28 August 2017

Summer Jam 16: Taylor Messes Everything Up. LIVE!!

Why did it take us sixteen weeks to finally get to a real competitive pubic pop feud? It's as if Katy Perry and Taylor Swift were biding their time all summer to throw down this week. Well, you know Katy's been trying hard as hell to recreate "California Gurls" as another Summer Jam killer but has totally whiffed. I have a lot to say here:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Look What You Made Me Do" by Taylor Swift

Alright, so this is clearly a dig at Kanye as much as it is at Katy, but also represents an insane new direction in Tay Sway's music. Sonically it's not too terrible, although it's certainly a higher intensity than she usually cranks out. The video is completely schizophrenic, although that's maybe the point? She seems like she's trying to reconcile a few different personas, or at least popular instances of Taylor's history. That's not all that strong, though, and doesn't seem to fit the spiteful theme of the track. It does generally seem to lack the wit of something like "Blank Space" or even the subtlety of "Bad Blood" (yes - calling that subtle compared to this). It ends up coming off as far more petty and blatant than anything she's ever done or even anything her contemporaries have done. So we'll probably go with "this is crap" but it is kind of a sweet jam to rock out to. Generally lame, though. This should have dropped weeks ago - Taylor seems to like dominating fall rather than summer.

On the Other Side: "Swish Swish" by Katy Perry ft. Nicki Minaj

For some reason this just got a video even though the single dropped months ago. Now, amidst the strongest criticism of her new music and persona as appropriating black culture a la Miley Cyrus, this video lands as one of the more tone-def things she could possibly do. I was reading a theory that said "Swish Swish" was an answer to "Bad Blood," which if true is truly pathetic. "Bad Blood" had real celebs like Cindy Crawford and Mariska Hargitay making cameos, a slyly playful atmosphere, and came off as a genuine Summer 2015 hit. On that note - it's a bit late for a response, right? Katy is boasting uhh...the kid from Stranger Things, Jenn Ushkowitz, and Christine Sydelko. You may be thinking to yourself "Who the fuck are they?" and you'd be right. It's pretty 2017, with some obscure Game of Thrones and G.L.O.W. cameos, but all of it feels instantly dated. And sure, she got Terry Crews, but we all know Terry Crews will do anything all the time. It's a generally awkward video to go with who is apparently just a mad awkward person. "Swish Swish" the song is enjoyable enough and has had an okay summer, even if it just feels like Katy suddenly realized it wasn't taking off so put together this last ditch effort to make it relevant. Even Nicki Minaj seems disinterested here. Let's move on.

Every Party in LA: "Attention" by Charlie Puth

I love this late summer Puth / Sheeran dual, and while this wasn't really ubiquitous like it was a few weeks ago, this is still a solid track. It really just needs that baseline to drop, which is the cherriest I've heard in years. The rest of the track is pretty much garbage, although it has a pretty cool build-up. Actually, I'm not sure this even pushes my interest like something like "Same Old Love" by Selena did a few years back. It'll probably end up okay.

Other Other Hand: "Shape of You" by Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran is a weird looking motherfucker. I totally had to look up the name of this song to remember what it was. It's kind of just something that exists, right? It's been up and down this summer, although Sheeran's fans have been as hardcore as his detractors. Is Sheeran a sex symbol? He looks like a shaved orangutan.

Sittin onda Sofa: "Stay" by Alessia Cara and Zedd

In the pop roulette this week, "Stay" wins, which has definitely built up a solid resume so far this summer, even if it's fallen out of position lately. It does have a pretty nice rhythm, although I'm curious if pop-drop as a genre ends up falling out of favor for songs that have actual choruses rather than just a tune. This tune ain't all that catchy.

Puerto Rico: "Despacito" by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee

I'm going to go ahead and call "Despacito" this summer's winner - a third place finish here is a sincere off week and even if it misses the one September Week of Summer it'll end up just fine. It's got that feeling, right? Like it was everywhere, everyone got into it, everyone acknowledged it. We'll tally of course, but I've got that feeling, which is actually something the last few years have lacked.

Groovy: "Feels" by Calvin Harris ft. Katy, Sean, and Pharrell

So, whatever you may say about Katy's failed summer, "Feels" has actually done better than anything she put out on her own. This new video feels surprisingly off her current brand, as did the first one. I will give it credit for really surprising restraint, though. This isn't flashy, evenly paced, very nice stuff. I do like this jam - it's fresh boppy pop that goes down real smooth. I just don't know what Katy is doing here, frankly, besides being a name big enough to sell some singles.

