The Best Bits: 2016

The year 2016 has been strung up as a punching bag for a while now, and though it’s an understandable sentiment given the multitude of celebrity deaths and the election cycle from hell, I can’t say it was all bad for me. I’ve made fantastic progress on my book, kept this blog going the whole year, and, most importantly, I got engaged. It doesn’t hurt the year was filled with spectacular media, from albums that I played two or three times a day to movies that had me geeking with joy. If you’ve been reading my blog all year, if you checked on it only once or twice, or if you simply liked it on Facebook, I thank you for taking the time to stop by. Without further ado, here are the Best Bits of 2016.

Top 10 Albums of 2016:

1. Dream Theater, The Astonishing (Roadrunner)

the astonishing

A little bit of fantasy/sci-fi, a dash of Rush’s 2112, and the virtuosic pedigree of Dream Theater brings this rock opera to life. Never before has a concept album gotten me so caught up in its story.
2. Bon Iver, 22, A Million (Jagjaguwar)

bon-iver

The jump from “dude with an acoustic guitar in a cabin in the woods” to folktronica glitch pop could have gone poorly, but the new album from Justin Vernon and company is probably their best yet.
3. Zeal and Ardor, Devil Is Fine (Self-Released)

zeal and ardor

Blues, black metal, with a dash of trip hop. Manuel Gagneux’s one man project is bold, unrefined, and one of the most memorable albums of the year.
4. Alcest, Kodama (Prophecy)

alcestkodama

Alcest returns with their winning combination of shoegaze and black metal, creating an atmosphere that is both beautiful and chilling.
5. Haken, Affinity (InsideOut)

haken

One of the best prog releases this year, hands down.
6. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires (Neurot)

neurosis

One of the band’s shorter albums, Neurosis’ latest is not short on quality and is as dark and introspective as ever.
7. Opeth, Sorceress (Nuclear Blast)

opethsorceressfinalcd

For a while, I wasn’t sure if Opeth’s latest would win me over. But, after I found myself humming “The Wilde Flowers” to myself, I knew I had to listen to it again and again.
8. Anthrax, For All Kings (Megaforce)

anthrax-for-all-kings-album-new

We were lucky to get albums from three-fourths of the Big Four this year, but Anthrax’s followup to Worship Music was the one that stuck with me.

9. Cult of Luna (with Julie Christmas), Mariner (Indie)

Cult-Of-Luna-Mariner-47682-2_1

I am kicking myself for forgetting about this when I was putting together my list of Metal Insider. This is another fine LP in Cult of Luna’s already excellent discography.
10. Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop, Love Letter For Fire (Sub Pop)

love letter for fire

Of course any fan of Iron & Wine will like this album, but I love it more because of a certain special person who listened to it with me.

Honorable Mentions:

Hyperion, Seraphical Euphony (Blacklion)
Black Crown Initiate, Selves We Cannot Forgive (eOne)
ONI, Ironshore (Metal Blade)

 

Top 5 Films of 2016:

1. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

batmanvsuperman

Call me contrarian. Call me delusional. Tell me that the DCEU is dead in the water. I don’t care. I’ve enjoyed this movie more with each and every viewing, especially after the Ultimate Cut fleshed things out. It’s not a perfect film and I’ll be the first to admit it, but I’ve pondered over it more than any other film this year. And that Batfleck warehouse scene is just fucking brilliant.

 

2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

rogue_one_a_star_wars_story_poster

If being blinded by nostalgia is wrong, then I couldn’t give a shit less about being right. The film was a great first outing for the standalone Star Wars anthology that is both strong in its own right pays meaningful tribute to the saga’s 1970’s origins.

 

3. Captain America: Civil War

civil war

The film that proved you can fit twelve superheroes into one movie without it being a disaster. Phase Three of the MUC looks as promising as ever as we begin to explore heroes new and familiar.

 

4. Deadpool

deadpool_ver9

While the film itself is a hilarious raunchy romp, the biggest achievement of Deadpool is that 1) it actually happened, and 2) it has opened the way for R-rated superhero films, hence there reason this year’s Logan will be rated R.

 

5. Finding Dory

FINDING_DORY_-_Key_Art

This is the odd one out on the list, but given the pure joy I experienced watching Finding Dory I believe it deserve a spot amongst the superheroes and space operas. Beautiful animation and touching themes on those differently abled make this another gold star for Pixar.

 

Honorable Mention:

The Little Prince

This technically is from 2015 and I neglected to review it on my blog, but this joyful adaptation of the beloved novella has been updated to break down what we expect of children in today’s world where cold, dead career’s take precedent over dreams.

 

Favorite TV Show:

Westworld

westworld

There aren’t too many shows with previews that make me go from zero to “I gotta watch that”, but Westworld‘s premise and stellar cast was enough to make me sit down with the original 1973 Michael Crichton film before diving into HBO’s latest hit. I’m not a binge watching kind of guy, but I was always ready to devour one episode after the next with this show. It’s one of the best shows on TV right now and I’ll be anxious to see if they can top it.

 

Favorite Book:

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

words of radiance

If you’re been follow my blog, this shouldn’t be a surprise. I put a lot of time into reading this book, and it was all worth it. Promises were fulfilled, paths were crossed, and the game has changed. It’s everything a sequel should be and is a confirmation that Sanderson is going to make reading these tomes worthwhile for any fantasy fan. I can’t wait for the next one to come out this year (hopefully).

 

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The Good Bits: December 2016

As I write this, I am also coming up with a post for the Best Bits of 2016, which, admittedly, is going to overshadow this one a bit. Still, I can’t leave December out of the mix, especially since the most hyped-up movie of the year came out (and I’m not talking about Sing, though it was a fun movie).

Music:

Hyperion, Seraphical Euphony (Black Lion)
Released: February 6th 2016

hyperion

Every year, before I put together a list of my favorite albums, I embark on a search for any albums that I missed during the year in an effort to weed out any hidden gems. There’s always at least one every year, and this year it came in the form of the debut album from Swedish blackened death metal band Hyperion. Nowadays, I tend to lean toward slow, progressive kind of bands and it takes a really kickass album to hook me back into something fast, shreddy, and deadly. Hyperion does just that with incredibly fast riffs and raspy vocals, but they aren’t afraid to get melodic, something I always appreciate. It’s not only one of the best debut albums of the year, but one of my favorites overall. I haven’t spent as much time with it as other albums from this past year, but I spent enough time to know Hyperion are worth keeping on the radar.

