Posted tagged ‘awful’

Drake’s Letter to Aaliyah – Letter Review

August 31, 2010

I know way too many people here right now who had songs on the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack. What am I doing?

Last week marks nine years since the death of sultry songstress Aaliyah. Moved by her body of work in life and in the years following her death, rapper Drake (AKA “Wheelchair Jimmy”) publicly expressed how much the singer meant to him in a way that touched some and offended others. He writes:

Dear Dana,

I’ve never lost a parent, a friend, or a lover but I will never forget this day for the rest of my life. I remember getting the news that you had passed and it connected with my heart like a clean shot from Muhammad Ali. I was crushed. Not only was I one of your biggest fans but I was truly in love with you. I loved the way you carried yourself, the way you dressed, the confidence with which you addressed passion and relationships in your music. I said to myself that even if we never met, I wanted a woman in my life just like you. I am pained that we will never get to connect now that music ended up being my career path. But you should know, we all listen to you everyday and we remain inspired and moved by all that you’ve given the world. I hope I make the right life choices so I can end up in heaven where I know you rest your head. I’ll continue to make music in your honor until the day we finally meet. Dinner’s on me!

Love you always and forever,

Drake

Right off the bat he addresses the the R&B Princess posthumously by her middle name ‘Dana.’ Now remember that this kid never met Aaliyah once during his life, and was all of 14-years-old when she died, but feels intimate enough with her to address her by a name that she was never once referred to by any public figure. Balls. He goes on to express that he’s never had to deal with the concept or reality of death at any point in his life, so we might as well be reading Drake’s letter about his time playing water polo with dinosaurs in space. Yes, the death of a celebrity he’s never had any interaction with or connection to is the absolute worst thing to ever happen to Drake in his life, and he’s about to tell us about it.

Or is he?

The next line, where Drake actually uses the word “like” in a simile, suggests someone else may have written it for him. If you’ve ever heard a Drake song, you know he’s somehow incapable of using this word and instead substitutes it with a dramatic pause. (SIMULATED DRAKE LYRIC: “Haters be all up in my ass (dramatic pause) colon / they need to get up off my dick (dramatic pause) foreskin”) Lucky for us, we’re soon reassured Drake’s holding the pen by his hyperbolic high-school heart hemorrhaging the sentence “I was truly in love with you.” At the risk of sounding cheesy, Drake fell for the girl on TV. He then states how his inner-turmoil for never having an Aaliyah to his own is compounded now that’s he’s wound up in the music industry. This is followed by him adding a royal touch by suddenly jumping to the first-person plural perspective, stating “we all listen to you everyday and we remain inspired and moved by all that you’ve given the world.” I know age ain’t nothin’ but a number, but I’m pretty sure most would agree that numbers are, in fact, numbers. So either Drake is suggesting both he and Aaliyah’s ghost are still listening, inspired and moved by HER OWN MUSIC or he’s returning to the writing device that can now only be referred to as “Drakeperbole.”

Aren't you that somebody from the wheelchair from that kids' show?

The letter closes by proving Drake really thinks he’s (that?) somebody. He states with no real certainty or confidence that he hopes he “made the right life choices” so that he could end up in a lower-case “heaven” (must be the generic off-brand afterlife) where he knows she is. He then dedicates the rest of his career to her and asks her, CEO Dame Dash’s dead fiancee, to dinner. Again, balls. Not only does Drake believe that when he’s truly so far gone he’ll wind up somewhere that isn’t a proper noun BUT it’s a place where even despite his celebrity he’s expected to pay for food.

Best I Never Met.

While the sentiment is strong, the numerous errors and overindulgence within the letter really takes away from any beyond-the-grave quality or impact it might have. Furthermore, it’s troubling that this letter is eerily similar to one I wrote to early 20th-century bluesman Blind Willie McTell earlier this year:

Dear Bill,

I’ve never lost a parent, but I have lost grandparents, close friends, a choir teacher, a gerbil, a hamster, and a beta fish. Still, I will never forget the day I found out you died twenty-six years before I was born. I remember getting the news that you had been very dead for a long time and it burned me like a George Foreman Grill. I was smushed. Not only was I one of your biggest fans but I would use your name as an inarguable trump card when hooking up with guitar-enthusiast music snob girls in college. I loved the way you carried yourself, the way you dressed, the confidence with which you addressed beating your triflin’ woman in your music. I said to myself that even if we never met, I wanted a woman in my life to know her southern can belonged to me. I am pained that we will never get to connect now that music ended up being what I’ve convinced my former high school classmates I’m doing with my life. But you should know, we all listen to you everyday and we remain inspired and moved by all that you’ve given the world. I hope I make the right life choices so I can end up with you where the good lord sends women down. I’ll continue to make music in your honor until the day we finally meet. Hope you like Taco Bell!

