The “Culture Me!” Project 2013

So, I’ve seen a lot of people do projects of watching 100 movies a year, 50 movies a year, etc. I want to get in on this, but with my own twist. I’m going to do it for three forms of entertainment, not one.

DISCLAIMER: I left out books, because I have 20 books to read for school, classics. I left out plays and musicals, because they’re not big in Houston, so not many big theaters.

So, here’s my list!

25 Classic / Critically Acclaimed Movies

Singin’ in the Rain (1952) 9/10

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Chinatown (1974)

Amelie (2001)

The Green Mile (1999)

M (1931)

Vertigo (1958)

Citizen Kane (1941) 10/10

Rocky (1976)

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

The Graduate (1967) 9/10

The Chaser (2008)

Annie Hall (1977)

The Good, The Bad, and the Weird (2008)

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Blade Runner (1982)

Gran Torino (2008)

On the Waterfront (1954)

Raging Bull (1980)

I Saw The Devil (2011) 9/10

Casablanca (1942) 10/10

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

The Godfather (1972)  10/10

10 Classic / Critically Acclaimed Games

Ratchet & Clank (2002)

Shadow of the Colossus (2005)

Devil May Cry (2001) 9/10

Journey (2012)

Skyrim (2011)

Doom 3 (2004)

Ico (2001)

Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (2001)

The Walking Dead Series (2012)

Portal (2007)  10/10

25 Classic / Critically Acclaimed Albums

The Beach Boys, “Pet Sounds” 8/10

The Beatles, “Revolver” 10/10

Bob Dylan, “Highway 61 Revisited” 10/10

The Clash, “London Calling” 8/10

The Velvet Underground and Nico, “The Velvet Underground”

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Are You Experienced?”

The Eagles, “Hotel California”

Radiohead, “Kid A”

AC/DC, “Back in Black” 8/10

Pink Floyd, “The Wall”

The Notorious B.I.G., “Ready to Die”

Dr. Dre, “The Chronic” 8/10

A Tribe Called Quest, “The Low End Theory” 8/10

Joy Division, “Closer” 8/10

Elvis Costello, “My Aim is True” 10/10

Metallica, “Master of Puppets” 9/10

Nine Inch Nails, “The Downward Spiral” 10/10

Beastie Boys, “License to Ill” 8/10

Talking Heads, “Speaking in Tongues”

Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” 7/10

David Bowie, “Aladdin Sane”

My Bloody Valentine, “Loveless” 8/10

Weezer, “Weezer” 9/10

OutKast, “Stankonia” 8/10

Wish me luck!

I’ll need it…

A$AP Rocky – LongLiveA$AP Album Review!

A$AP Rocky is a New York rapper that gained a lot of attention from his mixtape, LiveLoveA$AP. This mixtape featured very atmospheric, reverb filled beats, and this had not been done in the mainstream before. He brought this production to the forefront, and is now used by many other MC’s. His lyrics and flow were mediocre however, and it was his unique production that kept him afloat.

Fast forward to the end of 2012, where his debut studio album, LongLiveA$AP, was leaked. I didn’t want to review it at that time, as it seems kind of… disrespectful. Nothing against others that did though. So it’s finally the release date, so here are my thoughts!

The first thing I’ll say is that I would split this album into two parts. One part features the slow, atmospheric beats of his previous mixtape. The other half features big name rappers and a fast and furious beat. The way he structures the album, it really works.

He opens with the title track. It’s a very unique beat, with vocal samples and reverb soaked drums. From the outset, you can hear that his flow has gotten a hundred times better. It’s faster, and is much more fluid. When it reaches the hook, it segues into this finger picked, clean guitar, with a falsetto singer. It sounds pretty good, and is on my good list.

After that, it’s his first single, Goldie. The production by Hit-Boy is impeccable. It sounds molded for A$AP Rocky, spitting a fast, swag filled rap. The hook is sung by A$AP, in his deep voice. It’s extremely catchy, with some clever lines too.

Then he has a song featuring ScHoolboy Q titled PMW. This song has decent production, nothing too special though. At this point of the album, it’s apparent that this album is what one would call, “Sophisticated Ignorance”. This song talks about, well, pussy, money, and weed. However, the execution is done expertly, so the lyrical content can be forgiven. Also, ScHoolboy Q spits a really nice verse.

The next three tracks blend together so much that I forget when the tracks change. LVL, Hell, and Pain have very similar production style, and not a good thing either. They aren’t unique enough production wise, as the lyricism cannot stand on its own. However, I will say that if you liked LiveLoveA$AP, you’ll love these three tracks. They just didn’t work for me.

