Tag Archives: hip hop

Apple Music and Vice release new ‘The Score’ docu-series about local music scenes

Apple has extended its partnership with cultural news network Vice to release a new docu-series on local music scenes around the world, TechCrunch reported Wednesday. The six-episode series will be called “The Score,” with the first episode taking a look at a techno scene in South Africa and hip hop coming straight out of Minnesota’s […]



Skyfall Passes $1B at Global Box Office


The new James Bond film Skyfall has passed the $1 billion mark at the global box office, making it only the third film this year to join that club behind The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises.

The film is now in 14th place at the all time worldwide box office, right behind The Dark Knight. Skyfall is also the highest-grossing Bond film of all time (not adjusted for inflation).

In addition, Sony Pictures announced that Skyfall is the highest-grossing film at the worldwide box office in the studio’s history. It’s also the highest-grossing UK release of all time.

Skyfall has so far made $289.6 million domestically and another $710.6 million internationally for a current total of $1,000,200,000.


The Hobbit Holds Off Les Mis, Django


New releases Django Unchained and Les Miserables performed very well this post-Christmas weekend, but The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey remained the top movie in North America for the third weekend in a row.

Les Miserables bowed Christmas Day with $18.1 million, while Django Unchained opened on the holiday with $15 million. Parental Guidance debuted on Christmas with $6.4 million.

Here are the weekend estimates via Rentrak:

  1. The Hobbit $32.9 million
  2. Django Unchained $30.7 million
  3. Les Miserables $28 million
  4. Parental Guidance $14.8 million
  5. Jack Reacher $14 million
  6. This is 40 $13.2 million
  7. Lincoln $7.5 million
  8. The Guilt Trip $6.7 million
  9. Monsters, Inc. 3D $6.4 million
  10. Rise of the Guardians $4.9 million


The Impossible Review

The Impossible, helmed by The Orphanage director J.A. Bayona, tells the mostly true story of one family’s traumatic experience during the devastating 2004 tsunami that devoured the western coast of Thailand.

The premise is deceptively simple. At the start of the film, we’re introduced to a vacationing family — father Henry (Ewan McGregor), mother Maria (Naomi Watts) and sons Lucas (Tom Holland), Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) and Thomas (Samuel Joslin) — who arrive in Thailand for a tropical Christmas getaway. However, on the morning of December 26th, they are swept away into a mammoth tidal wave that sends them into the heart of disaster. Now separated, Henry, Maria and their boys must find their way to safety along with the tens of thousands of others caught in the middle of this deadly tragedy.

First and foremost, what really draws you in to The Impossibleis its dynamic sense of scope. While the tsunami is mostly just a backdrop for the narrative, Bayona commands a breathtaking spectacle that really feels authentic. The initial ten-minute sequence depicting the first enormous waves engulfing the coast took over one year to create, with 35,000 gallons of water brought in daily for the one-month shoot, but the results are stunning. If nothing else, the visual effects accomplished here — especially in the first 45 minutes — are nothing short of mind-boggling.

Of course, the heart and soul of this film are its characters. Although their screen time together is minimal, McGregor and Watts each deliver outstanding, moving performances. Frantically weaving through various states of genuine fear and feigned bravery for their kids, Henry and Maria are characters we can easily identify with. Watts is viewed as a potential Oscar nominee for this role, and while it is deserving, McGregor’s performance is equally powerful.

However, the surprise gem in this cast is the young Holland, who is making his impressive feature debut as Lucas. Shouldering responsibilities beyond his age and naturally developing courage throughout the film, it’s Lucas that really exemplifies the candid horror of this grievous situation, and Holland interprets that beautifully on screen.

As it happens, the only real downfall of The Impossible is its relentless sentimentality. Indeed, the harrowing journey of these characters is gripping and heart-rending, but the film occasionally teeters into the realm of emotional manipulation. Coincidence and schmaltz begin to take the reigns around the midpoint, rendering some of the film’s gravitas heavy-handed. Having said that, it’s hard to blame the film too much on this front, as it has to work within the confines of its near two-hour runtime.


At times, The Impossible can feel emotionally draining and even exceedingly romantic, but the film more than makes up for it in mesmerizing imagery and ambitious performances.


