Reviews for Normal People

Hi. I review things.

Review: Ghostbusters, No, the Other One — July 15, 2016

Review: Ghostbusters, No, the Other One

Hoo boy. There’s a lot of shit going into this review. Tons of discourse both ways. So many people wanted this to be the best movie ever, and so many people weren’t even willing to see it, even though it’s bound to make a metric fuckload of money regardless. Personally, I’m not quite as gung-ho about Paul Feig as most critics seem to be, but he’s a very capable director. Still, the critical community wholeheartedly agreed that this movie is pretty “meh,” so I didn’t know what to think.

Ultimately, I think my appreciation for this movie is a little skewed because it’s exactly my type of movie. It’s really funny, it’s got some cosmic shit in it, it’s got great action, pretty good cinematography, really good special effects, a really solid soundtrack, Kate McKinnon, what’s not to like? But I think I do get why some people don’t care for it. It feels like Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig start out the movie with fully developed characters and by the end they’re just… Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig. I think this comes from the modern comedy’s insistence on giving the actors space to ad-lib and come up with dialogue on the spot, which doesn’t really work in a movie with such downright cartoony characters.

I think the biggest problem people have with the movie, though, is that it lives in the shadow of the original. It borrows a lot of plot elements, a few ghosts, the logo, the theme, the firehouse, and most of the actors from the 1984 classic. It almost seems like they’re trying to make two different movies here. There’s Paul Feig, who just wants to make a fun supernatural comedy with four of the funniest people he knows, and there’s Sony, who want to make a note-for-note rehash of the original so they can have a new flagship franchise now that Marvel’s taken the wheel on Spider-Man. I think the best example of this is the climax, which mind you, I thought was spectacular. But it seems like you can pinpoint the exact moment where they said “Let’s take a break from comedy for a while so we can focus on how cool this fight scene is.” Yes, the original sort of does the same thing, but there are plenty of times throughout the film where they deftly strike a balance between humor and spectacle.

And that’s the thing. I’d argue this movie is actually funnier and scarier than Ghostbusters ’84. The original mostly relied on the absurdity and novelty of its premise and the general weirdness of its characters to create comedy, while this one relies on simply jokes, told on a consistent basis. Not all of them land, and I’m sure somewhere there’s an R-rated draft of the script that was substantially funnier but not profitable enough for Sony, but it’s still an immensely funny movie. But every step of the way, it second-guesses itself. I think moving forward, now that Sony has the money and the fans, they should stop trying to be like the original and move towards just letting great comedy filmmakers make great comedies. But as it is, this movie is immensely enjoyable, and I would recommend you see it. It won’t ruin your childhood.

Now, I’d like to take a step back for a moment and point out that Sony has a very interesting opportunity available to them now. As I said before, I believe this movie will develop a pretty strong fanbase, and definitely make more money than you could ever dream of. They’re going to make this a franchise, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t. It’s one of the few modern comedy franchises that’s extremely profitable. Now, back in 2014, I sang glowing praises for another Sony flagship comedy franchise film, 22 Jump Street. Around that time, I speculated that the next logical step forward for the franchise, as an ’80s action send-up, was to cross over with another Sony action comedy franchise, namely: Men In Black. Fast-forward six months, the historic Sony hack happens and it’s revealed that they were, in fact, planning to make a Jump Street/MIB crossover. Now, that crossover is still in production, under the name MIB 23. The film will serve to continue the Jump Street series and reboot the Men In Black series, even though the last Men In Black movie came out a scant four years ago. I think what Sony’s gonna do, or at least what they should do, is incorporate all these franchises into the world’s first comedy cinematic universe. If they play their cards right, they can have the only three blockbuster comedy franchises, and combine them all into a single megafranchise to take the money directly from your pockets. Not only is it ingenious, but it could potentially turn comedy as a genre into a big-league money-maker. We’ll see what happens.

Anyway, I give Ghostbusters an A-. If you have similar tastes as me, you should definitely see it.

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Top Ten Best Singles of the Month (June 2016) — July 3, 2016

Top Ten Best Singles of the Month (June 2016)

Let me tell you, the narrowing-down process for this list was a bloodbath. It probably took me a good four hours to get it down to these nineteen songs, but I’m pretty happy with what I have. It’s comprised almost entirely of black men, but I attribute that to pure coincidence, because trust me, I had a ton of music to work with. Anyway, here’s some honorable mentions.

Wow – Beck

You can always count on Beck to go in a new direction. After his slow, hypnotic Morning Phase record, he threw listeners for a loop with “Dreams,” the summery pop goldmine that was ultimately one of the better songs to come out in 2015. Now, he’s back with “Wow,” a unique mix of trap drums and siren-like flutes. It’s maybe not as good as “Dreams,” but it’s still a fun song.

