27 October 2019

First Impressions: Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

Once upon a time we wrote these impressions the week we actually saw the movie in question. That's okay. We're here today to talk about Quentin Tarantino's 9th film, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019), hereafter referred to as the incredibly awkward, OUATIH. Happy Halloween!

I didn't really like this movie. That's all the review you need. Unless you'd like to stay around for an excessive amount of additional analysis. Okay, fine.

Bros 4 Life

So, there has been a lot of hot takes on this one. Here is one I like the best. We are getting to a point where shit is starting to add up. I am a Tarantino fan as much as any cinephile should be - he makes well-thought out and well-crafted movies that are staggeringly unique and original in an age where that is a very rare sight. OUATIH on the year is second only to Us (2019) in original ideas at the box office, and 16th on the year. This belies the fact that that's where our standards are. Just because it's pure cinema doesn't mean it's good or responsible cinema.

When I say things add up, it's more than Tarantino's trademark penchant for violence (for the record, this is his most subdued movie ever until the last fifteen minutes). It's how cozy he was with Weinstein, his willingness to hire actors he shouldn't (or is it just a meta commentary on Cliff Booth being hired where he shouldn't?), and willingness to showcase brutal, unheralded violence against women in not one, but his last two films. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Surely this isn't a gut reaction to controversial filmmaking - it's more that it feels unmotivated. There isn't necessarily a strong coherent message here about the irony of violence like in Inglourious Basterds (2009), not does it play with time and narrative in an interesting or charismatic way like Pulp Fiction (1994). It's difficult to suss out what he's trying to do, which leaves his particular brand of violence flat. Even a scene that deliciously builds tension like Cliff Booth wandering through the Manson camp doesn't really have a strong final outcome. It all seems like the master craftsman is at work, but without a really good story to work out.

This of course blends the film into the realm of bad taste. In reaction to this I rewatched The Hateful Eight (2015) because I felt much of the same way after that film. I actually liked it quite a bit more on the re-watch, which also made me realize that that's the most Tarantino-esque scripted film ever, while OUATIH is assuredly the least. I'm not sure if that little bit changed my viewing experience, but I also thought that the film's mode of telling us Daisy Domergue is a terrible person who deserved the brutality she received, instead of showing us her retribution was a fatal misstep. Likewise, the final moments of OUATIH are truly brutal, and yeah, in real life the monsters who carried out the Sharon Tate murders deserved that brutality in kind. The film, however, fails to show us that. All we see are young women getting their faces pounded in. They didn't actually do anything in the movie to deserve their fate.

Tarantino used the kind of Evil Shorthand to better extent in Basterds and Django Unchained (2012), but both of those films also effectively showed us why the cruel horrible people of the past deserved the ret-conned fate Tarantino supplied them. It's harder here because the murderers-turned-victims are really nothing more than weird creepy hippies.

Booth is a tough character to decipher as well. He seems at times to be the ultimate good guy with a strong, loyal code of morality, but also holds on to some incredibly shady characteristics. The parallels to Natalie Wood's death are also uncomfortable, especially as the film seems to deify Booth rather than chastise him and provide a commentary or satire. There are a few key scenes that establish Booth as the ultimate badass, mainly him besting (or at least tying) Bruce Lee, which as a big fan of a lot of his work, I also took some issue with. This all leads to him pretty much in character defending himself, although again it should be noted that within the context of the film's world, he's doing all this horror to random strangers, not would-be murderers.

All this adds up to just bring me out of the movie. When Brad Pitt throws Bruce Lee aside my stomach churns. That just wouldn't happen. In a cinematic sense, it's distracting along with many other little things that make for a movie where I'd have rather been on my phone for most of the runtime. Tarantino's longtime editor, Sally Menke passed away in 2010, and you can't help but wonder if it was Menke that really gave his films such zip and spice for so long. His efforts since her passing have noticeably been long and insane. There's no reason for this film to be 161 minutes (with a 171 minute re-release coming soon!). I'm not against long movies, but there isn't enough here to remain interesting.

I should note that despite at the inherent problematic issues with Pitt's character, he by far does the best acting of anyone on screen and is incredibly watchable whenever he's on screen. He doesn't even do things out of character, but that's also exactly why the film ends up being a bit queasy. Needless to say, this film would fall apart with anyone else in this role.

Moving on to other characters, Leo does fine work, and the story of his fading actor is the most interesting plotline here. It does all feel very "inside" and although it's certainly relatable, part of it feels too much like a personal love letter to this era rather than something of universal value. Leo doesn't quite go big and insane here, but he's able to act out his acting, which is pretty fun to watch and actually an underrated skill.

Rounding out the other top-billed actor is Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, who is the most bizarre role of all. She literally just walks around starstruck for the first forty minutes and exists as an object to watch with wonder. Sure, they're pounding it through our head that she was an innocent victim lost to a brutal murder, but Tarantino could have made an effort into making her into a real person for us to understand. Instead, she pretty much just exists until she is not murdered.

There were some good parts of sitting through this thing. It looks gorgeous of course, and the period recreation is impressive, if not wholly necessary. The costumes pop and there are plenty of cameos, eventually to the film's detriment when you see actors billed upfront who appear for two seconds of screen time about halfway through. It's also loaded with small bits of easter eggs and details that are pretty entertaining. Strangely, it's also Tarantino's most straightforward film, and I mean that literally. There are no chapter breaks, interlocking narratives, or other weird games. Just the film! Tarantino's gotten to the point where the weirdest thing he can do is just play things straight.

It's not an entirely coherent look at the Manson Family or its ideology or anything, but certainly an interesting take on the entertainment industry's transitions to the New Hollywood of the 1970s. If that's your bag, this is a cool film. If not, it feels too specific, too thoughtless, and too scattered to be really worth our time.

What did you think of Tarantino's latest output? Will his 10th and supposedly final film be any good? Is it going to be a Star Trek movie for some reason? Leave your take below!

09 September 2019

Summer Jam 2019...A Champion Once Again Crowned!

Ladies and Gentleman, another Season of Summer has come and gone. As we've done for the past nine years for some reason, we've tracked, tallied, and ranked every Hot Jam that blasted across our eardrums for seventeen glorious weeks. Now, here at the end of all things, comes the time to assess what we have wrought. It's time to see who will join this illustrious list of SUMMER JAM ROYALTY!

Past Winners:

2007: "Umbrella" by Rihanna
2008: "Bleeding in Love" by Leona Lewis
2009: "I Gotta Feeling" by Black Eyed Peas
2010: "California Gurls" by Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg
2011: "Park Rock Anthem" by LMFAO ft. Lauren Bennett & GoonRock
2012: "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen
2013: "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke ft. T.I. & Pharrell
2014: "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea ft. Charle XCX
2015: "Shut Up and Dance" by Walk the Moon
2016: "Can't Stop the Feeling" by Justin Timberlake
2017: "Despacito" by Daddy Yankee, Luis Fonsi ft. Justin Bieber
2018: "Never Be the Same" by Camila Cabello

I hate so many of these songs. But that's not for us to decide. We charted a total of 57 Jams this summer. Most are pretty good. Here's #9 - 16, the near cream-of-the-crop that just made the cut in this, our FINAL Summer Jam List:

"The London" by Young Thug ft. J. Cole & Travis Scott
"Money in the Grave" by Drake ft. Rick Ross
"Never Really Over" by Katy Perry
"Cool" by Jonas Bros
"WOW" by Post Malone
"ME!" by Taylor Swift ft. Brendan Urie
"Glad He's Gone" by Toe Lo
"Talk" by Khalid

Alright. Now let's dive in to the real hot stuff:

#8: "Sweet But Psycho" by Ava Max

Weeks on List: 5
First Week: 05/20 (#1)
Last Week: 08/05 (#7)
Peak Position: #1 (05/20)
Average Position: 4.60

This is the official Underrated Song of Summer. It's so listenable and hummable and got in my head so damn easy all summer. It didn't necessarily destroy the charts, but stuck around for two and a half months and hit #1 early on. It will always remind me of a few moments this summer and that's what it's all about. Ava Max is pretty new to the scene, and this kind of dance-pop is decently derivative, but she's got some pipes to rise above the nonsense.

#7: "Dancing with a Stranger" by Sam Smith & Normani

Weeks on List: 4
First Week: 05/27 (#4)
Last Week: 06/17 (#2)
Peak Position: #2 (06/03, 06/17)
Average Position: 3.25

This song was surprisingly only present for four consecutive weeks in May and June, but earned enough points to gain the #7 spot overall. It came in second place twice and never dipped that low. Still, this felt like a consistent song this summer, and narrowly missed out on hopping back into relevancy. It was a consistent depth player this summer and this feels like a natural spot for it. It's seductive, fun, sexy, and salacious. It also was a great leap forward for Normani's career.

#6: "You Need to Calm Down" by Taylor Swift

Weeks on List: 7
First Week: 06/24 (#7)
Last Week: 09/02 (#2)
Peak Position: #2 (0708, 07/22, 08/12, 09/02)
Average Position: 3.17

I sense that I'll always be torn by this song. Its pro-tolerance message ostensibly shields it from any criticism, but it's also definitely a co-option of the LBGT rights movement to fuel both Taylor Swift's personal hater issues and general trolling of female pop queens on the Internet. It's a lot at once but also pretty catchy, but also with a good message at heart. It's just harder and harder to see through Tay Tay's ego these days, even if she's still a master lyricist. This relatively late-breaking jam never hit the #1 spot, but surprisingly had four separate instances at #2, the most of any song this summer.

