‘Samurai Jack – XCIV’ TV review

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Damn am I’m glad Samurai Jack is back. The episodes this season have gotten better and better. Not to mention the transition from a kids show to an adult one. But I digress ‘XCIV’ is the third episode of the fifth season and it exceeded all expectations and took Jack through uncharted moral territory. Not only that but this episode delivered one of the most intense fight sequences in not only animated television but on TV as a whole.

(SPOILERS)

Last episode became a game-changer when Jack took his first human life. Throughout this episode it goes into a journey of Jack’s mental well being and shows a heavy burden to bear for jack. Warped versions of his consciousness comes to chastise him. His consciousness turns into a talking nightmare and bares all of his doubts onto him tempting him to end his life. (Yeah definitely not the same show I watched when I was a kid). Though the dialogue sort of dragged, it hardly mattered when the show demonstrated the idea to bring fourth this kind of trauma on a cartoon with mature themes.

At one point you see Jack covered from head to toe in blood and it comes off very terrifying yet artistic. Around this time a wolf appears from a previous episode and stays with Jack in a cave. What follows is a bond forged between them and a spectacular display of characterization with no words of dialogue. It gets even better with the symbolism as it becomes noticeable that the wolf and Jack are basically two ancient figures in a new world filled with machines and aliens. It has a very kindred spirit atmosphere and when these two interact it comes off naturally and beautiful.

Eventually Jack finally overcomes his doubts with a rare flashback of his childhood that showed his father fighting and killing men and possibly showing Jack’s first encounter with fighting and death. Jack’s father eventually gives him advice that echoed throughout the episode, “The decisions you make and the actions that follow are a reflection of who you are”. With these words the Jack we know from the previous series returns in full form and gives the viewer an incredible shot of Jack coming to terms with himself.

The later segments of the episode revolved around the female assassins aka “daughters of Aku” who are hunting Jack down in order to gain some recognition from Aku. In this episode we finally get to see how warped and naive the assassins are. They come across a deer couple that show their affection by brushing their noses. When the daughters see this they freak out and don’t know how to react. Then it clicks to the viewer. They’ve never seen wildlife, affection or any positive trait in life. All they know is pain and death. So when Jack comes to offer them a chance to walk away echoing his fathers words. They yell at him to die and shut up. It’s tragic in a way, because even though their merciless killers their still children who don’t know any better.

What follow suit is one of the greatest fight scenes in TV. Jack shows no mercy from then on, and the viewer witness’s probably the most artistic killings. Then a chase through a snowstorm that creates a very minimal and stunning canvas on the screen while Jack dispatches the assassins one by one luring them into a false sense of security. I’ve spoiled enough already and I feel that I can’t spoil this. Because what happens from the climax to the ending  is beyond awesome.

Everything about this episode is perfect. The episode is intense, fascinating, and made a great continuation on what we’ve seen so far. The visuals were astonishing – every scene was essentially a artistic masterpiece. With the  contrasts, shadows and camera angles flowing smoothly across the scene along with incredible fight scenes this episode made be one of, if not the best Samurai Jack episode.

You truly get pulled into this episode and lose track of time. This episode shows what Samurai Jack is about and why it has a cult following!

10/10

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‘Rick and Morty: Season 3 Episode 1, The Rickshank Rickdemption.’ TV Review

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Wow, like everyone else I did not see this coming. A season premiere at the tail end of April Fools. Also it kept going about 10 times in a row. Over placing other shows like Samurai Jack and Dragon Ball Super. No lie I was upset, yet at the same time I got new Rick and Morty so it sort of balanced itself out. Now there will be some spoilers later on in the review so if you haven’t seen it yet avoid a paragraph that has a bunch of words in caps.

So recap, on earth the galactic federation has taken over the world, Jerry has been promoted five times even though he doesn’t know what his job is, Morty and Summer try to rescue Rick while Rick is being interrogate by the federation and gives a goofy backstory on his life and a strange sketch on McDonald’s soy sauce that was used to endorse the movie Mulan.