Onto my favorite three tracks on this album.

Fuckin’ Problem ft. 2 Chainz, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar is an amazing track. It’s fast and fun. Sophisticated ignorance at its best. Drake has the best verse, K Dot seems out of place, and 2 Chainz has a catchy hook. What could be better?

Wild for the Night ft. Skrillex. I honestly thought this track was going to be a dud. C’mon, dubstep and rap? However, Skrillex was reserved enough to make an amazing beat (that I understand to be a remix) that A$AP Rocky can rap over. It’s frantic and captures the energy of going willd.

1 Train. This will go down as one of the greatest posse cuts in hip hop history. The beat is immaculate and classic, the features are mind blowing, everything just falls so perfectly into place…except A$AP Rocky’s verse.

After that is the disappointing Fashion Killa. It’s another ignorant track with a decent beat. It’s hook is extremely annoying, at least to me. The lyrics are even more generic, making this track extremely forgettable.

Phoenix and Suddenly are the first introspective songs on the album. Phoenix is over a very subtle, understated beat, allowing A$AP Rocky to really talk about deeper things. Suddenly talks about how he feels about his sudden rise to fame. I love how he digs a little bit deeper, and it’s a great way to end the album.

Overall, it’s a very good album. The way he structures it is a rise and fall of tempo and energy. There are a few skippable tracks, but they’re mostly good. A$AP Rocky has really grown as an artist, and I’d love to see what he does next.

Overall: 7/10

Zero Dark Thirty Movie Review – Bigelow does it again

Before I start this review, let’s just say that I will not be focusing on all of the controversy surrounding this movie. I want to focus on what makes his film good, and not have any outside influences change my opinion.

SO ANYWAYS.

Zero Dark Thirty is the (supposedly) true retelling of the hunt of Osama Bin Laden. It isn’t a documentary, it’s structured like a film. However, I would label this movie as a fictional documentary, as the characters don’t really have backstory. The sole focus of Zero Dark Thirty is the story of how Osama Bin Laden was captured.

As I said, the characters of this film do not really have a personality. They’re more like pawns used to tell the story. You don’t come to feel for any of them. With that said, the cast is wonderfully acted, despite the wooden writing. The cast is so star studded that I can’t even begin to name them all.

I love this picture.

Jessica Chastain is the central protagonist propelling the story. She plays a CIA agent that has hunted Bin Laden almost her entire life. She is headstrong and stubborn. Chastain does a wonderful job, and is completely deserving of her Golden Globe win. She plays the character with such fire that you sympathize with her when she is down on her luck.

Onto the plot. The movie spans ten years, starting from 9/11 to the day Bin Laden is killed. It is structured almost perfectly. It will show how she finds a small clue in 2003, then it’ll jump 3 years to the next clue. The way the movie works is that you can see the common thread. You see how one thing leads to another, and to the eventual downfall of the Al-Queda leader. Even though the first two hours is a lot of talking and searching, it is still very tense and interesting.

The last two hours are intense. The Tier One team moves slowly and quietly, doing their job efficiently. Kathryn Bigelow doesn’t resort to a big action scene. It is very reserved, just like they did in real life.

There’s not much more to say about Zero Dark Thirty. It is perfectly crafted, well acted, despite the lack of character. It might bore the general audience, but if you love movies, you should go see this!

Overall: 7/10

Link

New Justin Timberlake Single! “Suit & Tie ft. Jay-Z”

I’ve given this a few listens. It’s an old, worn out type of R&B that we’ve heard before. It is walked over by the likes of Frank Ocean or Miguel. The instrumental is so mashed together. It sounds very amaterish. It sprinkles a few horns throughout the song, which tries to give it a classic feel.

I love how the song changes tempo like three times. Catches me off guard, and maybe not a good thing. The other negative thing about this song (and I never thought I’d say this) is Jay-Z’s verse. LIke, really? A slow flow with mediocre lyrics…

“All black at the white shoes
White shoes at the black shows
Green car for the cuban linx
Gotta sit back and enjoy the light show”

This isn’t what Jay-Z is known for.

Oh well, I’m really excited for his new album anyways…

Gangster Squad Review – So much potential, squandered.

Okay, before I start this review, I wanna talk about something (that I’ll probably expand to a full blog post later.)

I want to talk about expectations. Now, when I first found out about this movie, it looked magnificent, mostly due to the all star cast. This cast is a cast from heaven. Heavy hitters like Nick Nolte, Josh Brolin, and Ryan Gosling, and the up-and-comers that haven’t quite made it big yet, like Anthony Mackie and Michael Pena.

The movie is like this picture. It looks pretty, but not genuine.

