrong but it all went so right. Despite all the setbacks and tragedy, Furious 7 is a wonder to behold, incredible action cinema, and it has Jason Statham fighting The Rock AND Vin Diesel. The franchise peak, at least until the next one.

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4) The Hateful Eight: I liked how everyone is actually, truly, totally hateful in a real awful, genuine way. I had a friend message me just disgusted by the Sam Jackson sequence involving the son of the old Confederate soldier and he was kinda right, it is a little homophobic and cruel. But that is the point! Up to that moment in the film, we have no reason to dislike Jackson’s character, but then there we are, confronted with the terrible ugliness. And it only gets worse.

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5) Creed: Rocky Balboa’s Philadelphia is a vivid and real place, established over 6 films spanning over 30 years. Creed inserts itself effortlessly into this world, knows the rhythms and the people and just exists, like a stunning slice of life piece as well as a boxing movie. This one plays in such a way that I could be convinced that these characters are actually out there, living their lives and having this human adventures right now. The training montage ending with the street bikes is an all timer.

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6) It Follows: The creepiness of this film is unmatched. Arguments about whether it follows it’s own rules seems like it is beside the point, since I am all in on the mood. The panning shots of nothing that might not be nothing but maybe they’re nothing and I’m just paranoid, that is the type of thing you can’t fake.

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7) The Martian: No, it’s true, this movie is hilarious.

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8) Knock Knock: McCarty and I love Keanu Reeves more than most people, maybe all people, besides his parents and close friends. But this one looked like an MRA fantasy come to life. And it kinda is! But it’s also Eli Roth’s best movie, with actual tension from frame one, through the “chess match” sequence, culminating in probably the best single scene of Keanu Reeves’ career. If you’re a Keanuhead, this is a must see.

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9) Blackhat: I recently showed Blackhat to my wife, and she kept saying “This is so Michael Mann.” And it is. Michael Mann has reached a point, probably since Miami Vice in 06, where he isn’t interested in anything except gleaming surfaces, serious men, and his take on “realism”. The behind the scenes feature on the Blu ray has actors talking about reams of backstory and multiple takes on neck stabs to make sure they’re done right. Mann is so concerned about the details because somebody better be.

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10) Unfriended: This movie is stunning. Creating tension from being unable to delete a .avi file? The unease of a blinking cursor? This movie does it. I go to the movies to see things I’ve never seen before, and I had never seen anything like this. We’ll be talking about Unfriended for a long time.

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11) Chi-raq: I think Spike Lee doesn’t have filter and he just goes for broke and it can be particularly polarizing. But this worked for me, as allegory and as a simple tone poem.

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12) The Diary of a Teenage Girl: This level of honesty and truth in film isn’t normally allowed so for most of this film it felt like a miracle. Obviously, everyone should see it.

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13) Bone Tomahawk: Kill of the year.

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14) Wild Card: Jason Statham plays a compulsive gambler and tough guy investigator that people know can be trusted to help them out in a jam. He can also kill a group of people with just a spoon. The big spoon kill finale is of course superb but the gambling breakdown sequence shows that Statham has more range than people give him credit for.

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15) Ex Machina: Oscar Isaac is a gift to cinema and he’s never been bad in anything. He literally elevates this whole movie to essential viewing.

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16) Mission Impossible Rogue Nation: LOOK AT THAT SCREEN SHOT!

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17) Kingsman: The Secret Service: Church sequence obviously, but Colin Firth needs extra notice for not slumming it up and actually giving a shit in this wacky comic book movie. But yeah, that church sequence fucked the game up.

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18) The Gift: The ending is so cruel and awful. Who knew you could still drop something like this in the summertime? Jason Bateman finally achieves his scumbag calling.

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19) What We Do In The Shadows: Werewolves not swearwolves, the hypnotized police officers finding safety violations, the lovable Stu. And other funny parts that are better just being experienced.

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20) Clouds of Sils Maria: Kristen Stewart is great in this, because she actually holds her own against Juliette Binoche. The Primal Scream “Vanishing Point” sequence is very visceral and true.

The Worst

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Jupiter Ascending: A folly on a scale rarely seen. Miscast and overwrought to the point of tedium. Gets pretty much everything wrong. Eddie Redmayne is one of the worst to ever do it. Of course he has an Oscar.

