Saturday, May 14, 2011

Shorter Reviews

Contrary to recent history, I don't write 1600 words on everything. Here are a bunch of shorter reviews of things I don't think I can devote a whole post to. Enjoy.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

I like Kanye the producer. I don’t like Kanye the person. I don’t like Kanye the MC either. I think his rhymes are okay. He should employ a co-writer to tighten up his rhymes. But the production? No way. I think he might be one of the greatest producers in the history of recorded music. Dark Fantasy is such a big epic canvas, equal parts tiring and awe-inspiring. It takes some major huevos to employ Elton John as a backup singer and then bury him in the mix to make his part indistinguishable. It’s daring and audacious, and that goes for the whole album. It’s fascinating that Kanye doesn’t use the trademark swagger and braggadocio that he used on stage with Taylor Swift. Instead, here’s an MC that’s comfortable, singing about the ups and the downs of being famous and being Kanye. It’s not all lights and money. It’s also about being alone. Instead of being dark and dour like 808s and Heartbreaks, or being full of piss and vinegar like Late Registration, Kanye strikes a sort of balance in tone, musically and lyrically. His use of Auto-Tune is still entertaining and not overly distracting. That being said, it’s still an overlong album, with songs going on past their natural and organic end. On top of this, Nicki Minaj remains an annoying but interesting MC. While I personally don’t like her style, I admit that it’s different, and that’s something to admire. Kind of like this album. I may not like the whole experience, but I admire it.

Countdown to Final Crisis volume 1 (of 4)

Holy shit. I’d heard this was bad. I didn’t think it was this bad. This series is practically incoherent. Both 52 and Trinity are enjoyable reads, so I thought DC’s attempt at another weekly series wouldn’t be so godawful. But this first volume is just atrocious. It’s not just incoherent in terms of the art (which makes all the Monitors indistinguishable) but in terms of story. One of the threads running through this first volume are the Rogues, specifically two of them. They kill the Flash, I think and then they’re on the run. But the death of the Flash isn’t shown. I assume it happens in the pages of his own series. But why couldn’t they have provided a little flashback, or – hell – even context? I had no idea what was going on. Why is Karate Kid locked up in the JLA satellite? How did he get there? Countdown is the epitome of the self-recursive navel-gazing DC tapestry of overly complicated history that they peddle as comics. This is exactly why I stopped reading mainstream superhero comics. Plus, there’s a scene in which a Rogue, a villain who commits crimes I might add, lectures another Rogue about how the maxim of “the customer is always right” ruined common courtesy in America. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? I had planned on barreling through all 4 volumes and doing a massive review of the entire thing, considering my love of Final Crisis, I thought I could do it. Alas, I’m not sure if I can stomach 36 more issues of this turgid piece of tripe.

Superjail! (or at least half of the first season)

For most of this show, I kept going, “what the fuck am I watching”. I thought my eyes were going to bleed. The best way to describe this series is Johnny Ryan mixed with Family Guy. But that still doesn’t really capture the insanity of this show. It’s literally the most violent thing I’ve ever seen on television. I haven’t seen every show made, so I don’t know if it is indeed the most violent, but it’s got to be pretty fucking high on the list. It’s not really funny in the traditional joke kind of way. It’s more funny in the “what the fuck am I watching” kind of way. I still enjoyed it. The show’s second greatest strength (other than violence) is its brevity. At less than 11 minutes per episode, it doesn’t grate on the nerves like other animated vomit does (Family Guy, I’m looking at you). The voice talent is okay, but it could have been better. David Wain, as the Warden, shines, but everybody else is simply satisfactory or bland. I still like the show, even though there are definite weak elements. There’s no other show like it, and you have to admire something that strives to be original.

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

I think I’ve mentioned this game on the blog before. If I haven’t then, here we go. FEAR2 (I’m not going to type out the periods anymore – it’s tedious) is a sequel to the scary first person shooter that I haven’t finished playing. It goes like this: you’re a super soldier able to slow down time for brief periods that infiltrates a scary locale, shoots some other soldiers and then hallucinates scary things. Repeat ad infinitum. The scary parts are pretty fucked up. The shooting parts are fairly fun. I want to finish FEAR2 because FEAR3 is coming out in June, even though FEAR3 seems to be more of a sequel to the first game than the second. The only problem is that I picked up FEAR2 again just after finishing Call of Duty: Black Ops. The problem? FEAR2’s graphics positively suck. For a game from 2009, it looks like shit. Things are pixilated, things are shiny in that fake way that early CGI was. The game’s kind of the same thing over and over again, as I mentioned. Yes, it’s pretty fun taking a shotgun to someone’s head and their body inexplicably disintegrating, but there’s only so much of that I can do. The story’s so weak as to be Kate Moss thin. Go from point A to point B, shoot soldiers, hallucinate some scary stuff, see “ghosts” end up at point B where somebody gets on the mike and tells you to go to point C. The plot involves going back and re-examining elements of the first game’s plot, which by the way, had a much better story, more complicated, but still not complex enough. While I complain the story’s weak, and the campaign repetitive, the game is still overall enjoyable. There are some epic parts, like when a plane crashes into the urban area and then you walk through all the people instantaneously turned to ash. All in all, it’s made me long for the third game. Hopefully they’ve improved the graphics and put a little bit more effort in the story.

Cousin Bette

Honore de Balzac is somebody I really wanted to read. He influenced Zola, who I loved, and Flaubert, who I also loved. But Cousin Bette is boring. SO boring. It’s also irritating in that hand-holding 19th century way. Just leave me alone, Balzac, I can figure things out for myself. So I gave up after one hundred pages. Hence why this shorter review isn’t a standalone review. Not much to really add to this other than expressing my disappointment with Balzac and myself (for not finishing it).

House of Balloons

Toronto’s The Weeknd put out a nine track “mixtape” of dark and awesome hiphop/R&B. I gave it a download after some random person on YouTube recommended it for fans of Frank Ocean. One of the first tracks I listened to was “Wicked Game,” a six minute slow tempo epic that just perfectly resonated with me. I listened to it over and over and over. Since the beginning of May, House of Balloons became my most listened to tracks on my iPod, with Bon Iver a close second. There’s just something about the dark and beautiful ambience that strikes a chord with me. It helps that The Weeknd’s voice is so fresh and versatile. He must have a huge range of octaves. A lot of his songs don’t really mean anything in particular to me, lyrically speaking, but the beats and the music are the perfect soundtrack for the film that runs in my mind. This is exactly the type of album that I want to make.

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