Posts Tagged ‘soul’

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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)

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Weekly Music Update: Kamaiyah, Jidenna, Eminem & Beyonce

November 15, 2017

New Playlist Additions

KamaiyahBefore I Wake (hip-hop/rap) – Kamaiyah is a double dose of rarity for me: a female rapper that I enjoy and a Bay Area rapper that I enjoy. She gets a lot of great production and has a really smooth vocal style and doesn’t abuse her sexuality. I liked her debut album and after 2-3 listens already, I’m a fan of this one also.

JidennaBoomerang – EP (hip-hop/rap) – I’m a fan of Jidenna. I’m a fan of EPs. This is a solid compliment to his LP The Chief released earlier this year – complete with a “Bambi” sequel!

Eminem & Beyonce – “Walk On Water” (hip-hop/rap) – Oh man. It’s becoming less of a secret that Eminem has a new album on the very near horizon and “Walk On Water” is the first song leaked from it… and it’s a disappointment to me. I can appreciate the message – the pressure for an artist to continually come with great content and better their past releases – and I enjoy Beyonce’s singing, but goodness the production is lackluster. Eminem is basically rapping over someone playing a piano and it sounds jarring at times and I have to say is quite a letdown overall. Hopefully not a sign of things to come.

Chris BrownHeartbreak on a Full Moon (R&B/soul) – I’m not going to lie: 45 Chris Brown songs is quite the chore and not exactly one I’m looking forward to, but my niece recommended this to me and I feel like it’s good form to listen to other people’s recommendations if I want them to listen to mine. I guess I don’t know much about Chris Brown, but I assumed I wasn’t a fan and I’ve mostly enjoyed the songs that I’ve heard from this collection so far.

Cam’ronThe Program (hip-hop/rap) – Literally just added this to my playlist as I was typing this post. Can’t say I’m checking for Cam’ron, but he’s always had talent and is probably worth giving a shot.

Other Notable Releases

Wiz KhalifaLaugh Now, Fly Later (hip-hop/rap) – This dude sucks now.

Too $hortHella Disrespectful: Bay Area Mixtape (hip-hop/rap) – Remember what I said about Bay Area rappers. I liked Too $hort when I was 12. Vocally and lyrically, I really think he’s one of the worst rappers ever.

Angel OlsenPhases (alternative)

Recent Albums Update

Sam SmithThe Thrill of it All (pop) – Definitely a good album that I can listen to all the way through.

KalelaTake Me Apart (R&B/soul) – Haven’t really listened to yet.

ELHAEAURA II (R&B/soul) – Haven’t listened at all.

LE$The Catalina Wine Mixer (hip-hop/rap) – A surprise release that I wasn’t initially aware of, but LE$ has been one of my favorite hip-hop artists over the past year and his work ethic is extraordinary: this is his fifth release in the last 18 months and last year’s Tecnnoviolet was a top 5 rap album of 2016 for me. Considering the volume of music LE$ is putting out, the consistency of the quality is extremely impressive. If this dude isn’t on your radar, he should be. I wouldn’t say he’s elite lyrically or vocally, but the guy knows how to make good rap music.

Brent FaiyazSonder Son (r&b/soul) – My goodness this is fire. I played a 16 hour poker session yesterday and I kept finding myself coming back to this album and “Stay Down” in particular. I must have listened to that song over ten times yesterday. “Talk 2 U” is another highlight and both of those songs sound like immediate classics. This whole album is good though. I’m pretty close to giving this a final rating and it will definitely be a strong one.

dvsnMorning After (r&b/soul) – I gave this a less than favorable first impression and I have to say this album has grown on me tremendously. I’m still figuring out how I feel about the album as a whole, but it’s a strong R&B release and I can say this much with certainty: “Claim” is a classic!

Big K.R.I.T.4eva Is a Mighty Long Time (hip-hop/rap) – Haven’t really given this a dedicated listen yet. As of now, I can’t say any songs have stood out to me.

YelawolfTrial By Fire (hip-hop/rap) – Yelawolf is a good rapper. He knows his niche, executes well, and has plenty of substance and authenticity. I heard two songs this past week that really stood out to me: “True To Yourself” and “Keeps Me Alive” – both added to my Best Songs of 2017 playlist.

H.E.R.H.E.R. (r&B/soul) – Still haven’t given this a full listen, but I’ve liked basically every song that has come up on random so far.

Hustle GangWe Want Smoke (hip-hop/rap) – Finally got the delete. Just no interest.

Wu-TangThe Saga Continues (hip-hop/rap) – From last week: “I’ve listened to the first half of the album four times and the second half twice, so I’m still getting a feel for some of it. I know this much: Method Man absolutely destroys over multiple appearances. He not only sounds completely rejuvenated, but as good as he ever has – so many quotables from Meth: “Mayday! Mayday! But no charge, I’m nutty with the bars/ that’s a Payday, so bruh (sober), this ain’t even a bar, this is AA.” The production is also a massive highlight. I stopped giving albums numbered ratings, but I can say this much: this Wu-Tang album is inching up my Very Good category and getting consideration for Top Notch, which puts it in Albums of the Year territory.” Not much to add. I still can’t get over how much Method Man crushes this album.

