30 August 2010

Summer Jam 2010: August 30 Winners

Slowly but surely we're balking towards the end of Summer. It's a tragic time nationwide as the days get a bit shorter, a bit chillier and the skirts get longer. As we plow ahead into some shit times though, the Definitive Jam of Summer 2010 emerges. It was a tough battle this week, many tracks just barely failing to make the cut. Let's take a look:

#8: "The Only Exception" - Paramore

This hasn't exactly charted that great in the past few weeks, but I'm still hearing it everywhere, which indicates that it's at least a good jam for my hometown of Rochester, NY. Hayley Williams really belts it out on this one, starting soft, slow and cool while eventually building to an incredible crescendo. It's kind of a weird depressing song at first but there's some hope that shines through by the end. It's not really Summer Jam Lyrical Material, but fuck, what is this Summer? Oh, her. That's right. For a shout-out at #8 this week and unlikely to return, it's Paramore. What the hell is a Paramore anyway? It sounds like something that should be something but isn't actually anything. Hot Dog.

#7: "Cooler Than Me" - Mike Posner

It's possible this song may have had its run, it's slipped a bit on the Hot 100 but still seems to show up everywhere despite overstaying its welcome. Posner is an absolute tool though. Yes he deserves to die and I hope he burns in hell.

#6: "DJ Got Us Falling in Love" - Usher ft. Pitbull

This is about the inverse of "The Only Exception," it's ranked pretty high but I didn't really hear much of it this week. Not to say its popularity should be considered dropping, but its buzz peak seems to be last week for sure. Then again, it's Hot 100 is its all-time highest position, so whatever. It feels more of a radar blip song than "OMG" (which I actually probably heard about as often as "DJ" this week), so its stock for Summer Jam is pretty crud right now. Still though, good enough to clock in at #6 this week.

#5: "Your Love" - Nicki Minaj

Despite finally falling to Em on the Rap Charts this week, I heard this song a ton played in cars driving by, which is just about the most reliable I can get towards hearing what other people are listening to these days. "Your Love" is killing the drive by tunes right now, a clear definitive, objective observation on successful Pop Culture. Nicki's a stunner here even if "Bottoms Up" is failing to impress. Cleavage, though.

#4: "California Gurls" - Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg

After sinking a bit last week Katy crawls back here, actually the song I heard most in Rochester, NY this week. Stunning stuff, she clearly hasn't lost a whole lot of Radio Momentum, at least in smaller markets. "Teenage Dreams" is surely the go-to song of hers right now and its stock is rising far faster than "California Gurls" is falling. The pulse of the zeitgeist has really moved on from here, but its just still kind of around. In fact, I heard it my car about 15 minutes ago. We're going to need some stakes and garlic for this girl pretty soon, I'm not sure what else can kill it!

#3: "Teenage Dreams" - Katy Perry

Double-shot this week for the owner of Kitty Purry. This is a big counter to the boundless energy of "California Gurls," and the video is much less hot, although the lyrics are arguably a bit hotter. The singing is probably better than her other track (at least when she gets over the high-pitched whine at the start), but there's not a whole lot of bit here. Nevertheless, the thing's decent enough to take a legit charge at our zeigeist if Em slips up next week. Unlikely.

#2: "Dynamite!" - Taio Cruz

Yeah this is still going really strong. I still get pretty pumped every time I hear the first few riffs, and look at this vid: I've never seen another dude get chicks to walk so sexy next to him. Damn, son. It's some hot shit and however this song ends up doing, Taio's had a hell of a Summer.

#1: "Love the Way You Lie" - Em ft. Rihanna

Is it possible this track is starting to stale? It's just on the cusp, I wouldn't be surprised it if finally falters a bit next week. Still, it finally beat Nicki for the Rap Charts as well as still ruling iLike, Radio and Ringtones. Pretty fearsome. "Dynamite" is actually beating it on the Pop Charts though, and "Teenage Dreams" has it on Digital Songs, with some more momentum I wouldn't be surprised if Katy nabs #1 with her new song next week. Em's almost losing grip on the zeitpulse, so we'll see.

So that's about it, we've got one more Week of Summer then it all finally comes crashing down while the King of Summer will place his or her Crown on his or her Anointed Head. I don't know what happened to "Magic" by B.o.B and Rivers Cuomo this week, and "Misery" by Maroon 5 is looking alright for the most part, we'll see if they're able to fight back and throw their hats in at the last minute. It's time to get excited! See you for one more!

25 August 2010

Because They're Everywhere: 9 Parts of Mainstream Culture I Hate

In honour of Mike Posner's "Cooler Than Me" which makes me want to drown and kill cute puppies whenever I hear it, I thought I'd take a moment today to go on a nice ramble about other parts of Pop Culture I absolutely despise. See, this is relatively exceptional. Even shows like Jersey Shore or films like Transformers (2007) I'll watch and even enjoy. They are incredibly stupid and of no artistic or spiritual merit, but I find myself able to enjoy them. No, today we're talking about three movies, three television shows and three bands that I absolutely can not watch or listen to because they just anger up the blood. They fill me with such unsustainable rage that I get into Baby-Punching Mode. Films like Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) that are absolutely atrocious and clearly deeply flawed can still have some cool parts, some reason for enjoyment even if it's only to get over a massive Sunday Hangover on F/X. The following are those that commit the Deepest and Darkest of Sins. And going into this article I admit forthwright that yeah, these are pretty mainstream and for the most part, massively popular. You're going to be surprised. Let's begin:

Three Films that Make Me Want to Strangle Kittens:

I'll also admit that for some of these I don't really have an explanation. Such is the case of Miami Vice (2006) and Paycheck (2003). I was prepared to turn my mind off for both films but instead they obnoxiously demanded my attention for needlessly complicated plots and attempts at deep, brooding character interaction that was totally uncalled for. Michael Bay is a fucking visionary because he delivers exactly what the audience wants. He doesn't pretend he's an auteur. Michael Mann's Miami Vice is such a pretentious piece of shit, the kind of piece of shit that considers itself an excellent, thinking action film. Instead it's a boring, dumb action film without the requisite action necessary to justify it's viewing. I mean, Face/Off (1997) is implausible, but awesome stuff happens on a second-by-second basis, which is backed up by actors playing slimily against each other with a whole lot of fun involved. Paycheck involves Assfleck at one of his Unrelentingly Douchiest and Colin Ferrell and somehow-Oscar Winner Jamie Foxx commit sins against got in Miami Vice. I can't bother with either one.

Another film I actively hate and will always refuse to watch is X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009). I already summed up most of my feelings here. Everything is wrong with this movie. It's a non-hardcore movie that tries to be violent, it's a comic-reference heavy film that gets all its references wrong. Hugh Jackman acting in any movie that doesn't begin with "The Prest" and end with "ige," should be shot on sight without question. Damn is this film bad. It's so bad it really insults Comic and Wolverine Fans everywhere, and that is the truest sin of all. See also: Avabar: The Last Bartender (2010).

Three Television Shows that Make Me Want to Eat My Own Dick:

You're going to think I'm absolutely crazy but I absolutely hate The Colbert Report. I fucking hate it. Steven Colbert is plenty talented on his own and I enjoyed the first couple years but after that we have problems. Part of which is that Steven Colbert IS really funny on his own! The Colbert Report has all but prevented him from doing other fantastic voice work as well as comedy much more innovative that The Fake News. The fake gimmick of The Colbert Report has become stale, far too political (Again, I have admittedly gone to the point where this and The Daily Show actually give me more non-NFL news that I'm prepared to handle in a single sitting) and even hipster-ish. It panders to a half-educated drunken college crowd that pretends to understand the jokes and arbitrarily assigned Colbert the mantle of Generational Icon long ago and has since ceased to question it. It's a bland repetitive humour that feeds off its audience rather than the other way around. The subversion is complete. Move on. At least whoever did this agrees.

Do I even have room for two more TV Shows? I hate every possible incarnation of Scooby Doo. It's worked itself into such a limited paradigm - oh hey, it's not a ghost, it's Old Man Jenkins! Every once in a while they introduce REAL Monsters which is completely contrary to the determined Rules of its Universe, thus altering Suspension of Disbelief. There's no winning with Scooby Doo. Predictability or Destruction of Universe. Once you've seen a single episode you've seen every one (wait, fuck that, Scooby Doo is so ingrained in our Pop Culture that you could recite a Scooby Doo episode from memory without ever seeing the show). Awful, awful lazy writing. Despite Trope Innovation, Scooby is Bullshit.

