29 July 2013

Summer Jam Week 12: Lucky Parties

It's another lazy Summer Monday, so it's time of course to recount the greatest, hottest jams of the week. It's really turning upside down this season as we close out July and get into our final Sunny Month. In just a few more weeks it will be Labor Day and our search for the steamiest Summer Jam will be at an end. In the meantime, enjoy this week's Winners:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Safe and Sound" by Capital Cities

This is a peppy song with a trippy video that adds a bit to the idea that the Summer of 2013 is truly the Summer of Funk. It's a fairly competent pop rock track that had a nice upsurging week, though it is a bit too bland to really break out at this point.

Shippin Across the Border: "Cruise (REMIX)" by Florida Georgia Line ft. Nelly

This track manages to stay alive because even though I'm not really hearing the actual song as much, I'm still hearing people everywhere sing and hum this jam. It would seem that this truly has had an influence in pop culture - everyone knows this damn song. And it's just gotten to the point where it's pretty irritating to listen to. As "Cruise" hits its nather, what does that portend for its chances as Jam King? It's caught on for sure, but there are just more loved options out there - even though everyone has heard of "Cruise," everyone kind of hates it.

Reflect This: "Mirrors" by Justin Timberlake

I have been somewhat avoiding "Mirrors" all summer, despite its consistently good Billboard rankings. I just never thought it really caught on or got all that much airplay. That changed this week, though - suddenly this jam was everywhere. JT has another terrible new single out, too, but nothing in the next couple weeks is going to match his "Suit & Tie" from earlier this year.

Vanishing: "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke ft. T.I. and Pharrell

This will go down as one of the more significant videos and songs of 2013 for sure, whether or not it's really the King of Summer will be another debate, even though it's got a damn good argument. Half thanks to the most infectious beat of 2013, half thanks to the smooth crooning of the Son of Alan Thicke, and just about all thanks to Emily Ratajkowski, this song, regardless of its rapey feel, is a cultural phenomenon. Considering the misogyny, that really is a bit of a shame.

Homo Much: "Same Love" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert

Is that Arrested Development reference too obscure to the point of perceived homophobia? This is still a great song, and when contrasted with just about anything else on this list, deserves to be more prominent. It's hopefully a good sign of progressive change that this song is getting well known and wide airplay. It's hard to even fathom that homophobia could exist anymore - it's so widely accepted. Of course, I live in the North.

Like Kaiju Blue: "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons

I can't believe this jam is still crawling and scratching its way towards cultural significance, but it's turned into one of the cooler hits of the year. I blame those big brash drum smacks and the surreal muppet video that really doesn't match the passion and intensity of the song at all. Well, it does actually, but muppet intensity just seems a strange juxtaposition. Who cares, this song rules.

Smiley Miley: "We Can't Stop" by Miley Cyrus

Miley could have put out a jam like Carly Rae Jepsen last year, or something else that would play well with her built in Disney Crowd Fanbase. Instead she's dropped one of the strangest videos with some of the least classy lyrics ever. I really want to see her go toe to toe with Ke$ha at this point, who narrowly missed appearing on the list this week. The fact that we're even mentioning Miley as a solid Ke$ha competitor should attest to her successful re-branding. Whether or not that re-branding will turn out to be a good move for Miley is another debate entirely, but for now, this is a solid summer jam.

Like Lionel Ritche: "Get Luck" by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell

We're finally giving the Robots the top spot on the week's Jam list, because this track really still can't go anywhere but up - and we're pumped about that. Considering how long his has been fuddling around here and how enjoyable this track remains, that's quite an achievement. This still can only really succeed even more, and as one of the smoother, nicer tracks around these days that can literally be played at any Summer occasion, this could have a late season run to take it all.

Next week...

It was regrettable to leave off "Treasure," but there were just so many other deserving candidates this week. Don't count Bruno out of the race yet, though. I was also considering Anna Kendrick's "Cups" which has flirted with the list for a long damn time. Finally, considering the premiere of Smurfs 2 (2013), will Britney Spears' "Ooh La La" come back here? I can't believe I really wrote that. No, no one above the age of three cares about the Smurfs.

26 July 2013

The Road to a Blockbuster: SNIKT!

We're getting into the last throes of July, and so the real Blockbuster Season is nearly done with. Every Friday all Summer Long we've been examining the critical, commercial, and cultural potential of each big movie that has hit the Box Office. We're not only concerned with whether or not a film's going to make any money, but whether or not we still be loving it ten or twenty years on down the line. Where is our next Ghostbusters (1984), Back to the Future (1985), or Jurassic Park (1993)? It is interesting enough that these really great Blockbuster films seem to have been canonized, without any new entries allowed. Do the films coming out today have what it takes? What do you say, Wolvie?

Logan took the red pill.
That The Wolverine (2013) exists at all is a strange phenomenon. Wolverine was already basically the star of the first three X-Men movies when he got his own spinoff, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009). While that movie did OK at the Box Office, it's also generally accepted as one of the worst superhero flicks of all time, and not just because will.i.am has a major role. The bloated plot made no sense, it butchered longtime fan favourite characters like Deadpool, and it was somehow laced with worse CGI effects than the first X-Men film, which dropped nearly ten years prior. This movie angered me so much, that to date it's still the only film I've ever reviewed that I didn't see in theaters, because I felt so compelled to trash it.

So why am I still kind of jazzed for The Wolverine? It's the kind of experimental movie that can only come from a franchise as experienced as X-Men. By this point X-Men (2000) has almost become the grandaddy of the modern Superhero movie. Out of the three core franchise movies, two are pretty good, and after that they've been free to flex their muscles. After X-Men Origins: Wolverine tried to be a solo flick (which was really just still a team-up pic, crammed with a ridiculous number of mutant cameos), X-Men: First Class (2011) went back in time as the first period super hero film (coming out a few weeks ahead of Captain America: The First Avenger [2011]). Now, the main series is able to mix and mash up its characters in the first time-travelling superhero film in the form of the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). This franchise is able to bend and buckle itself unlike any other modern series of films. So of course we can take a journey to Japan with no A-list supporting cast members, no mutants, and from the looks of it, no powers. Right?

That's why I'm excited about The Wolverine. It's the exact opposite of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It's a stripped down story focused on character instead of an excuse to have lots of explosions and mindless action. This also makes it a bit harder to market, but it should ultimately pay off. Could it become the greatest X-Men movie out there? The franchise is 3 for 5 on good flicks right now, which isn't too awful. Wolverine as a character is always overexposed, this happens in the comic world, too. Seeing him with a bit of depth and without the Amnesia Monkey on his back is quite refreshing.

