It’s November. You’re on the bus home. You’re squished between the girl who talks two times louder than she needs to about how she was a cat for Halloween, and the guy who keeps coughing and pulling hankies from his pockets.
You feel weird. It’s autumn; it’s a bummer.
But what are you listening to? At this time of the year, you’re probably shying away from sunny summer jams, and honestly, you’re not alone. The audible memories of warm weather are painful for us all. But now comes the question: What could traverse the invariably tangled cables of your headphones and enter your ears to possibly comfort you in this time of autumn gloom?
Answer: A carefully constructed playlist.
This eclectic track list is an attempt to transport you from the bus into some kind of sonic escape. It’s a somewhat melancholic, partly uplifting music prescription for fellow friends feeling “weird” this November. Now drown out cat-lady’s yammering and take a listen to these new tracks:
1. BROODS – Bridges
Stark piano and ethereal voices meet bass and haunting intensity.
Bell X1 has always produced stunning, heart-shattering (mending?) tracks. Remember “I’ll See Your Heart and I’ll Raise You Mine”? Well, if you do, you’ll love this new single. ‘Careful what you wish for, cause these bulbs are the fluorescent kind, and no one looks good in this light. The crack is wide enough, already, any more would be too bright…’
Battle of the Heroes (and Their Production Companies)
If you know anything about this country’s history with anti-trust or anti-monopoly laws you will know that there will always be more than one big company in any given market. This could not be more true with the hero industry. The two powerhouses – Marvel and DC – have been at it for decades with no end in sight.
The battle for the best superhero has always been between Marvel and DC. Regardless of how successful or notable any other comic book company became, these two would always surpass them and set the new standard for publishing comic books. However, now that we are in the 21st century, these companies have adopted another lucrative way to share the legends of their celebrated heroes.
In the last decade cinema has truly come into its own with regard to superhero films. Sure, Superman’s existed on screen since the 50’s, but never before have these epic superhero movies been so thoroughly made and widely received. Nevertheless, I would be hard pressed to say that cinema has completely taken over the page, as according to recent numbers Marvel and DC both continually sell hundreds of thousands of comics a month. It’s an interesting comparison because comics are more consistent with weekly issues constantly bringing in revenue, while movies make one huge financial splash and then they are done. Lately, Marvel has tried to make at least one big box-office hit a year, which usually brings in at least a couple hundred million in profit. To put comic book sales up against box office results would be to compare apples to oranges, but there is no doubt that Hollywood has definitely brought a new element to the superhero game. It isn’t just the tickets that bring in revenue for a film either; there are also tons of toys and merchandise being produced around the time of release, which also bring in millions. Marvel and DC have both grown into merchandising empires lately, and any walk into a Target or Walmart will prove it, but I digress.
Despite DC’s recent success with Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and now Man of Steel, I think it is safe to say that Marvel has had much more success with their films. Marvel’s strategy of releasing a variety of films about independent comic book heroes, and then bringing them together in a blockbuster like The Avengers was brilliantly done, both from a story perspective and an economic point of view. I really loved how Marvel released all of the single-hero movies before The Avengers; it was a perfect strategy because new fans could learn the back-stories of all of the different squad members, and die hard fans had more excuses to call out from work. I especially loved how they would subtly include information in the Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and Hulk movies, which would come back into relevance in The Avengers. I thought this approach added a lot of depth, complexity, and refinement to the franchise.
Although I was skeptical at first of the presence of all of the heroes in one film, The Avengers was in fact exponentially more epic than its preceding films. It was clear that Marvel had planned for their heroes to join forces all along, while DC apparently had no such plan. Sure they could do a Justice League movie like the fans are expecting, but it would seem forced and unoriginal with The Avengers having come out before it (with a sequel on the way.) Besides, DC is far too inconsistent with their characters to do a Justice League movie at this point. DC would have to pull a “Marvel” and make all of the individual heroes their own movies first before the collaboration, and considering Batman just received a new face, and we have yet to see a Wonder Woman film, this could take a while. Unless of course they decide to put out the ensemble first and then roll out the individual films afterwards.
If the worldwide phenomenon that is the iPhone taught us anything, it’s that when someone simply gets something right it’s doomed to be copied. It would have been predictable if DC had just made a Justice League movie to compete with The Avengers, but surprisingly, at the moment they have entirely different plans for their next big hit. For the first time in history, they are making a movie that directly pits two superheroes against each other. The upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie could potentially become one of history’s finest hero-industry films. The long time silver-medalist in the race could prevail with their upcoming flick, but only time will tell. In the meantime, Marvel remains atop the super-movie throne.