Ted Blu-ray Review

The current highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time, Ted, about two Bostonian buddies (one of whom is a foul-mouthed living teddy bear) is now available in its unrated form on Blu-ray. The first-time big screen directorial effort from Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane (from a script by MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild) is a lewd, crude and totally hilarious tale of a grown-ass man (Mark Wahlberg) who learns to, quite literally, put away childish things when his magical best friend, a talking plush bear voiced by MacFarlane, endangers his current relationship with his girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis).

Even those who may have tired of Family Guy’s humor over the years will find this movie, which is also filled with cutaways and loads of niche ’80s references, pretty damn funny. For me, it more or less solidified the fact that I’d much rather see Wahlberg do comedy now than his usual stockpile of actioners. For those of you who are still diehard MacFarlane fans, you’ll find a ton of welcome faces (and voices) here, ranging from lead Kunis to Patrick Warburton to Patrick Stewart to Ralph Garman. You’ll also get a few surprise guest stars in the form of Nora Jones (who also sings the MacFarlane-penned opening credit song “Everybody Needs a Best Friend”) and Flash’s Sam Jones. Yes, TWO Joneses.

The Blu-ray set itself is pretty sweet. Along with looking and sounding great (which is essential for making Ted feel like he’s a seamless part of the world), the extras are substantial. In particular, an in-depth look at the making of Wahlberg’s all out brawl with a CGI Ted (aka himself) in “Teddy Bear Scuffle” where the decision was made to have a brutal, somewhat-dramatic fight instead of a silly scrap. On top of that, MacFarlane’s commentary track, with Sulkin and Wahlberg (who couldn’t stay for the entire film), is both funny and informative. I do lament the lack of Mila Kunis, but all in all this movie, like most of MacFarlane’s projects IS MacFarlane. So most of the insight is going to come from MacFarlane while the most you get from Wahlberg is him letting you know every time one of his cousins pops up on screen in a cameo.

There are also a bunch of deleted scenes and a decent gag reel, but the second best thing to watch after the bear-fight breakdown is the “Alternate Takes” section which is filled with a ton of improvised lines from MacFarlane, who was always live on set, in a mo-cap suit, and ready to riff. The “Making of” featurette is standard, but still informative as it shows all the lengths the creators went to in order to make the absurd character of Ted look and feel like a regular human character.

The main draw of this Blu release though is probably Ted’s “Unrated” version, which people will automatically assume is more racy and raunchy. Which isn’t exactly what an “Unrated” version means per se. This version comes with approximately six more minutes. Some of the extra moments are just scenes that are extended by a tiny bit while the rest of the add-ons are actually more substantial; including more of Ted Danson’s cameo, some more Tom Skerritt jokes, a Tammy-Lynn wedding brawl, a few more lines from Lori’s slutty co-workers and a brief “origin” scene for Giovanni Ribisi’s Donny as a young kid. It’s a nifty amount of additions that don’t make the film feel too bloated.


Django Unchained #1 Review

The first thing I’ll say is this: If you really want to keep the Django Unchained movie experience just that – a movie experience – wait until after you see it to read this book. As Quentin Tarantino explains in his introduction to this comic, this is a straight-up adaptation of his original screenplay, with all the extra meat that he had to cut still intact. So while there will be inevitable differences between the two, this is still pretty much what I’d imagine is the first 20 minutes or so. That being said, this was a pretty entertaining comic book.

First the negative – the opening scene of King’s rescue of Django (shown in the trailers) suffers from something that simply doesn’t work in comics, which is the only real instance of this screenplay-to-art adaptation going south without some sort of adjustment for comics. King’s dialect isn’t made clear, yet the characters he interacts with reference it constantly, despite they themselves speaking in a southern dialect. It’s odd that the dialogue isn’t adjusted to better reflect this; in spoken dialogue, of course, this isn’t an issue. But reading it on the page is vastly different, and this is a perfect example of why there should’ve been a writer involved in the adaptation process.

But with that out of the way, Django Unchained #1 works quite well as a comic. R.M. Guera’s art is a natural fit for this seedy, hate-filled world – honestly, it does feel like a sibling of Scalped, which speaks volumes to what Guera was able to bring to that series. You’ll find the same hard-hitting brutality in Django, with Guera’s deep and heavy blacks formulating a bulk of the pages. Jason Latour steps in to do the brief flashback panels that are scattered throughout the issue, and his equally gritty albeit totally different style is a fitting companion to Guera’s work.

