Great Music #37

Hello there, friends! I hope you’re doing well. So it’s time for another Great Music post. You know, those irregularly posted things of mine where I ramble about music I enjoy. Nothing deep, nothing analytical… just good tunes. So let’s get into it.

So last time we went for a somber ballad. But today is a little different. It’s still a song with an interesting narrative baked into it, but it’s presented in a slightly more digestible and (for lack of a better word) fun package. Today we’re talking about “I Was Just a Kid” by Nothing But Thieves.

Hailing from Southend-on-Sea in the UK, Nothing But Thieves is a rock band in a similar vein to Royal Blood. And in 2017 they released their album “Broken Machine”, an album all about how nothing in this world is perfect. On said album is “I Was Just a Kid”, a fast-paced rock tune with relatively mellow vocals on verses and loud shouts on the chorus, a combination befitting a song about the loss of innocence. Combine this with thumping percussion, driving guitar, and some nice bass to back it up, and you get a really great song. So on the surface it can be seen as just a fun hard rock tune, but if one cares to delve deeper, nuance can be found. And I guess that dichotomy is part of what has helped me appreciate it. Because I first discovered it while playing “Need For Speed: Payback”, getting pumped up by it as I tried to beat my opponents in various races. And since then I’ve learnt to appreciate its deeper meaning. So that’s cool.

Have a good one and enjoy!

Movie Review: The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Well this review was a long time coming. If you’ve followed my blog for an extended amount of time, you’re probably aware that I spent a decent chunk of 2015 reviewing every “Fast & Furious” movie leading up to the seventh installment. Then later that year I did that one. So this franchise has become a bit of a staple for this blog. So let’s talk about the eighth installment.

Family… “The Fate of the Furious”.

After our beloved gang pulls another job for the government, their leader Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) betrays them and starts working for a shady hacker/terrorist known as Cipher (Charlize Theron). So we follow the crew as they do everything in their power to stop Cipher and get Dom back. Not gonna lie, I found myself surprisingly engaged by the narrative here. Maybe I’m biased because I’ve grown attached to this world and these characters, but I felt like there was a lot of effort put into making the story here as dramatically engaging as possible without sacrificing the fast and furious thrills of the franchise. This does bring down the pace ever so slightly, but never to the point of ruining the movie. It’s still generally a fast-paced action fest, and I do appreciate some of the slower moments as they add a surprising amount of nuance and genuinely interesting conflict to the story. So yeah, not perfect, but still very good.

The characters in this are just as colorful, charming, and entertaining as ever, but now also have added character conflict due to the aforementioned part of Dom going bad. Speaking of which, let’s start with Dom, once again played by mumblegrumble master Vin Diesel. Dom is usually the same ol’ guy in every movie, so it’s nice to see him get a little extra character development for a change. And I must say, this is the best I’ve seen Diesel in this franchise, the dude shows that he can do more than just his signature mumblegrumble. Charlize Theron as newcomer villain Cipher is really good in that role, playing her with a generally quiet menace right out of a 90s movie (which I love). Next we have Dwayne Johnson and Jason Stathamas Hobbs and Shaw, both returning characters, mortal enemies forced to work together to stop Cipher. Their banter here is amazing, their chemistry is amazing, they are amazing. Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Nathalie Emmanuel, and Kurt Russell all return in their roles, and they are all very good in their roles. And in a few other supporting roles we have Scott Eastwood, Patrick St. Esprit, Kristofer Hivju, and Celestino Cornielle. So overall it’s quite a well rounded cast.

The score for the movie was composed by franchise mainstay (bar the sixth one) Brian Tyler. And it’s another good score. Big bold brass and the occasional soft string and piano. It’s not exactly the most original or unpredictable score, but it serves the movie just fine. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, all hip hop, all fitting really well in their scenes. So yeah, the movie has good music.

“The Fate of the Furious” was directed by F. Gary Gray, and I think he did a good job with that. He shows with his direction that he knows how to make actions feel like they have weight. So when things happen, they feel like they happen and really hurt, even when it’s clearly done mainly in a computer. Which brings us to the action scenes, which are the dumbest, silliest, most insane set pieces this franchise has seen so far… and I love all of them. I love heavy dramas, I love being intellectually challenged… but sometimes I just need something ridiculously stupid to put a big smile on my face. And the action in this movie did just that. The action in this is an absolute blast to watch.

This movie has been decently well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 67% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 56/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.7/10.

“The Fate of the Furious” is an absolutely bonkers action movie with a lot of heart, and while that might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I absolutely loved it. It has a really good story, really good characters, great performances, good music, and great directing/action. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Fate of the Furious” is a 9,56/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Fate of the Furious” is now completed.

Sometimes you just need something stupid.

Series Review: The Righteous Gemstones – Season 1 (2019)

Quick anecdote before we get into this sermon… I mean review. I actually started watching this as it aired last year, but forgot to keep up with it. So I decided to finally remedy that recently. So now that it has been done, l can at last talk about the show.

Ladies and gents… “The Righteous Gemstones” season 1.

