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February 2020 Album Reviews (Part One)

May 20, 2020

I’ve been sitting on this post for too long and want to get something new out, so I’m going to make my February reviews a two-parter. Hopefully I will have the second part done before the end of the month.

A good rule of thumb in order for me to rate an album is that I probably need to listen to it at least twice (hence no Pop Smoke listed below). Possibly the only exception to this rule is when I deem an album unlistenable and can barely (or can’t) even make it through the whole album the first time. Listening to and evaluating music is a pretty fluid process though, so all ratings are subject to change in the future as albums grow on me or I realize I initially overrated them. I’ve been sitting on most of these albums for about three months now, so I feel pretty good about these reviews. I will bold any song I added to my Bangers Playlist – usually at least a 4 on my rating scale.

5 – Perfection – Elite on every level. Pure bliss in musical form. Literally perfect.
4.5 – Amazing – Mostly elite, but not quite on that all-time level of the best songs ever created.
4 – Very Good – This is basically the cut off for my Bangers Playlists, which are essentially a list of my favorite songs of the year. I feel like you should never want to skip any song that’s this good. Any album that can average a 4 is probably amazing.
3.5 – Good – I feel like this is where you want to sit as an artist. Making good songs. Sometimes you will make really good songs and sometimes you will make some not so good songs. An artist that consistently reaches this level is by no means average though… they are nice.
3 – Cool – When people say something is “not bad,” that’s what this is. It’s not exactly good, but it’s not really a weak track either. When I give something a 3, I like it, but I’m a bit lukewarm on it, whereas I’m 100% on board with something I give a 3.5. You don’t want to sit here as an artist. The difference between an album that averages a 3.5 and one that averages a 3 is actually huge. A 3.5 is undeniably good while a 3 is much closer to mediocre.
2.5 – Filler – Any song I give a 2.5 to is something I’d cut from an album. It’s not good enough to be on there and megafans and completionists are the only people that ever needed to hear it. A 2.5 is the ceiling for weak songs though, so I guess I’d call them decent, but decent isn’t good enough to be album material. An album that averages a 2.5 rating is almost certainly trash.
2 – Bad – These are flat out bad tracks. There are songs I don’t really like but I’d call decent and then there are songs I don’t like that just plain suck. That’s what a 2 is.
1 – Trash – No need for a 1.5. A trash track is worse than a bad track. We are talking pure garbage here.

Spin Rate – This is an important feature because not only does it show how much listening love I gave an album, but it also reflects how reliable my opinion on it is. I’m going to trust someone that listened to something 5+ times through a hell of a lot more than someone that just gave an album one listen. It’s not perfect. I just add up the total number of listens for every song on the album and divide it by the number of actual songs on the album (intros, skits, outros are generally excluded). But if my spin rate is a 5, then you can assume I’ve listened to most of the album at least five times through.

Lana Del ReyNorman F*****g Rockwell! (August 2019, Pop/Rock)
1. “Norman fucking Rockwell” – 3.5
2. “Mariners Apartment Complex” – 3.5
3. “Venice Bitch” – 4
4. “Fuck it I love you” – 4
5. “Doin’ Time” – 3.5
6. “Love Song” – 3.5
7. “Cinnamon Girl” – 3.5
8. “How to disappear” – 3.5
9. “California” – 4
10. “The Next Best American Record” – 3.5
11. “The greatest” – 3.5
12. “Bartender” – 4
13. “Happiness is a butterfly” – 4
14. “hope is a danger thing for a woman like me to have – but i have it” – 4

Spin Rate: 9
Average Song Rating: 3.71/5
Save Percentage: 100% (14/14)
Bangers: 6

Thoughts: It’s pretty safe to say that I love Lana Del Rey’s style. Well, at least on this album. I can’t say I’m familiar with the rest of her discography. This album has a very mellow and somewhat melancholy vibe, but it’s full of substance and it’s such a love letter to the state of California while sounding nothing like the sunshine and warmth you associate with The Golden State. I love this album. I can put it on and listen to it all the way through without wanting to skip a single song. I can promise this though: if you listen to any song I bolded above and don’t like it, there’s no chance you will like this album.

Verdict: Album of the Year Contender

D SmokeBlack Habits (February 2020, Rap)
1. “Morning Prayer” – N/A
2. “Bullies” – 3.5
3. “No Commas” – 3.5
4. “Gaspar Yanga” ft. Snoop Dogg – 3
5. “Top of the Morning” – 3
6. “Sunkissed Child” ft. Jill Scott & Iguocho – 3.5
7. “Black Habits I” ft. Jackie Gouche – 3.5
8. “Fly” ft. Davion Farris – 3.5
9. “Seasons Pass” – 3
10. “Fallin'” – 3
11. “Lights On” ft. SiR – 3.5
12. “Real Body” ft. Ari Lennox – 2.5
13. “Free” – 4
14. “Like My Daddy” – 4

15. “Closer to God” ft. SiR – 3.5
16. “Black Habits II” – 3.5

Spin Rate: 5.5
Average Song Rating: 3.36/5
Save Percentage: 93% (14/15)
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: So Cardi B created this show on Netflix called Rhythm + Flow, an American Idol-type show for wannabe hip-hop artists, and D Smoke was the winner of the first season. I was pretty shocked when he won because it seemed pretty obvious to me that Flawless Real Talk was the best contestant on the show… by a pretty sizable margin… but both Flawless and D Smoke have released projects since the show aired and it’s pretty clear that D Smoke is the better artist, by far. He released an EP late last year called Inglewood High that had a couple gems on it and follows it up here with this full length album that is also quite good. As you can see by my ratings above, I tend to think D Smoke makes pretty good, but not great music, but sitting in that 3.5 range is a fine place to be… he just doesn’t elevate to that special level too often. It seems like D Smoke is still trying to find his own style at this early point in his career because the Kendrick Lamar influence can be overwhelming at times. Also, it’s pretty wild that D Smoke is a sibling of SiR, Kendrick’s TDE labelmate. Smoke has a mellow vibe but he’s actually quite complex lyrically. He also raps in Spanish a lot, which can be cool, but he goes to that well more often than you’d expect. Black Habits is a solid debut studio LP from a promising hip-hop artist

Verdict: Highly Enjoyable

Brent FaiyazF**k the World (February 2020, R&B/Soul)
1. “Skyline” – 3
2. “Clouded” – 3
3. “Been Away” – 4
4. “F**k the World (Summer in London)” – 3.5
5. “Let Me Know” – 3.5
6. “Soon Az I Get Home (Interlude)” – N/A
7. “Rehab (Winter in Paris)” – 4
8. “Bluffin” – 3.5
9. “Lost Kids Get Money” – 3.5
10. “Make It Out (Outro)” – N/A

Spin Rate: 10.25
Average Song Rating: 3.5/5
Save Percentage: 100% (8/8)
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: This is a nice, but short R&B project with a couple of standout tracks. A 3.5 average rating is really high though (Mac Miller’s album was the only January release I gave a higher average rating to) so basically every song on here is good. Brent Faiyaz can do a throwback 90s-sounding R&B song better than any modern crooner I can think of and “Been Away” is that track on this album. If you like this project, then check out his last album Sonder Son… it’s even better.