Apparently Hugh Jackman is challenging
Matthew McConaughey for the title of
"Most Time Spent on Screen without a Shirt On"
In the best of worlds this will really be an anti-superhero movie. A closed off, contemplative experience that focused on Wolverine dealing with the massive amounts of nonsense he's graced in the previous five films. Or it will just be more of the same crap. If it's the same crap, this film is going to be a drop in the pond, especially during a summer where it has become more and more difficult for any action film to break out. In fact, no action film as really done that well since World War Z (2013), and that only did well by normal standards, not really in terms of how huge its budget was (it's about barely breaking even right now for the studio, once you factor marketing costs and theater takes). To be fair, that was only a month ago, but there has been so many others that have come in, tried, and failed since then, from White House Down (2013) all the way through to R.I.P.D. (2013). I'm feeling like we still need a little breather - here's to Elysium (2013) premiering on a clean slate. If, however, The Wolverine is actually a solid movie, it can rise above a lot of the other crap that has dropped this summer. It can be the movie it needs to be.

There are also two smaller comedies debuting this week. The To-Do List (2013) seems to be an attempt to give Aubrey Plaza a starring vehicle, but I get the sense that she's a much better supporting actress than a lead actress. It also makes me think of this really weird and awkward moment from the MTV Movie Awards a few months back. The To-Do List seems like a fairly typical teen sex comedy, which we haven't seen all that much of lately, to be honest. I'm not sure this can become a cult hit, which it really needs to be if it wants any kind of long term success.

The other comedy film, which is expanding a bit this weekend, The Way, Way Back (2013), does seem to have the makings of a cult hit, which is good. It's got a dream cast of Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, and Maya Rudolph among others. It's also directed by the Oscar winning duo who wrote The Descendants (2011), Nat "Beerfest Germon" Faxon and Jim "Dean Pelton" Rash. It's got kind of an Adventureland (2009) summer growing up movie kind of vibe, and that shit is usually legit, especially with this kind of talent involved. Of course, its marketing has really miffed on this, but if it's solid, it'll find a way into the hearts and minds of the people who want it. Long term, broad success, though, is out of the picture.

So will you be unsheathing your claws this weekend? I feel like The Wolverine has been such an afterthought. This summer was all about Men of Steel and Iron, not Adamantium. We'll see what the pup can pull off. Stay bloodthirsty, my friends.

22 July 2013

Summer Jam Week 11: Treasure Can't Stop the Party

We're hitting some peak vacay time in the middle of July, and the race for the most Jamworthy Track of Summer is really heating up. There were a tremendous amount of debuts this week, and it was tough to narrow it down. Be sure to check out the preview for next week for more:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Holy Grail" by Jay-Z ft. Justin Timberlake

Magna Carta...Holy Grail really isn't that great. Neither is this song, which is kind of all over the place, from smooth JT lyrics to a little "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for some reason, to intense break downs, then Jay- going "uh uh uh." It's completely schizophrenic and no part of it is that catchy. Still, it's doing OK, though I can't imagine this taking off. It's certainly no "Suit and Tie."

Chernobyl Style: "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons

It's safe to say by now that this track has put Imagine Dragons on the map and is here to stay for the summer, even though every week I think it has overstayed its welcome. To be honest, it's not all that stale yet somehow, which is a testament to the throbbing beat, the passionate vocals, and the completely boffo music video.

Need Somebody: "Love Somebody" by Maroon 5

Maroon 5 is getting good at cranking out the most generic alt rock / pop tracks imaginable, and this one is no exception. It's so bland and forgettable, although it seems to be catching on a little bit. The rad music video helps. Still, this is such innocuous, mind-shutting down music, nothing stands out. Maybe that makes it a bit better for party background music. In that case, no where to go but up I suppose.

Crank the AC: "Cruise (Remix)" by Florida Georgia Line ft. Nelly

This track is starting to have a bit of cultural cache, connecting hip-hop and country fans alike. That said, it hasn't really caught on entirely like it needs to or could have considering the possible market for big country crossover hits. My guess is unlike Lady Antebellum, the country parts were way too country (they are severely twangy), and the Nelly parts were too Nellyish for it to really fly up and away. It's become a pretty widely known song, but far from a Summer King.

Robots in Paradise: "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell

If you haven't yet had the chacne to read the Rolling Stone interview with Pharrell, where he ruminates at length about how "Get Lucky" was inspired by philosophical concepts of capturing the moment of the present as opposed to the past or future, you should definitely read how crazy this dude sounds. It's also apparently clear that Daft Punk are robots and Pharrell is a vampire. It's still a groovy track and worthy of all its Summer Praise and electro crossover appeal.

Titties Everywhere: "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke ft. Pharrell and T.I.

In what is probably the most iconic video of the year so far, I'm still not sure how Robin Thicke got three topless models on YouTube. From the smut and chauvinist perspective, filming this video also looks like the funnest experience ever. From a female empowerment perspective, probably not so much. The most iconic video of the year is also the most controversial, for no reasons that are really legitimate. It is sad that three popular music stars can shoot a video with three topless broads like this and have it become one of the forerunners for Summer Jam of 2013 but what can you do? I suppose we need a team of lady artists to come up with some Banana Hammock-themed monster hit next year, right? I'm not sure that would work. Demeaning or not, this song is catchy as hell, and it'd take a heady upset to properly derail its Summer King chances.

All Twerk and No Play: "We Can't Stop" by Miley Cyrus

Speaking of super crazy music videos, welcome to the party, Miley. I'm not sure which part I like best - the money sandwich, the faux finger slicing, the teddy bear dances, or just the massive amounts of twerking and mugging at the camera. I just want to listen to Miley sing more about standing in bathroom lines. And doing lines in the bathroom. It's this crazy aggressive assertion of her maturity and sexuality, but it's kind of amiss because it's totally immature and really confused sexually. That could be intentional. I hope so. Party on, girl.

Funk City: "Treasure" by Bruno Mars

With Sad Mouse no where to be found, Bruno gets the #1 spot with "Treasure" this week. The track is really popping out loud and is become the kind of ubiquitous song a true Summer Jam needs to be. For the first time in many years the real Summer Jam isn't totally obvious, with many contenders all vying for the crown. There a still a few weeks left though - can "Treasure" hold on? "Get Lucky" and "Blurred Lines" are probably the best competition right now, unless Macklemore can get back into the game. Stay tuned, folks!

Next Week...

Okay, folks, in addition to Jay-Z, competitors for the Hot Jam of the week included songs such as Demi Lovato's "Made in the USA," which is a fairly awful song that could have benefited at least somewhat from being released a few weeks prior during Independence Weekend.There are also new songs breaking from Of Monsters and Men and Imagine Dragons that are no where near as good as the big songs each band is known for. Finally, Bowie dropped a single this week. Not sure why this didn't drop in January or February, but whatevs. "Valentine's Day" is about as good as any other aging Rock Star's modern track is. And that guitar riff does feel a lot like Ziggy. Will any of these Jams crawl up the charts to be considered for a Summer Throne? Unlikely - but check in next week
 as we wrap up July!

