2016 ~Fin~

2016 is now behind us and I think we’re all ready to get things going in a positive direction. I ended the year being sick for more than a month, first with kidney stones and then a stomach virus that set up camp with no intent of leaving without some serious antibiotics. I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for both (still have a stent in my kidney which is GTFO ASAP. Embrace every day you are healthy, getting knocked out of commission for any amount of time is a serious bummer.

My movie reviews took a back seat to TV as just about all of my favorite content was coming on strong for the medium until the holiday break. I peppered some movies in here and there in the past 2 weeks. And of course there is a ton of stuff on Netflix to check out (just started S3 of the Dusk Til Dawn series and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown with plans to start The OA soon,)

Some TV highlights outside of watching the NY Rangers put on a clinic, hit a rut and now hopefully pulling the A team back together. Got into Vice News Tonight on HBO and I watch The Late Show with Stephen Colbert religiously. Ink Master had a quality season Obviously, I was on Shameless like a frog on a Junebug. The comedy shows I watch (Bob’s Burgers, Modern Family, Brooklyn 99) have remained strong. My extremely brief take on The Walking Dead is ‘serious pacing issues.’ When you have a cast that large and only care for maybe half of them, any diversion away from those key people (neutering Carol again and beating us over the head that yes, Negan is a bad guy) it more often feels like meandering than entertainment. The ex-Top Gear boys rode back with The Grand Tour and it’s often a treat to see them at it again.

The standard cable shows are returning shortly and a few hard hitters are coming back for new seasons. Homeland sounds like they’re shifting gears which is much needed and Black Sails is ending with Season 4. Last year was brilliant and I’m both happy and sad to see the end of one of my favorite shows. FaceOff took a big break and is returning at the end of the month.

Korn put out a killer album that made me very happy (gushing review is here) and Run the Jewels snuck out RTJ3 just before the new year and it’s also great.

Movie wise, some quick hits:

Yoga Hosers– The best way I’ve seen this Kevin Smith movie described is: it’s like watching someone’s home movie that had a great budget. It’s super stupid (it knows it) and is a project for Smith’s daughter Harley and her friend Rose (Depp) to have fun. Kevin says he made it for tween girls and I think that’s a fair assessment. Spawned from a goofy idea on a stoner podcast, Kevin did all the ground work to get this little picture made. Even if you hate it, you have to recognize and respect the indie spirit.

Point Break (2015)- Yeah, watch the original. This remake does nothing better. While competent (by modern cinema standards) I couldn’t help but shrug this entire movie off. Maybe if the changed the name and tried to make it more original it would stand up better, but there is very little fun and exhilaration here that the original did so well. Sure the landscapes and real stuntwork are good (far expanding the ‘extreme sport’ umbrella the first did) but it’s coated in so much CG it gets numbing.

Spectral– A surprise treat from Netflix. Sci-fi action (with many nods to Aliens) done well. It’s about the US military calling for extra brains to help out with a new threat on the battlefield somewhere in Europe. Well written, paced and acted. Looks like they got the entire budget on screen because it looks really good.

Finally, I started writing my book 4 years ago. I’m really close to the end. I’m thinking 5 chapters close. Being sick derailed me for a while and I’m now burning to get this last bit out of me and onto the page. I think I have a legit sellable story here and I just got to get it done. Even when I write “the end” in the coming weeks, I have to go back to the beginning and fine tune work I haven’t touched in a long time. While I have much more work to do with it, I’ve never been closer to such a huge personal accomplishment. Still need to think up a good title.

Posts in 2016: 126

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Shameless <> S7E12

Requiem for a Slut

It’s been awhile since the whole family was together (Kev and V included) so this season finale felt like a major culmination.

This episode balanced the black comedy with the drama and traumatic dysfunction of Shameless exceptionally well. If I didn’t know any better going into it, I’d say it felt like I was watching a series finale.

Let’s check in with everyone for the last time until next year:

Kevin and V’s battle with Svet was put firmly on the backburner for next year. Kevin is working at the Fairytale (tail?) and are weighing their options on going after Svetlana to get The Alibi back (something Fiona is all for).

Carl is doing well and comes home for a short time to everyone’s delight. Frank looking at him funny in his uniform and asking what it was for was a brilliant and effective bit of writing. It’s complex dysfunction and series history boiled down to two lines of dialog that says so much about Frank.

Ian takes a bus back from the border and only tells Trevor the truth that he was “with Mickey” during the few days no one could find him. He spiked Trevor’s trust into the dirt and they’re on the outs. Trevor does attend Monica’s funeral, so all might not be lost.

Lip is putting his best foot forward. He’s sober, going to meetings and keeping busy in positive ways. It looks like his relationship with Sierra has some light left in it.

Deb is moving forward too. Having lost her job at the laundromat, she’s taking welding classes and catches the eye of her instructor.

Fiona keeps it together, balancing her workload and the family crisis with Monica. In the end, she moves forward in obtaining the apartment complex.

Monica brings everyone together (her father shows up!) and gives Frank one last adventure to chase. Distraught and in mourning, he perks up when he realizes a key she left behind is for a self-storage facility. There, he finds Monica’s final dangerous move to secure the kids a parting gift. Her “legacy.” Of course, that brings up some dangerous possibilities, one Fiona fights and Frank champions.