Verdict: Highly Enjoyable

Denzel Curry & Kenny BeatsUNLOCKED (February 2020, Rap)
1. “Track 01” – N/A
2. “Take_it_Back_v2” – 3.5
3. “Lay_Up.m4a” – 3.5
4. “Pyro (leak 2019)” – 3.5
5. “DIET_” – 3.5
6. “So.Incredible.pkg” – 4
7. “Track07” – N/A
8. “‘Cosmic’ .m4a” – 4

Spin Rate: 4.67
Average Song Rating: 3.67/5
Save Percentage: 100% (6/6)
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: This is a really short, but solid project. Removing the intro and interlude type track, it’s only about 15 minutes long, but Denzel has a very commanding mic presence and Kenny Beats gives him some solid instrumentals to spit over. Denzel Curry is probably one of the more overlooked prominent rap artists releasing quality music over the last few years. Even I’m guilty of it. He’s lyrically nice and has a really good flow, plus enough off the dome talent that he allegedly freestyled the entirety of his last album. He’s someone you need to put on your radar if he’s not there already.

Verdict: Highly Enjoyable

Boldy JamesThe Price of Tea in China (February 2020, Rap)
1. “Carruth” – 3.5
2. “Giant Slide” – 3.5
3. “Surf & Turf” ft. Vince Staples – 4
4. “Run-Ins” – 3
5. “Scrape the Bowl” ft. BENNY THE BUTCHER – 3.5
6. “Pinto” – 3
7. “Slow Roll” – 4
8. “S.N.O.R.T” ft. Freddie Gibbs – 3.5
9. “Grey October” ft. Evidence – 3.5
10. “Mustard” – 3
11. “Speed Demon Freestyle” – 2.5
12. “Phone Bill” – 3.5

Spin Rate: 4.75
Average Song Rating: 3.38/5
Save Percentage: 91.6% (11/12)
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: I’d never heard of Boldy before this album dropped, but when Alchemist is producing your whole album, that alone makes it worth checking out. Also, the features are like a who’s who of some of my favorite rappers from the last few years. I wouldn’t call the production on this album elite, but Alchemist really complements Boldy’s extremely laid back, almost monotone style. I typically don’t love this kind of vocal rapping style, but Boldy has BARS and his flow is pretty nice. It works for me, but it might not work for everyone.

Verdict: Recommended

A Boogie wit da HoodieArtist 2.0 (February 2020, Rap/Trap)
1. “Thug Love” – 3.5
2. “Cinderella Story” – 3
3. “Me and My Guitar” – 3.5
4. “Might Not Give Up” ft. Young Thug – 4
5. “Numbers” ft. Roddy Richh, Gunna and London On Da Track – 3.5
6. “Stain” ft. DaBaby – 3.5
7. “Hit ‘Em Up” ft. Trap Manny – 3
8. “DTB 4 Life” – 3
9. “Calm Down (Bittersweet)” ft. Summer Walker – 4
10. “Another Day Gone” ft. Khalid – 3.5
11. “Good Girls Gone Bad” – 3
12. “Blood On My Denim” – 3
13. “R.O.D.” – 2.5
14. “Big S**T” – 2.5
15. “Right Back” – 3.5
16. “Luv Is Art” ft. Lil Uzi Vert – 3
17. “King of My City” – 3
18. “Mood Swings” – 3.5
19. “Reply” ft. Lil Uzi Vert – 3.5
20. “Streets Didn’t Love You” – 3

Spin Rate: 5.3
Average Song Rating: 3.25/5
Save Percentage: 90% (18/20)
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: I’m not mad about that score. A Boogie has a vibe that works for me and I tend to like most of his songs. It’s pretty shocking to me that he can release a 20 track album and I’d only trim off two songs. Everything else is reasonably good. A Boogie reminds me a bit of Roddy Richh (or maybe Roddy reminds me of him?), but Roddy seems to be a substantially better songwriter. I only added two songs from this album to my 2020 Bangers Playlist and they were actually pretty light additions. I think the Young Thug and Summer Walker features push those tracks over the edge though. This isn’t really an album I’d want to listen to all the way through, but I’d only skip two songs if they came up in a playlist shuffle, so I’d say A Boogie has a winner here.

Verdict: Recommended

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April 2020 Music Playlist

May 5, 2020

Notes: Finally cleared out all the lingering 2019 albums and also the January 2020 releases from my Priority playlist… and also deleted some albums that I just know I’m never really going to listen to. I’m working on my February album reviews right now and hope to have that post up in a couple weeks. Ideally, I’d like to release my reviews for the previous month about two weeks into the next month. For example, by the middle of June, I should be able to digest all the May albums enough to publish my reviews for them. Alas, I am still playing catch up and it will probably take at least a few more months to get where I want to be. No one I’ve been eagerly anticipating dropped in April, but there were a few surprises. I’m not a big Westside Gunn fan, but I’m loving his new project. Also, R.A. the Rugged Man dropped his first album in seven years and on first listen it’s some serious heat. Finally, who the hell is Dua Lipa? Never heard of her before, but someone recommended it and there’s no denying it, she made a great pop album.

* indicates April release

HEAVY ROTATION (heard whole album many times)

Brent Faiyaz – F**k the World
*Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
Jay Electronica (and Jay-Z!) – A Written Testimony
Planet Asia & 38 Spesh – Trust the Chain
Royce da 5’9″ – The Allegory
The Weeknd – After Hours

STRONG ROTATION (listened to most of album 3-4 times)

Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake
*Westside Gunn – Pray for Paris

SOLID ROTATION (heard whole album at least twice)

A Boogie wit da Hoodie – Artist 2.0
D Smoke – Black Habits
Kamaiyah – Got It Made
Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

COURTESY ROTATION (heard whole album)

*Berner & B-Real – Los Meros
Boldy James – The Price of Tea in China
*Buddy & Kent Jamz – Janktape Vol. 1
Childish Gambino – 3.15.20
*Conway the Machine & The Alchemist – LULU
*DaBaby – BLAME IT ON BABY
Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats – UNLOCKED
*Drake – Dark Lane Demo Tapes
*dvsn – A Muse In Her Feelings
Grafh – Oracle 3
G Herbo – PTSD
Jadakiss – Ignatius
Jessie Reyez – BEFORE LOVE CAME TO KILL US
Jhene Aiko – Chilombo
Lil Baby – My Turn
Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake [Deluxe]
*R.A. the Rugged Man – All My Heroes Are Dead
*YFN Lucci – Corona Pack – EP

SKIM ROTATION (haven’t heard whole album)

Don Toliver – Heaven Or Hell
*Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Joyner Lucas – ADHD
PARTYNEXTDOOR – PARTYMOBILE
*Rod Wave – Pray 4 Love
*Thundercat – It Is What It Is
*Tory Lanez – The New Toronto 3
Twista – Lifetime EP

TOO NEW/NO LOVE (zero listens)

Car Seat Headrest – Making a Door Less Open
Guapdad 4000 – Platinum Falcon Tape, Vol. 1 – EP
*Skyzoo & Dumbo Station – The Bluest Note – EP
*Tech N9ne – Enterfear

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

Dua LipaFuture Nostalgia

Bangerz Playlist Additions – Follow me on Apple Music @DarkKnight1717 to add my playlists

Brent Faiyaz, “Been Away”
D Smoke, “Like My Daddy”
D Smoke, “Free”
Halsey, “Graveyard”
JID, “Big Black Truck”
Lil Wayne, “Mama Mia”
Lil Wayne, “Piano Trap”
Lil Wayne ft. The Dream, “Sights and Silencers”
Mac Miller, “Circles”
Planet Asia & 38 Spesh ft. Fred the Godson & Elcamino, “Learned from Og’s (Remix)”
Westside Gunn ft. Joey Bada$$, Tyler, The Creator & Billie Essco, “327”
Westside Gunn ft. Freddie Gibbs & Roc Marciano, “$500 Ounces”

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April 2020 Movie Reviews

May 2, 2020

Check out my profile on Letterboxd if you want to follow along as I write my reviews throughout the month and also because the site/app is amazing for film lovers. April was a pretty sad month because of the pandemic. Theaters are closed all throughout the United States and movie studios are pulling all their films from their original release dates. Even when theaters reopen to the public, they are talking about selling out at 50% capacity and what studio is going to want to release their tent pole films in a climate like that? I’m really curious when the next time I watch a new film in theaters will be.

