Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Joanne by Lady Gaga

October 28, 2016

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When you consider all of the big popstars of today and the last twenty or thirty years, there is something to be said for staying power and impact in the zeitgeist. There are stars and then there are icons. Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson, embedded in the culture and hitless for around 20 years but still, their legacies are secure, and that was the case even before Prince and MJ passed away. But is Lady Gaga on that level? The way articles and she herself portrays her career, you might think so,  and yet Lady Gaga isn’t even ten years into a career that has only spawned one actual hit album, 2008’s The Fame. She buffered that with the EP The Fame Monster but when she finally dropped the actual follow up, Born This Way in 2011, she had to juke the stats with a promotion where the album sold for a dollar. Since that trick, the powers that be have changed the rules on how cheap you can sell your album and have it “count”. She got a number 1 single out of it with the title track, but neither that song or any of the other singles had any staying power in radio playlists after the year was up. If you hear a Gaga song at a wedding or social event in 2016, it is definitely something off The Fame. 2013’s Artpop was a genuine flop, not going platinum and without a number 1 single (“Applause” got to #4, “Do What You Want” to #13, “G.U.Y.” to #76) and accompanied by rumors of sabotage and general mismanagement. Gaga has spent the time since rehabilitating her career by doing “normal” things, like dressing in conventional clothes and singing duets with old people, appealing to the norms. Now we have Joanne, and it’s clear that Gaga didn’t realize that it isn’t the music we were shunning, it was her.

I actually really liked Artpop and Born This Way. They both indulged in maximalism which is Gaga’s best look, always adding too much and overwhelming the senses. The thing with an all sugar diet is that eventually you’re gonna crash, and that was Artpop, too over the top and indulgent for it’s own good. But also, I think the whole Lady Gaga thing, people were done with it. Gaga had taken all of us to the edge of her abilities, and the world said, “Ok, I get it. I’m gonna pass.” With Joanne, Lady Gaga is trying to woo back people with what she thinks they want, with something she isn’t good at, which is being chill.

Joanne is a frustrating listen, like a bronco that has been tranquilized. Certainly Lady Gaga means well with her Trayvon Martin ballad “Angel Down”, but it sounds like sad word salad with lines like “living in the age of social” which strive for poetic but sound more like fumbling profundity. But more so, when the bpms rise, the production is still muted and dull, with an embrace of guitars and “real” sounds over the “fake” sound of EDM drops. As if guitars are just hanging off trees, waiting to be plucked.

The reviews for Joanne are tepid but kind. No one wants to out and out slam her, and even the supposed pan from Jon Caramanica in the New York Times is actually more even handed than Gaga’s retort would suggest. And about that, why is Lady Gaga responding to reviewers? Never a good look, girl.

What we do have to look forward to is the next Gaga album in 2 or 3 years, where she drops some megawattage video with huge synths and screaming vocals and does interviews where she says “Yeah, Joanne was a weird moment. But I’m back, sitting with you, covered in leeches.”

Watchin’ those Oscar pics

February 27, 2016

Last year at the Oscars was unfortunate. You know why. It looks like my dog Iñárritu is looking to pull a twofer, which is about right. Some people fail up in different ways. But enough about Al for a moment. Let’s look at all the competition. It was tough to see everything nominated for best picture but I managed to rally this week. I wanted to watch all the acting nominated films but then I looked at what the films were and I thought “There is no reason to ever watch Trumbo.”

room

Wooo, Room. This could have gone so wrong but instead goes so very right. Brie Larsen is the favorite to win best actress and she has some showy moments and I see why she’s the favorite but I can’t call it a transcendent performance. It’s good, good work. It isn’t a transformation, which a lot of best actor and actress awards generally go towards (shouts to Charlize Theron), but it isn’t schmaltzy or cloying. Also important for Room, the kid is a good actor. He’s no kid-from-The Babadook but he’s good. Bad child actors will sink your whole operation. No shit, I thought the big twist of this movie would be a reveal that Jack is actually a girl but no, he just never cut his hair while in captivity. So no twist. Sorry twistheads. But why is William H. Macy in this thing? He shows up for a couple scenes, I’m betting on a juicy Bill Macy sequence and then he just never shows up again. Did they cut him for time? Maybe I’ve just been Macy deprived. Props to Sean Bridgers, who with Room and The Woman is one away from a kidnapper/creeper movie character hat trick. You’re a natural, Sean!