Yours in dated misogyny,

Chaz

We give Drake’s Letter to Aaliyah a Two out of Five

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

Silent Witness: the Untold Story of Terri Schiavo’s Death – Book Review

July 27, 2010

CAN I GET A 'WITNESS?'

This morning, while visiting home, I decided to accompany my Mother on her trip to her car dealership in order to repair a broken taillight. While in the customer lounge, I decided to check out the inaptly named “Dealership Library” that had over fifteen (15) books to choose from. Many of these were histories of Minnesota, odes to old people, fishing explorations, etc. Yet, one book called out to me. On top of a pile of World War I history books was Silent Witness: the Untold Story of Terri Schiavo’s Death by Mark Fuhrman. You might remember him as the N-bomb dropping detective of the OJ Simpson trial who was convicted of perjury. What you may not remember is that, following his felony, he wrote the national bestseller Murder in Brentwood, which aimed to clear his name regarding fabricating evidence during the trial and made the case Simpson was guilty. He followed-up a few years later with Murder in Greenwich a book explaining his theory that Ethel Kennedy’s nephew Michael Skakel was behind the then-unsolved 1975 murder of 15-year-old Kennedy family member Martha Moxley. With Skakel’s successful conviction four years later, Fuhrman returned with the less accusatory Death and Justice where he, as a former Capital Punishment advocate, made the case for our justice system being far too (as he put it) “flimsy” to allow such final judgment. This recent turn set the stage for him to make his definitive “life > death” opus, and six-months later he found his muse in the form of a braindead bodydead Terri Schiavo. I had to read.

In under 300 pages, Fuhrman makes the case that not only was Schiavo cognoscente at the time of her death, but she was on the path to telling us the identity of her real m-m-m-murderer…her husband Michael Schiavo! The thing you need to remember about Silent Witness is that it came out literally three months after she died, so not only have many of his claims been disproved, but the entire affair reads rushed, even by courthouse cash-in standards. This is a book where, no less than one chapter in, we’re greeted with sentences like “After four days being deprived of food and hydration, Terri is described by her father as appearing lethargic and stressed.” And it only gets worse.

Reading Silent Witness made me feel dirty, and not in the way Fuhrman would like. It’s crash journalism at its absolute worst as he tries to fear-monger the reader into believing our country as a whole is complacent in letting Michael Schiavo force a woman to starve to death in the public eye. While Chapter 12 Possible Scenarios concludes with Fuhrman stating that while he doesn’t particularly like Mr. Schiavo, it doesn’t necessarily mean he killed his wife, he spends the book’s other 271 pages on a non-stop smear campaign against the man. We learn he proposed to Terri after only their second date, would have pissing contests (in the most literal sense) with the male members of his family in front of her, was often unemployed, was merely a McDonald’s manager while Terri was racking up the big bucks at Prudential, *may* have once asked Terri to change her hair color, and (according to Terri’s unbiased parents, the Schlinders) was prone to argue. Fuhrman isn’t merely grabbing at straws here, he’s driving a haunted hayride. With the cause of Terri’s initial collapse on February, 25 1990 still unknown, we’re given the slight discrepancies in three instances of Michael’s recounting the events (Did he get out of bed right away? Did he call 911 right when he saw her, or after he sat down?) as proof he’s a liar and possible murderer. Fuhrman writes “the reason he has so much trouble keeping his story straight is that it’s based on a falsehood necessitated by guilt.” In the aforementioned Possible Scenarios chapter, Fuhrman claims the reason there were no signs of a struggle in her oxygen deprevation is because Michael put her in the throat-avoiding “Million Dollar Dream” sleeperhold before leaving her face down on the ground until he was certain she would be brain damaged enough to obtain her (Chapter 7’s namesake) Money, Sex and Power.

MURDARAH?!?!?!