Speaking of Lazy Writing, let's talk Family Guy. Not unlike similar bullshit shows like Wonder Showzen and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Family Guy relies on a stretched out, Discomfort Humour that seeks to test and annoy its audience rather than enlighten them. Hidden under guises of "surreality" and Nostalgia-Pandering, Family Guy is an awful awful show that tricks its viewers into thinking it's funny. This shit is not surreal. People throw around the term Surreal as an excuse for most of Adult Swim's bullshit to fly across their faces without just criticism. Monty Python's Flying Circus is the definition of surreal, even The Other Guys (2010) can fit the description very accurately. It is disorder presenting itself as order, thus becoming subversive, innovative and requiring the audience to think in ways it hasn't (or couldn't) before. The Superior Shows on Cartoon Network's Late Hour right now are The Venture Bros and The Boondocks, shows reliant on heavy, lasting character development to fuel jokes both subtle and outrageous whilst allowing for greater commitment to story that rewards the viewer both aesthetically and intellectually. Family Guy does none of this. Random for the sake of Random is pitiful. Devoid of meaning there is no meaning. South Park, better than any show or article has nailed it better than I ever could.

Three Bands that Make Me Want to Blow Coke and Rape Some Nuns:

I'm getting angrier and angrier as I'm going through this so I'll try to wrap this up here, especially because as you can tell, I take my Music pretty seriously. I can't stand Asher Roth for reasons similar to my hatred of a College Crowd that adores Colbert. Props to Spose who made Asher's genre awesome while dissing him. It's a stereotype, simplification and glorification of the College Experience. Actually for the most part it's far too tame. Where is the herpes, Asher? And what parties are you at that end at 3 AM? Who the fuck uses condoms in college, anyway? Get the fuck out of here. For the most part, it's the kind of winking pretension that really irritates me. It creates Artificiality out of the college experience instead of Organic Fun. I mean, there used to be propriety and shame over college alcoholics failing out due to over-partying. Asher made a hit single about it. I- dammit, this is how aneurysms start.

Alright, there are two more bands that I cannot listen to for more than two or three seconds, yet both are commonly hailed as Classics, which I believe was uncalled for. I speak of U2 and Dave Matthews Band. I can't stand either of this shit, mostly because both of these guys' voices would sound perfect playing over parties where a bunch of dudes get blown by other dudes. Dave, what the hell is wrong with Dave? It sounds like Bruce Vilanch stomping on an angry badger. It's a Crime against God. And Bono, oh fucking Bono. Just die, Bono. Die a horrible death. How can this cat give so much and still seem so full of himself? Oh right, South Park nailed that one, too. And speaking of South Park, what the fuck is up with that show? As for Bono it's probably something like I get the impression that he's not truly altruistic, he helps out because it's expected of him, not because it's his true wishes. It's why he's still rich as shit, I mean, don't give half, Paul, you want to truly become enlightened give it all up, join an Ashram somewhere, don't prance around Africa in your Gucci Loafers you arrogant son of a cock. Since when did U2 become classic rock? Why the fuck do I turn on my Classic Rock Station and the setlist goes Stones, Beatles, Zep, Doors, U2? How the fuck did U2 get in that crowd. This is fucking bullshit.

Now I'm really angry. I hope none of you like Steven Colbert anymore.

24 August 2010

Profiles: The Contrasting Roles of Will Ferrell, Part II

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen finally to Part II of our look at the many varied roles of Will Ferrell in honour of his new film, The Other Guys (2010). A Dozen Days ago I described some of his different types of characters, the great job he does in Supporting Roles, Buddy Films, Children's Films and even (relatively) serious work. There are Four Characters that are pretty significant however, his straight-up Leading Man-Child Roles. These Four all have their own particular nuances and idiosyncrasies that serves to make each distinct facets of that singular Man-Child Theme. We'll begin with the weakest character from the weakest film and move from there:

Jackie Moon in Semi-Pro: Everybody Love Everybody

Besides some of the Best Marketing a Will Ferrell Film has had of late, Semi-Pro (2008) was a critical and commerical bomb. I found it a spectacular look at Beta Males in B-Level Athletics (not unlike The Other Guys' eponymous look at those other guys). It's an interesting film because Jackie Moon really takes the backseat to some of the other characters. He doesn't get the girl, he doesn't have the most satisfying arc and he doesn't really have the talent to carry or coach the Flint Tropics (Best Fake Sports Team Ever). He works as a rallying point, though. Jackie is able to bring out the best in everyone around him, bind the teammates together and encourage and support them. He's definitely the most sensitive Ferrell creation, as well. He's got a soft spot for his dead mum (so much so that he forfeits a game when she's insulted) as well as for team love, loyalty and friendship.

All of Will's characters have trouble growing up. Jackie Moon most clearly has issues with his madre, but is also stuck in a changing world. He fears the changing merger between ABA and NBA threatening to destroy the precious if not precarious small-town set-up he's established. He's also clutching on to former glory, deluded by a to fear of growing old and irrelevant (despite the clear fact that he is old and irrelevant). In the end one of the most grounded supporting casts in a Will Ferrell Film Ever bow to his incredible promotional skills which he more than sheepishly employs to save the day. Like I said, this character is by far the most passive, sensitive Man-Child, expressing his fears through moodiness and despondence rather than insane yelling. For the most part.

Chazz Michael Michaels in Blades of Glory: He'll Get Inside You Face

The most brash and renegade Will Ferrell Character, Chazz Michael Michaels IS figure skating. Blades of Glory (2007) is a monster on its own, existing someplace goofier than Semi-Pro but not nearly as ridiculous as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004). Chazz is a addicted to alcohol, sex, fame and glory - refusing to quit when he gets going. One of my favourite Ferrell creations actually, Chazz is loud, confident and unlike any of Will's other creations, a literal Lone Wolf. He is loath to reach out to any kind of friendship, part of which results in his great difficulty working with Napoleon Dynamite.

He's actually one of the least Man-Child like of all of Will's Man-Children. He doesn't care enough to run away from problems or deny any big life tragedy or abandonment issues. He's alone, uncaring and unfeeling until Jimmy McElroy gets forced into his life thus giving him one vital attachment. Like Jackie Moon he is without a Love Interest (unless you count like...Oksana Baiul) but the film works better from it. Jackie has enough to do controlling everybody in Semi-Pro without having a chick to pursue, and Chazz's personality is so anti-commitment that no lasting relationship would seem real. Chazz is nuts, look at this brilliance. He's the peak of self-destruction. Ron Burgundy approached this level towards his darkest point in Anchorman, but hell, this might as well have been Chazz's introduction. He gets worse from there. Again, Blades of Glory is its own monster.

Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby: I Wanna Go FAST!!

This is one of Will's Career Best Characters. He's got the most significant Arc of any film he's ever done (except maybe Stranger Than Fiction [2006]). Ricky Bobby is that perfect mix of crazy, confident and vulnerable. There's a lot of pain that drives him which inspires him to drive fast. What's cool about Talladega Nights is that you can tell there's this real character underneath this insane one. The NASCAR circuit brings out this brash, boastful American out of his small-town, meek guy. By Film's end he finally reaches a middle path. He stops racing for the love of his dead-beat Father, his bitchy wife or even his Gay French Rival. He races for himself. That's the key with Ricky Bobby. His Man-Child grows up by realising he needs to drop his issues with the people around him and becomes a man on his own right.

This could also rank in the Buddy Film Category, but due to the long split he has with John C. Reilly and the more solo focus the second half of the film contains, it becomes Will's Movie more than any other. He is loud and obnoxious like Chazz Michael Michaels, but lacks the self-destructive habits and has a strong outer and inner need for accompaniment rather than a small internal desire. Abandonment, rivalry, fake vs. real friendships and marriages set in the greatest Advertising World there is, Talladega Nights (2006) is a film-making feat of strength. Also Ricky bangs Amy Adams in a bar. Righteous, brother.

Ron Burgundy in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy: In a Glass Case of Emotion

Ron Burgundy is the balls. I've already discussed at length the various Insane Competing Realities of Anchorman (2004), it's a shame that he really hasn't built a film as purely surreal as this since. Any McKay film (Talladega and The Other Guys) comes close, but none really so thoroughly skew reality as Anchorman. Maybe it's simply the 1970s setting that lends a certain liberty to be ridiculous (compare with Starsky and Hutch [2004] and Semi-Pro which both existed in much firmer realities, the latter of which was downright gritty at times). While Jackie Moon doesn't have a great deal of aggressive actions, Chazz Michael Michaels is a reluctant player and Ricky Bobby's struggle is to liberate himself from his need for company and approval, Ron Burgundy is the definitive center of Anchorman. There's no question.

He gets the girl - babe of babes Christina Applegate. He gets his friends back after a disastrous fall from Olympus. He's not a fighter by choice, nor is he explicitly loud or uncouth. He's the perfect gentleman. Picture for instance what would happen if Ron, Ricky, Chazz and Jackie were in a bar together. Jazz Flute comes on the Jukebox. There's only one man who could get a lay out of that, much less make it out without his ears bleeding. Ron would take charge even among Will's own Character Parade. He's a perfect rallying point, a natural figure to look to when in a jam. The supporting cast is absolutely out of control here but Ron always remains cool. He's the smoothest of the characters that appear here, probably the most well-rounded.