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Spotlight is drab to look at, but it’s not boring but also maybe it tells the wrong story? Like, I believe that what the Spotlight team did was great and important work, but the dramatization of their quest for the truth is kinda bland. They run into roadblocks and conflicts sure, but nothing cinematic. Any sense of exciting drama is culled from Mark Ruffalo going method tic crazy with his notepads and slouching style, as well as his decision to hold a telephone just like the real guy(so I assume, it isn’t a normal way I would hold a phone)! At one point Ruffalo’s character discovers some particularly damning evidence and he takes a taxi while calling his editor to give him the juicy deets. The filmmakers decide to just show us a what looks to be stock footage of a taxi ambling along through traffic, while Ruffalo’s voice over drops the knowledge. All this did was let me know they didn’t want to strap a camera to the side of a taxi and film Mark inside. Nitpicking, I know! But when the whole thing was over and Rachel McAdams watches her grandma sigh and read and sigh and read the whole messy expose I thought “Isn’t the story what happened to these people that were abused?” And it is! The story that Spotlight wrote is the actual interesting story! But seeming them write it is like, well, seeing someone write something. Like, literally watching them write.

martian

The Martian is a whole lot of fun. It’s like someone watched Gravity and thought, “Needs more jokes!” and that idea actually worked out. For the record, disco is great and this movie knows it. Later period Ridley Scott is kinda unpredictable, eh you guys? This, The Counselor, Exodus, Prometheus, guy seems like he’s just pointing at random, “That seems like a jolly good whatever.”  I hope Matt Damon wins best actor, leans over to shake Leo’s hand and whispers “I never actually went to Mars.”

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Brooklynnnnnnnnnnnn, stand up! Nah, it’s not really that interesting. A couple years ago James Gray made The Immigrant, starring Marion Cotillard (Oscar winner and nominee), Joaquin Phoenix (multiple nominee) and Jeremy Renner (he was nominated for The Fucking Town, son!) The Immigrant is a great film, but for a long time I could only be told this, because it’s release had been buried and/or pushed back. When it finally got released it played one theater in town for a week, and it was the shitty Birmingham 8 where old people talk through the whole thing and drop entire pockets of change on the ground during the quiet parts. After I saw it, I thought it’s quality was pretty undeniable and that the Academy Awards would latch onto it’s sad but honest story and performances and give it, if not a win, at least a nomination. But it was ignored there as well, and maybe the fix was in, because Brooklyn is basically the Sesame Street version of The Immigrant. Where in The Immigrant countless horrors and setbacks plague Cotillard’s character as she attempts to enter the country and then make a life for herself, being forced into a burlesque show and prostitution, Saoirse Ronan’s Eilis in Brooklyn faces the minor inconveniences of bitchy roommates and being in love with someone who adores baseball. What little conflict this movie presents is so quickly brushed away that the whole thing seems like an overlong trifle. Maybe I shouldn’t even bring up The Immigrant but that movie felt like a true expression by an artist. Brooklyn might as well be a painting in a dentist’s office.

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The Big Short is bleak. Incredibly bleak. Popping along like a comedy with fourth wall breaking and zippy dialogue it might even be misconstrued as a comedy but the second half is so dire and hopeless that I’m surprised they didn’t just suck all of the color out of the images. But I liked it! It’s great! This is the kind of Steve Carell dramatic performance that I can get behind, just all screaming and pissy. When Gosling describes his angry face as “the bad guy in Dune” I wanted to applaud. Christian Bale is doing his weirdo ugly thing here: glass eye, weird teeth, bad hair, no social skills. In typical Bale fashion it’s pretty lived in, but by it’s nature he wasn’t my favorite character(I did like when he cranked Mastodon, that was great). The Big Short also works as a corrective to all my problems with Spotlight. Here is an event I am familiar with, presented from an interesting angle, well acted, but with cinematic style and flavor. We’re making movies, baby! Live it up!

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Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest directors of all time. This is just a fact. Bridge of Spies is one of the late career films that people instantly underrate because it isn’t a big special effects picture and because it has a wonderful script. At least, these are the only reasons I can figure that people would say Bridge of Spies is a “minor work”. So yeah, minor work Spielberg gets a best picture nomination but no director because Tom Hanks didn’t actually freeze in Berlin. This is top level Hanks here. The plane crash sequence! And this script! It’s so great! Of course it’s co-written by the Coen Brothers! I really loved this movie, and it deserves to be seen by everyone forever.

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What is left to say about The Revenant? Obviously it stinks and sucks, but why is it also the favorite to win all the Oscars? I think the reasons it stinks and sucks are also the reasons it will win. There is a solid premise here. A man left for dead comes back for vengeance? Great premise! Fight against the elements? Getting hotter! But it is how the movie is about these things that sinks it. Iñárritu can’t let a single image pass without reminding you that he was there too. So the grit and grime that this kind of picture needs is removed for admittedly beautiful pans and technically impressive one takes that are smooth when they should be the complete opposite. The script is abysmal, with no effort done to make anyone a real, three dimensional character. Tom Hardy comes closest, but that’s because he’s the only actor performing. Leonardo Dicaprio is a really good actor who I have loved in many many films and who I loathed for every second of screen time. Who is his Hugh Glass really? We never spend enough time with him to get a sense of what type of guy he really is, and the flashbacks are pseudo artful backstory filler that signify nothing. Tom Hardy’s character is right about him too! Hugh Glass definitely lead to the slaughter at the opening, his going off provoked the bear, and he was definitely slowing them down. I listened to a podcast where a couple guys enthused at length about The Revenant, with one guy exclaiming “This actually happened!” over and over again. Having read up on the story this is based on, they actually took a might be bullshit survival story and made it worse. There is no dead son, he doesn’t kill the guys when he finds them, and there is no rape scene. They added all that! They sat down and said “This story of survival needs only female characters that are either dead or a raped. Ok, print it out. Lets get some sandwiches.”  Still, Birdman is worse.

mad max

Mad Max Fury Road is too good for the Oscars. Straight up. It either wins everything it is nominated for or it shouldn’t have been nominated at all. I’ve watched it twice, and both times it felt like a miracle. Furiousa’s “Remember me” is an all time, bad ass hall of fame ownage moment. Hope they include that in the clip package.

