h1

Eminem – Music To Be Murdered By – Side B (2020)

February 19, 2021

Genre: Rap

Release Date: December 18th, 2020

Song Rating Scale

  1. Alfred (Intro) – N/A
  2. Black Magic (feat. Skylar Grey) – 3
  3. Alfred’s Theme – 3.75
  4. Tone Deaf – 3.5
  5. Book of Rhymes (feat. DJ Premier) – 3.25
  6. Favorite Bitch (feat. Ty Dolla $ign) – 3
  7. Guns Blazing (feat. Dr. Dre & Sly Pyper) – 3
  8. Gnat – 3.75
  9. Higher – 3.75
  10. These Demons (feat. MAJ) – 3.5
  11. Key (Skit) – N/A
  12. She Loves Me – 3.5
  13. Killer – 3.75
  14. Zeus (feat. White Gold) – 4
  15. Thus Far (Interlude) – N/A
  16. Discombobulated – 3.75

Spin Rate: 7+
Average Song Rating: 3.5/5
3.5+ Percentage: 69%
Skip Factor: 11.5%
Bangers: 1

Thoughts: Eminem has kind of become a master at making incomplete songs. At least for me. This album is a clinic in making music that is mostly pretty decent but almost every song has an aspect to it that I don’t like. In “Book of Rhymes” the beat is horrendous. How are you going to have a song that says it features DJ Premier and he’s not even producing it? I was really looking forward to this collaboration and it’s not even a thing. “Favorite Bitch” features Ty Dolla $ign, one of the top hook makers in the hip-hop world right now, and his hook is TERRIBLE. “Guns Blazing” has a Dr. Dre verse and a hook that I just can’t get into. Even the songs that I like a lot tend to feature a beat or flow switch that doesn’t really work for me. The rapping on this album is pretty good, but that’s not much of a surprise – Eminem can still rap his ass off. He can also drop some ultra corny bars, but I’d say that his cleverness and rhyming ability still far outweigh these eyeroll-inducing lines.

I like Side A substantially more than Side B, but if you look at both of my reviews you’ll notice Side B has a higher average song rating. That’s because the highs on Side A are much higher than they are here, but the lows are also much lower (it’s also because this is the first album I started using .25 and .75 when I can’t decide between two ratings). Side B doesn’t have any pure skips, but it also only has one true banger. “Zeus” is a really good song, but I think it’s the only track where Eminem really puts it all together on this album. I’ll take whatever I can get from Eminem (well, not Revival), but I also feel like he’s just going to keep stringing together technically proficient verses while not making all that great of music.

Verdict: 6/10 (Recommended)

h1

MC Eiht – Lessons (2020)

February 4, 2021

Genre: Rap

Release Date: September 18th, 2020

Song Rating Scale

  1. Get Money Man (feat. B-Real) – 3.5
  2. That’s Perfect (feat. Tha Chill) – 4
  3. Honcho (feat. Conway the Machine) – 4
  4. Bluue Wave – 3.5
  5. Can’t Nobody (feat. Kokane) – 4
  6. U Kno – 4
  7. Ambition – 3.5
  8. Lessons – 4.5
  9. U Not Me – 4
  10. That 83 (feat. That Chill & Diamond Rich) – 3.5
  11. Courted In (feat. Dave East & Tha Chill) – 3.5
  12. Things We Go Through (feat. Cherell Terri) – 4
  13. Past Mistakes (feat. Talib Kweli) – 4
  14. I Got U – 3.5
  15. Whut U Really On – 3.5
  16. On the Real Tho (feat. Yukmouth & Tha Chill) – 3.5
  17. Stand Up (feat. Mitchy Slick & Tha Chill) – 3.5
  18. Neighborhood Looks (feat. Havoc & Kurupt) – 4.5
  19. Magic (feat. Young Noble & Tha Chill) – 4.5
  20. We Got – 4

Spin Rate: 9
Average Song Rating: 3.85/5
3.5+ Percentage: 100%
Pure Skips: 0
Bangers: 11

Thoughts: No album in 2020 took me by surprise more than this gem from Compon’s MC Eiht. When I saw it in the new releases section the weekend it came out, I didn’t even give it a skim. I just don’t expect much from an old school gangsta rap artist in 2020 and it’s not like I’ve ever been much of a fan anyway. But then I saw a thread about it on a hip-hop message board I’ve been posting on since 1999 (LOL) and people I have similar taste as were saying it was nice.

Well, Lessons is insanely good. I actually had to re-think what a 3.5 and a 4 song is to me because so many tracks on this album blur the line between what I think is a good song and what I think is an absolute banger. MC Eiht isn’t an amazing rapper, lyrically or vocally, but the production and song-writing on Lessons are so good that the whole project is elevated to a pretty elite level. I enjoy the beat, hook, and vibe of every track on here. It’s not like MC Eiht is weak on the mic either. He has a very smooth delivery and while his lyrics and rhymes schemes are relatively simple, he is adept at painting a picture of the stories he is telling. It’s a pretty remarkable feat to put out an album with 20 songs and zero skips – and honestly, nothing is even close to a skip – plus I think over half the album is pure fire.

