Archive for July, 2020

Media Update 7/30/20

July 30, 2020


See You Yesterday

This had been on my list for quite some time and I had to jump on it this week thanks to the theme. I also wanted to finally jump on this because it is part of Netflix’s Black Lives Matter collection and I want to encourage that sort of thing. It is definitely related to Black Lives Matter and is super relevant to the current climate. In it, two young inventors struggle to finish their time travel project when a police shooting becomes deadly. The concept of having to go back in time to remove yet another black death from history is impactful. It really frames the problem perfectly and I think would make it clear even for skeptics. Eden Duncan-Smith is fantastic as the young and brilliant high schooler with a bit of a passion problem. Dante Crichlow is great as her friend and partner who also has an eye to the future. Most of the movie is concerned with the chemistry between these two and there is a lot of great chemistry. I also really liked Astro (that’s his whole name) who played the older brother of the main character. I definitely recommend this movie as it is very much worth watching.


Palm Springs

I was extremely excited when I found out that Lonely Island was producing another movie. Pop Star was such a fun movie with heart that I will always check out what these guys do. Andy Samberg has made some career moves that I have questioned but when he is with his friends, he almost always succeeds. I also found out that Quyen Tran was the cinematographer, a person who came to my attention through Critical Role but who is a great artist in her own right. The movie is a time loop movie but manages to make the idea fresh again and plays with it really well. Samberg is great as the hapless boob resigned to the loop. I was not familiar with Cristin Milioti but she was great as the more cynical and curious young woman. JK Simmons was fantastic but I have never seen him be anything but. I was also surprised to see two CW stars who I love Camila Mendes (Riverdale) and Tyler Hoechlin (Supergirl, Superman and Lois). I definitely recommend this movie as it was silly but it has heart like a lot of Lonely Island projects.


The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time

Asylum is a weird movie studio that has a long and weird history of really crappy movies (although last week I reviewed one of their TV shows). They started to draw attention by creating cheap knockoffs of Hollywood blockbusters and quickie movies adapted from public domain stories. A lot of their ideas come long after somebody else originally had them. However, Sharknado was a different animal altogether. It was not well-made but it made a splash with how over-the-top ridiculous it was. As the franchise progressed, it leaned in to being as crazy and trite as it could be. As the phenomenon grew, they crammed more and more B and C list cameos in. This movie is no different except that it also includes time travel. I will say that the medieval segment took the cake for most awful people in it with both Marina Sirtis and Neil Degrasse Tyson sharing scenes. Also, Ben Stein as Alexander Hamilton was a mistake. I mean, I see where they were coming from but ugh. Anyway, it was a crazy franchise and I recommend it for the spectacle and insanity but don’t pay for it.

 

Music of Week:
Gorillaz – PAC-MAN

Watsky – Undermine

Deorro – Rise and Shine

ONUKA – ZENIT

K.O.Y – Baltimore

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “It’s About Time”
– I watched more Elementary Season 2
– I watched more Watcher videos
– I watched more Hannibal Season 1
– I watched more Riverdale Season 4
– I watched more Z Nation Season 1
-I watched more Batwoman Season 1
– I watched more Scientology and the Aftermath
– I watched The Couch: Baby Blue (my friend was in it!)
– I finished Supergirl Season 5
– I finished Black Lightning Season 3
– I finished Legends of Tomorrow Season 5
– I started Rizzoli and Isles Season 5

30-Day Challenge: Songs Pt. 2

July 27, 2020


7 – A song to drive to

When I was living in New Jersey and driving my broken down white Saturn, I used to love to listen to this one as I drove. It has the perfect mix of calm and upbeat to really get me into a groove. It is also really fun to sing along to. I actually first listened to it on the road when I worked for the circus. Sitting shotgun in a mack truck, dozing a bit from exhaustion and listening to easy listening classic rock. The Eagles rock but they never really rock too hard and it was always pleasant to listen to them on the road. I remember listening to them on the long drives from Northern Jersey home to Baltimore when I was furloughed or for the holidays.


8 – A song about drugs or alcohol

Buckcherry was the music that I would play loud in my room during my middle school and high school years when I was angry. I would sing along and get it all out of my system. In retrospect, it was not so healthy to stew in it like that but teenage angst paired with an anxiety and anger problem is not pretty. The driving guitar and metal-style singing reminded me of a mixture of heavy metal with hair metal with a garage band edge. The band is very good at churning out problematic lyrics (see their song “Crazy Bitch”) but their songs are definitely bangers.