The story follows the Gemstones, a family of devout televangelists delivering the word of god to huge amounts of people on a regular basis. And we follow them in a peculiar period in their lives when a lot of their dirty laundry and hypocrisies start bubbling towards the surface. Now, looking at that setup might make one expect this show to be purely “Fuck Christianity, fuck religion”, that’s at least what I thought  going into it. But surprisingly, it doesn’t go for that low hanging fruit. Now, it does poke fun at organized religion and mega churches at times, but it does it in a way that still is respectful towards those who believe in the Christian beliefs. The characters in the show aren’t shysters and con artists, they genuinely believe in god and want to spread his love and teachings… they just also happen to be a little tempted by the less than savory sides of life sometimes. And I must say that I generally enjoyed the story here. It’s a darkly comical family tale with a surprising amount of nuance… however, I do have some issues with the storytelling here. It does feel a little unfocused and scatterbrained at a few points. It doesn’t always feel like they have all their priorities straight for what they wanna do with the narrative. If they had trimmed down some sub-plots a bit, maybe it could’ve felt less messy. But despite being a little less focused than it could’ve been, it’s still an enjoyable story.

The characters here are all flawed, colorful, and surprisingly nuanced, and to see how their personalities at the start clash with various developments in the show is pretty intriguing and entertaining. Danny McBride, Edi Patterson, Adam Devine, and John Goodman are all terrific as the main four Gemstones. And in supporting roles we see people like Walton Goggins (the absolute fucking standout), Tony Cavalero, Tim Baltz, Cassidy Freeman, Skyler Gisondo, Scott MacArthur, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The music for the show was composed by Joseph Stephens, and it was alright. Fairly standard stuff that never really stands out. The only original music track that stands out is a sung song we experience in a flashback, and it’s absolutely wonderful. As for licensed tracks, there’s a handful throughout the season, and they work pretty well in their respective scenes.

“The Righteous Gemstones” was created by Danny McBride for HBO, with writing and directing by him and a bunch of other awesome people (including David Gordon Green). And I must say that the craft behind the show is pretty damn good, featuring a lot of visually pleasing shots and clever camera movements. It’s not often that a comedy makes this much of an effort to captivate in terms of directing, editing, and such, but “Righteous Gemstones” certainly did, and I appreciate that. Now, let’s talk about the humor in this. It’s an intriguing mix of dirty and crass jokes that stoners and teenagers can laugh at, with some decently clever stuff within dialogue at times. Now, some of it lands and some of it don’t. Sometimes I laugh hard and sometimes I sit with a blank stare. It all really goes up and down at times. But overall I’d say it’s pretty funny.

This show/season has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 75% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 67/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.0/10.

While it does have some flaws within its narrative, season 1 of “The Righteous Gemstones” is still a highly enjoyable batch of episodes that I can still recommend. It has a pretty good story, good characters, great performances, pretty good music, great directing/cinematography, and decently funny comedy. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 1 of “The Righteous Gemstones” is a 7,89/10. So while it is quite flawed, I’d still say it’s worth watching.

My review of “The Righteous Gemstones” season 1 is now completed.

Flintstone, Gemstone, John Goodman plays ’em all. Yabba-dabba-Amen.

Movie Review: Mulan (1998)

Confession time: I have never actually watched this movie before. I know dishonor on me, dishonor on my cow, blah blah blah. But I then thought that since Disney recently released their live action remake, I might actually give this animated version a go (finally). So let’s get down to business.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Mulan”.

Fearing that her father might die if he goes to war, young Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) steals his gear and pretends to be a man so she can take his place in the army. We all know the basic setup at this point, even if you haven’t seen this movie. And the way it’s handled here I quite enjoyed. It’s not without fault however. There are parts of the story that I feel they glossed over a bit, kinda rushing through some aspects in an effort to get to the “good stuff”. That’s not to say that the story here is bad, it’s still a fun family adventure without a good message at its core. I just wish it maybe slowed down a little more to let certain moments simmer more. But as it stands, the story and the way it’s told is still quite entertaining.

The characters in this are colorful, charming, fun, and surprisingly nuanced at times. First up is Mulan, title character and very relatable person. While the people around her want her to be a fancy girly-girl to honor her family, even though she’s not like that at all. And to see her development in the movie from somewhat clumsy and insecure to someone a bit more tough and confident, that’s engaging. And Ming-Na Wen does an excellent job voicing Mulan. Next we have Mushu, a guardian dragon who sets out to help Mulan become a hero… even if he’s only doing it for his own gain. He’s mostly there to bring laughs, but I think the filmmakers found a good balance in that and making him a valuable part of certain emotional developments. And while it might seem slightly jarring to put Eddie Murphy in a role like that at first, I must say that he was great in the role. Then you also get supporting work from people like B.D. Wong, James Hong, Harvey Fierstein, Soon-Tek Oh, Miguel Ferrer, Pat Morita, Frank Welker, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The music of this film is quite good. The main score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, and it’s an absolute treat for the ears, creating a lot of emotion through the various tracks, giving us a some great background ambiance. Then you have the songs (’cause you know, Disney) that were done by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel. While I don’t think that all of them are among the upper echelon of Disney musical songs, they still generally work pretty well for the movie. The peak of the tracks is of course “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” (sung by Donny Osmond), a most excellent montage song. So yeah, overall this movie has good music.