19 July 2013

The Road to a Blockbuster: Ghosts in Black

Yea the sun rises upon another Summer Friday and so it comes time again for the Road to a Blockbuster - NMW's weekly examination of the critical, commercial, and cultural impact of every big movie jostling to become the next big thing. At this point, I think this column has become critical - this summer, more than any in recent memory has had film after film attempt to become the next huge tentpole. Half of them have attempted to become franchise starters (World War Z, Pacific Rim, Man of Steel to some extent...), the other half have attempted to continue the franchise (Star Trek Into DarknessDespicable Me 2), and there are even a few ending franchises (for now - Iron Man 3). With all this hullabaloo it has been difficult to latch on to anything for more than a week. We're diving into fast cars one week, monsters attending college another week, it's been really crazy.

By mid-July, for my part, I'm exhausted. I'm not sure if it's what the rest of the country is feeling, but I am in no mood to get up and cheer for another blockbuster. Considering that it seems as if folks were tapped out on action after Man of Steel or so, with White House Down and The Lone Ranger tanking hard, this feeling of blockbuster exhaustion may be contagious. While there has been some successes (Despicable Me 2 could somehow become the highest grossing film of the summer, if not the year), there has also been a tremendous amount of huge huge bombs. I think we're maxed out. We reached the pinnacle of the spectacle we're willing to consume. We might as well have peaked with Pacific Rim last week. That's a fine break point. In short, no one is going to come out to RED 2 and certainly not R.I.P.D.

In these columns though, we're not only looking at how much money these things might make, but we want to know whether or not we'll care about them ten or twenty years down the line. There is not a lot to go on here besides what kind of impressions the marketing has given us. So, in addition to RED 2 and R.I.P.D. we have The Conjuring, which is another cookie cutter random horror tale. Let's start with that one.

For horror movies to really stand out they need to be either groundbreaking, trope-makers, or just really good and scary. You've got your Saw (2004), your Paranormal Activity (2009), and your Insidious (2011), that kind of stuff. The Conjuring also stars Patrick Wilson, who was in Insidious, and that may just confuse enough people into seeing it. It also has the same director as Insidious. After all, it's the same old poltergeist crap. It's based on Ed and Lorraine Warren, who if you don't know, are about the most famous Ghost and Demon Hunters of the 70s and 80s. So yes, swindlers. Lots of flicks have been based on their bullshit, from The Amityville Horror (1979) to A Haunting in Connecticut (2009).

Still, you've got think back to possession / demon / ghost films of late such as The Last Exorcism (2010), Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010), Sinister (2012), The Devil Inside (2012), The Possession (2012), Mama (2013), Dark Skies (2013), and the aforementioned four Paranormal Activity movies, and their parodies like A Haunted House (2013), and The Conjuring is really nothing but white noise. Horror fans will dig it because as usual, they've been starved all summer, and the commercials present some cool scares, but WHATEVER. Over it.

Let's move on to RED 2. RED (2010) was a serviceable film, although I'm not sure it was one that many people were clamouring for a sequel for or deserved one. It has hardly been marketed at all, and my guess is it's the biggest film that gets lost in the shuffle on this crowded weekend. The core gimmick of RED was that it was an action film full of old geezers. In RED 2 this seems to be repeated verbatim, which a few cast changes, but it's ultimately nothing new or fresh. It will crash and burn.
Starring Tommy Lee Jones and a White Will Smith
Now, on to R.I.P.D. Yes, it's clearly Men in Black (1997) with ghosts. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's an interesting premise with very likable stars at a peak time in summer when everyone is going to the movies. So why do I have a bad feeling about this? Think of it this way - every week we've had something cultural to talk about here. Whether it be Iron Man or Star Trek or even the Fast and Furious. We've gone through Will Smith, Vince Vaughn, Superman, Zombies, Pixar, Cowboys, Melissa McCarthy, Channing Tatum, and Kaiju. What are we talking about with R.I.P.D.? Ghosts? Men in Black? The inherent funness of Jeff Bridges bringing his True Grit (2010) character to a completely different genre? That last part is pretty decent. But R.I.P.D. is ultimately really culturally hollow. That's not to say it can't be awesome - after all, what's better than an original property to get the conversation going?

From the looks of it, though, there doesn't seem to be a lot there. It's a lot of CGI craziness, broad jokes in what is clearly a niche fanboy comedy/horror/sci-fi genre, and ultimately a desperate attempt at becoming a cultural event movie in a Summer when we've had one every weekend. And the only really exceptional films so far have been Furious 6, This is The End, and Pacific Rim. Every other film has tried so desperately to become the next great setpiece, because that's the only way you can do Summer anymore. That's the only way to meet that $200 million budget - everyone needs to see it to be part of the conversation. And the day of your premiere if you want to be an event movie, your Wikipedia page can't be as bare as this. That's why this film ultimately feels hollow. Compare that to the Pacific Rim specific wiki - it's no contest which film actually has the greater cultural cachet.

On the note of the comedy/horror/sci-fi there really are only two films that have pulled that off with the kind of success R.I.P.D. is going for. Ghostbusters (1984) and Men in Black. Everything else falls apart. It's a tone that's so difficult to achieve. Like I usually say, I'm cheering for all these movies. No one wants to see a bad movie, but this is just not going to be the week for any of these guys.

And don't get me started on The Wolverine next week, which I am actually looking forward to. It's a goner.

15 July 2013

First Impressions: Pacific Rim

There are a lot of strange things that rattle around my brain all the time. I was looking at one of those joke T-shirt websites that was full of Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Ghostbusters designs, and I really got thinking about what modern culture has contributed to that idea. Where are our iconic ironic T-shirts? What will our kids be jonesing on and buying online twenty or thirty years from now? The Big Modern movie is an adaptation - there already are Iron Man and Thor shirts out there. Where are all the great original movie ideas?

To be sure, things like Transformers and TMNT are really just based on toylines - but what are even the big toys nowadays that exist independent of movie or TV franchises? And that's to say, what property has the capability to elicit such longing nostalgia? Perhaps it's a futile effort - it's difficult to say what bits of culture will catch on and endure. Perhaps we should give up and resign ourselves to retreading the same cultural properties from the 80s over and over again.

Or we could just watch Pacific Rim (2013).

Go Go Power Jaegers!
Pacific Rim is the movie I've been waiting for all summer. It is certainly full of homage to the predecessors of its genre, but the Kaiju Monster Mash film has been long dormant and this brings a wholly original and thrilling experience to the big screen. No other film in the past decade has made me feel more like a kid again, devouring the surprisingly articulate and dense, yet accessible mythology (unlike Game of Thrones) until my tummy is sore. There is a tremendous amount of information packed into this flick, yet it moves swiftly, is engaging on almost every level, and provides one of the more entertaining rides at the box office yet this summer.

