14 September 2018

GET TO DA CHOOPPARRHH!!

We have two very different releases dropping today, although there may be more linking them than you'd think. Mystery! Threats of violence! Action! Sort of. Suspense! One is a long-awaited hopefully return to form from a franchise that's been up higher and lower than most, the other is Gone Girl 2. I mean, uh, A Simple Favor (2018). Let's start with that one.



Right? This is like...totally just Gone Girl (2014), right? Sure it seems like the novelty of Anna and Blake's meet cute is different, and that relationship sure seems different than Ben and Rosamund, but the core premise is identical. From reading the greatest authority on these matters, YouTube comments, apparently the book source material is very different, so cool. I'll trust you, unbiased commentators.

The film is adapted by Paul Feig, in a pretty radical departure from his usual schtick which has become directing Melissa McCarthy vehicles. I'm very split on Feig. On the one hand I love a lot of his television work on all of the greatest comedies of the past ten years (The Office, Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock), Bridesmaids (2011) remains a landmark comedy film and I'm even a weirdly big fan of Other Space (there are dozens of us!). Lately he seems to have slipped into this female-driven comedy niche, which is fine, except that it's also kind of weird that a female director isn't championing the movement. There's also the simple fact that his latest films aren't all that good, which he refuses to take responsibility for, which to me deflates the whole movement.

To Feig's credit, there have been a lot of copycat films lately like Bad Moms (2016), Rough Night (2017), and Fun Mom Dinner (2017) that prove that it's harder than it looks to do what Feig does, which is namely, any kind of original comedy. To be fair, The Heat (2013) has grown on me and SPY (2015) is okay, but I wouldn't call either great, immortal comedies. At the same time, even when saying Feig on a bad day is a lot better than many other comedy directors, he's sliding into thriller territory, eh?

By all accounts the reviews so far are actually good. I feel like this flick hasn't had all that much buzz, despite having a pretty solid cast and director behind it. Maybe it's the genre shift or the fact that it feels so damn derivative. Or simply that it's a drama / thriller which seems more regulated to be a B-movie on the Lifetime channel than a major release these days. Not one superhero, Paul? What are you thinking? I'd suspect that this film doesn't really do well at all, but maybe it should.

Next we have The Predator (2018), the latest in a long line of franchises that we need to remember and differentiate by pluralization and definite articles attached. For the record:

Predator (1987)
Predators (2010)
The Predator (2018)

Got it? For the record we've also got Predator 2 (1990), Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007). These are all lesser movies than the previous ones listed, although I always have a soft spot for the insane things in Alien vs. Predator like the Weyland-Yutani Easter Eggs they tried to drop before Ridley Scott said fuck that with Prometheus (2012) and then the Predator / Human near kiss, which is the greatest sexual tension in movie history. Maybe I'm reading into things that aren't there.



Anyway, Predator is still one of the greatest action movies ever. I could rant about this for a long time. I already have! Predators is actually desperately underrated, with one of the greatest premises ever (and an incredible en media res opening). The cast is phenomenal and although Adrien Brody was definitely a little miscast (eight years on, even being a fan of the movie I had to double check to make sure he was the featured action hero. Like...really?), others from Danny Trejo to some early roles by the likes of Walton Goggins to Mahershala Ali really stand out. That's right - two Oscar winners in this cast.

Sure it doesn't match Predator in terms of sheer body mass or future Gubernatorial candidates, but how could any movie ever. It also doesn't quite match with dialogue, but how could any movie ever. Predator is great because it features a larger than larger than life opponent to fight Arnold, who is already larger than life. It spends the first half as Commando (1985) that everyone forgets about, then the second half as a largely dialogue-free Home Alone (1990) with the ugliest and most fearsome alien in movie history. It's a total treat.

That dialogue may return in The Predator thanks to Shane Black who slides in the directing chair after writing and being a supporting actor in Predator. The cast is also a who's who of current great actors from Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Sterling K. Brown, Olivia Munn, Yvonne Strahovski, and Keegan-Michael Key. It's hot, baby!

