The Word June 2013
THIS ISSUE: Man of Steel
World War Z
And Much More â€Ś
Table of Contents Movie Review: ‘Man of Steel’ (Philip Price) …. 3 Movie Review: ‘This is the End’ (Philip Price) …. 6 Movie Review: ‘World War Z’ (Philip Price) …. 9 Movie Review: ‘Now You See Me’ (Philip Price) …. 11 Celebrating Fourth of July with Mr. Smith, Yankee Doodle Dandy (Julian Spivey) …. 13 The Voice is Broken (And It’s Mostly Blake Shelton’s Fault) (Julian Spivey) … 15 Matt Smith’s Departure from ‘Doctor Who’ Will Leave Gaping Hole in Time, Space (Julian Spivey) … 17 Miss Utah Proves Beauty Without Brains Is Not Very Beautiful (Julian Spivey) … 19 Over-Bingewatching: A Different Kind of Bingewatching (Aprille Hanson) … 20 Album Review: ‘Random Access Memories’ by Daft Punk (Philip Price) … 22 Album Review: ‘Wrote a Song for Everyone’ by John Fogerty (Julian Spivey) … 24 John Fogerty’s 10 Greatest Lyrics (Julian Spivey) … 25 Blaspheming Yeezus (or How Everybody’s Got to Have Somebody to Look Down On) (Julian Spivey) … 29 Natalie Maines: 10 Years After … 30 Song Reviews (Aprille Hanson & Julian Spivey) … 32 Book Review: ‘The Time Keeper’ by Mitch Albom (Aprille Hanson) … 35
Edited by Julian Spivey Additional Editing by Aprille Hanson
Note: All of these pieces were previously published on thewordwebzine.webs.com
Movies Man of Steel By Philip Price
To first put my perspective of Superman in check would be to inform you of what I've seen before. There are, of course, the first two Christopher Reeve movies (I skipped out on ‘III’ and ‘IV’ simply because I've heard nothing but terrible things) from which I moved onto Bryan Singer's 2006 “Superman Returns.” I enjoyed the romanticism and meditation of that film despite it now being panned by pretty much any fan boy you talk to. I've never seen an episode of "Smallville" and sans for a couple of animated features my knowledge of the DC mainstay is somewhat limited. Thus, it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to a new vision, a re-booted film interpretation in line with Christopher Nolan's ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy that has defined the space that films based on DC comics characters will occupy in this Marvel world. Personally, and as much as I enjoy the Marvel movies, I was more intrigued and engaged by the bleak and more serious moods that hung over the Nolan films as they were appropriate to the central character’s tone. Though I was slightly concerned with this same tone not applying to the guy commonly referred to as the ultimate boy scout, it seems that persona was not always true and director Zack Snyder along with Nolan as a producer and David Goyer (who also penned the screenplay for “Batman Begins”) have adapted the Superman story to not only exist in a similar universe with Nolan's Batman films, but within his own, more realistic world that doesn't simply pit the classic superhero against a bad guy in order to champion truth, justice and the American way. What they have done here and what makes me appreciate the film all the more is that while keeping in step with the kind of movies Nolan has made DC could attempt a Justice League movie in the future with this as a good place to start, but it also doesn't limit itself to that same completely realistic world of what we know because Superman is an alien and with that they ask the question of what would happen in a real world setting if Superman were to show up. It is that basic set-up that guides the film throughout and, despite a few flaws, had me gushing with excitement for what may come next. While the original Christopher Reeve movie took the time in setting up Krypton and the how and why of Kal-El being sent to Earth they immediately took up the mantle that as an adult Clark Kent he was destined to work at the Daily Planet and fall for Lois Lane because that is what the comics said. I'm not going to be comparing “Man of Steel” to the original 1978 “Superman” the entire time to feel as if I've given a more accurate rating, but that was one of the issues I took with the Richard Donner film. What I immensely enjoyed about Snyder's movie was the eagerness to want to justify everything that happened to Kal-El (Henry Cavill) and in his life that provides an explanation as to how these now standard elements of the Superman story came to be in the first place which in turn make this as true an origin story as one could hope for.
Beginning on Krypton this is not simply a paint by the numbers story that goes from section to section as if it feels obligated, but instead creates an entire world. Itâ€™s an expansive place we come to know not because of the time spent there, but because of the attention to costume design, to set decoration, to the technology used and even the way of life that leads to a completely justifiable explanation our villain gives near the end of the film that was minor in the way I didn't expect, didn't necessarily need, but made sense and I appreciated the people behind this for digging that deep into it. The opening set piece that includes Russell Crowe as Jor-El and Antje Traue as Faora-El sets up reasoning behind such things as the large "S" on Superman's chest let alone his entire suit. It gives us a nice dose of action having Crowe do more than Marlon Brando would have ever committed to and introducing the antagonist in an expertly crafted manner that sets up for the inevitable final showdown between he and Superman. There is more at stake here than simply needing to extend his military ranking, General Zod (Michael Shannon) sees it as his destiny and has been programmed to ensure that Krypton survives. While that too is Kal-El's home he has become such an equal member of earth there is justification for why he fights so hard for our planet, a sentiment echoed many times by Crowe's Jor-El. In what was likely my favorite part of the film (and I hope multiple viewings confirm this) it is once we reach Earth and the fact Goyer and Snyder didn't feel it necessary to tell Clark Kent's story in a chronological order that was both surprising and refreshing. Instead we jump straight to the adult Kent in which Cavill is never given much to say, but is more than able to convey the conflict his character is feeling and how that influences every choice he makes. It would be easy to joke around about how many times Clark comes into contact with life or death situations throughout his life, but we are simply looking at snapshots that flow through his brain as reminders that helped to mold the man he has become today. What is more impressive about the first half of the film though is the pacing and the poetic ways in which Snyder and editor David Brenner weave the flashbacks into the main narrative that allow the film to feel as if it contains multiple layers while never being a bloated movie that seems to have more going on than necessary. â€œMan of Steelâ€? has a clear vision it wants to accomplish and everything that is going on in the film is set-up to contribute to that overall goal. Many of the complaints about the film come from the fact it dissolves into a standard action movie in its third act where everything that has happened and will happen in the future rests on the shoulders of a hand-to-hand fight between the good guy and the bad guy. This is understandable as the final 45 minutes or so are nothing but a complete adrenaline rush of action. Still, while some of the set pieces are extravagant to the point of ridiculous and for every building you see come crashing down you can see the portion of the budget that went into special effects go with it, I was still unable to take my mind off the fact that this was two super-powered aliens fighting and one of them was determined to do whatever it took to get what he wanted and that under those circumstances it was likely that things would indeed be taken to such extents; that the antagonist has no regard for human life leads to the fact that millions were likely lost. It is a hard fact to accept and one of the pitfalls of the film is that it doesn't show the results of such carnage so the argument comes from the fact the movie doesn't earn the colossal amount of destruction that occurs and I agree with that, but what I don't agree with is that what occurs is necessarily excessive but is instead very much necessary. I don't think it is giving anything away to say that this is what the third act comes down to (the trailers have made that very clear) but while the blue/gray tinted color palette and the rugged cinematography add a certain edge to the film it is the introspective first half of the film that had me hooked and along for the ride while willing to accept the bombastic action that comes along with all films of this genre. 4|Page
What brings the film up to this higher level of these genre movies, besides the aforementioned aesthetic elements, is the caliber of the cast that has been put together here. While it is always smart to place an unknown in the lead to fill an iconic role, Cavill more than fills what is demanded of him here. He is silent and brooding as I said before, but even when it comes to the big action moments or his first time with flying he is able to inject more of a personality into these things rather than simply accepting he can do them and going along with it. He smiles and laughs upon first flight, he winces and flinches when he gets hit with fists or other objects showing he still has feeling even if it doesn't necessarily hurt him. They are all small details, but they complete a better more fleshed out Superman than we've seen before on the big screen. Russell Crowe is fantastic as Jor-El even providing some comic elements to the film. While on the other side of things both Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Jonathan and Martha Kent give touchingly subtle performances that are refreshingly the opposite of what we might expect while uplifting at the same time. To see Costner's father figure have to explain to his son that it might be dangerous to let the world know what he is truly capable of and that he essentially doesn't trust the human race enough to divulge that information is to make a sacrifice that will push Clark to not only question every move he makes, but also that of the people who surround him every day and those he will ultimately end up fighting to protect. It creates an inner-conflict that Clark struggles with his entire life and is in many ways, for a Superman novice such as myself, a kind of glimpse behind the curtain element we've never seen before. Surprisingly, I found the Lois Lane aspect of the story here to be the most earned storyline in that it doesn't seem destined for her and Superman to fall for one another or that it is even convenient simply because they have the same job, but instead the screenplay allows for Amy Adams version of the famous heroine to become less a love interest and more a cog in the machine that is the story that helps it to move forward. There are several instances throughout the film where they could have easily had her and Superman kiss and leave her character on the backburner for the rest of the film, but they integrate Lois into the core of the story and when a kiss finally does happen you feel as if both parties wanted this to happen not because it is "supposed" to happen. Adams doesn't simply play Lois as a writer but more an investigative reporter that is tipped to a story and becomes hot on the trail of the nomad-like Clark who escapes anytime he begins to get too close to those around him or is pushed to the point he exposes himself. Though her famous employer and the managing editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) don't get the screen time you might expect they are still a part of the arc the story takes us on and are nicely set-up to be more prominent figures in future â€œMan of Steelâ€? films. This brings me to another aspect of the film that I appreciated and found to be equally as daring as it was satisfying. The fact there is no mention of Kryptonite, no Jimmy Olsen and no Lex Luthor. There is plenty to feast your eyes and mind on here while the makers clearly have the restraint to know to hold out a few surprises and mainstays of the Superman universe for future installments. They didn't simply throw in the most popular elements from the source material to guarantee the satisfaction of fans, but they went the logical route. They presented the only real reason Clark would ever expose himself on a global scale, the only reason he would ever take full advantage of his powers and put them on display. In creating that type of threat, the kind of evil that might insight this reaction it was important to find someone who could be both menacing and represent the intelligence needed to be a General that commanded an army light years ahead of us in intelligence and technology. To fill those shoes the wonderfully maniacal Michael Shannon was brought in and though one of my biggest disappointments with the film is that there was not more done with this role from this actor, he is simply so good at playing crazy that he is still able to deliver the goods even if it isn't the game-changer Heath Ledger's Joker performance was.