Based on a Chinese folk legend, “Mulan” was directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook (with writing credits given to a shitload of people, good grief). And I must say that the craft on display here is absolutely superb. The art style for example takes inspiration from traditional Chinese artwork, and blending it with traditional Disney animation to create an absolutely stunning look for this movie that feels wholly its own. The animation is especially breathtaking in motion, where it shows great fluency that is a treat for the eyes.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 86% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 71/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.6/10.

While its storytelling isn’t the best, due to its fast pace, “Mulan” is still another winning movie within the Disney catalogue. It has a good story, good characters, really good music, and great directing/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Mulan” is an 8,77/10. So while a little flawed, it’s still worth buying.

My review of “Mulan” is now completed.

Sometimes you just a need a film that can make you smile. This one did that for me.

Great Music #36

Hello friends, I hope you’re doing well. Yes, it’s finally time for another entry in Great Music, the series on this blog with the most self-explanatory title possible. It’s been a while since last time, which was back in May. If I continue the series at this exact rate I’ll reach the fiftieth one by the time I turn 30. Anyhow, let’s see what tune I wanna ramble about today!

So for this one I wanted to bring things down a bit. Some entries in this series have had big, loud, fun tunes that you could probably move your booty to. But today is not one of those. Today we’re getting a bit more somber. Today we’re talking about “Too Many Tears” by Celldweller.

The lyrics of this song are very contemplative, using a lot of strong imagery in its lyrics to convey agony in various forms. It’s strong stuff… it was also not written by Celldweller (real name: Klayton). It’s originally a song by a band called… The Call. And before you ask, yes I did check out their original version. The lyrics are of course powerful, absolutely stunning. However, I feel like the sound might be a little bit off for it, and so did Klaytondweller apparently. And this led to him covering the song for his 2017 album “Offworld”. And I absolutely love this rendition of the song. The instrumentation is incredibly somber and otherworldly (fitting, given the album title), really making this version its own thing compared to the original. Klayton makes it stand out. This is also where I should mention that I found out about this very t2alented man through a fucking racing game. Two of his songs (“One Good Reason” and “Shapeshifter”) were featured in the video game “Need For Speed: Most Wanted”. And I liked those songs which led to me checking out more of Celldweller’s stuff, which naturally led me to this absolutely stunning track. If you in any way enjoy heavy metal or nu-metal or some electronica, I highly recommend checking out a lot of Celldweller’s output. So while we’re at it, you may as well start with “Too Many Tears”.

Have a good one and enjoy.

Movie Review: She Dies Tomorrow (2020)

Oh shit, a 2020 release? Yeeeaaaah. Thank god for VOD.

Ladies and gents… “She Dies Tomorrow”.

Amy’s (Kate Lyn Sheil) life seems to be looking up, having bought a house recently. However things may not be all sunshine and rainbows, because Amy believes that she is going to die tomorrow. And while her friend (Jane Adams) dismisses it as nothing but humbug at first, soon the fears start mounting in her head too. This story is an intriguing one. It’s not necessarily about a typical narrative. There’s no antagonist, there’s no typical conflict, it’s really just a somber, at times darkly comical examination of people’s minds being in a weird spot. And I thought it certainly was an intriguing story… after a while. At the very start it was more “Good idea, mediocre execution”, I wasn’t fully invested at first in what was going on. Then we got to a certain point and it all started getting way better. I’m not gonna say that it becomes one of the best stories I’ve ever experienced, but it certainly improves quite a bit after that one certain point.

The characters in this don’t always have the most nuance, I must admit. They are more there to serve the theme(s) of the story, and I think they work quite well like that. I must say though, I do think all the actors give really solid work. Kate Lyn Sheil, Jane Adams, Chris Messina, and the rest of the cast are all great in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by the Mondo Boys, and I think they did a good job. Their music is often very dreamlike but also quite intense, all without really using any heavy instrumentation. It adds a lot to the underlying dread of the story, creating a really engaging vibe throughout that I highly enjoy.

“She Dies Tomorrow” was written and directed by Amy Seimetz, and I think she did a good job with that. It’s clear that she has a vision all her own that wonderfully comes through in her confident and visually clear direction. And when combined with Jay Keitel’s really pretty cinematography, you get a movie that manages to stand out in terms of its craft.

This movie has gotten some mixed recepton. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 84% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 80/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 5.2/10.

While it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, I found “She Dies Tomorrow” to be an intriguing and mostly engaging little movie (bar the opening act). It has a good story, okay characters, great performances, good music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “She Dies Tomorrow” is a 7,88/10. So while quite flawed, I’d still say it’s worth renting.

My review of “She Dies Tomorrow” is now completed.

She dies tomorrow, but I live today.