Looking at the time period and subject matter, I was really pumped for this movie. I recently watched The Untouchables and L.A. Confidential, and those movies were AMAZING. Gangster squad looks like its in the same vein as those two, so expectations were high.

Then I found out that it wasn’t really a genuine, gangster flick. It was more of a “contemporary period piece”, if that makes sense at all. The only thing that’s from the period is the way they dress. It’s also full of a lot of stylish action set pieces. After I pulled my expectations back from L.A. Confidential to something like Fast Five, the movie became very enjoyable for me.

SLOOOWWW MOTIONNNNNNN

Alright, let’s dig into this movie.

The cast, as I mentioned before, is amazing. However, the characters they display are so generic, it sometimes seems that this movie is a parody of gangster flicks. Josh Brolin, the straight edge cop that doesn’t fall to corruption, (A theme that is really good for these kinds of movies, but is relegated to one sentence in Gangster Squad.) Ryan Gosling, the lady killer, Robert Patrick, the badass old guy, Nick Nolte, the proud police chief, Emma Stone, the girl trying to get out, etc. The actors are trying to hard to breathe life into these one dimensional characters, and only a few succeed. I’d say the best performances were from Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling.

Oh, and how could I forget Sean Penn. Sean Penn plays a very exaggerated villain, that yells and screams and is supposed to be scary. Honestly, I really liked him because I could tell he was having a lot of fun with his role. I didn’t mind the make up either, he was playing a big bad wolf villain after all.

The dialogue, oh dear lord. The lines are written in a very modern way, so it completely takes you out of the movie. They don’t speak like they’re in the 50’s, they speak like they’re in 2013. Also, you see glimmers of hope that Gangster Squad will dig into a more meaty subject than “KILL EM GOOOOOOD”, but they disappear after a sentence.

“What makes us different from them?”, asks Giovanni Ribisi. It brings up the rash and violent behavior that the gangster squad is using, just like Mickey Cohen. It could let the characters change throughout the movie, showing a significant arc. However, Josh Brolin basically says, “because we have to!”.

you made zombie land! C’MON.

Another line is “War teaches you how to kill, not how to live.” This is also another really good theme, because many of the characters in this movie were previously soldiers of WWII. It could touch on the psychology of their actions, but the next scene has him putting a billion holes into gangsters with the typewriter.

Gangster Squad’s identity crisis is essentially its downfall. One scene has slow motion, stylized, Zack Snyder action, then the next has Josh Brolin telling his wife everything is fine.

guns, guns, guns, and more guns.

One of the crew or cast said this about Gangster Squad (I don’t remember who). They said that in each decade, there was a gangster movie that defined the generation. Godfather, L.A. Confidential, The Departed, etc. He said that Gangster Squad was this decade’s defining gangster flick. I’d say he’s about right with this. This movie does represent our generation’s ADD when it comes to film. Fast, stylish action over a substantial plot.

In the end, it’s a very fun action movie. If you want to go out with your friends, and need something with a lot of explosions and guns, this is the movie for you. If you’re looking for a more substantial gangster flick, watch some of the classics.

FUN FACTOR: 9/10

GOOD FACTOR: 5/10

Overall: 7/10

^ movie in a nutshell.

Oscars 2012 Nominations: My Thoughts!

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Nominees:

Amour (2012): To Be Determined

Argo (2012): Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012): Dan Janvey, Josh Penn, Michael Gottwald

Django Unchained (2012): Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone

Les Misérables (2012): Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh

Life of Pi (2012): Gil Netter, Ang Lee, David Womark

Lincoln (2012): Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Silver Linings Playbook (2012): Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen, Jonathan Gordon

Zero Dark Thirty (2012): Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, Megan Ellison

All of these make sense, and these are all safe choices. I’ve watched all of these except Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild, but by the time of the Academy Awards, I willWith my knowledge right now, the expected winner is either Zero Dark Thirty or Lincoln, but I would love love love to see Tarantino finally win in this category.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Nominees:

Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln (2012)

Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables (2012)

Joaquin Phoenix for The Master (2012)

Denzel Washington for Flight (2012/I)

I’m so happy for Bradley Cooper getting a nomination. All of the other nominations are pretty expected. I’m disappointed Matthew McConaughey wasn’t nominted for Killer Joe. I guess it was because it was risque or because it was NC-17. I’m thinking Daniel Day-Lewis will win in this category, and I’d love him to, he was great.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Nominees:

Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Emmanuelle Riva for Amour (2012)

Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

Naomi Watts for The Impossible (2012)