In saying that, if you are going to make any comparisons the most relevant would certainly be to that of “The Dark Knight” movies and though this certainly doesn't measure up to the second or third installments in that trilogy it must also be remembered this is the first film in what is hopefully a fantastic new Superman series. I enjoyed “Batman Begins” as much as the next guy, but it didn't have the burden of audiences seeing something as different and revolutionary as it was when it premiered in 2005. While the majority of the critical reception ranges from indifferent to disappointed I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the experience of the film and everything that allowed it to leave a lasting impression. From the performances to the Hans Zimmer score to the look of the film to the impressive visual effects that were as good as can be expected, it delivered on every promise of spectacle that a Superman movie could ever be expected to achieve. It delivers an origin story that truly fleshes out the world and the people that surround our titular hero while keeping a shade of mystery to the main attraction that will hopefully continue to be peeled away in the next few installments. We get those few glimpses of Clark as a boy and a pathway into his psyche and what it must have been like for him to adapt to a new world and while audiences might be going in expecting Superman to get the dark knight treatment they may be surprised to see that while the DNA from those films is certainly present, this is new ground and Snyder and his crew have composed a movie that wants to make everyone happy while being as innovative as they possibly can. You can feel the artistic license in the way shots are composed and the way that first half of the film is put together and you can feel the director wanting to please those who complained about the lack of action in “Superman Returns” with the final battle scene, but there will always be detractors. I can only pay the highest of compliments for the effort that was taken here as there is a true heartbeat to the film, a soul that is undeniable and that I can't wait to see come to full fruition in the inevitable sequels.
This Is The End By Philip Price
“This is the End” feels like the epitome of something I've been waiting a long time for. In reality it is slightly odd to think that this kind of product would ever be made and sold to general audiences, but luckily it seems the one almost guaranteed way for these actors who have now become staples of the American comedy scene to regain their place among the Hollywood elite and re-establish themselves as the kings of the comedy genre is to make fun of themselves and they do that to hilarious results here.
Anyone who has ever been really into movies and has ever loved a certain comedic actor or group of actors knows what it's like to want to hang out with those kinds of guys and girls because you too feel like they would love to be your friend if not for anything else but because you share that same sense of humor they've branded. As creepy as that may come off or as much as they probably wouldn't care to be your friend at all we come to feel we know the actors in our comedies better than anyone else in the movies because they always relate closest to the kind of people around us, if not always intentionally. That may come off as slightly delusional to some, but to those who watch a good amount of movies, especially comedies, and to those that surround themselves with people that they find to be genuinely funny than I imagine it is as true for them as it is for me. All of that is to say that my anticipation and expectations for “This is the End” were pretty high. As one of the many apocalyptic comedies coming out this year I was also worried the film may not get the recognition I hoped it would deserve, but first time directors Seth Rogen and his long time collaborator Evan Goldberg strike just the right chord between horror and comedy and lay claim to the fact they've had this in the works longer than anyone else. Thankfully, “This is the End” gives this brand of goofy subversive humor new life in the form of a sharp satire that invites us to experience the end of the world with who our minds have come to place as some of the most ridiculously funny people working today. From the opening scene it is clear that we are in for a rather meta ride as Seth Rogen as himself picks his real-life friend Jay Baruchel up from the airport (this core friendship in the film comes from the short film that inspired the flick, “Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse”). While Baruchel was not a part of the “Freaks & Geeks” group that seems to have slightly inspired these pairings of Rogen and James Franco, Baruchel became a part of the Apatow gang as the lead in their second failed sitcom effort, “Undeclared.” This was likely the beginning of he and Rogen's friendship as Rogen has been a staple of Apatow productions from the very beginning (‘F&G’ also featured James Franco, Jason Segel and Martin Starr). As they all play exaggerated versions of themselves here Baruchel is only in Los Angeles to hang out with his friend, but doesn't necessarily like the culture of the city or Rogen's new group of friends, especially Jonah Hill. While Seth delivers on Jay's expectations for the first day of his visit things start to go downhill for Baruchel when Seth informs him they're taking a trip to James Franco's housewarming party. Upon arrival the two mingle with the likes of other featured players including the aforementioned Oscar nominated Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Michael Cera as a cokehead maniac. There are plenty of other famous faces littered throughout the crowd – Jason Segel shows up having a conversation with Kevin Hart; Chris Mintz-Plasse has a mini-‘Superbad’ reunion with Hill and Cera; Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kailing, David Krumholtz, Rihanna and even Emma Watson all make their way through the party until what is at first thought to be an earthquake shakes things up. Once outside it becomes all the more clear something much bigger than an earthquake is occurring as a huge sinkhole opens up in Franco's front yard and the gruesome celebrity deaths begin. Paul Rudd even runs through the mayhem, making a pretty nasty mess in the process as the survivors (including Rogen, Franco, Hill, Robinson and Baruchel) retreat back inside to figure out what the hell is going on. Without giving too much more of the film away Danny McBride joins the core group and while the film, from here, doesn't so much as have a structured story that goes from act two to act three as it becomes more an exploration of the dynamics between these guys and how they balance their celebrity status with how much they self-indulge and how close they want to get to others who may not be in the same league as them. This is clearly why Baruchel feels slightly on the outside. Each of them have had solid leading roles in hit movies or TV shows, but Baruchel's most famous project has him behind an animated medieval boy (“How to Train Your Dragon”). Franco, who knows he's the most famous and most selfindulgent, has some kind of strange obsession with Rogen that leads to a conflict between who the better set of friends are. There is no real explanation for Jay's hatred toward Jonah, but Hill again raises 7|Page
the bar with his performance as a serious thespian who wears an earring and is sure to point out the obvious character traits of people as if he were thinking critically about everything while at the same time fighting to win Jay's affection. Robinson does little more than play the guy who trys to keep the peace, but proudly wears his "Take Yo Panties Off" shirt and "Mr. Robinson" towel at every moment while conspiring with Jay to be a better person once they decide that what is happening is indeed the rapture. While the bulk of the film is based more on these relationships than any kind of story the one who really steals the show (and the characters who typically do) is the antagonist of the group, Danny McBride. McBride has always been a razor sharp wit that pushes the boundaries of vulgarity and filth, but here he takes it to a whole other level. We can tell he loves this concept and that he is playing this kind of version of himself where he can go to extremes and play up that persona those who've seen his work in “Eastbound & Down” or countless other supporting roles have come to think he actually is. It only makes things better that Franco has a vendetta against him and they get to play out these scenarios while making the audience see past their fame into who they really are or might be if the end of the world ever does come around. That is what makes “This is the End” so consistently hilarious and so ingenuously smart. Despite the fact these guys could have easily made a 90-minute movie of them making fun of themselves we only get this thrown into an already heavy mix of other elements going on. “This is the End” doesn't just deliver what we expect it to, but it also gives us more than we probably ever wanted to know. Still, we take it all in with an energetic glee that is so easy to feed off of from the performances. It doesn't even end up feeling so much like a regular movie-going experience, but instead a kind of extended hang out session that eventually has to be wrapped up due to the fact that the world is over. I've personally always been a big fan of broad, mainstream comedies and though these along with horror movies are usually the easiest targets for critics to crap on this film proves the genre can be both extremely low brow while also containing enough self-awareness, enough wit and knowledge to lampoon the very thing that has made these people so intriguing in the first place: their movie personas. Despite that lack of a clear and defined narrative the backdrop of the apocalypse does provide for some pretty great set-ups and jokes that are too good to give away in a review. That combined with the pure intrigue of an invitation to hang out with these guys for a couple of hours is good enough reason to see the film, that these actors who have essentially played some versions of themselves for years in other movies have finally grown up enough to write and direct a film that pokes fun at that exact statement is a sign that there is hope for the American comedy so many have long declared dead. Would I have liked to have seen a few more characters on the screen more? Yeah, I think Segel especially deserved more time with these guys though the limited time Cera was onscreen is pure gold and is worth the price of admission alone. The film does lag just the slightest bit around the halfway mark, but the little vignettes we get due to their boredom make up for this lack of coherency completely. It is likely to go down as the funniest American comedy of the year and with good reason as it sports all the qualities of the best Apatow comedies with a little extra raunch thrown in for good measure. The students have officially become the teachers.
