Little May is an Australian trio of ladies who are starting to put together a nice little collection of songs. They have a kind of Cave Singers or Angus and Julia Stone feel to them, a modern folk music vibe. They are just getting their start and have just two or three songs available online (and their site’s store features nothing but a tote bag) so it could be a good time to hop on the bandwagon or at least keep an eye and ear open for their upcoming tunes.
“The Walking Dead” is a show that critics can’t seem to quit watching even though they don’t like the it. I’m in the same boat and I think I’ve finally figured out why I dislike it and why it will never get to the point where I’ll enjoy it.
The “problem” with “The Walking Dead” is that it is a horror TV show and horror movies often rely on people falling into harm’s way by doing the dumbest thing at the most inopportune time. A great example of this is the final showdown in season 3. It wasn’t two sides maneuvering to get the upper hand on one another, it was two people butting heads and not really thinking of a way out besides the path that is obviously not going to work (and then a whole bunch of people following because, well, they were followers.) While many people watched that scene on the edge of their seat, filled with anticipation, I was just annoyed.
But the reason I called this a “problem” instead of citing it as a flaw of the show is the fact that, sadly, real people might actually act like that. A great example was the viral story (which turned out to be a hoax) of the producer who sent mean letters to an annoying woman on an airplane. A large number of people gave him a “Right on!” and an “Atta Boy!” even though his letters were rude and included the comment “Eat a dick” and “You ate my dick.” All too often, people see a train of thought heading somewhere in the direction they agree with and then blindly go along for the ride, even when they blow past the point of common decency.
And that’s on a random day. Things aren’t going to get any better during the Zombie… I mean Biter Apocalypse. So while I might wish that people acted more intelligently, odds are that they probably wouldn’t. And, for me, watching people do dumb things to get themselves in trouble just isn’t entertaining and I get enough of it watching the news (and, at times, by doing stupid things myself.)
So, in the end, it seems like I should just appreciate “The Walking Dead” for being what it is but also recognize that it isn’t something that I am going to enjoy spending an hour a week on. With all of the movies out there that I haven’t seen and the books I haven’t read and the chores that I am not doing, it’s time to stop wishing about what might have been and just move on.
Because this is the first Kendrick Lamar song I’ve liked, and it’s not Kendrick Lamar doing it.
For films that cost over a hundred million dollars and have some of the most talented people in the industry working on them, blockbuster movies are often better used as lessons of How Not To write a film than they are examples to aspire to. Thor 2, sadly, is the former rather than the latter. The rest of this review will contain Thor 2 spoiler but let me just say that, overall, the film is a rental with some nice bits of humor (although often poorly timed) and a scene stealing performance by Tom Hiddleston as Loki.
OK, now Commence the Spoilers
We can learn a lot from Thor: The Dark World’s mistakes. And the mistakes are many.
HOW NOT TO: Establish Rules
Thor: The Dark World is a film that is bogged down by exposition but the exposition pretty much just establishes backstory that isn’t all that necessary and fails to establish rules that the rest of the film will play by. The opening scene establishes that The Aether, this film’s universe-destroying MacGuffin, can not be destroyed yet the first major mission of the film has us rooting for Thor to commit treason, free his villainous brother from captivity, and risk giving the enemy the one thing he needs to bring darkness to every known universe… so Thor can destroy the aether. Second act missions almost always end in failure, thereby setting up the Final Act’s last ditch effort to save the world, but you can’t have that mission be an obvious fool’s errand. And if you are going to have it be a fool’s errand, play it like a fool’s errand. Don’t establish a goal as unattainable and then minutes later craft the film so that we’re rooting for our heroes to go down a path that we know won’t lead them to anywhere they want to go.
In fact, beyond introducing us to the aether and the villain Malekith, the opening scene failed to establish much of anything. It introduces us to The Kursed, a sort of Elves on Steroids warrior, but then shows them getting mowed down by the King of Asgaard’s staff only to later tell us that there isn’t a weapon out there that can kill them. Also, Malekith is in his own universe as he plans to spread darkness to all the known universes but later in the film, he inexplicably decides to do it from Earth. Because there’s no reason for him to do this, the film loses out on a scene in which the heroes figure out where Malekith is going to hatch his plan; instead, the writers had to just have Jane Foster have a vision that told her where Malekith was going.
