Reviews for Normal People

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2014 Recap: Best Performances — December 31, 2014

2014 Recap: Best Performances

Well, 2014 has finally come to an end, and I have to say, it was a pretty good year. For me at least. But with the year over, I’ll be putting out a way-too-long series of articles recapping the year. First off, the best performances. These are performances in movies this year that really stood out and spoke to me. They won’t be in any particular order. Let’s begin with:

1. Zac Efron as Teddy, Neighbors

daaaaamn

Now, if Zac Efron had been an accomplished actor already, and this had been just another in his string of successes, this role might not have been all that impressive. But… this is Zac Efron we’re talking about here. The star of High School Musical and That Awkward Moment. I don’t think anyone expected Neighbors to be a good film, let alone for Efron to be one of the standout performances of the year, but we really need to face the fact that Seth Rogen is a good filmmaker. Why are we always so surprised when he makes a good movie? Why do we hold his movies to such scrutiny, as though we’re begging not to like them? He’s innovative. He’s hilarious. He’s risky. Deal with it. And like many of the risks he’s taken, casting Zac Efron in this role was a great decision.

2. Everyone, Birdman

Oh man, where to begin? This is the best ensemble cast I can recall. Everyone brings their A game. Special props to Michael Keaton and Emma Stone, but I really have to acknowledge everyone in this amazing cast. The script is kind of heavy handed at times, but these guys just nail it. There’s not a dull moment in this movie. Everyone is so lively that it never loses your focus.

3. Chris Pine as Rex, Horrible Bosses 2

daaaaaaaaaamn

This is another choice that to an extent is based on the actor rather than the performance. Everyone in HB2 performed admirably, and any one of them could have been on this list, but Chris Pine isn’t exactly known for his acting chops. He’s known for being… OK. Serviceable. So his performance in this movie really blew me away. He’s so charismatic and detached from reality. You watch him slam his own head into a desk and you don’t see Chris Pine. You see a man who is unstable, a man who is truly unwell. And he brings so much energy to that role that it’s astounding.

4. Ralph Fiennes as M. Gustave, The Grand Budapest Hotel

This is the movie that made me realize how much I like Ralph Fiennes as an actor. He did a great job in the likes of Harry Potter and Schindler’s List, but I never really paid attention to him. Wes Anderson has a knack for making movies with one single standout performance, and while this was another exceptionally well-performed movie, Fiennes really held his own among the impressive cast. Bonus props to Tony Revolori and F. Murray Abraham, who also did a very good job.

5. Michael Rooker as Yondu, Guardians of the Galaxy

I’m actually surprised that no one ever talks about this guy. He was easily my favorite part of the movie, and this was the most likable movie of the year, so that’s really saying something. Before this, Rooker was best known as Merle on The Walking Dead, and of course for his pivotal role in the 1993 classic Cliffhanger, directed by Renny Harlin, but I’d never heard of him until this movie, and now I’m kind of excited to see more of him. Yondu, let’s face it, is an extremely boring character, and I’m very pleasantly surprised with the way James Gunn went with him in the movie. Good on you, fellas.

6. Toby Kebbell as Koba, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I’m sure a lot of people were expecting Andy Serkis to be on this list, but…. nah.

7. Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and Jamie Foxx as Peter Parker, Gwen Stacy, and Electro, The Amazing Spider-Man 2

double daaaaaaaaaamn

Now, don’t get me wrong. This movie has a lot of problems. But one of the many things that I didn’t think was a problem was the cast. Specifically, these three. Garfield embodies the soul of Spider-Man better than any other actor I can think of could. Stone and Garfield have amazing chemistry, Stone has easily become my favorite actress, and although Jamie Foxx was essentially playing Jim Carrey’s Riddler, he did an excellent job of it (better than Jim Carrey, I’d say).

