Reviews for Normal People

Hi. I review things.

Late Entry: Tomorrowland Deserved Better — May 31, 2015

Late Entry: Tomorrowland Deserved Better

Well, Tron 3 is cancelled. Or Tr3n, probably. In all honesty, it was probably for the best. But it’s why it was cancelled that’s worth noting. Now, this isn’t confirmed, but it’s suspected that it was called off due to the “failure” of the recently released Tomorrowland.

First of all, failure? The movie’s been out for a week and it’s already made over $100 million. While this may not be what was projected, I think it’s reaching to call it a flop. At the same time, I sort of feel like it deserves better. Because, regardless of what the critics may tell you, this movie is the witch’s dick. Which is to say, it’s good. Probably could have said that better.

Is it a perfect movie? No. There’s some noticeable plot holes (How could we have prevented a flood? Is there anyone left in Tomorrowland? If so, where were they the whole movie? If not, why is Hugh Laurie still there? And why is everything so dirty and broken down?). But look at this:

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 3.15.55 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 3.16.59 PMThat’s just unfair. If you ask me, despite its flaws Tomorrowland is visually stunning, entertaining throughout, and just… a fine movie. Not great, but not bad at all. I don’t even really have much to say about it, I just think it’s getting a bad rap for no reason. I’d give it a B. Hell, I’d give it a B+. Go see it. It deserves better. Good day.

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Music News-ic Review: Surf – Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment — May 29, 2015

Music News-ic Review: Surf – Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment

This has been a really great year for albums. Just off the top of my head, we had To Pimp a Butterfly, Cherry Bomb, The Album About Nothing, B4.Da.$$, Vulnicura, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, Carrie and Lowell, Uptown Special, Tetsuo and Youth, Wilder Mind, How Bold How Blue How Beautiful, American Beauty/American Psycho, Sour Soul, Dark Sky Paradise, Froot, and Fly International Luxurious Art. A few of these wouldn’t be out of place on a list of my favorite albums, and Tetsuo and Youth, To Pimp a Butterfly, and Cherry Bomb all made it onto a list of my top ten best albums of the past five years. So it’s with great reluctance that I say this: Surf is the best album of 2015.

It’s stripped. It’s massive. It’s familiar. It’s different. It’s hip hop. It’s jazz. It’s funk. It’s pop. It features everyone from Erykah Badu to Quavo to Busta Rhymes, and no one feels out of place. One could call the album an extension of ACIDRAP, but truth be told it’s much more of a Social Experiment album than a Chance one. There are more than a few songs, especially in the second half of the album, that don’t feature Chance at all. And that’s the beauty of it.

While the album flows perfectly and every song feels like a logical jump from the previous one, you never know exactly what to expect. It can go from old-school soul hip-hop (“Warm Enough”) to an emotional instrumental (“Nothing Came to Me”) to an inspirational ballad about being true to yourself (“Wanna Be Cool”) in the blink of an eye. But it works.

Chance says there’s about 50 people on every song on this album, and it feels that way. This is a big band album above all else, and you pick up something new every time you listen to one of its songs. When it does go into familiar territory, it does them in a new and clever way, like Chance, King Louie, and Quavo’s ode to basic bitches, “Familiar”.

I’d talk about the album’s worse tracks, but nothing really sticks out. If I had to, I might bring up “Just Wait” as a track that didn’t leave much of an impact on me, but I still remember it by name. So since I don’t have a ton to talk about, here are a few miscellaneous observations:

  • Quavo had the worst verse on the album
  • Where has B.o.B. been?
  • Great to hear from Erykah Badu again
  • I’ll have to check out Kyle and Noname Gypsy, despite her vaguely racist name. If she makes it big she’ll probably change it.
  • Chance actually had some really impressive bars on this album too, especially on “Rememory”
  • The album felt like a bit of a chore to get through, but I think that’s just because I was at school at 1:30 on a Friday
  • I feel like I’ve talked too much about Chance, since once again this isn’t really his album. Donnie Trumpet is great, Jamilla Woods is great, Nate Fox is great.
  • This album is kind of similar to To Pimp a Butterfly, which is also its closest competition for album of the year.
  • Wasn’t Busta supposed to drop E.L.E. 2 one of these days?