9 – A song that makes you happy

Ninja Sex Party is a band that I discovered on YouTube just as they were starting to really take off and thus the production values of their videos were getting better. Music Videos kind of died a while ago but some artists have kept the flame alive. All of NSP’s videos tell a story visually and lyrically. Danny Sexbang (Danny Avidan) is just so joyful with his lyrics and plays an obliviously happy character. I love the bouncy composition that Ninja Brian (Brian Wecht) came up with for this one as well. It is so catchy and easy to sing along to. I will always be a fan of this band and I remember well seeing them live before they really started touring. I also met Brian Wecht briefly once.

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10 – A song that makes you sad

In my opinion, the most overrated song in the history of music so far. I have really grown to dislike this song. It is slow and pointless and has never been fun to listen to. It made me hate Led Zeppelin for years until I learned to listen to their more upbeat and uptempo songs. I do not even consider it a rock song because it does not rock.


11 – A song you never get tired of

When the Gorillaz came on the scene they were a revelation. I was instantly a fan and the more I learned and listened, the more of a fan I became. They are a supergroup made up of many top musicians in rock, electronic, and rap. It had a punk rock feel to it and that was definitely supported by the animation style furnished by Jamie Hewlett (of Tank Girl fame). Because the band was made up of fictional characters, any musician could enter or exit the band for any song and create without being tied to their particular style. Their first album was probably the first that I listened all the way through without ever skipping a track. It was basically a perfect album and this was my favorite song off of it. Part of that is due to Del tha Funkee Homosapien’s rap breaks. The music just comes together so well.


12 – A song from your preteen years

I was a bit of a bigot when it came to music as a kid. I dismissed rap music but during my preteens and teens, I suddenly saw my folly and embraced rap and hip hop culture. I had bought into previous generations’ racist and classist take on rap. However, I was raised better than that and during this time I started to rebel against everything I thought I had believed. Part of that process started with Tupac Shakur, a fellow Baltimorean who had made it big out in California. His style was the quintessential style in rap that I would grow to love. His samples and flow were upbeat and just what I wanted to hear. His lyrics were brilliant the way they fit together like puzzle pieces so tightly. Tupac led me to artists like NWA, Busta Rhymes, Pharoah Monch, and so many more.

Poor Unfortunate Souls: China Pt. 4

July 25, 2020

The Imperial Palace had burned halfway to the ground and little gray creatures were scrambling all over the place trying to put things back together. A lone figure stood on the roof looking out over the land. She was gaunt yet imperious and green eyes shone brightly set in her grayish-green face with blood-red lipstick. Her black cloak had purple accents and her headdress had curious-looking horns. She carried an ornate gold staff with a yellowish crystal. The staff had been recently reconstructed and the fractures had been filled in with silver. The enchantments were even stronger than they had been before. The woman was brooding as she glared over the countryside.

“Mistress Maleficent,” a deep, gravelly voice suddenly sounded beside her. She turned and saw one of her minions, carrying a spear and wearing a spiked helmet. The thing looked timid yet puffed up its chest to try to appear brave. “The rebuilding process is going smoothly.”

“It’s Empress Maleficent now,” Maleficent said. “Is that all that you came here to tell me? Go back down and get back to work.”

“There was a question of the dragons, your imperialness,” the creature asked. “They are all over but they don’t really look like you do in all of your magnificence.”

“Yes, yes,” Maleficent with a sigh. “They have different ones here. Tear them all down, replace them with images of me.”

“Um,” the minion hesitated. “in your dragon form or your most beautiful and splendid um fairy form?”

“Do I have to tell you everything?” Maleficent said, practically spitting the words at this lowly creature. “Put both up. This country is now mine. Remind the people of this.”

“Yes Empress,” the minion said, groveling and bowing. “May you reign forever. I will go make sure that your orders are law.”

“And make sure that any military or any so-called heroes are eliminated,” Maleficent said. “String them up as an example to the rest. I will not have a repeat of earlier events.”

“You mean with Aurora and Phillip?” the minion asked.

Green flame erupted around them in a perfect circle. “Do not utter those names again or I will roast you where you stand,” Maleficent said. “Spread the word. I will rule this new world.”

“Yes, your wonderfulness!” the minion managed to stammer. He ran away as soon as the fire receded and started yelling out orders for rebuilding.

Maleficent smiled to herself. It was good to inspire such fear again. Now all she had to do was continue to conquer this land. She would not leave herself open to the same vulnerabilities this time. She had meticulously worked a spell to banish all magical creatures besides herself and her minions from the land. She sensed very little magic left in the land that was not her particular brand of darkness and fire. She could devastate any army with her dragon form with the support of her magic and her idiot minions. They may have been stupid but they were good muscle and loyal. This time, no other fairies would meddle in her affairs or dull her curses.