#5: "I Don't Care" by Bieber and Sheeran

Weeks on List: 8
First Week: 05/20 (#7)
Last Week: 07/29 (#4)
Peak Position: #1 (07/22)
Average Position: 3.63

This was an early contender and held pretty strong through sheer longevity. It did crack the #1 spot in late July, but mostly hung around the middle of the countdown, at one point for five consecutive weeks. At eight total weeks it is actually the fourth most of any song here. Again, I really hated this song. It grated on me after a while. I also think there's something somehow even more shallow when mega-stars team up for a really cheap meme video. It's people just not understand what makes memes funny, and also just seems unfair compared to the folks out there struggling to put out the same quality work. Whatever, it was a jam.

#4: "Señorita" by Camila Cabello, Shawn Mendes

Weeks on List: 7
First Week: 07/08 (#3)
Last Week: 09/02 (#3)
Peak Position: #1 (07/29, 08/19)
Average Position: 2.83

Some songs get credit for longevity, this one was all about potency. It is the latest breaking song that still made the Top 8, and had the second-highest average position of any track. If it had debuted a few weeks earlier it would have made a legit run at the Top Three. It's still a fun song to listen to. Camila follows up her 2018 Queen Status with a still impressive showing here. It's also notable that it bowed out at the exact position it came in at, but that's more a cause of running out of weeks rather than anything else.

#3: "Bad Guy" by Billie Eilish

Weeks on List: 10
First Week: 05/20 (#4)
Last Week: 09/02 (#6)
Peak Position: #2 (05/27, 06/10, 08/26)
Average Position: 3.89

I was surprised that this ended up in the #3 spot after seemingly spending this entire summer in the #2 spot, but it did have a big break about mid-way through. After six straight weeks during May and June it fell off for a while, but like "Dancing with a Stranger", always seemed on the periphery. Billie Eilish is the freshest new voice in a while and this is an extremely dynamic, unique song. It came back strong in a post "Old Town Road" world at the end of summer that clinched its #3 slot, but also notable for being ranked so high while never hitting #1. This will definitely always be known as the Summer Billie Eilish debuted, though.

#2: "Truth Hurts" by Lizzo

Weeks on List: 10
First Week: 07/01 (#4)
Last Week: 09/02 (#1)
Peak Position: #1 (07/15, 08/26, 09/02)
Average Position: 3.00

What can I say about this? All 10 weeks on the List were back to back. It exploded on the Fourth of July and stayed strong through Labor Day. This song was a little old so I hesitated with it at first, which means it could have racked up even more points. It's still an amazing song to listen to - I'm getting jacked up right now cranking out her jams. Lizzo had a string of hits last year, and even charted, but 2019 is DEFINITELY the year of mainstream Lizzo. It's awesome. She closed out the year with the #1 spot in the last two weeks of summer and earned the second-most #1 spots of any song on this list.

#1: "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus

Weeks on List: 13
First Week: 05/13 (#4)
Last Week: 08/12 (#6)
Peak Position: #1 (05/27, 06/03, 06/10, 07/01, 07/08, 08/05)
Average Position: 2.54

Yep. You could have seen this coming. Not only was this the top song of this summer, this was the top song of ANY summer. We haven't had a jam track for 13 weeks since Iggy Azalea and Robin Thicke both pulled off the feat in 2014 and 2013 respectively. Neither hit six weeks at #1. Under our modern points system we've also NEVER seen a victory by this much. "Old Town Road" beat "Truth Hurts" by 22. Prior to this we had had "Shut Up and Dance" by 16 and "Blurred Lines" by 14, but that's about it. In 2011 "Party Rock Anthem" had 14 weeks on the charts, but only four at #1. The only historical jam that can beat it is the absolute dominance of's 2010 "California Gurls", which had 15 weeks on the Winner's List, including six #1 spots IN A ROW. 2010 was nuts. Lol, remember Taio Cruz?

We have seen a tremendous amount of parity lately, though. It wasn't crazy for a lot of previous Summer Jams to skirt by with only a slight edge above their competitor. 2018 and 2016 were particularly close without a real definitive summer jam. I even still question "Shut Up and Dance" because I feel like no one cares about that anymore, but not in a "Call Me Maybe" no one cares anymore kind of way.

"Old Town Road" is for sure a special song. Not only is it a meld of hip-hop and country on the border of creating its own genre, but its distribution, promotion, and success completely fueled by social media is not so much unprecedented, but its mainstream recognition is. There are plenty of songs on Tik Tok. What made this stand out will surely lead to imitators for years. Constant remakes gave it continued life all summer, even if its peak freshness was probably in the Spring.

Its stats speak for itself. It appeared for nine straight weeks to start off summer, including three at #1 in the peak of early July. After taking one week off, it returned for four straight weeks before finally running out of gas in mid-August. Its run was near perfect. It ate up the meaty heart of summer and never looked back. 2019 will surely always be the Summer, nay the year of "Old Town Road." Congrats.

Next year...

If you're someone who actually follows this weekly column, it's no surprise that it wore on me this year. I was usually late or busy or half-assed. I still really do love doing this, though. Even though we have unofficially tracked since 2007, I first really got into thinking this way in 2008. Since this blog started in June 2009, we didn't actually officially start tracking week by week until Summer 2010. While that technically makes this the 10th iteration, I think Summer 2020 will be a nice final year for this madness. Ten solid years of Summer Jam. That's more than any individual has done ever. So, stay tuned next year, folks! It'll be our last!

02 September 2019

Summer Jam 2019 Week 17: That's It!

Here we are folks. Labor Day. It's the End of Summer and thus, the end of all good things in the world for at least the next nine months. It's always bittersweet. Or just completely bitter. I hate this. BUT we also get to tally up our jams and dedicate our brand new SUMMER JAM ROYALTY! Who will it be?! We'll put one more week in the books then figure this shit out!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Babushka Boi" by A$AP Rocky

I love ASAP Rocky and this song is awesome. It's a Dick Tracy homage for some reason but has a biting beat to go along with ASAP's reliable vocals. Sure he's had some legal issues lately, but I found myself not caring at all about that during this song. The video is also brutal and I'm not sure actually shows an intricate good lesson by the end. It's more insanely indulgent and relishing criminality. Dat beat tho.

"Graduation" by Benny Blanco, Juice WRLD

I like all at once this spin on the graduation song, the blase attitude, and the interstitials, which are hilarious and brutal, and totally feel as if they're coming from some show we failed to watch. Could this be a Summer Jam candidate! No, shut up. It's totally mis-timed with the beginning of school instead of the end, but I would like this to play at mine.

"Bad Guy" by Billie Eilish

Yep, Billie made it to the end here. This is a marvelous feat! Her time at the Top of the Billboard charts ended up being short-lived but I think she has a great career ahead of her. The song isn't really grating yet and she's also cranked out some comparably good tunes. This definitely established itself as a notable Summer Jam and will surely rank high once we tally everything together.

"Lover" by Taylor Swift

So, Taylor dropped one of her most mature songs ever, which is amazing. She seems to be less focused on pouty break-up tracks (which to be fair, she excelled at), and more about consistent, thoughtful reflection. I'm not sure this a totally radio-friendly pop ballad, but it is pretty great. Much too late for Summer Jam status, but a lovely number to waltz around the house.

"The London" by Young Thug ft. J. Cole & Travis Scott

"The London" has been on and off this list all summer, sometimes creeping just beyond the edges, but always a pretty great jam. It gets one more push this week since it's in fact pretty fun, spectacular, and tight flow. Good beats. It's got a tight flow. The flow is tight. I may have just had a stroke. It's a cool song.

Senorita" by Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello

These two are dating, I guess? Sounds good. It's sexy. They're sexy. This is your new Billboard #1, and although that distinction is a little late, it still felt fun and fresh enough this week to earn a spot here. Camila's not quite having the breakout year she did in 2018 but this will end with great overall rankings.

"You Need to Calm Down" by Taylor Swift

This ended up being a pretty notable track this summer and it finishes well. It's stayed in the zeitgeist for a long while and by this point its memorable lyrics are sing-a-longable and I can maybe get past the movement co-option and personal shade and relish in the message of acceptance. Taylor notches two on the countdown this week and actually ends with a damned decent summer.

"Truth Hurts" by Lizzo

For all my hand-wringing about this track being a little old to start summer, we were obsessed with it this weekend and just made it our constant jam. Lizzo is actually having an amazing run at the top and surged like crazy these last few weeks. It's not a legit contender and probably deserves more status than it will eventually get.

Next day...

We'll tally this shit up! Who will be crowned... SUMMER JAM CHAMPION?! Stay tuned, folks!

26 August 2019

Summer Jam 2019 Week 16: One More and We're Outta Here!

