Never Ever, Ever, Ever (Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping review)

The first time I watched This Is Spinal Tap, was when I was in my late teens, it was also around that time that experienced Fubar as well. I can thank my friend Nick for those movies, because he loved to watch documentaries and mockumentaries when we were growing up.

And because I already had a love affair with satire in other shapes and forms, it makes sense that I’d give this weeks movie review a thumbs up.

 

 

 

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

Cast: Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Director(s): Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
released on blu-ray September 13, 2016
******* 7/10

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IMDB: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%, Audience Score 68%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, and Andy Samberg are all members of the popular comedy group The Lonely Island. Known for their involvement with SNL and Samberg in particular for his acting skills, this group generally delivers topical and entertaining satire.

Popstar never deviates from that pattern or presentation, which is a testament to these gents ability. After all, the mockumentary has been done a few times before, some would say done to death. Worse still, musical mockumentaries will always have to compare themselves to This Is Spinal Tap, the quintessential piece of that cinematic format.

Which means that I don’t really need to dig into the story this time around, because we should all know how it goes.

Connor4real (Andy Samberg) is a popstar who is about to release his followup album, but he makes some bad decisions, like investing with an appliance manufacturer that only shares his tracks whenever one of their machines is used. And of course his sophomore album bombs, forcing Connor4real to do everything he can to maintain his solo career, despite major attempts from his DJ Owen (Jorme Taccone), fans, and even talk show hosts to see a reunion tour of his former group Style Boyz. You see, Style Boyz were three friends that included Connor, Owen, and the now missing writer of the group Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer). The group originally broke up when Connor and Lawrence got into a fight over a music award that had been attributed to Connor only.

We watch Connor4real spiral out of control, fighting with everything he has, except for that desire to reunite with this childhood friend. Ultimately the movie leads us to it’s inevitable reconciliation, and all is right in the world.

But in all honesty, I fell asleep in the last 15 minutes… not once, but twice. So if that isn’t an indication of a weak ending, I don’t know what is. And when I actually did force myself through it, I was indifferent.

Pros: The jokes are consistent and the material is solid for the most part, but Samberg really does hold all the star power here, and it’s what makes even the weak moments digestable.

Cons: It isn’t a perfect story by any means, but it’s one you recognize, and I think the movie suffers for it. In quite a few places it feels like you’re watching a sketch instead of a feature length movie.

Runtime: 1 hour 27 minutes

Points of Interest: In the movie Seal tells the audience he was scarred by wolves, when in real life it’s from an autoimmune disease called lupus, wolves are classified as “canis lupis.” Justin Timberlake cameos as Connors personal chef.

Maybe it’s a parody of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, maybe it’s a parody of Macklemore, and maybe it’s a parody of the state of popular music in our times, but I don’t think it really matters. We laugh at the jokes because they’re funny and we understand the punchline. After all, I never like to admit that I was wrong.

 

 

 

 

The Lonely Island make comedy music for a viral age, and some might think that this entry in their record is passable for forgettable, I’m inclined to believe that, but who’s to say that this is what we need right now? Never say never, and never stop never stopping.

I’m theoried out for the evening friends. Hit me back tomorrow with something wise and uncharacteristic.

Tim!

The Second Coming… Of The Blockbuster (Cross Talk Ep. 10)

The term globalization has been around forever, but for one reason or another we didn’t really pay attention to it, at least in my humble opinion, until telecommunications began flattening the world with the popularity of the Internet. And this flattening of course was physically helped by companies all over the world investing in laying fiber optic cables seemingly everywhere.

World historians have been writing and lecturing about globalization for much longer than that time period, if we’re going to be really honest. When countries began sending explorers around the world, like Christopher Columbus in the 15th century, that was probably the first major event that helped flatten the world.

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So as countries are able to share content and ideas more cheaply, the trajectory of creative endeavours continues to be shaped, but in a somewhat unknown and rather sublime way. Let me use a metaphor to explain what I’m eluding to more clearly. If in the past local markets were like rain falling upon a field, then we no longer rely on local markets only, and instead global markets move like tornadoes through a county.

It’s a global phenomenon which dictates how our world changes going forward.

But what the heck does that have to do with films timotheories?

Good point dear readers, I would have to admit that I don’t know exactly what it has to do with the future of films, but Chris and I, as well as a few critics we trust on these matters, are starting to see trends emerge with films, and we believe that the global film market is having a major impact on the types of films which are released based on box office earnings. Effectively, the global film market has a greater hold on the film calendar then ever before.

Episode 10 of Cross Talk is all about considering that maybe the reason why we continue to see bad movies being made is that in fact North American markets are not the only piece of the pie any more… And quality may be taking a backseat to blockbuster entertainment.