She still did not know how she had gotten to this place. She remembered the stabbing pain of Phillip’s sword in her chest. She remembered her own green flame erupting everywhere around her as she thrashed and tried to tear the prince apart. She remembered the ground falling away under her and then blackness. When she opened her eyes she was floating in the void, her shattered scepter floated in front of her. She was confused. Was she still alive or had she returned to life? Was this something else entirely?

As these thoughts had been rushing through her mind, she heard a voice from the darkness. It presented her with an old oil lamp made of some blackened metal. She could sense a great, dark power inside of it. There was some horrible curse on it. Some creature was trapped inside of it or had been trapped inside of it. The voice told her to consume it. She tried to argue but the voice was insistent. The lamp would restore all of her power and add to it as well. The allure of more power was enticing. She transformed into a dragon and easily swallowed the lamp whole. She could feel it burning inside of her and she grew stronger. Wounds closed, her staff reformed itself and she felt like she could swallow the world at that moment.

She was briefly introduced to two other women, vastly inferior to her but powerful in their own right. One was underwater and an octopus monstrosity and the other was a bony looking witch. She sensed they shared her ambitions for their own worlds. A door opened and the voice called on her to conquer. She had. However, now that the flurry of violence and destruction had abated, she was left to wonder who her benefactor had been. Was there a grander plan? Maleficent did not like feeling like a pawn but first things first, China would burn.

Media Update 7/23/20

July 23, 2020


The Old Guard

Charlize Theron is definitely the best female action star and quite possibly may be the best action star full stop. She is at the very least top ten. I adored her in Mad Max: Fury Road, Atomic Blonde, Mindhunter, Aeon Flux, and the Fate of the Furious. She has such a commanding presence that studios should definitely be using her like crazy. In this, she is an immortal soldier who leads a squad of immortal soldiers who travel around as freedom fighters. They have to face off against a pharmaceutical company who is targetting them specifically. Theron is the grizzled soldier who has been living for several millennia. Relative newcomer KiKi Layne is the young upstart who is new to the team and the immortal life. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a well-meaning researcher who has evidence of the team. Harry Melling is a Martin Shkreli-type pharma bro. The story is based on a graphic novel by Greg Rucka who also created the awesome Stumptown comic and worked on Wonder Woman. The story is very well-told and the characters really resonate. The action scenes are some of the best I have ever seen. I definitely recommend it.


Harley Quinn (2019)

This is the new animated series that premiered last year. This series actually comes off as a mix of a comic book show and a sitcom with the characters constantly getting into awkward situations. The humor is very R-rated with plenty of gore, cursing, and craziness. The show is centered around Harley’s attempts to strike out on her own after breaking up with Joker. She is living with Poison Ivy as she tries to get her life together. The supervillains of Gotham come off as petty and cliquish and it is very funny. The show also goes pretty deep into the roster of DC Comics characters and also pokes fun at previous Batman projects. I am interested to watch the character’s arcs and see the jokes they come up with. The show is definitely pretty graphically violent but not overly much for most people, I think. It also has an all-star cast including Kaley Cuoco, Lake Bell, Alan Tudyk, Ron Funches, Diedrich Bader, Christopher Meloni, JB Smoove, Jim Rash, and so many more. I recommend this show.


Z Nation

I had seen this show available for streaming for quite a while but I kept passing it by. I think mostly because of The Walking Dead. This show is definitely not TWD. This show focuses more on the zombies and follows more than one storyline and the characters have more goals than just surviving. They need to get an asymptomatic carrier across the country in order to study his blood. They are guided by the last surviving member of the NSA, a computer geek played by DJ Qualls. There does not seem to be a star of the show yet as everybody gets a little time in the spotlight here and there. But I would go with Kellita Smith as a former National Guard member who seems to almost have fun in the apocalypse. I also really like the silent sniper character played by Nat Zang. Anastasia Baranova plays the group’s tech expert and I really like her style. I love to hate Keith Allan as the wise-cracking criminal whose blood is so important. There are plenty of other characters but I am trying not to get too attached in case some of them die. The show has a lot of action but also has offbeat humor mixed in with the drama. I recommend the show but be warned it is fairly gory.