It's a saddening time of year for everyone. School looms. The stench of Autumn Death and Decay in the air. The sun is about to retreat for many months of darkness and despair. We're almost out of Summer Jams to talk about! But we have two weeks left and we're gonna make 'em count by offering the best, most rip-roaring Jams you've ever heard!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Fuck It I Love You" by Lana Del Rey

It's no "Summertime Sadness" but Lana is back with a sweet summer jam! I can never write that about Lana Del Rey with a straight face. She wasn't even involved in that remix. But I actually dig this track. It's smooth and haunting and lovely and a mature track from someone I consider the quintessential anti-pop artist. This video is smashed together with another track, "The Greatest," which is okay.

"Just Us" by DJ Khaled ft. SZA

Not since Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" have I been more disappointed to hear the first few bars of a track on the radio, get excited, and then immediately so, so bummed out. No, this is not "Sorry Ms. Jackson," it's some DJ Khaled song. It's actually not that bad and SZA is pretty reliable...but dammit, find another beat. It's just straight-up OutKast, barely even a sample here.

"Call You Mine" by The Chainsmokers ft. Bebe Rexha

This has been around for a while but got stuck in my head this week. It's kind of a fun tune, and has that classic interchangeable title that's impossible to remember. I can't tell if I like Bebe Rexha or not. I think I do. There's a nice flow here, and even has a chorus crescendo rather than just a rising beat like most Chainsmokers tracks. It's been in the background this summer, I guess, but it's fun to listen to here, now, at the end of all things joyous and happy.

"Money in the Grave" by Drake ft. Rick Ross

So, as you can tell, we're going a little off-beat this week. We have had a ton of reliable tracks this summer, but this week definitely felt like a little shift. This song of course has been in and out this summer, but seemed a little fresher compared to the same crap we've been listening to over and over this summer.

"Boyfriend" by Ariana Grande, Social House

This song probably doesn't deserve this ranking because it's no where near Ariana's other 2019 jams, but it's still a fresh track that fits the bill this week. I actually did hear it a bit this week and it seems like it's primed to climb high. It won't really factor into any Summer Jam categories at this point, but we'll see if it eventually matches her other efforts this year.

"You Need to Calm Down" by Taylor Swift

Taylor dropped a lot of songs off her new album this week, but this is still the most prominent. It might have fought enough for itself to have some decent end-of-summer rankings at this point. We'll see when we tally everything up...next week! Holy crap. She ended up carving out a good niche for herself.

"Bad Guy" by Billie Eilish

In honor of Billie FINALLY getting past "Old Town Road" it needs to return to our countdown. Even if we don't quite consider it a #1 Jam this week. This might mean it lasted longer this summer than "OTR" and proves to be a good boost in her campaign for Summer Queen, really the only major threat to the Gay Black Cowboy. This song seems to be here to stay, though, and has slowly penetrated through a lot of pop culture.

"Truth Hurts" by Lizzo

Lizzo's back on top. I said a few weeks ago that I think this song is cresting, and I'm still there, but it was popular and felt fresh enough this week to earn this spot. With a few strong chart positions it's suddenly a contender. I definitely like it and it still has one of the best intros of any song ever.

Next week...

Missy Elliott had a new song this week but it sorta sucks. Other than that, we have one more week go to and we'll see if any song on the fringe can make a final plunge, especially with "Old Town Road" pretty much out of it. Or it could come back, because even talking about it, I kind of want to listen to it again. Stay tuned for our FINAL SUMMER JAM TALLY!! A CHAMPION WILL BE CROWNED!!

19 August 2019

Summer Jam 2019 Week 15: We're Doing It!

That's right, the day's not quite done yet. We still have time to post this! After all, this is the Summer Jam, and nothing says Summer like those Hot Havana Nights! Right? Alright. We have some jams to get to, so strap in, folks!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Pillowcase" by Gabbie Hanna

Gabbie Hanna looks exactly like Maya Rudolph. This is an okay song that definitely has shades of Lorde, Billie Eilish, and like, that one Dev video. I feel like I'm the only one who ever loved Dev. Gabbie Hanna has darkhorse all over her. Sometimes quite literally in this video.

"Boyfriend" by Ariana, Social House

This came across my desk this week and I really thought about throwing down "Bad Guy" and "Old Town Road" again but fuck it. Ariana is singing about another boyfriend, so she's got to get a spot here. This is her least memorable song of the year and won't get much play beyond this weekend. It's amazing the songs we canned for this commentary.

"Sucker" by Jonas Bros

The Bros Jonas have circled between "Sucker" and "Cool" all summer, but the former got the edge this week despite being pretty old at this point. It's still an okay song and has a damned catchy hook. By this point it's been a little too inconsistent to be relevant, but gains some props for still hanging on. We'll see what the final count is like in a few weeks!

"Never Really Over" by Katy Perry

Is this song a hit this summer? It's kind of growing on me. I almost left it off again, but I also can't stop thinking about how it's likely about Orlando Bloom. Legolas shot my heart like Cupid! It's got a few weeks to maybe solidify a Top Eight spot, but I think this girl is out of Lembas bread!

"Truth Hurts" by Lizzo

So Lizzo has really settled into this mid-point on the countdown, which bodes well for her Summer Queen chances. I mean, it's "Old Town Road" but she could still do some damage. This jam is still a fresh catch and listenable as hell. I don't see it fading any time soon, unlike a lot of Summer Jams that crumble a little bit down the final stretch before Fall.

"You Need to Calm Down" by Taylor Swift

This jam had a big one this week and seems to be everywhere still. I am still weirded out by Taylor equating her haters to anti-LBGT bigotry, but whatever. It's hard to hate the final message I think she's getting at. Which is probably just anti-popstar Internet Trolls? Maybe it sucks. But it's actually got a rhythm. You tear me up, Taylor.

"Goodbyes" by Post Malone ft. Young Thug

I'm starting to dig Young Thug a lot and this song has been around for a few weeks but really popped on my radar this time. I almost never call a Post Malone song. His voice does not fit his face. But this song is fun and ought to finish out the summer well. It's on the uprise. Probably. It's hard to tell with any non-Old Town Road hip-hop song anymore.

"Senorita" by Camila and Shawn

Listen, I know I generally overrank Camila, but I really love this song. Not only did I hear it a ton this week but each time I felt my head bop with the sensual summer seductive pleasure of a song that's both smooth and hot hot fire. "Senorita" oddly has a few #1 weeks under its belt now. I don't think it'll overtake anything, but it's got potential to do well if it keeps up steam.

Next week...

"Bad Guy" and "Old Town Road" both had good weeks. Great. They'll be fine. I liked parts of Big Sean's "Single Again" but it just sounded a lot like what he does all the time and not that distinctive. And then there's that new Normani song. I could not sing you the tune but I know that video very well already. These have the potential to be late Summer Jam contenders or even Fall Jam contenders. Haha, as if there were such a thing! All music ends on Labour Day.

12 August 2019

Summer Jam 2019 Week 14: New Hits and Old Bruises

We have but a few weeks left and summer is going strong! All the contenders are digging in and there's been fun new winners each and every week! If this isn't edge of your seat thrillhouse entertainment, I don't know what is!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Hate Me" by Elle Goulding ft. Juice WRLD

This is a few weeks old, but I heard it a bunch and it's pretty catchy, so here we are! It's a little late for any Hot Jam of the Week to make a run at the whole shebang at this point, but this could be fun for a little while.

"123456" by Fitz and the Tantrums

This has been around for a few months but really started getting airplay this week. Rock songs always seem to have a big mainstream delay. It's fun but not really Summer Jam Throne material.

"Old Town Road" by K.K. Slider

I barely even understand this reference but this jam has invaded every facet of our lives. Its star is certainly diminished from its peak, but it's also setting Billboard records and for some reason generally not going away.

"Bad Guy" by Billie Eilish

Yes, "Bad Guy" outranks "Old Town Road" for once! This surged in pop culture relevance this week and ought to get some sort of Billboard Silver Medal. Oh what things could have been! It's a massive contender for a pretty high end-of-season ranking.

"Cash Shit" by Megan Thee Stallion ft. Da Baby

This was a big jam this week although I'm new to Megan Thee Stallion. It's great hearing more hardcore female rappers and her flow is pretty sick. They seem to come and go, though (not to mention anyone named "Baby") so, wishing luck to all careers involved here!

"Truth Hurts" by Lizzo

This jam is persisting, if not fading slightly. Recognition growing, funky rocking out glowing, everything amazes. It's become quite the staple here suddenly.

"You Need to Calm Down" by Taylor Swift

This is turning into a thing for sure by this point. It's not quite a Tay Sway summer megahit, but doing enough damage on the charts to be a legit contender at this point.

"Speechless" by Dan + Shay

I just heard this a lot this week. It's the kind of song really tied to August 12, 2019. Apparently it's also insanely old. I don't care. It's not all that good or anything, and we may not hear about it again but for now, it wins.

Next week...

I left off "Sucker," "The London," "Never Really Over," "I Don't Care," and "Senorita" this week. The last one was the toughest. All are still in the running. Three weeks left, folks!!

07 August 2019

I Actually Watched A Very Brady Sequel

That's right.

You're looking for that Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood (2019) review. It's coming. One day. But today we have a much better film to review. One cherished as a perfect example of auteur theory and independent filmmaking gaining mainstream appeal in the mid-90s. This is just the tops. It's A Very Brady Sequel (1996).

Yes, not the original, The Brady Bunch Movie (1995), but its far superior sequel. Let me rewind a little bit.