 

 

Film:

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn)
Director: Gareth Edwards
Released: December 16th 2016

rogue_one_a_star_wars_story_poster

I honestly wasn’t sure if I was ready for a new Star Wars film. Don’t get me wrong, I love Star Wars and was certainly excited for Rogue One, but knowing this was officially the start of a new movie every year made me wonder if it was going to be too much too soon. Having two or three Marvel movies out is one thing because they usually span different types of genres depending on which hero is up front. But a new entry for the biggest blockbuster franchise every year? Sounds too good to be true. And while there may come a day when a new Star Wars film comes out and ends up being a dud or people begin to feel fatigued by having a new one every year, it is not this day. Rogue One is a wonderful first entry in the Star Wars anthology series, hauling in just enough satisfying fan service without leaning on it while remaining a strong film in its own right.

FYI: I’m going to do my best to keep this spoiler free even though most of you have seen it at this point

For some people, Rogue One is a confusing follow-up to The Force Awakens in that it features none of those characters and is in fact set just before A New Hope, telling the story of how the Rebellion stole the plans to the Death Star. Here’s one thing to keep in mind about Rogue One: this is not your typical Star Wars movie. It’s not even like The Force Awakens. This is, in essence, a war movie with a dash of a heist plot telling the story of how the Rebel Alliance stole the plans to the Death Star. Jyn Erso (Jones) leads a ragtag group in search of her father, Galen, a scientist and key player in building the superweapon. The titular Rogue One is composed of a few archetypes such as a snarky droid, hotshot Captain, and a deadly spiritual fighter to name a few. They may sound one note, but they’re certainly fun to be around. Once again, this isn’t a hero’s journey where we see several characters growing and changing. These are the small timers, the moving gears of war that make the big moments for bigger characters possible.

On the other side of the table is Director Orson Krennic (Mendelsohn), Grand Moff Tarkin (featuring a digitally resurrected Peter Cushing) and, the one and only, Darth Vader. While Krennic is interesting to watch, he does get a bit overshadowed by his peers. Seeing Peter Cushing onscreen again is going to be hit or miss depending on how creepy you think the CGI is. Personally, I enjoyed it and think it contributes to the film’s authenticity, though I wouldn’t want to see a whole movie led by something like that. Vader, of course, is awesome even with his expectedly small onscreen time, and is a big contributor to making the last ten minutes some of the best in Star Wars history.

I’m beginning to realize there’s way too much to cover to cover for this movie, and I like to keep things brief, so I’ll try to narrow it down: Rogue One is excellently crafted to fit the aesthetic of A New Hope and will certainly tick all the nostalgic boxes. That said, Gareth Edwards’ direction makes the film feel different from other films, rather than trying to stick to the template as The Force Awakens did. It’s fresh and familiar, and while some fans might not like the dark tones and deviations, I think there’s plenty of Star Wars magic in this film, proving that we can have more films that don’t rely on the Skywalker’s or Jedi. It’s a worth addition to the saga and I can’t wait to see it again.

 

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell)
Director: David Yates
Released: November 18, 2016

fantastic_beasts_and_where_to_find_them_poster

I’m a little late with this one since it came out in November, but better late than never. Here we have yet another prequel set in the universe of one of the biggest Hollywood franchises, the difference being that Fantastic Beasts is set to kick off a series of five films. Now, I consider myself a relatively big Harry Potter fan; not quite a fanatic like I am with Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, but I grew up reading HP and they had a pretty big impact on my reading tastes as well as my writing. That being said, the idea that we’re getting four more of these movies feels like…a lot? Not that I’m judging the film on its future plans, but I’m skeptical of the series’ longevity especially where there are several other Potterverse stories that can be told (feel-good Quidditch movie anyone?). Regardless, Fantastic Beasts is a dazzling, surprisingly dark, stuffed first entry to the proposed series.

I have to give big ups to the film for being a well done prequel. Sure, you get some name drops like Dumbledore or Hogwarts, but it manages to stand on its own merits without heavy reliance on what fans already know. The cast is entertaining; Eddie Redmayne was born to play a wizard and Dan Fogler stands out as a surprisingly entertaining muggle who gets dragged into the whole mess. Ezra Miller’s turn as a deeply disturbed teenage boy is some of the best acting in the film and is the centerpiece of the film’s aforementioned dark tone. I know I keep saying “dark” as if the original Potter films were all sunshine and farts, but there are themes and depictions in Fantastic Beasts that I wasn’t expecting, from child abuse (and I mean more so than living in a cupboard under the stairs) to capital punishment.

Visually, the movie is like someone took a dab of Tim Burton to the Wizarding World, which is neat and makes the titular beasts great fun to watch and marvel at. The 1920’s New York City setting mixes in a prohibition aesthetic with the Wizarding World to great effect, staying familiar enough to keep us grounded but giving the world a new flavor. The big sticking point for the film is plot, however, which isn’t necessarily amazing or terrible, but it’s just…a lot. A lot of characters and stories are introduced to you very quickly and certain plotlines overshadow the others whenever they mingle. I would have been perfectly fine watching Newt Scamander running around NYC recollecting his creatures, but there’s also talks of the stability between wizard and muggle relations in the US, whispers of the deeds of dark wizard Grindelwald, and numerous backstories for certain characters that are hinted at then left for another film. Now, I don’t necessarily have a hard time keeping track of multiple story arcs (I watch Game of Thrones after all), but so much is happening at the same time in this film, like a child just bursting to tell about its day and moving from one big event to the next without a breath in between. It doesn’t kill the film, but it does make me wonder if I want four more of these. Is this how other people felt while I sang the praises of the The Hobbit films ?

Potter fans will (or already do) love it. If you only saw the films and likely them, you’ll like this. Even if you’ve never delved into Harry Potter before, you may like it since it’s so far removed from the original films that you don’t require much prior knowledge. I’m questionable as to the quality of future films, but for now it’s an entertaining romp and a fun return to the world of J.K. Rowling.

 

 

Currently Reading:

Talion: Revenant by Michael A. Stackpole

talion-revenant

I’m more than halfway through the book and it’s still good so far, though here and there I find things that aren’t quite to my taste. That said, the book is told from a first person perspective, something not often done in fantasy, and I’m enjoying the change. I’ll be done with this one by the next Good Bits.

