18 June 2018

Summer Jam 2018 Week 6: Enter Ye

We've reached the apex of June! It's crazy to think about. There are a whole random slew of tracks this week, from the bright and shiny new to the old and decrepit. We're on the breach of reunion and wedding season, people. Which songs will be the soundtrack to your lives?! Read on and find out!

Hot Jam of the Week: "I'm Upset" by Drake

I've been trying to both cover this Drake / Pusha-T feud and also wanting to stay out of it. This more a song and introspective reconciliation with Drake's past than a direct attack on Pusha, but it's also a solid reminder that, yeah, our most popular current rap artist starred on Degrassi. I really just wanted to talk about this video that features Jay and Silent Bob for some reason (Kevin Smith is a huge self-admitted Degrassi fan). The world is weird.

"Girls Like You" by Maroon 5

This hasn't quite caught on yet, but it trended well on YouTube and got some fairly choice radio plays. It's also such a smooth hip zeitgeist-y girl power song. I rambled about this before, but I wish we could have had a girl group get this many girls together for the girl power song. The vagina power on display here is amazing. It might yet take a few weeks to really be a hit.

"Sit Next to Me" by Foster the People

This has been around for a minute but was played enough this week to earn a drop here. Foster the People hasn't quite hit "Pumped Up Kicks" ubiquity, but hey, any alternative rock that's not Imagine Dragons is worthwhile. It's a kind of uplifting song, but better for a chill night than a true summer rager.

"Yikes" by Kanye

You can say what you want about Kanye's mental health (if you listen to Ye, he says plenty himself) - some of these tracks feel a little inconsequential or at least not as thought out and clever as his earlier work (almost nothing is equal), but despite all that bitching, "Yikes" might be the best of the crop and holy damn this is a song for our moment right now. No real radio play, but do we even need radio play anymore? I mean, we clearly haven't for years. I still do for some reason. I really should just starting basing this list off of Spotify.

"Meant to Be" by Bebe Rexha ft. Florida Georgia Line

Perhaps not as everywhere as last week, "Meant to Be" is still going strong. Now THIS is a summer driving long highway song that's oh so joyous. I'd say it is about cresting, though, almost reaching that point where I don't totally get pumped up to listen to it. Totally done. Past the hotness threshold. NEVER TO RETURN.

"Never Be the Same" by Camila Cabello

Surging this week while Ariana dropped is the first indication that "Never Be the Same" could make the first run at legit Summer Queen status. It's very very early to call anything, having only covered a little over a third of the season, but right now she's in the lead. We'll of course see how things shake out, but I'd be okay with this.

"Nice for What" by Drake

Drake Song #2 of the week and yeah, "Nice for What" jumped up mad high this week. For some reason I heard this track excessively this week and that beat is just good enough to fill the background of whatever you might be doing with your lives at any given moment. That mid-song complete breakdown gets me every time - I always think the 107.9 DJ is stopping the song and calling out some studio jerks. But somehow it works.

"Psycho" by Post Malone

I know, I know. We might as well have "Stegosaurus" this week this song is so old. But it was somehow everywhere this week AND shot back up to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. It's a remarkably good song, but I'll be the first to admit that I have no idea how a dirtbag-looking dude like Post Malone rose to the top of 2018. I suppose it's is general down-to-earth demeanor, accessibility, solid raspy sing-songy flow and righteous chill vibes. I also really like that "Lil mama wanna have my babies" line. For some reason he makes it sound like such an adorable love story.

Next week...

The Carters. Listen, this is no "Bonnie & Clyde" by a large motion, and it's certainly also a lesser work than either of them have done together, but it could be pretty popular. We'll see. Not much more substantial new tunes this week. A little Clean Bandit / Demi Lovato. Who cares.

15 June 2018

Tag! You're Incredible!

As summer marches on we've got two more releases this week. One is a big mainstream comedy hoping to make a dent in a grossly under-served market this year. The other is a Pixar sequel that's all but guaranteed to be the cash grab that it is.

Now, one thing you may notice is that I don't actually get out to the theater all that often. I am both blessed and cursed by an innate ability for supreme cultural osmosis and rarely feel like I actually need to watch a big release unless it really catches my eye. A few years ago I'd go to the theater for anything. If you hadn't guessed, this competition for attention is something plaguing everyone around the country. It's probably worth exploring in a longer post but now is not the time for that.

This is all to say that these kinds of preview posts simultaneously act as a forecast and a review. I've gotten to the point where I can kind of tell how a film is going to do without seeing it. For instance, TAG (2018)'s cocky attitude doesn't really gel with its idiotic premise and it stars a lot of actors who are niche at best and unlikable at worst. My guess is that it does alright, probably around Blockers (2018) level, but how many of us are still loving Blockers a few months out? I did watch Blockers in theaters, although that was mostly because a human female woman wanted to see it with me.

I can also tell you that The Incredibles 2 (2018) will win this weekend, based on having virtually no competition either in its genre band or frankly, at all right now. It's got enough goodwill riding off of The Incredibles (2004) that it really doesn't even matter what the quality or content is. Since its 2004 debut the Incredibles brand has arguably grown even more than something like Finding Nemo (2003), and we just saw the result of putting that back in theaters with Finding Dory (2016). So, let's get into both of these.

Hawkeye is also good with towels.
TAG is about a thirty-year game of tag played between five friends once a year. It stars Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Burress, and Jon Hamm. That's a crew with an intermittent comedy range over the past ten years as well as an age discrepancy of twelve years between 35-year old Burress and 47-year old Hamm. And Jake Johnson is 40 somehow? How is that possible? Anyway, that should be a small thing, but it does bother me when they're all supposed to be kids growing up together. I couldn't believe that Girls Trip (2017) actually largely gets this right, with all actresses almost the same age (Tiff Haddish being slightly younger). Anyway, this is ultimately semantics.

Did Jeremy Renner give up Infinity War (2018) for this? Definitely not, but I kind of hope so. That'd be amazing. You can kind of see through the veil here as the infamous Tag game may end with Jerry getting married and quitting. There will probably be some man-child growth, friendship acceptance, all that crap. Standard comedy stuff. What matters is the juice in between, which the trailer doesn't really show that much. The intensity and no limits nature of the game is clearly communicated, as well as the real importance, which is friends finding ways to stay in each other's lives long after they run out of other excuses to do so. That's an important thing that I identify with as a dude in his 30s who doesn't really see friends much anymore. This thing could shoot for "okay" and perhaps that's just fine.

Isla Fisher and Rashida Jones round out the cast as wives and girlfriends and I can see wanting to just see a buddy comedy with these two. Anwyay, this ought to do okay. It's R-rated, which hasn't done especially great lately, but it could just take one great film to turn that tide. I see a Horrible Bosses (2011) level of cultural influence here.

Now the real meat of this weekend - The Incredibles 2. This is going to be heresy, but I actually never thought the original was that great. It just comes across as really corny to me, with all kinds of cheeky "aw shucks" cute moments that aren't quite my sensibility. This is of course some of the very reason it achieved mass popularity, particularly with parents and children. Yeah, I suppose that's the demographic, right?

This isn't to say it doesn't have some great moments. From the nebulous time period to the stunning and varied design to the true earning of a familial bond, there's a lot of greatness going on here. The real key to understanding this film is understanding the last few not-so-great years of Pixar. And to be fair, not-so-great for Pixar is comparing their recent output to one of the greatest commercial and critical hit streaks of movie history.

So, first, with director Brad Bird returning, I can't help but think again of Finding Dory, which brought back Andrew Stanton after he totally whiffed with John Carter (2012). Bird had a similar experience with Tomorrowland (2015). It's as if after both accomplished directors struck out to live action have recoiled to the safe and comfortable environments where they made their name. And for the record, I actually liked both Carter and Tomorrowland.

I'd like the idea of Elastigirl in a gritty superhero parody.
That sense of return to comfort has plagued Pixar in the past few years. They made the decision at some point, likely after the success of Toy Story 3 (2010) to just re-hash all their old crap instead of continually creating new worlds. And so we've gotten a lot of Cars movies, new Monsters movies, the aforementioned Dory, and now Incredibles. More importantly, none of these movies have been very good. How have we not also gotten A Bug's Life (1998) sequel? Is it because all these bugs are definitely dead? The handy thing with long-range animation sequels is that we don't see how painfully awful all the cast has aged. Thanks to the DVD age where kids continuous crave films to watch every day of their lives, they also largely know all these characters, even though the original film was put out years before these bastards were born. An Incredibles sequel also appeals to both last 90s / early 2000s-born kids for their own nostalgia along with everyone's parents who saw this and identified with the parent characters in this film. A true four quarters family film is rare, and this nails it.

Now, I can't totally be a bitch here because since 2010 Pixar has released three original films that count among the greatest that they've ever done. I often feel like I'm the only one who loved Brave (2012), but that movie was so different and sticky that I'll watch it forever. Inside Out (2015) had a more traditional Pixar structure, but hit its stakes so damn well. And just last week I saw COCO (2017) for the first time, which I was skeptical about since it didn't quite have a really splashy opening, but it's also flat-out amazing. They also made The Good Dinosaur (2015), which I admittedly haven't seen (no one else has). Does anyone know if The Good Dinosaur is good?

The very existence of this doubt is kind of revolutionary for Pixar. They actually made a movie that no one saw and could have sucked? That's unreal. The point is, that Pixar have proved themselves fallible in the past few years, which raises my suspicions about The Incredibles 2 more than is probably justified. I largely don't care too much about this flick and feel like it's in that Dory mode where it'll make a ton of cash but not really be driving much conversation two years later.

Maybe we can talk about the actual movie for a second. It looks like it could present some twists on gender roles, which I'm wondering if its 1950s twinge could make problematic or if we'll see some growth. Jokes about common core are the kind of lazy writing to appeal to hapless reactionary parents. It's all corny. Again, I'm not too into it. But people probably are, and that's fine.