Onward (2020, Disney+)

Pretty cool of Disney to release this on their streaming platform less than a month after it came out in theaters (shoutout to Covid-19). I can’t say Onward is top tier Pixar, but it was plenty good and managed to tug at my emotions like pretty much all their movies do. Amazing animation, solid voice work from Chris Pratt and Tom Holland, and enough laughs to keep me entertained the whole time. Not Pixar’s strongest work, but their middle tier is still really good stuff.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness (2020, Netflix, Documentary)

Crazy stuff, but wildly entertaining. I don’t think it’s an all-time great documentary, but it was definitely a lot of fun. All the major players are scummy though. Does anyone that watched this actually think that Carol Baskins is an animal rights hero?

Probably a must see documentary, but I’m going to rate it just a notch below that.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Bombshell (2019, Netflix Blu-Ray rental)

I’m not even remotely into politics and I spend none of my time watching news coverage, so my knowledge of the FOX News infrastructure and its relationship to the various political parties is nonexistent, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying Bombshell. This movie is more about sexual harassment than politics anyways. In fact, these women bringing down FOX CEO Roger Ailes was the first domino in what eventually became a movement that sparked the Me Too hashtag. I think that story is well told here and shows the struggle of fearing those in power and wanting to protect your career or… calling a public figure a monster.

Looking at pictures of Megyn Kelly on Google images, I can see why Bombshell won the Oscar for makeup and hairstyling. Theron is virtually unrecognizable here, but she looks exactly like Megyn Kelly. It’s uncanny. John Lithgow also looks like he spent a lot of time in the makeup chair.

This movie had some great acting from pretty much everyone. Theron and Robbie were both Oscar-nominated with Robbie giving the best performance of the movie, in my opinion. Lithgow is also at his slimy best and I’m a bit surprised his role didn’t get more attention. This movie has a strong supporting cast as well.

Bombshell is well acted and entertaining and definitely worth a watch.

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019, Netflix Blu-Ray rental)

This review may contain spoilers.

Well, this series jumped the shark pretty quick. I actually liked the first reboot sequel and was pleasantly surprised by it. I thought it was a fresh, modern take and I liked the cast. But this? I was tuned out within 30 minutes, already wishing it was over, and there was 90 minutes left! Why is a Jumanji movie 2+ hours??

Anyways, the climax of this movie takes place on an ice fortress… and there’s a blimp… and a flying horse. Remember when Jumanji was a board game about jungle animals? I guess the more sequels you make to something like this, the further away from the original concept you have to get to keep things interesting. Well, consider me uninterested.

There are a couple of funny parts in this, but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t painful for me to watch.

3/10 (Bad)

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Personal Shopper (2016, iTunes Store digital rental)

This is another one of those times where I go into a movie knowing nothing about it except that at some point in time something sparked me to put it on my watchlist… probably some best films of 2016 lists. A movie about mediums, the afterlife, and ghosts was about the last thing I was expecting and the content kind of knocked my socks off. I wouldn’t go as far as to call Personal Shopper riveting, but it was compelling and never lost my interest despite the fact that it is a really slow burn and Kristen Stewart’s character spends a good portion of the running time shopping, trying on clothes, and sending text messages. Speaking of which, did it drive anyone else nuts that she put a space in between her sentence and the question mark ? Like that ? Every single time.

I am not a Kristen Stewart fan at all. Prior to watching this, I had seen seven movies she’s been in and five of them have been part of the miserable Twilight franchise – movies I’ve seen because my wife wanted me to watch them with her. I’m on record calling Bella Swan one of the worst characters of all-time, so my distaste for Kristen Stewart is not much of a surprise and probably not even fair to her as I’ve seen less than 20% of her filmography. Well, this is easily the best work I’ve seen from her. She’s good in this movie!

Personal Shopper is unique, with a strong performance from Stewart and some surprisingly cool visual effects. I enjoyed it quite a bit and recommend to anyone that’s into ghost stories and doesn’t mind a deliberate pace.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Tusk (2014, Netflix)

I’m trying to think of anything at all that I liked about this movie and I’m coming up empty. I guess the, uhm, “walrus” makeup/costume was… interesting? Also grotesque. Possibly appalling. Kevin Smith just sucks now. I was a pretty big fan up through Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be impressed with that movie in 2020 and the only film I’ve enjoyed of his over the last 20 years was Zack and Miri Make a Porno. That’s a long stretch of crap. Granted, I’ve skipped almost all of it, but I trust the word of mouth. Still, Red State comes to a streaming service in April 2020 and I have the Jay and Silent Bob reboot on my watchlist, so I’ll probably watch both of those eventually. This is the kind of stuff I throw on late at night when I feel like I can stay up for another 20 minutes or so and then I watch it over the course of a few days because I don’t want to show that kind of disrespect to a movie I actually want to see.

One more thing, Johnny Depp is brutal. What happened to him? There was a point in time where I thought he was one of my favorite actors working and now I can’t stand the guy. He tries so hard to create unique and weird characters and lately he’s been failing miserably. His character here seems like something Sacha Baron Cohen would try to make a movie out of and Hollywood is like, “uhm, no.” Depp is no longer a draw for me… he’s an autoskip.

2/10 (Horrible)

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (2013, YouTube)

I rated this documentary higher than any film in the actual franchise, but I guess it makes sense. This is 5+ hours of awesome interviews, behind-the-scenes stories, and unreleased (and cut due to MPAA wimpiness) footage from a franchise I’ve loved since I was… wait, let me look up when Jason Lives was released… 5 or 6 years old? I remember my first exposure to Jason Vorhees being that opening scene from Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives when he’s brought back from the grave (literally) and maggots and worms are crawling around on his face. I watched it on home video… at a neighbor’s house… so I’m guessing it was probably a year or two after its theatrical release. I’ve been in love with the franchise ever since and I still watch them periodically and hope they never stop making them, no matter how bad some of them are.

This is a must see for anyone that’s a fan of the Friday the 13th franchise. It’s super long, but if you’re like me, you’ll enjoy every minute of it.

Not recommended for non-fans obv.

The only place I could find this documentary was on YouTube. Check it out.

8/10 (Must See)

Locke (2013, Netflix)

98% of this movie is Tom Hardy driving in a car and talking on his mobile phone via bluetooth. If that sounds awesome to you, well… you’d be right! Ivan Locke is a construction foreman on the eve of the biggest cement pour in European history when he receives a voicemail from a woman he had a one night affair with and learns that she is giving birth to his child. The rest of the movie is Hardy talking in an amazing Welsh accent while trying to coordinate the job he won’t be attending the next day and telling his wife the bad news.

For a film with one actor that takes place entirely in a car, I was kind of blown away. It doesn’t hurt that Tom Hardy is that actor because he can be absolutely brilliant and I think he’s on that level in Locke. The movie actually has some top level supporting talent in Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott, and Tom Holland, but they all phone it in. Literally.

I wish Tom Hardy wasn’t doing Venom. I wish he was doing more stuff like this. He is elite.