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The Good Bits: Top 10 Albums of 2015 Redux

Back when I was doing radio, a few of my fellow DJs would do a show around this time of year where they reflected on their favorite music from the pervious year. They would change around their top albums, include music they’d missed out on, and elaborated on how well their favorites had aged. I nicked this tradition from them while on radio and have decided to do so again on The Good Bits!

Here’s a list original top ten albums of 2015. If you’d like to see my initial thoughts on this list, you can head over to Metal Insider where it was originally posted.

Top 10 Albums of 2015:

10) Panopticon, Autumn Eternal
9) Intronaut, The Direction of Last Things
8) Sigh, Graveward
7) Leprous, The Congregation
6) Clutch, Psychic Warfare
5) Between The Buried And Me, Coma Ecliptic
4) Iron Maiden, The Book of Souls
3) Ghost, Meliora
2) Steven Wilson, Hand. Cannot. Erase.
1) Ghost Bath, Moonlover

Honorable Mentions:

Enslaved, In Times
TesseracT, Polaris
Mutoid Man, Bleeder

Now, nearly a year later in 2016, I’ve gone over these albums again, noted which ones I’ve returned to the most, discovered ones I missed, and then reassessed my list. It remains mostly the same but with two notable changes, both of which involve a mutual vocalist.

Top 10 Albums of 2015 Redux:

10) Sigh, Graveward

sigh-graveward

Graveward is still ridiculous, yet also still straightforward compared to Sigh’s other releases. If you like your black metal with an 80’s shred tinge, this is still a solid go to.

 

9) TesseracT, Polaris

tesseract

My initial impression of TesseracT’s third LP was that it was good, though not as good its predecessor Altered State. Part of this was due to my preference of vocalist Ashe O’Hara, whose performance dominated Altered State and who was replaced by original singer Daniel Tompkins for this album. But I kept coming back to Polaris this past year thanks to the tight, proggy songwriting and Tompkins’ performance eventually won me over. I was remiss in not including last year, and so it has been bumped up from its spot in the Honorable Mentions.

 

8) Earthside, A Dream In State 

earthside

Cinematic maybe isn’t the first word to come to mind when describing a metal band, but it certainly describes the music put together by the fantastic musicians comprising Earthside. A Dream In Static is a mainly instrumental journey occasionally joined by guest vocalists such as the aforementioned Daniel Tompkins, Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust, and more. The addition of the Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra on select tracks only adds to the shifting soundscape, full of gorgeous peaks and unique textures that many progressive bands push for but don’t always meet. This album is a treat and Earthside should be on everyone’s watchlist.

 

7) Clutch, Psychic Warfare

clutch

I only really got into Clutch when they put out Earth RockerPsychic Warfare is an excellent follow-up that is on par with its predecessor.

 

6) Leprous, The Congregation

leprous-the-congregation-01

The dark horse of 2015 for me is still holding the original spot I gave it. Leprous are one of the finer progressive metal acts out there.

 

5) Between The Buried And Me, Coma Ecliptic

coma_ecliptic_cover_art_by_between_the_buried_and_me

I saw the band perform the entire album live this year. That only helped solidify my love for this album.

 

4) Iron Maiden, The Book of Souls

iron-maiden-the-book-of-souls-2015

I’m a Maiden fanboy. That’s all I feel the need to say.

3) Ghost, Meliora

meliora

Ghost have gotten better and better with every album. The only thing that would make Meliora better is if “Square Hammer” from the Popestar EP released this year was on it.

 

2) Steven Wilson, Hand. Cannot. Erase.

steven_wilson_hand_cannot_erase_cover

This is still one of the single most moving, beautifully written albums I’ve ever heard. Steven Wilson is a gift to the musical world.

 

1) Ghost Bath, Moonlover

ghost-bath

Of all the albums on this list, I think I go back and listen to Moonlover the most. Ghost Bath are one of the best new acts out there and this album may very well rank in my personal best of all time.

 

And there you have it; my retrospective on my favorite albums from 2015. I’m sure there are still other albums that got swept under the rug or albums that I didn’t appreciate the first time around, but nothing in the music world is ever static. Stay tuned for my favorite albums for 2016 coming soon!

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The Good Bits: November 2016

November was a tough month for many, so I was thankful for all the movies, music, and literature present on this month’s edition of The Good Bits to remind me that it’s not all bad all the time.

Music:

Metallica, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct (Blackened)
Released: November 18th 2016

metallica

Where do you even start with reviewing something as massive as a new Metallica album, let alone a double album? It’s one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year for music in general, not just metalheads. Fans and ex-fans alike rejoiced when they heard “Hardwired” and were blown away by how great it sounded. People who dismissed them for years were suddenly hopeful for a return to form for the band. The result? Hardwired…to Self-Destruct is a great modern Metallica album. And that makes this fan very happy.

If you read my retrospective of 2008’s Death Magnetic, you’ll remember my assessment that the album’s biggest flaw was how it tried to emulate 80’s Metallica just a little too much, from album format to song structure. This is not at all a problem on Hardwired as the band sound way more natural with songs that progress organically and less constructed to fit a template. “Hardwired” kicks everything off with the perfect one-two punch to get you hyped about the rest of the album. The whole first disc is solid, with “Halo On Fire” and “Now That We’re Dead” standing out as favorite. What’s more, you can tell that everyone in the band showed up to kick this album into high gear. The second disc is good too, though some of the songs seem a cut below those of the preceding disc. But then “Murder One” and “Spit Out The Bone” wrap up the album in furious Metallica fashion.

Was a double album necessary? Maybe not. It could have just been the whole first disc and then the last two tracks to form a solid eight track album. That said, I don’t think the other songs hurt the album overall and maybe they’ll grow on me more after a few listens. Either way, the bulk of  Hardwired…to Self-Destruct‘s enjoyment stems from simply being a great, exciting new Metallica release. It feels like their natural destination after such a long and storied career. Plus, with everything else that’s happened this year, we deserve something as special as a new Metallica album.

 

 

ONI, Ironshore (Metal Blade)
Released: November 25th, 2016

oni-ironshore

Technical ability can only take you so far nowadays in metal. What good are crazy time signatures and shit hot guitar solos if your band just comes off as boring? It’s a trap many newer bands fall into that ONI managed to avoid on their debut album. You can tell right away on the opener “Barn Burner” that the band has some serious chops, but when you get to “Eternal Recurrence” the sound opens up, revealing a band that sounds less like Meshuggah or The Faceless and more like Dream Theater with harsh vocals. I was surprised to hear more than a few clean, hooky choruses in between guitar wizardry (and bass wizardry too, Chase Bryant is a goddamn madman).