Tons of great moments. Kevin is really funny through the whole episode. Lip talking to Sierra about the future. Ian facing the mistake he had to make for closure and continuing to help others at work. Deb being proactive to make a life for her daughter. Grandpa whupping Frank’s ass. The crazy fight with Frank and the whole family and Fiona going off on Frank in the backyard. His absolute heartbreak as his damaged muse’s memory is crushed by the truth Fiona forces him to listen to.

Fiona had a hell of an episode. Burning the candle at both ends, she went through the ringer until the very end. You could taste the built up rage and resentment she had for Monica with each passing scene. Talking about funeral arrangements with the funeral director, then the scene with Monica in the casket. The all-out brawl with Frank and the admonishment of how awful Monica was to them all. Her solution to Monica’s “legacy” was pretty brilliant and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone hit a body in a casket before. Shameless to the letter. It all came around at the memorial service which was a terrific send off followed by a party at the Gallagher home. A classic staple of Shameless.

Seven seasons in and it was one of the best of the series. We don’t get that kind of goodness a lot. A whole lot of closure came this year and Season 8 is set up to take off from a new starting point. Can’t wait for my favorite show to come back.

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Shameless S7E11

Happily Ever After

This was a hell of an episode.

I’ll start outside of the circle with Kev and V. Svet is in exile (I assume she’s living at the bar) as Kev and V work to excise her from their lives. With her owning the bar, they need a new source of income for their family so Kevin hits the payment to find work. After seeing that his lack of education is going to be a major problem, V sends him out to a bartending job. He arrives to find that it’s a gay bar and when he makes a case for himself, he gets a shot to work that night to see if he can pull it off. He’s a hit! But he could do some side activities for extra money that he passes by V. We’ll see how that goes.

Deb takes a back seat this episode as her drama has more or less evened out. Fiona

Fiona gets her check for 160k for selling the laundromat. After expenses, she’s set to clear just under 80k. It’s a huge windfall for her, one she’s excited about but good ole Lip sneers at every bit of her progress: making a ton of money, buying a new car, and an eye on buying an apartment building nearby from a new contact (with benefits). With her new found experience of owning property, she’s more confident than ever that she can make this work again. The downside is Etta. With the building sold, Etta loses her home of 50 years. Fiona brings her in until she can secure a room at a nursing home for her. Etta settles in pretty quickly…

Ian is on the run with Mickey and it becomes clear in short order that life with Mickey is not going to be an easy one. Their love and lust is very real. As are Mickey’s issues. They have a dangerous hanger on that they have to ditch and then Mickey’s plan to get into Mexico collapses. In Texas with few options and no money, the two go to a bank to make a withdrawal. Mickey, ski mask, and gun in tow, goes for the only option he has gets stopped by Ian who calmly withdraws all the money he’s earned from working for the past year. They get to the border and it’s do or die time.

Lip is wallowing in his own self-pity. He’s lost just about everything and it seems like everyone is either yelling at him or telling him what to do. Deb wisely tells him that if he would get his shit together, no one would be telling him what to do. He goes to AA meetings but hates it. Outside of one, he talks to a fellow addict and they end up hanging out. They share war stories and generally talk about life. At the end of the day, the guy tells Lip that he has to decide for himself to make the changes. The time you’d turn to the bottle must be filled with something else. He actually knits. After shrugging off all the advice from everyone else, this guy who doesn’t seem to care much about Lip either way seems to have made an impression.

Frank and Monica wake up in a room with naked strangers after another night of partying. They steal everything that’s valuable and continue to have a blast together. At home, Frank proposes to her. Yes, they never got a divorce so it’s more like they’re going to renew their vows. Planning a quick ceremony of some sort, they go around to the kids to try and get them to show up for it. Deb is the only one who commits and it’s she and Liam who witness Frank and Monica get into a fist fight over some years ago transgressions. In typical dysfunctional fashion, they quickly make up. As Fiona says later that night as she toasts her awful parents, “You two deserve each other.” Watching the others dance in merriment (after spiking their drinks) Monica looks at her family (minus Ian and Carl) and remarks how proud she is of them. It’s one of the best family moments in awhile actually. She’s got one more plan,  a DEA dangerous plan to leave something for the kids. Frank is, of course, game for anything the love of his life wants to do.

I’ve glossed over a ton of details in this episode mostly because you need to see these long-time-coming scenes for yourself. For the fans (and if you are reading this, you are one of them) there’s some intense, beautiful, family changing  stuff. In the last 6 minutes, a lot of Shameless threads come to an end.

At the little party, Lip apologizes to Fiona. He’s doubted her for so long thinking she couldn’t do anything she said she could do. He was wrong. They bury the hatchet.

Fiona brings Etta to a assisted living facility and walks out with Etta in utter confusion and herself in tears. She bought the woman’s home and business, made a profit from selling it and essentially made her homeless. Not a family member and unable (and unwilling) to solely take care of Etta anymore, Fiona sets her up as best as she can. The girl who always put Southies first, the downtrodden over everyone else, has turned a major corner. The whole season we’ve watched her put her own needs first for once. With success, she has changed. Fiona is now a business woman.