What do you think? Will you see either of these crappy movies this weekend? Is Black Panther (2018) still int theaters crossing the $700 million mark this weekend? Leave a comment below!

11 June 2018

Summer Jam Week 5! Girls

We're in the thick of June now, people. There's a little bit of action on the Winner's List this week, with some old tracks making a brave stance and mostly a ton of pop pumping through the mighty veins of summer. Let's start off with some hip-hop:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Harlem Anthem" by A$AP Ferg

There was a lot of new rap this week, and I thought about highlighting either the new epic Eminem track ft. Everyone, but it's totally not a real commercial song, or another A$AP, this one by Rocky. Ferg and the "Harlem Anthem" spoke to me the most, though, even if it's not a Shake. It's got a fresh sun-stroked beat to without a lot of hate or pretension like anything Drake or Pusha-T is making these days.

"Sangria Wine" by Pharrell Williams x Camila Cabello

Mixing Camila's already great presence with a tried and true hit-maker like Pharrell is an auspicious affair. Camila's Latin pedigree makes anything she spits out fitting for a hazy summer night anyway, and who doesn't want to waste away these months under a spell of sangria? This hasn't quite caught on yet, but is a smooth enough jam to hit the dirt running this season.

"No Tears Left to Cry" by Ariana Grande

I almost left her off this week, but after hearing the track twice in three songs on Saturday I had to throw her back on. I do think this is somewhat on the way out, but at the same time I've finally remembered what the actual title of this jam is! It's still equal parts emotional ballad and sexy summer sex song, which is just fine for everything I'm looking for in a Jam.

"The Middle" by Zedd, Maren Morris, Grey

Here's an ancient song back from the dead this week. There's a lot of pretty fresh tracks I could have highlighted, but that felt unfair to how this jam seemed to surge. It's still an alright song, even if I definitely couldn't name Maren Morris without looking her up.

"Boo'd Up" by Ella Mai

This jam has been around for a few weeks now and finally earns a spot here. Ella Mai is a strong young voice here and it's hard to find a better case of onomatopoeia describing falling in love like this. It's got some life under it and hasn't quite hit mainstream Top 40 yet, but if it catches on it could make a nice run of things.

"Never Be the Same" by Camila Cabello

Here's another track that I thought we were kind of done with until a late week upswing. It's still half-hypnotic and altogether wonderful. I don't think this will hit "Havana" highs, but may be a better track the more I listen to it. It certainly showcases a more impressive vocal range.

"Friends" by Marshmellow & Anne Marie

I'm clearly still digging this track. I'm not sure it was always known as the Friendzone Anthem it's known as now, which has all kinds of awkward connotations, and now that I'm thinking about it, it's kind of weird that it's apparently a pro-Friendzone song. Yeah, that totally tracks, paying attention to the lyrics now. Not to get into that minefield, because Ryan Reynolds explores it better, but I can see both the ludicrous side that men and women can't be friends along with the need to accept a rejection of advances, and the difficulty that presents in anyone actually ever getting laid. The most difficult thing linguistically is framing it according to male needs, which is an issue with most of society. Good beat tho.

"Meant to Be" by Bebe Rexha ft. Florida Georgia Line

That's right! This track is #1, baby! I heard this a shitload this week and loved it every time. Suddenly I realized that's what makes a #1 song. It's old as shit, so I'm not sure how long it's got, but for now it's a pretty rad summer jam in the wake of other country crossover hits like "Body Like a Back Road" last year. I'm into it. Did this really drop last October? Aged like fine wine, baby! Bebe!

Next week...

I listened to two girls-tracks, both "Girls Like You" by Maroon 5 and the video that dropped for Rita Ora & Everyone's "Girls" but neither really got any significant cultural airplay. I really like Rita's hair in that video. She looks like a lion. I should have thrown that up there. I do get kind of annoyed with visually dissimilar videos like this where it's pretty clear that they couldn't get all four of these ladies in the same room together to shoot a fun video. It's totally thematically disparate. Anyway, that's still got potential, but if I were to throw down every song that I personally listened to this week, we'd just have Jay Rock's "Win" eight times in a row. There was a lot else this week, from Die Antwood to Julia Michaels and then another massive girl pop collabo that wasn't nearly as interesting as it should have been. Also a super weird Selena Gomez video. Keep your ears open and keep listening to the skies!!

10 June 2018

Ocean's 8 And Other Movie Catch-ups

This was a pretty silly week for me - but it's okay to post a movie preview on Sunday instead of Friday, right?

What's even the point of a non-Battleship (2012) Rihanna movie?

An apparent side-effect of dropping non-stop Disney blockbusters (even if something like SOLO [2018] ended up relatively disappointing) is that we suddenly get these low weeks of Summer where no apparent monster film drops. There's a whole slew of sub-threshold flicks with solid potential dropped lately, from Action Point (2018), Upgrade (2018), Adrift (2018), American Animals (2018), Hereditary (2018), Hotel Artemis (2018), and the biggest flick of the zeitgeist, Ocean's 8 (2018). Let's do a little mini-run through of all these and then sink into Ocean's 8.

Action Point continues the bizarre tradition of translating Johnny Knoxville's Jackass stunt prowess into films with an actual plot. Whereas Bad Grandpa (2013) basically just spun that specific Irvin Zissman character into a series of sometimes real and sometimes faked hidden camera stunts, Action Point is based off a real-life insane amusement park and basically showcases Knoxville's willingness to hurt himself. And apparently he got more hurt here than anywhere else. There's something inside me that gets a lot of satisfaction from watching someone try to be a real-life Bugs Bunny cartoon. Ironically, there's also a lot of love and passion in everything he does, which probably stems from him seeming like a genuinely good dude. I've always been a fan and actually do want to see this.

Upgrade needs a better title, but actually looks really niche and amazing. Logan Marshall-Green is perhaps best known for being the guy in Prometheus (2012) who looked like Tom Hardy, but his acting here, where his face is not allowed to match his body action is a unique spin on usual combat. For the uninformed, the movie is about a paralyzed dude who gets a chip implanted in his brain so that another agent can control his body and kick-ass for some reason. It's a good enough sci-fi high concept to watch a really scared guy not control his own body and beat up goons.

I'm not too familiar with Adrift. I thought it might star some sharks, but alas. It stars Shailene Woodley and Sam Clafin, who is best known as being one of the hundreds of bland young Hollywood white guys who don't add anything to the pictures they're in. It gives off a heavy Nicholas Sparks vibe, but may not actually be that romantic. These two people are stuck adrift after a hurricane floating somewhere. That's cool. It kind of reminds me of The Deep (2013), which shouldn't be surprising, because they have the same director. That or a less tense version of Open Water (2003). You can't trick me on remembering water and shark movies.

American Animals has me a little torn. It looks like a bizarre picture that needs a more definitive title and logline to push itself over the edge into something I'd want to see. It's about a bunch of college students who try to steal a rare book from their university library. It stars watchable young white male Hollywood actors like Evan Peters and Barry Keoghan and seems like a fun enough caper, although one that possible doesn't know its own tone. Its director, Bart Layton, made The Imposter (2012), which is a really compelling documentary, it's possible his story sense translates to a more narrative thriller genre.

Now, apparently the most horrifying, emotionally draining film of the year is Hereditary. This is getting all kinds of really polarizing reviews, mostly because genuine slow emotional horror is actually a little different than exciting slasher gore horror, but still pretty heavy for the normal movie-going crowd. I don't think Hereditary will check the boxes and become a summer smash horror hit like The Conjuring (2013) or something but it should go down as one of the better horror films of the year.

Finally, Hotel Artemis, otherwise known as John Wick 3 (2018). It does seem to strike out a little bit on its own with its insane cast and shift to a hospital rather than a secret underground Assassin Hotel, but that vibe is really there. Still, it's a cool flick that moreover is made because of the John Wicks (2014) and Atomic Blondes (2017) of the world that are upping the pedigree of the mid-range action film. And if we don't have mid-range action films, then I don't want to live in this world anymore.

Alright, now the real meat of this weekend. I hesitate to go full blockbuster only because there's not a lot of explosions or spandex, but Ocean's 8 is certainly the biggest film of the moment. I'm not totally excited for it beyond a dream cast, which apparently does indeed deliver the goods. I wrote this article years ago and I will stick by it and reference it again.

See, I get it, maybe this movie isn't made without the Ocean's name attached. And then we get nothing, and that sucks. And to be fair, the original Ocean's 11 (2001) isn't even the original Ocean's 11, that would be the 1960 Frank Sinatra Rat Pack version. That flick by Steven Soderbergh probably wouldn't have been made if it was just some George Clooney joint. I still wish that women could star in a heist film instead of a female heist film, and that we could have a Sandra Bullock film instead of the kid sister of a George Clooney film.

At the same time to some extent this is whining about semantics. A bunch of fantastic ladies have a big crazy fun movie of their own and that's great. Except that reviews have said that it's neither that crazy nor fun. So, same with Ghostbusters (2016), apparently the next step is to actually make good movies starring all these women.

But hopefully this is something that women are into. I don't even quite know what the Met Gala is or why you'd want to rob it. That's because I'm a Donkey Kong Country-playing white man idiot, but not all movies need to be made for me (something everyone seems trouble understanding). What I always look for in something like this is those universal feelings, though. Is there pain and struggle and decisions and growth the characters go through? Is it clever in the way that Soderbergh's films were almost excessively clever? Do we see the characters outwit their way to acquire the $150 million something something necklace around Anne Hathaway's neck? I hope so. That's what I cheer for in any movie.

Women are also allowed to be in bad movies, though. I never quite know where to go with feminism. I'm pretty willing to say I have no idea because I'm a dude and I don't have a female perspective and that's just fine. Does that work? I don't know. We should all bow down to Sarah Paulson anyway.

What do you think? Where does Ocean's 8 fall in feminist theory? Does it / should it? Are you going to see Adrift instead? Leave a constructive comment below, please.

