Archive for May 2014

Review: Godzilla (2014)   2 comments

 

…The King of the Monsters has returned.

This trailer does little justice in showing just how BIG Gojira (Godzilla in Japanese) is in the 2014 incarnation of the legendary monster.

 

This one’s a good depiction but isn’t quite there. Here’s the main movie poster:

Now we’re talkin’. If Godzilla looks bigger than he was in the 1998 movie, you’re not imagining things. He’s over twice the size of the 1998 versions. Here’s a size chart I found on Google:

Awesome yet terrifying, yes? 150 Meters is about 500 feet if you need the conversion.

Still not convinced? Here’s Godzilla’s entrance just before he goes to war in San Francisco. I reccommend you play this with the volume turned all the way up =D

And thank goodness Godzilla doesn’t really exist. Otherwise, we’re prettymuch screwed. He makes the T-Rex from Jurassic Park look like a four year old having a temper tantrum and his 1998 self look like a hormonal teenager.

That said, let’s talk about the movie itself.

As another reviewer put it, the humans in Godzilla 2014 were irrelevant to Godzilla. Sure, there were moments where Godzilla’s simple appearance saved some lives but it wasn’t necessarily the intent. In the movie, Professor Serizawa describes The Legendary Gojira (Godzilla) as THE Alpha Predator and may have existed for millions of years. Back in the day, there was much more radiation on the earth’s surface and in the atmosphere. Said radiation was a good source for these monsters. Monsters like the Muto were common and also prey for Godzilla. As radiation levels on Earth’s surface lowered, most died off but some moved underground and fed off the radiation from the Earth’s core.

Fast forward to 1954: The Nuclear Weapons tests were actually concerted efforts by the U.S. and Russia to kill Godzilla. They obviously failed since Godzilla returns 44 years later in 1999. In 1999, tremors herald the soon return of the King of the Monsters yes, and something else entirely. Fast forward to the present day: The Muto pod that had been kept in the ruins of a nuclear power plant in Japan hatches. This Muto–a male with wings–not only feeds on radiation but it can emit an electrical field that knocks out power in whole cities as it moves. To make matters worse, a pregnant female Muto awakens in North America and moves to link up with the male on the west coast. just when it seems all is lost, Godzilla  makes his spectacular entrance in Hawaii.

Godzilla chases after the Male Muto and fights both fo them in San Francisco. Yes, the humans are doing everything they can think of to stop the rampaging monsters (and failing miserably, no surprise) but again, it’s obvious they’re out of their league. It’s as Professor Serizawa says in one scene:

Godzilla is a force of nature, a truly neutral force in the grand scheme of things. At least, that’s how I saw him depicted in this movie. Monsters arose, Godzilla wants to kill said monsters. Godzilla and Winged Muto wreck Honolulu and level most of San Francisco, both Muto are slaughtered by Godzilla. Godzilla sleeps in the middle of the wreckage, wakes up the next morning and returns to the sea. Only one time in the entire movie do you even see Godzilla even LOOK AT a human and that’s before he takes a break during his war with the Muto. I think at that point, Godzilla understood the soldier made sure the Muto he was fighting would be the ONLY ones he’d have to deal with.

Anywho, I give the movie a 10/10. Plus it’s been confirmed there will be a sequel. I SWEAR, I thought of a kid I knew when I worked for Camp Joy when I saw this movie earlier today. He was a hardcore Godzilla fan and I have no doubt he’s seen this movie by now or soon will. What would happen if Godzilla reallt existed? Soneone decided to make a video explaining just that.

Me, I’m pretty sure I’m going to watch Godzilla two more times this summer and buy it when it comes out on Blu-Ray. That’s just speaking for me, though…

 

These last two school years have been an amazing experience   Leave a comment

EDIT 5/26/2014 1030PM: At the request of a friend, I have removed the name of my current place of employment from this blog until further notice.

 

On Friday, I had my annual evaluation with the principal and my classroom partner.

Like I did last year, I will hold off talking about how things went until after staffing for the following school year has been announced internally at work. That will likely happen in the second half of June.

I do not expect my name to be on the list of returning staff.

That said and in light of certain types of conversations that may arise once staffing assignments for the next school year is announced, I thought it was important that I say this now to take the sting out of the formal announcement to come next month.