Lessons is one of two albums from 2020 (the other being Che Noir & Apollo Brown’s As God Intended) that feel like immediate hip-hop classics. This album is straight heat from top to bottom. An absolute must listen and one of the best rap albums from last year. Don’t sleep.

Verdict: 9/10 (Amazing)

h1

January 2021 Music Ratings

February 2, 2021

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

MC Eiht – LESSONS

Notes: January was a super slow month for new music. I only added a handful of new albums and only two 2021 releases cracked the top 20 albums I listened to the most over the past month. Because of this, I cheated and gave Album of the Month to something that came out over four months ago… and why not? I listened to MC Eiht’s <i>LESSONS</i> more than any other album last month. It’s incredible. I have a review coming for it soon, so I won’t say much else now, but if you’ve been sleeping, it’s time to wake up. I’ll go ahead and include a rough rating for each album to make my feelings on each project clearer.  The more I’ve listened to an album, the more accurate my rating is. Any rating that has a + symbol means that I’ve found my floor, but I could rate it higher. I won’t leave a rating for anything I don’t have a good feel for yet.

Rating Scale

10 – Masterpiece
9 – Amazing
8 – Great
7 – Highly Enjoyable
6 – Recommended/Good
5 – Decent/Cool
4 – Lackluster
3 – Bad
2 – Horrible
1 – Torture Material

Top 20 Albums in January (all ratings are out of 10)

Note: These albums are NOT ranked in order of preference; they are ranked in order of number of songs listened to (scrobbles) over the past month. Previous ranking in brackets. Year of release in parentheses if it’s not 2020 or 2021.

*indicates January 2021 release

  1. MC Eiht – LESSONS – 8+
  2. MF DOOM & Madlib – Madvillainy (2004) – 7+
  3. Chris Stapleton – Starting Over – 7+
  4. Joji – Nectar – 7
  5. Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon III: The Chosen [4] – 6
  6. Playboi Carti – Whole Lotta Red [12] – 3
  7. Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure? [8] – 9
  8. Rina Sawayama – SAWAYAMA – 6+
  9. Dua Lipa – Dua Lipa (2017) – 7+
  10. Boldy James & Sterling Toles – Manger on McNichols – 6+
  11. Roc Marciano – Reasonable Drought – 7+
  12. Taylor Swift – evermore [16] – 7+
  13. KRS-One – Between Da Protests – 6+
  14. *Nyck Caution – Anywhere But Here – 6+
  15. Eminem – Murder To Be Murdered By – Side B [2] – 6
  16. Tyrone’s Jacket – Tyrone’s Jacket [3] – 8+
  17. Flee Lord – In The Name Of Prodigy
  18. Lianne La Havas – Lianne La Havas
  19. Isaiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo (2014) – 8+
  20. *KOTA The Friend – Lyrics to GO, Vol. 2 – 6+

The 20 Artists I Listened To The Most In January

Notes: I spread my listening out a lot more this past month and spent very little time focusing on brand new releases since there were very few I was interested in. I created a playlist of artists and albums I feel I’ve overlooked and want to get more familiar with and listened to that. I was actually inspired to do this when I heard MF DOOM had passed away and realized how little of his catalog I had listened to. I also split time between my Brand New, All-Time Favorites, and Best of 2020 playlists.

  1. MF DOOM
  2. MC Eiht
  3. Boldy James
  4. Kid Cudi
  5. Chris Stapleton
  6. Eminem
  7. Joji
  8. Playboi Carti
  9. Jessie Ware
  10. Mac Miller
  11. Dua Lipa
  12. Rina Sawayama
  13. Roc Marciano
  14. Taylor Swift
  15. KRS-One
  16. Nyck Caution
  17. Nipsey Hussle
  18. Sam Cooke
  19. Tyrone’s Jacket
  20. A Tribe Called Quest

Bangerz Playlist Additions – Follow me on Apple Music @DarkKnight1717 to add my playlists
2020 Bangers Playlist
2021 Bangers Playlist

38 Spesh (feat. Ransom & Klass Murda), “Toll Booth”
38 Spesh, “Road Back”
Che Noir (feat. The Musalini), “Cruise Control”
Chris Stapleton, “Joy of My Life”
Flip Huston (feat. Jim Jones), “Outta My Mind”
Flip Huston (feat. Dame D.O.L.L.A.), “Momma I Made It”
Flip Huston, “You Know The Vibes”
Jessie Ware, “Spotlight”
Jessie Ware, “What’s Your Pleasure?”
Jessie Ware, “Ooh La La”
Jessie Ware, “In Your Eyes”
Jessie Ware, “The Kill”
Joji, “Your Man”
Kid Cudi (feat. Phoebe Bridgers), “Lovin’ Me”
Kid Cudi, “The Void”
MC Eiht (feat. Young Noble & Tha Chill), “Magic”
Nyck Caution, “Dirt On Your Name”


h1

January 2021: All My Movie/T.V. Show/Album Reviews for the Month

February 1, 2021

Movies – I went kind of crazy this past month and watched a movie almost every day. I continued to put a dent in my 2020 watchlist and when I wasn’t watching new releases I was catching up on some horror movies I’ve missed over the years or wanted to re-watch. I post these reviews on Letterboxd and Facebook/Twitter as I write them, but I figure I should make a post at the end of each month with links to all the reviews I posted. Somehow, I watched 50 movies over the past two months and none of them were directed by Martin Scorsese, the director I’ve been focusing on over the past year. Ah well. I’ll be looking to correct that in February.

