Thursday, October 18, 2012

Babel by Mumford and Sons

I try not to review albums too soon after I've first listened to them, which is the reason why this review took almost a month to get in order. Apologies for that.

Anyway, on to the album. I've loved Mumford and Sons ever since I first had "The Cave" recommended to me by a friend. Their sound is really unique while still being rooted in folk influences. Sigh No More was one of my favorite new British releases and I had been eagerly awaiting their second album from the get-go. I'm happy to report that Babel is a worthy follow up to the stroke of brilliance that is Sigh No More.

On this sophomore effort, Mumford and Sons expand upon the themes and sounds of their first album, making a more polished effort, but polished is not a bad thing. There is no denying that Sign No More is very raw, and Babel is definitely a maturing of lyrics and the sound of the band. There is euphoric joy, in songs like Babel and Lover of the Light, and quiet reverent introverted lyricism on Ghosts That We Knew and Not With Haste. However, the real highlight of the album surprisingly enough didn't even make it to the standard edition. There is a lovely cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer", featuring the famed Jerry Douglas and Paul Simon, that I just can't get enough of. It's crazy beautiful. That's not slighting the originals on Babel at all, but this is one of the best covers I have heard in my long standing relationship with covers (And that's saying something, as I used to be a really big Joan Jett fan).

Anyway, the album is sweet and wonderful, but I can't help but think about the early reports that this album was going to have a lot more "doom and gloom" than the finished product. I mean, don't get me wrong please, I love this album and all it's joy, but the only song that could really be classified as "doom and gloom" could be Broken Crown, and maybe Hopeless Wanderer. I have this horrible theory that the record label might have tossed away the angst for some reason. For example, there was a lovely song called Home that was going to be on Babel, and the song was going to be re-named Holland Road. Now Holland Road is a track on the finished project, but it's not Home. There's a lack of the epic angst and fury of some previous  cuts. There's nothing like Dust Bowl Dance or I Gave You All, important contributions to their musical stylings.

All in all, a wonderful album that surprised me with all it's euphoria. Give it a listen.


Monday, October 8, 2012

10 Reasons Why Avengers Is The Best Marvel Movie

It's certainly no secret at this point how much I love the Avengers. It's on the verge of becoming a problem that will require therapy.  And since I'll be picking up the DVD after school today, here are ten reasons why Avengers simply cannot be beat in terms of Marvel. I'll leave you to argue about the Dark Knight by yourselves.
(Small Note: These are in no particular ranking, this is just the order I wrote them for no reason).

10. Black Widow. Questions? Understandable. She's not given the most screen time, nor is she "the most important" (that's debateably Iron Man, Cap, or the Hulk). And her story line is not particularly what I'm focusing on here. It's how Joss Whedon handled her character. In Iron Man 2, we cannot deny that Tasha is basically there for eye candy. Every shot focuses on how beautiful she is, how sexy she is, almost like that one chick from those Resident Evil movies. In Avengers, there's no denying she's gorgeous, but that's part of the trap. As exemplified by her opening scene, Tasha is actually quite dangerous. She lets her captors believe that she is really just a pretty face, very weak and whatnot, and then she tears them to pieces. It's quite remarkable. This is really what I liked about her in the Avengers, she was an actual female super hero, not some half naked chick who can shoot a gun like some other movies that have women as their central characters.

9. Equal screen time. Except for maybe the very underplayed Maria Hill, everyone gets their share of the limelight in the Avengers, something no easily done. Think about it: Six superheros, one villian, Coulson, Nick Fury, Selvig, and Maria Hill. That's eleven characters to take care of. It's amazing that Avengers even has a coherent plot point trying to give everybody some screen time, not even getting in to the amazing pay off and quality of the film.

8. Coulson. I know, I know, I do in fact have a lot of pheels. But the one thing that is always present in super hero movies is the lack of normalcy. There are no "normal" people, and if there are, they aren't central characters. Or they're always love interests.  Either way, Phil Coulson is a remarkable character in that he shows that you don't have to have a cape or powers or ridiculous hand to hand combat skills to be a hero.

7. The Bromance of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. Okay, not really but kind of. I enjoy how Joss points out their similarities. Both incredibly smart, both a little angsty, let's not deny it. I aso thought that Tony trying to get Bruce to loosen up was hilarious and vaguely profound. Some people question how the Hulk was magically able to control his rage. I think Tony Stark has something to with it. Something about not trying to tip-toe around him or some other deep thought of that nature. Science Bros forever.