World War Z By Philip Price
I read about 100 pages of Max Brooks’ (son of famed director Mel Brooks) novel on which this latest Brad Pitt film is based, but was never really able to dig into it. I hoped to finish it before seeing the resulting film, but upon consistently hearing the movie would be nothing like the book and after witnessing the format and technique with which the book was constructed, it was clear the only way to make a movie that strictly adhered to that same format would have been to make a documentary-like film. As it was clear this was not the route taken by director Marc Forster and producer/star Pitt, I gave up on the book with optimistic thoughts of returning to it at some point. It was clear the main concept the film had taken away from the novel was the idea of a global crisis, but that displaying the crisis on a global scale through a leading man was more attractive than jumping from perspective-to-perspective with multiple characters. There is no problem with this approach except for the fact that the only thing the novel and the actual film share is the title. I can understand why this might have caused Brooks to speak negatively about the film, but even this isn't the worst thing this movie had going against it before its release. That would be the on-set tension between Forster and Pitt, as well as the issues with the ending of the film. The fact that there were $20 million worth of re-shoots done and last minute re-writes to the script would all point toward the final product being a complete mess. Turns out, we should have simply had faith in Pitt all along as “World War Z” turns out to be an extremely tense, well-paced action movie that doesn't solely depend on that action to give it a pulse. This is a smart, surprisingly well-thought out film that is up front about its zombie problem and deals with it in a way that is terrifying due to the fact it is likely how things would actually happen were there to be some kind of infection turning your friends, family and fellow citizens into undead sprinters that bite and move on with their victims becoming the same frightening zombies in a matter of seconds. Whereas the book seems to have shaped the story of the fight against the zombie invasion through many different accounts from around the globe Forster and his multiple screenwriters have crafted a story around a former United Nations investigator and taken cues from the Steven Spielberg version of “War of the Worlds” while allowing the one character they focus on to experience some of the greatest catastrophes that occur during this event. The first half hour of the film is unbelievably paced and is set up to provide some of the most tense moments you will experience during a movie this summer, possibly even the year. There is little in the way of exposition as to how this pandemic began or why, but instead we are immediately dropped into Gerry Lane's (Pitt) home where he has retired and is now relegated to making pancakes for his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and their two daughters (Sterling Jerins and Abigail Hargrove). 9|Page
It is on their way to dropping the girls off at school in the opening minutes that all hell breaks loose. Philadelphia is literally consumed with these fast-paced zombies in a matter of seconds and Gerry is forced to protect his family while avoiding the threat that is all around him, taking in the specifics of what exactly is happening. The fact Gerry is a former UN employee is both a gift and a curse. They will send a helicopter to rescue him and his family, bringing them to an isolated military ship but in order to keep them there Gerry must go with a young scientist whom his former boss Thierry (Fana Mokoena) believes can find the origin of the zombie outbreak and therefore may be able to find a cure for it. Once Gerry leaves the safety of the naval base and begins globetrotting the movie takes on a more rapid pace with bigger amounts of action only to result in a quiet, understated final sequence that is as unexpected as it was satisfying. It is only in the standard montage that follows this final set-piece where you realize you aren't ready for the film to be over and that you need more from the conclusion. That is certainly a good problem to have, but it also left a void that wasn't completely satisfying. I have always been a fan of Pitt and especially in the last few years he has proved himself a serious actor with ambitions bigger than instant success, but instead the intention of leaving a legacy in the form of a great body of work. Even his bigger hits in recent years like ‘Benjamin Button’ and “Inglourious Basterds” there is a certain pedigree that is inescapable and while “World War Z” was not originally intended as a summer blockbuster it has now and will forever be positioned that way. In this regard I was unsure of what to expect; would the zombie pandemic be some type of metaphor or serve as serious social commentary in the form of mainstream entertainment or would it simply be Pitt letting loose and having a bit of fun, giving himself a change of pace? Pitt's performance, while being as charismatic as the actor usually is, does well to handle the immense pressure he is under also allows the audience a gateway into the story. The actor looks more rugged than ever – the bags under his eyes, the gray hair in his stubble and the unkempt look of his wardrobe with many shots focusing on his hands and their aged quality. It is clear why he is doing what he is doing and the film sets up nicely how much he loves his family and gives the character the motivation he needs to make it from country to country and keep up a determined search for the possible cure that might save not only his family and himself, but those around him lucky enough to have survived thus far. The film also provides a kind of side-kick to Pitt's Gerry in the form of Segen (Daniella Kertesz) a soldier from Jerusalem whom Gerry saves once the zombies invade her city and who in turn will stand by his side for the remainder of the film. None of the actors are given anything of great opportunity to provide necessarily memorable performances, but the small elements in both Pitt and Kertesz's performances lend a humanity to this overblown, global tale. If the story was going to take on such scope it was important that the characters the story is conveyed through are people we care about. I don't know that we would necessarily care for Gerry in the hands of a lesser actor, but with Pitt you can see every thought he has in the expressions on his face and while it may not mean much in the moment, it contributed to the overall effectiveness of the film hours later. The great part of this production’s story (and there were of course many downsides) is that intelligence has not been sacrificed for cheap thrills. There are thrills, to be sure, but this isn't a zombie movie where all is concentrated on the blood and the gore or even the simple escapism to a safety zone that will serve as a happy ending. While I am not a huge fan of the genre (I never understood the fuss around George Romero's films though I can see how they were groundbreaking in his day) I did like Zack Snyder's 2004 “Dawn of the Dead” re-make and though the recent resurgence of the gorrific zombie tales in critically acclaimed shows like “The Walking Dead” are reason enough for movie studios to jump on the trend it was always going to be interesting to see how a studio who gave a budget north of $200 10 | P a g e
million and a PG-13 rating would please those who were in love with the genre and those looking for escapist summer entertainment with the same movie while making that gigantic budget back. The most surprising aspect of the film turned out to be how it used that "less is more" idea to great effect. We've all seen zombie's get their heads chopped off and put through tons of different mutilations, but we hardly ever get the chance to see the reaction on the face of the person having to perform such gruesome acts. Here, the camera stays focused on those inflicting the pain while we can only imagine what is going on just out of the frame which tends to make it all the more chilling. Besides that, the overall tone the film is pure exhilaration. I was hooked from the opening moments up through every tense sequence that takes place in multiple hallways and corridors to the sequences in large cities and on planes where the zombies (some expertly made up, others in less than impressive CGI) pile on top of one another in order to spread their disease and spread the end of humanity as quick as they possibly could. With such a fast-paced threat, it is impossible for our protagonists to slow down and despite the climactic scene being expertly crafted the final minutes do a slight disservice to the rest of the film which was my only disappointment. I loved the film otherwise and would love to see more of this story unfold. Here's hoping the original plan to make this a trilogy is still in the cards for all involved.
Now You See Me By Philip Price
As the film’s mantra goes, the closer you look the less you see, but if you are going to enjoy this film it is a wise decision to do exactly the opposite. There is no need to investigate or inspect each and every twist and turn this film throws at you because there are bound to be holes. No, in fact what is best to do in order to enjoy “Now You See Me” is to simply sit back and take it in for what it is: pure, escapist cinema that delivers a relentlessly fun and entertaining ride that speeds by and leaves you satisfied when the credits begin to roll. Kudos to this movie for being able to stand on its own two feet in a season where every Friday is dominated by a sequel, spin off, re-make or something that is a familiar product sure to find an audience somewhere. “Now You See Me” is a completely original film in the midst of big studio fare that has the star power, the concept and the appeal to win over those movie-goers who aren't just looking for an escape from the real world, but from the saturated sci-fi superhero adventure genres that are playing on every other screen. That is not to say I don't enjoy those kinds of movies as well and this year has been particularly good so far in terms of summer popcorn entertainment. But simply knowing going into this film that we are up for a fun ride that takes a subject that's commonly considered nerdy, such as magic, 11 | P a g e
and combines it with the formula of a heist film to create something imaginative and fresh is indeed refreshing. Though there are certainly plot holes to be picked apart once people have the ability to re-watch the film several times, upon first viewing this is nothing more than a caper of a good time that has an incredibly strong cast, each member of which is doing what they do best, churning out some solid and genuine laughs while balancing the never-serious tone with a fair amount of action and mystery that is compelling and keeps you guessing until the very end. Directed by Louis Leterrier it is clear from the opening sequence that this is going to be an expertly crafted, brisk film where the camera is constantly moving as are the people in the frame. Beginning with a round-up of who eventually become known as the “Four Horsemen” the film first introduces us to Jesse Eisenberg's J. Daniel Atlas as a magician who performs card tricks to the extreme while Woody Harrelson as Merritt never has as much to do as we'd like, but he sure makes for an interesting and charismatic mentalist that can hypnotize people and con them out of a fair amount of cash. Speaking of conning, there is also Dave Franco's Jack Wilder who is the beginner of the group doing tricks with spoons only to lift his spectator’s wallets. Rounding out the team is Isla Fisher as Henley, a former assistant to Atlas, who now performs her own illusions and seemingly has the most success on her own. The four are brought together by a mysterious presence and presented with blueprints for what are seemingly extremely elaborate illusions. Backed by millionaire Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) a year later, these street magicians are now performing in front of sold out crowds in Las Vegas. It is in their first trick they rob a bank halfway across the world in Paris. This prompts an investigation by the FBI who here is embodied by Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) along with his partner from Interpol Alma (the wonderfully subtle Melanie Laurent). Rhodes goes from disinterested to hot on their trail once they stage two follow-up shows in New Orleans and New York while also enlisting the help of Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) a man who debunks magician’s secrets on his own reality show. All of this playing into the overall question of what the goal is for these four magicians that seemingly have nothing in common other than a passion for making people believe in something that doesn't really exist? About halfway through the film that is what I began to consider to myself. What was the goal here, what were they going for? It would certainly be more than an elaborate get rich quick scheme, right? Sure there are a few clues dropped along the way that aren't so subtle that we should certainly pick up on, but they are never given serious thought either. I won't go into too much detail here so as not to reveal anything about the plot, but even as I'm going through the process of writing this review and reflecting on the film I'm also coming up with more questions on how certain things happened that I will hopefully be able to check off when I see the movie again. Fortunately there have also been a few aha! moments where things have come together I didn't initially see the connection in. In working toward what the conclusion finally presents us with though it reveals the crux of the film in that it all seems a bit over the top, a bit too grandiose to accomplish something that in the end is so personal. Having said that and trying not to dig too deep into what this movie is trying to say or stand for as there is likely nothing there, “Now You See Me” also functions as a simple excuse to see what might be considered an under-appreciated art form played out on a global stage and what it could be used for if you take it to its limits. It is ultimately an idea that in all likelihood could never be materialized, but is super fun and engaging to watch on the big screen as Hollywood uses its own magic to wrap us up in the crazy stuff the characters are performing on screen. Besides the strong 12 | P a g e