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Jurassic WorldPandering horseshit. Dull and derivative, probably the most pointless sequel ever made…

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Terminator Genisys: Except for this one. Tries to not only ripoff the original films but also retcon them out of of existence. Just another in the long list of crimes committed by Jai Courtney.

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The RevenantFor all of it’s flaws as an adventure tale: too boring, too clean looking, the overshadowing Leo torture narrative, the final shot of this film is what truly sinks it for me. Only a director like Iñárritu would indulge an actor’s ego like that. It’ll probably pay off too. A shame.

Future Film that Time Forgot

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We Are Your Friends: Zac Efron’s instantly dated and woe-begotten EDM film doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be, jumping from bro-down farce to romantic drama back around to message movie on Life Right Now, with a music making montage that doesn’t tell us much about how electronic music is really made. Somewhere there is an interminable 3 hour cut where Efron’s bro posse gets the full subplot they demand(but don’t need) and Wes Bentley’s alcoholic guru either gets help or a proper comeuppance. At least it has the decency to end with the characters basically back where they started, as failed actors, wanna be door men, and in Emily Ratajkowski’s case, late for school on the first day of class. Girl, you’re never gonna get that degree.

Best Music of 2015

January 14, 2016

2015 went in directions I never could have anticipated. Here is what I loved this year.

Best Albums of 2015

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1. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love

What a triumph. After an almost ten year hiatus, to return and be this great? Sleater-Kinney are one of the greatest bands to ever exist and No Cities is chokablock with burners. Corin Tucker still wails, Carrie Brownstein is still a guitar god, and Janet Weiss is still one of the greatest drummersalive. This album is so powerful and true, it crushes and makes my heart ache with joy. Album of the year, band of your life.

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2. HEALTH – Death Magic

Like being engulfed in a supernova but you can hear a tender voice whispering sweet nothings as the flames consume your body. Imagine the noise of a collapsing building restructured with a melody. The proper follow up “Die Slow” demanded.

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3. Madeon – Adventure

Dance album of the year. Finally someone makes the sequel to Discovery that Daft Punk couldn’t be bothered with. Adventure has about five peak moments and never lets up. My most listened to album of 2015.
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4. Carly Rae Jepsen – E•MO•TION

Jepsen is now two for two for great albums that were ignored by the general public. Like KissE•MO•TION is front to back pop bangers, impeccably produced and performed. Jepsen is over here making fucking albums, ALBUMS! and people don’t even care. Hope she never stops, “Run Away With Me” and “Making The Most of the Night” already classics.

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5. Capsule – Wave Runner

Yasutaka Nakata first came on my radar when I was advised by many a twitter denizen to listen to Perfume’s 2013 album Level3. That album sounds like being executed by a thousand lazer synths at once. It’s incredible but eventually overwhelming. Nakata produces for Perfume but Capsule is his main band and he has a long career of various pop and dance meldings and experimentation. Wave Runner is actually straight ahead dance pop for the most part, but it’s more aggressive than what I am used to hearing. Every song sounds like it was made for a space launch.

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6. Drake – If You’re Reading This Its Too Late

I keep thinking I don’t like Drake that much and then I listen to this repeatedly for a month.

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7. Daniel Johns – Talk

The surprise of the year was the r&b album from the former lead singer of Silverchair. Mostly midtempo, Talk isn’t going from some white guy lover man schtick, instead displaying a wounded vulnerability that Silverchair tended to overpower with it’s alt rock thud. Johns is a confident crooner, and the production is wonderfully varied and unique.

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8. dumblonde – Dumblonde

The production shimmers and it sounds like the vocals were chopped and filtered and sprinkled around the tracks like ornaments. Danity Kane is the worst thing that created the best things.

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9. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06

A double album without the feeling of being worn down by the length. Staples raps with fury and with a smirk and the beats are undeniable.

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10. Local H – Hey, Killer

Local H are one of my all time favorite bands. They are responsible for two of my all time favorite albums and their live show is without peer. Hey, Killer is a better than solid collection of crushers, peaking with “John The Baptist Blues”, which has one of those riffs that makes life worth living.

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11. Future – Dirty Sprite 2

Can a mumble and a gurgle be profound? I say yes. Future raps of opulence and excess overwhelmed by sadness. Is this guy ok? Someone check on Future!

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12. Janet Jackson – Unbreakable

One of the greatest to ever do it, still doing it. This is one of those front to back, bring a smile and bring a tear kinda albums.

