18 August 2017

Hitmen, Racetracks, and a Whole Lot of Whitney Houston

Welcome again folks, to what's likely the last installment of this column for a while. Try as I might, it's tough to get excited over late August / September crap. We'll be back for IT (2017), though. It'll be the same exact preview as The Dark Tower (2017). But this is an exciting weekend because two big original films are hitting the theaters and they both look pretty good. We've got Ryan Reynolds vs. Sam Jackson in The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017) and finally, Steve Soderbergh's return to feature filmmaking with Logan Lucky (2017). Let's dive into both in that order.

There's not a ton of cultural context behind The Hitman's Bodyguard that isn't crazily meta. This is basically a distillation of these two giants' popular personas, thrown together to play off each other in what could be a hilarious series of action comedy events or a cliched mess that fails to deliver. Director Patrick Hughes is coming off The Expendables 3 (2014) so uh...probably the latter.

I've had it with these motherfuckin hitmen and their
motherfuckin bodyguards
It's weirdly got a horrible Rotten Tomatoes but a solid IMDB right now, so who knows. I'm always one to judge a film on whether or not it succeeds in what it's trying to do, and so far the consensus seems to be that Jackson and Reynolds have chemistry but the plot is whatever. To me, that sounds exactly what I'd expect from this movie. The entire premise should be a mere excuse to get these two Titans of R-Ratings on screen together to exchange insults and motherfuckers at each other for two hours until the movie just sort of ends. That could be an extremely entertaining flick.

Now, for some reason Ryan Reynolds is still allowed to make movies even though everything he's ever made that isn't Deadpool (2016) and The Proposal (2009) has failed miserably. Sam Jackson is nigh bulletproof, having made enough duds and triumphs over a ridiculous career to be acceptable in just about anything. It's been a while since he really headlined a flick. Maybe you count Hateful Eight (2015), but that was so blatantly about its ensemble (it's in the title), even if Jackson was probably our best protagonist. It's a fun and fresh kind of humour, and even though this script was written and blacklisted back in 2011, totally feels right for a post-Deadpool Ryan Reynolds and an anytime Sam Jackson.

My only real concern is if it feels too forced and exactly that - a Deadpool rip-off with the same actor doing the same kid of jokes in a cheap ploy to ride the success of that other movie. I definitely have that vibe. Late August is pretty awful for any release, but this isn't the kind of monumental blockbuster that's a huge risk, and the core concept of a bodyguard protecting his hitman nemesis is actually new and interesting while also being pretty simple. I think commercial prospects are solid, and like any comedy, especially one in as sparse a year as 2017, if it can win Funniest Movie of the Year, it'll be solid.

"Where've you been?"
"Enjoying death."
Now let's get to Logan Lucky. This isn't about an Irish Wolverine, this is Steven Soderbergh's retirement-ending bonkers North Carolina NASCAR heist film that I'm pretty excited to see. The cast is a dream with his somehow muse Channing Tatum leading the way and Daniel Craig all blonde and super un-Bond-like. Soderbergh is a weird dude whose filmography is insanely prolific. He seems to have no issue cranking out project after project in a wildly diverse array of genres. He's probably best known for his early efforts like Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989), Schizopolis (1996), and the dual one-two of Traffic (2000) and Erin Brockovich (2000), which somehow came out in the same year.

Then he cashed in on the Ocean's 11 movies and developed this remarkably smooth editing style, almost building the entire film by montage that carried into a lot of his early 2010s work. He has his great 90s stuff for sure, but I actually really dig Contagion (2011), Haywire (2012), and Side Effects (2013). Haywire is continuously underrated, by the way, I thought about that the most coming up to Logan Lucky. Of course we've also got our greatest modern male stripper opus, Magic Mike (2012). All in all, Soderbergh films, without being really flashy or audacious, tend to find a niche in the cultural context, even if you don't really think of him as a Coen or Tarantino.

In his faux-retirement he did a lot of work on The Knick and random stuff like editing Magic Mike XXL (2015), but we were all just waiting for him to come back. Logan Lucky DOES look super-Coen Bros-y, and I'm curious to see if he can actually pull off the dumbass heist trope in a convincing and comedic way. There's little doubt that the man can, as he's a filmmaker who has sticked to his principles for nearly thirty years, even while making big celebrity-filled films like Ocean's Thirteen (2007). There's always a wit to his work and hopefully he hasn't lost the touch in the past...four years.