Ian and Mickey’s relationship has been a favorite storyline for many Shameless fans. In this episode, they get the best scenes together. We watch as they reconnect, but we also watch as Ian comes to the final realization that their lives and their paths are different now. Ian needs stability and has started to do well for himself in Mikey’s absence. Mickey is a lifetime criminal. A fugitive that offers no stability. At the border, Ian confesses that he can’t continue any longer and while Mickey is hurt, he ultimately understands and lets go. Ian hangs around to see that Mickey makes it into Mexico.

Morning comes and the Gallagher home is a mess after the parental celebration. Etta is teaching Lip how to knit and Fiona then takes Etta to the nursing home. Frank wakes next to Monica on the floor and goes to wake her up to start another day of scheming, drugs, sex and laughter. Frank becomes frantic when Monica doesn’t wake up. The off again on again Gallagher matriarch is dead.

Next week, the season finale.

 

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Shameless S7E10

Ride or Die

With Monica back, Frank rolls with his long time partner in crime. They spend most of the show together trying various illegal ideas to score cash (and drugs if possible). Monica got the idea in her head that she wants to make amends to the kids by leaving them all $5,000. Despite flaming out every time, they neither get killed or arrested so that’s something. They had a good time together until they come home late with Neil and Deb kicks them out of the apartment for good.

Fiona debates selling the lease of the laundromat to her boss who intends to redo the entire street. She paid 80k and put another 8k into repairs and the laundromat starts to come back to life. Her boss low balls her at 80k and then goes to 90. Barely a profit so Fiona easily turns it down. She owns her own business, it’s great for the community, her sister works there (they are getting along great), and she’s able to keep Etta happy. When she runs the numbers, she figures it’ll be at least 3 years until the laundromat gets into the black. The final offer of 160k comes after some more talk. That’s an 80 grand profit in about a month. Fiona is tested.

V is furious at Svetlana. The adoption papers they signed was actually the paperwork for V and Kevin to sign The Alibi over to Svet. They’re betrayed and feel like fools for being so trusting and gullible. V wants Svet gone and Kevin goes to talk to her. Svet doesn’t see the problem. V and Kev didn’t know what they were doing, they would have gone bankrupt in 6 months without her and they all have a great deal with the thruple relationship. She loves V and has fun with Kevin. She calls him stupid, which is probably the worst thing she could have said to him. Kevin updates Fiona on what’s happening and she gives him her lawyer’s info. Svet can’t wave this one away, V and Kev are firm and getting back what’s theirs and want to send her packing.

The discussion sends Fiona to V and we finally get their reunion. They make up on V and Kevin’s stoop as they recount their stupid mistakes. It’s here that we find out Fiona made her decision. She’s selling out. The plan that I thought was going to ruin her, made her a small fortune.

Lip is a mess. Blackout drunk, he stumbles through the entire episode. Monica and Frank are always happy to see him but that’s about it. Once he breaks into an old flame’s home, he makes his way to an AA meeting.

Ian, who has been flying high for awhile now is put to the test. Mickey has broken out of prison and is on the lamb. Mickey reaches out to Ian almost immediately and when they meet, they have quite the reunion. Mickey can’t stick around the old stomping grounds and asks Ian to leave with him. With this maelstrom back in his lap, Ian is faced with up ending what is a good life. He tries to talk to Trevor but chickens out. In my favorite scene, he talks to Fiona about Mickey and she reassures him that he’s without a doubt better off without him. I think Fiona is in just about all my favorite scenes this year. Fantastic dialog in this scene with expert delivery from Emmy Rossum and Cameron Monaghan. Striking direction and lighting decisions too. It’s hard to describe how smart and meaningful this scene is.

We come to the last scene where Ian is waiting for Mickey in the middle of nowhere. A new Jeep rumbles up and stops in front of Ian. Mickey poses the question, “Is this goodbye?”

Ian gets in. “Let’s ride.” Mickey hits the gas and the take off together. Oh man.

Next week: !?

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Suicide Squad

suicidesquad

With a lot of general negativity surrounding Suicide Squad, I was worried coming into this. As disappointed as I am, I did like it. But it is…off. Not in the quirky movie way like Swiss Army Man but in the “something happened in the making of this” way.

Suicide Squad is an easy premise to describe. A task force (literally Task Force X) is put together by a secret government agency led by Amanda Waller. This team made up of criminals is an expendable one. They are meant to go on the most dangerous covert operations, stop things the general public may or may not know about. A team of lethal people to take on any kind of threat, foreign, domestic or meta-human (like Superman). Anyone on the team disobeys they are killed with a neck bomb on the spot. They die on a mission, oh well. They get caught, all knowledge of them is disavowed. They pull through and the award is some time shaved off of their prison sentence and it’s back into the hole until the next shady mission.

In an attempt to get some rather serious magical muscle, Waller discovers that Dr. June Moon has been possessed by an ancient and powerful being known as The Enchantress. Using the threat of death over Enchantress and a loving aid assigned to Moon, Waller thinks she has her ace in the hole. It doesn’t take long for the confident mortal to be proven painfully wrong. Enchantress revolts and Task Force X is given their first job.