2020/2021 Oscar Watch: My list of favorites for the major Oscar categories
2021 Releases Watchlist: Ranking of 2021 releases I want to see including January, February, and Sundance releases
2020 Releases Watchlist: Ranking of 2020 releases I still want to see
February 2021 – New to Streaming Watchlist: Ranking of new and old movies I want to see coming to streaming this month

T.V. Shows – I completely revamped my T.V. rating page. I have also sorted all the shows by season and the year their first episode aired.

  • Cobra Kai – Season 3 (2021) – 3
  • The Crown – Season 4 (2020) – 4
  • Harley Quinn – Season 2 (2020) – 3.5
  • The Mandolorian – Season 2 (2020) – 4.5
  • Stargirl – Season 1 (2020) – 3
  • What We Do in the Shadows – Season 2 (2020) – 4
  • Pen15 – Season 1 (2019) – 4

Music – I didn’t review much music this past month, but I’ve been rating songs in my Brand New playlist all month, so I should have more albums to talk about next month even though (as you will see) January was a slow month for new music.

h1

Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure? (2020)

January 22, 2021

Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure? (2020, Pop)

Release Date: June 26th, 2020

Song Rating Scale

  1. Spotlight – 4.5
  2. What’s Your Pleasure? – 4
  3. Ooh La La – 4
  4. Soul Control – 5
  5. Save a Kiss – 3.5
  6. Adore You – 3.5
  7. In Your Eyes – 4
  8. Step Into My Life – 3.5
  9. Read My Lips – 4
  10. Mirage (Don’t Stop) – 3.5
  11. The Kill – 4
  12. Remember Where You Are – 3.5

Spin Rate: 6.5
Average Song Rating: 3.92/5
3.5+ Percentage: 100%
Skips: 0
Bangers: 7

Thoughts: Woah. That just happened. This is the first album released in 2020 that gets an average song rating greater than 3.9 and is now the highest rated album I’ve reviewed for last year. Does that mean I think it’s the best album of the year? Geez, maybe. It’s definitely amazing, but it’s also outside my comfort zone of hip-hop music so maaaaaaaaaaaybe I have no idea what I’m talking about here. And I’m not going to lie, someone put this on my radar when it came out and I put “Soul Control” on my Bangers Playlist many months ago, but I never gave the album a dedicated listen until I saw Anthony Fantano, “the internet’s busiest music nerd,” list it as his #1 album of 2020. I can’t say I always agree with Fantano’s taste, but I’m definitely on board with this pick. As great as Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia was for a pop album, I actually like What’s Your Pleasure? a bit more. The songs here have more replayability and a bit more soul. Jessie Ware is a good singer, but it’s the writing and production that really stand out to me. So many tracks on this are absolute pop smashes and I can listen to this album on repeat. If you try this out, I guarantee half the songs will get stuck in your head. I’m hesitant to call this my new album of the year, but it’s definitely my favorite non-rap album of 2020. An absolute must listen.

Verdict: 9/10 (Amazing)

h1

Some Fun 2020 Movie Stats

January 19, 2021

I started using Letterboxd early last year and one of the cool features on the app is that it tracks all sorts of stats about your movie watching. I’m a stat guy, so I love it and when I asked my Facebook friends to guess the 20 actors and 20 directors I’ve seen the most movies from, a ton of people participated and seemed to enjoy it.

2020 Stats

Films watched: 147
Average per month: 12.2
Average per week: 2.8
Most watched (twice): The Queen’s Gambit (limited series count, I guess) and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (Theatrical version and Producer’s Cut)
Top 5 genres: Drama, Thriller, Comedy, Horror, Action
2020 movies: 26.5%
Older movies: 73.5%
First time watches: 67.3%
Re-watches: 32.7%

Most Watched Stars

  1. Robert Englund (11 films)
  2. Heather Langenkamp (6)
  3. Harry Northup (6)
  4. Robert Shaye (5)
  5. Danielle Harris (5)
  6. Robert De Niro (4)
  7. Clu Gulager (4)
  8. Wes Craven (4)
  9. John Heard (4)
  10. Margot Robbie (4)
  11. Harvey Keitel (4)
  12. Lisa Wilcox (4)
  13. Victor Argo (4)
  14. Parry Shen (4)
  15. Murray Moston (4)
  16. Kelvin Harrison Jr. (4)

Notes: Any guesses which franchises I revisited last year?

