In California it’s not ‘no means no,’ but ‘yes means yes.’

If you don’t have sex a lot, then you don’t have to read this post.

And if you do have a lot of sex, then you probably don’t have to read this post, because I have absolutely no idea what I am talking about.

On Sunday, California Mayor Jerry Brown signed a law aiming to crack down on sexual assaults on college campuses. This is a problem because college-aged kids tend to be sexually promiscuous. They also tend to drink a lot of alcohol. Hence, situations are more likely to arise California lawwhere, in hindsight, a sexual encounter may not have been all that consensual.

Universities that receive state funding are required to adopt the rule and educate its students on the difference between consensual sex and sexual assault.

In other words, the commonly known rule for having sex is that you must stop if one partner says “no.” Now, you can’t even begin unless both partners say “yes.”

Ergo, yes means yes.

Advocates of the law are calling on other states to follow California’s lead. So while this new standard may seem a great distance away, it’s a real possibility it could be making its way to a theater near you.

On one hand, it’s easy to say that it’s broadening the definition of sexual assault, and therefore giving women more flexibility to go that route if need be. But at the same time, I’m a staunch defender that if you’re having sex with somebody, it should be pretty damn obvious that both people want to do it.

And let’s face it, it’s meant for men, and for heterosexual sex. It’s in the hands of the guys to ensure that the girl wants to have sex with them, and to abide by this law. It’s either that or you’re a rapist.

When you’re physically having sex with a girl, you should not be “sort of sure” that she wants to do it. You should be pretty damn positive. Like, as in 100 percent positive.

But if you’re a guy who doesn’t get laid a lot, then you don’t really have much to worry about. In fact, you probably could live the rest of your life never knowing this law exists and still be fine. Because if you’re someone who doesn’t have sex a lot — and trust me, I know how you feel — then on the occasions where a girl does actually want to have sex with you, then you’re probably the type of person who asks like 12 times to make sure it’s OK before proceeding.

Which is fine. Nothing wrong with double checking.

It’s the thorough people in life who truly get somewhere. Just not in the bedroom very often.

It’ll be interesting to see how this law is actually enforced, and whether the amount of sexual assaults on college campuses in California do decline over the next few years.

But there’s probably a lot of USC frat bros who aren’t too happy right about now.

I’m not all about that bass, but I am a little bit about that bass

Don’t you just love it when an artist goes from complete and utter obscurity to a household name all because of one song?

Anybody who’s checked the Billboard Hot 100 lately may notice a name sitting atop the list, who, six months ago, was probably singing in coffee shops to people waiting on line to order a soy latte topped with a cinnamon drizzle.

“All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor is taking the world by storm. She performed it on The Tonight Show, using classroom instruments Meghan Trainorwith Jimmy Fallon and The Roots, and the song is becoming more popular by the day.

I believe I only heard it for the first time around a month ago. And I can recall my exact reaction upon listening to it.

In the song’s first 30 seconds, I thought it was garbage. For the next 15 seconds after that, I sensed that there might be more to the song than meets the eye. And then, bam, it reaches the hook, and it’s like, “Hot damn, this girl can sing!”

The song kind of starts with that playful talking/rapping style that Ke$ha somehow both started and ruined, and then it instantly feels like a throwback to a song from the 1950s, complete with doo-wop background singers and everything.

Of course, the song’s also being lauded for its message, which implies that we’re all perfect just the way we are. Or rather … just girls. Because as all guys know, we’re allowed to have beer bellies and still be awesome.

Meghan Trainor herself is not exactly your prototypical “skinny girl,” but she’s not fat either, which I presume is exactly why she is singing the song. You can’t have a freaking size 0 model singing about how physical beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.

Even her name is lacking in appeal. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera are names befitting of sex symbol pop icons.

Meghan Trainor is the name of a girl you stare at for two minutes on Tinder trying to figure out if you want to swipe left or swipe right.

And I really don’t mean that to be insulting. I get the song. I get it. Females shouldn’t waste every moment of their lives trying to look how they Ariana Grande2believe men want them to look. It’s a very positive message for young girls, even if she does use the words “skinny bitches” in the song.

She seems like a very likable girl and I hope Meghan Trainor has a career beyond being a one-hit wonder. But, if you’re going to be a one-hit wonder, at least do it for being all about that bass. I’m still not even entirely sure what that means.