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13. Girls’ Generation – Lion Heart

The accusing tone of “songs made by committee” holds less weight to me than say, a film made by committee. A great pop song can be written by someone alone, just flowing out of them as the muse hits. Or it can be made in the lab, tinkering so that the chorus is bigger and the verses are tighter and the whole package races out the door like a spaceship at lift off. That is what this album delivers, carefully crafted and molded pop/dance without a speck of dust or grit. In a way, it is perfect.

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14. Failure – The Heart is a Monster

My senior year of college I became a Ken Andrews obsessive after hearing the album Make Believe he released under the On moniker. I went back and got all his other shit, did an embarrassing interview with Andrews for my college radio station(the recording is in my basement somewhere, safe from us all), devoured his other solo and side project work (Year of the Rabbit is a used bin staple, but it rocks), and of course meeting other Ken Andrews fanatics in my travels. The uniting principle for all of us Andrewsheads is his first band Failure and their 1996 opus Fantastic Planet, one of those cult pieces that burrows deep inside a small audience and has them still talking about and obsessing some 20 years later. The Heart is a Monster is a direct sequel to FP and it ended up being even better than anyone could have hoped. For the hardcore Andrewsheads it is a fulfillment of long held hopes and dreams.

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15. Fall Out Boy – American Beauty/American Psycho

FOB’s strange pop comeback barrels on, and for every strange left turn decision that I have trouble reconciling (Big Sean on the last album, the Munster’s sample on this one), they still deliver some career best work(“Jetpack Blues”, “Fourth of July”) and make a song with SebastiAn (“American Beauty/American Psycho”) that sounds just a like a SebastiAn song. So, good. And the remix album for this was not half bad either.

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16. Empress Of – Me

This one reminded me of when Bjork made albums with beats and melodies you could dance to and play over and over again.

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17. Destroy This Place – Animal Rites

Not to discount the previous Destroy This Place albums, but this is the first one that sounds like a real, fully fleshed out Band. The influences are obvious but the tracks aren’t boneheaded, and if you thought the last Foo Fighters album was a dud this one picks up the slack. “No Apologies” is a particular triumph as it is one of the great closing tracks. Great closing tracks are so few and far between! These guys are on a roll.

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18. Dr. Dre – Compton

Dre didn’t owe us shit but he dropped this anyway. I guess there is a backlash to this album but it knocks and I didn’t think Dre was into knocking anything anymore.

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19. Neon Indian – VEGA INTL. Night School

This thing has a weird gurgle sound on the keyboard for the first half but the songs themselves are solid and the back half is all hits. Best thing Alan has done since “Parking Lot Nights”.

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20. Eagles of Death Metal – Zipper Down

My kneejerk response was too slight, but it has grown on me with repeated listens and the riffs are strong. I was also foolish in not realizing that “I Love You All The Time” is a new one for the canon.

 

Honorable Mentions

Grimes – Art Angels
John Carpenter- Lost Themes
Shamir – Ratchet
Jack Ü – Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü

 

Best Songs of 2015 

Cool For The Summer

 

 