 

 

Sicario

October 4, 2015

Sicario

(spoilers)

Sicario is some beautiful bullshit. Sumptuous cinematography abounds and yet I cannot glean the point of this film beyond a simple display of badass moments. There is a view taken by quite a few critics that Sicario is a blunt presentation of the marginalization of women and minorities involving issues, in this case the drug war. And it is, sure, but it is not much of a critique. Emily Blunt’s character Kate Mercer is set up as our audience surrogate but then pushed out and left standing on the sidelines at every moment. Literally every moment! Kate is devoid of agency every step of the way and yet she keeps coming back because the screenplay demands it. When the film shifts focus in the late third and follows Alejandro (Benecio Del Toro) on his one man plantation raid, Sicario has fully abandoned any sense of lesson or sly allegory and has decided to just be “fucking badass”. Showing us unrelated scenes of a random corrupt cop only to quickly dispatch him feels like a hollow afterthought. Do we really get the corruption and wrongheadedness of the operation? Sorta, but the film doesn’t even add up, if you consider that everything that has happened was done by the government for Alejandro because, why? They owed him a favor? The man-hours and effort involved does not seem worth it. Maybe that is the point. But Kate pointing her gun off the balcony feels like a weak feint at meaning.

Music, September 2015

October 3, 2015

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What a Time To Be Alive by Drake & Future

Future is on a roll. Drake is on a roll. This album is just coasting but it doesn’t feel halfassed. It doesn’t sound like Drake and Future collaborated on themes but the beats are good to great across the board and “Big Rings” is fire. Drake is referring to this and If You’re Reading This Its Too Late as mixtapes and not official albums, citing (paraphrasing)”a lack of cohesion and quality” that his regular albums supposedly display. I think they’re about equal, and neither of these recordings have nearly as much filler as Take Care.

Every Open Eye by Chvrches

Better than their first one. Still can’t figure out why they let that guy sing at all. His tracks always sound like a favor and a chore. Unless this guy has shit on you, keep him off the mic! A little too workmanlike at times but these guys are solid.

Rodeo by Travi$ Scott

Too long and flames. Sometimes you are bored but then it heats up and you’re chanting “Travis! Travis!” and you have to find a car to flip. Two stars but also five stars.

Rub by Peaches

I liked I Feel Cream way more. This has a consistent throbbing sound throughout but not enough variation in the beats. Great lyrics though about chicks with dicks.

Music Complete by New Order

Brandon Flowers tries to ruin things but he can’t totally undermine this operation and while most of the songs need an editor, it’s more of a too much of a good thing problem. New Order doesn’t owe us anything so every album is a gift.

Fetty Wap by Fetty Wap

Long album. Every song sounds the same, which is good for business but not for me. I wish him well.

Caracal by Disclosure

I thought Settle was a chore to get through, so Caracal wins just by being more benign. Disclosure have no sense of adventure so there are no surprises, just rehashes of sounds and melodies done better by others. The footwork track “Holding On” might be the laziest song of the year. Also all of the vocal guests are rendered featureless, so money wasted there. Disclosure makes music that sounds like they couldn’t wait to get it done and do anything else.

Zipper Down by Eagles of Death Metal

Love these guys forever, but considering the seven year gap between albums, I was expecting more. Fun but noticeably slight, with 11 tracks consisting of one cover, one interlude, and the lead single a re-recording of a song from the Jesse Hughes solo album. However it does rock, which is a rarity these days. Better than the last Queens album.

Dumblonde by dumblonde

Is Danity Kane the worst thing to ever result in great things? Dawn Richard solo albums, Diddy/Dirty Money, and now dumblonde? Wow, thank you Danity Kane. Adventurous dance-pop production, the vocals often reduced to sound effects or other production trickery, I expect this kind of thing from a J-Pop artist, but not the American Pop Music Industrial Complex. They’re touring tiny clubs right now but they should be ruling the world. “Tender Green Life” one of the best songs of the year.

Photograph by Dirty Vegas

I thought Dirty Vegas would go after that Calvin Harris money after 2011’s surprising Electric Love but they seem to be after the indie set instead. Simple sounds for small rooms. I prefer the big dance moments, which Photograph is lacking.

Black Dollar by Rick Ross

Best thing he’s done since Rich Forever. Still sounds out of breath, but that’s just my personal issue. If you love Ross he is ready to love you back.