(SPOILERS) so right off the bat things get crazy. Summer digs up a dead Rick from their backyard which was a nice callback to seasons’ past and a dark reminder of life’s pointlessness when multiple dimensions are involved. The duo find the portal gun and Morty takes us back to Cronenberg world to show Summer the devastation Rick has caused. Here, they find themselves in trouble once more, as Morty’s true family eat Cronenburgers. Luckily, Ricks from the Citadel of Ricks are on hand to save the day, sort of. From here on out everything turns into a fiasco with hilarious results. The whole episode ran smoothly with the plot and the comedy kept me roaring every few seconds. Right away I knew this was a fantastic episode.

The only flaw with the premiere is that it basically pulls a reset on the series. (SPOILER ALERT; DON’T READ THE REST OF THE PARAGRAPH IF YOU WANT THIS EPISODE TO BE RUINED) Rick is back, the council of ricks are destroyed and the Galactic Federation is no longer in control, so we’re all set to start over with weekly, self-contained, kooky sci-fi adventures. That’s sort of a let down because the last season had a build up to the finale and to see it all concluded in one episode felt anti-climatic. Still, at the same time, Jerry and Beth getting divorced (or at least taking the divorce theme more seriously) is a nice-fresh development that’s been a long time coming and the tag that brings Tammy and Birdperson or should I say “Phoenix Person” back implies there may be echoes of Rick and Morty’s past showing up to challenge their future.

“The Rickshank Redemption” essentially redeemed the idea of April Fool’s Day. This episode came out of the blue, and picked up right where the Season 2 finale left off. It kept the level of humor and quality high even as it repeatedly defied everyone’s predictions about where the story was heading towards. Like most Rick and Morty episodes, this one delivered plenty of weird, goofy humor along with the grim portrait of a mad scientist who hates everyone including himself.

Rick said it best at the end of the episode, “Nine more seasons, Morty!”

 

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9/10

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‘John Wick 2’ – Movie Review

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If I could quote Rick Flair I would say, “WHOOOOOO” this film is a wild ride. The movie starts off right after the first one and throws you back into the action immediately. The story goes over a member of the underworld who made a blood pact with John Wick and in order for Wick to finally be out of the life he would have to do one final task for this guy. What happens after that is sheer entertainment for the next two hours.

There are a lot of good fight scenes that are very well choreographed mixed in with some comedic elements and witty dialogue. Several action scenes had me laughing out loud by the sheer silliness of the situation with a clever blend of humor and fighting. The movie also does a good job of expanding its world building. Though their may be some cheesy moments with setting. The world still leaves a sense of mystery to it and certain areas of the setting stayed relatively grounded as the first one.

Then theirs Keanu Reeves who is as bad ass as he was in the first film. There were moments where he reminded me of Clint Eastwood with the squint eyes and grim expressions. He felt like a caged animal ready to strike and whenever any action scenes happened Keanu went loose. The fighting choreograph flowed with the acting and even out did the first film.

Now this film isn’t perfect either. I mentioned earlier that the world building felt a bit cheesy at times. I won’t give it away but when you see certain characters doing certain actions in the movie you’ll roll your eyes. That and it felt like everyone in NYC is an assassin. Though most of the dialogue and scenes hold up. There are certain moments where the dialogue feels cliche same with a few paces in the story. Finally the main villian has zero charisma, you don’t feel the seething revenge motive like you did with the first movie.

Though it may not be as good as the first movie, Chapter 2 is still a fantastic film. It recaptures the brilliance of its predecessor, and further explores its unique world, while still delivering on the explosive action and incredible stunts.

8/10

 

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Daredevil/Punisher: Seventh Circle- Comic Review

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This comic felt like I brushed my eyes with sandpaper. Here’s the whole plot, Daredevil is sending a very bad man to Texas to stand trial. Why Texas? Because Texas has the death penalty. Ok why? because this guy needs to die… okay.  So when the Punisher shows up to shoot this dude with a ginormous gun this causes problems? whatever and this is the entire plot. I’m not joking that is the whole premise to this story. It’s as bad as it is generic. Even the villain isn’t memorable.

The art is a waste too. Comic fans could tell that this artist tried to do art from previous daredevil stories. Dark, and crisp except the art in this is just bad. Some of the postures of the characters look like their drunk or having a seizure. Some of the facial expressions had me laughing out loud in between the untold rage I was building up through this book.

Seventh Circle, is the perfect name for this book because it is a hellish read. Zero story, with nothing to engage the reader, no decent character moments, no great scenes, just forgettable action from the first page to the last.

