Sunday, December 31, 2006

Critic's Choice (Part 2)

Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury (buy)

I received the Clipse much-hyped album Hell Hath No Fury for Christmas. Many critics, bloggers, and general hipsters have called this the best rap album of the year. It has even topped several album of the year lists. Which leads me to wonder how much hip-hop do these people really listen to? Not to say that this is not a good album, in fact, it is far superior to a lot of the crap that was released this year. Yet in a year that saw strong releases from Ghostface Killah (two albums no less), Lupe Fiasco, Rhymefest, The Roots, J-Dilla, Cadence Weapon (received in 06), etc... Hell Hath No Fury is hardly the best of the bunch. A good portion of the album focuses on the harshness of the drug dealing trade. Despite all the money that can be made, the life of a dealer is a short one. As there is always someone wanting to take what you have. There is a great line in the song Nightmares (ft. Bilal and Pharrell Williams) that states "They be thinking nice car, nice crib/I be thinking how long will these [guys] let me live." The problem with this album is that it pretty hits two sides of the same coin. When the Clipse decide to let loose on few “fun” tracks what do they talk about? All the great stuff they can buy thanks to selling drugs. It is this type of contradiction that ultimately hurt the album. It would have been nice if they had branched out and covered more diverse subject matter. Still, the rhymes are tight for the most part; and the Neptunes grim synthesized beats are top notch. Hell Hall No Fury is a good album, but not the best rap album released in 2007.

Here is the latest single from the album Wamp Wamp (What it Do)[ft. Slim Thug].



Happy New Year

Friday, December 29, 2006

Mel Gibson's Apocalypto

Apocalypto

I'll admit it, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. I would even go as far a saying it's one of the most entertaining action movies I've seen all year. Sure the film does not actually shed much light on why the Mayan civilizations became extinct. Was it because one group thought to impose its values/beliefs on another? Were they all just a bunch of savages? Or was it the emergence of the white man? Lets face it, plot has never been Mel Gibson's strong point as a director. You need look no further than "Man Without A Face" and "The Passion of the Christ" for examples of this (Bravehart being the rare exception). As a director, Mel has always thrived on his keen visuals sense. Which is why I think Apocalypto works so well. The action sequences and the fantastic art direction more than make up for the paper-thin story.

Although the film is even more violent than The Passion of the Christ, I thought the violence was better used in this film. I loved the little details that Gibson puts into the film. The mist of blood that hangs in the air after a brutal strike, etc... I also liked that he showed the various medical techniques that Mayans used to heal wounds. The makeup and costumes effectively gave every single person a distinct personality and social standing. Sure there are times when Mel wants us to make comparisons to America's current and past actions. Yet he does not quiet succeed on that level. At the end of the day Apocalypto is nothing more than a visually stunning Rambo-style action flick minus the guns/explosions. Yet, it was far more inventive and entertaining than most of the blockbuster that came out this year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Critic's Choice (Part 1)

TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain (buy).


Return to Cookie Mountain has been receiving critical praise since it was released a few months ago. Despite enjoying a couple of the songs I sampled (Dirtywhirl and Province), I still had reservations about picking up the album. This was mainly due to the fact that I hated their previous album, Desperate Youth Blood Thirsty (buy), which was also highly praised. I just did not get their brand of artsy/experimental rock. Luckily my experience with Return to Cookie Mountain has been much better. After listening to copy I received for my birthday, I can honestly say this album is a vast improvement. It is far more accessible than its predecessor. The thing that surprised me the most on the album is the harmonies. The harmonies on the quieter songs, such as A Method, are what really draw you into the album. While I still think TV on the Radio's style is an eccentric taste, I can see why this album made almost every single top ten list.


Here is the lead single of the ablum, Wolf Like Me. I'm not even going to bother discecting the symbolism:



As a bonus, here is a nice "fan made" video for the song Tonight. I think it fits the vibe of the song perfectly.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Pass The Sherry, Baby.

SherryBaby

SherryBaby follows a single mother, Sherry (Maggie Gyllenhaal), as she tries to reconnect with her daughter after spending time in prison. To Sherry's surprise, but not the viewers, reconnecting is much tougher than she anticipates. Mainly due to the fact that her daughter has been raised by Sherry's brother and his wife for most of her life. It also does not help that Sherry is a recovering drug addict. Who is always one step away from falling back into old habits.