8/10 (Must See)

Watchmen (2009, personal collection, third viewing)

I already posted a review for this over ten years ago, but the HBO series has made me revisit both the graphic novel and this 2009 film adaptation. I heard I would appreciate the HBO series substantially more if the graphic novel was fresh in my mind and I decided I might as well watch this movie for the third time.

I actually don’t think the acting is as bad as I thought it was a decade ago. For instance, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Patrick Wilson are actually pretty good casting as The Comedian and Nite Owl, respectively. The only choice I truly didn’t like was Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt. I just don’t buy him as “The Smartest Man in the World” and his confidence just comes across as phony to me. Jackie Earle Haley is great as Rorschach. Not only is his portrayal top notch, but when he’s unmasked, he really does look exactly like the Walter Kovacs from the graphic novel.

This is such a faithful adaptation. It’s basically a scene-for-scene translation and so much of the dialogue is lifted unaltered directly from the comic. And yet… something is off. I said in my previous review that this movie has a bit of a “hokey” feel to it. I don’t know if I can explain it any better now, but I just watched the first episode of the HBO series (which I will write about when I’m done watching all of it) and the difference in quality is stark. This movie is cheesy by comparison. Maybe I just hate Zack Snyder’s style?

Fans of the graphic novel shouldn’t be too disappointed with this movie – it’s definitely enjoyable – but I’m much more interested in what the HBO series has to offer myself.

6/10 (Recommended)

Out of Sight (1998, HBONOW, second viewing)

I’ll probably end up doing a run through of Steven Soderbergh’s entire filmography at some point, as I’m doing with Scorsese now, but I’ve been itching to rewatch Out of Sight and it’s leaving HBO NOW at the end of the month.

This is a really fun movie. The sharp banter and charismatic characters – especially George Clooney’s Jack Foley – make watching it a really enjoyable experience. You can see the Soderbergh style that became so popular in the Ocean’s 11 trilogy. Speaking of which, I’ve missed Clooney. He’s underrated as a leading man and I haven’t seen a new movie he’s starred in since Gravity in 2013. J-Lo and Clooney have great chemistry in this movie and I think that’s probably the biggest reason this film works so well.

I only remembered one thing about Out of Sight: the scene where something really surprising happens to a rather minor character. I’m sure if you’ve seen the movie, you would know what I’m talking about. Maybe that scene has stuck with me all these years because I referenced it in my music some twenty years ago.

Smart, funny, and fast-paced, with strong lead performances from Clooney and Lopez, Out of Sight was a solid revisit and one of the better films in Soderbergh’s catalog.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Tootsie (1982, Netflix)

Tootsie got an astounding 10 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director for Sydney Pollack, Best Writing and acting noms for Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, and Teri Garr. Alas, only Lange was able to take home a statue for her supporting role.

I thought this was great. Dustin Hoffman is wonderful in one of the best performances of his career. I’ve only seen Jessica Lange’s later work, but she oozed natural charisma in the early 80s also. You watch a movie like Sleepaway Camp and see all this horribly corny acting and think that it’s just a reflection of the times (and the genre), but then you watch something like Tootsie – also released in 1982 – and, well, there was probably plenty of great acting happening back then. It’s probably not fair to compare a campy slasher flick with one of the most highly touted movies of 1982, but the contrast is so stark that it makes me wonder if I was just watching all the wrong movies while I was growing up. I just find a lot of the acting from the 80s really cheesy and the performances in this movie are just all so good.

Hoffman’s character gets in really deep pretending to be a woman, finding huge success on a popular soap and becoming extremely close with Lange’s character. I kept wondering how he was going to get out of this pickle and I have to say this film’s resolution was outstanding. I absolutely loved the ending.

Tootsie is a must see film from almost four decades ago. Check it out if you never have!

8/10 (Must See)

Mean Streets (1973, iTunes Store digital rental)

I liked Mean Streets a lot, but I think it falls short of greatness. I do love the soundtrack in this movie though. The song selection is elite and I love how The Marvelettes “Please Mr. Postman” plays during the awesome fight scene in the bar. The soundtrack feels like a great use of classic old school songs, but every song in this movie was 40 years fresher when it came out! Robert De Niro is absolutely fantastic in this movie. He’s completely unhinged as the wild and constantly disrespectful Johnny Boy. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen De Niro so loose in his whole career, but it’s been a while since I watched Taxi Driver. He’s just wonderful and you have to wonder how he didn’t get an Oscar nomination. I’m tempted to watch all the roles that got nominated over him and see how wrong they got it (I actually did add 1973’s Bang the Drum Slowly – also starring De Niro – to my watchlist).

Mean Streets was a lot of fun. You can see Scorsese getting his feet wet here with the mafioso type content he would eventually become famous for with Goodfellas and Casino. The characters and story are just so much better in those later films. This is a good movie though and I actually strongly considered watching it again before my 48 rental period expired. I can see myself revisiting it when I get through the rest of Marty’s filmography. Mean Streets is a huge leap forward from Scorsese’s first two films, but I’m still hesitating to call it his first great one. Maybe I’ll change my mind the second time I watch it.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Boxcar Bertha (1972, iTunes Store digital rental)

Martin Scorsese’s second feature film doesn’t establish him as a future great, but I thought it was fun, despite some issues I had with it – mostly what seems to be a serious passage of time that goes almost entirely unaddressed. I’m not sure what kind of movie this is. A western? Reviews I’ve read have called it an exploitation film. There’s a lot of harmonica in it. It’s also supposed to be a revenge movie, but I’m not sure how well that revenge was realized. David Carradine (the future Bill of Kill Bill) is charming in his role. Barbara Hershey is naked a lot in this movie which is kind of weird because she looks 15 years old (she was 23 or 24). She does a fine job acting though.

I don’t think Boxcar Bertha was necessarily a good movie, but I enjoyed watching it. This film is not one you have to see in Scorsese’s catalog unless you want to watch them all… like I do.

5/10 (Decent)

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January 2020 Album Reviews

April 23, 2020

First off, let me say… if nobody reads this, I’m going to be pissed. Yeah, this is a bit late. I’ve been working on this post for at least two months now. But I’ve been struggling with how I want to post my music opinions without feeling like I need to waste a ton of time thinking about what I want to write. I think I finally found a system that works for me. I’m going to rate every song on each album on what is essentially a 10-point scale and then I will average those ratings out to give an overall score. This isn’t necessarily my official rating for an album… but it’s a decent starting point. You will see some examples below where I think an album with a lower average rating is better than higher ones. Eminem’s album is the most obvious one. I gave seven of his songs a rating of 4 or higher – the most of any January 2020 release – but he also has, by far, the most songs I’d cut from an album, dragging his overall score down. So while his overall score is lower than some albums, I like it substantially more than, say, the Mick Jenkins project.

A good rule of thumb in order for me to rate an album is that I probably need to listen to it at least twice (hence no Pop Smoke listed below). Possibly the only exception to this rule is when I deem an album unlistenable and can barely (or can’t) even make it through the whole album the first time. Listening to and evaluating music is a pretty fluid process though, so all ratings are subject to change in the future as albums grow on me or I realize I initially overrated them. I’ve been sitting on most of these albums for about three months now, so I feel pretty good about these reviews. I will bold any song I added to my Bangers Playlist – usually at least a 4 on my rating scale.