For some reason The Brady Bunch entered pop culture hard after its five seasons on ABC from 1969 - 74. It's not a very good show at all. Some might say that it's the ultimate saccharine cringey family friendly sitcom. Despite being an indelible part of its time, it's also been continuously revived and regurgitated. Sticking to this idea is of course why the 90s movies work at all, but more on that later.

For those born at any time in the past twenty years, the core premise of The Brady Bunch was that a woman, with three blonde daughters married a man with three curly-haired boys. They all lived together with their weird housemaid, Alice. It was maybe progressive for its time for showing what was presumably two divorced or widowed adults shacking up together, but to be honest, you'd never know it. It all seemed like they were just a big family. Needless to say, all of these insane core conceits is precisely what the 90s films targeted.

The show was full of typical sitcom staples. Broken noses, dogs ruining homework. That kind of crap. There were a few specials in the 80s and all the actors became stock novelty jokes, but that was about it until the 90s.

Oh, the 90s.

When we all complain about a dearth of superhero films, I am so glad we are past the point where we're getting retreads of 70s TV Shows. Well, mostly. Actually...well, hot damn. We really aren't past this point, huh? I suppose it started with The Addams Family (1991), which was a surprise hit. And that movie is actually fantastic campy fun. We then got The Flintstones (1994). And by the way, all these movies got far zanier sequels for some reason. Let's roll through the rest:

Dragnet (1987)
The Addams Family (1991)
The Fugitive (1993)
Addams Family Values (1993)
The Flintstones (1994)
The Brady Bunch Movie (1995)
Casper (1995)
A Very Brady Sequel (1996)
Mission: Impossible (1996)
George of the Jungle (1997)
Lost in Space (1998)
Wild Wild West (1999)
Dudley Do-Right (1999)
The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000)
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000)
Charlie's Angels (2000)
Josie and the Pussycats (2001)
Scooby Doo (2002)
I Spy (2002)
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003)
Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)
Starsky & Hutch (2004)
Bewitched (2005)
The Dukes of Hazzard (2005)
Underdog (2007)
Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007)
Speed Racer (2008)
Get Smart (2008)
Land of the Lost (2009)
Yogi Bear (2010)
21 Jump Street (2012)
Dark Shadows (2012)
22 Jump Street (2014)
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
Baywatch (2017)
CHiPs (2017)

Notably there was also a made-for-TV Munsters movie in 1995 which also starred Christine Taylor as Marilyn. Christine Taylor was busy in 1995 playing old actresses.

Do you remember that there was a Dudley Do-Right film? Look at this list. Now, we can immediately see a few obvious trends. First, the 2000s were actually much worse than the 90s. It's amazing how slowly trends move in Hollywood. It's also clear that this trend peaked from about 1995-2005, with other films trickling in here and there. By 2009 it had just about petered out.

EXCEPT that for some reason 21 Jump Street happened and it was legitimately the greatest and funniest film ever, so we rushed to burn off the few remaining properties we had left. It was so clear that Baywatch and CHiPs were shallow attempts at capturing the same meta-magic, but it didn't really work. I'll argue that this meta-magic actually was working nearly twenty years early with A Very Brady Sequel, but more on that later. For this moment I'm still obsessed with this list.

There are some good movies here. Like 21 Jump Street showed, it truly doesn't actually matter what a movie's source material is. Tom Cruise made Mission: Impossible into a 20-year viable action franchise, mostly by being terrible to the source material, killing all the original characters, and turning the main father figure into an evil Jon Voight. The Fugitive is on here, an Oscar-winning movie. And I unironically will love Josie and the Pussycats until the day I'm buried six feet under the cold deep ground. Fight me. That's the greatest movie of all time. But yeah, a lot of this is trash.

Okay, let's get into this. You may notice one distinctive thing about this list. There is only one film with the word "Movie" in the title. It's the first of many sly and many definitely not so sly indications that the creators of The Brady Bunch Movie knew they were taking a ridiculous property and turning into a shallow cash grab. See, I mentioned earlier that this family is stuck in the suburban saccharine sitcom values of the early 70s. When adapting these movies you have either two choices: Set the modern movie in the same day as the original was set (Starsky & Hutch, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Dark Shadows) or update to the modern day (Dragnet, Charlie's Angels, Bewitched).

Fuck that, said Jan Brady. We're gonna do both.

What if the entire setting of the movie was updated to modern day, but the actual family wasn't? For some brilliant, amazing reason, the Brady Family along with that weirdo Alice is stuck in 1970 while the rest of the world is in the mid-90s. This is never explained. I like to think that it's just a continuation of the show. The characters would never age or get old or change their premise, even if the world did. They reference other off-screen adventures constantly. The family remains almost aggressively ignorant. It's clear that this not only applies to fashion and values, but language, technology, and knowledge of current events. It's downright amazing. The first film plays with plopping this cheery family into the middle of 90s cynicism.

Isn't it weird that the 90s are remembered for its grunge and cynicism? What the hell was wrong with us? We're the most ungrateful culture ever. It was like the greatest American economic decade of all time. Anyway-

This all works pretty well. There is almost a way of dropping 90s jokes into 60s sitcom style, like Marcia (Christine Taylor, obvi) being subtly passive aggressive against Butt-Monkey Jan. But now let's get into the totally rad Very Brady Sequel. The basic premise is the inverse of the first film. Instead of showing the Bradys in the world, they introduce Roy Martin, supposedly matriarch Carol's first husband, previously thought lost at sea!

Roy Martin is played by Tim Matheson, and he's brilliant as the exasperated outsider, conniving con-man, and honestly, a character we actually root for. Everyone else is so damn weird, we actually end up entering the Brady world through the Roy Martin lens, which is fun because he's also the primary antagonist. It works because his con is so transparent, the Bradys are so stupid, and the film makes no qualms about hiding either mystery to the viewer. You cheer for him but know he's a scumbag, but the Bradys cannot seem to figure out his ruse.

This obviously raises big concerns for the Brady Marriage. Carol is suddenly torn between the loves of her life, even though "Roy" looks nothing like her husband (he claims and elephant stomped on his face, that's why it's different). Everyone has their little thing to do. The youngest boy, Bobby, is playing detective. The youngest girl, Cindy, has lost her dollie. The middle boy, Peter, is trying to become a man and gets truly terrible advice from surrogate father, Roy. Then we get some heavy Flandersization.

Jan was maybe an annoying middle child, but she's portrayed her as a straight psychopath. She's obsessed with gaining both her older sister's attention as well as attention INSTEAD of her. This is mostly through her fake boyfriend, George Glass (originally George Tropicana, when the glass she was looking at for inspiration was full...). Every single scheme she comes up with is so ludicrously false. She literally even brings a dummy on a date. Its head falls off, comic hilarity ensues, everyone thinks it's a performance art piece, and Marcia does not notice at all. Jan is so insane that she's the only one who really buys into "Roy" being her real father. She calls him "Daddy" constantly and jumps into his lap on multiple occasions. She also tries to drive and loses a contact but none of her confidence. Still, she was maybe crazier in the first one.

Everyone blatantly hates Jan, especially Marcia. It's almost like she derives some sick pleasure out of torturing her, but it's largely just stating a disbelief in what she's doing. When "Roy" eventually moves to kidnap Carol, the entire family pushes Jan and says "Take Jan instead!" The funniest joke in the entire movie is immediately after this (it also neatly sums up the arcs of each character) and writing it out is terrible, so just watch:

We're gonna skip Greg and Marcia for a second just because...we have to. But we'll get back to that. That's like, the entire reason why this movie rules. Let's go into the adults.

Shelley Long is perfect as Carol and has some exceptional comedic timing here. She has little glances, little moments of frenetic energy, and slight bit alluding to lesbianism with Alice that's delivered perfect. She also nearly gets herself out of her own kidnapping, and while she's still ultimately held a gunpoint by "Roy," she is the one who thwarts his $20 million horse statue sale. Yeah, that's the main driving plot point. It doesn't matter.

Gary Cole as Mike Brady is also full of so many metaphors that go no where that the movie itself actively makes fun of him. There is also spectacular timing to some of the lines. He says, "Sharing is what this family is all about" right at the moment when Roy shows up looking for his long-lost wife, Carol. At one point he also says, "That man threatened my kids, kidnapped my wife, AND took advantage of my hospitality. Now he's going to pay." Gary Cole completely sells this line as if Mike truly believes it, and it's so damn funny. He's also possibly impotent when faced with the threat of another man. There's a bit where both he and Carol awake in bed suddenly and agree that they had the same dream, as if it happens often.

There are so many moments that border on the surreal, especially as the movie goes along. Alice sleeps in the refrigerator. Cindy's doll has an inner monologue. There are multiple song and dance numbers with public choreography, the latter one on a plane to Hawaii. At one point David Spade cameos as a weird gay European Hairdresser and tries to cut Carol's hair with a chainsaw. That is a sentence I never thought I would write. There are also cameos by RuPaul, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Rosie O'Donnell. It's madness. 90s!

Alice is the most sitcom-y character out there and the film should get credit for nailing the timing of her horrible jokes with no laughtrack to back them up. It adds another layer to the surreality. Very literally - Alice bakes mushrooms into his spaghetti and he trips, going on an animated 60s flashback. This movie is bonkers.

OK. Greg and Marcia. Are you ready?