Music of the Week:
Tyler the Creator – A Boy is a Gun

TOOL – Fear Inoculum

Migos, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B – MotorSport

Vice Girl – They Live, We Sleep

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Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Get Yourself a Crew”
– I watched more Elementary Season 2
– I watched more Watcher videos
– I watched more Supergirl Season 5
– I watched more Rizzoli and Isles Season 4
– I watched more Legends of Tomorrow Season 5
– I watched more Hannibal Season 1
– I finished The Flash Season 6
– I watched Ooga Booga
– I watched Head of the Family
– I watched Dollman
– I watched Supersonic Man (Rifftrax version)
– I watched Dolls (2019)

 

30-Day Challenge: Songs Pt. 1

July 20, 2020


1 – A song you like with the color in the title

Paint it Black may well be my favorite Rolling Stones song. It has a faster tempo than a lot of their songs driven by a killer drum beat and a great guitar riff. It also features a lot more toned down vocals form Mick Jagger than he usually sings. One of the funny things about this song is that it really gets me going even though it is about grief and depression. This is a song that I have heard since I was a kid because my dad was way into the Rolling Stones. However, my passion for it was reignited after its prominent use in the video game Twisted Metal Black which really fit the tone. I also really liked the french version used in Talladega Nights. Runner up (since black is technically not a color) is Mr. Blue Sky, a great upbeat tune.


2 – A song you like with a number in the title

I have to go with Seven Nation Army because of the Ravens. The song was not written for Baltimore (although a lyric mentions my hometown) but we certainly adopted it as our own. The signature guitar riff has grown from Ravens games to Orioles games and has taken over as an almost soccer-like chant. It has also recently been used as a chant in support of pro-wrestler Keith Lee (“Oh, Bask in his Glory!”). Independent of sports, the song is just a lot of fun. Like the above song, it has a driving beat that fires me up. I have no great love for the White Stripes but they do have some fun uptempo bangers. Part of that with this song is the fairly simple seven-note riff mixed with Meg White’s “heartbeat” tempo. I also like the vocals that Jack White uses here. They are distorted and, as much as I respect a pure singer, the sound designer in me loves filters and distortion used musically.


3 – A song that reminds you of summertime

I picked this song because of the summer I spent outside doing labor as a campaign staff member tasked with helping to put up 4X8 campaign signs. It involved a lot of carpentry but even more swinging of sledgehammers (which I already had experience in from the circus). We rode around in a big pickup truck and tried to beat the heat. One of the ways we kept our spirits up was listening to pop music and my mind keeps drifting back to that particular year in music. This was the summer that I fell in love with Katy Perry’s music and this song, in particular, reminds me of summer. The song is bouncy, fun, and has a great little rap insert from the legendary Snoop Dogg (before he became Snoop Lion for a bit).


4 – A song that reminds you of someone you’d rather forget

I mean, I do not want to forget the man who I called my father since I was two years old. However, there is a version of him that I would love to forget. He is an alcoholic and that version of him never felt good. Now, I still love this song but there was a time when all it did was remind me of my father’s demons. Plenty of people are able to drink recreationally without issue but I never really got into songs that glorified excessive drinking. I hold out hope that my father will exorcise his demons again but I remain realistic. As to the song itself, I particularly love Nicki Minaj’s rap portion of the song as this was my introduction to her style.


5 – A song that needs to be played loud

I was tempted to write in NWA’s “Fuck the Police” here but you probably should not do so without backup and a sturdy recording device. Instead, I have to give love to a band that I have loved since I could pick my own music. I did not give them love during last Wednesday’s trivia night but I can give them a bit of love now. Pretty much any AC/DC song can be and should be played just below the threshold of pain. I listened to a lot of their music on repeat (on headphones) during high school (mostly Greatest Hits and Stiff Upper Lip). I think I will go with Highway to Hell because the song has played such a part in amusing me and firing me up through the years. There have been so many times that I have been driving toward something and the song starts playing and I have to chuckle. Sometimes the title is accurate and sometimes it is not at all accurate but it never fails to get a reaction from me. The driving guitar riffs and wailing vocals are hard to deny.


6 – A song that makes you want to dance

I mean, I do not really dance. Not in public but I do bop a bit and the most dance-like movements I make are usually in the shower while I am listening to upbeat music. As a huge Disney fan, I fell in love with the lore, style, and especially the poppy music of the Descendants franchise. Steven Vincent has been on board as a songwriter for all three Descendants movies (but strangely not the TV Show) and he has only gotten better with each movie in the trilogy. Part of his success is he has some of the greatest young performers that Disney could probably have gotten their hands on. I have become especially enamored of Sofia Carson’s vocal style (although China Ann McClain is the better singer). This song is probably my all-time favorite of the whole franchise. The lyrics are extremely relevant to both the fairytale setting but also the apprehension that all young couples face. The bops in the Descendants franchise seem almost scientifically designed to get your toe tapping so it is no wonder it makes me wiggle.

