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?
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