cast that the occasionally confusing script relies on for support, the film also has a strong sense of style. We as an audience recognize the ridiculous levels here, but so do the filmmakers and in that selfreferential tone the film carries comes the fun that the film elicits from its audience. Say what you will about Leterrier's storytelling abilities, but his cinematic eye is just as extravagant as the illusions his magicians are pulling off. None of the four individual names here are reason enough to get excited over a film when they are on their own, but together as such an eclectic group of actors and actresses it is fun to watch them play off one another. This interestingly enough rings true for Eisenberg who breaks his mold of playing jittery young geniuses with low outward self-esteem by actually making the guy seem cool and quick witted that puts his intelligence into fine sarcastic form. Any movie that can do this is certainly to be lauded. What is even more impressive is that they place Eisenberg as the leader of the gang when you might expect him to land somewhere around Franco's Jack. That isn't to say Franco's character is less cool, he is simply less experienced which lends to the actors status among his co-stars. Harrelson is almost criminally underused, but he does get some of the film’s best lines and he milks them for all their worth. On the other hand, Isla Fischer seems to finally be gaining the momentum I always imagined her career might have. She came with a strong supporting spot a few weeks ago in “The Great Gatsby, she’s a critical character in the new season of “Arrested Development” and is now a crucial part of this ensemble. It is nice to see the actress finally getting what's been due to her since 2005. While both Caine and Freeman seem to be on autopilot here, their presence automatically ups the credibility of a project by a few notches and Mark Ruffalo, as always, gives it everything he has and more even if the material doesn't necessarily deserve it. He and Laurent make a nice pair and despite the fact he is positioned as the film’s main antagonist he is impossible not to like. The same could be said about the film as it may not be positioned to look like the main attraction in the crowded summer line-up, but I immensely enjoyed the experience of it and it's impossible not to like
Celebrating Fourth of July with Mr. Smith, Yankee Doodle Dandy By Julian Spivey
Everybody seems to have their own favorite holiday movie traditions. Common ones seem to include: “A Christmas Story” every year during Christmas Eve and Christmas – some people even opt to watch it over and over again thanks to TBS marathoning the hell out of it for 24 straight hours – or “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which you’re likely to see on television a good dozen or more times between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. One Christmas movie tradition that seems popular among people I know (or maybe my generation as a whole) is “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” I have two Christmas movie traditions I like to keep – though admittedly I don’t get around to them every year. Those are the unoriginal watching of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the more unusual, rare “Remember the Night,” a cute 1940 love story set during Christmastime featuring one of my favorite 13 | P a g e
(and incredibly underrated) screen duos Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck. Last year was the first Christmas season in which I managed to watch both in the same year and loved sharing the film’s with my family (particularly “Remember the Night” – which none of them had seen). My very favorite holiday movie tradition that I never forget/always make time for is watching “Groundhog Day” every Groundhog Day. This one might be weird to many, but I’m sure I have brethren out there who do the same thing; after all the Bill Murray time-stuck film is hailed as one of the best movies of the ‘90s and by some (me included) one of the best of all-time. It’s also one of the few films I think I can truly watch over and over again. Its creative concept and the romantic story that develops between Murray and Andie MacDowell is one that seemingly never gets old to me. Weird tradition? Nah. Still, I’d hate to think there is some poor schmuck out there watching “Valentine’s Day” or “New Year’s Eve” every Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve. Other movie tradition’s … my girlfriend tries to force me to watch both “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on Halloween and Christmas every year despite my objections. Most times I give in, though. After all, she partakes in most of mine. One of my favorite holiday movie traditions that I don’t participate in, but rather have read about was how my favorite film critic, the late, great Roger Ebert used to watch the Steve Martin-John Candy comedy “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” with his family almost every Thanksgiving. Maybe I’ll have to give that one a viewing this Thanksgiving in toast to ol’ Roger. Maybe start a new tradition of my own. The whole point of this holiday movie tradition piece really is because Independence Day or Fourth of July, if you’d rather, is almost upon us and with the holiday comes another one of my favorite holiday movie traditions. I have a revolving tradition of watching Frank Capra’s fantastic classic “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and Michael Curtiz’s equally fantastic “Yankee Doodle Dandy” every year on the Fourth of July – watching one film one year and the other the next. This gives me the perfect opportunity to break out two of the greatest films ever made every now and then without overdoing it – something I honestly should find time to do with some of my other favorite film classics. Last year I watched “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” the 1942 biopic of song-and-dance man George M. Cohan, in which one of my all-time favorite actors James Cagney absolutely becomes Cohan. Almost everything about this film is to be loved, but the two scenes that are the absolute finest are the elongated play performance where Cagney as Cohan performs the tune the movie is named for and toward the end of the film where the now elderly Cohan tap dances down the steps of the White House. Cagney performed the staircase tap dance on his own. It may be the single finest bit of acting and all-around talent ever caught on a Hollywood film. It’s a bit that leaves me in awe every single time I see it and makes me want to try the same thing going down my staircase each day, but alas I don’t much feel like breaking my neck.
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This year we’ll (my girlfriend and I) be watching “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” which carries a message that is just as important (if not more so) today as it was when released in 1939. However, no matter how important the message is, it’s unfortunately one that will most likely never be heeded by politicians as corruption will always seemingly reign in Washington. Where are Capra and Jefferson Smith when you need them? Much like Cagney in “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” James Stewart, my absolute favorite actor of all-time, puts forth one of the truly finest performances ever captured in film, particularly during the movie’s famous filibuster scene – which Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul famously tried to bring to life earlier this year, but Mr. Paul is damn sure no Mr. Smith. Both performances by Cagney and Stewart are what truly keep me coming back to these films every other year on the Fourth of July. They are timeless, essentially playbooks on how to act and have left an indelible mark on me as a cinephile. “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” are two reasons why I’m proud to be an American and that’s another one of the reasons why I choose to celebrate my country’s birthday with these cherished films.
Television The Voice is Broken (And It’s Blake Shelton’s Fault) By Julian Spivey
NBC’s hit singing competition series “The Voice” is probably the best thing to happen to the struggling network (at least ratings wise) in the last five or so years. However, after four short, but incredibly successful seasons “The Voice” is essentially broken. When the show debuted in the spring of 2011 the premise of “The Voice” was original and unique. Four celebrity coaches would choose a singer based solely off of their voice and would mentor and influence those singers until ultimately one of the singers was crowned ‘the voice.’ However, it didn’t take long for the show to become like every other reality singing competition on television … an overblown, overrated and oftentimes blatantly obvious popularity contest, but with one little twist from the typical reality competition. The popularity contest would have very little to do with the show’s actual contestants, but with the show’s celebrity coaches.
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It wasn’t so obvious over the show’s inaugural season or even over the show’s first two seasons, but over the last two seasons (which NBC managed to squeeze into the 2012-2013 broadcast season – squeezing every bit of juice out of its ratings darling) it’s become blatantly obvious that “The Voice” is not so much about the singer after all, but about who the singer’s coach is. Celebrity coach Blake Shelton, a multiple time award-winning country music singer, has had a contestant win “The Voice” title in the show’s last three consecutive seasons and honestly shows no signs of having his streak snapped any time soon as he seems to be growing more popular by the day, tabloid article and tweet. Shelton’s likability is easy to understand, even though his personality can sometimes be grating and venture into douche-y territory. He’s fun, humorous, attractive, in a high-profile country music marriage with fellow award-winning singer Miranda Lambert and has a flawless voice that most singers would and should be jealous over. In television a TV personality’s likability and popularity is measured by something called a Q Score. I don’t know what Shelton’s Q Score is, but I would bet it’s through the roof. When Shelton joined “The Voice” he was likely relatively unknown to most people who listen to music outside of the country genre and could have been the least recognizable coach on the show. This is probably the main reason why Javier Colon, a singer from Adam Levine’s (who shares many qualities with Shelton right down to the douchebaggery) team won. As more fans of the show became familiar with Shelton and more country music fans already familiar with the Okie started watching, his success on the show grew, as did his career. In the two short years since “The Voice” premiered Shelton has gone from middling country music singer to maybe the genre’s biggest name and presence. Ironically, his music has gone from superior to average or even occasionally (like with his current single “Boys ‘Round Here”) revoltingly awful. Not only has Shelton’s mostly likable personality played hugely into his team’s success on “The Voice,” but so has the fact that his genre of music is the most popular genre in the country – based on things like numbers of radio stations and music sales. His popularity on the show has also gone a long way in bringing even more listeners to the genre. It’s, of course, up for debate whether or not Shelton’s winning singers really were the deserving winners of the show or merely won based on his popularity. I believe the show’s most recent winner Danielle Bradbery was probably the best choice, at least of the three finalists (two of which came from Shelton’s team) to win the crown. However, the previous two winners from Shelton’s team beat out better vocalists: Cassadee Pope over Team Cee Lo Green’s Nicholas David in the previous season and Jermaine Paul over Team Cee Lo’s Juliet Simms the season before that. The most telling sign of Shelton’s mass popularity positively affecting his team was the fact that all three of his team’s finalists this season (Bradbery, The Swon Brothers and Holly Tucker) made the final six, while the three remaining coaches only saw one of their three contestants each make the cut. This lead to a moment where it became obvious that even some of Shelton’s fellow coaches seem to believe it’s about more than just the contestant’s talent when Levine was caught on air muttering: “I hate this country” knowing full well that voters are overlooking things like vocal ability in favor of popularity. 16 | P a g e
Personally during the show’s try out period where the coaches simply listen to the vocalists and decide whether or not they might want them for their team it would be unwise for any singer with the opportunity to choose between multiple coaches to choose anybody but Shelton. Shelton gives you the best chance at winning the show simply by being Blake Shelton, especially if you’re a country singer. I don’t think Shelton has any plans to leave “The Voice” any time soon, because it’s been the best thing for his career and let’s face it, he seems like a complete attention whore. I don’t think “The Voice” has any plans to replace Shelton any time soon either, because he’s essentially their biggest star and they wouldn’t want to mess around with one of their few sure things. So Blake Shelton will keep picking winners of “The Voice” whether they deserve to win the crown on their own merit or not. The majority of viewers probably won’t care all that much either and the show will continue, at least for now, being a major hit for NBC. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the show, at least the one that it initially set out to be, is broken and much of that falls on Shelton’s immense popularity.