This is a Metaphor for Handjobs, Right? "Slow Hands" by Niall Horan

Perhaps a bit of a suprise this week, but I just kept hearing a ton of "Slow Hands" this go around. It's been around a bit and this week definitely helps its cause, but this is probably mostly an aberration. It's astounding to me that Niall ended up catching on a bit more than Harry, although I'll default to "Sign of the Times" as the better track for sure.

Next week...

"Body Like a Backroad" barely missed the cut this week. I'm looking at Tay Sway pretty hard, but we've only got one more week of this! We'll go through the final countdown on Labour Day Monday followed by a digestion and regurgitation of the FINAL SUMMER JAM WINNER of 2017. Stay tuned folks - this is what it's all about!

21 August 2017

Summer Jam 15: This One's DEFINITELY Live.

Hey - it's still Monday! We're in the antepenultimate week of Summer, and things could not be heating up with hotter heat. There are some challengers this week for sure, but more and more looking like a late upset will seal the deal. Read on to find out!

Hot Jam of the Week: "1-800-273-8255" by Logic ft. Alessia Cara and Khalid

This really a perfect zeitgeist-y mix of artists that also has a fairly powerful message. Cara is having a break-out 2017 and Khalid, while less known, and a much worse singer is also strongly debuting. Logic himself is just coming off a solid Rick and Morty appearance. Anyway, this is a powerful track that anyone can relate to if Matthew Modine walks in on you while cuddling some young hot dude. Don Cheadle is also making his music video appearance rounds this summer. Is Don Cheadle doing okay? But really, the name of this track refers to a National Suicide Hotline, and really has relatable meaning beyond forbidden homosexual love.

Since 1966: "Feel It Still" by Portugal. The Man.

This track has been hanging out all summer but came back a bit this week. It's still a remarkably rad song although it's been overshadowed quite a bit by other brighter stars. Like a moon over the sun. Eh? Eh? Ya'll 'clipsin? There's not really a chance this gets in our final count, but it's still a cool jam.

Whiskey Neat: "It Ain't Me" by Kygo ft. Selena Gomez

In the EDM pop musical chair this week is "It Ain't Me" back for more. It wasn't quite everywhere this week but popped up enough that it got back on my radar. This is still a really cute track that actually has a solidly bitter break-up message. Drinking is fun, though.

Get Nakey! "Wild Thoughts" by DJ Khaled ft. Rihanna

This has ended up being a decent summer jam, although also 'clipsed by the rival Spanish-laden track that has done a solid job dominating this season. Rihanna really makes this track her own - I know DJ Khaled shows up and yells, but this doofy credit-sharing really needs to end. Why isn't this just a Rihanna song. I suppose it's to bring in the Khaled and at this point, probably Bieber fans, right? Ugh, whatever. It's still a mellow jam.

Nun Time: "Praying" by Ke$ha

I've been big on "Woman" but "Praying" is definitely a force this summer as well that we ought to throw down. I just love the liveliness of "Woman." Ke$ha is awesome and rocking the hell out of Summer 2017 by just being her and this is another great song championing inclusivity. She was everywhere this week, and again, a bit too late to the party for anything really Jam-worthy, but this is still cool. This is also an actual nice centerpiece for Ke$ha's voice without much auto-tune for once, which is amazing.

Vampire Pharrell: "Feels" by Calvin Harris ft. Katy Perry, Pharrell, Big Sean

I really dig this track, although I was struck this week by how much this feels like a desperately cobbled together Summer Jam, manufactured rather than an organic expression of art. Oh, this is a weekly pop countdown, every single song here was created out of a desire to make profit. But "Feels" was bit this week, including one morning where it blasted me awake on the radio FAR too loudly. I still think that Katy Perry is kind of underused, like they could have gotten any random pop chick to sing the bridge instead of one of the biggest stars on the planet.

Not JT: "Attention" by Charlie Puth

I actually did think this was a new Justin Timberlake song. Sorry, I don't know anything about Puth that's not "See You Again." This actually has a sick rumbly beat and has been hanging around for a while but I just had trouble cluing into it and actually understanding that it was a different track than Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You." Far too late to do anything, but acknowledged here.

