Album Review: Eric Church – “The Outsiders”

April 21, 2014

Eric Church – “The Outsiders”
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Label: EMI Nashville

church-outsiders

Grade: B+

On Church’s fourth studio album, he keeps up his reputation of being Country music’s outlaw with some loud, some rough, and some weird songs. Beginning with the title track, Church combines Country-rock with a heavy-rock breakdown that’ll even have Metallica fans headbanging to the beat. It’s not traditional Country music, but it’s what Church feels comfortable doing.

But like all of his albums, the stand-out tracks deal with women and telling stories about them. “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young” is a soft ballad about a girl who saved an outlaw, while “Like a Wrecking Ball” is a catchy ballad about the physical love of a woman.

While Church takes some risks in the album, he still maintains his mainstream sound with tracks like “Talladega,” a bromance road trip tune and “Give Me Back My Hometown,” a post-breakup song. But then again, there are some weird tracks that round up the whole album. Specifically “The Joint,” which has a jazz vibe mixed with stoner influences.

What keeps Church on the top of the charts and in the Country music world is simply his ability to remain fearless and yet, being able to relate to his fans. He can be groups in with Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton as bro-country, but he displays an edge that is highly noticeable. His story-telling mirrors the likes of Zac Brown Band, but he sheds away the clean rhythms for choppy, frantic hooks.

If there’s something “The Outsiders” lacks is a true number one hit. There’s no song like “Drink In My Hand” or “Springsteen” on this album, but that’s not a bad thing. Overall, “The Outsiders” is about breaking free from what he’s supposed to be, whether it’s from his friends or his fans. Church will continue to break the mold of what is expected from him, but that’s one of the things we love the most about him.


Game of Thrones – “Breaker of Chains”

April 21, 2014

Season Four, Episode Three

GoT-breaker-of-chains

Grade: B+

What makes a good king? Everyone knows that Joffrey was a terrible king, but there was no training or persuading him to do anything else than what he wanted to do. So Tywin begins his teachings to Tommen early as Cersei is still grieving the death of Joffrey, telling him that above being just and strong, a king must have wisdom. This wisdom will come from the council until the king can make up his own, wise decisions, but even then he should still always converse with the council. Tywin always has a way of turning people into his puppets.

But then it happens. You know the “it” that I’m talking about. Jaime rapes Cersei, making their already strange and twisted relationship even worse. It’s sort of symbolic to the state of the Lannisters at the time: chaotic, maddening, and vengeful by whatever means. For Cersei to feel that Tyrion is the one who poisoned Joffrey, the royal family is being turned from the inside out. Tywin is the one person who sees this and takes action quickly.

Meanwhile, the Hound and Arya rob a man of his silver even though he was really nice to them, which sets Arya off. This has always been a theme for GoT, separating the weak from the strong and the smart from the dumb. The Hound claims that the man is weak and won’t survive the winter, therefore what good is silver to a dead man. Makes sense. The Hound is moral but ruthless when he has to be, and that’s how he has survived. He warns Arya not to be weak and afraid to take what is yours. The Starks all have good hearts and sometimes that gets in the way of what is best for them, which has certainly gotten them in trouble before. Arya has a lot to learn from the Hound if she wants to live a long life.

What else happened? Sansa is now with Littlefinger; Sam escorts Gilly out of Castle Black; the Wildlings keeps marching towards the Wall; and Tyrion says farewell to Prodrick for his own protection. The way Sam and Tyrion tries to protect the people they care about is very touching, even more so because this doesn’t happen often in the world of Game of Thrones. But Sam doesn’t feel right leaving Gilly with 100 men and Tyrion knows Podrick is as good as dead if Tyrion is found guilty. Both of these scenes are great, emotional points in “Breaker of Chains.”

This leaves us with Daenerys at the walls of Meereen, attempting to free the slaves that are bound there to strengthen her army. It was a great conclusion, seeing the faces of the Meereen slaves as they pick up the shackles that once bounded the slaves who now stand behind Daenerys. Needless to say, Daenerys is about to get a bit stronger. This was a very good post-death episode that keeps on moving the pieces around. I didn’t even mention Stannis, who is eager to strike King’s Landing again, but has no army. Right now, it seems the impending danger lies at the Wall. I hope Jon Snow and Sam make it out alive.