Matt Smith’s Departure from ‘Doctor Who’ Will Leave Gaping Hole in Time, Space By Julian Spivey
I had had a particularly rough day at work when I got home that night to do my usual nightly routine of searching entertainment websites to devour news or search for potential article ideas. When I glanced at the lead story on EW.com my day quickly became twice as rough. It was a bit of news I was not expecting, unprepared for and even though I knew would happen one day was somewhat devastated by – Matt Smith announced he would be leaving “Doctor Who” at the end of the year. It’s not unusual for Doctors to come and go. Smith has played The Doctor for 42 episodes or three seasons – about the average life span of a Doctor. But, the thing that makes Smith’s upcoming departure from the long-running British science fiction series so hard is that he’s my Doctor. Everybody has “their” Doctor – their favorite one – oftentimes the one that introduced them to the series, as Smith did with me. There are “Doctor Who” fans out there who still pine for David Tennant, the tenth and previous Doctor, three and a half years after he left the show. I feel like it’s possible this could be my reaction to Smith leaving the show. I just hope it doesn’t unfairly affect the way I feel about
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whichever poor soul is tasked with following Smith as the Twelfth Doctor, the way some people did with Smith following Tennant. Just under a year ago I embarked upon “Doctor Who” – after previously giving it a brief shot and it not capturing me for some idiotic reason – because I knew so many friends and critics who raved about it. I started this time around with the season seven (Smith’s third) premiere “Asylum of the Daleks” and there was something about Smith’s acting that appealed to me and as I quickly began to binge-watch his episodes two and sometimes three at a time – running through much of his tenure in mere weeks – I quickly realized he was one of today’s finest actors with a tour de force performance that could range from laugh out loud funny to Shakespearian-like seriousness in a matter of seconds. I know that shows like “Doctor Who” are never taken seriously, for some asinine reason, but it’s almost a crime that Matt Smith has never been nominated for an Emmy Award. With Smith’s brilliantly quirky performance and under the words and guidance of show-runner Steven Moffat the Eleventh Doctor has truly become one of the finest characters in television history. And, that’s one of the greatest things about the character of The Doctor – every time he regenerates he is effectively in many ways born anew, with not just a new appearance, but also a new personality and a new style among other things. This is why the show has thrived for 50 years, but it’s also why I have slight doubts if the show will ever be the same to me again. I fear I may miss too much things that are unique or particular to Smith’s Doctor, many of my favorite aspects of the show, like his unique quirk, his bowtie (because bowties are cool) and that devilish smile of his. However, I know from watching the episodes of Tennant and Christopher Eccleston before him – I watched the show backwards – that the show somehow and incredibly stays strong regardless of who plays The Doctor. Yet it’s something that fans – no matter who their favorite Doctor is – incessantly worry about until the next Doctor’s debut because The Doctor is television sacred ground. The next Doctor will probably work his way into our hearts like those that came before him (or her), hopefully sooner than later. For some he’ll even be their reason for watching and will become “their” Doctor. When the time comes for his debut I’m sure I’ll be hesitantly excited for the things to come. Until then, though, I’ll mourn the impending loss of Matt Smith, but will be relieved by the thought of knowing that just like with companion Amy Pond, he’ll always be my Doctor.
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Miss Utah Proves Beauty Without Brains Is Not Very Beautiful By Julian Spivey
"A recent report shows that in 40 percent of American families with children, women are the primary earners yet they continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society?" Could you answer this question if asked on the spot? I hope so. At the very least I’m sure you could probably give a better answer than Miss USA Pageant contestant Marissa Powell (better known as Miss Utah). Powell gave a rambling, incoherent babble of an answer that was summed up by her saying we need to “create education better.” Instantly people began to mock Powell online for her idiotic answer to a relatively easy question, as we often see after pageant contestants give moronic answers (seemingly every year). Some even came to Powell’s defense asking why questions about current events have relevance in a beauty contest. I’ve never watched a beauty pageant (Miss USA or otherwise) and frankly I’m a little bit surprised I’m even writing about one, but it would seem to me that the question portion of the Miss USA Pageant and other beauty pageants is essentially the best or most important part, even though I’m fully aware it probably plays little in the pageant process for choosing a winner. Despite her nonsensical and brainless response – you can claim she was simply nervous, but this contestant has reportedly performed the Star Spangled Banner in front of thousands, and even if wracked with nerves should’ve been able to give a better answer – she still garnered fourth place (or third runner-up in pageant speak). In 2013, it seems archaic to really even have beauty pageants and the only thing seemingly more insipid than holding them and airing them on television is the fact that people actually watch them. Beauty pageants espouse the ideal that beauty is all-important, especially over knowledge when an imbecilic response to an important question can still net a contestant a high placing. Beauty is important, don’t get me wrong, but it’s really nothing if it’s all somebody has to offer. Looking good in a bikini or evening wear is nice, but if you can’t formulate an intelligent sentence or know basic universal knowledge the good you offer to this world is slim to non-existent. This is why the question portion of the pageant would seem to be the best part of the evening. Not because it gives us all the chance to mock a contestant’s stupidity – even though ignorance and lack of knowledge should be mocked – but because it seemingly should be the one chance for a contestant to truly shine. This is ignoring the equally asinine fact that the aforementioned question about socioeconomics was asked by a reality TV star at a pageant hosted by a Jonas brother.
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The question-and-answer segment of the pageant is the one moment that truly challenges these contestants. Beauty, for the most part, is something one’s born with and thus easy. Knowledge is obtained – through both hard work and intelligent curiosity – and is something to truly be proud of and something that should be honored in pageantry. Miss Utah is a proverbial knockout and this is why she was honored with third runner-up. Her response on gender income inequality was inexcusably bereft of anything remotely learned and this is why she’s been rightfully laughed at in the media and by the public. As for beauty pageants like Miss USA they have likely outlived their usefulness, if they ever really had any to begin with. It’s time to get the message out that knowledge is more important than beauty and stupidity and ignorance should not be celebrated. Marissa Powell will more than likely get by in life based on her good looks alone and this incident will, for at least a short amount of time, turn her into something of a celebrity. But here’s to hoping she gets some of that better education she talked about instead.
Introducing Over-Bingwatching – A Different Kind of Bingewatching By Aprille Hanson
In my closet hangs my favorite pair of blue jeans. I’ve had them for years and while their sandwiched in between about 10 other pairs, they’re the first ones I grab if I’m looking for a pair to throw on. I’ve worn them so much, you can tell the total fabric on them is wearing and has even tastefully ripped in some spots. They feel the same each time I slip into them – comfortable, perfect amount of hug and space, nostalgic. I know there’s nothing new or trendy about them, but it doesn’t diminish me choosing them over a pair I may have only worn once or twice. This is how I feel about over-bingewatching (a new kind of bingewatching) my favorite television shows. Most people consider bingewatching to be burning through a brand new show over a weekend or even on a particularly lonely, dreary day, but what I do is different. What I do is I watch my favorite shows, and episodes, over and over and over and yes, over again. It starts with a good show – we’ll start with the multi-Emmy winner “Frasier.” The entire series is stacked neatly in my closet, a few feet away from those beautiful, worn-out jeans. I had never cared to watch “Frasier” until a few years ago, seeing a re-run pop up across my television screen. I gave it a once over and I wanted more. Wanting more turned into watching at least one episode almost every night for year (your typical bingewatching), then re-watching them – every one, 20 | P a g e
from my favorites to even the misses. This is where the over-bingewatching comes in. When most people finish bingewatching a show they immediately seek out a new show to binge upon. I don’t. I just repeat. Why? Because it was a show I could watch before heading to sleep each night knowing that no matter what I had watched earlier that night, no matter what had happened throughout my day, I was going to end on a high note. I was going to be watching good television. I can say the same about some of my other favorites: “M*A*S*H,” “Golden Girls,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Modern Family” and my most recent over-bingewatch – the first season of “New Girl.” I can quote the lines, I know the joke set-ups, but the crazy antics of the characters and the fabulous actors behind them (led by the adorkable Zooey Deschanel) are always going to crack me up. Personally, I think overbingewatching works best with 30-minute comedies. Although, put in an episode of “Boston Legal” and I’ll probably be hooked all over again. There are the critics out there who are going to state the obvious – isn’t constantly re-watching shows a waste of time? At its core, yes. But since when does everything we do for fun have to be a good use of our time? Hula hooping – not very productive other than a tiny source of exercise. People still do it. Watching a mindless reality show like “Keeping up with the Kardashians” – one of the biggest time wasters ever on television, but devoted viewers tune in. I’ve gotta admit, I’ve seen a portion of an episode. Just a portion. Relax. How many times have people started watching a TV show or paid admission to see a movie and thought, “I wish I could have that 30 minutes, hour, 2-and-a-half hours back.” With over-bingewatching, you don’t have that regret because you know going into it you’re blowing off mental steam with something you already enjoy. It would be unhealthy to hold yourself up in your room and only watch reruns of, let’s say “Seinfeld.” You need to have a life. Your friends are not fictional characters on TV and while “Seinfeld” is the greatest show about nothing, you will most definitely get nothing out of life if you only watch it and nothing else. However, watching it every time it pops up on the television screen, isn’t problematic – it’s being a dedicated fan and taking a stand for wanting to watch something you know you’ll enjoy. I watch too many TV shows to rattle off in this piece (and, for hygenic clarity, I wear several different pairs of jeans). In addition, I still hold a full-time reporting job, freelance, hang out with friends and family, attend church and take a walk every now and then. After a busy day, there’s nothing better than curling up on the couch and popping in an episode you know you’re going to love. Whether you’re breezing through a series in a weekend or revisiting it for the umpteenth time, overbingewatching is a new waste-of-time pastime, that won’t let its viewers down. Just like that pair of old jeans, over-bingewatching might not be the most sophisticated form-fitting entertainment, but it’s comfortable ... and fun.