5 – Perfection
4.5 – Great
4 – Very Good
3.5 – Good
3 – Cool
2.5 – Meh
2 – Bad
1 – Trash

BENNY THE BUTCHERThe Plugs I Met (June 2019, Rap)
1. (Intro) – N/A
2. “Crowns for Kings” ft. Black Thought – 5
3. “Sunday School” ft. 38 Spesh & Jadakiss – 4

4. “Dirty Harry” ft. Rj Payne & Conway the Machine – 3.5
5. “Took the Money to the Plug’s House” – 4
6. “18 Wheeler” ft. Pusha T – 4.5
7. “5 to 50” ft. India – 4

Average Song Rating: 4.17/5
Save Percentage: 100% (6/6)
Bangers: 5

Thoughts: A bonus addition to this month’s list because it’s just that good. This is a great example of less is more. Basically every song on here is really good. Black Thought and Benny absolutely murder the beat on “Crown for Kings” and I think that might be my favorite song of 2019. Benny is easily my favorite rapper that I wasn’t listening to a year ago. This is an elite project and one of the best albums of last year.

Verdict: Album of the Year Contender

Mick JenkinsThe Circus (January 2020, Rap)
1. “Same Ol” – 3
2. “Carefree” – 3
3. “The Light” ft. EARTHGANG – 4
4. “Flaunt” – 3
5. “The Fit” – 3.5
6. “I’m Convinced” – 3.5
7. “Different Scales” – 3.5

Average Rating: 3.36/5
Save Percentage: 100% (7/7)
Bangers: 1

Thoughts: A solid, but unspectacular little project that’s a bit more accessible than Mick’s past work which I have admittedly mostly overlooked. I do like every song on here though with “The Light” being my favorite by a large margin and that’s mostly because EARTHGANG just knows how to make great music.

Verdict: Recommended

DreamvilleRevenge of the Dreamers 3 [Deluxe] (January 2020, Rap)
1. “Big Black Truck” ft. JID – 4
2. “Still Up” ft. EARTHGANG & REASON – 3.5
3. “Outta Pocket” ft. Bas, Cozz, and Girl Talk – 3
4. “Late Night” ft. Cozz, Omen, Buddy & Landstrip Chip – 3
5. “Spin Move” ft. Bas, Saba, Smino & The Hics – 3
6. “BUSSIT” ft. Ari Lennox – 3
7. “Passcode” ft. Ari Lennox, Buddy, Smino, Mez & Guapdad 4000 – 3
8. “Up Up Away” ft. JID, EARTHGANG & Vince Staples – 3.5
9. “No Chorus” ft. Bas, Dreezy, Buddy & Guapdad 4000 – 3
10. “Disgusted” ft. Cozz & Childish Major – 3
11. “Revenge” ft. Lute, Omen, Ari Lennox, EARTHGANG, Childish Major & REASON – 3
12. “Still Dreamin” ft. JID, Lute & 6LACK – 4

Average Rating: 3.25/5
Save Percentage: 100%
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: It’s important to understand what this is: a collection of songs that weren’t good enough to be on the official Revenge of the Dreamers III album. So these are all leftovers. Personally, I’d rather hear this stuff than not hear it, but when I listen to a project like this, I’m judging it on its own merit and not as a collective with the original release. It looks like every J.Cole feature made the official release because we don’t get any new Cole music here. Most of the songs on here are 3s, so while I like every track it’s a lot of stuff I’m pretty lukewarm about. I do think this Deluxe version is bookended by a couple of true bangers though.

Verdict: Recommended

EminemMusic To Be Murdered By (January 2020, Rap)
1. “Premonition” – 4
2. “Unaccomodating” ft. Young MA – 3
3. “You Gon’ Learn” ft. Royce da 5’9″ & White Gold – 4.5
4. (Interlude) – N/A
5. “Those Kinda Nights” ft. Ed Sheeran – 1.5
6. “In Too Deep” – 2
7. “Godzilla” ft. Juice WRLD – 3.5
8. “Darkness” – 4
9. “Leaving Heaven” ft. Skylar Grey – 2.5
10. “Yah Yah” ft. Royce da 5’9″, Black Thought, Q-Tip & Denaun – 4
11. (Interlude) – N/A
12. “Stepdad” – 2.5
13. “Marsh” – 3
14. “Never Love Again” – 3.5
15. “Little Engine” – 2.5
16. “Lock It Up” ft. Anderson .Paak – 4
17. “Farewell” – 3
18. “No Regrets” ft. Don Toliver – 4
19. “I Will” ft. KXNG Crooked, Royce da 5’9″ & Joell Ortiz – 4

20. (Outro) – N/A

Average rating: 3.29/5
Save Percentage: 70.5% (12/17)
Bangers: 7

Thoughts: And here’s an example of more is less. Do I want to hear every song Eminem has ever recorded? Sure. But when you fill out an album’s tracklist with a bunch of weak songs, I’m going to hold those songs against the album as a whole. As you can see by my save percentage, I’d cut about 30% of this album. You take away those five songs and my average rating would jump up to a 3.7 out of 5 and I think that’s pretty close to elite status. His stuff with Ed Sheeran is embarrassing and I can’t stand Skylar Grey; she ruins what is an otherwise enjoyable song with an unbearable hook. I think the production on this album is actually pretty good and beat selection is usually a weakness on any Eminem album. Still, it could be better and you’d think this man would have access to the best producers on the planet. Alchemist was his touring DJ forever and they’ve made almost no actual music together. It’s a damn shame. Eminem is still elite when it comes to spitting and lyricism. Sure, he can spit some corny lines here and there, but he still astonishes me on a regular basis. I love every track Royce is on and it’s bad ass seeing them collab so much (Bad Meets Evil 2 anyone?). Seven bangers is a lot, so there’s plenty of gold on this album. This is probably Em’s best album since Recovery.

Verdict: Highly Enjoyable

Mac MillerCircles (January 2020, Rap)
1. “Circles” – 4
2. “Complicated” – 4

3. “Blue World” – 3.5
4. “Good News” – 4.5
5. “I Can See” – 3.5
6. “Everybody” – 4
7. “Woods” – 4.5
8. “Hand Me Downs” – 5

9. “That’s On Me” – 3.5
10. “Hands” – 3
11. “Surf” – 3.5
12. “Once a Day” – 3.5

Average rating: 3.88/5
Save Percentage: 100% (12/12)
Bangers: 6

Thoughts: Mac Miller was really transcending as an artist. This is not a rappity rap album by any means… it’s just beautiful music… with some rapping. I like every song on this album and there are some real gems here. “Hand Me Downs” is just a perfect song. We lost one of the best hip-hop artists in the business when Mac died in 2018 and it’s kind of absurd that the average hip-hop consumer (that I know at least) doesn’t even listen to him. I’ve been thinking about doing a Top 25 Hip-Hop Artists Since 2015 blog post and in my preliminary rankings, I have Mac Miller ranked #6 on that list. That’s how highly I think of him. This posthumous release only strengthens his resume and Circles is an early Album of the Year contender.

Verdict: Album of the Year Contender

Halsey – Manic (January 2020, Pop)
1. “Ashley” – 3.5
2. “Clementine” – 3
3. “Graveyard” – 4
4. “You should be sad” – 3.5
5. “Forever (is a long time)” – 2.5
6. “Dominic’s Interlude” ft. Dominic Fike – 3
7. “I HATE EVERYBODY” – 3
8. “3am” – 3.5
9. “Without Me” – 3.5
10. “Finally // beautiful stranger” – 3
11. “Alanis’ Interlude” ft. Alanis Morissette – 3.5
12. “killing boys” – 3
13. “SUGA’s Interlude” ft. SUGA & BTS – 3
14. “More” – 3.5
15. “Still Learning” – 3
16. “929” – 4

Average rating: 3.28/5
Save Percentage: 94% (15/16)
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: I really like Halsey’s voice, but I’m not much of a pop critic, so it’s not like I really know what I’m talking about here. I like almost every song on this album, but it doesn’t reach a lot of really high points. “Graveyard” and “929” are my only true standout songs, but I do think the multiple shots she takes at G-Eazy are pretty fun. I give this a recommendation but there are definitely better recent pop albums (Lana Del Rey, Dua Lipa).