04 June 2018

Summer Jam 2018 Week 4: ALL HOT ALL NEW!!!

Well, it's June and if there's any moment to debut a hot Summer Jam with a cherry three-month lifespan, now's the time. Everyone in the music industry got that memo because there are a ton of new songs this week. Call me and old timer, though, because I'm still digging Camila and Ariana and the whole lot.

I also thought about featuring either some Drake or Pusha-T tracks, particularly "The Story of Adidon" this week, but that's kind of shallow to highlight an explicit diss track, right? Especially one as sinister as this, which not only co-cops Drake's new Adidas partnership, but lays down enough legit allegations of bastard porn star children to dominate Drake's new album promotion. A few weeks ago I was saying it was weird that Drake had all these hot songs out - like it doesn't feel like we're in a Drake Age, right? Then again - Pusha-T? What songs does Pusha-T have? A ton of collabos with Kanye and then work with Clipse? "Trouble on My Mind" is legit - that's...it. It's a bizarre feud. Anyway, that's what's really hot and I had to mention something.

Hot Jam of the Week: "Humility" by Gorillaz

There's actually not a better boppy summer track out there right now. Gorillaz is one of my favourite all-time bands, and it's really surprising that they're dropping what appears to be another legit wholesale album, The Now Now just one year after their last effort, Humanz. Usually there's at least five or seven years in between. Humanz had some great singles come of it, but nothing really caught on. This video has a really energetic Jack Black going for it, as well as apparently Ace from the Gang Green Gang replacing Murdoc Niccols, who is incarcerated. I'll admit I follow their music more than their incredibly intricate lore, but Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett's efforts to stick with fleshing out this virtual band over the past 17 years is damn admirable.

"WIN" by Jay Rock

I really hope this jam catches on as a worldwide sports anthem. It's actually amazing. I really dug that other Jay Rock / Kendrick track, "King's Dead" and apparently Kendrick is just a hype man here. This song is super fun and it could be picked up by some Hip-Hop stations but I honestly do struggle seeing it catch on with Top 40. There's a sly humour here, too. I love it.

"No Tears Left to Cry" by Ariana Grande

This track may be on its way out actually. I wanted to throw it in because of Ariana's apparently blossoming relationship with Pete Davidson. And she dated Mac Miller for like two years? What is Ariana's type? Scummy tattooed white boys? And I love Pete Davidson. I do love the vibin here. Even if it's honoring a mass tragedy. Maybe we should move on from this whole affair.

"Girls Like You" by Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B

This is one of those hundreds of new singles dropped this week, and the 99th featuring Cardi B in some capacity. This is typical Maroon 5 in that it's really just an exploitative grab at trends in order to make some money without any real artistic conviction behind it. I mean, why is Cardi B here? What does her style add to this track other than "People are into Cardi B right now." But like, this video! It's a definitive who's who of badass chicks (although I got their ploy at exploiting trends as soon as I say Phoebe Robinson. I mean, she's by far the best part of Ibiza [2018] and I hope she blows up, but you don't throw Phoebe Robinson in your video unless you're going after some very specific hip demographics). I dunno. Why couldn't the Rita Ora track literally named "Girls" feature something like this. Rita Ora is in this damn video! I kind of love this song, though.

"Meant to Be" by Bebe Rexha ft. Florida Georgia Line

I almost didn't include this this week, but I heard it on the car riding home and realized I wasn't sick of it yet, it's #7 in the country and still pretty listenable. Crossover country can be a pretty powerful thing and it's such a sweet thumper of a jam that it could probably thrown down here every week for the rest of the year.

"This is America" by Childish Gambino

Another week that this is ranked pretty high, even if I didn't actually listen to it that much, because a whole new batch of friends were discussing it. That holds way more weigh to to me than it actually getting airtime - this is a track that's started a significant conversation, even if I was talking to some real damn white people who didn't get shit. Also, SOLO (2018).

"Never Be The Same" by Camila Cabello

You know, none of the other Fifth Harmony girls got to be in the "Girls" video. This was another song I heard driving home like "Yeah, this is a momentous track!" I can never remember the name, though. I think it's going to be "Never Say Never" or something. In ten or fifteen years I can see this track slipping into the ether of nether-memory. That's what these lists are for, baby! In the year 2028, we got to go back and check out the June 4, 2018 Summer Jam List! That's hot, baby!

"Friends" by Marshmello & Anne Marie

Here we go - #1 song this week! This has been out for a while and isn't even high on the charts, but I dug it this week and it hit that right area between fresh, listenable, jammable, and cool. That's how we measure things around here, people. This music video is retarded.

Next week...

So, Cardi B also had new shit with J. Lo and herself, and they both kind of suck, but could catch on. I also was very close to sharing Weezer's "Africa" cover because right now Toto is more popular than any other artist on this list. It looks like the Weeknd is trying to do something but can't get as catchy as his last album. Ke$ha dropped "Hymn," one of my favourite songs off of Rainbow. And Kanye apparently cobbled together a new album that I'm not sure anyone cares about. All caught up? Any of these tracks could attract that hot hot fire, and to be honest, I've only got like four songs in my head so far this summer, so new blood would be good. Crank up the knob, true believers!

Does that even make sense anymore? Um...press the up arrow on your phone, true believers!

03 June 2018

Arrested Development Season 5, Effort, Context, and Whiffed Punts

I really wanted to get something out there before a Summer Jam article becomes my 900th post. Instead, THIS is post #900. What an age to be alive!

I finished up Season 5 of Arrested Development on Netflix today. It had gotten some decent reviews, with many Internet saying it was a return to the original run or what have you. That's not true because the original three seasons are as perfect of a sitcom as we're ever going to get, but once again I find myself strangely in the minority of opinion.

Hold on, I've got some hard candy
That's mostly because I kind of like Season 4. I wrote this whole thing about it. It did a lot of weird undermining things to the characters that in many ways completely shifted their dynamics. Michael's competency as a straight man was undercut. GOB's...reality as a straight man was undercut. George Sr switching personalities was literally the name of an episode, Lindsay went from materialistic to homeless squatter (and back again). Tobias...was straight (man this show plays with sexuality in a weird cavalier way)? Maeby also seemed to lose competency and confidence, although also seemed to bounce back. Buster didn't rely on mother (well, HIS mother). Lucile acting in Tobias' Fantastic Four knock-off still seems totally out of character for someone who never interacted with him in the original run. George Michael was confident.

But this is also all that Season 4 attempted to do - switch everything around and force these characters to grow or regress (hey - that's the name of the show!), but largely there are still interweaving plots, jokes and set-ups that pay off a few episodes down the line, and honestly a lot of big emotional payoffs. George Michael socking his father in the face is the culmination of an entire relationship based on manipulation, lies, and mistrust. George in many ways is the only really honest, innocent member of the family, and while Michael totally unravels as both a father figure and a person in his own right, it's an extremely cathartic moment. As Ron Howard says over and over again, it's the most interesting relationship to get into.

There are of course plenty of these kinds of moments - the Imagine Entertainment crap feels very much inside baseball and almost all the Tobias stuff lands on its face. Through the window. Still, the GOB episodes, the George Michael, the Maeby stuff, and seeing George Sr briefly in his element as an overbearing business magnate is great and lines up with anything in the original run.

Season 4 also felt very epic, precisely because of the spread-out nature of filming the entire cast separately required adding a ton more characters. It all feels like very grand storytelling, that does occasionally refract and crash back into each other. Another solid theme is that this family that all hates each other tended to do really really bad when out on their own. It's a depressing, failed time. It also ended on a tremendous cliffhanger.

Apparently, though, everyone hated this, mostly because of the splintered format. It is jarring, and the recently released Fateful Consequences re-mash doesn't really help, of course not actually solving any of the filming problems. There was something really unique in the way the original Season 4 developed perspectives and let you in on things more and more as they developed. The re-mix does get a little better once the timelines add up, and seeing The Opie Awards / Schnoodle / Herbert Love Rally and Cinco de Quatro all at once is fairly easier. Easier doesn't guarantee better, though, and there's a little bit lost when the former climax of an episode becomes the first act ("The Flight of the Phoenix" comes to mind). I recognize I'm in the total minority, and that's fine.

So, suddenly it seems like we're really here - getting a Fifth Season! And then it turns out that apparently most of the male cast are total tone-deaf douchebags. It's a rough time for watching shows with problematic casts. We just saw Roseanne implode based on the headliner actress / creator's racist tweets (and frankly, long and storied history of racism and crackpot conspiracy theories). I don't think you can necessarily go back and cringe at Roseanne, because we always knew what we were getting and it's not a sudden jolt to find out "GASP! She was RACIST this whole time?!" I mean... watch her damn show! It's more awkward to learn of sexual assault monsters and revisit their works. Louie C.K. is still so fucking funny, but...can you watch anything he's done, now? Kevin Spacey single-handedly ruined Baby Driver (2017). And with SOLO (2018) coming out I wanted to revisit this and then suddenly...oooh...oooh...no.

Jeffrey Tambor. There's maybe a grey area where there's been accusations but nothing substantial or concrete? That was apparently enough to fire him from Transparent but not from Arrested Development? Either way, the clear thing is that he was a monster on the set, particularly to Jessica Walters, and the real worst damn thing of it all is that every other male in the cast seems to not really care and want to cover it up. Bless Alia Shawkat, who not only turns in the greatest performance of anybody in Season 5, but is apparently the only one brave enough to stand up to Tambor. Anyway, the whole mess leaves a pall over this Season. That's not great going in.

On one of the DVD extras in Seinfeld Season 9 (you better believe I've watched all those), Jerry Seinfeld describes one of his feelings towards ending after Season 9 as it being pathetic to keep chasing the core premise of the show into old age. These four characters, chasing dates around New York in their forties and fifties? It's not really becoming. I couldn't help but feel that here. There was a little weight gained and hair lost in Season 4 of AD, but it really shows here. These characters as the same morose insane individuals up into their late 40s can't help but echo what Seinfeld wanted to avoid. Part of that dynamic was the young, naive George Michael, the Maeby who didn't know any better but probably should have, the clueless parents, the philandering uncles, the man-child thirty-something who becomes creepier with age. This all kind of falls apart.