1/10

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He’s driving a van you moron!

 

 

 

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All-New Wolverine, Volume 1 – Comic Review

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Having a new or different character take up the mantle of an original character is a real problem I have with comics. It’s up there with ‘Super Mega Event Bring All The Characters Together!” crap that annoys me. Everyone knows the original character will come back in a few years. What bugs me more too is that the replace a male role character to a female. It’s not that I’m sexist but it’s such a lazy cop out and  comes off as trying to hard to get female readers. Meanwhile, you got the other end of the spectrum where guys hate a female lead because she’s a woman. 21084792Then the internet blows up with all kinds of angry fans, arguing over nothing, everyone fights about this stupid nonsense, and the comic book community looks like a bunch of morons. It’s a wonder why everyone outside the medium makes fun of us. Whatever that’s a topic for another time.

Still outside of all the flaws that could come with this series, All-New Wolverine works and for several reasons. First, Laura/x-23 is a fantastic character. Like Barbara/Batgirl she has a distinct personality that makes her stand out compared to other super heroes. She’s only been in comics for about ten years which is sort of new compared to other characters. The second is the writer himself Tom Taylor. This guy could write about turtles walking and I’ll have fun. His take on Laura is fantastic and really adds layers to an already great character. The art is okay, nothing cutting edge but it is crisp and colorful.

The real flaw I guess is the recycled plot and characters. Yes there are clones, yes human experimentation is bad. We get it, its been done in every wolverine book since wolverine was created. It’ll come off feeling regurgitated to pickier readers and marvel fans will be annoyed.

Still I thought it was a fun volume. Even though I loathe the idea of these spin-off things. In the end, this book was better then I expected.

7/10

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Syd ‘Fin’ – Album Review

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Born Sydney Bennett From Los Angeles, the 24 year old has been a part of a loose kinship of musicians, like Frank Ocean and her brother Taco, who rode into the public eye with Tyler, the Creator and Odd Future. She went on to become a part of the group ‘The Internet’ releasing three albums. Their 2015 release Ego Death provided a breakthrough for the band, and gained them a Grammy nomination. Now Syd is going out on her own path that has caused both buzz and excitement in the musical community.  The release is finally here and Fin is proof that Syd is a talented artist.

Syd brings love and heartbreak, stress and endearment to this album. It plays on various stages on relationships through the course of the album.There is a clear thread that runs through these tracks they’re quiet, yet subtly great with every listen. There is nothing in this album is too much of a drastic departure from Syd’s previous work as lead singer of The Internet. It feels more like a subtle continuation.

The key to Fin’s easy balance is Syd’s voice. Her wispy smooth voice has yielded subtle emotional resonance, The single ‘Body’ is Syd at her finest. she displayed restraint in producing the majority of the track with only an eerily rumbling bass line and a whisper while her soft vocals plays out some sexual tropes of R&B. ‘Body’ attains a perfect mix of the trap low-end with a hint of soul.

This album however has some unfortunate flaws. A minor one is the repetition on a few tracks. Some songs such as ‘smile more’ get very repetitious where she keeps singing, “You can leave ’em on” over and over. It becomes stale after a while. It’s not just her voice that is stale either some of the production feels like its on repeat as well. It made me wish that Bennett delivered a few tracks with more range, to break away a bit of the usual tempo. With the lack of flow in some of the tracks, it leaves most of Fin hitting a moderate to slow pace. It’s not a bad thing, but not always exciting either.

Fin is a record of intimacy and reliance. A wonderful combination that Syd has pulled off well. It speaks from the heart and brings up personal problems such as anxiety. This theme feels like she invites us to share these moments it comes off rather touching and special. Syd has proven that she can stand out on her own and I look forward in her future works. Submerse yourself and enjoy it.

7/10

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‘Kill or be Killed’ – Comicbook review

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Wow. this is Brubaker’s best book yet. Along with his go to collaborative partner Sean Phillips, these two made another great book.

The synopsis is about a 28 year old grad student named Dylan. He decides to commit suicide over several frustrations in his life. Mainly over a girl as well. Except, at the last moment, a demon saves his life! There’s a price to his second chance though and Dylan must kill someone who deserves to die every month otherwise the demon will take his life. Hence the title.