In my vast expanse of knowledge this is one of the only times I can think of where the creators actually followed through on shipping two characters who definitely should never hook up. In this case, step-siblings. It's literally a porno. But the incest is also what makes this movie amazing. This is literally a four-quadrant major motion picture with one corner of plot just hanging on straight incest.

Now, they're step-siblings, so...cool? It also seems like for most of this movie, and for most of their history, they didn't really understand how re-marriage works? Kudos to Carol and Mike for truly blending a happy family, but it's not until Roy shows up that Greg and Marcia realize they're not actually brother and sister.

If we look at this, Cindy is not that old, they can't have been together too long. Maybe five, six years? Since Greg was like...twelve? Now - now, that's still weird, it's still definitely weird, but how do you not understand what step-sister means? Anyway, they lay down the incest hard. HARD. Literally, at one point Greg straight up gets a boner because Marcia gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation at the beach. They also full-on make out at the end of the film, although I think it's heavily implied they got frisky when they first got in the attic together and realized that they are both hot.

By the way, despite being a total weirdo, Marcia is also clearly very popular. She literally has a box of trophies. She's the coolest girl in school. Greg is also played by Christopher Daniel Barnes, who was the voice of Peter Parker in the 90s Spider-Man show, which I could not get out of my head. He's actually a great comedic actor here. He's gotten decent voicework through Spider-Man over the past twenty years, but I would have loved to see him take more live action roles in the late 90s / early 2000s. Christine Taylor has obviously gone on to do great things and may be the most successful member of this cast.

This movie succeeds because while it's obviously reverential in many ways, it realizes how dumb its source material is, and doesn't care much at all about fucking with it. Again - literally. This is the only way a film like this could have worked. There was no way they could have done either an updated modern version, or one stuck in the time period. They also play loose enough with the rules of the show and explore the questions we've always wondered like, "What happened to Carol's husband?" "What is the deal with that horse?" and "Why don't Greg and Marcia hook up?" It's seriously so constant and played for so many laughs, guys, this is awesome.

There are plenty of other cameos and references to what universe this takes place in. "Roy" apparently was responsible for the S.S. Minnow being lost at sea in Gilligan's Isle (and Carol's actual original husband was the Professor). Mike's original wife shows up at the end, as the original I Dream of Jeannie, Barbara Eden. Does that mean that all his kids are half-Jeanne? The movie just fucking ends.

Richard Belzer also appears as "Detective" but he's totally Munch, which means this is all in the Munchverse. It's actually an amazing moment when Mike enters the LAPD office and the movie totally switches to a grimy 90s cop show, while he extols the fair and just reputation of the LAPD just years after Rodney King. Yay!

The film ends with either the dog, Tiger, or Cousin Oliver, or both being hit by a car. I'm not sure if this was some long due therapeutic measure, or a reference for how random it was that the Brady dog would show up (he's not in the rest of the film), but damn this has some grim moments in a film otherwise awash in 70s faux pop hippie aesthetic. That's certainly the entire point of this movie.

So that was a lot. More than you ever really wanted to hear, I'm sure. But I completely unironically love this movie and every second is an amazing display of wit, reference, lampshading, and irony. It's fantastic. No one cares about A Very Brady Sequel. At all. It's streaming now on Hulu. Give it a chance!

05 August 2019

Summer Jam 2019 Week 13: Thirteen Weeks of Pain!

In the thirteenth hour of the thirteenth month of the thirteenth week of Summer we have...almost nothing new for you! That's right folks, if it's the same old crap you've been craving, you've come to the right Internet Website. The contenders have fully canonized and we have nothing new. So sit back and enjoy your jams one last time! For the next four weeks also.

Hot Jam of the Week: "100 Bad Days" by AJR

I don't know what AJR is, but they give me a Jon Bellion vibe, which is apparently totally a thing. I actually thought this was some track featuring Jon Bellion at first. Oof. Anyway, it's a fun song with kind of lonesome but ironically optimistic lyrics. It's been out for a minute, but I hadn't heard it until this week and it seems to be getting more airplay. Good enough to be Hot Jam for me! Let it drip down that mouth.

"Sweet but Pyscho" by Ava Max

Still here! I feel like I was saying this jam was old back in May. Still here. I still dig it. It's had a bit too many weeks where it barely broke in, but maybe a little upsurge here. At least points for longevity. We give no points for longevity. Still here, still this song definitively will remind me of Summer 2019 - and that's the whole point!

"Talk" by Khalid

This is back again. I flip-flop with this jam a lot. Do I like it? Does it suck? I don't know. It's okay I guess. I wouldn't totally listen to it if I didn't write this column every week for some reason. Khalid is doubtless talented, though, and this Jam has creeped up on this Summer like a puma on a mountain goat. It's got clout by now. It's not quite spent yet, either.

"Bad Guy" by Billie Eilish

Also back from the nearly dead - I just heard this a lot this week. It's starting to earn some memes. We should talk more about how halfway it just decides to become a completely different song. It's fun and Billie is clearly insane, which makes her all the more popular with the kids. It's good and really deserved a summer that didn't have "Old Town Road" dominating everything.

"Senorita" by Shawn and Camila

This song still feels sexy, fun, and fresh, and I'm still hearing it, but I also think it's time is up soon. It feels like it's cresting a wave. I will probably eat my words. It feels like a default on this list, but it may not actually have that much Jam left in it. Still, I do still enjoy it. I could just get up and dance around. Let's dance, baby.

"Truth Hurts" by Lizzo

Same with this track. It still has the best intro of any Song of 2019 and I still get excited whenever it comes on the radio. That's the word of the day - still. All these songs are STILL good. Nothing new to be new good. Just a bunch of still goods. It's kind of a waiting game to see how the rest of this summer shakes out and what late-breaking August Jams we'll get. It doesn't really matter at this point, though. We know our winner.

"Never Really Over" by Katy Perry

Katy FINALLY gets on the Winners List! And at the #2 spot no less! Yes, I caved and gave it a spot, but it earned it this week after two months of neglect. It just felt like it was much more of a thing this week. Maybe it's finally earwormed into my subconscious. Does anyone know who she's pining over in this jam? I do not follow her personal life. This also makes me think of "No One's Ever Really Gone" all the time. And Midsommar (2019) vibes. There. I made every joke I wanted to this summer.

"Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X

Hahhaha! Listen, what do you want from me? Not only did I hear this a ton, but I read a bunch of articles, and just had "Wrangler on my booty" stuck in my head all week. It's the Summer's champion in one of the most dominating performances of all time. Sure, we have four more weeks to play, but fuck I don't know how anyone else can do it. I threw in the "Seoul Town Road" above because I literally heard that version on the radio for some reason. It's amazing. Yeehaw.

Next week...

Both "The London" and "Money in the Grave" were near-misses this week. I left out "I Don't Care" and "Hey Look Ma, I made it!" and "High Hopes" because all those songs are really, really annoying. They also just didn't seem to capture the moment this week. I love how Lil Nas X can't sing. He's really just good at TikTok. See you next week!

02 August 2019

Rambo: Ass Blood

Okay, okay - stay with me here. I saw Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019) and those impressions are probably coming soon, but one thing that really stuck with me was the trailer for Rambo: Last Blood (2019). Yeah, it looks terrible, but it got me thinking about stuff. Like, a lot of stuff, so here it is, Internet. Your first non-Pop music post all month. First, let's watch that again:

Trailer I guess has been out for a few months, but I haven't really caught it. For some reason it didn't seem to have a lot of buzz. I think that's wholly to do with what we're writing about today. John Rambo and Sly Stallone have fallen down that slippery hole of Old White Men Action Wish Fulfillment Fantasy Movies. Have you not heard of this trope? Well, let's say hi to our friend and originator of this whole deal, Nicholas Cage.

I first noticed The Cage dipping around Ghost Rider and NEXT in 2007. But that's really not that outrageous. Superhero movies were very much a thing and NEXT isn't all that ridiculous for where he was in his career.

But then suddenly Bangkok Dangerous (2008) turned into Knowing (2009) and Drive Angry (2011). The Cage descended into the realm of Netflix Streaming with one-word titles. Stolen (2012). Rage (2014). Arsenal (2017). The Trust (2016). The Trust is actually pretty good. In between he still had a handful of challenging, offbeat roles in Joe (2014), Army of One (2016), and Mandy (2018), but since then has churned out Outcast (2015), Pay the Ghost (2015), The Runner (2015), Between Worlds (2018), A Score to Settle (2019), Before Death (2019), and Against the Odds (2019). Those last two aren't even real.

A lot of these films have a similar theme. They're relatively cheap, Direct-to-DVD (or Direct-to-Streaming) films about a vengeful broken old white man avenging something. Probably a daughter. Cage is weird enough as an actor that some of these movies rise above the script and are watchable. Still, it felt like the start of a weird trend. Older actors, struggling to find relevance in their careers have increasingly turned to churning out this trash. And none are quite like Liam Neeson.

It started innocently enough. I even made a bit post about how Zeus dreamed he was Liam Neeson at night. It was all good and fun, but that was now seven years ago. He hasn't really turned back since. In fact, it seems like his real-life persona has doubled down on this insanity. A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014) is actually awesome, but certainly fits the mold of world-wearied white man avenging the women he's lost in his life. Again, there is a descent here. Taken 3 (2015), Run All Night (2015), The Commuter (2018), and Cold Pursuit (2019) all fit into this realm. I was actually pretty pumped for Cold Pursuit, because the trailer is bonkers and I have no idea what tone they're going for.

