Having been born in 1991, Jurassic Park released in 1993, I wasn’t able to attend the original release of the film. So when I saw that it was getting re-mastered and put into 3-D, I jumped at the opportunity to see a childhood favorite. Let me tell you: this film did not disappoint. [Read more...]
I was a sophomore in high school the first time I heard of Norah Jones. A friend of mine was a big lover of jazz, soul and R&B, and as such, she always was playing something incredibly soothing and sensual. She liked to talk to me about all the wonderful artists out there who were striving to make music sensible again, less about selling records, more about illuminating talent and hard work. Naturally, I got hooked. Pop music and mainstream hip hop was such a bore to me. I had to search for more musicians who spoke to me in a manner these two genres never do. That is why I was drawn to my friend, and that is how I wound up being a lover of non-mainstream music. [Read more...]
The moment I found out that Joss Whedon was writing and directing The Avengers, I nearly burst into tears. To be completely honest—until the fateful night of the midnight premiere—my favorite superhero franchise was Christopher Nolan’s Batman (the third installment of which, I am very excited for). Christopher Nolan may have to step down because Whedon reminded me of why I love going to the movies. The Avengers is a non-stop thrill ride with action, humor and a whole lot of heart. The chemistry within the cast was incredibly well-balanced, and it was apparent that the actors were very in tune with characters they were playing. No one outshined the other. They truly were a team.
Robert Downey, Jr. (Tropic Thunder, Sherlock Holmes) did a wonderful job playing Iron Man, as expected. Aussie-native, Chris Hemsworth (The Cabin in the Woods) did a great job with his second cinematic venture playing the incredibly handsome Norse god, Thor. Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction) lead again as the completely badass Nick Fury. Scarlett Johansson (The Island, The Prestige) did a phenomenal job playing the devilishly sexy Black Widow. And having only seen him in Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol, Jeremy Renner did an equally applauding job portraying the remarkable bow-wielding marksman, Hawkeye.
Bob Marley died at the age of 36 of cancer, leaving behind a grand total of 11 children. He left an iconic and indelible mark on the music scene, and to this day, he’s still one of the most widely recognized faces in the history of music, along the likes of such greats such as Michael Jackson, the Beatles and Elvis Presley. Some of his children have dipped their toes and tried their hand in music, going far enough to achieve some success and adulation from critics and fans alike. David Marley, known popularly as “Ziggy”, is a well-known reggae artist in Jamaica and beyond. Same goes for Stephen and Ky-Mani. While these brothers more or less come up with good music for the masses, there can be no doubt that in pure artistry, talent and musical wizardry alone, the youngest son of “Tuff Gong” stands head and shoulders above his brothers.
Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. His love of music was evident even from an early age. At 13, Jr. Gong (derived from his father’s nickname) formed a band that comprised of the members of other revered, respected reggae artists, namely the daughter of Freddie McGregor and the son of Third World guitarist Cat Core. By the time he produced his very first solo album, the 1996’s “Mr. Marley”, Damian had enough experience to realize where his strengths as an artist lay. The album surprised many critics, who could not believe their ears when they heard Damian deejaying rather than singing, an act that was almost unheard of from a Marley. His older brother Stephen lent him a helping hand in writing and producing the songs. He was only 18 at the time, but it was almost clear that Damian was destined for superstardom.
“Halfway Tree” was released in 2001, much to the delight of reggae fans around the world. The album was an interesting mishmash of dancehall and roots, with interesting Damian collaborating with artists such as Eve and Mr. Cheeks, along with his own brother Stephen. The album went on to win the “Best Reggae Album” award at the 2002 Grammys.
All his previous efforts, while fantastically impressive, were nonetheless child’s play when compared to his best album to date, “Welcome to Jamrock”. Up until that point, it was assumed that the sons of Tuff Gong were no more than marginally good reggae artists destined for success and coasting through life on their last name. However, everything changed in 2005. The song was released in anonymity in the Jamaican music scene, taking the streets of Kingston by storm. The song addressed the plight of an average Jamaican citizen, covering crime, poverty and corruption reminiscent to the early days of Bob Marley’s career. When it was learnt that the song was by Damian Marley, the song’s popularity, along with the album, spread like wildfire. Jr. Gong ended up winning two Grammy awards and introducing a new generation of avid music lovers throughout the world to the virtues, and beauty of reggae. It was this album that affirmed that Damian, by far, was the best and most talented of Bob Marley’s children, hands down. This album also included fantastically interesting guest performers, ranging from Nas to Eek-A-Mouse to Black Thought.
Bob Marley was by no means a reggae purist. Other artists such as Burning Spear have rigidly stuck to the basics of true reggae and have not veered into the pop scene. That being said, Bob Marley is considered the best reggae artists ever, and one of the best overall musicians in the history of the 20th Century, because of his ability to articulate the various conundrums that face the people around him. He spoke and sang with the voice of an army of the disenfranchised. He expressed their fears, dreams, hopes and pains. If that is the mark of greatness, if this is the criteria we are to use to measure whether or not a reggae artist is good enough to be called legendary, then none of Bob Marley’s sons have come as close to achieving this than his youngest. Tuff Gong died when Jr. Gong was only two years old, yet it seems it was Damian, out of all his eleven children, that was truly and thoroughly inspired by the elder Marley. In the future, I fully expect that Damian Marley will keep making more inspirational music, not only taking over his father’s mantle, but also curving out his own niche in the history of music. If we are to judge this statement solely from his body of work so far, including the collaborative album with Nas released in 2010, “Distant Relatives”, then Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley is well on his way to proving me right.