Overall, I give it an A+. Listen to it on SoundCloud; it’s free. Like this post if you like it, comment if you’ve got something to say, follow my blog for more disjointed stream-of-consciousness album reviews, follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and be on the lookout for reviews of Tomorrowland, Pitch Perfect 2, and probably some other stuff idk.

Mad Max: The Fast and the Feminist — May 18, 2015

Mad Max: The Fast and the Feminist

Mad Max is a franchise I never really expected to be writing about. Not because it’s bad. Quite the opposite, it’s considered by many, including me, to be one of the best trilogies of all time. They’re really fun and creative action movies. The first one, naturally titled Mad Max, held the Guinness world record for most profitable film of all time, and is one of the better post-apocalyptic road movies of the ’70s, the official decade of post-apocalyptic road movies. Its sequel, The Road Warrior, was even better, had some of the most impressive visuals and action of its time, and wouldn’t be out of place on a list of the top… let’s say 200 best movies of all time. While Beyond Thunderdome isn’t as well-received and is considered watered down relative to the previous installments, it’s still a rather enjoyable action movie on its own.

And quite frankly, they all look like garbage compared to Fury Road.

Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but it’s still most definitely the best of the four. It’s an unrelenting cacophony of madness that still manages a bold and unexpected deeper meaning. You see, Max Rockatansky, played brilliantly by Tom Hardy, isn’t really the star of the movie. The film spends more of its running time focusing on Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, who I probably should be paying closer attention to because, while I’ve always taken her for a great actor, it’s taken me this long to realize she’s one of the better actors around today. In this movie, she rescues women from the cruelty of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), tyrannical leader of a group called the War Boys what kidnapped Mad Max.

It’s two hours of nonstop action, but with enough emotion crammed in to make you really feel for the characters. And it doesn’t feel overstuffed or anything. You can grasp everything the movie has to offer even as it’s constantly throwing shit at you. I saw it in 3D, which doesn’t really add anything to the experience, and if anything distracts you from the buckets and buckets of movie taking place, but it’s a spectacle nonetheless.

Now, this is in a lot of ways a purely visceral movie, but since we’ve got time, let’s talk about some of the logic. When there’s no driver in a good car, it keeps moving forward, but when there’s no driver in a bad car, it veers wildly to the left. All the women are treated like second class citizens by Immortan Joe, except for Furiosa for some reason. Furiosa was apparently stolen from where she grew up by Joe, but… why? How? Part of Joe’s convoy is a dude who stands on top of a truck playing a guitar that shoots fire. The flamethrowing is a waste of fuel in this future where they have to travel hundreds of miles to get fuel, especially since it’s never used as a weapon. Why is he playing guitar at all? Who does that help?

With that out of the way, I give this movie an A+. It’s the best movie I’ve seen all year, probably the best movie I’ve seen since last February (The Lego Movie), maybe even longer than that. Go see it. Like this post if you like it, comment if you got sum’n to say, follow my blog if you like it like it, you can also follow me on twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and be on the lookout for upcoming reviews of Tomorrowland and Pitch Perfect 2.

Late Night Fan Theories: Slow and Steady Wins the Race — May 12, 2015

Late Night Fan Theories: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Can Marvel be stopped? Most have already accepted that the answer is no. They got people to see a movie about the Guardians of the Galaxy. They can do whatever they want.

Well, what many people forget in this discussion is that Guardians of the Galaxy was also a very good movie. Movies that don’t have that advantage don’t tend to do as well, like 2008’s The Incredible Hulk.

But still, Marvel has been successful in almost all of their ventures, and if they keep pumping out quality action movies, why would you want to stop them?

Well, there’s the problem. No matter what way you slice it, they’re not going to keep pumping out high quality action movies. The seeds of Marvel’s forthcoming demise have already been planted and soon enough, DC will eclipse them and rule the industry. For a while. And it all started with 2013’s Thor: the Dark World.