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Albums ‘Random Access Memories’ by Daft Punk By Philip Price
Though I heard Daft Punk’s “Around the World” and “One More Time” the same time everyone else did with the former coming off their debut 1997 record, “Homework” and the latter, more massive hit coming in 2001 off “Discovery” it wasn’t until Kanye West decided to sample, “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” on his “Graduation” album in 2007 that I began to become much more interested in who these guys were that seemed to consistently craft infectious and original tunes, but were clearly not getting the credit they so obviously deserved. When director Joseph Kosinski tapped the duo to compose the score for his 2010 sci-fi sequel “TRON: Legacy,” it became apparent these guys had more of a purpose than simply pushing out electronic hits. They were in fact masters of their craft that knew how to make music that moved people. With their first album in seven years French musicians Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter have in some ways returned to their roots while at the same time taking on a brand new group of influences that is evident in their collaborators on what they’ve called “Random Access Memories.” This was my first experience with listening to a full Daft Punk album in its entirety all the way through and the truth of the matter is that I can’t stop listening to it. It is pure funk with rich production and groove-filled beats that give us a musical history lesson while at the same time bringing a fresh aspect to the whole affair. I’m a huge fan of old school funk music. From George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic to Chic, the sounds the disco era created have always been underrated in the way that they are effortlessly cool and insistent in getting you out of your seat or at least tapping your foot. As soon as “Random Access Memories” begins you get a distinct slap in the face of what this album is all about and how grandiose yet subtly personal it will end up being. In a culture where vapid little brats dominate the mainstream music scene and make it more about them and their public persona than the actual music that made them famous in the first place Daft Punk lets us know in that first track, “Give Life Back to Music,” what they’re all about. In placing only a simple four lines of lyrics the duo do what they do best in letting the music breathe and speak for itself. It demonstrates the influence that collaborator Nile Rodgers, formerly of the aforementioned Chic, brings to the experience and it builds a perfect groove that carries the simple lyrics into a melody that will be stuck in your head for days and re-enforces the simple message they are attempting to get across. What was slightly unexpected about the record though is that overall it is a much slower paced piece and that comes through immediately after the swelling intro track. “The Game of Love” offers the same dehumanized, electronic vocals that is a Daft Punk trademark, but more than simply being a song on its own that elicits the soundtrack of an ‘80s movie montage and capturing the mood of a sullen, heartbroken piece of time in someone’s life, it also expertly sets up for the symphonic escapade that is “Giorgio By Moroder”. Giovanni Giorgio is an influential Italian record producer best known for producing several hits for Donna Summer in the prime of the disco era while also having worked with artists at the caliber of Led 22 | P a g e
Zeppelin, Queen, Elton John and Electric Light Orchestra (one of my personal favorites of all time). In many ways Daft Punk has chosen to honor Giorgio by telling his story through the music he loves so much. Beginning with a kind of autobiography from Giorgio himself he describes how he first became entranced by music, when he decided he wanted to be a musician and how he came upon the sounds of the future that would help him stake his claim in the genre. All this as the music in the background changes to capture the changing times, an evolution of music in itself that both accompanies the words being spoken and educating the listener on how a single throughline of synthesizer can deviate and surge into an unexpected place while staying true to that core vibe, that disco funk bassline that is instantly memorable. I won’t break down every track on the album, but the shortest and most emotionally effective piece comes next in the form of “Within”. It carries, for me, the most instantly infectious melody I’ve heard in some time. It instantly grabs at you and though the lyrics are vague and could be interpreted any number of ways it haunts you and holds your intrigue by creating a special kind of nostalgia that allows you to yearn for the period in music when it was as much about the quality as the image while bringing a hope for the future in that this kind of music still has the ability to hit such an emotional chord within you. “Instant Crush,” featuring Strokes lead singer Julian Casablancas should easily be a single as it contains a cruising groove that will have you driving down the road with the windows down as the sun does the same thing for the sole reason of playing this song. It is a perfect capsule of a specific moment that can be universally experienced. The collaborations with Pharrell Williams are both equally funkinfused and have an unbelievable groove that will literally make you want to lose yourself to dance. There are other gems here such as, “Touch” which features composer Paul Williams and is appropriately theatrical offering the biggest diversion from the pop/funk/disco sounds that dominate the record. “Touch” gives hints of soft rock and progressive pop while utilizing but not over-using such things as a children’s choir to be both effective and catchy. The record closes with the epic, “Contact” which, if any long-time fans were in doubt, should bring this entry in Daft Punk’s canon full circle with their previous work. “Contact” also exudes everything that is on point with the album as a whole as it spans so many genres and styles that you feel consumed by it. The synths that explode onto the track as if the flood gates had just been opened are chill-inducing and the way it builds, delivering a cacophony of drums, organs and electronica elements gives way to an almost ethereal experience. It so easily guides us from disco to funk, from pop and rock through to jazz that it makes you wonder how something so calculated, so precise, so exact can sound so experimental yet so infused with life and meaning. “Random Access Memories” is the kind of album you listen to for years upon years and that you make your kids listen to and ingrain in their own memory because not only is it good music but because it tells a story and it teaches you something you might not have discovered about music or about yourself otherwise.
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‘Wrote a Song for Everyone’ by John Fogerty By Julian Spivey
Everybody loves John Fogerty. I’ve never known anyone who didn’t like and respect Fogerty’s music either with the iconic Creedence Clearwater Revival or as a solo artist. This is why droves of today’s biggest musicians from a multitude of musical genres got together with the living legend to record and in many cases re-imagine some of Fogerty’s masterworks. It’s also why the album sold millions of copies and debuted at number three on the Billboard albums chart. The collaborative album, aptly called “Wrote a Song for Everyone,” sharing the name of one of Fogerty’s best and most underrated songs, is a nice way to not only bring Fogerty’s music to the forefront among a younger generation (even though his tunes are so epic on their own that people should know and love them at any age), but to also show the impact that a great like Fogerty has had on some of today’s biggest and best stars. “Wrote a Song for Everyone” is not a perfect album. How could a work re-hashing older songs with collaborators truly be perfect? Despite a couple misses mixed in with great tracks, it is a production that all Fogerty fans should own and those looking to get into the works of one of the all-time greatest singer-songwriters and guitar players should certainly check out. The best track on the album is also its first – “Fortunate Son,” the epic 1969 CCR anti-war, antiestablishment song – cut perfectly by Fogerty and the Foo Fighters. “Fortunate Son” was the obvious choice for the Foo Fighters here as it is right up the group’s alley. The performance remains faithful to the original, but louder with the Foos’ trio of guitars mixed with Fogerty’s own playing. The scowling dual vocals by Dave Grohl and Fogerty mesh extremely well together and the song culminates in a terrific guitar solo just before the final chorus. Maybe it’s just me believing that great Fogerty songs shouldn’t be messed with all that much, but most of the best tracks on the album are the ones that don’t really stray all that much from the originals – like Alan Jackson joining Fogerty for “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” and Bob Seger joining him for “Who’ll Stop the Rain.” Sure, Jackson’s version of the former sounds a little countrified with fiddles, etc. and Seger and Fogerty duet on a more plaintive, thought provoking “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” but the changes are welcome, especially on “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” and don’t alter the songs too much. The worst track on the album is Kid Rock’s “Born on the Bayou,” which is one of the tracks that has been messed with too much and altered in a way that takes a kickass rock song and turns it into a Kid Rock type of country-pop-rock-R&B mistake. However, Fogerty’s strong vocals on the track are still similar to the original song.
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Another track on the album that really doesn’t work out as well as it should – and the one that most disappoints me, because it’s one of my favorite CCR tunes – is “Lodi” performed with John’s sons, Shane and Tyler. “Lodi” is a very melancholic ballad and one of Fogerty’s most country-ish tunes, which was definitely in the original’s favor. The new version is frankly too happy of a song and thus doesn’t fit the lyrics or overall message. It also strips the country-ness away in favor of a more rock or soft rock sound. The title track performed with country songstress Miranda Lambert, with a fantastic guitar solo added by the great Tom Morello, is also a highlight of the album. “Wrote a Song for Everyone” is one of Fogerty’s best written and story-ish ballads, and one that as previously mentioned is sorely underrated, likely even by those who consider themselves to be big CCR fans. Other highlights from the album include Fogerty’s collaborating with Dawes on the gut-punching “Someday Never Comes” and My Morning Jacket on the bluesy “Long as I Can See the Light.” “Wrote a Song for Everyone” also includes two new pieces of music recorded by Fogerty, both done on the album solo – “Mystic Highway” and “Train of Fools.” Both tracks are relatively strong, but let’s face it, most people aren’t tuning into this album for the new stuff – right or wrong. This album is about an all-time great doing some of his all-time greats with some of the best the music industry has to offer today … and Kid Rock. “Wrote a Song for Everyone” mostly accomplishes what it set out to do and that’s to keep great rock ‘n’ roll music alive and kicking into the future.