HITNRUN Phase One by Prince

This album stinks. Bad songs, bad production, like someone’s dad wearing skinny jeans to a Lady Gaga concert.

Beauty Behind the Madness by The Weeknd

Come for “Can’t Feel My Face” and then quickly leave. Everything else is a wet slog.

Compton by Dr. Dre

There is already a backlast but it sounds great and it fucking knocks. Much of this is the textbook definition of “fire”. We waited a long time and this delivers, and in such big quantities.

Permanence by No Devotion

Much of this sounds like The Guest Soundtrack with more riffs. Pretty great, tell your friends.

The Best Music of 2009: Singles

January 21, 2010

It’s my birthday today which means I can do whatever I want. Look it up, it’s the Law. Keeping within the rules of law, I’ve decided to extend my look back at the year that was, 2009 if you don’t remember. Since we’ve already focused on the best albums, let’s focus on single tracks, specifically those not on the best albums. That would be redundant.

Song of the Year: “Gangsta Luv” by Snoop Dogg featuring The-Dream

The-Dream’s hook and chorus on this track is straight butter. I want to build a house there for parties and get togethers. This song isn’t really gangsta at all, except for when Snoop comments on “the butt”. Another impressive addition to the Tricky Stewart/The-Dream production resume (“Single Ladies”, “Umbrella”), “Gangsta Luv” is the sort of party anthem I live for. For additional party jamming, see The-Dream’s “Rocking That Shit“.

Bait and Switch of the Year: “Die Slow” by HEALTH

“Die Slow” was the first single of Get Color, HEALTH’s second record. The band had just come off a stint opening for Nine Inch Nails and the tease before release was that HEALTH were getting ready to go big. “Die Slow” appeared to make these rumors truth with a wicked riff that was almost catchy. Also, it was fucking awesome. It still thrashed like HEALTH is known to, but it sounded like a Song. Cut to the release of Get Color last September, and we’re greeted by the accompanying tracks of noise and thrashing, but not much in the area of songs. While the rest of the record sank, “Die Slow” still rocked faces.

Dance Track to Make Your Floor Ignite: “Beep My Beep” by Addeboy vs Cliff

The stylistic decision to use intentional censoring to make something dirtier is nothing new. Addeboy and Cliff use the bleeps at the chorus to make the song as sick as you want it to be, while also providing the most energetic dance beats of the year. As a stunt it works perfectly and it can never be done again, but at least someone did it right.

Too Catchy to Deny: “I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week” by Mandy Moore

I listened to this song over and over again. For a few weeks I couldn’t get enough of it. The simple keyboard line, Moore’s sorta angry delivery, it hit all my sweet spots. I also like how it sounds like a weird unplugged version of your standard pop song, but not overproduced to hell. Sorry Lady Gaga.

Shoulda Been a Hit: “Why R U” by Amerie

Amerie’s last record, Because I Love It never received a stateside release, unfortunate for a such a good album. “Why R U” signaled Amerie’s proper return to U.S. store shelves and had all the gusto and sass that made her last record such a favorite. That it didn’t catch on with the larger listening public is both a mystery and a shame.

Dude Can Write A Hook: “Ready For The Weekend” by Calvin Harris

Calvin Harris is a better producer than he is a singer and performer. His hazy line readings never appear very sincere, and when he does try to emote it can be pretty embarrassing. But this guy and beats? Gedouttahere. “Ready For The Weekend” starts with a plinky piano line and the expected Harris lumpy lyrics before exploding in its chorus. Really, it reminds me of that really good Freemason’s album from a few years back that was just gay anthems for 12 songs in a row. Calvin’s song isn’t that “to the windows/to the walls” but maybe in a couple years. I just read on Twitter he wrote a song with Kylie and Jake Shears. Kid is on the right track.

Forever The Kings: “Raindrops” by Basement Jaxx

So Scars wasn’t exactly a return to form, we still got “Raindrops” out of the deal. Basement Jaxx are responsible for some of the most jawdropping dance tracks of my lifetime(“Good Luck”, “Romeo”, “Lucky Star”, “Plug It In”) and “Raindrops” is another worthy addition to the canon. All of Basement Jaxx’s best tracks contain some sort of flip your wig moment, usually at the chorus, but with these guys you never know. “Raindrops” goes euphoric for its big moment and never comes back down.

Real Talk: “Echo” by R. Kelly, “Pregnant” by R.Kelly

Michelangelo Matos recently penned a list of Ten Unfortunate Developments of the ’00s. One of those developments was white R. Kelly fans who found Mr. Kelly as more of a source for ironic amusement than actually liking him for his music. I guess I’m one of those people, but looking over his discography I’m not really sure there is any other way to listen to him. Dude is crazy and it is hilarious. I’ve heard “regular” contemporary r&b. Boring. But I’ll listen to anything R. Kelly does at least once, because it might be a song that also doubles as voicemail message. Or a song about doing two chicks at the same time. In the case of “Echo”,  Kells yodels and makes it sound like the most natural thing in the world, while on “Pregnant” he opens the song with the line “Girl you make me wanna get you pregnant”. Love it. That Kelly then invites a couple other crooners on to also opine on getting someone pregnant just ups the crazy hilarity. If liking crazy R. Kelly is a crime then send me to jail.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: “Kiss of Life” by Friendly Fires

Friendly Fires had the best album of 2008. True story, you can look it up. This track just proves that album was no fluke, and that not only will Friendly Fires continue to bring it, but they’ll bring it while doing something new.