Speaking of girls who will not be one-hit wonders. Ariana Grande.

God damn, how much could one girl luck out in life? She’s not only gorgeous, with a bubbly and effervescent personality and an irresistibly cute smile, but the girl has one of the best singing voices, like, ever.

Just check out her performance on Saturday Night Live last week, when she slows down “Break Free” into an acoustic version, highlighting her incredible vocals.

She seems to be in that pop/dance blend mode right now, which is all the rage these days, but I hope she sings more stuff like this moving forward. Because her voice is just too good for her not to.

But, on that same Billboard Hot 100 list, “Break Free” currently sits at #7, six spots behind Meghan Trainor.

I guess the world is just all about that bass.

 

Movie reviews: Jersey Boys, Coherence, Frank and Oculus.

Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys is a biopic by Clint Eastwood about the four New Jersey natives who became The Four Seasons. The movie details their lives just before they joined together as a band, their rise to fame, and the trials and tribulations they experienced as a group amid their Jersey Boys success.

It’s Eastwood’s first movie in three years, after J. Edgar did not fare so well (he has another one coming in January, called American Sniper starring Bradley Cooper). Jersey Boys is an upgrade from that last work, but not by much.

People who go to see Jersey Boys do it because they want to hear the band’s famous songs. And that’s when the movie shines. It’s no surprise Eastwood used John Lloyd Young, who portrays Frankie Valli in the Broadway version of the story. Young sounds incredible as Valli, bringing the old classics back to life with his powerful falsetto.

The rest of the Seasons are quite forgettable. The movie focuses way too much on the petty arguments between band members, and should have spent more time showing them perform. That’s all we wanted to see.

For every moment that soars, there’s too many scenes where everyone is unhappy, and people are yelling at one another.

There was also a very weird use of the “breaking of the fourth wall.” Typically, one character does it. In this case, all four Seasons do it, and it’s just awkward. It happens spontaneously, sometimes in the middle of the performances, and it didn’t sit well with me.

I’ve never seen the Broadway play – which I hear is pretty damn good – so I don’t know how much of the film was adapted from it.

But I think it’s fair to suggest that if you want to see the story of the Jersey Boys … head to Manhattan.

 

Coherence

If you like to stretch your imagination, to challenge yourself to think beyond the realms of scientific reason, then you’ll love CoherenceCoherence

The film is about a group of friends who join together for a dinner party. That evening, a comet happens to be visible in the night sky as it passes over Earth. But it’s proximity causes very odd happenings to occur, and next thing you know, the dinner party turns into a nightmare.

But it’s not a horror film. More like a sci-fi suspense/thriller.

The happenings of the film are a loose interpretation of the thought experiment called Schrodinger’s Box, which involves alternate universes collapsing on one another. I’ll leave it at that.

It almost becomes a contemporary science fiction version of Clue, a whodunit of sorts, where you’re trying to figure out how much you trust each character. But then it goes in a direction you’ll never see coming.

The movie was a pleasant surprise for me, since I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s written and directed by James Ward Bykrvit, who also co-wrote the Academy Award-winning Rango. The cast is bunch of people you’ve never heard of, led by the lovely Emily Baldoni, who I expect we’ll be seeing more of in the future.

I highly recommend giving Coherence a shot. It’ll make you think about things a little differently, and the lack of familiar faces involved offers a refreshing perspective.

 

Frank

Pros of being a Michael Fassbender fan who goes to see Frank:

  • Michael Fassbender co-stars in the movie.

Cons of being a Michael Fassbender fan who goes to see Frank:

  • Michael Fassbender is wearing a papier-mache head basically throughout the entire movie, and is barely recognizable.

FrankTo say that Frank is a quirky movie would be an understatement. Domhnall Gleeson plays a singer-songwriter named Jon who is lacking inspiration until he lucks himself into a band led by the mysterious Frank, who is a great singer-songwriter, but, wears a mask. All of the time.

The band then isolates themselves in a secluded cabin in Ireland and refuse to leave until they find the “perfect sound” for their new album. Jon, meanwhile, utilizes social media, namely Twitter and YouTube, without the band’s knowledge to gain them a cult following.

Naturally, the band members all have their own personal issues that come to light throughout the film, causing some wrinkles in the group’s overall mission. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Scoot McNairy do a nice job In supporting roles, but it’s Fassbender – even behind the mask – who shines.