Ratatat, the duo from New York City, labored in obscurity and relative anonymity during the first couple of years of the new millennium. Right after finishing college, Mike Stroud and Evan Mast ended up making music under the stage name “Cherry”. They slowly, but surely, curved out their own space in the underground electronic music scene in the Big Apple and continued to self-produce good tunes from the comfort of Stroud’s own apartment.
It was not until 2006, however, that Ratatat really hit it big. After self-producing two albums, the group finally came up with a masterpiece, Classics, an instrumental album that is so good, it can appeal to music fans of any genre, so long as one keeps an open mind about it. This is especially true with a couple of tracks. For example, Loud Pipes, arguably the group’s most popular track, can be ranked side by side along any electronic song of any era. Wildcat is another fantastic track that proves the greatness of this band. The album is so wonderful it never ceases to remind me of my absolute love of the genre. Electronic music is here to stay, and Ratatat are at the forefront of this musical revolution. [Read more...]
It would appear that we are in a new age of romantic comedy—that really just feels more like comedy with a dash of romance and whole dollop of comedic nudity and sex. I first started noticing this boyfriend-friendly trend with Roger Kumble’s, PG-13, Just Friends (2005) and Nicholas Stoller’s, R-rated, Forgetting Sarah Marshall of 2008. I was sure about the new norm when Will Gluck’s Friends with Benefits rocked my world in 2011. And here we are, a year later, with Nicholas Stoller’s The Five-Year Engagement.
The movie chronicles the trials and comedic tribulations of a newly engaged San Francisco couple: Violet Barnes, played by Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada and The Adjustment Bureau), and Tom Solomon, played by Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother and Forgetting Sarah Marshall). Violet receives the opportunity of a lifetime to join a psychological research department at the University of Michigan. In his best attempt at being a good fiancé, Tom agrees to uproot his just blossoming culinary arts career in San Francisco and move to Michigan to support her. And so, their problems begin. [Read more...]
For those of you who have never heard of Joss Whedon, here are a couple of options: go back and sleep under that rock that you’ve been under for these past 20 years or so, or get a Netflix account and watch Firefly, Dollhouse, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer until your eyes burn with tears of joy from the greatness you’ve just witnessed. Joss Whedon, simply put, is one of the best science-fiction television creative minds to ever walk this planet. He created all of the cult classic series mentioned above, which earned a rapid, loyal fan base, with Whedon also making a film that served as a spin-off for Firefly: Serenity. Whedon has always had a knack for creating shows and films that take concepts that we, as the audience, feel some familiarity and deep comprehension and takes a spin on these concepts, producing something that will both surprise and wow us. And, he has done it again with The Cabin in the Woods.
Last year was a good year for hip hop as a whole. Both mainstream and independent artists gave us a much needed breath of fresh air, although most may have missed it if they were blinded by the Jay-Z and Kanye West collaboration album, “Watch the Throne”, or the success of Section 80, a solid effort by Kendrick Lamar, as a solely digital release. As a result, many albums went overlooked and underrated, so I’m going to give you the top 3 most overlooked, underappreciated hip hop albums of 2011:
1. Setbacks-Schoolboy Q: Now, if you prefer your underground music strictly socially conscious and complex, Q may not be the MC for you. However, the fact remains that he gives you an album filled with diverse songs, great charisma, and of course, great beats.
• IBETiGOTSUMWEED- a more lyrically different approach to today’s favorite pastime. Smooth calm melody and hook make it great chill music, even for nonsmoking hip hop fans.
• WHat’s THa Word- Schoolboy goes back to his gang roots and lets the audience enjoy some of his charismatic lines to ever accompany a beat.
• Birds & The Beez- On this track, Q enlists the talents of Kendrick Lamar to help him express the stress of trying to make it in the industry while still supporting his loved ones. Kendrick comes in to encourage him to keep going despite all the “setbacks” he’s facing.
Resting comfortably in the nook of spacey and driving, Culprit delivers music that takes the energy and technicalities of post-hardcore Rock and merges it with the hooks and melody of Brit Rock. That rather impressive sound produced by this process is prominent all over the band’s new EP Analogue.
Speaking on the title, Zach says “Analogue means the encompassment of a being. This EP is what we feel like encompasses Culprit at this time, a good representation of everything our sound is.” The EP was produced by Erik Ron, whose credits include Foxy Shazam, Versa Emerge, Panic At The Disco, and Four Year Strong and was recorded over several sessions over the course of a year. Crisp and full, Ron’s sonic signature achieves the level of emotion that Culprit’s songs hold. Zach comments “Erik (Ron) works at such a fast pace but he is also so detailed and on top of things, he really helped capture the energy of the songs.”
Perhaps the most endearing, beautiful yet confusing genre in all of music, Jazz has spurned many other genres from its humble roots and brought forth unimaginable talent over a century. First touted as nothing more noisemaking caused by just-freed slaves after the Civil War and the Reconstruction in New Orleans, Louisiana, Jazz slowly found a foothold and a following that allowed it to be commercially viable while still retaining the quality that makes the genre unique, which is the fact that it relies more on improvisation than recurring arrangements, making it the most pure form of musical artistry there is. Also, it constantly evolves, bringing in more people, and more cultures from all over the world. Perhaps the best quote that exemplifies the miracle that is Jazz is one by the great trombonist JJ Johnson, “Jazz is restless. It won’t stay put and it never will.”