Looking to Suicide Squad’s comic book roots, the cast of characters is mostly from its current iteration. Harley Quinn and Deadshot are the headliners with June Moone and Rick Flag being more or less the hub of the main plot and Diablo being the B plot.

The best part of the movie is easily the casting.  Will Smith holds it down as Will Smith as Deadshot. He’s likable and knows how to work it in an action movie. He’s given the most robust background story. Margot Robbie gives a great live action take on one of DC’s biggest characters, Harley Quinn. Coming out of this movie, she probably has the best chance in appearing in the most sequels/spin-offs. Viola Davis is perfectly cast as Amanda Waller, a staple of many stories in the DC Universe.

The problem is, it’s all diluted. There are too many characters. The first 20 or so minutes is a “here are the characters” get to know you montage. Once the intros are done, we do get some great interactions and lines throughout. But Katana, Captain Boomerang, Slipknot (for obvious reasons), Killer Croc and Diablo are given very little to do. For as big of a push Diablo ultimately gets in the end, he more or less walks around in the background for the entire movie. So all these characters aren’t used well and they eat up valuable time that takes away from fan favorites Harley and Joker. I really like what I saw of Jared Leto’s Joker and he looks fantastic standing next to Harley on screen. That’s a major comic book moment for a lot of people.

I think it’s all too much for one film. With half of the movie being the creation of the team, establishing what WB wants to be a franchise, there needed to be more focus. Ditch the Enchantress and run with Joker trying to get Harley away from Waller’s grasp. The parts with Harley and Joker are great, but it’s all chopped up and feels rushed (they go more their Animated Series love relationship to make it easier to stomach since J is often so horrific to her in the books). Give us more of them! The Enchantress angle is basic, cliched, and the mission ends up being pretty lame. It all makes the decision to shy away from Harley and Joker that much more disappointing.

The action is shockingly sparse too. Very few actions scenes, what’s there is rather short with very few stand out moments. You don’t get to see half of the cast do much of anything. Why is Captain Boomerang in this if we barely see him throw a damn boomerang? If they spent half as much on the set pieces as they did for the soundtrack, we could have seen some really wild stuff. For an ensemble comic book movie where The Avengers set the action bar so many years ago, Suicide Squad is oddly devoid of highlights.  The Squad is full of degenerates and psychos but we never get a real sense of that. It’s so weird, the people we watch come off more or less as nice guys. Again, less would have been more.

Despite all of the above poo-pooing, I think the movie looks fantastic. Spot on costumes and a lot of the VFX look awesome. I love how they made Enchantress look (the hand roll over in the bunker is so cool) and there are some striking visuals with her at the end. Killer Croc is one of my favorite characters and he looks awesome. Fantastic makeup on him even though he just looks oddly scrawny when he comes out of costume (the dude should be thick has a brick house from head to toe). Diablo’s fire abilities rock and the direction is overall solid.

I think Suicide Squad started out being too ambitious. No solid foundation with too many additions weighing it down. This should have been a wild and crazy movie that sits outside of DC’s superhero mold. I’m curious to see the shooting script to see how much was changed in post-production. Is this one that got worse because of studio intervention or was it simply rushed? With some of the wildest villains in the industry on screen, it’s a shame that most of Suicide Squad comes off as disposable.

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Shameless S7E09

Ouroboros

Look out! Monica is back! Like any good haunting, she’s back with an agenda and she sends everyone she knows into a tizzy.

All of the kids shut her down the second they see her. Fiona blows her off, Lip yells at her, Ian ignores her, Liam doesn’t know who she is. Debbie tries to send her packing but once she tells Monica that her kid was stolen by Derek’s family, Monica has her in. She rolls up with Deb to demand Frannie back and they actually manage to get her. I thought there would be a lot more fallout from smashing the joint up, but child services take Deb’s side.

The kidnapping was a wake up call for Deb. Her parenthood was threatened and the fear of losing her little one is now very real. She goes to Fiona to seriously ask for a job and Fiona gives her one. Deb is elated to have Frannie back and contributes it to Monica helping her. Fiona becomes furious that Monica found a way in and takes it out on a girl who gave the laundromat a bad Yelp review. Not sure if assault with a hamburger is a thing but it might be now.

Fiona is managing with Etta and the laundromat. Since Etta can’t remember anything she buys new washers with Etta’s credit card and with the place looking better than it ever has, Etta doesn’t seem to mind (nor will she come to any retaliation on her own).

Frank has more or less moved in with Etta. Taking care of her is an easy task to get food and shelter. He gets a chance to rip her off when she bolts out of lunch (her dementia is getting bad) and it looks like he doesn’t take advantage of her unattended purse. I guess we’ll see if he did take anything next week.  Frank has been on a good guy roll for 3 episodes now. Monica being back throws him into a tizzy (as is the norm) and this time she comes back with a new reason for her visit: she’s dying. To fans of the show the first question that comes to mind: Is she telling the truth?