He offers humor, surprisingly good singing, and injects charisma into otherwise melancholy affair.

Of course, Jon does question why Frank wears a mask, and the response is pretty unsatisfying. But it doesn’t really matter. Within minutes, you accept that Frank is just a masked man. Naturally, that provides a lot of humor in itself. No dialogue needed.

I think Frank has a lot of nice elements to it, including some interesting music, funny lines and poignant moments, but it didn’t really all come together for me. The sum did not the equal the parts.

But it was certainly a different viewing experience than what I’m accustomed to. I’ll give it credit for that.

 

Oculus

American Horror Story comes to the big screen.

The plot of Oculus could not be less original. It’s about a haunted mirror that brings misery and tragedy to anybody who owns it. In this case, it’s a family of four, whose fate does not differ from the mirror’s previous owners.

But that’s not a spoiler, because the movie is told in two concurrent narratives: one being the family with two young kids, and the second being Oculusabout 10 years later, when the kids are 21 and 23, respectively, and return to their childhood home to prove that it was the mirror that brought about their family’s ill fortune.

The children in their youth are played by Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan, and then by Karen Gillan and Brenthon Thwaites 10 years later, who get the majority of the screen time.

The concurrent narrative is probably the only somewhat creative aspect of the film. Otherwise, you get pretty uninspired acting, overdone horror tropes, and “scary moments” that aren’t really all that scary.

Karen Gillan presents some pretty good eye candy, but aside from that, I thought her acting was pretty mechanical.

Upon returning to their home with the mirror, the older kids try to capture on film its supernatural effects as proof. Meanwhile, said effects begin to take their toll, and as the story jumps back and forth between past present, the two begin to blend together as the characters relive their horror from their youth.

It’s a little confusing, and all the while you’re waiting for it to come together. Whether the ending is actually satisfying is up to you, but it certainly leaves open the possibility for it to become the next horror movie franchise a la Paranormal Activity.

Like we needed more of those.

Can we like, stop beheading people?

I’m pretty sure that when human beings became the predominant race, it wasn’t so one day we could tie each other up, torture and behead people on camera.

What the hell are we doing?

Of course, by we, I’m speaking collectively of the entire human race. I know the savages who commit such atrocities represent a minuscule ISISportion of the population.

A lot of people prefer to turn a blind eye to terrorism. Not because they choose to pretend it’s not real, but because it’s horrible to think about. Why spend more time than you have to thinking about people who live only to instill fear in others?

But it can’t help but catch your attention when you hear about somebody who was beheaded by a band of hooded extremists trying to send a message. The worst part is, in these latest cases, the victim is an innocent bystander who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And they died in the most horrific way possible.

Knowing that this happens makes me sick to my stomach. In the last two months alone, American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and just this week, French mountaineer Herve Gourdel have all been beheaded by ISIS, or ISIL, whatever the hell the group is going by these days.

I’m not saying we need to live in peace and harmony. History has taught us that such a thing will never happen. But can we just live in a world where people don’t cut off each other’s heads? Is that too much to ask?

It takes the lowest of lifeforms to actually murder somebody, brutally and viciously, and release it to the world, for everyone — including the victim’s family — to see.

Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing. It makes me ashamed to be a human.

Who knows what they do to these victims before they behead them. The fact that they’re so submissive before it happens makes me think that they’re tortured so badly that they welcome death. And nobody deserves that.

Journalists, like Foley and Sotloff, travel to belligerent nations to seek the truth. They know they are asking for trouble when they go there, and they understand the risks. But this is not what they could have anticipated in their wildest dreams.

It’s sad that we can’t live in a world where people don’t want to hurt other people. And it’s a shame that we even have to talk about it.

I don’t want to see it anymore. Alright, ISIS? You hear me? STOP IT RIGHT NOW BEFORE I SAY OTHER MEAN THINGS ABOUT YOU.

That won’t work.

Derek Jeter deserves a hero’s farewell, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be glad when this is all over

You don’t need to be a sports fan to know this is Derek Jeter’s final week as a professional baseball player.

The 40-year-old, lifelong Yankee is probably the most iconic baseball player to play the game in the last two decades. For those who started watching baseball in the early- to mid-90s, and watched his career progress before our very eyes, it’s not unfair to say he’s our generation’s Mickey Mantle, as far as stature goes.

