29 May 2023

Summer Jam 2023: It's back for the 2023rd Straight Year!

Hey folks, we are definitely clearly not doing weekly rundowns anymore, but it is extremely worthwhile to administer the Summer Jams for the Month of May, 2023! There are a handful of songs clamouring to be THE song of Summer 2023 and who knows, maybe Kate Bush will have some song featured during the finale of Succession and repeat that nonsense. Let's get at it:

"Cinderella Snapped" by Jax

I heard this on the radio and I literally thought they were playing some Avril Lavigne deep cut song. This is kind of surface level angsty stuff that is remarkably outdated. Like, totally a mid-2000s throwback. It's not really popular at all to my understanding, but it's kind of fun. Right? I know, it's not. That's what this position is for.

It's nice to see SZA getting some mainstream play after years cranking out legit tunes. This a nice floaty ethereal song that definitely gets in that category of songs I've heard of a million times but can't place. Those are the best kinds of jams, people. I actually dig this one quite a bit.

There is a reason why I've faded away from this column. I truly never thought it would happen but my age is definitively catching up to me. I do not know what Ice Spice is and I just don't care to. I am sure she is great, and I dig this song, but it seems like a meme that I was not invited to. I thought this was like "That boy's a Leo" or "That boy's Aaliyah" or something. My ears have always been terrible, but it's clearly time for me to hang this escapade up.

Is this considered a cover? I don't know, but I like this one. We're really undergoing an explosion in hardcore female rappers. I'm going to tick Nicki Minaj off by saying thanks, Cardi B! This hits pretty hard, the beat is super minimalist and I love how completely re-contextualized this song becomes. Can it jam the summer? I don't think so, it's not really bouncable or joysunfull enough to break away.

I know next to nothing about Morgan Wallen. Do people like him? Like I know country fans will likemind into digging the same exact sound, but it seems like Morgan Wallen has big crossover appeal. This is kind of nice, as far as country songs go. Is it weird that our current landscape is covered in black female rappers, Taylor Swift, and Morgan Wallen? Are we actually a mixing pot?

I hear this all the time. It's a song that sounds a lot like everything else out there right now, but it's cute and fun and I hate to say I kind of like it. I definitely don't like the breaking at the end, but then again, that's the only way I knew how to search for this song, so maybe there's something there. I think this could do it, but it's also a big radio song, not a big Spotify song. So basically useless garbage.

I didn't know what Taylor song to pick, "Lavender Haze" is still doing its thing, but this seems like the next one to be anointed. Taylor just seems like an unstoppable force. Her lyrics are always witty and clever and she's ridiculously adaptable to just about everything. Oh, I'm watching the video now. Is that Ice Spice with the Little Orphan Annie hair? It just feels like a Cardi B situation where they got someone hot and threw her on every song in the world to exploit that zeitgeist popularity. Yes, it's a hot take, I'm calling Hollywood exploitative. I like this song, though. I should make a whole post about pop artists. Like, Beyonce doesn't make songs anymore, she just self-proclaims herself to be our Queen. Katy Perry became way too corporate to be likable. I give GaGa credit because she commits to music and film projects, but she's somehow good in them. Like, how does this girl do Top Gun, Toy Bennett, AND Born This Way. But Taylor is just about the music, man, and when you focus on that, you actually get to evolve as an artist and you crank out songs like this that keep finding ways to stay something different.

We should talk about Miley Cyrus more. Like, poster wild child that everyone wrote off as nonsense, but bruh she's still cranking hits just as good as anything. And we've crested the ten-year mark, which is usually as long as pop stars get. She's really proven folks wrong without any sense of vindication or even trying to. This is a major crossover hit and she seems like she's doing great. Just gotta get through all that stupid bullshit. I just think she's more nuanced and talented than folks give her credit for. Just listen to Bangerz on repeat like I did in 2012. 2012!

Next month...

Hey man, I dunno. Like I said, I'm getting close to old man yelling into the Internet. Should I listen to more Bad Bunny? I don't think it's the language barrier that turns me off, I've definitely listened to enough Korean and Spanish songs in my time. It's just kind of whack, I dunno. Takes over Spotify, though. I also just don't really get non-radio exposure to big songs and guh-hyuck, they don't play them jams in the rural midwest! Let's get at some if it next month!

26 April 2023

First Impressions: The Super Mario Movie

Crap, I think this was the first movie I've seen in theaters since 3000 Years of Longing (2022). That was a long dark winter. But Mario is here to brighten up your day! This will be our official SPOILER-heavy impressions where we just ramble on for a while about this film, so stay tuned.

I liked this bastard a lot. It somehow felt really fresh despite being full of one of the most-repeated video game stories of all time. I sat there watching it thinking, "This would make a good video game!" which was a positively bizarre sentiment. I honestly don't know why I liked this. The gripes I usually have were all there. It was rushed, full of fan service, and most character decisions were blatantly unmotivated. But it drilled down into the most important thing a movie can do - be charming and fun! It is truly amazing when this aspect is nailed, how many more small details can easily be forgotten.