  1. “Cool for the Summer” by Demi Lovato: “Cool for the Summer” was my most listened to song this past year. It is a perfect piece of pop design, with the kind of blow-out-the-speakers chorus that Max Martin has become the master of creating. Demi Lovato imbues the track with the obvious sexual fire but also a yearning humanity that I don’t get from someone like Katy Perry. Other artists perform, but Lovato owns this track. There are many ways to sell the “bodytype” line, Lovato made it legendary.
  2. “Back Together” by Robin Thicke featuring Nicki Minaj: Robin Thicke is the most hated man in pop music, and all he did was be kinda skeevy and have a drug problem. In comparison to Justin Bieber and R. Kelly, he’s practically a saint. So this comeback track failed to do just that, but it still stands a supreme piece of production and writing by, yup, Max Martin. My wife and I listen to this song a lot.
  3. “A New Wave” by Sleater-Kinney: This is the feeling of infinite possibilities, set to music.
  4. “Run Away With Me” by Carly Rae Jepsen: Jepsen bringing that sax fire. Bowie would be proud.
  5. “Cool On Fire” by Daniel Johns: The best groove on the album.
  6. “10 Bands” by Drake: Fuck it, let’s not even discuss it, man.
  7. “tender green life” by dumblonde: The vocals are pitched up almost to a chirp, and the coo over the chorus is inspired. The whole thing sounds like “You know what would be crazy? If we did THIS!” But 11 times.
  8. “John the Baptist Blues” by Local H: Monster riff milked for 6 glorious minutes. Rock n roll heaven.
  9. “L.A. LOOKS” by HEALTH: The closest HEALTH will get to being poppy, and the closest to a love song. “It’s not love but I still want you.”
  10. “Sign” by Girls’ Generation: On an album of pop perfection, this one is the most perfect.
  11. “Solid” by Ty Dolla $ign featuring Babyface: No drums! Just the guitar and that hook. When the notes go higher and then ring in unison, ohhhhhhhhh baby.
  12. “Keep Searchin'” by R. Kelly: R. Kelly is probably a sexual predator. That said, he still possesses one of the greatest voices on the planet. It’s tough. His new album is ok, but this bonus track is some wonderful throwback shit. Almost sounds like Michael Jackson near the finale. Oh, Michael was problematic too.
  13. “To Ü” by Jack Ü featuring AlunaGeorge: Best drop of the year.
  14. “Wolves” by Kate Pierson: Kate Pierson has a hall of fame voice. Her work in the B-52s is peerless. Her solo album is a fun jaunt, and this track is it’s peak.
  15. “All Day” by Kanye West featuring Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney: The definitive version is live with flame throwers, but the studio version is also fire.
  16. “B Boy” by Meek Mill featuring Big Sean and A$AP Ferg: What? Big Sean on a good song? 2015 was out of control. Best song that Meek Mill kept off his album.
  17. “Coffee” by Miguel: I thought the new Miguel album was a disappointment(Please no more California Songs) but “Coffee” was a strong single and closest to the sound I loved on his last album.
  18. “Right Here, Right Now” by Giorgio Moroder featuring Kylie Minogue: Moroder dropped the ball on his album but “Right Here” is a flames collaboration with Kylie, who tends to pull greatness from her producers. If the rest of album wasn’t a stinkfish I’d say make a whole project together.
  19. “Nightclub Amnesia” by Ratatat: Every Ratatat album has a song that makes you forget that Ratatat albums are largely boring filler.
  20. “Dreamin’ Boy” by CAPSULE: “Are you ready?”

Listen to the Spotify Playlist

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Music Journal, December 10th, 2015

December 10, 2015

 

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Confident by Demi Lovato

My beloved “Cool for the Summer” is one of the few bright moments on this surprisingly serious album. In fact, “Cool” is an outlier thematically, with just about every track branching from the title song’s empowerment message of confidence against naysayers and heartbreak. Lovato is coming from a real place, and I commend that, but by the time you get to the ode to her dead father* you’re going to be scrambling for something more upbeat, like say one her early albums. Great voice but this just isn’t much fun.

*Songs about Demi Lovato’s father are an expected feature on every album, like how every U2 album features a song about God.

 

Revival by Selena Gomez
Great production, terrible lyrics. Gomez has a nice husk to her voice even though she packs more groaner lines than I thought imaginable. Much of the time, Gomez sings the way Bjork talks, if you can imagine that. Selena Gomez might just have a really interesting, strange album in her just yet.

 

E•MO•TION by Carly Rae Jepsen

This one was a real grower, every listen getting better and better. It has more in common with 2012’s Kiss than anyone wants to admit. That album was a rock solid pop record, and this one is even better, though “I Really Like You” turned out to be a big whiff. “Run Away With Me” is an instant classic, “Boy Problems” sounds like Taylor Swift shade, the whole thing is a blast. A lot was made about working with supposed left field indie producers like Dev Hynes but this album doesn’t sound that different, production-wise, from other pop records. If anything, it sounds better than I expected considering that she didn’t work with Max Martin and his ilk. Saying you didn’t work with those people like it is some sort of badge of honor makes no sense. Those guys make great hits! But I digress, this album rules.

 

Big Grams by Big Grams 

Great for Phantogram’s career. Not for anyone else. Was going for chocolate + peanut butter, ended up with vinegar chips and vanilla ice cream.

 

I Changed A Lot by DJ Khaled

Come for the Future features but leave before the reggae dancehall track. These albums are consistent to a fault. By track ten it feels like the production is stomping on your face with a steel toe boot, leaving a “We The Best” imprint in your cheek.

 

As If by !!!

