When I Left You, I Was But The Learner, Now I Am The Master (Cross Talk Ep. 16)

 

The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner, now I am the master.

– Darth Vader

Of all the choices I could make to start this post off right, this is easily one of my favourite quotes from Star Wars because it demonstrates rather visibly resolution, the progression towards an end. Plus, it helps tie in A New Hope directly with my third favourite Star Wars film, Episode III Revenge of the Sith. Each of us moves through life encountering teachers, those who already have key abilities of intelligence, judgment and experience, realized as wisdom.

Darth Vader roughly translates to Dark Father. At least that’s the popular statement. An excellent coincidence that George Lucas used to his advantage when building the lore of Star Wars for us young fans.

But that’s what great storytellers do, they build into the mythos they’ve created and simultaneously strengthen the chronology with each addition to the franchise. Thus making those initial choices seem intentional and enmeshed with later stories. The value of of prequels and sequels is that they enrich an already great story. When the content lines up, exploration of themes is worthwhile.

So while Darth Vader is correct to say that he is now a master of the force, Obi-Wan is also correct in saying that he has only mastered the dark side of the force as a Sith. And when you watch Revenge of the Sith, you can see how handily Obi-Wan beat Anakin, how he admonished him for taking a risk and getting cut down, but only because Obi-Wan had wisdom which Anakin did not.

Because Obi-Wan knew better.

and-he-said-to-the-romans-if-you-strike-me-down-i-will-become-more-powerful-than-you-can-possibly-imagine_o_6496953

When you begin the process of watching films, one of the biggest lessons you can learn is that there are levels of emotion which you can experience. Through repeated viewings, with different genres, and by having shared experiences. A popular one that is a perfect example of this is a parent watching one of their favourite movies with their child. You witness their emotions as they experience similar feelings that you had the first time you enjoyed that art, and then you gain the enjoyment of sharing that art with them, plus another bond you now have available in relating to your child.

That now shared, Chris and I have spent a lot of time discussing the inherent value of film before, but today we run through some real-world examples of the merits of this medium and why the more time you spend with it, the more likely you are to build social relationships, enhance your passion, step outside of your comfort zone, and learn about humanity. The highs and lows of the hobby, and the maturation the love is real my friends – wisdom to be gleaned from watching film.

This is episode sixteen of Cross Talk, produced by my friend and yours, Andre Lindo. I hope that you enjoy this episode as much as we enjoyed creating it. Cross Talk is a passion project, and this exemplifies that passion very well!

Yet another theory knocked right out of the park, and I’m spent. This is atypical of our normal Cross Talk videos, but I really do  hope you enjoyed this episode creative cuties, and that you have a wonderful week. Check back-in for a review of the new AFI album.

Otherwise, please comment, subscribe, and share this video with friends. We want to hear your feedback!

Tim!

Sigourney Weaver Approved (Finding Dory review)

Voice acting might not be getting the respect it deserves from the general public. Voice actors are the backbone of animated films and television, as well as great resources to be used in marketing and documentaries. And yet, you have to be a talented actor in order to achieve any measure of success at it.

If you think about it, voice actors don’t have other actors to use in framing their delivery, nor do they have sets and props to build a setting. And they don’t necessarily need to have a unique voice, but it does help to have a broad vocal range in really selling a feeling.

Take the voice actors in this weeks featured film review. Most of these men and women know how to hold a room.

 

 

 

Finding Dory (2016)

Cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks,  Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell
Director: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
released on blu-ray November 15, 2016
****** 6/10

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IMDB: 7.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Audience Score 86%
The Guardian: ****/*****

 

Andrew Stanton has had his share of director opportunities within his career at Disney Pixar – A Bug’s Life in 1998 as co-director, Finding Nemo in 2003 with Lee Unkrich as his co-director, WALL-E in 2008, his first live action film with John Carter in 2012, and now Finding Doy with Angus MacLane as his co-director. He also co-wrote all three Toy Story films and Monsters, Inc. Angus MacLane on the other hand, is primarily an animator who has just started to tread water (excuse my pun) in the shoes of director.

The question of course, is “do we really need a Finding Nemo sequel?” Without giving too much away too quickly, I will say this; Finding Dory is a beautiful if not unnecessary attempt at continuing down the line of thought that Finding Nemo already presented us with.