Verdict: Recommended

070 Shake – Modus Vivendi (January 2020, ??)
1. “Don’t Break The Silence” – 3
2. “Come Around” – 3
3. “Morrow” – 3.5
4. “The Pines” – 3.5
5. “Guilty Conscience” – 3.5
6. “Divorce” – 3
7. “It’s Forever” ft. The Ebonys – N/A
8. “Rocketship” – 3.5
9. “Microdosing” – 3
10. “Nice to Have” – 3.5
11. “Under the Moon” – 3.5
12. “Daydreamin” – 3
13. “Terminal B” – 3
14. “Flight319” – 3

Average rating: 3.23/5
Save Percentage: 100% (13/13)
Bangers: 0

Thoughts: I have no clue what kind of music this is. Apple has it listed as alternative and other places has it listed as hip-hop. It was released on Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music record label, so there’s that. Hip-Hop Twitter seems to like this album a lot, but honestly, I don’t really get it. There are definitely some good tracks on here, but I count zero true bangers, and at least half an album of lukewarm music.

Verdict: Decent

Lil Wayne – Funeral (January 2020, Rap)
1. “Funeral” – 3.5
2. “Mahogany” – 4
3. “Mama Mia” – 4

4. “I Do It” ft. Big Sean & Lil Baby – 3.5
5. “Dreams” – 3.5
6. “Stop Playin With Me” 3
7. “Clap For Em” – 3.5
8. “Bing James” ft. Jay Rock – 3.5
9. “Not Me” – 3.5
10. “Trust Nobody” ft. Adam Levine – 3.5
11. “Know You Know” ft. 2 Chainz – 2.5
12. “Wild Dogs” – 3
13. “Harden” – 3.5
14. “I Don’t Sleep” ft. Takeoff – 3.5
15. “Sights and Silencers” ft. The Dream – 4
16. “Ball Hard” ft. Lil Twist – 4
17. “Bastard (Satan’s Kid)” – 4

18. “Get Outta My Head” ft. XXXTENTACION – 1.5
19. “Piano Trap” – 4
20. “Line Em Up” – 3.5
21. “Darkside” – 3
22. “Never Mind” – 3
23. “T.O.” ft. O.T. Genasis – 3
24. “Wayne’s World” – 2.5

Average rating: 3.35/5
Save Percentage: 87.55 (21/24)
Bangers: 6

Thoughts: Lil Wayne is an all-time great and, like it or not, one of the most influential rappers ever. Who do you think inspired all these mumble rappers? I don’t group Wayne in with this new generation though and when I think about my ten favorite hip-hop artists ever, I often think about Lil Wayne for that #10 spot. That’s not set in stone for me yet, but he’s in contention. So the man is a legend… and some 22 years after I first heard him rap he’s still making music I want to listen to. Considering there are 24 songs on Funeral and I would only cut 2 or 3 of them, this is a really solid release. I prefer shorter albums and I can imagine a much stronger showing if he cut about 6-7 songs from this. I don’t think Funeral is better than any album in Tha Carter series, so this is middle of his catalog stuff. Wayne is still an elite rapper though and anything he touches is something you should be checking out.

Verdict: Highly Enjoyable

Note: Now that I have this dialed in, it shouldn’t take me three months to write about the February 2020 releases. Expect that before the middle of May. *fingers crossed*

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March 2020 New Music

April 7, 2020

Notes: You’d think that being quarantined at home would mean listening to more music than ever, but it’s been quite the opposite. I do almost all my listening when I’m at the gym or at the casino and both of those places are closed down for the foreseeable future. I am playing some online poker, but I don’t find myself listening to music most of the time I’m doing that. The big releases for May were new albums from Jay Electronic & Jay-Z, The Weeknd, Lil Uzi Vert, and Childish Gambino.

* indicates second month on PRIORITY playlist

HEAVY ROTATION (heard whole album many times)

Brent Faiyaz – F**k the World
Eminem – Music To Be Murdered By
Griselda – WWCD
*Jay Electronica (and Jay-Z!) – A Written Testimony
Lana Del Ray – Norman F*****g Rockwell
Lil Wayne – Funeral
Mac Miller – Circles
Roddy Ricch – Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial
Royce da 5’9″ – The Allegory

STRONG ROTATION (listened to most of album 3-4 times)

Dreamville – Revenge of the Dreamers [Deluxe]
*Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake
Mick Jenkins – The Circus
*The Weeknd – After Hours

SOLID ROTATION (heard whole album at least twice)

A Boogie wit da Hoodie – Artist 2.0
Andrew Kelly – Annex
D Smoke – Black Habits
Halsey – Manic
Kota the Friend – Lyrics to Go, Vol. 1
YGTUT – I.O.U.

COURTESY ROTATION (heard whole album)

070 Shake – Modus Vivendi
Boldy James – The Price of Tea in China
*Childish Gambino – 3.15.20
Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats – UNLOCKED
*Grafh – Oracle 3
*G Herbo – PTSD
Green Day – Father of All…
*Jadakiss – Ignatius
*Jhene Aiko – Chilombo
K. Michelle – All Monsters Are Human
Kamaiyah – Got It Made
Lil Baby – My Turn
*Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake [Deluxe]
Planet Asia & 38 Spesh – Trust the Chain
Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

SKIM ROTATION (haven’t heard whole album)

*DJ Kay Slay – Living Legend
*Don Toliver – Heaven Or Hell
Guapdad 4000 – Dior Deposits
*Megan Thee Stallion – Suga
Onyx – Lost Treasures
Pop Smoke – Meet the Woo 2
Tink – Hopeless Romantic
Twista – Lifetime EP

TOO NEW/NO LOVE (zero listens)

*Jessie Reyez – BEFORE LOVE CAME TO KILL US
*Joyner Lucas – ADHD
*PARTYNEXTDOOR – PARTYMOBILE
Young Nudy – Anyways

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

Jay Electronica (& Jay-Z)A Written Testimony – review in next post

Bangerz Playlist Additions – Follow me on Apple Music @DarkKnight1717 to add my playlists

Grafh, “Guilty”
Jay Electronica ft. Jay-Z, “Shiny Suit Theory”
Jay Electronica ft. Jay-Z, “Ghost of Soulja Slim”
Lil Wayne, “Mahogany”
Lil Uzi Vert, “Prices”
Pop Smoke ft. Gunna, “Dior [Remix]”
The Weeknd, “Hardest To Love”

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March 2020 Movie Reviews

April 2, 2020

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020, theaters)

I had no expectations this could be good. The first trailer was so bad it got sent back to the lab for a full reconfiguration of Sonic’s look. I’ll say this much, Sonic looks a hell of a lot better now. But the trailers leading up to the movie’s release made it look unwatchable.

And then something weird happened: the critics didn’t crucify it. Even now, Sonic the Hedgehog is sitting at a very kind 63% on Rotten Tomatoes. I get that it’s a pretty binary rating system, but over half of all critics gave this movie a favorable review?!

I wasn’t expecting that.

I guess it’s somewhat better than I was anticipating but I can’t, in good faith, say this was a good movie. I’m not even sure it was enjoyable. Of course, making a good live action Sonic movie was a colossal task and it goes about as you’d expect.