Thor 2 marks a few milestones for Marvel. It’s the first objectively bad Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. Sure, Hulk was a letdown and Iron Man 2 was disjointed and infuriatingly silly, but on repeat watches neither of them are that bad. Thor 2 is that bad. It’s boring, overly dark, cluttered, practically action-free, and incompetently directed by Alan Taylor. It also marks the first time Marvel has tried to one-up DC. The common perception is that Marvel’s films are on a level above DC, but they’re both in the business of making money, and Man of Steel made a shitload of it. The natural consequence was Marvel’s abysmal rip-off I affectionately call a movie, Thor: the Dark World. Critics panned it and while it did fetch a few hundred mil, it still didn’t see the kind of attendance that Amazing Spider-Man 2 did a year later. I also think more people liked ASM2. At least it was so bad it’s good, at least it had good special effects, good cinematography, good performances. Thor 2 is almost unwatchable.

“But Jeremy,” you say, “Marvel bounced back!” And you’re right. They put out Guardians of the Galaxy, which was great. They put out Winter Soldier, a lot of people liked that. Hell, Age of Ultron wasn’t bad at all. But there’s the problem. No one ever says Age of Ultron is a great movie, as they do with most mediocre Marvel movies. They say it’s not bad. Because we expect a backlash. Because we know it has its fair share of problems. Because we know, even though it’s bigger and faster and funnier than the first one, it still has a lot of fundamental flaws. That’s how the backlash starts.

Do you intend to see Ant-Man this July? Chances are, most of you said no, some of you said yes because you love Adam McKay, and the rest of you didn’t know it was coming out in July. I don’t think the movie is going to be bad at all, but with all the behind the scenes drama and the fact that it’s coming out two months after the last Marvel movie, most of the general public has given up on it. This could go either way. It could serve as a harrowing wake-up call to the folks at Marvel that they can’t just do whatever they want. They’ll start listening to what the fans want, accept that it couldn’t last forever, and have one last hurrah with Infinity War or some similar spectacle.

The other option is much darker. You see, we can’t really guarantee that people won’t see Ant-Man. If it’s a huge hit, then that means that Marvel can do whatever they want and if that happens, then god help us. Because Marvel’s going to start slipping, and we’re going to keep watching, because we watched fucking Ant-Man. If we don’t stop them, they will not stop.

But Marvel doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There is another force that has potential to save the day: DC Comics. Right now, the general public has a pretty negative view of DC, mainly for the slightly underrated, but mediocre at best, Man of Steel. The promotional material for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hasn’t been super promising, which makes matters even more difficult for the brothers Warner. But, here’s a novel statement, I think DC is going to pull it off.

Note how I didn’t say they can pull it off, I said they’re going to. Will BvS be the one to do it? Probably not, but never say never. Chris Terrio is a much better writer than Man of Steel‘s David Goyer, and I still feel like the movie could be redeemed if it’s done well. Now, think about the movie’s release date in context. It comes out about a month before Civil War, and despite its somewhat bad rap, every last one of you is going to see it. Imagine the superhero fatigue coming off of that. A month after Batman v Superman, one of the biggest superhero movies of all time, and two months after the highly anticipated Deadpool. I may be wrong, but it could definitely weaken Marvel’s sales, if not for Civil War, then definitely for November’s Doctor Strange, which may have even less of a hype machine than Ant-Man.

But that’s beside the point. BvS isn’t going to be the movie that saves DC. Suicide Squad is. Coming next August, bridging the six-month gap between Civil War and Doctor Strange, Suicide Squad has it all. A talented director, an awesome cast, great characters, the works. There’s nothing I’ve heard about this movie so far that didn’t excite me. The charisma train of Will Smith, Jared Leto, and Margot Robbie is enough to carry the movie regardless of how good it actually is. Suicide Squad will be a success, I’m sure of it, and Marvel is going to have to start seeing DC as a serious threat. Because or all Feige’s talk, the folks at DC clearly know what their doing more than Marvel does.