It’s a disgusting book on several levels. While Schiavo’s potassium issues would maybe warrant a look into the possibility that she was bulimic, Fuhrman (I’m not making this up) often bases his theories on that, at the time of collapse, she had “a very bad yeast infection.” Surely when Sean Hannity asked him to write this book, he wasn’t anticipating a tabloid-esqe “Schiavo Fiasco: The Home Game!” Even beyond these frequent lapses of anything resembling good taste, Fuhrman’s writing is some mad scientist’s pretentious-juvenile frankenstyle hybrid. After stating that Michael doesn’t remember what he and his wife were fighting about the day before the accident, he actually wrote “I would find this highly coincidental. If I believed in coincidences.” Not only is the second sentence not even a complete thought, but an actual detective is casting doubt on the existence of “coincidences.” Not “fate,” not “divine intervention,” no Fuhrman is denying a concrete concept that can be proven an infinite number of times in favor of sounding like a Fox News-syndicated episode of The O.C. Silent Witness is an atrocious testament to scapegoat poaching human greed and despite numerous unintentionally hilarious moments, makes a poor addition to any car dealership’s library.

We give Silent Witness: the Untold Story of Terri Schiavo’s Death a One out of Five.

So until next time…let’s agree to agree.

“Macho Man” Randy Savage’s Rap Career – The Definitive Guide

May 17, 2010

Randy Savage's Rap Album. Yes, this is a thing.

In retrospect, 2003 was a pretty important year for Hip-Hop. Over one 12-month span we had the debuts of 50 Cent and Kanye West, the utter domination of Roc-a-Fella as Jay-Z’s biggest retirement pushed him into a new level of superstardom, indie labels like Rhymesayers and Definitive Jux finally landing releases in the Billboard 200 and Outkast releasing the certified diamond Speakerboxxx/The Love Below the only rap album ever to win a Grammy*. A midst this hoopla, however, one commercial wound up cutting through the Hip-Hop soundscape like a hot chainsaw through Slim Jims:

Yes, a year after necrophilia sufficiently ended the wrestling “boom,” former grappling great “Macho Man” Randy Savage was set to release Be A Man, a rap album. The man had most recently been seen as “Bonesaw McGraw” in Sam Raimi’s Spiderman, so his mainstream presence seemed just enough to make maybe a book a novelty rap album seem like a worthwhile investment. With Big 3 Records (Carnie Wilson, Stryper) at the helm, Earth was set to become the first planet in the galaxy to host a Randy Savage rap album. However, Randy’s rap debut was in actuality a decade earlier…

Speaking From the Heart (1993):

Produced by “American Idol’s” Simon Cowell (not a joke) “Speaking From the Heart” was the first single off of Wrestlemania: The Album, a roster-wide musical endeavor that also boasted a Bret Hart ballad and an Undertaker disco endeavor. Here, not unlike the recording of the final Doors album, Savage seemingly has his rambling about planets or whatever edited and matched to an original composition giving the single some semblance of a song. It’s completely non-sensical, although if you listen closely to Savage’s promises to “be with you when it happens” and “climb that mountain together” it’s clear the song is him comforting his loved one at an abortion clinic. There’s also an accompanying music video that omits half of Savage’s second verse as Vince McMahon was probably wary of the ‘MATCH-O’ Man infringing copyrights left and right.

Randy Savage Gets 50 Cent’s Co-Sign:

A decade later this happened. The media blitz began and soon every media outlet across all age brackets was alive with the sound of Savage. From Nickelodeon to BET and everywhere in between Be A Man was about to snap into your psyche. I remember sneaking over to rap websites my senior year of high school with the sound off during Journalism class, only to have the Macho Man pop-up TURN THE SOUND BACK ON and echo throughout the computer lab a reminder that “Ooooooooh yeah, head over to MachoMan.com and check out my new CD!” Truly this was an event that everyone, including Dr. Kay, had to know about. Finally on October 7th, 2003 the fateful day arrived and since this was the week I was taking part in the National Youth Leadership Council, I had to do my part as one of the America’s top young minds and invest in its glory.

Be a Man (2003):

The title track and first single, “Be A Man” was Randy Savage putting one-time wrestling and all-time real life rival Hulk Hogan on blast in a dis record that would be scathing had its existence not been so absurd. While his actual reasons for wanting to “kick him in the butt and wash his mouth out with soap” are vague, claiming he cussed out the Senior Savage over the phone or refused to actually fight him for charity, Savage let his seething anger become the focal point of the album’s entire promotional campaign. A friend of mine went to Savage’s album signing at Minnesota’s Mall of America around this time and casually mentioned he liked the episode of “Baywatch” Savage was in. Randy half-mumbled replied “Yeah…too bad Hogan was in it.”