Apparently it sucks, though. That's crazy disappointing. Shane Black has had spurts of his career, but I'll be the first to say that The Nice Guys (2016) was actually surprisingly forgettable two years on down the road. He tends to have a lot of flash, style, and creativity, but not a lot of that sticks with you. Even Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005) I might dare say is an incredible time in the moment and a true screenwriting feat, but doesn't quite contain the pathos for sustainable cultural longevity.

Anyway, I suppose this franchise as a whole has a low bar to clear. If there are some iconic gruesome action scenes it'll all be good. Maybe we need another Predator equivalent, that is, a whole new action film that can drop and be as surprising, as well crafted, and as original as the original instead of continually coming up with Super Predators. Like, one normal Predator was enough for Arnold, why do we need a Super Predator to kill Jacob Tremblay? Anyway, I still hope to see it and get something out of it, even if it's just some wacky stupidness.

What do you think? Are you seeing the movie that looks terrible but may be good or the movie that looks great and may suck?

07 September 2018

Nunppermint

It's been a minute since we've really sunk our teeth into a weekend preview post, but there are some half-way interesting flicks dropping this week worth talking about. Those would be The Nun (2018) and Peppermint (2018). This is a chance to ramble about the potential critical, cultural, and commercial prospects of these two not-that-great-looking films. Let's dive in!

The Nun comes out of the Conjuring Shared Universe, which by the way, is the right way to do a shared universe. No big announcement or logo or awkward Photoshop unveiling - just a main series of films along with spin-offs that explore little interesting nooks and crannies of the universe. I am no real Conjuring expert. I saw the first one. It was like, okay. To be honest, looking this up now I didn't even know there were two Annabelle films. They seem to be doing alright commercially. Cool, bro.
Hey nun! What out for that nun!

The eponymous Nun is a character from The Conjuring 2 (2016), possessed by a demon named Valak who causes some kind of trouble for that there Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. It's always something. The spin-off centers around this demon nun or whatever and the zany hijinks she gets into. Word is that it's loud, silly, and fun - in a horrific way - but that's a solid through line. Horror movies really just need to be interesting in some way. Even if they insert cheap jump scares instead of real existential dread, as long as something happens and the film knows what it wants to be it can be successful. There have been a lot of really empty horror films lately (well, there are always terrible horror films), but Slender Man (2018) or Winchester (2018) really stand out.

Culturally, it ought to stand out amongst Conjuring fans, which have evolved into this solid little niche. Outside that group, I didn't even know there were two Annabelle movies, so whatever. It all kind of blurs together. I have only a vague understanding of what goes on in these movies. I've seen that Nun doing wacky things and maybe this will stick out because it's a pretty distinctive character. Or just typical Catholic demon possession, which happens all the time.

I get the feeling this R-rated September Horror release is just chasing after IT (2017) numbers last year, which it definitely will not achieve. IT was based off Stephen King fans, IT (1990) fans, Tim Curry fans, horror fans, 80s fans, and Stranger Things fans. There was a lot fueling that success. There's no damn Nun fans of equal standing. It'll likely be okay, but not a game changer.

Then we have Peppermint. This is like Jennifer Garner starring in a Liam Neeson movie. I remember seeing the trailer a while ago and it looked alright if not especially notable. I got thinking this morning, though, about Jennifer Garner's career. See, this is actually the kind of movie she started with and should have starred in in like 2008.

She got her original start being a badass spy on Alias and then transitioned that to playing badass ninja Elektra in both Daredevil (2003) and Elektra (2005). I'm not sure if you've heard this, but neither of those movies are held in high regard. I will now reiterate how much I liked Daredevil. Anyway, Elektra was not that good. Pretty bad, in fact. It seems pretty clear that Garner immediately switched her career trajectory and has barely had a lead role since then, much less an action-themed role.