I have no problem hearing people talk about Jeter’s career achievements, heroics, and all of the good he’s brought to the game. Especially as his Re2pectcareer is reaching its end.

But not every single day.

Jeter announced his retirement before this season started. By doing so, he set himself up for an extravagant farewell tour in which he’d be celebrated in every city he entered. It’s been happening for five months.

The Yankees were eliminated from playoff contention on Wednesday afternoon, meaning Thursday night is his final Yankees home game. The crowd is going to support him like no other, and if you’re a baseball fan, it’s probably something you should try to see.

And then, that’ll be it, and we can all finally move on with our everyday lives.

I get that Jeter was a model citizen. He was never arrested. He was never accused of drugs. He’s never beaten women. He’s also charitable. I’m sure he smells great, too.

But no man deserves to be celebrated this much. It’s over the top.

He’s not the first man on the moon. He didn’t cure cancer. He didn’t convince Simon and Garfunkel to finally put aside their differences and reunite for an epic concert. He played baseball.

So let’s just keep that in perspective. Let’s cheer him for these final games, but all this “Re2pect” nonsense, the NIKE commercials, the murals … those I could do without.

He got to make a living playing a game every day for 20 years. Is that not enough of a reward?

Let’s change things up and honor people who don’t get recognition: the postal workers, sanitation workers, firefighters and plumbers of the world. These are people who do jobs that need to be done. If no one did them, our society would crumble.

So next time your mailman comes around to give you your correspondence, give them a standing ovation. Shower him or her with love. Throw confetti at them.

They are the true blue collar workers.

… I could have just saved all of you time if I revealed right away that I am a Mets fan.

Textbook examples of how to act — and how not to act — on live television

My weeklong absence could be explained by a five-day trip to Los Angeles and San Diego this past week, as I escaped the east coast to head to the opposite site of the country, where it never rains, and sunshine is plentiful.

I was going to write a brief note warning you of my hiatus, but then I recalled the words of Christina Aguilera in her 1999 hit single “What a Girl Wants,” about how the people who matter most will always come back.

They say if you love something let it go
If it comes back it’s yours
That’s how you know
It’s for keeps, yeah, it’s for sure
And you’re ready and willin’
To give me more than
What a girl wants
What a girl needs

You know, on second thought, I have no idea how that applies in any way, shape or form, and the truth of the matter is I simply forgot to tell you I was leaving. So let’s move on.

It was a relatively quiet past few days in my absence, but two separate videos were brought to my attention today that have gone semi-viral, of which both, in my opinion, are perfect foils to one another of how somebody should behave when they are on live television.

Let’s start with the negative end of the spectrum. Enter former newscaster Charlo Greene.

charlo greeneGreene, on an Anchorage based news station, was delivering a report on marijuana, when she extravagantly diverted from the script and revealed that she is the president of the Alaska Cannabis Club, and is quitting her job to devote all of her time and energy towards advocating for the legalization of marijuana in Alaska.

Her actual words — live on air: “And as for this job, well, not that I have a choice but, f–k it, I quit.” She then promptly walks off camera.

The Internet reaction to this is going to be very predictable.

“Bro, this shit was epic! Fight the power… weed all day yo!”

Listen, I’m all for people making spirited, spontaneous decisions to pursue their dreams and do what they love. But not like this. There’s a proper course of action, and what this woman did was classless and immature. She looks to be in her mid-30s, so she can’t play the “young and stupid” card. Actually, scratch that. She can play the stupid card.

Obviously she knew what she was doing. She got a ton of attention for her organization, and at the same time, eliminated any chance of ever working on live television again for a credible organization. I know “any pub is good pub,” but did she need to curse on air? It makes her look bad, it makes her organization look bad, and she just makes her former employer look bad. How selfish can you be?

That, my friends, is how not to act on live TV.

But let’s get some positivity in here. Because for every Charlo Greene, there’s a guy like Apollos Hester, a high school running back in Texas, who gave an incredibly inspirational and empowering impromptu postgame interview akin to that of a Martin Luther King Jr. following a dramatic comeback victory by his team on Saturday.

And I’m not just saying that because he’s black (although if he was white I probably would have went with John F. Kennedy). It’s something you truly need to see to believe.