He also doesn't have that many psychological issues, which undoubtedly help found his leadership ability and calm demeanor. Ron is still afraid of change, however, and when Veronica Corningstone threatens to destroy the world he's built things go downhill. Anchorman is about Fall and Redemption, the destruction of a Faulty World and the Ascension of one built on Compromise and Tolerance. There is of course, a whole lot of goofiness here that prevents any deep analysis (like that's ever stopped me before). Ron breaks down only when his entire world is destroyed, not dissimilar to how Ricky Bobby's World was Ruined. How both characters react are a sure sign of their distinction. Ricky, starting from the bottom returns only to the bottom with a family and sons intact, thus he freaks out much less. Ron, however, only knew the top. When he goes to the bottom he doesn't really know how to react other than drinking warm milk on a Hot Hot San Diego Day.

So whenever anyone tells you that Will Ferrell plays the same character in every movie he's in, you look him or her in the eye and scream at the top of your lungs "NO" and then show them this website.

Come on, Magic Man, what are you waiting for.

23 August 2010

Summer Jam 2010: August 23 Winners

Here we are back again with our ongoing look at who will be definitively named The King Of Summer Jam 2010. A bloodthirsty contest this has been and heading into the final breezy weeks of summer I'd say it's almost still anybody's game. Drop your socks and grab your cocks, let's bustle:

#8: "Teenage Dreams" - Katy Perry

A good debut last week, this week Katy's possible second big song of summer clocks in at Numero Ocho. This is a much more muted track than "California Gurls" by far and I like it a whole lot less. It's much whinier, and frankly, sung much poorer. It's admittedly much more of a high school song than her other huge track this summer, so that's exactly as good as its worth. Riding off C-Gurls this track should do fine the next couple weeks.

#7: "Your Love" - Nicki Minaj

Deservedly fighting back up a few spots is Nicki who remains atop the Rap Charts, beating out the boys (and Eminem on those charts). I already gave my rambling about how excellent the video is yesterday and I'll stick to that. She's actually been doing better on the Hot 100 as well, if she cracks the Top 10 there she might actually do some damage this summer. Until then, the Rap Charts aren't good enough without a dent in the Big Leagues. The track still rules and has never really gone away.

#6: "Cooler than Me" - Mike Posner

I fucking hate this shit.

#5: "California Gurls" - Katy Perry ft. Snoop

Katy Perry admitted this week that she's actually also getting sick of this song. I feel like that's the green light for the rest of us to stop pretending we haven't gotten enough of this monster. Big drop this week that should continue to fall as the weather gets colder (you can't listen to this song with red leaves outside anyway). Let's just graciously set this aside and give Eminem his due these next couple weeks.

#4: "Magic" - B.o.B ft. Rivers Cuomo

As official Adidas spokesman, this song is suddenly on every time a Television is, due to the Freshest Commercial of Summer. This is a good track though, and at #11 on the Hot 100 is just pinching at the bit to crack the 100 and rock some worlds. With "Airplanes" just about kaput, B.o.B is ready to swoop in with "Magic." Isn't it funny how the artists of the three biggest songs this summer ("Airplanes," "California Gurls," "OMG") really just bounced back immediately as they decreased popularity? Fantastic.

#3: "DJ Got Us Falling in Love" - Usher ft. Pitbull

Yep. This track exploded this week, and while it's still no where near the...um...stupidity of "OMG," it's a decent entry for Usher. Yeah man. Climbing, climbing I actually doubt its ability to hold on to this precarious spot for a few more weeks, there's a lot of instability around this part of the List. We'll see though, its rise has been meteoric so far. Who knows, actually I should stop trying to predict anything this summer.

#2: "Dynamite" - Taio Cruz

YEAH! This song is ridiculous but perfect for Silly Summer Nights. Taio's got some talent here, albeit wasted on insane lyrics. I really just miss the Hot Chick from the "Break Your Heart" video but this will have to do in the meantime. This is the kind of song that I didn't feel like I actually heard that much this week, but looking back, it was everywhere. That won't change throughout the rest of summer.

#1: "Love The Way You Lie" - Em ft. Rihanna

Is there anything more to say about this song? Along with Nicki I praised the magnificent video yesterday. Awesome controversy, great lyrics, great video, awesome vocals and a sick beat, this is Eminem firing the way Em should be firing. Of course the real catch here is that the content is not suited for Summer at all. We need a cheery inconsequential Summer Jam, I'm worried that as depressing as this track is could hurt its chances as always causing Summer Weather Reminiscence rather than just Good Song Reminiscence. We'll see.

So that's it for this glourious week. I heard a ton of "The Only Exception" by Paramore this week but its chart position has been terrible. I'm also waiting to see if "Club Can't Handle Me" by Flo Rida ft. David Guetta is able to make a dent in these last few weeks. Summer is always Flo Rida Season! What happened man? Bad timing bro. "Misery" by Maroon 5 is right there as well, just barely beat this week. Basically all of these songs need to move far up the Hot 100 to earn some consideration here. Next week is next week though, we'll see baby.

These are sexy times.

22 August 2010

Undisputed: Four Awesome Music Videos in Our Zeitgeist

The music video is an underrated art form. A great, meaningful song can advance its message through a profound, interesting video accompaniment. This is pretty rare however, more often videos instead feature lots of bouncing titties, parties or some combination of both. Of course then, I'm pretty pumped that we have Four Pretty Awesome Videos floating around our Zeitgeist right now, all Four attached to pretty popular songs. How pretty. For no other reason, let's dive in:

"Your Love" - Nicki Minaj

I've rambled about this before, but this is still one of my favourite videos of the year. "Your Love" is such a flowing, billowy song, the drape imagery everywhere really fits the mood. It's a love story of widely varying emotions, jealousy, naivete, anger, sadness, joy, all told within a few minutes. Nicki's death at the end is also pretty unexpected. She's also unexpectedly reserved in this video, much less crazy than just about everything else she's been in. It lends a more serious tone to the piece. Thankfully though, cleavage and cuteness are still on rapid display. There's a lot of little moments here that make the video great, from the Bitch frowning when Gamble touches Nicki in the Kung Fu class, to expressions of love shown in just a smile. There's an other-worldly feel to the whole thing (supported not only by the fact that all these Black People are evidently living and training in some Japanese-styled locale). It's almost dream-like, which the lyrics allude to. Fantastic stuff out of Nicki, who is unarguably one of the most talented Rap Artists around today.

"Power" - Kanye West

I'm still debating within myself whether this is actually an innovative video or just another expression of Kanye's ridiculous ego. The lyrics seem to contrast with the imagery -

No one man should have all that power
The clock’s tickin’, I just count the hours
Stop trippin’, I’m trippin’ off the power

Anyway, said imagery is one of the most beautiful I've seen in a music video in years. The detail is intricate while maintaining a compositional simplicity. The single-shot take (for the most part) is always impressive, especially with the slight Hitchcock-Zoom Out in effect here. The tableau Kanye presents is reminiscent of an African Royal Court, with dancers, fighters, columns and everything focused on Kanye himself as King of All. Again, the ego would seem completely out of control but he seems to be singing against the excesses of power, or at least admitting his ego. Once the pan is finished the whole thing looks like it could hang in the Romantic Wing of an Art Gallery. It's a true meeting of art, music and video that looks spectacular. I'm also a growing fan of Kanye's use of limited song snippets for his videos, just enough to get his point across (admittedly a 5-minute pan like this might be excessive, even for Kanye). "Flashing Lights" was much of the same, also one of the Best Vids of the Past Decade. Whatever he's tripping on, Kanye can keep it up to churn out more of this kind of material.

"Misery" - Maroon 5

I am no fan of Maroon 5. That's possibly why I like watching Adam Levine get his ass kicked for three minutes straight here. But anyway, the stunts and editing are pretty incredible in this video. I consider the subject matter a much much lighter, goofier take on Em and Rihanna's "Love the Way You Lie." That hate and love come from the same spring - Adam's misery comes from how much he loves this chick and then she (literally - decent metaphor) breaks him apart. This video also progresses to get much wackier by the end, with rocket launchers, cars overturning, a man on fire, these are crazy times. Also built upon subtle moments, there's this great face around 2:35 in where you can tell he has no idea where to go next. An emotional journey built on small moments with a light sprinkling of humour to disguise the intense package. Well done, boys. Now go back to my hated bands folder.

"Love the Way You Lie" - Eminem ft. Rihanna

Speaking of Em and Rihanna...I do ramble about this video every week so we'll keep it up here. Easy vid of the year (54+ Million Viewers can't be wrong!) so far, this is close to perfect. It's actually a relatively low-budget piece, there are pretty limited sets and effects (just a house that later...catches on a slow motion fire). This is probably how they could afford the Star Power, which is killer. Like Nicki Minaj, Em does well here because he's holding back. He's not in irrelevant goofy-mode or even at the center of the action in the video. Eminem belongs as omniscient narrator in a field, he can't carry a video like this. Rihanna gets less credit than she deserves, she's fantastic by being a barely felt presence, cooing and oozing over the chorus, with some incredible cleavage to boot. It coaxes the whole song into something it might not have succeeded without.