I have not seen The Impossible, but most people said she was just “eh”. I can’t comment on that, but I’m pretty sure Jessica Chastain will win, even though her character was pretty soulless. I don’t mean that in the sense that she was evil, but most of the characters in Zero Dark Thirty were just cardboard cut outs, and not to its detriment. It’s more of a factual fiction than an emotional movie. I’m really hoping for Jennifer Lawrence to win this, so we can forget The Hunger Games. Please.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominees:

Alan Arkin for Argo (2012)

Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master (2012)

Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln (2012)

Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained (2012)

C’mon, where is Leonardo DeCaprio! He was amazing in Django Unchained. The Academy, to me, seems to be a room of white, old men. They never take any risks in their choices. Tommy Lee Jones was okay, he basically played himself. Alan Arkin was great and funny, but not deserving of a nomination. Out of these choices however, I’m shooting for Christoph Waltz.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Nominees:

Amy Adams for The Master (2012)

Sally Field for Lincoln (2012)

Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables (2012)

Helen Hunt for The Sessions (2012)

Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

This is another example of poor choices in this category. There weren’t many good performances for supporting actresses this year, sure, but Jacki Weaver literally was in the movie for like, 3 minutes. She has maybe 10 lines? Her performance does not warrant a nomination in my opinion. I would vote for either Anne Hathaway or Sally Field on this one. I haven’t seen The Master yet, mind you.

Best Achievement in Directing

Nominees:

Michael Haneke for Amour (2012)

Ang Lee for Life of Pi (2012)

David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Steven Spielberg for Lincoln (2012)

Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

Quentin Tarantino? His film is nominated for Best Picture, but he doesn’t get a Best Director? All of these men deserve this nomination though, so it’s fine. I’m honestly torn on this one, and I can’t quite decide yet without seeing the other films. All of these are great.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Nominees:

Amour (2012): Michael Haneke

Django Unchained (2012): Quentin Tarantino

Flight (2012/I): John Gatins

Moonrise Kingdom (2012): Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola

Zero Dark Thirty (2012): Mark Boal

I have not seen Flight, but I will soon. I’m really glad Django Unchained got this nomination, it really deserves it. Many people are championing Looper for this, but I felt like that film was just okay. I’m voting for Django for this one.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

Nominees:

Argo (2012): Chris Terrio

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012): Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin

Life of Pi (2012): David Magee

Lincoln (2012): Tony Kushner

Silver Linings Playbook (2012): David O. Russell

I gotta go with Life of Pi for this one, as the task to translate this movie to the screen is nearly impossible. I loved all of the other choices though.

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Nominees:

Anna Karenina (2012/I): Seamus McGarvey

Django Unchained (2012): Robert Richardson

Life of Pi (2012): Claudio Miranda

Lincoln (2012): Janusz Kaminski

Skyfall (2012): Roger Deakins

This is incredibly hard, as all of these are beautiful. I cannot stress how much I want for every one of these choices to have that golden statue in their homes. However, I have to give this to Roger Deakins, because his cinematography made Skyfall. Life of Pi is beautiful and Lincoln is slow and great looking. I honestly wished for all of these to win.

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Nominees:

Anna Karenina (2012/I): Jacqueline Durran

Les Misérables (2012): Paco Delgado

Lincoln (2012): Joanna Johnston

Mirror Mirror (2012/I): Eiko Ishioka

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012): Colleen Atwood

I’ll give this to either Lincoln or Les Miserables, because both of those just transported me to that time period. and really? Mirror Mirror and Snow White?

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees:

Hitchcock (2012): Howard Berger, Peter Montagna, Martin Samuel

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012): Peter King, Rick Findlater, Tami Lane

Les Misérables (2012): Lisa Westcott, Julie Dartnell

Really? You’re not going to include Looper or Cloud Atlas? Those two movies were amazing with the makeup. In Hitchcock, Anthony Hopkins just looks like Fat Hopkins. Joseph Gordon-Levitt looked amazing in Looper, and the pure ambition alone of Cloud Atlas warrants it a nomination. 

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Nominees:

The Avengers (2012): Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams, Daniel Sudick

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012): Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White

Life of Pi (2012): Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik De Boer, Donald Elliott

Prometheus (2012/I): Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley, Martin Hill

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012): Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Phil Brennan, Neil Corbould, Michael Dawson

This is the category for huge, commercial films to really shine. Life of Pi has great CGI animals, but it cannot hold up against the beauty of Prometheus, or the frantic, yet clean action of The Avengers. 

I feel like the Academy needs a shake-up, because all they do is choose very safe choices, and not show all of the different movies some love. I loved 2012 in film, and this is the first year that I’ve seen most of these movies. Woot! Let’s hope the show doesn’t bomb again though…