It's almost at the point of self-parody, except that it takes itself too seriously to ever dip into a true parody of the genre, which would in itself be somewhat inspired brilliance. Liam Neeson has proven to be a trailblazer for older dramatic actors finding renewed relevance. Enter John Cusack.

John Cusack. What the fuck, John Cusack. In a post-Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) world he has somehow become a Direct-to-VOD icon. Drive Hard (2014), The Prince (2014), Reclaim (2014), Arsenal (again!), Blood Money(2017), Singularity (2017). It's wish-fulfillment that Cusack fans can envision themselves reclaiming (no pun intended) some of their old world, prove their relevance, and rescue some daughters.

This doesn't stop here. Bruce Willis is killing VOD. Now, this is a man of action credentials, one of the biggest stars in the world. Why is he appearing in Extraction (2015), Marauders (2016), and Reprisal (2018). At this point, I would also like to say that if you've seen or even heard of any of these movies, I'm very impressed with you. I consider Willis among that Expendables "Big Three" that has a franchise to fall back on. For Bruce, it was Die Hard for a long time, but maybe even with A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) he realised he was sullying the good name and legacy of the franchise?

Sly Stallone seems to have no fear of this. He's more than happy to return to the Rambo or Rocky universes, although when he did the latter in Creed (2015) it was so artful and natural that he probably should have earned an Academy Award. That's high standards. But he also has his share of trash lately. Is Escape Plan becoming a franchise? There's a third one due out this year for some reason. Other than that he has Backtrace (2018) and Bullet to the Head (2012). Not too bad of a trash resume. You know, beyond the VOD Escape Plan movies he's making once a year for some reason.

Then there's Arnold. He's actually one person who stands out as different from all this. This video actually describes his rise and current career pretty well. I kind of think back to Last Action Hero (1993) as a sign that Schwarzenegger was always actually pretty canny about all this nonsense. He remains elevated by sticking to theatrically released movies, without descending into too much revenge fantasy. His return to the movies have been punctured with Sabotage (2014) and Aftermath (2017), but also Killing Gunther (2017) and Maggie (2015). None are very good, but at least weird and interesting.

He does keep going back to the Terminator well for some reason. That movie is just on another level blockbuster-wise than Rocky or Die Hard, though. There's just a more world-shaking stakes involved. Of course, there hasn't really been a good Terminator movie in over twenty years, but for some reason that franchise still has some goodwill. Well, maybe not after Genysis (2015). I can't see Dark Fate (2019) doing...well anything.

If we look at other old white actors who peaked in the 90s it's crazy how everyone has pretty much relied on their one franchise to now make in perpetuity. Tom Cruise settled on Mission: Impossible. Harrison Ford is turning out for new Indiana Jones and Star Wars, although the latter certainly doesn't revolve around his involvement. Keanu Reeves is the only one to say, "Screw that, I'm John Wick now!" and has made an iconic recurring role for himself deep in his 50s.

Since he has a movie coming out this weekend, let's take time to dive into this "Old White Actors Save Young Daughters" trope a little more with a movie that best epitomizes this concept: Jason Statham's Homefront (2013). This is a movie made explicitly to exploit middle white male American fears of losing control over what they've had control of for so very long: every aspect of their families lives and in many ways, the actual entire world itself. It's nice to go to these movies and see cranky fathers relevant and useful again, instead of some scary Latin American transsexual. Actually, I really want to see a Latin Transsexual action movie now.

There are quite a few more examples out there. Dolph Lundgren cranks them out. Frank Grillo gets into it. Check out Ethan Hawke in 24 Hours to Live (2017) or Antonio Banderas in Security (2017). This was just me scrolling through Netflix for two minutes. And I don't mean to totally trash direct-to-VOD movies. I saw Triple Frontier (2019) earlier this year and dug it. Sometimes the movies elevate beyond their sources. But I also think that the onslaught of cheap, emotionally exploitative White Man protection fantasies is distinctly correlated to our political climate. And not just Trumpism, but the underrated massive culture wars we're experiencing right now. It's tough to fight for your place in society, but it's got to be fun to watch John Cusack shoot some black drug dealers who kidnapped his daughter.

This brings us back to Rambo: Last Blood. It saddens me that Sly doesn't even seem to realize the satirical element and raw PTSD emotions of First Blood (1982). Rambo is now no better than anyone in Arsenal or The Prince. Oh well.

What do you think? Am I crazy or is this a disturbing trend? What kind of films will Chris Hemsworth be making in thirty years?

29 July 2019

Summer Jam 2019 Week 12: Into the Depths of Hell!

Did we really just go four weeks with no posts other than Summer Jams? The Lion King (2019) and Spider-Man: From from Gnomes (2019) came out, you know! Well, whatever. The real summer dish is the Top Eight songs of the Week - oh yeah! We're at a bit of a loss this week. Not too much action. So we threw in a bunch of weird shit.

Hot Jam of the Week: "Tempo" by Lizzo ft. Missy Elliot

There was definitely no other contender this week. "Truth Hurts" is still doing solid and Cuz I Love You is proving to be one banger of an album. It's a stealth mellow track and bringing Missy on to give her blessing is an inspired move. I'm not sure this is as catchy as "Truth Hurts" but it feels like a tight jam.

"The Archer" by Taylor Swift

Alright, I totally dismissed this track, but then in a YouTube binge of watching the final battle in Avengers: Endgame (2019) for like the 14 millionth time this summer, actually put this on in the background and it fit so damn well. There's a nice slow steady rise here that sounds like a Robyn song or something. It's kind of awesome. I don't think it's summer jam spunk, but I dig it.

"Wow." by Post Malone

Still good. I just caught this this week again and was like, damn this beat is fly as hell. I really like how it progresses and when it gets into that bit about Dak Prescott I'm gone. It's fun as hell, danceable, clubable, barbequeable. It's everything a summer jam should be. It hasn't quite ever reached ubiquity, but should get points for longevity. I might even call it Post Malone's best track, by far his best beat at least.

"Sweet but Psycho" by Ava Max

 I meant to throw this on earlier because it's still kind of a thing. Maybe not the biggest this week, but it needs to earn a few more Summer Points. I like it, it's engrossing and totally innocuous at the same time. I find myself still bopping a little bit when it's on, and that's good enough to make a good stake at Summer Jam-ness.

"I Don't Care" by Biebs and Sheers

This is back and actually producing a damned good run for what is now going to be second place this summer. I really don't care for it that much. I'm in a weird zone where I enjoy Bieber more than Ed Sheeran, which is weird. It's not really that good of a track, but is clocking the hours for sure this summer.

"Old Town Road" by BTS

Okay, okay, okay - I've been waiting all week for this. Sylvester Stallone. Rambo: Last Blood (2019). I guess this trailer came out a while ago, but no one cared because it's Rambo like ten years after it was already far too late for Rambo to be back. But "Old Town Road"? Really? REALLY? Like, the most memed song ever? In what has turned into the most self-serious movie franchise ever? I don't understand the reasoning here, but damn kudos for whatever marketing exec thought this was a good idea. The movie itself hasn't been memed enough because it's basically the end of the Internet.

"Truth Hurts" by Lizzo

It's amazing that we reached an all-Lizzo countdown in just a few years. But "Truth Hurts" is still fire and a damned fun jam to rock out to this summer. It's made a good name for itself and has five weeks to keep surging in a vain attempt to threaten "Old Town Road." It won't happen, but this is still fun.

"Senorita" by Camila and Shawn

I heard this a ton this week and it's sultry, sexy, smokey, summer salsa fun! Yeah! It's not actually all that high on the charts or dominating, and I apparently like Camila Cabello on a much higher average than the rest of America, but whatever. It's still a wonderful Summer Jam and has remained fresh to mine ears. We'll see if it can repeat this for a minute.

Next week...

There were a lot of new NF songs dropped this week...and I was disappointed to find out that they all sound exactly the fucking same. Oh well. I'm curious about "The London" or "Bad Guy" or "Talk" or any of these jams floating around the periphery, but none seem to be able to crack "Old Town Road." I didn't even mention its hot new BTS remix. It's so good. It's an endlessly remixable and remashable jam. It will never die!

22 July 2019

Summer Jam 2019 Week 11: Summer Beatwave!

What better way to beat the summer heat than with cool cool beats! Yeah bro! The earth is boiling itself - because of people! Whoops! It's time to lay back by the pool and let the apocalypse run its course. We've got cold brews and plenty of watermelon to complement our sexy summer songs.

Hot Jam of the Week: "Gravy Train" by Yung Gravy

I can't really tell if Yung Gravy is a real rapper or a Lil Dicky Rapper. He looks like a cool Ed Sheeran. Still, this song is fire and strikes a nice middle ground between joke and real. The Maxine Nightingale sample is a great addition and fits really well.

"The London" by Young Thug ft. Travis Scott & J. Cole

"The London" has been super underrated this summer. It's a legit track and has gotten decent hip-hop radio and spotify airplay, but has eluded mainstream attention. It popped back on my radar this week and deserves another shout-out. It's a very smooth track featuring a trio of rap stars ready to explode on the scene. I'm all about it.