There's a real sense of pain here. I've talked about some subtle moments for all these videos (except of course Kanye...there's nothing subtle about "Power"), 3:15 in there's this great face on Charlie, this smile in his own world that is slowly destroyed by the realisation that this isn't just another fight with his gf. This is it. The lack of love recognition in his soul mate dawns on him and he reacts the only way he really knows how. Beats the shit out of her and sets the house on fire. That's the way he's been wired, overtaken with anger. It's this really tragic tale of where love and hate come from. Again, you're not going to get much closer to a perfect video for a perfect song.

Enough dick-sucking for the morning. These are four great videos based on subtle moments, original creative imagery, syncing subject matter, and fantastic editing and direction - vital to a four-minute story. Not only that, but all four of these tracks are pretty popular. Go music videos! Will the MTV VMAs feel the same way? Fuck, who cares.

19 August 2010

Trends: Comic Book Movies over True Action Films, 2002 - 2008

The biggest movie news of last weekend was The Expendables (2010) proving that Julia Roberts and Mike Ceratops were...expendable. Hey oh!

But anyway, it got me thinking about the Modern Action Film. You don't see a lot of them anymore. Original Tentpole Films were absent for the majority of the past decade. There wasn't really any good True Action Film to latch on to. There wasn't a Die Hard (1988) or a True Lies (1994) or an Armageddon (1998). Hell, I'd even take The Last Boy Scout (1991). While we've had Comic Book Movies dating back to Superman (1978), I'll place 2002 as the year when Hollywood first realised that these Superheroes would be the future of Action Films.

"I'm Sick of Being in the Van:"

There is a certain distinction between pre-programmed Superhero Films and Real Action Films. Action Movies feature a Cop, a Marine, even a Biochemist placed into outrageous situations and fighting their way out. The late 90s had an awesome score of these kinds of films which I covered last summer. These were (for the most part) original ideas, many Hard-R Types with big action names like Schwarzenegger, Stallone, even the Cage. I mean, Stallone even turned Arm Wrestling into heart-stopping action. Yeah, what the hell...?

Anyway, these films followed a certain beat. They were hard, exploding films with little illusion of safety. Comic Book Films are propagated in part due to advancements in CGI which make it easier for ordinary men to do the impossible (compare and contrast the limitations despite age of John McClane in the original Die Hard vs. Live Free or Die Hard [2007]). This is simply to say the two naturally go hand-in-hand. As technology allows filmmakers' imaginations to expand it allows for more Super-Powered Individuals to strut across the screen. The 90s are known as this really explosive decade. We had these huge overblown budgets but really only practice effects to work with. Thus there's this great period of insane explosions everywhere. CGI though, combined with the rapidisation of Franchise Features and Built-In Trilogies around the Turn of the Century easily allowed Cookie-Cutter Comic Book Films to overtake True Action Films.

This article published a few months ago on IFC also points out the lack of popular acceptance for cartoonish villains and plots in a serious, politically correct minded post-9/11 world. A film like The Expendables belongs in the 80s in many ways - the big muscular dudes, excessive violence, inconsequential plot and filmic interpretations. More on that later.

"We Need an Old-Fashioned Cop:"

One huge disparity between Comic Book Films and Action Films is the relationship between actors and their characters. Schwarzenegger is Quaid, Stallone is Gabe Walker , Willis is Korben Dallas (I had to look up these names). They incorporate these characters into their own personas. This is some of the reason why it's so hard to duplicate a Terminator film that doesn't feature some incarnation of Arnie. The Pop Culture Memory of what the Terminator is started with Arnold. All of these Action Heroes really just played folds of their Popular Personas, it's more like "Cage is kicking ass" or "Jean Claude doesn't take shit" than "Oooh, look at Spider-Man swing!"

My point is that actors starring in Comic Book Films are typically smaller than the comic. The Comic Book Film is sold on its print property, a True Action Film is sold on a combination of Star Power and Ridiculous Premise. Most successful Comic Book Adaptations however, star unknowns in the lead who can take upon the mantle of the character rather than the other way around. Tobery Maguire, Hugh Jackman and Brandon Routh come to mind as actors who built their careers around playing already firmly established characters rather than providing a foothold of their own. There's not a whole lot of room to place distinguished personas in these roles.

There are a few exceptions, of course, though mainly these are for Chameleons rather than Typecast Actors, as highlighted in an article featured on IMDB today. Robert Downey, Jr puts a lot of himself into Tony Stark (and if his Sherlock Holmes is any indication that is all he feels like playing these days), but he's certainly a more versatile actor with a wider range than some of the old Action Staples. Other notable actors playing Superheros has a variety of effects. I actually don't mind Ben Affleck's Daredevil that much and Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen certainly shine in X-Men (2000). This doesn't belay the simple fact however, that Superhero films simply cannot replace Action Films, which was de facto for a huge amount of Summers between 2002 and 2008.

"I'm Gettin' Too Old for This Shit:"

This is all of course not to say that there weren't any True Action Films in the 2000s. There's definitely discrepancies between Vin Diesel/Dwayne Johnson-type movies and the old Arnie/Sly flicks. There is even a great "passing of the torch" moment in The Rundown (2003) where Arnie wishes The Rock good luck. Who would have ever guessed this would happen to that Budding Action Star just a few years past.

Prior to Spider-Man (2002), the true moment when Comic Book Films took over, we had this assortment of Action-Driven pieces. After that though, we basically had a handful of Jason Statham Movies, Smokin' Aces (2006) and...what? Paycheck (2003)? I, Robot (2004)? Babylon A.D. (2008)? Holy Shit. These are dark times.

2008 was the Banner Year for Comic Book Movies. A healthy combo of Iron Man, The Dark Knight and The Incredible Hulk all proved that Superhero films could be damned good, even Academy-Award Winning. All three of these also made ridiculous bank in addition to widespread critical acclaim. Finally melding True Action Films with Comic Properties, all three starred established, critically adored actors, as if it finally wasn't beneath critics to praise Superhero acting. The films were sold on this combination of Actor's Clout and pre-established property.

Since then, however, we have actually moved away from Comic Book Films a bit. There are a surprising amount of Original Ideas this Summer (How they've fared is not as optimistic). More importantly, across the past two years we've had many successful Action Films that, while not in the true 90s mold at all, are moving away from the Stale Superhero Format. These include Taken (2009), District 9 (2009), Inglourious Basterds (2009), AVABAR (2009), Inception (2010) and The Expendables. Taken and The Expendables tend to actually fit the mold pretty well (except of course for the fact that all our Action Heroes are now in their 60s).

Even films based on prior properties like The A-Team (2010), The Losers (2010) and MacGruber (2010) have that distinct Fun Action feel rather than that brooding, whiny emotional Comic Feel that had pervased Cinema since Spider-Man 2 (2004). I mean, this was one of the most awesome fucking moments in movies in years. Either way, newer ideas doing well bodes well for the return of True Action Films.

"Relationships that Start Under Intense Circumstances, They Never Last:"

2011 is going to Atom-Bomb any hope we have. Among releases include Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, X-Men: First Class and Green Lantern. The Summer after that should be even more huge with The Avengers and Batman 3: Pajama Party. Marvel vs. DC truly pitting their giants against each other. Wowsers. Will we ever get our True Action Film back again?

Sure, if Sly and The Expendables 2: The Reckoning (2012) have anything to say about it.

18 August 2010

The Long Halloween: Summer

Welcome once again to Norwegian Morning Wood's year-long look at the Universe's Greatest Television Holiday Specials. Now, August was pretty tough so I may have cheated a bit. Unfortunately I couldn't find any good Ramadan Specials from American TV so here's one of my favourite Summer Specials. Yep, just Summer in general. Hey, it's a good Holiday. Probably the best Holiday. This is also a tough season to find TV Specials in because typically there's no new Network Shows during the Summer Months. So I kind of cheated again. Today I bring you Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation. The whole damn 2-hour Epic is on YouTube right here:

Pretty Legendary. Now, this was originally a Direct-to-VHS release in 1992 but was later split up into four episodes and shown on Television, not unlike the recent Futurama Movies. So this got on TV eventually, that's my rationale.

Now really this is more requisite viewing during late June or otherwise the Beginning of Summer, but since the film covers the entire breadth of Summer it's fine to catch it anytime. There's so much of this that really captures the Summer Spirit. You've got the horrendous Family Vacation from Hell, Awkward Summer Romances, Amusement Parks, Supersoakers and Mine Cart Races. What, you never had dangerous Mine Cart Races as a kid? Plucky sums it up best in the first five minutes: "Three months of non-constructive down time!" You really can't sum up the season any better.

