Categories
Music

Kalie Shorr – Awake (Review)

Kalie Shorr – Awake

Another one of those “off my radar” music submission reviews!  This time, it’s Kalie Shorr’s Awake EP, which was released January 26th of this year.  Here’s a bit of the press release:

Country rockstress Kalie Shorr released Awake last night to an at-capacity crowd of fans, music industry and friends in Nashville. The highly-anticipated new project features seven songs that bring a rock-infused sound to country, showcasing Shorr’s authenticity, passion and energy which she injects into her music. Awake is available now on iTunesApple MusicGoogle PlayAmazon Music and Spotify.

So let’s unpack this EP a little bit.  The album is most definitely a country-rock album, reminding me a lot of Miranda Lambert (thinking her Kerosene days as I haven’t heard much of her recent music).  If I were to describe the EP as a radio station, it would be the local Country station that drops in songs that straddle the tip of the country-rock-pop triangle.  

I felt that the EP started off on the softer side, and built up to a rougher, rock-infused ending.  I appreciated the build-up.  I haven’t checked the country charts to see how Kalie’s doing, but I imagine that “Who What When Where Why” would be a song that will do well.  I like that one, and “Cool Kids” quite a bit.  “Two Hands” is also not too bad, being a bit of a love ballad.  

OK scratch that, I did do some research, I’m not THAT lazy.  Turns out that “Two Hands” was released as a single and quickly added to rotation on Sirius XM, featured on The Highway, as well as added to Radio Disney Country (there were some promotional exclusives involved with Disney and a few other properties) and TuneIn.  Unfortunately I don’t see her name anywhere on the Billboard charts but it sounds like she’s still getting airplay out there.  

Definitely recommend this one if you’re into rock-infused country.  3.5/5.

Categories
Comics Movies

Avengers Infinity War – Review (Spoilers)

I put “spoilers” in the title, but they’re probably pretty mild.  Honestly, I need to see this movie a second time to really take it in.  There’s a lot going on here.

I'm pretty sure this is an accurate representation of Thanos' Gauntlet.
I’m pretty sure this is an accurate representation of Thanos’ Gauntlet.

I liked the movie.  Quite a bit more than I expected to, honestly.  What I expected was a mostly coherent movie with all of the established movie characters on screen thrown together.  What we got instead was a very coherent movie with all of these characters on screen, but they were put together in a very logical manner.  What I thought worked very well for it was that it featured the cosmic players primarily (i.e. Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, Dr. Strange to an extent), with Earth’s heroes crossing over.

Essentially, similarly to how Captain America: Civil War was basically an Avengers movie, Avengers: Infinity War was basically a Guardians of the Galaxy movie.  This makes sense to me, because the villain (Thanos) is cosmic in scale, so it follows that we would be dealing with characters that operate on a cosmic scale.  It’s rather interesting to me that Earth is only important in that two of the stones are there, but it’s not important enough that Thanos personally wants to go there until the very end (he sends his “children” to go get the stones).

Some pieces of the movie I didn’t completely like.  The part at the beginning with Vision trying to pass as a human in a relationship with Wanda was interesting, but I feel like we jumped quite a bit from his attempts at domesticity in Civil War to being in love with Wanda here in Infinity War.  I was told about a Vision comic book story line recently where he tries to start a family, so I guess that’s where this came from in the movie.  All of the other characters seemed to have made logical progresses, but this one was a big leap.

I also didn’t completely like Banner in this one.  I hope that there is a logical reasoning for sidelining the Hulk (I wonder if it’s possible they’re going to split him into two characters?  I think that’s a thing that happens in the comics) in part two of Infinity War.

One last nitpick – Infinity War seemed to undo a lot of what happened in Thor: Ragnarok.  In that movie, Thor discovers – he doesn’t really need the hammer.  He loses an eye.  In Infinity War, he regains an eye (comically stolen by Rocket) and gets a big axe.  Now that I think about it, looking at The Hulk and Thor specifically, a lot of Ragnarok’s work is reversed with Infinity War, for some reason.

Overall, I appreciate how Marvel has really widened the scope of its movies over the years since the first phase: we started with individual hero movies, with only secondary characters overlapping (Fury, Coulson), leading up to the big collaboration movie: The Avengers.  That was The Big Event movie.  While each individual film dealt with mostly Earth-bound villains, The Avengers was the first to open up the Earth to Space (well, technically I guess Thor did that first).

Then they slowly started building up the universe – crossing characters over in The Winter Soldier, and then the larger cast in Civil War.  There are still some isolated movies, like Black Panther and Ant-Man movies (and presumably, the upcoming Captain Marvel movie) but I don’t think there will be many more ‘primary character only’ movies with the OG Avengers.