He manages to say something profound and inspiring without becoming too preachy. He does reference God — twice — but in a subtle manner, and his overall message is not one of religious faith, but of personal belief and perseverance. It’s great. Hester has gotten a lot of love, especially on Twitter, and rightfully so.

And kudos to the interviewer as well, Lauren Mickler, for flowing well with the dialogue, and amplifying the moment with her natural reaction. A lot of other reporters might have become awkward in that context, and tried to cut him off . But she let him ride it out and it was worth it.

It’s refreshing to see a young person with that much exuberance and the world could use more people like that.

Watch that interview and tell me that you don’t feel slightly more motivated. I almost got off my bed and did a single jumping jack after watching it.

Almost.

But seriously, Charlo Greene — and all of us, too — could learn a thing or two about class and personal pride by watching young Apollos Hester.

If you’re going to make an ugly shirt, make sure it doesn’t rekindle memories of tragic historic events

It’s one thing to sell an ugly shirt.

It’s another thing entirely to sell a shirt that’s ugly … and is a clear reminder of a bloody massacre that’s viewed as a dark point in recent American history.

In case you had a busy day at work today and didn’t check the Internet at any point, then, well, you should probably find a new job that allots you more Facebook time. But anyway, the clothing store Urban Outfitters has been blasted for selling a red, tie-dyed Kent State sweatshirt that Urban Outfitterslooks extraordinarily similar to blood stains.

History buffs will recall that the university was the site of a Vietnam War protest in 1970 where four students were killed by the Ohio National Guard, and another nine were wounded. It’s an event that’s still remembered today as a textbook what-not-to-do for governments responding to protests by its own citizens.

The most criminal part in all of this? They’re selling it for $130.

Following heavy public backlash, including outrage by Kent State officials, Urban Outfitters has since apologized for the apparel.

A lot of people will call this a publicity stunt. A means by Urban Outfitters marketers to get its brand in public consciousness.

But I’m not even going to give them that much credit. I’m just going to go ahead and call Urban Outfitters really, really stupid.

Urban Outfitters is not a store that you associate with its marketing, either of the good or bad variety. When’s the last time you’ve even thought about the store besides the time you’ve passed by it at the mall? So why start now?

I’d like to think they’re not heartless enough to capitalize on a deadly American event, four days after September 11, for publicity. So I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

But I am amazed that this sweatshirt went through all the proper channels, from its conception to its actual creation, to its release, and not one person – not one – thought it may be construed negatively in association with the Kent State shootings? Again … stupid.

And did no one tell them that tie-dye went out of style when the world stopped realizing that we don’t wear the same things in daily life as we did in summer camp when we were 12?

You really can’t make this stuff up. But it also makes life very easy for bloggers like me.

Speaking of stupidity, Robin Thicke is also in the news. In a recent deposition related to whether “Blurred Lines” is a ripoff of Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up,” he admitted two things: He was drunk or high in almost every public appearance he made last year, and that he had almost nothing to do with the creation of his popular song, besides the fact that he sang it.

The last several months of Thicke’s career, meanwhile, have revolved around him desperately trying to win back the affection of his wife, Paula Patton, who separated from him in February.

It all makes sense now.

I know Blurred Lines was a massive hit, but if you actually read the lyrics, then I would be doing everything I could to deny that I wrote the song.

Do you, Robin. Do you.

Let’s end on a happier note. You’d be hard pressed to find two women that, combined, are able to make everybody laugh harder than Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Just watch the last two Golden Globes monologues if you need further convincing.

But I nominate Kristen Wiig and Ellen DeGeneres as a close second.

Wiig was on Ellen’s show recently, and the two admitted that they were unfamiliar with the song “Let It Go,” from Frozen. Which, might I add, makes no sense considering Ellen hosted the Oscars, where Adeel Dazeem, I mean, Idina Menzel performed the song. But I digress.

Anyway, the result was a duet of them both singing the song without any alleged prior knowledge of it, providing for some excellent comedy.

People are coining it the worst cover ever of the song.

Well, they clearly haven’t heard me sing the song in the shower.

I’ve said too much.

The Giver (2014)

It’s always dicey whenever a movie is made from a popular book.

Because if there’s anything people don’t like, it’s when a film adaptation screws up your favorite book. Even worse? When a film adaptation screws up your favorite book from your childhood.

