Best Music of 2014 – Tristan

Hey, again I know it’s well into 2015, but Cory and I are working out our own personal bugs to get this site rolling, and having started it at the beginning of January, we still wanted to get some Best of 2014 stuff out there. So we don’t care that it’s halfway through February. Here’s my top five albums and top ten songs of 2014:

ALBUMS

1 – Strange Desire – Bleachers

bleachers

To say that this album was revelatory for me is to diminish its effects that brought me out of a depressing slump I’d found myself in for the first half of 2014. Things were going well in general around June, but then came Bleachers’ Strange Desire, a solo release from Jack Antonoff, guitarist of bands Steel Train and fun. The effervescent positive music had such an uplifting effect on me that it rapidly rose to the top of my playlists and was often just left on repeat throughout the summer. Songs ‘I Wanna Get Better’, ‘Rollercoaster’, ‘Reckless Love’, and ‘Like a River Runs’ are highlights. Every song is golden though.

Continue reading Best Music of 2014 – Tristan

Worth the Upgrade?- Reservoir Dogs

Those who fancies themselves to be cinephiles expect quality and quantity on their shelf of cinematic encyclopedia. Devout collectors of laser disc, beta max, HD DVD and blu-rays, in particular, hope to find easter eggs and other bells and whistles that mandate an upgrade in format. However, occasionally, the new format can omit or alter past releases and render themselves pointless despite the change in picture quality.

Case in point is the blu-ray release of Reservoir Dogs. Being the 15th anniversary should entail that the special features would include a new retrospective from the ensemble cast and maestro filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. Also it would be assumed that the comprehensive featurettes on the tenth anniversary special-edition DVD would be ported over due to the capacity of blu-ray. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case…

Instead Lionsgate completely extracts the new interviews by Tarantino, Tim Roth, Chris Penn and many others. They stripmine the commentary tracks from Tarantino and respected critics like Peter Travers. Anyone who has heard Tarantino speak at length about his projects knows what a knowledgeable and giddy raconteur he can be and it’s truly disheartening that Lionsgate has deprived us of what Artisan Home Entertainment so readily gave us.

As an olive branch, Lionsgate offers us the “Playing It Fast and Loose” feature that details how ‘Reservoir Dogs’ influenced other grindhouse-fed filmmakers and society as a whole. Nowhere to be found during this is anyone actually associated with the production itself. To Lionsgate, I quote a feature from Siskel and Ebert to give them the “wagging finger of shame”.

10 Most Anticipated of 2015


Cory


1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

starwars2

This might be the most transparent choice on the list but it’s also the most cloaked in secrecy. No footage of the original cast so far, the new cast is full of asterisks, the plotline is kept under wraps and the amount of lens flare by J.J. Abrams is also a mystery. But those very quandaries make it the most alluring. Plus the initial trailer gave me goosebumps when I thought I was done with a galaxy far, far away. Continue reading 10 Most Anticipated of 2015

Top Ten Films of 2014 – Tristan

So I’ll try to be succinct with my choices for the best films of 2014, especially since we’re already a month and a half into the year. I’ll just jump right in:

10. The Homesman

homesman

After Tommy Lee Jones’ first effort – 2006’s The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada – I was excited to see what direction my favorite actor would pursue in his time as a budding director at the ripe age of 60. Instead, he took several years off amid decent acting projects, including an Oscar-nominated turn in Lincoln as bombastic senator Thaddeus Stevens. Well, as 2014 rolled around, he decided to adapt another Western – and I’m absolutely pleased with the results. Never in my wildest dreams would I consider Hilary Swank to be among the best performances of the year, and yet here we are. Her understated, subtle performance as Mary Bee Cuddy, a plain middle-aged maid who is finally realizing her lot is life is to never be married, is easily her best role to date (I’ve yet to see Boys Don’t Cry, but Million Dollar Baby is highly overrated). Her plan in the film is to find purpose in her life by transferring three Nebraskan women who’ve lost their minds to a safe home in Iowa. The travel will be harsh and unforgiving, and early in her journey she discovers Tommy Lee Jones’ George Briggs, an ex-Confederate soldier who has meandered around the rugged countryside not particularly caring if he finds purpose himself. By the end, they’ve both realized what their purposes are, and tragically it’s not always what they might have expected. Top-notch, even better than Melquiades, which gives me hope for Jones’ future as director. If he ever decides to direct again this decade, that is. Continue reading Top Ten Films of 2014 – Tristan

Better Call Saul Pilot Review

It would be inconceivable that this spin-off series from the universally acclaimed, justifiably brilliant ‘Breaking Bad’ would be the equal or superior to its parent series ala ‘Frasier’. However, expectations needn’t be curbed to anticipate a lackluster product from Vince Gilligan and Bob Odenkirk. A Nebraska-based prologue in black-and-white is an impeccable, mumblecore cue to where the series is leaning. It feels like a Mark Duplass piece sans dialogue but with a European looseness. Watching the normally unscrupulous Saul slaving away at a Cinnabon franchise is a humorously low-key introduction to Odenkirk’s rags-to-riches transformation from meek underling James McGill to silver-tongued kingpin Saul Goodman. We see Saul preparing for his climactic speech about his defendants’ “undeveloped 17-year-old brains” is a sensational Pygmalion moment and Odenkirk delivers the persuasively side-splitting closing statement with panache. Saul portrays his client’s actions as an innocuous prank but, in horrifying actuality, the trio violate a corpse’s decapitated head which is revealed in darkly uproarious videotape evidence worthy of Neil LaBute. The peter-and-wolfing reappearance of Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) is a bit precious but it’s a welcome addition. It progressively becomes clear that the show will hopscotch among time periods but James was never an idealistic attorney who was out to represent completely innocent people. A clever reversal-of-fortune and clue to Odenkirk’s extortion savvy is when James “accidentally” hits a skateboarder who blackmails him into a kickback. But Saul quickly evaluates the situation and turns the tables on his accusers. Odekirk is as sprightly as ever in the role and he truly shines whenever Saul is tasked to spellbind the courtroom with his legalese. The anecdote about “Slipping Jimmy” is sly comic showcase for Odenkirk. The comeuppance afterwards with the two aforementioned skateboarders backfires in typical, unpredictable Gilligan fashion. In many ways, Gilligan has streamlined the growing pains of ‘Breaking Bad’ and this is a much more accomplished seedling. No overt contrivances with Walter White reacquainting himself with Jessie Pinkman and no unpalatable characterizations like the initially loutish Hank. The motto “do good work and the clients will come” is a poignant struggle between Saul and his feeble, but optimistic brother Chuck (the incomparable Michael McKean). When Chuck says “Wouldn’t you rather build your own identity. Why ride on someone else’s coattails?”, it’s a self-referential jab at the critics who said this couldn’t measure up to ‘Breaking Bad’. The cameo hook at the end of the episode is truly mind-blowing. I truly believe that in time ‘Better Call Saul’ will evolve into one of television’s most astute, must-see shows much like its predecessor. Rating: ***1/2 out of **** stars

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