The dialogue is a little heavy at times – again an area that should’ve been adjusted to fit the space constraints of a comic book – but for the most part Tarantino’s sharp banter translates well. The relationship between King and Django is established quickly and efficiently, while also giving the characters distinct motivations in mere pages.

One surprising benefit of this book is that it actually has some great supplemental content for the $4 it will run you (though, apparently the digital version is $5 for some reason). First is an introduction from Tarantino, who tosses out his comic book knowledge for anyone that might doubt him. Next is a mini-poster of Jim Lee’s variant for issue #1, which is actually able to be torn out without ruining the story, since its opposing pages are ads. And finally, there’s a neat 3-page sketchbook from Guera that would normally be reserved for the trade. It’s almost like a Django fanzine.


Zero Dark Thirty Review

It should be noted that this review discusses the real-world events that Zero Dark Thirty is based on, and therefore might be considered spoilery by some.

Director Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty isn’t just great dramatic filmmaking, it’s also great journalism — which is a really weird concept, but there you have it. The film tells the decade-long tale of how a CIA operative slowly, methodically located Osama bin Laden in the wake of 9/11. In so doing, the movie could’ve turned into a dry, by-the-books accounting of the humdrum reality and red tape that led up to that fateful raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound in May, 2011. But instead, it’s one of the best films of the year, a thrilling procedural and study of the labors of obsession.

Bigelow’s naturalistic, you-are-there direction, screenwriter Mark Boal’s fair and balanced — if you will forgive the term — take on these events (informed by research and interviews with the real people involved in the search), and deep, believable performances across the board combine in such a way that Zero Dark Thirty will have you sweating it out by the final reel as if you, too, are about to walk into that compound with SEAL Team Six. Seriously, my heart was pounding as the two Black Hawk helicopters soared through the mountain range between Afghanistan and Pakistan on their way to bin Laden, despite the fact that I, of course, knew exactly how this was all going to end!

But the viewer’s blood starts pumping long before that sequence — right from the get-go, in fact, as we meet Jessica Chastain’s Maya, a green CIA op newly arrived at a U.S. “black site” in the Middle East. Apparently not even getting the chance to change out of her inappropriately neat business suit, Maya is quickly introduced to the information gathering — a.k.a. torture — techniques of Jason Clarke’s hardened interrogator Dan. She watches, clearly troubled, as Dan coaxes, warns, befriends, and then waterboards his al-Qaeda-connected prisoner, all in a matter of minutes. (That Dan, who calls his detainee “bro,” also has a Ph.D only drives home how little we really know and understand about what goes on in the war, and who the people are who are fighting it.)

What’s in the box? Jason Clarke plays CIA interrogator Dan.

Clarke, by the way, is amazing as Dan, who can be as charming as he is monstrous, though the film is Chastain’s all the way. These characters, as well as the long parade of familiar faces (Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Ehle, Edgar Ramirez and James Gandolfini to name just a few) who come and go through this tale, have very little by way of personal lives or the typical movie-character anchors. No spouses, no back story, nothing to drive them but what we see onscreen: A devotion to the job, and in Maya’s case — she’s reportedly based on a real person — a fixation on finding bin Laden that perhaps leaves little room for anything else in her life anyway. She’s haunted by the search for her target, even while it changes her. In time, she finds herself matter-of-factly using the same torture techniques as Dan, for example.

Bigelow and Boal did the Oscar dance in 2010 with their Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker, but Zero Dark Thirty operates on a whole other level. First and foremost, it’s a procedural as Maya digs and digs and must deal with obstacles not just in the field or the interrogation room, but also in the home office as the mission statement from high up evolves. Eventually, bin Laden is no longer the focus as her bosses decide that the al-Qaeda operators on the ground pose the more immediate threat.

“Give me targets,” Mark Strong’s CIA boss demands in the War on Terror equivalent of Glengarry Glen Ross’ Alec Baldwin/steak knives scene. There’s no secret room upstairs, he says, where a hidden team of operatives are conducting the real hunt for terrorists. What you see is what we’ve got. If that’s a scary notion for us, imagine how Maya and the rest must feel.

Jessica Chastain as the obsessed Maya.

The film also sprawls, over years, over continents, over characters and over the murky grey area between right and wrong. You’ll get lost in it all at times, no doubt, whether it’s when the characters start throwing around suspected terrorists’ “war names” versus “family names” at the speed of Howard Hawks, or when the hunt finally takes to the streets of a Pakistani market and the camera reaches a ground-level immersion of sights, sounds and tension.