Most Watched Directors

  1. Martin Scorsese (9 films)
  2. Wes Craven (2)
  3. John McTiernan (2)
  4. Liz Garbus (2)
  5. Daniel Farrands (2)
  6. Adam Green (2)
  7. Renny Harlin (2)
  8. Chris Columbus (2)
  9. Bong Joon-ho (2)
  10. Taika Waititi (2)
  11. Paul Verhoeven (2)

Lifetime Most Watched Stars

  1. Samuel L. Jackson (40 films) [previously ranked 1]
  2. Robert De Niro (33) [5]
  3. Brad Pitt (33) [2]
  4. John Goodman (32) [8]
  5. Tom Hanks (31) [5]
  6. Matt Damon (30) [5]
  7. Bruce Willis (30) [4]
  8. Morgan Freeman (29) [3]
  9. Johnny Depp (27) [12]
  10. Woody Harrelson (27) [12]
  11. Jack Black (27) [12]
  12. Jonah Hill (26) [8]
  13. Bill Murray (25) [unranked]
  14. Arnold Schwarzenegger (25) [20]
  15. Ben Affleck (25) [unranked]
  16. Tom Cruise (25) [10]
  17. Robert Downey Jr. (25) [12]
  18. J.K. Simmons (25) [12]
  19. Laurence Fishburne (24) [unranked]
  20. Jon Favreau (24) [unranked]

Dropped out: Scarlett Johansson (11), Brian Cox (12), Willem Dafoe (12), John Ratzenberger (12)

Notes: I posted my original list back in late March 2020 and since then I’ve gone through and realized I’ve seen some movies I hadn’t marked as watched, so most of the movement here is because of that. De Niro is the only actor on my 2020 list that is also on my all-time list and he moved all the way up to the #2. Also, there could be 15 actors tied with 24 movies watched, but we will never know how long that list extends because it only shows 20 names at a time.

Lifetime Most Watched Directors

  1. Steven Spielberg (21 films) [previously ranked 1]
  2. Martin Scorsese (19) [2]
  3. Tim Burton (14) [3]
  4. Ridley Scott (13) [4]
  5. Sam Raimi (12) [5]
  6. Ron Howard (12) [5]
  7. Quentin Tarantino (12) [7]
  8. Ivan Reitman (11) [9]
  9. David Fincher (11) [9]
  10. Christopher Nolan (11) [9]
  11. Joel Coen (11) [7]
  12. Michael Bay (10) [9]
  13. Robert Rodriguez (10) [9]
  14. Steven Soderbergh (10) [14]
  15. Jon Turteltaub (9) [18]
  16. Stephen Herek (9) [Unranked]
  17. Wes Craven (9) [18]
  18. Peter Farrelly (9) [Unranked]
  19. Jay Roach (9) [Unranked]
  20. James Mangold (9) [14]
  21. Robert Zemeckis [14]
  22. Richard Donner [14]

Dropped out: Richard Linklater, Lauren Montgomery, F. Gary Gray, Peter Jackson, Harold Ramis, Brian de Palma, Todd Phillips [all tied at 18th]

Note: No major movement here. Scorsese and Wes Craven were the only filmmakers I purposefully watched multiple films from in 2020.

h1

Flip Huston – Who Is Flip Huston? (2020)

January 11, 2021

Flip Huston – Who Is Flip Huston? (2020, Rap)

Release Date: December 11th, 2020

Song Rating Scale

  1. Who Is Flip Huston? – 3.5
  2. All Gas No Breaks – 3.5
  3. Rollin’ (feat. Jay Copes) – 3.5
  4. Out Of My Mind (feat. Jim Jones) – 4
  5. Momma I Made It (feat. Dame Dolla) – 4
  6. You Know The Vibes – 4
  7. Sky’s The Limit (feat. J. Shep) – 3.5
  8. On Mine (feat. Yukmouth) – 4
  9. Designer (Bonus Track) – 3.5

Spin Rate: 10+
Average Song Rating: 3.75/5
3.5+ Percentage: 100%
Skips: 0
Bangers: 4

Thoughts: This may come across bias because Flip is a long-time friend of mine – we have lived together in three different places – but I think he crushed this project. I have to admit I was pretty skeptical when he hit me up last year and told me he was making new music and wanted me to help him with the writing process. I turned him down because I haven’t written rap lyrics for at least a decade now and I didn’t really want to work hard to redevelop that skill set. As far as I know, Flip hasn’t made music in nearly as long. Honestly, I didn’t have high expectations for this because, frankly, I didn’t even think it would actually happen. But then he started sending me snippets and telling me about the huge guests verses he was getting and, well, here we are. I was expecting this dude to be dusty, but he sounds just as sharp and talented as he did when he blew my mind back in 2010 at this show. He just has a knack for penning catchy hooks and writing songs that get stuck in your head and stay there. Plus, Flip shows some versatility here with “You Know The Vibes” and the bonus track “Designer,” showcasing some singing and harmonizing abilities I didn’t even know he had. This is just a really solid all around project. The production is good, the big name guests all deliver solid verses, Flip shows off a variety of talent, and every song is good and half of them are straight up bangers.