According to chief creative director Geoff Johns, DC intends to allow their creators “to make the best possible product, to tell the best story…” You see, one of Marvel’s biggest troubles is that they can’t keep a director for more than two movies. They pissed off Jon Favreau. They pissed off Kenneth Branagh. They pissed off Joe Johnston. They fired Whedon. They fired Edgar Wright. Idris Elba says that working with Marvel was the worst experience of his career, and Chris Evans says he never wants to act again once he’s done with these. DC is giving their talent room to breathe. They’re making the movies they want, and Snyder is just bringing together all the characters.

And look at the talent they’ve got. Furious 7’s James Wan is directing Aquaman, with Jason Momoa in the lead role. The Rock is starring as Black Adam in Shazam. Ezra Miller is starring in Flash, directed by PHIL LORD AND CHRIS MILLER. I haven’t seen Ray Fisher in anything, but his casting indicates that DC is seeking out real talent, as opposed to Marvel, who chooses from the list of five black actors they’ve heard of. We’re lucky DC swooped up Will Smith.

Is any of this definite? No. Maybe Marvel will take DC’s success as a warning sign and start making better movies. Maybe DC won’t succeed. But to me, it seems like the safest bet that DC is going to do better than Marvel within a few years. Hell, Id put good money on BvS and Suicide Squad doing better than Civil War and Doctor Strange next year. The times are changing. Be prepared.

Dear Marvel: Give Yondu His Own Movie — May 7, 2015

Dear Marvel: Give Yondu His Own Movie

Last April, Kevin Feige said in an interview that he had a plan to continue the Marvel Cinematic Universe through 2028. Now, we can’t say for sure what Feige has in mind, and with the constantly changing landscape of characters to choose from (see: Ghost Rider, Spider-Man), as well as individual movies having to somewhat warp to the whims of their directors, chances are the whole universe isn’t as thought out as it seems. So it’s possible if not likely that Marvel takes into account what the fans want, since the fans are the people who give them money. For example, rumor has it Marvel is finally working on a Black Widow movie, something they were bizarrely opposed to for the longest time. That being said, I have an urgent request for Marvel, and I do hope they’ll hear me out.

Give Yondu his own movie.

For those that have already forgotten due to his lack of screen time, Yondu is a character in Guardians of the Galaxy who is an intergalactic bounty hunter and father figure to Star-Lord. He has a flying spear that slices through enemies on a dime and is controlled via whistling.

This description alone already makes a solid case for why he should have his own movie, but if you’ve seen the movie, you also know that he’s an amazing character. He’s one of the standout and funnier characters in the most standout and funny movie in the MCU, and he’s played brilliantly by The Walking Dead‘s Michael Rooker, who is unrecognizable in the role.

Now some of you may be saying “But he’s a side character. A one-trick pony. He couldn’t have his own movie!” But just think of it. Yondu wisecracks his way across the galaxy with his gang of ravagers, letting nothing stand in his way as he searches for untold treasures. A John Wick-style action-fest starring a man who is truly unstoppable, but instead of Keanu Reeves it’s fucking Yondu.

Now, I’m sure Yondu will be making appearances in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Infinity Wars, but I feel like he deserves better. In a movie full of amazing characters, he still stands out. He’s unique, he’s hilarious, he’s badass. And he’s exactly the sort of interesting, off-the-wall character that Marvel will need to dig itself out of the superhero backlash that has already begun. But that’s a story for another time.

Music News-ic Track-by-Track: Arctic Mumfords — May 5, 2015

Music News-ic Track-by-Track: Arctic Mumfords

The startling success of Mumford and Sons can be looked at two different ways. Either A) they’re a standout member of the folk revival started by the likes of Arcade Fire and Adele in 2011, or B) they’re trendsetters who created the notion of a “Mumford band,” a banjo-heavy folk rock sub-subgenre that included Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, Great Big World, and others. I’ll give Mumford and Sons the benefit of the doubt and assume they started this trend, which led to some of Coldplay’s best work, U2’s worst work, and the blindingly fast yet excruciatingly slow downfall of Imagine Dragons.