!!! are now eight years and three albums removed from their career peak, Myth Takes. That album sounded like a band opening their arms and letting in the world, while subsequent recordings Strange Weather, Isn’t It? and THR!!!ER have ended up sounding reserved and almost conservative. As If is no Myth Takes Part 2 but it is a step in the right direction. It struts harder, gets weirder, and seems just on the edge of really, truly losing it right as it closes. Don’t stop, you guys.

 

Purpose by Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber is an uninteresting vocal presence. On Purpose, Bieber sings nearly the entire album in a flat stage whisper and when he does aim for a high note, it ain’t much to tell your friends. The production is consistent with the Diplo/Skrillex/Major Lazer sound of the summer, repeated and remixed until it all starts to sound like the same chirpy bird sample has taken up residence in your ear canal.

The promo cycle for this album was all about redemption, but for most of Purpose Justin Bieber sounds unrepentant and passive aggressive. The first line of “Sorry” is “You gotta go and get / Angry at all of my honesty / You know I try but I don’t do too well with apologies”.  Way to put it all on us, Bieber. This woe is me theme pervades the album. On “I’ll Show You”, JB pulls the old poor little rich boy line. “Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing / When the pressure’s coming down like lightning / It’s like they want me to be perfect / When they don’t even know that I’m hurting”. Wow! The lack of self-awareness is about the only thing I can recommend about this album. Song after song of this shit. The gall!  When Justin Bieber isn’t apologizing while knocking bowls off the table he’s worried about the children of the world. I know this because he seriously, truthfully, I am not fucking kidding, starts a dance track(!) with the lyrics “What about the children?” I’m kinda in awe.

But seriously fuck this guy.

 

Get Weird by Little Mix

This is what kids in 3rd grade call “edgy”. Terrible album.

 

Bang 3, Pt. 2 by Chief Keef

Chief Keef is actually an incredibly consistent artist. Bang 3 was fire, this is fire, Chief Keef is forever on fire.

 

Unbreakable by Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson is a legend. Her career was sadly derailed by prudes, but the quality of the work never really dipped. Damita Jo is flames! Now with Unbreakable, Jackson delivers more wonderful songs, perhaps not as sexually driven as previous albums, but still undeniably personal. Working again with Jam & Lewis, Unbreakable is a front to back album, not a dud to be found. We are not worthy.

 

Vega INTL. Night School by Neon Indian

The first half of Vega INTL. Night School sounds like it was recorded underwater. The synths bloop and bleep like they’ve been submerged in goo and are trying their best to make a sound. I hated it on the first listen and it has grown on me but a version without the bloopy soaked effect would definitely sound better. The latter half of the album is pretty much fire, best thing Neon Indian has ever done, still not as good as the old Ghosthustler tracks and demos this guy started with, but that is my problem.

 

 

Jurassic World

June 22, 2015

Jurassic World

Jurassic World is another mediocre addition to a franchise that is mostly mediocre additions. The worst film in the franchise, Jurassic World doesn’t have any of the original cast, the action is serviceable at best, the sexual politics are abhorrent and retrograde, and the whole thing falls apart if you think about it at all. You literally cannot think about the simple events and actions that occur in Jurassic World without remarking that it is so stupid that it might actually be insulting. Should we be insulted? For all of the riffs and references that pack it’s running time, the filmmakers did not take any of the lessons on tension and release that the first Jurassic Park contained in spades. That is because Jurassic World is busy busy busy. So busy that it doesn’t have time to even be scary. Or have awe for dinosaurs. Characters and dinosaurs know how to do what they do and appear where they appear on the whim of the script, storytelling be damned. At one point someone says to the annoying little kid in the film, “Aren’t you supposed to be a genius?” Who called this kid a genius? His behavior indicates he’s a fucking moron, so I guess his genius moment was cut for time. Raptors are proven to be dangerous and untrainable, but then trainable, but also untrustworthy, but then loyal to the very end. So I guess raptors contain multitudes. Vincent D’Onofrio is a bad guy because he gets in arguments with Chris Pratt, who we know is a good guy because he treats raptors with respect. D’Onofrio’s bad guy plan doesn’t really make sense and at one point he stands on a ledge and looks at everyone being attacked by pterodactyls and smiles. Why does he smile? Nothing he has done indicates that he wants people to die. Does he smile because they needed cinematic shorthand to say “This guy is bad” and couldn’t actually write it into his actions or dialogue? That seems more likely. You may have heard that a minor character is viciously killed during the third act of the film. You guys, this is the most incredible overkill I have seen in a long time. This is the Jurassic Park version of Steven Seagal breaking a guy’s back, gouging out his eyes and throwing him down an elevator shaft. It is disgusting and vile and easily the best part of the movie.