Poor Unfortunate Souls: China Pt. 3

July 18, 2020

Mulan was a little surprised when Yao hugged her when she entered the hastily assembled war room of the fort. The usually grumpy Yao pushed away after only a moment but was still grinning from ear to ear. Mulan found herself smiling even though Shang was still down in the medical tent. Mulan, Shang, Yao, Chien-Po, and Ling had been through a lot of adventures together. It made Mulan’s heartache and worry about Khan and Mushu who were still missing in action. Still, it was good to be in a stable environment with a friend in front of her although they were not always exactly friendly.

“Mulan!” Yao croaked out in his somewhat raspy voice. “I am so glad to see you. I was worried about a lot of our friends and the Emperor’s forces. I made it here with some of our soldiers but I am out of my element in command.”

“You seem to have done pretty well,” Mulan said. “The soldiers looked orderly and the fort is running smoothly and is fortified.”

“Do you know where Shang is?” Yao asked. “He could take over. He could even counterattack through this chaos.”

Mulan took a deep breath. “My husband is in the medical tent,” she said. “He is injured and unconscious but I am hopeful that he will recover.”

“I’m sorry,” Yao said. “I have great respect for General Shang.”

“We all do,” Mulan said. “Is that white healer really any good?” She instinctively looked over her shoulder back toward the medical tent. Her husband had been in pretty bad shape but she had thought him dead before and had been glad to have been wrong. Shang was a fighter and she had to count on that.

“Yes,” Yao said. “I wouldn’t have put her in charge there if she wasn’t. Rapunzel has magic when it comes to healing and she’s so damned perky it’s hard to beat her optimism. It kind of gives me the creeps. We rescued these foreigners and they have come in useful. They all claim to be royalty so it made sense to let them make themselves comfortable. In return, they have helped us operate more smoothly without trying to take over. Believe me, I tried with that Aladdin.”

“He seems capable but I’m not sure if we can trust them that far,” Mulan said. “As far as we know this is the last major holdout after the attack on the Imperial City.”

“Then you should take over, Mulan,” Yao said. “You’d be a much better leader.”

“I’m not even officially in the military,” Mulan said. “I don’t know if that’s proper.”

“You’re an advisor to the Emperor!” Yao said.

“I turned that post down. Remember?” Mulan asked. “I’ve helped out in an unofficial capacity but I don’t really have the skills to lead here.”

“Who cares?” Yao said. “You’re a hero of China. They’ll accept you. Your country needs you Mulan and I know you have always stepped forward.”

“That’s hardly fair,” Mulan said. “I’ll do what it can but I’m not sure if that isn’t too far.”

“It’ll work,” Yao said. “You’ll be better at it than I am.”

“Fine. If the soldiers agree then I will lead until Shang can take over,” Mulan said. “He is much better in command and I am much better at doing my own thing. It’s how we work.”

“It’s a deal,” Yao said excitedly. “I’m sure you won’t have to shoulder the burden for long. Shang will be up on his feet quick. Where should we start boss?”

Mulan sighed. “I guess I should meet with these foreigners and get the lay of the land,” she said. “I have to admit to being very curious. How many are there?”

“Only four so far,” Yao said. “Rapunzel is a healer and spends most of her time in the medical tent although she’s handy elsewhere. Anna is a really hard worker and apparently really well-read and is always there with a helping hand. Aladdin is an accomplished fighter and he and his carpet have been going on scouting missions to bring back more survivors.”

“What about the one up in the tower?” Mulan asked. “The one whose speech I can barely understand.”

“Merida is a wild woman but is a crack shot with a bow,” Yao said. “She’s better than anybody I saw in the military and that includes you, Mulan.” He caught a look in her eye. “But not by that much.”

“She needs to learn more manners,” Mulan said. “but it is good to have an accomplished warrior keeping a wary eye on anybody who approaches.”

Media Update 7/16/20

July 16, 2020


Hannibal

I had watched a little of this show at some point but I never really gave it a fair shot because it was not accessible. I have read all of the Thomas Harris books where the character of Hannibal Lecter was created. This show is a reimagining of the three books and the movies. It is really neat because the movies had different directors, screenwriters, and tones. To have it all under one banner gives things more of a unified direction. The show follows Will Graham (the protagonist of Red Dragon) as he works to catch serial killers. Hannibal Lecter (played brilliantly by Mads Mikkelsen) has decided to help out but obviously has an ulterior motive. He is a shark swimming around and pushing buttons. Laurence Fishburne plays Jack Crawford, Will’s boss and Lecter’s friend. Caroline Dhavernas plays Alana Bloom, a psychology professor who tries to keep Will stable. The show explores the twisted world of serial killers in a very pretty artistic way. Seriously, the crime scenes are often disgusting but they are also gorgeous. I recommend this show.