"Rodeo" by Lil Nas X ft. Cardi B

I actually like "Rodeo" a lot more than "Old Town Road." I was singing it all week to myself. It's super catchy and you can just shout it out wherever. This Travis Scott remix is also as hot as my driveway is right now. Lil Nas X has released a ton of other tracks that all kind of suck, and I think "Panini" out of the crop may be the most notable? Whatever, I'm team "Rodeo" from here on out.

"Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X

This song won't die. Not only is everyone still talking about it, but the remix got the most zeitgeist-y animated video ever this week (linked above). It may star Thanos, but this bitch is a Juggernaut. It's as if it's life is just getting started. Lil Nas X may not actually be able to sing or even produce a beat, but damn he knew exactly how to make the most memeable song ever. Will the future of music just be memes? It's very likely. But it's also tough to do.

"Truth Hurts" by Lizzo

This may be the best first bar of any song ever. That's definitely not true, but it's still hella cool. I wish Lizzo a great career - this is a truly great first song to truly break out. Down a little bit from last week but still a real fun track. It ought to definitely stick around for quite a bit here and is starting to feel very Summer 2019.

"Señorita" by Camila Cambello & Shawn Mendes

Folks were chatting me up about this this week as well. It's rocking a lot of streams and still feels very fresh, even if it doesn't seem to be reaching true ubiquity yet. I still think this could do some serious damage this summer, but time may be out for all but gay black cowboys this year.

"You Need to Calm Down" by Taylor Swift

I've already ranted quite a bit about my issues with this song. The first third seems like it's about personal Taylor Swift haters, then it morphs into a gay rights anthem that warmly co-opts the movement's messages to support Swift's own agenda. It is pretty catchy, though. I'm sure CATS (2019) will be great.

"I Don't Care" by Bieber Sheeran

Ugh this song blows. But I heard it three times in a row so here we are. It's not very good in anyway. People like it, fine. By this point it has amassed a solid amount of appearances here and although I wouldn't want it to emerge victorious this summer, it's putting together a plausible campaign to challenge "Old Town Road." We'll see how it shakes out.

Next week...

I wanted to find room for "The Git Up" again, but it just barely missed out. "Talk", "Dancing with a Stranger", and "Wow" all also found themselves on the floor this week, but are worthy of mention and all strong Summer Jam candidates at this point. We'll see how we flex next week!

15 July 2019

Summer Jam 2019 Week 10: The Heart of Summer

Ah the post-Independence Day Summer Jam Post. Truly the Heart of Summer. But with these songs, more like the FART of Summer! We're trying. It's all good fun. There are a slew of hot jams to crank out while going to the beach, watching cool Uber-related movies, making out at camp, and causing a general ruckus. Let's press that plus button to turn the volume UP!

Hot Jam of the Week: "DOLLAR" by Becky G, Myke Towers

I was hammered drunk when I found this song and despite understanding no lyrics I definitely got down. Not sure if it will get any English-radio traction, but hey, "Despacito." This is infectious, not nearly "Despacito" levels, but is still a fun jam for the spicy scorcher days of Summer. I didn't even know Becky G was Spanish.

"Cross Me" by Ed Sheeran ft. Chance the Rapper & PnB Rock

Ed Sheeran is actually having a lot of hits this summer. I really dislike Ed Sheeran. Is he a jokester? A mellow man? A crossover hip-hop artist? Is he cool? Why is he running around with Travis Scott and on Game of Thrones and shit. He's a ginger enigma. This song is cool, though. It doesn't really make any sense lyrically - like shouldn't it be obvious if someone crosses your girl that's also crossing you? That's apparently not automatic. I did Chance's bars here, though. It's an older song but I heard it a bunch this week and still like it.

"Wow" by Post Malone

Another oldie, same as "Cross Me" this just seemed to infect my brain this week. This has the sickest beat and flow of the year, though. So sick I can't get sick of it. It's a tubthumper dance, groovy car jam, and has a lot going for it. Despite at this it hasn't quite broken out to the top of the charts or anything. "Old Town Road" is a behemoth.

"Señorita" by Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello

This is another earworm song whose reign I think is just beginning. I gave Camila Summer Jam 2018 honors by a hair last year, and she could rise again with this jam. It's a charming, disarming, alarming romantic jam that soothes its way into our variable hearts. I dig it. We're very Spanish this week. Like a whole bunch of this great nation we call America. I mean this in a positive way but sense a controversy there somehow.

"I Don't Care" by Ed Sheeran & Bieber

This song won't quite go away, and that's just fine. Fine. It's kind of annoying, but not so much that it's totally irritating. I could just take it or leave it. By now it's made a nice Summer Jam name for itself and doesn't appear like it's going away. If it could continue to be present and rise up it might make a run for the Crown here.

"The Git Up" by Blanco Brown

"Old Town Road" hold my beer. Blanco Brown is fusing hip-hop and country even further, in a track that really sounds more latter than former. It's basically a line dance set to a beat, but since the artist is black it's a rap song, right? Oh, I can tell that it's country, because it's super irritating to my own precious ears. Still, it's fresh, popular, fun, and easy to listen to. "The Git Up" could become a thing.

"Talk" by Khalid

Yep, "Talk" was a thing again this week. By this point it's staying around quite a bit, although some weeks it hasn't quite been a presence. I feel like I heard it every day this week. It should be able to make it with at least one more round at the Top. Or never again. It seems like it's that kind of song.

"Truth Hurts" by Lizzo

After all my hesitation about this song because it's old af, there was nothing like "Truth Hurts" this week. The flow is so damn good and it really sounds like only its own thing. I will truly think of Lizzo in mid-July 2019 and that's what this list is all about. I feel embarrassed I ignored it for weeks this summer, but it's just undoubtedly a Summer Queen Contender right now. It's engaging enough that even if it slips from the #1 spot it ought to stay on this list for a while yet.

Next week...

I narrowly left off "You Need To Calm Down" and "Bad Guy" this week. Both are still hammer-wielding worthy. "Old Town Road" also got a new popular remix this week, but it kind of sucks so I left it at home for what might have been the first time this summer. At this point it's like "Old Town Road" is notable for being "Old Town Road" and its notoriety will keep it going. But I do think we've crested that ridge and there is finally room for some other jams to climb out and assert their case for Summer Jam Champion!

08 July 2019

Summer Jam 2019 Week 9

We've rounded the fourth of July and now in front of us is so much unencumbered, pure summer that I could just fall to my knees and cry. Warm weather, shaky rocks, and plenty of pools from here on out! There are a slew of jams as well - let's take a listen to what was hot during America Week 2019!

Hot Jam of the Week: "Mother's Daughter" by Miley Cyrus

Not to be outdone by her dad this summer, Miley scores one for the moms in this pop ballad. Sort of. It is a sign of her growing maturity that it's not totally about just getting wrecked, but it still is in a way, but there is a bit more subtlety here than usual. I will always contend the artistic merit of Miley Cyrus and get excited about any new music she cranks out. This is ultimately an okay track, I don't think it'll totally catch on, but fine for now.

"Happy Days" by Blink 182

Hey! Is it 1999? No, but Blink 182 has a new song! Mark Hoppus still can't sing, but this really does sound like vintage Blink. Is this music even popular anymore? It is punk-pop, which should have even more appeal now than before. But does an old man singing about youthful platitudes have any real weight? No, and neither should you.

"Money in the Grave" by Drake ft. Rick Ross

Drake gets another hit this week because this track is growing on me, although not nearly as catchy as anything he did last year. It's an engaging yet simplistic beat, Drake's flow is always solid, and singing about money is fun. Just ask Ariana. Is this a statement about the estate tax? Anti-bank? I don't know, who cares.

"Truth Hurts" by Lizzo

Yep, this song still earwormed itself into my brain this week, and despite it being pretty old, feels fresh enough that it could stick around for a while. It's got legs for days! It sounds very new and exciting and I dig a lot of what Lizzo is producing these days.

"I Don't Care" by Bieber and Sheeran

At this point, this jam has certainly made its presence known. It's been represented here pretty consistently, although never all that high. It's easy listening enough that it could last for quite a while longer. As "Old Town Road" fades, could it play the role as usurper? We'll be waiting! Probably not.

"Señorita" by Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello

Camila had a great year last year, but hasn't had much so far in 2019. That could change with this jam, which is sexy, spicy, and wonderful. It's definitely more a spot for Camila rather than Shawn to shine, but pretty good nonetheless. It had a great debut, enough that it could also threaten as "Old Town Road" starts dropping. We'll see if Camila can make another run at this.

"You Need to Calm Down" by Taylor Swift

It's pretty clear that this song is kind of weird and annoying, but I also wonder how much of that is weird Taylor Swift hate for no reason. It comes off as both self-serving and positioning itself at an unearned forefront of the Gay Rights Movement. Anyway, the song itself is pretty fun and the flow is summer enough that it'll keep being popular. Can it unseat "Old Town Road"? We have some pretty solid contenders at this point, as you can tell.

"Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray

So I was doubting this a little, then Lil Nas X apparently came out, and I couldn't ignore this Gay Black Cowboy at the tail end of Pride Month. There's still some juice left in here and as the biggest song in America during Independence Day it's earned a spot here. Any other song would be very hard-pressed to upset this jam at this point. We haven't had a clear Summer Jam winner like this in many years. Then again, we do have eight more weeks, so things could happen. Stay tuned!