6. Speaking of Dr. Banner, WE FINALLY GOT AN AMAZING HULK! I mean seriously, I didn't particularly enjoy the two previous Hulk movies. I found the teenage angst and Godzilla-like destruction to be a bit cliche' and honestly boring. But Mark Ruffalo gets it right. Instead of going for the overplayed "We're going to try and humanize a monster", he is already human. We don't have to go through that again and again. It's more like accepting the monster this time around, and learning how to control it. Also, how adorable is Mark Ruffalo? Not that it matters, but he adds a real likeability to a character I was never very fond of.

5. You saw it coming. Tom Hiddleston's Loki. When I sat down to watch Thor a few days before The Avengers hit theaters, I wasn't expecting to end up sobbing on the floor of my living room. But I did. Mostly because of Loki. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved the rest of the movie and it's juxtaposition of modern day Earth with Asgard, and Chris Hemsworth is an awesome Thor, but Loki makes the movie. The complex pathos of his character and the wonderful acting put this movie over the top. But in Avengers, Loki's character goes even further. The story behind his transformation from jealous sibling to force to be reckoned with makes the writer in me fangirl all over the place. And again, Tom does a brilliant job playing Loki with the right subtlety. They never really explain what happened to Loki when he SPOILERS HERE DON'T READ IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT fell out of Asgard, and the fan theories are all beautiful and moving, but it's implied that something very bad happened to Loki, and he is no longer the same man. Beautiful.

4.The cast and crew behind this movie are un-ironically enthusiastic about everything. The love this stuff, and that is apparent in everything. So many dull action movies have come and gone this year, and that's a shame. Dull action movie sounds like an oxymoron. But the fact of the matter is that there are now generic super hero movies, generic action movies, generic thrillers. Movies are more and more often becoming generic. Avengers is not generic, based on premise alone, and that is something rare in Hollywood. These film-makers care so much about what they're doing, something you don't see in a lot of movies released to the mainstream. They hit all the right notes, because it's what they'd want to watch to. They're not looking for a pay-check (although I'm sure most everyone involved here got a fairly large one). This crew wanted to make a good movie, and by God they did.

3. Your inner 9 year. Not only does Avengers have the character development and witty dialog to make fourteen year old girl me happy, your inner 9 year old self probably enjoyed this a lot too. I dare you to not giggle as Tony tries to get Bruce to hulk out by poking him with things. Or actually bust out laughing when Loki is, to coin a phrase, Hulk smashed Tom and Jerry style. There is a childlike sense of wonder when the Helicarrier lifts out of the ocean. That is so rare in films to have any sort of sense of wonder. We see giant CGI robots, airplanes, spaceships, battleships, and other large and dangerous things all the time at the movies now. I don't consider watching a Transformers movie wondrous, I consider it a head-ache. Avengers is like the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Indy's running from the giant boulder: your jaw can't help but drop, even if you've seen it a million times.

2. There's a hero for everyone. There is no way you can't find a character to relate to in this movie, something I find improbably fantastic. Because there is something about relating to a giant blonde Asgardian, or a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, or the soldier out of time that makes these characters feel real. And it's a little bit of hope too. Captain America got frozen in ice for 70 years, only to wake up in the present with no fladoodling clue what's going on. So I can adjust to high school, even if it's hard. Cheesy as it sounds, it's amazing how much I related to almost every one of these characters.

1. It's just good. It has all the great elements of storytelling, acting, production design, and CGI that make a  really good blockbuster. It doesn't try to be anything more than the best summer action blockbuster ever. The Avengers is not pretentious, or boring, or "artsy",  or anything other than what it does best: fun.



Adele's New Bond Single!

So I was sitting around my house on Saturday morning, surfing Tumblr as I am wont to do when someone is fangirling all over about Adele's new James Bond single. I'd heard she was doing it, but definitely didn't expect it to be out yet. Naturally, I was listening to it within the next five minutes.
While I actually haven't seen a whole lot of James Bond anything, being knowledgeable in film I'm very well aware of Bond's existence. And if you know anything, you know that whomever does the next James Bond song has a lot on their hands.
Anyway, Adele hits the nail on the head yet again, even sampling the original Bond theme into the song. It's a wonderful dramatic throwback. I couldn't enjoy it more. Like seriously, everyone needs to go listen to it now, if only to run around their house and strike poses.