There's a few larger stumbling blocks in Season 5. Portia de Rossi apparently quit acting, and it shows, because her character, after arguably getting a starrier role in Season 4 that promised a more central role to come is no where to be found. Resembling how Season 4 undercut most of its characters, Season 5 undercuts Season 4, with Rebel Alley becoming a minor figure, and that emotional face-punching catharsis quickly dealt with and forgiven (but perhaps never forgotten). Again, the only character I really liked watching was Maeby as she conned and disguised her way through a nursing home that felt very much like pure unhinged Bluthdom.

And well, maybe we'll get another eight episodes sometime that will sort out this nonsense. For now it feels an awful lot like for the first time the Coogler and the rest of the team here didn't have a plan going in. There's hardly a memorable episode in the batch and I feel like this show should have died along with Haliburton Way and Saddam Hussein jokes.

What did ya'll think?

28 May 2018

Summer Jam 2018 Week Three! Friends Peas Parties

As we round Memorial Day weekend there are a handful of songs that are still hot, but shuffling around. Or I at least only like three or four pop songs right now. They'll get pop accolades as long as I'm running this show, baby! Most of the rest of this list is just talking about songs I wanted to talk about. Crank those speakers up, baby!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Ring the Alarm" by The Black Eyed Peas

So, this song is clearly terrible and comes off more as a desperate attempt to capitalize on Kendrick Lamar or Childish Gambino-level racial awareness than anything else. The Black Eyed Peas aren't a politically conscious band - they're a party band. This is like the most ingenuous song ever. Also they couldn't even get Fergie. This band is all about Fergie, literally the only point to listening to them. As you can tell, I really really hate the Black Eyed Peas. Except for "Imma Be," weirdly enough. Anyway, they won the Summer Jam back in 2009, but you will never hear this song again.

"Welcome to the Party" by Diplo, French Montana, & Lil' Pump

Can you picture a bigger piece of shit collabo? In honor of Deadpool 2 (2018) we include this track, although we probably should have thrown in Celine Dion. That's a remarkably good soundtrack, for that song and this, which totally sound like songs that weren't created solely for this movie. Of course, dubstep is for pussies, but this is a fun track that could actually earn some Summer Jam Thumping creds if it catches on mainstream. Tho some of it feels kind of 2014, right?

"Rosanna" by Weezer

Weezer hasn't been on this list...maybe ever, but it's great to hear some new music from them, especially one that rocks as hard as this. It also has a classic tune to it and while I'd be pretty surprised if it catches on and gains momentum this summer, it's fun this week.

"Meant to Be" by Bebe Rexha ft. Florida Georgia Line

"Meant to Be" returns again and just...won't...die. This track was everywhere again this week and really hasn't peaked listenability for me, and apparently the country, either. Good for Bebe who is also pretty likable and deserves to have a track like this to distinguish herself from the thousands of other blonde starlets crooning for their supper these days.

"Friends" by Marshmello & Anne Marie

I really like this Marshmello character. Reminds me of the weird dancing robot from those old LMFAO videos. Anne Marie is clearly trying a little too hard and into some hardcore mugging for the camera, but I suppose that's what you have to do to stand out these days. This track is actually pretty old and took a while to grow on me, but it's starting to take off. It could contend in June.

"This is America" by Childish Gambino

His Lando is the best part of the #1 movie in the country and this track is still killing it, as the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100. It hasn't gotten much radio play, and it's kind of an awkward song to jam out to, but it's still the topic of much discussion and a surprising amount of memes who don't really understand what this track is about at all.

"No Tears Left to Cry" by Ariana Grande

I get these next too songs mixed up, both N - negative tracks. Anyway, I'm still in the middle of considering if this is a mournful sorrowful jam or an upbeat resilient jam. It's somewhere in the middle, and the way Ariana bounces between ballad and snippy is great. And she snagged Pete Davidson this week! Pete is definitely DEFINITELY batting up.

"Never Be The Same" by Camila Cabello

The clear winner this week, this jam was everywhere, and has now moved up each week this summer. Can Camilla win the Summer like she basically won the Fall and Winter? It's certainly possible, although generally tracks that peak in May don't have much legs. If this extends into June with some high numbers it's certainly possible. It's conceivably one of the lyrically shallower jams this week, but that's fine. Camila can work her pipes enough to make up for it.

Next week...

Camila's former gang, Fifth Harmony dropped a new jam this week, but it's shit. There was also new jams from Christina and Demi, and a J.Lo / DJ Khalid / Cardi B track that's also all shit. I was tempted to include Cardi B's "Be Careful," which finally got a music video this week, but it's not totally that hot anymore, tho still my favourite Cardi jam. And Drake. Drake's still around. All these folks may jump into the Winners List one of these weeks. Stay tuned, True Believers!

25 May 2018

Red Cup: A Star Wars Story

That joke's been done, actually by legitimate corporate interests now, but there's nothing that can top it.

Let's start this preview out right - I've been disinterested in Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) since it was announced. And I'm this guy. I don't want to sit here and just rag on corporations making money, because that's like getting angry at a dog for having fur. But it is worthwhile to explore a little bit of the disconnect here.

Maybe Chewie can do more than eat Porgs this time
Tracing it back to its earliest origin, there were a lot of dumb ideas bandied about with Disney's Star Wars acquisition and the early concept that they're going to churn out these movies forever. I'm a little iconoclastic in saying that not all Star Wars, even the originals were necessarily holy precious works of art, but they've doubtlessly influenced a lot more people than most works of art, which is in itself significant to acknowledge. While an expansive storytelling empire is not new to Star Wars at all, making a shitload of crappy to forgettable movies is.

So therein lies the first difference we need to get past and understand. Are Yoda and Boba Fett prequels really a disservice to the brand than if they were in comic or book form? Star Wars' Expanded Universe (now Legends) obsessively explored just about every nook and cranny of these characters lives and filled out lore from thousands of years in the past (first story taking place in 25,793 BBY apparently) to about 130 years or so after the original movies take place. That's a solid span of history to explore.

And that's the first reason I sort of didn't care about seeing young Yoda or young Han Solo - like, it's never fun to flesh out characters with mysterious backgrounds. We already know everything about their characters that we need to, elucidating every off-handed comment is a trite exercise. In a way similar to how Rogue One (2016) seemed to spin an entire movie out of an inconsistency made in a jokey space adventure from the 70s, Solo also will apparently deal with rectifying Harrison Ford's infamous Kessel Run line where he measures distance, not time by bragging in how few parsecs it took him. This is the only reason I know what a parsec is.

But it's also not necessary. It's not getting at why these films were popular - the relatable characters in a mere pocket of an extensive and lived-in universe. Instead it's obsessive in a redundant nerd kind of way. Of course, that's surely not the only inspiration for these films and it's kind of reductive for me to say so - because in fact, a movie about young Ponda Baba could be amazing. The point I think, is that Baba: A Star Wars Story can still go anywhere. We can guess what we're getting with Solo. Imperial Academy drop-out. Sabacc. Falcon. Chewie. Kessel Run. Maybe dumping some cargo for Jabba. With Rogue One, even though it was somewhat derivative and ultimately kind of a mess, we got a look into the lives and ideology of some people in this universe we'd never seen before. The first hump to get over with Solo is the fact it already feels repetitive.

There are also production troubles, but I don't really care about that. Every movie ever has production troubles and reshoots. I do think that a Ron Howard movie is far less interesting than a Phil Lord and Chris Miller movie, but I'd never say Ron was a poor director. Plus we did get this out of it. Either way, though, it does kind of reek of meddling in order to create a safer product, which isn't altogether awful, but for sure a whole lot less interesting. And less interesting filmmaking sucks. Well, most of the time.

This is all very superficial stuff, though. There's got to be something else preventing me from liking this thing. Maybe it was the trailer that was so full of predictable shit that Red Letter Media predicted it to a dime. It's this crux of pandering where even edginess (maybe the more apt word is "quippiness?") is predictable. As I sit and reflect on the Disney Star Wars with a few years and films now under our belt, it's also safe to say that there is something that just feels continuously disappointing.

The Force Awakens (2015) was a true event, which was really cool to experience. But to a ridiculous fault it felt like it was made out of fear of upsetting a virulent nerdy fanbase. Rogue One felt so good while watching it but when you sit down and examine it, nothing makes sense until the admittedly brilliant last act. And I loved The Last Jedi (2017), which switched things back so far from The Force Awakens that it was met with equal vitriol. There's no pleasing us. We all have our own little Star Wars head canon now and it's extremely difficult to make anything we perceive as good.

Of course, most people just like Han Solo. That's not really accurate actually - most people like Harrison Ford. I'm not sure a Solo movie can work without him and Alden Ehrenreich never felt like the right fit. I mean, his biggest role so far, in the Coen Bros' Hail, Caesar! (2016) landed so well precisely because he's a terrible, miscast, uncharismatic actor. The total opposite of Harrison Ford. There are two issues with this assumption - 1) concluding that that's a bad thing or he NEEDS to emulate Harrison Ford (see the first sentence of this paragraph as to why I think this is important) and 2) That's an awful harsh judgment to make without seeing the movie. Of course, that's also the vibe I get going in which makes me feel like it's not worth my time to see this thing.

And maybe I am just getting a little jaded and a film needs to really strike the right chord for me to get off my ass and see it in theaters these days. There are not many traditional tentpoles I'm interested in this summer. It's rough. I'm clearly not the only one who feels this way, since no one apparently goes to the movies or watches television anymore.