BeckTrue Colors (alternative) – Deleted. Not for me.

Dame D.O.L.L.A.CONFIRMED (hip-hop/rap) – Another album I gave a less than favorable first impression that has grown on me a little. Dame seems to be more entertaining to me in smaller doses.

Best of 2017 Playlist Additions

“True To Yourself” – Yelawolf, Trial By Fire

“Keeps Me Alive” – Yelawolf, Trial By Fire

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Weekly Music Update: Sam Smith, Kalela, ELHAE, LE$

November 7, 2017

New Playlist Additions

Sam SmithThe Thrill of it All (pop) – I’m not familiar with this guy’s catalog at all, but he seemed to be the most prominent release of this past week, so I added his album to my playlist and I must say I’m impressed. I’ve already listened to this a couple of times all the way through and that says a lot. Very easy on the ears.

KalelaTake Me Apart (R&B/soul) – I think this came out a week or two ago and I just added it last night after reading some promising comments online.

ELHAEAURA II (R&B/soul) – Same as Kalela.

LE$The Catalina Wine Mixer (hip-hop/rap) – A surprise release from last week that I wasn’t initially aware of, but LE$ has been one of my favorite hip-hop artists over the past year and his work ethic is extraordinary: this is his fifth release in the last 18 months and last year’s Tecnnoviolet was a top 5 rap album of 2016 for me. Considering the volume of music LE$ is putting out, the consistency of the quality is extremely impressive. If this dude isn’t on your radar, he should be. I wouldn’t say he’s elite lyrically or vocally, but the guy knows how to make good rap music.

Other Notable Releases

21 Savage, Offset & Metro BoominWithout Warning (hip-hop/rap)

Maroon 5Red Pill Blues (pop)

Blake SheltonTexoma Shore (country)

Kid RockSweet Southern Sugar (rock/country)

Recent Albums Update

Brent FaiyazSonder Son (r&b/soul) – My goodness this is fire. I played a 16 hour poker session yesterday and I kept finding myself coming back to this album and “Stay Down” in particular. I must have listened to that song over ten times yesterday. “Talk 2 U” is another highlight and both of those songs sound like immediate classics. This whole album is good though. I’m pretty close to giving this a final rating and it will definitely be a strong one.

dvsnMorning After (r&b/soul) – I gave this a less than favorable first impression last week and I have to say this album has grown on me tremendously. I’m still figuring out how I feel about the album as a whole, but it’s a strong R&B release and I can say this much with certainty: “Claim” is a classic!

Snoop DoggMake America Crip Again (hip-hop/rap) – The opening track (“M.A.C.A.”) and the closing track (“Fly Away”) are pretty good. Everything in between is trash bin material to me. Rating: Decent

Big K.R.I.T.4eva Is a Mighty Long Time (hip-hop/rap) – Haven’t really given this a dedicated listen yet. As of now, I can’t say any songs have stood out to me.

YelawolfTrial By Fire (hip-hop/rap) – I’ve listened to this album all the way through once and it was definitely enjoyable. I think Yelawolf is an artist I’d rather have come on randomly in a big playlist as opposed to song after song. “Sabrina” is a highlight and a chilling song where Yelawolf imagines his daugther dying.

H.E.R.H.E.R. (r&B/soul) – Still haven’t given this a full listen, but I’ve liked basically every song that has come up on random so far.

Hustle GangWe Want Smoke (hip-hop/rap) – My interest level in this project is pretty low. I’ve heard songs on random but this will probably get deleted before I ever really listen to it.

Wu-TangThe Saga Continues (hip-hop/rap) – From last week: “I’ve listened to the first half of the album four times and the second half twice, so I’m still getting a feel for some of it. I know this much: Method Man absolutely destroys over multiple appearances. He not only sounds completely rejuvenated, but as good as he ever has – so many quotables from Meth: “Mayday! Mayday! But no charge, I’m nutty with the bars/ that’s a Payday, so bruh (sober), this ain’t even a bar, this is AA.” The production is also a massive highlight. I stopped giving albums numbered ratings, but I can say this much: this Wu-Tang album is inching up my Very Good category and getting consideration for Top Notch, which puts it in Albums of the Year territory.” Not much to add. I still can’t get over how much Method Man crushes this album.

BeckTrue Colors (alternative) – I’ve liked the few songs I’ve heard on random, but nothing spectacular.

Dame D.O.L.L.A.CONFIRMED (hip-hop/rap) – Another album I gave a less than favorable first impression that has grown on me a little. Dame seems to be more entertaining to me in smaller doses.

Best of 2017 Playlist Additions

“Claim” – dvsn, Morning After

“Stay Down” – Brent Faiyaz, Sonder Son

“Talk 2 U” – Brent Faiyaz, Sonder Son

“Pearl Harbor” – Wu-Tang, The Saga Continues