8. Andre 3000 as Jimi Hendrix, All Is by My Side

Some say this movie is uneven and lacks power. And while I do agree with that to a degree, you must admit: Andre 3000 was Jimi Hendrix. It was really just uncanny. I don’t even have very much to say about it. I know a lot of people haven’t seen this movie yet, but it’s worth it for 3000’s performance alone.

Much more to come in the way of 2014 recaps, but until then, like this post if you like it, follow me if you follow me, you can also follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and as always…

liek dis if u c ry evyertim.

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Review: Shaun of the Interview — December 24, 2014

Review: Shaun of the Interview

People don’t give Seth Rogen enough credit. He’s actually had a pretty good streak of challenging, thought-provoking comedies like This is the End and Superbad. Not to mention that he seems to be a pretty solid director. So it makes me wonder why I’ve seen so many posts on Tumblr and the like asking, what was Seth Rogen thinking? Usually they describe The Interview as a comedy, usually putting adjectives like “dumb,” “wacky,” and yes, “shitty,” before it. But if you really think about it, Seth Rogen is an innovative and dangerous filmmaker. All of his movies are so distinct and yet you can always tell it’s a Seth Rogen movie. And nine times out of ten, they’re really good.

Case in point: The Interview. The film that Kim Jong Un himself called a “wanton act of terror.” And while the movie certainly does take quite a few jabs at Un personally, eventually having him die in a helicopter explosion, the film actually wisely chooses to stay away from mocking the tragedies that befall the North Korean people, handing the topic with surprising delicacy and making Kim Jong Un the butt of the joke (literally) without trivializing the importance of the issue.

It’s like what I’ve always said about rape jokes. Have I ever heard a rape joke I found funny? No. Have I ever made a rape joke? No. But I do believe it’s possible, should it be told in a way that makes the rapist the bad guy and doesn’t trivialize the weight of their actions, to make a rape joke funny. And that’s how I feel about this movie. It’s a tastefully-done rape joke. You have all the right to be offended by it, but given the subject matter, they couldn’t have done it much better.

Rogen and his partner-in-crime Evan Goldberg wisely decided to go for a more non sequitur sense of humor for this movie, with jokes ranging from Seth Rogen having his fingers bitten off to Eminem coming out as homosexual. Now, Rogen isn’t exactly known for his subtlety, but this film does have some suspense and surprises that add to the spy thriller aspect of the movie.

I feel like I should bring up the real stars of the movie: James Franco and Randall Park (by the way, kudos on getting a Korean guy to play Un, which is something a lot of movies fail to do when casting Asian roles). Park does an excellent job portraying Un about how the general US public sees him: an unstable, insecure man with some unresolved daddy issues and a love for basketball. I was expecting at least one terribly racist moment, so I guess the movie sort of surprised me in that respect. Park also displays some serious acting chops, especially in the climax, though I wouldn’t want to give too much away.

When the movie did that MTV special before the VMA’s earlier this year, the main problem people noticed was that Franco didn’t have much of a character to work with. Dave Skylark was just kind of, a guy. He made some inappropriate comments and pissed off some celebrities, but he didn’t really stick out, and it felt like they were trying to make him stick out through various gimmicks. But Franco really does hold his own in this movie, and his eccentric, full-of-himself, easily-swayed character turns out to be a lot more unique and memorable than anyone expected.

Overall, I’ll have to give this movie an A-. It was funny, fast-paced, action-packed, and not nearly as insensitive as I expected. Like this review if you like this review, follow me if you ain’t no punk, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and as always…

liek dis i fu c ry  evienrmt.

Music News-ic Track-by-Track: “The Pinkprint” by Nicki Minaj — December 22, 2014

Music News-ic Track-by-Track: “The Pinkprint” by Nicki Minaj

My appreciation for Nicki Minaj has grown a lot more in the past few months. This may be due in part to the subliminal messages she’s strategically placed throughout Tumblr, but I like her a lot more than I used to. I always admired her skill, but now I feel like I have a newfound respect for her as an artist. I’m not sure exactly why that is, but I can assure you it has nothing to do with her most recent hit, “Anaconda,” a barely-tolerable party rap that does manage to pack a few good turns of phrase in there, but doesn’t salvage itself. But, her new album, “The Pinkprint,” just leaked, and I feel a bit of an obligation to review it. Let’s start with the first track.