There are admittedly about 17 different plots going on at once here, but the Buster/Babs/Byron trip to the Deliverance South and Pluck and Hampton's Miserable Journey to Happy World Land really shine. With the latter storyline, the writers really actually captured accurately what it's like traveling with a strange family. There's always weird quirks and things you find on the road or living with people you thought were your best friends. Now, the Pig Family is absolutely bonkers but that's neither here nor there. The mad Hitchhiker is pretty ridiculous and the trip is straight out of Hell, even if things like Ninja Slugs tend to date the video. Yes, unbelievably this VHS is somehow dated.

Great constant Sexual Tension between Buster and Babs. You know behind the scenes they were screwing like...well like Rabbits. Their journey is pretty nonsensical, Buster's arc is almost the B-Story to Plucky's cross-country travels. That's what makes this feature unique, not unlike Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003) which focused more on Daffy than Bugs. That's because really with the cool laid back version of Bugs, Daffy is a much more interesting character. The same principle is at work here.

Tiny Toons was always cool because it wasn't composed of simply younger versions of the Classic Icons, nor was it the sons and daughters of Icons. Tiny Toons instead featured Spiritual Successors, which allowed for much greater character liberty and distinction. The show worked as just about anything, from the landmark Very Special "One Beer" to this fantastic, meditated and entertaining episode. Breathtaking shit.

So as you can tell, I'm a fan of this show from childhood to present, re-watching some episodes are still pretty refreshing (hopefully this is not just intense nostalgia), but really, How I Spent My Vacation has everything a Summer Special or really a Summer needs. Wonderful. Wonderful times. We've got one more of these to make it round the year - stay tuned!

17 August 2010

First Impressions: Expendables and Scott Pilgrim Double Feature

This weekend was a treat - why see just one of these great films when you can see two? Also, why pay for both films when it's so, so easy to sneak into the later showing? As such, I treated myself to both movies at the Theater last Friday night, certainly without paying. I of course then felt it natural to smear my Impressions of both films together.

Now, I saw The Expendables (2010) first, followed by Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010). I was fully expecting a harsh difference between films, a true void between Sly's non-stop violence thrill ride and another installment of Mike Ceratops' mumbly whiny classic role. What most surprised me then, was the simple fact that much of the action in Scott Pilgrim, despite the scrawny nerds taking part, was far more entertaining and certainly more investing than that of The Expendables. Let's go deeper, starting with Sly:

Misleading Cameos and Okay Action:

There's a few obvious things that stick out immediately concerning The Expendables that most other Intranet Reviews have covered: 1) The film was sold as a Schwarzenegger/Willis/Stallone Legendary Team-Up Movie. Anyone who pays a lick of attention to Film News knew it wasn't, but their one scene is one of the best in the film and it's great to see a bit of antagonism between Arnie and Sly's characters. Bring Dutch back full as a main bad for a Sequel? Fuck yeah.

2) CGI Blood. Looks bloody awful. Same as in Rambo (2008), this shit wasn't necessary to heighten the violence instead taking us out of our suspension of disbelief instead of immersing ourselves in the carnage. I mean, if Kill Bill: Vol 1 (2003) succeeded without cheap-looking CGBlood, what the hell is it doing here.

That brings me to 3) The Action's not ground-breaking. Speaking of The Big Q, Kill Bill was probably one of the first really violent films I saw in theaters. The violence in that film is so unbelievably over-the-top and played to extreme insanity that I think it's dulled me to the day on other movies that expressly try to be as violent. The thing is, even Rambo wasn't that bad (Sly rips a throat [done better in MacGruber {2010}] and rocks the rest of the Burmese with a .50 Cal. C'mon, it's even cheap to do this shit in Halo), especially when placed among some other Ultra-Violent films of the past five years such as Crank (2006), Shoot 'Em Up (2007) and one of my personal favourites, Smokin' Aces (2006). There's nothing really jaw-dropping or unexpected here. The only eye-catching piece is "Wow, Jet Li fighting Dolph Lundgren!" or "Hey now Sly is fighting Steve Austin!" or "Okay, Jason Statham just stabbed Eric Roberts...wait who cares?" The film seeks to emulate 80s Action Movies (what is with 2010's obsession with the 80s? Hot Tub Time Machine, The A-Team, The Karate Kid and MacGruber?) and that's really exactly what it does. This isn't really a terrible thing for fans of 80s movies, but in general The Expendables tends to think it's a bit too serious than it needs to be. Sly did this shit in Rambo and Rocky Balboa (2006) too. He plays this weird, stiff yet sensitive righteous killer. And how the hell did they plant all those bombs in the castle without being seen? Who fucking knows.

What actually saves this film for the most part is Terry Crews' AA-12, which admittedly, is the most awesome fucking gun in the world. Although Terry doesn't actually even do any fighting (he's not an action star!) he's definitely one of the most badass in the flick. That and Randy Couture's cauliflower ear. Great. And what the hell is up with Mickey Rourke? Did he just come literally directly from the Iron Man 2 (2010) set? Identical make-up, hairstyle, even facial hair. I think they might even have some of the same tats. What the hell? Amongst the other "Men on a Mission" films this year, though, I rank it higher than The Losers (2010) but still underneath The A-Team. Amen.

Indie Quirk and Constant Giggles:

So that's The Expendables. Scott Pligrim vs. The World is about on the complete other side of the spectrum. It's a light-hearted romp through young love that plays with the conventions of what film, music and video games could do together. Really though, this movie can't be understood by anyone over the age of 25. It's such a Youth Zeitgeist film. The cast is incomparable, featuring every hipster actor of our generation.

In a way though, it's also pretty timeless. Scott Pilgrim never uses a cell phone (although all his friends do), instead resorting to phones both in booths and houses. The video game motifs are constantly classic, relying on old fighters and platformers rather than say, MMOPRGS or Sandbox (how the hell could you incorporate Contemporary Video Game Tropes into Film? Current Video Games might as well be Films!). The Love Story is of course there, actually dealing with Puppy Love at first sight vs. True Dream Love. Right until the very end with that one. Of course, just like in real life, the two are on in the same.

There's not a lot of drop-dead laughs here, but this is one of the most consistent giggling-inducing films I've ever seen. There is a non-stop giggle stream accompanying the quirks and goofs here. It plays that fine line between realistic characters in absolutely outrageous situations. The reality of Scott Pilgrim is bendable, reminiscent of a video game yet the characters remain true and the gags secure a solid investment in attention and passion. Whether it's Seinfeld Riffs, Extra Lifes, solid fast-paced editing or even a simple Tom Jane cameo, Scott Pilgrim brings the hot fire.

Also it's a joy to see Michael Cera outwitting both Captain America and Superman back-to-back. And Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a babe. Despite the fact that Young Neil looks a lot like Justin Bieber, which freaked me out, this film's cast is incredible. There are enough characters over the top enough to generate the requisite silly tone but still enough grounded characters (Anna Kendrick, super-cutie comes to mind) to bring the insanity down a bit. Ceratops is doing well this year playing against type a bit, even using his Accepted Persona to his advantage in Youth in Revolt (2010) as well as displaying a perfect straddle between the confidence needed in Scott Pilgrim's action and romance antics and the unreadiness needed for the more tender moments. Hoorah.

So, back to back, head to head Scott Pilgrim is a far more interesting film. It's thrilling, romantic, action-packed and instantly re-watchable, Scottie kicks Sly's ass this week. The Expendables has a handful of good moments and is actually a well structured film, if not limited by its admissible testosterone shot to the balls subject matter. When searching for a Man's Soul this week, 'nuff said. Go see Scottie kick the World's Ass.

16 August 2010

Summer Jam 2010: August 16 Winners

Fun week this week in the world of Pop Culture. There are a bunch of new songs that are lingering on the fringe here but only a few can make this honoured list. Some last minute shake-ups abound with pop, rap and rock tracks all in play. It's not like this Summer is going to be a photo finish at all, but there's some interesting stuff at play coming down towards the end. Let's begin:

#8: "Misery" - Maroon 5

I think this has been a background song for a while but it did some damage this week, enough to crack a spot here. Kind of a wiener song for Summer but deserves its place here. Maroon 5 is a bit too croony to rock anything higher this Summer but for now this pretty average track sits here nicely.

#7: "Magic" - B.o.B ft. Rivers Cuomo

B.o.B's third track to make this list, he's quickly turning into one of this Summer's Biggest Artists. He also has this great knack for finding people to sing his hooks much better than he could. Rivers Cuomo of Weezer isn't a conventional choice but it works pretty well. Its featured status in a nifty Adidas commercial certainly helps its chances for a nice little run at Summer's end. Is this the first rap song with throwaway pop references subsequently featured in advertisements selling those references? I hope so, B.o.B kills it here, his flow rules.