That's another thing - for all the griping about Transformers: The Last Knight (2017) and other miscellania, Summer 2017 has seen some great original films for once. We got Baby Driver (2017), Dunkirk (2017), Girls Trip (2017), Atomic Blonde (2017), and...can you count Wonder Woman (2017)? The obvious trend here is finally giving voices to marginalized people (non-Dunkirk, that is), and look at that - new, interesting stories that do pretty well at the box office! Logan Lucky is a bunch of white dudes, but to be honest, blue collar country folk more often star as backwoods rapists than heroes. I'm excited to see this trend continue.

So, that's it, folks. Summer's over. It's done. It's finished. Well, for the movies at least. We still got a few Summer Jams to crank out. What are you watching?!

14 August 2017

Summer Jam Week 14: Weird Galactic Tunes. LIVE!

A week of reckoning is upon us all! It's with great excitement that we bring you yet another seven days of sunshiney fun and the hottest jams around. These last few weeks are critical for those tracks trying to get one more final push into 2017 Pop Relevancy. Let's dig in!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Guardian Inferno" by Zardu Hasselfrau

So yeah, this is basically just marketing. But it rules so much. It's merely a re-purposed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) theme into a pop disco hit. I didn't even pick up on the entire cast showing up until Karen Gillen's obvious face appears. Even Zoe Saldana just seemed obscured to me, mostly through the shitty 70s video filters. It's amazing getting the entire cast to stoop to this, and everyone, especially Pom Klementieff looks like they're having the time of their lives. I really just wanted to say the name Pom Klementieff, which is more bizarre than any galactic name. Wonder Woman (2017) just beat Guardians for superhero movie gross of the year, but this is a solid attempt at regaining relevancy.

Jamming Continues: "Strobelite" by Gorillaz

Humanz has been a little underrated as the Album of the Summer, but that's also because although it's pretty great, it's not really at Plastic Beach levels. Anyway, this vid dropped this week for probably the second-catchiest jam on the album. I'm weirdly weirded out by grown up, sexy Noodle since I mostly think of her as the child guitar prodigy from their self-titled debut, but I'm sure that's more just me being steeped in fake Gorillaz history. It's also kind of awkward just because of its cartoon-ness interacting with the real world and not really in character here, actually.

Fuckin with My Eyes Closed: "Body Like a Backroad" by Sam Hunt

Sure, this is back. Or maybe it never really left. Sam Hunt's massive crossover hit is making a great case for itself. I am infinitely curious to tally up the final numbers when this all shakes out. At this point we've got the candidates pretty well set but who will be the champ?! This remains a solid country tune, which is an insane thing that I never thought I'd type.

Sad Mouse: "That's What I Like" by Bruno Mars

This is another song that's come and gone all summer, and pretty much peaked far too early to be a real contender, but it's still had some flashes here and there. This week was one of those flashes for sure and it seemed like it popped up everywhere. What's cool is that it's at that point in its lifetime when everyone knows every word, so when it comes on during your party it's a true jam.

Giggle Fits: "Woman" by Ke$ha

This is still probably my favourite non-disco song of the week, but even though it wasn't and likely won't get much radio time, "Woman" was a big part of my life. Not #1 anymore, but a four or five week late run here could do some damage if she basically wins out. Since my ranking each week is so damn random, anyone can jump in. Let's go, Ke$h!

Scotch and Cherry Coke: "Stay" by Zedd ft. Alessia Cara

There's a solid competition this whole summer between this, "Issues" and "It Ain't Me" for EDM-ish girl pop jam. "Stay" has stayed, though, and remains a solid tune for at least one more week. The others are kind of done, but could still come back. "Issues" maybe had the best run out of all of them already, though. Will it be enough!?

1D Back in 2020: "Slow Hands" by Niall Horan

I'm decently proud of my complete lack of One Direction knowledge - apparently Niall is a member? Cool. "Slow Hands" is a solid jam and one of the better tunes to come out of that break-up. I was reading about how 1D has all these Beatles-esque solo projects out now. That's not remotely accurate, but this song has done a fine job this summer.

#1 With a Bullet: "Despacito" by Bieber and the Mexicans

"Despacito" actually might be putting everyone else to shame. The clear winner this week, this track doesn't really show any signs of slowing down. A cool tropical fusion jam featuring primarily Spanish singing? Why isn't this the Song of Every Summer?! There are still a few more weeks for sure, but for now, it's looking good for the Biebs.