Hit the Floor (2003):

Unlike most rap albums of the posse-heavy post-No Limit era, the Be A Man’s sole guest appearance came from DJ Kool of “Let Me Clear My Throat” fame. The Lil Jon of his time, Kool was known for yelling all over other people’s records and therefore making them better. Here he and Macho go totally insane and, honestly, get the party started. Perhaps what’s most surprising about Be A Man is how adequate-to-passable Savage’s rapping is. Songs like “I’m Back” and “Remember Me” (where he reveals and breaks down the “MACHO MAN” acronym) are self-aware, well produced and about as good as something like this could be. He’s rapping about all the wrestling he’s done, how much he loves rapping and how he’s a ‘butt kicking’ wrestling rapper. When he deviates from this path is where things begin to get awkward. Case in point this LL Cool J-esqe next number.

What’s It All About (2003):

By now I’m certain my female readership is (understandably) wondering what a romantic relationship with Randy Savage would be like. Well if “What’s It All About” is any indication “the feeling’s deep, come home, make love and fall fast asleep.” My personal favorite cut, I challenge all of you who’ve never heard it to roundup everyone in the workplace and play this song see how long you can last without exploding in laughter. If you make it past the female appearance at 2:02, you’re a more Macho Man than I.

Perfect Friend (2003):

Closing the album is Savage’s tribute to my biological father his close friend Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig. Co-written by his brother Lanny ‘the Genius’ Poffo, “Perfect Friend” seems genuine, heartfelt and poignant. At least it does in comparison to Hulk Hogan’s obscenely self-indulgent “Hulkster in Heaven,” a song about a Make-a-Wish Foundation child whose name Hogan neglects in favor of mentioning his own several more times. Also, unlike any of Hogan’s music, “Perfect Friend” wound up having an impact on the pop charts when an interpolation of it reappeared three years later as a Justin Timberlake song.

Randy Savage Garden

Despite being critically acclaimed, Be A Man wound up moving only 3,000 units and went quietly out-of-print within a year of its release. Savage has yet to return to rapping, but with Lil Wayne’s recent obsession with the man it’s clear he can’t leave rap alone, the game needs him**.

We Give Be A Man a SLIM JIM! ART THOU BORED? SNAP INTO IT!

So until next time…Let’s Agree to Agree!

*LAURYN HILL DOESN’T COUNT!

**BONUS BEAT – A remix of Kanye West’s “Champion” completely comprised of Randy Savage quotes.

B.O.B. “The Adventures of Bobby Ray” – Album Review

May 4, 2010

WARNING: album will turn your iPod into a house of lies.

What is it about rap music that strikes fear into the hearts of music fans and record labels right now? While there seems to be a steady flow of rap releases every year, it seems the actual time spent “rapping” on them has been declining. It’s not a matter of guest appearances from R&B singers like the over-collaborative late-90s, rather rappers seem to be doing everything but rapping in order to help their rap record find an audience. Is the market for a straight-forward rap album just not there, or in this apocalyptic age of an everything-has-to-sell mentality are rap labels not comfortable enough with the rap audience being won over by a rap sheet of just rapping? Case in point, The Adventures of Bobby Ray the depressingly disappointing debut from Atlanta rapper B.O.B.

B.O.B. rose to prominence in summer 2007 off a string of mixtapes that made it seem like he was the rightful heir to the Outkast throne. For all the love Andre3000 gets (and rightfully so) for being one of the best rappers on the planet right now, it’s easy to forget that from 2004-2006 his “I-think-I’m-Prince” output was irredeemably awful*. So at a time when most of us were “kinda sour cause our favorite group ain’t comin’ with it,” B.O.B. appeared not as a poor imitation, but rather a heavily influenced artist who was now carving his own niche with songs like “Daddy” and “Sing My Song” that not only were great rap songs, but packed enough personality and seemed catchy enough to crossover to any audience. Then, he signed to Atlantic**. While early releases like “Grip Your Body” and others still showed tremendous promise, they were not an accurate indication of The Adventures of Bobby Ray’s 2010 release.