So pumped for the prequel movie to explain...whatever
the hell that thing to the left is
I do think that while saturation doesn't necessarily devalues the Star Wars brand any more than extended comics and novels did, the effect that we can now pick and choose makes things a little more precise. I'm not into Solo, and that's fine, the next one will come along. I super wasn't into Dark Empire II but definitely into the Thrawn Trilogy. Joruus C'Baoth = the Original Daddy. Maybe that's perfectly fine.

It's kind of like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018). I was super into Jurassic World (2015) and gave it a great review, but this new film doesn't appear to be pushing the franchise in any interesting direction. Neither is Solo, which I think is probably the biggest drag. Screw everything I said about Ehrenreich or fatigue or nerd anger or market saturation. Why would you see this film other than the fact that it's about Han Solo? What are you going to gain from it? What story are they even telling and why is it important? Ultimately the best I can come up with is that I want to see Donald "This is America" Glover as Lando, but I'm confident in YouTubing "Solo - all Lando Scenes" in three months. There's just no other compelling reason. Tarzan and Lone Ranger movies aren't inherently bad, but they can't gain seats just from name recognition. It's a total lack of freshness that's incredibly disappointing.

What do you think? Do you agree?

23 May 2018

First Impressions: Deadpool Dos

For no fault of its own, Deadpool 2 (2018) is actually dropping at a weird crossroads in cinematic history. What's the last great comedy you can remember? I mean, truly deserving, game-changing comedy? Like...22 Jump Street (2014)? Or maybe it's Deadpool (2016). Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016). But that made no money nor cultural impact.

2017 was really rough. Girls Trip (2017) gets the title without much competition and literally nothing else is memorable. Despite a lot of effort, we haven't seen much of anything in 2018. We have Game Night (2018) and Blockers (2018), but can we really talk about any of these films with the same breath as The Hangover (2009) or Bridesmaids (2011), or going back, a Billy Madison (1995) or Zoolander (2001)? No, we cannot.

So, it would appear that we're in a rough patch of comedy. The numbers and percentage of box office gross supports this as even promising stars like Melissa McCarthy and Amy Schumer have headlined pretty awful bombs in the past month. It seems difficult for anyone to truly breakout and make a run of high-concept mainstream comedy films these days. Sandler is trying on Netflix, but they're all pretty bad and more importantly, wholly outside of the cultural conversation.

Into all this we get the curveball of Deadpool 2, which IS the mainstream R-rated comedy that we seem to be so desperately lacking. The pessimists would lament that even our comedy films these days have to be name recognition superhero movies that only work if we also really understand the cultural context of other superhero movies. It's like literally our only world is superhero films.

The optimist would say, who cares, it's funny. It's also surprisingly well-written. I always like to talk free from the burden of SPOILERS, so SPOILERS abound all through the following article. There are a lot of shocking moments, although considering most are either undone by the end of the film or simply happen in the first ten minutes, it's tougher to really spoil anything. Instead, there are plenty of jokes and cameos here that really deserve a first-time, unabashed viewing. So, if you're into that, go see it and come back. The Internet will still exist in the next two hours.

Welcome back! With a movie like this there are going to be obvious comparisons to the first installment, and in general comedy sequels have a difficult time re-creating magic. I talked about this way back with Anchorman 2 (2013, which I still think SURPASSES the original. I said it). In essence, comedy only works when you present this cognitive dissonance, a combination of surprise, recognition, the unexpected, and familiarity - all these seemingly competing ideas combine with timing and context to provide a vast array of possible scenarios that elicit a chuckle. Sequels, or doing the same thing over again, is inherently contrasting to the surprise, or cleverness necessary for comedy to work.

Maybe it's fair to Deadpool 2's success then that superhero sequels are generally better, because there is no need to be bogged down with an origin story or character introductions. Superheros generally work better when we just accept that they're ridiculous and we know we're here to just watch a bunch of costumed idiots slam up against each other anyway.

Sometimes, though, the only point is an origin story. This is also why many villains are doppelgangers of the hero - they work to both stay in the same world and create a counterpoint to the hero. That is, when examining the hero's origin and his or her choices, it enhances the theme to show the wrong path. Sometimes that works really well (Black Panther [2018]), other times it comes off contrived (Ant-Man [2015], Iron Man [2008], Doctor Strange [2016]). The best superhero films find a way to make their villain the inverse of the hero. The Dark Knight (2008) was so good in part because its villain both fit into the world and universe, added to the film's themes, and also provided a perfect counterpoint to the hero. Spider-Man 2 (2004) featured its villain as a spiritual counterpoint to the hero (Doc Ock, like Peter Parker, was dedicated to science, but in a fulfilling relationship with balanced responsibilities, victim of a scientific accident but without moral guidance, and powers that emulated Spider-Man's without being a direct copy - wall crawling, stretchy mid-range combat, strength, and agility. I could still write a whole Spider-Man 2 post). This is a really long tangent, but also circles back to Deadpool 2 because its villain introduction revitalizes the film.

See, I don't think 2 is as good as Pool in terms of jokes. It doesn't have that unbelievable kick to the dick that the first one did, not does it really exist in as perfect of a realm between our world and Deadpool's, where Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds, and 20th Century Fox are all things that Deadpool somehow knows about. There is some of that this time around, but we get the schtick. How many movies full of Hugh Jackman jokes can we really have? It's all kind of one note. Deadpool might be better served to check in on the development of superheros ten or twenty years down the line rather than right now. Sure we get some updated Logan (2017), Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and Infinity War (2018) jokes, and they all land when you understand context, but that's not really sustainable. Instead it's more meta recognition that's become the only lens for understanding films. Fucking Ready Player One (2018) again.

Where the movie succeeds, though, is the long winding path through character interactions, where everything everyone does has a motive, a causal relationship, and consequences. It's actually amazing. Cable, the main villain turns into an ally. Firefist, an ally turns into the main villain. The fucking Juggernaut! Sorry, I just got excited for that song, which is perfect in every perfect way. Cable is a brilliant counterpart to Deadpool (and has been for nearly thirty years now), because he's the total opposite personality - dark and serious, but they also both really love guns. You can see that in the final battle (naturally, Deadpool has to comment on it) when their fighting is so in sync and they become best friends.

Likewise, Firefist is a great kid sidekick (nice to see The Hunt for the Wilderpeople [2016]'s Julian Dennison again - no Taikia Watiti THOR: Ragnarok [2017] reference? Maybe even that was too deep). Both he and Deadpool learn across the movie about themselves - Deadpool not to be so much of a dick to everyone around him, and when he's able to overcome this and reach Firefist (shades of the Rainmaker in Looper [2012] here. See, I can make references, too) and prevent his dark descent, it's a truly cathartic moment. The fact that that moment is undercut with jokes is less distracting than in some Marvel movies because we're not really meant to take the whole movie seriously.

The only time this really doesn't work is the opening, where yeah, Morena Baccarin's Vanessa dies. Celine Dion's "Ashes" (which is actually an original song, done so well you could swear it's a kitschy 90s ballad and one of her old hits - totally should win an Academy Award) comes in and there's a doofy James Bond-style opening, which doesn't feel right. Again, the film is aware of this, and the opening credits agree with our jaw-dropped feelings. Seriously, "Directed by One of the Guys Who Killed John Wick's Dog" is spot-on. In addition to this being an unfortunate 2018 fridge-stuffing incident it seemed painfully clear that a Deadpool movie doesn't know what to do with a girlfriend. Vanessa was gone for most of the original before becoming a damsel in distress. While it is the best way to put Deadpool down this depressed, suicidal path, since this was the only thing he really cared about, and greatly fuels his desire for death which becomes a major theme as he is able to accept this and repair himself and his relationships to others, it left a sour taste in my mouth.

To some extent Deadpool 2 does the same as its predecessor, where it will do something lazy or tonally off, then point it out in an attempt to wink at us and let us know they're in on the joke. This film actually does a better job of rising above still proceeding with the tropes as Deadpool did, which really still followed beat-by-beat a superhero film while winking at us. There's quite a bit more to this film derived from its complex character interactions, genuinely engaging action scenes, and again the facts that the jokes work enough that everything is smoothed over. Still, things like "Here's a CGI fight!" followed by a big CGI fight is more surface-level pandering than digging in and solving a trope in a unique way. It's still better at this point that having a mindless crappy CGI scuffle, but it also leaves me wondering if we can ever again have sincerity in our films. I had this idea when watching Blood Fest - horror films are so victim to tropes these days that their only way out is to expressly call them out.

There's a lot else this movie does really well. The assembling of X-Force and summarily dismissal of nearly the entire crew is hilarious, if not a total rip-off of MacGruber (2010). I've really reached a point where no reference can get by me. It's still an impressive cast of Terry Crews, Bill Skarsgard, and Brad Pitt, and their deaths are also both clever in a Final Destination-sort of way, foreshadowed by the high wind advisory (which Deadpool's irreverent personality dismisses), which is made funnier because it's the kind of innocuous comment you wouldn't take seriously, even when it's brought up again. It ALSO adds to Zazie Beetz' Domino character in both seeing her unique luck abilities and personality on screen. There is a lot going on here, and it's one of the reasons this movie works so well at the intersection of action, plot, character, and comedy. Beetz is also fantastic here.

We should probably talk about the ending. Apparently even Ryan Reynolds thought it was cheating a little. So yeah, this movie is all about Deadpool learning to cope with his inability to save the love of his life while simultaneously being literally incapable of dying. At the end he's finally granted death, but Vanessa sends him back because he needs to learn to accept others into his life and not just her. In thirty seconds during the end credits, though, he goes back in time and saves her. This actually undoes the entire movie, and seems like a tacked on, hokey ending. I mean, even Conker's Bad Fur Day knew how to employ this the right way to hit you in the gut. Again, my obscure references are on point.

