27 Days of Old School: #23 Mama Said Knock You Out (by LL Cool J)


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“Just like Mohammad Ali, they called him Cassius
Watch me bash this “

This song came out in early 1991 and went through like wildfire through pretty much the final half of my senior. One must realize that LL Cool J was a major presence in the rap I listened to growing up during the 1980’s. But as wont kids then and now, we listened to what was big at that time and it was mostly gangsta rap that dominated booming systems in the late 80’s.

LL Cool J was beginning to fade into the background as N.W.A. and Ice Cube and the rest of the West Coast gangsta rap scene was ascending. Yet, it was foolish to count out LL who people should’ve learned by then as a survivor of the rap game and he came out hard and strong the single off of the album of the same name: “Mama Said Knock You Out”.

In anime, there’s a character trope called “gar”. It’s a term reserved for anime characters so manly that they eclipse all males for as far as the horizon. This song was just that. It made LL Cool J reach the level of “gar” and the accompanying video helped in making it so. It was a shot to the new rap youngbloods and old-standing rivals (song was literally taking shots at Kool Moe Dee). The song also shoots down critics who have been calling LL as washed-up and a has-been. He sure told them all in the hardest way possible.

So, coming in at #23 and starting the stretch run to #27 is LL Cool J coming in so “gar” with “Mama Said Knock You Out.”

Review: The Walking Dead S5E07 “Crossed”


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“The things that we do they’re worth it.” — Michonne

[spoilers]

We’re now nearing the mid-point of season 5 for The Walking Dead. For a show that has had some major ups and downs throughout it’s four season (both creatively and behind-the-scenes) it looks like the show might be hitting it’s stride with this fifth. The first six episodes of this new season has ranged from excellent to very good. It’s a streak of consistency that we only saw glimpses of in the previous four seasons.

“Crossed” falls somewhere between very good to good. It’s not the best episode of the season and, for the moment, could be seen as it’s weakest. This is due to the format of the episode itself. Where the episodes prior to tonight’s concentrated on either the group as a whole in one place (Terminus and the church) or on particular characters, tonight saw the story jump back and forth between three groups. The main one being Rick’s rescue team headed into Atlanta to get back Beth and Carol. Then we have the smaller group left back in the church. To finish up this three-legged horse of an episode was the Abraham group soon after Eugene’s revelation.

There’s only so much one could do with three diverging story-lines in less than an hour’s time (AMC has been getting worse and worse with it’s commercial time for it’s most popular show). One could almost see how tonight’s episode was setting up for a much bigger and dramatic mid-season finale. Yes, there was much setting the table and pieces with “Crossed” and it made the episode feel abrupt in how things unfolded.

At times, we could almost sense an action beat about to let hell loose (maybe people this season has been spoiled by the season premiere), but then it’s only a tease. This happens with Rick and his group ambushing Agent Sitwell (HAIL HYDRA!)…I mean Sgt. Bob Lamson and his partner using Noah as bait. Their success was short-lived as they’re soon the victim of the very first drive-by on The Walking Dead. The same happens moments later between Daryl and Officer McBaldy (Licari on imdb) before Rick conveniently steps in to get things in hand. Tonight’s episode has been all about teases, but little to no pay-off until the very end and that one wasn’t too much a surprise.

We do get several good character moments from the show’s lead cast.

There were moments that show Rick balanced precariously over the edge of turning from pragmatic survivor into full-blown Governor or Joe. The first was when planning their assault to rescue Beth and Carol with his plan more about using surprise to kill Dawn and the rest of the Atlanta cops. His plan doesn’t have anything to do with minimizing casualties for the other side (which earlier Rick would have accounted for). He’s become so pragmatic in how he does things this season that killing seems to be getting easier and easier for our intrepid leader. The second time was when he saves Daryl from Ofc. Licari and there’s a moment when he has the cop in his sights where we don’t know if he’ll spare the man or shoot him in cold-blood. It’s some fine acting using nothing but his eyes done by Andrew Lincoln in this scene.

The rest of the episode sees both the church and Abraham group trying to deal with having to wait for Rick to get back or Abraham to come out of his near-catatonia. The former gives us a bit more work on Father Gabriel who seems to see his saviors as scary as the zombies who ate his congregation. Audiences will definitely react with incredulity at his actions to secretly flee the church despite knowing he has no idea how to survive out in the world. This behavior adds further insight as to Gabriel’s state of mind. He’s definitely not thinking clearly and it will be interesting to see if he becomes a bigger liability to the group as the season goes along.