There is one interesting aspect to Jurassic World and that is the strange behavior of the teenage lead character Zach. Zach is your typical dejected and angst filled teen who is being forced to leave his snowy home at Christmas and go to Jurassic World with his dumb brother. We meet him as his girlfriend says goodbye to him out in front of his house. It starts like a tender moment in the first wide shot but when the camera closes in on the actor’s faces you can see that the actress playing the girlfriend is smiling and happy while Zach looks bored and over it. Is he planning to break up with his girlfriend? Is he just a bad actor and unsure how to play the scene? Perhaps they shot the scene a couple of ways and then just fit together the “best” takes? The dad in the scene plays his line like he is breaking up two lovey dovey teens but Zach clearly gives no fucks and is ready to go. Later, Zach is shown briefly starring at a photo his girlfriend has sent of herself holding a sign that says “I Miss U!” Zach’s face doesn’t convey anything in regards to whether he misses her back. But! While waiting in line for the gyroscope ride, Zach makes eye contact with a group of teen girls. They look at Zach and smile and he regards them with confusion. Zach’s face isn’t its usual sullen sag but he seems like he is regarding these girls with a strange detached curiosity, not arousal or lust but something closer to analytical. It is at this moment that his little brother remarks, “You need to actually talk to them, not just stare.” Now, we have firmly established that Zach has a girlfriend back home. It could be he acted dejected around his girlfriend because she is the alpha in the relationship and essentially instigated their union and Zach isn’t sure how to break it off. Or, Zach is aware of his parent’s crumbling relationship and impending divorce (the divorce subplot is there to get the kids to Jurassic World and then it is dropped and never resolved) and he is wondering if only heartbreak awaits him as well. OR, my third theory, Zach is gay. Hear me out.

I have heard firsthand from many gay men that their first relationships in high school were with girls and that even in some cases they had sex with girls before realizing or fully facing their sexual preference for men. Zach has taken on a girlfriend in his cold, snowy midwestern town because that is what you do as a straight teenager. But he doesn’t have any particular feelings toward this girl and he is not sure he even wants to have any feelings for her. When she sends him photos saying how much she misses him, Zach can only reflect that the feeling isn’t mutual. When he sees the girls in line at the park, Zach looks at them hard, trying to will any sort of attraction or feeling for these girls and finds nothing. Yet, the first time Zach breaks from his mopey vibe (besides when his trying not to die while being pursued by dinosaurs) is when he meets Owen, played by Chris Pratt. Zach calls Owen “awesome”, and says he will follow this big, sweaty alpha anywhere he says to go. Of course, like all other subplots in Jurassic World, it is underwritten and never fully explained. I’m pretty sure he’s gay.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

May 2, 2015

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We are stuck in a perpetual middle. Never moving forward, always taking glimpses of what will be, and never savoring what simply is. Avengers: Age of Ultron follows up last year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier by providing incident without resolution because something else has to happen. Still. The end is the beginning. Again and again.

We can argue that the comic book films of the past failed to accurately capture the looks and names and powers of their comic book counterparts, but they managed to be complete works. There is something endearing about just making one movie with all the gusto of “This might be our only shot!” Now that the Marvel films are a self perpetuating success, they can function as an infinite string of incidents, forever building, teasing at a climax that might come someday. Yet, for all of their clues and easter eggs, these films are all made with little need for backstory. Age of Ultron gives little reference to past films beyond an Iron Man hissy fit and some mumbled asides between The Falcon and Captain America, but you’d never know that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been infiltrated by a secret Nazi sub group and it doesn’t even really matter. The end of The Winter Soldier had all of the Helicarriers destroyed or decommissioned and Nick Fury going into hiding. Yet here is Nick Fury, in a helicarrier, saying something about “it was in storage”.

Age of Ultron is in such a hurry to cram incident and character and charm and hints of what is to come that it never catches it’s breath, which is incredible since it’s a two and a half hour movie. The action never settles enough to give much beyond a brief “whoa” before we’re cutting to something else, because there is always something else. In the first five minutes the movie is already hinting at movies three or four years out. Movies that haven’t even been made. I don’t know if we’ve hit the nadir of special effects but everything here looked great yet fake at the same time. There isn’t a single “how did they do that?” moment because the answer is obviously “computers”. Furious 7 isn’t a paragon of reality either but it has it’s toe just slightly dipped in reality so when characters drive their cars off cliffs and out of planes and through buildings it still has an awe to it. Everything moves so fast in AoU that you can’t focus on anything anyway so there isn’t much to want to analyze. Sure, some of it was neat. I’m not a monster.