Anthem of a Generation: “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” by Das Racist & Wallpaper

Stupid catchy. Catchy and stupid. I think someone somewhere described this song as the Sideshow Bob Rake Sequence but in song form. Perfect.

Two Great Tastes Taste Great Together: “Anyway” by Duck Sauce

Armand Van Helden and A-Trak got together to make some tracks. This was the first one out the gate. These guys need to hang out all the time. Which according to A-Trak’s Twitter account they actually do. When my friends and I hang out we just bullshit and watch movies.

Comeback of the Year: “I Know I’m A King” – Lo Fidelity Allstars

Nobody really noticed but Lo Fidelity Allstars came back with a really good album last year. “I Know I’m A King” is Lo Fi at their funky best and it would be a shame if I were the only one who heard it.

BEATS BEATS BEATS: Every LMFAO remix- “Paranoid”, “Let’s Get Crazy”, “Love Lockdown”, “Shooting Star”

Speechless.

Dipping the Wick

July 30, 2009

Hi, my name is Lorin. Welcome to my new blog, Bad Guys Win.  I want to thank Justin Muschong for helping name this blog. The man used to be shit for thinking of titles, and then he drops solid gold right in my lap. Thanks, J. I had been trying to develop a mission statement for this blog, and Justin’s title perfectly suits it. Despite what film and television tell us, the bad guys usually win, and I aim to take the kind of sarcasm and cynicism that rises from that viewpoint and use it to examine the aspects of our culture that fascinate, thrill, and infuriate me. You know, like any other blog. Sticking out of the morass is tough enough in real life, let alone on the interweb. So we’ll see how this goes. I’m a pretty optimistic guy.

(Author’s note: All entries dated before July 30th 2009 were imported from a now deleted Vox blog. So you know why the format is fucked the fuck up.)

Public Enemies: A Review

July 16, 2009

Michael Mann seems to be at odds with what a movie is supposed to do. Throughout his filmography, one can find numerous instances of choosing the least entertaining aspect of a subject as his main focus and shoving it at the viewer saying, "This is real fucking life! Deal with it." It happened in Ali, it happened Miami Vice, and it happens rather egregiously in Public Enemies. I'm the last person to begrudge anyone of attempting to throw some realism into their films, but there is real, and then there is dull. And Public Enemies is real dull. 

I went into Public Enemies thinking myself a pretty hardcore Mann apologist, with an unabashed love of Miami Vice and a great enthusiasm for The Insider, which I would easily slot as a Great Film. But walking out, all I could think about was all of the criticisms that people have leveled against those films, and how they perfectly apply to Public Enemies. Michael Mann loves to tell stories about professionals placed in unprofessional circumstances and see how they handle it. Johnny Depp's Dillinger is presented as a professional of sorts, but his plight isn't approached in a way to make me care. He's slick, but he's not that slick. That about sums Dillinger up, and that's too bad. Perhaps after hamming it up for three years at Jack Sparrow, Depp wanted to just chill. The entire film is about the downfall of this man, the steps towards his death, and he plays it pretty obliviously. Some scenes appear to exist without cognizant knowledge of their predecessors, so Dillinger is cautious one moment, flippant the next, like he woke up the next morning and thought it was all a bad dream. 
Public Enemies also lacks a sense of place. I know it takes place during the Depression, but besides some brief lip service, there isn't any indication of what type of place America is at the time, and more importantly, what Dillinger means to the people. The film makes repeated mentions to Dillinger's folk hero status, but basically that's it. Someone says he's a folk hero, but I never got a sense of what type of notorious celebrity John Dillinger was. This just adds to an overwhelming case of "Who cares?" Dillinger is an inspiration to people we never meet in an era not properly portrayed. Roger Ebert, in a review much kinder than this one, makes mention to some of Michael Mann's detail choices. 

Mann redressed Lincoln Avenue on either side of the Biograph Theater, and laid streetcar tracks; I live a few blocks away, and walked over to marvel at the detail. I saw more than you will; unlike some directors, he doesn't indulge in beauty shots to show off the art direction. It's just there.