The album keeps it to nine tight tracks that lasts long enough for you to drink your fill of prog metal bedazzlement. The eleven minute “The Science” was over in a flash for me and proves that ONI know how to write long songs with getting top masturbatory. There are many bands that I’ve been saying telling people to watch for on this blog, and these guys are high up on that list. If you need more convincing, this debut album features Randy Blythe (Lamb of God) as a guest vocalist. That’s how you know you’re doing it right.

 

Film:

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams)
Director: Scott Derrickson
Released: November 4th, 2016

doctor_strange_poster

The term franchise fatigue has been thrown around a lot regarding the seemingly never-ending line of superhero movies heading our way. Sure, we’re done with them for the remainder of 2016, but between DC and Marvel we’ve got six movies heading our way in 2017. In the meantime, we’ll be endlessly assaulted with trailers, breakdowns of trailers, trailer stills, you name it. As a result, while I enjoy this superhero film renaissance, it can get a bit tiring. Luckily, Doctor Strange provides a dash of invigoration for the genre, providing a new character with an origin story that goes by-the-numbers in some aspects, but makes plenty of room for new, mind-bending thrills.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: yes, Benedict Cumberbatch is a bit overexposed at this point and his inclusion in the MCU means we’ll be seeing a lot more of him. That said, even my fiancée, who was skeptical of Doctor Strange before viewing, couldn’t deny the charm and gravitas Cumberbatch brought to the role, moving from cocky jerk to ruined surgeon to hero. The supporting cast is great too: Chiwetel Ejiofor has a great turn as Mordo and hints a his character’s morally gray development in the future; Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius manages to be more than just a one-note villain; Tilda Swinton is excellent as The Ancient One, although I understand the casting controversy might make some viewers less enthralled with her performance. The only one who is so-so is Rachel McAdams, but that’s less because of her acting ability and more because it feels like she’s only there to fill the love interest role.

By now, you’ve likely seen and/or heard about this film’s up-and-front use of special affects, and I can assure you they’re nothing short of spectacular. I saw the film in 3D, and while I think the film is great no matter what format it’s viewed in, you get just a little bit more out of the effects when they’re popping out at you. What’s more, the film’s thorough usage of trippy CGI sequences was never too overwhelming, always toying with the viewer just the right amount before backing off. The film also contains one of the best action set pieces of the entire MCU in its finale, ranking up there with the Daredevil hallway scene under the category of “How the hell did they do that?!”

While Doctor Strange does present us with yet another origin story and its familiar beats, the film gets them out of the way quickly and efficiently enough that we get an effective introduction to the Sorcerer Supreme while taking in a new layer added to the MCU that mixes the status quo up a bit, leaving the franchise with fascinating potential. If nothing else, see it for the Cloak of Levitation. Best cloak ever.

 

 

Central Intelligence (Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson)
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Released: June 17th 2016

central-intelligence

File this one under “Potentially Dumb Comedy Better Than Expected.” Action-comedy buddy movies are a tried and true formula, but sometimes you can’t help getting that “seen one, seen ’em all” feeling when you spot a new trailer. Then again, not every one of those movies features Dwayne Johnson, whose mere presence in a film boosts its chances of being good by at least 25%, sometimes more depending on how much screen time he has. Combine him with Kevin Hart as the straight man and you get a film that’s somewhat predictable, but the star power yields enough laughs to entertain you on a night in where you have absolutely have no idea what to watch.

The film also touches on the subject of bullying, depicting a teenage version of Johnson’s character Bob Stone as a fat kid who is mercilessly picked on at school but is shown sympathy by star student Calvin (Hart). While comedies aren’t meant to be downers, I wouldn’t have minded if the film tried to touch on bullying just a bit more. But, as it stands, you have a solid pair of actors with good chemistry and a fast paced plot. You know what you’re gonna get before you got in, but you’ll have a good time anyway.

 

Books:

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

words of radiance

About this same time a year ago, I’d just finished reading the The Way of Kings, the first in Brandon Sanderson’s series of cinderblock-sized epic fantasy novels dubbed The Stormlight Archive. And I loved it. I wasn’t sure how Sanderson could get better than his Mistborn trilogy, but that first book drew me into a unique world full of endearing characters, fascinating magic, and an endless but intriguing amount of lore. The promise was great, so I opened up the second and latest volume Words of Radiance hoping for some payoff. And boy, did it deliver. Note: I won’t be revealing any big spoilery plot points, but if you’re entertaining the idea of reading this book at some point and want to go in knowing absolutely nothing, read at your own risk.

The biggest payoff of the book is finally seeing the paths of our view point characters converge. It’s entertaining to finally see these characters finally meeting each other and reacting to each other’s quirks. Shallan is kind of the star of the show here; just as Kaladin received backstory chapters in tWoK, Shallan gets her mysterious past explained in WoR. She’s much more engaging in this book than the first, so I didn’t feel like I had to suffer through her chapters if they cut in on someone else’s action. Everyone else gets their time to shine (sometimes literally) as well. Like the first book, there’s a lot of build up and about halfway through you start to see lots of promises fulfilled that make the book feel like a satisfying, savory feast. The most notable event is probably our heroes’ encounter with Szeth, the assassin in white (that’s not a spoiler, it’s on the cover of the book).

The length of the volume can feel like an undertaking, but if you read the first volume and spent a lot of time thinking “Oh god, this is dragging” you might be more pleased with this one’s pace. It’s apparent now that tWoK was meant to get us comfortable with the world of Roshar, to get us invested in the characters, and to promise an extraordinary tale before delivering the goods. As a result, World of Radiance ends up being a triumph, wrapping up one giant arc of the story while setting up the events of the next installment. This is probably my favorite book that I’ve read from Sanderson so far and I’m storming well in it for the long haul.

 

Currently Reading:

Talion: Revenant by Michael A. Stackpole

talion-revenant

Normally I try to space out what I read according to genre, but after coming across this book I decided to continue my fantasy streak. Talion: Revenant is a stand-alone fantasy novel, which isn’t something you see a lot of, so I’m intrigued to see what satisfaction I can get out of it versus starting a new series. I’m about a hundred pages in, and so far so good. This won’t take nearly as long to read as the behemoth mentioned above.