Verdict: 8/10 (Must Listen)

h1

Movies – December 2020

January 3, 2021

I don’t think I will be posting movie reviews on my blog much longer. At least not in my traditional manner. It just seems silly to copy and paste everything from Letterboxd. It’s a lot of wasted time and energy. I’m not really sure how best to combine my blog and Letterboxd, but this ain’t it. I went crazy in December, watching easily the most movies of any month of the year and really started checking some movies off my 2020 watchlist.

https://boxd.it/5jdaM – Best Feature Films of 2020 (ongoing list)
https://boxd.it/aHeHg – Best Documentaries & Docu-Series of 2020 (ongoing list)
https://boxd.it/armXY – 2020 Movies I Haven’t Seen (ranked by interest level)
https://boxd.it/5FLKe – Movies new to streaming in January 2021 (ranked by interest level)

Mulan (2020, Disney+) I’m shocked at how poorly this is doing with general audiences because I thought it was enjoyable and I’m a harsher critic than most. I watched the animated version sometime in the last few years, but it’s been long enough that I already forgot most of it again. I know there’s a talking creature that accompanies Mulan in the original and I don’t think the witch character was in that version either, but other than that, I couldn’t cite too many differences. As such, it’s hard for me to compare the two and say that the live action one didn’t live up to my expectations – I didn’t really have any. I thought Liu Yifei did a fine job in the lead role and it was cool seeing Gong Li as the witch. I liked the addition of that character and thought it gave some added weight to the story even if it wasn’t all that well fleshed out. I wouldn’t go as far as to say this a good movie, and I suppose it could have been a lot better, but I wasn’t overly disappointed with it either. 5/10 (Decent)

Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge (2020, rental) Shockingly gruesome and plenty of fun. I’m surprised the MK franchise doesn’t have loads of these kinds of animated movies already. Definitely worth a watch for fans of Mortal Kombat. I’d be happy to see more of these kinds of MK films. 6/10 (Recommended)

Die Hard: With A Vengeance (1995, HBOMax, re-watch) Finally, our New York City cop gets a New York City movie! This is the best of the Die Hard sequels (and the last good one) by a long shot and Samuel L. Jackson is a welcome addition – he has great chemistry with Bruce Willis. The initial scene they have together is unforgettable and will always be a classic. Jeremy Irons makes for a good villain and I like that his motives tie back to the first movie (somewhat). The use of the “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” music (possibly better recognized as “the ants go marching one by one?”) for such an extensive sequence is equal parts insane and awesome. This is always a fun 90s action movie to revisit. 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Citizen Kane (1941, HBOMax, re-watch) Many think this is the best movie ever made. I’m not one of them. I don’t even love it. I’m sure it was a technical marvel for the time it was made, but that was 40 years before I was born and I just haven’t seen enough movies from that era for me to say that it stands heads and shoulders above its peers. That said, I did enjoy Citizen Kane. This is my second viewing and I think I liked it more this time around. Orson Welles is great, the music is great, and the story and search for the meaning of Rosebud is fun. Perhaps I’m a bit uncultured, but I feel this is a very good but not great movie. 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Mank (2020, Netflix) There’s a lot to like about this movie. It has a wonderful 1930s/1940s aesthetic to it and the music is great. There’s plenty of top notch acting, especially from Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried, the latter of whom gives easily the best performance of her career (the guy that played Orson Welles was not great though and his final scene was borderline cringe). Herman Mankiewicz was quite the character. But at the same time, this movie just wasn’t overly interesting to me. I didn’t really understand why he wrote Citizen Kane about William Randolph Hearst and all the politics involved were over my head. Mank is technically great, but the movie as a whole isn’t all that entertaining.  6/10 (Recommended)

Elf (2020, Netflix, re-watch) Can’t go wrong with this Christmas classic. This was more of a background watch than a dedicated one, but I kept finding myself wanting to tune in rather than focus on the board game we were playing, so that says a lot about Elf’s enjoyability. Always a good one to revisit in December! 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Johnny Tsunami (1999, Disney+) I was only loosely watching this while my wife had it on. I can’t say it was all that interesting, but it had its charm and wasn’t unwatchable.  4/10 (Meh)

Sinister (2012, personal collection, re-watch) A hidden gem. This movie was truly thrilling and actually quite scary. I kind of loved it. This is a must watch for fans of horror. 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Freaky (2020, rental) I was pretty eager to watch this because it looked fun. Sure, the concept is not even remotely original, but I’m not sure it’s ever been used for a horror-type film. I was totally expecting a PG-13 movie, so I was pretty shocked by the gore in the opening sequence – it’s incredibly over-the-top and bloody. Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton both give fun performances, but I would have liked to see more screen time of Newton as the killer. Director Christopher Landon seems to be making a niche of taking popular story gimmicks and applying them to horror movies. Happy Death Day spawned a franchise and I wouldn’t be shocked if this does also. I’d be there to watch it. 6/10 (Recommended)