The situation with Abraham and the rest of the D.C. was a bit more problematic in that they literally went nowhere. Sure, we saw some bonding moments between Glenn, Tara and Rosita (who is becoming more and more a person than just background). But Abraham doing nothing but going aggro or kneeling in silence made whatever momentum gained by the episode through the Rick group grind to a screeching halt.

Yet, tonight’s episode still manages to move the season forward in small bits and pieces. The title itself foreshadows what could be one of the season’s themes in that these people left alive have crossed some major moral lines to survive this far. They’ve had to do things that has been about surviving for another day even if it meant killing others or towards a mission that has cost lives which now means nothing. We see how all the things Rick has had to do since he awoke from his coma has been affecting him both in a good way and, also in a manner, slowly corrupting him. Abraham now feels useless now that the D.C. mission has turned to naught. Even Gabriel’s fleeing the church and those who have saved him continues his denial of this new world and what it has done to those he had shepherded.

So, while “Crossed” might not have been on par as the previous six episodes of this new season it was still something that moved the show to another mid-season finale that could change the cast dynamics once again. The question that will continue tonight and even after next week’s finale will be whether the writers will be able to keep up the consistent quality in the remaining episode or will they start to lose steam (like the second half of season 3) or meander along (like last season’s second half). Time will tell if Gimple and his writers will be up to the task.

Notes

  • “Crossed” was written by Seth Hoffman and directed by Billy Gierhart.
  • The pistol and suppressor used by Rick in tonight’s episode is a Heckler & Koch Mk 23 .45 with an Osprey Suppressor. We see him use this for the first time all the way in this season’s third episode, “Four Walls and a Roof”, to ambush Gareth and the rest of the Hunters.
  • Tonight was the first time we see the entire cast throughout the episode. Beth wasn’t in the first three.
  • People need to learn never to trust HYDRA and Sasha definitely learned this lesson the hard way.
  • It was very suprising and more than just a tad disconcerting to see SHIELD/HYDRA Agent Stillwell as an Atlanta cop in tonight’s episode. His heel turn in the episode’s end wasn’t surprising at all.
  • The episodes in Atlanta showed only glimpses of the firebombing that took place in the early days of the zombie outbreak, but we see for the first time the after-effects of the napalm runs on the city with the half-melted zombies near the former FEMA truck.
  • Some very gnarly practical and make-up effects work by the gore wizards at KNB EFX with the napalmed zombies.
  • Tonight’s guests on the Talking Dead are comedian Paul F. Tompkins and Christian Serratos and Sonequa Martin-Green (Rosita and Sasha of The Walking Dead)

Season 5

Here’s The Teaser For The Trailer For Jurassic World!


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How big a deal is Jurassic World?

It’s such a big deal that a teaser has even been released for the trailer!  Now, the trailer for Jurassic World will be released on Thursday but until then, this teaser provides some tantalizing clues as to what may actually be in the trailer.  Will the trailer live up to the teaser?

We shall find out on Thursday!

Until then, enjoy the teaser!

 

6 Late Film Reviews: 300: Rise of Empire, About Last Night, Adult World, Jersey Boys, Ride Along, and Trust Me


Well, the year is coming to a close and I’ve got close to 50 films that I still need to review before I get around to making out my “Best of 2014” list.  (That’s not even counting the films that I still have left to see.  December is going to be a busy month.)  With that in mind, here are late reviews of 6 films that I saw earlier this year and had yet to get around to reviewing.

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1) 300: Rise of an Empire (dir by Noam Munro)

Last night, I watched 300: Rise of an Empire for the second time and I still couldn’t figure out what exactly is going on for most of the film.  I know that there’s a lot of fighting and a lot of bare-chested men yelling and, whenever anyone swings a sword, they suddenly start moving in slow motion and dark blood spurts across the screen like Jackson Pollock decorating a previously blank canvas.  The style of 300 has been co-opted by so many other films that 300: Rise of an Empire feels more like an imitation than a continuation.

At the same time, I’m resisting the temptation to be too critical of 300: Rise of the Empire for two reasons.  First off, this movie wasn’t really made to appeal to me.  Instead, this is a total guy film and, much as I have every right to love Winter’s Tale, guys have every right to love their 300 movies.  Secondly, 300: Rise of an Empire features Eva Green as a warrior and she totally kicks ass.

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2) About Last Night (dir by Steve Pink)

Obviously, I made a big mistake this Valentine’s Day by insisting that my boyfriend take me to see Endless Love.  (I still stand by my desire to see Winter’s Tale.)  I say this because I recently watched this year’s other big Valentine’s Day release, About Last Night, and I discovered that it’s a funny and, in its way, rather sweet romantic comedy.