Excising Ryan Reynolds of his personal demons from X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and Green Lantern (2011) are also inspired. I mean, we have Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool shooting Ryan Reynolds in the head and MY head exploded. Yet, not a single reference to Blade: Trinity (2004). I mean...Thundercunt. There was a subtle moment earlier actually, where the current Deadpool does what the earlier Deadpool was most famous for - deflecting bullets with katanas. Here of course, he's riddled with bullets anyway, which shows his real superpower. Was I also the only one who really wanted a Two Guys and a Girl reference. Maybe through Traylor Howard some work, she ain't doing shit anymore.

As I reflect on this post, it's amazing I haven't dwelt more on X-Men lore. It was great to see the fore First Class mutants super briefly, and the idea that we never see them in a Deadpool movie because they're actively avoiding Deadpool is kind of amazing. It's also an interesting concept to re-tool Juggernaut away from this (which listen, The Last Stand [2006] is rough, but Vinnie Jones is alright), and make him more comic accurate, which also got me thinking that between him and Colossus, these characters really are finally standing on their own, totally separate from the need to even have a recognizable actor play the role. Or frankly, even an unrecognizable actor (Juggernaut is credited as himself, although the voice is actually Ryan Reynolds). One day everything will be CGI and we won't have any actors at all. Cool beans.

What did you think? Are you down with the pool? What do you think about the intersection of comedy, meta, superheroes, and Two Girls, A Girl, and a Pizza Place? Leave a comment below

21 May 2018

Summer Jam 2018 Week 2! Girls and Boys

Welcome, loyal pop audiophiles to the second week of summer - and boy has it been a cold, dumb, rainy one so far. We've got lots more jams along with more of the same crap from last week. Truly this is an age to behold! Let's just dive in.

Hot Jam of the Week: "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" by the Backstreet Boys

Yeah, so this is the first new BSB song in like twenty years, I had to let it drop here. Although they really aren't Backstreet Boys anymore, more like Backstreet Men. It's amazing, I would never listen to a group called Backstreet Men. That's not right. I'm kind of blown away by how un-notable this track is, they seemed totally comfortable to settle on the most generic song ever instead of anything that acknowledges a legacy or comeback. Also, are they still like, trying to chase girls and sing about having their hearts broken? You're 40, bro.

"Girls" by Rita Ora ft. Cardi B, Bebe Rexha, and Charli XCX

This is a little known fact, but this is actually the exact opposite of boys. Of course, Charli XCX already covered that. I do dig how this jam features every hot female artist of the moment and they come together pretty well. The track is fun enough if not exactly revolutionary or groundbreaking or anything. I'm down.

"The Middle" by Zedd, Maren Morris, Grey

This is another song that I can never remember either the name of or the slew of artists involved. It's actually remarkably restrained for a big EDM pop ballad with a really confident beat drop. It's also incredibly old, and we're still seeing it ride its big wave but it ought to die down pretty soon.

"Nice for What" by Drake

This song returns, under the radar again, but it's actually got a nice beat and flow to it. Do you think that Drake has crossed a boundary from rap into pop yet? It's totally plausible. This jam is actually better than I've given it credit for in the sense that it's really listenable and engaging, but I also don't necessarily think this will become an immortal track that we always think about in tandem with 2018.

"Chun-Li" by Nicki Minaj

I had "Barbie Tingz" last week, although this is definitely a better song. Nicki performed on SNL this week and this track has also been around for a while. It's kind of grown on me lately, and although there seems to be an artificially generated feud between her and Cardi, by all means they appear to be friendly. Although this film is hella assertive towards her rap dominance. I don't totally get why she's into Street Fighter, and there is some awkward appropriation here that doesn't make sense, but the beat is hot.

"Never Be the Same" by Camila Cabello

The hardest challenge every week is remembering how many "L's" are in both Camila and Cabello. This track is still just taking off and I think could have some legs, although may not ever reach #1. I get the feeling it's a perennial runner-up kind of song rather than one that truly captures some zeitgeist. It will probably inch up here or there, but I've definitely got my ears on it for now.

"This is America" by Childish Gambino

This was a tough call to not be #1, but I also feel like it's dropped a little bit, at least in its novelty. It's still dominating a lot of pop conversation, but the bigger question now is if it can last sonically. Even though it IS a very listenable song, it's hard to divorce that from the political implications. Like, would you play this at a wedding? Is it even comfortable to dance to? I mean, that distracting minstrelsy is the whole point. It's designed to make you uncomfortable. Can it still be a hot jam that way? Well, until it truly dies down, we'll list it pretty high.

"No Tears Left to Cry" by Ariana Grande

For some reason it took me a while to put it together that this song was about the Manchester concert massacre last year. That certainly adds a bit of weight to this jam in addition to it being a fantastic song from every level from Ariana's vocal prowress to the juicy beat. It was kind of every where this week, including this fantastic and surprisingly good-sounding Nintendo Labo performance.

Next week...

There was a shitload of new music that dropped this week, from Meghan Trainor to The Weeknd. It was all pretty shitty, though. I think the top three jams here will last for a bit, at least until something hotter drops sometime in June. What are you listening to this Summer?

18 May 2018

The Deadpool 2

That'd be fun, right? Clint Eastwood.

Oh, Ryan Reynolds.

Since I'm a living, breathing asshole, I was a big fan of Deadpool (2016). I was never super super into his character, not only because the 90s Deadpool is totally a man without time (about as cultural influential as The Last Action Hero [1993], and come to think of it, the exact same thing), and not really that kid-friendly anyway. It takes a build-up of cultural understanding to see why Deadpool is even funny and on top of that you need to appreciate both a lot of X-Men / Comic Book / Hugh Jackman lore AND both extreme violence and hard-R rated comedy.

It's like a Gift from Cable
You'd think that'd be a lot, but Deadpool is the #1 X-Men movie of all time. By like $130 million. Throw in inflation, whatever, it's still on top. It hit that perfect nexus of meta-commentary on the superhero genre, a starved year for good comedy, and a sarcastic, reflexive cultural kick to the ass that is appealing to an evermore jaded youth population. I made the mistake of going to a Sunday afternoon 4:20 showing of Deadpool in an isolated college town. That theater was packed and they were INTO it.

And good for Ryan Reynolds. We had been trying to make Ryan Reynolds happen for decades now. The irony is that this movie worked in part because it had free reign to make fun of both the X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) Deadpool and Green Lantern (2011). In that way, the movie puts its arm around you and says, "Hey, we know this whole thing has sucked and is kind of stupid, but WE'RE here to have fun." Ironically, this helped the film connect with audiences.

It's also a damned shame that Fox's X-Men, who were JUST cresting the really weird and bold wave with Deadpool, Logan (2017), and The New Mutants (2019) is now all Disney. Somehow they still crank out shitty X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)-kind of flicks, and in the insane world we know live in, X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) is a February release and Deadpool 2 gets mid-May. What the hell is going on.

Anyway, a sequel was a given, and here we are with Deadpool 2. Domino and Cable are welcome additions, even if it's weird to see Josh Brolin in his second huge comic book role in four weeks. #JonahHex2. It helps Deadpool because it's adding more from his comic book canon, which is plenty welcome after nerd audiences were screwed over for years, not so much in changed source material, but in the sense that producers seemed kind of ashamed of the pulpy source material. Cable's seriousness has always been a great contrast to Deadpool's cheekiness, especially since they still both like killing a lot.

With all our Donald Glover talk, we should talk about
fellow Atlanta star Zazie Beetz and how that cast
is now just taking over all movies.
Where's LaKeith Stanfield in The Incredibles 2
Deadpool 2 faces the difficulty that all comedy sequels face. They've already shot their wad on the high concept, riffed on every obvious facet of that premise, and in this case, exhausted the anticipation of seeing a proper Deadpool adaptation on the big screen. This film has the added difficulty of no longer being an underdog. The budget is far higher, the director changed, and the entire cultural conversation around the character is far more overblown. All these aspects contributed to the grimy feel of the original. Deadpool is a flexible enough character to acknowledge these changes, with plenty of room for fourth-wall breaking, but that's also difficult to sustain for an entire film.

The major issue with Deadpool was that although it commented on and made fun of many superhero tropes, it structurally didn't actually diverge that much from a superhero movie. I felt the same way with 22 Jump Street (2014), which seemed to constantly announce that it knew what tropes it was making fun of, but didn't actually shift any of those tropes to create a new narrative in a meaningful way. This is the issue with making meta movies that only exist as regurgitation making fun of pop culture. And yeah, both these films ARE really funny, and they get a pass because the jokes land more often than they should, but the core concept of inviting us behind the curtain falls flat.

Deadpool succeeds in its irreverent tone, effortless attempts at cool confidence, and the charisma of Ryan Reynolds. I am interested to see what a Deadpool 2 does with some pressure - will they double down on the things that made it ridiculous or pull back? It's still a breathtakingly rare exercise in blockbuster filmmaking. The amount of R-rated action superhero comedies are...well, Deadpool. That's it.

Now, how can Deadpool fit in with the main Marvel Cinematic Universe now that they're all under one house...he does have a storied history with Thanos... At any rate, I'd expect Deadpool 2 to unseat Infinity War (2018) this week, but it's in a tough spot between that and Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018). I think those nerds overlap. Right? It's still oblique possible that Solo bombs, although to be honest, the mainstream public who either doesn't know about the behind the scenes turmoil or doesn't care won't really be affected. I'm getting ahead of myself. The point is, normally these would be very different audiences, but that may not even be the case anymore.

What are you seeing this weekend?

14 May 2018

Summer Jam 2018 WEEK 1!! America!

Are you ready, folks?

Seriously - are you ready for this?!

Once again we bring you what is by far the least popular column around here - the Summer Jam Countdown. We have officially declared this past week the first week of Summer, and we'll go all the way until Labor Day counting down the hottest tracks in Donald Glover's America. This is somehow our ninth year doing this crap. We've got seventeen weeks to see who will be crowned true Summer Royalty.

