Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Best and Worst of Channing Tatum

Films Starring Channing Tatum I've Seen:
Coach Carter
Step Up
Public Enemies
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
The Dilemma
The Eagle
21 Jump Street
Side Effects
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
White House Down
The Lego Movie
22 Jump Street
Jupiter Ascending

Best Performance: 21 Jump Street (2012)
For the first few years after Tatum became a breakout star, I viewed him as a talentless actor who only became famous because of his looks. Then 21 Jump Street came along in 2012 and proved that I was an absolute moron for thinking that. As officer Greg Jenko, Tatum beautifully riffs on the dim-witted meathead persona that had followed him his entire career up to this point and outshines a cast full of veteran comedic actors headlined by Jonah Hill, Ice Cube and Rob Riggle in one of the funniest movies to be released in the past 15 years. Tatum has gone on to prove himself as a equally skilled dramatic actor with great turns in 2013's Side Effects and 2014's Foxcatcher, but he's still never impressed me more than he did here.

Worst Performance: The Dilemma (2011)
There was a lot of solid actors including Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Connolly and Kevin James who came out of Ron Howard's thoroughly underwhelming comedy/drama The Dilemma looking bad, but Tatum gets the dubious honor of giving the worst performance in a film with no shortage of weak performances. The immense comedic gifts Tatum so readily displays in the Jump Street series are no where to be found here as he gives a bland, faux-macho performance as a heavily-tattooed jackass named Zip, who's having an affair with James' character's wife (Winona Ryder). While Tatum is cringe-worthy here, he can take solace in the face that he hasn't turned in a weak performance in the four years since The Dilemma was released.

Best Film: 22 Jump Street (2014)
22 Jump Street is the rare sequel that manages to top its predecessor in every possible way. The film perfectly recreates the tone and spirit of the original without feeling like a retread and the belly laughs are somehow even more frequent than the brilliant original. 22 Jump Street is the best comedic sequel of all-time and I can only hope the recently-announced 23 Jump Street can keep the flawless track record of this series alive.

Worst Film: Jupiter Ascending (2015)
For years, I've been saying that The Wachowskis should've retired from the film industry after their 1999 visionary sci-fi masterpiece The Matrix. After watching their latest film Jupiter Ascending, my retirement pleas have never been stronger. Simply saying that Jupiter Ascending doesn't work as a film would be severely undermining just how much of a colossal failure this is. The film is about as a thrilling as a prostate exam, the script is absolutely ridiculous yet features not even a semblance of irony, and Eddie Redmayne gives what is perhaps the most ludicrously overacted performance in the history of cinema as the film's primary villain. To be honest, Tatum is about the only thing right with the entire film, but that doesn't spare Jupiter Ascending from being far and away the worst film Tatum has ever appeared in.

Thank you for reading this week's installment of "The Best and Worst of". Next week I'll take a look at the best and worst work of Self/Less star Ryan Reynolds.  

2015 Mid-Year Movie Report

As I chronicled yesterday, 2015 has been a very down for music so far. That feeling of general disappointment has carried over to the world of cinema. The slate of films set for release in 2015 didn't look that impressive going into the year and that perceived lack of quality has mostly rung true for the first six months of the year. Hell, even a lot of the films I was really looked forward to (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Chappie, and above all, the disastrous Jupiter Ascending) ended up underwhelming to varying degrees.That being said, there's been some real gems amongst the sea of letdowns. The long-running Fast and Furious franchise once again raised the bar for action blockbusters while highly underrated director Rick Famuiywa crafted one of the most original, hilarious and poignant coming-of age films of all-time with Dope. Like with music, there's plenty of hope on the horizon for the second half of the year with new projects from a number of Hollywood's most gifted filmmakers including Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight), Ryan Coogler (Rocky spinoff Creed), David O. Russell (Joy), Danny Boyle (Steve Jobs), Ron Howard (In the Heart of the Sea) and J.J. Abrams (a little film called Star Wars: The Force Awakens) currently on the schedule. Below is a ranking from worst to best of all the films I've seen so far in 2015 with star ratings and as always, comments on my list and your own picks for the best and worst movies of the year so far are more than welcome. 