I can’t think of much more interesting things to say about Infinity War without watching it again.  I highly recommend you listen to these podcasts, which go much more in-depth than I ever could:

And, I haven’t listened to it yet, but Make Dad Read Comics did an episode about the comic for which this movie is based on, The Infinity Gauntlet, if you’re interested in some background comic information.

 

Categories
Music

Anela & The Early Hours – Yesteryear

I received this email submission back in June 2017; so right off the bat, a slap on the hand to me for not getting to the review until now, nearly a year later.
Yesteryear by Anela & The Early Hours

Anela & The Early Hours is an indie pop group out of London, Ontario.  Yesteryear is their debut album; here are some of my thoughts about it.

Right off the top, I have to be honest and say that this album did not “wow” me.  I feel that it is a solid, well-produced album, but it doesn’t stand out as something special to me.  That said, I would still recommend giving this album a listen.

Like I said, it sounds well-produced.  It’s “radio ready”, in the sense that it sounds good over my speakers and headphones – the sound isn’t too flat or anything like that.  Guitar work in the 7 tracks is delicate but has a presence, and the drums have a certain “pop” to it.  I like lead singer Anela Navarro’s voice, though it doesn’t fluctuate through very much range (however it sounds like she potentially has a wide vocal range in her if she chose to use it).

Singles from the album include “Space” and “All Alone”, for which there are some YouTube videos you can watch: here and here.  The stand-out track for me though was “Stuck With You” – I liked that one the best.

Overall, “Yesteryear” is a good album and I recommend it.  3/5.  You can purchase it from iTunes, or stream it on Spotify/Soundcloud/Bandcamp (link above).

Categories
Podcasts

Recent Podcasts

So my free webhost (DirectHosting) changed servers on the weekend and I neglected to make the changes to the domain name right way – which in turn meant that since Sunday some time this blog has been down.  Woops!  I hope you weren’t in dire need of an update (which there was none this week).  I was also on a whirlwind trip moving some things across the province so was a bit busy.

Anyway, I thought I’d mention some podcasts I’ve been listening to lately.  Something I haven’t done in a while.

  • 372 Pages We’ll Never Get Back – This started off as a podcast reviewing Ready Player One.  As a follow-up, the hosts (Mike J. Nelson and Conor Lastowka) decided to read Ernest Cline’s follow-up, Armada.  Unfortunately they aired their final episode covering Armada this past Friday.  I’m not sure what they’re going to do to follow up these books, if they are in fact doing anything.  Disclaimer: I enjoyed both RP1 and Armada, but I also enjoyed how Nelson and Lastowka ripped apart the books.
  • Radio Free Burrito – Wil Wheaton is back!  In episode 51 he talks about a crippling depression he faced in 2017 and how he’s gotten better.  I recommend listening to back episodes but hopefully the fact that he put out a new show is a sign indicating more new shows to come.
  • Missing and Murdered: Finding Cleo – An investigative podcast from Connie Walker, and a follow-up to Missing and Murdered: Who Killed Alberta Williams?  All episodes are available to download, and it’s turning out to be an important podcast series rather than “just another true crime podcast”.
  • Incoming Game: A ReBoot ReWatch – With The Guardian Code (trailer) coming out in the US in March (and June, in Canada), ReBoot is suddenly relevant again.  Listening to this show prompted me to start my own rewatch.  The hosts are still getting their rhythm down but it’s entertaining.
Categories
Music

Mini Podcast Review: Double Consciousness

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted anything – will be honest, I’ve been devoting attention to my personal blog and have been neglecting this one; partially the reason behind that is because I’m not as comfortable writing about music (strange as that seems) as other topics.

I promised in my last podcast and a few tweets that I would review the new podcast from Toussaint Morrison called Double Consciousness.

I will be up front – this podcast is not for me.  I thought that because I love what Toussaint brings to the table musically, that adding his podcast to my subscription list would be fun.  I appreciate the content and discussion topics that he and podcast partner Joetta talk about, but I found the episodes to be a bit too long for my personal preference.

That said, this isn’t a podcast I would completely abandon.  I think that they have the makings of a great show, discussing important topics (and some not-so-important topics sometimes) from their perspective.  And to clarify, they’re talking about issues from a black person’s perspective, which is still relevant today despite any social progression we’ve made around the world. 

I think one of the other reasons the podcast doesn’t resonate with me fully is that I am a white male so it goes without saying that I can’t fully relate to their discussions. 

However I still recommend giving it a listen and see if it’s up your alley.  It’s available on iTunes and most other podcast platforms.

Categories
TV

Black Mirror – USS Callister

Black Mirror’s season 4 was recently made available on Netflix. This is a show I’ve been meaning to watch for a long time, but haven’t gotten around to. Peak TV, everyone. Anyway, I heard a bit about the first episode of the season, USS Callister, and decided to at least check out that one episode. I don’t have too many thoughts to write down about the episode, but I have some. Mild spoilers follow, but I don’t think you’ll lose anything knowing a few details before viewing.