Music John Fogerty’s 10 Greatest Lyrics By Julian Spivey
Back in November before going to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (my all-time favorite act) perform in Kansas City, I compiled a list of Springsteen’s greatest lyrics complete with my reasoning for choosing each lyric. At the time I hadn’t thought about doing these pieces as a series, but upon the release of John Fogerty’s new album “Wrote a Song for Everyone,” where he collaborates on his classic tunes with some of today’s biggest and brightest musicians I figured a list of Fogerty’s greatest lyrics would be fun to do. It’s incredibly hard to believe, but Fogerty has been entertaining audiences for over 45 years. His swamp rock style of music and fantastic guitar playing has made him one of the greatest performers of all-time. But, Fogerty is not just a talented musician and a unique vocalist – he’s also one of the finest songwriters around. Here are the 10 John Fogerty lyrics that stand out the most to me (in chronological order) … 25 | P a g e
“Wrote a Song for Everyone” (1969) Wrote a song for ev'ryone, Wrote a song for truth. Wrote a song for ev'ryone And I couldn't even talk to you. “Wrote a Song for Everyone” is truly one of John Fogerty’s underrated classics; underrated because it wasn’t a single off of the iconic 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival album “Green River,” and thus many casual CCR fans don’t know it. One of Fogerty and CCR’s more melancholic ballads – which are popular on this list – the song reportedly came out of a fight Fogerty had with his first wife who accused him of caring more about his music then his family. Hence Fogerty “wrote a song for everyone/and I couldn’t even talk to you.” The verses give the song a more important feeling than a spousal squabble, talking about injustices like war and slavery. The plaintive chorus hits home that it’s hard to fight for what’s right and still maintain a normal life. This one particularly speaks to me because it’s an issue I occasionally battle with in my own life. “Bad Moon Rising” (1969) Hope you got your things together. Hope you are quite prepared to die. Looks like we're in for nasty weather. One eye is taken for an eye. The apocalyptic lyrics to “Bad Moon Rising” sung over a somewhat eerie-in-its-cheeriness music are Fogerty at his most badass. The singer-songwriter claimed to have gotten the imagery from an old movie called “The Devil and Daniel Webster” about a man who makes a deal with the devil and when a hurricane destroys everything around his crops are spared. There is bad shit going down in this song – and the above lyric is the song at its most evil – but the way in which Fogerty sings “hope you are quite prepared to die” almost with glee in his voice has always made this one stick out to me. “Lodi” (1969) Things got bad, and things got worse, I guess you will know the tune. Oh! Lord, stuck in Lodi again. I’ve frequently considered “Bad Moon Riding” to be CCR’s best song, but as I get older and put years behind me I think “Lodi” is quickly becoming my favorite. It’s probably Fogerty at his best. The song is about a down-and-out musician who’s relegated to playing small towns like Lodi, Calif. His career was full and bright, but out of nowhere has disappeared. Fogerty wrote it as a situation that he hoped he would never be in. This lyric, the song’s refrain, is sung with such intense sadness that you just can’t help but feel as trapped as the singer stuck in Lodi. It’s a song that I admire, but fear all at the same time. I fear it because everybody has their own little Lodi and some days you just can’t help but feel like you’re stuck there again. 26 | P a g e
“Fortunate Son” (1969) Some folks inherit star spangled eyes Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord And when you ask them, "How much should we give?" Ooh, they only answer More! more! more! Yoh “Fortunate Son,” from CCR’s 1969 album “Willy and the Poor Boys,” may be the most important song that Fogerty has ever written and, since it came out while the Vietnam War was in full force, is certainly his most political. The song is essentially a screw you to those who sit back and pull the strings (the politicians and rich) while innocent boys go off to die for their country – sometimes for no reason at all. “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” (1970) Look at all the happy creatures dancing on the lawn. A dinosaur Victrola list'ning to Buck Owens. “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” is the first CCR song I can ever remember hearing and singing, and boy is it a blast to sing in the car with your windows rolled down. It’s also one of Fogerty’s happiest and no doubt trippiest tunes. The imagery in the song is vivid and incredibly fun speaking of giants and elephants and all sorts of other “happy creatures dancing on the lawn.” This imagery led many to believe the song was about drugs, but Fogerty said it was merely written for his then three-year-old son in a sort of Dr. Seuss style. The thing that really makes this particular lyric stand out to me the most is its homage to the great Buck Owens, another one of my many musical favorites. The entire song is a tribute to the Bakersfield Sound, a unique form of music mostly by country singers like Owens and Merle Haggard that greatly influenced Fogerty. “Run Through the Jungle” (1970) Thought I heard a rumblin' Callin' to my name, Two hundred million guns are loaded Satan cries, "Take aim!" “Run Through the Jungle” is probably not one of my 10 favorite CCR songs, which isn’t really saying anything; it’s a fantastic song (and some of my 10 favorite CCR songs didn’t have lyrics on this list), but this lyric by Fogerty is certainly among his best. It’s in similar vein to both “Fortunate Son” and “Bad Moon Rising” – two of my CCR favorites – in that it combines the anti-war sentiments with apocalyptic scenarios. Just the very image of a battle taking place with Satan ordering the soldiers to “take aim” is one of the most literary and vivid images in all of rock music. “Who’ll Stop the Rain” (1970) Heard the singers playin', How we cheered for more. The crowd had rushed together, Tryin' to keep warm. 27 | P a g e
Still the rain kept pourin', Fallin' on my ears. And I wonder, Still I wonder Who'll stop the rain. John Fogerty wrote this tune after CCR’s appearance at Woodstock in 1969. He said in 2007, “I was at Woodstock 1969 … I think. It was a nice event. I’m a California kid. I went up there and saw a whole bunch of really nice young people. Hairy. Colorful. It started to rain, and got really muddy, and then half a million people took their clothes off! Boomer generation making its presence known I guess. Anyway, then I went home and wrote this song.” The song is about having to stand up and do something if you really want to enact change upon the world – Fogerty knowing that peace, love and happiness can only go so far in the song’s plaintive final verse. It’s a lyric that’s still just as needed today as it was back then. “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” (1970) I want to know, Have you ever seen the rain Comin' down on a sunny day? I wonder how many people think “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” is actually about watching it rain on a sunny day? Metaphors are where Fogerty often thrives in his songwriting. A lot of people thought that this song was about how the ideals and feelings of the ‘60s didn’t really exist once the country got into the ‘70s, which I quite like, but Fogerty always claimed the song was about the impending end of CCR, which really only lasted about five years, and the departure of his brother, Tom, from the group. No matter what the song and this iconic lyric really meant to Fogerty or critics, it is a feeling that everyone has felt at some point in their lives. We all truly know how it feels when it rains on a sunny day. “Someday Never Comes” (1972) Well, I'm here to tell you now each and ev'ry mother's son You better learn it fast; you better learn it young, 'Cause, "Someday" Never Comes." “Someday Never Comes,” much like “Lodi,” is a rough one particularly for me because it’s about the future not panning out the way you hoped or dreamed it would – something that I fear sometimes is happening to me. It’s this truth that makes me admire and love songs like this, but also somewhat depresses me. Fogerty wrote this song about his parent’s divorce and his dad never being around and then experiencing the same thing when he had a son and was always on the road touring. However, the “someday never comes” lyric can essentially be about anything you want in life not coming to fruition. It’s one of those true “life’s a bitch” songs. “Centerfield” (1985) Got a beat-up glove, a home-made bat And a brand new pair of shoes You know I think it's time to give this game a ride Just to hit the ball, and touch 'em all A moment in the sun It's a-gone and you can tell that one good-bye
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OK, so this one’s pretty simple … I’m a huge baseball fan and this is easily the greatest rock ‘n’ roll baseball song ever written and recorded. This was also the song that I had the hardest time choosing just one lyric from (I’ve allotted myself only one lyric from each song), because I considered the great lyric that references some of baseball’s all-time greats like Willie Mays, Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio. However, I settled on this particular lyric because it’s one that truly represents the utter joy and glee of playing the greatest game ever created. Anybody who has ever played sandlot baseball with their friends knows just exactly what this verse is talking about. It’s truly a magical experience.
Blaspheming Yeezus (Or How Everybody’s Got to Have Somebody to Look Down On) By Julian Spivey
When the oceans rise and the volcanoes erupt and the ground opens up and swallows you whole and the rays from the sun burn your skin right off your bone you’re gonna wish you’d have gone out and picked up “Yeezus.” You’re gonna regret all those times you badmouthed Yeezus – the times you laughed at him and called him a fool, an idiot, a jackass, arrogant (if you’re the Son of God wouldn’t you be?), even the antichrist. Because Jesus walks the Earth and he’s been here for many years – bigger, stronger, faster than ever before. And he’s coming to take his followers, his believers home and it’s too late for the blasphemers, the non-believers to run away. So let us have a toast for the douchebags, the assholes, the jerkoffs – every one of them that you know. For they will not be a part of this beautiful dark and twisted fantasy come true. They will not be able to bask in the light and glory of the Son of God because they refused to buy into and believe his existence. You will not know the time or place the good book said, but he had the grace to tell you he was here time and time again – so that you wouldn’t be left behind when it finally came time, but you mocked him and you called him a false prophet and now your souls will be laid to waste. That which does not kill Yeezus will only make him stronger. You didn’t even necessarily have to like him – all you needed was to believe and not to have hate in your heart. But you couldn’t do it – you failed his test like the college dropouts and gold diggers you are. But you were never messing with no broke nigga – you were messing with Christ. The greatest thing God gave us, other than Yeezus, of course, was love and here we are turning on one of his sons. They have sinned, but refuse to seek repentance believing their reasoning to be righteous – the zealots. They hate him, but they don’t even know him – the atheists, the agnostics, the “Christians” – hypocrites. 29 | P a g e
But, it’s not them who shall seek to judge and condemn Yeezus. He shall be judged only by his Father. Do not judge others, and God will not judge you; do not condemn others, and God will not condemn you; forgive others, and God will forgive you.
Natalie Maines: 10 Years Later By Julian Spivey
Ten years ago Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, was one of the biggest and most popular performers in the genre of country music. And, then she did something that we as American citizens thankfully have the right to do … she opened her mouth and gave her opinion on something. At a concert in London in March of 2003, Maines stated that the Dixie Chicks were not in favor of the Iraq War and she said that she was “ashamed” that President George W. Bush was “from Texas.” This statement came just months after Maines criticized fellow country music star Toby Keith’s uber-patriotic “Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American)” for being “ignorant” and making “country music sound ignorant.” The two statements started a feud with Keith, who began to display a backdrop at shows on his tour featuring a doctored photo of Maines with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, according to BBC News. In May of 2003, Maines then wore a shirt with the acronym “F.U.T.K.” while performing with the Dixie Chicks at the Academy of Country Music Awards. At the time Maines told the media that the acronym stood for “Freedom, United, Together in Kindness” and not a thinly veiled dig at Keith. However, in Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck’s 2006 documentary “Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing” Maines finally admitted the shirt did indeed stand for “Fuck You, Toby Keith.” Following these rebellious moments from Maines much of the country music industry – radio, insiders and fans alike – turned their back on the Dixie Chicks and essentially banished the award-winning group from Nashville. Radio stations refused to play the trio’s music and fans across the country held Dixie Chicks album burnings and trashings. To this day Maines and the Dixie Chicks haven’t really been welcomed back into the world of country music, despite finding some critical success with their 2006 album “Taking the Long Way,” which would go on to win five Grammy Awards including the most coveted and prestigious Album of the Year and featured the Record of the Year and Song of the Year winning “Not Ready to Make Nice,” which signified they weren’t going to be apologizing for Maines’ statements and actions anytime soon.