No relation.

The album is 48 minutes of “hey everybody, please like me.” While B.O.B. has shown an interest and talent in branching out from just rapping in the past, such as his B.O.B. vs. Bobby Ray mixtape that split the tracklisting evenly between rapping and singing, the presentation here just sounds contrived. The soundscape is heavily over-produced, the spaced-out singy-songy delivery is redundant and the guest list is one of the most blatant attempts at pandering I’ve ever seen. Joining B.O.B. are people who haven’t been interesting in a decade (Eminem, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer) and the people who are “interesting” in the most uninteresting ways (Lupe Fiasco, Janelle Monet). Many cite B.O.B.’s own musical fandom as the excuse reasoning, but if he were a real fan wouldn’t he know that not since 1996 has even Rivers Cuomo sounded interested in Rivers Cuomo?

The main reason why The Adventures of Bobby Ray fails as a rap album is how little rapping there is on it. Granted, the response to this is the same as Kid Cudi’s contingent who claim his is “not a rap album” as if there’s some sort of critic-proof forcefield that surfaces the second a rapper decides he knows how to sing. B.O.B. made a name for himself as a rapper, promoted this release as a rap album and it’s catagorized in the rap section. If it doesn’t walk like a duck or quack like a duck, why would you sell me such an awful duck?

They say that he's changing, cause he's getting famous.

I’m all for experimentation in music, but what the post-Gnarls generation of rappers fail to realize is that the greatest creative achievements come from what’s done within certain limits, not what’s done with no limits***. The disarming “Lovelier Than You,” a very genuine straight-forward sing-along, is great and would have worked perfectly as an endearing breather moment surrounded by actual rap songs. The fact that the album ends with it, “5th Dimension” (with worthwhile spacey non-sequitors) and “Airplanes Part 2” (where Eminem kicks the same ‘what if I never blew up’ verse he’s kicked for six years now, but this is one of the best times he’s done it so it works), the three strongest songs on the album, heavily devalues the rest of the album with each re-listen. While The Adventures of Bobby Ray might attract some audiences looking for a spaced-out existential singing endeavor, as a rap record it’s a dubious failure that should be banished to where the Idlewild things are.

We Give The Adventures of Bobby Ray a Two Out of Five

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

*A vivid memory of the 2006 Tower Records liquidation sale was, on the final day, the rows and rows of unsold Idlewild CDs next to as many copies of the Held Up soundtrack. The fact that a group whose previous effort moved ten million copies couldn’t get people to buy their new record for $1.00 is a testament to how wretchedly awful that album is.

**Not unlike Jive Records, Atlantic has proven completely inept time and time again with breaking new rap talent. While they have had success with TI and others who had already debuted on other labels and had the A&R work done for them, the streets are littered with everyone from Little Brother to Apathy that they clearly had no idea what to do with.

***Except, of course, for what’s done with No Limit Records. Those results are often bout it bout it.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine – One Year Later

April 30, 2010

Genesis 18:20

During his 1817 visit to Florence, Italy, French author Henri-Marie Beyel fell victim to a psychosomatic illness now known as Stendahl Syndrome. Characterized by fainting, catatonia and intense hallucinations triggered by being overwhelmed by art, it is believed to be the result of a literal sensory overload. With the majority of the outbreaks happening in Florence where works are particularly lush and plentiful, one could make the argument their art having such an impact the highest compliment an artist could receive. But what about when a work of art causes an overtly negative reaction that pushes its viewers to the absolute limit causing a passionate outburst of violent anger? So was the opening night screening of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, or as actor Steven Trolinger put it, “the worst thing that has ever happened.”

It’s hard to believe one year has passed since the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, henceforth referred to as The Events of 5/1. Before we continue, I’d like to point out that I absolutely do not care in the slightest about a film’s faithfulness to its source material. While my familiarity with the Marvel Universe is above-average, I can recognize that comics and film are both different mediums and can divorce the merits of one when evaluating the other. My loathing for this film isn’t because I feel some nostalgic loyalty, but rather because it is an absolute abomination on every imaginable level.

Leviticus 18:25.