Mamacito! "Despacito" by Biebs and the Bros

#1 once again is "Despacito" which is really solidifying its position as a possible Summer 2017 King candidate. It'll come down to these next few weeks and how "Issues" turns out, but it's looking damn good for Bieber right now. The Timing has been really solid for the most Core Summer Weeks and it's gotten to the point where everyone knows it. Hell, the pre-Bieber Luis Fonsi version was already a worldwide hit. This is looking more and more like it's in the bag.

Next week...

Things are really coming together, folks. Bruno Mars dropped a "Versace on the Floor" video this week and I really dig that song although it's not really all that popular. Hell, I almost threw in "That's What I Like" again, but resisted. There's a lot that can happen - tune in next week - same NMW time, same NMW place!

18 August 2017

Hitmen, Racetracks, and a Whole Lot of Whitney Houston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 August 2017

Summer Jam Week 14: Weird Galactic Tunes. LIVE!

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

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

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

Jamming Continues: "Strobelite" by Gorillaz

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

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

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

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

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

Giggle Fits: "Woman" by Ke$ha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week...

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

07 August 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Problems: "Issues" by Julia Michaels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Next week...

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

04 August 2017

Detroit Tower

Alright folks, here's the deal: This is a charming weekly column, but we're getting to a lowpoint for the year. No, I don't give a shit about Annabelle 2 (2017), The Glass Castle (2017), or The Nut Job 2 (2017) next week. Spoiler, they're all going to be awful and make no money. Maybe Annabelle 2. I might come back Aug 18 for Logan Lucky (2017), because how can I not rant about Soderbergh's return to cinema that we all saw coming? After that, September is pretty barren, although there's IT (2017) and Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) in there. I'd like this column to become more yearly, but I'll probably keep sticking to weekends that have a bunch of films coming out that we actually care about.

But not to get ahead of ourselves - we've got two pretty damn adult-looking flicks a the cineplex this weekend, which is wonderful. First is the long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King's magnum opus, The Dark Tower (2017), which isn't actually really an adaptation at all, but we'll get to that. Next we have Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit (2017), which looks pretty damn good, even if its race riot / police brutality spin seems done to death by now, even if no one actually seems to be getting the message. So maybe it's worth it. Let's go piece by piece here.

We are cancelling the apocalypse! Alright?! Alright! Alright.
So, I've never read The Dark Tower novels because I don't really read anything besides joke books and the Lord of the Rings, but I've always had a solid appreciation for this material that Stephen King can inexplicably churn out. It's a marvelous idea to link a lot of his other disparate work while also slightly bending genres from his usual horror shtick. It all revolves around Roland Deschain the Gunslinger and his quest to find a Dark Tower or something. Did I get any of that right? I didn't look it up.

Truth be told the saga takes place across eight novels written from 1982 to 2012, although the series proper concluded in 2004. Hell, King's probably got seven or eight more in him. Now, I self-admittedly hadn't read a page, but the synopsis did partly inspire Kate's Stupid Journey Through Upside-Down World, which I should probably try to peddle more. It's an enormously popular work and ought to inspire a Lord of the Rings - level following and response.

Except of course that due to the terrible nature of its development hell and nigh-unfilmability, we're not actually getting a direct adaptation. We're getting a quasi-sequel to the final, definitive ending of the (at the time) seventh book, with some parts from the first book thrown in so this world actually makes sense. As a fan I'm not sure what I'd think. I suppose it's cool that they can't really fuck anything up or deliver a bastardized version of the story I had in my head, but don't you want to lean into the positive? To see a brilliant adaptation of exactly what's in your head?! It all kind of feels like a cop out instead of something really inspirational.

On the note of its Lord of the Rings-ability, I also have concerns that by blatantly not exactly adapting the film, it also takes the stakes off this being a typical nine-film literary investment. It's more like SONY seeing how this does before it really puts its feet on the ground. To their credit, SONY hasn't had a bonafide hit since the Raimi Spider-Man days and it's tough to blame them for being cautious. The history of this adaptation process is patently ridiculous, although we certainly dodged a few bullets along the way.