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The Good Bits: October 2016

I’m posting this the morning after Election Day. I don’t intend to go on a political rant on here because you’ll get enough of that today as is. But I hope that if you’re taking the time to read what I’ve put down it distracts you for a little while from whatever else is happening out there. This is The Good Bits, after all.

 

Bon Iver, 22, A Million (Jagjaguwar)
Released: September 30th, 2016

bon-iver

Gambles don’t always pay off for artists who make a dramatic change in musical direction. Sometimes it just flat-out backfires and then all the fans wait for some return to form. This is not the case with Bon Iver’s third album, which makes the transition from indie folk to glitchy folktronica. There’s something so fascinating about this album as it could have failed on every level for mastermind Justin Vernon. Instead,we got a goddamn masterpiece. Granted, not everyone is going to be into switching from acoustic guitars to autotune and other electronic standbys, and I get that. But if you’re hesitant, give “8 (Circle)” a listen, and if you like that, you should dive into the rest of the album. I know I’m mostly a metal guy, but I’ll be damned if this doesn’t end up in my overall top 10 of the year.

 

Insomnium, Winter’s Gate (Century Media)
Released: September 23rd, 2016

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Insomnium made quite an impact with their 2014 release Shadows of the Dying Sun, and I believe their new album is even better. It’s a single song album (split into seven parts for digital release) that runs for forty minutes. The continuous forward movement of the album never gets boring, moving through heavy but melodic passages that help depict the vast, frigid landscapes and seas of the album’s story that revolves around (what else?) vikings. I slept on this band the last time around, but I’m glad I didn’t do that with Winter’s Gate.

 

Thy Catafalque, Meta (Season of Mist)
Released: September 16th, 2016

thy-catafalque

Tamás Kátai, the man behind Thy Catafalque, put out a really weird but intriguing album last year called Sgùrr that utilized electronica, folk, and black metal. It may sound vexing, but I’m not one to shy away from experimentation, and I enjoyed the album enough that I kept an eye out for future doings. Apparently I didn’t do that great a job since he put out another new album in September and I missed it the first time around. Meta is a tad more straightforward than its predecessor, with a larger reliance on heavy guitar passages early on, but there are plenty of other experimental elements on the album that keep things interesting. In refining his sound, Kátai offers an album that is more accessible but is far from generic. I would call it avant-garde black metal, but I’m not sure any one label is going to do this album justice.

 

 

ELEL, Geode (Mom + Pop Music)
Released: October 21st, 2016

elel_geode

The only album on here actually released in October is from a local Nashville band whose album release party I had the pleasure of attending. If you ever get to see these guys live, don’t miss out. If you can’t, there’s always their debut album Geode. Now, most of the music I post about on here is not happy. At all. But ELEL write some of the happiest, most lively indie pop I’ve heard, and it just feels good to listen to. “When She Walks” and “Kiss Kiss” are the two I would try first, but I think you’ll want to sit down with the whole thing to understand why these guys are the real deal. You’ll probably be seeing their name a lot more in future.

 

Film:

The Girl on the Train (Emily Blunt)
Director: Tate Taylor
Released: October 7th, 2016

girl-on-train-movie-poster

I normally like to read a best-selling novel before the film adaptation comes out; I did so with The Martian and Gone Girl. I missed that opportunity with Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train, so I wasn’t sure how my experience would be impacted as a result. Luckily, I quite enjoyed the film and, like everyone else, I have to applaud the always formidable Emily Blunt.

The film’s pace is a tad slower than its thriller contemporaries, and while many reviews have cited this as a negative, I enjoyed the time the film took to fill us in on the different character perspectives. Rachel Watson (Blunt) is the star of the show of course, and Blunt’s performance is highly captivating as we the audience wrestle with our sympathy for her. But seeing the perspectives of Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and Megan (Haley Bennett) fleshed out their characters to the story’s benefit. I can’t speak to how it compares to the book, but it’s still impressive for a film adaptation that clocks in under two hours.

Of course, a mystery thriller can fall apart depending on its twist, but The Girl on the Train sidesteps that particular pothole. The twist is as it should be: natural, able to be figured out by context clues, not contrived. It helps tie the movie into a nice package rather than going off the rails like many mystery thriller twists do. If you missed this one because of the mixed reviews, I’d give it a chance if for no other reason than to watch Blunt’s performance.

 

Halloween Watchlist:

Devil’s Advocate (Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino, Charlize Theron)
Director: Taylor Hackford
Released: October 17th, 1997

devils-advocate

Rosemary’s Baby is one of my favorite horror movies, and I was told The Devil’s Advocate is similar. That and it’s considered essential Al Pacino viewing. This is some of the best acting I’ve seen from Reeves and he has great chemistry with Theron. Pacino is, of course, incredible, saving the real fireworks for the final minutes of the film. It’s a great mix of genre that might be a tad overlong, but certainly delivers a satisfying tale.

 

Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder)
Director: Tim Burton
Released: December 14th, 1990

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File this one under movies that fellow 90’s kids can’t believe I’ve never seen. Look, I like a lot of Tim Burton’s movies, I just had other priorities when I was a kid, alright? Anyway, the movie is great of course, with an overly colorful 1950’s suburbia clashing with the doom and gloom now chiefly associated with Hot Topic. It reminds you why Burton, Depp, and Ryder became such stars in the first place.

 

The Sixth Sense (Bruce Willis, Hayley Joel Osment)
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Released: August 9th, 1999

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File another one under movies that I’m insane for not having seen. Of course, I went into this movie knowing the twist, but I feel like that actually enhanced the experience for me. I looked for tells by watching certain scenes while thinking “Okay, if I didn’t know the twist, what here would tip me off?” It’s also interesting to watch this moving knowing that director M. Night Shyamalan would go on to be mocked for essentially making self-parody movies.

 

The Village (Bryce Dallas Howard, Jaoquin Phoenix, William Hurt)
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Released: July 30th 2004

the-village

Okay, in this one I didn’t know the twist, but I’m not sure it would’ve made a difference if I did. I’m kind of split on this movie because I liked the concept and it boasts a great cast, but I feel like the movie doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it a monster horror movie? A psychological thriller? A failed utopia? True, it’s possible for a movie to be all of these things and be stellar, but not for one that wants to pad itself out with boring stuff until it can reveal the twist.