For every hyperbolic critique people tend to lob at a movie, this was perhaps the first time that all of them were true. Most glaringly, there was no plot. No story. At all. Some of you reading this now may remember thinking the “movie” was “OK,” “wasn’t that bad” or that you even “liked it.” Well riddle me this, what was the “movie” about? I challenge you, in once sentence, to describe The Events of 5/1. The whole 82 minute running time is an attention-deficit fueled* experiment in human endurance. Don’t get it twisted, I love a good summer blockbuster shiny-go-boomy movie as much as the next real American, but if I’m going to turn my brain off I don’t need it pried from my skull.

“Director” Gavin Hood is the “film’s” cinematic angel of death. His inept handling of The Events of 5/1 seems to almost be intentional. Either that, or he has perhaps never seen a motion picture before and doesn’t understand how they work. Evidence for this is seen in an overhead shot of a character looking to the sky and screming “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” happening no less than FOUR (4) times in the film. Even what would be the film’s highlight, the opening scene of Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds, some truly inspired casting) smart-mouthing a room full of soon dead bad guys, becomes inverted into one of the film’s greatest flaws as we don’t see the character for another seventy minutes until he returns with his mouth sown shut and everything endearing about the character removed.

Psalms 7:14

But the silver lining in the F-5 funnel cloud that was The Events of 5/1 was seeing it opening night in New York City and, for the first time, seeing an entire audience turn on a “film.” Even with the bootleg leaking over a month prior** the entire theater was sold out and packed into Union Square like chickens in a slaughterhouse. The first five minutes seemed fine, heroic action was cheered and one-liners were repeated with the word “bitch” added to the end, all-in-all a typical opening night Manhattan screening. But then, the first “NOOOOOOOO” happen and the audience stared in dumbfounded silence. Were we not in on some joke? Ten minutes later, serious revelations were met with laughter, moments of heartbreak were heckled and action sequences were met with outright groans. Yes, it was that bad and this summer movie “opening weekend” audience knew it. It got so bad that when the credits rolled, the audience (and I swear to gosh this happened) rose to their feet and BOO’ed the movie while pelting the screen with garbage. There was no smattering of applause as rows of disenchanted moviegoers cleared the theater row-by-row with heads hung like a Catholic funeral. When it came time for the bonus scene at the end of the credits, I optimistically yelled from the balcony “HANG ON EVERYBODY, THIS IS GOING TO REDEEM EVERYTHING!” not anticipating that us remaining moviegoers were to be subjected to the absolute worst most hackneyed written moment of dialogue in the history of cinema. The audience boo’ed again, and we all went out separate ways in order to drink to forget.

1 Kings 21:20

With it still having an impressive weekend and Fox hoping to make a sequel and several spinoffs, some are clamoring for a reboot of the franchise. I disagree as, living in a world where X-Men Origins: Wolverine was made and released, I think we need a reboot of humanity as a whole. It’s important that we never forget the Events of 5/1 or else we are doomed to repeat them. Just as the Bush Administration will be defined by 9/11, Obama’s legacy will be that of letting The Events of 5/1 happen under his watch. I attempted to find a copy of the film to listen to the director’s commentary, hoping there would be some explanation for letting such an atrocity take place, but it’s been stripped from all the copies at rental outlets and only made available through the deluxe $34.99 Blu-Ray edition of the film and I flat-out refuse to contribute any more to their evil empire.

We Give X-Men Origins: Wolverine aka The Events of 5/1 a Zero Out of Five

Until next time…let’s agree to agree!

*Realistically speaking, if there was a fuel for the film it would be some mixture of Surge, Red Bull and the liquid at the bottom of the ham in your Lunchables.

**A bootleg which, in all honesty, is a superior cut if only for using the scores of The Dark Knight and Transformers in place of Harry Gregson-Williams’ series of noises.

Kick Ass – Movie Review

April 19, 2010

Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire

Kick Ass is the story of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson, Shanghai Nights), an awkward high school senior who, out of sheer teenage impulse, becomes a masked vigilante “superhero” named ‘Kick Ass’ that winds up in the middle of an actual hero’s conflict with New York’s biggest drug cartel. A shot at post-modernist hero lore, the film attempts to posture itself outside of traditional comic book movies by basing the character in a more “realistic” portrayal of New York City. The film’s R-Rating allows it to ground this reality in keeping the action sequences gun-centric and the dialogue four-letter friendly. Bad guys die, good guys get hurt, both sides cuss and the citizens watch it all unfold on YouTube. Yet, for a film so specific on what its aims are, the results are vague, plodding and genuinely unentertaining.