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The group hasn’t released an album since and is currently on hiatus. However, Maines has decided to return to making music with her first solo album, “Mother,” released in May. The album, which is not a country music album, was met with decent reviews and much press. In an infamous interview with Rolling Stone in May, Maines was unabashed in her discontent at the country music genre that had turned its back on her and her group and bashed the genre for many things, especially its lack of “subtle lyrics” and “poetry.” So, not much has happened really in the 10 long years since Maines and the Dixie Chicks were unceremoniously kicked out of country music – country music and its fans still seem to blackball the group and many fans seem to still resent Maines and her opinions and Maines has a clear resentment toward the genre that once made her a superstar and household name. Ten years ago I was a 15-year old kid who really didn’t give a damn about politics, as most 15-year olds don’t and probably shouldn’t. In the coming years though I would grow discontented with President Bush’s policies and war that we never should have gotten into in the first place and as a result lost a lot of fine men and women – some of that discontent actually came as a result of listening to music, like country legend Merle Haggard’s fantastic “America First” and “Where’s All the Freedom?” But, at 15 as a country music fan all I knew was that I liked Toby Keith’s music and I didn’t care for the Dixie Chicks’ music. In the 10 years since, I’ve mostly been disappointed with Keith’s music choices and have yet to make an attempt to get into the Dixie Chicks’ old tunes – for better or worse. And, so my 15-year old self taking Maines’ blasts at Keith as an insult to a musician I liked decided that I would side with Keith. After all, it wouldn’t be very hard to boycott a group I never actually cared for in the first place. Despite my siding with Keith, I can honestly say even my immature self never for a moment hated Maines or felt like destroying some of the Dixie Chicks’ records or paraphernalia because at 15 I was more mature than those clowns who couldn’t accept that somebody might have a different opinion than they did. My 2013 self sides with Maines on her statements and actions of 2003. I too grew to become ashamed of President Bush for his sending our troops into a bogus war and for numerous other atrocities he wrought or helped to have wrought on this country – many of which we’re still having trouble getting out of five years after his presidency. I even don’t care today what Maines said about Keith and his song, which I can say I still sort of like, but not as much as I did at the time. Keith has always claimed that his song was written through the eyes of what his father would have thought had he lived to see the tragedy of 9/11. It’s a fair and accurate assessment of what a lot of Americans felt after the terrorist attacks and thus the reason it became a huge hit for the Okie singer. However, my 2013 self also knows full well that Maines needs to, somewhat, get the hell over what happened to her. She doesn’t ever have to get over how she was treated by those wanting to disown or banish her, but she does have to stop this almost childish resentment she has toward the genre of country music as a whole, specifically the utter asininity of the “country music lacks subtlety and poetry” statement to Rolling Stone. Just ask Kris Kristofferson if his music lacks subtlety or poetry.
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Maines is not dumb. She knows what she said was both untrue and an unfair generalization, but she’s still so pissed off at the genre and industry for doing what they did to her that she will take every opportunity she gets to lambaste it. What happened to Maines and her Dixie Chicks bandmates Martie Maguire and Emily Robison (who are the most unfairly punished people in the whole scenario) was horrible, wrong and unfair and makes me feel sorry for them. However, every time Maines says something ignorant or bitter like her most recent swipe at country music a little bit of that sympathy fades away.
Songs ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad/Do-Re-Mi’ by Elvis Costello & Mumford and Sons By Julian Spivey
Elvis Costello. Mumford and Sons. Bruce Springsteen. Woody Guthrie. Mix ‘em up all together. What do you get? You get a fantastic bit of Americana that sounds great and is performed and recorded to do good – everything that folk music is supposed to do and be. That’s exactly what Costello and Mumford and Sons have done by mashing together the great Springsteen mid-‘90s song “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and Guthrie’s iconic “Do-Re-Mi.” Two songs either about or from the Dust Bowl era recorded for the agit8 campaign to fight poverty, a cause Springsteen and especially Guthrie have both fought for in their respective illustrious careers. The recording was done rather quickly to benefit the campaign and as a result has this great spur of the moment feel to it as if it’s just been recorded by a group of dusty trail travelers sitting around a campfire late at night, midst drinking coffee and swapping stories. “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” one of Springsteen’s best and most underrated works, and “Do-Re-Mi” fit together effortlessly. Marcus Mumford takes lead vocal on ‘Tom Joad’ and Costello does so on ‘Do-ReMi,’ with the other accompanying on the chorus of each; the two harmonizing beautifully. The musicianship is simple and simply effective with acoustic guitars, stand-up bass, banjo and accordion. The song is appropriately stripped down, with the Mumford’s toning down their usual intensity to great effect. If you’re a fan of folk or Americana music than this collaboration between a living legend and one of today’s brightest acts should be right up your alley.
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‘See You Again’ by Carrie Underwood By Aprille Hanson
Carrie Underwood’s latest singles “Blown Away” and “Two Black Cadillacs” are both pretty dark. Both are about revenge and death. I was starting to worry a bit about her NHL hubby’s safety. However, her latest single “See You Again,” is also about death, it takes on a different feel entirely – hope. For anyone who has lost a loved one, this song is important to listen to. It’s almost the other side of the coin to Miranda Lambert’s incredibly depressing, but honest hit “Over You.” The song starts out: “Said goodbye, turned around / and you were gone, gone, gone.” However, it takes a turn, because that person is now the “light I follow,” “the stars” and “my tomorrow.” As the chorus goes: “I’ll see you again, oh / this is not where it ends / I will carry you with me, oh / ‘til I see you again.” Lyically, it’s a very simple song. However, with Underwood belting the notes, it turns into an upbeat song filled with genuine hope. It’s unfortunate after the recent devastation in her home state of Oklahoma that her album and title track are “Blown Away.” So, it’s good in this sense that this single was released now. It will provide a light in the darkness of depression. It might just help us all dig out of the emotional hole that “Over You” buried us in (again, great song, but kudos to you if you can hear it without crying).
‘Little Bit of Everything’ by Keith Urban By Aprille Hanson
Good old reliable Keith Urban with his latest “chill song” where he can get his “groove on.” Urban is like your favorite worn out sandal. It doesn’t really fit any differently, the scuff marks on it aren’t suddenly going to disappear, but it’s comfortable and still cute. Urban has so much talent wrapped up in him that he could probably release several more songs that will go down as country classics, but it’s really not something he has to do. He can, and he has (think “Raining on Sunday”), but it’s his fun hits that just make me smile when they pop on the radio. His latest single “Little Bit of Everything,” is about a man who wants just that – some Cuban cigars, a little dirt on his hands and a disco ball hanging from an old oak tree. Sounds like a fun time. The only lyrics that made me raise an eyebrow were: “I want a cool chick that’ll cook for me / but will dance on the bar in her tan bare feet / And do what I want when I want and she’ll do it with me.” I’m not a crazy feminist by any means, but honestly, throwing in a line about wanting a girl to cook for you may not be the best tactic if you’re trying to appeal to a young female crowd. But, again, just like an old sandal, I love his music.
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‘Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead’ by Turnpike Troubadours By Julian Spivey
I will forever be indebted to the KVOM 101.7 FM radio station in little Morrilton, Ark. for introducing me to the terrific music of the Turnpike Troubadours. At a time when I had grown my most irritated with the recent state of country music I was flipping though the radio dials and heard something that I could’ve sworn had to have been recorded years ago – because it was too good to be new – that song was “Long Hot Summer Day” from the Troubadours’ second album (and somewhat of a breakthrough) “Diamonds & Gasoline” (2010). The song, which I now believe is likely not even one of their 20 best (that’s not an insult, but a compliment; it’s a cover song and the Troubadours frankly write better ones themselves), though a fan favorite, drew me in with its old-timey sound, similar to Old Crow Medicine Show, and incredible fiddle playing by band member Kyle Nix. The song inspired me to find the group’s music on Spotify where I fell in love with “Diamonds & Gasoline” and had to buy the album. When their most recent album, “Goodbye Normal Street,” came out in 2012 I immediately had to have it and its first two singles – “Gin, Smoke & Lies” and “Good Lord Lorrie” – wound up in the top dozen songs of my 50 best country songs of 2012 list. Their first single of 2013, “Wrecked,” has probably been the best country song halfway through the year and that brings us to the group’s most recent single, “Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead.” This track absolutely embodies everything the Troubadours are about – excellent musicianship, fantastic songwriting from lead singer Evan Felker (one of the best in the biz) and a ferocious intensity that few groups can manage. Seeing these guys perform live, particularly this song, is truly a revelation. Much like most of the Troubadours great tunes “Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead” features Nix’s wonderful fiddle sawing. It’s one of those things that truly sets the song apart from most modern day country music. Mainstream country has abandoned classic country things like rapid fiddling, something that red dirt country artists, like the Turnpike Troubadours, have thankfully and smartly hung onto. “Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead” is a rapid fire hoedown of a song with a kickass guitar solo between the second singing of the chorus and the final verse. It also contains one of the group’s best written, and catchiest choruses: “Well, raise another round boys and have another glass/Be thankful for today knowing it will never last/Let’s leave the world laughing when our eulogies are read/May we all get to heaven 'fore the devil knows we're dead.” The song is a plea for living life to its fullest – something these boys do full bore on the track and in person. If you’ve never heard of the Turnpike Troubadours it’s a nice four-minute introduction into one of the best kept secrets in all of music, especially country music.
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Books ‘The Time Keeper’ by Mitch Albom By Aprille Hanson
Imagine a world without time. No clocks ticking off the seconds, minutes, hours of each day. No rushing to get from point A to point B. We would not pray for more time with our loved ones when they’re passing because we would have already appreciated the time we had with them. We would not stress over arriving late because the term “late” would not exist. It’s a concept that is masterfully explored by author Mitch Albom in his most recent book, “The Time Keeper.” It is a fictional tale of Father Time – the first person on Earth to ever measure time. Father Time, known as Dor, became consumed with counting the days, measuring the sun and moon’s place in the sky at various points in the day and soon, without realizing it, brought a new burden upon every future human being – the ability to tell time. His love for his wife Alli and their three children was strong and true, but he was always at a distance, too busy counting everything in his mind. Dor’s “punishment” for measuring God’s gift of time (which turns out to be his saving grace) is to be trapped in a cave for thousands of years, hearing the cries of generations asking for more time. But God has a grander plan for him, which includes saving the souls of two people. The first is a businessman named Victor Delmonte who wants too much time – to be frozen upon his impending death with the goal of being brought back to life in the future. The second, a 17-year-old senior named Sarah Lemon, a smart girl but an outcast that wants too little time – after being socially humiliated by a boy she loves, she plans to end her life. All three characters learn a lesson about why God gives and limits man’s time on Earth. Albom, the New York Times bestselling author of “Tuesdays with Morrie” and a respected sports journalist, has a true talent for making the ordinary extraordinary. ‘Time Keeper’ is written in the same style as his other books – vivid descriptions, but short sentences, pages and chapters when needed and the ability of his characters to connect with the reader like few authors can truly achieve. It’s something I believe he achieves because he is a reporter (meaning he’s used to being clear and concise) coupled with a creative mind. Some might feel Albom keeps beating the same drum with his themes of faith, life and exploring the human existence, but that’s where his storytelling shines. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 35 | P a g e
Fans of “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” and “For One More Day” and Albom’s other gems, will love “The Time Keeper.” For those who’ve never read an Albom book, quit wasting time and read “The Time Keeper.”
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