 

Maggie (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin)
Director: Henry Hobson
Released: May 8th 2015

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Here’s an under the radar film that I’d recommend if you’re not tired of zombies yet. In the film, Arnold’s daughter (Breslin) has been bitten by a zombie and is set to transition into one herself over the course of eight weeks. This is not the kind of movie you’d expect to find Arnold in, but you’re going to be genuinely surprised when you see his acting alongside Breslin. It’s a quiet, beautifully shot movie that adds its own noteworthy touch to the overtired zombie genre.

 

Currently Reading:

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

words of radiance

Not much left to go on this one (page 1124). Expect to hear my final thoughts on it next month.

 

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The Good Bits: September 2016

There’s so much new music coming out this fall that I only got to listen to a select few albums. The rest will just have to wait until the next good bits. I will add as an aside though that, following my attendance at the Pilgrimage Festival in Franklin, TN, I must say that Beck is amazing and I don’t know why I never got into him beyond his hits before now. When I have more time to sit down with his music, you’ll probably see something about him on here sooner or later.

Music:

Opeth, Sorceress (Nuclear Blast)
Released: September 30th, 2016

opethsorceressfinalcd

Opeth’s 2014 album Pale Communion is one of the finest in their discography in my opinion. Many fans, however, lamented the band’s abandonment of death metal tropes (growling, screaming, etc.) in favor of the old school prog rock the band first embraced on their 2011 release HeritageSorceress continues that trend with another polarizing album where fans who enjoyed its two predecessors will likely embrace it while detractors will continue to hope for a return death metal. As for myself, I found that my admiration for Pale Communion may have gotten in the way a bit, but I was able to get past it.

I’ll be honest when I say my first listen of the album was mixed. I enjoyed a lot of the acoustical bits like “Will O The Wisp” (which has a nice Jethro Tull vibe to it) and really dug the album’s last couple tracks “Strange Brew” and “Era” for the band’s continued experimentation. But the other tracks didn’t stick with me as well, not even the title track, which is arguably the heaviest on the album. Part of this is due to the mix, which is probably my main issue with the album. Now, I’m not much of a production snob and I can overlook mediocre mixing if the material is good, but a few inconsistencies stuck out to me. I never thought I’d say this, but the bass is too high in the mix, especially on the title track. Other times there are quiet parts that are too low, such as the spoken words on the first and last tracks and the piano at the beginning of “Era”. That last one results in the ol’ “turn-up-the-volume-to-hear-then-get-ear-holes-blasted-open” bit that is less than pleasant. The fact that Pale Communion was so well crafted exacerbates some of these flaws, unfortunately.

And yet, I’ve always said an album’s worth is truly measured by how well it ages, and I’ll be damned if Sorceress hasn’t grown on me bit by bit since its release. My view began to soften once I found myself humming “The Wilde Flowers” after not thinking much of it before. I still don’t think it’s quiet as good as Pale Communion, but it doesn’t have to be; it just leans a little more towards Heritage‘s experimentation rather than Pale Communion‘s impeccable craftsmanship, and, having enjoyed said experimentation, I can get behind that approach. So if you find yourself in the middle of the road with this one like me, just give it some time and it just might surprise you.

 

Neurosis, Fires Within Fires (Neurot Recordings)
Released: September 23rd, 2016

neurosis

Honor Found In Decay was my introduction to Neurosis back in 2012, and boy what an intro that was. I went back and looked into the band’s discography, but continued to return to Decay in the years following its release. Four years later, Fire Within Fires snuck up on me and, as you might expect, the band have added another excellent dark and murky journey to their discography of sludgy post metal. One of the most noteworthy details about the album is its length; at five tracks clocking in around 40 minutes total, it’s one of the band’s shortest albums, though it doesn’t necessarily feel like it. Given the slow, dense nature of the album, it feels like just the right length, and I applaud the band for releasing an album slightly shorter than average rather than sticking filler tracks in for the hell of it.

I should clarify that, despite my appreciation for the lack of filler, this isn’t an album toting hit singles. That’s not quite the way Neurosis works. This is an album best taken as one mysterious stroll through your own mind, the kind where you close your eyes and let the music paint the shadowy images for you. That said, there are moments on individual tracks that stand out, such as the melodic wah that starts off “Broken Ground” and the haunting guitars on the 10 minute album closer “Reach”. If you haven’t gotten into Neurosis before and you want to try, here’s a good place to start. If you’re already a fan, enjoy another fine album from them if you haven’t already.

 

Ghost, Popestar (Loma Vista)
Released: September 16th, 2016

ghost

I love Ghost. I love Ghost so much. And I love this EP. “Square Hammer” is one of the best songs yet from the band, which is impressive considering their catalogue already contains many stellar tracks. It’s a song that appeals to a large audience even if you’re not a metal fan or you’re not into their whole persona schtick. The rest of the EP consists of four covers, the most recognizable being “Missionary Man” by Eurythmics. These tracks show off Ghost’s impeccable ability to select covers that, to the uninformed, could easily be mistaken for original works. The last song in particular,”Bible” by Imperiet, is an amazing, melodic retelling of the seven days of creation with a big 80’s flair that the band plays completely straight. I would pay good money just to watch them play only this EP, which is saying a lot for just five tracks.

 

Alcest, Kodama (Prophecy)
Released: September 30th, 2016

alcestkodama

Alcest are a band I know should love but haven’t listened to as much of their material as I’d like. Up until the release of Kodama, the only album I owned was Les Voyages de l’Âme, a gorgeous album considered the picture-perfect blend of the band’s unique style of blackgaze (or black metal fused with shoegaze and post rock). The announcement of Kodama spurred me to listen to the rest of their discography, which was a good way of getting an idea of the band’s progression of sound throughout their career. Like Opeth, Alcest are a band lauded in the metal scene but who eschewed most of their heavy side on their previous release Shelter (a.k.a. no more growling). But, luckily for those fans, Alcest have returned to the heavier side of things on this new album while still weaving in their perfected dreamy, atmospheric aura.

Neige has stated that Kodama (or “tree spirit”) was greatly inspired by the Miyazaki film Princess Mononoke, which is cool but wasn’t super apparent during my initial listen. It does, however, offer a nice visual starting point, especially with that awesome album art. Kodama balances its two flavors well, with tracks like the title track blending the heavy tone with melodic overlay and Neige’s soft, clean vocals. I can’t say where exactly this falls compared to the rest of their discography given my level of experience, but I do know this is one of the stronger releases to come out this year and that it’ll be getting its fair share of replays.