This film has all the typical clichés of a "TV Movie of the Week." There are even allusions to an event in Sherry's childhood that may have led her down this troubled road. Yet the funny thing is, the film still works. All the credit has to go to Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose performance alone makes the film far better than it really should be. You may not like Sherry, but Gyllenhaal makes sure that you at least understand how Sherry sees the world. Yes, the film would have been better served with a more original plot. Yet, I still highly recommend the film based on Gyllenhaal's work alone.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Pursuit of Sappyness

I received the new TV on the Radio album for my birthday this past week. I'll talk more about it in a future post. I also got a copy of the film Sherrybaby (thanks again, Pauline), which will also be discussed in a future post. For now, I will talk about a film that I saw last night.


The Pursuit of Happyness


This film had all the makings of a classic Hollywood tearjerker: 1) A big name actor showing a vulnerable side. 2) An "inspired by a true story" plot about a man prevailing despite hitting rock bottom. 3) Heart-wrenching dramatic scenes. 4) A cute kid to provide a little levity. Yet with all of that what do they do? Add a Will Smith voice over to really emphasize the point. The narration hurts the film more than anything; there was no need for it. Which leads to the main problem I had with the film: it underestimates the audience.

The audience knows what to expect from the film based on the trailers. Yet the film beats you over the head by explaining the significances of every major scene. For example, Chris Gardner (Smith) and son are alone by the water in a rare moment of joy. It is pretty obvious that they haven't had much to smile about, which makes the scene touching. Oh wait, here comes the voice over to explain that...they were alone and that it is a rare moment of joy. Or, how about the great scene towards the end; when Gardner is talking to his future bosses. Despite tears of joy coming down, Gardner fights to maintain the level of dignity he has shown throughout the film. It's a great scene to watch until...you guessed it; the narration comes in to explain that he is now truly happy.

To me the saving grace in the film are the performances. Will Smith does a really good job in the film, as does his son Jayden and Thandie Newton (who gives a great underrated performance). It's just a shame that the film trust the actors to get the overall message across. If they every make a follow-up film, I hope it's called "The Pursuit of Subtly."

Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I Like My Globes Golden

Update (19/12/06): Fixed the link issue, you should be able to access the songs now.


The Golden Goble nominations were announced this past week. Here are a few random thoughts about this year's selections.

Random Song 1: The Arcade Fire - Intervention (BBC Radio Rip) (band's website)
Random Song 2: Spank Rock - Rick Rubin (buy)


The Golden Globes




Best Picture (Drama): BABEL; BOBBY; THE DEPARTED; LITTLE CHILDREN; THE QUEEN

Figured Babel and The Departed would be a lock. Glad that The Queen is making a strong showing at many of the critic awards. Little Children has been on my must see list since it played at the T.O. film fest. As for Bobby, I think the Hollywood Foreign press wanted to ensure celebs are at the proceedings. I could easily list a ten films more deserving.

Best Actress (Drama): PENÉLOPE CRUZ, VOLVER; JUDI DENCH, NOTES ON A SCANDAL; MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL, SHERRYBABY; HELEN MIRREN, THE QUEEN; KATE WINSLET, LITTLE CHILDREN

Mirren is the hands down favourite and she deserves it. Overall I really like the five selections. Gyllenhaal was receiving praise all summer, unfortunate the film didn't get release wide enough for more people to see it. Oh well, there is always DVD.

Best Actor (Drama): LEONARDO DICAPRIO, BLOOD DIAMOND, LEONARDO DICAPRIO,THE DEPARTED; PETER O’TOOLE VENUS; WILL SMITH THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS; FOREST WHITAKER, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND.

Exactly what I expected to see, with the exception of the second Dicaprio nomination for Blood Diamond.

Random Song 3: Love Is All - Felt Tip(buy)
Random Song 4: Nas - Black Republicans (ft. Jay-Z) (buy)

Best Picture (Comedy/Musical): BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN; THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA; DREAMGIRLS; LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE; THANK YOU FOR SMOKING.

Borat and Thank You For Smoking were pleasant surprises. I figured Little Miss Sunshine would be a lock, although I don't think it will win. I am hoping to see Prada and Dreamgirls over the holidays.