Dark

This is a German show but I have started watching it dubbed in English (since Netflix provides that service). The show is a science fiction show that deals with time travel and disappearances in a small town. I am not that far into it but there are a ton of characters including adults, teens, and children. The town is reeling from a suicide and a child disappearance. On the edge, the town is in for much worse events that may be repeating things from back in the late 80s. It is an interesting show that slowly works through dozens of interconnected threads. I am interested to see where this one goes. I am not sure if this actually involves time travel or just weird stuff with time and space. It may be something else entirely. It is rare that I am so lost on the premise of a show but also excited about it. There are a lot of characters and plot threads to keep track of but it may be very rewarding to do so. I recommend it as well.


The Alienist

The concept of this show is that it is set in 1896 in New York City. The show covers the dawn of modern crimefighting techniques that use psychology and forensics. It mixes both fictional characters with actual figures from history. For example, there is a character based on Alice Stebbins, the first female police officer in New York. Figures like Teddy Roosevelt and JP Morgan are around. Luke Evans plays a reporter who is arrogant and a playboy with connections in the dirtiest parts of town. Dakota Fanning plays the aforementioned first female cop, dealing with misogyny and trying to further her career. They work with Daniel Bruhl who plays the title character, an Alienist which is kind of a special psychologist who specifically examines abnormal psychology. The show is super dark and deals with sexual exploitation and violence toward minors. It is not an easy show to watch but it is pretty fascinating. I recommend the show but it is also pretty gory and not for the faint of heart.

Music of the Week:
Gorillaz – Hollywood

ESKIMO CALLBOY – Nice Boi

Drown This City – Stay Broken

YUNGBLUD – original me

J Balvin X Bad Bunny – Yo Le Llego

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Investigating the Darkness”
– I watched more Elementary Season 2
– I watched more The Flash Season 6
– I watched more Watcher videos
– I watched more Supergirl Season 5
– I watched more Riverdale Season 4
– I watched more Rizzoli and Isles Season 4
– I watched more Legends of Tomorrow Season 5
– I watched more Doom Patrol Season 1
– I watched more Scooby-Doo: Mystery Inc. Season 1
– I finished American Vandal Season 1
– I watched Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters
– I watched Justice League: Throne of Atlantis
– I watched Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay

A Few Thoughts on Hamilton

July 13, 2020

Selling Out

I heard a lot of rumbling and grumbling from Hamilton fans when it was announced that the show would be released on Disney Plus. The thing I heard was that people were accusing Hamilton of selling out to Disney. People jumped to that judgment because of Disney’s status as a content and intellectual property juggernaut. Disney is also a large corporation which are historically ethically neutral at best. I am not here to defend Disney but Hamilton was going to be distributed by one company or another. While we still have capitalism, that is the way it is going to be. Disney+ being a new platform makes it not a bad idea for both sides. Miranda gets plenty of eyes on his show while Disney gets yet another exclusive to dangle for subscriptions.

On top of all of that, Miranda already has an established relationship with Disney having worked on several projects with the company (Moana, Mary Poppins Returns, Ducktales, Star Wars, and the upcoming Encanto). With an established relationship, Miranda probably had an easier time arguing for creative control of the edit. Disney cares a lot about presentation so they would be able to display the production as well as anybody. Disney has also started to care more about diversity and representation and if this pushes them further in that direction, great!

Miranda had been sitting on a recording of the show for years presumably for a theatrical release that had been scheduled for October 2021. A theatrical release would have been great but we are in the middle of a pandemic which likely will still be lingering next year. Miranda is very smart and compassionate and probably did not want people rushing out to theaters and getting sick. Additionally, a Disney Plus subscription is about seven dollars which beats a fifteen dollar ticket any day. So for half the price, you can have a month of access to a lot of great Disney content instead of paying more for one shot (pun intended). Also, at one time a Hamilton ticket was considered a bargain at over $800. This is a steal. Of course, not everybody has Internet access but I think Miranda did the best he could.

In short, “selling out” means to compromise your moral code in exchange for money. Miranda’s goal was to get as many people to see his show as possible because he is an artist. He has accomplished that goal and continues to accomplish that goal.