There are some great story beats right off the bat. Mario and Luigi are starting their own plumbing business in Brooklyn, NY, USA and are called on to fix a wealthy couples' house. Luigi steps on a dog bone, breaks it, and amazingly, there are real consequences! The dog attacks, the house is ruined, and they're forced to seek bigger and better jobs. It's cunning writing from a "this happens so this happens" standpoint.

Don't get too excited. There is a lot that is just there. I'm curious how a lay-person would feel in this film. Bowser is there with his huge army because he's Bowser. This is just a conceit we have whenever we boot up any innumerable Mario game from the past forty years. It's weird but at this point it's iconic so we give it a pass. Power-ups, mushrooms, it's all just there and we accept it. My guess is I would have had a tougher time rolling with nonsense had I been a bit more unfamiliar with the whole deal. The movie does a good of a job as it's going to just letting us swallow this stuff, they definitely focus on power-ups a good deal, which is fine, but that's the only bit that felt slightly like cheating. Like, when Peach whips out the Ice Flower I can imagine folks being "Oh, that's just super convenient writing!" But no, the Ice Flower is totally thing and definitely plausible! They probably should have hinted at it earlier to make the writing more crisp.

There is a lot of just going with it. Mario arrives at Peach's Castle and asks to join her to convince the Kong Army to defeat Bowser so he can save his brother, Luigi. Peach is like, "Sure, pass this platforming challenge and you can come!" Mario definitely fails but she's just like "That's okay, we need to get on with the movie." This happens constantly. Things are just there for fun. Mario definitely cheats to defeat DK for the right to employ the Kong Army, and Cranky's just like "Hey, that's cool, now we need Karts!" and then it goes into a whole Mario Kart Sequence.

But this didn't make me upset. I know, it's shocking. Maybe it's just how they found an organic way to recreate World 1-1, or throw in Easter Eggs ranging from scuttlebugs to Cappy. There's elements of almost every game from Galaxy to Odyssey. A surprisingly lot from the latter, actually. All I really wanted was for Mario to spin Bowser by the tail like in 64. And he does!! I cheered. That's so fan service-y of me. The Rainbow Road was most similar to Super Circuit. Bizarre. But it branched off like Yoshi Valley. Now I want a Rainbow Road Yoshi Valley. I truly wonder how much of this movie will seep into future games, because movies do tend to standardize things. And Mario aesthetics (not gameplay) are getting stale anyway these days.

There's one genuinely horrifying moment of Luigi in the Dark Land fighting off Dry Bones, Shy Guys, and Snippets. It's a wonderful test of character. I love how Luigi is just known as the scared joke character now. In fitting fashion, most of this movie is about how Luigi isn't in this movie. More 64 references! It was a great turn to make him into the typical Princess Peach role. The moustache in distress. Because Luigi sucks anyway, and to stay true to the character now is to sideline him from the adventure.

And since we're massive Kong Fans, oh boy was there a lot in there for us. This had to be a testing ground for a DK movie, right? Why else would you include Chunky Kong? DK was a pretty nuanced character here, with daddy issues, big and brash, but childish. Where is our Brothers Bear movie?! My other fist bumping moment was the DK Rap. The Fucking DK Rap, people. You want to talk all-time character introductions? It all fits spectacularly well. The DK movie needs to be coming.

The Mario Kart sequence, while definitely forced, was amazing. There's literally a Kart Selection scene straight out of Mario Kart 8. It made me think of Battleship (2012), how the best scene in that movie is the somehow organic re-creation of the actual board game. Like, it was super faithful but also felt natural. Amazing. Also, now I really want Mario Kart game where if you're hit with a shell your Kart actually explodes and takes damage and you have to find or steal a new one. Or where you could climb on other Karts. That would rule. I'm going to go ahead and plug our sideblog, Blue Shell News here...

Now, it's not all great. We were skeptical of the voice acting when it was all announced, and yeah, we were right to be. Chris Pratt isn't great, I just never lose myself in him. Charlie Day is a bit better but still not great. I hate to say it, I think they would have done better to stick with the accents they put on in the Commercial to start out. It's a cartoon, man, it can be cartoon-y. Anya Taylor-Joy doesn't bring much Joy to Peach and Fred Armisen just doesn't sound like a grumpy old Cranky Kong. It doesn't really work.

Except Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek, Keegan Michael-Key as Toad (I can't tell it's him at all), Seth Rogen surprisingly fits Donkey Kong despite being very Seth Rogen-y (maybe it's just voice experience?). And Jack Black is a magnificent Bowser. He doesn't scat at all! He does get some songs in, which are just wonderful. It's underrated how much Jack Black is accepting his back-up roles in his older age but remaining very weird and funny. You can definitely hear his Jack Black-ness but it's not that distracting.