#6: "DJ Got Us Falling in Love" - Usher ft. Pitbull

This really hasn't had the fanfare of "OMG" and it shouldn't. It's kind of a boring song actually. Pitbull adds nothing special, not unlike will.i.am on "OMG." Unlike B.o.B's successful collaborations, Usher's seems unwarranted and stale. He really belts on this one, but it's just popular enough to hover around for a bit.

#5: "Cooler Than Me" - Mike Posner

It's like, this is such a complaining song, we are all very obviously cooler than Mike Posner. I listen to this shit and I think "Yeah Mike, I do think I'm cooler than you. Stop fucking griping about it." The beat is almost video game like, but even for a video game beat it's shitty. How this has remained in this position truly escapes me. I want to starting punching babies every time I hear this, it's infuriating. Move on.

#4: "Airplanes" - B.o.B ft. Hayley Williams

Still hanging around, great summer for B.o.B. Still hovering around the middle of the list, a bit beefed up from last week, "Airplanes" is a for sure hit by now, still ranking pretty high on countdown lists and radio play, even if a visible decline has begun. This won't be a stone drop though and it should be somewhere on this List for the remainder of Summer.

#3: "California Gurls" - Katy Perry ft. Snoop

Falling hard this week! #3 is shameful for "California Gurls," and it's certainly not for diving popularity, more so for other songs catching a better zeitgeist wave. Katy and her Assets had a great time hosting the Teen Choice Awards and her Album is about to drop, which could boost the song a bit. For the most part though, this track's time in the sun is over. We'll see how she plays out, especially when those Teenage Dreams come true.

#2: "Dynamite" - Taio Cruz

An Assault on the Senses, "Dynamite" blasts to #2 this week. Taio needs some space for both his hands, this is a great Summer Track, lots of positivity, energy and sunshine. Like Usher and B.o.B Taio Cruz has basically become a Summer Artist with Jams spread out all over the place. I can't believe Flo Rida hasn't gotten in this shit, he's definitely a Straight Up Summer Artist. Anyway, it's unlikely Taio knocks down Em, but I wouldn't be surprised if he settles in to this position for a tic or two.

#1: "Love the Way You Lie" - Eminem ft. Rihanna

Runaway winner on airplay, downloads and controversy, Em is ruling August. As for its subject matter, I don't think Em's glorifying domestic abuse but I don't think he's really trying to make a statement or message either. I just see it as a story - these are just two people and this shit happens. It's about a guy and a girl who hate and love each other. And that shit just happens. You can identify with this kind of thing if you've ever been in a relationship close to that. What works is how much it hits close to home for a lot of people and through Em's pretty genuine (sincerity in his voice when he talks) tone and passion a song that could have been pretty misguided fires off perfectly. This has just begun, the video and the song are getting bigger and bigger. These are sexy times.

So what of who was left out? We finally got a week without "Billionaire," which I thought we'd get weeks ago. I've also been hearing a ton of "Crossfire" by Brandon Flowers, the lead singer of the Killers as well as "The Only Exception" by Paramore. With Hayley Williams getting a ton of exposure from "Airplanes" that track could get big. I actually did hear a ton of "143" this week, but no signs of it on the charts. Thank Hoff for that. All of these were in a pretty tight cockfight with Maroon 5 for the #8 position this week, next week is anybody's game. And by the way - is this the Greatest Video of All Time or the Most Ridiciulous Ego Trip of All Time? Watch it quick, more on it later if it's still relevant:

Good Luck, Adventurers!

12 August 2010

Profiles: The Contrasting Roles of Will Ferrell

There are only a few auspicious weekends a year like this past one during which we get to see truly life-changing performances. These unique and separate performances of course come from one our generation's Greatest Thespians, William Ferrell. I disagree with the common notion that Will plays the exact same character in each of his films. There are some very subtle differences and nuances to each portrayal which in honour of The Other Guys (2010), I am diving headfirst into today. If you haven't gotten a chance to see this genuinely (with little sarcasm here actually) Non-Typical Ferrel performance, go see it - it's the funniest film of the year. Anyway, we'll start with Five of Will's Six Major Categories:

1) The Great Supporter

Many of Will's Best Roles have come as a supporting character. Oftentimes his characters may be too insane or just too one-noted to carry an entire film so he's wisely relegated to just that. One crazy joke or one recurring crazy dude. A lot of his early roles backing up fellow SNL Alum were like this (See: Superstar [1999], Dick [1999], The Ladies Man [2000], and a handful of Austin Powers flicks). In almost all of these, sometimes it's like Will is the only character who realises the shitty film he's in and he plays it up (Especially along with John Witherspoon in The Ladies Man. Wait, I love that movie). What makes some of these characters work is not always the insanity. Contrast Mugatu (loud, brash but still possibly the only sane one) in Zoolander (2001) with Marshal Willenholly (cowardly, uptight, straight-laced) in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001). Some deep range there, my friend.

When Will's roles started to get bigger he retained this ability to star in both films remaining as a large supporting player as well as providing cameos in friend's films and similar productions. As his star power rose, seeing him suddenly appear in a scene in Wedding Crashers (2005) or Starsky and Hutch (2004) became incredible mostly because of his continued willingness to go absolutely nuts for a joke. Will throws himself much more into Chazz Reinhold (Whats up with Will playing scumbags named Chazz? Admittedly it's a great scumbag name) than even Owen Wilson does playing that Owen Wilson character. He adds just as much as he needs to in The Producers (2005) without taking over the film and Frank the Tank in Old School (2003) is still one of his best efforts. Frank is trying to so hard to be good but that tends to deny who he is. Frank is like the typical Will Ferrel Lead Character trying desperately to not be a Will Ferrell Lead Character. What happens again is that he's allowed to just go nuts for laughs in the background while Luke Wilson provides the significant character arc and identification point audiences can revolve around. It's what makes Old School work so well.

Let's not forget some recent TV work, which works for the very same reason:

2) The Clown

What's pretty sweet about some of Will's films is that his two major films for children, Elf (2003) and Kicking & Screaming (2005), are both pretty enjoyable for fans of all ages. Contrast this with some of Steve Martin's and Eddie Murphy's really shitty kid's movies. Or Adam Sandler. Or Mike Myers. You get the picture.

Buddy the Elf is the epitome of innocence. Phil Weston in Kicking & Screaming is an sweet, quasi-Oedipal man who coffee transforms into a brutal dictator. Will throws himself so fully into these roles with unrelenting confidence and jokes that assault the senses until something breaks and we laugh. It's glourious.

3) The Buddy

There are three films in which Will is basically an equal player to another actor, two of which are pretty recent, which is telling where he thought his career might have been headed when his headlined comedies stalled. Indeed as other comedies starring the former sure-shots have spun their wheels recently bowing to more unknown fare (even compare Dinner for Schmucks [2010] to Grown Ups [2010] which made about three times as much, the ensemble comedies are the way to go these days. Of course the best example remains The Hangover [2009] against many other films that have failed with bigger star power). In this category Will offers us his fine work in A Night at the Roxbury (1998), Step Brothers (2008) and most recently, The Other Guys.

These are three incredibly different roles. Steve Butabi is a big thick-headed dumbass, Brennan Huff is the unequivocal man-child, much more immature rather than stupid and finally, really Det. Allen Gamble is a bright, mild-mannered accountant who'd rather keep to himself. Possibly as impressionable as Steve Butabi, but certainly not as fiercely independent as Brennan Huff. There are all these very subtle variations, on completely different themes really. What's interesting is that Will is equally known for playing the obnoxiously loud, boisterous character as well as the meek, quiet, naïve character.

4) The Overdone Shithead

When chatting about Willy's career there are two absolutely terrible films that deserve mention. These are of course the epic bombs Bewitched (2005) and Land of the Lost (2009). Both were remakes of classic television shows with horrendous supporting casts and writing teams along with a misplayed and supersaturated "classic" Ferrell character. That is to say, the screaming Man-Child.

Bewitched should actually get some props for attempting to strike original ground layering many meta-ideas onto its remake premise. Of course, to say that these ideas failed or were at least uninteresting is a gross understatement. Land of the Lost works on some 12-year old boy levels, but is generally immature, lazy and unfathomably poorly written and acted. It's when Will becomes too Will-like. Compare this role with him in The Other Guys a year later. He was steadily approaching the point when his public image was the one he projected on screen. As he continued to do this audiences got sick of him, especially after a decently heavy 2008 promoting both Semi-Pro and Step Brothers. The Other Guys allowed him to step out of this usual role and play against type (although the advertising lacked this appeal) which has helped its success critically and commercially.