Ian is still the best off. Monica stirs up some drama, Trevor is there for it and it makes them fight. They work it out in the end.

Lip is scraping the bottom of the barrel. He’s drinking all the time. He dodges help from Professor and when he tries to get back in with Sierra (who has been pushed around by Deb an alarming amount) she calls him out for wanting her as a crutch. She’s got her own problems to deal with and can’t handle him anymore. Lip is lost without a paddle.

The throuple gets counseling. It goes surprisingly well and their relationship looks to be on the rebound. Kevin is downright jovial. That is until Svet undermines them again when they find out that she’s legally taken over the bar when a new alcohol distributor shows up with a delivery. She’s literally taking over behind their backs.

The other monster M is poised to return next week…Mickey Milkovich!

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Shameless S7E08

You Sold Me the Laundromat, Remember?

It’s a 50/50 split on how everyone made out this week. I’ll start with the best and we’ll dive down to the worst.

Right now, Ian is the most stable. Job is going well as is his relationship with Trevor. He helps out Lip and holds down the fort from Frank.

Frank is still riding high from getting Liam into school and figures that’s enough good will to get back in with his real family. Ian pushes him back, but Frank persists and manages to fix some things in the house. He rips off his new family one more time and gets chased down the street for it. He does show up to help Fiona too. He’s still a con man but this is the absolute best you can expect out of Frank (he’s now got his eye on Etta).

With Fiona, we enter the struggle zone. She finds more and more things to fix at the laundromat and Etta is blowing her money on toys. Fiona is tangled up in a mess. In order to curb dementia Etta’s spending spree, she takes her credit cards (not sure if she cut them up). She definitely committed fraud ordering floor and ceiling tiles, though. She might get away with that one, we’ll see how deep Frank gets in with Etta. She gets more blowback from know it all Lip about the laundromat but she gets a much needed visit from Kevin.

And here the two come together. There’s been very little talk between the two since V and Fiona have been fighting and Kevin needs advice. They talk while he helps her around the shop. He lays out how he’s feeling. Svet basically does whatever she wants. She’s secretive about everything, she lies all the time and his role in any decision is nonexistent. He feels marginalized and even a heart to heart with Svet does nothing to sway his fears. If anything, it makes them worse. He feels Svet is taking V from him (and Svet even acknowledges that her relationship with Kevin is now nothing more than lust).

So that puts Fiona in a spot of conflict of interest. She lays it out for him saying she never trusted Svet because she’s a con woman and she can’t get back in because Svet has helped push V away from her. This confirms Kevin’s feelings. After a fight with Deb, the laundromat roof caves in and Fiona cracks under the pressure, Kevin goes to the bar to rally some help. Once there he puts his foot down when Svet and V move together to bully him again. It makes a mark on V right away and is what I think the beginning of the end for Svet…or it pushes V farther to Svet and starts their separation (iirc, Kev and V aren’t legally married. V could take the kids).

Lip has been on the upswing but his Frank genes send him crashing and burning. He puts himself out there to get a pardon from the university. Ian and his old professor speak on his behalf and it seems to go well. When he’s denied, he goes on a bender. Drunk at work, he’s super surly and when Sierra’s deadbeat boyfriend comes knocking again, Lip jumps him. He’s inconsolable and even lashes out at Ian. He later goes to apologize to Sierra but again, he’s crossed a line. Lip is devastated.

The hardest story to watch this week was Deb. She didn’t see the coup coming from Didi and her mother. Deb went to Derek’s family with good intentions, to get them on her side to get Child Services off her back and they went in the complete opposite direction. Each step you could see them exchange glances and Deb didn’t really pick up on it. Concerned with Frankie’s well-being, they straight up kidnap her. Deb goes understandably nuts and Didi stands there filming her. This could go either way. The until now absentee family who had no concerns about the baby until now, could build a case. Kidnapping has got to be a big no-no at least. I see Deb getting Frankie back for now but she’s going to be a facing a long court fight. If anything, this is an event for all the Gallagher’s to rally behind one of their own.

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Shameless S7E07

You’ll Never Ever Get a Chicken in Your Whole Entire Life 

This is the first episode in awhile that had what would constitute a happy ending for most of the cast. Everyone had their Shameless drama but there is more hope to be found at the end than usual.

It’s all about the relationships:

Frank really had a turn around getting Liam (who has finally been given more than 2 speaking lines) into school. He took some rather Frank measures to do it, but it was a legitimate unselfish act that got him sincere love and thanks.

Deb was in rare form this week. She bossed everyone around due to her fear of Frannie being taken away so it’s understandable. She got some of the best lines in the fight with Fiona at the laundromat and spitting hot fire at the parent meeting (that poor social worker). The bathroom scene with her and Neil was touching.

Ian and Trevor hit a new milestone, that’s for sure. Their relationship is going in a positive direction for them both.

Lip and Sierra go through an ordeal together. On a date, she asks him about his drinking which he downplays as much as a recovering alcoholic could. He gets news from the good old professor that he appealed his expulsion from the school. Lip dismisses that one, but Sierra supports the move to at least get his record cleared. Open something up for his future at least. With their hookup reaching new terms, Lip gets a view at Sierra’s problems. Her ex is a complete deadbeat and when they have to go pick up her abandoned son, it’s Lip’s turn to offer her support.