Despite the emotional roller coaster this year has been both at work and at home, my experience at this amazing school is what I consider a once in a lifetime experience. There is simply nothing like it and probably never will be. Of course, I wish I could have at least one more year but it’s as I’ve said to many of my fellow coworkers I’ve come to know, respect and love both professionally and personally: I will stay only if it’s mutually agreed my particular skill set fits with the needs of the school.

On Friday, we (myself and the principal) agreed that they do not fit the needs of the school at this time.

While I’m fairly certain I will not be asked to come back next year, it’s too early for me to say for sure that’s what’s going to happen. On  the one hand, this is a situation I didn’t prepare for. On the other hand, I feel that this is the best outcome for both me and the school to have reached this point.

It takes alot to be able to admit your present skillset may be insufficient for the needs of your workplace.  I came to that conclusion the year before but I was given another chance in a different setting anyway. The extra opportunity was something I feel I did not allow to go to waste. Come what may happen, when the last day of school is over I will walk out of the school with my head held high.

Anyway, that’s as far as I’m going to share until things are decided and eventually announced at work. Until that happens, this is all I’m going to say on the subject.

Another Month, Another Mass Shooting   Leave a comment

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The father of slain shooting victim Christopher Martinez said it best: “Until we stand up [To Politicians and the NRA], it will not stop.” Let’s be honest: That’s just one part of the problem.

Dwight K. Nelson, who is the Senior Pastor of Loma Linda University said it best: America has an obsession with death. Until that mindset changes, how can we hope to stop somementally disturbed young person from doing these things in the first place?

American Media glorifies death and killing on all levels from Books to Movies to TV Shows to yes…Video Games. Admit it, you never thought you’d see me use the words death, killing and video games in the same sentence. It’s interesting to note the last 30 years in particular have seen an explosion of violence in media with children and young people as the target demographic. Add a psychosis or mental disorder and a vegeance complex and you have yourself a national tragedy waiting to happen.

Anyway, enough talk about sad things. That’s all I have to say on the subject right now.

I will record a video sometime tomorrow and that will be the end of it. In the planned video, I will explain why I’ve taken the time to comment on the recent mass shootings in America. I also consider it a sequel to a video I did last November. Like that one, it will be pretty raw. This is in addition to another video I already planned to record on a completely unrelated subject.

Speaking of Michael Jackson…   Leave a comment

What you are about to see is Michael Jackson personified in 17-year old Brett W. Nichols. The video speaks for itself:

The kid did his homework. By the way, he won the Talent Show no surprise.

Here’s footage of MJ doing Billie Jean in Bucharest in 1992 for comparison:

Reportedly the kid’s been studying Michael Jackson’s dance moves for 10 years. He is also a self-styled perfectionist when it comes to the choreography just like the man who inspired him to do this. In an interview he did after the video went viral, he said there were still things he needed to work on. Even sweeter: He’ll be back next year =O

When I first got wind of the video this morning, the video had 1.5 Million hits. 12 hours later, the video has over 5.4 million hits on You Tube!

Five Years After Death, Michael Jackson’s Legacy Lives On   2 comments

The King Has Risen! Just kidding. This is actually a Hologram.

A week and a half after the release of Michael Jackson’s second posthumous album XSCAPE (By the way it’s AWESOME, see below), The King of Pop made a special appearance at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards.

But wait, didn’t he die five years ago? I’d know. I watched the coverage all summer. If you were not the kind of person who could accept the fact the dead can’t come back to life, well…this picture speaks for itself:

Michael Jackson died on June 7, 2009. This is fact. Michael Jackson’s body is interred in a crypt in Los Angeles. Also fact.

So how is an obviously dead man touching a living person in front of a live audience and millions more watching?

Simple: It’s actually a hologram of Michael Jackson.

You can tell that it’s not actually a person much easier in these pictures:

…I’ll give ’em credit for trying. Looking at the faces of the live audience–most of whom have probably seen MJ perform live–it goes without saying it’s not the same. It also drove home for alot of folks in denial The King of Pop is dead and has been for five years next month.By the way, the song performed was Slave to the Rhythm from the recently released Album XSCAPE. If the choreogrphy looks familiar, they meshed it from live shows he did. I could tell at a glance it was a combination of the choreography for Billie Jean, Beat it and Remember the Time.