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020, HBOMax) This movie is probably going to pop up on a lot of top 10 lists for 2020, but it’s worth noting the wide discrepancy between critical and general audience receptions: Rotten Tomatoes has the critic score at 99% favorable while the audience score is 20% favorable. I’m not too surprised by that. I wouldn’t call this movie riveting. The story follows a young pregnant girl in her quest to get an abortion without her parents find out about it, which proves to be quite the challenge considering she is underage in her home state. So yeah, I can see why some audiences are turned off. Imagine someone that is pro-life thinking this is a good movie. I’m sure there are people in that camp that are trashing this without even watching it. Secondly – and this is a stereotypical assumption – but I wouldn’t expect males to be overly interested in this one. Personally though, I enjoyed it. It’s a brutal psychological and emotional journey and Sidney Flanigan is really, really good in it. Some questions here go unanswered and we are left to fill in the blanks, but this movie still made me feel something so even though I didn’t think it was overly entertaining, it was still powerful. 6/10 (Recommended)

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020, documentary, Netflix) I was expecting a biography type documentary and while we get some glimpses into Attenborough’s life, this is more about his quest to urge people to understand global warming and save our planet for future generations.  It does have plenty of amazing visuals of animals and jaw-dropping scenery of various landscapes.  I actually did learn a lot watching this and it was good, even if it wasn’t what I was hoping for. 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Shocker (1989, HBOMax) I put this on my list after listening to Wes Craven’s biography on Audible because it sounded interesting and I’m a fan of most of the horror pics I’ve seen from him. This sucked though. It was so cringy and you can tell Craven was trying really hard to recreate the magic of his Nightmare on Elm Street series. It just didn’t work for me at all. The fact that Craven uses dreams as a main plot point again is weird and the villain was just kind of lame. I may have liked this if I saw it as a kid when it initially came out, but seeing it for the first time as an adult, I thought it was pretty stupid. 3/10 (Bad)

Home Alone (1990, Disney+, re-watch) The most amazing thing about Home Alone is that I’ve probably seen it more than any other movie in my lifetime and yet, I still enjoy it. Even as I enter my late 30s I still don’t mind watching it every single year around Christmas time. This movie is full of plot holes, nonsense, and unbelievably dumb characters, but I still love it and it’s charm is undeniable. A true classic, even if it isn’t exactly a great film. 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020, Amazon Prime) Not as good as the first Borat movie, but it still made me LOL many times and that’s saying something. The girl that plays Borat’s daughter did an excellent job, especially considering how brutal some of her scenes were. Speaking of which, I could have done without the daddy/daughter dance scene. Sometimes Sacha Baron Cohen takes things a bit too far and that would be a good example. I really like the whole premise of Cohen playing his characters and getting real time and authentic reactions from unknowing victims. I wonder about how this particular film was created. It seems like Cohen set out to make this thing before the Coronavirus pandemic started (as evidenced by him interrupting the speech in which Mike Pence says the U.S. has had 15 total cases of the virus) but by the end of the film, Covid dominates the narrative. So… what movie was he planning to make before the virus took over? If you liked the first Borat, this is definitely a must watch. Personally, I found it to be wildly entertaining, especially the first half. Strong recommendation. 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Love & Monsters (2020, RedBox) This was an enjoyable and easy watch. I know it’s not meant to be a deep-thinker, but I couldn’t help but wonder how the mutated monsters wiped out humanity – with all of our advanced weaponry, transport, and military numbers – when they seem to be rather scarce once the story moves to the surface. You’d expect their presence to be overwhelming, but we only see a handful of monsters the entire movie and they are always seen attacking as a solo act. So… how exactly did humankind fall to these things? Our hapless and untrained hero also continuously takes them out with a homemade crossbow, so I was having a hard time believing the entire premise of the movie. Ignoring that though, I thought the cast was cool and the monsters were creative and looked pretty good. This is a solid family flick that was quite fun even though it’s pretty damn silly and gets a light recommendation from me. 6/10 (Recommended)

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992, Disney+, re-watch) I can’t blame anyone involved for making this, but it’s basically just a retread of the first film set in New York City under even more unbelievable circumstances. I guess it’s still kind of fun, but it doesn’t come close to capturing the magic of the original. 5/10 (Decent)

On The Rocks (2020, AppleTV+) Bill Murray is pretty great and I like Rashida Jones but I’m not sure she’s all that interesting as an actress.  This movie was good enough but I think the narrative is kind of manipulative and that ended up bothering me by the end of the film.  I walked away pretty unsatisfied.   5/10 (Decent)

Wolfwalkers (2020, AppleTV+) Wonderfully animated, unique and plenty impactful.  The voice acting is stellar and the mystical story about the relationship between man and wolf is top notch.  Robyn is a great character – one of the better heroines of the last few years.  I was tempted to label this a Must Watch and I wouldn’t blame anyone for doing so, but it fell just a bit short for that lofty level for me.   7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Soul (2020, Disney+) Absolutely loved it.  This hit me in the feels.  Typical elite Pixar that is wildly creative and tells an emotionally moving story.  The animation of the “on earth” scenes is incredible.  The voice acting from Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey is good.  The music is great.  Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross hit another homerun.  Those dudes don’t miss.  This is a legit great film.  My second Must Watch of 2020.   8/10 (Great/Must See)