A film like Man of Steel (2013) is too concerned with the heady weight of its subject, slathering on layer after layer of self-importance and self-seriousness. The stakes in Pacific Rim are just as high, if not higher, but the film is able to have fun with itself and come down from the high and mighty forced iconography and deliver a genuinely thrilling and fun flick that yes, ends up being pretty damned iconic.

When I was a kid I was a total Godzilla junkie. I watched every terrible film the big green guy ever made, and even some of the four good ones. Actually, I haven't seen my favourite Godzilla film, Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975), in years. Like, probably close to twenty years. I wonder if that film is actually any good or not. I just dug Titanosaurus. Anyway, Pacific Rim brings me back to my roots and delivers more Giant Robot on Kaiju action than I could have ever hoped for. Needless to say, there are constant references to the Ol' Gojira Glory Days and even some more.

There isn't really a main Kaiju in this film, it's more a collective army that continually assaults humanity. At the same time, as ubiquitous as these attacks are, each one is pretty significant and deadly. Not many films open the first main fight with the main character getting his ass kicked. The film successfully keeps raising the bar - in a montage describing the success of the Jaeger (Giant Robot) program, it's clear that everyone has gotten cocky and confident in dealing with these beasts like it's no big deal. Of course, these are all Category I and II beasties. Once the III's and IV's start appearing, it's bad news bears for Idris Elba and the rest of his crack team of Rangers and technicians.
Del Toro was inspired to cast Charlie Day
after watching "Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats."
Let that awesomeness sink in.

Here's the one great thing about this flick that other old Godzilla films did so poorly: the human characters are actually cool and interesting and worth following and cheering for. The only memorable human in any Godzilla film is Steve Martin, and that's only because his name is freaking Steve Martin. The humans in Pacific Rim aren't an afterthought - they're a highlight. It helps that the cast features three actors from F/X shows, including a career-making performance from Charlie Day (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and a Sons of Anarchy reunion from Ron Perlman and Charlie Hunnam, even though they don't share screentime in this flick. There's also surprisingly effective bits from Clifton Collins, Jr., who actually doesn't play a scumbag, and Burt Gorman, who is wildly off type from his small role in The Dark Knight Rises (2012).  Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi (who yes, was in a Japanese film called Norwegian Wood [2010]), gives a nice tough yet vulnerable performance, but the big man here is clearly Elba.

Idris Elba needs to become a movie star. Like, a big-time A-List movie star. The dude is fearsome. Not only is he a total 180 from whatever the hell he was in Prometheus (2012), but he's perfect as the glue that keeps the rest of the cast and in-movie team from falling apart. There's all these moments of quiet rage, fatherly support, equal measures of rebellion, respect, and honor, along with a ton of badassery. He's a rock star. Now, why isn't he our Black Panther, yet?

The other big role here is the aforementioned Charlie Day. I can't remember the last time a basic cable actor was able to leverage the breakout character from a comedy show into a great big time Summer Blockbuster. That's probably because it's never happened before. Day knocks it out of the park. He shows an incredible amount of adoration for the Kaiju which becomes true fear when he meets one up close. He gives a great amount of levity and plays spectacularly off of Elba and Gorman. It's nice knowing that he can break out the Always Sunny niche, although he certainly does have a limited range, and an overused Melissa McCarthy-ization of the character would be unwelcome.

Finally, regarding the Sons of Anarchy, Hunnam does a nice job here, although I feel like he's the Garrett Hedlund of this film - pretty excellent, but ultimately not that groundbreaking. There was no reason that Hedlund shouldn't have had a career after TRON: Legacy (2010), but there was also no reason he should have had one. Hunnam is about the same here. Perlman is assuredly here from his great relationship with Guillermo del Toro after the Hellboy films and he absolutely chews the scenery as his over-the-top character should. It's excellent.

So, onto the Jaegers and Kaiju. There is more mythology covered in this film than any in recent memory, and if you didn't catch it all in the theater, there is a tremendously detailed wiki that seems to have been set-up pretty damn quickly. There is assuredly more there than I can cover here, but here are a bunch of things I noticed:

The extra-dimensional origins from the Breach in the middle of the Pacific Ocean was a perfect pulp origin that also works the way most modern movies do in explaining and rationalizing events that older films were content with just happening. We didn't really need a reason for Godzilla and the rest of his cronies to rise out of the ocean waves, even though he was either a radiated lizard or dinosaur. But these things rise from the ocean because of a huge interdimensional breach at the bottom of the sea. Works for me.
"Wait, we had a fucking SWORD this whole time?"

The Kaiju with the most screen time in the flick is Otachi, which starts off a lot like Clover (or even Anguirus, you could argue), but then totally goes Rodan as it sprouts wings and lifts Gipsy Danger into the stratosphere. In keeping with the more biological rather than radioactive roots, no Kaiji has crazy things like fire breath or micro-oxygen rays, but it was also nice to see at least some blue stuff come out of Otachi's mouth - a virulent acid that really fucks up Cherno Alpha's day. Speaking of crazy extra abilities, Leatherback, the fat and clumsy Kaiju (which is probably the biggest Godzilla reference of them all...) does have a huge electromagnetic pulse ability, that looks exactly like Godzilla's Rage Move from Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee. There's also the giant crab Kaiju Onibaba, who is just about exactly like Ebirah from Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966). Would it be too much for a Mothra analogy? Probably.

There are also two clear references to Godzilla vs. Super Mechagodzilla II (1993), the first being the location of a second Kaiju brain, like the one Godzilla has in his spine (and yes, that is never referenced prior to this movie, or since). The other is the presence of Gipsy Danger's Chest Burster Energy Weapon that it unleashes on Slattern, which is really similar to Mechagodzilla II's plasma grenade. I was also pumped to see Gipsy rear up a rocket punch, which gave me flashbacks to Big O.

I really want to know how they came up with names for all these guys. Are the Kaiju named like incoming storms? They seem to be equal parts Japanese (Onibaba, Otachi, Raiju), English (Trespasser, Knifehead, Bladehead, Leatherback) and I don't know (Scunner, Slattern). Although I guess those are words that I have never heard before. Oh jeez. As for the Jaegers, it seems as if each has two names that just need to be really really damn awesome. According to this list, we even missed out on some epic brawlers like Puma Real, Nova Hyperion, and Mammoth Apostle. There are actually a good amount of Spanish names here, clearly from the Panama City and Lima Shatterdomes. It'd be nice to see some more action on the East Rim, but as Guillermo del Toro sadly said, SOME things in the film, like the Mexican Jaeger, Matador Fury, just had to be cut. At least we got a really accurate Russian Robot, which may as well be named the Tsar Jaeger - big, old, and strong as hell. That's about right.