Svet makes her husband disappear, bringing the ‘throuple’ back. That raises even more questions as Svet is super vague about what happened. Being covered in cuts and blood is one thing. Not knowing if there is a body somewhere is another. V gets over the lying and shadiness surprisingly fast but Kevin has a harder time dealing with what’s happened. All is not okay in the love triangle.

Fiona did not do her due diligence on the laundromat. She saw that Etta has been slipping on keeping things straight but didn’t account for what that means. Etta basically has no idea of what’s going on. She forgets everything and is basically floating through life until her cats eat her. The laundromat is a money pit. Most of the machines need to be replaced and a gas leak cripples the business. Fiona has to front $1700 to fix the gas right away and takes it from the diner. The up front costs to turn the laundromat around is going to kill her. Profit on that place is ages away and she’s got monthly loan payments to keep up with. Feeling the pressure she knows it’s a problem but she sacks up and moves forward like a good business woman. She’s convincingly upbeat at the bank when she deposits Etta’s money for her. The slide has started. This looks like it’s going to end in a disaster. Out of everyone on the show, Fiona is the only one who is going at it alone.

 

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Shameless S7E06

The Defenestration of Frank

All good scams must come to an end. All bad ones too.

Let’s talk about Frank first. We’ve seen him skimming off the top for some time now and it’s been paying off (for only Frank). He’s got his own premium pantry and a stack of cash. There’s been some suspicion about Frank from some of his new family and this episode we see Frank catch wind of it and make a move to better hide his con. When Deb comes to ask for his help he steps all over her (again) and she gives him an ear full before she storms out. One of his new sons overhears what Deb says and that’s the beginning of the end. “OK, hold on. Come on We’re family. Will you tell them, New Monica?” “My name’s Deloris!” Frank gets his ass thrown out of a second story window and he’s back to square one. At the bottom and all by himself again.

Ian is more or less in the gray zone with Trevor. He’s not too sure if he is or can be in a relationship with him. Oddly enough, when Ian is unable to save a life at work, he turns to Trevor first for support and it brings them closer together.

Lip feels good about stealing from his internship. They start slow and get a few hundred dollars from the first day. The software he put on the company’s server is undetected by the cyber security guy (could Lip have made it any more obvious talking to that guy? Really weird dialog, Lip is way smarter than that). Unfortunately, the company is busted by the feds again. Total shut down. Lip does get a dog out of it, though. His relationship with Sierra is…a wet and wild one. They have a fight, make up…it’s complicated for Lip as he’s had some rather traumatic relationships and he’s not sure what to make of Sierra.

Deb is getting along well with Sierra’s brother, Neil. She’s comfortable with the arrangement and stands up for herself and Neil when others doubt them. Gotta say she makes some good points. In order to make DYFS go away quickly after getting into the street fight, she wants to get married to Neil. When Frank shuts her down, she’s forced to go to Fiona who surprisingly agrees. Really nice scene and hopefully it’s the start of their relationship turning around.

Fiona keeps her boss hat on. She goes to the bank to secure a loan to buy Etta’s laundromat but she comes up 20k short. Etta agrees to the lower money but it’s clear that Etta is losing her faculties. She doesn’t remember the conversation she had with Fiona the day before and is eager to sign things over because she trusts Fiona. Fiona is really concerned but I think (and rightfully so) that she’ll be able to keep Etta safe and it’s the best deal for all of them. Etta will still have a place to live, the yuppies won’t get another lot and Fiona will be able to get her future kickstarted with even less up front costs. She gets the loan by putting the house up for collateral, which Lip is none too pleased about. Fiona keeps catching shit from her siblings and Fiona drops her own disappointment bomb on him in retaliation when he gets nasty with her. She soldiers on confident she can turn the laundromat around (which Lip was originally all aboard for) quickly since she did it with Patty’s. If she doesn’t…

Carl is waffling back and forth about going to military school. Dom leads him on and her father quickly crushes that. He brings Carl to see that she’s got another guy already and Carl is incensed that she almost duped him again. With some added encouragement from the family, he goes for it. The closing scene with him knocking that bully out was fantastic. If he can get into the structure and discipline, he’ll do fine.

Kevin and V see a crisis between Svet and her father. It’s not as messed up as they think, but being told that her father is actually her husband is a shock. Kevin seems more or less relieved, but V looks legit offended that Svet is married to someone else.

My favorite scene this week is with Ian and Lip catching up with Fiona in her room. They’re rarely together so it’s awesome to see them talk as a family and plan things. Those calm and reassuring bonds don’t come often on Shameless.

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Swiss Army Man

swissarmyman

Swiss Army Man is nuts and I love it for being so weird and unique.

Hank (Paul Dano) is a desperate man stranded on a deserted island. Moments before killing himself, he sees someone wash ashore. Unfortunately, he’s dead. Soon he discovers that the dead man is his ticket off the island and back home. The adventure that follows is one I’ve never seen before.