Beastie Boys Story (2020, documentary, AppleTV+) I was never a huge Beastie Boys fan but I did like their popular songs.  They peaked before I really got into music and Hello Nasty in 1998 was the first and only Beastie Boys I bought when it came out.  Unfortunately, I’ve never really gone back and dug into their discog but I still appreciate their place in music history and something like this is right up my alley.  It was cool to see how the group came together and found success in a genre that had didn’t really have any white artists.  It’s kind of strange how seamlessly they seem to have blended in to the early hip-hop scene considering how groundbreaking it felt when Eminem broke through over a decade later.  Ad Rock and Mike D share their story on stage with a live audience and a video background.  This is not your typical documentary, but definitely a must watch for any Beasties fan and a worthwhile watch for fans of music history.   6/10 (Recommended)

Boys State (2020, documentary, AppleTV+) This is a documentary about an annual event in Texas where hundreds of high school age kids get together and form a government from the ground up, making policies and voting on officials to represent one of their two parties. I’m not even remotely interested in the politics of our country, but I did get completely invested in the stories of the various kids the film crew decided to focus on. This has been receiving high praise for good reason. Even if a politically ignorant/uninvested person such as myself found it to be an absolute delight.   8/10 (Great/Must See)

h1

December 2020 Music Ratings (2020 Wrap-Up Edition)

January 1, 2021

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

Flip Huston – Who Is Flip Huston?

Notes: Yep. I’m giving my boy the Album of the Month. I was working on a review for this, but I never got around to publishing it – I will be doing that early January, but I can assure this is a good project. If a good friend of mine released something I didn’t like, I’d just tell them it was wack. If someone I know (but wasn’t close with) released something I didn’t like, I’d probably tell them “it’s cool” and it certainly wouldn’t be featured on my monthly blog post. I’m featuring this project because I truly believe in it. Make sure you go check this out. It’s streaming on all platforms. Another friend of mine, Toby Ganger, sent me a copy of his album that is due out sometime in 2021 and it is truly excellent… like album of the year type level good. I’m not sure when the rest of the world will get to hear it, but I’m very curious to see if everyone loves it as much as I do. I’ll go ahead and include a rough rating for each album to make my feelings on each project clearer.  Note: the more I’ve listened to an album, the more accurate my rating is. Any rating that has a + symbol means that I’ve found my floor, but I could rate it higher. I won’t leave a rating for anything I don’t have a good feel for yet.

Rating Scale

10 – Masterpiece
9 – Amazing
8 – Great
7 – Highly Enjoyable
6 – Recommended/Good
5 – Decent/Cool
4 – Lackluster
3 – Bad
2 – Horrible
1 – Torture Material

* indicates December 2020 release

Top 20 Albums in December (all ratings are out of 10)

Note: These albums are NOT ranked in order of preference; they are ranked in order of number of songs listened to (scrobbles) over the past month.

1. Toby Ganger – Free Machine – 8+ (unreleased)
2. *Eminem – Music To Be Murdered By – B Side – 6
3. Tyrone’s Jacket – Tyrone’s Jacket – 7+
4. *Kid Cudi – Man On The Moon III: The Chosen – 6
5. *Flip Huston – Who Is Flip Huston? – 7+
6. Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom (2017)
7. *Jack Harlow – Thats What They All Say – 6+
8. Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure? – 7+
9. Lil Wayne – No Ceilings 3 – 7
10. Goodie Mob – Survival Kit – 7
11.*Che Noir – After 12 – 7
12. *Playboi Carti – Whole Lotta Red – 3+
13. Statik Selektah – The Balancing Act
14. Recognize Ali – Guerilla Dynasty
15. *Boldy James – Real Bad Boldy
16. *Taylor Swift – evermore
17. Juicy J – The Hustle Continues
18. Benny the Butcher – Burden of Proof – 9
19. Miley Cyrus – Plastic Hearts – 6+
20. *Tobe Nwigwe – CINCORIGINALS – 6+

The 50 Artists I Listened To The Most In 2020

Notes: I started using the Last.FM app about halfway through the year, so this is really just six months worth of scrobbles.

  1. Eminem
  2. Benny the Butcher
  3. Lil Wayne
  4. Conway the Machine
  5. Black Thought/The Roots
  6. MC Eiht
  7. Che Noir
  8. Spillage Village/Earthgang
  9. Amine
  10. Nas
  11. Berner
  12. Ty Dolla $ign
  13. Busta Rhymes
  14. 38 Spesh
  15. Recognize Ali/Dueling Experts
  16. Toby Ganger
  17. The Weeknd
  18. R.A. the Rugged Man
  19. Flip Huston
  20. Big Sean
  21. Logic
  22. Blu & Exile
  23. 21 Savage & Metro Boomin
  24. Sa-Roc
  25. Felt
  26. Westside Gunn
  27. T.I.
  28. Pop Smoke
  29. Boldy James
  30. Dua Lipa
  31. Ransom
  32. Phoebe Bridgers
  33. Reason
  34. Goodie Mob
  35. Ariana Grande
  36. CunninLynguists
  37. The Lox
  38. Jaden Smith
  39. Dinner Party
  40. Future
  41. Kaash Paige
  42. Brother Ali
  43. Deante Hitchcock
  44. Tyrone’s Jacket
  45. Rich Brian
  46. Kid Cudi
  47. Dave East
  48. Mac Miller
  49. Elzhi
  50. Ice Cube