Finally, when Malekith finally unleashes the aether, it moves laughably slowly, doesn’t seem to do much of anything, and decides not to protect Malekith from Thor, despite the fact that, earlier in the film when it was bound to Jane Foster, it blasted people for just touching
her. And then, after Thor eliminates Malekith from the equation, there’s a film cut and the aether which had before protected itself and was said to always try to bind itself to someone, is apparently easily shopvacced back into a little box and the threat is over.
In the end, the lesson here is that no matter how much backstory you give to your doomsday device, it’s useless if you don’t establish rules for how it operates.I don’t need to know the aether’s backstory, I need to know how its power is unleashed. Instead of “If Person A gets Object B to Point C, the world will be over,” this film was “Don’t let Person A get Object B. Shit, he got it. Well, uh, don’t let him get it to Point C. Dammit, he’s there. Well, he has to be there at Time D. Oops. Um… fuck it, just kill him while he’s releasing it because apparently that can still happen.”
HOW NOT TO: Set Up a Final Battle
While some of the issues in this film can be attributed to the fact that they had to establish all sorts of worlds and evils and doomsday devices, there’s really no excuse for how poorly the final battle was set up. The “Prepping for the Final Battle” and “Final Battle” are staples of every action film. In The Dark World, the Prepping for the Final Battle moment is done just about as poorly as could be. There is zero tension when it comes to them trying to set up their trap, which is really just more of a nuisance than a trap. And that’s the other problem, the goal for the final battle is haphazard at best. Essentially, we’re told that the goal is to delay Malekith for seven minutes because then The Convergence will be over and he won’t be able to attack all seven universes at once. Nobody seems to have a problem with the fact that, after seven minutes, Malekith will still be on Earth and will still have the power to bring eternal darkness to our universe, and will probably be pissed off because Thor and some earthlings just prevented him from killing all known universes in one fell swoop.
Instead, Jane tells her cronies to set up the Portal creating stakes around the area in which Malekith needs to be to unleash the aether. Setting a perimeter makes sense but when Malekith’s ship crosses into the perimeter… nothing happens. For some reason, they don’t bother trying to send Malekith’s ship to another universe (which would undoubtedly delay them for a while); they wait until everyone’s unloaded and THEN they use them. The entire fight scene that follows is sheer chaos because there’s really no goal or plan. You’d think getting Malekith near one of the portal creating devices might be part of it but that doesn’t seem to happen. They’re literally just trying to kill seven minutes (more on that later).
The film desperately needed a better final plan. The entire film felt like a story that someone was making up as they went along, forgetting and ignoring parts they’d already told because it prevented them from getting to the ending they wanted.
HOW NOT TO: Create Time Pressure
Before the final battle, Jane Foster tells everyone that they have to delay Malekith for 7 minutes. Then the final battle proceeds in a manner that makes The Fast and the Furious 6′s runway scene seem realistic. Now, action movies often play with time like this but most of them are smart enough not to put a specific clock on things. “The Dark World” sets a 7 minute clock on the fight and then later has Thor getting portaled to a subway stop, getting on a subway, and taking it three stops to get back to the fight. Now because the fight was so obviously over 7 minutes, the film couldn’t cut to clock shots and show us the time counting down. They showed a couple shots of the universes aligning but that was also done poorly. There were so many stupid gadgets and what not, there’s no reason they couldn’t have had an easy to read “Realm Align” meter that showed how close they were coming to certain doom. Or, in this film, certain-ish doom.
HOW NOT TO: Use Humor
This one’s more of a pet peeve of mine. And to be fair, the humorous parts helped make the movie tolerable but they often worked against the film’s tension. Granted, this is kind of a staple of Marvel films but when everything else is done poorly, the attempts at humor during what should be a tense fight scene stick out like a sore thumb. The aforementioned subway scene absolutely kills whatever hopes of time pressure the fight scene might have had. Similarly, Kat Dennings and her intern have too many hijinks throughout the final scene which, again, kind of kill the “It’s the end of the world” vibe that should have existed but didn’t because the entire final fight was more chaotic nonsense than tense. I enjoyed the tone of Thor and like the humor in Marvel’s films but, at times when we should be feeling tension, less humor is more.