The Giver is based on Lois Lowry’s Newberry Medal winning book of the same name, which was often read in elementary school classrooms way back in the day. For many, it was their first introduction to a dystopian novel. Basically, it was my generation’s Divergent. Only this was actually The Givergood.

To be honest, I don’t even recall if I read The Giver or not in elementary school or not. I feel like I did, but I just don’t remember. I read a lot of shit back then.

But the general consensus seems to be that the movie did not do the book justice. It hasn’t been looked upon too favorably by critics or audiences, who seem to significantly prefer the book.

As someone who may or may not have read the book 20 years ago, I went into the movie not really knowing to expect. A blank canvas. And I think that’s why I enjoyed it more than others. I had no book to compare it to.

If you’re familiar with a film’s source material, then it’s only natural that you’re going to have preset expectations, and be upset when they’re not met. But the point of a film adaptation is not to replicate a book page-by-page. Its true purpose is to tell the story in different artistic medium, while still carrying the heart, and overall message, of the source material.

The message of The Giver definitely resonated with me.

The story is about a dystopian society that has its members inject themselves everyday with a “medication” to prevent them from feeling emotion. Additionally, all past memories of prior existence are erased. All they know is what they have lived.

It’s basically a Communist society, where everyone serves a purpose. At the coming of age ceremony, each teenager is given a job they will fulfill for the rest of their life.

Climate is also controlled so that there is never inclement weather. Basically, it’s one big utopia, where everyone gets along and there’s no conflict, and people do what they’re told without questions asked.

The story revolves around three best friends, Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), Fiona (Odeya Rush) and Asher (Cameron Monaghan). Jonas is given the job of The Receiver of Memory, who is the only person allowed to have memories of the past. By having this wisdom, he becomes the society’s advisor, using his knowledge of the past to avoid future mistakes. He is mentored by the current Receiver, played perfectly by Jeff Bridges, whose voice just demands our attention with every syllable.

The society is under the supervision of the Chief Elder, the stone-faced, reliable Meryl Streep.

Cinematically, to indicate the lack of emotion, a lot of the film is in black and white. But the story is told from Jonas’ perspective, and as his lessons progress, and he learns of the all emotion and feelings missing in their world, he begins to see things in color. It’s a technique basically copied from Pleasantville.

Anyway, what Jonas comes to learn is what I think is the message the movie is trying convey – what makes human beings unique, and what makes life so special, is our ability to feel. To emote. It’s our greatest triumph, and tragedy. But again, it’s what makes life worth it.

Naturally, once Jonas begins to feel these things, he tries to singlehandedly change the society he lives in, facing harsh pushback from the Chief Elder, and others.

The movie is far from perfect. Remember, it’s a young adult book, so it’s easy to predict exactly where the story is going. But I think it succeeds in its mission, even if it didn’t live up to its source material, which most people seem to agree on.

The lesson?

Don’t read.

What I’m listening to (part II)

As per a recurring segment, this is where I present to you what new music I have been listening to mainly throughout the past week.

Echosmith — Let’s Love. This is a band of four siblings, three teenagers and a 21-year-old, the lead singer being the lone girl in the family. Considering the youth of its members, I could not be more pressed with their maturity — both lyrically and instrumentally. Each song on their debut album, “Talking Dreams,” is well paced and different, all with same indie pop vibe. The album is good it was hard for me to even pick one song to highlight. I expect big things from this band moving forward. Listen here.

Blondfire — Where the Kids Are. This song reminds me a lot of Naked and the Famous, a big sound with a catchy beat, sung by a female lead. It really is a great track. Unfortunately, the rest of the album, “Young Heart,” doesn’t really match up with it. But it’s definitely worth a listen. Listen here.

Royal Blood — Out of the Black. The White Stripes meets the Black Keys. Definitely not saying it’s of the same quality of those two great bands, but it couldn’t be more obvious this group was heavily influenced by them. The lead sounds just like Jack White, and their sound is akin to the Black Keys’ bluesy guitar-heavy riffs. All in all, it’s very listenable. Listen here.

The Rentals — Stardust. A very breezy, light listen that flows nicely from start to finish. A good mix of pop punk fused with indie styling. Listen here.