The whole idea of a masked lunatic shooting up bad guys in random areas around NYC is exciting, brutal and instantly grabs you.The setup is intriguing too – is the demon real or is Dylan just crazy and created the demon as an excuse to act out his darkest desires? A little bit of fight club thrown into the mix which is neat and Brubaker deliverers it very cleverly. He drops subtle hints throughout to make either explanation viable which keeps you guessing.

Both these guys improved on their craft. Well sort of, Phillips made a flaw in this volume that he still hasn’t throughout his career. Facial expressions. 9/10’s of the time the art on the characters are incredible. Yet once every three issues a character makes a ‘derp’ face which comes off hilarious and kills the vibe of the story. He’s been doing this since hellblazer and granted its a small complaint its something I wished he improved on. Outside of that minor complaint, this book is a real gem and is a must read for noir and comic fans.

9/10

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Sampha – ‘Process’ Album Review

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Sampha Sisay is a newcomer in the music world that has been bringing a lot of buzz with him. After singing with Solange, Kanye, Drake, and Frank, Sampha releases his debut LP ‘Process’. Numerous fans and critics have been waiting for this album for a few years. Well the wait is finally over and Sampha delivered something really special.

The production is a beast within itself. Some of the production felt heavy while other songs were soft and spacey. Sampha showed how balanced he can be with his work. While the atmosphere of these songs are unique, the vast majority of  the album overall is poignant and powerful. Highlights include ‘Plastic 100°C’, ‘(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano’, and ‘Timmy’s Prayer’. Sampha’s voice is rich with emotion, and he is often accompanied by wonderful background instruments that support the gravity of the album.

A flaw that I think some people will make note of it is that Sampha sounds very similar to James Blake. Granted It’s a similarity only in the tone. And when you push past the tone you can tell that their styles are vastly different. Still the tone could throw some people off this record which would be upsetting if it did because this album is very good. Besides that, the only other issue I had with this album is the ‘freshman album’ flaw. Compared to some of his earlier singles, a few of these songs don’t feel as bold or as inventive compared to other tracks in his previous works. But this is still a small law to the overall project.

 ‘Process’ is a meditative work, where he processes grief along with a road towards self-discovery. Sampha throws a unique spin on electronic and R&B music. With meaningful songwriting and sophisticated production, Sampha delivers One of the best debut albums to come out since FKA Twigs LP1. A must listen to music fans.

 

8/10

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Top 5 Albums of 2016

These are my top five albums of the year. For me I’m ranking these by how much I listened to them throughout this year. For the past few years I decided to stop making my favorite lists through production, and lyrics and all that jazz. But rather, “what did I listen to the most this year? What did I keep going back over and over again?”  I feel like that’s a difference between fans of music and very critical publications.

Though 2016 was a rough year for most. It was a great year for music fans in every genre. Now I could’ve done a top ten list but I didn’t want to go on an endless nerd out on how great all of these were. So are some honorable mentions/recommendations  that I thought were fantastic.

Honorable mentions

Ka – Honor killed the Samurai

Sturgill Simpson –   A Sailor’s Guide to Earth

Thrice – To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere

Death Grips – Bottomless Pit

Avalanches – Wildflower

Childish Gambino – Awaken My Love

Check these out! now on to the top five.

 

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5 David Bowie – Black Star

A beautiful farewell record from one of the greats. amazing record and unique for several reasons. Mainly because passed away shortly after the record. And the record itself is about the reflection of his career, life and his eventual death. That’s the scariest thing about this record too. Bowie was on the brink of death knowing that he was going to die soon and decided to create this incredible album. The album is really creepy and powerful. Even though this is a poppy/glam album there are jazz and hip hop influences in this record. Its an intense, challenging listen especially for Bowie fans. Bowie really went out on a bang.

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4 Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

A Moon Shaped Pool is a celebration of subtlety. In it, Radiohead continued to create incredible song writing, production and arrangement. Radiohead is great in reinventing themselves throughout there career and this time Radiohead feels more mature. they took a strong step towards beauty arranging haunting/beautiful melodies which shows itself through the album. An inspirational journey that breathes emotion and suspense and reaches to a bitter sweet conclusion.  A dreary, emotional, soft album that gives you an emotional experience.