23.Jupiter Ascending (0/5)
22.Maps to the Stars (2/5)
21.Mad Max: Fury Road (2/5)
20.Mortdecai (2.5/5)
19.Welcome to Me (2.5/5)
18.Chappie (2.5/5)
17.Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (3/5)
16.Wild Card (3/5)
15.Avengers: Age of Ultron (3/5)
14.Get Hard (3.5/5)
13.Project Almanac (3.5/5)
12.Jurassic World (3.5/5)
11.The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (3.5/5)
10.Spy (3.5/5)
9.Insurgent (3.5/5)
8.Ted 2 (4/5)
7.Entourage (4/5)
6.Pitch Perfect 2 (4/5)
5.Focus (4/5)
4.The Wedding Ringer (4/5)
3.Kingsman: The Secret Service (4/5)
2.Furious 7 (4.5/5)
1.Dope (4.5/5)

Still Need to See:
Black or White
What We Do in the Shadows
The Voices
McFarland, USA
Unfinished Buisiness
Run All Night
It Follows
The Gunman
Danny Collins
Ex Machina
True Story
Adult Beginners
The Forger
Misery Loves Comedy
Skin Trade
Slow West
Good Kill
San Andreas
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Infinitely Polar Bear
Inside Out
Big Game

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

2015 Mid-Year Music Report

There's no getting around it, 2015 has been a pretty underwhelming year for music so far. While there's been some special records released by consistently impressive artists (August Burns Red's Found in Far Away Places, Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, Periphery's Juggernaut), excellent debuts (Mutoid Man's Bleeder, Vince Staples' Summertime '06) and pleasant surprises (Dance Gavin Dance's Instant Gratification, iwrestledabearonce's Hail Mary) along the way, 2015 has had a dearth of truly memorable albums. Of the 35 albums I've listened to so far, I would only classify 5-6 of them as legitimately fantastic, can't-miss records.With releases from heavy hitters in metal (The Black Dahlia Murder, Killswitch Engage) hip-hop (Kanye West, Ghostface Killah) and pop (Lana Del Rey, Frank Ocean) slated for the release in the next six months, the second half of 2015 could very well make for the disappointment of the first half of the year. Below are my rankings from worst to best of every EP and LP I've listened for the six months of 2015, complete with star ratings and picks for best song from each release. Hope you all enjoy and feel free to weigh in with your favorites and least favorites of 2015 in the comment box below!

