Sunday, December 28, 2014

Top 10 Worst Songs of 2014

"HONORABLE" MENTION: Anything involving Iggy Azalea. Iggy, you have a bangin' body, but you need to stop rapping...immediately.

10. Happy - Pharrell Williams
This is my number 10 because, all in all, it's not really a terrible song. It's just so god damn annoying.

9. Trumpets - Jason DeRulo
Another one that is not completely awful, but ironically enough, it's the titular trumpets that make it so irritating to listen to...along with the playschool-style xylophone sound effects.

8. Let It Go - Adele Nazeem
The original title for this composition was, "Nails on a Chalkboard," but the folks at Disney didn't think that would work well with the marketing scheme for Frozen. I'm honestly not even that impressed with Nazeem as a singer. I know she's an accomplished Broadway performer, but having a STRONG voice, doesn't automatically make you a great singer, and I'm not blown away by her.

7. Am I Wrong - Nico & Vinz
Yes, you're wrong. Very wrong. One of the most listened to tracks around the world. Why?

6. Rude - Magic
Maybe the reason that the father in the lyrics didn't want you to marry his daughter is because your song sucks. Ha ha. I could live without ever hearing this one again.

5. Stolen Dance - Milky Chance
Another worldwide smash that I just don't get. Besides having the most annoying song title vs. artist name rhyming scheme, this one just bores my ears. Totally bland.

4. Bang Bang - Jessie J. featuring Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj
Jessie J. had a couple of listenable pop tunes a few years back, and Ariana Grande is certainly a really good singer, although her music does pretty much nothing to showcase those skills. I have no real opinion of Minaj, other than that she seems to be a little odd. Jessie J. was so obviously just trying to write a hit single here...and she succeeded. Unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily make it good, which it isn't.

3. All of Me - John Legend
I really thought John Legend was over several years ago. While women across the world were swooning to this song, I was vomiting in my mouth a little every time it came on the radio.

2. Spark the Fire - Gwen Stefani
Gwen burst onto the music scene in the mid-90's with No Doubt's "Just a Girl." That proved to be the last song of hers that I could stand listening to. This latest offering is just a joke. Gwen, please go fade off into the sunset with all of your money.

1. All About That Bass - Meghan Trainor
While I can appreciate the message about body image that Trainor is trying to convey here, I can't appreciate what happens to my ears when this comes on the radio. It is a truly abominable song, and I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would want to listen to this mess. Absolutely an easy pick for number 1. I knew this was the worst song of the year after hearing about 30 seconds of it for the first time. One of my least favorite radio hits of the 2000's so far.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

REVIEW: Gone Girl

One of the most popular and critically acclaimed novels in recent memory is adapted for the big screen by the author, given to prolific director, David Fincher, to helm, and finds the perfect leading man in Superman, Ben Affleck. Recipe for a great film, right?

I tend to take a contrarian view on all things pop culture. I don't do it on purpose. Sometimes I think my brain just works completely differently than everyone else's. Because I am often drawn to different books, music, tv shows, and films than the masses, I have earned a reputation of "not liking anything." In reality, I like a lot of's just usually different from what YOU like. This is again the case with "Gone Girl."

The novel certainly had its bright spots, particularly a chillingly cynical take on relationships. But, what started out relatively strong, collapsed into a ludicrous mess in the second half. So, when chatter started about the upcoming film, and the producers, the author, and everyone else involved in the project went out of their way to exclaim how the movie was going to be different from the book, I was intrigued. Maybe Gillian Flynn got some constructive feedback that led her to alter some of the weaker points of the novel. It's not often that an author writes the film adaptation for his or her own book, so I was curious how this would turn out. Maybe this could be one of those rare instances where the movie actually IS better than the book? Ha ha...joke's on me.

Different from the book? I felt like Flynn literally XEROXED the pages of her novel. There wasn't a single, solitary change. Not one different twist...barely a different word spoken in the entire film. In fact, amongst all the talk of Rosamund Pike being a lock for Best Actress, I seriously thought she was reading right off the pages of the book and they just digitally edited it out of the picture. If anyone deserves a nomination, it's Affleck. He was phenomenal. But once again, I see everything completely differently from everyone else. Pike's performance, to me, was one of the most wooden I've seen in a long time. I REALLY felt like she was reading straight out of the book. The parts of the book that were the most boring (Amy's diary entries) were also the most boring here. The ending, being identical to that of the book's, was equally as inane. But, what makes me the maddest, is the transparent ploy by the filmmakers to draw people in to see the making the absurd claim that the movie's story would be different than that in the novel. What an epic load of horseshit. This was clearly a ruse to make sure that people who read the book would feel like there would still be something suspenseful about seeing the film. So many people loved the book, so why lie? Then people like me, who did NOT enjoy the book, would have saved their $12 and not gone to see the film. Was "Gone Girl" the worst book ever written? No. Was this the worst movie ever? No. But, the blatant dishonesty leads me to grade the film as if it were. I give it an F. For "Fucking Lie." I will never read anything by Gillian Flynn again, and I'll have to consider very strongly whether to ever see anything by Fincher again either. Affleck gets a pass due to his strong performance. What a waste.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Top 40 of 2013

For those of you who, not unlike Taylor Swift, were left with an empty feeling in the pit of your stomachs after seeing this year's Grammy Awards, I give you the full list of my 40 favorite songs from this past year. Feel free to sample and discover something new using the widget below or the clickable links for a few of the indie selections.