Production Quality

The production quality of this episode was amazing. I know that a lot of TV shows, especially those on Netflix, are really upping their game in terms of picture quality, but this one really felt cinematic. I can’t help but be blown away by the quality; the sets aboard the USS Callister were deliberately cheesy, and of obvious lower quality, but it’s still high quality. The scenes in the real world are well shot, and I really enjoyed the sound design in the episode – something that I think is often overlooked.

There were some small, subtle touches as well in the set design. Most of these that I enjoyed were the light technology touches. The apartment door for example, using a display screen to show the apartment number as well as a nice little Christmas wreath. Cell phones appear as sleek devices that are essentially just a screen. The downside to this is that some of the video game equipment seems inappropriately clunky in comparison to the rest of the tech.

Ship In A Bottle

The ending of the episode, which I don’t really want to spoil, reminds me a lot of the ending of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Ship In A Bottle. The open ending of both episodes are really quite similar. Unfortunately since I don’t want to spoil it, that means I’ll have to stop talking about it.

Humour

USS Callister was very hit-or-miss with the humour. Some of it worked really well for me, but other places it felt very flat and didn’t work at all. I think in some parts they were clearly trying to invoke different sci-fi franchises (Star Trek being the most prominent) but stopped short of using copyrighted terms for some reason? I’m not sure why, because it would very clearly fall under the category of parody. For example, when Nannette asks if Daley is going to throw a fireball at her…I was expecting her to ask if he was going to use the Force. I guess the point was to avoid any mention of real life properties in the show?

Another thing – sometimes the humour felt out of place with the rest of the episode, which at times played as a sort of body and psychological horror show. What I mean is that the overall tone of the episode was uneven, leaving me unsure of what kind of message the show was trying to leave about technology. I think they were just telling a cool story they wanted to tell?

Overall Thoughts

I don’t think this episode convinced me to pick up watching the rest of the series. It was good, and I thought it was well-produced, but I don’t think this particular anthology series is for me.

If you want to hear some more detailed, spoiler-filled thoughts about the show, check out Anthology Pod’s bonus episode coverage.

Categories
Movies

Logan (2017) – Review

I finally had the chance to see Logan, the 2017 film from James Mansgold.  This was a really good movie on its own, but also a great super hero movie entry in the X-Men series.

Logan is based on the Old Man Logan comic books, and is set in 2029 – when mutants are all but extinct (at the start of the movie there are only three we know about: Logan, Charles Xavier, and Calliban).  Oh, and the funniest bit is that Logan is an uber driver, rolling around in a limo.  I thought that was great.

What follows in the movie is not your standard superhero movie plot to save the world from impending doom; instead it’s actually a pretty personal story (for Logan / Wolverine) and about a journey from point A to point B.  Stuff happens along the way, both good and bad.  I have to say that this is probably the best Marvel movie I’ve seen since Captain America: Winter Soldier.

A lot of the buzz about this movie was that it was rated R; the rating comes for mainly the graphic violence and some language.  I think that this movie would have worked without the graphic nature of the violent scenes, but at the same time – Wolverine is a very violent character, so including it seemed to help make the movie fit more with his character.  That said – the action scenes that included most of the violence were shot quick (though not in a blur, like some movies – it was very easy to follow along on the screen), and wasn’t “shocking” the way that violence like this can be (I’m thinking of Game of Thrones, or even one of the more recent episodes of Star Trek: Discovery).

What I think is the greatest move in this was creating a realistic future setting.  It’s only set in 2029 – so just 12 years from when it was released (2017).  It sounds like it’s far away, but it’s not – and the technology reflects it.  Cell phones are recognizable as cell phones, and there are some projections that make sense – driver-less transport trucks, for example.  Beyond that, it was a relate-able world.

Contrast this to a movie like Minority Report; that one was set in 2054, at the time 52 years ahead of the release date (2002).  Apparently they hired some consultants to brainstorm what technological advances we’d see in 50 years, and they came up with a world that mostly operates the same, but with hyper-inflated technology (the cars they were using were a bit much).  Yeah, some of the technology they showed has surfaced in the last 16 years, but watching that movie recently makes me feel like it’s closer to the 60’s vision of the future in The Jetsons.  Suffice it to say I think Logan’s vision of the (near) future is a good portrayal, and one I think you can extrapolate from.

I thought it was also interesting to note that cell phones were used in some plot points in the movie (minor bits), but were not integral to any of the major events in the movie.  I bring this up only because some people think cell phones have ruined movies – that a lot of scenarios can be solved by the main character simply being able to relay information via cell phone.  There were no plot contrivances in this movie that negated the use of a cell phone, it was simply a plot that didn’t need to rely on communication to get out of jams.  I just wanted to point out that it’s possible to do that.