Still, the casting is damn good. Director Nikolaj Arcel is pretty unknown and untested, but the marketing looks interesting and solid, although it seems to avoid describing much of the story, instead relying on Elba being a badass. That's not totally a bad thing. There's not a ton of competition to clear this week, but I'm eternally curious if this is any good. It's almost impossible to lump Stephen King adaptations together because they're of such varied budget, time periods, and talent behind the camera. The author also famously hated The Shining (1980), which is for my money one of the greatest movies of all time. That's all to say, who knows where this dude's taste is with movies, particularly his own work. Let's dig in to every Stephen King theatrical film adaptation ever!

Carrie (1976), Brian de Palma - put every single person involved on the map. Yay for pig's blood!
The Shining (1980), Stanley Kubrick - one of the scariest movies ever
Cujo (1983), Lewis Teague - also terrifying, if a little campy
The Dead Zone (1983), Dave Cronenberg - solid, even if the TV show with Anthony Michael Hall is a bit more famous now
Christine (1983), John Carpenter - classic car horror
Children of the Corn (1984), Fritz Kiersch - many sequels, a sort of classic!
Firestarter (1984), Mark Lester - I literally know nothing about this beyond it's just about a little girl who starts fires with her mind. I suppose that's basically the movie
Cat's Eye (1985) Lewis Teague - I did not know this was a thing before researching this post
Silver Bullet (1985), Dan Attias - I saw this last month! It was fucking terrible!
Maximum Overdrive (1986), Stephen King - this is not good.
Stand by Me (1986), Rob Reiner - where would we be without the Coreys?
The Running Man (1987), Paul Glaser - This is more known as part of the Schwarzenegger Sci-Fi canon, and has its fans, but I've always thought it was garbage
Pet Sematary (1989), Mary Lambert - Hahaha, Pet Sematary cracks me up every time - Fred Gwynne, the little evil monster boy at the end, this movie rules.
Graveyard Shift (1990), Ralph Singleton - the first out and out dud, this film is about a giant bat that eats mill workers
Misery (1990), Rob Reiner - another classic, although now known for exactly one scene and you know the one
Needful Things (1993), Frasier Heston - inspired a Rick and Morty episode but otherwise sucks
The Dark Half (1993), George A. Romero - isn't it amazing how many classic horror directors tried their hands at Stephen King material!? Romero failed!
The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Frank Darabont - contrary to popular IMDB, not the greatest movie of all time, but damn solid
The Mangler (1995), Tobe Hooper - nope.
Dolores Claiborne (1995), Taylor Hickford - is this even a real thing? Stephen King did not write a novel called Dolores Claiborne. That's terrible.
Thinner (1996), Tom Holland - we're in the thick of un-famous mid-90s King adaptations. How did he start so hot in the 80s and then turn to shit.
Art Pupil (1998), Bryan Singer - Nazi Gandalf!
The Green Mile (1999), Frank Darabont - Okay, we're back on track. This is a great flick.
Dreamcatcher (2003), Lawrence Kasdan - I sort of remember this, right? It was like...okay?
Secret Window (2004), David Koepp - this was Stephen King? This stupid weird Johnny Depp movie that carried none of his Jack Sparrow momentum.
Riding the Bullet (2004), Mick Garris - this grossed as much in theaters as my college tuition cost.
1408 (2007), Mikael Hafstrom - now here is a super-underrated spooky flick. Back on track.
The Mist (2007), Frank Darabont - probably the best melding of adaptation and movie you're going to get.
A Good Marriage (2014), Peter Askin - I have no memory of this existing. That was three years ago.
Cell (2016), Tod Williams - somehow the second Sam Jackson / John Cusack Stephen King movie! It sucked!

So, okay - we've got 30 movies here, and I'm going to say that like, twelve of them are good. That's right on 40%. There's at least like fifteen that are well-known in the cultural consciousness, though, which is solid. This doesn't even factor in the fucking hordes of TV movies and series like Salem's LotIT, The Stand, Rose Red, Under the Dome, 11.22.63, and of course...The Langoliers. The Langoliers is probably one of the worst fucking movies I've ever seen, I caught it late night on cable some years back, hot dog is that a stupid cheesy movie.

The point is, that basically like, half the time King is really good and comes up with something really really cool and interesting. The other half is all garbage, but who are we to judge? The sheer volume and expanse of genres the man is capable of writing about is staggering. I have no idea if The Dark Tower will fall in the plus or minus side of this, and indeed, barring The Mist and The Green Mile, his peak is so clearly '83 - '94, and that might be even pushing it. If we're talking about The Dark Tower in forty years like we talk about Carrie and The Shining that'd be a huge accomplishment. Even if we're talking about it in twenty years like the fucking Langoliers that'd be amazing.