Next week...

There's a lot that can happen here, folks. Ed Sheeran and Coldplay are still out there doing things that I basically just ignored this week because they suck. And you know, as the world basically descends into hell and chaos (oh hell, we've been on a rough road for a while now), we can all bask in the glory of Fifth Harmony moving on without Camilla Cabello.

07 August 2017

Summer Jam Week 13: Moving Despacito into August LIVE!!

We're down to the final month, folks. It's all around amazing, but this Great Summer Season is almost completed. This truly saddens my typically gregarious heart, but alas, there is nothing to be done. Soon the leaves will fall, the pigskin will fly, and little unloved failed abortions will skip their way to through the schoolyard. Let's get into some hot jams!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Marmalade" by Macklemore ft. Lil' Yachty

Macklemore's 2017 stuff has been pretty shit, but this is actually a really awesome song. It doesn't quite hit the heights of "Downtown" (dammit, "Downtown" is my favourite Macklemore song for sure. Maybe "White Walls"), but it comes close. The video is hella cute and it's actually amazing that they found such kids that emulated the mannerisms of Mack and Yacthy. The Lil' Lil' Yachty in particular is perfect. It's a bit too late for any Hot Jam to take off, but this is cool for a few weeks.

Wiggly Time: "Feels" by Calvin Harris ft. Katy, Pharrell, and Big Sean

This song isn't totally a hook like it was a few weeks ago, but got some good attention around the Internets this week, particularly this compelling article, which I'd normally ignore in factoring in my hot decision, although in this case I totally agree with. It could be the bestly constructed track of the Summer, even if it didn't quite stay as long as it should have.

Young, Wild, and Free: "Young Dumb & Broke" by Khalid

This was almost Hot Jam of the week, but I just loved that Macklemore song more. Ironically, this means Khalid gets higher props as a result. It's a good track and Khalid, indeed young as hell, could be the next big thing in the rap game. Actually his voice is totally moany and groany. Catchy, though. It's got a nice zeitgeist feel, which is always rad.

Problems: "Issues" by Julia Michaels

Back again after a minute away, "Issues" makes a strong case for Song of Summer with a swell showing this week. There's a lot up in the air, though, and August can make or break a campaign. This is a solid track, though, and if Summer 2017 gave us anything it's this great up and coming artist getting her actual voice in front of the mike instead of the multitude of songs she's written for others over the years.

Gonna Feel the Back of My Hand: "Body Like a Back Road" by Sam Hunt

Julia Michaels' chief competition right now is this ditty, which had another good showing this week. Cross-over country hits always do really well, because hell, they're already popular as hell in country circles. When you add the rest of the population, forget about it. I think it'll come down to these, probably with some Ed Sheeran or something in there.

Who You Gonna Call: "911" by Tyler the Creator

Yes, now for the exact opposite of Sam Hunt. This is a weird track for Tyler the Creator, who is usually way harsher. Hell, just sample "Who Dat Boy" for some vintage Creator. This track got hot this week, though, in wake of Tyler's latest album, Flower Boy. It's a rad song in an album that is largely okay if not really spectacular. All in all too late to make a serious Summer Jam run, but ripe for the moment.

Bow to the Biebs: "Despacito" by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Bieber

Ha! I bet you thought "Despacito" was #1 this week! Well, it was close but I backed out at the last minute. It has to settle for the penultimate spot, but still had a sold showing over the past few days. It's also a definite contender for Summer King. These next four weeks are going to be exciting, folks!


That's right baby. Ke$ha dropped a few other singles this week, but "Woman" remains the best thing she's done in years, possibly ever. It's actually a mature, not-that-auto-tuned track that sounds great, is fun as hell, and a crazy declaration of freedom after the hell she's been through the past few years. It was also all over the place this week, although not exactly radio-friendly. It was certainly stuck in my head forever.

Next week...

Well, as you can tell, we're all about the final stretch right now. "It Ain't Me" and "Stay" are super-still in play and Charlie XCX's "Boys", our Hot Jam last week was also certainly still hanging around, narrowly left off this week. A lot can happen - we got four more weeks of sweet beautiful sunshiny freedom, people! Crank up those knobs!
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