5) The Good Actor

There are a slim handful of smaller films where Will has showcased some of his actual talent in a setting that isn't written off immediately. Okay, there's one film like that named Stranger Than Fiction (2006), which is anything but "Classic" Will. Again, he's developing that understated performance which really works here. What's different with this understatement is that there is no brat or screaming lunatic within Harold Crick. There's just a slightly less boring man inside a very boring man. Will's able to sell this with equal enthusiasm as his other bigger personas. I'll also mention Melinda and Melinda (2005) here, because as a Woody Allen film it's naturally supposed to be on a higher level than any other films.

Well, it's an alright film and Will is alright within it. It's notable only that he's trying to exist more in a real world other than one filled with Lumberjack Fantasies and vicious Newman on Newman cockfights. More on that to come in our next installment. Stay tuned for a look at all of Will's Leading Man-Child roles and how I'll contend their slight differences. Good night.

10 August 2010

First Impressions: The Other Guys

First things first: The Other Guys (2010) is the funniest film of the year. Yes, beating Hot Tub Time Machine (2010). The latest from one of the most successful comedy pairings of the last ten years, Adam McKay and Will Ferrell have delivered another very good Summer Laugh. It's not a typical Ferrell role but one that works well (mostly because it is not a typical Ferrell role). This was very entertaining in a Summer that hasn't offered much of that at all.

Frank the Tank Meets Sgt. Dignam

The film is largely successful due to the uncommon pairing of Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell. Wahlberg is quickly becoming one of my lifetime favourite actors. Permanent scowl, constant sour demeanor, mean temperament mostly all played to ridiculous comedic effect. It's almost tough to figure out which one of them is the straight man, for the first half it seems largely to be Ferrell, but as his repressed Pimp Alter-Ego Gator starts coming out more and more it's quickly evident both these characters are pretty nuts. Wahlberg's getting pretty great at tapping into his classic asshole persona to milk the funny and his energy paired up against Ferrell's sticklerism provides a ton of laughs.

Will Ferrell is pretty good at playing these really insane characters who attempt to cover up their inner wackiness. Frank the Tank in Old School (2003) was like this, his weakness being alcohol that brought back up the high energy personality that he truly had. Layered on top of this wildman was a dude struggling so hard to be normal. His Det. Allen Gamble in The Other Guys is like this. He hides this dangerously wild persona, "Gator," a necessary evil, underneath this incredibly safe, reserved character. What works is the median he finds towards the climax of the film, a mixture of love and confidence.

Wahlberg is straight Dignam from The Departed (2006), which is very welcome as he was the biggest delight in that film. He's filtered to a PG-13 audience (Wait until the Unrated DVD?) but the righteous anger is there as is a ton of action and an incredible fall from grace (Yankee Clipper!). This just wets my dick for The Fighter (2010) later this year.

Legendary Supporters

This cast is ridiculous. Eva Mendes, Sam Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Steve Coogan, Michael Keaton, Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans, Jr all get their moments to shine. This is the kind of film that no joke is left unsaid. Every scene and character are used as well as they can be and then they're taken out (sometimes very literally), always to the best comedic effect. I can emphasize enough how consistently funny this flick is. Keaton hasn't been in a good film for the better half of a decade but has had a few slam dunks this summer, his dual Police/Bed, Bath & Beyond Chief role here and Ken in Toy Story 3 (2010). Spectacular.

Jackson and The Rock do a great job parodying to outrageous effect the kind of typical roles that they tend to play. For some reason Rob Riggle is eking out a career as a minor player in Will Ferrell Movies. Eva Mendes is ridiculous hot and busty all the time, it's pretty awesome. Coogan is slimy, Wayans hits every note where he should. It's a great time by everyone.

If You're Funny Enough You Don't Need a Plot

Now I've given this flick a ton of praise here, all of which is deserved, but it certainly has problems. There's hardly any real plot to discern and the ins and outs of the Corporate Espionage Scandal are pretty murky. The thing is though, the pacing and jokes work so well there's not a whole lot of time to pause and think about what the hell is going on.

What works with the basic premise though, is that this is really the Anti-Cop Movie. It's what Cop Out (2010) was trying to be and failed epically. As Wahlberg continually just assumes every enemy is a Drug Lord, he's really trying to be in a different movie. The villains are real villains for the most part, boring Corporate Scandal Villains. Will builds on "Cool Guys Don't Look at Explosions" during one scene and the bullethole-ridden car by the end of the big chase is ridiculous. The title refers to its plot, turning the action movie on its head featuring the guys no one really cares about. It's a great parody.

Surreality Now

This is one of the most Surreal Movies of all time. The scenarios sometimes are pretty insane. Everything is geared towards the joke. From Sam and Dwayne's death to NBA bribes and Gamble's distaste for his own wife, this film is a straight film with tons of layers of strangeness coated on top. There's Wahlberg's dance scene, the incredible freeze frame Bar Montage set to Black Eyed Peas (What's up with Will's love of B.E.P.?) There are also more TLC jokes than I believed could fit into one movie. It's a nutty time.

The film has this weird anti-corporate, practically anti-capitalist bent during the ending and credits that does seem pretty tacked on and forced. It exists more of a parody of cop films than a supporter of Average Working America. The Grey Background is pretty unique though. There's a lot of weird parts of this movie. Let's just say though, that there is a great Moose Joke Post-Credits that is definitely worth staying for.

I haven't laughed this hard during any other film this Summer. It's refreshing, consistent, weird, awkward and awesome all at once. Couple this in between some Inception (2010) viewings and we're sold, brother.

09 August 2010

Summer Jam 2010: August 9 Winners

Some shake ups this week but nothing unpredictable. As summer starts spinning faster and faster towards its close it's time for any last contenders to throw their hats into the ring and see what comes of it. That's certainly the theme of this week when we've got some great leaps, some drops and a top two battle that doesn't show signs of quitting. Let's take a journey:

#8: "Your Love" - Nicki Minaj

Holding the second straight week at the 8 Spot is Nicki who continues to display both a keen singing and rapping ability (really unlike most of her male contemporaries who lack either, much less excel in both). This girl's cred is growing every week, she's been featured in some of the catchiest rap tracks of 2010, including this one that's set to break big any day. You should quickly wash away any premonition that this rapping chick is a gimmick, she enters her fourth week at #1 on the Rap Charts. Not only that but she just kills it on whatever track she's doing. Fantastic.

#7: "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love" - Usher ft. Pitbull

Yeah man. As it looks like "OMG" is definitively off the charts for the moment, Ush has come back with this far inferior track. Both songs are actually in the Billboard Hot 100 this week, but really "OMG" is out of here. Usher has been specialising in straight up club songs recently and this is no different. It's really not a great song at all but is at least more tolerable than some of the other terrible tracks this week. There's not much else to it.

#6: "Billionaire" - Travie McCoy ft. Bruno Mars

I finally saw the video for this track this week. It seems like a big wasted opportunity. There's hardly anything unique about it, which is a shame considering how cool Bruno Mars' last vid was. With a great chance at extravagance or at least interestingness, the "Billionaire" video looks like it was shot by a couple of film school students on a free afternoon. Then again that's very well possibly the point, providing a contrast between lyrical material and the visuals, highlighting that the dream is just that. There's the same kind of hopeful wishing and kindness in the video however, which should certainly help its popularity in these dark times. Travie brings himself down to our level here, humanising his career while simultaneously providing for a quest for glory. Sounds like perfect middle American high school girls.

#5: "Airplanes" - B.o.B ft. Hayley Williams

This was #1 on a few countdowns this week, including Vh1's weekly Top 20, but I don't believe this track's popularity has sustained it up there. Also you can see how this whole production is a little screwy (Is that a Christina Aguilera song in there?). Anyway, this is still doing relatively well and has had a pretty consistent run on this list which certainly helps its Title Chances. Wouldn't it feel weird crowning such a deep track though? Let's get some bubble in here.

#4: " Dynamite" - Taio Cruz

I've been actually listening to this song this week. The lyrics are so fucking nutty. "Give me space for both my hands, hands, hands, hands" always tends to conjure this image in my head:

Yep. Anywho, this has been rising steadily in popularity and there's no reason Taio shouldn't be able to close out Summer with some pretty high standings. Like "DJ Got Us Fallin' In Love," this is a straight-up club track but its greater catchiness, epicness and danceability. Love live Cruz.

#3: "Cooler Than Me" - Mike Posner

I fucking hate this song. This one of my most hated songs I've had for a while. It's absolute trash garbage. What gets me is the huge level of pretension, the premise of the song is Michael here talking down to someone who he thinks thinks is better than him. Flat out, down syndrome stuff going on with a shit beat, boner-crushing vocals, makes me want to shave my face with a shotgun shell. Done.

#2: "California Gurls" - Katy Perry ft. Snoopy Loopy Droopy

Somehow this song is still everywhere actually, it was the most played song in my home village of Rochester, NY this week and is still rocking out the Pop Charts and Radio songs. Eminem though is just dominating on iLike, digital downloads, Hot 100 and general buzz. Katy's got a few big weeks yet coming up, along with hosting the Teen Choice Awards tonight and then her actual album finally drops the end of August! And needless to say, Katy's the definite Frontrunner (by a good margin) of nabbing that Queen of Summer Trophy.