The film introduces us to a young Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), who is already suffering from short-term memory loss, worried that she’ll forget her parents, and that they’ll forget her at some point. Eventually she does get lost, but cannot get the help she needs to get back to her family, because of her memory failings, and so years later Dory is still lost and unable to recall her family. We are given a short sequence that showcases her first interaction with Marlin (Albert Brooks) and how they work together to find his son Nemo (Hayden Rolence). The movie takes us on a journey for Dory to find her family, which begins when Dory begins to pick up fragments of memories she didn’t know she had.

With the statement “Jewel of Morro Bay, California” on her lips and Sigourney Weaver’s voice in her head, Dory swims away after from home after an altercation with a squid puts Nemo at risk and Marlin at odds with her. Marlin and Nemo eventually realize that Dory is lost and go looking for her.

And so we witness two separate paths unfold one for the father and son, and a separate one for Dory, each meeting a host of new characters, like Hank the septopod (Ed O’ Neill), along the way in what one can easily describe as a typical quest story. And while there are many funny moments that lead up to the inevitable, if not somewhat obvious, conclusion, there is also a fair amount of CGI magic and good old fashioned heart.

Pros: This is a character story, focusing specifically on the personal challenges of Dory, identity, family, an array of characters with disabilities and how they deal with them. Its in those moments of mental exploration that Finding Dory is the most interesting.

Cons: The story does run very similar parallels to the original, which makes it difficult to see it as a pure sequel rather than a clone of what preceded it. On another level, ironically, it often feels like you are supposed to feel a certain feeling rather than organically fall into it.

Runtime: 1 hour 37 minutes

Points of Interest: This is the second time that Pixar has made a movie with no major antagonist, with the first film like that being Inside Out. The real reason Hank has only seven tentacles is because the animators realized a little too late that they could only fit seven on his body. His backstory was rewritten to account for the missing limb.

As I’ve already mentioned, Finding Dory is a fun sequel, albeit one that is often feels like an extended cut of Finding Nemo, and full of the same thematic ideals. It is very smart and has a great concept, but we’ve already been there, done that. It felt great over a decade ago, and is still entertaining today, but it’s not quite the same experience. And the animation is incredible, moreso than Finding Nemo even. But I wouldn’t put it up for animation of the year or as an animated classic.

 

 

 

If you want to become a voice actor, it helps to have some standard acting credits under your belt already, but the most important thing to consider is practice, practice, practice. Developing your talent over time is essential to a good delivery. If you pay very close attention to Ellen DeGeneres in this film, she manages to give a nuanced performance, and yet we never see her face, we only see Dory the royal blue tang fish. Its a testament to her ability to emote and why the film is entertaining, even if a bit derivative.

But what do you think, dear readers? Am I off the mark on this theory? Was Finding Dory an amazing film, continuing the great legacy of Disney Pixar rather famously?

Tim!

Cuts Like A Knife (Whitechapel, Mark of the Blade review)

I’m happy to be hardcore, when the occasion calls for it. If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t think it calls for it that often though.

It’s difficult to get into that state of mind when you realize that like anything in life, you have to make a commitment and experience all the nuances of the thing. And if you aren’t ready for that level of absorption, you’ll fake it for a long time until you make it through.

Which sounds incredibly painful to me. Better to do what you love and makes changes along the way.

 

 

 

Whitechapel – Mark of the Blade
released June 24, 2016
****** 6/10

Whitechapel-Mark-of-the-Blade

Whitechapel are an American deathcore band, and I don’t think you’d find too many dissenters against that assessment. They are comprised of vocalist Phil Bozeman, with Ben Savage on lead guitar, Alex Wade and Zach Householder on backing guitars, Gabe Crisp on bass, and Ben Harclerode on drums. They’ve taken their name from the famous Whitechapel district of East London. You know, where Jack the Ripper murdered a bunch of people? Yeah that Whitechapel.

Their influences come mostly from Phil Bozeman and Ben Savages mutual love of death metal, but with a decent influence in black metal and hardcore. Think of bands like Cannibal Corpse, Slipknot, Pantera, Slayer, Vader, Carcass, Amon Amarth, and you’ll start to see the picture.