I don't know if I needed beauty shots, but perhaps a few more details to explain and illustrate this era. Which leads me to this films biggest problem; it looks and sounds like shit. Michael Mann is big proponent of filming with digital cameras, and up to this film, I was a big fan. His use of digital on Miami Vice and Collateral is sharp and clear, and the sound work on both is top notch. Not the case with Public Enemies. Visually, the film often looks amateurish, with visible makeup on the actors and Depp's knuckle tattoo's plainly visible in many scenes. But also the action takes a hit, with sequences deflated because of an apparent defiant need to "show it like it happened" that tends to only deflate thrills, which movies I've heard are supposed to have. The sound is atrocious, with dialog lost and garbled amongst random music stabs that sound like someone is still choosing music cues. Or sometimes you just can't understand what people are saying. I thought it might have been just me with these sound issues, but Justin experienced the same thing when he saw it. 

Speaking of Mann's decision to deflate thrills, I chalked this up to a slavish devotion to fact which, while it's tough to enjoy, I can respect. Hey, if that's how it went down, that's how it went down. But reading up afterward, I found that much of the film is fabricated and the timeline rearranged, which throws that entire rational out the window. By all accounts, the scripts historical changes were done for cinematic reasons, but they don't work anyway. If anything, they reveal the Dillinger story to in fact be even less exciting than presented, which questions why it was even made to begin with. 
The few bright spots are when the film decides to have a little fun; a scene where Dillinger jokes and bates the press, a tense escape for a military guarded jail, or any scene with Billy Crudup as J. Edgar Hoover. Crudup's performance is a fine one, evoking not just a person but also a sense of the time period that person existed in, with his posture and way of talking. Johnny Depp could be just about anybody when he plays Dillinger, while Christian Bale is essentially a non-entity, with a performance exactly 180 degrees from his overheated John Conner performance in Terminator: Salvation. Not a good look. Marion Cotillard can't maintain an American accent, which is too bad since her character is half Native American. Oh well, she looks nice I guess. 
Michael Mann is capable of making entertaining films, but with Public Enemies he indulges in all his worst tendencies, leaving us with a rather bland film that delivers some faint traces of people I can only assume were much deeper. 

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In the future we are dead! WE ARE ALL DEAD!

May 24, 2009

There is no getting around what a turd Terminator: Salvation is. Dismissing the camp and fun of the previous two Terminator installments, we finally see the post Judgement Day landscape of the world, and lo it is unoriginal and scraped together from other, better films. Terminator: Salvation follows in the grand tradition of the Star War’s prequels of supposedly giving fanboy’s what they want in exchange for all the reason’s anyone liked the franchise to begin with. Y’know what everyone loved about those Terminator movies? Arnold Schwarzenegger. Truth bomb.

Along with Arnie, people loved the dynamic of the boy and his robot buddy taking on another robot that just….won’t…fucking….die. Claire Danes even has a great bit in T3 where she says as much. About a robot that won’t fucking die. And that it won’t. Terminator: Salvation gives us the much ballyhooed dark future and fuck it. Let em all die. What’s the point? Everything is dirty and dusty and no one smiles. There is no culture, because they spend every waking moment fighting fucking robots that want to kill them except when they don’t because this movie is fucking dumb. Everyone hates on the Matrix sequels but at least those characters had a community and a society and culture(remember the rave?). Everyone pretty much hated those scenes, but they actually justified all the fighting and sacrifice the characters were making as they evaded machines and tried to defeat the Matrix. If these people are just fighting to live in this hellish landscape, then what’s the point? The Matrix, which Terminator: Salvation so wishes it was, presented a full scenario where the A.I. uprising makes sense, where their use of humans as batteries is a neat development that actually makes some sense. Why is SkyNet trying to kill all the humans? Cause fuck ’em, that’s why. Except when they’re capturing them and putting them in camps, because nothing says Summer Time like Holocaust references. Totally Earned.

Terminator: Salvation hasn’t a single interesting character to speak of. This is thanks to it’s overreliance on action sequences and a script rewritten so many times by so many different scribes that all that’s left is cliches. Sample dialogue: “Everyone get’s a second chance”, “Hold on!” and of course, “Come with me if you want to live”, which of course someone has to say, it’s a Terminator movie. One character even utters “I’ll be back”, but it’s the first time it’s uttered and isn’t a joke. Remember how it came to be such an iconic line? Let me refresh your memory:


See what happened there? Hilarious! Totally didn’t see that coming, because good writing and directing. Terminator: Salvation doesn’t have time for jokes, because “WE ARE ALL DEAD!”(Terminator: Salvation‘s
idea of a catchphrase). John Connor is a humorless choad who totally believes his own press and would probably kill himself if he didn’t think it would make SkyNet happy because SkyNet is like that bitch in high school who always wins. What am I trying to say? Terminator: Salvation is completely missing the point of it’s own franchise, which was built on ideas of time travel, destiny and our own uncertain futures, not what it means to be a robot man. Also, T2 and T3 were kinda campy and fun. Terminator: Salvation spends an inordinate amount of time with Marcus Wright, a guy who thinks he’s a man out of time but is actually a Terminator(spoiler that was spoiled in the trailers). This might have actually meant something, but the movie doesn’t really care that much, because Giant Robots! Also, the actor portraying Marcus, Sam Worthington, isn’t what one would call a presence. He also can’t keep his Austrailian accent in check. A star is not born, kids.


