Reviews for Normal People

Hi. I review things.

Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane — April 13, 2016

Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Let’s go back to 2008, probably the most important year of the century so far. We were in the midst of one of the worst economic downturns in American history, we were about to elect the first black president, Barack Obama (who will most likely be historically significant for other reasons, but we just don’t know yet), Iran went to space, Bill Gates retired, we saw the deaths of Bobby Fischer, Heath Ledger, Arthur C. Clarke, Charlton Heston, Bo Diddley, George Carlin, Estelle Getty, Bernie Mac, Isaac Hayes, David Foster Wallace, Paul Newman, and others, and that’s not even getting to the entertainment. Iron Man shook the whole industry. The Dark Knight ruined movies for a while. Kanye put out one of the most influential albums ever. And then there was Cloverfield.

What made Cloverfield such a phenomenon wasn’t so much the movie itself as it was the hype, the mysterious allure around what exactly was going to happen. No one even knew the name of the film until the 2nd trailer. People speculated it was everything from a Lost spin-off to a Voltron movie. With the help of Paranormal Activity, it popularized the found footage genre and made JJ Abrams one of the biggest filmmakers in the world. So, how could Abrams top himself?

Surprise drop. 10 Cloverfield Lane, the second installment in what will presumably be a Twilight Zone-esque anthology series, was first announced in January and came out in March. Unlike the first movie, where we at least had the courtesy to know it was a monster movie, this one left us totally in the dark. It could have been a thriller about a kidnapping, it could have been an anti-war tale, it could have just been another monster movie. Hell, I already saw it, and I’m still not sure what it is.

But whatever it is, it’s amazing. The cinematography is great, the suspense is unrelenting, the twists and turns are mind-boggling. John Goodman delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as Harold, the captor/savior of Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character. It’s best to go into this movie not knowing too much about it, but suffice it to say it just might be one of the best movies of the decade. There seem to be some character inconsistencies, but it’s really a film that demands further analysis, and I’m not in the right head space to provide it.

I give it an A.

Late Entry: Never Let Me Go Is a Bit Much —

Late Entry: Never Let Me Go Is a Bit Much

Never Let Me Go is a movie that came out in 2010, based on a book from 2005. I’m reviewing it because of an assignment in my Dystopian Lit class. With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

The film is directed by Mark Romanek, who’s worked mostly in music videos in the past. He’s actually pretty well-known in that regard, having directed “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift, “Speed of Sound” by Coldplay, “99 Problems” by Jay-Z, and “Hurt” by Johnny Cash. I’d say his talents lend themselves better to the short form than a feature-length film, but it’s an impressive background nonetheless. This film was based on a fairly popular book, so there was quite a bit of pressure, but with a team including a lot of great actors and the writer behind 28 Days Later, Dredd, and Ex Machina, it probably seemed like a sure fire success at the time.

In the end, the film lost Fox Searchlight Pictures over $5 million. And keep in mind, they only put $15 million in, so they weren’t even expecting a hit and they were still disappointed. Critics gave it a resounding “meh,” and many audiences didn’t even know it existed. But is it any good?

To paraphrase a certain group of people mentioned earlier, meh. Carey Mulligan is great, and Andrew Garfield and Kiera Knightley are practically unrecognizable as Tommy and Ruth. It leaves a lot of stuff out, but it generally follows the book, even taking most of the dialogue directly from that of the book, which sort of makes it a waste of Alex Garland’s talents, but I digress.

I think ultimately, the issue with the movie isn’t so much that it doesn’t follow the book but more that it worries about following the book too much. It feels more procedural and emotional, which isn’t good for a story built entirely on emotion. It’s like a collection of disjointed, often out-of-context scenes from the book, in real life!

This may seem contradictory to my previous point, but it’s also pretty melodramatic. The swelling violins often make it feel more like a horror movie than… whatever genre it is. None of the characters are really characters, they’re just vehicles for whatever words the filmmakers are trying to bring to life, bending and flexing around whatever feels most dramatic. 

I wouldn’t give it more than a C+. I kind of enjoyed it, but it doesn’t have much going for it.

Top Ten Singles of the Month (March 2016) — April 4, 2016

Top Ten Singles of the Month (March 2016)

I’ll get into my top ten singles of the month in a moment, but first, here’s some honorable mentions.
What the Fuck Right Now – Tyler the Creator 

Are Rocky & Tyler destined to be the next great hip hop duo? I sure hope so, but since they haven’t officially collaborated yet, all we’re left with is this freestyle over Kanye’s “Freestyle 4,” featuring ad-libs and hyping up from A$AP Rocky while Tyler flexes his skills. Despite its menacing beat and aggressive lyrics, this song is really just for fun.

Circle the Block – Tink

Timbaland protege Tink has been making a name for herself for a couple years now, and with her studio album on the way, things are still heating up. This song is a nonstop lyrical barrage that, while a bit short, is still definitely a sight to behold.

Like I Would – ZAYN

I struggled to choose a single ZAYN song to put on this list, but I ultimately settled on the powerful, catchy “Like I Would.” Maybe not the best song on his new album, but probably the best single so far.

Island – Coheed and Cambria

Coheed and Cambria are, admittedly, out of my element, but I’ve actually been following them for a while. However, I don’t really know how to go about reviewing them. The song is good, though.

Let It Bang – A$AP Ferg feat. ScHoolboy Q

I don’t know if any of you have figured this out yet, but A$AP Ferg is a fan of Ol’ Dirty Bastard. On this song, he emulates him even further by recruiting ODB’s kid, Young Dirty Bastard, to play Uncle Psycho. He also recruits ScHoolboy Q to play himself. It’s pretty solid.