Best Actress (Comedy/Musical): ANNETTE BENING,RUNNING WITH SCISSORS; TONI COLLETTE, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE; BEYONCÉ KNOWLES,DREAMGIRLS; MERYL STREEP,THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA; RENEE ZELLWEGER,MISS POTTER

Some rather interesting selections in this category; my initial gut reaction is that Meryl will take it.

Best Actor (Comedy/Musical): SACHA BARON COHEN,BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN; JOHNNY DEPP,PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST; AARON ECKHART, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING; CHIWETEL EJIOFOR, KINKY BOOTS, WILL FERRELL, STRANGER THAN FICTION

To be honest I can never predict this category; ever year it is full of surprises. Although I was a little shocked that Depp got nominated again, I was glad that Cohen and Eckhart received nods. I was actually expecting Ferrell to appear in the drama section.

Best Animated: CARS, HAPPY FEET, MONSTER HOUSE

Oddly enough, I still don't have any desire to see these three. Well possibly Monster House...

Best Foreign Picture: APOCALYPTO (USA); LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA (USA/JAPAN); THE LIVES OF OTHERS (GERMANY); PAN’S LABYRINTH (MEXICO); VOLVER (SPAIN)

Lets ignore the fact that two US films are in this group for a moment. I am really happy to see The Lives of Others, Volver, and Pan's Labyrinth on the list. All three were among my list of favourites from this year's Toronto Film Festival.

Random Song 5: George Benson - Footin It (buy)
Random Song 6: Band of Horses - The Great Salt Lake (buy)

Best Supporting Actress: ADRIANA BARRAZA, BABEL; CATE BLANCHETT, NOTES ON A SCANDAL; EMILY BLUNT,THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA; JENNIFER HUDSON, DREAMGIRLS; RINKO KIKUCHI,BABEL

Really pleased that both Barraza and Rinko got recognized for their work. Hudson seems to be the favourite right now. She has received nominations in every single critic's awards (including Toronto) so far.

Best Supporting Actor: BEN AFFLECK,HOLLYWOODLAND; EDDIE MURPHY,DREAMGIRLS; JACK NICHOLSON,THE DEPARTED; BRAD PITT, BABEL; MARK WAHLBERG, THE DEPARTED

Walhberg was the pleasant surprise of this group. Although he was entertaining in the film, the competition is too stronger for him to win.

Best Director: CLINT EASTWOOD, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS; CLINT EASTWOOD, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, STEPHEN FREARS, THE QUEEN; ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ IÑÁRRITU, BABEL; MARTIN SCORSESE,THE DEPARTED

Pretty strong group of directors. Although I wonder if Eastwood would have been nominated for Flags if the studio didn't bump up the release date of the companion, piece Iwo Jima.

Random Song 7: Twista - Overnight Celebrity (buy)
Random Song 8: The Shins - Phantom Limb (buy)
Bonus: Teddybears - Yours to Keep (ft. Neneh Cherry) (buy).

Ipod Workout Plan: Teddybears - Yours to Keep (ft. Paola). Although I posted the album version above. The version featuring Paola is currently being used in Virgin Mobile holiday ads


Monday, December 04, 2006

Mash Potatoes

A few mash-ups today...


Random Song 1: De La Soul vs. Cheers - Ooh Cheers (by Lenlow)
Random Song 2: Bjork vs. Sea & Cake vs. Jeremy Steig - Hidden Howling Bird (by Lenlow)



Danger Mouse



Encore from the Grey Album. While Girl Talk has been crowned “mash-up king” of 2006. Danger Mouse will always be remembered for making mash-ups trendy in the mainstream. Who knew all you needed was the world's most well known rapper and say the biggest rock group ever. While it may not “wow” technically speaking (for that see Girl Talk), it is still a great album to listen to. It still holds up well two-years later. Anyone else find it odd that both the new Jay-Z album and the new Beatles album came out within weeks of each other this past month? Coincidences? I think not.






Random Song 4: Marvin Gaye vs. Lipps - Sexual Town
Random Song 5: Girl Talk - Minute by Minute
Bonus: Danger Mouse - 99 Problems


Ipod Workout Plan: Keisha Chante - 2U from the album 2U (buy). This song is always playing when my alarm goes off in the morning. The beat is permanently stuck in my head. Curse you morning radio...




Random Song 5: Gnarls Barkley vs. Prince - Crazy Times
Random Song 6: Nickelback vs. Nickelback - Nickelback to Back
Bonus: Girl Talk - Summer Smoke