This is a love it or hate it movie, I don’t think there is a middle ground. If you don’t buy into the premise of how Hank gets off the island, you won’t like the movie. Discovering and using the different ways that Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) can be used as a tool of survival is always crazy and surreal. I bought in from the human jet ski and laughed my ass off through all the major gags.

Swiss Army Man is mostly a story about friendship and being weird. Hank is weird dude. Plus, he’s nuts because he has conversations with a corpse.

This movie works because of Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. It’s just the two of them for 99% of the movie. Dano makes Hank immediately likable even though he is a guy who’s uncomfortable in his own skin. He’s a deeply troubled guy and I enjoyed finding out more about him. Daniel is simply brilliant, playing a role that’s really the inner hidden voice of Hank. You find out so much about Hank through their conversations, things that Hank didn’t even mean to let out, but Manny reflects them back to him. Plus, Manny isn’t a zombie so he can’t move on his own. Radcliffe is vastly restricted in his performance on what he can do but he nails this bizarre childlike (he doesn’t remember anything about life) character with essentially just his face and line delivery. Without these two I don’t think the movie would have worked.

It’s a brilliantly made film. The runtime is perfect with excellent pacing, it looks fantastic and there are a lot of great in-camera special effects. There isn’t a wasted line of dialog and I even like the end. It’s such a unique story and presentation that it really took me by surprise. A refreshing movie to see when most of Holywood is doing their best to copy whatever the flavor of the year is.

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Shameless S07E05

Own Your Shit

A big win for Frank this week. A wealthy philanthropist has taken a liking to Frank’s message and bought the house so Frank and his people can stay there. Frank obviously sees this as a great triumph and quickly tries to claim that he owns the property. He sends out his posse to designated begging areas and now he’s got some income. So much that he can pay off his Alibi tab. Frank Gallagher is moving on up!

The Gallagher boys are all trying to find solid ground. Ian’s relationship with Trevor is trying as it’s very new territory for him, but it looks like it could go somewhere. He certainly seems to be happier. Lip is tired of his unpaid internship and makes a move to scam the scammers. It could pay off big but he could get into serious trouble if he gets caught. He had the smarts to figure out how to do it but I’m not sure if he’s thought of how to cover his tracks. He’s caught total feelings for Sierra and seeing her flirt with other men and her non-commital to him, it’s clear what they have isn’t an exclusive relationship. Carl is trying to make something of his life and that’s great to see. Even with a setback he reaches out for help again and it ends up working (one of the funnier moments when he gets the DNA test results back).

Fiona is working her ass off and she’s turned Patty’s around. The woman just needs to get paid! A tinder hookup pays off by meeting a financial professional and she’s starting to sow the seeds of a massive career. She’s still getting shade from the family, though, but she’s slapping that noise to the side and charging forward.

Deb is still struggling but like the others, she’s doing her damnedest to make something happen for herself and Frannie. Just when she sees a legit opportunity cross her path taking advice from Frank has blown up in her face. She’s facing a threat of Frannie being taken away from her. There’s a darkhorse in this new problem. The sister of the father of Frannie saw what Deb was doing. She wasn’t the one that made the video but could be an out of the problem. There’re a few ways this could go. 1)She could vouch for Deb, saying she was simply defending herself and her child. 2) After that, offer her families support with Frannie 3) Worst case, Frannie doesn’t get put into the foster system and goes with the father’s family so Deb could still be involved with her daughter.

The best part of Svet, V and Kevin is almost always Kevin. I like his attempts to get V to talk to Fiona and him talking to Ian about it was really funny.

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KoRn – The Serenity of Suffering

sos

Not many bands make three albums let alone 12. Not many bands stay together, and stay popular, for more than a few years let alone 22. Korn has weathered the storms of the music industry and personal strife and somehow managed to stay largely intact. Emerging onto the scene in 1994 from the dustiest parts of California with a new sound that no one really knew what to make of, Korn has again managed to make a killer album by remaining true to their unique sound with revitalized energy and perspective.

Never one to shy away from experimentation in their entire career, 2011’s The Path of Totality saw a total embrace of electronica. Dubstep bones wrapped in Korn meat and flesh. 2013’s The Paradigm Shift saw the return of founding member Brian “Head” Welsh and with him the scaling back of the electronics for the trademark twin guitar attack of Head and James “Munky” Shaffer.

That brings us to today and what I hoped was going to happen with their follow up material: the band’s total re-fusion as a unit with renewed faith in each other and the drive to reach the next rung of their trademark sound.

I’m a huge fan of The Paradigm Shift. There’s a ton of great songs on there and the return of Head made a clear resurgence to their creative and distinct riffs. That album is very safe, though. The production sparkles, it’s very clean and organized. It lacks that certain Korn “weight” most of the time. With the experience of them touring together starting in early 2013, writing TPS (Head playing.writing with Ray for the first time) and hitting the road some more, the band has really gelled again. Fantastic live shows, the band of brothers are clearly happy and healthy.

The Serenity of Suffering is an absolute return to form. The band that went all out on the likes of 1999’s Issues and 2002’s Untouchables can be heard again. All of the elements that made people love Korn are sprinkled all over this 52 minutes of music (get the deluxe edition).