Since then, the Mumfords have for some reason abandoned this style entirely, and is now focusing on anthemic synth-heavy stadium rock, with the help of Arctic Monkeys producer James Ford. Members of the band have repeatedly stated that they hate banjos, and that they were eager to go in a different direction with this latest project, Wilder Mind, which just dropped today. Let’s see how it holds up, starting with:

#1: TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK

Alright, off to a good start. This track definitely feels like the new style M&S have described for this album. It sounds nothing like Mumford and Sons as we know it, and that’s a good thing. “Tompkins Square Park” tells the story of a relationship on the brink of collapse, with Marcus Mumford’s character grasping for whatever last morsels of affection he can get from his nonspecific love interest, all paired with the backdrop of bohemian breeding grounds Tompkins Square Park in East Village. This Mumford and Sons song has a killer guitar solo, which is something I never thought I’d say, along with a vibe that feels triumphant and powerful, yet weak and vulnerable at the same time. I give it an A.

2. BELIEVE

This one has a slower, ethereal feeling to it. It’s still catchy, interesting, and well-done, but I don’t personally fuck with sad, slow music in general, so my opinion may be skewed to the negative. I should point out that, once again, my favorite part of the song is the refrain, which makes me think Ford might be a better producer than the band is a band. The song builds nicely, and by the end is a pretty powerful track. Like “Tompkins,” it speaks about the uncertainty of a relationship, in a similar fashion and chord progression to Great Big World’s “Say Something,” the difference being that this is actually a good song. A-.

3. THE WOLF

This one is a bit of a step down, which is kind of a good thing since this album was off to a bewildering start. I can’t say I exactly understand what it’s about. Something to do with lost love and whatnot. The beat is great, once again, but it stays at a pretty consistent high and doesn’t leave a lot of room for escalation. It’s a fun track on its own, but a bit week in context. B.

4. WILDER MIND

Now we reach the title song on the album, and it sort of seems like it’s the first song they made for the album, because it’s the one so far that sounds the most like old Mumford and Sons. Also, it’s not very good. Marcus Mumford sounds like he doesn’t want to be there. The meaning of the song is buried in overly dense metaphors, and the pretentious feel of the song in general is a bit grating. A bit too early OneRepublic for my tastes. C+.

5. JUST SMOKE

To be brutally honest, this one just sounds like old Mumford and Sons. It’s not bad at all, but it’s disappointing that this album is quickly falling back into Mumford conventions. It’s an interesting track about the foolish nature of young love, and it’s pretty catchy at that, but I really don’t have much to say about it outside of that. B.

6. MONSTER

Now, “Monster” tends to be a pretty consistently good song title (see: Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Imagine Dragons, Paramore), but this song is a filthy exception. It’s sappy, slow, and feels way too romantic to be a hate song. This is the first time Mumford drops an f-bomb on this album, and it’s obviously some attempt to inject power into a flatlining song, but alas, to no avail. D+.

7. SNAKE EYES

Now that’s what I’m talking about. This song starts off slow and builds like a symphony, creating a cool cacophony of sound by the end that really gets you pumped. The lyrics of the song are irrelevant, since they serve as a companion piece to the instrumental, but if you must know, it’s about some cruel and dangerous person, most likely another nonspecific love interest. Either way, great track. A-.

8. BROAD-SHOULDERED BEASTS

From its lapsing, dramatic beat work to its evocative title, this is one of the most interesting songs on Wilder Mind, even though it’s one of the slower ones. It’s not a song I’d listen to recreationally, but it’s a pretty cool either way. It’s emotional, but not in an overdone way. It feels like genuine emotion. It’s never really explained why the song is called “Broad-Shouldered Beasts”. The phrase is only in the song once at the very beginning. But it matches the tone of the song very well. It’s strong, emotional, and oddly comforting. B+.

9. COLD ARMS

What? Oh, sorry, I fell asleep. C-.

10. DITMAS

While it may sound like a made-up holiday from a mid-2000s Cartoon Network show, it’s actually yet another song named after a park in New York. It’s also another song about the end of a relationship. I actually think this might be the same song as “Tompkins Square Park”. Either way, not bad. B.