I’ll admit, as I always do when it comes to new territory, that I’ve never listened to Whitechapel before nor do I know much about the deathcore sub-genre of extreme metal. Which is apparently a fusion of death metal, metalcore, and hardcore punk. The real lesson here is that it shows me how little I know about metal, but that’s a cross I’ll have to bare in this review.

Mark of the Blade is Whitechapel’s sixth album to-date. And apparently it features their most clean vocals too! Which I find absolutely fascinating, because normally this kind of music is difficult for me to separate out lyrics with. Thankfully the liner notes came with lyrics because it helped me to digest the music that much quicker and appreciate what had gotten myself into.

And that led me into a bigger rabbit hole – The lyrics are dark and the message is pretty much to the point, go fuck yourself if you’re pretending to be something you’re not. That and pain is real. It’s something we will all experience thoroughly before we die. Alone.

Maybe that’s a harsh and short statement to make, and the content isn’t entirely without hope. Whitechapel asks us to find solace in brotherhood which comes from a million scars, both self induced and acquired through violence and subjection. Yeah that was mean of me.

To be honest, I think the tempo of the album has a lot to do with the unevenness of my experience too. The clean vocals make sense on Bring Me Home because he is singing about his dead father, and Decennium is an epic closing track, so that is great too. I enjoyed the instrumental middle song called Brotherhood too. Maybe that’s the problem, though, when I just sit with Whitechapel, I get lost in it and it doesn’t do it for me, but those irregularities for me make the band interesting and worth more visits down the line.

Did I fall in love at Whitechapel? No, but I think I just made a commitment.

 

 

 

Whitechapel are making music that they care about, tweaking it as they go. I flirted with something new and gained some more perspective on the dedication and skill required to embrace the beast that is extreme metal. But fortunately enough, I have a bit of experience with music and lyrics, so it was like I was thrown to the lions.

As a friend reminded me the other day, Whitechapel might not be producing Grammy worthy music, but that shouldn’t be how we view their oeuvre. Within their musical realm, they’re doing great work, making their mark. And that’s all of the theories I’ve got for today.

Tim!

Sweet Treat (Corinne Bailey Rae, The Heart Speaks in Whispers, review)

Have you ever had a favourite food you loved so much that you were convinced you could eat it over and over again without any consequence to your stomach or feelings toward it? Ice cream was the food that did me in. I loved ice cream so much that I would eat it whenever I could, and one day I decided that I couldn’t stomach it all the time. Today’s album review feels a bit like that.

 

 

 

Corinne Bailey Rae – The Heart Speaks In Whispers
released May 13, 2016
********* 7/10

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Corinne Bailey Rae is a British singer-songwriter and guitarist. She is the fourth British female artist in history to have a debut album open at no.1 in 2006. Her second album, The Sea, was released almost four years later after a personal tragedy occurred in 2008. Her husband and frequent collaborator Jason Rae died of what has been identified as an overdose. The Sea was nominated for a Mercury Prize for Album of the Year, given it’s somber tone and emotional weight.

It wasn’t until 2012 that Corinne followed The Sea up with The Love EP, and a year later that she married her producer and friend Steve Brown.

The Heart Speaks in Whispers helps us close the gap between that period of heartbreak, newfound love and the cautious optimism of Bailey Rae in her current life.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bailey Rae has a great vocal range and broad versatility to her music & lyrics. It reminds me of a great many female artists whom I have enjoyed previously, like Billy Holiday, Amy Winehouse, Feist, Joni Mitchell, and Emily Haines.

Now I say this with some reservation, but at first I didn’t really care for Bailey Rae as an authentic act.

Her work kind of fits into the larger genre of jazz and soul, and especially the soul revival that is happening, and which I admittedly have been kind of oblivious to until very recently. I will also mention Kendrick Lamar and Leon Bridges as artists who have been part of this movement, also with hesitation, because I hate to compare artists, but in this case, Bailey Rae has been collaborating with Lamar and that is a great indicator of her input into the landscape.

The songs on the album are often rather upbeat and fun – Been To The Moon, Horse Print Dress, and … come to mind. Stop Where You Are has that indie pop sentiment that reminded me of Feist. And if you are looking for anthems to build you up after any manner of letdown Caramel and High will serve that role rather easily. It’s a great ebb and flow of real life experiences without ever telling you explicitly what she gone through.