Interpol — All The Rage Back Home. If you can say anything about Interpol, it’s that they’re consistent. You know exactly what you’re getting. And when they make good music to begin with, that’s a good thing. I chose this track, the lead off their new album “El Pintor,” because it’s the single, and it’s as good as any on the album. It sounds like classic Interpol. Listen here.

The Kooks — Around Town. When I first listened to “Listen,” I didn’t know what to think. I thought the Kooks’ first two albums, “Inside In Inside Out,” and “Konk,” were absolutely brilliant, and their third one, “Junk of the Heart,” was a letdown. Upon a second and third listen, this new album is awesome. It reverts back to the style that made them so good, but with a little more edge, and every track is awesome. Listen here.

Haerts — Giving Up. I could easily see this song becoming a hit. But hopefully it won’t because then the hipster in me can’t enjoy it. But it’s catchy as heck, has a great beat and explodes into an awesome chorus with a smooth lead vocalist. It sounds almost like it could have been a contemporary remix of a popular ’80s song, except it’s all original. Listen here.

 

Maleficent (2014)

Disney struck gold last year with Frozen, and this summer, it tried to tell another fairy tale, this time with actual actors.

While Maleficent was a commercial success, grossing three-quarters of a billion dollars, and, to date, becoming the fifth-highest moneymaker of 2014 domestically, I don’t think it captures the same magic Frozen did. And that’s not necessarily through any fault of its own.

Firstly, it didn’t have a catchy tune like “Let it Go.” But this isn’t meant to be a comparison of the two films, rather, my point is that it is significantly more difficult to tell a fairy tale through live-action than animation, and Maleficent is living proof of that.

It’s much easier to suspend disbelief with animation. You see wizards and magic and fairies and don’t think twice about it. You even expect it. MaleficentAnd the quality of the story itself doesn’t take away from it. But in live action films, with actual actors portraying these magical characters, it takes more. Story and setting need more reinforcement. It takes more for us accept the universe. At least for adults.

And I guess that’s what makes movies like Avatar and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl that much more more impressive.

Setting isn’t the problem with Maleficent, which makes great use of CGI to give us a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing land of trees and flowers, bushes and lakes, and  magical creatures. That part of the film is all positive.

It’s the story where Maleficent is lacking. Because there really isn’t much. It’s a contemporary take on “Sleeping Beauty,” with Angelina Jolie playing Maleficent, the film’s title protagonist (who is really the antagonist in the original story). Since it’s based on a classic tale, I’m assuming the writers thought that would be enough to carry the story. But it isn’t.

Kids will have no problem with it, but it’s the adults watching with them (or in my case, 27-year-olds watching it alone in their bedroom on their laptop), that will be yearning for more. It’s cliche to the core. The “good” characters are given no other rationale for their actions other than than the fact are good, and the bad character(s) are evil because it fits the story.

It’s a shame, because the acting is fine. Angelina Jolie doesn’t have to do much, her only real conversation partner is a shapeshifter of sorts who can transform into any animal (Sam Riley). But even when she isn’t speaking, she’s communicating with her eyes, and her reactions.

The film contains two different realms, the human side and the magical side, which, of course, are divided. It begins with the characters in their youth. Maleficent is first played by Isobelle Molloy. She’s a fairy, with wings and horns, and one day she befriends a human, Stefan (played by Michael Higgins), who wandered into the magical realm one day.

Time flies by quickly, and without notice. Stefan becomes older and more powerful, and is portrayed brilliantly by Sharlto Copley, who is becoming a real superstar at playing power-hungry menaces with thick accents (see: Elysium). The only real indicator of how much time passes is the emergence of Elle Fanning, who plays the innocent princess Aurora, who in this version, becomes our Sleeping Beauty.

There’s also a prince, played by Brenton Thwaites, who is seemingly in every movie this year. See my next review of The Giver for more on him.

I still can’t believe how young Elle Fannning is. She’s only 16, and I remember seeing her in Somewhere a few years ago, thinking she was almost 16 then. But anyway, her energetic presence gives the film a real and much-needed boost, which probably would have become pretty barren without her.

Anyway, let me wrap this up. Maleficent nicely portrays a magical world, and isn’t lacking in imagination. Kids will eat it up, but it doesn’t have the story to make it a real success. Simply put, it’s magic is stagnated by a lack of complexity.

Watch the trailer here.