HOW NOT TO: Do a Love Story
Jane Foster wasn’t so much a love story as a reason to give Earth some importance or a role in Thor. The “love” story was just a time suck although I do give the filmmakers credit for de-emphasizing the “We have to save Jane” element because then the film would have turned into Vampire Diaries, in which people are often confronted with a choice between their friends or the fate of the world and always choose their friends. On the other hand, there could have been some debate over whether to sacrifice Jane which could have caused some tension in the relationship. Or Thor could be torn between Jane and Jaimie Alexander’s Sif. For instance, Thor could get caught up in the revelry of bringing peace to the Seven Realms, get close to kissing Sif, and then Idris Elba’s character comes in and says, “You told me to tell you if Jane Foster was ever in trouble…”
Personally, I think Jane should have died in this movie and Thor promises her to keep protecting Earth or something so we wouldn’t have to throw her into the next Thor movie.
And finally, there’s still the overall “Avengers” problem. When you introduce a world in which multiple superheroes exist and they are a team, it’s a little odd when the end of the world is at hand and you don’t call for anyone to help. Just even a little scene of Thor contacting Colston and S.H.I.E.L.D. but finding out that nobody is close enough to get to Thor in time would have helped.
Another interesting Roundtable although, in the last third, it kind of falls into the moderator talking to George Clooney about journalism. This time featuring: George Clooney and Grant Heslov (The Monuments Men), Jonas Cuaron (Gravity), Julie Delpy (Before Midnight), Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said), John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) and Danny Strong (Lee Daniels’ The Butler).
NCAA basketball is back! And if you’re an NBA fan or from Massachusetts, where we haven’t had a legit squad since Calipari left UMass facing sanctions, the NCAA might not be your thing. But this year, the NCAA features one of the most talented group of freshman that has come along in ages, including a few potential franchise players. So if you want to scout out who your team might be going after on draft night 2014, here’s a list of teams to watch.
#1: Kentucky – Absolutely loaded. Currently, their entire starting five is ranked in the Top 25 of Chad Ford’s Top 100 of 2014: PF Julius Randle (#2), PG Andrew Harrison (#8), SG James Young (#9), C Willie Cauley-Stein (#17), , SF Alex Proythress (#24). And their top two subs? C Dakari Johnson (#27) and Andrew Harrison’s twin brother, SG Aaron Harrison (#28).
#2: Kansas – Not only do they have Andrew Wiggins, the #1 prospect in the nation, but they also have #6 ranked Joel Embiid, who is an interesting case because he’s a kid from Cameroon who has only been playing hoops for a few years but he is going to college rather than the straight from overseas/playing in Europe route. That makes him a risky pick but not as risky as if his first and last initial were the same (Desagana Diop, Saer Sene, Bismack Biyombo.) If he starts going by Ernie Emblid, stay away on draft night. Kansas also features Roxbury’s own Wayne Selden (#11), who apparently is a polarizing player when it comes to scouts’ projections for where he will be drafted/how he will do in the NBA.
#3: Duke – A year ago, SI declared Jabari Parker the best college prospect since LeBron James. Now he’s not even ranked in the top 3 (Australia’s Dante Exum recently leapfrogged him in Ford’s rankings.) Some of it could be blamed by the fact that he was injured and got out ouf shape but most scouts seem to think he plateaued a bit. Making things cloudier for Parker is that Duke has SG Rasheed Sulaimon (#35) returning and SF Rodney Hood (#33) eligible after his transfer from Miss. St. so Coach K might be tempted to play Parker at the stretch 4, making the tweener label more of an issue. Quinn Cook improved his play last year but I’m not sure he’s anything more than a so-so pro prospect.
#3: Michigan - The key question for the Wolverines is, now that Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are gone, can Glenn Robinson III (#12) and Mitch McGary (#19) step up? McGary broke out in the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament but then fell back to Earth a bit while Robinson often blended into the background.
#4: Oklahoma State – All eyes are on Marcus Smart (#3), who would have been the #2 pick had he come out this year but decided to return to school. The odds of him going as high as #2 are slim and there’s a good chance that some flaws in his game are exposed. OK St. also has LeBryan Nash (#59) and Markel Brown, who might have enough athleticism to move quickly up draft boards.
#5: Arizona – Aaron Gordon (#7) will likely fill up the highlight reels so watching the games to see if he actually knows to do when not throwing down monster dunks will be important. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (#71) is a stud defender but can’t do a thing on offense. If he can at least start knocking down open threes, he could fly up draft boards. Kaleb Tarczewski (#50) is named Kaleb Tarczewski which makes me doubt his NBA future but he’s a legit 7 footer so maybe he can put something together this year. Brandon Ashley (#51) is a tweener who doesn’t seem to be putting in the work to make it to the pros.