40. No More Hell to Pay - Stryper
39. Sky High Honey - Matt Nathanson
38. Royals - The Knox Sisters
37. You Don't Know Me - Lizzy Caplan (from "Masters of Sex")
36. Slow Suicide - Scott Stapp
35. Lookin' 4 Luv - Julian Lennon
34. Lego House - Ed Sheeran
33. Who I Am - J. Antonette
32. Here's To You - Catrien Maxwell
31. Further Away - Lissie

30. Applause - Lady Gaga
29. Pretty Please - J. Antonette
28. Heart Attack - Demi Lovato
27. Seven - Ed Kowalczyk
26. Love Won't Bring Us Down - Ed Roland & the Sweet Tea Project
25. Got it Wrong - The Wild Feathers
24. Still Into You - Paramore
23. Nothing Left But Tears - Buckcherry
22. Bad For Me - Megan & Liz
21. Roar - Olivia Wise

20. Bleeding From the Inside Out - Stryper
19. Sun - Belinda Carlisle
18. Mz. Hyde - Halestorm
17. Waiting for Superman - Daughtry
16. Home Again - Elton John
15. Shameless - Lissie
14. New Constellation - Toad the Wet Sprocket
13. Sirens - Pearl Jam
12. Broken Over You - Vertical Horizon
11. People Like Us - Kelly Clarkson

10. Holding on for Life - Broken Bells
9.   Too Late - Mike Ruocco
8.   Bonfire Heart - James Blunt
7.   My Bed - Dixie Maxwell
6.   Counting Stars - One Republic
5.   Love is a Country - The Wallflowers
4.   Hero - Family of the Year
3.   Because We Can - Bon Jovi
2.   Freak Like Me - Halestorm

1. Erase You - Catrien Maxwell

Top 40 of 2013 by Jeremy Sand on Grooveshark

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Top 10: Television Acting Performances of 2013

While I'm in list-making mode, I figured I'd tackle TV actors. These were my favorite television performances of the year. My apologies to fans of Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, and whatever other shows I haven't made the time to watch. Even I can only waste so much time in front of the boob tube.

10. Andre Braugher - "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"
Braugher was also good in the short-lived drama "Last Resort," but most of that fell in 2012. I don't think people typically pay as much attention to acting ability in comedies, but Braugher does a fantastic job of playing the straight-laced police chief to Andy Samberg's goofball detective. This entire show was a big surprise for me, as it wasn't originally on my list of new shows to watch.

9. (tie) Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen - "Masters of Sex"
I'm still not sure how interested I am in continuing to watch this series about sex research pioneers William Masters and Virginia Johnson. I'm also not sure about how much of the content is based on actual events, and how much is thrown in for entertainment value. What I do know, is Sheen and Caplan have an undeniable chemistry as Masters & Johnson, and they absolutely nail the versions of those real-life people that the writers are intending to present.

7. Mandy Patinkin - "Homeland"
For me, Patinkin has been the anchor of this less-than-stellar show from the beginning. I know most people would choose either Claire Danes or Damian Lewis for that honor, but as usual, I beg to differ. I probably won't come back for Season 4, as I think they really went off the deep end with the most recent storyline. But I think Patinkin proved he's one of the best actors on TV in his turn as CIA operative and then director, Saul Berenson.

6. Josh Charles - "The Good Wife"
As has been noted in several media write-ups, it's quite rare for a television series to undergo as extreme a rejuvenation so deep into its run as "Wife" has in the first half of its fifth season. After a strong first couple of seasons, 3 and 4 for me were really starting to drag. Most boring of all was the cliche "will they or won't they" extra-marital tango between Julianna Margulies' Alicia Florrick and Josh Charles' Will Gardner. Then they did, and I still didn't care. The writers also started to squander a really strong supporting actress in Archie Panjabi's portrayal of law firm investigator, Kalinda Sharma. Now, suddenly, Margulies' and Matt Czuchry's characters break away from their law firm to start their own, and all hell breaks loose. Finally, the dramatic tension is back, and leading the charge, in my estimation, is Charles' fiery performance as name partner, Gardner. The utter betrayal he conveys on screen once Gardner and Christine Baranski's Diane Lockhart uncover Alicia's scheme to take many of the firm's major clients on her way out the door, is pitch-perfect. Gardner isn't just out for revenge. He's out to single-handedly DESTROY the new firm. This is high quality stuff.