You may ask yourself, "Why?" Why should we care who has the hottest summer song? Well, summer's the best, that's why. We engrave in stone whoever's track can be THE memorable jam of 2018 and forever be indebted to their pop greatness. Let's dive in:

Hot Jam of the Week: "Barbie Tingz" by Nicki Minaj

This song is awful. But boobs. It seems like Nicki is having trouble finding her voice after being a few years removed from her peak popularity. I don't think this song is all that popular or even has much of a chance at gaining ground this summer. Boobs.

"Nice for What" by Drake

The #1 song in the country according to the Billboard Hot 100, which is more untrustworthy than ever, considering that Post Malone somehow has eight songs in the top 25. I haven't even heard of 80% of these. Drake sometimes flirts with greatness, and this song is alright, but not something I think will change anybody's life. "God's Plan" was better, but this has a nice rhythm.

"Look Alive" by BlocBoy JB & Drake

Does Drake feel like he's really popular right now? No, right? This is a song I've heard a bunch but couldn't really place. That feeling seems to have taken over a lot of pop music right now. We'll get into more of this as we go, but it's as if anyone could have written these songs and they're all interchangeable. Whats that you say? Pop has always been like that? That's definitely true.

"Meant to Be" by Bebe Rexha ft. Florida Georgia Line

This song is basically a dinosaur. So old. But at the end of its pop lifetime it's still a significant jam and I def hummed along to it this week. Rexha is a decently underrated pop artist, it's as if she tries really hard but nobody cares about her. That's only because she's one of those interchangeable artists with no voice of her own. This song stands out enough as a crossover hit, and even I like it, which is crazy, because I typically can't deal with country music on any level.

"The Middle" by Zedd, Maren Morris, Grey

Zedd is that EDM guy, right? I remember "Clarity" with him and Foxes. I must sound so old. Almost as old as that Bebe Rexha song. This is nice track, though, but I haven't been able to place the voice for weeks. I suppose that's because it's Maren Morris. Or Grey. What the hell. This is totally factory-produced assembly-line music, but the irony is...does it matter? I tap my feet. Isn't that the goal. Are we spiritually or substantially lessened because of this kind of mindless ephemeral pop? These are bigger questions than a cheeky countdown column should handle. I'm telling you - one of our least popular pieces ever.

"No Tears Left to Cry" by Ariana Grande

I love how secretly popular Ariana Grande is. Like, we don't really talk about her in the same conversation as a Britney or a Rihanna yet, but that totally ignores the fact that she's #14 on Twitter and a video as random as "No Tears Left to Cry" has 146 million views in three weeks. The track itself does a nice job bouncing between pop and ballad and really shows off how great of a singer Grande actually is. This jam is fresh enough to do some damage and may be around this summer.

"Never Be the Same" by Camila Cabello

It's hard to even remember her role in Fifth Harmony, which I'm sure is music to Camila's ears. This is another jam that's been in my ear for weeks until I realized it was Cabello's follow-up to "Havana" which is still popular enough it could be here on its own. The beat's kind of whack, but like "No Tears Left to Cry," it finds nimble ground between innocuous jam and power ballad, which is all on Cabello's voice. It's got room for legs these next few weeks.

"This is America" by Childish Gambino

I first saw this and thought automatically, "Cool, that's my Hot Jam!" No. No no no, this is THE jam. It's just starting to get wary radio play, but there's no video this year that's caused more a stir or been such a sudden political, cultural, and musical movement. Let's just embed it too:

More qualified people than I have written about the symbolism, and at any rate I think it's pretty straight forward, which makes the video even more powerful. Sonically and structurally it's amazing and contradictory and thematically solid and concise. You've got to hand it to Donald Glover for already having the best week of anyone this year - coming off a recent SNL hosting while also starring in the critically acclaimed TV show Atlanta, having this video, and uhh...a little thing called Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) dropping in a few weeks. If that wasn't enough he also did some writing on Black Panther (2018). If that wasn't enough enough, you've got to remember he's voicing Simba in next year's Lion King re-make, which if you're counting, makes him a contributor to Disney's three main assets right now - Star Wars, Marvel, and live action remakes of their own animated films. How they let him churn out "This is America" which is totally off Disney brand is beyond me, but I'm damned glad he found time to effortlessly drop this for us all.

Next week...

I'm curious when "This is America" may burn out, but I have a feeling it's just starting its run. As you can tell from the rest of the crap this week there's not much going on in pop music right now. Unless a Cardi B song can gain some traction (we really just missed the "Be Careful" wave), it's a rough spot. Stay tuned, loyal reader / listeners, for we have sixteen more of these to get through!

13 May 2018

Marvel WARS: Civil to Infinity

That's kind of a big war stretch, isn't it? A Civil War to an Infinity War. Anyway, I got to thinking far too hard about this the other day, but while I dug Infinity War (2018) a lot, in addition to it rubbing away a bit of what THOR: Ragnarok (2017) was about, it certainly steamrolled a lot of the core ideas behind Captain America: CIVIL WAR (2016). Some spoilers I guess here for Infinity War, and those other movies, too. When do we reach a point where we no longer need a spoiler warning? Like ten years?

The best way to do this is to split all the characters up. I want to do an exercise in tracking the ideology of each character in CIVIL WAR and how they change up through Infinity War, which means we won't really bother with Thor or Hulk or Shuri. Let's explore the backgrounds and reasoning each character had for siding the way they did, then what caused them to switch, because everybody switched. Team by team is easiest.


Tony Stark

In many ways this whole exercise has been a long drawn out character study over the course of eight movies. Marvel doesn't get enough credit for that. Stark begins as a fiercely privatized individual, who uses government contracts to become wealthy but is moreover a fan of limited intrusion into private property. It's really not until his experience in The Avengers (2012) where he truly realizes that there is a bigger world (and universe) around him and he can't be a lone gunman jackass anymore.

This continues through Iron Man 3 (2013) and Age of Ultron (2015) where he's continually haunted by guilt over mistakes he made out of either assholerly or his own hubris. I've kind of gotten into this before. Somehow eight years ago. This keeps building until by CIVIL WAR he's fully into government supervision and supports the Sokovia Accords. As the original superhero in this world (at least release-date-wise), he's had enough adventures to understand that his actions have consequences. Here's the best essay on that.

As he moves through Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) he also gains this mentor role, and it's fitting that Infinity War separates him from just about everyone he was in contact with during CIVIL WAR. It puts him in this difficult position where he doesn't have too many friends back on earth, but he continues his mentorship of Spider-Man, which leads to some real heart-breaking moments as Parker crumbles into dust. At the same time, he may be the best equipped to come back and defeat Thanos, both intellectually and tactically. This would be the ultimate redemption from his years of guilt and could possibly put a button on all that CIVIL WAR bad blood.


On the Peter Parker note, Spider-Man is on Tony's side not for any real political reason, but moreover because Stark recruited him, arguably without saying much about what they were even fighting about. This makes his role a little less interesting than the decisive nature of his flip-flopping and tide-turning in the comics, because Peter by his nature tends to be a street-level hero with big-time powers. That's part of what has made Spider-Man so appealing over the years.

His character on its own from what we see in Homecoming would likely more side with Cap if he was a little more mature and knew the stakes. It's clear he believes in his own independent, personal judgment and has issue taking orders from authority. There's a big gap in logic from the fact that Stark would ostensibly require him to sign the Accords, requiring him to submit to government authority while Stark continually tries to limit his involvement and abilities.

By Infinity War not much has changed, and it's notable that out of every character, Parker joins in the fray not because of any personal connection or mandated duty, but because he senses danger and knew it was the right thing to do. This is why we cry at the end, guys. In terms of ideology, he's largely undeveloped, and this makes him a nice character to cheer for.

War Machine

James Rhodes' desire to follow Stark here is a given - they're best buds, but it also makes a lot of sense with his character. He's always been duty-bound and loyal to his government. Perhaps more than any other character he represents the interests of the United States and already was that government agent that Stark refused to be in Iron Man 2 (2010). This...is actually the entire point of Iron Man 2. See how these movies build on each other? Shared universes are not just about throwing in Easter Eggs, it's about building a set of conflicting and interacting ideologies.

It's one of the biggest leaps, then, in Infinity War when Rhodes seems to abandon his duty to the Secretary of Defense Thaddeus Ross (when are we going to get a William Hurt-starring Red Hulk movie?). He does seem to side pretty quick with Cap, although that could be in part because his crippling injury in CIVIL WAR came from the friendly fire of Vision. It's possible that he became disillusioned with their petty strife and exhausted with their internal conflict. Generally the Marvel films are set in real time, which means they've had two years of being on the run. It's important to remember that he was a pretty core part of the team by Age of Ultron, and part of the new team by the end of the film. Considering that by Infinity War he's the only one left taking government orders, we can surmise his further disillusion.

I'd also hypothesize that since Vision's mind gem created the beam that crippled him, Rhodes knows firsthand the danger these stones possess. His sense of duty protecting others from having the same fat as him becomes a stronger motivation than his duty of taking government orders.

But anyway - one thing the MCU seems to run with is that an incredible amount of stuff happens in between these films that we don't see. We tend to land plop in the middle of adventures these characters have without much to fill us in in between. Infinity War clearly doesn't have time to jump into Rhodes' ideological shift, but it would be interesting to see a little more. He's also clearly bros with Falcon, and if you were hanging out with this man blonde white boys all day, I don't know how you couldn't be.


Speaking of not knowing what the hell is happening between films, what the hell, Vision? Him and Scarlet Witch shacking up together has always been a thing in the comics, but it comes off weird here, not only because Paul Bettany is 46 and Elizabeth Olsen is 29, but because we have hardly any indication at all in any previous movies that this was a thing. Also...android! Does he have a dick? Did Ultron build him a dick? Originally the body was built for Ultron to jump into - this means that Ultron built himself a dick. These are not good thoughts.