Moments that are placed for “charm” and “character” deserve the quotation marks because they feel like window dressing at this point. Tony Stark’s charm and smarm, Thor’s god mixing with mortals vibe, Captain America’s man out of time, these are all given their expected lip service but it is perfunctory and stale. Director Joss Whedon has mentioned numerous times in the press that he couldn’t do another one of these movies because he is exhausted, and I can feel that exhaustion. Every quip is labored, like Whedon is screaming “Who cares anymore?” When the characters take time away from conflict to have some conversations and regroup, the film comes to an abrupt halt so everyone can have over-before-they-started debates about what to do next. We know the Avengers aren’t going to give up and it’s frankly boring as shit to have everyone hem and haw around someone’s house. This movie didn’t need to be any longer and yet here we are watching Iron Man and Captain America chop fucking wood! Then Nick Fury appears from behind a pile of haystacks and I thought “Oh good, something might happen.” but Fury just has more speechifying to add to the pile. These scenes all play better than they should because this cast is stacked with A-List top notch talent, but seeing Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo together on screen just reminds you that you could just watch Zodiac again.

One of the big complaints that will forever plague Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is that it doesn’t have enough scenes(or perhaps any) of Superman rescuing people. Much ink and hand wringing was dealt out lamenting this fact, even though no one actually died because it’s a movie. Sure you could take it as a betrayal of the character, that Superman should be shown saving people. Marvel Studios is in no danger of this kind of backlash because Avengers: Age of Ultron has many many many scenes of people being evacuated. Onto flying evacuation pods, every fake life is spared. While these scenes are there to make the film feel “real” they are repetitive and frankly un-cinematic. It’s a pretty good bet that Snyder probably had some evacuation scenes in the Man of Steel script and he said, “That is some boring shit, cut it and let’s have more collapsing buildings.” No one told him no because Warner Brothers is out of their fucking minds.The first Iron Man felt audacious even if it’s audacity was an accident and has since been subsumed by the franchise, like Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow.  Iron Man 3 came closest to recapturing that spirit, and in the process made some comic fans very angry. Which is good! A film that gets the blood up! Age of Ultron is perfected to offend no one. But I digress. If you want to see people being loaded into vehicles to be flown to safety, Age of Ultron is your bag.

Avengers: Age of Ultron ends with a shrug, with characters leaving nonchalantly and new characters walking in immediately to take their place. The adventures continue but so what? Back to the perpetual middle.

The Academy Awards didn’t nominate The Raid 2

February 22, 2015

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Last year I found myself in the surprising position of having viewed most of the films nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards through my own free will, lured only by their marketing campaigns and my general interest. This year when the Academy dropped their nominations I hadn’t even seen half of their choices because the Academy is always fucking up. But I rallied and I watched every damn one of these movies. None is better than The Raid 2. Even the worst of these wasn’t as bad as Jupiter Ascending.

"I just took the most incredible nap."

“I just took the most incredible nap.”

Is Clint Eastwood lazy or incompetent? I ask this since I don’t know myself, and maybe someone who has worked on his films in the last ten years can educate me. American Sniper neither enraged me nor challenged me to think, and instead joined the long list of late era Clint Eastwood directing jobs where the camera just gets propped up in the corner and the acting is wooden and indifferent. Bradley Cooper is actually pretty good but he’s surrounded by a bunch of nothing. The action scenes have no rhythm or intensity and feel half speed. The supporting cast is Gran Torino level skilled, so you have scenes where a soldier learns one of his buddies was killed and he bellows “Fuck!” the same way you or I would when you forgot to buy pretzel bread at the store and have to use regular bread for your sandwiches for lunch all week. I’ve made some noise online about the fake baby in this movie and it fits with the laziness of everything else. There is a baby whine placed over every scene with the infant but it’s so haphazardly applied to the soundtrack that it only draws attention to this fake fake baby. Most importantly, Eastwood doesn’t even make the disgusting, rah rah America “God I love the military” movie that so many places have made this movie out to be. Cooper’s Chris Kyle is clearly tormented by the horrors of war and has some PTSD but he doesn’t at all seem excited to be killing anyone. Instead it just becomes a rotation of Kyle going war, coming back, going back to war, again and again. It’s like the second half of The Hurt Locker, which is the part that no one likes of The Hurt Locker. The best part of the whole movie is when we see that the enemy sniper who has been gunning down American soldiers spends his free time SPINNING BULLETS ON HIS KITCHEN TABLE. This movie couldn have used more of that bullshit.