I don’t think Jim Carrey does it for me anymore. Maybe I would have loved this movie and his performance if I was ten, but I’ve grown out of whatever this schtick is. He’s doing his Ace Ventura/Riddler overacting bit and while it can be funny at times (he had a great line about being an orphan), it’s mostly just exhausting.

Has there ever been a more ridiculous antagonist than the main character’s sister-in-law? I mean… she LOATHED this man and as far as the audience is concerned he’s a solid dude with a good heart that treats his wife with respect and worked two extra jobs so she could go to school… and this woman just despises him… because why? For laughs? Ugh.

This was better than I thought it’d be but that’s not saying much. Just add Sonic the Hedgehog to a long list of video game adaptations that aren’t good. It’s probably a fine family movie, but I wouldn’t recommend seeing it by yourself if you’re a 37yo man.

4/10 (Blah)

Miss Americana (2020, Netflix)

A somewhat interesting look into the pressures of being one of the most famous singers of our time. I don’t dislike Taylor Swift, but I’m also not really into her music, so my interest level here wasn’t too high and this documentary didn’t really increase my appreciation of her work. You know who I do love as an artist? Kanye West. You know who I don’t love as a person? Kanye West. I hate how he interrupted her speech. Dude is a clown, but goodness does he make some amazing music. Wait, who was this about again?

Just kidding. Worth a watch, even if you’re not a big fan, but i’m sure megafans will go bonkers for Miss Americana.

6/10 (Enjoyable)

Lost Girls (2020, Netflix)

This was fine, but I’ve already forgotten almost everything about it. I couldn’t help but feel like Amy Ryan already went down this road in the far superior Gone Baby Gone.

5/10 (Decent)

Honey Boy (2019, Amazon Prime)

A largely biographical film written by Shia LaBeouf when he was in rehab in which he plays his own father and gives what is probably the best performance of his career. Lucas Hedges and Noah Jupe are also both good in this.

I liked Honey Boy but I remember thinking the ending was a bit abrupt and the story skips completely over Shia’s teenage years and I would have liked to see what his life was like during that time also.

6/10 (Enjoyable)

Ash is Purest White (2018, Amazon Prime)

It took a bit for this movie to pull me in, but when it did, I was thoroughly entranced. It starts off looking like a film about organized crime in a poor Chinese community. We are introduced to Bin (Liao Fan), who seems to be some sort of mob-type capo, and his girlfriend Qiao (Tao Zhao), as they go about town acting like they run shit in between gambling and dancing to the Village People’s “YMCA” – you know, standard mafioso stuff.

What’s really happening though is the film developing Qiao’s ride-or-die relationship for her man and when an altercation leads to the police discovering Bin’s illegal firearm, Qiao has to decide if she’s going to take the fall and do the time herself or say it was his gun.

Shes does the time. All five years of it.

And that’s when we get into the meat of this picture. The rest of the movie focuses on her journey to reconnect with Bin after making the ultimate sacrifice for him.

Tao Zhao absolutely carries this movie. She gives an incredible performance that naturally received basically zero notice from American awards. However, she did get some wins in Asia and won Best Actress at the Chicago International Film Festival. Her performance alone makes this movie worth watching.

I feel like the relationship between Bin and Qiao could have been more developed in the early stages of the film. We see loyalty, sure, but there’s no passion and little physical love between them. This lack of connection somewhat weakens the epic storyline to follow.

Regardless, I really enjoyed this movie and give it a strong recommendation.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

I, Tonya (2017, Hulu, second viewing)

Not quite the Must See film I thought it was the first time I saw it, but still very good.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Swiss Army Man (2016, Netflix)

I remember thinking the trailer for this looked super interesting and then it sat on my watchlist forever and I could just never pull the trigger on it even though it’s been streaming on Netflix for what seems like years now.

I finally got around to it and it was as weird as it looks and, honestly, my feelings were pretty mixed on it. The trailer makes this look like a fun and silly movie, but it’s actually pretty depressing and I didn’t find it particularly enjoyable. Perhaps this is merely a consequence of misguided expectations, but when you’re in the mood for a light comedy and you get this instead, well, it’s a bit of a disappointment.

Daniel Radcliffe was my favorite part of the movie. He’s rather brilliant in what has to be one of the strangest roles I’ve ever seen.

I should probably give this another shot now that I have a better idea about its tone, but I can’t see myself getting around to that any time soon.

5/10 (Decent)

Young Adult (2011, Netflix)

This review may contain spoilers.

I guess I enjoyed my viewing of Young Adult, but I’m honestly not sure if the good outweighed the bad. The good are the performances from Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt… and to a lesser degree, Patrick Wilson. The bad… well, I can’t really discuss that too much without somewhat spoiling things, so beware.

Theron plays a depressed divorcee in her mid-30s that returns to her hometown to steal her old high school boyfriend (Wilson) away from his current wife after she gets an email announcing that he’s having a baby. While Theron is excellent, the character she plays never has any redeeming qualities and never develops any either. She goes on this midlife crisis adventure and comes out of it… pretty much the same person she was beforehand. It makes you wonder what the point of it all is? To show us that some people never grow up? I guess, but if that’s supposed to leave me feeling satisfied, well, it did not. And while some great films have depressing endings, they usually wow in multiple other ways. For instance, I doubt anyone felt good about things at the end of Requiem For A Dream, but Darren Aronofsky put on a masterclass in filmmaking and his soul-crushing film is an all-time classic in my book.

Young Adult? Not so much. For a movie that’s loosely labelled as a comedy, it’s not particularly funny. Theron is generally great in everything and that trend continued in this movie and Patton Oswalt surprised me here. I found Young Adult mildly amusing while watching it, but this is one that I’ll probably sour on the more I think about it.

5/10 (Decent)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010, Netflix, third viewing)

This has to be one of the worst movies I’ve seen more than twice as an adult. Why do I do this to myself? It’s not much of a secret that I have a soft spot for horror movies – particularly the ones starring genre icons like Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers – but I don’t even like this movie. It is truly trash. There’s just not a single thing about this film that feels like a Freddy Krueger movie. I know they went for a more realistic burn victim look here, but I absolutely hate it. Freddy looks terrible and if Freddy looks terrible, you’re already drawing dead on making a watchable A Nightmare on Elm Street movie. I just put this on as I was going to sleep and watched it over the course of six nights or so.

2/10 (Horrible)

Bringing Out The Dead (1999, Amazon Prime)

Geez. I just didn’t like anything about it. Like, during its two hour run time, the only time I thought I’m enjoying this was the scene with the drug dealer/pimp “stuck” on the balcony. That was a cool sequence. The rest of the movie? Not so much. A struggle.

I’ve been reading reviews trying to figure out why these is rated so high and plenty are claiming it’s one of Scorsese’s most underrated films. Maybe it is. Maybe I’m proving that point right now.

We are given a glimpse into the life of an overworked and burnt out paramedic in New York City during the early 90s. It’s bleak. Our “hero” is worn down by the hours and the emotional tax of the job. He’s seen too many people die and now he can’t stop seeing their ghosts all over the city. He’s ready to walk out, but no matter how many times he shows up late or flips an ambulance on its back while drinking with his partner, the department is understaffed and the demand for emergency medical staff is high. This movie is basically a journey with this man as he reaches his breaking point on a job that never lets up.

I didn’t particularly like any of the performances in the movie, but Nic Cage does get to say a couple funny lines (“they are saying ‘kill Marcus!’”).

This is the second movie I’ve seen since I started my Scorsese Challenge, but 13th overall, and I am ranking it 13th for now. It has been a while since I’ve seen The Aviator, but that’s the only other Scorsese film I’ve seen that I’m pretty sure I didn’t like.