I think Patrick Stewart really stole the show as Xavier.  It was Logan’s movie, but Xavier shined in this.  I’m glad that the trailers didn’t give too much away, because the movie definitely didn’t unfold the way I thought it would based on some of the scenes they showed, and what I knew going in about his character.

Solid movie overall.  I highly recommend it; and you definitely don’t need to have seen the other X-Men movies to follow along.

Categories
Movies

The Last Jedi (Spoilers!)

The Last Jedi has been out in theatres for at least a month now, which I feel makes it safe to talk about the movie without holding back on spoilers.  With that said, it’s been a while since I’ve seen it, so the details will be somewhat vague.  I won’t be revealing specific plot points (I don’t think, anyway), but I might talk about specific moments in the film.  If you’re okay with that, read on; otherwise wait until you’ve seen the film.  These are some of my thoughts on the controversies and overall opinion of the movie.

Spoiler Alert
Spoiler Alert
Categories
Music

Figures In Motion – Confusion Will Pass

Figures In Motion – Confusion Will Pass

Searching for a new album to write about, I tuned into Jamendo’s Indie radio station.  I’m not sure how exactly they put this thing together – from what I can tell, it plays songs tagged as “indie” back-to-back like a radio station; you can’t skip ahead or go back to hear previous songs.  So if you hear something you like, you’d better click on it.

One of the songs that came up was Curled Up by French indie band Figures In Motion.  It’s off of their debut album Confusion Will Pass, which was released in 2014.

Confusion Will Pass is the first full-length album of Figures in Motion. It was entirely written, recorded and produced at home. Mastered by Jeff Ferrand (WooDBox Studio).

 This album was a treat to listen to.  It truly lives up to the “indie” tag, though touches down into pop and alternative on a few tracks.  Overall, I heard some heavy Coldplay influences – the lead vocalist Mickaël Menu sounds a lot like Chris Martin – mixed with Radiohead.  Not surprisingly, Radiohead is listed first among their main influences (others include Sigur Rós and Aphex Twin).  The sound of the band is predominantly electronic, but there are some acoustic touches as well, with a lot of piano.

I couldn’t really key in on the lyrics – it was hard for me to figure out what they were singing about.  Granted, I was working while listening, but Menu’s singing style made it hard to pick out distinct words and I found it hard to decipher any meaning behind the music.  That said, the instrumentation is fantastic and was what drew me to the album in the first place.  I just wish I could have picked out more of the words.

Figures In Motion – Cycle EP

From what I can see, there aren’t any new albums from Figures In Motion available on Jamendo.  I checked out their website and was disappointed to find that they have a “farewell” message posted; I’m not sure when they disbanded, but it looks like it might have been a while now, and “Confusion Will Pass” is their only full-length album.  If you want to check out some of their other work, you’ll have to make do with their 2011 EP, Cycle.  That one opens with a track that just screams “Radiohead”.

Categories
Movies

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) – Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (IMDB) was a bit of a surprise movie for me.  It showed up in several podcasts I listen to – one of which was The Adam Sandcast (Apple Podcasts), so my first thought that this was another Adam Sandler Netflix low-effort vehicle.

But then I saw it pop up on Filmspotting (Filmspotting.net).  At the time, I had no clue that this was a film directed by Noah Baumbach, so this was my first clue that The Meyerowitz Stories had some pedigree behind it.  Filmspotting usually thumbs its nose at the Adam Sandler Netflix films, so to give it some attention came out of the blue for me.

Seeing it on one of the longer running film review podcasts sealed the deal – I was going to watch the movie anyway, but I made a concerted effort to watch it sooner than later so I could properly enjoy the podcasts.  My next wave of surprise was at how good the movie was.

I’d have to say that Dustin Hoffman’s elder, partially dysfunctional Harold Meyerowitz was my favourite part of the movie.  The next favourite part was that you could see pieces of him in each of his three children (played by Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Elizabeth Marvel).  I thought it was great how you could tell that these were his kids in terms of personality, if not looks.

The story is rather straightforward, so not much to write home about there.  It’s more about the characters in the movie and how they react to what’s going on.  It was nice to see Sandler give a bit more of a nuanced performance than his comedy stylings, though you could see bits of his comedy dip into the role (in a good way).

I REALLY liked how Baumbach plays with the screen; many times characters will be cut off mid-sentence, and often characters will pop in and out of the frame during a scene.  I won’t try to delve too deeply into analyzing the use of these cuts and framing devices, but I feel like it helped to serve the nature of some of the characters.

I definitely recommend this one.  It’s not an Adam Sandler movie, it’s just A Movie.  Has me thinking it’s about time I re-visit a few other “artsy” films I haven’t seen in a long time.