Actually everything on the stage when the curtain was raised onward was a hologram. Only the dancers in the foreground and in the aisles were real people. It would’ve been too obvious otherwise. Unlike Tupac’s hologram from two years ago (which was done to include Dr. Dre and Ice Cube), MJ’s hologram would be performing solo.

 

Enough about the Billboards. Now we’re going to talk about the recently released album XSCAPE:

It’s interesting to note I didn’t even know this was in the works until I saw samplings for some of the tracks on The Playstation Network two weeks ago. That said, when I looked to buy the album on iTunes I decided to buy the Deluxe version so that I could have both the original and remastered versions of each song.

Like I did when I wrote my review of 2010’s “Michael”, I read some of the top reviews on Amazon.com for the album before writing this. They come from folks claiming to be hardcore and lifetime fans of MJ my age and older. They’re quck to call Michael (the album) a failure but hesitate to even suggest XSCAPE is anything but the real deal.

…Just sayin’.

Anyway, this review is about MJ’s second post-humous album XSCAPE. Eight songs were chosen for this album. The standard version only has the remastered versions of the songs while the Deluxe Edition comes with both the Remastered and Original versions each song. Both versions of the album include Justin Timberlake’s Remix of Love Never Felt So Good, which can be easily argued has no place on either version of the album. While yes, we get it, Sony wants to attract Justin Timberlake fans and vice versa but it would’ve been better released as an LP on one of his (Timberlake’s) albums or something than including it with XSCAPE.

Moving on, let’s go down the list track by track:

1. Love Never Felt So Good: One could date the original version as part of Off the Wall (the album). This album’s lead track, Love Never Felt So Good does its job of pulling you in. for the rest of the album. The remastered version I think will do its job of pulling in new fans as it is a nice fusion of past and present. It’s also my understanding the remixed version was leaked on the internet late last year according to some reviewers. If that’s true, I never heard about it regardless.

2. Chicago: I heard echoes of “Invicible” in the remastered version and Human Nature in the original version of this song. It’s your classic “girl once burned wants to play the fielnd” ballad. This is one of those songs that are just made to transcend time itself.

3. Loving You: The word for the original version of this song is RETRO. I would highly reccommend anyone who picks XSCAPE as their first MJ Album and likes this track makes Thriller 25th Anniversary Edition their second. The bonus track on that album Carusel and the Original version of this song are so similar, I suspect he recorded both songs for the album but like Carusel, it didn’t make the final cut for Thriller’s original release.

4. A Place With No Name: If the intro for the Original version sounds familiar, MJ sampled America’s “A Horse With No Name” and used it as a base for this song. For the record, he got their blessing and permission to do it. The remasterd version reminds me of The Way You Make Me Feel from Bad. The subtle galloping you hear in the remastered version is a nod to the song that inspired the original version of the song.

5. Slave to the Rhythm: This track seems to be somewhere between Dangerous and Invicible. I think the Remastered version does a better job highlighting MJ’s vocals but the pacing for the original is to jam to. All in all the track does its job of acting as the bridge between MJ’s older albums (Thriller, Off the Wall and Bad) and his newer ones (Dangerous, Blood on the Dance Floor and HIStory). As a reminder, this song was performed by the MJ Hologram at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards.

6. Do You Know Where Your Children Are: Easily the most controversial song on the album. I have no doubt it will be used as fodder for the haters and critics. Even I will admit it’s a very odd song and it immediately made me think of Demerol, which is the bridge for the song Morphine (Blood on the Dance Floor). The gist of the remastered version in no uncertain terms describes a young girl who is a victim of child sexual exploitation. Again, unless you heard the bridge for Morphine (in which MJ literally says he’s addicted to Demerol) you’d have thought this to be far outside the realm of what MJ does. Then again, the same could be said about Scream (“Stop F***ing with me”), Privacy (Invincible) and Leave Me Alone (Bad) in which MJ takes shots at his critics and the paparazzi. The original version had more of an emphasis on the vocals and seems to be somewhere between Bad and Dangerous. I dunno. I think this is one of those songs that should have been released while he was alive. Soon enough, his legacy will be called into question once again only this time he’s not around to defend himself.