Touching back on the fanboy wants and needs, I read a review of Terminator: Salvation at CHUD.com that makes a bunch of concessions for the film, with numerous mentions to things that were changed and cut in development and editing, and includes this sentence
:

“And despite initial misgivings, I loved the MotoTerminators who eject from the shins of the giant robot.”


Who cares if these are robot noses that shoot out robot boogers if there isn’t an interesting story and characters? All the action sequences in the world don’t mean a goddamn thing if they don’t have some sort impact or relationship with characters we care about. Just calling some character Kyle Reece and then blowing up a building do not belie the foundation of a character. According to the IMDB, Anton Yelchin’s Kyle Reece wears the same type of Nike’s as Michael Biehn in the original Terminator film, and he also carries a shotgun, just like Reece does in T1. Who cares? These are the wrong details. The filmmakers are so eager to reference the other movies but ignoring anything beyond surface images. Kyle Reece in Terminator: Salvation could be anybody and I don’t care about him. John Connor runs around saying Reece is important and that appears to be enough.

From the CHUD.com review:


“The other character who fascinated me was Blair, played by Moon
Bloodgood. I think Bloodgood is an interesting actress – for one thing
she’s a grown up, with all of the confidence and sexuality that denotes
– and while her biggest moments got left on the cutting room floor
(this film was at least partially gutted in editing), her character arc
intrigues. She’s willing to betray her own people for… love? Justice?
The movie never quite comes down on an answer, which is a problem, but
she’s the character whose next steps I’m most interested in following.”


The writer here is doing plenty of projecting. Yeah, girl is hot, but aren’t we giving bad writing too much credit here? Why did the hot chick fighter pilot betray her people to help a supposedly kind Terminator escape? Because Terminator: Salvation is a badly written movie, that’s why. The CHUD.com review runs back and forth talking about how bad the film is but cutting it so much slack with inside baseball references to the writer’s strike and early drafts. Don’t matter, nerds. You don’t owe this movie anything, and it certainly doesn’t give a shit about you. I’m getting off topic here, but check out this gem:


“Bale is welcome to shoot as many scenes of him Bat-voicing
orders into a walkie-talkie or headset as he cares to. That’s where
Connor belongs now. He’s set the events in motion, and now it’d be
great to sit back and watch Kyle Reese wield his newly acquired stripes
as a badass field agent or see where Moon Bloodgood’s character finds
her way in this resistance with the distrust she’s sown. Maybe McG can
catch up with some normal types like the kindly old lady who briefly
gives refuge to Reese and Marcus. Introduce a new resistance fighter or
two. Whatever. Just keep Bale to the margins of the story even if he
gets a lot of screentime.”


They’re talking about the next movie! What? You want another one? And you want these thinly sketched “characters” to run around and do more bullshit? At this point I guess we’re just dealing with people who love
the “mythology” of the Terminator series, which is not the best part of this franchise. You don’t give sequels to non characters. You know who deserves another movie? The T-1000. That dude was incredible. And Robert Patrick is absolutely available.

Great films are built around interesting characters first. Hoping that Moon Bloodgood’s character might be interesting(she’s not!) and that Kyle Reece might also say something of worth(probably not!) is
irrelevant. You might remember that Star Trek movie from a few weeks ago. It was really entertaining with interesting characters being placed in extreme circumstances that test them as people. When it was over I wanted another Star Trek movie right then and there.
Terminator: Salvation ends with a note of fake uplift promising nothing but more misery and gritted teeth. Which CHUD.com and it’s readers can’t wait for and are already hard at work on their slash fiction. But I guess we’re two completely different audiences. One who wants well written characters and story, and another who wants to make sure John Connor rides a motorcycle at some point. Because y’know the motorcycle in T2? So important, yo.


I got completely off topic there, but that’s what happens when you have passion. A passion for a good story told well about interesting characters doing interesting things. Terminator: Salvation is about some fucking jerk who fights robots who wear bandannas.

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Asher Roth. The guy kinda sucks.

April 27, 2009

For all the shit that's he's put out in the last few years, not to mention recently, Eminem used to be pretty good. I recall more than a few songs on his first three albums that were downright funny and dare I say, great. Also, and perhaps more importantly, Em was very funny when he wanted to be. I remember a time when Eminem would drop a song that would have you and your friends screaming and laughing, shocked by the audacity of the lines he was spitting, and the way he was saying them. Currently, he's dropping some hideous comeback crap, chock full of dated references and if the new leaked track is to be believed, sad horrorcore throwbacks. Which brings me to Asher Roth, the current new fresh kid to ape and take advantage of the Eminem style. You might have heard his terrible "I Love College" song. What is remarkable about this guy is that he has all these Eminem comparison's without actually having any of Eminem's most important characteristics, humor, self awareness, and ability.