Orphan Black – “Nature Under Constraint and Vexed”

April 20, 2014

Season Two, Episode One

orphan-black-nature-under-constraint

Grade: A

Wow! What a first episode back to the twisting and winding world of Sarah Manning and the clones fighting for their lives. We pick up right where the season one finale left off, with Sarah running through the rain right after discovering Kira and Mrs. S are missing. The shots with the moving camera following Sarah as she sprints down the street throws into the right tone of maddening distress that Sarah is feeling. But finally, she tries her best to cool down and think clearly as she drinks tea at an empty diner, until two suspicious men walk through the door.

At this point, Sarah has been through so much that nothing surprises her anymore. So when these two men obviously want to force Sarah to leave with them, she’s able to squeak out of there unscathed (with the help of the diner owner with a shotgun). But now what? Alison and Cosima’s phones have been disconnected. She hesitates before calling Paul because really, who trusts Paul? She meets up with Felix who gives her some good advice, ditch the phone because they’re probably tracking her with it. These are just some of the little things that Orphan Black does so well. Sure, it’s obvious to us that she’s being tracked, but in Sarah’s stressed state, something she should’ve noticed from the start never occurred to her.

Meanwhile, Alison gets a fantastic scene as she’s rehearsing in a musical where she winds up snagging the lead role after the death of Aisley. Quite poetic, don’t you think? And naturally, she sings and dances to a song about cleaning up after an unfortunate death with a mop. I just can’t say enough good things about Tatiana Maslany, but her comedic acting here is simply superb. There is meaning to this very funny scene though, and that’s how Art is still investigating Beth’s death and isn’t entirely surprised to see Sarah walking right where Alison is.

The episode builds up to when Sarah puts her plan in action to attend the Dyad Institute party as Cosima, which was a great little twist. Like I’ve said dozens of times, Maslany doesn’t disappoint. On top of her giving all of the clones their own personalities, she then has the talent to be a clone pretending to be another clone, without ever confusing the viewer unless it’s the show’s intent. Her conversation with Dr. Leekie was tense, but Delphine saw right through Sarah and her charade. Eventually, Sarah is able to get her one-on-one meeting with Rachel, who is as cool as a cucumber until Sarah fires a shot near her head. What we learn here is that Rachel doesn’t have Kira, but she knew that Sarah would come to her if she thought she had them. Pretty smart, but that still doesn’t prevent Sarah knocking out Rachel with her gun.

One thing that Orphan Black does very well is that it keeps us guessing which characters we can trust. Can we trust Delphine? Maybe. She seems to genuinely care for Cosima, but then again she did refer to Cosima as 324B21 when she hands Dr. Leekie the blood sample. How about Paul? Sure, Rachel and them are blackmailing him, but he does let Sarah go after she knocks out Rachel. But how will he react when they’re stuck in a much more difficult situation? Will he lay down his life for her? And then there’s Art, whom Sarah did say not too long ago is the only person she trusts. She was about to confess everything to him at the police headquarters, will she finally tell him everything? That’s the question we’re left with at the end of the episode.

If that isn’t enough, we see that Helena is alive! Sure, she’s stumbling around a hospital, leaving a blood trail until the nurses and doctors notice her, but she is alive and this is very interesting. During the first season, we were introduced to another factor dealing with the clones, the Church-crazed Proletheans. We find out that the two men from the diner who tried to obtain Sarah are Proletheans. And the straight-faced, man in the suit strolls into the same hospital where Helena is receiving help. This is an all-out war.

How much of this season will be about Sarah searching for Kira? What role will Art play with this? Sure, Sarah and her clone buddies could use some more assistance, but we don’t know how Art will react to whatever Sarah’s about to tell him. Then there’s the concern for Cosima as she continues to cough up blood. Is there a cure, or is she inevitably going to bite the dust from being a clone? And please, please, please, can we see the final production of Alison’s musical? Thanks.


Fantasy Box Office 2014

April 18, 2014

Last year, my friends and I started a tradition of competing in a Fantasy Box Office challenge, where we drafted off summer movies and see whose team will gross the most money domestically. It was a lot of fun and therefore we decided to do it again this year. For the record, I won last year so I’m hoping to defend my title! Anyway, we just had our draft and I figure that I would post the results. Here they are:

Randomly picking the order of the draft: Chris, Rob, Mike, Dan.