I also didn't really like the Penguin and other Head Toad character having these uber-serious voices that are immediately undercut. It's not a very good joke, if they're cute, let them be cute, like how does that reality work? I could do with out it all. Cringe, baby. So cringe.

This is all a big turn for Illumination, who is usually just the worst damn studio there is. I don't even know how many Minions movies they have out now, but they basically churn out that drivel for kids along with Sing (2016) and Secret Life of Pets (2016), which just have no value at all besides celebrity voices. I was honestly sitting there watching previews for all this sheer crap like a new Trolls movie and even Pixar's new Elementals (2023), which looks like the same fucking movie they've been making for the past twenty years (admittedly with some really cool looking Fire animation) and then Migration (2023) dropped and I took notice. That looks really beautiful and mellow. I'm into it. I can get behind this. I've never seen a studio put so many clips of their own crappy work in a trailer before. It was almost to serve to show how much they're willing to change and move beyond the vapid colors and shallow efforts of the past. I'm surprisingly down with Illumination now.

That's also because The Super Mario Bros Movie largely avoids the kind of cringe humour of adults trying to be cool or chasing trends like so many of these and Dreamworks' movies do. It's remarkably fresh while being stunning to look at.

I really dug this - heavy recommend, maybe especially for non-fans. I'm eternally curious if you'd be able to make any sense of this thing or if you'd just be along for the ride like I was!

15 March 2023

52 in '23: Man Bites Dog

Movie: Man Bites Dog (1992)
Method: Netflix DVD

Why Did I Watch This?

I have no idea how this got on my radar. I honestly forgot. I thought it was just like a phrase and I remember it as a joke in Spaceballs (1987). Now I'm not sure I've ever known less about a movie going into it. They literally started speaking French and I thought, "Oh, is this French?" I did not know it was black and white. Or actually what year it was made. I figured like, old? OR how violent and insane this would be.

How Was It?

This is assuredly a good movie, maybe one of the best of all time. But it's decidedly not for everyone. It is starkly violent and wholly uncompromising in its depiction of the worst actions imaginable. I mean, child murder, gang rape, it's all in there. Fun for someone who has no idea any of this is coming.

The whole bit is that it's amazingly matter of fact. The premise is that a documentary crew is following this guy who is incredibly charismatic and jovial, but also kills quite a few people. He seems to be maybe a professional robber or assassin or something? But no one gives him a job, he mostly just mugs and kills folks. He sees it as a job, though, he is remarkably detached. But there is some kind of moral code in there, when he kills a family and finds they have nothing for him to steal he's lascient about it.

That's not to say he has any redeeming qualities. He's one of the worst human beings to appear on any screen. It's like how Goodfellas (1990) showed all these really charismatic crooks who were so complacent and comfortable with death. Except this depiction is taken far far further. The documentary crew at first just seems to be taking it all in, but they slowly get more absorbed into his deeds, until they are helping him dispose of bodies, join in on killing children and raping wives, and all sorts of nonsense.

It's unnerving, to say the least. You wonder at first what their deal is, like is this some alternate universe where these actions or more acceptable? Or are they just morally apathetic? We don't get insight into why they are creating this project, but they keep moving forward, even after a few are caught in stray gunfire in the line of duty. Slowly all possible redemption for every character melts away.

It's shot super cheap, on 16MM. You know, I wonder if I put this on my list after watching "Truth in Journalism" which as I'm watching now is definitely the same movie, down to the hairstyles and really short tie. I'm really the worst film blogger of all time. Or maybe I just don't pretend to know everything. Anyway, they ingeniously got around hiring a cast by just hiring themselves to act and be the crew at the same time. It's pretty fun. The cinematography isn't super awe-inspiring, but I was struck by how good black and white looks. Especially the blood effects. Every film really should probably just be black and white.

This only works because lead actor Benoit Poelvoorde is amazingly engaging and charismatic. There's this weird satisfaction in knowing how he'll react to a situation, even if it's invariably horrific. He's incredibly well-defined for what must have been mostly improv, or a quick and dirty script. There are such large stretches of him on camera, it really is fantastic. There is just nothing held back, this is really humanity at is most raw and visceral.

The editing is unreal, too. Man that shot that cuts between kids with toy guns to actual guns being fired gets me every time. There is such wise use of editing to imply violence, but they also then definitely go for graphic violence as well. It all works in service of a story that feels somehow satirical? It's as if you have no choice but to laugh. But you also do really feel for these inhuman monsters! Their desires are so well articulated - not just killing folks, but the loss of a communion bracelet or wanting to hang out and eat some bad mussels. It's all as real as the horrific violence.

I don't know about this one, you have to be into it. It's really compelling and will stick with you for quite a while, but also definitely not for Grandma. I say check it out if you're able to. Netflix DVD for the win again!
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