From hiring Ben Affleck over incumbent but unwilling Christian Bale, to an underwhelming production of Green Lantern a few years back, it is clear that DC and Warner Brothers don’t fully have their act together, but as long as they blaze their own trail and use innovation and creativity to emerge from Marvel’s shadow instead of copying them and selling out, they have superhuman potential in the future.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier… Trailer Does NOT Disappoint
See? Captain America: The Winter Soldier is gearing to be what Agents of SHIELD should have been! Practicality aside (because there’s no way a television show could be this big for every single episode), this trailer exemplifies everything that’s wrong with the television show. The show is cramped, where this is huge. The show’s an awkward jumble of quirky dialogue and serious action whereas this is serious on both fronts. Budget issues aside, the fact that the movies so easily and immediately outmatch the show begs the question of why they would let something so inferior exist in the first place, if not to just advertise that the movies are going to continue existing into the foreseeable future. In other words, why can’t the show try to be small so that it can better fit into the fact that it is in fact small? In terms of television shows it’s pretty big but no one will ever compare it to other TV shows the way it will be compared to the movies.
Frustrations with a tangential show aside, this looks amazing. Despite some justifiable complaints from other critics, I think the first Captain America was likely the best of the first run of Marvel superhero movies in this continuity based franchise. Iron Man set up this world of arc reactors, Norse gods, and helicarriers, but Captain America was where we were actually immersed in it. Of course the only drawback was that none of that stuff was invented yet, but enough of the world was based on the fact that it was coming later to give off that same atmosphere. Here it’s finally in full force. How impossibly large must a factory that runs off helicarriers on an assembly line be anyway? He must have been looking out at no less than half a mile of factory with Nick Fury there.
And Robert Redford as the bad guy? I guess that means he managed to survive that boating trip… That’s a reference to his other movie All is Lost (I don’t know if he does survive or not, I haven’t seen it).
Moving on, it looks like Cap’s got the same basic moral platitudes he had in The Avengers. Steve Rogers is pissed at the changing mechanics of the world starting with the massive military industrial complex, and this is him staring directly at it. He’s inside the machinations that simultaneously keep the world running and break it to pieces. If Robert Redford is in fact the bad guy, which this trailer is certainly alluding, then it stands to reason that this time around it will be Cap’s job to break the system as best as he can through beating up a seventy year old man. I’ll bring the popcorn for that fight.
Beyond that there’s not much in the way of plot being shown here, only themes. One could extrapolate what the Winter Soldier’s actual job may be, but in the scheme of things they really only cared about stuffing in that scene of the helicarrier crashing along with Cap’s shield getting caught. The Falcon spreading his wings was just a bonus. But that totally works for me. The only worry I may have about all this is that these movies are getting too big for their britches. After all, at what point can one main character in a fancy suit no longer hold up the story that’s built around him? When can the entire group no longer handle it? Is this going to turn into some sort of superhero movie bubble? Will posing lots of questions in a row make the voice in your head reading all this end each sentence with inflection? Haha, it totally did. It’s most likely hyperbole to think this is the start of a superhero movie bubble. Either way, this looks great.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Not Yet Much to Marvel But Plenty of Potential
Okay, three episodes in now, past the first episode made to justify the shows existence, and the second episode blown up and incomparable to the rest of the series due to its need to convince an audience to KEEP WATCHING and into the future. Of course for a show with as much stuff (movies, brands, money) behind it as there is in front of it (movies, brands, money), it might stand to reason that there’s still a ways to go before finding what makes a consistent episode. The weirdness of each episode aside, there seems to be a basic formula to the show starting to emerge; strange thing, explanation for strange thing, someone who wants to use it to nefarious ends, and SHIELD coming in with a tentative plan to save the day.
This time we have the abduction of a physicist by a mad billionaire who wants to harvest the power of an extremely rare element called “gravitonium,” a substance which can radically shift the gravitational properties, as evidenced by the name, when something comes near it.