I’m out of theories for now, but please check back tomorrow for an album review that makes me sad, Every Time I Die. It’s a fun album, well, actually it might not be a fun album, depending on your perspective. Please comment, subscribe, and share this with friends. We want to hear your feedback!

Tim!

Turtle Soup (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, review)

Sometimes life throws you lemons, and so you make lemonade. Other times it throws you lemons and you plant a lemon try, because who has time to make lemonade? That was a throwback to yesterday’s post if you didn’t catch it, but also applies to the story of the day folks.

I have a friend that’s been making lemons for a little while now, but they finally started to get productive and dig themselves out of a pretty deep hole.

 

 

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016)

Cast: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Laura Linney, Stephen Amell, Tyler Perry, Brian Tee
Director(s): Dave Green
released on blu-ray September 20, 2016
*** 3/10

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IMDB: 6.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 38%, Audience Score 50%
The Guardian: */*****

 

David Green is an American film and music video director. He has directed Earth to Echo, and most recently, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.

It’s going to be hard to give this movie any positive accolades because it basically ripped off large parts of TMNT 2: Secret of the Ooze, though it did introduce better henchmen in Bebop and Rocksteady, which I’m personally thankful for.

It’s a tale as old as time, four heroes are living in squalor because they cannot accept the recognition they deserve, instead giving it to a minor character who abuses the praise. However, the heroes are then given a second chance to demonstrate their prowess, and after some challenges which include in-fighting over leadership and what course should be taken, the group bands together and takes down an even greater foe. This time they have the opportunity to be seen as the true heroes they are, but they decide to stay where they are, preferring to keep their secrecy.

That’s the shortest and nicest summary I could have come up with for TMNT: Out of the Shadows. Because quite frankly, it’s a hot mess.

I personally thought the turtles were less creepy this time around, both in their presentation and with the flirtations against April, which allowed me to invest in them as characters, but where the crew improved upon the turtles, the supporting cast doesn’t help much at all.

For instance, April O’Neil (Megan Fox) gets less screen time, but when she does show up onscreen, it’s usually to help move the plot forward/feature as a sex object. But Dr. Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) is an oddball scientist and cameraman Vern (Will Arnett) makes almost no connecting jokes. Also the inclusion of Krang feels somewhat shoehorned in, and we never get to connect the dots over why he wants to leave Dimension X nor why Earth is a great choice to migrate to.

Pros: The action scenes are more fun, the turtles banter is more relevant, and I cannot emphasis this enough, they are WAY less creepy to look at.

Cons: The story is bland, the supporting cast is painful to watch, and the ending just doesn’t make sense. Need I say more?

Runtime: 1 hour 52 minutes

Points of Interest: The mutagen in this film is purple, much like that from the 1987 cartoon, which had a whole host of varieties. This is the first live-action TMNT to feature Krang.

While it is pretty obvious I didn’t love this movie, I will admit that it felt a lot closer to the heroes in a half shell that we know and love than the bastard child of 2014. I will also caution parents of small children to share the other movies and cartoons with their offspring if they are going to watch this movie, because it’s not okay to only call them Leo, Donnie, Raph, and Mikey. Those turtles are much more interesting then Michael Bay gives kids credit for. Seriously, there will be shell to pay.

 

 

 

As mentioned numerous times already, this is not an excellent film by any means. It doesn’t improve on anything already canon in the TMNT universe nor does keep up with the continuity proper. However, it does appear to be the case that the franchise is making a u-turn after many months off course. So with that said, I can suggest you watch this movie if you really like TMNT. Otherwise, it’s probably best left in the shadows.

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

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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!

Recipe For Hate (The Hateful Eight review)

Let’s be frank. Yes frank, not Sally, not Tommy, not Mary, or Sue, but frank.

Frankly, I have enjoyed films most of my life, and the semi-indulgent nature of earning the knowledge associated with industry names, terms, and sitting through repeated viewings of films so that I can quote them, and call up details is one of those weird things that I am very proud of.

And with the right affection, not affectation, I can use that knowledge in helpful ways and contribute to conversations or generate them from thin air. The problem with so much love is that it can turn into hate, the opposite side of love, but equally with as much passion.

That’s where today’s movie review comes in.

 

 

 

The Hateful Eight (2015)

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins
Director: Quentin Tarantino
released on blu-ray March 29, 2016
******** 7/10

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IMDB: 7.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, Audience Score 77%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Quentin Tarantino is an American filmmaker, screenwriter, and actor. He has directed eight films to date, in case that wasn’t clear from the movie posters, trailers or the case of movie release. Which I would like to take a moment to think upon, because he has definitely directed more films than 8, but I guess he has decided to ignore certain works as canon (My Best Friend’s Birthday and Four Rooms)

All of his previous films have been tentatively noted to be set in a particular universe and are self-referential. For instance, the 6th film Inglorious Basterds shows a world where the Americans defeat Hitler rather violently by mowing him down and blowing up a movie theatre he is located in, setting the stage for his pop-culture ridden characters of post 1940’s America.