#6: Louisville - Russ Smith (#76) has returned but will it help his draft stock? Even if he somehow improves his shot this year, he’s still a six foot nothing shooting guard. If he gets a chance to run the point and can make good decisions, it could boost his stock considerably but decision making’s never been a strong suit of his. Montrezl Harrell (#13) has an awesome name and had a strong summer so he could become Louisville’s Go-To guy in 2013. Wayne Blackshear (#89) should be 100% back from his injury and remind people why they once thought he was a legit NBA prospect. Luke Hancock (#122) should probably enjoy being a star in college.
#7: Michigan State – When Jabari Parker chose Duke, he said one of the reasons was because of Branden Dawson (#47) was already at Michigan St. Dawson spent this season bouncing back from an ACL tear so he could be set for a breakout. Gary Harris (#14) is considered a lotto pick, was ranked by some as the #1 shooting guard in his high school class, and was unfazed by his matchup with Oladipo last year but I’m not sold on him as a star. He might be a good third starter right now but he has to show that he can take his game to another level. Michigan also has senior Adreian Payne (#34), who stepped up big time last year but, I don’t know, I think I’m just always underwhelmed by Michigan State players’ pro prospects.
#8: Florida - The BIG asterisk here is whether or not Chris Walker (#15) can gain his eligibility. The Gators should still be a good college team but, without Walker, there’s not much reason to scout them. The wildcard is Patric Young (#41), a highly touted, undersized big man who has been mostly a disappointment since his offense hasn’t improved much and he doesn’t seem to hit the boards either. Still, sometimes he does stuff like this so it would be interesting to see what a pro big man coach might be able to coax out of him.
#9: UNC – In terms of NBA prospects, UNC has fallen on hard times. And there isn’t much on the horizon either. James Michael-McAdoo (#29) has been yet another blue chip disappointment. PJ Hairston (#39) looked like a great prospect but nobody’s sure whether he’ll play this year after some allegations that he violated NCAA rules.Sophomores Joel James (#53) and Marcus Paige (#64) are on the bubble of even getting drafted, nevermind starring in the league.
#10: UCLA - I was mostly just struggling to find a 10th team but I think watching to see what Kyle Anderson (#43) can do now that he’s the man in Westwood could be fun. He’s got a bizarre game and the perfect nickname “Slo-Mo”. He was the #3 ranked player out of high school. I have no idea if he can survive in the pros but he’s worth at least one watch.
“The Raid: Redemption” was one of the best (and most overlooked) action movies of the decade. It was simple, brutal, and impressive and managed to have just enough story to keep you invested but didn’t feel the need to overplot things to the point of distraction. The first trailer for the sequel is out now (the film is due in 2014) and it looks to be more involved but hopefully not too convoluted. This one is definitely on my Must Watch list for 2014.
I’m thinking every Tuesday, a big night for NBA games, will be my time to write about hoops and toss out of potential trade of the week and some League Pass tidbits.
My trade of the week involves my ever always present desire to move Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon from the New Orleans Pelicans. I posted an laughably low ball offer during the draft but I think this one works better.
New Orleans acquires: Greg Monroe, Danny Granger, and Big Baby Davis
Detroit acquires: Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon
Orlando acquires: Austin Rivers, Rodney Stuckey, Charlie Villanueva, New Orleans’s 2016 unrprotected 1st round picks.
Indiana acquires: Jameer Nelson and Aaron Afflalo
- Greg Monroe and Danny Granger gives the Pelicans one of the best frontcourts in the NBA. Granger is banged up and an unrestricted free agent after the year but he’s from New Orleans and, if he can get healthy, would be a perfect fit. Also, he gets them out of the Eric Gordon contract; Gordon isn’t bad but he’s not worth the money he’s making. Big Baby Davis gives them another big body off of the bench.
- Detroit gives up the talented Monroe but get two guys who fill their perimeter shooting void and are great fits alongside Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, and Andre Drummond. The Pistons take on a lot of salary in the deal (Stuckey and Villanueva are expiring deals) but it’s worth it to put together a better fitting roster.
- Orlando dumps their veterans, clears cap space, and continues to tank. I’m sure they’d love to get more for Jameer and Afflalo but the market just doesn’t seem to be there for either of them.