 

Film:

Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson)
Director: Amma Asante
Released: May 4th, 2014 (United States)

belle

Belle is, simply put, a wonderful film that I sat on way too long. It gained a lot of well-earned buzz upon release, but I never got around to it because, truth be told, I assumed that it depicted yet another story about slavery involving explicit rape and violence and so shelved it. To be clear, I’m not one to stray from graphic violence and I of course understand the importance of never forgetting one of humanities worst atrocities. Nor do I look down on any black actors/actresses/filmmakers that chose to bring those stories to life. But there are so many films like that and I’m not always in the mood to watch something that’s so damn heavy. So imagine how surprised I was to discover that Belle was nothing like that at all, but was still every bit as powerful.

The film, inspired by true events, is set in late 18th century and focuses on the events leading up to the abolition of slavery in Britain. At the center of these events is Dido Elizabeth Belle (Mbatha-Raw), the mixed-race illegitimate daughter of an enslaved black woman and a Royal Navy officer. The latter puts Dido in the care of his uncle, the Earl of Mansfield and Lord Chief Justice (Wilkinson), and she grows up in high British society, though not without some issues regarding her parentage. What follows is a beautiful movie strong not only in themes of female solidarity, but in an issue that is still very much prevalent today: the flawed idea of being “colorblind” when it comes to race. Dido constantly struggles with family members and suitors that ignore her black heritage or insist that they can look past it, i.e. pretend that she’s white. The way the film tackles these issues while also presenting well-rounded and memorable characters in a captivating story is accomplished with masterful filmmaking. Belle is an exemplary film, and one that is more than worthy of your attention.

 

Deepwater Horizon (Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell)
Director: Peter Berg
Released: September 30th, 2016

deepwater_horizon_film

I wasn’t expecting much from this movie. Disaster movies based on true events sometimes feel like you’re just waiting for the thing to happen, which overshadows everything else in the film. It’s like a horror movie where you’re just waiting for people to die, and given that the events of the film were only six years ago, it sometimes rubs me the wrong way the same way an upcoming film about the Boston bombings (also fronted by Wahlberg and Berg) rubs me the wrong way. But Deepwater Horizon managed to surpass my expectations and delivered a film that is both informative and thought-provoking. If nothing else, this movie is going to make you leave the theater absolutely loathing BP.

The film is refreshingly upfront about all not being well on the oil rig as Mike Williams (Wahlberg) and Mr. Jimmy (Russell) tangle with the BP executives over safety, working equipment, and things that generally keep the place from going boom. As I said before, this film is not kind to BP, and that’s what makes it work. I remember when the spill happened in 2010, but apart from the initial news stories I didn’t know much about what exactly happened (I was also 18 and in college but that’s beside the point). The film brings new details to light and I was inspired to look up details about the disaster afterwards, which only made me more angry about what happened. I’m aware that the film, like others before it, may have been a little more liberal in parts including the loathsome nature of the BP execs, but I recommend you see the film for yourself in order to get the full impact of being pissed off anyway. Instead of being just another disaster spectacle, Deepwater Horizons instead offers a disturbing look into a travesty that you might not have known all the details about in the first place and makes sure you won’t forget them.
Currently Reading:

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

words of radiance

I’m about 700 pages in but it feels like there’s so much more to go (and there is, about 600 more). Still great though.

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The Good Bits: August 2016

August was pretty stuffed, so much so that I opted not to include a few things in this edition of The Good Bits simply because 1) I’m lazy, and 2) you probably don’t have that kind of time. I might be a little late in sharing my thoughts on hot topic debates like Suicide Squad but screw it; one more opinion couldn’t hurt, right?

Music:

Harakiri for the Sky, III: Trauma (Art of Propaganda)
Released: July 22nd, 2016

harakiri-for-the-sky-iii-trauma

One of my favorite bands, Agalloch, sadly broke up a few months ago, so until the former members form new groups, I needed to find a similar band to hold me over. Luckily, Harakiri for the Sky just dropped their third album and after a few glowing endorsements I gave it a listen. I was happy to find that it scratched the Agalloch itch without the band sounding just like them. HFTS has the atmospheric black metal touch of Agalloch, but with a bigger post-rock emphasis and vocals more reminiscent of bands like Gojira. The only nitpick some may have with the album is that it’s a bit longer than you’d typically expect as all the songs range from 8-11 minutes, clocking in a total listening time of 75 minutes. “Funeral Dreams” is a favorite of mine in particular, so give that a listen if you want to test the waters.

 

Black Crown Initiate, Selves We Cannot Forgive (eOne)
Released: July 22nd 2016

blackcrowninitiateselves

Black Crown Initiate rose to prominence fairly quickly, bursting onto the metal scene with their EP Song of the Crippled Bull, which I still favored even after the release of their solid debut album. Sophomore slump is a very real danger when bands have a great debut, but Black Crown Initiate side step it with a second album that delves a little more into the progressive side of their progressive death metal sound yet stays in line with the style they’ve become known for. The technical wizardry is still there, but it shares the space with more melody than the band has used before, which prevents the band from falling into the borefest trap technical bands fall into as they constantly try to top how heavy and fast they can play. Instead, we get more clean vocals and even some piano, giving the songs more texture than on the band’s debut album. “Matriarch” is a great example of the band’s direction on this album.

 

Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1 (Self-Released)
Released: August 12, 2016

howling-giant

Finally, a Nashville metal band I can write about! Howling Giant are just starting out, but they’re already in my good graces with their EP Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1. Apart from being an awesome title with equally awesome album art, Howling Giant sit comfortably in the stoner rock/metal genre, but they’re far from being a Sabbath worship rehash. They’ve got fuzzy, groovy riffs and catchy songwriting that keeps things fun. I’m eager to see where they go from here and to catch them at a show sometime. Give “Mothership” a listen if you want to give the band a try.