About Last Night tells the story of two couples, Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant) and Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall).  All four of the actors have a very real chemistry, with Hart and Hall bringing the laughs and Ealy and Bryant bringing the tears.  The film itself is ultimately predictable but very likable.

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3) Adult World (dir by Scott Coffey)

In Adult World, Emma Roberts plays Amy Anderson, an aspiring author and recent college graduate.  Despite her own overwhelming faith in her own abilities, Amy struggles to find a job outside of college.  She is finally reduced to working at Adult World, a small adult bookstore.  Working at the store, she befriends the far more down-to-earth Alex (Evan Peters) and eventually discovers that one of her customers is also her idol, poet Rat Billings (John Cusack).  Amy proceeds to force her way into Rat’s life, volunteering to work as his assistant and declaring herself to be his protegé.  However, it turns out that Rat is far less altruistic than Amy originally thought (and with a name like Rat, are you surprised?).

Adult World is a flawed film but I still really enjoyed it.  The story has a few problems and the film never really takes full narrative advantage of Adult World as a setting but the entire film is so well-acted that you’re willing to forgive its flaws.  Cusack gives a surprisingly playful performance while Evan Peters is adorable in a Jesse Eisenberg-type of way.  Emma Roberts shows a lot of courage, playing a character who is both infuriating and relatable.

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4) Jersey Boys (dir by Clint Eastwood)

Clint Eastwood’s upcoming American Sniper has been getting so much attention as a potential Oscar contender that it’s easy to forget that, at the beginning of the year, everyone was expecting Jersey Boys to be Eastwood’s Oscar contender.  In fact, it’s easy to forget about Jersey Boys all together.  It’s just one of those films that, despite its best efforts, fails to make much of an impression.

Jersey Boys is based on one of the Broadway musicals that tourists always brag about seeing.  It tells the true story of how four kids from the “neighborhood” became the Four Seasons and recorded songs that have since gone on to appear on thousands of film soundtracks.  The period detail is a lot of fun, Christopher Walken, who has a small role as a local gangster, is always entertaining to watch, and the music sounds great but Eastwood’s direction is so old-fashioned and dramatically inert that you don’t really take much away from it.

Hopefully, American Sniper will be the work of the Eastwood who made Mystic River and not the Eastwood who did Jersey Boys.

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5) Ride Along (dir by Tim Story)

School security guard Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) wants to marry Angela (Tiki Sumpter) but Angela’s tough cop brother James (Ice Cube) doesn’t approve.  In order to prove himself worth, Ben goes on a ride along with James and the results are just as generic as you might expect.  Probably the only really funny part of the film was the way that Hart delivered the line, “You’re white!  You don’t fight!” but we all saw that in the commercial so who cares?

On the plus side, Ice Cube has a lot of screen presence and is well-cast as James.  As for Kevin Hart — well, he should probably be thankful that About Last Night came out a month after Ride Along.

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6) Trust Me (dir by Clark Gregg)

In Trust Me, Clark Gregg both directs and stars.  He plays Howard, a fast-talking but ultimately kind-hearted talent agent who mostly represents children.  After losing some of his most popular clients to rival agent Aldo (a hilariously sleazy Sam Rockwell), Howard meets Lydia (Saxon Sharbino), a 13 year-old actress.  Soon, Howard is representing Lydia and trying to land her a starring role in a major production.  Howard also finds the time to tentatively date his next door neighbor (Amanda Peet).  However, there’s more to Howard than meets the eye.  He is haunted by the death of one of his previous clients and his guilt leads him to become especially protective of Lydia.  When Howard concludes that Lydia is being sexually abused by her crude father (Paul Sparks), he attempts to protect her from both him and the Hollywood system that’s threatening to corrupt her.  It all leads to an oddly tragic conclusion…

I say “oddly tragic” because Trust Me is, in many ways, an odd film.  As a director, Gregg gets good performances from his cast but he never manages to find a consistent tone.  The film starts as a Hollywood satire and then it becomes a romantic comedy and then it turns into a legal drama before then becoming an all-0ut attack on the way the entertainment industry treats child actors and then finally, it settles on being a tragedy.  As a result, Trust Me is undeniably a bit of a mess.

And yet, it’s a compelling mess and the film itself is so heart-felt that you can’t help but forgive its flaws.  If nothing else, it proves that Clark Gregg is capable of more than just being Marvel’s Agent Coulson.