So how about that sequel? One of the better things about this movie is that it wasn't based on any sequel or property, and it also wrapped up pretty damn nicely. The mythology is actually so deep and dense that despite the fact that I (clearly) loved the hell out of this thing, a sequel doesn't really feel necessary. After all, they closed the Breach, how could the Monsters come back?

There are a million equally pulpy ways to end that question, but more importantly, what will they do for Round 2? It's unclear whether or not there will even be a sequel based on its domestic returns, although it's played nicely overseas, and the buzz has been positive as hell. This site posits some interesting ideas, including the concept of humans controlling the Kaiju, and the Evil Extradimensional Overlords controlling the Jaegers. So whatevs.

The best thing about this movie may be the fact that well, this is all set to go down like...next month. That's right, August 11, 2013 is the date of the first Kaiju attack. It's some great timing for a theatrical release. Until then, let's keep cancelling the apocalypse and enjoy the first really culturally great big Blockbuster of the year.

I'm also clearly on board for Great Lakes Rim (2015), which would feature the cities of Thunder Bay, Duluth, Milwaukee, Chicago, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Windsor, London, Cleveland, Erie, Buffalo, Hamilton, Toronto, and Rochester banding together to fight off the Kaiju that emerges from a big breach in the Hudson. Perfect.

Summer Jam Week 10: Grouplove Love Cups

Into the breach of July we've really got some hot tracks heating up, folks. This is the Tenth Summer Week, and it's time to recount the greatest Jams that have been blasting out of stereos all week in an attempt to crown a single track the Jam of Summer 2013 - that one Chief Track that forever becomes true Summer Royalty. Let's get balmy:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Ways to Go" by Grouplove

This is a pretty lively, catchy song by Grouplove, who had a nice jam last summer with "Tongue Tied." This is also a pretty entertaining video, apparently some kind of homage to Kim Jong-un, if Kim Jong-un listened to Grouplove, grew a heart, and danced around in a Hawaiian shirt. It's debuting a little late and will really have to catch up some good ground if it wants to be really counted in the running for the Summer Throne, but I'm digging this this week.

Hold in the Barf: "Cups" by Anna Kendrick

That byline probably sounds pretty derisive if you haven't actually seen Pitch Perfect (2012). Anyway, I can't stop watching that thing on HBO, it's become a ridiculous guilty pleasure. So "Cups" has really been in my head, and this has had a little boost on the radio as well as an upsurge into the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. It's a rapidly enjoyable track, as if we needed another reason to love Anna Kendrick.

Muppet-Bites: "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons

I keep thinking this track is dead, but it really doesn't seem like it's going away anytime soon. It's an awfully old song by now (its YouTube video dates back to December 2012 for goodness' sake), but it's still drum thumping its way through our hearts. Speaking of that video, it's one of the more boffo underground Muppet cockfights out there, although it remains thoroughly entertaining. I think this is mostly because it's played really straight in the video, and the band isn't really holding back any passion. Summer.

Way Back: "The Way" by Ariana Grande ft. Mac Miller

It's tough to remember another track where one artist was so likable and the other so awful. Ariana coos and flows all over this thing, then Mac comes in with seemingly impossible quantities of douchebaggery. This may as well be an upswing week for just about everyone - I considered this dead weeks ago, but here we are sucking down Tacos Grandes.

Cannon Fodder: "Beautiful" by Mariah Carey ft. Miguel

I heard this song everywhere this week. It's got a nice thump to it, and has a pretty broad appeal for a Mariah Carey song, which is usually limited to teenage girls and Middle Eastern men, as is my understanding. Anyway, the girl's still sexy as hell somehow, and Miguel really enhances this track instead of appearing randomly and inconsequentially like some other artists out there with bizarre name punctuation.

Sexy Motherfucker: "Treasure" by Bruno Mars

Funking it up for another week, this song can't do anything but go up, which I'm fairly pleased about. It's Bruno's best joint ever, just oozing over breathy funk, a gripping bass line, and eargasms all around. That may be some hyperbole, but this song is fresh enough, happy enough, and funky enough to be my favorite pop track right now. There - I used some derivative of "funk" in every sentence.

Rapping Equality: "Same Love" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert

This song really wasn't up there as much as it was last week, but it's still doing pretty well. I'm not sure why Macklemore thought he was gay because he could draw, his uncle was, and he kept his room straight, but I suppose that does illustrate how insane most of this country is on the idea that you can "catch" gayness, or even be cured (or need to be cured). I'm down with this battling with "Cruise" for a while, we'll see if it can really become the biggest Song of Summer (and Mack's third huge hit of the year - what a little devil!)

No Means Maybe: "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke ft. Pharrell and T.I.

I'm getting sort of disgusted with this track the more I listen to it, but I really just can't stop listening to it. It's the opposite of "Same Love" - a fairly horrible, rape-y topic candy coated in the most inescapable beat of the summer. Anyway, there's no stopping Ratajkowski and her cute bopping all over this video. Even though Mack's "Can't Hold Us" dominated much of the first half of Summer, the Throne favors finishers, and unless this really plummets from something like "Same Love" or "Treasure," it's almost a foregone conclusion that Robin Thicke will be crowned King. That's quite a rough patch for advocates of "no means no" everywhere.

Next week...

 It was with a heavy heart that I left out "Get Lucky" and Icona Pop. I also still have an eye on the supreme mellowness of Jack Johnson's "I Got You." I also heard a bit of Rihanna's "Pour It Up," which I thought my be pretty hot, but as it turns out that dropped a few months ago. Still it could come back right? I dunno. Besides these guys, I've still got ears on two teen idols turned wannabe sexpots Selena and Miley, along with the aforementioned whore, Ke$ha. Stay tuned, folks, we've not got much Summer left!!

12 July 2013

The Road to a Blockbuster: Giant Robots or Giant Douches

As another Friday dawns, it's time again for the Road to a Blockbuster - our weekly glance at the possible cultural, commercial, and critical cache of every big flick that hits theaters. We're looking for not only whether or not a film is going to make some serious dough, but whether or not we're going to be actually quoting this thing ten or twenty years down the line. Today we have what could be the best film of Summer and what will likely be one of the worst. Welcome to the Weekend of Pacific Rim (2013) and Grown Ups 2 (2013).

These two movies couldn't be more different. Pacific Rim is an original sci-fi flick from Guillermo del Toro about giant robots fighting giant monsters. It's the closest we're getting to a Big O movie and a true homage to the Kaiju films of Japan that gave us such creatures as Godzilla, Gamera, and Rodan. Also Reptar. There may not be a better concept than that of giant monsters fighting in big cities, and hopefully this flick will be pretty good in addition to allowing every young man in the country to re-enact living room fantasies of total city destruction.