F-Bombs

Before the show was released on Disney+, Miranda was asked on Twitter about whether the show would be censored. Disney has a historically clean image to maintain and, among other things, Hamilton has three usages of the word “fuck”. The problem was that Disney+ has a rating cap of PG-13. In order to maintain a PG-13 rating, a movie has to keep to only one F-Bomb (and context matters). Miranda agreed to edit out two out of three F-bombs in order to get under the wire. He did not have to sacrifice any sexual innuendos and most of the show survived intact. Yet, some people are angry.

The arguments seem to be varied. Some people are mad that Miranda may have been pressured to sacrifice artistic vision. This is the anti-censorship argument. While I usually think that censorship is wrong, I do not think that is what happened here. Miranda has been vocal about his willingness to lose those two words in order to get the show aired. Another argument that I have heard is that the word “fuck” is not even that offensive. It is just a word. I agree with this. There is no such thing as dirty language, only dirty speech. However, that argument can go both ways. If it is just a word, then why not cut it out to accomplish a goal? The two usages that were cut added very little to the lines they were in and the one they kept (which is more of a Fuuuu). I say it is a pointless thing to complain about.

What Was Left Out

This is a much more valid complaint that was absolutely good to be asked. Hamilton does not do much to address the issue of slavery in the Colonies and the fledgling United States. There are a few lines that point out the conflict of fighting for freedom while slavery still exists but there are no slave characters and the issue is not pushed. Miranda has agreed that this is an issue. He agonized for a long time on what he could include and still maintain a cohesive story in an amount of time that an audience could sit through. He had a lot of tough decisions and frankly, I feel like he made the right ones.

I do not feel qualified to argue this point because I am a White Male Southerner. Miranda has addressed criticisms and has agreed with many of them. However, he has pointed out that the music of the show is a celebration of music that was only possible because of contributions by Black artists and culture. The show also does not paint any of the historical characters as paragons of virtue. Every single person (slave owner or merely complicit) is portrayed as deeply flawed.

I think the biggest point in the show’s favor in this matter is that it is a positive show that has sparked discussion about American History. The show talks about “Who Tells Your Story” and Miranda told a story but it is up to everybody to tell all of the stories. We need to continue to tell Black stories, immigrant stories, and so many other important stories. Hamilton is a great show but it may end up being more important because of what it brought to the table. I think vilifying Hamilton misses a lot of points and we could approach the problem in a more positive way.

Poor Unfortunate Souls: China Pt. 2

July 11, 2020

The carpet approached a large fortress far outside the outskirts of the Imperial City. Aladdin was determined and Mulan just held tight to Shang, trying to keep him still and stable on the fluttering fabric. It was at this point that an arrow whizzed past them, managing to nick Aladdin’s ear making him wince in pain. It was a good thing he was not the one actually controlling the carpet. The carpet slowed down and approached the guard tower where the arrow had come from. A young woman with striking, frizzy red hair and shockingly white skin came out of hiding carrying a massive longbow. She had a fierce look in her eyes as she leveled the bow toward them and drew back an arrow halfway and held it.

“Halt and declare yerself,” the woman said. “I cannae let you pass.” She had a thick accent and the posture of a warrior of some renown. Mulan sensed that the woman was used to people watching her, something Mulan was just starting to get used to.

Aladdin slowly maneuvered between the woman and his passengers. “Stand down Merrida,” he said. “You know me. It’s Aladdin. We just saw each other a little while ago.”

“Oh. Yer back from scouting too quick,” Merrida said, squinting a bit at Aladdin. “Can you blame me for getting a wee bit twitchy?”

“I guess not,” Aladdin said. “I’d probably be angrier if you had actually aimed for me.”

“Nae,” Merrida said coldly. “You wouldna feel a thing. You’d be dead.” Then she smiled and shrugged.

Aladdin smirked. “Tough talk,” he said. “I came back early because I spotted these two. One of them is injured.”

“Who do ye got there?” Merrida asked and Carpet rotated slowly to reveal Mulan and Shang.

“My name is Mulan,” she said. “This is Shang. He’s bleeding out. Please let us go.”

“If yer good with Aladdin here then yer good with me,” Merrida said. “Go on to the healers and give my best.” She relaxed her draw on the bow, un-nocked her arrow, and slipped back inside the tower without another word.

As soon as she was gone, Carpet floated over the fort’s walls and down toward a small building toward the rear. As they descended, there was shouting from below. Another white girl came rushing out of the building. She had light brown hair that was cut very short in a style that Mulan kind of wished she could adopt. The girl had big, beautiful eyes full of optimism even in grim surroundings.