Sydney don't miss
The closest she's come is The Kingdom (2007), but since then oscillated between romantic comedies like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009), supporting wife / mother roles like in Draft Day (2014) and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014), or sappy Christian crap like Miracles from Heaven (2016). There are some Oscar baity picture roles in there from Juno (2007) to Dallas Buyers Club (2013). Actually, Garner is one of the greatest parts in Juno, but the point is she's no where near her start. Until now.

So that puts us at odd odds. Can we buy Garner as a badass? I mean...she totally WAS. But can we remember back to 2005 (maybe 2003) and jump in? I think so - it surely happens with dudes all the time. If John Cusack can be a weird vengeful old dude, Garner should be able to. Evanescence, man. Is that the most 2003 movie scene in history or what. Ultimately Peppermint is likely a forgettable vehicle anyway, but the career flow of Garner really piqued my interest.

I'm betting The Nun takes this weekend, and we'll see if Peppermint can surpass the crazy legs of Crazy Rich Asians (2018). Also, who wants to watch an action movie named Peppermint. It's also actually the latest in a long line of conservative vigilante fantasies in the vein of Punisher, Death Wish (2018), and the Equalizer movies where the government system fails and so we have to turn to private interests to exact justice. None of these are really mainstream popular, but it's an indication of the frustrated and confused moment in time we live in that this shit keeps being made.

What are you seeing this weekend? Creepy nuns? Conservative propaganda? More Asians?

04 September 2018

Summer Jam 2018: A CHAMPION IS CROWNED!!

It's a hallowed time around here. We have our Summer Jam Champion! Every Labour Day we recount the hottest jams we've listened to for the previous seventeen weeks and name a final, definitive soundtrack to Summer. It's simultaneously a glorious crowning event as well as a somber reflection on the dreaded Autumn and Winter months to come. Before we get into 2018 let's review the previous winners, dating back to 2007:

2007: "Umbrella" by Rihanna
2008: "Bleeding in Love" by Leona Lewis
2009: "I Gotta Feeling" by Black Eyed Peas
2010: "California Gurls" by Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg
2011: "Park Rock Anthem" by LMFAO ft. Lauren Bennett & GoonRock
2012: "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen
2013: "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke ft. T.I. & Pharrell
2014: "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea ft. Charle XCX
2015: "Shut Up and Dance" by Walk the Moon
2016: "Can't Stop the Feeling" by Justin Timberlake
2017: "Despacito" by Daddy Yankee, Luis Fonsi ft. Justin Bieber

That's right, we've been counting this off for 12 damn years. Well, to be fair, 2010 was the first year where we actually had an official weekly countdown. 2009 had this, which is kind of slaphazard. I first came up with this concept of following eight songs a week in 2008, a murky era of pre-Norwegian Mornin gWood. This means I'd like to push this for at least two more summers so we can have ten straight years of Weekly Countdowns.

Anyway, let's get to it. We charted a total of 60 songs over the past few months, 19 of which were decent enough to warrant some direct recognition. Let's start with the honorable mentions:

"In My Feelings" by Drake
"No Brainer" by DJ Khaled ft. Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Quavo
"SAD!" by XXXTENTACION
"The Middle" by Zedd, Grey ft. Maren Morris
"Taste" by Tyga ft. Offset
"Bed" by Nicki Minaj ft. Ariana Grande
"IDGAF" by Dua Lipa
"Sicko Mode" by Travis Scott ft. Drake, Swae Lee
"Africa" by Weezer
"Side effects" by Chainsmokers ft. Emily Warren

Going through this at the end of all things, some other songs that I feel were for whatever reason underrated or underappreciated on the Weekly rundowns included, "Delicate" by Taylor, "APESHIT" by the Carters, "God is a Woman" by Ariana, "Boo'd Up" by Ella Mai, and "Jackie Chan" by Tiesto & Dzeko ft. Preme & Post Malone. Got all that? Now let's usher in the final countdown.