I want to get beer wasted.
Grown Ups 2 is a follow-up to the impossibly bad Adam Sandler ego project Grown Ups (2010). Now, Grown Ups is actually fairly competent in chronicling old reunions and summer vacation fun, but in general it's just not that funny. There's that "chocolate wasted" joke, which is so notable, the entire scene was shown again in the trailer for the second film. Other than that, Grown Ups 2 really looks like more of the crap, with of course, the notable lack of Rob Schneider, who I guess thought himself too valuable for the meager paycheck they offered him. Listen, no one has ever watched a movie and thought "Boy, this could use more Rob Schneider." Not even Judge Dredd (1995). In all, it just doesn't matter except for the fact that it's kind of weird, especially considering how much of the current SNL cast they roped into this one.

I'm also always saddened by the simple fact that if Chris Farley was still alive, he would clearly be in the Kevin James role. I can't really understand the appeal of these movies that really swing for the fences in the broadest way possible. I suppose these are just paycheck movies that Sandler does in between making more personal films like That's My Boy (2012), right? Check.

So, there's obviously some crossroads here. Pacific Rim is for sure a hell of a lot more distinctive and has easy potential to be one of those great movies we remember years on down the line. Grown Ups was the more memorable movie for uniting all these comic actors for a pretty shitty movie, and while Grown Ups 2 could win the short-term box office and monetary gains, Pacific Rim is the real winner here. There really hasn't been a film with this kind of narrow but extremely positive buzz all summer. Now all it needs to do is to actually be great.

Jeez I have no idea what the hell could be happening here.
Guillermo del Toro doesn't really strike out as a director too often, although from looking at his filmography, he hasn't actually had a ton under his belt in the past decade. I mean, seriously, we've got two Hellboy movies and Pan's Labyrinth (2006). He's also produced and written a lot of crazy shit of varying quality, from Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011) to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) to Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011). He's really all over the place. I have a lot of faith in Pacific Rim, although its obscure cast (Idris Elba and Charlie Day are really its most famous castmembers), obscure material (Giant Robot Fights!), and boffo director will hold it back for all but the nerdiest of consumers. Then again, its marketing material has been really cool and excellent, so who knows.

So what's it gonna be this weekend? Will you go safe and broad with Adam Sandler or out there and crazy with Guillermo? I can guess that Sandler owns the weekend, but in 2023 we'll still be jazzed on Pacific Rim, even as Grown Ups 8: Salma Hayek's Boob Explosion hits theaters.

08 July 2013

Summer Jam Week 9: Lego Treasure and Same Love Crack Open the Fourth!

It's another Summer Monday, so of course it's time to recount the hottest Summer Jams of the week. Now, to be sure, we've been all over the place this year. We've got some nice doses of country, pop, hip-hop, and rock all sprinkled in all over the place. As Independence Day has come and gone, how has this year's Jams helped us cool down and celebrate this great nation?

Hot Jam of the Week: "Sweater Weather" by The Neighbourhood

This song is a bit old, but it had a pretty big week this week. It's also not that great, but it's the closest Rock Track that's going to threaten "Radioactive" any time soon. It's kind of catchy in a background sort of way, but I can't see it lighting up any time soon. Like Fall Out Boy, of course.

Shave It All: "We Can't Stop" by Miley Cyrus

It seems that every chick pop song this summer is just a party song, and Miley's about the best one. She's done a great job shedding her Disney Girl image lately, although I'm not sure anyone actually cares that much. Still, good for her that she's already got a bit more than "Achy Breaky Heart" to her name. This song's suitable enough to have a nice summer, but I can't see it getting much hotter.

Funkadelic: "Treasure" by Bruno Mars

This may be one of the more positive tracks on this list, and I love the sheer funky homage to the 70s that lil' Bruno has created here. As far as dude pop crooners go, Bruno's the man and this is one of the more listenable songs he's ever put out. It hasn't caught on that much, yet, but it's still fairly new. It could go places.

Brick by Brick: "Lego House" by Ed Sheeran

This song isn't quite great, but it is super mellow to the point of being wienery. It's kind of getting to be everywhere, though, so whatever. It's also fairly forgettable, especially considering how much better Phillip Phillips is at doing the same kind of schtick. As soon as a couple singles from Jack Johnson's new album drop, we'll also not be caring any more about Sheeran.

The Night Away: "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell

Why not add some dance music to the list already filled with wuss rock and chick pop? "Get Lucky" wasn't nearly as ubiquitous this week, but it's still one of the bigger and better true dance hits in years, although it may be more appropriately categorized as a funk song along with "Treasure." Either way, it can stay. And it doesn't even really have a video yet.

Across the Rio: "The Way" by Ariana Grande ft. Mac Miller

After hanging out for a while this track suddenly blew up a little bit this week. I used to defend Mac Miller from people who called him a douche because I genuinely dug his tracks, but his show has corrected my viewpoints. He is a huge douche and can't add much to this track which Ariana already makes pretty damn good.

Get Beats Pill: "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke ft. T.I. and Pharrell

Has this ever happened before? Has an artist recreated his or her own music video to become a commercial instead? It's just a small example of how much this people can sell out. I still don't really buy Thicke's explanation of the chauvinism in the video that they're all married so it's OK and more of a parody. It remains one of the more popular summer songs, though, because its catchiness is totally cray cray.

On a More Homosexual Note: "Same Love" by Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert

After the super-hetero "Blurred Lines," it's fitting to cap this week with an ode to love and acceptance of all sexual beliefs with "Same Love." This song really took off this week and seemed to be everywhere. It's a great song with a great message, even if it's not really a typical summer song. After Carly Rae's Maybe Boyfriend turned gay last year, anything can happen. The best part is, though, that a song like this is even getting the kind of airplay it has - that's a pretty good sign of progress. It's also fitting that this is as hot as it is a week after DOMA was shot down.

Next week...

 Jay-Z dropped Magna Carta...Holy Grail today, seeming in an effort to see which one, him or Kanye has the smallest, humblest ego. No word on a hot single yet, but we'll be looking to see what happens with that. Like I said earlier, I'm also looking to Jack Johnson, who crafts some of the best smooth jams that fit perfectly with a chill Summer sunset. His album From Here to Now to You drops in September, but we'll see how the promotional single "I Got You" lands. Bon voyage, campers!

04 July 2013

The Long Halloween Vol. IV: Simpsons Edition - Independence Day

For some time now we've been taking a moment on each holiday, once a month, to highlight the best TV and Movies to watch to accompany the festivities. We soon ran out of the really good ones, so now we're just focusing on The Simpsons. There is such a wealth of episodes to choose from, they've covered just about everything. Today, as we celebrate our Independence Day with Bill Pullman, it's time for "The Summer of 4 ft. 2" (S7;E25).