What worries me is that this interpretation of The Dark Tower is more like every other big blockbuster and less like a Stephen King story. Really except for The Running Man, there's never quite been an adaptation like this. It's typically all either weighty creepy dramas, inspirational dramas, weighty creepy horror stories, or cars that mysteriously come to life and kill you. Or pets that return from the dead! Hahaha! Fred Gwynne you Munster-looking motherfucker! There's a very real danger of The Dark Tower being absorbed into the random shit that takes up the rest of summer.

Still, the bright side is that the path is clear for this movie to play for ever. I don't think The Nut Job 2 is going to threaten it. If it can remain in the cultural conversation for a few weeks without anything else, that's a good thing. Of course, films like Dunkirk (2017) are still very much in that conversation. It's a tough assessment, and again, it looks pretty cool and I am on board as not-really-a-fan, which is something.

I mean, it's basically no different than a Lions game.
Let's move on to Detroit. For all her acclaim and Best Director awards for The Hurt Locker (2009), she's done surprisingly few films in the past eight years. Sure, there is the monumental achievement of Zero Dark Thirty (2012), but that's still a five-year gap until the present. I suppose that's one more film than ex-hubby and faux chief 2010 Oscar Ceremony rival James Cameron has made since AVAGRABAR (2009), and people seem to care a ton more about Locker than that blue crap in the past eight years. After a pretty prolific 90s, it's suddenly exciting to see her make another film, although it seems that she certainly has a settled genre by now.

Perhaps that's just it - Bigelow could crank out these kinds of thrillers every year and they'd all be the same crap. Instead, Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, and from the looks of it, Detroit are all precisely crafted and intricate works of art that function as simultaneous character study, threadbare tension-filled suspense pieces, and war films to boot. Even Detroit looks to very much settle into the realm of that latter description. It'd be more interesting if she tried her hand at other genres if she didn't do this type of movie so damn well.

To further a Detroit-specific discussion, though, there are some obvious issues at work here considering how racially charged everything having to do with this film is. It's based on the 1967 Detroit Riots, specifically one hotel where three innocent black teenagers were murdered by authorities. What's perhaps most astounding is that this happened fifty years ago and is still a national topic of discussion. Or to be more specific, became a national topic of discussion within the past few years. Also astounding.

What's most interesting is that the context of the event as it happened in 1967 is seen in a far more drastic light in 2017. Despite happening smack dab in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, this was a northern city driven by racial violence. It of course was only an indicator of rough times to come for the city of Detroit (who knows how the proud white and racist people of that city feel about their town's name now attached to this race riot movie. Actually, I can guess) in every aspect of their lives. Except the 2002 Red Wings.

But it is as if an event that in 1967 American understood as a bunch of mongrel black folk getting upset for no reason, or worse yet, because it's in their nature or some hogwash, in 2017 we can understand the frustration and scenario a bit better. That's a critical moment in the decline of the inner city, which only within the last year or so has shown some signs of reversing. While there has been a weird up-in-arms controversy that white girl Kate Bigelow can't understand black plight, 1) I'm not sure how that matters, it's not like Gareth Edwards understands how AT-ATs should attack, and 2) she's done an amazing job with controversial material before, and proven how adept she is at handing a wide array of different cultures.

The key is of course Mark Boal, who is probably one of the best synthesizers of research on the planet, who has written Bigelow's past three films out of an exhaustive array of material. I have a lot of confidence in this production, which, if that's misplaced then so be it. I like where this is headed. Racial movies have been pretty hot lately, and I don't think this has the sexiness or mass appeal of something like a Straight Outta Compton (2015), or hell, a Zero Dark Thirty for that matter. It'll be in a fight for second with the likes of Dunkirk and The Emoji Movie (2017), but to be honest ought to pull in that $20-30 million that should clear them by a good margin. I don't see it lighting up the theater but it ought to do just fine. At a $34 million budget, it doesn't have to do too crazy either.

So what do you think? Which of these flicks are you checking out this weekend? Or just Netflixing Rogue One (2016) at home? C'mon!
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