As you can see, new music dominates my listening experience. Out of my top 50 artists, only CunninLynguists, Brother Ali, and Ice Cube didn’t release projects in 2020. A lot of my all-time favorite rappers (Biggie, Jay, Pac, Kanye, Outkast, etc.) and current favorite rappers (Kendrick, J. Cole, Joey Badass) are nowhere to be found. I definitely enjoy staying up-to-date, finding hidden gems, and keeping an open mind to everything new, but I can’t help but feel like it dominates my listening experience and I don’t listen to the music I truly love enough. That makes music feel more like homework than pleasure sometimes. I plan to stay very current, but I want to find more balance with this in 2021.

Top 10 Albums of the Year (in alphabetical order)

Apollo Brown & Che Noir – As God Intended (Rap)
Benny the Butcher – Burden of Proof (Rap)
Conway the Machine – From King To A God (Rap)
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia (Pop)
Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – Alfredo (Rap)
Mac Miller – Circles (Rap? Pop?)
MC Eiht – Lessons (Rap)
Run the Jewels – RTJ4 (Rap)
Sa-Roc – The Sharecropper’s Daughter (Rap)
The Weeknd – After Hours (R&B/Soul/Pop)

I feel pretty confident in that list, but there could be an album or two I’d slip in or out and maybe some of the more recent releases will grow enough on me to make the jump. If I had to pick an absolute favorite for the year, I think I’d have to go with the Apollo Brown & Che Noir album.

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

Amine – Limbo (Rap)
Brent Faiyaz – F**k the World (R&B/Soul)
Che Noir – After 12 (Rap)
Deante Hitchcock – BETTER (Rap)
eLZhi – Seven Times Down Eight Times Up (Rap)
Felt – Felt 4 U (Rap)
Flip Huston – Who Is Flip Huston? (Rap)
Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure? (Pop)
Logic – No Pressure (Rap)
Planet Asia & 38 Spesh – Trust the Chain (Rap)
R.A. the Rugged Man – All My Heroes Are Dead (Rap)
Reason – New Beginnings (Rap)
Royce da 5’9″ – The Allegory (Rap)
Tyrone’s Jacket – Tyrone’s Jacket (Rap)

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

Ariana Grande, “positions”
Benny the Butcher, “3:30 In Houston”
Boldy James, “Street Shit”
Che Noir ft. RJ Payne & Sa-Roc, “Moment in the Sun”
Chris Stapleton, “Devil Always Made Me Think Twice”
Conway the Machine, “Ameenah’s Van”
Conway the Machine, “Serena vs Venus”
Don Toliver ft. Travis Scott & Kaash Paige, “Euphoria”
eLZhi, “Hot Winter Cold Summer”
Eminem ft. White Gold, “Zeus”
Goodie Mob, “4 My Ppl”
Gorillaz ft. Moonchild Sanelly, “With Love To An Ex”
Jamo Gang, “Runyon Canyon”
Jessie Ware, “Read My Lips”
Lil Wayne ft. Drake, “BB King Freestyle”
Lil Wayne, “Lamar”
Miley Cyrus ft. Stevie Nicks, “Edge of Midnight (Midnight Sky Remix)”
Reason ft. Mereba, “Westside”
Recognize Ali, “Wreck-Ignition”
Russ ft. Benny the Butcher & Black Thought, “Momentum”
T.I. ft. Eric Bellinger & Killer Mike, “How I Feel”
Tyrone’s Jacket, “Backpack Song”
Tyrone’s Jacket, “Streets”
Westside Gunn, “Shawn vs. Flair”

h1

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

December 26, 2020

Director: Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman, Monster)

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal

Anticipation Level: Very High

How Was It?

Ugh.  I was really excited for this and it was such a slog.  How are you going to make a Wonder Woman sequel and have Gal Gadot in costume for maybe five minutes in the first hour and 45 minutes?  The narrative moves at a crawl and that’s not how I want my action flicks, especially if the exposition and character development isn’t particularly riveting.  Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah was fine (well, until the final act), but I did not enjoy Pedro Pascal at all.  He’s great in The Mandalorian but his performance as Max Lord here was just hard to watch… and not in a good way.  There were some charming and funny moments (mostly between Gadot and Chris Pine) and the conclusion of the movie was dangerously close to being touching, but I’m struggling to find the positives.  This movie was way too long and bored me for most of its run time.  I’m super disappointed.  I honestly can’t imagine watching this again.  My score below is probably generous.

Replay Value: Very little

Sequel Potential: They had a winning formula going here and I can’t imagine they’d replace Gal Gadot, but this movie was a huge step back. I assume they will keep moving forward with Gadot as Wonder Woman, but DC has plans to shake everything up in the near future.

Oscar Potential: None.

4/10 (Subpar)