11. ONLY LOVE

This is another really mellow track, and it’s definitely a bit of a slog to get through. But Mumford definitely seems to be trying, and the buildup on the beat is kind of cool. Towards the end it picks up the pace considerably, and like almost every song on this album, the refrain is the best part. This isn’t to discredit Mumford or anything, but the beatwork on Wilder Mind is really cool, and it comes through on this song. Still, I give it a B.

12. HOT GATES

Wilder Mind ends on a more somber note with “Hot Gates,” a song about the narrator’s loved one contemplating suicide. The dark piano riff helps the song feel uplifting and downtrodden at the same time. The song gets to be a real tearjerker by the end and is a fulfilling ending to an otherwise mixed album.

While I may have preferred Babel, the band’s previous venture, I’ll give this a B. I like that the band is trying out a new style, and I think it works out pretty well for the most part. While I wouldn’t exactly call the album unique, it’s a welcome change of pace for Mumford and Sons and it definitely has some really solid tracks on it. I suggest you give it a listen. Like this post if you like it, comment if you’ve got something to say, follow my blog if you like it like it, you can also follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and as always…

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Pretentious: Age of Whedon (review) — May 3, 2015

Pretentious: Age of Whedon (review)

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’m a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Avengers, Captain America: the First Avenger, and Guardians of the Galaxy are some of my favorite movies. And I do acknowledge that the franchise has its fair share of flaws, but normally, the movies are entertaining enough that I don’t notice them the first time I’m watching. With some other Marvel movies, like Thor: the Dark World, Iron Man 2, and The Incredible Hulk, the flaws are more obvious, and the movies are less enjoyable as a result.

But Age of Ultron is an odd case. It’s flawed, noticeably so. But it’s still an immensely enjoyable movie. It’s layered in ways that most Marvel movies aren’t. It’s like a combination of every movie so far, but at the same time it’s vastly different from the rest of them. Let me see if I can break it down.

Let’s start with what I don’t like. The first Avengers movie, directed by none other than Joss Whedon, didn’t even hint at any chemistry between Bruce and Natasha. Literally everyone knew Natasha and Clint were supposed to end up together. So… what happened? Whedon has tried to make this out to be Marvel’s fault, and said that he just doesn’t like Hawkeye but… he made both of these movies. He could have at least winked at it in the first one.

Next, let’s talk about Quick-Ass and Russian Girl. I actually think Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen did a pretty decent job in this movie, and they had good chemistry as siblings/lovers, a dynamic not a lot of actors can pull off. The trouble, once again, falls on Joss Whedon, whose treatment of these characters is perhaps best explained by agent Maria Hill (Colbie Smulders) earlier on in the film: “he’s fast and she’s weird.” The emotion between these two is way too on the nose and at the same time barely fleshed out at all. Which brings us to the movie’s biggest foible.

You see, Joss Whedon has stated in interviews that he doesn’t consider the TV show Agents of SHIELD part of the cinematic universe, since he thinks he owns the cinematic universe and he didn’t want Phil Coulson to be alive, since it ruins the emotional weight of the first movie. Whedon’s solution for making sure Marvel didn’t interfere with Marvel’s movie this time around was to jam-pack every plot point with as much heavyhanded emotionality as possible, even when there’s no logic to having it. This makes a lot of the scenes in the movie hard to watch, especially most of the scenes involving Scarlet Witch, who basically serves as the Drama Faucet for the film.

So, what did I like about it? Well, in practically every sense of the word, Whedon outdid himself. It’s bigger, it’s faster, it’s funnier, the writing’s better, the acting’s better, the directing’s better… it is in most senses better than Avengers. Which should be worth more than I feel like it is. I don’t know if I’d want to see this movie again, at least not immediately. I liked it, I really did, but it was a bit bewildering and didn’t really leave me wanting more. Does that mean that it was comprehensive or that it was overstuffed? Probably both.

Either way, I give it an A-. I’m sure you’ve all seen it already, or were already planning on seeing it, but it’s a wild ride. Like this post if you like it, comment if you’ve got something to say, follow my blog if you like it like it, you can also follow me on Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and as always…

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