1. ALL THINGS GO

The album begins with a more somber, reflective song than what Nicki’s known for. This isn’t necessarily unheard of for Nicki, but I’d say this is one of the better ones she’s had. The lyrics skip the double-take puns in favor of more complex rhymes, and while the song is a bit too slow and not all that memorable, it’s a pretty good intro. B+.

2. I LIED

This one kind of sucks, to be honest. Nicki says it’s based on a true story, but it doesn’t seem to have very much of a story to it. It’s also definitely too slow, and the beat courtesy of Mike WiLL Made It is annoying at best. C-.

3. THE CRYING GAME

You know, I was kind of expecting this to be a more energetic album. I don’t know, maybe it was the title hearkening back to Jay-Z’s groundbreaking album The Blueprint, but I really wasn’t expecting such a slow, sullen album. The song certainly isn’t awful, and there’s some passion in the lyrics, but it’s really just not at all memorable and not nearly as deep as it thinks it is, once again. B-.

4. GET ON YOUR KNEES

Alright, this one’s a little better. A seductive ballad featuring Ariana Grande, this one is definitely the most energetic song I’ve heard so far. The only issue is that Ariana Grande’s part sounds exactly like “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry. And this song was written by Katy Perry. And Dr. Luke. Well, Nicki’s verses are pretty good, I guess. B-.

5. FEELING MYSELF

That’s what I’m talking about. Following the tremendous success of “***Flawless,” Beyonce and Nicki Minaj get back together with this banger backed by Hit-Boy’s menacing beat work. Things kind of start to fall apart towards the middle of the last verse, but this is definitely a solid track that I could definitely see getting some radio play. A-.

6. ONLY

Oh boy. I was actually going to do a video review of this (yes, I have a youtube channel. I’ll show you it when the time is right), but I ultimately procrastinated on it for too long and the song fell from popularity. At any rate, this is a song that has a LOT to talk about. Let’s start with the most well-known aspect of it: the lyric video. This video became a source of major controversy for its blatant Nazi symbolism as a bizarre power metaphor. And as a pansexual of Jewish heritage, it seems fitting that I voice my opinion on the video in question:

I don’t give two shits. I don’t think there was any ill intent behind it and I honestly can’t be bothered to worry about everything that uses Nazi symbolism. Now, the actual video I kind of hate. Well, not necessarily hate. I do like how it turns the tables on the standard modern rap video by objectifying men and having the female lead dominate them. The only problem is that aside from that, it’s just a standard rap video. The production is boring and the whole sexual vibe of the video is pretty unnecessary.

But the song itself is perhaps the most interesting part. Let’s begin with Nicki’s verse. Now, this has so far been a very introspective album for Nicki, and the title “Only” could suggest any number of things. Let’s see what direction they take it in.

“I never fucked Wayne, I never fucked Drake”

Ohhhhhhhh. After all those years of purposely spreading rumors about yourselves and then adamantly denying them and then going right back to spreading them, I thought that you had actually fucked Drake. Alright, got it. Well, I guess we know what this song’s about now.

The rest of Nicki’s verse is essentially a brag rap that goes back and forth between terrible puns and good puns. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Chris Brown’s chorus is… inoffensive. Kind of forgettable and perhaps a bit too long, but certainly inoffensive. I think the worst part of the song for me was Drake’s verse, which lacked the lyrical dexterity of the other two and spent half the verse telling a weird story about Drake staring at Nicki’s breasts before devolving into a jumbled mess of brags with no audible flow.