Push On For The Dawn closes out the album rather beautifully and isn’t ambiguous with Bailey Rae’s future. After all is said and done, The Heart Speaks In Whispers does an excellent job of changing your mind about the commercial production of the entire album, but its not something you can play anywhere and for all occasions.

 

 

 

I think pop music and jazz music are a wonderful form of expression, and that you should listen to them with regularity, but you can definitely over-expose yourself to forms of it. Especially when the music is rich and full of addictive content. The Heart Speaks in Whispers is a great example of this. When consumed in appropriate settings, you will have an awesome time, just don’t over indulge it.

Tim!

 

High School Musical (Armin van Buuren, Embrace, review)

It’s really difficult for me to think of EDM and to not think of artists like House of Pain. It’s probably cause I was born in the 80’s and grew up in the 90’s and early 2000s. But whatever, ain’t no thing, but a chicken wing.

Feel it, funk it, amps it are junkin’
And I got more rhymes than there’s cops that are dunkin’
Donuts shop, sure ’nuff I got props from the kids on the Hill
Plus my mom and my pops
I came to get down, I came to get down
So get out your seats and jump around

I’ll just leave this link here, for your viewing pleasure.

For this week’s Melodic Monday, I AM going to fully expect you to jump around though.

 

 

 

Armin van Buuren – Embrace
released October 29, 2015
******** 8/10

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Listening to the sixth studio release of Armin van Buuren has taught me a few things. (Which always makes me happy!) The first thing is that house/techno/trance and all of their iterations are still quite alive and well. For some reason or another I had convinced myself that that particular kind of music had started to die down in the early 2000s. Nope, it is still alive and quite well – Thank you very much.

Second thing. This dude really knows what he is doing within his field and has progressed from an artist into a full-on entity.

Seriously though, you cannot become this successful at DJing and producing your own music and not have an entire team helping you to maintain your image and global reach.

Now, some people would argue that requiring a “team” and influencers is effectively selling out, but when you listen to Embrace, I can almost guarantee you will not experience that sense of loss. I attribute it partially to van Buuren’s vision and secondarily to his genre.

You see, synthetic music is naturally quite polished in it’s representation. We could fight about the truth of this statement for hours, and I say this to both the advocates and the haters.

But it definitely is true that the sound which van Buuren is crafting here is a-typical of strings, brass, and drums, and so there is a perception that it is less organic to the ears.

Great! Now that we can agree on that idea, I’m going to tell you what I thought of the album. That’s the third thing. To be perfectly honest, I thought it was a lot of fun and covered a wide range of emotions for me. Which is often something I want in a record. You see, I want my music to either cover the entire human experience or I want it to fit a particular emotional or ideological theme. Yes, dear readers, theme is important to me in an album as well as it is in fine art, film, and writing.

And Embrace fits that theme fairly well as I’ve mentioned already. Songs like Strong Ones assure it.

Tracks like the eponymous opener provide a powerful entrance into the world that van Buuren sets out to create. The follow-up song Another You and other inclusions Face of Summer, Hands to Heaven, and Gotta Be Love play their cards a little bit more close to the pop deck. But those songs aren’t all strung up one after the next. There is a sincere choice being made and then offered. The songs flow in and out of cadence in a sort of roller coaster of sound. Indestructible in particular fits nicely where it has been placed.

The emotion can definitely be felt as you listen to the whole CD (or digital if you prefer).

And this feeling permeates through to the instrumental songs as well. Embargo is probably my favourite. It brings me back to my high school years, when music compilations like Happy 2B Hardcore ran the marketplace.

Some of the reviews I read have stated that Armin van Buuren is still relevant, but he is no longer king of trance. I would argue that music doesn’t always have to fit so closely to a prescribed definition in order to be worth listening to.

But don’t take my word for it, give it a spin yourself!

 

 

 

Sometimes I wonder about all of this raving and trancing though. You would have to have a wicked bad headache after a night of dancing so consistently and so furiously. Maybe that’s why some people do hard drugs.

Hold up.

I am NOT advocating you do drugs dear readers. I sure don’t myself. But that’s your decision. Let’s awkwardly move away from that thought… Would love to read your thoughts and theories on the EDM scene. Haha, ha, err ha.

But that’s all I’ve got for a Monday night! See you tomorrow my friends.

Tim!