7. Blue Gansta: Easily my favorite song on the album and a stark contast to the preceeding song. It’s as if MJ is saying “Yeah I wrote that song but so what? What are you gonna do about it?” According to one of the top reviewers, this song was leaked some years ago under the title No Friend of Mine but was renamed Blue Gansta for the Album release. The original version has shades of Smooth Criminal and The Way You Make Me Feel (both from Bad) thrown in with a touch of You Rock My World (Invincible). It also seemed to have the essence of Duke Ellington’s Jeep’s Blues with those trumpet blasts. An instant classic.

8. Xscape: The cover song is yet another blend of classic and mondern MJ. I mean that for both versions of the song.

All in all I give the album a 10/10.

I’d have given it a 8/10 if I only got the standard version. With XSCAPE, I think it’s safe to overlook “Michael” if you didn’t like it. I didn’t have a problem with it personally but that’s just me. This one will no doubt make critics of The Estate releasing his unreleased song rethink their stance. While yes I ‘d be the first to agree the unfinished songs on “Michael” should have never been released, there is a demand from the fans to hear more of his unreleased work.

And we all know that there are HUNDREDS MORE songs where these two albums came from.

 

Support your favorite music artists and BUY their music   1 comment

Honestly, I’m sick of folks who come up with every excuse they can think of to pirate music. The one that I hear the most is “I refuse to give <insert record label or artist here> a cent of my money” but they turn around and grab a pirated copy of the song from the internet.

Believe it or not, Piracy really is NOT a victimless crime. That said, I can be transparent and say I do use overseas mirror sites to download music I can’t find legally. Specifically songs from Anime and video games. Aside from those areas I buy all the music I have.

if you want to know how Piracy effects the artists who make the music, just ask some in your neck of the woods. They’ll tell you. Some are so bothered by the very idea someone will pirate their songs they refuse to sell their music digitally. Others take it a step further and won’t even sell their music in stores to force folks who want their music to either track them down or see them at a show.

A new Michael Jackson album was released worldwide today on iTunes. Unlike 2009’s Michael, XSCAPE’s Deluxe Album includes the remixed versions and the original versions on the same album. I’ll speak more on the subject on MJ’s unreleased music going public next month on the anniversary of his death but unlike Michael, no one doubts MJ did the vocals in XSCAPE. By the way I loved the 2009 album Michael. I blame the haters claiming to be MJ fans not giving it a chance for tarnishing it.

I’ll give a review of the new album sometime Wednesday (tomorrow) on Facebook and Amazon.

 

The Boondocks Enters Season 4 without Aaron McGruder   Leave a comment

 

Hot off the heels of an interesting article I read two days ago regarding VH1’s influence on Black America, I decided to make this post about a beloved comic turned book turned TV series: The Boondocks. Created by the very taleneted and very political Aaron McGruder, The Boondocks TV series tells the story of Huey and Riley Freeman, who are taken in by their grandfather Robert Freeman and live together in the posh, predominantly white suburban neighborhood Woodcrest. Riley is the stereotypical gangsta wanna-be (this is intentional) while Huey is the outspoken yet eloquent Leftist Black Militant (again, intentional).

The Freemans are surrounded by a multitude of colorful supporting characters: The Stereotypical rich old white businessman Ed Wuncler (along with his grandsom and recently introduced son who are both named Ed Wuncler), the biracial Dubois Family (Tom who’s black, Sarah who’s white and their daughter Jasmine) and the controversial Uncle Ruckus (Literally an Uncle Tom but there is truth mixed with the racist rhetoric he spews).

Now before I get into why Season 4 will be noticably different, it’s important that I point out The Boondocks was a comic strip at first. About 12 years ago, McGruder published some books with actual stories to flesh out the characters. The Wunclers are Uncle Ruckus were introduced in the TV series by the way. I first got wind of the TV series in 2005 after my sister, who read the comics during much of the 1990s told me about it.

 

Major props go to Cartoon Network for giving Aaron McGruder a chance when even Comedy Central wouldn’t touch it. The reason: McGruder’s insistence that the word/phrase  “Nigga” not only be included in the dialogue but be left uncensored. Cartoon Network refused at first too but after reviewing the already finished pilot episode they greenlit the series’ first season. As indicated by the commentary on the DVD Set, Cartoon Network refused to air one episode from Season 2 and edited another episode from the same season to avoid legal trouble with another cable channel. Notice I said unaired and not banned. If it were banned, it wouldn’t have been included with the DVD set.