This is as much an episode about summer, growing up, and embracing one's identity as it is about the Fourth of July. In fact, there is really just a small Independence Celebration, but it's enough to make this episode worthwhile viewing. At the core, this is a very Lisa-centric episode, although it's Homer who gets all the best moments. When the Simpson family go on vacay to Little Pwagmattasquarmsettport, Lisa decides to leave behind her old persona and attempt to sell out to the culture of Gen X to gain some friends.

The episode begins with one of the most accurate (and pathetic) sprinkler pantomimes from Milhouse that really do sum up a lot of Summer. There's plenty more good moments depicting how amped up kids can get on the last day of school and how the quest for knowledge is never truly complete ("Was Abraham Lincoln okay?"). Back at home, Flanders has a long convoluted story as to why he can't stay at his vacation house ("Seems a man drove up onto a traffic island and hit a decorative rowboat full of geraniums. Now they're trying it as a maritime offense.") but Homer won't take the incredibly kind offer without a little more on Ned's part - fixing his septic tank ("Hello Mr. Brown-ground!"). It's the epitome of ungrateful Homer. At least his notes were helpful.

At the same time, Lisa is dealing with her own patheticness and the simple fact that she really doesn't have any friends. She struggles with her identity, ultimately adapting herself into a well-made pastiche of youth culture that successfully entices local kids in the town. This causes an upset of the status quo, when Bart becomes unpopular with the cool kids, which is the reverse of their roles in Springfield. Bart becomes nefarious as brothers are wont to do, and spoils Lisa's newfound popularity through showing her friends the "real" Lisa - nerdy perfect teacher's pet.

Of course, due to the fact that all the kids actually liked Lisa (from teaching them things like how they shouldn't drink seawater), they are fairly okay with her nerdy leanings, and decorate her car with seashells and other beach combings. Of course, it's really Homer's car ("Sweet merciful crap!"). There's this theme of growing up, perfectly encapuslated in a metaphor with the hermit crab - as Lisa notes, when it grows too big, it finds a new shell. This episode is all about Lisa finding a new shell and evolving from what her mother thought she was ("And a star on the fanny!").

This episode is full of many other great side moments that chronicle the family's summer vacation to a very Cape Cod, or at least a very New England-esque Summer Town. This episode is possibly full of more background sight gags than any other, including Homer's slow smile once he realizes that Bart drew the "dud" in the mystery date game and he has similarities to Milhouse ("He looks just like you, Poindexter!"). There is also a classic gag where Milhouse suddenly appears from behind a cereal box at breakfast after a lengthy argument between Bart and Lisa.

It's fun to imagine what Homer was doing during this whole trip. After Bart's sly line before they jump into the ocean ("Last one in's a yearbook editor!"), they find Homer sitting in his car, apparently driving around the inch-deep water. He also has the most legendary convenience store order ever - a porno mag, large box of condoms, bottle of Old Harper, box of panty shields, and two disposable enemas. And of course, some illegal fireworks.

The M-320 with a short fuse is a great bit, but I get a lot more enjoyment out of the following scene that features Marge in the background mopping up the mess with a frustrated look on her face. There's also a real quick second shot of her cleaning all the burn and destroyed dishes. On the subject of Marge, I also like her line "Don't make me get the carny!" at the carnival - there's just a level of absurd juxtaposition there, as if the carny was a serious authority figure whose job it was to ensure their games are played fair.

The episode also wriggles in a ton of references to trashy 90s shows like Blossom and Baywatch as part of the interaction with the kids. The Simpsons usually doesn't date itself as rough as this, but I haven't thought of Blossom in years. In fact, I've never really thought of Blossom, but as a 90s kid that's a fun gag to get nearly twenty years later. Here's a fun fact: Blossom actually premiered over twenty years ago. Jeez. Maybe it's fun to watch while eating baguettes?

Finally, I'm sure it's not that funny now or ever was to any other sensible human being, but when I first saw this as a kid I distinctly remember laughing uncontrollably at the final sight gag - the hermit crab crawling into Homer's Buzz Cola can. I think I laughed for twenty minutes. I couldn't handle it. It's not that great of a joke, but damn I just thought the little guy's misguided attempt to find a new home through Homer's waste was the funniest thing I had seen in my life.

So, if this episode doesn't make you yearn for a Cape Cod vacation, I don't know what could. In addition to celebrating the birth of our nation by blowing up a small part of it, there's a lot to be said here about Summer Vacations, weird vacation friends (any of those characters - Erin, Dean, etc - ever make it back in any future episodes?), and finding yourself as you grow out of your shell.

Happy Independence Day! Here's to hot dogs, explosions, beer, and freedom! America!

03 July 2013

The Road to a Blockbuster: The Despicable Ranger Rides into Independence Weekend

Normally this post hits on Fridays, but considering the big big flicks are dropping today, we've got a special Wednesday edition of the Road to a Blockbuster. In this segment of NMW we attempt to hit on the big cultural, critical, and commercial impact that each big movie will have on the population. Will we be quoting and jazzing over these flicks next year? Ten years from now? The Weekend of the Fourth of July, which will forever be known as Independence Weekend, has had some of the biggest and greatest movies of all time, from Back to the Future (1985), Independence Day (1996), and Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011). How will The Lone Ranger (2013) and Despicable Me 2 (2013) stack up? Let's discuss:

The Lone Ranger seems intent to capitalize on the success of the Pirates of the Carribbean franchise, which is only really connected through its studio, director, star, and purported scope. Fifteen years ago if you had told me that the biggest Independence Weekend Movie was a retooling of a 1930s radio show that was primarily seen as a follow-up to a multi-billion dollar grossing quadrilogy based on a theme park ride, I may have punched you in the face on my way to watching Armageddon (1998).

The most interesting thing about The Lone Ranger as a movie is the simple fact that its existence signifies that just about any property can be transformed into a giant event movie full of enormous scope and spectacle. I can't imagine what the creators of the radio show would think about this big nuttiness on screen, surely it's more than they ever could have foreseen. It's really wild. There is also no discernable story here, it just seems like Johnny Depp and one of the twins from The Social Network (2010) are having a raucous time in the wild west. It's also possibly the only film that has been more heavily promoted this year than Man of Steel. Ultimately, the Big Blue Boy's opening was underwhelming (yeah it was considering the hype and how heavy the marketing was), and this will likely be more of the same - if the product just isn't that good, people won't show up.

Truth be told, the fact that Armie Hammer played both the Winklevoss Twins in The Social Network is more astounding the more you think about it, and he's certainly a competant actor who deserves a big A-list career. He needs to be really memorable in The Lone Ranger, though, because as of now, this movie is all Johnny.