With Them – Young Thug

Young Thug’s new mixtape, Slime Season 3, might be his best yet, and after some deliberation, I decided that this is the best single off that record. It has a great manic energy to it, and some solid bars too.

The Frequency – Kid Cudi

Kid Cudi’s penchant for synths and moaning is in full effect on this new track, produced by Mike Dean and Plain Pat. After his admirable yet baffling foray into grunge last year, it’s nice to see some more classic Cudi.

Black Man in a White World – Michael Kiwanuka

This song gained a bit of traction after Adele tweeted about it. It definitely reminds me of “Rolling in the Deep” a bit, so I’m not surprised by the bump. It’s also just a great song. If any of these honorable mentions were to make the list, it would definitely be this one.

OK, NOW here’s the actual list.

10) FAMOUS – Kanye West feat. Rihanna and Swizz Beatz

After months of messy, unending rollout, it seems like Kanye’s Life of Pablo might actually be complete. This month, it got a full round of renovations that made it an overall better listening experience, was put on Spotify and Apple Music, and got its first official single: “Famous”. While not my favorite song on the album, it is a great place to start. It’s a really fun, catchy song, with a great breakdown towards the end. I especially love Rihanna’s vocals on the chorus. But more on her later.

9) BOUNCE – Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz

Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz’s recent collaborative album ColleGrove was better than it had any right to be, but this 8-verses-in-4-minutes lyrical onslaught might be the very best on the record. Both artists are on their top lyrical game on this song, which represents a (obviously written) battle between the two MC’s. Weezy wins, but not by much.

8) BITCHSLUT – Anna Wise

On this fun track from Kendrick Lamar collaborator Anna Wise, she sings/raps about inescapable double standards she faces as a woman, but rather than simply talking about how shitty they are (a song-worthy topic on its own), she also shrugs them off by personifying them as a single douchebag and telling him off. I intend to keep an eye on Wise. She could be something big.

7) UNDERCOVER – Teyana Taylor

Yet another semi-obscure young pop songstress, I’ve actually known about Teyana Taylor for a couple years. She’s engaged to Iman Shumpert, she had the fastest-selling shoe in Adidas history, and she’s even signed to Kanye West’s label. This is her latest song, a ‘90s throwback R&B track sampling “Poison” by Bel Biv Devoe. In addition to just being a damn catchy song, I love how Taylor doesn’t take herself too seriously. In the video, she’s willing to wear ridiculous outfits and dance like a fool. We need more of that in mainstream music.

6) SHOW ME LOVE (REMIX) – Hundred Waters feat. Skrillex, Chance the Rapper, Moses Sumney, and Robin Hannibal

I used to think Skrillex was kind of a one-trick pony, but I’ve been really impressed by some of the stuff he’s put down recently (his work with Justin Bieber, for example). On this track, he takes a somewhat menacing, minute-long Hundred Waters track and twists it into a bona fide 4-minute pop hit, complete with Chance the Rapper guest verse. Skrillex’s production skills are next-level, giving this song a nice sentimental feel while still maintaining the shell of the original. Chance’s verse isn’t his most intricate to date, but it’s just a lot of fun.

5) THE NEW CUPID – BJ the Chicago Kid feat. Kendrick Lamar

This soulful track from two of the most exciting young artists in the game tells the tale of Cupid getting caught up in the club life, as a metaphor for the demand for love being overshadowed by one night stands. Kendrick methodically outlines a hopeless character giving up love in the hopes of indulgence giving new meaning to his life. It’s a really thought-provoking song, and you can just vibe out to it.


Norwegian producer Lido took Kanye West’s entire Life of Pablo album and condensed it into an eight-minute masterpiece. Immediately, it hits you with shit you’d never expect, and it just keeps going. This isn’t your grandma’s remix. It’s an unforgettable experience. But not really a single or even a song, so the fact that it’s on the list at all should be an indicator of how good it is.

3) FUTURE FUNK – Nicky Romero & Nile Rodgers

I love funk. I love the funk revival we’ve been getting since Daft Punk, Pharrell, and Bruno Mars shook the planet three years ago. And now, we’ve been blessed with yet another beautiful funk creation from this fruitful era: “Future Funk.” I can’t really put into words why I love this song so much. Maybe it’s the seamless blend of EDM and funk, courtesy of the legendary Nile Rodgers. Actually, yeah, that’s it. Glad that’s settled.

2) KISS IT BETTER – Rihanna

I’ve had friends who didn’t care for “Work” and didn’t listen to ANTI because that was the first impression Rihanna was putting forward. Little did they know, ANTI had a trick up its sleeve, the irresistible Prince-style sex jam “Kiss It Better.” The wailing guitars hit you like a bus on the first listen, and it took me about three listens to realize that this is an actual song, and a really solid one at that. I’d rank it up there with Rihanna’s best. But even after these past three goldmines, there’s still one better.

1 ) DANGEROUS WOMAN – Ariana Grande

Say what you will about Ariana Grande as a performer, but she definitely learns from her mistakes. Her last single, “Focus,” was panned for being annoying and too similar to “Problem.” It didn’t sell very well. Clearly, people didn’t want the same song all over again, which is why for her new single, she decided to go the other way and make a song that’s not like ANYTHING I’ve heard before. I mean that genuinely; it really doesn’t remind me of anything. It’s sexy, powerful, catchy, soulful, and irresistible. Perhaps we need to recognize Ariana as one of pop culture’s young innovators, the creative mind that will bring us into the next wave of music. After all, she kinda started this whole ‘50s revival thing everyone’s been doing. And now she’s doing electronic power blues. What a world.