#9: "Psycho" by Post Malone ft. Ty Dolla $ign



Weeks on List: 4
First Appearance: 06/18/18
Last Appearance: 08/13/18
Highest Position: #1 on 06/18/18
Average Position: 3.5

Alright, totally breaking with our eight-year tradition of counting down a Top Eight, we've got nine this year. This was a total judgment call. "Psycho" actually scored as many points as "In Your Feelings", and yeah, the latter was and still is the #1 song in the country. Still, this summer feels much more incomplete without "Psycho." It was a total judgment call and this is my blog so that's the way it'll work. Still, full transparency, if you're an "In Your Feelings" fan you got totally gypped. Anyway, "Psycho" was really old and ultimately a follow-up to Post Malone's "Rockstar" and "Congratulations" but it really solidified his status as flow champion of 2018. We mostly saw the tail end, but it kept cropping up this some and deserves some recognition.

#8: "Friends" by Marshmello & Anne Marie



Weeks on List: 4
First Appearance: 05/28/18
Last Appearance: 07/30/18
Highest Position: #1 on 06/04/18
Average Position: 2.5

Looking back I can't believe that this track only popped on the Winner's List four times. They were potent, though, with an average position of 2.5, including one week at the top. This song felt continually on the periphery, though, a fact solidified by it crawling back in late July. It's a fun song and one that sure as hell makes me think of the Friend Zone quite a bit. It's another jam that was a little old but just stuck around for a long time.

#7: "This is America" by Childish Gambino



Weeks on List: 4
First Appearance: 05/14/18
Last Appearance: 06/04/18
Highest Position: #1 on 05/14/18
Average Position: 2.25

I love that "This is America" snuck in. It debuted fierce as our very first #1 this year, then sank down a bit. It's not exactly easy casual summer radio party listening, even though every single facet of this track is amazing. Childish Gambino tried with some other direct summer tracks, but didn't quite capture this magic. Still, what a week he had back in May with this, Atlanta, and Solo (2018) all reaching their peaks. It dominated the first month of summer and surely has legacy enough to be remembered here even if it wasn't necessarily as ubiquitous in July and August.

#6: "Meant to Be" by Bebe Rexha ft. Florida Georgia Line



Weeks on List: 7
First Appearance: 05/14/18
Last Appearance: 07/30/18
Highest Position: #1 on 06/11/18
Average Position: 4.57

As you can see, this song gets the #6 spot for sheer longevity. Besides its one week at the top spot, its other six weeks were in positions seven through four, including a four-week stretch in June. It faded a bit, but came back in July and remains a surprisingly listenable crossover pop country hit. I feel like we get one of these every year. Maybe just following up "Body Like a Back Road." Anyway, this was part of a surprisingly strong contingent of songs that debuted the first week and never let up.

#5: "Nice for What" by Drake



Weeks on List: 8
First Appearance: 05/14/18
Last Appearance: 09/03/18
Highest Position: #1 on 07/16/18
Average Position: 4.25

One of only two songs to appear on both the first and last weeks of Summer, as well as making an appearance in all five months represented, "Nice for What" made a huge splash. It was a periphery song more than a dominant song for most of its run, which never actually made it more than two weeks in a row. Drake vultured some of his own success this summer with other tracks that were either bigger or smaller, but this was the cream. "THESE HO'S!" "YOUR BOY!" Line of summer, baby. The video used every badass chick who didn't appear in "Girls Like You" (and some who did) and put them all in their own element, away from centering around the male artist behind the track. It also struck me as a real Kanye-like vocal track, but Drake put it all together and produced a great song.