#1: "Love The Way You Lie" - Eminem ft. Rihanna

This video dropped this week and it's one of the sickest I've seen in a long time. Firstly, the Star Power on display is phenomenal. Rihanna cooing, Em spitting hot fire like Dylan, Megan Fox looking like the most beautiful white trash chick in the cosmos and finally, Meriadoc Brandybuck himself doing Charlie with less drugs, more poverty and anger. There's some heavy shit going on here. Desperation, the line between love and hate, violence and sex infused as one entity. It's really some incredible shit. Unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Not only that but this vid gets into some real shit for ultimately a contemporary Pop Track. Em doesn't hold back a thing, which is why it works. If you haven't seen this masterpiece yet check it out down here:

Justin Bieber will remix this song sometime in the next decade, it's going to be awesome.

So who got left out? Derulo and Drake and Enrique are left on the outside looking in, frankly none of their tracks are exceptional enough to warrant a second look. Like I said, I'm looking to that Trey Songz and Nicki song mentioned earlier as well as another Nicki track with Sean Kingston, "Letting Go," which has just enough fake Jamaican to provide a nice kick-out to Summer. Man, Sean Kingston is fat. Look at how big his head is!

Now real quick, I want to mention "143." I'm not sure it'll crack the Top 8 in the next couple weeks so this rant needs to drop here. Firstly:

This is really one of the most uninspired Rap Videos I've ever seen. It's just full of really typical shit - Mansion Party, tons of babes, boozin', sunglasses. What the fuck is wrong with Bobby Brackin's face? His eyes look like a fucking Mackerel. How is this ugly motherfucker getting these babes? And Ray J, how come every black guy has a nephew or uncle named Ray J, this cat is ridiculous. And then he rips off his own "Sexy Can I" song at one point! It's like he forgot what song he was singing! And then 143 itself, I had to UrbanDictionary this shit, apparently it stands for the number of letters in each word of the phrase "I Love You," which is funny because it's also the same amount of letters in "I Hate You" or for that matter "A Dead Cat." Bobby Brackins might as well be rapping about "A Dead Cat." I'm really bothered by this.

Next week, Nicki gets on and some song featuring Nicki gets on. Wait and listen.

05 August 2010

Because it was on TV: Jersey Shore and Manufactured Reality: Jersey Shore Version

Yo last week THE show came on, bro, the best fucking shit I've ever seen man, the Jersey Shore. I had never even SEEN this shit before yo, like most of my bros I had basically dissed the boys and girls. More and more peeps are attachin eyeballs to this shit tho so what can I say? I had to turn the box, dude. Yo this shit was mad bogus.

After catchin the shit I thought about what it meant you know. It's mad phoney with this editing and shit that makes fuckin stories out of the bullshit it calls its "reality". Most other bullshit shows are just like this dawg but my boys here stand out as a fuckin wreckage show yo. Let me spit some fire here-

The acting first off is mad whack. Its like a flippin on a crunked up movie yo. Unless all these bitches are just awkward and shit in real life then I dont even knwo what to say. This fuckin shit can't be real lives, its mad fake all over. This shit is like, in the middle of fuckin reality and made-up shit. It's some funky shit.

Yo it's like, all reality TV really makes stories out of nothing. I bet it actually takes some dope talent for editors and shit to make somethin dope out of some bro's daily life, then chop and edit all this fuckin shit into a dope story that makes sense with like, a start and fo sho end and shit. Not only that dawg, it';s like, this shit becomes a whole season and then these seasons even become a few different ones to make a whole series of a TV show. Wow dude. Layers of this fake shit goes on top what these other bros are telling us is reality. Can't believe thsi shit.

Jersey Shore tho yo, is mad trashy right. All these fuckin dawgs and bitches are just full of themselves, don't know how to step off right. I don't know about then talkin good shit about Guidos and shit, it's like what the gangstas and boys did with "Nigga" way long ago. They take away these slurs and turn them around, you know, they just turn that shit without even noin it. Its crazy.  Whats nuts is that even the viewer you know, the viewer knows this shit is whack but he still checks in like whats up?. Its def part of the times. Its like both viewers and non-viewers feel the same shit bro. Like, the only diff is mad different levels of understanding, right?. Like, ppl know the premise is goofed but the bros with the fuckin pride know that actually even watching this shit is whack in itself. Whoa bra

Yo check out this trick's rack:.

That's the fuckin shit there. (Haha that reminds me, check out this mad jersey T here.) I can't believe these dawgs like they know how shitty their lives are but no adaptation. No adaptation AT ALL dude. They is always just wilin' out, which is pretty whack to bros who get their Kant on. It's like, all about the GTL, no brains yo.

Shit gets fucked when little kids and shit watch this shit and then think that this is the shit, you know?. MTV used to be all, you know Celebrity shit and fucked Madonna vids. fuck, son. I might be beefin heavy but the kids change, bro. I bet the little bitches still dis on Jersey Shore but it's like, in their face still instead of way out on the palm. This is some fuckin whack shit. Basically yo, Jersey is mad screwy you know. Oh shit they in mia now? Yo fuck LeBron

also The Situation's like 30 what the fuck is this bro up to?

Jersey Shore new up  tonite at the 10 spot

Peace, bro

Because it was on TV: Jersey Shore and Manufactured Reality

Last week we all had the chance to enjoy the auspicious premiere of one of our Generation's Greatest Television Events, Jersey Shore. This is...okay, so I had never seen this trainwreck before last week, like most of my demographic I assumed the worst about the show and tried to ignore its existence. As more and more people seem to be watching these shitheads though I had to jump on. What I can tell you is that this television show is far far worse than anything I could have assumed.

Watching it though got me thinking about its nature. It's so obviously a fake show with artificial drama and quirky editing layered on to generate stories out of supposed "reality." It's not unlike any other contemporary reality show but still, something about Jersey Shore stands out. It's just an absolute trainwreck.

What really gets me is when the acting in a "reality" TV Show is visibly sub-par. Jersey Shore is like this. Unless Snooki, Paulie D and Ronnie really are just stilted and awkward in real-life, I have a hard time believing what we're seeing is actually transpiring in these idiots' lives. Thus it's pretty clear that whatever we are watching on television is somewhere between reality and fiction, which is actually interesting.

The manipulative nature of Reality Programming in itself tells us much of how we tend to generalise life events into stories and events. I'm actually amazed to some extent that producers and editors are able to catch a great deal of footage of someone's daily life, then chop and edit this random tape into a coherent story with a beginning, middle and end, encapsulating an episode of a season, then on a grander scale seasons within a series. What becomes of these shows then is this imparted artificiality embedded on to what is presented as reality. Pretty fucked up shit.

Jersey Shore peaks among these shows though, because it really wears its trashiness on its sleeve. The egos, vanity and materialism on constant display, not only apparent but celebrated and used as constant lifestyle validation, is mind-boggling. Not to mention they've taken back the word Guido like Rappers and Richard Pryor did with "Nigga" in the 70s and 80s. Not that it's implicitly terrible to nullify racial slurs (this can lead to a whole other topic, really), but what the hell are these guidos thinking? What's more is that this show has reached a status where although most of its viewers outwardly comprehend and acknowledge that it is a trash show, they continue to watch. It's half-kitsch, half-post-modern which has found an excellent niche in our zeitgeist. Almost every regular viewer probably hates the show and believes its people (characters?) to be just as despicable as every non-viewer. The only difference between watchers and non-watchers requires an acute meta-understanding of both the context of the show and the audience. A recognition that both the premise of the show (as well as the genre) is ridiculous with enough self-respect to also recognize that viewing the show in itself is an act of ludicrocity.

Either that or Snooki's boobs pack the viewers in.

Right then. Jersey girls aren't trash. Trash gets picked up (Buy the T-Shirt here). I can't believe the cats on this show - there is a self-conscious awareness of how low-functioning their lives are yet there is no will to change. There is no desire to ever not be who they are, which is a stunning thought to any mild-mannered suburban Kant reader. It's a full-flung force against knowledge, work and humility, destroyed by Gym, Tan and Laundry.

What becomes dangerous then is when these characters' lives are idealised as real people's lives. It becomes the end goal for many self-respecting viewers who once watched MTV for its Celebrity Jokes and Controversial Madonna videos. Dammit. That's probably overstating things but it's important to note how mental attitudes have morphed over generations. Jersey Shore is still abhorred by youg'ins, yet it's accepted into their culture instead of lurking on the perimeter. That alone is far too great of a sin to be ignored for very long. Basically, I'm a big advocate of bombing New Jersey. Oh wait...Miami now? Well, fuck LeBron anyway.

And The Situation's like 30 what the fuck is he doing with these kids?

Jersey Shore comes on tonight at the 10 spot.

Peace, bro
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