The science is wonky as hell. The best part of most science fiction is the ability to generate facts from nonsense. The engine on the U.S.S. Enterprise is fueled by dilithium crystals but they never tried to explain how those crystals actually generated the energy needed for deep space, faster than light travel. The point is that if you find yourself spiraling into too much detail trying to explain away something that seems nonsensical with fictional science, after a while the audience won’t buy it. Explaining away the tesseract as something from Thor‘s universe is acceptable because of how Thor’s world works. Same goes with the TARDIS in Doctor Who. I mean, with my very basic understanding of chemistry I know that for all the volatility an element can have, the destruction it can wrought is only based on its reaction with other elements. Sodium on its own can react violently with oxygen, but combined with chlorine it becomes table salt. It’s above and beyond the idea of someone successfully hacking into a government agency’s network with a laptop. Especially when, after the gravitonium explanation, one would think they have some interesting security protocols. I guess SHIELD’s computer protection sector got furloughed in the shutdown. Gravitonium is dumb.
It leads into a much bigger thing. The dialogue is cute, but at the same time that makes it clunky as hell in this setting. Everyone makes little quips and those quips get re-quipped into an awkward mess. Here’s a show that’s branched off from a series of movies that have convinced a generation to take the fantasy of superheroes seriously. Yet it’s stuck in that place between serious and silly that strains suspension of disbelief that it desperately needs to be considered legitimate and last as a series. For all the little things from comic book history that could show up in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. over its run, it needs to last long enough to make that happen. It’s not going away any time soon, so it’s just something to either endure or ignore with the sound off for the sake of all the potentially interesting things that happen.
Just a little thing: I noticed an odd sound effect when Coulson and Grant pulled the cowboy off the horse. It sounded like Grant pumped the double barrel shotgun. Am I wrong in thinking the sound effect was a little off?
Another little thing: The size of her earpiece. For all the advanced technology I don’t like their explanation for, an earwig is still that big?
Gravity: Providing a Treat for the Senses While Reimagining Space
From an audio-visual standpoint, Gravity is the most impressive film I’ve seen. The film is a true treat, a feast for the senses that manages to turn space—the vast and inexperienced beyond—into a terrifying reality. At no point during Gravity’s ninety-one minutes, did I ever doubt that its characters were floating through the blackness of space.
A crucial part of Gravity’s success is how visceral it is, an accomplishment facilitated by director Alfonso Cuaron’s ability to seamlessly transition between points of view. The film begins with three astronauts floating through space while repairing a satellite. The view makes the astronauts, and us, feel infinitely small, like tiny flecks in a never-ending and constantly expanding universe, the way nothing other than space could make a person feel.
That feeling comes to a crashing halt as soon as the mission begins to go awry. In a matter of seconds, we are transported from a state of serenity and magnitude to a state of claustrophobia and terror. Cuaron shifts from an external viewpoint to an internal viewpoint by placing us inside Sandra Bullock’s helmet, which leaves us dizzy and petrified as we spin rapidly out of control, destined to fly onwards forever, ready to die alone in the emptiness of space.
But, the changing viewpoints are only part of the experience, as Gravity’s impressive use of sound is equally vital. At times, we see disastrous collisions without sound, emphasizing the silent eeriness of existing outside of an atmosphere. At other times, we are shocked by the tight and crisp sound of opening or closing airlocks. Most effective, though, is the sound of Bullock’s breathing, which is hauntingly realistic and even contagious.
Much like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Avatar (apologies in advance for mentioning these two films in the same sentence), Gravity extends cinema’s possibilities. In fact, after watching Grand Theft Auto V earn $1 billion in three days, a feat that spawned claims that the video game industry has overtaken the movie industry, it’s difficult not to view Gravity as a merger of the two mediums. Cuaon’s use of first person point of view and simulator-like shots suggest that he borrowed from the video game world in order to execute the vision for some of his more impressive scenes.
On the narrative and thematic front, however, it seems to split the difference between 2001 and Avatar. While it certainly offers more ideas to grapple with than Avatar, it unsurprisingly falls short of 2001’s philosophical breadth.
But, Gravity’s failure to rival the intellectual ambition of Kubrick’s 2001—a level of intellect and profundity that, arguably, has not yet been matched—should not be construed as a dearth of substance. For a film that focuses on an action-based catastrophe and clocks in at a lean ninety-one minutes, Gravity holds its own in the narrative and ideological arena.