The unaired episode, titled The Uncle Ruckus Reality Show is included with the DVD box set and after watching it, it’s easy to figure out why Cartoon Network refused to air it. It wasn’t until after I read the article referenced above that I understood the full conext of the unaired episode. The unaired episode, as the name implies is about a reality show deal Uncle Ruckus does with BET (“Black Evil Television”), which is portrayed as an evil network in The Boondocks (hint: It actually IS a bad network with bad programming!). For obvious reasons, Cartoon Network didn’t want to touch the firestorm airing it would have caused (nowhere near the same as South Park and The Simpsons cleverly throwing jabs at other networks) but thankfully, it was cleared for home release.

Now, The Boondocks isn’t for the faint of heart. While many other TV shows skirt around or outright avoid talking about real issues facing African Americans, The Boondocks confronts them head-on. Take this scene from the episode featuring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Honestly, I can imagine Dr. King saying something along those lines if he was alive today. He’d also be disgusted with his own children, whose very public bickering spits in the face of their father’s legacy. Anyway yeah, The Boondocks tackles tough topics head on. It does to enlighten, educate and entertain. It also does because let’s be honest, there are only two other black entrepreneurs in the entertainment industry willing to go this deep: Spike Lee and Tyler Perry. It’s as Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg and Michael Moore have said over the years on separate occaisions: Don’t bother making a movie about sensitive subject unless you’re willing to be real and authentic.

McGruder had the same thing in mind when he brought The Boondocks to Adult Swim. That said, now we’re going to talk about the fact Aaron McGruder is no longer involved with HIS show. For starters, those who make the jump from print media to TV/Movies are very aware that unless they own a studio (Perry) or fund everything themselves (Lee) they’re going to lose at least some creative control for the sake of the TV Show/Movie. Those with the DVD sets for Seasons 1 and 2 know both seasons were done at the same time. This is why there was such a small wait between them compared to Season 3.

Season 3….whew. Folks worried about Season 4 need only look at Season 3. The signs were there.  Four of the episodes were loosely based on a combination of pop culture, 24 and two movies (Contagion and Scarface. Guess which ones). Episode 8 is an interesting one if you know the story behind it. For those who don’t know, Aaron McGruder doesn’t like Tyler Perry’s “Empire of Ignorance”. McGruder isn’t the only black entrepreneur who’s gone on the record and said they don’t like Perry and/or huis product and probably won’t be the last. A few years back, Spike Lee stated in an interview for a movie he was doing he considers the influence of the Tyler Perry brand a threat to black people. The reason I’m mentioning Spike Lee is because like McGruder, it’s just hatin’ on his part because it’s the cool thing to do. And in Lee’s case, people aren’t listening to him anymore.

Anyway, Episode 8 of Season 3 was an obvious Tyler Perry dis: The episode is about Robert getting cast in a play by Winston Jerome, whose persona “MaDukes” is very popular to black people. It’s an obvious parellel of Tyler Perry and Madea. Coincidentally, Tyler Perry was doing an interview on Oprah the night the episode aired and was asked about the episode the next day. Cartoon Network and TBS (which Perry’s shows air on) are both owned by Turner Broadcasting and the company chalked it up to a coincidence. The episode has never been reaired to my knowledge. This episode’s airing reignited a belief some internet trolls/haters have in which the reason Perry crossdresses is because he’s gay or bisexual but in the closet about it. Not that I care personally. It’s no one’s business at the end of the day.

Two more episodes spoof real people but they use their actual names: Fleece Johnson (I shared two videos about him recently on Facebook) and Taeshawn Lamilton (real name is Laeshawn Tamilton). The rest of the season is staple content expected from the first two seasons. Even so, the fact remains McGruder walked out on the TV series after making the fourth season. The word going around is McGruder was not involved with the Fourth Season. I heard the same rumor said about the third when it was announced and that was later proven to be false.

What’s likely to have happened is Aaron McGruder wasn’t happy with the direction the network wanted to take the show in the fourth season and wanted no part in it. Since he already inked the contract for the season the show  must go on, as they say. I’m pretty sure this will be the final season for the series but I hope McGruder makes a comeback down the road on another network. The Boondocks has a cult following and fortunately for him, most of his viewers get what’s going on behind the scenes.

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