Which brings us to Lil Wayne’s verse. I’ve been… less than enthusiastic about Lil Wayne’s recent work, but I have to say, this is actually a pretty decent verse. It’s certainly not Weezy’s best, but it incorporates some of his trademark wordplay and also has a really good flow. So, I give this song a solid B+.

7. WANT SOME MORE

Here’s another brag rap (am I listening to the wrong album?), this one featuring Jeremih. Jeremih’s chorus isn’t awful, but if I could sum the whole song up in one word, it would be: ANNOYING. This song is annoying. And the worst part is, some things about it are really good. About half of Nicki’s part is solid. In fact, these are easily the fastest verses I’ve ever heard from her. But for the rest of it, she does that thing where she draws out the last word of a line for like, ten seconds. Also, some of the lyrics are pretty wack, and she has some kind of vague Southern drawl…? B-.

8. FOUR DOOR AVENTADOR

All I can say about this song is, “Meh.” The verses are meh, the chorus is meh, the beat is meh, everything is meh. C+.

9. FAVORITE

Jeremih is back (finally) for another “meh” track about love. Alright, so we’re back to the emotional stuff now? This is my problem with every single Nicki Minaj album. They’re too disjointed. But I guess this isn’t an awful song. Nothing really stuck out to me, but the beat is pretty nice, and Nicki’s got a pretty good flow and some decent lyrics. Another B-, I guess.

10. BUY A HEART

Now, I’m no fan of Meek Mill(z?), but I have to say, on this song in particular, he did a much better job than Nicki. Of course, that’s more a testament to how bad Nicki’s verse is than how good Mill’s is. C-.

11. TRINI DEM GIRLS

This a cute little Trinidadian-inspired joint featuring Lunchmoney Lewis. The verses are short, though well-made, but this isn’t really meant to be some lyrically-dextrous rappity rap. The beat is nice, the chorus is catchy, and it all comes together quite well. B+.

12. ANACONDA

Like I said before, not a big fan of “Anaconda.” The beatwork is sloppy, the sample is sloppy, and the lyrics are… alright. There’s some funny lines here and there, and the flow is pretty OK. I’ve heard that this track is meant to be annoying, and if that is the case, then it’s a job well done. C.

13. THE NIGHT IS STILL YOUNG

This is another dumb party track (see what I’m talking about?) about the night still being young. There is absolutely nothing to say about it. B.

14. PILLS N POTIONS

I really don’t like this track. The title is certainly evocative, and if the rest of the song had been a metaphor comparing love to various drugs, it might have worked. But Nicki lost that train of thought immediately and ends up spitting some pretty mediocre bars about whatever came to mind. C+.

15. BED OF LIES

Oh hey, we’re back into the introspective ballads! What the fuck? That being said, this is a really solid one. Nicki’s verses are impressive, and the beat courtesy of Alex Da Kid fits the tone of the song quite nicely. Skylar Grey’s chorus is OK, but it has one hilariously heavy-handed line that I need to point out:

“Do you ever think of me when you lie, lie down in your bed, your bed of lies?”

Run that by me one more time, Skylar. Nah, but I give it an A-.

16. GRAND PIANO

Dang. This is actually a really beautiful track courtesy of producer… will.i.am? Well that’s bizarre? As the name suggests, the track features a piano beat and, later on, a violin solo. It’s actually a really touching song, and definitely one of the stand-out tracks on the album. A-.

17. BIG DADDY

Wow. Would you look at that? Meek Mill once again outshone Nicki Minaj on her own album. This time, Nicki does drop a decent verse, but none of it really sticks out, and she lacks the energy that Mill brings to his. Good on you, Meek Mill. I still won’t listen to you, but good on you. B-.

18. SHANGHAI

Alright, this is a great song. Nicki’s flow is insane, the lyrics are clever, the beat is powerful, it might be the only song on the album where just about everything works. A.

19. WIN AGAIN

Why were these bonus tracks, butBuy a Heart” and “I Lied” made the album? This song is fire. A.