Although at times heavy-handedly, Gravity wrestles with the tension between science and religion that so often runs through films about space exploration. It also lends itself to musings on the idea of rebirth, on what it means to continue life after experiencing crippling tragedy or death. It even opens itself to ideas about international relations or the pursuit of a universal language.
All in all, one should know two things about Gravity. First, it was designed to be and absolutely should be seen on the big screen. Second, Gravity is a staggeringly impressive work that vaults Alfonso Cuaron into the ranks of today’s best living directors.
Don Jon - A Character Study, Light on the Subtlety
“Let’s talk about sex, baby.” What’s changed? Having the internet so long, for most people at least, a lot’s changed. And by change I mean porn. Lots of it. And it’s everywhere now. People can be enticed to almost anything with the promise of sex as a reward. But for all that stimulation, what happens to the actual act?
Don Jon is your typical d-bag. He does d-bag things with his d-bag friends, and goes through his life like it’s some sort of gospel life advice. His few redeeming values are all that keep you from screaming at the screen that he’s an idiot and demanding your money back from Joseph Gordon-Levitt himself. He makes a point to let you know that he really cares about the important things in his life. And that carries you along until the plot starts. Which amounts to him realizing how much of an idiot he is by meeting people who are bigger idiots along with people who are smart. He takes advice from both groups and realizes that the idiots are idiots. Or at least that he can be a little less shallow.
You can tell this is a first time writing/directing job for Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Which shouldn’t suggest that he isn’t capable, but there are moments where it shines through in some attempts at sophistication. Sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s a bit less than great. For example, this is a movie about character. In film 101 speak, character in a movie is about having flaws, realizing you have flaws, coming to terms with those flaws, and accepting them with the choice to either change or embrace them. Don Jon is a pretty flawed guy and so are the people he hangs around. His dad hangs around the house obsessing over sports, swearing like a sailor, and wearing a wife beater all the time. What makes him a character is the way he interacts with his family. Everyone sounds like a human being. The conversations are interesting. This is a movie carried by dialogue and the dialogue is almost always really good. If Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a complete outsider to the Hollywood scene, this movie would have propelled him up akin to what happened after Kevin Smith released Clerks.
Subtlety was a big thing this movie seemed to ignore. It could be argued that since sex is everywhere subtlety wasn’t something to go for, but it only ever appears when it’s relevant to the story more than it’s engulfed the world they live in. Jon’s car rides were always about his growing frustrations and their eventual release. Jon says that Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) was the most beautiful thing he ever saw multiple times. Jon, clearly not getting that he sees romance movies with contempt for the lie they sell, all the while believes that porn is real. It’s a nagging problem, especially in a character drama, when it feels more like everything you’re supposed to see in subtext is in your face. The biggest thing though, was the point where Jon makes a promise to stop watching porn, so instead of watching it on his laptop he starts watching it on his phone. In his classroom. Seated in the middle of the room. Not that I do that, but there are some pretty basic problems logistically speaking, with watching porn in public. Besides the fact that watching porn in public moves you from an endearing character to creepy.
Still, I would recommend this movie. It’s got flavor to it, because while the subject matter isn’t quite unique, it’s approached in a unique way. All the minor problems are overshadowed by just how well the movie itself is put together. Mistakes here and there are inevitable in anything and easy enough to ignore for the sake of the big picture. Of course, if you bring a lady friend with you, be prepared to start arguing on the way out of the theater, to the car, on the drive to a restaurant, and all the way through dinner.
If you think your parents are strict, wait until you read Crazy Rich Asians. This story revolves around Rachel Chu and her boyfriend Nicholas Young. After two years, their relationship is going strong, until they return to Nick’s home in Singapore for his friend’s wedding. No longer in the microcosmic world of New York City, Nick and Rachel’s relationship is put to the test by the rules, regulations and disapproval of Nick’s very conservative and VERY RICH family.
As an Asian-American, I definitely found myself relating to the relationship of Nicholas and his family. In Asian culture, respect for family and meeting expectations are the most important goals. To go against the wishes of your family is a rebellion that disgraces your entire family. As such, there’s a lot of pressure for Asian-Americans (and I’m sure other cultures as well) to be the obedient child.
I’ll admit that the book was a little too mid-day soap opera, but I found myself strangely engaged by the absurdity of the situations. And I guess that’s exactly what author Kevin Kwan wanted to point out. Crazy Rich Asians is a satirical, social commentary on Chinese culture. The Asian equivalent to the Real Housewives on TV.