4.Incubus-Trust Fall (Side A) (3/5) (Best Track: "Absolution Calling")
3.Rotting Out-Reckoning (3.5/5) (Best Track: "Live Fast, Die Young")
2.Entheos-Primal (4/5) (Best Track: "Specific Meaning in a Group of Dots")
1.Freddie Gibbs-Pronto (4/5) (Best Track: "Pronto")
35.Faith No More-Sol Invictus (2/5) (Best Track: "Superhero")
34.mewithoutyou-Pale Horses (2/5) (Best Track: "Watermelon Ascot")
33.Tyler, the Creator-Cherry Bomb (2/5) (Best Track: "Smuckers")
32.Stick to Your Guns-Disobedient (3/5) (Best Track: "I Choose No One")
31.Turnstile-Nonstop Feeling (3/5) (Best Track: "Fazed Out")
30.Earl Sweatshirt-I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside (3/5) (Best Track: "Wool")
29.It Prevails-Perdition (3/5) (Best Track: "Borrowed Time")
28.Drake-If You're Reading This, It's Too Late (3/5) (Best Track: "6 God")
27.Marina and the Diamonds-Froot (3/5) (Best Track: "Blue")
26.Marilyn Manson-The Pale Emperor (3/5) (Best Track: "Deep Six")
25.Fall Out Boy-American Beauty/American Psycho (3/5) (Best Track: "Irresistible")
24.Veil of Maya-Matriarch (3/5) (Best Track: "Leeloo")
23.Ingested-The Architect of Extinction (3.5/5) (Best Track: "Endless Despondency")
22.Four Year Strong-Four Year Strong (3.5/5) (Best Track: "Here's to Swimming with Bow Legged Women")
21.Between the Buried and Me-Coma Ecliptic (3.5/5) (Best Track: "Option Oblivion")
20.Sleater-Kinney-No Cities to Love (3.5/5) (Best Track: "A New Wave")
19.Juicy J-Blue Dream & Lean 2 (3.5/5) (Best Track: "I'm Sicka")
18.Make Them Suffer-Old Souls (3.5/5) (Best Track: "Scraping the Barrel")
17.Royal Thunder-Crooked Doors (3.5/5) (Best Track: "Floor")
16.Purity Ring-Another Eternity (3.5/5) (Best Track: "Flood on the Floor")
15.A$AP Rocky-At.Long.Last.A$AP (3.5/5) (Best Track: "Holy Ghost")
14.High on Fire-Luminiferous (3.5/5) (Best Track: "The Dark Side of the Compass")
13.Death Grips-The Powers That B: Disc 2: Jenny Death (4/5) (Best Track: "The Powers That B")
12.While She Sleeps-Brainwashed (4/5) (Best Track: "Four Walls")
11.Thy Art is Murder-Holy War (4/5) (Best Track: "Coffin Dragger")
10.The Story So Far-The Story So Far (4/5) (Best Track: "Heavy Gloom")
9.iwrestledabearonce-Hail Mary (4/5) (Best Track: "Doomed to Fail Pt.1")
8.Sylosis-Dormant Heart (4/5) (Best Track: "Servitude")
7.Vince Staples-Summertime '06 (4/5) (Best Track: "C.N.B.")
6.Action Bronson-Mr. Wonderful (4/5) (Best Track: "The Rising")
5.Dance Gavin Dance-Instant Gratification (4/5) (Best Track: "Stroke God, Millionaire")
4.Mutoid Man-Bleeder (4/5) (Best Track: "1000 Mile Stare")
3.Periphery-Juggernaut (Alpha + Omega) (4/5) (Best Track: "Priestess")
2.Kendrick Lamar-To Pimp a Butterfly (4/5) (Best Track: "Wesley's Theory")
1.August Burns Red-Found in Far Away Places (4.5/5) (Best Track: "Broken Promises")

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2015 NFL Position Rankings: Top 20 Punters

20.Dustin Colquitt (Chiefs)
19.Mike Scifres (Chargers)
18.Brad Nortman (Panthers)
17.Jon Ryan (Seahawks)
16.Ryan Allen (Patriots)
15.Ryan Quigley (Jets)
14.Tress Way (Redskins)
13.Marquette King (Raiders)
12.Steve Weatherford (Giants)
11.Brett Kern (Titans)
10.Sam Martin (Lions)
9.Shane Lechler (Texans)
8.Thomas Morstead (Saints)
7.Bryan Anger (Jaguars) 6.Kevin Huber (Bengals)
5.Andy Lee (Browns)
4.Sam Koch (Ravens)
3.Brandon Fields (Dolphins)
2.Johnny Hekker (Rams)
1.Pat McAfee (Colts)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Album Review: Thy Art is Murder-Holy War

The glory days of the deathcore genre are long gone. A majority of the genre's notable acts have either broken up (Despised Icon, Arsonists Get All the Girls), slid into the depths of obscurity (As Blood Runs Black, All Shall Perish) or have moved onto explore other genres (Winds of Plague, Job for a Cowboy). Thy Art is Murder is a complete paradox to this trend as they're a veteran deathcore act that has stuck to their guns musically and remained relevant while the genre has rapidly diminished in popularity. The Australian quintet reaffirm why they've stayed in the forefront of the scene for so long on third LP, Holy War, which is a refreshing throwback to the glory days of the genre. While Thy Art is Murder aren't exactly leaders in the innovation department, their ability to perfect the traditional deathcore blueprint makes them worthy of admiration and respect. The frequent breakdowns are well-utilized, guitarists Andy Marsh and Sean Delander drop ton of great, punchy riffs and C.J. McMahon is arguably the most monstrous and proficient vocalist in the entire genre. Holy War is a firm reminder of just how damn enjoyable and satisfying deathcore can be when it's executed properly.