The film’s become something of an internet meme after film critic and Twitter enthusiast Roger Ebert panned it on the inherit morality (or lack thereof) of Kick Ass’ fellow superhero ‘Hit Girl’ (Chloe Moretz, Big Momma’s House 2), an eleven-year-old who exercises her itchy trigger-finger and rapidfire foulmouth just about every time she is onscreen. Raised and trained by her father ‘Big Daddy’ (Nicolas Cage, Face/Off) a framed policeman looking to bring down the corrupt system that sent him to prison and caused his wife’s suicide, at no point is the concept of vigilante justice or its consequences discussed between the two of them. While its absence isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there’s still a void that doesn’t explain where they go from wanting retribution to foregoing proper justice to “kill everyone now.” Both performances are great, particularly Cage who seems to be the only one aware of the sheer ludicrousness of the film he’s in and, to coin a phrase, “Cages Out” – maximizing all of his over-the-top acting abilities and holding the audience’s hand as we walk through an otherwise barren cinematic wasteland together.

As someone who grew up on Mortal Kombat and Rap Music, there’s just about nothing I love more than profanity and violence. When either is taken to the extreme in a jovial expression of one-upsmanship, the inherent hilarity is a feast for the senses and a triumph of human achievement. That being said, explicit language and violence is only as strong as the conviction behind it. Even if that conviction is just to be the most violent, profane thing ever, that’s still a valid reason to go to a particular extreme. Kick Ass director Matthew Vaughn gives us a preteen girl who jumps, jives and wails a relatively-plausible arsenal and drops s-,f-, and c-bombs without batting a glittery eyelash. I find it painfully disinteresting and not because I’m offended, but rather because I’m underwhelmed. As a New York High School teacher, I’ve seen kids who were more violent and vulgar than anything on-screen in Kick Ass and honestly significantly more entertaining. The problem with Hit Girl is that Vaughn thinks having a cutesy eleven-year-old girl who swears and kills is enough to make a character work and it honestly isn’t*. A good starting point, yes, but for two hours he does nothing with her. Compare that to the three on-screen minutes of Kill Bill‘s “Gogo” and you get everything you would hope for from Hit Girl in a fortieth of the time.

A midst the misfires, the film does reach a few goals exceedingly well. Dave’s pulsating teenage hormones guide the him through the teenage lust for classmate Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) and the awkward tension before finally sliding into second base is among the best handled I’ve seen on-screen. Fonseca really nails the subtle aspects of walking the line between “I’m concerned for my boyfriend’s health” and “I’m awesomely hooking-up with the local celebrity” Also shining is Superbad‘s Christopher Mintz-Plasse who shows the darker elements of the rich loner awkward kid, a much-different side of the same roles he and his ilk have been coasting in since their debuts. But such a talented cast firing on all cylinders just makes the flaccid final film all the more frustrating.

"Let's say you're a big fan of the original comic book, and you think the movie does it justice. You know what? You inhabit a world I am so very not interested in." - Roger Ebert

Vaughn’s biggest misstep with Kick-Ass is that he’s trying to make sure so many elements of the film’s story seem like they could take place in real-life, but attempts to propel the film with a fantasy comic-book energy that, as a result, doesn’t exist. You can’t have your Layer Cake and eat it too. Regardless the source-material or genre, a motion picture requires at least one complete thought, even if that thought is “Let’s have a bunch of stuff blow up so sexy people can look back at it and say something funny.” Kick Ass lacks the momentum to even let me turn my brain off and just revel in the carnage. By trying to define itself so much by what it’s not, Kick Ass forgets to tell us what it is over the course of two un-engaging hours where nothing happens. It’s baffling a film can do so little with so much and as a fan of foul-mouthed on-screen brutalities, I’m offended.

We give Kick Ass a Two out of Five

So until next time…Let’s Agree to Agree!

*And the fact that she does it to THIS SONG makes it all the more cringe-worthy.

MY FAVORITE NUTZOIDS: Sylvia Browne!

March 22, 2010

My Spiritual Predecessor.

This is the first entry in a new series here at Popular Opinions called My Favorite Nutzoids where I will be covering the goofballs, wackos and weirdies that make the internet such a wonderful place. As you know, this world’s full of some incredible people with captivating stories to share. Coincidentally, it’s also full of people who are awful. People who’ve not only failed at awesomeness but refused to settle for mediocrity and shifted into full blown awfulness. Fortunately for us, said awfulness has been captured on video and archived forever and ever right here on the internet. Our first Nutzoid – famed “psychic” Sylvia Browne.