So when it is seasonally appropriate Inarritu DOESN'T wear a scarf? This fucking guy.

So when it is seasonally appropriate Inarritu DOESN’T wear a scarf? This fucking guy.

I have been more than forthcoming with my thoughts on Birdman. It’s pretentious and masturbatory, it attacks low hanging fruit and strawmen, and it isn’t even funny. People have told me that it isn’t supposed to be funny but tell that to all the marketing that says it’s comedy. I will admit that after sitting through some of these other stinkers, at least Birdman is attempting to be visually compelling, even if that very attempt is another misfire.

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Boyhood is wonderful film. Beyond not feeling like a stunt it nails the way that our parents can mold us and influence us and try to make us good people but we still become who we are all on our own. I know my dad didn’t intend for me to write snarky shit about movies online but here we are.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel is another fine Wes Anderson production and his first best picture nomination because it references World War 2. It also has the saddest ending of an Anderson film, unless you count the sadness you feel after sitting through Darjeeling Limited and thinking “They literally threw the metaphor off the back of the train? Fuckkkkkk thissssss.”

See, he cracked Enigma but also he was gay. That's what this means. Heavy.

See, he cracked Enigma but also he was gay. That’s what this means. Heavy.

Listen, actors got tricks and skills and some guys can do a lot and some guys can do a couple things. But after sitting through The Imitation Game I dunno if Benedict Cumberbatch has that much to offer us as an actor. I’d love to see this guy not play an introverted genius with bad social skills. Imagine him playing a party planner who gets along with everyone? I’m gonna say it, BC needs to do a romantic comedy where him and Jennifer Garner don’t get along but keep meeting on transatlantic flights and arguing over who gets the aisle seat. The rest of The Imitation Game is standard biopic business, and considering it comes from the guy who did Headhunters, it is a total disappointment. It’s the kind of movie that social studies teachers will make the class watch on half days.

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I was genuinely moved by Selma. By focusing on one particular moment in history instead of trying to summarize a historical figure’s entire life, Selma manages to create nuance and suspense around a well known event in the cause of civil rights and make Martin Luther King Jr. a real guy and not some awards beacon. David Oyelowo’s performance is perfectly level, playing a man instead of icon. He felt like a real guy who was trying to figure all this shit out and genuinely worrying about failing. Also, despite having Common in a prominent role, this movie is great. First time for everything!

"Swing me while you can, Stephen!"

“Swing me while you can, Stephen!”

I’m going to repeat a joke I made about The Theory of Everything right after I watched it the other day: “We all know that Stephen Hawking is more than his disease. What this movie presupposes is, what if he isn’t?” Theory is as Oscarbaity as they come. Even more than The Imitation GameThe Theory of Everything will become a threat amongst tenth grade English teachers and their students. “If this class doesn’t behave I’ll make you sit through that Stephen Hawking movie.” “No, teacher! We promise to behave. Please give us a test!” Theory of Everything has two(!) scenes where we watch someone stock a bookstore window with copies of Stephen Hawking’s new book. What is the book about? Who cares? Stephen Hawking still has a working dick! That is the lesson of this movie as Hawking’s wife says “Look what we did” as their three children run around a fountain. I’ve never even heard of Stephen Hawking’s kids! I do know that he’s been on The Simpsons and Star Trek: The Next Generation which this movie never mentions because it is too busy being lame as fuck. Also Eddie Redmayne should be in movie jail for Jupiter Ascending, not up for awards. Get your head out of your ass, Academy.

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Whiplash is fire, is flames, is greatness. J.K. Simmons is a monster and his monstrousness consumes Miles Teller to the point where instead of being repulsed by the monster he wants to be him. Still the greatest finale of any of the nominees and the best delivery of “Fuck you.” in cinema for the year 2014.

It doesn’t matter who wins this year, just like it didn’t matter last year. SPRING BREAK FOREVERRRRRRRRRRRRRR.