Frankie Sinatra – Avalanches feat. Danny Brown and MF Doom

Turns out MF Doom is still alive, so that’s nice. This was the first single off the Avalanches’ just-released second album Wildflowers, and it’s pretty great. It’s really catchy, the verses are pretty good, and it has a really unique sound. The sound quality is kinda weird, though. It definitely complements the old-timey circus feel the song has, but the beat drowns out the vocals a lot and it doesn’t quite work.

Tic Tac Pack – Rich Iyala

I can only find two songs by Rich Iyala, and I have no idea who he is, but this is just a solid song. The production, the bars, the vocals, everything is just really unique. I don’t know if I’ll ever hear from him again, but I like it.

No Limit – Usher feat. Young Thug

Both of Usher’s singles this month were pretty good, but I ultimately leaned towards this one, on account of the surprisingly fruitful pairing of him and Young Thug. The song itself is bizarre conceptually: an R&B sex track about… Master P? Still, it’s a really catchy song, and Young Thug’s verse is great.

Satan Pulls the Strings – The Avett Brothers

Believe it or not, I like the Avett Brothers. They’re not exactly on-brand for me, but they’re bringing something unique to the country scene. They’re just a little more cutting-edge than your typical country act. This song, for example, features a surprising amount of synth and lyrics that many YouTube commenters consider satanic. Check it out some time.

Night Riders – Major Lazer feat. Travis Scott, Pusha T, 2 Chainz, and Mad Cobra

This song is just really epic. Over masterful Major Lazer production, Mad Cobra joins three members of the G.O.O.D. Music family as they discuss driving cars and setting fires. Travis’ work on the hook is catchy as fuck, and all three rappers deliver excellent verses.

Are We Ready? (Wreck) – Two Door Cinema Club

I was first introduced to Two Door Cinema Club through MTV a couple years ago. I used to watch their early-morning music video blocks from time to time, and I actually discovered quite a few groups that way. I’m stalling because I don’t have all that much to say about this song. It’s catchy. I like it. You should listen to it.

Back to the Sun – Wale

This tragically short new track is a return-to-form of sorts for Wale, who released a few middling pop tracks in the past couple months, but is now reassuring his fans that the dude can still rap his ass off. It also serves as an introduction to the style and tone of his latest mixtape Summer on Sunset, released later the same day. It’s a dope track, but once again, a little short.

Free Love – Vic Mensa feat. Le1f, Halsey, Lil B, and Malik Yusef

After pronouncing that he would like to end homophobia in hip hop, Vic released this impassioned call for equal rights, featuring queer artists Le1f and Halsey as well as noted activists Lil B and Malik Yusef. It’s pretty clumsy in its execution, but it definitely has some very powerful moments, and if they can get more artists involved, this could be the start of something great.

Okay, now here’s the actual list.

10. SUCKER FOR PAIN – Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, and Imagine Dragons feat. Logic, Ty Dolla $ign, and X Ambassadors

In anticipation of next month’s release of the highly-anticipated DC Comics film Suicide Squad, Atlantic Records treated us to this track off the official soundtrack: “Sucker for Pain,” a veritable rogues gallery of ubiquitous, hit-or-miss hip-hop and rock names. I love the creepy vibe, and I think all the artists do a really good job keeping in line with the themes and making the song equal parts fun and unsettling, which should complement the movie really well. But the real star of the show, for me at least, is Lil Wayne, who on top of an already impressive year delivers one of the best verses of his I’ve ever heard.

9. SUMMER – Innanet James

Innanet James is another artist that I know next to nothing about, but he seems like a really fun guy. “Summer” is a perfect summer jam: catchy, fun, and a little nonsensical. It gets stuck in your head lightning fast, and the lyrics aren’t bad, either. The kid could be going places.

8. I GOT YOU – Shaggy feat. Jovi Rockwell

That’s right, reggae legend Shaggy is back with a new James Brown-inspired track featuring relative newcomer Jovi Rockwell. The two have excellent chemistry, trading sly romantic verses back and forth eight times on the three-minute song. It’s simply a ridiculously fun song.

7. CHIEF DON’T RUN – Jidenna

Jidenna hits the Ye button on this experimental new song, incorporating elements of gospel, techno, tribal chants, and hip hop to create an all-around great experience that, while totally different from anything we’ve heard from Jidenna before, still fits comfortably into his signature swagger. When’s this guy gonna release an album already?

6. THERE’S ALOT GOING ON – Vic Mensa

True to its title, Vic Mensa enumerates the many things “going on” on this gut-wrenching highlight from his recent mixtape of the same name. This is probably the most inspirational song I’ve heard all year. Vic talks about his grapples with addiction, labels fighting over him, and all the other ups and downs his career has taken over the past two years. Finally, he finds himself having overcome everything, with a brand new lease on life, ready to drop his forthcoming debut album Traffic.