Next week...

I left off Billie Eilish, but she's still a thing. There were other random jams dropped this week. I kind of liked the new Slick Rick song, and then another by Asian rap group Loonies, but they really just weren't sticky enough to catch my ear and earn a spot. I think our contenders are set really well and it'll come down to whether or not "Old Town Road" fades and someone else takes their spot. Come back next week!

02 July 2019

Celebrate Midsummer with Spider-Man

And Midsommar (2019)! Last year Ari Aster showed us new levels of terror and emotionally draining depression with Hereditary. Now it's time to him to take a light romp through the weird Swedish summer festivals. Oh, and also a new Spider-Man movie.

I'm actually pretty excited for both of these. Aster is an exciting young director who is already building a cult following. The sophomore picture will really determine whether he becomes a Yorgos or an M. Night. Either way, this should come full circle and he'll be able to direct a Marvel movie soon.

Def more crowd pleasing than Spider-Man
Everything about Midsommar looks like classic Wicker Man stuff ('73 or '06, take your pick. TOTALLY EQUAL FILMS). Pagan holiday, the veneer of family festivals masking the darkness within. It's apparently got a handful of comedic elements that you'd have to be totally insane to laugh at. Since this is an Ari Aster film, you have to be totally insane to watch it to begin with, so that works pretty well.

It's hard to unpack much more than that. I do enjoy the fact that the movie is actually coming out right at the mid-summer date and should be good counter-programming for people who don't want to see animated toys or spandex swinging. Hereditary did surprisingly well, although a lot of that was more word of mouth and the simple fact that good horror is so rare people flock to see it (although it's becoming more common). You'd think that with that in his back pocket now, Midsommar would do even better, although the marketing belies a subtler, subdued horror, if horror at all. It's not quite as apparent as Hereditary, which could bank off itself, not just its director. And let's face it, there ultimately isn't Chris Nolan-level director worship for Ari Aster. Yet!

I can't really see this doing that well. There's no real big names in the cast (Will Poulter maybe?), an obscure premise, and nothing that really screams must-see horror. It's also two and a half hours long for some reason. Still, it ought to at least make its budget back. I will totally watch it, though, and you should too! We need more films that are content with being good movies that make their money back.

Then we have Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). There's a lot riding on this one. Not only is it Jon Watts' follow up to the wonderful Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), but it's coming hot off the heels of both Captain Marvel (2019) and Avengers: Endgame (2019). Dropping three movies in four months is audacious on Disney's part, but they've all been crowd-pleasing so it works so far.

Will it be minnows, guppies, or the classic goldfish?
While Endgame gave us all kinds of catharsis and finality, that very finality left a few doors open for our newer Avengers to deal with - one of the biggest being Spider-Man's relationship with Tony Stark. No one really seems to care that it has no basis in the comics, which once again goes to show that you can actually change whatever you want from the source material as long as the end movie turns out good. And after a string of really terrible Spider-Man movies, Homecoming was a great, clever addition.

Spider-Man 2 (2004) came out fifteen years ago this past Sunday (a date forever burned in my brain - I watched it twice on opening day) and for better or worse I've internally canonized it as the greatest superhero film ever. An underrated element to all this is that Spider-Man has so many bonkers villains that they have yet to use the same one twice, besides Harry Osborn. And they still haven't touched Kraven, Carnage, Stegron, or Swarm!

That's right folks, we finally get a little Mysterio. And this damn movie better end up with Mysterio being the big bad guy. He's got to, right? Him masquerading as the hero before showing how insane he is is the premise for every Mysterio story ever. Then again, as I said, if it's a good movie, no one will care. The issue right now is that I've already crafted a story in my head of Mysterio's illusions and deception that I know I'm going to be disappointed when the movie makes a left turn. Oh well.

Mysterio is one of my favorite villains. He's weird, has a big fishbowl, and can definitely manipulate the fabric of reality, which is always waved away as "Hollywood Special Effects." It makes no sense. But he's also one of the more psychologically damaging villains in Spidey's Rogue Gallery, preferring to defeat Spider-Man by convincing him he has no powers or to trick Wolverine into killing the X-Men. Old Man Logan really elevated Mysterio in to the A-level.

So Jake Gyllenhaal  has a lot to live up to. We'll see. Still waiting on some kind of Sinister Six move, which at this point will truly never happen. Rumours abound of Venom making the jump to the MCU. Why does everyone except fans hate Venom? Let's take him, Vulture, Mysterio, Shocker, Scorpion, and then add an MCU Doctor Octopus to round out the team. You got your dumbass B-listers Shocker and Scorpion for Spidey to beat early on, Venom can go nuts and rogue half-way, and then the rest are legit threats. Perfect. Perfect movie. Spider-Man 3: Home of the Sinister Six (2021). Put it in the bag, Feige, I've got plenty more.

So what are you watching this weekend? Padding the pocketbook of the Disney juggernaut or watching weird Pagan Summer Fest movies? Leave a comment below!

01 July 2019

Summer Jam 2019 Week 8: Say Hi to July!

Ahhh July 1st. Summer is truly finally here. Of course we've been at this for eight weeks. Nine more to go! It's hot, there's sun and bugs and shit. It's time for Summer Time Jams! We have a mix of tracks old and new this week and I've gone from doubting a track to it basically being #1 again. I'm not sure what to do, but this is probably the Summer of "Old Town Road" already. Yep.

Hot Jam of the Week: "Homicide" by Logic ft. Eminem

This song kind of sucks actually, but was interesting enough to earn some talk here. #2 on Trending yesterday, and certainly a legendary meeting of the best old white rapper and the best new white rapper. That's just it, though - this song treats itself like it's an epic meeting, but it's kind of underwhelming. Watching a version of white trash Eminem also made me thinking about how that's like the prototypical blue collar white Trump voter. It's hard to picture 90s Em voting Hillary, isn't it? There is more to discuss here, but I'm curious what his fans think these days. Welcome to the age of cognitive dissonance!

"When the Party's Over" by Billie Eilish

We finally dropped "Bad Guy" this week but aren't quite done with Eilish. This song is hella more haunting and I actually dig it a little more. It's more evidence that she really is a genre all to herself. This isn't quite an uplifting boppy Summer Song, but there's more soul here than you'll find otherwise. And it's starting to get some steady airplay. It might do something.

"Money in the Grave" by Drake ft. Rick Ross

Rick Ross isn't in enough videos. That insane man. Drake has become a pretty reliable hit-maker, although it's almost exhausting how good his music is. And by that I mean, it's a point where all his shit is good so they end up all being pretty equal, with nothing exactly standing out. Also, it's all flow matching beat instead of real lyrical sophistication. Anyway, this song is cool, but I'm not sure has the crossover pop appeal of anything he made in 2018, which was a crazy Drake Summer.

"Cool" by Jonas Brothers

Once again, another middling appearance, but good enough to make the list. This track is still attractive to my earballs and even though "Sucker" is maybe a little more popular, I dig this a little more. Contrast this jam's summer-ness with Billie Eilish and there's a huge discrepancy. If I may editorialize, which I surely never do, that's also exactly what has made Eilish take off. Don't knock studio-manufactured pop, though. This is fun and catchy, and that's tough to pull off.

"Truth Hurts" by Lizzo

I've been listening to Lizzo for a while, and even though this track is pretty old, it's just catching on now. Her whole album is pretty listenable and despite its age, I couldn't ignore this anymore. It's really fresh, got a fun flow, and heralding a new spicy voice in pop! I think this will keep moving up as more folks catch on.

"Glad He's Gone" by Tove Lo

This jam also got a music video recently and was again crazily stuck in my head. Paying attention to the lyrics this song is actually brutal in all the right ways. It makes me feel sad and glad and stunned and happy all at once. Basically perfect. And no, it's not actually all that popular at all. But, we've never exactly cared about that.

"I Don't Care" by Bieber and Sheeran

Soaring in popularity this week and the only reason it comes back is these two. I heard this jam a ton this week. It's clearly not going away yet, although its streaming isn't all that great. The video is weird. It reminds me of when Katy Perry just tried to make a meme video with "Swish Swish" a few years back, but it just came off as a Grandpa trying to be one of the cool kids again. I also truly cannot tell who is singing when here. Whatever, it's #2 this week.

"Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray

Yep. Again. I actually really thought this was done. But I've been reading articles and streaming and Billboard and YouTube recommendations and it's just not finished. There's no other song that is invading so much of life right now and it just needed this spot again. This has hardly been on the list not at #1. We do still have a lot of summer left, but it'll be hard for anyone to catch up. But that's kind of the point, right? Like, when Bieber and Sheeran are trying so hard to make memes, Lil Nas X just does it. Classic.

Next week...

Speaking of Katy Perry, she's on the periphery again, as she seems to always be these days. It is not 2010. I also very nearly included Cardi B's "Press" which I have many thoughts about. It's thematically very solid, although I think in reality her nudity distracts from her actual message. I also still don't quite believe her. Like, the point of this video is to obviously generate more press. Whatever. It's controversial enough that it might sneak in. Or maybe even naked Cardi is just white noise at this point. New Black Keys this week but no one cares. Stay tuned, folks! Summer! Yippee!
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