“Get the injured inside and on a table!” the girl called out. “We need to stop the bleeding immediately. Bring bandages and herbs.” She clapped her hands and everybody started running around. Mulan and Aladdin helped carry Shang inside but then the short white girl pushed both of them back outside. Mulan fumed and was about to head back inside when Aladdin caught her by the arm. She almost took a swing at him but backed off.

“He’s in good hands with Rapunzel,” Aladdin said. “You’d do best keeping out of her way. I need to scrub the blood out of Carpet before I do anything else.”

“Who put you people in charge?” Mulan asked. She was still on edge and she was tired of having to trust absolute strangers in the midst of danger.

“We’re not in charge,” a young woman said, walking toward Mulan and Aladdin. She swept her hood back and Mulan could see that she was also white and had a long braid with a single shock of white hair running through it. Mulan had seen more white people on this day than she had seen during her entire life to date. Something very strange was going on even beyond the destruction of the palace and a strange gray army swarming over everything. “My name is Anna. We’re just trying to help out since the soldiers took us in. If you’re looking for who is in charge, that would be Lieutenant Yao.”

“My name is Fa Mulan,” she said. “Yao’s here? I know him. Where is he?”

“I can take you to him,” Anna said. “I’m sure he’d be glad to see a friend. We’ve been trying to help but this land is very foreign to us. It’s weird.”

Mulan shrugged. “It’s all I’ve ever known,” she said. “Lead me to Yao so we can start getting to the bottom of things.”

Media Update 7/9/20

July 9, 2020


Hamilton

Sometimes I felt like I was the only person on Earth who had not seen Hamilton. When it got popular, ticket prices started going up while availability started going down. I contented myself by just listening to the music. After all, the music is the heart and soul of the show. There are very few spoken words in the show. I was overjoyed to hear that Disney+ would be presenting a theatrical recording of the original Broadway production. It was something I went into knowing that I would love it but I was absolutely blown away. There were songs I sometimes skipped on the soundtrack which I absolutely loved. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s performance was, of course, fantastic but I had no idea how good Phillipa Soo, Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Groff, Leslie Odom Jr., Chris Jackson, and so many more were. The story and music are so good and it is a great story about deeply flawed people who were tasked with creating my country. For me, the show really lived up to all of the hype and then some. I will be writing a more spoilery piece for this coming Monday. I definitely recommend watching this show.


Beetlejuice: The Musical

(Fair notice: I watched a bootlegged copy of this filmed back when the show was in the Winter Garden Theatre). I had watched a short documentary piece on the show and I became absolutely intrigued by it. I love the original Beetlejuice made by Tim Burton. It’s a classic. However, I also really liked the animated television show which came quite a bit later. This show attempts to mix both with a modern rock musical. I think they were absolutely successful. They took the original plot of the movie and then they massaged in more heart and a storyline that is somehow darker but also funnier. The character of Beetlejuice is a dynamic, fourth-wall-breaking lunatic more or less how he is in the movie but way more energy. The big change is that the character of Lydia is given far more to do and gets to be more than just a vague goth girl. I really want to see the show live now. I would pay for it. I recommend this show as well.


Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

I was hesitant to watch a movie based on Eurovision because of their ludicrous decision to step in a mess by holding the event in Israel and trying to get rid of Palestinian protests. However, when I looked into things a bit, I found that it was about Iceland who courageously joined Palestinian protests and was penalized for it. The movie follows a man and a woman who desperately want to compete at Eurovision (played by Will Ferrell and Rachel MacAdams). The movie has all the weird charm associated with Eurovision with all of the over the top special effects, weird cultural references, and odd song choices. I only had a few problems with it. First, I was completely thrown off by the movie being set in 2020. Everything seemed to be time-warped back to the seventies or eighties or even the nineties but I was completely thrown by it being set in 2020 without it affecting the plot that much. The other is I would have liked the movie even better without Will Ferrell but he made the movie so that is impossible. The movie is still good goofy fun and embraces a very European flair and it is a love letter to Eurovision days gone by. I recommend it as well.

Music of the Week:
Dschinghis Khan – Moskau

Demi Lovato – I Love Me

LORDI – Your Tongue’s Got The Cat

Hamilton Mixtape – Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)

Daveed Diggs – Fresh From The Hood

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Musical Stories”
– I watched more Elementary Season 2
– I watched more Flash Season 6
– I watched more Watcher videos
– I watched more Supergirl Season 5
– I watched more Riverdale Season 4
– I watched more Rizzoli and Isles Season 4
– I watched more Legends of Tomorrow Season 5
– I watched more Supernatural Season 15
– I watched more Doom Patrol Season 1


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