Unlike the aforementioned TV show, Crazy Rich Asians actually has a point to be made. Kevin Kwan wrote this book for all the children who grew up with strict parents. The lesson? At the end of the day, it’s your life and you will need to start living. You can follow someone else’s dictation, or you can embrace the wonderful, thrilling, frightening mysteries of freedom.
With Glee Season 5 premiering this Thursday September 26th I can’t help but be nervous, excited, scared, curious; actually let’s just admit that I am feeling every human emotion possible in regards to the premiere. Similarly, I am absolutely certain other Glee-aholics are enduring the same emotional wind-storm as I and therefore may find relief in this post.
Just over two months have passed since the sudden death of actor Cory Monteith, one of Glee’s leading characters Finn Hudson; So leading in fact that Season 4 ended with a major plot line expected to pick-up in Season 5. What is on my mind, as I am sure is on every Glee enthusiasts mind, is what will Glee do with the death of Cory as well as the death (or departure) of Finn Hudson. Subsequently, what will happen with on-screen girlfriend Rachel Berry (Lea Michelle)? At the end of Season 4 it was apparent the pair were destined to be together or at the very least a new romance would blossom rekindling their past relationship. What happens now? How will Glee deal with Cory’s overdose and history with drug abuse? How will they relate it to his character Finn? So many questions…
Another that pops into my mind is, will Glee still split time between NYC and Mckinley High, or will the show begin to focus primarily on the characters in NYC? After speaking with Glee fans it became obvious most preferred the NYC characters over Mckinley High’s new students. I have read however, that this season Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) who was ceremoniously removed from her position at Mckinley due to covering for her assistant Becky’s (Lauren Potter) accidental gun shooting, is to return to Mckinley High as the new principal. Hmmm, maybe opinions will change about McKinley High? If so, I do hope the old characters return often because I always loved seeing them come back to Mckinley to perform or enlighten the younger Glee club students. That being said…
What is the plan for Brittany S. Pierce (Heather Morris)? I’ll be honest, I love her character and absolutely LOVE “fondue for two,” her at-home self-created talk show featuring her cat Lord Tubbington. Her corky, ditzy, half-lesbian fun-loving character is so amazingly addicting that I truly think she sets the comedic tone in Glee. Apparently she is not supposed to return to Glee “fully” (whatever that means) due to her pregnancy. I am curious to know what exactly her role will be in this season but look forward to seeing her nonetheless.
Speaking of roles, what is happening with Blaine (Darren Criss) and Kurt (Chris Colfer)? It seems to me their romance is also blossoming. Blaine wants to marry Kurt? WHAT? I feel like this could be on an episode of Oxygen‘s Too Young to Marry. If you recall last season they had a very dramatic split in the episode “The Break Up,” because Blaine couldn’t keep it in his pants! The scene was fantastically accompanied by a rendition of Katy Perry‘s “Teenage Dream” sung by Blaine. I have included the link to this here because it is just that powerful. I do wonder how this relationship will grow from here but secretly hope they work it out and stay together!
As happy as I am that Glee starts this week I am still very surprised that it was so soon. After Cory’s death I was expecting the show to either end or take more time to allow the characters to accept that their future will continue absent a friend, co-worker, and in Lea Michelle’s case, a boyfriend. I suppose getting back to work and into a routine is the best therapy, I just hope everyone is dealing with this shocking experience in a healthy way.
Overall I am very excited to see Thursday’s premiere and know I will not be disappointed. I think for me, as well as many other fans, finally getting closure with Cory’s death as well as seeing Lea Michelle back on screen is something everyone has been craving. It’s funny, even though most of us do not know Lea, we all secretly feel like we do and therefore want to know she is doing okay. This I feel, will really help those viewers.
Be sure to catch Glee‘s Season 5 premiere Thursday September 26th on FOX at 9/8c. Let me know what you think!
The Como Brothers Band is a mix of two brothers that are talented songwriters and musicians. The have a soulful tune mixed with blues and pop. They are stylistically compared to Maroon 5 and The Black Keys. Music has been a part of their lives since childhood; their parents inspired them to create at an early age.
Matt and Andrew Como have been performing since their early high school years. The brothers have performed all over NY and are now launching their first Album Baby StepsOctober 1.
Feel free to listen to the fresh sounds of The Como Brothers Band below.