Head and Munky wanted to push their guitar playing again. They did. SOS is a guitar showcase. That back and forth “talking” they do is just unparalleled. The grime and creep factor is back that frontloads the soundscape into some other world. They change tempo and rhythm much more often (really lacking on TPS). And the melodies! I can’t express how impressed I am with my two favorite guitar players.

I don’t skip a single track on this album. That hasn’t happened since Issues. There are so many amazing songs I could write a thousand words on each one.

Insane and Rotting in Vain are arguably the most Korn prototypical tracks. They’re obvious choices for singles to introduce the new album as they hit all the checkboxes for Korn song structure and sound. Opening with ‘Insane,’ the bellowing “Lies” sets expectations much like “Are you ready?” on ‘Blind’ did for their debut album.

‘Black Is the Soul’ is an absolute Korn classic, simply brilliant from start to finish. A low, ramp up into the song into a pounding groove with some of my favorite lyrics. The haunting start of ‘The Hating’ into the sweeping chorus. The bouncy beats of ‘Take Me’, the thunderous ‘Everything Falls Apart’, the brilliant metal shredding on ‘Die Yet Another Night’. The solider’s march percussion, batshit crazy two tone “bumble bee” guitars, DJ scratches and howling screams on ‘Next in Line’. The straight up funk of ‘Please Come for Me’!  I think the guest vocals on ‘A Different World’ from Corey Taylor are the best in the discography (I never liked ‘Cameltosis’ and ‘Play Me’ was incredibly disappointing). The creativity makes these tracks live and stick with you. Most tracks have memorable pre-choruses and rip roaring bridges.

I can’t say any more about this album without mentioning producer Nick Raskulinecz. Long time Korn fan, Raskulinecz had an instrumental hand in forging SOS. He went on tour with the band for their 20th anniversary of Korn dates and saw first-hand night after night what the fans responded to most. Along with producers Ross Robinson (Korn, Life is Peachy, Korn III), Brendan O’Brien (Issues) and Michael Beinhorn (Untouchables), Raskulinecz knows how to make Korn crush.

SOS is so heavy, only the devil can lift it. As I mentioned above, the bridges are something to behold. The breakdowns are downright rollercoaster rides and there are a lot of them. The pits at shows will go berzerk like it’s 1994 again. In particular, the “There is nothing in my head” bit of ‘Everything Falls Apart’ is a neck snapper. I’m talking ceiling to floor headbanging. Heaviest bit of track since ‘Oildale’ on Korn III: Remember Who You Are.

Along the lines of Issues and Untouchables, the production and mixing are in the sweet spot.  A huge amount of depth, SOS really breaths as you listen to it. You can hear everyone, every second that each band member contributes. Do not play this album on crap speakers. Toss those garbage earbuds and pump this through components that can handle the craziness. With quality headphones, SOS takes on even greater life.

The guitars are just filthy good. Thick tones, that range from the searing to the heavenly (Everything Falls Apart is a great example). Head and Munky wail on every track.

The percussion from Ray and Fieldy are in the perfect slot together (again, I give ‘Everything Falls Apart’ as a prime example). Ray can do fills like there is no tomorrow. The snare sounds especially crisp and it can sound like he has four arms working at once. He is so versatile it’s ridiculous (the opening of ‘When You’re Not There is a great example and I adore what he does on ‘Next in Line’).

Fieldy shatters along the bottom end like no other, bouncing in the pockets of Ray, Head, and Munky. The tone Raskulinecz dialed him in on each track is phenomenal. He’s got his trademark “click” here and there, but he’s also much more robust sounding. He’s such a unique bass player I’m so happy he’s given so much space to shine (looking down at you, SYOTOS, Untitled, POT). He’s especially awesome on ‘Please Come for Me.’ Those sustained notes make my heart palpitate every time. This album simply thumps.

Jonathan Davis is on point. Some of his best work. His entire insane range is shown off. Straight up singing with a mix of passion and pain. The whispers, phenomenal screams and howls. The vocal arrangements are so cool! It takes me back to my favorite album, Issues. The layering on ‘The Hating’ (the end is nuts), the awesome subliminal double talk in ‘Everything Falls Apart’ and the split personality presentation in ‘Die Yet Another Night’:

Sick of all these things I tried
Sick of all these lies
(Nobody cares you’re just a bad man
Nobody wants you you’re a dead man)
Wake me from my darkest dream
Read me from my mind
(Nobody cares you’re just a bad man
Nobody wants you’re a dead man)

From the beginning.  Korn has been a decisive band. The traditional metal scene turned their nose up at them while a legion of misfit kids flocked to see them so they could headbang their torment away. Today, most people are shocked to hear Korn are still making music and simply boil down their sound to slap bass and JD scatting.

The Serenity of Suffering isn’t Korn doing anything new thematically, so the haters will still see no reason to hop on board. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that they’re giving their fans everything they love in a modern way. This isn’t the band from 1994. Those guys don’t exist anymore, a lot has happened in two decades. This is the band in 2016 and they still deliver to those that listen. I consider this one of the best albums they’ve ever made. Korn has given us another album that no other band on Earth (and many have tried) can make. I, for one, couldn’t be happier.

 

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