What the film doesn’t show is the stuff it can’t, or can’t without becoming a “movie” that is. The 9/11 attacks are heard in the opening moments, but never seen. Bin Laden himself is glimpsed in a blurry frame or two at most. And most importantly, Maya never becomes a Gun-Wielding Heroine. She’s actually mostly absent during the final, extended raid scene, though her presence is surely felt at times, and she’s ultimately the punctuation mark on the whole affair.

One of the keys to Zero Dark Thirty’s effectiveness can be found in that final raid and the unsympathetic approach Bigelow and Boal take as the SEALs, led by Joel Edgerton and Chris Pratt, stalk through the compound, doing their dark work. You see, they don’t just shoot a guy here. They shoot him, then they walk up to his body and shoot it a couple of more times, just to make sure. And the guy’s wife, and his kids, are standing in the other room watching. And then they do it to the next guy, and the next. The music doesn’t swell, the camera doesn’t go slo-mo, the characters don’t quip… it just happens, and then it’s over. It’s unflinching, it’s not heroic, it’s brutal — but it’s their job.


Zero Dark Thirty reminds us that sometimes real-life tales make for the best kinds of movies. While there’s no way to truly know what led to finding bin Laden, this is probably the closest we’re going to get for some time. It’s also next-level filmmaking — smart, brave and intense, and, hopefully, trendsetting.



The Guilt Trip Review

A quick glance at the poster for The Guilt Trip, and this thought crossed my mind: ‘Really? Seth Rogen and Jennifer Aniston in a road movie?’ But looking closer (and actually reading the text) I realized I was in fact peering at a photo-shopped Barbra Streisand squeezing the face of Seth Rogen. The two had never before connected in my mind before this moment; but after watching them convincingly play mother and son, I fear they may be forever intertwined.

Written by Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love) and dedicated to his own mother Joyce, The Guilt Trip opens with a series of voicemails from the film version of Joyce (Streisand) giving helpful tips to her son Andy (Rogen) for his upcoming trip home to New Jersey. Andy, a scientist turned inventor, plans to drive from the east to the west coast for a series of meetings, pitching his cleaning product to retailers.

After the widowed Joyce tells him a story of a long-lost love, Andy Googles the name and discovers her former flame now lives in San Francisco and is unmarried. So, Andy invites his overbearing mother to join him on the road trip, secretly planning to reconnect Joyce with her ex at their final stop.

Along the road there are more laughs than I had anticipated, thanks to Barbra’s fish-out-of-water Jersey girl Joyce and Seth’s great comic timing. The two have a really nice chemistry together, and are completely believable as mother and son. But as the trip bears on, you begin to root for the lovable Joyce over Andy, whose annoyance at her smart advice starts to grate.

 Of course Andy is written to be a bit of a brat as he heads towards his predictable “learning” moment. You can guess what will happen next: the two will fight, he will then make the Big Speech, she’ll forgive him, and ultimately, they will both change. That may be all audiences need from a film like this – a few giggles contained in an unchallenging premise – but the formulaic feel strips the movie from having any real stakes.

The run time is only a touch over 90 minutes, but it feels longer. Again, that’s because you know where it’s headed, and you want to hurry up and get there.

There’s also not enough of the ‘guilt’ promised in that glossy poster. Joyce is loud, yes, and maybe cares too much, but certainly doesn’t guilt Andy into anything, and it’s clear he asked her to join him not out of guilt, but of genuine care for her happiness. But it is a nice punny title (originally the film was called My Mother’s Curse).

On the technical side, there’s distractingly obvious green screen in most of the driving scenes, and many times you can clearly see studio lights reflected in Seth’s glasses. These careless details take you out of the story and, in my case, into a daydream about what Babs was really like on set.

On the whole, thanks to a great pairing, The Guilt Trip is harmless fun. Streisand revels in her unglamorous role, and the two are definitely a much better option than the Rogen/Aniston film created in my mind.  (“Coming to theatres everywhere… He’s a former geek, she’s the beauty queen who bullied him at school, but together, they’re in for a trip of a lifetime!”)


Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand’s fun double act would have been better served with a less formulaic script, but their lovely chemistry will offer easy laughs for anyone wanting a simple holiday movie.