5. MISTAKEN – Marian Hill feat. Steve Davit

Here’s yet another artist I just discovered this month: Marian Hill, a songwriting duo who’s already making waves with their unique, minimalist pop sound. “Mistaken” is off their recent debut album ACT ONE, and it’s pretty phenomenal. The lyrics are great, it’s pretty catchy, and the horns are exquisite. I’m lucky I found this one.

4. GAIMS – Kamau

It’s Kamau again! From last month! Honestly though, this song and “Jambo” couldn’t be more different. This is pretty much just a playfully bitter feel-good pop jam. And sometimes, that’s enough. It’s an insanely catchy song, and I love how the beat is built on human voices and claps. If you got enough people, you could recreate this song pretty much perfectly without any instruments or machines. That’s pretty cool.

3. WRIGGLE – clipping.

It looks like clipping.’s back all of a sudden. Tony-winning actor Daveed Diggs’ experimental hip hop collective clipping. has been a favorite of mine for some time. The guy’s a phenomenal rapper, and even though this song isn’t really “about” much, per se, it’s still an excellent example of his writing prowess and stamina on the mic. Clipping.’s beats can be very hit-or-miss, but this one works really well.

2. CHAMPIONS – Kanye West, Travis Scott, Quavo, Desiigner, Gucci Mane, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, and Yo Gotti

This was the track Kanye used to announce the upcoming G.O.O.D. Music collaborative album Cruel Winter. The beat is phenomenal, and everyone (except maybe Yo Gotti) delivers in their own way. 2 Chainz gives one of his best verses ever, Gucci’s throws down two verses, the second of which is the best we’ve heard from him since he got out of prison earlier this month, and Travis Scott and Desiigner go together like peanut butter and slightly creamier peanut butter on the chorus (sorry, Desiigner).

1. SOMEBODY (B) – Jay IDK

Honestly? I really wasn’t expecting this to wind up so high on the list. It just sort of sneaks up on you; with every listen you start to appreciate it more. It’s catchy, poignant, immaculately produced, pretty well-written, meaningful without being preachy, and while it does feel a little reminiscent of Chance and Kendrick, Jay’s unique voice and lyrical style lets it stand on its own. I honestly have no complaints about this song. It’s flawless.

Review: The Big Fuckin’ Guy — July 1, 2016

Review: The Big Fuckin’ Guy

From the start, The BFG faced a hype problem. Roald Dahl is one of the most beloved children’s authors of all time. The BFG might be his most popular book. Steven Spielberg is one of the most popular directors ever, and he hasn’t let us down since… well, War Horse, but that was almost five years ago. The truth is, he’s pretty hit-or-miss, but a lot of people love him. Not to mention it’s got the Disney name behind it, a company that is synonymous with wonder in the minds of people all over the world and has had one of the best years in their entire history. And it probably didn’t help that all the film’s promotional material insisted that it was the next E.T. Hey, same writer! Same director! Acronym title! So yeah, it was kinda doomed to lukewarm reviews.

I still think it was really good, myself. Sure, it didn’t take as many risks as Roald Dahl himself might have liked, but it was still a very captivating film. The special effects and visuals were phenomenal. There were a few moments where BFG was holding Sophie and it sort of left you like, “That’s not real,” but in general it was very well-done. Very whimsical, very imaginative, very true to the book.

My main problem with the film was that there were a few moments that hinted at something really sinister, just some very dark underpinnings behind the film. But, whether on the request of Disney or Spielberg himself, none of these are ever acted upon. There’s only one or two scenes that present an actual sense of danger, and as a result, the film does start to wear thin after a while. I like kids’ movies with menacing undertones, so I definitely appreciated that they left some of that in there from the book, but I sort of wish they would have gone a little further with it.

What else? The cast mostly does a great job, I love the visual representations of dreams, and the scene with the Queen in her bed might be the best scene in any movie this year. There’s two fart jokes in it, which feels like about a hundred too many. What time period did this film take place in? Like, the Queen looks vaguely like the current one and there’s highway systems and modern military helicopters, but there’s also a lot of cars from the ’50s and there are orphanages and people are still reading newspapers and listening to the radio. Maybe they were trying to go for the off-kilter, anachronistic vibe of A Series of Unfortunate Events, but they don’t do a good job of it. Also, when was the last time there was a black person in a Spielberg movie? Even Lincoln barely had any.

Still, I’ll give it a solid A-. Another solid mark on Disney’s near-perfect record this year. See it. Bring the kids. Weigh it against other Roald Dahl movies (I’d rank it below Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory but above Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). I’ll have my songs-of-the-month list for June out real quick.