ROUND 1:

1. Transformers: Age of Extinction (Chris)
2. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Rob)
3. Godzilla (Mike)
4. X-Men: Days of Future Past (Dan)

ROUND 2:

5. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Dan)
6. 22 Jump Street (Mike)7. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Rob)
8. Hercules (Chris)

ROUND 3:

9. Guardians of the Galaxy (Chris)
10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Rob)
11. Jersey Boys (Mike)
12. Maleficent (Dan)

ROUND 4:

13. Tammy (Dan)
14. Planes: Fire and Rescue (Mike)
15. Edge of Tomorrow (Rob)
16. Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (Chris)

ROUND 5:

17. Jupiter Ascending (Chris)
18. A Million Ways to Die in the West (Rob)
19. The Expendables 3 (Mike)
20. Neighbors (Dan)

ROUND 6:

21. The Fault in our Stars (Dan)
22. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Mike)
23. Sex Tape (Rob)
24. Lucy (Chris)

ROUND 7:

25. Think Like a Man Too (Chris)
26. The Giver (Rob)
27. Blended (Mike)
28. Jane Got a Gun (Dan)

ROUND 8:

29. The Hundred-Foot Journey (Dan)
30. Million Dollar Arm (Mike)
31. The Purge: Anarchy (Rob)
32. Step Up All In (Chris)

ROUND 9:

33. Deliver Us From Evil (Chris)
34. Into the Storm (Rob)
35. If I Stay (Mike)
36. And So It Goes (Dan)

ROUND 10:

37. Get On Up (Dan)
38. Lets Be Cops (Mike)
39. Mom’s Night Out (Rob)
40. Earth to Echo (Chris)

ROUND 11:

41. When the Game Stands Tall (Chris)
42. The Loft (Rob)
43. As Above So Below (Mike)
44. The Fluffy Movie (Dan)

I’m pretty happy with my selections, though there is plenty of uncertain films on my roster. Chris taking Transformers with his #1 pick is probably the safest bet, since those movies all gross more than $300 million. My pick for #2 was The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which I wasn’t entirely sure about but my thinking is that you can never go wrong with the first film to open up the summer season in May. I’m expecting it to gross over $300 million. Mike’s first pick was Godzilla, a questionable pick because there’s no guarantees. There hasn’t been a Godzilla film in 14 years, and the last time it was successful at the box office was in 1998 starring Matthew Broderick. But even that film only grossed $136 million. Mike is expecting a much bigger response this time around for the gigantic lizard, but will it deliver? Dan’s first two picks are as solid as any film this summer: X-Men and How to Train Your Dragon. X-Men First Class grossed $146 million, so you can expect that number to go up with the star-studded sequel. And How to Train Your Dragon was a surprise hit, grossing over $200 million in 2010.

For me, my top six picks were: Spider-Man, Planet of the Apes, TMNT, Edge of Tomorrow, and A Million Ways to Die in the West. I’m hoping these six films will gross my roster close to $1 billion domestically, and I don’t think that’s impossible. Spider-Man should shoot north of $300 million, then if Planet of the Apes makes $200 m, TMNT with $150 m, Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow with $100 m, and Seth MacFarlane’s Western comedy with $150… that’s approximately $900 million. Last year I won the competition with $1.3 billion, so if these films pull through I should be safe for at least second place.

What it comes down to is the handful of surprises throughout the summer. Last summer, We’re the Millers grossed $123 million and The Conjuring grossed $135 million. No one could’ve expected this much from an August comedy and a horror movie, respectively. I’m hoping to get the same results from The Giver (an adaptation of the beloved novel) and Into the Storm (a disaster film that could have success like 2012′s Chronicle). We’ll see what happens and I’ll keep updating throughout the summer.


Flickchart Battle: Apollo 13 (1995) vs. Little Children (2006)

April 18, 2014

flickchart-apollo-children

This week’s match-up has the universally beloved Apollo 13 against the small, dark movie, Little Children. Let me just state from the beginning that I love both films very much and I already know this is going to be a difficult choice for me to make. Let’s get started.

Beginning with Apollo 13, this film was released in 1995 and was a huge success: grossing over $172 million domestically and receiving 9 Oscar nominations. Ron Howard directed this historical drama about America’s third Moon landing mission that went awry, with Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, and Ed Harris starring. When I think of Apollo 13 I think, what’s not to like about this film? It’s an important piece of American history and the film is incredibly suspenseful as the astronauts try to get home safely. I loved the separate story-lines between the astronauts, the control room in Houston, and the families glued to the television screens as the media covered the event. Needless to say, everything was very well done.