Ghastly Windbag Sylvia Browne

I’ve never taken issue with psychics the way most have. From Miss Cleo to medium John Edwards, they’ve suckered the sad and desperate into a magic world they can believe in. The branding of their ilk as “Psychics” lends them a credibility that has made folks who should have known better assume that they’re talking with an authority on their own future. It’s incredibly parasitic but really just equates to a time-killing parlor trick that some people take too seriously. The Psychic friends and family plan has always noted their advice is “for entertainment purposes only,” thus I’ve never faulted them so much as the people who ascribe to them and still believe Marilyn Manson is the rib-removing auto-fillating puppy-killing Paul from “The Wonder Years.” You might as well be mad at strippers for not loving you.

This book contains a 'Map of Heaven.' No, seriously.

Sylvia Browne, however, is of a different breed. When merely convincing others that she can communicate with voices from beyond the grave* just wasn’t cutting it, she decided to go as far as to contribute her unsolicited predictions to law enforcement officials and grieving parents around the world. It’s not enough to simulate hope or, worst-case scenario, help a deluded soul find peace. She wants to be known as a modern prophet, as THE medium between Heaven and Earth. I first discovered her about five years ago when a friend of mine was going through a rough loss of a loved one and she had Browne’s book Life On the Other Side in clear view and told me it was helping her out. If you’ve never seen it, it’s not made to look like a mystic or enchanted book of secrets, but masquerades as a legitimate self-help grief counseling book. So you can imagine my surprise when I flipped through a few pages and found that the book contain an “actual” Map of Heaven. Seriously. She drew up a map of Heaven and published it under something other than “a bunch of stuff I just made up for fun.” That’s loopy enough, but THEN, a few months later, these clips here happened:

Hopefully you watched both clips to gauge what a despicable entity this toad of a woman is. You saw in the first clip how she “doesn’t care” what the autopsy said as if to serve these grieving parents some enlightened truth. That’s awful on all cylinders. But then to claim the second woman’s husband DROWNED on 9/11! That’s something not even the conspiracy theorists who believe the US Government crashed two Gyradoses into the Twin Towers would believe. There’s so many telling things in these clips. Look at how immediately dejected and dissatisfied the inquirers are. Revel in how Montel Williams, a human being so boring most scientists consider him not a solid but a gas who talks, attempts to excuse this pushy broad’s unbudging communications into thinking they’re in any way accurate. Gawk at how this woman, in the face of the most blinding inaccuracies, maintains her correctness. And that’s just when she’s been proven wrong. Look at the liberties she takes when mortality has already silenced any possible disagreements:

Watch the way she croaks out “Youknowthisisrealyhardtotellyouyourfatherisnotyourfather.” She’s an obnoxious classless rhinoceros mercilessly charging the worst kind of disgusting pretentiousness toward any listening ears. The worst part of it all is that she preys on the most sympathetic of audiences and she’s not even a good guesser. Her most infamous moment came two years ago when she told the parents of kidnapped child Shawn Hornbeck that not only was their child dead, but described in great detail how it happened and where the body is. Four years later, Hornbeck was found ALIVE AND WELL and said firsthand how NOTHING in Browne’s reading was remotely close to right. Behold:

(make sure you have annotataions on)

Would writing that she’s the worst woman alive be slanderous? No, because print is libel. Would it be libelous? Well, let’s take a look at things from her publicist’s perspective. Here, the homie Anderson Cooper examines just about ALL of Browne’s most (self-)championed victories. In consideration of Browne’s credibility, consider this the 360 finishing move:

Now that we’ve heard from all sides of the issue, I think we can agree she is an unrelentingly irredeemable human being. An unholy amalgamation of Dionne Warwick and Jabba the Hut, she personifies everything wrong with the psychic movement and liars in general. She is arguably Western Civilization’s least-redeeming modern abomination and is further proof that all that glitters isn’t Browne. The verdict: Sylvia Browne is a Nutzoid.

As a human being we give Sylvia Brown a One Out of Five.

Until next time…let’s agree to agree!

*And from the looks of her, it looks like she can communicate with those from beyond the gravy AMIRITE?