- Indiana moves Granger since Paul George and Lance Stephenson have locked down the starting swing spots. Jameer Nelson bolsters their point guard spot and gives them a reliable backup should George Hill’s injury linger and Afflalo gives their second unit a starting caliber player, who will help Indiana matchup with Miami’s smallball lineup.
THOUGHTS WHILE WATCHING LEAGUE PASS
- Stat geeks who had the Warriors finishing worse than the Celtics should be redoing their algorithms already.
- Paul George hasn’t stopped improving.
- Anthony Davis is a monster. One assist off of a quintuple nickel after three quarters a few nights ago.
- Every time Davis or Roy Hibbert land, I think their knees are going to give.
- Damian Lillard is in the conversation with Wall and Rubio as 10th best PG in the league.
- David Wesley doesn’t add much as a color commentator but that ‘s better than being as annoying as Matt Harpring.
- If league pass doesn’t get more ads, it’ll be two weeks until I’m going to never want to hear “Step Into a World” again in my life.
- It’s crazy to me that Xavier Henry is just a month older than Kelly Olynyk.
- Kelly Olynyk isn’t as bad as he’s played so far but he’ll never be good enough to make the Celtics not regret passing on Dennis Schroeder or Giannis Antetokounmpo AND giving up two good second round picks to draft him.
- If the plan was to make Jared Sullinger shoot more from the perimeter, he duplicates Kelly to a great degree.
- Robin Lopez was a great get for Portland. As was Mo Williams. Their bench still isn’t great but it’s better.
- Doug Collins held back the Sixers.
- I probably won’t watch many Memphis Grizzlies games.
- Dion Waiters isn’t long for Cleveland.
- I hope Anthony Bennett is still getting into shape because he looks SLOW.
- Andrew Bynum is still rusty but could be a great signing for Cleveland.
- Male pattern baldness is inexplicably funny on basketball players.
- Portland introduces Damian Lillard as wearing “the letter O”?
- I definitely wouldn’t have predicted that OJ Mayo would be benched in favor of Nate Wolters.
- The uniform style pendulum has swung too far to the plain side of things. New Orleans and Cleveland’s are too boring IMO. (Then again, how do you work a pelican onto a tank top uniform.)
- Ernie Grunfeld needs to be fired immediately before he makes a desperation trade that eats into the Wizards’ 2014 cap space.
- I like Mo Cheeks but I’m not sure he’s the right coach for Detroit.
- Just when I got on the Bradley Beal bandwagon, he throws up a week of stinkers.
- The Rockets need Patrick Beverly’s defense. Jeremy Lin isn’t going to cut it when Houston’s rivals feature Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and Tony Parker.
The blog definitely has fallen the wayside but I’m back and with a pretty solid Tryout. Courtney Barnett has a kind of Lou Reed or Bob Dylan-esque lazy storytelling manner to her but with a bit more tongue in cheek. Her new single “Avant Gardner” has some funny lines and some modern thoughts such as, “I’d rather die than owe the hospital ’til I get old.” I doubt she’ll break through to the mainstream save for maybe a one hit wonder but she has all the makings of an indie darling.
Each year, THR collects some of the top performers of the year and discusses the craft of acting. This year’s actors roundtable is a pretty good one even though they overedited it and through in a bunch of useless interludes. This discussion was a little more serious than others with the highlights are Matthew Mcconaughey has a good story about the biggest mistake and Jared Leto and Jake Gyllenhall on their worst auditions, Josh Brolin unveiling that he’d been told that he and Benicio Del Toro are the two worst auditioners that Miramax had ever seen.
- The Tryout: Little May December 3, 2013
- My Problem with Walking Dead December 3, 2013
- Am I officially no longer a fan of hip hop? November 27, 2013
- Thor 2: How Not To… November 17, 2013
- 2014 THR Roundtable: Screenwriters November 7, 2013
- NBA Fan Guide to the NCAAs November 7, 2013
- “Raid” Again November 6, 2013
- NBA TRADE OF THE WEEK! November 5, 2013
- The Tryout: Courtney Barnett November 4, 2013
- THR Roundtable November 3, 2013
- 2013 NFL Week 9: Cash Money! October 30, 2013
- 2013-14 NBA PREDICTIONS! October 29, 2013
- Fantasy Hoops: Power Forwards October 24, 2013
- Fantasy Hoops: Small Forwards October 24, 2013
- 2013 NFL Week 8: Easing Forwards October 23, 2013