As for Little Children, it’s based off the Tom Perrotta novel about two lovelorn spouses from separate marriages in a small town, which includes a sex offender and a disgraced former police officer. The acting is superb with Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson leading the way, along with Jennifer Connelly, Jackie Earle Haley, and Noah Emmerich. With a cast this talented, it’s not a surprise they breathe life into every word from the Oscar-nominated screenplay. And although Todd Field has only directed two films in his career, those movies include In the Bedroom and Little Children, both very dark and very thought provoking in regards to intimacy and marriage.

These two movies are very hard to compare because they’re so different. Apollo 13 is a very uplifting, heartfelt film that will have you shedding happy tears at the end when the crew returns safely home. Those seconds of silence as the world is waiting to see if the heat shield holds up is excruciating. Little Children doesn’t have any of these moments. Instead, it’s a film that will keep you engaged in conversation for hours after it ends. It will bring up topics of morality, ethics, and real life discussion about pedophiles and the boundaries people flirt with when dealing with a dead-end marriage. It’s heavy-hitting material.

If we’re basing this off of the “which movie would I leave on if both were on TV” test, it would depend on what kind of mood I was in. If I were in the mood to watch a film that would make me question society’s view on broken marriages and second chances for offenders, Little Children would be the perfect film. But because Apollo 13 is more accessible, it would win that test the majority of the time. But I do feel that Little Children is a slightly better film all-around, especially if you take out Apollo 13′s special effects.

At the end of the day, it comes down to Apollo 13 being more enjoyable than Little Children. I still revisit Little Children every so often and highly recommend it to those who haven’t seen it, but Apollo 13 is close to a historical drama classic and it’s a film that’s tough to beat in any match-up. It has slightly more star-power and I’d rather talk about the success and fortunes of NASA than the trauma of unhappy people any day.

Winner: Apollo 13


The Ultimate ’90s Kids Movies Bracket (Part Five)

April 17, 2014

90s-kids-movies-blog

Complete coverage of the FIRST ROUND here.

Complete coverage of the ROUND of 32 here.

Complete coverage of the SWEET SIXTEEN here.

Complete coverage of the ELITE EIGHT here.

It’s been a long road, but finally we’ve reached the conclusion of the tournament. We only have four films left in the FINAL FOUR.

bracket-final-four

Which movie will move onto the championship to hold the title as the Best Kids Movie from the 1990s? Let’s find out right now!

In this round, we all decided to secretly vote for the film we like better and then reveal at the same time, then start the discussion.

#1 Toy Story vs. #4 Aladdin

toy-story-poster          aladdin-poster

Chris: This is just more of a personal pick because they’re both iconic and they’re both right in the childhood wheel-house. It’s just which one meant more to you as a kid.
(Voting reveals: Toy Story – 3, Aladdin – 1)
Rob: So Mike, why’d you pick Aladdin?
Mike: It’s just one of the movies that I loved all the characters from. I just find them ever so slightly more enjoyable than the characters in Toy Story.
Rob: I went with Toy Story because I watched that movie more recently and more times overall than Aladdin, simply because it’s better.
Chris: In Toy Story, I felt that every scene was entertaining, and every character was funny and enjoyable. But with Aladdin, if it was just Jafar and the Sultan, it’s not the same. Aladdin is my favorite Disney movie, but it’s really Genie-heavy and his scenes make the movie.

Winner: Toy Story

#2 Toy Story 2 vs. #3 The Lion King

toy-story-2          lion-king-poster

(Voting reveals: The Lion King – 3, Toy Story 2 – 1)
Mike: And Toy Story 2 is eliminated! The biggest upset of the bracket.
Rob: Well, not really. It was a #2 versus a #3.
Rob: Dan, you voted for Toy Story 2.
Dan: Yeah, this was was my personal #1 seed. The introduction with the new characters was great and I think it was actually funnier than the first. There’s just so much to love about that movie.
Rob: It is rare to see a sequel either as good or better than the original, and that’s what Toy Story 2 offered.
Chris: I think it hurts Toy Story 2 a little here because it was a sequel. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I wasn’t a big fan of the new characters.
Dan: Are you kidding me?!
Chris: To me, The Lion King is just a better overall movie. Maybe it’s not as funny, but to me it’s better.
Mike: The Lion King is such an emotional ride…
Chris: Plus with the whole overlapping moral of the circle of life.
Mike: It’s a really epic cartoon.
Chris: It really is!

Winner: The Lion King

And that leaves us with the championship match-up! Which movie will be crowned as the Best Kids Movie from the 1990s?

