22 June 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Trousers

I really like that name for a porn parody. We used to always comment on Porn Parody names around here, the apex of that, as well as all human life on earth being Hairy Pothead and the Breastly Swallows: Fart Poo (2011). Anyway, let's preview Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018).

Now, we already got Revenge of the Fallen (2009), but still, I'm just amazed we didn't get Dark Kingdom or something. That's only been taken by Thor: The Dark World (2013), Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011), Dark Shadows (2012), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), The Dark Knight (2008), Zero Dark Thirty (2012) (and its parody, Zero Dark Flirty - you know where I'm going with that one!), Monsters: Dark Continent (2015), so much more. This is a diversion, but I'm curious if "Fallen" replaces "Dark."

"Welcome to my Hall of Boners" lol
At this moment I'd really like to get into a complete cultural history of Jurassic Park (1993). It's easy to forget that Jurassic Park was a game changer on every possible level of cinema. It exhibited a monumental leap forward in special effects, had a startlingly innovative plot structure for an adventure film, made a ton of money, and became the perfect Summer Blockbuster movie. It also really made strides towards Spielberg's Legacy, and perhaps most significantly, actually shifted public perception of Dinosaurs quite a bit. Let's break all this down.

Jurassic Park still looks good. This is is actually a fallacy. The CGI seems better because it's so mixed in against practical effects that our brains sort of gloss it all together. It also works because the beasts generally obey some pretty strict physics. The craziest thing anything does is probably a raptor jumping on a table. There's no huge explosions, floppiness, blurriness, or frankly, interaction with the human actors that seems impossible. Ahem. We see reactions more than interactions, and this puts us in the moment, altogether tricking us into thinking this this is all real. Somehow in the past 25 years Spielberg went from being a master of this to Ready Player One (2018)'s CGI regurgitation overload, which he can kind of get away with since it's all a computer game, but that's a cop out to disguise a crummy experience.

Most importantly, though, Jurassic Park proved this shit was possible. We had had some pretty cool little CGI moments before this, from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) to The Abyss (1989), Death Becomes Her (1992), and perhaps most notably, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), but this was the first fully textured rendering of living, breathing, fleshy creatures. Everything done since owes a debt to Jurassic Park.

For a blockbuster action movie it's bizarre that its main protagonist is a child-hating nerd in the most platonic relationship with a woman in cinematic history. Yes, there is no boning in Jurassic Park. I mean, we'd all pay for a deleted Malcolm / Sattler hook-up scene, but instead Laura Dern played Ellie as one of the strongest independent women in any movie like this before or frankly, since. In addition to gender politics, the plot is constantly surprising, with different levels of systems failing, all matter of chaos unfolding, from tropical storms to Sam Jackson's arm, it's wild. More importantly, though, it all connects to a greater theme of Man vs. Nature, Man's attempt at bringing order to a chaotic realm, which is simultaneously embodied in each character's personal struggle. It's a supreme feat.

This came out really at a perfect time, the mega-event blockbuster wasn't quite a thing yet, at least not a weekly thing. Sleepless in Seattle (1993) came out two weeks after Jurassic Park and was fifth for the year. To be fair, Last Action Hero (1993) came out the week after and really really tried. The point is that Jurassic Park felt like a really big thing. To some extent Jurassic World (2015) hit that, although half of the point of Jurassic World is saying "We're never going to see these days again, but this is the best we got."

Let's get to Steven. While he had E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982) and the Indiana Jones movies in the 1980s, he really spent most of his time in this decade spinning somber contemplative drama films. Hell, Schindler's List (1993) came out the same year as Jurassic Park. I already covered a lot of Spielberg when I rambled about Ready Player One, but this film really cemented his Legacy, as if it needed cementing. Hook (1991) made okay money, but was kind of forgotten in its year of release, and also slaughtered by critics. Spielberg needed a win, and Jurassic Park could easily be the second coming of JAWS (1975), and for my money, it is.

Finally, let's talk about what Jurassic Park actually did for us as a nation. Now, the first instance of really cool cinematic dinosaurs may very well be a little Sharptooth action from The Land Before Time (1988), but in the realm of live action cinema, Dinosaurs were more regulated to campy B-Movies. They largely still are, as a matter of fact. No movie outside of the Jurassic series has really gotten dinosaurs right. And by right I mean, not as a total joke or novelty. Maybe King Kong (2005). We still tend towards Triassic Attack (2010) and Raptor Ranch (2012). See, you don't know these movies. Even in 1993 the very year Jurassic Park came out we also got Carnosaur, which looked stunning.