Asher Roth is a bad rapper. Slow and clunky, the lines in "I Love College" flow like a broken conveyer belt at Fed Ex. Lines don't necessarily rhyme, and it's all completely witless. Which I guess is fine for an attention getting, audience pandering first single. To make sure I was justified in disliking this guy, I sat down with his album, Asleep In The Bread Aisle. Woof, my friends, woof. Asher Roth hasn't a thing to say. While much has been made of his middle class upbringing, his lack of personal strife and conflict is both boring and offputing. "Bad Day" sounds like a bad comedian riffing(and whiffing) about riding coach in a plane, with the HI-larious punchline, "I forgot my iPod." Certainly all in jest, but also not that funny. If this were just one jokey song amongst some hard hitting material, I'd shut up right now and lay praise and hosannas. But it's just one of many.

 "Lark In A Go-Kart" is a bad Family Guy episode in lyrical form, with as many pop culture references as Roth can spit at a time, which isn't that many, since he's such a slow rapper. Listening to Asleep In The Bread Aisle, I felt a little bad for anyone going to college who will most likely be subjected to this relentlessly during their freshman year. My freshman year, I had to contend with the first Nelly album and Lil Kim's "How Many Licks?". Yes, I lucked out. "Ride Wit Me" is actually pretty great. Asher Roth should be so lucky to make anything as catchy and fun as "Ride Wit Me" or anything on Eminem's most acclaimed discs.

The laziness is the most striking aspect of Roth. At one point on Asleep… Roth devotes an entire track to defending himself against Eminem comparisons. You wish, man! I should put out a terrible record and devote a track to telling everybody to stop comparing me to Jay-Z. What do I have in comparison to Jay-Z? About the same amount of things  Asher Roth does with Eminem. On Eminem's first album he killed his wife and disposed of the body with his kid! Em convinced Dr. Dre to shoot a guy in the face. Asher Roth rides around stoned and meets a girl who "just wants to dance." Asher Roth wants to Pacino to Brando's Godfather, but he's more AJ Soprano to Gandolfini's Tony. A young imitator with all the chances and none of the ability.

The line being thrown around is that when Roth's low sales are announced next week, it won't be because people heard the album sucked, it'll be because it "undershipped", which must be the "dog ate my homework" for the underperforming artist. My advice to the record companies looking for their next great white rapper, find a guy with flow who actually gives a shit. And make sure he's actually funny, not "remember Saved By The Bell" funny.  

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McCarty didn’t like the new Fast & Furious movie.

April 7, 2009

A new Fast and Furious movie? Try to stop me. Just try.

I don’t know why I find Vin Diesel an appealing action star, I just kinda do. He’s built like a piece of ammunition, and seems to have been designed only for being in action movies. Which is why no one wants to see Vin Diesel in a drama. I heard Find Me Guilty was actually pretty good. But I didn’t see it. Because at no point does Vin shoot at a car and make it explode. Not only that, he has hair in that movie! Totally misses the point of Vin Diesel.

Fast & Furious is actually a prequel to The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift. We know this because some Asian guy in the beginning of the movie says, “Things are getting too hot here. I heard Tokyo is nice.” (beat) With that out of the way, this new F&F can stay comfortable, firmly lodged in the mythos, because whenever I talk to people about this series, which is with most people, most of the time, the first thing they bring up is the mythos. Eventually they talk about the cars. And Vin Diesel. No one talks about Paul Walker, but they know who he is. They’re just being polite is all. How are you supposed to make friends with people if they keep bringing up Paul Walker. It’s a recession, lady. Things are tough all over.

Justin Lin directed, and I wonder how he felt about that. After Better Luck Tomorrow, I don’t think anyone thought he’d follow up with Annapolis(James Franco prefers you forget that one) and F&F:Tokyo Drift. Clearly, he was the man for the job of rebooting the franchise (again), having proved he could work with fast cars and/or Jordana Brewster.

The plot is that Vin Diesel and Paul Walker drive modified cars real fast. There’s some drugs, and Michelle Rodriguez gets killed in a flashback 15 minutes into the movie. Spoy! Ler! Vin Diesel spends the rest of the film trying to kill the guy who killed Michelle, and he’s so determined that he repeatedly ignores the advances of this terrible model/actress. Dude has to stay on point. Can’t be playing around when Michelle Rodriguez needs avenging. This might also explain all the casual lezzing out by the various extras. See what happens when you take smoking out of movies? You force the background artists to resort to lipstick lesbianism. They just want attention, filmmakers.

So, what else is there? A couple of cool chases, Vin Diesel crushes a guy with his car, and lots of Garmin use. I’m finding I retained very little from this film, but I recall enjoying it while I watched it. But I do have one big qualm. At the end of the film, the courts decide that Vin Diesel must go to jail. He’s on the jail bus when three cars, one driven by Walker, one by Brewster, and one by a terrible Latino stereotype, swarm it. I get all set for a big rescue scene, and bam! credits. Lazy. Don’t set up something awesome like that, F&F. Also, I couldn’t help but wonder just how they were going to get Vin Diesel out of that bus. The only way I know is the blow it in half, Money Talks style. Now that was a movie.

My example starts at 4:20

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