Vision's position comes from logic. He's always been about working together and ironically, even though he is a feeling-less android, his creation was very much a group effort by Jarvis, Tony, Bruce, Ultron, and Dr. Helen Cho. And Thor, I guess. He seems very deferential, and one who has no reason to doubt that a consortium of powers deciding the fate of the world would be worse than one man's judgment.

His defection between CIVIL WAR and Infinity War isn't really given a clear ideological background. I do think one thing is telling from the point I just made, however. The last shot of him in CIVIL WAR is him looking pensive, and playing with some chess pieces. Alone. Scarlet Witch is locked up. His side has mostly disbanded. He perhaps went through something similar to Rhodes, where he felt bad for his friends, especially with the guilt of his crippling his teammate. This may have landed a little harder if he had hurt, say Falcon or somebody, but it's clear that he did some android-soul searching and set out to find Wanda.

By Infinity War everyone seems to be turned around to Vision. Protecting him is Cap's number one priority and even when his crew defends him and Wanda from the Black Order in London, it's clear that they've been on the run together for a while. It seems as if personal stakes became more important than logical ideology, which again, makes perfect sense for a robot to have.

Black Widow

It's hard to remember that Black Widow actually pre-dates Thor and Captain America in the MCU. 2010, baby! She's been in six movies, somehow none of her own. While she debuted in an Iron Man film, she made her way more into the Captain America cadre. While her background as a shifty government spy who knows firsthand that institutions are not to be trusted, she surprises everyone by siding with Tony Stark. Even Tony is taken aback.

That clip has most of her rationale - but it comes from her background as a shifty, duplicitous spy whose main goal is survival. She sees this less in ideological terms than being realistic to their situation. To Natasha, this isn't a fight they can win and running from the government won't let them do anything. She's more trying to come out of this on top rather than directly siding with Tony's theories or guilt.

This is also why she defects at the end of the film. There's a slight indication that she may have been playing both sides the whole time or was a mole in Tony's side. She actually doesn't do all that much during the airport battle. She has a fun fight with Hawkeye here, is knocked around by Scarlet Witch, then doesn't show up again until she stops Black Panther here. This confirms with her natural renegade ideology, and by Infinity War, its clear she's been on the run with Team Cap since the end of CIVIL WAR.

Black Panther

T'Challa's motivation mostly comes from the fact that the Sokovia Accords helps him in the immediate aftermath of his father's assassination by who he thinks is Bucky Barnes. We'll get to Cap in a second, but as much as Cap is more personally motivated by protecting his friend, T'Challa is more personally motivated by capturing him.

That said, T'Challa is a government entity, being the King of Wakanda (technically at this stage still the Prince, since he didn't have any waterfall fights yet), and judging from Black Panther (2018), clearly relies on governmental systems to make the right decision. This of course also leads to one of the more difficult themes of Black Panther with Killmonger - where that system of tradition fails according to Wakanda's place in the world, when trust between the government and its people breaks down, and even questioning succession when the wrong King succeeds. T'Challa in CIVIL WAR is pre-all of this, and it makes a lot of sense he sides with Tony, even if it's more out of convenience than any personal affiliation.

By the end his personal vengeance subsides in part because he sees how much it had consumed Zemo, and how much it is currently consuming both Cap and Tony. His political ideology still aligns with Stark, but he extends an olive branch to other men that he sees have suffered. It's perhaps the biggest stretch that he takes in Bucky and Cap, more out of story convenience than anything else, because that tie is a vital link in Infinity War.


Captain America

As Tony basically switched from being pro-individual, he was drawn in to the government mostly because of his increased role as an influencer in this new age of superheros, Cap went in the other direction. It's important to note that most of the basis for his anti-government stance here comes from The Winter Soldier (2014), where it was revealed that the organization he had trusted and worked for, S.H.I.E.L.D., was in actuality covertly run by his greatest enemy, HYDRA. This makes him cautious to thrown down his independence and work for another organization again, even if it's the United Nations.

Could the United Nations secretly be a HYDRA organization? Well, this is comic books, so anything is possible. This core belief that his personal judgment is best, as arrogant as it might be (he's called out for this), is something that the film also ends up aligning with. In a cinematic sense, not only is this Cap's movie, but he's a guy we can use as a proxy for ourselves, meaning that we'd like to think that our own judgment in his situation would also be crystal clear. It's an ego movie on the part of the audience. It's what made me personally align with Cap, although there are many out there who aligned with Stark. It's clear that by Infinity War, most, if not every character has ideologically moved towards Cap's side (not like Stark went to get approval from the UN before engaging Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian), and it seems like only Stark won't admit he was wrong for personal reasons, but everyone else seems tired of taking UN orders and defects.

It's notable that Cap isn't actually entirely unreasonable. He comes very close to signing the Accords until he learns that Wanda is basically being kept prisoner as a human weapon of mass destruction. This is the final straw, the line that he can't cross. By the film's end when Cap's team is captured because the law has now deemed them criminals, it's clear that the strain of an outside force arbitrarily deciding who the bad guys are has taken its toll, and may explain why most of Tony's side ends up defecting.


Bucky is the crux of this film, and Cap's allegiance to him serves as a specific example of where the Accords fail. That it's an extremely personal reason for Cap only makes the story juicier. Bucky's position isn't based totally on ideology - he's almost more a MacGuffin, forced into this role from everyone else trying to capture him, used as a scapegoat for the Accords than anything else.

You've got to think that his personal ideology would align with his buddy Steve Rogers, though. He has every right to be distrustful of governments and agendas, as he was a popsicle tool for Moscow for the better part of seventy years. Even if he can't quite trust his own judgment yet, it's clear he'd be in favor of making his own decisions again.

This doesn't really change at all by the time Infinity War rolls around. He stands out as hanging out in Wakanda this whole time recuperating rather than parading around the world doing who knows what with Cap's team.


Sam Wilson, like the other black friend, James Rhodes, is really just going along with his white buddy's side. Like Rhodes, he's an army guy who you'd think would have more trust in the government and support the Accords. He went through the same crap as the rest of the Cap gang in Winter Soldier, though, and grew that same distrust of authority figures with shady agendas.

Now, I say all that, but Black Widow was there for Winter Soldier, too. I think Sam above everything else is loyal to Cap and ends up having this partnership with Bucky as well. Anthony Mackie has said that it's more about Sam being a blue collar guy who admires Cap's worth ethic more than Tony's billions.

That is the more accurate thoroughfare to Cap's team - they tend to be the more down to earth, gritty street-level heroes without extravagant powers. They're blue collar guys who think they know best and don't want no government telling them what to do. By Infinity War the Falcon's attitude hasn't changed and he's happy to continue doing his part alongside the remnants of Cap's team.


In that same article that quoted Anthony Mackie, Jeremy Renner said that Clint didn't really care and sided with Cap because he was the first to call and wanted to get home to his family quick. This doesn't really make any sense - Tony's side is clearly the safer side to be on and would have more family security. Tony even says so directly to Clint when he's behind bars at the end.

Instead, when Clint first sees the rest of the gang after rescuing Wanda from the compound, he implies that Cap is "doing him a favor," possibly meaning that he's sick of sitting on his ass watching is dumbass, bad-aiming kids grow up. He also says he owes a debt to Wanda, meaning he still wants to pay her back for her brother's sacrifice to save his life in Age of Ultron. Thus, secretly, Wanda is a crucial component for both Cap and Hawkeye's involvement in this fight.

Going back to the blue collar street tough part of the crew - Clint has always been on the edge, despite being a seemingly loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. He's not really around much (like...in ALL OF Infinity War), but he's a character who's a little cutthroat but also loyal. We can learn the most about his stance as he chides Tony from a prison cell, angry that "the Futurist" acts like he knows what's best for everyone. It's clear Clint also trusts his personal independent judgment, especially for the sake of his family, and plays the spy game of mistrust and intrigue perhaps better than anyone.

Scarlet Witch

It actually took me until writing this to realize how pivotal a role Wanda has in this movie. She's far from just another solider. Her role stopping Crossbones' bomb from erupting on the street, but still detonating in the upper floors of a building sets the movie in motion, and perhaps more than any of the "street level" fighter heroes, her position as a being of immense power who is still learning how to use it, drives the Sokovia Accords. Her status as a dangerous immigrant also drives Hawkeye and Cap to distrust the government's interment of her. Finally, it's clear that by Infinity War she has also convinced Vision to give up a posh chess-playing compound life to tap dat ass.

Wanda's ideology, like Bucky, is therefore created more out of necessity than choice. She doesn't have the luxury to sit around and discuss what powerful government agencies will do with her. There's also a bit of hypocrisy in Vision when he basically says that the Avengers would act independently and protect her the same way Cap soon goes to protect Bucky. Her back is against the wall this whole movie.

In Infinity War she shines even more, proving herself in combat and characters even comment that she's underused. Like most of Cap's side, her ideology, especially as someone on the run and being hunted, is more drawn out rather than solved. But it's always hard to remember that she has power over the mind stone in part because she was created by the mind stone, being used by Baron Strucker in Age of Ultron. Damn that's an at-the-time unimportant footnote.


Finally, Scott Lang. Here we need to recall that he was recruited based on the Falcon's recommendation to take down the Russian HYDRA super soldiers in Siberia, not actually to join in the fight. See, it's always tough to remember the actual supervillain plot going on in CIVIL WAR, in part because that whole plot is actually a ruse to enable the real plot - Cap and Iron Man duking it out. Lang doesn't really have a dog in this fight, you can tell from how awkward he is and how he is just meeting everyone for the first time.

Still, you definitely need to think he'd be anti-government supervision considering that he's a career criminal who would rather duck from authority than submit to it. He is the other Avengers family man, though, and like Hawkeye gets a convenient excuse to sit out Infinity War.

What do you think? Did I get most of these right? Do you think Infinity War paving over most of the conflict in CIVIL WAR is kind of malarkey? Also, re-watching CIVIL WAR, damn this movie is sweet. There are many many subtle beats in keeping track of each character that totally reward thoughtful viewings.
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