Depp has had a wacky career of his own. Almost similar to Brad Pitt, he graduated from an outstanding small movie actor in the 90s to one of the last great stars who can headline a movie on his own. It's a shame that instead of deep, high quality roles like in Ed Wood (1994) or even Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), he's basically resigned to loud, quirky characters under thick layers of make-up. Like in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). And Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007). And Alice in Wonderland (2010). Dark Shadows (2012). Which brings us right up to The Lone Ranger. It's tough to be critical of his collabos with Verblinksi, though, considering if not the success of every Pirates movie, then certainly the success of Jack Sparrow, the Jester of Tortuga. Not to mention Rango (2011) is one of the best films of the past decade.

Speaking of great animated films, Despicable Me 2 would seem to threaten if not The Lone Ranger this weekend, then certainly the prospects of Monsters University (2013). The first film was cute and entertaining, if not totally great. If anything though, it gave us the Minions, who seem to be a continuous source of old school wackiness. Most notably, this tiny little film from the animation studio out of Universal Pictures is now a vibrant franchise that has secured an Independence Weekend Release.

There is no real coherent story that is apparent in the storyline of Despicable Me 2, either, besides Gru apparently being called on to save the world and the Minions being goofy, but that seems to be about it. That's really all this flick comes down to, which is fine. I don't think this will enter the annals of animated film history, although it should add to its own legacy and will probably do well in theaters. The marketing material hasn't done a thing to differentiate itself from the first film, which is as good as it is bad. It's great news for fans of the first installment, which promises more of the fun, but at the same time it's not offering anything new. Ultimately I can picture myself catching this, but I can wait till it's on USA in two years. Actually, I think the first one just snuck on to ABC Family.

While Despicable Me 2 has effectively narrowed the kid's market, even though Monsters University had a surprisingly good hold, this weekends is really all about The Lone Ranger. I am still curious about the inherent racism in Depp's performance, but he's apparently a Comanche, so whatever. Here's another spoilerific article defending the film's racism. It's certainly a debatable subject, and I'll wait to reserve judgment until I actually see the thing and how Depp portrays his Native American character. Still, he's effectively working in redface (is that alone a racist term? Indianface? Jeez that sounds worse), no matter what his tribe says. Ultimately, Tonto just needs to be a fully fleshed out character in a good movie to really be accepted. If anything, Depp and that stupid dead crow on his head ought to enter the cultural lexicon.

Lastly, it's widely known that The Lone Ranger is related to the Green Hornet (he's his great-uncle, specifically), which just means I really want to see a Seth Rogen cameo.

Will you be high-hoing Silver this weekend?

01 July 2013

Summer Jam Week 8: Mack, Selena, and a Bunch of Rapping White Girls

Here we have another Summer Monday morning, so it's time again to recount the hottest Jams of the week. We all want to see which track is going to be the next big thing - the unstoppable Jam of the Summer of 2013. Who will claim the crown? Keep reading to find out as we head into Summer's halfway point.

Hot Jam of the Week: "Love Somebody" by Maroon 5

Maroon 5 tends to have either really great songs or really crappy songs, but whatever they churn out tends to be popular. This is a fairly forgettable song. I think I've heard it three or four times this week but can't picture the tune in my head. It does, however, have a really cool and freaky music video. Maroon 5 seems to always be a summer staple, I can't see this taking off like "Payphone" did, but it ought to be pretty competent.

All Kinds of Awkward: "Come and Get It" by Selena Gomez

Selena may be 20 and getting into weird adult territory in Spring Breakers (2013), but she still looks like she's 12, so this super sexually charged track just seems real awkward. Selena isn't a sex symbol yet, and she shouldn't be. Just because Britney rocked the world at 18 doesn't mean Selena should. Still, this terrible song had a big week.

Blue and Sexy: "Ooh La La" by Britney Spears

While we're talking about Britney, we ought to mention this latest Jam that just dropped. Now, this track is appearing on the album for Smurfs 2 (2013). Yes, that exists. Who knows why the hell Britney is singing the main tie-in song of a movie that features the voice of Katy Perry as Smurfette, but whatever. The track is kind of cute, though it seems really tailor-made for inclusion on Kid Bop. Little wiener kids and the creepy adults who follow them need Summer Jams, too, and that seems about how hot this is going to get.

Pass the Forty: "Crazy Kids" by Ke$ha ft. will.i.am

"Crazy Kids" seemed everywhere this week, and it's certainly a fun song, if not one that's square in Ke$ha's youth party song wheelhouse. It's got such a high level of insane irritation, proving simultaneously that Ke$ha can neither sing nor rap, but she's also one of the more unique, if not baffo artists out there. I'm also not sure how you can listen to this song and not hate will.i.am by the end of it, especially as he literally bows out mumbling his lines like a retard. I feel bad about saying that. I'd like to apologize all mentally challenged individuals right now for associating them with will.i.am.

Rollin' on 22s: "Cruise (Remix)" by Florida Georga Line ft. Nelly

This is hanging in there as an excellent road hog song, although I think it's maxed out its potential. It doesn't seem to be catching on the way it needs to, and as really the most stereotypical Summer Jam on this list, it's actually more out of place than interesting and innovative in a Summer that is leaning more towards funk and jazz rather than country. It also seems to be causing more alienation than unification between country and rap fans.

Blurred Rape: "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke ft. T.I. and Pharrell

I'm having more of a hard time with the misogyny and rape culture propagated by this track, but it's also still the funnest, bounciest, and catchiest song of Summer so far. Sometimes I think that there is a feminist overreaction to the lyrics of the track, but then again, it's that kind of backslide that creates the culture of objectification, discrimination, and ultimately abuse. I'll about guarantee that most of this track's male and female listeners don't care about that though (which is a problem unto itself), so it'll stay hot for a bit.

Get Funky: "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell

I'm jazzed at how much this jazzy track has taken off. It's not only a perfect chill out Summer Jam but a great use of Pharrell's signature voice. This is a great party song, a great afternoon hang out song, and a real smooth Jam in every way. It's really what writing this column is all about.

Never in Doubt: "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Ray Dalton

After I completely left this jam off the Week 7 List, "Can't Stop Us" came back in a big way and reclaimed the top spot. This song was everywhere again this week. It's really such a refreshing and positive song that has been around for some time now, but doesn't seem to be stoppable. I'm hesitant to declare this the runaway Jam of the Summer, but nothing seems able to replace it. Still, we're only around the halfway mark, anything could happen.

Next Week...

I left how the high number of white girl rap songs that have seemed to come out recently - in addition to Britney and Ke$ha, we have Bridgit Mendler's "Hurricane" doing her best Karmin impression and Iggy Azalea doing whatever the hell "Work" is. Other potential jams I'm looking at include Ciara's "Body Party" and Bruno Mars' "Treasure" which is another push towards 2013 giving us the funkiest Summer since 1979. Do you want one more? Yeah you do. How about Portugal the Man's "Purple Yellow Red & Blue", which does remind me of D12.
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