4/10 (Forgettable/Did Not Like)

Hoop Dreams (1994, HBO Now)

“I’ve seen hoop dreams deflate like a true fiend’s weight.” -Jay-Z

When I was going through films on Letterboxd, I actually marked this off as something I’ve seen before. I’m not sure when I realized I had never watched it, but I think after seeing that its running time was around three hours, I knew for sure I never sat through a basketball documentary that was that long. And then I had that Jay-Z lyric stuck in my head for days and figured the only way I could get rid of it was to finally watch what is largely considered one of the greatest sports films of all-time and somehow, due to some magic from the movie gods, it was streaming on HBO Now when I needed it most.

Considering how lauded this film is, I was expecting to see something uplifting with multiple success stories. Hoop Dreams is actually quite the opposite. That Jay lyric is on point and relevant. William Gates dazzles as a freshman and then basically nothing good happens to him. It’s hard to watch. Our other protege, Arthur Ashe, has a happier story, but it’s not exactly cause for celebration either.

But struggle can be riveting also and I guess that’s part of what makes this movie an all-time classic. I can see myself revisiting this again in the near future. At worst, this is a must see sports documentary and if you somehow missed it these last 25 years like I did, put on your list immediately.

8/10 (Must See)

Hook (1991, Netflix, fifth viewing)

Still a fun take on Peter Pan. My wife loved it and that doesn’t surprise me at all. Dustin Hoffman is excellent as Captain Hook. This movie is a bit cheesy, but otherwise I think it holds up pretty well.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Driving Miss Daisy (1989, Netflix)

I’m not sure what I thought this movie was but an epic spanning 20+ years was not it. Driving Miss Daisy is set in Georgia during the 1940s right around the time Jackie Robinson was breaking the color barrier in baseball and stretches to the late 60s when Martin Luther King Jr. was helping make huge changes in how black folk are treated in America. And during these two decades, we see an affluent white woman (but don’t call her rich) develop a friendship with the black man her son hired to drive her around after she crashes her car backing out of her driveway.

It’s touching and funny enough to get multiple chuckles out of me. Jessica Tandy as Miss Daisy was great in an Oscar-winning role – the only movie I’ve ever seen of hers! Morgan Freeman was also good in an Oscar-nominated role as her driver Hoke Colburn. Dan Akroyd was also Oscar-nominated for his role as Miss Daisy’s son and that’s pretty insane because he didn’t do anything special in this movie that I saw.

Driving Miss Daisy won the Best Picture Oscar for 1989 films and while I liked it, I think 1989 would have to be a pretty weak year if this was the best film. Just looking at some other movies that came out in 1989, I liked Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Say Anything, and Batman more. Plus notable films like Do The Right Thing and Dead Poet’s Society also came out in 1989 – films I’m not positive I’ve ever seen.

All this is to say, Driving Miss Daisy is a good but not great film that probably got a little overrated in its time. 30 years later I think most people would point to other movies first when they think about 1989, but Driving Miss Daisy is still worth checking out if you have never seen it.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Robocop (1987, HBO Now, fifth viewing)

Yep. This is a sci-fi and action/adventure classic. For its time, the special effects are unreal. I remember my dad thinking the ED-209 was the coolest thing he’d ever seen. I don’t know how long it has been since I last watched Robocop – it’s been a while – but there are scenes in this movie that I’ll never forget. The absolutely brutal murder of Murphy. The ED-209 blowing away that corporate dude in front of the whole board. The toxic waste scene. Robocop is so good that even after seeing it many times over the last 3+ decades, I could’ve watched it again immediately after this rewatch and would have been happy to do so.

10/10 (Classic)

Sleepaway Camp (1983, Amazon Prime)

A horror genre cult classic that I somehow never watched? Probably because it always looked like a cheap Friday the 13th knockoff. I mean… the first sequel had a Freddy glove and Jason mask on the cover, for crying out loud. But when this movie came out there had only been three Friday the 13th movies released and only one of them had the hockey-masked Jason we know so well today. But then I was looking at some lists on Letterboxd and Sleepaway Camp was a popular choice for the best slashers of all-time, outranking basically every Jason Vorhees outing, and that made me feel like I was missing out on a must see genre film.

I can definitely see why it’s a cult classic. The kills are hilariously grotesque and often absurd. The acting is mostly laughable, but that was typical of any of these early 80’s slasher movies. I knew who the killer in this movie was immediately – despite all the misdirection – but even so, I was still surprised and shocked by the ending. For those of you that have seen and remember Sleepaway Camp, think about this: Felissa Rose, the star of this movie, was 12 or 13 when it was filmed. That’s just insane. Usually the kids in these movies playing teenagers are in their mid-20s. The last scene in this movie is something special, that’s for sure.

This is probably a must watch for genre fans, but I won’t pretend like it’s actually a good movie. If you like early 80’s slashers and missed this one, check it out. I liked it enough that I’d try at least one sequel.

6/10 (Recommended)

Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (1967, Netflix DVD)

This was Scorsese’s debut feature film, all the way back in 1967. That’s over 50 years ago! And this man is still one of the best filmmakers working today, getting a Best Picture nomination for The Irishman in 2019. Insane.

I had pretty mixed feelings about this movie. This was also Harvey Keitel’s debut film and he’s so young in it that I didn’t always recognize which character he was playing in the earlier parts of the film when he’s hanging out with his friends a bunch. I’m not familiar with any of the other actors and they all kind of blended together at first and things are even harder to follow because the narrative kind of jumps around and doesn’t feel linear. Also, there’s a really bizarre and really long sex scene that seems to come out of nowhere and didn’t make sense to me. It’s clearly some sort of fantasy, but I didn’t understand the purpose of it and it more than overstays its welcome.

What I did love about Who’s That Knocking at My Door was pretty much every interaction between Keitel and Zina Bethune. Their courtship is fun and interesting and they have plenty of chemistry together.

I didn’t know where this movie was going and when the big reveal happens it is rather shocking. Bethune’s character is a rape victim and Keitel’s character has a really difficult time processing this information. Imagine if you will: we live in a time where the “Me Too” movement is as recent as a few years ago. Our culture was still victim-shaming women and bullying them into silence in the 2010s. This movie came out 50 years ago! Keitel’s reaction is rather appalling but I can’t help but wonder what audiences thought of it in the late 1960s. I can see a large portion of the male population sympathizing with him at the time.

Overall, I liked this movie even though some of it was strange to me. I wouldn’t guess that the director was on his way to being an all-timer, but Roger Ebert loved this movie the first time he saw it. This is bottom tier Scorsese for me, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

6/10 (Recommended)

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Train to Busan (2016)

March 22, 2020

Director: Yeon Sang-Ho (Psychokinesis, Seoul Station)

Starring: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi

Anticipation Level: None

How Was It? There are movies I watch by myself and there are movies that I let my wife pick out when we want to watch something together. If you go through my film diary, you can probably guess when this is happening (“Miss Americana,” “Lost Girls”) I have to say… the last thing I expected was for her to pick out a foreign language zombie apocalypse movie that was already on my watchlist, but here we are.

*mind blown*

This was good! Nothing brings a distant father-daughter relationship together like a crisis of flesh-eating monsters! This could have been standard zombie fare, but we get plenty of fully realized and interesting characters, strong performances, and cool visual effects.

Strong recommendation.

Replay Value: It’s worth watching more than once, but I doubt that will happen for many years.

Sequel Potential: Sure, but hasn’t happened yet.

Oscar Potential: None.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)