4/5 Stars
Standout Tracks
1.Coffin Dragger
2.Violent Reckoning
3.Child of Sorrow

Movie Review: Ted 2

In the summer of 2012, America fell in love with a talking teddy bear named Ted. Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane's feature-film debut about the exploits of a foul-mouthed, marijuana-loving teddy bear and his human best friend John (Mark Wahlberg) was a widely praised smash-hit that went onto be the highest-grossing original R-rated comedy of all-time, making just shy of $219 million in the United States alone. Three years later, the thunder buddies have returned for another outrageous, nonsenscial adventure in Ted 2.

Ted 2 picks up five years after the original left off. Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) has just married his longtime girlfriend Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) and John is in the middle of a deep depression following his divorce from Lori (Mila Kunis, who does not appear here). After the newlywed bliss wears off, Ted and Tammi-Lynn can not stop fighting , and eventually decide the only way to save their marriage is to have a child. After failing to find a sperm donor and finding out that Tami-Lynn can not bear children after years of heavy drug use, the couple try to adopt a child. During the adoption process, Ted is told that he and Tammi-Lynn can not adopt a child because he not is legally recognized as a person. Ted's attempt to adopt a child causes a ripple effect as he subsequently loses his job and has his marriage to Tami-Lynn annulled because of the ruling that he is property and not a person. With the aide of a young lawyer (Amanda Seyfried) and John, Ted takes his fight to be recognized as a person to court with the hope that that his life can return to the way it once was.

For the first half of the film, Ted 2 seems bound to repeat the hilarity of the original. MacFarlane's off-the wall pop-culture references, clever crude humor and use of completely unexpected cameos lead to near-constant strong belly laughs and the three leads all kill their respective roles. Then around the halfway mark, the film kind of hits a wall. The jokes land a lot less frequently and the film gets way too committed to an unnecessary and really stupid subplot involving yet another scheme from Donny (Giovanni Ribsi) to kidnap Ted. With the exception of the first Ted, MacFarlane has repeatedly shown in both his small and big-screen projects that he has a really hard time creating consistently amusing material. He has a terrible habit of beating jokes into the ground and relying way too heavily on stupid toilet humor and cheap racial and sex jokes at times, and it definitely undermines the many strokes of brilliance he shows along the way. Ted 2 is still a really solid comedy, but if the comedic momentum hadn't slowed down in the second half, it could've been one of the all-time great comedic sequels.
4/5 Stars    

Friday, June 26, 2015

Hidden Netflix Gem of the Week: The Wood

Netflix streaming has changed the way people around the world consume entertainment. The streaming service has given people access to a deep library of films and television of releases that spans from the early 1900's to the present day. While Netflix is an undeniable phenomenon, there are hundreds of great movies and shows available in Netflix's catalog that slip through the cracks and don't get the attention they deserve. That's why starting today, I'm going to launch a weekly column highlighting an under-the radar film or TV series that's currently available for streaming on Netflix. If even one person finds a piece of art they love from this series, I've done my job. Thank you for reading and I hope you check back every Friday for another recommendation!  

The Wood (1999):
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Director: Rick Famuyima
Starring: Omar Epps, Taye Diggs, Richard T. Jones
Buddy comedies are one of Hollywood's most beloved and frequently-used staples, but few have as big of a heart or as much thoughtful insight on the importance of friendship as The Wood. The Wood weaves the tale of a lifelong friends Roland (Diggs), Mike (Epps), and Slim (Jones, who grew up and still reside in Inglewood, California. Roland is about to get married, but on the morning of the wedding he disappears, sending his friends and his bride (LisaRaye McCoy) into a panic. Mike and Slim proceed to go on a frenzied search for Roland and eventually receive a call from his ex-girlfriend (Tamara Jones) informing them that's he at her house and he's drunk out of his mind. After retrieving Roland, Mike and Slim have two hours to talk him out of his cold feet, sober him up and prepare him for the next chapter of his life with the woman he loves. The Wood is largely driven by its excellent script and the dynamic between the three lead actors. The script from Famuyima and Todd Boyd deeply develops these characters with excellent use of flashbacks to detail how they became friends and morphed into the men they are in the present tense of the story while Epps, Jones and Diggs effortlessly make the brotherly bond between the trio believable and genuine. The Wood is a funny, touching and authentic film about the value of friendship and how having compassionate, loyal can help you get of the darkest situations life throws at you.