The Hateful Eight is adventurous, entertaining, and nuanced, but is it a good film?

Taken from Wikipedia and edited,

Years after the Civil War, bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) is transporting three dead bounties to the town of Red Rock, Wyoming. He hitches a ride on a stagecoach driven by a man named O.B. Jackson. Aboard is John Ruth (Kurt Russell), a bounty hunter known for bringing in outlaws alive to see them hang, and fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh)), whom Ruth is escorting handcuffed to him to Red Rock.

Former Lost-Causer militiaman Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), who claims he is travelling to Red Rock as the town’s new sheriff, persuades Ruth and Warren to let him on the stagecoach. Warren and Ruth form an alliance to protect each other’s bounties. Mannix and Warren almost come to blows over their controversial war records.

The group is forced to seek refuge from a powerful blizzard at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach lodge. They are greeted by Bob (Demian Bichir), a Mexican who says owner Minnie is visiting her mother and left him in charge. The other lodgers are Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), a hangman; Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), a quiet cowboy travelling to visit his mother; and Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern), a former Confederate general. Suspicious, Ruth disarms all but Warren.

As the group eats, Mannix surmises that Warren’s Lincoln letter is a forgery. Warren admits this, saying the letter buys him leeway with whites, outraging Ruth. Warren leaves a gun next to Smithers and provokes him into reaching for it by telling Smithers he tortured, sexually humiliated and killed Smithers’ son. Warren shoots Smithers in “self-defense”, in revenge for Smithers’ execution of black soldiers at the Battle of Baton Rouge.

While everyone is distracted by the confrontation, someone seen only by Daisy poisons the brewing coffee. Ruth and O.B. drink it, vomit blood, and collapse. The dying Ruth attacks Daisy, but she kills him with his own gun. Warren disarms Daisy, holds the men at gunpoint and leaves her cuffed to Ruth’s corpse. Warren is joined by Mannix, whom Warren trusts because he nearly drank the poisoned coffee.

Warren executes Bob, deducing that he is an impostor who killed the lodge owners. When Warren threatens to execute Daisy, Gage admits he is the poisoner. A man hiding in the cellar shoots Warren in the groin. Mobray draws a concealed gun and shoots Mannix, who returns fire, wounding Mobray and forcing Gage against the wall.

 

That’s a good place to set up a cliffhanger, because frankly this movie is almost 3 hours long and happens to have one.

With that all said and done, I did enjoy this movie, though it did feel a little slow going at times, and I struggled to find the surprise, because this is a Tarantino film, and he always attempts a crazy plot twist. And I’m pretty sure I ruined it for myself by reading the credits at the bottom of the movie case. So if you haven’t seen the movie yet, definitely don’t do that.

Pros: The movie is less interested in addressing issues of race and inequality, though strangely laden with opportunity for it, and would rather gift us with a western theme and combination of both subtle and no-so subtle violent emotions.

Cons: What is baffling about this film is the way it was pitched in previews and in the trailers. Shot on 70mm and presented with vistas, but it doesn’t do anything like those old westerns, it attempts to be one, but doesn’t quite reach it.

Runtime: 187 minutes

Points of Interest: According to Tarantino the major influencers for this film were The Thing and Reservoir Dogs, which makes a fair amount of sense. Though Samuel L. Jackson has been involved in six of Tarantino’s films, this is his first time as a lead actor. This has been confirmed to take place in the same universe as Django Unchained, though it is not a sequel.

My initial impression after watching this movie for the first time was that I did enjoy it. I enjoyed the set pieces, the costumes and the era appropriate characterizations. After watching the movie, and thinking upon it more, I decided that while I do enjoy this movie, and I can definitely sit through extra screenings, it’s not a movie I am going to endorse to see for it’s themes or narrative. It’s a fun movie, but not necessarily a thought provoking one.

You see, the thing about hate is that you have to have love first, and you can only ever hate something if you felt strongly enough about it in the first place to have been wounded by it. Quentin Tarantino loves film, all of its intricacies, and he is willing to take risks to create new films, while inspiring thoughts about the industry in general.

I’ve loved a number of his films in the past, but something about this one doesn’t quite sit with me. Now I don’t hate it, but I’m wondering if something far worse is setting in – indifference. Which is in fact the opposite of both love and hate. Just a theory though.

Tim!