20. TRUFFLE BUTTER

Like “Only,” this track features Nicki, Drake, and Weezy just going off, and like “Only,” the results are mixed. The beat is better than “Only,” and while the lyrics don’t quite match up, they’re still pretty solid. Once again, the weakest link seems to be Drake. I like Drake, but in both of these songs, he just doesn’t seem to be doing anything unique with his lyrics like Wayne and Nicki. Wayne and Nicki both drop pretty solid verses, although once again, they both did a slightly better job on “Only.” But it still gets a B+.

21. MONA LISA

I don’t even have anything to say about this one. It just sucks. D+.

22. PUT YOU IN A ROOM

Well, I guess this is a little better than “Mona Lisa.” Now we’re back into the slow, introspective tracks that don’t actually say anything. This one’s got an OK beat and some decent lyrics, I guess. C.

Overall, I give The Pinkprint a B-. It wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t really as much of a change of pace for Nicki as I was hoping it would be. Pretty standard Nicki Minaj album, but a lot of the songs are worth a listen. Like this post if you like it, follow me if you follow me, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and as always…

liek dis if uc cry eirietr

The Hobbit: Better of the Three Movies — December 18, 2014

The Hobbit: Better of the Three Movies

The Hobbit movies are considered by many to be yet another disappointment in a long and fabled line of terrible prequels. The first one isn’t that bad, but it was especially clear in the second one that Peter Jackson had lost his touch. This may be because he was never supposed to be directing these movies. He said after Return of the King that he’d never make a movie like that again, and throughout most of pre-production Guillermo Del Toro was set to direct. How awesome would that be? We may never know, because Del Toro dropped out and Peter Jackson swooced right in as the Jeff Winger-style reluctant hero of the franchise. And if you watch the behind-the-scenes stuff from the movies, you can very easily tell that he does not want to be there at all. This may explain the artificiality and lack of passion behind these prequels.

Regardless, the second installment, Desolation of Smaug, was so bad that many decided to skip the third one. After all, it’s based on the 40-page epilogue. Naturally, I played the role of the Peter Jackson-style reluctant hero and decided to see the movie so you don’t have to. And I have to say, it’s pretty good.

I don’t mean that it’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking or anything, but on a visceral level, it’s easily the most enjoyable Hobbit movie, although it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the original trilogy. I like how we’ve reached a point where, at least for a little while, The Hobbit and Star Wars are easily comparable in many ways. The prequels kinda suck, but the third one not so much. People often debate about which of the original three is best, but one is agreed upon by most (Empire/Return of the King). Can’t wait for JJ Abrams’ Silmarillion Cinematic Universe (this is genuinely a good idea).

Ah yes, the movie. I found it a bit funny and a bit disappointing that Smaug, the dragon played by Bumberditch Bumberditch, died in the first scene. THE FIRST. SCENE. This guy was in literally all of the advertisements, but we don’t even get ten minutes into the movie before he takes an arrow to the heart. Maybe there was some scheduling conflict with Bubberducky Cubism. Yes, I know it’s what happened in the book, but was Elfangeline Lilly in the book? That’s right.

Now, I haven’t really read the book, but I am aware that there are many differences between the book and the movies. That being said, it is a very fun movie. I especially admire Richard Armitage’s performance as Thorin, who’s stricken with dragon fever and has to slowly recover.

Really, there’s not a lot to say about this movie. The action is great, the special effects finally hold up to those of the original trilogy, the whole cast does a pretty solid job, and everything is wrapped up in a neat little bow as the movie ends immediately where Fellowship starts.

Overall, I’d give this movie a B. It does drag quite a bit, and still lacks the passion of the original trilogy, but it’s definitely a real improvement. And it’s the last one we’ll ever get. Until Abrams’ Silmarillion Cinematic Universe, of course. Like this post if you like it, comment if you comment it, follow if you ain’t no punk, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and as always…

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