#4: "I Like It" by Cardi B ft. J Balvin & Bad Bunny



Weeks on List: 9
First Appearance: 06/25/18
Last Appearance: 09/03/18
Highest Position: #1 on 08/06/18
Average Position: 2.89

Now, before we get into the Top 4, I should note that this was the closest Top Four we've ever had. There were four legitimate contenders that scored over 55 points.* The closest we've ever come to that before was in 2013 when we had three but "Shut Up and Dance" somehow won. Anyway, this track had five straight weeks in June and July and never did worse than #4. Of the Top Four though, it only had one week at #1, which along with debuting later than any other song, held it back. It was a great "Despacito" heir, though, and added a fantastic Latin Summer Flair to the proceedings, as well as a true showcase for Cardi B, who although this track didn't score higher, is the only artist to have two different songs on this whole list, much less in the Top Four.

#3: "Girls Like You" by Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B



Weeks on List: 10
First Appearance: 06/04/18
Last Appearance: 09/03/18
Highest Position: #1 on 07/30/18 and 09/03/18
Average Position: 3.1

The assault by this track is amazing. I did not expect it being a contender after it stumbled a bit after its debut. It first dropped in early June at #5, popped back in a few weeks later at #7, then somehow people caught on to how great this track is and it spent eight of the final nine weeks of summer crushing the Winner's List, including a six-week streak to close it out at #1. Five weeks at either #1 or #2. It's a great hit for Maroon 5 and the second Cardi B track in this list. Of course, Cardi was featured in every other song this summer, so that's something. It's got such a good crescendo and excitement alongside its relative chillness. For the record, 59 points, just one short of the #2 spot.

#2: "No Tears Left to Cry" by Ariana Grande



Weeks on List: 11
First Appearance: 05/14/18
Last Appearance: 09/03/18
Highest Position: #1 on 05/21/18 and 07/02/18
Average Position: 3.55

Presenting your track with the most weeks on the Winner's List, the only other song besides "Nice for What" to be present on both the first and last weeks, and thus all five months of Summer. We had a little bit of quantity over quality, though, as its average position was relatively low, especially when it came back in mid-August. Surprisingly, though, if it hadn't, it would not have been much of a contender at all. Besides a five-week stretch to start the season it didn't put together much and was largely absent for the month of July. Ariana still had a great summer, though, being featured on four total tracks. For the record, 60 points and No More Beers Left to Try!

#1: "Never Be the Same" by Camila Cabello



Weeks on List: 10
First Appearance: 05/14/18
Last Appearance: 07/30/18
Highest Position: #1 on 05/28/18, 06/25/18, and 07/09/18
Average Position: 2.5

Are you ready?! THE QUEEN of Summer 2018 - Camila Cabello! Her mid-summer lead looked and proved to be insurmountable. 65 points and a spot amongst the Summer Greats like Carly Rae Jepsen and LMFAO. I think Camila will have some staying power. Now, the only mark against her is that she popped out by the end of July, but we need to remember the official Summer duration and think of the whole picture instead of recency. That last breath was barely in the #7 position, but before that she had nine...NINE straight weeks where she never dropped below #3. Only "This is America" had a higher average weekly position, but that wasn't sustained over 10 weeks (without her one run at #7 she averaged the #2 spot for nine straight weeks. That's amazing). Still, it was a very close race this year. I actually came close to adding "Never Be the Same" to the List both of the last two weeks, but felt like some other tracks were more deserving. Had I, then this race would no longer have any question.

You can check out our whole summer-long countdown here.

What do you think was the KING or QUEEN of Summer this year? Check out how off I am according to this ("One Kiss"), this ("Nice for What"), this and this ("In My Feelings"), this ("Boo'd Up") and this ("I Like It").

Is it weird that "Never Be the Same" isn't anywhere near any of these lists? I don't know what they were doing all summer, but that's how my life went. Now I'm actually really curious to hear what others think. I had commented yesterday about this streaming divide in regards to music consumption. I'm still mostly a radio guy, but is that completely out of touch? Are my worldviews that shifted from what's actually popular? If so, why can't radio get it together? Can I keep doing this through 2020?!

*For the record, our points system is pretty basic. Eight points for #1, seven for #2 and so on. The most points a track's ever gotten was "Blurred Lines" with 84 which fuckin sucks.
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