The additional point is that Jurassic Park put a lot of ideas into our heads. Just as the discovery of Deinonychus first gave paleontologists the idea that these animals must have been fast and scary rather than slow and dumb, Jurassic Park really livened up Dinosaurs for a mainstream audience. It popularized the idea that Dinosaurs evolved into birds (there is even some debate now whether or not T-Rex had feathers). It also paved way for a lot more of that corny crap, some featuring Whoopi Goldberg and others just...how was this ever a mainstream show? Being a kid in this 90s era was incredible. So many Dinosaurs to gaze in awe at. Anyone have these Dinosaurs Attack! cards? Now that deserves its own blog post.

For some reason or another Dinosaurs were always in the realm of juvenile campy ridiculousness. Jurassic Park brought them into grounded, intelligent adult cinema. Okay, well, sort of, but it's better than Planet of the Dinosaurs (1977). It's an incredible feat to achieve.

So yeah, then we hat The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), which actually has a lot of decent moments, but like all sequels, more feels like adding to the zeitgeist rather than driving it. By that time we had had a lot of Jurassic-ness and the Dino fad was more cresting than beefing up. It is notable for featuring Vince Vaughn, along with a fairly underrecognized cast. They barely returned anyone from the first film, although Hammond and his grandkids show up looking slightly older, which always freaked me out because I watched the first one 40,000 times and the second only once or twice. Of course Goldblum's back as Ian Malcolm, but I thought he always worked better as a bit of a selfish side character rather than an action hero. Shirtlessness aside, he never really fits that role as the anchor of this film.

Still, that caravan ledge scene, the T-Rex stomping through San Diego, and the High Grass are all pretty incredible. I always think of Velociraptors when I venture into High Grass. Every. Single. Time.

The less said about Jurassic Park III (2001) the better. I saw this in theaters while still forming my critical eye and I remember it being a strange feeling...I was excited going in...but very disappointed coming out. What's most notable is that at age 14 I actively recognized this as a bad movie - not a campy jokey of course it's bad movie, but a terribly written film that wanted to be good so damn bad. Every character sucks. The ending is a horrible deus ex machina (worse than the...original film's also deus ex machina), and the Raptor scenes are just so damn weird. At least we got this meme out of it. Then this. Even LEGO knows this is moronic.

So we cool for a while then flash forward to 2015 and Jurassic World trades on nostalgia and admiration for spectacle and sets a new standard for the mega-blockbuster of the current age. It's amazing that it would eventually appear as a template for other fan course corrections like The Force Awakens (2015) which just re-make the original with enough shiny new shit to make it seem new. This is a bit different than the gritty reboot era, and definitely past the late 90s / early 2000s turn everything into a sequel era. I have of course talked about this film at length already.

As you can read, I actually really liked this when it came out. I think that appreciation has decreased over time as I've reflected how at best a lot of it is dumb and at worst pretty problematic when it comes to those Ellie Sattler gender roles Laura Dern nailed so well 25 years ago. It at least seems self-aware of all its bluster sating a fan's appetite that will never full or get over nostalgia, which elevates it thematically, but it still never quite innovates.

Why would you do this again? That's like buidling
another Death Star. No one's THAT dumb!
What's more amazing is that Fallen Kingdom is actually only the fifth film in this series. That sounds like an insane thing to say, but we've had five Pirates of the Caribbean films and five Transformers films in half the time. Somehow Jurassic Park as a franchise just nosedived with the third installment, fell into that B-movie zone and never recovered. These films are all about spectacle and deserve being events. Jurassic World has even taken somewhat of a step behind Star Wars, the Avengers, and other franchise that have since greatly outshined it. It may not even finish as Chris Pratt's most successful movie this year.

And if you're looking at the marketing material for Fallen Kingdom, I certainly feel a great deal of who cares. Like, why are they back on the island? And it's exploding?! Volcanoes are certainly very Dinosaur-y and it's amazing it took them this long to insert one, but that also pushes that concept into the novelty zone and outside of the genuine discussion about universal themes through a familial lens that Spielberg did so well. Evidently this movie is half volcano adventure and half haunted house movie, which does sound interesting, but that's again camp and novelty over story and character. I'm wary. We're away from a beautiful Furious 7 (2015) world and into a shitty Fast 8 (2017) world. Also, there's been eight Fast & Furious movies since Jurassic Park III. What happened, guys?

Reviews are...good? It seems we can't quite tell. Better than Jurassic World but still shit? Well, what if I liked it the first time? I think it's important to remember that even if cinephiles and hardcore fans are disappointed there are plenty of casual fans who dig this shit. Name recognition alone will earn a lot of dollars, but I highly doubt it'll reach the heights Jurassic World did. It kind of just feels like any other movie sequel, and that's always something that doesn't work with this franchise.

What do you think? Did you prefer the Mars Attacks trading cards?

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?
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