5. Tate Donovan - "Deception" and "Hostages"
Donovan is one of those guys you know you've seen in stuff, but probably don't know him by name. He's been doing movies and TV since the mid-80's, but it's only with his featured roles on a few television series over the past several years, that I took note of his talent. He was great in the first couple of seasons of the Glenn Close-led drama, "Damages." This year, he's been been outstanding in two different shows. Unfortunately, the performance that really stood out for me was as a brother of a young woman who was murdered, the crime at the center of the storyline for the only season of NBC drama, "Deception." This show deserved a longer run. I came close to including Victor Garber from that show on this list as well. I think Donovan was really the standout there, though. He has a smaller, but still pivotal role, as the father of the family who are the titular "Hostages" in another series that will likely only last one season. I'll be looking forward to seeing what Donovan does next. Hopefully, it will last longer.

4. Chi McBride - "Golden Boy"
Won't go into too much detail here as you can read more about this performance at #8 on my Top 25 One-Season TV Shows of All-Time post. Another example of a supporting performance that really carried a storyline to a higher level.

3. Peter Sarsgaard - "The Killing"
Like Tate Donovan, Sarsgaard is another one of those "I know I've seen that guy before" actors. Believe me when I say, I will now know him by name. His performance as death-row (and most likely innocent) inmate, Ray Seward, in season 3 of AMC's "The Killing," was a career-defining one. The show has, from the beginning, struggled to find its way, leading to it being cancelled and brought back not once, but twice. I'm glad it came back the first time, if for nothing else, than to enjoy this electrifying turn by Sarsgaard. Mireille Enos' Detective Linden was responsible for getting Seward convicted some years ago, but now finds similarities in a current case involving murdered teenage runaways that lead her to believe that Seward did not, in fact, kill the mother of his now 10-year-old son, Adrian. The story arc surrounding Seward gets somewhat lost as a secondary plot to the case involving the runaways, but I feel like Sarsgaard was the one who elevated the entire season to a level to which it would not have come close without him. Nowhere was this more evident than in the third to last episode, "Six Minutes." A brutally emotional back and forth, featuring Linden's last minute attempts to exonerate Seward, as he is scheduled to be hung shortly. Seward is a man torn apart by simultaneously believing he was innocent of this particular crime, but guilty of so many other things, including miserably failing his son. In what was an otherwise flawed season of an otherwise flawed show, this was one of the most compelling hours of dramatic television I've seen.

2. James Spader - "The Blacklist"
Here's a guy who came to fame in 80's flicks like "Pretty in Pink" and "Sex, Lies & Videotape." Not exactly roles that would earn consideration as an amazing actor, but he was certainly known. Then, it seems, he ended up doing nothing of any real consequence throughout the entire 1990's. Suddenly, he pops up as ethically-challenged attorney, Alan Shore, to revive "The Practice" for its final season in 2003-2004, which led to multiple Emmy Awards, for both that performance, and for portraying the same character on spinoff, "Boston Legal." Although, I believe that David Kelley and his team squandered the chance to develop a complex and intriguing character, by turning "Legal" into farcical satire, rather than straightforward drama, it still became crystal clear, that Spader's talents were at a level not previously evident. Now, he's back as a former government agent-turned most wanted fugitive-turned FBI informant in "The Blacklist." This was a stroke of casting genius, as Spader outshines everyone else on the screen, but at the same time, appears to enhance their performances as well. As with most of the other examples on my list, "The Blacklist" would most likely be a much lesser show without Spader. He deserves the upcoming Golden Globe for which he's nominated, although the Screen Actors Guild members were apparently watching TV with blindfolds on this season, as he was mystifyingly snubbed there.

1. Tatiana Maslany - "Orphan Black"
If you're saying "who?" you're apparently not alone. This sci-fi human cloning saga has been relegated to BBC America, which undoubtedly has limited its exposure in this country. It's actually a Canadian series, featuring Maslany, a Canadian, in the lead. Scratch that...make that the SEVEN leads. Throughout the first season, Maslany had to, at various times, get into character as seven separate clones, including four central characters that appeared in the majority of the episodes. So, on sheer level of difficulty, I'm selecting her for my #1. A Canadian playing a British, street-tough, single mother, a Canadian soccer mom, a Ukrainian nutjob assassin, and an American PhD student in easy task. There were times where the accents started to blend together, but overall, it was a masterful job. One has to wonder what Emmy voters were thinking when they failed to even NOMINATE Maslany for lead actress this past September. She is up for a Golden Globe, where I expect her to lose to Julianna Margulies. Unfortunately, "Orphan Black" is, like so many other cable series nowadays, being produced in limited-episode groupings, which require that you wait nearly a year between seasons. I don't think I'm going to care enough to return to this one when it picks up in April.