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3 Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition

This album is fucking crazy. If Joker from Batman Lore and B-Real from Cypress hill had a baby this would be the product of that child. There were times I question how this album existed. Rappers write a lot of albums about drugs. But this is the first time an album made me feel like i’m on drugs. This is the ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ put into music. It’s insane. With as much experimental music I’ve listen to so far, I still haven’t heard anything like this. Look up ‘Ain’t it Funny’ off this album because its the perfect representation of the project. It make you wonder who the hell could rap over this because no other rapper would touch these beats. His flow and the crazy beats go perfectly together and again I don’t know who else could rap over this. I’m someone who respected Danny Brown in the past, but never got into the hype. Now I have officially been converted. This album will go down in history as a game changer.

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2 Swans

If I had to sum this album up in two words I would say that its peacefully chaotic. It’s a monumental experience in every sense. Built on the same foundations on there last album where it was chaotic and ambitious. This new one is more spacey, and a tad bit calmer, compared to there last record. No lie this is a very dense listen, over an hour in length. But if you have the time I urge you to sit down or drive somewhere and listen to this album all the way through and then listen to their previous two albums because I think the three albums are loosely connected to each other. Still if you don’t have the time (which is understandable) I still recommend this album for its a very heavy, mind-altering listen.

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1 Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid

Aesop Rock is an acquired taste even for most hip hop fans. His complex lyrical structure and vocabulary either pushes people away people from his music or draws them closer. If you don’t believe me check this OUT. The guy has more lyrics then anybody else in the game, hell even more then some of Shakespeare’s works. With this project however he has made this album more accessible through his brilliant producing. It’s an album that many can enjoy, even if they don’t understand the underlying themes he’s carefully placed in his lyrics. But what really made me fall in love with this album was how personal it was. ‘Rings’, talks about his regret in giving up drawing which he was really passionate about and regrets drifting away from that art form. Songs like this and ‘Blood Sandwich’ really connected with me and my personal experiences . Then there’s ‘Dorks’ and ‘Shrunk’ which take more personal notes on Aesop himself. The last third of the album continues a theme of seclusion, with nomadic topics and non-conformism thrown in. You could tell that Aesop gave his all on this. Again while Aesop Rock may not be every hip-hop fan’s cup of tea, you must respect the man’s effort. All-in-all “The Impossible Kid” is like and in some ways unlike any Aesop Rock release. Sick underground beats along with a lyrical prowess that brings more rewards each time I listen.

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Leon Bridges – ‘Coming Home’ Album Review

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Wow! I went into this album with no expectations and after listening to it for the fifth time in a row I can say I’m genuinely surprised. Leon Bridges is an american gospel/soul singer from Texas. This album ‘Coming Home’ came out last year and honestly I don’t know how this flew under my radar.

Right off the bat Leon Brdiges takes us at least 30 years back in time. Where Soul,R&B,Gospel, and blues blend together smoothly. Where back up singers chime in some “doo wop’s” for the listener. Several of these tracks are very reminiscent to Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye with a modern flair to it, sort of like Amy Winehouse or Cee-Lo Green. In other words this album is catchy as hell with smooth guitar licks and wonderful back up singers to boot. Another quality Coming Home shares with earlier rock albums from back in the good ole days is that It’s short.The majority of the 10 songs are in the three minute range and the album only lasts about half an hour. Its more of a benefit then a flaw.

Of course there are flaws though.Bridges unhurried approach to the music can be a crutch. The best example would be, “Lisa Sawyer”. It tells the story of his mother’s life, including finding Christ at age 16. He can sing the story real well but the song offers no hidden meanings to his mother’s ability to survive hard times and thrive with the little she had. The narrative felt a bit linear. His songwriting isn’t awful it’s just that,there were times in the song where my mind would drift and I was losing attention to the story. I think its more of the fact that this is Leon’s first album so there is definite room of improving. But like I said before Bridges has a hell of a voice and his music would quickly pull me back in.

Despite some songwriting, Leon Bridges delivered an incredible, catchy album. That’s really impressive for someone’s first album. His relaxed flow along with the old school style of playing music makes this album more fresh then stale. Bridges finds comfort in the music from back then, when the music’s profound revolutionary nature was found in its serene manner. It’s an album for the youth with a more mature taste.

 

8/10

 

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