#1 Toy Story vs. #3 The Lion King

toy-story-poster         lion-king-poster

Rob: Can we put both and have co-winners?
(Voting: Toy Story – 3, The Lion King – 1)
Rob: Go ahead Mike.
Mike: Growing up, The Lion King was the movie that I had playing constantly, and as much as I love Toy Story, if they were both on TV right now I would pick The Lion King. It just has a sentimental place in my heart.
Rob: You’re a musical guy too, so that probably played a part.
Mike: I did really enjoy the music.
Rob: That is something that The Lion King definitely has over Toy Story.
Chris: But even on top of that… let’s say that the execution of Toy Story wasn’t that good, the IDEA of it is amazing. Just the idea of toys coming to life. That’s what I think drove Small Soldiers too, thinking that our action figures would come to life. So it just took that to a whole nother level with the humor and the superstar voices. It puts it over the top.
Rob: Do you think Toy Story would’ve been as successful if Tom Hanks and Tim Allen didn’t do the voices? This was Pixar’s first film and at the moment the film was released, Tom Hanks was arguably the biggest actor in the world with Forrest Gump and Philadelphia. Plus, that was Tim Allen’s prime as well. Would Toy Story have been that big of a success?
Mike: I think it would have.
Dan: It might not have been a slam dunk, but it would’ve still been successful.
Chris: They [Hanks and Allen] made those characters. Because everyone had a Mr. Potato Head and a slinky and army men, but those actors made Woody and Buzz.
Rob: Man… but The Lion King is so good too!
Mike: The way you watch Simba grow throughout the whole movie gives it that epic feeling.
Chris: You have little kids watching a life story, with lessons like “one day you’re dad is going to die and you’ll have to replace him.” Is there anything bigger story-wise than that?
Mike: Yeah, and there are so many other lessons like there is danger in the world.
Rob: And even family members, like Scar, could be evil!
Mike: Just how you can watch the film now and take away something from it that you might’ve missed watching as a kid. That makes it a quality film.
Rob: Definitely, and that was the same thing with Toy Story.

Winner: Toy Story

Well that’s it, folks! Our pick for the Best Kids Movie from the 1990s is Toy Story! Do you agree with us? Whether you do or don’t, it’s been a fun ride. We’ll make sure to do another bracket in the near future. Thanks for reading.

Do view the full bracket, click here.


Orphan Black – “Entangled Bank”

April 16, 2014

Season One, Episode Eight

orphan-black-entangled-bank

Grade: A-

This episode ended with a jaw-dropping occurrence, which strangely hasn’t been a constant for these season one episodes. Orphan Black doesn’t usually end with such a cliffhanger that will have you screaming. Usually, they show a subtle reveal or an addition character gets in the loop with what’s actually happening. But in “Entangled Bank,” the purest thing in Sarah’s life gets hit by a car. Poor, innocent Kira. After she’s persuaded out of the house by Helena, she crosses the street to return to her mom but gets struck by a car in the middle of the street. It’s a troubling scene to witness.

In this episode we move forward, jumping from Sarah, Alison, Cosima, and even Helena. Sarah and Paul have each other’s trust while Felix fends off the police detectives, but they’re finally onto what they can only assume are Beth’s twin sisters. Alison is still paranoid as hell and sleeps with Ainsley’s husband, then fights her in the middle of the street. But Sarah finally tells Mrs. S about everything that’s happening, with Alison with her. It’s a lot to take in but Mrs. S takes the news very well. My suspicions about her have all faded away.

Meanwhile, Dr. Leekie tells Delphine to speed up her process and to get him names of the other clones Cosima has been in contact with. After sleeping with her, Delphine is shocked to discover Cosima is in contact with several other clones. There are two important things about this discovery: First, Dr. Leekie seemed very intrigued/surprised to hear Sarah Manning’s name and second, Delphine leaves out Kira’s name. Why? It really cannot be determined yet.

Despite what her handler is saying to her, Helena isn’t willing to kill Sarah just yet. She still believes that Sarah is someone special, but her creepy fascination towards her and her daughter is definitely alarming. I assume we’ll get a quick answer whether or not Kira is alive and that will certainly change the game entirely. We know Dr. Leekie is up to something, but what exactly? He doesn’t seem to know who’s killing the clones while using Delphine to monitor Cosima. In addition, who the hell is Alison’s monitor? And how long will it take until Art pays Felix another visit?


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