 

Film:

Suicide Squad (Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margo Robbie)
Director: David Ayer
Released: August 1st, 2016

suicidesquad-poster-team-xeyes

Of all the ways the DCEU could have proceeded after Batman V. Superman: Dawn of JusticeSuicide Squad was certainly an odd direction. If you don’t know, the Suicide Squad is made up of a bunch of different villains (mostly Batman related) and put together by the government because they’re bad and therefore expendable. Basically, imagine if Marvel had gone for Guardians of the Galaxy in their first phase before making a Captain America or Thor film and that’s the level of bizarre we’re starting on. But hey, GotG was great, right? And doing a Suicide Squad movie would certainly shake things up and show that Warner Bros. weren’t concerned with following the Marvel template. Plus, Margo Robbie as Harley Quinn? Yes please and thank you. So how did this gamble pan out? Well, if you ask most people (namely film critics), it went as badly as BvS (assuming you thought it was bad), and continues the DCEU’s streak of bad films. Me on the other hand? I had a blast!

Alright, I’ll be the first to tell you that not everything in this movie works. The first act is weak and disjointed and the plot set up is rushed so we can get Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn, and the rest of the squad into a city on fire to shoot at things. Also, Jared Leto’s Joker gets maybe ten minutes of screen time, so I’m still undecided on what I think of him because we didn’t get nearly as much of him as the trailers promised. But apart from that? This is the most fun I’ve had watching Will Smith in years and Margo Robbie is pitch perfect as Harley, pulling off the crazy yet giving a subtle portrayal of her tragic loyalty to Mr. J. Also, Viola Davis is a badass bitch as Amanda Waller. She was probably my favorite part of the movie overall. Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) makes a unique villain too, even if her origin and motivations are rushed.

It’s not a perfect movie, and the rumor is that (yet again) lots of footage was cut from the film that could have made it better. I would love to see an extended cut that likely improves over the original. Maybe then, between that and the BvS extended cut (more on that below), Warner Bros. will let the directors who know what they’re doing have more control over their own films. But, as it stands, it’s far from the colossal turd everyone makes it out to be. I give the same advice as I did with BvS: see it and don’t write it off before you’ve even set foot in the theater.

 

Sausage Party (Seth Rogan, Kirsten Wiig)
Directors: Conrad Vernon, Greg Tiernan
Released: August 12th, 2016

sausage-party

Sausage Party is raunchy, offensive, and occasionally tasteless. So it’s hilarious. The computer animated film about sentient grocery store foods featuring the voices of Seth Rogan and the usual suspects (Jonah Hill, James Franco, etc.) pretty much hits all the check points when it comes to jokes about sex, race, and all the other taboos. It’s an equal opportunity offender kind of comedy, and that probably won’t gel with everyone (there are holocaust jokes in the movie). But I understand how horrible some of these jokes are, so I enjoyed whispering “Oh, god” every time the film upped the ante because, well, sometimes you have to let yourself be a terrible person and laugh at shit that normally isn’t funny. The movie does offer a sound if not obvious commentary on religion and addressing other people’s perspectives on the world, but it’s not overly preachy. It mainly focuses on a plot of food figuring out their purpose in life (sentience?) is to be consumed, which makes a fun little riff on movies like Toy Story. By the way, the end of this film has one of the most ludicrous, so-awful-but-I-can’t-look-away scenes ever put on the screen. If you’re a fan of Rogan and company, you’ll feel right at home.

 

The Gift (Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton)
Director: Joel Edgerton
Released: August 7th 2015

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I’ve sang the praises of quite a few horror films on here, but The Gift is a little different. We’re on the psychological thriller side now, and at first it doesn’t look like there’s anything special. Simon (Bateman) and Robyn (Hall) move into a new home and the former inadvertently reconnects with Edgerton’s character Gordon, a former classmate from high school. He’s…a little awkward, and apparently came by the moniker “Gordo the Weirdo” in school. So when Simon tries to break off Gordon’s bid for friendship, things start getting weird and creepy.

There’s some things you can call right out of the gate, such as Simon and Gordon having a history that may or may not have involved bullying, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The film leads you by the nose in one direction but tinkers with the plot and characters behind the scenes, and you won’t figure stuff out until just before they happen, making for a very unnerving but satisfying experience. And when I say unnerving, I mean this movie does horror better than some actual horror movies. I’d put Edgerton’s Gordo in a similar league as Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction in terms of how on edge their characters keep you. I don’t want to say much more for fear of spoilers, but damn, this one is an under the radar hit.

 

Don’t Think Twice (Mike Birbiglia, Keegan-Michael Kay)
Director: Mike Birbiglia
Released: July 22, 2016

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When comedy films also try to deliver heartfelt moments, it sometimes derails everything and screws with the tone completely (looking at you Click). However, Don’t Think Twice manages to hit all the right beats in this film about an improv comedy trope in NYC. When one of the troupe members ends up moving into the big leagues of comedy thus leaving his friends to flounder, the film explores a question often discussed in today’s society: how can you pursue your passion while also making a living? Each of the characters feels very human with clearly established strengths and weaknesses that are naturally introduced and eventually come to a head when things get heated towards the end. It’s pretty damn funny to boot, especially when the characters are just bantering with each other in a manner that feels spontaneous (which, I guess, is pretty appropriate in a movie about improv). You might not have heard about this one or seen the preview in theaters, but if you can find a theater playing it (or you just wait until it’s on Netflix), you’ll be in for a fun evening.

(Side note: another local Nashville band, ELEL, makes an appearance in the film! Woo hoo!)

 

Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Edition)(Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot)
(Director: Zack Snyder)
Released: July 19, 2016

bvs

I know I’ve reviewed this film already, but  I felt the need to talk about it again to establish my addition thoughts on the film after watching the complete 3 hour extended cut. You might remember that I enjoyed the movie when it was first released and defended the harsh criticisms leveled against it. Six months later, my opinion hasn’t changed. In fact, I love the film more now than I did initially. The Ultimate Edition doesn’t necessarily add any mind-blowing new scenes, but rather fills in the blanks of the theatrical cut, resulting in better pacing and fixing one or two plot holes. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch this version. If you saw the original and didn’t like it, this version probably won’t change your mind. But make no mistake: this is the definitive version and the one that should have been released in theaters even with an R rating (which it really only earns because of one or two F-bombs). Maybe after the success of DVD sales Warner Bros. will do the same with Suicide Squad and take notes on trusting directors and letting them keep their vision.

 

Currently Reading:

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

words of radiance

I’m about 400 pages into this 1300 page tome, which is a much faster reading pace compared to the first volume now that I’m familiar with the world and characters. Sanderson really has something exciting here, even more so than his Mistborn trilogy that I so often praise. I’m sure I’ll still be reading this for another month or so, but that’s just fine with me.

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